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Home Chapter Six

“Y’know, sometimes I think that’s the worst part about being a Slayer,” Buffy told Willow as they walked up to the school.  “I’m actually _expected_ to do all this research.  I don’t even get to study for my classes, but here I am on a day off from school, and where am I going?”  She pulled the school door open with a snort of disgust.

“Aw, what would you be doing, anyway?” Willow scoffed.  “Sleeping in?  Listening to music?  Pigging out on those cookies your mom made?  Shopping?  I’m beginning to see your point.”

“I thought you would.”

Their footsteps echoed through the halls that were mostly empty.  They could hear the sounds of several meetings going on in various classrooms, but without the din of students running to classes, lockers slamming, and the inevitable poor kid taking a spill in the hallway and sending his books flying, the school had that empty deserted feel.  Willow once said it was spooky, but Buffy didn’t think it was any more so than walking down an alley at night.  Come to think of it, considering everything she had seen happen in this school, Willow was probably right and the alley was probably safer after all.

They walked into the library.  Sarah was curled up in one of the oversized chairs, in a pose that would look uncomfortable on anyone else, but somehow was perfectly comfy on her.  There was a pile of books on the floor next to the chair, and one in her lap that seemed to be largely ignored as she and Giles were having an apparently fascinating discussion on the impact the invention of the plow had had on early Medieval society.

“Oh, God,” Buffy said, staring at them blankly.  “They even talk alike.”

“Yeah, bookese,” Willow agreed.

“What are you talking about?” Buffy shot back.  “You speak that language, too.”

“Yeah, but not fluently,” Willow defended.  “I’m not old enough to speak it fluently.  I haven’t been in school long enough.”

“I don’t want to think how many years that would take me,” Buffy said faintly.  She walked to the circulation desk and dropped her bookbag loudly on its surface.  “So,” she said loudly, breaking the hushed silence the library seemed to have eternally.  “Did we find anything, or have we been talking gardening all morning?”

Giles frowned at Buffy, but apparently decided to let the comment slide.  “Well, I’ve been in conferences all morning, but Sarah has been doing some reading.  We at least know what it is, but not much about what it does.”

Buffy waited expectantly, but Giles was already scanning the pages of the book he held.  “Go on,” he said absently, waving towards the rows of books.  “You came to help, didn’t you?”

“Giles?” she said softly and very patiently.  “What are we looking for?”

He looked up at her again and blinked.  A slow, rather sheepish smile crept across his face.  “Yes, I suppose that would rather help, wouldn’t it?”

“Just a little bit,” Buffy agreed, then rolled her eyes at Willow.

“Well,” Giles fell into lecturing mode... which actually, Buffy reflected, wasn’t much different from many of his other modes.  Somehow, that thought was a bit comforting.  “It appears it is an Orb of Gekkos.  It does sense magic and is attracted to it.  For example, if you or Sarah, here, tried to cast a spell with it, your spell wouldn’t work.  It would take someone like Willow or myself.”

“So what kind of things does it do?”  Buffy eyed the dark globe warily.  “It still just looks like a funky paperweight to me.”  She reached out to tough it, and Giles whisked it away rather protectively.  “I wasn’t going to do anything to it!” she protested.

“I’m sure you weren’t,” he said soothingly, but he slipped the Orb in his pocket anyway.  “But we still aren’t sure what it does do, and until then, perhaps no one without magical ability should touch it.”

“Like, it might do something icky to them?” Willow asked anxiously.

“That’s what we don’t know yet,” Giles said and shooed them towards the stacks.  “Are the others coming in today, too?”

“They have lives,” Buffy grumbled.

“Is that a yes or a no?” Giles asked patiently.

“Oz has practice this afternoon, but will be in tonight,” Willow supplied, already searching through the stacks.  “Xander and Cordy will be here in a couple of hours.  They’re going to bring munchies for us.”

“So we don’t pass out from fatigue and over-exertion,” Buffy murmured as she scanned down the index of a book on magical talismans.

“Wonderful,” Giles said dryly.  “I haven’t gotten the pizza sauce off the pages of the _Ytippilf Chronicles_ yet.”  He went back to his own pile of books.  Sarah asked him something they couldn’t hear, and he stopped to answer her, leaning back against the table behind him and tapping absently on the cover of the book he had been about to open.

Buffy and Willow looked at each other, looked at them talking in easy conversation, and looked at each other again.  Willow grabbed Buffy’s arm and pulled her in among the stacks.  “Do you think they came in together?” she whispered eagerly.  “You know, like this morning?”

“Like all night together-type thing?”  Buffy’s eyes were lit in glee.  “Wow.  I’m pretty good at this matchmaking stuff, aren’t I?”

They peered through a row of books.  “It would be good for Giles,” Willow whispered earnestly.  “He hasn’t seen anyone since Ms. Calender... well, you know.”

Buffy winced inwardly.  She really didn’t need to be reminded that Angel had killed the computer teacher.  “Yeah, but Giles has no life.  He doesn’t know how to date.”  She turned and slid down against the bookshelves until she was sitting on the floor.  Willow mimicked her.  Buffy opened the book on talismans again and stared blankly at the page in front of her.  Willow opened her own book, but watched Buffy over the top of the pages.

Buffy tapped her foot with impatience.  Then she began drumming her fingers on the edge of the book cover.  “This is driving me nuts,” she finally grumbled.  She put the book aside and peeked around the corner.  Giles had gone into his office, and she heard the familiar sounds of him putting water on for tea.  “I’ve gotta find out,” she said to Willow.  Willow squeaked and caught at her.  She missed, and Buffy sauntered away.  She sat on the table across from Sarah and looked at her.

Sarah looked up and closed her book, her finger marking the page.  They regarded each other for a moment.  “Well?” Buffy asked impatiently.

“Well, what?” Sarah raised her eyebrow and cocked her head slightly.

“Did you?”

“Did I what?”  Her expression was one of bemusement.

Buffy blew her breath out in frustration.  “Did you sleep with him?”

Sarah’s expression didn’t change.  “That’s none of your business,” she said lightly and went back to reading.

Buffy stayed seated on the table until she realized Sarah was going to keep on ignoring her.  She hopped off and stalked determinedly to Giles’ office.

The librarian glanced up as she came in.  “Ah, Buffy.  Would you like a cup of tea?”

She twitched her nose.  “No, I don’t think so.”

Giles stirred his cup and started to take a sip.  He saw her set face and asked, “What is it, Buffy?” just before he took a sip of the tea.

“Did you sleep with her?” she asked bluntly.

Giles spluttered into his tea, coughed once, then glared at her.  “Buffy, I hardly--”

“Did you?” she insisted.

He regarded her thoughtfully for a moment, then sat down, still watching her fume.  “Buffy,” he said, and she leaned forward eagerly.  “It’s none of your business,” he said softly, and with a slight smile.

Buffy growled in frustration and stormed out of the office.  She stomped over to Willow, who was still cowering behind bookshelves, and sat down.

“Well?”  Willow asked.  “What did you--”

“I don’t want to talk about it, Will.”  Buffy picked up her book and opened it purposefully.”

“They didn’t tell you, did they?”

“Just read, Willow.”

     *

Xander and Cordelia came in later.  Buffy stretched and rubbed at the back of her neck.  “What time is it, anyway?” she murmured to Willow.

Willow checked her watch.  “About three.”

They had retreated up to the second floor of the split-level library, and Buffy leaned over the railing.  “Hey, Xander!  Didja check the parking lot as you came in?”

Xander held up a portable boombox.  “Snyder-free,” he shot back.

Giles groaned.  “Honestly, can’t you people ever do anything in quiet?  Or at least listen to something that qualifies as real music?’

Buffy came downstairs.  “Giles, I don’t even want to consider what you think is real music.”

“CD player is in my backpack,” Sarah murmured to him.

“Thank you,” he said gratefully and retreated to the comparative quiet of his office.  Xander upended his backpack and poured out an immense pile of junk food.  “And here, just for my little frenetic researchers.”

“Xander, shut up,” Buffy suggested mildly, fishing out a snack-sized bag of chips from the pile.

“Oooh, are we not having a fun time?” Xander asked.  “It’s such a nice day out, too.  Sun shining, birds chirping.”

“And you’re one to notice nature?  Mister-I’d-like-to-but-I’m-too-busy-watching-reruns?

“I notice nature,” Xander said, wounded.  “I love nature.  The problem is that we live on the Hellmouth, and nature tends to try to kill me while I’m trying to enjoy it.”

“He’s got a point there.”  Cordelia stared at the growing pile of books in distaste.  “I’m still not sure how I ever got pulled into this.  We could be out socializing or something.”

“Where your friends will see us?” Xander asked.

“Give me a book.”  Cordelia picked out one at random, then snagged Xander and pulled him up the stairs.  They disappeared between a row of books.

“Oh, they’ll get a lot of work done,” Buffy observed and turned on the boombox.  Music blared.  The door to Giles’ office slammed shut.

The afternoon stretched into evening at about the same pace the pile of junk food dwindled.  As it grew later, they all started getting  a little punchy and the bantering and bickering began to fly thick.

“It would at least feel worthwhile if we found something,” Buffy grumbled to Willow, rubbing her eyes wearily.  “This Orb thingie must be the rarest thingie in the magical universe.”

“Not necessarily,” Willow said.  “Sometimes the most powerful stuff just isn’t mentioned much.  Y’know, in case too many people hear about it.  Then it becomes kinda dangerous for the person who has one, because everyone wants it.”  She shrugged with a small smile.

Buffy studied her.  “You really do like this stuff, don’t you?” she asked.  “It’s not just something you’re doing.  You like all this spell and magic stuff.”

“Well, yeah,” Willow said.  “I mean... I’m not good at the punches and kicks., but I think I can be really good at this.  It’s like science lab, but not.”

“That’s really descriptive.”

Willow shook her head.  “No, that’s really what I mean.  I just don’t know how to describe it better.”  She thought for a moment.  “I guess... well, there are a lot of scientists and computer techs, but there really aren’t too many witches in comparison.  It’s special.  Like science, but not.”  She looked at Buffy wistfully.  “Does that make any sense?”

Buffy nodded.  “Sure, I guess.  Well, actually, no.  But I do think it’s kinda neat.  And you’re so good at school and stuff, that of course you’re going to be good at this, too.”

“It doesn’t quite work that way,” she said, but looked pleased.  “But anyway, I’m not too good, according to Giles.”

Buffy waved a hand, dismissing the comment.  “Nah, that’s just Giles.  He doesn’t know how to compliment.  Just to make you work harder.”  A new song came over the radio, and she leaned over to turn it up.  “Hey, I like this one.”

“Oh, _One Week_.”  Willow grinned and nodded her head back and forth in time to the music.  Buffy began chanting the words softly.  Then Xander’s voice joined in, floating down from the second level, then they were all singing.  Xander appeared at the end of the row of books, pulling Cordelia into a dance.  She laughed, and he abandoned her long enough to run down the stairs and pull Buffy and Willow to their feet.  He spun Willow around, and she giggled, trying to keep singing, but her laughter kept breaking through.  She backed out of the way as Buffy danced through, and Xander ran lightly back up the stairs to whirl a protesting Cordelia around and back into his arms again.  Willow laughed and clapped, and stepped back again as Buffy flew by, and backed into Giles, who was watching the whole scene helplessly.  Buffy quickly turned down the music, and they all looked at him like children caught in the act of sneaking cookies from the cookie jar.

“How can you even call that music?” Giles asked, after having apparently sorted through several things to say and deciding that this was the safest.  “It’s loud, I don’t know how you can even understand the -- dare I call them -- lyrics.  Music should be something soothing, should have some... some dignity.  What was that anyway?”

“Barenaked Ladies,” Buffy supplied.

Giles started to say something.  Stopped.  Turned.  Walked back into his office.  Slammed the door shut.  Again.

Buffy sat on the tabled and glared at the pile of books that were left.  “You know, with our luck, we’ll go through every book, and it’ll be the last one we touch.”

They all exchanged looks.  Xander came down and picked up all of the pile except for the bottom-most book.  Buffy picked it up and turned to the index.  “Hey, Giles!” she shouted.  “I found it!”

Giles hurried out of his office, and everyone crowded around Buffy.  “Good job,” he said eagerly.  “What does it say?”

Buffy had turned to the page and was frowning helplessly at the book.  “It’s in some kind of funny language.”

Giles took the book from her, looked at the page where she was pointing, then gave her a tired look.  “Buffy, that Latin.”

“Yeah,” she said.  “A funny language.”

“My Latin’s really rusty,” Sarah said hesitantly.

“Oh, don’t worry,” Willow said happily.  “Giles is good at this type of thing.”

“Well, in that case,” Xander said, pointing at the clock, “it’s past dinner time, and the munchies are gone.  What say the rest of us go get food and bring it back, while Giles works on finding out whether this is something that will help us or kill us.”

“I’ll stay and help,” Sarah offered.

“Me, too,” Willow said eagerly.  “After all, I’m the only other person who can work it.  If we find out how to work it.”

Giles was already sitting down and frowning at the page.  “Yes, all right, do whatever...”

“Giles, the library is on fire,” Buffy said.

“Yes, that’s nice, Buffy,” he said absently.

Buffy rolled her eyes and grabbed Xander’s arm.  “Get me out of here,” she pleaded.  “I’ve been here ALL DAY!”

“Uh oh, she’s freaking out.”  Xander ushered her to the door.  “Sounds like something only a pizza can save.”

“Hungry,” Buffy agreed in a tiny pathetic voice as they left the library.

“I need a quick break, too,” Sarah said.  “I’ll be back in about ten minutes.”

“Yes, tea would be fine,” Giles murmured.

Sarah grinned at Willow, shaking her head.  She caught up her jacket and walked out to sit on the front steps.  She closed her eyes, resting her head in her hands.  The cold air felt good after the long hours of the warm library, and she rubbed her forehead, trying to smooth out the tension.

A van pulled into the parking lot a few minutes later, and she idly watched as it parked.  Oz climbed out and waved at her as he walked over.  “How’s it going?”

“We read, we found, Giles is translating, they’re making a food run,” she answered.

“That’s cool,” he said calmly.  “Willow inside?”

She nodded, and Oz went inside.  About five minutes later, he came back.  “Umm... hey, did you say they were in the library?  Because if you did, they aren’t.”

She opened her eyes and blinked at him.  “They were just there.  Both Willow and Giles.  Just about fifteen minutes ago.”

Oz shook his head.  “No, they aren’t.  Did they decide to go with the others?”

She stood up, beginning to be concerned.  “No, they were still there after Xander left.”  She walked into the building, but by the time she was halfway to the library, she was running, Oz matching her stride next to her.

The radio was still playing.  The computer was still humming, and the tea kettle was just beginning to whistle.  The book Giles had been translating from was still on the table, but his chair was knocked over, and the library was empty.

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