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Fan Fiction: They Also Serve
Chapter Two: Reconnaisance
"If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril."
Xander made tracks away from Buffy's house, pretending he hadn't heard the confused questions Willow cast after him. A lot of things had happened last night that Willow hadn't been around for, more than Jonathan dropping in and Buffy's dad being an ass over the phone, and he knew that if he let her start asking questions she wasn't going to stop until she found out about the wish.
He climbed into his car, buckling the seatbelt absent-mindedly, mentally chastising himself for being a coward about it. It wasn't like it was such a big deal. Giles had said to Anya, "I wish Xander would grow up," or something British to that effect. It wasn't the kind of wish that most people would worry about, when they heard about it. They'd already been saying it to his face for years, after all. Never mind what it might actually mean, in a practical sense!
Xander took the napkin out of his pocket and gave the address another glance, placing it on the Sunnydale map in his head. Then he started the engine and pulled away from the curb, thinking about the reactions he'd gotten so far.
Anya had just seemed disappointed that the wish hadn't been painful or bloody. Not that he blamed her. Leaving her at the altar hadn't been one of the brightest ideas he'd ever had, to say the least. Giles, on the other hand, had seemed upset that Anya had tricked him, but not particularly guilty about the wish itself. Xander had given the G-man enough grief over the years; this was the perfect kind of payback, lesson-y and bloodless and likely to inspire glasses-polishing instead of chaos.
Spike knew, but Spike was... well, Spike. Xander had a feeling the only comments he'd get from the vampire would be a variation on his usual snide remarks. There was no telling what he really thought, not that Xander particularly cared.
He did care, however about Buffy's opinion. She hadn't reacted at first; she'd been all caught up in arguing about the came-back-wrong thing with Giles and Spike-- which was actually a whole other issue he was not going to think about right now. Later, though, she'd teased him about it like it was no big deal.
((You said 'grow up', right, Giles?)) She'd swatted his arm after some remark he'd made, and then pouted over at her Watcher. ((Because I haven't noticed much of a difference.))
He was pretty much expecting the opposite out of Willow. She'd want to know if he felt any different, for one thing, and what he thought about it, and a million other questions that wouldn't occur to Buffy at first glance, or second, or even third. And then there was Tara. He'd seen the looks Tara was giving him in Buffy's living room, and what Tara saw Willow would find out about, lickety-split.
Was it really that obvious? He'd probably stared at himself a good twenty minutes in the mirror that morning after he shaved, looking for evidence that something was different, and found nothing. Not a damn thing. He didn't even feel any different... it was the thinking that was getting him in trouble.
Xander scanned the rearview mirrors again as he came to the next turn, then checked his blind spots, frowning irritably at the banged-up Ford Escort that had been behind him for the last two blocks. It didn't turn left when he did, though, and a little knot of tension let go somewhere in his spine.
He frowned again as he found himself parking two blocks away from the destination and carefully checking all the passersby before getting out of the car. The space at his side where a sidearm would rest felt noticeably exposed, and he tucked his hands impatiently into the pockets of his jacket and tried to focus on the sidewalk. All his nerves felt open, like the volume had been turned up, or something. It was dredging up old, buried instincts left over from Soldier!Xander, shocking him with little danger signals at every strange sight, sound, or smell. It was spooky.
He reached the path leading up to the prospective lair and visually inspected the area again, paying a little more attention this time. The house itself was pretty unassuming, a white one-story with an arborvitae planted on either side of the walk and 2935 in little metal numbers above the front door. Everything was quiet, and no one seemed to be looking, so he walked casually around to the back door and turned the knob.
No luck. Xander felt around in his pocket for something to pick at the lock with, then glanced down at his footwear and grinned. "I knew there was a reason I put these on this morning," he said, and lifted one foot to deliver a good, solid kick to the door. He might not be the Slayer, but it didn't take supernatural strength to lay the smack down with a pair of steel-toed work boots.
The door burst inward, shedding splinters around the broken lock, and he caught it with his hand before it could rebound on the hinges and hit him across the face. "All right," he said, cracking his knuckles as he scoped out the room. "Let's make this quick."
He made a slow circuit of the rooms on the ground floor, scanning carefully for any clues to the geeks' presence. There wasn't much. He found a little dirt tracked into the carpet on a path from the front door, but that could have happened anytime since the floors were last cleaned. The trail did, however, lead straight to an internal door at the top of a flight of stairs.
"Basement... Bingo," he said, smiling with satisfaction as he tromped down the stairs.
Now, this was more like it. There was evidence of immature maleness everywhere; the place was decorated in cheesy, geeky love-pad fashion. "Hmmm. Comfy couch." Xander sat down, perched on the edge of the leather cushions with his hands braced on his knees, and did a visual scan of the room. Ten to one, anything important in the place would be visible from this spot, where Jonathan's buddies probably spent most of their time.
Hmmm. Multi-colored, glowing lights, shelf decorated in little figurines... Oooh, hello to the warrior chicks in bikinis! Work desk covered in books and papers, an iMac and some data CDs, a tip-tilted white board that looked tailor made for detailing evil schemes. What to investigate first?
Xander stood up and walked towards the white board, deciding to try it before anything else. If they hadn't erased it recently, maybe it would give him pointers to what else in this mess was likely to be useful.
He had one hand on the corner of the board, ready to turn it up, when one of those little danger shocks ran up his spine and froze him in place. Something was wrong here; something was very wrong. Xander frowned, scanning the floor around the base of the whiteboard stand and then the board itself for any sort of trap. Finally, he found it. There was a wire attached near the hinge, running down to some sort of switch.
"Hunh." He slowly lifted his grip on the board, careful not to jog it any, then craned his neck to see if he could read what was written on the surface without moving it.
"Well, that can't be good," he said, smiling wryly at the message. "Glad I didn't trip that one." Gingerly, he stepped backward from that area of the room and then did a very careful check of the various books, papers and CDs scattered on the desk and other flat surfaces. Several things looked interesting, and he loaded up his arms and pockets before turning back towards the stairs.
He paused before leaving and glanced over at the white board again. His curiosity was acting up, demanding to know just what the booby trap was supposed to do, but he wasn't foolhardy enough to set it off. Unless... Hmmm. Xander glanced at the wall opposite the board, and noticed a locked basement window up near the ceiling. He smirked, then crossed the room to open the window before turning back to the stairs and leaving the house.
Once outside, he set his souvenirs down safely on the grass before picking up a handy rock and circling the foundation. It didn't take him long to find the window and crouch down to peer through it, zeroing in on the board's titled surface. "Here goes nothing," he muttered, tossing the small rock through the narrow space to hit his target.
The rock bounced off the frame with a loud thwack, transferring just enough kinetic energy to turn it up to vertical, squeaking loudly as it did so. Warren's message came into view, facing the middle of the room, and then without warning a whining buzzing sound kicked in. An enormous circular buzz saw sprang out, cutting the white board in half, and then several other saws popped up and began slicing through the room.
"Damn," Xander said. "Now that's a booby trap." He shivered a little, very glad he hadn't been in there when the saws went off. "Good thing I didn't let Wills and Tara come." Sobered, he trudged back to his little pile of rescued information and gathered it up, then made his way back to his car.
He got in and stacked up the stuff in the passenger seat, straightening it as best he could so it wouldn't slide around while he was driving. A little card fell out of one of the books as he did so, skittering to the floor, and when he picked it up he saw that it had a very familiar name on it.
"Amy Madison? What are these creeps doing with rat-girl's address?" The former rodent wasn't as powerful a witch as Willow, but she knew enough to do some damage-- as half the female population of Sunnydale could attest. Xander had tried to get her to make Cordy fall desperately in love with him about four years ago, and instead had captured everyone but Cordy. The headcount of the smitten had included Amy herself, Buffy, Willow, Jenny Calendar, Buffy's Mom, and even Spike's then-girlfriend, the mad vampire Drusilla.
Alarmed, he picked through the stack of papers again, remembering something Jonathan had mentioned in passing last night. The Orbs of Nezzla-something... he'd seen it on one of these papers, too, he was sure of it.
After a few minutes he gave up and glanced at his watch, then dug his cell phone out of his pocket. Giles ought to be in L.A. with the girls by now, and maybe he'd know something about the Orbs that Xander could pass on to the witches when he got back to Buffy's house.
"Giles." Buffy's Watcher answered his phone abruptly, and Xander could hear traffic moving in the background.
"Hey, G-Man, aren't you in L.A. yet?" he asked, teasing the older man. "Man, you drive slow."
"Xander," Giles said sternly. "Was there a point to this phone call? I'm in downtown traffic at the moment, and I'd prefer not to deal with unnecessary distractions."
"Yeah, actually, I had a question for you," Xander said, more seriously. "You remember those Orbs of Nez-whatever Jonathan mentioned last night?"
"The Orbs of Nezzla'khan, yes," Giles answered, suddenly sounding a lot more interested. "As I recall, they grant strength and invulnerability to their bearer. I'd understood from his story, however, that his friends could not fetch the Orbs without his help."
"Just his help?" Xander asked, turning the card with Amy's name and address on it over in his free hand. "Or would any magic user do? 'Cause I've just been in their lair, and they had Amy Madison's address on file."
"Oh, dear Lord," Giles muttered.
"Is that Xander?" A female voice, slightly muffled, was raised on the other end of the line. He couldn't tell if it were Buffy or Dawn.
"Yes, yes it is," Giles answered distractedly, then turned his attention back to the phone. "Xander, just how close do you think they are to uncovering the Orbs?"
"I dunno, G-man, but I found books, maps, spells, all kindsa stuff. I think if they got Amy to do the spell-part, they could probably find these Orb things right away."
Giles sighed. "I'm afraid I'll have to drop you ladies off and return to Sunnydale," he said, his voice a little fainter as he spoke to the occupants of his car. "You should be safe enough here with all the lawyers around, and I'm sure if you call Angel's hotel someone will be more than willing to put you up for the night or drive you back, whichever is necessary."
"Giiiiiiles!" Both girls exclaimed simultaneously.
"Xander, I'll be there shortly," Giles continued, addressing him again. "Don't do anything foolish before I arrive. I'm reluctant to pull the girls away from their meeting with their father, given what's at stake, but I think I should be there in case the Orbs are uncovered."
"Sure, whatever," Xander answered. "I'll be at Buffy's house." He pulled the phone away from his ear and pressed the OFF button, cutting off an argument between Buffy and Giles mid-word. Boy, was he glad he wasn't the one telling Buffy she had to hang out with her dad's lawyers instead of coming back and kicking ass.
Satisfied with the morning's work, he turned the car on and pulled away from the curb.
© 2004 Jedi Buttercup.