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Summary: Angelus decides that he's going to teach the Scoobies a lesson, after Xander bluffs him to keep him from attacking Buffy while she's in the hospital incapacitated with the flu.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Multiple Crossings > Xander-CenteredGreywizardFR18316,92245215,85630 Apr 1312 Aug 13No

Chapter Three

Xander's POV

Just exactly like I'd predicted to myself when leaving L.A., coming back to good ol' Sunny-Hell ended up being *extremely* interesting.

Only in the old Chinese curse – "May you live in interesting times" – kind of way.

The day after I got back from meeting Giles' old buddy Judson, the word going around school was that a pile of what looked like chewed-up pieces of one of the swim team members had been found. The remains of some total douche-bag named Dodd McAlvy had been found at the edge of the beach after the swim team's victory bonfire party, and the rumors were along the lines that he'd been eaten by some kind of sea monster.

Why the hell people in this town had to dream up sea monsters to explain the appearance of chewed up bodies I didn't understand, since we had way more than our fair share of bloodsucking vampires and other not nearly as cuddly things that went bump in the night here in town already. But I guess that since McAlvy's remains apparently didn't match the usual M.O., folks felt like they had to invent some new sort of oogly-boogly to worry about. Go figure. Sunnydale Syndrome at its finest.

In any event, Buffy was all sorts of concerned about some new kind of beastie moving into town that she might have to deal with. So she had Giles, Willow and me cracking the books to see if there was anything in there that fit the description of McAlvy's remains. Which were, and I quote, "a whole lot of big chunks of skin and not a whole lot else –".

Yeah, that really narrowed down the possibilities a whole lot, I can tell you. Not a lot of Demons go low fat, if you know what I mean.

Oh yeah, did I forget to mention *why* I was drafted into being Research Boy after Slay-gal had staked me and had been itching to do it again, after Angelus dumped me on her doorstep while I was dead? Well, the Buffster had decided that after hearing me discuss the results of my trip to L.A. – "a whole lot of bupkis and not much more" – and then listening to me give her the half-baked explanation I'd eventually come up with about my new ability, she and Willow had figured that I could once again be a full-fledged member of Team Scooby.

What explanation did I come up with, you ask, while I'd been killing time and recuperating in the Library's plaza following Judson's death, something I'd sworn never to tell anyone details about?

Why, the simplest one possible – I blamed everything on Ethan Rayne and the Halloween costume spell he'd cast on me and most of Sunnydale's costumed revelers, of course.

Yeah, I know, it had been over four to five months since then. Too long for that to be a feasible explanation, right? But funny thing about Slayers – they can persuade themselves to believe in just about anything they really *want* to believe in. Ditto wannabe witches, and stuck-up British guys with a great big stick up their ass.

I spun a yarn about how, in addition to keeping the memories of Soldier Guy, which had allowed us to deal with the Judge as easily and expeditiously as we had – I had obviously also kept whatever sort of super-duper healing ability that whoever it was that had taken over my body had obviously possessed, too. I'd simply never noticed this ability before, since I hadn't gotten seriously hurt since Halloween.

After all, in their minds, what other explanation could possibly fit all of the facts we had available? I obviously wasn't a vampire, even if I wasn't a normal human anymore, and a blood test had shown that I had no demon genes within me (kinda hard for me to believe that demons *had* genes, actually, but then since half-human half-demon hybrids existed, I guess it wasn't exactly surprising either). Besides, my so-called explanation meshed seamlessly with the already-established fact that I'd kept some very useful chunks of Soldier Guy's memories, which had helped Buffy beat a Big Bad who'd kicked the asses of pretty much every other hero who'd ever gone against him.

And the best part of the whole thing was that it not only had the benefit of making me appear to be just another of the many victims of a spiteful and malicious bastard who'd screwed over approximately half the town with his 'little joke,' there was absolutely no way to prove my suggestion was wrong.

As I'd heard Giles say once regarding a popular British TV show from back during the Eighties, *anything* can be true... as long as other people can't *prove* it's false. Probably the one thing that all high-ranking politicians everywhere share a common belief in, to be honest with you.

So while it was obvious that he had some reservations about my explanation, Mr. England Über Alles (to steal another country's motto) didn't have even a single plausible alternate suggestion that could explain things as neatly as mine did, and simply decided to go with the flow, as it were. Made his stiff upper lip go all quivery, I think.

So, now that they looked at me as just another unfortunate victim of Giles' old sorcerer buddy, Buffy and Willow were back to treating me just as indifferently as they had before Angelus had kidnapped me. And I was apparently supposed to appreciate their returning to the previous status quo. I was somewhat bemused to discover that I didn't much *care* what they thought, as long as one didn't try to stake me again and the other didn't try to remind me that it wasn't the centuries-old pedophile's fault he'd ever lost his soul in the first place.

Although, I have to admit that it was nice how Buffy wasn't nearly as averse to my tagging along with her when she went on patrol, after all the 'explanations' were over. Since I healed a whole lot faster than I did before, my possibly getting injured wasn't quite as much of a problem in her mind as it would have been under other circumstances.

And thanks to my absorbing Judson's Quickening, I was a whole lot better with a sword – or pretty much any other sort of melee weapon, actually – than I had been before Angelus had decided to show me the full extent of his skills with both a paring knife and a scalpel.

Anyway, like I was saying earlier, things got real interesting after a second member of the swim team – yet another arrogant jock asshole named Cameron Walker – disappeared while inside the school. And all that anyone could find of him was another disgusting pile of skin, and not much else.

Since Buffy and Willow figured that whatever was responsible for both deaths had targeted the two best members of the swim team, they decided that the best way to address the problem was to have Buffy follow Gage Petronzi, the formerly third-best member of the swim team, around wherever he went. Best as I can figure it, it was so that she could swoop in rescue him, if and when he was attacked by whatever was responsible for the other team members' deaths.

Me, I just wondered where all this concern about saving people from attacking monsters had been when I'd been kidnapped and then tortured for three days by Angelus and his Band of Merry Monsters. Well, that and wondering whether the break-in, robbery and ensuing murder of the Museum's chief archaeologist that I'd heard about on the news at dinner time had anything to do with us.

I mean, usually, weird things happening here in town almost invariably end up walking up to our proverbial doorstep and throwing a brick through the proverbial front window, so I was just trying to figure out what we might end up facing, before it showed up on its own. 'Cause Mr. Murphy has never shown us any indications that he's a vicious and nasty little bastard before this, has he?

Su-u-u-r-r-e-e, he hasn't.

Anyway, as it turns out, on that particular night while Willow, Oz and I were at the Bronze, watching Buffy's back while she likewise kept watch on Petronzi (and yeah, I might have been focusing on her backside more than her back – just 'cause I was a little pissed at her didn't mean I couldn’t appreciate the leather-clad scenery), I noticed my old buddy, Angelus. He was ghosting around the place, doing a variation of Soul Boy's Mysterious, Brooding Stranger routine as he headed towards the front door. I also caught the shocked and disbelieving expression on his face when he finally noticed me sitting in the corner booth with Willow and Oz.

Being the friendly type I am, I smiled and gave the hair-gelled pussy the finger while I mouthed the words, 'Yeah, you fucked up, asshole. I'm still alive.' And from the expression on his face, I'm pretty sure he understood every single word. And yeah, that really did give me some warm fuzzies.

Right after that, I excused myself to use the men's room and left Willow and Oz at the table, even if I really doubted they ever even noticed, since both of them were currently involved in a detailed examination of each other's tonsils, and apparently completely unaware of Angelus' presence. Or anything short of a 10.0 earthquake, either.

Personally, I was kinda hoping that the undead douche bag would follow me into the men's room, so that I could maybe get a chance to show him how much I appreciated his hospitality, but, no – things never happen the way I'd like them to – and the only thing I managed to accomplish was to relieve the pressure on my bladder.

Of course, my night wouldn't have been complete if good old Mr. Murphy hadn't decide to fuck me over a little more, so I nearly ran right into Cordelia as I was walking out of the bathroom.

And, of course, Queen C couldn't pass up the opportunity to try and rain even more abuse on me in front of her herd of sheep. I think it's some sort of ingrained reflex she's acquired. Like Pavlov's dogs, maybe? It would definitely fit the bitch part of my ex's so-called personality.

"Hey, loser, what're you doing here? Trying to pollute the air with your classless stench?" the Queen Bitch of Sunnydale sneered loudly enough so that her minions could hear her over the music.

{ Definitely not one of her better insults, } I remember thinking to myself. { Is she fucking up on purpose, or what? }

Now, I'll admit that most times, I'm not adverse to a little give-and-take as far as the verbal sparring with Cordy goes, heck – we'd been doing since third grade, and it's something I'd gotten used to, both before and after we started fooling around in those utility closets. But as it happened, on this particular night, I wasn't in the very best of dispositions, so I simply looked in Cordelia's general direction and said, "Piss off, bitch. I'm really not in the mood to put up with your shit, tonight."

I have to admit, I almost laughed out loud seeing the shocked expressions on the Cordettes' faces when they heard what I said. I really wouldn't have been all that surprised if a couple of them had had heart attacks right then and there, they were so traumatized that someone like me would dare say something like that that to some above their social class.

Cordelia, of course, didn't display that sort of weakness; she was in complete Queen C über-bitch mode, and she wasn't about to take that sort of disrespect from anyone, let alone me, so she instantly went on the attack.

"What did you just say to me, you loser?!" she screeched, the expression on her face one that I kinda wished would freeze on there, forever – so that future generations would be able to see the inner beauty that formed the innate and unchangeable core of this wonderful woman. Yeah, that was definitely more sarcasm.

"I don't take that kind of talk from anyone – let alone a complete and utter piece of crap like you!" she half-screamed at me, as her face turned a very uncomplimentary shade of red.

"That's odd," I immediately replied, as I gave her my own equally contemptuous sneer. "I thought that, even though you're a cheerleader, you could understand the basics of English.
Obviously, though, you can't – so I guess I'll have to use much smaller words when I talk to you," I added.

"Go away, Cordelia, and stop bothering me," I said, looking directly at her. I also made a point of speaking slowly and clearly, as though I were talking to an idiot, while also saying it loudly enough to be heard over the band. "And by the way, it's obvious why you and your sheep are hanging around outside the men's bathroom, but I'm honestly not interested in you like that, anymore.

"I'm sure you'll all be able to fill your quotas for tonight, though, so I'll just leave and let you all get back to work," I said as I gave her my nastiest smile, while the Cordettes gasped in disbelief at both my audacity and blatant disrespect.

"You – you can't talk to me like that, you dickless wonder!" Cordelia snarled back at me, her complexion turning an even more unflattering shade of red after she'd heard what I had just said and the fury in her face obvious to anyone watching.

"Sure, I can, Cordy," I nodded my head. "Hell, I just did.

"And you definitely didn't think I was lacking a dick all those nights we were in the back seat of your father's BMW up at Lookout Point, right? You remember – when you had your legs wrapped around my waist and you were moaning, 'Oh! Oh God! Oh, yes, you bastard! Harder!'," I smirked back at her and leaned my head back just enough that Cordelia's hand missed my face as she swung at me.

The expression of furious and humiliated outrage on Queen C's face as she sputtered incoherently at me definitely made everything I'd just said totally worthwhile, not to mention true in the eyes of her back-stabbing, gossiping minions. Hmm, who knows – maybe that's why Harmony decided to make a challenge for the crown later on, before Cordy ruthlessly shot her down...

"See ya around, *ladies*," I said as sarcastically as I could as I gave the entire gaggle of dimwits a contemptuous half-salute before turning and walking away, and ignoring whatever bile the queen of the herd was half-screaming at me.

I'll freely admit, I was feeling a whole lot better when I left them behind than I had been a couple minutes before. Obviously, dumping a whole truck-load of shit on someone else does wonders for your emotional well-being, 'cause I felt like I was on top of the world – at least for the moment.

There was absolutely no doubt, whatsoever, that Cordy was gonna try to make my life a living hell in retaliation for all that in school, tomorrow. That was pretty much obvious to everyone concerned.

But then again, when hasn't that been a perfect description of my life?

Whistling as I walked along, I told Willow and Oz I was heading home, and headed out the door.


An unknown location

A short time later

"My lord, you wished me to alert you at the first indication of the boy's displaying any abilities," the hooded female speaker stated as she bowed and assumed a subservient position on one knee upon the appearance of the second, larger and more massive figure, who wore the same sort of nondescript hooded robe as the first.

"Yes. So, what news do you have for me? What ability has the boy revealed, for you to request my presence, here, in this *pesthole*?" the new arrival demanded in a commanding voice. The newcomer's body language also seemed to convey more than a slight trace of annoyance as it regarded its servant.

"I presume that the boy has demonstrated some significant ability or power that you felt the need to summon me," he – the speaker was most definitely male – stated as he regarded his underling.

"For your sake, anyway. I do have a great many other things to occupy my attention," he reminded the hooded female dangerously.

"While he has not displayed any overt indications of having developed any of Raiden's powers, my lord, Harris has recently begun acting in a * decidedly* non-typical manner," the first speaker, who was most certainly a woman, judging by her voice and mannerisms, informed her superior. "In my experience, such changes in behavior most frequently occur following some significant change in that person's life. And you did wish to be informed of any change, great or small."

"Yes. True. Well, get on with it," the hooded creature demanded impatiently. "What's changed, exactly?"

"In the past few days, the boy has begun acting in a much more confident, almost disdainful, fashion among his peers, sire," the woman reported. "It is as if he has either somehow gained at least some partial knowledge of what he is potentially capable of achieving, or that he has possibly accomplished some undertaking or feat he was not previously able to perform – one which has elevated his previously low self-esteem to a much greater level.

"I have not yet been able to determine which, if either, of the two possibilities might be correct, my lord," the woman admitted, her voice betraying her wariness and uncertainty concerning her disclosure, "but I felt the alteration in his behavior was important enough that you be notified of it, at the very least."

After several moments' silence, the larger figure nodded and said, "Very well. While it's not the notification I would have preferred to hear, you were correct in your decision to inform me of the changes in the boy's behavior.

"Maintain your surveillance of both Raiden's get and his companions," he instructed his disciple, "and notify me immediately if Harris shows any sign of power, in any way.

"The seers agree that all the signs portend that an event of great significance is imminent," he warned the woman, "and I intend to be present when it occurs, in order to maximize any and every advantage possible."

His unstated, implicit warning of the consequences of his *not* being present were acknowledged with a nod of the head, and a deferential "Everything shall be as you wish, my lord."

"See to it that it is," the man growled, before his body shimmered like hot air in the desert – and he vanished from the dark, abandoned chapel.

"I most certainly shall, my lord," the hooded woman agreed, murmuring softly to herself as she straightened up and stood on both feet once more. Once certain that she was alone, she added, "After all, the more power you possess, the more I'll gain after I kill you and take your place down there..."

An instant later, she shimmered and vanished, just as her master had done a few moments before.


The Bronze

A short time earlier that evening

"Mr. DeNegri?"

The speaker was a medium tall, solidly built dark-haired man with peculiarly intense eyes, Angelus decided as he looked up from his seat situated on the upper level of the club.

"That'd be me," the vampire nodded and gave the human one of his more personable smiles as he extended his right hand. Eyes like that were particularly indicative of a psychopath, the bloodsucker decided as the two shook hands. After all, he had a pair of eyes that looked a lot like them, himself.

"Angelo DeNegri," Angelus confirmed his current alias. The words meant 'Black Angel' in Italian, which had appealed to Drusilla's insane sense of humor, and she'd insisted on her 'Daddy' using the nom de plume. Oh well, a good sire occasionally indulged his childe's whim, especially when it didn't cost him anything...

"I'm Christopher Kyle," the newcomer introduced himself. "We spoke on the phone a few days ago regarding an archaeological artifact you recently acquired, and you invited me to come down and inspect it at my convenience," Kyle explained his presence.

"So I did. Well, it's good to meet you, Mr. Kyle. Why don't you sit down and make yourself comfortable," the so-called 'vampire with the face of an angel' suggested as he gestured towards the other empty seats at the table.

"Thank you, Mr. DeNegri," Kyle smiled back as he slid into the vacant seat across the table from the leech.

"You stated over the phone that you think that this artifact you've acquired could possibly be the actual Statue of Acathla, crafted by the infamous Lucius Temple during the late 1300's," Kyle stated, his expression betraying his excitement at that revelation.

"Well, I'm not exactly sure about that, Mr. Kyle," Angelus responded with a shake of his head and a small frown.

"You see, I didn't receive any documentation to go with the statue, despite what my source had promised me. And since that person died of heart failure only a few minutes after our meeting to transfer the merchandise, I have no idea where, exactly, he might have acquired it," Angelus wove his web of lies expertly. He hadn't yet made up his mind about the archaeologist who'd responded to his advertisement for an historical expert to investigate the background of a recently acquired artifact.

"And without any documentation from a reputable and recognized expert, no museum would even consider accepting such item as a donation," the vamp embellished his story. Soul-boy had read something along those lines once or twice, so it should do.

"So, what I'd like you to do is to research my statue; determine every bit of lore, every fragment of legend and myth existent, which may be relevant to its identity and origin," Angelus outlined the parameters of the project he envisioned.

"Just as an example, one of the legends regarding the statue which first caught my attention was that it could be used to open up a portal to Hell," the no-longer-ensouled bloodsucker grinned and briefly chucked in a comradely manner.

"Even though we both know that that sort of thing is impossible, I'd still like to know anything and everything about Acathla that there is to know," he said. "So. Do you think you can do that?"

"Oh, I most certainly can do that, Mr. DeNegri," Mr. Kyle enthusiastically assured the leech with an enthusiastic nod of his head.

"Funnily enough, Acathla is actually the subject of a research project I've been pursuing for the last few years," the archeologist admitted with what some might describe as a manic smile.

"If this statue truly *is* the Acathla of legend, I think I can say without fear of contradiction that it's going to shake the entire historical world up significantly, once its existence is revealed to the rest of the archaeological community "

"That's exactly what I was hoping to hear you say, Mr. Kyle," Angelus practically beamed as he listened to his new employee outlining his plans to research the ostensible statue. He nodded at all the right times, even if the vampire's mind was mostly focused on what he'd do once he knew how to activate the damn thing – and drag the whole damned planet down into the demon's hell dimension, where it belonged.

The bloodsucker was on his way out of the teen club, after finalizing arrangements to meet with the archeologist the following day when he abruptly halted, shocked to the depths of his non-existent soul.

{ That's not POSSIBLE! } Angelus screamed silently to himself as he stared in disbelief at the sight of a very much alive and breathing Xander Harris sitting at a table in the far corner of the room. { That's completely fucking *impossible*! I killed him! I personally sucked the last bit of blood out of that little bastard, right before I carried him over to that bitch's house and dumped the body on her front porch! How can he *possibly* here?! }

If it had been possible, the vampire's face would have paled even further as the youth looked up and caught his murderer staring at him.

Instead of being terrified, the stupid kid had merely smiled at Angelus, and then given him the finger as he smiled and mouthed the words, "Yeah, you fucked up, asshole. I'm still alive."

Seeing the kid's protector standing only a few feet away on the dance floor, Angelus decided that he couldn't afford to get into a fight with Buffy right at the moment. Not only was he distracted and ignorant of what was truly up regarding the Harris situation, he couldn't take the risk of the Slayer and her friends possibly figuring out that he was working on a way to activate Acathla and open up a portal to Hell.

{ Maybe... yes, that's most likely it. That fucking gypsy bitch must have performed some kind of resurrection ritual on the little shit, } Angelus decided as he made his way out through the front doors of the nightclub. { That's the only explanation that makes any sense! I *know*, without any shred of doubt, whatsoever, that Harris was dead when I dropped him off on that porch! I've killed more than enough people to be completely sure about something like that! There's no other possible explanation... aggggh, damn it! }


Xander's POV

The next couple days did nothing whatsoever to disprove my slowly growing belief that people in Sunnydale were deeply *stupid*! Stupid to a degree that would almost require its own gene to reinforce this particular trait.

As it turned out, Coach Marin, with Nurse Greenleigh's assistance, had been dosing the swim team members with some sort of super-steroid/fish DNA combination thing-y while they enjoyed the school sauna. Unfortunately, the treatments had the regrettable side-effect of eventually turning the recipients into fish-men who looked a lot like the uglier cousins of the Creature from the Black Lagoon. No, not 'they'; better to say 'we'.

And I say 'we' because I had the admittedly rather stupid idea of solving the whole 'swim team members turning up as leftover sushi fragments' problem by volunteering to join the swim team and acting as a sort of secret agent to find out what was going on, regarding the whole 'swim team members turning up as leftover sushi fragments' problem.

Fortunately, the minimal exposure I received to the super-steroid/fish DNA treatment that Coach Marin had developed had absolutely no effect on me, and I'm happy to admit I maintained the same handsome face and sleek, muscular physique I'd had prior to exposure. The knowledge that my Quickening would have healed any negative effects the coach's concoction might have made was quite reassuring, too, I can tell you.

And the appraising and appreciative looks that both Buffy and Willow gave me – and which they undoubtedly thought I hadn't noticed – was quite gratifying and ego-boosting, too. Heck, it made me fairly sure that Buffy had to be reconsidering that *juvenile* comment she'd made last year about me being just 'one of the girls' – when she'd been under the influence of that bloodstone spell from Amy's body-stealing mother.

Though if Buffy started staring at girl’s crotches the way she was staring at mine, I was just fine with that, too.

In any event, I ended up pulling Buffy up and out of the sewer that Coach Marin had forced her into, in lieu of being shot, where she would have ended up as the sex toy of the already mutated team members.

And then afterwards, maybe lunch, too.

The fact that Coach Marin somehow fell into the sewer when I showed up to see if Buffy had learned anything from her talk with him, and that his appearance distracted the three fish-boys who were making inappropriate advances at the Buffster? Well, all that was completely coincidental and accidental on my part, I can assure you.

Unfortunately for him, though, good ol' Carl somehow didn't survive the enthusiastic greeting his boys gave him – not that either me or Buffy were all that upset about that.

Anyway, all of the coach's plotting had apparently been done in the hope of developing a championship team which would boost him to Olympic-level prominence as a swim coach, and eventually make him rich. Or at least, that's the only even semi-rational justification the rest of the gang could think of, to explain his actions. As far as I'm concerned, I think he was just plain nuts. But that's just my opinion.

One other thing of note was that we also hadn't seen either hide nor hair of Angelus or any of his minions during the whole swim team fiasco, which could be argued equally as either a good, or a bad, sign of things to come.

Balancing all that good karma, though, was the reappearance of Kendra, the party Slayer who'd been Called last May, after Buffy drowned in that pool of water in the Master's cave, cave, and unlike the Buffster, *she* didn't have any problem seeing Angel as the monster he basically was.

Looking back on things now, I'm actually surprised that none of us thought to wonder exactly *why* the Master had partially drained Buffy, before he'd tossed her hypnotized ass aside to drown in that underground pool.

I mean, why didn't he drain her completely?

Not that I'm *complaining* that Ol' Fruit Punch Mouth (or so Buffy had called him) didn't finish the job properly, mind you – I just wondered why he didn't take the additional few seconds necessary to drain her completely and ensure that there wasn't any possible way she could survive their encounter. I've read how Slayer blood tastes *potent* to the undead, after all.

The one time I actually discussed the matter with Giles, he muttered something about how the Master must simply have been overconfident and believed that he *had* drained Buffy completely, then changed the subject straightaway and didn't respond to any attempt I made to return to the topic. So I just let the matter drop, after figuring out he didn't have clue-one either and just hated to admit his ignorance. Especially to *me*

Well, I let it drop, at least as far as discussing it with Giles or Willow was concerned. And that particular topic is something I never, ever, even *considered* broaching with Buffy.

But the fact is, it still bothered me. Sometimes, it seemed to me like there was someone or something out there, manipulating our lives, stringing us along in order to accomplish some nebulous purpose that none of us would have willingly agreed to.

But that was so obviously crazy, that even I didn't think that I could possibly be right about something like that.

At least, not back then, I didn't.

Anyway, getting back to what I'd been saying, Kendra, the second Slayer, had come to town because her Watcher, Mr. Zabuto, had determined "dat a very dark power is about to rise in Sunnydale," as she had so charmingly put it. Gotta love that hokey-sounding Caribbean accent. But Zabuto had sent her here to help prevent said Dark Power from accomplishing whatever purpose it intended.

And after hearing Kendra announce that delightful little piece of good news, I just couldn't help myself, and said, "Well, it's good to know that things are back to normal. All this peace and quiet was beginning to annoy me."

Kendra immediately glared at me – hey, she was a Slayer too, and my Immortal nature put her teeth on edge and made her Slay-dar ping loudly, just like it did Buffy's. But for some strange reason, the baleful look Giles threw my way immediately after I spoke was almost reassuring, in a weird and completely Hellmouth-ish way.


In any event, I decided to take advantage of Kendra's unexpected appearance and her request to speak with Buffy and Giles privately to head back to the shithole I was currently staying in – that's my parents' home, in case I hadn't mentioned it earlier – so that they could update Kendra on the latest developments around here. More specifically, tell her that, even though there was something 'different' about me, nowadays, there was still no reason to stake me. Plus, I wanted to get away so I could finally do a thorough inventory of the contents of the courier bag I'd inherited from Judson, too.

I'd been a little too shaken up in the hours following my inadvertently ripping Judson's head off and subsequently inheriting his Quickening to really check the things I'd picked up properly.

And once I'd gotten back to Sunnydale, I'd put the bag in my bedroom closet with the intention of checking it out the next day – but hey, the usual roster of Sunnydale weirdness had shown up almost immediately afterwards, and I'd gotten distracted, and then forgotten entirely about doing any sort of inventory of the bag.

So, now that I had a few minutes of free time (not hiding!), I was determined to check out the bag's contents and see whatever it was that Judson had possessed, which he obviously thought was important enough to carry around with him, like all the time.

As I sat on my bed, digging into the bag, the first couple of things I found were the usual sort of stuff you'd expect a professional sort to have on him – a very nice silver Cross Classic Century pen and pencil set, a leather-bound personal planner, a small journal detailing several meetings he'd attended the previous week, three Hershey Dark chocolate bars, and a pack of peppermint Tic-Tacs.

It was after I'd emptied all of that junk out of the bag and I was running my hand around the inside surfaces, checking for possible hidden pockets, that I discovered a barely noticeable depression at one end. And then, after playing around with it for a minute or so, I managed to unlock the catch holding it closed and found a secret compartment under the bottom of the bag.

Inside the hidden compartment – which I realized, after I'd started pulling things out of it, was a lot bigger than the inside of the courier bag itself could be (Hello Doctor Who!) – were a Walther P99 semiautomatic, an athame, a wand, a pentacle and a chalice!

Fortunately, I'd had the foresight to put on a pair of gloves before I began removing anything from Judson's bag. Mostly because, after having had to deal with possibly cursed items more than a couple times over the course of the past year, that sort of Hellmouth-y education had made me a whole lot more cautious about handling unknown things obtained from strange people, and which I knew nothing about.

I say, fortunately, because the sight of those last four items compartment had triggered a sudden onrush of Judson's memories, and caused me to drop the final piece, the chalice – which, luckily, had landed on my mattress.

Suddenly, my head was pounding as wave after wave of Judson's memories surged through my mind, and I felt myself falling back onto my mattress as I squeezed my eyes closed and focused on maintaining my identity as *me* – Alexander Lavelle Harris.

I fervently concentrated on the, admittedly, comparatively short life and times of Xander Harris, and on not allowing the overwhelming volume of memories pouring into my mind to deceive me into believing that I was someone named Emmanuel Judson.

Ignoring the recollection of endless discussions about art and history with a man named Leonardo da Vinci, I focused on my time spent in grade school with Jesse and Willow, and how Jesse and I had spent so much time convincing Willow that having imaginary friends could be almost as much fun as having real friends when it came to annoying Cordelia and her mini-minions.

Turning a blind eye to the memories of my/Judson's first encounter with magic – my/his thrusting a short sword through the stomach of the witch who'd attempted to blast me/him with a ball of fire – and an incident which eventually led to the discovery of my/his own innate powers of levitation and flight, I focused on my own introduction to the darker side of the world – back when I had followed Buffy out of the Bronze and watched/tried to help her rescue Willow from a vampire.

As I pushed away the sight of the thousands of dead bodies randomly scattered behind my/Judson's platoon across Cemetery Ridge as I/he fled the ceaseless rain of Union artillery fire, I concentrated on remembering the stomach-churning sight of Jesse's body turning to dust around the stake I held in my right hand.

As memories of months of training under the exacting and unforgiving eye of the legendary Chinese swordsman, Lü Dongbin, learning both hand-to-hand martial arts and the proper use of the dao (sabre), the jian (straight sword) and the shuang gou (hook sword) flooded though my mind, I turned my thoughts to the past couple months of combat training I'd begun on my own, after being possessed by Soldier Guy.

Trying to disregard the disturbingly giddy and energized feeling surging through me as I watched my/Judson's hand thrust the same athame that I'd found just a moment before into the stomach of the dark-haired young witch standing in front of me/him and then felt both her ability to understand, speak and read any language and her power to absorb knowledge from books flow into me/him through the enchantment I/Judson had cast on the dagger, I focused on two things important to *me*.

First, the memory of using CPR on Buffy, in an effort to revive her, and then, on the near-hysterical relief and joy I felt when she finally began breathing on her own, again.

Memory after memory after memory surged through my brain, only to crash against the walls I'd built for myself inside my head over the course of the past year. After being assaulted by, first, the Hyena Primal Spirit last spring, and then again, this past Halloween, when Soldier Guy's spirit was conjured out of his eternal rest by that thrice-damned bastard, Ethan Rayne, I had spent quite a number of hours researching how to best protect my mind against any sort of mental assault.

And now it was paying off, in spades.

The figurative walls around my mind shook, time and again, and the dust slowly drifted down from the symbolic ceiling tiles, but those strenuously-built barriers guarding my mind remained intact, despite the near ruinous assault which had been initiated by the sight of Judson's arcane tools. I'm pretty sure other, older Immortals would have failed to repel the assault and let Judson live again in another body – but luckily, me not so easy to make roll over and play dead. If I was, I wouldn't have lasted this long.

After a period of time which seemed to last forever, the mental onslaught finally ended, and as I metaphorically peeked out from behind the protective shields I'd created, I found myself looking out across the virtually endless piles of Judson's memories which were scattered around me in some haphazard semblance of order, and which were apparently now available for me to incorporate into my own mind.

All of the knowledge, skills and experience Judson had accumulated over the course of his long, long life was now mine, awaiting only the time and effort needed to incorporate them into my own gestalt of memories.

{ Damn, } I can remember thinking to myself as I paused and took a moment to consider the vast array of information I now had available at my fingertips, { when it comes to learning things, this way *almost* beats studying for one of Mr. Dyson's tests. }

Sighing – literally, this time, and not just metaphorically – I pushed myself up onto my not-really-existent mental feet and headed out into the mindscape I could see spread out in front of me. I wanted to begin reviewing and cataloguing everything Judson had done over the course of his undeservedly-long life, and see what I could make immediate use of.

After all, even before meeting Judson, I'd realized that living on a Hellmouth wasn't the sort of thing that generally led to a long and happy life.

But now that I knew I might live for a *very* long time, I intended to do whatever I needed to do, to make sure that possibility came true.


The End?

You have reached the end of "Good Morning, Sunshine!" – so far. This story is incomplete and the last chapter was posted on 12 Aug 13.

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