Imagine: The List
Fic posted by members of Vo's Imaginings YahooGroup
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Story Notes:
This is going to be LIST ONLY until I can finish it.

A Starting of Control.
 
A Starting of Control.
 
 
 
 
 
 

"Xander, please pull down the classification manual for me?" Giles asked absently from his spot behind the check-in desk at the library.

"Which one?  We have, like, nineteen, Giles."

"We do not," he said, looking at the boy.   Xander pointed at the shelf, getting out of his way as he counted.  "We have...eighteen and two missing?"  Xander pointed at the ones on the table.  "Well, I suppose we do have twenty then, and none of them overlap overly much.  The Walleneye book.  It has the best chance of having our demon in there from what Buffy's mentioned."

"Why didn't they consolidate books?" Xander asked, bringing that book back to the table.

"Because each one has their own merit.  Each author put in tidbits that weren't in the other ones."  He looked at the boy.  "Besides, I think it's always been that way.  There's even been some debate over how correct some of the entries are."

"So, in other words, sixteen guys who never left their labs, because some do have the same author, decided what demons were like based on scouting and hunting reports but never went into the field to verify things?" he asked dryly.

"In many cases," Giles admitted.  "There's a very nice form to fill out when we discover something's that horribly wrong.  I've done it twice now."  He went back to his research.  "Where are the girls?"

"Bathroom doing girl things."

"Ah, I see."  He looked at the clock.  "Perhaps they should be found."

"I'm not going near them doing girl things.  I like my body parts in their present configuration, thank you," Xander said dryly, cracking the older man up.  "Do British women have the same sort of girl things?"

"Yes, I'm afraid that's universal and timeless.  Before we had no words or descriptions for them.  They even used to put women into institutions because of female issues."

"Yeah, sometimes they need it," Xander shot back.

"Indeed," Giles agreed quietly.  "See if you can find that demon so we can figure out if it's a problem or not."

Xander nodded, flipping through the book.  This one had a stunning lack of description or pictures.  "Are we sure it's in here?  There's no drawings, no descriptions on half of them, and half of them are in Russian it looks like."

Giles sighed but looked up.  "Are you sure you got the Walleneye book down?"  He held it up for him to see the cover.  "It is."  He came over.  "I don't remember it being that sparse before," he muttered, going to check on another one.

"Do you think we can start filling out that form and sending it with pictures?" Xander asked dryly.  "That way people could flip through and identify it?"

"The Council would never agree, unfortunately.  It would make for faster field identification."

Xander shook his head.  "Old stuffy guys need to change some ancient ways so things go better now.  Because I doubt they went all that speedy before."

"Well, no," Giles agreed.  He handed him another book, letting him look through that one.  The girls came in chatting about a new dress for some social thing that he would never understand the importance of.  "Ladies, I do believe we need to figure out what the demon last night was."

"I think it's in the Walleneye book," Willow said cheerfully, going to get it.

"How would we know since nothing's described and there's no pictures?" Xander asked her.  "Half of them don't even give a color or 'scaly/furry/fishy' mention."

She snorted.  "They do but you actually have to read them, Xander.   Not just flip past them."  She sat down to look through her chosen manual.

Xander held up one to Buffy.  "Is it like that only puke green and scaly?"  She looked then nodded.  "Then it's an immature female.  They're described but no pictures have been taken."  He let her see it.

Willow shook her head.  "It couldn't be.  It had dangly bits."  She found what she wanted.  "I think it's this one, Buffy."

Buffy looked then shrugged.  "There's no physical description beyond scaly.  How would I know?"  She looked at Giles.  Then back at the books.  "They're cousins anyway.  Would it still hold true, Giles?"

"It would."  He came over to check.  "Willow, the," he cleared his throat, "dangly bits would be their nursing apparatus."  She blushed and dropped her book.  He looked at Buffy.  "Was it causing a problem?"

"I couldn't be sure.  Three other demons were whining about it."

"Then we'll see.  Did any of them mention anything specific?"

"I didn't understand them, Giles.  I'm guessing that's a skill that skipped this slayer."

Xander would keep his own opinion about why she hadn't been listening.  "So we'll ask Willie," he suggested, making her happier because she'd probably get to beat something up.  He stood up.  "Is that and the new one rising in Shady Rest all that's going on tonight?"

"Why?  Have a date?" Willow asked sarcastically.

He looked at her.  "I was *going* to suggest we have a go at the new nest up past the college.  Since it's still relatively small but yet so very annoying and stinky from the methane demons."  She groaned, putting her head down.

"I'd rather hunt at the Bronze if it's going to be an easy night," Buffy told him.  "Less smelly in my laundry for Mom to wonder about."

"The methane demons will cause a problem," Giles reminded her.  "They do build up their bodily refuse around them and create explosion hazards."

She groaned.  "But they smell," she whined.

"Then take a hose," Xander told her.  "Wash them off."  Giles gave him the oddest look.  "Flood the nest, make them flee?"

"That might work, but it wouldn't harm them.  It might make them leave the area however."  He went to look that up.  "We'll deal with them tomorrow."

"I heard their clan elder's coming in later this week," Xander told him, looking at Buffy.  "And his guards, his harem of concubines, and all that travel with him."

"Aw, crap.  More stinky things," she muttered.  "If we flood them out, will they leave?"

Xander shrugged.  "I don't know.  Giles?"

"They could.  They might also get very mad if they have a nursery setup in there.  They do have to build up their refuse and bodily odor to protect and nurture their young."  He looked at the teenagers.  "That would get them very angry I'd assume."

Xander shrugged.  "So would a grenade."

"True," he agreed.  "Though I don't believe we have any of those."

"Army/Navy store had one in a case," Xander admitted.  He looked at Buffy.

"We can ask Willie about them too," she decided.  "If they're a growing problem, I'll go see them later this week during class sometime.  Willow will take notes for me."

"Of course I will," Willow agreed.

"Good.  Let me go threaten Willie, stake the lone vamp, and then hit the Bronze."  She nearly ran out before anyone could tell her not to do it in that order.

Xander looked at Willow.  "How do we get rid of the methane demons?  Is there something that might kill the methane part?  You're better in science than I am," he pointed out at her snickering.

"That's very obvious," she agreed dryly with a mean smirk.  "No, as far as I know there's no chemical compound that would cancel out the methane."

"Nothing like a base or an alkali?"

She shook her head.  "Nope."

"Fine.  Then I guess we'll have to burn the nest down or something once we get them to leave."  She gave him a confused look.  "Methane won't just float off, will it?  Won't it stay there as long as something is producing it and a bit later?"  She nodded slowly.  "They cover their walls with their body fluids, Willow.  That's what creates the methane."

"Oh."  She considered it.  "Maybe a hose is a good idea."

"Maybe," he said dryly.  He looked at Giles.  "What else are we looking up from the wacky world of demonology?"

"Go have fun at the Bronze, children."  They walked out, Willow hurrying to catch up to Buffy.  He sighed.  Sometimes those children were quite odd and annoying.  But now he could get back to his own research of the moment.

***

Instead of the Bronze, Xander sat down to work on his idea.  He had been bored in classes for weeks.  Again.  It wasn't like anything he was doing in English or Algebra amused or entertained him, or even caught his attention most of the time.  He could do fairly well on the tests, even if the Vice Principal and a few others tanked his grades by claiming he was cheating off Willow.  Even when he took the tests in a locked room that once last year.

So he had been doing side projects whenever he got bored.  Last year's had been pretty cool.  Even if the state had shut the school down for two weeks while the damage was repaired.  It wasn't his fault that the physics in that one comic had been wrong!  But now, he had a new side project.  One that was necessary.  He needed to build his own Monstrous Compendium like they had for D&D players.  Something to give him a simplified overview so they could find demons quickly, accurately, and figure out if they were a problem or not.  He knew the charts by rote after gaming for so many years.  He simply needed some advice on how to fill in parts of it for real life situations.  He went to a gaming compatriot who wouldn't mind him asking what seemed to be stupid questions.  "Andrew," he said, making the younger kid jump.  He grinned.  "Got a few questions."

"About what?  I can't help you with your homework, Xander."

"I'm not here about that boring stuff.  How do you figure out the damage coefficient and other things like hit points, damage done with a hit, and those sort of things when making your own monsters?  I've never done that and you have, and DM'd a few times."

Andrew smiled.  "That's not that hard.  There's a small formula you can use.  That's how I do it."  He wrote it out for him.  "This is how hard they hit.  Basically damage done by a single blow.  This is weapons or not, this is how healthy it is for hit points, and this is basically what class they are."

Xander beamed.  "Thanks, man.  You going to be at the comic shop this weekend?"

"Sorry, my aunt's coming in."

"Bummer."

"Are you going to be making your own?"

"Thinking hard about it.  Maybe even my own module for someone else to play in.  There's all sorts of areas in the Forgotten Realms that have never been destroyed or explored.  How hard is it to make a new city?"

"That's a good idea," he agreed.

"Andrew!" a female voice called.

"That's my mom.  Gotta go.  Good luck, Xander."

"Thanks, Andrew.  Happier family time this weekend."  He walked off rereading the formula.  He could definitely use this in his new side project.  That, plus a camera.  Now if only he had a camera.  Or any art skills at all.  Maybe the thrift shop?  No, that'd be too expensive.  He'd figure it out he guessed.  He went home to start work on the ones he already knew.  Vampires were easiest and he could easily describe them, plus he knew how strong and fast they were.

***

Willow looked at the notebook Xander was scribbling notes in.  "What's that?"

"New side project."

She huffed.  "You need to do better in class, Xander.  Not work on ideas like that crap."

He looked at her.  "I do just fine on my tests, thank you.  Just because I don't care about poetic guys from the eighteenth century who couldn't get laid doesn't mean I don't know what I'm doing.   It means they're boring for everyone but girly girls who like poetry."  He went back to his idea.  Willow tried to grab it but he swatted her and took it back.  "If you must know, I'm making notes for myself so I have a handy guide to identify some things around here," he said quietly, glaring at her.  "That way I don't have to go through twenty books to find one line of information."

"That's a stupid idea," she told him.  "Someone's already done that."

"Not in *one* book.  Beyond that, this is for my personal use."

"Why?  Not like you do anything," she said.

"Really?  And yet here you sit, uneaten," he said dryly, making her huff off.  He went back to it.  He didn't really care at the moment.  Willow came back with Giles following her.  He looked up at the cleared throat.  "I'm making my own crib sheets so I don't have to go through every single book there is."

"That's not a bad idea.  Many of us did that in our junior watcher studies," he admitted quietly, glancing around.  "How far have you come?"

"About sixteen things into it," he admitted with a smirk.  "And my parents have a camera."

"That could be handy.  Let me know when you're ready to move onto higher sources."

"Of course."

"You should still be doing your homework instead of that," Willow said hotly.

Xander looked at her.  "Unlike you, I could care less about what any teacher in this place thinks about me, Willow.  I don't worry about my grades because I do good on my tests before someone interferes.  No one cares if I get crappy grades either.  I learn what I have to learn.  The rest is meaningless crap that has no need to pollute me."  She huffed off again.  He looked at Giles.

"You really should try harder.  Your grades were abysmal, Xander."

"I did good on the tests.  You saw that yourself."

"Yes, but not all grades are from the tests."

"Even if I did, the troll would complain I was cheating, again.  He even did it when I was taking them locked in a room," he said dryly.  "So I don't care."

"Fine.  Though I should protest that our nighttime activities are hindering your education."

Xander looked up at him.  "Just because I'm not some fairy sop who likes poetry doesn't mean I can't do things, Giles."  He sighed as he walked off cleaning his glasses.  Xander went back to his work.  Someone else tried to grab it from him but he took it back and glared, making them walk off laughing.  Xander stared at his back.  "Maybe having someone eaten isn't *so* bad after all," he muttered.  He picked up his things and decided he was going to go play someplace that jocks, Willow, and poetry weren't.  It was always nicer.

"Don't you dare think about sneaking out," the Vice Principal sneered when he saw him at his locker.

Xander looked at him.  "I'm getting my books for biology.  Thank you for that warning though.  I'm sure it'll change me forever and ever."  He slammed his locker and walked off.  His backpack had everything, including his new project, in it.  All he had to do was slip out after science class.  After all, something in there might come in useful and they were dissecting things again today.  It was fun cutting apart things to see what their insides looked like.  The bell rang and the teacher came in, followed by Snyder.  Xander stared at him when the guy sneered back at them.  "Did you want to help us dissect slimy things, Vice Principal Snyder?  I'm sure you could be just as educational as the teacher is."  The man growled and stomped off again.  The other kids giggled at that.  The teacher gave him a pointed look.  "He decided to accuse me of skipping.  Clearly I'm not."

"I'm running detention tonight, Harris.  I'll save you a seat."

"I thought it already had my name on it," he quipped back.  The teacher nodded, picking up their current projects to hand back.  His was much less messy than Willow and Buffy's.  Which was making him happy.  The teacher gave his smile an odd look.  "I'm doing it neater than I thought I could."

"I see."  He took the frog back with a smile.  "Perhaps you should earn that detention?"

"Why?  He's not going to use this sudden knowledge of frog parts to go after anyone," Cordelia sneered.  "He couldn't even if he wanted to."

Xander looked at her.  "I see yours is still whole."

"Kids," the teacher warned.  He gave Xander back his frog, going to walk around and cheer on the others.  Cordelia got some more subtle encouragement and some rubber gloves when she demanded.  He didn't want to hear her father complain.  Again.  He watched the Harris boy, stopping him before he left the class when the bell rang.  "Are you planning on blowing up the science classroom again this year?  You've got the same look you did last year when you got bored."

"No, I have a different side project this year," he promised with a grin.  "No working on a particle accelerator like I was last year."

"That's what you were doing?"

"Yeah, what boy doesn't want the Ghostbuster's gear," he said with a brighter grin.  "Nearly got it too."

"I saw that right before the wall blew out, Harris.  Can't you study?"

"What was my last test grade that you gave me?" he countered.

"I saw that switch," he admitted, frowning some at the boy.  "You're a smart boy but you never do your homework."

"Unfortunately it's boring."

"I know that but it can still teach you things."

"Which I get from you."  He shrugged.  "It's not my fault I'm a sci-fi geek.  I'm sorry but I'm getting it from the lectures."

"I realize that.  We'll be doing a project later this semester.  Try to make yours reasonable, even though we won't have to present it, and try not to blow up my classroom this year?"

"I'm not doing anything sciency right now," he admitted.  "What sort of project?"

"Interiors of some animals.  Comparing maybe?"

Xander nodded.  "I'll see what I can work up for a poster board."

"You can do better."

Xander smirked.  "Still kinda boring though, huh?"

"True.  Do your best.  Do something that'll make me cackle this time.  It scares Snyder and the English teacher."

He walked out smirking, going to the boy's bathroom.  There was an exit conveniently close to it that was presently chained shut.  And the basement entrance too.  He came out when the second bell rang, heading for the basement and the nice escape hatch someone in the long past had put in.  He made it outside before Snyder found him, heading to the bleachers.  He could cross the open area without being seen by going under them.  He made it back into Sunnydale proper and was overjoyed.  First, a donut because he deserved it and then to the local oogly boogly store for some materials he might need.  And hey, he could even work on his science project if someone asked.  No one said that he couldn't do it on mythological creatures and their insides, right?  That would go along well with his side-project.  Plus the bookstore might have a few of the books Giles didn't.

***

Xander walked into the library that night, finding Snyder sneering at the girls.  "Giles, I got that delivery for you, like you asked, and got stuff for our upcoming science project."

"You didn't make it to your last two classes, Harris.  You can't participate in after-school activities," Snyder sneered.

Xander stared at him.  "Unless I have an excused absence and I so dare you to write a letter home to my parents," he said dryly.  Snyder flinched.  The last time his father had been drunk when he showed up and had hit him.  He smirked.  "I was running approved school related errands for Mr. Giles and our science project, Vice Principal Snyder.  Wasn't I?" he asked Giles.

"Well, yes he was," he said, staring at the boy.  He smiled at the other adult.  "He's very thoughtful and said that there was nothing going on today."

"He missed a quiz in English," Willow spoke up, glaring at Xander.

Xander smirked at her.  "So?"  She huffed.  "Not like I care about poetry.  As stated earlier."

"Maybe it'll give you the chance to find a victim to tie up and molest," Snyder sneered.

"Why?  I can go pick up someone like Mrs. Simmons up the street if I'm that desperate."  Snyder stomped out.  He handed Giles the books.  "There's a science project coming up dealing with the insides we've been learning.  He said later this semester."

Willow moaned.  "Why?" she complained.  "Why can't you do homework like normal people so he doesn't assign things like that, Xander?  They take more time!"

"I'd rather be doing projects," Buffy told her.  "A lot more interesting than labeling diagrams."  She shrugged.  "Insides?"

"From what he said.  He said later this semester."

"Well, that won't be so bad.  Some poster board, a few pictures blown up and labeled.  We can use it as an art project later on maybe."  She shrugged and settled in.  "New books, Giles?"

"Yes, three new classifications manuals by someone who was an independent source."  He handed Xander one.  "I didn't buy that one."

He looked then put it back into his bag.  "Needed it for gaming.  It has things on dragons."  He sat down.  "So, what's the what tonight?" he asked Buffy.

"Willow's going to be helping me with math and science then we've got two coming up and the usual running into the vamps to deal with."  She looked at him.  "There's nothing really going on if you wanted to skip tonight too."

He smirked.  "Then I might know of something to make you complain about goo on your clothes."

"Why?" she whined.

"Because I saw that slimy thing that tried to grope you last month finally out and about earlier.  He was picking up beer and chips at the supermarket for a kitten poker game tonight."  She shuddered.  "He was muttering about who was going to be there and there's three vamps, he picked up blood from the butcher's, and two that needed tentacles to nibble on, and one who needed hot salsa plus him."

"Yucky," she complained.  "I'll end up getting the food thrown on me again, Xander."  Angel came out of the stacks from outside.  "Xander said that slimy thing that tried to grope last month is out of the hospital."

"I heard he was last week," he admitted.

"I saw him getting stuff for a poker game," Xander told him.  "Seven of them playing."

Angel nodded.  "Any idea where?"

"His place.  Which I followed him back to.  He's down on East Leonard."

Buffy nodded.  "There's a few that way.  We can lurk that way maybe."  She smiled at Angel.  "What did you have planned tonight beyond the two raising with me?  Willow and I have to get some homework done first."

"Xander, do you need me to explain the math homework for you while I help Buffy do hers?" Willow asked him.

"No."

"You're going to do it, right?"

He nodded.  "Already done and handed it in.  It was only seven problems."  She huffed.  "Not like it's the harder math.  It's not calculus.  Which I probably won't be taking," he said at her dirty look.

"When did you do it?" Buffy complained.

"Lunch."

"Oh."  She slumped down.  "We need to have a study hall together, Willow.  That way we can get most everything done during the day."

"I would if one had been offered," she admitted.  "We don't start getting study halls until next year."  Buffy sighed but nodded.  "Go on patrol.  I'll be here working on that stuff for you.  We'll go over it this weekend before the test."  Buffy smiled and left.  She looked at Xander.  "You already did yours?"

"I have plans for tonight," he told her simply.  "I've got to work on some stuff for this weekend."

"What are you doing then?" she snorted.  "Another stupid gaming session?"

He stared at her.  "Yes, I'm going to be enjoying time with some friends," he told her, earning a dirty look.  "So I'm going to do that.  G-man, need anything?"

"Go ahead, Xander," he said, watching him leave.  "Willow, that was uncalled for."

"He's always doing stupid things when he's bored," she huffed.  "He's not getting any homework done or anything like that.  Nothing that would help him get out of here."

He stared at her.  "You're not his mother," he said bluntly.  "And you're being very cranky with the one who is supposedly your best friend."  She slumped down.  "Have a good night doing homework."  She huffed off with her bookbag.  He shook his head.  Sometimes the children did annoy him to no end with their petty arguments and the issues they blew out of context.

***

Xander was staring at his manual, realizing he had missed some information.  He had no idea how prevalent the demons in it were in the area.  He knew book things about them but the book had already been proved wrong a few times this month.  So maybe....  Well, he had those strategy sessions that were urging him to do something.  He had no real intel on what was going on around town.  He sighed, laying back on his bed to think about how to do that.  It wasn't like he could stalk around town taking notes about how many of what kinds of demons there were.  And half of them he didn't need to worry about.  They were civilians.  Soft targets for the others.

All that he had learned about strategy from gaming was telling him that he had to have more intel.  To make plans about who was where, and to plan based on that.  He started to draw a map of the town.  Then he got the one he used to plan patrols, marking off demon neighborhoods with markers for now.  It'd do to start.

***

Xander went to the one geek he knew that would know what he was talking about.  "Johno."  The boy flinched but spun to look at him.  "Need two things."

"From me?" he asked.  "Why?"

"Because you're a better science geek."

"I head about the science classroom last year."

"I nearly had a stable proton accelerator," he said smugly.  The other boy moaned.  "Not what I need though."  He handed him two plans.  "Found those online.  How reliable are they and what flaws are in the construction?  I don't plan on building them but it's for a project in science."

"He's letting us do it on sci-fi things?"

"All he told me was insides."  He smirked.  "So I'll do it on the Moat Man or something."  Jonathan moaned at that, shaking his head.  "It means I can extend ideas from what he's given us and he's expecting it.  He already admitted it."

"Fine."  He looked over the plans.  "Why not go to Warren?"

"Because he's creepy."

"Gee, thanks."

"You don't come off that way."  He grinned.  "He's a bit strange even for a geek."

"He can be, yeah."  He looked over the plans.  "The electrical system can't put enough power out to run the whole thing.  You might have to do like a circuit breaker."  He went back over it, making notes in the margin.  The second one was bigger and had most of the same problems.  He handed them back when he was done, grinning at him.  "Where did you find them?"

"A college team's plans to submit to the military for strategic use robots."

"Wow.  That's actually not a bad idea.  Can I have the address?"  Xander wrote it out for him.  "Thanks, Xander.  Have fun trying to build one.  Are you going to be at the shop this weekend?"

"No, unfortunately work calls."

"Pity.  We're starting a new module."

"Damn."  He sighed.  "I miss gaming."  He walked off nearly pouting.  He did miss having some fun time activities.

Jonathan went to the computer lab to log in, finding the site had all sorts of plans he and Andrew could use in their next gaming module.  It was so cool!  Wrong, but he could fix that.

***

Xander had finished his science project already, putting it carefully in the corner of the room.  The teacher walked in with another one.  "I'm done with it."

He looked at it then at the boy.  "Just a poster board, Xander?"

"No, I tacked the report onto it."  He grinned.  "But I had to extrapolate and everything."

He looked at it, smirking some.  "Including a report on why you think it's that sort of being and the special weapons it grew to protect itself.  Nice job.  Pictures are well labeled.  Cutesy, but that's you when you're hyper."

"Why don't you show this sort of work in my class?" the other teacher asked.

"Because your class bores me," he said honestly, looking at that teacher.  "A lot."  The teacher groaned.  "Beyond that, what am I going to use the things we've been learning for?  Ever?  I'm not going to be a history major.  I could care less about the history of who's fighting who where.  If I suddenly decide to move somewhere, I'll get the book out again and brush up on it so I don't offend anyone.  Until then, your class is a naptime."

"I can understand that but you do so well on the tests, you never do the homework.  You could try."

He snickered, pulling out the report card he had gotten two days earlier.  Not like anyone at home was going to care.  He held it up.  "Is that actually the grade you gave me?" he asked her.

She stared at it.  "No, it's not.  You should put in a protest."

"Yeah, you go tell Snyder to quit screwing with my grades," he said dryly.  She shuddered.  "To be realistic, I don't care and no one else cares even if I could pass all my classes except English with higher grades.  What am I going to do with it?"

"You could still prove them wrong," she said.

"No one's going to take me with what he's done to my grades.  We're realistic people around here."

"I can understand that.  Why does he hate you?"

"My father hit him the last time he sent a note home."

"I suppose that would do it," she decided.  "Well, I can change the grade I gave you."

"No you can't.  He's already sent it off."

She snorted.  "My cousin works in the state board, Xander.  Yes I can."  She walked off to have a talk with her cousin.  That was fundamentally wrong of Snyder to do.  She would not put up with him interfering in her classes.

Xander looked at the science teacher.  "That good enough or should I find more pictures?"

"That's fine, Xander."  He watched the boy walk out.  "Damn it, we liked her," he muttered.  "He'll have her disappear like the others."

Buffy walked in with a cute look and her own poster board.  "Good, I'm not late for once.  I won't be here tomorrow.  Can I hand it in a bit early?"

He looked at her poster board.  "It's very neatly done, Buffy, but not very ....up to your limits."

She shrugged. "I've been pressed for time by my other classes and stuff.  Sorry."

"Fine.  It won't get above a C though."

She shrugged.  "It'll be higher than my last test in here then."

"Yes, perhaps whatever you're doing after school should be stalled for a few hours so Miss Rosenburg can go over some of the finer points with you before the next test next week."

"That soon?" she asked with a wince.  He nodded.  "Dirt.  I'll tell her.  Thank you."  She rushed off, back to the library.  "Willow, science test next week."

"Wednesday," Xander agreed from his spot pulling down books.  "He announced it last class while you were doing your hair."  He brought books down to put onto the table, looking at her.  "History paper due next week too, Buffy.  Did you hear about that one?"

She made a whining noise.  "How can I do what I *have* to do and all this homework!"

"We all must figure out our own ways," Giles said.  "I'm sure we'll manage it, children.  I would hope for good grades on both things?"

Xander shrugged.  "History is covering things I could care less about.  I'm not even sure if Crimea is still a country.  Why do I care if they had a war way back when that got messy?"

Giles sighed, staring at him.  "I know you can do better if you try, Xander."

"I know I can too but half of that isn't my fault."  He looked at Willow.

"Don't look at me, I put your grades back to what they were before they got sent," she told him.  "Snyder has it in for him since his father broke his nose for him," she told Giles.

"He's the one who demanded to have a conference with him," Xander said dryly.  Snyder stomped in.  "There's the man that's going to make sure I stay here for *years* more than I need to be here."  Snyder shuddered at that thought.  "Well, you changed a few grades down.  Not like I can graduate and get out of here with that going on," he said with a smile.  "So you'll get to see me for *years* yet."

"You could quit," he sneered.

"And do what?  Turn into my parents?  I can't stand the smell of beer.  It probably won't happen."  Snyder moaned.  "So yeah, let's keep tanking my grades.  I'll be back here to sleep through tenth grade again next year."  Snyder stomped out.

"Ooh, I think he went to bad mental places with that idea, Xander."

"Hopefully.  It'll mean he'll quit," he said with an evil smirk.  "Oh, Giles, forgot to tell you.  The green things that she got last week?  There's some left.  They've been down by the docks.  They ate someone last night from what I overheard in the coffee bar."

Giles nodded.  "I'm sure Buffy can patrol that way again tonight."

"But it stinks down there," she complained.  "Are they living down there?  They attacked in the daylight, right?" she asked Willow, who nodded.

"They're living closer to Addam's," Xander told her.  "In the warehouse district.  By the Fed Ex hub."

"That's slightly better and less smelly," she decided.  "Tracked them back?"

"No, saw one eating the pizza delivery guy on my way home last night."

"Sure, I can do that then.  How many?"

"I didn't stop to count since all I had was a stake and I'd need something bigger."

"Fine.  We can scout that way tonight.  Then I've got an early night so I can get up tomorrow and deal with that nest instead of classes."

Willow grimaced.  "I'll take notes for you, Buffy."

"Thanks, Willow."  She settled in to look up the problem of the moment.  She noticed Xander was looking up something else.  "What are you doing?" she demanded.  "That's not on anything that's going on.  It's on magic, Xander.  You don't do that!'

"Two of the vamps at the Bronze last night were talking about a compulsion to bring dancing kids to them for an easier feed.  I'm looking up how to break into the compulsion in case we find it going on."

"Interrupt the caster's focus," Giles said simply.

"Thank you."  He made a note of that.  "What if it's in the music or something?  One of them was the drummer for the band that was on last night."

"I don't think they could overlay their music while playing it," he said, considering it.  "Now if it's taped it'd be easy enough to overlay the whole tape with one."

"So we'd need to watch out for the DJ's?" Xander asked.

"That's one possible way of doing so.  How close were they?"

"They were debating means.  Half of it was fantasy novel stuff but some sounded vaguely familiar with what Willow was doing last week."  He shifted to look at him better.  "Unless you can tell us how to break a fascination spell and if they could pull one up?"

"It'd be about the same and fought the same way," he admitted, sighing a bit.  "Do we think they can?"

"Don't know but the drummer had a bunch of other vamps around him talking about it and how cool it would be when they fed.  I'm betting at least one minion in Sunnydale has some magic skills."

"Which could mean a future problem," Giles decided.  "I have no idea if they can do it over live music or not.  They'd have to be playing almost by rote."  He went to find that book, finding it in Xander's stack.  He took it to look up.  "No, they can't do it while playing unless they've already cast it and don't have to maintain the spell.  Which would mean they'd have a bit higher level of skill than being able to light a candle or float a pencil."  He shut the book.

"Okay, so if I feel drawn to let the vampy vamp bite me I punch him in the nose?" Buffy said.  Giles nodded, smiling at her.  "I can do that.  Point that vamp out to me later, Xander, so I can stake him before he gets more scary ideas."

"I already got him when he went to the bathroom, Buffy.  Him and his buddy.  Saved one of Cordelia's sheep from her desire to be a groupie too.  She wasn't happy that they didn't join her but since they had disappeared she wasn't going to pout about it too much in public."  Willow snickered at that.  "So, Dragon's Burns is looking for a new drummer if you know someone."

"I'll let a few people know," Willow told him, shaking her head.  "How did you get them?"

"I walked in to pee and got them while they were taking one too."  He shrugged.  "They were in the way of the urinals and leaking badly all over the floor."  Buffy and Willow both snickered at that.  "Hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go."  He moved to help them look up the actual problem of the moment.  "How would we know if something huge was underground?" he asked a few minutes later.  They stared at him.  "The sewers.  Didn't Angel say they were like a freeway during the day?"  Buffy nodded slowly.  "So we could be hiding a lot of very bad things but they'd have to be down there.  How would we know to stop them before their plans got out of hand?"

She shrugged.  "Someone will tip us off I guess.  Not like I can patrol down there."

"If there's walkways, technically you could," Giles pointed out.

"It's a *sewer*," she pointed out.  "Even with walkways.  Besides, I doubt it's big enough for someone to stand up in or anything."  She shook her head, going back to the books.  She finally found it.  "Here it is, and it's a plant eater gone rabid."  She got up to show him.

"That doesn't match your description in color, Buffy.  It says these are blue."

Xander looked over.  "We have seen things that looked just like that in the more purple range.  Is that a special moment or crossbreed maybe?"

Giles took the book to read better, nodding.  "It says that means they're females in heat and they would eat meat to get enough protein for the new eggs to be formed correctly."

"Okay, so kill the mommies so they can't be mommies then go play at the Bronze to weed down the non miniony vamps," she decided.  "Wood work?"

"Bring a crossbow and a knife just in case," he ordered.

"I can't pack all that and run, Giles."

"Have Xander bring your crossbow for you then."

"Sure, I'll be her squire," Xander joked.  Giles gave him a dirty look.  "That's what backpacks are for."  He got his and put the crossbow plus a few extra dozen bolts into it, walking out with her.  "Let me get a soda for dinner on the way," he told her.

"You'll bounce," she complained.

"If I don't eat soon, you can carry my big, heavy butt home and explain it to my parents," he shot back.  She groaned but paused long enough for him to use the machines.  Once he had a soda and a snickers, he was good to go.

"Why didn't you eat lunch?"

"I was looking up something."

"Why?"

"Something I'm working on for someone's new game mod."

"Huh?"

"Geek stuff, Buffy.  Don't worry about it."

"That's dumb."

"No, dumb is hair dye," he told her.  "Putting chemicals into your brain."  She glared at him.  He stared back.  "Since the geek I'm looking stuff up for is the head of the chess team and a great strategist, yeah, he needed it."

"Fine.  Why couldn't he?"

"Honors English."

"Eww."  She gave a delicate shudder but left it there.  She had *no* idea what those geek things were and it'd rot her brain further if she did.  Therefore she'd leave it alone and nag if he had to keep munching on patrol.  "You're gulping," she complained.  "They can hear you."

He stared at her.  "As opposed to the whining about your shoes last night?" he countered. She turned to glare at him.  "My soda was tossed out last block, Buffy.  Now, let's head."

"Whatever.  Just be more quiet."  She stomped off.

He stared at her back.  Slayer with PMS, he decided.  He hated girl moments.  Someone should've abolished them long ago.  Or hey, he could put ads in her locker again for those pills that took away your period for four months at a time.  Maybe this month she'd get the hint.  Before she started to cry on the demon she was staking.  Again.  Willow too.

***

Xander heard the knock on the basement door, hurrying over to answer it before anyone could hear it and be annoyed.  "What's up, Andrew?"  He let him into the basement, looking at him.  "You don't look pleased that it's another pretty day out there."

"Something strange is going on."

"Something strange is always going on," he pointed out.  "We're teenagers.  The hormones alone are enough to make us all weird."

Andrew glared at him.  "Not that way, Xander."  He noticed the map, going over to it.  "Wow.  What's the color coding for?"

"Various people who live there, things that're open and vacant, things that're about ready to fall in," he said carefully.

Andrew looked at him.  "I've seen plenty of campaign maps, Xander."  Xander sighed and sat down on the old couch to stare at him.  "What are you doing?"

"Gathering intel that'll probably be ignored by the people who need it."

"Beyond that?  Is this for a new game module?  Johno said that you showed him some new robot sketches."

"I was thinking about building one to see what's in some small, tiny, hidden areas."

"Oh."  He looked at the map again then back at him.  "My place is coded blue," he said, finding the legend for the map.  The other boy groaned.  "Ah, human.  So....."  He looked at the other information.  "A supernatural module or a new game?"

"New game."

"Uh-huh."  He stared at him.  "So this weird around here, like last night at the Bronze when the DJ got busted up and kicked around for a bit?"

"Yeah," he said slowly.  "I was there."

"I saw you helping bust him up."  He stared at him.  "What is going on?"

"The town's full of unnatural beings."

"Of course it is, they're called girls."

"Other sorts of unnatural beings.  Like the ones that keep traveling to the alley at the Bronze with someone and come back alone."

"Oh, that sort.  Yeah, I've seen a few weird things.  So you're gathering information on them why?"

"To figure out how to get rid of most of them," he said honestly.  "But the people who could use it probably won't pay that much attention to it."

"So you're planning on doing an underground thing and ..... what?  Taking over subtly?"

"Not if I can help it.  The town's needed to fall in for years.  There's some serious idiots in the higher ups in City Hall."

"I've met one.  He wanted my mom to do something for him."  He looked at the map then at him.  "So what are you going to do with it?"

"It'll definitely help if something's about to happen."

"How are you going to keep updating it?"

"That's a plastic wipe-off screen over the map."

"Even better."  He shrugged.  "Need help?  It's got to be more exciting than Honor's Biology."

"It's dangerous, Andrew."  The other boy started to sound huffy so Xander stood up and took off his shirt, showing him the newest scars.  "It's dangerous," he repeated.

Andrew stared then came over to get a closer look.  "That's a clawing, not a stab wound," he said, looking at him.

"One of the things in a green block did it last week."  He put back on his shirt, looking at him.  "It's dangerous.  There's a few of us who do that.  And some of them don't like *me* doing it because I'm supposed to be the normal guy."

"Normal guys save the universe all the time," he pointed out.

"Exactly.  So I needed to know."

"Do you have anything for the rest of us who could know but don't want to get involved? That way we know what to stay away from?"

"I've been working on a monster's manual thing."

"That formula you wanted from me," he said happily.

"Helped a lot," he agreed.  He pointed at the binder.  "I've got to reorganize it.  It's messy and not really grouped by species or anything.  Also, some of it's wrong because the books I went through for research aren't always right.  We've run into that a few times."

"It's not that hard to organize though."

Xander smirked, showing him the other binders.  "One's missing."  He went to hunt it down, finding it next to his drunken mother.  "It's for biology," he said at her disgusted look.  "For a project.  The teacher said to make up creatures based no the biology and insides we've been learning."  He rushed back to the basement, locking the door behind him.  "Some days it'd be easier to be an orphan," he muttered, handing it to Andrew.

"Typed would be easier, with a few charts, a picture for those you have one on, and then a cool cover."

Xander grinned.  "I'm going to eventually get there.  Right now this is all I've gotten to."

Andrew flipped through the other ones.  "The new module is sucky.  Vampires again."

"I've seen plenty of those," he assured him.

Andrew smiled.  "Thanks, Xander.  Can I help?  Maybe put this in order for you?"

"It's a lot of work, Andrew, and you actually do your homework."

"Not that often.  Besides, I have nothing to do this weekend or next weekend.  I'm going to be grounded as soon as I get home."

Xander shrugged.  "I guess if you want you can."

"Thanks.  It'll be cool."  He gathered them up.  "You know, if this were a game, we'd have to deal with wishes."  He left him alone to think.

Xander looked at his map.  "If I did that, I'd have to wish that I could help handle things and those who didn't want to know wouldn't."  Someone yelled his name upstairs.  "And that I didn't have to put up with them."

"Oooh, I like that one!  No one's tried to handle anything around here and it might even stop the first real apocalypse you guys will deal with," a female voice said, making him spin around to look at her.  "Hi."

"Who're you?  Beyond a wish demon."

"You know about us?"

"I researched you a bit."

"Boy!" his father bellowed.  "I know you're around here somewhere."

"I'm doing laundry!" he called.  "I'll go to the store when it's dry enough to put back on!  You put a spare bottle in the freezer last night!"  He heard the freezer door slam a minute later and it was quiet.  He looked at her.  "Is there some way I can help beyond what I'm doing that they won't want to pay attention to?"

"Depends, do you want to do it subtly or not?"

"Subtly would be better.  I know there's a higher power out here somewhere."

"He's above all the idiots in charge.  He's the reason for them.  It would ruin his plans if he found out things were going like they should."  She moved closer.  "I don't know why I'm answering you."

"Because if you don't, I won't trust you enough to help you craft the wish and then you have to bet on whether or not a group of teenagers can save the world."

"True," she admitted, liking this one.  He thought, which was nice.  "Now, doing it subtly could be harmful.  Especially if you do it the right way.  Because it'd mean you were about as powerful as the idiot in charge."

"Quite probably," he agreed.  "But better an enemy that you know than one that'll sneak up on you and kill you in your sleep.  And if I'm being subtle, he won't know for a while."

"Good thought, very strategic.  Where would you start?"

"A few others who knew what hunting was coming to town.  The teens here, we're all too young.  Including the slayer.  So we'll have to give her someone to help her."

"Isn't that Angel's job?"

"I thought his job was to pant after her panties."

"Quite possibly.  He does back her up."

"Yeah but it's not always in the best interest of the rest of us."

"Good point.  You two should learn to get along."

"We will sometime.  Once we both grow up."

She snickered.  "That's fairly possible.  He does know about you by the way."

Xander shrugged.  "That makes him like half the town.  What else is new?"  He looked at her.  He had idea but no idea how to do it.  "Listen, can I make a suggestion?"

She nodded.  "I might not like it but go ahead."

"What about something like an underground cell?  Something with information gathering capabilities, those sort of things?  I'm not going to ask for superpowers, but maybe someone like a weapons knowing person?  A computer to watch cameras in the sewers for majorly bad things wandering around?  That might even keep track and update the map?"

She looked at the map then at him.  "That's actually a very bright idea.  Why haven't you made one?"

"We're teenagers.  I could ask Andrew and Jonathan.  I don't want them to die from it.  I don't think they realize how bad it really is.  I didn't before I staked Jesse."

She considered it.  "That is true.  They realize that people die, and that they're not really immortal, but death means something different when it happens next to you or because of you instead of just someone you knew about in school."

He nodded, hopping up on the work table down there.  "Exactly.  I know I'm not normal because I've seen this.  More than a few times.  Hell, a few times I wanted to drink but I won't."

"Which a lot of soldiers see."  She moved closer again.  "You're a foot soldier."

"We're all foot soldiers.  The higher ups aren't giving us battle plans.  It's like the general in charge is absent."

"In some ways.  In others, that's why they have your friend Buffy."

He nodded.  "Which isn't more than another soldier, only she's special ops and we're normal covert ops."

"True."  She stared at him.  "So how would you connect your cell?"

"Something or someone to update and keep track of information.  Guys like Andrew and Jonathan to get information, new ideas, maybe even new weapons.  Someone to monitor weapons and teach us what to do with them.  Maybe a few others to help hunt?  I don't know of anyone who I know could withstand that."

She stared at him.  "You'd have to build it carefully."

"But then again, we had Mr. Burns come in recently.  He was a commando.  He retired from it."

She nodded.  "And he does know by the way.  He staked the vampire that tried to get him when he went out for milk the other night."

"So if I went to him with the information would he make fun of me?"

"Probably."

"Even after I proved to him that I know what I'm talking about?"

"Still possible."

He considered it.  "Can I do that?" he asked quietly, staring at her.

She smiled.  "I think he'd be of good help, Xander.  I'm not sure who else you'd get in as hunters though."

"If him or someone would teach some of the backup people how to fight and do what had to be done, that would help during the bad times."

"It would.  So would some technology."

"Yeah, a holy water hand grenade is looking pretty happy making for a nest," he admitted.  "I've been trying but I can't find the plans online on how to make one."

"He has a few manuals.  We'll see if he might teach you."  She patted him on the knee.  "But there's one problem."  She pointed up.

He stared at her.  "Can't I get a big, huge insurance settlement due to death by natural causes?"

"Usually those are double indemnity due to horrific crimes and things.  His plan doesn't have that.  Hers has a violence addition."

"After the last time, I'm not shocked," he admitted.  He considered it.  "It's cold of me."  She nodded.  "Very cold of me."

"But, it could help."

"I don't want to turn evil."

"Then don't," she said, stepping back.

He stared at her.  "Can I maybe win the lottery?  I'd pay them to go to Mexico."

"That would bring attention because you're too young."

"Crap."

She laughed.  "Ethics can be that way, yes."

Xander nodded, considering it.  His mother was starting to complain she was out too.  He sighed, then looked at his hands, then at her.  "I wish something from the family's history would happen to them," he said quietly, "so I can get with the protection of the town and the world."

She clapped.  "That's so cool.  How did you know?"

"Grandfather died when I was four."  He shrugged.  "His brother got taken by a satanist he said.  Sounded more like a werewolf on the prowl to me."

"It wasn't exactly but close enough."  She waved a hand.  "There we are, and you can do what you need to do.  Take a bit and watch him.  He might if he knows what you're doing."

"Thank you."  He smiled.  "Are you single?"

She giggled.  "You're much too young for me, sweetness.  And much too cute.  I prefer bad boys."  She faded out.

Xander went to the store to make it look believable.   When he got back, the town's cops were at his house.  "Guys, I was at the store for my parents.  What happened?" he asked the one giving him pitying looks.

"It looks like someone broke in and decided to make them sacrifices to some cult, Harris.  Are you all right?"

"They sent me on a liquor run," he said, holding up the bags.  "Plus a bottle of champagne to celebrate something."  He shrugged.  "Can I get some clothes so I can stay at Willow's?"

"You're awfully calm," another said.

Xander stared at him.  "I know you're new, but how many calls have you answered or not answered to here?"

"His parents were heavy drunks," another said quietly.  "We've been called about them at least once a week."

"I gave up," Xander told the new guy.  "It didn't do any good since you guys never stopped them."  He looked inside, going a bit green.  It was disgusting.  Well, he had wanted....  Now he'd remember that to make sure he never went there again.  He looked at them.  "Clothes?"

"Go ahead," one said.  "We'll help."  Xander went up to pack a bag, then down to the basement to roll up his map.  "School project?"

"Yup, for history."  He stuffed it into his bag too.  He raided the liquor fund in the kitchen for the money.  The cop smirked at that.  "Gotta eat somehow.  I'm practical.  Years of this means I've been practical for a long time."  He left, heading out the back door.  The library was near enough.  He walked in and found Buffy and Willow arguing over something.  He put the bag of liquor down too.  "Something got my parents."  They stopped arguing to stare at him.  "Looks like a cult and the PD thinks so too."

"They're morons," Willow pointed out.

"Kinda hard to miss all the mystical marks to Dagda on the floor.  Which makes *no* sense."

"No," Willow said, frowning.  "It doesn't."

"How did you know who the marks were to?" Giles asked.

"They were in the same book as the flying thing."

"Those," he said, stiffening.  "They were trying to summon someone, Xander."

He shrugged.  "Nothing came up, Giles, and they're in bits and pieces.  Did the sacrifice need something other than two drunks?"

"Well, yes," he admitted, going to get the book.  He read it over then sighed.  "They should've been virgins."  He closed it.  "So someone tried and failed."  He looked at the boy.  "Are you all right?  You seem less than shaky."

"His parents weren't good," Willow said dryly.  "Never have been.  My mother wanted to turn them in many times but no one took those complaints."

"I was off getting their daily dose of liquor and a special bottle for tonight."

"Don't those places card you?" Giles demanded, staring at the boy.

"Not when they know you on sight because you've been in there since you were four to pick up for 'em," he shot back, giving him a dirty look.  Giles slumped, shaking his head.  "They even moved the stuff together to a front shelf so I only have to walk in and grab then go before someone catches me, Giles.  They know Willow on sight too."  Willow nodded.  "So if your parents need something for the cabinet...."

"Not really.  Mom would freak if you offered it to her."  She looked at him.  "What are you going to do?"

"I raided the liquor fund for motel money but I told the cops I'd be on your floor.  That'll give me enough time to get the house cleaned up after they haul things off later."  She nodded.  "Then we'll see."

She nodded once at that.  "I can understand that but who'll stay with you?"

He stared at her.  "Why would anyone stay with me, Willow?"

She gave him a confused look back.  "Someone has to pay bills, be the adult, do that stuff, Xander."

"That's been me for the last three years," he pointed out.  "I made out all the checks because they couldn't.  The same as you do when yours are off at a convention."

"Oh."  She sat down.  "I'm sure my mom won't mind if you want my floor tonight."

"I might take you up on that.  It'll save me some money for food and the electric bill that's behind this month."  He looked at Giles then back at her.  "Let me tell her mom?"

"She'll freak if you show up and tell her that," Willow complained.  "Let me call so she'll cook instead."  She called home from the library phone.  "Mom, it's Willow.  I'm here with Xander.  His parents were just killed by some insane cultists trying to bring up something."  She listened.  "No, I was going to offer him the floor, Mom."  She grimaced.  "Peoria?  That's cool.  No, I can feed him if you can't before you go.  Yeah, totally gone.  Thanks, Mom."  She hung up.  "She's making food to last for the weekend."

He grinned.  "So we'll rent a movie, have a movie night?"  She nodded, cheering up at that.

"You can't be serious," Giles said flatly.

Xander looked at him.  "Giles, what's the bad side?"  The older man gaped.  "I don't have two violent, loud alcoholics bothering me.  I don't have to pretend to be anyone I'm not for any reason."  Someone stomped in.  "Principal Snyder."

"I heard you killed your parents finally, Harris," he sneered.

"No, I was making the liquor run," he said with a point at the bag.  "Not me.  Whoever did it, Giles said the indications said they did it wrong."  Snyder's face fell and he looked much less happy.  "I didn't kill 'em.  Sorry.  I'm going to camp on Willow's floor.  Also, you can get rid of me for a week while I deal with official-type things.  I'm sure the police officer will give me an excused absence."   Snyder growled.  He smirked.  "And no more reason to tank my grades.  Because no one's impressed."  He grabbed his bag and the liquor bag, walking off.  "I'll see you there, Wills."

"Sure."  She glared at the principal once Xander was gone.  "Leave him alone!  You're being mean for him being better and smarter than you are."

"I don't think so.  I'm more man than he'll ever be."

"Really?  Can't prove it," Buffy told him.  "Otherwise you wouldn't have to threaten others for games."  Snyder glared at her then stomped off.  He couldn't give her detention or suspend her, or even kick her out.  School wasn't in session and he couldn't do it when it wasn't.  She looked at Willow.  "Guess I'm skipping Monday."

"Maybe me too," she decided.  "Let me help Xander get settled in."  She grabbed things and headed off to her house.  Her mother was babying Xander.  She was cooking most of the food in the house so at least they wouldn't starve while she was gone.  Her mother babbled and cooed at her too.  It was nice to get some positive parent affection for a change.  Then they had to leave for the airport.  She and Xander had a good dinner, rented two movies off pay-per-view, and invited Buffy over.  It was a nice day, even if it had started out so sucky for him.

***

Andrew found Xander scrubbing the living room the next Saturday, coughing to get his attention from the open door.  "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine," he said with a slight grin.  "Just have to get the blood up before it draws something.  What's up?  The chairs are covered if you want to sit."

Andrew came in and sat down.  "Xander, I was coming back and saw your visitor," he said quietly.

Xander looked at him.  Then shrugged.  "So?"

Andrew looked at him.  "I know.  That makes me a threat."

"Wishing that something happens, and someone overhearing it, isn't a problem, Andrew.  It's not like there was a contract."

"Oh.  I didn't think about it."  He shifted some.  "But wish demons," he said quietly.

He nodded.  "So I can do what I have to do so you guys are all protected," he agreed quietly.  "It's a small price to pay.  We all pay some sort of price.  Some of us pay it in innocence.  I didn't have that one left and they were nearly dead from the alcohol anyway."

Andrew nodded.  "I can see that point, yeah.  That is a really small price when you have parents like yours.  So what are you going to do now?"

"About?"

"School, having no adults, that stuff?"

"No one's said anything, Andrew.  Really."

"Wow.  What about bills?"

"I talked to the social worker.  The mayor's people told her how tragic it was, that I had an uncle in town who was supposed to be watching over me, and she's agreed I get their TANF checks and food stamps for me."

"That's....odd and probably against most state codes."

"Well, yeah, but it's Sunnydale."

"Good point."  He shifted again.  "So, now what beyond that?"

"I finish scrubbing.  I use their insurance money to pay off some bills ahead, get new furniture, and then start working on ways to do things."

Andrew nodded.  "I can see that.  Oh, got Johno to help me with the manual."  Xander gave him a dirty look.  "He's a faster typer and he knows Office better than I do.  So we're done."  Xander stared, blinking a few times.  He grinned.  "It's great.  He even found some nice pictures to meld together for the cover."

"Wow."

"Yup."  He went to get it and brought it back in.  "See?  Just like a manual."

"It is."  He read the cover.  _Gods, Higher Demons, and Beings Who Think They're Gods_.  He grinned at his buddy.  "Thank you both."

"Not a problem.  I kept a copy for us in case we needed it."  He beamed.  "Anything else going on?"

"Not right now.  I'm working on how to monitor places that need it, like the sewers, without getting caught."

"You need an AI like JARVIS."

"I know but I can't program and neither can you two.  Plus I can't afford one yet."

"The basics aren't that hard.  Warren could.  He's been pouting that you're trying to make a new system of games."

Xander smirked.  "Is that what you told him?"

"I think he'd freak out and break," he admitted.  "But that's okay, right?"

"As long as he's subtle," Xander said.  "I don't mind.  I can easily turn this into one."  Andrew beamed and nodded at that.  "Maybe I'll give it to White Wolf, see if they like it."  Andrew bounced at that.  "Good thinking."

"Thanks!"  He got up, gave him a spontaneous hug, then ran off.  "Hey, Buffy!" he called.

Xander put the precious manual under a chair he wasn't scrubbing near.  "I'm still doing the floors, Buffy."

"I can smell the bleach," she said from the doorway.  "He was all happy."

"He and Jonathan were helping me with a new game idea."

"Oh."  She shrugged.  "Well beyond my level of geek."  She looked around then at him.  "Mom wanted to know how you're doing."

"Well, today I'm scrubbing.  Tomorrow I see the insurance agent again.  Then I think I go back to school on Tuesday."

"Are you going to stay here with all that happened?"

"I'm too young to buy a house," he pointed out.  "I can sell this one with an adult signature, but otherwise I think it'd be easier if I did right now."

"The state isn't going to say anything?"

"No, someone in City Hall stepped in and pointed out that I'm very mature for my age and why.  They're talking emancipation paperwork for me right now.  My uncle said he'd stop around now and then if I need him to for official types but even he knew I was doing most of the adult stuff around the house while my parents were blotto."  He went back to scrubbing.  "What else did your mom want to know?"

"Dinner?"

"Hell yes," he said, putting his brush back into the water.  "Let me shower and change."  She nodded, letting him do that.  He came down to find her looking at the manual.  "For the new game system.  Andrew and Johno typed it up for me."

"It's cool.  I've seen a few of those."

"I figure if it becomes a hit and something happens near them, at least the geeks will realize what it is and how to get away from it.  Like a fairy tale teaching you how to stake would be."

"That could be handy but I'd hate to see other normal geeks doing it."

"No one would make them.  It'd be their decision."

"I guess that's fine."  She put it down carefully and followed him out.  "Windows?"

"Bleach.  Nothing to break in and steal anyway," he told her.  She nodded, walking him back to her house.  It'd let her mother baby him while she went on a date/patrol with Angel.  Her mother wouldn't appreciate her nighttime activities so it was best she was occupied babying Xander.

***

Xander looked at the judge Monday morning, his social worker next to him.  "Sir, you wanted to see us?"

"Your social worker has filed for emancipated status for you, young man."

Xander nodded.  "My parents just died."

"Why not go into the system?"

Xander stared him down for a moment then smirked.  "Sir, some of the foster families are very nice.  Very good families.  My family was a lot like those who're in it for the check."  The judge grunted unhappily.  "They were fairly violent alcoholics.  I was doing all the bill paying, the shopping, all that for them before they died.  Their insurance means that I can not work my part-time job for a few months at the least.  Which means that my grades may go up."

The judge stared at him.  "Can you prove this?"

"I have the copy of the police complaints that were filed," the social worker said, handing them to him.

He flipped through the good sized stack then looked at him.  "Beyond that, can you prove it, Mr. Harris?"

Xander sighed but took off his light jacket and shirt, making the judge gasp at his scars.  "Yes, I can.  And I know that if I were to be approached by someone in a less than civil manner, as has happened in families like mine, I can't say that I won't react."  He put them back on and looked at the judge again.  "Beyond that, she can tell you I've been the one grocery shopping, paying all the bills, cooking my own food, cleaning up after myself.  The only thing I can't do right now is sign legal paperwork, Your Honor.  There's been talk by my friends' mothers about talking me into selling their house so I can get an apartment."

"I see."  He stared at him.  "You're very sure I'll give in."

"Sir, to be honest, will it matter in this town?"  The judge glared.  He stared back.  "She can tell you I'm a pretty decent kid, sir.  I hang out in the library with my female friends Buffy and Willow most of the time.  I don't drink, don't do drugs, make it to school most of the time."

"He is," the social worker agreed.  "Plus it would help us a lot, Your Honor.  We don't have a place for him to go.  It looks like we won't have one for a while.  He does have an uncle but he's only checking on him periodically from what I've seen.  He said the boy could handle it since he has all this time anyway."

"If not, I'll just stay in the house, where my parents were killed, and keep going on like normal."  He shrugged.  "Not like I haven't handled it all by myself basically for the last few years, sir."

The judge stared at him.  "You're a pushy smartass."

"Yes I am.  My parents tried to stop that trend many times."

"I can see why.  Why were they drinking?"

"Because he couldn't get past a physical labor job to be something more important and she was only a housewife that had made bad decisions to tie herself to my father from what they ranted while drunk."

The judge grimaced, looking at the papers again.  "What about if something legal needed a cosignature?  Most rental places won't let you sign even with legal adult paperwork."

"Mrs. Summers has said she will and make sure I don't blow through their insurance money in a year."

"Fine."  He signed the form and handed it over.  "We'll expect you to be like most adults in town."

"No, I won't be on psych drugs anytime soon," he quipped dryly.  "I don't need them yet."  He walked off with the social worker.  "He's cranky today."

"Your uncle was in there last night," she admitted.  "That's why today was such a good day to do it.  You could've been nicer, Xander."

"Last year he offered my mother four hundred bucks if he could pop me."  She shuddered.  "So no, I can't."  He looked at her.  "Thank you."  He smiled.

"You're welcome.  Are you going to sell it?  It will matter to your food stamps."

"I'll be figuring that out once I find out how much it's worth."  She nodded, shaking his hand so she could go back to her office.  He went to the school library, photocopying the papers for the office then coming back.  "Congratulate me, I'm legal," he said happily.

"Buffy told me you were working on a manual?" Giles asked.

"For my own use but Andrew pointed out that I have enough stuff for a new game system.  Which could help other kids if they ran into demons in their towns.  Because we know they're not just here."

"True, they're not but that could be dangerous for them."

Xander stared at him.  "I'd rather that they know how to avoid something and what it can do instead of blindly throwing rocks at it and getting killed because it has projectile weapons."  He put down a copy of the Sunday paper that had a story about a kid in a nearby town being killed that way.  Giles had it on the desk.

"I can understand that."

"This way maybe the kid would've avoided it.  Who knows how many others it could help, Giles?  Beyond that, there's a serious lack of anything resembling reality in some of the game modules out there.  Some that counter even the science they're supposed to be mimicking.  Hell, one forgot gravity in rocket launches."

"I don't know anything about them, Xander."

"Think of it like D&D only with different scenarios."

"I still know nothing about that."

"Role playing, Giles.  They had it back when you were young too I'm sure."

"Well, yes.  We used to role play now and then in the dorms."

"Same thing."  Giles shuddered.  "Now think about what you learned from that.  I learned strategy and things that've been helpful."

"I can tell.  Fine, if you must."

"It's could be worth big bucks," he teased.  "Then I could buy a new couch."  He put the papers into his back pocket.  "My emancipation paperwork came through today."

"That's good.  Is it filed?"

"In the office.  I copied it up here for them.  I've got to finish cleaning up the living room tonight.  Are we on for patrol?  I can easily avoid the bleach for a few more hours."

"No, no one new should be raising tonight," he admitted.

"Shoot.  I wanted to avoid the bleach.  I didn't realize our carpet was off-white instead of gray."  Giles walked off moaning.  "In that case, I'll be at the Bronze for a few hours before I go back to my impersonation of Cinderella."  He walked off, waving at Willow when he spotted her.  "Dropping off paperwork," he said at her scowl.  "Going to clean some more."  He headed off campus, going back to the house.  The local truant officer was waiting on him.  "I'm on grief leave.  I was only dropping off papers."

"You're what?"

He handed over the death certificates.  "I've been cleaning up the mess where they were killed so I can decide if I'm going to sell the house or not."

"I see.  When are you expected back?"

"By next Monday."

"Fine."  He handed it back.  "Don't go there for a few days.  It was reported."

"I was talking to the people I hang out with in the library after hours."  He shrugged but the officer grimaced as he walked off.  Xander finished the cleaning and went up to shower and change.  He had all week to make the decisions about his house.  Not paying rent would be nice.   Plus he'd have a lot more room.  An apartment would be nice, less to clean, but it'd mean more people watching what he was doing.  Which might not be a good thing.  He wasn't sure yet.  The money situation might make him sell it after all.  He'd have to see how much things were going to cost him for now.  He finished up and hauled the bad furniture out of the house.  He saw the new neighbor watching him.  "Not like I want it.  It smells like them."

"They make sprays to cover it," he said dryly.

"You can have it if you want but I doubt those sprays will cover the cigarette burns, the stench of alcohol spilled on it over the years, or the oh so precious moment when you realize they're so drunk they peed themselves."

"No, probably not," he agreed.  "What are you going to do for furniture?"

"Sale," he said bluntly with a smirk.  "Not like I need that much stuff."

"No parties?" he asked sarcastically.

"I'm not that well liked," he shot back, giving him a dirty look.  "I doubt that'll change."

"Teenagers would like to impose."

"Not here they're not.  Or wherever I end up.  I'm debating selling the house anyway."

"Prices are good right now," he admitted, coming over to look at the old couch.  "You're right, no amount of spraying will help that sucker."  He looked at the boy.  "Anything else that has to come out?"

"Two chairs and their bed.  Possibly the frame too.  I haven't had a chance to look at it."

"Did you call the trash people to warn them you had furniture out?"

"No, I was going to let scavengers pick through it first then call."

"No one will take this stuff, even desperate college kids."

"Point.  I can call tomorrow.  Trash day is the next day anyway."

"Good."  He followed the boy inside.  "You've done a lot of work.  I didn't realize the carpet wasn't gray."

Xander grinned.  "I said the same thing when I found that out."  The other man laughed.  Xander got his help moving those things outside then he straightened up with a groan.  "Want a soda or something?"

"I'm fine, boy.  Go rest.  You deserve a rest."

"And pizza."

"Expensive."

"Frozen.  I promise," he said with a grin.

"Even better.  Go.  Shoo, do boyish things."  Xander beamed and went inside.  He shook his head.  That kid was downright strange sometimes.  He'd have to watch to make sure nothing was going to come for the boy.  Though he was wrong, some kids did take the bed from the pile of furniture.  Then again, it hadn't been as badly stained as the rest.  He guessed some people were just desperate.  He saw the boy come out later that night and head out, shaking his head.  "Should lock that," he called.

Xander smirked and held up his keys.  "I did."  He headed off.  There still wasn't anything to steal in there.  He had even remembered to put all the windows down this time.  He might actually miss having to climb up that old tree to get into his room silently sometime.  Maybe.  But for now, they had patrol.

***

Giles looked up as the boy walked in.  "Xander.  What are you doing here?"

"Um, that patrol-like thing that we do now and then?" he suggested.  Buffy snickered.  "The house is all clean.  I need to find a new couch sometime soon but it's not anything critical.  I can do that while I finish packing up their crap for Sally's."

"Huh?" Willow asked absently.

"Salvation Army."  He looked at Giles again.  "So this is a nice distraction to packing clothes that're probably going to get tossed out anyway."

"That's fine.  Buffy, you are going on patrol tonight?"

"I probably should.  Willow said there were three rising."

"Two, I cut through Cooper's on the way here," Xander told her.  "She was chatting with her newly risen buddy.  Got him, she wailed so I got her while she was distracted."

"That'll work," Buffy decided.  "C'mon, let's do the rest of this."  She walked out with her weapons, pulling back her hair.  "Can mom come help?  She's being all fussy and nagging again."

"Sure, if she wants."  He shrugged.  "All I've got to do is clean out their crap and decide if I'm moving to an apartment or not."  She looked at him.  "It'll be cheaper if I don't.  I don't have to pay rent here.  Electric, water/sewer/trash, minor gas bill for the hot water heater for some reason.  I can switch that out if I want to."

She looked at him.  "Major payout from their insurances?" she guessed.

"Pretty good plus doubling clause if Mom died due to violence.  If I decide to sell the house and move I'll get that money too."

"Won't someone make you put it in trust until you're twenty-one?"

"I'm emancipated, Buffy.  I'm legally an adult."  She stopped to stare at him.  He smirked.  "That way the social workers didn't have to worry about me."

"Wow.  Don't tell Mom that, she'll wail and freak out or something."

"Your mom?"

"Yeah, she did when the town made a thirteen-year-old into one last year."

He smirked.  "I saw that."  He walked off, her coming with him.  "I don't know, I'll decide that later on.  I realized earlier I might even miss having to sneak in some day."

"Maybe," she agreed.  "Does that mean you'll have to start paying taxes like an adult?"

"I've had a part-time job for years.  I know how to find the IRS office and have them do it for me."

"Oh."  She nodded.  "I guess that's reasonable and stuff.  How are you liking being so adulty?"

"So far it's not so bad."  He waved at a cop that lived near him when they drove past, wincing when they stopped.  "Yes, Officer Steve?" he asked when he came over to him.

"Harris, what are you doing with the house?"

"No clue yet," he admitted.  "Why?"

"You live around a lot of single people, kid.  They're worried about parties."

"No one likes him that much," Buffy told the officer.  "They wouldn't come even if he announced it."

Xander glared at her.  "Gee, thanks."  He looked at the officer again.  "I don't plan on having more than a few friends over maybe for some gaming now and then.  I'm not the party people sort."

"Good."  He stared at the boy.  "You could leave the rental and move."

"They owned it."

"They did?  You sure?  The mayor said they didn't."

"I'm the one that's been paying the bills for years, Officer Steve.  Yeah, they owned it.  You can tell whatever nosy higher up that too.  They've owned it for nearly ten years.  They switched to bourbon that night to celebrate when the last payment went in."

"That's fine then.  Just making sure.  If you are selling it where are you moving to?  Closer to the school?"

"Don't know," Xander admitted.  "Somewhere nice enough.  Big enough for a few friends to come over and game on Saturdays.  Have a good tv and cable.  Nice couch, bigger bed."  He shrugged.  "I'll figure that out when I figure out if I'm selling the house and moving."

"Good idea."  He stared at the boy.  The boy stared right back, creeping him out.  "Don't do anything that would get you in trouble.  Now that you're legally an adult we'd have to treat you like one."

Xander smirked.  "I never do anything like that, Officer Steve.  How many times have I been involved in those calls you guys never answered."  The officer looked sheepish so he walked off.  "We're heading to a friend's for study time.  Have a better night, Officer Steve."  He waved and they walked off together.

Buffy watched him watch them, then looked at Xander once he was gone.  "That was creepy."

"It was."  He smirked.  "But I do have the deed to the house in the special box in the bank."  She snickered.  "Really.  I even talked to a realtor to get her estimate of what it would sell for if I went that way.  She's saying a good bit.  Someone offered me seventeen thou for it and that's way lowball.  I sent them back a polite estimate of worth and haven't heard back yet.  And I still might not sell it."  He shrugged.  They finished up their patrol and he went home to find a letter stuck to the door in tape.  He read it.  Then he snickered, going inside to get a photocopy of the deed he kept around the house.  He dropped it and the letter together in the guy's mailbox.  The mayor could find some other cheap housing solution.  His house wasn't being rented.  There was no way things were going like that.

***

Xander walked into City Hall a few days later.  "May I please speak to the Mayor's secretary?" he asked politely.  She nodded, sending him that way.  He walked in and smiled.  "Can you please give your boss a message?"  She nodded, pulling over a notepad and a pen.  "This," he said, holding up the newest threatening letter, "is not really an option since they weren't renting the house, especially not off him.  My parents bought their house through a VA loan way back when and paid it off ten years ago."  She groaned.  He held up a copy of the deed.  "This is an official copy of the deed, notarized and all that good stuff since the photocopy wasn't enough."  The mayor came out to glare at him. "Good!"  He held up the deed.  "We own it."  He handed back the letter threatening eviction.  "You can't do that if you don't own it.  So said the law."

"You know nothing," he started.

Xander pulled out another paper.  "Really?  Because I asked."  He held it up.  It was from one of the local judges's secretaries on what he could and could not do.  "That's what he told his secretary to pull up for me.  He agreed, you can't threaten to evict me from a property I own."

"You're underage," he started to stay more calmly.

"I'm emancipated now, Mr. Wilkins."  The man stepped back.  "And I was doing all the adult stuff for *years* thanks to my parents being the way they were.  Maybe if your cops and others responded to domestic violence and other calls, I might be one of the chowder headed little idiots who's scared of others.  Since they don't, I'm not real scared of you."  He stared him down.  The man took another step back.  Apparently no one had spoken their mind to them recently.  "Beyond that, I can easily sue this whole town for not doing what's law by the state and government standards.  Including stopping social workers."  The man shuddered.

"I'm not scared of you.  You try this, I will start suing, and telling all sorts of neat people like reporters.  There's that nice one from LA's channel four that does all those good human interest stories.  I'm sure she'd love this story."  He stared at him.  "If I want to sell the house, it'll be for fair market value or above.  Not for the piddling offer your buddies want it for.  If they want it that badly, there's hundreds of other houses in town that could be bought easier.  Including all those sitting empty.  There's four of those on my street by the way.  Most of them would need less work than mine.  Now, here's your letter back," he said, handing it over.  "I've already copied it and sent it to a friend's mother so she can back me up.  I'm sure Mrs. Rosenburg will be most pleased to help me with that matter."

He shuddered.  He hated dealing with the Rosenburg matriarch.  She was whiny and loud. "Fine, I thought it was being rented."

"Even if it was, only the landlord could've said that I can't live there.  Since you didn't own the house, that doesn't make you the landlord.  So no, your little intimidation ploys don't work well on me with what I saw daily out of two damn drunks."  The mayor shuddered again.  "Thank you for your time and I hope the rest of your week goes better."

"I hear that you're flunking out of school?"

"No.  You heard that Snyder keeps doctoring my grades and the state's now investigating him for it," he said with a smug look.  "A teacher got pissed at his interference in her grading.  Beyond that, maybe I should point something out.  I'm the one who was building the proton accelerator last year in the science lab."  The man's eyes went wide.  He smirked.  "Exactly.  I may not like homework but I'm a geek, Mr. Wilkins.  It was cool I got it to work for a minute before it exploded."  He nodded quickly at that.  So did the secretary.  "I'm glad we're clear that I'm not the nice, scared, chowder head that you see around here.  Have a better day and thank you for your time."  He walked out, heading to Mrs. Summers' gallery.  He handed her both things and the tape he had made of the talk.  Then he walked off shaking his head.

She listened to the tape, snickering.  The boy was clearly lacking caffeine today.  She did wonder why he had threatened him with Willow's parents instead of her but then she remembered that Mrs. Rosenburg was well known around City Hall complaining about something.  And she was loud.  Yeah, she was a better threat this time.

***

Xander walked up to the officers staring at his house a few days later, clearing his throat.  "Since I heard," he said dryly.  They stared at him.  "I was across town at the school with the girls," he said with a point.  "So what happened?"

"Something about an electrified anti-break in system burned the back door?" the officer asked him.

"Really?  I only had that on the front door," Xander said bluntly.  He walked around him to the fire crew.  "Do you guys need me to disable the front door since that's the only place that had the electrocution system on it?"

"No, sir.  You shouldn't be here."

"This is my house," he said bluntly.

"We'd need to talk to your parents."

"They got sprinkled in front of their favorite liquor store a few weeks back.  It's *my* house."  They stared at him.  He stared back.  "What happened?"

"It looks like someone tried to set your kitchen on fire," the chief of the fire department said.  "The police were miffed at your front door being on a shock system."

Xander groaned.  "Do we know who?"  He shook his head.  "Much damage?"

"The kitchen will need the back wall fixed.   You live here alone?"

"Yes and I was across town," he said bluntly.  "I've been fighting off someone who wants to buy the house at a very lowball price.  It's making me stubborn."  He grinned.  "I was at the library in the high school with some friends."

"He probably set it on fire," one of the cops called.

"Hard to do since he was with us," Buffy told him.  He glared at her.  She stared back.  "Willow, can you get into the school's cameras and run it back?"  She nodded, pulling out her laptop and cellphone to connect and do that for her.  She saved it down too.  "We've been there for hours."

"Fine," he sneered.  "He still can't have a system that would kill people."

"Yes I can," Xander said.  "If they're trying to break in, the law says they're fair game."  He walked around and kicked the door, knocking the wire off then opening it.  "See?  Idiot," he muttered as the cop huffed off.  He walked back to the fire crew.  "Can I still live in it?"

"Yeah.  We got the damage stopped before it more than charred the old paint."  He let him see the damage.  "It's easily taken care of."

"I was thinking about having a bit of work done anyway," he admitted. "Replace the hot water heater, that stuff."  The fire chief nodded.  "Thank you."  He shook his hand.  "Have a better night."

"You too, sir."  He walked off, getting his crew back to the truck.  Really, the fire had been able to be handled with a hand-held fire extinguisher.  Not really a huge fire.

Xander sighed and grabbed the phone to call someone.  He found it off.  "Funny, I know I paid that bill," he said dryly.  "And it was in my name anyway."  He walked out, borrowing Buffy's cellphone to call that reporter.  He'd sob on her about them being mean to him.  Then he called the phone company to point out the phone was in his name and he wasn't dead.  The electric and water companies too.  Then he let Mrs. Summers have the honor of yelling at people.  Yeah, that was a workable plan.  Mean, but fun to watch too.

***

On Monday, Xander walked back into school, taking off his sunglasses to wince at the brightness.  "Hangover?" Snyder sneered.

He looked at him.  "Ice cream binge most of the night," he said bluntly.  "Do you honestly think I'm going to drink with what I saw?"  Snyder grimaced.  "So, you have my paperwork, my excused absence letter, which I had the probate lawyer send you, and the letter from the state telling you that you're under investigation?"  Snyder stomped off.  "I'm having a screw with me and die mood today," he decided.  "I need more sleep."  He went to his locker, running into Cordelia and her minions of clothing.  "What?" he asked one when she stared at him.

"No parties?" she sneered.

He looked at her.  "I just got it cleaned.  Why would I want the crabs patrol to come over so I'd have to scrub it again?"  She huffed off.  He heard a snicker and looked at Willow.  "Ice cream binge all night," he said.

"You can nap later," she reminded him.  She got her stuff and walked off.  "Home room, Xander."

"Yay me."  He got what he needed for his first few classes and went to it.  The teacher gave him a pitying look.  "What?  He already try to suspend me?"  She nodded, handing over the notice.  "Hey, that means I can go sleep," he said with a grin, going to do that.  He had to knock out the creature in there but he was still in a mean mood.  So hey, six hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Willow looked at Buffy when she was looking around.  "He had an all night ice cream binge.  He's in in-school suspension."

"Wow.  I guess he's getting some sleep at least."  She shrugged and they went to their next class of misery.  She needed to do that but her mother would kill her.  She was talking about therapy again too.  She didn't want to have a shrink.

***

Xander smirked at the man huffing up to his door, opening it.  "You needed something?" he asked the idiot who was trying to buy his house.  He hated the mayor's friends.  Maybe he could direct a vamp at them?  No, that would be evil of him.

"You can't own here, boy."

"First, emancipated, act like it," Xander said bluntly, making the man back up and stare in horror.  "Secondly, take a good look at this house.  Do you think I let it get this run down?  Or do you think that my charming drunk parents did it?"  He lounged in the doorway.  "There is nothing you can do to intimidate me.  Nothing that they haven't tried and nothing that'll make me go crying to someone to help me."

"Seems like you already did," he sneered.  "I heard about the reporter."

"I don't have the energy or the time to deal with the petty shit," he said bluntly.  "Therefore I delegated."  The man sneered harder.  "But now that you're here."  He whistled, having spotted a demon that liked flesh.  It was pretty mindless.  Just sniffing around for something laying around.  It came bounding over, sniffing the man.  The man was making squeaky, horrified noises.  "Like it?  I've seen many like it.  It's a good doggie, huh?"  He smiled.  "I'm thinking about adopting it."

"But it eats people!" he complained, backing away from it.

"Yeah, and?"  He shrugged.  "I hunt vampires.  It'll help."  The man backed up another step.  "So, why don't you focus on a few other houses?  Like the ones across the street that're empty, nicer, and easier to buy?"

"Yours was used in a ritual."

"Failed ritual.  They needed virgins to do what they wanted to."

"Still!" he complained.

Xander shook his head.  "No.  And all that's cleaned up.  See, one of my friends is studying Wicca."  The man moaned, making whining noises.  "So, anything else?"

A cop car pulled up.  "Harris, is that your dog?" he yelled as he got out.

"No, officer.  It's not my dog.  I'm thinking about adopting the stray."  He grinned.  "But it won't eat anything not lying down."

"Whatever.  Why are you scaring the normals?"

"He came here to intimidate me so I'd sell the house to him cheaply because of how my parents died."

The cop looked at him.  "You know he's one of that Summers' girl's friends."

The guy shuddered and stomped off.  "Fine!"

"Thank you!" he called, waving.  "Sorry, poochie."  It huffed but went to sniff the cop and then the cop car.  It smelled like it had a body in it.  He looked at the cop.  "Did someone call, Officer Bob?"

"Yes, they did.  They said you were scaring people."
 
"Why would I scare people?"  He grinned a goofy grin.  "I'm only sixteen.  How would I be that scary yet?"

The cop stared at him.  "I hate you and your little friends."

"Sure, next time we won't stop the bad things until after they have you," he promised.  The guy groaned.  "Any other cheery news like I won the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes?"

"I doubt you ever could," he sneered.

"They say you only have to enter to win sometime," he quipped.  "And I'm too young to play the lottery.  Then I could afford a whole new wardrobe too."  The man huffed back to his patrol car.  Xander waved at him too.  "Piss drinker," he said once he was gone.  His neighbor was laughing.  He leaned out to look over at him.  "He is."

"He is," he agreed.  "Think that'll solve it?"

"Probably.  If not, I'll go sob on someone's shoulder again."  The neighbor smirked at him.  "Some things are better coming from a woman.  I'm not one of those."  He shrugged.  "I'm inviting a few friends over for a gaming run on Saturday.  We'll try not to be too noisy."

"Thanks for the warning, kid.  Make it the afternoon so I'm mowing."  He went back inside laughing.  Xander smirked at his good work and went to make himself something for dinner.  He was a decent enough cook.  He had learned over time.

***

Andrew came pelting up to where Xander was getting things out of his locker, panting a little bit.  "Xander, I need help."

"Sure, what's up?" he asked, closing his locker once he had all his patrol gear.

"Jonathan's been talked into meeting a girl in a cemetery."  Xander groaned.  "I know he's in trouble.  It's after dark."

"And geeks don't get action like that," Xander finished.  Andrew nodded.  "Which cemetery?"

"Restview.  The crypt with Hills inscribed."

"I'll check on him."  Andrew beamed.  "You go wait somewhere safe."  Andrew nodded, heading out to find a safer place to be.  Xander went back to the library.  "Buffy, gotta help someone who needs walked home.  I'll meet you later?"

"Sure," she said, looking confused.  She looked at Willow.  "Why would someone ask him?"

"He's probably bigger than them," Willow told her.  "He's a guy."

"So maybe it's another evil girl?" Buffy asked.

"Maybe," Willow sighed, shaking her head.  "We'll figure it out."  They went out together, chatting about the upcoming dance.

***

Xander found the crypt and heard Jonathan arguing with the guy in there that he wasn't going to play with him.  Xander opened the door with his foot and walked in confidently.  He was faking but oh well.  "Morning."  He looked at Jonathan.  "Got fooled by the easy girl?" he asked.

"Yeah," he sighed, looking down at his feet.  "She was a cheerleader and said she wanted some fun with a bigger brain.  She was tired of steroids shrinking them and their dicks."  He gave Xander a sideways look but didn't see pity.  "You've had it done to you?"

"No but we did have the science teacher trying to eat me.  She wanted me to come over to help her make more eggs for her project."

"Wow," Jonathan said, awe in his voice.  "She was gorgeous, Xander.  Did you get lucky?"

"That someone drove her off since she wanted to mate then kill me."

"Eww.  Sorry."

Xander shrugged.  "Only Willow brings it up most of the time."

"As amusing as this is," the vampire said, still in game face.  "Who're you?"

"Xander.  I work with the slayer."  He shot the guy with his crossbow, making him go to dust.  "C'mon.  I'll walk you home."

"I ...."

"Or my place."  He walked him out.  "Which cheerleader?"

"Morticia, the one who wants to be Harmony and can't make it."

"We staked her last night," Xander admitted.

"She talked me into it late on Sunday," Jonathan admitted, looking at his feet again.

Xander patted him on the back.  "The slutty cheerleader is a geek ideal, Jonho.  You and I both know that.  Unfortunately we have to be *really* rich or famous to get one.  Bill Gates we aren't.  Maybe some day you'll get there, but I'll settle for sweet and good in bed."

Jonathan looked at him.  "You think I could?"  He looked so hopeful that Xander had to nod.  "Thanks, Xander."

"You're welcome.  It's the truth.  You're one of our major school brains, and a lot more normal than Willow gets at times.  Besides, you don't babble at me about girl things."

Jonathan punched him on the arm, getting a grin back.  "Where's everyone else?"

"Andrew went somewhere safer.  I'm meeting Buffy and them later for patrol."

"Cool I guess.  Thanks, man."

"Welcome.  Want to hit your home or my place?" he asked when they got to the street.

"Yours.  I can call my mom to pick me up."

"Sure."  He walked him off.  They ran into the girls a few blocks away.  "Hey."

"Hey," she said, looking at Jonathan.  "He's the one you needed to walk home?"

"One of the skanky ho cheerleaders played a mean prank on him so we're commiserating," Xander said.

"Yeah, some of them are pretty mean," she agreed, smiling at Jonathan.  He had never been anything but nice to her.  "I'm sorry she was that mean.  Not all cheerleaders are like that though.  I wasn't when I was one."

Jonathan smiled.  "You're cooler now anyway because you think with more than your pompoms."

She smiled and nodded.  "I try but it's not always happening.  Some habits, you know?"

"I do.  Now and then I start comparing some of our teachers to D&D races."  She let out a small giggle and he grinned.  Maybe being with Xander was a good thing. It made him look more macho he guessed.  "Later, ladies.  See you at school tomorrow."

"I'll meet you at the Bronze soon," Xander told her, getting a nod back.  He patted Jonathan on the back with a grin once they had moved on.  "Smooth," he promised with a wink.

"Thanks."

"And I liked the breast reference too," he offered.  "Very smooth."  The other geek just grinned at him for that.  He took him back to his house, where Andrew was.  "Don't get too loud.  If you can figure out how to get me illegal cable and internet, go for it.  If not, there's pizza and stuff in the fridge.  I'll be home about two."  They nodded.  "Lock up if you leave sooner."  He left them alone.  They'd be fine.  Not like they were going to trash his house or call a sudden high school wide party.

Jonathan sat down.  "He kicked in the door.  Totally talked down to the vamp.  Then he told me he understood, the science teacher tried with him."

"Man!  She's one I'm still having naughty dreams about," Andrew said, shaking his head.  "Lucky guy."

"He said Buffy and Willow ran her off before she could kill him after sex."

"He nearly got sex!" Andrew asked in awe.  "He's nearly godly now!"  He slumped on the couch.  It was nice, smelled good, and was comfortable.

"He even said my reference to Buffy's breasts was smooth," Jonathan said smugly.  "She apologized for other cheerleaders and I said she was cooler because she didn't think with her pompoms.  I don't think she caught it but he said it was smooth."

"Lucky," he said with a pout.

"She was with Willow.  They're going to the Bronze."

"No one would dance with me anyway," Andrew reminded him.

"Good point."  He looked around.  "Wow, it's clean."

"Xander bleached."  He pointed at the rug.  "He replaced it too, it's not gray."

"It is.  Wow."  He stared at the off-white rug then nodded.  "He's got decent tastes."  He went to look in the fridge since the other boy had offered.  Even geeky teenage boys lived by the words of their stomach.  "Think we can get him cable and 'net?"

"Probably," Andrew admitted.  He came in to get his own food and they went to look at the box.  They had done it in their own rooms.  Andrew had to scurry home to get a descrambler box but that was fine too.  That'd mean they could get porn channels.  It was much appreciated by both of them and Xander when he got home.  Xander sat down, staring at the tv, then at them.  "Got it," he said proudly.

"You're my type of geek, guys."  They grinned back and let him have some pizza.  Then they settled in to watch the mud wrestling lesbian porn.  Yeah, that was a fantastic end to patrol.

***

Xander looked over his map in the basement.  He had turned the room into a work area for him to figure out what was going on around town.  The girls had no idea, of course, but they were being girls again.  Andrew knocked then walked in.  "Hey."

"Hey."  He looked things over then nodded once.  "That's really detailed."

"It is," Xander said.  "I don't know how to tell anyone about this buildup though."  He pointed at something that had been bothering him.

"Tell them you saw some extra ones that way?"

"No, I tried that.  She ignored me."

Andrew looked at him.  "So totally tell her how you got the info."

"Tell her Willie told me?"  He looked outside, having seen shoes.  Fashionable girl shoes.

He looked then nodded.  "Yeah, and hey, this tracking is good for the usual problems that seem to get more people vanishing in the spring."

"It is," Xander agreed.  Someone opened the door.  "Might as well come in," he called.  Buffy came down and looked at the map.  "I've been asking Willie to help plan a better patrol route so you can hit more important areas and not have to be out all night."

"That might be handy since Mom's getting onto me again about the boring homework stuff."  She looked over the map.  "Red are vamps?"

"Figured it was reasonable," he said dryly, grinning at Andrew.  "He helped me a lot with that."

She smiled at Andrew.  "Thanks."

"Not a problem."  He winked at Xander and left him alone.  He was all alone in the house with a cute girl, maybe he'd get to score a new level on the breast groping game.

Xander looked at her.  "He wanted to help since he nearly got caught a few months back," he said quietly.

"So he knows about patrols?"

"No, but he realizes someone's doing it and he realized why he saw a crossbow in my locker one day.  Put them together."

"That's why you went after Jonathan," she said.  He nodded.  "I guess that makes sense."  She looked again.  "That's really far away, Xander."

"I know.  The main hiding area in that warehouse section is a hell of a hike at two in the morning for everyone but whoever lives by Cordelia.  But if we plan it right, we can go have dinner at the mall then it's a three block hike to the farthest out.  So maybe one night?" he suggested.

She nodded.  "I can see doing it that way instead of nightly."

He pointed at a blue pen line.  "Best use of the cemetery routes.  Takes you by most of the crypts too except the ones in this cemetery," he said with a point.

She smiled at him.  "That's not a bad route.  I'll miss some."

He shook his head.  "These four don't have as many people being buried there.  They're all sold out so unless you've already bought a plot it's not likely."

"I've noticed that but there's a few that use that route to trek to the Bronze."

Xander nodded.  "Which would make this route make sense on those days," he said, pointing at a red pen line.  "That leaves out one cemetery but again, not that heavy of burial rates.  It's mostly old family plots."

She nodded.  "That's not a bad idea," she admitted.  She smiled at him.  "Thank you."

"Welcome."  He grinned back.  "You know I'll help any way I can, Buffster."

"I know."  She pinched him on the arm.  "It's not a bad map.  Better than Giles' with push pins."

"It was helping me think because we've had some vamp shifting living areas.  There's been a lot that way," he said with a point.  "But there used to be a lot more that lived out by UC Sunnydale."

"So they're switching areas for better hunting?"

"I don't know," he admitted, looking at her again.  "I noticed it over the last few months.  You've said you caught a lot more out there," he said with a point at one area on the map.  "For the first few months you reported a lot out there.  Now you're seeing more in this area."  He pointed at the warehouses again.

She nodded.  "I didn't realize that.  So maybe it's a moving thing, maybe they're shifting for some reason?  Or maybe they decided drunken college kids tasted like bad Mexican food.  Who knows with vamps."  She looked at him, getting a grin back.  "Can I?"

"Yeah.  It's a plastic overlay so it can be redone if necessary when they decide to shift again."

"Coolness.  Thanks, Xander."  She picked up the map and carried it off.  She went back to the library, putting it on the table.  "Xander was tracking how some of them moved.  He realized I haven't been seeing as many out by the colleges as we did when I first got here."

Giles looked at the map.  "That's an interesting pattern."  He studied things.  "These pen lines?"

"Patrol routes he was thinking about suggesting so I could hit most of the areas I need to with the least amount of walking."

He nodded.  "That could be useful."  He looked over the detailed pictures.  Then the legend before coming back to what neighborhoods were listed as dangerous.  He looked at her. "This is very helpful."

"It is," she agreed happily.  "Any idea why the college vamps are moving to the slums in the warehouses?"

"No clue," he admitted.  "Tell me if you hear something?"

"Of course."  She bounced slightly.  "I'm not against his patrol routes, but they seem like the nicer walk.  A bit of detouring should help a lot.  And hey, I might actually make it home in time to get some homework done again."

"That would be a good idea," he agreed dryly, giving her a sideways look.

She smirked.  "Mom said so too."  She pointed at a few cemeteries.  "He said these ones are sold out so they're preowned and not as many quick and dirty burials.  This one is old family plots mostly he thinks."

"That's something that would matter to your patrol route," he admitted.  "Not too many burials there would mean you could probably skip that on the nights you needed to be in earlier."

"Like before the history test next week," Willow said as she walked in.

Buffy grimaced.  "Don't remind me until the day before?" she asked.

"Sure, I'll hit my reminder snooze button," Willow said cheerfully.  She looked at the map.  "Wow."

"He said he asked Willie for some of it," Buffy said.  "Xander was trying to work out some patrol routes and where some vampy vamps were moving now."

"That's a helpful thing," she agreed.  She looked.  "Oh, look, this neighborhood's listed as mostly calm but we know we've seen demons there."

"Yes but they've been harmless ones," Giles reminded her.  "For the most part."

"Which is always nice," Buffy said quickly.  She looked over the results again, nodding.  "Okay, I'm going to try the red pen route tonight.  Unless we have one raising somewhere else?"

"Um, one raising here," Willow said.  "The last of that family just got eaten by something.  With the amount of damage I can't be sure if it's a vamp or a beasty."  She pulled up the reports for Buffy and Giles to see.

Giles stared.  "That's not vampire bites.  That's full jaws of sharp teeth, not just incisors or canines."

Buffy nodded.  "So raising, probably not?"

"There's a few things that could have attacked him but I doubt he'll raise."

"So I can do that one," she decided.  "I'll pause by there to make sure the grave's still solid. It's only a block out of the way."  She tied back her hair.  Xander came in with a few bags.  "Dinner?" she asked, brightening up.

He handed her a milkshake.  "From your mother.  She spotted me on my way here and said to give you that."  He handed over the other two bags to Giles.  "Yours from the strange store that has way too much incense."

"Thank you, Xander."  He looked inside then at the boy.  "How did you know I had an order?"

"I went in to get some more of the herbal cleaner I've been using on the bathroom.  It works really well and stinks a whole lot less.  She realized I come in to pick up for you sometimes and handed it to me."

"Thank you.  The cleaner?"  Xander held up the bottle.  He read the ingredients.  "This is really for wood products."

"Yes but it keeps the shower spiffy," he said dryly.  "Without bleach because I'm really tired of smelling bleach."  Willow snickered and nodded.  "But hey, I have an off-white carpet.  Did you know that?"

"You do?" she asked.

He nodded.  "Yeah, I found that out while I was cleaning.  Shocked the hell out of me."

"Me too," Willow agreed.

"It looked nice," Buffy told her.  "The new couch is cute too."  Xander grinned at that.  "Beasty eating someone."  She slurped her milkshake.  "Mom say anything else?"

"Yeah, your dad's calling tonight at eight.  Sharp."

"Crap."  She checked her watch.  "That's an hour."  She shook her head.  "I'll patrol later."

"That's fine, Buffy," Giles called.  He smiled at the boy.  "That is a good map."

"Thank you.  I'm used to making maps for campaigns."  He pointed at the warehouses.  "Why would they move?  The whole group moved from the college area down here."

"There could be a new master gathering there," Giles admitted, considering it.  "Or we could be looking at a higher demon gathering vampire minions.  Or, actually, we could be looking at them being run out of the other area by something higher showing up there."

"Willie said something about the poker circuit but I didn't understand that part," Xander told him.

Giles looked at him.  "Poker?  The card game?"  Xander nodded.  "What would that have to do with anything?"

"I don't know.  Maybe they play when they can't sleep?  Or play for minions or something?"  He shrugged.  "He said something about a few great tables having moved there."

"Why were you at Willie's?" Willow asked.

"I was looking up what something was.  I couldn't find it in the books.  I figured he'd know.  Half the bar won't touch me because I smell like my parents still."  He shrugged.  "I've been in there a few times really."  He looked at Giles again.  "So maybe the poker thing wasn't important but do we need to check that college living area to see if it was something that way?"

"I'll send Buffy out there tomorrow night."

"Major English paper due the next day," Xander warned.

"Oh, dear.  I forgot about that."

"I made a list so we can keep track," Willow told him, printing it out.  "Is yours done, Xander?"

"Yup.  Barely but done."  He looked at it.  "What's that?"

"Math homework.  She always assigns something to be due that day."

"Glad I'm in a different math class then."  She pouted.  "No, it's a good thing.  Though, the science paper isn't due for another two weeks."

She looked and groaned.  "I'll check on that so we can post it."  She looked at Giles.  "That way none of us can forget."

"That could be helpful."  Willow bounced off to see if the teacher was in his office.  "You got your english paper done early?"

"No I totally copied the last one I did on that subject and updated it," he said dryly.  "It's the same topic we had last year from her.  She gave us the same poem in eighth grade too, G-man.  She always likes that poem this time of year for some reason."  He shrugged.  "Not much more I can add to the last one.  I still don't get it.  It's poetry and therefore kryptonite to me."

Giles tried not to smile at that.  "Girls like boys who can quote some now and then."

"Those are mushy guy sorts who have girlfriends, Giles.  I'm not a bard.  I can't even play one in a game.  I suck at it."  He walked off.  "Let me hit the Bronze."

"I'll tell her when she checks in."

"That's cool."  He waved as he walked through the double doors.

Giles smiled and shook his head.  "That boy," he muttered.  He put the map in his office.  They'd have to keep updating it.  It was a good map.  Xander was proving very helpful recently.  He did hope that trend continued instead of the usual problems they had when he wanted to help.

The End...until I can write a part 2.
 

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