Old Ones In Store.
Xander walked into the station the next morning. The old detective sneered but Xander looked atone of the new ones. "You guys wanted to see Giles but he won't be back for about two more weeks. Want me instead?"
"I can ask the new Chief, sir." He called him to see. He nodded and Xander walked back there. One of them opened his cuffs but Xander stared at him for a minute. He shrank down and away from him.
Xander knocked then walked in. "You wanted to see Giles?"
"I did, Mr. Harris. Please come in and shut the door." Xander did that. "I saw you on the news coverage of that protest."
Xander nodded. "I was there making sure it didn't turn into a riot."
"Thank you for that." He stared at him. "Last night...."
"We barely got back last night, Chief. Surely we can't be in trouble for coming home."
The chief stared at him. "Unlike the last idiot, Mr. Harris, some of my guys have brains and aren't dirty."
"Yeah, I noticed you got rid of most of them."
"I need evidence for the rest," he said dryly. "Last night in the park?"
"Thank you." He smirked. "How many more problems will we have?"
"Have you heard why we have problems?"
"No. No one told me why when the Governor appointed me."
Xander smirked. "Got internet?" He let him have his computer keyboard and looked up the site they researched on. He got into the hellmouth file and let him see it. The new chief read and then gave him a funny look. "It's under the old high school. Under the old library actually."
The chief slumped, leaning back in his chair to stare at the kid. "So that's why they're all here?"
"We have a lot of peaceful ones. A lot who hide in plain sight. It's one of the few places they can do that. We also get more weird stuff than Roswell. Chaos sorcerers, mad geniuses, the geek trio.... commandos from a government program torturing demons."
The chief shook his head quickly. "Are the commandos gone?"
"Yes, mostly. Now and then Riley Finn will show up. Some are now real agents. I ran into a few of them in LA." He yawned. "Sorry, office couch sucks."
"It's reasonable." He blinked. "I've been briefed on the geek trio if you mean Andrew, Warren, and Jonathan?" Xander nodded with a grin. "They're..."
"Warren is a problem, he's the instigator and he's always been slightly ego driven. Or else we wouldn't have robots that were real-time real."
"I saw her."
Xander grinned. "So have we."
"So if we got rid of Warren....."
"It's possible the other two would go back to more normal genius geeks with ideas. I know Andrew on his own would never turn toward evil. He saw evil close up with his big brother. Who was more wacko than Warren."
"Good to know." He considered that. "Is there any way to clear out the reasons for the high death rate?"
"Vampires. And we're working on it most nights."
"There's over four hundred of them spread around the city."
Xander grinned. "We hunt most every night. Cemetery patrols, Bronze baiting, up by the college. But hey, if you guys want to shut down most of the sewer system, leave the apartment complex down there alone. It's got a lot of harmless families."
"The what?" he asked.
"No one told you that we have a huge underground ... Oh, shit, dude." He opened the door. "Has the room on three in City Hall been touched?" he called. "I need that map system." The old detectives glared but one shook his head. "Thanks. He wanted to know where the apartments were so he could talk to someone." He led him over there. He winked at one of the demons giving him worried looks. "This is the new Chief," he introduced. "The governor appointed him."
"So you needed the map," he said with a smirk. That was clearly a cover story about why he needed the map.
"Yeah. Have a peaceful day. Oh, let people know we'll be opening the Magic Box in about a week." He nodded, getting back to cleaning up. Xander led him to City Hall, across the street, and up to the third floor. Then he winked and went into a room, then through a hidden entrance. He flipped on the lights, leading him down to the real map room. He flipped on the lights down there, staring at the real-life mock up. "It's plastic covered because the old mayor was germ phobic."
The chief walked over to look at it. He found the buttons to move the top layer higher. It spread out so they could see all the layers of tunnels. "Oh *damn*," he said in awe. He called one of his guys. "Can it be moved?"
"Yeah, this whole room can be moved." He flipped on the other lights, showing off the filing cabinets. "The evidence you probably wanted." He pointed. "That is a major vamp enclave that we weed out but haven't been able to kill totally. This is an apartment complex full of demons but they're mostly peaceful and if they aren't, the others handle it or tell our slayer."
"Okay," he said. His second-in-command came down and stared at the model. "Did you have any idea?"
"No, I didn't, and he just called for an update."
The chief called him and talked to him while he looked over the areas. His second spotted the filing cabinets and went to look them over. "Hey, we have evidence on Stein."
"Look at some of his past cases," Xander said dryly. "He tried to arrest someone for killing a robot."
The chief looked at him. "Seriously?"
The chief held his head. "I didn't realize when you said I'd have headaches, sir. Now I do." He hung up. "We can move this?"
"As far as I know."
"Good. We'll move the model to the office and let the FBI have those." He called them and they showed up; they were outside the town because they had noticed the hunters coming back. They grabbed the files, looked at the model, took video of it, then left. Quietly without notice.
Xander smiled. "Sneaky."
"I do try."
Xander nodded. "Oh, this area under the college. Someone has been talking to a *good* military based project about using that area as a training center. Willow's thing might have derailed that, not sure."
"Okay," the chief said. "The explosion was someone named Willow?"
"She's in federal custody already."
"Good to know." Xander grinned. "One of you guys," he said flatly. Xander nodded. "Dirt."
"She's staying in custody or they'll give her the death penalty. We've talked about it a few times." That got a nod. "Oh, can we confiscate stuff from the old Mayor if no one else has?"
"Is it stolen?"
"Probably not." He walked him over to that storage area. It was mostly cleaned out. "Aww, they left the marked cash." He looked around, finding a bag. "That'll help us with stuff like food and rent." He grabbed it and grinned. "I can have someone check to make sure it's not stolen."
The chief looked and whimpered. "Diamonds."
"Yeah. There had been piles of gold bars." He grinned.
"Ooooh. So this cash...."
"No clue. But hey, we might not mind....."
"We'll see, Harris," he said dryly. He looked at his second, who called back in the FBI. "Let them check it." They took the bag too and searched the rest of this underground area.
"Oh, shit!" one shouted.
Xander went to look in that room. "Hi, Huey."
"Xander!" He hugged him. "I got asked to clean up some of the mess."
"I'm trying to claim some of it for us and Faith."
"Faith.... Hmm, yes it might belong to her. I'll ask her. Is she still in a coma?"
"I'll ask then." He patted Xander on the head, earning a wince. "That will get better I'm sure." He smirked at the two officers. "Hi."
"He's a clean up sort. Assassins use him too. So does the CIA."
"I'd like to hear more about that job," the agent said. "So we can recognize when it's one of you and not natural."
The demon smiled. "I will if you quit sweating so much. It's making you stink and we have a very sensitive sense of smell."
"Sure," he said, bringing another agent in to talk to him. That one didn't wear anything scented. Huey the demon was happy to talk to him about how the clean up business worked and brag about some past, untouchable, clients. Not like they could do anything to the CIA or Wolfram and Hart.
Xander strolled off, going back to the shop. He ordered what was needed and stocked what they still had. It wasn't bad and he settled in to deal with the backlog of mail and bills. Some of them had to be paid by Giles' hand. He called him. "It's Xander." He smirked. "I'm at the store looking at the 'please pay me' pile. Yeah, you said to reopen the store, Giles." He rolled his eyes at the complaint. "Last night. When we called you before coming back to Sunnydale. No, you weren't drunk or distracted." He smirked at her when she leaned in. "Yeah, you're due back in two weeks. Want me to go ahead and handle that for you?"
Buffy took the phone. "If you don't come back, I'm coming over there and bringing all the vampires with me. I'll have Spike talk them into it." She listened. "You told us, with Mom listening, to reopen the store, Giles." She smirked. "I don't know, Xander. Is there a lot of money needed?"
"Six pay me invoices that total up to about two hundred. There's almost a fully stocked store and we have to sort out the books again."
She repeated that. "He said that's fine and to handle it, Xander, and make sure you don't take more than Anya made."
"Then I'm bumming his apartment too."
"He said he gave up the rent."
"No he didn't. All his stuff's still there. I swung by there this morning and the keys still worked. There's no mail from his landlord. Nothing really official. Just some books he had sent. Though I do need to pay his water bill for him. He forgot last month."
She said that and made hand-talking motions. "Yup, we can do that, Giles. No, our house was trashed and FEMA paid mom already. So did the insurance people. So we'll have to find a new place when she gets out in two months." She walked off talking to him.
Xander found the checkbook in the desk and checked the balance. He checked online. "Buffy, tell him Anya stole six grand from the store when she fucked off."
She leaned in. "He's swearing in Latin."
"I'd swear in Latin too." He looked at things. "That account but I'm seeing a second checkbook." She took that one to read off the information on it. "No, this is the store's so that one was his probably."
She nodded. "That's what he said. He's swearing in German now." Xander winced. That meant it was really bad. "So, we'll run it until you get back and Xander can have your apartment until you get back. Then we'll regroup and do more than handle things." She smiled. "New York?" He nodded. "New York. No clue. I haven't heard from her."
"I haven't checked my email but I don't think I have either," he admitted.
"No, no one's heard from her that we know. I can ask at wherever Willie put back up tonight. Thanks, Giles. Yeah, we can handle the store. It's not that hard." She hung up. "I don't know what's wrong with him."
"ManMS," he said dryly. "We all get it, we just get grumpy during it." She walked off snickering. "Go sort the books into sealed and not sealed?" She nodded. He handed over the inventory of them. She sighed but did it properly like Giles would like. She came back scowling so they went to look for the missing books. He found some but not many. That also got told to Giles so he could figure out how to get new copies. Then Xander finished settling the bills and opened the store. Not like they needed to wait and there wasn't much business right now.
One of the older officers walked in with a sneer. "Your *mentor* ask you to reopen for him?"
"Yup. He's due back soon." He grinned. "This way things are ready and hopping when he gets back." Xander leaned on the counter. "Why? Need something specific, Officer Doug?"
"My wife wants a battle axe, something special."
"Sorry, we aren't licensed to carry weapons. You might try the Xena catalog."
"No, she wanted something with silver tracings and maybe even blessed."
Xander snorted. "Even if I had one of those here, those sort of things will destroy someone if they're touched by the wrong person."
"I bet it can be broken."
"Well, maybe, but it'll still destroy you." He smirked. "Not like some of the One Ones aren't still around. You should be careful what she wishes for."
"They're not still here."
"Then Thor isn't working with the Avengers?"
The officer went pale. "What?" he asked flatly.
"Yeah. Been all over the national news today." He went to check on that. "Have a good day," he called with a wave and a smile. Buffy looked out at him. "It has been."
"Why would they want your axe?"
"Probably to try to hurt or have influence over me. Thankfully they aren't like that and they'll come when I call." He gave her a smug look. He looked at the man manifesting next to him. "Hey."
"Xander," Heimdall said, staring at him. "Are you ready for more training?"
"Later, after patrol tonight. I can take a bit of time now but that would mean Buffy would have to run the store."
"Better than the book inventory."
"Just don't sell any without checking it," he reminded her. She nodded and he took his first trainer back to the workout room they had back there. Heimdall smiled at the room. "She needs it."
"I noticed." He took off his helmet. Xander helped him out of his armor and they got to work on his compensation skills. Xander also told him about the attempt to get his special weapon and what Thor was doing. Heimdall nodded at that information. They kept going until Xander was worn out and sweating enough to make the floor slick. Heimdall stared at him. "You need more work to get back to where you were."
"I do better in real battles."
"That's because you have that extra battle sense." Xander nodded, rubbing his forehead. "Visions?"
"Yeah, but this is the eye hole's issue." Heimdall moved closer to look at it. "I have some debris left," he said quietly.
"That sucks." He patted him on the undamaged cheek. "You'll do with more work."
"Yes, Uncle. Thank you for helping me."
"Come see me more often."
"After patrols." He smiled. "Time differentials will be helpful."
"Yes it would." He gathered his things and left.
Xander walked into the bathroom to hose off, coming out to stare at the idiot with the gun on Buffy, who was chewing gum. He stared at him. "Are you really that stupid?"
"All this shit's fake anyway," he sneered.
Xander floated over something, making the guy gape in horror then flee. He even dropped his gun. "Thanks for the new weapon!" He waved and picked it up with a towel, putting it on the counter. "Let the new cops handle that." He went to clean up and came back to find one of the older cops harassing her. "Dude, really?" The guy whimpered, backing off. "Shoo and take the attempted mugger's gun with you." He nodded, doing it. "I guess someone heard something," he quipped.
She smirked. "Apparently." She let him have the counter. "Let me clean up in there and finish my workout? We'll do the books after patrol?"
"Sure. Call Tara yet?"
"No, I hadn't." She called her once she was in her training room. "She's seen Anya," she called.
"Have her nag her?" he called back. He smiled at the woman coming in. "We're just barely open again. Let me know if you need something we've got ordered and I'll add it if it's not already on there, Miss Clara."
"Thank you, Xander." She pinched his cheek and went to browse. "Candles aren't here?"
"Some were slightly melted so I didn't put them out. I do have two boxes of pink left and one of white pillars." He got them and brought them out. "I can offer them about a quarter off," he offered with a smile. "None are that bad looking but I didn't want to put out the scratch and dent stuff."
She looked. "Some of those aren't that bad. I can use them in the off-side things." She bought most of them and a few bits of incense. "The pine?"
"Is on order and I made sure we'd have enough with school starting since a lot of the kids like it to make the first party's results smell less." He smiled. "It should be in later this week or Monday." She nodded. He rang her up with the discount and let her go with a bit of help carrying the candles to the car for her. They had been due to be sent back for damage and credit but that made them a few cents more per candle than the credit would be. Plus it was good for the business.
"Way to channel Anya," Buffy called.
"Bite me." He smirked and fussed at some other things in storage. He found some stuff he had stored after Glory had attacked. A lot more candles and incense that had survived. He made a sign for the windows and put them on a table out front. He also wrote the head of the Wicca group on campus. They did a lot of business with them. Their 'non-practicing' supplies were still fully stocked.
By the end of the store's day they had done a good business with the 'just reopening after the explosion' sale. He had to up the orders and order more things.
Xander came up from the basement at the bell. "Giles." He smiled and shook his hand. "Hold on, I'm bringing up a case of pickled things." He went down to get it and bring it back up. It went onto a table and he unpacked it while Buffy hugged him and babbled at him. Giles finally got her calmed down and she bounced off for a coffee. "Joyce gets to come home in six weeks they think."
"That's wonderful news." He looked around. "You rearranged things?"
"We had two broken bookcases that need to be replaced. We also have a God cult on campus now, which is why we have two broken bookcases and they're whining in jail about their broken arms." He smirked. Giles smiled at that. "Anyway, we're doing okay. By the way, I put your water bill on the budget plan so it'd be the same amount every month. At the end of the year if you've used more, that one will be a bit bigger but it'll even out that great dipping and swooping thing you had going."
"That's decent of you. Thank you." Xander got the books to go over them. "We did drastically better than I thought."
"I held a 2 day sale when we got back. Twenty percent off to clear off the stuff that made it through the explosion. Plus a college student one day ten percent off sale. I did have to point out that one thing wasn't just pretty and decorative, it was meant to hold things. He bought it for a friend's weed stash." Giles nodded. "This the list of books we're missing. This is the one that we thought were for sale. The ones with marks/stars are ones we're not sure of. They had price tags but it could've been Anya from that time."
Giles nodded. "That's very helpful." He smiled. "You've done a good job."
"Thank you and you pay me twenty more a week than Anya because otherwise I can't afford rent. She blew up the cheap side of town."
"That's not that much and you are providing a lot of profit." Xander grinned. "How have patrols gone?"
"The new guys the governor sent are really efficient. They've dismantled a lot of things the Mayor had done without really bothering the harmless species. Whenever he gets near one, they sent someone to talk to him and they talked about it reasonably and rationally. He talked to O'Neill about the training center idea too."
"That's actually surprising."
"The governor is pissed as hell at this town and wants to clean it up for reelection." Giles nodded at that. "So far it's going well. He cleaned out all the dirty ones."
"Even better." He looked things over. "The current invoices?" Xander got them. "Already paid?"
"Yeah, I do it every week on Sunday."
"That's something I never managed."
"I don't have to watch Anya for petting things."
"And we haven't had much that wasn't a vampire in the last three weeks."
Buffy leaned in with her coffee, handing Giles his tea. "We have one huge demon that did move here but I think he's peaceful from what I looked up. Of course I have no idea what the book said but the marks on the edges of the page were harmless and annoying." She gave him a hopeful look. He went with her to find that demon and make sure.
Xander finished up the accounting tasks and pulled up the system on the computer. Willow had nicely donated her oldest laptop to them. It worked with Quicken. Giles came back. "This is Quicken. It works like a checkbook, hooks into the bank." He showed him how it looked. "It prints on checks," he said, pointing at that small box. "The bank only charged us five more bucks for this format than the checkbook and it looks more official. Plus readable." He paid the one he still had to pay, showing him. "That's all you have to do. Everything's in there already."
"So it's like filling out the check?" he said to make sure.
"Yup. Then I changed the filing system for taxes." He pointed at the file box. "Invoices, put it in the last spot." He wrote 'paid' and the date on it. "If you need it, the program can print out a photocopy of any check for taxes." Giles nodded. "And it's simpler, which was something you procrastinated about because it drove you nuts."
"Anya and Willow created that system."
"Clearly." He smirked. "One box for invoices. One for weekly sales reports." He got into that. "Put in the daily sales figures and it'll even keep track of the inventory if we want for ordering." He let him see how they did that. "That's the harder version. I didn't want to bother with it. I've been keeping a paper tally." He got that. "That way I know which ones I need to order from."
"That's actually very easy to use," he said. He looked over the boxes. One had receipts for 'petty cash and store expenditures'. One had invoices. One had orders that had been faxed in. "So basically this is all I need to bring to the tax preparation people?" Xander nodded with a grin. "Wonderful. Last year it was shoe boxes that filled the trunk."
"Yeah, I refiled them too. By year." He pointed at the boxes. "Keep them for a few years. Ask them how long really. Each year has a folder."
"I can do that." He smiled. "You're much more handy than Anya was."
"And I don't pet the cash. Or let the occasional bill fall into my bra."
"That is much better," he agreed. "Did Tara find her to talk to her?"
"Yup. Tara even duct taped her and talked to her. She was scowling so much the agents called to make sure she wasn't possessed." He smiled. Giles snickered, shaking his head. "She's back but she's got classes today."
"That's fine. I'll hug her later for that." He got up to look over the store. "Nothing from that place that made the candy cane candles?"
"No. They're in bad business shape. I ordered some for the holiday stuff but otherwise they're nearly out of business."
"Too small to make a good profit."
"Ah. I had that fear myself."
"We have a lot of practicing magic users in town. Oh, I added two suppliers. Both on the non-user side. The Wicca group and the meditation crowd liked them." He pointed at that shelf unit and clothing rack. They're all natural cotton but not hand-made. So the poser crew and the meditating crew like them."
"That's actually not a bad idea." He checked them over, nodding. "Not bad quality."
"No and with the pants version and the looser top it does work for yoga and things." He leaned on the counter. "Hi, Miss," he said when someone came in. He grinned. "Mr. Giles is back."
Tara squealed and hugged him. "I have missed you as well, Tara." He smiled at her. "How are classes going?" He walked her off to talk to her.
Xander let them go while he handled the store. Things had to get done even with Giles back. Because Giles really didn't do much with the store beyond lay things out and let customers troop in and out. Giles walked past him. "I reapplied the anti-theft spells to."
"That was very helpful. Have we had a problem?"
"Two vamps trying to raise something huge that have not a clue how to do so," Xander admitted. "I put a new lock on the sewer entrance and gave Spike a key." Giles smiled and nodded at that. "I changed your locks too." He held up the keys. "I also fixed that patio area for your landlord because he was fussing it was going to take months to get it fixed and it was keeping the other apartment from being rented. I told him it'd take three days and fixed it over a long weekend. Your newest neighbor is a young teacher up at the college in the english department." Giles smiled, heading home. Xander watched him go, getting back to work.
"Wow, is there a forget spell on you?" Buffy asked.
Xander shrugged. "Probably not, but I handled things well enough." He tapped the counter. "We have the college rush tomorrow with their workstudy payday. Can you heft up the candles in the non-use class?" She nodded, going to get them for him. He looked at Tara, who smiled and helped him arrange things in the windows. Including pulling down the shade partway so nothing would get too warm.
Xander started some spicy incense, letting the door stay open for a while to let it scent the air outside the shop. It tended to bring the non-practicing in to get some. College kids loved incense and candles. A lot of the decorators did too. "The purple were a special order," he reminded Buffy, who put them in the office. Xander called her again to remind her they were in. Then he came out to help arrange things for the college kids. The real practioners were used to having their stuff toward the back. Xander also worked on the upstairs/storage area. They used it for excess books but they could use it for so much more. Especially for the more experienced practioners.
"We need a new bookcase," Tara said.
"Yeah, they're waiting to be picked up."
"I can go," Buffy offered.
He stared down at her. "That would require driving. Have Giles get my keys and take you since I have a truck." She nodded, calling him to come get her so they could pick up things. He tossed her his keys and they got back to work using that space up there. The research stuff got put into the research center, which got a velvet rope put around it and a table among the shelves. The other stuff for sale got put on the other side with some necessities that they didn't want where *everyone* could touch them.
They went in a locked case so they knew when someone came near them. Including a few artifacts. The two new bookcases were locking ones and it let them put some of the more expensive and rare books in them, sending two bookcases down to the main floor area. They still needed two more but they were on order. Finally they had it set up and it was nice. Xander and Tara came down the stairs together and rearranged what Buffy had slightly mixed up.
Xander put out more of the workout clothes, which were by the windows. He added in the natural hemp and fabric bags as well. They made a nice looking topper to the clothing racks. Plus a few other things on that section for the more yoga oriented crowd. He called the yoga center to let them know they had some new stuff in, including the oil incense she liked. Then he got back to cleaning. The store needed vacuumed.
The local yoga instructor walked in and smiled as she took a deep breath. "That is a charming, warming scent, Xander. Wonderful."
He showed her the tin. "It's a mixed spice blend out of Pakistan."
She sniffed and nodded. "It smells better burning but wonderful." She went to look at the stuff for her classes, finding some things she needed. And a new purse she had been wanting. She smiled, letting Tara ring her up. "You two have done such a nice job for Mr. Giles."
"He's back," Xander said. "He's unpacking."
"That's charming. I hope he appreciates it." She took her bags, and the small box with the oil bottles. They always put them in a cardboard carrier for her so it couldn't spill. "I'll let the students know that you've got some new stuff. Did you ever get the plus size stuff?"
"It's due in Saturday," Xander told her. "If FedEx is right." She nodded, smiling as she walked off. Xander checked the time then her. "Were there dinner plans?"
"Not yet. I'll text Buffy and see." She did that. Xander finished the vacuuming. She tidied up around the register, keeping track of what had been bought. "Can't we link the inventory to the bar codes?"
"Yes but that's a complicated system that Giles might not appreciate. It's already linked in through Quicken."
"By this, we're going to be out of candles soon."
"I doubled our last order." He leaned over to look. Then he went to look downstairs. He came back up to find Giles scowling at the vacuum. "It needs it." He got back to work. "Make a note that we need more red and black tapers, plus the white pillar sizes." She nodded, making that note. He finished up and put the vacuum up. "There." He smiled.
"The research center is roped off with a small table back there.
"All the really expensive things for real practicing people plus the really expensive books went into the locked cases. As well as the artifacts. That lets us use that for those things." He pointed. "The yoga class runs tonight at seven but tomorrow at five. So we'll get some of them tomorrow probably before or right after class. Workstudy paychecks at the college come out tomorrow so we've arranged stuff for their needs. Because they like candles and incense."
"I've noticed. It's a good strategy. Does it work?" Xander nodded with a grin. "You're sure?"
"The college buys three-quarters of our candle stocks each time they get paid," Tara told her. Someone came in. "Welcome to the Magic Box."
Xander looked. "Hi, can I help you find something?"
"Do you know anything about the green things outside massing by the parking lot?"
Xander went to look then shrugged. "They're usually harmless but those are in the young punk age. If they're going to be a problem we'll talk with them later." He smiled. "Did they cause you a problem, sir?"
"No, just wondering." He pulled out a knife. "I want your axe, boy." Xander smacked him hard on the side of the head, making him whimper and drop his knife. "How did you do that!" he whined.
"Because you're pathetic. Who wants my axe?" The man mumbled something. "Anyone else with a plan?" He nodded, mentioning that he saw an online auction over it if they could get it. "I'll stop that. Thank you for telling me that. Tara, can you call Hank." He waved a hand at the guy. "That way he gets to go away safely." She grimaced but called him. The demon showed up and grabbed him to walk off dealing with him. Xander walked into the office, getting online to look things up. He found who was selling it on him. "Aww, that's so sweet." He looked up. "Tara, I'll be late for patrol later." He grinned and faded out.
"Well," Giles said.
Tara smiled. "He'll be back in a bit after destroying them. He likes to destroy them." She turned on the radio to the news station and listened. Sure enough, LA had another mysterious problem with a building that fell down by itself. Xander came back dusting himself off. "Were they stopped?"
"Yup. And they're really sorry when I showed up to point out they didn't have my axe and no one could sell it anyway. It was blessed and special." He grinned. "They decided they're not happy and I'm going to destroy them. I assured them they were right about that part." He went to clean up a few scratches and then came out to find Buffy scowling. "Wolfram and Hart are trying to reform."
"Again? Are you yanking on them the way Angel does?"
"Yeah. Because last time the germ lab got found." She grimaced. "So we'll let the agents do what they need to while I piss them off some more." He smirked. "Anyway. Are we doing dinner tonight?"
"We have patrol and I was going to talk to Giles about watchery things," Buffy said.
"Cool. I'll go home, cook dinner..... Maybe veg."
"Aren't we open for hours?" Giles asked.
"No, today we're only open until seven. On fridays we're open until nine. Saturday's too." He showed him the new hours sign. "That let us go earlier on our slow days."
"Plus more lunch traffic," Tara added.
"A lot more," Buffy agreed with a smile. "Since we look harmless a lot more normals have begun buying."
"The local decorator does a lot of stuff too," Xander agreed. He smiled at the man walking in. "We've moved the research center and the artifacts upstairs, Mr. Hervis."
"Thank you, Xander. I sense that will help those of us who practice not be infected by the college girls who want to try it out." He went up to look, coming down with his usual orders. The herbs got another stop but it was just off the stairs. And then two candles. "No pure ones?"
"Um..." Xander looked. "Yeah, I switched the shelves on those because that one's near the heat register." Mr. Hervis smiled and got them, letting Tara check him out. "Remember, let us know if you need stuff for a rite so we can special order."
"I'll need some french moss in about six months but you usually carry that."
"That's usually gathered in the summer so it'll be dried," Giles said.
"Yes, it usually is whenever I do my yearly blessings on my family." He smiled.
"But there is another version of that moss," Xander said, moving to the counter. "It's fresh but it's from South Africa and Paraguay." He let him see the catalog page.
"Hmm, nearly double but fresh instead of dried. I'll consider that later. I didn't know those markets had opened again."
"With the way things are going, you almost have to go global to fit in," Xander said with a smile. "We have some lovely African herbs coming next month for ritual work. Mostly standard ones but some for the usual Samhain protections being laid and for the traditional Yule ceremony in the Adam's College quad."
"That's wonderful. I'll let Helen know, Xander. Thank you for being so thoughtful. Much nicer than Anya was."
"Well, she was a former vengeance demon," he quipped with a grin. "And she did try to steal stuff."
"No wonder the New York community is shunning her."
"Yeah, that's why." Mr. Hervis smirked and left. Xander looked at Giles. "That way she has a lot harder time doing it to someone else." He let him see the new herb catalog. "The other new distributor."
"They're expensive but fresher herbs would be more useful," he said. "Special orders?"
"Yes. We can fax to them and have it within a week," Xander said. "For some things they just had better quality and the markup would be about the same price on our end. A few cents more a pound for better quality."
"That does make good sense." He flipped through it. "That is a charming mask."
Xander looked. "We have two of this one coming," he said with a point. "Because one of the decorators was looking for them. She special ordered them. Then there's this one I'm getting a single one of because I thought it might look nice with that group. Plus it's already got protections on it. Which is handy."
"Very." He kept flipping. "Are there others that have started business?"
"I looked online for more suppliers. They've been in business for over a hundred years. So I don't worry about them going out of business. There's another six I've ordered catalogs from and they're due in soon. Oh, switched the mail to the post office box for here because of that hate group. That way if they send another rant at the store with a threat we can hand it over quickly and easily. They know to watch out for those for us."
"Wonderful job." He smiled. "I'd like to look at those when they come in."
"Sure. Should be soon." He held up the keychain. "I put the spare box key on yours." Giles looked and nodded, going to get the mail. The tape on the key had the number. He looked at Tara, who smiled. "Did we lose that decorator?"
"I don't know. I haven't heard anything. Everything but the candles were prepaid."
He nodded. "They were." He looked out at the beep. "That's FedEx or UPS." She let them into the back door and he signed for them, taking the order forms to check things off. The other two deliveries showed up as well. Including their new candles. He got them tucked into the hallway for now. He'd carry them down tomorrow if they didn't need them for the college students.
He called the decorator's office to update her that the masks were in as well. He packaged the special orders with a copy of their invoices stapled on the bags. He was still missing something so he called them while leaning on the counter. He had the feeling something bad was going to happen today. He was right because someone tried to break in. Xander stared at the guy with the gun, pulling up his small machine gun. The guy backed out whimpering. Xander kept staring at him. The guy fled, right into a cop. Xander smiled and waved. "He tried to rob us."
Tara leaned out. "The new Yoga outfits are in as well." The officer smiled and called his wife while he walked off the stupid person. She came back to put out more of those. "Did we get all the sizes?"
"All but the two smallest. And the largest. There wasn't anyone that needed 6X in the group. We can special order them some." She nodded she understood that. "Though they look really comfy to sleep in, they'd probably fall off us."
"True. I have one of the 2X ones that's huge on me but very comfy to sleep in." He grinned. "I know it's much too big but it's comfortable." She swatted him on the hand. "I think he was stunned."
"Probably." He checked the clock. "Ten minutes." She smiled, taking the cash back to the office to count. "Do we still have that mysterious ten dollar leak?" he called at her dirty sounding sigh.
"Yes! The bill you put in there disappeared." He smirked at her. She smiled back. "With the dye pack, yes." She got everything else bundled up for the end of the day while he closed up shop. One last person hurried in but that was the decorator and she got Xander's help carrying things and paid with a credit card for the candles she wanted. She scowled at Xander too.
"We just got the masks in a few minutes ago," he said with a cheerful smile. "I knew you needed them for a showing this weekend."
"Yes. Thank you, Xander. At least you didn't nag too much."
He smirked. "Tomorrow is the college's payday for students and you *know* how much they love candles."
She snickered. "It's so they don't realize how ugly someone they're sleeping with is." She smiled. "Do you have more?"
"We have another six boxes. I ordered extra in case some broke or you added to the design."
She looked then shook her head. "I shouldn't need more than one box for something next month."
"Then I'll put out five or make sure I have a box next month." He winked. "Tapers again?"
"Yes. These are wonderfully sized." He smiled and she left. Those candles got added to the display for the college kids. He did good designing the displays. She admired that in a store. So much nicer than the tramp had done. She came back. "How many pink ones do you have?"
"We have some in fleshy pink. We have some in girly pink. We have some in something called Princess Pink, which is bright pink. We have some subtle rose colored ones too." He let her see that section. "On the backside are the thicker ones and the Princess Pink ones."
She looked. "That is aggressively pink."
"I figured there's a Barbie girl somewhere. That's why I only ordered that one box."
She smiled and took what she wanted. They weren't perfect but it was hard to find pink candles.
"Oh!" Tara said, realizing something. "He forgot the floaty ones." She went to get those. Those were pink roses meant to float in a bowl. "And you can use the incense oil instead to give it a nice smell."
"Those are nice. I could use those in the office." She sniffed the incense oils, picking up one she liked. "Will these work in normal burners?"
"Yes," Xander agreed with a grin. "The yoga shop uses them as well."
"A lot of the college students like the pine because of the way the dorms smell."
"Good point. They do stink." She charged them and walked out with that bag and the cardboard carrier for the oil. She did like those kids. A lot. They were so nice and had a lot of ideas.
Xander smiled and they restocked those things before going home for the night. Xander's dinner of mac n'cheese got interrupted by an officer telling him someone had tried to break into the store and had gotten electrocuted. Xander turned it off by phone so they could gather him. The officer said it was all clear so he turned it back on. They all liked and respected him a lot. Xander went back to his box of food and some rest. When he was ready he went up for some training time.
Xander walked in the next morning. "Good morning, kids." The college kids all grinned. "I see Giles opened a bit early for you guys?"
"Tara's here before classes," one said, holding up a pillar. "Any in this shade?"
"I can get some but that was the last of that rainbow box that you got last time." She grimaced. "But.... the decorator didn't need all her purple tapers. And you can tie them together since you said you use the glass pillar holder." He showed her those.
"Those will go really well with my curtains and my holder has walls nearly that high. That's not a bad idea, Xander. Thanks." He grinned and let her buy what she wanted.
Xander smiled at Tara, logging into the computer to note he was in then went out front. "Thanks. If you had called I'd have been here soon."
"It's fine. Breakfast was gross and I saw someone waiting." She smiled and left, going to classes.
Xander logged into the register and smiled at them. He walked over to light some of the new incense up. "That's the new stuff I just found. I'm not sure if I like it or not. It smells a lot differently in the tin but outside most of them seem to smell pretty decent."
The kids sniffed and a few bought some cones. They preferred stick incense. He added more boxes of those and they liked that. He had to restock the yoga clothes at lunch and all the candles. Half the incense was gone too. But he always planned to have a new shipment come in right after college paydays. He made another order for the clothes too. Giles walked in and looked around, staring at him. "Restocking."
"Wonderful news. I've never had a day when I needed to."
Xander nodded. "We do on workstudy paydays. We'll have another surge in a few hours before people go out tonight and a small one in the morning for those who want to spiffy up after their parties the night before. We get a lot of incense sales then."
"Yes, dormitories can stink at times," he agreed. "What are these cardboard things?"
Xander opened one and pointed. "For the liquid stuff so it can't spill."
"Oh, I see. That's charming. Expensive?"
"Thirty cents each but with the markup on the oil it's practical. Plus nice of us. Because if that stuff spills it probably won't be coming out and then they'll pout at us because that's how Americans are."
"True." He put that back and smiled at the two girls coming in. "Good afternoon, ladies."
"Hey, Beth, there's some of the purple tapers the decorator didn't need."
She looked and took the rest of them. He held up the last box with a grin. She took them too. She also bought a lot of incense and oils for later on. "Thank you, Xander. It's a working circle night."
He stared at her. "Do we need to arrange to lurk up that way?"
"No! Even the bigot group won't bother us this time. We're using a spare lab in the chem building this time. It has locks and things."
"Extinguisher?" he prompted.
"We'll be safe and bring one in. I know you'd hate to miss us."
"Yes I would. The world needs more girls like you and Tara." She kissed him on the cheek and got a few more things, buying them so she could head out. "Beth, chalk?" he called. She came back to get some and bought it then left with a wink. He grinned at the other girl. "She's part of the campus's Wicca group."
"I know. She's a nice girl even if she's that way." She looked at the yoga clothes. "Do they only come in these styles?" He got her the catalog to look over. "Why don't you get this one with the flowers?"
"Because most of the ones who buy the shorts are guys. I can special order whatever you want and that company usually takes about two weeks. It is thirty percent up front for all orders." She nodded, picking out what she wanted and paying him. He took down her information and handed her the receipt once he had faxed it. She smiled and bounced out calling her mother. Xander put that into the special orders box.
Giles had watched him. "That's very nice. What if something happens to her?"
"Then I refund that thirty percent if someone asks for it and tell the yoga teacher that they're on thirty percent discount. It's only happened once. Sunnydale's cleared out some since she did that."
"Good to know." He patted him on the arm. "You do show a talent for this work."
"I learned by watching Anya screw up the store."
"True. How did we do yesterday?"
"We had almost three hundred in sales." Giles gaped. Xander smirked. "It's not bad. Oh, the owner of the building showed up earlier to talk. He wants to leave Sunnydale and is talking about selling the building. He wanted you to have first right as the present tenant. He also owns a few other stores in town."
"I'll call him in a bit. Why is he leaving?"
"His son has cancer and he's moving closer to the treatment center," Xander said quietly since someone was walking in. "It'll be a fairly cheap building. The appraisal site said that it's worth about three-quarters of what he's asking so you'll have room to negotiate or even use the rent as a credit toward some of it." He smiled at the guy. "Gamer?" he guessed.
"My girlfriend wanted something from here for her birthday."
"Does she usually shop with us?" Xander asked, walking around Giles to take the guy toward things that could be classified as presents.
"Yeah, she gets some candles and stuff. She said something about an elephant?"
"Hmm. Ganesh is good luck," he said, showing him those. "Or we have ..." He looked around. "Had, they sold today." He got that catalog and let him look at that page. "Or was it that?"
"She said something about a pretty jeweled elephant."
"Oh!" He nodded. "You must be dating Missy." He smiled and nodded. "This," he said with a point at it. "It's strictly for ceremonial things. That's often worn by those who want to include a bit of luck since it's to Ganesh, but it's for things like fancy dress ceremonies. Is she getting ready to graduate?"
"Next spring." He fingered it. "That's not that expensive."
"That one has the lesser stones. There's ones we can order with more expensive ones for things like weddings. All the way to ones with diamonds." Xander flipped pages, having to look it up but showed him that entry. "That's what they carry if you don't like that one. I'd go with that color since I see her wearing it a lot and it looks good on her. Still in the girlfriend birthday present range but not too fancy."
"She does like that color. Who's Ganesh?"
"He's a Hindu deity. He's got a lot of jobs," he said, spotting that book and bringing it over. "He's the God of removing obstacles and of intellect, also arts and sciences. Around here, we see that being worn some for weddings. A lot of brides here in Sunnydale carry good luck omens on their wedding day and that's an unobtrusive one." He smiled. "Though Missy just likes elephants as far as I could tell."
He grinned. "That's really helpful."
"We have a lot of comparative religion people in here so we have references." He grinned. "Or, if you don't want to go that high, there's a Ganesh charm for a pendant." He led him to that case. They squatted down to look at it. "That and the one on the third row nearer to you could be put together. That's her birthstone if I remember right."
"It is." He stared. "That's cuter and more practical." He smiled. "Can I take them both?"
"Yeah, though we don't sell chains. But Mr. Mikan, up at the pawn shop by the bank, he has some really nice inexpensive chains and can put it on there for you as long as you don't talk to Brad. He's kinda an ass," he offered with a grin.
"Not a problem." He walked around to pull them out so he could see them. "This one's fifteen and that one's sixteen. They're both plated silver. I'd suggest higher end but unless you want to spend fiancee money...." The kid shook his head. Xander pulled out something. "This is white gold. It's two hundred." The boy moaned, staring at it. "That's a small diamond chip, real diamond. So if you ever need the fiancee present....."
"That'd be really sweet for her," he agreed. "It's our first six months so I'll go with the two this time. Next year maybe."
Xander nodded. "You always want to make sure before you blow the major money." The kid nodded. Xander got them boxed up for him and rang him up. "Also, she was talking to her friend earlier about fluffy cupcakes if that matters."
"She's throwing a party."
"That's wonderful. The world could use more parties that don't involve liquor."
The kid grinned. "Yeah, especially at the college. Thanks." He left, going up to the pawn shop. He did talk to someone other than the guy wearing the 'Brad' name tag. He was more than happy to work within his budget and find something nice to put those on.
Xander smiled, making a note on the outgoing sheet. He put that charm back and locked the case.
"We have brides wearing Ganesh?"
"Yeah. A lot of brides do around here. And any other luck deity they can find. Also, the huge garden they like to use for outdoor weddings around here have stones with prayers to him and a few other luck and love deities by the pond."
"I did not know that."
"That's been in the last few years, since graduation, but yeah. There's been a lot of it. It ties into the higher rate of mystical belief around here too. Plus the stronger religious roots."
"Interesting. When did we get a comparative religion text?"
"It was here when you opened?" he said dryly. "The gamers like it because it helps them with a few different games and it's cheaper. Plus laid out fairly well. A lot of the new Wicca and thinking toward that way kids also look at it to compare." He got it and let him see it. "It's laid out for that age group to appreciate."
"I can see that with the drawings and things but that is nicely compact and handy. Enough of an overview to let you know where you want to look." He handed it back.
"And at twelve bucks it's a handy little desk reference that a lot of kids use." He put it back. A group of boys walked in and Xander stared. "Let me know if I can help you guys find anything."
"We need stuff for the football team."
"Luck inducing or not?" Xander asked.
"Luck would be nice but the ladies are avoiding us."
"Yeah, after that one guy this summer, they probably would," he admitted, coming over to help them. A few looked confused. "You guys didn't hear that your backup QB was found to be raping a few ninth graders this summer?" he asked quietly. They all grimaced. "So yeah, I can see why the ladies would be wary but I'm sure it'll ease soon. Until then....." He grabbed something and handed it over. "It's a good coed game." He opened it to the right page.
"It's nothing too hard, it's fun, can lead to other games. I wouldn't do it drinking but you guys invite in a sorority for a game night and slip this in among them. They'll giggle probably and a few might scoff but they'll play and you'll figure out what's on their minds. Or who." They grinned and bought the book. It had a lot of luck rituals as well. Xander grinned at Giles. "Apples."
"Love apples are an ancient tradition and girls would like such things I suppose. He was?"
"Yeah. Right before the explosion. One's mom walked in on them and she stabbed him sixty-nine times. She was on trial and that was all over the local newspapers."
"Huh. I must not have been reading that week. Did she go away for it?"
"Nope. They all said it was justified and gave her community service." He fussed at some stuff. "Let me put out the rest of the candles."
"I was wondering why boxes were in the hallway."
"So I didn't have to make multiple trips to the basement. They'd go down tonight after I stocked." He grinned. "It saves my back and lets me get stuff without leaving people alone in the store."
"That's a good idea." He helped him stock to figure out where things were. "What's with this area?" he asked. "It seems to break the pattern." Xander pointed up. "Oh, a heat register. I had wondered why things were getting a bit of melting here."
Xander nodded. "I moved the purer things on the other side for that reason." They moved to take the window display down and two candles were a bit less than firm so they went on the sale table. The rest got put back. Xander considered the date on the calendar and then put out something else. Something holiday themed.
"No, preplanning. This could include Thanksgiving in a month." He made up some cute signs and decorated for fall colors. The few things like trees were more generic and not more than snow covered looking. Plus he put up the toy train with some little shipping boxes in the cars. That looked nice from the outside and he grinned.
Xander walked in and put up the shade a bit more. "That means we don't have to change too much more for the holidays." He put up stuff in the other window for 'fit mind and body' stuff. A few of the purses and bags, a few of the outfits laid out nicely. Some jewelry and with the meditation pad and on the other side a few of the oils and incenses. He decided that looked nice and backed out.
Giles walked outside to look and shifted something slightly then went to look again, nodding. "Nicely composed. Did we sell a great deal of those?"
"Yes. The college kids think they're soft to sleep in." He grinned. "Tara started that one by getting a few and roaming around the halls in them when she had to." He got more of them out and made a new order to replace what had been sold. And a few other things that were in the new catalog. Giles grimaced at one. "That's a hip style and they're comfy."
"I'm sure they would be but it's a bit late in the year for capri's."
"Giles, it's California. We don't get snow in this part of the state."
"Good point I suppose." He could handle it if they weren't popular.
Xander also put up a sign saying that they were able to be dyed and colors were available by special order. Then he went back to his orders. "Should we order something from the clearance stuff for next spring?"
"Will it be popular?"
"I'm not real sure." He let him see it. "That's more a niche thing but some of the younger kids might like them."
"I don't think so. It's not very magical."
"Actually, that's Harry Potter gear."
"Oh." He looked at the catalog then shook his head. "No, let's not." Xander nodded and finished them, letting Giles see them. "That's a lot."
"I added an extra box to the more popular holiday candles so they can stock up for the big dinners. White, green, red, blue, silver, and gold." Giles nodded at that. "That's also got the Samhain necessary stuff for anyone working that sabbat. Plus for the campus Wicca group who'll want orange and black for their usual yearly prayer session in the open. Which I have to remind Buffy about as well," he said, making a note on the calendar. Halloween was on a Saturday so they'd probably do it that day this year.
"Marshmallow what?" Giles asked.
"Ducks. Fertility symbols for the holidays. They're not Easter ducks, they're duck ducks." He showed him that picture. "I was thinking that candy line was cool for the holidays. Gives the yoga crowd something to gnaw on that's sweet but still all natural."
"Hmm." He looked it over. "Why not the nuts?"
"Nut allergies. If one pops open we'll have to clean a lot more to make sure no one who might be allergic would come in contact with it. We can offer them for special order though." Giles nodded. "Though, this one, I'm getting myself," he said with a grin and a point. He went back to working on the calendar. "Dance," he muttered, writing that in. "Big donor dinner at Adam's." He made another note and two more on the next month. "There. Special events to watch out for." He capped the marker and put it down, leaning out of the office at the sound of the door's bell. "Hi. How's the sprout today, Belinda?"
"Good. Fussy but good."
"I found some of those all natural aspirin lollipops." He showed them to her. "The college kids were buying them for breakfast so we're out of grape and rootbeer."
She smiled. "That might help." She picked out two and went to the clothes. "None in size ten?"
"There was a huge run on them earlier for jammies. But let me check a box. I haven't finished unpacking yet." He went to check the back area and then the basement, coming up with three armfuls of folded things. "All the stuff in size ten. The box is huge so I'll have to carry it later."
She looked. "Do we have a dampness problem?"
"Well.... Just in one corner but I thought I had fixed that last year. I'll check that." He put it aside. "We'll deal with that later."
"If it can be washed...."
He checked the tag. "I can offer it at a thirty percent off," he offered.
"Fifty? That looks like a stain."
He scratched at it. "No, that's not. It's a water mark and it looks like a fabric run." He looked at her. "I can do fifty." She smiled and bought it and most of the rest. He rang her up and bagged things for her. She walked out happier and he went to check that box. He called a demon contact to see if they wanted them. She did but couldn't come up until later and would be dying it so a bit of water staining wouldn't hurt it. She'd be washing it first anyway. Xander made a list of what he needed to fix that corner. He hadn't realized when he pushed the box out of the way. "That corner's damp again. I'm going to reseal it. It looks like it shifted sometime."
"Giles, it costs us fifteen for each piece," he said quietly. "We sell them for thirty-five." Giles nodded at that. That still made them a small profit. "I'll have to check the rest of that box. I didn't even realize. But a nice demon is coming to get those." He went to bring the box up. The things that were still good got put out. Xander moved everything else away from the walls as well. Most of it was needed upstairs anyway. "Hey, she left the little gold things." He handed them to Giles. "Put those on the bottom shelf of the locking glass case?" He nodded, arranging those so some flashy things were in front, followed by the subtle things, and then the expensive things. That's how Xander had arranged the rest. The rest of the inventory came up and Xander got to work on what had some damage from various causes and what didn't.
"Xander, why no athemes?"
"Because we need a special permit to sell weapons. Even ceremonial ones."
"I didn't know that. Expensive?"
"Lots of paperwork and they know to ask if they need one. The same as if they need the more expensive altar gear they know to ask." He looked at the full clearance table. "I need to get Spike to clean the basement," he decided. "Plus help me fix it again." He moved to call him to come do that later. Since he lived down there half the time....
Giles shook his head. "What if the building is sold?"
"Most of the time, the new landlord will only want to go over what your old lease was since it's fairly priced," Xander admitted. "There's no law saying he has to uphold the old lease but most will because a tenant paying rent is always better than an empty spot. Or you could buy the building. Which would mean no more rent."
"I dare say the mortgage would be more expensive, plus taxes."
Xander shook his head. "Most likely the building is going to go for under sixty thou. That's what it's appraised at." Giles gaped. Xander stared. "Which, with the average mortgage payments I found online would be about six-fifty a month for the ten year option of the loan. That's half of what you pay now. Actual rates may vary but that's what the 'what would my payment be' calculator said. Plus, property values are rising."
Giles stared at him. "Did you read up on it?"
"It's been on the nightly news."
"Oh." He went into the office to call the landlord's office and talk to him. He didn't want a lot for the building. Which would leave him with those apartments upstairs that were in dreadful shape. "Xander, how much would it cost to fix up the apartments?"
"A crapload. They all need new wiring. Under a hundred grand to do them all at once probably."
"That's a lot."
"That's a lot of reno work and it's expensive in town right now," he quipped. "There's only two companies and they're in back orders."
"How much would it cost me to get you to do it?" Giles asked.
Xander shrugged. "I'd need the building inspector to go through and tell me what's needed versus what's wanted. I know the electrical's crap. I know there's a few broken windows. I'd have to gut and rebuild." He looked at him. "Probably a little more than the building's worth to do all four properly and that's without the bathroom and kitchen fixtures."
"How much more would that cost?"
"Depends on what you wanted. Floors can run as much as 2 bucks a square foot depending on what you want. Counters can be that or more for the really good stuff. Bathtubs can run anywhere from four hundred to three thousand. If I was doing it the way I'd want to do it? About eighty total, pending unforseen problems like all the plumbing needing replaced because it's lead or finding asbestos."
Giles nodded, calling him back to talk to him about why he hadn't. His comments about the cost were about the same. Giles winced. "Can you do one or two apartments and not the rest?" he called.
"No, the whole electrical grid needs to be redone," Xander called, walking into the office. "Gutting the top levels at the same time would make more sense anyway. Especially since they're all on the same circuit. So putting power to it will flow through all of it."
"So you'd have to at least do all the wiring before anything else."
Xander nodded. "Or I could sink the town. I have plans for that." He grinned.
"I don't want to know," he admitted. Xander went back out front. His landlord sounded worried but he pointed out that the boy had been in the explosion thanks to trying to stop Willow and he was qualified to demolish the rest of the town if the government had wanted to do so. Plus it'd never be allowed to happen. They chatted a bit more and he sighed once he hung up. "That's much too high."
"It could be worse. Prices are going up. Especially after the tax appraisal next month. If you do it this week it has to go by this year's appraisal."
"That's good to know." That gave him a few days to consider his options.
Xander looked in there and then shrugged. He had his ideas. It'd be expensive but.... Then again did he really want to own property in Sunnydale? There was a good chance the town could sink within days at any given time. But with what he was seeing... maybe some insurance on the job front might not be so bad. So maybe he'd talk to Giles about signing the shop over to him if he wanted to leave again. "Are you going to visit Joyce tonight?" he called.
"Yes, I was." He got up and came out. "Are you sure you can handle it this weekend?"
"Did I not handle it for three weeks?" he asked dryly.
"Well, yes, but you are prone to leaving now and then for things."
Xander stared at him. "Tara."
"Fine." He walked off.
"Giles, if you're planning on leaving again in a permanent way, what're you going to do with the shop?"
"Well, if the building's bought there's not much I can do depending on what the new landlord would want."
Xander stared at him. "Not the question." Giles flinched.
"I don't know," he admitted. "Though you could go be with your uncle in New York."
"No, I don't think that's wise."
"He wouldn't want you?"
"I think New York's not really ready for me." He stared at him. "I could've left anytime. Being somewhere more quiet is always better."
"I suppose that's true. I'll consider that as well." He left.
Xander rolled his eye. "Sometimes the man is dense." He called Buffy so she could beg for a ride down too. She hated taking the grayhound to LA. Xander settled in to make some future plans if he didn't get to stay in Sunnydale. Not that he really wanted to go to the east coast again. He had seen enough of it generations ago. Maybe south. He hadn't been in Mexico since it was a Spanish colony.
Buffy's phone beeped with a message. "What's that?" she muttered. She answered Xander back. "Giles, something happened."
"What, Buffy?" he asked quietly.
"I don't know. Xander hasn't answered back yet. His 'everything's fine and we're okay' message wasn't really reassuring." She got one from Tara. "And it's bad. It's real bad."
He took the phone to read from, grimacing. "What happened?"
"I don't know." She took it back to call. "What happened?" She got hung up on. "That's a bad sign. Tara hung up on me."
Giles nodded, turning on the tv to see if anything was on the news yet. He had watched yesterday while waiting on Joyce to wake up and found a fear demon that he sent Buffy after.
Back in Sunnydale, Xander looked at the person in front of him. "Are you suddenly Jean Gray?" he asked dryly. "Because that would explain the routine issues."
"No," she snorted. "Comics aren't real, Xander."
"You mean like the redhead who scanned you?" he asked dryly. She growled. He stared at her. "What are you doing back here?"
"I'm supposed to be here."
"No. You're not. You haven't been supposed to be here since you blew up half the town."
She glared. "That's not what happened."
"Yeah, it was. I was there."
"It was not," she snarled. "And those flowers had better be gone, Mister."
"Bite me," he sneered. "You have no control over what anyone else does. Especially since you can't control yourself." She tried to throw a spell at him but he caught it. "No, that's not going to work either."
"You should've stayed with your gay husband sort," she sneered. "That's all you're good for."
"Yeah, but we broke up years ago when he wouldn't compromise, long before the marriage took place. He's happily married now. I helped arrange it for him." He smirked. "Though he did want to stab you a few times since he's a master of knife work."
"Like you're a master of nothing?" she taunted.
"Actually, I'm a master of a few things," he said dryly. "You just never realized. I mean, hell, you never realized I was immortal until I told you."
"You're not now. I made sure of it."
"You can't do that. You're not the All Father." He smirked. "And since I was born this way, there's no way to remove it from me." He stared at her. "Why come back here, Willow? You should've gone somewhere far, far away." He was wondering if any of the SHIELD guys at the prison were still alive but he was sure they were tracking her by now. They had to have alarms, right? She threw another spell and he caught it and stored it. She was getting huffy and that was a bad thing but he couldn't do anything about her right now. Though he knew it was always going to come down to this in his soul. She shrieked and threw more spells. He threw a knife, making her scream when it hit her shoulder. "You should really go while you have the chance."
He had to block off the years of history they had together or this was going to be just as painful as when he had staked Jesse. But it was his duty so he had to.
On Atlantis, John was frowning. Something was clearly wrong somewhere. He could feel that itchy feeling that meant someone he knew and cared for was in trouble. His team was on the city. Which left very few people. No one bothered his mother because she'd make them sorry. Which left the usual suspect. Who was also the cause of the last time he had felt this way. He considered things and went to find Clay. "I'm sending you to Sunnydale. Something's going on."
"Okay," he agreed. "Is Xander coming to get me?"
"No, I think he's in trouble." Clay packed more weapons onto himself. "Good idea." John felt along the power lines, finding Roque merged with Clay's lines. Roque could kind of shadow shift. Xander had been able to teach him that. So he showed up and snatched Clay, going to Sunnydale. John breathed in relief. They'd handle it. He went to stare at the water for a bit. He'd hear soon. That was the only bad part about being on Atlantis, the waiting for news.
Clay appeared, staring at the redhead in front of him. He knew her. He knew why she was a problem. He also saw something behind her. He thought about the little pink puffball for a second then stomped on it. She shrieked and went limp, then faded. "Little pink thing?"
Xander stared at him. "Fear and nightmare producer," he said quietly.
"Okay." He walked closer, looking at the kid. "That's mine too." Xander slumped, nodding as he looked down. "C'mon, you need to rest."
"I can't rest. The town's counting on me."
"Fuck the town," he said bluntly. "It's not an invasion. It's late enough that most people are safely locked in. The cops are here."
Xander looked. "New cops. Decent ones even." He shrugged. "It was a fear and nightmare creature."
"That sucks. You all right? And you are..." the officer asked Clay.
"A friend of his." He walked Xander off. "C'mon. We'll get you settled. Same place?"
"No, she blew it up too." Clay nodded, taking him home. "How did you get here?"
"Huh. I didn't think he remembered how that went." He saw something lumbering toward him and stared. "That's not possible."
"What is it?" he asked.
"Well, that was the principal before he got eaten by the mayor. So I know he's dead."
"Can we kill it?"
"There's got to be another one around here somewhere."
"Can we kill that one then?"
"Definitely. What did it look like?"
"Pink ball of fur."
"Eww. That thing. All right." He concentrated and the zombie disintegrated before it could touch them. Xander concentrated harder and more things faded around them. Xander stared, looking around. "Tell me that's not my imagination rebuilding the town," he begged.
"I don't know, kid. I know nothing about this stuff."
Xander whimpered, shaking his head. "It can't be. It has to be that creature." He stopped concentrating and the zombie Snyder came back. That he banished. Then they moved on, Xander jogging to where it had to be feeding off the hellmouth. Halfway there he got a slight vision and changed direction. The thing had to be doing this, right?"
Giles stood up from watching Buffy slay something. "Xander?"
"Giles, we have the little pink nightmare creatures again."
"All right, why do you look so flustered?"
"Because when I concentrated to banish one of them, half the town went."
Giles stared at him. "I was wondering how long it'd take you to realize that," he said calmly.
"I am not! I'm not that powerful! I'm not that desperate either!"
"We all have fears of you turning into Willow," Giles said bluntly.
Xander snorted. "I've had my powers for centuries now and I've never wanted more power. A bit more speed and stamina but never more power. This isn't me."
"It has to be you. You know, they said that you had some power surges recently."
Xander stared at him. "You're not Giles."
Clay walked over and swung on the guy. He faded. "C'mon, it's bad, but I know it's not you, Xander. We have to find that thing before it drives others suicidal." Xander stared at him so he nicked his thumb with his knife. "I'm real. John sent me."
"Thank you." He gave him a quick hug and they moved on.
Odin appeared. "Grandson... why did you wake me?" he asked.
"How did I wake you? And why am I always your grandson when I'm having an issue?" Odin glared. He pointed. "We have a colony of things creating nightmares and personally I'm about certain you're the next one I've got to face right now," he said, sounding a bit hysterical. "I don't care! And I sure as hell didn't call, Grandfather. No waking you up or anything."
"You're being impertinent again," Odin warned. Clay walked around Xander, taking his arm to pull him off. "Why is he in this state?"
"Because these little fear and nightmare puffballs are attacking him," Clay said. He could feel the power so he knew that was really Odin. They found the group meeting of them. "Shit."
"It's a fucking convention," Xander said dryly.
"So we do this the army way," Clay ordered. Xander nodded and pulled out a gun, shooting most of them. Which made the few that they didn't get in the first round broadcast at them.
"Hmm. I can see a double image. That must be what they're trying to do." He tried to call down power and it wouldn't come. He looked at his hands, then at his grandson. "Did you do something?"
"No. I'm just going nuts here." He hit a few more then he called his axe, which wouldn't come. Xander dropped into the battle spot in his mind, and it came, glowing and shiny. He sent it out to kill more of them and called it back to him, putting it back. That left three for Clay to shoot. One of which John and Roque stomped on.
"I hate these little things," John said. "I know they're native to near where Mom lives." He blasted the rest of them. "Huh, better." He looked over at Xander, and Clay, and Odin. "All Father." He smiled. Xander was still staring at him. "What?"
"Prove you're real," Clay called, helping Xander up. "He's been hit a few times."
"Heros don't show up in nightmares," Xander said quietly. Roque smacked him on the head, getting kicked for it. That started a brawl.
John looked at Clay. "Yeah, that's about normal." He pulled Xander over, hugging him. "I'm real." Xander sniffed him and relaxed, just holding him back. "Calm down. Remember, it'll feed on your worst nightmares." Xander whispered something. John let his senses roam. "No, you didn't create the town." Xander passed out. "Huh."
"If his father caused this, I will be chaining him up somewhere very unpleasant," Odin complained.
John stared at him. "Not everything is Loki's fault. These things live and breed upriver from our mother." Odin grimaced. "They don't mass like this usually so someone sent this as an attack on your grandson and I seriously doubt it was his father."
"If Loki had wanted him this batshit insane, he would've left us where Rosenburg sent us," Roque agreed.
"Why did she pick you?" Clay asked.
"She heard about post-battle stress relief. Before he set us up."
"So she decided you two should be miserable together?"
"On a place with no shadows." Clay shuddered. "Two suns. I had second degree sunburns."
"So did he," John agreed. "Plus where the explosion ripped into his eye. Doctor Lam said he still has some debris too."
"That sucks ass," Roque said.
"Enough," Odin ordered, walking across the cleared area of mangled little puffballs. "Why are my powers not working then?"
"Either there's one left or it's because it's the hellmouth, All Father," John said.
"Xander said his father's powers went wrong here and he couldn't leave. He made Thor babysit him," Roque said. "If we could wake him up, I'd ask him."
John tried to get Xander to wake up but shook his head. "I'm not getting any response yet."
"His first one was Willow," Clay said. "I got her so he didn't. Then Mr. Giles nicely told him they were worried about him turning into her. That was after the zombie principal that somehow made it look like he had created the town with his powers."
Roque sensed around, shaking his head. "I can't feel his energy in many places. The hellmouth, a garden area, and a store that has a lot of candles."
"That would be the Magic Box, where he works," Giles said as he walked up to them. "What happened?" Clay pointed at the puffball massacre. "Oh, dear, not those again. Last time it was his clown phobia."
"They don't usually swarm this way," John told him. "So this was an attack."
"That would probably be why I didn't get any." He stomped on another one that was waddling over. "Why won't he wake up?"
"Not sure yet but he's feeling really tired."
Roque checked the axe he had on him. "No, that's his. I know some people have been wanting it really hard. I killed some of them last week."
Clay smiled. "He told Jensen about this law firm he's been taking down recently."
"Yeah, I got some of them in a permanent fashion. He was being too nice for too long letting the agents handle it."
"We would like him to keep a lower profile," Giles complained.
Roque stared at him. "He did, you didn't know any of this about him until recently." Giles flinched. "Don't criticize the boy for doing his damn job." He looked at Odin. "If you still can't pop out, we'll get someone to take you to Thor until you can clear it. I heard it took him about three days."
"I'd rather not talk to my spoiled son." Xander moaned. "Finally." He kicked him on the foot. "Grandson?"
Xander blinked at him. "I didn't do anything!"
"No, it was clearly an attack against you," John said, helping him sit up. "You better?" Xander nodded, holding his head. "Let it go, Xander. Whatever you're doing, let it go."
"That's the garden." He looked that way. "Distance vision would be handy." He concentrated and blasted the demons in it. The lone peaceful one they were threatening got up and ran off now that she was free. Xander swallowed and let things drop some. More invaded the garden and John went to fix that. Clay helped Xander up, letting him lean on him for a minute. "Thank you," he said quietly.
"I like pulling rescue duty," he quipped, getting a weak grin back. "You need to rest, Xander." He nodded, swallowing hard. "We can walk you home if your mentor doesn't."
"I don't know where he's staying right now," he admitted.
Roque looked at him. "Is that because you treat him like he's the extra kid you didn't really plan on having?" Giles spluttered. "Yeah, I watched over him a few times. Including recently. We had lunch a week ago." Giles glared. "Let me make myself really clear. I'm Roque." Giles flinched, backing away. "Odin and Xander's father nearly had me marrying Xander a shitload of time ago. We may not have been able to work that out but we're still decent enough friends that he knows he can come cry on me if he needs to."
"Don't cry," Xander muttered, pushing himself upright. "Quit being an ass, Roque."
"Shut up, Xander." He looked at Giles. "There's a whole bunch of us that admire Xander for his strength. It's not everyone who can take out a whole war party of frost or fire giants by himself."
"The warriors I sent with him complained that he had them guarding things," Odin admitted. "Heimdall said he's been good in his retraining as well."
"Good!" Roque agreed. "He needs it. He does dangerous, stupid, heroic shit. Like come to the hellmouth to help out."
Xander blinked at him. "One of the main realms we're getting leaks from is Ariivan."
Roque gave him a funny look. "Where that princess that kidnaped you lives?"
"Well, long past now but yeah."
"There's a few others like that and their power to the hell realms power was what drew me. Because someone needs to reseal the thing with better gaskets. Especially right now since they're trying to get Willow to let go of it."
"If it opens, we'll die killing things coming out," Roque quipped.
"It'd be the kraken first," Xander said. "It's on top." Roque gave him an odd look. "It's opened before."
"Yeah, that's how Willow linked herself into it." He grimaced, looking at Giles. "I can make it in on time tomorrow. Not a problem."
Giles stared at him. "You look like you're going to pass out again."
"I'm fine." He looked at John. "You got messy?"
"Yup. It needed me to get messy." He smiled. "Good job." Xander smiled and relaxed his shields and wards some, which made him feel stronger. "You seriously need to work on those. You tie yourself in too tightly."
"Yeah but that's the only way I know how."
"You can learn better." Xander shook his head. "If I can learn new things, so can you." He patted him on the cheek. "Why were we talking about the kraken?"
"It's on top in the hellmouth."
"Huh," he said, shaking his head. "You blow that shit up, it works."
"Then the other millions of things come out," Roque said dryly.
"Good point. Can't we end the hellmouth?"
"The only thing I've found that would cure the rip I can't do," Xander admitted. "And as far as I know it's only a myth."
He hugged him. "Just kill the ones threatening you, Xander. That way you don't have to go through this again." Xander nodded, hugging him back.
"You are much like your mother," Odin sighed, giving John an odd look.
"Perhaps if others acted like her, then my half-brother would be a happier person who had no trouble finding a mate." Odin glared. "I had a few I chose."
"I have no idea why I don't get more than temporary ones," Xander admitted. Odin groaned, walking off. Xander sent him home.
John sent a puffball monster he could feel with him. Xander stared at him. "What?"
"I have to go kill it there."
"You're a guardian of the villages. Valhalla has its own guardians," Roque reminded him. "You used to complain when you got told that."
"Yeah but he'll still expect me to come end it."
John smiled. "You're busy. He has war gods. They can stomp on the little puffballs." He stared at him. "Maybe you should go see Mom for a few hours. Rest, actually sleep, all that?"
"You're not fine, you haven't been sleeping right because that's been your retraining time."
Heimdall appeared, looking at Roque, who nodded at him. They looked an awful lot alike. It had started rumors. "Nephew." Xander looked over John's shoulder at him. "What is that?"
"Fear and nightmare inducing."
"Not that hard to kill," Roque admitted. He pointed at the ones around them.
Heimdall sighed. "What did he do this time? That's endangering us according to him."
"It followed him home," John said dryly. "Odin was just here."
Roque brought Clay with him. "Ladies, do not touch my husband, even if he dies in battle," he told the Valkyries.
One stared at him. "He's due to come up here but when you're ready you can come gather him, Roque. Do you know what that horrible thing did!"
"Yup. Xander was just attacked by nearly thirty of them." They shuddered. "Clay and he got most of them while being attacked." He walked into the throne room and stared at Odin. "It followed you home. Xander had nothing to do with it. Quit picking on your grandson because of who his father is. Before he decides to walk away from all of you over it."
"Many villages would die if he did," Frigg said, looking at Odin.
Roque snorted. "If it hadn't been for me, John, and his sister he would've walked away ages ago. Which means that you guys would already be down about a quarter of your villages because he's the one that stopped the giants."
"That was you," Odin said.
"No, I was backing him up. I had no idea how to deal with a fire giant. Not like they're native around my areas," he said dryly. Odin glared. "For seeing everything you sure as hell don't look too often." Odin looked that way and stared, mouth slightly open. "Yeah. The one you discounted and derided for years.... you know, I'm wondering if Giles picked that up from you really. It's like a toxic relationship." He stared at Odin when he quit watching the past. "Quit treating him like shit because he's your grandson through the son you hated to have born. It wasn't his choice to be born and he doesn't really like his father either. He's as close to one of the orphans as you'll ever see from kids with two parents."
"I should have let him stay with his mother," Odin sighed.
"If you had, he'd be their major warrior." Roque shrugged. "Quit treating the boy like shit. Maybe that's why the little puffball felt you were a good match for it." He disappeared. He found John and Xander talking quietly. "Take him to your mom. I'm seeing serious mirroring of problems."
"Yeah, so did I," Xander said dryly. "Then I went on a roadtrip to solve some things and blow off all that anger."
"I thought you stripped," John said dryly.
"Yeah, I did that too." John grinned, taking him back to his mother's house.
Clay looked at Roque, who growled and pulled him closer. "We don't have time for that today. I have to get back to the city soon."
"Hmm. Will they attack me?"
"The city might. I looked you up in the stuff Jensen was finding and she thinks you're a horrible butcherer."
"At one point in time there was a war and I was."
"I figured it was something like that. He pointed out that was side bias to the AI. She agreed but said you were clearly dangerous. Jensen told her we had served with you and she pouted at Pooch for days since he had been helping Radek work on some things."
"Huh." He took them back. John could make it back himself. He smirked at Cougar and the two guys with guns. "I'm bringing him back." He let Clay go, smirking at him. "Now you know why the rest of us think that Xander's insane."
"There's others like you guys?"
"Yeah, quite a few." He smirked. "Now and then we run into each other and have a drink." He shrugged. "Even they think Xander's the scary warrior sort." He looked at the big guy with the knives. "You look like fun."
"No, you can't dent Ronon. I can't dent Ronon." Ronon smirked at him for that. "He's badass and killed a whole shitload of wraith by himself."
Roque smirked. "Good. Treat my former team like I would."
"No, he's sane," Jensen quipped. "Nice to see you are alive."
Roque looked at him. "Like some petty shit was going to take me down?" He disappeared again.
"Former teammate," Clay said. The guys with guns just nodded.
"If you're wandering around a jungle killing bad guys you want someone like Roque at your back. Slightly insane and willing to kill everyone? It's a good thing," Jensen quipped. Cougar nodded.
Pooch shook his head. "What happened?"
"Little pink puffball creatures that attack by creating your worst nightmares and fears." Pooch shuddered. "Someone made about thirty of them attack Xander."
"Shit," Jensen said, muttering something else. "They gone?"
"Good!" Everyone looked at him. "Those things have killed whole towns, just a single one. People go insane trying to fight the nightmares and fear. They kill each other, themselves, their families to spare them. I'd like to send one against the wraith, see if they work on them."
John strolled in. "Not doable though I wouldn't mind. We can't unleash that on the rest of Pegasus. Otherwise yeah, I'd love to see it happen."
"How is the kid?" Clay asked.
"Mom's fussing over him and making him feel better. He's had to stop her from going to yell at people."
"Good," Jensen said dryly. John smirked at him. "Anything else we need to hear?"
"Not yet. So it's back to business as usual, guys." They nodded and used the opportunity to cut sparring short and go get some rest. Clay too. John looked at Jensen. "Don't even think about it."
"I'm not." He smirked. "Today." He walked off with Cougar. "Roque looked decent enough." Cougar nodded. "I guess his homicidal ragings around the globe are slowing down again. Must be running out of drug and weapons dealers."
John shook his head quickly. "That one did look a bit scary," Ronon told him.
"Roque is. He's very scary. Which is why I'm so damn glad Xander denied him." Ronon grinned. "Let's spar. I'm tense." He took off his shirt and moved to get some sticks. Ronon got his own and it was on. Very stress relieving when you didn't have a lover.
Giles opened the store and looked toward the kitchen. No Xander apparently. No, there he was walking out with a cup of something warm. "Have a better night?"
Xander stared at him. "Mom said you're a fucking asshole who doesn't appreciate me and I should leave you and Buffy to die," he said conversationally. "That's a direct quote so fair warning if my mother shows up." He sipped his coffee.
Giles stared at him. "Why would she think that?" Xander looked at him, just staring. "I know last night was a bit long...."
"So it wasn't you watching Buffy kill something and telling me that you thought I was going to change into Willow suddenly?" He stared at him.
"Well, no; I do have that worry but I realize you don't have magic gifts." This was clearly surreal.
Loki appeared, smiling at Giles. Then at his son. "Odin wants you."
"Mom walk up to him and smack him again?"
"I can't calm Mom down. John's her favorite." He smirked. "And once again you sent yourself to Sunnydale, Dad."
He waved a hand. "I'm on official business, son." He looked at Giles. "It's nice that Janus has people who follow him again."
"In my youth; I grew out of that stupidity," Giles said dryly. Xander got taken by his father. "Blast! I have no idea what's coming in today." He sulked but made himself some more tea. It could only help his day. Fortunately Tara came in to help him and that was excellent. She was organized and knew where everything was.
Xander was walked into the throne room by his father. He cleared his throat. "Move." The goddess in front of him sneered but moved. He walked up there and snapped his mother's chains gone. "You didn't realize after the last time she did that she's got a temper?" he asked dryly, staring at Odin.
"You're impertinent again, Grandson."
"So why am I only your grandson when you think I'm doing something wrong and the rest of the time I'm Alexander?" he asked bluntly, making a few gasp. "I can't be a relative when I'm doing good things?"
Odin stared at him. "Was your mind that bothered by last night?" Xander summoned Odin's sword, putting it on the floor in front of him and staring at him. "How did you do that?"
"The same way I've always done it to others." He stared at him. "Quit picking on my damn mother. Last night was bad enough and you kinda made it a bit worse. I do not need this today. For that matter, I'm feeling a battle coming to Sunnydale so I don't need it next month either."
"You are becoming much like your uncle," Odin warned.
Xander stared at him. "Watch me summon a horn and blow it," he offered. Odin looked scared. "Make up your damn mind, All Father. You appreciated the hell out of my mother when she had me. If she chooses to stand up to you when you do stupid shit then so be it. You either appreciate all that we are or nothing. And that's probably why my father turned on most of you. You know, there doesn't *always* have to be a bad son." He stared around the room. "Any other complaints because I'm in *such* a great mood today." No one said anything. "Good. Thank you. Mom, would you like escorted home?"
"No, dear, I believe I should visit and check on your new dwellings."
"Mom, it's a tiny apartment. Remember, I'm living as a mortal." She scowled. He stared back. She slumped and sighed, giving him a hug. "Thank you, Mom. And for sticking up for me again." He glared at Odin over her shoulder. "Now, why don't you go home and rest. It's going to be a long few days." She nodded, letting Freya help her out of Valhalla. He glared at Odin again. "Did you expect someone not to answer for things?"
"I did nothing to you last night."
"Only made it a bit worse, yeah." He stared at him.
Odin huffed. "I did not summon them there."
"No, you're the one who told them how to get my axe from me." He smirked. "I found that out when I questioned one of the buyers." Odin stared. "By the way, you're missing a handmaiden, Frigg. She's gone to visit your sister. Permanently." He stared at Odin. "You fuck with me and I fuck back and I will make sure Ragnarok doesn't have to happen."
"You're not that good, Grandson."
Xander smiled and summoned something, holding it up. "Really?" They all stared.
"That's a nuclear weapon, nephew," Heimdall said. "You like some of us."
Xander stared at him. "Sometimes. You mostly. And yeah, I can shield whoever I want." He stared at Odin again. "Quit fucking with me on purpose because whatever plan you made with my father to get me unsuitably married off is now moot. Roque's happily married and I set up the consummation event." He smirked. "I don't care what you think a future mate might do. I do have some taste and not all of them have been dangerous. Especially not to you guys."
"I can make you mortal, grandson," Odin said bluntly.
"No, you can't. See, both pantheons gifted me with it." He smirked. "And Roque's because I saved them. And Greece's because I saved them. Which also translated into Roman terms." Odin started to shake his head. "Yeah. You sent me to help out." He grinned. "How do you like that plan now?"
"You are dangerous to us."
"I'm not dangerous to anyone unless they fuck with me," he said simply. "I don't know what's taken possession of your mind, but I've had enough." Odin tried to hit him and Xander proved he was training nightly. Odin was back against a wall and disarmed within a few minutes. Xander stared at him. "Confess." He put power behind it.
"I have nothing to confess." Xander put more power behind it. "Your father was foul and so are you."
"You made him and the foulness had to come from somewhere," Xander quipped. "I doubt it was Grandmother since you call her a saint."
A male coughed and walked over. "Alexander, we realize you have seen what we have not, that Odin is not himself. We would like to keep the All Father alive."
"I wouldn't. Even before this he was a pain to me." He stared at Odin. "That little plot for my marriage was long before this. Which would have killed me probably and left all sorts of activity going on that I've stopped."
Loki cleared his throat. "Son, only I get to kill my father." His son threw a dagger at him without looking, making him yelp and banish it. Xander summoned it back. "Perhaps we have both underestimated you, Alexander."
"Yeah, like the girls in my life do." He stared at Odin. Then he threw a silver spike at his father, which he couldn't banish. It made him shriek and fall down. Then foam up and disappear. Odin gasped, starting to splutter. Xander stared at him, manifesting another one. "Where are they?"
"In Hel's caves!" he babbled. "We have gotten her as well!" The other gods started to talk. "Do not kill me!" Xander killed him. "Mercy," he begged.
"I wasn't taught that. Odin thought it weak." He looked at the God of War. "So."
"We can go check, nephew." He stared at him. "You should come train with me more often."
Xander smirked. "I've been training with Heimdall. He likes me more."
"He does," he agreed. "Banish that foul mortal weapon and we'll retrieve both your male relatives."
Xander shrugged. "You can keep Odin," he said bluntly. "Just in case he tries to marry me off to someone unsuitable again." He handed over the sword. "Anyone else going to fuck with me?" They all shook their heads. "Last call?" They all backed away. "Good. Now let me go back to my mortal pretend life." He disappeared. He landed in the store, looking up. Tara cleared her throat. He looked at her. "Just don't ask. It's been a long morning."
The bomb appeared at his feet and he stared then shrugged and took it with him to Cheyenne. "Here," he told the general, handing it over. "I just caught an imposter in my grandfather's throne and nearly blew him up for being a bitch." He disarmed it. "That's better." He smiled and disappeared.
The man on the screen looked at General Landry. "Who was that?"
"A guy from near LA," he said bluntly. "That headache inducing incident with the gate and your second-in-command? That was him."
"Oh. What did he give you?"
"A bomb." He called Sam Carter. She came hurrying up. "Mr. Harris delivered this with a cryptic message about someone not being his grandfather."
"That's a nuclear device. I wonder where he got it from. Xander?" He reappeared, looking at her. "Where did you get it from?"
"Syria." He smirked and disappeared again.
"That's very handy to know," she decided, taking it to the labs to finish disarming it.
Landry shuddered. "Can we take over Sunnydale, sir?"
"I'm considering that."
"Don't dismantle it too far, Doctor Carter. I'll need it in a few weeks," Xander called. He walked in and leaned over to look in the camera. "Sir, you might want to listen to more intelligence being gathered out of Saudi. I had a vision that said that there's a terrorist attack planned on the US this year."
"September. Involving planes. It was planes and then suddenly it went to geese, a whole lot of geese, flying into the sun. I'm guessing that's a bad thing since even bigger battles, I see dead bodies instead of souls."
"I'll look into that. Any idea who? Or where?"
Xander nodded. "I sent it to Doctor Lam's email because she was the only one I had and I have no idea who to tell beyond Agent Fury, which I did."
"Thank you, Mr. Harris."
He smiled. "Welcome, sir. I don't want that to happen to this country." He stood up, looking at Landry. "If you're going to decide to use the base under our college, which we don't mind, remind the guys that spring is always a bad time. It's apocalypse season in Sunnydale. We manage it but your newbies will freak the fuck out. Oh, and if they're already there, we're having a battle this week but I'm not sure why yet."
"How do you know then?"
"I can feel the energy building. After so many years of being in wars and protecting people.... You kinda get that feeling. Ya know?" He disappeared. "Tell her I'm sorry if it scared her."
"I can do that," he said, calling her. "Doctor Lam, you have a warning email from Mr. Harris about a vision because he didn't have anyone else's. Thank you." He waited and reloaded his email twice until it showed up. "Here it is." He read it over and sent it to the president.
"I'll see if we can stop that, Hank. Thank you." He hung up and started to yell for people to come see that.
Landry sat back and considered things. The boy was dangerous and he did not want him dating his daughter Carolyn. Even if she would be happy.
Xander walked into the store and kicked the door. "I hate visions."
Giles stared at him. "What one did you have?"
"An attack on New York." Giles moaned, shaking his head. "Yeah. Next month." He waved a hand. "And we're moving toward a battle here. I can feel the building tensions."
"All right," Giles said. "What do we know for certain?"
"Not a thing."
Tara cleared her throat. "I've hear whispers on campus," she said.
"The military guys aren't the same group."
"No, the half-demons I've heard have been hoping they'd hide them."
"Damn it. Any idea why?"
"No. I know Willow started that fear."
Xander nodded. "She did in me too." Tara smiled weakly. "See if you can get one to talk to you?" She nodded. "Buffy and I will visit the local network later." He checked the store then looked at Giles. "No customers?"
"No, not yet thankfully. Do you know what's coming in today?"
Xander went to get the laptop, bringing it out. "This is the tracking site for each of the major shippers. They send us confirmation of shipping whenever we order and that has the shipping number." He got a folder. "This is the ordered file. I move it from here to invoices to paid." Giles nodded, looking them over. "It looks like there's only this weeks so that should be easy to do. They tell us who they ship with except this one and they only ship through the yellow truck people," he said, getting into that screen. "It looks like they'll be here later today. They come to the back door because it lets the trucks stay out of traffic and take enough of a rest break to get a snack at the bakery and coffee shop." Giles smiled and nodded. "They usually pull up and honk then bring stuff."
"Usually they show up between two and five," Tara added. "They're very nice."
"They are," Xander agreed with a grin for her. He smiled at Giles. "When it comes in, one of us inventories, then files it and notes to the company anything that may not have been shipped. That's usually by phone."
"That's an easy enough system. We fax orders in?"
"Yes. We could do most of them online but this way we have a copy and they all accept fax orders. Plus the fax machine lets us get in special request orders to be shipped. Which we do through UPS. The brown trucks. They're cheaper and if you tell them it's an oil or something liquid, they'll make sure it's packed properly when we take it to the UPS store up the street."
"Splendid," Giles said with a smile for him. "It seems you have it well in hand."
Xander shrugged. "We knew it drove you nuts before."
"Good point." He smiled and they got things ready for the incoming customers. Xander put on a cone of incense. "Doesn't that eat into the profit?"
"No, we sell them by the tin and by the cone both. It lets people smell what it's like, because the tin makes them smell strange. I stick with the new scents for these. Though, that stinks." He put it out and behind the counter, putting a quarter onto the register for now. He got one of the others, grimacing. "Eww. They changed the sandalwood scent or mismarked this one." He got into another tin. He checked the tin codes and moved them where they needed to be. "We never burn the Moroccan Spice one. It stinks. A lot." He got two evergreen ones and put them out. That smelled a lot nicer and covered the other one. He grinned. "That was from an already opened tin. Those we put into the little plastic jugs."
"That's fine. As long as it's not shorting anyone."
"No." Someone came in. "Hi, Mistress of the Poses. What's wrong?"
"Did we change suppliers for the clothes?"
"No, why? Did something happen?"
"I had two blow out seams last night."
He stared at her. "Were they the ones that bought too small?"
"One was fitting instead of looser but the other one shouldn't have."
"Oh, yeah, she got some stuff that had been in the basement and got a touch of water damage on clearance."
"It did smell mildewy. So we think it was just that?"
"I'm pretty sure but check the others." She moved to check them. One did give. "I'm going to call them right now then. Were they both this shirt?"
"Yes. I haven't seen any of the others, just this one style."
"I'll call and nag." He kissed her on the cheek. "Thank you for letting me know. I'll take those in." She smiled and left. He handed Tara those outside the one he needed the number from. He called them. "Hi, this is the Magic Box in Sunnydale and I have a problem with a specific item that apparently has seams breaking." The customer service rep puled up what she needed. He read off the item number.
"Yes, by them. We haven't seen anything from the rest of their clothes..... Oh, they aren't made by the same company. I thought they were since the tags were the same." He listened. "What others do they make?" He pulled them off the rack. "Thank you for that. Um, can you check our present order and remove those?" She checked. "Yes, just made by them. Thank you and for that flagging not to order it in the future. You have a great day too."
He hung up and called someone. "Cordelia, isn't there a start-up Indian clothing company in LA?" She said something and he walked off. "Can you arrange to get me a catalog or for me to come see them? One of our suppliers of the yoga and working clothes has really weak seams. That'd be fine. I can travel and check on Joyce that day. Thanks, dear. Let me know.
"No, things are going about the same as usual up here," he said dryly. "You know how it is in the fall." She muttered and he nodded. "Yup, just like that. Thanks, Cordy." He hung up. "She'll get me in to talk with them later this week if possible. They are handmade. They make native clothing. So it's not that bad of an idea to see if they have anything we might like." Tara smiled. "Want to come with that day so we can check on Joyce?"
"I wouldn't mind." She smiled at Giles. "If you won't need us."
"No, it can only benefit the business." He smiled at Xander and Tara, who went to get a drink at the coffee shop. He leaned on the counter, staring around his shop. It was doing a lot better now that Xander was running everything. "Perhaps he ran some stores before," he decided. He heard a honk out back and went to let the driver bring things in. He signed the slip and got the invoices for those companies. One was fairly expensive.
Seeing it nearly gave him a heart attack but it was the note of 'special order' that made him happier. Why did someone need seven thousand dollars worth of herbs for? He checked, they were good quality. So was everything else. By then the children were back and handling things. Tara called that order to let them know. "Did he pay up front?"
"For things that big, yeah," Xander said with a smirk. "For anything mystical it's fifty percent or more up front, depending on if we've dealt with them before and what they're getting. That one wants to raise a dead person but the rite he was using looked different than the one I've seen." He shrugged. "Just his wife," he said at the opening mouth.
"Is that ethical?"
"Giles, there's business and then there's full ethics. If someone orders through us to start an apocalypse we'll handle it and have a lot of warning. If it's something magically iffy, I have Tara and I go over things." Giles relaxed and nodded. "We'd probably never sell anyone anything that could start an apocalypse. Unlike Anya, who sold that cursed demon box."
"Don't remind me," he muttered. "It cost a fortune to get back."
"I would've snuck in and broken it."
"That is not ethical."
"Or had someone sneak in and break it. Spike would've." He grinned and got back to work.
The old man walked in. "Xander." He smiled at him. "You are sure that's the proper thing to do?"
"Yes. Because if I have to fight an apocalypse...."
"Good point I suppose."
"That's why we asked what you needed it for."
"Ah, even more cautious than the bint that used to work here."
"Oh, yes. Quite." He smiled. "We make sure the world doesn't end and we don't sell people things to let them try it."
The older man smiled. "That is good to know. It's very ethical of you too."
"Yes, the store got a lot more ethical without Anya." He snickered. "Tara, do you have his all bagged?"
"I'm double checking," she said quietly, smiling at him.
He looked it over. "Is that supposed to be grass?"
She looked at the bag then the invoice. "No, they said it's the special order of the weeds from a gravesite." She let him see it. He nodded that was fine and took things. She smiled as she stapled a copy of the invoice on the bag. "You have a good day."
"You as well, my dear. Such charming help he hires." He winked, making her blush. "Have a good time, children." He left, going to start his rite. It was nice they were that ethical, even if the owner wasn't.
Xander and Tara shared a look, her shrugging some. "That's what it said."
He nodded. "If it's not right we'll deal with it." She smiled and they got back to work.
Giles watched them work. They were certainly efficient and running the business without him. The other deliveries showed up and he handled those on his own. The system was well thought out and worked well for him.
"We shouldn't have a rush in the next two weeks," Xander said. Giles nodded and they carried things down the stairs. "Watch that corner!"
"I am." He checked the shelves before putting boxes on and then went back upstairs. "All those little knickknacks?" he asked.
"Locking cabinet upstairs." He pointed.
Giles went to check on them, taking a few out. "I believe those were Spike's, Xander."
"I had him check to make sure but he didn't say anything." He shrugged. "He'll be back tonight for patrol. He's out of smokes."
"Are you psychically linked to him?"
"No kitten poker games last night and the night before's patrol he only had the single pack left so he's got to be out by now." Giles walked off cleaning his glasses. Xander smiled at Tara, who smirked back.
Clay watched as Jensen stiffened and grabbed his head with a moan. Then Cougar started to growl and fur up. Whatever wasn't affecting him or Pooch yet but it was clearly not a happy thing. He sensed around them with his new higher senses and nothing was coming to him. "Guys?" he asked quietly, moving closer to Jensen. "Snap out of it."
Jensen stared at him. "Someone's trying to broadcast at us," he mumbled, looking around. He stared. "There's a wraith." Cougar shook his head. So did Clay. "Yeah, there is. Or something that can broadcast an illusion the same way." He went to dragon form and stomped over to beat the shit out of that one. It was a single one. It screamed as he stepped down on its head.
"Okay, there is," Clay said, radioing that back. This planet was supposedly uninhabited. The city had used it to transfer things for trades in the past. They were checking it before a major trade cargo was shipped over. "Chuck, we found a wraith pissing Jensen off." He hung up and whistled. "Get off him." Jensen growled down at him but did let him go.
Pooch looked. "Isn't that Michael? They gave us a picture of him in orientation."
Jensen changed back and shrugged. "So? He was giving me a headache and he's a wraith." He stared around. "Let me scope out the area." He changed to his smaller size and flew off. He changed in mid-air to cover ground faster. He came back, seeing the other soldiers so he changed in the woods. "All clear as far as I can tell," he said as he walked out.
"Good," Clay said. Sheppard walked up to them. "He was giving Jensen a headache."
Sheppard looked and nodded. "Good. Head back. We'll see what he wants here." The others nodded and Clay's team left. His backup Marines were ready to cuff Michael and set up for a discussion. Though Michael looked like hell after Jensen had stomped on him.
One of the Marines looked then at John. "Who kicked him around?"
"He's one really tough geek," that Marine decided.
John nodded. "Their whole team is Special Forces, Sergeant. He took the same training, he's just really smart too."
"Good for him. We need to do that to our geeks, sir."
"I would but can you imagine how much even Radek would complain?" John asked. The Marines shuddered. Radek's would be worse than McKay's yelling. "Beyond that, most of them are getting a lot more field training than they would back at the SGC, just because of the stuff we face out here."
"Think we can all get the pay raise?" one of the Marines joked.
"Ask Landry and O'Neill," John quipped back with a grin. "I doubt they think it's as bad as it can be." Michael moaned and John stared at him. "You wanted to talk?"
The wraith that John had made deals with in the past stared at him. "You have one of those sort?" he sneered.
"Yes, we love Jensen. The city loves Jensen." He smirked. "Why?"
"Their kind," he said, trying to stand up, then moaned and stopped.
John laughed. "I find nothing wrong with him or his people. I know a number of very nice ones who left those idiots at home."
The wraith stared. "We were not aware of that."
"Hmm, or that my little brother, Alexander, supports them as well?"
"The ones the myths talk of?" the wraith demanded.
"Yeah, that's my little brother." He smirked. "You guys *seriously* underestimated people like us." The wraith was giving him a horrified look. "Xander?" he called, bringing him stepping out of a shadow with a cup of cocoa. "Swiss Miss?" he guessed, taking a sniff and a gulp. "That's nice."
"Giles brought back real cocoa." He grinned, smirking at the wraith. "Ah, one of you. Funsies."
John nodded. "The main base wanted one to look over. While I'm against that sort of thing generally....."
Xander held up a finger. "Let me warn them. Be right back." He took his cocoa with him, landing in the infirmary since that's where the general was. "John said you wanted a wraith? I'm making sure before I bring it back. He's kinda dented a little bit but still dangerous enough to be tied down." He took a sip and grinned at the pretty doctor. "Giles brought me back real cocoa from England." She smiled at him. "Still want him, General?"
"We do," he agreed firmly.
"Okay, be right back." He put down his mug and disappeared, then came back with the struggling, whining wraith. Xander handed him over with a grin for her. "I think he got his butt kicked good."
"He looks nicely bruised," she agreed. He beamed at her. "You?"
"John said Jensen."
"Aww, that's nice of him." She darted him with a sedative dart. "That's wonderful, Xander. Thank you." She let him kiss her on the cheek and blush a bit before disappearing with his cocoa. A few minutes later a nice, hand made card on heavy paper appeared on top of a small box. She read the card and grinned, opening the box to smile at it. "Awww. Fancy hair pins." She showed them to a nurse, who cooed. "He's very sweet."
"He seems like it." Carolyn Lam put the present and card on her desk then came back to look over the wraith. The biologists were trying to find a way to kill them from a distance and they wanted scans of what one looked like inside to check for differences between wraith and humans.
The general watched, scowling at his daughter for being so happy to be courted. He probably didn't want Xander Harris as a future son-in-law.
Maybe he'd have someone go discourage him? Since the boy wasn't scared of him.
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