We Are Family
Catherine blinked sleepily from the couch she was sleeping on. "Mmmmwha? Oh, good morning, Mum."
"I'm sorry for waking you, dear, I just didn't know you were here."
She sat up, trying to shake the cobwebs from her mind. "Dad let me in around two a.m. I had to take care of the human end of last night's little dust-up."
"I heard." Emma Peel shook her head. "Hellhounds -- nasty business."
"And over such a petty matter," Catherine added. "Some girl won't go to a dance with young Mr. Wells, and he responds by summoning demons."
Her mother frowned. "Just when I think we humans are finally beginning to get somewhere . . . " She shook her head again. "You know why I believe in God, Cat? Only a being of infinite
wisdom and patience could put up with a sorry lot like us."
Then her expression changed, and she looked at Catherine sharply. "Catherine . . . just what are
you doing here? Don't you have two young charges that need looking after?"
Catherine flushed slightly. "I . . . ah . . . decided it would be best if I spent last night . . . somewhere other than our shared flat."
Her mother gave her a knowing smirk. "How . . . discreet of you, my dear. And tell me, just why were your father and I blessed with your company? Not that I mind seeing you, my dear, especially since we'll be leaving today--"
The older woman chuckled. "Last night's nastiness reminded the Council -- myself included -- that there is a reason why we are supposed to stay away from the front lines . . . and just what being on a Hellmouth means. Just one of those demons could have wiped out the whole Council at one shot. So we've decided it would be best if we headed back to Headquarters and concentrated on strategy and research, and left you lot free to handle the tactics."
sorry to hear that her parents would be leaving . . . but she also felt a certain surge of relief as well. She hadn't understood Giles' grumbles about the Council's visit before their arrival, but now, it was another story. They hadn't gotten much real work
done in the past couple of weeks, what with all the meetings and -- what was the American term? 'Micro-management,' that was it -- that came with the Council's immediate presence.
But her mother wasn't through. "You distracted me, Cat. As I was saying before, while your father and I don't mind putting you up for the night, there are probably any number of young men in this town who would have been willing to do so as well."Oh, no, not
this old discussion again!
"Mum, I don't know
any young men in Sunnydale."
"Well, why not? You've been living here for nearly two months, and you've spent most of that time hip-deep in blooming teenage romance -- and the rest of it hip-deep in blooming middle-age romance!" she added with a wink. "Can you honestly tell me that in all that time, you haven't once
had the urge to engage in a little blooming yourself?"
Catherine glared at her mother, but stayed silent; she knew better than to try to lie to her.
"Oh, Catherine," her mother finally sighed. "If you were one of those Watchers like Sanderson, who preferred the company of musty old books to your fellow human beings, your father and I wouldn't give you such a hard time. But you aren't."
Catherine's shoulders slumped in surrender. "Mother . . . all right, yes, I would
like to find someone. But you know
why I haven't . . . dated . . . much."
"I know why you didn't
, Cat. But in case you've forgotten, Ashton is not the President of the Council anymore, I
am. And as President, and as your mother, I can assure you that if you can find someone who can deal with who and what you are, and can make you happy as well, I don't care if he's a scholar, a soldier, or a circus clown!"
Catherine gaped for a moment, then her mouth shut with an audible click. "That's . . . still rather a tall order, Mum. What do I do? Go up to some fellow in a bar and say, 'Hello, my name's Catherine, and I work for a secret society of scholars which has shepherded young Vampire Slayers for the last two millenia!'?"
That at least earned a dry chuckle out of her mother. "You don't have to be quite so blunt as that
, Catherine. But I think you'd be pleasantly surprised at how amazing even 'ordinary' people can be."
"On the Hellmouth?"
"I think Buffy's friends are proof positive that you can find worthwhile people anywhere -- even on the Hellmouth. Perhaps I should say, 'especially
on the Hellmouth,'" Emma Peel added archly. "The worst circumstances have a way of bringing out the best in people, you know."* * *
Catherine was never quite sure how she got out of her parents' hotel suite after that. Her mind was still reeling from her conversation with her mother -- so much so, that she simply unlocked the door to her flat and walked right in without thinking.
Luckily, all she walked in on was a pajama-and-robe-clad Xander putting a couple of plates on a tray. "Morning, Miss Peel. Sorry, I just used up the last of the eggs -- but I've still got some pancake batter left if you're interested?"
She blinked at him, then recovered and answered lightly, "Thank you, Xander. I think I am." She smiled. "I'll help myself -- why don't you take Faith that breakfast you've put together. I'm sure she's eagerly awaiting your return."
Then she surprised even herself by giving Xander a sly wink.
The young man blushed fiercely, nodded, and took off so quickly she wondered how he managed not to drop anything.All right, Mother, I can admit it,
she thought. I'm a little jealous of my Slayer. Not that I'd be interested in Xander
himself mind you,
she added firmly. He's
far too young for me -- in more ways than one. But I could get used to a man who would bring me breakfast in bed on a Sunday morning . . .
Catherine chuckled, laughing at herself as much as anything else, and got to work on her breakfast.* * *
When the Council of Watchers makes a decision, it doesn't always implement said decision with all due haste. Some decisions, in fact, have taken decades to become more than simply words on a piece of paper.
This did not seem to apply to the Council's decision to clear out of Sunnydale. Even though it was Sunday, the Council's travel arrangements were made and everyone assembled at the airport by two o'clock.
To the surprise of the Scoobies and the Summers-Giles extended family, though, it was only
the Council that was leaving.
"Are you sure about this, Dad?" Rupert Giles asked worriedly. "You've heard Miss Peel describe this town as 'a supernatural war zone.' It's not the kind of place in which I would recommend you spend your golden years."
"'Golden years,' Rupert?" the older man asked, looking both amused and annoyed. "I may be eighty-one years old, but I was an active Field Watcher for more than forty years. Spending what time I have left wandering around that drafty old house in Devon with nothing to do is not
my idea of 'golden.' Besides, you're
here, and so is your family. I intend to get to know my son again, and to see my first grandchild born -- and to spoil him rotten, in the tradition of all good grandfathers."
Rupert had to force himself not to gape in surprise. Granted, his relationship with his father had improved a great deal since its low point, just after the Eyghon disaster, and had even become warm in the ten years previous to Rupert's posting in America. Still, Timothy Giles had always had a very strong sense of his own dignity. Spoiling his grandchild was to be expected. Announcing that he was looking forward to spoiling a grandchild was something else entirely.
"Ah . . . Have . . . have you given any thought to where you might stay?" Rupert asked, almost dreading the answer.The old man chuckled. "Relax, son. I might drop in every now and then and take advantage of my soon-to-be daughter-in-law's excellent cooking, but the last thing you need in your house is an old wreck like me lying around, especially with a baby on the way." He pursed his lips thoughtfully. "I wish your old place were still available -- your description of it sounded lovely, and the complex is close enough to your home for visits, but far away enough for proper privacy."
Rupert shook his head. "You wouldn't have liked it, Dad. It was a duplex, with a long flight of stairs up to the bedroom. I'm sure we can find you a respectable ground-floor apartment -- or even a small ranch house." He allowed himself a small smile. "For some reason that escapes me, real estate is quite cheap in Sunnydale."
"I can't imagine why," his father responded dryly.
* * *
"Do take care of Giles for me, won't you, Buffy? My
Giles, I mean, although I'm sure you'll keep an eye on Rupert as well," Emma Peel added with a smile.
"Of course I'll take care of him -- he's about to become my step-grandad, after all," Buffy answered with a grin. Then she tilted her head to one side. "Does that make us kinda like family? I mean, us both being Watched by Gileses, and my Giles marrying my mom, and all that?"
"I suppose it does," the older woman answered. "Family enough, at least, for you to feel free to drop in on us in London when things calm down around here."
Buffy's eyes lit up with a predatory twinkle. "They have shops in London, don't they?"
"They have excellent
shops in London," Mrs. Peel said with an answering twinkle.
don't encourage her, Emma," Giles chided her with comical dismay. "You've never seen this girl shop; she's even more dangerous with a credit card than she is with a stake!"
"Hey, wow, score one for the English guy," Xander laughed along with the other Scoobies as Buffy pouted up at her Watcher.
After chuckling for a moment herself, Mrs. Peel added, "Don't worry, Rupert. If Buffy and I take a tour of the more fashionable stores in London, it will be my treat -- within reason
, of course," she added as the Slayer's eyes started twinkling again. "Family is all well and good, but there are
"Oh, I suppose," Buffy answered with another pout and an exaggerated sigh.
"Say, when do I
get to go on a shopping spree in London?" Faith asked with a smirk.
The three Peels looked at each other and groaned in unison.
Faith crossed her arms and started to look annoyed. "Well?"
Miss Peel finally answered, "I suppose I can take you sometime this summer -- just not at the same time as Buffy. Someone
has to keep an eye on the Hellmouth, after all."
Faith grinned and winked over at Buffy. "Ain't it fun knowin' rich people?"
Buffy winked back. "I'll bet it's even more fun being
rich people, but this is good."
Mrs. Peel gave them both a tolerant smile. "As I said, there are limits, but some of the fun of having
money is being able to do nice things for your friends and family." She grinned over at her husband. "After all, what's the fun of having it all, if you don't have anyone to share it with?"
"I'll take your word for it, dear," Peter Peel answered wryly. "After all, I'm just the middle-class gentleman Watcher who married an elegant, brilliant, and beautiful heiress."
"Flatterer," she murmured, as she leaned in for a kiss -- much to the dismay of the teenagers, who all made various faces and noises at the sight of the sixty-ish couple kissing.
"Eww . . . whatever happened to that famous British reserve?" Buffy muttered.
"The same thing, I imagine," Giles commented, "that happened to, 'Children should be seen and not heard.'"
Buffy crossed her arms but refused to say anything more -- being scored on twice by her Watcher in one afternoon was more than enough.