Sileya looked across the desk at the woman sitting there, mentally measuring her against her old Guidance Counselor. "So, I have to do the testing, then what?" she asked, her voice coming out very high society, her usual demeanor for when she wasn't around friends. All in all, she could have been Giles' child at that moment she was so stiff and formal.
"Then, my dear, we put you in classes." She looked over the transcripts again. "I have no idea where we're going to put you. Some of these classes aren't offered here." She looked up again. "Do you have a preference for where you'd like to take the test?"
"I prefer to work on tables as opposed to the desks, it's more what I'm used to." The woman hissed. "We don't have any tables here?"
"Only in rooms like the science labs." She gave her a 'sorry' look and put down the papers, crossing her arms on the desk. "Describe your last classes to me, please. It'll help me place you."
"Well, my science classes were pretty standard, I'd guess. We were doing human anatomy; actually, I was working on the nervous system, memorizing all the various nerve bundles and their placement. My English class was doing a Shakespear retrospective. We were going to do in- depth analysis of one of his sonnets to see whether or not we could identify a particular figure from history or if it was just a chance encounter. My personal theory was that it was one of the Princes at the time but my teacher said he was straight so I wasn't going to argue too much." She shrugged. "My history class I was about to have due a twenty page paper on the mechanics of moving Washington's troops to winter quarters and the analysis of why he moved them to that camp instead of to a closer one. My research class was on feminism this semester, I was doing it on the sexual roles of women in Victorian novellas. My sociology class was all about native uprising's this week, but it was lecture. I didn't have a paper due in there anytime soon." She flipped open her planner. "Oh, yeah, and my PE class. Do we have a fencing team here? I was on mine and I was starting to get good, that took the place of my gym requirement." She looked back up, seeing the shock. "I'll take that as a no. Maybe Uncle Rupert knows how to fence."
"Rupert Giles?" The woman asked softly and Sileya nodded. "He's your guardian?"
"Yes, he and my father were sworn brothers so when my mother was going to marry the putz, my father removed me and put me into his care because his business requires that he travels." Sileya crossed her legs, her well tailored pants riding up only a few centimeters. "Is there a problem? I heard he used to work at the old school."
"Oh, he did," she said, leaning back. "Well, I must say, that's a heavy schedule. How were your classes done?"
"Two and a quarter hours a class a day, plus lunch, rotating daily. Three each day actually."
The Guidance Counselor shook her head. "Will you have problems dealing with a normal schedule?"
"As long as my mind is kept occupied and I'm not bored, it won't be a problem. If I'm not challenged, I tend to get into trouble." She gave the older woman a small smile. "I do hope that I can stay challenged here."
"Oh, I'm sure you will be, just with adjusting." She stood up. "Come on, there's another student that had to take the same tests. Rosenberg. What's his first name?" she muttered, leading the way out to the hall and up the stairs.
"Homer?" Sileya suggested. The older woman stopped and looked at her. "My guardian and his cousin are friends, I was introduced to him when she brought him home last night."
"Ah." The Guidance Counselor nodded, continuing up the stairs. "The library's on the third floor. Most of the science classes and bigger rooms are on the first. Most of the normal classrooms are on the second floor," she said as they passed the second floor. "On this test, you will be asked to give an analysis of a short story. Will that be a problem?"
"No, but how in-depth should I become? My old teachers were into critical thinking and image values. Should I continue on the same lines?"
"Just do what you're comfortable with. At the staff meeting tonight we'll figure out where to put you so you can have a schedule in the morning when you show up." She opened a door, waving at the inside of the library. "Here we are, find a seat away from Homer and we'll send someone up at the end of this period to give the first part of the test." She left her alone, heading back down the stairs.
"Hey," Sileya said, walking in, giving Homer Rosenberg a small smile. "I do believe I scared her." She sat at a table in front of him. "How was your tour?"
"Creepy. This place is built for a warzone." He looked around at the books. "Willow said it didn't used to be like this."
Sileya laughed. "Oh, I was told why it was like this. Ask her about graduation." He went pale. "Were you here?" He nodded, swallowing. "Was the creature really that big?"
"Oh, yeah," he said, nodding. "Very big. I didn't think the explosion was going to kill it at first." He stopped talking as someone walked in. "Hey, are you giving us the test?"
"No, I'm afraid not," the man said, heading for the check out desk. "I only work here." He stopped, looking at Sileya. "You look familiar somehow."
"I'm Rupert Giles' custody case," she said, standing up to shake his hand. "Sileya Rayne Giles."
"Ah, hello. We'd heard his niece was in."
"That would be with quotes, but yes." She gave him a smile. "The young man sitting over there is Homer Rosenberg."
"My mom apparently got off on Greek literature," Homer explained, waving. "So, you knew the old gang?" he asked with a grin for the frown he was getting.
"Very well. I used to be a janitor here." He looked Sileya over again. "I could swear I've seen you somewhere before."
"I doubt it. I've only been in town for about a week. I was living in Connecticut before this." She walked back over to her table, sitting on the end of it. "Are you the one I come to for interlibrary loan? I'm quite sure I'll have to do it sometime soon."
He nodded, walking over to sit on the table next to hers. "What were you studying back at your old school?"
"My English class had us doing Lady Chatterly's Lover for free reading, and I had three novellas I was using for my upcoming paper. I'd like to finish reading the first and one of the novellas if I might."
"If you can get me titles, I can help you find them," he promised. "I know we don't have Chatterly's here, it's not acceptable at the school." He stood up as a teacher walked in. "When you come back tomorrow, bring me a list and I'll try to get you the first few of them."
"Thank you." She took her seat again, waiting on the teacher to finish pulling out papers, making sure she had her pens and pencils in front of her. She took the form, looking it over with a grimace. "Is this for real?" she asked, looking up.
"I'm afraid so. Don't worry if you don't know everything on it," the teacher told her. "I'm Ms. Washburn, the English teacher here for Honors classes."
Sileya handed her back the papers, taking out her folder of homework. "Then maybe we should talk. I did those things in sixth grade." She handed over the folder. "These are my last rough- drafts of my latest papers. Can I be judged on them instead?"
"We'll need to put you in a math class," Ms. Washburn said gently. She looked at the papers, her smile falling away. "Oh, my. We have a problem." She looked up. "You're taking college credit courses?"
"No, those were my standard freshman level courses. I was in an alternative school."
"Wait here," Ms. Washburn said, hurrying toward the door, stopping to look at Homer. "You don't have anything like this, do you?"
"No, I'm a hacker, I don't do well in English." He looked up and smiled. "I'm not like my cousin, really."
"That's good," she said, "Sileya, please do the tests anyway, just so we have it on record. I'll be right back." She walked out, and they could just barely see her breaking into a run as she hit the hallway.
"Gee, I scared two people today so far," Sileya told herself, starting on the test. "A record I think."
"Just wait," Homer muttered. "It's going to get worse. This is my third school in as many years. Trust me."
She looked back at him, smiling at his slightly rounded face and rampant, unruly red hair. "Of course I will, for now." She went back to her test, sighing at the ease of the questions.
Sileya and Homer both faced off with the Principal, giving him mirror bland looks.
"We don't like students like you here," he growled, putting down their test scores. "You upset the order."
"I would be perfectly willing to honors work, if it would keep me challenged, I need a challenge," Sileya told him, trying to stay respectful. The man smelled bad, like he had covered up another odor with too much cologne, and he was mean. She was tempted to leap across the desk and hit him but Uncle Giles had specifically asked her to behave, at least for today, and to give the school a chance to impress her.
"I don't think that the honors would do anything for you," he said. He looked at Homer. "You're in the same boat, Rosenberg. What's your bright idea since you're both *geniuses*?"
"Actually, we could do an on-your-own curriculum," Homer suggested. "As long as we had approval and someone to grade assignments, it shouldn't be too hard. I'm used to that anyway."
Sileya cleared her throat. "I'm not as used to it, I was given an assignment and let go, but I was never asked to design my own assignments." She crossed her feet in the other direction, wanting the feeling back in them. "If that's what would be best, I wouldn't mind. It would be a challenge and I could set my own parameters."
"Where did you go to school?" the Principal sneered.
"Connecticut," she said simply. "Apparently home of upstanding education." She looked at Homer. "I am remembering right, you're from Connecticut also?"
"I'm from Hartford for the first school," he told her. "Then I got transferred to a place for more computer-oriented students."
"Ah." She turned back to him. "Additionally, I'm from a school where funds weren't an issue and where college recruiters started showing up in our sophomore year." She looked around. "All I really need is a library and net access and I'll be fine to do my own lessons."
"You're rich, aren't you," he accused.
"I was to be admitted into high society on my graduation, yes," she said coolly. "Why, does it matter that I was to be a debutante before? All the members of my school were practically."
"Wow, you're going to be way alone here," Homer told her. "I didn't have anything like that."
"No fear," she said, reaching over to pat his arm. "I hung out with the academic team's secondary squad. The first team had this interior fighting going on and they weren't aware of others outside of their IQ range." She turned her attention back to the man in charge of the school, holding in her shudder when she saw his expression; a mixture of lust and greed. "Should we be discussing this with the teachers that will be helping us?"
"Yes, lets do that," he said, pushing a button on his phone. "I want a representative of each department in my office, pronto," he called and let go of the button. "Let's see what they think of your idea."
Sileya smiled at the last teacher to leave, putting away her organizer with the plans for their studies in it. "Thank you," she called. She looked at Homer, who was finishing his notes on his laptop. "Would you give me a ride home? I'm not sure where my guardian is today."
"Sure," Homer said, shutting it down. "No big." He looked at the Principal, who looked like he was going to explode. "Should we leave now?"
"Yes," he ground out, clutching the edges of his desk. "Go away."
"Thank you," Sileya said, standing up, putting the strap to her bag over her shoulder, waving Homer out first. "After you, I'm a firm believer in women's lib."
He snickered and walked out, waiting until he was out by his car to start laughing. "Oh, you do that so well," he said, leaning against his hood. "How do you put people down like that?"
"It's the nature of the life I led," she sighed dramatically. "I can't help it sometimes." She grinned at him, stripping off her exterior shell. "What say we get ice cream for lunch? I'm in the mood for a sundae."
"Sure. I know where to get that. I went last night." He opened the doors with his remote and slid in, checking the back seat just in case. "Where's my laptop?"
"On the hood," she said, pointing it out. She waited until he had gotten back in the car to say anything else. "At least we'll be together in this ordeal. I can't believe they wanted to let us graduate at the end of this year. How lax is this system?"
"Oh, very," Homer said, starting the car. "We'll call from the ice cream parlor."
"No need, I have my cellphone with me," she said, pulling it out. "My father made sure I had local service before we moved me." She dialed the home number. "Xander?" She smirked. "No, it went fine. We almost sent the Principal into shock from our scores. They're giving us an individual curriculum. No, Homer and I are going out to celebrate. I will. Yes, this is my cellphone. No, I'm not running it down." She rolled her eyes. "All right. We'll be home in an hour or so." She hung up and folded the slim phone back up to put into her bag. "He worries too much."
"We are new in the area," Homer reminded her, backing out of the parking spot. "Want to head out there instead?"
"No, I'd like to get away from the house for a while. And I need a fattening treat today. I start training with Uncle Giles."
"Yeah, he'll work it off ya." Homer headed out onto the street, waving at the woman who had stopped for them. "Remind me I have to get the new tags and everything in the next month, okay?"
"Of course," she said, pulling out her planner to make a note. "All right, I'll remind you this week to do that." She pushed her planner back down. "I wonder if we'll make any other friends there? They all seemed so distant."
"New kid syndrome is like that," he warned her. "Maybe for as long as a year." He pulled up in front of a small cafe. "Here?"
"Yes, please. I hear they have the best goodies." She turned to look at him. "We're going to be friends, right?"
"We'd better be," he said, punching her on the arm. "I need stability in my life. Especially since my boyfriend's not here."
She smiled at him. "I know that feeling. Mine's probably still grounded though. His parents were most upset when they found out he'd been having sex." She slid out of the car, making sure she had her wallet with her. "They wanted him to marry a royal, you see, and he had to be virginal to do that."
"Oops," Homer said, giggling. "Bad you, despoiling a future prince." He opened the door for her. "My turn."
She walked into the cafe, ignoring the looks they were getting. "Oh, look, they have cappuccino flavored yogurt," she said dryly. "I think I'm going to stick with my usual flavor. Vanilla delight please," she said, pulling out her wallet.
Xander hung up, clutching the counter as he started to laugh. He saw Oz coming in and couldn't hold it in anymore, he burst out laughing, bending over the counter for support.
"Nice position," Oz said, walking behind him. "What's up?"
"Sil...Sileya gave the ... Principal seizures," he said, trying to stop laughing.
Oz snickered. "Good, the man deserves them." He pulled out a pitcher, waving it. "Want some? I'll make more." Xander nodded. "Well, we heard about her curriculum, we know she's smart. We just forgot to put sassy down too." He walked over to the island, pulling out drawer with juice mixes in it. "Um, out of everything except the grape they won't drink."
"Give them soda, it won't hurt them," Xander said, grabbing hold of himself. "It was just the way she said it. I could hear that cool, society voice of hers coming out to tell him off in the most polite tones. Almost like Giles would if he were a student today." Oz nodded. "Not funny?"
"Very funny," Oz said, pointing at the wound on Xander's shoulder, or the bloody spot over it actually. "You're having a problem."
"Opps," he said, standing up. "I'll go fix that, you give soda. I'll watch while you nap." He headed for their room and the bathroom next to it.
Sileya backed away from the ring Giles had drawn into the ground, bending over to catch her breath. "Time," she panted, looking at him from under her arm. "You're very tough for someone your age."
He shook his head. "I'm not that old, Sileya, and this is what I was trained to do." He walked over next to her, patting her on the back. "You're doing very well for your first day. Did you get the tapes I sent upstairs?"
"Yes, but do I really need yoga?" she asked, standing back up.
"Yeah, it helps," Buffy called from the porch, waving her spoon. "Doing good, girl."
"I wish she wouldn't eat ice cream in front of me," Sileya sighed, turning to look at her custodian again. "Do you fence? I was on my fencing team and apparently around here fencing means to put one up in your yard."
He smiled. "I do and I'll start to practice that with you once you master the basics I'm trying to teach you. One thing at a time, dear." He patted her on the back. "One more round and we're done for the day. Then you can go eat ice cream with Buffy if you'd like."
"Then I'll gain weight," she pointed out, checking her stance as she faced off with him again. "Like this?"
"That's perfect," he told her, "now kick me in the midsection." He blocked her. "Expect this move," he told her, pushing her back, but she tried the leg sweep Buffy had been showing her that morning. "Very good," he told her as he dodged it, kicking her in the butt, making her fall into the dust, "but we're moving much too slow for that move. Try something simpler. I'm doing this at the beginner's level."
She frowned and tried to kick him in the stomach again, this time, moving faster, and when she was pushed she managed to use the momentum to wind around him, pushing him onto the ground with her on top. "Like this?"
He smiled up at her, removing one of her hairs from his face. "Yes, that will do perfectly. Just remember, right about now you're supposed to be staking the vampires, not smiling at them."
She frowned and poked him on the chest with a finger. "Yay, I'm done," she said, standing up and brushing her clothes off. "I'm going to shower, I smell." She met Buffy at the porch. "Can't wait until you get back?"
"Nope, enjoying the time off." She winked at Giles. "Being pregnant has been fun so far. And not a lot of butt kicking to do." She pointed with her spoon. "Soon you'll enjoy the wonders of a night off too."
"Oh, I did that all the time." Sileya walked into the house, dodging the ghost that was hanging in the middle of the kitchen. "Hey," she said with a wave in it's direction. "Gonna shower and soak, how long before supper?"
"Hour," Xander said from the pantry. He pulled himself out in time to see her disappearing down the hall and Giles walking in with Buffy. "Good or not for a first day?" he asked, handing over two cans of vegetables. "For supper."
"Not corn," Buffy groaned. "I want asparagus."
"Learn to cook," Xander told her. "I can't make that." He kissed her on the cheek. "We're having corn and Oz is supposed to pick up corned beef so we can have sandwiches."
"I'll call and remind him as soon as he's done with class," Giles said, heading for the hall. "I'm going to shower also. I had forgotten how hard it was to train with one of you."
Xander waited until he and Buffy were alone to look at her. "Listen, big thing here. She's being compared to you. Even you've been doing it," he told her when she started to frown. "Do the big sister thing, not the mentor/be like me thing. Okay?"
"Yeah, I never thought it was going to be that bad." She hopped up on the counter with a moan, holding her stomach. "Can't do that again."
"Might not want to keep doing it today," Xander pointed out, reaching behind her to remove a spoon from her rear. He held it up, waving it a little. "Pain gone?"
"Yeah," she said with a smile. "That was mean," she said, kicking lightly at his arm. "I can't cook. You shouldn't make fun of me for it. It's a handicap."
"No, a handicap will be your butt spreading so far that you won't ever be able to fit into your favorite clothes again," Xander reminded her. "A little weight gain, not a house."
"No, listen," he said, taking her hands to rub. "Even your OB said you were gaining too much weight. Remember, you're going to have to be able to fight really soon after going into labor. You can't do that if you still feel like you're carrying the baby." He let her hands go to pick up the bowl of left-over ice cream. "I know it tastes good, but lets switch you to fat free and low cal stuff. And give you smaller portions since you're not eating all you're taking."
She bit her lip and nodded. "Yes, dad."
He nodded. "Basically. Think about trying to kick Spike's ass with an extra ten pounds. You used to know when you gained five because you thought you were off-balance. You're going to have to lose a lot of this weight again, which is hard."
"Point," Buffy conceded as she slid off the counter. "I am feeling fat."
"No, that's normal. Just let me do a little bit of diet guidance, okay?" She nodded and he gave her a hug. "Thanks. I'm just trying to look out for you, not take away all of your treats. You can still have them, just in smaller portions."
She pulled back, giving him a small smile. "And I'll have to learn how to cook?"
"Yeah, you're going to have to learn how to cook. I may have to start going into work earlier in the day. They want me to add a few more hours and a fourth show nightly." He patted the side of her face. "Don't be mad?"
"I'm not mad," Buffy told him, kissing his cheek. "Just be careful out there. Don't break their hearts or I'll have to beat you up. Fat or no fat." She walked away, heading for her trailer. "Can I be included in the supper tonight?"
"Of course you're welcome to eat over here," he called after her. "Always." Xander went back to fixing dinner for his family.
Xander looked off the stage at where Oz was sitting as he spun around the pole, closing his eyes as the feeling of nausea started when his spin went faster. He had an abrupt stop coming up and braced himself for it, not expecting the pole to come undone. He looked up at the pretty white outlines he was seeing, blinking hard to clear it. "Huh," he said, holding his head as he was helped to sit up. "Never did that before."
Oz grunted. "Never gonna do it again either," he told his lover, helping him to his feet. He looked at the manager, who was standing beside him. "I want to make him sit down, he can't see right."
"Can't see at all," Xander told them, shaking his head. "Ow."
"Fine, take him back to the dressing room." He looked at the pole then at the screws that had been undone. "We checked those today."
"Okay," Oz said, leading Xander back. "One step down," he warned. He guided Xander back, brushing past the other dancers who were crowded back stage. "Come on, just a few more steps," he coaxed, getting Xander into the dressing room, sitting him in front of the space with pictures of the kids stuck up.
"Hey, that's mine," a voice called from the dressing area behind the screen. "His is the next one over, the one without a mirror."
Oz nodded, getting Xander into the other chair, making sure he was steady as he squatted down to look into his eyes, running a finger in front of his eyes. "Follow it," he ordered.
"Can't see it," Xander countered, still blinking. "Can I be scared?" he whispered.
"Yup. Can you see anything?"
"Big, bright light," Xander told him, lifting a hand to point. "There. Through most of my vision."
"Is the rest dark?" Xander nodded. "Then we're going to the emergency room."
"We can't afford me to be sick, Oz."
"We're going. I'll call Giles on the way." He looked around then up at the dancer sitting next to them. "Where's his stuff? I'm taking him to the hospital."
"Shouldn't be that bad, it wasn't that far of a fall," he said as he applied lip liner.
"He can't see anything."
"Oh. Oh, honey," he said, reaching over to hug Xander. "It's in the locker with his name on it. I'll watch him for you."
Xander gripped Oz's arm. "I need to change, I'm not going into the emergency room in a spangle thong and tear-away pants." He got free and was helped up. "Thanks, Chastity." He was led over to the lockers, letting Oz open it for him. "Just pull out the bag, my clothes are all in there," he said quietly, "and don't leave me."
"Not gonna happen," Oz told him, handing over the clothes his lover had been wearing when they left the house, watching as he slid into them, making sure he got everything fastened right. "Okay, time for shoes," he said, pushing Xander's foot into his sneaker, tying them for him. "Gee, just like dressing the kids," he quipped.
"Not funny," Xander groaned, holding his head. "Hurts, Oz, really a whole lot."
"I know," Oz said, giving him a hug. He smelled the same smell he had every night that Xander had worked, then looked over at the dancer that had hugged him. "Come on, let's go." He helped his lover to his feet, tucking the bag back into the locker and closing it. He led Xander out the back door, leading him to the Explorer, leaning Xander against the side while he got the front seat laid back. "Here, now you can rest on the way," he explained, helping him in and buckling him up. "Just relax, we'll be there soon, Xan."
"I know. You take good care of me," Xander mumbled, still trying to blink. "Ow." He held the front of his head. "That hurts."
"Then don't do whatever it was."
"Turn my head."
Oz walked around and got in, reaching over to make sure the door was locked in case Xander started to move and got caught. "Just give me twenty to give you to the hospital, Xan, you'll be fine. I promise." He started the SUV, backing out of the parking lot and heading out onto the highway.
Oz hung up his cellphone, walking back into the hospital. "Thanks for the warning about not using it in here," he told the nurse at the desk. "Where's he at now?"
"He's just back from x-ray," she said kindly, pointing the direction out. "Back into his old cubicle I think."
"Thanks." He headed that way, sliding in beside Xander and taking his hand to squeeze. "Hey, any better?"
"The bright spot has shadows," Xander said cheerfully. "They think I have a nasty concussion but I wasn't going that fast." He touched his neck brace. "And I get to have one of these for a few weeks too."
"You were in your big spin and just about to do your abrupt stop when you fell. That's velocity added to the fall." The doctor looked at him. "Physical Science this semester." He went back to his soothing of his lover, making little noises to let him know he was there.
The doctor finished making notes and cleared his throat. "Do you want us to keep him?" Xander shook his head, as much as he could, and Oz nodded. "Okay, how about a unified decision."
"We can't afford it," Xander reminded his lover.
"You're more important than another bill," Oz countered. He looked at the doctor. "How long?"
"We just want to observe him. Probably until normal release time tomorrow." He crossed his arms, looking down at Xander. Then he focused on Oz. "Listen, I'm not one of those that pretends not to understand what's going on in this town. I remember you two from other visits. Can you handle him being this injured at home?" Xander nodded and Oz shook his head, making the doctor smile. "Okay. Why don't I admit him for today? If he's better, he can go home during today's release. The bill won't be that high and we'll have all his tests done and back by then." Oz nodded and Xander nodded. "Good, I'll write orders for that. Do you need to call anyone else?"
"Already did," Oz told him. "I'm staying."
"Good," the doctor told him. "He's in one of those scary places. He can't see whose around him and he doesn't know anybody else here he can trust." He patted Oz's head. "Just relax and we'll get him a room right now." He walked out of the cubicle, letting the orderlies in. "I'm putting him up in observation. Let me call first."
Oz leaned down, kissing Xander's ear. "I'm not leaving your side, even if you can't feel me, remember that."
"Yup, always there," Xander said, squeezing his hand. "I know that. Glad it was you instead of Giles, he'd have thrown a fit while taking me off the stage." He rolled onto his side, snuggling on top of Oz's hand so it couldn't move. "Whenever they're ready."
Xander blinked as he tried to look around his room, trying to figure out where Oz was. "Oz?" he asked softly. He heard a soft moan and tried to roll toward the sound but he found himself strapped down. "No! Oz!" He heard the sound of running feet, but still struggled against the hands or whatever was holding him, trying to get free.
"Shh," Giles said beside him. "It's all right. Where's Oz?"
"I don't know," Xander said, clinging to him as soon as he could get free. "I woke up and I heard a moan and I was being held down." He fisted his hands in Giles' jacket, not letting him go for anything. "I want to go home and I want Oz."
"I'm here to take you home," Giles told him, "just relax for a bit. We'll find Oz soon enough." He looked at the nurses that had come running with him. "Have you seen him? The redhead?"
"He was in here the last time I knew," the male nurse said, heading to check the bathroom. He gasped and pulled Oz's body out of the bathroom, dragging a trail of blood. "Where did he get the razor? We don't keep those up here."
The other nurse gave him a grim look, getting down to help him after hitting the call button a few times. "Periodically they show up and this happens."
"No, not another ghost," Xander whispered. "Giles, what's wrong with Oz? Why do I smell blood?"
"It appears Oz slit his wrists."
"But Oz wouldn't!" Xander complained.
"I know," Giles soothed, sitting on the bed so the nurses could get around him. "We're both medical power of attorney over him," he noted. "And he wasn't suicidal." The female nurse looked at him. "He wasn't. He's quite healthy mentally."
Xander raised his hand. "I'm the depressive one."
She nodded, going back to trying to stop the bleeding. "It's always the same," she told them. She looked up at Giles. "Want us to move them to the same room?"
"Please. Buffy and Willow have the children for a bit longer. Will he have to be admitted also?"
"Not usually. This happens a lot in this room and the administration doesn't like to hear about it. Usually we patch them up and the boys head home."
Xander looked up at where Giles' face should be, giving him a pitiful look. "We can't do this now."
"We may have to," Giles reminded him. "This needs solved before anyone else gets hurt." The head nurse nodded and helped get Oz up onto the gurney. "I'll stay here unless you need me," Giles said, squeezing Xander tightly.
"No, not leaving," Xander said, clinging as hard as he could. "Oz will be back soon, right?"
"We've just got to do some stitches," the male nurse soothed, handing Giles one of the spare blankets. "We'll be downstairs, he'll be right back." He walked out after everyone else, letting the door close behind him.
Giles wrapped the blanket around Xander's shoulders, settling him back up on the pillows. "There, we'll just wait for him right here. With any luck, Oz won't be more than a half-hour and we'll have this solved by then."
"Ghost?" Xander suggested, resting his head on Giles' shoulder, rubbing his hand against the smooth cotton. "You're wearing a t-shirt?"
"Yes, I am. One of yours actually." He gave Xander a small squeeze. "That would be the most typical explanation. We need to know if the patient committed suicide that way or not."
"Not this time," the male nurse said, walking back in "It was his mother. Her son died on the bed, strapped down because he was having convulsions. She went into the bathroom and took his razor blades, slitting her wrists, then came back to lay on top of him." He handed a form over to Giles. "Please sign that so you won't sue us this time."
Giles sighed, then handed it back. "Of course, this wasn't your fault. You really won't keep him? I know usually you'd put him in the psychiatric ward for a few days to watch over him."
"Not in this case. It's not going to happen. The admin doesn't like to admit this ward exists."
"What was it back then?" Xander asked softly.
"It was a psychiatric ward for those patients who they couldn't find a cause so it must have been mental." He and Giles shared a look, the former Watcher nodding. "I don't what else to tell you, all I know is that none of the people on this ward was really crazy, they just had things that they didn't understand then."
"Like the VD that makes you insane if it's not treated?" Xander suggested dryly.
"Exactly," the nurse said, giving him a smile. "You need to rest. If we have to admit your man, he'll come in here."
"Coolness," Xander said with a yawn. "Can I get out tonight?"
"Maybe. It's not up to me." The nurse nodded at Giles and walked out, leaving them alone.
"It seems the town isn't as ignorant of the facts as we thought," Giles said softly. "I wonder how they knew it was us."
"Buffy's been pretty high profile," Xander pointed out. "The whole 'who killed Kendra' case and things."
"A very good point," Giles sighed, relaxing. "We'll have Oz back soon and hopefully we'll all go home tonight."
"Maybe we should call Philip to let the spirits go," Xander said, blinking hard to try and stay awake. "Wake me when Oz comes back so I can get cuddles?"
"Of course I will," Giles told him, giving the sleeping body a smile. "You rest," he whispered, tucking him in tighter. "Everything will be fine when you wake up."
Oz looked around the room he and Xander were sharing, then at the priest that was standing at the foot of his bed. "Really, all I remember was this funny, nauseating feeling and then I was slitting my own wrists." He held up a bandaged arm. "But it was nice of them to admit me so Xander didn't have to stay alone."
Philip Callaghan looked around the room, then nodded. "It's the whole ward?" he asked, his Irish lilt subdued from his time over here. Giles nodded from his position under Xander's body. "We can fit what happened to him to what happened in here?"
"Most definitely. The story the nurse gave us fit exactly, and the patients would be unsettled, falsely diagnosed as mentally unstable when they were simply ill."
"The guy in here's mom committed suicide and laid down on top of him after he was dead," Xander reminded them. "That's left over emotional energy that could still be echoing. Cordy said her ghost's mom tried to kill her because she didn't want her son to date. Or something like that."
Philip nodded. "I'll see what I can't do to find the old records," he said, giving Oz a small smile. "You both need to rest peacefully for a bit longer."
"Oh, we're going home in the morning," Oz told him. "We're used to having nights of danger." He looked over at Giles. "Was the dancer that you wanted to kill named Chastity?"
Giles grimaced and nodded. "Definitely."
"He's a good guy," Xander defended, "just a little too nice."
"He has pictures of our kids on his mirror," Oz pointed out. Giles' mouth fell open. "And he grabbed Xander from my arms to hug."
"Not going to happen," Xander reminded them. "I'm not leaving you guys."
"Maybe the situation will clear itself up by the time you're allowed to go back," Giles said, trying to stop the argument before it could begin.
"He's not going back," Oz said firmly.
"It's a job, Oz," Xander said.
"I can't not work."
"Oz," Xander sighed. "Drop it."
"No, you're not going back to work there."
"I am until I can find another job," Xander countered.
"If you go back, I'm going to start stalking you at work," Oz warned him.
"I don't want to work if one of you's not there anyway," Xander countered.
"Why?" Giles asked, rubbing Xander's forehead since it was wrinkled up. "What makes you so uncomfortable? Is it this other dancer or the way the people look at you or what?"
"A little of both," Xander admitted. "I hate getting up there to dance, but I have to have a job."
"And the other dancer?" Oz asked.
"Is creepy," Xander said, his voice dropping off. "Very clingy. Likes to give me hugs whenever he walks past. And those pictures on the mirror are mine. It's to remind me why I need a job." He shifted his neck brace so he could be a little more comfortable.
"Is your picture up there?" Giles asked him, and got a slight headshake in answer. "I thought you were working because you needed something to do."
"I am, but if money wasn't so tight, I wouldn't be working there. I would have waited until I found another job. That's just a matter of paying for things like clothes and books."
"Ah, I see," Giles said softly. "We do still have enough money coming in, Xander. We could make it without you working there."
"Not comfortably enough. Not with all the extra stuff we have going on. And not if Miri continues to go through toys like she has been."
"Love, we indulge our children shamelessly. There's no need for you to worry about the money situation. We can make it with just me working. Oz's financial aid will start again next semester and you'll find a job before then." He leaned down to give his young lover a kiss on the head. "I wouldn't worry about the money were I you. We're doing fine and I'm managing that part."
"Okay," Xander sighed. "I'll let one of you go get my stuff from the club. I'll even let one of you tell my manager why I'm not coming back." He squinted up at Giles. "Do you really think they're right and I'm going to need glasses for a while?"
"We'll have to wait until you can see again to find out," Oz told him. "Any more definition to your shadows?"
"Not much. I can tell basic forms and that's about it," he admitted. "I'm telling most people by size. You're a smaller lump of shadow than Giles is and he's a bigger one than Sileya was when she was in here earlier." He grinned up at Giles. "I can almost tell outlines of things like shirts though."
"That's very good," Giles praised. "It won't be long before you can see again." He smiled at Philip. "As you can see, it was a bad knock on the head."
"Yes, I can." The priest smiled at them. "Not that I like your former profession, but it would keep you in shape."
"Oh, yeah," Xander said, "there's nothing like being put under those lights to make you want to exercise. Matter of fact, I was going to start having to go to a gym to lift weights. Those pole tricks need to have muscle behind them and I can't do half of what the other dancers can."
"Doesn't matter now," Oz reminded him. "You could go work at a gym if you'd like."
"Not until his neck and his head are healed," Giles reminded him. "Until then he's housebound."
"But I can still do things," Xander protested. "Once I can see again." He braced himself and rolled over, holding onto his neck brace. "When do I get rid of this thing?"
"As soon as the doctor says so," Giles told him firmly. "You're not to take it off unnecessarily before then." He touched the back of Xander's head. "We want you to get better, not to see this injury drag on."
"It won't," Xander sighed, blinking at the bright spot on the wall. "Is there a light between the beds?"
Oz nodded. "Yeah, but it's off."
"Are we sure it's off? I'm seeing a big, bright spot against the wall."
"That could be the way you're laying," Giles said, helping Xander into a more comfortable position. "There, how's that?"
"Better," Xander sighed, closing his eyes. "No more bright spot."
"That's because you're not being choked by the collar anymore," Philip told him. "Nick and I have both had to have one of those at times." He grinned at Oz. "Him more'n me of course."
"Of course. Nick seems like the guy who jumps in front of the train to stop it by holding up his hand."
Philip snickered. "Exactly."
"Him and Xander both," Giles said dryly. "I guess that would explain why he keeps getting hurt." He looked at the nurse as she walked in. "Do I need to move?"
"Nope, I just wanted to check a note on his chart. What's wrong with his shoulder?"
"It's a graze," Oz told her. "He was trying to stop hunters on our land and one of them shot at him before he was taken out."
"All right. What was noted here was a deep gouge. Want me to check it?"
"Just be careful, he's had this habit of starting to bleed for no reason recently," Giles said as he got out of her way. "Xander, the nurse is going to look at your shoulder."
"Not asleep," he told him, wiggling his shoulder. "Just don't make it start bleeding again please. It hurts when it does that."
"I'll try," she said, lifting the bandage. She blinked at it then looked at Giles. "What's the green stuff? Should I be worried?"
"That's the stuff Blair gave me to put on it, it turns green when it's time to take it off and put on some more. He said it's like ambesol."
"All right then. Do you have it with you?" Giles nodded. "May I see it please?" The tin was pulled out of Xander's bag and handed over, so she smelled it. "Herbal?"
"Completely. He's way into herbal things, but they work great. He said it's an antiseptic and an anesthetic," Oz said.
"Yup, it cleans it while it makes it numb," Xander added. "Feels really good after the first few minutes."
She smiled and handed it back. "Is there a particular way to remove it? Do you rub or what?"
"I just usually blot and wipe," Xander told her. "It starts bleeding at odd times, not when I'm doing that. It'll suddenly start bleeding for some reason." He shrugged as far as he could move. "Are you going to have to yell?"
"No, dear, but if I'm going to be changing that dressing tonight I need to know how to do so." She smiled at Giles. "My sister works with herbals all the time. She's studying that area to open a shop." She looked down at the stuff again, then handed it back. "Let me go get gloves and some gauze to clean that with. I'll be right back." She left and came back a few minutes later, bending over his shoulder. "All right, I'm not sure what this is going to feel like but tell me if I'm pressing too hard." She started to wipe the goop off, biting her lip as she worked each time Xander flinched. "There we are," she said, putting a clean pad over it to soak up any residue. "All clean." She unwrapped a dressing, lying it on the bed beside him so she could spread more of the gel on his wound. Then she had to catch the dressing as it started to float. "HEY!"
Philip took out his bible and started to chant, watching the dressing as it floated toward Oz's body, catching it as it fell. He continued to chant, able to almost see the ghost now, watching the spot of what looked like frost appearing next to the ceiling. "Who are you and what do ya want?" he asked it. "I'm here ta free ya." The ghost dived for him but he didn't move, letting it flow through him. "Ah." He looked over at the nurse, frowning. "She said she wanted to be classified right, they all did." Then he sat down on the floor, trying hard to stay awake. "Nick's gonna kill me," he moaned.
Oz sat up, looking down at him. "Promised him to stay out of trouble?" Philip gave him a weak smile. "These things happen around here."
"That's why he made me promise," Philip said, standing up with a little help from Giles. "Thank ya." He looked up at where the ghost was. "We need to find the records and classify them correctly."
"We have them down in storage," the nurse said, finishing the taping down of the bandage. "There, all done, Mr. Harris." She looked at Father Philip. "The administration back then ordered those files pulled and put into storage as soon as the strange things on this ward started, even though they didn't want to admit that strange things were happening."
"All she wants is to be classified correctly."
"So a resident doing a case history of the ward would be able to fix all this?" she asked, smiling. "Why didn't anyone ever think of that?"
"It's a practical solution in an age where they seem to be out of favor. Of course, that may solve most but not all. If the spirit has a different opinion about what was wrong with them, then they'd probably stay for a while longer."
The nurse snorted. "Okay. I'll go see what I can't do to sweettalk a resident into doing something like that." She waved. "Father, do you need a chair?"
"No, thank ya though. I'm fine." He sat on the end of Oz's bed, looking up. "Will that do for now? Will ya stop the terrorist acts?" The ghost bowed to him and left. "Well, tha's convenient." He looked at Giles, giving him an innocent look. "This why ya called on me?"
"To fix the problem. We've got a few of our own," he said, giving the same look back. "I've been handed the next girl to be called for training." He looked at the two men in the beds, who were both staring at him. "Plus I have these two."
"And we were hoping to hook you up with Angel and his crew," Xander added with a naughty grin. "He could use the help some days."
"Especially with Cordelia expecting in a few months and then having a newborn. She won't be able to get much done for a while," Oz pointed out.
Philip shook his head and smiled at them all. "I'll talk to the ...man." Giles nodded. "I have nothin' against their kind but I'm not sure what help I can be. The Church is already on me about what I've been doing."
"We'll support you," Xander said softly, holding out a hand. "We support all our friends. And if you and Nick need to disappear for a while, we have twenty acres for you to put a tent up on."
"Thank ya, Xander," Philip said, giving the hand a squeeze and giving the tired body a hug. "I'll remember that for when I need it." He let go of his friend and nodded at all them. "I'll be goin' home again, before Nick decides to cook for everyone." He rolled his eyes. "He tells SEAL stories while he does it now." He waved and walked out, leaving them alone.
"Think he'll have to switch versions of religion?" Oz asked after a few minutes.
"Yes, I do," Giles sighed, going back to his sitting behind Xander. "The Catholic Church has been very strict recently on what they consider appropriate behavior. I've known a few priests who have left because they couldn't stand the ideals they were handing down anymore." He looked down, rubbing down Xander's back to try and relax him. "Rest, love, or you can't go home."
"Just thinkin'," Xander said softly. "I'm going to nap now." He closed his eyes, relaxing all of his body.
Giles and Oz shared a look, Oz nodding at the pain he saw there. "We'll be fine," Oz reminded him. "We always are."
"I can only hope so," Giles said softly, lying down to cradle Xander in his arms.