The Bad Mother
By Sweetdoggie

Title: The Bad Mother
Author: Sweetdoggie
Disclaimer: I own nothing here. All characters are owned by other people and corporations. The purpose of this story is strictly for entertainment.
E-mail: Sweetdoggie@Boxfrog.com
Notes: Hope you enjoy!
Rating: G
Spoilers: Season 2 , maybe 3.
Summary: What might have happened if Joyce hadn't taken her daughter back after she ran away.


Joyce didn't regret telling her daughter not to come home if she left the house. She had put up with Buffy's moods, bad attitude, delinquency, and secretiveness for years. Enough was enough, she thought. I just can't take this anymore. Now her juvenile delinquent daughter was trying to get her way yet again by claiming that she was some sort of superhero. It made Joyce see red. She wasn't going to take this abuse from her only child. It wasn't right and nobody could expect her to just stand by and let the girl run roughshod over her.

She filled a glass with scotch and sat on the couch. They had moved to Sunnydale to heal, to put the past behind them. Buffy had been enrolled in a new school, separated from her old friends and the environment that had led her into such trouble before. This was going to be a fresh start for both mother and daughter. Then, it had all started up again when Buffy met that man, Mr. Giles. Joyce had thought it was odd that a grown man spent so much time with teenagers but had put it into the back of her mind. She had other things to think about, after all. She was a divorced mother trying to earn a living, starting out in a new town, with a new house, and a new job. Her daughter was making her life as difficult as she possibly could, what with her weird boyfriends, her odd hours, her terrible grades…What was a mother to do, she questioned herself.

This last ploy was just too much. Buffy had refused to let herself be guided by her mother's wisdom. Perhaps she would change her tune when she saw how rough it was living on her own. Joyce made up her mind that before she allowed her daughter to come back to live with her, there were going to be some serious rules laid down. Things were going to be different. No more running around at all hours of the night, no more hanging out with that weird British librarian, no more Bronzing, no more boyfriends that were inappropriate or too old for her, and most of all no more lying. There were limits, and Miss Buffy Summers had just reached hers.

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Three Months Later…

 

Buffy knocked on the door to her mother's house. When it swung open, the two women, mother and daughter, looked at each other. Buffy wanted to hug her mother, but was held back by the look on her mom's face.

"So, Buffy, I see you decided to come home." Joyce noted coldly.

"Yeah, mom. I thought we could talk…about stuff." Buffy answered hesitantly.

"So, now you want to talk. That's rich! Well, I have news for you, young lady. I told you three months ago that if you left this house, you weren't welcome to come back to it. I haven't changed my mind." Joyce kept her voice frigid.

"This is not something I'm getting over, Buffy. You have lied and manipulated me and all your friends over and over. You didn't even have enough respect for me to come up with a believable lie this last time. You're a Vampire Slayer. Right! And I'm Wonder Woman and I'd like you to meet my friends, Supergirl and Spiderman. Well, I'm tired of your crap, Buffy Summers. You aren't welcome here anymore. When you have a place to stay, let me know and I will ship your stuff to you. Until then, we don't have anything to say to each other." She shut the door in Buffy's face.

Buffy stood there, unbelievably hurt by her mother's coldness. She wasn't surprised in a way. Her mom was one of the world's longest grudge-carriers. She just hadn't realized that it would hurt her quite so much. This, she realized, was why Slayers seldom had family ties. Nobody could understand; nobody but their Watchers.

She slowly turned away and quietly walked to Giles house. She knocked on his door. The look of quiet joy on his face when he saw her helped soothe her battered heart. "Oh, Buffy. Welcome home." He had pulled her into a tight hug, for once showing his deep affection for her. She hugged him back, trying not to crush his ribs with her strength.

He pulled her into his apartment and began making a fresh pot of tea. The look on her face was so tragic, he could barely bring himself to question her. "Are you well, Buffy?"

She looked up at the man who meant more to her than any other person on the planet. "Well, physically I'm good, but emotionally, maybe not so much." She took the cup of tea he handed her. "It's been a rough summer, you know?"

"Oh, yes. This has definitely been a very rough summer." He agreed. "I looked for you everywhere. I thought I would go mad, looking for you."

"I'm sorry, Giles. Sorry I put you through that. I'm sorry I didn't kill Angel when I had the chance, sorry I slept with him when I knew it was wrong, sorry for being a bad slayer to you, sorry, sorry sorry. It really doesn't begin to express what I feel."

He put his hand over hers, noting how she was shaking. "Drink your tea and tell me about it."

"That night, when I fought Angel, I had a big fight with my mom before. I told her I was the Slayer and she thought I was lying. She told me not to come back if I left the house that night. You were being tortured; I couldn't wait for her to get it into her head. I left. He and I fought. He managed to open the gate and then, he turned back into my Angel again. He didn't remember anything." She tried to steady her shaking voice. "I told him to close his eyes and I kissed him. I could see the vortex growing behind him. I stabbed him through the chest and sent him through the portal. He called my name as he fell into Hell." Two tears slipped down her face.

"I went home and packed a bag. I couldn't deal with my mother right then. I knew she would be furious and I was just…done. I didn't have anything left. I came by the school and saw you guys. I saw you were all alive. It helped. Then I got on a bus and made a new life. When I felt like I had something to offer you besides my pain, I came home." She rested her head in her hands.

"I tried to make my peace with mom. She kicked me out and told me to give her an address to forward my stuff to. She says she's done with me." Buffy looked up at him. "I don't blame her. I'm a bad daughter. I lie, and hide, and run away. She thinks its because I'm a delinquent, that I want to be bad."

Giles took her in his arms and held her. "I'm sure she didn't mean it, Buffy. We can talk to her tomorrow. She'll see reason."

Buffy snuffled against his chest. "Giles, I don't even want to go home. This is why Slayers are removed from their families. They just don't understand. It's too much tension, too many fights. Physically, I'm only seventeen, but really, I'm about a thousand. I can't do it anymore. I can't fight mom, go to school, hide my secret identity, try to be a normal girl, and still be the Slayer. Something has to go, and since the Slayer thing isn't going to go away, something else has to. I guess that means my hope of being normal, of having a mom who loves me, of being a kid for a while longer. Now, I'm just a Slayer."

"You always have a place with me, Buffy. If your mother won't see reason, you will move in with me. It's the time-honored tradition between Watchers and their Slayers anyway."

"Thank you, Giles. I'll try to be a good Slayer for you." She met his eyes. "It's all I have left, after all."

---------------------

The next morning, Giles put Buffy in his car and drove to her mother's house. He left her in the car while he knocked on the door. Buffy's mother answered. She frowned when she saw who her caller was.

"What do you want?" She asked him. "Haven't you messed up my life enough?"

"Mrs. Summers, I'm here to help you work through some of your anger at Buffy. She needs you. Please, let us come in and speak to you."

"I told her last night, the only thing I want from her is an address to ship her junk to. She's not coming home. I am not going through all that crap again with her. I can see she has you fooled, Mr. Giles, but you wait. Wait till she sneaks out at two in the morning and lies to you. Wait till she keeps getting into fights and comes home with blood on her clothes. I wouldn't be surprised if she used drugs, you know. I've heard that some of them can make you really strong for a while." She shook her head. "I'm not putting up with this from her, not anymore."

Giles looked down at the unforgiving woman. "Mrs. Summers, your daughter has made sacrifices that adults twice her age would hesitate to make. She is a brave, strong girl with a terrible gift. Your attitude is causing her a great deal of pain." He made a decision. "You may send Buffy's things to my address. She will be living with me from now on."

"Living with you!" Joyce cried. "I knew you were some sort of pervert! How long have you been having an affair with my daughter? She started getting into trouble again not long after she met you. I'll bet you two have been doing it since she was sixteen, haven't you?" She shuddered. "Well, you are more than welcome to the little tramp. Do me a favor, if you knock her up, don't name the kid after me." She slammed the door in his face.

Giles was white with rage. He wanted to knock the door down and shake that stupid woman until her eyes popped right out of her head. No wonder Buffy didn't want to come back. He wondered how much of this she had put up with since she had been called. He imagined it was much more than he had been allowed to know about.

He stormed back to the car. Buffy looked at his pinched face and said nothing. He got in and slammed the door before putting the car into gear and burning rubber as he pulled away from the curb. He calmed down somewhat as he drove them back to his flat.

"I'm sorry, my dear." He finally said. "Your mother is not in a mood to be reasonable. I told her you would be living with me from now on." He touched her knee gently. "I hope that is all right with you."

Buffy smiled sadly. "I knew she wouldn't take me back. Mom holds a grudge till it dies of old age, then she resurrects it a couple of more times. She doesn't really have the concept of 'letting go' down yet, I guess." She patted the hand on her knee. "I think living with you is going to be great. There's just one problem, though. You have a pretty small place for two people. One bedroom, one bathroom and I have a lot of stuff. I can put some of it in storage, but things like clothes...I want to have them with me."

He nodded his understanding. "There's just one thing for it, then. We need a bigger place. It would be nice if we could find something that had some room to train, and a place for my books…"

She eagerly acceded to his ideas. "Yeah, that would be great. It would be totally neat if we had a room for the weapons, too."

He smiled at her. "I can see we need to begin house-hunting right away."

They drove to a small restaurant and had lunch, discussing the pros and cons of house hunting. The results produced a nice list of features that were considered by both of them to be necessities, including multiple bedrooms, bathrooms, a basement and a privacy fenced back yard. They made up a joint list of things that would be nice, like a pool, hot tub, and a large kitchen. Giles wanted an office of his own and Buffy yearned for a window seat. Both of them wished to avoid a large front yard and close neighbors. Buffy didn't want to live near her mom, either.

They saw a Realtor and arranged to be shown several houses that afternoon. Buffy didn't like the first one, and Giles thought the second was a monstrosity, but the third was quite charming. It had four bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths, a pool and a hot tub. A ten-foot high stone fence contained the back yard. Its basement was finished as a game room for the previous tenant's teenage children, and Giles thought it could easily be modified to hold some workout equipment.

It was easily within their price range, which they found strange till they learned that the previous owners had been murdered. They looked at each other and the thought was confirmed in their minds as a vamp attack. Probably, the monsters had gained entrance and simply slaughtered the family for fun. They shrugged their shoulders sadly. People needed to learn not to invite strangers into their home. Never a good practice, in Sunnydale it was a leading cause of death.

They took possession of the house that afternoon and began moving Giles' things in right away. Buffy made do with the few things she had taken before she had run away. She yearned for her own possessions, but Giles and Xander had promised to get them from her mother on Saturday. Giles made Buffy shop for a bedroom set for herself. He had made up his mind that he would take nothing but the girl's most personal items from her mother. From now on, Buffy was his to clothe and keep and he wanted to spoil her, something he felt was probably missing from her life with her parents.

He tried to get her reenrolled at the high school, but Principal Snyder was adamant. Buffy was a disruptive influence and he didn't want her back. Giles petitioned the school board, pulled quite a few strings, and made a few threats. Buffy was finally allowed conditionally to return to school. If she got into trouble again, she was out permanently. Neither Giles nor Buffy thought they should mention that she was now living with him. People simply wouldn't understand and it would make problems all around. They didn't outright lie, but since nobody was looking for it, the fact that their address was the same went unnoticed. Giles had taken the trouble to gain legal custody of Buffy by having her mother sign guardianship papers. Joyce had been glad to be relieved of any tie to her daughter and Giles had made sure that the legalities were irrevocable should she later change her mind. Buffy belonged to him now.

Living in an environment where she was not constantly on guard helped Buffy enormously. Giles encouraged her study but was also supportive of her need to have fun occasionally. They grew very close over the school year and Buffy found tremendous satisfaction in taking care of Giles. Cooking was something she had done under duress when living with her mom, but when she did it for Giles it made her feel good. The restaurant where she had worked over the summer had maintained its own bakery and Buffy had become quite adept at making a variety of sweets, pastries and cakes. She even knew how to make donuts, a fact that amused him.

She had gotten into the habit of stopping by the library every night before leaving school to ask him what he wanted for dinner. When she swung through the doors, she failed to notice Principal Snyder standing partially hidden behind one of the stacks. "Hey, Giles!" she called, waiting until he popped his head out of his office. "What do you want for dinner tonight? I can make meatloaf or baked chicken."

He smiled. He liked the fact that she took such care of him. It was something he hadn't been on the receiving end of since he was a boy and his mother cooked for him. "If you made meatloaf, would you make mashed potatoes and gravy?"

"Sure, I could do that." She smiled. "What vegetable do you feel like?"

He grinned, ready to tease her. "Why, Buffy! I know I'm not terribly athletic, but I hardly feel like a vegetable!"

"Giiiiles!" she whimpered. "No fair with word games. You know you always win. Now, tell me what kind of vegetable you want to eat tonight, or I'll pick and it will be something you don't like!"

"Oh very well, you young tyrant! Do you suppose we could have peas?" He begged nicely.

"I suppose you want them all mushy?" She sounded reluctant.

"Please?" He pleaded.

"Oh, all right," she sighed as if granting him a huge favor. She smiled at him, walked over and gave him a big hug. "Seeing how it's you, and all that, I guess the menu could be extended to cover mushy peas."

He chucked her under the chin. "Do we get a desert?"

"Boy, the demands never stop! For your information, I made a trifle, but…" she held up an admonishing hand, "if you want any, you have to mow the grass when you get home."

"Bloody slave driver! All right! I'll mow the grass. There, I hope you're satisfied. Now I'll be all hot and tired after dinner."

Buffy looked unsympathetic. "You'll live. I've gotta book now, but be sure you come home on time, OK? I need to get an early start tonight." She left the library nearly as quickly as she had entered. Giles went back inside his office, and Principal Snyder walked from behind the stacks. He was elated. Something was definitely going on with these two and he intended to find out what it was. If he were really lucky, he could fire Giles and expel the brat. He intended to give them enough rope to hang themselves, then wham! He smiled happily.

---------------------

Buffy entered the Bronze. It wasn't terribly crowded, but she wasn't looking for company. For some reason, she just felt compelled to come here now and then. It reminded her of Angel and sort of helped her live with the bittersweet memories of her lost love. She had been feeling sort of strange lately. Nothing she could exactly put her finger on, but she felt like she was waiting for something, something really good. It puzzled her. She wanted to tell Giles, but there was nothing to tell really and for some dumb reason, she sort of felt shy around him now.

She first noticed the odd feelings one night as she and Giles sat watching a documentary about Vampires. Though the show was supposed to be serious, they had laughed themselves sick over it. Buffy had leaned into Giles and pillowed her head against his chest as she laughed. She liked the feel of his arm wrapped around her shoulders, the feel of his heart beating under her ear. It had completely surprised her. They had eventually settled down, sitting very close to each other on the couch, Buffy's hand held in his.

She began noticing him. It was driving her crazy. She liked looking at him. She liked the way his hair stuck up all over first thing in the morning. She liked the way he looked in tweed. That was perhaps the most frightening thing of all, she reflected. She had noticed that she was getting all domestic and it sort of creeped her out. Having a hot meal ready for him when he came home made her feel good. She even did their combined laundry and didn't feel all grossed out by touching his boxer shorts. A year ago, just the thought of his underwear would have had her seriously wigging. When she had found herself sewing a loose button on one of his shirts, she knew something serious was up.

She used her Bronze time to think about her feelings and finally came up with the idea that she might be developing some sort of 'thing' for her Watcher. The fact that she found the idea intriguing rather than seriously disturbing was scary. She tried mentally listing all the reasons that she could think of for why she couldn't possibly be feeling what she thought she might be feeling.

OK, reason number one: He was Giles. He was way older. He was stodgy and strict and a Watcher. Her mind rolled the idea around. So he was Giles, what did that mean? Well, it meant that he was always around to take care of her, that he thought of her welfare constantly, that he spoiled her rotten, that he...loved her? OK, yes, sure, she could see that he loved her, but it wasn't like love, love, right? It wasn't all romantic and smoochy love, right? But the thought of kissing Giles was not of the bad, she thought. She liked the way his lips looked, all soft and sort of thin. She wanted to run her tongue along them and taste them. Whoa, girl. Stop that! Thinking bad things here. She tried to get a grip on her runaway thoughts.

Think about the age thing, she commanded herself sternly. He is old enough to be your father. Well, some tiny part of her brain, spoke, Angel was old enough to be your ancestor and it didn't bother you then. But Angel didn't look old-ahah! That thought bounced around in her brain for a while. Was she really shallow enough to think she loved a guy, but to be worried because he looked like what he was, a mature male? Let's put this into perspective. Giles is in his early forties-that's not old, even I can see that. OK, we have established that he is not old. But he is older, that inner voice said. Yes, she thought, older, but much more likely than her to live to actually be old. So, maybe the age thing wasn't the issue she thought it was. Cool.

Next, he was her Watcher. She had resented the whole Watcher/Slayer thing from the first time that Merrick had told her about her fate. So, was she holding herself back because she had a child's resentment of something the man had no control over? Yeah, that sounded right, she thought. Well then, let's deal with this. Buffy is the Slayer. Buffy doesn't want to be the Slayer. Giles is her Watcher. Giles takes care of her every minute of every day. Giles wants Buffy to have a real future. Giles loves Buffy. Giles loves Buffy? Where the hell did that come from again?

The question, she realized, wasn't so much whether or not she loved him, but just exactly how did he love her? Did he see her as a surrogate daughter? Probably, she thought gloomily. She was pretty young. Her eighteenth birthday was still over two months away and Giles was no cradle robber. He most likely had never thought of her in a romantic light. She wondered how she could get him to see her that way? So, was that the plan, her brain buzzed back at her? Is that what you want? Do you want Giles to have a romantic thing for you?

Yes, yes, yes! She thought eagerly, sure at last. She realized that she wanted to be with him as more than teacher and student or as Watcher and Slayer, or even as friends. She didn't want another father; she wanted smoochies. She wanted romance. Romance, hell, she admitted, she wanted sex! Sex with Giles! The thought froze her brain momentarily, but she eventually snapped out of it, grinning.

---------------------

Giles used the quiet time while Buffy was out patrolling to organize his thoughts. Lately, they had been chaotic enough to please even Ethan Rayne. He knew what he was feeling was wrong, very wrong, but he just couldn't seem to come to grips with it. It was Buffy, always her, he thought. He had been appalled by the way her parents had treated her. Her mother had tossed her away like she was some bit of trash that was not good enough. Her father hadn't even bothered to return any of her phone calls and she had eventually given up trying. Those stupid people! They had a treasure and treated it like dross.

That had been when he started thinking of her as his, he thought. At first, it was innocent enough. She had desperately needed somebody in her life to care about her and as her Watcher, he was the natural party. Living with her had enforced feelings of closeness that he hadn't expected and wasn't really sure how to cope with. He loved that she took care of him. She fed him and did his laundry and it made him feel that he meant something to her. He had noticed her sewing up some of his shirts and trousers that took hard beatings from training and patrolling. It made him feel good, he realized. He felt cared for.

He didn't remember the exact moment that he began having those kinds of thoughts about her, he knew. He realized that he liked touching her, and found excuses to do so. That night when she had laughed in his arms about the silly vampire show, he had felt something in the region of his heart shift. It had taken all his willpower not to wrap his arms around her and kiss her.

Stop it! He ordered himself abruptly. There will be no kissing of Buffy, you old pervert! She is young enough to be your daughter. Since when did that matter, a sly voice inside his head insisted. It's wrong! She trusts me to be her authority figure. We live together. I can't place the burden of a romantic relationship on her whilst she is my ward. The part of him that knew things argued that the age barrier was an artificial construct of the late twentieth century and that for all the previous history of mankind, it had been perfectly acceptable for older men to love younger women. It was expected, in fact. He tried to put such thoughts away from him, rather unsuccessfully.

What sort of future could he offer her, after all? He was more than twenty years her senior. The sly voice insinuated itself again pointing out that her future was probably not extensive anyway so what real difference did it make? Stop it, he commanded himself. It does make a difference. She deserves a chance at a normal life, a home, a family, and a young man to love. The thought of another man with his Buffy made his hands shake with rage. It wasn't going to happen, he admitted. He loved her and that was that! He wondered how he could ascertain her feelings regarding him?

He thought about her actions. She did take very good care of him. That could be explained away by gratitude, he thought glumly. She liked him, he knew she did. She spent a lot of time with him. More than could reasonably be expected of an active seventeen-year-old girl. That was promising. Was she just expressing her gratitude because he had made a home for her? No, he didn't think that was it, besides, she had made the home for him, he realized. He had given her the house, but she had made it their home. He smiled softly in happiness. He hadn't had a real home since he was a boy and it felt wonderful.

Were there any signs of a more-than-friendly relationship, he mused? Well, she touched him, hugged him frequently. He assumed that was a good sign, except, of course, Buffy came from a culture that was very physical. Perhaps she was simply expressing her natural tendencies to be affectionate. No, he thought, that couldn't be it. Buffy, for all her physical activity, was not a touchy-feelie sort of person. She was reserved in her personal life and now that he reflected on it, most times when she was in close physical contact with someone, the other person had initiated it. Except with him, he mentally crowed. Buffy touched him of her own free will.

His next thoughts revolved around how to bring himself to her notice as a romantic possibility. How did one go about such a thing, without being hideously obvious about it? He tried to think back to his Ripper years-what had he done then?

A date perhaps? Should he take her on a date? How could he ask her out without making it seem like he was pursuing her? Wasn't he pursuing her? Well, technically yes, but he didn't want to seem as if he were doing so. Perhaps some sort of non-confrontational date-type occasion? Yes, that sounded good. But what could he do, where could he take her? Good Lord, this wasn't going to be a one-shot deal, he was going to have to do this on a regular basis until their feelings for each other became apparent. He put his head in his hands. This was going to be harder than he expected.

All right, old man. Get a grip, as Buffy would say. Where do you take a girl on a first date? How about the zoo, would that be good? No, people associated trips to the zoo with children and he didn't want her to think of him in a parental role. Think, man! What does Buffy enjoy doing? Dancing? He didn't want to take her to the Bronze-too public for their tentative beginnings in romance. Dinner? Was that too intimate for a first date? Probably, he thought. Lunch, then? Lunch at the mall perhaps? That sounded doable. Maybe he could take her shopping and buy her something? A bit of jewelry? Would that be too much? Maybe, he conceded.

There was an amusement park about an hour's drive from Sunnydale, he remembered. Maybe he could take her there on Saturday and spend the day with her. He could win her prizes and such. He remembered doing that when he was a young man and it had gone over well with the girl, as he recalled. He smiled craftily. He had a plan.

---------------------

Buffy came home late that night. He thought she looked tired. "Have a hard night slaying, my dear?" He asked casually.

"Oh, it wasn't too bad, three vamps. I went over to the Bronze to think for a while." She was also being extremely casual.

"I can't imagine how you manage to think in such a milieu." He commented wryly.

She smiled. "Noise blots out excessive outside thoughts. Lets me concentrate on the important stuff."

He shook his head in amused understanding. "That almost made sense. It's mildly frightening."

"Hey, Watcher-mine, maybe I'm corrupting your massive brain, huh?" She grinned.

"Well, something is certainly being corrupted," he murmured to himself. "Buffy, I've noticed how hard you've been working lately. I mean school, slaying, taking care of me. I'd like to treat you for a change. Would you, er, would you care to go visit that amusement park over by Kingview on Saturday? We could make a day of it. No training, no vampires, just good fun. What do you say?" He waited anxiously for her reply.

"Say, that does sound like a lot of fun. Are you sure you're feeling OK?" She reached out and put her palm against his forehead. "Hmmm. No fever."

"Oh, I say! I'm not totally unable to have fun, you know. In fact, that's been a recurring problem for me. Too much fun leads Rupert to bad things!" He took the hand that had touched him and held it in his own. He was actually touching her! He felt elated.

Oh my God! He's actually touching me, Buffy realized. And we are going on a date. Yahoo, she mentally yelled. "So, I guess we have a date for Saturday, then?"

He smiled down at her. "A d, d date. Yes, it's definitely a date." He agreed.

"Cool." She slipped her arm around his waist and walked him to the couch. "We make a pretty good team, don't we?"

"I have always believed that we make the best team ever." Giles admitted happily, wrapping his much longer arm over her shoulders. They sat down together and Buffy reached for the TV remote.

"What do you feel like watching tonight, Watcher?" She teased.

'You' he answered mentally. "Oh, uhm, I don't know. Is there anything good playing this evening?"

"Doubt it. Probably too late to see much of anything." She surfed through several programs, finally stopping on one about ancient Egypt.

They watched for a while, arms around each other. Each wishing to make a move, but fearing to actually put it to the touch. Finally, Buffy yawned, hugged Giles goodnight and stood to go to bed.

He rose as well and together they made sure everything was turned off and locked up. "Do you want eggs or pancakes for breakfast?" She asked him sleepily.

"You don't need to cook anything for me, Buffy. I don't want you to feel that you are my housekeeper and need to wait on me. You don't do you?" He asked anxious for her reply.

"No way, Giles. I like doing things for you. It's kind of strange, really. I mean when you think about it. I hated this stuff when I lived with my mom, but it's different when I do it for you. It makes me feel good. I like taking care of you." She made her admission shyly.

"I love it when you take care of me, Buffy. It makes what we have into a real home. I haven't had that since I was a boy and I didn't realize how much I missed it. I just don't want you working your fingers to the bone cooking and cleaning for me."

"It's kind of fun, Giles. I wouldn't do it if I didn't like it, you know me. It's a real home for me too, you know. I've never talked much about what it was like living with my folks, then just mom, but I have never been part of a real family like what we have now. I like it a lot." She hugged him again and ran upstairs to her room.

She had hugged him, several times, he noted to himself. She said she liked taking care of him. She had agreed to go on a date with him, albeit, a very casual one. Things were looking very promising, he thought, before turning in himself. He dreamed of her, of course, but then, he always did.

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Saturday came with incredible slowness. They worked and went to school and patrolled, but the time still moved like molasses. Giles had the car tuned up, just to be sure there were no problems, and Buffy looked through her clothes about three thousand times searching for the perfect outfit. She settled on jeans and a soft T-shirt. She wanted to be comfortable and attractive without looking like she was trying too hard.

They rose early on the eagerly awaited morning. Buffy offering to make breakfast and Giles insisting that this was a free day and that they should go out. She nodded and they went to their respective bathrooms to finish dressing. She decided to pull her hair back into a ponytail.

Giles was a bundle of nerves. He pulled on a pair of jeans and one of the T-shirts that Buffy had given him to wear during training sessions. It was a dark blue and he was quite fond of it. He tucked it in and pulled out a leather belt to wear with the jeans. Opting for comfort rather than style, he put on a pair of jogging shoes to complete his wardrobe. When he looked in the mirror, he saw a man who was not unattractive, though he was definitely older. Hopefully, Buffy wouldn't notice how much older.

When she saw his clothes for the first time that morning, Buffy licked her lips. He looked good enough to eat. "Hi, Giles. You look great! I knew that T-shirt would look fantastic with your eyes."

He blushed like a virgin. "Th, Thank you, Buffy. You look quite becoming yourself. Shall we go?"

They walked happily outside, not noticing Principal Snyder sitting in his car a few houses down. He almost jumped for joy when he saw them come out of the house together. That Summers girl was actually living with the old coot, he thought with amazement. They must be having an affair. He could probably get the man deported for this. He almost chortled.

Buffy and Giles had breakfast at a local restaurant. They knew that it was going to be a full day, so they indulged in eggs, bacon, and biscuits. Giles complained about the American's way of misnaming things. He said in England, ham was called bacon, and biscuits were cookies. American English was absurd, he added for good measure.

Buffy responded with a jibe that at least Americans knew the trunk of a car was a trunk and not a boot, and that cars didn't have bonnets, they had hoods. This good-natured teasing lasted throughout breakfast. Giles paid and they walked out to the car. Buffy took his hand as they walked.

The amusement park was crowded. Excited children and harried adults stood in seemingly endless lines for a variety of rides. Buffy and Giles bypassed most of these, choosing to stroll along the boardwalk, play the occasional game and see a few attractions. They went into the Haunted House and tried to pretend to be scared, but couldn't quite make a go of it. A worker dressed as a vampire leaped out at them and Buffy nearly staked him before Giles restrained her. After that, they decided that perhaps that attraction was better left alone.

Giles decided to win Buffy a stuffed animal. He looked over the games trying to decide which was the least likely to be rigged and determined that tossing a baseball at stacked bottles looked doable. He stood behind the line and made his first pitch straight into the center of the display. The bottles tumbled to the ground easily. He performed this feat three more times and won a large stuffed pig. He thought it was rather unattractive with its virulent pink fur and wild, googly eyes, but Buffy seemed impressed with it.

They rode roller coaster which Buffy prayed wouldn't send them hurtling to the ground. She didn't really enjoy heights. Giles thought it was enjoyable and would have gone again if he hadn't noticed Buffy's white cheeks. Next they boarded a water ride called the Tunnel of Love. It basically consisted of a slow moving boat on a track that was pulled through a dark tunnel. Buffy thought it was a pretty lame ride till Giles slipped his arm around her shoulders and snuggled her against him. She placed her hand on his chest and looked into his eyes. The light was dim enough that she had to strain to make out his expression.

Giles thought the Tunnel was too good an opportunity to miss as he pulled Buffy closer to him. He looked down and met her beautiful eyes. Before he could convince himself that this was a very bad idea, he had kissed her.

Buffy could have sworn she felt her socks blow off her feet at his tender kiss. It was sweet and lovely, mostly chaste, but with an underlying hint of desire. It rocked her world. She returned the gentle pressure of his lips with her own. They only separated when the boat reached the end of the tunnel and they emerged into the light. They broke apart and blinked in surprise, both thinking that the ride was entirely too short.

They leaped out of the boat and looked at everything but each other. Finally, Giles spoke. "Uhm, I, I, I'm sorry, Buffy. I was caught up in the moment and somehow it just happened." He looked at the ground.

She took his hand in hers. "Giles it's OK. It's more than OK, in fact. It was really nice. I liked it a lot. Maybe we could do it again sometime?"

"You weren't repelled?" He questioned hesitantly.

"Repelled?" She answered, astonished. "What was repelling in that kiss, Giles? It was sweet and tender and it was great."

"I thought perhaps because I'm so old…" He trailed off.

"You are not old! I haven't thought of you as old for over a year." She was adamant. "You know that when we met, I was still a kid, running from my life and destiny. I grew up a lot after my birthday and being on my own last summer helped. But these past few months, being with you, that opened my eyes about a lot of things. One of them being that forty-two is not by any stretch of the imagination, old."

He smiled down at her. "You are still very young, Buffy. I shouldn't have let things go so far."

"Maybe we need to take things slowly, Giles, but I want you to know that I'm not against taking them!" She looked at him with love and respect in her eyes. "You already mean everything to me, Giles. How could you think that adding one more dimension to our relationship would be a bad thing?"

"Would you, uhm, would you be willing to, uh, that is, uhm, perhaps you would consent to d, date me? I wouldn't put any pressure on you for anything else, I promise you. We aren't ready to take this any further right now, but I would like the chance for us to get to know each other better in this way." He stopped appalled as a thought struck him. "You don't think of me as your father, do you?"

Buffy laughed. "No way, Giles. I like my dad and everything, but there is no way I would ever see him as totally HOT."

Giles stuttered, nearly incoherent for a few moments. "Y, y, you think I'm hot!"

"Well, Duh!" She affirmed. "Giles, about ninety percent of the girls at school think so too! I don't know where you got this image problem from, 'cause let me tell you, it's totally bogus."

"Uh, thank you, I think." He smiled shyly again. "So, uhm, about us…" He stopped, looking hopeful.

"Well, it feels kinda…" she trailed off, trying to think of the word she wanted.

He sweat blood waiting for her to complete her thought. What if she thought if felt gross or bad? He would die, he knew.

She looked at the man she loved. "It feels kinda right, somehow. Like one of those destiny things, only this time it isn't some totally crappy prophecy. This feels good, correct, like we are doing the right thing. Is that how you feel?"

"Oh, yes, Buffy. That's exactly how I feel. I tried to tell myself that the age gap between us made this wrong, but I just couldn't make myself care about it. You realize everyone will be against us in this?"

"Well, we only have to please ourselves." She spoke soothingly. "In two months, I'll be eighteen and then it won't matter anymore what anybody says. Mom already thinks we're 'doing it.' She told me so when I tried to talk to her last month. So, we already have the blame without getting the game, I guess." She looked sad at the mention of her mother.

"Your mother will someday open her eyes, Buffy. I sincerely hope that she comes to a reasonable understanding of life on the Hellmouth before they are opened for her."

"Yeah, well, I'm not holding my breath on that one, Giles. She looked up at him with a sudden thought. "Do you want me to call you Rupert? 'Cause, like, I could do that."

He grinned. "I wouldn't want you to strain yourself, but if you feel like you want to, that would be fine."

She returned his grin. "Rupert, Rupert, Rupert. I don't know, it seems strange. You're Giles to me. It's how I think of you, you know? I think, what would Giles like for dinner, or would Giles like this dress? Now, I guess I'm going to be thinking things like, will Giles kiss me again?" She looked at him hopefully.

He bent over her and placed a chaste kiss on her forehead. "We don't want to get too involved in the middle of a busy amusement park, love. But I can reassure you about one thing. Giles will definitely kiss you again!"

"Cool. Let's go get something to drink and maybe a candy apple. I haven't had one of those since I was a kid." She took his hand and walked towards a nearby vendor.

They ate the sticky apples and got caramel all over their faces. Giles had never had one of the sweet treats before and was quite intrigued by the flavor, though he thought they were very messy.

"This is really delicious," he commented generously. "I like the way the freshness of the apple combines with the candy coating. I just wish it wouldn't stick quite so assiduously to my face."

"When I was a kid, the housekeeper who worked for my folks would make these for me. I thought they were the best things I had ever eaten. Mom found out and said that they were bad for my teeth and that young ladies did not eat things that came on sticks, so the housekeeper couldn't make them anymore. I really missed them, too."

He frowned at the story. It was so typical of Buffy's mother to take away a perfectly harmless treat. He was really beginning to dislike Mrs. Summers. "Tell me about your childhood, Buffy. I only know bits and pieces of things. I'd like to know all about you."

"Nothing very exciting to tell," she shrugged. "I was born, had an OK childhood, my folks got divorced, we moved here. Oh, and I got called to be the Slayer. I guess that was something different."

He turned her towards him and placed his large hands on her shoulders. "Do you really hate being the Slayer, Buffy?"

"No, not anymore. I mean, sure there's the whole 'wish I could have had a life' thing, but after a while, that just gets old. You know I could wish I were taller, but that's not going to happen either. Maybe if I had been raised to it, like the other Slayers, it wouldn't have been so weird. It came at a bad time too. My folks were starting to have fights, bad ones. I kept getting into trouble and it put a lot more pressure on their marriage. Towards the end, they spent more time arguing who was the worse parent and whose fault I was, than trying to work out their marriage problems."

"Buffy, surely you don't blame yourself for your parents divorce?"

"No, not really. I know I made things harder, but it wasn't my fault that Dad had an affair with his secretary or that mom turned into Bitchzilla when she found out. I tried to explain to them that I was the Slayer and that vampires were real, but…" She stopped talking.

"But what, Buffy?" Giles didn't like the turn this conversation had taken and was determined to get to the bottom of it.

"I never told anybody about this, Giles. Promise you won't ever tell anybody?"

"Of course, love. You know your confidences are safe with me."

"Well, I told them and they took me to a psychiatrist who said I was sick and then they made me go to this place where people with delusions could get well. I tried to show them how strong I was, but they said I was taking drugs. They did about a million blood tests-really, it was worse than a vamp bite after a while! Of course, they never found any drugs in my blood because I wasn't taking any. They just figured it was some trick, that I was hiding it somehow."

"I was really scared in that place. It was for sick people and I knew I wasn't sick. I finally pretended to believe them when they told me there were no such things as vampires and they let me out. I kept quiet about it, till last year when I had to tell my mom again. It's probably one of the reasons she is still so mad at me."

Giles wanted to pull her into his arms. He settled for putting an arm over he shoulder and pulling her towards him. "I had no idea, Buffy. I wish I could have found you sooner. I would never have let them do that to you. I would have rescued you from that place and taken you away with me."

She patted his back comfortingly. "It's OK, Rupert. It's all way in the past now. I don't blame my folks, well, not much, anyhow. I remember when Merrick told me about this stuff for the first time. I thought, wow, this guy is a real nut. Then he took me to a cemetery and I got my first lesson in slaying."

Suddenly she stopped walking and smiled up at him brilliantly. "Hey, I called you Rupert and it was OK!"

"Very OK, Buffy. What do you say we take that hideous pink pig and go home now?" He smiled and loved her.

"It's not hideous. It's a very handsome pig. I'm going to associate this pig with our first kiss for the rest of my life." She announced grandly.

He groaned. "I was hoping for something a little more romantic, love. I wanted moonlight, soft music, maybe some dancing and what do I get? A pink pig!" He shook his head in mock regret. "It's enough to drive a man mad, I tell you."

They walked to the car, carefully putting the pig in the back seat. They drove home along a back road and Buffy made Giles stop when they came to a tiny farmer's market selling watermelons. They bought two, since Buffy explained that Xander could probably eat one by himself. The rest of the drive home was uneventful. Buffy leaned against Giles shoulder for most of the trip, deeply asleep.

---------------------

On Monday, there was a terse note from Principal Snyder waiting for Giles on the door of the library. He was to report immediately to the Principal's office. Giles put his briefcase down and made his way to the room he thought of as the lair of the nasty little troll.

He was surprised to see two other persons in the room when he entered, though he didn't know either of them. Snyder rose from his desk and made the introductions.

"Mr. Giles, this is Mrs. Gilcrest from Social Services, and Mr. Adair from Child Welfare. They would like to speak to you regarding your relationship with Ms. Summers."

The two social workers looked at Giles as if he had crawled from a particularly noxious sewer. Mrs. Gilcrest spoke first.

"Mr. Giles, it has come to the attention of Social Services that you are having a liaison with a minor. In this state that is punishable by a jail term. Are you aware of that?"

"Madam, I can categorically state that I am not having a liaison with a minor. I assume you are referring to Ms. Buffy Summers?"

"That is correct. Ms. Summers is a minor, a child in the eyes of the law. Is it not true that she is actually living with you?"

"Of course Buffy is living with me. She is my ward. It is entirely fit and appropriate that she lives with me, Mrs. Gilcrest, and I deeply resent the implication that anything not totally above board is occurring between Buffy and myself."

"Your ward! I hope you have some proof of that fact, Mr. Giles."

"Of course. Mrs. Summers signed guardianship of Buffy over to me early this fall. I have the papers at home and they have also been filed with the proper legal authorities for the state."

Giles calm statements took some of the wind out of their sails. They were expecting him to deny any relationship. It threw them.

Mr. Adair decided that he needed to say something.

"Isn't it true, Mr. Giles, that Buffy is a problem student with constant bad grades, always in trouble, skipping classes etc.? How do you account for her behavior?"

"If you will examine the facts, Mr. Adair, you will see that Buffy's school work has improved enormously since she came to live with me. Her outlook is better, she hasn't been in trouble once since this autumn, and she no longer skips classes. Buffy had a very traumatic home life with her mother. She is much better off with me."

"If I may ask," stuttered the flustered man, "how did you come to have custody of the girl? You aren't a blood relation, are you?"

Giles smiled grimly. "I have custody of Buffy because after her mother threw her out of her home, I asked for the care of her. I made quite sure all the legalities were followed to a T. There was no way I was letting that woman ever have control over Buffy again. I am not a blood relation, thank God. Buffy's blood kin have been singularly remiss in their treatment of the child."

"Principal Snyder believes you are carrying on a sexual relationship with Ms. Summers. Is that true?" Asked the nosy Mrs. Gilcrest.

"People are always willing to believe the worst, aren't they? Just because a mature man takes an interest in a young girl, people assume it must be sexual. Buffy is a sweet, kind and caring girl and I love her very much. However, our relationship is not sexual." Giles forbore to explain he was waiting for her to be legal.

The social workers looked at him and then at Principal Snyder. They stood up, snapping their briefcases closed. "I think we have all we need here. Sorry for the trouble, Mr. Giles. We have the welfare of the child to think about, you understand." Adair spoke apologetically.

"I understand." Giles left it at that and watched them exit the office. He turned to Snyder, who gulped at the look in the librarian's eyes.

"Perhaps you would care to explain how you were simply looking out for Buffy's welfare, Mr. Snyder?" Giles said quietly. Ripper was very close to the surface.

"Well, there's been talk, Mr. Giles. You seemed to spend a great deal of time with Buffy and her friends. It doesn't seem natural. What other explanation could I put on this whole situation?" He raised his hands in a 'don't ask me' gesture.

"I'm sure you will do your absolute best to make sure any such 'talk' ceases immediately. Won't you, Mr. Snyder? Giles' voice was very cool.

"Uh, yes. Absolutely. I'll see to it right away." He backed away and sat down carefully at his desk as the librarian calmly exited his office. He was at first relieved that Mr. Giles hadn't killed him, and then angry that he let himself be made to look like a fool. He should have checked things out better, but who knew?

The rest of the day passed uneventfully and Giles explained the morning's events when he and Buffy sat down to dinner. She had made baked pork chops, with sliced apples and glazed carrots. It smelled heavenly. Buffy was furious and wanted to rip Snyder's head off. Giles calmed her down and made her eat the delicious dinner. "After all, love, he was almost right!" Giles chuckled. "If we hadn't decided to wait, we could have been in real trouble."

"I know, Rupert. But it makes what we have, what's growing between us, into something nasty. We love each other and that pig smeared it with his dirty thoughts. Can't I punch him just a little?" she wheedled.

"No punching! After graduation, we'll plan a special surprise for the little weasel. It will be something we will both enjoy, I promise you." He grinned slyly, eyes twinkling.

The rest of the dinner past in quiet talk and jokes. They watched a rerun of the 1900's House which both of them found fascinating.

"I am so totally glad I didn't live in those times, Giles. How awful it must have been! And can you imagine being the Slayer and having to wear all those clothes? And that corset thing? Having a maid would have been OK, but the rest was major suckage!"

"Well, I don't know. I thought it looked rather interesting once they adapted somewhat."

"Huh, you would think that! The guys got to do whatever they wanted. The dad got to go off to work and got away from the house but the mom and daughter just had to hang around and be domestic. Yuk!"

"I thought you liked being 'domestic,' he questioned.

"I like doing stuff for you, but if I thought that housework was going to be the highlight of my existence for the rest of my life, I'd think again! Cooking and cleaning, doing our laundry, stuff like that, it's just chores that have to be done and because I do them for you, I feel good about doing them. But if somebody said, OK, Buffy, your life from now on is going to consist of having a kid every year and working yourself into an early grave, I think I'd have to pass."

"You know if we had lived in that time, nobody would question our relationship at all. In fact, if we had lived in any time before the late twentieth century, it would have been perfectly all right for you to live with me, either as my ward or my wife."

"So what changed things?" She asked curiously.

"There were a variety of factors that came into play at more or less the same time. Rising affluence in the general population meant that girls didn't have to marry early to get them out of the house, better educational systems were made available to women so they had access to equal or nearly equal training as men for the first time. Society was becoming more fixated on youth and the power of change, the peace movement, the civil rights movement, women's liberation; it all tied in to free women from a life of matrimony and housework."

"It used to be that a woman who never married was pitied and scorned, an old maid, if you will. Now, if a woman does not marry, it's because she has chosen to remain single. Nothing is even thought about it. She isn't forced to bear children if she so chooses because cheap and efficient birth control is readily available. And the choice to use it is hers. Condoms have been around for centuries, but it was up to the man to use them. If he chose not to, then the woman was exposed to the dangers of pregnancy time and again. All in all, the changes are beneficial to women and to society as a whole, but it's damned inconvenient for us." He finished with a sigh.

"If we were living back in the old days, would you have married me?" She asked curiously.

"Old days, or now, love. I would marry you in a heartbeat. I just worry that you would be tying yourself to an old man." He turned and held her hands. "We haven't gotten to that stage in our relationship yet because I want to take things slowly and I need for you to be sure of your feelings. I don't want to take advantage of your vulnerability." He held up his hand to cut off her automatic protest. "You are vulnerable. You loved Angel and had a very traumatic relationship with him, and you are very young. I can't let you make a hasty decision, no matter how much I yearn to love you."

She looked into his sincere eyes and finally nodded. "I do love you, but I appreciate the care you take of me. I know you think I don't know my own mind yet. But, I know that I do. I know that I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I wish it could be longer than its probably going to be, but there you go. I wish I could have children with you, watch them grow up, see your hair get white, but it's not really in the cards. I'm going to die, maybe tonight, maybe in five years, but it's waiting for me, sooner rather than later. I accept it now, but it's still hard." She gazed deep into his eyes. "When I turn eighteen…"

He soothed his hands over hers. "When you turn eighteen…" he agreed somewhat hoarsely.

---------------------

Time passed, pretty much as slowly as time ever passes when you're waiting for something. Buffy's eighteenth birthday was nearly upon them when Giles received a phone call from the Watcher's Council. He spoke to them for a few moments, growing quite agitated. Had Buffy been home, she would have been very concerned. As it was, when she bounced in through the front door, he was sitting on the couch in a funk of despair.

"Hey, Rupert! What's the what?" She caught his gaze and dropped next to him on the couch. "What's wrong, baby? You look so sad."

He put his head in his hands. "The Council called me. They want you to undergo a test-I refused. They have threatened to replace me if I don't perform it with you."

"So, what's the test about? Is it written or verbal? I'm lots better at multiple choice, you know." She stroked his hands slowly.

"None of the above, I'm afraid. It's supposed to be a big secret. Watcher's oath and all that. I don't care. They can't make me do this to you."

"You're scaring me, Rupert. You'd better tell me from the beginning. We can deal with it together." She nodded strongly.

"It's a terribly arcane and cruel ritual called the Cruciamentum. When a Slayer turns 18, her Watcher injects her with a drug that weakens her physically. She is then locked up somewhere isolated with a vampire or demon and is forced to kill it or be killed by it. Because she has no extraordinary strength, she must use her wits. Many Slayers do not survive."

"So what's the point?" She asked in a scared voice.

"Supposedly, the point is to build the girl's confidence. Show her that being a Slayer is not merely physical, but is a mental challenge as well. As if you didn't know that already. I believe that the real purpose is to show the Slayer that she is at the mercy of the Council; that they can rob her of her powers at will. It's administered at 18 because the girls are usually beginning to question the authority of the Watchers and Council by that time. The Council feels that if the girls fail and die, then another more malleable, younger Slayer will be called. After all, when one falls another is chosen." He added bitterly.

Buffy looked at him. "What are we going to do? I can't let you be replaced, but I gotta say, I'm not crazy about being weakened and locked up with a monster either."

Giles had tears in his eyes. "I don't know what to do, love. The Council would find out if I didn't give you the drug. They do a blood test after to be sure. But I simply cannot let you go to what could easily be your death."

They sat quietly, lost in thought for several hours. Finally, Buffy looked up. "Do they limit the weapons you can take? Do they search you before you go in?"

"No, of course not. You can take anything you can carry."

"How long does the drug take to effect a Slayer?"

"It is nearly instantaneous. You would begin experiencing effects within minutes of being injected. Loss of coordination and strength, dizziness, all the usual symptoms."

"Hmmm." Buffy murmured. "They don't know what I take in, they don't search me, they only look for the drug after the test…do they film it or something?"

"No. No modern technology for the Watcher's Council." He bit off angrily.

"So, technically, I could go in at full strength but pretending to be all weak and sick, kill the monster, inject myself with the drug and wait for morning? How would they know?"

He looked at her, astonished. It had never occurred to him that Buffy might actually come up with a viable alternative. He knew that she was not, by nature, a planner, but this was superb. He grinned as he thought about it. It just might work!

They made extensive plans, backup plans, and fail-safes. Giles acquired self-injecting pens used for insulin and loaded two of them with the serum. They called the Council that night. Giles explained that Buffy had gone to bed and he had thought better of his refusal. The Council was pleased and informed him of the time and whereabouts of the test. He smiled nastily into the phone.

The test went as they had expected for the most part, except the vampire procured to fight the Slayer was intensely crazy and had escaped the house. He had returned voluntarily, but he had Buffy's mother with him. He had seen her walking to her car and had simply picked her up and carried her away. He liked to terrify and kill women. It was his bread and butter. He tied Joyce up in the basement of the house and waited for the Slayer.

Buffy entered the house not knowing her mother was in danger. She prowled through the dusty rooms, pretending to be weak, but not having to fake the fear. The monster leapt at her from a dark corner and the battle was joined. They fought for nearly half an hour before Buffy could stake him. He crumbled in a most satisfactory manor. Deciding to take no chances, she searched the place from top to bottom and finally ran across her terrified mother in the damp cellar.

"Buffy! Oh my God! Did you see that thing? It was some kind of a monster. It's face! Oh, God! It's face changed right in front of me. It was so horrible! We've got to get out of here, right now!"

Buffy untied her mother and tried to calm her hysteria. "It's OK, mom. It was just a vampire. It's dead now. I checked the house and it was alone. We are locked in here till morning, so let's go upstairs and get comfortable, OK?"

"Vampire! It was a vampire? Then all this stuff you've been telling me for years is true. Oh my God! Oh my God!"

Buffy herded her mother up the stairs and surreptitiously injected herself with both vials of serum. She started feeling very bad and was glad she had a place to sit down. The dawn was still ten hours away and she was exhausted. She talked some to her mother who eventually demanded an explanation. Buffy gave her a capsule view of life on the Hellmouth. Joyce simply shook her head.

"And you say that Mr. Giles helps you fight all this evil stuff?"

"Giles is my Watcher. He mostly trains me and helps me out with things that I'm not expected to be knowledgeable about like magic and spells and such. When we patrol, he guards my back." Buffy explained gently.

"And what does this training consist of, exactly?" Joyce's eyes narrowed with suspicion.

"I can throw knives, fight with a sword or ax, fight hand to hand, use a crossbow, and, oh, I don't know, lots of stuff like that. If you want, when I'm feeling better you can come to a training session."

"So all this time, when I thought you were being a rotten kid, you were really saving the world?" Joyce gritted out.

"Mostly, yeah. Sometimes, I just wanted to see my boyfriend, though." Buffy grinned irrepressibly.

"I didn't even know you had a boyfriend until he told me about you two that night."

"Yeah, well, you date the undead and you kind of learn to hide things." Buffy shrugged.

"Undead! What the Hell does that mean?"

Uh oh, thought Buffy. "Angel was a two-hundred and forty three year old vampire, mom. He was cursed and regained his soul. We didn't know that if he enjoyed a moment of pure happiness, that the soul went poof and he turned back into a psychotic evil killer. Go figure." Buffy shrugged again.

"So, does everybody know about this Hellmouth thing besides me?" Joyce asked.

"No, not really. People are pretty blind. Xander and Willow know, of course. And Giles, and well, Amy-she's a witch. And I guess Cordelia, and maybe a few other people, but mostly they just ignore it."

"So the world is saved on a regular basis by a small group of teenagers and their nearly geriatric patron? Is that what you are telling me?"

"Mom!" Buffy reprimanded. "In the first place, Giles isn't even old, let alone geriatric. And yes, I guess the Scoobies and me do save the world a lot. It's my job and they are my friends. Willow is learning magic and that's a big help. She is also totally good with research. Giles can do some magic, and he is like super book guy. You would really like him, if you gave him a chance. He is the smartest man I have ever met. He could be totally rich if he wanted, but he just does his Watcher thing for me."

"You really do like him, don't you, Buffy?" Her mother had calmed down slightly.

"Yeah, I guess you could say that I like him. You could also say that I love him to pieces." Buffy smiled. "He is the best man in the entire world. How could I not love him?"

The women lapsed into an uncomfortable silence. Joyce lost in her thoughts of monsters and demons, and Buffy lost in thoughts of Giles. It was a very subdued pair of women that the Watcher's Council released the next morning.

Giles had come with them and had whisked Buffy into his arms. He hugged her and rained kisses down on her face to the astonishment of all present except the girl in his arms. Quentin Travers, the lead Watcher for this expedition, watched with an expressionless face. Everyone trooped back to the library. Buffy explained how she had tripped and fallen and accidentally staked the vampire as he lunged for her. She wanted the Council to think she was dumb; it was a huge advantage. She didn't have to pretend anger at Travers either. What he had put her and her loved ones through should not be allowed. She gave him a steely glance. "I think you had better clear out of town, Mr. Travers. 'Cause, I gotta say, if I see you here after I get my strength back, I'm going to take you apart."

Travers sniffed. "Really, Ms. Summers. There is no need to take umbrage over the test. You and your Watcher passed and you seem to have mended some fences with your parent. I'm sure Mr. Giles has a father's love for you and will continue to stand in as your guardian. In addition, I'd like to inform you that the Council will now begin paying you a modest salary. All surviving Slayers get it. It's not a lot of money, but you should have some income of your own, now that you are an adult in our eyes." He turned and left the room. There was silence left behind him.

Buffy and Giles exchanged looks and then began to laugh. They laughed until they nearly fell down upon the floor in exhaustion.

Joyce stood looking at them in puzzlement. "What's so funny?"

When they could finally speak, Giles turned to her and said, "A father's love! Good lord, the man is blind as a bat! Buffy and I have been waiting until she turned eighteen, but now that she has, we are free to show our feelings. Mrs. Summers, you should know that I intend to marry Buffy as soon as she will have me." He had another thought and snickered. "I just remembered that married Watchers get quite a salary hike-it's so they can protect their family better."

Buffy grinned up at him. "I'll have you as soon as we can get a license, Giles. No more waiting around! You are gonna be my husband before the weekend rolls around, so you had just better get used to the idea!"

Giles beamed at her. "Yes, dear." His meek answer was belied by the twinkle in his eyes.

END