Surrendering To Fate
Chapter Two - Tactics

written by Jolene Beasley




"So, where you guys going?"

Joyce Summers looked at her daughter closely, trying to determine whether her tone of voice was approval or disgust. One could never be sure with a teenager.

She decided to take the statement at face value. "I don't know. I let him pick the place. I'm sure he has good taste." She smirked as Buffy rolled her eyes. "After all, he did ask ME. I think that earns him points in the 'good taste' column, don't you?"

Buffy swallowed the sarcastic remark she was going to make, and sighed. "Good taste in women, I'll grant you. But the clothes... I hope you can do something about that. He looks like a geeky librarian." She paused, her head cocked to one side, as she contemplated her last sentence. "Well, he IS a geeky librarian."

Joyce drew herself up, indignant. "He is NOT geeky. You kids mistake intelligence for geekiness... If he walked around with his glasses taped together with white tape, or had a pocket protector collection, or never tucked his shirttail in, or thought pond scum was a turn-on, THEN you could call him geeky." She returned to her perusal of her closet, wishing she knew where they were going. Why didn't she insist on him telling her? She had no idea what to wear.

Buffy's eyes grew round at her mother's surprisingly concise definition of geekiness. She flopped onto the bed, watching Joyce grow more frustrated by the minute. She decided to help. "What about the green one, mom? The one with the scarf? It's nice."

"It's too casual. This is an official First Date."

"Sooooo, what about the black one? That's dressy."

"Too formal. It looks like I'm going to a Museum opening. Very stiff. Nope." Joyce slid several hangers aside, concentrating.

"Just HOW good of an impression you wanna make, Mom?" Buffy asked in a teasing, sing-song voice.

Joyce just glared. Buffy grinned widely, and returned her attentions to the open closet. Suddenly, she sat up and pointed. "Oh! I know, Mom! The shiny gold one! The pants and top! It's perfect! Dressed up, not too formal."

Joyce retrieved the garment and held it up for inspection. The metallic fiber interwoven with silk shimmered softly, catching the light as it moved. She smiled. Her kid had a great sense of fashion, no doubt about it. She started grinning. "Buffy, I don't know what I'd do without you. Good call." She kicked off her shoes and started for the bathroom. "Now, scram. I need to get ready."

"'Kay, Mom. But I want final inspection rights, okay? If you're gonna go out with MY Watcher, you have to look perfect."

"Ha, ha, ha, child of mine. Out!"

* * * * *

It was almost time.

Giles paced around his living room, looking at his watch every few seconds. He mentally ticked off the items on his 'to do' list: Roses? *Check*. Freshly cleaned suit? *Check*. Cologne? *Check*. Stake and cross? He patted his pockets, and relaxed. *Check and check*. Arrangements made? *Check*. Cash for emergencies? *Check*. Keys? Where are my keys? No sense in locking oneself out at a time like this... ah, there they are... *Check*.

He stopped, looked at his watch, and grabbed his jacket. He put it on hurriedly, and checked his appearance in the mirror. For once, his hair seemed to behave, staying in place instead of falling down like the forelock of a Moor pony. He picked up the flowers, straightened his tie, and got out his keys. He knew exactly how many minutes it took to get to the Summers' house... twelve and a half, if traffic wasn't bad, fifteen if it was. He was banking on the traffic being light at this time of night.

He locked his door and started towards his car, humming happily.

* * * * *

"He's here!" Buffy bounced up from her self-appointed lookout position on the couch and let the curtains fall back into place. She heard the familiar rattle of his antique Citroen as it pulled into the driveway. She suppressed a giggle as she thought about the two of them, dressed to the hilt, going to some fancy restaurant and getting out of that rust-bucket. She glanced at the hall clock: Exactly 7 o'clock. Mr. Punctuality.

The doorbell rang, and her mother called down, "Buffy? Can you let him in? I 'll be down in a minute!"

"Sure, Mom! Take your time!"

"And BEHAVE! I don't want you to run him off before I get down there!"

"I'll be gentle, Mom!" Buffy grinned from ear to ear. She was definitely going to *enjoy* this.

She swung the door wide, and started to make a smart-aleck comment, but stopped without saying a word. She barely remembered to shut her mouth. "Wow. Giles... you look... wow."

He blushed furiously, but managed a gracious "Thank you, Buffy." He shifted his weight from one foot to another, waiting for her to move. She was still staring. "Uhm, may I come in? Unless you intend for me to wait on the porch."

"OH! Sorry, I'm rude! Please, come in." She stood aside for him, frankly admiring his attire. As he stopped by the stairs, she couldn't resist saying, "You clean up really nice, Giles."

He snickered. "Yes, well, I did make the effort." He looked up the stairs, anticipation plain on his face.

Before he could say anything else, Buffy grabbed his arm and steered him towards the living room. "You might as well get comfortable. She said she'd be down in a minute, so that means at least fifteen." She ushered him to the couch, and made him sit. "If she said 'a second,' it'd mean just ten minutes." She giggled at his uncomprehending expression. "It's a female thing, Giles, you're not supposed to get it. You relax, and I'll just go and hurry the creative process along. Be right back." She bounded up the stairs and disappeared.

He felt silly, sitting here, flowers in hand, waiting like a teenager on his first date. Yet, it felt... right, somehow. Things had certainly started off on the wrong foot between them, and he desperately wanted to make it better. His heart rate was already high enough to make him dizzy, and the waiting made his nervousness worse. Finally, he stood, deciding to find a vase for the flowers he'd brought. In the kitchen, under the sink, was the most likely place to look. He crossed the room with long strides, and proceeded with his mission.

* * * * *

A soft knock at the door interrupted Joyce's brooding. She looked up to see Buffy peering around the door at her. The door closed with a quiet click, and her daughter came up behind her, standing behind her as she sat at her vanity table. The mirror reflected them both: mother and daughter, their coloring identical, their expressions warm, their love for each other obvious.

"I was getting worried, Mom. Giles is waiting. He looks good, too. You better get going. You're all perfect already, you've passed the 'Buffy Inspection'... so why are you still sittin' here?"

Joyce raised her hands and eyebrows in an 'I don't know' gesture. "Nervousness, I guess. I want this to go well."

"It will, Mom. And even if it doesn't, you're with the Answer Man. He's pretty good at handling the unexpected."

"I know." She turned to her daughter, still seeking reassurance. "He's really something, isn't he?" Her voice was soft with emotion.

"Yeah, Mom, he is." Buffy gave her a quick peck on the cheek. "Now, get out of here. I'm gonna have an orgy while you're gone, and you're holding things up."

"Buffy!" Joyce laughed as she stood and retrieved her clutch bag from the bed, then stopped and looked at Buffy slightly askance.

"I *am* kidding, Mom. No orgies. I *was* gonna spend the night with Willow, though, just in case you guys decide to get frisky."

"*Buffy*!"

"Still kidding, still kidding! You take everything so *seriously*."

* * * * *

Giles had just finished putting the flowers in a crystal vase when he heard Buffy's feet flying downstairs. He returned from the kitchen just as she entered the room. He gestured towards the vase in his hand. "I - I brought these, but I had to, uhm, borrow a vase. I didn't have one."

She bent down to smell a rose, and smiled appreciatively. "Nice touch. Mom's a sucker for roses. But, you knew that, din'cha, since I told you about it?"

"Let's just let that be our little secret, all right?" He whispered, setting the vase on the coffee table.

They both heard Joyce coming down the stairs. Buffy held back, letting him go first. She wanted to watch the little scenario unfold from a good vantage point.

She smiled like a fond parent at the expressions on their faces.

Giles felt decidedly lightheaded as he watched his date descend towards him. She was golden, from head to toe. He felt a rush of heat, and his collar suddenly became two sizes too tight. A heart attack was a distinct possibility at this point.

Mesmerized, he held out a hand as she reached the last few steps. She took the hand gracefully, touched by the gesture. She gazed at him, so crisp and neat in his black suit. The double breasted jacket accentuated his broad shoulders. He looked... wow.

When she reached the floor, he drew her hand to his chest, holding it to his heart like it was a precious commodity. He leaned towards her slowly, watching her reaction. She met him halfway, and the kiss was sweet and chaste.

'That's *so sweet*.' Buffy found herself thinking. 'He didn't even smear her lipstick. And not an *eww* in sight, either.'

"Joyce, you look absolutely... w-wonderful."

"Thank you. And you look very sharp, Mr. Giles... Rupert."

Buffy's voice floated in from the other room. "You both have to thank your fashion consultant for that."

Joyce giggled. "She told *you* what to wear, too?"

He chuckled with her, delighting her with the sound. "We're the victims of a conspiracy, I fear."

"We've been set up, all right. She didn't pick the restaurant, too, did she?"

"No, but I had to tell her everything else. She was, quite literally, twisting my arm at the time."

"Buffy, really!"

Buffy muffled a giggle. Giles shrugged. He was quite accustomed to being bullied by Buffy. Suddenly, he noticed her standing behind her mother holding up the overflowing vase. "Oh, yes, Joyce, I, uhm, brought you these. I hope you like roses." He reached around and took the vase, giving Buffy a warning look that said, '*Don't you DARE say a word*!' Buffy responded by pantomiming locking her lips and throwing away the key.

Joyce gasped in delight as she saw the delicate red-tipped white roses. "Oh, I do... they're beautiful! I've never seen anything like them."

"They're a hybrid named 'Fire and Ice.' It seemed... appropriate... after all we've been through." His voice was tender, and Joyce responded by kissing him again. He relaxed slightly, relieved at her approval, and the kiss grew more intense.

He had apparently stopped worrying about smearing her lipstick. Buffy decided things were getting just a little *too* intense.

She cleared her throat pointedly, interrupting their mood and causing them both to blush as they broke away from each other. She took the vase from her mother, and set it on the hall table. Then with a firm grip, she led them out the front door. As they stepped off the porch and started for the car, she yelled, loudly enough for the neighbors to hear, "Have fun, kids... don' t do anything I wouldn't do... oh, too late, you already did!" She chortled at their flushed faces as she closed the door. 'That went well,' she thought, with a self-satisfied sigh.

* * * * *

"I - I hope you don't mind if I make a quick side trip on the way."

"Not at all. I'm too nervous to be hungry right now." Butterflies still danced in her stomach.

"You, too, eh?" He looked surprised, but relieved, that she shared his uneasiness.

"Oh, yeah. Big time."

"We're quite the pair, aren't we?"

Joyce chuckled, finally feeling the tension seeping away. "A match made over the Hellmouth."

"Yes, indeed." He laughed at the thought, then suddenly turned into a parking garage. Joyce started to ask where they were going, but decided to wait and let him surprise her.

He pulled into a parking space beside a sleek, black sedan. A young man was leaning casually against it, and Giles got out and spoke to him briefly. They exchanged something, then Giles returned, smiling a happy smile. He opened Joyce's door, and offered her a hand.

She took it, puzzled. "We're staying here? In a garage?"

"No, but we are changing cars."

"Oh?" She looked around as he led her towards the sedan. It finally dawned on her that *this* was the car he was referring to. "Oh!"

She took a closer look. A big, shiny, black BMW. Wow. Not a brand new one, but still...

She looked up at him fondly. "You're full of surprises tonight, aren't you?"

"Just you wait."

He opened the door for her, helped her in, then quickly dashed to the driver 's side and got in just in time to hear her say, reverently, "Ohhh... real leather seats!"

He laughed as he started the car. "Did you think I'd have tweed, instead?"

"Where'd you get this? Is it a rental?"

"It's mine. I bought it this afternoon. Sold my poor import to a collector in Barstow for a ridiculous sum. He's coming to pick it up here tonight. It' s simply amazing what Californians will pay for a beat-up old relic, if you label it an antique."

"So this is yours? Buffy will have a happy fit when she sees it... she hated your other car."

"Well, I did select it with you two in mind."

"Really? How so?"

"It has a large capacity trunk for Buffy's weapons, plenty of extra room for the 'Slayerettes,' and... a little unaccustomed luxury for a... special lady."

"Oh, Rupert..." She scooted closer and kissed his cheek. "That is *so* sweet."

He drove the rest of the way with her head resting on his shoulder. The car was definitely a winner.

* * * * *

They drove for almost a half hour, talking comfortably about this and that, and she'd scarcely noticed the passing of time. He was wonderful to be with - charming, self-effacing, courteous and sweet. She wondered why it had taken her so long to notice.

Joyce raised her head from its resting place as they slowed to turn into the restaurant. From the outside, it resembled an English Tudor cottage. She read the name of the restaurant... Barnaby's... it wasn't familiar to her at all. Still, it had valet parking, so it had to be somewhat exclusive.

The valet and the doorman welcomed them like old friends. Obviously, Giles had been here before. Instead of formal uniforms or silly costumes, the employees wore simple suits or dress shirts and slacks. The rooms were fairly small, candles and lanterns providing most of the light. It had an unusual atmosphere, almost casual, but the flickering light hinted at romance. Gothic wrought iron fixtures and heavy furniture accentuated the mysterious, old world feeling. She decided she liked the decor very much. It wasn't a style often seen in California.

The doorman handed them off to a hostess, who began a verbal listing of the evening's menu items. Giles held up a hand before she could get started, and simply said, "We'll have Barnaby's Special, Lucy." The hostess nodded approvingly, and turned them over to their waiter for the evening. As he led them past several tables and into a private room, Joyce looked around, trying to see if there were other people dining there. She didn't see anyone else, and it struck her as odd. She was a little bewildered, too, by the fact that Giles was so familiar with the place, enough so as to greet each employee by name. He didn't seem like the type to go 'out on the town' that often. There was a story behind all this, and she hoped she'd get to hear it tonight over dinner.

They finally came to their booth, nestled into a corner of a small side room. She gasped as she saw the view afforded by the angled floor to ceiling windows. They were perched on a mountain overlook, the valley spreading out below them like a diamond and ruby studded carpet. The skyscrapers of LA twinkled far off in the distance. She had to walk over and look at the sight... only a true city dweller would appreciate this scene. To her, it was breathtaking.

He came up beside her and slipped an arm around her waist. He said nothing, just waited as she enjoyed the panorama. She couldn't help murmuring, "What an amazing view. It's beautiful."

"It is indeed." He wasn't looking out the window, though. He was looking at her. When her eyes met his, she felt like her legs had turned to rubber.

Without a word, he eased her into her seat. He nodded to the waiter, who had been waiting discreetly by the door. The meal began with sautéed mushrooms and a delicate white wine. As each course in turn was presented to them, Joyce realized that the "Special" was designed for couples out for a romantic evening. Each portion was bite sized, divided for sharing from a single plate. She almost giggled as he fed her a bit of lobster, and waited patiently for her to return the favor. She felt a little silly, being coddled and catered to in this fashion, but she was really enjoying herself.

Rupert was, too. He guided the conversation skillfully, avoiding serious discussion and dwelling on comfortable, every-day subjects. He watched her closely as she talked. It was wonderful to see her relax and be herself. She was bright, funny, and quite knowledgeable in the fields of art and history. She had a wonderful smile. She loved to read.

She was exquisite. His breath caught at that thought, his heart skipping a beat in response.

After the last dishes from the main course had been removed, Giles leaned forward and took her hand. She sighed as he rubbed the back of her fingers with his thumb. "Where on earth did you find this place, Rupert? It's fabulous! I've never been anywhere quite like this before."

He smiled, a shy, quirky expression that caused her heart to flutter wildly. "We'll have to come here again, then. Now then, my dear, are you as fond of chocolate as you were last fall? I promise there will be no residual effects from this dish."

"I wouldn't be too sure of that, if I were you." She said, shamelessly, as she ran her fingers across his hand.

The shy smile changed to a delighted grin. "Oh, really? Are you planning on taking
advantage of me, Mrs. Summers?"

"The night is young, Mr. Giles. You'll have to wait and see."

He smiled, then nodded. Instantly, the waiter appeared at their elbows with a decadently rich-looking dessert and two forks. Giles offered her the first bite, and the minute it hit her tongue she hummed with satisfaction. "What is this? It's heavenly."

He took a bite of his own, closing his eyes and savoring the taste. "It's called 'Death by Chocolate'." An appropriate title, I think."

"Definitely. May I have some more, please?"

The chocolate creation absorbed their attention for several minutes. They lingered over the last few bites, unwilling for the magic to dissipate. When the last bite was gone, she sighed and stretched slightly. He rose and held out his hand for her in his charmingly old-fashioned way. Instead of exiting the way they came, he led her to a door behind their table that opened onto a large observation deck, lit only by the stars and small, ornate lamps.

The evening air was cool and inviting, and they seated themselves in a cushioned lounge that offered an even more spectacular view of the city than before. He slid an arm around her, and she curled up beside him, amazed at how well they fit together. They sat quietly for several minutes, then he shifted slightly and bent to kiss her. The first kiss was soft, almost tentative. Encouraged by her eager response, he kissed her again, with growing confidence. By the time his tongue began to caress hers, she was totally lost.

It was as if the sky lit up like the Fourth of July. It was like swimming in warm, tropical waters. It was exciting and relaxing, warming and chilling, all at the same time. She moaned softly as he held her and kissed her as if time was standing still. She felt the heat of passion rising in her like an inexorable tide. Forget about cursed chocolate bars... what this man did to her was sorcery of an entirely different kind.

Giles pulled away and tried to catch his breath, resting his forehead against hers. He was bewitched, all right. No doubt about it. The night was going far better than he had ever dreamed. Even though they had to return to Sunnydale and its parade of horrors, at least they had this one perfect night. He couldn't remember feeling happier, or more at peace, than he was at this moment.

Joyce looked up at him, misty eyed, and said, "I can't believe we're making out in public."

He laughed and kissed the top of her head. "We've done worse, actually."

She snorted derisively. "We were 'under the influence.' I mean, I can't believe we're doing this in our right minds."

"Well, if it's any consolation, this isn't exactly public. The club is privately owned."

"Oh? Do you know the owner well?"

He chuckled. "You might say that."

"Rupert, you have to tell me how you found out about this place. It's just wonderful. I know there's a story behind it."

"You're right, there is." He shifted again to make her comfortable against him.

"Actually, I own it."

She sat straight up, shocked. "YOU?! Own this? How?"

Her incredulous expression made him laugh.

"I mean, you're a *librarian*!"

"Not the highest paid position in California, is it?" He laughed again when she shook her head. "Actually, I inherited it... from a distant cousin, a black sheep of sorts, who came here to 'seek his fortune' and actually succeeded in finding it. He died and left the thing to me... I suppose he felt we black sheep should stick together. I got final papers back this week. This was a bit of a trial run, to see if the service and food warranted the exorbitant prices old Barnaby was charging."

"And it just so happened that we had a date for that same night, hmm?"

"It just so happened."

She studied his face carefully in the soft lamplight. She had never seen him more relaxed. She liked that look on him, very much. Finally she leaned back, smiling. "So, did they pass inspection tonight?"

"I believe so." He looked down as she settled against him again. His voice low, he murmured, "Did I?"

"Did you what?"

"Pass inspection tonight."

Her answer was a most passionate kiss. He took it as a 'yes.'

* * * * *

It was after midnight when they pulled into the driveway. Giles felt vaguely uneasy about returning his Slayer's mother home so late. Buffy tended to be over-protective at the best of times. He really didn't want such a lovely evening to end with a confrontation with his date's volatile teenaged daughter.

It really had been lovely.

Too lovely.

Joyce noticed the pensive look as he opened her door and helped her out of the car. She didn't wait for an explanation. "Rupert? What's wrong?"

"It's probably nothing, a product of my overactive paranoia, but..."

They arrived at the door, and Joyce fumbled for her keys while he fumbled for words.

She put a hand on his arm. "Come in and have a cup of something. Then tell me."

"All right. But your neighbors will probably talk."

She laughed heartily at that. "After three years of vampires, hellhounds, witches, demons, and whatnot, you think they'd dare peek out their windows after dark?"

When they stepped inside, Joyce found a note from Buffy taped to the door. "She's gone to Willow's to spend the night." She explained to Giles as she closed the door behind them. "We're off the hook... no snide comments from the peanut gallery tonight." They both smiled with relief.

She led him into the kitchen and seated him at the bar, moving with unconscious grace as she heated water in her grandmother's whistling kettle. She held up a jar of instant coffee in one hand, and a box of Earl Grey in the other, almost jokingly raising her eyebrows in question.

He got the joke, and chuckled. "Tea, thanks... don't tell me you actually DRINK instant coffee?"

She made a face at him. Soon the kettle was whistling, and she poured water in two cups and sat next to him at the counter. As she idly stirred her coffee, she asked again, "Rupert, what's wrong?"

He looked a little embarrassed, but answered anyway. "You'll think I'm quite silly, I'm afraid."

She only smiled and took his hand. "Tell me."

He took a deep breath and let it out with an audible whoosh. "Tonight was... perfect. More than perfect. I have never had so many tiny details fall into place at exactly the right time. Even that meteorite... you do know that most meteor showers take place in the fall, between midnight and 2am?"

Joyce tried to stifle a laugh at that, and failed. She finally gave up and giggled madly for a minute.

The corners of his mouth started turning up in spite of his serious mood, and he finally chuckled with her. "That did sound a bit... academic... didn't it? Oh, dear. I told you it was silly."

"No, no, go on." She managed to get her mirth under control, and nodded for him to continue.

"Well, I was thinking about how perfectly the evening had gone, and suddenly I became worried that there was something... supernatural... at work. I know it sounds cliché, but I have NEVER had a more perfect evening. Or, a more perfect week. It has been... simply unprecedented."

"So, you're saying that, you think there's a spell on you, or something like that, just because things went right for you all of a sudden?"

"Uhm, yes. It does sound monumentally melodramatic, doesn't it?"

"No, actually, I understand the feeling completely. When you've been knocked down as many times as I have... as we have, you tend to take Murphy's Law to heart." Before he could ask for clarification, she quoted, "'If anything can go wrong, it will, and in the worst possible way.'"

"Quite."

"So, what do you want to do about it?"

He gazed at her admiringly. How could she understand him so well? How could she be so... perfect? "Hope it doesn't end any time soon?" He smiled suddenly. "Pray fervently that it would last?" He leaned over and kissed her longingly. "At least, until morning?" He kissed her again, his hands resting on her knees before moving upwards, making his intentions clear.

She accepted the kiss, then pushed him away slightly, her hands still on his chest. "Hold on, there, Ripper. I don't go all the way on a first date... Oh, don't look at me like that, you know EXACTLY what I mean."

"Of-of course. How forward of me." He looked down, composing himself before saying anything. "I suppose that's a relief, actually."

"What?"

"Well, it means I'm not under anyone's spell but yours." He looked up at her shyly, seeking pardon with his eyes. "Forgive me?"

Joyce's heart melted right into her shoes. Could he be any more adorable? "I forgive you, you sweet talker." Oh, those gorgeous eyes... it was her turn to look down this time. "I guess I've ruined your perfect evening."

"No, you haven't, my dear. Merely given me hope for another in future."

* * * * *

Buffy flew in the front door at 11am the next morning, buzzing with curiosity. She found her mother curled up on the living room couch, a cup of something in her hand, still in her robe and pajamas. She looked smug and slightly preoccupied. She looked up as her beloved daughter entered the room, smiling gently. Rather than wait for the second Inquisition, Joyce decided to ask the first question. "Did you and Willow have fun last night?"

"Nice try, Mom, but it's not gonna work." Buffy plopped down beside her mother, grabbing a throw pillow and curling her feet under her, mirroring Joyce's position exactly. "So... do I have to be careful about going upstairs? Or has he already gone home?"

Joyce was shocked out of her reverie by Buffy's cavalier attitude. "What makes you think I'd have a man spend the night with me after our first date? I thought I taught you better than that!"

"Moooooom, for pete's sake, you shoulda seen yourselves last night... there were heat waves comin' off you two like the Sahara. Besides, he's not just some guy... he's *Giles*. He's been around like forever." Buffy looked down, and said, softly, "And, no, I didn't think you'd do something like that... I was just messing with you a little."

"Then why did you leave?"

Buffy propped her head on her hand and rested her elbow on the pillow. "Think about it, Mom. How many Friday nights have I actually spent at home since Will and me became friends? Five? Six? I *always* hang out with her on Friday night. Later now than before, because of extended Oz time, but I still usually go there, or she comes here. Best Friends' Rule Number One."

Joyce took a sip of her drink, then made a face. "Honestly, I don't know how Rupert drinks this stuff. It's bitter." She set the cup on its saucer, and turned to Buffy again. "I'm relieved you don't think your Mom is a wanton woman, just because of the candy thing."

"Mom, if you'd been at the Bronze that night, you'd know that half of Sunnydale was busy shaggin' the other half 'cause of that stuff. I almost gouged my own eyes out, it was so bad." She eyed the mug with interest, then reached for it and took a generous swallow. She instantly made a horrified face. "Ugh, yuck, I don't think you made this right. The stuff Giles drinks at the library doesn't taste like this."

"Oh, the poor man... he drank a cup this morning and didn't say a word."

Buffy's face lit up, and she grinned wickedly. "This *morning*?"

Joyce sighed an exasperated sigh. "Technically, it was morning. One o'clock in the morning, or pretty close to it."

"Okay, okay. You're just too much fun to harass, y'know? Anyway, tell me about what you did last night... not everything, please, I'm afraid my ears would start bleeding, but, uh, the G rated stuff. Where the restaurant was, what you ate, was it killer romantic, and all that."

"It was up in the foothills, we ate lobster with all the trimmings, it was killer romantic, and we came back here for a nice cup of tea."

Buffy folded her arms and waited.

Joyce finally sighed. "You must get your stubborn streak from your father."

"Let me restate my question, then, Mother dear. How do you *feel* about last night?"

"Oh, now that's a loaded question."

"Bingo. Here come the real answers. Now Mom, it's important to me. He's my Watcher, you're my Mother. What happens to you guys affects me. What happens to me affects you both. I wanna keep Giles around, too. I want you both to be happy. Understand?"

Unexpected tears sprang into Joyce's eyes as she realized the depth of her daughter's committment to them both. She had almost put him equal with her... like she would her own father... did she think of him as her substitute father already... of the three of them as a family? Joyce felt a pang of empathy for Rupert's paranoia... things couldn't be more perfect. It really was scary.

Buffy's tender heart broke when she saw her mother's tears. "Aw, Mom, I didn 't mean to make you cry!" She scooted across the couch and hugged Joyce tightly. "I won't ask any more stupid questions."

"No, honey, it's all right. I'm just beginning to realize how much Rupert means to both of us... how much a part of our lives he's become." She cradled Buffy in her arms, and began to talk about how she felt... that she was already crazy about the man. Before she was finished, she had realized something else. There was no doubt in her mind. Somehow, she wasn't frightened of those feelings now.

She was in love.

Read the next chapter: Too Good To Be True