Common Ground

"Noel, Noel's in my art class. He's really cool and smart. He did a poster against the greenhouse effect. And he actually asked me what I thought about it! Of course, I was all, 'It's great,' like a total idiot, but he still smiled. He's got a smile just like the lead singer in Boyzone."

"Oh?" Rupert Giles tried very hard not to look at the clock.

"Yeah, he's the cutest guy in the band! Here, look." Dawn got up and ran out of the room, then came back, clutching a glossy, tattered magazine, which she spread open in front of Giles on the kitchen table. "He's awesome."

"You don't say," he said patiently, sipping at a mug of hot cocoa, into which Dawn had insisted on putting far too many marshmallows. He had thought he had done dealing with teenagers when Buffy and the rest had gone off to college. But life in Sunnydale, it seemed, would never cease to deal out mortification to Rupert Giles. So he was spending a perfectly good Saturday night minding a fourteen-year-old who insisted on sharing with him in excruciating detail all of her crushes. Buffy had never been this bad. And he couldn't simply frown at her and declare it time for more training. He wasn't sure he was going to survive the evening.

"But--oh--I don't know--when David dances, he's just, so…you know?" She flipped the pages. "There. Like that." She pointed.

Giles half-glanced at the photo, then looked back. It was…striking. The young rock star in question was standing at the edge of the stage, shirt off, hips thrust forward, arms spread, smiling cockily at the camera. He was slender, but firmly muscled, flushed with youth and a sense of his own power. Giles took off his glasses. "Yes, well, that one, he does have his points," he murmured without thinking.

Dawn burst into laughter. "You're kidding."

He realized what he had just said and hastily put his glasses back on. "Yes, of course, kidding--"

But she was looking at him more closely now. "No, you weren't, were you? You...like him."

He sighed. He had never believed in lying to young people more than was absolutely necessary. And with Dawn's recent experiences...he didn't care to deceive her any further. "Yes. Yes, I do."

"So you're--you like guys?"

"Yes. This isn't something you need share with everyone."

"Wow." Dawn's eyes were huge. Giles tried to calculate the odds that Joyce would find out and brain him with one of her statuettes for corrupting yet another of her daughters. "So...do you like...Xander? Wait, what about Spike?"

Giles choked on his chocolate, mid-swallow. He had the wild sensation that he was strapped to a wheelbarrow hurtling down a hill towards certain disaster. "Dawn, really--"

"But, hold on," she wrinkled her brow. "You had a girlfriend. Buffy's teacher, Ms. Cal--" She stopped, coloring a little. "Oops, Buffy said I wasn't ever supposed to mention her in front of you."

"That's all right. Dawn, for some people it's not an either/or question. We like both men and women."

"Bisexuals," she said matter-of-factly. "We read about 'em in health class."

He would never cease to marvel at the wonder that was the modern American educational system. "Yes, well--"

"Is that what Willow is? 'Cause, I've noticed, she and Tara, they seem really close. But, before, there was Oz."

"That's, that's a matter you should discuss with her, not me."

"Ha!" She pointed at him. "It's true! I knew there was some reason Mom was--"

"Look at that," Giles said hastily, returning to the photo, "I don't think that guitarist even knows how to play."

"How would you know?"

"Because I used to play. Back in the days when band members weren't chosen merely for their...comeliness." He stopped and reconsidered. "Not that I wouldn't have been chosen on those grounds, as well."

"Really? Did you ever dive into a mosh-pit?"

"No, but I did smash my guitar. Repeatedly."

"Did you do drugs?"

"Yes. Which, I hasten to add, does not mean--"

"Were there groupies?" She leaned in, grinning conspiratorily. "Boy groupies?"

"All right, I think it's time we watched some television," Giles said, rising. "Put that magazine away. I'll make the popcorn."

Dawn picked it up and started to leave the room. But she stopped in the doorway. "Mr. Giles?"

"Yes?" He looked up from the cabinet from which he was retrieving a pot.

"You're kind of...cooler than I thought. Not really` cool, but...pretty good for an old guy."

Giles smiled. Really, she was a remarkably perceptive girl. Far ahead of Buffy at her age.

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