Note: Post season seven. I assume that everyone stayed in LA for a while. I personally refused to watch the end of that season, it made me break out in hives.
I Get You.
The demon knew it was going to die soon. It could feel the hunters behind it. He had been gifted with special knowledge and the hunters wanted it from him. All he needed was a bit more time and he could have everything finished, then he could disappear and everything would be all right in his world. He rounded a corner and heard their footsteps speed up, they had caught sight of him. He made the hardest decision of his life, letting someone else have his gifts so his legacy would live on. He ran toward the human parts of LA, going toward the biggest and brightest nearby light. That would be where the humans were. He found a few Chinese restaurants and literally ran into a human coming out.
"Hey!" Xander Harris said angrily. "Watch where you're going."
"Xander!" Buffy shouted, coming out with the bags of food. "Are you all right?" She looked at the demon, then growled. "Leave, now."
He babbled at her, reaching out to touch Xander's neck, passing on his gift. It was the only way for him to live on. Then he scrambled to his feet and scurried off again. He hadn't known the blonde woman but she had felt wrong to him.
Buffy hauled Xander up with her free hand. "What was that about? Were you bitten or anything?"
"No," he said, touching the spot on his neck. A flash of light hit him, making him wobble. "Wow. Pretty colors. Didn't think I had hit my head."
"Neither did I," she admitted, starting to frown. She heard more demons in the shadows and nudged him. "To the car, Xander. Before we have to slay in front of the nice eating people." He nodded, letting her drive even. She knew something was really wrong now, he never let her drive his car. She took off, going extra-speedy so she could get back to the Hyperion. Maybe Angel would have a clue. When they got there, she brought in the food first because hungry younger Slayers tended to pounce. "Wes," she said, calling out to the first adult she saw. "Need you to help me with Xander. Some funky thing ran into him, touched him on the neck, babbled, then ran off again."
"Coming," he agreed, grabbing his own order before the teenage girls could take it. "Food's here," he yelled. He followed her out after putting his food onto his desk, hopefully safely away. They found Xander unconscious on the seat, drooling slightly. "What sort of demon was it?" he asked as he helped her extract her friend.
"Um, bluish-purply sort of, with a sea-green facial mask. It babbled like Cousin It. Touched him on that red spot on his neck, then ran off." She carried him inside and the girls actually looked up from their eating for a moment before going back to their food. "Gee, thanks, so very helpful," she told them as she passed them by.
Wesley went into his office to get the Watcher's Manual and his food, finding it a carton short. He walked out and glared at the young women so it was handed back, though it was only half full. "Thank you. Someone get Angel and Gunn?" He headed back to where Buffy was laying Xander in the library, handing her the book. "Here, it should be in there."
She nodded and sat down, flipping through the pretty color illustrations. A few came close but it was nearly the last one in the book when she found it. "Him I think," she said as she passed it back.
"We've got to feed those girls more often," Gunn noted as he came in with a plate of food. "I was lucky to get this much."
Fred trotted in with a whole carton. "They only do it to you guys." She grinned at Buffy and looked over Wesley's shoulder. "What is that?"
"It's fairly harmless," Wesley said, reading the properties. He'd never run into one before but others had many times. "They're colony makers. They're hive-oriented." He looked at her. "It was alone?"
"It was, though there were other demons in the shadows, not the same sort. Those other ones smelled like sulphur. I'd guess they were demon dogs if I had to guess." She walked to the doorway, getting out of Angel's way. "I had better be getting some or someone's my sparring partner tomorrow," she called. Faith brought her two cartons of her favorites and a plastic fork. "Thanks," she said with a grin. "You want in on this?"
"Nah, I'd rather run training. Little icky things aren't what I want to see right now. I'm down on laundry." She went back to her chatting with the girls, imparting some valuable knowledge. Things like always have more than four shirts, but don't have more than two suitcases worth of stuff, otherwise you'll have to leave stuff behind.
Buffy turned to look at the group reading as she broke into her meal. Gunn gave her a pathetic look so she dished some chow mein out for him. "There. Don't give me that look, we'll still have to feed the bottomless Xander pit when he wakes up."
Angel bent down, sniffing at Xander's neck, but Xander's hand came up to shove him away. "I'm trying to see if you're tainted," he noted, going back to his sniffing. Xander pushed him away again, his eyes vacant as he stood up and strode off, looking very purposeful. "We should probably follow him," he suggested when no one moved to do so.
"Faith, follow the Xander puppy, make sure he's finding a good spot to mark," Buffy called.
"I'm sending Missy," she called back, shooing one of the girls off so she could have her General Tso's. She grinned at Buffy. "What happened to him?"
"He was touched on the neck by some funky purple-blue demon and now he's wandering," she said with a shrug. "He's not giving off demon vibes." She looked at Angel. "Did you pick up anything?"
"No," he admitted.
"These sort aren't supposed to be able to taint others," Wesley offered. "He's probably just hungry."
"Maybe," Buffy said, looking at the doorway again. "I don't like it though."
"Neither do I," Fred agreed. "Xander's usually such an easy-going guy. He looked like he was on a mission, like what I always imagined Joan of Arc to look like going into battle." She licked off her chopsticks. "He looked like Cordy when she went to a shoe sale."
Buffy handed off her food and went after Xander. He was *never* that focused. Not even during battles. Her rushing off brought Faith out with her and they caught up with a confused junior slayer, one who was holding her head. "You all right?"
"He turned and punched me," she said, sounding outraged. "Then he disappeared."
"Like teleported or like moved from where you could see him?" Faith asked as she looked the younger girl in the eyes. "You've got a hard head, you'll be fine," she said, helping her up. "Did you see which way he went?"
"No." She waved a hand at the clear street, one without an alley nearby. "One moment he was there and the next he was gone. And I didn't black out. He sparkled up like Willow sometimes does."
"That is not proper Xander behavior," Buffy noted, leading the way back to the hotel. She reclaimed her food from Gunn and Fred. "Xander went sparkly and poofed," she told the other adults.
Wesley shook his head, his mouth was full. "They can't," he said once he had swallowed a bit. He finished his mouthful and handed her the book. "They're builders. They have no known magic, not even escape magic."
"Maybe she did black out," Faith offered. She shrugged, sitting down to eat off Fred's plate since the rest of the food was gone and tossed out. Fred handed her the rest of her cartons and a wrapped fork. "Thanks, Fred." She unwrapped the fork and went back to her eating. "Were there any close looking, B?"
"There were a few in the right color, or with the right head shape, but nothing that had both that I saw," Buffy told her. "I only got ten pages from the back though."
Wesley shook his head. "There's nothing relatively close to that," he admitted. "I have no idea what's going on." He took the book back, heading to the index in the very back. "Teleporting limits it to five demons, all of which are older and very powerful magically. The focused nature suggests he was tainted," he noted, running a finger down the page. "We've only got one possibility with both of those and that one's almost never seen above ground and it's nearly ten feet tall." He looked at Buffy, who was holding a hand at shoulder height. He shrugged. "I have no idea."
"Could that big one have contaminated the little one?" Fred asked. "Passing it on that way?"
Wesley checked the chart. "It says that they can't pass on their traits outside of breeding," he said, but there was a star so he passed it on. "Hold on, there is a but to that." Angel leaned over to read over his shoulder. "If there's a new hatchling, their powers can be taken and given to something else," he said, looking at Buffy. "But then why would the other demon pass it to Xander?"
Faith swallowed. "You said the thing that touched Xander was a builder, right?" Wesley nodded. "Could it have sparked something within Xander? Maybe passed on a goal it was trying to complete before it got hunted?"
"It has no mind magic either," he said, handing her the book while ate some more. "It might have tried to recruit him. Buffy, you said it talked. Describe it," he said before taking another bite.
"It was kinda high and a little squeaky, but it had a bell-like quality underneath."
"That's them," Angel admitted, sitting down with the book himself so no one had pass it along again. "Where do we think Xander is?"
"Xander should be fine," Gunn offered. "He's strong and he knows his protections. Hell, half the city's demons seem to like him. A few came up and tried to chat him up during our last patrol."
"They were demon prostitutes," Fred reminded him. "But he's right, the average demon seems to like Xander."
"He's very open to their powers," Wesley told her. "He's been possessed a number of times."
"Yeah, but Willow always said she thought the hyena had stayed," Buffy told him. "That would fight off a new one, right?"
"Unless they were working toward a similar goal," Angel said absently, reading the traits of each demon. He noticed a page sticking and worked it free. "No more eating honey near the books, Wesley."
"Sorry. It must have dropped when I put some into my tea the other day." He looked over. "I had forgotten about them." He turned the book around but Buffy shrugged. "Close?"
"Again, similar head shape and arms, but wrong color. We were right outside the Chinese restaurant. It was really bright." She shrugged and took one last bite, then handed off the remainder of her food to Gunn and Fred.
"We need to put out feelers to see if anyone knows anything," Fred offered.
"How many one-eyed fighters could there be in town?" Gunn agreed.
"Outside of the docks?" Wesley asked. "Freighter crews and the like."
"Still," Gunn pointed out. "Xander's well known among the demonic, right?"
"We're not sure about that," Angel admitted. He looked at him. "We know some know about Xander. We know some don't know about Xander or Willow. There are rumors, but we can't know that everything knows who he is."
"Yeah, but it's a place to start," Fred pointed out. "At least until we can get a witchy type person to cast a location charm."
"Willow's not due back for another two weeks," Buffy sighed, rubbing her forehead. "Where's my cellphone?" she called to the other room.
"Up on your nightstand, right where it should be," Faith told her with a grin.
"Thanks. Let me call Willow, see if she's got a clue. If anyone could find Xander, it'd be her." She trudged up the stairs, not wanting this duty at all. She heard a squeal and looked down, blinking in surprise.
"That's my line," Oz told her, barely grinning at her.
"Hey, Oz. Give me a second. I've got to call the Willow about the Xander." She finished trudging while Dawn continued to squeal at the guy she remembered as helping babysit her. She picked up the phone, noticing it wasn't charged, so she plugged it in and headed back downstairs. "It's got a dead battery," she told Faith. "Remind me in an hour?"
"Sure, B." She nodded at Oz. "Hey, wolfy."
"Faith," he said, nodding back. "Dawn, down. Don't make me break out a leash." She grinned and drug him over to a seat, sitting beside him. "So, Xander problems?"
"Yeah, more Xander demon problems," Buffy agreed, sitting on his other side. "Why are you in town?"
He leaned over and kissed her. "Because I got told to come do that."
"Wow." She grinned. "Thanks. Awesome birthday present, a bit early but still okay." She relaxed. "Why else are you here?"
"Because I got sent to work with Angel," he said, looking at the brooding vampire. "Your office's former occupants said hi."
"Why did Wolfram and Hart hire you?" Fred asked.
He raised a hand. "Hacker."
"Ah." She grinned. "Good, then you can figure out what's wrong with my email." She gave him a quick hug. "I'm Fred, that's Gunn, I'm sure you know Wes and Angel. Faith, where are we putting him?"
"Top floor's still mostly open," she offered.
"Cool. Grab your bags and I'll show you where you can nap."
Angel looked outside, then at Oz. "Shouldn't you be furry?"
Oz shrugged. "I've got control." He gave Dawn a pat and went to grab his bags, carrying them up to his room. When he came back down, he handed Buffy his phone. "Willow calling?" he reminded her.
"Oh, yeah." She dialed the number from memory and got a 'wrong number' message. "Shoot." She trudged back up the stairs, finding the number in her phone and redialing it just like it read. Still the same message. She came back down the stairs. "I'm getting a 'doesn't exist' message." She handed back the phone. "Thanks."
"Welcome," he offered. "Have you tried email?"
"She's with her coven buddies," Dawn told him. "She started on another guilt voyage and headed back for a few days." She looked up. "WILLOW!" she yelled, making everyone wince.
Willow appeared in a column of sparkles.
"That's what Xander did when he disappeared," Missy shouted. "Only with less sparkles and they were kinda blue/grey and tan."
Willow frowned as she looked from Oz to Buffy and back. "Since when has Xander started teleporting?"
"Since he got touched by a demon on the neck tonight," Buffy said, frowning at her sister. "She could have been busy."
"Time difference, I was in my morning shower," Willow told her, grinning at her. "Nice yell, Dawnie."
"Thanks. I've had practice yelling for Buffy." She leaned against Oz. "He's our pet hacker now at Wolfram and Hart."
"Good, then you can fix Fred's email problem," she told him, grinning at him. He gave a half-shrug so Dawn wouldn't have to move. "So, Xander, demon, the usual?"
"We're not sure," Wesley said, taking the book and finding the right demon before handing it to her. "Buffy said this one touched him but he's exhibiting unusual behavior for it to be that. The teleporting and a marked focus on something none of us know about are two of them."
Willow frowned. "There was something about one of them being given a gift," she said, sucking up her bottom lip to chew on it. "I don't remember what, but it was the talk in London." She waved a hand and handed Dawn and Buffy each packages. "From London. I haven't shopped for anyone else yet." She looked at the book again, then at Wesley. "Do we have a clue where he might be?"
"No," Faith said simply.
"That's what we were hoping you could help us with," Buffy told her.
Willow nodded. "Let me finish my shower and I'll be right back. Get me a map, a crystal on a cord, and all that good stuff." She disappeared.
Buffy and Dawn both tore into their presents, both of them squealing at the shirts they found inside.
"Major happies," Oz noted, looking at Angel. "Email?"
"Fred's apparently gotten some sort of demonic worm," Gunn told him, shaking his hand. "It's only in the lab. I'm Gunn."
"Cool. Oz." He nodded at Fred. "Give me ten to put pictures on my desk and I'll gladly hack you too." She beamed and gave him a hug. "Thanks." He stood up. "I'm gonna go hide now. Work is when?"
"We usually go in about ten," Gunn told him.
Oz nodded. "Cool. Laters." He headed up the stairs, going to set his old alarm clock.
"He doesn't say much," Gunn noted, looking at Angel.
"He used to say less," Angel told him. "That was Oz. He's a werewolf who apparently has found control."
"In Tibet," Buffy said, looking at him. "He had it when he came back last time but Tara made him lose it majorly and the Initiative captured him for a bit. That's why we kicked their butts and made them cry." She looked at Dawn's t-shirt, it was a listing of all the neat teen places to visit. "I didn't know they let you try on the crown jewels," she said, starting to pout.
"I'm sure it's a special thing they only do by arrangement," Fred promised, giving her a pat on the back. "Do we have a map like she'd need?"
"Sure we do," Dawn told her, pointing at the one she had spent days taping together for the group. "That'll do. The crystal on a string could be someone's pendant. Not a charmed one but still a pendant." Wesley pulled his off and handed it to her, helping her take the map down as well. "This is cool. I've only done this one once."
"No more magic lessons, Dawn," Buffy ordered.
"I've got it, I might as well learn to use it, Buffy," she snorted. "Otherwise what good am I? I'm like the female Xander of the group. Only with much better fashion sense," she said to ease the frown her big sister had.
"No magic lessons, Dawn," Buffy repeated, firmer this time. She and her sister locked eyes but Dawn won this time. "Only with Wesley. Not with Willow."
"Fine," she agreed, waving a hand. Then she grinned at Wesley. "Can you teach me a bit more?"
"I shall try," he promised. He sat beside her, looking at the map. "I don't know a location charm, it would be handy to have."
"I'm sure we can snatch Willow's old books," she whispered. "She's got to have them written down." He smiled as he looked at her. "Really. She doesn't need them."
"That is a good point, but we shall ask," he ordered gently.
"Thank you, Dawn." He looked up as Willow reappeared, this time clad in her usual clothes. "Will this do?"
"That'll be great," she agreed, sitting down across from them to work the spell. She concentrated really hard and the crystal hit a spot near the beach. "He's in a warehouse by the beach. He's really concentrating on something. It's something mechanical?" she suggested, looking at Buffy. Then she looked at the map, making it more focused. The crystal moved to sit on top of the address. "There you are."
Dawn wrote it down and handed it to Angel, who had a car. "There he is." Angel, Buffy, and Faith all walked out to deal with this. Dawn looked at Willow. "Can I snatch your old spell books?"
"Sure, Dawn, right after I erase or block some of the harder stuff," she promised.
"Thank you," Wesley said with a faint smile. "Buffy has relented to let me instruct her a bit further."
Willow grimaced. "She is way overprotective in that matter. You won't be able to do anything offensive and hardly anything defensive." She pointed toward her room and a small carryon suitcase came down, landing beside her. "Here you go, Dawn. You study your heart out so I can go have fun too." Then she grinned. "Speaking of fun, there's a cute little witch I wanted to talk to some more." She winked and left again.
Dawn hurried the suitcase away before anyone could take them from her, hiding them under her bed in her own suitcase. Hopefully no one would look for them in there.
Buffy led the way into the warehouse, shuddering at all the dusty, covered boxes. "Xander?" she called. She heard him grunt and headed that way, picking him up and putting him into the car. By the time she had turned around, he was gone, back at his workbench again. "Xander!"
"Let's take whatever he's working on with us," Faith suggested.
"We don't exactly have a space like this for him to work in," Angel pointed out.
"Sure you do," Buffy ordered. "You've got some very nice sub-basements at Wolfram and Hart."
"Good point," he sighed. He looked at all the things. "I don't know how we'd get most of this there."
"Easy. We knock him out, move the crap, then let him wake up," Faith said, going to nerve-pinch Xander. He collapsed at her feet so she looked at his bench. "He's working under a microscope."
"What should we take?" Angel asked. The girls looked at him. "The trunk only has so much room."
"Let me," Faith sighed, going out to rent a truck and scare some demons into helping them. They came nearly willingly and hurried to do her bidding. They worked even faster when they saw Xander. Not Buffy, not Angel, Xander. She caught one by the arm. "What's up with him?" she asked, nodding at the unconscious Xander. The demon babbled something and went to carry more boxes out to the truck. She looked at Angel, who shrugged.
"He said he's their builder. Their savior."
"Xander?" Buffy asked, nearly snorting in disbelief. "I'm the only one he saves these days." She nodded at a lurking vampire out by the doorway. "We've got a looker."
Faith looked at him, then pointed at the truck. "Either help or die!" she called. The vampire nodded and started to help load the truck up. She looked at Angel. "Gee, he's helpful, we should let him live."
"Most of them are harmless ones," Angel said patiently. "Leave them alone, Faith."
"Fine," she sighed, slumping a bit. She carried Xander out to the car, putting him into the back seat. "Stay there this time," she ordered more gently. He mumbled something and turned onto his side, curling up. "Good boy, Xander."
Angel walked into Xander's workspace two days later, noticing the human hadn't bathed or changed clothes. His extra shirts were piled in a corner, apparently his make-shift bed. He made a mental note to have a cot pulled down here for him and moved closer to look over his shoulder. "What are you doing?" he asked quietly, not wanting to interrupt but hoping Xander was still in there somewhere.
"Prototype before it goes smaller," he answered absently. "Nanites. Control. Good for business." He soldered another wire in then looked at it again under the microscope, using the tiny iron to remove the extra solder before it totally cooled. "Go 'way."
"Sure. Maybe you should shower?"
"Later. Finish this first, then shower and eat," he noted. Angel blinked a few times then opened his mouth. "Out."
"Fine. Going. I'll have a bed and a portable shower moved down here for you." He left him there, closing the door behind him. He didn't think Xander was a wandering risk so he didn't lock it. He did remind security to keep him in the building if he started to wander and had them find the emergency supplies so Xander could have a full space down there. Then he went to call the hotel and have someone bring the boy some food. He looked as Dawn walked in, giving her a slight smile. "Problems?"
"Not a bit," she said, handing over a book. "This came for you today. Buffy peeked but said it wasn't anything important." She sat across from him. "Angel, I know I'm young, but if Buffy goes to Cleveland, I don't want to go. I don't think I'll like Ohio. It seems really...nice there. I'm not used to nice."
He nodded. "I've been expecting this. Faith wants to go. You can stay as long as Wesley agrees to take charge of you." Dawn squealed and stood up, hugging him. "You're welcome. Ask Wesley first." She nodded and bounced out, going down to his office. Angel shook his head. "At least she won't cause us more problems," he muttered, looking at the book. He couldn't find anything strange about it so he put it aside and looked up nanites on the computer. What he found was interesting but not very enlightening. Why was Xander building tiny computers?
Buffy walked into Xander's lair later that night with a big bag of burgers and fries. "Xander?" He grunted but didn't look at her. She put the bag down and he glanced at it then tossed it onto an empty shelf. "Not hungry?"
"In the way," he muttered, going back to testing circuits. "Thanks, eat later," he said, blowing a kiss. "Control, have to have control," he muttered at the circuits.
Buffy looked at it, tipping her head off to the side. "What is that? It's so tiny I can barely see it."
"Prototype," he said, looking up at her. "Wanna be a test subject?" She shuddered and shook her head. "Nearly done, shower and eat then." He blew another kiss. "Two more weeks, then we'll have control." He went back to his testing. So far everything was working. Now, how to get it smaller? He didn't have the equipment to make real nanites. Maybe he could shrink them magically? That might work better. He knew how to do that too. "Buffy, blocking light," he warned when she moved closer.
"I just wanna see," she complained. "What is it?"
"It's the prototype for a nanite machine," Wesley said as he walked in. "Fred has been listening to him mutter." He moved closer. "Xander, your bed's here." Xander waved one of his testing rods. "What will it do?" he asked, sounding very patient.
"Demons or humans?"
Xander looked at him and shrugged. "Don't know. Don't care." He went back to it, then said an 'aha', fixed one line back in place, then it turned on. "Control!" he said happily, grinning at it. He muttered something and it shrunk out of sight. He put it behind his ear, ordering it to not sink in while he stared on the robo-controller. This would be so neat. Much better than the interfaces you saw on the anime shows. No heavy joysticks or anything, just a few pads to sense muscle movements. He coughed. "I'm soldering with lead."
"I'll make sure she's safe," Wesley said, getting out of his way and taking Buffy with him. "We'll find it out and help him," he promised, handing her a sealed letter. "From Rupert. He's in Cleveland."
"Of course he is," she sighed, rolling her eyes. "Why did you want to keep Dawn?"
"Because she didn't think that she could have a lifestyle she would approve of in Ohio," he said dryly. She gave him a look. "Because the uncontrolled Hellmouth is a worse place than yours was," he pointed out gently, giving her a plausible reason she would listen to. Even if he did agree, Dawn would wither and die so far away from the ocean. "There's more chaos there than there was when you first got to Sunnydale. This way she'll be safe until you get the city calmed down."
"Okay," she agreed. "No offensive magic lessons."
"Buffy, if she can, she could probably use the knowledge. She won't turn out like Willow. I won't allow it."
Buffy gave him a 'get real' look. "Giles said the same thing about Willow."
"Yes, but Dawn already has that sort of power within her. She doesn't need to suck up external energy to achieve great power, all she has to do is lose control." Buffy grimaced and sighed, nodding as she walked away. "I'll treat her like she was my own daughter," he called after her.
"Good. She can't wear real makeup for another year and she's only allowed on group dates," Buffy called. She turned when she entered the elevator. "Also, she seems to have inherited Andrew's tape collection and I think he had some cartoon porn, some of that funky Japanese stuff. You might want to help her go through it and weed it out." She let the doors close so she could go up and tell everyone she was going to leave soon.
Wesley leaned against the wall. "I'm sure she'll get along fine with the Hentai," he muttered. "She knows more about it than you think. Children are not as dumb as parents and older siblings like to think." He went back into Xander's lab, leaning against his back as he worked. "Xander?" he whispered in his ear. "Are you building a 'droid army?"
Xander chuckled. "Nope. Not yet. I could, but why?" He gave him a look and a grin, his first true interaction with another person for weeks. "That would be cheating. This will control the Faiths while they're on duty." Wesley looked startled. "It will also control whole hordes of demons." He went back to work. "You can stay if you want, you don't do irritating things like stand in my light. Where did Buffy go?" He took another bite of a burger.
"She's leaving for Cleveland but leaving Dawn with us."
"Cool. Tell her she's the test subject. That way I can see if it works on the witchly. Maybe a Willow 'droid would be handy sometimes."
"That would be tampering with her free will," Wesley warned. "It would make you no better than her."
Xander grinned at him again. "Who said she won't agree?" He winked and went back to the sensor pad he was putting together. "It'll help with the training stuff. I'll attach the pads to Faith and the nanite to the younger Slayers." He ate another bite of the burger before moving on to the next component that needed installed. "Did you know we were capable of building battle 'droids but aren't? It's ridiculous, we could have a totally unhuman army and we're still risking people." He shook his head. "Even if we wanted to build something Big O, we could, with a better interface, but we could."
"Then everyone would be rightly afraid of us," Wesley pointed out gently.
"Yeah, and what makes you think Japan hasn't figured that out yet?" he shot back. "They've had the technology longer and all those willing workers who never say anything about what they're working on. I'm going to move to an armor suit next, see if it's feasible. If it is, I'm never going out again without the enhancing and protective properties."
"Hmm. I could agree with that. Wouldn't it restrict movement?"
"I guess that would depend on the type of shielding we used," Xander said happily. He felt a kinship with Wes, he spoke geek very well. "Buffy was right, Andrew's collection is half hentai and manga."
"I'll make sure she knows that young Japanese schoolgirls are not in her future."
"If she doesn't want them, I'll gladly take them," Xander noted. "My old collection is getting a bit worn out. I need to put everything onto DVD. They're too expensive to buy the sets, but I wouldn't mind being able to do it from the tape copy for now."
"If you succeed in making battle armor, you'd probably be rich enough to buy all the anime you wanted," Wesley reminded him.
Xander grinned. "Yuppers. And maybe even rent a pseudo-schoolgirl now and then too," he agreed happily. It was a worthy life's goal. He sighed in contentment and quit burning himself with his soldering iron so he could get back to work.
"Didn't that hurt?"
"Not really. I'll feel it when I wake up."
"Hmm. I suppose you will. Are you possessed?"
"Do you need freed?"
"Then come see me tonight so I can check on you and put something on that while you sleep," Wesley ordered. "I'll be the one lurking since Angel seems to be a bit afraid of computers."
Xander chuckled. "Old vampires probably wouldn't like computers. They can't control them. It's worse than Spike's hair with demon goop in it for him."
"I suppose it would be," Wesley agreed, giving him a gentle pat to the back before he left. "Don't let your fries go cold."
"I don't mind cold fries, even though they give me hiccups."
"I'll send down some soda as well."
"Thanks," Xander called, going back down into his near-trance state so he could work faster. He needed to get this done. He wasn't sure why, but he had to get this done as soon as possible.
Wesley went to Angel to make a report and found him frowning at a speaker that was emitting Xander humming. "You heard?"
"I do like computers, I don't understand them," he said, turning his frown on his employee.
"You do not. You loathe the beasts," Wesley reminded him. "You refuse to check anything on it at all." He sat down and got comfortable. "He'll be done within a week, possibly a bit longer if he runs into a problem. We might want to restock his electrical components, he's starting to run low."
"I'll have Fred take him and the corporate card to Radio Shack." Wesley smiled at that. "What's hentai?"
"Oh." He shuddered. "Ew. Cartoons having sex."
Wesley chuckled more happily. "Don't worry, Xander and I will handle Dawn so you don't have to. We have a better handle on her likes anyway."
"Thank you. I'm not sure I could deal with a teenager. Having Xander is enough for now. Buffy took all the Slayers with her."
"Good. If I'm right, Xander's building something to give us a demonic army to control so we can save them all from something more sinister." Angel's mouth fell open. "It does fit. There have been those rumors of a leader in the demonic worlds. This would save people from them." He stood up. "Did you need anything else?" Angel shook his head. "Then I'll tell Xander he's going to get to run out so he'll take a shower. You tell Fred?" Angel nodded so he went back downstairs. "Xander, would you like to go component shopping?" he called from the doorway. "Fred will take you to Radio Shack and anywhere else you need to go."
"Please," he begged, coming away from his project. He patted himself down, noticing Wesley's look. "What?"
"Bathe and change first, Xander. Fred's in the lab, it will take a few minutes." Xander shrugged and went to do that, using the portable shower in the corner. Wesley left him alone and Xander was working on his back when Fred came in.
"Xander?" she called as she walked in. She squeaked when she saw his naked back. "Sorry, didn't mean to peek. I'm not looking, I'll be right outside when you're done. Then we'll figure out where we're going and where we're picking up dinner from. Okay?" she babbled quickly before leaving him alone.
He chuckled. "Fred is just like a good Willow," he noted, going back to his scrubbing. He was really filthy and needed it.
Fred walked Xander into the hotel later that night, waving at everyone. Angel looked at their complete lack of bags and gave her a questioning look. "They're delivering. He needed a lot of stuff," she told him. Then she hugged Xander. "He's gonna make me a little robot to help me in the lab."
Wesley looked at Xander. "If you have time, we could go through Andrew's tape collection now," he offered.
"Hey!" Dawn complained. "Mine!"
Angel looked at her. "There are rumors there's cartoon porn in there," he said dryly. "You don't need that stuff."
She snorted. "All anime is good anime, even the badly drawn stuff. But if they're good, I'll let them copy them." She grabbed Xander's arm and led him up the stairs. "Come explain some things to me? Please?"
"Sure," he agreed. "Then I've got to get back to work."
"Pfft. You can work while the rest of us sleep. I know you have been." She let him into her room and turned to close the door but found Wesley there as well. "Sure, come on in, be the decency detective and all that."
He smiled. "Why would I need to do that?"
She grinned. "You are much cooler than Buffy said you were."
"I've changed, as did she," he pointed out, picking a chair for himself. He noticed Xander was asleep and looked at Dawn. "I'll explain some stuff to you."
"When did you get into anime?"
"When I was changing. I had nothing else to do and I found a few channels that have unlimited, all-night noise whenever I needed it. Since I don't like to watch cooking, didn't want to bone up on my technology skills, didn't really want to watch animals being cute and fuzzy all the time, it ended up being a toss-up between VH-1 and Cartoon Network. They run a segment at dinner and another, more adult, one at midnight."
"Cool!" she said happily, looking almost manic. "I will have to remember that." She sat down and looked at the boxes of tapes. "Did you want series, nearly porn, porn, gay porn, or Ranma?" she asked, looking up at him. "I can't really consider Ranma a series, it's the same episode played with different characters for the most part as far as I've seen so far."
"Something funny?" he suggested. "Something light that won't get Angel up here to confiscate them."
"Okay." She pulled out one and then went to flop belly-down on her bed to watch it with him. She glanced at Xander's chair but he was still asleep in it. "What is he working on?"
"Nanite controlling computers. We think it has something to do with the new Demon Lord that's been rising," he said absently.
"Now I know I made the right choice. You talk to me like a person and not a six-year-old. Thank you for that. I'll even take up training if I have to."
"Yes, you will," Wesley said, glancing at her. "You will be very well trained before you step foot out of a hiding spot while we battle, young lady. I will not have to write your sister a letter about how you managed to get killed."
"Cool by me," she agreed, going back to Trigun. "I like this. We need a Vash-like person. Spike was kinda like that, only a lousy shot."
He chuckled. "I'm sure he would be quite confused about the current world order. His seems to be a bit post-apocalyptic." He looked at Xander's chair and found him floating. "He's never done that before?"
Dawn looked and shook her head. "Not that Anya said and she told all." She looked at the screen. "Do you think the insurance ladies are together?"
"I know for a fact that Millie and Wolfwood got together at one point so I doubt it," he offered.
"Hmm. And Vash is just too damn noble to hunt his woman down too. Poor guy, he never gets any lovin'. Or maybe he tried the dude with the cross once or twice too. You never know." Wesley chuckled, shaking his head. "What? I am a hip and knowledgeable sixteen-year-old female. For a while I thought Xander and Andrew were getting it on. They were the only males in the house and all the girls seemed to scare them."
"I'd be scared if I had to live in your old house with all the potentials," Wesley assured her. "Not only wouldn't I get to eat anything, I'd be pounced upon by happy people who wanted to beat on me all the time."
"That's what Giles said too," she sighed. "I miss the big asshole." Wesley looked at her. "What? He could be. He told me nothing. Expected me to be a little kid."
"To some adults, children never grow up. I'm sure he saw Xander the same way." He looked over but Xander was gone. "I suppose he's back in the lab."
Dawn pulled out the stuff Willow had used to find Xander that night and redid the location charm. "Back down by the docks, but he's moving so I'm guessing he's walking." He reached over and casually snagged the crystal. "What? I'm helping."
"Yes, you are. You will also behave, Dawn. We will not allow you to become Willow."
"Fine, next time I'll call him on the cell he probably forgot in his office," she said firmly.
"That would be fine. Are you coming in tomorrow? I know where his lair is downstairs."
"Sure. I was gonna go tour the new school first but I'm thinking I don't want to go there. I've had enough of bratty teens to last me a lifetime. Really, I have. Even the potentials were snarky and bitter to each other. It was like a constant game of 'I'm better than you'."
"Then I wish your sister and Faith all the luck in the world dealing with them," he told her.
Dawn burst out in giggles. "You're so mean sometimes, Wesley." She reached over to hit him on the arm. "You're pretty cool for an adult. Even for a former Watcher-type-guy. Not at all Gilesy. He'd never sit down and watch tv with me. He thought anything not on PBS was trash." She grinned. "This has cultural significance and he didn't understand that."
"It does, but it also has a cultural reason for existing," he told her. "If you're not going to go to the local school, I suppose I'll have to assign you papers myself."
"Might be nicer anyway. At least you wouldn't force chemistry down my throat."
"What do you think Potions are?" he asked. She groaned and put her head down. "We'll discuss it tomorrow, Dawn. Watch the nice show."
"And dream of cute guys in long red coats?"
"If it gets you through the night," he agreed dryly.
She giggled and threw a pillow at him, then went back to watching tv.
Xander came in the next morning from the demon markets, a large paper bag full of smelly stuff. Security didn't even try to stop him, but they did call Angel, who called Fred and Wesley. They seemed to be able to get through to him. "Xander's back," he announced.
Wesley made it down first. Fred was taking the stairs today. He tapped on the door as he walked in. "Where did you go? Dawn and I had a nice night watching Trigun without you," he said as he moved closer.
"Don't," Xander warned.
Wesley stopped and looked, pushing Fred behind him when she came in. "Xander, is there a reason why you have a baby soul sucker in your possession?"
"Hmm-hm." He fed it something and the baby burped, changing states to a sleepy, content baby soul sucker who wouldn't eat anyone. "Hold," he said, holding it back to him. Wesley took the thing and looked at it.
Fred looked at it. "Why are the most deadly the cutest?" she asked.
"That way you don't distrust their motives," Wesley told her, handing it to her. The baby sniffled so he took it back. "Why else did you have a baby soul sucking demon?"
"The mother died and the sucker latched onto my leg. It thinks I'm its dad," he said with a shrug. "I'll feed it, don't worry."
"You had better, I don't want to be eaten," Fred told him. Xander grinned back at her. "The new stuff isn't in yet."
"That's okay, I've almost got a total set of controlers made. I can do anything but legs. Wanna try it?" he asked.
She shook her head. "No thanks, I might not like being controlled that way."
Wesley looked at him. "It isn't really ethical to test them on people, Xander."
"It's not really ethical to test them on demons either but it's really fun," Xander retorted. "It's got a destruct yourself switch built in." He held up the headpiece and controllers. "Please? I set it to work better on women so we could use them on the potentials for training purposes. I promise it's not the demonic version."
"Fine," she agreed. "I like science. It's good to further it." She let him put something she couldn't see on his tongue and swallowed, earning a smile. Then Xander put on the controllers. She felt her mind go fuzzy, then go very clear. She could see things she hadn't noticed before, including an aura around Wesley. "Am I supposed to be seeing him funny?"
"It's enabling me to see magic," Xander told her. "Hold still, let me calibrate this to my arms." He swung them around then her arms swung as well, mimicking his.
"Wow," Wesley said, getting out of the way. The baby bleeted at him so he fed it a piece of sausage off Xander's biscuit.
"Use the one in the brown container," Fred's mouth said, and she blinked at him, earning a grin back. "This is really cool!" She walked over to something and picked it up, not able to fight his commands. It was a pretty box and she hadn't known it had magic in it.
"A containment vessel," Wesley said when Xander looked at him. "Can you see it through her?"
Xander nodded and mimicked putting it back and picking up something else, then turning around so she could uncover it. "That's a statue of Priapus. I don't know why my host has it," he said.
Wesley gave him a pat on the back. "Excellent work, Xander. Now please free her." Xander pushed a button on his forehead, making Fred gasp and hold her own head, but she only wobbled for a second. "Are you all right?"
"Nothing some Advil won't cure," she said, walking over to hug Xander. "You so rock," she said, grinning at him. "Thank you."
He kissed her on the forehead. "You may feel some disorientation for a few more hours. Take a nap and it'll be fine," he promised. She beamed and left, leaving the two men there. "See, I'm not using people, Wesley."
"I realize that, Xander, but I do have to be careful of such things."
"I know. You're the ethics manager around here," Xander told him. He held up a small slide. "Wanna try?"
"No, I don't believe I would." He gave Xander another pat and tried to leave but the baby started to wail. "Xander," he said calmly.
"Take her up and let Angel babysit her," he suggested with a grin. "She should remind him of Spike."
Wesley snorted but did take the baby upstairs so he could see if there was a way to make it safe. He walked into Angel's office, holding her up. "She decided to cling to Xander."
Angel looked at the baby, frowning at it. "No. Not in the building."
"He's been feeding it human food," he offered.
"Wesley, she'll eat me, then we'll have real problems."
Xander appeared next to Wesley, holding out a bottle. "She won't be eating souls for nearly a hundred years," he informed him. "She's safe until she hits her sexual maturity at roughly a third of her life. Until then, she'd die without care. Her mother was killed by vampires and she seems to like you." He picked up the baby and put it in front of Angel, then took Wesley back down to his lab with him. "We should stay away from grumpy guy. Try this on," he said, handing over what looked like a halter. "Now," he ordered.
Wesley put it on, frowning as it was adjusted for him. "What is this?"
"Body armor." He picked up a gun and fired it, making Wesley flinch but it worked. "I knew it was enough to stop projectile weapons," he said happily. "Arrows it sucks at but this is for the higher-tech worlds." He took it back and put it on a hanger next to his desk. "Did you want to try more?"
"No, I believe I'm going back to the library again," he said, slipping out. He shuddered. That had been close. He heard some chanting and listened at the door. "Replicating charms?" he muttered, heading back up to do some research. This was all very odd. Very odd indeed.
Angel walked into Fred's office, pointing behind him. "It wanted to see you."
"She doesn't like me," Fred told him. "She only likes guys. I guess she's missing her daddy."
"Fred, I'm not a babysitter, I'm a vampire."
She looked at him. "Xander said she should remind you of Spike. Because that's what Masters do for their children."
Angel groaned. "Fine, then please take her while I have a meeting?"
"Sure. As long as you're done before nightfall. I've got a date." She grinned at the baby as she plucked it off Angel's back. "Are you a happy baby?" she cooed. It cooed back and wiggled in her arms, getting comfortable.
"Thank you," Angel said patiently as he headed back up to the meeting room and his meeting.
Fred picked up a dropper. "Can we say acid?" she asked as she added some to the solution in front of her, making it fizz. The baby gurgled and clapped. "Wow, we'll have you trained in the lab yet." Her staff looked at her. "Xander was given her last night," she explained. "She's just a baby soul sucker."
They steered clear of her, going back to their own projects. Now they knew she was a genius, she was too odd to be normally smart.
Fred continued to talk to the baby until Gunn came down. "Hi. Look who Xander brought back last night."
Fred looked at the baby. "What is it?"
She swatted him. "It's a baby."
"It's a baby what?" he asked.
"Soul sucker, but it won't eat anyone until it's a teenager, he said so."
"Wonderful. Where's the proud father?"
"Working in his lab. Angel had been babysitting but he had a meeting."
"Then let's go hand the darling back and then we'll see what we can do about our own meeting," he suggested, taking her down to the labs. He found Xander frowning at a broken something. "It didn't work?"
"Not exactly," he admitted, still frowning at the shield. "After the sixtieth replication we start getting weaknesses. Cruise missiles will get through it. So will claws." He waved the demon claw that had been on the table. "So I guess I'm building more suits and replicating twenty of each," he decided. "Just in case. That way we have some wiggle room."
"How are you replicating it?" Fred asked, letting the baby sit on the cot. That way it couldn't get into trouble.
"Magic," he said absently, starting work on another unit. "Give her the bottle before you go?" he asked, handing it over.
"Sure. Did you name her yet?"
"Naming means he's keeping it," Gunn reminded her.
"She's an orphan," Fred countered. "She needs us. We help the hopeless and there's nothing more hopeless than an infant left by itself in the big, cold world without anyone to take care of it." She handed the baby the bottle and tucked it in, making it coo and fall asleep. "There you are, precious."
Xander looked at her. "Do you like Buffy for a name?"
Fred smirked. "I think she'd be upset. How about Willow?"
"Nah, it might decide to like magic too. Then we'd have real troubles. Her mommy was tainted with dark magic and used once. How about Hymenphia?"
"Classical, I like that," Fred agreed. "How would you shorten it though?"
"Wonderful," Gunn agreed, taking his girlfriend by the hand so he could lead her away before she got tainted as well. Now he knew there was something seriously wrong with the guy. "Is he possessed?" he asked once they were in the elevator.
"Yeah, but he's making neat stuff. I got to try his control nanite earlier and it worked really well. The headache's gone and everything." Gunn looked at her. "I know it's gone, Gunn. I can tell."
"It had better be. I'd hate to have to hurt him."
She kissed him on the cheek. "Quit worrying, Xander's said to be the normal demon's savior. He'll protect us and Hy." She led him out to their car, letting him drive them wherever he wanted them to go.
Gunn kept looking at her. He'd be talking to Angel later about Xander.
Angel walked into Xander's lair and had a baby pounce his leg. "You smell," he noted, looking down at it.
"She needs changed. She just did that and I'm in the middle of something so she'll have to wait four minutes and twenty-seconds if you don't clean her up. Hy, ask nicely and don't nibble on him," he ordered. Hy cooed at Angel and bounced higher and higher until he caught her, holding her close enough to cuddle.
"Xander, you'll have to take care of her." A clean diaper was tossed back at him by an unfamiliar hand. "And you are?" Willow lifted her head. "Oh, you're back."
"For a few minutes, then I'm heading to help Giles. He called." She bent down to hold stuff for Xander. "What is this again?"
"Ankle controller," he said quietly, finishing the soldering job. Then he took his daughter and went to change her, making her one happy baby demon. The diaper was put into an overflowing trash can and the baby sat down to gum one of his sneakers. "Did you need something, Angel?"
"Xander, did you test something on Fred?" He nodded, going back to work. "With her permission?"
"Yup. And then I blew it up so she didn't have to worry about more than a headache," he said proudly. "Perfectly destructed with no surrounding tissue damage. I can tell." Willow looked at him. "Oh, Willow, can you see what's wrong with this one?" he asked, handing over the broken replicate. "It doesn't work after sixty replications."
She looked at it, then at him. "What is this?"
"Body armor. Shielding set to block everything. That didn't work with a missile."
"Oh." She looked at it, then shrugged. "You take a bit of the original each time you copy, this one's too weak," she said, handing it back.
"That's number sixty, would twenty be okay?"
"I guess," she said with a shrug. "Is this stuff for Buffy?"
"No, things against the New Satan. He's a mean bastard and he's hurting my people." He went back to work, glancing at the baby, who was napping with the sneaker now. "I'll have to get her a bear soon."
"As long as it's not a living one," Angel sighed. "Xander, she'll be dangerous soon."
"Angel, she's only a few years old," Xander argued. "You can't leave her in the cold, cruel world to die horribly of starvation or slavery! Not if you want to keep your 'good guy' card in your wallet. Because I know the Powers would be upset."
"You're linked to them?" Angel asked.
Xander shrugged. "Not totally. They're the ones who want the body armor made and not just the nanites my buddy needed." He went back to work. "Willow, wanna try one? I think I've figured out how to shield it for magic."
"No thanks," she said quickly. "I'm gonna go help Buffy now. Toodles, Angel, and all that." She disappeared.
Xander fell back into his semi-trance state, no matter how much Angel lurked. So he left, going to complain to Wesley about him. Wesley apparently understood and was handling it very well without him. It must have been something the Watchers taught you. Angel walked into the library and found Wesley staring at a book in shock. "A new problem?" he asked hopefully.
"No, I've finally figured out the chain of events that happened to create this new Xander," he admitted, looking at the vampire. "He's like this permanently." He shut the book. "Did he ever name the baby?" It appeared on the table with a note, making him laugh. "Fine, I shall be your godparent," he agreed, taking her to hold. "Hymenphia? Who suggested that mean name?" he asked her. She blinked at him and yawned, then pulled his tie over to suck on it. "Not on that," he said, handing over a capped ink pen. She couldn't break it, it'd be safe until they could find her a pacifier. He looked at Angel, seeing the shock. "She is helpless, Angel. You can ask Lorne if you want."
"I think I should," he agreed, going to call him. He wanted this to stop. This was too odd for him. Now all he needed was Spike back and his breakdown would be complete.
Wesley walked down to make Xander come back with him for the night. It had been a week since he had been at the hotel. He found Xander bent over a sheet-covered figure and coughed gently. "Would you like to sleep back at the hotel tonight?"
"Sure," Xander agreed, activating the thing. It sat up and looked at him. "Give me ten more minutes."
Wesley looked at William the Bloody, robot edition, and sighed. "Are you tormenting Angel?"
"He said he wanted Spike back so his life would be complete," Xander said with a shrug. "It's not quite as advanced as the Buffybot, we don't have all the programming done yet. Oz said it won't be ready until tomorrow." He fiddled with a few screws, tightening them in Spike's hair. "How's that, Robo-Spike?"
"My bloody head hurts," Spike complained, patting himself down. Xander handed him a pack of cigarettes and a lighter, then pointed at the door. "Thanks, mate. Gonna go bug the other one now. Want the rest of my programming. Need it to bother the wanker upstairs." He took the baby with him.
"No smoking around Hy," Wesley called. Xander grinned at him. "I can't imagine nicotine would be healthy for her either," he said firmly. "Come on, let's head home."
Oz trotted in, handing back Hy. "The Robo-Spike just met Dawn in the hallway and they're squealing about clothes," he noted. "I'm gonna fix his programming now." He left to take Spike up to his workarea, fixing him. A Spike that exclaimed brightly about pink ruffles was not right. It was scary, but definitely not right.
Dawn trotted in, waving at the baby. " Hi, Hy." The baby cooed and floated over to her. "Oh, you know who spoils you, yes you do," she cooed.
Wesley patted her on the back. "Let's go, Xander."
"But...." He pointed at his bench. "I've got stuff to do."
"Either you come home or I'm pouting and telling Buffy you're making a Buffybot to go with the Robo-Spike," Dawn warned. "Just so you can have live porn anytime you want."
"Fine," he agreed, cleaning up quickly. He handed her Hy's baby bag and together they went home. To watch some more of Andrew's tapes of course.
Angel woke up the next morning and did his usual thing, not aware that his fondest fear was now realized. He walked into his office from the special tunnel and stopped, looking at the figure in his chair. "Spike?" he asked cautiously, reaching for a stake.
"Ta, mate. Xander and Oz made me. You said you needed me," he said when Angel looked confused.
"Only if I wanted to lose my mind," he complained. "Xander!"
Oz strolled in and looked the Robo-Spike over. "Good, you're still going. Remember to plug in once in a while," he noted, then he looked at his boss. "I only go along with the Xander," he offered. "I made Spike Spike instead of Dawn." He shrugged then left again, going down to hide with Fred and figure out what she had done to her computer this time. She was good at destroying them while she worked.
Angel slammed the door shut. "Plug in?"
"He couldn't revive me so he made me," Spike said with a grin. He flicked his arm, making it 'ding'. "Really impenetrable this time. Nothing's gettin' through that. Even better'n the Buffybot."
Angel dropped his stake and then opened the door, walking out and down the stairs. It would take him longer, he wouldn't kill Xander by the time he got down there. He found the young man curled up on his cot with Hy in his arms. "Harris!" he said loudly. Xander batted a hand in his direction. Hy though, she wailed. That brought Dawn running and she pushed him out of the way.
"Did the big vampire scare you?" she soothed, taking the baby to calm down. "Angel, don't yell around babies!" she said sharply, sounding like her mother. "She won't nap for hours and Xander needs his sleep!"
"He made a robotic Spike," he told her, still loud.
She snorted. "Yeah, I'm the one who caught the bug in it. Spike cooed over my pink shirt yesterday. And? You needed a buddy who can understand you. You can even have Willow call his spirit back and imbibe the Robo-Spike with it. He was being nice, Robo- Spike was a present. It took him away from the important stuff, like weapons." She walked Hy out, taking her back to the library where she was doing a Wesley-appointed history paper. "It's all right," she cooed as they took the elevator. "The big vampire simply needs laid," she said as the doors opened, making Wesley, who was standing there, choke. "Angel got a bit pissed at the Robo-Spike," she warned as she took the baby to her table to help her. "We'll just cuddle right here," she said, putting the baby into the carrier she had found at a second-hand store. Hy cooed and sucked on her toes, content now that the loud person was gone and someone would play with her. Daddy sure slept a lot.
Wesley shook his head, locking off the elevator so it couldn't come up. "I think we'll hide up here until he's adjusted," he told her, going back to his own research. He could email it to Angel, it would force him to learn how to use his computer. He and Dawn shared a smile, apparently having similar thoughts about Angel and his incompetence with modern technology. "Work on the paper, it's due tomorrow," he reminded her.
"Yes, Wesley," she agreed, getting back to work, but keeping a hand on the baby to tickle her now and then. It made her happy and the laughter was good noise in the quiet research department.
Xander finished the last little bit on the weapon and stepped back, yawning. "Done," he announced. "Napping now. Be up in a few days." He knew someone was monitoring him, they always did. He laid down on his cot and called the baby to him, he hadn't gotten baby demon cuddles in a while. She yawned with him and watched as he dropped off, then went back to sucking on her fingers. They tasted good, she wondered what it was on them.
Wesley watched as the Potential and Faith were set up, then the two vampires with Angel controlling the younger female. Hymenphia was on his back and everyone else was clueless about this. They had kept it a secret just in case they had a leak in the building to this new demon lord. He was raising a lot of power recently and he wasn't careful of being found out. He was also too powerful for them to fight head on. He was the highest in Hell's hierarchy they had fought to date. The evils just got worse and worse each year. He had hopes of treating Xander to make him back into his old self, but if this kept up they'd need him in this state.
Xander stepped back and clapped his hands. "Okay, controllers, move your arms." They did so and the controlled being started to move with them. "Now your head and legs, not necessarily together." Faith got hers working first then Angel groaned and held his head. "I know, it'll give you a bit of a shock for now. Give it five. Faith, have her warm up." Faith nodded and made her slayer walk over to the punching bag, having her run through a set of exercises that she did every day.
"It looks sluggish," Wesley offered.
Xander nodded. "That's because it is a bit sluggish. The more practice Faith has with it the easier it'll be. Right now, her body is trying to protest the link and it's not happening fully." Faith, and the other slayer, looked back at him. "It's fine. She's going to tip over." Faith regained her footing and the junior slayer gave her a look of gratitude. "Angel?"
"I'm better," he admitted. He moved the female vampire through some katas he had learned a long time ago and she responded beautifully. "Why isn't mine sluggish?"
"Because you're used to controlling the actions of others. It's a matter of perception," Xander told him, getting out of the way. "Okay, rumble," he ordered once they were cleared. The female vampire looked at him. "No staking, Faith, she's a volunteer."
"Sure thing, Xander." Faith had the junior slayer drop her stake and move up. "It's still sluggish."
"Consider her an extension of your body," Wesley offered. "For all purposes, you're fighting this battle." Faith nodded.
"Also, you don't have to telegraph," Xander offered. "Just shift slightly." Faith grinned, that made it much easier for her. "Go." The slayer rushed in but Angel kept the female back, ducking the furious swings Faith's slayer was giving out. It was a beautiful fight, raw power was evident in everything they had. It was spectacular. It was moving. It was working! Xander jumped up and down and cheered. His invention was working. The fight went on and on, leaving both controllers sweaty and shaking, but the female vampire wasn't staked and the junior slayer wasn't too badly injured because Angel had pulled her punches. "Wow. Great work, guys," he announced.
Dawn and Fred clapped from the doorway, Gunn was still looking skeptical. "How long can those things last in them without damage?" Gunn asked.
Xander shrugged. "I don't know. Dawn, any headaches?"
"Not a one," she admitted. "What about the self-destruct?"
"It'll still work but I don't want to risk it after a week in you. It should dissolve in your blood within a few days." He looked at Gunn. "I made it out of the most organic things I could. The vampire version does have lead solder, but the human doesn't. Medical grade all the way." He grinned. "I'm very careful with the Dawnie." He looked at the female vampire. "Will that help against the new sucker?"
She looked up from her resting on the floor, then nodded. "It will," she agreed. She pointed at her head. "Will you explode it now?"
"Or you could wait. There's another two trials I want to run." She nodded, accepting that for now. Her family unit would live without her for a day. "Good, then let's get to testing the body armor against Angel, and then we'll test the last thing on the range," he announced, popping down to his lab and back with a complete set of body armor for each of them. "Here we are," he said, checking the sizes so they could be fitted easier. It was only pull straps but longer straps were a hazard in a battle. He felt the Robo-Spike walk in and grinned at him. "Nearly done."
"Can I fight that one?" he asked, nodding at Angel.
"Not yet. He's still pretty tired. You can run the super demo against him later." He looked at Angel, who was giving him a look. "Spike needs to know you'll be all right," he pointed out gently. He finished tightening his armor and stepped back. "This should be pretty fair. She knows your moves now, you're both tired. The armor should give you a little boost but not much of one." Angel nodded, moving into striking distance of the female vampire. "And remember, no staking, Angel. She's important in the battle. She's protecting a section of the city." Angel stopped to look at him and nearly had his head taken off. "Pay attention. It doesn't protect necks. I couldn't figure out a way to make it that flexible." He stepped back farther as the battle progressed. He timed it, nearly two hours before the armor gave. "Excellent. Stop," he ordered. They both stopped, falling down to sit. They were so tired it was unreal. "And how do you feel?" he asked as he walked over to take the armor off them.
"Tired," the female vampire noted. She looked from Angel to him. "If this works like this all the time, it will save a lot of demons from going on the line to fight the bastard." She looked at Angel again. "I can only hope to be that good at your age, pops." She stood up and hugged Xander. "Thank you for saving us."
"Hey, not a problem. My other half and I agree, this dirtbag needs to end." He put an arm around her waist. "Robo-Spike, did you want to flip Wesley for the honor of testing the weapon?"
"Nah, I think I'll watch the destruction," he said with a leer for Wesley. "Think you can handle it?"
"I should be able to. I am versed in many weapons," Wesley reminded him, leading the way to the specially prepared firing range. He looked at the normal-sized weapon, then at the extra padding. "Is this really necessary?"
"Hell yeah," Gunn told him. "I saw his fire last night." He handed out the ear protection and the safety goggles, smiling when Fred pulled out hers from the lab. "Stand behind me," he told the females.
Wesley picked up the weapon, noticing it was heavier than standard. Then he sighted down it, taking the hint at the cleared throat. "Not in front of me?"
"It's meant to be fired from the hip," Xander said, buckling a belt around his waist and attaching the gun to it. "That way it'll only hurt your shoulder and not break it with the recoil. Another problem I couldn't adequately fix." Angel looked at him. "I couldn't make the beam very narrow. It'll take out a good foot." He looked at Wesley again, sticking his fingers in his ears. "Go whenever you're ready," he ordered.
Wesley faced the target and reached down. "It's a bit awkward down here." His hand was guided to the trigger and he smiled, it was upside down. "Thank you." He squeeze it slowly, noticing it had a hard pull, less chance of accidental emission that way. When it did go off, it nearly knocked him off his feet and the further wall was gone. The one behind it, the lead one, was blistered and cracked. Fred shrieked and went to check her lab but came back quickly and hit Xander on the arm. "Did it break through?"
"No. We've got a crack in the outer wall of the scrub-area but nothing further," she admitted.
"Whoa. I want that the next time we face an army of vampires," Gunn announced.
Angel looked at him. "It'd level the city block."
"So? It'd keep me from getting bit again."
Wesley unhitched himself and carefully put the gun down. He didn't know where the safety was. Then he looked back at Xander, who was grinning madly. "I like it," he announced. "Very useful in this battle."
"Let's make sure Xander never falls into enemy hands," Dawn suggested, taking off her own ear protectors. "Or the military, 'kay?"
Angel nodded. "I agree totally," he assured her. "Good work, Xander. It will definitely make the battle less stressful. How many more are you going to have to make?"
"I've made a case of the weapons, enough armor for an army of about a hundred, and enough control modules for nearly twice that so all the junior slayers could help," he offered. "And yeah, I'd like to not get captured either. I might have to send Robo-Spike after them." Robo-Spike chuckled cruelly. "Not that he wouldn't enjoy it, but still, it'd be mean to have to rebuild him. He might remember it." He looked at Wesley. "I am hereby appointing you my big protector. You're not fighting. You're a controller. Angel's a controller. Faith and Buffy are controllers. Willow's doing her thing off to the side just in case. Dawn, I'd rather have you controlling than hiding, just because this battle has the possibility to destroy a good portion of the city. Gunn, are you controlling by nature?" He shook his head. "Then I'm gonna train you and have someone you trust working you in the battle. Fred, you're going to be with Dawn and Hy if we don't need her controlling. Robo-Spike, I'm having you do a few different vampires since I built you to integrate easier." The robotic vampire nodded. "Good." He pushed the release for the female vampire. "You're free, thank you. Be back in three days." She nodded, leaving them alone to take the sewers back to her family unit.
"Three days?" Angel asked.
Xander looked at him. "In three days there will be a power spike in the magical currents. During that power spike, the city will have a blackout. It is the perfect moment for him to capitalize on his new power to start his takeover of the city."
"How do you know?" Fred asked.
"It happens every year," he told her. "Like clockwork. At exactly nine-fifty-three a two- hour long spike in the magical flows will start. You'll find we're more susceptible to an earthquake then too." He looked at Angel again. "The female has an army ready. We'll need to start working on them the night before. Call Buffy now, but Faith already knows and so does Willow probably." Angel looked flabbergasted but did so, leaving them there. "Any issues anyone can see?"
"Strategy?" Robo-Spike asked.
"Block and stomp."
"Deal," Robo-Spike agreed. He went to help Angel by talking loud enough for Buffy to hear him. Let her wonder and worry. It'd get her back faster.
Wesley waited until they were alone to look at his new charge. "Why am I your big protector?"
Xander leaned over to kiss him. "Because after this, I'll either go insane without something to create or I'll need a grounding influence so I don't do that again. Gunn's taken, Angel's out of the question, and while I programmed Robo-Spike for pleasure I don't want to consider that. Besides, you *get* me. Angel's still giving me looks like I'm some scary creature who's haunting his nightmares." He stole another kiss and left the room, going back down to his lab to make sure he had enough for everyone.
Wesley blinked a few times, then smiled. "That's fine I suppose," he admitted. It would definitely add a new spark to his life.
Five days later found Xander waking up with a horrible headache. "Hy?" he groaned. His baby demon squealed and floated over to bounce on his chest, which made him nauseous. "Morning," he whispered, calming her down. "What happened?"
"You were in line with Robo-Spike when a feedback loop hit him," Dawn said quietly from beside him. "Did you not know that killing the controlled one would flash back?" He shook his head. "Well, it did."
"How many lost?" he groaned.
"None. No one died from it. Oz had to redo some of the programming in Robo-Spike. He went to his backup personality, that of a flaming gay drag queen." Xander nearly smiled at that, he would have if it wouldn't hurt him so much to do so. "How are you feeling?"
"Having a codeine moment," he admitted. "Wesley?"
"In about the same shape," she assured him. "He was having a morphine moment yesterday." She picked up something. "Open." He opened his mouth, letting her pour something thick and liquid into it. "There you are, medicine." She stood up and stole the baby back. "Come on, Hy, he's gonna nap some more. Let's go taunt Uncle Angel with the Robo-Spike." Hy squealed, she liked Uncle Angel. He was a neat playtoy. And a really good chew toy too. She stuck her fingers into her mouth and let Dawn carry her off, waving 'bye-bye' to the daddy. He was sick, the Auntie Fred had said so. That's why he was napping all the time.
Xander groaned as Angel screamed. "Stop it," he murmured, letting the pain medicine take him away. It was a nice thing to float like this. It was almost like the ceiling had come down. "Gotta love drug hallucinations," he mumbled, closing his eyes. He felt someone take his leg and gently pull him back down. "Huh?"
"I'm rescuing you from the ceiling," Wesley told him, settling him back onto the bed. "Did Dawn give you the medicine?" Xander nodded, rolling his head that way. "Don't worry, you'll be up soon. The rest of us only got a minor shock, you had more than one under your control so you got a worse one."
"We lost a third of the army total. One of the junior Slayers died in combat. They buried her yesterday." Xander blinked a few times. "One of the new ones they found while in Cleveland," he assured him. "None of the obnoxious ones you lived with for a few months." He brushed some of Xander's hair around.
"Sorry." He smiled at him. "Your plan worked brilliantly. Robo-Spike, in his disguise as a flaming fairy, killed the lead demon. His damage was minimal and Oz has already fixed most of it." Xander grinned at him. "When you wake up, I'll repeat all this for a fourth time so you'll remember." Xander nodded and flipped onto his side, laying his head on Wesley's hand. "Am I comforting?"
"Very. Stay. Or else I'll make a Robo-you to take your place and to sleep next to me."
"You have no need for that, Xander. I'm right here." He shifted until he was sitting next to Xander. "Was Dawn correct, were you intimate with Andrew?"
"Only once or twice. He needed the calming influence. Masturbation wasn't enough for him," he said quietly. "It was a desperation move to save me from his bouncing and bothering Buffy. She ordered me to take care of him." He looked up, seeing the understanding look on his protector's face. "I don't feel like going to the lab tonight."
"That's good, because you're not getting out of that bed for at least another week," Wesley said firmly, still smiling. "Or else I will allow Miss Summers to come up and yell at you like she's been wanting to do." Xander shuddered and curled up on top of him. "Thank you, Xander. I knew you'd understand. Relax, let the medicine put you back to sleep. I'll keep you from bumping into the ceiling."
"Yes, Wes. Can we make a Big O next?" he pleaded.
"If you can get a full suit of armor working then we'll work on it," he promised. "I'm sure Angel would adore it." Xander chuckled and finished drifting off. Wesley looked toward the door as it opened, shaking his head. "He's just succumbed again," he said quietly.
Buffy grimaced. "Is he still possessed?" Wesley nodded. "Can we fix it?" He shook his head. "Then we'll wait until he's better to talk to him," Buffy decided. Willow opened her mouth. "It won't do us any good to talk to him now, he probably won't remember with that medicine in his system," she pointed out, leading Willow away. They could pounce Xander later to make him rejoin the rest of the group.
"Fat chance," Xander mumbled. "I'm staying right here." He patted Wesley's thigh with his upper hand, making the older man blush. "I'm very comfy."
"Comfortable is good," Wesley agreed. "Comfortable is always preferable."
"Besides, you get me in ways that a girl doesn't," Xander finished.
Wesley smiled. Yes, he certainly 'got' Xander very well.