Title: May All Your Christmases Be White

Author's Name: Laura Sichrovsky (E-Mail: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Rating: PG- 13 or FRT

Pairing: None

Warnings: None

Summary: A look at Rupert's Christmases throughout the years

May All Your Christmases Be White

Rupert stood in the living room of his flat, looking around at the boxes that were scattered everywhere. He had been packing for the last two weeks and he was dismayed at how little progress he'd actually made. He had a week left before he had to be in California and the only things completely packed were his books. But he had taken today off from the packing, it being Christmas and all.

It was a formality really. He hadn't properly celebrated the holiday since his mother died four years ago, but he had given himself a day off anyway. He'd spent his holiday reading, losing himself in the writings of Homer. He didn't have much time for pleasure reading and he anticipated having less when he got to the States. He would be too busy learning to blend in to a high school faculty and training a Slayer.

This thought sent shivers of anticipation and worry through him. He had been shocked when the Council had informed him that he had been called as Watcher to the Slayer. With his less than stuffy past he had been sure he would never achieve that honor. But now that he had, he would do his best with it.

Rupert allowed himself to think for a moment on what his new life would be like. He was pretty sure that he wouldn't fit in with the Americans and he didn't anticipate having many friends. But that wouldn't matter. He would have his Slayer. He would train her, help her, guide her. He would be her mentor and possibly her friend. He knew the Council frowned on Watchers treating their slayers as equals, but Rupert intended to allow this girl as normal a life as possible. He would let her have friends, he would let her graduate high school, and he would let her celebrate holidays.

Idly he wondered if he would be spending next Christmas with her. He could teach her some of his British traditions, perhaps make her a real Christmas dinner. He knew she had a mother, but he was sure he could make this work for everyone. With a smile, he went off to the kitchen to make a sandwich for dinner. Yes, next year would be better indeed.

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Rupert stood in the living room of his flat, looking at the books scattered everywhere. He had spent all of yesterday searching for any mention of a particular demon that Buffy had encountered. Finally, at midnight, exhausted and slightly frantic, he had found a whole section on the creature. Killing the demon would be fairly easy and he immediately called Buffy, despite the lateness of the hour.

She had called him at three, telling him that the demon was dead and she was going to bed to get some sleep before she had to be opening Christmas presents in three hours. Rupert, who had waited up for her call, had been too relieved and too tired to clean up and had just fallen into bed. But habits being what they were, he hadn't been able to sleep past seven.

Now, in the morning light from his window, he surveyed the damage. It looked like a bookstore had exploded, but he supposed it wouldn't actually take much to straighten it up. He just really didn't feel like doing it first thing on Christmas morning. Involuntarily, he looked at his kitchen pass through where a two foot tall Christmas tree was set up.

He of course hadn't made any fuss for the holiday, hadn't decorated. It wasn't really his style. But, about three weeks earlier, Willow, Xander, and Buffy had been over and they had noticed his lack of Christmas cheer. Two days later they had shown up on his doorstep again. This time they had bags of decorations. He had stood off to the side, a smile on his face, watching as Willow and Xander had strung lights on the tiny tree and Buffy had draped garland around the room. He moved to put a Christmas record on the turntable before joining them.

Now, he smiled again as he looked at the presents under the little tree. It had been years since he'd received a Christmas present. This year he actually had about six of them. He supposed he should open them, but he didn't want to rush through his holiday. After careful thought, he decided he would open a gift, clean up the living room, open another gift, eat breakfast, open another gift. That way he could spread it out over a time.

But first, he would make some tea. As he walked into the kitchen, he couldn't help looking at the tree again. He remembered the year before, when he'd wondered what his life would hold. He could have never imagined the life he got, not that he was complaining. He had an amazing Slayer, a good job, and unexpected friends. Things might not have turned out as he planned, but he had to admit, he was actually happy, and really, what more could he ask for?

He turned away from the tree and put the kettle on the stove, but he couldn't keep it from his thoughts for long. He turned on the stove burner and smiled to himself. Maybe it wouldn't hurt to open one gift while he waited for the water. He was curious about Willow's gift. He'd overheard her talking to Xander and she'd said she'd ordered it from a website that specialized in British imports. Yes, he would open her gift first. That decided, he turned back to the tree and retrieved the present.

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Rupert stood, looking out his window, completely stunned. Who would have ever believed it would snow in California? Yet, here he was, watching soft white flakes drift lazily down. The sky was a deep, cold grey and it fit his mood. He mentally berated himself for allowing Angel to affect him like this, but helping the man who had tortured him was not how Rupert had planned to spend his Christmas Eve.

However, Buffy had asked for his assistance and Rupert had learned that he could deny his Slayer nothing. And so, he had spent his evening researching the First evil. It would have been funny really, except being that close to Angel had brought out thoughts and emotions better left buried. After Buffy had gone to find the Bringers, Rupert had spent the rest of the night not only worrying about her, but fighting off vivid memories of being tied up and beaten.

And now, the cold grey morning did nothing to lessen his mood. Rupert turned from the window, trying to push away the darker thoughts. He tried to remind himself of all that was good in his life. He looked at the pass through, where his little tree was set up again, focusing on the image of Willow, Xander, and Buffy coming over and helping him decorate, of Willow baking cookies in his kitchen while Christmas music played in the background. He concentrated on his shopping trip with Xander, the two of them wondering what to get Buffy.

But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't keep the thoughts away. He crossed the room, intending to get more tea, but stopped, hearing a voice that sounded loud enough to be standing beside him, though he knew it was in his head.

"Hey. How you holdin' up?" Angel had even sounded slightly concerned.

"Never... better." His own voice sounded so weak to his ears.

"Glad to hear it. Now...Tell me when it hurts."

Rupert closed his eyes, fighting to keep his panic in check, but he could feel his heart beating faster.

The doorbell rang and he just about jumped out of his skin, not knowing for a second if it was real or in his head. When it rang a second time, he walked to the door, opening it just enough to see who was there. Xander stood on his porch, his arms wrapped tightly around a bundle that he held to himself, shivering in the cold.

"What are you doing here?" Rupert asked, opening the door wider.

"Nice to see you too, G-man," Xander replied. "Do I get to come in or do I have to freeze out here?"

Rupert wordlessly stepped back and Xander came in, stomping the snow off his shoes, just outside the door. As Rupert closed the door, Xander turned to him, putting his duffle bag on the floor.

"Can you believe it? It never snows in Sunnydale. I just about turned into a popsicle this morning."

"You were out in this?" Rupert asked, walking to the kitchen to put water on for tea.

"Well, I was trying to sleep. Do you know what it's like to sleep in the snow? Try putting your head in the freezer for a few hours."

"I think I'll pass on that," Rupert replied with a smile, looking at Xander over the pass through. "What were you doing trying to sleep in the snow?"

"Oh, you know, my family was being…well, my family. It seemed safer to sleep in the yard."

Rupert just looked at the boy. Whenever Xander talked of his home life Rupert had to fight the urge to have a little talk with the boy's parents. Of course that would just end badly, but Xander deserved so much better.

"You needn't sleep outside," Rupert said gently. "You do know you are always welcome here."

"Why do you think I'm in your living room at six o'clock on Christmas morning?" Xander asked with a pained smile. "My parents were still passed out and Christmas means that when they get up, the drinking will just start again. I know you'd rather be alone, but…"

"Nonsense," Rupert replied as the kettle went off. "I would be happy for the company."

"I see you haven't opened your gifts yet," Xander said, gesturing to the tree.

"Not yet," Rupert answered, gathering up supplies and putting them on the tea tray. "And they can wait until later. It would be rude of me to open presents in front of you."

"Yeah it would," Xander said, with a grin, turning to retrieve his duffle bag. "That would be why I raided the tree and brought all my gifts with me."

Rupert blinked a few times and laughed.

"It seems you've thought of everything," he said, putting some muffins on the tray and taking it into the living room.

"Are you sure you don't mind?" Xander asked, looking up, his eyes full of insecurities. "I mean, if you have plans…"

"Xander, I've told you that you are always welcome. I just hope you don't mind sandwiches as your Christmas dinner. I hadn't intended to fuss."

"Hey, it's better than the cold cocktail meatballs I was going to be eating. We don't do the big dinner at my house."

Rupert sat on his couch, settling back with his cup of tea, surprised to find that his mood had vastly improved. He looked at Xander, who was going on about some Christmas special on the television and smiled. He might get irritated with the boy, but he genuinely liked him.

"We should invite Willow over," Xander said. "She likes Snoopy too. And I'm sure she'd be happy to share the sandwiches. Maybe after we open presents?"

"That sounds like a very good idea," Rupert replied. He sipped his tea, thinking about how nice it felt to have a family again. Of all the things he could have asked for for Christmas, this was at the top of his list. His day was certainly looking up.

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Rupert sat, looking at the book on his lap, but not really seeing it. His mood was abysmal today and he felt completely foolish for letting it get the best of him. It was Christmas and he shouldn't let the petty things bother him. But they did.

He sighed, closing the book and rising to go make some tea. His morning had been good enough, he supposed. He'd opened his presents, which he had gratefully received, and eaten breakfast. But his mood had deteriorated by the hour. It was now half past one and he was seriously considering going back to bed.

It wasn't that he expected them to spend the holiday with him, but was it too much to ask for a phone call or some sort of acknowledgement? After they had spent Thanksgiving together, he had hopes for a nice Christmas. But he hadn't heard from any of them in almost a week. Not that this was unusual these days.

He frowned, looking over at the pass through, trying not to notice how bare it looked without the tree. He had expected that one of them would say something about the lack of decorations in his flat, as they always did. But the few times he had seen them, none of them had paid enough attention to realize and he hadn't had the heart to decorate by himself.

Rupert told himself that he needed to let them grow up and have lives of their own, but it sounded too much like "grow up and leave the old man behind" to him. He sat down with his tea, feeling old and obsolete. This wasn't the life he'd gotten used to, it wasn't the life he wanted. Perhaps things would be better if he did leave them on their own. He could go back to England and pick his life up again. The thought hurt almost as much as a physical blow and that surprised him. He wasn't one to get emotional, but these children had become such a part of his world. Maybe that was a side effect of fighting side by side with them for these last few years, but then again, maybe it wasn't. Maybe it was finally being needed, wanted, appreciated for his knowledge and talents. And now that it was at an end, perhaps it would be better to move on.

He sighed deeply, putting the tea on the coffee table. That nap was looking better by the minute. He could only hope that a little sleep would make things look brighter. He wasn't sure he could take another year like this one.

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"Damn it! I hate this oven. It burnt." Joyce said, from somewhere behind him. He could hear her slamming the oven and placing the pie on the kitchen island.

"Oh, no, it's just blackened, you know, it's, it's Cajun pie." Buffy replied, her amusement barely contained.

Rupert turned to look at them, a bottle of wine in his hands. He smiled at Joyce, holding up the bottle.

"Shall I open another?"

"Oh, do you think we dare?" she replied, returning the smile.

"As long as you two stay away from the band candy, I'm cool with anything." Buffy interjected, a mischievous grin on her face.

Rupert could feel the blush creeping up his face and he looked down at the counter. He was grateful that Joyce had finally gotten past the awkwardness between them and was allowing him back in the house. He was not sure of the wisdom in Buffy reminding her why he had been shunned in the first place. There was a moment of uncomfortable silence and Rupert looked up. Joyce made a face at Buffy.

"You are a demon child," she said, hiding a smile.

"I live to torment you, is that so wrong?"

"A daughter's duty, I suppose," Joyce replied, rolling her eyes toward Rupert and kissing Buffy on the forehead.

Buffy turned back to the pie, picking up a knife and frowning.

"Look, all we have to do is just cut off a little bit of the burnt..." Her hand slipped and the whole pie crashed to the floor.

Joyce looked horrified as Buffy stuttered an apology. Rupert reached out, putting a gentle hand on Buffy's arm.

"It's fine," he said, smiling. "We didn't really need dessert anyway."

Both women gave him identical looks, as if he had just committed blasphemy, and he broke out laughing. He couldn't help it. After a minute, they looked a bit sheepish and joined him in his amusement.

"Well, Xander did say he was just this side of sick," Buffy said, stifling her giggles. "Maybe we can just move on to the gift opening?"

"That's an excellent idea," Rupert replied, stooping to help her clean up the pie. "And if anyone wishes to have dessert after that, there are always the cookies you made yesterday."

"Oh! I'd forgotten those," Buffy replied. "Does that work, mom?"

"Do I have a choice?" she asked.

"Nope." Buffy's grin was unrepentant. "It's cookies or nothing."

When they had finished with the clean up, everyone moved into the living room to open presents. Rupert sat at the end of the couch watching the others, enjoying being here with all of them. Last year he had come so close to giving up and going back to England, but he was glad he'd stayed. This year had been so much better. Their little family was closer, supporting each other, spending time together. He had always known he would die for these people; in the last year he had discovered that he lived for them as well. And they had made him a part of their world, sharing the ups and downs of everyday life. And after all, isn't that what family did?

"Hey Giles," Buffy said, sitting next to him. "You aren't opening any of your presents."

"I already have everything I want," he replied, reaching out and taking her hand. She gently squeezed, smiling.

"Well, yes, but I still spent two hours fighting mall crowds to get your gift, so open it anyway?"

He laughed, taking the brightly wrapped box from her. He noticed at the edge of his vision that the others were moving closer. He looked up to see that Dawn had settled at his other side, happily chatting with Xander, who had moved to the floor next to the couch. Willow and Tara had moved to an over stuffed chair a few feet away, snuggling together while laughing at something Anya had said. Joyce had come into the room, smiling shyly at him as she sat on the couch arm next to Buffy. As Rupert began to unwrap Buffy's gift, he sighed in contentment. This is how all holidays should be; everyone healthy and happy, enjoying just being together. He was pretty sure days didn't get better than this.

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Rupert sat in an over stuffed chair in front of a blazing fire, holding a phone and staring deeply into the flames. He looked up at the clock above the mantel, noting that it was only half past eight in the morning. He'd been sitting here for the last half an hour debating whether it was too late to call. He did another quick calculation, sighing as he determined that it was after midnight in California. They might still be up, but he couldn't be sure and he didn't want to wake them. He decided it would be better to wait until this afternoon, when he knew they would all be up at the crack of a California morning, opening their Christmas presents.

He knew they'd received the box he'd sent; Dawn had called when they'd gotten it. She had chatted with him while she put the gifts under the tree. The box sent from Sunnydale had arrived yesterday, although Rupert hadn't unpacked it. It wasn't as if he had a tree to put the presents under this year.

It had been his choice to come back to England, yet he questioned the wisdom of it every day. He hated being so far from them, hated not being a part of their lives anymore. But, it had seemed to be what was best for his Slayer, and so he had left his life behind and come here. He frowned, still looking into the flames. It hadn't been what he wanted and it had the opposite effect he'd hoped for. Buffy wasn't getting along better without him; she resented him for leaving her and was barely speaking to him.

Rupert wondered if it was too late to grab a flight back home. If he left now he might still get to spend Christmas with them. He even went so far as to pick up the phone to call the airlines, but then he put it down again as a new thought stole his breath. They wouldn't want him there. He'd only been gone for a couple of months, but their lives had moved on and he was no longer a part of their family.

He sat back down in the chair, suddenly feeling weak as the reality hit him. In trying to do what was right for his family, he had lost them. He was 5000 miles from everything he loved and he was truly, irrevocably alone. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath, trying desperately to ignore the pain that was washing over him. After a few minutes, he opened his eyes. He looked at his morning tea cooling next to him, suddenly feeling the need for something stronger.

Two hours later he marveled that he could still feel the pain through the haze his world had become, frowning as he spilled some of the Scotch from his glass. His head was spinning and he felt slightly nauseous, and yet, he still felt the emptiness eating at him. He considered another drink, but on realizing that he couldn't even focus on the bottle anymore, decided a nap might be better. He could always pick up right where he left off tomorrow.

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Rupert sat quietly watching the flurry of activity around him. He stifled a yawn, realizing how tired he was. It had been a long few months of frantic runs around the world fighting Bringers, praying he wasn't too late to save the girls. There had been so many nights of fear and disappointment, never knowing what would come next or even what time zone he was in. He needed some time off, although he'd never admit it. This year Christmas seemed a convenient time to stop and catch his breath.

Rupert settled back into the chair he was sitting on, watching as Buffy handed out gifts. It was still fairly early, but as usual, everyone had been up since dawn. Rupert had tried to sleep in, but Willow and Buffy had insisted he get up and join the "fun", so now he sat, struggling to keep his eyes open while he watched fifteen shy teenaged girls in pajamas opening gifts.

Two days ago, Buffy, Xander, and Rupert had gone out and purchased some presents for the girls. Rupert had used his Council credit card to pay for the spree. He'd been surprised it still worked with the Council gone. His conscience fussed at him a bit, wondering who would pay for it all, but he'd pushed it to the side; these girls needed something normal after what they'd been through.

"Hey, big guy," Xander said, pulling up a chair next to Rupert. "You look tired."

Rupert just nodded at him.

"Well, you have been working hard," Xander said, looking at him.

"We all have. I only hope it's enough."

"Hey, no more gloomy talk. It's our day off."

Rupert was nodding again when it occurred to him how appropriate Xander's statement was. Today was a day off; from work. Not a day spent with family and friends, but a day where he didn't have to work. He looked at Buffy, watching her laugh at something Willow said and he realized what was missing in his life. He had come back to Sunnydale, was living in Buffy's house, but he was still an outsider. He worked with them, nothing more. The closeness they had shared for so long was gone. He sighed.

"Everything okay?" Xander asked, looking at him oddly.

"I'm just very tired. I think I'll go back to bed."

He stood up and left the room, almost hoping someone would stop him, tell him they wanted him there. But no one did and his exhaustion won out. He settled into his bed, closing his eyes, feeling weary in so many ways.

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Rupert stood to the side, watching the chaos around him. He had to admit the room looked wonderful, lights and pine branches taking away some of the gloom that came with the castle in which they now lived. Then again, sixty Slayers and twenty Watcher trainees did a lot to stem that off as well. Right now, as Rupert watched, everyone was gathered in the common room around the tree, while Xander and Willow handed out gifts.

He felt her walk up beside him, but he didn't turn to look at her.

"Why are you hiding over here?" Buffy asked, moving to stand next to him.

"I'm not hiding. I'm simply…watching."

"I suppose that's a suitable activity for the new head of the Watchers' Council." She was smiling at him.

"Why aren't you opening your gifts?" he asked her, turning to look back at the group around the tree.

"I did open a couple," she replied, moving closer to him. "And then I realized something important was missing."

"What would that be?"

"You."

He turned to look at her, an eyebrow arched.

"You are a big part of our family," she said, reaching out and taking his hand. "You always have been. I might not have always been grateful for everything you've done, everything you've given up for us, but I think I finally get it."

Rupert smiled at her. These last few months had brought them back together, made them realize how much they needed each other. For Rupert, it had meant getting his family back. Now he looked down at his Slayer, the woman that had shaped his life for bad and for good, and he lightly squeezed her hand.

"Come over and join us?" She asked.

"If you're sure I wouldn't be in the way."

"You could never be in the way."

He kept a hold of her hand as they walked back to join the others and Rupert took stock of his life. He had a wonderful family who loved him and whom he would do anything for. It had been a long, hard road to get here and there were times he wondered if it was worth it. But now, as he looked around at the people he loved the most, he knew unquestioningly that it was.

The End.

If you wish to see the version with pictures, it can be found on my Laurtew Live Journal site.