Oz walked down off the stage, going over to their table. "Hey, want to go to a party or go talk?" He sat down beside Willow, letting her rest against his side.
"Giles wants me home to talk," Xander said. "You guys go cuddle up together and talk." He stood up, smiling at them. "Nice night, thanks guys." He turned around, walking through the crowd. It was outside that he was jumped.
"Little Xander Harris, head case," Buffy said, walking over to him. "They let you out of your protector's grasp for a night?" She stood in front of him. "What? No remarks, no snidely-type stuff?" He shrugged, turning to walk away from her. "Don't you dare," she said, grabbing his arm and turning him around. "I can't go in and sit with my friends because you decided to get emotional one night. How fair is that?"
"Are you drunk?" he asked in conversational tones. "And for your information, no it wasn't just your crap that night, it was a bunch of other things. You were just the last straw." He shook his arm free. "Will and Oz are inside, go talk to them." He turned around again but she grabbed him. "Let go," he said, deathly calm.
"Or what? You're gonna shoot me?" She snorted. "I don't think so." She stepped back from him, holding out her arms. "Come on."
"I'm not going to even talk to you," he said, moving closer to her. "Go home, you're drunk." He turned around, walking away this time without interference.
"Oh, poor baby, should we feel sorry for you because you're psycho?" she called after him. She just laughed when he flipped her off. She turned to the person next to her. "He was suicidal one night because I said something to him." She turned and walked away, her job for the night done.
Xander looked around as he crossed the street. He made it across safely, then heard the shout from a passing car.
"Didn't they give you enough drugs, Harris?" The car stopped in front of him, letting the basketball player out. "Or did they let you out to go roam tonight and finish what you didn't do the other night."
He blanched but kept walking. "I'm not answering that," he said, passing by him. When his arm was grabbed he turned to face the other teen. "You wanted to say something else that was more stupid?"
"No, just wondering why you didn't do it." He looked at the wrist he held. "What, no knife?" He grinned. "Pills, right?"
"No, stupid," he said, moving closer. "Gun, top of a cliff. Go try it." He took his arms back. "Now let me go so I can go do something productive, like count paint chips on a ceiling." He backed away then walked toward his home for the time being.
"Ooh, big bad guy. Must have..." His words were cut off with a scream.
By the time Xander turned back around, they were all dead, bitten. He walked closer, then turned, heading quickly down the street to a payphone. "Hi," he told the operator. "I'm on Main and there's a few bodies laying on it. I think they're dead." He hung up, turning around to watch the cops come. When one showed up that he knew, he walked back over. "I called it in," he said. "I was walking past when they pulled in. One minute they were yelling then not." He pulled her aside. "They were yelling at me, but I kept going."
"Why?" she asked.
"A personal problem I'd been having recently." She nodded. "They yelled, stopped me for a second, then I kept going. I didn't hear or see a thing. Just one minute, they were yelling and the next they weren't."
She nodded. "It happens like that around here. You still staying where you were the other day?" He nodded. "Okay, if we need you, we'll come get you." She let him go, watching him walk away, then turned back to the officers. "What was it?" she asked.
Xander sighed in relief as he made it onto his street, looking around at the familiar houses. He made it all the way to the door of the apartment before being stopped. He heard some quiet scuffling so turned to see Angel standing there. "Deadboy," he said, putting his hands into his pocket, touching the stake. "What's up?"
"Oh, nothing much." He walked a little closer, pulling aside his shirt to show a deformed piece of metal on a chain. "Wasn't very nice, Harris."
"Yeah, but I wasn't sane then. You were in my way." He sighed, slumping. "I never said thank you for saving me."
"She woulda killed me if I didn't." Xander snorted. "Think what you like, but I did it to not get in trouble with Buffy." He stepped back. "Who, by the way, told some people at the Bronze that she was the cause of you going over the edge."
"Dear lord," Giles said, opening the door. "Please tell me I misheard you." Angel shook his head. "Then I'll have to talk with her again."
"Don't bother," Xander said. "She smelled drunk and it's already gotten around. When I was coming home, I was stopped by some jocks, all of which ended up bitten. Did you have something to do with that?" he asked the vampire.
"Not me," the vampire said, holding up a hand. "I'm going to disappear now before I get credited with more good deeds." He walked back into the shadows, blending in and becoming invisible it seemed. "But the other Slayer did. It was her crew," was called back from the shadows. "We both know why, Harris."
Giles laid a hand on the younger man's shoulder. "I'm calling her mother, this is not something I can deal with. Come inside and we'll talk in a minute."
Xander nodded, walking in. "I'm sorry. About what I said and stuff. I talked with Oz and he said it was normal to act that way but it was a good sign that I noticed it." He sat down on the couch, pulling his jacket tighter around him. "This has just been a killer day. Will and I talked, with some help translating from Oz, then I ran into Buffy, who asked if I was going to shoot her now, then that incident." He turned his head to look at Giles. "What's up? You're awfully quiet."
"I was just thinking about the first thing you said. It does seem natural to want to protect you now. I freely admit to doing that, but I'm not going to stop. You need some care taken with you at the moment. I'm sorry if it bothers you but I'm not going to stop."
"Okay," he said. "Just don't make me the kid here. I can do things like clean up after myself and stuff. Deal?"
"Very much so." They shook hands. "Would you like to stay and hear what I tell Joyce?"
"I might. I also might have to say something. Buffy smelled like my father on payday." He wiggled out of his jacket. "So, how was your date?"
"Most boring actually." He walked into the kitchen to get the phone. "Joyce," he said, "Rupert Giles. Yes, we do have a problem, I'm afraid, and it's not one that I feel comfortable dealing with. Do sit down for a minute. Yes? Oh, good, well, Buffy was found to be drunk earlier by Xander I'm sorry to report." Long pause. "Oh did she say that?" His scowl told the whole story to the younger man. "Well did she tell you that she told all the people at the Bronze that he had? No, well, no there's a bit more to the story. No, in truth it was partially her fault as it was her selfish comments that was the breaking point for him. She yelled at him for saving her I'm afraid. I've tried to talk to her but she's been most horrid lately." Pause. "Yes, that might be the cause, but I'm not sure what to do about it. You being her mother and all, I'd say you'd have a better handle on the situation." He walked around the corner, smiling at the younger man. "Yes, I think we would both appreciate it if you talked with her. No, he's here. Oz brought him here when he found him and he's been here since." Short pause. "No, I think that if they get into the same room for a while she's going to end up very injured. He's quite upset at the moment over this last stunt of hers and it's not gotten any better since that night." Short pause. "No, since that night, she's been most harmful to him."
Xander got up, taking the phone from him. "Mrs. Summers? It's Xander, yeah, hi, no I'm fine now." He got ready to launch into his complaint. "She's done everything in her power to make me hurt more since that night. She's said things and acted in a way that's been harmful every time I've seen her. I actually had to ask someone to run interference the other day so I wouldn't have to deal with her." Long pause, complete with Joyce going into parental overdrive. "No, my beating her might be a nice alternative, but tonight, she held out her arms asking if I was going to shoot her too." Short pause. "No, I had a gun that night also. One of the vampires we deal with sometimes got in my way and I shot him. Actually, he stopped me from harming myself when Oz couldn't. Yeah, him." He shook his head, rubbing his forehead. "Could you at least talk to her, get her to leave me alone? I'm not asking for you to take sides, just to get her to stop taunting me might be nice." He nodded and hung up. "Thanks, Giles. It means a lot to me that you'd take up for me here. I know you're supposed to be on her side only."
"No, I'm supposed to be on the side of right." He pulled him closer, hugging the younger man. "We'll get through the next few days. If it gets too bad, just come to the library and hide." He stepped back, letting him go. "Now, go bathe and relax. We'll deal with this together."
Xander didn't move. "Her mother said she's been running around with Faith again." He saw the frown. "That's what she said about the drinking stuff, that Faith gave it to her." He looked down. "How do we fix this?"
"We deal with it as a group," Giles said again. "Never fear that we're here for you."
"Yeah, I know. Will and I even talked about her mothering habit and she didn't get all weepy about it." He turned around, walking up the stairs. "Maybe this was meant to be, it's helped me straighten a lot of things out."
"I think the Fates could have chosen a gentler way if it was meant to happen." He frowned. "Don't say that again. It shouldn't have happened at all."
"I know, I should have talked about it, yelled sooner, something like that."
"We should have noticed it also."
"I didn't give a clue," he said, sitting on the stairs. "How were you supposed to know? Oz mentioned a few clues from that night when we talked the first time but he didn't see them then and nobody else had known that I was even upset over more than the smoochie thing. So, how were you supposed to know?" He got up, walking up the stairs and closing the bathroom door.
"And again, you amaze me. How do you know about these things?" He sat down on the couch, looking around the room. "I'll work though my guilt over not knowing and you'll work over yours for it happening, how's that?" he asked the room at large. He smiled at the music coming on. Xander could be an odd child at times. He got up to get himself some tea and think some more.
Xander sank down in the scented water, playing with the bubbles. He picked up a few, blowing them across the tub. "Yay, fun," he said, relaxing. "Fun is good, it keeps me sane." He looked around the room, seeing something he didn't know Giles even *knew* was. He got out to pad across the floor, looking at the magazine and condom. "Hmm, much neater way to do it," he said, going back to his tub. "Didn't know that you did that at his age."
"Did you say something?" Giles asked, looking around the door. He saw the wet footprints, and the blush, looking at where they led. "Yes, that's mine. You may look at it but please don't get it wet." He closed the door behind him and Xander broke out in giggles, making him come back in. "What's so funny?" he asked very warily.
"I didn't know that guys your age even thought about that." He was still grinning. "Not you're old or anything."
"Yes, well that's another natural thing that lasts until the day you die." He raised an eyebrow. "Don't tell me that you don't deal with that urge." He saw the frantic nodding and the darker blush. "I'll leave you alone now," he said, moving back to the door.
"No, stay." Xander sat up some more, looking around the room. "That's just something I never expected you to do. You're kinda uptight about some stuff and I figured that'd be one of them."
He laughed a little. "Just because I'm British doesn't mean I'm that uptight." He sat down on the floor, not facing the boy to give him some privacy. "As far as I know, most people around the world feel that urge, it's just that some cultures restrict it for whatever reason."
"That's more common than not but there are some that consider it evil to have urges for sex at all, that it should just be procreative." Giles sipped his tea. "Never understood that."
"I don't think I ever will." Xander picked up a few bubbles, laying them on the top of his head, then on Giles'. "There, now we have party guy hats." He heard the snicker so shoved some down his back. "Ha, now you have even more."
Giles turned to look at him, then realized that there was some bubbles on his head. He rolled his eyes. "You can be such a child some days then at times you're this wise man who says things like you did downstairs. How did that happen?"
"Willow's a good mommy, even if she is a little overzealous some days." He laughed a little. "She didn't even know that she did it."
"I've noticed and I know that Oz has. I think it was the first thing he had to accept about you two. You protected her and she took care of you."
"That too," he said. "We're friends on top of that." He played with some more bubbles. "Why do you have Sesame Street bubbles anyway?" He grinned, poking his friend's head. "Huh? Are you a little kid some days too?"
"Yes, I freely admit to it. That and it was cheaper, but my upbringing was rather strict."
"So *that's* why Ripper's so like he is."
"Quite," Giles said dryly. "He was a reaction to my life then." He turned to look at the younger man again. "How are you doing?"
"I'm fine. I'm feeling a lot better about most things. I've actually cleared most of it up now. Just the stuff with ... the it, and some family stuff and a few other mind-type things." He poked the Watcher again. "Hey, you burst my happy mood."
"You've always had a happy mood, even if it was just to show off." He raised a brow. "You do that a lot. Showing yourself as happy when you're not."
"When I was little, I heard this comedian on tv. He was talking about how he used funny stuff to make it through his life. I just copped the technique to stay mostly sane." He shrugged, playing some more with the bubbles.
"You are sane. That was just a momentary aberration from your usual life." He turned around fully, getting a stiff neck. "You're not insane, nor are you anywhere near the mark of it. You live here, you have a decent life most of the time, and you've managed to keep your innocence and playful personality through all you've been through. You're not insane, you're very special." Giles took the bubbles off his head, putting them on the younger man's nose, making him smile. "See? No insane person would have found that funny." He finished his tea, putting the cup aside. "Would you like to talk about some of the rest of it?" Xander shook his head furiously. "Are you sure? I might understand part of it."
"There's something in the back of my head that's part of the reason why my paternal creation unit acted the way he did, or why I listened to him maybe." He flushed in his embarrassment of the subject. Giles wasn't someone he usually talked about sex with, but he knew he caught the hint with the next carefully chosen words.
"I know," Giles said. "I've noticed you reacting unconsciously sometimes. It may be that or it may be a lack of fulfillment from your relationships. Either way, it's nothing to be ashamed of. Many people are that way or even both." He got comfortable on the floor. "How did you know?"
"I was watching a movie and noticed that I wasn't watching her 'cause she was ugly." He shuddered. "Really ugly."
"Then it may not be your a true self. It may just be a partial interest."
"Are you trying to talk me out of thinking that?" He looked over, seeing the blush.
"Not really, I'm more trying to clarify your thinking for you. Even if you have those thoughts, it doesn't make you gay." He stood up. "I'll be in the bedroom if you want to talk some more."
The older man stopped, turning around. "Why did you want to know?" He saw the shrug. "Not technically, no. I'm both but I feel I'm more oriented toward women." He sat back down. "How did you know?"
"I saw the way you looked at Ethan and one of the other teachers. I didn't pay much attention to it, I figured it was your... business and I wasn't going to call attention to it." He looked up. "I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."
"Did you mean business when you said it?" Giles saw the confusion at his abrupt question. "You paused, did you mean what you said?"
"I wanted to not use the word I'd been taught so I didn't say it." He looked back down. "My father used to say that I had that problem."
"And he might have been right, but it's not a problem, any more than being blonde is." He smiled a little. "It might even be about the same thing, some sort of recessive gene." He took the hand lying on the side of the tub. "It's not a problem and I'm not ashamed of it. No more than you should be. Yes, he might have said those things because he was afraid that you might be gay, but it was still wrong. Never think otherwise or you devalue a whole part of the population and you become no better than him." He saw the nod so stood back up, letting the hand go, and turning to leave.
"Giles?" Xander said. He turned back around to look at him. "Your cup," he said.
"Thank you." He bent over to pick it up and then closed the door behind him.
Xander ran some more water, thinking about what he'd been told.
Oz walked into the library, slamming the door open. "Where is she?" he asked the Librarian.
Giles pointed at the stacks. "At least the one that's supposed to concern you is. The other one is at home today with her mother, who was most upset to hear what her daughter had done." He looked up. "And how are you today?"
The younger man leaned on the desk. "I'm not doing so well. One of the guys in my band stopped me to ask me if I was helping Xander because of his problem. Then he told me he heard it from that blonde chick that I hang with sometimes." He slapped the counter. "Does he know?"
"Yeah," Xander said, walking out of the cage. "He knows. He was stopped by those jocks last night and taunted like he was in second grade then he turned around and they got really quiet and dead." He looked up, setting the book on the table. "This one?"
"Please. See if you can't find something in there about fire and demons, some sort of proportion for destruction possibly." He looked at Oz again. "She's being dealt with. We just have to stay the course for this last three weeks." He looked back down at his book. "Go see Willow, she was most upset this morning when she was accosted by someone. Whoever it was said some most unkind things to her." He turned a page. "How much heat to you need to incinerate a demon," he muttered.
Oz looked at Xander as he passed the table, seeing he was being calm, so headed up into the stacks to where he could hear Willow crying. "Hey," he said, pulling her into his arms. "You're okay. They'll never do it again. I'll hurt them if they even try to speak to you." She shook her head. "No?"
"Not them." She stepped back, wiping her eyes. "Buffy called me this morning, waking me up," she whispered. "She told me I did a sucky job with Xander and that it was my fault. Her words just set him off but it was my fault that he'd been that way." She sniffled some more, moving back into his arms. "Then the guy this morning wanted to know if he was better now because everyone knew."
"It's not your fault," Oz said. "It's his. Not your problem that he couldn't let it out and it built up." He hugged her tightly. "Come on, we need a skip day." She shook her head. "No?"
"I have three tests today, I can't." She looked up at him. "I'm going to be in here the rest of the day probably so I'll be okay."
"No," Oz said. "I want us to go act normally. We can't let them do this to us otherwise it'll just keep going." She started to say something but he quieted her with a kiss. "We owe him that much. Our going and acting normal is something that'll help it stop and we'll just have to not discuss it." He nodded, prompting her too. "It's not disloyal. It'll help." She nodded again, slowly. "Okay, let's go to class then." He turned around, walking her back down the stairs. "We've got to go to class," he said. "We'll be back during lunch." Neither looked at Xander as they walked out.
Giles looked at him though, seeing the worried look. "They're going to go ignore it and make it go away," he said quietly. "Don't you have a test this afternoon?" He nodded, still looking at the door. "Then you should go also. The more normal you appear the better the outcome will be."
Xander stood up, walking over to hand over the book. "I guess," he said. "I can come back and hide, right?"
"If you can't tolerate it anymore, then yes, you may." He watched him go, taking a deep breath. "This is not going to be a good day." He looked at the other book, putting his down. "That's not very helpful," he muttered.
Xander walked through the halls, hearing people talking about him. He made it to his locker and turned to lean against it, taking a few deep breaths. He looked down when someone pulled on his pants leg. "Hi, Melody," he sighed. "How are we this morning?" She held up a painting, showing it to him. "That's very pretty." He looked it over. "Is it a tree?" She shook her head. "A person?" She nodded. "You?" She nodded again, smiling, handing it to him. "For me?" She nodded and skipped back to her classroom. "Thanks," he called after her. He turned to open his locker, taking down a poster and hanging the painting up instead. "Yeah, you're a good kid," he said, getting his stuff for class. He looked at it again as he closed his locker, making sure it'd be okay in there during the day. He turned to find the Swim Coach behind him. "Aren't you in the wrong part of the building?" He leaned against the cool metal, bracing himself.
"No, I do the PE classes down here." He looked him over. "I've just heard a nasty rumor about you. Do you want to talk?"
"Not really. It's true but I'm working through it and I'm getting okay again." He got a shoulder pat and the older man walked away. "See ya," he called, hurrying down the hall to the rest of the school. It was that first step out of the safety of the hall that was the hardest. He took a deep breath, walking out into his normal life. And thankfully, no one laughed.
Xander walked through the library doors at lunch, carrying some food in for Giles since he'd called down and asked for it. "Got your food," he called, setting it down on the large table. The older man came out the cage. "Any luck finding out how much we need?" He sat down, stealing his own lunch off the tray.
"Not really. All the mentions said a 'large amount' or an 'apocalyptic amount'. Neither of which is very helpful." He picked up his cup of soup, sipping it slowly. "How about you?"
"I haven't died of embarrassment yet and nobody's asked me to my face." He finished off his sandwich. "Melody gave me a pretty painting this morning." He got a small smile for that. "She looks like a blue tree in it." He stole a chip, getting his hand slapped. "Sorry, wanted the salty stuff."
Giles handed over the chips, shaking his head. "Then why didn't you get some?" He didn't look up from the present book.
"I'm doing the limited budget thing at the moment." The older man looked at him sharply. "Road trip? Summer? Sound familiar?"
"Oh, yes, that. I thought you were talking about something else."
"Nope, not me," he said quickly so it didn't look like he was trying to mooch more off the older man. He finished off the chips. "I got to go get my stuff for my test. I'll see you after school."
"Ah, that." Giles turned, looking at the younger man. "I expect you to be here today. Buffy will be also. I don't expect you to say anything to her but I do expect you to attend." The younger man nodded. "Thank you, Xander, I know it'll be hard but it's time you faced her down."
"No, hard was ignoring all the people talking about me." He stood up. "Need anything else before I go?"
"Not really. I'm very self-contained here." He glanced at the tray. "No soda?"
"Didn't have any that you liked." He tapped the milk carton. "Better for you. You need your heart strong to overcome my problems." He grinned, walking out.
"You might be right," he muttered. "A strong heart is a necessary thing at the moment." He picked up the milk, opening it.
Xander had just about shut his locker when Ms. Harmon came out of her classroom and headed over to him. "I'm not too loud, right?"
She shook her head, smiling slightly. "No, you've been fine. I just wanted to talk to you about Melody." She waited until his locker was closed. "We think she's becoming attached to you. And possibly more."
He shook his head. "I think she's very sweet but I'm graduating in a few weeks." He looked behind her, seeing the small form. "I don't know what to tell you. I mean, she's the first person younger than I am that I've ever really associated with."
Ms. Harmon nodded. "I know and that's what's going to make this so painful. She's a nice kid, much nicer since you came along actually, but if you continue to treat her like you do we think you're going to become her first crush."
He looked at the little form. "Melody, come here for a sec, 'kay?" She came over, and he got down on her level. "Do you like me?" She nodded, very happy smile showing. "As a friend?" She nodded again. "And that's all it is, right?" She nodded again, frowning at her teacher. "Okay, I just wanted to make sure because I'm not going to be in school anymore in a couple more weeks. I'll come back kinda often to read to you guys or something, help out somehow, but I can't come back next year. That's what your teacher was thinking you were counting on." She pouted slightly. "Hey, I like you too and I'll come back next year to help out somehow, okay?" She nodded. "Okay, I'll set it up with Ms. Harmon. Now go back to class." She nodded and hurried away and he stood back up. "I didn't think there was a problem."
She grimaced a little but her expression was mostly a smile. "You're good with them. Maybe you should consider working with developmentally challenged kids. You'd be great at it."
He blushed slightly. "I'm not even thinking about college right now. I'm taking a year off." He leaned against the locker. "I'd like to keep that promise though."
"Hey, anytime, just call." She tipped her head. "Bell, you'd best go to class." She turned around, walking away.
He turned and jogged down the hall, going to his test.
Giles looked up as Wesley walked through the door with Buffy. "So, you've returned." He set the book aside. "I've found a few things but the rest of the group will be here in a while."
"We came early so someone could say something." He nudged Buffy, who frowned at him. "Now, if you don't mind."
"I'm sorry for picking on Xander. He didn't deserve it," she said quietly.
"I believe I'm the wrong person to tell. He'll be here soon though. He had to run home for some dinner." He looked at Wesley. "Did you make her say it? I did before then she went and told the whole town."
"I was drunk!" she said.
"It doesn't matter," Wesley said, "and that was a bad thing in itself." He frowned at her. "Is he around?"
"He'll be here in about half an hour probably, as will Willow and Oz." He looked at his watch. "He may be sooner though. I'd forgotten this was the first night of his ordeal." He looked at the cage then went in to get a few things that they might need that night. "There," he said, to an empty room. "Well, I'm guessing that he's taken her somewhere." He put them on the table, then went to get the towels for the werewolf's modesty.
It was almost an hour later when he realized no one was coming. He picked up the phone, calling his house. No answer. He tried Willow's but there still wasn't an answer. He dialed Buffy's pager, hoping to get her or at least one of them. The call he got a moment later made him blanch and run out of the library.
He had to get to the hospital before something else happened. He could find Faith later and thank her and he wouldn't even ask why she was watching Xander so closely.