Home is Where the Hellmouth Is

Author: Koffeeman <koffeeman[at]comcast.net>

FEEDBACK: Love to hear more. It looks like I will have to add some more hooks to get some rises out of the old pros who read this stuff.

DISTRIBUTION: Ask and I will let you know.


CONTENT: Xander/?

RATING: PG for language, violence, odd thinking.

DISCLAIMER: I do not own Buffy and co. They belong to Joss Whedon, the misguided fool, and his production company, Mild Enema or whatever. All claims to the MIB or their employees belong to Barry Silverman or whomever own the rights by now.

SUMMARY: How do you keep your friends from finding out too much about things they shouldn't know about? And how do you keep secrets that may be too big to hide?

NOTE: Thanks for the warm response to my intro to the series. I hope to incorporate some of the ideas I was sent soon. As for where is this going, I will give you a hint. If I can't help you overtly, I will help you covertly.

Chapter 1

Xander bent down and squinted at a block wall. Giles had been quite fast about acquiring funds from the Council since their trip from good ole Sunnydale. Here it was three months later and Xander was inspecting the work of a set of contractors working on the site of the new school. While the rest of the gang had been patrolling, setting up wards and magical defenses, and contacting local snitches to set up intelligence gathering, Xander had been relegated to glorified handyman. The more things changed, the more they stayed the same.

Granted, being the de facto site foreman for the building of an entire campus of a yet unnamed preparatory school was a little more heavy than fixing a coffee table or putting a door back in its frame. He dealt with inspecting the work when it was done, finding contractors who would work around each other, and dealing with the daily crises of no power, wrong materials, and mis-read instructions. But in the end, he still felt like he had been pushed to the side, not trusted to do the important work that the others were forging into. He was still not trusted.

Only now, that didn't really upset him. More like disappointed him that he did not seem to have changed their minds. He knew what he could do so even if the others did not, he felt the chance to make a difference, to help had been given to him. Actually, more like given back.

Xander snapped his mind back to the task at hand and examined the wall. This wall was to be part of the new gym structure. The unique students that were to attend this school would put some serious work out in the gym and the building would need to take it. Granted, the wall was part of the locker room area but still, one couldn't be too careful. His new eye noticed a minute crack that seemed to run along the cement lines of the wall, almost too small to notice. A second check with the infrared filter showed the crack running almost the entire height of the wall.

"Mark, this wall is still flawed. It looks like your mason just slapped another coat of skim over it. I want it fixed right or he is off the project," Xander said as he stood up. The older man behind him nodded and made a note on the clipboard in his hand.

"I am surprised that you still have kept him on. But I will make the situation clear to him," the man replied as he finished his notes. He didn't know how Xander knew that wall was only patched. Heck, he didn't know how Xander knew so much about construction nor why everything had to be so precise on this job. In the end, though, the paycheck was good enough to basically wash over those thoughts. This customer paid for the work he wanted, not what he got.

Xander stood up and stretched his aching back. He glanced at his watch and noticed the late hour. Thinking only for a moment, he turned Mark.

"I'm calling it a day. You should have enough to keep an army busy for a week. We'll do this tomorrow and see where we stand. Now, go home. Your wife called this afternoon and asked when you looked like. She wanted to know what to look for if you ever decided to come home," he said, the half-smile slipping onto his face.

"Har de har ar, Harris. For you information, I don't have to go home. Alice went to Atlantic City for the week with a few of her friends. Nothing but beer, pizza, and football until Monday," Mark said as he grimaced at the joke.

"Well, take care," came the reply from the retreating figure. Xander liked Mark but found that he needed to get away from the big, burly construction guys by the end of the day. He hadn't seen any of the gang today and really wanted to see a familiar face. Pulling his key out of his pocket, he stopped in front of a bright red Ford F150 pickup. Looking around quickly, Xander put the key back in his pocket and opened the truck.

"Hello, Vanessa. Anything interesting?" Xander said as he slid into the cab of the truck.

"No. Nothing. Not even a decent police report," came the disembodied reply. "At this rate, I will turn to sand and you to carbon dust before we can get to business. Please tell me that this wasn't why you had me pulled from my nice, comfortable cruiser?" it continued.

"Vanessa, Vanessa. Until we get our feelers set up, we won't know when things are really going hot until they have exploded and end up in the real world. Right now, no news is good news. Wait a week or two and then we will see what really goes bump in the night," Xander said as he pushed in the face of the stereo to expose a small keyboard. He chuckled to himself as he opened up the onboard computer to check for his messages and to see any surveillance highlights from the day.

Vanessa was a very unique item. Zed had at first been a little hesitant but agreed that Xander would need some kind of a backup system to contact MiB in emergencies and that the system would need some kind of intricate controls to make sure it worked correctly. Xander's suggestion that the backup be Vanessa was the part he had a hard time with. Vanessa had come to MiB due to a seizure years earlier. A traveling drunk party had gotten lost and stopped in Houston to ask for directions. Given the drunks consisted of 4 Gorlan university students who were intoxicated on seawater, the locals had not really understood the question. They had seen the bi-pedal, crocodile-like Gorlans. The Gorlans had merely wanted directions to the Gulf of Mexico, while the locals wanted to call the Army to deal with the Martian Invasion. MiB had arrived on site just in time to see an overeager militia member blow the rear engine of the party cruiser apart.

After the dust had settled, the agents on the scene took the Gorlans into custody, blanked the memories of the five people who had been involved, and confiscated the damaged craft. The Gorlans had returned home, albeit with a massive set of hangovers and a fantastic story, but the cruiser had not left. It turned out to have been stolen from a holding yard on Gorlan. With a little research, the MiB technical department figured out why it had been in the holding yard and met Vanessa. She was an A.I. that had been illegally inserted into the cruiser's computer, apparently for the intent of smuggling her. Given the cost of the A.I. and the murky legal issue of sentience, MiB had left her in the vehicle, repaired the cruiser and kept her listed as an auxiliary agent. She would occasionally be the driver for visiting dignitaries or a surveillance driver for stakeouts Vanessa had soaked up the Earth's culture via conversations, radio and TV emissions, and more than a little Web addiction between assignments. As a result, the A.I. had grown a little odd.

Xander glanced over at the holographic display that appeared in the instrument cluster. Nothing, he thought. No demons in the sewers, no vampires in the graveyards, no unusual bodies at the morgue. Not even a heads up message from Zed.

"Vanessa, take us to the camp. Lets see what the gang is up to," he said absently as his mind sifted through a hunch.

"Right. Can I run over the witch this time?" Vanessa said as she pulled out of the parking spot and headed out of the worksite lot towards the temporary home of the Slayers.

"Look. I know Willow insulted you by calling you my mid-life crisis. But she didn't mean to insult you directly," Xander said as he put his hands on the wheel in front of him, mainly to keep anyone watching from suspecting that the truck was driving itself.

As a cover for Vanessa, Zed had taken a F150 and had completely rebuilt it with both MiB equipment and gear that Xander had specified. The special vehicle was then completely given over to Vanessa as her body. Many pieces of equipment were hidden inside the skin of a standard pickup. Everything from handheld weapons to tractor projectors to clean up kits for vampires and other uglies. The resulting vehicle was Xander's partner with capabilities both different and superior from the agent's, a personality that was definitely unique, and a sense of responsibility to Xander. The only thing that was a little off was that Vanessa still had a hard time adapting to the new concept of being a truck and therefore a little sensitive.

"Doesn't matter. The whole lot has caused you immense amounts of pain, frustration, and angst. So maybe I won't kill any of them, just bruise a little. But they deserve it," Vanessa snapped back. She was also protective of Xander to a fault and took the prevailing attitude towards Xander as an insult to them both. The fact that no one other than Xander and MiB knew she was even there didn't seem to matter in her mind.

A few minutes later, the truck rolled into the drive of the new Casa de Summers. Cars were parked or more accurately, abandoned all over the grass on either side of the asphalt. Xander shook his head as Vanessa sedately pulled up next to the garage and shut off. If her color didn't catch your eye, her picture perfect parking job did, he thought wryly. Vanessa watched Xander through her internal sensors and watched as the young man got out and walked to the side door of the rented mansion. She switched over to a passive mode to watch for any thing unusual in town and around the house and went back to the puzzle she had discovered.

She knew that Xander had requested that she be assigned to him. To say she was grateful was putting it lightly. Even though she had spent her time with MiB working as the intelligent driver of the cruiser, there had been a definite feeling that she was capable of so much more. The chance to work in the field had been a god send. And given that her partner was Xander, a pleasure. She and Xander had gotten along famously during his short training period after Xander had apologized to her directly for spilling a soft drink in the cruiser during a stakeout. Few beings treated her as more than a glorified cab and no one saw fit to treat her as a being herself. Except Xander. The parts she couldn't figure out were why her and why the exotic outfitting that she had been given in this undercover role. Even after MiB had equipped her cruiser for her escort duties, she had never carried as many lethal, dangerous, or unusual items as this pickup guise had. For an undercover assignment, this was overkill.

Xander walked into the kitchen of the old manor house. He hung his coat on the row of hooks next to the door and listened. Hearing little noise, he closed his natural eye and looked around the room with the replacement eye. The new prosthetic was incredible. Multiple forms of vision allowed him to see in the near infrared all the way to the ultraviolet. Using specialized miniaturization and bio-optical parts, his eye also allowed for a visual uplink to Vanessa, ultrasonic, X-ray and spectroscopic vision. And to make it even easier, the unit also had its own neural net that interfaced with his mind to identify and correlate what he saw. He used it alot on the job site to make sure the work was top quality. Now, he used it to recon his new home.

Two floors up, most of the new Slayers were sleeping before tonight's patrols. Buffy was up in her room, staring out the window. Buffy. She still seemed stunned at the cost of the victory over the First. While they had been fighting the evil, Buffy had been efficient, callous, and focused. But now that the fight was over, Buffy often was found off in a corner, reliving the past in her mind. She helped to patrol but did little else. Xander sighed and let his eye continue on. Faith was talking with Robin. The two of them had been getting a little more testy with each other each day for months now. Right now, they were back in the verbal argument mode. Not a bad one, he thought. They are keeping the volume down. Looking into the basement, he saw Willow and Giles in the lab, probably discussing the use of white magic in spells. Willow still had immense black magic power but very little knowledge of how to use it in a white way. Giles was slowly guiding her through the most basic concepts of light spells, wards, and passive spells to build her self-esteem and respect for her capabilities.

Satisfied that nothing was amiss, Xander walked to the back of the house to the workout room. One of the major reasons that the house had been picked for a temporary home while the school was built was the large gym. Xander changed his clothes into a Gi and silently whispered onto the mats at the center of the room. When the slayers were here, the sound of bodies hitting the floor, the grunts of concentrated focus, and the crack of practice weapons was almost deafening. Now, the room was completely quiet. MiB had done a fantastic job preparing this house. All it had taken was the planting of a story in the local's minds about an old martial arts teacher with a studio in his home and the addition of the gym to the old house had become ordinary. Xander planned to buy the house outright for himself once the school was set up. Zed had placed myriad devices and equipment throughout the house so it only made sense to keep it after the immediate housing need was over.

Xander stood on the mats and began to flow into a kata. The memories of the many beatings during the hand to hand combat training sessions at MiB were as fresh as ever but his body was still unused to the motions after the hiatus of their use. His hands and feet blocked, parried, re-directed and struck at imaginary foes in a ceaseless stream. As his body warmed up, the motions sped up until his limbs seemed to blur. Without a thought, Xander snapped a small tube out of his sleeve into his hand. His other hand pulled the end of the tube and revealed a thin wire between the two ends. A split second later, the wire whistled and sang around Xander in ever widening circles. The line seemed to cut the air above, in front, in back and to the sides. Then his mind was yanked back from the soothing nothing to reality.

The sound of a person clapping grabbed his attention. Careful not to show his hand, Xander continued in his motions, but began to reel in the meter long line. He spun into a flat kick and ended up facing his audience.

"Well, every time I see you in here, you do something new," Dawn said as she finished clapping and stepped into the room.

"I'm full of surprises. So are you ready to begin?" Xander said with a large smile. He quickly hid the tube in his sleeve and crossed his arms.

"What was that thing? And when do I learn to use it?" She said as she dumped her jacket and began to stretch.

"It is a training device. And when I think you are ready, I will let you know," Xander replied in a sage tone. Given he was Dawn's sensei, he would have to decide when she would learn which weapons. And the monomolecular line was definitely going to be awhile.

The two individuals bowed to each other and then took up ready positions. Dawn stepped into the loose limbed ready position of Aikido and waited. Xander went to the hunched over pounce position of the Tiger form. For the next hour, Xander attacked, advised, and complimented Dawn through her lessons. While the tone was relaxed, Xander kept the focus on the mantra he had learned from MiB. First, run away. Second, guide away. Third, put away. What was true with an 800 lb. Alien was also true about a superhuman strong vampire. Never try to take them out unless no other choices were offered. Always let their natural actions do damage to themselves. So he had been teaching Dawn for almost a month to redirect attacks, seek patterns in attacks, and generally flow around an attacker instead of facing off against them.

Dawn had come to him after a few weeks in Cleveland to ask for help with sparring. She had been lurking during the training sessions that Buffy and Faith held with the new Slayers but was not allowed to participate. Xander had listened as Dawn had explained her desire to not feel so helpless again as when the First was besieging them and agree to help her out. One look at the sloppy style, massive defensive holes, and inappropriate approach had convinced Xander to go from sparring with her to training her. A slayer might be able to go toe to toe with a demon but Dawn needed a different approach. So was born the late afternoon training sessions by master Xander.

Afterwards, Xander sat at one of the benches and let his heart come to a relaxed beat. Dawn was sprawled on the mats, sweat running off her body as she also tried to return to a normal state. She remembered how Xander had gone off to that camp after high school to see if he could qualify for that military appointment. Too bad that the results of the contest there had not gone his way. But at least the time was well spent. Apparently, seeing how effective a normal person could be had encouraged him to study many forms of unarmed combat afterwards. He didn't seek out fights so didn't get to use them very much, especially when Buffy and Faith were involved. The only time she didn't remember him training had been right after the eye incident. Thank God that maniac hadn't caused any permanent damage. Only a few weeks with an eyepatch and it was as good as new. She rolled over and looked at Xander. Now if only she could find a way to at least beat up on him for just a fraction of what he was doing to her, and the world would be right. A groan escaped her lips and she rolled back to try and not die on the floor.

Outside of the house, a lone figure walked towards a car parked across the street. The figure turned around and looked at the imposing building and then at the cars parked on its grounds. A smile appeared on its face and just for a moment, the eyes of the individual appeared to be golden. The car door opened and a moment later the vehicle slowly pulled away from the curb.

Vanessa noted the strange behavior and logged it for review. Could just be an admirer of old houses, she pondered.

"Oh well, Xander said to just sit and wait. So here I wait," Vanessa mumbled out loud in the truck.

Miles away, the car pulled into the open door of a warehouse in the older industrial part of the city. As soon as it had cleared the door, a heavy metal rollup door slid to the ground. The car pulled to a stop and the figure inside got out. In the shadows cast by the minimal lighting of the windows and lamps, something moved.

"Well, Minerva. Did you find them?" a slow, lisping voice echoed off the wall of the warehouse.

"Yes, I did. The arrogant fools are living in a house only a few miles from their new 'school'. The wards on the place are fine to stop any moronic vampire who wants to feed but are not strong enough to even make us itch. They seem to only go out for patrols after late night so we can get them easily during dusk. And the best part is that they don't even know we exist," the figure replied as the long coat it was wearing was tossed aside. Underneath, a woman dressed in a skintight leather jumpsuit emerged. Her jet black hair was matched by her black eyes. The only thing that marred her stark beauty was the tattoo of a dragon that seemed to be eating her left eye, again in black. She stepped out of the light and into the presence of another.

The other individual was large. Very large. His head seemed to cap a mountain that filled the couch he was sitting on. The mountain stood up and the figure spoke.

"Do not be so arrogant as to think of this as easy or simple," it said. "While the slayers are disorganized and tired, it is the best time to destroy them. We can't allow the knowledge of the slayer line to continue even if the line itself is now worldwide. If we kill these…pests, the slayers will be nothing more than an irritation. And we can then begin our plans to expand. But to do that, we must destroy that house and all in it. These slayers are lucky, knowledgable, and too stubborn to know when to quit. So they will fight even if they should escape and fight another day."

"Yes, Magnus. I know. We have discussed this since the day of the Closing. But being too cautious could be just as deadly," Minerva said as she sauntered over to table next to the couch.

She stopped and looked back at the large man.

"Care for a quick snack?" she asked. Magnus sighed and shook his head in the negative.

"Oh well. Not a bad thing. I think this is going bad. We should have put it in the fridge," she said absently as she looked down. She smiled and allowed the demon inside of her to come out. Her vamp face rippled out and she licked her lips. The young girl, naked and tied to the table, whimpered. And then the sound of her screaming filled the dark building as Minerva finished her snack.