XTBH draft rev 3.5.1 FD

I'd put thoughts in italics, but that's really hard to do in plain text encoding. Assume any remarks ... are bold and any /.../ is italicized.

Xander woke with a violent start, going from sitting asleep to standing and awake in zero point three five seconds. "i dun wanna cookie, willow..." Well, alright, mostly awake. He then proceeds to waver on his feet, and then collapse to the ground with a surprisingly quiet clatter of steel and chain. Not very awake at all, was he? Damn.

"Xander? 'sat you?" A tired, slightly pained voice whispered.

"there is no xander...only Zuul..." Apparently awake enough, however.

A tired and, again, slightly pained giggle could be heard in the room. "Oh...owww..." Willow whispered. "Don't make me laugh...my head hurts."

"You alright Wills?" Xander moved to get up, bracing himself with one hand. He barely heard Willow's response ("no...") as light glinted off of the finely articulated metal gauntets he appeared to be wearing. His gaze followed the line of metal up, past his wrist, where it changed to fine chainmail. "Uhm...Willow? How much do you remember about last night?" He asked, trying to keep his voice as calm as possible as his gaze swept up his arm, and towards his chest...and towards two appendages he most definitely did not remember being there last time he looked in a mirror, and while there was nothing wrong with said appendages(as a matter of fact, he rather liked them), he certainly preferred those said appendages somewhere other than his chest. Like, say, Buffys chest. Mmm. Buffys chest.

"not much...vampires...pain. lots of pain. why?"

Xander dragged his thoughts off of Buffy's chest. This took rather a lot of work, but in the end he was successful. 'Mmm...Buffys chest...' Mostly. "Uh...no reason in particular... just...uhm...There was no kooky sex magic last night...was there?" Xanders brain snagged the kooky sex magic line, linked it to Buffys chest (Mmmm) and then tied that into Willow (who was pretty darn cute, even if she was his sorta-sister) which resulted in a extremely entertaining image for Xander, who began to feel extremely warm, and rather a lot like a wire that's being coiled too tight...and oddly a bit damp. He slapped himself across the face. (Don't think about my Wills like that, stupid perverted brain!) Unfortunately, he forgot he was wearing gauntlets. "Gaah! Oh, holy f that hurt like fing hell!" He swore. Loudly. With vigor, even.

Willow cringed at the sudden explosion of noise, and then cringed again as nausea roiled through her because of the cringe. She womanfully resisted the urge to cringe again at the cringe of the cringe. "not so loud, xander..." /wait./ Yes, she was even thinking quietly. /that wasn't xanders voice./ She cranked her eyelids open, slowly. /ack. suicidal bomber photons/ Managing to hold in the photon inspired whimper, she looked around the dimly lit room. She didn't see Xander anywhere. The only person in the room was some weird girl in medieval armor, nursing her jaw and swearing almost inaudibly. "you're not Xander. where is Xander?" The kooky sex magic thought fragment went wandering through her mind for a bit. It ran, as was usually inevitable in Willow's mind, into a thought fragment shaped a lot like Xander. This presented a series of new and entertaining thoughts, most of which ran into thoughts of 'new girl in funky armor who isn't Xander' which in turn presented Willows mind with a host of new images, most of which would be highly entertaining for the male audience, so it's really too bad none of them are going to be presented here. Willow slapped herself upside the head (metaphorically speaking)/get a hold of yourself, willow./

Xander turned around and looked at Willow. "What? What'd you say?" She looked pretty pale, and the white bandage wrapped around her head contrasted quite sharply (and badly) against her hair and skin. He slapped himself again. (mentally, this time) /Now is not the time for color coordination, brain./

"Where's Xander?" Willow asked again, a bit more forcefully.

"Huh?" Xander replied, intelligently. He stood up and moved towards the couch where she resided. "I'm right here, Willow."

She shrank back against the cushions. "You're not Xander," she said shakily, "Xander's a guy."

He looked down, attempting to see the rest of his body. Unfortunately, most of the view was blocked by his new appendages, even encased as they were by the cuirass he was wearing. /Well, at least it's not Dunlop Disease./ "I swear, Will, it is me. Your best bud, Xander."

Willow shrank back further into the couch, and Xander leaned over a little further, arms outstretched, eyes pleading, thus setting up for the best known cliche in hero circles: The Misunderstood First Meeting.

If we rewind just a tad, and move the microphone closer to the door, you would have heard two people walking up to the door, one male, apparently properly British; and the other female, apparently SoCal BottleBlonde through and through. Your first impressions are not...entirely...mistaken. Their conversation is innocent enough, something to do with donuts, their filling, the relative fat content therein, and the chances of it going straight to her hips or thighs. The older man pulls a key out of a pocket, and inserts it into the lock. Now...let us return to what is currently happening.

The apartment door to the side of them opens unnoticed, so intent are the two still in the apartment on their drama. The quiet "Oh dear lord..." goes unnoticed as well, however, Buffys contribution to the conversation is much, much, harder to miss. Seeing the armored girl apparently threatening her best (female) friend, Slayer instincts went into high gear. Hand to hand was contraindicated, as while bone against bone is unwise, bone against what was in all likelihood magically reinforced metal armor is just really dumb. So the Slayer grabbed (or, at least, attempted to grab) the most effective weapon closest to hand. As this was a British mans apartment, and she was close to the front door, the weapons closest to hand consisted of two umbrellas, a cane...and a long spear, leaning nicely against the wall. As the Slayer reached towards the weapon, sparks began to fly (literally) on the spears shaped handgrip. The Slayer dismissed it as irrelevant magical phenomena. Sparks began to jump back and forth between the weapon and the Slayer's hand. The Slayer ignored this, sublimely confident that the weapon would submit to the Slayer, because after all, she /is/ the Slayer. Shortly thereafter, the Slayer met the opposite wall at a high rate of speed, accompanied by a decently loud crack of displaced air, leaving a sizable impression (and, incidentally, winning a quick round of Stud Roulette). Needless to say, Buffy was not happy about this.

With a loud double crack of displaced air, Xander whirled, spear ready for chucking in one hand, to face the door. Willow eeped, and pressed back further into the couch. All you could see of her was a pair of wide eyes, a bit of white bandaging, and a shock of red hair.

"Crap! Buffy, are you alright!" Dropping the spear behind him as he moved, he ran to the door, where Giles was grabbing a cane out of the umbrella stand. He slid to a stop on his knees, beside Buffy, and was reaching toward her neck to check her pulse whilst ignoring a clattering noise behind him. He did not, however, ignore the very sharp blade which was suddenly resting across his throat. He froze. "Gi-"

"Stop." Giles said, voice as cold as ice. "Hands down."

He tried it again. "Gi-" and was cut off by the cold blade sliding against his throat just the tiniest amount.

"Do not speak." Giles said. "Now, without standing, back slowly away from the girl." Xander did as he was told, and slowly began sliding away from the girl, Giles at his back, sword at his throat. Thirty cautious seconds later, Xander was a good five feet from Buffy and edging further away every second. A low groan interrupted them. "That's far enough. Do not move again." Giles turns his head slightly to look at Buffy. "Are you alright, Slayer?" His voice is full of cool disdain, the perfect image of a Council Watcher.

"Mental note." Buffy groans. "Don't touch strange magical weapons. she shakes her head vigorously, trying to clear the cobwebs out. The only thing visibly accomplished is the tangling of her hair into an even more frazzled mass. "I'm good, Gi-"

"Slayer! No names. We still don't know who this is." Giles barked, cutting Buffy off at the pass, so to speak.

"Uh, yeah. Sorry, uh, Watcher."

"Now then." Giles continues.

"Uh..." This time Willow interrupts, timidly. Still from somewhere inside the couch. "She says her name is Xander. She doesn't look like Xander at all. Xander's cuter than she is." The person in question flushes, either in anger or embarrasment, as he tries to decide if that was a compliment or an insult. "i want my xander." Willow continues in a small tone.

"So." Giles looks around the room, to see if anyone else wants to interrupt. "Can you provide any proof that you are, in fact, Xander?"

"What's Xanders middle name?" Willow asks quietly.

"Intriguing question. I don't believe I've seen a middle name associated with Alex before."

"Does he even have a middle name? Buffy asks.

"It's Xander." He replies acerbicly. "And I'd rather die than tell you my middle name."

Giles glances over at Willow, who grins impudently at him, before wincing in pain and sinking back into the couch, apparently now fully relaxed in her presence. "Evidently very nearly proof enough. How about something else? Something that you've only told one person in this room?"

"Erm...do I have to?"

"Please."

"The only thing I can think of off of the top of my head was what I told you a few days ago in your office. I really don't want to have to say that again." Giles backs up slightly, allowing Xander to twist around and look at him. Her eyes widen slightly. "Oh, thank god, you're not hot anymore!"

"I say..." Giles lets the point of his zatoichi drop slightly, clearly taken aback by that last comment and unsure of how precisely to respond to it.

"Xander? Buffy asks, walking up close to the kneeling girl. "Is that really you?" She looks deeply into the girls eyes, searching their depths. "It is, isn't it?" She whispers.

"Yeah, it's me." He...excuse me, she looks down, at her chest. "Apparently with a slightly diferent options package now, but at least I get a consolation prize." She thumps her chest with one hand.

Giles walks back over to the entryway, and sheaths his zatoichi. "I am...terribly sorry, Xander. I had hoped I would find more information for you before...well, before anything happened." He starts polishing his glasses.

Xander stands up, and stretches. "Ooh, limber." She flushes slightly. "Er...it's all right, G-man. Did you find anything at all?"

Giles averts his eyes from Xander's general direction. One must not perv on one's students after all...especially when that student was male the day before. "I found a few things, unfortunately, most of the Council's information on this subject was lost when a, uh..." Giles walks over to the low table to check his notes. "A Takeuchi Naoko absconded with all of the research material. Shortly afterwards, she was too high profile to, ah, quietly but forcefully retrieve the material. Some silly cartoon show or other she wrote made her quite famous." Giles stopped speaking for a moment. He sighs, and turns once again to face Xander. "Bearing that in mind, I have found some information. It is somewhat apocryphal-"

He is interrupted as, almost in unison, Buffy and Xander palm their faces and say, "Oh, no...not another one..." Willow starts giggling...quietly.

Giles groans. "Apocryphal...not apocalyptic. The information is of dubious quality, has a suspect nature." Buffy shrugs. Xander smirks. "Who did I offend?" Giles asks rhetorically, looking at the ceiling. He looks down, at the ground. "Oh, that's right...Never mind." He looks back at Xander, takes his glasses off, and begins to polish them. "As I was saying, the information I've found is somewhat dubious in nature. Apparently,at some point between ten and a hundred millenia ago, some form of benevolent kingdom ruled the planets. The defenders of the kingdom were universally female, and were magically linked to something that provided them with, apparently, rather awe inspiring amounts of power." He sits down on the couch next to Willow, who had curled up and was listening to him intently. Picking up a book off of the table, he turns to a page and lays it, open, on the table. "This," he indicates the picture, "is a representation of what we believe their defenders to look like. It's based upon stone carvings found in the Bayankalah Mountains in the QingHai province in China. The carvings were guarded by a tribe of powerful female warriors, and are believed to be copys of older carvings, and they themselves are believed to be over two thousand years old. Now, if you'll..." Giles looks at the two girls standing across from him. They were leaning on each other, Buffy drooling slightly, and Xanders eyes were glazed over.

"You lost them at the Bayankala montains." Willow says.

"Ah. Would you be so kind...?" He asks.

"Certainly." Willow throws a pencil at Xander, striking her in the middle of the forehead, eraser first.

"The Pythagorean Theorem!" She jerks, eyes unglazing, and looks about. "Dirty pool, Willow." She mutters.

Buffy, jarred by her supports sudden removal, falls toward the ground but wakes and catches herself smoothly before hitting. "Wha?"

"You were drooling, Buffy." Willow says, wryly.

"Was not!" She quickly wipes her face, guiltily hiding the tell-tale sheen of fresh drool.

"Eww. Was too." Xander tries, somewhat futilely. to wipe the drool of off his...her pauldron. Metal doesn't pick up drool very well. Giles tosses her a handkerchief, and he smiles thankfully at him before wiping the drool off and tossing it back to Giles.

"Quite. Now, as I was saying, the Council believes this to be a carving of one of the defenders attacking a group of demons. Notice that the armor style is very similar to what you are currently wearing. Xander?"

She got her tongue unstuck from the roof of her mouth, "Gah." And pointed at the impression. The thirty plus demons, as well as the rock outcroppings that seemed to surround them gave the impression of evaporating into nothingness.

"Ah, yes. Quite a good sculptor, the artist was. I've done a bit of work,"

Xander and Buffy look around the room, at the stacks of ancient texts and treatises on language on chairs, sidetables, and bookcases, and mouthed 'A bit?' to each other.

"And I believe I've translated the text in the carving. It appears to be proto-Sumerian, mixed with an ancient form of Enochian with-"

"Giles. What does it say?" Buffy whines.

"What she said." Xander nods.

"Guardian Saturn, Summoning the Silence."

"And that tells us...what, precisely?" Xander asks.

"Not a great deal. But all information is useful." Giles sighs. "As fascinating as all this is, there is further research I must do on this. Buffy, Willow, you should probably be getting along - your parents will be wondering where you are, and I don't think you're up to walking home alone just yet."

The two girls nod, and Buffy helps Willow up from the couch. "We'll talk to you soon, Giles. Xander?" The newly female Xander nods, and starts for the door.

"Ah, Xander?" Giles says, quietly. "I should like to talk to you for a few more minutes." He pauses as Xander heads back towards him. Buffy and Willow stop at the door. "Privately, if you don't mind." The girls shrug, look at each other, Xander, and at a assuring nod from Xander, head out the door. Giles gestures for Xander to take a seat, and as she does so, he paces across the room.

A few minutes pass as Giles paces, deep in thought. "Giles?" Xander tentatively asks. "What did you want?"

'Lord...give me strength.' "Xander." Giles says, quietly. "I want you to know something." 'I haven't seen the boy...no...he is no boy. He is indeed a man. This lost since...well, since the Harvest.' "I have often thought of you as the son I would never have...and no matter your outward form, I will always consider you my son." Unshed tears shone brightly in Xanders eyes as she lunged off of the couch and hugged Giles tightly. 'Good lord...one would think no one has shown him...her...whatever, paternal affection before.' "Uh...Xander." A short pause. "Xander?" Another short pause. "Air becoming an issue."

Xander released Giles as if she was just burned, and leaped backwards a step. "Oh, god, Giles, I didn't hurt you, did I?"

"No, not a bit." 'Oh, my aching ribs. That's gonna leave a mark.' "Just remember, plate armor isn't the most comfortable thing to be squeezed with."

"I'm sorry, Giles, I didn't mean to..."

"It's all right, Xander, no harm done." He reached out to clap Xander on the shoulder, but froze as Xander almost imperceptibly flinched. If she'd been wearing his normal clothes, or if this was a normal day, Giles would have never seen it. He continued the movement, but much slower. "Now then." He said, gripping Xander's pauldron. "We just need to figure out a way to get you out of this armor." 'And I need to find a way to check out the parameciums masquerading as Xanders' parents.' "No straps, clasps, hasps, or even seams...hmm." He examines the suit carefully. "Is it comfortable?"

"Actually, yeah, it is pretty comfy." Xander, a bit red faced from the close examination Giles was doing, moved around a bit. "Almost a full range of movement, I think better than...well... when I was a guy, even with this armor on. Cause there's no muscle strain, even when I do deep stretches like this. And it doesn't chafe, which is great."

Giles flushed a bit as Xander demonstrated his...her new range of motion. "Ah...yes...yes, quite limber...ah." 'Must not perv on students. Must not perv on students.' "What ways have you tried to remove the armor?"

Xander's face dropped a bit. "Haven't really tried, to tell the truth."

Giles sighed, and said wisely, "Ah. Why not?" Xander said nothing. "Afraid?" He asked gently.

"No! Well...a little bit." She sits down, hands fisted in her lap, and looks at Giles, almost tentatively. "I mean, what if I'm stuck like this? What am I gonna do then?"

"Stuck in the armor, or stuck as a female?"

"Either. Both."

"Ah." Giles sits down next to Xander. "Well, there's not much we can do about either of those things until we find out if you are trapped in that armor, or if you are permanently female." He pauses for a moment, considering. "I must say, you are handling this quite well."

"Yeah, well, I'm gibbering in blind panic on the inside."

Giles leans back against the couch, eyes unfocused. "Quite a bit better than I did."

Xander nods, "Yeah." 'Wait. Rewind.' "Say what!"

"I don't believe I've told any of you this." Giles reflects. "I had a bit of a rebellious youth, you might say. My family had been in the Council for generations. Quite a respected name, was Giles." He looks down at his hands, unseeing. "And then I came along. Couldn't stand the Council. Thought they were a bunch of stodgy old hidebound gits. Wanted to be a grocer. Possibly a fighter pilot. So I struck out any way I could. And I made the worst mistake of my life, one that still haunts me to this day. I struck up a friendship with a disreputable young mage by the name of Ethan Rayne."

"The same...?"

"The same. We...had some interesting times. Now, to the relevant portion. Ethan's a bit of a prankster, and we occasionally played pranks on each other. Usually on Samhain. One year, Ethan turned me into a woman for two days. It was...different." He sighs. "I didn't deal well with it."

"Did you get him back?"

Giles grins wickedly. "Yes, you could say that. For New Years, I transpossessed..." He trails off, seeing the blank look on Xander's face. "That is, I placed his mind in the back seat, so to speak, of a female cat."

"Ooh. Uh, that's...inventive."

"I failed to mention that the cat was in heat at the time."

"...Damn. That is wrong, G-man. Just plain wrong."

"It was, wasn't it? That was when things..started to go down hill. Ethan got more and more out of control, and our prank war spiraled upwards. He was a good friend, once. Years ago. Anyways...your armor. It does appear to be your armor...its aura is meshed with yours..." Giles takes his glasses off and peers at Xander near-sightedly. He sighs. "Which is different than it was last week."

"Wait. My aura's different?"

"Yes. Since it is meshed with your aura, you should be able-"

"No!" Xander interrupts. "Go back to that bit about my aura and how it's different."

Giles locks eyes with Xander for a few moments, and then sighs. "Very well. Before Halloween, your aura was fairly typical for a male teenager, lots of yang, little bit of yin. That's the male and female principles...for the most part." in response to Xander's confused look. "After Halloween, your aura was much more balanced, but still more yang than yin. Now, it's switched. More yin than yang"
Note to prereader: I know I'm explaining this badly...any ideas?

"And that means...?"

"Merely that you as a whole are more female than male - body, mind, and spirit." Giles raises a hand to forestall the outburst he can feel coming. "It does not mean that your sexual orientation will change or that you yourself are female. Merely that as it stands, you are more female than male...hardly surprising when you consider that you have a very definitely female body, and a powerful female guardian spirit that's been around for millenia currently hitching a ride in your head." 'So the guardian spirit isn't actually in residence right now. I can still sense its touch on my son. Damn, but that's got a ring to it. My son...'

"Oh...I guess that's not so bad, then..." Xander says, still not looking very happy about it. "What were you saying about my armor?"

"Oh! Oh, yes. As I began to say, I believe that if you simply will the armor off, it should leave."

"Uh...all right." Xander closed her eyes and concentrated on his armor. A few moments later, her helmet appeared in her hand. "Uh...that's not quite right."

"What were you concentrating on?" Giles asked, notepad ready and pen poised.

"I was thinking about my armor."

Giles wrote down the thought and what it accomplished. "Try...building a mental image of yourself, wearing your street clothes."

"Alright..." Xander says, a bit dubiously. A good thirty seconds pass as Xander works to build her selfimage, and then starts to concentrate on it. Eventually the armor seems to dissolve away, leaving a brilliant white light behind that slowly resolves into Xanders typically garish Hawaiian button-up unbuttoned over white undershirt with green jeans. She opens her eyes. "Did it...yeah it worked." She looks down at herself. "Damn. What do you think, Giles, 42C?"

Giles rubs his forehead with one hand. "Xander, do please concentrate on the situation at hand, not the one in hand."

She drops herself, so to speak, and points at Giles. "Was that a joke?"

"If it was, it wasn't a very good one." He says, taking his glasses off and polishing them. "Now, I think what we shall do for now is to have you move in here, with me. A niece, just in fom the Isles? That should do, for now...if that's acceptable to you?"

"Uh...yeah. That'd be fine...Thanks, Giles." She pauses. "I really appreciate this."

"It's no problem at all, Xander." Giles smiled at her for a moment before his expression turned serious. "You will need to head to your house, and pick up some essentials. Are you alright to do that, or would you rather Buffy or I do it?"

Xander quickly checks the wall clock, and shrugs at Giles. "I can do it...it's eleven in the morning. Mom and dad are probably drunk and asleep in front of the television by now. Back in a few, G-man." She turns around and heads for the door again.

Giles watches her depart. "I'll be here when you get back..." He says, as she goes through the door to the outside world. "Son." He adds as the door closes behind her.

End.