Oz and Willow looked up as Xander walked through the library doors. "They let you out?" he said, raising an eyebrow. "Are you safe?"
Xander patted the top of his head as he passed, smooshing his friend's hair. "More than you know. He sat down in a chair next to Willow. "So, what are we working on?"
Wesley looked at him. "Are you sure you're all right? Maybe you should go lie down or something. I'm sure your chest must be hurting where it was cut."
"Fuss again and I'm going to get up and kick your butt," he warned, drawing a small smile from Oz. "Now then, I ask again, what book do I need to look through."
"Here," Oz said. "Giles was trying to figure out your page numbering system." The little number in the top corner was pointed too. "Oh, that number." He flipped a few more back, then set it down. "He showed me," he called.
Giles came out of the office. "Hard?"
"Nope, those little top numbers that someone put in." He showed it off. "Most of them have them for some reason."
Giles hit himself on the forehead. "It was a cataloguing system used back at the archive when we needed to reference something." He patted the youngest man's shoulder. "Have a nice rest?"
"Yeah, thanks, then I went down to watch my father get off with probation and counseling after I told them the truth about why he cut me." He grinned, raising an eyebrow. "Let me tell you, the sighs of disappointment in that room could have blown out a birthday cake." Willow pinched his arm. "Hey," he said, rubbing it. He frowned at her. "The whole town thinks that Giles and I are .. together. I just cleared it up a little after he told them that's why he hurt me." He looked at Giles. "Any fallout yet?"
"A bit," he said, distracted. "We can discuss it later though. Do be so kind as to go get the dark brown, hide-covered book from the cage for me, please."
Xander got up, going for it, then handed it off. "What now?"
"Sit," Wesley begged. "Please. You're making me tired." He yawned, turning around so he didn't breathe on them. "Sorry about that."
Xander walked up into the stacks, getting the book he'd been looking at before it all happened. When he came back, everyone at the table was silent. "What now?" he asked. Giles looked at him. "Everyone's looking at me and really quiet. Am I supposed to entertain you guys now too?" He sat down in his chair, flipping to his bookmark and pulling over some paper and a pen. Giles took that book from him, handing him another. "But I was just starting to understand that one."
"I know," he said, but we've already looked through it." He glanced up. "Try to find something about destroying the demon please."
"Sure," he said, flipping through the pages and stopping to look at something. He wrote something down then did it again, stopping at what seemed to be another random page, turning back a few. He read then wrote something else down. When he flipped the page, everyone was looking at him again. "What?"
"How are you doing that?" Willow asked. She looked over his shoulder.
"See, the little numbers match up to stuff," he explained patiently, like to a little kid, "and if you go to the pages with those numbers than you find related stuff." He pointed at the corner. "Five-oh-one-a through t are all about demons and getting rid of them. Mostly by violent means." She nodded, frowning. "I noticed that a long time ago. All the little numbers correspond but the letters have still got me."
"It's more about the person that classified it," Giles said. "Mine is always ended by the letter k, Wesley, wasn't yours x?" He got a nod. "Very good thinking there. Try to find those sections in yours."
Oz looked up. "Mine's not completely done." He looked at Willow's. "Hers doesn't have any at all."
"We're getting caught up with a backlog," Wesley said.
"From when?" Buffy asked.
"The Middle Ages," Giles said. "We hadn't catalogued anything at all until the sixties and the Watchers during the Middle Ages were most prolific." He looked over the top of his book. "Try," he closed his eyes, "one-oh-eight and see what you come up with." He opened them, then looked back down at his book, ignoring the quiet snickering.
Xander pushed his book over, showing the two on his side about the side effects of cruelty by Slayers.
"Not funny," Buffy said. "I told you, Faith gave me some evil alcohol that made me mean." She pouted slightly then turned to Xander. "I'm sorry for what I did. I know you didn't want the whole town to know but I couldn't help it."
"Were you taking it that first night?" She shook her head. "Then maybe we'll talk sometime else, after all this." He flipped back to his old page, looking over the words. "Is decimate a good enough match?" he asked.
"Yup," Willow said, "means the same thing as destroy really a lot." She took Oz's hand, going back to her reading.
Giles looked up as his office door was knocked on and Xander walked in, followed by the school's Counselor and Principal Snyder. "Come in," he said, waving a hand at the couch. "What's wrong now?" He put away his book, not wanting to be caught reading about demon summoning in school.
"It's come to our attention," the Counselor started but he was cut off by Snyder.
"Are you sleeping with him?" He pointed to Xander.
"No," he said, sitting up straighter. "The boy sleeps on my couch. I would never sleep with a student."
"I tried to tell them that," Xander said, sitting on the arm of the couch, away from the Counselor. "I even told them about what my father did. They didn't believe me. They're convinced that I'm having hot monkey love with somebody and it looks like it's you this week." He was frowned at by the principal and Giles. "Sorry," he muttered.
"No, don't be," Snyder said. "We've all known that Mr. Giles had... odd tastes. It's almost a given with where he's from." He rode over the spluttering. "Now, I know that the boy's been upset and that you've tried you best to take care of him, but to violate our trust that way?"
"Hey," Xander said, whistling and waving his arms. "Straight guy here. That's just what the parental conception unit said, not what I am. And even if I was, I'm not going to be jumping in the sack with a guy just because he's nice to me. How sick do you think I am?" He stood up. "Now, let's get this straight here, Snyder. I'm not sleeping with him. I'm sleeping with his afghan that his mother made him, on his couch, for the reason that you very well know. The only time I see his bedroom is when I walk through it to go to the bathroom or sometimes to put some clothes on his dresser after I've been nice and washed them. He'll tell you I'm a heathenish slime that's sucking him dry financially, not something that he cares enough about to sleep with." He took a deep breath. "Now, if either of you have questions about *my* activities, you can come ask me, politely, and I'd tell you. Do we have any more questions on this subject?"
All of the men shook their heads.
"I think it's best if you leave. His head's been hurting from where he was attacked. Oh, Principal Snyder, just because I'm British doesn't mean I'm into unusual sexual practices. That sort of stereotype is very damaging. Now good day."
Xander waited until they were alone to sigh and collapse on the couch. "That was kinda fun," he said, looking up. He saw the head shake so stood up with just a slight grin. "You told me to let it out more." He turned and walked out.
"You're not sucking me dry financially," Giles called after the boy. "Much to the contrary." He smiled. "It was fun for me also," he said quietly, pulling back out his book and turning back to the section he'd been in when he'd been interrupted.
Xander looked at Oz and grinned. "Imagine, if you will. I get called to the office to answer an allegation that I'm bopping a teacher." He grimaced momentarily. "Not a pleasant sight, let me tell you. Then they drag me down to said person's office and confront him. And not only did I speak my mind, but I managed to entertain said person on a very gloomy day." He at a french fry, still grinning. "Not too bad for a morning's work at slacking off."
"Nope," Oz said. "Not too bad. Did the rumor start to die yet?"
"Not a bit," he said, frowning again. "I'm not sure it ever will. And maybe this morning might have fed it a little, my standing up for Giles and all." He looked up as Willow joined them. "Hi. Did you hear?"
"Yes," she said, "straight from Giles' mouth." She grinned herself. "But he was smiling so he thought it was okay." She picked up her burger then looked at her watch. "Not running for the locker?" He wiped his mouth and stood up. "See you later," she called after him, watching him dodge through the crowd. "He's feeling better, I say." She took a bite, smiling at Oz. "What are you thinking?"
"Trying to picture that combination and how long it'd take for Giles to kill him because of his energy level." He shook his head. "A scary picture all around." He picked up her pickle, eating it for her. "How was your morning?"
Xander ran into Melody at his locker, watching for him. "Hi," he said, panting just a little. "Sorry, I had to tell someone a funny story about this morning." He smiled at her. "And how has your day been?" She frowned at him so he got down to where he could look her in the face. "What's wrong Melody? Have you had a bad day?" She nodded. "Fighting sort of bad day or other sort?" She nodded at the second one. "Was it a teacher thing?" She nodded. "Hmm, did she yell?" Head shake. "Say something mean?" Head nod. "About you?" Head shake. "Me?" Head nod. "Well, how about if I talk to her and we'll get it figured out." He patted her head as he stood up, watching her skip down the hall to her room. He grabbed his books, stuffing them into his backpack, waiting. "Hi," he said, knowing that the teacher was walking back down the hall. "What mean thing did you say about me?" One of Giles' books was placed in front of him. "Oh, that sort of mean thing." He turned to look at her. "It's for dream research. I saw this scary demon looking thing and it was so specific that I knew I had to figure out why. I was looking it up. It's not mine." He pulled the other book out of the back, one about Witches and the Craft. "Missed this one though. My best friend's one and I'm trying to understand her ways."
Ms. Harmon stared at him. "You should be more careful about what you bring down here." She turned to lean against the lockers. "Some of the parents down here are most strict about what their kids are exposed to."
"And they would be doing what in my locker?" He closed it, checking his bag and putting them inside it too. He zipped it up, waiting for an answer.
"Snyder came down to do a locker search for drugs." She grimaced. "He found some condoms in another kid's and she was pulled down to the office for suspension because they were down here. I saw the book first so snatched it for you." She stood back up. "Just be a little more careful." He nodded and she walked back to her room. "We'd hate to see you held back because he's being stuck up."
"Thanks," Xander called after her, heading down the hall to his next class. "I'll get him for this yet," he said, opening the outer doors and leaving, not even realizing he had a small shadow, literally. He got a pass from his teacher and headed down to the office. "Is Snyder in?" he asked, walking past the secretary's desk. "You might want to call security if he is, 'cause he's gonna be a puddle when I get done with him." He walked into the office without knocking, frowning at the people sitting there. "Excuse me, I need to take up a Constitutional issue with Herr Snyder." He frowned at the Principal, leaning on his desk to get further into his face. "Did you think I wouldn't hear that you chose today to go violate the student's privacy and do an unannounced locker search, which is illegal because you had no cause to do so and the rest of the school wasn't checked? I've called my lawyer about this and the other mess that you're trying to harass me with and if you so much as *think* about violating my rights again, I'll have your job, your license, and your pay for the next thousand years. Do we understand about *Constitutional* rights? You know those things guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and upheld by the Supreme Court, which just said that you had to have just cause to go into my things to snoop. I expect that he's calling every parent of a student on that hall and making sure that they know that they have the right to sue too and I'd be more than happy to join in with your next move on my stuff." He stood back up. "I don't believe that it would be wise to do it again, this isn't Nazi Germany and you're not part of the Gestapo or the KGB. Did I make myself clear?" At the stunned nods he left, smiling at the secretary as he walked past her desk and stealing a piece of candy. "Thanks dear. I'm going to go back to class now. And yes, I did have a pass to come down." He walked out, popping the piece of peppermint into his mouth and smiling slightly.
Giles looked up as his door was opened and Oz grabbed the sill, holding on for dear life and laughing. "Oh, dear, what has he done now?" he muttered. "Are you all right?" he asked, getting up to help him inside.
"You wouldn't believe it if I told you," he said, in between giggles. "He stormed into the office because they did a locker search down there....."
Xander looked up as his name was called over the PA system. His teacher nodded so he got his stuff and headed out into the hall, meeting a most upset Swim Coach in it. "What happened?" he asked, knowing that's why he was being called in.
"Melody vanished earlier and they think she's somewhere around you." He led him out to a picnic table outside, sitting him down. "Just stay there and we'll see if she comes to you."
"I have a test next period," he said.
"Snyder excused it already. A Special Ed kid getting out is bad publicity." He headed for the side door.
"Why's she down there anyway? I didn't think being mute was that special." He looked around at the shadows, giving it a few minutes. "If she's around me, then let's move this to the lounge, she can't get out here." He got up, picked up his pack and walked back inside, buying two sodas as he sat down on one of the couches. He popped them both, setting the other on a table and picking up a book to read.
Pretty soon, there was a darker shadow moving down the hall toward him but he ignored it, instead looking up to see Giles and Oz looking down at him. "In a minute guys, I want to introduce you to someone very special." They sat down around him and waited, looking around. "Guys, you'll scare her." He looked up when the shadow he was watching came a little closer. "Hmm, good soda," he called. "Very sweet and tangy." He took another sip, looking at his confused friends, winking at them. "I wish someone would come and drink the other one. This one'll make me too full to drink it." The little shadow moved closer as he finished off the can. He waited until the shadow was closer. "Someone needs to drink that soda," he said, turning a page, not looking at it. He grabbed the little shadow when she picked it up, putting her in his lap. "Melody, these two are my bestest friends, well guy-type friends. You can say hi to them if you want." She started to turn less shadowy, waving at them, scooting back to sit more on his lap. "Is it good?" She looked up at him and smiled. "Guys, this is Melody. She painted me a very pretty picture of herself the other day that's sitting in my locker." He looked at Giles and nodded slightly. "She's down there because they've got her all wrong, huh Melody?" She nodded, sipping her soda more. She squealed a little when he poked her. "Drink it up, they're looking for you dear." She stuck her tongue out at Oz, grinning when he did it back. "Ah, you like him too, huh? Well, I guess that you should go over and discuss your escape attempt with him since he would understand better." He set her on the couch, watching as she scooted over to look at him.
"It's my hair, right?" She nodded, grinning and sipping her soda. "I thought it was an interesting color too." He sat on the floor in front of her. "Melody?" She nodded again. "I've heard him mention you but he's pretty tight lipped about his other friends."
"I had to protect her. She's sweet and shouldn't be allowed around Snyder." He wiggled his eyebrows at her, earning him a clap, after she'd moved her can of course. "She's easy to please and she likes me." He looked at Giles seeing him smiling now too. "I figured it out about a week ago when she was shadowy in a perfectly lit hallway." He looked at Ms. Harmon as she stood watching them. "Come on, we don't bite." Melody pointed at Oz. "No, not him either."
"How did you know?" she asked quietly. She looked at the other two. "And do they?"
"That's Mr. Rupert Giles," Xander said, pointing him out. "Resident strange stuff guy. And I've been taught by him." He turned to look at her. "I was wondering why a girl that was only mute was down there."
"Because it's safer if no one knows she's half demon," she said, looking down the couch at her student. "A soda?"
"Caffeine free. It drew her over here." He shrugged. "All kids like soda." He nudged her as Snyder came into view. "You two can talk about it later. I'm sure you'll get along with him okay, Ms. Harmon, he's very nice."
"Xander," Oz groaned. "Leave the matching alone for a while." He looked at Melody. "You're gonna be okay."
"Not really," Ms. Harmon said. "There's a student down there that's been bothering her just by being there and we have no idea why."
The former Watcher got a sudden clue. "Birthmark on the shoulder?" Giles asked. She looked at him, stunned, and nodded. "I know the problem and I also have an answer. If I could bring a friend down that also knows the problem and we could meet with the parents it might all be explained."
She nodded getting up. She held out her hand and Melody took it, waving at all them, clutching her soda in the crook of her arm. They all waved back and she went back to her space.
"No wonder she got upset about the book," Xander said. He opened his bag to show it off. "It was found during a locker search, which was illegal to say the least, and she gave it back. She was most pissed about it. Melody told me about her saying something mean about me." Oz gave him a funny look. "It's yes/no questions but we talk." He looked at Giles. "Protect her when I'm not here. She's a special little girl. And keep the slayer-to-be outta her way please."
"That she is," he said, getting up. "And we will be having a talk about your earlier outbursts at supper. Don't even hope to get out of it by ducking out tonight." He was given the patented 'innocent' look. "You know what I mean," he said, shaking his head and heading back to the library.
Oz sat down next to him on the couch. "At least you made another friend," he said. "And she'll be better for knowing you." He felt the nod of the younger man's head. "Did you really say all that stuff to him in front of two board members and a parent?"
"Not sure who they were," he said, picking back up his soda can then frowning. "Need another one." He got up, going to the machine. "Want one?"
"Thought you were on a limited budget." Oz shifted, digging into his pockets and tossing over some money. "Here, save your quarters for your road trip." He watched at the sodas fell down and were brought over. "So, did you?" He waited to open his, waiting for an answer.
"That would depend on what you heard," Xander said with a grin, opening his. "We had a *talk* about the Constitution and Bill of Rights and about his abridging them by going into my locker." He took another sip. "Well, he didn't say much, but I did inform him of them." He grinned, leaning back. "What did you hear?"
Oz started to laugh again. "I'll tell you later if you haven't heard. Let's just say you're becoming an urban legend around here right now." He opened his soda, taking the first drink.