Buffy had no idea things could change so drastically in two months. Giles had been right in a spooky kind of way. Oz and Willow had broken up, which shook the very foundation that Buffy's normalcy was based on. Well, in a supernatural, witch and werewolf sort of way. As it turned out the skanky musician was a werewolf, too. It had explained why Oz had been attracted to her, though she wasn't sure that made it any better for Willow. Oz had left claiming he needed to learn how to control his wolf. Whatever that meant. Buffy was glad it was something she'd never have to find out about first hand.
Willow was better now, but for a while there she was pretty scary. Scary like she cast a spell that caused all sorts of trouble. Buffy was engaged to Spike among other things. Thank God Giles had been blind under the influence of the spell or she would have had some explaining to do. Willow had seen her protecting Spike as favoring him over her, which was ridiculous. Spike needed protection from the commando guys. She just wanted to get to the bottom of the whole commando thing. She now knew Riley, the cute TA in her Psych class, was a part of them.
It was Christmas break, which meant she was home for a few weeks. That was fine, she had missed her mom, but she'd gotten used to staying at Giles house more often than not. Her mother had never said anything, Buffy knew that staying out all night at a guy's house was not something her mother would put up with. So, she had spent what time she could with Giles until after New Year's when her mother went out of town for business.
"I still think the best way for me to find out about the commandos is for me to play nice with Riley."
"I just wish we knew more about them."
"Well, he helped me defeat the Gentlemen, so he can't be a bad guy."
"Buffy, Spike has helped you."
"Well, okay, you have a point, but Spike hasn't asked me out. Riley has. And Spike's not involved with an underground project neutering vampires and demons. Riley is. So, why not use that?"
"This isn't your way of telling me you'd prefer spending time with Riley?"
"No, Giles, it's not. None of his friends seem to like me that much, so I think he's the way in. And as far as he knows, I'm single."
"Why is that?"
"Why is what?"
"Buffy. Really. Sometimes I think you enjoy playing dumb."
"I do not. Are you asking me why he thinks I'm single?"
"Yes, that would be the logical question to ask since you've been spending most of your nights at my home for the past two months."
"Well, he doesn't come home with me, does he? And I don't talk to him much. What am I supposed to say? ‘Hi, my name's Buffy, I'm the slayer and involved with someone. Have a nice day.'"
"I wasn't thinking quite that blatant, no."
"Good to know." His lips quivered into a smile. It was a smile that usually meant he was thinking something Buffy should know or notice. "What?"
"You said home."
"You said he doesn't follow you home."
"Just wondered if you'd noticed."
"Yes, I noticed. Don't go getting a big head or anything."
"We wouldn't want that."
"I meant it in the most general sense of the word."
"It's okay, Buffy. I don't mind, I'm not offended or put out with the reference."
"Yes, quite. In fact, it's flattering and pleasing to know you've come to reference my place as home no matter your reasons."
"Okay. So, can we get back to Riley?"
"So, I'm supposed to sit idly by while you spend time with this fellow. A fellow who believes you're single and knows that you're the slayer."
"I'm not sure what the two have to do with one another."
"Oh, very much, Buffy. You're an attractive woman, couple that with your slayer abilities and it makes a very appealing package. If you will."
"Hmm. You think so?"
He placed his hand at the back of her neck, drawing her to him for a searing kiss. It was one that made her toes curl and her body go lax. She loved and hated when he kissed her like that. She hated that he could render her weak, but loved feeling weak for a little while.
"I know so. And if I don't tell you often enough I apologize."
"I'm just going to hang with him, see what I can find out. If I can get down there."
He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. It was a sign she was winning the argument.
"It makes sense, Giles. It's the only way. I'm not going to sleep with him."
"I should hope not."
"And we'll have to make sure Xander and Willow know the plan so they don't say anything to him. Thank God Spike's not living here anymore."
"All right. If I saw another way, believe me I'd be volunteering it. I don't have to like it, though."
"Of a good looking young man, closer to your age who fights the monsters you hunt as you do? What's to be jealous of?"
"Giles. That's sweet, but I'm quite happy with who I've got."
"Very well. Don't say I didn't warn you, though, when he takes this seriously. You're toying with his heart."
"He can handle it."
And with that, her plan was put into action when school resumed for the spring. It would have gone off without a hitch, except for one night at a party when things got out of hand. Possessed, she and Riley had an all-night marathon sex session. It hadn't been her fault, or Riley's, and while she knew Giles understood he'd been distant since then. They had defeated Adam and she couldn't have done it without them, but she was no longer sure it had been worth it. Well, that wasn't true. She wouldn't have gained the information she had otherwise. School was over and she was back home. That may have added to Giles' mood, she couldn't be sure.
Since January she hadn't spent more than one or two nights at her dorm room. Willow took to patrolling with Buffy nightly so they had their time and afterward she went to Giles' and Willow went to their room. That seemed okay to Willow. She hated seeing her friend upset and grieving for Oz. She knew first hand how hard it was to have someone you love just leave you.
Buffy dressed for the day, ready for it to be a hot one. They were supposed to go to the beach, but Buffy wasn't so sure she wanted to go anymore. There were fireworks tonight for July 4th, which she wouldn't miss. She packed her suit, a towel, and sunscreen just in case and headed to Giles' after leaving a note for her mom.
She no longer knocked, which said a lot for how comfortable she was being here. She wondered if that would change. He was sitting at his desk doing something on his computer. It was so cute watching him work with one. He despised them, even more than Buffy did which was saying a lot. But he had come to recognize they were handy. That and boredom of having no job at the moment had encouraged him to see what the machine could do to ease his research and cataloging.
"Good morning, Buffy. I wasn't expecting you."
"I thought you were going to the beach."
"I'm not much for beaches. Don't feel you're leaving me behind."
"I'm not. I brought my stuff in case I decide to go, but we need to talk."
"Okay." He didn't sound very thrilled about it. Buffy couldn't blame him. While both had tried to pretend things hadn't changed they had. Possessed or not, if she hadn't put herself in the position of spending time with Riley she never would have been in that house with him.
She got herself a glass of juice while he finished what he was doing on the computer. There was no question she knew her way around his house now as well as she knew her own. In some ways, she felt more comfortable here then at home with her mom.
"There, I think it's saved. What's on your mind?"
"Well, a few things if you want to know the truth. I've already apologized a thousand times so I can't do that anymore. I need to know if we're going to get past this. The idea was a good one, and it worked. We couldn't have defeated Adam without the knowledge I gained."
"You're right, of course. I'm sorry, Buffy. You think I'm upset with you and that I guess shouldn't surprise me."
"Well, yeah, you look at me like," she shrugged. "I don't know. I can't honestly say I've seen that look from you before."
"It's my own insecurities that are the issue, Buffy, not you. Our age difference while not a huge issue to you or to me, it's there. I witnessed your time with Riley on occasion and you seemed happy."
"Well, yeah, I mean, I like him. As a friend, Giles."
"And I appreciate your assurances, but I can't help but wonder if I'm not holding you back instead of advancing you forward."
"Holding me back from what?"
"Having a social life."
"I have one. I have Willow and Xander, Anya, and you."
"Yes, but college should be about expanding your horizons, making new friends."
"I have friends. Just none I care to hang with."
"But you should care."
"I don't. I mean, I'm happy here with you. With the friends I don't have to hide who I am from. I figured you'd be turning cartwheels I'm not out there putting my secret identity in jeopardy."
"I wonder, though, were you invited somewhere socially you did care to go would you include me?"
"Totally. Why not?" Her eyes widened. She was finally paying attention to what he wasn't saying. "I'm not ashamed of you, Giles. I'm not embarrassed to be with you. You could come to the beach today. That's pretty public."
"Yes, just not my style."
"You prefer concerts and stuff. I get it. So, pick something, we'll go."
"I don't know anything about that sort of thing. So pick something and we'll go. The college's drama department puts on plays, we can go to one in the fall." She stood and leaned against the wall. "Listen, we like different stuff. That's not an age thing, it's just a life thing. I'm sure when I'm not here you blare your classical music. I don't hate it, but I don't think it's something I'll ever be into like you are. That's just how you are. You're Giles and you wouldn't be Giles if you weren't like that."
"I'm not sure if I should be insulted."
"No, I'm just stating facts. I like you the way you are. I like us the way we are."
"Speaking of the fall. You must feel pretty confident in our relationship then?"
"Yes. I don't know why you don't believe me. What do you think this is if I'm not taking it seriously?"
"I know you are, but I think we have different perspectives on serious."
"Don't say that to me. My life has been steeped with seriousness for five years now."
"I know, and that's why I was willing to try this. If you were any other woman your age I would have run for the hills after Halloween night."
"But you're not. I recognize that. If you're serious about attending some sort of function together I can make arrangements. Perhaps an overnight or weekend in LA?"
"Sure. Why not?"
"That'd be very cool, Giles."
"Would you prefer music or theatre? Or both?"
"Mm, you pick."
"Very well. I'll come up with something you won't find overly tedious."
"We're okay now?"
"We always were, Buffy. You did nothing wrong. I realize that. Just the same as what happened with Angel. The force chose the two of you for some reason, and I guess that's what bothered me."
"I'm sorry. I really am. If I would have known."
"No, you wouldn't have done anything different. I know that, as do you. You got answers we needed that we otherwise would not have gotten. I do have to wonder if Riley is going to accept being just your friend."
"He doesn't have much choice."
"And you're all right with that?"
"What do you want me to say? I feel bad. You warned me it was a risk going into it. I didn't count on what happened happening, though. I don't think you could have even."
"No, you're right."
"There is something you should know, though, because he could cause a problem if he finds out."
"What? No one would believe him about the slayer. Or not really anyway, so I think your secret is safe."
"We'll have to be adamant about the point he mustn't tell anyone." He removed his glasses and stared at her. Stared. No blinking or anything. "What did you say?"
"And you think it's Riley's?"
"No. He used," she felt her face growing warm.
"Ah yes, right. Probably best not going into too much detail."
She smiled slightly at that. "That means it's yours."
"Yes, I realize that. I'm sorry, I'm just digesting. When? How? I mean aren't you on birth control?"
"Why on earth would I be on birth control? Until you, the only boyfriend I had was a vampire. And Parker, same thing as Riley. I'm not stupid, I knew what they needed to do."
"Yet you never told me? For months we've. You weren't worried about me in other words? Now, that's somewhat insulting."
"No, it's not, Giles, don't say that."
"So, for the past six months we've been intimate you were at risk the entire time of becoming pregnant?"
"Yeah, I guess. I didn't think. Okay, I should have known better, but it had never applied to me before."
"What? Don't look at me like that. And don't say my name like I just kicked a puppy. I just assumed."
"You assumed what? You knew perfectly well I wasn't using anything."
"Maybe you couldn't have kids or had a vasectomy or something."
"Yes, because a man my age who hasn't married or started building a family has no desire to do so?"
She pushed back from the wall. How dare he say something like that? She grabbed her bag and walked to the door. "You know what. I'm glad that our age difference doesn't matter that much to you. But it's times like this I think you forget that I'm not forty years old. I haven't done this stuff before. I'm going to the beach. When you feel like talking to me, you know where to find me."
"No, forget it. I shouldn't have told you. My mistake. I thought you'd care. In a good way. Bye, Giles."
She didn't need her enhanced slayer abilities to make it to Willow's in record time. She was steamed. Beyond pissed. She was stupid, she could admit that. But she hadn't heard him ask once over the months to be certain his assumption was the correct one. She knocked on Willow's door, hoping she wasn't too late. Since Xander was driving it was difficult to tell if Willow was still home.
"Hey, Buffy. You look, well, okay pissed. Come in."
"You're still going to the beach?"
"Uh, yeah. You're coming too I take it?"
"Okay, but I think you need to like go take a cold shower or bench press my bed or something or you're going to dry up the water."
"It's like rolling off you, hot and sticky. Mad. What happened?"
"Okay. But you know, best friends listen."
"I don't want to talk about it right now."
"Did something happen with Giles? I know things have been kind of weird since that night with Riley."
"Will, I love you, but I don't want to talk about it."
"Okay, this is me zipping my mouth."
"Hi, Buffy," Tara said.
"Hi Tara." Buffy hadn't seen her come in.
"Should I go back to the hall?"
"She doesn't want to talk about it."
"I'm right here, Willow."
"And there's Xander," Willow said at the sound of the horn. "Are you sure you want to come with us, Buffy?"
"Yes, I do. See, I even have my stuff."
"Okay, we might not be back until late."
"Just making sure."
"I'm fine. Let's go have fun." She didn't miss the glance Willow shot Tara. She probably didn't look like someone intent on having fun, but she would make herself if it killed her. She didn't miss the look Xander gave Willow when they got to the car either. Fine, she looked like she was in a bitchy mood. Since she was, she didn't see anything wrong with looking the part.
She should have stayed home. Oh, she tried to have fun. She played volleyball, went swimming, helped Willow and Tara build a castle in the sand, but her heart just wasn't in it. Willow and Tara both seemed to sense that, but said nothing. They were smart. Xander sort of kept out of her way. Smart again. And Anya was just Anya. Buffy wasn't sure she noticed anything that wasn't about her or money.
It was dark by the time they got back to town and Xander dropped the three of them at Willow's.
"You sure you don't want me to take you home or to Giles', Buff? Your mom's out of town, right?"
"I'm fine, thanks."
"Okay. See you ladies tomorrow. The last day before I start working again, have to get in loads of fun."
"What are you guys doing tomorrow?"
"Just pizza and movies. You wanna come? I was going to ask you, but I know your mom's out of town so that means you're at Giles'. But you're not at Giles' today, so if you want to come."
"I'd love to."
"In fact, why don't you and Tara come stay at my place tonight?"
"Yes, my place. The home I've lived in since moving to Sunnydale."
"Well," Willow glanced at Tara who shrugged. "You're not staying at Giles'?"
"Oh, well. Sure, we can go to your place. Do you want me to call Xander?"
"No, let's just make it us girls."
"Okay. Let me grab some things." She pressed the button on her machine before doing anything. Buffy wondered if Willow still waited for word from Oz.
"Willow, yes, hello, it's Giles. If you see or hear from Buffy, which assuming she's with you you will, would you ask her to call me. Thank you. I hope you had a nice time at the beach."
Willow glanced from Tara to Buffy to the answering machine and back to Tara again. "Are you going to call him?"
"Not right now."
"You can't avoid him forever."
"It's only been a few hours. That's not forever. And I know I can't. I just want one day. Okay? Don't I deserve that?"
"You do, Buffy."
"Thanks, guys. I'll call him later or in the morning. Okay? If I try to get out of it you can force me to."
"Um, Buffy, that'd be a little more credible if you weren't the slayer. Combined we can't stop you from doing something you don't want to do."
"As witches combined you probably could," she said with a shrug. "I'll talk to him tomorrow."
"Okay then. I'm ready," Willow said, draping a small bag over her shoulder.
"Your mom lets Tara stay here?"
"Yeah, she sees what she wants to see."
"Well, like a girl then she'll never know."
"I'm not sure that's possible, but I'll think about it."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com