"You've picked this up pretty fast," George said as he examined the dagger Xander had finished forging. It was a simple silver blade as long as his hand and was a single piece, despite the amount of silver that was needed, so there were no worries about the blade breaking away from the hilt.

"I've always been good with my hands," Xander said modestly, "and it's easier to learn something when I have a practical use for it."

"Nah, you've got a gift," George told him. "It took me a month or so to learn what you have in two days."

"And did you have someone who knew what they were doing teaching you?" Xander asked.

"No, I had a bunch of books and videos," George replied.

"You make works of art," Xander said, "I am a long way from any of that and I'm pretty sure if you'd had someone teaching you, you'd have picked it up even faster."

George chuckled. "Alright, how about we both agree we've got the knack for this?"

Xander grinned. "Yeah, I'll go for that."

"Figure out what the little voodoo bag was?" George asked.

"Hex bag, it's wiccan, not voodoo," Xander said, "and I don't know what it did, I mean, it was supposed to carry a curse, but that's usually an obvious physical thing, like crippled joints, blindness, or... becoming Mr. Floppy."

"Mr. Floppy..." George winced. "Well if she tried that it failed, my mojo was just as good as it ever was."

"Then it might have been bad luck, attracting insects and pests, maybe something to give you nightmares," Xander guessed.

"Nightmares..." George said thoughtfully. "She was always complaining I spent too much time playing in the barn and I started having some dreams around the time we broke up."

"Dreams? What kind of dreams?"

"My tools transforming into insects and animals and attacking me," George replied. "It was a silly bunch of dreams, but it gave me the idea for a lot of this." He waved towards various pieces on the wall.

"The steel spring that becomes a snake, the hubcap turned into a tortoise shell, that pipe wrench which... I don't know what that is, but it looks awesome," Xander said.

"Armadillo lizard, they look like little wingless dragons," George said, "really cool and actually exists."

"So she tried to give you nightmares and you turned it into art?"

"Yeah, if she was trying for something to scare me, she'd have been much better off going with an IRS auditor or discovering lead pipes in the plumbing."

Xander laughed. "Man, you are something else."

George just shrugged. "I just have more realistic fears."

"Not me," Xander said, "the last time I had to face my fears being brought to life by a comatose little league player it was a nazi clown."

George just looked at him in silence for a moment before shaking his head. "You have lived a very strange life, of course the way you casually took out that zombie while having a casual conversation with him already underlined that for me."

Xander nodded. "What can I say, I grew up on the mouth of hell."

"LA?" the older man guessed.

"A couple hours from it actually," Xander replied, "LA has its own problems but it's not actually the outskirts of hell."

"Good to know."

"Think having it gone is going to mess with your inspiration?" Xander asked.

"No," George shook his head, "it was all pretty samey after the first week."

"Good, hate to think I'd screwed that up for you," Xander said.

"I get most of my inspiration from nature shows and late night pizza these days," he assured him. "Okay, we've got a couple of silver plated knives, one solid silver knife with your blood added while carving a rune in it... That really shouldn't have worked, but magic I guess, and one silver plated axe."

"Plus a dozen stakes that almost look too pretty to use," Xander said.

"Use em anyway," George said, "I like the idea that something I worked on is killing demons."

"And they will," Xander agreed. "I'm not even really hunting vampires right now, but since I know how they operate I expect I'll run into them pretty often."

"One of those things you can't unsee like a magic eye picture?" George guessed.

"Yeah, almost exactly like that," he agreed. "Once you see the pattern, you can't not see it."

"I hear ya. So, where you heading next?"

"Jump City," Xander replied. "Made an appointment with the Jump City Police Department to educate them on the demonic do's and don'ts, because apparently no one in the know has ever bothered to think that it might be useful for law enforcement to know the signs of a vampire infestation."

"That sounds insane," George said. "They need to at least know what to watch for to call in the professionals."

"I agree," Xander said, "thus me giving lectures."

"Pay any good?"

"I get coffee, donuts, and the warm glow of knowing more vamps will be dying instead of humans," Xander said with a grin.

"That works," George said. "Well, let's get your handle wrapped up on the knife and send you on your way."

"Haven't worked with leather before," Xander said, looking forward to learning.

"And the leather we'll be using is shark skin, it provides the best grip," George said.

"Did I tell you about the time I almost got turned into a fish man yet?"

"No, but lay it on me while we work, because that sounds like an exciting story."

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

"They didn't even try to hide the fact they were copying San Francisco," Xander complained as he drove across a smaller copy of the Golden Gate Bridge. "I wonder if they have a copy of Alcatraz."

It was a lot newer than San Francisco, he noted, as none of the buildings were all that old and he wasn't seeing anything that would really attract tourists. Maybe the island with the large T shaped building on it, that he was positive couldn't be structurally sound, that appeared to be what they had instead of Alcatraz, but that was about it.

Feeling his stomach rumble, he found a parking spot just a couple of spots down from Bob's Burgers which looked like a good spot for lunch since he had a couple of hours until he was due at the police station for his lecture.

He picked up his notebook and the books he was studying before hopping out of the car. He was still stuck on the Book of Enochian Runes as the author had way too big a vocabulary and could go on for a page and a half without saying anything of worth. Xander was pretty sure he would have been an excellent politician.

The other book Xander was pretty sure was just a joke book as it had seemed very promising but had turned out to be complete gibberish inside. The cover and chapter headings were the only legible things in it and they changed according to what he wanted them to say, hence the excitement on discovering a book entitled Simple Magic Explained In Detail By Someone Who Doesn't Have Their Thumb Up Their Ass.

Still, it had been fairly entertaining so Xander was using it to mess with and destress whenever the book on Enochian Runes frustrated him, which was often.

"Welcome to Bob's Burgers, the specials are on the board, order whenever you're ready," the heavyset balding guy with an impressive mustache said as he entered.

"Two burgers, large fries, and a coke, make them however you feel like," Xander said, "I'm pretty sure you know more about burgers than I do."

"Well, it is my specialty," Bob, according to his nametag, replied with a smile. "I'll have em ready in seven minutes."

"Thanks," Xander said, taking an empty booth and setting his books on the table.

"You look strong," a young girl wearing pink headwear with bunny ears said.

"Louise, please don't bother the customers," Bob called out from behind the grill.

"No can do, Daddarino, I have a dresser and bed I need to move and I'm going to exploit my cuteness to do it!"

"Let me check the manual," Xander said, trying to sound serious as he pulled out the joke book from underneath the others, concentrating on what he wanted it to read.

"The Man-ual of Being a Man?" Louise read aloud. "Is that a real thing?!"

"It is," Xander said, opening the book to a random section. "Rules regarding adorable little girls," he read aloud.

"But everything under the title looks like gibberish," she said.

"Man code," Xander replied, forcing himself not to laugh. "Let's see... Young girl... Check. Adorable... Double check. Do you still have all your hopes and dreams?"

"You know it!" Louise said firmly.

"Looks like you can demand five minutes of manual labor, a piggyback ride lasting no more than seven minutes, or my help capturing a duck from a local park," Xander said as he pretended to read.

"A duck?!"

"No ducks, Louise," Bob called out.

"The last one requires parental permission," Xander said.

"Drat! But I can get you to move furniture, right?"

"Of course, but only for five minutes," Xander told her.

"Dad, I'm borrowing a customer!" Louise called out. "Be back in five minutes plus travel time upstairs!"

"Good call," Xander said. "Someone keep an eye on my books please, I'll be right back."

"I'll do it," the waitress Linda volunteered as Xander was pulled towards the back by her daughter.

"Did our youngest just con someone into helping her move furniture?" Bob asked while he worked the grill.

"Looks like it," Linda agreed, peeking at the open book. "Huh, it actually says what he said it did, well except for the gibberish of course."

"You mean he actually had a book with all that in it?" a large man wearing a wool cap asked.

"Book and chapter title, the rest is gibberish," she confirmed.

"I bet he's a wizard!" a young chubby boy exclaimed.

"He's too cute to be a wizard," a young teen wearing thick black glasses said, taking deep breaths between each word.

"Tina, don't have a crush," Bob ordered.

"Too late," Tina replied a bit out of breath.

Linda giggled. "Let her have a crush, Bob, she's at that age, it's natural."

"There is nothing natural about the speed of her crushes," Bob complained as he flipped the burgers.

"I still say he's a wizard," the boy said, "or maybe a sorcerer."

"What's the difference?" Linda asked.

"Spellbooks mainly," he replied.

"You really are strong," Louise said as the two re-entered the restaurant.

"So he doesn't know magic?" the boy asked, disappointed.

"I'm working on it," Xander said as he slid back into the book.

"You're multiclassing?" the boy asked curiously.

"Working on it," Xander agreed, "but it's slow going."

"What's your first class? It's fighter, isn't it? If you're going to multi-class it's always best to start off on one with lots of hit points," he rattled off.

"I took a prestige fighter class, vampire hunter," Xander told him.

"Any good bonuses?"

"I can roll with a blow and annoy undead," Xander said.

"Taunt skills are good as long as you've got the hit dice to back them up," the boy said. "I'm Gene," he introduced himself.

"I'm T-Tina," the young teenage girl stuttered out, red faced.

"I'm Xander," he replied, "nice to meet you both."

"What magic do you know?" Gene asked excitedly.

"Just a couple of runes right now," Xander said, "really low level stuff and I'm pretty sure I screwed up one of the three."

"You really know magic?" Linda asked. "Are we talking stage magician or the real deal?"

"Real deal," Xander replied. "It's just really slow going because the people who write the books seem like they're paid by the word."

"Long winded?" Louise guessed.

"Like you wouldn't believe," Xander said. "It also doesn't help that it's written in olde English."

"Like... Shakespeare?" Tina forced herself to speak up, red faced.

"Exactly like that," he agreed. "Long convoluted sentences that can probably be summed up in a few words, but you have to read it all and untangle it to figure out what those words are."

"Order up," Bob called out, setting a plate on the counter.

"Let me get that for you," Linda said.

"Thanks," Xander said, putting the Man-ual on the bottom of the stack and his notebook on top.

"What do the runes do?" Gene asked.

"Sanctuary, keeps out supernatural threats," Xander said, accepting the food from Linda. "That was the first one I learned and it works best on private residences. The second one is Journey and it allows you to find people you have strong feelings for. Not sure I have the name of it right, it might mean Travel or Location... Like I said, the writer is very annoying. And finally one called Attraction or Calling which I think I screwed up."

"I feel attraction," Tina offered without thinking about it, before hiding in a booth.

Louise sighed and went to the counter. "Paper bag, pronto," she ordered.

"So it didn't work?" Gene asked.

"It sort of worked," Xander said, he reached into his jacket and pulled out a foot long silver dagger in a sheathe and set it on the table.

"That's huge!" Gene exclaimed while Louise passed Tina a paper bag to breathe into.

"Watch," Xander said and held his palm up, slowly moving it back and forth, the hilt of the blade moving with his hand.

"It's magic!"

"Yeah, but it's supposed to leap into my hand, not just wiggle on the table," Xander said. "Still, at least I can tell where it is, so it's not all bad."

"So you really are a vampire hunter?" LInda asked as Xander took a bite of his burger.

Xander chewed and swallowed. "Vampires really seem to like attacking me, so it's more fighter than hunter, but yeah, I've gotten pretty good at figuring out where they are."

"Do we gotta worry about vampires now?" the man at the counter asked worriedly.

"Not that I know of," Xander assured him, "I'm just here to give a lecture to the police on what signs to look for."

"Please tell me vampires are rare," Bob requested. "Life's tough enough without vampires joining the IRS to suck out all our blood."

"I don't know about rare, but if there were a lot of them around, you'd know," Xander assured him. "The papers would be filled with reports of gangs on PCP and people dying from barbecue fork wounds to the neck."

"Are you being serious or is this another long convoluted plan to scare me?" Louise asked. "I enjoyed last Halloween, but it's summer so I'm not really feeling it."

Xander handed her his notebook.

"You actually have a speech," she said as she looked through it, "and stage directions?"

Xander nodded as he ate.

Linda looked over Louise' shoulder. "You have pause for stupid questions?"

Xander nodded. "There's always at least one person who asks a stupid question or five because they are a fan of vampire movies which make vampires look cool."

"Blade was cool itself!" Gene declared.

"What about the one with the sparkly emo guy?" Linda asked.

"Not a vampire," Gene said.

"The one where they fight werewolves?" Louise asked as she turned the page.

"Also not werewolves," Gene said firmly.

"I'm pretty sure that's what they called them," Linda said.

"They also call tiny candy bars fun sized," the boy said, "that doesn't mean it's true."

"I heard they were supposed to be fey from the darker tales about the fairy courts but the publisher insisted vampires would sell better," Xander offered.

"And the blood drinking?" Louise asked.

"A lot of things drink blood, not just vampires," Xander replied. "The Winter Court fey are one of the many."

"It probably would have worked better with fairies," Gene said, "maybe. Not exactly a fan of bad acting. If I want awkward pauses and stares I'll get Jimmy Junior to sit with Tina for lunch again."

"I don't have a crush on Jimmy Junior," Tina said, taking the paper bag away from her mouth.

"I know, but now that you don't, he does," Gene said.

"Hey, you got a section on zombies," Louise said with a grin and a glance at Tina who ducked out of sight again.

"Yeah, I ran into one recently and it's not the first time so I thought I'd cover a bit on it so the police know what to do," Xander explained, before taking a sip of his soda.

"Really?" Tina asked, wide eyed as she popped up from her booth, forgetting her embarrassment.

"Yeah it was just the next town over, he was an intelligent zombie but magically compelled to attack everyone," Xander explained. "Magic users can be real ba-buttheads at times," he quickly changed what he was going to say since children were present.

"So what'd you do?" Louise asked.

"Borrowed a hand axe and took off his limbs," Xander replied. "He helped by warning me about every move he was going to make because he didn't want to hurt anyone."

"That's so cool," Tina said.

"He's the first nice zombie I've run into," Xander replied before starting in on his second burger.

"I always thought zombies were all 'brains' and growling," Gene said.

"They can be," Xander agreed, "but there's all types of zombies and if the necromancer is working on a single zombie they can make sure they're intelligent and not all grr argh."

"I always thought monster hunters would be grim silent types, but you're pretty open and friendly," Linda said.

Xander shrugged. "A lot of them are, but that's just not me."

"Isn't the whole life and death struggle and losing people supposed to make you that way?" Louise asked. "Or have you not lost anyone?"

"Louise!" both her parents chorused.

"It's fine," Xander said, assuring them before turning back to the little girl with the bunny themed headwear. "I've lost a lot of friends and some even closer, but I've also seen proof of the afterlife so I know I'll see them again. When I lose someone I care about I treat it like I'd want them to treat losing me, mourn for a little while, remember the good times... and be sure to avenge my death."

"Dude, that's so hardcore... yet somehow still Disney," Louise said with a frown. "You know what I mean?"

"I get it," Xander told her with a grin.

"You've seen proof of the afterlife?" Bob asked.

Xander nodded. "The one below at least, and had one of the gang return after being sent to the wrong place because of a curse."

"Which religion is right?" Gene asked excitedly. "Is it the flying spaghetti monster? I've heard good things about it."

"No idea," Xander replied. "I use crosses and holy water which work pretty well, so I'm leaning Catholic without actually attending church or converting... I really should go to church for more than weapons."

"I think good works count far more than attendance," Bob offered.

"You better hope so, Mr. I-like-to-sleep-in-on-holidays," Linda said, pointing a finger at her husband.

"I aim for three out of four Sundays a month and I donate time at various charities when asked," Bob said, "if that's not enough..." He shrugged.

"So... do you have a girlfriend?" Tina asked hopefully.

"What grade are you in?" Xander asked.

"Eighth grade, but I'm a hall monitor," she said proudly.

"Let me consult the Man-ual," Xander said, opening the Man-ual to a random page with the header, Dating Younger Girls. "Hm... It says that since I'm over eighteen... I'm not supposed to get within three feet of girls as cute as you until they graduate highschool."

Tina giggled and fled upstairs.

"Well, you just guaranteed yourself the starring role in the next shelf full of stories of a questionable nature she's going to write," Gene said.

"Gene," Bob groaned out while his wife laughed.

"What? I've read her journals, they are like some of the stuff on the net I'm not supposed to look at, but with better spelling and grammar," Gene said.

"Gene, stay out of your sister's stuff," Linda ordered.

"It wasn't on purpose," Gene defended himself, "I was looking for her diary. For a couple of minutes I thought she had a much more exciting life than I knew."

"Why were you trying to read her diary?" Linda demanded.

"Figured it was an easy way to figure out what she wanted for her birthday," he replied.

"You haven't read mine, have you?" Louise demanded.

"Never needed to," Gene said, "you tell me straight out what you want and even provide coupons."

"You don't get a lot of buying power, I gotta help you stretch it somehow," Louise said with a shrug.

"And I really appreciate it," Gene said cheerfully.

"But you always act so surprised," Linda said.

"He likes surprising me with what he gets me," Louise explained, "of course I'll act surprised."

"It's win-win," the young boy said with a smile.

Xander finished his fries while trying not to laugh. "Would you mind reading through my lecture and seeing what you think?" he asked Linda.

"Sure, I'll give it a once over," she agreed, taking the notebook from Louise. Bob came out from behind the grill to read with her.

"So, what's your dump stat?" Gene asked.

"Well, considering I actually attack monsters hand to hand who are all stronger, faster, and more skilled than me... I'm guessing wisdom," Xander replied.

"Ouch, you may want to work on that or is learning magic a way to work on that?" Gene asked himself. "Most magic works on intelligence not sure about wisdom. Ever thought of going for cleric?"

"I considered that," Xander agreed, "but I'm pretty sure I've pi- angered a lot of gods. Janus probably likes me but chaos doesn't play favorites."

"Might want to work on that too," the young boy said. "Sacrifice some sheep or something."

"That... is probably a good idea," Xander admitted.

"Why would all the gods be mad at you?" Louise asked. "Did you do something bad in one of their temples? I remember some people get whacked by the gods for that."

"No, a friend cast a love spell for me which went all sorts of wrong and then I broke a prophecy handed down from the gods and as a rule they don't like being proven wrong," Xander replied.

"Are vampires really this stupid?" Bob asked, looking up from the notebook.

"Huge ego, like beyond trust fund kid who's daddy is going into politics," Xander replied.

"Ouch," Linda said as she flipped a page and Bob leaned in close.

"What was the prophecy?" Louise asked. "Cause the only one I know is from Harry Potter and it makes no sense, it's like the writer is making it up as she goes along."

"The prophecy said my friend was going to die and I revived her with CPR," Xander said.

"Well, she was dead for a minute, right?" Gene asked. "That has to count."

"According to our wizard friend, the language the prophecy was translated from was pretty clear that death refers to the eternal sleep and not a snooze alarm," Xander said, "so it was definitely broken."

"Well at least you saved your friend," Louise said, "but seriously, get to sacrificing whatever they want before they sic Wonder Woman on you."

"Can they do that?" Xander asked, wondering if he should research superheroes since all he knew about them came from comics and movies.

"Pretty sure she's the Greek Gods' hitwoman," Louise said, "and you do not want to get on her bad side."

"This is all true?" Bob asked, gesturing to the notebook in disbelief.

Xander nodded.

"I should hang up some crosses in here, maybe add some mirrors," Bob decided.

"What about our jewish customers?" Linda asked.

"I'll add a Star of David or two," Bob replied, "it's not like they're going to cancel each other out. They aren't, are they?"

"No, both work perfectly fine," Xander said, "crosses are just more convenient to hit things with, easier to hold."

"I would say that's a strange requirement when it comes to religious paraphernalia, but considering what you deal with it's just good sense," Linda said.

"So how's it read?" Xander asked as they finished the notebook.

"It's better than most employee training manuals and that's kinda what you're doing," Bob offered.

"Yeah, it's easy to understand, if pretty terrifying," Linda said. "Vampires are really that powerful?"

"Depends on the vampire," Xander said. "A chess nerd who doesn't exercise being five times as strong as he was when he was alive is probably not that much stronger than I am."

"You put my full dresser on my bed and picked up the whole thing while I was sitting on it," Louise said, "that's like super strong!"

"It was the easiest way to move everything without banging into anything," Xander said, "and while I'm a little stronger than average I'm not super strong."

"Walking corpses are always bad news," Gene said. "I'm going to get my ear pierced so I can wear a crucifix earring!"

"Gene Hory, you can't... Actually it's probably a good idea," Linda said.

"Can I get a Hammer of Thor?!" Louise exclaimed excitedly. "That would look so awesome!"

"Would a Hammer of Thor even work?" Bob asked.

"I have no idea," Xander admitted. "Thor doesn't have a lot of followers these days and that might affect it. I'll have to test it and find out."

"Stick with the crucifix for now, sweetie," Linda said, "you can use pagan symbols after we find out if it works or not."

"How about one of those crosses with a loop on top that the Egyptians use?" Gene asked. "They're pretty cool."

"They're called ankh's," Xander said, "and yeah they work but they aren't as pointy so it's harder to stab things with them."

"Your life is very different from ours," Linda told Xander.

"Yeah, it's more awesome!" Gene exclaimed.

"Let's close early and all get our ears pierced," Bob decided.

"Even me?" the man in the wool cap asked.

"Especially you, Teddy," Bob told him, making the man perk up.

"Hey Tina, we're all going to get our ears pierced, get down here!" Louise yelled up the stairs.

"Everyone gets crucifix earrings or ankhs and we'll stop by the church to have them blessed," Bob said, walking over to the front door and flipping the open sign over to closed.

"And that's my cue to head out," Xander said. "I'll call and let you know when I find out if Thor's Hammer works and how well."

"Hug!" Louise demanded.

"I didn't picture you as a hugger," Xander said, surprised.

"You helped move furniture and are helping protect those I care about," Louise said, "you are getting a hug whether you like it or not, the only question is if it's voluntary or via tackle."

Xander accepted the hug with a wide smile. "Thanks kiddo, I don't get near enough hugs when I'm away from home."

"Don't mention it to anyone or it's noogie time," she said seriously before releasing him.

"My lips are sealed," Xander promised. "It was nice meeting you all and I'll probably stop by again for a couple more burgers before I head to the next town."

"Our grill's always open for you," Bob promised him as he left.

"We're doing what now?" Xander heard Tina ask before the door closed behind him.

"Wish I had a family like that," Xander said as he walked back to his car.

Typing By: Abyssal Angel

Beta By: Abyssal Angel and Mist of Shadows