A/N: originally, this was going to have Xander with low self-worth issues. Then I decided it wasn't suited to his idiom.
Xander was early for the next lesson. Early, but not alone. Two petite women were with him, a blonde and a redhead. Both of them had angry postures, though Edgerton couldn’t see their faces to know for sure. The blonde kept prodding Xander in the chest. He winced and staggered back a little with each poke, so she must be stronger than she looked.
Edgerton walked forward quietly. Normally he would feel reluctant to interrupt an obviously personal conversation, but this was going to set back his lesson plan. Besides, Xander didn’t seem to be in physical danger, but he did look a little distressed. And Ian didn’t like his students to be distressed.
“…Why the hell didn’t you call? We were all worried sick about you!” the redhead snapped.
“I left a note. And a message on your machine. And I mass emailed everyone. Sorry, I suppose next time I’ll spend a hundred dollars worth of phone bills calling
everyone on their international cell-phones, at the international council bases, plus playing phone tag since most of you never even turn on
your cells. Not to mention the fact that you hadn’t returned most of my calls in the past year
before then,” Xander replied, obviously tired of the accusing tone.
“Don’t you dare get snippy with me,” the blonde interrupted. “You were on Council payroll, those calls would have been a business expense. And at any rate, you had a contract – you can’t just run off and work for the FBI whenever you feel like it.”
“Buffy,” Xander began in a slow, tolerant voice, as though explaining something to a very unintelligent and stubborn child. “I have never
been on Council payroll. Every year since Sunnydale sank, barring airfare, I have lived entirely on my own dime. Giles told me I would get a salary when this account was discovered, when that artifact was found, when you quit running through the apparel replacement fund so quickly…obviously the last never happened.
“I decided that I was sick of waiting for money that wasn’t coming. The money I do have is not unlimited. Even less so when I found out a certain hacker has been hitting up one of my accounts monthly for her herb supplies,” he glared at the redhead, who tensed. “And I do expect to be paid back for every cent of the fifteen thousand you’ve picked off of me over the years, Willow. And tell Giles I want back pay – I think he owes me about $400,000. And that’s just in salary. Some of the expenses he budgeted for you never quite made it to me, so I think I’ll collect on that, as well.
“And if he – or any of you – decides to bitch about that, I’ll see you in court. Because according to the contract I did
sign, one Giles and I both signed, he owes me at least that much. And, honestly, I could collect on more than that – things the council should have funded when we were still in high school, stuff Giles and I ended up paying for out of our own pockets. Once I got a job, it was usually me bank-rolling the whole operation…not that either of you noticed. As long as the money kept coming, to pay your tuition, your house notes, your repairs, why should you care?”
Willow and Buffy were probably gaping in shock at this point. Edgerton really wished he could see their faces.
“You can’t do this!” Buffy cried out. “You’re – you’re…”
“I’m not the doormat anymore. And I’m not the Zeppo either. I’m good at what I do here at the FBI. I put away criminals. I keep people safe. Isn’t that right, Agent Edgerton?”
The girls whirled around. Both had pixie-cute faces. Edgerton smiled, a cat-ate-the-canary grin he knew some women found devastatingly handsome. Both girls did melt a little at the sight.
“When I’m through with him, Xander will be, among other things, the fifth best shot in the country. Of course, what were you with handguns?” he prompted.
“Seventeenth in the Bureau, sixty-fourth on the East Coast,” Xander shrugged. “Nothing special.”
“What are you now, with handguns?”
“Ninth in the Bureau, twentieth on the East Coast.”
The girls went very still and quiet.
“He’s far from useless,” Ian said casually. “And I’m sure you’re aware that he’s intelligent. No? Xander, what was your score on the entry IQ test?”
“Um…” Xander had to think about it for a minute. “134, I think. No, 136. I have this thing with numbers where I’m usually off by two for one digit,” he shrugged.
Willow made a strangled noise.
“Wait, is that bad?” Buffy whispered loudly.
“The IQ test the bureau uses rates anything around a 150 as genius,” Ian shrugged. “Is that ‘bad’?” he mocked.
She looked furious. “That’s ridiculous! Xander’s not a genius! He’s just big ol’ normal Xander. He doesn’t shoot guns or kill people or run away from his friends,” she protested loudly.
Xander wordlessly reconstructed his sniping rifle, stoically ignored the girls, and clustered his shots between his targets eyes. He silently hit the button to recall the target, pointed to the hole, and took apart his rifle and cleaned it again. Willow and Buffy were gaping. At him, at the rifle, at Edgerton.
“How could you do this to him?” Willow wailed at Ian. He gave her a disbelieving look.
“Were you not paying attention? He was already the seventeenth best shot in the Federal Bureau of Investigation before he even met me. Not to mention the IQ test didn’t measure anything he hadn’t had for a very long time. I may have refined his skills, but he was far from useless, helpless, or innocent when he arrived.”