Giles sat alone in his apartment, drinking his scotch. How had his life come to this? ‘That’s right,’ he thought bitterly, ‘I told Buffy she needed to be more independent. That was bloody stupid of me.’ That had been a week ago.
He just never considered that he needed her in his life so much. After all, he had spent summers apart from her. Okay, only one had been bearable; the other one rivaled Angelus’ torture for the amount of pain it caused. But this last summer, she came by to train and report her patrols – despite neither of them working for the Council. It had simply become habit for them.
A soft scratching at his patio door broke into his thoughts. Through the glass, he saw a small cat, tawny in color, looking up plaintively at him. ‘Why not? It’s not as if I have other company.’ He opened the door, and was startled at how rapidly she jumped up at him. His arms instinctively cradled her body so she wouldn’t fall.
“Aren’t you a bold little minx?” he teased, scratching her head behind the ear. He was rewarded with a bat of her paw at his face. “Feisty, too. Well, let’s see if I have anything suitable for you to eat or drink.”
Setting her down, he moved to the kitchen to rummage for food. A sound from the living room caused him to peek out. He saw the cat had tipped over his drink and was eyeing the bottle of scotch as well. He quickly moved to grab it from the danger it was in. “Not a fan of alcohol, then?” He was surprised when she made a soft hissing sound.
She raced back to him, and crawled up his body so she could perch herself on his shoulder.
“I guess you’re coming with me into the kitchen,” he remarked with a smile.
All day it went on like that; if he left her for longer than just a quick trip to the bathroom, she would track him down and climb up on him. And she kept trying to get him to look at her. Even if he was petting her, she would move so that he would need to glance in her direction. But whatever it was he was supposed to see, he obviously was missing it.
Finally, it was time for bed. He picked her up and took her outside, surprised that she had shown the understanding that his house wasn’t her bathroom. Quite an intelligent creature.
“Well, I’m not in the habit of inviting females to my bed, but I’ll make an exception in your case,” he told his new feline friend. “But first I’ll need your name. Since you can’t tell me it, I shall just have to give you one. I think…Leaena should work. You are a little lioness after all.” She purred her approval.
Somehow, he wasn’t surprised when she made her ‘bed’ on his chest. And he found it oddly comforting to have her there. “If only Buffy would call,” he murmured before falling asleep, missing the look his tiny guest shot him. She padded up to his pillow and gently licked his cheek before returning to her post on his torso.
Another week had passed with no sign of Buffy, and Giles was growing concerned. To that end, he called Willow. “How are things at college?” he inquired, trying to ease into the subject.
“I guess it’s okay, but I just wi-- would like to see Buffy more,” the young redhead answered, catching her near miss with her word choice.
He sat up, concerned for his Slayer – albeit, former – and wondered if things hadn’t gotten better for her. “What do you mean?”
Willow sighed, “We signed up for classes that we could enjoy together, but she barely even acknowledges my presence anymore. That is, if she even bothers to show up at all. She’s too busy making the rounds of the parties.”
“Is she even patrolling anymore?” Giles demanded, starting to get angry at the blonde girl.
“Doesn’t she report to you?” Willow responded with her own question. Then she answered his before he got a chance to speak, “But yeah, I’ve seen her out on patrol.”
Giles breathed a small sigh of relief. At least she wasn’t ignoring all of her duties. But she wasn’t required to check in with him anymore, a nasty voice reminded him. “The last time I saw Buffy was a couple days after that incident with Sunday.”
“But that was like two weeks ago!” Willow exclaimed.
Feeling his heart break a little at the time spoken out loud, he replied softly, “I’m aware of that.”
Instantly, Willow was remorseful. “I’m sorry. That just seems strange to me. Do you think something is wrong with her? Do we need to do an intervention or something?”
“Our best-- Oww!” he cried out. “Sorry about that, Willow. My cat has decided to use me as her climbing tree,” Giles explained, even as part of his brain registered the fact Leaena climbed him all the time without ever once poking him with her claws. The feline in question was now pawing at the phone, as if she wanted to talk on it.
Giles got a sudden flash of insight, and ordered, “Willow, get the others and come over right away. But don’t bring Buffy. I think you may be onto something.” His suspicions were confirmed by the almost human sigh Leaena gave just then. “And hurry!”
Fifteen minutes later, the Scooby Gang raced through the door.
“What’s up, G-man?” Xander called out. Then he saw the cat and asked, “Where’d that come from?”
Giles’ gaze shifted between the gang and his ‘pet’ before he replied, “I believe she is Buffy.”
The others exchanged nervous looks – afraid he had lost his mind – until they saw the cat nod vigorously.
“What?” “How did this happen?” “When did she show up?” “Huh.” were the overlapping responses.
“I don’t know how it happened, but she turned up at my door about a week ago. It only occurred to me tonight that her behavior was too intelligent and careful for a real cat,” he explained with an apologetic glance at his young Slayer. She just bounced up on his lap, then climbed to his shoulder, giving him a bat on the ear. But after, she purred softly, and laid down. “Like that,” he pointed out.
Willow’s eyes grew wide. “But if she’s been here for a week, then who is the Buffy at school?”
“Obviously an imposter to keep us from finding out the truth,” Giles said in full Watcher-mode now. “When did anyone first notice a change in her behavior?”
“Just after the deal with Sunday,” Xander answered after thinking about it. Oz and Willow nodded their agreement.
“Oh, was that because she was having sex with different men?” Anya inquired.
Giles whipped off his glasses to polish them. He heard a sharp hiss in his ear and saw the anger in Leaena-- Buffy’s eyes. Why didn’t he notice before she had the same eyes?
Xander looked uncomfortable, but asked anyway, “Ahn…what do you mean? ‘Different guys’?”
Oblivious to the problem her words caused, Anya continued her explanation, “Every time we saw her at a party, she was going off to a bedroom with a guy. I just figured it was what unattached females did when they went to college.”
“Oh dear lord,” Giles muttered. “We need to fix this before her reputation is completely destroyed by this imposter. Otherwise she may not want to be changed back into a human.”
Willow appeared equal parts worried and determined. “What should we do?”
“We’ll need some supplies for spells to determine who the imposter is – if they are human, that is. They know about her being the Slayer, so that should help narrow things down for us. We also need to figure out how they were able to change her into a cat,” Giles stated.
Oz piped up then, “We thinking magick?”
“Could be. Bloody hell!” Giles started ranting to himself and only stopped when Buffy bit his ear. “Ouch!” She just glared at him. He realized the others were looking confused. “Oh, it could be Ethan. He knows spells to do things like this.”
“We remember. I still have nightmares about boot camp,” Xander said with a shudder.
Trying to plan their course of action, Giles suggested, “It would be best if we grabbed him instead of the imposter. He’s probably easier to break.”
Worried at the glint in Giles’ eyes, Xander felt the need to clarify, “Uhh, you are talking figuratively, right?” When Giles glared at him, he stepped back. “Okay. Well, we’ll go see if we can track him down then.”
They found Ethan in a dingy motel on the edge of town and dragged him back to Giles’ apartment.
“Hey, Ripper. Nice welcoming committee you have here,” Ethan said with a smirk.
He didn’t know how true he was in his greeting. Ripper was only moments away from making an appearance. Before that could happen, Buffy pounced onto Ethan’s lap with her claws fully extended. She took great pride in pressing down and pulling up several times. Oz and Xander winced, but Giles had a gleeful expression on his face.
“Dammit, Slayer, watch the claws!” Ethan cried out before realizing his slip. He saw the danger in his former friend’s eyes and guessed, “So, you figured out this is Buffy, huh?”
“Yes, but until just now, we weren’t sure you were involved,” Giles revealed with smug triumph. Trust Buffy to get the man to incriminate himself. “Fix it or I’ll let her sharpen her claws some more. Then you can tell us who the imposter is.”
Ethan gave them another – more evil – smirk. “Actually, we need the imposter here as well. I’m guessing your virtuous Slayer wouldn’t want to risk waking up wherever her body is without knowing who it’s with. But, if she doesn’t mind, we can always go to the hospital to reverse this.”
“What’s at the hospital?” Giles inquired, blocking the thoughts of where Buffy would ‘wake’ up.
“You mean who,” Ethan corrected. “The young lady currently using Buffy’s body, of course. Hers is indisposed at the moment.”
Willow was the first to put it together. “You mean Faith?”
The chaos mage gave her a proud smile. “Aren’t you the clever one? Just a contingency that the Mayor had set up. If her body didn’t show signs of waking after a certain amount of time, I was to move her to better accommodations. Thought the irony of it being Buffy’s body was too good to pass up. I had to use the cat because soul-to-soul transfers require physical contact, and I didn’t think I could convince Buffy to cooperate.” The swipe of her claws across his face proved his point. “Faith seemed quite excited by the propect of a new lease on life – especially since it was still in a Slayer’s body.”
Deciding to get his Slayer’s opinion on the situation, Giles asked her, “What do you want to do, Buffy? Have us bring Faith here?” Buffy shook her head. “Go to the hospital?” She nodded. “You realize that you may find yourself in an awkward situation then?” Her glare was answer enough. “Very well. When the spell is reversed and you are in your own body, please come back here as soon as you can.” She nodded again, then danced around on Ethan’s lap again with her claws out. This time everyone gave silent cheers at his pain.
It was only a short time later that Buffy walked back into Giles’ apartment, this time in her own body. Man, that was an eye-opening experience! And not one she ever wanted to repeat.
“Hey, Buffy, good to have you back! It is you, isn’t it?” Willow asked worriedly.
Buffy gave her a reassuring smile. “Yeah, it’s me. Thankfully, Faith was just getting something to eat when I went back. I shudder to think of how many people she slept with, though. I made an appointment with the clinic to get checked out.”
“A wise precaution. How are you feeling otherwise?” Giles inquired, wanting to move away from the topic of sex.
“Like giving Ethan another swipe. Where is he?” the blonde Slayer asked, looking around the room for her prey.
Giles gave her an apologetic look. “He got away in the excitement at the hospital. Apparently the strain of the spells was too much on Faith’s body and she passed away.”
Taking a deep breath and letting it out, Buffy remarked, “You know, I would feel bad about that, but just can’t drum up any sympathy for her right now. She might not have chosen to take my body, but what she did with it afterwards… She could have come to you if all she wanted was another chance to make things right.”
After the others left the Watcher and Slayer alone, Buffy knew they had some serious issues to work out. Giles didn’t know this, but he talked in his sleep. Surprising thing was his nightmares had nothing to do with his captivity at the hands of Angelus, but with losing her – either by death or to another man. It was the latter one that really shocked her.
“So Watcher-mine…” she started.
Giles looked at her, relieved to have her back. “So…”
“Pretty strange week for us, huh?” Buffy stated, trying to get the conversation rolling.
Her Watcher nodded, “Quite. Where were you before you showed up here?”
Buffy growled softly, “With Ethan. Slimy bastard kept gloating about his success while keeping me in a crate.”
“It’s good you escaped before anything happened to you,” Giles remarked, worried about what Ethan might have done to her if given enough time.
“Yeah.” She looked down at her hands, then back at him. “I don’t feel like ignoring the big elephant in the room, so why don’t we talk about why you sent me away if you didn’t really want me gone?”
Clearing his throat awkwardly, Giles bluffed, “I simply thought you would appreciate the chance for some independence.”
Buffy just arched an eyebrow at him. “Uh-huh. Let’s try that again, remembering this time that I’ve been here the last week and have heard your dreams.”
“Wha--?” Giles stuttered. What had he said in his sleep? Oh dear lord!
“How long have you felt that way about me?” she asked, then went on before he could reply, “‘Cause for me, it’s been since graduation. That’s why I started coming here to train with you over the summer without you making me. That’s also why I was so upset to see that woman here in your shirt and said those hurtful – and untrue – things to you. Although I do think you and her is very gross.”
Reeling from her revelations, Giles blurted out, “Really?” When she nodded, he confessed, “I’m not sure when it first occurred to me that you were a woman and not just my Slayer, but it fully struck me when I told you to leave. I felt like such a heel. And it wasn’t only because I failed you as a Watcher. When I saw the pain on your face, I felt like I had cheated on you.”
“What now?” Buffy asked, looking vulnerable sitting there.
Giles had to ask, “Would you be willing to give us a try?”
Buffy gave him a playful swat on the arm. “Well, duh! That’s why I brought this up.”
“Then I think a kiss is in order,” he said, leaning over towards her.
He was surprised when she pulled away from him. “Sure you want to right now? We don’t know where these lips have been the past two weeks,” she point out, gesturing to her mouth.
Giles chuckled, despite the unease he felt at the thought of what Faith did. “I’ll risk it this once. I don’t want to give you the chance to come to your senses.” He grabbed her and pulled her into their first kiss, only letting her go when they required oxygen again.
“Wow,” Buffy murmured. “Does this mean you’ll invite me to your bed again?”