Surrendering To Fate
Chapter Three - Too Good To Be True

written by Jolene Beasley




"Robin."

"Really? You can tell?"

"Ummm hmmm." Giles lay with his hands behind his head, totally relaxed and content. "It has a little trill at the middle." He crossed his legs at the ankles, careful not to upset the picnic basket sitting beside him. The blanket was just barely long enough for his six-foot-plus frame to stretch out without his feet resting on the grass. It was a beautiful summer day, and the park was alive with birdsong. He was amusing his date by identifying the bird calls he was hearing. Surprisingly enough, she was enthralled.

"That's amazing."

"I did have a bit of trouble when I first got to the States. The songs are different from European varieties. While I was waiting for the two of you to arrive, I borrowed a bird book from the school library and spent my afternoons here. Kept me from worrying, I suppose."

"You were waiting for us? For how long?"

He paused a moment, trying to recall. "I got here in June, I think. You moved in, what, September?"

"Right. Buffy missed her first three weeks of school."

"I'm quite sure she didn't actually *miss* it."

Joyce laughed. "You know her well." Something caught her attention, and she listened carefully. "Oh! What's that? The one that sounds like a tiny flute?"

"Wild canary."

"I wish I could see it."

He opened one eye and looked above them. Sprawled on the ground as they were, above was the only place they *could* look. Finally he spotted the tiny bit of yellow and brown feathers in the branches above them, closed his eye again, and smiled. "Directly overhead, at about... ah, one o'clock."

"I see it! You're so good at this!"

He snorted. "My claim to fame."

"I think it's charming. I think *you're* charming." She gave him a quick kiss. "And cute, too."

He chuckled low in his chest. "Had I but known... I wasted my youth being a ruffian, when I should have been an ornithologist, instead. I thought I had to drive a motorcycle and wear leather to get girls."

"That works, too..." she said, dreamily. He opened an eye and gave her a glare. She giggled. "We'll save that for some other time. Do another one."

He listened for several minutes. "There's a great lot of sparrows about. D' you hear? All that cheeky chirping?"

"Sounds like a convention." She moved to rest her head against his chest. He moved his hand out from its comfortable spot behind his head and found an equally comfortable resting place around her shoulders. 'This is *heavenly*, ' he thought to himself.

'He's really too good to be true,' she was thinking at the same time. They'd been together for months, going through good times and bad, and their relationship had grown deeply strong and passionate. Add the fact that Buffy seemed delighted with them being together, and Joyce felt truly happy. 'I'm probably going to wake up and find out he's a demon, or a robot, or something. Nobody's this great all the time.'

They sighed, almost in unison. He had almost dozed off when Joyce suddenly sat up and started removing her sandals. He watched her curiously as she wiggled her bare feet into the grass. A happy smile spread across her face, and she caught his eye, blushing slightly at his amused expression.

"I loved going to places like this when I was a kid... the big thing was to take off your shoes and run in the grass. Even Dad used to do it. It's a family tradition that I had forgotten about."

She reached for his foot and started sliding his loafer up and away. "You should try it... it's a unique experience." She took the other shoe off quickly, and started on his socks.

"I have had quite enough 'unique experiences' in my life, my dear. I needn't add any more."

She ignored him and continued peeling his socks off, her face playful but determined.

"It's relaxing."

"I am relaxing. Not moving is considered relaxing, where I come from."

She giggled and dragged a fingernail up the instep of his bare foot. He yelped, yanked his foot away, and sat up. "Joyce! Little minx! Stop that!"

She was laughing out loud now. "Rupert, I didn't know you were ticklish!"

"I'm not! You surprised me!"

She reached out and made a grab for his other foot. He moved away too fast for her, and she missed. He found himself chuckling. "You're completely mad, woman. We're far too... ah, mature... to be rolling round the fields like children."

"Oooo, but that sounds like such a blast... you may be too old and decrepit, *Mister* Giles, but I feel like having a little fun!" She grabbed his shoes and took off like a shot across the open meadow.

Without a second thought, he sprang up and ran after her.

* * * * *

Rain clouds from a brief, but intense summer storm were just beginning to dissipate, the setting sun painting their edges with pink and gold. The Slayer and her best friend, however, missed nature's color show completely. Their eyes were glued to the flickering 19 inch television in front of them. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers floated across the screen in glorious black-and-white. Buffy and Willow sat on the couch, entranced. When the ethereal dance number ended with a tender kiss, they both sighed dreamily.

Willow wiped a tear from the corner of her eye and turned back to the half-eaten package of Oreos. Suddenly, she realized her glass was empty. As a commercial flashed onto the TV screen, Buffy hit the mute button on the remote. The only commercials she ever listened to were the ones with the cute Taco Bell dog in them.

Willow hopped up and grabbed her glass. "I'm outta moo juice, Buff. Yell at me if the movie comes back on before I get back." She dashed for the kitchen.

Buffy sighed again. "They just don't make romantic leading men like they used to," she complained to herself, eyeing her tenth Oreo with a grimace. She was just about to take a bite when the front door burst open and an amazing sight met her eyes. She watched with mouth open as her mother and her Watcher stumbled into the entry, laughing like children. They were both soaking wet.

More than that... they were... well, dirty. Bits of grass and mud clung to them everywhere. Giles' hair was a disaster... roughly tousled and curling from the moisture. The sprigs of green and brown sticking up in all directions resembled a crown. He looked like he'd been decorated for winning an Olympic event. Joyce's hair was pulled back in a soggy ponytail, and she had brown streaks on both cheeks. She looked like someone had deliberately painted her face with mud. Her dress clung to her, dotted with brown splatters and grass clippings. She was carrying her sandals and his loafers. He was carrying her purse and a dripping picnic basket.

Willow, hearing the commotion, came back from the kitchen just in time to witness a kiss of almost movie-like intensity. Her eyes grew round with shock... grownups weren't supposed to *do* that, were they? Not *Giles*... he was more grown-up than most grown-ups she knew! And Buffy's MOM! She slapped a hand over her mouth and set her glass of milk on the table before she spilled it. She turned to ask Buffy what was going on...

Buffy was just as shocked as Willow. Oh, she'd seen them kiss before, but not under quite the same circumstances...

Suddenly, she realized something else. They were leaving yucky brown puddles all over the hard wood floor. Eww. Someone would have to clean up the mess... and it wasn't going to be HER.

"HEY!"

Giles pulled away from Joyce in surprise. The house had been dark and quiet. He thought they were alone. His heart sank as both Buffy and Willow glared at him. His half-formed plans for the evening went right out the window. He wasn't sure if Buffy's anger was directed at them because of the kissing or because of the mess they'd made. It didn't take long to find out.

"What the *Hellmouth* is going on here? You guys... what'd you do, stop to dig for buried treasure? *Look* at that floor!"

They both glanced down, then back up again. Giles finally got up the steel to say, "Sorry," with a straight face. Joyce hid her smile behind her hand and said nothing.

"I am NOT cleaning that mess up! So one of you better get mopping, and I mean NOW, before your ruin our *eight-hundred dollar a room* floor!"

He had the good sense to keep quiet. That is, until Joyce started giggling again. Then it was all over.

Buffy rolled her eyes. Ignoring the laughing pair, she marched to the kitchen and grabbed a mop and a bucket. With the air of a general administering a dishonorable discharge, she presented her mom with the mop and Giles with the bucket. She flopped down beside Willow on the couch with a pout.

It didn't help at all that Joyce and Giles were still giggling and whispering as they attempted to clean up the mud and water they'd brought in with them. Since they were both still dripping freely, it was a losing battle. They didn't seem to mind too much, though.

Willow was trying desperately not to laugh. "Uh, Buffy, aren't you bein' kinda hard on them? I'm sure they didn't mean to make a mess. They just got caught in the rain. It was an accident."

Buffy made a disgusted sound. "Yeah, they got accidentally caught in the rain, then they accidentally rolled around in the grass, then they accidentally made mud pies and threw them at each other. It was an accident... sure." She grabbed a pillow and hugged it, burying her chin in the soft fabric. It was totally depressing.

Willow just sat there, waiting. Buffy would eventually come clean. She always did.

Finally, with a loud sigh, Buffy voiced her true feelings. "This is *sooo* the story of my life... my forty-something mother has way more fun on Saturday nights than I do."

* * * * *

Willow finally persuaded Buffy to spend the night at her house. Her parents were on their usual out-of-town-for-the-weekend trip, and they had packed the house with enough food to feed Xander for the weekend. It seemed they couldn't get used to him not being around. So, Willow begged Buffy to come over and help her eat it before it went bad. After the girls left, Joyce leaned the mop against the wall and surveyed her work. She shook her head, careful not to sling water everywhere. "You know we're never gonna get this cleaned up until we get into some dry clothes, don't you?"

The idea of just *how* they were going to manage that sent Giles' imagination into overdrive. Fighting down a lecherous grin, he mumbled, "Uhm. well, you're right, but... well, I don't have any dry clothes. I probably should... um... go home, then, and stop contributing to this muddy pond I'm standing in."

"We have a washer and dryer here, silly. And, for once, you're not wearing 'dry clean only.' Just take your wet clothes off, and in an hour, you'll be good as new. After all, you have leather seats in your car... you don't want to get them all wet." Her eyes glinted with something he couldn't quite identify. Was she teasing him?

The grin managed to edge across his face, regardless of his determination. "Ah, and just what shall I wear while this... modern miracle... is occurring?"

She shrugged. "Oh, I'll find something suitable, I'm sure."

So, that was how he found himself ensconced in the guest bathroom, naked as a newborn, handing his entire wardrobe to Joyce around the partially closed door. She promised him a robe, or something. The 'or something' had him a bit light-headed.

He took a quick shower, reveling in the hot water and the scented soap that smelled so much like Joyce. After toweling himself dry, he discovered a white, mid-length terrycloth robe draped across the toilet seat. As he donned the garment, noting that it fit him perfectly, he fervently hoped that she would be similarly attired. White terrycloth was so... unassumingly sensual. Like Joyce.

* * * * *

'Boy, am I glad we just got a new water heater...' Joyce thought to herself as she stood under the soothing spray. 'I'd hate like everything to run out of hot water right now.' She relaxed when she realized, due to the sudden increase in water pressure, that Rupert was finished with his shower, and she had hot water to spare.

As she shampooed her hair, she thought about the sudden insanity that had gripped her this afternoon. It was crazy, foolish, impetuous... in other words, wonderful. He had never looked so happy and relaxed, even when they were confronted by Buffy and Willow. What a sight they must've been! Two drowned rats, grade A extra large size, dripping on the polyurethane finish in the hall. She laughed at her own description, even though she suspected it was quite accurate.

As she dried her hair, she wondered just what had possessed her to go dancing in the rain. Was it a just-turned-forty-one mid-life crisis? A desire to be young and irresponsible again?

Or was it the fact that being with Rupert made her feel like a giddy, happy kid?
She strongly suspected it was the latter. She was getting accustomed to him being around. She began to daydream as she curled her nearly-dry locks around the brush. The idea of waking up next to Rupert Giles for the rest of her life certainly appealed to her. But were they ready to 'get serious?' Was she?

She knew she didn't want this relationship to follow the pattern of her first marriage. She took a deep breath and decided that it was time for some serious soul-searching.

* * * * *

Giles was in the kitchen holding the small bottle of wine from their picnic. He had been rummaging through the cabinets, and had snared two small glasses. He turned as she pushed through the butler's door and smiled as he saw her. 'Oh, thank you, God,' he thought to himself as he saw she was wearing the same type of soft terry robe he was. His pulse jumped instantly from relaxed into overdrive. She was so beautiful... even though she had dried her hair quickly, it still hung in shining, soft curls around her shoulders. 'I'd imagine Buffy is terribly jealous of her mother's natural curl. She always said she got her mother's complexion and her father's board-straight hair.'

He was aware of the goofy smile on his face, but he couldn't help it. "Hello. I thought... we might finish this... seems a shame to waste a good year." He raised the bottle and the glasses slightly, hoping his hands weren 't shaking enough to be visible.

She watched him pour, smiling. "Such a frugal fellow. Better be careful... thrift is quite a turn-on for a single parent."

Instead of looking uncomfortable, as she thought he might, he laughed. 'I know he's too good to be true, now,' she mused, taking a glass and raising it slightly, her eyes shining. "Okay, we should toast something. Last of the bottle, and all that."

"Uhm, yes, first glass and last, always. Let me see... what shall I toast? What possible cause would I have for celebration?" He fixed her with eyes brimming with affection. "Ah, I have it! To Buffy!" He raised his glass solemnly.

Joyce laughed, surprised. "Buffy?"

He kept his drink raised, and carefully leaned in to give her a tender kiss. Even his most casual kisses caused her toes to curl. He broke away, slowly, and looked into her eyes. "Yes, for if it weren't for Buffy, we would have never met. I am eternally grateful to her for that." He clinked her glass gently, and they both drank to the one and only Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Just as he leaned in for another taste of her lips, the front door banged open, and the subject of their toast made her presence known... loudly.

"Giiiiiiiles? Moooooom? Wherever you are, get decent! We got a demon-thingy over by the college we gotta slice and dice!" She seemed surprised when her mother came through the kitchen door wrapped in white terrycloth, followed by Giles in full Watcher face... which was a real hoot, seeing as how he wasn't wearing anything but a robe. She grinned devilishly as his face reddened under her appreciative gaze. "Woah, Giles, *nice* legs!"

"Buffy..." Giles and her mother spoke simultaneously, and in exactly the same tone. Buffy giggled madly until he finally gave up and sat down on the couch, carefully arranging his robe for modesty's sake. Joyce sank down beside him, unconsciously staying as close as possible.

Buffy thought it was cute, but she really didn't have time to take full teasing advantage of the situation.

She plopped down on the coffee table, and filled her Watcher in, fighting a grin every time her mother gave him one of those ooie-gooie looks. AFTER she got some full-bore kidding in, she'd have to give them her blessing... *waaaay* after.

* * * * *

After going to Giles' place and getting him some clean clothes, Buffy returned and waited patiently while he went to the guest bathroom to change. Joyce paced in front of the couch, still in her robe, although she had donned a pink satin nightgown underneath. Buffy knew full well how much her mother hated the whole fighting-the-vampire / demon / creature-of-the-night routine. She also knew that it was worse now there were *two* very important people in Joyce's life going out to face the darkness.

"I hate this."

"I know, Mom. Not lovin' it, myself. But I do what I do, and that's that."

"You could just not..."

Buffy sighed heavily. "You know better. Stuff follows me around like a hellhound puppy."

"I know, sweetheart. But... I hate this, anyway. Because it's you."

"And now, more because it's him?"

Joyce looked down at her clasped hands. Her knuckles were white from the tension. "Yeah. Even more now, 'cause it's him."

Buffy jumped up and gave her mother a bear hug. "I love you, Mom. And I love Giles, too, in a goofy sort of way. I just wish I could keep all the bad away from you both, but I can't. I can just do what I do."

"And do so, quite possibly, better than any Slayer in history, I might add." Giles appeared from the guest bathroom, dressed, shaved, and ready for war.

"Sweet talker."

He gave Joyce a tender kiss and held her close for a long moment. When he released her, the Watcher was back. "Let's go solve this little problem, eh?"

"I'm up for a little demon-hockey, how 'bout you?"

"Ah, yes, I'm ready. Oh, don't forget your knives, Buffy. I have your mace in my car."

"Beautiful. Bye, Mom, don't wait up."

Joyce shook her head sadly. "You think I could sleep now, honey? Rupert..."

"Yes?"

"Look out for yourself, too, okay?"

His gentle smile answered her. As they went out the door, she collapsed onto the couch.

Clutching a throw pillow to her chest, she buried her face in the soft fringe and murmured, "I really, really, hate this part."

* * * * *

At exactly six-forty-seven a.m., Giles and Buffy dragged themselves into the Summers' home, bone-weary from almost eight hours of chasing a very athletic and quick-footed demon. The iridescent gold goo that glistened on their clothes and faces testified to the demise of said demon... but it had been a long, hard night.

Joyce rose from her spot on the couch and surveyed the two of them as they glowed faintly in the early morning gloom. Shaking her head, she silently handed Giles his robe. He nodded gratefully and headed for the guest bathroom... his third visit in less than twelve hours.

Buffy made a bee-line for her own room. All she could think of was a hot shower and a warm bed. Even the thought of chaperoning her mother and Giles wasn't enticement enough to detain her. 'I'll make up for it later... *much* later...'

Joyce grimaced as she surveyed her hallway. Dried mud, grass, and glowing demon blood had been thoroughly ground into the wood floor. She sighed heavily. "Note to self..." she said aloud.

"...investigate industrial strength floor varnish, and buy a new, heavy-duty washing machine..." She thought for a moment about the state of the clothes she was going to have to wash, then added,

"And a case of stain remover."

After collecting the phosphorescent clothes and putting them in to wash, Joyce padded upstairs to Buffy's room, unconsciously nervous because she hadn't gotten her usual goodnight hug. She opened the door quietly, and saw the room was dark. By tilting her head slightly, she could just see a small lump under the comforter. She smiled, her heart gripped with love and nostalgia... how many times over the years had she sneaked into Buffy's room, late at night, just to reassure herself that her one-and-only child was safe?

She tiptoed over to the bed and tucked the covers more snugly around her sleeping daughter. She brushed the still-damp curls from Buffy's face, then leaned over and gave her the lightest of kisses on the forehead. Buffy smiled, eyes still closed, as she had a thousand times before, and mumbled, "'Night, Mom."

Joyce practically floated down the hall. Her child was safe at home. All was in balance.

She met Giles coming up the stairs as she was coming down. He had on his white robe, and his hair was almost dry. She smiled sheepishly as she realized she'd been caught being a typical mom... checking on the kid. Then she wondered where *he* had been headed.

The look she gave him caused him to blush and hang his head. "I thought, well, I was just... uhm... going to see if Buffy was all right. We've had rather a long night." He straightened. "But, I see you've beaten me to it, haven't you?"

'He really *is* too good to be true.' She thought, smiling. The smile left her face when he yawned hugely.

"You must be exhausted yourself, Rupert. You probably were right there with her the whole time, and you're not eighteen, *or* the Slayer."

He nodded, his eyes heavy with fatigue. "It's rather fortunate that I took up running again... I think we circled the campus at least fifty times. I'll have to drive round tomorrow and see just how far that is..." He yawned again. "Sorry."

'Amazing,' she thought. 'He just ran the equivalent of the Boston Marathon, and yet he apologizes because he's all worn out.' Joyce made a quick decision. She grabbed his arm and started back upstairs, dragging him along. When it dawned on him where they were going, he looked more than a little surprised.

Before his nervous stammer could coalesce into actual speech, she patted his arm reassuringly. "You're tired, I'm tired, Buffy's tired. She's in bed, sound asleep. We should follow her example." She tilted her head up at him thoughtfully. "I'm also banking on you being too tired for anything else."

She led him into her bedroom without bothering to turn on the lights. She left him standing just inside the door and turned the bedclothes down, thankful beyond words that she'd put on fresh sheets that morning.

She grabbed his arm, more gently this time, and asked with just a tiny bit of tease in her voice, "Hey there, big boy... you wearin' anything under that robe?"

"Y-y-yes... thank God!"

She burst into laughter, then untied his robe and slipped it off his shoulders. Shrugging her own wrap onto the floor, she slid into bed, pulling him with her. As they settled into the center, she snuggled against him. His arms went around her and drew her close, the satin of her nightgown soft under his hands. As their combined body heat began to warm the sheets, a drowsy contentment settled over them. 'Oh, this is great,' she told herself. 'Too good to be true.'

Before he could doze off, she murmured, "Now, isn't this better than sleeping on the couch?"

"Mmm hmm. And I won't have a catch in my neck in the morning."

"It's already morning, Rupert."

"Mmm hmm."

Silence reigned again as she listened to his steady heart beat. Time slowed to a crawl. She was warm and safe. Her *family* was safe. She was content.

"Joyce?"

His voice was soft, but it still caused her to jump slightly. She wasn't used to hearing a man's voice in the middle of the night... morning... whatever.

"I'm sorry, didn't mean to wake you..."

"S'okay, what?"

"I... I love you, Joyce, truly. I wanted you to know."

"I know already, Rupert. And I love you, too. Go to sleep."

"Yes, dear."

Sleepy though she was, she still giggled at that. Her last thought before she drifted into sleep was, 'Even with the slaying, he's just too good to be true...'

* * * * *

A quiet knock at the bedroom door woke Joyce from a wonderfully deep sleep. She felt Rupert's arm across her waist, and felt his breath stirring the hair on the back of her head. He didn't snore, either, which was nice. As tired as he was, if he didn't snore then, he probably didn't at all. She lay there for a few seconds, eyes closed, trying to memorize the feeling of having him beside her. 'I could definitely get used to this,' she thought. He was warm and solid, and she felt so...

The second knock brought her fully awake. She knew who it was. "Buffy? What is it?" She kept her voice low, hoping that Rupert wouldn't wake just yet. He needed the extra sleep.

The door cracked open a foot or so, and Buffy's face appeared. "Hi, Mom. Sorry to wake you."

"It's okay, honey. What time is it?"

"One thirty."

"One thirty! Are you starving yet?"

"Nah, not yet. I was going to go for a run... since I obviously *didn't* get enough of that last night." She laughed softly. "I was gonna see if Giles wanted to go with me, but he probably needs sleep worse than exercise."

Joyce was about to reply when a surprisingly crisp male voice beat her to it. "I need both, I fear. Good morning, by the way." He didn't stir a muscle, but he sounded fully awake and alert. "If you'd care to wait until I can gather my running clothes, Buffy, I would be happy to accompany you."

"Why don't you just keep stuff here, Giles? Mom, you might as well give up and clean out a drawer or two for him. You guys are definitely up to the 'drawer' stage."

Joyce began to realize that Rupert wasn't going to budge until Buffy left the room. "Uh, Buffy, honey, if you don't mind..."
Buffy quickly caught on. "Oh, I guess you want me to get out and close the door, right?"

"Right."

The door closed with a decided click.

He sat up and stretched thoroughly. "Ah, marvelous... I haven't had this much sleep in months."

"I slept pretty well, myself. You make a great bed warmer."

"And you make a delightful pillow."

He began to look around for his robe. When she took it off the chair and offered it to him, he stood and stretched again. She appraised his near-naked body frankly. Clad only in navy blue boxers, he looked amazingly fit, with subtle muscles rippling under the skin. He seemed lightly tanned, but she knew he wasn't a sunbather. He was just naturally dark, in contrast to her own exceedingly fair skin.

She certainly liked everything she saw.

He smiled as he wrapped the robe around himself and tied it snugly. "Darling, would you like to join us? I doubt she'd mind. You could play time-keeper. She's always wanting to race me round the track, even though I can't keep up for long."

"I might just do that. Do you want a drawer, Rupert?"

He blinked at the sudden change of subject. "A drawer?"

"Like Buffy said. A drawer for your stuff."

"Ah. Well, no, I don't think I want a drawer."

"Oh." She looked disappointed.

This wasn't exactly the way he'd planned on broaching the subject, but it felt... right... to do so now. "Actually, I was wondering if I could just move in, lock, stock and barrel."

"Oh?"

He stepped closer to her and took her hands in his. "And, I was wondering if I could do that soon. Perhaps, just after I pledge my life to you forever?"

"Oh!" 'What a way to propose!' she thought, her eyes filling with tears. "Oh..." The words just wouldn't come out.

"Joyce, love, I want very much to be married to you. Would you have me?"

"Oh... Rupert..." She threw her arms around him and sobbed into the collar of his robe. He encircled her in his strong arms and held her close. He closed his eyes and smiled, totally absorbed in soothing her.

She was still sniffling when he whispered, "Do tears mean 'yes' or 'no', in this instance?"

"Oh, yes!" she wailed, bursting into fresh tears.

"Oh..." He buried his face into her hair. "Oh, Joyce... oh my love..." He was dangerously close to crying himself. His heart was nearly bursting. He pulled back just enough to find her lips with his, and the sobs turned to soft moans of happiness.

From her vantage point just outside the bedroom door, Buffy stabbed her fist into the air. "*Yesss*!" She tiptoed down the hall to her room, then stomped back to her mother's door with exaggerated enthusiasm. She burst in, dressed in her running outfit, to see her mother and her Watcher smiling happily at each other, Joyce's hand resting chastely in the crook of his arm.

"You ready to run, or not, Watcher-guy?"

"I'm ready. You mother is going with us, if you don't mind."

"The more, the merrier."

He smiled fondly at Buffy, then turned and patted Joyce's hand. "We'll be back in a bit to pick you up, love, is that all right?"

Joyce beamed. "I'll be waiting. Don't be long."

"Never. I can't stay away for long, I'm afraid."

He kissed her, a short gentle kiss, conscious of Buffy's close scrutiny. Then he followed his Slayer out the door and down the hall. Joyce heard Buffy say, just before they started down the stairs, "You gonna put on *clothes* before you go outside, Giles?"

Joyce couldn't quite make out his reply, but she did hear Buffy burst into delighted laughter.

She collapsed onto the bed, contemplating the idea of being married to Rupert Giles.

He makes my daughter laugh. Beats the heck out of the last guy I dated... he made her want to kill herself.

It *is* worth it, all the waiting and worrying. It's worth it because of the love that comes in between. He loves me, he loves my daughter. He does his best to protect us both, which is all any man can do.

He makes my daughter laugh, and he makes my heart sing.

Oh, yeah, he's definitely worth the trouble.

Now, where'd I put my jogging suit?

Read the next chapter: Sincere Regrets