Three days later, Giles parked his Citroen a block away from Holy Cross chapel and was watching as elderly ladies and a few men worked their way slowly up the steps of the church. He had about decided that Willow was pulling his leg when he saw a single young woman in a long lavender skirt and jacket, a black lace doily pinned to her blonde hair, offering her arm to another elderly parishioner who chatted with her amiably as they went up the steps together. It was Buffy, looking not like the California valley girl that he knew, but, rather, like a conservative young businesswoman. After a few minutes of gathering his wits together, Giles followed her into the chapel, taking a seat at the rear of the chapel, well out of sight of Buffy, who was seated near the altar, still engrossed in a conversation with the matron whom she had helped up the stairs. At seven-thirty on the nose, the Latin Mass began. Buffy appeared completely comfortable with the liturgy, reciting the responses without using a missile, which Giles had retrieved from one end of the pew. When the mass had completed, over an hour later, Giles slipped unseen into the shadows of the church while Buffy assisted her friend out of the church and over to the parking lot nearby. As he was about to leave, he heard the voice of the priest in the breezeway.
"Yes, Anne, come along. Father Joseph has kindly given us the use of his office. It is just to the side of the altar, here." Giles' jaw dropped to the floor as he watched Buffy take the priest's proffered arm and walk with him to the front of the sanctuary and enter a room to the right of the altar. He was frozen in place, conflicted between his desire to flee the church and preserve his Slayer's privacy and an overwhelming curiosity as to what possible business his Slayer could have with the priest. Eventually the curiosity won out, and Giles strode down the aisle and let himself into the robing room that Buffy had entered with the priest. He followed the sound of Buffy's tinkling laughter and stood outside the closed double doors to the office of "Father Joseph Michael Adler" where evidently Buffy was meeting with the priest. Hanging on a hook on the door was a printed sign which read "Private, Confessional – Do Not Disturb". He heard the priest's low rumbling voice and Buffy's quiet singsong, occasionally punctuated with bursts of laughter as the two conversed behind the door.
"Well, shall we get to business, then?" The tenor of the priests' voice had changed, making it possible to understand the conversation from outside the room.
"Yes." Giles could hear Buffy's quick steps and peeked through the gap between the doors, seeing Buffy rise from her seat to kneel at the feet of the priest. Taking the white-haired priests' gnarled hands in her own, she looked to his face and spoke clearly, "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been two months since my last confession." At the priest's nod, Giles' listened to Buffy's litany as she confessed to repeatedly sneaking out of her home against her mother's wishes (to patrol, Giles thought), profanity, and a few offenses so minor that Giles wondered why she would even bother. He listened to the quiet as Buffy paused, and waited for the priest to speak, but then heard Buffy's throat clear and she spoke, "I have betrayed my calling. I have been unfaithful. I wish to return."
Giles gasped, then heard the priest's serious tone. "To the monastery?"
"And this will help you to regain your fidelity to your calling?"
The teasing voice that Giles knew so well sounded behind the door. "Big words, Father. No. I don't know. I am so tired. Everyone seems so angry, no one knows me anymore, no one trusts me anymore, not my mom, not my friends. I hate this charade. I want to go back to the sisters."
"Your Watcher, would he say that you have betrayed your calling?"
"He doesn't know."
"Did he return to England?"
"No, he was here when I returned." Giles heard the muted click of Buffy's heels as she paced the carpeted floor of the office. "I want to run away again. It is too much. Nobody understands why I left, why I came back."
"Why did you come back?"
"You convinced me. The sisters would not allow me to stay. I missed my mom, Giles."
"Anne, you know that you are welcome to return any time that you wish, but there are rules. We cannot hide a seventeen-year-old runaway inside our walls. You must get your mother's blessing. And I think, perhaps, this Watcher's as well."
"He will never give it."
"Because if you return to us, you will betray your true calling. We are not your calling?"
"No. I wish it were so easy."
"Nothing important is ever easy. Why do you think you are unfaithful? Have you lied to your Watcher?"
"I've been hiding things from him. Important things. I have dreams."
"Well, dreams hardly constitute a sin. We all have dreams. I dream of being twenty again, and not a priest."
Buffy giggled. "In my dreams, he is so angry, hurt, betrayed. I don't know why. I don't know what I did wrong. I did everything wrong. And now he is gone."
"No. Merrick. He was my first Watcher. I killed him." Giles heard a thump, and peeked between the doors again, seeing Buffy crumpled on the floor, sobbing. "I was so cruel to him. I hated him, I hated my calling. Then Giles came, and something changed. He made it okay, for a while. I had friends again, a place, someone who loved me."
"Yes. And I could see that thing, the thing that Merrick did in his eyes. I hate it. And now that I'm back, it's even worse."
"Disappointment, I could never live up to his expectations. And I want so badly to do it, be everything that he wants me to be. Like Kendra. He adored Kendra, they could talk about books and stuff. He never asks me what happened over the summer. It's like I left one day, and returned the next. Four months of my life never existed. Please, tell me that they were real. That I knew peace for a little while."
Giles stumbled away from the door to the office, swiftly pacing his way from his guilty perch outside the priest's office to his car, driving back to his apartment with a thousand thoughts swirling crazily through his head. What did Buffy think of him? How could she possibly think he was disappointed in her? Were his expectations really so impossibly high? What was she hiding? What had really happened over the summer? He found it hard to believe that Buffy had run away to a convent, but somehow, in a twisted way, it made sense.