Giles was late. Rupert, the ineffectual idiot, had been roped into an after-school conference by Principal Flutie. The man had an impressive ability to sound conciliatory while grabbing on like a dog with a bone, but still, Rupert could have at least tried to get out of the meeting. It wasn't as if he had any interest in the bloody school mascot. Of course, Rupert couldn't know that Giles had arranged to meet Tucker at the mansion. Granted the building was locked, but Giles wouldn't put it past the lad to break a window. Giles didn't bloody well give a rat's arse about the school spirit, and yet here Giles was, stuck listening to Flutie ramble on about the school mascot.
"So I was thinking we could get a razroback."
"I'm sorry," Giles interrupted. "A what?"
Miss Calendar, who looked as happy to be there as Giles felt, graced the table with a sarcastic grin. "A feral pig. Razorback is an American colloquialism."
"That's the Sunnydale school mascot? A boar that was once domesticated and has since run wild? Surely that's backwards. I thought the point of school was to civilize the little monsters."
"A razorback is mean, ready for action." Flutie actually gave a mock growl.
"I stand corrected," Giles replied. "Mean and ready for action is definitely what we should be instilling into the students." Flutie gave him a doubtful look, but Giles had been serious. Anyone raised on a Hellmouth would need to be ready for action if they were to survive.
"You want to bring a feral pig into the school? Am I understanding you correctly?" Giles rather liked Ms. Miller. By going straight for the core of the matter, she reduced the amount of time he had to spend stuck in these faculty meetings.
"Well, no," Flutie admitted. "Not a real razorback, but a pig. A friendly pig that we'll sort of dress up as a razorback."
Gods. "And we're here because you want us to vote on it?"
Apparently not given how confused Flutie looked at t he suggestion. "No, of course not. The pig's already on order. It'll be here next week. I wanted you to be aware the pig, uh razorback that is, was coming so you could work it into your lessons, uh, maybe."
"Great! If the razorback weighs 400 lbs and it's accelerating at a quarter of a mile per hour, with what force will it hit Billy Mehta's car?"
Giles was only slightly concerned that the physics professor seemed to be taking Flutie seriously.
"Is that it?" Ms. Miller asked. "Work razorbacks into our curricula?"
"Well, no," Flutie said. "Herbert, that's the razorback's name, will be part of a push to engender school spirit which is the purpose of the meeting. I want the students to be more committed, to really be proud of Sunnydale High."
Giles closed his eyes and imagined the trouble Tucker could be getting into at the mansion. Oh, but Rupert would be paying for getting him stuck here. "The track team seems to be doing rather well," Miss Calendar offered. "I saw them practicing the other day. The coach is expecting a good year."
"Eh," Flutie said. "Nobody really enjoys sitting around and watching the track team. No offense Mr. DeRusso," he added as the track coach gave him an affronted look. "I'm sure they'll be thrilled to read about any wins in the school paper."
"I hear the cheerleaders have new uniforms, ones with shorter skirts. Surely that will get a rise … somewhere."
A few of the teachers glared at Giles but Miss Calendar stifled a snicker.
"Not exactly what I was going for," Flutie said.
"An essay contest." Ms. Miller's voice carried quite well. "Students can write an essay on their high-school experience. Top three essays get some sort of a prize and recognition at an assembly. Get the students thinking about the positive aspects of high-school."
Such as being eaten by vampires or deformed by a witch? Flutie seemed happy with the suggestion though, happy enough that he actually let them leave. Giles was the first out the door.
"So, you're going to expunge that whole meeting from your memory, aren't you?"
Giles stopped and turned. "I beg your pardon?" He found himself speaking to Miss Calendar. "Expunge? Ah, yes, almost certainly."
"We could grab a few beers. I hear alcohol speeds up memory loss."
"Some other time perhaps?" Giles made a show of checking his watch. "I had an appointment which I am now late for."
"Some other time it is." Giles couldn't tell if she was mocking him or not. Some other time was vague. He couldn't, of course, date a coworker while he was training his Slayer in the school but he did rather want to set up a date just to confound Rupert. The berk had been practically celibate ever since Eyghon had killed Mary but the demon had been retaliating against Giles. It wasn't as Eyghon would kill everyone Rupert chose to hold hands with. Well, alright, he couldn't be sure of that but Giles controlled when the demon was released. He could protect anyone Rupert was interested in.
When Giles pulled up to the mansion, every single light seemed to be on. What the hell? It was still two hours until dusk and Giles had left the mansion locked. "I'll kill him."
"Fine. I'll hurt him enough that he'll wish he was dead." Apparently Eyghon didn't have an objection to pain. Good.
Even before he entered the mansion, Giles heard two voices. The first was Tucker telling someone to shut up. The second, either not listening or not caring, continued to speak over Tucker's words. "I wasn't all that upset when Sliders ended. I mean, the whole sliding through parallel universes thing was cool but once they lost Quinn, not that they lost him really because he merged with the Quinn on that Earth but the his memories, the real Quinn's memories not the others memories, faded away so he was sort of gone if not actually lost …"
"Will you shut up?"
"But I'm bored." Gods, it sounded like a brat of no more than nine. "There are all these books here but even the English ones are written out in long-hand and are hard to read and hardly any of them have pictures and most of them are too high for me to reach without climbing up that ladder which feels sort of rickety, like it's about to fall over …"
That was enough of that. Rupert stepped into the room. "You brought a friend?"
Tucker smirked and leaned back in his chair. The lad was incredibly stupid but with Eyghon's interest, Giles couldn't do anything permanent to him. "Mom's making me keep an eye on him."
"Hi, I'm Andrew." The boy practically bounced over, and he wasn't nine, or at least while he sounded nine, he looked older, thirteen or fourteen perhaps. "I'm Tucker's brother. I'm totally old enough to stay home alone, but Mom doesn't think so because there was this incident with her hairdryer …"
"He doesn't care, spazoid."
"Quite," Giles agreed. "Why did you bring him here?"
Tucker shrugged. Apparently he'd missed the menace in Giles' voice. "I had to watch him. You said to meet you here."
"I said to wait until I let you in."
"It was boring outside."
Giles glanced down at the lock, taking in the new scratches. "How did you get in?"
Tucker's grin faded when his brother started replying. "Our uncle Charlie taught us how. He's in jail now but he knows all kind of tricks, a lot of which Mom wasn't too happy to see that we'd learned. I mean, I thought she'd be excited to know I'd never lock myself out of the house again, but …"
"Yes, well," Giles interrupted. "Shall we move into the training room?"
Andrew kept up a steady stream of babble as Giles sparred with Tucker. After the third time he'd shouted at the boy to just shut up, Giles had dismissed Andrew from his mind, and so he was surprised to hear a loud clatter coming from the kitchen. He raced in to find Andrew picking a pan up off the floor. Giles didn't even know the mansion contained a pan. He hadn't brought one into the mansion. A teapot, yes, that he'd brought and a mug to drink out of, but nothing else. Rupert's apartment was his official home and he needed to be seen there.
"I'm hungry," Andrew complained. "Don't you have any food?"
"No. If you're hungry, go home."
"But I can't go home. I have to stay with Tucker. Mom said so."
"Don't tell me you always do what your mother tells you."
"Well, there was that one time that she told me to do the dishes and I didn't. It was just that I forgot because I'd been to the comic store and picked up issue The Mighty Thor #482, which was Thor's four-hundredth appearance in a Marvel comic, which was the Immortal Chaos! issue and is this a secret base?"
"A secret? What?" Actually the lad was more astute than Giles had suspected, but there was no reason to tell him that.
"This is real life, dolt," Tucker sneered. "Not a comic book."
"It's just that there's no food here or even a bed, just a lot of books, and then there are those cages down in the basement …"
Giles reached out one fist, wrenched the boy's collar into a knot, and pinned him to the wall. "You were in the basement?"
"Uh, well, uh, no."
"Would you like to know what I do with those cages?"
"No, definitely not. Or, uh, I mean what cages?"
"I lock up little boys who are too curious and never let them go again."
"But you can't. Tucker would tell Mom."
Giles glanced back at Tucker. The boy was staring, wide eyed. "Tucker doesn't care if you live or die." Giles let the boy go. "Out. Both of you." Giles hadn't bothered to ward the mansion. That it was occupied should have kept out the vagrants and young idiots looking for adventure. He hadn't counted on Tucker's lock picking skills. He hadn't expected Tucker to bring a guest. He wouldn't make that mistake again. Unfortunately the warding spell required a fair amount of power, but Giles had access to power. Willow might be a tad worn out tomorrow, but that was hardly his concern. He would control who could enter his domain. Giles glanced at his watch. Even if it did make him late for his patrol with Buffy.