Apologies for the interrupted service.
Now, back to the story in progress.
All parts can be found here.
Continued from Part 2B.
Andrew finished re-reading his typed notes from the meeting before sending an email attachment to Bernie. After he hit “send,” he leaned back in his chair and sighed with pleasure. Doing these little things to help Bernie keep the record straight about the Chicago Council House’s adventures was so vitally important. After all, who’d remember his Brave Little Toasters if he didn’t?
And speaking of Brave Little Toasters, it was such a thrill to be reunited with Xander and Faith. It was amazing to him how much like adults they both seemed. Well, Xander had always been an adult, but now he was like adult-plus, with a side of Timothy Dalton (the best Bond ever) and a side of the Captain Archer (best Star Trek captain ever because he was the first captain of the first Enterprise).
Much as Andrew admired Mr. Giles, especially his Yoda-like patience when teaching him to be 110% more British, he had to admit that he found Xander’s world-traveling, demon hunting exploits much more attractive. Of course, it wasn’t in an “I’m attracted to Xander” kind of way. It was more a, “I want to do that so I should learn from The Master” kind of way.
Normally he’d just ask, but Xander was busy-busy-busy. And so business-like. He was, like, a walking encyclopedia of the whole, wide world. Yes. He could learn a lot just by watching The Master. According to his Personal Improvement and Knowledge Increase Calculations, he was very sure that just listening and observing The Master would make him 20.7% wiser in the ways of world.
If he just asked Xander to teach him, that score would be much, much higher because of course Xander would take him under his gentle, but forceful and well-muscled wing. However, he didn’t want to distract Xander from his Very Important Mission to wipe out the dreaded Emu, unh, Emokillsus. Maybe he’d get a chance to talk to Xander after the dreaded demons were wiped out and Chicago was saved, assuming that Mr. Giles didn’t have urgent need for Xander’s Batman-like super-detective skills in a place like Me-hee-co or Bulgaria or some place like that.
Anya would’ve been so proud to see how much her One True Love had grown up. Not that he wasn’t a grownup before.
The stray memory of Anya caused Andrew to sniff with sadness. Her loss was a tragedy for everyone. Xander obviously never got over her. That’s why he didn’t crack jokes and stuff any more. Xander would never laugh again and that was a true loss for the world.
Andrew checked the time and startled. Oh, no! He had to put together lunch for his lambkins! Sure, some of the girls could cook, but they always left such a mess in the kitchen. It was better all around if he dealt with it.
Andrew hopped to his feet and scurried out of the house library, worried that the girls might have already invaded the kitchen and were even now contemplating a food fight. Not that any of them had ever gotten into a food fight, except for that one time that Helen and Susan were fighting over a borrowed sweater and Helen smashed half of an orange in Susan’s face, just like Edward G. Robinson did to that lady in that really, really old movie he watched one night when he couldn’t sleep because he was having nightmares about the First Evil torturing Warren.
He was halfway down the hall when he realized that he was too late. The Slayers were already in the kitchen and chatting up a storm. Andrew stopped and put his head down. There’d be a mess in there for sure.
“I don’t see what another stakeout is going to do.” That sounded like Helen.
“Look, as long as we’re not out there freezing our butts off, I say it can’t hurt.” That sounded like Kristin.
“And if we were the ones freezing our butts off?” That was LaTisha asking.
“Then I’d say, ‘Total waste of time,’” Kristin’s voice cheerfully admitted.
“Freezing butts off, playing piñata with condoms filled with water. Freezing butts off, playing piñata with condoms filled with water. I think I’ll take the piñata for a thousand, Alex.” That came from Terri.
Cheryl, bless her sweet heart, went one step further. “I think the training is fun.”
“You would.” That was Susan.
“If what Big Sis says about fighting these demons is true, I can’t think of a better way to train.” LaTisha’s voice indicated that she thought that complaining about the training was a Very Dumb Thing To Do. “So unless any of you gentlemen have a better idea, just go with it. ’Sides, Big Sis told us to put on those thinking caps and come up with ways to tweak what she set up. That says she’s willing to take suggestions from the floor, and if someone here’s got a better plan I’m very sure she’ll take it. Instead of whining, let’s hear some real ideas. All lines are open and operators are standing by to take your call, men, so don’t be shy.”
There was a chorus of grumbling.
“Yeah, I didn’t think so either.” That was Terri, ever the Number One backing up her Captain Picard. Andrew could even hear the amused Riker-like grin in Terri’s voice.
“It’s just insulting, that’s all. It’s like we don’t know how to do a stakeout,” Helen complained. “How many times did we go down to the storage facility and just wait for something to happen? So, Big Sis and Harris decide to do it and automatically expect to find the answers to all our questions?”
“If you bothered listening to Big Sis, you’d know they don’t expect that.” LaTisha was starting to sound frustrated. “It seems to this Slayer that they’re expecting to dig in for a week or two before they even get a glimpse of anything.”
“Plus, it isn’t like we’ve been there every single night, or have watched the place 24/7.” That was Terri, once more backing up her leader. “We’ve been hopping all over vampires for the past month, so we’ve been setting up random watches a couple of nights a week. Big Sis and Harris are going to be there every night and we’re all taking turns on the day watch. With that many eyeballs, I’d be surprised if we didn’t see something that looked off sooner rather than later.”
“Assuming that demon is still there,” Susan argued. “For all we know, it could’ve been moved while we weren’t looking. They could still end up empty-handed.”
“I still say it’s insulting,” Helen grumbled.
Andrew decided that he better intervene before the Slayers became bitter over the fact that Xander — and Faith, of course — really were better at hunting demons. It pained him to admit that his beloved students weren’t number one in the world of demon hunting, but that was only in comparison to someone like Xander, and Faith of course.
Best if he pretended that he only caught Helen’s last statement. He didn’t want his Slayers to think he’d been eavesdropping. Andrew squared his shoulders and marched into the kitchen.
“What’s insulting?” Andrew innocently asked.
The girls looked up on his entrance. They had set up a factory-style production line to make a pile of sandwiches. From the looks of things, they were going the whole grain bread-ham-cheese-lettuce-tomato route. He hoped they remembered to make some veggie sandwiches for Bernie, since she was a lacto-ovo vegetarian.
“Nothing.” LaTisha shot a glare at her fellow Slayers.
Helen cowed under LaTisha’s pointed look.
“Sorry we invaded your kitchen, but Bernie said you were busy putting together a report for her, so we figured we’d give you a break,” Cheryl cheerfully said.
“Why thank you, Cheryl. That’s very thoughtful of all of you.” Andrew hoped his smile looked sincere. He so hated to put his pride of kittens down when they only wanted to help, but the fact is, their “help” in the kitchen usually caused more work for him in the clean-up department.
“These next two sandwiches are for Bernie,” Susan announced as she reached into the bag to pull slices of bread.
“Right. Hold the pig, double the green stuff,” Kristin said as she slapped two pieces of cheese on one of the bread slices and passed them on to Cheryl for the addition of lettuce. She reached for the next two slices in Kristin’s hand to begin construction on Bernie’s second sandwich.
Andrew frowned. The girls had effectively changed the subject. However, he couldn’t just let their resentment fester. He had to do something about it, and that meant he’d have to bring up the subject of their discontent.
“Well,” Andrew bounced on the balls of his feet, “I think our troubles will soon be over. Xander Harris and Faith Lehane are on the case now. They’ll spot those evil doers and find out what’s really going on.”
Helen rolled her eyes as she slapped extra tomato slices on one of Bernie’s sandwiches. “You make it sound like we haven’t been on the case.”
“Helen,” LaTisha warned.
“I didn’t say that.” Andrew placed a hand over his heart. “And I’m very sure that Xander wouldn’t say that, either. Or Faith. I mean, Faith wouldn’t say it either. It’s just that Xander is a field scout, so he’s got super-special expertise in seeing things.” Andrew lowered his voice and leaned forward to show he was taking all of his students into his confidence. “The First Evil itself said that Xander was the one who sees.”
The Slayers exchanged glances.
“That’s…that’s…Well, that’s not exactly what I’d call an endorsement you’d want to advertise,” Terri said.
“But everyone knows it’s true,” Andrew sagely nodded. “You can ask anyone from Sunnydale. They’d tell you. That’s why he’s the go-to guy when Mr. Giles needs someone to solve a mystery.”
“Someone from Sunnydale like you could tell us about it, right?” Cheryl brightly asked.
LaTisha grabbed the head of lettuce and plopped it into its container. “What the hell. Bring it on, Andy. We could use something to keep our ears busy while we clean up.”
Andrew tried not to wince. His idea of a clean kitchen and the Slayers’ idea of clean kitchen were two very different things. He’ll just have to go over it later after his charges went back into the house’s Danger Room.
“This is about Xander and the Dancing Demon of Granville, West Virginia,” Andrew said.
“Yay,” Cheryl cheered.
“A dancing demon,” Helen snorted. “What does it do? Make you dance until your feet catch on fire?”
“Gives a whole new meaning to Feet of Flames, doesn’t it?” Kristin giggled.
“There are demons that dance. Lots and lots of demons,” Andrew protested. “There’s the Kwalta demon which causes something that looks like St. Vitus’ dance, and the Adrastea demon which makes people dance crazy until they die on their feet. There’s lots and lots more where that came from. In fact, when I was in Sunnydale there was this one time where everyone in town started singing and dancing like we were living in a musical. I sang an entire aria about Star Wars, the real first movie and not Episode One because that would’ve been boring. I even included the part where Han shot first. I never did find out what happened. In Sunnydale with the dancing and singing, I mean. I asked Buffy about what happened, but she wouldn’t tell me. She said that she didn’t want to talk about it and she threatened to break my Boba Fett action figure if I tried to ask anyone else. So I never did find out what happened.”
This pronouncement was followed by a stunned silence.
“I don’t think she meant it, so don’t think badly about Buffy. Besides, I think she was a little stressed out when I asked her, because of the First Evil and Caleb and Xander losing his eye and everything,” Andrew said. “But I didn’t want to take a chance and risk Boba Fett.”
Terri blinked and shook her head as if Andrew had shined a light in her eyes. “I know all that stuff about dancing demons is true.”
Now everyone stared at Terri. Andrew did his happy dance on the inside where no one could see it. It wasn’t nice to be a gloating gloater.
Well, maybe he’d gloat just a little bit.
“Independent study,” Terri explained with a weak grin. “Helps to be prepared.”
“Still going for Broadway, hunh?” LaTisha asked with amusement.
“Fifty-Second Street will be vampire-free before I win my first Tony in choreography,” Terri assured her.
“But the Dancing Demon of Granville, West Virginia didn’t kill people. It kidnapped young girls and brought them back to its hell dimension. It went after virgins only,” Andrew said.
“Are you sure it didn’t kill them once they were out of sight?” Susan asked.
“I’m sure. Mostly sure,” Andrew assured her.
“Virgins, hunh? Everyone in this house is safe,” Kristin joked.
“We are?” Cheryl asked.
“That’s okay, Cheryl,” Susan said as she slung an arm around her sister Slayer’s shoulders. “I’m right there with you.”
“Me, too,” Andrew nodded.
There was a stunned silence.
“What?” Andrew asked. “I’m waiting for the right person.”
“And as soon as I find the right guy for you, I’ll hook you up,” LaTisha said.
“Oh, that’s very sweet of you,” Andrew said. “But why would you hook me up with a guy?”
“Your closet door is locked, isn’t it?” Helen asked.
“Well, the one in my bedroom sticks sometimes,” Andrew admitted. “I should ask Xander what kind of oil I should use to lubricate the hinges, since he was in construction and all and would probably know the best product.” He sighed. “It’s sad for him that he had to give up his manly construction career since he loved it so much. It’s good for us, though. I should ask him whatever happened to his hardhat, because it was a really nice hardhat.”
“Locked, boarded up, and hidden behind a brick wall,” Susan giggled.
Helen raised a hand. “Can I be there when you ask Harris about lubrication? If he knows you half as well as we do, the look on his face will be awesome.”
“I still want to hear about the dancing demon,” Cheryl protested.
“And so you shall, my little cupcake,” Andrew declared. “It all started when Xander was driving through West Virginia on his way to Wheeling. As he was driving through Granville, tragedy struck. The engine in his car broke.”
“What was wrong with the engine?” Helen asked.
“It just broke,” Andrew shrugged. “You know, like engines always do. Besides, the reason why it broke isn’t really important. When his car tragically gave up its life — er, its mechanical life — Xander was stuck. He got out of the car and did everything he could, but it seemed that there was nothing he could do to solve the problem. Just when he thought he would have to flag down a passing motorist, he remembered passing a gas station just five minutes before his car died. Hoping that the problem was something a real, live, professional mechanic—”
“As opposed to a unreal, undead, amateur mechanic,” Kristin joked.
Cheryl shushed her.
“I say ‘real, live mechanic’ as opposed to undead mechanic because it’s important,” Andrew said just to get into the spirit of things. “Not that Xander was worried since it was day and all. In any case, since he couldn’t fix the car, he was smart enough to know that a professional was his only hope.”
“Good thing Xander’s smart, hunh?” Susan grinned.
“Yeah,” Andrew agreed. “Xander walked back to the gas station. By the time he got there it was mid-afternoon, so Xander resigned himself to staying the night. However, when he managed to talk to the mechanic, things took a turn for the very strange. It turned out that the mechanic didn’t want his business.”
“A mechanic that doesn’t want to soak an out-of-towner for extra bucks?” LaTisha asked with a grin. “Now I have to admit, that does fall into the weird column.”
“It definitely does,” Andrew agreed. “Xander argued with the mechanic, pointing out that he was totally carless. When the mechanic heard that Xander couldn’t leave he got very, very nervous and told Xander that he had to leave. When Xander asked him why, the mechanic said it was because they had no hotel in town and that the police were very, very mean to people they found sleeping on the park benches, so it was better if Xander walked to the next town or something.”
“Hope it wasn’t winter,” Kristin remarked. “’Cause that would suck.”
“Well, as it so happens it was winter,” Andrew nodded, “which is why Xander put his foot down. He was a total stranger, so he didn’t even know how to get to the next town, let alone be willing to walk there in the snow and the cold and the ice and all that stuff. The longer they argued, the more nervous the mechanic got. Finally, the mechanic offered to loan him a car, and give him detailed directions to the closest motel in the next town. The mechanic even offered to let Xander keep the borrowed car for free for as long has he needed it while his own car was being fixed. The man also offered to reimburse him for any petrol — that’s British for gasoline — Xander used while he was driving the borrowed car.”
“I would’ve grabbed that and run before the mechanic changed his mind,” Kristin said.
Andrew tapped his temple with his forefinger. “And that’s why Xander is the leading field scout in all of the Council. See, the more free stuff the mechanic offered to give him to make him leave town, the more suspicious Xander became. There had to be a reason for it, and Xander decided then and there that he was going to find out what it was.”
“So he turned the mechanic down?” Susan asked. “Bet that didn’t win Xander any friends.”
“Maybe Xander can win friends. The real question is whether Harris can,” Helen said with a nod.
“I like him,” Cheryl defiantly said.
“Hunh? Who’s Harris? I know it’s not Xander ’cause of the way you’re talking,” Andrew said.
“Can it, guys. Enough with the personal crap until after Harris is tanned and rested and we get a better idea of the man,” LaTisha mildly warned. “Keep going with the Xander story, Andy.”
“Thank you, LaTisha,” Andrew huffed. “Where was I?”
“Xander turning down the mechanic,” Cheryl eagerly said.
“Well, actually, he didn’t. He pretended to accept the mechanic’s offer,” Andrew explained.
“Probably a smart thing to do under the circumstances. No point in raising the guy’s suspicions if his motives for getting Xander out of town were on the evil side,” LaTisha said with a meaningful look at the other Slayers.
“After Xander signed all the paperwork he needed to sign and got copies of it, he got in his borrowed car, and drove away. But, instead of going directly to the next town, he drove all over Granville to see if he could pick up an evil vibe,” Andrew continued. “The first thing he did was look for a hotel or a boarding house, but there was none in the whole town. It was very, very strange.”
“That’s not so odd,” Helen interrupted. “My town didn’t have any hotels, motels, or boarding houses either.”
“Yeah, but you grew up in middle-of-nowhere Montana where cows outnumber people 10-to-1,” Susan pointed out.
“So? This could be middle-of-nowhere West Virginia,” Helen said. “Where is Granville anyway?”
“Assuming Granville exists,” Terri said.
Andrew reminded himself not to get upset. Terri’s cynical little mask slipped with the dancing demons. She was probably trying to win back her street cred as Queen of All the Doubters.
“While Xander was driving around, he noticed something else odd. He kept seeing signs for a dance, except that according to this sign, the dance was held every night for a week. As it so happened, the first dance of the week was going to be held that very night,” Andrew continued. “Then he noticed something else really odd. The boys outnumbered the girls in this town, by a lot. So much so, that for every seven boys, there was only one girl. It didn’t make any sense.”
“Unh-oh. Someone didn’t want to go up against out-of-town competition,” Susan giggled.
“Betchya that’s what Xander thought, too,” Helen said as she elbowed Kristin in the ribs.
“Xander did not think that,” Andrew protested. “Xander never thinks like that. Besides, his One True Love and the Most Perfect Woman in the World died tragically in Sunnydale not that long ago.”
“Didn’t Anya die three years ago?” Terri asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Three years is but a blink of an eye when the heart is true.” Andrew sniffed at the memory of Anya’s big smile and the way she’d say those funny little things. She may have been a demon, well, ex-demon, but her heart was pure human. “Xander’s not even capable of loving another woman like that again.”
Terri opened her mouth. She shut it. She opened her mouth again and said, “You know what? I’m going to let that go without comment.”
Andrew reached out and patted Terri’s hand. “I always knew you were a romantic deep down inside. You like to pretend you’re not, but I see right through you.”
“He’s got your number girlfriend,” LaTisha said with a grin.
“Yeah, yeah,” Terri grumbled as she withdrew her hand from Andrew’s with a wince. “Talk to my can of mace.”
“So that’s how you broke up with Kevin,” Kristin giggled.
“And Daniel, and John, and…” Susan added.
“At least I didn’t have to stake my last boyfriend,” Terri said.
The girls, in unison, went, “OoOoOoOoOoO!”
“Burn, baby!” LaTisha laughed and the other Slayers dissolved into clapping and giggling.
“It’s not very funny,” Andrew said with a scowl. “Especially since Daw— I mean someone I know had to stake her first boyfriend with a number two pencil. And I know someone else who had to stab her first boyfriend with a sword so hard he was sent to a hell dimension for thousands and thousands and thousands of years.”
“Gents, this is why you always bring your date to a place with lots and lots of mirrors,” Susan said as she pointed to Terri using both her hands and pretended to ‘shoot’ her like she was holding guns.
“Always wise advice,” Andrew said. He was so proud. His students really were very smart hunters. He was very glad that Xander and Faith would see them shine during the hunt for the dreaded demon now in Chicago. “Well, anyway, as Xander drove around town — he had decided to pretend he was lost, you see, just in case someone asked him why he was still in town — his Spidey sense was tingling.”
“Not that it wasn’t tingling with the mechanic,” Cheryl said with a nod. “I know that I would be very suspicious with just that alone.”
“But all of it together? It was adding up to something really, really bad,” Andrew agreed. “Xander decided to drive his borrowed car into the next town, a town that was a lot bigger that little Granville. He checked into a motel and called the mechanic from there under the guise of checking to see if the mechanic could maybe fix his car a little sooner. What he was really doing was making the mechanic think that he wouldn’t be back until his car was ready. Once he laid down his false trail, he called a car rental agency to rent a different car.”
“But he already had a car,” Kristin pointed out. “Why would he rent—”
“Oh, I know!” Cheryl bounced. “It was so he could sneak back into Granville under the cover of darkness in a car no one would recognize.”
“Very good, padawan!” Andrew beamed. “You’re well on the way to becoming a Jedi!”
Cheryl stuck her tongue out at Kristin.
“Anyway, as soon as the sun set Xander drove back into town and parked the car in a hidden place,” Andrew said. “The best lead he had was all those signs advertising the dance that he had seen all over town, so he thought that whatever was going on, it was going on there.”
“If the town was too small for even a small motel, he probably didn’t burn off too many IQ points figuring that out,” Terri said.
“When Xander got to the place, which was some kind of big hall like a Moose Lodge or an Elks Lodge or something like that, he hid himself in the bushes and watched,” Andrew said. “There were old people and young people, parents and teenagers, teachers and students, and all of them were dressed in their Sunday best. It looked like everyone in town was going to the dance. However, none of them looked very happy about it. In fact, they all acted like they were going to a funeral.
“When the town clock struck eight, the people who were still outside or were still walking to this hall picked up their pace,” Andrew continued. “People were quickly jogging, and dragging the slower people along behind them. There was a moment of panic when the clock was on its sixth bong as people pushed each other out of the way to get inside. By the time the clock chimed its eighth and last bong, everyone was inside and the doors were slammed shut, leaving Xander, Granville’s last, best hope all alone in the night.”
The Slayers shifted so they were standing closer together.
Andrew suppressed a grin. He loved it when his little ones got so lost in the story that they forgot where they were. “Xander knew that he wouldn’t learn anything staying where he was, so he snuck up to building so he could look in the windows. Inside, people were standing around and drinking punch. There was a band playing, but no one was dancing. In fact, they all looked very sad and scared.
“Xander just didn’t understand it. There were these signs all over town advertising this dance and it looked like the everyone in town was there and dressed for a party, but there was no actual party happening,” Andrew continued. “He circled the building all night, peeking into different windows as he looked at the crowd from various angles. However, everyone inside was just standing around even though the band kept playing.”
“You mean to tell me that no one snuck outside for a smoke or fresh air?” Terri asked with her raised eyebrow of doubt. “That’s pretty hard to believe.”
“Not every town has made it illegal to smoke indoors, you know,” Helen said.
“Not every town has removed spittoons from the bars, but that doesn’t mean people are happy when they get splattered with tobacco juice,” LaTisha sniffed.
“Spittoons aren’t a problem. At least you can avoid getting splattered when people dig into the chew. You can’t avoid inhaling cigarette smoke, though,” Cheryl said with a wrinkled nose.
“Hey, even if it was legal to smoke indoors, you’d figure someone would be sneaking off to do their own thing,” Terri said.
“Especially since the party sounds like it was quite the barn-burner,” Kristin agreed.
“Well, I can tell you that no one left the building,” Andrew interrupted. “And I can tell you that Xander thought it was strange, too. Everyone entered the building at eight and that’s where everyone stayed. He had circled the building for hours, which meant that he was constantly walking by all the exits as he went from one window to the next. He was extra-special watchful on the exits. See? Since no one inside looked like they were having fun, he thought for sure that someone would walk out. If that happened, he had to be prepared to go hide in the bushes so the townsfolk wouldn’t see him when they ditched the dance to go make their own fun.”
Terri made a hurry-up motion with her hand. “Fun as this is, we have to eat and go back to training.”
“Right,” Andrew nodded. “All of Xander’s watchful waiting finally paid off when the clock struck 11:31. Or rather, when his watch read 11:31. It was then that everyone in the building paired up and they started dancing with each other.”
“I’m sure the boys were thrilled,” Terri snorted.
“You never know. Some of them might have been,” Susan lightly said.
“Why do you say that?” Andrew asked.
“You told us,” Terri said. “The boys outnumbered the girls something like seven to one.”
“Oh! I guess you’re right. Or maybe several boys danced with one girl or something,” Andrew said with a wave of his hand. “I’ll have to ask Xander how the boys worked around the lack of girl-having. Anyway, as the minute hand drew closer to midnight, the band’s playing got faster and faster and the people began dancing faster and faster, until it looked like that everyone — the band and the dancers — were in a complete frenzy. People were waving their arms, and their legs were going up and down like they were running in place. They weren’t dancing with each other so much as they were jumping around together. Even Xander, who was outside, could feel his limbs jerking, almost as if the muffled music was urging him to join in.”
A hand flew to Cheryl’s mouth. “Oh, no!” she cried.
Andrew grinned. “Luckily, Xander’s best friend is Willow. I told you about her. She’s the most powerful witch in the whole world, which makes her sometimes a little scary, but when she’s not Darth Rosenberg she isn’t that scary at all. Unless you drop one of her spell ingredients. Then she gets very Darth-y. Well, not really. Just a little Darth-y. Anyway, she taught Xander this spell to protect him if he sensed he was being pulled into some very dark magic. I think it’s in something like Latin, but it’s not really Latin. Maybe Egyptianized Latin. Or is that Sumerianized Latin?”
“Andy? Is this story going to end at some point?” LaTisha asked as she pointedly looked at the kitchen clock.
“Right. Sorry,” Andrew said. “As Xander felt his toes begin a-tapping and his fingers begin a-snapping, he knew he was being drawn into whatever was going on. He immediately whispered Willow’s spell, and the urge to join the dance stopped, which is what he totally expected. What he didn’t expect was to see a tall stranger suddenly appear and start dancing in the middle of the crowd.”
“Wait a second,” Terri interrupted with a frown. “If Xander didn’t even know the town, let alone anyone in it, how did he know that this ‘tall stranger’ really was a stranger? Maybe he didn’t notice him before.”
“Oh, he knew all right,” Andrew nodded. “The stranger was easily the best looking man in the entire crowd. His face looked like it had been carved out of marble, like that naked David statue in Florence. That's, unh, Florence in Italy, just so we're clear. His hair was so black, that it seemed like it absorbed all the light. His skin was white, like porcelain, and his lips were ruby red. He danced better and faster than everyone around him. Naturally, he was also dancing with the prettiest girl in the room. Plus, he was good foot taller than everyone else.”
“Height like that? I guess I can see why Xander figured he should’ve spotted this guy sooner,” LaTisha said as she made a comical face.
“No kidding, hunh?” Susan agreed. “Makes him hard to miss even in a crowd like that.”
“That’s exactly what Xander thought, my great pumpkin,” Andrew beamed. “The stranger had to come from somewhere. Xander didn’t see him walk through the front door before the start of the dance, and he hadn’t seen the stranger while he prowled around the building and watched the townsfolk as the night wore on. His nose was definitely picking up the scent of a mystery.”
“That Xander sure has a good sense of smell,” Terri remarked.
“Well, Xander’s nose for mystery was pointing right at the stranger, so he knew he had to get a closer look at him. But to do that, he had to find a way inside,” Andrew continued.
“How did he get in?” Cheryl squeaked.
“Well, luckily, Xander had brought his lock picks with him, just in case he had to snoop around beyond just watching people dance,” Andrew said. “He snuck around to the back entrance of the hall and tried the back door. It was locked, naturally, so he immediately got to work. It only took him a minute to unlock the door and ease it open. He crouched low, and snuck inside like a cat.”
“And no one saw him,” Terri said doubtfully.
Andrew shook his head. “Well, Xander was nervous about that, but he thought that if he kept his head low and danced liked everyone else, no one would notice. However, he didn’t even have to do that. Just as he pushed his way past the dancers on the outer edges, he noticed that all of them looked like they were hypnotized. They were jumping around and waving their arms as they danced, but their eyes were completely dead.”
“Like zombies,” Terri shuddered.
Andrew was momentarily taken aback by Terri’s reaction. “Unh, exactly like zombies,” he nodded. “In a way it was good, because that meant that Xander didn’t have to dance. He’s a really terrible dancer.”
“Wait! You mean there’s something Xander can’t do?” Susan asked with a hand over her heart.
“There’s some things Xander can’t do,” Andrew huffed. “He can’t be a Slayer. That’s one thing. Dancing’s another. Dancing’s like…like…”
“His kryptonite?” Kristen sweetly asked.
“More like bystanders’ kryptonite,” Andrew mumbled.
“How is that even possible?” LaTisha asked.
Andrew looked around before leaning forward. He gestured for the girls to draw closer, which they did. He then admitted, “He flails. This one time, he accidentally knocked out three vampires who were stalking people at the Bronze during the Homecoming Dance while he was on the dance floor.”
“He knocked out three vampires with his dance moves,” Terri deadpanned.
“That was the good news,” Andrew said. “The bad news is he also knocked out Cordelia Chase, the Richest Girl in Town, Queen of the High School, Leader of the Cheerleaders, Champion-in-Training, and Xander’s date for Homecoming. He had to buy her jewelry to make it up to her.”
“Expensive jewelry,” Helen giggled.
“And he had to promise to never, ever dance with her again,” Andrew added.
“It was the least he could do,” Susan with a nod.
Andrew straightened up and continued with his story. “Xander was glad that he wouldn’t have to dance because then he wouldn’t have to be afraid of drawing attention to himself if he accidentally knocked people down with his flailing arms. Now he could just concentrate on getting a closer look at the stranger. He very carefully threaded his way between people in the dancing crowd until he had his prey dead in his sights. And that’s when he saw it!”
“Saw what?” Cheryl eagerly bounced. “That the stranger was a demon?”
“Excellent guess! Yes! Yes, that’s exactly what he saw,” Andrew emphatically nodded.
“What gave it away?” Helen asked.
“I’m gonna take a stab in the dark and say it was the stranger’s legs that gave him away,” Susan said.
Andrew’s shoulders slumped. “How’d you guess that?”
“You said the guy’s face looked human, and if he had wings sprouting out of his back, Xander would’ve seen them because the guy was so tall,” Terri pointed out. “Legs are pretty much the only option.”
“Oh. Okay.” Andrew grinned. “Excellent deductive reasoning, my Robin-in-training.”
Terri sighed and rolled her eyes.
“To be honest, Xander didn’t notice the legs at first, mostly because the dancers kept bumping into him and knocking him off balance. However, as the clock outside began to strike midnight, Xander noticed the legs,” Andrew continued. “You see, the stranger had the legs of a goat!”
“How on earth did he miss that?” Susan asked.
“The stranger was wearing a robe. And a cape,” Andrew explained.
“You’d think the robe and cape would’ve been a pretty big clue right there,” Terri grumbled.
“Not necessarily,” Cheryl protested. “A man wearing a robe and a cape could also be a wizard, or a priest of some kind of cult, or something like that. A robe and a cape really doesn’t tell you too much.”
“She’s got a point,” LaTisha agreed.
“Xander could feel the magical energy in the room build around him, even though — thanks to Willow’s spell — he was totally immune,” Andrew continued. “Whatever was happening, the stranger with goat legs was at the heart of it and he was up to no good. Xander was sure of it! As the town clock outside started bonging that it was midnight, Xander steeled himself and ran right at the stranger!”
“Please tell me he at least had a weapon when he did this,” Helen said.
“Just his momentum and very broad shoulders,” Andrew said. “Xander’s very brave.”
“I guess that’s one point of view,” Terri grumbled.
“Xander slammed right into the stranger, and knocked him off his feet. I mean hooves,” Andrew continued. “The stranger roared as he back-flipped to get on his little hooves, but before he could get his balance, Xander attacked him again! Except this time, Xander had a goal. He pushed the stranger with goat legs right through a window just as the clock bonged its last bong for midnight.
“The stranger screamed and there was a bright flash of light. Where before there was a man with goat legs, there was now a full demon! He had big goat horns and had fur all over his body! ‘Foiled! Foiled!’ the demon screamed.
“Xander could feel the townsfolk closing in behind him, and he could sense they were unhappy. ‘Look!’ he yelled as he pointed out the window. ‘There’s a demon standing right there! Run! Run, now! Get to safety!’ When people looked at where Xander was pointing, they started to scream and cry. Some of them ran for the back door, but they were nearly crushed by other people who were running forward to see what was going on. It was chaos!”
“To say the least,” Terri mumbled with rolled eyes.
“The demon pointed at the hall and said, ‘I’ll get you! I’ll be back with my hordes and none of you will live!’ And then, he disappeared in a flash of flame while his evil laugh echoed in the night,” Andrew said.
“Oh, that definitely didn’t win Xander any friends,” Helen said.
“In the short term, no,” Andrew admitted. “The police chief, who was among the dancers, arrested Xander on the spot and dragged him off to jail. He wouldn’t even let him have his one phone call! He was booked, fingerprinted, and photographed before he was thrown in a cell.”
“Yeah, that sounds about right,” Susan said. “Some people get really, really angry when you save them.”
“I’m thinking the townspeople were angry because the demon was threatening to come back and kill them all,” Kristin said.
“Xander had to escape and leave the town behind, I bet,” Helen said.
“He wouldn’t!” Cheryl protested. She turned her big blue eyes on Andrew. “He didn’t! Did he?”
“Luckily, he didn’t have to,” Andrew said. “Just before dawn, the Granville mayor himself paid Xander a visit. See, the town council met all night to try to figure out what they could do to save the town from the evil demon and what they should do with Xander. In the end, they decided that since Xander had managed to escape the clutches of the demon’s spell, maybe he could do something about the coming demon hordes.”
“At least they didn’t deny the demon existed,” Helen said.
“Yeah. Like that’s ever happened,” Terri remarked as she crossed her arms.
“Sometimes it happens, just like it did in this case,” Andrew protested. “This one time, at Xander’s, Buffy’s, and Willow’s high school graduation, the mayor turned into a giant snake demon. The entire class got together with weapons and stuff and battled the mayor’s minions while Buffy, Xander, Willow, and Mr. Giles killed the demon dead.”
“Wait, I thought you said Xander and his friends fought the demons all by themselves in Sunnydale,” Terri said with a frown.
“Well, they did fight alone. Most of the time.” Andrew shuffled uncomfortably. “See, after the thing with he mayor, they never got any help from any of the other people in town again. Except for me, because I already knew about things that went bump in the night and had important information about the First Evil that I had to get to Buffy, or else they’d all be killed.”
There was a beat of silence.
“It’s a good thing we get paid now,” Helen remarked. “Because doing that kind of thing for free and getting no thanks for it at all would drive me nuts.”
LaTisha shot Helen a narrow-eyed glare. “I better not have just heard you say that you’d let people get killed if the paychecks stopped coming.”
“No! No, of course not,” Helen said as she shook her head and raised her hands. “I said it would drive me nuts. I didn’t say that I’d just stand around and do nothing. God, I’m not one of those kinds of Slayers.”
LaTisha pursed her lips before snapping a nod. “Just wanted to be clear on that.”
Andrew hunched his shoulders and pretended not to notice. LaTisha could get very touchy about certain things, and Helen had just stomped on one of those subjects. It was better to just let it go, especially since Helen had backed down once LaTisha showed her scary face.
Andrew cleared his throat. “The mayor explained to Xander that the town was under a curse. See? About a hundred years ago, this girl, who was very poor, was in love with this boy, who was very rich. They were going to get married, except that at the last minute the boy left the girl for another girl, except the new girl was very rich. The poor girl, who’d been dumped, died of a broken heart within a year.”
“Vengeance demon?” Cheryl asked.
Andrew shook his head. “The dead girl’s aunt. She was a very, very powerful witch. And the girl who died was her favorite niece. She cursed the town to hold these weeklong dances four times a year — y’know, at the two solstices and the two equinoxes. Every night for a week, a demon would come and take away one of the girls, so everyone in town would know what it was like to lose a daughter or a niece.”
“That’s 28 girls a year!” Kirstin sounded outraged. “How could they agree to it?”
“Because if they didn’t, the demon would come with its hordes and destroy the whole town and kill everyone,” Andrew said.
“Why didn’t people just leave town so it didn’t affect them?” Terri asked doubtfully.
“Why didn’t people move out of Sunnydale?” LaTisha asked with a shrug. “People can get really stubborn when it comes to their homes.”
“But still—” Terri began.
“They couldn’t,” Andrew interrupted. “The spell wouldn’t let them move away. And if anyone tried to interfere with the sacrifice, everyone would die. See, that’s why the mechanic was desperate to get Xander to leave town. He didn’t want to take a chance that something like this would happen.”
“So, how’d Xander fix it?” Susan asked.
Andrew couldn’t resist a grin. Despite the rocky beginning, his little chicks really did have faith in Xander’s abilities. He should’ve known that Xander would win them over. “Well, Xander immediately came up with a plan. Since a witch caused it, a whole lot of witches could solve it. He called the Council and told them about Granville and its awful curse. By the time the sun set, the entire Devon Coven, plus Willow, had teleported into town. When the demon showed up, they were ready. The battle was over within minutes and the good guys saved the day!”
“What did the witches do?” Kristin asked.
Andrew waved a lazy hand. “They reversed the spell, which sent the demon back into its dimension. Then, they locked the dimension nice and tight so it could never leave again.”
“Thus not only saving the town from the demon horde, but from ever having to sacrifice to the demon again,” Cheryl cheered.
“And it all started because of Xander’s keen observation skills,” Andrew agreed. “Today Granville is a demon-free, happy town. All thanks to Xander Harris.”