So, here's the Monday part, which will be quickly followed by the Tuesday part.
All parts can be found here.
Continued from Part 3B.
The moment Xander called with the news that he and Faith hit pay dirt their first time out, the Chicago Council House became a hotbed of activity.
Watchers scurried to and fro, not to mention fro and to, as they yanked every piece of information about the Evil Emokillsus off the library shelves (all prominently bearing the name of one Alexander L. Harris, demon hunter extraordinaire, Andrew was proud to note).
LaTisha, who was enjoying her night off by digging into the Veronica Mars DVDs, had to run out of the house. Xander desperately needed an alibi to explain why he was wherever he was and she was the only one free to go.
Susan was immediately recalled from patrol, because her Jake 2.0-level hacking skills were needed to help find key information that could defeat the Dreaded Threat.
As for Andrew, he sprung into his own form of action.
First and most important: make sure the first aid kit was in order so the house medic could take care of any ouchies. Xander hadn’t mentioned any injuries, but it was good to play it safe.
Second and…unh…also important: get the electric blanket out of the guest room closet, put it on Xander’s bed, and turn it on. While he was there, Andrew left a note letting Xander know he was available to answer any of his questions on top of a pile of boxes bearing the house’s mystical security seal. He then fluffed the pillows on the bed and did a million other little things to make sure the way was clear for Xander to get into bed and get warm. It was cold out there, something Andrew experienced himself earlier in the day when he went on his weekly grocery run to Costco.
Once those items were settled, he flew into the house library and made sure the computers were on and ready for Susan and whoever else would be serving as her wingmen in the exciting world of hacking into the records of the evil whoever behind the latest threat. As the computers hummed to life, Andrew set out pads of paper and plenty of pencils, wiped down the whiteboard, tested the dry markers, and did a spot check for clutter.
As he flew down the hall to the kitchen he saw Susan enter. Deciding that making coffee could wait just a little bit, Andrew changed direction and helped Susan get out of her winter Slaying gear. In the middle of that procedure, Xander stumbled through the door with LaTisha right behind him.
Susan turned around to see the latest arrivals. She froze. Andrew wasn’t surprised by her reaction. Xander looked awful.
“Xander!” Andrew greeted him with false cheer. “According to procedure, I have to ask if you’ve been injured. If you have, I will lead you to the first aid kit and—”
“Faith,” Xander interrupted with mutter. He gave his head a hard shake, which seemed to cause him a moment’s disorientation. “Has Faith called in yet?”
“You are hurt!” Andrew protested.
“No. ’M fine. Just tired. Fell asleep in the car,” Xander croaked with a shiver. “Has Faith called in yet?”
“He keeps asking that,” LaTisha said to Andrew. “Just answer him, otherwise we’re not going to get him to go anywhere without the use of violence.”
Xander shot her a bleary-eyed glare.
“Dunno,” Andrew admitted. “I’ve been setting up the library and turning down Xander’s bed.”
Xander groaned. “Andrew, this isn’t a hotel and you’re not a maid. Or at least I hope not. And if you are? I do not want to see the uniform. Please don’t walk into the guest room if I’m not here, because—”
“He’s exhausted,” LaTisha interrupted. “And I think he might have a mild case of hypothermia. Andy, we could use some herbal tea to warm him up.”
“’M fine,” Xander muttered as he hunched in his coat. A yawn suddenly exploded out of him.
“Ahhh, there you are,” Bernie greeted them as she strode into the room.
Susan snapped out of staring-at-Xander mode as she spun around to face Bernie.
Andrew sidled up to Susan and muttered low in her ear, “You okay? I know we’re all fussing about Xander, but he looks awful and—”
Susan absently patted him on the shoulder. “I’m good. It’s just that—”
“Susan, if you would please head for the library,” Bernie interrupted. “I believe Andrew has already set up everything for this evening. Xander? A few moments of your time and then I will let you go up to bed.”
Xander cleared his throat. “Faith call in yet?”
“Yes. Just a few moments ago,” Bernie assured him.
Xander sagged against the wall. “Good.”
“I’ll go make that herbal tea,” Andrew announced as he turned and sped out of the room for the kitchen.
After he set the kettle on the stove to boil water for Xander’s tea, Andrew made coffee using his Extra Special stash. It was imperative that he make the coffee, since he knew his liquid Black Gold might spell the difference between sleepy eyes missing a vital clue and alert eyes finding the required information in the nick of time.
The kettle whistled the news that the water had reached optimum temperature. Andrew quickly chose a relaxing Chinese blend that would help Xander drift off to sleep. Heavenly dimensions knew that Xander looked like he needed it.
Andrew set aside the herbal tea to steep as he pulled out the airpots and rinsed them out. By the time he was through making all the coffee that needed to be made, he’d have enough stashed in these beauties to fuel an army. Good thing he was fueling an army.
He checked the clock to make sure the tea was ready, tossed the tea bag, and quick-stepped his way into the hallway.
It was empty.
Xander must’ve gone up to bed then.
Andrew had just decided to deliver the tea himself when Bernie strolled back into the hallway. “I’ll bring that up to Xander,” she kindly offered as she reached out for the mug.
“Oh, that’s okay. I can—” Andrew began.
“I’d much rather you concentrate on administrative support for Susan and the other Watchers,” Bernie interrupted.
Andrew snapped a salute as he surrendered the mug to his Fearless Leader. “Yes, ma’am.”
Bernie flashed her pixie-like grin at him. “Go on, then.”
Andrew started to head for the library.
“Oh. Yes. There was something I meant to ask you,” Bernie casually called after him. “While you were turning down Xander’s bed for the night, you didn’t touch anything else, did you?”
Andrew turned around and regarded her with a frown. “I got the electric blanket and put it on the bed.”
Bernie waved a hand. “Good. I ask because Xander asked for some, ah, additional research materials. On Chicago, you understand. I just want to be sure that the boxes were where I left them. I don’t want them disturbed so he’ll be able to find everything he needs when he wakes up.”
Andrew’s frown deepened. “Boxes? You mean the ones that were in the corner?”
“Yes,” Bernie answered.
“Oh! I wondered what those were. But since they had the house seal on them, I figured it was probably something very research-y for Xander. I left a note for him to ask me any questions, y’know, in case he had any. I left it on top of the boxes, but I didn’t want to open them. Because of the seal.” Andrew shook his head with a fond grin. “Then again he might not need me to ask any questions since I’m sure he researched everything before he got here. Xander is a very prepared kind of person. Measure twice, cut once. He told me that while he was fixing the picture window in Buffy’s house in Sunnydale. Totally words to live by. He said you do that because—”
“And wise advice it is,” Bernie interrupted. “Now, I best get this tea up to Xander before it cools and before he collapses into bed.”
“He really looked tired. And cold. I hope he’ll be okay,” Andrew said. “I used the sleepy stuff to help send him off to dreamland. Only one scoop in the bag, just like you taught me.”
“That’s very good,” Bernie beamed at him. “I’m sure he’ll be fine as soon as he drinks this down. He was worried about Faith. Hopefully he’ll put that worry aside and get some rest. With the help of your tea, of course.”
Andrew couldn’t resist grinning at that as he turned and made his way to the library.
The next hour was a whirlwind of activity as Andrew put together a fruit and cheese plate for snacks and ran to retrieve various files and books on request. Eventually, however, Andrew simply had nothing left to do. Susan had settled at her computer and was busy tapping away. LaTisha was IM’ing back and forth with the Research Division in Council Central Command, and the Watchers were feeding bits and pieces of information to Susan and LaTisha as needed.
That left Andrew standing at attention in the corner, ready and willing to spring into action on a moment's notice. Unfortunately, he’d been busy all day, so he spent his time battling against the threatened yawns and trying to keep awake. Even so, his valiant battle was a losing one. His eyelids grew heavy and more than once he caught himself nodding off.
After Lord knows how long, LaTisha stood and stretched. “Better check with the field teams to see where they’re at,” she commented.
“I think Terri’s planning to call an early night after swinging through some dance clubs,” Susan said as she tapped away at the keyboard. “There wasn’t too much out there by way of trouble. Guess it’s cold enough that even vampires are thinking twice about going out to party.”
“Quiet night, hunh?” LaTisha asked with a crooked grin.
Harold, one of the Watchers, snorted as he reviewed a file.
“Agreed. I’d hardly call this a quiet night,” Amy, one of the other Watchers, said.
Noel, a third Watcher, shook his head with a grin. “In either case, I’m relieved there’s finally been a break in our big ol’ mystery. Now we can do something about it.”
“Of course there’s a break in the case now that Xander — and Faith of course — are looking into it,” Andrew volunteered. “Nothing escapes their eagle eyes — or eye, in Xander’s tragic and heartbreaking case.”
LaTisha shook her head and favored Andrew with a mischievous wink
Jean-Paul, an older Watcher who’d been dragged out of retirement by Mr. Giles to train the new Watcher recruits, hrumphed and shook his head as he said to Noel. “I wonder if you’ll have the same attitude once this crisis is past?”
“Please. I’ve been doing this for a year. Crisis? Pfffft,” Noel scoffed. “Usually I don’t like them, but this whole thing has me feeling itchy. I’m just glad the other shoe’s dropped.”
“I have to admit that I’m not as surprised by this turn of events as I should be. Both Mr. Harris and Miss Lehane have impressive records,” said Jocasta, a fifth Watcher.
“Mr. Harris’s is too impressive if you ask me,” Jean-Paul remarked. “He’s poised to upset James Cook’s record of new demon discoveries, and Cook had to explore a whole new continent for him to achieve such a record.”
“Too bad about the crocodile eating his hand,” Andrew said.
Watchers and Slayers alike stopped at stared at him.
“That’s Captain Hook,” Jocasta said.
“But that’s— Oh, that’s right.” Andrew sheepishly grinned. “Sorry. I got confused.”
Noel shook his head. “S’okay Andy. I was thinking the same thing.”
“I weep for the American educational system,” said Wilhelmina, the sixth Watcher in the room.
“Mr. Harris’s discoveries are certainly extraordinary,” Amy said. “He’s already bested Richard Burton’s record.”
Noel mimed throwing a punch. “Go Watcher Team America. We’re going for the gold, baby.”
“Richard Burton was a Watcher?” Andrew yelped with surprise.
“I don’t think they’re talking about the actor, Andy,” LaTisha said with a grin. “I think they’re talking about the guy with the same name who wrote the Karma Sutra.”
“Richard Francis Burton translated the Kamasutram, which is the proper name by-the-by,” Jean-Paul sniffed. “The best agent the Council ever had, now just a footnote in Council history.”
“We’ll still always have the Karma Sutra, and I, for one, thank God for that,” LaTisha said with a hand over her heart.
“The Kamasutram is not merely a tawdry sex book,” Jean-Paul huffed. “It’s a spiritual meditation on human sexuality and the art of—”
“Burton’s your hero, isn’t he?” Jocasta asked.
“That’s hardly the point,” Jean-Paul said.
Amy remarked, “I believe they’re having fun with you.”
“Besides, technically speaking, Mr. Harris isn’t a Watcher. He’s a field scout,” said Arnold, Watcher number seven.
“Neither Burton nor Cook were Watchers, either,” Harold pointed out. “They were ‘agents.’ If they were alive today, they’d be called ‘field scouts.’”
“Still, given a choice between the two jobs? I’ll take mine over field scout any day,” said Bruce, Watcher number eight.
“That’s only because you don’t want to work that hard,” Wilhelmina remarked.
“And there is no denying that Mr. Harris must be quite skilled to make as many discoveries as he has, especially in this day in age,” Jocasta pointed out.
“He did prove once and for all that leprechauns are real,” Bruce thoughtfully said.
Andrew beamed with pride. Xander’s little discovery had literally rocked the foundations of the Council. Dawn was so happy when that happened that she called from Yale to yell at Giles, “I knew it! I knew it all along! You owe me ten bucks!”
“My great-granny from County Cork could’ve told you that they were real,” Noel said.
“Yes, well, the Council dismissed their existence only after centuries of vigorous research,” Jean-Paul said. “I suppose that’s why I find it so difficult to believe that their existence was finally confirmed when one teleported into Mr. Harris’s bedroom by mistake.”
“Even more unbelievable, it got turned around while it was hunting Kzintis,” Wilhelmina said.
“A very unusual name for a demon,” Amy said. “I wonder how Mr. Harris thought up that one.”
Andrew opened his mouth to explain, but Susan and LaTisha were shaking their heads ‘no’ so hard that he thought their heads were about to fall off their necks. Andrew quickly realized that the Slayers were deeply amused by the question and were playing a little joke on the Watchers by not saying anything. He relaxed and grinned at them. Mr. Niven would just have to wait a little longer to get the credit he so richly deserved.
“Who cares where he got the name?” Noel asked as he bounced on the balls of his feet. “Point is he proved that yet another good ol’ Irish yarn that was dismissed by the English branch of the Council was true.”
Andrew’s ears perked up. “What Irish story?”
“That cats will steal a baby’s breath and kill it,” Wilhelmina explained. “As it turns out, it wasn’t a cat, but a demon that takes the form of a cat and then feasts on the breath of babies, thereby killing them.”
“The existence of leprechauns and Kzinti proved with one blow and by accident, no less,” Jocasta said. “It is a rather astounding state of affairs.”
Andrew mentally filed away the exchange. He’d have to find out more information about the Kizinti. He was more than willing to bet that there was a big battle to kill it. Naturally Xander would’ve been standing shoulder to shoulder with his new leprechaun ally as they valiantly fought to save all the babies in England.
“I’ve decided,” Amy declared. “As soon as we catch our breaths, I’m asking Mr. Harris how he came up with the name Kzinti. I’ve consulted several books on linguistics and I cannot even begin suss out the root language for that name.”
Susan doubled her concentration on the monitor in front of her. LaTisha was biting her bottom lip so hard that Andrew thought it was going to start bleeding.
“The name sounds African,” Bruce said.
“Makes sense. He spent time in Africa,” Jocasta said. “It’s probably Swahili.”
“Checked Swahili already,” Amy said. “It’s not Swahili.”
“In either case, you have to admit that Mr. Harris proving the existence of leprechauns and the Kzinti was a case of luck rather than skill,” Harold said.
“I believe the sheer weight of his record shows that it’s more often skill rather than luck,” Bruce argued.
“Think we can get him to do a presentation on how to find demons?” Noel asked.
Andrew was about to say that he was sure Xander would agree to it, when LaTisha derailed the conversation.
“Guess they’ve forgotten all about the Emokillsus, hunh Suze?” LaTisha said. “And all the little Slayers still shivering in the cold.”
“Subtle you’re not,” Noel cheerfully complained.
“Still, she makes a rather good point,” Jean-Paul admitted. “Ladies and gentlemen?”
“I’ll get the after-patrol snacks together,” Andrew volunteered as he leapt to his feet.
“Nah, it’s okay Andy,” Noel said. “You’ve been running ragged all day. We’ve got it covered.”
“Besides, I’m sure you could do quite a bit more good helping LaTisha and Susan,” Harold informed him.
Andrew felt the smile freeze on his face. Oh God. His poor, poor kitchen. After this was over, he’ll be in there scrubbing away for days.
“Kick back and chill a little, Andy,” LaTisha invited as she waved her hand at the chair. “I’ll be right back. Just want to do a call in to the patrol to see what’s up.”
Jocasta frowned. “Maybe you should watch for any incoming messages from Research Division.”
“I could, but they’re busy scrambling. Besides, if something comes across the transom, Suze has it covered,” LaTisha said with a shrug. “Right, Susan?”
Susan startled and looked at LaTisha. “Right! Right. I can do that.”
LaTisha frowned at her. “You square?”
“Fine. Just…cramped. I’ve been hunched over this keyboard half the night,” Susan quickly said.
“Stretch a little, then,” LaTisha said. “I’ll be right back.”
“I can give her a backrub,” Andrew offered.
“No!” the Slayers shouted in unison.
“It’s a good thought, but—” LaTisha began.
“Really, just need to work a few kinks out,” Susan interrupted with a babble. “A few shoulder shrugs and I’m good.”
“Oh. Okay,” Andrew amiably agreed.
Andrew snagged a chair at the research table as the others got up and stretched. There was a scrape of chairs and smattering of stray conversations as the group, minus Andrew and Susan, drifted out of the room to prepare for the Slayers’ return.
As for Susan, she stood and stretched with her hands over her head. She then began drifting around the room, probably to work the kinks out of her legs.
“Hey, Andy?” Susan asked once the last of the others had left. “I’ve gotta weird question for you.”
“Weird is my middle name,” Andrew chirped. “Hunh, not really. I mean it’s not weird. It’s actually Maximilian.”
Susan shook her head with a giggle. “Are you gonna swear me to secrecy on your real middle name?”
“Why would I do that?” Andrew asked with honest puzzlement.
“Forget it,” Susan said with a sigh.
“Forget my middle name? Or forget the weird question?” Andrew asked.
Susan startled. “Sorry. My head’s still buzzing from all the computer work. Forget the middle name, but answer my weird question.”
“Unh, I was just wondering if you ever heard of Xander maybe, I dunno, ever fighting…and this is going to sound really out there…if you ever heard of Xander fighting any clowns,” Susan said.
Andrew was so taken by surprise by the question, that he was very sure that he raised one eyebrow ala Mr. Spock. He had, in fact, heard of such a thing, but he didn’t trust the source even a tiny bit.
Susan’s shoulders slumped. “Guess not, hunh?”
“I-I-I didn’t say that I didn’t,” Andrew stuttered. “I heard something. But I don’t know about it first-hand. I mean, no one told me. Well, someone told me, of course. But they told me back in Sunnydale and there’s no record of whether it’s true or not. Honestly? I never thought to ask Xander, Buffy, or Willow if it was true. Actually, I forgot I even knew about it, until you asked me that is.”
Susan plopped into a chair across the table from Andrew as she regarded him with alarm. “You don’t want to tell me? How bad is this story?”
“Oh, it’s not bad. At least it’s not bad for Xander, Willow, or Buffy,” Andrew quickly assured her. “It’s just that Tucker — I mean someone who was in Xander’s class told me. He, unh, thought Willow and Xander were losers and thought Buffy was a bi–, I mean, not a nice person.”
“Wait. You didn’t go to school with them?” Susan asked with surprise.
“I was two years behind them in school, but everyone in Sunnydale went to the same schools from kindergarten to senior year in high school pretty much. Some kids peeled off for high school, but those were mostly the kids that lived on the edge of town — not that there was a lot of town in Sunnydale,” Andrew babbled. “I went to Sunnydale High, so I wasn’t one of the ones that went somewhere else. So it was like I was in the same class, except not really.”
Susan leaned forward and rested her elbows on the table. “So what did this guy tell you?”
Andrew uncomfortably fidgeted. “I honestly don’t know if it’s true. The person who told me was totally into lying about everything. I remember this one time he told our, I mean, his mother that he was fostering stray puppies from the shelter. Turns out he was raising hellhounds in the basement. I found out when he let me try on his prom tux and asked me to go down and feed the hellhounds while I was wearing it. I needed stitches after that.”
“Yeesh,” Susan shuddered.
“Sure you don’t want to hear about something else?” Andrew eagerly offered.
“I’d really like to know about the clown thing,” Susan said. “I, unh, like evil clown stories. Love them, even. I’m in a mood for an evil clown story.”
Andrew sighed. He never could say no to his girls. “Remember, I don’t know if this is true or not.”
“That’s okay,” Susan said as she rested a chin in her hand.
Andrew scrunched up his face with the effort to remember what Tucker said. He was immediately sorry. The thing he remembered most was Tucker’s mean little face laughing and laughing about it. Can you believe it? Tucker had said as he stole one of Andrew’s X-Men comics. Harris peed his pants over a clown! He started screaming like a little girl and everything!
“Andy?” Susan asked.
Andrew steeled himself. “Well, the way I heard it, there was this guy who was practicing his demon-summoning skills. You summon this demon, called a S’tograth, and it takes the shape of whatever you’re afraid of. It’s like a Bogart, you know, from the Harry Potter books. Except instead of just taking the shape of whatever you’re afraid of, it also feeds off the fear you feel. It doesn’t attack you, not physically anyway, but it scares you to death. And it never leaves you alone until you’re dead. “
“Why would he want to call up something like that and sic it on someone?” Susan asked.
“Because he was a big ol’ bully,” Andrew spat. “And because he wanted to be this big-time magic user. Buffy took him down in the end, though. Because of the hellhounds. That was so sweet when that happened. Unh, sweet for me. For a little bit. Then things got really bad because he went to jail, and there were all these lawyers, and there was this plea bargain where he went to this inpatient mental facility because no one believed him about the hellhounds and thought he was really training Rottweilers to attack people. I got kind of forgotten. Again. Because Tucker was supposed to be the smart one and the one who was going to go places and—”
“Andrew? Are you okay?” Susan looked alarmed.
Andrew hunched his shoulders. “Oh. Sorry about that.”
“Look, you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want,” Susan offered.
“No. It’s okay. The story’s kind of cool, even if there’s not much to it,” Andrew said as he shook his head.
He had to calm down and look at this like a Watcher. Tucker was still locked up and now actually and legitimately so crazy that they’d never let him go. Better, Tucker would never be able to find him even if he did somehow get out. Sunnydale didn’t even exist any more and Andrew didn’t keep in touch with the parental units after he fled for Me-hee-co to get away from Dark Willow. As far as he could see, he was safe. Tucker would never whistle up a demon and sic it on him. Besides, now he was better at summoning demons than Tucker ever was. If the worst happened, Tucker was in for a very nasty surprise. He hoped.
Telling this story would be a good thing, Andrew decided. It would show Tucker who was boss once and for all. Not that Tucker would know, but Andrew would and that was good enough.
Andrew cleared his throat. “Anyway, when this mean person called up the demon, he needed to test his control over it. So, he looked and looked all over for a target. Originally he was going to sic on Buffy, at least that’s what he said. He really didn’t like her. But he decided to go after this other kid instead. He was, like, this star of his little league team. He broke his arm. I think. At least that’s what I heard. And he was out for the rest of the season. Anyway, this person who told me the story thought it would be fun to mess with him.”
“Why pick on this random little leaguer?” Susan asked.
“Tuck— I mean this person knew the kid’s older cousin and didn’t like him. I think they were fighting over a girl,” Andrew said.
“This bastard sounds like he didn’t like too many people,” Susan remarked.
“The only people Tucker liked were people who were afraid of him,” Andrew heartily agreed.
Susan beat a devil’s tattoo on the tabletop. “And this Tucker was the guy who told you.”
Andrew suddenly discovered that his fingernails were the most fascinating things he’d seen all day. “Bragged about it.”
“How do you know that he wasn’t telling you this crap just to scare you?” Susan asked.
Andrew looked up, but instead of Terri-like doubt he saw that Susan seemed…well he wasn’t sure what she seemed like. Not doubtful. Something else. “I don’t,” Andrew admitted. “I only know what he told me and that’s it, but I remember there was a whole bunch of people experiencing waking nightmares around this time. Random bleed-over is a side-effect of the S’tograth, so it might be true-ish.”
Susan took a deep breath. “You don’t have to tell me this story. You can pick another story if you want.”
But Andrew’s mind was already made up. This was him vs. Tucker — mano a mano —and for once he was not only going to get the last word, but he was going to win. He reached across the table and patted her hand. “That’s very sweet, but you want an evil clown story, and evil clown story you shall have,” he declared.
Susan smiled at him and settled back. “Okay. Let’s hear it.”
“Well, like I said, this little league star broke his arm and couldn’t play any more. As a result, he spent a lot of time alone, because all his friends were still busy practicing and playing baseball,” Andrew continued. “That’s why this mean person decided that this kid would make a perfect test case.”
“The victim was isolated,” Susan murmured with a frown. “All alone, without any help. No one for miles and miles.”
Andrew was thrown by Susan’s aside. “I, unh, guess.”
Susan shook her head. “Sorry. Just thinking out loud.”
“So, this person sets the S’tograth on the kid and he can’t escape his worst fear,” Andrew said. “It followed him, day and night. He could see it peeking at him through the shower curtain, and from underneath his teacher’s desk, and lurking in the corner of his bedroom. It wouldn’t leave him alone.”
“So what was this kid’s fear?” Susan asked.
“Clowns,” Andrew answered.
“What about clowns?” LaTisha asked as she swung into the room.
“Andrew’s telling me a story about how Xander fought an evil clown,” Susan volunteered.
LaTisha frowned. “Shouldn’t you be hacking away at something? We really don’t have time for—”
“Until Faith calls in with more information or until Research has something for me, I’m just sitting there,” Susan interrupted. “So I asked Andy to tell me a story about evil clowns.”
“Evil clowns,” LaTisha said slowly. “Unh, why?”
“Susan likes evil clown stories,” Andrew volunteered.
LaTisha regarded Susan with a frown. “Since when?”
“Since always,” Susan stiffly said. “G’won, Andy. I want to hear more.”
“This ought to be good.” LaTisha took the seat in front of Susan’s computer. “I’ll keep an eye on the screen since you’re not doing it.”
“Clowns,” Susan insisted with a look at Andrew.
“Well, this kid was getting worse and worse. He couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t eat. He was afraid to go anywhere,” Andrew continued. “Worse, he couldn’t tell anyone. The demon — which was in the shape of an evil clown, remember — threatened to kill his whole family if he said anything. So, he suffered in silence.”
“So how did Xander find out about it?” Susan eagerly asked.
LaTisha frowned at the other Slayer.
“Because of Buffy,” Andrew answered. “See, back when there was only One Girl in All the World, you couldn’t just tell everyone you were a Slayer.”
“Still can’t,” LaTisha interjected.
“But back then you couldn’t tell anyone,” Andrew countered. “All you had was your Watcher and your friends. Sometimes if you got into trouble with the Man, they could cover for you. Sometimes they couldn’t.”
“What does this have to do with the evil clown?” Susan asked.
“Well, in the course of Slaying a demon, Buffy caused a leeeeeeeetle property damage,” Andrew explained.
“Only a little, hunh?” LaTisha snorted. “The way you talk sometimes, I’d think ‘a little property damage’ equals a five-alarm fire complete with action movie explosions and bits of demons raining down on anyone who gets even close to the scene.”
“Not always,” Andrew defensively said. “Sometimes buildings just fell down without the explosions. I remember this one time—”
“The clown, Andy,” Susan interrupted.
“Oh. Right. Back to that,” Andrew said. “Anyway, the only way Buffy could get out of trouble was to pay for the damages. Her mother paid, but Buffy had to pay her mother back for it and that meant she had to take on some babysitting jobs to earn the money.”
“Babysitting must’ve paid pretty well in Sunnydale if she thought that would work,” LaTisha dryly remarked.
“Oh, yeah. It totally did,” Andrew nodded, “because of the whole being out at night problem that Sunnydale had. Half the time the babysitters never showed up at all. Ever. I know because my parental units complained about it all the time, so when they got a good one they’d pay a lot of money to make sure she’d come back again.”
LaTisha paled. “When you say the babysitters never showed up at all—”
“Vampires,” Andrew said before she could finish the question.
LaTisha shook her head as Susan said, “Unh, with that kind of murder rate, you’d think someone would’ve noticed that something wasn’t right.”
“That’s Sunnydale,” Andrew nodded knowingly.
“And here I thought Harris was overstating his case,” LaTisha muttered.
“What are you talking about?” Susan asked.
“Nothing,” LaTisha waved a hand. “Just something he said in the car about getting into this whole deal out of a sense of self-preservation.”
“And out of loyalty and love for his friends, knowing that it could cost him his very life or, worse, his very soul,” Andrew said. “All without powers, or the ability to do magic, or even being a Watcher. He’s very extraordinary.”
Susan’s answering frown was troubled. “So how did he survive?”
Andrew leaned forward and said in a secretive voice, “Wit.”
“Well, he does seem to have that,” LaTisha allowed.
“Anyway, Buffy got a few babysitting jobs, even though she had a little bit of a reputation for being trouble,” Andrew continued. “She very quickly made enough money to pay her mother back, but she had her eye on these shoes, see? So she decided to take a few more babysitting jobs so she could buy those shoes.”
“And that’s when she was hired to take care of the little leaguer,” Susan said eagerly.
Andrew nodded with a grin. “Word got around that even though Buffy had a reputation, she always showed up on time and did a good job. Word-of-mouth led the tortured tot’s parents right to our Slayer’s door. Even though Buffy had a study date with Willow and Xander that night, she accepted on the condition that her friends could come over and help her study. Because of her reputation for being a babysitter of the highest caliber, the little one’s parents agreed.”
“So that’s how Xander got involved,” Susan said.
“It’s always something that yanks that boy in, isn’t it,” LaTisha remarked.
“Always,” Andrew agreed. “Anyway, Buffy got there just as the parents were tucking their son into bed.”
“How late were they leaving for their night out?” LaTisha asked. “I mean, seriously, were they sending the kid to bed right after dinner or something?”
“I only know what I heard,” Andrew said defensively. “My source told me that when Buffy got to the house, the kid was already in bed.”
“Talk about your easy babysitting jobs,” LaTisha said.
“There’s an evil clown involved, so definitely not an easy babysitting job,” Susan countered.
LaTisha gave Susan a questioning look.
“Well it did start off easy,” Andrew said. “The little one was tucked in nice and tight before the parents left. They told Buffy she could have anything out of the fridge, watch anything on the television, and that they’d be back by midnight. Once they let her know the rules, they left. Buffy had just finished popping the popcorn when Xander and Willow arrived for their date.”
“Threesome. Kinky,” LaTisha remarked.
Andrew glared at her. “It was for studying.”
LaTisha raised her hands with a grin. “I can’t be the only one thinking that in this room.”
“You are,” Susan said shortly.
LaTisha did a double take.
“Go on, Andy,” Susan said. “Get to the part with the clown.”
“There’s not that much to tell, to be honest,” Andrew said with a shrug. “Buffy, Willow, and Xander started studying and munching on popcorn. At some point, Xander needed to use the bathroom, so Buffy led him to it because it was on the second floor. She left and Xander, unh, Xander used it for whatever.”
“Say it Andy. To take a whiz,” LaTisha cheerfully said.
“I’m going to guess that Xander saw something on his way back to Buffy and Willow, right?” Susan prompted.
“Exactamundo,” Andrew crowed. “As he was walking by the door to the bedroom of our damsel — unh, little boy — in distress, Xander heard the sound of crying. Thinking that maybe the tot was having nightmares, he went up to the bedroom door and knocked on it. The crying stopped and he heard the sound of whispering. Then the boy told him to come in.”
“And that’s when he saw the demon,” Susan excitedly said.
Andrew waggled a hand. “Sort of. What he saw was something that looked like a really creepy clown statue standing in the corner of the boy’s room. ‘Freaksome,’ he said, because that’s how Xander talked back then. The boy asked, ‘Who are you? Are you my babysitter?’ So Xander had to explain that he wasn’t. He was just there visiting the babysitter. And the boy asked, ‘Are you her boyfriend?’ And Xander said he wasn’t. He was there for French homework. Or was it math? I bet it was math.”
“I vote that they were doing a hands-on project for biology,” LaTisha said.
Andrew frowned. “I doubt it. Willow’s afraid of frogs. And horses.”
LaTisha’s jaw dropped. “The world’s most powerful witch is afraid of frogs? You’re kidding, right?”
“Guys,” Susan said with irritation.
“It doesn’t really matter what kind of homework they were working on,” Andrew said as he waved his hands. “All that really matters is that Xander saw the demon, even though he didn’t know it at the time. Xander’s first instinct was to take it out of the room, because he thought it was really creepy, certainly too scary for a little boy! But the statue looked expensive — it looked that much like real-life — so he didn’t want to take a chance on moving it and breaking it. Instead, he asked the kid if he was all right.”
“Of course the kid said he was just fine.” LaTisha airily waved a hand. “And of course Xander didn’t believe him.”
“Of course he didn’t!” Andrew exclaimed. “Xander’s very perceptive. He’s totally the Shawn Spencer of the Slaying world, only without the whole claiming to be a psychic thing.”
“And without the detective agency and the nerdy sidekick,” Susan said.
“I think Andy wants to apply for the sidekick position,” LaTisha remarked.
“Being a sidekick is very hard work,” Andrew said in a serious tone. “You have to always be on the lookout for trouble-causing minions, and you have always be on alert so you can warn the Evil Overlord that the hero is coming to steal his red balls of power, and you have to be ready and willing to do things right, even if stuff doesn’t always go as planned because the hero’s too smart.”
Susan and LaTisha stared at him.
Andrew hunched his shoulders. “Or so I heard. Being a sidekick’s not a lot of fun, especially if you don’t get paid and never, ever get paid and wind up living broke and depressed in Me-hee-co after the Evil Overlord is killed.”
“Oooooookaaaaaaay,” LaTisha said slowly.
“Anyway, Xander noticed that when the kid told him he was fine, the boy looked over at the clown statue first,” Andew said. “That’s when he knew the tot was uncomfortable with the statue in his room. Xander stepped a little closer the boy and asked, ‘Are you sure?’ The little one nodded, but as he did that Xander noticed that he had been crying, on account of the fact that his eyes were rimmed with red and his face was blotchy. Right then and there, Xander decided to ask Buffy to move the clown statue out of the room, since he figured that her super-Slayer balance would be insurance against breaking it. So, he said good night to the boy and went straightaway to the kitchen where Buffy and Willow were studying.”
“How did they take the news about the clown?” Susan eagerly asked.
“Well, Xander told Buffy about the ugly clown statue and how it was freaking out the little one under her care. He then proposed that she move it, since he was afraid to break it,” Andrew said. “Before Buffy could answer, the phone rang. It was the boy’s parents calling to apologize. See? They forgot to give Buffy their cell phone number and they wanted to make sure she had it. After taking the number down, Buffy mentioned the clown statue in the boy’s room and how he seemed to be afraid of it. She then asked if she could move it out of the room or maybe throw a blanket over it or something.
“While Xander and Willow watched, Buffy’s face went totally white as she listened to whatever the parents said in response. All they heard her say was, ‘I’m on it’ before she hung up the phone. As soon as the phone was on the hook, she looked at Willow and Xander and said, ‘They just told me that he doesn’t have a clown statue.’”
“Cue the destruction of property,” LaTisha said smugly.
“And how,” Andrew agreed. “But first, they had to get the kid of out of his room. Buffy decided that she would confront the ‘clown statue.’ If it was just a person, she would knock him out and call the police, but if it was a demon it was Slay time. She told Xander and Willow to get the kid out of the house while she confronted whatever it was in the boy’s room.
“As soon as the plan was set, the three of them quietly went upstairs. Xander and Willow stood behind Buffy as she kicked down the door with a mighty Slayer kick. As she rushed into the room, Xander and Willow rushed to the bed. They grabbed the boy, who was screaming, ‘No! No! He’ll kill us all! He’ll kill us all!’ The tiny tot fought valiantly — remember, he thought he was fighting to keep his parents safe from the demon that was killing him — but Xander and Willow smothered him in blankets, wrapped him up tight, and carried him out of the room while Buffy confronted the demon. They were fleeing down the stairs with the loudly yelling child when they heard a roar and the sound of crashing. The last thing they heard as they ran out the front door was Buffy’s voice yelling, ‘I’m going to Slay you so hard, you’re going to be demon goo before you know you’re demon goo!’”
Susan frowned. “So Xander didn’t actually fight the clown.”
“Au contraire!” Andrew waved a finger. “Xander knocked the clown right out, thus allowing Buffy to Slay it with no fuss and no muss.”
“How did that happen?” Susan asked.
“Well, when Willow and Xander got outside with their precious package, Xander could hear the sounds of a fight going on inside the house,” Andrew said. “When he looked back, he saw flames shoot out of a second story window! He knew right then that he had to go back inside and help Buffy, otherwise she’d burn to death!”
“Wait a second,” LaTisha interrupted with a frown. “If Willow is this bad-ass witch, why didn’t she just cast a spell to keep the fire contained?”
“This was before Willow started her magical studies,” Andrew answered.
Susan and LaTisha exchanged a look.
“But, isn’t she the most powerful witch on the planet? Or at least one of them, anyway,” Susan asked. “There’s no way she could be that powerful if she started sometime in high school.”
“Willow has a gift,” Andrew answered.
Susan and LaTisha once more exchanged a look.
“I guess I can see it,” Susan said.
“I can’t,” LaTisha argued. “I don’t know all that much about magic, and God knows I don’t want to, but even I know magic takes work. You can’t even begin to convince me that anyone can get that powerful in something like, what? Ten years? No way.”
“Maybe the Hellmouth—” Susan began.
“I don’t see how it makes that much of a difference,” LaTisha argued.
“You’re be surprised,” Andrew said. “There are some spells I could do in Sunnydale without trying too hard, but outside of Sunnydale I can’t do them at all no matter how hard I try.”
“You’re a magic user,” LaTisha deadpanned.
“Well, I wasn’t much of a magic user per se. That was more Jonathan. I could do a certain kind of magic and that’s it. I wasn’t an all-around all-star like Willow,” Andrew quickly said. “I don’t do stuff like that any more. It, unh, it can lead to bad things. Sometimes. I don’t know what I can and can’t do any more because, well, no Hellmouth. Plus, I haven’t been practicing, so it’s safer if I don’t do it anymore because my control might slip and that would be bad. Very bad. If it was an emergency, yeah, I’d do it, but otherwise, no way José.”
LaTisha leaned back, but her eyes were set to Slayer mode and she was looking at Andrew in a way that he didn’t like.
He hunched his shoulders.
“I guess that explanation makes sense,” Susan said thoughtfully. “I’ve never been even close to a Hellmouth, so I’ll take your word for it.”
“You will?” LaTisha asked.
“Have you ever been near a Hellmouth?” Susan asked.
“I’ve read up on them,” LaTisha defensively said.
“So you don’t know either,” Susan said.
“And I hope neither one of you ever do,” Andrew sincerely said.
For whatever reason, that statement seemed to take the wind out of LaTisha’s sails. Her shoulders slumped as she regarded Andrew. “Is it really that bad?”
Andrew didn’t know how to answer that. It could be, but sometimes it was the best thing in the world. Maybe if Warren and Jonathan were still here and with him in Chicago, he might’ve had an answer. But they weren’t. It was just him. With no one to really talk to about it, he couldn’t even begin to figure out how he felt about all things Hellmouth-y.
Susan’s voice broke through his train of thought. “Andy? Are you still with us?”
“Sorry,” Andrew shrugged with embarrassment. “I think I was up to the house being on fire, right?”
“Yeah,” Susan answered.
“Well, Xander told Willow to stay with the boy and he ran into the house,” Andrew continued. “The air was thick with black smoke and the oxygen was fast disappearing. Even though Xander’s didn’t have Slayer lungs and was choking with the effort to breathe, he shouted Buffy’s name as he ran through the house. He didn’t see them on the first floor, so he turned to run up to the second. He got no more than three steps when out of nowhere, the clown attacked! It knocked him to the ground and then turned to run out of the house so it could go out after its true victim, the little boy!”
“Talk about your single-minded demon,” LaTisha remarked.
“Well, they’re not very smart,” Andrew admitted. “And they’re not easily distracted. Not even a Slayer will scare them away when they’ve been sent after someone. They’re totally focused on their victim.”
“So an easy Slay, then,” LaTisha sniffed.
“Not really. They’re very strong and very fast,” Andrew said. “And they’ll do anything, absolutely anything, to stay close to their victim, even if it means killing someone else.”
“If there are innocent people around while you’re fighting this thing, that could translate into big problems,” Susan said.
“Got me there, girlfriend,” LaTisha admitted. “Then again, I’d think that would hold true for any demon, not just this one.”
“That’s a point,” Susan agreed.
“Anyway, Xander saw that the demon was heading out the door, and he knew that he had to stop it. Somehow, he had to keep the demon from leaving until Buffy found him and started with the Slaying,” Andrew said. “‘Oh, no you don’t!’ Xander yelled as he hopped to his feet and went after the demon. He ran across the room and tackled it! The two of them fell to the ground. Since the demon was underneath Xander, Xander was able to get in a few punches. ‘Take that! And that, you big bully!’ Xander yelled as he kept punching and punching the evil clown in the face.”
“I thought you said these demons were really strong,” LaTisha said doubtfully.
“Oh, but they are! Xander had the element of surprise!” Andrew crowed.
“So who actually Slayed the demon? Xander? Or Buffy?” Susan asked.
“Buffy,” Andrew answered. “See, Xander was only able to get in a couple of punches before the demon threw him off. However, Xander delayed him just long enough for Buffy to find them in the smoke. Just as the demon was getting to its feet, Buffy hopped onto its back, put her hands on either side of its head, and twisted. The demon’s neck broke with a satisfying crack and disappeared in a puff of smoke.”
“What’s a little more smoke in the middle of a fire, right?” LaTisha jokingly asked.
“True,” Andrew nodded. “Buffy, of course, landed on her feet like a cat, raced over to Xander, helped him to his feet, and they ran out the door just as the fire engines were coming down the street.”
LaTisha rolled her eyes. “Remember what I said about things blowing up when Xander, Willow, and Buffy were around? I rest my case.”
“I’d like to know how they explained what happened,” Susan said.
Andrew shrugged. “I’m not sure. I heard from my very unreliable source that there was some kind of story that the man who was dressed as a clown and hiding in the terrorized tot’s bedroom set the fire while they were trying to escape with their precious package.”
“I’m guessing that Buffy’s babysitting career was over,” LaTisha dryly remarked.
“Sadly, yes,” Andrew said. “Buffy already had a bad reputation before her babysitting job, like I said. This just cemented it. And she never did earn enough money to buy those shoes she wanted so much.”
“All thanks to Xander Harris,” LaTisha said with a grin.