Cordelia and Xander were dancing close with their arms around each other and smiling. Willow was wandering around, looking for Aurelia. Aurelia was brooding in the balcony of the Bronze watching her friends and fellow Sunnydale dwellers dance and have a good time. She'd been training hard with Giles for three weeks and had finally been coaxed by Xander and Willow to come out and have fun for once. It wasn't fun, though, when she knew that when she finally killed Angelus, she would die too. She would leave her friends behind.
Behind Aurelia, a boy approached her from behind. "Hey." Aurelia turned to him, a little surprised. "I'm Ben. We had Algebra II together last year."
"I'm sorry. I try to repress anything math-related."
"Ms. Jackson? Second period? You sat in the seat three over and one behind."
Aurelia didn't want to hurt the boy's feelings. "Oh! Yes I remember now, it's the one with the desks and the chalkboards and pencils and things like that, right?"
"That's the one. So, I was wondering, you know the dance tomorrow night? Are you going?"
"The Sadie Hawkins dance? Where the girls ask the boys?"
"Yeah. And I thought maybe, you know, if you're free, you might ask me."
"Oh…." She should've guessed. "I…."
"Oh, oh, hey, hey, no, don't, don't worry about it…."
"No, no, you seem like a really great guy, it's…. me. I-I'm not seeing anybody. Ever again in this lifetime, actually."
"Oh. That's, that's too bad. Ok, well, I better…." Ben backed away and then turned and rushed away.
Aurelia sighed and rolled her eyes. She watched him go for a moment and then headed for the stairs. When she reached the bottom of the stairs, Willow met her.
"Hey! You're bailing?" The bubbly red head asked.
"Yes. I'm going to stop by the library and see if Giles wants me to patrol, and then I'm going home to sleep."
"You've been doing that a lot. Patrolling and sleeping. In fact, you've kind of been All-Work-And-No-Play Aurelia."
"I play. I have fun. I came here tonight, didn't I?"
"You came, you saw, you rejected."
"You mean that boy? Willow…. I'm just not interested in other men right now."
"Well, maybe you need to date to get interested."
"Willow, I'm not going to date anyone. The man I love is just a stake and 13 years away. I'm focusing on that and only that. I don't think I could ever love anyone again." She kissed Willow's cheek. "Thank you for thinking of me, though. I deeply appreciate it. I'll see you later." Aurelia left the Bronze, keeping an eye open for Angelus. Things were quiet all the way to the high school.
It wasn't until she walked around a corner in the hallways of the school and saw a boy pointing a gun at a girl that things got crazy. "Stop!" Aurelia yelled.
"Oh, my God!" The girl turned and started walking away as Aurelia started running at the boy.
"Don't walk away from me, bitch!" The boy screamed.
Aurelia grabbed his arm and brought it down over her shoulder, making him drop the gun. She elbowed him hard in the gut, knocking the breath out of him. She turned around, grabbed him by the shirt, and yanked him hard to the floor. He spun and landed hard on his back. The girl just looked on in shock. Aurelia bent down to pick the boy up by the collar. The school janitor arrived at a run and went over to the girl. They looked over at Aurelia and the boy. She pushed him away when she noticed he was in open-mouthed shock over what had just happened.
"What happened?" The boy asked.
"What happened?" Aurelia cried. "You just tried to kill your girlfriend!"
"This is nuts! I…. I don't know why I got so mad."
"Because you're a jerk?"
"He's not." The girl said. "We weren't even fighting a few minutes ago."
"We weren't, I, I swear to God!" The boy said.
"If you weren't fighting, then why did you have a gun?" Aurelia demanded.
"I don't, I don't know. I don't even know where I got it."
"I don't see any gun." The janitor said.
"Excuse me?" Aurelia looked around in confusion. She'd seen a gun. She's knocked it out of his hand.
Principal Snyder walked into his office where Aurelia was sitting in front of his desk. He shut the door and glared at her. "I'm sure you know why I asked you here."
"To thank me?" Aurelia asked.
"That's right, I wanna thank you. What would Sunnydale High do without you around to incite mayhem, chaos and disorder?"
"I do not incite! I stopped that boy from killing his girlfriend. Ask him. Ask the janitor."
"People can be coerced, Summers. I'm no stranger to conspiracy. I saw JFK. I'm a truth seeker. I've got a missing gun and two confused kids on my hands. Pieces of the puzzle. And I'm gonna look at all the pieces carefully and rationally, and I'm gonna keep looking until I know exactly how this is all your fault."
Aurelia was about to respond when his secretary buzzed him on his office intercom. "Mr. Snyder, Billy Crandal chained himself to the snack machine again."
"Pathetic little no-life vegan." He walked around his desk to go take care of Billy. Aurelia stood up to go also. "Not so fast, missy. I'm not done with you yet. You stink of lies." He pointed to her chair and she sat back down and exhaled.
Aurelia didn't like him at all. He left the office and closed the door behind him. Over to Aurelia's right was a bookcase with copies of all of the yearbooks since Sunnydale High opened and the one from 1955 slid out on its own and fell. She heard it hit the floor and looked down at it. She got up and bent down to pick it up. After looking at the cover, Aurelia, shrugged and put it back.
The door opened and the secretary poked her head in. "Buffy, dear, the bell's going to ring soon and Mr. Snyder isn't going to be back soon. You go on to class, sweetheart."
"Thank you, Mrs. Hutchings." Aurelia stood, gathered her things, and walked off to class. She had her history class this hour and none of her friends were in it with her. So, Aurelia found herself bored out of her mind through the whole thing. She propped her chin up in her hand and tried not to fall asleep to the drone of the male teacher's voice.
"Before 1935, the new deal focused on revitalizing stricken business and agricultural communities. And the new deal also tried to regulate the nation's financial hierarchy to avoid another disaster like the 1929 stock market crash."
Aurelia's eyes slid shut and when her head drooped slightly, she shot awake. Instead of the male teacher, a woman was standing in his place. "Don't forget, your assignments are due on Friday, class." The students around Aurelia began to leave. She looked around and was taken aback by the sudden changed appearances of the classroom and the different dress and hairstyles of the other students.
"I told Ms. Hall we'd go help decorate the gym." One girl near Aurelia said. "Who are you taking?" She handed a flyer for the Sadie Hawkins Dance to another girl. The year on it read 1955.
"David said yes." The second girl said.
"Oh, you're kidding! He's so dreamy!"
The female teacher was collecting papers when a young man went up to the desk and handed in his paper also. "Thank you, James. How are you enjoying that book I loaned you? The Hemingway." She asked him.
"I like it. Very much. It's honest." He slowly reached for Ms. Newman's hand and gently took it. Aurelia recognized that gentle touch. Cassius had used it on her many times.
"Yes, it's, um…. it's based on a true story, actually. He fell in love with his…." They were interrupted by the door opening and let go of their hands.
Suddenly Aurelia found herself back in her history class as her teacher continued his lecture while writing on the board. "….hours, child labor…. and collective bargaining." The teacher looked back at the class as the students all started laughing. He looked back at the board and saw that he'd just written "DON'T WALK AWAY FROM ME BITCH!" in huge letters. "Oh, my God!" He quickly grabbed an eraser and frantically wiped it away.
Aurelia followed Xander through the doors from the lounge and down the hall. "I'm telling you, something strange is going on."
"Something strange is going on." Xander repeated. "Isn't that our school motto?"
"Xander, this is serious."
They reached his locker and he started to work the combination. "I don't wanna poo-poo your wiggins, but a domestic dispute, a little case of chalkboard Tourette's? All sounds like Hellmouth Lite to me." He opened his locker and a wiry-muscled green arm shot out and grabbed him by the shirt. Xander screamed and it pulled at him, slamming him into the locker. Aurelia grabbed him by the shoulders and tried to pull him away, but the arm was extremely strong and pulled Xander away from her and against the locker again. He screamed out in pain when he hit it.
Aurelia grabbed him again and pulled harder, using all her strength this time, and the arm let go. Xander fell to the floor as Aurelia slammed the locker shut. He scrambled back to his feet and they both looked around the hall to see the other students' reactions. They were all confused, but stayed away and just stared. Aurelia gave Xander an intent look and indicated that they should open his locker again and take a look inside. Xander rubbed his chin and stood ready as Aurelia slowly lifted the latch. She slowly opened the door and they peeked in. There was nothing. They opened it all the way and it appeared to be completely normal.
Aurelia sighed. "Now do you believe me?"
"Giles?" Xander asked, picking at his torn shirt.
"Yes." Aurelia slammed the locker shut, ignoring the other students' eyes, and marched towards the library.
Willow was at the table studying and she looked up when she heard the doors open. "Xander, what happened? Did Cordelia win another round in the broom closet?"
"You're just a big bucket of funny, Will." Xander groaned. Aurelia sat down next to Willow and Xander walked over to Giles, who was kneeling and going through some books on a shelf. "I'll have you know I was just accosted by some kind of, um, locker monster."
"Loch Ness Monster?" Giles asked.
"Locker monster is what he said." Aurelia said. "But it wasn't really a monster. It was, like, this big arm that came out of the locker, but when we opened it again, it was gone. There was nothing."
"This was right after Aurelia's history teacher starts doing some freaky channeling thing in class." Xander added.
"Ooh! Sounds like paranormal phenomena." Giles said.
"A ghost? Cool!" Willow said.
"Oh, no, no. No. No cool." Xander corrected. "This was no wimpy chain rattler. This was 'I'm dead as hell, and I'm not gonna take it anymore.'"
"Well, despite the Xander-speak, that's a fairly accurate definition of a poltergeist." Giles said.
"I defined something? Accurately?" Xander slammed a book on the table. "Guess I'm done with the book learning." He sat down.
"So we have a poltergeist on our hands?" Aurelia asked.
"Well, why is it here?" Willow asked. "Does it just wanna scare people?"
"Unfortunately, he doesn't know exactly what he wants. That's, that's the trouble. See, uh, many times the spirit is plagued by all manner of worldly troubles. Being dead, it has no way to, uh, to make its peace. So it, it lashes out, growing ever more confused, ever more angry."
"It's a normal teenager, only dead." Aurelia said.
"Well, what can we do? Is there any way to stop it?" Willow asked.
"Uh, the only tried and true way is to work out what unresolved issues keep it here, and-and-and, um, resolve them." Giles said. "Only if we can find out who this spirit is. Or was." He wandered off into his office.
Willow looked at Aurelia. "Espresso Pump?"
"Sure." Aurelia stood up and she and Willow walked out together. Xander headed off to find Cordelia. As they sipped at their drinks, Aurelia finally noticed that Willow hadn't said much since suggesting the coffee shop. "What are you thinking, Willow?"
Willow sighed. "What if the spirit is Cassius?"
Aurelia's eyes widened. "Why ever would he become a poltergeist?"
"I don't know. He got you back and then the curse was reversed and he got…. Killed again…. Only this time it happened on top of a Hellmouth…." Willow trailed off when she saw Aurelia's face.
"Willow, my Cassius would never become a poltergeist. He could never be this mean to anyone I cared about. Besides, I think it has something to do with that girl and boy I found the other night."
"The boy that was trying to kill the girl and doesn't remember why and, oh yeah, there was no gun?"
Aurelia nodded. "Yes."
The next day, Giles was in his office and Aurelia and the others were standing outside his door. Apparently he'd had a similar experience to Aurelia's two nights before. "It was just as with the, the couple you encountered the other night, Aurelia." Giles was saying. "The, the janitor remembered everything. He, he knew he'd killed this poor woman, but he had no idea why. Well, they-they had no intimate relationship." He walked out with a few books and headed into the main area with everyone following.
"What about the gun? Did you find it?" Willow asked.
"No, no. The police, everybody, we-we-we-we searched high and low. I think it's very clear what's happening here." Giles went into the cage with the books and put them away.
"Fill me in then, 'cause I've read the book, seen the movie, and I'm still fuzzy about what's going on." Xander said.
"What?" Aurelia said.
"You think she's the ghost?" Xander asked.
"Well, don't you see? Well, she-she-she died here under tragic circumstances, a-a-and now she's trapped."
"But what about the gun?" Willow asked. "I mean, Angel didn't shoot Ms. Calendar."
"The gun is insignificant. It's the violence of the thing that matters." Giles went back into his office.
"I don't know." Aurelia said. "These fights these couples keep having, it's sort of…. specific."
"She's right." Willow said. "It's a pattern that doesn't fit with the way Ms. Calendar died."
"Yes, well, I, uh, I appreciate your thoughts on the matter, I, in fact I…. well, I encourage you to, to always, uh, challenge me, uh, when you feel it's appropriate. You should never be cowed by authority. Except, of course, in this instance, when I am clearly right and you are clearly wrong." He disappeared back into his office.
Aurelia sighed and walked out of the library. Willow and Xander followed into an empty computer science room. "This is freaky." Willow said. "I don't ever remember ever seeing Giles be this weird." She sat at the desk and typed at her laptop.
"I know. He's usually Investigate-Things-From-Every-Boring-Angle Guy." Xander said. "Now he's I-Cling-Onto-My-One-Lame-Idea Guy. What gives?"
"He misses her." Aurelia said sadly. "He can't think. Just a little more fallout from my love life."
"Ok, but this ghost stuff is something else." Willow said. "Let me do a crosscheck on other shootings at the school."
"Yes. Good. We need some alternate ghost theories. What do we know?"
"Dog spit is cleaner than human." Xander offered.
"Oh, boy, we know plenty." Willow said, scrolling through a newspaper article on her laptop. The title read "Sunnydale High Jock Kills Lover, Self". "It says a student murdered a teacher on the night of the Sadie Hawkins Dance. The rumor was they were having an affair, and she tried to break it off. After he killed her, he went into the music room and shot himself."
"Ladies and gentlemen, we have a ghost." Xander announced. "It is one of those two, right?"
"It all fits: the gun, the Sadie Hawkins Dance."
"Which is tonight." Aurelia said.
"How come we've never heard about this murder-suicide thing before? When did it happen?" Xander asked.
Willow and Xander both looked up at her surprised. "How did you know?" Willow asked.
"Wait here." Aurelia rushed off to the principal's office. Luckily it was the end of the school day and everyone was headed home. She grabbed the yearbook that had fallen off the shelf and went back to where Willow and Xander waited. She set the 1955 Sunnydale High yearbook on the desk and opened it to a picture of Ms. Newman. "I dreamt about this woman, Grace Newman, the other day. Her and this guy." She pointed to both people.
"Jim Stanley?" Willow said. "He's the one. He did it."
"Your dreams are getting wicked accurate, Auri." Xander said, making Aurelia cringe at the nickname. "You wouldn't happen to see me coming across some big cash? Or possibly knowing the love of a woman? In a full body sense?"
Aurelia chose to ignore him. "He couldn't make her love him, so he killed her." She turned away and said some choice words in another language.
"He looks so normal on this picture." Willow said. "He was smart, too. He made the honor roll."
"Smart." Aurelia spat.
"He killed a person and killed himself." Xander said. "Those are pretty much two of the dumbest things you could do."
"I know, but…. Well, don't you feel kind of bad for them?" Willow asked.
"For her." Aurelia said. "He's a murderer and he should pay for it."
"With his life?"
"No, he should be doing a long stint in a prison, breaking rocks and making new friends with sodomizers."
"Yikes. The quality of mercy is not Aurelia." Xander said.
"Whose ghost do you think we're dealing with? His or hers?" Willow asked.
"Considering how violent it is, I'm going to say his."
"That tracks." Xander agrees.
"Well, I've been browsing on some of Ms. Calendar's pagan sites." Willow said. "Maybe I can find a way to communicate with them and…. we can find out what he wants."
"Why should I care what he wants? We need to stop him before some other innocent person kills some poor girl and then blows his brains out all over the music room wall." Aurelia said.
"Ok!" Xander smiled and rubbed his hands. "Who's hungry?"