Career Advancement


by
Two Ladies of Quality



8

"'Another Saturday night, and I ain't got nobody / I got some money 'cause I just got paid.' Or Friday, as the case may be." Xander pulled up in the alley behind Joyce Summer's shop. Buffy had left a voice mail calling for a Scoobie patrol, which told Xander that she was doing her best as well to pretend that she didn't mind having nothing better to do on Date Night.

Joyce's shop had become de facto Scoobie Central. Xander didn't like running into Anya at the Magic Box, and Buffy too often caused consternation among the more demony clientele that the shop now attracted, with a vengeance demon now in charge. She did still use the training room in the back, and Willow often did research, but a fair number of research books had ended up in the back room of the gallery.

He let himself in through the backdoor into the workroom. Dawn sat at the table with her back to the door and her algebra textbook propped up in front of her. She had her cellphone in her lap and was busily texting. Xander saw Joyce out in the gallery section behind the counter. She looked up and waved to him, but she was on the phone as well. He waved back, then crept up behind Dawn, making sure his shadow didn't fall on her. She was texting her buddy Janice, apparently about some boy who was OMG HOTTT!!!

"I don't remember that equation from algebra. Is that the new math they keep going on about these days?"

Dawn shrieked and flung her phone into the air. He caught it as it reached the top of its arc.

She clutched her chest. "Xander! Geez!"

Joyce peered towards them, one hand over the receiver of the phone. Xander held up the phone and raised an eyebrow. She frowned, then smiled, shrugged, and nodded as she went back to her phone call.

"It's your own fault for sitting with your back to the door," he told Dawn as he presented her with her phone.

Still breathing hard, she looked at the configuration of chairs and doors, then pulled her chair to a position where she could see both her mother and the backdoor. "That was mean," she said as she plopped into her chair.

"Mean survives on the Hellmouth." He went to the mini-fridge to grab a drink, then took a chair and pulled over her algebra book. "Good lord, I remember some of this." He quickly put the book back on the table.

Dawn leaned on the table and fixed him with a serious look. "So tell me the truth. Am I ever going to use algebra?"

"I hate to break it to you, but I actually did something equationish at work yesterday. So, yeah, the teachers are right."

She humphed and crossed her arms.

"Teachers are right about what?" asked Buffy as she came in from the front of the store.

"That algebra is useful sometimes," Xander said.

"Yeah, two vampires times three zombies equals five zombie/vampires. I never did like algebra." She checked her watch. "Sunset in less than an hour. I was thinking we should hit the northern cemeteries, we haven't been through there in a while."

"Just what I look forward to on a Friday night," Xander grinned. He glanced out into the store. "Is Willow coming later?"

Buffy tapped her fingers on the back of the chair near her. "She's helping Amy with readjusting to the world on two feet, she said."

Xander frowned. "She's spending a lot of time with Amy."

"Amy was a rat for, like, forever," Dawn said. "It's got to be weird."

"Yeah, it does," Buffy agreed.

Dawn blinked a couple of times. "She's been a rat longer than I've been around--really around, not, you know. Do you think rat-Amy knew about me like everyone else? Or when she got turned back, did she get the Dawn Summers Memory Update?"

Buffy opened her mouth to answer, then stopped. She frowned, then looked at Xander, who shrugged. "I fell asleep in philosophy class," he said, "but this sounds like one of those I Think, Therefore I Am thingies."

Buffy shrugged in return. "Well, I guess if we see Amy, we can ask. But we should get going, Xander."

Dawn bounced in her chair. "If it's just the two of you, I could--"

"No," Buffy and Xander both said firmly.

"Dawn," Joyce called from in front, "could you come help me with something on the top shelf, please?"

Dawn sighed. "Just because I'm the tall one . . ." She put up a finger. "And no 'one in every generation' jokes, please."

Buffy grinned. "Wouldn't dream of it." She led the way out the back door.

Xander gestured to his car. "Are we walking or driving to the cemetery of our choice tonight?"
Buffy glanced at her shoes. "Drive, I think." She grinned as Xander held the passenger door for her, but the smile faded into a frown as they drove away.

"What's wrong?" Xander asked.

She reached into her pocket and pulled out something. "What does this look like?"

Xander took the tiny metal tube, then turned on the overhead light at the next stop light. There was a small lens at one end of the tube and a short wire out the other end. "It looks like a tiny little camera, like in the spy movies." He flipped off the cabin light when the signal turned green. "Where did you get it?"

Buffy was frowning harder. "I found it in my bedroom."

He stomped on the brakes and stared at her. "Your bedroom?"

She flapped her hands at the road. "Drive, drive! Don't get in a wreck, it'll do horrible things to your insurance." She shrugged as he gave her a puzzled look. "Mom's been harping about young adult drivers and what they do to insurance. Go, do, drive."

Xander proceeded to drive. "And, he says again, your bedroom?"

She sighed. "I was sitting on my bed, and the light caught something in my bookcase. I went over to look, and this was taped up underneath a shelf, kind of behind a book. I have no idea how long it's been there."

"Do you think there might be others?"

"I don't know. Other than tearing the house apart, I don't know how to find them, especially without letting Mom or Dawn find out. God, what if there are cameras in their bedrooms too?" She looked at the camera. "Shouldn't it be plugged into something, though?"

He waved the wire end. "I think it's one of those wireless thingies. Broadcasting somewhere."

"Euw."

"Did you show it to Willow? She'd know."

"I called her when I found it, but she wasn't really listening to me. She said she'd come over and do a spell to see if there were any others, but she didn't say when." She slumped down a little farther into the seat. "Some of my clothes are missing, too."

Xander glanced at her. "And I'm guessing you didn't find them in Dawn's dresser."

"No. Somebody's been in my house, Xander. In my room."

He shuddered. "And just as creepy as when Angel was paying midnight calls." Buffy made a small noise, and Xander winced. Anytime Deadboy's name came up, she still reacted. She'd tried a couple of times to ask for more information about the Watcher Bloodbath and Angel's part it in, but she'd always bailed on the conversation. Though that might not be just from problems talking about Angel. "So, creeps creeping creepily about your house. I think we're going to need to distract Willow from No-Longer-A-Rat Amy and get her to be computer girl on this. She might be able to find out where this thing was broadcasting to."

Buffy took the camera back. "We may not know where, but I bet we can guess who. The guys with the freeze ray."

Xander nodded. "Weird gadgets and creepy ideas. Yeah, sounds like them." They pulled up a block way from the first cemetery of the night. "We're here, milady. May I interest you in the fine selection of weapons and stakes that occupy my trunk and make me glad there aren't many traffic stops in this town?"

"Sounds like a Friday night of fun."




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