Summary: Someone has been fiddling around inside the Sigerson family crypt. The Scoobies are on the case.
Word Count: 1900
Notes: Thanks to hobgoblinn, who gave me a quick sanity-check.
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership and am making no money.
Prompts: anonymous_sibyl for tenyearsofbuffy: Old-school Scooby Gang (including or at least mentioning Buffy, Xander, Willow, Cordelia, Oz, Giles); the library, tea, dust, a demon.
blueanddollsome: Giles/Jenny UST, Shiva statuette
singer_d: Giles introduces Buffy or all the Scoobies to the original Sherlock Holmes stories
The electric kettle in his office sounded. Giles slotted the last of the returns onto the book cart and stepped into his office to switch it off. He poured water into his third-best tea pot, the one he deemed suitable for office use. It was sixth period; Buffy and her friends were all safely in their history class taking a test. Perfect time for a spot of tea, a digestive or two, and a quiet read. Just a quarter-hour, and then he'd do his shelving. He settled himself at the study table, where he was in position to handle any unlikely student onslaughts, and thumbed open the library's copy of The West End Horror. He'd left off just where Watson had been introduced to Shaw, and he was interested in what Meyer would do with the character.
He disappeared into the novel. He heard a few bells ring, dimly, with the very back end of his attention, but no one came in. Giles continued to turn pages.
Finally a burst of noise and teenaged motion jarred him out of his daze. Willow, Xander, and Cordelia. It must be the end of the school day. They invaded his space, swarmed around him, ate his biscuits, and snatched his book right from his hands. Giles smiled at them fondly.
Willow leaned over his shoulder and rescued the book from Xander. "Whatcha reading? Holmes? I've never heard of this one. Nicholas Meyer? Not Conan Doyle?"
"It's a pastiche."
"One of those candy things?" Xander thumped his backpack onto the desk. Giles suppressed a twitch.
"No, a pastiche. Homage. Something written in the style of Doyle, with his characters, in tribute."
Willow sighed and handed him his book. "I haven't read the Holmes stories since I was in elementary school. Do we have them, Giles?"
"Yes, of course. Let me get you a complete edition." Giles moved back into the stacks. Fiction, filed alphabetically by author's last name. What had his demented predecessor done with Doyle? Under C, of all the damned things. There were about twenty battered paperbacks, Penguin edition, of Hound, a few copies of the Adventures, and a big brown complete Holmes. Giles eased it out from the shelf.
He returned to the study table and the familiar sound of argument. Willow sounded aggravated.
"Don't you remember, Xan? We had to read The Red-Headed League freshman year for Ms Hartling's class."
"I do not recall this, Will. I do not recall reading anything for that class."
Cordelia rolled her eyes. "Probably because you didn't read anything that entire year. Though no one can really blame you. You never learned how."
Xander's turn for expressive eye movement. "Lame, Cordy, lame."
"Whatever. At least I remember the story."
"Did it involve football players? 'Cause that's the only thing capable of capturing what you so grandiosely describe as your 'attention'."
"No. It was about a moron who had to start a fire and couldn't. Reminded me of you. He died at the end."
"That's enough, you two." Giles glared, and they subsided. Giles noticed that they took chairs facing each other at the far end of the study table. He smiled to himself. He'd seen that pattern many times before. Bickering as courtship ritual.
"Hey, Giles, read us one of the stories?"
"Ooh, good idea, geek-girl. He's got a good voice for those books on tape things. And I need a nap."
Giles spoke up before Xander could tangle further with Cordelia. "I suppose I could. Which one would you like?"
The library doors creaked open enough to let in the hallway noise. Giles turned and saw Jenny peering in, cautiously. The book slipped from his hands onto the table. He fumbled in his pockets for a handkerchief, but for once could not find one.
Jenny seemed to make up her mind. She strode into the room and arrowed over to table. "Oh, hey, Willow. It's about tomorrow's class. Do you know Daniel Osbourne? No? He's got the passwords you'll need for the database. I told him you'd be in my classroom third period to get set up."
Giles eased over to her as she spoke, close enough to observe that she was wearing her usual perfume, a dark and musky thing that always made him dizzy. She still hadn't looked at him directly.
"No problem." Willow was burbling and nervous, watching both of them anxiously.
"Er, hello, Jenny."
"Oh, Rupert, hi. Sorry, have to run."
Jenny turned and left without saying anything further to him. Giles watched the doors swing to behind her, and shoved his hands into his pockets. She hadn't forgiven him yet. Patience, Rupert. Give her time.
"To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman," Willow whispered to Xander.
Giles glared briefly. "I heard that."
Willow giggled, then sobered herself. "Not A Scandal in Bohemia, then. How about the Red-Headed League? Since these guys were supposed to have read it."
The library doors banged again. From the impact volume, it was either the entire football team or his Slayer. Giles turned and smiled. It was his high-velocity Slayer, carrying something small. She skidded to a stop in front of him and pressed whatever it was into his hands. Giles examined it. A metal measuring tape?
"I found that in the Sigerson crypt last night. I noticed that the door was open and I've never seen it open before."
"No?" Giles said, abstractedly, as he pulled the tape out. He noticed it had bent slightly at the ten-foot mark, and someone had drawn a line in red marker at the fourteen-foot mark.
Buffy sat on the edge of the table and swung her legs. "Went inside and oh my God, Giles, the dust! Thought I was going to sneeze the back of my head off. I used all the kleenex I had in my bag. Found that sitting on top of the sarcoffee-whatsit."
Giles retracted the tape and made an encouraging noise.
"What kind of demon leaves measuring tape lying around? Should I be looking for something with horns carrying a saw and a level?"
Cordelia looked up from her compact. "Oh, I know! A demon wearing those cute carpenter pants things, only with hooves."
Giles ignored her. "The most likely explanation is not a demon at all, Buffy."
"What else is it going to be? Humans don't wander around that cemetery much."
Giles set the tape down. "Vampires rarely use tools such as this. What sort of footprints were in the dust?"
"Footprints? I didn't look. Too busy sneezing."
"It's probably a human, Buffy. A vandal. Teenagers looking to use the space for, er, dalliance. More likely to need your protection than a Slaying."
"Oh." Buffy sounded almost disappointed. She'd been complaining about a lack of variety on patrols recently. As complaints went, Giles was happy to hear this one from her. She needed a bit of a rest, in his view.
"So, what's up, guys?" she said.
"Giles was just about to do story circle," Xander said. "We were trying to pick a story for him to read. Sherlock Holmes, 'cause Willow's having a thing."
"The Red-Headed League, I thought, since we were discussing it. All right?"
"Sounds like more fun than my French homework." Buffy shrugged, and slipped down from the table to the chair next to Giles.
He waited for them all to settle, then began. I had called upon my friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, one day in the autumn of last year and found him in deep conversation with a very stout, florid-faced, elderly gentleman with fiery red hair...
He had just reached the explanation of Holmes' deductions about Jabez Wilson when the library doors banged open yet again. Giles was beginning to fret for his door stoppers.
"What a charming scene."
That insufferable weasel Snyder stood in the doorway. A nervous student hovered behind him: young, freshman age at most, weedy and short, with a baseball cap reversed over his too-shaggy hair.
"This is Bruno Wilkins. He's the mayor's nephew. He needs a book." Snyder's voice dripped. "I think that would be your job. Not reading aloud to your usual crowd of illiterate hangers-on."
He turned and vanished, leaving the young man shuffling and shifting his grip on his tattered bookbag. His eyes were fixed on the study table, where Giles had left his teacup and the measuring tape.
"Hey, Bruno," said Willow. "We still on for trig tomorrow afternoon?"
"Hey, yeah. Um."
"Right then," Giles said. "What are you looking for?"
"Oh, um, just some stuff on astronomy. I don't really need any help. I can use the card catalog. Is it okay if I check stuff out? I'm still in junior high, but that library doesn't have anything."
"Bruno's okay, Giles," Willow told him. "I've been tutoring him in math for ages. He's way ahead of his class."
Bruno turned red and shuffled in place. Giles supposed Snyder would make his life miserable if he didn't cooperate.
"Help yourself, Mr Wilkins," he said. "Card catalog there. Stacks up the stairs, and there's a diagram of the layout on the wall here."
Bruno nodded and took himself over to the catalog. He extracted a bitten pencil from his pocket, and a pack of index cards held together by a red rubber band. The boy looked as though he knew what to do in a library.
"I'll be right here if you need help finding anything," Giles said. He went back to the study table. "Where were we?"
He read steadily through to the end, miraculously without interruptions. Midway through Xander set a soda can at his elbow. Giles drank and continued. He hadn't read aloud like this in years. It was surprisingly enjoyable. They were all paying attention, all hooked by the tale of deduction and the struggle at the end. Cordelia looked as if she were asleep, but Giles saw her jump when the writhing hand appeared through the gap in the tiles.
"I refused to read that?" said Xander, afterwards. "I must not have known what it was."
"Reading is fundamental," said Cordelia. They both drew breath for another round, but were forestalled by the sound of a throat clearing.
"Mr Giles? I'd like to check these out."
Bruno stood at the end of the table, looking nervous. He had two thick books on astronomy in his hands. Giles checked them out on Snyder's library card number. He'd cheerfully assess the weasel the fines if the boy didn't return his books. Bruno shoved them into his ripped backpack, along with a spiral notebook with grayed and frayed corners.
"Due in two weeks. Keep them in good condition, please," he said. Bruno nodded and shambled out. Buffy's friends soon followed him, pleading homework and the need to be home before dinner. Buffy remained; they had a date with endurance training. She ran off to the girl's locker room to change while he cleared away his tea things.
"Hey, Giles, what did you do with that measuring tape?"
"Hmm? Nothing. Still on the table."
"No, it's not. Wonder if Xander nabbed it. Eh. Hey, get out the boombox. I just bought a new mix!" Buffy held up a CD with the words "Total Trance" blazoned across the cover. Giles sighed, and prepared to suffer.