Disclaimer: Everything belongs to Joss and Marvel Comics.
It was the presence of the warm body in my bed that woke me up. Not that I haven't ever had a warm body in my bed. I have. Really. There was Anya for a couple of years. Remember? The thing was, that I hadn't actually had one in my particular bed since the incident with the Hellmouth in Sunnydale.
Not that it's been that long… just, um… (June, July, August, September, Oct…) five months. Okay, it's been a little while. I think the eye-patch was throwing them off. Contrary to popular belief, not all girls think the rough look is sexy; sometimes it just meant 'damaged'.
I think that was the reason I went stag to the First Annual Slayer's Halloween Ball, unofficially the first 'non-cursed' social event since we made our hometown go boom.
It was a costume ball. Me being the paranoid person I was, decided that I'd go as a high-powered super-hero. Just in case.
We'd all made it a point to either make our own costumes or to spread our costume purchases across the wide expanse that is New York City. Just in case.
Willow even went as far as to cast a fairly strong rune shield on the club we rented out for the evening, to keep all unwanted Chaos Magic outside the building. Hey, it had been five months after all. We gathered quite a lot of new Slayers to the fold. Having an exclusive party guaranteed that we'd know who was going to be there. No gate crashers at our events.
Well there was some late-twenty-something lady that tried to crash, but me and Buffy tossed her butt out pretty quick.
There was another thing. Buffy and I went as matching characters. What are the odds? I guess she had the same idea I had. No more damsel in distress for her, if she could avoid it.
I must have had one too many drinks at the party, because most of it was a blur, but one thing I do remember was her costume. The word 'BOING' comes to mind when I think about it. All red and blue one piece, cut ultra high on the hip, and those thigh boots…. oh man! It brought back the days of yore. I think she had some extra padding up top, because I don't remember my best Slayer friend being that gifted.
I had my own padding. There was only so much muscle that a guy could have without going all Schwarzenegger. It wasn't very realistic, but I did fill out the big costume in the end. Thank Buddha I was wearing a cup, otherwise Buffy would have known exactly how much I liked her costume.
It's all coming back to me in more ways than one, and until I figure out who the girl is I'm currently spooning, I probably shouldn't be poking her.
Oh, never mind, apparently she doesn't mind.
I cracked open my right eye, since the left is still covered. Hmm, blond, but since I'm laying on my right side, that's about all I can tell at the moment.
Her body went ridged. Okay, maybe she does mind. I guess it's time to gentleman up.
I cleared my throat. "Don't worry, that happens every morning. I'll just back off. Don't scream or anything."
Oh sweet Aphrodite, it can't be. "Buffy?"
Neither of us moved a micron. "What am I doing in your bed?"
I swallowed, thinking of the hundreds of ways that I could be emasculated with only her thumbnail. "Would you believe me if I told you that I don't remember much after we kicked that party crasher out?"
There was a period of silence that probably lasted about three seconds, but felt like about forty-seven years before she answered me. "Same here."
"Oh good… I mean, not good… I'm going to shut up now."
She didn't laugh, cry, berate me, or anything of the sort.
"Did we…" I asked as tentatively as I could.
A moment passed. "I think so, yeah. Things are a lot more… um, satisfied than they should be."
All thoughts stopped in my head. "Buffy, I'm so sorry. I'd never…"
"Xander. Do you really think you could take advantage of me if I wasn't willing." That didn't sound like the Buffy I knew. Last I'd heard she wasn't into me, at all. "I mean, we were both probably drunk, which means that it was probably consensual, sort of. Which is weird because I only remember having one cup of punch and it was of the non-alcoholic variety."
It was two cups for me. "You think maybe it was spiked?"
Weren't we taking this all pretty good? I thought we were.
"It's possible, probable, more likely. Oh, and can you let go of my breast, it's kind of distracting."
I think I'm going to go crawl into my closet and hide under some spare quilts, maybe hibernate under them until she forgets this ever happened. Thirty years ought to do nicely. "Sorry."
She actually giggled a little at that one. "We probably did more than that last night, Xander. We had sex. It's not the end of the world."
Oh good. I won't have to become a monk. I'd hate that, besides those wool robes they always wear are really itchy.
"Do you think you could get me a robe or something? I have no idea where my clothes are."
"Absolutely," I said in mild desperation. "Hang tight, I'll be right back."
Throwing the sheets back I rolled out of bed and promptly fell flat on my face. My balance seemed totally off.
"You okay?" Buffy was nice enough not to take a quick peek.
"Uh, yeah. Must have been more drunk than I thought." I tried reasoning. "Balance is weird."
That's when I noticed the fake gold bands that were part of my costume were still attached to my wrists. I scrambled to my feet and made for the closet. Grabbing a set of sweats, I slipped on the bottoms and then took down the spare robe I always have hanging on the back of the door for when my other was in the wash.
I set it on the foot of the bed before taking a brief look at Buffy's bare back. Hey, it might be the only time that ever happens again. I am male after all. Pausing for a second I sighed inwardly at how muscular it was. She'd always been fit, and it had been some time since I'd seen her in anything other than her daily clothes which covered up almost everything. Buffy had filled out over the last few months.
I guess actually eating regularly will do that for a person. "I'll just run to the bathroom for a minute, so you can cover up, then you can have it."
Making myself scarce was the easy part. It was the looking myself in the mirror that I really couldn't deal with at the moment. So I didn't.
While I was going about my morning business, as people are wont to do at times like these, I rationalized to myself over and over. "It's Buffy. If anyone knows what it's like to wake up the morning after with no memory of what you did the night before, then it's her. She isn't making a federal case out of this, so you don't either. Just be cool. Maybe take her out for breakfast, treat her nice. Be a gentleman. Don't make her feel cheap or used. You'd never use her. She's one of your best friends."
Just keep telling yourself that, Xander until you believe it.
I flushed and washed my hands, still making a concerted effort not to look in the mirror. After all, guilt would only stare me in the face. When I exited the bathroom I paused before entering the bedroom once again. "Everyone decent?"
Buffy pretty much flew past me without a look. Great.
Sitting on the edge of the unmade bed, waiting for her to come back out was starting to make me incredibly nervous. It had been ten minutes already. 'Go check on her, Xander,' my conscious told me. For once, I followed its directive without argument. A light tap on the door later…
"Buff? Everything okay?"
I swallowed, hard. "Do you want me to call Willow and leave until…"
The door opened and there she stood. The robe was fit snuggly around her torso, so much that I could tell a few things were really different about Buffy. Two things really.
"You noticed those too?"
Ripping my eyes away from the entire chest area I turned around. "Sorry. I didn't mean to stare."
"Oh, don't worry, I've been doing enough staring for the both of us."
My mind was totally blank. Now don't take this the wrong way, but I'm familiar with the various cup sizes of your average bra. Living with a woman for any period of time, most men will learn the particulars of their girl's clothes. Buffy's cup size had increased. I don't mean she looked a little bustier than normal, as might happen with the miracle invention of the Wonderbra. I mean she jumped from, probably from a heavy A-cup to something a lot larger, maybe in the C range or so. That just isn't normal without medical intervention.
"Maybe you ought to call Willow," she said with just a touch of fear in her voice.
I didn't bother thinking twice while I rushed to the bedside phone.
"Well, hello there Mr. Party Pants," my other best friend said over the phone when she answered.
"Wil, tell me you're still home." I had to ask since I'd called her cell phone.
"Xander? What's wrong?"
I didn't bother with explanations. "How soon can you get over here?"
"A couple of minutes. Do I need to call Buffy?" Now she sounded worried.
"Uh, no, she's here. We have a problem, probably magic related."
I shook my head. "You'll have to see for yourself."
"Two minutes. I'm already out the door."
Luckily we all lived in the same apartment complex. It was a temporary thing until we had the dormitories up at the New Slayer compound, upstate.
"She's on her way, Buff." I looked up and she was standing there, looking all breasty.
"Is there anything about you that's different… your hair."
I reached up and ran my fingers over my head. Oh, thank god, it was still there. "What's wrong with my hair? Is it green? I knew I shouldn't have used that cheap dye, but it was just for one night and I wanted the costume to look right."
She approached me and waved off my tirade. "It's not green, Xander. It's blond."
With a dramatic sigh, I let the panic in my lungs go. "It's supposed to be blond. That was part of the costume."
Buffy grabbed a handful and raised it up. "I remember the job you did on it. It was uneven in places. This is totally blond hair, naturally blond. It should be really dry after the job you did on it."
I don't even think I was listening. They were inches from my face, maybe less than that. The robe had opened just enough to see the barest hint of cleavage. Thank god for Willow. Her knock at the door probably saved me from a severe and painful beating for the amount of ogling I was doing.
Buffy went to answer the door while I got myself under control. I wasn't wearing my cup this time and it's kind of hard… difficult to hide my reaction underneath a single layer of sweat pants cloth.
Go down, go down, go down, go down, go down.
"Hey Buffy, Xander said… Oh my goddess! They're huge! And you're naked under that robe! Why are… Oh my goddess! You and Xander? Wait a minute, did he do this?"
Both of their voices carried into the bedroom. "He's changed too, Willow."
I heard a gasp. "Xander has breasts?"
"No, his hair is blond."
They were headed this way. I could tell because their voices were getting progressively louder. "He dyed it that way for the party. It's supposed to be blond."
She rounded the corner and my witchy friend stopped at the doorway. "That's different from last night."
"That's what I said."
She ignored Buffy and I could see Willow was checking out more than my hair. Her eyebrows did that thing, where you know she's thinking, 'something's off here, what is it?' It was somewhat disconcerting.
"What?" My eyes darted over to Buffy, looking for some kind of clue.
A quick mental inventory of my current state of arousal and I knew I was probably safe, so I pushed up off the bed. "Hey, you shrunk. It's not just me and Buffy."
Willow shook her head. "I didn't shrink. You're taller." She spun around to face Buffy. "You too. Only not as much. Both of you are taller." Stepping back, her head bounced between us a couple of times. "And unless I miss my guess, both of you have either been seriously working out or you've gained about ten or fifteen pounds of muscle mass."
I didn't bother waiting, and instead I made for the big mirror in the bathroom. Buffy was right behind me. I had the advantage of being shirtless at the moment, and damn if Willow wasn't right. Gone was the spare tire I was growing, along with the love handles that used to droop from the sides of my waist. How had I not noticed the change?
Muscle-bound I wasn't, but I was much more defined than I was only the night before.
With a look down at my sweats, I noticed they hung a lot lower than I normally had them. With a tug upward I was suddenly wearing high-waters, exposing an additional two or possibly three inches of ankle.
Everything started to snap in my head. Buffy was standing in the doorway looking at me. I turned away and pulled the sweats out to have a look down there. When they snapped closed I turned back around to see Buffy's face. She was blinking away. If I didn't know any better I'd swear that her eyes were downcast only moments before. No… there was no way she was checking out my butt. I'm imagining things.
"I'm definitely blond," I commented.
With a gesture downward, between my legs, I think she finally understood. "Oh!"
After a few seconds I realized she wanted to check out her changes and probably didn't want me hanging around. "I'm going to go get dressed."
Trying to find something that didn't make me look like I was shopping for a younger brother was somewhat difficult. In the end I did find a pair of jeans that I originally bought to look cool. The legs were longer and usually bunched up at the end. Then only thing that didn't work was the waist. I normally wear thirty-eights. If I didn't wear thirty-fours at the moment, I'd be surprised. But that's why they invented belts, now isn't it?
The tee-shirt and button down fit in the shoulders but didn't stretch over the beginnings of my old dunlap belly anymore… you know what I'm talking about, right? It's where 'the belly done lapped over the belt.' No I wasn't that far gone as of yet, but I was well on my way. Now, I'm Xander Harris, fit-boy, once again.
It's kind of hard to be worried about an involuntary change that is actually beneficial. Somehow I couldn't work up the annoyance to really care. Buffy, on the other hand, well, it's going to be kind of hard to explain how she suddenly became all 'busty-girl' overnight. I can see where that would be annoying.
I sat at the chair, just inside the closet door, where I normally put on my socks and shoes. I wasn't really trying to eavesdrop, but when I heard my name. Well, you know how it is. You just can't avoid not listening once you know that you are the subject of the conversation.
Willow sounded concerned, but excited at the same time. "He's looking really nice."
"That's not the point, Wil. We slept together."
"How was he?"
It was a few seconds until Buffy responded. "Neither of us remember anything…"
"Why does there always have to be a but?"
"Did you see Xander's butt?" Willow giggled right after. "Looks like you could bounce a quarter clean off."
"Then spill, or I'll go talk to him and get his opinion."
Another few seconds later. "You know the morning after when you know you've had sex? Well, there was no doubt in my mind. I was sore, but it was the really good kind of sore."
"Has it been that long?"
"Willow, I haven't had sex in like a year and a half."
"But you're all Slay-girl. Shouldn't you be better by morning?"
This time it was Buffy that I heard, and it was a sigh unlike anything I had heard from her before. "That just means that it was definitely more than once and probably for a really long time."
"You are in so much trouble."
"Why? I didn't do anything that I can remember, and we both know that it wasn't our fault. Magics made us do it!"
"Yeah, but Buffy. You know what it's like now. And Xander has become very yummy. Are you saying you'd pass it up if he offered?"
I really shouldn't be listening anymore. But answer me this one question. Would you actually walk away knowing that your teenage crush was about to reveal whether or not she'd sleep with you again if given the opportunity? Yeah, whatever. Liar.
"Oh, Wil, I don't know. I mean, it's Xander."
"Friends make the best lovers."
"What, are you miss matchmaker all the sudden?"
The conversation came to a stop. "He's being awfully quiet out there. You don't think he can hear us, do you?"
My eyes bugged and I made a dive for my shoes. I heard the door open while I was on my hands and knees. When I turned my head I saw Willow's eyes dart away from my butt with a sly grin on her face. Dammit! I thought she was gay!
"So, you think you might be able to go on a clothes run for me, Willow?"
The only thing she wound up buying was a larger sports bra for Buffy. Her normal sweats worked around the sudden increase in size, and it was okay for girls to pull up their bottoms so that a lot of ankle and calf was showing. Her top was a little tight, but I wasn't complaining.
We were at the local IHOP, probably keeping them in business from the look at the stack of plates slowly building at the end of the table. Slayers eat a lot, but even Buffy was surprised at the amount that she was putting away. That didn't really include me. I'd was currently working on my third stack of pancakes, that didn't include the three egg omelet, sausage, bacon, corned beef hash, and the short stack that came with the meal, from before.
Whatever had happened to us wasn't quite finished with the noticeable changes.
"You're both kind of glowy on the magic scale."
"You mean our auras?" I asked through a mouthful of pancake with strawberry topping.
Willow shook her head. "I can't see auras, that was Tara's specialty. But with the right spell I can see active magic."
"Active?" asked Buffy with a tinge of dread.
Wil nodded. "Yeah, it's not done with you yet." Upon seeing the both of us stop our chewing she amended her statement. "But hey, so far it's not a bad thing right?"
She had to go and hex the moment. I was about to say, 'why no, it's not a bad thing to look in shape for the first time in five years'. That's when the cramping pain started all over my body.
"We gotta go."
"Xand?" Buffy was about to ask after my health. That was obvious. But that was before I knew she started to feel the exact same thing I was. "Oh yeah, we gotta go."
We left Willow behind as Buffy and I made our way across the street to the apartment. Climbing the stairs was probably the worst experience I'd ever had since having my eye gouged out by Caleb. I felt like the muscles in my thighs and calves were trying to explode out of my body. That doesn't include my back, neck, abdomen, chest, arms. Everything pulsed to the beat of my heart and cramped with every thump-thump.
I couldn't even work the key into the lock at the door, dropping them in pain when my fists clenched up. Willow finally caught up and scooped the keys up, and she almost had to carry us inside. Buffy and I staggered to the bed and dropped, a split second before passing out.
"They're starting to awaken."
That was Giles. I'd know his accent anywhere. Before opening my eye I took mental inventory of the aches and pains that I instinctively knew to expect. The only problem was that I didn't have any. Actually I felt great, So I went ahead and open my eye. I probably should have said eyes, as in plural, meaning more than one. "Holy Hannah-Barbera, I can see again."
Giles was hovering over me, looking concerned. "Xander, there have been some changes and I want you to ease into them slowly." I looked at him, with both of my eyes, mind you.
"Giles, right now I have depth perception again. I can deal with whatever else has changed." Along with ability to actually see in full 3-D came the a sharpening of my peripheral vision. What I'm getting at is that I could see my chest quite well. I glanced down and my eyes widened, a lot, at the changes that Giles had mentioned only seconds before.
I'd gotten bigger, a lot bigger. Gone was the trim swimmers body I'd had at breakfast and it's place was Rocky, or maybe the Terminator style pectorals. I raised up my arm. Muscles were on my muscles, all the way down to my overly large hands. And the damn bracelets were still there. When I reached to them to take the things off I realized that there wasn't any space between them and my skin, there wasn't a plastic clasp or a hinge on the opposite side, not to mention that they were now some type of metal, and quite real.
"That is something else that Willow nor I understand."
I was getting it now. It was Halloween, junior year, all over again, except this time there was no bust of Janus to destroy, and Buffy and I were the only ones affected, that I knew of.
"I'm Captain Mar-Vell."
"Are my boobs any bigger?" Buffy said from at my side.
We were both in bed again, and from the feel of the sheets on my body, very naked.
"No," answered Willow. "But the rest of you is."
"Excuse me Xander. Who is Captain Mar-… Vell, did you say?"
I nodded as I sat up. I kept hold of the sheet to protect my modesty, but I was able to see one of my legs as it escaped its cover. It was gigantic, and there wasn't an ounce of fat to hide the shear amount of muscle that I now showed.
"It was my costume. A comic book superhero."
Giles' eyes broke away from me and presumably went to my current bedmate. "And Buffy? Who was she dressed as?"
"Astounding. I hadn't realized that something like this was possible."
All 'wow, this is neat' talk left my head. I needed clothes. Another look at my body and I knew nothing in my closet was going to fit. "Where's my costume at?"
"Over here on the dresser," replied Willow.
I nodded. "It'll probably be the only thing that fits right now, could you…"
She nodded. "You want yours too, Buffy?"
I didn't hear a response, but Willow retrieved both and laid them on the bed.
"We'll let the two of you dress and wait for you in the sitting room," remarked Giles. "Come Willow. Let's let them reacquaint themselves with their…"
Once the door to the bedroom shut, I peered over my shoulder at Buffy, who was sitting in a mirror position to my own. "You okay?"
Her head bobbed a little. "You?"
"Very weirded out at the moment."
"Yeah, I'm getting that."
I reached for the bottoms of my costume, and the absurdity of the situation started to sink in.
"Xander, what are we going to do?"
I knew what she was asking, but I had no clue. The one thing I did know was that we needed to be grounded in reality. "We're going to get dressed and then talk to Willow. Hopefully this is the end of the changes."
Without a second thought I slid my legs into the red bottoms and pulled them up as I stood. The idea that Buffy might be watching me left my mind as I tried my best to push down my modesty. Luckily the cup, that was part of my costume was actually part of my costume. Something about a skin tight outfit didn't play well with modesty. There was some material at the waist that vee-shaped into something that looked like underwear on the outside. It was blue.
Without looking behind me I took the top and slipped it over my head. I didn't need the 'muscles' that came with the outfit this time. My new ones filled it out like it was specifically made for me. Sitting back down I slipped on the knee boots. The gloves, I left off, showing my forearms from just under my elbows. I also didn't bother with the facemask that would normally cover the upper half of my head, not counting my hair, which would hang loose.
When I was through, I stood once more and headed to the bathroom to take in what I could.
The change was dramatic. I wasn't the same person and yet I was. There was my face. It was pure, one hundred percent Xander. My hair was now blonde. The only changes above my neck were my now bright blue eyes. My jaw looked a little more squared out, but it was minimal. From the look of my torso and arms, I wasn't quite Terminator muscle-bound. It was more Rambo. At least I still had a neck. It was thicker now, but it didn't look like it was part of my shoulders in Schwarzenegger style.
I turned to look at the new Buffy. She was much taller this time, not too much shorter than me now. She'd filled out as well. Her height was almost all in her muscular legs. In simply terms she was jaw-dropping beautiful. However fan-boyish it would be, she wasn't a comic book style girl. More like a Olympic athlete, or an Amazon. Her breasts actually fit her body and weren't overly gigantic. I'm sure she'd be happy about that.
"Buff, you're gorgeous."
She looked down and I could see her face redden before she looked at herself in the mirror. "At least I fill out the outfit now." As an afterthought she added, "We've got to get some real clothes."
I joined her in the mirror. "There's no way I can buy off the rack now. This is going to get expensive."
"Giles and I control the purse strings now, Xander. We'll make sure we're covered."
When we made it to the living room, we found Willow in front of her laptop, zipping away at the Marvel Comics website. She had about a zillion tabs open at the same time, each with info about our counterparts in the fantasy universe of comics.
Giles was leaning over her shoulder and didn't hear us enter the room.
"What puzzles me the most is why Buffy and Xander were singled out amongst all of us. Was it specifically because of their choice in costumes?"
"We bought…" I didn't even get that out before Giles jumped erect, startled out of his thoughts. "Sorry, what I was about to say was that Buff and I bought these at different stores."
Willow swiveled around in her chair and her eyes bugged. "Whoa."
Her eyes roved over me and then over Buffy, where she paused and maybe drooled for a moment or two. Giles broke the silence. "Yes, well, I suppose that rules out the retail segment of the mystery."
Leave it to Buffy to cut to the more important issues of the day. "Giles, we need clothes. We can't go around looking like this all the time."
"Quite. I suppose I could take your new measurements and purchase you something suitable for you to do your own shopping."
Buffy nodded. "Sounds good."
Once Giles left, Willow got down to business. "I've been doing research on you guys, or your costume characters, I mean."
"I know all about them Willow. Was there anything useful about reversing the effects?"
"Oh." She pouted for a moment. "We don't know how it happened. It was definitely magical, but it wasn't a type of magic that I'm familiar with."
"Sooo," urged Buffy.
"So, until I know more I don't want to try to reverse the change. It could do more harm than good." She spun half-way back to the computer. That's why I was researching Mar-Vell and Ms. Marvel. I was looking to see if there were any similarities."
"We're not married or anything," said Buffy, a little too quickly for my ego to handle at the moment.
Willow smiled. "No, but you were lovers, or your characters were. There was an accident at NASA where both of you…" She looked flustered. "When I say you from now on, I mean your characters, okay? This is getting confusing, especially with both of you looking so much like them."
"I need to sit down," replied Buffy. She looked tired, but not in the physical sense.
"Anyway, the both of you worked at NASA. Mar-Vell was an alien spy sent to Earth to evaluate our space program. Carol Danvers, you Buffy, were a spy sent to capture the alien. You became lovers--"
When Willow said that I saw Buffy look up at me with mild confusion in her eyes.
"-- Later there was an accident, an explosion of a Kree Psyche-Magneton device. You two were caught up in it and it transferred some of his DNA with yours. Poof, you have super powers."
"So she's an alien too?" asked Buffy
Willow shrugged. "Sort of. She's kind of like a hybrid, Kree and Human."
"And Kree is the alien?"
"Right. I'm an alien now. Great."
Willow saw the effect her revelation had on her best friend. "We don't know that for sure. It might just be the body, that doesn't mean anything. You both look perfectly human to me."
I glanced down at the bracelets on my wrist and had a bad feeling. Closing my eyes for a second, I concentrated on what I knew about my character's powers.
My eyes snapped open and I was rewarded with my left hand, up through where the bracelets rested on my arm, engulfed in a bright yellow/gold glow. By relaxing my concentration the glow disappeared.
Willow's mouth was working, but nothing was coming out. "How… you…"
"It's the whole package, Wil."
Buffy looked on in morbid fascination. "I think I'm going to throw up." I looked at her to see if she was serious, and then knew for a fact that she wasn't. She was stunned, and most probably slightly nauseated at the implications of having true superpowers, beyond anything she thought possible, even with the existence of magic. "Is that going to happen to me?"
I shook my head. "I don't think so. This is one of Captain Mar-Vell's powers. Ms. Marvel's were different."
Three sharp raps at the door jogged us all out of our musings.
Willow looked worried. "That's not Giles' knock."
Buffy was to her feet in half a second. "Xander, are you expecting anyone?"
I looked at the door and thought about the possibilities, before I knew it I was deluged with hundreds of different scenarios playing on the screen of my mind. I stumbled backward in shock. "Whoa! What the hell was that?"An example of the awareness that you have been gifted Xander Harris. May I enter?
The voice inside my head was coming from whoever was outside the door. "Did you guys hear that?"
"I did." I looked at Buffy and watched as her look drifted to the door.
It was broad daylight and I knew it couldn't be a vampire, but just in case, "If you can enter without an invitation."
The door didn't open. Instead, a woman walked straight through it like she was a ghost, but just as real as any of us.
"I do not need an invitation, however it is only polite to ask admittance before entering someone's home, is it not?"
It was the lady from last night, the twenty-something brunette, except something told me she was neither in her twenties or brunette.
Willow had her hand up in a familiar gesture. She'd shield us with her magic if need be. In any case, Buffy took the lead. The girl made no threatening gestures, holding her hands together in front of her.
"You were the gate-crasher from last night."
"I am Epoch."
"Wait," I asked. "Why is that name familiar?"
Willow took her cue. "She was a part of Captain Mar-Vell's biography. She's supposed to be charged with protecting the life energy of the universe or something."
Epoch nodded solemnly in agreement. "The Celestial Axis, correct."
I moved over to the pass-through bar to the kitchen where I had two barstools that were rarely used, and sat down. I remembered now. Epoch was the daughter of Eon, the Cosmic Being that gave Captain Mar-Vell his marching orders, or more to the point made him Protector of the Universe.
"Nothing so grand this time, Xander Harris."
I shook off my lightheadedness. "Would you stay out of my mind." Considering how powerful this being was I thought it best to add on an amendment. "Please."
She nodded again. "As you wish."
"You did this to us?" Buffy said with just a tad bit of anger. Hey, for Buffy, I thought she restrained herself pretty well. She must have understood the gravity of the situation.
"I have need of your services, and your previous incarnations were inadequate."
"Did you maybe think of asking us if we wanted to service you… I mean."
"I know what you mean Buffy Summers. Did you wish me to ask permission to perform a duty that you have already undertaken?"
Buffy was spinning her wheels, so I stepped in, figuratively. "So, I'm not Protector of the Universe? What exactly…" I couldn't even ask properly.
Epoch's attention was solely on me for this next part. "There are many life forms in this universe, Xander Harris. It is inefficient to rest the burden upon one a single entity's shoulders. You are responsible only for your home system, the same as other Protectors. You might be called upon to aide your counterparts in other systems, but those times are very few."
"What about me, I'm the Slayer." Good point.
"No longer. You were one of many. Now you are more."
I think Willow was feeling left out of the conversation. "Buffy's the Slayer. She has responsibilities. I made… we made others so that she wouldn't have to do it all by herself."
Epoch smiled, ever so slightly. If I hadn't seen her stone, emotionless face only moments before, then I would never have guessed she her face had changed. "Did you think that you were actually powerful enough to awaken all of the Slayer line. Does your vanity run that deep Willow Rosenberg?"
Before Buffy or I could come to our friend's defense Epoch continued.
"There are higher powers than any of you in play here on Earth. I have negotiated for your release from your duty in order to service my needs. In return I interceded on the day in question and provided you with the means to activate the remaining Slayers. If I did not, then all of you would be dead within minutes of your failure."
Again hundreds of images flashed across my mind of the last day in Sunnydale. All of them resulted in our deaths except for three, two of which where only a few survived, and only one where the majority of us survived.
"You see the possibilities, Xander Harris."
I reluctantly nodded. "Why the two of us?"
She seemed pleased with the question. "The problems my counterparts experienced in other realities were not keeping in mind the human aspect of the equation."
"Other realities?" asked Buffy.
"Yes, Buffy Summer. I use this term so that you may easier understand a very complex topic. In, for instance, a reality where you were not called to be the Slayer, you would have died at the hands of a new born vampire by the name of Pike, long ago. The Earth in that reality was eventually overrun by demons and is today, literally Hell on Earth."
"One thing that all of the other realities Protectors have in common is that they are alone in their duty. They have no mate, or none that can survive for any decent period of time."
Oh mighty Isis, I could see where she was going with this, already.
Buffy's eyes were fluttering in disbelief. "You made me his mate! Are you insane as well as megalomaniacal?"
"Good word." Willow was easily impressed sometimes.
"On the contrary, Buffy Summers. You are his equal and the only other person who would not abuse the powers you have been gifted. Whether or not you become mates is your choice."
I could see Willow wasn't happy with that answer, but understood the meaning. Even with her witchy powers she went out of control at one time.
"So what you're saying is, 'here's some powers' go fight injustice whether you want to or not?"
Even Epoch seemed to have limits to the amount of sarcasm she was willing to take. She closed her eyes and then opened them, her attention drawn back to Xander. "At this moment there are people in this world that are awakening to their own powers. Some were bestowed upon them by my enemies, while others are due to the natural progression of evolution or innovation. It will be your duty to preserve life."
Something that I wasn't against persé, but people normally liked to be asked before being involved in life changing alterations. "And if we decide to sit this one out?" I stood and strode a couple of steps toward her. "Not that I wouldn't help preserve life. You know that; that's why you chose us, because we wouldn't refuse. But there's this little thing on Earth we call Free Will. We choose our own destiny."
Epoch sagely nodded. "It is still your choice Xander Harris. You may go about your lives and let the innocent die, or you can choose to make a difference."
"I have a feeling that arguing with you is going to be a useless effort."
There was that little twitch of lip again. "You would be correct, Xander Harris. I know all that was, all that is, and all that could be. At this point in existence, the most positive outcome for preserving life falls in your hands as well as yours, Buffy Summers. All other possible outcomes are much like the one I described to you earlier. Would you have rather died in the hands of the vampire Pike, letting the world turn into Hell, or chosen to be the Slayer?"
Buffy turned away and frowned.
"And you," she said, focus on me. "Since you have taken up the charge of helping your friends, you have wished nothing more than to aide in a tangible way. Now is your chance."
I'd already made my decision. She was right, in that aspect. I wanted powers of some sort; now I had them. "If I remember right, Ms. Marvel isn't my equal." Might as well get some sort of power up for Buffy if it was possible.
Epoch's eyes fell to the gold-colored bracelets on my wrists. "You have the ability to duplicate your Nega-Bands, once. They will balance your power with one other."
"And if I chose to maybe share this with Willow?"
"I envision seventeen possible outcomes, all ending with you killing her within three to nine months. She may aide you, but may not share in your power. For the most positive outcomes, you must only share them with Buffy Summers."
Looking at Willow, I saw the horror on her face at the possibility of me ending her life. Truly, I didn't know what to say that wouldn't sound condescending. I really was trying to not say stupid things anymore.
"I must go, this pseudo-pod has duties in other sectors. You have made your decisions."
With that announcement she faded from view until only Willow, Buffy, and I were alone in the living room of my apartment.
After printing out the most pertinent information, Willow left to go do some research on Epoch. I wasn't really confidant that she would find anything worthwhile, considering that she was suppose to be a fictional character in a comic book universe. However, it kept her busy and created the illusion that she was doing something useful.
Giles dropped off a set of clothes for us and listened while we gave him the lowdown about our new 'destiny'. To say the old Watcher was not pleased would be somewhat of an understatement. The good thing was that he had to oversee some of the planning for the new Slayer's Council, so he was out of there in under an hour, which left us alone for the first time since the morning.
"Brain fried yet?"
After Buffy had changed into her street clothes, she'd spent a lot of time sitting on the couch, staring off into space. I kind of know what she was feeling.
Whether we wanted to or not, we were now the official guardians of our star system. Yeah, we had the option of ignoring everything, but like Epoch said, if we chose to do that then… Hell. It wasn't really much of an option. It made me appreciate what Buffy went through for the last eight years. The weight that had been placed on our shoulders was enormous.
"Want to go grab something to eat? Lunch time and all."
Her eyes focused on me as she realized what I was saying. "I'm not really hungry."
I nodded. "Yeah, I get that. It's part of the new power-up."
Buffy cocked her head at me, in question.
"We don't really need to eat or drink anymore… or sleep."
"What?" My, wasn't she full of snappy comebacks.
"I went through what Willow printed out for us, just to refresh my memory. That's one of the perks, or drawbacks, considering on how you look at it. I mean we 'can' eat and drink, whatever, but we really don't have to."
She blinked at me.
"Plus, here's one I think you're going to like." She watched me as I closed my eyes and concentrated. I felt a shift of fabric on my body and heard her gasp.
When I opened my eyes, the outfit that Giles had bought me was gone and in its place was my blue and red Captain Mar-Vell uniform, fully fitted with gloves and facemask in place. "Neat huh?"
She jumped up off the couch. "How did you do that, and the more important question, does it only work on the one outfit?"
I shrugged my shoulders. "I don't know. I just concentrated on what I wanted to wear and poof."
Buffy lifted one of her eyebrows at me. "Change into jeans and a red tee-shirt. Oh, and a pair of Doc Martins. Make it fit well, no baggy stuff."
This time it was me that raised an eyebrow, but she urged me on, so I closed my eyes and gave it a shot. The fabric moving feeling washed over me again and when I opened my eyes she was smiling at me.
"That is so cool!" She looked down to my coffee table then around the room with mild frustration.
"What are you looking for?"
She gave up and sighed. "I'm in a boy's apartment. Of course you aren't going to have the latest issue of Cosmo or Elle." She grabbed my arm. "Come on, we have to get to a convenience store." I barely had a chance to grab my wallet. "Do you realize how much money I'm going to save in clothes? And I'll have the latest fashions to boot."
Now she's excited, I thought blandly thought to myself.
We went ahead and stopped for something to eat. It gave me something to do while Buffy was perusing seven different magazines for something perfect to wear. I was kind of wary when I saw that she had gotten an issue of GQ as well and insisted that I flip through it. It did have a pretty nice article on the latest gaming platform. Hey, if I'm going to be saving so much money, I'll need something to spend it on.
After an hour of hearing little girl squeals of 'aww', 'that is so cute', and 'that one, definitely', she made her choices and we got to leave.
We made a quick stop in a blind ally while she 'changed clothes'.
"This is so cool."
The first outfit wasn't to her liking so much. With the new tall and muscular Amazon body, her style had to change from cute to wow-that-chick-is-hot. However, she had planned for this already.
"How do I look?"
The high-heeled leather knee boots brought her up my height, exactly.
"I… uh… you look…"
Buffy's face broke out into a wide smile, which just made things a whole lot more uncomfortable for me, if you know what I mean. Gone was the moody, the world hangs on my next decision, constantly worried Buffy and in her place was someone that I had forgotten all about. It was the girl I first met in my sophomore year in high school: happy, somewhat vain, perky Buffy.
I didn't realize how much I had missed her. What I did miss was the queasy feeling that she always had on me. You know what I'm talking about, right? The feeling you get when the girl of your dreams just walked into your life and you might hurl if you tripped or did something incredibly stupid in front of her.
There was no way that I was crushing over one of my best friends again. That was seven years ago, four of which I was completely over her.
Her smiled brightened even more. "I guess that's a 'you look very nice, Buffy' look."
Oops. "Oh, yeah… nice. Very nice." I am so screwed.
Walking the streets in New York City isn't very wise if you aren't familiar with the goings-on. Whenever I was with Buffy I always felt safe, because she's the Slayer and all. People pretty much learned to stay out of her way if they didn't want their butts handed to them. Now, I felt pretty confident. I had no desire to test out whether or not I was bullet proof like in the comics, but the underlying unease that I always had was gone.
In other words I was having the time of my life walking down the street with Buffy's hand tucked neatly on my bicep. My bulging bicep, don't forget.
People gave us the right of way. Guys stared at her and strangely enough a few of them were staring at me, appreciatively. That hasn't happened in quite a few years. Now the girls on the other hand… they were staring at Buffy too, which was annoying. Maybe it was because they were jealous that she had me and they didn't. Yeah, I could live with that. They were jealous because I was unavailable.
"Xander, could you quit biting your lower lip and bobbing your head?"
She smiled over at me. "It's okay. This is kinda different for you, isn't it?"
I nodded. "I don't think people have ever looked at me like this before."
"They have. You just never noticed her until you and Cordelia dated for a while. But now you're all lickable and… uh, I mean…"
I jolted to a stop. "I'm… lickable?"
Buffy looked to the side, and I could see her face was starting to heat up. She took a slight breath. "Well, yeah."
About four thousand different jokes, come on lines, and remarks came to mind, but all that fell from my mouth was, "Thanks."
She rolled her eyes and grinned before pulling me along. "Come on Captain Universe, lets go."
"That's Captain Mar-Vell."
The greatest day of my life couldn't hold out for long. I mean Buffy finally saw me as something other than her goofy friend that brought the do-nuts and used his face to smack around the bad guys' fists now and again. I was on her radar, bleeping away, and someone had to go and start a high speed chase through the streets of New York.
Weren't the police not supposed to do that sort of thing anymore?
The squeal of tires rent the air as the black Hummer whipped around the corner and up on the sidewalk, narrowly missing a couple of suits out and about. Buffy frowned.
"They had to go and screw up a perfectly good day."
I nodded. "My thoughts exactly." With a quick check around I pointed off to the side. "Look, dumpster."
We ran around the back and made sure we weren't been watched.
"Are you sure this is what we are supposed to do?" she asked with regret sounding in her voice.
I nodded. "We fight crime now." I closed my eyes and a couple of seconds later Captain Mar-Vell was suited up and ready to rock and roll. Ms. Marvel was standing in front of me with her domino mask on. I could clearly see that it was still Buffy, but then again I knew what she looked like without it.
"I don't really think this outfit is something a real superhero would wear to fight crime."
I smiled at her, somewhat goofily, I'm sure. "I think it's great. They'll be so stunned by looking at you that they'll probably just give up right there."
Her hands found her hips and she scowled at me. "What do we do? Just run them down? Do we have super speed or something?"
"Better." I looked up in the air. "Just concentrate on where they are at and follow me."
"Oh no. You're kidding, right?"
I squatted down, ever so slightly and then leaped into the air. I could still hear her ten feet below me. "You're not kidding."
Rising up about ten stories, I got a really good view of the Hummer taking a left about two blocks down, onto a one way street going the wrong way. Uh oh.
Not knowing the full extent of my speed, which I knew to be considerable I only poured on a little juice. Screams from below let me know that I had been spotted by the general public. Well, it had to happen sometime. That's why I had the mask.
"Okay, I take it back. This is really cool."
I looked to my left and saw Buffy, or Ms. Marvel rather with her hair being swept back. God she was beautiful.
She smiled at me. "Eyes on the prize. Fun time for later."
I blinked as she overtook me and whipped around the corner. Fun time? Oh hell yeah! These guys are going down, like right now.
Throwing all caution to the wind, literally, I followed and then arced up at an angle, climbing another thirty feet. At the apex of my arc I stalled and watched as Buffy was closing in on the Hummer. Pouring on the speed, much faster than I had gone before, I made a ballistic line straight for the front of the vehicle.
The pressure I forced on the front end pushed the Hummer directly into the pavement forcing it to an almost dead stop, The back end lifted off the ground and before I made a move to stop the Hummer from flipping, Buffy lifted it up, completely off the ground about ten feet in the air.
From my angle I could see that only the driver believed in seat belts; everyone else was flat against the windshield. I lifted up in the air and spiraled around. To see Buffy holding the giant SUV by one of the axles.
I gave her a thumbs up. "You good there… Ms. Marvel?"
She grinned back at me. "Peachy, Captain Mar-Vell. I could do this all day. Well, not all day. It would get kind of boring after awhile."
I looked at the muscles of her arms. They weren't straining at all, but I could see them. Not like in a weightlifting competition where the girls don't have an ounce of fat on them and looked all veiny. This was sleek musculature that was well defined down her back to the exposed half cheeks of her butt. Down her…
A crowd started gathering below, and I thought it was probably unwise to have our first exposure to the world with me sporting a superhero woody.
While zipping back around, I noticed the cops had arrived and were getting out of their cars. Their hands were hovering over their service weapons. I could see the indecision and shock on their faces as they pondered whether or not they had sufficient cause to draw them.
After holding up a 'wait a minute' finger I moved up to the windshield of the Hummer and knocked. "Hello in there."
I'd definitely had the attention of the driver and one of the guys with his face forced upon the safety glass. "Ready to give up guys?"
I guess Buffy heard me and she gave the SUV a couple of good shakes for inspiration. The driver went wide-eyed and nodded his head. "Get us down. We give up!"
I added one more joiner to the mix. "Promise not to give the police a hard time and to admit to your crimes?"
This time he was kind of reluctant, so Buffy shook the SUV again. How she knew he didn't immediately say yes, I have no idea. Maybe she was just having fun toting a three thousand pound vehicle in mid-air.
"Yes, yes, we promise."
I waved a single finger at them. "Uh-un-uh, I need promises from everyone. Well the conscious ones anyway."
They joined the chorus with affirmations of their own.
I nodded. "Great! Now we're going to set you guys down. If you have any weapons, hold them out the windows by the barrels. If anyone tries anything, well you'll get to take a nice trip waaayyyy in the sky."
The crowds got larger and larger as Buffy and I talked to the local police. The authorities and the camera crews that were hanging mere feet behind them were able to get our superhero names, that we saw the vehicle fleeing the police and that we intervened in our special way. I was beginning to see why the comics always had them flying away after saving people or performing an act of weirdness.
Everyone wanted a piece of us.
"We have to go now. You'll see us around."
By the time we took to the air, no less than five camera crews had us in their sights, which included all four of the major networks. Yeah, we'll be on the news all across the world.
We couldn't just duck around the corner to change back into our civilian clothes. Unlike the comic book world, today's modern society had cameras everywhere, including the sky. We could be sure that they, whoever they were, were tracking us as best they could.
"Where are we going now?" asked Buffy, high over the tallest skyscraper.
I pointed up. "Eye in the sky. We need to find somewhere where we won't be spotted changing back."
She pouted for a moment. "Do we have to change back right now?"
That brought a rueful grin from me. "What do you want to do?"
We both slowed and came to a slow hover in mid-air.
"We could go sight seeing. I've never been out of the U.S. before."
I thought about it for a few seconds. "Well we don't want to look like we only stay in New York." A thought came to me. "I have an idea if you're willing."
Her eyes lit up. "What?"
"It means you'll have to take a copy of my Nega-bands."
Buffy looked at me, trying to figure out what I was leading to. She nodded and held out her arms. I grasped her forearms and concentrated on willing duplicates to her wrists. This time I didn't close my eyes since I was starting to get a good feel about how they worked.
Our wrists glowed and I could see a ghost image slide down from my bands to her wrists and then solidify with a smaller version for her smaller arms.
"You're going to be able to go a heck of a lot faster now, so watch yourself. If we get separated just think about me or New York and follow your instincts. Remember, you're safe. You don't even have to breathe if you don't want to."
"What have you got planned, Xander?"
I took her hand ascended into the sky, higher than anyone had ever been without a spacesuit to protect them.
~O~It's beautiful, Xander. You really know how to show a girl a good time.
The one drawback of going into outer space was that there was no air to allow sound waves to travel back and forth, so no talking. But we managed a way.
From our position on the Moon, we stared at our home, the small blue and white marble in the distance. Buffy's back was pressed against my front as I lightly held her in my arms. Only the best for you, Buff. You deserve a good time after all of these years.
Her hands gripped the tops of mine and then I felt her fingers slip together. I'm not scared anymore.
You were scared before?
She nodded, slightly. It was just me. None of the other Slayers counted, seeing as how they are girls and I'm straight. Now I'm not alone and I know you'll be able to take care of yourself.
I licked my lips in nervous anticipation of my next question. Are you saying what I think you're saying?
Buffy had the advantage of not looking at me when she answered. We're best friends, Xander. Are you up to seeing if we could be more?
Again, I could think of a few smart remarks about being 'up', but I kept my mouth shut, figuratively speaking. There was something that I wanted to know, though. Why now? Is it because I'm all bulked out and hero-worthy now?
It was like she was expecting my question. I won't lie. That's part of the reason. You are definitely more attractive, but then again so am I. I don't have the Slayer thing hovering over my head now. We both have the same mission, the same powers. We're equals. I've never had that with anyone, ever. It's very… tempting.
Before I said anything in response she added, You don't really know what it's like to be so alone in the word Xander. I tried to make due with Angel, Riley, and the few flings in between, but it was never as right as it feels right now. Maybe Epoch had the right idea. Her delivery sucks, but the idea has potential.
She turned in my arms and looked up at me. I'm not saying let's get married or anything. I just thought we'd try dating or maybe…
Her smile finished that particular sentence.
I was definitely up for a little 'maybe'. So I gave her my answer with a kiss.