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The Nerds Strike Back

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Summary: Xander leaves the Scoobies and ends up joining the Trio before they did the whole evil-stupid gig.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
BtVS/AtS Non-Crossover > GeneralGreywizardFR18112,3808178,56631 May 0631 May 06Yes
Disclaimer: They’re not mine. They belong to Crack-Head Joss. Deal with it. I have.

Time Frame: Takes place shortly after 'Triangle,' then goes AU.

Spoilers: None. Remember, this is an AU.

Character Bashing: None. Really.

Feedback: Of course! Flames, however, will either be ignored or to used to toast marshmallows

Author’s Notes 1: As always, thanks to Lori Bush, Bill Haden, Tim Joy and Drake the Archr for beta-ing this for me.

Author’s Notes 2: Inspiration for parts of this story go to dogbertcarroll and RedOhki for comments and suggestions made during discussions on the XanderZone.

Author’s Notes 3: Anya died when she wrecked Giles' car while she and Willow were chasing Olaf after he was summoned and had destroyed the Magic Box. Buffy eventually managed to Slay Olaf after a battle that left parts of Sunnydale looking like a tornado hit it.

Once Xander realized that Olaf was responsible for wrecking havoc on the town and that Anya died because of a silly argument between her and Willow, he got incredibly pissed off and cut off all contact with Willow, something the redhead thought was very unfair as well as quite disheartening and demoralizing. Buffy then found herself in the unfortunate position of being caught in the middle between the two.

Author’s Notes 4: Spike left town, looking for a solution for his chip, about the same time Anya died. Unless I mention something from the Joss-verse as having already happened, it hasn’t.

~~~~~~~

Title: The Nerds Strike Back


Xander’s apartment
A few days after the episode 'Triangle'


“Xander, I’m worried about you. This whole blaming Willow for Anya’s death thing isn’t like you. You’re letting yourself get bitter and cynical, and that’s not you at all.”

“Oh gee, thank you, Oh Great and Powerful Mistress of Perfect Relationships,” Xander half-sneered at the diminutive blonde who was sitting on his couch staring at him with what he had to admit might be considered genuine concern in her eyes if he didn't know how much she disliked Anya. “It’s nice to know that if I should ever have questions about who I should be, I can always come to you to find out how I should be acting.”

“Look, Xand, I can understand that you’re still grieving over Anya’s death, and I know you know that I’m sorry that that happened, but I really don’t think it’s very fair that you blame Willow entirely for the accident,” Buffy ignored Xander’s sarcastic tone as she tried to point out to him in what she considered a reasonable voice the inequality in his current behavior. “Remember, it was Anya’s curse that originally turned Olaf into that troll, so she’s partially to blame for what happened, too.”

“Where the hell do you get off telling me who’s responsible for anything that happened, or how I should feel about anything to do with the accident, Buffy?” the carpenter practically snarled as he finally turned to look at her.

“I don’t recall you ever being in the running for the Miss Empathy award of the last millennium, let alone the new one,” he mocked the tiny blonde. “Where was all this empathy when Angelus was out killing all those people after you screwed his soul away back in high school, huh?”

“You bastard!” Buffy snarled back at him as she restrained the urge to smack that sneer off his face. With the mood she was in right now, she just might do that literally.

She knew he was upset about Anya’s death, but that last remark was totally uncalled for and extremely cruel, especially since they had spoken any number of times about just that subject.

He knew how she felt about all the deaths she’d failed to prevent and that she still hadn’t forgiven either herself or Angel completely for allowing them to happen; especially after Angel had later confessed that he suspected that his curse might not be permanent. For Xander to say something like that was behavior she didn’t want to deal with right now, because she would most likely end up saying or doing something they’d both regret.

"I'm not gonna hang around and let you verbally abuse me just because you don't know how to handle what happened with Anya," she declared as she stood up and grabbed hold of her jacket, her voice approaching absolute zero.

“When you finally get your head out of your ass and can talk to people like a reasonable person and not some bitter dickhead, you can call me,” she said. “Until then, I don’t want to see you or even talk to you.”

“That sounds good to me,” Xander spat back as Buffy practically stomped her way out of his apartment. For a little girl, she could certainly make a good deal of noise, he reflected; he should probably consider himself lucky that she didn’t leave holes in the floor on her way out.

The force with which she managed to slam his door as she exited made him wince, and he made a mental note to check later to see if there were any cracks visible in either the door or the frame.

“Bitch,” he muttered under his breath as he stared blankly out the window.

Who the hell was she to try and tell him what he was supposed to be feeling about anyone? He ignored the little voice saying that maybe she was a friend who didn’t want to see him hurting, and deliberately turned his thoughts to other things.

A hasty check of the cabinets showed that there wasn’t anything he could just throw together for a quick meal, so he shrugged on his jacket and headed out to the Quickie-mart to grab some things to tide him over until he could hit the supermarket for a supply run.

~~~

“Hey, Xander, how’re you doing?”

His arm supporting the bag of junk food and the hoagie he’d picked up to satisfy the growling of his stomach, Xander tuned to see who was calling to him.

“Oh, hey, Jon,” he unenthusiastically responded upon seeing Jonathan Levinson, one of his fellow Graduation survivors, heading in his direction, a look of uncertainty on his face.

“I, uh, I just wanted to tell you, uhm, that I, uh, heard about what happened with Anya,” the smaller man stated as he stopped a short distance away, as though doubtful of whether Xander wanted to actually talk to him, "and I just wanted to say how sorry I am that it happened.”

"Thanks, Jon," the apparently now-dispossessed Scooby acknowledged his former classmate's words. "I appreciate your saying that."

The two stood there awkwardly for a moment, neither knowing what more to say and Xander nodded and was just beginning to turn back towards his car and head back to his apartment when Jonathan suddenly blurted out, "If you're not doing anything more important, would you mind coming back to my house with me 'cause me and some of my friends have a whole bunch of questions about the weird stuff that's been going on in this town and I'm pretty sure that you know a whole bunch of stuff about what's going on better than we do, but if you are doing stuff, then that's okay, and I'm sorry to have bothered you," in a rush of nervous words that reminded him quite strongly of the way Willow would formerly babble out realms of information when nervous.

Pausing in his tracks, Xander hesitated for a moment before answering, and noticed that Jonathan had dropped his shoulders dispiritedly and was turning away from him to head back in the direction he'd originally been heading.

What the hell, it wasn't like he had a whole lot of other things he had to do right now, anyway, was there? He certainly didn’t feel like talking with Buffy after their little heart-to-heart earlier, Willow was at the head of his 'Don't wanna see' list and Giles could be expected to back up his Slayer, no matter what she had said or done, so it wasn't like he had a whole lot of other options to choose from.

"Who exactly are these friends you mentioned?" he asked, not moving to follow the smaller brunet, but not immediately refusing the offer outright, either. "And what exactly did you want to ask me about?"

"Oh! They're Warren Mears and Andrew Wells," Jonathan quickly answered, a wide smile lighting up his face as he realized his request hadn't instantly been rejected.

"And we're thinking about doing something about the 'gangs on PCP' problem Sunnydale has," he went on.

"Or maybe becoming supervillains," he added in a quieter voice.

"Whichever one will make the chicks like us better."

~~~

He couldn't believe he was actually considering doing this.

Him, acting as the leader of a bunch of geeks and nerds who wanted to "battle valiantly against the relentless forces of darkness seeking to overwhelm the bright and shining promise of humanity," as Andrew put it?

You'd have to be certifiably nuts to even consider doing something like that.

Yeah, sure, the three of them probably had a combined IQ of about a thousand or so, but they had an appalling lack of common sense when it came to practical matters. Even he knew better than to consider some of the ideas that had been brought up during their initial meeting.

God (or Goddess, if you agreed with Willow and Tara's way of thinking) in Heaven above, if you left the three of them alone to try and implement their ideas on their own, they'd all probably be dead and Turned within a week. And having a vamp with that much raw brainpower coming into town was a *very* frightening thought. He really liked the fact that they were usually as dumb as a bag full of hammers – it felt like things were being Balanced, in a way.

Actually, the smartest thing they'd done was to realize that they actually had no idea of what they were thinking about doing and then try to find someone who did and talk to them.

They were all too intimidated by Buffy's physical beauty and presence to even think about approaching her, and the fact that Willow was just as smart as they were, if not smarter, made her off-limits, too, so they had looked around for someone more – mortal – in their estimation, someone they could actually talk to without stumbling over their tongues in awe.

Which was why he was here now, actually thinking about considering going ahead with this idea of theirs.

Not the supervillain part of the idea, but the 'fighting the forces of darkness' part.

He'd decided a long time back he couldn’t walk away from the fight, not knowing what he knew now, and especially not after seeing the demon that had stolen Jesse's body dust when he'd accidentally staked him in the Bronze.

But he also knew that he couldn’t keep on working with the Scoobies right now. Not with the way he was feeling at the moment.

Maybe later, once the anger and feelings of loss and resentment had been dealt with, he could see about maybe straightening things out. But not right now.

With a sigh, he realized he'd already made up his mind to do it.

He was now, at least in his own mind, in command of the Legion of Dorkness.

~~~

Jonathan’s parents’ basement


"Okay, now, before we start get involved in any actual demon fighting, you guys need to tell me everything about these inventions you've been working on, and what you've been planning to do with them.

"I'll try to point out any flaws I see in your plans, and then we’ll discuss things and try to work out a solution, okay guys?"

"Sure thing, Xand."

"Sounds okay to me. That's the one of the reasons we wanted you as an advisor, man."

"Indeed, wise one. With regard to practical matters, you are as Yoda to our padawan intellects."

"Smack him in the head for me, will you, Warren? I can't reach him from here."

*Whap*

"Ow!"

"Andy, I'm not a little green Muppet, okay? Let’s keep things straight – I'm not nearly as smart as you guys are, I've just got a little more experience in dealing with the real world. We're all equal partners here, friends that are trying to help each other stay alive. That's all, capice?"

"Sure, Xand. I was just trying to indicate the esteem we hold you in for your vast history of victories against the forces of evil."

"All right. Just tone it down a little, okay? We're all just foot soldiers against the Army of Darkness, okay? We guard each other's backs and make sure we all stay alive," he grinned at the others' enthusiasm at what they were planning.

***

"Okay, okay, hold on a minute and let me see if I have this straight, guys," Xander actually held up his hands in front of him as he addressed his semi-awed audience.

"You're telling me that you've got wireless surveillance cameras and microphones scattered all over town, mostly in publicly accessible areas, but with a couple hidden inside Willy's bar and a few other known demon hangouts, right?" he asked, the incredulity and skepticism in his voice clearly evident.

"Uh, yeah," Jonathan confirmed their friend's statement as the other two nodded their heads in agreement “We originally started setting up the cameras ‘cause we were thinking about using them for some sort of security service and we had to see if there were any blind spots in the network because of geographical interference and to check the light amplification levels, and then, after we first spotted some demons when we were using the network, we added the other cameras in Willy’s and the other places so we could do more intelligence-gathering and figure out exactly what they were.

“Actually, we were originally thinking they were aliens, and we were gonna be involved in a ‘First Contact’ situation,” Andrew confessed, all three of them looking a little embarrassed at that admission.

“Hey, it’s just as valid an assumption as thinking they were demons,” Xander replied with a grin, “and a lot more believable, actually.

“If you say, ‘Hey look! Aliens!,’ people just think you’re a little goofy. If you go around saying, ’Hey, demons!,’ they have a tendency to throw you in padded rooms and dress you in jackets with way-too-long sleeves,” he pointed out.

“So, show me where you’ve got these cameras set up, guys…”

***

Later that evening


"Wait a minute! You guys invented a freeze ray like in the comics and you were actually thinking about using it to knock over some stupid museum exhibit? For crying out loud, guys! For a bunch of geniuses, you sure come up with some really dumb ideas! What's with the fascination with being supervillains? Don't you remember what always happened to all the supervillains in all the comics we read? Didn't Batman used to kick the shit out of Mr. Freeze on pretty much a weekly basis? And Killer Frost usually ended up warming her ass in a cell in Belle Reve super-prison almost every time she tangled with Firestorm, didn't she?" he pointed out the obvious flaws in their admittedly 'out-there' idea.

"Why not offer this thing to the military as a possible weapon they can consider, *and* let the frozen food manufacturers know about it, too?

"That way, we can get paid ungodly amounts of money and it's all legal! Swanson or Birdseye would each probably offer us a couple million dollars immediately once they see what this thing can do! They'll probably save ten times that much in equipment and maintenance costs the first year alone.

"And all with no worries about jail time or ending up with a cellmate named Bubba."

***

Even later that same evening


“So, explain to me why we can’t sell this invisibility ray thingy you’ve developed to someone like the CIA or the FBI?” Xander asked, his forehead furrowed uncertainly.

“Well, it’s mainly because the ray alters the molecular structure of the things it’s used on, to make them transparent to normal light wavelengths,” Andrew volunteered.

“Unfortunately, however, the changes also destabilize the baryonic structure of the subject, causing it to eventually break down into a loose association of quarks with no binding energies holding them together,” he explained with a bright smile.

“Ohhhh - kay,” Xander nodded his head agreeably. “Now, can one of you explain that to me again, but this time in English and using much smaller words when you do?”

“It’s like this, Xand,” Jonathan chimed in. “The ray makes the molecular structure of whatever it’s used on break down, and after a while, the object just falls apart and basically disintegrates.”

“Much better explanation, Jono,” Xander smiled. "Thanks.

“Not that yours wasn’t good, too, Andy,” he immediately turned to reassure the now pouting blond geek. “It’s just that my head might explode if I try to understand and remember too many big words.’

Turning his attention back to the notebook he was scribbling in, he mumbled to himself, “Okay then. No offering invisibility rays to the CIA – might cause problems with the shelf life of agents it’s used on.”

~~~

Jonathan's parents' basement
A few days later


"Okay, guys, listen up!"

Xander patiently waited for his three partners to finish up what ever they were involved in and save their work before turning and focusing their attention on him, so he could brief them about the results of his trip.

"All right, then. I spoke with Cordy when I was in L.A., just like we planned, and she pointed me to a law firm called McKenzie-Brackman that she assures me is probably as firmly on the side of the angels as they can get, since Wolfram and Hart, a law firm she swears is the mouthpiece for pretty much all of the evil demons on the West Coast, hates them," he informed them of the results of his trip.

“Angel made a couple calls on our behalf to some people there who owe him favors, for which we will pay Angel Investigations either one half of one percent of our first year’s net profits or fifty thousand dollars, whichever is greater, and he arranged for me to talk to a couple of their people. The net result is, after a lot of discussion about what we're looking to do and having a Wicca on their payroll cast a 'detect lies' spell on me, McKenzie-Brackman has agreed to represent us for five percent of our net profits annually over the next three years."

"That deal sounds almost too good to be true, Xand," Warren pointed out with a frown on his face. "Most of the lawyers I've heard about are usually looking to get as much as they can from their clients. Especially when it's a start-up operation like we've get here."

"Yeah, I thought so, too, at first, Warr," the former Scooby agreed, " 'cause the guy I was initially talking to was talking about getting fifteen to twenty-five percent for doing all the paperwork we need, but then one of the senior partners, Leland McKenzie, came in right in the middle of the meeting, shook my hand, spoke to me for a few minutes, and then smiled and announced that they'll handle all of our business for an annual fee of five percent of our net profits.

"When the guy I was talking to, Stuart Markowitz, started to argue, McKenzie just looked at him and said that we were going to need as much money as we could get if we were going to accomplish everything we wanted, and that if anyone else complained, to tell them that the firm was handling our work pro bono and to see him if they wanted to discuss it further," he continued his report.

"That sounds very definitely weird," Jonathan agreed. "But I'm not gonna argue with them about not charging us more than they did."

"Me, either," Andrew agreed. "So, Xand, did you manage to get any of the other stuff we wanted done?"

"Yep," Xander nodded with a wide smile. "CRD is now ours; ground, buildings and any and all equipment still inside all belong to us. And the renovations start tomorrow.

"By this time next week, the living quarters will be completed, and most of the new lab stuff you guys wanted should be installed."

~~~

WBY, Inc. (The former CRD building)
A week later

"Take over the world? Are you guys completely nuts? Why would you want to do something like that? Do you know why it took the Mayor over 100 years to try his ascension? Paperwork! Can you even begin to imagine the amount of crap you'd have to put up with if we were running the world?

"Now come on, forget about crazy ideas like that and help me clean this place up a little. I ran into an ex-lust demon Anya knew back when she was in the business when I was dropping off all the patent paperwork in L.A. and she's sending a bunch of porn stars who work for her over for the weekend as a thank-you for me vouching for her and arranging an appointment for her with McKenzie-Brackman to discuss some legal problems she's having.

"So, who wants the naughty nurse and who wants the Catholic school girl?"

***

“Uh, Xand, I was checking out the tapes from the surveillance cameras last night – the ones we’ve been using to try and see if there’re any patterns to the demons’ comings and goings in town and I saw Buffy getting attacked by a group of guys kinda dressed up like knights in chain mail armor with swords and other medieval weapons.”

“Is she okay? I mean, she kicked their asses, right?”

“Yes, she took them down easily; even faster than Obi-Wan handled the evildoers in the bar in Mos Eisley in Episode Four,” Andrew volunteered with an enthusiastic nod of confirmation.

“Oh, okay. Well then, it’s probably none of our business."

As he turned away, Xander justified his lack of any additional supportive actions for his old friend with the thought that the Slayer could easily handle any number of normal, if armed, humans without even breaking a sweat, while ignoring the little voice in the back of his head calling him a dumb-ass and asking why he refused to even attempt to reconcile with his former teammates.

~~~

WBY, Inc.
Several days later


"You want to kidnap your ex and reprogram her mind so that she’ll like you now?” Xander asked loudly in a disbelieving voice.

“Warren, are you brain dead or something, to be even considering doing something like that, man?”

“No, Xand, I wasn't gonna reprogram her mind; the encephalographic empathic enhancer is just to make her willing to listen to me. I know I can get her to change her mind about me if I can just get her to talk to me for a couple minutes.”

“Warren, let me explain to you what little I understand about how the female mind works, okay, buddy?” Xander stated, as he walked over and put his arm around the other’s shoulders.

“Once you two broke up, she decided that she didn't like anything about you any more and if I know anything about women, now that she's had some time to brood, she's probably gotten even worse and decided that you're responsible for every bad thing that's ever happened to her in her life, even if they happened to her before she met you.

"Look, how about I call Cordy and see if she's interested in going as your escort to that Entrepreneur of the Year award dinner Thursday, buddy?”

“Man, are you kidding? That’d be great! That chick is *hot*. Do you really think she’d be interested in going to that with me?” Warren asked, his voice incredulous

“Hell, man, she'll probably jump at the chance since there'll be so many power brokers and multimillionaires there for her to meet,” Xander told him. "And once Katrina sees you with Cordy on your arm and she realizes how wealthy we're all going to be in a few years, she'll be spitting up blood in no time at all. She might even come crawling back to you to see if you're interested in getting back together. Isn't that a whole lot better than getting arrested and maybe getting a criminal record as a stalker or worse?”

“Yeah, you’re right, man. That’s a lot better. Thanks, I really appreciate it!”

"Oh, and Warren? Just a friendly warning, buddy; Cordy's still a good friend of mine. If I hear that you tried anything funny with her that she didn't like, I’ll make sure you'll never be able to do it again.

"And that's not even considering what Angel, Wes or Gunn would do to you…

"Of course, on the other hand, if she doesn't object, more power to you, man!"

~~~

WBY, Inc.
A week later


"Hey, Xand, our alarm spells show that Willow was trying to scry on us again last night. Didn't you say you told her when you saw her following you the other night that you didn't want her interfering in your life anymore?"

"Yeah, Andy, I did. I guess she decided that because she's a witch, she's too powerful to have to pay attention to us mere mortals."

"Want me to follow up with that idea we talked about?"

"Yeah, little buddy, why don't you do that? Maybe then she'll realize that if she doesn’t play by the rules, then other people don't have to, either."

***

"OhgodBuffyit'sawfulican'tshowmyfaceanywhereoncampusnownandI'mgonnaprobablyhavetotransfertosomeotherschoolontheeastcoastormaybevenoutofthecountrycompletely," the redheaded hacker's face almost matched her hair color, Buffy noticed as her roommate came rushing through door to their dorm room and then slam it closed behind her. (Translation for the babble-impaired: "Oh god, Buffy, it's awful! I can't show my face anywhere on campus now, and I'm probably gonna have to transfer to some other school on the east coast or maybe even out of the country completely.")

"Wills, what's with the wiggins, girl friend? You look like you're gonna have a coronary."

"Oh god, Buffy, I'm so embarrassed," Willow finally managed to get a single coherent sentence out after her blonde roommate spent several minutes trying to calm her down.

"I was studying in the library when I decided to check my email," the Scoobies' resident hacker began trying to explain the reason for her distress to her friend, "and I got an email that said since I was ignoring Xander's telling me to stay out of his business I was going to be taught a lesson and it had a link to a porno website called Naughty_College_Girls that showed naked pictures of college girls being naked or doing other stuff and it said that I should check out the pictures of the girl doing inappropriate things with a shower massage on it so I decided to check it out to see what they were talking about and I thought the girl really looked like me when I did see the pictures and when I looked them over and thought about it some more I think it really is pictures of me from when I was taking a shower the other night when I was trying to scrub all that Polgara demon ichor off me that I got splattered with when we took out that nest remember?"

After taking a moment to properly parse Willow's semi-babble into intelligible fragments, Buffy frowned as she finally understood the reason for the redhead's distress and she asked, "Well, since you're Super-Net-Girl, Wills, can't you do some of your computer-y stuff and trace the email to its source or something like that?

"'Cause if you can, I think that we should go and have a talk with whoever did it, and make him take the pictures down after I break a couple of his arms or something, okay?" she offered solicitously.

"You don't understand, Buffy," the redhead said, practically in tears. "I already tried that, and it told me that the pictures were downloaded from my computer!

"Whoever did this is even better at programming and magic than I am!" she moaned.

~~~

WBY, Inc.
The following week


"Hey guys, I've got an idea about how we can establish our reputation in this town real fast!" Xander announced as he joined them in the common rec room. "If we can figure out a way to grab those Balls of Whatever you were talking about the other day, we can make Buffy look like an amateur in the Slaying department.

“You mean the Orbs of Nezzla'khan, Xand,” Andrew automatically corrected him.

“Yeah, those whatever they’re called that can make the user superstrong and invulnerable, right?”

“Well, actually, the Orbs enhance the user’s existing physical characteristics and abilities to a point where they’re approximately nineteen times stronger and more resilient than a normal human,” Jonathan stated. "In the case of someone who is naturally stronger than human, they add that much more power to the user.

“The number had some sort of mystical significance to the Nezzla,” he explained when he saw the expression on the others’ faces at his comment.

"Anyway,” Xander waved off the superfluous information, “to get back to what I was saying – first off, Jono, you and Andrew need to find a low-key spell that can give us an aura that makes people feel uneasy around us. Not actually fear us, just one that makes anyone around uncomfortable in our presence. It'll give us a real psychological edge when we're asking questions.

"After you do that, then me and Jono will make an appearance at Willy's and the first time one of the demons tries to object, Jono beats him into the floorboards."

Seeing the wide-eyed look of incipient panic on the smaller man's face, he quickly added, "Not to worry, Jono; we'll have those Orb things plugged into that mystical network you and Warren have been working on and they’ll be supercharging both us. We may not each be as strong as if it was just one of us using it, but with all of us stronger than your standard vamp and me there to watch your six, it'll be a piece of cake.

"By the way," he then added with a grin, "I know you used to have a crush on Harmony back in high school, Jono, so I thought maybe you'd be interested in knowing that I got her to agree to be your vampire girlfriend for this gig.

"She's agreed to help us out for a salary, a steady supply of blood and a place to stay that her peer group can't get into without an invite.

"And just so you know, Jono – Harmony never has to come up for air. Not that she had to very often, anyway, even before she got Turned…" he said with a smile, then noticed their surprised looks.

“What! She lost a bet to Cordy senior year; was I supposed to turn her down?”

~~~

Willy's Bar
A few days later


“Look, I’ve got no reason to lie to ya, English! All I’m saying is that there’s a new hunter group that’s supposed to have shown up in town recently, and all the locals are more worried about them than they are about the Slayer,” Willy informed the somewhat nonplussed Watcher.

“With whom is this new group, if they exist at all, supposedly affiliated?” Giles asked after a moment’s pause to digest the information.

“Well I don’t know anything for sure, but I did hear some of the guys calling these new people ‘the Lords of the Night,’ and I can say without any doubt, that the locals are more scared about them than they are the Slayer, right now. Probably because they don’t know anything at all about them.

“And they’ve got the Slayer’s old sidekick working with them now, so nobody wants to screw around with them,” he added, almost as an afterthought.

“After hearing about what he did to those zombies last year, no one wants to get on his bad side…”

~~~

WBY, Inc.
The following week


“Hey, guys, I’ve been catching glimpses of some hot looking blonde I’ve never seen before, walking around town at different hours of the day or night, and she’s usually got this pack of what looks like they may be gnomes or hobbits following her and bowing and scrapping and evidently doing what ever she tells them to do,” Jonathan reported during one of their afternoon briefings.

“And I’m pretty sure she’s not anywhere near human,” he added, “because for one, I saw her rip apart a couple vamps that tried to attack her with her bare hands and, two, she grabbed hold of some delivery man walking nearby and seemed to sink her fingers into his head. Then, there was this weird glow around his head and her hands and when she let the guy go, he just dropped to the sidewalk and lay there, drooling," he noted, continuing the info-dump each of them would make after completing a shift on the monitor board.

“Anyway, when I sent the drone plane overhead to follow her back to see where she’s living, I noticed that she’s giving off some really strange energy readings, too. I downloaded all the readings to the main database, Warren, so you can maybe check them out when you get a chance and tell us what you think they might be.

“I’ve never seen anything like them before,” the group’s resident illusionist finished his report, a puzzled frown on his face.

“Hey, good work, J-Man,” Warren congratulated the smaller man as he pulled up the data under discussion and began examining it. “And you’re right, all of these readings are really strange.

“No way is that broad human,” he declared positively, a moment later. “Not with readings like these.

"In fact, she’s not like any kind of demon we’ve got on record, either” he added a moment later, after checking their database. “She’s not like anything we’ve seen before.

“Man, we need to get some tissue samples, so we can figure out what she really is…”

~~~

Your typical abandoned Sunnydale temple
Still more days later


Willow and Giles froze in surprise as Buffy kicked in the door of the abandoned underground temple and they realized that the nest of a half-dozen fledglings they were expecting to find conducting a summoning was actually composed of over two dozen vampires with a sprinkling of Fyarl and Polgara demons thrown in for good measure.

"Oh good, it's just the Slayer and her group!” Buffy heard one of the demons say with what sounded like relief. “I thought for minute that it was the Lords of the Night."

The dismissive comment ignited the petite blonde’s barely-under-control anger and she instantly began attacking the unfortunate demon closest to her, leaving Willow and Giles with no choice but to follow her in and provide backup.

A bare five minutes in, a lucky blow by a vamp had stunned Willow, interrupting the spell intended to prevent the unholy sacrificial altar at the far end of the chamber from ever being used in any dark ritual ever again, and Giles was fully occupied defending both himself and the semi-conscious redhead, leaving Buffy to bear the brunt of the offense.

The master vamp’s attention was distracted from overseeing his minions attack on the Slayer when the double doors at the other end of the temple were blown apart and a quartet of what looked like armored soldiers out of some video game burst into the chamber, wearing some sort of dark armor complete with helmets and face shields that completely concealed their identities.

The first two of the new arrivals stepped to the side as they entered, and began firing their weapons at the vamps and demons at the back of the demonic group, and Buffy realized that her assumption that the weapons were either standard military issue or duplicates of the Initiative’s blasters was completely wrong when the ray from one of the weapons formed a huge block of ice around one side of the group of vamps while the second spat out small pellets that exploded into some type of instantly-solidifying adhesive compound that glued any vamp or demon it hit to the floor.

The second pair of newcomers tossed several objects that Buffy only belatedly recognized as grenades a bare instant before they exploded. Instead of showering the interior of the temple with shrapnel of any sort, both objects gave off a bright light that momentarily blinded everyone within and elicited pained screams from all of the vampires.

Blinking off the dazzling aftereffects of the grenades, Buffy realized that most of the vamps who had been closest to the center of the detonation were gone, with small piles of dust indicating their fate, while the survivors were unmistakably singed, as though they had been exposed to sunlight.

The grenade-throwers had now armed themselves with pistols and large swords that seemed to glow with some sort of inner luminescence and which were being used enthusiastically, if not completely expertly, against the remaining demons and vamps. The pistols shot some sort of pellet that ruptured on impact, with its contents apparently burning or scalding any vamps it hit, while the almost imperceptibly humming swords cut through the demons and vamps like the proverbial hot knife through butter.

Within the space of two minutes, no vamp or demon remained alive or undead within the chamber and the rescue team was busy tracing out a circle around the altar that had been the primary reason for the Scoobies’ initial assault.

“Hey, what are you guys doing?” Buffy demanded, viewing the newcomers’ efforts with suspicion even as she moved to make sure Willow was okay.

“Back off, Slayer,” one of them ordered, sounding somewhat familiar despite the metallic overtones. “We’re just making sure that this thing is destroyed once and for all.

“If you want Will – I mean, the witch and your Watcher to be safe, you’d better get them out of here right now,” the tallest of the group advised her as he watched his team members work.

Taking his advice at face value and not wasting time asking more questions, Buffy scooped Willow up in her arms and headed out of the temple at a pace Giles was hard-pressed to match.

Once they were safely outside, the three of them (Willow now being able to stand on her own) watched the abandoned building begin to glow, before abruptly winking out of existence, leaving no trace of either the edifice or the four mysterious strangers who had rescued them.

It was in the quiet immediately following that Buffy suddenly realized exactly why one of the newcomer’s voices had sounded familiar.

“Will! He called you Will!” she exclaimed as recognition hit. “That was Xander in there!”

~~~

Orchard Street
The next day


"Xand, why won’t you tell us what you’ve been doing and who you’re working with?" Willow whined from her position on Xander's right side while Buffy echoed her words from her place on his other side.

"Yeah, Xand, we’re worried about you. It's much too dangerous for you to be risking your life like that without proper backup," she agreed as the two of them accompanied him down one of the town's quiet residential streets.

“Even if you don’t want to work with us anymore, we just want to make sure that the people you are working with know what they’re doing. We worry about you.” The woeful expression on Buffy’s face as she uttered the first half of her statement wasn’t completely unnoticed by the tall brunet who was seemingly ignoring both women's commentaries as he continued on his way, not responding in any manner to anything they said.

A quiet hum interrupted whatever else either girl might have been about to say and twin sparkles of light at his sides signaled their sudden departure.

Pulling out his cell phone, Xander hit his speed dial and waited for the buzzing signal to be answered at the other end.

"Hello?" someone at the other end of the connection hesitantly asked.

"Thanks, Andy," Xander smiled as he spoke. "I appreciate the rescue."

"No problem-o, fellow warrior against the darkness," the blond-haired programmer/sorcerer replied. "But, uhm, I think I should mention that there was a slight glitch with the transporter's programming that resulted in a minor problem when we moved the girls. And in our defense, I should point out that it never showed up in any of the tests we did with any of the test animals we transported."

"Well, since you're still relatively comprehensible and not babbling about quantum fluctuations or null values interfering with successful reintegration of the baryonic packets, little buddy, I'm guessing that it's nothing to be really upset about," Xander chuckled at his fellow demon fighter's nervousness.

"Just spit it out. What's the problem?"

"Well, uh, for some reason we’re not completely sure of right now, you see, all of the girls' clothing, uhm, uh, ended up being reformed at a point slightly tangent to their original location," Andrew informed him timidly.

"What's that mean in real world terms, Andrew?" Xander asked, a grin beginning to form as he considered the possibilities offered by the blond's words.

"Well, the girls ended up being deposited in the center of UC Sunnydale's main quad... naked."

***

Andrew wasn't sure but the sounds coming through his cell phone sounded more like the hysterical cackling of a hyena than anything human.

~~~

The Magic Box
Three days later


"Ah, Quentin, I appreciate your returning my call so quickly," Giles said as he recognized the voice at the other end of the call. "Have you achieved any success with your efforts to get the American government to shut down Xander's little group of demon hunters?"

"Rupert, I am making this call purely as recompense for the work you and your Slayer have accomplished over the course of the past five years," the gravelly voice responded.

"We have been instructed that any future requests we might receive regarding actions directed towards limiting in any manner the actions of Mr. Harris's group be copied to the Prime Minister's Office for forwarding to the American Secretary of State and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for possible governmental inquiries checking into foreign interference in domestic affairs," he informed the thunderstruck Watcher.

"What – what on earth could possibly justify the Council taking such actions, Quentin?" Giles managed to finally gasp out.

"It would appear that the nucleus of this group is comprised of several individuals who have recently received patents on a number of technological devices of significant interest to various national governments (including our own) as well as virtually every – I believe the correct term is – bleeding-edge technology company in the world," the Council's Chairman reported, "and no one wants to take any actions that might cause any of them to become unhappy or displeased in any way, whatsoever.

"Accordingly, Her Majesty's government has 'requested' " (and the metaphorical quotation marks were quite obvious as he spoke) "that the Council not interfere in what is a purely American state of affairs.

"And that is all I can, or will, state regarding this matter. Good night, Rupert."

~~~

WBY, Inc.
One week later


“Guys, that strange blonde that Willy said is calling herself Her Gloriousness just broke into the Summers’ house about fifteen minutes ago, and it looks like she kidnapped Buffy’s younger sister – you know, Dawn?” Andrew announced as his three teammates rushed in, in response to the emergency alert signal he’d sent.

“She kidnapped Dawn?” Xander asked, disbelievingly. “How’d she do that with Buffy around?”

“I think she probably just beat the hell out of her,” Andrew answered the question literally.

“An ambulance pulled up outside the Summers’ house about four minutes after Glory left, and I saw them taking someone that I think was probably Mrs. Summers out of the house on a gurney.

"And Buffy had a sling around her right arm, and some bandages on her face, too, from what I could see on the cameras,” he added helpfully.

“That bitch hurt Mrs. Summers and kidnapped Dawnie?” Xander repeated angrily, his fists clenching with barely repressed fury. “That’s going too friggin' far! Her beating on Buffy is one thing; Buffy’s the Slayer, so she can take care of herself. But if that bimbo thinks she can get away with hurting Dawn and Mrs. Summers, she’s gonna find out just how bad she screwed up!”

“Ah, Xand?” Warren spoke up as he put a restraining hand on the other’s shoulder. “I don’t think we can handle this the way we normally do. I’ve been studying those energy readings we got on her, and I think that this bitch is a hell of a lot stronger than even one of us would be if we were using the Orbs by ourselves.”

“So, what are you saying? That we stay here and not do anything about her hurting three of the people I lo- that I care about?” Xander demanded angrily, spinning around to confront the their senior resident techno-mage.

“No, man, not at all!” Warren shook his head in disagreement, putting his hands up in an attempt to forestall any argument. “I agree with you completely, that psycho needs to be taken care of before she kills someone. I’m just saying we need to come up with a different way to handle the problem. That’s all.”

“Uh, guys, how about we try and lock her in a temporal loop using the time oscillator we’ve been working on?” Jonathan suggested a bit timidly. “That way we can keep her occupied while we try to figure what to do with her.”

“Hey, excellent idea, Jono,” Andrew agreed enthusiastically. Then his face dropped. “But I don’t think the power source we’ve got will last more than twenty minutes with the drain the T-O is going to put on it.”

“And how are we going to get Dawn away from that flake long enough to lock her into a loop, anyway? You’ve already said none of us are going to be strong enough to fight her off even if only one of us use the Orbs,” Xander pointed out.

“Warren, how strong did you say that that new ‘droid you’ve been working on for the Secret Service is?” Jonathan asked, his eyes stopping on the mostly complete android body that was lying on a work table on the other side of the lab.

“About twice as strong as your average vamp, so about eight times as strong as your average human,” the roboticist replied. “Why?”

“I’ve got an idea about how we can maybe get Dawn away from that nutcase,” Jonathan said, “but I don’t know what we can do about stopping her after that.”

“Guys, is this psycho made up of normal matter like we are?” Xander asked as he stared at one of the group’s gadgets lying on the ‘Not Useful Yet’ shelf. “I mean, she’s made up of regular atoms and molecules like the ones we’re made of, right?”

“Yeah, Xand,” Warren confirmed their team’s combat leader’s question. “Why do you want to know?”

“ ‘Cause I think I know how we can take care of this bitch, once and for all,” he said as a hard-edged smile crossed his face.

~~~

An abandoned apartment building
on the outskirts of Sunnydale


“Where’s my sister, bitch?” Buffy demanded as she slammed the smiling blonde psycho in front of her with the troll hammer she'd retrieved from the basement of the Magic Box, bouncing her off the building behind her. Off to one side, Willow, Giles and Tara were all occupied fighting with the self-proclaimed goddess’s scabrous minions.

“She’s fine, Slayer,” Glorificus grinned at Buffy’s bruised face as she picked herself up off the ground. “Which is a lot better than you’re going to be in a minute. I thought you’d be smart enough to realize you can’t beat me.”

“Buffy’s beaten some of the toughest things this town’s produced,” a new voice chimed in from off to one side. “She probably just needs a little bit more help to take care of a skank like you.”

Both Buffy and Glorificus paused in their battle to look over at the small group of four men and one woman who were approaching the area, the men carrying an assortment of advanced-looking, apparently high-tech weapons and other gear, while the woman carried a gleaming sword in one hand. Three of the men were pausing in their approach to zap the so-called goddess's minions with the artifacts they were carrying, either trapping the scabrous-looking midgets in some nigh-instantly-solidifying compound or encasing them in blocks of ice, allowing the somewhat exhausted looking Scooby Gang members to relax and catch their breath as they moved to provide Buffy with what looked to be urgently needed back-up.

Xander flashed the tired-looking Slayer a reassuring grin. "Cavalry's here, Buff. Why don't you let us take care of the psycho here for you and you go find Dawn, okay?

“Normally, I’d offer you a chance to run away and get your cellulite-filled ass out of town,” he announced, turning and again addressing the taller blonde as his three male teammates continued zapping the goddess’s followers, freezing or gluing them in place, “but since you hurt Buffy and Dawn’s Mom, all I’m gonna say is:

"You’re toast, bitch.”

"You actually think you're strong enough to take me out, worm?" Glory laughed as she started heading in his direction.

"He's not. But I am," a quiet contralto voice answered her.

The speaker, an auburn-haired beauty with hazel eyes, moved to position herself between Glory and Xander and the other newcomers.

"Hi, my name's Eve, and I'm gonna kick your ass," she announced with a pleasant smile, immediately following her greeting with an attempt to decapitate the blonde with her sword.

Pausing only long enough to throw Xand and the newcomers a grateful smile after assuring herself that Glory actually was occupied with her new opponent, Buffy darted off and headed into the apartment building behind them to search for her sister.

Behind her, Glory casually blocked the blade with her forearm, only to scream in mixed pain and astonishment as the vibro-blade bounced off her arm while leaving a relatively shallow slash behind that scattered droplets of blood as the goddess shook her arm in disbelief.

Staring at her opponent in mixed rage and surprise at having actually been injured by the brunette's weapon, she immediately began attacking, knocking the sword out of Eve's hand to prevent a recurrence of her previous attack before swinging a fist at the other woman's face.

Eve shrugged off the punch and backhanded the goddess back into the wall, following her in and raining a series of blows against her that left the self-proclaimed deity reeling.

"Warren, Jono, Andy – Eve's got her on the ropes. Are you guys ready?" Xander called back over his shoulder, his eyes never leaving the sight of battle before him.

"Ready, Xand."

"Good to go, buddy."

"Ready and waiting, Commander."

"Okay, then, people, initiate phase two…NOW!" Xander ordered.

At the command, Eve jumped back, leaving a bewildered Glory standing alone in front of the apartment building's wall for an instant, an easy target for Warren to hit with the beam from the futuristic-looking rifle he held. After being bathed in the coruscating ray for an instant, the ditzy blonde began fading from view.

As Warren cut off the energy burst from his weapon, Jonathan immediately fired off a series of bursts from the paintball rifle he held, completely covering his briefly unseen target with an iridescent orange coating to again reveal her and producing an outraged scream from their opponent as she began rushing towards her attackers.

An instant after she began moving, Andrew zapped Glory and the goddess seemed to abruptly jump back to her previous position and begin running towards them again, only to seemingly once again repeat her actions.

As Buffy emerged a moment later from the apartment building, her arms protectively curled around a rather distraught looking Dawn, the jerky, somewhat disquietingly repetitious scene immediately caught her eye.

"Xand, what the hell's going on here?" she quietly asked, clearly confused by what appeared to be a cartoon-like repetition of an orange-paint-coated Glory beginning to run towards them, only to disappear and then abruptly reappear at her starting position a moment later and repeat her previous actions.

"What're you guys doing to Glory?"

"Is that that bitch's name?" he asked, turning to look at the petite blonde who had first alerted him to the existence of the truly dark side of the world. "Let me guess, she named herself that, right, like Madonna? 'Cause no one in their right mind would name their kid something like that."

"I really don't know, Xand," Buffy told her, shaking her head wearily. "All I really know for sure is that's what she's been called in some of the books we checked. Any way, what's going on?"

"Yeah, Xand, what's doing with her, and who're those guys with you?" Dawn chimed in, evidently feeling safe enough now that it looked like the immediate threat had been neutralized to ask questions.

"Well, taking your questions in reverse order, Dawnster, that's Warren, Jonathan, Andrew and Eve," Xander replied, pointing out each of his companions as he identified them.

"And we're getting rid of this psycho once and for all, people," he said a little louder as he noticed Willow, Tara and Giles, as well as his teammates, approaching the three of them gathered there by the side of the building where Glory was acting like an animated character locked into a loop.

"These guys here are all geniuses, and we're using some of their inventions to make sure that Glory or whatever her name is over there won't ever be coming back to bother anyone again," he smiled.

"Warren hit her with an invisibility ray they developed, and then Jono hit her with some paint balls so we could keep track of where she was while she was invisible, right before Andrew locked her into a temporal loop."

He could see that Willow and the others were all staring at them as if they really weren’t understanding the words coming out of his mouth.

"Uh, why would you want to make her invisible, Xand?" Dawn broke into the explanation. "The guys here had enough trouble with her when we could see her."

"Well, uh, you see, the invisibility ray causes degenerative breakdowns in the sub-molecular structure of any object it's used on," Andrew chimed in helpfully. "After prolonged exposure, the subject turns into a pile of goop."

“Do you mean that it destabilizes the baryonic structure of the subject?” Willow interjected, a fascinated expression on her face as she began considering the various ways the claimed effect could be achieved. “Or are you transforming some of the quark’s inherent properties and modifying their behavior that way?”

“Uh, excuse me, Will, but you guys can do all the geek-talking you want later, okay?” Buffy interrupted what could have easily become a scientific exposition worthy of a Noble Prize. “I want to know what it is they’re doing to Glory that they’re sure won’t let her come back later.”

"Well, we're accelerating the subjective amount of time this Glory creature is experiencing by locking her into a temporal loop and causing her to repeat a particular period of time," Jonathan joined in the discussion. "Specifically, the period of four point seven two seconds from when she was first hit with the invisibility ray until the moment she attempted to attack us.

“Trapped in the loop that way, she’s experiencing a correspondingly much longer personal time span that’s allowing the baryonic degradation to continue to accelerate her molecular destruction," he concluded

"So, you mean she's gonna turn into a godly pile of goop, 'cause you zapped her with that inviso-ray thing of yours?" Buffy asked, her expression a combination of uncertainty, hope, glee, happiness and a smidgeon of mild disbelief.

“Yep,” Xander succinctly confirmed her question. "Couldn't have put it better myself, Buff." He grinned with a combination of triumph and relief that the menace threatening the people he cared about had been neutralized.

“In fact,” he added, as he nodded over in Glory’s direction, "we can probably stick a fork in her right now, ‘cause I’d say she’s just about done."

As the group all turned to look at her, they could hear the goddess’s anguished scream of protest growing fainter as she seemed to disintegrate before their eyes, not leaving even a handful of dust to mark her passing.

~~~

Summers residence
A couple hours later


After first stopping at the hospital, to have the various Scooby injuries checked out and to both get an update on Joyce Summers’ condition (she was fine and would most likely be released the next day) and inform her that the menace threatening her family had been permanently neutralized, both groups of demon fighters (except for the powered-up brunette who’d kicked Glory’s ass – she’d disappeared somewhere long the way (but not in a supernatural way, just in the ‘not here because I left by myself’ way), Buffy had noticed) had then ended up at the Summers’ house for an impromptu and somewhat fatigued victory celebration.

With Dawn first breaking the conversational ice between the two groups with her apparently endless questions regarding all of the guys' various weapons and pieces of equipment and inquiries about their background, everyone quickly grew easier and more familiar with each other’s presences, with the noticeable exceptions of Xander, Buffy and Willow, who all remained stiff and clearly ill-at-ease in each other’s company despite their common background and years of teamwork spent saving the world.

Seeing Buffy head into the kitchen to get more sodas and snack food, Xander was considering following her, although he wasn’t really sure about what he could say, when Dawn excused herself from listening on the conversation Willow, Jonathan and Andrew were having about the possibilities of implementing fractal dimensions in the production of high energy particles or at least something along those lines, walked over and not-at-all-subtly kicked him in the shin to get his attention.

"Ow!! What was that for?" he demanded as he grabbed hold of the injured limb and frowned down at the pretty brunette glaring up at him, completely confused by her actions.

"For not working things out with my stupid sister and Willow weeks ago, you butthead!" Dawn announced as she gave him a narrow-eyed frown she must learned from her mother, he decided as he tried not to flinch away from it.

"You haven't come around, even once, to talk to me or Mom, and Buffy and Willow have been miserable ever since the accident, moping around and feeling sad because you wouldn't even talk to them about it, you idiot!

"Not that I really care about whether Buffy's happy or not," she added parenthetically as she appeared to be considering whether to kick him again. "It's just that I get tired of listening to her whine to Mom about how you won't even answer her when she tries to ask you a direct question," she went on to explain.

"And what exactly was it that happened with you guys last week?" she asked, looking at him suspiciously.

"What do you mean?" he asked, mystified at the younger teen's question.

"The college called Mom about Buffy causing some kind of disturbance or something on campus last Wednesday, so she called Buffy about it to find out her version of what happened and to make sure she was okay and it wasn’t anything having to do with the Slaying, and after she hung up, she started laughing so hard, I thought she was gonna pass out from lack of oxygen. When I asked her what was so funny, she just grinned and told me to ask Buffy about it, and when I asked her what happened at school, her face got real red and she told me to forget about ever hearing about anything that might have happened at school.

"So, what did happen?" Dawn repeated her question, hands poised on her hips in a classic stance right out of the Mother's Handbook, he decided as he looked down at her, hoping that he didn't look as guilty as he was feeling when he realized exactly what 'incident' Dawn was referring to.

"Uh, you'll have to talk to Buffy about that. I wasn't anywhere near the campus at the time you're talking about," Xander told her truthfully.

{ Oh man, Buffy's gonna rip my head off for that! } he thought to himself. { And maybe other body parts, too, if she’s really pissed! }

After all, Buffy suddenly finding herself naked in the middle of the UC Sunnydale campus definitely wasn't the kind of thing that would make her feel kindly thoughts towards the person or people she'd hold responsible for something like that happening.

Although naked Buffy thoughts weren't at all unwelcome, he decided as he considered the situation the Slayer had probably found herself in.

As he mentally visualized the route she would have needed to take to get from the center of campus back to her dorm (Actually, if the truth was told, he was mostly just remembering watching the files of Buffy running naked across the campus that they’d copied off the school’s security cameras), Xander realized that Dawn was staring at him with a concerned expression on her face.

"What?" he asked.

"Are you okay, Xand?" she asked, a little bit of worry coloring her voice. " 'Cause you just seemed to glaze out for a minute there while I was talking to you."

"Uh, no, I'm fine! I'm feeling perfectly fine, Dawnie!" he managed to stammer, as he shook his head ‘no,’ while feeling his cheeks flush with embarrassment. It was a good thing Buffy didn’t still have that mind-reading ‘aspect of the demon’ thing she’d had back in senior year, or he’d be in *really* big trouble.

"I’m perfectly, completely, one hundred percent okay,” he reassured her. “There's absolutely nothing wrong with me. Nothing at all."

"All right," the younger brunette gave him a final stare before grudgingly agreeing with him. "If you're sure…"

"Oh yeah, I'm completely sure," he nodded.

"Good," Dawn then gave him what was definitely an evil smile. " 'Cause now you have no excuse to not go in there and work things out with Buffy," she said, pointing to the kitchen.

He was opening his mouth to protest when he recalled that he had been considering doing exactly that when Dawn had originally interrupted his train of thought, so he closed his mouth, looked at her, kissed her on the forehead and just nodded his acquiescence.

***

“Uh, hey, Buff.”

“Uh, hey yourself, Xand.” Buffy had glanced over her shoulder when she heard Xander’s greeting, somewhat surprised to see him standing in the doorway, an unsure look on his face.

“Uh, did you want some more soda?” she asked, a somewhat quivery sensation making her stomach feel a little funny.

She wasn’t at all sure of what to say to him, which was something quite out of the norm for her.

Hell, she wasn’t even sure if she wanted to talk to him at all.

On the one hand, he’d been going out of his way to avoid her and Willow for the past couple months, ignored every effort they’d made to try and talk to him – hell, he practically wouldn’t even acknowledge their existence – and when she thought about the…incident.. last week, she had to resist the urge to reach out and smack him, mainly because she wasn’t sure she wouldn’t end up putting him in orbit if she did. She still got embarrassed thinking about what had happened; although she and Willow did get applause and wolf-whistles every time they went out on campus now – something she still had ambivalent feelings about.

On the other hand, though, was the fact that he’d shown up tonight with his new friends – actually, his new teammates, she reminded herself unhappily – in the proverbial nick of time without any of them having asked for his help, and they had not only managed to save Dawn from the psycho goddess who’d been after her so that she could open up a portal to her own home and incidentally destroy the world, but they’d also destroyed that psycho bitch in a way that guaranteed she’d never be able to come back and threaten anyone again.

Okay, so maybe holding onto a grudge after he’d helped save the lives of everyone she cared about in the world, along with her own, might be considered a little bitchy.

That still didn’t mean she had to act like everything was all hugs and kisses and sweetness and light between them, did it?

Hell, no!

Not that she didn’t want things to be back the way they were, mind you.

She did. She wanted her old Xander-shaped friend back.

And she had to admit to herself that her old friend’s Xander-shape was really looking pretty good, now that she could take a moment and fully appreciate the view.

After all, she had been going through something of a dry spell lately when it came to having someone she could share some – personal – time with, and it almost seemed like she was seeing him with new eyes, so to speak.

She was jostled out of her ruminations with the realization that Xander was saying something, and she focused her attention on him, not wanting to miss any more of what he was saying.

“…wanted to say that I’m sorry for the way I’ve been acting toward you guys the past couple months, and especially for the things I said to you right before the last time you stormed out of my apartment, Buff,” he said. “I said some pretty mean things.”

“Yeah, you’re right, Xand,” Buffy replied. “What you said back then hurt my feelings. A lot. I felt like you were deliberately saying the nastiest things you could think of, just to hurt me.”

“I probably was,” he admitted, now looking her straight in the eye. “And all I can say is that I’m sorry for hurting your feelings, and that I hope you can forgive me for acting like an ass.”

“It wasn’t much of an act,” she observed, a little of her hurt and anger at what he had said slipping out despite her intention not to let it do so.

“You’re probably right about that, too.”

The apologetic look in his eyes was unmistakable, and the way he wasn’t denying anything she said was making her feel much less hostile and more hospitable towards him, too, so she allowed the barest half-smile to emerge, which garnered her a tentative smile in return.

"So, I recognize Jonathan from our class and your friend Andrew is Tucker Wells' younger brother, and I think I recognize Warren from the class ahead of us," Buffy said, "but I don't recall ever seeing your girlfriend before."

Her question was subtle enough to not seem like prying, she thought, while clearly intended to glean additional, hopefully more detailed information about his teammate.

Not that she was jealous, she reminded herself.

She wasn’t.

Really.

So what if Xand had gone and gotten himself a really hot-looking girlfriend?

He was an adult, after all, and completely entitled to go out and meet other people and even go out with them if he wanted to do something like that.

Although she was a bit surprised when she first saw this ‘Eve’ person heading towards her and Glory earlier this evening. She seemed very familiar, for some reason she couldn’t quite put a finger on. Maybe she looked like a girl she’d gone to Hemery with, back when she was still in high school?

Anyway, Xand was free to go out with whoever he might be interested in. He didn’t have to run her by his oldest, closest friends or mention her or her name or even the fact that he was thinking about dating again or do anything like that before asking her out or anything, ‘cause he was an adult, just like the rest of them were, right?

And she had to stop this habit she’d somehow gotten into of thinking so hard about things that didn’t really concern her, ‘cause she almost missed hearing Xand asking her what she was talking about.

“Your girlfriend,” she repeated herself. “You know – Eve?” she pointed out, trying not to sound like she was annoyed about him not telling them about her.

“The brunette who showed up with you guys and helped stomp Glory’s ass into the ground a couple hours ago?” she said. “So, where’d you guys meet? And how come she didn’t come back here with you guys? Didn’t she want to meet any of your old friends?"

That wouldn’t be a good sign at all, she realized, if that was the way this bit- the way Xand’s new girlfriend felt. Not wanting him to hang around with his old friends was a sign of a very controlling type person, she knew; someone who would probably try to oversee every aspect of her boyfriend’s life.

“And how’d she get so strong? We haven’t heard about anything happening to Faith in that prison she’s in; she didn’t get killed or anything, did she?” she asked, wondering where the source of this new woman in Xand’s life’s power came from, even as she realized that being Called still couldn’t explain how Eve was so strong.

This Eve person had been *way* stronger than a Slayer; she’d realized that when she saw her going toe-to-toe with that skanky bitch Glory and not be fazed in the least by her punches. She knew for certain that *she’d* been rocked more than a little by that psycho’s punches, but Eve hadn’t appeared to have been bothered in the least, which seemed to mean that the other woman was a lot stronger than she was.

Not that she was feeling jealous or threatened or anything like that, ‘cause she wasn’t. Not in the least.

She was just curious about how the brunette had gotten so strong, that was all.

And again with the not-paying attention to Xand talking, she caught herself, as she refocused on her old friend’s answer, ‘cause he looked like he was trying to not laugh while answering her.

“Nah, Buff, Faith's just fine. She's in L.A., kicking ass with the Fang Gang. And Eve’s not my girlfriend,” he declared with a wide smile, and she suddenly felt like that knot in her stomach had unexpectedly released. “And she’s not a demon, either.

“She’s not even alive,” he announced with a grin.

“What do you mean, she’s not alive?” she asked, trying to figure out exactly what he meant by that answer. “She’s not a zombie, is she? ‘Cause that would be just really, really wrong, Xand!”

“You can’t tell anybody else about this, Buff, but Eve’s an android prototype the guys have been working on for the government,” he grinned at her.

Seeing her confusion at his answer, he elaborated further.

“Eve’s a top-secret project that the Secret Service has contracted WBY, Inc. to work on for them,” he said, “a very advanced type of robot that can be used as a body guard for the President and other high-level officials.

“The Secret Service asked WBY to design an android that looked like a young woman because they wanted a bodyguard that no one would ever suspect of being a bodyguard,” he explained.

“That’s crazy, Xand,” Buffy began to protest, before trailing off as part of her considered that it actually seemed to have an odd sort of logic to it.

“Think about it for a minute, Buff. Most of the vamps and demons you go up against don’t think that a petite and beautiful woman like yourself could possibly be the Slayer, right?” Xander countered her argument, and she had to admit that he was completely right about the demons and vamps not initially believing she was the Slayer giving her an advantage.

“Anyway,” he went on with his explanation, “the guys decided to use you as the base model for the android, which is why she moves the same way you do for the most part – they developed her skeletal-muscular systems around the kinematics from your various fights with demons they have on file.

“And we used these mystical artifacts we picked up a while back, the Orbs of Nezzla'khan, to power her up to a high enough level so that she could take down that psycho who was after Dawn,” he concluded his explanation.

Buffy nodded her somewhat preoccupied acknowledgement of his words while considering his previous comments.

And the fact that he’d called her beautiful, she noted with a pleased smile.

And he hadn’t said anything about having a girlfriend when he’d corrected her assumption about the android, she’d also noted.

She quickly refocused her attention back on their conversation as she realized that the tenor of the conversation had shifted slightly.

“Look, Buff, I know I really screwed things up when we argued a few months ago, but I’m hoping we can be even better friends in the future than we’ve been the past few years,” Xander said as he took a cautious step forward towards her. “Because it seemed like we were all kinda drifting apart from each other, and I really don’t want to see that happen.”

The smile on his face widened as did the one on hers when she took a matching step forward and they hugged each other, somewhat hesitantly at first, before they then each pulled the other closer and into a tighter embrace.

“I missed you,” she heard him whisper into her ear. “I missed all of you guys. I’m sorry I stayed away for so long.”

“I missed you, too,” she told him in an equally quiet voice as she relished the warmth of his arms around her.

“So, am I forgiven for being a big butthead?” he asked teasingly, not releasing his hold on her.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Buffy grudgingly admitted.

“Hmm, guess I’d better erase all of those videos of you the guys have on file, then,” he absently murmured to himself as he enjoyed the feel of Buffy snuggling up against him.

“WHAT? EXACTLY WHAT VIDEOS ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT!?!”

“Uh-oh.”

~~~

FIN

The End

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