Issue Five: Fording the River
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Rise of the Ultimates Volume One: Origins
Volume One, Issue Five
“Fording the River”
Tuesday Morning, Sunnydale High
The next day Xander managed to get to school and into his first class without running into either Buffy or Willow. In his computer class they were given a free period to work on the ongoing project for the semester. Xander had completed his the night before so all he did at the start of the class was load it to the school computers in order to test it, and after he confirmed that it was working as expected he submitted it for evaluation. That took a total of ten minutes, and a further two minutes to send a copy to Cordelia to use as a guide for her own project meant that he had the rest of the class free to focus on his personal projects. Out came his notebooks and he continued the process of translating his memories of schematics, formulae and designs into hard copies that could later be scanned into a computer.
As Xander was busy sketching out the schematics for a new quinjet design he had been considering he noticed that Cordelia had her own notebook out and was doing some sketching of her own. When he let his curiosity float to his surface thoughts he was rewarded by Cordelia sending him an image of what she was doing. She had taken the rough uniform designs from the day before and was refining them.I’m going to need to take your measurements at the end of class so that I can get the order placed tonight. Since I wasn’t submitting the order last night I decided to do some more detailed sketches of the outfits so that the resulting product will be better.
Xander heard her voice echo in his head.
Xander smirked and sent his thoughts back to her.I noticed in the showers yesterday that my muscle mass has increased since Halloween. It’s obviously a side effect of what happened to us, but I’m not sure why my muscles would be changing. Oz’s physical alterations occurred under the spell and remained permanent, and as far as we know Tony did not possess an X-gene or a meta-gene.
Cordelia smirked at the thought of Xander with a slightly more muscular body before carefully censoring her thoughts and replying.I’ll take that into account then, I’ll make sure to let the tailor know to make yours with extra room in the measurements. This means that getting it fitted to you this weekend will take longer than for Oz and me, but as long as you don’t keep this level of growth up then the outfit should fit you for a while. Worst case scenario is we have to take new measurements in the future and get a new uniform made for you.
Xander shrugged and returned to his quinjet design. After a few moments he made a quick notation and closed the notebook, moving on to a fresh one. As he began laying out designs for another new gadget he failed to notice Cordelia steal the first notebook out of curiosity, look at the last page and then put it back.
He also failed to see the faint blush on her cheeks as she had read the note on the modified quinjet.Note to self: Install a fully functional bar in this model as a luxury jet. Cordelia would love it
When the class ended Cordelia was still getting Xander’s measurements using a measuring tape she had brought from home. She had waved her ‘sheep’ on to their next class saying she was measuring Xander for a suit for an event they were going to attend. No point in telling them they were planning to become some sort of vigilante heroes out killing the vampires at night after all. As such Xander was nearly late for class and only managed to barely slip into Mr. Dathers’s history class before the bell rang.
He immediately made a bee-line for the only empty seats, at the front of the class on the side nearest to the door, while noting that both Buffy and Willow had staked out two of the seats in the rear of the class. Apparently they had expected him to arrive early and had gotten here as soon as possible in order to get seats near him. Silently he thanked the gods that Cordelia had taken so long with the measurements. He just didn’t feel like dealing with Buffy and Willow’s questions right now.
Shrugging and pulling out his notebooks he continued with his designs.
The rest of Xander’s morning was fairly uneventful. Mr. Dathers hadn’t bothered him about his notebooks, either assuming he was taking notes on the lecture or simply not caring, and his math class was a free period to work on homework and ask the teacher for questions on the assignments for the week. By the time lunch came around he had developed a sizeable hunger and so both he and Oz had met up at Oz’s van and ditched school to go get lunch off campus. The pair headed to the all-you-can-eat buffet and settled in for a long lunch, both silently thanking the gods that their school had off-campus lunch for juniors and seniors. They had realized their appetites were tapering off after the first few days, but they were still eating more in a single meal than most people ate all day.
When Oz and Xander returned to the school just before the bell for the start of afternoon classes rang they both split ways and hurried to their classes. Xander slipped into the locker rooms for PE just in time and changed quickly, joining his classmates in the gym where the teacher had decided that the sport of the day would be dodge ball.
As the period progressed Xander was deep in introspective thought, even while successfully dodging, catching and returning fire with the large rubber balls being tossed around the room. His endurance had increased along with his strength, although he felt certain that it was more a side effect of his increased health and physical state rather than a supernatural bonus. He was observing the movements of his classmates and calculating trajectories, force potentials, and other factors in his head all within moments, more than enough to predict the path of their fire. He was growing even more certain that something else had happened to him that night, most likely related to his transformation, but potentially due to something he couldn’t remember or hadn’t noticed.
When the period finally ended Xander hurried to the locker rooms, showering quickly before heading to English. When he walked in he was immediately flagged down by Mrs. Steven who handed him a stack of papers. He looked at them and realized that it was the assignments for the rest of the semester, even more than he had requested. He smiled in thanks and quickly took his seat. The period passed uneventfully as Buffy spent most of the class working with one of the class ‘brains’ who was tutoring her in the subject and Xander left it with happy anticipation to be heading to his final class of the day. When he met Cordelia at the door he smiled and held it open for her, earning him a smile in return as they took their seats at a station at the rear of the classroom. As they began to follow the instructions on the board and prepare their supplies for the day’s assignments Xander smiled, grateful to Tony for giving him the knowledge and passion to actually enjoy this class now, even if it was elementary material.
Sunnydale High school Library, Afterschool
When Xander slipped into the library afterschool to check in with Giles he overheard Buffy and Willow talking about someone named Ford. The energized, happy discussion told him that this person wasn’t someone hellmouthy so Xander didn’t pay it more than passing attention. Cordelia had a thoughtful look on her face as she listened in, so Xander figured that if there was anything he needed to know about it she would inform him later.
Ten minutes later Oz had arrived as well and Giles had joined them, discussing the plans for the afternoon and evening. Buffy informed him that she was only going to do a short patrol after training because she wanted to go to the Bronze that evening with Willow. She said that she was going to meet an old friend of hers there, someone she called Billy, so she wanted time to take a shower before heading to the Bronze. Oz waived off from any of the plans as he had band practice to get to, and as there was nothing major going on that needed to be researched Xander and Cordelia both said that they needed to do some shopping before the stores closed.
Willow was still acting annoyed about Cordelia being there so neither Xander nor she lingered any longer than they had to, both pretending not to notice the green-eyed monster shooting them angry looks as they left the library to head for Cordelia’s car.
Xander smiled as Cordelia pulled into a parking space at the local strip mall. They had managed to get out of the library without any major complications and now they were going to pick up some hardware that would be the first steps in their plans. JARVIS had an immense database and amount of processing power, but for their plans to succeed they were going to require systems far beyond the cobbled together pieces of his original, and only, Iron Man suit.
As Xander and Cordelia stepped through the doors of Best Buy they were discussing the identities they would utilize when the time came.
“I honestly think that I’ll stick with going by White Queen. It was a title that Emma earned and to be perfectly honest I just can’t think of her without thinking of her as such.”
Xander looked sideways at her as they turned and headed into the computer section of the story.
“I understand that, and I’ll admit that I’ve already been thinking of you as the White Queen even when not talking about becoming heroes. It’s just that, for me, I don’t quite feel that Iron Man is the appropriate moniker to use. I mean, sure I’ll be using Stark’s technology and knowledge, and I already feel more like a Stark than a Harris thanks to everything, but the name just doesn’t feel right. I was thinking something more…me. You know, like Savior, or Sentinel.”
Cordelia chuckled and shot him a smile.
“Awfully full of yourself aren’t we? Savior? As if Stark. You are so a Sentinel.”
Xander chuckled and shot a smile back as they reached the laptop aisle.
“Ok, so Sentinel then. I’m thinking, probably a gold and black color scheme. It will be distinct enough to hopefully avoid people calling me Iron Man, though I’m also afraid they might start calling me War Machine instead.”
Cordelia chuckled at that as they began to compare the stats and hardware listed for the various machines the store was selling.
“But that is an issue for the future, it will be months at least before I can construct a new suit, and no way am I going to hack together a Mk I. My current designs will be suitable enough as weapons until I can afford to build a fully functional suit.”
When Xander noticed Cordelia looking between two similar machines with a furrow of concentration on her brows as she compared the stats he chuckled.
“Just get them both Cordelia. These are just to serve as initial, portable stations for us to use as interfaces to JARVIS. We’ll be building far better machines once we have the tools and supplies later on. A minor difference in processing ability for these machines really isn’t a problem.”
Cordelia nodded and then after a few moments made her selection. They grabbed four units of one of the models before heading over to the accessories section, slipping them into a cart that they grabbed from nearby. Quickly they added several hundred disc towers of writable DVD discs, twenty one terabyte external hard drives, four dozen wireless routers, several battery backups, surge protectors and cables, and finally a whole stack of various software.
Finally they reached the section of the store with cellphones. Xander took one look at them then looked at Cordelia.
“You know, I think that one of the first things we need to do when we get the company up and running is design and build some of the phone designs I have. These things are so primitive it almost hurts to look at them. We definitely need some special company phones. People will see us using them and by the time we even put the lesser models on the market there will be hype and demand for them.”
“There’s the businessman behind the billionaire playboy alcoholic.”
Xander chuckled and shook his head before they turned back to the employee manning the booth. Twenty minutes later they left the store and piled their new hardware into the back of Cordelia’s car. They had ended up buying six cell phones, three pre-paid with cash under Cordelia’s name, three with contracts in each of their names but attached to Cordelia’s account so that she could oversee the accounts. They would use the prepaid ones to contact each other for now related to their plans, while the account based phones would be used for interacting with their friends and families.
When they reached Oz’s apartment they carried the hardware inside and immediately set to work setting the computers up. By the time Xander escorted Cordelia home it was nearly midnight and they had all four machines up and running with the software installed. One laptop had been customized for each of them, and Xander had set the fourth up as a manual interface to JARVIS in his room. They had set up the twenty externals linked to JARVIS via several relays and had connected a wireless router to the entire setup with full encryption, JARVIS had installed the necessary decoding software on their laptops, so in theory no one else could access their wireless network.
When Xander returned from escorting Cordelia home he spent another two hours typing away at the computers, working with JARVIS in order to design the hardware and software for a series of high-density wireless signal routers. Xander had an idea of a place that he could use as a lab but he didn’t want to risk anything happening to JARVIS. If he set up the appropriate mainframe systems here at Oz’s and at the lab, along with the right signal repeaters, he could run a wireless ‘cable’ between Oz’s apartment and the lab.
He finally fell asleep at close to 2AM, shortly after Oz returned from band practice. Xander had asked why he had been out so late and Oz had replied that he and his band had been hired to play at someone’s house for a party on Friday and they had wanted to finish getting down their newest song.
Wednesday Morning, Sunnydale High
School Wednesday was fairly uneventful for Xander. The standoffish behavior that he and Oz had adopted as a side effect of the weekend meant that he interacted as little as possible with Buffy and Willow, preventing either of the teenage girls from jumping down his throat about his apparent friendship with Cordelia. Xander did note that unlike the previous two days the girls appeared distracted, and their distraction meant that he didn’t have to work too hard to avoid them.
Xander had ceased using his notebooks and had instead begun to take notes on his laptop, using a wireless tablet and stylus to draw the necessary diagrams as he began to focus his plans. After several days JARVIS had managed to analyze the currently existing market technologies to find the necessary hardware for part of his plans and he was beginning to work out the necessary design and encoding. He had realized from the beginning that Oz’s apartment wasn’t remotely large enough for even a basic lab, but he was not going to risk housing JARVIS in a site he couldn’t consider secure. He needed to establish a direct computer link between Oz’s apartment and whatever site they chose for their first lab and any attempt to purchase and run high-density optical cables between the apartment and the lab would surely draw attention. Instead he had managed to design highly secure directed transmission repeaters for data signals. They couldn’t carry as much capacity, but by setting up a paired channel of repeaters from the apartment to the lab he could ensure two-directional transmission of fairly high data capacity, as well as keep it nearly undetectable and completely secure.
The only notable events of the day were when Ms. Calendar supplied Xander with a list of books on computer languages and OS architecture that she thought could help him, and when Xander ran into Cordelia in the hallway on his way to meet Oz for lunch. Cordelia had her sheep around her and was being flirted with by one of the members of the football team. Xander thought he was a running back, and if he remembered right the moron had fumbled the ball six times during the last football game. Xander had felt a faint hint of, well he was pretty certain it was vaguely like jealousy. He knew that what he felt for Cordelia was simply mutual attraction, but one doesn’t have to be in love to be jealous of another’s attentions.
Xander had felt Cordelia’s thoughts at that point, asking him to help deal with the muscle head. Xander had shrugged, handed his backpack over to a random girl asking her to hold it, and then stepped up to the moron. He had begun using word games and logic to twist around the moron, allowing Cordelia the opportunity to brush him off and walk away. Just as he planned, Ms. Calendar exited her room just in time to stop the moron from punching Xander in the face. Xander had known it was a gamble, but he was prepared to dodge at the last second if a teacher hadn’t interrupted. Afterwards he had taken his backpack back from the girl, a surprisingly cute red head he didn’t recognize, and calmly walked out of the school.
He didn’t realize it, but that one incident had begun to change his classmate’s opinions of him.
After school finished for the day Xander and Oz had swung by the library to check in with Giles, but the G-man was busy discussing something with Buffy and Willow. All Xander got were the words “Billy” “Bronze” and “vampire” before he nodded at Oz and they left. He assumed Oz had heard more than he did, but saw no point to ask. If Buffy wasn’t panicking and warning him about it, and if Oz didn’t feel a need to speak up, then it wasn’t his problem. He had a lab site to find after all.
Oz and he had then returned to Oz’s apartment and spent most of the afternoon rearranging furniture in both bedrooms and the living room. They worked out where they would put their armory as well as taking measurements for the custom furniture they would need to purchase. Finally they sat down for dinner when Xander got a flash of inspiration.
Looking up from the double patty double bacon quadruple cheese burger that he was about to take a bite out of he looked across the table at Oz and spoke.
“Hey Oz, how do you feel about taking a little trip after dinner?"
Rocky Front Warehouses Incorporated, One Hour Later
After they had finished dinner they had piled into Oz’s van and driven through town. It was a short drive to the edge of the warehouse district and the local junkyard, and Xander still hadn’t told Oz his brilliant idea as they pulled up and parked in the lot in front of a small lit office. The office was attached to a large auto mechanic’s shop, with several cars under repair and several fixed ones parked out front, but the long strip parking lot fronted another four warehouses that appeared to be abandoned.
Oz sniffed the air as they approached the door to the office.
“I smell a ton of rust, but the only living scents I can detect are in the mechanic’s shop.” He said, still curious as to why Xander had brought them here.
“This entire strip, and the junkyard, belongs to my Uncle Rory. He practices taxidermy as a hobby and so most people mistakenly assume it’s his job, but really he makes most of his money renting out properties he owns in a half dozen towns and cities here along the coast. This is one of the biggest, although the only one he currently has rented is the auto mechanic’s shop. The other warehouses should be relatively safe to start with, as they have some majorly wide skylights and Rory told me once that he checks and washes them off once a week.”
Xander stopped suddenly, looking at Oz.
“You know, it occurs to me suddenly that my Uncle may know more about what goes on after dark than he lets on.”
Oz nodded. It wasn’t usual for a warehouse to have skylights after all. They were expensive and required constant maintenance and cleaning.
Xander shrugged and continued forward.
“Well, anyways, my Uncle likes me. I’m his favorite nephew. Of course that might be because I’m his only nephew. All his other relatives had daughters, or got themselves killed during some shady business down in LA ten years ago. I’ve never asked and no one ever talks about it.”
Xander opened the glass door and motioned Oz into the waiting room ahead of him. He followed him in and they both took seats in the surprisingly comfy chairs arranged there for customers. There was no one behind the desk and so they just sat and waited.
“Anyways, as I said, I’m Rory’s favorite nephew. I know that he hasn’t been able to rent those warehouses for the past five years. I’m sure that we can get a decent price for renting one of them, and a price for unlimited access to the junkyard. Between that and the hardware and supplies we purchase we should have enough to begin development. I’ll pay you guys back for my portion in the future once we get things going.”
“So you are thinking of making this the headquarters for our company?” He asked, lifting an eyebrow.
Xander shook his head.
“No. I intend for this to become our cheap prototyping and development facility as we prepare our plans. Once we have enough viable patent designs ready we can get the capital necessary and found our company, and we can purchase and renovate, or just build, a new facility.”
Xander smirked at Oz.
“Remember that facility I showed you? The design I sketched out for the Triskelion facility? THAT will be our corporate headquarters eventually. That will take a lot of time and even more money to build though. That is part of why we are going to start simply by licensing patents rather than manufacturing our own products at the start. I figure that we will operate out of our first lab until we can afford to buy a mansion here and renovate it. If I can get the right materials and hardware, and finish a certain design that Tony was working on before Halloween, we can turn one of the old mansions around here into a high tech, elegant, and secure home for the three of us. We can live out of it and have the necessary facilities to support our designs.”
Xander would have continued by a tall man with dark hair and a dark wiry mustache stepped into the room, wiping his hands off on a rag.
“Xander!” He exclaimed, opening his arms for a hug. Xander immediately hopped out of his chair and hugged the man.
“Uncle Rory! It’s good to see you!”
The now identified Rory chuckled.
“Likewise, kiddo. Now, what brings you here so close to sunset.”
Xander’s eyes darkened.
“I KNEW IT!! You do know what goes on after dark. No, no questions Uncle Rory, I am safe and Oz here has his van. We’ll be heading straight home, but the question I needed to ask you couldn’t wait.”
Xander took a breath before continuing.
“Uncle Rory, how much would it cost to rent the farthest warehouse, no questions asked?”
Rory considered Xander, a bit shocked to hear his favorite nephew asking about renting a warehouse.
“Xander, if you know about the nightlife you know living in a warehouse isn’t a sa-“
“I don’t intend to live in it Uncle Rory, though I guess that answers the question of whether or not you know I’d been kicked out. No, my friends and I have a…project…that we need privacy and room to work on. I immediately thought of your warehouses. We’d also like to know how much it would cost for unlimited access to and use of the junkyard.”
Rory looked between him and Oz consideringly. Oz met his gaze confidently, showing no sign of worry or nerves.
“Kiddo, you aren’t in any sort of trouble, are ya?”
Xander chuckled and shook his head.
“No Rory, I’m not. In fact, I can honestly say that my life has never been better.”
Rory considered him before nodding and smiling.
“Ok kiddo, for you I’ll do this. I’ll let you rent the warehouse for a thousand dollars a month. You pay for any major repairs required, the power, water, and city trash fees for the building. You are responsible for washing the skylights and securing the warehouse. I won’t ask what you are up to, nor will I enter the warehouse without your permission.”
Xander glanced at Oz and the mutant teen nodded his head in acknowledgment that this was an acceptable deal. Xander nodded and turned back to Rory.
“Ok, we agree. Give Oz the account information before we leave and we’ll transfer you the required funds.”
Xander paused and looked thoughtful.
“We’ll give you first and last month’s rent, a five thousand dollar security deposit, and a thousand dollar deposit towards the other costs. We’ll expect to receive copies of the bills, but otherwise this should be more convenient for you to pay from that initial deposit then to have to collect water and electric bills from us every month.”
Rory nodded in acceptance.
“Now, the junkyard?”
Rory looked at Xander with a considering look on his face. Normally Rory would haggle with customers about what they took from the junkyard, finding a mutually equitable price for the scrap they purchased. Xander was his favorite nephew though and seemed to have a plan, have a focus that he had never seen in the boy.
“Xander, I’m sorry, but just what are you and your friends planning? You are talking about tossing around eight thousand dollars as an initial deposit like it’s nothing. You are asking for access to a junkyard with no limits or discussion.”
“Uncle, I may tell you everything at some point in the future, but for now all I can say is that Oz, I, and a good friend named Cordelia have…come into some knowledge that has given us an advantage. We have plans to found a company, to build it from the ground up into a corporate titan. We need a place to work on our designs while we gather the capital to begin our company, and we need access to scrap for cheap materials for prototyping our designs.”
Rory looked at him again before turning to face Oz.
“You’re obviously part of this. Do you honestly believe that you three teenagers can build a major company from scratch using a junkyard and an empty warehouse?”
Oz merely nodded his head, his gaze steady and confident.
“Well alright then.”
Rory turned back to Xander.
“I’ll give you all access to the general scrap of the junkyard for another thousand a month. You can use as much or as little of the scrap as you want. The only limitation is the section where I keep the mostly intact cars, the ones being salvaged for parts for the shop or are being rebuilt to be sold. If you want anything from there we’ll haggle over price on it.”
Xander smiled and nodded.
“Then again, we’ll pay you first and last month’s cost for access to the scrap yard. That means that if you give Oz the account number and write up the contracts we’ll have ten thousand dollars transferred electronically before the night is over.”
Rory smiled and slapped Xander on the back.
“I’ll go get the paperwork for you kiddo. Good luck with this.”
Oz and Xander shared mischievous grins as Rory headed into his office to find the necessary contracts.
Thursday Morning, Sunnydale High
The following day Xander and Oz arrived at the school with a bounce in their steps. Oz had signed the contracts the previous night and he, Oz and Cordelia now had the start of a real base of operations. Xander had spent the rest of the evening taking apart several of the wireless routers he had bought on Tuesday, beginning to put together the prototype of his high data density wireless network, while Oz had begun to use his computer to mark down what he remembered of various hardware and technology that was in Logan’s memory. Anything that might help Xander in his plans would be an assistance.
They got through the morning with no difficulties, although Willow had cornered Xander after class and whispered that she and Angel had found out some worrying information about Buffy’s old friend Billy. Xander had gotten away from her by promising to look into it before heading to his next class. He had kept his promise and idly had JARVIS run some searches. After school he met Willow and Oz in the library and shared his results.
“Well Willow.” He began. “You are certainly right that something hinky is up with this Billy Fordham guy.”
Xander had to resist the urge to wince at the brightness in Willow’s eyes when he used one of the Scooby catch phrases. He really needed to find a way to focus her attentions on someone else.
“According to every record I’ve checked, Billy isn’t registered with Sunnydale High School, or any High School in the state. In fact, his last academic record is from last June, with a notation that he was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor and that as he was going to spend the last few months of his life relaxing and enjoying life he was withdrawing from school.”
Xander tapped a few keys on his laptop.
“Like Willow, I’ve found that his parents are still listed as living in LA and do not in fact own any property here in Sunnydale. The only hit I got is for a small basement club in the warehouse district. Apparently someone rented it recently and reopened it, naming it the Sunset Club.” Xander raised an eyebrow at this. “That is…worrisome.”
Willow nodded enthusiastically.
“Yes, especially since that first night at the Bronze he followed Buffy and told her he knows she is the Vampire Slayer, and he lied about why he was here and about being in the school and he asked Buffy to come to the club with him tonight, just her though like it’s a date but it just sounds so hinky.”
Xander nodded and typed a few keys.
“Yep, you definitely found the proof that he is a danger, Willow.”
Across the table Willow beamed with pride at his praise and support.
“Hello Alex.” Cordelia said, slipping in through the side door to the library. She slid up to Xander’s side and kissed him on the cheek, pointedly ignoring Willow’s sudden rise in blood pressure. “Ready to go talk to my friend about that job he offered you?”
Xander nodded and closed his laptop, slipping it into his backpack and getting up from the table.
“Good luck with warning Buffy, Willow. There really isn’t anything I can do to help right now, but feel free to tell her that I found the same proof that Billy is lying to her. I’ll see you guys tomorrow maybe.”
With that said Xander exited the library with Cordelia, leaving a fuming Willow behind. Since there was no sign of Buffy or the G-Man Oz shrugged and left as well. He had band practice for the party on Friday and he figured if he got there early he could head home early as well.
Xander and Cordelia sat on the couch in Oz’s apartment, busy working away on Xander’s computer. They were planning out purchases that they were going to do while in LA, and getting directions and addresses to the stores they needed to visits, as well as deciding what purchases would have to be made online. They had been at it four six hours and had finally worked out the list of industrial hardware they’d need to order shipped to the warehouse when Oz finally returned.
“Hey guys.” He grinned. “So, no band practice this weekend so I have no obligations to get in the way of our plans.”
“Good, then that means that we can consider our plans for the weekend a go.”
Cordelia smiled and glanced over at Xander, noticing not for the first time how his features had become slightly more defined as whatever physiological changes he was undergoing burnt off the very slight remains of baby fat in his system.Well, he is definitely on his way to being one of the more handsome guys around.
Friday Morning, Sunnydale High
Xander arrived to school Monday morning to find an extremely depressed Buffy. Even the uncomfortable feeling he had around his friends due to the sudden difference in mental age couldn’t push him away from supporting her. He joined willow by her side and through her sobs got the story about the night before.
Apparently Billy had made a deal with a vampire. Turn over the Slayer and the vamp would turn him. Apparently things hadn’t gone according to Billy’s plan and the only ones who ended up dead was a couple of dusted vamps and Billy himself. Buffy reported through her tears that when her mother went out to get the morning paper she had found Billy’s corpse left on their front porch. Xander had provided as much support as he could before heading off to class.
When he reached Ms. Calendar’s class Cordelia had approached him and informed him that there was a party that night at the house of the school’s star quarterback.
“The party is going to be at least moderately decent, enough to make it a good distraction at any rate. I do not however have the tolerance to go to a party and deal with the drunken pawing of hormone riddled testosterone junkies. I need a proper escort, and I happen to know that Oz prefers redheads. That leaves you as an acceptable dance partner for the party.”
Despite the snobbish way he phrased it Xander could feel the humor lightly brushing against the edge of his mind. Cordelia was playing her part, but they both knew that he was currently the only guy around she found worthy of her time, or remotely her equal. Xander paused for a moment, taking note of how several students nearby were all staring at Cordelia in shock. Finally he smiled and nodded.
“Of course I’ll escort you to the party, Ms. Chase. How could I possibly turn down an invitation from someone as beautiful as you.”
Xander knew he was hamming it up, personally he was hoping that these events might lead certain annoyances to a head and help the social dynamic at the school finally even out and take the focus of him and his friends.
Cordelia smiled at him, stroking his cheek softly before walking off to her desk with a smile on her face, a swing in her hips and a bounce in her step. Xander took his seat with his own smile, resisting the urge to laugh at the looks on his classmates’ faces.
Sunnydale High Lunchroom
Willow Rosenberg was a mess. She was torn between joining her only female friend in the library and helping her deal with the grief over Billy’s betrayal and death and doing something about the rumor that she had heard spreading through the school like wildfire. According to the gossip, Cordelia Chase had invited Xander, HER XANDER, to the big party Lance Steele was throwing that evening. She invited him, and he said yes, and she stroked his cheek and walked off with a bright smile and urgh I HATE CORDELIA!!!
Willow stopped and realized a she was clenching her fists and jaw and had several students nearby staring at her in confusion. Growling she looked around the lunchroom, wondering where Xander was. She hadn’t seen him at lunch all week and it was frustrating her. She didn’t share any classes with him after lunch and would have no chance to catch him before the party unless he came by the library after school, which wasn’t guaranteed. Willow growled again and got up, her lunch forgotten, as she stalked out of the cafeteria to go find Xander and give him a piece of mind.
She felt lucky when she caught him in the hall heading towards the front of the school. Apparently he was heading to the parking lot, meaning he was probably going off campus for lunch.I just bet he’s going for lunch with that slut Cordelia.
Growling and further emboldened by her rage and her imagined rendezvous between Xander and Cordelia, Willow ran up to Xander, grabbing the larger boy’s shoulders and turning him, pushing him against a row of lockers.
“Xander, I don’t know what you have been up to this week, avoiding me and Buffy and spending all this time with Cordelia, but it stops now! What has she done to you to get you to suddenly approve of her? Huh? She never wanted to get involved with the Slaying and the hellmouthy stuff before, and she was never anything but mean and sarcastic and evil to both of us. Is it drugs? A spell? I bet it’s a spell, isn’t it? Cordelia has you under a spell and she’s using you for her own desires. That’s it, isn’t it!”
While Willow continued to rant Xander’s eyes narrowed. He barely heard her words as his mind rapidly processed all available information to formulate his response.She’s finally gone off the deep end, her need to be the center of attention and her dislike of Cordelia and her crush on me all pushing her to lash out. I know I should be more…understanding. She doesn’t know that I have decades of memories of an older man in my head and that I’m not really the Xander she knew anymore. But I just can’t forgive her behavior here.
Willow had progressed into calling Cordelia slut, whore, and a dozen other words far worse. Her rant had drawn the attention of a number of other students who were all whispering and pointing or just staring at the confrontation. At the end of the hall, just before the entrance to the cafeteria, he caught sight of a cold-eyed Cordelia standing flanked by several of her Cordettes. The Cordettes looked confused, whether by Willow’s outburst or the fact that Cordelia cared he couldn’t tell, but he ignored them as soon as his mind registered them.Cordelia truly is gorgeous, now that she has the confidence to be herself and to use Emma’s gifts to help her. The white clothes and blonde hair suit her. She truly is a Frost.
Finally Willow ran out of breath, something no one had ever thought possible, and went quite, her chest heaving as she fought to catch her breath, her hands still holding Xander’s shoulders.
“Are you done now?” He said coldly. He hated to be like this to his former best friend, but after what she just did and said there was no other way. Alexander Harris may have let people walk over him, but Alexander Stark was his own man, and he knew what he wanted for his life and being yelled at and controlled by a manipulative red-head was not it.
“Willow, nothing is wrong with me. The events of Halloween gave me a glimpse at another life, at what my life could be if I simply stepped forward and took control of it rather than meekly accepting the shit in my life. Cordelia has done nothing to me. She isn’t drugging me. She hasn’t cast some spell on me. She isn’t blackmailing me or otherwise controlling me with money. I am completely insulted by your insinuation that I am some sort of prostitute, and even more insulted by what you called Cordelia. Contrary to the illusions and fantasies you have built up in your mind to justify your unsupported sense of superiority over her, Cordelia is neither a slut nor a whore. Now tell me, why the hell should I listen to a single word you have to say after what you just said?”
Willow looked him straight in the eye and her entire outrage came forth.
“BECAUSE YOU SHOULD BE WITH ME!!”
Within his head Xander realized that Willow’s obsession with him was worse than he had thought. He felt a brush on his mind and Cordelia whispered words of support and thanks in his head. He had to fight the urge to smile it caused, he was too angry at Willow to do so and if he did Willow would surely misinterpret its meaning.
“No Willow, I don’t.” He said, his voice cold and so low that no one save Oz waiting for him at the front door to the school could hear him. “I am my own person, with my own thoughts, goals and desires. You may have influenced and directed my activities for a long time because I didn’t have the confidence to control my own life, but no longer. You have no right to decide who I date, and you certainly don’t have the right to interfere because you like me. I like Cordelia. She’s intelligent to talk to, despite the act she puts on here at school. Yes she is a bit of a snob, but considering how she was raised she is amazingly well put together as a person. She is attractive, funny in a highly sarcastic kind of way, and she sees all of me, not just the illusion you have built up. I’m sorry Willow, but if this is how you behave when someone who is only your friend
decides to date someone else, then you need to see a shrink. Your parents don’t count either.”
Xander took a breath, knowing that what he was about to do would be painful, but knowing that in the long run he couldn’t turn back.
“I think, Willow, that until you see a shrink and work your issues out, that we should stop being friends. If you can’t even accept me dating Cordelia there is no way we can be around each other anymore. Don’t try to make me choose between you and her. You won’t win Willow.”
Xander’s face was stoic as Willow ran off crying down the hall, barreling into a confused Buffy who simply held her and tried to comfort her, but inside he was a turmoil of emotion. Silently he prayed that Willow got the help she needed, and that someday perhaps their friendship could be rebuilt. He had plans though, and he could not go back to being “Xander” Harris, Willow’s dumb geek friend who isn’t any use Slaying. He may not have had a chance to legally change his name, but inside he was Alexander Stark, and he was a giant among men.
His gaze met Cordelia’s. While her face remained stoic, her voice within his side sent him thanks for supporting him, and comfort for the pain she knows that his words had to have caused him.
Silently Xander turned and walked out the front doors, joined by a curious and supportive Oz.
Back in the hallway, having picked up on his thoughts during those last few moments, Cordelia Chase made a promise. She was going to research legal emancipation and legal change of name, and as soon as possible she was going to begin the process for herself and Xander. Perhaps for Oz as well, if their laid-back part-canuck decided he wanted to make Logan a legal part of his name.
Lance Steele’s Party
Xander and Oz arrived at the party at nine o’clock, about an hour after it had happened and just as the party was really starting to go off. As they parked and began to follow other teens up the street towards the large manor house holding the party he caught site of Buffy and Willow on the opposite side of the street. Judging by the direction they were coming from the pair had just finished a short patrol before heading to the party. When Willow caught sight of them she immediately began crying and ran ahead with Buffy following after shooting them a glare. The two disappeared up the driveway to the house and by the time Xander and Oz’s steady stride brought them around the corner of a wall the girls were obviously inside.
As they strode up to the front door, in line behind several students Xander recognized as members of the swim team and the cheerleading squad, Xander silently prayed that Cordelia was already here as promised. The school may have started to see him in a different light than before, but it had only been a week and he had never been on good terms with the jocks.
“What the hell are you doing here, Loser?” The doorman asked. Xander glanced at him dismissively and realized it was the same meathead who had been encroaching on Cordelia’s personal space the other day, the one who had tried to hit him.
“I’m here because I was invited, you Australopithecus. Do you know what that means, invited? It means that someone with far more class than you realized I was worth having around.”
The dumb jock’s face turned red in anger and embarrassment at the laughs that garnered from a few people and started to reach for Xander’s coat, obviously intending to toss him off the steps or punch him. Before the moron could make the mistake of trying that however he found a pale hand shoved in his face and a commanding female voice ordering him back.
“Geez, these football players are such morons. Alex, how could you have ever let me be so stupid as to have dated any of them?” Cordelia asked as she turned her back on the dumbstruck moron, slipping her arm through Xander’s. “Come on boys, let’s head inside. I want a drink and then I want to dance with Alex.”
Brooking no argument from the muscle-bound meathead guarding the door Cordelia shoved her way inside, leading Xander with her and followed by an amused Oz. The meathead was so shocked that a good twenty students, including the nerds Andrew and Jonathan, to slip inside before he came out of his daze.
“I’m gonna go talk to Devon, man.” Oz said as soon as he spotted his band mate leaning against a wall nursing a drink. “I’ll catch up with you late.”
Oz stopped as an attractive red headed girl who he vaguely recognized as attending the private high school on the other side of town walked past him.
“On second thought, I’ll see you tomorrow. Cordelia, give Stark a ride home tonight. If I’m lucky I won’t be making it back, or at least I won’t be alone.”
Both Xander and Cordelia chuckled as Oz made a ninety degree turn from his original trajectory and followed the attractive girl off towards the kitchen.
“Well, Logan always did like the reds, and after Willow’s outburst today I highly doubt he’ll ever let her within thirty feet if he can help it.”
Cordelia turned to Xander with a mock frown on her face.
“Can we please not discuss that Witch, Alexander? She is irrelevant to our plans, and frankly given her outburst more of a bitch than I ever behaved like.”
Xander nodded sadly and turned his gaze towards her, giving her a smile.
“Of course, Ms. Frost. Shall we meander; find a drink and then dance? I’ll admit, I was quite happy when you invited me this morning. The thought of you dancing with one of these morons was not a pleasant one.”
Cordelia blushed faintly and smiled, slipping her arm around Xander’s once more and leading him off towards where several coolers sat just outside the sliding glass doors to the back patio. The two selected a pair of sodas in glass bottles before finding a nice spot to sit and talk while they watched everyone dance around them.
“I have to admit, a week ago I’d have loved this party. Now, it’s just so…childish. I mean, I had extensive tastes before, but I definitely inherited Emma’s tastes for high quality and high class.”
Xander nodded in agreement, taking a sip of what had turned out to be root beer.
“I have to agree with you, Cordelia. The Stark in me sees them and just sees kids, who are just having fun and trying to find who they are. But I know who I am, I have goals, focus that is almost inhuman in its intensity. I find myself waiting the day when I can finally legally drink and can throw a proper party at a Malibu mansion or a swanky hotel. Every day that passes the more clear it becomes to me that fulfilling our plans and getting out of here must be our priority. It’s too late to complete high school by accelerating through classes for us, so instead of trying I figure we should just work hard, get good grades, and use our free time to focus on our plan. The earliest we could possibly have the company running to a level that requires us to be working out of an office every day would be after graduation anyways, so there is no need to rush. Oz will graduate this year and he’ll be able to do any of the in person jobs next year, and after that we can figure out where to go.”
Cordelia smiled and squeezed her hand. This Stark-influenced, confident and leading Xander was certainly attractive, far more than any boy she had known before. She was also 99% sure that it was her own tastes that found him attractive and not anything leftover from Emma.
“Cordelia.” Harmony’s annoying voice interrupted Cordelia’s happy thoughts. “We need to talk.”
Harmony was flanked by all of the Cordettes, as well as several other members of the cheerleading squad and one of the football players who Cordelia had always suspected was gay. No STRAIGHT man ever knows that much about nail polish colors or how to apply and remove it as that boy does.
“We’ve watched you for the last week Cordelia. While we’ve accepted your dye job and your wardrobe change, and even your decision to do well in class as it hasn’t seemed to affect your other social obligations, but this is too far. There is no way in hell we can allow you to date such a loser. I mean, what kind of friends would we be if we let you make such a mistake as dating Loser Harris? Like, do you really want Willow’s leftovers?”
Cordelia clenched Xander’s hand tightly, her face turning red with rage as she stood up, fighting to control her anger.
“You DARE!?! You DARE demand something like this from me?! I made you all who you are, none of you would have the social standing or the control of this school you have if it wasn’t for me. Without me you are all scattered brained morons who couldn’t intimidate a snail.”
Harmony just looked Cordelia in the eye, fighting not to back down.
“We demand Cordelia that you make a choice, him or us. You can either remain with us and remain queen of the school, or you can date the loser and become his private little whore.”
No one had seen Cordelia move, but Harmony’s head was now turned to the side with a bright red hand print on it.
“You bitch.” Cordelia hissed through clenched teeth. “We are no longer friends. If you ever come near me again you will regret it. If I even catch the faintest hint of a whisper that you girls are spreading rumors behind my back you will regret it. If you EVER call my boyfriend a loser again you will regret it.”
She held Harmony’s gaze as the shorter blonde fought not to tear up.
“You of all people Harmony know that ambition has always defined me. Alex will rise to heights no one here can ever dream of, and I will be right there by his side. He isn’t the loser here.” Cordelia leaned forward until she was right in Harmony’s face. She hissed out her final words in a low voice, yet everyone in the suddenly quiet patio could hear her words. “You are.”
Cordelia stood back up and spun around, taking Xander’s hand and pulling him to his feet.
“Come on Alex, let’s leave. This party suddenly has a foul odor.”
Cordelia sniffed as if smelling something foul and quickly left with a smiling Xander on her arm.
Cordelia and Xander didn’t speak as she drove them back to Oz’s apartment. Xander simply held one of her hands, rubbing it reassuringly, and Cordelia kept shooting him small smiles. When they got to the apartment Xander reluctantly exited the car expecting her to head home, only to start in surprise as she turned off the engine, got out, and locked the doors.
“Come on.” She said softly. “Let’s head inside.”
Xander was about to ask her what she meant when she caught his eye. He could see in her eyes, her expression, and how she held herself what she wanted. Tony remembered similar looks on many other women, although most had been more aggressive about it.
Silently he nodded, taking her hand and pulling out his keys, letting them into the darkened apartment. They didn’t even bother turning on the lights as they slipped into Xander’s room, closing the door behind them. Cordelia immediately began to strip Xander of his clothes so the genius quickly had his hands moving to help her first with his clothes and then with her own dress. Within a minute the pair stood naked together in the dark room, lit only dimly by the computers sitting on one side of the room.
“Do you-“ He started to ask when Cordelia put her fingers to his lips. Her other hand came up, holding three condoms between her fingers. Xander glanced down and noticed the shadow of her purse on the floor at her feet.
Nodding his silent agreement the two slid onto the futon, Cordelia laying on her back and pulling Xander down after her. A few quick actions had the first condom free of its wrapper, and after ensuring it was properly in place Xander slid between her legs like he remembered doing a thousand times as Tony. Holding each other’s gaze their lips met in an intense kiss, filled with the passion of a week of dancing around each other, and Xander slid inside the girl who had drawn his heart.