I know, I let the bezoar live after being boiled, last chapter. I was halfway through that scene when I realized that fact, and then left it in, because the absurdity of Cameron talking to the egg/bezoar hatchling amused me.
This chapter... I have no idea where this came from.-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-
Xander frowned while contemplating an unopened Kit-Kat bar. As per the Hellmouth rules, if someone had something happy to celebrate, it had to toss its two cents in, much like Uncle Rory when he's gotten into the schnapps. Then, to add injury to insult, the person he'd been wanting to take still wanted to paddle a kayak down Denial River. Stupid Cordelia.
"Is something wrong?"
Xander looked up to see Cameron looking quizzically down at him as he sat in his solo lunchtime spot. "Hey, Cam. You still coming to Buffy's birthday party?"
"Yes. My supply run doesn't begin until nine hours afterward," Cameron confirmed, losing the touch o' humanity facade she wore when non-Scoobies were around. "But you did not answer my question."
Xander gave a rueful half smile. "No, I guess I didn't. You're starting to pick up on the way we work, aren't you? People, I mean. When we're avoiding a subject, that kind of thing."
"Avoidance is often a sign of a deeper issue," she agreed.
Xander blinked at her. "Okay, no more daytime TV for you."
"That's not a product of watching television," Cameron protested. "I've been going through the library's psychiatry and psychology section after helping Buffy with patrols." She paused and felt the need to clarify. "I don't sleep."
"No explanation needed," Xander chuckled. "Seriously, with you hitting the ends of town that Buffy and Angel aren't on, I sleep a lot better at night."
"Giles asked me if I would help on nights that I don't have other responsibilities. It's a mission, but it's a mission that I choose."
"Is that something you never got to do?" Xander asked, distracted enough from his own problems to find this interesting.
"No. I'm programmed with objectives. I accomplish them as efficiently as possible. Having the option to achieve mission goals without a pre-existing mission is different. However, it's a mission that I'm designed to complete."
"I guess you guys aren't called terminators just because the name sounds cool." Xander snorted.
"No. We're not." Cameron seemed to be conducting some internal thought processes, which she interrupted by repeating a sentence from earlier. "And you have not yet answered my question."
"Busted." Xander threw his hands in the air. "You've got me. Okay. How much do you know about social secrets. Things that aren't a matter of life and death, but still shouldn't be talked about."
"To prevent social awkwardness."
"Right. What I'm going to tell you is that kind of secret. You understand?" Xander peered at her intently.
"Not entirely, but I will promise not to mention anything that you're about to tell me," Cameron replied.
"Good enough." Xander took a deep breath and told her everything. About the strange, lust-propelled interludes with Cordelia. Her rejection of him when he asked her to officially be his date for Buffy's party. He even went into the basics of his un-reciprocated feelings about Buffy. Cameron was a good audience. She didn't interrupt once while he unloaded all of his upset onto her, even when he was ranting about girls in general, and Cordelia or Buffy in specific.
Finally, Xander wound down. For once, he actually felt a little out of breath from one of his diatribes. He took a couple of deep breaths to compensate and shook his head. "Wow. Guess that's been building up for a while."
"Humans are not yet designed to internally compartmentalize their stressful feelings. You needed to emphatically express these feelings in order to relieve that stress." She paused. "You needed to vent."
Xander was caught off-guard by this and it teased a bark of laughter out of him. "Yeah. Yeah, I guess I did. Sorry for the yelling, though."
"You cannot upset me with yelling. I have no ego to damage or feelings to hurt."
"Not yet, anyway." Xander shrugged offhandedly.
Cameron cocked her head sharply, the way she did when something new entered her data stream or whatever. "What do you mean?"
Xander looked up at her and then patted the seat next to him in invitation. It took her a moment before she caught on and sat down, much to his relief. He was getting a crick in his neck. "Okay, you told us that Skynet became afraid when humans freaked out about it becoming self-aware and they tried to pull the plug, yeah?"
"And your programming is based off of Skynet's, right?"
"That is also correct."
Xander shrugged. "Then it seems to me that you have the same chance of learning how to feel as it did. You're just not learning it by having your existence threatened. You get to do it the slow way, like people do." He lifted his hands in a 'what can you do?' gesture.
"I don't know if that's possible," Cameron replied. "Skynet did not program us identically to itself. Many lines of code were left out."
"But maybe it wasn't the right ones being left out. You might wanna talk this over with Willow - she's more likely to understand artificial intelligence better than I do." He chuckled.
"I would be limited in what I could tell her. There are things that I'm not-"
"Allowed to talk about, I know. But if you give her a general idea, maybe she can help you figure out whether feelings are part of your programming."
Cameron paused. "I will have to process this. But it's something to consider." She looked down for a moment before looking back at Xander. "Regarding your problems, I have no answers or suggestions for you right now. I haven't read the books regarding romantic bonding yet."
Xander waved his hand dismissively. "Hey, don't worry about it. It's probably one of those things I have to deal with on my own. Not exactly new territory there."
"I will study those subjects as soon as I'm able. You gave me something new to process. It's polite to respond in kind, correct?"
"It doesn't work like that." Xander shook his head. "Cam, talking about something that's bothering you isn't like paying for a stereo or something. If you need to talk, you need to talk and that's all. I needed to talk, you listened. Even if you don't understand it all, I still feel better. So, y'know... Thank you." He grinned at her.
"You're welcome," she replied automatically. "We should get to class."
"Yeah, I haven't gotten enough sleep today."
Cameron appeared to ignore his non-sequiter. "We will talk about this again." She stood up and gathered her backpack up, turning to walk back into the building. Before she left, however, she turned back to him. "Xander?"
"I am sorry your attempt to accompany Cordelia to Buffy's party did not go as you had hoped." Cameron's reply was formal, almost mechanical, but he felt absurdly comforted by the fact that she didn't use her people-imitating programming to say that.
"So am I."
"Thank you for trying to help me understand human emotions better. Even if it's not something I'm capable of, the information is more than I had previously."
"You're welcome, Cam."