“We should let them get changed before you chase after them JD.” He licked his lips. “While I have no doubt that they’ll answer your questions, I think they want to get changed first.”
Twenty minutes later Ezra and Xander walked back into the bar. The only thing that remained of their stunts at Cordelia and Anyanka was that fact that their hair was still the same colour as the girls wore. Upon seeing the fiery red hair, Chris’ eyes glazed once more at the reminder of the kiss and he sulked at his beer. Xander and Ezra sat by Vin and smiled sweetly at the assembled men.
“Well gentlemen, Ah do believe that Xander and Ah proved that we could slip in without you discovering who we were.”
“How did you guys make your chests look so real?” JD’s excited voice made Xander smirk at Ezra.
“Told ya it’d be the first question asked.” He put his hand out and Ezra slapped a fifty in the man hand.
“We had silicone falsies that we simply put in a bra and held them in place with double sided breast tape. Finding the right size bra was a bit difficult, but we managed. I think the sales woman had a good laugh at our expense for it, but it was worth it.” Xander gave a wicked smirk to the table, “Next question?”
“Where did ya learn to act like a girl?” Vin asked quietly.
“Well, I learned because I was surrounded by girls for most of my life; Buffy, Cordy, Anya, Willow, Tara, Joyce, Jenny, Kendra, Faith, and more. We lived, bled and cried together; just like a family. We loved, we lost, we fought and we did what we had to. But the girls were always given the chance to be girls, so after being around them for so long, I simply acted like they did.”
“Ah learned watching my Mother. As you know, Maude is all about appearances. If you acted rich, you were rich. If you acted like a sad, lonely widower, you were a sad lonely widower. The goal was to see behind the masks. Also, Xander told me how Anya acted, so I simply made myself act as she would have.”
“Yes Chris, Anya would have kissed you like that and then mourn the loss of a sex partner since you had declined her in the first place.”
“Be grateful, Xander mentioned that she had a very active imagination for people who insulted her, especially against men. She liked to describe the unspeakable acts of torture that she would rain upon them for hurting those she cared about, and apparently she was very graphic.”
“Yeah, Ahn was like that. She’d normally want sex right after it too.”
“WHAT?!” Six voices shouted at once.
“Yep; sex, money and torture were her favourite things.”
“Damn kid, you don’t do things by half do ya?”
“Almost married her to; left her when her friends intervened and told us how much we’d hate the married life together. I refuse to become my father, so I left.”
“What do you mean refusing to be your father?”
“Anthony Harris is a self-pitting drunk who regularly beat me and my mother. He hated the fact that he was stuck in a low paying job and that his son had dyslexia. His wife was so cowed by his anger and size that she took to drinking and popping pills to seem happy. I would have ended up beating Anya, and I refuse to even entertain the idea, so I left her. She died two years later when the town sunk from an underground cave collapsing.”
The table was silent after the revelation and Ezra patted his friend’s hand and Vin laid his upon the man’s shoulder.
“Why did you choose those names?”
“Ah went as Anyanka Kendra Jenkins. Xander wanted to honour the women he knew, so I was given those two names. You were told about Anya, but Kendra was a fighter. She enjoyed a good fight and had won many town championships. She met with Xander in his senior year and was killed by serial killer. She was compassionate and had a childish curiosity. Xander mentioned that she was almost like a child in her innocence.”
“I went as Cordelia Janna Kalderdash. Cordy was a powerful woman. She could knock a man down simply with a dressing down. In school we said she had a whip for a tongue as she would lash you to pieces, making you cry like a baby. She was all about saying what she wanted and didn’t care what you thought. While she projected a shallow image, Cordy had depth and helped out people, even if it wasn’t in the open like most people would think she would do. I remember her helping a girl from a lower income family get a good dress for the prom, and then only ask that if she was going to keep it that she help someone else like that some day.” Xander took a sip of his beer.
“Janna Kalderdash, or Jenny Calendar as we knew her, was a good woman. She was our computer teacher in school, and she had a wicked sense of humour. She was so good with computers she called herself a techno-pagan, simply because she made computers dance with very little effort. She dated our school librarian who was like a father figure to us and was killed two weeks before Kendra was by the same serial killer. He was sick and left her for dead in Giles’ bed, candles burning and everything romantic.”
“Jesus…” Josiah whispered.
“Yeah, but she went down fighting. She got the info together to help us get the facts to help the police.”
“Damn kid…” Buck muttered.
“We lived, and moved on, even though we missed her like mad. But those were the four women we used to introduce ourselves to you.” Xander spoke with fondness.
The six that hadn’t heard the story about the girls the first time were in shocked awe at what had happened. Xander watched them all through heavy lidded eyes, and slowly sipped the beer sitting in front of him. He was willing to take a chance with these men; he could only hope that they took one in return.
“So, I guess that means that we get free drinks for the next three visits, right?” Three groans were heard while five men laughed.
As the group chatted and spoke about what was going on in their lives, Xander sat back and let the conversations flow lover him. He knew that he would learn more about the people around him by listening to them talk, and he was surprised that only Nathan was in a relationship. As he talked about his date with a woman named Rain, Xander watched as Buck and Chris shifted and slid closer together. Smiling softly, Xander knew that there was a hidden component when it came to the blond leader and his second in command. He would keep their secret, and support them when they came out. He knew the dangers of the job would increase if others found out, and Xander refused to allow that.
“Xan, I got a message back from my friend in Las Vegas. Bobby said that he’d be willing to come up for a weekend to talk to you about it. He offered two weeks from now.” Vin spoke quietly, watching and smiling at the others as well.
“Two weeks from now is fine. I only start working after that weekend anyways. The new boss liked my credentials so he said I could start in two weeks.” Xander gave a wicked grin, “Helps that I began to rattle off construction materials. I explained it as working under the table for a few crews in my hometown when I needed the extra cash.”
Vin chuckled and both sat back and enjoyed the conversations flowing around them once more. Catching Ezra’s eye, Xander smiled and flicked his eyes to the door. While he did enjoy a good time out, drinking and alcohol still bothered him when he was surrounded by it.
“Gentlemen, Ah’m sorry to say that Xander and Ah must go. As we have the time off because of the last successful bust, Ah have promised him a tour of our fine city.”
“Alright, both of you enjoy the time off. Oh, and get the kid some new clothes.” Xander stuck his tongue out at Chris for that.
Waving as they left, Xander smiled at the thought that his new life was slowly coming together.
Two weeks passed by quickly and before Xander knew it, he was sitting in the Jag and pulling into Vin’s driveway. Over the past two weeks only Ezra and Vin really got past his defenses. Finding that the happy and confident young man was hurting worse than they could ever imagine, the pair did what they could to make Xander feel at home.
Willow’s single-mindedness to have him live a good and happy life, away from demons, struck him as egotistical in her regard to him. He knew that he wasn’t a Slayer and had finally gotten to the point where he could step back and let the girls fight. However, he wouldn’t have traded his time working alongside Buffy and the others for anything. The trials and battles that they had fought made him the man he was today, and Willow making this decision for him hurt him greatly.
They had been discussing what they might be like if they had never jumped into the Slaying business, and Xander said that he’d probably be working construction or dead by the hands of a demon some night later. Willow had gone quiet after that, and while Xander figured that she was planning something, he just had to remind her that this was his life, and he was happy that he lived it so well so far.
Before he could, however, the alarm sounded and everyone was getting geared up. The demons were trying to strong hold them by doing a surprise attack. Grabbing several grenades and other long distance weapons to help them out, Xander made sure to save as many girls as he could. He knew that a lot of girls, witches and watchers were going to die in this battle, but he had hoped to see it through.
He knew something was wrong when he felt a tug and then a hard push, and silently screamed at Willow for ripping his choice away from him again. Just as the portal closed, he felt his best-friend and everything he had called home be destroyed by Willow’s magic and mentally screamed in anguish at the unfairness of it all. He was supposed to die in that battle with the others, by sending him away, he was doomed to live alone without the family he loved and wanted to be with once more.
Ezra and Vin had to work past the post traumatic stress disorders that plagued Xander’s mind, and slowly began to build a new friendship base that helped Ezra as well. Due to Ezra’s past with the FBI and his mother’s teachings from a young age, Ezra had as many walls that Xander did, and knew the only way to help him was to slowly tear down his walls as well. While he still spoke with his bigger than average words, Xander and Vin enjoyed it as it let them know when he was exasperated or simply in a teasing mood.
The two weeks of working and playing together gave the three men a chance to feel more at ease in more and more activities that were held at Chris’ ranch, the Saloon and the others’ homes as well. Being around the others Xander slowly let the mask of a joker fall off his face, and was finally able to breathe without the constant strain of trying to stay in a mold from his youth.
During his stay at Ezra’s townhouse, Xander was the one to get his Southern friend to unpack his belongings, his words of wisdom struck a chord in Ezra that he doubt that he would forget anytime soon.
“If you expect the norm to be what will always happen, then you will always be proven right. The more you look for the bad things, the more they outshine the good. Try looking for the good things and you’ll see the same efforts that are being pushed towards me are still coming towards you.”
Because of Xander’s words, Ezra took a moment to look over the past year and saw that he was right. The team was trying to reach out, and hoping to befriend him. Slowly reaching out in return, Ezra was surprised at the warm welcome, and made a silent declaration to help Xander as well.
With a new ideal on life in place, Ezra worked with Xander and Vin to finish unpacking his home. When the final box was folded down and put away in one of the hall closets, where the linens and spare coats were hung, Ezra was startled by the doorbell ringing. Making his way to the door, in a pair of faded blue jeans and a dirty old t-shirt, he was startled to see the rest of Team Seven on his door step with beer, and food.
Now that Xander and Ezra were more comfortable, it was time to meet with Vin’s friend Bobby. They had been good friends in school and had managed to keep up with each other over the years, even with Vin’s bouncing around in the foster care system. Knocking on their friend’s door, Xander shifted in place, wondering what the guy would be like. He knew that he still babbled when he was nervous, and let him ask the questions that he needed to ask about the job.
“Xan, Ez, come on in. Bobby made the coffee and we got some snacks to go over the chat with and all.” Vin’s soft drawl allowed Xander to relax and both men smiled as they entered the small, tidy apartment.
Spotting the blue eyed blond on the sofa, Xander introduced himself.
“I’m Xander Harris, thanks for coming out to see me.”
“No worries. Grissom wanted me to use up my accrued leave, so it was a good time as any, and I haven’t seen Vin in a long time, so you just gave me an extra excuse to come see him.”
Vin snickered, causing both Ezra and Xander to look at him with a confused expression.
“His boss has more leave built up than our team combined does.”
“Yeah, but Grissom is a good man. He helped me out when my Ma got sick. So, Xander, what did you want to know about Ballistics?”
“Well, what are you hours like? What does the job entail?”
“Well, you have to understand that its sixty hours a week, if there isn’t a buildup of crime. Some weeks you might have very little to do, others you’ll be swamped faster than a flood in New Orleans. For the job, it’s basically a search system. You get a gun or a bullet and find out which one did the damage. If you got the bullet, it can help you figure out which model and bullet type is used, and can also determine the killer if they are using the most expensive types that are registered in the system. The majority of guns are registered, and locked into the system, helping us by winding down the suspects. Then there is also the fact that each gun has a unique firing pin mark as well as unique groves that can break a case wide open. Ballistics is also the simplest form of Forensics but also the most desired. DA’s like it when weapons like guns are used because it is normally the piece that locks the verdict against the person responsible.”
“Would it be better if I went through the Academy as well?”
“Depends on what you’ll be doing. You can always end up doing refreshers within your department that you end up at. This will also allow a better way for you to remain a part of your team and give a better cohesion. I didn’t go through the Academy, but I’m just a lab tech.”
“Does it make a difference when it comes to being hired?”
“Not really. One of the guys that I worked with is in the field now and he started off as a pure lab tech. He was DNA and now he’s a CSI level two. He was harassed a bit for it, but showed that he was able to hack the job. I know that the CSI’s that I work with do both lab a field, but that’s up to you for your preference.”
“What if I wanted to help in busts and undercover work?”
“That would be something you discuss with your bosses. I know that if you are the only Ballistics tech, then you’ll be shit out of luck. However, if there are several other ballistics techs, then you might be able to help with the busts on occasion.”
Xander pondered the information. Bobby was knowledgeable in his field and he might be able to give him the insight he needed to make the final decision.
“What if I wanted to do only field?”
“Well, then you might be asked to do a minor as well, but then you’d be dealing with the clean up, the scenes, and the bodies. As a tech, you only deal with one part of the crime, where as if you go into the field, you deal with all aspects of the crime, right to the capturing of the perpetrators. Now, nothing is stopping you from being both. A lot of CSI’s these days are going that route, and it also makes you more sought after by labs and government agencies.”
“Well, if you have field and another lab qualification, you are looked into by several different agencies. I know that there are a few agencies, like NCIS, that has one tech that does everything in their labs. However, Abby is a genius and they have a smaller case load than most other labs.”
“I’m sensing a ‘but’ here.”
“There are labs and agencies that do prefer to have their hires as either lab techs or field techs. A lot of the smaller labs prefer this as they don’t have the budget for anything else. This way, they get the county to either do the lab work, or they have a small lab that has to outsource to another lab for one or two things. Also, the better your marks in school, the better your internship will be. For your in-school one, depending on the University you’ll be at, I’m sure you could work here at the Denver ATF building. Elsewhere, I know that Grissom might give you a hand, or you could work with Abby at NCIS, but she tells me that they deal mostly in computers than anything else.”
“I know it may seem like a lot to remember, but as long as you do good in school, and are careful with your internship after you’ve passed, then you’ll be fine.”
“I can do that. Tutors are fine, right?”
“Tutors are fine.” Bobby said chuckling, and Xander relaxed.
“What made you choose Ballistics as a field?” Ezra perked up at that, seeming that he was just as curious.
“Well, Papa loved his guns and we were always going hunting when I was a kid. He and my Grandpa taught me to shoot, and showed me how to respect a weapon. When I found out that there was a job that let me play with guns all day, I was ecstatic, so I became a ballistics tech.”
They talked into the night about the different aspects of ballistics and why Xander wanted to go into that field. Just by having someone there to answer the questions that Xander had been thinking up over the past two weeks, had helped to remove any doubt that Xander had about this new turn of events.
After talking for over three hours, Xander thanked Bobby for his help and the information before stepping out with Ezra. Pleased with the gathered information, Xander now just had to find the right school to go to for the degree in forensic ballistics.
“Could you help me find the right school to go to for my degree?”
“I would be delighted to help you.”
Pulling into the townhouse, Xander smiled as his options began to look up once more. Now all he needed to do was go to school and pass with high enough marks.