Change of Pace part 2

Between his occasion librarian, cross-referencing and research duties, Giles peeked in his office to glimpse Buffy sleep the day away. It had become somewhat of a guilty pleasure, sneaking a peek of his very own sleeping beauty. A quick check of his watch reminded him that Buffy needed to wake in time to meet her mom. He bent down to nudge her awake a bit firmer than he'd managed before. She opened her eyes, greeting him with a peppy smile and sparkle to match.

"I did it again, didn't I?" She sprang to her feet with surprising vitality. "Did I miss something? How'd I get in here?"

Giles was taken back by her immediate responsiveness. "Buffy, are you quite alright?"

"Actually, I'm feeling supertastic fantabulous. Your office is way cozy." She gathered up her textbooks. "Giles, how *did* I get in here?"

His face flushed as he quickly escaped the question by pointing to his watch. "You mustn't be late meeting your mother. We don't want to upset her any more than she already is."

"Way to change the subject." Buffy smirked.

"I'm glad you find my office... erm, cozy. I must admit I'd preferred a more masculine description but I'll settle for what I can get."

"Giles, this place has always seemed more of a home than that prison my mom solitarily confines me to on a weekly basis. It's weird but I love this library. I can't explain it. But that's probably why I slept so well here... slept through all my classes..." A look of panic spread across her face. "Oh unholy crap! I missed all my classes. Snyder will have my head and a shiny new suspension to dangle in front of parol officer mom. "

"Don't bother worrying yourself over him. I'll handle it. Go spend some quality time with your mother. I'll cover patrol tonight." He flashed a reassuring smile.

"Are you sure you can handle the little Nazi worm?"

"Positive. Now, take the night off. I insist." He gestured toward the door.

"Have I told you lately how I have the bestest Watcher in the whole wide world?" she headed out with a peppy spring in her step. "I'll should make a certificate or something, 'Rupert Giles, Watcher of the Year'."

Giles' forged smile dissolved as he watched her leave. This deception was going to be more difficult than he initially thought. Hopefully Xander and Willow could help prepare Buffy for the trials ahead. Her encouraging reaction to the library as well as his office was a slight mercy. Possibly a good sign for how they would manage when the time came to rellocate her to his flat. The hardest part, of course, would be Joyce's reaction. That and perhaps Buffy's initial response would be understandably uncertain. Luckily, he had Willow and Xander as secret weapons.

That night at the Summers home...

Willow stretched across Buffy's bed. "Wow, this is so unbelievably comfortable. I can't remember the last time I found a bed so cushy and inviting. What do you say we catch a quick nap before you go on patrol?" She gave the bed a pat.

Buffy raised crooked a brow suspiciously at her friend."Giles put you up to this, didn't he? Wanted to make sure I got some sleep?"

Willow could feel her face practically glowing with guilt and sat up, preparing a believable defense. "Uh... no, that's not it at all. And frankly, I'm offended by the accusation, really. I just happen to have your best interest at heart... you know... your well-being... well... "

Buffy cocked her head slightly and smiled.

"Ok... fine! Yes, he did put me up to it. But he's worried about you and I can't blame him. Your mom's being such a slave driver lately and Giles sees it affecting your slaying. He's just trying to protect you."

"I know. She's already put up the barbed wire and released the guard dogs. It's going to have to be a Great Escape sneaking out tonight." Buffy put on her leather boots and slipped a stake in a hidden pocket.

"Doesn't your mom understand how important your work is? I mean, you're the Slayer. if you don't do your job, someone could die. Many someones could die." With a stealthy look, Willow spotted Buffy's diary and took note of it's location.

"I get it, Will, believe me. My mom's gone all Wicked Witch of the West coast." Buffy put on her leather coat.

"I don't mean to criticize, but... actually I do. I mean to criticize... "

"Will, really, I understand. My mom and I've had this argument so many times I have nightmares about it. I actually considered a more permanent vacation from her. She's being so unreasonable." Buffy stepped over to the window.

"Nightmares, really? Like what?" Willow looked concerned.

"Oh, its stupid. She would never do it."

"Do what?"

"I keep having these freaky real-time nightmares that Mom has Giles taken away. See, stupid with a capital duh!"

Willow couldn't restrain her curiosity. "Taken away? How?"

"Well, like getting his green card revoked or canceled or whatever. Then I had a different dream where she actually had him arrested for sexual harassment. That was a chock-full-o-fun one." Buffy sat back down on her bed. "Why are you Freud-ing on me, here?"

"I didn't mean to but I kinda overheard your mom talking on the phone yesterday. I think she may be investigating Giles. It sounded all official and government like. I hate to say it but you may be having one of your prophetic dreams."

Willow had a serious urgency in her voice that made Buffy uneasy. "My mom was talking about Giles?"

"Yep, and it isn't the first time. I accidentally walked in on her and Giles talking in the library after the band candy incident. She was accusing him of taking advantage of her."

"No! That's not true." Buffy clenched her teeth.

"I swear, Buffy. She threatened to bring the authorities in if he didn't stay away from her and you."

"Will, I believe you. I can't believe she'd accuse him of that. Giles would never... he is so the total gentlemen. Why wouldn't he tell me?"

"It's his way. He knows your relationship with your mom is already strained and didn't want to ruin what little you guys had left." Willow watched Buffy's forehead crinkle with confusion as tears began to trickle down her cheeks. "I'm sorry, I thought you knew. We assumed you and your mom may have discussed this before."

"God, she'd trying to take him away like dad," Buffy choked.

Willow hugged her. "What do you mean?"

She wiped the tears from her eyes and jumped up. "Come on. We're patrolling." She opened the window and put a leg over the frame.

Joyce barged into the room. "Where do you think your going, young lady?"

"I have to patrol." Buffy gave Willow's shirt a tug, urging her to follow.

"No you don't. I've had enough of this. Get in here this instant." Joyce pointed an accusing finger at Buffy. Willow wished she could sink into the darkened corner of the room to escape her embarrassment.

"Sorry, duty calls. I'll be back in a couple hours." Buffy continued to exit.

"You get back in here your I'll have your Mr. Giles arrested for... for... ?"

Buffy's eyes blazed anger and she climbed back in the room. She walked up to her mother and stood her ground.

"What? Have him arrested for corruption of a consenting adult? Huh... mom?" Buffy snickered, "Go to hell!" she dived out the window.

Willow was stunned at Buffy's reaction, as was Joyce who looked at Willow with confusion and hurt in her eyes. Willow shrugged, "Well, if you weren't such a bitch, she wouldn't have to sneak!" Willow tried to climb out the window then nervously returned to the safety of the room. "Well... I'm not wearing the proper climbing gear... otherwise you would see me exit in quite the same manner. I bid you goodnight!" She declared with a finger punctuating the air as if she were delivering a line in a dramatic play. She felt ridiculous as she walked past Mrs. Summers to exit through the front door.

Buffy had tears in her eyes when Willow caught up with her down the street.

"What am I gonna do Wil? I just can't put up with her?" Buffy looked at Willow, searching for a solution.

"I think we need to go see Giles. He'll know what to do." Willow suggested, almost relieved at how she finally got some resolution to the secret she'd been keeping from Buffy. It had only been a month since she'd overheard the argument between Joyce and Giles but it was eating her up inside, keeping quiet about how badly Buffy's mom had mistreated him. As usual, Giles wanted to protect Buffy and insisted that Willow remain silent on the issue. Now, if she could only get Buffy and Giles to realize their true feelings for each other, her work here would be done.

Later at Giles apartment...

"Just a moment... " Giles hurriedly stirred the contents of his pot. He quickly went to the door and opened it, surprised to see Buffy in tears on the other side and Willow consoling her.

"Are you ok? Come in... please." He stepped aside and waved toward his couch.

"She's fine, Giles. She had a bad fight with her mom." Willow tried to sound calm.

"She struck her mother?" Giles gasped.

Willow continued to steer Buffy to the couch and flashed a questioning glance at his dim-witted inquiry. "Uh... no, Giles. They had an argument."

"Oh... right. Sorry." He walked over to the couch, prepared to say something soothing but found himself lost for words at the sight of his weeping Slayer. "Um, Buffy... I... "

"Tea, Giles, " Willow directed, "And some of those cookies with the hazelnut filling Buffy likes."

Giles smiled, acknowledging Willow's order and disappeared into his small kitchen. He was grateful for her quick demands, he couldn't think of how to help.

After a short time, he returned with tea and an overflowing plate full of cookies, five different varieties. Willow had to muffle a laugh at his willingness to please. He served them each a cup of tea sat opposite of them. He raised his cup to his mouth and sipped in the liquid.

"Buffy's going to stay with you tonight." Willow said matter-of-factly.

Giles spit out the tea and choked on the remainder that that threatened to intrude in his lungs. He quickly recovered and nodded. "Yes... " he coughed, "of course."

part 3...