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Zeppo in Exile

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This story is No. 1 in the series "Future History". You may wish to read the series introduction first.

Summary: Another quick response to TTH Challenge #1578: In Jim Baen’s Memory.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Literature > Sci-Fi > Honor Harrington SeriesGreywizardFR1813,41956912,61510 Feb 0710 Feb 07Yes
CoA Winner
Disclaimer: They all belong to either David Weber or Crack-Head Joss and ME, not me.

Time frame: For Buffy, this story takes place after ‘Zeppo' and before ‘Bad Girls.’ For the Honorverse, it occurs after ‘The Honor of the Queen’; approximately 1904 P.D. (or approximately 4006 A.D. for those not conversant with the Honorverse dating system.)

Spoilers: None

Character Bashing: None.

Feedback: Of course! If you want to see more of this particular cross, let me know.

Author’s Notes 1: Many thanks to Tim Joy, Bill Haden and Drake the Archr for beta-ing this story.

Author's Notes 2: Additional information on the various people Xander interacts with can be found by going here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Honorverse_characters.

~~~

Title: Zeppo in Exile


"Watch out, guys!"

Buffy and Faith reflexively dodged with mind-boggling flexibility to the side of the demonic solders they were fighting upon hearing the warning Xander yelled out to them, and the twin balls of fire unleashed by the Gar'kongach chief priest of the current Apocalyptic demon cult whose ceremony the Scooby Gang was disrupting missed both Slayers.

Turning its clichéd demonic glare on the person responsible for the warning, the demonic high priest again lifted the staff it had used in its attempt to flash-fry the two Chosen Ones and began pointing it in the tall brunet's direction.

"Oh shit," Xander muttered to himself as he saw the extremely incensed and frustrated demon staring at him. With nothing to dodge behind in an effort to evade the oncoming blast, he reflexively ran forward at top speed, hoping to dive beneath the approaching enemy firestorm.

He hurled himself at the region of the demon's knees an instant before the conflagration erupted from the end of the staff, and succeeded in knocking the clearly very pissed-off demon backwards onto its ass as well as forcing it to drop the staff.

Scrambling up along the demon's body in an attempt to prevent it from regaining the obviously magical staff, Xander managed to entangle his limbs with those of the demon as it sought to regain its feet, causing the two of them to topple further backwards into the midst of the remaining chanting demonic worshippers, and right into the nascent, shadowy gate that was just beginning to form.

With a frustrated scream of rage from the demon and a barely heard "Oh, damn!" from Xander, the budding portal winked out of existence, along with two unintentional travelers, leaving behind a pair of now distraught and upset Slayers, who had just seen their savior, together with their would-be murderer, vanish before their eyes.

The two young women immediately turned to face the remaining demonic foot soldiers (who were now glancing at each other with extremely worried expressions) and moved forward, letting their churning emotions fuel their lethally precise attacks as they began attending to the remaining would-be apocalyptic instigators.

~~~

Silence.

Darkness.

Disorientation.

Nausea.

Confusion.

Suddenly, there was light again.

And a sensation of falling.

Xander barely had time to realize he was falling before he hit the ground beneath him.

Hard.

He had definitely felt – and unfortunately heard – something break in his right shoulder and upper arm as he impacted whatever he'd hit, wherever the hell he currently was. And probably some ribs, too, he realized as he tried to draw in a breath and felt sudden pain stab deeply.

His right knee hurt like hell, too, he noted, as he tried to push himself up onto his feet, but everything felt so heavy, he could barely manage to stand upright.

"Oh my goodness! Are you all right?"

He looked up to see a petite (and extremely beautiful, his mind automatically noted) Asian woman heading his way, even as his ears registered the angry growl of the now clearly very pissed-off demon overlord behind him and he began turning to face it.

A barely registered perception on his left side had him reflexively throwing himself between the momentarily paralyzed with shock woman and the raging demon, his arms trying to lock around the demon's body and prevent it from bringing its claws into play. Unfortunately, he wasn't quite fast enough and red-hot pokers of pain drove themselves deep into his stomach as the demon's free hand raked its claws across his abdomen.

"Run!" he managed to yell to the woman as he ignored the agony searing through his belly and hooked an ankle behind his opponent's leg, knocking the two of them to the ground again.

Pain exploded in his guts a second time as the claws ripped through him again, and he realized that he'd failed in his plan as the demon shoved him to the side and began climbing to its feet, intent on the woman who was still standing there as if rooted to the ground, staring at the two of them in stunned and horrified disbelief.

He could feel the blood pouring out of him as he tried to regain his feet, trying for one final effort to save yet another innocent before he died, and almost screamed aloud in frustration as his body refused to obey his brain's commands.

His attention was distracted by a loud yowl of rage and fury and he caught sight of a cream and grey colored blur as it streaked across the landscaped terrain, its focus centered on the demon continuing its own charge towards the small brunette it had targeted.

The blur and the demon suddenly seemed to merge into a single mélange of dark and light, and Xander was reminded of the cartoon battles he had watched as a child when the Tasmanian Devil was embroiled in some form of altercation with an on-screen opponent.

This squabble (something so clearly one-sided couldn't be called a fight), however, lasted for a bare handful of seconds before ceasing, to reveal something that bore a strong resemblance to a growling, clearly still-furious and protective overgrown lynx, its fur a mixture of cream and slate-grey and its limbs disturbingly disproportionate to his eyes, standing over the now-eviscerated and enthusiastically dismembered remains of the demonic high priest with whom he had journeyed to this not-necessarily garden paradise.

Xander's interest was split between the cat-like creature and the woman who was now kneeling next to him. How had she gotten here so quickly? The last he had seen her, she was frozen with shock at the appearance of him and his demonic fellow hitchhiker and now, suddenly, she was by his side, pulling at his clothing and calling out instructions over her shoulder to someone he couldn't see.

As he looked past the tiny brunette beauty, he saw the cat move away from its now eviscerated and unmistakably dead victim, still snarling and spitting its anger at the clearly deceased lump of flesh, and he blinked and shook his fading wits in confusion.

As he fought against the wave of blackness threatening to overwhelm him, he looked up into the woman's concerned blue eyes and managed to say, "I feel like Tweety-Bird saying this, but – I thought I just saw a six-legged pussycat!"

Then there was nothing but the darkness, and he surrendered to it gratefully.

~~~

He was apparently drifting in and out of consciousness, courtesy of the pain surging thru his body, because the various fragments of conversation he'd managed to pick up on weren't making all that much sense to him.

Not that he'd ever really been conversant with ‘Doctor-speak', really, but he could usually mange to at least follow the general chain of thought, even if Willow wasn't around to translate for him.

" – no more than eighteen standard – "

" – never seen any case like this on any civilized world I've been on – "

" – blood work, I'd say that he's never received any of the standard immunizations – "

" – no sign he's ever received any version of Prolong – "

" – appears that someone actually drilled into several of his teeth and filled them with – "

" – infected with at least a dozen pathogens I've never seen before – "

" – the cultures strongly resemble diseases that were common on Pre-Diaspora Earth –"

Unfortunately, though, mixed in with what he'd been hearing was a lot of what sounded like 'Police-speak,' too.

" – total lack of any form of standard identification and no record of him passing through customs. He's got some type of photo identification, but I've never –"

" – no records of any alien species resembling your assailant, Dr. Harrington, but I promise – "

" – coins we found in his pockets are extremely rare. Luther recognized several of them as something called a 'United States of America quarter dollar.' Said they're practically priceless, so we've put out inquiries to see if any museum's been robbed – "

" – the poor boy's clearly been beaten and tortured over an extended period of time; look at the scars he's got –

" – I swear, if I find out who did this to him, they'll be lucky to get away with a complete personality erasure – "

The pain flared throughout his entire body; it seemed like every nerve in his body was burning, but when he opened his mouth to say something, no sound came out.

"He's awake," he heard someone call, and when he finally managed to open his eyes a moment later, he was surrounded by a crowd of people intently staring down at him.

"Can you tell me what happened to you, son?" he heard someone ask. "You look like you were attacked by a hexapuma, but your blood work indicates that you've been poisoned, and we can't find any creature on record whose toxin matches what we've found."

He tried to tell them that they were wasting their time, that there wasn't any counteragent for the toxin on the Gar'kongach's claws – that he was a goner, for sure – but he couldn't seem to make any intelligible sounds at all, just a low groan that sounded like more like a Fyoral demon talking than anything human.

Then the world around him went away again and this time everything thankfully stayed dark.

~~~

"How is he, Mother?"

He was awake again, sort of, and this time, the burning torment he'd experienced earlier was gone. Although things still seemed a bit – off, he decided. It was almost as if the sun was the wrong shade of yellow coming through the windows.

The speaker was female, and the tone of voice was both concerned and authoritative. As though whoever she was, she was used to issuing orders and having them followed without question.

{ Definitely some of the brass, } the slowly fading fragments of the Soldier possession that still remained in his mind identified the note of command that rang in those soft contralto tones. And definitely not someone he wanted to piss off, he decided vaguely.

It was probably the medically-induced euphoria he was currently experiencing that made him grin slightly as he remembered that he didn't usually have to *want* to piss people off, in order to do so. "A veritable ambulatory vessel of Chaos," was the phrase he'd once heard Giles use to describe him, after he'd managed to somehow spill the Watcher's cup of breakfast tea across four ancient texts they'd been examining for clues about the latest possible Big Bad.

"He's doing much better, dear, now that we've dealt with the neurotoxin and the subsequent infections that followed," a second voice answered the first. "Although I have to say, I've never seen *anything* like that variety of venom before. Whoever this young man is, he's got a constitution like the proverbial bull. If he didn't, we would never have had enough time to synthesize the counter-agent to neutralize it."

This second voice was female, too, and sounded the faintest bit familiar, but he had no idea why. At least, not at present, that is. Sounded professional, too.

Unfortunately, he couldn't maintain his concentration, and everything started fading away again.

~~~

He awoke.

And this time, everything seemed to be a lot more focused. The fuzziness was gone from his thoughts and he could see everything around him without that dreamlike haze that usually surrounded whatever he was looking after being on the receiving end of a concussion. But he still felt very tired, as though his entire body seemed to be heavier than he was used to.

"Hello there, Alexander. How're you feeling?"

He turned and saw that the speaker was a gorgeous, petite Asian woman who had just entered his room. She looked to be possibly even smaller than Buffy, which immediately caused him to consider whether she might be of Hobbit stock. Although he couldn't remember Tolkien ever saying anything, in any of his books, about Hobbit women being incredibly beautiful.

Seeing the smile suddenly blossoming on his visitor's face, he groaned.

"Oh god, don't tell me I just said that out loud," he moaned with embarrassment as he cupped his hands over his face.

Or at least, tried to.

His right arm didn't move at all, and he noticed for the first time the brace immobilizing most of the upper right side of his body.

"Oh, don't worry about that," the woman told him reassuringly as she noticed the sudden focus of his attention. "We'll be able to take that off in another day or so, once your shoulder joint and humerus have finished regenerating."

Now that he had the chance to look at her a bit more closely, Xander recognized her as the woman the demon had tried to attack and whom he'd helped rescue with the assistance of what he seemed to remember as being a very big, *very* mean Persian cat.

Although for some reason, maybe because of the drugs they gave him, he seemed to remember that particular cat as having six legs.

Never mind, he'd worry about that, later. He looked to have plenty to concern him right now – like figuring out exactly where he was, and how he could get back home. He was brought back to the present as he realized the woman was still speaking to him.

" – I'm Dr. Allison Harrington," she was saying, "and I just realized that I still haven't thanked you for saving me from whatever that creature was which tried to attack me."

"It was a High Gar'kongach demon," Xander informed her reflexively, the answer slipping out as he ran through his mental files for the proper identification of the demon that had accompanied him here through the portal. "You can tell by the two pairs of spiral horns on its head.

"Low Gar'kongach only have one pair," he added helpfully.

He clamped his mouth shut as soon as he realized exactly what he was saying, again mentally blaming whatever drugs he must be receiving for answering the question so freely. Normally, he'd keep his mouth shut and just act dumb when asked about things like that – not that he really needed to act very hard.

"And I prefer to be called Xander. Pretty much the only people who called me Alexander were teachers who were kinda pissed off at me," he then added with a lopsided grin, hoping to distract attention away from his accidental revelation regarding one of the things that went bite in the night.

"I see," was all the petite beauty said as she seemed to examine him a bit more closely after hearing that little tidbit of information.

"Am I interrupting anything, Mother?"

Xander immediately recognized the voice of the tall brunette who had stuck her head into the room as the one his Soldier memories had identified as 'some of the brass,' meaning command level, and he turned, as best he could, to try to face the newcomer.

"No, Honor," Dr. Harrington smiled her daughter. "You can come in, as long as Xander doesn't mind."

Nope, there was absolutely no question at all about whether the two women might be related, Xander instantly decided upon seeing his visitor. Not after seeing the eyes and smile that matched the tinier woman's so perfectly.

Actually, that should be visitors, Xander corrected himself after a second look. As in more than one visitor, what with the rather large and kinda strange-but-yet-familiar-looking not-really-a-cat that was perched on the brunette's shoulder.

The not-a-cat that most definitely had six legs. (He'd counted them twice, just to make sure.)

"Well, I guess I wasn't imagining things, after all," he said after a bare moment's consideration.

"Xander, this is my daughter, Honor, and her treecat, Nimitz," Dr. Harrington took advantage of the brief moment of silence to introduce his visitors. "Honor, Nimitz, this is Alexander Harris, the man who saved me from something he identified as a High Gar'kongach demon.

"But he prefers to be called Xander," he heard her immediately add.

"I think you saw Nimitz when you first appeared in our back yard, but I don't recall our having taken the time for formal introductions," she continued, and he also noted the small smile she gave him when he glanced her way at that last comment.

He took some slight bit of confidence in the fact that the smile didn't look as though she was humoring a madman when she repeated his identification for her daughter, but instead was completely serious, while at the same time, simultaneously filled with warmth and what some might call trust.

"I'm delighted to finally meet you, Xander," Honor declared as she smiled warmly at him.

"I understand you delayed this – High Gar'kongach? –" she tentatively repeated the name he'd given it, accompanied by a small frown, "demon from attacking my mother long enough for Nimitz to arrive and help you take it down."

"Nah, you're wrong about that. I didn't do very much at all," Xander snorted as he shook his head 'no.' "Your – treecat – over there took it down all by himself. All I did was wrestle with it long enough to get my blood all over its robes."

"I beg to differ, Xander," Allison immediately disagreed, a frown on her lovely features. "If you hadn't been there to fight with that creature, I'm quite certain that it would have gutted me, and then moved on to attack anyone else it would have encountered, either in the house or the estate.

"All of us present there owe our lives to you," she declared, a no-nonsense look in her eyes that he recognized as almost identical to one that Joyce Summers gave him when she was intent on laying down the law. (He decided it had to be some sort of ‘Mom' thing that women were taught after they had kids.)

"Dr. Harrington is entirely correct, young man," another voice interjected itself into their discussion.

"And you will be responsible for saving a great many more lives if we are correct in our assumption as to your identity."

"Benjamin?" The surprise in Honor's voice was evident to everyone present as she turned to face the small group that was standing just outside the door.

"Honor, it's good to see you again," the dark-haired, middle-aged man with the smiling eyes at the head of the group greeted her.

"Please, excuse my rudeness, young man," he said as he then turned to address Xander directly. "I apologize for barging in here without any invitation, but once I was informed about the events at Harrington Lodge, I felt it necessary to come and verify the information given me in person.

"My name is Benjamin Mayhew," he introduced himself, "and this kind gentlemen with me, who is no doubt frowning because of my garrulousness, is Elder Julius Hanks," Mayhew said as he indicated the distinguished-looking, white-haired man standing a bit behind him."

"Benjamin is the current Protector of Grayson," Honor interrupted to expound on the rather minimal introduction they'd been given.

Seeing the puzzled look in the brunet's eyes at her explanation, Honor elaborated. "He is also my liege lord and, in essence, ruler of the entire planet of Grayson."

Turning back to the new arrivals, she asked, "If I may be so bold, my Lord, may I inquire as to exactly what is of such importance that you felt the need to travel to Manticore and seek out a young man who is still not yet recovered from numerous serious injuries?"

"I am sure that you will, most likely, find this difficult to believe, my dear," Mayhew replied as he turned and looked at the still bedridden youth with an expression reminiscent, to Xander, of those normally worn by Giles as he poured over one of the innumerable ancient texts he kept stored in the locked library cage, "but it concerns a prophecy revealed to one of my forbears over a thousand years ago."

Everyone in the room all turned to stare at the dark-haired youth in amazement when they heard his reaction to the Protector's announcement.

"Oh man! Not another one of those things! Can't I ever catch a break?!"


FIN

The End

You have reached the end of "Zeppo in Exile". This story is complete.

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