331 Banker St
May 14, 1998
"Wow, Xand, that's a whole lot of movies you've got there," Theresa Klusmeyer remarked as she watched her fellow classmate deposit an armload of video cassettes on the counter to be scanned.
"Huh. Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Jackie Chan,Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Michael Dudikoff, Jeff Speakman, Jet Li, Sony Chiba, Cynthia Rothrock... boy, you've got a real martial arts movie marathon here," the video shop assistant smiled as she inventoried and scanned in the various films Xander was renting.
"Yeah, I guess I do," Harris agreed, returning the girl's smile as he gathered up the tapes and dropped them in his backpack.
"I'm thinking of calling it the First Annual Xander Harris Kung Fu Kick Butt Film Festival," he grinned. "Kind of like the Sundance Festival, but with a lot more practical focus for anyone who watches it," he joked. "All viewers guaranteed to end up as fourth-degree black belts in as many disciplines as you can stand to watch the bad acting.
"If only it were that easy," Teresa smiled warmly as she shook her head in amusement at the young man's comment. "I've been practicing Tae Kwan Do at Mr. Destolfo's dojo for six months now, and I'm only just getting ready to test for my green belt."
"Yeah, well. Being able to pull off what other people can do, just by watching them do it – that would be totally cool, wouldn't it?" Xander agreed, while he privately wondered whether the idea he was currently looking to implement would actually work out the way he hoped it would.
If he really could duplicate a person's physical skills simply by watching them perform it, like on a tape, say – and if he didn't have to actually be in close physical proximity, the way he'd been when he had duplicated the sword kata skills from Giles two nights previously, and then Percy's basketball expertise yesterday afternoon, and Buffy's and Kendra's hand to hand combat skills, last night – then that meant he could potentially learn *anything* he wanted, just by watching a tape of someone doing it on TV!
And the easiest way to determine whether that possibility was actually correct was doing exactly what he had planned for tonight – watch a chop socky movie marathon, and then see if he really could perform any of the techniques he'd watched, afterwards. As the ultimate test, he'd have to watch Bob Ross on PBS and see if he could paint some 'Happy Trees,' too.
Then, if this crazy idea he had actually turned out to be right, the next couple nights at Chez Harris were gonna involve movie marathons of watching old Douglas Fairbanks and Errol Flynn movies for their swordplay, as well as a lot of the older Japanese samurai movies like 'Seven Samurai,' 'Yojimbo,' 'Ran,' and 'Cushingura.' Not to mention 'Highlander,' and pretty much every Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger flick the four action heroes had ever made, to see if he could copy all of the different weapons skills they'd demonstrated.
Hellmouth! If he was remembering what Mr. Devlin had said in History class correctly, there was even a movie about Audie Murphy – one of the greatest American heroes of World War II – and one with the most renowned snipers, ever – Carlos Hathcock – that he should try and get copies of, too, to watch. Being able to reach out and touch a vamp or demon through the heart or head from a half-mile away was exactly the sort of skill that would be ideal to have, here in Sunnydale!
With visions of potentially being able to stomp vampire ass into the ground dancing before his eyes, Harris shrugged his backpack over his shoulders and absently waved goodbye to Theresa as he headed out the door.
May 14, 1998
"Sir, we've gotten several reports back from our people in Sunnydale, and it looks like there's something going on there. Well, aside from the usual levels of corruption and malfeasance one would normally expect to find in a small town like that."
"Like what, exactly, Sitwell?" Fury growled as he looked up from the document he'd been reading to focus a one-eyed glare at his subordinate.
"To begin with, sir, it turns out that the various high school swim team members who we believe Coach Marin tested his home-brewed Übermensch formula on – Dodd McAlvy, Sean Dwier, Gage Petronzi and Cameron Walker – they all disappeared under various suspicious circumstances, with only partial remains of their bodies found, afterwards," Fury's primary protégé reported.
"We can't be entirely sure at this point in time, but it certainly appears reasonable to postulate that A.I.M. or HYDRA might have kidnapped the boys, as well as Coach Marin, in order to examine them and determine what changes the Übermensch formula implemented in the subjects," Sitwell went on, ignoring the scowl which appeared on his boss's face with the ease of long practice. After all, he knew that it wasn't directed at him personally, and it merely matched the mood that he, himself, already had when it came to matters dealing with the psychos working for those other two organizations.
"In addition to that information, sir, two of our teams were attacked while in the course of their investigations," Sitwell continued his briefing. "Each team member reported that their attackers were superhumanly strong, and all had deformed features, as well as yellow eyes.
"Since the attacks all occurred at night, and the assailants seemed to be able to ignore their being shot by normal firearms, but then instantly turned to dust when hit by any of their victims' plasma pistols, it seems safe to assume that the attackers were all vampires, sir," the field agent coordinator stated with a small frown.
"Is there a point to all of this that I'm not seeing, Sitwell?" the Director snapped.
"Well, sir, I'm concerned because the number of attacks on our agents by vampires are, statistically speaking, significantly out of line with what might be expected for a town in that geographic location with that socioeconomic status. So either our people were specifically targeted –indicating that we might possibly have a mole in our organization – or else Sunnydale is infested with vampires to a much greater degree than any other location we've encountered, since the Santa Clara incident," Sitwell finished his summation of his concerns.
"Damn," Fury growled as he considered the various possible ramifications of Sitwell's report.
"Good eye, Sitwell, catching that," Nick complimented the other man. "And while I don't think the first possibility is very likely, we can't just ignore that scenario, either, so get some people checking it out.
"And the problem with the second possibility, which my gut is telling me is the right answer, is that it means that there's definitely something very strange going on in that town, over and above what we already know is wrong with it," the greying spymaster declared with a frown.
"Check with Strange's assistant and see if he's back from whatever it was that he had to go check into last week," S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Director instructed Sitwell. "And if he's still not available, see if you can get a hold of either Jimaine Szardos or Wanda Maximoff, since they're the two next best choices to talk to that I can think of, if he's not around."
"We need to figure out what the hell it is that's going on in that town before things can turn around and bite us in the ass," Fury declared with a frown.
"And we need to do that before A.I.M. or HYDRA find out about it can possibly figure it out, and get there, first."
Sunnydale High School library
May 15, 1998
"Okay, Xander, exactly what is it that's so important that you needed to talk to us privately about it?" Buffy asked as she settled into one of the library chairs, next to Willow, as she also gave her best male friend a concerned and semi-worried look.
"You haven't seen any of Angelus' vamps hanging around your home, or trying to follow you, or anything like that, have you?" the Slayer inquired, an even more worried expression appearing on her face as that worrying thought occurred to her.
"Nah, it's nothing like that, Buff," Harris shook his head as he stared at the two girls with an uneasy and somewhat apprehensive expression on his face. "What I've gotta talk to you guys about is something – completely different."
Glancing over at Giles, who was seated at the end of the large wooden table they general used for research, the youth's expression seemed to lighten a bit as the Englishman offered him a small, reassuring smile and nodded his head encouragingly.
"Then what, exactly, is the problem, Xand?" Willow asked, an anxious and worried frown matching Buffy's marring her own classically beautiful features as she stared at him, along with the golden-haired Slayer.
"Uh, well, you see, guys…" Xander began hesitantly, unsure of exactly how to broach the disturbing subject which had abruptly occurred to him the previous night, after he'd verified that he was able to replicate skills upon watching a person demonstrate them on a video tape, and that he didn't actually need to be in physical proximity to a person to do so, as he'd originally believed.
Xander's reflections after verifying his earlier conjecture had eventually led him to wondering about the possible source of his newly discovered ability. And further deliberation had led him to a disquieting possible conclusion; one which had motivated the youth to hurry over to Giles' apartment for a long, anxious discussion and, eventually, some small degree of reassurance from the Englishman.
"C'mon, Xand, whatever it is, just spit it out," Buffy urged him with what she hoped would be seen as a reassuring smile, when she saw him hesitating to even mention whatever topic it was that had him so concerned. "You know, you can tell us anything."
"Well, in the past couple days, I've noticed that, all of a sudden, now I can do a bunch of stuff that I couldn't do, before," Harris hesitantly admitted to his intently listening audience.
"What kind of stuff are you talking about, Xand?" Willow interjected, an apprehensive frown on her own face upon hearing her childhood friend's admission.
"Yeah, Xander. What exactly are you talking about?" Buffy chimed in. "Just what is it that you can do, that's got you so worried, all of a sudden?"
"Uh, well, after just watching you and Giles training the other day? It turns out that now I can use a sword just as well as you can, Buff," the dark-haired teen answered with a worried rush of words.
"And then, yesterday afternoon, after watching the basketball team practice, I discovered that now I can shoot hoops just as well as Percy can," Xander went on, describing one of the new skill sets he'd recently gained, noticing that his admission was drawing only puzzled frowns from his Willow and Buffy, while Giles nodded encouragingly and maintained a supportive expression on his face.
"Which actually turned out pretty good for me, since I won fifty bucks off of him and Blaine, after betting them whether I could sink a corner shot like he could," Harris added with a momentary grin, before his expression shifted back to the one of concern and worry he'd been wearing earlier.
"Anyway, I rented a bunch of martial arts films last night and I sorta watched them all? And, uh, well, the funny thing is, now I do everything Bruce Lee, or Chuck Norris, or any of other martial artists I watched, can," he added, completing his summary of the changes and the additional new skills he'd noticed he'd somehow acquired over the past three days.
Harris also absently reflected to himself that, for some reason, after watching the videos of all of the various martial artists fighting, the previous night, he was just as flexible and loose-limbed as they were, without his having to do any sort of stretching exercises prior to practicing his newly-acquired techniques.
Seeing the skeptical expression on Buffy's face at his last statement, Xander said, "Yeah, , believe me, I know this sounds kinda impossible to believe; I really do.
"So why don't you come over here and spar with me for a minute, Buff?" Xander suggested, gesturing for the blonde to come over and join him in the area typically left clear for her to practice her weapon techniques in. "That way, I can show you exactly what I mean, and you can verify for yourself that I'm not imagining anything or making it all up, okay?"
"Xander..." the Slayer looked very dubious about all this.
"Come on, Buffy, PLEASE," Harris semi-pleaded with her.
"Okay, fine. I suppose it'll be okay, besides; I promise not to hurt you. Well, not too much," Buffy shrugged before she moved out of her chair.
With a reluctant, clearly hesitant grimace on her face, the tiny blonde joined the dark-haired youth in the center of the library floor, which was typically kept clear for Buffy to practice her katas and weapon drills.
"You don't have to go all out Slayer-style on me or anything, Buff," Xander assured the blonde Chosen One as he reflexively settled into a defensive stance opposite her. "I just want you to see that, now, I can fight a lot better than I could three days ago. Before whatever happened... happened."
So saying, Xander relaxed and allowed himself to slip into what he had begun calling his 'ass-kicking' mind set, automatically noting the somewhat lackadaisical stance mirroring him which Buffy had assumed.
As Giles called out, "Go!", Xander launched a roundhouse kick at the golden-haired Slayer's head, immediately rechambering his leg and following it up with a second roundhouse. The second kick slipped beneath the arm she'd raised slightly to protect her head and lightly impacted on Buffy's lower floating ribs.
The expression of surprise and outright astonishment on the former cheerleader's face as he actually scored a touch on her was truly a Hallmark moment, that part of Xander's mind acting as an observer decided. Although it also noted that the look of what some might call affronted irritation at his success was quickly followed up by a narrow-eyed expression which promised imminent retribution.
Having seen Buffy practicing in the library on numerous occasions, as well as having watched her sparring with Kendra two evenings previously, Xander was fairly certain he could predict what Buffy would do next. So he was not at all surprised when the petite blonde immediately came at him with a pair of lunging punches, which were followed by her own roundhouse kick to his torso – which would have easily slammed Harris into the far wall of the library, had it connected.
Unfortunately for the Chosen One, however, her opponent had dropped to the floor the instant she began her attack, spinning on his lead foot and snapping his trailing leg forward in a hooking attack which swept her base foot out from beneath her as Buffy tried to attack him, making her fall butt-first onto the wooden floor.
Springing back to his feet and backing away, while simultaneously holding his hands up in front of him as a gesture of surrender, Xander called out, "See what I mean, Buffy?
"I could never have done anything like that a couple days ago, could I?" he asked, keeping an anxious watch on the clearly shocked and angry blonde as she scrambled to her feet, as well as noting the disbelieving look on Willow's face as she observed his interaction with Buffy.
Xander noticed that Giles was merely sitting back quietly and watching, with the hint of smirk on his face.
"No," Buffy shook her head in agreement, calming down as she stared at him with a mixture of surprise and disbelief. "You couldn't have done anything like that before, I gotta admit.
"Okay, Giles, how did Xander do that?" the Chosen One subsequently asked as she turned to look over at her Watcher, her amazement at what her friend had done evident on her face. "Is there some kind of spell or something that could let him do that?"
"No, Buffy. As far as I'm aware, no spell could allow Xander to do anything at all along the lines of what he just demonstrated," Giles shook his head in disagreement as he replied to Buffy's question.
"Actually, Xander came over my apartment to discuss this situation with me last night," the Englishman went on, by way of clarification. "He wanted me to check him out for any traces of a spell or any sort of magical effect, since he feared that someone or something might possibly be intending to use him as part of an attack against our group.
"And I'll admit that I was quite relieved to note that I could detect absolutely no suggestion, at all, that Xander had been affected by any such thing," the Watcher went on, his statement eliciting relieved smiles from both Scooby women.
"Well, then, why were you so worried about telling us about all this, Xander?" Willow demanded, a confused expression now marring her lovely features as she glanced back at her childhood friend.
"Because, once the possibility of magic being responsible for his new proficiencies was excluded, the most likely explanation for his new ability is that, well, Xander is a mutant," Giles informed both attentively listening young women.
"And he was apprehensive that you might then decide to shun him because of a possible small genetic anomaly over which he has no control," the Englishman clarified his previous statement
"Oh, Xander!" Willow exclaimed as she jumped up from her chair and rushed over to throw her arms around him. "Don't be such a poopy-head! You'll always be my best friend!"
"Yeah, Xand," Buffy chimed in with her own reassurance as she hurried over and joined the hug-fest. "Don't be an idiot!
"Why would you *ever* think I, of all people, wouldn't want to be your friend, just 'cause you can do stuff that other people can't?" she lightly scolded him.
"I know exactly what it feels like, to think that you're some sort of freak, and I'd *never* treat anyone like that!" Buffy declared vehemently and hugged him even more tightly to her, her voice shaking slightly and her eyes misting slightly as clearly unpleasant memories came to the front of her thoughts for a moment.
"Uh, one thing, though," Buffy cautioned her friend, while she pulled back a bit and loosened her grip on him slightly. "I really don't think you should say anything about your being able to learn how to do stuff just by watching other people, in front of my mother.
"See, when I first tried to tell my parents about me being Called as the Slayer? Mom got all upset and started screaming at me about being some sort of dirty freak. And then, she started screaming at Daddy that it had to be all his fault, if I was any kind of mutant scum. Because she knew for sure that she didn't have any kind of freaky genes, or anything like that, in her family," the diminutive blonde confessed to her companions, looking down at her feet as she did so, as though in discomfort and embarrassment.
"Oh, Buffy, I'm so sorry. Uh, what else happened?" Willow wanted to know.
"Mom called some people she knew and then, after she talked to them, she took me to some doctor's office where they took a blood sample and they did some sort of test on it," Buffy went on, still not looking at anyone
"And it was only after they assured my mom that the results came back normal that she started treating me even halfway decent again," Buffy quietly admitted, a small quaver of concern evident in her voice as she spoke to her friends.
"So, anyway, that's why I don't think you should ever do anything to make my mom think there's something different about you, Xand," Buffy advised, looking up at him again.
"Well, no offense; but I'm sorry your mom's an idiot, Buff," Xander said as he pulled her into a tighter embrace, his words echoed by Willow as she also duplicated his comment and his action.
"You're Buffy," he declared.
As the Chosen One looked up into his face with a questioning expression at his assertion, the Founding Scooby simply said, "We wouldn't change anything about you, ever, 'cause we love just the way you are!"
Off to the side, Giles watched his slayer melt into the three-way hug, and smiled with satisfaction as the children he'd adopted in his heart demonstrated yet again, exactly why they had gained that designation.