Author's Chapter Notes:
/N: Some bits of dialogue taken from “First Date”, written by Jane Espenson; “Potential”, written by Rebecca Rand Kirshner; “Choices”, by David Fury; and “The Prom”, written by Marti Noxon.
Much thanks, as always, to my fabulous Beta and perfect little sister Scarlett2U (Mary). Without her wise advice, diligent care in the grammar and punctuation corrections my stories would suffer terribly! Thank you sweetie, you are the best!

Disclaimer: The characters in this story do not belong to me and are being used for amusement purposes only. All rights remain with Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, the original writers of the episodes, books and other licensed products connected to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, particularly Twentieth Century Fox, WB, CW, and UPN, all rights reserved.

Buffy knew this was coming. Actually, she was a bit surprised that Giles had let her get a full night’s sleep before bringing up the elephant in the room…or basement, as it were.

The timing was pretty good, all things considered. She was getting ready for work and running a bit late as usual. Less time for lectures and questions that she had no answers for--none that she wanted to share at any rate.

She slipped a large gold hoop in her ear, adjusted her red sweater and waited for Giles to say the inevitable.

“You know this is very dangerous.”

Yes! There it was! The elephant trumpeted its presence.

Not willing to make it any easier for her Watcher, Buffy chose to play stupid. She was good at that act, having hidden her real intellect successfully for years. She had saved herself from numerous research duties that way. “You hear the horror stories: wear hoops and they’ll catch on something and rip your lobes off.”

Giles rolled his eyes at her evident denseness. “That’s not what I’m talking about.”

Buffy sighed and dove right in. “You mean Spike not having the chip? Free range Spike?”

Giles bit his lip and tried to keep it civil. No point in turning this into an argument from the start. “I have to ask…why on Earth did you make that particular decision?”

“I guess it was instinct, like you were talking about when the Bringer nearly took off your head,” Buffy countered.

Giles had the grace to look a bit sheepish. “I made that up. I knew the Bringer was there because his shoes squeaked.” He pointedly ignored the incredulous look Buffy gave him. Too many years of dealing with Giles and head trauma had made the lie too apparent to even point out.

Giles leaned against her vanity as Buffy continued to prepare for another day of teen angst and boredom. “Buffy, it’s crucial that we keep these girls safe! I cannot count the dangers. There’s the First, the Bringers, random demons and now…Spike?”

“Don’t forget the principal,” Buffy hinted.

That managed to sidetrack Giles for a moment. “What? Is he a demon or, worse, another Snyder?”

“Don’t really know yet. He was in the school basement holding a shovel and acting evasive. He’s also got the whole Rico Suave thing going on. I’m looking into it,” Buffy promised.

“Oh, well, that sounds very responsible of you,” Giles huffed, not to be swayed from the point of this entire confrontation by a principal-shaped red herring. “Balances out the whole vampire-on-the-loose issue.”

“Sarcasm isn’t really a pretty look on you.” Buffy moved some of her laundry and tried to remind Giles of the facts. “Nothing’s changed, Giles. Spike had a chip before when the First had him killing again. Besides, he has his soul now. That’s going to stop him from hurting people.”

“People with souls hurt people every day.”

“I’m really aware of that, believe me. I was here. You weren’t,” Buffy snapped. “I dealt with the tragic trio. I saw Willow and Xander and--,” She bit back the “me” that had nearly spilled out. She swallowed, closed her eyes and decided on a delay tactic. “Look, I’m late for work already. If Wood is a demon, the last thing I want is to miss prime snooping time discussing this with you. The chip is gone. Spike is on the team. End of discussion.”

“No,” Giles said decisively. “Not the end. We will discuss this later. We will discuss it until you give me a good reason why I shouldn’t just go downstairs and end the danger at the point of a stake myself.”

Buffy stopped in her tracks, her blood running cold and face paling to near vampiric lightness as her grip on the door jamb nearly warped the wood. “Don’t even think about it, Giles. I mean it. Spike had better be all in one piece when I get home and I don’t mean in the Hoover.” She turned and glared at the man who had been a father to her in all but name. “Okay, you win. We’ll talk about it, but later, when I have time. I mean it, Giles: leave Spike alone.”


Buffy’s heart was still racing. She had nearly been caught with her hand in Principal Wood’s cookie jar…or weapon cabinet, as it were. To Buffy, a good collection of weapons was like cookies! Yum, cookies! Buffy’s tummy rumbled. She was really beginning to regret missing her breakfast when it slowly dawned on her that a seemingly bemused Robin Wood was talking about a another sort of meal altogether.

“Well, then, I'd, um…I'd like to take you out to dinner, if that's all right with you. I mean, you don't have to. I'm certainly not saying come to dinner if you enjoy having a job.” The principal laughed lightly, then sobered as he remembered his in-service training on sexual harassment. “You know, I may have to make up a document saying I didn't just say that and have you sign it.”

Buffy smiled in relief. The great spy caper seemed to have gone unnoticed by the mysterious man who now signed her paychecks. “Sure, I'd be happy to have dinner with you.”

It was the truth too. The idea of a peaceful meal consisting of something more than mac ‘n cheese or pizza had an appeal of its own and the company couldn’t help but be interesting at the very least.

Wood was a young, hot, intelligent man with earrings and attitude. If Buffy weren’t so focused on her battle against the First Evil, she might even be tempted to see where a relationship might lead. She thought about the man and this date as she waited for the next student with the crisis of the day.

She leaned back in her chair and let her mind wander. Buffy had a feeling that accepting a date from her drool-worthy, upstanding, heartbeat-positive boss would cause a near celebration among her friends when they found out. She wasn’t ignorant of the whispered conversations and concerned looks that passed between Willow and Xander, especially after she brought Spike into the house with them all.

Xander had been hinting for months that Buffy needed to “get out there and back on the dating horse.” Even with all the recent evil brewing, he would still nudge her and motion when a nice-looking guy (always in full sunshine, she had noticed) came into view. Buffy wanted to tell Xan to just date one of them himself, the way he noticed and talked up their various charms.

No way was she going to let either of her friends pick out another date for her. Willow had been the one to really push Riley at her back in that first year in college. Look how well that turned out! As for the boy Xander dragged to her birthday party last year…well, the less said about Ronnie or Richie or Robbie--whatever his name was--the better. They all just wanted her to have a nice normal life.

Normal! Buffy thought back to that horrible time when the ‘Council of Old Men Who Think They’re All That’, may they rest in peace, had Giles drug the Slayer right out of her. She had hated that! ‘Never felt so helpless, so useless.’ Normal had meant just that--nothing special, nothing powerful, nothing.

Her mom always hoped that Buffy could have the sort of life she had wanted for herself. After college, Buffy would have a nice career, meet a nice boy with a good future and settle down with a cute bungalow, two point five kids and a Cocker Spaniel. ‘Wonder what that point five kid means?’ Buffy mused. ‘How do you have half a kid?’ Besides, the ‘nice boy’ would just grow up to be a secretary-chasing, deadbeat father who would bail when it got tough.

Joyce had never fully understood the life Buffy had been chosen to lead. That last year with Glory and a new, shiny, mystical daughter from out of nowhere, however, had brought some sense of it to her. Joyce had begun to see that Buffy would never have that TV sit-com life that was as abnormal in the real world as the one she was living as the Slayer.

Joyce had liked Riley well enough, but she hadn’t really seemed to want to spend that much time getting to know him. It was as if she’d known deep down that the clean cut soldier wasn’t the long haul guy for her eldest.

Not that Riley had exactly been ‘Joe Normal’ either. He had been a chemically enhanced, chip-equipped, super-secret demon hunter working for a real-life Dr. Frankenstein and the Josef Mengele league. Even now he was out there somewhere playing with high tech weapons and chasing down ooglie googlies. Looking all James Bond and married to Mary Sue Bond, who’d probably start popping out perfect little baby Bonds any time now.

No, Riley hadn’t been the normal guy either and yet he was as close as she had come to finding one that could at least understand her world and survive in it. Owen had proved how dangerous it was to drag a regular guy into her nightly ventures and Xander had come close to disaster more times than Buffy wanted to remember over the years. Even Giles, with all his training, had a bad habit of getting knocked unconscious on a regular basis.

Now she was going to dinner with Robin Wood. She wondered if he was going to turn out to be a demon or worse. His hidden case of nifty knives hinted that he wasn’t your run-of-the-mill educator. She sighed. “Not like I’m really interested anyway. Wrong time, wrong guy.”

“Um…,” a strange voice interrupted her thinking and caused her to nearly tip the chair over as she straightened up. “I’m pretty sure this IS my time. Gee, I thought you counselors were supposed to at least pretend you’re interested,” The pimply faced Keanu Reeves wannabe pouted.

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