Okay...so I went a bit nuts over the new X-Men movie. Obviously. More specifically, I went more nuts over James McAvoy and the newest incarnation of Charles Xavier. So...this story was born. Please forgive my exposition, but anyway...


Sunnydale, California - 2001

Buffy Summers bit her lip to keep from screaming as she gave the punching bag a few more good blows. Giles had been back here an hour or two ago, but he was only human. He'd long since tired out for the day and gone back up to the front of the store. She was pretty sure most of the others were out there too.

It was just easier to be here at the Magic Box, since Joyce had died. Buffy missed her mother, and if she wasn't training or on patrol or here doing...something, then she was thinking about it. The Magic Box was safe and neutral. Joyce had never really been here. Here she didn't have to be alone, but she didn't have to be anywhere that she could associate with her mother, either.

Buffy spun to kick the bag one last time, nearly knocking it from where it was mounted to the ceiling. If she kept going she really might damage something.

Maybe it was time to call it a day on the training.

She let out a breath and dropped onto the couch at the side of the training room to cool off. She didn't sweat much, usually, but it was always good to calm down after a workout. Eventually she got up, made her way into the bathroom and exchanged her workout clothes for the regular clothes she'd been wearing earlier today. She let her hair back down and combed through it with her fingers, and tossed the workout clothes into a cabinet at the back of the bathroom where she'd been keeping two or three pairs of them since Giles had bought the Magic Box and set up the training room for her.

Refreshed and feeling a little better after the activity—at least physically—Buffy stepped out into the main shop. Willow, Tara, and Xander were at the table chatting and eating a takeout dinner, while Giles was at his desk and Dawn sat at the counter doing homework and also finishing dinner. Anya was behind the counter checking and counting the money in the register, as she was so fond of doing. The radio on the desk was on and there was extra food on the table, and Buffy could almost imagine that everything was fine. Joyce wasn't gone and there was no psycho hellgod bitch after her sister.

Buffy let out a breath and made a beeline for the table to pick up one of the unopened containers of Chinese. "This stuff fair game?"

"Have at," Xander told her.

She nodded and swiped a fresh pair of chopsticks as she sat down across the table from him.

"You were in there for quite a while," Giles commented from behind her. That was definitely concern in his voice, but Buffy shrugged it off.

"Can never train too much, right?"

Giles leaned back a bit in his desk chair and was practically beside her, thanks to where at the table she was sitting, and he did that now so he could look at her. "That's true, but you shouldn't exhaust yourself. You wouldn't be ready if...well, you are the Slayer. Anything could happen at any time."

Buffy glanced back at him for a moment. "I know. Don't worry; I've got everything under control." When she said everything she meant everything, or she wanted to have it under control, anyway, and she was pretty sure Giles knew what she meant. He nodded and turned back to his paperwork.

Everyone else was quiet then, and Buffy noticed that the station the radio had been left on wasn't playing music anymore. It was a news bulletin.

"Growing concern sweeps the nation as governments around the globe react to the rising mutant problem. Leaders worldwide wonder if it is, indeed, a problem, as the presence of mutants in today's society becomes more and more apparent. The president has been in meetings this week—"

Giles made a noise in the back of his throat and switched to another station. "People don't understand what it is that they're seeing," he said, shaking his head. "Not that they would be any less irrational about it if they did."

"What do you mean?" Xander asked.

Anya closed the cash drawer and leaned on the counter. "The truth is that these people that are being called mutants are simply part demon, somewhere along the line. Some of them have more demon in them others, some can look completely normal but have demon attributes, and then of course there are just the real flat-out demons that people are mistaking for mutated humans. As far as I know, there are no mutated humans. If they're mutated or different, they're not entirely human. I mean, I could be wrong...but I'm usually not."

Willow shrugged and swallowed a mouthful of food before she spoke. "I kinda figured that. We've been hearing about mutants on and off since we were kids. I always thought it was all made up, like Big Foot and stuff, and then I met Buffy and figured it all had to do with the vampire and demon world and everything."

Giles nodded. "As far as I or the Council knows, mutation in a single human generation can't go as far as some are saying has happened. Granted, there is always the chance I could be wrong, I suppose...but personally I firmly believe that those affected simply have some amount of nonhuman blood."

"Even the people that look normal and have normal parents, but have mutations?" Tara asked. "I've heard of people like that."

"If the demon in their bloodline is far enough back, the demon attributes could have very well skipped a generation or few. Humanoid demons have been interbreeding with humans for centuries."

"The not-so-humanoid ones too," Anya added. "That's pretty much where the humanoid demons came from."

"True," Giles agreed.

Buffy shuddered. "Yeah. Cause most of us know what a pure demon looks like."

"One kind of pure demon," Willow pointed out.

"Either way, met one; not so keen on meeting another one."

"Amen," Willow, Xander, and Dawn chorused at the same time.

Buffy twisted to glare at Dawn. "You were not supposed to be there."

"Hey, I helped didn't I!"

"Cordelia dusted more vampires than you did that night."

Dawn made a face. "I tried...okay, so I mostly hid; what, I was twelve! I wanted to help. It's the thought that counts, right?"

Buffy opened her mouth to retort again, but Giles cut them off. "Honestly, are the two of you really going to argue over an incident that happened almost two years ago?"

Buffy raised an eyebrow. "Oh, I could go all the way back to how Dawn shouldn't have followed me when I went to fight the Master."

"If I hadn't followed you you woulda drowned," Dawn protested.

"You didn't even know how to do CPR! Xander had to do it when he and Angel got there."

Then they both fell silent and looked at Giles, aware he was watching them with his own eyebrows up. Dawn shrugged. "It's what we do."

Buffy managed to smile a little at that, and she could tell that it did her friends and her Watcher good to see her and her sister bantering again. It felt good to be doing it again. Maybe she wasn't as into it as she had been in the past, but she supposed that would come with time. And with seeing the Glory problem taken care of.

Dawn turned back to her homework for a minute or two, but then quickly looked up again. "Uhm...Willow, I'm kind of sucking at the geometry here. Would you mind...?"

"Yeah, sure." The young witch put down what was left of her food and crossed to the counter. "What have we got?"

Buffy leaned back in her seat to eat, watching her best friend help her sister with homework, and felt extremely blessed that even though her biological relations were now extremely scarce, she was not without family.

"I hate circles," Dawn grumbled. "Give me a nice triangle."

"Huh. Really? I always thoughts circles were simpler," Willow replied.

"You think everything's simple, Will," Xander called from the table.

"I never was much the fan of geometry myself," Giles added, though he didn't look up from his paperwork. They all stared at him, and then he looked up, befuddled. "What?"

Xander had to close his mouth before he could open it again to speak. "It's pretty much just the you admitting to not loving any scholastic subject at all."

"I was once young and frustrated with school, as well," the Watcher answered, almost defensively.

Buffy knew that. She was the only one who had heard that story from him first hand. What the others knew they'd heard from her, and she'd left out most of the details out of respect for Giles's privacy. Maybe the stupid things he'd done when he was younger had ended up affecting them all later—Eyghon, Ethan, etc—but he still didn't deserve to be gossiped about as if they were all in middle school again. So she'd kept as much of that as she could to herself.

Willow winced. "Maybe now's not the time to tell you about the tweed diapers joke."

"Excuse me?"

"We were very very young and very very stupid," Buffy cut in. "Way in the past."

"Way in the past," Xander agreed.

Willow nodded quickly. "Very stupid and very in the past."

Giles just shook his head in that way he had, where they just knew he was thinking: Young people these days. Tsk Tsk. Or: Huh. Americans. But he loved them anyway, of course. He wouldn't be Giles if he didn't.

Dawn tried to get the attention back to her homework. "So, how do you—"

There was a faint popping sound. No flash or bang; just a small pop. But it made everyone shut up and turn and stare anyway, looking for what had made it. It had come from just above the table, and when Buffy looked all she saw was a small metallic object falling to its surface. It took a moment, but everyone figured out what they were supposed to be looking at, and they all focused on the thing.

"Okay where the hell did that come from?" Xander questioned.

"What is it?" Tara asked. It was a metallic rectangle, sort of a block, maybe two by three inches and half an inch or so thick, and it seemed bright and its edges and sides completely smooth. Buffy glanced right to see Anya, Willow, and Dawn coming over from the counter, then glanced the other way to see that Giles was scowling in confusion.

"I have no idea," her Watcher said. He looked up for a moment. "It seemed to just..."

"Appear," Buffy finished.


"Which is not normal."

"No, not at all. Entirely strange."

Then it got stranger, as six small legs unfolded themselves from the block and it started to crawl around the table like some sort of futuristic bug.

Xander jerked back. "Whoa!"

Two round holes opened up on one of its shorter sides, maybe lenses that now seemed kinda like eyes. Another opened on top, and it seemed to be looking for something. It skittered around for a few seconds before stopping in front of Buffy. It's thin legs let it crane up to look at her.

"Buffy Summers."

The small, digitized voice almost made Buffy jump out of her skin. "What?"

"It knows who you are," Giles said incredulously.

"Buffy Summers. Voice print match. Face match. Identity positive."

"Okay, great, so you talk. What the hell are you?"

Willow's eyes were so wide they seemed in danger of popping out of her skull. "Is it just me, or is this way too much like one of those comic books Xander never shuts up about?"



"Okay; you have a point..."

"Sent in warning. Danger approaching."

"What are you talking about? What kind of danger?" Buffy asked, puzzled.

"Demon. Traveling by time portal."

"Time portal?" Giles questioned. "Portals are an easy enough thing to come by, relatively speaking, but between dimensions and such...not time. Granted, as versatile as magic is it can be done, but time travel is certainly not a day-to-day thing. The ways it can be done are limited—"

The little bot turned towards the Watcher for a moment. "Please refrain from speaking. Information being relayed is imperative."

Giles's mouth hung open, and Xander laughed once, loudly, and the others grinned a little. "G-man, I think a bug robot from the future just told you shut up." Then the thing turn to look at him, and he shut his mouth. He was quiet then, looking a bit sheepish, and the bot bobbed once as if to say, good, stay that way. Then it turned back to Buffy.

"Portal generated by technological/magical device. Traveler from year 2892 A.D. Mission: eliminate slayer Buffy Summers. Reason: believed to be the root of difficulties for demonkind stemming from 21st century onward, including temporary banishment from earth dimension entirely."

"Damn," Dawn said quietly. "Maybe I should respect you a little more. Apparently you're really gonna kick ass." There was sarcasm, but maybe she meant it a little. Buffy didn't particularly care one way or the other at the moment; she was trying to wrap her head around any of this.

"Okay..." she said slowly. "Assuming I believe you and we're not all crazy, considering we're all seeing you, what am I up against? How much time do we have?"

The lens on the bot's top activated, and a small hologram appeared above it. Buffy didn't like what she saw.

"Kaltar demon. Warrior breed. Not yet existent in this form in your century. Further evolved form of Kaltesh demon."

Giles frowned to himself as he stood and stepped up to the table to examine the hologram. "Kalteshes are quite nasty in their own right even now. Luckily, they're rare on earth."

The hologram showed a hulking beast that was relatively humanoid, but with four well-muscled arms easily the size of a small tree trunk in life, Buffy would have guessed. The legs were a bit bigger even than that. There were two curved horns on top of the thing's head. The one in the hologram wore only simple, leather-looking shorts, and its skin was a sickly pale-purple color, she thought, but with the blueish tint of the hologram projection she couldn't be exactly sure.

"Height, 2.2 meters. Weight, approximately 800 kilograms."

Buffy looked to Giles in confusion. "Translation?" Willow probably knew the answer too; she already looked more worried.

Giles paused a moment to think. "That's...about 7 feet, and about 1500 pounds, I believe."

"Closer to 1800," Willow corrected nervously.

"That's almost twice the size of a current Kaltesh demon," Anya provided. "And the secondary arms of a Kaltesh are only half the size of its primary arms; accordingly, they're used for secondary tasks. It's useful it battle, but apparently this new-and-improved version has full use of both sets. Also, Kalteshes only have stubby horns."

"Are...A-are we taking this seriously?" Tara asked.

"This is...more than unprecedented, but I don't know that we can afford not to," Giles sighed.

"Wait. How could they change so much in just a few hundred years?" Dawn asked. "If we are taking this seriously, anyway."

Anya shrugged. "It's simple, really. Time moves much more quickly in their dimension. By the 29th century it would have been several hundred thousand years there."

"And so we have a Kaltar demon," Buffy said. "Great. That's just great. Weaknesses?"

"Kaltars a recent appearance in home century. Weaknesses as yet unknown. Thus urgency of warning," the little bot replied.

"Are you kidding me?"

"Not programmed to kid."

They all just stared at the thing for a moment, a little stumped by that answer.

Xander's eyebrows went up. "Neat. It can make jokes."

"Not programmed to make jokes."

Buffy waved Xander into silence before he could say anything else. "Uh huh." She ran a hand through her hair in frustration. God, they really did not need another major problem right now. What the hell were they supposed to do about this? She'd killed big demons, and it wasn't like this thing was insanely massive, but it was still bigger than anything she'd killed before. And all indications pointed to the fact that it would probably have some technology way out of her league.

No wonder this was the beast the future had sent to kill her.

Not that she would let it.

She swallowed, going all business. "How much time?"

The bug-like robot went still, tilted up as if thinking. "Accessing current time. Comparing with records."

Meanwhile, Xander said, "Okay, I know I'm the geek here, but are we really taking information from a tiny robot from the 29th century or whatever?"

Suddenly the bot began to skitter frantically in a circle. "Transit and arrival time off! Kaltar demon arrival imminent! Warning! Warning! Kaltar arrival imminent!" With that the thing abruptly fell silent and jumped from the table into the pocket of Buffy's jacket. It seemed for all the world like it was hiding.

"What? Where!" Buffy demanded.

"Here!" Giles shouted, just as there was a louder pop in the middle of the shop's floor, and suddenly the Kaltar was there, right there, and the Scoobies were scattering.

"Everyone else outside!" Buffy called. Dawn was screaming, and it attracted the thing's attention. It swiped at the others, but everyone save Giles thankfully followed orders for once and sprinted for the door. It missed most of them, but Xander was the farthest around the table on his side and the last around it. The Kaltar demon's claws caught him in the shoulder and pulled him backward, and he was slammed to the floor. He should have been unconsious, but he was stubborn. Instead he just shouted in pain.

Buffy flew at the demon, giving it a solid kick to the torso. It staggered some, and only some, but that was enough for Willow and Anya to scrambled back just long enough to pull Xander up and get him out the door.

Now what? The demon was between her and the door to the training room where all the weapons where and why the hell wasn't Giles outside yet?

The demon swung at her, and with no other choice Buffy ducked and practiced any evasion needed as she tried to work her way around to the door to the training room. She hoped it hadn't done too much research on her and didn't know what she was doing.

She wasn't trying to land blows yet, but the ones she did land hardly seemed to do much good. The thing's skin was pretty tough, but not so tough that a good mace or battle axe wouldn't help. Of course, she'd still have to get around all four arms to get the head cut off, which was the only surefire way to kill it when she didn't know much about the specific breed. Cut the head off, and burn the body.

But first she needed an axe. And a heavy-duty one.

She didn't see Giles anymore. Maybe he'd finally gotten outside. Good.


No, there he was, off to her left, holding just the sort of battle axe she'd been wishing for, and she realized he'd slipped into the training room while she'd kept the demon distracted. There was a pretty decent-sized mace in his other hand, too.

"Axe!" she called, and he tossed it. She could get angry at him for putting himself in unnecessary danger later. "Get out of here!" she shouted once she'd caught the axe. He slid the mace toward her on the ground, in case it was needed later, even as he started to move back toward the front door of the shop.

Buffy swung at the demon, managing to make a shallow cut in one arm. It roared—yeah, roared—but that wasn't enough distraction to keep it from grabbing at Giles.

"Hey!" she cried, trying to regain its attention. "Target: me, remember!" But even as it deflected her attacks with its left arms and retained a few more mostly superficial cuts, it caught her Watcher in its right arms. However, that left its torso wide open, and Buffy went for it before the thing could hurt him.

But it grabbed her too, with its left arms. Damnit, the Kaltar was fast, despite its size. It grabbed her and then it slammed both her and Giles into the shelves on the wall that was shared with the training room. Or rather, Giles hit the shelves and she mostly hit him. She felt the edge of one shelf bite into part of her back for a brief second before the Kaltar let them go and they tumbled to the floor in a heap, but that was it. Buffy was stunned and a little out of breath for a moment, but Giles had taken most of the damage. She'd heard a strangled grunt on impact from him, and then nothing. Damage. When her vision cleared enough to get a good look at him she realized that the hair on the back of his head was caked with blood.


His eyes were also wide open.


In panic she nearly forgot about the demon until it grabbed her again and threw her to the other side of the room. She crashed into the glass counter, shattering the front, and landed on her ass. She scrambled to her feet, but couldn't help glancing at Giles again even as the Kaltar came at her once more.

He could just be stunned. He wasn't necessarily dead. He didn't have to be. He couldn't be. Was that a blink? Oh god oh god...

Buffy ducked a swing from the demon and dived to claim the mace from the floor. Maybe it would work a little better, somehow. The spikes were longer and stronger than some maces they had. Maybe that would help.

When she came up swinging she saw, for the first time, the device on the demon's bottom right wrist. Maybe that was the time-travel device the little robot had been talking about. And in reference to the bot...

"Battle progressing poorly," chirped the little electronic voice from her pocket. "Accessing magical power reserves."

Buffy suddenly felt a surge of strength, and her next swing was more powerful. The spikes of the mace buried themselves in one of the demon's upper arms, and it roared again.

"You wait until now on this!" Buffy cried in anger, jerking the mace out again.


"Shut up!"

The Kaltar demon paused for the first time since it had appeared out of nowhere, and its eyes narrowed at it glared at her. Its gaze went straight to the pocket where the little bug-like robot was hiding, and as they squared off Buffy resisted the urge to look down at the pocket, too, and confirm whatever it might be thinking.

"The machine arrived on time," a gravelly voice growled.

"No idea what you're talking about, buddy."

It growled again and moved on her once more, but now she noticed it was favoring the injured arm a bit. Buffy, for her part, since she'd seen the device on the Kaltar's wrist, now had a plan. She had no idea yet if she was going to kill this thing this go-round, or if one of them was going to retreat, but at least she could keep the thing from going any other when and messing with the timeline. Actually, she really needed to do that right now. She needed to disable its time-traveling ability, scoop Giles up, and get the hell out of dodge. Maybe it wasn't the best idea to move him so roughly right now, but there was no choice.

He needed medical attention immediately...if he was even alive.


But she couldn't risk a glance that way now. She didn't know, and it was killing her, but she also had a much bigger problem. When the demon charged her she jumped deftly to the side and swung the mace at the wrist the device was attached to. The good news was, she hit it, at least glancingly, and it did damage.

The bad news was, the second the mace ripped into the device the shop faded out around her and began to morph into something or somewhere or somewhen else—or rather, everything changed except for the Kaltar demon, who was really pissed off now.

Westchester, New York - 1963

Charles Xavier knew he should be in bed, as late as it was, but it was becoming harder and harder to force himself to go. There was so much to do and all the time in the world to do it...but he wanted it done.

He'd planned for a long time to be a professor, but starting his own school was a different monster entirely. It was quite a lot of work. So many questions needed to be answered. How many students could they try to take on at first? Which parts of the mansion would be classrooms, and which would be dormitories? How many students to a room? How many teachers would be needed?

And of course there would be no efficient way of finding those teachers, much less the students, until Hank was able to complete rebuilding Cerebro. In truth, he hadn't really started. There had only been planning. They had to determine the best place to put it, and so far the most reasonable vote had been for underground. It would be more difficult, and it would take longer, but it would pay off in the end in terms of keeping the installation safe. There was talk of an entire underground level or two beneath the mansion. But how long would that take?

Tonight he was leafing through catalogs, trying to determine what style of desks to order and how big the chalk boards should be. Perhaps if Charles knew what he was doing this would go more quickly, but he didn't. He was learning, though. Perhaps it would help if Alex and Sean were more the professional type, but they did what they could. And he did have Hank. Hank was becoming a very close friend, with both Raven and Erik gone, and it helped that they had something in common.

Both of them had gone through a major change in their lives recently. Hank had grown blue fur and now fully resembled the beast that had always been inside him, and he didn't know that he liked it. Charles had lost the use of his legs.

Charles pushed back from the desk in what had become something of an office for him—a corner room on the first floor with bookshelves and a sitting area, where he and the others had seen President Kennedy's television broadcast. Sometimes it was hard to be in here and remember that Erik and Raven and Moira were no longer here at the mansion, potentially just around a corner if he wanted to see them. He missed them all.

There were other rooms that would have worked as offices, but many of them weren't on the first floor. There was an elevator in the mansion, but it was old and slow and needed updating. He'd meant to have someone come look at it, to make sure it was at least safe, but he hadn't gotten around to it yet. He used it if he absolutely had to, but otherwise stayed on the ground floor. Anyway...this room had quite a nice view, out over the terrace and the lawn that sloped down beneath it to the trees. In the distance was the satellite dish Erik had...

All right. That was enough thinking for now. Maybe it really was time for bed. The battle between metal and wood and plastic and combination for the desks could continue tomorrow. On that note, a small part of him automatically thought wood or plastic, but there would still be metal screws and...but Charles quashed that thinking quickly. He and Erik had large differences in opinion, and he didn't doubt that it would lead to further conflict in the future, but he couldn't think of his friend as an enemy. He couldn't wrap his mind around it, much less when it came to Raven.

If he was honest with himself, he was...almost afraid of what the future would bring. But he wouldn't let it stop him. He couldn't. He had a job to do. They all did. There were so many mutants out there, young and old alike, and many of them frightened and unsure of what was happening to them. At least he could give some of them a place to go.

That was definitely enough thinking for tonight. That was it. He needed sleep. At least there he get could away from all of the whys and what ifs.

Charles backed his wheelchair farther away from the desk so he could come out from behind it, but as he did so he bumped hard into the back corner. Or he assumed it was hard. It sounded hard and he felt the chair lurch, but his legs felt nothing. Nothing at all.

Some people had some feeling. Some could wiggle a toe or two if they concentrated. Some could do more than that. God knew he'd read enough about it to know how much difference there was, case to case. But Charles felt nothing. Some people in this sort of condition had hope, but for him there was none. Not really. This was it. This was the rest of his life.

He tried twice more and finally got the blasted chair out from behind the desk. The bloody thing was powered, but it was still hard to maneuver sometimes—especially when he was tired as he was now. Hank worked on it on and off, trying to improve it. After all, he'd designed it. It had already been done, a surprise when for they brought Charles home from the hospital. The "X"s on the wheels had been Alex's idea, supported by Sean, and Hank had gone along with it. Moira had too, of course. She loved the chair—except for the fact that it was needed at all. The day they'd given it to him, the day after he came home, had been the last time he'd seen Moira since. She'd gone back to the CIA, and he'd had no choice but to cleanse her memories of the mansion before he sent her off. They could take no chances that anyone uninvited would be able to gain the information from her and find them.

God, he missed her. In those few short weeks that were now months gone it wasn't only his legs, his sister, and his best friend that Charles had lost. He had also lost a women he was convinced he could have loved.

Sleep. That was where he was headed.

Charles let out a breath and went for the door, but abruptly stopped and sucked a mouthful of air right back in.

He was suddenly aware of two new minds nearby, that he hadn't sensed at all merely a second before. Both were...more than average. One was strong, powerful. He sensed power, but not in the mutant sense. Not exactly. Or maybe whoever it was simply had a mutant power that he wasn't familiar with at all. The other mind, however...

Charles coiled back when he tried to touch it, and he couldn't remember doing that before. Ever. He had been shut out of minds before, thanks to that blasted helmet Erik had recovered from Shaw, but he had never come across a mind that he hesitated so completely to come in contact with. It was just so...different. So repulsive. He could sense that without even entering in any way. He almost felt as if he would come away dirty, or damaged.

Quickly Charles brought two fingers to his temple, focusing his powers even as he spun the wheelchair back around as quickly as it would spin so he could get at the nearest window. He reached out to the first mind he had sensed, but he already knew that whoever it was could not be safe—not with the possessor of that other mind so near. Danger was a certainty. Someone was in trouble.

Yes. The strong mind was frightened even though it was determined. It was strong, yet panicked, yet angry, and as he drew in closer...

Oh god, it was a girl. She was fighting for her very life, her only protection her fighting skills and...a mace? When he drew close enough to see through her eyes for a moment he saw a creature so strange it could only be a mutant. Some poor soul born so horribly wrong that even its mind was affected beyond repair. "Hank! Sean! Alex!"

Keeping a mental eye on the girl and her attacker, Charles called upstairs with his mind as well. He soon sensed that Hank was awake, in his lab, but Alex and Sean were asleep. Alex! Sean! Wake up! Hank! I need all three of you downstairs immediately! There's trouble!

All three of them were startled, of course. He sometimes spoke to them across the house that way if it was easier than going all the way to them in his wheelchair, but never in the middle of the night before. A jumble of thoughts came back to him in return.

I'm up!

What the HELL, Charles?

Please tell me this isn't some kind of crazy new training tactic.

Sean, Hank, and Alex, respectively, the last very groggy. Charles shook his head to himself. No. This is not a drill. There's a young woman outside, down the hill in the back, being attacked by what I assume to be a violent mutant. Though she may be a mutant herself. I have no idea where they've come from or what's prompted the attack, but the girl needs help. This creature is several times her size and strength.

He heard pounding on the stairs already, and in a moment all three of his housemates and fellow mutants stumbled into the room in various stages of dress. Hank was the only one still fully dressed and in the process of stripping off his lab coat, and he, of course, moved much more gracefully than the other two. The beast in him had its advantages.

Charles motioned them to the windows he was looking out, and pointed to where the battle was taking place. It took him a moment to find it from the window, as he'd been watching through the girl's mind. "There!"

"Got it," Hank said quickly. The other two nodded, and the three of them raced back out of the room, headed for the nearest exit.

When they were gone, Charles focused more closely the young woman's mind. He scrounged up a name, and called out to her. He sent out a wave of fortifying calm with the thought, hoping to help and also to keep from startling her into making a fatal mistake in battle.

Buffy, just hold on. Help is on the way.