Disclaimers found in Chapter One

Chapter Nine

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"I wish Giles would have stuck around long enough for us to spend some time with him." Willow lightly traced her fingers around the top of her glass, dejected. "I miss him."

Xander agreed. "You would have thought he'd at least pretend he wanted to see us," he complained, popping a cheesy chip into his mouth. "It doesn't seem like him just to…bail."

The Scoobies were seated around the dining room table. It was the first real chance they'd had to sit and talk without Buffy around—the Slayer had been listless and down since yesterday afternoon, when the gang had finally been "fixed." She and Giles had barely spoken last night, both pasting on too-bright smiles and steering clear of each other whenever possible.

Buffy had watched from the window as his cab pulled away this morning. She'd stood there for a long time.

When Xander had tried to talk to her, to find out what was going on, she had blown him off, telling him she was just tired. Announcing that she had some shopping to do—to replace clothes and household items that had been forever destroyed during the Scoobies' stint as toddlers—she had all but run out the door.

Tara spoke up, her voice hesitant. "Does anyone else…well, remember?" she asked softly. "Because I—I kind of do."

Xander looked relieved. "I thought it was just me," he blurted. "And—and it's all confused. Like, I remember, but I don't really understand it."

"I don't understand it either," Anya offered bluntly. She looked pained. "I have uncomfortable feelings of affection for Buffy and Giles," she told them. "They won't go away."

Tara smiled gently. "They were like your parents," she explained to the ex-demon. "I have those feelings, too."

Willow looked embarrassed. "Last night," she offered, flushing a little, "I was in the kitchen making a snack, and I bumped into the table. Ended up spilling milk everywhere. Buffy walked in, took one look at me, and told me to go take a time-out!"

Xander laughed. "Residual parent-ness. She'll get used to us being full-sized again, soon."

Willow blushed to the roots of her hair. "I went!" she admitted, looking confused.

Tara giggled softly. "I understand," she offered, putting a comforting hand on Willow's arm. "I had a bad dream last night and woke up from it, and laid there for twenty minutes, wishing I could go sleep with Buffy." She flushed. "I mean, actually sleep."

Across the table, Xander's head shot up as a memory flashed back to him. "I did that, too," he said slowly. "When we were kids—I went in and slept with Buffy." He paused significantly. "And Giles."

Willow's jaw dropped. "Buffy was sleeping with Giles?" Her eyes widened. "How? Why?"

Dawn slipped into a chair across from the others. She'd just returned from taking a shower, and she was glad they were all still down here. She'd wanted to talk to them, anyway.

"They were sleeping together. Not, y'know…'sleeping together'." She paused. "At least, I don't think so. But something sure happened."

"But…Buffy and Giles…sleeping together…" Xander seemed dazed. "Doesn't that violate all the laws of nature?"

Dawn stiffened, mildly irritated. "They were taking care of you four, around the clock," she objected. "There was one bed left, and it was big enough for both of them. What's the big deal?"

Maybe she shouldn't talk to them about this after all. Not if they were going to be—well, babies about it.

Willow seemed to be thinking about something, very hard. "Kisses," she murmured, closing her eyes as if to better recall. "I wanted kisses…because Buffy and Giles were kissing." Her eyes popped back open. "Wow. Really kissing." She was beet red.

"Kissing…" Xander looked sick. "When did this happen?"

"I think it's nice," offered Tara.

"It is," Anya interjected. When they all looked at her, she shrugged. "Kissing Giles, I mean."

Xander whitened. "Anya, we've talked about this. We weren't going to bring that up again."

Dawn had had about enough. "What is wrong with you guys?" she demanded of Willow and Xander. "You've been friends with them for years—they've saved your lives, helped you with your problems…and for the last week, they changed your diapers. And you guys can still sit here and act like the idea that the two of them might find each other attractive is gross?" She sighed, disgusted. "Maybe you guys should go back to being babies. You sure don't act like grown-ups."

There was a brief silence following this outburst. It was Willow who finally broke it.

"We didn't mean it like that, Dawn. It's just…this is big. Buffy and Giles—we didn't expect something like this."

"You said you think something happened between them?" Tara asked.

Dawn nodded grudgingly. "I thought they might have gotten together, actually," she admitted. "As in slept together." She shot Xander a look that dared him to make a comment. He just stared at her, looking shell-shocked. Her shoulders sagged. "But now I think I must have been wrong," she concluded. "Giles wouldn't have left if something like that had happened."

Anya looked thoughtful. "I don't remember my real parents," she announced, out of nowhere. "But Buffy and Giles made nice ones." She seemed to consider this for a moment, then nodded, satisfied. "Yes, I think they'd make a very nice couple. I approve," she added, as if that settled it.

Dawn grimaced. "I wish it were that easy," she told them. "I don't know what happened to make everything go wrong all of a sudden, but now Giles is gone and Buffy's all depressed again."

Tara hesitated. "And we're certain they have feelings for each other?"

"I definitely remember them kissing," Willow put in, still looking a bit stunned by the idea. "A lot. In a bed." She flushed as the memory flashed through her mind again. "Oh, my god. I kissed Giles."

Anya brightened. "It's nice, isn't it?" Xander buried his face in his hands.

"I was three," Willow told her, glaring.

"Oh. Well, then that's inappropriate. I hope he didn't use his tongue."

Dawn blew out a breath. "Guys. Can we get back to the point, here?" She turned to Tara. "Yes, I'm sure they have feelings for each other." She brightened. "In fact, I have proof."

She went and dug through her school bag, glad she'd gotten the pictures developed already. Dropping the packet on the table, she pushed it forward, indicating that the others should open it.

They did, and there was a long silence as the pictures spilled out onto the table.

Buffy and Giles, that first morning in Buffy's bed, surrounded by all the children. Buffy, Giles, Xander, and Tara, curled up in Willow and Tara's big bed, snuggled together like a family. Buffy, laughing, as she watched Giles attempt to change Anya's diaper. Giles, watching Buffy rock a crying Tara, a wistful expression in his eyes. Buffy, clutching Xander in her arms, complete with Spaghetti-O hat, face rosy with laughter as she gazed at Giles across the room. The list went on and on.

Willow reached out, lightly touching a picture of all six of them in the bathroom. The Watcher and Slayer were smiling at one another, while around them, naked baby Scoobies turned the bathroom into a war zone.

"How did we miss this?" she murmured, sounding almost awed.

Even Xander seemed to be battling with his emotions. "When did this happen?"

Dawn watched them all as they read the truth in the pictures before them. "I think it happened a long time ago," she said quietly. "But I don't know when, and I don't think they do, either. It was just this week that they really seemed to be going somewhere."

"Look at Buffy laughing," Tara whispered, looking sad. "She looks…happy."

Xander swallowed. "We don't see that very often these days."

Anya was the only one gazing at the photos with open dismay. "Look at this!" she cried, holding up the picture of Giles changing her diaper. "I was small, and sticky, and…what?" she asked defensively.

The tension broke as everyone laughed. "It's okay, An," Xander assured her. "You were three. That's what you were supposed to look like."

Silence again fell over the table, as everyone dealt with this new idea.

"What can we do?" Tara asked finally. "There must be something."

Xander lifted his head, looking thoughtful. "Actually, I might have an idea," he said. "Dawn, did you happen to get double prints?"


Giles took another long drink of his scotch, staring at the wall. His flat seemed painfully quiet.

It had been two days. Buffy had called twice, leaving too-perky messages on his machine. He knew she was trying to make sure things would be all right between them, and he should call her back—he just didn't think he could face hearing her say the words.

He was still so bewildered by the whole thing. Her attitude had changed, literally, from one moment to the next. It just didn't make sense. He'd tried to talk to her, before he left, but the others were always around, and there had just never been an opportunity. Buffy hadn't even patrolled that night.

Now that he was back in Bath, and she was actually trying to contact him, he perversely found he didn't want to have the conversation after all. He lifted his glass to his lips again, mouth twisted in a bitter smile.

He'd never known he was a coward.

The doorbell chimed, interrupting his thoughts, and he rose to answer it, automatically concerned. No one ever came to his flat.

A deliveryman stood outside the door, smiling impersonally.

"Rupert Giles?" he asked, holding out a medium-sized package. "Sign here, please."

Giles signed, noticing with curiosity the Sunnydale postmark. He closed the door, carrying the package into the living room. Was it from Buffy? What could she be sending him?

His hands shook as he unwrapped the package, and lifted the lid from the box. He caught his breath.

It was a rich, leather-bound photo album. Embossed in gold letters on the front were the words "Family Photos". A folded piece of paper lay beneath it. A short message in careful, childlike letters had been scrawled in blue crayon.

Dear Daddy,

Please come home. Mommy is sad. We miss you lots.

Love,

The Little Terrors.

Trembling, he opened the album cover.

He stared at the photos for a long time. Reaching a decision, he picked up the phone.


Buffy carried a load of folded laundry up the stairs. She was nervous, and edgy, and trying not to think about Giles. Which was difficult not to do, since she'd received a letter from him today. Special courier delivery. It had been short, and impersonal, telling her only that her new Watcher should be here by five o'clock. She fought back a renewed sense of rejection.

He hadn't even called to tell her himself.

The letter had been signed "Regards," for crying out loud!

The doorbell rang, and Buffy waited for someone to answer it. Belatedly remembering that she was the only one home, she sighed and dropped the laundry at the top of the steps.

"I'm coming," she muttered as the doorbell sounded again. Steeling herself for another Wesley—or worse, another Quentin—she opened the door.

And sucked in a breath.

Giles.

Without warning, a blinding smile crossed her face. She flung herself at him, hugging him tightly.

"You brought him yourself?" she asked, so relieved she could barely speak. She'd thought he hated her—he wouldn't return her calls, he'd sent her that little note…but here he was.

Getting control of herself, she glanced around, embarrassed. What a first impression.

"Where's the new guy?" she asked, seeing no one.

Clearing his throat nervously, Giles stuck out his hand. "Rupert Giles," he announced formally. "Your new Watcher."

Buffy froze. "Do you mean that?" she whispered, unable to believe her ears. "You're really back?"

He seemed relieved by her reaction. "I'm really back," he assured her. "If, of course, you'll have me."

"If I'll—" Unable to help herself, Buffy laughed. "Oh, my god, Giles—this is…this is…" There weren't words to describe it, so she gave up, drawing him inside. "How?" she asked, as they seated themselves on the sofa. "Why?"

She could hardly breathe while waiting for his response. Against her better judgment, she could feel a tenuous thread of hope bursting to life inside her.

He ducked his head adorably. "You said you wanted me to select someone who wouldn't get you killed," he reminded her. "I didn't trust any of those pillocks to get the job done."

She deflated slightly. It wasn't exactly the declaration of love she'd been hoping for. But, she told herself firmly, he's here. He's here, and that's all that really matters.

"I'm so glad," she managed lamely, when she saw he was waiting for her reaction. The words didn't do the feeling justice—but then, Buffy had never been the best at expressing herself.

Belatedly, she realized he still looked nervous. "Giles?" she asked. "Was there something else?"

He shifted uncomfortably on the couch. "Yes, actually," he told her, fidgeting slightly. "It's—well, it's hard to…" He whipped off his glasses, polishing them furiously. "You see," he began again, "something has happened. I didn't expect it, and—well, sometimes, when people are on the front lines together, as we are, it can…things can happen. Unexpected things. Not bad things—of course, this is the Hellmouth," he contradicted himself. "So of course, bad things do happen. But that's not—"

A wave of affection crashed over her as he babbled. God, she loved this man. "Giles," she interrupted him gently. "I just thought you'd like to know…I have no idea what you're talking about."

He gazed at her in bemusement for a moment, then let out a shaky, rueful chuckle. "Bloody hell," he asserted. "I practiced this speech to your front door for fifteen minutes, and I must say, it sounded better then—"

A light bulb clicked above Buffy's head, and she froze.

(What I am proposing—although I don't wish to seem indecorous—is a-a social engagement.)

The memory washed over her in a rush. Giles, in the library, earnestly entreating a wooden chair to go out with him. (I practiced this speech to your front door for fifteen minutes…)

She sucked in a breath, suddenly aware she was trembling. Tears were gathering behind her eyes. "Giles," she whispered, praying to God she wasn't wrong about this, "I…I have a thing. You maybe have a thing…"

His face brightened slowly, relief and happiness making his eyes sparkle brightly, and he reached for her hand, squeezing it lightly. "How do you feel about Mexicans?" he asked with a shaky laugh.

Suddenly, she was laughing and crying, all at once. She flung herself at him, landing in his lap, joy welling up in her until she thought she would burst with it.

"I love Mexicans," she assured him—and then, because she couldn't wait anymore, she was kissing him. It was the sweetest kiss she'd ever tasted—filled with urgency and desperation and the taste of tears and laughter…and it was real. Uncertainty melted away as they grasped each other tightly, each assuring themselves, with their touch, that the wait was finally over.

They were home.


Outside the window, five figures huddled close together, watching the display. They couldn't hear what was being said, but actions spoke loudly enough.

"We did good," Willow announced, eyes glittering with unshed tears.

Behind her, Xander cleared his throat, manfully fighting a surge of emotions, himself. "Yes, we did," he agreed, his voice only a little hoarse.

Inside the window, the kiss was beginning to get a little steamy. Five pairs of eyes widened, as Giles's hands slipped away from Buffy's waist, skimming upwards to cup her breasts in his hands.

"Uh…" Willow swallowed. Buffy had shifted until she was straddling Giles, and now she was rocking her hips against his, fumbling with the buttons of his shirt. "We—we should go, now."

Xander was looking a little green. "I don't need to see this," he muttered, covering Dawn's eyes with his hands. "And neither do you."

"Hey," objected Anya, still focused on the scene inside the house. "We did this—we earned the right to watch."

Tara tugged the ex-demon away from the window. "They deserve some privacy," she told her. "Let's go."

As Buffy and Giles slid to the floor of the living room, unaware of anything but each other, the Scooby Gang headed into the darkening evening.

"I still think we ought to get to watch," Anya was complaining. "We never get to have any fun."

Dawn smiled to herself. Some things would never change.

But some things did, she reflected with satisfaction.

Everything was going to be okay, now.