She turned to find a monk in brown robes addressing her. He had a pleasant and friendly voice, but she could not help staring at the scar on his cheek.
"I'm sorry," she said when she realized that she was staring at him. "You must be Duncan, uh, Brother Duncan?" She took the hand he extended to her and shook it.
"Yes, I am. You can call me Duncan or even Dunk, if you like, and you are Buffy." It was not a question though it did ask her permission to be on a first name basis.
"Yes," she said.
"Spike has told us a lot about you over the years. I feel that I know you."
"I thought you were a priest," she asked hoping that was not too intrusive a question.
"When Spike and I first met, I was, technically I still am. I'm just not currently...serving in that capacity." He said leaving the subject open.
"I'd like to welcome you to our Mission, please feel at home. Father Sebastian, head of our Order, has asked me to extend his welcome as well. He regrets that his schedule today will not allow him to speak with you personally: he has asked me to schedule some time, tomorrow perhaps, to meet with you. He has some business he would like to discuss with you...Slayer business...nothing of an immediate or pressing nature, of course. Is it safe to assume you will be staying with us that long?"
"I, uh, don't really have a schedule to keep," she said, "...so yeah, I'm free and I guess I'll be staying here, if that's alright?"
"Yes, certainly." Duncan went on "...Father Sebastian has also asked me to see to your accommodations."
"Uh...you are staying with Spike...if another room would be more suitable
we can certainly make one available."
"No, that's okay,' she said then realized she was talking to a priest...monk? "Oh!" She added quickly, "...Is that okay?"
"Actually, according to staff rules," he paused to mentally review them, "...it should be fine, but officially," he added lightly touching the girdle of his robes "...no."
Buffy thought her face must have dropped when he spoke because the monk's
tone became noticeably lighter with his next words.
"No, it's just...the staff rooms are small and Spike can be..." he trailed off. "Don't get me wrong, I am his friend, but..."
"Yeah, I know how Spike can be," she said, "...No, I'm okay with the accommodations.”
"Good, well...from the friend, not the priest," Brother Duncan said confusingly.
Buffy understood him.
"Father Sebastian doesn't really need to know," he said with an air of conspiracy, "...but, Buffy, if the accommodations do become a bit, um...you will let us know, myself or Father Francisco," he gestured to the priest now manning the main desk by way of introduction.
"I will, thank you," she said. "I was hoping to find Spike, to talk to him, but I can see he's busy." She could see him talking with someone in one of the cubicles that flanked the area behind the desk.
"Yes, it's back-to-school time, very busy for us. We offer a variety of programs within the community, at the moment we are matching children and their families with the specific social service agencies that can help them: subsidized lunches, English as a second language, tutoring, family counseling, backpacks with school supplies, special educational needs, it is a busy time. If it's urgent I
"No, no, not urgent," Buffy said. "I met Sister Kate in the shower earlier; she said you could use a hand in the kitchen?"
"Ah, yes...corn...yes, hands are welcome in all capacities here. I'll take you to her; perhaps give you a small tour of the Mission along the way."
"Thank you." She was going to ask about the 'corn' but figured it had something to do with the 'peas'...succotash?"
"I'd like that," she said.
"Did Spike tell you about the basement," he asked, as they started toward the kitchens.
Diced carrots, they were evil, and banana cream pudding, and many, many children, small children, pre-schoolers. By 1:30 in the afternoon the Slayer sat, defeated, in the middle of the pre-school lunchroom wiping pudding off her arms with a napkin. She needed another shower and they had pulled her hair completely out of the hair tie in directions she didn't know were possible and she was sure there was pudding in it and carrots down her top. Defeated, utterly.
Father Francisco rescued her from the cleanup.
"Spike said once that you have some counseling experience," he asked not
seeming to notice her total lack of composure after two hours in the 'war room'
as the other kitchen helpers called it.
"Just high school guidance type stuff. I'm not really qualified..." she answered still wiping the pudding and other foodstuffs off.
"You're good with kids."
She shrugged and looked at the mess in the room around her.
His look conceded that it probably was not as bad as she thought it was. "School aged," he added," and you can use a computer, yes?"
Again, she shrugged and nodded. "A little, I guess."
"And you survived...this, so I think you can handle it. We are short handed up there. Do you think you could pitch in? It's just matching kids with the appropriate social services on the computer, and there is a good desk guide. It's mostly in the interviewing process. We could really use your help." His smile, let alone with the sparkle in his eyes, could convince her.
She had to admit he was very persuasive and sorta cute, for a priest. Buffy could not tell how old he was, he had that ageless look, and there was a look of mystery about him. She wondered, briefly, if he was a vampire or some other type of demon; but no, he was just charismatic. She thought maybe she could help out. It had to be better than this.
"I'll try," she said as she took the arm he offered to help her up off the floor.
"That's all we ask. Thank you. Uh, you might want to..." he pointed to her hair, "...carrot. The next appointment wave doesn't start until two, see Brother Duncan, he'll show you everything."
As he left her to straighten her ponytail and shake the carrots out of her hair and top, Cisco mentally flipped the switch that allowed him the sanity to function in the real world off briefly to allow the facts of his read of the Slayer in to his consciousness.
Spike isn’t far off in his perceptions of her, is he? Cisco thought as he headed up the stairs to the offices, even if they are colored by his love, they are accurate. She’ll do, he thought, she will do.
It was exactly as they were hoping,yet that only made him feel more uneasy.