Who knew?

I mean, who could possibly have known? At the time, it had seemed like nothing out of the ordinary -- a new student and a new librarian, both showing up after the start of the school year, and within a few days of each other. No big. And if the student had a rather... colorful reputation and the librarian was a too-perfect-to-be-believed stereotype of a British scholar.... Well, that made it all the less likely that they could be connected.

Truth be known, I hadn't really paid much attention to either of them at first. Giles made a habit of hiding out in his library, as if he was afraid to step foot outside his precious books into the real world. And Buffy... if my star pupil hadn't become her best friend, I doubt I would have given her a second thought, since she wasn't in any of my classes.

That's how they get away with it, with keeping such a massive secret from everyone around them. Who would suspect staid, proper Giles of believing in anything so outlandish and impractical as vampires? Or that a known troublemaker and partygirl like Buffy made a habit of fighting them?

Who would suspect that blonde little Buffy was capable of risking her life to save the world? Or that Giles could pick up a weapon, be it a book or a sword, and determinedly help her?

I shake my head and adjust my ponytail in the mirror for the fourth or fifth time. I just can't seem to get it to look right tonight.

I've always thought of myself as more perceptive than your average bear -- a people reader, who can take one look at someone and give you a pretty accurate rundown on who and what they are. I used to pride myself on that ability, until it was conclusively proven that I could be just as blind as anyone else in Sunnydale.

I like to think that, eventually, I would have noticed Giles as something other than the guy lurking in the corners of every teachers meeting he was forced to attend. I like to think that, eventually, I'd have looked beneath the tweed and the sweater vests and seen the man I'm starting to understand is there. But I don't know.

Oh, I enjoyed harrassing him, when I got the chance; I'm not going to try to deny that. We're total opposites on the surface, which makes him an easy target. But there just hadn't been all that much interaction between us until my computer class wound up scanning books in his library. I keep telling myself that, hoping it'll make me feel like less of an idiot.

If Moloch the Corrupter hadn't wound up in the Sunnydale High School computer system.... If Giles and Buffy had figured out a way to stop him on their own.... If Giles hadn't need my Circle to exorcise him....

My sweater seems too bright in the overhead light. School colors, rah, rah. Do I look too juvenile? I like yellow... Does he? Gods, I sound like I'm Buffy's age again. Now there's a terrible thought.

I probably would have found out in time, of course. I'd already begun to have my suspicions about the body count, as student after student died. Dave and Fritz's deaths would have been the ones that forced me to investigate on my own, and I like to think I'd have figured things out sooner or later. Oh, probably not about the Slayer and her Watcher. But about the vampires and the Hellmouth, at the very least.

Would I have tracked the vampires back to Buffy and Giles? Here's where my ability to kid myself hits a brick wall. No, I probably wouldn't have. Like I said, they're both damned good at playing their roles -- although Buffy still slips up now and again. Giles has had longer to practice, I suppose; I wonder how much of his librarian facade is really him, and how much is just camoflague, picked up and polished over the years? I wonder if even he knows anymore.

Maybe I would have figured out Buffy was involved; between her reputation and the sheer volume of weaponry she tends to carry around, the pieces would have clicked sooner or later. And if they hadn't, Willow or Xander would have given it away.

Or maybe not. They've both grown into their role of Slayerettes, as I've heard Willow refer to herself. If I look back to just the beginning of last semester, I can see the change in them both. Willow obviously, since I've seen her every day of school for the last two years -- her once-paralyzing shyness has all but disappeared, worn more like a habit now than because she's truly afraid. She speaks up for herself, and doesn't cower in fear of Cordelia anymore. And the quiet, unassuming little hacker takes on vampires and demons with barely more than a flinch. Part of me worries about her -- on the surface, she's the least suited to be doing this. But part of me suspects she's stronger than any of us.

To bang or not to bang? I fuss with them, flipping them first on, then off my forehead. Neither way satisfies me tonight; I settle for something in between. It's only a football game after all. And dinner. It's not like it's a real date.

Xander. Now there's another one I never paid much attention to. He avoids the computer lab with almost the same intensity that Giles does, although in his case, it's an allergy to classrooms rather than to computers. If I'd had to think about him, I probably wouldn't have bothered to do much more than put him in something labelled, 'Student, male, 16, annoying.'

But I remember his face the night we thought Buffy was going to die, the sheer, adult resolve as he headed out to do whatever he had to to save his friend. I know, now, that he tracked down Angel, quite possibly the person he dislikes most in the world, on the off-chance that Angel could take him to the Master, on the off-chance that the two of them together could defeat a vampire king. Reckless? Yes. Stupid? Hell yes, even *he* admits that. Brave? Undeniably.

Then there was the way he and Angel rescued the four of us -- me, Giles, Willow, and Cordelia -- when the Anointed One tried to sacrifice us. The boy got us free, then cradled Willow in his arms until she woke, as if he could protect her by sheer force of will.

And Angel -- Gods, now there's a book to judge by its cover. A vampire, one a couple of centuries old, who looks like a college student and acts more like Giles than either of them would like to admit. I just don't want to go there, really. I'll have to, eventually -- judging from the looks he and Buffy exchange, he's here to stay, and it doesn't look like I'm getting out of this any time soon. But I think I'll put it off for a while. My worldview has been challenged enough lately, thanks.

Okay, my hair looks stupid, but it's not going to get any better. At least my outfit looks pretty good -- attractive without being obvious, and definitely suitable for a football game. It had better be, it's the third one I've tried on.

It's something about Buffy, I think; everyone who wanders into her sphere of influence finds themselves being stripped down to essentials and put back together. Sure, part of it is that whole life-and-death- situations thing, but part of it....

I don't know. Maybe it's seeing her risk herself for no other reason than because she's the only one who can. It makes you feel ashamed, and guilty, and challenged at this basic level. Like 'If she can do it, so can you, and by the way, why aren't you?'

Then there's just the force of her personality, which carries you along whether you want to go or not. I've seen her eyes laughing as she teases Giles, troubled as she deciphers prophecies, young and in love as she looks at Angel, and hard and determined as she heads out to kill. In another age, she could have been dangerous -- started crusades or simply overthrown kingdoms. Here and now, she slays vampires and flunks history.

Destiny's weird that way. I guess it's a good thing she does have vampires to slay; otherwise those kingdoms might start looking pretty good just out of boredom...

Oh, damn, I'm late. The game starts at 8:00, so I need to pick Rupert up at 6:30 so we can get dinner. This was suppose to be a quick, run in, change clothes, run back out stop. Instead, here I am, fussing in front of the mirror like a high schooler with her first crush. Why am I letting him do this to me?

Okay, I know why. It's because of his voice when he cast the spell to take Moloch out of the 'Net. It's because of how he plays with his glasses when he can't think of anything to say, and defends his 'musty old books' to the death, and is scared to death of computers. It's because of the look on his face when he told Buffy he would defy prophecy to face the Master for her. It's because of his expression when the kids left him today, and because of his adorable efforts to ask me out. If Willow hadn't warned me ahead of time....

Gods, but he was cute, stammering and almost blushing and trying desperately *not* to sound like an uptight Brit (I sense Buffy's hand in that). I almost -- *almost* -- left him dangling; I admit it, I wanted him to do the work. Sadistic, true, but it seemed fair. But his face just dropped when I headed into my class, and he looked like so pathetic. This man I'd seen pick up an axe to face a monster from the Black Lagoon looked like a kicked puppy because he couldn't find the words to ask me out. I didn't have a prayer.

This is probably a bad idea. A *really* bad idea. Giles is right in the middle of a life that could easily get him killed, or leave him a crumbled wreck if something ever happens to Buffy. His life is centered around her and around vampires, and I'm standing here contemplating trying to find a place for myself in that center. I must be out of my mind.

But he turned to look for me first thing, when Xander and Angel rescued us from the Anointed One. And I sometimes catch this look in his eyes that makes my heart skip a beat, as cliched as that sounds. Of all the men in all the world, why did I have to fall for this one?

Okay, enough of this. One last mirror check, then get in the car, pick up Giles, enjoy watching him pretend he likes football, and just don't *worry* about anything else. With luck, we'll have a nice dinner and some good conversation (or a few arguments, which is pretty much the same thing, as far as I'm concerned), nothing supernatural will happen, and maybe he'll get up the nerve to kiss me goodnight. Or maybe I'll kiss him.

Who knows?



Ms. Calendar decided to start talking to me. On my first day on a new job. Joy. Like I don't have enough else to do, and enough other trouble to get into. < sigh > Big thanks to Valerie, Tina, and Christina, for invaluable contributions. And I'm quite pleased to say this was written well before 'Halloween' aired.