Xander grinned at the guy who sat across from him at the club he had first visited in Chicago, and blatantly put a stake on the table. "Hi. How are you tonight? I'm new in town. I'm staying. There's a *whole* section of the city that I'm going to claim as mine and clean out."
The vampire stared at him. "Why?" he asked finally.
"Because I'm tired of the slayers. So I'm going to be here and clean up the city." He sipped his drink. "Got problems with that?"
"Some of us are decent sorts who don't feed on the general populace," he offered calmly.
"Then you've got no problem from me," he agreed happily. "One less for me to have to get a stake through. Or a wooden bullet. Or a grenade, or a bomb in their crypts, or even a grenade launcher into their daytime hidey-holes."
"Good to know," he admitted. He looked at him. "Who are you?"
"Ah!" he said, suddenly getting it now. It all made sense. "Okay. What part of the city are you claiming?"
"Let's say, ten miles around the Last Chance Garage?"
"There's a few demon clubs there."
"Are they peaceful?" The vampire nodded quickly. "Then why would I have a problem with them? I'd probably go party with them when I'm overly stressed. I've got PTSD." He grinned. "So I want some easiness."
"Sure, we can handle that," he agreed. He looked the boy over. "That's not why I came over. I was told you're looking for a construction job?"
"Yeah, and I'm sorry if I fucked my chances," Xander admitted, taking another sip. "I worked on a crew in Sunnydale for about two and a half years. I had a year of supervisory experience. I was project manager when I got injured and the final battle came."
"Sounds good. Can you start tomorrow?"
"Sure. You run a construction crew?"
"An around the clock one," he admitted with a smirk. "That a problem for you?"
"Do you pay on time?" Xander asked, shifting a bit to stretch out and relax. "Are you good to your workers and don't flog them if they get slow in the heat?"
He smiled, liking this kid. He was blunt and seemed reasonable. "I pay every two weeks. You'd be a crew lead. We do full building construction."
"I did houses and a school."
"Good. You'd have about ten guys under you on your shift for internal jobs. Mostly humans but I can't swear and promise." Xander shrugged. "I'd pay you about twenty an hour."
"Decent. I've got a place, I'm waiting on my stuff to come from Ohio, and I'm good with that. What time and what address?"
He pushed over a card and stood up. "Say nine?" Xander nodded. "Thanks. You seem to be mostly decent."
"Yeah, most of the time I'm a big goofball," he admitted with a grin. "I'm a good one to diffuse fights with jokes and low blows to the aggressor. You'd be surprised how fast a small dick joke stops the guy trying to pick the fight." He took another sip and grinned once he had swallowed. "Nine." He tucked it into his pocket. "Three week trial?" The boss nodded. "Thanks."
"You're welcome, kid. I've got a good feeling about you." He walked back to the bar, sending the kid another drink. He wasn't drunk but he looked tired.
Xander gulped the rest of his rum and coke, then started on the second one, taking it out onto the dance floor. It was a nice night.
Xander wobbled out of the first club and found someone waiting there. "Dude, you're messing up my ride," he said dryly. "Get off my car. It's a rental."
"You's with those mousies?"
"Do you live on bad Italian stereotypes?" he asked the greasy man. "By the way, bathing is a nice human trait that should be perpetuated in the human line. Did no one teach you that?" He opened his door and got in, rolling down his window once he was inside. "Dude, I like the furry people. Furry people are a lot like me, only they fought in other places. Then again, I'm calling a neutral zone around the garage. It'll be ten miles around. I wouldn't want to be you if you break that." He gave him another gentle smile. "I'm the one who was partially responsible for the building's trip, dude." He started the engine. "Gotta go, laters." He drove off, heading back to his new spot. He was pulled over about a block from there, getting out once he had turned the engine off, looking at the cop. "Speeding?" he asked hopefully.
"No, sir. Weaving."
"I wove around a pothole." He held out a hand. "I had two whole drinks then danced for about four hours. I'm sober and I'll voluntarily take the breathalyzer." The cop looked startled. "I've got a glass eye, I don't have the balance necessary for a field test." The cop went to get one for him, watching as he blew into the balloon. Xander glanced at it and handed it over with a grin. "Not even .002, dude," he said happily. "It's the potholes."
"Where are you from, sir?"
"Just outside LA."
"Oh. You're new to the city?" He nodded. "Most people don't volunteer things."
"I haven't been here long enough to get into trouble," he pointed out with a grin. "I'm a good boy and I don't have anything to hide. Most of those people would."
"Good point. Fine, change lanes legitimately to get around them, sir. I'll let you off with a warning this time." Xander nodded, taking the warning and grinning and waving before he got in and drove off. The cop went back to report this, shaking his head. No one would believe him. Who *volunteered* to do a breathalyzer?
Xander walked into his apartment and smiled at the lack of everything. At least he had utilities because they were included in the rent. He walked around the few rooms, making a mental list of what he'd have to do when he got home tomorrow. Or tonight maybe. He found a few holes and nodded, finding his phone and dialing information. "Is there a Walmart near Chicago?" he asked the operator. "Eleven of them within twenty miles? Wow. Way overachiever there. Where's the nearest?" He repeated the address and grinned. "Thanks." He hung up and went out to go out there. Maybe he'd be able to find what he needed, though some of it would need a home center. He'd have to rewire the lights, they were pitiful. He'd need more light to work with.
Xander walked onto his new job the next morning, grinning at the guard. "The boss told me to come in about nine, I'm Xander," he said, holding out a hand. The guard shook it after looking at his list. "Where might he be?"
"They're having a group meeting by the management trailer." Xander nodded. "Badge, sir," he said, handing it over. "We're security conscious."
"That's a good thing in my book," he agreed happily enough, walking toward where he could see some people.
"Listen, guys, I know this isn't a good thing," some guy was saying from on top of a van. "I don't like it, you don't like it, and I don't want to do this to you guys, but it's out of our hands. It's the permit department blowing their noses out their holes and making us wait."
"Gee, I come in and this happens, it must be karma," Xander joked. "Hi, boss."
"Oh, good, you're here," he said, checking his watch. "Ten minutes early even. I'm impressed. Guys, this is Xander. He'll be the inside crew chief when we come back in two weeks."
Xander waved. "I look forward to working with you guys when we finally have work again."
"You okay to work with women?" one woman asked.
"Yeah. Some of my favorite women are tiny, delicate, and can kick my ass. I have the opinion that most women can do that and more. You'll tell me if you're having problems and I'll work around them." She nodded, accepting that. "I've got about a year of experience running a crew and doing project management. It's all good to me, dudes, and I'm happy if you are, and if you're not then you're big people who can come tell me why so we can fix that."
"Dudes?" one guy snorted.
"I'm from near LA. It's my natural habitat," he said dryly, smirking at him. "By the way, I don't care what you are, who you are, or who you're sleeping with. All I ask is some attention to detail, doing the job we're paying you for, and coming to me if either of those is going to be a problem for you. You'll find I'm a pretty decent guy most of the time." He looked up at his boss. "This meshes well since my personal tools won't be in until tomorrow."
"That's fine, Xander." He grinned at him. "You're one of those jokesters, right?" Xander beamed and nodded. "Okay. Just no rubber chickens in the walls."
"No, I'm more a whoopie cushion sort," he said dryly, smirking at the guys. That got a laugh. "What's the issue?"
"Permits," the boss offered. Xander shuddered. "Whatever you had out there, it's nothing like out here, Xander. Out here, the book's nineteen hundred pages long."
"Hmm, I had better study that then," he noted dryly. "Good reading or basically a mob story gone bad?"
"Mob story gone bad," the boss admitted. "Lots of rules about not being the mob." He looked at the crew. "To put it shortly, guys, they said they can't get out here for two weeks. We can't touch a thing until they do that. We can't even do external work until they get here. I wish we could, but we can't. Now, we've got a few other jobs going on at the moment, but limited spots. I'm going to put the guys with families first. I can't promise they'll be there the full two weeks, but we're trying. Xander, I'll need you to stay to go through things here after this."
"Gotcha." He looked around. "At least it's not a total shutdown for the winter, guys."
"True, it's not," the woman agreed. "Two weeks?"
"Two weeks at the latest," the boss promised. "That's what they swore to me." Everyone grumbled but they were nodding. They understood that. "I'm sorry, guys. I wish it were different."
"We get it, boss. It's the system, not you," one of the guys noted. "Now?"
"Yeah, I just got the order so we've got to shut down. Go ahead and clean up to get at least another hour." They nodded, going back to clean up. The boss jumped down, looking at the new guy. "Hey. Nice to meet you." They shook hands. "You got questions yet?"
"Not yet. Well, one, we don't work for Limburger, right?"
"No, we're more often found cleaning up after him," he promised. He waved to the trailer. "Let's go inside so we can start that dreaded paperwork." Xander handed over the resume he had written out, grinning at him as he walked inside. "Well, you weren't kidding."
"Nope, not kidding," Xander agreed. He saw a folder with his name and waved it, getting a nod, so he settled in to work on the forms. He handed them over as they were done, then handed back the folder with the last one so they could be compiled and filed. "There, that's done. I'm inside?" The boss nodded, looking at him. "Cool. Wiring, plumbing, walls, and stuff or just one area?"
"We're doing all the same stuff at once. Right now, we're doing the wiring. That's the problem. The electrical inspector had an accident and can't get in here to check things over. We're due for the middle inspection, while things are being done. I'm not foreseeing any problems, but we can't keep going without it." Xander nodded at that. "Ready for a tour?"
"Sure." He stood up and followed the boss out, looking around the building as they walked on. He paused to look at a few things, nodding at the boss to look at them. He nodded, making notes of them. "How many lines to a breaker box?"
"Ten is what we like at the most," he admitted. "That way there's room for growth and it won't overload. We usually put in twelve or fifteen breakers per box in commercial buildings. Why?"
"Fifteen lines, and the others have all been twelve. Just wondering." The boss looked at the box and nodded, writing that down too. "If we needed to, we could probably run a few guys for a few days to fix these things. It wouldn't upset the inspection any."
"No, they gave us a desist order until they could get in," he admitted. "They were firm on that and we follow the rules."
"Cool. That's wonderful with me," Xander agreed, grinning again. He ran a hand up one wall stud, nodding. "Good work. Whoever did this is better than I am."
"That's a guy who just started," the boss admitted.
"My first day I had to be taught how to toe nail and nearly got my foot with the autonailer." He grinned at the nearby guys. "The guys laughed for weeks."
"I'd laugh too," the worker assured him. "Where you from?"
"Sunnydale." The boss glanced back at him. "Yeah, I met the other boss last night. I don't have a problem as long as I don't catch someone attacking someone else. Then my innate good-guy meter comes out and makes me do stupid stuff. He realized who I am too," he assured him. "If someone's nice, I'm nice. If someone tries to bite me, I'm gonna react unless it's someone I want biting me."
"Then you're more reasonable than those girls," the boss admitted.
"Actually, I'm escaping them because they decided I'm helpless after an injury. They're snarky, stupid, brats who decided I'm ancient and unfun because I won't let them do underage drinking, drugs, slutting around, and made them go on patrol. I tended to run a tighter ship there and they didn't like it. So now I'm here and I'm hoping they don't travel this way."
"If they do, warn us," the worker said gently. "So some of us can suddenly get sick."
"Sure. Not an issue. I'll have a friend call over since I'll probably be beating them to death." The worker smiled at him. "As long as we're in peace, I'm good," he reminded him. The worker nodded, and he strolled on, looking in the kitchen area. "Wow, this is nice. I need to do this with my apartment."
"You really don't mind?"
Xander looked at his boss. "I have no problem with peaceful creatures, no matter where they come from. Those who go out rampaging, murdering, and snatching I have a problem with. Those who like to party and dance I like to join in with." He heard a squeal and instinctively turned, but the little creature caught him anyway. He looked back at it, reaching back to move her around so he could look at her. She was blue skinned, delicate, and had plastic looking hair strands. "Hi," he said with a grin. "You're very small. Are you supposed to be in here?" She nodded, staring up at him, sucking on her first finger. "Don't worry, I don't hurt kids."
"Sheila!" a female voice yelled.
"She pounced me," Xander called back. The girl giggled and her mother rushed in. He handed her over and gave her a pat on the back. "She's cute. She has a very good pounce too. Very strong daughter." The woman looked stunned. "I'm good with anything as long as they're at peace," he reminded her gently. "Kids are always sacred to me." She relaxed and smiled, nodding. "Is she here to have lunch with the mommy?"
"The daddy actually but she knocked him down and ran off. He nailed his pantsleg to the wall because he was finishing a wall panel."
"She's still not supposed to be in here," the boss reminded her. "Out, Sheila, go wait by the trailer."
"Bad people," she said quietly. "Nasty smelling guys."
"Wonderful," Xander said dryly, heading out there. He smirked at the man standing there. "At least you smell better this time," he said in greeting. The man stared at him so he grinned and wiggled his fingers. "Yeah, it's me again and I'm here permanently." The man took a step back. "Just think, I can find others to send your building back to hell, and someone to set up a hellmouth on your home planet. I might not like the demons in space theme, but I'm sure the bros could fix them fast with some knowledge and a few good weapons."
The man sneered at him. "Who are you, young man? Do you know who I am?"
"Smelly and rude, trying to take over the world and failing," Xander told him. "As for me, I'm Xander Harris. I lived in Sunnydale." The man shuddered at that and the one behind him let out a squeaky sounding gasp. He looked at the big-headed geek in the white lab coat. "Going to a costume party? You hopefully don't look like that all the time."
"I'm here on business."
"And I'm one of the crew chiefs. We have no business unless the main boss says so and he only comes out at night. Now," he said, stepping closer. "I'd get your smelly, stinky, slimy, boring, stupid, cunt ass out of my worksite, before I help the bros tear down your tower the next time. Because I'm nothing if not destructive," he promised with a cold smirk. "You've seen nothing like what I can do. I blew up my high school. I helped my town turn into a sinkhole," he hissed. "Your tower's next." The man backed up again. "So I'd leave now before I get...creative." The man in the coat ran off. He stared the big, smelly, fat creature down. "See, I'm a good guy. A very good guy. I've slayed demons for years before moving here. I don't care if you are an alien, you too can be slayed. Remember that." He turned and walked off, waving at the guys. "Back to work. Staring at him will only make you go blind from the horror. Someone make sure the kid doesn't have to look upon his grossness either."
"Yes, sir," floated out of the building.
"Young man, I can have you arrested," Limburger said smoothly.
Xander turned to look at him. "On what charge? And by the way, if you try that, I'd feel more than enough urge to return the favor. You may have money, but I'm smarter, faster, younger, more creative, and better trained than you'll ever be. I've also got a demolitions license. Remember what I said, Limburger, and I'll be seeing Vinnie tonight." The man backed off and turned, going back to his limo. "We're not giving in. I saved the world from worse than you and I'll gladly make you my next cause," he called. The limo peeled out and headed back to the tower. Xander glared after it, then shook his head. "I'll have to deal with him later," he decided, turning around and going back into the building. "Hey, sorry about that."
"You've got an explosives license?"
"Yeah, back in Cali. I can get it here too."
"Please do. We don't use it often but sometimes it comes in handy and it'll save the crew money for a completion party." He clapped him on the back. "Just don't make it overt," he said quietly. "He's got money."
Xander looked at him. "The last time I was in town, I let the vampires I was working with send his tower to hell. I'm thinking showy and creative, but anonymous this time." The boss laughed and clapped him on the back. "Let's go back to the tour. Just in case."
"Sure, Xander. I think we're going to have a very good working relationship."
"Hopefully. I'm a nice guy most of the time."
"Have you slept recently?"
"Um, no, but I'll do that tonight," he promised. "Or tomorrow since apparently we don't have anything to do." The boss grinned at him. "It's a habit of mine."
"Not a kid."
"I'm nearly fifty, you're still a kid."
"Okay, then I'll take it from you, but I won't take it from any of the bros."
"Sure, kid." They continued their tour.
Charley looked up as Xander walked in with a big bag of stuff. "Chinese?"
"Yeah. Because we've got to have a talk with the furry people. Limburger showed up at my worksite today. I scared him off." He grinned at her. "I'm going to work on his tower tonight to make people laugh at him."
"They're back at the scoreboard. Don't do something to get arrested. Please?"
Xander kissed her on the cheek. "Sure. Not an issue. Oh, my stuff's coming tomorrow. If they get lost and can't find me, I gave them the number here and you can tell them which exit to take."
"Sure," she agreed, smiling at him. "You heading over? I'll give you a ride."
"I've got the SUV," he offered. "Air conditioning even. Switch?" She came down the stairs. "We're going to the scoreboard. Wanna come?" She nodded, heading up to find shoes and put her hair up, then joined them with a pat for her poor bike. "Let's go. You get to hold the food." She beamed at him, and he opened the doors for them, then got in to drive.
"This thing is massive," Switch said in awe. "How did you get this?"
"It's a rental until I can find one," he admitted, starting the engine. He checked, then pointed at the door, so she put it down with a remote. He turned them around and sped off. "Air conditioner's on the dash, so's the radio." Charley lent forward to set them both for comfort. "Sorry about the pop, but I am from near LA and I have been around a lot of teenage girls."
"Not an issue. We'll slowly wean you from it," Charley promised. "Don't listen to it near Vinnie, he'll have violent reactions."
"Did you ever get him to go to a bear club?" he asked, glancing back to see her blush. "He'd fit in."
"Why? I'm so much more fun this way." He changed lanes and headed to the scoreboard, parking outside the empty gates. "Should we warn them?"
"No, let's go in there and pounce them," Switch said, getting out but leaving the food there to go pounce them.
Xander let Charley get the food while he locked the car, following up the stairs. He was even sneaking as much as he could. He barely managed it in time to notice the guys were wearing cut off sweatpants and playing basketball. At least until Switch pounced Throttle and Vinnie, who had been trying to block Modo, with a ear-piercing squeal. Xander chuckled and pounced Modo so he wouldn't feel left out. "Hi," he said happily. "How are you?"
"I'd be better if you weren't crushing me," Modo said, laughing as he tried to get him off, but Xander was nearly as good as Vinnie was. "Switch, bros, come help? Charley ma'am? Help, please."
"A big stud like you can't get me?" he laughed, getting up and helping him up. He walked over and grabbed Switch, tickling her. She squealed and thrashed on top of the mice she was pounding. "You can't eat while they're on the floor."
She swatted at him and pounced him, but ended up on her back. "You wouldn't tickle me again," she asked innocently.
He beamed. "Sure I would. I'm mean like that." He got up and helped her up and then pulled Vinnie to his feet. He nudged Throttle with a boottip. "Hey. I brought Chinese. That means you've got to eat some vegetables because it's good for the baby."
"Fine," he groaned, letting the boy help him up. "Thanks, kid." Xander gave him a long stare. "Sorry, Xander."
"Not an issue tonight. Tonight I'm going to go paint smiley faces on Limburger's tower since he pissed me off."
"You're gonna do what?" Vinnie asked.
Xander beamed. "Annoyance work. I'm very good at it."
"So I can tell," Modo said, patting him on the shoulder. "You should help us destroy it."
"Sure, but I want to annoy him for a few days first. He came to my worksite today to try to buy the land and threaten me," he said with a chuckle, shaking his head. "He nearly pissed himself." Vinnie cackled at that. "Oh, and the big headed guy, I made him cry!" he shared.
"Yeah!" Vinnie said happily. "Good work, Xander!" He clapped him on the back. "What's Chinese food?"
Charley laid out the stuff from the bag, including the plates. She opened the cartons for them. "The stuff with the red sauce is hot," she warned. "Everything else is mild."
"And the stuff with 'shrooms is mine," Xander said, claiming it before anyone else could. He claimed a fork and sat down to eat. "Split up the other stuff."
"What's that?" Switch asked.
"Chicken, mushrooms, and sauce." He speared a bite and held it up, letting her eat it.
"Eww, fungus," Vinnie said with a shudder.
"It's good fungus, thank you. It's very good for you and for the baby." He grinned at her. "Remember, you can make them eat anything you want as long as it's good for the baby."
"Cool!" she breathed. She dove into the hot stuff, taking a small bite of a piece of it, then she grabbed the sodas that had been unpacked to wash her mouth out.
"Tip, the peppers are for flavor unless you like fire," Xander offered lightly, grinning at her. "Dare you to eat one, Vinnie."
"No, don't," Throttle warned. "He'll fart all night." He dug into the stuff that didn't look too bad. It was noodles, chicken, and some slices of vegetables. It was safer than the hot stuff. Switch put some of that on his plate anyway, earning a long look. "I don't like hot stuff."
"You have to try it," she pouted. "Please?" He sighed and ate it, then took a long drink of soda.
"I had them make it easy on the spices," Xander offered. "Usually I eat it hotter." He stole a bite from Modo's plate, with the pepper. "Never eat the peppers unless you like fire," he reminded him. Charley nodded quickly, taking a drink of her own soda. They all watched as Modo ate a bite and then dug out more. He wisely did remove the peppers but he and Vinnie ended up splitting it. Xander finished off his dinner and looked at them. "Well, we've got some good news at least. My new site is shut down for two weeks due to a permit issue. The guy who was supposed to do it today got into a car wreck. So I've got the time to finish painting my apartment before my stuff gets here tomorrow. Modo, wanna come help me move the weapons locker if the guys don't?" He shrugged. "Cool. By the way, I work on a site that has demons so I'm good if you guys suddenly need money for presents." They all nodded, accepting that. "Charley, did you need me to do anything besides finishing the security upgrade?"
"No, I'm good with that," she admitted. "Thank you, Xander."
"Not an issue. I'd hate to have to destroy someone if you got hurt."
"My job," Vinnie said, but he was smirking.
Xander smirked back. "Take my fun and watch me have to find a new source to protect, like you, hotshot. After all, according to Throttle you do stupid stuff now and then."
"Pot, kettle, color painted?" Charley suggested dryly. "Or shouldn't I mention a window?"
"Hey, I knew they'd catch me. They didn't want to break the crystal." He smirked and stole a piece of remaining food. "So, I'm going to use my new paintball gun and the new paintballs I made last night. You guys are going to do what tonight?"
"Probably go back and help her paint Switch's bike," Throttle admitted. "Vinnie can go with you."
"Aww, man," he whined. "He won't be doing much!"
"Yeah, I don't need help to shoot at the building from a nearby rooftop," Xander agreed.
Throttle shook his head. "No, Xander. We work as a team. You either have Modo or Vinnie."
"But I'm being good," he tried. "I promise I won't get into trouble." He used his puppy eyes and Throttle shook his head, smiling at him. "Please, daddy, can't I go to the dance?"
"No, Xander. Behave before I start to treat you like our kid."
"He'd have to be my nephew," Modo noted. "He's too small to be one of my gray furred momma's kids."
"I wish I had fur, then I wouldn't be so cold this winter," Xander said smugly. "So, I'm going to go paint smiley faces on the tower. You guys are going to paint the bike. Switch, can I have a ride when you've got it done?"
She beamed. "Sure, Xander. I'd love to take you for a ride."
"Cool. We'll work it out later this week." He kissed her on the cheek. "I'm taking the SUV so they're not forced to listen to pop music." Vinnie shuddered and grimaced. "I was just surrounded by teenage girls. It's like mind control in some ways. I couldn't help but hear it. At least I don't listen to rap." He waved. "Later, guys. See you guys tomorrow." He hurried out before Throttle could catch him and make Vinnie come with him. He parked the SUV in front of his apartment building and went inside, smiling at the cop across the hall. "Tell me something. If I paintball a building with washable paint, is it still illegal?"
"Yeah, probably. Are you Xander Harris?"
"More often than not," he admitted. He opened the door, letting him inside. "Is this about the weapons I'm moving here that I have permits for or about someone today coming up to try to intimidate me and me giving it back?"
"Neither actually," he admitted. "Weapons?"
"Yeah, I've got a few. I hunt. I'll be registering them once I get them here. They're in a locked cabinet."
"Sure. I'm here about some complaints about you and cleaning out some of the odd population?" Xander nodded, pulling over one of the barstools he had bought last night, sitting on the other. "How do you know about them, sir?"
"I'm from Sunnydale." The cop looked clueless. "The hellmouth?" The man shuddered. "I worked with the slayer. Actually all the slayers."
"Final battle, Willow activated them all."
"Oh." He blinked a few times then shook his head. "You're going to do what?"
"Nothing as long as no one attacks me or those I protect. If they do, then I'm more than qualified to deal with them and I will deal with them." He shrugged. "As long as I don't see it, have it happen to those I like, and nothing bad goes on around me, I could care less. I'm hoping for a ten mile peace zone around the garage."
"Those people you hang out with?"
"Are good guys. Hero sorta guys. I like that about them. Then again, I'd probably like them if they were lazy and kept calling me kid. Fortunately they've stopped that and Vinnie's like me on a buzz."
"Okay," he said finally. He shook his head. "I don't understand."
"That happens sometimes," he said with a small shrug. "Then you find someone who'll hand you a book, which I can't until they get here tomorrow, and you read it. Come back tomorrow and I'll gladly do that."
"You don't have anything against vampires?"
"If they're not eating someone. Especially not me. Then again, I've known to drive a few to lust." He grinned. "It happens. As long as we've got peace, I'm good."
"Then I'll leave you alone about that. The others...they're okay?"
"They're great guys. Very good guys. You should spend some time talking to them."
"I'll see," he offered. "Please register your weapons within a week, sir, and keep anything you can't register out of the public eye." Xander nodded. "As for the paintball? It'd probably be a bad thing, and yes, he did call to make a complaint that you threatened him but we asked your boss what was going on and he told us." He gave him a long look. "Subtlety."
"I'm twenty-three and I haven't learned that yet. I'm looking for someone to teach me that. You up for it?" he asked with a wink. The cop in front of him tried to blush but couldn't make it. "How long?"
"Congrats. Stay out of Cleveland, it'll make you last longer."
"Sure. Thanks for the advice, sir. Have a nice night. Please don't get caught." He left, looking at the man in the hall. "Sir."
"Vinnie," he said with a grin. "Hyper one."
"Oh, good. Can one of you teach him subtlety?"
Xander stuck his head out. "Vinnie, leave the nice vampire cop alone," he said patiently. "You can't come with me either." He grinned and waved, closing the door. The locks were thrown and they both shook their heads.
"I'll tell Throttle to teach him subtlety. He could always learn from our wonderful example."
"Good. That would be nice. Hellmouth?"
"Boca del Inferno," Xander called. Then another door shut.
"Oh, there," the cop said, shaking his head. "I've head of that. Is there another source of information? He seems a bit...hyper for that."
Vinnie shrugged. "We don't deal with that. We deal with other alien menaces."
"Okay then. I'm going to get drunk now and forget allllll about tonight." He walked off shaking his head.
"I feel like that sometimes," Vinnie admitted. He glanced around and broke the locks before heading inside. The place was empty. He shut the door and looked around. It was a nice place, and it did have two other exits. Apparently Xander had taken the one that led out the window and down the fire escape. He shook his head, heading out to follow the boy. He was on foot since his SUV was there. He rode on, not finding him. He couldn't find the boy anywhere. He was better than he had expected, so he parked in the shadows by the tower, watching the boy's style. He heard the quite 'whump' noise and looked up. The kid was on the building above him. It was followed by a few more. The boy was making lots and lots of smiley faces on the tower and no one was coming out. It was going to make him laugh soon. "Kid, you're so bad."
One final smiley face appeared, this one with the classic 'shot in the forehead' extra dot in the center of the head. Then Xander hopped down and put his paintball around his shoulder. "Can I get a ride back?"
"Sure." He shook his head, holding in the laughter. "What's your next thing?"
"Oh, I did that earlier. You should read the paper tomorrow," he said with a bright grin. He climbed on and held on, allowing Vinnie to take him back to his place. He walked up the stairs, looking at the locks. "I can fix that," he said happily. He put the paintball gun up in the closet and opened the paint can. "Wanna help?"
"I don't paint very well."
"Sure." He went back to work on the walls, covering the one he hadn't gotten earlier. By the time he was finished, Vinnie was looking bored. He covered the supplies, then went to the fridge. "You didn't grab a soda?"
"You put rootbeer in there for us?"
"Sure, why not. I'm a nice guy until you piss me off." He tweaked him on the ear, noticing the blush. "Sorry, didn't mean that in a sexual way."
"That's fine," he agreed with a grin. "I didn't figure you did." He took the soda and opened it. "What else were you planning for tonight?"
"I was planning on some sleep," he admitted. "Eventually. I can always do that tomorrow until the movers get here."
Vinnie looked around. "Hopefully you've got furniture?"
"Yeah, about enough," he admitted. Someone knocked on the door so he walked over, opening it. "Hey, boss." He considered it. "I can always do an uninvite. You and you alone may come in." He got out of the way. "What's up?"
"You threatened Limburger?" he asked dryly.
"I don't like the guy, he's a septic boil on the nose of the city." He headed for the fridge. "I've got some bottled water if you want some."
"Thanks." He caught the bottle Xander tossed over. "No holy water, right?"
"I wouldn't do that to you, you pay my paycheck. Vinnie, this is my boss. Boss, this is Vinnie."
"Hey," he said, nodding at him with a grin. "Trying to keep the kid out of trouble?"
"Not always," he admitted. "Sometimes we find him really fun."
"I saw the smiley faces. Xander, such horrible icons in dayglo pink?"
"He's green and scaley, it'll go," he said with a grin, hiding it as he took a sip of his soda. He grinned at Vinnie. "I've got to get my explosives license again."
"You have one?" the boss asked. Xander nodded. "Hell, then I'll pay you extra for anything that takes explosives. Can you do it in minute amounts?"
"Yeah, I've learned subtlety since I blew up my high school."
"You did what?" Vinnie demanded, giving him an amused, yet shocked look. "Huh?"
"It was necessary." He looked at his boss again. "Did you know we had vampire cops?" He shook his head. "We do and I confused him. He didn't really know what the Hellmouth was."
"He's a lucky guy then. I'll try to find him later and unconfuse him, kid."
"You let him get away with that?"
"He's over eight hundred years old," Xander said dryly. "I'll take that from anyone over fifty years old."
"Actually I'm only six hundred," he admitted.
"Close enough," Xander admitted. "Wanna help me with other stuff? Since we've got time off and all?" he asked with a grin.
"No, I'll leave that to you, Xander. You're very fun and the guys already like you. Especially Sheila since you didn't swat her or yell at her for pouncing you." Xander snorted, shaking his head. "You did good, kid. I made a good choice. Just be careful. Your ten mile radius will be more than happily granted." He nodded at Vinnie. "If you guys need temporary jobs, come to the site. We take all kinds, even furry people." He left, closing the door behind him.
Xander looked at him, taking another sip. "So, what else are we doing tonight?"
"Throttle said I'm not allowed to come back until you're safely tucked in and snoring." He turned to look back at him. "You got a bed here?"
"I've got some pillows. It'll do until I get my king sized bed tomorrow."
"King sized, just soft enough to let you sink into it, but with a firm core to make sure your back doesn't ache in the morning."
"Wow. I'm impressed. You've got good taste."
"I do," Xander said happily. "I found most everything at auction so things are kinda mismatched in spots, but I make due. It's nice and homey feeling. My landlord's wife helped me decorate."
"Good for you, kid." He stood up. "Go take a shower and tuck yourself in, I'll wait until your first snore then leave."
"You'd better take the window, I'm going to have to fix the locks now. By the way, I'll give you guys and Charley keys tomorrow too." He headed into the bathroom, going to take a shower. He came out in a pair of boxers he had bought the night before and headed for the bedroom. It had carpet instead of hardwood floors. "Night, Vinnie." He closed the door and laid down on his jacket. One of his shirts covered him and he got comfortable. It was enough for now.
Charley opened the paper, reading it slowly. It was one of the few things she got to do in peace. She came to the editorials and read them, stopping to reread one of them. She shook her head and reread it a few more times. "What?" she asked. "Who would sleep with him?"
"What's going on?" Xander called as he walked in, handing over the big box of chocolates. He looked at the paper and winked, walking off again. "I'm going to go move furniture, come over when you're done for the day and I'll try to cook, or order instead."
She looked at the paper, then at the retreating back, shaking her head, then shuddering. "Eww, that's a bad mental image." So when the guys came in a few minutes later, she got up to give them the paper and share the bad mental image.
"Limburger's secret lover wants to know where his promised charity work is," Modo read. "Huh?"
Vinnie snatched it. "Hello, Laurence, I know you remember me. We've been together now for eight years and you *promised* me that you'd start to do good for the city. You promised at our private vows to give a million dollars to the local children's shelters and the foster care system. You promised me that you'd build a new park in the city and pant, um plant, typo, a lot of trees for lovers like us to sit under. You promised me that you'd make this city a beautiful place to live in again and that you'd make sure that all those nasty potholes were filled in and that all the lovers in this city would be safe from the goons running around. How could you not keep your vows to me, Laurence? How could you?" He giggled. "Your vows to me in front of the minister were sacred and you haven't kept them. There were at least twenty witnesses to our vows. This is our eighth anniversary and you haven't kept your promise to me yet. Well, I've got news for you, Laurence. Either you come home and keep your sacred vows or I'm going to divorce you and make your life a living hell. Remember, I have a prenuptial and I'm not afraid to use it. People of the city, help me make him keep his sacred vows, the vows he made to me eight years ago on a beautiful night. The city deserves better and so do I. A grieving spouse, lying in a broken-hearted lump on the floor of our secret love hideaway." He broke out into loud giggles, falling off his bike to roll around. "Xander's so bad!"
Throttle snatched it to read, shaking his head. "I can't wait to see the fallout from this."
Charley snickered. "Xander's getting creative, like he promised."
"He is," Modo agreed, chuckling and shaking his head. "That's so bad."
"Just the thought of him topping Limburger," Vinnie howled.
"Vinnie, I didn't need that mental image," Throttle warned. He kicked the rolling mouse, shaking his head. "He's so bad." He handed the paper back and got onto his bike, heading out to take a ride. That was too bad. He shook his head and whimpered. Xander was worse than Vinnie because he was creative. He'd have to have to ask him to warn him in advance.
Charley turned up the radio when the announcement of a press conference came on.
"Today, Laurence Limburger comes out to speak to the person in the paper."
"People of Chicago," Limburger said, sounding very tired. "I'm not married, have never been married, nor do I have plans of marrying."
"That's not true," someone shouted. "I was there!"
Charley considered it but he didn't sound like Xander. He sounded more like Throttle.
"I'm not married. I never made any vows to any woman."
"That's because your husband's a man," the voice called again. "I saw you. I've got pictures at home! You married a man and you're breaking your vows! You're sleeping around on your loving husband with your geeky little scientist and you're breaking your vows to him! He should dump you! You're a bad, evil, gay man!" The crowd cheered at that.
"I'm not gay!" he shouted. "I am not gay, I'm not married to a man or a woman, and I'm not sleeping with my staff! I made no such promises!"
"Then why are you sweating!" one woman yelled.
Charley's head popped up. That had sounded like Switch. The guy could almost be Throttle, but that had definitely been Switch. She went to check on her but the girl wasn't up there. "Oh, man," she complained, going to radio the scoreboard to see if she was over there. "Guys?" she called over the 2-way. "Is Switch there?"
"No, Charley ma'am, it's just me," Modo offered. "Why?"
"Turn on the radio. I think I know where she is." She let the handset go, listening as Modo hadn't and turned on the radio, then let out a wordless yell. The radio went dead suddenly. She shook her head. "I don't envy them when he catches up to them. Xander's gonna be toast." She went back to work, still shaking her head at the mini-riot over Limburger not keeping his promises.
"Fine, I'll donate that money and set up a park," Limburger shouted eventually. "Now leave me alone!" The sound of a door slamming.
"There you go, folks, Limburger is doing the right thing for his male lover. It's a good sign for the gay rights movement when such a prominent man as Laurence Limburger comes out. Hopefully his husband rewards him greatly for his generosity and love." She walked over and turned it off before she shuddered worse or made herself sick. She put down her screwdriver and went to get a drink. She drained half a can of rootbeer and poured in a shot so she could banish that image. That was a very bad image.
Throttle looked over as Modo stomped over to where he and Switch were standing, nodding with a grin. "Think we did good?"
"You did that?" he demanded. Throttle smirked. "Switch?"
"It was his idea, but I loved it," she admitted. "We should go check on Xander and Vinnie."
"Sure," Throttle agreed, helping her onto the back of his bike once he had sat down. "Coming, Modo?"
"Bro, that was cruel."
"Yeah, but it's saving some little kids," Throttle told him. "It's for a good cause." He roared off, heading to Xander's. They found the movers still carrying stuff inside. "Need help, guys?" he called.
"Only if you can wake up the guy upstairs," one of them called.
"Sure." Switch got off and he followed her up the stairs, going to find where Xander was napping. He found Vinnie arranging stuff. "Xander's still sleeping?"
"I can't wake him. He looks so peaceful and innocent," Vinnie admitted.
Switch looked in the bedroom, smiling at the man that had been put onto the bed. She winked at the guy moving stuff in there, then pounced him, making Xander shriek and fail, which knocked her off but she was giggling. "Hi, Xander. You even got moved onto the bed without waking up."
"I'll get you for that later," he taunted. He got up and headed into the bathroom to clean up. When he came out, he looked around and made 'turn it around' motions. "I'll need the computer on this side, Vinnie."
"There's a phone cord here," he pointed out.
"Yeah, but I use a cable modem." He pointed at that plug.
"You can run a cord under the rugs," Switch promised, coming out to hug him. "You missed it. He held a press conference. Someone outted him to the crowd and he promised to give that money to the kids and build a new park."
Xander beamed at her. "Good job."
"It was Throttle," she said with a wink.
Xander punched him on the arm. "Good job, Throttle. Have fun?" he asked with a grin. He sat down and looked at the stuff. "How much stuff did I have? And why do I have Willow's cat?" he asked when it pounced him. "Hi, Miss Kitty." He stroked her back, calming her down. "Did your mommy send you?"
"She was hiding inside a box," one of the guys admitted. "She came out in the truck. We found her last night." He held up something. "Ugly lanp?"
"Ugly lamp goes on the bar," he admitted, pointing without looking. "Or beside it if it's the bigger ugly lanp."
"Thanks, man." He continued to pet the cat. "Your mommy's going to be very upset with you, Miss Kitty Fantastico. Yes she is. Then again, I'll take better care of you. Yes I will." He smiled at the purring. "Yeah, you can stay." He looked up. "It's Willow's cat."
"I didn't think you had cats," Throttle admitted. He held out a finger and the cat sniffed him, staring up at him. "I don't hurt cats." It nudged his finger so he scratched her ears. "She's a pretty cat."
"She is." Xander craned his neck. "I could have sworn I only had a two room apartment in Cleveland."
"Sir, a Mr. Giles sent some things as well. He said it was yours and had been in storage, sir," one of the workers admitted.
"Wonderful. Books, weapons, or otherwise?"
"I'm not sure, sir. I'm guessing it's books by the weight and size of the boxes. Plus a really old settee."
"Cool. More furniture. I'll donate what I can't use." They laughed and carried everything else up the stairs, leaving the boxes for him to unpack. He tipped the guys and smiled, closing the door once they were gone. He looked around. "Cat?" It was held up by Throttle. "Cool. Look for a box with a flowy, arching script. Giles has got some explaining to do." He searched the boxes, but Vinnie finally found it for him. "Thanks, man." He opened it, finding the expected letter on top, sitting down to read it. "Huh. He's embarrassed by how the girls treated me. He had these in storage, thought I could use them. Oooh, and some books for my own personal library," he said with a touch of fondness. "I should find Ethan and give them to him." He looked in the envelope, finding something else in there. "What are you?" he said, looking at the plain card. He flipped it over. It had a strip in the back and nothing on the front. "Uh-huh. I'm wondering what this is." He put it onto the bar and looked around, then sighed. "If only I had Willow's magical unpacking spell."
"Well, there's a box here that says 'unpack me first," Modo offered, pointing at it. He walked around the awkwardly placed settee, getting out of the boy's way. "There's too much furniture."
"I'll put some of it into the office later," Xander offered. "Or rearrange the living room." He opened the box and everyone was blinded by the flash. By the time Xander could see again, there was a plate of cookies on the counter and no boxes anywhere. Everything was put up. "Go super mojo," he said dryly, going to pick up the plate of cookies. "Willow's sorry, she only bakes when she's sorry," he said, handing them around. He looked a the cat, who gave him a smug look from Throttle's lap. "Liked him more, Miss Kitty?" She purred and kneaded him. "If he doesn't mind, he can come pet you all you want." He flopped down, looking at the extra sofa. Then he considered the room. "I wonder if Charley needs an extra couch."
"She doesn't have room for it either," Vinnie pointed out. He got up and hauled Xander up, helping him move that couch into the office, where it barely fit behind the door and against the desk. "It works."
"It works," Xander agreed, going back to the living room. He moved the cat and sat down, stroking her back again. She got up and went to investigate Switch, getting a few pets before moving on. She sniffed Modo and rubbed against his arm, but hopped up on Vinnie without having to sniff him and landed on his big, broad shoulder, where she settled in to get comfortable.
"Hey, watch the claws," he said, reaching up to pat her. "You're an odd cat."
"Who used to belong to two lesbian witches," Xander said dryly. "She looks comfy." He got comfortable and yawned. "Where am I ordering from tonight?" He yawned again.
"Go make your bed and sleep," Throttle ordered patiently. "It's a few hours until dinner."
Xander shook his head. "I'm fine."
"Shut up and go to bed," Modo said fondly. He picked the boy up and carried him in there, noticing the bed was made too. He put the boy down and covered him up, heading out, closing the door behind him. He rolled his eyes. "I can't believe he's that stubborn and not a mouse."
"I'm not sure there's not one in the back of his family," Vinnie admitted. "He's a lot like some of my relatives."
"You and he might as well be brothers," Throttle said, looking at the cat. "Abandoned me already?" he joked. He got a smug kitty look. "Fine." He looked at the others, then nodded at the door. "I hear someone on the stairs."
Modo opened the door, startling the woman on the other side. "Hi, ma'am, we're just helping our friend settle in."
"Oh, that's nice. Would any of you like our Watchtower magazine?"
"No thanks. We're very happy with our faith," he said, closing the door gently once she had nodded. He looked at Vinnie, who was now sitting down and the cat was kneading his shoulder. "Feel good?"
"Yeah, it does. I haven't had a good massage in years." He nodded at the door. "It's the sweetheart and she's got food."
Modo opened the door to let her in. "There you go, Charley ma'am."
"Thank you, Modo." She put things on the stove and looked around. "Where's Xander?"
"Asleep. He's exhausted," Throttle told her. "Willow's cat followed too," he said, pointing at the mostly black lump on Vinnie's shoulder.
"You're so cute," she cooed, coming over to let her sniff her fingers then scratch her under the chin. "I agree, that's a very good napping spot." Vinnie let out a nervous laugh. "You hush." She tweaked his ear. "I brought hotdogs so you guys wouldn't have to eat anything else."
They all beamed at her. "Did you bring hot peppers?" Switch asked. "I've been wanting something spicy again."
Vinnie pointed at the refrigerator. "I saw them load a big jar of hot peppers." She squealed and got up, going to hunt them down. She had one of them out before anyone could do more than shudder and was happy munching on it.
"You're a stronger woman than I am," Charley assured her. She went back to check on Xander, finding him still snoring. She snuck out and closed the door behind her. "He's naked on the bed." She found the guys sharing out the hotdogs and the cat now on Throttle's lap, playing with his tail since it was waving. It was apparently the hottest kitty toy. "Having fun, Throttle?"
"It keeps her from clawing my stomach when she tries to steal my food," he said between bites. He twitched his tail tip again, earning a pounce and some claws. "Ow. We should call his friend to make sure she knows her cat came too."
Charley found his cellphone and held it up. "Here's his phone."
"Thanks." Throttle took it and found the number listed as 'Giles'. He hit the send button and listened to it. "Mr. Giles? No, this is Throttle. No, Xander's fine. He's asleep at the moment. No, a few unexpected things came, like the cat he said belongs to Willow? No, she's in my lap at the moment," he admitted. He stole his hotdog from the cat. "You can't eat hotdogs with everything, Miss Kitty." He listened. "Yeah, she was one, and there was a black card?" He listened, then nodded. "Cool. I'll tell him later. No, he got the cookies but he went back to bed. He's been up for a few days."
"He painted last night," Vinnie offered loud enough to be heard.
"Vinnie said he painted last night. Sure, I'll have him call in the next few days. There's still a few things that need to be settled. Did she want her cat back?" He smirked. "No, that's fine, she's taken a real shine to us and his new place. Sure, I'll make sure he's safe and fine. Have a nice day, sir." He hung up. "Willow's crying but he said to keep the cat since half the slayers were allergic." He stroked her again, letting her lick some of the sauce off his fingers. "We need to get you some stuff."
"I'll take his card to the local Walmart," Charley offered. They nodded. She looked around. "This is a nice place."
"It is," Vinnie agreed. "He was painting the walls last night." He tossed over an onion, which the cat sniffed but only licked once before sitting back on Throttle's lap to clean her paws and nose. "Fine, don't appreciate the good things in life. We'll get you some fish or something."
"I'll go, you'd scare the people at the store," she complained. She went into the bedroom, leaning down to get next to Xander's ear. "Xander?" she whispered. He grunted, sounding annoyed yet quizzical. "Throttle called Mr. Giles and he said to keep the cat. That means she'll need litter and stuff. I can go pick that up for you." He pointed. "Thanks. The guys are out there with the cat."
"Works for me." He rolled over and pulled the blankets over his head. "Night. See you at dinner."
"Sure, Xander. Pizza?" He shrugged. "Okay, we'll decide that later." She gave him a gentle pat on the head and took the wallet out into the front room. Miss Kitty was trotting in to check on her new human while she sat down to look at the cash. She smiled. "I'm taking his SUV to Walmart. I'll be back in about an hour." She grabbed the keys. "I'll be fine," she said when Vinnie started to get up. "You can't carry litter and stuff on the back of a bike."
"Sure, sweetheart." He settled in again, not minding at all when the cat leapt up onto the back of the couch and settled in to bathe his ears. He scratched her gently, chuckling. "Do I taste good? I know I'm studly but I never knew I smelled so good." Someone pounded on the door so he looked back there. "It's open!" he yelled. The door opened and someone walked in, slamming the door. "You are?"
"His landlord. Where is the kid?"
"Asleep," Throttle told him. "Is there a problem?"
"Are those your bikes?" They nodded. "They need to be moved."
"Sure," Modo agreed, standing up. "Where should we park them?"
"Behind the building. You're blocking the entry. Make sure he parks back there too." He looked around, noticing the fresh paint on the wall. "He did a good job," he admitted.
"He's in construction," Vinnie reminded him. "Let us move them. We'll be right back, you watch Switch for us," he told the cat, handing her over. They trooped out, heading to the parking lot.
The landlord looked at her. "Is that a costume?"
"Is what a costume?" she asked feigning innocence.
"The fur, kid."
She sniffled. "You're mean! I'm not hairy! I'm pregnant, not damaged!" He backed off and headed out. She smiled at the cat. "That's a handy thing," she shared quietly, grinning as she petted the poor dear. "What should we help him with, princess?"
Throttle came back first. "He left?"
"Yeah, he thought I was wearing a costume so I got to have a small mood swing." She gave him a sweet grin. "It's a nice thing." She handed over the cat. "We should do something nice for him."
"I was going to look at his weapons to help him sort them back out, but I don't know where the cabinet is." Vinnie came back, joking with Modo. "Where's the weapons cabinet?"
"In the closet in the office. It's a safe."
"I can do those," Switch promised, getting up to look at it. She leaned in and got it open, smiling back at Throttle since he was standing there. She got out of his way, watching as he pulled out each thing and set it on the couch or the floor. She decided to pull the curtains shut when she noticed the glare on his antennas. "There, that should help." They got down to sorting and noting for him. He apparently had stuff that he wasn't aware of. "Why does he have a press?"
"Ask Charley, I don't know," he admitted.
"I make some of my own bullets," Xander said with a yawn from the doorway. "Am I missing anything?"
"You've got some stuff you didn't say," Throttle offered. He looked back at him. "Giles told me what that black card was." Xander crooked up an eyebrow. "We called about the cat and I asked," he admitted.
"Cool, it's a very 'dad' thing for you to do and you're doing very well in that job so far," he agreed. He yawned again. "What is it?"
"You need to take it to a certain bank in town and have them authorize some stuff. Giles said it was only fair since the Watchers had rewarded everyone else." Xander frowned, blinking in confusion. "That's what he said. He said take it to Chase bank in town."
"Sure," Xander agreed lightly. He noticed the curtains and walked over there, looking out them. He waved and grinned at the people over there. "Put them back. I'll work on the registration papers later," he said, turning around. "Tuck the blocks into the bottom drawer. The launchers go behind the cabinet." Throttle nodded and worked on that, and they sat down to note serial numbers and type of guns. One more went back behind the cabinet and then everything else was put back inside it. "I've got to get those registered this week so I have to call around to see who I do that with." He wandered out, going to find his phone, which Modo held up. "Thanks. We've got spies watching from a nearby window." He called information. "Chicago PD, main office number, not emergency." He listened as the operator greeted him. "Hi, I need to talk to the local police station, preferably someone in firearms?" He smiled, letting the computer dial it for him. "Hi, I've just moved into the city and unpacked my weapons so I need to register. No, I'm a hunter. A few shotguns, a handgun, and an undone crossbow. My original state allowed it but the one I just moved from didn't." He grinned. "Sure. I can bring in the list. You don't need a list? Really? California wanted serial numbers and everything. Cool. Where can I pick that up? Really cool, thanks, man. I'll bring it in tomorrow. No, just today. Thanks, man." He hung up and looked at them. "Five dollar fee and I don't have to register individual weapons, plus my crossbow is legal."
"Congrats," Vinnie told him, handing him a soda. "You could go back to sleep."
"No, I'm good." He looked at the black card. "Chase?" Throttle nodded. "Why do I think that the Watchers are going to be butting in and using me as a local source?" he asked, looking at the books that were sent. "He sent me magic books," he said dryly. "Did he want me to start practicing?" He shook his head. "Let me get the cable turned on and I'll gladly email him to see what is going on."
"Take the card tomorrow when you go to do the form," Throttle suggested calmly. "He seemed to think it was important."
"Fine," he said, shaking his head. Someone knocked on the door so he opened it, giving the person on the other side an interested look. "Yes? May I help you?"
"Sir, we had a report that you had weapons moved in earlier."
"Yeah, and I just called to see where I can go to start the registration. Did you want to see my one for Ohio or California?" He let him in, shrugging at the guy behind him. "You were on the roof across the street. Welcome. Have a nice afternoon?" He closed the door. "I'm a hunter."
"Of what, sir?"
"Well, I keep trying for deer, but I've only ever gotten a turkey with a bow." He pasted on his most 'listening' look. "I can fill out the form now if you've got it. I don't mind."
Charley opened the door, grinning at him. "I've got the pet stuff. Can you help carry?"
"In a minute. These nice guys were spying on me."
"The cops are paranoid, Xander. It's the age of paranoia," she reminded him. "Vinnie, come help me."
"Coming," he called, hurrying out, handing over the cat on the way. He looked at the stuff in the back of the SUV. "That's a lot of stuff."
"Yeah, but she deserves it," she pointed out. She lifted one bag and the bag of food. "Be careful with the litter, the cardboard is weak on those boxes. Someone at the store recommended it." She headed up the stairs, nodding politely at the landlord.
"He's got a pet?"
"His best friend suddenly dumped her cat in his stuff when it was moved," she admitted. "Just the one cat and she's housebroken."
"Charley, sweetheart, move faster. This stuff's heavy," Vinnie complained patiently. She got out of his way, heading up the stairs. He dropped the litter inside the door and went to get more of the stuff. Charley grinned at him as they passed.
Charley walked in and put down her stuff. "I got her some toys, some food, some litter and a box, and some stuff to sit on. Your landlord won't mind, right? He stopped me in the hall so I told him the truth, she was sprung on you."
"Yeah, it's fine, I might have to pay more of a deposit." He looked at the cops again as they filled out the forms. He signed it and took back his former two cards, glancing at the Ohio one. "That's my temporary one. Where's my full one?"
"It probably fell out sometime recently," Charley pointed out. "Like on the trip to Radio Shack."
"Oh, yeah, guys, I'm in construction. I had a demolitions license back in California, can I get that through you guys too?" They gave him an odd look. "I work construction."
"What else do you do, sir?" one of them asked patiently.
"Well, let's see, I've got some friends who are into occult research and they sent some books along with the cat and some cookies. I'm translating a few onto DVD for them. Much easier to move than a stack of books." They nodded. "I'm mostly a geek and things though." He nodded at the form. "Do I need anything other than the five dollar fee?"
"A picture, sir. Head and shoulders." Xander held up his wallet, digging through it. He came up with an older picture, holding it up. "That's good enough. You don't look any different."
"The only different thing is my hair length," he said with a small shrug. "I need a trim anyway." He grinned and dug out the five dollars, handing it over with the picture. "There you go. Anything else?"
"No, sir, thank you. By the way, Mine Safety does explosive licenses."
"Cool. I'll get them tomorrow. Is there a local office?" They nodded. "Are you guys sure you don't need serial numbers?"
"No, sir. Not at this moment."
"Well, if you need it sometime, I've got it," he said, handing over the list. "Did we make a copy?" He heard an assenting noise from the other rooms. "Thanks, guys." He grinned at them. "Anything else?" They shook their heads and walked off.
"Harris, the parking lot is in the back," the landlord yelled.
"Sorry!" he yelled back, grabbing his keys to go down and move it. He found the cat and grinned, picking her up. She hissed so he put her back down. "Not my Miss Kitty?"
"No, that one's mine," he admitted dryly. "Inside, Brat." His cat snorted and sat down. He picked her up and took her back inside. Xander snuck out and came back a few minutes later with a few more bags. "More stuff?"
"Charley's a nice lady and I let her spoil my kitty. Miss Kitty's had a bad few days. Losing her mommy and things." He headed up the stairs. "Tell me if we get too loud." He closed his door and looked around. "Miss Kitty?" She meowed from the kitchen and went back to eating the wet food from the can. "Sure, you do that." He sat down to unpack everything, glancing at the black card on the counter again. He checked the clock, then sighed and grabbed it, heading out with it. He walked into the bank he found a few minutes later and gave the receptionist a sheepish look. "Someone sent me this," he said, holding it up. "I was told to take this here and have someone explain to me why I have money on it and what it is."
She looked at him, then shook her head. "I've never seen one of those." She picked up her phone and called a higher office than usual. "Sir, I've got a young man here who was told to bring in this pure black card in and have it explained to him? No, sir, it looks like a credit card but it doesn't have anything on it. Yes, sir," she admitted. "Sure. Of course, sir." She hung up. "They told you to come to Chase bank?" He nodded, shrugging a bit. "Why?"
"Something about money, a reward, and a group out of Britain. I don't have a clue," he nearly whined.
"Okay, let me try one more person." She dialed the phone again. "Ma'am, I have a man here with a black card that looks like a credit card. He said something about a British group and a reward?" She smiled at him. "Of course, ma'am, right up." She hung up. "She's upstairs and to the right," she said, pointing behind them. "Second door. She's a hard looking blonde woman but she's very nice."
"Thank you." He grinned at her then headed up the stairs. He found the woman leaning out of her office. "Hi, I'm ...."
"Xander Harris. Ruper Giles called me, young man. Come in." He walked in and she shut the door behind him. "You have the card?" He handed it over. "Yes, this is it." She sat down and ran it to see what he had set up. "Very well. Let's get this going, Mr. Harris."
Xander wandered back into his apartment and put down the bottle of champagne. He looked at Throttle. "Did Giles tell you more than it was a reward?" He shook his head, looking totally innocent. "I should kick your ass for letting me walk into that." He shuddered. "I'm sorry but I need to do something about that. Besides kicking his ass." He popped the champagne open, bringing the others from the office. "Giles, thoughtful asshole that he is, saddled me with a reward for living on the hellmouth and helping herd the selfish brats to the new one. Anyone wanna help me beat his ass for giving me money for surviving?" He found some glasses and poured out the champagne, handing it over to each of them. "Drink up, people, because I'm in deep shit with that much money. There's no keeping me from doing stupid stuff now. By the way, I still need a car of my own, Charley. Know any decent car lots?"
"Two or three," she admitted, sipping the champagne. She looked at the glass and then him. "This is the good stuff."
"Hey, I can afford it now," Xander said dryly, bringing the bottle out. "By the way, I ordered dinner from the place Vinnie pointed out the last time he gave me a ride. It'll be ready in about an hour. I figured it'd take that much time for me to finish calming down and get drunk enough to jump off the building."
"If you do, can I have the cat?" Vinnie asked, sniffing the champagne. "What's this stuff?"
"Champagne. The traditional drink for celebrations. I was torn between that and real liquor for a few moments but I decided it was probably a good idea. He gave me damn money!"
"You can consider it backpay," Throttle offered.
"Not unless he was paying me for breathing. I'm not sure how much he paid Buffy and Willow, but if they got money like me, the Watchers are broken finally." He saluted him and gulped the wine. "All hail the paranoid people. They made it so I don't have to work unless I want to."
"You'd go insane within a week," Charley pointed out gently, patting him on the arm.
"Why are you complaining about money?" Vinnie asked.
Xander looked at him. "I'm from a background that every dollar was precious, work was hard and sweaty, and expectations were low. Can you imagine me with 3.3 million dollars?" Vinne shook his head. "Well, now you can." He upended the bottle and leaned back, putting the bottle down after a few good gulps. "And another two in trust," he admitted bitterly. He shook his head. "I feel like I should be dancing about being so wealthy, but then I want to rant and scream at him for doing this to me. I'm so screwed in my head." Throttle took the bottle. "Thanks, man."
"You're welcome. You're staying in tonight too."
"Sure, probably a good idea." He looked at Vinnie. "Dinner should be ready soon. I got you extra." He got a punch on the arm and Vinnie hopped off the couch to go get dinner. He looked at Throttle. "I need help."
"You do," he agreed. "What were you planning?"
"Not paying taxes."
Charley snorted. "Everyone has to pay taxes." Xander looked at her so she gave him a hug. "It's all right. You'll get through this and get past the moment of wanting to do stupid things. I'll give you the addresses for the car lots tomorrow."
"Sure. Thank you." He kissed her on the cheek then looked around. "We're missing people."
"Modo took Switch back to nap," Throttle admitted. "Vinnie will call them back for dinner." He looked at the boy. "You okay?" Xander shook his head. "You sure?" Xander looked at him and shook his head again. "Why not?"
"Because my first thought was to do stupid stuff, my second was to do mean things to the idiot who wants to kill you, and my third thought would get me pounced and beaten for real by at least one person."
Throttle nodded, getting up and taking the boy with him to the bedroom. "Give, kid...Xander. Sorry."
"No, right about now I feel like a kid again." He closed the door, leaning against it. "How could I use this to help against stinky?"
"It's probably not enough to buy him out."
"That's what I thought, so my next one was to help certain people and places to make sure there's no financial burden."
Throttle considered it. "It'd help," he admitted finally, "but you're right, she'd pounce you and beat you senseless." Xander pulled something out of his pocket and held it up. "Where did you get that?" he demanded, snatching it from him. "How did you get that?"
"It was for sale. The bank goes through auctions to sell of mortgages and things, that way they make better money. I had the woman check." He scratched the back of his head. "I don't want to tell anyone."
"It's not a pleasant thought but it saves her losing it to Limburger."
"That was my thought too. Also, they had one for the building beside her," he said, handing that one too. "I figured she could use that and it went for pennies."
"I'll tell her, Xander," he promised. "You did good."
"Thanks. It was instinctive, ya know?"
"Yeah, you're the sort who'll protect first and then realize how much trouble you could get in." He patted him on the cheek. "You'll be fine, Xander. If you get a bike, I'll even make Vinnie teach you how to ride." Xander grinned at that. "If not, get a car that can fit Modo now and then when he's injured." He walked out, leaving the boy in there with his untouched drink. "Charley girl?" he said quietly.
"They sold my mortgage?" she guessed.
"And the place next to you," he admitted, handing them over. "It's not so bad, at least it was him and not Limburger." She nodded, tucking them into her pocket. "No more worries."
"Yeah, much nicer. I'm not mad, Xander."
"You're sure?" he called back.
"Yeah, I'm sure." He came out and gave her a hug, which was when Vinnie came back. "He found out that my mortgage person sold my mortgage."
Vinnie grinned. "Then I'll let him hug you for a few minutes. That's a good enough reason." He put down the food on the table. "Food. Modo's on his way with Switch and her bike."
"She's riding it?" Charley asked, patting Xander to make him let her go. "So, you bought the guy's next to me's building too?"
He nodded. "I thought it might come in handy sometime if someone decides that they have to move." He sat down, taking his burger. "Thanks, Vinnie." He accepted the soda from Throttle. "Thanks, dad."
"Welcome, brat. Should we put out some food for Miss Kitty?"
"I'll do it in a minute, she'll beg anyway." He unwrapped his burger, looking in it. "Mayonnaise?"
"He's like that," Charley agreed, handing over a plastic knife. "Scrape it off."
Xander scraped it off and then checked the rest, taking a bite once it was back together. "Needs hot peppers." He got up to slice up one, washing his hands thoroughly once it was on the burger. Just in case, you can't be too careful with that stuff. He took another bite and nodded, eating another one. He waved it as Switch and Modo came in, only scowling when she took a bite too and moaned. "Mine. I got you hotdogs."
She skipped over to table and grabbed three of them and the jar of hot peppers, sitting down in her new favorite chair to eat. She didn't care if the others did shudder, it was good. "Hmmm, I need to get some of these for the garage."
"That's fine, I need to go get real groceries," Xander admitted. He ate another bite. "Don't waste the jar." She screwed the top back on. "Thanks."
"Welcome. What's wrong?"
"Another bite by some of my former friends," he admitted. He ate another bite and chewed slowly. He nodded at her hotdogs so she dug in, moaning in pleasure at the nice combination.
Charley looked at her hotdog, then at Xander. "Thanks, Xander." He shrugged and kissed her on the cheek. She gave him a grin and a small shove. "Naughty boy."
"I know, but I'm still feeling that urge to go out and cause hell." He finished off his burger and got up to get more sodas, handing out the rest of them. "Who's going with me to the grocery store?" Throttle shook his head. "No?"
"If we go, we'd have to help carry," Throttle reminded him. He finished off that hotdog and unwrapped another. "How many did you order?"
"The fifty pack, I figured with the way you guys eat 'em the rest would be a midnight snack." He grinned at Charley. "Need anything since I'm heading that way?"
"No, I'm more than good since the last time you went, Xander," she assured him. "Don't splurge too much. You don't have an extra freezer."
"Hey, I built you one, I can always build another," he said dryly, smirking at her. He looked at the clock, then at the guys. "What else were we doing tonight?"
"Watching to see if Limburger jumps," Modo told him. "They drove him to give up money and promise to plant a park."
"Yeah, I sent a followup earlier," he admitted. "It'll be fine." He grinned at him. "You wanna come with me, Modo? I promise it won't be too long."
"No, I hate grocery shopping. I always feel like I'm going to bump into something."
"Fine. Make me go buy a lot of ice cream on my own."
"You need to eat a balanced diet," Charley warned. "You're still young and you're not a Martian."
"Point. I can live on pizza, burgers, and some limited Chinese," Xander assured her. She frowned at her. "I can!"
"Fat chance, Xander. You'll need to buy real food too."
"Fine." He pulled out his paper for grocery lists and started to write it out. "Why am I even bothering with this? I'm sensing a stocking run." He grabbed his wallet. "I'll be back. Cable shall be on tomorrow sometime. As will cable modem. Stay." He walked out, putting the cat back inside.
Charley looked at the cat, then at Miss Kitty, who was staring out a window. "Who do you belong to, princess?" She got up and picked up the other cat, taking her down to the open door, tapping gently. "Is this one yours?" The landlord nodded, taking his cat back. "She came visiting."
"He. He's like that. I'm hoping yours is fixed."
"I'm sure she is," she promised. "If not, I'll make sure of it." He smiled. "Xander's going for groceries."
"Fine. Not a problem. We expect a lot of coming and going for the first few days." He went back inside, taking his cat to eat dinner.
Charley went back upstairs, sitting down to finish her last hotdog. With some help from the cat who was trying to clean up the spilled sauce on her plate. She let her have the plate and finished it off so the cat could have her fingers too. She delicately licked her fingers then hopped down to go over and help Throttle eat since he was still eating.
"Hey, Miss Kitty. Back again?" She meowed and headbutted him, earning scratches. That's when she leapt up to get his hotdog for herself. He lost control of it and it fell, sauce side down, and lost the cat too when she got down to help with the cleanup process. "I'll know better the next time," he complained, going to get some paper towels and a plate for her new treat. Charley handed over her plate and helped him clean up the floor. She was more than satisfied to sit down in the kitchen to eat her treat. She even cleaned most of the sauce off the onion pieces. "Maybe we should get her some of Chef Andy's sauce."
"He sells it," Charley agreed with a grin. "We'll keep it as a treat." She got comfortable. "Should one of us have went with him?"
"No, he'll be fine," Throttle assured her.
Vinnie nodded, grinning at her. "Yeah, he'll be fine. It was stress. Now that he's over his urge to do stupid stuff and his urge to cause chaos, he'll settle down to accepting it." He looked at Throttle. "You knew?"
"Not the specifics," he admitted, sitting down again. "It's a shock to me too. Hey, Modo, I told him to get a car that would fit you too. Just in case."
"I don't mind the one he's got now," he admitted. "It's big enough to sleep in." They heard a squeal of brakes outside and winced at the crash sound after it. "Someone's in pain," he said, getting up to look out the window. "I'm hoping that's not a black SUV."
Throttle got up to look then shook his head. "It's not his. Any lights or sirens?" Modo shook his head so he grabbed the phone to call the emergency people.
Xander appeared in the morning with breakfast pastries, presenting them with a grin. "No bros?"
"Upstairs," she admitted with a smile. "Switch had horrible heartburn all night." She picked out her danish and bit into it, moaning in pleasure. "It's been a while since I had any of these."
"Me too." He looked up the stairs then gave her a wink and snuck up there, going to pounce everyone. He found Modo waking up. Vinnie was woken too quickly when he bent over the back of the couch to tickle him, but grinned back. They got up and went to attack Throttle.
"That's mean," Modo muttered as he walked past them.
Xander took one side, Vinnie took the other, and they pounced to tickle him until Throttle shrieked and woke everyone on the block.
"Cheese!" he yelped, jumping up. Xander grabbed him and pulled him back down to get him some more. "Let me go!" he said, struggling to get free, wiggling away from them, but Vinnie stopped him. "I'm going to whip your tails! Let go!"
"How're you gonna whip my tail when I don't have a tail?" Xander asked with a wicked chuckle, finding a new spot. Throttle yelped and finally broke free, heading into the bathroom.
Vinnie helped Xander up. "Morning."
"Morning. I feel better now. I get to go car shopping today." Vinnie snickered. "I brought pastries." He headed for the stairs, finding Charley chuckling madly and pounding her fist on the table. "What?" he asked innocently. "Throttle's not ticklish on his side but on his ribs he's horribly ticklish." She slapped the paper. "Oh, that." He sat down to eat his own danish. "I did good."
"Oh, cheese," she gasped. "So bad." She continued to laugh.
"Get her more candy?" Vinnie asked. "Speaking of which, is it actually a law in Idaho that you have to give your girlfriend no less than fifty pounds of chocolate?" Xander nodded. "Can you prove it?"
"I'll show you the site later," he promised with a grin. "Since she's not my girl I only got her forty pounds."
"I saw the note. Thank you." He look the paper to read, then shuddered and shook his head but he was starting to chuckle too. "That's just bad, Xander."
Xander blew a kiss. "But he's being loved for being out of the closet and being so good to his husband." He grabbed another pastry. "Unless I'm eating all these flaky, soft, sweet pastries, I'd get down here!" he yelled. Modo and Throttle came down with Switch yawning behind them. "Morning," he said sweetly, popping another bite into his mouth. "Try one, Switch, they're good and a delicacy." She sat down to eat one of the pastries, smiling at him. "Yeah, I was more naughty," he admitted.
Vinnie handed over the paper. "Here, you read it, Switch."
She cleared her throat. "Hi, Laurence. I'm very proud of you and that you'll keep your vows. As long as they're kept, I'll be waiting at our special place wearing that outfit that drove you so wild on our honeymoon. See me tonight in our special part of the park for some wonderful fun and games. I miss you, I love you, and I'm waiting to suck...." She blushed and handed it off. "Xander! That's so mean to tease him that way."
"What? I'll be there at midnight, wearing some very special clothes, the ones I was wearing the last time we met, and I'll be waiting to make him suck his own...." Throttle covered his mouth. "Sorry," he mumbled. "The nerdly nerd instead?" he asked, grinning at him.
"That's an even sicker thought," Throttle complained.
"I'm sure someone would download it a lot online," Xander said happily. "Anyone wanna come to the park with me tonight?" They all grinned at him. "I take it that's a yes?"
"Oh, I think we can arrange that," Throttle agreed. Someone pounded on the door and he got up to get it since he was the technical leader of the band of people down here. He opened the door, smirking at the crying man on the other side. "You wanted something?" he asked meanly. Grease Pit was wringing his hat. "Speak now or I'm letting Xander come get you."
"Hows did youse know?" he asked miserably. "No one was supposed to knows about that stuff. He promised mes youse mousies would never know."
"Grease Pit, you just made it so I'm not going to get a good night's sleep in a month," he assured him. "Go away now, before I have to remove that image by removing you. That was Xander, you can tell him we said that." Grease Pit smiled. "Go. Now." He slammed the door and shuddered, a full body shudder complete with tail waiving in horror. "Eww!"
"What?" Xander called. He came to the swinging doors. "What happened?"
"Grease Pit wanted to know how you knew about them."
"Eww, that might actually make me quit eating," Xander complained. "So I'm guessing we're going to be back at the home base at midnight instead of the park?" Throttle looked at him. "His of course." He smirked at that, nodding. "Cool. I can't wait. Can I jump out the window again?"
"No," Vinnie complained. "This time you won't have the vampires to catch you." He used his tail to pull the boy back in and back to his seat. "Sit and eat, Xander."
Xander grinned and sat down again. "Fine, I'll eat more fluffy, sweet pastries."
"You've had three," Switch said. "Give me another one." The box was handed down to her. "Thanks. So, which one do you think tops?" Charley gagged and got up to run upstairs. "I hope she's not pregnant too," she said worriedly.
"There wasn't anything in the chocolates I got her but chocolate," Xander said when Vinnie looked stunned.
"I still don't think we're that compatible."
"Yeah, we are," Throttle told him as he came back. He stole the box of food and pulled out his two, passing the rest to Modo to take the last one. "No more sugar today, Xander. They won't let you do a test drive if you're bouncing."
"Fine, spoil my good mood," he sighed. "Charley, are you all right? Switch wanted to make sure you're not pregnant."
Vinnie hopped up and headed up the stairs to check on her when she didn't answer. "You okay, sweetheart?" She nodded, rinsing out her mouth. "Modo has the last pastry but I can make Xander cook if you want."
"No, I'm okay," she said between rinses. She stood up and looked at him. "You?"
"It's a bit sickening but it's okay. I've heard worse from some of the other Freedom Fighters." He gave her a small, awkward hug. "Let's go eat. At least you can have juice."
She let him lead her down the stairs and sit her back down, taking the last pastry from Modo's plate with a small grin.
"I'm full anyway," he promised. Switch gave him her spare with a grin. "Thanks, baby girl."
"I'm not that young."
"I was talking to the little one," he said with a grin.
"I'm going to be *so* fat when I get back up there," she complained, pouting at Xander. "We're going to have to get me back in shape."
"We can do that," he agreed dryly. "Baby yoga and everything."
"You're going to be spoiled by the time you go back, not fat," Throttle assured her. "We don't gain much weight."
"Fine, then I'll *feel* fat," she countered. "Can I whip my sister's tail for this?"
"Sure," Charley agreed. "I'd like to spank her myself since she endangered you so badly."
"I called Mars but I didn't get an answer," Throttle admitted. He shrugged. "I'm expecting one any day now, probably from Stoker." He noticed the blush and gaped at her. "Stoker's the baby's dad?" he said in shock.
"Oh, shut up! Like you're so much better!" she complained, glaring at him. "I can sleep with whoever I want and he's a very vital, sexy, experienced mouse who happens to love my fat tail!" She sniffled and got up, heading back upstairs.
It was Xander who went up after her this time, the others were staring in shock. "Hey, I'm all for it, even if he's the Jabba the Hut of mice," he soothed, hugging her and cuddling her. "It's all right. He'll come for you soon and he'll spoil you rotten or else I'll pounce him and beat him senseless." She nodded, curling up on his lap. "Shh, even if he's ancient it's okay as long as he loves you." He stroked her back, making her fall asleep. He mentally groaned and shook his head. He looked over as footsteps came up the stairs. "Hey," he said, nodding at her. "She's asleep." Modo nodded, coming over to pick her up and carry her back to bed. He stood up and headed down the stairs, shaking his head. He slapped Throttle across the back of the head. "She cried herself to sleep."
"Stoker's the guy who trained *us*," Vinnie said with a shudder. "He's an old guy."
"So? You think old guys don't get it up?" Xander asked sarcastically. "It's a time honored human tradition that we get it up until the day we die, even if we have to use Viagra. Even the oldest of the old on their death beds gets wood and enjoys the hell out of it, guys. I'm doubting that you mice are any different, as I hope you live to find out." He saluted them with his juice and looked at Charley. "You okay now?"
"I'm fine, Xander." She smiled weakly at him. "I can't even imagine them together."
"Maybe she makes him feel young and he makes her feel protected and safe," he said gently. "Sorta like Buffy and her vampire boyfriends."
"I don't wanna know," Vinnie said quickly, holding up a hand. "I'm going to finish my breakfast and call Mars again to get Stoker down here." He stuffed his mouth and got up, heading to his bike to ride off. He didn't want to know, he didn't want those mental pictures, and he *really* didn't want to listen to any more dirty comments.
Throttle shook himself free. "If they're happy, I'm good with them," he decided. Charley nodded too. He looked around. "Vinnie?"
"Went to call Stoker and rip him a new orifice," Xander told him. "Modo's still upstairs with her."
"Good. He's good with kids," Throttle admitted, getting up to help him. He tapped on Switch's door, walking inside at the grunt. "I'm sorry, Switch, it was just a shock. We haven't seen Stoker date since we first met him and he's a nice guy. So if you're happy, we're happy for you," he said gently. She launched herself into his arms to hug him. "Shh, it's all right. We'll help you until he can come down here and pick you up. We could use some native snacks anyway," he joked quickly. She snickered and sat down again. "Now, let's go eat."
"I was letting Modo pet the baby," she admitted sheepishly. "Wanna feel?"
Throttle moved closer and laid a hand on her bared stomach. He could almost feel something and grinned at her. "Another month and the little tail-whipper will be kicking us all without mercy." He stepped back. "There's a bit of breakfast left."
She shook her head. "I'm not hungry. I just want my Stokey."
"I'm sure it'll be soon. Vinnie went to call him."
She grinned. "Thanks, Throttle. You're like a big brother. Much better than my big sister."
"Any time, Switch. You might as well be family. We nearly were." He shrugged and leaned against the doorway. "What are you going to do today?"
"I was going to go for another ride and enjoy the sunshine and the parks and stuff." She gave Modo a sheepish look, then him. "Can you maybe convince Stoker to stay down here for a few weeks? He needs a vacation too and we need to be away from my sister."
"Sure, if we can," he promised with a grin.
They all looked up at the sound of screaming engines. "Wow, sounds like he's here," Modo said in awe. "Either that or Rimfire's back and his engines are on fire again." Throttle chuckled and shook his head. "It's not his fault he got too excited," he said with a grin. He looked at their charge. "Do you work with Rimfire?"
"He's a sweet guy, but he's a big joker at times too," she said with an unconscious pout. "He's the one who blew my cover to Carbine by getting too excited about the baby."
Charley came up the stairs. "Stoker's eyesight is going again. He landed in the lake." She grinned at her. "You might want to shower and change, Switch. That way he sees you being delicate and pretty and missing him." She nodded, getting up to do that stuff. She poked Throttle. "You're allowing Xander to make battle plans?" He shook his head. "He is, and he's damn good," she admitted. "It looks reasonable."
"I'll check them over in a few minutes," he promised, shaking his head. "Her and Stoker?" he mouthed. She nodded, smirking at him. "Why?"
"Because she makes him happy and he does the same for her. That same reason all couples get together." She headed back down the stairs, looking over Xander's shoulder. "You forgot the security system. It's usually got lasers here, here, and here," she said, pointing with a finger. "Come help me pull this engine, I need a big, strong guy. Vinnie was swinging on my winch lift and broke it."
"Sure, Charley." He marked the guns and changed a few lines of attack, then shook his head and balled it up. He took another piece of scrap paper and redrew it, figuring in the weapons this time. He leaned back to look at it, nodding finally. "That's what we need, with some cheap theatrics." He got up, heading out to help her by hauling on the chain. She was nice enough to give him a towel to grip the chain with. He had it about a foot over the car's hood when the door slammed open. "Hey," he said, walking backwards. "Help me by bracing this, dude."
"I'm not a dude."
Xander looked at him. "You get near Switch with that attitude, she'll cry again, and I'll get to kick your ass. Now, lend a hand or go wait outside." Charley snorted. "What? It's heavy!" The older gray mouse with sideburns and mechanical tail did help him swing the engine around and brace it while he lowered it onto the platform. "Thanks. She's in the shower." He looked at him, then nodded once. "I can see why the guys look up to you, but she's quickly becoming like my little sister and Charley can tell you how overprotective I get sometimes. Make her cry except in a mood swing and I'll kick your ass."
"You're a human, kid."
Xander smirked. "You don't know me very well, do you?" he asked with a wicked grin.
"He's the one who jumped out the window and sent Limburger tower to hell," Charley said from inside the car. "Xander, can I have that bracing bar?" He got it and handed it over. "Go ahead up there, Stoker, she let it slip earlier."
"Thanks, Charley." He headed up the stairs two at a time and found Modo and Throttle waiting on him. "Who's the punk wannabe?"
"Xander? If he had fur he'd be Vinnie's little brother," Throttle admitted. "Even though he can't bike. He's an eight year combat veteran down here." Stoker did look impressed at that. "If he threatened you, we'll help him if you hurt her." He clapped him on the arm. "Good luck, old man."
"She's in a touchy mood," Modo told him. "She cried herself to sleep earlier in Xander's lap because she didn't think we'd approve. Treat her right, or else." He walked down the stairs, finding the paper on the table. "Hey, Throttle." Throttle came back to look at the plans. "Did you do these?"
"No, Charley girl said Xander was. Not too bad. There's an extra battery of lasers but this is loose enough to correct for them." He took it out to talk with the boy. He had some skill. "Hey, Xander. Let's go over this one. It doesn't look too bad, kid." He clapped him on the back. "You didn't know about one set of lasers but we can take those out first while we wait." Xander beamed at him. "Let's go work on this in the office. Did you threaten Stoker?"
"Yeah, he wouldn't even help by bracing the engine for me. I think she needs someone less selfish."
"He's just worried, he's not usually like that," he promised. "You'll like him once he's calmed down and held her while she cries for a few minutes." He walked him into the office, sitting down with him to finalize the battle plans.
Xander grinned for his position in the desk chair with his boots up on his feet, wiggling his finger. "Hey, lover, happy to see me?" he asked with a grin.
"You," he said, sneering at him. "What are you doing here?" Xander casually flicked a light and highlighted the bros on their bikes. "Them!"
"Yeah, we've teamed up," he said smugly, putting his feet down. "Listen, Limburger, I helped defeat a Hell God a few years back. I'm pretty sure I can keep playing these amusing games with you, but you're making me have heartburn by stinking up *my* city. So I suggest you leave and take any little butt buddies with you." Limburger tensed and Xander clicked his tongue a few times, holding up a remote control. "I doubt it," he said dryly. "See, I'm an expert at these things. I've fought longer and harder than a number of people." He looked over as another person walked in. "Hey, honey. You on his side? We're gonna blow this place and make him fucking sorry." He stood up, flipping the other switches, but one. He had tested them all before the bros had come up through the open window behind them. He had rewired them so they'd fire at their owner. "Last chance, Limburger. They're known for being nice. I'm known for taking out annoyances that bother children and innocent women. By the way, the next time you come near Charley, expect to see my face."
"I thought she was dating the white one," he said with distaste.
"Who cares if she is," he snorted. "Honey, I get women out the ass. She's much too nice for my usual ones." He smiled at the woman behind Limburger. "You can come out, I only hurt evil women." She came out and he could see the gun. "Hit me, and the biometric switch blows this place instantly at the first shot of pain through my nerves." She gaped at him and he smirked. "No, I'm not just a normal human. Thanks for asking though," he said with a smug smirk. He looked at Limburger. "You thought mice were your worst enemy, I'm going to give you a clue. Go to Cleveland. Go see Buffy Summers. Let her educate you in the worst this world can bring against you without being military. I'm sure she'd love to talk with you."
"Cleveland?" he sneered. "Why there?"
"Easy, there's a hellmouth there. They're the ones who keep the bad things that had you from coming for everyone. I was one of them. Think about what methods we use." He walked around the desk, tossing Throttle the switch as agreed upon earlier. He walked up to the woman, looking into her eyes. Then he kissed her and she moaned, falling into his arms. "Let's go, babe. I want to pamper and spoil you like nothing you've ever had before and I won't demand more than the right to give you oral sex." She moaned and stole another kiss. "Change sides, come be mine," he said, grinning down at her.
"Mmmm, yes, daddy. I can do that." She turned and shot at Limburger. "Let's go. There's a reason why he's taken by most of his staff. Was that lover thing yours?" she asked in a teasing, breathless voice, running a nail over his chest. He smirked and nodded. "You naughty boy."
"I'm always a naughty boy, ask them." He took the gun and stepped back. "You've got ten minutes," he said with a blown kiss. "All evil women turn on me eventually, I'm taking control first."
"I'm immune, sweetie. I've been poisoned by the demonic now for years. Otherwise I'd be reacting by now, right?" She pouted. "Out. Eight minutes." She ran for the door. He bowed to Limburger. "Game, set, match. Next time, we play on my court and with my rules." He hopped on the back of Vinnie's bike and they took off down the side of the building. He let out a whoop of pleasure. This was fun! "Can we find another one and do it again?" he shouted. "I wanna go up and down next time!"
Vinnie chuckled. "You're insane, Xander."
"Bro, he okay? Not poisoned?"
"Just enjoying the thrills, Modo," Vinnie called back. They made it out of the tower before Throttle blew it and it imploded in a big 'whomp' of sucking air.
"Hell, I'm good," Xander said dryly, getting off the back of the bike. "I'm gonna go play," he promised, tossing the gun to Throttle. "Have fun with your mentor, guys." He turned and found a cop there. "Hey."
"Not really," he admitted. "Sorry, I was possessed a few too many times for that. Know anything about Sunnydale? I used to live there and I fought with the Slayer." They shuddered and backed away. "He's a bad guy. I helped defeat a Hell Goddess," he said happily. They took another step back. "Am I in trouble?"
"No, sir, and we're going to approve your weapons permit as well," one of them said. "Please keep Chicago safe like the other three." He turned and ran off, the other coughing then following him.
"I love agents," he said happily, turning to run in the other direction to hit the vampire bar again.
Throttle looked at Vinnie. "He's just like you," he said sarcastically. "All he needs is fur and a tail."
"If we could give him a tail implant he'd probably enjoy it," Vinnie said smugly. "Look, goons! Let's whip tail!" They followed him off into the next battle.
The agents came back to look through the wreckage, finding the boss of this company with his human face half off and torn. They took it off him and nodded at each other. They'd be reporting an alien presence of this man and then leave it to the four who were here. One super human and three Martians were good enough for them. They wouldn't have to worry about it.
Xander felt his arm be grabbed and flipped the person, then grinned at Throttle. "Hey, dad," he said happily, helping him up. "You okay?"
"I'm fine, Xander. Stoker wanted to apologize. You done partying for the night?"
"No, but I can always head out later," he said happily, following him out to his bike. "Can we go fast?"
"Sure, Xan," he said, shaking his head. "Vinnie suggested we give you something to grow hair and a tail." Xander chuckled behind him and climbed on, letting him take off. The boy was pretty good at this stuff. "No new car?"
"I looked but nothing really spoke to me. One guy suggested a black corvette that I could make believe was the Batmobile." Throttle chuckled at that, shaking his head. "I'm trying to be good."
"You're being very good, just scary. Tone it down again, Xan."
"Then we're good." He drove them to the park, letting him get off so they could go to where they were having a picnic. "Here he is, Stoker."
Xander looked at him. "Well, you're obviously at least twice my age so I'll take that from you where I won't from the others," he decided. He sat down, looking at Switch. "How you feelin'?" he asked, shifting over to give her a hug. "Baby problems?"
"No, the baby wanted to come play in the moonlight," she said, holding up her hotdog. "Eat?"
"Eww, hotdogs. No." He sat back, shuddering. "No thanks. I know what goes into those things. More than enough for me. Really." He grinned at her. "Then again, you're pregnant so we'll excuse funny eating habits from you. I don't know what Vinnie's excuse is, unless he's hiding something and not showing yet," he said, looking at the firm six-pack of abs. Vinnie spluttered and Throttle smacked him across the back of the head again. "Ow! Dad!"
"Behave, Xander. Were you drinking?" Modo asked.
"I only had two drinks, I'm still very sober, they were over three hours ago. I'm a good boy most of the time."
"Keep that illusion, Xander," Charley said with a teasing wink.
He sighed. "I buy the woman flowers and candy and she turns on me," he told Vinnie, who swatted at him.
"I told you she was my woman and you can't poach. Next time, pick up an unevil woman."
"Yours is the only one of those I've found," he complained. "Then again, I did nearly get blown by a few female vamps tonight. It was like the whole club was in heat for some reason. I'm hoping it wasn't me," he admitted as he picked up a spare soda. "Need this, Modo?"
"Go ahead, Xander." He shook his head. "You need a momma like mine to find you a good girl."
"Hey, have your momma send candidates," he agreed. "I'm all for match makers. 'Cause let me tell you, Buffy sucks at it. She nearly had me dating one of the spoiled brat slayers." He opened the can and sipped. "So, you're their mentor," he said, looking at the old guy again. "You're making her happy enough, I guess, so you're safe from me for now if Throttle vouches for you."
"You're a smartass."
"You bet, and it's saved my butt many times, man." He smirked at him, then at Switch. "You happy with him?" She nodded. "You gonna capture him and tie him down when you get home?"
"I was hoping more for marriage," she admitted shyly, glancing up at her mouse. "But tying him down sounds like fun. Can you give me some pointers, Xander?"
"Honey, I've got a whole trunk back at the apartment of stuff Anya had me keep for her when we broke up," he sighed. "It's only causing me pain and it should go to a happier couple. You're more than welcome to all my whips, canes, handcuffs, blindfolds, gags, sex toys, and assorted straps if you want them and promise to use them with joy and happiness." Even Charley blushed at that one. "Yeah, my former fiance was a bit kinky but she was a former demon. You gotta put it in perspective." He grinned and sipped his soda again. "How long you down for, Stoker? The guys could use some down time."
"Probably just a few days," he admitted. "You're very blunt. I like you. Throttle said you did the battle plan tonight?" Xander nodded.
"You did?" Vinnie asked. Xander nodded, giving him one of those 'patient' looks. "Bro, you let him plan a battle for us?"
"He did good, I liked it, we tweaked it together," he admitted. "I wasn't sure about the evil woman part, but he managed it without help."
"They all love me. I seem to have some sort of magnet to attract evil women." He heard a few giggles and looked over his shoulder. "Not now, ladies. Or gentlemen, I can't see you that well."
"Come stake us, Xander, we love you," one of them called.
"We wanna see the bigger stake."
"That's a bit sick," Vinnie decided. "We're having a family event. You can wait until he goes out again." The giggling ran off. He shook his head. "Are you sure no one experimented on you?"
"No, not really," he admitted. "Then again, I grew up on the portal to hell. We're all a bit odd. How's my cat?" he asked, picking off a bit of fur. "You look like you were cuddling up to her."
"You too," he said, picking off some of the fur on Xander's shirt.
"Guys, no grooming in front of us," Throttle complained. He looked at Stoker. "Think we could get him some fur and a tail implant so he really looks like Vinnie's little brother?"
Stoker chuckled. "It would serve the punk right," he agreed, shaking his head. "They are a lot alike."
"Yeah, but I'm more fun," Vinnie and Xander said in unison.
Then Xander punched him on the arm. "No, I am. I can stay up longer and I have more fun at the clubs than you do."
"I'm too old and on the wrong planet to club," Vinnie complained. "You should have seen us on Mars."
"Please, not those stories," Modo moaned, holding his head. "I still remember bailing you out of jail twice in one night."
"Yeah, the third time they wouldn't let him go," Throttle agreed. He looked around, ears twitching. "I can hear you," he called. One of the cops from the gun incident came out of the bushes. "Yes?"
"Sir," he said, nodding at Xander. "What are you?"
"Special. I didn't quite have to take the little bus, but it was close in some classes. Good thing I learned other things, huh?"
He nodded slowly. "I'm to tell you we're going to leave you alone, sir. We don't care that you unpacked explosives or grenade launchers. Just protect the city like these other...beings do and we're all good. You'll get your FOID card in about a week. We thank you for settling here, sir."
"I deal in the strange and unusual usually."
"Even better, sir, there's a whole bar of them on the West End if you wouldn't mind." He nodded at the ladies. "Have a nice picnic, sir. Expect to only get speeding tickets, DWI's, and parking tickets." He left them alone.
"Wow," Xander said, taking another sip of his soda. He flicked the bug off and shrugged, then took a larger than usual drink, making a gross face. "Eww, I thought I was done with bugs after Dracula left town." He peered into his can, then shook his head. "I'll have to do something about that later."
"Kid, how old are you?" Stoker asked.
"You're an eight year veteran? I didn't know your military allowed kids that young."
Xander stared him down. "Who said I went into the regular military?" he asked dryly. "In my town it's called survival. We slayed the strange and unusual. Things like vampires and demons and other nasty things. You haven't lived until you staked your best friend."
Throttle gripped his shoulder. "He doesn't know, Xander. Mars doesn't have vampires."
"Hey, I offered to open a hellmouth on Limburger's home planet so you guys could have easier targets. Vampires smell less too, they'd probably make them all take a bath since they smell so much better than normal humans do."
"Vampires? Like in the movies?" Switch asked.
Xander stole Vinnie's knife and nicked his finger, licking off the blade and handing it back handle first. "Here, vampy, vampy, vampy. Come here and have a nummy treat." He heard a growl and sighed. "Wonderful. Who's got a tranq dart?"
"We can knock them out," Modo said calmly. The growling thing leapt and pounced Xander, who got it onto its back and looked down at it. "You're not hurting him?"
"No, he's an old friend. Hey, Oz." He patted him on the head. "Calm down, man, come back to yourself. I know you've got it in you." The wolf started to receded and soon a young man was lying there. "You better now?"
"Where's Willow?" he asked.
"Cleveland. Her, Buffy, all the remaining slayer twats. She's still doing girls though. Tara died a few years back."
"I heard." He looked at him. "Maybe get off?" he suggested. Xander sat back on his heels. "Vamp," he said, nodding behind him. Xander spun and threw a stake, dusting it. "Nice shot."
"Thanks, I've been practicing," he admitted. "I'm good like that." He got seated again. "Guys, this is Oz. I went to school with him. He dated Willow."
"Hey," Throttle said, handing over a can of soda. "Have a rootbeer."
"Thanks," Oz said, staring at him. "Hamster?"
"Mice," Vinnie told him. "Charley there thought we were gerbils so don't feel bad."
"Huh." He opened the soda and looked at Xander. "Cleveland?" He nodded. "Why?"
"Secondary hellmouth after ours imploded."
"Ah." He drank a large gulp. "Demons?" he asked finally.
"Movies were wrong then," he said casually. "Cool." He looked at Xander. "Can I crash on your couch?"
"Sure. I'm good with that. We'll catch up later." He dug out his keys and handed them over, whispering his address. "Go ahead." He handed over his shirts too. "You need them, you're really naked."
Oz nodded. "I can't seem to keep my clothes when I change." He put one around his waist like a skirt and the other on, then headed off to find a cab or something like it. He could feel a few bills in the shirt's pocket. He saw the bikes and studied them for a second, then shrugged. Mice who rode motorcycles were odd, but he could deal. He had lived in Sunnydale after all. He found a cab fairly quickly and the guy didn't even blink at his outfit. Apparently there were a lot of nearly naked people coming out of this park. He ran into someone in Xander's hallway. "Hey," he said quietly, startling him. "What's up?"
"I can't get my cat out of there," the landlord complained.
Oz opened the door with the keys and held the door open. "Miss Kitty," he said, staring her down. She hissed and backed away and the other ran out the door. "That one's yours," he said, pointing at the hissing cat. He went to get the other one, holding her up. "I'm sorry you lost your mommies. Does Xander treat you good?" She batted at him but he moved before she could get him on the nose. "Let's go wait on Xander. I'm an old friend." He walked her back up the stairs, edging around the landlord. "We're old friends."
"I can tell since you're wearing his shirt. Xander's gay?"
"Not a clue," Oz admitted. "Never asked. Will though." The man snorted, walking off shaking his head so apparently he had the 'Xander' vibe down again. He closed the door and got the cat some food, then went to shower and borrow some real clothes. It had been a long trip from Sunnydale by Greyhound. Maybe he'd stay for a bit.
To Part 4