Coming Out
By Katyd

Title: Coming Out
Spoilers:  Mild.  We haven't seen any of season 4 here yet, but this is set
sometime after 'Beer Bad'
Feedback: Please be gentle, this is my first time.
Author's note:  This is in response to a challenge at "Watching You,
Watching Me."  Buffy's father catches her in a compromising situation and
things are revealed.
Disclaimer: I own nothing.  I borrowed them all and will return them,
unharmed, now I'm done.  Giles' Chosen One speach was taken from the
official BTVS website.


Buffy and Giles were training in the back yard of her house. Since they had blown up the school to defeat the mayor they had been having trouble finding a place large enough to train. Not to mention private enough! The last time they had tried fencing in the park the Sunnydale police had received no fewer than three reports about ‘lunatics running loose with swords’. Buffy thought it was just her luck that the same people who could ignore vampires everyday would be wigged by one little sword fight.

Today, though, they were concentrating on hand-to-hand. Buffy blocked a punch, faked a swing at Giles’ head then swept his feet out from under him. A second later her knees came down either side of his ribcage and her hands came to his throat.

"Do you give up Foul Fiend?" She giggled at the face he pulled and then looked up as she heard the back door open. "Hi Mom…." Buffy’s voice trailed away and Giles used her momentary distraction against her. He brought his own hands up to grasp hers, then used his hips to roll them so that now he knelt astride Buffy’s stomach with her hands pinned above her head.

"You really must learn to concentrate Buffy." He admonished, "a ‘Foul Fiend’ won’t stop just because your mother brings you lemonade." Buffy finally dragged her gaze away from the back stairs and Giles saw the panicked look in her eyes only moments before a very masculine voice issued from the doorway.

"What in God’s name is going on here? Get the hell off my daughter."

"Dad," Buffy tried for the third time to break in on her father’s tirade against lecherous older men but he continued to ignore her, pacing up and down on front of the couch she and Giles were sitting on. She felt herself become more and more tense with every insult Hank threw at him, although it seemed like water off a ducks back as far as Giles was concerned. He sat looking at Hank Summers with an expression of polite boredom on his face that made Hank’s angry display seem foolish

Buffy’s initial embarrassment over her father’s assumption of hanky panky had faded quickly. She knew that wasn’t how Giles felt about her, but her father going on and on about it just seemed to … rub it in somehow. (Hold it) she thought to herself. (What do I mean by that? It’s not like I want Giles to think about me that way. Sure, I’ve thought about it a couple of times, who wouldn’t when we spend so much time together, and there were those dreams, but it’s not like I fantasise about him.) A little voice in her head called her a liar. (OK, once.) Liar. (OK, a couple of times.) Liar, liar pants on fire. (Alright, every night for months BUT IT DOESN’T COUNT. It’s just tension and proximity and getting sweaty in training and a little crush.) Liar. Buffy decided to ignore the little voice and concentrate on her dad instead.

Bad choice. Hank had moved on from insulting Giles and had started in on her irresponsibility and ‘loose moral standards’. She snuck a sideways glance at Giles. There was no sign of polite boredom now. He was looking at Hank the same way he’d looked at the mayor, right before running him through with a sword. Buffy placed a hand on Giles knee to get his attention. When he turned his face toward her she could see the tension had turned his eyes a dark shade of green. She spoke to him in a low voice, making him focus on her.

"Don’t go Ripper on me now." She grinned at him and watched as the humour returned to his face and the green lightened in his eyes. Buffy ignored her father’s sputtering; the important thing at the moment was her watcher. She knew that if he lost control and hit her father he would never forgive himself and Buffy didn’t want to cause Giles any more pain. The fact that Hank would get hurt was really a minor consideration. "I may have to tell him."

"Do you think that’s wise?"

"Giles, he’s ready to kill you. He couldn’t, but he doesn’t know that."

"Never mind that. The knowledge could be dangerous for him and for you." Giles’ concern for her touched Buffy, but his unconcern for himself made her angry. She wouldn’t let anyone run him down; he should stand up for himself. (God, Giles is so great, why does he let people speak about him like that? Snyder, Travers, Wes and now Dad. Even if he doesn’t care what they think I care)

"He’s my father, I don’t want him to hate you." (It’s bad enough that he doesn’t much like me.) Buffy pushed the disturbing thought aside. "I mean, you guys should be friends; you’ve got so much in common." At that Hank’s face turned even redder and he started to bluster but Buffy was lost in her own thoughts. She’d made that last remark without even thinking about it. Part of her had always labelled Hank and Giles as part of a subset of the world called ‘old guys’ even though Giles was in a whole bunch of other subsets as well: ‘good guys’; ‘friends’; ‘sexy’; (Not now, bad Slayer.) They were about the same age, but did they have anything else in common? They were both tall but surely that couldn’t be everything. (They both slept with Mom at least once.) She pushed aside the strange little ache that that thought always brought her. Her attention snapped back as her father shouted something she simply didn’t understand.

"What exactly do you think I have in common with that...that...that Humbert Humbert?" Buffy looked from her father to Giles in some confusion.

"Nooo..." she said, "Rupert, Rupert Giles." Her father just stared at her but Giles, used to this sort of thing, interpreted the remark for her.

"Humbert Humbert was the teacher cum father figure cum paedophile in ‘Lolita’"

"Oh," she said nodding her head. "I read that. HEY!" She turned on her father in fury, "just how old do you think I am anyway?" Giles wasn’t surprised that it was Lolita’s age Buffy had focused on, but he also knew it was just an automatic, momentary distraction. Hank however was not as familiar with Buffy’s lightening shifts of focus.

"I know you’re almost eighteen Buffy, that’s my point." Giles shot a look of disbelief at the other man. This was probably the biggest mistake he could have made.

"Nineteen." Buffy almost spat the word at him. "I’m nearly nineteen, Daddy. Just because you skipped my birthday last year didn’t mean it didn’t happen." Her eyes met Giles’ as they both remembered everything that had happened. Giles’ face was full of anguish and sorrow. They had never really talked about that day, simply put it behind them and moved on, but he had spent every day in between trying to make it up to her. Buffy smiled back at him. She had forgiven him that night in the Library. Travers’ hateful speech had been all she needed to shift the focus of her resentment. Giles’ bravery that night had been all the atonement she could have asked for.

"You didn’t show up for my birthday." She was speaking to her father, but looking at Giles. "Giles saved my life."

Joyce walked into the room, breaking the tension that followed Buffy’s softly spoken words. She was carrying a tray of teacups and cookies that she obviously wanted to put down on the coffee table, but Hank was in the way. He was pacing back and fort and each time she tried to move around him he spun back into her path; typically he was apparently unaware she was even in the room.

Just as typically Giles stepped forward, forcing Hank to stop or walk into him. He took the tray from Joyce somewhat gallantly and set it on the table, then handed a cup to Buffy and took one for himself. He sat down beside her on the sofa and watched as Joyce sank gracefully into one chair and Hank sat stiffly on the edge of another.

"I called Willow." Joyce spoke into the silence of the room. "I thought you might want to tell your dad a few things and thought she might be able to help."

"Joyce, I really don’t think…" Joyce didn’t even look at her ex-husband but continued talking to Buffy as if he had never interrupted.

"She said she’d bring the rest of the Scoobygang over just after sunset, so I think she’s going to bring Spike."

"Thanks Mom. You’re right, it’s time my father learned who I am." Buffy, Giles and Joyce all turned their attention back to Hank. He realised that he seemed to have lost the initiative in this situation and tried to get it back.

"Now Buffy, I know you think you’re all grown up but your mother and I know what’s best for you, and this old man.." That was as far as he got before Buffy interrupted again.

"Wrong."

"What?" Hank was thrown off balance by Buffy’s calm interruption. Before he could find his stride again she went on.

"You don’t know what’s best for me, because you don’t know anything about me. Giles does. He knows everything about me, good and bad, and he still cares. If you knew half of what he knows, if you’d seen half of what he’s seen you wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. And you sure wouldn’t have the gall to call him names. Hey Giles!" she turned away from her father for a moment, "’gall’ that’s a you word. Good for me." She grinned at him before turning back to face her father. The grin faded and was replaced by the kind of scowl that sent vampires fleeing into the night. "You don’t get to say bad things about Giles; you don’t have the right."

Hank squirmed, trying not to be intimidated by his own daughter, or at least trying not to look intimidated. He stood and gathering up his anger tried again to take control of the room.

"I know everything I need to know about you Buffy. I know I’m your father and you will…" again, Buffy cut him off, leaping out of her seat she faced him across the coffee table.

"What did I get on the SATs?"

"What?"

"The SATs. What did I get on them?"

"You did very well, your mother and I are both very proud."

"Great, thanks, what was my score?" When her father didn’t answer she turned to Giles

"1430," he said as he came to stand behind her.

"Giles helped me study. Who was my first lover?" Hank stared at her in shock.

"Your first WHAT?"

"Angel." Giles said the word quietly and placed a hand on Buffy’s shoulder. He gave her shoulder a soft squeeze to show his support.

"And who was my last lover?" Hank didn’t even try to answer that one.

"Parker," said Giles. "The prat." Buffy grinned at Giles over her shoulder then turned back to her father.

"Who’s was the last funeral I attended?" Hank looked relieved that he could answer this one.

"Your grandmother’s, five years ago." Buffy turned to look at Giles.

"Larry’s, two days after graduation." They shared a pained smile and then turned, together, to face Hank.

"This is the sixty-four thousand dollar question Hank," everyone in the room noticed that Buffy had used her father’s first name, but no one commented, "what is my calling?"

"What do you mean, calling?" Hank looked confused and more than a little cowed. Buffy looked so fierce and the man behind her seemed dangerous just at that moment. Then the doorbell rang, cutting through the tension.

"I’ll get it," Buffy said, "Mom if Spike’s with them he’s gonna want hot chocolate."

"I have those little marshmallows he likes. And if I know Xander he’ll want soda. Tea for Willow and Oz, I’ll be back in a moment." Joyce headed for the kitchen and Buffy for the door. For just a moment Hank and Giles were alone in the living room. Before Hank could say anything the other man spoke. With a cold look on his face, which frightened Hank, Giles spoke directly to him for the first time.

"Your daughter is a remarkable young woman. She is the strongest, bravest, finest person I know, and if you do anything to hurt her tonight I’ll take that pain out of your hide with my bare hands."

Buffy returned to the living room with two young women and three young men behind her. She left them at the doorway and returned to Giles’ side. The five young people stood in a huddle in the doorway, waiting for Buffy to speak. They looked to Hank a little like soldiers tensed for battle. None of them were very old and the two girls were tiny but as a group they exuded a power that made him uncomfortable. They seemed dangerous.

"Hank, these are my…our friends. This is Willow and Oz."

"Hi," the redheaded girl smiled uncertainly, then turned to Giles. "Hey Giles." She gave a little wave. A young man with blue hair was standing beside her, an arm looped protectively round her shoulders. He nodded when Buffy introduced him, but didn’t speak.

"That’s Anya and Xander." The tall, dark young man looked at Hank with unconcealed mistrust. The young girl beside him looked Hank straight in the eye and spoke with deadly calm.

"Don’t make me hurt you." Hank just blinked at her and turned to the last of Buffy’s friends. The bleached blond looked older than the teenagers he was with, but Hank wasn’t prepared to guess his age. He was grinning, but on him the grin looked dangerous.

"And that’s Spike."

"So," said Spike, "you’re the pillock who walked out on Joyce and Buffy. Wanna come outside with me for a second?"

"Spike behave!" Buffy spoke automatically. There was none of her usual force behind her words.

"Yes," said Giles. "If you’re a good lad we’ll let you bite him later."

"Giles! Hank is my father even if he is a pillock. Spike can bite Parker." The Scoobygang burst into nervous laughter. Hank, feeling slightly overwhelmed, tried to take control again. He spoke to Spike.

"Aren’t you a little old to be hanging around with teenagers." Everyone but Hank laughed again. Joyce was just coming back into the room with a tray of drinks and had caught Hank’s last remark. She laughed along with the others. Spike turned at the sound and grinned at her then stepped forward to take the tray from her. He set it down on the table and then turned back to Joyce. He took her arm and ushered her through the crowded living room to an armchair, then picked up his hot chocolate and settled on the arm of her chair.

"Little marshmallows! Thanks, luv." Joyce smiled up at him and then turned back to Buffy.

"Have you told your father yet?"

"Not yet. Everybody sit and I’ll start." Buffy and Giles sat back down on the couch and Willow and Oz joined them. Xander sat down in the other armchair and Anya settled on his lap. That left the other couch for Hank. He looked around at the others in the room, squashed together in the various seats. They didn’t look uncomfortable. Rather, they looked as if they were used to accommodating each other. Hank realised that these people looked comfortable with each other and themselves and for some reason this intensified the aura of danger that they radiated. These were people who were used to backing each other up.

Hank Summers was a lawyer and one of the most successful, powerful men in his field. He was used to commanding attention and awe. He was not used to being intimidated by a bunch of children and a small town librarian; nor by his own ex-wife and daughter. Once more he tried to gain control of the situation by overpowering those in the room.

"Buffy I don’t know why your mother saw fit to invite these…people here, or what you think you can tell me. I know what I saw in the backyard young lady and nothing you say can excuse the way you were carrying on. I never thought I’d see my own daughter cavorting with a man my age and I have to tell you Buffy, I’m disappointed. Very disappointed." He cast a look around the room and realised he had their full attention at last. Unfortunately, they all looked amused.

"Training." Buffy said the single word quietly.

"What?" Hank was starting to hate the sound of that word. He knew he had said it far too many time that evening and it was finally beginning to occur to him that there was more going on here than he was aware of. Joyce had been too calm through this whole debacle and Buffy had never for a moment looked guilty. Just tired and a little…annoyed. He looked at Giles, hoping to catch something on the other man’s face that he could use against him. Guilt, anger anything. All he saw was amusement.

"Buffy and I were practising hand to hand combat, as we do most days. As usual, she was beating the stuffing out of me." Giles and Buffy shared an affectionate smile. She spoke to her father, but looked at Giles.

"He holds his own. And with fencing he’s got me licked, but my aim’s better and I rule with the crossbow."

"Fencing! Buffy, you and this man fence!? And what do you mean crossbow? Will someone please tell me what’s going on here?" All the bluster and pomposity had gone from Hank’s voice, his last question had come out as a whine rather than the demand he had originally meant it to be.

"Well Hank, I’m a Vampire Slayer and Giles is my Watcher." Hank just stared at her in disbelief. "There are vampires and I slay them. Giles trains me and our friends help." Hank snorted and turned to Joyce.

"Will you please tell me what is really going on here? I’ve had enough of this nonsense and…" He got no further. Joyce was looking back at him calmly and unsmilingly, however the young man beside her was smiling, around the biggest mouthful of teeth Hank had ever seen. As Hank watched the man’s face changed into the face of a nightmare; ridges formed and his teeth grew.

Hank Summers, prominent lawyer, fainted dead away.

Spike had gotten bored while Joyce was fussing over Hank and had begun walking around the room picking things up and moving them around and poking his head into all the cupboards. He had found Joyce’s family albums in the bottom of one and was now sitting on the floor and laughing his ass off at Buffy’s baby photos.

Joyce sat beside Hank on the couch, chaffing his hands and murmuring soothingly. He had regained consciousness quickly, but they had all agreed to give him a little more time before continuing with what Buffy called her ‘Slayer-secret-coming-out-of-the-closet-demonstration’. She and Giles were sitting together on the opposite couch. Willow and Oz had moved to Joyce’s abandoned armchair and the Slayer and Watcher were using the opportunity to talk quietly. They were planning the remainder of the ‘demonstration’ and trying to decide on what to tell and what not to tell. Buffy kept casting the occasional scowling glance at her father but at some point Giles had taken her hand for comfort and was absentmindedly brushing his thumb across the back of her hand. This was making it hard to stay angry. Hell, it was making it hard to think.

Xander had been sent to the kitchen for a glass of water for Hank and had returned with a plate of Joyce’s double chocolate-chip brownies and a bag of cheesy chips and had to be sent back for the water. He had returned to his seat and Anya had immediately settled back on his lap. She was swivelling back and forth, offering unheeded advice to everyone in the room. She didn’t seem to mind that everyone was ignoring her, as long as Xander paid attention she was happy. However, Xander was currently concentrating very, very hard on everything BUT Anya and the way she was wriggling about in his lap. He was trying to remember the multiplication tables and was stuck on six times seven.

In all the excitement Willow had drunk Xander’s cola and eaten three brownies and was now gleefully bouncing up and down in the armchair in the throws of an illicit sugar/caffeine high. Oz was sitting at her feet, stoic as ever, and taking advantage of Xander’s distraction as an opportunity to bogart the cheesy chips.

When Hank had a little more colour and had been given a cup of strong black coffee (and warned to keep it away from Willow) they all settled down to continue telling Hank about his daughter’s secret identity. Spike tried to sit on the couch with Joyce and Hank, but as this made Hank nervous enough to spill his coffee he had reluctantly gone to sit with Buffy and Giles.

"Are all of your friends vampires?" Hank looked nervously around the room as if expecting the teenagers to all vamp out and lunge for his neck.

"Nope, just me." Spike grinned evilly. "But I’m enough." Hank blanched a little.

"Oh, oh, oh. Vampires. Spike is and so…" Before Willow could finish her revelation Oz distracted his hyper girlfriend with half a brownie. She immediately stopped talking; focusing on the chocolaty goodness as Oz waved it back and forth before her eyes. When he was sure she’d forgotten the topic of conversation he gave her the brownie. Willow let out a squeal and happily upped her sugar high a notch while the others got back to the conversation.

"Spike is the only vampire here Hank" Buffy told him, "he works for our side. A good demon recruited him to battle evil and make my life more difficult." Giles smiled down at her, but spoke up in Spike’s defence.

"Now Buffy, you know that’s not true."

"Yeah luv, It’s just a bonus."

"Thank you Spike, that isn’t helping." Giles shifted into full ‘Watcher Mode’ and turned back to face Hank.

"This world is older than you know and, contrary to popular mythology, it did not begin as a paradise. For untold eons, Daemons walked the earth; made it their home – their Hell. In time they lost their purchase on this reality and the way was made for the mortal animals. For Man. What remains of the Old Ones are vestiges. Certain magics, certain creatures. And Vampires. As long as there have been daemons there has been the Slayer. One girl in all the world, a chosen one, born with the strength and skill to hunt vampires and other deadly creatures. She is the Slayer."

Hank just looked at Giles blankly.

"There are vampires. I slay ‘em."

"Vampires?"

"Yes"

"And you ‘slay’ them?"

"Four years and counting."

"I think I need a drink."

An hour later they had filled Hank in on a little of Buffy’s past and Willow, a little woozy was rapidly coming down from her caffeine rush. The last three things she said had almost made sense.

Hank looked around the room at the people Buffy called the ‘Scoobygang’ and tried to reconcile their youth with the tales of courage and danger he had just heard.

"I don’t believe this. You can’t have done the things you say; you’re just a child. You’re all just children. Obviously not Mr Giles or Spike, but the rest of you. No." Hank shook his head. He was more than half convinced already, but it was all so bizarre. He couldn’t believe he knew so little about his own daughter. True he hadn’t been around much the last few years but still….

Giles looked down into Buffy’s face. She was gripping his hand almost too tightly, and looking at him with a plea in her eyes and hope and trust in her smile. He knew it was up to him to convince Hank. Personally he would be happy to just tell Hank it was all a joke and let the man live in denial, but he could refuse Buffy nothing. Ever since her eighteenth birthday he had felt as if he did not deserve her trust but must make every effort to do so. (You don’t deserve her trust. You betray her every day you let her believe that lie about a ‘father’s love’. Pillock.) Giles ruthlessly suppressed his guilt over his true feelings for Buffy and the half-truth he let her believe. Now was not the time. She needed him to reconcile her relationship with her real father and he could not disappoint her. Would not. (If either of then knew how close he was to the truth Hank would deck me and Buffy would never speak to me again.)

"There are no children in this room Mr Summers, and certainly no one who could be described as ‘just’ anything. The young men and women in this room are the finest I have ever known. Each of them has risked his or her life time and again. To save each other, to save the innocent and to save the world. And sometimes even to save those who did not deserve their help. They deserve your respect and you will give it to them. I will not stand by and allow anyone to belittle what they have done. Whatever else you believe, know that I would lay down my life for anyone of them. I owe them more than you could ever understand."

"Way to go G-man."

"You tell ‘im Watcher."

Xander and Spike were the only ones capable of finding their voices for a moment. Buffy and Willow had tears in their eyes and Anya’s head was tilted forward so that no one could see her face. Oz looked as close to a facial expression as anyone but Willow had ever seen him. Finally, Joyce broke the silence.

"Hank I stand behind everything Mr Giles said. Buffy fights because she has to, it took me a long time to accept that she didn’t have a choice but I have now. Buffy’s the Chosen One but Willow and Oz and Xander and Anya and Spike could all walk away. They stay and they help from choice and a sense of responsibility. And they help keep Buffy alive. We owe them so much. As for Mr Giles…" Buffy winced, expecting her mother to launch into the usual tirade about Giles stealing her youth and endangering her life, yadda, yadda, yadda. Instead she was pleasantly surprised by what Joyce had to say.

"He could have left a long time ago but if he had Buffy would have died. He has risked so much time and again to save her, and it almost kills him every time he has to send her out to fight, but he has kept her alive and sane. Our daughter is a strong, brave, valiant young woman and that is due in a large part to Mr Giles. We owe him Hank, so shut up and show your daughter some support."

Buffy was looking at her mother with an expression of awe on her face. At Joyce’s final sentence a grin broke over her face.

"That’s my girl." Spike was grinning along with the rest of them. "You don’t want to make her mad mate, she hit me with an axe once you know."

Hank closed his eyes and put his head in his hands.

"I totally misunderstood what happened in the backyard didn’t I?"

"Finally! Jeez Dad, I thought you were going to permanently wig out on me." Giles and Joyce both noticed that Buffy had reverted to ‘Dad’ in place of her father’s name. Hank may not realise it yet, but he was already forgiven. Giles could only marvel at his Slayer’s warmth of heart. She never ceased to amaze him, this young woman whom he loved in secret. (Not much of a secret, I think I just told the whole room. I hope she didn’t notice.) Liar.

"But Buffy, even if I believe this, and I’m not saying I don’t, you can’t just expect me to sit by and let you go out and fight monsters unarmed and defenceless." Hank was surprised at the outbreak of laughter his protest caused in the room. Even Joyce was chuckling.

"Unarmed and defenceless? Okay Dad watch this." Buffy stood and reached behind her, pulling a stake from the waistband of her sweatpants. She tossed it nonchalantly onto the table then bent and pulled another from her left sock, tossing it onto the table with the first. She rose, placed her right foot on the coffee table and hitched up the leg of her sweats.

From one side she pulled a vial of holy water and from the other a large sliver dagger. They joined the stakes on the table. She lifted a jewelled cross from around her neck and placed it on the table beside the weapons. Next, Buffy reached into her hair, which was piled haphazardly on top of her head, and pulled out a second silver dagger, slightly smaller than the first. As she brought her hand down to add the dagger to the growing pile of weapons she gave a deft twist of her wrists. A second bottle of holy water slipped from her left sleave and a ten-inch crossbow from the right, the bow snapping open automatically and a bolt sliding home. Buffy placed the weapons on the table and moved to sit down. She stopped, cocked her head to one side as if trying to remember something and then grinned at the room. Lifting the hem of her sweatshirt she pulled out two more stakes and a set of police issue handcuffs. Luckily Hank missed Joyce’s blush and the embarrassed glance she and Giles shared.

"That’s pretty much it Dad. Of course, if I were going into battle I’d take my crossbow and a sword but since we were just hanging around the house…" The Scoobygang laughed again as Buffy’s voice trailed off. As she sat Giles stood. From various points around his person he managed to produce two stakes a vial of holy water and another silver dagger, slightly lager than Buffy’s, but obviously part of a set and s simple silver cross. He sat without speaking. One by one the teenagers stood, each adding two stakes, a cross and a vial of holy water to the pile; Willow adding a dozen wooden pencils with a shy grin and Xander producing a policeman’s night stick. Even Joyce had a stake and a bottle of holy water to add to the pile.

Finally Spike stood. From beneath his long black duster he pulled a short sword, about three feet long, two stakes <but no holy water or crosses> and a set of brass knuckles. From one boot he pulled a switchblade and from the other a small pistol.

"You brought a gun into my house?" Joyce turned on the vampire in anger. "You know how I feel about guns, how could you carry that around my daughter?" Spike answered her calmly.

"Not all the bad guys are demons, luv." He sat down beside Joyce, ignoring Hank’s discomfort. Hank however didn’t even notice.

He looked from his ex-wife to the huge pile of archaic yet deadly weapons on the table. The incongruity of Joyce objecting to a gun amid all this potential mayhem was the final kicker. He gave up.

"There are vampires and you ‘slay’ them and there’s nothing I can do about it."

Willow cheered, then tried to hide behind Oz in embarrassment. The rest of the Scoobygang let out a collective sigh and visibly relaxed.

"You won’t hurt her?" Hank looked directly into Giles face as he asked the question. Giles put his hand on Buffy’s knee and squeezed gently, silencing her protest.

"Never, I swear it to you."

"None of us will let Buffy get hurt. Any man who hurts her had best be prepared to face my wrath." All eyes in the room turned to Anya, surprised at the vehemence in her words.

"Um, Anya? You’re not the patron saint of scorned women anymore, remember? Demon powers all gone." Buffy made a sort of vague flapping gesture with her hands.

"Patron Saint?" In a low whisper, Hank asked Joyce for an explanation.

"Anya used to be a demon, but she’s human now," she whispered back to him. "She and Xander are dating."

"Actually Buffy, I wouldn’t underestimate Anya’s capacity for vengeance." Giles spoke quietly but still had the attention of the entire room. "After all, I heard recently that someone had broken into Parker’s dorm room and replaced all his underpants with pairs two sizes too small."

"That’s evil," said Buffy.

"No, evil was putting a small amount of itching powder in every second pair." Anya grinned at the room as the guy’s all shifted uncomfortably. "Anyway, I heard that somehow Parker got unenrolled from all his classes. Some kind of computer foul-up."

"Yup," Willow was lucid again. "And when he re-enrolled he ended up in 20th Century Feminism and the volunteer program at ‘Shady Rest retirement Villa’."

"Will!" Buffy feigned shock. "You’re supposed to use your powers for good, not evil."

"That’s my magic powers. My hacking I can use for evil."

"Magic?"

"Willow is a practicing Witch."

"Anyway, what I heard was that some clever werewolf wrote a song called ‘Don’t Sleep With Parker’ and it’s a big hit for ‘Dingoes Ate My Baby’." The proud redhead turned and addressed Hank. "My boyfriend’s in a band." She turned to Buffy. "I never get tired of saying that."

"Your boyfriend rocks." Buffy told her, obviously touched.

"Werewolf?"

"Oz is a werewolf, but only three nights a month."

"Hey, it only has three cords, but it’s kind of catchy." Oz spoke for the first time that night. "And hey, I heard Parker can’t get served in any bar in Sunnydale." Xander shrugged depreciatingly.

"Jack owed me after that whole Clan of the Cave Beer thing. Plus I didn’t even have to threaten Willy; he’s really fond of you."

"Okay, that gives me the wig."

"You know," said Hank, "this whole thing seems like some kind of planned attack." Buffy knew at once who would have come up with such a devious plan.

"Take a bow Sergeant Harris."

"Sergeant?"

"Xander was possessed by a solider a couple of Halloweens ago. Came in handy when they needed a rocket launcher."

"Enough about me. I heard that Parker can’t sleep, ‘cause some guy sits outside his dorm room window all night singing British punk rock songs. Off key."

"I could sing in key if I wanted Slayer, but this way is more fun."

"You, Spike, are the most evil of them all." Buffy was looking at Spike with genuine fondness for the first time in their association.

"Is it always like this?"

"No, usually there’s more violence."

"Anyone want to know what I heard?" Spike looked around the room. "I heard that somebody broke the bastards arm. In two places." There was silence for a moment as each member of the Scoobygang waited for one of the others to say something. This was definitely not in the Sergeant’s plan.

"The little pillock screams like a girl." Buffy looked at her Watcher in shock.

"And there’s the violence." In the sudden silence of the room they all heard Joyce’s whispered comment. The tension was broken by laughter. The only ones not laughing were Buffy and Giles. They were staring at each other and carrying on a silent conversation.

For me?

Anything for you.

Thank you.

As the laughter ended Hank tried to steer the conversation back to his original concern.

"So then, the two of you aren’t in love?"

"Well, yeah." Oz spoke again. "Of course they are, they just haven’t admitted it yet."

"Um Oz, honey? Remember when we said we wouldn’t tell them till they were ready?"

"They are sooo ready," Anya said, and was quickly backed up by Xander.

"Yeah Will, any more ready and the rest of us would have to leave the room."

Spike just laughed. As Buffy and Giles leaned in to share their first kiss, before all their loved ones, he slipped his arm around Joyce’s shoulder.

"So Love, looks like it’ll be our turn to come out of the closet next."

END