"Well, considering that the group of beings I'm currently representing are in a fairly helpful mood," the elder Harris grinned at his younger twin, "why don't you tell me what kind of training and/or upgrades it is you're looking to get, and I'll see what sort of arrangement we can come to, okay?"
"Okay," Native-Xander nodded. "What I'd like is…"
"… to get into a lot better physical condition, and get some actual combat training – you know, maybe something like the physical abilities and weapons training of a Warhammer 40K Space Marine – so that when we're patrolling, I can actually *do* something. Well, besides just watch Buffy's back, when I'm not getting bounced off a headstone or a mausoleum wall, trying to stop some bloodsucker from attacking her from behind while she's fighting another leech," this dimension's native version of Xander Harris began elaborating his desires.
"And when it comes to fighting demons, becoming a witch like the ones in that 'Charmed' TV show would be really useful, too. Especially if I could get some innate power like each of the sisters did," he pointed out with a wide smile. "And that's *without* turning into a woman, of course!
"Still, getting training so that I could move around without being seen or heard and sneak up on the vamps, instead of the other way around, that would be pretty useful, too," the younger Xander added, cogitating madly.
"And like I said, being able to make holy water or bless our weapons, so that they could do more damage to the vamps and demons would be really useful," Native-Xander finished outlining his wish list.
"I think we can probably arrange for you to get some training and abilities like that," the older Harris doppelganger nodded his tentative agreement, after hearing his younger version's desires.
"But you do realize, don't you, that nothing ever comes free in this universe – right?" the dimensional traveler then reminded his younger counterpart of the possible consequences of his request.
"If my sponsors give you what you're asking for, then they're gonna want something back in return," he cautioned the younger Harris.
"Yeah, I already figured that part of the deal out," the native-born youth snorted, a semi-mocking smirk on his face. "I may not be a mega-genius like Willow, but I'm not a complete idiot, the way Tony says I am."
"No, you're not an idiot," Traveler-Xander agreed.
"But you also need to knock it off with this whole 'I'm not really all that smart' riff you've been doing for the past couple years, too," he frowned at his younger variant. "You're a whole lot smarter than you give yourself credit for.
"Because unless things are significantly different in this dimension than in all the others I've visited so far, you're keeping up with everyone else in all of the same AP classes that Willow got all of you signed up for, and those aren't classes that the teachers would let anyone just skate by in," Older-Xander stated firmly.
"Yeah, comparing anyone to Willow is gonna make the person being referred to look bad," the older Harris pointed out in a reasonable tone of voice. "But that's mainly because Willow really is super-intelligent.
"And that's another thing, kid. Something you need to keep in mind is that, just because she's really, really intelligent, that doesn't mean that Willow's right about everything she has an opinion on," the traveler went on, his tone of voice making the younger man frown at what sounded like a slur on his best friend, and subsequently focus his attention on what he was saying.
"Try to look at it in terms of AD&D references," Older-Xander said. "Because intelligence and wisdom are completely different things, and just because Willow's got, like, a 17 or 18 Intelligence score, doesn't mean that she's got really high points on anybody's Wisdom scale, too. You only get that through time, and learning from your mistakes."
Seeing the protest welling up in his younger alternate self's throat, Older-Xander held up his hand and said, "Hey, knock it off with the ruffled plumage; ‘cause I'm *not* bashing Willow here, kid. Seriously.
"There's absolutely no question about how smart she is," the traveler freely admitted, "and back home, whenever she focused those big squishy lobes of hers on any problem we had – more often than not, she came up with exactly the answer we needed.
"But just because she's smart doesn't mean that Willow's always *right* about her decisions, because there's plenty of times I can remember when what she decided to do wasn't always the best idea imaginable," the visitor informed his younger alternate. "Hell, truthfully, every single one of us screwed up when it came to our choices, at one time or another.
"And that includes Giles, too," he added a moment later, a saddened and somewhat mournful expression on his face as he spoke, as though Older Xander was recalling a particularly painful memory. "Don't go thinking that, just because he's the nominal adult of the group, that he can't make mistakes just like everyone else.
"Every single one of us back home, we all screwed things up; and we each did it more than just once, too, kid," Traveler-Xander confessed, an expression of sorrow, grief and regret briefly crossing his face before he shook his head, as though in dismissal of whatever it was he was thinking or remembering, and he refocused his attention on his younger counterpart.
"But I'm getting away from the original point of my showing up here, so let's get back on topic, okay, kid?" the elder Xander noted, giving his now concerned, and extremely puzzled, alternate a bright (and clearly forced) smile.
"All right, Magical Theory 101. As far as you being able to get any kind of innate, magical abilities goes, keep in mind that the more powerful ones are gonna cost a *lot* more than the less flashy ones will, and they're also probably gonna have a fairly significant impact on the overall package you're gonna end up with, and what it's gonna ultimately cost you," Older Xander advised his dimensional pseudo-clone.
"Now, I'm not saying that you can't get a set of powers and abilities that will let you do pretty much anything you want to do," the traveler pointed out, "but something you should keep in mind is that, considering the standard demonic mindset around here, the more overtly powerful you guys appear, that's gonna draw the more powerful demons, who're gonna want to see how well they do against you.
"So, let me give a piece of advice: going with something a little more subtle than being able to blow big freakin' holes in vamps and demons in order to impress your Buffy might be something worth considering," Older Xander suggested with an offhand shrug of his shoulders.
"Yeah, you've got a point there," the younger dimensional twin acknowledged with a nod of his head.
"Give me a few minutes to think about what you've said, okay?" he added, as he thoughtfully chewed his lower lip.
"Sure, no problem," the visitor nodded, obligingly. "Take as much time as you need, little buddy. Decisions like this aren't something you should rush into."
"Okay, I've decided," Native-Xander announced as he stood looking down at his larger and older doppelganger, who was apparently catching a few winks beneath the same tree the younger member of the pair had been reclining only a short while previously.
"And that decision is – what?" Traveler-Xander asked as he opened his eyes and returned the other's gaze, unwaveringly.
"Let me provide some background first. Now, I figure that we've probably done a lot better than most people would expect this past year; especially when you consider all the help we *haven't* gotten from the Watchers Council, who are supposedly the guys supporting the Slayers behind the scenes, based on what little Giles has actually told us about them," this dimension's native said, his mouth twisted in a somewhat bitter line.
"So, based on the assumption that all that isn't gonna change anytime soon, I think what Buffy and the others need most of all, right now, is someone who can not only provide Buffy with the backup she needs, but someone who can also help provide the equipment we need, but don't have," he went on.
"Therefore, what I'd like to get is not just some physical training that'll let me actually help the Buffster fight against the bloodsuckers without being a liability, but also some kind of ability that'll let me make the kind of weapons and other equipment that'll keep us safer than we are now. Oh yeah, and that'll also let me help out with the normal kind of research Giles usually gets stuck with doing for our patrols, instead of the major stuff he *should* be doing, instead – like trying to figure out who the Big Bad is as much ahead of time as he can, instead of at the last freaking minute, like what happened when the Master rose," the younger member of the pair stated, an air of purpose and determination seeming to focus around him.
"I figure that if I could get a power like either literary manipulation or omnilingualism – or, even better, both! – like some of the witches in 'Charmed' had, then that would really help out on the research side of things. 'Cause then I could go through pretty much all of the books in the library without having to worry about maybe translating something wrong," younger Xander pointed out.
"So, do you think maybe I could some kinda upgrade like that?" he finished outlining his request. "And maybe a really good weapon or two?"
"Yeah. Yeah, I think that we probably could swing most, if not all, of that, young padawan," the older version of himself nodded with a smile, as he pulled what looked like a small laptop from inside his duffle bag, flipped it open, and then began typing away on the keyboard.
"Just give me a couple minutes to figure out all of the details, okay?" Older Xander said distractedly, as he focused the majority of his attention on the screen in front of him.
"Okay, then, here's the deal, Junior," the older version of Xander announced a few minutes later, refocusing his younger twin's attention on him. "I think you'll like what I've got to offer you.
"First off, you'll get the physical upgrades that are best described as 'Slayer Space Marine Lite', which'll let you hold your own against most of the vamps and demons you'll run into, around here, and which'll let you heal a heck of a lot faster than you do now," Traveler-Xander informed him. "You'll be somewhere around three-quarters or so as strong and fast as Buffy is, but your skin'll be a whole lot tougher than it is now, so you probably won't get hurt nearly as much as you do now.
"As far as training is concerned, you'll get the equivalent of what any normal Force Recon or Ranger candidate would get, as well as master-level weaponsmith and metalworking training from either Hephaestus or one of the Cabeiri, so that you'll be able to make pretty much anything you think you need with the right tools and materials," the elder of the pair went on.
"And, finally, as far as magic goes, you'll be getting both the omnilingualism and the literary manipulation abilities you mentioned earlier, since they're both rated as being essentially worthless as far as combat usefulness is concerned. I'll even throw in total recall into the mix, to let you use the other stuff better," Traveler-Xander finished his summary of the enhancements his younger alternate would be receiving.
Seeing his younger pseudo-twin open his mouth as though to protest that evaluation, the dimensional traveler held up his hand as though to silence the youth as he said, "Yeah, I know that's a completely bogus evaluation, and you obviously realize that, too. But since the idiots who gave it that rating were a couple of your typical Asgardian warriors, who are generally only slightly smarter than your average pet dog – meaning no offense to dogs – I figure that we should take as much advantage of their stupidity as we can.
"Wouldn't you agree?" he asked, a wide grin on his face.
The matching grin he saw reflected on his younger counterpart's face was all the answer he expected.
"All right, then," Older Xander went on, his face taking on a more somber expression. "Now, for the debit side of the ledger.
"As far as your payment for all of these goodies goes, you're going to have to spend a total of approximately seven metaphysical years serving in one of our various allies' militias," he informed the younger twin. "Your body is going to be shifted into a pocket dimension where our enhancement facilities are located, while you undergo the requested training.
"What that really means is that while your own body is being enhanced to meet the requested specifications, your mind is going to be transferred into an appropriate body for training, one which will be a near-identical match to what your own will possess as far as physical capabilities are concerned," Older Xander elaborated.
"After the training is completed, you'll then be deployed to a battlefield located in one of the various actual physical confrontations that are happening across the Mandala, where you'll get practical experience in learning how to use the training you've requested. That's so, when you finish up your term of service and get sent back home, you'll know exactly what it is you need to do, or not do, and so you won't go around wrecking and smashing your way through the Hellmouth, the way Buffy said happened to her when she first got Called and got all her Slayer enhancements..
"And since the time compression factor is gonna be somewhere near fifty to one, the actual time you'll be away from this dimension will be just shy of two months," Older Xander explained with an apologetic shrug. "Best I could do on that one, little buddy."
"So, any questions?"
"Just one – when do I start my training?" the younger doppelganger asked.
"Right now," his older twin replied, a wide grin creasing his own face an instant before both of them disappeared into a swirling whirlpool of energy which popped into existence beneath them, and swallowed them up.