"Xander, Giles said to look at houses. "You know we don't have much money." Willow whined as they turned away from the Hellmouth she could feel. She wanted this over as soon as possible. It wasn't fair that Giles had separated the couples for the day, he had taken Andrew, Buffy, Kennedy and Wood with him to check out the new Hellmouth and she as the most powerful of their magic users should have been with them. Instead he had sent her house hunting with Xander, Dawn and Faith and the rest of the baby Slayers in the bus.
"Stop whining, Red, you can get back to your slayer snugglebunny later," Faith snapped, annoyed with the complaints from the redheaded witch.
"Giles took Andrew to the Hellmouth I'm the one who should have gone, the closing of the Sunnydale Hellmouth has made this one ten time worse," Willow shot back.
"Willow, are you sure you aren't as blond as my sister? You're certainly acting like it at the moment. Giles doesn't need you at the Hellmouth they aren't going to use magic on it just check it out. They have two slayers and both Giles and Andrew can do defensive spells if needed. It is noon not dusk and the Hellmouth is in the shopping and business district so they aren't in much danger during the day. If Buffy had a brain in her bottle blond head she would have forced me to go with them where it is safe not on this bus because we on the other hand will be going into old unoccupied houses and other boarded up places. Which as any Sunnydaler who isn't playing see no evil, hear no evil knows is prime Vampire and Demon nesting places which is why Xander and I brought you, Faith and the baby slayers along." Snapped Dawn.
Willow gaped at the reprimand from little Dawn.
"What? You thought Xander brought you and the Slayers along to get you all out of Giles hair, leaving you all at the hotel would have done that and Xan made sure we all brought our weapons as well." Dawn smirked as she pointed to the weapons chest and super soakers that took up a few seats in the middle of the bus.
Willow absorbed that with a glance at her oldest friend who was up front using a map to direct Faith as she drove the bus.
"It still doesn't change the fact that we are heading in the wrong directions according to the Internet the houses are on the other side of town." She pouted not liking to admit she misjudged the situation.
"Xan had Andrew check them out on the Internet then Xan checked with other places around town as well, anything for sale big enough for us is way out of our price range or would need so much work we couldn't live there for years. This side of town is much cheaper but it won't be a house, just something he can convert, Xan thinks they found five possibilities, two big warehouses built just before a company went bankrupt and a office building built after World War II during the eighties land boom someone had the office building rezoned to convert to apartments before they went broke. Xan found all the original plans and structural examinations done by the defunct company it is close to the Hellmouth so the Demons might have done a lot of damage since the eighties so we are checking them out. Then we have a small bed and breakfast hotel but that is still occupied so might not work out as we need vacant possession and as it is one of the better parts of town is probably out of our price range, Andrew couldn't find the asking price for that one it will be a private sale or a auction in another month. The final one is an Old Catholic girl's school that turned private college just after World War II. We will check the school last because it mostly burnt down early to mid seventies and is in one of the worst areas low income housing on one side abandoned warehouses on another and cemeteries and churchs on the others. Not only that it has lots of grounds and burnt out buildings which will be overgrown so possibly Demon controlled after almost thirty years of abandonment that is actually the cheapest the government have been trying to sell it for back taxes considering the amount of land that goes with it must be bad not to have been sold by now."
"Actually that could be misleading, the place is old and the four surviving buildings are mid nineteenth century built so have historical baggage and the fact the land can't be sub-divided probably drove off anyone interested especially the big construction companies." Said Xander quietly. "I'm more worried about these warehouses and the office building they aren't in the best part of town but a long way from the bad parts they should have been snapped up by a renovating company a long time ago and converted. The office building plans looked good at least on paper. You can forget the bed and breakfast I called them before we left it is way out of our price range. Turn left here Faith the office building is behind this building. Damn! Well that explains why this one hasn't been bought." He said looking at the gutted skeleton of a building, even from here he could see the structural damage that would cost more than the building to fix, it would be easier to demolish it and start from scratch. "That doesn't look recent so it wasn't one of the fires that happened here when the Sunnydale Hellmouth closed and the Cleveland one escalated," said Xander. They had found the sites of at least twenty fires since they arrived while exploring the new Hellmouth. The victim's were wide ranging and diverse from one of the three Army Surplus stores, a fabric and craft warehouse, an upmarket camping supply, a Chinese supermarket even one clothing stores, even a charity shop burnt to the ground and in many cases it wasn't the fire that caused the damage but the soot, ash and water from the fire hoses needed to put out the fires.
The fires had been over long enough that the stores and businesses were cleaning up, the insurance agents had evaluated the damage inventory and pictures taken so they were salvaging what they could and dumping the rest into skiffs for eventual dumping at a tip. Xander already intended to see about renting a storage place and looking through the skiffs for anything he thought might be eventually useful. The trick was in asking the store owner or manager if they could have it before they took it out of the skiff, and if they said no he would just go and wait for the skiff to be emptied and get it there. As he told Dawn he was a pack rat and it made his hands itch to see stuff he could fix or recycle into something else just being thrown out. He often made stakes and crossbow bolts out of broken discarded furniture. Then there had been the broken discarded furniture that rich people had thrown out because they tore the upholstery or broke something easily fixable he made his road trip money fixing and selling those. This time he fully intended to take Andrew with him he was geek enough to be a scavenger and he would see different things as useful. He might even see if some of the baby slayers wanted to come he knew a few had hobbies they would like to do. He could probably talk Dawn and Faith into it as well, Dawnie for the hell of it and Faith because as a street kid she would know how important salvage could be. For the next two hours they examined the two warehouses both were big and demon infested, nothing too worrying just a couple of big vampire nests nothing that Faith and the baby slayers couldn't handle. Both of them were still solid and could be converted if they couldn't find anything else but they were ugly concrete boxes Xander hated for the lack of imagination in their design and construction. A few test told him the materials used hadn't been the best either to much sand in the internal concrete, someone had been cutting corners like crazy when they made these things. Xander moved them on to the old college as soon as he checked them for structural damage hoping the college would be better than these butt ugly badly built monuments to cost cutting and bad taste. He'd take them if he had to but the cost of making them livable would be high so coming back for another look would definitely be a last resort no other viable option available deal. Xander shuddered heating those concrete coffins would be a bitch in a Cleveland winter and that wasn't far off, it was Boston born Faith that had reminded him about the approaching winter and its inevitable woes. Ice, snow, blizzards all that deadly freezing cold wet stuff the sunny California born Scoobies had never had to deal with so weren't use to thinking about or planning for.
"Boytoy, where is it?" asked Faith.
"The entrance should be here according to the map next to the old Catholic church on the corner." Said Xander puzzled looking at the big stone church with a road on either side of it."
"That road isn't big enough for more than two cars at a time do you think it might be a driveway?" asked Faith thoughtfully looking at the smaller road bitting her lip anxiously.
They parked and started searching around the opening finally finding toppled entryway markers and the remains of gates on either side of the road. They climbed back into the bus and turned into the big entryway and slowly drove up the asphalted road quickly finding a lot of potholes, thirty years of potholes.
Once past the church the area on either side widened and they saw big asphalted areas with concrete divisions, which looked like they once, held plants. It took a few minutes for them to realise this was the College parking area stretching out on either side of the entryway if this place worked out they would have plenty of car parking. They continued on and the driveway made a large loop around what looked to be a big fountain. Behind it was a big long boarded up building with an impressive circular entryway in the middle. Xander smirked as they approached taking in the cast iron gates padlocked shut with their decorative but obvious crosses, obviously a hold over from the schools religious roots he doubted any Vampire went through the front doors but that wouldn't stop them using other ways of entry.
"According to the plans the buildings were courtyard shaped two long buildings like this and three smaller ones to turn them into a double box with two court yards made by the five buildings intersecting. The college originally had three of these five building two courtyard clusters. The back two were the newer section built after World War II copying this original cluster design they were totally gutted from the reports we wont be checking them today just the ones that are suppose to be still intact. This front cluster didn't survive unscathed either but the long back building took the brunt of it according to the insurance reports so that means this long building and the three smaller ones should be reasonably intact. That might not mean anything, as this cluster is the original school buildings and over one hundred and fifty years old. They are boarded it all up so everyone take a flashlight and keep your weapons handy.
Two hours later they all met back in the front entryway. Xander loved the place. It might need a lot of work but not only was it cheaper, it was much more livable in the long run than those concrete eyesores could ever be. They hadn't found any vampires and demons possibly due to the plethora of crosses still in the stone work and surviving woodwork but that didn't mean the rest of the property wouldn't have nests of something unpleasant but that could be taken care of later.
"Comments? Any big problems that anyone saw that I might have missed doing the structural examination?" He asked his girls.
"No bathroom type bathrooms only two big school type ones on each floor that are all toilets in the three smaller buildings so we have about five toilets and two sinks per female bathroom and the male ones have two toilets and three urinals and two sinks." Said one Slayer with a grimace.
Xander nodded he had expected something like that, "That is easy fixable the bathrooms are there and so are the pipes proper bathrooms will be easy. I expected to find just toilets this was a school, that is much better than those warehouses more conversion room they only have two female toilets with a sink per floor and the same for the males." Explained Xander the young slayer looked much happier at hearing that.
"The walls are thick so are well insulated but the heating system looks old and might have to be replaced so we would need it checked before winter." Offered Faith. "On the plus side the rooms still have their old fireplaces they are just boarded up the chimneys still look intact so they might still be workable. If they are still working that will save us a lot of money come winter there is bound to be a lot of wood we can cut for the fires the grounds have been overgrown for thirty years and if we use it in the fireplaces it will save the carting away fees plus save on our heating bill this winter at least."
Xander nodded making a note to get the heating system and the fireplaces and chimneys checked he hoped the fireplaces could be made working he hadn't liked the look of the heating furnace in the main building.
"There isn't a kitchen or laundry in any of the intact buildings but they had enough science laboratories to sink a battleship we could easily convert one of those." Offered Dawn. "Are you sure this was a college, Xan, all three of the smaller buildings are labs, four to a floor that is sixteen labs a building and all three of them are like that. This building has even more only the ground floor is lab free and they are offices from the look of it, the lower floor was only used as storage."
"Damn! That many laboratories means a research institute not a college and the words, Laboratories, College and Hellmouth together all spell the Initiative to me or maybe the original precursor to the Initiative we knew in Sunnydale." Xander thought about that for a moment reaching a few conclusions that had been puzzling him about this place. "It would explain why they never bothered to rebuild it they had four intact building and the fifth one could be repaired fairly easily from what I saw, the walls and floors are intact so is the roof. If it was something like the Initiative the fire might have been an attack or some demons subjects escaped and destroyed the place which blew their security so their funding probably got pulled because of it. Years later they tried again but moved to Sunnydale and built underground this time." Said Xander. "It might also explain the lack of Demon squatting in the buildings even thirty years latter. Slayers moving in would probably be less frightening to the demon communities as we usually leave the more harmless tribes alone unless they make trouble and we stop the big bads from destroying the world. In fact come to think of it we are probably the only people who could buy this place and survive because we took out the Sunnydale Initiative so they know we won't be setting up another one."
"But, Xander, do we really want to buy an old Initiative base?" said Willow worried.
"It is the best we have found in our price range it's big and cheap, real cheap considering the buildings and amount of land that comes with it. We shouldn't have any problems with it they are long gone the fire was almost thirty years ago and a boarding school is a good cover to explain all the teenage girls and Wood is a schoolteacher and school principal. Giles is a qualified teacher and librarian, even you have all that filling in for Miss Calender on your resume. It wouldn't take much to get you teacher credentials the way you study, even Buffy has school councillor on her resume, when you think of it a school is the only thing that makes sense as a cover it is what most of the adults have on their employment records." Said Xander quietly.
"What will we do with all the laboratories?" asked Willow biting her lip in deep thought Xander was making a lot of sense but the thought of living in the remains of an initiative base was creepy.
"Keep a few of them for the school and maybe a few more for potions and magical experiments and research and rip out the rest to make Slayer and Watcher class rooms and dormitories for the girls and living quarters for the adults." Said Xander immediately. "One good thing laboratories usually have sinks and a safety shower so that is more potential bathroom plumbing to work with when we convert this place meanwhile we already have toilets and showers we can use while we renovate. If we buy it we can probably live on the ground floor until we rip out the laboratories for dormitories and since they already have plumbing we can probably give the Dorms and living quarters a private bathroom as we remodel."
"Okay lets have one more look around then we will head back to the hotel, I don't want to be out here after dark until we know what is on the property."
Xander headed for the nearest laboratory so he could get an idea of what a renovation would take. He was pleased with what he found a big room with six big wide laboratory tables with a built in small white square but really deep sinks at either end with the high arching single spouts designed to accommodate tall lab equipment a typical lab table in his experience. There was a separate storeroom off to one side this room also contained a deep rectangular white industrial sink and the emergency shower. Frowning Xander turned to Dawn who had come with him and was looking around curiously.
"Dawnie, do you think the girls would mind this type of sink in the bathroom? It would save a lot of money to reuse what is already here that way we only have the expense of the bathtubs which can be bought when we have the money."
Dawn looked around the large storeroom critically, gazed at the sink then went to look at the laboratory sinks. Gazed around the laboratory as if calculating something grinned and came back smirking.
"This size lab could have four girls living comfortably. Cut down one of the lab tables for one bench top and inset four of the Lab table sinks into it just leave them room to move and bench space between sinks so they can all be in here at once. Put cupboards and drawers under the bench also divided equally into four and exactly the same or they will fight over the bigger one and a large lighted mirror on the wall. That way each slayer gets her own sink and bathroom storage it will save a lot of fights in the morning." Said Dawn very very seriously.
Xander thought about it remembering Revello drive and the nightmare of one bathroom and all the potential's with a shudder. Dawnie was right give them all their own bathroom territory the four little sinks would be safer for all concerned than one big one they would constantly fight over. He could use the rest of the lab table to make the cupboards. He might also make a small kitchen in a corner with another piece of a bench with a table sink, add a cupboard, drawer, and maybe room underneath for a eventual bar fridge when they managed the money for them and the girls would be able to have a junk food and soda cache a must for any teenager. First he would need to plot out how much room each girl would need. He had to give them each a bed, closet, dresser and study desk, Andrew was a computer geek he might be able to rig a cabled network for the students that way that way they wouldn't have more than cheap monitors, keyboard and mouse taking up the room the girls could share a cheap printer they didn't need anything really fancy it was just for their homework and school assignments. The watcher computers they would spend the money on would be separate. In setting up a dormitory he would have to account for easy bathroom access and fireplace safety and heat circulation for winter he might be only able to get three girls to a dormitory he'd have to work out minimum space for what they need then measure each lab and plan accordingly as there was no guarantee that they were all the same the buildings were over a hundred and fifty years old so every lab would probably be different.
"Good thinking, Dawn Patrol, we have to head those Slayer bathroom fights off at the pass, you are my sensei in this area, grasshopper, for you cagey and wise, battleworn from the life long fight for the sink and the mirror before General Buffy."
"Tell me about it, Her Imperial Highness hogs that sink and mirror tenaciously even mom never had a chance in the bathroom once she woke up." Moaned Dawn feelingly. "Make sure she gets her own sink and mirror, please Xan, or we will all kill her."
Xander laughed as he remembered Joyce's 'Buffy-get-out-of-the-bathroom' exasperated scream, which was possibly only topped by Dawn's frustrated rants.
"Xan when we move in here will I still have to share with Buffy or will I be in a dorm with the Slayers my age?"
Xander looked at Dawn's emotionless face with frown, "Well, Dawnie, I was thinking Buffy is a adult Slayer so she would get her own room, especially as the senior Slayers would be the den mothers of the baby slayers when at the school. Wood is the Principal but he is also with Faith so I'm thinking of making some couple rooms near the Slayer dorms for senior Slayers with significants that will house the Wood/Faith coupleness unless they break up then they get single accommodation if they both move they can't complain over who got the house etc."
"Head them off at the pass." Grinned Dawn.
"Damn right I am, they fight like cats and dogs now and they are together, if they break up who gets the place they lived in will be a major crowing point so to save all our sanity neither of them will get the accommodation and that will go for any other couple that breaks up as well they can still fight over whose stuff is whose but neither gets the room both move out."
"Sounds fair but what if one of the couple has a new boyfriend or girlfriend they want to move in after tossing the old one? We both know that is bound to happen." Grinned Dawn.
Xander thought about that for a moment. "Same rule they don't get the room we move the new couple into different accommodation no matter the hassle or musical rooms it causes."
"So what I was saying, you get to choose. We get you a single room in the watcher section near Giles no roommate likely in sight because they are all older, or we put you in an age appropriate Slayer Dorm until you graduate then put you with the watchers room then or we can just lump you with Andrew and myself from the start as school staff and get you permanent accommodation you can't get kicked out of near us because we will be having the plasma TV and cable not to mention all the other geek goodies Andrew can think up in that cockyed brain of his. I'm thinking one of the smaller buildings a workshop in the basement a place for Andrew's computers and gismo's, we can be where they send the geeks and crazies so we don't bother Giles with our media geek babble. We'll be having all the little Slayers sneaking in for a TV fix sci-fi marathon on the big TV that's when you get to be your mom making sure we have enough popcorn and chocolate and rugs."
"And Buffy and Giles will agree to this future insanity why?" she laughed.
"That's simple we tell them little Dawnie needs stability so we get you a permanent place you can put down roots and be a pack rat in and Andrew and I are the two most likely to stay at the school for the foreseeable future. Andrew, well because he is Andrew and I doubt he would survive out there and I will be there rebuilding the place one room at a time." Laughed Xander enjoying her amusement. "Come let's get back we still have to talk Giles into buying this place."
"Will we have enough money for it?"
"Just enough for the deposit if we take out a loan until Giles gets the Council finances straightened out, Giles wants to buy another car but I've been trying to talk him out of it. We have the bus and my car which Andrew and I drove out of Sunnydale loaded with stuff the day before the battle. We drove back in the car Andrew drove out with me in so we could get back, it was a risk but we did manage to save things like Photo Albums and all the legal documents us Sunnydalers would need to prove who we are. I also put some of my tools, Andrew put his and Willows computers and both Andrew and I added the most expensive and hard to get part of our comic and Media collection's as they are sellable if we get desperate for money, we left a lot behind but we should get insurance on that stuff as both of us had them itemised on the insurance and told them what we saved. We also put the last of the watcher reference books left in Sunnydale, Anya put her bank books, portfolio and a whole pile of legal documents I dumped on Angel to let his evil law firm sort out half of it was in demon languages. That's why I have been letting Giles drive the car and we have the bus in a attempt to delay him buying a car at the moment but no matter what we have to get out of that crappy hotel it's not only a dump but draining our funds even with us all doubled up like we are. So our priority is to get a place so we save that hotel money and can use it for food and essentials instead of hotel fees but no matter what we do Giles still needs to be able to go to England once we're settled so he can track down council funds. As we stand now we have enough deposit to apply for a loan so we could could buy this property, plus find a used car and still buy food but Giles couldn't go to England so I delayed the car purchase so we have the plane fare."
"Doesn't Giles understand that?"
"Dawnie, you heard him he told us to
it is obvious he has been planning on us living in something small
he finds the money for something bigger. That's why he was planning on
the second car if we only bought a three or even a four bedroom house
could afford a cheap second hand car instead of us always fighting for
use of the bus when someone has the car. It is a good plan on the
if there were less of us it would work but how long do you think we
all last couped up in a house like Revello Drive yet again? We almost
survive last time and this time we won't have an impending apocalypse
stop us killing each other." Said Xander quietly.