“...So according to the reports, the nest has been completely cleared out with minimum damage to the nearby ice cream shop”.
The Slayer rose her eyes from the clipboard she held, eagerly looking at you waiting for feedback for her charming presentation of the recent news.
You took a quick glance at Spike, who was sitting on top of one of your drawers behind you, sipping from a bag of blood with a straw as if it were a Capri Sun. He didn’t seem to be paying attention. Neither were you, if you were being honest, not completely.
“Ah, yes, thank you, uh...”
“Rachel.” The girl’s smile fell a bit.
“Right” You smiled sweetly at her, ignoring the voice repeating “you screwed up” over and over in the back of your head. “Rachel. Sorry. Anything else?”
“Ah” Her eyes lit up again. “yes ma’am. Mr. Wells said he’ll be stopping by today.”
Behind you, you heard Spike choking on his blood.
“T-today?” You repeated. “H-how come I hadn’t heard any of this before?”
“He just called today.” She answered simply. “Is that going to be a problem, ma’am?”
“No, no of course...” You trailed off. So, Andrew was coming. You wondered what new, ludicrous thing he would ask for you to do. For a moment you held onto the hope that maybe he wasn’t up to anything. Maybe he was really just stopping by, run some routine exams on your… limb situation. You absentmindedly brushed your left hand over your right arm, being met with cold metal instead of warm skin. You sighed. Deep inside, you knew Andrew being around meant you being pulled into his shenanigans and you just had to accept that while he was there, you wouldn’t have anything resembling peace.
“Ma’am?” Rachel called, pulling you back to reality.
“Right, sorry.” You said abruptly. You stopped, shaking your head. “Sorry, I just… No, it’s not gonna be a problem, Rachel. Please, let me know when he’s here.”
The young slayer nodded, smiling giddily, and left the room, leaving you alone with Spike and your several repressed sighs.
“Now, would ya look at that.” Spike said, after a few seconds. “Tara’s got a groupie.”
You frowned in annoyance. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
He just chuckled. “I’m just sayin’, witch. Seems like you been making quite an impression ‘round here. Red’s gonna be back and the Slayers are all gonna be like ‘nah, we don’t want you anymore, we work for Tara now’, you know what I’m sayin’?”
It could be that you were trying to hard to see niceness on Spike, but it seemed like that was him trying to flatter you rather than annoy you. You shifted in your chair, so that he wouldn’t see you blushing.
“So,” Spike said, changing the subject before you could get into it. “Andrew, uh? How long do you think it’s gonna take for you to get your first request for permission to kill him? I give it three, maybe four… hours.”
“Maybe he won’t cause trouble this time?” You said trying to sound hopeful. “I mean, you never know. Maybe he just misses his country.”
“Whatever, witch.” Spike answered. You heard the sound of the spark wheel of his lighter being turned. “As long as he doesn’t go around calling me that stupid bloody nickname. What was it again?”
You squinted as you tried to remember. “Keith? I think it was Keith. Or something. I don’t, I don’t really get it, you know, the meaning behind it.”
“Must be something from his nerd bullshit.” He grunted in frustration. “The hell is wrong with this lighter?!”
“It’s not the lighter.” You explained, turning to him. “The room is fireproof. Magic barrier. Sorry Spike, but I don’t want my office stinking of cigarettes.”
He whined, putting his lighter and cigarette box back in his coat pocket. “Fine.” He said, getting up. “Imma light it outside then.”
“Have fun.” You said distractedly. “No, wait.” You called. “Will you be there with me when Andrew arrives? He’s not very good at picking on cues and I don’t have the guts to tell him off.”
He scoffed in disdain, but all he said was: “Fine. I’ll be outside.”
“Thank you.” You said sincerely. Spike nodded before leaving, closing the door behind him.
You received Andrew with open arms - metaphorically speaking, though he did try to hug you as soon as he saw you.
“If it’s not my dearest, most estimated friend, Tara Rosenberg. Or should I say… Tara-kashi Shirogane, Paladin of the Black Lion!” He said dramatically, as he motioned to embrace you. You unconsciously stepped back, and Spike grabbed Andrew by the coat, noticing your gesture.
You were currently standing at the Entrance Hall of the Slayer Headquarter, near one of the groups of couches close to the walls. You sat down in one of them with Spike by your right side, but Andrew kept standing on his feet.
“How’s my favorite real-life cyborg doing?” Andrew asked, without skipping a beat. “Quite busy, I imagine, without your… princess Willura here?” He said in a self-congratulatory tone, proud of his pun even though no one else in the room had any idea what it meant.
The fake smile you were holding instantly faded and gave place to a grimace. You hated it when Andrew called you a cyborg. You knew he didn’t mean any harm, that in Andrew’s warped notion of the world this was probably a compliment. Still, the idea that you were any less than human due to your disability was certainly tasteless, to say the very least.
Once again, Spike caught on your discomfort before Andrew, smacking the younger man in the back of the head, receiving a soft “ouch” in return.
“Andrew, what was it we agreed again.”
“No… cyborg talk?”
“Right” Spike nodded. “No cyborg talk.”
“So what are you doing here Andrew?” You said abruptly, desperate to change the subject. “N-not that I don’t want you here, i-it’s just. You must have a reason for… flying all the way from Italy here?”
Andrew shifted a little, glancing at Spike apprehensively.
“Well, first of all, I was hoping to take a look at your arm. I have some really cool upgrades I was planning for it! It’s gonna be awesome, you’ll see.”
You frowned, shaking your head. “Upgrades? Andrew, we talked about this. I don’t want any weapons or gadgets or anything-”
“No, no! No gadgets, I assure you.” He assured you. “Quite the opposite actually. I think I’m one step closer to give you a fully functional human arm! Except, you know, made of metal, and wires.”
You opened your mouth several times, trying to get words to come out. Finally, what you said was:
Instead of answering, Andrew put his backpack on the floor and started rummaging through the contents.
“Remember when I found Warren’s laptop while going through our things in our old hideout and everything was password protected so I couldn’t access the files? Well, I finally got in!”
He took the laptop and showed you the interface of Warren’s desktop, which currently had an image of Andrew’s head photoshopped onto Superman’s head as it’s wallpaper. You nodded, genuinely impressed and just slightly disturbed by the image of Andrew in tights.
“Nice job Andrew! Must have been difficult. You know, with Warren being a genius and everything.”
“Well” He smiled, full of pride. “I have to admit, I had some encouragement. By which I mean, your wife threatening to yank my skeleton out of my body through my eyes if I didn’t do it quick.”
“...Oh.” Note to self, you thought, have a talk with Willow over her concerning habit of making not-so-empty threats to my friends.
“Yeah, she got really invested on it after I told her these files could help with your problem. And I was right!”
Andrew walked over to you holding the laptop and sitting down on the left side of the couch, with tangible enthusiasm.
“Apparently, Warren was even more of a genius than I thought! He was making his own research on how to make one’s brain fully assimilate a non-organic body as part of their own organism. Even to the point of recognizing electric impulses sent by these bodies as authentical nervous stimuli.”
You stared at him blankly.
“It means you can now actually feel what happens to your arm.”
“Oh!” You exclaimed. “Andrew that’s. That’s amazing.”
“I know right?!” He replied, full of excitement.
“And you can actually do this?”
Andrew’s smile faltered. “Well I. Technically I can. You know, if I have the aid of. A team of highly specialized neuroradiologists? And a medical degree?”
You could feel yourself shrink in disappointment. “Oh.”
“Wait, you serious?” Spike scoffed. “You can make a robot that looks and walks and talks just like a real living human but you can’t make an arm?”
“Well, it’s not as simple as that, Spike” Andrew replicated, exasperated. “First of all, I’m not the one who made those robots, Warren made them. I’m not on his level just yet. Secondly, a robot is just non-living matter. Now, messing with an organic being is a bit more complicated than that. I mean,” He looked at you cautiously. “a robot isn’t gonna scream in pain if I mess up.”
You gulped. “That’s a good point.”
Spike nodded slowly, considering Andrew’s words. The three of you fell in an uncomfortable silence for a few seconds, before Spike spoke up again. “So you just came here to say ‘hey, look what I can’t do’?”
“Actually,” Andrew corrected, visibly hurt by Spike’s mockery. “I also found how he would do the fake skin for his robots.” He turned to you. “You won’t have the feeling back just yet, but at least we’re finally gonna be able to make it more discreet, like you wanted.”
You sighed in relief. “Good. Thank you, Andrew.” You said sincerely. “I knew I could count on you.”
Andrew smiled sweetly, and for a second you thought he was gonna start to cry. Before you could realize, he was hugging you a bit tighter than you’d be comfortable with.
“Oh, okay… Okay, Andrew, that’s,” you said, patting his back. “I think that’s enough.”
He pulled away, still smiling. You could swear you saw him drying a tear. It was impressive how the young man was even more emotional than you.
“Okay! Let’s do this!” Andrew jumped to his feet, almost dropping his laptop on the floor in the process. “Now. Where can I put my equipment?”