Buffy, Giles and the Manchild Boys
SUMMARY: Buffy and Giles fake a romance to fool his cousin and friends.
DISCLAIMER: No permission has been granted to use the characters. They are owned by their creator, Joss Whedon, Twentieth Century Fox, UPN, WB, and Mutant Enemy. This story is non-profit and is intended solely as entertainment. No copyright infringement is intended.
Over the last few months, Rupert Giles, new proprietor of the Magic Box, had developed a comfortable routine. He opened the shop at ten every day, making sure that all the displays were tidy and the windows were clean. After that, he took a few moments to read his mail, a task that usually didn't take long. Today was different, however, in that he had received a letter postmarked London. He eyed it with trepidation. He didn't think it was Council business?they didn't use this posh-looking stationary. No, this bore all the hallmarks of a letter from his cousin James.
He opened the letter and began reading only to have his deepest fears confirmed. James heard he had opened a shop and was coming to the United States to pay him a visit. And worse yet, he was bringing his friends. That group of womanizing hounds was coming to his town. He had no doubt that they would hit on all the girls. It made his blood boil to think of one of them putting his hands on Buffy. He had no doubt that Terry, the satyr, would make a try for her. Willow and Anya were relatively safe because they were deeply involved with their own boyfriends, but Buffy, single, young, and free was prime material for their predatory ways. He had to protect her.
Just then the bell of his shop rang merrily and his Slayer bounced into the shop. She was licking a lollipop and her beautiful lips had been stained red by the candy. It made him feel odd to think of her sweet, red mouth and he cleared his throat to distract himself. She saw the letter in his hand and evaluated the expression on his face. "What's up, Giles? Not bad news, I hope."
He sighed. "My cousin James is coming for a visit. He's bringing three of his friends."
"I didn't know you had a cousin. Is he nice?" She gave the sucker a lick.
"It depends on what you mean by nice, I suppose. To his friends and other men, he's quite a likeable chap."
"I'm hearing a big 'but' in there, Giles."
"Yes, well, he's a total hound with women. He's been a womanizer all his life. Divorced his wife and left his children because they were slowing down his pursuit of flashy young girls. His friends are just like him. And because they have rather an abundance of money, they find young women willing to sleep with them on a regular basis. It's pointless and shallow and rather disgusting."
She looked closely at him. "And they give you a hard time because you're a decent guy, don't they?"
He looked surprised. "Yes, I've always been excluded from their little group. No loss to me, if you want to know."
"But it bothers you at the same time." She was very astute.
"Yes, it does." He sat at the table.
She joined him. "Does your cousin know about Slaying and you being a Watcher and everything?"
"He is aware that Watchers exist, I suppose. He wasn't a suitable candidate and never had to train. He doesn't know you are the Slayer, though I suppose he might guess if he thought about it. The likelihood of him thinking about anything other than sex is highly unlikely however."
"Hmmm. Is he older or younger than you?"
"Actually, he's about six years older than I am." He pinched the bridge of his nose. "He's quite persuasive."
"What does he do for a living?" Buffy wondered.
"He was a dentist of all things. He made a mint tending to the teeth of the wealthy and made some good investments. He's now retired and living off his pile of money."
"Is it going to be hard to keep an eye on them, this being the Hellmouth and all?"
"Lord, I hadn't even factored that in. I'm simply dreading this visit for the personal humiliation that will be involved for me."
"Why would you be humiliated? You are a wonderful guy, a hero in fact. If it wasn't for you, they would all be dead or enslaved in some demon kingdom Hell on Earth thing."
"I'm a forty-two year old man who has never been married, have been a scholar almost all of my life, and I don't even have a girlfriend. At the very least, they'll heap pity on me. At the worst, Gods! They might try to ?fix me up' with someone. They've done that before and it's a bitter lesson in total humiliation."
Buffy made a decision. "Then when they get here, you'll just have to have a girlfriend."
He looked up. "Who? It would have to be someone who knows me and who wouldn't object to my practically living in your pocket. And I just don't know all that many women."
Buffy shrugged. "You know me. Who better to be your girlfriend than your Slayer?"
"It's out of the question!"
"Buffy," he said, using his patient voice, "if you were my girlfriend, you would be expected to kiss me and, and show me affection. James and the rest would definitely expect you to be sleeping with me. It's absurd. You don't have those sort of feelings for me."
"I wouldn't mind kissing you," Buffy told him.
"Oh really?" He sounded skeptical in the extreme.
"Yeah, really." She stood up and walked to him. Seated, he had to look up at her slightly. She put her hands on his shoulders and leaned in to him. Very delicately, she rubbed her candy-stained mouth over his. "Hmmm. Your lips are really soft."
He sat almost paralyzed at her actions. Finally, his hands swept up her hips to hold her around the waist. She deepened the kiss, licking his lower lip till he opened his mouth. Her tongue probed at him tenderly. He took control and pulled her tightly against him, showing her what it was like to kiss a warm, human male. When they finally pulled back from each other it was to gaze with wonder into each other's eyes.
Buffy felt wobbly so she seated herself on his lap. He moved his arms to hold her securely. She leaned her head against his chest. "Oh, yeah. I could kiss you, Giles, for like, days. When did you get so good at this and why didn't I know about it sooner?"
"Because I had no great desire to spend the next ten years in prison for statutory rape," he told her. "And as for being good, well, I am forty-two. You pick up a thing or two along the way."
"I'll say!" She looked up at him. "Do it again!"
Unable to stop himself, he bent his head to hers. This time, the kiss left them almost incoherent.
Finally, Buffy sighed. "It got better, didn't it?"
"I'm afraid so," Giles agreed. "Buffy, my dear, we have chemistry."
"You can say that again." She touched his chest with her left hand; her right was on his shoulder lightly touching his neck. "What are we going to do?"
"Um, date?" he suggested. "For real, I mean, not just to impress my pillock of a cousin?"
"OK. I can do that." Buffy took a deep breath. "Are we going to tell the gang, and, Oh My God, my mom?"
"It would be difficult to hide the situation from them." He thought for a moment. "Perhaps we could pretend that we are dating to keep my cousin from poking into my life too closely?just as we had originally planned. He won't be here forever, after all. When he leaves we can say that we actually like seeing each other romantically. Your mum would have a chance to settle down and get used to the situation and the others would just think it was a good joke on James."
Buffy looked at him admiringly. "Very clever. Mom would understand about the bit about keeping things secret and probably wouldn't kick up too much of a fuss, and by the time she realizes that we are an item, well, it would be too late to say anything." She hugged him. "I like it." She thought for a minute. "When is your cousin coming?"
Giles picked up the letter from the table and looked at it. "August 2nd."
"Geez, that's only a week! Where are you going to put them?"
He shook his head. "I'm damned if I know. The loft simply won't hold five people, let alone those prima donnas. They are used to the absolute best, you know."
"Rent them one of those condo's on the outskirts of town. They're pretty nice and as a bonus they're outside the major population areas?less vamp activity."
"Good idea." He cleared his throat. "Do you think you could persuade your mother to let you move in with me? I wouldn't press you for anything, but James and the others will definitely expect you to be living with me."
"Whosh, that's going to be harder than just dating. I'm going to have to play that by ear."
"Fair enough," he said with a smile. The shop bell rang just then and he sat her on her feet as he stood to greet the customer.
She worked with him all day. It was a good summer job for her and it actually gave her some financial independence. Not that her mother was stingy with her allowance, but Buffy hated being dependent on somebody else's largess. She felt liberated in a way that she hadn't since the previous summer when she had run away from home and proved she could support herself. As miserable as she had been at the time, it had given her a strange thrill to know that if she never returned to Sunnydale and her mother's house, she would be all right.
They didn't kiss again all day, but the looks they exchanged could have singed the paint on the walls. The Scoobies had come in just before the store closed, Xander with Anya and Willow with Oz. They all wondered if something was up because Buffy had called them to come over for a meeting.
"What's the what, Buffster?" Xander quipped.
"Yeah, I was wondering too," Willow said with a smile.
Buffy sat down at the table and Giles came and stood behind her, hands on her shoulders. The others looked slightly surprised. It wasn't like the Watcher to show such open affection and he almost never touched any of them.
"Giles' cousin James is coming to town with three of his buds. The long and short of it is, they're pigs. Even though they are years older than Giles, they like to date women our age. They pick on Giles because he's not a total hound like them. I'm going to be dating Giles while they're here. It will make them quit teasing him and it will protect me from predatory old guys. We wanted you to know and help us out. The cover story is going to be that we've been together since I was sixteen. It's kinda skanky, but these type of guys would think that was macho."
"So, like you're going to be doing PDA's and everything?" Xander wanted to know.
"Yep. So, just to get you guys used to that, Giles and I will be practicing before they get here. I want all the eeeuws out of the way before they come."
Xander got up and lightly punched Giles in the shoulder. "Way to go, Giles."
Oz gave him a nod and a slight smile. He had seen how attracted Giles was to Buffy. Maybe this incident would wake her up. He certainly hoped so anyway.
Buffy, Willow and Anya exchanged exasperated glances at the men's behavior. "Are all guys hounds-in-training or are we just blessed that way?" Buffy grumbled.
"They all are." Anya said firmly. "These English guys sound like prime vengeance material."
Xander looked alarmed. "Uh, honey, maybe we don't need to go into that sort of thing right now?"
She sighed with impatience. Really, he was so immature sometimes that she wanted to slap him. He was never going to accept the fact that she once had been a powerful demon and had enjoyed it immensely. She would have simply up and cut her losses, but he was so cute, not to mention fairly gifted sexually.
Luckily for Xander, Giles began speaking again. "The important thing to remember is that they don't know about Watchers, Slayers, vampires or demons. To them, this is a perfectly normal small town. We need to work out some plans to keep them off the street at night. My cousin and his friends may be hounds around women, but they are fairly decent chaps aside from their focus on sex. I should hate to see them fall victim to a creature of darkness."
The others agreed and began discussing plans to never leave the four men totally alone. "We can tell them we have a vicious street gang that makes it very unsafe to hang around once the sun has gone down," Willow suggested.
"Yes, but we must consider that they will want to go out and meet young women to seduce. That means the Bronze," Giles said glumly. "Prime vampire hunting ground."
Everyone nodded and thought some more.
"Hey!" Anya said suddenly. "How about a spell that encourages them to stay in after dark? If they didn't feel like going out, they'd be a lot safer. Willow could probably do it, or even Giles." She smiled happily. "I could probably do it and I haven't done any witchcraft for more than eleven hundred years."
Giles looked excited and pulled out several books of spells. He pulled Buffy out of her chair and sat down in it before bringing her back to his lap. Together they perused one of the musty old tomes gaining only a few raised eyebrows from their friends. It was Willow who spotted the spell. It was a simple aversion chant, only two lines long. Burn a few herbs, anoint the doorways of the dwelling and none of the inhabitants would want to venture out after sundown. It was perfect. Rupert doubted that the men would even realize that they were being coerced.
They closed the shop up tightly and left for the evening. Rupert drove Buffy home so that they could confront her mother with their plan within a plan. Joyce smiled to see them together and didn't believe for a minute that anyone could belittle Giles' ability to attract any woman he desired. "So, let me get this straight. You want to date my daughter to protect her from your cousin and his buddies who prey on young women?"
"Er, I wouldn't exactly say they prey on them. There is no coercion involved, I assure you. They simply seduce them and then move on to the next available girl, having once more reaffirmed their masculinity by sleeping with a woman young enough to be their daughter."
Joyce shuddered. "Well, that's not a great character reference, but there are plenty of men on this side of the Atlantic that do the same thing. Buffy's own father?" she paused and glancing at Buffy's face changed the topic. "Uh, that is, of course Buffy can date you while your friends are visiting. You're practically family and we stick up for our own here."
Buffy was surprised at her mother's acquiescence, but wasn't willing to look a gift horse in the mouth. "Thanks, mom. Nobody is going to make my Watcher feel bad, not even his dorky relative."
Joyce smiled, relieved that Buffy had not apparently picked up on the reference to her father. She did her best not to berate the man in front of his child, but it was difficult. Hank Summers had divorced her to fool around with girls fifteen to twenty years her junior and by helping Rupert out, she felt like she was striking a blow for discarded wives everywhere. She already didn't like these men. It was going to be very enjoyable to watch them come on to the girls and be rebuffed. She smiled happily again.
"Um, mom? I'm going to move in with Gi-Rupert till they leave. It won't help if they think we aren't sleeping together," Buffy told her tentatively.
By this time, Joyce was so caught up in the idea of payback, she would hardly have quibbled if Buffy had suggested she needed to parade through the former librarian's house naked. She looked at the Watcher carefully. He was a good man and genuinely cared for Buffy and he was heaps better than the vampire Buffy had dated for two years. Maybe something would come of their togetherness, she speculated. Being with this man could only improve her daughter, she knew.
"OK. I guess that would be all right. Just, um, take care of yourself," Joyce told her simply.
"Giles can help me pack. I need to take enough stuff over so that it looks like I live there." Buffy shrugged and grinned. "I practically do anyhow."
They all chuckled. Buffy and Giles went off to her room to sort through her clothes and things while Joyce went to her office to work on some invoices for the Gallery.
Giles carried four boxes stuffed with Buffy's things to his car. "Do you really need all of this stuff, Buffy?"
"Yeah, I do. You want this to look authentic, don't you?" She put her hands on her hips. "I need girl stuff and if these guys are such horny old goats, they're going to be pretty familiar with what women need and keep around them."
"But a stuffed pig? You really feel you need a stuffed pig?" He held up Mr. Gordo.
"Stage dressing, Rupert. Trust me, the Hounds will think it's cute."
He sighed and nodded tossing the pig back into the carton. Buffy's jewelry box was on top of the pile. It made him think. "You know, you really should have some jewelry. Gifts from me, I mean. Would you like a pendant or maybe a brooch?"
"Nah. You don't need to buy me stuff," she said with a grin. "I don't need gifts to like you, Giles. You're my Watcher, the man who protects me, trains me, sacrifices pretty much everything for me. Gifts on top of all that would be sorta, I dunno, tawdry."
He smiled at her phrasing. "I don't mind, Buffy. In fact, I find that I should rather like to shower you with gifts and tokens of my esteem."
"Well, surprise me then, but nothing too expensive, OK?"
"I can afford it, Buffy. You don't need to worry about my pocket book," he told her cheerfully, resolved to buy her a diamond.
"I figured you could, Giles. Not all that many guys can buy a business and a new car and tons of expensive rare books and not work for months. That isn't the point. I guess what I'm saying is you don't have to buy me stuff because that isn't what we're about. We have something deeper than stuff. I wouldn't trade our feelings for each other for all the jewelry on the planet, not even if it were those crown jewels you British think so much of."
He impulsively pulled her into his arms and hugged her tightly. "You're a very special young woman, Buffy."
"Just Buffy," she told him. "Nothing all that special."
"You're wrong, love," he said but let the conversation go.
Buffy found she liked it when he called her love. They did love each other quite a lot and she knew it. She had thought for years it was the love of a daughter for a father figure, but based on their shared kisses, she was rapidly revising that guess. There was nothing paternal about his affection for her, and nothing daughterly about her feelings for him. If somebody had asked her, she could have told them that she was seriously considering going to bed with him at the first available opportunity, in fact.
They got to his apartment and he cleared spots for her things. She spread her makeup out on his dresser and put her brushes next to his. In his bathroom she put feminine hygiene products, her soaps and lotions. He looked in and shook his head. "No wonder you always smell so good! It's like a bloody chemist's in here!"
She grinned. "We call them drug stores, British guy."
He rolled his eyes and asked her where she wanted the pig. "Put him on our bed, Rupert."
Giles gulped at her words. He knew realistically that they would be sharing his king-size bed, but to hear her put it into words was shocking and exciting at the same time. "Um, do you have a side preference?"
"No, you pick."
He gave her the right side and took the left for himself. Suddenly he had a thought. He delved into his nightstand drawer and pulled out a box of condoms with only one left in it. "Damn," he said, even though he told himself that realistically, it was much too soon for Buffy to want sex with him.
She stuck her head out of his bathroom. "Problem?"
He stuck the box behind his back hurriedly. "Er, no. That is, um, no."
She crossed her arms over her chest. "Come on, Rupert, spill."
Sheepishly, he showed her the nearly empty box of condoms. "I should buy some tomorrow - just as props you understand. I'm sure we don't need such, um, things."
She shrugged. "Nah, not really unless you want them. I have one of those implant things and it's got at least two years to run before it expires. Mom insisted I get one the year we moved to Sunnydale, just in case I started running with another ?bad crowd' again."
He looked very interested suddenly. "So, um, you're protected?"
"Ah." He looked around not making eye contact.
She walked up to him and gently tipped his head back. "If you want to do that, I'm not going to object."
He suddenly started panting. "We, we aren't ready for that yet."
"When you are, I'll be here," she told him. "I don't see much point in waiting though."
"I want it to be special," he gulped, face red.
"I think it will be. In fact, I'd be willing to bet it knocks our socks off. If we were wearing socks, I mean. Which, uh, I mean to say, why would we?"
He nodded, loving her babble. "Well, um, supper?"
She smiled. "I can scramble some eggs and make toast."
"That sounds excellent," he said, not in the mood for a heavy meal.
Buffy cooked and they ate. Giles insisted on doing the cleaning up and Buffy wasn't about to argue with him. She stood and sighed. "I'd better do a patrol. Thought I might go over to the Bronze then the docks tonight."
Giles nodded. "Be careful."
She smiled at him. "Now that I have something to be careful for, you bet!"
Buffy patrolled vigorously and killed four vamps and some sort of slightly corrosive slime demon. After it was dead she noticed that her shoes were smoking. She kicked them off and watched them melt. "Damn it!" She had liked those shoes. Now she was a good five miles from Giles house, barefoot. Not a good thing, she thought. Oh, well, nothing for it. She set off toward his place at a jog.
She finally got back to his apartment feeling grubby and footsore. Wanting only a hot bath and a long sleep, she opened the door, failing to notice the stretch limo parked in the back lot of the building.
"Giles, I'm back!" she called as she stepped into the living room.
Instantly five pairs of eyes focused on her. Giles took in her slightly battered look with an experienced glance. He noted her bare feet. "Trouble?"
"Nothing I couldn't handle. Who's the company?" she said indicating the four men setting around his living room.
"Ah, my cousin and his friends arrived early to surprise me," he said somewhat acerbically.
Buffy waved at the four men. "Hi, guys. If you'll give me a few minutes, I'll clean up and we can get introduced." God, the one guy looked just like a slightly older Giles. Not too bad, really. It seemed a shame that such a good-looking guy was a hound.
A smarmy blond guy, also not bad looking stood up and after looking her over like a piece of meat, said his name was Terry and he was charmed to make her acquaintance. Buffy smirked inwardly. This guy obviously thought his money was a door that would open anything, including her legs. She decided to be extra-American and blonde tonight.
She pulled Rupert down with a tug and proceeded to kiss him with a carnality that left the other men gaping. Giles, never slow on the uptake, put his arms around her and picked her up. Her legs curled around his waist and her bare feet locked behind his back. When they finally pulled away from each other, Buffy leaned back. "I missed you."
"I missed you too," Giles said with a smile. He put her down. "Go get cleaned up and we'll get the intro's over."
Buffy dashed upstairs and took a quick shower. She washed and dried her hair, but left the ends slightly damp so they would curl under.
She could hear the men talking as she picked out a pair of shorts and a camisole top. Shoes wouldn't be needed, she decided.
"I know you said you had a girl friend, Rupert, but I never thought for an instant she'd be so, so?" James tapered off not really knowing how to end that sentence and not look like a total berk.
Terry sat up. "Yes, old boy. How old is she anyway?"
"Buffy is eighteen." He smiled fondly, hiding his smirk. This was absolutely great, he thought. For once he was coming out the better from these womanizing scoundrels.
"And you've known her, how long?" queried Patrick.
"Since she was sixteen. I was the librarian in the school she attended," Giles said, implying everything, but not actually saying it out loud.
"Bit of all right, that," said Gary wistfully.
"A bit too all right, if you want my opinion," James said. "I'm having trouble believing that you took up with a school girl, especially in light of how you feel about me dating younger women."
"Well, I didn't set out to seduce her," Giles told him coolly. "We developed a relationship gradually."
"Do I hear wedding bells, Rupert?" smirked Terry.
"We haven't discussed that yet, but if Buffy married me, I'd be the happiest man alive." He smiled softly.
Buffy decided that they had put him on the spot long enough and bounced downstairs. She went straight to Rupert and let him pull her onto his lap. "Would you care for a cup of tea, love?"
She leaned against him. "Tea. Mmmmm. Do we have any of those little cracker things? And maybe some cheese? Suddenly, I'm starving."
He hugged her and stood up. "Let me fix you a bite." He sat her gently back down in the seat he had vacated and went off toward the kitchen. "Can I get anyone else some tea?"
The visitors hid grimaces as they declined the offer. Tea, for God's sake. Didn't the man have any malt whiskey or even beer about the place? Really, living in America for several years had corrupted the younger man.
While Giles puttered around in the kitchen preparing a small feast for his love, the men spent some time questioning Buffy. Terry especially had a hard time believing that she was really poor soppy Giles' girlfriend.
"So, how exactly did you meet Rupert?" Terry purred, thinking he might be onto something.
"I transferred to Sunnydale High from my school in LA in mid-semester. I needed a book from the library and somebody showed me how to find the place. I'm not very booky," she deprecated herself. "Anyhow, I walked in and there he was."
"When did you begin dating him?" Terry oozed.
"We started hanging out that very night, as a matter of fact. We had to be very careful though because, well, it's illegal for a teacher to date a student, plus I was a minor till six months ago. The state of California is kinda strict about that and my mom didn't even know till last summer."
"Ah, your mum. How did she take the news that you were seeing a much older man?" Patrick asked curiously.
"She threw me out." Buffy told him with a shrug and a smile. "I ran away for a couple of months last year. Giles found me and brought me home and she pretty much thinks he walks on water now."
"So, she has accepted your relationship?" James wondered.
"Sort of." Buffy shrugged. "I'm not saying that she's totally happy or anything but she understands that Giles is the most important person in my life and always will be."
They didn't have any rejoinder for that sort of a declaration so she was able to ask a few questions of her own. "So, where are you guys staying? It's not really safe to be out after dark in this town. I'd hate for one of you to be killed."
"Killed?" Patrick said, setting up. "It's that violent here?"
"Highest murder rate in the country. Makes DC look like a nice quiet farm. We have gang violence." Leaning forward she told them very carefully to never, ever invite anyone into their home, apartment or hotel room. "It's the leading cause of death around here."
James narrowed his eyes as a thought came and went through his head. Something from childhood, long forgotten, danced just out of reach.
"So, where are you guys staying?"
"We had thought to cadge a room from Rupert, but we had no idea he was living in such, um, Spartan quarters." James said with a shudder as he looked around the tiny apartment that would barely count as a closet in his home.
"It's small but it's cozy." Buffy told them as Giles returned with her food and tea. She got up so she could set back on his lap. Once he was settled he began feeding her bites of crackers and cheese from his fingers as he stroked her hair with his free hand. As soon as she was full, she playfully nipped at his fingers. He dropped a kiss on top of her head and encouraged her to lie back against him. He continued stroking her and she was asleep in seconds.
The others were deeply surprised to see her fall asleep. They watched Rupert hold her as if she were precious china and had to admit to envy. They talked well into the night, telling stories, laughing and joking softly to not disturb the beautiful blonde. Finally, Giles looked at his watch. "Good lord! It's six in the morning! We need to get you a place to stay and rest up."
He shook Buffy awake gently. "Wake up, dearest."
She moaned and slipped her arms around his neck. "I have a better idea, Giles. Why don't you come to bed? I'm sure we can find something interesting to do." She stretched like a leopard on his lap.
The other men gulped visibly at her lithe form undulating on Giles' lap. James moved a couch pillow to his stomach to disguise his arousal.
"Buffy, love. If you wake up, we can go have breakfast," Rupert tempted her.
She opened her eyes. "Well, OK. Why didn't you just say so?" She stood up and stretched popping the vertebrae in her back. All five of the men noticed that her camisole top rode up to expose her navel when she raised her arms. She looked out the window. "Sun's up. It's safe to go out now."
She went upstairs and changed her clothes. Switching from shorts to jeans, and changing the camisole for a crop top. She found a pair of sandals and put them on thinking again of the demon that dissolved her shoes.
They went to a family diner that served breakfast. Once again, the four visitors wanted to turn their noses up at the homespun simplicity of the food, but Buffy and Giles' obvious enjoyment was hard to resist. They had barely started eating when Willow and Oz walked in and saw them. They waved the two over and the Englishmen moved to make room for the lovely girl and her odd-looking companion.
Terry loved redheads and hit on Willow within thirty seconds of meeting her. She just looked at him, rolled her eyes at his line of bullshit and laughed rather heartlessly. "Thanks so much, but Oz and I are an item."
Terry looked again at the strange boy with his multi-colored hair and dismissed him as a challenge. "I could show you a very nice time, love. How would you like to see England? Or Spain and France?"
"I think that would be pretty neat, but it would have to be with the right guy." Dismissing him with her glance, she looked at Buffy for some help.
"Guess who I got a letter from yesterday?" Willow asked Buffy.
"Wesley!" Buffy echoed.
"Wesley." Giles repeated with much less enthusiasm. "What's that pillock up to these days?"
"He's in LA working with Angel and Cordelia, if you can believe it. They have a detective agency. He says if I want a summer job to come on down."
"A little late in the year for that, surely," Giles commented acidly. "Doesn't college start next month?"
"Yes. I'm debating whether I should go to UC Sunnydale or take up one of the out-of-town offers I've received," she sighed. "I'd really like to go to MIT, but that's so far away."
"You should do it, babe," Oz told her. "I could go with you."
"What about the Dingoes?"
"I can find a new band, no big." He looked significantly to Giles. "Full moon tonight."
"Ah. Quite right. Do you, er, have everything you need?" Rupert asked trying to be cryptic around his guests.
"Should be OK," the boy said laconically.
"You're in a band, then, Oz?" asked Gary quietly.
"Yeah. Started in high school. Graduated a year late so I could be with my Willow." He put his hand on hers.
"Are you going to college, Buffy?" Terry asked her.
"Mom and Giles want me to. I don't have a lot of interest in it though," she said with a frown.
"What do you want to be?" he asked.
"Be?" Buffy said with a wry look he couldn't interpret. "I guess I wouldn't mind teaching self-defense, martial arts, that sort of thing."
Terry looked surprised. "Are you interested in that?"
"It's a good skill to have." Buffy countered. "About the only other thing I know how to do is ice-skate."
"Buffy was in line to go to the Olympics," Willow said happily.
"What happened?" Terry asked smoothly.
Buffy looked at him. "Oh, same old, same old. I met a guy who led me astray."
Giles choked on her description of Merrick. "John Merrick would turn you over his knee to hear you talk like that, young lady."
She smiled at Giles. "I loved him a lot, Rupert, but there's no saying he didn't totally change my life."
"You knew this Merrick, Rupert?" Patrick said casually.
"Oh, yes. Knew him back in England. He was a good deal older than me, but was a real terror," Giles smiled sadly.
"Where is he now, then?" Terry wanted to know. "Is he pining away waiting for Buffy to come back to him?" He was secretly pleased to learn she had a thing for older men. It meant he wasn't totally out of the running.
"He died," Buffy said quietly. "We were out walking one night, back in LA. We were attacked and he was stabbed to death protecting me. His death was basically why I learned martial arts. He was a good man. I miss him."
After that conversation stopper, they settled down to breakfast quietly taking turns eyeing the small girl and wondering what her story really was. Giles fussed when Buffy didn't eat very much of her breakfast. He all but cut up her food and fed it to her bite by bite. It gave Terry chills to see a grown man behaving like a nursemaid.
When everybody had finished eating, Giles gave them directions to the condo he thought they might rent for the time they were going to be in town. They looked it over. Terry sighed. "I suppose it will have to do. It will be like camping." He looked disgusted at having to live in such a middle class house.
Buffy wanted to roll her eyes and to tell him to get over himself. James must have caught a hint of her mood because he stepped up. "I, I, I'm sure this will be fine." Buffy looked surprised at his stammering. It was the first remotely attractive thing she had found out about any of these guys. Of course, she probably only found it endearing because it reminded her of Giles.
They made arrangements with the landlord to use the condo for an unspecified length of time. They were paying enough that he let them have it without a lease at their convenience. They ordered furniture and beds and had them delivered within the hour. Even Terry was yawning. "I'm afraid I need a bit of a lie down," he told Buffy with a wicked smile. "Care to join me?"
She did roll her eyes at that. "Sorry, I have all the man I can handle right now."
Terry slithered over closer to her. He made her flesh creep. "Rupert isn't nearly man enough for a beauty like you, love. I could make your body writhe in ecstasy."
Buffy regarded him, hands on her hips. "Look, I'll spell this out for you so there won't be any mistakes. I love Giles. He's my life. You're just passing through and getting on my nerves at that, so if I were you, I wouldn't push it. Now, are we clear here?"
He got a sneery, sort of surprised look on his face. "Well, I'm sorry, certainly. I thought you might be the type of girl who wanted fulfilling sex. But if you're willing to settle for that doddering bookworm, then that's your loss."
Buffy looked at him and wanted to slap his stupid sly-looking face, but suddenly laughed instead. "Rupert's more of a man than you can ever even imagine." She walked away snickering.
Giles watched her rebuff his cousin's friend with deep enjoyment. He had never liked Terry and had always felt that he had led James down a path his cousin might never have taken if they hadn't been friends.
James came over and shook Rupert's hand. "Good to see you again, Rupert. We'll stop over this evening after we've had a bit of a rest."
"I'll be at the shop until five tonight," Giles told him. "Buffy and I work there together most days."
"Good lord, man. You have enough money to buy out this horrible little town. Why do you persist in slaving away in a shop of all things?" James wondered.
Giles smiled. "I need something to occupy my time, James. Besides, it's quite interesting."
"But there is a world of fun and excitement out there. You could travel the world; buy anything you took a fancy to, have any woman you wanted. I don't understand."
"I have the only woman I want. I'm where I need to be, doing something that interests me. I'm happy and I need to be here for Buffy."
"Well, for God's s, s, sake man, take her with you!" James stuttered.
"Buffy needs to be here, James. Maybe someday we'll be free to travel, but for now, Sunnydale is our home."
James lowered his voice. "There's something odd about that girl, Rupert. Something I can't quite put my finger on. She reminds me of our grandmother and for the life of me, I can't think why."
"James, I swear, you can be as thick as a log. Don't worry about Buffy and I. We are fine together. Oh, and incidentally, don't go out after dark unless Buffy or I are with you, all right?"
James snapped his fingers. "That's it. That after dark business. It reminds me of all those boring stories Grandmother used to tell about?what was it called? The Lookers and the Killer? Something like that."
Giles gave him a look that should have frozen the older man in his tracks. "For pity's sake, James. It's Watchers and Slayers. I'd think you heard the stories enough when we were children that you wouldn't forget something that basic."
"Well, it's not like I was all that interested, Rupert. What a stupid, bloody idea, anyway. One girl in all the world to defend it from monsters," he snorted. "Next thing you'll be telling me is that your charming little bird is the Slayer."
Giles said nothing but gave his cousin a very speaking glance.
"What! I don't believe it. You actually believe that load of swill?" James said astonished to read the truth in Giles' glance.
"Of course I believe it, James. I'm a Watcher, trained since I was ten years old for one purpose?to train and protect that little girl over there."
"That child couldn't hurt me, Rupert, much less a creature of darkness like our Gran told us about."
"James, she could kill all of us in this room before you could scream." Giles said in some satisfaction.
"Bloody hell. Prove it," James said challengingly.
"When your friends aren't around. It wouldn't do for them to know. Just keep them indoors after dark and Buffy and I will show you a few of the attractions of Sunnydale."
"You're on," James told him.
They took their leave of the visitors and made their way to Giles shop, as it was nearly time to open. He yawned. "Why don't you go get some shuteye in the back, Giles? I'll run the shop for a few hours," Buffy told him.
"Are you sure?" He yawned again.
She turned him around and pushed him in the direction of the training room. "Pull out a mat and have a good rest."
Business was slow and it gave Buffy a chance to reflect on the happenings of the past couple of days. She took a personal inventory. One, she appeared to be in love with her Watcher. Two, he seemed to love her too. Three, they had major chemistry going on between them. Four, she wanted to jump his bones. Five, his cousin and the others gave her the creeps.
She had heard about men looking at women as though they were simply pieces of meat, but she'd never seen anything quite so blatant. These guys were hunting all the time. If they'd been looking for relationships, it wouldn't have been so bad, but they were only looking for sex and that made it icky. When they looked at her, they didn't see Buffy, they saw an orifice, something to be used and discarded. She couldn't begin to imagine why any women would go with them. They had poured out their charm and it left her cold.
Giles was so much better than them. They were all smart men but preferred to think with another part of their anatomy rather than with their brain. It was such a waste. She shrugged. You couldn't change people. She wondered why they didn't all have horrible sexually transmitted diseases.
About five hours later, Giles emerged from the back room looking blurry-eyed and frowsty. His beard was starting to look scratchy and his hair was standing straight up. He looked adorable. Uh oh, she thought. Adorable?
"Hello Buffy. Anything interesting happen?" He rubbed his chin.
"Sold that globe thing. Six hundred dollars and the guy didn't even blink."
"Mmmm. Good. I was wondering if that would sell."
"Why don't you run home and get cleaned up? You can bring me back some lunch."
He looked at his watch. "Good heavens! It's nearly three in the afternoon. You haven't eaten yet?"
"No. I would have just ordered some takeout, but there wasn't a lull till just now." She smiled. "'S'OK, Giles. I won't die from hunger because I'm a little late eating lunch."
"You should have woken me," he gently chided.
"You needed the sleep."
He pulled his car keys out of his pocket. "I'll be back in a few minutes with some food."
"Go home and shave first," she told him. "You'll feel better."
He smiled sweetly at her and did as she wished. He was back in less than forty-five minutes with delicious smelling boxes of Chinese food. She got out the plates and silverware they kept at the shop and they sat down at the table to eat in peace. No customers wandered in so they had a nice peaceful meal.
"Did I hear you telling your cousin about Watchers and Slayers this morning?"
"He remembered something from when he was a child?stories our grandmother told. I decided that if he knew about it, he could help keep the others safe."
"Good idea. Did he believe you?" She ate a scoop of rice.
"No, but he did say he would come around alone today, before the others get up." He looked up as the shop bell rang and his cousin walked in.
"James." Giles greeted him.
"Rupert." James looked around at the tiny shop. He supposed that persons interested in the paranormal would find it quite fascinating. He thought it smelled of garlic, which was rather curious. He asked about it.
"Um, why does it smell like garlic in here?"
Giles held up one of the boxes on the table. "Lunch."
Buffy grinned. "Yeah. Trust me, big improvement on the lizard tails and stuff that it normally smells like."
James shuddered. "Rupert tells me he's a Watcher."
Buffy smiled. "Yeah, best ever."
"How do you even know about such things?" James wondered.
"I'm the Slayer," Buffy told him simply.
"I heard you believe yourself to be the Slayer, but what proof do you have?" he countered.
"Go through that door back there and look around. I can close the shop in another twenty minutes and Rupert and I will come back and give you a demonstration."
When he was gone, she turned to Giles. "You know, he really looks an awful lot like you, but he's a complete, what's that word you use?pillock."
"Yes, he is rather, isn't he? And you think he looks like me?" Giles said in a hesitant tone.
"Well, you're both good looking, tall men with green eyes. You have similar bone structures in the face. I could tell you were related." She shrugged. "I think you're better looking, though his clothing sense seems to be a little finer tuned than yours."
Giles smiled. "I'm sure James has never worn tweed."
"Probably not, unless he was posing for something," Buffy said returning the smile. "His loss. You look totally hot in tweed. Maybe later you could put on a pair of braces." She licked her lips.
They heard a clatter from the back room. "I'd better go see what he's up to," Buffy said, sighing.
James had knocked over a pole arm stuck carelessly in one corner. He had never seen this many weapons in one place before. Even the museums he sometimes frequented didn't run to this sort of depth and variety. He looked up when Buffy entered the room. "Do you like our little collection?"
"Bloody Hell! You could start a war with this stuff!" he sounded slightly outraged.
"I don't generally start them," Buffy replied. "Mostly I just finish them off."
"You're trying to tell me that Rupert, my plodding bookworm cousin, knows how to use all this stuff?" He was entirely skeptical.
"Rupert is one hell of a fighter," Buffy said. "I've seen him take on five vampires and win." She grinned. "He's also a very powerful sorcerer."
"What utter tosh!" James said dismissively.
Giles had finally been able to close the store up and had entered the training area in time to hear his comment. He raised an eyebrow at Buffy who just shrugged.
James turned around and saw the former librarian enter the room. "Your girl has been telling me the biggest load of rubbish I've ever heard, Rupert. I don't believe for an instant that you know how to fight, let alone with all these, these bits and pieces!" He made an expansive gesture toward the room at large.
"Well, you're entitled to your opinion, James," Giles said, slipping off his jacket. He picked up a broadsword with a blade longer than his arm and gestured at Buffy to do the same. After motioning James back against the wall he attacked her.
Clang! The blades rang against each other time and again and James expected to see somebody's head or at least a hand go flying off at any moment. He could see Rupert was using all his strength to attack the girl and Buffy seemed to be holding back when she returned the blows. The grace and precision his cousin showed was amazing, his strength and stamina were almost frightening, and his speed was astounding; yet when he was pitched into battle with a girl who looked practically incapable of even holding the heavy broadsword, he was barely holding his own. Suddenly, Rupert performed some sort of tricky maneuver and Buffy's sword went flying. Instantly, she leapt upon the man and, barehanded, wrestled him to the ground, knocking the sword from his grip and pinning him to the mat. When he was down, panting in an attempt to regain his breath, the small blonde leaned over him and kissed him.
"Good fight, Rupert," she told the exhausted man.
She helped him to his feet and as he was still panting, turned to James. "Want a shot?" Buffy indicated the fallen broadswords.
"No!" James yelped. "Good Lord, you'd cut me to ribbons in two seconds."
"Yes, she bloody well would!" panted a sweating and exhausted Giles. "I've trained for better than thirty years and she can take me down any time she wishes. Buffy's only been the Slayer for three years, but she could knock me on my arse when I first met her at sixteen. It's rather impressive," he understated with a smile.
"Giles is a fantastic fighter. Most humans couldn't go a minute with me," she explained.
"You said humans as if they were different from you. I don't remember all that much Slayer lore, but surely you are human," James said.
Buffy walked to a corner where there was a small barrel of construction supplies left over from the latest remodel of the shop. She reached in and pulled out a piece of rebar that was nearly three quarters of an inch thick. She handed it to James.
"Bend this," she told him.
He grasped the ends but couldn't even make the heavy steel quiver. She took it away from him and tied it in a knot as if it had been a shoestring. "Normal humans, especial girls that weigh ninety-six pounds, can't do that."
When she mentioned her weight, Giles looked over at her with a frown. "Have you been dieting again? You know you can't afford to become so thin. It's unhealthy."
"Don't worry so much, Giles. I'm not starving myself." She leaned over and kissed him gently.
Just then they heard knocking at the shop door. Buffy went out and saw that the rest of the British contingent had arrived. She let them in.
"James is in the back with Rupert," she told them. They pulled up chairs and sat at the research table.
Terry looked around. "Interesting stuff here."
Patrick nodded. "Some of these things are very old. They look like genuine artifacts."
Gary thought the place made his flesh creep. "Looks like a bloody load of rubbish to me. How can people believe this nonsense?"
"People believed in this sort of thing for thousands of years before they ever heard of Christianity, Gary. I don't see why they shouldn't still believe in it if they are inclined." Patrick was intrigued.
Terry leaned back in his chair. "I dated a woman who believed in this sort of thing. Swore she was a witch. She had odd ideas, but as I recall she was quite the little sex machine."
"Who was that, then?" Gary asked curiously.
"Oh, what was her name? Dyed her hair black, tall, thinnish - used to wear long flowing dresses?" He tried to remember her. "We only went out a couple of times. She wasn't worth the maintenance as I recall. Wouldn't eat meat; drink alcohol, smoke, or any of the interesting vices. Wanted me to stop smoking. I dropped her fairly quickly after that."
The others shuddered. "Might as well be married if you want that sort of thing," Gary told him.
"Just what I thought," Terry admitted.
James and Rupert came out of the back room. They noticed James was a little pale around the edges. He steered well clear of Buffy and his friends assumed he had made a pass and had been rebuffed. Perhaps old, musty Rupert had a bit of balls after all and had told him to stay away, they all speculated.
Terry stood and gestured to the merchandise of the shop. "Quite an odd assortment of stuff, old boy. Do you do any business at all?"
Giles smiled. "Oh, my yes. Sunnydale has quite a large magic-using population." He smiled and somehow, Terry wasn't reassured by the look in his eyes.
"So, where's a good place to meet women?" Gary asked the Watcher. Since this was of primary importance to all four of them, they sat up sharply and paid strict attention.
Giles looked over at Buffy who spoke. "There are only two good places to hang. One is dangerous, very. You don't want to ever go there alone. The other is the Espresso Pump."
They looked intrigued by the almost mentioned place that was dangerous, but decided to forgo a visit at this time. They knew about the violence to be found in America and it frankly frightened them. Of course, they didn't really know the score in Sunnydale, so their sanity was left untampered.
"Let me call the others and we can all meet at the Pump," she said.
"Others?" James spoke.
"Our friends. You met Willow and Oz this morning," Giles elucidated.
"Are all your friends children, Rupert?" Patrick asked curiously.
Giles smiled. "Mostly, yes. Buffy's mother, of course, is closer to our age." He turned to his Slayer. "Love, why don't you ask your mum to join us? We'll make it a party."
The men looked less than pleased at the inclusion of an adult female. They knew she would give them evil looks. It was what women did once they realized they were past it. Still, it looked like she might be the only game in town tonight and half a loaf was better than none, after all.
Joyce answered the phone and was surprised to receive the invitation that she accepted with alacrity. "Of course, Buffy. It sounds interesting." She immediately began planning what to wear. I can be there in?" she looked at her watch?"forty-five minutes."
"Cool, mom. See you there." Buffy hung up and dialed Xander.
"Hey Xand! We were hoping you could grab Anya and swing by the Pump this evening. And could you call Will and Oz?" She smiled at whatever he replied. "Cool. See you there, then."
She hung up and turned to Giles. "All set."
They gathered the boys?Buffy couldn't quite think of them as adults?and piled into the limo. Giles gave directions. Since Sunnydale was a small town, it took only a few minutes to get there. They got out and parked the huge car taking up two parking spaces. Buffy's sandal strap came unfastened and caused her to stumble. She fell into Terry who used her fall as an excuse to grope her. She jerked out of his hands and glared at him. Rupert stepped forward threateningly. "Don't touch her," he warned the other man.
Terry held his hands up in the air in a gesture of surrender. He smirked. "Sorry, Rupert. I couldn't let the lady fall."
Buffy narrowed her eyes. "Touch me again like that and you'll go back to England a soprano."
James stepped up and quickly took Terry by his arm. "Sorry, I'm sure, Buffy." He held Terry back from the group slightly before he spoke to the other man.
"Whatever you do, Terry, don't try to get between her and Rupert. When she mentioned castrating you, believe her. She could do it," James spoke urgently.
"What are you babbling about, James? She's just another bit of fluff," Terry said contemptuously.
"She's not. Trust me. You do not want to make her a, a, angry," James nodded with conviction.
Terry just shrugged. He didn't want to make James angry with him and he supposed that the other man didn't want him moving in on his cousin's girl. He could cope with that he supposed though he really fancied Buffy. They trooped into the coffee shop and the newcomers looked around. The tiny stage housed a rather attractive woman playing a mournful sounding song on the guitar and the audience was mostly couples.
Giles commandeered four tables and pulled them together. He looked up in time to see Xander and Anya enter the café. They came up to join the party and were introduced around. Terry smoozed up to Anya but she looked through him like he was invisible. "I find it quite pathetic when men old enough to be a girl's father comes on to her, don't you?" she asked him. "It never leads to anything good."
"Ah, er, yes, quite." He backed off and made sure there were at least three people between him and the brunette. Willow and Oz came in and he ignored the redhead having already been warned off at the previous meeting. Sunnydale wasn't proving terribly amusing. He wondered how long they would have to stay.
Patrick listened to the music. It wasn't bad, though not his usual taste. They ordered imported beers for the men, though Xander and Giles stuck with coffee. Buffy, Willow and Anya had mochas. Buffy looked up smiling as her mom walked in. She was dressed to kill but not in an obvious way. James liked the look of her, though she was much too old for serious seduction.
They introduced her around. When Patrick found out that she owned an art gallery, he made plans to visit. She smiled at him and he was charmed. "You have a lovely daughter," he told her.
"I like to think so." Joyce said.
"I find it hard to believe that a woman as young as you has a daughter her age." He could schmooze with the best of them when he wanted to.
Joyce grinned. He was a very smooth operator. "Thanks. So, you all knew Rupert back in England?"
They talked about that and other things and the night was spent very pleasantly. Suddenly, Buffy sat up frowning. "Uh oh. Trouble."
A handsome man in a black leather duster had entered the room with a blonde girl who looked as vacuous as a sheep. Terry looked her over and decided that she was too stupid even for him.
Buffy looked at Giles. "You armed?"
"Stake, two daggers, holy water, cross," he whispered. "You?"
"Six stakes, dagger, holy water, three crosses," she whispered back.
Spike sauntered into the café, looking like he owned the place. He spotted Buffy and her crowd and debated about going over. Common sense not being his long suit, he ambled over to taunt her.
"Hallo, ducks," he said.
"Get lost, Spike. I'm busy," Buffy told him.
"Hi, Buffy. What's up?" Harmony the vampire asked her.
"Your time on earth if you two don't make tracks," Buffy warned her.
"I wanted a mocha," Harmony said petulantly. "We aren't here for trouble."
"Better not be," Buffy said.
"Now, Pet, is that any way to talk to an old friend?" Spike taunted her.
Buffy made a show of looking around. "Where? I don't see any."
He clutched his dead heart. "I'm wounded, Slayer."
"No, you just will be if you don't back off," she told him. "We have civilians here. You and I can rumble some other time."
Joyce looked up. "Spike! I didn't know you were back in town again."
He grinned at her. "Too right, Joyce. Thought I'd come here since Buffy won't let me come over for your chocolate anymore."
Joyce smiled at the blond vampire. She secretly quite liked him. "Where's Dru?" she asked him softly.
He shrugged. "Left her back in Brazil. Wasn't worth the maintenance."
She patted his hand. "Sorry."
"It's OK," he told her. "Thanks, though." He smiled.
"Mom!" Buffy told her. "We don't give aid and comfort to the enemy."
Joyce looked embarrassed. "Sorry," she repeated to her daughter, shrugging at Spike.
He nodded. "Keep your mum on a short leash, don't you Pet?"
She pulled a sharp stick out of her pocket and set it on the table. "Push off, blondie. And take the dim one with you." She tipped her head indicating Harmony who was looking at her nail polish and clearly ignoring all the chatter.
He grinned and wrapped an arm around the vampire girl. They found a table on the other side of the café.
"Er, friends of yours, Buffy?" Gary asked, taken aback by her display of hostility.
"No." She looked at them. "Stay as far away from them as you can. They're both killers, part of the gang that terrorizes Sunnydale. Spike's tried to kill me half-a-dozen times. Luckily, he's fairly inept."
"But Joyce seems friendly with him?" Terry mentioned.
"He'd just as soon kill her as look at her, but it amuses him to be friendly with my mom," Buffy said gruffly.
Patrick, smarter than his companions, asked her why the blond had called her Slayer. "It seems a rather odd nickname."
Buffy looked at him, totally at a loss for a believable explanation. "Uh," she began.
Giles stepped in quickly. "Buffy was rather a handful when she was in high school. She picked up a nickname and Spike uses it to remind her of those times."
Terry, scenting a story, looked at them. "What were you up to, Buffy?"
Shrugging mentally she squeezed Giles hand. "Well, we had to leave LA because no school would take me. I kinda burned down my last one."
Joyce, picking up the tension, decided to take a hand. "Buffy has always been a bit of a handful. How many times were you expelled, Buffy?"
"Well, just twice, officially," she said with a quick grin. "Rupert keeps me out of trouble. I owe the fact that I graduated at all to him."
"It was the absolute least I could do, love." He put his arm around her shoulders.
"And you still graduated?" James asked her, morbidly fascinated.
"Yeah." She grinned. "It was a little hard on the school though."
"Maybe they'll rebuild it someday," Willow spoke glumly.
"What, er, what happened?" Gary asked them.
"Oh, we blew it up," Buffy said cheerfully. "It was sort of awesome. We filled the library with tons of fertilizer and blasting caps. Rupert pushed the plunger himself." She patted his hand. "He's got quite a knack for that sort of thing."
"Dare I ask, why?" Patrick said with a raised eyebrow.
"It was infested with snake." Buffy said grimly.
"Very bad." Oz spoke for the first time that evening.
Xander nodded. Anya and Willow seconding his gesture.
"So, ah, you decided to take it upon yourselves to take care of the problem?" Patrick asked.
"In this place, you learn to do what you have to do," Xander told them with a cocky grin.
"What is it you do, young man?" Gary asked him with a faint grin. He liked this boy somehow.
"I have a job as a carpenter. I'm getting better all the time," he smiled, proud of his accomplishments.
"Oi, that's an interesting coincidence," Gary said. "I make my living selling decking."
"Really?" Xander leaned over and he and the slightly chubby older man spent the next fifteen minutes talking about the merits of various kinds of wood.
Gary pulled out his business card and handed it to Xander. "You ever come to England looking for work, give me a ring. I'll hire you in a minute."
Xander smiled. "Gee, thanks. That's really nice of you."
Gary blushed. His own son couldn't care less about the decking industry or working in general, and this boy was very personable. Oh, yes. He would find him a place in his business and if he did well, he could be top management in a few years.
Oz and Patrick had also been chatting between themselves. "So, you're a musician, I believe you mentioned earlier?" Patrick queried softly.
"Yes. Lead guitar in a very bad band called Dingoes Ate my Baby."
"It's not that bad," Willow said loyally.
The Scoobies looked at her with sad expressions. "Willow's very loyal," Xander said in a low voice.
"I heard that, Xand," the witch laughed.
The four visitors marveled at the way the other seven people fit together. They were friends and lovers and clearly cared about one another. Even Buffy's mum seemed all right with her relationship with the stodgy Giles. Oz looked quietly at his watch and excused himself for the evening.
"Moonrise in less than an hour. Gotta go."
Everyone bid him goodnight, though the newcomers wondered what moonrise had to do with anything.
James decided he should get to know Buffy a bit better since she was obviously deeply involved with his cousin. "Ah, Buffy. Would you care to dance?"
Buffy looked at Rupert who gave her a quiet nod. "Sure, I guess so."
They got up and stepped out onto the tiny, postage stamp sized dance floor. Buffy was surprised when James turned out to be a good dancer.
"Why so surprised?" he asked her.
"I don't know. I guess just because you're so graceful. You could have been a good fighter if you had gotten some training."
He shuddered. "Not me. I'm a total coward. If you fight, you get hurt and I find that I'm quite afraid of pain."
"Pain's bad, but dying's worse. Sunnydale is on the Hellmouth, literally a door into Hell. We get plenty of baddies through here that want to open it and bring about a reign of evil yada, yada, yada. Gets old."
He looked suddenly terrified. "You mean, Rupert let me come to this place knowing it was a Hellmouth?"
Buffy looked up at him, frowning. "I don't seem to remember that he was involved at all in your decision to come here. He told me he got a letter from you and the next thing we know, you show up on his doorstep."
James had the grace to be slightly embarrassed. "It just seemed like a c,c,cousinly thing to do. Neither of us have much family, you know. I mean, I have my ex-wife and kids, but they pretty much hate me. Elizabeth always thought Rupert was a bit of a wimp, you know. She couldn't stand him."
Buffy grinned. "Your ex-wife is named Elizabeth?"
"Yes. Is that amusing?"
"What do you think Buffy is short for?"
He twirled her around before looking down into her face. "You're kidding?"
"Nope. Elizabeth Anne Summers, a.k.a. Buffy."
They laughed and shared a grin. From the table, it looked as if they were flirting. Terry leaned over to Rupert with a smirk on his face. "Looks like you'd better keep a closer eye on young Buffy, Rupert. She seems quite taken with James."
"I have nothing to fear from James," Giles said confidently. He watched the dancing couple till they returned to the table.
Terry waited until they were seated before leaning over Buffy. "How about a little fair play, Buffy?"
She looked at him blankly. "Huh?"
"I'd like you to dance with me now," he explained patiently, his habitual smirk lurking just below the surface. He thought he had her trapped.
"Sorry, I only dance with relatives. James counts, you don't."
"You're not bloody married to Rupert, you know." He was quite put out by her refusal.
She grinned up at her Watcher. "I might as well be. We'll be together till I die."
Terry thought her phrasing was odd, but let it go in favor of needling Giles. "Well, Rupert, what do you have to say to Buffy's declaration?" He gloated, thinking he had put the younger man on the spot.
Giles picked up Buffy's hand and brought it to his lips. "I will never leave her. I am hers in every way."
Patrick, sensing the sudden tension in the group, spoke up. "Wedding bells, Rupert?"
Giles looked at him. "Perhaps. However, I believe I will choose a more romantic venue to propose to Buffy and I shall do it in my own time, not as a dare."
Patrick smiled slowly. "Allow me to offer my congratulations, old boy."
Giles nodded stiffly.
They drifted into more generic topics and Joyce finally yawned and said she needed to get home. Xander, Anya, and Willow all stood. "We'll make sure you get home safely, Joyce," Xander told her with a smile.
"Thanks. I appreciate the escort."
Buffy and Giles were left with his cousin and the others. "I have that thing that I have to do, Rupert. Will you be OK?"
"How long will you be gone tonight?" he asked.
"Hmmm. I haven't done the outer loop for a couple weeks. I really need to hit that area. Plus, if Spike's back, I should swing past the warehouse or maybe the mansion."
James looked pale at their words but Terry and the others simply wondered what the devil they were talking about.
"Two hours?" Giles asked.
"I'll try to make it quicker, but you know how things go."
"I'll escort the others home." Giles stood and looked at James.
Terry had had about enough. "Now see here, Rupert, old boy! We aren't children to need escorts."
James looked at his friend. "Speak for yourself, Terry. Rupert has told me some of the things that have happened in this town and frankly, if he wishes to escort me back to our place, I shall be grateful."
Terry sneered at Rupert. "Much good this old bookworm would be, James."
James looked at him obliquely. "You'd be surprised, my friend."
Terry threw up his hands in disgust. Very well. Since we aren't going to find anything amusing here, we might as well go home and sleep.
Terry got up the next morning to find James cooking breakfast, thankfully clothed. He accepted a cup of coffee and sank down into the kitchen chair. "Where did you get the food?"
"I was up early this morning. I called Rupert and asked the direction of a reputable grocer. I simply couldn't face another plate of that dreadful restaurant food."
"It was rather awful, wasn't it? How do you suppose Rupert stands it?"
"He was always odd," James said with some wistfulness. "When we were boys, he always had his nose in a book. I don't suppose he pays a great deal of attention to outside things."
"He must pay some. You don't get girls like Buffy from inattention."
"B, B, Buffy's different. If I were y, y, you, I'd stay clear."
Terry narrowed his eyes. James only stammered under pressure of some sort. He speculated on what had happened to his friend to make him so leery of the tiny blonde and vowed to keep his eyes open to see if he could learn more.
"W, where's Patrick and Gary?" James wondered.
"Patrick was going off to see Buffy's mum's gallery. Maybe he'll find some budding new artist and make another fortune. Gary went off with Xander to look at wood or something equally dull." Terry yawned. "We should go out and see if we can find any interesting young women who'd give us a tumble, James."
"N, not worth the effort, Terry. We'll only be here a few more days after all."
Terry sighed. "I suppose you're right. We should have brought our own girls. Americans are so much more sexually repressed. I'd managed to forget how very tedious this backwoods country really is."
James tended to agree with him, but was very glad to only have to baby-sit his friends and not their current shags. "When we get home, we can do something special."
"How long are we staying?"
"I'd like to finish the week out with Rupert. I don't know when I'll see him again, after all."
Terry flung up his hands. "Oh, all right! But you are going to owe me something pretty spectacular after this, this monk's paradise."
James smiled. "We'll go to Paris."
"And find lots of beautiful, willing, young women?"