The Wandering Spirit
The next time Xander Harris crashed into the Council, it was in the literal sense, directly in the middle of the roof of the car Dom was trying to piece back together after Buffy Summers once again failed to grasp the basic premise of driving. (Jeeps were not meant to be used as weapons against Fyarls!) Everybody froze, staring at the lump on the crushed car until Harris took a great gasping breath. Then everyone burst into motion, Jesse reaching for the phone as everyone else tried to get him off the vehicle without hurting him further.
Brian grabbed hold of what he thought was shoulder and a child’s scream, high-pitched and terrified, broke the silence. Faith burst into the garage and hands shot into the air. Nobody wanted her to think they were causing Harris pain.
In one of those stunning displays of athleticism Slayers excelled at, she went from the floor to crouched beside Harris in the blink of an eye.
“Oh, hey. The cavalry,” he said into the sudden silence, a little wheeze to his voice.
Faith snickered. “Yeah, X. I’ve arrived.” She pointed at the kid, who was staring at her in wide-eyed fascination. “This her?”
A slight hesitation, then, “Nope.”
Faith rolled her eyes because it was apparent to everybody that Harris didn’t want to get into it here. “Can you get up?”
“Yeah, sure. Just give me a day or two,” he said and Brian’s estimation of him went up because he’d never heard anyone
take that tone with either of the Senior Slayers before.
Faith just snorted and put her hand on the kid’s back. When there was no screaming, she pulled her away from Harris and handed her to one of the SITs that’d materialized beside the car. The little girl whimpered a bit but didn’t start screaming again.
Harris took a deep breath, then started levering himself upward. Faith slid her arm around his back, supporting him as he sat up, blinking. He looked down at the hood of the car and winced. He rolled his head towards Dom as he said, “Shit, sorry. This wasn’t one of your racing cars, was it?”
“Nah, Council standard,” Dom said after a second, shrugging. Brian was a little surprised himself because the dude couldn’t tell the difference between a sedan and a racing car? “Summers already got a piece of it.”
Harris started to snicker, then broke off with a cough and a wince. “Yeah, I keep meaning to teach her to drive.”
“We’d appreciate it,” Dom said, which was the biggest understatement ever.
Faith apparently got tired of waiting around because she huffed, scooped Harris up into her arms and bound out of the room, his bitching that he could walk, thank you, drifting back to them.
*** *** ***
Mia was full of stories of the wonderful Xan during his stay in the infirmary and Brian maybe would have developed a complex but Harris had a knack for being everybody’s favorite without it coming across that anyone wanted in his pants. That and Mia was using the same tone to talk about him that she did Dom or one of the crew, like he was family.
Then, he was suddenly out of the infirmary and everywhere again, leaving the same trail of bewilderment and confusion in his wake. News had already spread around that Harris was a field Watcher and an Original, but that was now joined by the story of how he’d daringly rescued a little girl that was magical enough to give Rosenberg a run for her money. Well, more than one story, honestly, because no one had actually managed to get him to explain what was going on there and everything the gossip mill had was secondhand.
He tripped across Tim Speedle on the balcony when he was trying to find somewhere quiet to think and Speed said, pointing, “Guy’s a freak of nature.”
Considering the nature of the inhabitants of the Council, Brian could only think of one guy that’d cause that reaction. He looked over the balcony and his eyebrows rose when he saw Harris stretched out on the grass, Osbourne sitting beside him diddling with a guitar. Brian hadn’t even known Osbourne knew how to play
“He’s an Original,” Brian said, shrugging, because it bore repeating. “Of course he knows stuff about them that we don’t.”
“Yeah, but Rosenberg and Summers have known Osbourne just as long as he has and neither of them have gotten him to play,” Speed said, shaking his head. “Rosenberg lights up when he enters the room and that is just fucking eerie, and Summers smiles. And they’re both Originals, so why does it take him being around to get those reactions?”
A husky laugh cut across Brian’s argument and he felt a shiver work its way down his spine. By the way Speed’s eyes widened a bit, he was a little freaked out as Faith stepped around the corner and said, “B and Red got so used to him always being one step behind them that it’s wigging them out to turn around and not find him there. This ‘on another continent’ business fucks with their heads. Plus they can’t fish his ass out of the fire in a hurry if they need to. So they worry and they stress and they freak everybody out until he comes home and everything’s status quo again.”
She took a puff off her cigarette, eying them, then swiftly hopped over the railing and landed beside Harris and Osbourne. Harris gave a startled squawk which died down when she lay down, her head propped up on his thigh, her boot burrowing under Osbourne’s ass. Then he just ran his fingers through her hair as he said something to Osbourne, who nodded and resumed plucking at his guitar strings.
“Freak of nature,” Speed said definitively, shaking his head.
Brian found he really couldn’t argue with that.
*** *** ***
Harris showed up in the garage shortly thereafter while everybody else had gone to lunch. Because Brian was the most used to bureaucratic red tape and nonsense, he got saddled with the paperwork which meant he was eating a sandwich at his desk when Harris wandered through the door, hands tucked in his pockets. He meandered around the room before finally ending up at Brian’s desk and flopped down in the chair opposite it.
“So. How’s Council life treating you?” he said amicably, hands folding across his stomach.
He sounded friendly and nonchalant but Brian knew an interrogation when he saw one.
“Fine,” he answered a little warily.
“Good,” Harris said, bobbing his head. “So you’re all integrating well? Making friends and stuff?”
No, not really. “Sure,” he said, shifting uncomfortably.
Harris gave him an indulgent smile and said, “Liar. You guys don’t leave this garage except to eat or find a street race that we’re all pretending we don’t know about.” Brian’s stomach clenched but Harris waved it away. “As long as nobody gets hurt, we don’t really care. There are worse ways to get an adrenaline high.” He sighed and sat forward. “We do care about the integrating stuff. At least, I do. I like Mia and she does good work in the infirmary. She seems happy. I’d like you guys to be happy, too, so that you’d maybe actually enjoy staying here.”
“It’s not like we can actually leave,” he said and he tried not to be bitter about that. There was too much legal hullabaloo if they left the Council’s umbrella of influence.
Harris shrugged. “If you’re not happy, talk to Giles. Legal’s already trying to get things squared away for you guys. He can give them a push if you want.”
Brian blinked. “I thought you wanted us to stay.”
“I do,” Harris said, lifting an eyebrow. “But I want everybody to be happy more.”
Brian thought about it for a minute, then said, “I think we’re as happy here as we’d be anywhere.”
“Good,” Harris said, smiling brightly. “Now, I, uh, I’m gonna be leaving soonish and I thought I’d warn you guys. I mean, I’ll be back in about a month for the memorial anyway, but Buffy’s probably gonna wreck another car while I’m gone. I’m not sure, but I think she’s got a thing for one of your crew.”
“Dom’s crew,” Brian corrected on instinct. Then, “She could just ask him on a date.”
Harris snickered. “Oh, that’d be bad. We don’t- None of us really succeed
at dating. I mean, this is Buffy’s idea of flirting. I’m just saying.”
“Oh,” Brian said and tried to think. He thought back and his eyes widened. “Oh
“Yeah,” Harris said, nodding. “So just, uh, make sure she doesn’t kill herself getting his attention, okay? We’re all out of urns and stupid.”
Brian blinked and thought about asking what the hell urns and stupid had to do with each other but Harris was walking away, tossing a quick wave over his shoulder.
Harris slipped out of the Council without any fanfare and Summers managed to take the top off of a Jeep Grand Cherokee in a daring feat involving three transfer trucks and a polgara demon.
Leon threw a wrench when it limped back into the garage. “Damn it, woman. Stop committing vehicular homicide. Just get somebody else to drive you.”
She gave him a dark look before stomping out of the garage.
“Dude,” Jesse said, staring at him worriedly. “Don’t, like, give her incentive to kill you.”
Letty snorted from under the hood of a car and said, “He does that every time he stares at her ass.”
Summers came stomping back into the garage and flung a set of keys at Leon. He caught them, surprised, when they bounced off his chest and she gave a wicked little smirk.
“I need to go to the mall and since you volunteered,” she said, folding her arms across her chest.
Brian’s eyebrows rose and he bit back a laugh at Leon’s gob smacked look. Summers had never paid them the least amount of attention that anyone noticed, too busy terrify SITs and breaking cars. This all just smacked of Harris’s meddling and Brian was maybe a little glad of that.