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Hunter

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Summary: During Buffy's absence during the summer before senior year, Xander realizes that without a Vampire Slayer, they are rightfully and truly doomed. Luckily, he has a plan... X/F

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Multiple Crossings > Xander-Centered > Pairing: FaithPsyckosamaFR181083,5406225393,60711 Apr 064 Aug 08No

Chapter 1: Desperate Times…

Really, I don't know why we bother with the disclaimers, but here we go... All characters and situations belong to their respective owners. If they should happen to take offence to this piece of fiction, I shall edit as necessary, or if need be, cease and desist like a good little slave to our almighty corporate masters. Amen.

Hunter
Chapter 1: Desperate Times…
By PsyckoSama (Psyckosama@gmail.com)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SamasAsylum/


Summer 1998. Sunnydale, California.

"This is so not working," Xander muttered to no one in particular as Willow and Oz helped him into one of the library's heavy wooden chairs.

"What isn't working?" Willow asked her best-friend.

Oz glanced over; making sure his fellow Scoob was ok.

"This, what we're doing…" he replied with a grimace, "Hunting Vampires without a tank."

Willow looked over to her friend and bit her lip. "We've been doing okay so far…"

"So far." Oz remarked casually.

Willow glanced at her boyfriend. "Yeah… we might not be as effective as, you know… with a Slayer, but we get the job done."

Xander glanced at her and shook his head. "Last Monday, Cordy dislocated her right shoulder. Two weeks ago, I cracked my head against a headstone, and tonight, I twisted my ankle. Now, Cor is still favoring her left arm, I've been getting headaches, and this leg is going to be bothering me for weeks…"

"Its not like Buffy never got wounded," Willow paused for a moment, then happily babbled on rapidly, adding, "of course Buffy has super fast healing and strength and all that other Slayer stuff. I wish she was here so I didn't have to watch all my friends get hurt. Her running off is really irresponsible and…"

"Hey, I'm trying to make a point here. No Willow babble," Xander interrupted with a huge grin and false tone of irritation.

The beautiful redhead flushed in embarrassment and bowed her head with a smile, as Oz gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze.

"We're not getting any stronger, if anything we're getting weaker because we don't have any time to recover… and this is against fledglings. What happens if we run across an entire…?" Xander paused. "What the hell do you call a bunch of Vampires anyways? A gang?"

Willow blinked. "A pack?"

"A murder." Oz stated in what passed as amusement for him.

"Right," Xander stated, " What happens if we run across an entire murder of Vampires, or what if Spike comes back to town, or what if some big bad shows up to end the world?"

"We're sunk," Oz remarked.

"Xander, this just isn't like you," Willow frowned. "You're supposed to be all witty and funny, not all glum and gloomy."

Xander grinned, "Hey, I'm not sayin' we should give up or anything, but we DO need a better plan."

Oz pulled up a chair and reversed it, sitting down with his arms crossed on the back. "So, got one?"

Xander nodded. "Yeah… but first, I need to know how much money you guys have, and if you'd be willing to make an investment…"

"You're not thinking guns are you?" Willow thought out loud, with a hint of unease.

Xander shook his head, "Thought about it, but gunfire might get the cops drug into this and I'm really not in the mood for any illegal use of firearms charges… Though, if this doesn't work then it’s a solid Plan B."

"And what's plan A?" Willow asked.

"If I tell you, you have to promise me that you won't tell Giles about this idea…"

"Why not?" asked Willow with an indignant huff.

Xander glanced across the room to where the middle-aged Watcher was looking though some obscure tome on demonology.

"Lets just say that I don't think he'll like the idea…"

------------- -------------

WHAM! WHAM! WHAM!

"What the bloody hell!" Ethan Rayne roared as the incessant pounding on his door tore the chaos mage from his beauty sleep. With a sneer, the British born sorcerer stood up and stepped into his fuzzy slippers.

He had no idea who the hell wanted him so late, and frankly, he could not care less… whom ever it was, he was going to do something unpleasant to if only to make the point that the sleep of chaos mages, much like that of wizards, was something no one with an ounce of wisdom disturbed without a damn good reason.

Storming through his cluttered apartment, he all but ripped his door open, ready to confront the prat who had the gall to wake him at three in the bloody morning!

"What the bloody hell do you…" Ethan trailed off as he saw three teens, three teens whom he recognized as being part of Ripper's little crew, standing in the door way. His feelings of trepidation only increased when he saw that one of them, the kid he'd sold that plastic gun to during his Halloween escapade the previous year, was standing there holding a rather intimidating looking Battle Axe, and if his stance was anything to go by, was very familiar with it's use.

"We need to talk," Xander growled.

Rayne gulped and defensively raised his hands stepping back, not wanting to aggravate the nice young man with the sharp pointy weaponry.

Xander stepped into the room and Willow and the taciturn young man whose name he'd never managed to catch followed him, the silent young man closing the door behind him.

"I don't know why you're here," Ethan stammered, "But I've been keeping my nose clean, so what ever it is you're here for, I am not responsible… and who is your friend? I don't recognize him"

Xander and the others shared a long glance, and the red-head gave her friend a nod.

"That’s Oz, and we're here because we need you to cast a spell for us."

Rayne blinked, and slowly his sense of impending doom was replaced with a wicked amusement. Ripper would have never have sent them here, nor would he have ever asked him to do anything. The crazy kids must be here on their own, and knowing Sunnydale, the potential for chaos could be staggering…

"What kind of spell?" he asked with an malicious delight in his eye. "And more importantly, what's in it for me."

The three looked at each other and emptied their pockets onto the table. Taking a moment, Ethan looked through the scattered collection of bonds, bills, and other assorted valuables. All in all he guessed that he was looking at a couple of grand.

"Seems a bit low," Ethan thought out loud.

"If its not enough then I bet we can figure something out," Xander replied.

"Oh, I didn't say I wouldn't take it, just that it’s a bit on the low side…" Ethan stated, "So what is this spell you want me to do…"

"We need a Slayer substitute."

Ethan's mouth fell agape in surprise. "That is a VERY tall order you're asking me, and while it sounds like fun," he smirked, "a man does have to eat…"

"Actually," Willow cut in, "We've been doing some of our own research that might help out."

"Really," the chaos mage asked with a highly amused and somewhat condescending smile.

Willow nodded and placed a notebook on the table. Without comment, Ethan snatched it up and began to page through it. Needless to say, he was pleasantly surprised. It seems that the young lady was quite the budding witch, and while some of her theories were unpolished, with refinement, they were all worthy of consideration. From the contents what was especially fascinating though, was the list of the previous possessions and modifications the unlucky sod had gone though.

Details of the primal empowerment ritual which had apparently granted the young man physical attributes equal to if not superior to that of the Slayer. Information on the genetic modifications which had given him superhuman stamina and breath control, but with the unfortunate risk of turning him into some kind of fish demon. What was most fascinating though was her analysis of the spell he'd cast that last Halloween and its lingering side effects.

He'd originally cast it just to stir up some chaos… turn people into their costumes, let them run wild, then have them wake up the next day after a night of madness. He had not expected nor intended for the memories of the costume to remain with the person, but according to this, the young man's soldier persona had left behind a great deal… enough for him to break into a military base and steal an anti-tank weapon to be used on a demon that could be harmed by no weapon forged! Now THAT was brilliant!

Ethan could only shudder with glee as he attempted to figure out how it happened. It must have been Ripper's destruction of the bust of Janus. Instead of the spell ending naturally at dawn, it had been prematurely interrupted, forcing the spirit called by the spell to lose control of their hosts rather then dispelling them as had been intended.

In fact, it gave him some ideas for future consideration, but he was on the job, and as he said, a man needed to eat, so back to business…

"Very well done… I must say, this offers me a an extremely solid foundation to work with, as it is much easier to work with what is already there than it is to come up with something new." Ethan stated with a smile, "So I take it that the young man is to be the substitute Slayer?"

"Yeah," Xander replied, "Willow here is not really into the kicky-punchy bit and Oz is a musician."

Ethan waited for a moment, but no further explanation as to why a musician wouldn’t make an acceptable subject seemed to be forthcoming.

"I'll do it, but I need three things in return…"

"And those would be?" Xander asked with some frustration, tapping on the haft of his axe to express his displeasure.

"First," Ethan stated, ignoring Xander's aggravation, "once the spell is cast, I get to stick around. See how my boy performs."

"I'm not your boy!" Xander growled.

"Fine," Ethan chirped, "If that is the way you feel, then please do not allow the door to strike you in the arse on the way out."

"Fine..." Xander conceded, "Giles is going to freak."

Rayne smirked. That was half the fun.

"What else?" Xander asked with a half-hearted sigh.

"The girl assists me in developing the spell. Who knows she might learn something…"

"Deal!" Willow exclaimed with a gleeful smile.

Both Xander and Oz glanced over to Willow with looks of concern on their faces.

Rayne grinned. He'd so enjoy teaching one of Ripper's little pets the wonder's of chaos... Best she learn something of substance before she fell in with that tree-hugging, holier than thou Wicca crowd.

"And lastly, once this spell is developed, it will require physical components…."

Glancing down at the list, he added, "In fact, I can think of three items that will be useful right now."

"And what would those be, and why?" Willow cut in with a smile.

"Ah yes… To the point. I like that in a woman. And since you asked, I shall explain. What we need are items that have a strong connection to the previous spells and modifications to serve as foci during the casting spell. First, I need the plastic rifle I sold to your friend on Halloween for its connection to the Soldier spirit."

Xander nodded. "I still have it, though its in the basement so finding it will take some digging."

"Second, I will need something related to the fish-man transformation. A fragment of the shed skin of one of the members who completed the transformation would work, though a pure sample of the metamorphic agent would be better."

Xander winced. "Yeah… you're not going to turn me into a fish, are you?"

"Of course not…" Ethan gasped in faux indignation, "I am a professional and expert in my field. Why, I am almost offended by your lack of faith in my abilities…"

"Sorry… geeze…" Xander replied, causing Ethan to smirk at his annoyance.

"Good… the last component I will need is something from the Hyenas who were the focus of the primal empowerment ritual. Fur would do…"

"Wait, we're going to have to get fur from the Zoo Hyenas?" Xander exclaimed.

"Yes, and it cannot be any Hyena it must be one of the ones who was the focus of the original spell."

Willow nodded, "That’s not a problem because they haven't moved any of them."

Oz looked at his girlfriend questioningly.

"I like the Zoo…" she informed him with a blush.

Oz nodded. "Animals are cool."

"Now that’s all over, I'll begin work tomorrow… now, if you all will excuse me… its three in the morning, get out of my house, and don't come back until you have the spell components." He paused and looked to Willow. "Except for you… Now, I'm going back to bed…"

------------- -------------

The next morning Xander was awoken from his slumber by a bellowing cry from downstairs.

"Hey, Boy," Tony Harris growled out, "That redhead you're always hangin' around and her mute boyfriend are here. So get out of your fuckin' bed, and answer the goddamn damned door, you dumb shit!"

With a growl, Xander kicked off his covers and jumped out of bed, pausing only to pull on a shirt and pants before heading towards the steps stopping only to squeeze to the side as his ignorant hulk of a sperm-donor stormed past.

"Get out of my way, boy."

Xander could only sigh once his father had passed. Every night he prayed that he would wake up one morning and find out he was adopted.

Continuing down the steps, Xander walked to his friends who were waiting for him.

"I'm sorry you had to hear that…"

"Its not your fault, Xander," Willow replied, her face as red as her hair. "You are too good for this…"

"If you say so, Wills," Xander replied, "So, why are you here?"

"I though we'd help you find that rifle and then talk about how we're going to get the other components..."

Xander paused, and nodded, "Cool, basement mining it is then…"

With a jerk of his head, Xander lead his friends into his house and quickly began to walk towards the kitchen door. He just hoped that they would not run into his mother on the way.

As he opened the door, he bit down a curse… sitting at the table with a Egg Mc Muffin in one hand, and a glass of bourbon in the other, was his mother.

" G'mornin' Alexander..." Jessica Harris happily slurred, as she looked up from her breakfast with a slightly glazed over stare and a drunken smile.

"Hi mom..." Xander winced.

"Can I help you with somethin' honey," she warmly babbled.

"Ah, no mom," he quickly replied, "We're just looking for something in the basement."

"Okey-dokey," she replied and she poured herself another glass of booze. "Have fun..."

With that said and done with, Xander almost tore the door to his basement off its hinges, directing his friends to walk down. Getting the message, Oz and Willow walked down the steps with with Xander bringing up the rear

Oz glanced back. "She always like that?"

Xander paused for a moment. "Yeah."

"Look like she's starting early," Willow sadly remarked.

Xander paused for a moment, before begrudgingly answering his friend. "Yesterday was pay day. They just stocked up. She's not going to be sober 'till at least Monday."

Oz winced and placed his hand on Xander's shoulder. "Harsh, man. Harsh."

"Thanks," Xander replied.

"Any time." Oz replied they as he entered the basement.

The room was dank and poorly lit. At one side of the room was a work bench. On the other was a old sofa, and in the back lay a massive pile of boxes that seems to have been recently disturbed.

"Crap," was all Xander thought to say upon seeing the newly arranged clutter.

"What's wrong, Xander?" Willow asked in confusion.

"Seems like my mom tried to organize the basement again..."

"Isn't that a good thing?" Willow asked.

"Not really," Xander replied with a deep sigh, "Occasionally when she gets REALLY blitzed, she gets the idea in her head to clean up the basement. She usually comes down, rearranges all the boxes, and passes out on the sofa... the rifle could be anywhere."

"Then we better start digging!" Willow chirped before pulling a box off of the pile.

Oz glanced to Xander, who shared a shrug with his silent friend and began digging.

Looking thorough his box, Xander was somewhat disappointed. All it seemed to be was a bunch of old letters and post cards.

Absently reading the cover of one out he muttered, "Camp Crystal Lake: Wish You Where Here."

"Xander!" Willow squealed out mere moments later, "Take a look at this!"

Xander absently tossed the post card back into the box, and looked over to see what Willow had found. He could not help but smile as he found his friend squeezing the life out of a well worn redheaded doll dressed in a rainbow shirt and overalls.

"Hey, its my old Good Guy doll!"

"Cool," Oz remarked, "I had one of those too."

Xander smiled. "What name did yours have?"

"Billy, how about yours", replied the guitarist.

Willow smiled and pulled the string on the doll's back.

"Hi, I'm Chucky!" the doll stated in a garbled mechanical voice.

"I remember when you got this..." Willow stated with a smile.

"Yeah, Jesse gave it to me for my sixth birthday..."

For a moment, the two old friends went totally silent, sadly remembering the loss of the last member of their original trio.

For a moment, Xander could remember that birthday as if it were yesterday. Jesse had known that Xander wanted a Good Guy doll more than anything, and Jess knew that Xander's parents were not likely to get him one, so Jesse badgered his own parents endlessly until they capitulated and bought Xander one for his birthday. His sorrow and loss slowly transformed to rage as he remembered that was the day he and Jesse swore to be best friends for life... blood brothers. His fists clenched tightly and his teeth began to grind as, for a moment, his vision clouded over with a red film of rage.

He could not wait until this spell was cast, until he was equal to a Slayer, so he could rip those undead sons of bitches apart with his bare hands. 'For you, brother'.

"Xander?"

Xander looked up, right into the concerned eyes of his other childhood best friend. The love and concern in her eyes was like a sedative, as he felt the rage fade from his mind.

"I miss him too."

"Yeah," Xander replied.

With a thin smile, Oz placed his hand on his girlfriend's shoulder. Looking to her boyfriend, Willow smiled and delicately placed the doll to the side, before pulling down another box through which to sort.

"For you, brother," Xander muttered to himself before picking up another box and continuing his search.

Xander growled as they continued to dig though box after box of useless junk... everything from Christmas ornaments to his old man's stupid shot glass collection.

"Don's Place. Springwood, Ohio." Xander deadpanned and he let the glass drop back into the box with the others before unceremoniously kicking the collection to the side. "Only Tony..."

"Hey, Xander?" Oz spoke up.

"Yeah, Oz man?"

"What do you make of this..."

Oz handed him a yellowed old folder. Looking inside he could only make out three things. First, they were old. Second, they were French. And third, they were signed by some guy named Phillip LeMarchand.

"Hey Wills... You took French, right?"

"Yep, what do you need?"

Willow took the papers and gave them a quick once over. " La Configeration de Lamentation... this is strange. Its awfully complex... looks like the instructions for a Puzzle box or a spell, maybe both..."

Xander shrugged. "Put it to the side, we'll show them to G-man once we're done here."

Willow nodded. "Good idea."

"Yeah, he'd probably know what they are," Xander remarked as he dragged a out large crate.

Opening the crate, Xander paused in surprise. The chest was full of the memories of a man whom he had never known. His grandfather.

Looking through the chest, he could not help but feel a connection to his deceased predecessor.

"What's that?" Willow asked.

"My grandfather's war chest," Xander replied.

"Oh, I didn't know that your grandfather fought in the war..."

Xander pulled out the medal plaque and smiled. "Neither did I..."

Looking at it, he began to identify the medals. "Two Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars, Silver Star, Good Conduct medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign medal, World War II Victory Medal..."

"Wow, how do you know all that?" Willow asked her friend in awe.

Xander grinned. "Soldier guy."

Placing the plaque back into the box he continued to dig around, carefully sorting through the letters and neatly folded old uniforms.

"Here, hold this," Xander stated as he plopped his grandpa's helmet onto Willow's head.

"Hey," Willow laughed.

"Looks good," Oz remarked.

Going back to sorting through his Grandfather's stuff, Xander grinned.

"Paydirt."

"Oh?" Willow asked.

"Now these'll be useful..."

Calmly, Xander drew two items from the box. The first was a Japanese officer's sword. The second though, drew dark looked from Willow: a Colt M1911 Handgun.

"A gun Xander?" Willow asked in a vexed tone.

Xander nodded pulling back the Slide and looking over the gun. "Still in good condition. Just needs to be cleaned."

"Are you sure that’s a good idea?" Willow asked her friend.

"Not really, but neither is hunting Vampires..."

Willow scowled, and still not convinced, she added, "You know you can't Kill Vampires with a gun, right..."

Xander grinned viciously. "Yeah, but I bet it sure stings like crazy."

"Good point," Oz remarked, seemingly a little put off by Xander's over-familiarity with firearms.

That said, he tucked the gun back in its holster and placed it to the side, turning his attention to the sword. Carefully, he drew the Katana and looked it over. "Standard Army Officer's fixtures... not sure if the blade is a traditional Katana or mass produced though. Soldier Guy is good with guns, not so hot with swords. I guess I'll show it to G-man. Maybe he be able to figure it out..."

Gently he closed the chest and placed it to the side, silently swearing to his departed grandfather that he'd put his weapons to good use in his own war with the undead.

Moments later, he pulled down another box and smirked, seeing the back end of a cheap plastic replica M16A1.

"Found it!"

"Great," Willow replied.

Xander nodded and withdrew the toy weapon, knocking a photograph out of the box in the process.

Oz immediately bent over and picked the framed picture up, glancing at it, then handing it to Xander.

"Thanks," Xander stated. "I've been wondering where they stuck this."

"Who's the guy?" Oz asked

"Oh, that’s my Uncle Ash..."

------------- -------------

"Hey, G-man!" Xander exclaimed as the youths entered the Sunnydale High school library an hour later. Willow and Oz both sat down at a table while Xander began to walk over to the British Watcher.

Looking up from his studies, Giles sighed and responded, "Yes, Xander?"

"I need you to look at something for me..."

Giles stood up, being sure to mark where he was, and carefully placed his chair back under the table. Looking at the young man, he noted that he was caring a Japanese sword. While Xander with a weapon was nothing new, the young man usually wielded weapons from Giles's own collection, and Giles tended to favor occidental over oriental arms.

"Interesting weapon," Giles remarked, "May I see it?"

Xander nodded. "Sure, I was going to ask you if you knew if it’s a real Katana or just some mass production piece of junk."

"Where did you acquire it?"

"Grandfather fought in the Pacific. War trophy."

"I see..." Giles stated as he drew the blade.

After giving the weapon a good once over and a solid test swing, Giles frowned and placed it back into its scabbard.

"Honestly, Xander, I am not sure. I must admit that my knowledge of oriental arms tend to be somewhat lacking. Though I could send the weapon to my friend Duncan. He is an expert in these matters and would be able to properly identify it, if you'd like."

"Thanks G-man," Xander replied.

Giles nodded and placed the blade on the table.

"It there anything else you need."

"Yeah, do you speak French?"

"Fluently," Giles replied.

"Cool. What do you make of these?" Xander said as he handed him the odd French instructions.

"Lets see," Giles though out loud and he adjusted his glasses and began to read.

He got as far as the title and the name of the creator.

"Oh my god!" Giles exclaimed at the top of his lungs, his usual veneer of implacability shattering as the middle-aged Englishman stood bug eyed and agape, looking at the document with revulsion and horror.

Surprised by the outburst, Oz and Willow walked over to he table to see what was going on.

Taking a deep breath to steel himself, Giles stiffly placed the document on the table, and walked over to the metal trash can picking it up in one arm. He calmly continued to his desk, from which he removed a bottle of Old English Gin, a glass, and a Zippo. Showing no expression, he poured himself a rather large drink, which he downed like water. Doing an almost mechanical about face, he slammed the trash can onto the table and grabbed the instructions. Not missing a beat, tore them apart, dumping them into the can. Then he poured the stiff smelling gin onto them, and lit a scrap of paper on fire, and dropped it into the bin, setting the entire arrangement alight.

"Giles?" Willow asked, "Was that necessary?"

"Yes!" snapped the Watcher.

Willow winced.

"That bad?" Xander asked giving the Watcher a steady look

"No, I'd say it was actually quite a bit worse," Giles responded in all truthfulness.

"So, what was it?"

"If any of you wish to know more, I implore you to either ask later or look up the 'Lament Configuration' or 'LeMarchand's Boxes' in my copy of 'Bolinger's Encyclopedia of the Occult'. Now if you excuse me, I am going to have another drink and lie down."

Casting a look of relief at the dimming fire, Giles turned about, snatching the bottle as he walked away intent on becoming comfortably numb.

Almost immediately, Willow walked over to one of the shelves and removed the book Giles had mentioned.

"So, what now?" she asked.

Xander pulled up a seat, and glanced over to her. "Well we need to figure out how to get the other two spell components..."

"I know," Willow replied as she opened the book, "Its just that I'm not sure how to do it..."

"Well, I know that Buffy and Giles got rid of all the fish-transformation-stuff, so we're going to have to get some skin samples. Good thing that Cameron's parents buried him..." Xander paused, "Or at least the parts that didn't go all fishy."

"You sure?" Oz asked.

"Yeah, I was part of the Swim Team, so I got invited to the funeral with everyone else. His mom spent half the time crying that they had so little left to bury," he sighed, "If they only knew."

Oz nodded. "Cool. I'll get the shovels."

Xander chuckled and shook his head. "Only is Sunnydale is grave robbing one of those things that goes without saying..."

"Oh my god!" Willow interrupted in horror.

Oz glanced over, his eyebrow raised Spock style, while Xander asked, "What's up Wills?"

"Those plans were for a really nasty evil puzzle box made by an evil French toymaker during the 18th century from murdered people's bones and stuff that opens a gateway to another reality so nasty Cenobite Demons can come and drag your soul to a hell dimension where you'll suffer constant sadomasochistic tortures and pleasures for the rest of eternity unless you're turned into one of them first!"

Willow gasped and began to catch her breath.

"Wow," Oz remarked, "Nasty."

"Damn," Xander winced, "How the hell did that get in my basement?"

Oz glanced over to his fellow Scooby, and calmly stated, "We're on a Hellmouth, man."

Xander blinked. "Yeah, stupid question... so, what do we do about the Hyenas?"

Oz smiled. "I have an idea."

Willow smiled. "Really?"

He nodded. "Sneak in, tranq 'em, shave 'em."

Xander nodded, "We need to work out the details, but, it’s a plan..."

------------- -------------

It was an average night in Sunnydale California. The air was dry and warm, the stars twinkled in the clear skies like a million pin-pricks on a black light blackened field, and even from over a hundred miles distance, the luminescence of the City of Angels could be seen. In the middle of the graveyard, there was a flurry of activity and two young men tirelessly dug into a grave while a mousey young woman stood vigil with a crossbow in hand. In any other town, this would be highly odd, and highly disturbing. In Sunnydale, it was Saturday Night.

"You know," Xander remarked as he threw a shovel full of packed Earth over his shoulder, "Around here people usually spend their time trying to get out of graves and not into them."

Oz smirked and kept digging.

Xander continued to dig, mechanically casting dirt out of the grave, before wiping his brow in discomfort.

"Man, I'm getting beat."

"Almost there, man," Oz replied.

"Yeah, I know," Xander stated, "Just… Hey Willow, could you hand me a water bottle?"

"Sure," replied the young witch as she handed a water squeeze bottle down to Xander.

With a smile, Xander broke the seal and drank deeply of the cool refreshing liquid.

Smiling at her friend, Willow turned back around, coming face to face with yellow eyes and sharp teeth.

"Argh!" she screamed out as she fired her crossbow at point blank range, striking the vampire in the shoulder.

"You bitch!" exclaimed the bloodsucker as he backhanded her into the grave.

"Ah crap," growled Xander as he pulled a stake out of his shirt.

The vampire, who was dressed in a screaming orange shirt with a collar large enough to allow for independent flight, grinned. "You know, its mighty convenient for you kids to dig your own grave... I'll be saving the girl for desert, so which of you boys would like to be the appetizer and which would like to be the main course?"

"Xander," Oz calmly stated, "Give me your water bottle."

"What?"

"Give it to me."

Xander blinked and handed his water to Oz.

Taking a deep breath, Oz made the sign of the cross over the bottle, muttering, "I bless thee in the name of the lord."

The vampire scoffed. "What kid, you think you're some kind of holy man?"

"Yes, actually," Oz stated as he squeezed the full bottle, sending a stream of water directly into the Vampire's face.

The undead creature screamed in utter agony as the consecrated water burned at its flesh. Oz then squeezed again, soaking the Vampire's pants around the groin. This has the side effect of bringing the vampire's screams up in pitch from a rich tenor to a high soprano, falling over in pain.

Taking the advantage, Xander reached up and grabbed the demon by one of its oversized collars, pulling it down, allowing him to plant his stake though its heart, and reducing it to dust.

As soon as the demon was dead, Oz bent over to check on Willow.

"How is she?" Xander asked.

"I'm okay..." Willow managed to mutter out, seeming a bit dazed and confused "How did you kill the Vamp?"

Xander blinked. "Yeah, I'd like to know that too... Oz, since when have you been a priest?"

Oz grinned, "Since Tuesday."

Xander blinked. "Since Tuesday?"

"Yeah... I'm a minister."

Xander blinked. "How did you pull that off?"

Oz grinned, "Replied to the Universal Life Church add in Rolling Stone Magazine. Got ordained."

"Why didn't you tell us?" Willow asked.

Oz shrugged, "Never came up."

"Ah," she replied, accepting her boyfriend's defense. "Now could you help me get out of here, please?"

Both men nodded and boosted Willow out of the grave, where she straightened herself out, reloaded the crossbow, and returned her vigil.

"You know what this means, right Oz?" Xander replied once he returned to digging.

Oz glanced over. "What?"

"Well, this means that tomorrow its time to begin mass production. Time to seriously stock up on holy water."

Oz nodded as he cleared another shovel full of dirt. "I'll load up the van. We can meet at school."

"Yeah. How did you think of this one anyways?" Xander asked as he continued to dig.

"You're not the only one who thinks we're in over our heads," Oz replied as he cast away more dirt. "This was my plan."

Xander smiled. "Good plan, Oz."

"Thanks."

Xander slammed his shovel down, this time striking something hollow.

"Hey, I think we hit the casket," Xander exclaimed with a smile.

"Agreed," Oz replied.

"Hey Wills," Xander called up, "Pass me down the pick."

Willow quickly passed Xander the large tool, before swiftly returning to her watching duties, not wanting to be ambushed by any more undead.

Xander smiled and struck down with the tool, smashing a hole in the casket and half ripping off of the top on his return.

Inside lay the desiccated skin of Cameron, one the former stars of the swim team. Wincing in disgust, Xander bent down, pulled out a pair of scissors, cutting off a large piece of the dried out husk, and placing it into a baggy.

"Now that that’s done," Xander remarked with disgust, "Lets get the hell out of here!"

Oz nodded in response. "Agreed."

------------- -------------

Giles raised an eyebrow as the door to his library opened, allowing three teenagers to drag in what seemed to be numerous crates of bottled water.

"What are you doing?" the Watcher calmly asked.

"Oh," Willow chirped as she placed a pair of gallon jugs onto the table, "Oz is going to bless these?"

Giles blinked. "What?"

Xander grinned as he placed a 24 pack of water on the table next to Willow's jugs. "Seems Oz is a holy man."

Giles blinked once more, growing even more confused. "What?"

Oz glanced over to Giles as he placed his own liquidy load onto the table with the others.

"Universe Life Church," the teen wolf replied, "Got ordained."

Oh bloody hell. By reflex the Watcher removed his glasses and cleaned them. They could not be serious. He remembered those adds from his younger days. Send in a self-addressed stamped envelope and be ordained as a minister no questions asked. He had always thought it was bloody ridiculous. What was even more ridiculous was the idea that by sending in a self-addressed self envelope one could gain the ability to consecrate holy water...

"Do you seriously think this is going to work?" the Watcher drolly asked the young musician.

"Did last night," Oz replied.

"Yeah," Xander replied, "We got jumped by a vamp, he blessed my water bottle, and it worked like a charm."

For a moment, Giles's mind just ceased to function, as it attempted to resist the concept that a teenager, who had simply sent an envelope to some quack church that advertised in a rock and roll magazine, had the ability to create holy water.

"Are you sure that it was not already consecrated?" Giles asked Xander, looking for some form of explanation.

"Unless that crazy guy working at the Quick Stop is actually a priest and blesses all the bottled water, I'd have to say it was normal."

"Bloody hell," the Watcher exclaimed.

This was bloody moronic. Still, he had to admit, if it was stupid, and it worked, then no matter how asinine it might seem, it wasn't stupid. Having someone on hand to consecrate holy water on demand would be damned useful, a fact that his young allies had apparently realized on their own.

Looking to Oz he asked, "What this your original intent?"

"Yep," the young man relied.

Bloody brilliant, and not to mention, funny as hell. He had to admit it. Send in an envelope and become a human holy water factory. He'd have to research this a bit... there just had to be more to it than just getting an approval stamp. Though, if that was it, and all you simply needed was to be consecrated for it to work, then he'd not only do it himself, but he'd ask every one of the 'Scoobies' to do so as well.

Regardless of possible use though, this last bout of teenage ridiculousness, combined with the fact that they had somehow managed to locate a copy of original plans for one of the most vile demonic constructs created in the last 500 years only the day before, was giving him a bit of a headache.

He swore, if the local monsters did not kill him, he knew that these youths would probably do so through premature aging. He really needed to lie down and rest up, lest these teenagers give him a stroke.

"Do you have any more water you need to bring in?" Giles asked.

"We've got an entire van full," Xander replied cheekily.

If their previous rate of usage was anything to base an estimate off of, then that would be enough to last them most of the year. Giles could hardly resist smiling as he considered the consequences. No more having to make a arse of himself to convince the local clergy to supply him with the relatively vast quantities of holy water that they required. They were now one step closer to self-sufficiency.

"I see," Giles replied after some thought, "Then you may use one of the book carts to help expedite the process."

Giles paused for a moment, and grinned viciously as a somewhat sadistic but bloody effective idea entered his mind, "And Oz?"

"Yeah?"

"When you are finished, I want you to accompany me to the basement. I would like you to bless the water tank for the school's sprinkler system"

Oz grinned. "Cool."

"Now," Giles continued, "If you need me, I'll be in my office. I feel the need to lie down."

------------- -------------

"So, what do you have planned for the zoo?" Willow asked Xander as the wheeled the last load of water into the Library.

Xander shrugged. "Not sure yet... first thing we need to do is get a map, but I haven't gotten the chance to pick one up, yet."

Willow smiled. "I'll get one off the internet."

"Great," Xander replied, "Think you could get any other info?"

Willow nodded. "I'll do what I can."

"Thanks," Xander replied.

Willow smiled and ran off to the computer lab. Xander glanced over to Giles's office, and seeing no activity, sat down, putting his feet up on the chair opposite him.

Xander could not help by smile as he looked at Oz, who was on the other end of the table blessing water. It was an amusing process really. First, he plopped the bottle on the table, then he'd bless it, then he'd stick a little gold cross sticker on top, and move onto the next bottle.

"What are you people doing?" Cordelia asked as she stormed through the entrance to the library, giving the two seated males a harsh look.

"Oz is making Holy Water," Xander replied, "He got himself ordained as a Minister."

"Are you serious? He's a werewolf... I'd think that would kind of make him ineligible or something." Cordy asked, giving the werewolf a incredulous glance.

Xander shrugged. "His holy water seemed to work well enough last night."

"Oh, cool... so we have ourselves a holy water factory then," she remarked.

"So, why are you here? You usually have other places to hang out besides the school library," Xander asked.

Cordy scowled. "Why have you guys been cutting me out of patrols? Its not like I don't mind the extra sleep but I want to know what going on."

"You really want to know?" Xander asked.

Cordy scowled and glared at her boyfriend, "I asked, didn't I, Harris?"

Xander shrugged. "Well, as soon as Willow gets back from the computer lab, we're going to start planning a break in at the Zoo. Want to know the details?"

Cordelia blinked twice, and deadpanned, "Right... you have fun... I'm going to get a mocha."

With that said, she about faced and left without another word said.

Moments later, Willow entered with a small stack of printouts in hand, and a smile on her face.

"Got the map!" Willow stated happily.

Oz nodded and finished up his blessing for the moment, stretching his arms, and moving over a seat so Willow could sit between Xander and himself, allowing everyone to see the map.

Willow sat down between the two and laid the map out.

"So, what do we got, Wills?"

"The Hyena section is open from 8am to 6pm. Feeding times are at 7:30 am and 6:30 pm. The only personnel there after 10pm are the security guards and some vets..."

"Wow, Wills, how did you get all that?" Xander asked in awe.

Willow smiled. "Its all up on their website."

"Okay..." Xander replied, "So, feeding is at 6:30?"

Willow nodded.

"Then by, say, one or two in the morning, they'd be pretty hungry."

Xander glanced at the map and thought back to the disjointed memories floating around in his head. Decades of experience doing similar operations from Soldier Guy mixed with his own Scooby experience.

"The Hyena's are kept here," Xander stated, pointing to a small building near the south wall. "We go over, sticking to the hedges lining the paths," he traced his finger along the trails to the building, "And we enter through the south door..."

Willow raised her hand.

Xander glanced over. "Yeah, Wills?"

"Two problems... don't they have razor wire over the walls, and how do we open the doors?"

Xander paused for a moment, "We can throw a heavy blanket over the wire. As for the locks, they use padlocks, right?"

Willow shook her head. "Nope."

"Damn, I guess we have to pick it."

Oz glanced over, "You can pick locks?"

"Nope," Xander replied, "But Soldier Guy can."

Oz nodded, but he looked a bit unsure.

"Once we're in we lure them close to the bars with some meat, and use the tranq gun on them..."

Oz nodded. "Cool... when do we do it?"

Xander paused. "We have to think up the stuff we'll need... your tranq gun, some rope, a heavy blanket, scissors, a bag, and lock picks..."

"We'll probably need to dress right," Willow recommended. "Gloves and masks..."

"Right," Xander stated, "And dark clothes, just in case one of the guards is actually crazy enough to patrol the grounds."

"Ninja style." Oz remarked.

"Right, now... any other ideas?"

"Duct tape," Oz stated sagaciously, "You always need duct tape."

------------- -------------

It was the middle of the night when Oz's van pulled up next to the small south wall of the Sunnydale Zoo. The area was dark and foreboding, almost in the middle of nowhere. Well suited for the business at hand. Almost as soon as they had stopped, the occupants exited the vehicle. Like a team of amateur ninja, the three darkly clad teens approached the wall of the zoo, dragging an aluminum ladder behind them.

Carefully, Oz and Xander braced the ladder against the wall, and with Xander and Willow holding it steady, Oz climbed up the wall and threw a ratty but thick brown blanket over a segment of razor wire, and gave the others a thumbs up.

Moments later, Xander handed him a coil of rope, which was then hooked to one of the heavy metal supports that anchored the wire. Letting it fall down, Oz nodded to Xander, who then proceeded to throw a duffle bag over the wall.

"You guys ready?" Xander whispered to the others.

"I'm cool" Oz stated from the top.

Willow nodded, and sounding a bit unsure, said, "I guess so..."

"Okay," Xander replied. "Oz, then me, then Wills?

"I'm Cool..." Oz replied

"Yeah," Willow nodded.

"Then lets get this show on the road," Xander stated with a grin.

With a nod, Oz crossed the wire, grabbed hold of the rope, and slid down the wall. Moments later, Xander was over. Then Willow climbed to the top, and with shaking hands began to move over the covered razor wire..

"Be careful, Wills," Xander warned, "You don't want to fall..."

"I know I just..." Willow squealed in terror as she slipped and fell backwards, off of the wall towards the two men on the ground.

In a flash, both Oz and Xander were moving to catch her. Unfortunately, they decided to move into the same space tripping over each other and falling on their asses. Terror in her eyes, Willow fell off of the wall, sure that the impact would break her neck. Fortunately for her, while their scramble to catch her proved to be ineffective, the two young men served as a lumpy, but functional cushion.

"Ouch." Oz muttered from his place in the middle of the Scooby sandwich.

"Are you guys okay?" Willow exclaimed. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to trip, I mean I could have broken you necks, or my neck, or..."

"We're fine, Wills," Xander grunted from the bottom. "Now will you guys please get off me? You're heavy and I think one of Oz's stakes is poking me in the side..."

"Oh, sorry Xander!" Willow exclaimed, standing up and brushing herself off, before helping Oz to stand up.

From his place on the ground, Xander groaned and turned over, slowly rising to his feet.

"Come on guys," he muttered, as he rubbed his lower back. "The Hyena's are this way."

Oz nodded and grabbed the duffle bag.

"Stay low, and quiet," Xander stated as they began to sneak, even though there didn't seem to be a guard or camera in sight. "You can't be too careful."

Oz and Willow glanced at each other and began to follow as Xander crouched down and began to sneak along the sides of the path, sticking to the shadows, and using the hedges as cover.

"To bad we don't have boxes," Xander muttered to himself as they snuck along the hedge line.

"Boxes?" Oz wondered.

"Yeah," Xander replied, "Cardboard boxes."

"Cardboard boxes?" Willow questioned.

"Yeah," Xander replied, "A box can save your life."

Willow blinked and looked at Xander incredulously, "You're kidding me, right? Are you sure you're okay? Did you hit your head?"

"Listen," Xander snapped, turning around, "If there is one lesson I learned from Soldier Guy, it’s the value of a cardboard box. Wills, I'm not exaggerating when I say that how you use a cardboard box can mean the difference between success and failure, between life and death... Treat your box well, and it will treat you well..."

As Xander began to continue on, Oz and Willow paused to share a glance, both having trouble accepting Xander's declaration of the value of the common cardboard box as an infiltration aid. Shaking their heads in doubt, they then continued on, following their friend.

After some twists and turns, but no guards, the three Scoobs came to a stop at the door of the Hyena exhibit. Xander walked over to the door and tested it. When it didn't open, Xander smiled and pulled out a simple lock picking set.

"I'll have this in a second," Xander stated.

Kneeling on the ground in front of the door, he began to fiddle with the lock, in he attempted to pick the lock. As he worked the mechanical lock, seconds slowly ran into minutes.

"Xander, are you sure you know what you're doing?" Willow asked him.

"I should... I think I'm getting it..."

Oz scowled. "We're standing in the open, man..."

Xander glanced over at his friends. "Do either of you know how to pick a lock?" he whined petulantly.

Oz paused and shook his head.

"How about you, Willow?"

She paused for a moment and smiled. "No, but I can try something else..."

"Oh?" Xander asked, "What are you going to try?"

"A spell," Willow happily chirped."

Xander moved away from the door and smiled to his oldest comrade. "Spell away."

Willow took a deep breath and walked to the door. Centering herself, she began to chant.

"Enter we unannounced and unwanted,
Quick and sure our prize,
Hermes we beseech thee,
Let the lock be unblocked with a simple KNOCK!"


Willow lightly rapped once on the door, then she turned the handle. With a gentle clicked, it opened.

Oz stifled a chuckle, and glanced over to Xander. With a coy smile, he muttered, "Knock spell."

Xander grinned and snickered. "Yeah, you're right..."

With a huff, Willow turned around and glared at the two young men. "What's so funny?" she demanded.

"Nothing," replied Xander.

"Fiction follows form, that’s all," Oz stated calmly.

Willow blinked. "Oh, I see..."

"Cool, now let's get inside before someone sees us," Xander stated as he shuffled inside.

As soon as he entered the building, Xander could not help but be struck by a grim sense of deja-vu. Memories of his last primal empowerment, the last time he was "possessed" by the Hyena spirit came flooding into mind. He could not help but remember all the things he had done under the influence of the Hyena. He'd eaten the school mascot, treated one of his best friends like garbage, and worst of all, he had tried to rape the other. The worst thing was though, that he had never really been possessed. Influenced yes, but not possessed. The Alpha had been all his most basic and primal instincts brought to the fore, just with some Hyena for flavoring. If the spell went wrong, and the Alpha took over again...

Glancing to his friends he could not help but shudder at the idea. If it came to that, and he was once again transformed into his very own Angelus, he hoped that his friends would have the strength to do what Buffy couldn't, and put him down before he hurt someone.

"Xander, are you alight?" Willow asked him, bringing him out of his funk.

"Yeah, I'm fine," he lied. "Lets do this and get out of here."

Oz nodded and opened up the duffle bag, removing a few large pot roasts and his tranquilizer gun.

Xander nodded to Oz as he tore the cellophane from the first pot roast. Across the room, the Hyena's all leapt to their feet at the smell of blood, and began to approach the bars, their insane cackling beginning to resound though the room.

Xander carefully lifted the pot roast and glanced over to Oz.

"You ready?"

"Yeah."

"Remember," Willow cut in, "We want a sample for every one of them. Having a sample form the hyena that actually possessed Xander might help the spell."

Oz nodded. "Ready, man?"

Xander nodded, "Ready..."

"Do it," Oz stated holding the weapon at the ready.

Xander gulped and slowly began to walk towards the safety railing of the Hyena pen. Beyond that was a three foot gap and then the bars themselves. And behind them, a pack of flesh eating African hounds who'd have no problem eating him alive, like they did the zookeeper who originally cast the damned spell.

With a gulp, he held the meat near the bars, the hyena's snapping though, climbing all over each other in a frenzy to get to the meat.

"Be careful, Xander," Willow meekly muttered, as her friend stood only feet away from the pack.

"Any time, Oz..." Xander muttered as one of the beasts snapped at him.

With a loud puff, the gun went off, hitting one of the beasts with a dart. The animal yelped in surprise, and managed to back away from the bars before hitting the ground. In response to their pack member going down, the others back up defensively and began to growl at them.

Looking over his shoulder, Xander glanced to Willow. "Open up the next pack."

"Alright," she replied, grabbing one of the pot roasts.

"Oz, I'm going to throw this in. When they go for it, shoot one of them."

Oz nodded.

Taking a deep breath, Xander threw the roast through the bars, right in front of the pack. As expected, one of them immediately jumped up and snapped at the meat, receiving a dart for his troubles.

The other animals growled and began to snap at the bars again. Oz quickly loaded the weapon and fired another shot, hitting one of them. In response, the others jumped back and snarled.

Taking the other roast from Willow, Xander put it through the bars.

This time the hyena's did not just jump at it, but seemed to hold back. For a long moment, the animals looked to the meat, then to the Scoobies, and then again to the meat. Slowly, once of them began to walk forward, and picked up the meat in his jaws. He was shot only moments later.

"Only two left," Xander replied. "Willow, meat."

Willow nodded and handed a London broil to Xander. Xander smiled and began to wag it in front of the hyenas. They only snarled in response.

"I don't think they're going to fall for it this time..." Willow remarked.

Xander nodded. "Yeah... any ideas?"

"We have some rope..." Oz suggested.

"Hyena fishing?" Xander asked with a grin.

Oz nodded.

"Good idea. Lets do it." Xander grinned, "I just hope I don't have to throw this one back."

Oz pulled a small length of rope out of his pack and threw it to Xander. Xander used his scissors to punch a hole through the center of the slab of flesh, and ran a piece of their thick hemp rope though the hole. Expertly knotting it off, he began to swing it in front of the hyenas to attract their attention. After a moment, he then threw it through the bars, landing it right in front of the beasts.

The hyena's looked at the meat, which was just out of reach and stepped forward. Xander pulled the rope back. They stepped forward again, Xander pulled the rope back once more. This time, one of them lunged at it, and while Xander pulled the rope back again, the animal was still able to bite in.

Xander jerked back with all his strength, pulling the Hyena off balance and sliding forward.

"Oz! Now!"

The dart struck the animal as it recovered from its trip. It did not get back up.

Seeing the fate of its pack mates, the final animal was content to push up against the back of the wall and growl.

"What now," Oz asked.

Xander paused in thought. How to get the animal to come forward. Looking over the room, his eyes came to rest on a supply closet against the back wall.

"Willow, can you unlock that door?"

"Sure," she replied, happy to once again show her magical prowess, and with a quick mutter of the spell, and a knock, the door was open.

Xander quickly crossed over the railing and looked in the closet. It was an average janitor's closet, trashcan, mop, bucket, broom, and all the other assorted odds and ends you'd expect.

Xander grabbed the broom and smiled. "I have an idea."

"What's you're idea?" Willow asked him.

He smiled. "We annoy it into coming forward."

Oz nodded. "Cool."

Passing over the railing again, Xander began to pace back and forth, running the brush over the bars. Inside the cage the hyena tracked the brush back and forth, growling in growing annoyance as the sound aggravated it, and the brush tempted it to strike. Eventually, it could only take some much, and it attacked the brush.

Oz fired the dart, hitting it mid charge. The animal actually bounced off the side of the cage.

Xander smiled and pulled out his scissors. Reaching into the cage, he grabbed the nearest hyena to pull it forward, but the animal was just far enough away that he couldn't get enough leverage to pull it any closer.

"Damn, problem," Xander stated, "Having some trouble reaching it..."

"Maybe a hook might work..." Willow suggested.

Xander shook his head. "I saw a big wire coat hook that might work in the closet, but we'd need to attach it to a pole."

"No problem then," Oz responded.

Xander glanced over to his best friend's boyfriend. "It doesn't look like its meant to attach to one."

Oz reached into the bag and slowly lifted out the roll of duct tape. "Easily solved..."

"Oz, you're a genius," Xander laughed, "Now lets do this, and get the hell out of here..."

------------- -------------

WHAM! WHAM! WHAM!

"Oh bloody hell!" Ethan Rayne exclaimed as he was disturbed from his slumber. This was the second time this week that some nitwit had woken him up in the middle of the night. Good god, someone was going to get cursed for this. He wasn't sure who, but somebody was going to wake up with warts on their arse, explosive diarrhea, or maybe a little blood in their urine for this one.

Throwing on his dressing gown, Ethan stormed over to his door, and almost tore it off the hinges.

"What the bloody hell do you want," Ethan roared without looking.

"You told us to come back when we had the spell components," Xander deadpanned.

Ethan stepped back. It was them again, Ripper's little band. The same group who had only days ago hired him to do a job. The only thing was that this time, they were dressed like rejects from some bad action adventure film.

"When I told you to bring them back, I did not mean at..." he glanced at the wall clock, "Four in the bloody morning."

"So, you want us to come back later?" Xander with a smirk.

Ethan sighed and shook his head. "No, fine, you're here, and you are paying me for this..."

Stepping back he muttered, "Come in..."

Xander's eyes hardened and he looked at the Chaos Mage levelly. "You just invited us into you're house in the middle of the night."

Ethan winced. The boy had a point, and he could not help but feel some minor sliver of gratitude to the boy for pointing out his error. In this town that particular stupid mistake could get you killed.

"Yes, yes," he sighed, "Damage done."

Once again, the boy, the young witch, and the musician entered and sat down at his sofa.

Sitting in his chair, Ethan looked at the three levelly. "Now, show me what you have."

Xander nodded and placed three items on the table. First, a large plastic rifle which he remembered selling to the youth the past Halloween. Second, a plastic baggy containing a large piece of dried skin. And lastly, a large bag of hair.

"Are you sure these are all the proper items?" The Chaos Mage asked.

Xander nodded, "The rifle is the only toy plastic rifle I had."

"And the skin?"

"Taken from the grave of one of the swimteam."

Ethan smirked. Its was always fun to introduce impressionable youth to joys of grave robbing.

"And the fur?"

Willow nodded, "Its fur from every member of the pack... I thought if some fur form the original hyena was there it might work better."

Ethan smiled. Smart girl, it would indeed make things more effective.

"Are you sure that this is it from the correct Hyenas?"

Willow nodded. "They're the same hyenas that were there a last time we were to the zoo, I made sure."

"And how did you get the fur?" Ethan asked, "I doubt they'd react well to you just asking to shave their animals."

"We broke in," Oz responded.

First grave robbing and now breaking and entering. Corrupting today's youth... one of the great pleasures in life. He could not wait to wake up in the morning and read the details of the break-in while he sipped his morning tea. Ethan could not help but break into a full smile.

It almost felt like Christmas at his Mum's.

"Well done," Ethan stated wisely. "Very well done. You have done a superb job of swiftly delivering exactly what I need. Now I warn you, this spell will take some time to create, but I give you my word as a professional that it will be what you wanted."

Ethan sharply stood up and brushed off his gown. "Now, Willow is it?"

The young witch nodded.

"I would like you to come by some time in the next few days so we can begin researching the spell. Is that acceptable?"

"I'll be over tomorrow..." Willow paused, "I mean later today."

"Excellent," Ethan responded, "Now I'd like to ask all of you to please leave... and in the future, don't stop by in the middle of the bloody night!"

------------- -------------

"I am so tired," Willow moaned as she laid her head on the library table.

"That’s why happens when you only get three hours sleep in two days," Xander muttered.

Oz yawned as if to make a point.

Xander smiled and glanced over. "Amen, Reverend."

Giles slowly approached the three teens, and could not help but notice their sorry state. All three seemed to be seriously sleep deprived. They probably stayed up later the last night on patrol. While he appreciated their dedication, that would not do.

"Are all of you alright?" he asked the three of them.

"Yeah," Xander replied, "We just didn't get much sleep last night. Patrolling and all that."

"I see," Giles replied, feeling a slight bolt of pride at the dedication shown by three young people who had come to mean so much to him.

Looking them over, he quickly decided that they would best do with some time to rest, and thusly, he would spare them the effort of listening to him prattle on about the fine details of his latest concerns, "Then I will be brief. There have been two odd events in the last couple days that seem to require some level of investigation."

"What would that be?" Willow yawned.

"It seems that last night someone broke into the Sunnydale Zoo, the hyena exhibit to be precise. And the night before that the grave of one of your classmates, one of the swim team if I recall was uncovered."

All three teenagers snapped to their feet, wide eyes and ready for business. Once again, he felt a bolt of pride that three individuals who by all rights should be bystanders took this all so very seriously.

It also made him feel a shot of serious resentment towards the Council. He had been raised with the knowledge he would fight the undead, while the Slayer was chosen by some higher power for the role. In comparison, these youth simply saw evil, and decided to fight rather than bow down to fear. He had to respect that, and the support the provided, sanctioned or no, was the reason why his charge was still among the living.

A second bolt of resentment, as well as parental concern struck, him as he thought of Buffy. The girl was the bloody Slayer. While these normal children were fighting the enemies she had been born to destroy, she was off doing only god knows what. God, he hoped she was alright. It would just not do for something to happen to the poor girl...

"I want all of you to keep an eye out for any details. We do not know why this was done, but there must be some ulterior motive."

"Sure thing!" Oz stated clearly.

"Got it!" Xander replied.

"If we find anything, you'll be the first to know!" Willow finished, enthusiastically.

Giles could only smile. They were such good kids...
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