Giles has never understood why counting to ten is so magical for some people. He's seen it reduce anger in others, but he's never gotten it to work for himself. He's tried it now, in almost every language he knows, including some pretty obscure demon languages in which every sentence automatically becomes a spell.
He's still not feeling any calmer.
"How about science?" he asks, forcing his voice to sound a lot more cheerful than he feels.
"I don't know, science in high school was hard."
"That was because you only went to half of the classes. I am sure that if you just applied yourself…" he begins.
"Can't you find something easier in there?" she asks, looking at the course book.
"It is not a listing of preschools, Buffy, it is a list of college courses offered!"
"I know, but obviously, some college courses are probably a lot harder than other ones. Just find one of the easier ones."
"You are an intelligent girl, Buffy Summers. If your test scores didn't demonstrate evidence of that your debate with my parents on the nature of good and evil certainly would have! I do not see any reason why you shouldnot be able to do well at more challenging coursework if you were only willing to apply yourself a little."
Buffy is silent for a moment, and Giles considers apologizing to her, but he meant every word that he said, and he can't bear to make himself take any of them back.
"I don't really have a lot of control over whether or not I apply myself do I?" she asks.
"Buffy, you cannot blame the fact that you are the Slayer on all of your scholarly failings," Giles says, not softening in the least.
"No, but some of it is from that. Plus, I've already outlived the average life expectancy of a Slayer. I never really planned for college, because I never really thought that I would be going. At least after I became a Slayer. I never planned for college before that because I was fourteen, and stupid."
"Buffy, you are still alive, so maybe it's time to start planning for a future."
"I still don't see the point. I mean, I might be able to live through college, great. I might even make it half a decade or a decade into my adult life, although the odds aren't with me on that. Let's say that I even get to live to a ripe old Slayer age like 40. So what? Slaying is always going to be more important than my job. I'm never going to be able to have a good job. I mean, look at how much mom works. There is no way that I could ever hold down a job like that and still be the Slayer, and my dad works way more than she does."
"I didn't work that much," he points out.
"Right, but it's not like being a librarian was your real job. It was just something you did so no one would think it creepy that you were a middle aged man hanging out with a teenage girl."
Giles laughs, "That was not why I did it. I actually liked being a librarian, and it payed the bills, and it was something that would leave me a lot of free time for my other important job. Not everyone has jobs that consume their whole lives. That isn't even healthy for someone who isn't the Slayer. It would be disastrous for someone who was. Education is a way to get a good job, Buffy, but not everyone's definition of a good job is the same. For some people it is a job which earns them the most amount of money with the least amount of work."
"So you're saying work hard now so I can slack off later?" she asks.
"In a manner of speaking, yes," he says.
Buffy looks far more glum than she did at the beginning of the conversation, and Giles worries about what he could have said to have this effect on her. "So you're telling me that my parents chose it. I just always thought that working that hard was just a fact of grown-up life, but you're telling me that they could have chosen something different, and didn't."
Giles just looks at her trying to figure out what to say to fix this. To make Buffy feel better. To make it so he hadn't just criticized his girlfriend to her daughter behind her back.
"You're choosing to be with this kid," she says.
"Buffy, I blew up my workplace. I'm happy to be with this kid, but it wasn't really a choice."
"You chose to spend a lot of time with me, I mean back when you had a job. Back when you had two jobs actually," she says.
"I don't know what I want to do when I grow up, but I do know who I want to be like."
-Two months later during "The freshman"-
"Are you sure you don't want to live at home for the first year?" Giles asks her as he sets the last box down on the floor.
"Giles, I'm going to college. I want to actually be at college," Buffy whines.
"Ok, I just want to make sure it didn't have anything to do with me."
"You?" she asks in surprise. "You would be a reason to live at the house, not leave it."
"I just thought…mom's new boyfriend, and a baby, might not exactly be things that an eighteen year old wanted to spend a lot of time dealing with," he says.
"Giles, don't think that you've gotten rid of me. I'm still going to be coming home, a whole lot."
"Good," he says.
"Otherwise how am I going to get my laundry done?" she asks.
"I taught you how to do laundry. You can do your own laundry," Giles says. He has been desperately trying to prepare her for the real world.
"The machines at the dorm take quarters," Buffy pouts.
"Fine, if you are going to come home to do your laundry, you actually have to do your laundry."
-The next day-
When Buffy uses her key to unlock the door to her own house she fully expects to see it like it's always been. She's unnerved when she finds her mother sitting on the living room couch in nothing but one of Giles's dress shirts, and Giles sitting next to her wearing a bathrobe.
"Oh God, gross!" she exclaims, covering her eyes and running up to her bedroom. When she gets there she discovers it is full of boxes.
"I really didn't expect you to be home this soon. It's still your room, I didn't move anything. They are just boxes from the gallery while we are doing inventory," her mother says, coming up behind her.
"Mom, can we talk about this when you are wearing pants?" she pleads.
"I'm sorry, honey, aren't I allowed to have a private life?" her mother asks.
"No, because you're…you're old, and it's gross." Buffy says with her eyes still closed shut.
"You were aware that your mother and I were having sex. We did make a baby, and we are living together," Giles points out.
"Aware of it, sure, but I didn't have to see you sitting around half dressed!" she explains. "This is icky, and gross, and…"
"Honey," Joyce says, putting out her arms to pull her daughter into a hug.
"Put on some pants!" Buffy exclains.
Her mother heads into the bedroom, and it looks like Giles is going to follow her when he's stopped by Buffy's voice.
"I came here because I needed your help," she admits.
"Are you having troubles with your studies?" Giles asks.
"There is a student missing."
"Eddie. He is supposed to have left school, but I don't think that he did. I met him outside last night, and when I went back to the place where I met him, it looked like there had been a struggle."
"And?" Giles prompts, looking like he isn't fully into this conversation.
"We need to stop this! Eddie's RA says that kids disappear all the time. We need research, and charts, and graphs."
"I still don't see where I fit in. You haven't described anything that you couldn't do yourself."
Buffy gets angry, "Ok, remember before you became Hugh Heffner when you used to be a Watcher?" she says in aggravation.
"Officially, you no longer have a watcher," he reminds her. "Buffy, you know that I will always be there when you really need me. Your safety is more important to me than anything, but…you are going to have to take care of yourself. You are out of school, and I can't always be there to guide you," he says into her eyes in such a way that makes it so she can't just lie to herself, and say that he is being selfish. There is no doubt about it, he is really doing this for her own good.
"I'm sorry to bug you," she says, turning away from him.
"Buffy." He stops her as she starts to walk away. He doesn't know why he's doing that. He wants her to go. He knows that the best thing for her in the long run is for her to go away right now. She needs to grow up, she needs to know that she can rely on herself. He just can't bear to watch her go through the kind of pain that it is going to take to do this kind of growing up.
She turns back to him. She's hurt, but she doesn't want to hurt him with this knowledge anymore than he wanted to hurt her. "Oh, no, you're right," she tells him, "I can handle this. I am on it."
"I am here if you need anything," he tells her.
"Where did Buffy go?" Joyce asks as she comes out of her bedroom.
"She went back to college," he says, staring at her retreating form.
"So, did you help her?" Joyce asks.
"I'm not sure," Giles says honestly.
The vampire has been vanquished, and all is right with the world once again. As Buffy and her friends head back to her dorm, they see Giles running toward them carrying a whole arsenal of weapons. Weapons that would have been really useful about an hour ago.
"Buffy!" He runs up all out of breath.
"Hi Giles," Willow greets from behind a box.
"I have been awake all night. I know that I am supposed to teach you self-reliance, but I can't leave you out there to fight alone. To hell with what is right. I am ready to back you up. Let's find the evil, and fight it together."
Buffy has no reaction to his grand speech, because tonight she has not only learned that her friends will always be there to help her when the chips are down, but she has also learned that she can always rely on herself.
"Great, thanks, we'll get right on that," she says as she walks past him carrying the boxes of her things that she reclaimed from the dusted vampires.
Giles stands there flabbergasted by her tiny reaction. He had come here to save her from the thing that he didn't think she could fight on her own. It had not occurred to him that she might have already taken care of the problem, all by herself. "The evil is this way?" he asks.
"My room is," she tells him.
Willow hands him the giant box that she is carrying, and with some difficulty he shuffles around the crosses and weapons that he is carrying in order to accommodate it.
It turns out that he not only gets the pleasure of moving her into her room one time, but many times this year.
"So, I guess college is not so scary after all," Xander says to Buffy.
"It's turning out to be a lot like high school," she replies, "Which I can handle. At least I know what to expect."