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Year One: The Sacrificial Lamb

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Summary: In which demons are demons, and heroes aren't like Billy remembers. No Pairings. Mild to Graphic depictions of violence and injuries.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Miscellaneous > Dr. Horrible's Sing-along BlogKagekoFR18632,689461,8055 Oct 126 Jan 13No

Chapter Four

Title: Year One: Sophomore at Sunnydale High (or The Sacrificial Lamb)

Disclaimer: I don't own: Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog; Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Warnings: Mild to graphic depictions of child abuse, physical, emotional and sexual, also, mention of spousal abuse, self-mutilation; non-canon compliant (for BtVS); in no way resembles the actual nineties, which I did live through.

A/N: Well, this is the end of what was already fully written and just in need of editing (probably still needs editing)... I'm wondering if I should put up a chapter summary at the beginning of each piece. I guess that's up to anyone who reviews. Also, although I know exactly where I'm heading with this story, the details of "along the way" are no where near fixed. I'm open to opinions on things that should/shouldn't happen, even though some details are fixed. If you have an idea you'd like me to incorporate, let me know, and if the shoe fits, I just might wear it. :)

~~~

If there was one thing in school that pissed Billy off, it was seeing a jock, who, by nature considered himself better than others, picking on a geek, who, by nature was probably a hell of a lot smarter than the damned jock (although he did realize that he was generalizing, as not all jocks were automatically odious, just the ones who chose to make a general nuisance of themselves). Statistically, the geek was heading for a higher paying job. There was something strange in high school that kept everyone from realizing that. Billy didn't really get it. He just knew that watching the... he thought that the guy had something to do with baseball, which wasn't even in season anyway, he didn't think... psychologically torturing, punctuated with physical violence, this scrawny blond boy who was maybe half a foot taller than Billy and almost as pale, was severely pissing Billy off.

Billy would castigate himself over it later, but for about fifteen seconds, he saw red, and the next thing he knew, he was kicking the bastard in the chest, unsure of how it had come to this. Then there were hands on him from behind, dragging him away. He fought the pull until he realized that the hands belonged to Mr. Giles. He let his body flop loosely in the librarian's hands, subconsciously telling the man that he didn't plan to fight any further. The baseball jock, who Billy decided to label internally as Mo, was curled up on the floor, in pain and possibly shock. If nothing else, the second time around, Billy wasn't afraid of bigger people (he'd had that with Captain Hammer), and when he saw them picking on others... There was that Irish Temper he had once heard his father (the one he remembered) lay claim to.

Mr. Giles' reaction to the situation was mixed. He chided Billy on the way to the principal's office, while someone else collected Mo. Yet, underneath it all, Mr. Giles seemed almost impressed. Principal Flutie wasn't though. Neither was Billy's mother. Even worse was Mo's mother, who went from thinking that Billy was going to be a big burly monster (he could see it in her eyes), to utterly confused. She didn't seem to want to admit that it even happened, possibly embarrassed for Mo.

Principal Flutie made some vague suggestion that Billy join Mr. Giles' library club until he got his anger issues under control.

Billy was pretty sure that that one wouldn't flow.

~~~

"So... it was one of the jocks," said Buffy the next day, in the library. "And he was two feet taller than you..."

"Exaggeration," Billy snorted. "He wasn't even six foot. I might be just about five foot nothing, but that still only means one foot."

Mr. Giles went "ahem" from his place sitting behind the counter. Billy thought the man might be actually doing something back there, but couldn't determine what. "The height difference means little, Billy. What does is... Where did you learn to fight like that? It was... uniquely vicious."

He pointedly didn't say that it was from defending himself from Captain Hammer, because that actually wasn't it. Captain Hammer had taught him how to take a hit, not how to dish it out. Instead, Billy offered up a partial truth. "A Bad Horse taught me," he said. "That's why... you know... with the kicking..." He demonstrated with a couple of half-hearted kicks to the air from his seat. "Anyway, I was angry. Mo was picking on a guy who couldn't defend himself."

"Mo?" asked Xander, pulling on the book sitting in front of Willow to trade it with the one he had. "You mean Maurice, from the baseball team? That guy's huge. He should have been in football; ask Larry if you ever get a chance. Actually, maybe you should beat on Larry too, 'cause he's a jerk."

"That's not..." Billy sighed, scrubbing at his face with the heels of his hands. "I was angry, okay? I saw red, and then he was already on the ground..."

"And you were kicking him while he was down," Mr. Giles pointed out, his nose buried deep in a large tome that had possibly been rooted out from beneath his counter. Yet he didn't seem disapproving. "Showing no signs that you would stop any time soon, so I had to intervene. That boy's mother... Did she seem embarrassed to you?"

"Actually, yeah, she did. Why is that?" Billy asked. "It couldn't have been that bad, could it?"

"I think the embarrassment happened when she saw you," Mr. Giles said. "You don't look like much, I'm afraid."

"Wanna help us out after school?" asked Willow. "Buffy could use backup, and it sounds like you kick major butt."

Billy dissected what she was saying, even as both Mr. Giles and Buffy protested the idea of his involvement. "Are you guys in a gang?" He eyed them suspiciously, internally weighing how much that would even matter.

"Uhm, no. Also, I don't need backup, especially not from a, no offense, Billy, little kid." Buffy's nose was wrinkled in irritation, though Billy thought he had more of a right to the emotion. "I'm the Slayer; I'm not in some gang."

Billy slouched forward against the table, a disgruntled frown on his face. "Why do people keep saying that about me, anyway?" he grumbled, picking at his fingernails. "Slayer of what, exactly? Demons? That seems smart... but then again, I guess someone's gotta do it... I'm more of a technical guy, so I don't really think I'd be a lot of help with demons. I obviously wasn't able to handle the red demons on my own." Of course, he was leaving out the important fact that, at best, he'd probably been a quivering wreck at the time, and probably not even a terribly intelligent one. "Then again, it would probably get me out of the house," he muttered, not really thinking about the fact that he was still speaking out loud. "I would do a lot, just to stay out of the house."

Xander prodded at his shoulder, an oddly understanding look on his face. "So, it's not like you actually have to fight or anything. We can always use help with researching stuff. You know Latin already, and that's a huge help, I think. Giles says that Latin is descended from some demonic language or other."

"Not a surprise," Billy shrugged. "Every human language could be descended from demonic languages, for all we know. Elder beings, and all that, so it makes sense." Lingual drift made more sense than people. Hell, anything scientific made more sense than people. "The speakers of English's ancestor wouldn't be able to make heads or tails of modern American English," he noted humorously. He vaguely remembered a funny quote about that: something about English mugging other languages to riffle through their pockets for spare vocabulary.

"As a speaker of the most recent ancestor of American English, I can barely make heads or tails of what these miscreants are saying half the time," Mr. Giles sighed, flicking open a random book that sat on the table between Billy and Xander. "Billy, did you ever manage to translate the writing you were telling me about?"

He shrugged again, dropping his chin to the table. "Something about Quetzalcoatl, I think. The only 'Plumed Serpent' I know of. The array was meant for summoning, so... Someone seriously screwed up, because they didn't get jack-squat." He was lying, of course, but Mr. Giles didn't need to know that. "I don't mind helping, you know. I may not be very good help, but I'm willing to try..."

~~~

And that's how Billy found himself in a cemetery at ten o'clock at night, shoving clenched fists deep into the pockets of his dark blue hoody and wondering just why he had agreed to this. It was probably an effort to avoid home. Playing bait was unusual enough for him, he supposed. Being bait in a cemetery was beyond unusual, though. An odd thought occurred to him that had him whispering fiercely to the bushes, "What if I don't look worth it? Are we supposed to hope that one of them is on a diet?"

There was a weird giggle in the bush and Buffy's head popped out. "Just... look vulnerable or something, alright?"

As soon as she disappeared back into the bush, Billy pouted sullenly and turned to walk in an aimless circle. Every so often, he would check his watch and pout more deeply. "There better not be chum in my near future," he grumbled and sat down. "I don't like walking that much," he explained to the bush.

It wiggled, and then Buffy's voice asked, "Chum?"

Xander's voice was quick with a short, knowing reply of, "Jaws."

"Blood in the water," Billy elucidated for her, and Willow complained of being poked in the rear by a stick.

"Why am I in the bush anyway?" she whined quietly. "I would have made good bait. Don't I look helpless enough?"

"Why would you even argue for that?" Buffy asked rhetorically.

"You guys are terrible at stealth," he told them, standing up again to continue his aimless stroll. Another odd thought occurred to him, and although he probably would sound completely fake, he called out, in a flat tone, "Help, I'm lost and all alone!" It was weird, and Billy wouldn't have believed it if he hadn't seen it, but a vampire literally oozed out of nowhere. Billy stared at him, as his opinion of the intelligence of humanity dropped down to a new low (and this is post finding out that Captain Hammer bought Dr. Horrible merchandise).

The vampire (Billy had to assume it was a vampire) looked at him, a sleazy smile on his pale face. "Did I hear sounds of distress?"

Billy tried not to swallow his own tongue, and wondered if it was possible to get sleazier. This guy was sleazier than Dead Bowie (and the name, in this case, says it all: "Dead Bowie"; who would call themselves that?), and was wearing the most hideously dated suit jacket (plaid). On account of good taste, this vampire needed to be destroyed. Trying not to look as nonplussed as he felt, Billy said, in the same flat tones as before, "Yes. My car broke down, and I think it's this way." He started walking deeper into the cemetery, toward where he knew Buffy was sitting in the bushes.

An hour later, Willow was trying to play the video she had taken for Mr. Giles. Mr. Giles, for his part, hadn't believed them when they told him just how awful ("yet funny," Xander insisted) patrol had been. When it got to Billy's "distress call", Mr. Giles took off his glasses, polishing them vigorously. "I think you all need lessons in stealth," the man sighed. "And Billy, if you're going to be bait, you'll have to learn to be more convincing than that. Not all vampires are so stupid."

"Well, as soon as it doesn't work," Billy agreed, "I'll learn a new method. What bothers me is that I don't look anywhere near old enough to drive, much less to own a car. Did he even look at me?! I think that we met the grandfather of all used car salesmen! What a skeaze."

"Stealth lessons," sighed Mr. Giles. "First things first..."

~~~

The blonde girl from his first day at Sunnydale High was in several classes with Billy, usually in tight company with the brunette who had called him a grade school student. They classified him as a geek right off, and didn't normally bother him, but for some reason, the day after his first "Library Club" meeting, the girls swarmed his desk. "How many times do I have to tell you? I don't want to join the Borg!" He said this loudly enough that Xander started snickering, several desks away. The blonde's eyes grew wide and watery, and Billy snapped, "No! How many times do I have to tell you..?! Go away."

"Shut it, Geek Boy," said the brunette, looming over his desk with an imperious scowl. "I don't need help, but I can't take the time to tutor everyone else."

"And this became my problem exactly when?" Billy asked, scowling right back, all the while hoping that it wasn't the same expression that made his mother try to pinch his cheeks. "I'm not in the business of helping selfish teenage drama queens. It's a waste of time."

Her haughty demeanor didn't diminish. "And you have time to waste with those losers?" she asked, obviously speaking of Buffy and her posse.

"They occasionally display charm and wit, which I see you and yours are sorely lacking. So, let me emphatically tell you, unless you can come up with a truly good way to change my mind, no. Whatever it is you want, no. I don't see anything beneficial, neither fiscal nor spiritual, in helping any of you in any manner." There was a dull, uncomprehending look on the three faces other than that of the brunette, whose expression was fast approaching stormy.

She seemed to have latched onto one word, though. "I'm sure that there can be fiscal compensation for your time."

"But no balm for my mind?" he asked, making sad doe eyes at her. "Fiscal compensation can hardly compare to the tedium of dealing with these ineffably stupid children." The last bit came out somewhat harshly, and Billy frowned. "What kind of fiscal compensation are we talking about, anyway? I refuse to work for anything less than ten bucks an hour... per head." One of the girls started frowning as she tried to sort that out, and the other two looked to their leader. Billy snorted. "That just means that I'd be charging ten bucks an hour from each one of you. If I'm stuck babysitting, I'm going to be paid well for it." The girls' expressions immediately cleared. "Any funny business while I'm trying to help you, and I'll quintuple the price, per head; I believe in mass punishment."

The brunette winced, and translated for him. "That means no boyfriends while studying, or he'll charge all of you fifty dollars an hour."

"This is expensive," the blonde girl whined.

"Actually," Billy stated, "you'll find that if you behave, that's a pretty reasonable price. Tutors often charge exorbitantly." She stuck a perfectly manicured finger to the edge of her mouth, and pouted. Billy suspected that she didn't understand what he said. "A lot; they charge a lot. What subject do you need tutoring in?"

"Uh, Algebra, duh," said one of the other girls.

"Not duh. I have several classes with you blockheads; English Lit, Biology, and Algebra 1. I could easily believe that you were asking for help in other classes as well." It was slightly disappointing that they were asking about Algebra. It had to be one of the most absolutely boring subjects in school, period.

"Could you stop insulting us?" asked the fourth girl, who had been silent up to that point.

"No, not really. It's better for you to know that I'm being perfectly honest with you, isn't it?" Billy frowned at his desk. "Two hours a week," he decided. "Mondays, right after last period, in the cafeteria; bring the money with you. If you can't pay up, at any point, I'm dropping you, because I'm not patient. If you don't show up the first time, I'm dropping you, too."

The brunette girl looked satisfied. "Good. Now that we've got this sorted out," she swirled in position and stalked away, and the other three girls hesitantly followed her, getting into their seats just as class started.

"I hate algebra," he grunted, and jammed his face into his elbow.

~~~

"Even though you're younger, it's nice to have another guy around," Xander confided to Billy that Friday. "Giles doesn't count, because he's drowning in tweed and tea. I was drowning in estrogen, drowning. On that note, we're going to the Bronze tonight, and it is in my best interest to have masculine backup that isn't the Buffster's creepy stalker."

"I dunno," Billy said, fidgeting with the dictionary that he hadn't quite finished with. "Mom'll expect me to be home, probably, and even if she doesn't, Dad will." That didn't mean that he couldn't ask his parents if he could go. His mother was bound to be weird about it, though, if he asked. It led to discomfort with the idea of even asking. "I don't do social stuff anyway."

"Tell them that it's a... platonic double date, or something. Please?" Xander begged, stretching across the table toward Billy.

Billy gave in as gracefully as possible. "I'll ask. I give no guarantees."

"Guarantees of what?" asked Willow, coming into the library to sit next to Billy.

"Xander wants me to go do something with you guys. I assure you, I'm not the party type, but I'll ask. Keep my age in mind, though. I probably won't be able to go." It was a practical enough of a warning. Normal people don't let their kids go clubbing at thirteen. "Where's Buffy?"

"Right behind you," said Buffy, right behind him.

Manfully, he suppressed the urge to flinch, frowning instead. "How long were you behind me?"

"'I give no guarantees'," she responded, and slid into a seat next to him. "I'd be surprised if they let you go anywhere with us."

He shrugged in halfhearted agreement.

~~~

Hours later, he began to rue his promise to ask about going to the Bronze. It wasn't like he was a social creature anyway. Honestly, he didn't even have a clue as to how to broach the subject, so he ended up nattering about something completely irrelevant to his end point: his after-school tutoring of the Cordettes (a name given the vapid girls by Buffy and Co.).

"I've got an after-school job on Mondays, I think," Billy said at dinner. For once, his father was home, and it left Billy feeling off-center. In spite of his distaste, it would have been easier just to say what he wanted to his mother, and give it up as a bad job. "There're some really ignorant girls in some of my classes that need a tutor." He didn't really need the money, but he had meant what he said to Buffy and the others about avoiding home. He poked abjectly at his plate with his fork. "As much as I hate algebra..." A pea tried to fall off of his plate and he caught it with the fork. "They seriously need the help."

"Is this instead of the Library Club?" asked his mother. His father scowled.

"Before," he amended. "I don't think Principal Flutie wants me missing that."

"Library Club?" his father asked ominously.

"I got into a fight last week," Billy said, still moving his peas around on his plate. He wasn't terribly hungry anymore. "He said that I had to go to the Library Club meetings until I got a hold on my temper. Apparently, I have temper control problems." He set his fork down. The peas were now arranged on his plate in an abstract pattern that no one else (who didn't know the molecular structure of caffeine) would be able to understand. "I don't think I like bullies."

Unexpectedly, his father chuckled, and the tense atmosphere that had been building up suddenly diffused. "Eat your peas," the man said, smiling slightly. "Maybe you'll get big enough that they won't pick on you."

"I'm not so sure it has anything to do with size," Billy muttered, picking his fork back up. "I'm thirteen, so I might as well be an alien for all most of the other students see... However," he raised his voice back to normal speaking levels, "I was asked to go out with some friends tonight, as a sort of platonic double date. I promised that I would ask, so here I am, asking." The words were followed by a quick mouthful of cold peas. Why were they cold?! They hadn't been on his plate for that long! A soft disappointed sound came out of his mouth, and he took another bite.

"Well, if your father agrees..."

His father cut her off mid-sentence. "Tell me about these friends of yours."

"They're all taller than me," Billy grunted. "The blonde girl is... kind of a cheerleader type. That's Buffy. Willow is... bookish, I guess. And Xander is afraid to be left alone with the girls too much. I think he's afraid of becoming one." Billy almost smiled at that. Xander's weird little phobia was amusing to prod at. "He makes me feel short."

"And if you went, which girl would be your date?"

Billy's mind blanked for a moment. "Uhm... Xander has a huge crush on Buffy, so I guess I'd be Willow's date?" And boy was that weird to contemplate. "She's three years older than me though, so... uhm... weird. And she's too tall." Not to mention, she was also, in a strange sort of way, about twenty years younger than him.

"Can you get there on your own?" When his father asked that, his mother looked like she wanted to protest, but Billy nodded warily. "Then get going."

He blinked. "Uhm..." His father narrowed his eyes. Billy hastily stood to clear his part of the table. "Okay. I'll be... going now, then..."

~~~

In hindsight, Sunnydale, or any city, really, wasn't particularly safe for a thirteen year old boy to be wandering around in after dark. For one thing, Billy was pretty sure that that thing should not have been named Rex. Anything that resembles a poodle shouldn't ever be called Rex. Also, the people who thought that it was their dog, were either blind, or were demons themselves.

Billy was able to distract it by throwing a rock and yelling "Fetch!" Then he ducked into an alley to get away. Shortly thereafter, he found himself at the Bronze. Nobody stopped him from slipping in; he suspected that the bouncers were distracted... unless they actually didn't care that a kid was entering their club. The place was skuzzy enough that he wouldn't recommend it to anyone, no matter their age. Unfortunately, it was the only club in Sunnydale.

Xander, at least, proved fairly easy to find, so Billy slid into a chair next to him with a drawn out sigh. "I'm not going to doubt the versatility of the forms of demons again, any time soon." He vaguely attempted to pat down his (still fairly short) hair when Xander turned to look at him, one eyebrow arched high.

"Are you alright?" he asked, smiling.

Rolling his eyes, Billy shrugged. "Nothing that looks that much like a poodle should be named Rex," he replied cryptically.

"Oh-kay... I thought you weren't going to come out?" Xander asked. Willow and Buffy returned from wherever they had been in time to hear this. They both greeted Billy with smiles as well, but with a slight air of confusion.

"Dad was home and he decided that getting out would be manly, or something. He's weird." 'And messed up,' he didn't add. "Then there was something like a demon or a poodle, but it was pretty stupid, so it's okay." Billy folded his arms on the table in front of him expectantly. It wasn't like he knew what teenagers did for fun. He had to rely on the others to figure that one out.

~~~

In the end, the Bronze was kind of fun. Billy could admit that to himself, at least. He didn't even have to walk himself home. While Xander and Willow got each other home in safety, Buffy did a half-assed patrol, walking Billy home, and they found out that they lived only two blocks away from each other.With that new revelation in mind, they went their separate ways.

His mother was already in bed, but his father was waiting up for him. "Hey," Billy greeted him quietly when he went into the kitchen for a glass of water to take to bed with him.

"How was it?" the man asked, with an intent stare that Billy would recognize if he ever really bothered to stare at his own face.

"Fun?" he replied, shrugging. "I don't really know how these things are supposed to go," he admitted. "It's not like I have a lot of experience with people." Billy didn't want too much experience with people, either. Overall, they were sheep, even if Buffy and Co. made him think otherwise, if only a little bit. "It was loud, and there were people smoking," he added in a halfhearted complaint.

"And the other boy didn't turn into a girl?" his father mocked.

"Xander?" Billy snorted. "No, but he was surprised I showed up." He sipped at the over full glass that he had filled from the sink.

"Why's that?"

Billy mused that this was possibly the longest actual conversation he could remember having with his father, in either continuity. "Because I'm thirteen," he stated, shrugging again. "I was surprised that they even let me in." The man hummed under his breath in response, and Billy blinked when he realized that the man was half asleep. "Anyway, I'm tired, you're looking tired, so I think it's bed time, right?" His father grunted, and that was probably the only reply that Billy was going to get, so he took his water and went to his room.

Sleep came fairly easily, but... Billy always hated the dreams that he could actually remember.

~~~

'I'm in the hallway again. There are doors in the hall, but after last time, I really don't want to open them. Unfortunately, that's not how the dream works, and if I stay still too long, the dream will collapse, so I have to

'Walking. I hate these halls. I hate these doors. If I open one, will Dad be there? Will Mom be there? Or will there be

'I open the nearest door. I can't stand the tension. A door has to be opened, and when I open it I see...

'Nothing. It's not the kind of nothing that is nothing unusual, nothing out of the ordinary

'It's vast, grey, nothing. (Okay, this is a little weird, even for me...)

'I can't turn back, and really, the vast nothing isn't scary, it's just vast, so I step through the door and

'Something warm drips down my neck. My ears sting like a fresh piercing, and I reach up to find

'Blood on my fingers. There are bones beneath my feet. Dry cracking bones and (What happened to the nothing? It was vast, and vast things don't disappear like that, do they? Or is it just me? Did I only perceive nothing because I hadn't yet stepped through the door? God, I hate dreams like this! I'm not meant for philosophy!)

'I taste blood.

'It drips from my mouth and

'My pant legs are wet with it (Why am I bleeding?)

'The bones are burning.

'The bones are burning, and I'm suffocating on smoke

'I struggle to breathe (This is still better than seeing Mom and Dad)

'There's cotton in my mouth???'


Billy blinked awake and coughed. The blanket that he'd clutched to his face fell when he sat up. Even though no one was in his room to answer his disgruntled comment, he said it anyway, "I hate dreaming," and flopped onto his back, throwing an arm over his eyes. "What day is it?" he grumbled idly, peeking from under his arm to the clock on the bedside table.

6:00 blinked at him, and he frowned. The sun wouldn't be up for another half an hour or so.

Why was it, on a Saturday (which is what he realized the day was, after giving it a minute of thought), when he could have slept in and had it gone unnoticed, that he was going to be up before the sun? Billy was no dawn greeter. He was a night owl, so really, it felt like someone was playing a trick on him, as he had been waking up this early for... what, a month and a half? Since the beginning of October, at least.

It was already the middle of November, and this up before the sun thing was starting to look like it was going to stick.

"Saturday," he groaned, suddenly remembering that his mother wanted to drag him on yet another shopping trip. Suddenly, he just wanted to curl up into a ball and just... not get up. He could pretend to sleep a little longer, anyway.

~~~

Buffy was surprised to spot Billy at the mall on Saturday evening. She was glad to see that he wasn't there alone. His mother, however, was seriously creepy. It pissed Buffy off that she didn't sense anything off about the woman, but her behavior was giving Buffy a wiggins. Billy seemed to have to keep brushing her off of his shoulder, and occasionally the boy seemed to have to direct her, like she wasn't in full possession of her faculties. She wasn't the best person to judge familial relationships, but a kid shouldn't have to look after his parents at that age. She could tell that Billy was growing exasperated, too.

He ushered the woman into the food court, an abnormally irritated look on his face. It was strange, how Billy rarely seemed to smile, yet at the same time most irritants just seemed to slide off of him like nothing. The irritation he normally showed was vague, like an older man who didn't know how to deal with children. In fact, Giles sometimes showed signs of similar irritation. This was closer to anger, which Buffy had only seen when she discussed the kleptes-virgos with him.

She suspected that the "Mo Incident" had involved real anger, but Buffy had missed that, disappointingly enough.

Doing her best to remain unseen, Buffy spied on them as Billy brought his mother a soda and something paper wrapped from one of the food court's booths. She could just barely hear him talking, telling his mother to sit there and eat the food and "Seriously, don't take any more Valium, or I'll alert Security that you need to be taken to the hospital. Just give me your credit card and I'll do the shopping."

Ouch. Buffy winced. Billy's mom was a Valium addict? Or was she only reading the surface of things?

"Hey Buffy," Billy's voice interrupted her skulking and Buffy froze in place. "You aren't very good at stalking people." He said it like he would know.

"Creepy much?" she asked. "You weren't supposed to see me."

He shook his head. "You aren't good at it. Wanna walk? I'm not letting Mom drive until she comes down some. I don't think it would be appropriate for me to drive."

"Oh-kay," Buffy replied. "Where are we walking to?"

"I need clothes." Billy shrugged. "I go through them too quickly, I guess. And hey, I grew a couple inches since LA, so... yeah."

"Uhm..." But wait! Clothes shopping? Buffy could do this in her sleep! "And you want me to help?" she asked, a sly smile growing on her face. This was... awesome. He blinked naively at her. It was apparent that he had no idea what he had just unleashed.

"Sure," he shrugged again, with a hint of vague apathy. His eyes widened however when Buffy grabbed him by the elbow to drag enthusiastically toward the nearest store geared toward teenage fashion.

~~~

Two hours later, Billy exhaustedly dragged himself back to the food court. His mother was still there, napping against the table. That looked like a great idea to him. He plopped into a hard plastic chair next to her, dropping bags filled with the fruits of Buffy's endeavors. She had even insisted that he purchase a few items for his mother. Billy wasn't terribly pleased with this, as it looked almost like it could be taken as encouragement. Of course, there was always the possibility that his mother wasn't napping. On a brighter note, it was possible that she had actually overdosed and died there.

"I'm not that lucky," he sighed, and plucked the straw from her drink to poke her with. "Hey," he said loudly, poking her again. "I don't want to sit here all night." Poke. Poke.

"Hmmm? Billy? Baby?" She lifted her head and stared blearily at him.

"Do you think you're capable of driving?" he asked, poking her again, even though she was awake. "If not, I'm willing to try."

"No, no, I'm... I'll be... Give me a moment. I'm not... quite awake." She yawned.

Not worried, he settled in to wait.

~~~

Field trips were... Well, they were better than class, Billy supposed. It was Monday at the zoo, and Xander and Willow were giggling at the behavior of the zebras, while Billy found himself hard pressed to actually care that they were standing not ten feet away from mating beasts, even if Willow said that it was "like the Heimlich with stripes". Actually, that was a rather accurate description, and not one that Billy would have thought to use. When she said as much to Buffy, the blonde girl indicated her own lack of "field trip spirit".

"At least we aren't in class," Billy observed idly, trying to figure out what was in the nearest enclosure. He wasn't seeing any animals, but that didn't mean anything. "I was kind of hoping to see a kangaroo." Maybe there weren't any animals in this enclosure.

"Hmm," she agreed, "you're right. Suddenly the animals seem all shiny and new."

The others conversed over his head while he continued to try to identify what kind of creature belonged in the enclosure, and he only became aware that their conversation had turned serious when Xander left to rescue one of their classmates from a small pack of bullies. On the other hand, he finally spotted the sloth napping in one of the trees. "Oh, three-toed sloth!" he exclaimed, earning dubious looks from Willow and Buffy. "Where's Xander going?"

Buffy sighed, exasperated, and Willow frowned at him. "He's going to rescue Lance. Did you just tune us out?"

He shrugged and said, "Whoops?"

"Don't say whoops if you don't mean it," Buffy said, glaring at him for about two seconds. "Xander can handle this anyway," she continued, frowning in a manner that implied that she didn't quite believe her own words. "So let's go look for the kangaroos."

It took half an hour to find the kangaroos, and by that point, it was almost time to head back to the bus. Xander hadn't rejoined the group in that time, and he was acting weird on the bus trip back, but as far as Billy was concerned, that was nothing new. He was maybe just a tad bit more aggressive than usual, and was intimidating the bullies from earlier into good behavior. Slightly weird, but again, Xander was always weird. The subservient attitude of the bullies confused him a little, though. Billy was no student of psychology, but he would bet his best acetylene torch that their submissive behavior was almost animalistic in its simplicity.

Whatever was up with his friend, Billy was sure that it would either blow over in the night, or he'd find out more come tomorrow.

~~~

It didn't blow over in the night, but Billy didn't notice too much at first, because he had a really irritating headache (it started between his eyes, a steady pressure that kept building and building, and he was seriously contemplating smashing his head into a wall to make it go away) that had to be caused by the rather restless sleep he'd had all night. Funky weird dreams of bleeding on the bones of the dead had plagued his sleep, so he wasn't feeling properly aware until one of those bullies from the zoo (Billy thought his name was Thor Hower, or Tor Whore, or something awful like that) backed him into a corner.

The boy had been giggling under his breath like he thought that Billy would just cave in, whimper and cry or something, which he had never been prone to doing, not even when he had been an eight year old boy, picked on by kids three years his senior. He might end up with a black eye and a fat lip, but he wouldn't back down just because the older teen was being particularly creepy. When the other boy punched the locker next to him, perhaps as an intimidation tactic, Billy got pissed.

Twenty minutes later he was in Principal Flutie's office again. Somehow, the other teen was still at large, but it was already looking like Billy was going to be sent home early again. Instead, the principal sighed and steepled his fingers. "Mr. Cale," he said, in a tone that indicated disappointment on a grand scale. "I'm surprised to be seeing you again, so soon." The sad thing was, Principal Flutie was genuine about the disappointment thing. "I think, just detention," he said, "this one time, since we couldn't bring in the other boy. You'll go and help Mr. Giles in the library."

Equally sad, Billy thought, was the fact that Principal Flutie seemed to genuinely believe that helping Mr. Giles in the library was a punishment. Not a harsh one, sure, but a punishment nonetheless.

~~~

Billy was quiet when he entered the library, still a bit irritated with himself over his reaction to the idiot earlier. Over his aggravated internal grumblings, he could hear Mr. Giles announcing, in British-style deadpan humor, that "Of course, we're going to have to kill him," prompting Billy to ask, "Wait, what? Who are we killing?"

Both Buffy and Mr. Giles twitched violently, and Buffy's hands were already seeking the nearest stake-like object when they realized that it was just him. "Damnit, Billy, don't do that!"

"Do what?" He blinked, frowning slightly. "Who are we killing?" he repeated.

"No one," Mr. Giles replied, removing his glasses to polish him in what Billy was beginning to think was a trademarked gesture. "Buffy thinks that Xander's recent behavior is a result of something..."

"Supernatural?" Billy guessed. "I wouldn't know about Xander, but normally that lot, the fabulous foursome from the zoo? Yeah, normally they don't bother me, but... Oh, right, I almost forgot. Mr. Giles, I'm in detention again, for fighting with... Tor... Hauer... I think his name is?"

"One of the 'fabulous foursome'?" asked Buffy, raising an eyebrow, and Billy nodded. "See, Giles? That was one of the guys who went into the hyena enclosure with Lance."

"Not to sound like I know what I'm talking about - I really don't - but they've all been acting weird since we got back on the bus." Billy was including Xander in this statement. "Kinda like..." He was interrupted by Willow coming in, loudly.

"They ate Herbert!" she squealed, eyes wide and wet and horrified.

"Right," said Mr. Giles, sighing heartily. "I suppose I'll just go and 'look stuff up'."

~~~
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