Change of Pace part 4

"I'm sorry you have to lay low for a while." Willow sat beside Buffy on the couch.

"Actually, I'm really liking it here, though I miss my bed and my pajamas and Mr.Gordo." Buffy tucked her legs under her and pulled a pillow to her chest.

"Buffy, it's been one night... how can you miss anything. It's like you having a pajama party at my place."

"More like having a pajama party at Giles place but without the party and substitute tweed for the pajamas." Buffy sighed. "I don't know. I think I miss it already because I know I can't go back."

"Well, Xander is on a mission to sneak some things from your room. Hopefully that will make you feel more at home."

"Xander and my underwear drawer... not a pretty picture," she smirked. "Don't get me wrong Wil, I'm liking it here. It's... nice, really. But I feel like something's missing. This place feels like... so like Giles. I feel I'm intruding."

"No, don't feel that way. Giles seems happy to have you here. Besides, he has a guest room right? Why have a guest room if you don't have guests? So... how do you like Giles guest room?"

"Actually, I didn't use it last night."

Willows eyes widened, "Really? Um... " She was dying to know, "Did you... then where... "

"The couch."

Willow sighed with disappointment. "Oh."

"Giles makes a good pillow," Buffy smiled when Willows eyes widened again and she looked like she was going to burst. "Though he was a bit... lumpy in the morning, if you catch my drift."

Willow stared blankly.

"He seemed really... um, happy to see me," Buffy waited for a sign of comprehension.

"Of course he was happy to see you... "

"No Wil," Buffy rolled her eyes in disbelief of her friend's naivety. "Giles was... um, you know... " she waved her hand around her crotch.

Willow flushed, "Oh... um, really? What did you do?"

"I acted all casual and tried not to notice. It was weird though... I wasn't embarrassed. Is that weird?"

"Giles and you are very close. Perhaps you are just that comfortable with him."

"I guess. Still... there's something different. Oh well, I'm probably still wigged about my mom."

Later that day...

Giles came home to a room full of high school students and found himself pleased to see them. Oz was rummaging through his record collection as Willow helped herself to his various wiccan reference texts. Xander was sprawled out on the couch, snacking on a bag of cheesy puffs as he paged through a rituals book that Giles recognized as having I high number of nude etchings. He almost felt disappointed that Cordelia wasn't there; she really needed friends, true friends since her unfortunate accident.

"Hello everyone... where's Buffy?" He removed his coat and draped it over a chair, placing his bag beside it.

"Kitchen," Xander pointed a puff in the general direction, continuing to ogle the page.

"Really?" Giles was surprised and walked through the group, loosening his tie. He saw Buffy cooking something on the stovetop. 'She can cook?' "Buffy, hello." He joined her in the small kitchen.

"Oh, hi! You got home quick. I made dinner." She stirred some alarmingly bright orange concoction containing macaroni.

"Where did you acquire that? Certainly not from my kitchen." Giles grinned, trying to tease.

"Xander. It's all I know how to make without a cookbook. Standard Slayer food when your mom's a busy career woman." Buffy smirked and stopped stirring.

"Thank you for the thought but you really should be eating something more... healthy. I'm surprised you can live on such a diet."

"Don't knock it until you've try it," she presented a spoonful to him.

Giles really didn't want to even smell the substance, let alone taste it but Buffy had made it for him; he couldn't disappoint her. He leaned forward and began to take a nibble from the edge. He soon found the whole spoonful shoved to his lips. Buffy laughed as he choked down the food with a smile.

"Mmmm... quiet... lovely." He licked his lips, wishing he had something strong to wash away the taste.

"Yeah... right!" Buffy suddenly felt bad for messing him up and set the spoon on the counter, "Oh, you missed some..." she pointed toward his chin. He wiped a finger across it but completely missed the offending area. "No... it's right... there, over more. Let me!" She reached up and cleaned his chin with her dishrag. His eyes smiled down on her and she paused for a moment to admire his caring face. Giles raised his hand, wrapped it around hers and delicately pulled the towel from her grasp.

"Thank you," he whispered, wiping is face.

Buffy blinked and tried to shake her head clear from the daze that had overcome her.

"Are you alright?" Giles asked with a concerned glance.

"I am now." She smiled and went back to her pot. "I think I'll let Xander have this."

Buffy turned to see Willow staring at them from the living room, sitting on the other side of the counter.

"Don't mind me. Continue... " She smiled and waved them on.

"I think we're done here Willow." Giles said in a stern voice.

Willow pouted and joined Oz at the record collection.

"Giles, can I move in too?" Oz hollered.

"What on earth for?" Giles asked and joined them in the living room. Buffy followed with the pot of macaroni and cheese, handing it off to Xander who smiled at his good fortune.

"This collection of classics. Color me impressed."

"Oh, yes. Well... I do enjoy the occasional background music while researching." Giles searched for a place to sit. Xander moved his legs out of the way and offered him a seat.

"You wild man!" Xander punched him playfully in the arm.

"Need I remind you of the misadventures of my youth? I was young once, you know?"

"That's right! Lock up your daughters' gentlemen. We have a real swinger here."

Buffy was getting annoyed, "Hey, you could learn a thing or two from him on how to treat a lady!"

Giles was touched by her defense of him, "Um, I think we need a change of subject. Buffy, your mother came to see me today, with principal Snyder."

Buffy sat on the floor beside him, "Oh great! What she do?"

"Don't worry about it. I think we have some time before she panics and brings the authorities into the situation. I do want you all to be ready for questioning, though."

"I don't think I can stay here, Giles. They'll find me." Buffy's nervousness couldn't be masked.

"Buffy, of course you'll stay here. I can handle the police and your mother."

"Well... I just don't feel comfortable... " She paused when she saw the hint of disappointment flicker in his eyes. "No, Giles. I didn't mean that. I just don't want to be in your way. I mean... have you ever shared your bathroom with a woman before?"

"Well... no, but it could be quite nice." Giles was suddenly embarrassed at revealing too much information; Willows attention immediately focused back on them. "Buffy, it is q-quite natural for a Slayer to live with her Watcher. Protocol permits... requires actually, that the Watcher separate the child from her parents at an early age. This transition allows for b-bonding to occur."

"Then why was Buffy left with her parents?" Xander showed a sudden interest in the conversation.

"Merrick, my first Watcher, said that he was late at contacting me and that I should have started training earlier. Obviously the council messed up on me. Gotta say, I'm kinda glad. No telling how things would be different if they'd found me earlier and took me away from my parents." Buffy went quiet, contemplating.

"Yes, the council had some internal struggles at that time, hampering their normal operations. I believe Merrick was the only Watcher who recognized the signs that Buffy was indeed the Chosen One."

"Why didn't you take Buffy away from her parents?" Oz scooted closer to the others, Willow followed.

"Merrick. He left quite detailed journals on the short time he spent with her. The one point he seemed perfectly clear on was Buffy's independence." He smiled and looked at Buffy, "He said she was 'exceedingly independent' and believed that was a strength rather than a hindrance. I respected his opinion and chose to allow Buffy to remain with her mother."

"No one had to take me away from my mom. I did that well enough on my own." Buffy's voice cracked and she lowered her head into her hands.

"Your relationship with your mother will heal Buffy; give it time." Giles offered with a confidence Buffy found hard to mirror.

"Yours won't!" Xander said and took a sip of pop.


"Buffy's mom doesn't like you much. How are you going to keep her off your tail?"

"I'm hoping the council will come through for that one. It used to be so much easier in the day. You'd just pay off the parents with a cow or something." Everyone stared at Giles in disbelief of his callousness. "I'm only joking."

Buffy burst out laughing. It really wasn't that funny but hearing Giles say such an inappropriate and unlikely sentence lightened her mood.

"The council will attempt to keep the authorities at bay while we will work on keeping Joyce... um, appeased." He felt uncomfortable with having to hide from Joyce. She had to be worried.

"How?" Buffy couldn't wait to hear this one.

"Well, with a little help from Willow and Xander. Your diary has been... " he looked nervously at Buffy, "... edited to include a passage explaining how you moved to Los Angeles. Xander has retrieved items that you would have taken had you run away, less a diary of course. Willow also created some... what was is?" Giles looked to Willow for an explanation.

"Oh, Buffy it's so cool. I created a history of searches under your profile in the library and school lab computers. As well as back-dated emails with... " Willows enthusiasm was boundless.

"Wil... nerd alert. Take it down a notch!" Xander interrupted.

"Regardless, Joyce will believe you simple ran away again."

"Wow. Gangs workin' the mojo. Thanks guys." Buffy felt a bit relieved. This might work.

"Does that mean you will permit me the honor of playing host for you?" Giles grinned hopefully.

Buffy couldn't disappoint that face. She placed a hand on his knee, "I'm all yours!"

A jolt of warmth shot up his leg and through his body as he covered her hand with his own, "Very good. I'll make the preparations."

Willow winked at Oz and stood up, "Oh... wow. Look a the time." She looked at her bare wrist, forgetting she hadn't worn her watch that day, "I need to get home and do some homework."

"Uh... yeah. And I have a gig." Oz followed.

"Xander!" Willow urged.

"Oh... right. I... got... um, I got nothin." He flashed a grin and followed Willow and Oz out the door.

Once the door closed, Buffy looked at Giles with a raised eyebrow, "What do ya suppose all that was about?"

"I haven't the foggiest. I need a bloody interpreter just to understand you." He stood up and suddenly felt sad Buffy's hand no longer joined his.

"Boy... someone's I bit of a smarty-pants today." Buffy quipped.

"You bring it out in me." He smiled and headed to the guest room. "Lets get you set up in here, alright?"

"Peachy!" She followed.

part 5...