*Longest Author's note ever* Thank you, Amanda for the great beta job. And I'm sorry that you're sick, Hon. And thank yous to Capra124, gidgetgirl, Nat, CF, and Melanie Dawn for the reviews.
And now to respond to some comments: Capra124- I can't believe my story is the first Buffy fanfic you've ever read. I hope I did all the wonderful authors out there justice. If you want some recommendations for fics to read, drop me a line and I would be happy to provide. Oh! And August 5th! *Leanne does the dance of same birthday joy*; Melanie Dawn- No, this story will not become G/B. I don't have anything against the ship and have in fact read several B/G fics that I liked. But to have Giles with Joyce and in the same fic to have him with Buffy is just too icky for words.; gidgetgirl- Thank you so much for reading this whole thing and reviewing every chapter. You have no idea how happy that made me. And your reviews themselves were wonderful. Praise (which is always nice) but detailed and constructive where they pointed out what I needed to fix. I love that! Oh, and I know I had some small grammer/puctuation issues in the earlier chapters (which I intend to clean up later). The problem was that I was working without a beta self-editing isn't very effective. But now I have the wonderful Amanda so those issues should be a thing of the past.
I look forward to hearing what you all think of this chapter *hint Review *hint* Now, on with the show....
Chapter 10: The Zeppo
*takes place a couple of days after the episode "The Zeppo."*
"Jeez. What is it?" asked Buffy.
Willow leaned over and looked where her best friend was pointing. "Uuugh. I don't know. Meatloaf."
Buffy shook her head. "No. It's too juicy for meatloaf."
"Stew." said Oz
"I don't think stew is supposed to be gray," said Xander.
The four friends were sitting around a table at the Sunnydale High School Cafeteria. For the most part, they were healed from their encounter with the Sisterhood of Jhe. Buffy's sling and limp were gone. Willow, though, still had some painful looking cuts and bruises.
"This is why I pack my own lunch," said Willow removing her tuna sandwich, apple, and cupcake from the brown paper bag in front of her.
"Awe, Wills. But then you miss all the fun of trying to identify what's in your food," said Xander. He looked over at the contents of Willow's lunch and said, "Say, trade ya for that cupcake."
"Whatda got?" said Willow with a crafty glint in her eye.
"Um, cafeteria french fries. Simultaneously burnt to a crisp and oily."
Buffy gave her lunch one last experimental poke then put her fork down with a disgusted sigh. "I'm not eating this. I don't think I should ingest something unless I can classify it as animal, vegetable, or mineral."
"Speaking of vegetables," said Oz, "did you hear that August Anderson is staging a protest next week to force the school to offer more vegetarian alternatives."
"August..." said Buffy. "Isn't she the girl who wears Birkenstocks and makes all her clothes out of hemp."
Willow nodded. "Yeah. Remember we had bio with her last semester and she refused to dissect the fetal pig."
"We're playing at her protest," said Oz. "Devon volunteered the Dingoes because he thinks Autumn is hot."
Buffy laughed a little and said, "Wait till he find out that she doesn't shave her legs."
"Oooh," said Willow. "I heard a joke." She waited for everyone's approval to go ahead, then she said, "Well, um, these three vampires walking into this bar. I guess, it would be Willy's bar. Or possibly another, similar-"
"Willow," said Xander gently.
"Yeah, anyway," continued Willow. "They walk into this bar. And they go up to the counter and sit down. And the bartender says, 'What'll you have?'" For the part of the bartender, Willow affected a gruff speaking voice. "And the first vampire said, 'I'll have a glass of blood.' And so, the bartender turns to the second vampire and asks him what he wants. And the second vampire says, 'I'll have a glass of blood, too.' And so, the bartender turns to the third vampire and asks the same question. And this vampire says, 'I'll have a glass of plasma.' And then, the bartender says-" Willow started to giggle a little bit and had to pause to compose herself for the inevitable punch line. "He says, 'So that's two bloods and a blood lite!'"
Xander and Buffy smiles a little for their friend's benefit. Oz wrapped an arm around Willow's shoulder and said, "That was a good one, Will."
Buffy smiled at Willow, then suddenly got a frown on her face. "But vampires don't drink plasma." She shook her head and said, "Just don't tell Giles that one. Or you'll have to sit through his lecture on vampire physiology."
To avoid looking at his lunch directly, Xander scanned the current populace of the cafeteria. His gaze settled on a very familiar form. After a couple of minutes, Buffy and Willow noticed that Xander had zoned out. Buffy followed his stare and saw the object of his attention. "So, Xan," she said casually. "Have to talked with Cordelia lately?"
"No. Apparently she's too good for me now. Just look at her over there. Flirting with those football players and fixing her hair and getting her lunch and... making her way over to us right now?"
And as impossible as it seemed, Xander was correct. Cordelia was coming over to their table with her customary lunch of a salad with low-fat dressing and a diet coke. She reached the table, and imperiously looked down her nose at her former boyfriend. "Move over," she commanded.
"Of course, your majesty," said Xander as he scooted his chair over to make room for the prom queen. Cordelia set her tray down and then grabbed a chair from a near by table. She pushed her chair up to the Scoobies table and settled herself between Xander and Buffy.
All of the Scoobies were stunned by the sudden arrival of "Queen C." Buffy was the first to manage to find her voice. "Um, Cordelia. Not that we don't appreciate your company, but why are you sitting with us?"
Xander looked at Cordelia and added, "Yes. Please tell us what we did to deserve the honor of your presence so we can make sure to never do it again."
Cordelia smirked at him and said, "This has nothing to do with you Xander. Trust me, if I had a choice in the matter, I'd be giving you people a wide berth."
"Choice about what?" asked Willow.
"Who to sit with at lunch," answered Cordelia as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
"Huh?" asked Buffy.
"Harmony isn't here today and I can't sit with Aura and Nicole without Harmony as a buffer."
"Wow, Cordy. I mean I knew your friends were hard to tolerate, but-"
Cody cut Xander off with a glare. "A fashion buffer, moron. Aura is wearing coral and Nicole is wearing white and pink. As you can see, I'm wearing teal." At everyone's blank looks Cordelia sighed in exasperation and continued. "I'm trying to get Danny Thompson to ask me out and if he sees me sitting next to them, I'll look awful. Normally, Harmony wears lavender or green or yellow and she balances us out, but she isn't here today."
Buffy tried to reason out Cordelia's fashion logic, but gave up after a few seconds. Eager to change the subject she took a sip of her Aquafina and said, "So, my mom and Giles are going out on another date tonight. Actually, it was supposed to be last night, but was still feeling pretty wrecked from the fight. But he's better now. He can actually move without wincing- mostly."
"Wow, Buff," said Willow. "They're getting kinda serious. What do you think about it?"
Buffy shrugged and said, "I don't know. I'm fine with it. I mean, they seem like they really like each other."
Cordelia made a noise of disbelief that sounded suspiciously like a snort and said, "Are you kidding me? Giles is totally in love with her." At the gang's shocked looks she added, "Or haven't you noticed?"
"What are you talking about?" asked Buffy.
"Duh. He's totally been dressing better."
"Excuse me?" said Buffy.
Cordelia rolled her eyes as she elaborated. "When Giles started dating your Mom, he started paying more attention to his clothes. The quality of his current wardrobe clearly says 'love.'"
"I have noticed anything different," objected Xander.
"Of course you wouldn't notice," said Cordelia scathingly. "You look like an Easter egg."
Buffy thought about this and said, "Cordy, I spend the most time with Giles. I would have noticed if anything had changed. He still wears suits, like, everywhere. Well, okay, he has started to dress more casually outside of school but that's probably because he got fired and I teased him about it when he came over for breakfast this one-"
"Poor, deluded Buffy. You look but you do not see. It's not what Giles wears. It's what he's wearing. And how he's wearing it."
"And again I'm going to have to say huh?"
"Less cotton, more silk. Haven't any of you seen that almost all of the suits he's wore recently have been wool. And very well tailored."
Oz nodded and said, "Now that you mentioned it, there has been a decrease in tweed."
"Yeah. And his ties have been much less polka-dotty," said Willow in agreement.
"No doubt about it. Giles has been dressing up." Cordelia paused as she looked around at the Scoobies. "And speaking of appearances, what is up with you guys. For the past couple of days, you've all been looking thrashed. More thrashed than usual."
"Demons tried to open the hellmouth," said Buffy.
"Again! God, don't all those squiggly things have anything better to do?"
"Well, most of their caves don't get the Home Shopping Network. So there you go," patronized Xander.
"Well, Xander. I'd expect that you'd know all about that. Since your mobile home is filled with beautiful family heirlooms all costing $19.95 or less."
Already growing tired of the direction in which this conversation was heading, Buffy decided that she wasn't going to put up with it. "As much as I love listening to you two fight, I think I'm going to go. I have actual classes to study for." Buffy picked up her tray and bussed it. Then she left the cafeteria and headed for her home away from home, the library.
The chiming sound of the Summers' front door bell rang softly through the house. Joyce quickly checked her make-up, then hurried through the house. When she opened the door, she was greeted by the sight of a smiling, but sore Rupert Giles. "Oh, Rupert. You're looking so much better today." She motioned him inside the house.
Giles looked down at what he was wearing, then realized what Joyce was talking about. "Oh, um, yes. The bruises have faded quite a lot. And I was able to take the bandages off my hand today."
"Yes, well. I, um, I hope you don't mind, about moving our date here. I thought it would be easier on you than going out. Because you're still healing."
"No, I don't mind at all. I much prefer your cooking to a restaurant's any day. Speaking of, thank you so much for the casserole you brought over."
"Did you like it? I wasn't sure how much you could do. Buffy told me that your right hand was really hurt and I know it's not your dominate hand but I-" Joyce suddenly interrupted herself. She smiled ruefully and said, "Look at me. I'm rambling like a school girl."
Giles smiled. "I know the feeling."
"Anyway. I wanted to see if you were okay. And, I wanted to see you."
"I know that feeling as well." Giles leaned over and brushed Joyce's cheek with a kiss.
Joyce blushed at the gesture and led Giles to the dining room. "Well, everything's ready. Just have a seat and I'll bring everything out.
After a dinner of poached salmon, broiled potatoes and a spring salad, Joyce and Giles were sitting in the living room with a bottle of Merlot between them. The each had a glass. "What shall we drink to?" asked Giles.
Joyce smiled and said, "I don't know. I just had a wonderful, romantic dinner with a man that I've completely fallen for, so maybe we should drink to love. Or happiness. Or contentment."
Giles grinned and said, "I have something a little better in mind." He gently took Joyce's glass from her hand and set it with his own on the coffee table. The he slid to the floor and knelt in front of Joyce.
Joyce looked confused for a moment. "What's going on?" she asked.
Giles took a deep breath and said, "Joyce, I- I want to tell you something. I love you. A great deal. I know I don't say it that often, but I do. And this battle, the Sisterhood of Jhe. I don't want to worry you, but it was very bad. They w-were trying to open the Hellmouth. In effect, trying to end the world." Joyce let out a small gasp, but Giles presses on. "When I was lying in that hospital bed, I realized something. I realized that I had been through too many apocalypses. Seen too many 'ends of the world.' And I had always managed to scrape through, via skill or just dumb luck. But, someday the skill won't be there, or the luck a bit off. And I had a moment of perfect clarity. I knew that if I died, I would regret never asking you this question." Giles fished in his jacket pocket and pulled out a small, square box covered in blue velvet. He opened the box to reveal an antique gold ring. It had a solitary diamond in the middle. "Joyce Summers, w-will you be my wife?"
Joyce sat there stunned for a couple seconds. Finally, she said, "I- It's so, um, sudden.... I..."
Giles quickly snapped the box shut as his face reddened. "I- I shouldn't have asked. It's too soon. I'm... I'll j-just go.
Giles started to stand, but Joyce reached out and held on to his arm. "Rupert, I- I didn't.... Yes. Yes, I'll marry you."
"Really?" Giles face was a battlefield of emotions. Hope, joy, and disbelief all grappled for dominance.
Joyce nodded. As she held out her hand to him, she started to tremble. Giles moved back onto the couch and took her in his arms. "I love.... I- I- oh just give me the ring."
Giles chuckled and slipped the traditional looking band onto Joyce's ring finger. It only went up to her knuckle. "Oh, it doesn't fit!" she cried.
Giles shrugged bashfully. "Well, I expected that might be the case. I've made an appointment tomorrow afternoon to get it resized. I um, I didn't buy it. It was my mother's. When my parents passed on I inherited the whole set. Her engagement ring and both wedding bands. Of course, if you'd rather have a ring of your own, I'd understand completely."
"No. I'm thrilled to have your mother's ring. You're my family now, which means your family is mine."
"Well, you don't have to worry about being introduced to a huge clan of Giles'. Except for some cousins so distant that it hardly counts, I'm the last of the line."
Joyce looked sad at that information. "Oh, Rupert."
Giles smiled at her concern. "Don't worry about it. Anyway, I'm looking forward to expanding the Giles family by one member." He leaned over a kissed Joyce. The kiss started out softly at first but quickly grew more passionate.
Joyce kissed him back and mumbled something. Giles broke this kiss and asked Joyce what she said. Joyce thought for a moment, and then said, "I just said two. Two people. Me and Buffy."
"Oh, I had nearly forgotten about Buffy. I mean, it's just like she's my daughter already. But I suppose she really will be now. My stepdaughter."
"Mmm hmm," agreed Joyce. She looked at her ring one more time. "And we really should call Buffy and tell her." Joyce smiled slowly and started kissing a trail down Giles's neck. "But not right now."
Giles moaned loudly at Joyce's ministrations. Joyce quickly remembered that he was still injured. She suddenly stopped what she was doing and looked at him with concern. "Did I hurt you? Are you alright?"
Giles raised an eyebrow and smirked at her. He leaned back on the couch and grabbed Joyce's wrists so that she was pulled on top of him. "I'm not in pain, if that's what you're asking. As for being alright, it's not the hood of a police car, but we'll improvise."
Joyce began kissing him quite earnestly until Giles interrupted her again. "Um, Joyce. Not that this isn't wonderful, but shouldn't Buffy be getting home soon? She went patrolling with Faith and it won't take long."
"She's spending the night at Willow's. Studying for French," Joyce whispered in Giles's ear.
Giles raised an eyebrow at this news. "Really? Mrs. Summers, were you planning to seduce me?"
Joyce laughed and said, "I wish I could take the credit, but it was Buffy's idea. Something about space and smoochies and avoiding the trauma."
"Well, she's a brilliant girl and I must remember to tell her."
"Tomorrow," said Joyce.
"Tomorrow," Giles agreed.
To be continued.....
*Next Chapter: "Bad Girls." Oooh, fun!