What’s My Line, part III
A/N: Disclaimer, author’s notes, etc., are at the beginning of chapter 1; spoilers are through “What’s My Line”.
Buffy frowned, “Does this have anything to do with those weird vamps I caught last night?”
“And which eccentric vampires would those be,” Giles questioned. “Since you didn’t bother to inform me last night after your patrol…”
Buffy shrugged, “Oh, it was nothing big. They were just wrecking the inside of this big mausoleum.”
“And what would be the name on this mausoleum?” Giles asked.
“I didn’t know there was gonna be a pop quiz,” Buffy complained. “I just ran into these vamps trying to bust up some stuff inside this mausoleum, and I staked most of ‘em, and one or two ran away while I was fighting.”
Giles said uncomfortably, “We’ll need to go investigate. Later. And at midnight, we need to make a phone call to England.”
Buffy pouted, “England? Just because I don’t know every dirty old mausoleum in town? Isn’t that kinda harsh?”
Xander chipped in, “Wow, what are you gonna do if she puts a coffee mug on one of your Watcher’s diaries? Keelhaul her?”
Giles started polishing his glasses again. “Xander, please stop. Buffy, it has nothing to do with last night’s work. It has to do with something Willow found out.”
Buffy asked, “And it’s so bad she’s crying on Xander’s shirt?”
“Well, umm, yes, it may be,” Giles admitted.
Willow whimpered, “We’re doomed! There’s gonna be an apocalypse every December and every May for the next nine years!”
Buffy groaned. Then she said, “Well at least I won’t have to worry about that stupid aptitude test stuff.”
Willow pushed herself out of Xander’s arms and said, “Umm, maybe you do. I already went by the boards on my way here, and you’re down for ‘law enforcement professional’.”
Buffy stopped and stared at Willow. “What? As in… police?”
Xander couldn’t resist the opening. “As in polyester, doughnuts, and brutality. And Sting.”
Buffy whined miserably.
Willow tried to be encouraging. “But… doughnuts! You love doughnuts!”
Xander tried his best Homer Simpson voice. “Mmmm, doughnuts.”
Buffy whined, “Well, I’ll just jump off that bridge when I come to it. Maybe the world will end in your apocalypse and I won’t have to do anything police-like.” She glanced at Xander. “Hey, what’s Xander got? Taste tester for Hostess Cupcakes?”
Willow said, “Correctional officer.”
“I have to correct everybody?” Xander joked. “What if they’re right?”
“No, you know, prison guard!”
He knew Willow would correct him, even if she knew he was making a joke. Great. Prison guard. Cordelia and her girl posse would be giving him grief about this for months. Assuming they could remember anything other than nail polish colors for months. He frowned, “Come on, when you look at me, do you think ‘prison guard’?”
Buffy smiled, “Crossing guard, maybe. I don’t know about prison guard.”
He pointed at her, “Let’s not go smarting off there, Officer
Buffy stuck her tongue out at him. “Hey, at least when I arrest ‘em and throw ‘em in jail, I’ll have someone there who knows what kind of doughnuts I like.”
Xander asked, “So Will, what did your thing say? Doctor? Lawyer? Indian chief?”
Willow frowned, “They didn’t have my name up.”
“Not at all?” Buffy checked.
“Did they forget to post the ‘R’s?” Xander asked.
“No, they had the whole R list. They just didn’t have… me.”
She looked so sad Xander just wanted to reach out and hug her. Now he couldn’t even do that. He said, “They probably didn’t have room for all the stuff your aptitude test said. Maybe you’re just too aptitudinal. Aptitude-ish?”
“Aptitude-y?” Buffy tried.
Willow shrugged, “If I’m not posted on the board, what am I gonna do at the career fair?”
“Come on,” Xander insisted. “You? You’ll rule the career fair. Everyone who has a brain will want you. The colleges, and the computer guys, and the science guys, and the doctor guys, and... Hey Giles, do the Watchers ever recruit from these things?”
Giles cleared his throat. “Xander, it is highly unlikely that the Watchers Council would even recruit from analogous schools in England
Buffy said, “Well, that’s lame. If there’s any place in the world where they ought to do recruiting, it’s a Hellmouth.”
Giles said, “Speaking of which, perhaps you could provide some more detail on last night’s encounter.”
Buffy shrugged. “What’s to say? Vamps. Jumbo mausoleum. Tools. I mean, what sort of vamps carry around flashlights? Isn’t that against the vampire code or something?”
“Buffy…” Giles complained.
“So anyway, they stole something, and I staked most of ‘em.”
“Did you see what they took?”
Buffy shrugged, “No, but I could take a gander and say it was… something old. And why is it a gander? Why not a duckling? Or a pigeon? You could take a pigeon, and I wouldn’t care.”
Giles griped, “Buffy, please!” She stopped, and he asked, “You… you made no effort to find out what was taken?”
She frowned, “Hey, I was fighting vamps! One runs away, I figured better for me. I don’t say ‘hey everybody, come on back, I’d like to be buried under a big pile of vamps and killed’ y’know.”
Xander didn’t say anything, but he was thinking that was exactly why the Slayer needed to be patrolling with backup. Even if that backup was Captain Forehead instead of a couple Scoobies.
Giles just got all British and fussed, “But… but what if this time was different? This could be very serious! I mean, as the Vampire Slayer you need to be more thorough in your observations…”
Xander wondered if maybe that big reveal from Willow was weirding out Giles a lot more than he was admitting, because Giles was definitely freaking over what sounded like a big so-what.
Willow said, “Like Sherlock Holmes.”
Xander tossed in, “Or Adrian Monk.”
Buffy stared at Giles and complained, “Ya know, if you don’t like the way I’m doing my job, you can go find somebody else! Oh that’s right, there is nobody else… until I die. Well there you go! I don’t have to be the Slayer, I could be dead.”
Giles pursed his lips like a pro librarian. “That was not particularly amusing. You note I am not laughing.”
Buffy shrugged. “Wouldn’t be much of a change. Either way I’m bored. I’m constricted. I’m shopping-deprived. I manage to get one manicure appointment in since maybe October, and I’m already having to fix my nail polish. So really, when you think about it, what’s the diff?”
Giles went for stuffy. “Do we have to be introspective now? Our immediate concern is discovering what was stolen from that mausoleum last night.”
Buffy gave him a raised eyebrow and asked, “And what about the career fair?”
Xander walked into the career fair, and made an effort not to look around. He knew Giles and Buffy had slipped out to make with the mausoleum snoopage, and he was there to cover for Buffy. Not that he could walk up to whatever and pretend to be Buffy, and even Willow probably couldn’t pull that one off, but if one of them could sneak over and sign Buffy’s name on a sheet or initial something with Buffy’s initials to make it look like Buffy had showed up already, he was good with that.
And if he could make Principal Snyder get an ulcer over it, well that was just frosting on the Hostess Cupcake. Delicious, entertaining frosting.
Willow stopped beside him and looked around nervously. “What should I do?”
But he knew that Willow knew what to do. So he just made a shooing motion with his hands. Willow turned around, looked behind him, and made a tiny wince. Uh-oh.
Xander turned around to find Principal Snyder standing right there, looking as evil and trollish and ulcer-deserving as ever. A Xena memory bubbled up from who the heck knew where, and he knew what to do. In a situation like this, you either fought it, fled from it, or faked it out. He couldn’t fight Snyder, either physically or verbally, without getting in way too much of the trouble. He couldn’t skedaddle without letting Buffy down. So. Fake out time. He gave Snyder a huge smile and said, “Principal Snyder! Great career fair, sir! Really! In fact, I’m so inspired by your leadership, I’m thinking… principal school. I wanna walk in your shoes. I mean, not your actual shoes, of course, because you’re a tiny person. I mean, not tiny in the small sense, of course… Okay, I’m done now.”
Wow, could that have gone worse? He needed to work on the fake-outage. Xena would have lied beautifully and had Snyder eating out of the palm of her hand, which was really pretty much eww for the imagery. He totally needed to plan these things ahead of time. And not stick his foot into his mouth so far that his shoelaces got tangled around his tonsils.
And again eww with the imagery.
Snyder went straight for the jugular, or rather, as high up as he could reach with his shortness and all. Maybe the femoral. Or the anterior tibial. And what was so wrong with his life that he actually knew the names of all the major veins and arteries now? Seriously, who besides Willow and Giles needed to know the arteries in your ankle?
Snyder snarled, “Where is she?”
Xander gave the guy his best stupid look and said, “Willow? She’s right here.”
Willow gave it up and nervously asked, “Who?”
“You know who,” the little troll growled. It was really too bad Principal Flutie got eaten by Kyle’s gang, and not Snyder. “Summers!”
Willow gave it the old college try. Or maybe the not-in-college-yet try. “Umm, Buffy?” She looked around like she expected to see her. “I just saw her…”
Snyder cut her off. “Don’t feed me that ‘I just saw her a minute ago, she’s around here somewhere’ story. I didn’t believe you the last ten times you tried it.”
Willow tried, but no matter how great Willow was in a lot of ways, she was not a great actress. “But… I did… just see her a minute ago, really… and she is around here somewhere!”
Xander tried, “And for what it’s worth-”
And Snyder pounced. Only not so much with the leaping and claws, and more with the interrupting and verbal attacking. “It’s worth nothing
, Harris. Whatever comes out of your mouth is a meaningless waste of breath. An airborne toxic event.”
Wow. Was Snyder channeling his parents now? Scary thought. Xander pretended like he wasn’t upset. “Well, I’m glad you feel comfortable enough to be so honest with me. And I can only hope that one day I’m in the position to be that honest with you. Like when I’m working in the burgeoning field of correctional officers!”
Snyder sneered at him. “Fascinating.” He turned and stalked off to harass someone else. It was just too bad Snyder never harassed the kids who deserved it.
Xander gave Willow a smirk and said, “Well, that was fun. Love to stay and chat, but I got a meeting with the warden on standard riot procedure. Ciao!”
He made a detour past the guy in pressed coveralls who was sitting behind the ‘landscaping’ sign. There wasn’t a sign-in sheet sitting out, but he picked up two little pamphlets to give to Buffy so she’d have some evidence she had been in there.
He figured he’d let Willow pick up the college brochures for the two of them. That way, he could dodge for a while longer on the whole ‘Xander can’t afford to go to college’ dealie. He knew Willow would have a cow when she found out he’d already ruled out ever getting to go to college. Maybe she’d have a whole herd of cows.
Xander was busy trying to translate some book by a long-dead dork who he was guessing only thought he knew Egyptian, because the guy wrote pretty lame Latin, but the parts that had the translations made a sense that was… not. How did Willow and Giles wade through this stuff? “Hey Giles. ‘And the sandal will become… pink?’ What’s up with this guy? Did they do drugs back then?”
Okay, he knew from his Xena memories that the answer to that second question was ‘oh hells yeah’. People did drugs, and priestesses did drugs, and entire wacko cults did drugs, and a few higher beings spent most of their time getting people to get drunk or drugged out of their minds and then do the wackiness: orgies, mass murder, you name it.
Giles frowned and looked at the book Xander was working through. “Oh dear, I thought I had moved Raenus the Younger back to my home shelves. The man was quite the adventurer in his day, but a miserable translator. Although there are still Watchers who are arguing that the dreaded pink sandal is a meaningful metaphor. But some people will believe anything that is written down by a scribe.”
Xander noticed that Willow suddenly blushed. He pretended he hadn’t seen it and said, “Okey dokey. No more wacky translators. What do you want me to work on next?”
It wasn’t like he wanted to sit in the library and trudge through over-flowery language from dead guys who couldn’t write a decent comic book story to save their weird little lives. But Willow was here. And his parents were at home. Two excellent reasons to be somewhere other than his house.
And Willow still hadn’t spilled on the thing earlier with Buffy. So the Buffster had somewhere to be that wasn’t around the Scoobies, and Willow knew, and was supporting her. That meant it was probably something to do with The Hairgel Avenger. Ugh. Angel probably had a coffee mug that said ‘World’s Greatest Cradle-robber’. And the mug probably had rings inside it from not cleaning up after his morning blood.
But Xander wasn’t pushing it, even if he thought dating a vampire was just plain creepy. His Xena memories told him that sometimes it just didn’t matter what your head told you, because your heart was busy telling you something crazy. And his Xander thoughts sure agreed with that, what with Willow pretty much avoiding him whenever she could. At least, back before Halloween, he could go over to her house and hang out when things were extra tense at home. Now? He could go to the school library or hide out on the roof over his room. How lame was that? He needed to go play games at Jonathan’s house more, even if Jonathan was hanging out mostly with the gamer geek gang nowadays. But that included the Wells boys, and Xander avoided both of the Wells brothers, because those guys were looneytoons. Tucker Wells’ Career Week information probably listed him as ‘future serial killer’ and Andrew Wells’ Career Week information next year would probably list him as ‘future assault victim’.
Xander probably needed to find out what those two nutbars dressed as for Halloween, and whether they got some of their costume junk from Ethan’s. Because those guys could have gone as anything
. Darth Vader, Ganon, the Master, the Joker, Dormammu… Well, there were a lot of bad choices those guys could have made. And they were like the Doublemint Twins of bad choice-making.
Meanwhile, Willow and Giles had worked out that the mausoleum had probably contained the Du Lac cross, and that went with the Du Lac tome that some weirdo vamp had stolen from the library a couple weeks ago. And this Du Lac goober had written a bunch of codes into his freaky religious texts, which were really only a religion if you counted worshipping evil beings that liked to snack on babies and virgins. So the cross was really a solid gold decoder ring. Xander figured that one wouldn’t be showing up in his box of Cocoa Puffs anytime soon.
So the bad guys had the secret tome of evil, and the decoder ring, and were going to do apocalypse-y stuff if the good guys couldn’t stop them. On the good guy side, they had Willow’s brain and Giles’ knowledge. Good thing nobody was counting on Xander for the Brainiac parts. And they had Buffy’s flying fists of death.
And speaking of which, the library doors swung open, and Buffy limped in, dressed like Dorothy Hamill or something. ‘Fight Club’ Dorothy Hamill, maybe, because she looked like she’d just gone ten rounds with Megatron. Captain Forehead was right behind her, looking down the hallways like something might be sneaking after her.
Willow jumped up, “Buffy! What happened! Weren’t you two gonna make with the skating and…”
Angel frowned, “Buffy was attacked.” He handed a fancy ring to Giles. “By an assassin of the Order of Taraka.”