AN: I own, as usual, absolutely nothing. Mega Man X and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are the property of their respective owners. This shortfic was written at the behest of consumingnovels on LiveJournal, who asked for something humorous and Giles-centric. This is the result of my fevered daydreaming on the subject. All feedback appreciated. Slight AU of Season 5. Mildly crackficish, probably. Enjoy.

Someday, Giles was going to figure out exactly why his subconscious was so completely bent on making sure he was going to hell. There could be no other explanation for the way he was currently loitering in the Summers' patio doorframe staring at Alia's arse like a great glowing image of the Virgin Mary had manifested there. Add to that the fact that she was an android and her head was apparently packed with enough sensors to know exactly where he was, and she had enough weaponry built into her right arm to vaporize a Pith'ragos demon's chest, and it was also mindbendingly stupid, come to think of it.

But really, the skintight black rubbery bodysuit Alia claimed was "light body armor" wasn't helping.

Oh, come off it, Rupert. If you keep standing here staring like a schoolboy, she's going to call you on it. He cleared his throat and walked out to join her, following her gaze once he was close enough to see her (Lovely crystal blue...oh sod it.) eyes, or highly advanced optical sensors, as it were. Strange that knowledge of her synthetic nature didn't make her any less appealing. That would have been wonderfully convenient. She stared up into the night sky, likely able to pick out every distant point of light with clarity he could only imagine, a strangely wistful expression on her face. So human. Marvelous. Buffy may have been committed to not believing in her sentience, despite all the evidence she gave them, but Giles, like Willow, was more than convinced. He refused to believe any amount of programming, no matter how advanced, could simulate the emotion he saw in her creamy, moonlit flesh. Lord, there I go again. "Good evening, Alia," he said pleasantly, wishing he'd thought to bring a glass of scotch. Then he'd have something to do with his hands besides shoving them in his pockets while he shifted on his feet like he needed to go to the loo.

Alia twitched sharply and whirled to face him with wide eyes, lowering herself into something vaguely like a Crane-style ready position, and Giles realized with some shock that he'd actually managed to startle her. Another point for sentience, Giles thought, because thinking about how close he'd probably just come to having an armored fist smash through his chest was entirely unappealing, a programmed robot would never be able to be lost in its own thoughts so thoroughly as to be snuck up on.

She shifted out of her defensive crouch even faster than she had fallen into it, almost blur, and smiled at him, blushing more than a little, Giles couldn't help but notice. She hadn't gotten flustered very often in the five days she had been with them. "Rupert," she said, in that precise, soft voice that always seemed to have a hard edge lurking just below the surface, "damn. Sorry. I was … my mind was wandering." She cracked her knuckles, a nervous gesture she had admitted to picking up from her human tutors shortly after being first awoken, but they made no sound. A subtle sign she wasn't human. One of the few. The lack of breathing was also a bit of a tell. She crossed her arms over her chest almost protectively and Giles had to suppress a surge of disappointment. The maroon armor over her bust, with white accents over her not inconsiderable ...assets, was quite distinctive. He was merely taking an opportunity to observe the body armor of the future, which seemed to resemble latex fetishwear. Purely professional interest. Yes.

I believe I shall get very drunk later. An excellent strategy for dealing with this, if I do say so myself. "Think nothing of it," Giles smiled, trying to sound conversational. "No one would be very surprised to hear you had lost yourself for a moment in thoughts of your situation. I must say, you've dealt remarkably well with the discovery that the supernatural is real. Most would still be in some sort of denial at this stage." Yes. "Talk shop," as Xander might say. An excellent distraction from hormones I'm too bloody old to be dealing with. Constant exposure to randy teenagers must have mucked with his biochemistry over the years. Somehow.

She favored him with a smirk, running a white gloved hand through golden blond bangs that almost seemed to shimmer in the dim light. Her forearms were a good bit larger than they should have been, not counting the gauntlets that matched her chest armor. Especially the right, where her … Mega Buster, as she called it … was installed. Yet they seemed natural on her, much like her overlarge lower legs, apparently necessary for stability and weight bearing. Not that he asked how much she weighed, though it was obviously quite a bit more than a comparatively sized human. Android or not, he was an English gentleman and she was a lady, and there were unspoken rules about that sort of thing.

He managed his own small smirk as he thought of her oddly named internal weapon. Xander and Buffy had ridiculed the appellation quite a bit…until she had brought the cannon to bear on a small swarm of vampires in their presence, and obliterated them all in a few seconds. Now he was quite sure the boy wanted one, even if he would never say it.

"I was whisked away by a glowing green portal that showed up in my bedroom and dumped into an alley crawling with reanimated human corpses with fangs, determined to drink my blood. More than a century and half in the past." Alia snorted. "I've learned to have a flexible definition of the impossible, and vampirism was the most fitting explanation at the time. The rest of the … creatures … I've seen and the books you've given me access to only convinced me more that I needed to give the supernatural explanation credence." She shook her head. "Magic, on the other hand..." she scowled. "I can sense some kind of energy building up when Willow and Tara use it, but as hard as I've tried, I can't come up with any way to quantify or qualify it that doesn't clash horribly with physics and metaphysics as I understand them." She frowned, and shook her head. "I've immersed myself in the sciences for as long as I've been alive, and maybe I changed careers a few times before I found something that really felt right, but the idea that I understand how the world works has always been comforting. Realizing I completely missed something is…grating, to say the least." She snorted. "At least the portal had good timing. Three minutes earlier and I still would've been in the shower."

Giles sputtered, managing to fake a minor coughing fit as his mind was assaulted with a very interesting and not entirely unwelcome mental image that made him feel even more like a creepy old pervert. After a moment, he managed to refocus and nodded, thinking back to those first few hours after they had found her wandering the back alleys. She had been willing to believe their initial explanations because, as she said, it was the only thing that made sense. Willow sensing traces of time manipulation magic on her and her obviously superhuman abilities had made believing she was an android from the future likewise easy. He thought of the ease with which she'd caught Buffy's fist and repressed a shudder. They had been very lucky Alia was friendly. His Slayer was too impulsive sometimes.

Alia had quickly demanded evidence of magic and demons actually being what Giles said they were, and he'd shown her to the Magic Shop's book collection, Buffy scowling rebelliously the whole way. Looking back, he had to admit he was likely in a bit of shock, but he remembered being honestly curious how an apparently thinking robot would react to evidence of the supernatural. She had fallen on the books like Wesley on Yorkshire pudding, blasting through the 200 page Slayer Handbook in under two minutes before moving on to a history of demonology text that weighed at least ten pounds.

He was pretty sure that's when his infatuation began. She was more than attractive, but watching her move through the tomes, processing and digesting information and trying to match it to what she already knew, and he sat and watched as studied, eyes glowing with curiosity, determination, and, well, an actual soft blue light. He'd listened as she threw them the occasional questions, marveling at the way she approached and deconstructed concepts she didn't understand. Though, given that she said she was an analyst and computer specialist with the android police … Maverick Hunters … he imagined she considered conquering difficult concepts and knowledge and bending them to her will a form of mental combat. From what she said, lives depended on her ability to do just that.

Giles had always considered intelligence the most attractive quality in a woman, and always appreciated those who recognized the advantages to fighting with one's mind instead of solely relying on one's fists. Alia told them that raw processing power did not equal intelligence, even in 22nd century androids. Her mind was obviously something special.

Her frown turned into a scowl, and Giles suddenly wished he could make it go away. It wasn't right for such a beautiful face to be contorted that way. "And it's not like I just happened to stumble upon a spell book and start reading out of it and make a flower sprout out of my forehead. No, I have to be magicked back in time almost 150 years by who knows what and show up on the literal Mouth of Hell. Bear in mind I didn't believe in Hell a week ago." She shook her head, and sighed. "Damn. ...You seem to be taking the whole sapient android concept pretty well, if you don't mind me saying," she continued in a much lighter tone.

He nodded, perfectly willing to allow her to change the subject. "Well, yes. Hearing that there will eventually be an entire species about was quite a shock, but we've encountered highly advanced robotics and cybernetics before. Nothing that could think for itself, mind you. I suppose, given a century and a half, it makes sense for things to be even further along." Giles suppressed a grimace as memories of Adam flashed through his mind.

Alia snorted derisively, and he winced, realizing too late that his choice of words was likely imprudent. "I guess you're talking about that … that … sex robot Buffy compared me to?"

Giles gulped. Damn it all. Perhaps, if Buffy's first reaction hadn't been to ask Alia if she were "another freaky sex slave robot" when they found her in the alley, things would be better between the Slayer and their new ally, but alas, the dynamic of their relationship appeared set. What Alia had told them about the sociopolitical reality of the 2150s made her reaction a bit easier to understand--an entire population of sapient androids treated as second class citizens by human governments who refused to see them as equals; really, humanity had a unique capacity for buggering things up--but it would be nice if, someday, Buffy finally learned to stop throwing her ego around like so many crossbow bolts. "Well," Giles coughed nervously. "The … ahem … pleasure robot is the most advanced piece of robotics we believe to currently be in existence. Probably terribly primitive to you. And it, ahem," he removed his glasses and began polishing them once he remembered he had his handkerchief, "is currently being retooled to act in a more useful roll."

"For this time period, it's amazing," Alia said, in a voice that was obviously trying to be mild and almost succeeding. "History doesn't record the first robot even approaching that level of technology appearing until 2015, and it turns out someone achieved that level of sophistication ten years earlier and decided to build smart blow up dolls." She shook her head and scowled. "What a waste of potential."

Giles blinked. He never quite thought of it like that. "Perhaps. Though, if he had tried to start a cybernetics revolution, the timeline likely would've been altered to the point you might not exist."

Alia chuckled, nodding. "Of course. I've considered that. But focusing on the intellectual aspect of it keeps me from wanting to punch Spike through a wall. From what Willow says he ordered the damn thing built, and modeling a robot after a human so you can sleep with it is pretty sick. Sure, a few more decades and you'll be able to buy interactive sex toys, but they'll be purposely designed not to resemble actual people. There'll be some pretty hefty civil suits to keep it that way."

Giles grinned, and allowed himself an actual laugh this time. "My dear, you're not the only one here who wouldn't mind giving Spike a good thrashing. If you want to knock him around a little, by all means don't let any obligation you may feel to the rest of us stop you."

Alia giggled, and he had to focus on the memory of walking in on Anya and Xander being quite ...risque… in the kitchen to keep from grinning like a loon at the lovely sound. He would never be able to put ketchup on anything again without feeling vaguely nauseous, he was sure. She looked thoughtful for a moment. "I suppose I'm going to need a sparring partner if I'm going to be in the middle of this …" she swept her hand around as if to encompass all of Sunnydale, "fairy tale from hell. And I thought my life would never get any stranger. I should really know better by now."

Her lips were curved into a smile, but Giles couldn't help thinking she sounded incredibly sad all of the sudden. From the way she moved further into the shadows, it was obvious she didn't want him to notice, but he couldn't very well just turn a blind eye if something was wrong. Strange that she was so good at concealing herself when so much of her outfit was maroon and white. Still...no reason not to be subtle about it. Forcing someone to talk is never a good idea. "Alia, you seemed quite preoccupied a moment ago. Is everything alright?"

She jerked her head quickly to look at him, but stayed safely ensconced in her shadows, where he could barely see her face. All he could make out was a pair of lips curved into a harsh frown. The emerald sphere set into her armor where the top of her collarbone would be glimmered dully. "It's … I shouldn't be bothering you with it. It's out of your hands."

Giles grimaced. That doesn't sound promising at all. "Maybe. That doesn't mean I'm not willing to listen, if you want to talk about it."

She was silent for a long moment, and he was about to decide he'd pushed too far when she sighed heavily. "I've been through all your books, Rupert. I've talked to Willow, and she's stumped. My scientific training is based on physical laws that say time travel is an absolute impossibility. Being a certified genius doesn't help when the rules that define your genius work against you." She shook her head again, and when she spoke she actually sounded as young as she looked for the first time Giles could remember. "I want to go home, Rupert, and I can't figure out how. My friends have no way of knowing where I am. They'll know I'm missing, and search, but...they won't find me." Even softer: "He'll think they took me, and look so hard, and blame himself…" Giles was pretty sure he wasn't supposed to hear that last part, and resolutely decided to ignore it.

The watcher stepped forward quickly, until he was close enough to grasp her shoulder. Her armor was hard and rubbery under his calloused fingers, but he hoped she derived some comfort from the contact just the same. "Alia...I can't imagine what it must feel like to be in your position, and I know Sunnydale is just about as unpleasant a place to be stranded as is humanly possible. but you are among friends, and welcome here as long as you need a place to stay. And please don't feel like you're obligated to join us in our fight. I assure you that is not the case."

The edge of the frown he could make out in the dim light reversed itself, slowly. One of her hands rose to trace the engraving on the insignia she wore on her arm. Giles recalled the motto burned there with ease: Usque Omnis Unus -- "Until All Are One." He had no idea what it's deeper meaning was, but it was quite a … pacifistic rallying cry for a military unit, in his experience. He suspected it would make more sense if she gave them more information about the future, but she was apparently very committed to not damaging the timeline any more than she already had by joining in their struggle. She shook her head. "I took an oath to defend the innocent. This isn't the fight I signed up for, but you guys obviously need all the help you can get, and I'm not going anywhere anytime soon." Her tone was light as she finished speaking, but her smile didn't quite reach her eyes. "At the very least, you're my friends now. I don't turn my back on my friends."

She stepped slightly out of the shadows, but he was still unable to get a good look at her face. "I'm not so much worried about myself. Funny thing is, as bad as it is here, this is not the worst situation I've ever been in. No one's tried to set off any nuclear weapons yet. And there aren't any space colonies to drop."

Giles gaped at her for a moment, searching her tone for anything but earnestness and finding nothing. He tried to bite back a curse, and didn't quite manage. "Oh, bloody hell. You're not even kidding, are you? Sod it. If it's not the demons it's giant planet killing bombs. And … space stations, then?" One way or another, he was getting toasted tonight. It was inevitable. Perhaps he'd dig out a nice cigar too.

Alia shrugged. "Demons don't have a monopoly on wanting to conquer the world, I'm afraid." She smiled thinly. "But we've always stopped them before, and we'll stop them again. As long as it takes." She frowned. "That's what's got me worried, if you want to know the truth, Rupert."

"Oh?" Giles shifted on his feet. "I'm not sure I understand." She wasn't off brooding by herself anymore, which was definitely an improvement, but he sensed this conversation had taken a sharp turn, and he was about to be unpleasantly out of his depth.

She shook her head. "I'm trained in self-defense." She gestured at her right arm with her left hand. "You've seen that. But it's not my specialty. I'm a navigator. When my friends go off to fight, I'm the voice in their ear. Their link home. It's not pleasant, listening to a fight you can't be a part of, but when they need me I'm there, and I know I'm doing the best for them I can. Now I'm gone, and I'm worried that something will happen to them because my replacement isn't as smart or as quick in a crisis. I probably sound like a raging egomaniac, but--"

"Not at all," Giles said quickly. He sighed. "I'm nowhere close to useless, but I've long since passed the age when I can keep up with Buffy and her friends on anything approaching an even footing. I have no idea the exact nature of a navigator's responsibilities, but all too often I find myself sitting next to a phone buried in books waiting to hear what bit of information Buffy and her friends are in need of, or worse, that one of them is grievously injured and in need of aid. It is a grueling task, but one I would not willingly entrust to anyone else." She was silent for a long moment, and he worried he had miscalculated. Yes, Rupert. Let's bring up our age with the immortal robot whom we are inappropriately and unwisely attracted to and remind her how old we are. That's a smashing plan, old chap.

She nodded after a moment. "Yeah. It's unprofessional, but I don't really trust anyone else to look after my people as much as I trust myself." She stepped forward, finally, and he could see she had mastered her expression, though faint worry lines remained around her eyes. She sighed. "I'd like to pretend it was that simple but …" her tone shifted again, and he once more felt she was talking to herself, "even if I hadn't heard all the gossip about how he reacted when his last girlfriend was killed, I know him too well. He cares too much," she said softly, almost whispering, "not to be worn down to a reckless misery if he thinks I'm dead or … worse." Giles felt his eyes bug out slightly even as she gritted her teeth. "But he'd never think to stop or ask for time off to deal with his emotions. He doesn't know how not to protect people, no matter how dangerous." She smiled sadly, just as she had before. "I'm afraid he'll get hurt because my disappearance made him sloppy." She pinched the bridge of her nose and swore slightly. "I don't want to be the one that finally gets him killed."

Giles couldn't help but gape for a moment. Even as some small sliver of his brain pondered over what could actually be worse than death when the supernatural was not involved, another was busy grinding to a halt over the revelation that Alia apparently was in a romantic relationship of some sort. Not that he'd actually thought he had a chance, but knowing he'd been pining after someone who was quite obviously missing her lover, even if she tried to couch it in the most professional terms possible, made him feel even more like a perverted heel. He took a deep breath and tried to find his center. At least now I have a reason to stop this puerile foolishness. He resisted the urge to groan. That was all fine and good on an intellectual level, but he doubted very much his hormones would be completely subdued quite so quickly. Still, he couldn't help wondering if he had been cursed at some point to fancy unobtainable women. For a moment he thought pleasantly of Joyce, rest her soul, and hoped she had found contentment in the afterlife. Enough, you twit. Concentrate. He couldn't very well not try to help her. It was increasingly obvious she was on the brink of falling into a very unhealthy depression, and knew enough about suppressing her emotions to completely hide the evidence from the others if she wanted. Letting him see her turmoil could very well be an implicit call for help.

"Your … ah … partner sounds quite a bit like Buffy, actually. She has a nasty tenancy to neglect herself when there's a crisis to see to."

Alia nodded absently. "There's always a crisis, and X's always in the thick of it. We'd probably all be long dead if he wasn't but, still." She scowled. "And being so … fixated on him right now only makes me unprofessional."

"Always a crisis, indeed," Giles returned with a sigh. He mustered up an encouraging smile. "Still, I must say, you are quite an impressive person, Alia. I cannot imagine anyone worthy of your affections not being likewise singular. You must have faith that he will still be there when we figure out how to send you home." His smile widened a bit. "And being in love only makes you unprofessional if you let it affect your performance. Somehow, I doubt you have that problem."

She blushed slightly at his words, but nodded. "We danced around each other's affections for months because we were both too nervous about … compromising our job performance. I'm pretty sure Zero was ready to kill us both by the end. Or tie us together in a closet." Her tone had shifted to a pleasant sort of musing. At least her mood seemed to be improving.

Alia. X. Zero. Doesn't anyone have normal names in the future? Alia, at least, was charmingly unique. Those other two sounded like an algebra equation. "Can't say that's a problem around here. Everyone seems to throw themselves at each other like randy rabbits in heat."

Alia laughed, but it faded quickly. "You really think we'll figure out a way to get me home?" she asked flatly, but there was an undertone of nervous hopefulness he'd heard too many times from his other young charges not to be able to catch.

His own smile widened a little. "I'll be honest. Your predicament is by no means an easy one to solve, but we're standing on the Hellmouth. We'd have all been overrun a long time ago if not for the occasional miraculous bit of help at the most unlikely moment. If anything, I have learned it never pays to give up. At the very least, it makes you look a bit foolish after the fact when the world hasn't blown up, today."

She looked thoughtful for a long moment, and nodded sharply before favoring him with the biggest grin he'd yet seen from her that evening. "Aside from the accent, you sounded a bit like X just now." Giles blinked, but realized quickly from the intense look in her eyes he'd just been paid one of her highest complements. "Thanks for the reminder, Rupert. I--" She stopped abruptly, and starred off into the night, eyes suddenly glowing pale indigo once again.

Giles blinked. That can't be good. "A-Alia?" He cleared his throat. "What's--"

She frowned sharply and stepped in front of him, so she was between him and the yard. "Rupert," she said quickly, "please tell me you're expecting supernatural company."

He narrowed his eyes, suddenly alert, and looked around the yard and out into the street. Nothing. "No," he said quickly. "We're not."

"Crap," Alia ground out, eyes darting about swiftly. "My radar just flared. Thirty organic signals that aren't any animal or human I have on file, closing fast. Can't get a good reading on shape or distance. Same kind of distortion I get when I try to scan vampires, but much worse." She clenched her fist, and her forearm began to collapse and reform itself into a cannon. That looked terribly painful. "Trouble."

Giles narrowed his eyes. So much for a quiet night. And Buffy's on patrol with Spike. Splendid. "Blast. Where?" He began moving for the door. Xander, Tara and Willow needed to be warned, and he needed a weapon. If Dawn hadn't been feeling under the weather, the two witches might well have decided to join Buffy instead of staying to look after her, and Xander would be with Anya doing strange things with tomato product, which would have been worse, but he wasn't very comforted.

Alia narrowed her eyes and seemed to focus on the middle distance, eyes aglow, a sure sign she was accessing some internal bit of technology he couldn't see. "Start moving," she said through gritted teeth. "Twenty-four hundred yard--no, 1800...1000...can't lock on...600...damn!"

Giles had begun to move for the door before she'd even finished her command, but he'd still only taken a few steps when he heard her spin on her feet behind him, and before he knew it she had sprinted forward and lifted him up in one arm like he was so much pillow stuffing. The world blurred and he realized they were inside. Another second and he caught a flash of what had to be the couch--complete with sick stain from Spike's latest "I'm an impotent vampire" drinking binge--just before her other arm darted out and they apparently vaulted over the back. He wasn't entirely sure, as keeping his eyes open was becoming an increasingly risky proposition, according to his stomach.

When the world once again resolved itself into something that didn't resemble a demented kaleidoscope, he found himself on his back on the couch, Alia spread out above him with her legs on either side of his body and a grim look on her face. He blinked and moved to straighten his glasses before asking what in blazes was going on, but when he tried to move his hands he finally noticed they had managed to clamp themselves to -- "Shit."

"Yeah." She rolled off him and into a crouch, and he abruptly pulled his rebellious hands out of the air as if they had been burned. "Burrowing...things," she whispered harshly, just as the sound of dull thuds and roaring filled the yard. "Confused my sensors. Snuck up on me. Sorry for the manhandling."

"That's," Giles began to set up quickly, even as he heard the sound of running footsteps from the other end of the house that could only be Willow and Xander and the others, "quite alri--"

"Slayer! We come for your blood!" The words came with an animalistic roar that shook the windows, and Giles winced.

The mouth of Alia's megabuster began to glow a dull red as she turned back to the patio. "Well, at least they explain themselves. ...Excuse me." She turned and he stared in a stupor as fire seemed to sprout from her feet and she moved faster than he'd ever seen her move before. It took him a few seconds to realize she had literally fired off rocket boots. She never mentioned those. Oh, and now the floor is in flames. Bloody hell. By the time he scrambled over to the weapons cabinet, he could hear her delivering an ultimatum. Her usual "surrender or be destroyed." She was always very keen on giving anything the chance to stand down.

Even as he clipped a sword to his belt and grabbed for the highest-capacity shotgun he could find, a small, detached part of his mind was busy screaming at the top of its lungs. Absolute bollocks. Spend a week perving on someone like a dirty old man and staring at her arse and chest every chance I get like--like Spike, only to finally actually have a meaningful personal conversation with her and find out she's depressed because she misses her boyfriend. His hands loaded shells at speed almost by reflex. And just when I'm starting to get over that and have a nice, civilized chat, burrowing monsters from hell attack and she decides the best thing to do is carry me inside and straddle me on the couch, where my first reflex is apparently to feel her up. Bloody fantastic. Either she really was too distracted to notice or she's just nice enough not to dress me down for being an overly grabby, depraved wanker.

He was broken from his thoughts by the sound of some very familiar laughing. Blood suddenly cold in his veins, he turned to find Willow and Dawn (who still looked as green as pea soup) giggling openly at him. Tara at least had the courtesy to cover her mouth, but it was obvious from the way her eyes were crinkled up exactly what she was doing. Xander just gaped and stumbled forward to grab an axe.

"Oh," Giles said lowly, over the sound of growling and plasma weaponry outside, realizing with dread the reason his mental voice sounded so loud in his head was because he had actually been, well, not quite yelling, but...piss it.

"Straddle?" Xander looked pale, halfway between disgust and intrigue. Twit.

"So...h-how m-much of it is a-ar-armor padding?" Tara asked, her cheeky tone and blush more than making up the stutter.

Willow formed a fireball. "Yeah," she said perkily, turning towards the door. "Interesting question, baby. Did you know she's only technically nine, Giles?"

Giles just blinked at them, sure he could hear a part of his mind snap. His throat seemed to close up just enough to make forming whole sentences difficult. "Bloody--sod--damn--flaming--pickle lord--" he took a deep breath and called on years of Watcher training to regain his calm. "I," he said, affecting his most detached accent, "am going to go shoot things now. And perhaps stab them. Come if you like. Afterwards, take Dawn to a show so I can drink until reality itself shifts and this never happened, and I shan't devise some sort of horrible revenge for the lot of you spilling nacho cheese all over my autographed Tobin's Spirit Guide. And yes," he added at their suddenly dumbstruck expressions, "of course I know it was you. I'm a Watcher."

He turned and marched towards the sounds of battle with his head held high, giggling and footsteps following him. Before he crossed the threshold with shotgun raised, he heard Dawn giggle, "Wait 'till Buffy hears about this."

He blinked. He didn't have any blackmail material on her, and even if he did, she was ill, and merely a child. And he was a chivalrous English Gentleman, when he wasn't feeling up hot androids. As if on cue, Alia twirled in front of his vision, easily dodging a clumsy spiked fist, bending forward just enough that his eyes couldn't help once again fixating on-- "Bugger."

Giles lit into the horde with particular enthusiasm, shotgun blasts joining fireballs and plasma bolts in the night.