International Nursery Slayer
By Arkin

Writer: Arkin
E mail: arkina@trendline.co.il
Title: International Nursery Slayer
Rating: PG
NOTE:
This story is dedicated to Ido Razon, a friend and a wonderful man. He wasn't a spoiled brat, and he wasn't prone to tantrums, but he had all the love for life, energy, curiosity, kindness and generosity of a child. This story is in his memory.


Buffy entered her home, or more likely her mother's in the past few months, fiddling through the mail.

The phone rang and she picked it up absentmindedly. 'Hello?'

'Buffy. I need to speak with you.'

'Giles. Go ahead.'

'No, in private. This… we should meet.'

Buffy put the mail down. 'Giles you're wigging me out here.'

'I'm sorry. It's not… it's not another impending doom. It's a personal matter we need to discuss.'

'Ok. I'll be right there.'

**

Buffy closed the door behind her quietly. 'Giles?'

He came in to view from the corridor. 'Buffy. Have a seat, please.'

Buffy didn't take her eyes of him as she moved to sit on the sofa. He looked tired and worried, and his normally britishly straight back was slumped at the shoulders. 'Giles did something happen?'

He sat next to her. 'Something did happen. A very long time ago… something I never told you about, and I'm sorry. Or I'm not, it wasn't important. But now…'

'Now it is?'

Giles took a deep breath. 'When I was originally selected to come here… you know Merrick was an American. But I wasn't. If I were to stay in this country, we, the Council, had to make sure the INS wouldn't try to deport me.'

'You didn't threaten anyone's life did you?'

He ignored the jest. 'There was only one sure way of doing that… for the Council at least. In England they have a man at almost every corner, but over here, they're weak. They depend on a precious few resources. One of them is a judge at family court.'

'What? Did you adopt someone? An American kitten?'

'You.'

'Excuse me?'

'I'm your legal guardian. Have been… since less then a week after Merick's death.'

She stared at him, speechless. 'Only the INS was given the papers. As far as the state, child welfare and the such are concerned, your parents still have… what ever they've agreed upon when they divorced.'

'I don't believe you.'

He made eye contact for the first time that day. 'I wouldn't lie to you about this. The INS wants to revoke my green card. When the time came to renew it… they did a little checking. And they found out that you've been living with your mother… they started an investigation.'

She shook her head slowly. 'No, you can't… how could you not tell me?'

'It wasn't important. No one knew, there was no way for it to affect you…'

'Then why are you telling me this now?'

'Because unless you convince your mother to go along with pretending you've lived here at least some of the time, I'll be back in England this time next week.'

Her anger evaporated. 'What?'

'When they find out you don't need me, that you're living… have been living with your mother all along… they'll either put me in prison, or send me back home.'

**

Joyce was turning red in the face with every word Giles said. Buffy and he sat together on the sofa in the Summers living room, Buffy looking at everything but her mother and Giles looking at his hands, where Buffy's much smaller one was resting. With every moment of thundering silence from her mother, she imagined herself on the ground as Giles' plane left her behind.

'Absolutely not.'

Their hands tightened around each other. 'Mom…'

'I can't believe you. The nerve…'

'Joyce it was never meant to have repercussions on the two of you. It was simply a means to keep me in the country.'

'My answer is the same.'

'Mom they'll send him away!'

'Good.'

Buffy nearly choked. 'Mom!'

'No!'

Buffy's face hardened and she got up. 'I'm not asking. We can pull this off without you, I'll just say you don't remember things too well, that that's why I had to move in with Giles in the first place. Willow and Xander will help us.'

There was silence as both Joyce and Giles stared at her, speechless. 'You're taking his side over mine?'

'You have nothing to lose by helping us mom. I have *everything* to lose if you don't.'

Joyce swallowed her pride, not surprised to see it tasted bitter. 'Very well.'

**

Giles heaved the bed up. 'Ouch!'

'Sorry!' He called over its edge. Xander mumbled something under his breath as he pried himself away from the wall and tried to look at his back. Fresh paint was joyfully coloring his shirt.

Buffy came slipping past him, carrying an arm load of her school books, new as she was preparing to start her second year as a college student.

She had never imagined she'd be moving in with Giles. 'Good thing you have a spare room, huh?'

'Quite. Won't the INS chap find it odd that the room is freshly painted?'

'Lots of people repaint in the summer. It's the time to do all things manual that you would have been much better off doing in the winter when it's cold. You need air conditioning Giles.'

'Take your fan and be happy with it.' He said, a bit cross now that he had paint on his own shirt.

'Snappish.' She mumbled as she brushed past him, getting out of the way before he landed the bed on her.

They spent the next three hours with Giles and Xander moving the furniture around until Buffy was finally satisfied. Remarks on her superior strength were ignored and demands for a break were abandoned after the first half hour of Xander-whining. There was no getting out of the room until Buffy was happy.

At long last they stumbled out to the kitchen, getting large glasses filled to the rim with cold water. Buffy and Willow scooted past with large boxes filled with Buffy's belongings. Giles was beginning to think he would have been better off deported.

**

Willow put the last box on the floor with a huff and sat on the bed, carefully placed a couple of inches from the wall. She had spent the last three hours giggling as Giles and Xander were constantly smeared with paint, much to their annoyance. Buffy's perfect performance as the evil queen had her sides aching on more then one occasion. All in all, the girls were thoroughly amused while Giles was passing on to Xander, the fine art of glaring.

'Think the INS guy will fall for this?'

'He's a government worker, Will. How smart can he be?'

'You know technically, Giles was a government worker while he was a librarian.'

Buffy pouted a bit. 'That's different. Giles is from a different government.'

Willow gave her a look only she could successfully pull off which clearly said 'please'. Buffy held her head up with dignity and went about arranging her things.

**

Giles shooed Xander away from the bathroom and was the first to take a shower. Huffing and puffing as if it might blow Giles out of there faster, Xander entered the now horribly yellowish room Buffy had adopted. It was nearly organized, the boxes on the floor all but empty. He dropped on the bed and grunted as his head touched the still damp paint.

Buffy and Willow were hotly debating the issue of the proper angle in which to place the teddy on the shelf. Willow thought a right angle would best show off his left side, where the eye, for some unknown reason, was slightly bigger. Buffy argued that she found the eye creepy and would very much appreciate it being hidden.

Buffy was gloating over her victory when Giles finally entered the redesigned room, grimacing at the color. Xander hopped off to the shower and Giles sat on the bed, looking around him.

'Wonderfully organized, if a tad too yellow.'

Buffy looked around 'Too organized. Doesn't look like I live here at all.'

Much to Giles' horror, Buffy and Willow started messing the room up. His mouth was slightly open as he watched them move things from their place on a shelf or in drawers and leaving them all about the room. He audibly grunted as they laid the books in all sorts of unhealthy angles and shot his eyes in abject terror as they throw a few pieces of clothing in the corner of the room.

'There. All better.'

'That depends entirely upon your definition of "Better".'

Buffy ignored him and looked at the clock. 'Lunch!'

**

Her loud call got Xander out of the shower in a heartbeat, and from the way the clothes clung to him it was obvious he hadn't dried himself.

Giles suddenly realized they were all looking at him. 'What?'

'Lunch.'

'Yes, I heard you the first time. It was difficult not to.'

'You're making it.' She explained slowly, a slight grin tugging at her lips.

Giles quirked an eyebrow. 'I here by declare the preparation of food as one of your household chores.'

Buffy gaped at him as Willow and Xander snickered. 'Chores?' She asked, as if he had just asked her to commit suicide.

'Yes. Well if we're both living here I don't see why I should be doing all the work. Lunch and every other dinner, and you do your own washings. I'm too old to start washing bras.'

'Is that all?' Her voice clearly indicated she thought it was too much.

'For now. We will discuss this in more detail later.'

She stared at him. 'Well, go on.'

'Yeah Buff g…' Xander hushed and lowered his gaze as she turned to glare at him.

She turned back to Giles. 'I…'

'There's no use arguing about it. You will cook lunch or we won't eat.'

Xander was just wondering if Giles had left him anything in his will when Buffy conceded. 'Lunch in twenty minutes.'

Something about the way she said it made them all think they best call out for Pizza.

**

Though none of them would admit it, it was fear of flying kitchen utensils that kept them all in Buffy's new room. They went over their story for the INS again, an almost likely tale of trying to appease Joyce and keep rumors from running around the school by registering Buffy as living at home and allowing her to spend the night there once in a while.

Giles stammered and blushed as he told them that the reason given to the INS for Buffy's need of a guardian was her mother's run in with alcohol. It was probably the part that upset both her and her mother the most, especially as Joyce had to pretend to still be struggling with it to keep Giles from being branded as 'unneeded'. She gave him quite the glare when he brought her all of his alcohol to make her house look more… alcoholic.

**

Buffy muttered under her breath. She had come up with the perfect revenge on Giles: actually cooking lunch with no help or cookbook. That would show him.

But now as she tried to execute her plan, she found it difficult to do. Things seemed to be higher then they used to be and the counter was inconvenient, causing her arms to ache as she tried to cut some vegetables.

Finally giving up on her attempts to reach the cups, she called out, her voice sounding strangely squeaky to her. 'Giles, I need help here!'

Giles showed around the corner cautiously, the froze and gaped at her. She was standing right next to him, and she was level with his elbow.

**

Buffy looked at herself in the mirror. Two things were running through her mind; one was that she was very short, and all around looking ten years younger. The other, that she had no recollection of her last ten years, and that she wasn't even sure why she was supposed to have one.

Giles' heart began to thump when he realized that along with Buffy's size, went her memories. The younger she became, the younger her memories. Half an hour of shuffling through books, and she was about seven, asking all about third grade and talking about how she'd like to see Mrs. Hedld, her homeroom teacher, again.

It was then that Willow finally showed, freshly showered, and gave a small shriek. Then she blushed and tried kicking a hole in the ground big enough to hide herself.

'Willow, what did you do?'

'Nothing.' She answered, a bit too horridly. 'Only…'

Giles' glare was dangerous as he attempted to keep his eyes on her while keeping Buffy from his weapon chest. 'Only what?'

'Well, last night Buffy was talking all about how weird it would have been to move in with you when she first moved to Sunnydale, you know, like we're trying to convince the INS actually happened. And then she started talking about how if the Council had found her when she was four or five she might have grown up with you and not even known her mother and… and…'

'And?' He prompted, a bit too harshly.

'And I was practicing a wish fulfillment spell.' She cringed.

**

By the time Xander had converted Buffy's assassination attempt into lunch Buffy was undoubtedly four, her memories wiped clean, the only thing remaining from her grown self was her slayer strength. She hopped up and down on the couch until Giles, deciding there was little point of being proper with a four year old, grabbed her around the waist and carried her to a chair near the counter, praying she wouldn't fall off.

He looked at her as she made a mess of herself playing with her food. The new boxers he had given her were brushing her knees and the tightest, shortest shirt she had was half way down her thighs. She was a tiny child and only her behavior convinced him she wasn't two years old. It made sense, when he thought about it, that she would turn to one of the ages she had mentioned to Willow.

Why couldn't she had turned sixteen?

**

Three hours after lunch Giles was at the end of his rope. As spirited and stubborn as her older version, mini-Buffy was packed with energy and stamina. While Giles had convinced himself he could just sit her down with a few blank pages and color pens, she had whole other plans.

Lunch had made her sleepy. Clinging to Giles she allowed him to carry her to her bed and was asleep before he had to wrack his brain in search of a fairy tale suitable for a bedtime story.

But the peaceful silence only lasted twenty minutes, and Buffy was back on her feet, running around the house pretending to be an airplane. Unaware of her strength, in the short two minutes it took Giles to catch her, she had broken two lamps and two glasses of water, Willow and Xander's.

The two were sitting on the sofa researching on the spell and smirking evilly as Giles, who had never so much as babysat, tried desperately to control Buffy. If he thought the teenager's pouts were hard to resist, then the little trembling lips and the huge eyes of her younger version were even worse. Thirty seconds after he had finally caught up with her, he let her loose again, counting with his eyes closed to give her time to hide.

His eyes snapped open as he heard Buffy wail. He ran after the voice. She was in the bathroom, where the floor, wet from miss-aimed shower water, was slippery. She had fallen and skidded, until her head hit the toilet seat. Now she was half crying half gasping for breath, her small hand where a thin trickle of blood was running down the side of her head.

Giles knew just enough about kids to know he was supposed to pick her up. He had seen people do it on the telly. So he dutifully grabbed her sides and pulled her up against him, smoothing her hair, careful not to touch the bleeding scratch, and murmured the one nursery rhyme he remembered in her ear.

Very impressed, Xander and Willow followed him towards the living room. Just then, as Buffy was still crying her little eyes out, the door opened and Joyce stepped in.

Curiosity made Buffy stop crying, and she sniffed miserably as she looked at Joyce.

It may had been fifteen years since she last saw her like this, but Joyce still recognized her daughter. Her lips pursed into a thin line and she advanced on Giles. 'She's bleeding.'

'She fell.' He hastened to say, as Buffy pushed harder against him, obviously afraid of her mother. 'And I'm not sure she remembers you…'

Joyce's anger flared. 'WHAT?'

At the shout, Buffy's lower lip began to tremble. 'It's… a spell went wrong. Not to worry, we'll have it fixed in no time.'

'You made my daughter FOUR YEARS OLD?'

Buffy started crying again and hid her head in Giles' neck. 'Please, Joyce, calm down, you're scaring her.'

'I will NOT calm down!!! You…'

Willow and Xander each grabbed one of her arms and pulled her towards the door. 'Mrs. Summers it's all my fault… really…'

Interested now, she allowed them to drag her out after them.

Giles looked at the miserably crying child. What always cheered Buffy up?

'Buffy, would you like to do some shopping?'

**

Giles held on tightly to the little child, wondering how parents had the courage to take their children to crowded shopping centers, or what could possibly have possessed him to do so. But Buffy did, after all, need proper clothes.

He entered the first children's clothing shop he saw, putting Buffy on the floor. The saleswoman who approached them looked at Buffy curiously. 'The… er…. Airline lost our luggage.' Giles hastened to improvise.

She quirked an eyebrow and looked at Buffy's bare feet. 'Er… mud. Very… wet. I was afraid she's get sick. Yes.' He smiled with relief at the lie.

Sensing a big sale, the elderly woman smiled and bent low to look at Buffy. Buffy clamped her hand to her nose. 'She smells funny!'

The woman straightened, looking indignant. Giles blushed. 'Buffy…'

'She does!' Her voice rose a notch and Giles shook his head, impressed by her proximity to the limit of the human hearing range.

'Never the less, you don't say things of the sort. Apologies, please.'

Buffy crossed her arms under her chest and a determined look settled on her face. 'No!'

'Buffy!' He warned, not really sure what to do. Had she been 19, he would have sent her home to do some research for him about the most boring subject he could possibly think of. But he wasn't even sure mini-Buffy could read. And of course, had she been 19, the problem wouldn't have risen in the first place.

Buffy's lower lip began to tremble and large tears spilled from her wide eyes. 'Now, don't start crying…'

He knew emotional manipulation when he saw it, but he had no idea how to react to it. Buffy usually kicked him into submission under the guise of training, those manipulating his emotions of severe pain. But when she was four years old and crying, no pad or protectivein the world could protect him.

In the back of his mind a small voice cried that he was wrong to pick her up and hug her, but he couldn't bring himself to be stern in the face of her tears. He smiled apologetically at the woman and she quirked an eyebrow again, leaving them. She was soon replaced by a teenager, a much lovelier view.

Buffy sniffed and turned her head to look at the girl. Liking what she saw, she smiled.

Giles sighed in relief.

**

Half an hour later Buffy was dressed in a little overall with a horribly orange T-shirt and the smallest tennis shoes Giles had ever seen. He was carrying three bags and holding her hand so tightly any child other then the slayer would have been screaming. It was his idea to get ice-cream and he wondered, for the second time that day, if he were perhaps losing his mind.

He pushed through the mass of people, careful not to let her hand slip out of his. When at last they reached the ice-cream shop he put the bags down near the counter and heaved her up with relief, proud of himself for not losing her.

Buffy looked down at the flavors. 'I want the yellow, the pink and the bright blue!'

Giles saw that the teenager across the counter was looking at him questioningly. 'What?'

'She can't eat three scoops, can she?'

Giles considered her. She was even smaller then a normal four year old. Afraid of having her cry again, he reached a compromise. 'Just give her each… er… color in a different cup and she can eat which ever one she wants.'

The kid shrugged and pulled out three cups. Giles made his own order and they sat down.

Or rather he did. Buffy squirmed with unrest and looked around her. Giles was getting the feeling she was about to bolt to the toy store across from them.

'Eat up, and we'll go look at toys later.' He promised, thinking he might as well find her something to occupy herself with.

With a smile on her face she dug into her first flavor.

**

Giles couldn't at first believe she managed to eat all three scoops. Then, to his great distress, he found that she really couldn't. Running out of the toy store they just managed to make it to the bathroom before her stomach protested the sugar-overload by sending it all right back up

Giles cleaned her up, blushing with guilt, knowing he should have only given her one scoop. A bit of water later and they were on their way to the toy store again, where their bags were carefully watched by the boy labeling some toys with alarming prices.

Giles pulled Buffy away from there, towards the small puzzles and coloring books. He was determined not to let her loose in the toy store as he had in the clothes shop. He was, after all, hoping that she's become and adult again before she needed a change of clothes. All the same he had a month's supply of little things. Picking in his wallet he told her she could get three coloring books and one puzzle.

Seven coloring books and three puzzles later they were on their way to the car, via the small candy stand.

**

Buffy had fallen asleep in the car and Giles left the packages in it, carrying her to her room. With a bit of difficulty he managed to pull her overalls off and decided to let her sleep in her T shirt.

He just managed to cover her with the light blanket and was about to leave when she woke up. 'Kiss goodnight?' she mumbled sleepily.

Giles blushed, trying to remind himself that it was a four year old and not adult Buffy. He bent and kissed her forehead. She closed her eyes and was soon asleep.

**

Giles flipped through one of his many books in search of a cure for Buffy's condition. Her voice ringing out with his name startled him back to the real world.

He walked tiredly to her room, peeking at her from the door. 'Yes?'

'I have to pee.'

'Lovely.' He said. 'All right. Come along.'

She ran after him and he held the door open for her. She dropped the flower-pattern panties she bought in the store and tried climbing up on the seat.

His body numb now that all his blood was coloring his face, Giles helped her up. He turned his back and turned around again when he heard the soft thud she made when she landed. She got back to her feet, looking at her knees, and Giles could see she was trying to decide if the scrape was worth another cry.

He distracted her by pulling her panties up and dragging the laundry basket in front of the sink. It was so tall she could sit on it and wash her hands.

It suddenly occurred to Giles she hadn't brushed her teeth before going to bed. He handed her the toothbrush.

They blinked at each other for a second. Giles shook himself and put some toothpaste on the brush.

Buffy blinked at him again. 'Brush.' He said. She blinked one last time, then put the brush in her mouth. 'Yuck!!!!!' she spit the paste out, to Giles' great relief into the sink. 'Ewwww!'

'What?'

'It's bad!'

Giles checked the expiration date on the pack. 'It's perfectly fin… you don't like mint, do you?'

She shock her head miserably. 'Well, use it just this once and I'll buy you a different one tomorrow.'

Buffy crooked her nose. 'Don't wanna'.'

'Buffy you have to brush your teeth.'

'No I don't!'

'Yes, you do. Come-on, just a short brush.'

Giles lost the fight a few minutes later. With a sigh he took her back to bed. Her loose hair seemed a mess to him, but he figured he'd take care of that in the morning. He left a glass of water next to her bed, knowing he would regret it when she needed to use the bathroom again at two am, and went to bed himself.

**

'OOOOOOUUUUUUUUUUUCH!'

'If you hold still it wouldn't hurt as much.' Giles tried brushing the knots out of another section of her hair. They'd been at it for half an hour, a true screamfest as his decision not to braid her hair last night came back to haunt him. He figured it would be at least another half hour before her hair was de-knotted again.

Sure enough, another half hour of screaming and trying to dodge the brush passed by before he finally had her hair smooth again. She was much calmer as he tried carefully not to pull on her hair as he braided it tightly.

He looked at the braid proudly when he was done. It was crooked, and hair was jumping out in every direction. He let her down from the basket and she ran out to color one of her coloring books while he made breakfast.

**

Breakfast, more than Sunnydale, was his idea of hell. She had a tantrum when he put the jelly on top of the peanut butter, and to his dismay she wasn't fooled by him flipping the sandwich.

Putting peanut butter on top of jelly was the hardest thing he had ever attempted.

His need of plastic cups was soon revealed to him, and he made a mental note to buy some as he collected the fragments of yet another glass of milk.

**

They were trying to decide if they wanted the toothpaste with Daffy Duck or the Roadrunner when Joyce entered their field of vision. Buffy moved behind Giles' leg, remembering Joyce as the woman who had yelled at Giles and made her cry.

Joyce didn't push it. She understood, far better then Giles, that yelling at him in front of Buffy was a mistake. Especially since Buffy truly didn't seem to remember her.

'Rupert.'

'Joyce. How are you?' He winced as Buffy, her little hand clutching his pants, pinched his skin. 'She's not fond of you, is she?'

'No. I suppose not. After the way I yelled at you.' She looked at the toothpaste. 'She didn't start using mint until she moved to college, did you know that? She hates it, but she didn't want to look silly.'

Giles had convinced Buffy to move and the three of them started walking down towards the cashiers.

'I see you bought her some clothes.'

Giles snorted. 'Some? That shopping bug doesn't wait for teenage years. I left 300 dollars in that shop.'

Joyce grinned a bit evilly, thinking it served him right. 'What about the INS?'

'He should be here tomorrow. I'm not sure what we'll do if Buffy doesn't change back. We might have to ask Willow to pretend she's Buffy.'

'Willow is a terrible liar. He'll never believe she's my daughter, or that whole nonsense about her living with you. And what will you do with Buffy?'

'Send her to the zoo with Xander, perhaps.'

Giles was grateful, when he paid, that from her hiding place behind him Buffy didn't see the candy on the counter. He took the bag and her small hand and they left the store towards his car.

'I'm not sure this will work.'

Giles dumped the bag on the back seat. 'Will you do it?'

'In for a penny… but I'm still worried.'

He buckled Buffy up. 'So am I. But there's no other option.'

Joyce sighed. They said their good-byes and Joyce returned to the store to do her own shopping.

**

There was a man knocking at his door when they arrived. 'Hello.'

'Rupert Giles?'

'Yes.'

'Eric Mort. INS.'

Giles paled. 'You weren't supposed to be here until tomorrow.'

'Yes, we like to drop in on people. Makes lying to us more difficult.' He gave Giles a meaningful glance, then looked at Buffy. 'And who's this?'

Giles prayed to whatever divine being might be listening that the paper's held Buffy's full name only. 'This is Buffy. My niece. She's here for the summer.'

'I see. And where is Elizabeth?'

Giles sighed with relief. 'At a friend's, at the moment. I'll call her.'

He opened the door and they stepped inside. 'Would you like some tea?'

'Yes, thank you.'

Giles set Buffy down and she ran to her puzzles. Eric sat down and looked around him as Giles moved into the kitchen with the phone.

He peeked behind his shoulder as Willow picked up, then spoke in a hurried whisper. 'Willow, the INS is here. You need to come here and pretend you're Buffy. And Buffy is still Buffy so you have to be Elizabeth.'

'What?' Willow sounded sleepy. Obviously he had woken her up.

'They only know her full name, and I don't think I can get Buffy to pretend she's called something else. Come here and say you're Elizabeth.'

'All right. I'll be there soon.' She hung up and he wondered if she fell asleep again.

The water boiled and he took the tray out to the living room, plastering a false smile on his face. 'Here we go. Elizabeth will be here soon.'

'Did she spend the night here?'

'No, at a friend's. They've been friends since high school.'

Eric made a note. 'What's that friend's name?'

Giles thought quickly. He couldn't say Willow, because Eric would want to talk to her and then where will they be? 'Xander. Xander Harris.'

Eric quirked an eyebrow. 'Xander is a boy's name, isn't it?'

'Yes. Short for Alexander.'

'You let her spend the night with boys?'

'They're just friends.' He said, his anger flaring at the implication.

The tension was broken by Buffy climbing up to Giles' lap. 'I like Xander. He's a good cook.' She gave Giles a look which clearly said he wasn't.

Giles paled again. If she remembered Xander, probably from the previous afternoon, she might remember Willow.

Buffy had a coloring book on her knees and was painting all the little kittens the same color as Eric questioned Giles about his job opportunities and life with Elizabeth until Willow came in. Giles got up to great her, Eric at his heals, Buffy clutching his neck painfully. 'Eric Mort, Elizabeth Summers.'

To their relief, Buffy didn't say anything about the name 'Willow.' Eric greeted her stiffly and she looked nervously from him to Giles, trying to disentangle Buffy from his arms as he attempted to set her down. She wasn't good at lying and her 'hey' came out a nervous squeak.

Feeling attention deprived Buffy tugged on Willow's pants, almost pulling them down. 'Wanna' play?'

Giles picked her up and set her on her feet again, facing the other way. 'Not now Buffy. Go build a puzzle, all right?'

Buffy turned around and Giles braced himself, anticipating a tantrum. 'I wanna' play!!!'

'Go play alone for a while.'

'NO!!!!' She started stamping her little feet. 'PLAY PLAY PLAY!!!'

He had no choice but to bribe her. 'Buffy, if you play alone now I'll bake you a cake later.'

She considered him. 'Chocolate?'

'Yes. Chocolate.'

'Promise.'

'Yes.' He said, exasperated.

'Yay!' And she ran off to play, leaving the adults alone to lie to the government.

**

'It's me mom, Elizabeth.' Willow spoke in a slow, loud voice.

'Willow is that you?'

'Yes mom.'

'Willow, are you alright?'

'Mom remember how I told you about the INS guy that was going to come talk to you? He's here mom.'

'He can't be. The house is clean. It's spotless. He'll never believe…'

'Why don't you ask Xander to help you with that? We'll be there in an hour.'

**

Xander snuck out the back door as Giles' car pulled in front of the Summers' residence.

They entered and Buffy made a face at the stench. Xander had spilled some alcohol in the corners, and put something from his own fridge in Joyce's. He poured dirt over all the furniture and replaced the snow-white curtains with ones gray from dust. In his back pack, much to his delight, was all the real food in the house. All that he had left there was half a pack of cheese, a greenish bread, the scary thing he had brought from his own house, and lots and lots of alcohol.

Joyce walked over to greet them, a glass in her hand, her hair a mess, dark shadows carefully implied by Xander-the-makeup-artist under her eyes. She wore a house dress and a pair of pink slippers that were nearly brown. As she stood there during the introduction, she couldn't help thinking she was making far too great an effort for that man.

Giles was standing by the door, trying to convice Buffy to stop complaining about the smell and be quiet. It didn't work, of course, but at least he could concentrate on something other then his intense desire to laugh.

Joyce led them to the living room. Eric's thoughts as he sat on the filthy furniture were obvious. Joyce offered them a drink, saying she has coffee and tap water. She added, quite proudly, that she had managed to cut down to 10 bottles a week. Or at least she thought she did, she tended to lose count.

Buffy was whining and stumping her little feet, saying she wanted to go home. That she didn't want to stay with the nasty woman in the smelly house. Not liking the smell herself, Willow/Elizabeth suggested they go out to the back yard, where she was sure some neighboring kid lost a ball at some point.

There was a ball there, but it was Xander's. They had all played there last week, with cool lemonade and a grumpy Giles. Mini-Buffy and Willow/Elizabeth played catch, while the adults sat on the garden chairs. Xander had thrown some dirt on them as well, but the carefully cut grass was a bit hard to explain.

Eric, looking better in the fresh air, noticed it too. 'Neighborhood kids take 10 dollars for the whole yard. I paid them only last week.' Giles hurried to explain. 'It was getting wild out here.'

Eric seemed to except that. The rest of the house, and Joyce in particular, were too good not to believe.

Eric tried to interview Joyce but she kept dozing off, the glass in her hand tilting dangerously. Eric gave up and watched the girls play. If he noticed the strength with which Buffy threw her ball, he didn't mention it. Eventually, Willow/Elizabeth grew tired of the heat and returned Buffy to Giles, landing her in his lap and collapsing on the grass. She was in no shape to keep up with a four year old. And a slayer at that.

Buffy was covered with grass stains and all those laundry detergent commercials were finally making sense to Giles. Willow/Elizabeth offered to stay and make lunch while Giles walked Eric to the front door, offering a ride to his motel.

Joyce slammed the door behind them and leaned her back on it. 'When that man leaves town, you will all clean this house until it looks like something out of a soap opera. Chinese or pizza?'

**

Buffy refused to take a shower. Giles conceded and drew a bath for her. It was a great relief to find that a pleasantly smelling liquid capable of producing a great many bubbles was somewhere amid Buffy's collection of small bottles.

Giles couldn't believe he was undressing his slayer. He sat her in the warm water, the pulled her out and emptied some when he found the bubbles covered her head. Sitting her in them again he started loosening her braid.

Buffy talked about the cartoon she had watched that morning as Giles' greatness of mind was revealed when he put to use the tearless shampoo he had enough sense to buy that day. He rinsed it off and tried pulling her out of the tub. She splashed him. 'Wanna' stay!'

'Fine.' He said tiredly.

But Buffy had been greatly amused by her splashing and went on. Giles sputtered and coughed as soap entered his mouth and splashed her with indignity. A small war started in which his entire bathroom was covered with soap suds.

He was rapidly losing the war and decided to turn it to a different front. Grabbing her and puling her out he laid her on the soft rug and began to mercilessly tickle her. She squealed and squirmed, becoming breathless with laughter. 'Do you surrender?'

'Yeeeeeees!'

He stopped tickling, helping her up and wrapping her with a huge towel. She giggled for a while longer as he brushed her wet hair, a lesson well learned that morning.

She quieted and sat, hidden in her towel, her eyes half closing as he did a much better job with the new braid. When he was done she smiled at him through the mirror and he kissed the top of her soft head, then scooped her up and carried her, still in the towel, to her room where her cloths were waiting.

But she was half asleep, and he sat with her on the armchair, cradling and watching her small face rub against his chest. Finally she settled, and was fast asleep in his arms.

**

The soft knock on the door woke him. Willow was smiling at him with a warm look in her eyes. With a shake of her head she went back to the real world. 'Eric is here.' She mouthed.

Giles sighed and put Buffy in bed, this time without the towel. He followed Willow to the living room, making a mental note to call her Elizabeth.

Eric was standing, looking at some of Giles' books. 'Interesting.' He commented as they entered.

Giles made a noncommittal sound and excused himself, saying he had to prepare lunch before Buffy woke.

He had developed a hunch - Buffy would not like eating what he thought she should eat. He wasn't, however, about to stuff her full of junk food. Not even if she insisted. And pouted. And cried.

Oh lord, he thought. I might as well call out for pizza.

He squared his shoulders, determined.

Eric and Willow sat at the counter as he started slicing vegetables. Eric tried for a conversation instead of just asking dry questions, but Willow was nervous and quiet and Giles was not in the mood. He got short, sometimes monosyllabic answers and soon gave up on any hope of hospitality. It was nothing he wasn't used to.

'Gilesy!'

Giles shock his head, not sure he heard her correctly. 'Gilesyyyyyyyyy!'

A bit shocked, he went to Buffy's room. She was standing, fully dressed. 'My shoes hurt!'

Giles looked down and smiled at her. 'You've confused them.'

He sat her on the bed and knelt to switch her shoes. 'What are you doing?'

'I'm preparing lunch.'

'Pizza?'

'No, not pizza.' He finished with her shoes and turned her shirt around. 'The little cartoon goes on the front.'

'Ok.' She wrapped her arms around his neck as he started to get up and he was left with no option but to carry her.

Right according to plan, she started whining when she saw the healthy lunch he had set up. Willow grinned at him evilly and Eric, married and a father, looked rather sympathetic.

'I want pizza!!!'

Giles prayed he was doing the right thing. He was sure he remembered having the same fight with his own mom. He wanted chips from the fish and chips guy. Every day. He lost that fight and he was sure Buffy should lose this one. 'You're not getting pizza. Eat this or stay hungry.'

Buffy pouted and her eyes watered. He remembered crying as well. His mother didn't fall for that. 'Do you want lunch?'

'I want pizza!'

'Well you're not getting any.' He sat her on the chair Eric vacated and put a plate in front of her. 'Eat up.'

Buffy pouted. Her little foot kicked the counter. She stabbed her food in boredom. Finally she ate.

Willow smiled and silently applauded Giles for his success.

Xander stormed in, nearly tearing the door clear of its hinges. 'Giles!'

'Xander? What's wrong?'

Xander looked at Eric, then ran off to Buffy's room. 'Watch her.' Giles told Eric, pointing at Buffy. Willow and he followed Xander.

Eric looked at Buffy. She looked at him. He smiled hesitantly. She threw mashed potatoes at him and laughed.

**

'Xander what is it?'

Giles closed the door after Willow. 'I found something. The spell. It only lasts for 24 hours.'

'No it doesn't!' Willow looked affronted.

'It does. If you make the wish it lasts forever. If someone else makes it, it lasts 24 hours from the moment it's completed.'

Giles palled and looked at the clock. They had a late lunch yesterday, and that was when Buffy became four years old. And that was….

'AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!'

**

They ran out to the living room. Buffy had covered herself with the afghan, and was taking off the small shoes. She smiled cheerfully at Giles. 'Hey, I'm back.'

Eric was cowering near the counter. Xander went to him and helped him up, then poured him a drink from the one alcoholic substance Giles had left in the house.

**

'I was afraid I'd have to child-proof my house.'

Buffy smiled at him. They were sitting in her room. Xander and Willow had taken Eric someplace. Buffy got dressed and when she came out of the bathroom, Giles was sitting on her bed, eating out of the bag of candy he had bought her. 'You were a great daddy Gilesy.'

To her surprise he didn't tell her not to call him that. Instead he snorted. 'I spoiled you rotten. It's a good thing you didn't ask for a puppy.'

Buffy smiled again. 'But you toughened up.'

'Yes. Wonderful. I gave you a good, healthy meal. And my reward is the need to fix the wall where you kicked a hole into it under the counter.'

This time she laughed. 'And there's some mash potatoes where I missed Eric.'

Giles shook his head.

'At least I got grown up in one shot. Imagine Eric if I grew as slowly as I got younger.'

'I wonder if he'll revoke my green card.'

'Nah, he's probably afraid you'd shrink him too. And he doesn't actually know who I am. They're still calling Willow Elizabeth.'

Giles shook his head again. 'Four years old. Of all the things you could have asked for… you know normal children ask for a pony.'

Buffy snickered. 'Well, it was an experience. And I think it benefited you too. Imagine you being such a softy with your real kid.'

Giles shook his head one last time and flopped back on the bed. Buffy's eyes narrowed. 'Oh, and Gilesy?'

'Yes?'

She jumped on him, straddling his thighs, and started tickling. 'Do you surrender?'

 
END