Buffy leaned against the refrigerator as she talked with her mom.
“So, all these late nights at the gallery, I gather you were cataloguing more than art.”
Joyce smiled. “Well… I've been looking for the right moment to introduce you two. He's a wonderful man.”
Buffy did not return the smile. “How’d you meet?”
“Oh, he sells computer software. He revamped my entire system at the gallery. Freed up a lot of my free time.”
“To meet new people. And smooch them in my kitchen.”
“You weren’t supposed to see that.”
Buffy considered the irony of the situation. She had been carrying on a relationship with Angel for three months now, all without her mother knowing. She always worried that her mother would eventually find out about her and Angel – if not the vampire part, then at least the kissing part.
But apparently, her mother had been carrying on with Ted for a while, all without Buffy knowing. And of the two hidden boyfriends, it had been Ted who had been found out about first, not Angel.
“How long have you been seeing each other?” Buffy asked.
“Oh…” Joyce looked up as she tried to remember “…about two months.”
Not as long as Buffy and Angel, than. So Buffy was better at keeping her boyfriend a secret than her mom.
“Buffy, we’re leaving,” Willow announced. She and Xander went to the door.
“See you!” Buffy called to her friends.
“I’ll have your upgrades by Monday!” Ted waved goodbye.
Buffy closed the door. She turned to Ted.
“For Willow’s computer.”
“Ah.” Buffy wasn’t as technologically-deficient as, say, Giles, but stuff like upgrades went right over her head.
“Buffy,” Ted started, “I want to apologize. That wasn't how I wanted us to met. I wanted it to be... perfect. I'm very fond of your mother, I guess that's pretty obvious...”
He looked at the refrigerator, focusing on a picture of Buffy and her mom.
“…I know that you’re the most important thing in her life and, well, gosh, that makes you pretty important to me too.”
“I really want you to be okay with this,” Joyce added.
“I beg to differ.” Ted wrapped his arm around Joyce. “We really want you to be OK with this.”
“I’m okay,” Buffy insisted.
“You are?” Joyce asked.
A vampire smashed into a picnic table. Buffy didn’t let up her assault. Picking up a trash can lid, she whacked him hard in the head. There was no method to her attack, just pure fury.
The vampire wasn’t actually putting up that much of a fight, Angel observed. Buffy was clearly working out some personal issues, and this vampire was simply on the receiving end. Which was why Angel was sitting on a bench and not interfering. It was better than how he had worked out such issues when he was Angelus – a spat with Darla could claim twenty lives.
Still, he almost had to feel sorry for the poor vamp.
After Buffy finally staked him, she came over to Angel.
“Any more?” she asked.
“Well, for their sakes, I certainly hope not.” In truth, Angel didn’t smell any vampires nearby.
“What? I kill vampires, it’s my job.”
“True, though you don’t usually beat them to such a bloody pulp beforehand.” Angel shrugged, as his girlfriend sat down beside him. “Is everything all right at home?”
“What are you talking about?” Buffy asked.
“Well, when you wail on a vamp like that, it tends to be the result of domestic issues.”
Buffy sighed. “It’s Ted.”
“This guy, sells computer software. Apparently, Mom’s been seeing him for a while now. I walked into their makeout session about an hour ago.”
“And, how is that different from you dating a vampire?” Angel replied.
Buffy gave him the “You’re right, and I don’t like it” look. “It’s just, I have so much to deal with, I don't need some new guy in my life right now.”
“No, but maybe your mom does.”
Another look, this one more sheepish. “Oh, sure, if you’re gonna use wisdom…”
Angel smiled at her. “Loneliness is about the scariest thing there is.”
Buffy sighed. “OK, fine, Mom needs a guy. Does it have to be Ted?”
“You have somebody else in mind? There a guy out there who would satisfy you?”
“Well… Dad… Okay, that’s not going to happen. Fine, fine, I’ll give Ted a chance. I’ll smile and curtsey and be the dutiful daughter.” She smirked. “Does it mean I have to like him?”
“Kiss me,” Angel replied.
“Finally something I want to do.” Buffy leaned over, and the best part of any encounter between the two began.
“Willow, if you say one more word about it, things will become dire,” Buffy warned.
“You don’t like him,” Willow observed. She had been geeking out over the upgrades Ted had promised her, and Buffy was not happy about it.
“I don’t know him.” She scowled. “I mean, so far all I see is someone who apparently has a good job, seems nice and polite, my mom really likes him…”
“What kind of a monster is he?” Xander said in a dramatic voice. Buffy glared at him before continuing.
“I’m telling you, there’s just something a little too clean about this clown.”
“He’s a clean clown!” Willow squealed. At their looks: “I have my own fun…”
“Buff, you’re lacking evidence,” Xander returned to a more serious tone. “I think we’re getting into Sigmund Freud territory.”
“He has a point,” Willow jumped on this new tack. “Separation anxiety, the mother figure being taken away, conflict with the father figure…”
“He is not my father figure!” Buffy fired back. In truth, Willow knew that Giles was much more of a father figure to Buffy than Ted – or even her actual father.
“Having issues much?” Xander replied.
“I am not!”
Xander pointed and did a little dance: “You’re having parental issues, you’re having parental issues…” he stopped after seeing their looks. “What? Freud would have said the exact same thing. Except he might not have done that little dance.”
Buffy stopped to get a drink from the soda machine. “I admit it’s weird – seeing my mother Frenching a guy is definitely a ticket to therapyland. But it’s more than that. I’m pretty good at sensing what’s going on around me…”
Willow noticed Ted out of the corner of her eye, coming up behind Buffy.
“…and I know that something’s wrong with this Ted.”
“Ted!” Xander called.
“Of course, Ted. Who did you think I was talking about?” Buffy was confused.
“Hi, Ted! Ted who’s here,” Xander pointed out. Buffy spun around, shocked to see her mother’s boyfriend at her school.
“Hi, kids!” Ted greeted them.
“What are you doing here?” Buffy asked.
“I’m updating the software in the guidance office, which reminds me…” He pulled a disc out of his shirt and handed it to Willow.
The next minute or so was a blur. Willow heard something about going miniature golfing at the new course on Sunday, but she was so overjoyed to get the upgrades that she didn’t hear the details. She was in geek heaven.
Jenny was cleaning up in the computer lab when she saw Rupert standing in the door.
He gestured behind him. “A couple crates of your textbooks were dropped off at the library. Do you want me to hold on to them?”
“Yeah, that’s fine. I’ll send the kids by to pick them up.”
“Right. Good.” He started to turn away. Jenny didn’t give him a chance to get away.
“That was a pretty flimsy excuse for coming to see me.”
He stopped. “You should have heard the ones I threw out.” He came back in.
“I wanted to see how you were doing.”
“I’m doing pretty good, actually.” She shelved a set of manuals. “I’ve stayed out of mortal danger for a month and a half. I could get used to it. Still don’t sleep too well, though.”
“Of course. Well, you need time.”
“Or possibly space.” Jenny came closer. “Rupert, I know you’re concerned, but having you constantly poking around making puppy dog eyes at me and wondering if I'm okay... you make me feel bad that I don't feel better. I don't want that responsibility.”
“I’m sorry,” Giles replied. “I certainly don’t mean to make dog eyes at you. I’m just –“
“Worried. I know.”
“I shouldn’t have bothered you.”
He left. Jenny looked after him.