Something a little different. This may not go over well with the Angel-haters in the house.-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-
Xander was almost frantic with anxiety by the time he got to Cameron's apartment. Her request to have him meet her at her place sounded terribly ominous. He'd been fortunate enough to find that Cameron wasn't prone to irrational turns of emotion like a human girl would be, but since she'd been discovering emotions, little by little, he feared the days of bliss were about to pass.
He knocked on the door twice, then once. It was Cameron's request that he always knock on the door like that so she'd know it was him.
"Hello Xander," her voice called faintly. She'd already gotten the memo on vampires and invitations, so she simply called his name when he showed up at her house.
"Hey Cameron, I - woah, hey! Furniture!" The last time Xander had been there, it was an empty apartment. Now it seemed she'd taken the time to make it look like a normal living room.
Cameron cocked her head and looked at him. "Is it sufficient to allay suspicion that there's something untoward going on in this apartment, should unexpected visitors arrive?"
It took him a sec to process that. Thanks to Giles, his vocabulary was much more extensive than it would've been otherwise, but it was still a shock that he could
l translate from Stuffy to English.
"Yeah, it looks like a regular person lives here," he verified.
Cameron smiled. "Thank you. Please sit down. I wish to ask you some questions."
"Yeah, sure." Xander sat down, noting uncomfortably that there was a scalpel, a screwdriver and a curved pair of needle-nosed pliers on her coffee table.
Though she sometimes noticed when he wasn't feeling comfortable, she appeared not to notice this time. "Xander, why were you so angry in the library?"
Xander realized what this was about, or so he thought. "It's the whole Angel thing. We've been letting it drag out for too long. Buffy is trying to cling to the thread of hope that she can get her boyfriend back, and I just don't see the up side to that. It's an ancient spell that needed two translators - one a computer from the future! - to recreate. I don't know much about magic, but I do know that something like this can potentially go really, really wrong."
Cameron seemed to consider this for a bit and then patted the edge of the coffee table. "Please come sit on the edge of the table here," she requested.
"Uh..." Xander thought about this. On the one hand, it put him in arms length of severe damage, should she choose to inflict it. On the other hand, she could've done that with any one of a number of firearms in her place. "Okay."
Once Xander was settled, Cameron removed a hair tie from her wrist and began fussing with the hair on the front right side of her head. Once she had it bunched up just so, she lay down on the couch and reached up to tug a bit of painter's plastic under her head.
The next thing she said was probably the last thing he'd expect from her. "Pick up the scalpel from the table."
Xander was shocked, but hesitantly complied. "Okay."
"Now, lean over the left side of my head."
He did so, where he could see a large diameter circle of hair that was pulled away from her scalp. "Cam, what-?"
"Please do not interrupt. Now, take the scalpel and cut around my hair in the circle I've provided. Do not cut the full circle - leave about sixty or so degrees of the circumference undamaged." Cameron looked at him expectantly.
"What the hell?" Xander exclaimed. "Cameron, no!"
"Xander, please. It will not hurt me. I must show you something."
Xander swallowed thickly. "Okay, okay. Just give me a minute. I've never had to cut anyone but a demon before." His stomach churned.
"I can wait."
Mercifully, Cameron didn't rush him while he held the scalpel uncertainly and looked with dread at the circle of scalp she wanted him to cut. "Okay, here goes. Just cut most of the circle, right?"
Xander took a deep breath and began doing as she asked, creating an incision between her hair follicles in the circle she requested. He left enough of a flap that it wouldn't be completely removed. "Okay, done."
"Do you see that silver disc with the notch in the side pointing toward the back of my head?" she asked.
"Put down the scalpel, take the screwdriver and pry that off. It is a cover plate."
Xander gulped. "Are you sure?" he whispered.
"Yes, please. You're not going to damage me. This is something you need to see." Cameron gave him that same, patient look.
Another deep breath, and Xander carefully removed the rounded cover plate she'd asked him to. He set it carefully aside, seeing a large silvery piece inside of the round port in her skull. "Got it."
"Do you see that thin piece that appears to obstruct the rest of the area below it?" she asked.
"If you were to take those pliers, grasp that piece and turn it forty five degrees counter-clockwise, you could remove my chip and render me inoperable," she informed him quietly.
"Woah, hey! Cam, no! I'm not doing that to you!" Xander immediately dropped the screwdriver and leaned back from Cameron, as if being too close would make her chip remove itself.
"You do not wish to terminate me?"
"What? No! A thousand times, no! How could you ask me that?" Xander's voice was shaking and he could feel slight stinging in his eyes.
"Please replace the cover plate," she requested.
All too happy to comply, Xander did as she asked, jamming the cover plate back into place. Once he'd done so, she thankfully sat up and pressed her scalp back onto her silvery skull.
Cameron looked at him intently. "I could go bad, you know. That happens with terminators sometimes. Their programming is flawed and reverts back to the original orders provided by Skynet."
"You could?" Xander wished he didn't sound like he was whimpering.
"It is a possibility," Cameron agreed. "And if that should ever happen to me, I would expect you to find a way to disable me with electrical current and remove my chip. Then I would expect you to destroy my chip and my chassis, so I could never contribute to the evolution of Skynet."
"No!" Xander's voice broke, and he couldn't be bothered to try and keep himself sounding manly. "I can't do that to you!"
"You would want to try and restore my current programming?" Cameron looked at him with her head tilted.
"Of course! How could you ask me that?" He sniffled slightly, more than a little alarmed that Cameron was talking about this.
"Then tell me how my situation is any different from Buffy's," Cameron demanded. "Angel has been overridden with new directives by his demonic counterpart. The operating system you knew as Angel, as I understand it, is no longer contained in his undead shell. It is natural for Buffy to want to save him if she can."
"I--" Xander's jaw snapped shut with a click of his teeth.
Cameron looked at him expectantly. "Do you see?"
Very reluctantly, Xander nodded. "Yeah, I do," he whispered roughly.
Cameron seemed to study him for a few moments and then shifted on the couch so she could wrap her arms around his neck. "I am sorry. I did not want to put you through such a terrible ordeal. But this was the only way I could think of to get you to see the problem from another angle."
Xander shivered and buried his nose in Cameron's neck. "Oh, God. Please don't ever do that again."
"I won't." Cameron's fingers threaded through his hair and his emotion began to slowly cool to a simmer.
Once Xander had gotten his emotions in check, he pulled back to look at Cameron. "So, what? We should prepare for having to kill Angel?"
"No. We should prepare that this may become necessary. I do not know enough about magic to determine whether the soul restoration process can work." Cameron shook her head. "This was about you seeing why the potential for reclaiming Angel is so important to Buffy."
Xander jerked back, as if feeling betrayed. "So you're saying we should just let him walk?"
"No. I'm saying that if the opportunity to capture rather than kill presents itself, you cannot ignore it." She affixed Xander with a stern glare, or so it seemed to him. "In all liklihood, he is beyond saving and a backup plan of terminating him is prudent. But since I've been here, I've had to adjust my programming to allow for hypothetical scenarios." Cameron paused again. "On the opposite face of that coin, if you kill Angelus out of hand, you will also be killing a part of Buffy, according to my analysis of Romantic era literature."
Xander let out a shuddering breath. "I need to go apologize to Buffy, don't I?"
"And Willow and Giles. If Jenny has heard of what you said, then her too."
"Check." He chuckled wryly. "I can't believe you're trying to talk me out of violence."
"I am observing the rules I have observed while in this time and place." She paused again. "May I ask you a different question?"
"Different subject, too?" Xander tried to joke.
"Yes." Without another word, Cameron tugged him onto the couch with her.
As Xander began to relax, Cameron continued to come up with questions. "Xander?"
"When everyone was arguing in the library earlier, I detected a... knot, around my abdominal region."
"A knot?" Xander looked confused.
"Yes. It started off small, but it grew the longer everyone fought. Finally, I had to say something because it was consuming so much of my procesing power."
Xander's expression went blank for a bit before he surprised himself with a laugh.
"What is funny?" Cameron demanded.
"Us," Xander chuckled. "Cam, I think that feeling was you maybe being upset that everyone looked like they were ready to fight."
"It was an emotion of anxiety?"
"I think so," Xander nodded.
Cameron seemed more put out by this and her shoulders slumped as it seemed to be her turn to burrow into Xander's shirt. "When will I start to experience the more positive emotions? Everything I've felt so far has been very unpleasant."
Light dawned for Xander. "You're worried that because I was pushing for killing Angel, I'd push for the same on you if you ever went bad?"
"Yes," Cameron replied after several moments.
Xander exhaled, feeling no small amount of guilt. "I'm sorry. I didn't realize this was having such an effect on you."
"I suspected. And I wanted to see if I could articulate my theories to the point that they could be understood."
"I might be a little slow, but eventually, I'll catch on." Xander buried his nose in Cameron's hair, still smelling her shampoo.
"Do you have to go home right away?" She leaned back and looked at him.
"Nah, the fam never notices when I'm gone."
Cameron seemed to process this for a time. "Could you stay with me? Here?"
A double fistful of smart comments came to mind, but all Xander said was, "As long as you need me." Apparently, that was the right answer as he felt Cameron gently but firmly wrap him up in her arms.