When the Initiative’s cleanup crew showed up to take in the captured ‘haemovore’, Riley ordered the team to return with them, ostensibly in case the haemovore woke up.
Xander had only been too happy to comply. He really needed to have words with Director Walsh, which basically led to him loudly repeating his previous rant to the woman.
She had not been amused.
“Listen, Surge,” she told him condescendingly, back in the subterranean base, “I understand that we are dealing with dangerous beings here, but--”
“Not ‘but’,” Xander interrupted, his arms moving wildly to emphasize his point, “You are dealing with dangerous beings. That’s it!”
“But,” Walsh continued, “What we are doing here is perfectly safe, and necessary to further our understanding of these creatures, so that we may fight them more effectively.”
“What more do you need to know?” Xander asked hysterically, before pointing down into the Pit, where several demons were currently being experimented on.
Focussing on one in particular, which was blue skinned with tentacles sprouting from its face, “You kill that one by stabbing it with something silver. Anything
silver. For the love of God, a letter opener will do the trick!”
“You kill that
one,” now he was pointing at a green scaled lizard-man, “With fire. Lots and lots of fire.”
“And that one?” Xander pointed to a vampire that was currently undergoing vivisection, “Stab it through the heart with something wooden or cut its head off.”
“For the love of Zeus, woman,” he continued, “What else do you think you can learn from them?”
Walsh frowned, her face set sternly as she stared Surge in the eye.
“Hostile 3,” she told him, motioning to the first demon, “Produces a natural painkiller, which it uses to neutralize its prey, which is about twice as effective as those used commercially and half as dangerous.
“Hostile 6,” she continued, moving on to the second, “Is completely immune to any lasting effects of all forms of physical damage.”
“Hostile 12,” she went on, “Is somehow capable of maintaining consciousness despite it giving off absolutely no signs of life. Are you honestly telling me that an understanding of how these mechanisms work is not worth the risks of containment?”
Xander paused, “Alright, I’ll give you the painkiller thing, but the others are all explained in one way, that you will never be able to replicate without an army of witches at your command. They. Are. Magic!!!
“Magic is merely science that we have yet to understand,” Walsh dismissed absently, causing Xander to twitch, sparks almost visibly flying off of him to dissipate into the air.
“That’s it,” he yelled, “I’m calling Fury!!!”
With that, Xander sped off, disappearing from the compound as he returned to Lowell House, searched it, found his the room that had been assigned to him, and grabbed his commlink from his duffel bag.
“What do you mean you know?” Xander yelled through the communications device, about a minute later, imagining, for the good of his self-esteem if nothing else, that Fury’s usually unflappable face was wincing.
“I mean that we are aware of Director Walsh and the Demon Research Initiative’s goals,” Fury told him again, “And I will say this only one more time, I know that she is being a complete imbecile in keeping those things alive.”
“Then why haven’t you stopped her?” Xander asked loudly.
“Because she’s outside of my jurisdiction,” Fury replied calmly, “She answers to the same people I do, and since none of them have actually been in the field in about twenty odd years, they believed her when Walsh told them that the benefits of any bound to be fruitless research into what makes demons tick would outweigh the risk of keeping the things alive.”
“But what if they break out?” He said hysterically, “There’ll be an army of starving monsters climbing out of the dirt and into the college... and demons love college students!!”
“Look, kid,” Fury snapped, “I’m doing all I can to get them to move out of the populated areas, but I’m not in command of these bozos, and I happen to think that they’re stupider than you do! So, quit yelling in my ear and enjoy your week off without making too much of a mess of things before I call you back to base.”
Xander wanted to keep arguing, but, well, Fury had a point. If he couldn’t do anything about it, then why should Xander keep yelling at him? Plus, he really didn’t want to go back to the Triskelion yet.
“Fine,” he muttered, “But, seriously, right below a college?”
“I’m working on it,” Fury said testily.
Xander rubbed his eyes tiredly, “I’m not letting this go.”
“I never said you had to,” Fury said with a smirk that was actually audible to Xander’s ears, “Just make sure that whatever you do can’t be traced back to S.H.I.E.L.D..”
With that, the director signed off, leaving Xander to slowly form a grin, already imagining the chaos he could cause to the Initiative.
But first, he yawned, sleep. Sleep was good.
The next morning, Xander went down, along with the Initiative soldiers, to the DRI’s mess hall, where he consumed a hearty breakfast of military approved... water and orange juice, all the while entertaining whoever asked with some stories of some of the very rare exploits of Tony Stark and Thor which hadn’t made it to the tabloids... yet.
Whilst down in what Xander was now calling Mandark’s Laboratory there was, it seems, a terrible accident.
As a demon was being transported to the Pit, Xander ‘happened’ to trip and fall against it, ‘accidentally’ releasing a jolt of electricity upon contact that was enough to wake the beast. Luckily, however, Xander had brought with him an axe (where exactly he’d gotten it was something of a mystery), under the pretext that he was not walking around that many demons, contained or not, without something pointy, and he was able to behead the demon before it caused any damage. Luckily.
It was also very lucky that Xander was able to speed off after a hasty and half-hearted apology, before Walsh could find out that she’d just lost one of her test subjects. Along with two or three others that had been involved in similar 'accidents'.
All completely unavoidable of course.
Xander wandered around the campus for a while, flitting through the rush of students making their way to classes as he made his way back to Buffy’s dorm.
Thankfully, this time it was Buffy who answered his knock, and, since Kathy was still inside, the pair took their conversation outside as Buffy led him to Willow.
“Hey, Willow,” the Slayer soon said perkily, upon finding the duo’s red headed friend, “Look who I found.”
“Ooh,” the witch’s eyes snapped wide as her face broke into a grin, “Xander!”
“Buffy do good?” She asked cheekily, as Xander happily accepted a Willow-hug.
“Buffy did very good,” Willow confirmed, as she did her very best to crush Xander’s ribcage.
“Can’t... breathe...” Xander gasped.
Willow immediately backed off, her gin threatening to split her face in two, “When did you get back? How was your trip? Did you ever get to see the world’s biggest ball of string? Or the Grand Canyon? Was it awesome? I bet it was awesome! Did you miss me?”
Xander smiled as he answered, in order, “Last night, interesting, yes, no, yes, of course, and duh, obviously I missed my favorite girl.”
“Ahem,” Buffy coughed jokingly.
, my favorite girls
,” he continued after a short pause, “Let’s move on. How was your summer, Wills?”
“It was fine,” she smiled, “Boring, except, you know, for when there were vampires and stuff.”
“Are you saying I’m boring?” Oz asked casually, stepping easily into place amongst the trio.
“No, of course not,” Willow slapped his shoulder lightly, before whispering, “Just, people don’t need to know about that
“Gladness,” Oz told her, still straight faced.
“...your hair is blue now,” Xander noted, trying to move the conversation far away from where Willow had inadvertently placed it, “That’s nice.”
Oz nodded, “It’s a thing.”
“He’s going through all the colors of the Ultimates,” Willow told him.
“No clue why,” Buffy said plainly, “We’ve saved the world. Where’s our ticker tape parade?”
“Well there wasn’t actually a parade--” Xander began, before cutting himself off, “I mean, it’s sexist is what it is. I swear, I’ve been saying it for years, if you and Wills started running around in spandex we’d be on the world’s stage by next week.”
Buffy and Willow looked at him blankly for a moment, before Oz spoke up, “And then we’d have to too, Xan, just to fit, and I don’t think we could rock the spandex like the girls could.”
Xander eyed Oz critically, “Well maybe you
“Rowr,” Buffy smiled, making claws with her right hand, “When did you get so catty?”
“Oxnard,” was all Xander said in reply, and he was not saying anything more on the subject. Ever.
The day passed quickly, the four friends spending time together for the first time since high school.
They caught up on each others’ lives, with Buffy, Oz and Willow informing Xander of what had happened on the slaying front, whilst Xander told them of several of his own exploits across the country, carefully avoiding any mention of anyone with superhuman abilities and New York all together.
It was a good time. It was a pity Xander had to ruin it.
“You’re leaving?” Willow whimpered, “But... you just got back.”
Xander bowed his head, not meeting his friends in the eye as he explained, “I’ve... got a job, doing construction. It’s in L.A.. I’ve even got an apartment out there.”
That wasn’t entirely a lie either. S.H.I.E.L.D. had purchased a small construction company purely for the purpose of creating an accurate paper trail to prove his employment, as well as listing one of dozens of S.H.I.E.L.D. safe-houses in his name to serve as his apartment should he ever receive visitors.
“I can still come and visit you guys every couple of weeks,” he assured them, “And, if you ever need me, for any reason, I’m only a few hours away.”
Just under three and a half hours, he knew, assuming that he was running at the speed of sound from the Triskelion. Less than that if he could get Thor’s help in regards to transportation.
“It’s gonna be weird,” Buffy said hollowly, “Not having you around all the time. I mean, you’re... you!!”
“Can’t argue with that,” Oz quipped.
“Can’t stay in Sunnydale either,” Xander replied, “I’m not going to college, I’ve got no job here, and, frankly, I don’t really want to keep living with my parents.”
“L.A.,” he sighed, “It doesn’t have you guys, and that sucks... but, I think that it does have what I need.”
Oz was passive as Willow engulfed her best friend in a bone crushing hug, scolding him, “You’d better come visit us.”
“Not even the Ultimates would stop me,” he promised quietly. Even as what really ate at him inside was, not necessarily that he was admitting that he was leaving Sunnydale, but that he honestly wasn’t sure how much of his reasoning was a lie.
Xander sprinted down the highway on his way to L.A., having begged off of Buffy and Willow’s invitation to join them at a college party for the evening. He had to meet one of his new colleagues for a drink, he’d told them. One that swung a mean hammer.
He reached Los Angeles in a matter of minutes, but finding Thor’s bar took a while longer. Mostly because he went up and down the same stretch of road about twelve times before realizing that, yes, the empty lot was the address he was looking for, and that, really, it made perfect sense that Thor would want to go to a supernatural watering hole.
“Surge!” Thor greeted jovially from the bar, as Xander stared wide eyed at the sheer array of demons that littered the room. He had ditched his wig for the evening, as well as donning Surge’s glasses, to ensure that ‘Xander’ was not connected with Thor.
“Thor,” he replied awkwardly, making his way slowly to the bar, carefully avoiding the various demonic creatures that muddled his path, fists sparking dangerously with power in his fear, “Ole buddy, ole pal. Why didn’t you say this was a demon bar?”
“Whoa there, Sparky, hold your horses!”
A new voice jumped out at him, turning Xander’s attention to the flamboyantly dressed, green skinned, red-horned, demon sitting with the God of Thunder.
“There will be no violence of any sort here,” the demon continued casually, “Not even Goldilocks here can break that little enchantment.”
“Surge, this is the Host,” Thor introduced his friend, as Xander gawked in shock, he had seen some strange demons to be sure, but none quite like the Host, “The owner of this establishment. Also known as Krevlornswath of the Deathwok Clan. He is a friend.”
“Deathwok Clan?” Xander repeated, fists still sparking.
“Oh, don’t even get me started,” the Host muttered, “But you can relax my little Lightning Bug, I am strictly nonviolent, and no one can so much as throw a punch in this establishment thanks to the warding scheme.”
“That’s, uh... nice?” He replied awkwardly, sparks dying slowly, though his eyes still darting continuously to keep a lookout for any threats. The fact that all the demons he considered terrifying were currently watching a vampire do karaoke did nothing to stem his paranoia.
“Calm yourself, Surge,” Thor told him, hefting a mug of ale, “Enjoy a drink.”
“Uh, sure,” Xander decided, taking a seat at Thor’s side, putting the God between himself and the green-skinned Host.
“Not unless you can show me some I.D., honey,” the demon told him, now leaning on the bar to see around Thor.
Xander stared at him, his eyes darting out again to view the various demonic patrons, many of which were in various stages of inebriation, “You’ve gotta be kidding me.”
“This place may serve demons,” the Host shrugged, “But I’m not risking my liquor license by serving the underage.”
Xander just shook his head, “L.A. is so
“And the people like it that way,” the Host replied cheerfully, before flagging down the bartender and ordering another Sea Breeze, “And a Coke for my absolutely electrifying little friend here.”
Xander glared at the Host, though the demon couldn’t tell through Surge’s glasses.
“Calm yourself, Surge,” Thor told him, placing a large hand on the younger man’s shoulder, “You seem tense. Is something wrong?”
“Not really...” he said, “I just had to tell some friends that I can’t stick around.”
“Why not?” Thor asked.
Xander thanked the bartender, who may or may not have been a vampire, when she passed him his Coke, noticing that the Host was entranced by one of the singers and taking a sip before answering the Thunder God.
“Working with the Ultimates kind of cuts into my free time.”
“Aye,” Thor agreed, “Mine as well. But is it not a worthy cause? Had we not been ready, New York would be rubble from the Hulk’s rampage, and the Chitauri would have succeeded in their plans for global domination.”
Xander shrugged, reluctantly agreeing, “Still wish I didn’t have to be on P.R. duty, though.”
“Yes,” Thor’s face tightened as he thought over certain memories, “I too find interviews tedious, and the reporters... distasteful. But the media is a convenient medium to get our messages heard.”
“That, plus the two of you are just fantastic on camera,” the Host interjected absently, “I swear, whenever either of you get shown onscreen every humanoid demoness in the bar starts drooling.”
Xander’s face scrunched painfully at the thought of female demons drooling over him as Thor chuckled in mirth.
“That’s just disturbing.”
“Don’t I know it,” the Host agreed, nursing his Sea Breeze as he turned away from the singer, “Some of that drool is toxic. My cleaning staff are insisting that they deserve hazard pay every time you have an interview.”
Xander spent another several hours at Caritas with Thor, chatting about the other Ultimates, Fury, occasionally veering into Thor’s environmentalist goals and firsthand accounts of Asgardian legends (seriously, Giles would kill him to be in this position).
Whilst there, ‘Surge’ sat through the incredibly surreal experience of being asked, along with Thor, for their autographs... by a pair of demons. Granted, the Host assured them that they were both of peaceful species, but still...
Eventually, when Thor stopped asking for more ale and Xander had long given up on trying to get the Host to slip him anything alcoholic, the God led the pair of them outside, giving the Host their farewells.
Thor held his hammer high, calling down a bolt of lightning to take him to Asgard.
“That looked really
cool,” Xander muttered, before an electrical aura of his own became apparent as he started to run, the world swiftly becoming little more than a blur around him as he picked up speed, accelerating swiftly as he gathered momentum.
He darted through the L.A. streets, carefully avoiding cars and pedestrians, knowing that they would register him as little more than a blur and dismiss him as a gust of wind, a distortion of the air or a trick of the light.
He kept to the highways once he got out of the city, roads making navigation infinitely easier, and, without needing to change direction every couple of seconds, he was able to really cut loose.
He was back in Sunnydale within minutes, arriving at Lowell House just in time to learn that Riley, Forrest and the others were out on patrol, having been ordered by Walsh to keep him far away from any potential specimens.
He honestly wasn’t sure whether or not he should be offended by that, but he decided to follow them anyway. It’d be fun if nothing else.
Xander didn’t bother with the camo gear this time, and swiftly found the Initiative soldiers on the outskirts of the SU campus, in the middle of combatting a large reptilian demon, failing spectacularly to subdue it even with simultaneous blasts of the taser-like blasters.
‘Surge’ took one look at the scene before blurring into action at the sight of the demon about to disembowel one of the soldiers.
Xander sprinted the distance between them, gathering momentum before he hurled himself into the creature, knocking it away from the soldier, but doing little more than giving Xander himself a few extra bruises. Solidifying for just a moment as he stopped, Xander turned and sprinted away while the demon was momentarily downed.
He raced back to Lowell House, breaking down the door as he ran straight through it rather than stop to open it. He didn’t have the time, and it’s not like the military couldn’t afford it.
He zoomed up the stairs of the building, solidifying once he got to his room, stopping only long enough to frantically grasp around in his duffle bag until he came across what he was looking for.
With the object in hand, Xander turned around and sprinted back the way he had came, jumping through the debris of the front door and hurtling across the campus to return back to the combat zone in time to see Graham get backhanded by the demonic reptile.
Rather than ram the creature again, Xander hurled the small bottle in his hand at full speed, sending it straight into the monster’s torso, where the glass shattered on impact, releasing its contents onto the demonic flesh, which immediately began to steam upon contact with holy water, causing the beast to roar in pain.
Xander continued forwards, tackling the creature and generating huge quantities of electrical energy, which was considerably more effective now that the creature was partially soaked in holy water, the liquid acting both to harm the beast and to help conduct and magnify the effects of the electricity.
The demon first tensed, and then went limp, falling to the ground and taking Xander with it as it fell unconscious. Not waiting for the Finn and his men to stop him, Xander then took the stake from his back pocket and rammed it into the demon’s heart. He’d’ve liked to take the head off just to be sure, but he didn’t have the time to fetch an axe.
“Surge,” Riley greeted him in a defeated tone, “Glad you could join us.”
“Well, I saw you having trouble with this beastie here,” he replied, pushing himself back to his feet as he jerked towards what he hoped was now a corpse, eyeing it carefully for signs of life.
Luck, thankfully, seemed to be on his side that night, as the demon did not so much as twitch, leading Xander to conclude that this particular creature of the night would not be getting back up. He still double checked with a swift kick to the ribs, of course. Just in case.
“How thoughtful of you,” a tired Forrest said sarcastically, “It’s a shame that the geeks back at HQ wanted this thing alive.”
“Hey, you know how it goes,” Xander smiled unrepentantly, “You throw some holy water, make a little lightning, the urge to slay kinda takes over, doesn’t it?”
“Anyway,” he continued, making swift motions to leave, “I assume you guys want to take this thing back? I’d just be getting in the way, so I guess I’ll head back to the house and catch some Z’s. See ya.”
With that, Surge was gone in a blue blur.
Seeing him leave, Forrest eyed his field commander, “You get to explain this to Walsh.”
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