"The shed was a great idea," Xander told the Mayor as penguins were wrangled in the background.
"I'd have to say so," Mayor Wilkins agreed with a smile. "I doubt you'd have managed more than a penguin or two otherwise. Now, did you feel any different when you arrived? Headache, dizziness, light headed?"
"No, sir, "Xander replied, "I was bright eyed and bushy tailed as always."
"Excellent," the Mayor said. "Would you like to try with something heavier next time?"
"Should we try with a larger shed or just pack the shed with more weight?" Willow asked. "You could attach a porta potty to the side of it and install furniture in the shed."
"That would test his limits while providing more safety and comfort," the Mayor said with a smile. "I'll have them fix it up for your next jump. Of course since the three of you jumped this time, we'll need the three of you to jump next time as well to minimize variables. That is, if you don't mind, Miss Rosenberg?"
Willow turned to wordlessly ask Buffy's permission.
"For science," Buffy said with a grin.
"I'd love to," Willow said eagerly.
"No one's going to ask my opinion?" Xander teased.
"Son," the Mayor said in a chiding tone with a touch of disapproval.
"Willow knows I'm just teasing her," Xander quickly said.
The Mayor considered that for a moment and nodded. He smiled and stepped over to talk to the Assistant Mayor who'd been trying to get his attention.
"Did he just speak a variant of Dude?" Buffy asked in disbelief.
"Where do you think we got the idea?" Xander asked with a grin.
"He has an endless variety of ways to say 'son' and make it understandable what he means," Willow explained.
"I think my mom does something similar with my name," Buffy said thoughtfully.
"So," Willow said, turning to Xander, "you were going to tease me?"
"Yes," Xander agreed with a grin, "I was going to tease you until you gave in and satisfied my… unnatural urges!"
"Unnatural urges?" Buffy asked, wide eyed.
Willow rolled her eyes. "He means I'd use the snack machine and ply him with something of the Hostess variety."
"Oh," Buffy said, relieved, "I was way off."
"What were you thinking?" Xander asked curiously.
"Anal," Buffy replied, blushing as she realized she'd said it out loud.
"Huh," Xander said with a thoughtful look on his face.
"Dude," Willow said in a serious tone.
"That's fair," Xander said cheerfully.
"I didn't catch that," Buffy admitted.
"Only guys who are tiny get anal and I'm just going to have to be satisfied with a fruit pie," he replied.
"No arguments there," Buffy said before quickly changing the subject, "So, who here wants to take a long hot bath?"
"I do," Xander and Willow chorused.
"Good cause we are all a little wiffy," Buffy said.
"Yes, you are," Joyce agreed, starling the three as she'd arrived unnoticed while they were distracted. "How was your trip?"
"Beautiful but cold," Buffy said.
"It's too easy to get lost or separated in the snow, so we spent most of our time inside the shack," Xander explained.
"We finished all of next week's homework," Willow said cheerfully.
"How did you get so many penguins?" Joyce asked, curious about how the collected an entire flock of them while staying indoors most of the time.
"Something was chasing them," Buffy replied, "so it was easy to funnel them into the shed. Xander used an air horn a couple of times to make sure whatever it was ran off and we just shut the doors and waited for the time to run out."
"They didn't peck or claw?" Joyce asked.
"No, they just huddled together," Buffy said with a shrug.
"I was sure we had another couple of hours, but hoped it was less, since I didn't want to be stuck in a shed with a floor covered in penguin poop and lucky enough half an hour later I could feel the time to jump approaching, so we held hands in case the shed didn't come back with us and bam, here we are."
"Desperately in need of a bath," Willow added.
"I am going to turn the jets to max and soak in the hot tub until my fingers are all pruny," Xander said.
"You have a hot tub?" Buffy asked hopefully.
"Kinda sorta," Xander said. "What I have is the keys to a local spa."
"You have a membership?" Buffy guessed.
"I don't think it actually has any members; it's never open when people can use it," Willow replied. "I think the owner is using it to lose money for tax purposes."
"So… it's open from one am to five or something?" Buffy asked.
"Yeppers," Xander said. "Staff come in to clean it at night, but the Mayor called in a favor and got me a set of keys with the sole provision of never staying past opening so I don't bug the employees."
"He really looks out for you," Joyce said, surprised.
"Xander needs a lot of looking after," Willow said firmly. "I've submitted plans to form a new branch of the city government dedicated to just that purpose, but the Mayor said that between me and him we should be able to cover it."
"Hey!" Xander complained as they all burst out laughing.
"But seriously," Willow said, "the Mayor does a lot for Xander, because Xander does a lot for the city and since they are keeping this secret he has to find non-monetary ways to make it up to him."
"I get plenty of money," Xander argued, "I have a weekly allowance that Cordelia is jealous of and my parents got well paying jobs that have really changed them for the better. I think we both know the Mayor had a big hand in that."
"And he thinks you deserve more," Willow said with a smile.
"He's a really great guy," Xander said. "The city is making a lot of money with our conservation efforts and he's shown me exactly where it's going. All of our schools are fully funded and both the orphanage and old folk's home lack for nothing."
"That's impressive," Joyce said, honestly impressed.
"Those are the three places that can least afford budget cuts and the three that most often get them," Xander said. "Thanks to the Mayor that isn't happening here."
"All thanks to you," Willow said, poking him in the side.
"Partly," Xander admitted, "but the Mayor is the one who figured out how to take my little problem and turn it into a boon for the city and myself."
"I like this town more and more," Buffy said. "Now, those hot tubs… can they seat three?"
"Yes, yes they can," Xander agreed.
"Mom-" Buffy began.
"Nope," Joyce cut her daughter off, making her pout. "If you want to go you'll have to walk."
"But I can go?" Buffy asked, surprised.
"Yes, just be back before the spa opens," Joyce told her.
"And why can't we get a ride?" Buffy asked curiously, figuring out that was what her mother was vetoing.
"Because I'd never get the scent of sex and penguins out of the car," Joyce said, "and I never in my life thought I'd be saying that sentence."
"That's fair," Buffy said quickly as Xander bit his lip to keep from laughing and Willow covered her mouth with her hands to muffle her own laughter.
Ten Minutes Later
Faith paused as three teens passed her. "What is that smell?" she muttered.
"Sex and penguins," Xander replied.
"Xander!" Willow complained, smacking him in the shoulder.
"Sorry," he apologized as the blonde giggled and the three turned down an alley.
"Talk about freaks," Faith said, shaking her head. "Penguins? How would that even work? Nah, they got be fuckin' with me."
A flatbed truck stopped at the stop light as Faith waited for the crosswalk and her eyes were drawn to the squawking of the many penguins in cages on the back.
"I think… I'll start training early tonight," Faith said, not wanting to think about whatever degeneracy the three teens had gotten up to. "This is one fucked up town."
Giles smiled on seeing Miss Rosenberg arrive at the library. Miss Calendar… Jenny, had informed him of what he'd missed from staff orientation and the entire thing was fascinating!
"Giles," Willow greeted the Watcher with a smile, "I finished reading the Pendex Codex this morning. I would have finished it sooner, but… I kinda jumped worlds and forgot."
"I saw," Giles said. "Would you mind talking with me about it?"
"The jump, or…" Willow blushed.
"The jump," Giles quickly said. "I have absolutely no interest in learning about the love lives of American teens."
Willow nodded, hiding a slight trace of disappointment, as she wished she had someone older and wiser to talk about these things with. "What do you know?"
"Well, Mr. Harris has been 'jumping' into another world or worlds that seem to be uninhabited, since he turned twelve. The timing is a bit inexact, but occur once a week reappearing exactly twenty four hours later," Giles finished.
"That's pretty accurate," Willow said. "Of course there's more to it. Xander jumps to the same world every time from what we're able to tell, the stars are all the same as is the ultraviolet scatter in the ionosphere, which is a dead giveaway."
"Quite," Giles agreed, a little too proud to expose his ignorance in such matters.
"From everything we've been able to tell it is simply an Earth where humans never evolved," Willow said, "in fact, Xander has yet to find any primates. He's there for around three days, sometimes a couple of hours more or a couple of hours less. Thankfully he usually gets a feeling for when he's going to jump so people don't accidentally get left behind… Unless of course they are idiots and refuse to hold onto him."
"There's a three to one time gradient?" Giles asked.
"Roughly," Willow agreed, "There has to be some variable that causes the slight fluctuation, but we haven't been able to nail it down."
Giles nodded slowly. "Perhaps some time is lost in transit?"
"It seems instantaneous to him and anyone traveling with him," Willow offered with a shrug.
"It could be a curse or a hereditary trait," Giles said thoughtfully. "Do you think he'd mind if I ran some tests?"
"He'd be glad to," Willow assured Giles, "as long as they are private tests and you don't tell anyone. We're trying to keep any groups that might want to kidnap him from finding out about the whole jumping thing."
"I'll be discrete," Giles promised.
"You don't have to report it to the Watchers or anything?" Willow asked hopefully.
"No," Giles said with a smile, "as it's not inherently hostile and I'm not an active field Watcher at this time I am not duty bound to report it unless an active Watcher arrives and then I only need to inform them it's a harmless local phenomenon they need not concern themselves with."
"That's a relief," Willow said. "Xander was curious if you could help, but the whole Watcher thing made us kinda nervous about asking."
"Understandably," Giles agreed. "The first test is a very simple spell that will tell us if he has any non-human ancestry."
"Like demons?" Willow asked.
"Or the opposite," Giles agreed. "The fact that this talent manifested around puberty makes me lean towards it being a matter of lineage rather than him coming into contact with an unusual item."
"How… invasive is the spell?" Willow asked, fumbling for the right word.
"In terms of information the answer is very, in terms of physical integrity, minimal," Giles replied. "It requires a single drop of blood and holding a crystal ball while standing in a circle for five minutes."
"Can we do it here or do we need to go someplace else?" Willow asked.
"It'll probably be best to handle it at my place," Giles admitted. "I've already transferred the bulk of my magical resources there and have a circle prepared. Would he be available around seven o'clock tonight?"
"I'll check, but that shouldn't be a problem," Willow said, excited at the prospect of witnessing actual magic being performed and possibly finding a way to help her… Xander.
She still wasn't quite sure what their relationship was, as they'd certainly passed best friend and were really close to significant other, but then there was Buffy mixed in there and she'd passed best friend but significant other was a bit away… and it was all very confusing and she should probably sit them down and have a talk about it. At least that's what she'd do if she wasn't a big old scaredy cat.
"Here," Giles said, passing her a piece of paper with an address on it.
"Thanks," Willow said as she quickly replayed what he'd said while she was distracted. "We'll be there at seven or a little before as I hate being late."
"That will be fine," Giles assured her as the bell rang for the next class.
"If he could control it, it'd be awesome," Faith said. "He could look up exactly where they found the world's largest diamond and then go dig it up."
"Perhaps if it was close to the surface and human habitation hadn't shifted a waterway affecting where it actually lay," Giles agreed.
"Large gold strikes should still be in the same places," Faith pointed out, "at least enough of them to make you rich."
"Very true," Giles agreed, "but I have to admire him using it for conservation purposes."
"That is pretty awesome," Faith agreed as the doorbell rang.
"Please be on your best behavior," Giles said, "they may be a bit nervous, considering this will be their first exposure to magic."
"Will do," Faith agreed.
"Thank you," Giles said as they walked to the door and he pulled it open.
"The penguin fuckers!" Faith exclaimed in shock.
Giles took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. "It's like dealing with a female version of myself as a teen," he muttered.
Typing By: Abyssal Angel
TN: Xander called it a shack… There's a love shack joke coming, isn't there…