Chapter 1: Prologue
It was ironic, when you though about.
Anger had been brewing inside him for years; much like how minor waves cresting in the middle of the ocean can grow exponentially until they form a disastrous tsunami. He had never quite forgiven his father leaving him and he probably never would.
Yet, here he was years later abandoning his own child.
He had his reasons, of course. If any found out that he was the father…well, suffice to save that there would be hell to pay. Literally, perhaps.
No, he had to do this. His child never should have been born – and never would have if only he didn’t have such a hankering for redheads. It was imperative that he bind the child’s powers – perhaps forever – and send his belly-bumpin’ vixen off to a place where no one would ever be able to find them.
Chapter 2: Just Got Lucky
The soundtrack of his life was playing in full surround sound at the moment. Hisses, grunts, groans, the thwack of a punch, and the snap of broken bone made up the little ditty that was broadcast at least four nights out of every week. ‘The Hellmouth’s Symphony’, as he joked, had become his life’s soundtrack over the last four months, ever since Buffy Summers had slayed her way into his life. Together he and Willow often accompanied Buffy on her extracurricular activities on the way home from the Bronze or a late night study session. It was kind of freaky when he thought about how much his life had changed – but the freakiest part of it all was that it didn’t freak him out.
Call him crazy – you wouldn’t be the first – but Xander Harris felt oddly comfortable in this lifestyle. Killing vampires and demons (or, well, offering Buffy helpful suggestions mid-battle and occasionally tossing her a stake), researching evil shenanigans, and hanging around with a super hot super hero was actually kind of cool.
Plus, it beat his ‘normal’ life – a dad who was more interested in watching sports and taking his ‘sleep medicine’ (aka several beers) and a mom who was so depressed that he barely saw her out of a robe.
“Xander!” Buffy shouted as she struggled with a vampire and gave him a warning look.
“Wha—” but his words got lost in his throat as a pallid creature of the night enclosed his spindly fingers around his neck. Like, they were some seriously creepy long piano-playing fingers. Who was this, the Phantom of the Opera?
And Xander would have loved to make that crack, but at the moment he was having a hard time breathing.
“You’re blood smells sweet, boy,” grunted Mr. Phantom. “I can’t wait to sip it like a 7-11 slurpee.”
Xander fought not to roll his eyes (which, okay, was impossible since they were slightly bulging at the moment) at the lame threat as he jerked his stake forward and planted the tip against his assailant’s cylinder-thin chest. However, a second set of spindly fingers wrapped around his hand and stopped the stake from propelling forward.
“Humans have no place fighting vampires,” Mr. Phantom chuckled lowly in Xander’s ear as he bent down to lightly scrape his fangs against his neck.
‘Dammit! Where was Buffy? Move, stake! Move!’ he thought fervently as he tried in vain to press the stake forward even as his strength was giving out.
And then the weirdest thing happened. Against all odds his hand found the strength to move forward and a second later he was on the ground coughing on vamp dust.
A pink and purple hearted cotton covered arm pulled him up and suddenly Willow was hugging him like there was no tomorrow.
“Oh! Ohmygod, Ithoughtyouweregoingtodie!” she babbled at a level so unclear that only he, after ten years of practice, and dogs could hear her.
“Will, I’m good,” he murmured as he patted her back and took a deep breath. And he was good…heck, he had to agree with Wills – he had thought he was going to die, too!
Guess he just got lucky.
“Xander,” Buffy panted from exertion as she sidled up next to him. “I’m so sorry, that linebacker vamp was way harder than I was thinkin’. You okay?”
“Yeah, I’m sorry too! I was trying to find Buffy’s stake that got tossed and by the time I saw you being choked and tried to help the vamp was already dust!” Willow explained in a frantic voice; her porcelain cheeks stained with a shade of red that almost matched her hair.
“Ladies, ladies,” he stated gallantly as he wrapped an arm around them both as they started walking (and yes, he was ever-so aware of how good Buffy’s hair smelled). “I’m all good. I think you both underestimate what a He-Man I am,” he grinned.
Buffy playfully slapped his chest (ye gods, let him say something that will have her react that way again!) and frowned at him. “Next time could you just stake the vamp asap and not make it so I got worry-lines?”
Xander made a show of stopping and entangling his arms from both his girls – one who was his best friend and the other who was his very good friend that he hoped would be a girlfriend someday. He gave Buffy a serious look and lightly touched the left side of her forehead. “Buffy, I’m sorry,” he said in a despondent voice.
Immediately Buffy’s face fell and a guilty look washed over her. “Oh, no! Xander, I didn’t mean to make you feel bad. I was just—”
“I’m sorry that you do have some worry-lines. Right there and there,” he told her in that same flat tone as he touched two spots on her forehead.
“Wha—?” she asked with wide, panicked eyes as she began rummaging through her bag for her cosmetics case.
Xander burst out laughing at her display of almost Cordelia-esque behavior. Buffy’s eyes narrowed and she smacked him again.
“Not funny,” she pouted as she crossed her arms over her chest.
“Yes it was,” he gleefully responded; feeling almost feverish at her touch.
Oh yeah, life was a *lot* better with the vampire slayer in town.
The bit of news that he had heard last night at a supernaturally-inclined bar in Alcalá de Henares, Spain had severely pissed him off
What the hell was a vampire slayer doing at the Hellmouth? And not just any hellmouth, oh no. Instead of living in Cleveland or Guatemala City, or hell even Wasilla, Alaska, she just had to come to Sunnydale and wreck his plans.
Oh, he was livid.
It had been sixteen years ago since he had sent her away with that buffoon of a husband that she had – and yes, so maybe he did the dirty with someone’s wifey but she was wearing formal wear and he always was a sucker for breaking the rules.
Regardless, his child was in danger now that the Slayer had befriended them. Slayers were a magnet for trouble and he had a bad feeling about what was happening at the Hellmouth. Previously, his kid was protected by the magic that he had suppressed within him – magic that masked his presence and made it so the denizens of the Hellmouth wouldn’t notice him. But now? Hanging around a slayer was like putting a big, fat target on his back.
Dammit. It was probably only because she was hot that his kid hung around her, he bet. Like father, like son and all – he was a sucker for beautiful women.
He had promised himself to never go back there so that way he wouldn’t draw any unnatural attention to the city, but with a slayer in town all bets were off. He had to go and make sure his son was safe.
…And sue him, so maybe he also was kind of curious what his kid was like.
Chapter 3: More Popular than a 'Casual Encounters' Ad
Disclaimer: Some dialogue in here comes from the Season 1, Episode 12 of BTVS ('Prophecy Girl'). J. 'Dubbya' owns those words.
It was a Friday afternoon and the cloudless sky allowed the entire Sunnydale High School campus to be bathed in bright sunlight. In between classes students chatted in the quad or made out under the bleachers or worked on their new cheers for the summer baseball season. All in all, Sunnydale was just like any other quaint small city.
He snorted out loud and took another bite of his Snickers bar. Like hell it was. Honestly, sometimes he just didn’t understand how these humans could live here. Couldn’t they feel the evil emanating under their feet? Weren’t they suspicious at all about the strange disappearances or occurrences – like the cat last week who gave birth to live snakes?
As he strolled through the school grounds he couldn’t help but feel slightly uneasy. The evil of the Hellmouth seemed to pulse under his flesh and the scent of such wickedness made his stomach turn. He hated that he had to send his kid here but he knew that the mystical convergence of the Hellmouth would ensure that his kid’s special abilities and parentage would go overlooked amidst so much greater magic. Ironically, one of the most dangerous places in the world was also the safest for his kid.
A girl with auburn hair brushed past him just then and he received an unwanted glimpse into her past – he saw a black-eyed mother performing witchcraft and stealing her daughter’s body. It made his lip curl in disgust to think that his kid had to grow up in this environment. Honestly, when it came to the various creatures of evil he couldn’t understand why they weren’t wiped out long ago.
Well, he knew why of course, but that didn’t mean that he didn’t understand it.
Then again, he knew better than to complain – even within the confines of his own mind – because he chose long ago not to help fight against demons. Heck, his friends weren’t exactly Girl Scouts to begin with. Truth be told, he had mixed emotions on humans. Some of them completely deserved the worst that they received in life, yet there were also a great number who truly showed why human beings were so wonderful – no matter how eternally screwed up they were, humans always tried to do better. And that had to count for something.
It was with these thoughts on his mind that he first saw his son.
Pain flared up in his heart, remorse rattled his bones, and pride curved his lips into a small smirk. Not only could he feel that this was his son, but he could tell just by looking at him. He wore a lopsided grin, had bright eyes, and dark hair that cascaded over his forehead. His clothes were, well, *interesting* to say the least, but he bet that the kid got his clothing style from dear ‘ole dad.
…Of course, the major family resemblance was the fact that his son had two broads on his arm, a blond and a redhead. Heck, all the kid needed was a brunette and he’d be good to go!
He chuckled quietly and settled in to watch. After all, he was just here to observe – and maybe figure out some way to get this slayer out of Sunnydale and away from his kid.
Noting that the redhead became flustered and ran off, he observed the boy – his son – sit the slayer down and begin stammering incoherently.
Oh, for the love of…Couldn’t his son have inherited his Rico Suave smooth style? Watching the boy ask the slayer out was almost painful.
…Then again, he supposed he had a long time to perfect his personal style so maybe his kid just needed some practice.
Finally, after watching the boy get turned down by the slayer (and let’s be honest – with a name like ‘Buffy’ he figured she wasn’t the sharpest crayon in the box so he didn’t feel too bad about the kid getting rejected – he could do better) he sighed and began to contemplate what he was doing here. It was clear that he couldn’t leave his kid here. After all, if he couldn’t even work up the nerve to ask a girl out then he definitely couldn’t handle himself against the forces of the Hellmouth.
Tiny pebbles began falling on him just then, and as he raised his head to shout at whoever the hell was throwing rocks, he faltered. Judging by the thousands of pebbles falling throughout the courtyard he realized that no one was throwing them – they were raining down from the sky.
Dammit. He hated being around apocalypses.
He followed at a distance, masking his presence so that not even the vampire could sense him in the darkened streets.
A day had passed since he had first spied his son and after doing some recon with some old buddies of his, he learned that this particular apocalypse involved the death of the vampire slayer, the rise of the Master of the Order of Aurelius, and the opening of the Hellmouth. Clearly, there was no way in hell that he was going to let his son get killed in the crossfire so he had gone searching for him. It had taken some time but finally he found him entering a basement apartment…of the vampire with a soul.
He hated all vampires – they were bastards of the human and demon races, after all – and he couldn’t believe that his kid was stupid enough to enter one’s apartment alone, even if this one was essentially a eunuch when it came to killing humans.
But then he had been pleasantly surprised.
Without warning Xander had shoved a cross into the vampire’s face and demanded the whereabouts of the Master so that he could save his little vampire slayer. No fear shone through his features and at that moment his son radiated strength – enough so that he was starting to wonder if maybe he needed to reexamine the suppression spell he had done on Xander.
Now curiosity led his footsteps as he followed his son and the vampire. He figured if the Master tried to kill his son he’d dust the sonofabitch with a snap of his fingers, so he wasn’t worried about prolonging his son’s stay in Sunnydale. At this point he was hella interested on just what Junior had planned.
As he followed silently through the sewers he couldn’t help but wonder how much of him had passed on to his son – and not just powers but personality traits. After all, he was never thought of as particularly brave (not that he gave a rat’s ass what people thought, though). Dammit – he was really hoping his son didn’t have one of those ‘hero’ personalities. Those never ended well. Add in his powers and soon every damn higher being was going to start hitting Xander up like he had a craigslist ad placed in the ‘casual encounters’ section.
The vampire said something and all of a sudden both of them started running deeper into the sewers. Gah, mortals were always in such a rush. It was so annoying. Nonetheless he followed them deeper into the darkness until finally they were in an underground cavern illuminated by dozens of flickering candles. The beast with the overhanging forehead yanked a girl out of a small pool of water and laid her on the ground.
“She’s dead!” the vampire declared mournfully.
Xander paused and a stricken look passed over his features. In that moment he could clearly read his son’s emotions – he loved this girl. It was almost enough to even make his heartstrings tug, this sense of unrequited love for the kind of girl who doesn’t often live past the age of seventeen due to her ‘profession’. Poor kid.
“No. She’s not dead,” Xander stated in clear denial of the obvious. Heck, even he could tell that the slayer’s spirit was no longer encased in her body.
“She’s not breathing,” the vampire explained.
“But if she drowned, uh, there’s a shot! CPR!” Xander decided excitedly.
Hmm. Now he was intrigued. He found the craft of CPR to be most interesting. Humans bringing back a person from near death? How could he not be intrigued!
It still wouldn’t work, of course. He could sense that the Master had left her for dead at least ten minutes ago. Her soul had already ascended. But still, it was interesting that his kid was this determined to try.
“You have to do it. I have no breath,” the vampire informed Xander and they both knelt next to her body. Xander took off his jacket, laid it on top of her, and then began the process of breathing into her lungs and doing chest compressions.
He let out a silent sigh. Poor kid. He was trying his damndest and he didn’t realize that once a person’s soul has ascended you can’t bring them back from the dead. CPR only worked if a person had just barely crossed the threshold of death and their soul had not yet left.
“C’mon. C’mon!” Xander pleaded before he blew into the slayer’s mouth one more time.
Then the air became supercharged with power and he could feel it ripple down his spine. A swift wind cut through the air like sharpened icicles and each candle was snuffed out one by one. He gaped at the display of sheer power that effectively burst through the binds he had placed on Xander long ago.
“Come back to us, Buffy!” Xander demanded frantically, but there was an echo of power that lurked in his voice.
Even he, one of the oldest beings on this planet, couldn’t help but tremble at the sudden show of power – power that he had created. Power that others would kill for.
A watery cough sounded in the darkness and each candle subsequently flickered back to life.
“Buffy!” Xander cried out in sheer joy, and like an elastic band, he could feel the power reentering his son and binding itself to him once again.
“Xander?” a weak voice replied.
Both Xander and the vampire helped the newly resurrected girl up. “Easy. Easy,” Xander recommended as he allowed her to lean on him.
“The Master?” she asked in a flat voice.
“He’s gone up,” the vampire replied.
Buffy started to walk out but Xander tried to stop her. “No. You’re still weak.”
The slayer paused for a moment and appeared thoughtful as she seemed to search herself. “No. No, I feel strong. I feel different.”
Well of course she felt strong. He couldn’t pinpoint it but that little visit to Heaven gave the girl a boost in power that no other slayer had come to possess before.
She glanced back at them. “Let’s go!”
The three of them ascended the steps leading out of the sunken church and he just leaned heavily against a crumbling wall.
So…That was unexpected.
He gulped and ran a hand through his light brown hair before taking another bite out of his Snickers bar. This was not good. There were only a few types of beings able to perform a successful resurrection and it wouldn’t take long for anyone to start figuring it out. Sunnydale was watched over heavily by those damn ass monkeys who thought that the vampire slayer was their own personal puppet – no one would just overlook her coming back to life. In fact, in those few minutes he wouldn’t be surprised if the next slayer had been Called already.
He thought that he had suppressed Xander’s power effectively. Only a small amount was able to radiate through the boy – just enough to keep the demons away from him and, should any attack him, give the boy an extra bit of luck to get out of it. But this? Saving a slayer? This exceeded what power he thought that the boy was able to access.
While he was worried on one hand, on another he was feeling quite proud and relieved. Maybe his son did have what it took to live on the Hellmouth.
After thinking about it some more he decided that he needed to ditch this hellhole asap and go see if any word of this had spread to any of his asshole siblings. His presence, coupled with Xander’s performance, would be enough to draw any of those monkeys here.
He’d come back, someday, after the hullabaloo simmered down…and then maybe he’d have the balls to introduce himself to his kid.
Chapter 4: Just Desserts
Warning: A bit of darkness and abuse in this chapter in my attempt to shine some light on Xander’s home life.
Indie rock music pounded through the speakers and the floor of the Bronze shook from the heavy bass and antics of fun-loving, dancing teenagers.
Xander, of course, was not one of those fun-loving dancers. In the past thirty minutes he had gone from a frenzy of laugh-induced hijinks to feeling strangely apprehensive. Willow sat next to him and they both were hanging out alone tonight; Buffy was patrolling at some park that had a few attacks occur there in the past week. He wasn’t sure why he felt this way, he just did. There was a presence in the back of his mind and it felt like someone was watching him, but when he turned around there was no one there.
“So, do you wanna get going?” Willow asked him reluctantly with a small shrug.
He frowned. “Aw, Willster, I’m sorry that I’m not living up to my funky party animal reputation.”
“You have a reputation?” she asked lightly with a teasing grin.
Quick as a whip he plucked his straw out of his glass of ice water and flicked a few droplets of water at her.
“Hey!” she protested with an amused laugh. “Meanie,” she declared with a pout as she wiped away the offending droplets.
“Kettle,” he said as he pointed to her. “Pot,” he pointed to him. “Both black,” he added as his hand motioned towards both of them.
“Yeah, yeah,” she rolled her eyes with a grin. “Anyways, if you’re tired we can go. After all, there is a great episode of CSI on tonight.”
“Nah, that’s okay,” he said quickly. “I think I just need some caffeine.”
“Let me guess – putting off that math homework?” she asked as he stood up to take off for the bar.
“You know it,” he grinned. Except, actually, she didn’t know. Right now it wasn’t so much his waiting math homework but this weird feeling that there was someone here. And call him crazy, but he wanted to figure out who this person was.
Or, well, just figure out if maybe he was crazy.
As he walked to the bar he began to feel that itch between his shoulder blades start to fade – okay, maybe he was crazy. Some people made eye contact with him, some didn’t. Some jock – Larry – ran into him and yelled at him to get the hell out of his way and Cordelia managed to deliver her clockwork-like jab before he fired off an insult of his own; all in all it was a typical Bronze night.
Which was why, by the time he reached the, bar he was feeling relaxed and at ease. That feeling from earlier? Just a case of the heebie jeebies – which is pretty common when you live in a place on the Hellmouth. He eased onto a barstool and held out a five dollar bill in a vain attempt to get the hulking brute of a bartender’s attention. However, seeing that he wasn’t a young, attractive girl he was getting zippo attention over here.
“Hey man, you know what time it is?” a voice next to him asked.
Xander swirled around on his barstool and took in the sight of a dark-haired thirty-something guy wearing jeans and a maroon button-up shirt with a tan jacket. Although he had a slight build, he looked for all the world like a ‘guy’s guy’, except for one thing: he was sipping on a fruity looking drink that had a cherry in it.
He couldn’t help it, he grinned in amusement. “Um, sorry man, I don’t wear a watch,” Xander shrugged.
The guy’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion. “Then what’s that on your wrist? Don’t tell me you’re some Star Trek nerd and that’s your techy toy,” he smirked.
Xander’s lips pursed. “One, so what if I enjoy watching Captain Picard and his adventures every once in a while? And two, I don’t have a—” He paused in the middle of his declaration as he saw a silver object on his left wrist glint under a passing strobe light. “What the—?” This was a nice watch. A very nice watch. But, he did not own nice things! What the heck…maybe someone lost it? But if they lost it, then how the heck did it end up on his wrist? Was it ‘opposite day’ and all the pick pocketers in town were giving people things instead of taking them?
“You okay, man?” the guy inquired in concern.
Suuure. Now he looked like the crazy absent-minded guy who forgot that he wore a watch. “Uh, sorry. I just didn’t realize I, um, put this on tonight.”
The guy grinned and held up his drink. “Tell me about it. I’ve done that a lot a lot; always forgetting where I put things.”
“Yeah,” Xander smiled in return, although he was still confused as to where the watch came from.
The guy’s eyes glanced at his watch again and he gave Xander an interested look. “I hope you don’t mind me asking, but what kind of watch is that? I’ve never seen those kind of engravings around the face like that.”
“Um.” Xander glanced down at his watch. Strangely, besides being heavy and looking shiny in that expensive sort of way, there were a series of weird symbols – like hieroglyphics. That was …weird. Maybe he should show Giles?
The guy slurped down the rest of his drink and raised the glass in the eye-line of the bartender, who was so busy talking to some high-school girl that he just held up his index finger before turning back to the girl.
“Shitty service,” the guy snorted in annoyance as he tapped his fingers against the bar in impatience.
“Yeah,” Xander rolled his eyes. “It’s like that brainless wonder thinks that he can pick up high school girls just by giving them free alcohol, even though his head looks like something between a pug and a poodle.” The bartender had the strangest scrunched up face and he had wild, curly poodle-like hair.
The other man chuckled lightly and glanced over at Xander in amusement. “You come here often?”
What? Uh-oh. Was this guy hitting on him? Oh great. First a She-Mantis, then a Mummy, and now a strange dude – his love life sucked!
“Uh, not like that,” the other man winced. “I just meant that I’m in town visiting and I was wondering if this was the only bit of nightlife that Sunnydale had.”
Oh. Thank god. Xander let out a breath of relief. It would be just Xander’s luck that some dude – and probably a demonic dude – would hit on him next. “Oh, yeah, pretty much. I mean, there’s a move theatre downtown, but that’s about it.” Unless you enjoy slaying vampires, of course. Sunnydale is home to dozens of cemeteries after all!
Yeah, that was something that *really* needed to go on the tourist brochure.
“Huh,” the man grinned. “Sounds like a tough place to live in, let alone grow up in.”
Hmm. As Xander gave the man a closer look he realized that it almost looked like this man was nervous. He wondered what his deal was.
“Eh,” Xander shrugged. “It’s alright. Better than some places.” Yeah, like Antarctica.
The man laughed and Xander wondered what he found so amusing.
“I’m Xander, by the way,” he introduced himself as he held his hand out towards the man.
The man paused for a moment before shooting him a grin accompanied by twinkling eyes. “My friends call me Loki.”
“Loki? Weird name,” Xander chuckled. And why did that name sound familiar?
Loki laughed loudly. “Yeah, I hang around an interesting bunch of people. Besides, Xander? That’s not exactly typical.”
Xander laughed along with Loki. “Well, my real name is Alexander, but I hate my full name.”
“Hmm.” Loki looked him up and down and grinned again. “Let me guess – you have an embarrassing middle name though?”
Xander shifted uneasily. “Eh, maybe…” he trailed off before giving a nervous smile. Honestly, what had his mother been thinking when she named him ‘LaVelle’?
Luckily he was saved from answering thanks to the inept bartender. “Yo, what you want, old man?” the bartender glowered at his Loki; clearly annoyed that he had to ignore giving alcohol away to pretty girls when he had a paying customer.
Loki’s lips curled into something that was a cross between a smirk and a sneer as Xander felt the air cool slightly – although as soon as he noted that change it was gone.
“Give me a Russian Fruitbasket and give the kid a beer,” he gestured.
“What? Oh, no. No beer for me!” Xander hurriedly said. “Just a Coke, please.”
The bartender just raised his brows slightly at Xander, shrugged, and went to fill the drink request.
“What? You don’t drink, kid? Why not? Religious reasons?” Loki asked in an interested tone as he casually circled the inside of his glass with his straw.
“Religious? Naw,” Xander denied in amusement. “My family’s not religious.” Hell, the only thing his dad worshipped was the blissful properties of alcohol every night.
There was a clinking noise of breaking glass and Xander looked down to see that the man’s glass had broken and his palm was bleeding. “Holy crap, dude!” he exclaimed as he grabbed some napkins from the bar counter and handed them over. “You okay?”
He shook himself slightly and nodded curtly. “Yeah. Fine,” Loki answered in a short voice as he pressed the napkins to his palm.
“So, uh, you’re not religious, so why don’t you want any beer? Isn’t that what most kids your age like to drink?” Loki inquired with a casual shrug.
Xander snorted and his eyes met the man’s dark brown ones. “Trust me, man. I’m no fan of beer.” Ugh – even just the idea of beer made his stomach turn. Too many memories of his dad yelling at him, smacking him around, and even screaming obscenities at his mother were brought up by the idea of beer. His dad liked to joke that his nickname was ‘Tyson’ in school and there had been too many nights when he had liked to show off his ‘boxing’ skills.
No – he would never drink that vile stuff. His worst nightmare was become just like his alcoholic, abusive, asshole-a-riffic father.
The suddenly floor shook beneath his feet and someone yelled “Earthquake!” As the lights flickered Xander huddled under the overhanging bar and waited for the quake to pass – as a native Californian he was used to the random earthquake. After a few minutes everything calmed down as the earth stilled and the emergency lights flickered on.
“Yuck,” he whispered as he stood up. His pants were moist from sitting, apparently, in the middle of a pop spill. God, he hated earthquakes.
He glanced over at the guy that he had been speaking to and was surprised to see that he was gone. Xander glanced around the area, but he wasn’t anywhere to be found.
Poor guy. He had said he was only in town visiting – he probably got freaked out by the earthquake and ran off.
After the quake, Xander and Willow had decided to call it a night. The Bronze was fun but with only a generator running the band couldn’t play and there wasn’t much of a point to staying then. He had walked her home and then headed to his house; throughout the trip he was examining his watch. Willow said that she had never seen symbols by then and she warned Xander that it might be evil so he should take it off. However, it didn’t feel evil…okay, and yeah – maybe he wasn’t the best judge of evil when it came to females but he knew evil when he saw it otherwise. Like Angel. And math. Both were clearly evil in his eyes.
As he walked up to his house he saw that his kitchen light was on. Great. The kitchen light being on could only mean one of two things: One, his mother was possessed by the Florence Henderson and was cooking for once, or two, his dad was still awake drinking away his ‘sleeping medicine’.
Yeah, it was pretty easy to guess which one.
Xander walked through the door apprehensively. It was always hard to gauge what kind of mood his dad might be in. He walked into the house as quietly as possible and refrained from turning on the living room light so that way (hopefully) his dad wouldn’t even notice that he was home. Carefully, Xander sidestepped a coffee table covered in ash; likely no one had cleaned up after the ashtray had been knocked over. Their living room was pretty eclectic – ‘curbside furniture’ was their decorating motif – and most of the furniture had been around since Xander was a kid. There was a fraying couch that sat in front of a nineteen inch television, a wooden end table, and two Laz-E-Boys that his dad had strapped to the top of his car after he found them during the big ‘Move Out’ weekend at the university. The ceiling and tops of the walls were a stale yellow color from the years of cigarette smoke and the carpet was threadbare at best.
Yup. Nothing like home sweet freakin’ home.
“Hey! Who’s out there?” his dad called from his ‘throne room’. For whatever reason the kitchen had become his dad’s favorite place to get drunk at night. There was a thirteen inch TV that he watched late night shows on and an old stereo that he jammed to classic rock songs on.
Xander wanted to ignore him but that usually just made things worse. “It’s me,” he called back.
“Oh,” he heard his dad grumble. “Well, get me another beer outta the freezer, alright? And don’t forget to put another one in; I like ‘em cold.”
He let out a resigned sigh and shuffled over to the kitchen. For whatever reason his dad always made either him or his mom fetch him beers – even though the man was only five feet away from the fridge. Apparently moving ruined his ‘buzz’.
Head bowed, so as to not attract attention; he ambled into the room, grabbed the Natural Light can out of the freezer, and set it in front of his dad. He turned to leave but his dad spoke up first.
“Ah, I love the taste of freezing cold beer,” he grinned as he popped the tab. “Wait, where you goin’, Alexander?”
Ugh. Alexander. He hated that name. His dad was the only one who called him that.
“Uh, got homework, dad,” he said as cautious eyes observed his father. Tony Harris’ hair was disheveled, his eyes glowed with drunken energy, and a happy-go-lucky-grin lit up his face. Damn. ‘Nice Drunk’ Dad was better than ‘Mean Drunk’ Dad, but the former was still annoying. He bet that his dad would want to spend quality time with him…until something would set him off like always.
“C’mon, hang out with me for a while, buddy,” he smiled genuinely as he patted the seat next to him.
Reluctantly, Xander slid into the low-backed, cheap wooden chair. If he declined to sit he knew his dad would blow up. If he did sit he knew that his dad would blow up eventually. It really was a no-win situation.
Still…at least Xander could pretend for a little bit that his dad was nice, his dad loved him, and that they enjoyed spending time together.
“Wanna play a game of rummy, Alexander?” his dad asked as he lit up a cigarette and began shuffling slightly bent playing cards.
“Sure, dad,” Xander smiled. He began clearing off a pot of leftover instant-mixed mashed potatoes, he moved an ashtray and some glasses to the side, and then wiped down ash and god knows what else off the dark wooden table.
His dad began dealing the cards and Xander settled back into his slightly wobbly chair. Their game went easily for about thirty minutes and he was reveling in the attention. His dad only did this kind of stuff with him maybe once a week, if he was lucky. Most of the time when he drank he just watched the Weather Channel with the sound off as an old Led Zeppelin tape blared over the stereo.
The front door opened with a creek and his dad’s head snapped up as a dark look passed over his face. “Jessica! That you?” he shouted.
Xander cringed slightly; he knew what was coming. The same thing that had been occurring regularly since he could remember. Nothing ever changed. The happy moments didn’t last, ever.
“Yes, Tony,” his mother’s faint reply could be heard.
“Get in ‘ere,” his dad growled.
Xander put his cards down and readied himself. He wasn’t five anymore, he wasn’t ten anymore, he was sixteen, almost seventeen, and he’d help his mom if he could.
His mom walked into the kitchen apprehensively and her jaw was taunt with worry. Red hair sat in a messy bun on top of her head and she was clad in an over-sized ‘Sunnydale’ shirt along with slightly baggy blue jeans. His mother’s figure wasn’t as thin as Cordelia, but she was only slightly heavier than average. The only make-up she wore was concealer – and Xander hedged a bet that she was concealing another bruise alongside her left jaw.
“Hi Tony, how are you?” she asked timidly as she clung tightly to an off-white shoulder bag.
Xander closed his eyes for a moment and swore silently. He hated, hated his life and his family at the moment. Well, his mom didn’t really deserve that. But he hated the weakness in her voice when she spoke to his dad – he so badly wanted her to fight back and kick the bastard out sometimes!
“How am I?” he asked in a quiet voice. “Well here I am playin’ cards with the kid, enjoying a cold brew, when you come waltzing in here late at night like some tramp outta L.A.” His words ended in a frightful snarl and Xander’s eyes twitched at the angry tone.
“Tony, you know that I picked up that gas station job two weeks ago! I gotta work the night shift or else we’re never gonna pay off the plumber for the job he did last month!” Her tone was placating and smooth; but in the end Xander knew it would be as useful as a bucket trying to scoop out the ocean.
“Oh, sure,” he rolled his eyes as he crumpled up a beer can and threw it angrily into the garbage, just narrowly missing his mom’s right ear. She stilled like a deer in the sight of a wolf and Xander held his hands up in a peaceful manner.
“Okay, dad. Maybe we should all get to bed, okay?” Xander said gently as he stood up and maneuvered himself in front of his mother.
“Like I’m going to bed with that whore,” he grumbled as he jerkily stood up and grabbed another beer from the freezer.
He could feel his mother starting to slink off, and apparently his dad noticed it too. “Where you goin’? Hell, if you have tha’ time to fuck every neighbor of ours on the street, then at least you can ‘ave a beer with me,” his dad slurred angrily as he handed Xander’s mom a beer. “Now sit down, botha yous.”
Xander and his mom obliged; this game was nothing unusual to them. Sometimes Tony Harris liked to play with his food before he ate it.
“So, how was work, whore?” his dad grunted.
“Dad, come on,” Xander begged in a silent voice. Every time his dad called his mom a name, he could visibly see her self-worth crumble like an ancient building that used to house so much happiness only to be demolished for something far less interesting, like a parking lot.
His dad turned to him then and sneered. “Stickin’ up for your mother again, boy? God, that’s just like you – a simpering little mama’s boy. You think your mother’s perfect, doncha?”
“No, dad, no one is perfect, but she is a human being,” Xander responded calmly, but his blood was boiling underneath his skin. He hated, absolutely hated living in fear of this jerk. God! Why couldn’t his dad be normal? Or at least loving? Seriously, what the fuck! He could only take so damn much! Sixteen years, sixteen years of this! God, just let him be eighteen already so he can get the hell out of here!
It was all he could do to rein in the anger so it wouldn’t leak through his pores like burning lava.
His dad snorted and his mom just fiddled nervously with a thread hanging from her purse handle. “Trust me, kid, your mom is no saint.”
Xander glanced up then and his heart lurched as he watched his mother’s crestfallen face. His dad always said stuff like this, about how his mom was a whore, but he had never explained – and Xander had never wanted to know. Once, when he was nine, his dad had said that Xander wasn’t even his ‘goddamn kid’ and he had ordered him to pack up a suitcase. Luckily that night his dad had passed out quickly after that, but that experience scarred his memory.
“Okay, dad. Let’s go to bed. Come on,” Xander encouraged in a quiet, yet stern, voice as he grabbed his dad’s arm to lift him up.
“Git off me!” his dad slurred as he backed away suddenly from Xander and fell backwards into their little-used stove.
Xander winced. God, his dad was so…pathetic was the word that came to mind but he felt bad thinking of his dad like that, even if it was true.
“You stupid fucking bastard!” his dad yelled as he scrambled up. “You did that on purpose!”
He took a step back and saw his mom do the same out of the corner of his eye. “No, dad. You jerked away. I was only trying to help.”
“Help? Help! The only thing you can do to help is let me kick your fuckin’ ass,” his dad snarled in a voice twisted by years of anger and hatred. A meaty fist swung towards Xander and the teenager held his arm out to block the blow – last time he had gotten his ribs bruised.
The sound of snapping wood suddenly drew all of their attention, and Xander was saved from his father’s fist. He looked towards the back door that led into the kitchen and gasped as splintering wood flew forwards as sizeable cracks shot through the wooden door. The glass window shattered so violently that it exploded into billions of pieces that glinted like pixie dust. Another thunderous sound later and the door flew off its hinges to reveal the culprit.
“What the h-hell?” his dad stuttered. “What the hell did you do to my door?” he added in an angrier voice.
Mike Tyson – merciful Zeus! – just grinned wickedly at his dad and beckoned him closer with just one finger.
“What the fuck?” his dad asked in outrage. “Are you…are you…Mike Tyson?” he asked with squinted eyes.
It was a logical question. The dark-skinned bald man had the build of the former boxer and even his crazy facial tattoos. However, why the heck would Mike Tyson break down their door?
“Y-you b-better pay for this!” his dad spat in anger; appearing both agitated and fearful.
Mike Tyson smiled innocently. “Box you for it?” he asked in a eerie high-pitched voice.
“Wha—?” But his dad didn’t get another word in because Mike Tyson punched him in the face and sent the smaller man spiraling backwards.
“Tony!” his mother gasped as Mike Tyson picked him up and delivered a rib-cracking punch that echoed through the room.
Xander could only stare in confusion. What the…What the hell was going on?
“Xander! Do something! He’s going to kill him!” his mother begged through frantic tears.
He shook himself and observed the blood dripping down his dad’s face and how his arm was twisted very strangely. “Hey! Stop that!” he yelled but Mike Tyson just kept on pummeling. Seeing that this wasn’t a time for diplomacy, Xander picked up a kitchen chair and smashed it over Mike Tyson’s backside.
The former heavyweight champion turned so slowly that the suspense of his reaction was almost enough to make Xander pee his pants.
Dark eyes blinked at him and of all things the boxer sighed. He sighed. “This is the wrong time to play hero, kiddo,” he stated in a low voice.
“Yeah, well I won’t have you kill my dad, either,” Xander retorted angrily.
Strangely, a sad look entered Mike Tyson’s eyes before he blinked and raised a disbelieving eyebrow. “Don’t worry kid – he’s getting his just desserts.” Then he raised two fingers – his index and middle – and touched Xander’s forehead.
And everything else faded into darkness.
“Hey. Hey, kid. You alright?”
Xander blinked wearily and looked up into the concerned face of a police officer. “Wha’ ‘appened?” he mumbled groggily.
“We found you passed out, kid. Your mom too. My name is Officer Daniels. Do you remember what happened?”
Oh god. Xander jerked up and nearly hit the cop in the process. “Where’s my dad?” he asked urgently as he climbed to his feet.
“Easy there, kiddo. Hey, why don’t you come outside with me and we’ll have a medic come check you out.”
“No, I need to see my dad. Is he—”
Officer Daniels grabbed Xander’s arms and pushed him out of the kitchen. “Trust me, you don’t want to see your dad. Your mom woke up just a few minutes out and is in pretty bad condition, emotionally; you should probably go check on her.”
Panic slithered down his spine like a snake from hell and suddenly Xander was feeling feverish. Trepidation clenched his heart and the image of Mike Tyson pummeling his father flashed in his mind. “He’s…dead?”
A squeezed shoulder and a pitying look were Officer Daniels primary response. “I’m sorry, son. He passed.”
Coldness clenched within his stomach and he wrapped his arms around himself; feeling suddenly very vulnerable. He nodded slowly in Officer Daniel’s direction and began to walk into the living room, and in the process tripping over an empty Twinkies box.
Yet he was so overwhelmed with sudden grief that he didn’t even realize that their box of Twinkies had been full just hours earlier and that Xander was the only one in their house who ever even ate them.
Chapter 5: Let's Get Ready to Rumbleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!
Some dialogue is taken out of the ‘Halloween’ episode.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It was almost a week after his father had been violently murdered in their kitchen and Xander Harris was listening to a crooning country album as he laid on his bed and tossed a tennis ball against the wall. His curtains were closed, even though it was only two in the afternoon, and all he wore were his pajama pants that he hadn’t bothered to change out of.
The phone rang and he moved listlessly to grab it. “Yell-low?” he mumbled. He had been sleeping most of the day but he was still so dang tired.
“Xander?” a hesitant voice spoke.
He mentally groaned. “Willow. Hey.”
“Hi,” she answered. He could sense the ‘how are you?’ just waiting to ride off her tongue like a nervous surfer handling their first big wave, and he was extremely grateful that she didn’t bother to ask.
“So, um, do you want to do something with Buffy and I?” she asked. He heard Buffy say something in the background about a movie night. “We’re thinking about having a movie night tonight, wanna come over?”
Xander hesitated. Besides the brief memorial service he hadn’t left the house. He had mostly just hung around the house and his mom would leave for just long enough to go to work at the gas station – she wasn’t used to going outside often nor did she like it. The shock of his father’s murder and the feelings of anger, grief, and guilt in his absence didn’t exactly make Xander feel like being a social butterfly; most of his days were spent playing video games or fiddling with his new funky watch (which still didn’t seem any sort of supernatural).
“Um, thanks Will, but I’m okay. I’ve got stuff to do here,” he lied as he prayed silently for Willow not to do her resolve face and to just leave him alone.
She paused for a moment and then replied in a quiet and caring voice. “Xander, I know you’re going through some hard stuff, but you shouldn’t go through it alone. Let Buffy and I help.”
“I appreciate that Wills, but I really just want to be left alone,” he sighed. “And I definitely don’t feel like leaving the house.”
“Well, we’re not going to leave you alone and if you won’t come to us, we’ll come to you,” she informed him primly.
“What? No,” he tried to protest but she hung up on him.
Thirty minutes later there was a knocking at the front door and Xander ran to get it before it woke up his mom’s nap. Reluctantly pulling it open, he found a nervous-looking Willow and an apprehensive Buffy smiling at him.
“Hey Xand,” Willow greeted as she hugged him.
God, he hated being pitied – people had pitied him all his life, for either his clothes or his parents or the fact that he was poor. But right now, he didn’t care because he realized just how much he needed Willow’s hug; he held her tightly for a long time.
When he let her go, Buffy embraced him and he held her just as tight and just as long.
“So,” he began saying as he let her go and blinked back unseen tears. “What’s up?” he asked with a small smile.
Buffy held up three movies. “I have romantic, action, and Disney – which is the best of both worlds!” she grinned; seeming to try her hardest not to ask about the elephant in the room.
Xander chuckled. “This might sound kind of lame, but I could use some Disney – just as long as it’s not The Lion King or the Little Mermaid.”
“None of those,” Willow eagerly informed him. “It’s Aladdin.”
“Well then ladies, let’s go on a magic carpet ride,” he smiled. It was a weak smile, but at least it was a smile.
Ninety minutes later they were all cuddled on his basement couch together as the end credits of the movie began running. He was currently enjoying his ‘Xander-sandwich’, with Buffy on his right and Willow on his left. He was feeling kind of bad for ignoring them most of this last week now that they were here – he forgot how much he needed them.
They talked about random things for a while – how Ms. Calendar made Giles blush in the hallway the other day when she touched his arm while they talked, how Snyder was still being a rat-bastard like normal, and (oddly) how Cordelia had flipped out because all of a sudden, since two days ago, she had no reflection.
“Like vampire no reflection?” Xander asked in confusion.
“Yeah,” Buffy shook her head. “She’s been trying to hide it from everyone else but she asked Giles for help. We’ve been researching it but we don’t have a clue.”
“So, is she a vampire?” he asked.
Willow smiled innocently. “No, although I did test her to make sure.”
Buffy started giggling and Xander gave his oldest friend an appraising look. “Will, what’d you do?”
She just shrugged her shoulders casually and smiled again. “Well, I told her we would have to test her to see if she was a vampire so I just asked her to hold a cross and then I threw holy water on her.”
Xander’s mouth dropped. “No,” he barely uttered in surprise. “No, you didn’t!” he practically yelped like a teenage girl.
Willow started laughing and Buffy had to hold her stomach by this time because she was laughing so hard. “Yes!” squealed Buffy. “And she didn’t just splash a little bit, she told Cordelia that to be sure Willow had to dump a whole flask on her!”
“Oh my god,” Xander laughed – and god, laughing felt so good right now. “I wish I had been there to see that!”
After a while their laughter died down and Xander pulled his girls closer to him; their presence was already making him forget the nightmare that was his life. “So, what do you think is wrong with Cordelia then, if she’s not a vamp?”
“Dunno,” Willow shrugged. “We wondered if it was a Marcy-type thing – ya know, except instead of going invisible because no one ‘saw’ her, maybe Cordelia can’t see her reflection because too many people see her.”
“Or maybe because there’s just nothing under the surface,” he snickered.
Buffy lightly hit her stomach. “Aw, maybe we should be nicer to Cordelia, guys. She was asking how you were doing, Xander.”
His eyebrows shot up to his forehead. “Cordelia? Wanting to know how I’m doing? When it in no way impacts her own life?”
The slayer rolled her eyes. “Yeah, I know. It was weird but she seemed genuine.”
Xander just shrugged. The day that Cordelia Chase was nice to him out of the kindness of her own heart was the day he’d ask Angel to marry him.
“So, have the cops said anything about your dad, yet?” Willow inquired softly as she laid her head against his chest.
“Well, Officer Daniels called to tell me that Mike Tyson has a clear alibi because apparently he was feeding his tiger in his Las Vegas home at the time, so there goes that lead,” he informed them sarcastically.
Buffy shifted listlessly in his arms. “Well, Giles said it might have been a shapeshifter. That’s about the only consensus at this point.”
Xander didn’t want to talk about this or relive that night. But he knew that he had to sooner or later. “Okay, so a shapeshifter. But why my dad? Why me?” he asked in exasperation with a slight tinge of anger. He drew his arms back against his sides and suddenly it felt like the room was closing in on him. To give himself space, he stood up and began pacing.
“I don’t know, Xand,” Buffy answered quietly. “This is the Hellmouth. Anything kinda goes, ya know?”
“But why?” he pleaded as he threw his arms up. “I just don’t get it. Why would some shapeshifter attack my dad? In the form of Mike Tyson, no less?”
Willow bit her lip nervously. “Maybe…”
“What?” he asked her curiously. When she didn’t speak he sat down next to her. “C’mon Will. You’re the smartest person I know. If you can’t figure out why, then no one can.”
“Well.” She cleared her throat. “I guess it’s kind of almost ironic with what happened to your dad.”
“Huh?” Xander asked in confusion.
Willow’s eyes darted towards Buffy before she lowered them again. “I mean, I don’t want to say anything bad about your dad, Xander, but he wasn’t the nicest guy…and I know he’s hit your mom and you before…don’t you think it’s weird how he was then murdered by being beat to death?”
“Don’t worry kid – he’s getting his just desserts.”
Xander gasped. “Holy crap.”
“Wait a second,” Buffy interrupted. “Xander, you never told me any of that. Your dad…hit you?” she asked, aghast at the mere thought.
“Not all the bad things in the world come from demons,” he smiled thinly at her as his fingers anxiously played with the bottom of his t-shirt.
“I’m…I’m sorry,” Buffy said mournfully.
He shrugged his shoulders. “It’s in the past now, Buff. Don’t worry ‘bout it.”
“So, you think that Xander’s dad was killed that way because he used to hit Xander and his mom?” Buffy inquired of Willow.
Even though Buffy and Willow were just trying to help, Xander winced at their words. He hated to think about his dad right now – and hating thinking of the abuse even more.
“Before he knocked me out, he – ‘Mike Tyson’ – told me that my dad was getting his ‘just desserts’,” Xander stated flatly, like he was reading something out of a history book. “Also, my dad used to box…used to joke that his nickname was Tony ‘Tyson’ Harris,” he added, almost as an afterthought.
Xander let out a heavy sigh as he put two and two together. “I guess it is kind of ironic,” he said bitterly as he sunk into the couch.
“So…your dad gets, um, killed,” Buffy said the word ‘killed’ so quickly that he barely heard her, “by a boxer when he used to box and liked to, um, hit people. And Cordelia can’t see her reflection and she’s obsessed with her looks.” A skeptical brow rose. “Anyone else just sensing a pattern here?”
“Tomorrow’s Monday. We can ask Giles at school,” Willow mused. “Maybe it’s a bad wizard or someone.”
“Yeah, well let’s hope we figure it out before Halloween this week. I’d hate to see what kind of ‘trick’ we wind up getting,” Buffy stated with a grimace.
“Buff?” he spoke her name like a question.
“When we figure out whatever it is that did this, I want in on killing it.”
A soft look entered her eyes before she gave him a decisive nod. “You got it.”
They held a Scooby meeting – with Giles, Buffy, Willow, Xander, Ms. Calendar, and (surprisingly) Cordelia in attendance – that Monday morning but Giles wasn’t sure what kind of creature would be capable of doing these things or why one would even be interested. Giles had promised to do some more research while they were in class and that hopefully they would come up with something. The rest of the day had gone pretty normally, besides all of the looks people were giving him. You know, those ‘oh, there’s the kid with the dead dad’ kind of looks.
Luckily, Xander could count on one douchebag to effectively treat him like crap, as always.
Larry Blaisdell – jock and all around Grade A bully – approached him in the cafeteria to ask him questions about Buffy. Once he made a crude comment about her – calling her ‘fast’ – Xander lost his cool.
“That’s my friend that you’re talking about!”
“Oh yeah? Well, what are you going to do about it?” he smirked.
“I’m going to do what any man would do.” Xander grabbed the much-larger teen by the shirt and pushed him slightly backwards. “Somethin’ damn manly.”
Larry laughed at him, knocked Xander’s hands away, and then grabbed him by his shirt collar with only his right hand. Balling his left hand into a fist, he drew back for a punch and Xander braced himself.
Then all of a sudden Buffy grabbed Larry’s wrist, pulled it behind his back, and slammed the boy into the vending machine. “Get gone,” she ordered as she pulled him back from the machine.
As Larry scrambled off Buffy grinned and pulled a pop can out of the vending machine. “Ooh! Diet!” she exclaimed in a chipper voice as she bent down to retrieve her well-deserved prize.
Xander just stared at her, an aghast look drawn across his face. “Do you know what you just did?”
“Saved you a dollar?”
“No, but Larry was about to pummel me!” he retorted angrily. God, first he couldn’t stop his dad from getting killed and now he can’t even fight against another stupid guy his own age.
“Oh, that? Forget about it!” she waved his ‘thanks’ away and began walking back to their table.
“Oh, I'll forget about it,” he replied as he began following her. “In maybe fifteen,
twenty years when my rep for being a sissy man finally fades!”
Buffy stopped and faced him with an awkward expression. “Xander, don't you think you're.—”
Xander interrupted her. “A black eye heals, Buffy, but cowardice has an
unlimited shelf life. Oh, thanks! Thanks a lot for *your* help.” He grabbed his bag from the table and walked off in a huff. Geez! Like he didn’t need any more reason for people to stare at him already! Now everyone thought he was a loser even more so!
“Attention students,” a happy, but unknown, male voice sounded over the loudspeakers. “Please head to the gymnasium for an impromptu Pep Assembly!”
When ‘Pep Assembly’ boomed through the speakers it sounded just like that announcer guy who always says “Let’s get ready to rumbleeeeeeeee!”
Everyone stopped in the hallways and conversation started buzzing like a hornet’s nest that had just been knocked over. No one knew of a Pep Assembly, everyone was confused, but everyone also began heading to the gym because it was an excuse to get out of class.
The cheerleaders were already there, lined up front and center and the entire football team – in uniform – flanked the girls. Although they appeared to be the stars of the show, everyone looked confused. Heck, even the Queen B herself looked confused but she hid it well enough with a giant, fake smile.
As everyone began sitting down the cheerleaders performed an elaborate cheer and everyone began getting excited. Xander found a spot next to Buffy and Willow and even though he was mad at Buffy he wasn’t mad enough not to ask her a question.
“Did you guys know about this?”
Both girls shook their heads. “Nope,” Willow replied.
“But this means no English exam!” Buffy replied cheerfully.
A man wearing a black suit with salt and pepper hair took the microphone. “Are you ready to rumbleeeeeeee?” he boomed in a perfect announcer’s voice as the crowd went wild.
“This weekend we fight against those lame ass Santa Sofia Turtledoves. Who do you think’s going to win? Those ass monkeys or the SUNNYDALE RRRRRRAAAAZORBACKS?”
The students went into an uproar and the Scoobies exchanged confused looks. “Um, did that announcer guy just say ‘lame ass’ and ‘ass monkeys’? Just now? Here, at school?” Xander asked in surprise.
“I think so…” Buffy trailed off.
“Who is he, by the way? Is he a new teacher?” Willow whispered.
“As we get this funky party started, let me thank our AMAAAAZING cheerleaders!” The older, tanned man grinned and then continued. “Now, onto meeting the team. First up, one of our star linebackers – LARRY BLAAAAAISDEEEEEELL!”
The crowd began cheering (because even though he was a jackass he did help ensure that Sunnydale’s football team actually won some games) and a spotlight suddenly focused on a side door that led into the locker room. Larry ran out with a joyous expression on his face…no…wait…there was something horribly wrong with this picture.
Larry wasn’t running, Larry was skipping. Instead of a football in his hands he held a glittery wand with a star on the tip of it in one hand and threw glittery dust with the other. Unlike most pep rallies, he wasn’t wearing his maroon and gold football uniform; today he was wearing a tight, bright pink spaghetti strap tank-top that showed off a good deal of pale skin, a glittery pink tutu, white tights, and really big pink slippers. On top of his head was a thin wreath made out of pink, purple, and red flowers, with strands of pink ribbon trailing down the back.
The entire gymnasium burst out into laughter and Larry looked around everyone in confusion. “What’s so funny?” he asked dumbly.
“Dude, you’re a fairy!” one of his fellow teammates snickered.
Larry looked down in horror, shrieked, and then ran back into the locker room. Throughout the event, the place echoed with hysterical laughter –Xander was tearing up, he was laughing so hard.
“What is going on here?” Principal Snyder’s shrill voice cut through the laughter like a reaper against a field of wheat as he walked through the gymnasium doors. “Who are you?” he demanded of the announcer. “And who approved this assembly?” he fumed.
“Aw, methinks Principal Snyder is sad for being left out,” the announcer grinned wickedly as he looked up at his audience. “Isn’t that sad, kids? He hates being left out of our reindeer games.”
“You listen here, mister,” Snyder snarled as he stamped his way over towards the announcer. “This is completely unacceptable. Students! Back to your classrooms!” Snyder shouted.
“Drat. Guess we have that English exam after all,” Buffy sighed.
However, none of the students moved – everyone was far more interested in Snyder losing his cool.
“And you! Who are you!” Snyder asked. “What are you doing in my school?”
The announcer’s lips curled into a devilish smirk. “You know Snyder, I had heard that you looked like a rat but now that I’ve seen you up close? There’s no denying it.”
“Why you insubordinate buffoon! I don’t care who you are – you’re coming to my office, mister!”
The announcer chuckled and cast one more look into the audience…and if Xander didn’t know better he could have sworn that the older man had winked at him!
“Buffy, I don’t think that guy’s on the up and up,” Xander whispered nervously.
“What makes you say that?” she asked.
“I think it’s time that you de-evolutionized,” the announcer grinned as he snapped his fingers.
A burst of smoke exploded where Snyder was standing and a moment later there was a giant rat that was four feet tall and six feet long, with a tail that was at least two and a half feet.
“Holy crap,” Xander gasped as the room erupted with shrieks of fear and surprise.
“Well, hopefully that exam is still cancelled,” Buffy stated in a ‘trying-to-find-the-silver-lining’ voice.
“Irony, much?” Willow observed in a thoughtful tone as she exchanged a significant look with her best friends.
Please review & let me know how you liked it! :)
Chapter 6: Hooker Ghosts & Boot-Licking Acolytes
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Hooker Ghosts & Boot-Licking Acolytes
A/N: Whoa, a huuuuge amount of time since the last update! I’m sorry but other projects ate up my attention and then my computer crashed. Not a fun time! But I read a story on ffnet by TardisIsTheOnlyWayToTravel that was inspired by ‘Isn’t it Ironic’ and it got the juices flowing. I know this update could be longer but I’ll just try to update more often. :)
The school library tables were covered with books as Xander, Buffy, Willow, Cordelia, and Giles flipped through yellowed pages of the aged texts in hopes of finding some answer to their problems. Rat-Snyder had lasted for four days, trapped in a cage in the basement, before Cordelia tripped over his front paw and accidentally slammed her head against the rat’s. Somehow in all the chaos she had managed to accidentally kiss the furry thing on the lips and suddenly Snyder was back to being human – albeit a naked and cheese-loving human. Later that night they realized that Cordelia could see her reflection in mirrors again and Larry, besides maybe needing some counseling, appeared fine after his fairy-dressing ordeal.
Yet, while things appeared to becoming more well-ordered in the last week they still had no idea who had committed these acts and if they would strike again. With Halloween only a couple days away they definitely suspected that the culprit would strike again – hence the research.
“Oh! I might have found something!” Cordelia suddenly spoke up as her well-manicured finger jabbed at a dark sketch. “This says something about rats.”
Willow peered over her shoulder. “That’s a spell how to turn someone into a rat using Hecate’s name, not who does turn people into rats,” she commended mildly before turning back to her own leather-bound text.
“Well, maybe this goddess Hecate person is the culprit,” Cordelia sniffed. “I bet she’s totally ugly and that’s why she was jealous of my good looks.”
Buffy and Willow rolled their eyes while Xander smirked. “If anything, she’s probably just jealous of you playing the Princess and the Frog – or should I say Rat? – with Snyder, Cord,” he snickered.
“Ew!” Cordelia shivered as she self-consciously rubbed her lips – a common occurrence in the last few days. “I swear I am scarred for life!”
“Hey, at least you were so freaked you passed out during his mid-change,” Buffy glowered. “We had to see the whole Snyder show.”
“Yeah,” Xander snorted. “Now we know why Snyder’s such an angry ‘little’ man.”
“Ewww!” the girls shuddered.
“Yes, Xander. Do refrain from referencing that foul man’s genitalia,” Giles bristled. “We have a good deal of work to do and I for one would like to do so without any nausea.”
Xander snickered into his hand.
Giles paused. “What, Xander?” he asked in exasperation.
“Nothin’,” Xander shrugged. “It’s just…you said genitalia.” He snickered some more.
“Oh Lord,” Giles mumbled as he fervently began cleaning his glasses. “I do hope we can figure out this culprit before my brain leaks out of my ears.”
“Well maybe Cordy had a point,” Buffy said. Everyone stared at her in surprise, even Cordelia, but Buffy shrugged it off. “Maybe we are dealing with a witch. Last year we had to deal with Amy’s mom, Catherine Madison. Maybe there’s more?”
“Well, that is certainly a good point Buffy, and one that I’ve considered. However, the sheer power to do these acts would indicate either a highly powerful witch or a supernatural entity,” Giles mused. “First it created a Mike Tyson look-a-like to, erm,” Giles paused at the mention of what happened to Xander’s dad. “And then it made Cordelia invisible, somehow controlled Larry’s actions, and performed a major transfiguration spell on Snyder.”
“What if it’s not a witch but instead a person a witch prays to – like that Hecate person Cordelia found in that book?” Xander asked.
“No way!” Willow said quickly. “Hecate’s much classier than that!”
They all gave her a cautious or confused look. “Willow,” Giles began in the heavy chiding tone he was well-known for. “Are you studying witchcraft?”
Willow’s widow's peak rose up as her eyes widened in alarm. “W-witchcraft? Me? Ha,” she laughed blithely. “Of course not!” Under Giles’ intense stare she caved. “Okay, well I just started reading about techno paganism, like what Ms. Calendar does, and then I started reading more about witchcraft and all the gods and goddesses – but just for fun! I swear!”
Giles made ‘hmm’ noise that indicated he was unsatisfied with her answer so Xander dove into the conversation to ward off more Giles’ attacks. “So why not this Hecate chick?” he asked Willow.
“Well,” she began in a ‘gosh I love knowledge and now you will too!’ voice that she so often got when teaching. “Hecate is the Greek goddess of witchcraft but she’s not malevolent – unless you get on her bad side. Even then, she’s more likely to kill you in some creative method rather than just pull elaborate trick.”
“Wait – what did you say?” Giles suddenly asked.
“Uh,” Willow licked her lips nervously. “Hecate’s not bad?”
“No, no, you called these ‘tricks’,” Giles mumbled as he got up and went to the more ‘normal’ section of the school library. Moment’s later he scattered several books across the table and began rifling through them. When he was done the Scooby Gang was looking at several pictures of various mythological gods.
“There are dozens of different pantheons created over the centuries and in different parts of the world. Regardless of their differences, they all tend to share similar characteristics. There is always a ruling god, a god of healing, of motherhood, etcetera. But also, there tends to be a Trickster,” Giles added significantly.
“You mean there’s an immortal dude whose sole role in life is to pull pranks? That is so awesome,” Xander grinned.
Giles ignored him and pointed towards the first picture. “Here in the American Southwest there is Coyote, Raven in the Pacific Northwest, Anasi of West Africa, and Loki of the Norse.”
“Ew,” Cordelia said with a crinkled nose. “So if it’s Anasi we might be fighting a giant spider?”
Xander’s mind faded from his present surroundings as he thought of the man he met in the Bronze the night his father died.
The man paused for a moment before shooting him a grin accompanied by twinkling eyes. “My friends call me Loki.”
“Loki? Weird name,” Xander chuckled. And why did that name sound familiar?
Loki laughed loudly. “Yeah, I hang around an interesting bunch of people. Besides, Xander? That’s not exactly typical.”
Oh…no. Had he been talking to his father’s murderer that night? Hot sweat began to soak into the back of his checkered-patterned blue and green shirt as he thought over their meeting. First he had noticed the fancy watch on his wrist – which now he realized the trickster guy must have put on him. (But why? What did it do?). Let’s see…then Loki had tried to buy him a drink but Xander said he wasn’t into that…and Xander really couldn’t see how their conversation would have been so meaningful that Xander had angered Loki enough to kill his dad.
“Xan-man?” Buffy waved her arm in front of him. He blinked and smiled nervously at her. “We were tryin’ to ask you – you said this trickster guy winked at you during the assembly. Any of these names ringing a bell to you?”
“Um, actually, now that you mention it…”
A middle-aged man knelt before a statue clothed only in a black robe. He chanted softly and pressed his palms together forcefully; when he opened them they revealed stigmata-like bleeding wounds. Reverently he dabbed blood on his eyelids and continued chanting. “Oh Loki, I call upon you to grant me your great power for a truly chaotic trick tonight…”
“You do realize that I’m not Johnny Cash, right?” a man snacking on a Snickers bar interrupted him with a lopsided smile. He was leaning against a tower of cardboard boxes with a very amused look on his face as Ethan Rayne straightened in alarm. “I mean, look at me.”
Ethan did look and his eyes almost exploded at the splash of color this man seemed to be wearing – khaki pants and an orange, red, and blue tropical print shirt.
“Do you really think I want my followers wearing black?” He shuddered. “That’s so fifteenth century, Pilgrim-style. Next time, wear something more colorful.” He grinned. “You should try pink.”
Ethan Rayne had to hide his revulsion at the idea that he would ever be caught dead wearing something so feminine. Then his mind kicked in and he knelt at the being’s feet. “My Lord, I do not deserve to be graced with your presence. This was most unexpected.”
A snort from above and Ethan raised his eyes to see Loki – since when did his favored lord of chaos personally appear during spells? - pick up the bust of his personage with a mild smirk. “I ‘spose this isn’t a bad image of me but next time could you try to pick up something you didn’t buy at a special needs school art fair? My face looks sloppier than LaToya Jackson’s.”
Ethan gulped. Loki was a dangerous being and it wouldn’t be wise to anger him. He really should have purchased a classier bust, he supposed. Although he was mildly surprised to hear that the Norse Trickster God was aware of pop culture figures.
Loki grinned suddenly as he watched Ethan closely. “You’re wondering how I know about LaToya, yeah?” Ethan nodded and Loki snickered. “Old trick of mine – I pulled some mitosis shit on Michael Jackson a long time ago and out popped LaToya.”
“That is…very impressive, my Lord.” Ethan really did not know what to say at that statement. It was impressive but slightly scary as well – not scary that Loki had split a person in two but that he had chosen to force yet another Jackson onto the world.
“Yeah, I know. Feel free to lick my boots at any time, servant.”
Ethan stared at Loki in surprise. He honestly wanted him to…lick his boots? But…he was Ethan Rayne!
Then again, he enjoyed being alive quite a good deal so he begrudgingly crawled over to Loki’s feet. Just when his tongue was about to touch down Loki yanked his foot away and started laughing. “Oh damn! You really thought I meant it, huh? Haha, oh Ethan. You are a funny sonofabitch. I should really visit you more often.”
Ethan schooled his features but internally he pleaded for Loki to never visit him again.
“Just for that little display of commitment I’ll grant your little request to have all the costumes bought from your shop turn people into those costumes, capisce?”
“Thank you, my Lord,” Ethan nodded gratefully.
“No problem. Besides, it’s a pretty damn good trick,” Loki smirked one last time before he winked out of existence.
To many he was known as the trickster god Loki of the Norse pantheon. It had been his identity for almost two-thousand years as he hid among the pagan gods and the humans. The old memories of his true family were still bright and painful so he tried not to think of them too often – of his Father or Michael or Lucifer. No, it was much easier for him to just be Loki – even if he still internally thought of himself as Gabriel…even if he didn’t like to think of himself as an archangel anymore.
Now Gabriel watched gleefully as the chaos unfolded over Sunnydale on the night of Halloween. He had been mildly perturbed that his spells on the Chase girl and his kid’s principal had worn off but he had learned about Ethan’s plans and that made up for everything. Tonight was going to be epic. His son was dressed as a macho army man and the slayer was a helpless damsel in distress. Sure, she was dressed for that pompous ensouled vampire but tonight his son was getting the chance to act all manly-like and protect her!
Sure, Gabriel did not approve of his son hanging out with a dangerous slayer but he saw how Xander reacted when Buffy had drowned – he loved her. So to continue with his plan of making his son’s life better, Gabriel was carefully orchestrating how to improve the kid’s love life.
Oh yeah – plus this Halloween costume deal was just hilarious as all hell.
The eye candy didn’t hurt, either. Xander’s friend Willow was dressed as a hooker ghost (was that some new pop culture thing?) and while she tried to piece things together with Xander, Buffy, and Cordelia (me-ow), Gabriel ogled the redhead.
Sue him. He had a thing for redheads.
He appreciated the way her cropped red top showed off a good deal of cleavage and toned tummy and how her black leather skirt clung to her thighs. Then there were those boots…
Gabriel shook himself out of his lust-driven stupor. While he didn’t usually sleep with humans he knew better than to get involved with the best friend of his son – who also had ‘virgin’ screaming right through her hooker ghost outfit; virgin’s were more so Zeus’ deal than his.
After a while Willow left (dammit) and Gabriel observed as Xander took charge to hunt for Buffy with Cordelia and Angel the vampire (ugh); the slayer turned eighteenth-century noblewoman had flown off in a fit of panic.
Hmm. Gabriel realized that Angel certainly was a problem when it came to the young slayer’s affections for Xander. Perhaps he should just stake him and get him out of the way? It’s not like he would deserve it – when he was bad, he was bad, and when he was good he was just broody as hell.
But then he thought of all those damn prophecies about a vampire with a soul and he sighed in annoyance. If he killed the vampire then those winged ass monkeys upstairs would likely be pissed at finding out one of their chess pieces was missing and would come searching for the culprit – and Gabriel could never let his siblings find him. For all they knew he was dead.
“Loki,” a whisper of a prayer came to him and he realized it was Ethan Rayne. Hmm. Better go see what that muttonhead was up to.
A second later he was lounging on a couch he had imported from Italy and watching as the watcher Rupert Giles beat the living shit out of Ethan. “Nice to see a watcher that likes to get his hands dirty!” Gabriel called out with his standard smirk.
Giles paused in his fit of brutality to give Gabriel a questioning look. “And just who the hell are you?” he asked coolly as his eyes narrowed.
Gabriel grinned. “I’m probably the guy you’re beating my follower up over.” He snapped his fingers and suddenly Ethan was sitting next to him on the couch. “I mean, hey, Ethan can be a real smarmy dick but he’s a good acolyte. I can’t have you beating him up like this.”
“You’re the pagan god that Ethan spoke of – Loki,” Giles nearly growled.
Jumping up onto the couch like a Scientologist on Oprah, Gabriel threw his hands up and smiled. “And we have a winner! Ding! Ding! Ding!” A spotlight suddenly shined on Giles and multi-colored balloons began falling from the ceiling.
“I command you to cease your spell this instant!” Giles shouted.
The room became silent as Loki snapped away the game show equipment and fitted Rupert Giles with a cold stare. Off to the side Ethan gave Giles a sly smirk. “It isn’t very bright to make a god angry, Ripper.”
Giles’ face flushed but he stood his ground – brave man. Stupid, but brave.
Gabriel began walking slowly towards him. “You are commanding me, mortal?”
“Your juvenile prank is putting innocent lives in harm’s way.”
“Oh please, it’ll be fine,” Gabriel rolled his eyes. “Besides, this is the Hellmouth – this town has seen a hell of a lot worse.”
“Do it, now!” Giles’ voice trembled with rage and Gabriel had to admire the balls on this man. He knew that Xander frequently spent time with the watcher but he didn’t know much about him. Now though? He approved.
“Okay, geez,” Gabriel groaned. “No need to get your panties in a twist.” A devilish smirk wove onto his face as his brain started wondering what sort of twisted panties ghost hookers wore. Then he snapped his fingers and told Rupert Giles the spell was over.
“How can I be sure you’re not lying?” Giles asked suspiciously.
“Uh, because I wouldn’t even have bothered lying to you – I would have just killed you. Probably with a giant watcher-eating book.” Gabriel laughed as he imagined a giant leather-bound book munching on Rupert Giles. Yeah…if this man ever stepped out of line that would be a classic ‘just desserts’.
“Alright then,” Giles said with a slight nod as he attempted to straighten his shoulders in an intimidating fashion.
Gabriel snorted. Humans.
He checked in on Xander later that night and saw that the boy was fine, along with his friend the slayer. The redhead was nowhere in sight, however. Mildly alarmed (it just would not do to accidentally get his son’s friend killed before a proper introduction), he began searching for her. Luckily, he found her rather quickly – walking home in her hooker outfit with a ghost sheet draped over her arm.
As he watched her he started thinking. Gabriel wasn’t stupid – he knew that Xander likely would not take his Nephilim (half-human, half-angel) heritage very well or, hell, Gabriel himself very well (and yes, okay, maybe it hadn’t been very smart to kill the boy’s stepfather in front of him but what could Gabriel say? Smiting was what he did best!). Quite frankly, Gabriel was nervous about even talking to the boy again. The Bronze had been a good test but there was certainly a fear that his son would reject him once he learned the truth.
Gabriel even thought about leaving Sunnydale and never revealing himself to Xander. After all, would he even be a good dad? It’s not like he had much of a role model for one.
Instantly shame filled him. Okay, so maybe the last couple millennia Dad went M.I.A. But those times in the beginning? Man, those were the best years of his existence. A longing for those times with his family filled his heart; he missed them all so much.
Gabriel shook it off. That family was as good as dead. Gone. But maybe he could make a new family…and maybe he just needed some help.
Willow smiled cheerfully as she walked through her empty house (her parents were at a research conference) and made her way up to the bedroom. She couldn’t help but admire herself in her rectangular mirror. Maybe Buffy had been a little bit right – it was kind of fun to dress like this. Of course, just as a one-time deal – she could not imagine wearing this in public again when people would actually remember. “No way could I wear this again,” she whispered; slightly sternly but with an edge of regret as well.
“Why not? If I was you I’d wear that outfit every day!” a male voice spoke up behind her.
Willow shrieked and pivoted to see a man lying on his side on her bed. He appeared to be in his mid-thirties, slightly tanned with golden highlights, and his eyes twinkled mischievously. Quicker than a box of Twinkies lasts around Xander, Willow grabbed a cross and a stake off of her desk. “Get out, demon!”
The man’s only reaction was a slight smirk. “You do realize that vampires have to be invited in? Ergo, I am not a vampire.”
“Well you’re not human either…and even if you were, you’d obviously be some sort of sex pervert so I’d be fine staking you regardless!” Willow declared in a strong voice that hid the fear she felt.
Laughing, the man sat up on her bed. “Don’t worry Willow; I’m not here to kill you. In fact, I was just hoping we could become friends. I’m Loki.”
The color washed away from her as she hurriedly dumped a bag onto her desk and pulled out a vial of dark liquid. Within moments she splashed the liquid onto the edge of the stake and held it aloft. “D-don’t think I’m not prepared,” she stuttered nervously. “I’ve read all about you and know that a stake dipped in human blood can kill you.”
She watched as Loki observed her with amused amber eyes. “Is that so? Then by all means – go ahead.”
Xander will meet dear ‘ol dad soon, no worries.
Thank you for reading and please review!
Chapter 7: The Harris’ Publishers Clearing House Moment
Willow stared at him in confusion. “Wait…aren’t you supposed to ask me not to kill you?”
Loki shrugged. “Well, hell. You already made the party favors and it would be rather rude of me to ruin your fun, Willow,” he said with a roguish smile.
Feeling rather put-off at his blasé reaction, Willow lowered her stake. “Either you have a death wish…or I’m not very scary to you.” She made a face; it was kind of annoying to not be very helpful with the slaying stuff. If only she had more time to study witchcraft – now there was one way she could get power to help her friends.
“Aw, buck up, sweet pea,” Loki smiled. “You’re plenty scary – but more so in that naughty domination mistress way rather than a killer.” He waggled his eyebrows at her scandalous outfit and Willow felt her pale cheeks heat up.
“Um, so what are you doing here?” she asked as she self-consciously tugged her kind-of skanky shirt down lower. “We know you’re the one who killed Xander’s dad and did those things to Cordelia, Larry, and Principal Snyder.”
“Oh, come on,” Loki rolled his eyes.
“Stop acting like you don’t approve. You know those guys all got what they deserve.”
“Wha-no! Of course not! I mean, you killed someone!”
Loki stood up and walked over to her; immediately she pointed the stake at him but he just gently grabbed her wrist and forced her to point it in the other direction. “I killed someone? Or I took care of a necessary problem? You know that Tony Harris had been abusing Xander and his mother since the boy was a kid – that filth didn’t deserve to live.”
Willow stared in wonder at the way the god’s amber eyes churned like molten lava as he angrily made his accusation against Xander’s father. The amount of protectiveness in his voice was confusing – why would a trickster care about her friend’s well-being?
Loki blinked and suddenly let go of her wrist as he stepped back; his stormy demeanor was fading as quickly as it had arrived. “And I didn’t severely harm the other people, so no harm, no foul,” he smiled easily.
Biting her lip, she examined him closely. “So why are you here?”
“I thought we could be friends. Of course,” Loki tossed her a salacious leer, “the kind of friends we are would depend on you. Hang out friends, skateboarding friends, friends with benefits…”
“No!” Willow said in shock. “There will be no benefits of any kind!”
“Aha! So we can be friends then?”
“Wha-no! I am not going to be friends with a trickster god who is causing all sorts of mayhem!” Willow stated decisively.
Loki pouted and sat on her bed again. “Aw, come on. I’m really not that bad once you get to know me.”
And Willow…she being Willow, the girl who was nicer than she should be, felt suddenly bad at his sudden morose demeanor. Maybe he wasn’t really that bad of a guy, she thought. Mr. Harris was kind of evil and those other tricks weren’t a big deal, she supposed. “Okay, say that I believe you aren’t that bad of a guy,” she began tentatively as Loki looked up and gave her a radiant smile. “Just why do you want to be my friend, anyways?” After all, Buffy had been an anomaly – normally people did not want to be her friend.
Grinning, Loki snapped his fingers and a box of Twinkies popped into existence. “Want one?” Willow shook her head and then stared in surprise as the pagan god began devouring not just one Twinkie but the entire box. “See, it’s like this, Willow. I, uh…” Loki trailed off as he stuffed another spongy yellow cake in his mouth.
Willow observed him curiously as he struggled to find whatever words he needed to tell her. There was something about him that was niggling at her brain and for the life of her she couldn’t figure out why the trickster seemed so familiar. Hmm. Maybe it was just his Twinkie fetish – that was very Xander of him.
“It’s like what?” she prompted; her fingers still curled around the stake.
“See, I’m, uh, thinking about relocating here for a while so I thought it’d be best to meet the locals,” he said suddenly with a shrug and easy smile. “And I watched you try to figure out the funky costume stuff tonight and knew you were definitely a smart, classy lady. So you seemed like the best person for me to get to know first!”
His words were very flattering and Willow wasn’t quite used to such things, yet there was something off about him. “Wait a second,” she said as her mind began to go over his statement. “Were you the one responsible for the costumes tonight?”
Loki grinned. “Guilty as charged! That was pretty funny, wasn’t it?”
“No!” she answered harshly. “You turned little kids into demons! And Spike and his gang almost got us – and would have killed Buffy had the spell not been reversed in time!”
Loki frowned and she had the feeling that maybe the pagan god wasn’t used to hearing about the negative consequences to his spells. “Well, that may be so – but the slayer didn’t die, did she? I fixed everything in the end,” he smiled as his legs kicked playfully from his position sitting on her bed.
Willow held up her stake again and tried to put on her toughest face – the one Xander called her ‘Resolve Face’. “Ok, that’s it. You are officially not a good guy,” she decided. “You have no regard for human lives and don’t care who you hurt – not to mention, not only did you murder Xander’s dad but now his mom is in debt paying for the funeral and now they’re even more broke since their dad can’t work.”
Loki’s eyes flared in surprise.
“Yeah, you didn’t think of that, did you? You just thought you were getting rid of a bad guy but there are consequences, buddy. Just like who knows what kind of trauma those kids will have after tonight’s Halloween!” Willow said sternly as she tried to embrace her anger and indignation just to give her more courage.
“Hmm, I suppose I didn’t,” Loki mused softly. Then he gave her a wide smile. “Thanks, Willow! I knew you’d be helpful!” With those words he blinked out of existence and Willow was alone in her room, praying that the fairly peculiar and certainly dangerous pagan god wouldn’t come back.
Xander felt like his mind was encased in sweet, beautiful clouds of cotton candy as he annoyingly tapped his alarm. Mmm. Cotton candy. It almost made him hungry…maybe he should wake up…not that he wanted to. An animalistic yawn tore its way out of his body as he threw the covers off and jerked up in bed. With almost-robotic movements he made his way, clad only in boxes and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tee, to the kitchen. He tried not to really look at the place – the kitchen had only bad memories since ‘Mike Tyson’ had visited – and yanked a box of OJ out of the fridge. He began drinking from the container – mom didn’t like OJ and dad…well he wasn’t around to bitch about Xander drinking it all now, was he? – and wondered if he had time to shower before school. Let’s see…it was Wednesday the first so he had that math test…hmm, maybe he should shower to wake himself up some more.
Immediately Xander started choking on his orange juice. “Holy Batman!” he gasped as memories from last night assaulted his brain and his mind became wide awake. Yesterday was Halloween…and he had been an army soldier. WEIRD. Like, that was beyond typical Hellmouth weird. It was almost creepy to remember how he had been watching himself as the soldier but couldn’t really control his actions. Even more weird was how he could still remember everything that his soldier self had remembered.
Huh. That part on rocket launchers and army bases might come in handy someday.
A loud knock at the door struck him out of his mental wanderings and he thrust the OJ back into the fridge before going to the door. Waiting for him outside was a sharply dressed business man in a blue suit and carrying a briefcase. He was in his fifties with salt-and-pepper hair and serious blue eyes. “My name is Roman Russell and I’m here to speak to Mrs. Jessica Harris, please.”
“Uh…sure,” Xander said. He glanced back into the house and winced at the cluttered living room that had not been clean since his mom entered a deeper level of depression after his dad died. “Um, you can come in but the place is kind of a wreck…” he trailed off shamefully.
The man just nodded and stepped inside while Xander began calling for his mom. She arrived a few minutes later garbed in a thick purple robe and her frizzy red hair sat heavily upon her shoulders. “Yes, how can we help you?” she asked in a voice devoid of much life. His mom had always been depressed for as long as he could remember – probably thanks to dad – but since he died there was something so lost about her that it hurt Xander to see.
“Ma’am, my name is Roman Russell from Spiritus and Mortalitas Life Insurance. I’m here about your husband’s policy.”
“My…husband’s policy?” his mom asked in bafflement. “He didn’t even have much of a health insurance plan; much less any fancy life insurance policy.”
Xander sat down next to his mom on the frayed green couch they had picked up once on the side of the road. His fingers intertwined with hers and she squeezed in thanks.
Mr. Russell set his briefcase down on the cluttered coffee table, freely ignoring the several old dishes that were there. “Perhaps he meant it as a surprise, ma’am. Most folks don’t feel comfortable bringing up death around loved ones.”
“Oh,” his mom whispered in surprise. “Well, it would be nice to have something to cover the funeral expenses I suppose.”
Xander grimaced. His mom only worked nights at the gas station and she didn't make a lot of money there. If his dad’s death could bring something good out of this entire mess, things would be so much better.
Mr. Russell smiled slightly. “Actually Mrs. Harris, I don’t think you’ll have to worry about those funeral expenses – or really anything else for the rest of your life.”
Xander’s muscles stiffened as he exchanged a wary glance at his mom. “What do you mean?” he asked.
Mr. Russell gave them a brilliant smile. “Tony Harris’ life insurance policy was for one million dollars.”
After that, Xander wasn’t sure who passed out first – him or his mother.
Hours later Xander arrived at school just in time for his final class – math. Ugh. Well, whatever. He was in such a good mood that not even the mathiest of the math could spoil it! With that thought in mind, he sauntered into the library whistling a jaunty tune; not even noticing when Giles, Buffy, and Willow were looking at him funny.
“Hey! How are you crazy cats doing?” Xander greeted happily.
“Scooby meeting’s about to start. I brought donuts.” Buffy smiled as she held up a white box.
“Mmm, Lady Buffy of Buffonia, you only get more amazing by the minute,” he grinned while swiping a jelly.
Buffy made a face. “Ugh, my days of lady-dom are over. I like being a strong and independent female much better, thank you.”
“Don’t you have to be a lady first before your lady days can be over?” Cordelia sniffed as she strolled into the library.
“Gee, Cordy, I’m surprised to see you here. Considering your cat suit last night I would have thought you’d be on a stage in Vegas by now,” Buffy retorted with fake friendliness.
“Maybe if you didn’t eat so many jelly donuts you might look as good as me in a cat suit,” Cordelia smirked as she sat down in her usual spot.
“And just why are you here again?” Buffy asked with furrowed brows and rolling eyes.
“I want to know who’s responsible for ruining Halloween last night!” Cordelia answered in annoyance. “I was going to hang out with Devon from the Dingoes but that stupid spell ruined it.”
Xander pursed his lips as he considered his options. He really wanted to share his news with everyone but at the same time it was decidedly off-topic. Plus, the more he thought about it the more he wondered if his mom’s newfound wealth would change how people viewed him. The last thing he wanted was to turn into some sort of male-version of Cordelia.
“Hey guys,” he interrupted before Giles could answer Cordelia. “I have some news.”
Willow gave him a curious look. “You alright, Xander? You haven’t been in class all day.”
He shook his head. “I showed up to Math. But, um, yeah – everything’s great actually,” he smiled. “I had to stay home part of today to help my mom with some stuff.”
“How is she?”
Xander looked up in alarm to see that Cordelia of all people was the one who was asking. And she even looked sympathetic. Weird…he wasn’t used to her being nice. Sure, he remembered Buffy saying that Cordelia had asked how he was doing after his dad was killed, but seeing her not be self-centered for one moment was just odd.
“Well, she’s better now, actually.” Xander let loose a wide grin. “This morning a life insurance guy came to our door…turns out my dad took out a policy…for a million dollars!”
Buffy began choking on her donut, Cordelia was staring in disbelief, Giles began sputtering and cleaning his glasses, and a rather suspicious look came into Willow’s eyes.
“Xander! Why, that is marvelous. Congratulations,” Giles said.
“Yeah, Xander this is great! Your mom will have money to take care of you guys plus you can buy all the shoes you want!” Buffy grinned.
“But Buff, I don’t care about shoes,” Xander protested.
Buffy patted his hand fondly. “You say that now.”
“Well, hopefully this means you can stop shopping at the Salvation Army now,” Cordelia commented dryly as she eyed his tropical print shirt; looking thoroughly unimpressed by his statement.
Xander rolled his eyes. “Thanks Cordy.” Then he noticed that Willow was being quiet. “Don’t worry Willow,” he teased. “I promise now that I’m rich I won’t forget all the little people.”
Willow blushed and smiled, but she pushed a strand of red hair behind her ear – a tell-tale sign she was nervous.
“Willow…what’s the matter? Aren’t you excited by my Publishers Clearing House moment?” Xander asked in confusion. As his oldest friend Willow knew better than anyone what his family’s finances were like – he would have thought she’d be happy for him.
“Um, I think I know why you got that mysterious life insurance,” Willow began tentatively.
“Mysterious?” Xander repeated. “It’s not mysterious. I mean, sure, my mom didn’t know about it but the insurance guy said my dad must have wanted to keep it a secret.”
“Yeah…about that…I may have mentioned it to someone last night about how your mom’s, um, money situation wasn’t that good,” Willow said nervously as she fiddled with her hands and looked down at the table.
“What are you talking about Willow? And if so, why are you acting all nervous? Clearly you must have talked to Glinda the Good Witch for me,” Xander laughed.
“It was Loki, actually.”
Hearing the name of his father’s murderer was like getting punched in the gut; for a moment he couldn’t breathe. They had all figured out several days ago that a trickster was responsible and that it had to be the same one Xander had met at the Bronze. And now Willow was talking to this psycho?
“Willow, what the heck were you thinking, talking to him? He murdered my dad!" Xander stated angrily as he felt himself start to lose control over his emotions.
“Xander, I didn’t have much of a choice!” Willow snapped irritably. “He just showed up in my room last night after I got home!”
“He what?” Xander shouted. “What did he do to you? I’ll kill him” he swore. To his side he saw Buffy wearing a similar protective look.
“That’s just the thing! He didn’t do anything. Well,” she frowned, “I think he was hitting on me—”
“What?” Xander shouted again in a protective voice.
Willow winced at his loud voice. “Anyways, he…I don’t know. It was weird.”
Giles cut off Xander and asked her a question. “How so, Willow?”
“Well, he was trying to rationalize to me why he, um, killed Xander’s dad – said his dad abused Xander and his mom and he deserved it.”
The back of Xander’s neck burned hotly as Cordelia and Giles stared at him in surprise. Buffy, who had learned about the abuse right after his dad died, was silent and lightly laid her fingers over his elbow in a show of support. “Yeah, well, that doesn’t give him the right to just kill him,” Xander snapped.
Willow gave him a frustrated look. “I know that, Xander. That’s what I told him. But it was…weird…because he seemed kind of protective of you. I don’t know,” she shrugged. “And then I told him that his actions had consequences and now with your dad gone your mom was broke, and then he left.”
Xander paled slightly and shook his head. “So that insurance money is really hush money. He’s paying me off so I won’t kill him.”
Willow spoke up. “Actually I don’t think—”
“—Well he’s wrong. We’ll kill him Xander, don’t worry,” Buffy stated resolutely.
“Humph, well if I was you I’d ask for some more. One million isn’t enough shut up money, that’s for sure. You should definitely ask for a place in Malibu,” Cordelia suggested.
Xander just gave her an exasperated look.
“What?” Cordelia asked incredulously. “I never said don’t kill him. Just get more money first.” She shrugged. “You’d be surprised how quickly one million dollars can disappear.”
“God Cordy, is that all you think about? Money?” Xander asked in vexation.
“No!” she retorted sharply as she folded her arms across her chest. “I’m just thinking ahead and planning for the future.”
“Okay Cordy, I’ll make sure to ask the nice evil murdering pagan god for some extra money before I stick a bloody stake through his heart,” Xander said sarcastically.
“Fine, Xander. Whatever,” Cordelia snapped with a toss of her hair.
“Okaaaaay then,” Buffy said with raised eyebrows as she looked back and forth from Xander to Cordelia and tried to ignore the tension in the room. “Let’s make a pagan god killing plan, guys.”
“Hiya Willow,” a voice whispered in her ear so close it tickled her ear.
Immediately she swatted over her shoulder and turned to face the trickster. “What are you doing here?” she asked in annoyance. Her eyes scanned her surroundings and she was slightly annoyed that she had agreed to walk home alone.
Loki feigned a sad look. “Aw, is that how you greet your friends?”
She rolled her eyes. “We are not friends.”
“Whatever,” Loki snorted as he took her arm and began leading her away.
“Hey! What are you doing!” she shouted in anger and fear.
He paused and fixed her with a stern look. “Honestly, I can see why most humans live here and die here since they’re ignorant of what goes bump in the night. But you’re not yet you’re still walking home in the dark. Are you stupid or something?”
Willow’s mouth dropped open in shock. No one ever called her stupid! What a jerk!
…even if maybe he did have a good point.
“So anyways, friend I’m walking you home,” Loki finished with a smirk.
Unsure of what to do, Willow obliged him and continued to let him lead her down the sidewalk. “So, I’ve been thinking about what you said last night.” He paused and gave her a wolfish grin. “And I’ve been thinking about your outfit, which, no offense, was way hotter than what you got on now.”
Willow glanced down at her red corduroy overalls and white turtleneck. She blushed as she realized how skanky she had dressed last night…and oddly she almost wished she was wearing something like that again.
“Anyways, back to topic. I was thinking about what you said and today started fixing things. I visited all the good little children to make sure they weren’t mentally scarred plus I took care of the Harris family.”
“Oh. Um, well, good.” She wondered why this trickster cared so much about being good.
“So how did Xander take the news, anyways? Was he glad?” Loki asked eagerly.
Willow pushed a strand of hair behind her ear. She was awful at lying but she couldn’t very well tell Loki that Xander was planning on killing him! “Um, yeah, he was pretty excited when he told us.”
His amber eyes gave her a piecing look. “But…?”
She shook her head. “But nothing!” Willow gave him a weak smile. “But nothing, haha! Isn’t that kind of funny how we have a word in our English language that has two completely different meanings? I mean, that must be so confusing to a non-native speaker! What if every time they heard the word they thought you were talking about butts, like you know, your tush or something?” Willow let out a forced laugh.
Loki stopped walking and stared at her. “You’re babbling, Willow. I find that most humans do so when they are very nervous. But the question is, what would you have to be nervous about? Unless, of course, there is something you aren’t telling me?”
Willow licked her lips and shook her head. “No…that would be crazy,” she grinned. “I mean, who lies to an all-powerful trickster god? Not me! No sirree.”
Loki just stared at her for a moment longer before nodding and continuing their walk. Willow let out an internal sigh and really hoped the god didn’t smite her. When they got to her door she forced another smiled and gestured towards him. “Do you, um, wanna come in? I was gonna eat some ice cream.” Willow had observed the trickster’s sweet tooth and knew it was the perfect ‘carrot’ for him.
“Ice cream!” he repeated brightly. “Hells yes, Red!” He stepped in after her, smiling as she locked the door. “So I guess we are friends, huh? I knew you’d warm up to me eventually.”
“Yeah,” she laughed. “Guess so. Um, why don’t you have a seat in my dad’s Laz-E-Boy? I’ll go grab the ice cream.”
Loki grinned and sat back in the plump easy chair. “Awesome. And if you have any chocolate syrup and whipped cream, don’t forget that. ‘Cause, ya know, if you wanted to rethink that ‘with benefits’ part of our friendship, those two items would make for a good start.”
“When I’m done with you, you’ll have less benefits than a Wisconsin teacher’s union,” a new voice suddenly threatened the trickster.
Chapter 8: But At Least He’s Not Charlie Sheen
Xander and Buffy were waiting silently in Willow’s kitchen when they heard the front door unlock. Xander’s muscles tensed as he heard soft voices and he instinctively clutched his stake tighter.
“Do you, um, wanna come in? I was gonna eat some ice cream,” Willow offered sweetly. Xander smirked; from what Willow had told him this guy had a sweet tooth almost as big as him. He’d take the bait.
“Ice cream!” Loki repeated brightly. “Hells yes, Red! So I guess we are friends, huh? I knew you’d warm up to me eventually.”
“Yeah,” Willow laughed. “Guess so. Um, why don’t you have a seat in my dad’s Laz-E-Boy? I’ll go grab the ice cream.”
Xander’s muscles tensed even more as he heard Loki walk through the living room and Willow made her way into the kitchen. Giles’ research had indicated that mistletoe had the capability to de-power Norse gods and give protection to the local humans. After school they had encircled certain areas of Willow’s house with the plant, including the Laz-E-Boy. Since the only lead they had on Loki was that he had visited Willow once they had prayed that he would visit her again – thank god he didn’t disappoint.
“Awesome. And if you have any chocolate syrup and whipped cream, don’t forget that. ‘Cause, ya know, if you wanted to rethink that ‘with benefits’ part of our friendship, those two items would make for a good start.”
Xander bit back a growl at the god’s disgusting flirtation with his best friend and stalked into the living room, Buffy at his side, with his stake raised. “When I’m done with you, you’ll have less benefits than a Wisconsin teacher’s union.”
Loki looked up in surprise and his skin paled; his brightly colored shirt only contrasted his paling skin even more. “And here I thought most Californians were Democrats,” he stated casually, once he recovered from the shock of their arrival, as he leaned back in the chair.
“Don’t even think about trying anything, Loki. We’ve got a circle of mistletoe around that chair – you’re trapped,” Buffy informed him fiercely. She had agreed to let Xander confront his dad’s killer but he could see his friend hovering near him; ready to strike if Loki made any sudden movements.
“Trapped? Oooh, sounds kinky, slayer,” he said with waggling brows. Then he noticed Willow shyly stepping out of the kitchen with a somewhat guilty expression. “Willow, you should have told me you were having other people over. I would have brought a chip dip or something,” he added lightly.
“Jokes? Is that all you can make?” Xander burst out angrily. “You come into town, you kill my dad, and do all sorts of other things, and all you can do is make jokes?” Coming face to face with this creature again was already causing his blood to boil and hearing the god treat this situation like it was beneath him only further incensed Xander.
Loki’s face became drawn and almost resigned at the sheer anger Xander displayed. He held up his palms in a show of surrender and sighed. “Listen, jokes are what I do, kid. Besides, I thought you’d be thankful that I got you out from under that bastard Tony.”
Xander lurched forward but Buffy grabbed his elbow. “Hold on, Xand. We don’t know what kind of power this guy has. If anything I should go after him first.”
Xander stared at the silent pagan god with rage filled eyes. “As long as I get to stake him, Buff,” he said to her. Then he turned to Loki. “And who gave you the right to play judge, jury, and executioner? Huh? He may have been a bastard but he was my bastard!”
Loki winced and pursed his lips. “I’ve been doing the judgment thing for a long time, kiddo. Heck, it’s why I was created in the first place.”
Giving him a puzzled look, Xander let his arms hang loose at his sides in case Loki made any sudden moves – he may just be a human but he had patrolled enough with Buffy to know the basics of fighting. “I don’t care what your purpose is,” he sneered. “You killed my dad and now you deserve to die.”
Surprisingly, Loki let out a loud belly laugh. “Oh, now that is ironic, kiddo. Here you are saying that I’m wrong to judge when you’re making the judgment that I should die.” He raised a single brow and gave Xander a bemused look. “I suppose it runs in the family.”
Xander paused as he tried to figure out what the pagan said. “Runs in the family? My dad wasn’t judgmental.” A jerk, yeah. And okay, maybe a little judgmental when it came to family. “But maybe if you had refrained from sending in ‘Mike Tyson’ we could have asked my dad his opinion on the matter,” Xander snapped.
“Xander, you have to understand,” Loki stated in a soft voice as he leaned forward. “When I met you that night at the Bronze and saw some of the thoughts running through your head when you thought about your dad,” he rolled his eyes, “I snapped. Okay? I never meant to make you sad, I just, er, let my emotions get the best of me.”
Out of the corner of his eye he saw Buffy and Willow giving the Loki and Xander a peculiar look. “And just why would you care?” he asked irately.
The tip of Loki’s right foot drew an invisible line as he moved it back and forth over the carpet. “Because, um, I’m your dad. Your real dad.” Loki smiled weakly at the teenager. “Surprise!” he added half-heartedly.
The words struck Xander like an avalanche and he suddenly felt cold all over. This…thing was his dad? No way. “You’re lying! That’s what you do, isn’t it? Lie and trick people?”
Loki sighed and ran a hand through his brunette locks. “Listen kiddo, I didn’t exactly plan on introducing myself when I came here. I…I don’t know what I was really planning, to be honest. But then I came here and saw how your life was…and I just wanted to help.”
“Help?” Xander repeated incredulously as his friends gave him worried looks. “How is killing my dad helping?”
“Because I know everything he did to you – and Jessica,” Loki snarled. “Tony Harris was filth. Any man who gets off on beating his wife and kid deserved to get his ass handed to him. No son of mine deserves that kind of treatment.” The trickster’s face was flushed and his hands were gripping the armrests so tightly that Xander heard the wood snapping. He quickly looked away and began taking some cleansing deep breaths. “The last thing I ever wanted to do was hurt you, kiddo.”
Shocked, Xander just shook his head in disbelief. “You’re not my dad and you never will be.” He bit his lip in anguish. His dad had been an awful person, it was true, but he was still his dad. “Tony Harris may have acted like a monster but you actually are one. Now get out of here and never come back.”
“Xander,” Buffy whispered as she sidled up next to him. “Are you—” Xander just shook his head at her. He didn’t believe for one minute this thing was telling the truth…but all the same he didn’t want Buffy to kill him. Not yet, anyway.
Loki gave him a long, sad look before nodding. “I hope you change your mind.”
“I won’t,” Xander spat.
Loki nodded again and then he simply disappeared.
“Well,” Buffy sighed. “I guess that mistletoe didn’t exactly de-power him like Giles said. I didn’t think he’d be able to shazam his way out with all the plants we threw around this place.”
Xander felt Willow put her hand on his arm but he couldn’t look down at her. Not now. He knew if he did he’d see her wide understanding eyes staring at him, just begging him to let it all out right now. But he couldn’t. Everything in his mind felt like a modern art painting – just splashes of color making no sense to the untrained eye.
“Xander, are you okay?” Willow asked him softly.
Xander shook his head. “I’m gonna get home. I’ll talk to you guys later.”
Xander didn’t go to school the next day or the day after that. His mom didn’t really care – she was in the best mood ever thanks to their new riches. Blood money, Xander thought bitterly. Money from that sickening trickster who killed his dad, gave them hush money to try to make it all better, and then have the gall to proclaim that he was Xander’s dad. Whatever. Guy was a few Froot Loops short of a cereal box prize as far as he was concerned.
But still…he couldn’t get the idea of this guy as his dad out of his head. The flashbacks of his dad yelling at his mom and calling her a whore…that time when he was nine and his dad, drunk as hell, had said Xander wasn’t even his ‘goddamn kid’…Xander didn’t want to think it, didn’t even want to consider it…but he couldn’t help but wonder.
But then again, so what if it was true? He’d be exchanging one deadbeat dad for another. Tony, aside from handful of moments, was a cruel or uncaring dad. And this guy? This Loki guy? He just left for years only to randomly show up once Xander was seventeen and almost an adult? Ha. Yeah. Both sure sounded like ‘winners’ in the Dad Competition.
Whatever. Xander wasn’t even going to think about this anymore; it was driving him crazy.
“It’s amazing how you think you really know someone but in the end it’s all a lie,” Buffy commented sourly. She and Willow were hanging out in the library after school and she was rehashing her anger at what her friend - ex-friend – Ford put her through. “I just can’t believe he was going to sacrifice me to Spike,” she added with a shake of her head.
“I’m sorry, Buff.” Willow gave her friend a long look. “You gonna be okay?”
Buffy shrugged. “Yeah, I will.” She forced a cherry smile. “You know me – I’m a trooper.”
“Darn tootin’,” Willow agreed heartily.
They continued working on their history homework in silence for another hour until Buffy glanced at the clock. “Hey where’s Xander?”
Willow checked the clock as well. “Dunno. He said he’d be coming over after he helped his mom with some stuff. They’re checking out some houses on the nicer side of town.”
“That’s good,” Buffy smiled. “Xander and his mom deserve some happiness.”
“Penny for your thoughts?” Buffy inquired.
“What? No. I mean, I’m happy for Xander…just kind of worried for him. He was so quick to brush off Loki—”
“—Uh, yeah, Will. Wouldn’t you have the same reaction if some supernatural creepo killed your dad and then proclaimed himself to be your real daddy? I mean, that’s some soap opera stuff right there.”
“I know,” Willow sighed. “But you saw how Loki acted about Xander – he was really protective. Plus, the more I think about the two of them the more I see the similarities.”
“What? Just ‘cause the trickster dude has a Twinkie fetish like Xander?”
“Partly,” Willow answered with a small smile. “But their smiles are kinda alike and so is their fashion sense and – let’s face it – their sense of humor. I mean, Xander’s not mean like Loki but he does enjoy a good laugh.”
“Willow, those things aren’t that jaw-dropping. Coincidences, I’m sure.”
“If you say so…”
Weeks later Xander, Buffy, Willow, Cordelia, Jenny Calendar, Ethan Rayne, and Giles were in the library observing a very dead-yet-still-moving man named Phillip in the book cage. Xander, Willow, and Cordelia had been in a Saturday school session with Ms. Calendar when Buffy arrived expressing concern because Giles hadn’t been answering his phone. Ethan Rayne, the Halloween store owner and apparently a friend of Giles, had arrived looking for Giles when the Not Dead Guy showed up. Now all of them were watching the demon-possessed creature apprehensively while listening to Giles and Ethan argue.
“You've put these people in danger. These are people I care about,” Giles said between gritted teeth.
Cordelia turned to Xander in surprise. “Wow, even me?” she whispered.
Xander fought an eye roll and just shook his head ‘no’. Cordelia – the world revolved around her. Although…he could reluctantly admit he didn’t mind her as much as he used to – not that he would ever tell anyone that.
“If you care so much about them why didn't you leave town? I know you've been having the dreams. I have. We both know what's coming,” Ethan countered.
“What dreams, what's going on?” Buffy asked Giles in a frustrated voice.
“—Tell her, Ripper.”
“Giles?” Buffy questioned again.
Suddenly Phillip kicked open the book cage. Cordelia, the nearest person to him, was thrown forcibly into a wall where she fell with a frightening thud. Angrily, Xander slid a book cart behind Phillip and found satisfaction when Buffy pushed him over it. The slayer moved forward to deliver another blow when Phillip’s body started convulsing. Suddenly the air was filled with black smoke and everyone backed away quickly and looked away. When they looked back the smoke was gone; Xander was perplexed by instead of smelling smoke he smelled something like rotten eggs.
“That's something you don't see every day,” Willow remarked in an awed voice.
“And this is what happens when you have school on a Saturday,” Xander joked to Ms. Calendar as he knelt over Cordelia’s prone body. “Hey. Cordelia. You okay?” he asked softly. He could tell that she was breathing but she had hit her head pretty hard. Xander lightly ran his fingers over the burgeoning bump on her temple and winced sympathetically. Poor Cordy.
Huh. He also touched her hair – by accident, of course, not that he had been meaning to – and found that it was as soft as it looked.
“Xander?” Cordelia said weakly.
He laughed. “I knew you’d be okay. No one has a harder head than you.”
“Shut up,” Cordelia frowned as she started to get up. She faltered and Xander quickly put an arm around her so she wouldn’t fall. He led her to a chair and set her down easily. “Oh my god, my head,” she mumbled.
Buffy whirled around angrily to stare at Giles – Ethan had run off once Phillip escaped – and placed her hands on her hips. “Okay, that’s it Giles. What. Is. Going. On? And what does it have to do with you, Ethan, and this Mark of Eyghon thing?”
“It's... complicated, Buffy, and frankly it's private,” Giles responded softly.
“I don't care from private, I care from dead guys attacking us, I care from you Lost Weekending in your apartment.”
”I wasn't... I just had to work out a solution.”
”Solution is good. Why don't we share? What's the mark of Eyghon?” Buffy asked pointedly.
Cordelia began laughing softly and Xander stared at her in surprise. “Cordelia, I get that you like to be the center of attention but things are kinda tense now,” he stage-whispered.
Cordelia looked up with a perverted version of her typical brilliant smile. “Yes, Ripper, why don’t you share?” she rasped in a deep and almost masculine voice. “Tell the kiddies what sort of tricks you got up to back in the day.”
Giles immediately moved in front of Cordelia, effectively blocking off Buffy and the others from her. “Eyghon,” he said in a deadly voice. “Get out of that innocent girl now.”
Cordelia – or Eyghon? – let out a stream of maniacal laughter that fell upon their ears like falling icicles – cold and cutting, they sent a shiver down Xander’s back. “Get out? But I rather like this body,” she grinned as she seductively roved her hands over her torso. As she stood up a gasp was torn from Xander’s throat when he saw that Cordelia’s brown eyes were now an inky black.
“Cordelia?’ Xander whispered in horror.
Cordelia licked her lips salaciously as she stared him down. “Cordy’s not home right now,” she grinned. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun of our own, stud.”
Giles reached for a crucifix inside his tweed jacket and thrust it into the possessed girl’s face. “Eyghon I command you! By all that is holy—”
Cordelia snatched the crucifix out of Giles’ hands, grabbed him by the neck, threw him against the table, and then jammed the crucifix into his mouth. “You forever gave up the light when you worshipped me years ago, Ripper. You wanted magic, I gave it to you. And now, I’m getting what I want.” She slowly ran her tongue down his cheek and laughed softly.
“Leave him alone,” Buffy snarled as she grabbed the back of Cordelia’s shirt and pulled her off of Giles. Instantly she was in a fighting stance and her eyes blazed in anger.
Cordelia smirked. “A slayer. I never would have thought Ripper would have given in to dear ol’ dad’s demands to become a Watcher. Hmm.” She sauntered closer to Buffy, every step conveying power and danger. “Usually we avoid slayers. But…I think I’ll make an exception.” She threw a punch at Buffy and the slayer fell back, but she managed to kick up at the same time to make Cordelia fall as well. The two became a blur of action as they threw jabs and kicks at their opponent.
“Buffy, be careful! That’s still Cordelia in there!” Xander cried out.
“Yes, she’s possessed by a demon from Hell. We must perform an exorcism,” Giles informed them as he began to run back to his office. “I’ll grab my book.”
Cordelia threw Buffy in a bookcase and motioned with her hand in Giles’ direction, causing him to fly into his office door. “Ripper, don’t be a party pooper,” she smirked. “If you do an exorcism on me again it might be another twenty-some years until they let me back up here.” She flashed a smile full of wicked promises. “And I like it up here.”
“Giles, is there any way we can kill the demon?” Buffy shouted but Giles didn’t respond – he was out cold.
“Ugh, it’s always about killing with you slayers, isn’t it? You’re such a pain in my ass,” Cordelia snapped as she motioned towards Buffy and telekinetically tossed her onto the library steps.
Although Jenny and Willow had stayed silent as they looked up something on a computer, Cordelia’s attention was turned to them as soon as they started chanting in Latin. “I don’t—”
But Xander didn’t give her a moment to do anything. He hit her as hard as he could with a chair and grimaced as her body rolled onto the ground – he hoped Cordy couldn’t feel any of this.
“Stupid boy!” she spat before sweeping his feet out from under him. Buffy and her started fighting again as the chanting continued. Suddenly Cordelia screamed in agony, knocked Buffy back, and smashed her fist through the computer. “Filthy witches,” she growled as she cracked Jenny and Willow’s heads together. Xander tried to stop her but she just sent him flying helplessly again. Buffy continued to fight her but the slayer was overwhelmed; soon Cordelia was straddling Buffy on the ground and gripping her throat tight.
In the matter of less than a second, Xander’s world darkened. He saw his friends lying motionless on the ground and one of his best friends was seconds from being murdered by another friend (god help him, he considered Cordelia a friend) who was possessed. Anger erupted within him like a volcano and he suddenly felt like his body was burning from the inside. He rushed over and placed a hand on each side of Cordelia’s head – there was no rhyme or reason to his actions but there was something telling him this was right – and Xander concentrated on saving his friends.
“What are you—” Cordelia began to ask but then Xander felt a burning sense of power exit his fingertips in a swoosh and Cordelia – or rather, the demon within – began screaming in anguish. Xander continued concentrating on how all he wanted was to save Cordelia from this demon; his brow dripped with sweat and his body lagged under the physical sense of pressure, but he continued. Cordelia’s skull flashed a fiery color and then she collapsed into his arms. Xander, exhausted from whatever the heck had just happened, fell to the floor as well.
Blearily opening his eyes after a series of lucid dreams, Xander discovered he was in a hospital bed; the sharp scent of antiseptic slightly burned his nostrils. An IV was hooked into his arm and his mom was sleeping on a chair next to him. Her red hair – no longer frizzy after a salon visit – laid in an unkempt mess around her shoulders. Her dark eye make-up appeared smudged like she had been crying and she was wearing a sweatshirt he had given her years ago on Mother’s Day. Confused as to why he was here, he closed his eyes and tried to remember what had just happened.
The demon…he had done something to it…Giles said it could only be exorcised but somehow that didn’t feel quite right…
“So you’re awake.” Xander looked up to see Cordelia giving him a soft smile.
“Yeah…uh, how long was I out?”
She shrugged and sat at the end of his bed. “Three days,” she answered in a whisper; careful not to wake his mom.
Xander’s jaw dropped. “You’re kidding me.”
Cordelia shook her head. “Nope. I was out for a day or so, too. The doctors said I can get out of here tomorrow morning.”
He studied her with dark eyes. Light bruises marked her face and arms from where Buffy had hit her and she seemed very small at the moment; drawn and tired – very different from the Cordelia he knew. “Do you remember what happened?”
Looking away quickly, Cordelia nodded. “It was awful,” she said in a tight voice. “I heard it…could see everything it was doing…I was doing, but I couldn’t stop it.” Cordelia shivered and stole a glance back at him. “But you saved me.” Then a skeptical look crossed her face. “Just how the heck did you do that, anyway?” she asked in an almost haughty fashion.
Seeing Cordelia act a little bit more normal brought a wry grin to his face. “Honestly? I don’t know. I just knew I had to stop the demon without killing you…it was like instinct to exorcise it.”
Cordelia surprised him by shaking her head. “Buffy was barely conscious and everyone else was knocked out, but I was there, Xander. I saw you. Giles said it isn’t possible…but I think you killed that demon. I heard it screaming inside my mind.”
Xander let out a snort of derision. “Giles said an exorcism was the only way to get rid of the demon.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Maybe…or maybe you’ve got freaky special powers, like Buffy but freakier.”
He rolled his eyes and made a noise of disbelief. “Yeah right.”
This time Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Hey, I always knew you were a freak. Except, maybe you’re a helpful freak.” She shrugged. “And I dunno, but I bet it has something to do with that trickster guy who called himself your dad.”
Xander’s head jerked up to meet her eyes. “No.”
“Oh, whatever,” she scoffed. “It could be worse. It could be Ted Bundy or Marilyn Manson or worse – Charlie Sheen.”
He couldn’t help but shiver at her suggestions. “Yeah, but he’s practically like Ted Bundy since he’s a killer…and he’s about as creepy old man flirty as Charlie Sheen,” Xander joked lightly. Then he shook his head. “But regardless, that guy is not my dad. I don’t believe it.”
…even if a small part of him couldn’t help but wonder if he was wrong.
Chapter 9: Reunions & Requests
Willow stood at the sink in the girl’s bathroom at school sucking in great mouthfuls of air between sobs. She couldn’t believe it…Xander and Cordelia?! What was he thinking?
Oh yeah, he wasn’t thinking. He would rather be with her, someone he hates rather than be with his best friend. Clearly.
She was surprised when several tissues were thrust in front of her. Glancing up she saw Loki in the mirror’s reflection and she screamed. “What are you doing here?” she gasped, her hand clutching her chest.
Loki raised a lazy brow at her outburst. “I was wondering if there was an outbreak of a giant evil Hellmouthy onion or if you were crying because you were sad.”
Irritated by his presence, she reluctantly took a tissue and blew her nose. The last person she wanted to be around, besides Xander himself, was his maybe-dad. “Go away,” she mumbled in a scratchy voice.
Pouting, he hopped up and sat on the bathroom counter. “Sweet talk like that will get you nowhere,” he commented playfully. “So tell me kiddo, what’s the haps?”
“I thought Xander told you to never come back,” Willow pointed out as she dried her tears with another tissue.
“Eh,” Loki shrugged. “What can I say? I’m not great at taking orders,” he grinned. “Besides! I’m visiting you today, not the kid, so he doesn’t even have to know. What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.”
“Hmmph. He would deserve to get hurt,” she muttered as her mind flashed back to finding Xander and Cordelia making out in the school library.
Loki leaned forward to give Willow a closer look. “Don’t tell me my kiddo is the one who made you cry,” he remarked in surprise with drawn eyebrows. “Thought you two were bffs.”
Willow just shrugged half-heartedly.
After a moment of observing her, Loki spoke again. “But lemme guess – you like him more than as just a friend?”
Annoyed by his accurate conclusion, she just shrugged again. All she wanted to be was left alone so she could drown herself in tears of sorrow.
Loki sighed. “Listen, I’m not exactly helpful at giving love advice, but if you really want him you should make a move, doll face.” His eyes squinted and he shrugged. “Or, maybe it’s not meant to be. Fate can be a bitch like that.”
Willow glared at him. “Gee, that’s entirely helpful, Loki.”
He laughed and moved his legs restlessly from his perch on the counter. “Hey, it’s not like I didn’t give you a disclaimer!”
Willow tried to maintain an annoyed expression, but she was betrayed by a slight smile.
“That’s what I like to see! Nothing like smiling when you’re living on the Hellmouth!” Loki beamed approvingly.
Gabriel watched his son’s best friend leave the bathroom moments later with a heavy heart. Speaking to her only reminded him how he wasn’t able to speak to Xander. After his first – and maybe last – confrontation with his son he knew he wasn’t welcome in Xander’s life. The pure fury emanating from the boy had made that more than clear.
“You’re not my dad and you never will be. Tony Harris may have acted like a monster but you actually are one. Now get out of here and never come back.”
The memory of Xander’s words created a hollow feeling in his chest – something that tended to be the norm these last couple months. He hated this feeling, this very human feeling of guilt. Except for his family circumstances – Lucifer’s fall, Michael’s douchebaggery – he wasn’t used to the feeling. More or less for thousands of years he did what he wanted when he wanted. Someone needs a smiting? Smote. Someone deserves a wicked trick? Tricked.
Hell, he had been helping Xander. Tony Harris had deserved to die, lousy asshole that he was. Now Xander and Jessica were free. And, hey, even when Willow had pointed out the family’s financial situation to him, he had remedied that as well! To be honest, the kid should be freaking thanking him – worshipping him even.
‘He’s your child, not a follower of Loki,’ an insistent voice reprimanded him at the back of his mind.
Okay, yeah. So he’s not a worshipper. But still. Aren’t children supposed to worship their fathers? Heaven knows (literally) that he certainly had. Before he left Heaven, Gabriel had worked tirelessly on behalf of his Father. Whatever was requested of him, he did.
…until his Father disappeared, anyways.
Gabriel frowned at the memory. Shortly after the death of the Son his Father had faded away, refraining from contact with the archangels – him, Raphael, and even the ‘bestest son’ Michael, until one day it was like he disappeared. Without a Father, the angels were at a loss and those high in rank argued vehemently on how to run the world. Not wanting to witness yet even more fighting amongst his brethren – the battles Lucifer and his followers were enough, thank you – Gabriel had left.
Just like you left Xander, that persistently annoying voice pointed out.
A low growl left his lips. He was nothing like his Father. He wouldn’t leave his child – even if his child wanted him gone.
He nodded decisively. Nope, for better or for worse, Xander was stuck with him.
Xander thought that seeing his father get brutally murdered would be the worse thing that he had ever experienced. Unfortunately, this was the Hellmouth where ‘worse’ was able to reach new depths of badness at a moment’s notice.
He was running now, faster and longer than he ever had before – because, let’s face it, he wasn’t exactly the type prone to gym time. But tonight his anger was so vibrant that it overpowered any sense of pain his legs and chest might be feeling at the moment. So he ran, faster and faster.
The call from Willow had come just ten minutes ago. At first, he couldn’t even understand her over the sound of her choked sobs. His primary thought after hearing the words ‘dead fish’ in between crying was that Will had forgotten to feed her fish. But then he had heard ‘Angel’ and dread had manifested in his chest like a block of ice, and he knew he had to do something. Angel entering Buffy’s house to leave creepy art was bad enough, but Willow? No. That was too much. He had already lost Jesse last year and he’d be damned if he’d lose another friend.
So he started running in hopes of the one powerful person who might be able to help them – Loki.
Giles had mentioned that Ethan Rayne had been an acolyte of the Trickster God and that Loki had showed up once at the latter’s Halloween shop, so Xander was hoping that he’d find the god there. It wasn’t much to go on but Xander didn’t really know of any other way to contact him.
Chest heaving, Xander arrived at the abandoned shop fifteen minutes later. The entire shopping center was dark at this hour and there was no one to be seen, thank god. His eyes scanned the empty building and, after a moment’s hesitation, he smashed the window nearest the door with a rock. The windows were of the large display variety and the cracks from his strike ran up the six feet. Grimacing, he prepared himself for the upcoming noise, and threw the rock into the window again. An earsplitting shatter reverberated through the air as the window broke and pieces of glass clinked against the ground. Xander peered around his surroundings to make sure that no one was approaching, and then he stepped into the shop.
He coughed as the dust accumulated in the past four months hit his throat. He wasn’t surprised that the building was still empty since this side of town wasn’t the ‘best’, but he sure did wish that Ethan had cleaned up first.
Looking around, he realized when he had made the decision to come here, it had all made sense at the time. Loki had been here before and since Ethan had an altar to him here, maybe this was a hot spot for trickster god action. But now that he was surveying the dark premises he was feeling sort of silly. Just what was he supposed to do? Light a candle and get all chant-y?
Xander shook his head. When it came down to it, it didn’t matter what he had to do. His friends were in danger thanks to a psycho vampire and he had to help them. So screw it if he had to feel like an idiot trying to get help.
“Loki?” Xander called, his voice echoing in the empty room. “Loki, it’s Xander Harris.”
Only silence greeted him.
“Look...I, er, I need your help.” Xander paused and let out a heavy sigh. “Angel lost his soul and now he’s after us, especially Buffy and Willow. I need some mojo help to stake him.”
The silence thickened around his body and his breath caught. “Please,” he added in a cracking voice.
In between his tricks across the world, Gabriel kept a pretty close eye on his son and the Hellmouth. It was difficult not to smite every last demon that lived there, in hopes of protecting his son, but he had to refrain in order to allow the balance to be maintained there – lest his brother Raphael and the angels he oversaw (commonly referred to by mortals as The Powers That Be) notice that Gabriel wasn’t as dead as they thought and, oh yeah, by the way, he had born a son – a crime punishable by death to his progeny.
It wasn’t easy to refrain, that was for sure. Even though he wasn’t ‘exactly’ an angel anymore he was still used to punishing the wicked as a trickster. Hmm, perhaps he had a slight addiction to smiting….
His lips curled into a smirk at the thought. Nah, it was just part of who he was. He could try to be all hugs and puppies if he wanted, but it wouldn’t last for long.
A tickling sensation suddenly appeared at the base of his skull.
“Loki? Loki, it’s Xander Harris.”
Gabriel broke out into a triumphant smile as he recognized his son was in Ethan’s old Halloween shop asking for him. Finally! He popped into the darkened shop and immersed himself into the shadows. After all, Gabriel was damn old and had seen a lot of things – he knew better than pop out into the open around a Hunter who didn’t particularly like him. That always led to stakings!
Xander’s forehead glistened with sweat and his eyes gleamed dully, full of hesitation, fear, and worry – although it didn’t seem like he was afraid of Gabriel exactly…something else perhaps?
“Look...I, er, I need your help.” Xander paused and let out a heavy sigh. “Angel lost his soul and now he’s after us, especially Buffy and Willow. I need some mojo help to stake him.”
Grimacing, Gabriel turned his head. Of all the things his kid could ask for, it was to take out Angelus? The Vampire with a Soul was well-known in Heaven and his arrival had been prophesized several times. He was considered a major player for the side of Good and there was no way Gabriel could get away with staking him without the PTB finding out. Heck, even if he was able to, Gabriel didn’t know if he would - who knows what kind of negative consequences that action would cause.
“Please.” Xander’s voice cracked at the second syllable and something inside Gabriel broke at the sound. He was overwhelmed by a feeling of pure love for this being, this child that he had helped to create. Xander was his son. All he could think about was doing whatever his child needed to be safe and happy.
He stepped forward from the shadows and Xander jerked back in surprise. “Hello son,” he whispered with a tentative smile.
Xander winced at Gabriel’s term for him but he recovered quickly. “You came,” he stated, almost as if he hadn’t been sure if Gabriel would show or not.
“Course I did,” Gabriel said. “I heard you and I came.” He flashed a nervous smile. “Guess this means my Sunnydale ban has been lifted?” he asked tentatively.
Xander scowled. “I guess, for now,” he answered begrudgingly.
“Well I hope so, if you need my help,” Gabriel smirked knowingly.
Instantly Xander’s eyes flashed and he knew he had made a mistake in pushing Xander. That was one of Gabriel’s weaknesses – he always loved to push people to their limits, sometimes without even meaning to.
“Forget it,” Xander snapped as he turned towards the door.
“Wait!” Gabriel shouted. He ran in front of Xander and held up his arms in surrender. “I’m sorry, okay? I have a bad case of smart-ass-olic-ness.”
Xander studied him with dark eyes; and Gabriel couldn’t help but admire the resolve he saw in his son’s eyes. Strength, intelligence, and a keen sense of morality filled his son’s spirit…and Gabriel couldn’t help but admit that his son was likely a much better person than he was.
“Fine,” Xander stated flatly. “Now, can you help me?”
Gabriel winced internally at what was coming. “With what?” he asked, feigning stupidity.
“With Angelus!” Xander shouted, visibly aggravated as he threw up his arms. “Now that he’s all soul-less he’s hell bent on killing Buffy, Willow, and whoever else!” Xander paused and let out a frustrated sigh. “And Buffy can’t take him down.”
Steepling his fingers under his chin, Gabriel gazed at Xander and fought to starve off time until he could come up with a remedy that wouldn’t have the PTB taking notice in Sunnyhell. “Why can’t the Slayer take him out? Angelus has a sordid history but he’s just a vampire.”
“You’d think, right?” Xander asked rhetorically as he paced restlessly. “And, I dunno, maybe she could if she really had to…”
“But you don’t trust her to get it done?”
“No,” Xander whispered in regret. “She can’t distinguish Angel from Angelus. She’s still hoping that she can figure out a way to fix him or something. Until there’s no other option, I don’t think she’s prepared to stake him.”
“Hmm.” Gabriel nodded as he circled the boy. “And why do you think this job calls for a trickster god?”
Xander turned his coffee-brown eyes towards Gabriel. “Because you have super powers…and because you owe me.”
Surprised, Gabriel let out an amused laugh. “I owe you?” he repeated with a raised eyebrow.
“Yeah,” Xander confirmed in a stubborn tone. “You killed my dad.”
“And I gave you and your mom a million bucks. Doesn’t that make us even-steven?” As soon as he said the words, Gabriel regretted them. This isn’t how a father acted! Still…it was hard for an old dog to learn new tricks. He wasn’t used to owing mortals favors. Then again, he had also never seen a Nephilim live past adulthood – for all he knew they might be immortal.
Hmm, now that was a thought…
“That was blood money.” Xander gritted his teeth. “Look, I don’t think you’re my dad but obviously you do – call me crazy but I would have assumed you’d be happy to help me.”
Sighing, Gabriel gave the boy a morose look. “Listen…I’m not…er, really used to this. Most mortals I interact with are either my acolytes or somebody I’m punishing. So…I’m…sorry.” Damn, those words were harder to say than he would have realized. Judging by Xander’s astonished expression; he must not have expected them either
“Okay,” Xander said with a guarded expression. “So…can you kill Angelus?”
Letting out a grunt of frustration, Gabriel began pacing the length of the room. “Killing Angelus…uh, that’s not really in my arena, kiddo. I’m not much of a demon smiter.” Well, at least not since he had taken the Norse god Loki’s persona two thousand years ago.
“So? You’re strong, aren’t you?” Xander pressed. “You can take Angelus out.”
Dammit. How was he supposed to please his kid and also not screw with big brother Raphael’s plans for the vampire? Sure, Angelus didn’t have a soul now but clearly that would change in the future, or else those prophecies wouldn’t exist…
A smile slowly worked its way onto Gabriel’s face as he suddenly got a stroke of genius. Pivoting, he tossed Xander a promising smile. “I’ve got a friend who’s always wanted a guided tour at the world’s hell-iest Hellmouth. Lemme persuade her to take some vacation time and I guarantee you that your Angelus days will be numbered.”
Chapter 10: Machiavellian Manipulations
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
The trickster and Hindu goddess surveyed Sunnydale atop the downtown cinema roof, observing the flow of humans in and out of the theatre. It was past eight o’clock and the only illumination stemmed from the cinema sign and several lamp posts. Clouds covered the waning moon and the air was still, although the scent of the nearby ocean filtered into their nostrils. It was a most typical evening and nothing appeared amiss, although they knew differently.
“It astounds me that these humans actually live upon the most powerful and destructive Hellmouth.” Kali, goddess of eternal energy, spoke softly in a musing tone. Her fathomless dark gaze glanced at a couple leaving the theatre and walking down the street, seemingly oblivious to the danger that lived in the city.
“Eh.” Gabriel shrugged. “The mystical currents of energy draw them in, like a siren’s song. The poor beasts don’t even know better.”
“And to wander around without the protection of the sun. These humans are either brave or foolish.” Kali’s tone turned scornful, with a mix of curiosity.
Nearby, a stifled scream pierced the air. Gabriel turned to Kali with a raised brow. “Feel like getting that true Hellmouth experience?”
The corner of Kali’s lips quirked into a smile. “It has been a while since I’ve tasted demon blood.”
Gabriel grinned and bowed. “After you, milady.”
After finding the Kwarnish demon that was intent on slurping the marrow of a friendly-looking married couple, Gabriel took Kali on a tour of the Hellmouth. By nature she was a goddess that embodied death, but contrary to Western perception her craven desire for blood was sated in the killing of demons that threatened her people. The sub-continent of India was once awash in demonic dealings, led by the almighty demon Raktabija, but Kali destroyed them long ago. She rarely ventured out of her home due to distaste for the Western world which sought to destroy her people centuries ago, but Gabriel had seduced her to the Hellmouth.
After all, what goddess could resist sex (care of him) and violence (care of the Hellmouth creations)?
Following an erotic moment in a cemetery crypt that an hour earlier hosted a nest of twelve vampires, Kali turned to him with her well-practiced half-smile. “Let’s visit the epicenter of the Hellmouth. I would love to see what sort of depravity it has produced.”
Gabriel let out riotous laughter as he shook his head. “Depravity?” he grinned. “Kali, just wait ‘till you see it.”
He folded the sultry goddess into his arms and teleported them into the Sunnydale High School Library. Releasing her, he watched with giddy satisfaction as Kali glanced around at the study tables and bookshelves. “This…is the famed Hellmouth?” Surprise and disappointment lined her face.
Gabriel snickered and shook his head.
Frowning, Kali sauntered to the nearest bookshelf and picked up the first book that her roaming fingers found. Her nose crinkled in distaste. “It is already strange that the epicenter of the Hellmouth houses a library, but Emily Dickenson? I expected grimoires and ancient texts on wicked creatures.”
“This is actually the library of the local high school,” Gabriel smirked. “Whoever the hell thought that a school needed to be built over the Hellmouth…” He laughed and shook his head. “Depraving location, isn’t it?”
Her eyes, rimmed with black eyeliner, flitted over to his and her full red lips curved into an amused smile. “Certainly.”
Several sets of footsteps echoed into the hallway outside the library and Gabriel frowned slightly. He still wasn’t exactly sure how he would make his plan work but knew it wouldn’t be good to be caught by his son and the others just yet.
“Remember the Slayer I told you about?” Gabriel asked.
Kali’s eyes stared at the entryway. “Please do not tell me that the mythical Champion against evil ordained her headquarters to be none other than on top of the Hellmouth itself?”
“Ironic, I know,” Gabriel smirked. “Still…you know those slayer types. They do like to make with the stabby when it comes to non-human types – and unfortunately a stake to the heart kills us just like a vampire.”
A shadow of worry passed over Kali’s face. “Indeed. We should leave.” The goddess paused as the footsteps neared closer. “Or perhaps observe, hidden.”
“Kinky,” Gabriel drawled. “I never knew you were into watching.”
Kali gave him a bored stare and slunk back to the shadows of the bookcases. Relieved that Kali was rather predictable when it came to these things – she loved anyone, be they human or demon, who caused carnage; Gabriel hid in the shadows with her.
“So her boyfriend’s a werewolf,” Buffy stated with a shrug as she pushed the library doors open. “It could be worse.”
“Right, like a crazy murderer worse?” Xander snorted as he set the bag of weapons into the book cage lying at the edge of the library.
Silence met his words and Xander immediately cringed in response. He snuck a peek at Buffy and found her earlier sunny expression had wilted at his careless words. “Er, I meant worse like crazy ax-murderer worse! Or, like, Family Guy worst – you know, seemingly nice and charismatic but actually really, really sub-par humor and…” Xander stopped his run-off sentence. “Uh, anyways, I don’t think Willow should be dating Oz. After all, what’s to stop him from humping random legs?”
Buffy let out a snort of amusement and shook her head; Xander’s shoulders sagged in relief that she didn’t hold his comment against him. He had just begged his da—the Trickster two weeks ago to take out Angel but nothing had happened yet. Considering that Angel wanted them all dead, he wasn’t sure how much time they had. Sure, Xander would stand up against Angel when the time came but if Angel wanted to kill him, he probably couldn’t stop the vampire. After all, he was just human.
Or well, mostly. Maybe. Dang it, he didn’t even know. With a pagan god as his dad and that weird moment when he killed the demon possessing Cordelia a few months back, he really didn’t know what he was.
“Well, Willow likes him. Don’t be miffed just because you’re jealous. You could have had her if you wanted her,” Buffy pointed out with a stern look as she collapsed into a wooden chair next to the study table, exhausted from a bout of patrolling they had just completed.
Xander’s mouth gaped open. “Wha-what? I’m not jealous!”
Buffy just stared at him and raised a questioning eyebrow.
“No. It’s not like that. It’s just…she’s my best friend.” Xander saw Buffy start to frown. “Along with you!” he added frantically. Taking a breath he added, “She’s been my best friend since kindergarten and all of a sudden there’s someone more important in her life.” He shrugged listlessly. “It sucks.”
“Well, you do have Cordelia,” Buffy added with a sympathetic smile. “Even if, ya know, that is all sorts of crazy.”
Xander smirked as he reflected on his weird-but-somehow-functional relationship with Cordy. Man, he loved broom closets.
The phone in Giles’ office began to ring and the two friends shared a look. “Think that’s Willow?” he asked. “She and Oz were supposed to meet us here after picking up Cordelia.” Xander laughed when he remembered how mad she was that her car was in the shop after someone keyed it the other day. “Being late is not her – she’s more so the ‘to be on time is to be late’ gal.”
Frowning, Buffy went to answer the phone. Soon her speech became urgent as she gave Xander a warning look. After a quick good-bye she hung up the phone and Xander felt his stomach tie in knots by the expression on her face.
“That was Cordelia on her cell phone. Apparently Oz got a flat tire a couple blocks from here and, well, he can’t really change it because there are some vamps outside.”
Xander’s expression hardened. It seemed never-ending, this threat of danger in their lives. He was so used to it that sometimes he even forgot where they lived – but then something like this would happen and he would remember instantly.
The image of Jesse’s face drifted through his mind’s eye; as it always did when he feared losing one of his friends. It always fanned the fire in his soul to do whatever it took to help kill as many evil things as possible.
“Let’s go,” Xander stated with a firm nod.
“The Slayer…is quite talented,” Kali mused with a smile as they watched the slayer and Xander fight off six vampires. Buffy jump-kicked a vampire and then leveraged herself against the van so she could kick the next attacking vampire. Each of her movements were fluid and enchanting to the casual observer.
“Yes, she performs well. Invigorating,” Gabriel commented mildly. His attention was, of course, on his son as he ducked a vampire’s blow. Kali had not been informed about Xander’s parentage – the less people who knew, the better – so he was suddenly hoping she would notice nothing interesting about his son.
The van’s occupants burst out to assist Xander; Gabriel recognized them as Cordelia, Oz, and Willow. He smiled at seeing Willow; he was rather fond of her.
Xander tackled one vampire and held him down, shouting for the others to find a stake (apparently his had become lost moments earlier). With a nervous look, Willow fumbled through her knapsack for a pencil and thrust it into the creature’s heart, showering the teenagers with dust.
Kali gasped softly. “The witch is rather imaginative.” Her expression bore no indications to her thoughts on Willow but there was something about Kali’s eyes that let him know she had taken interest.
“Witch?” Gabriel repeated.
Shooting him a dark look, Kali scowled. “You knew she had the potential, didn’t you? That was why you called me here. Or, one reason at least.”
Gabriel threw his hands up in mock-surrender. “I solemnly swear I have no idea as to what you mean, my dear.”
“Typically witches adhere to Hecate’s ways, but this human has a tinge of darkness in her aura.” Kali smiled in a way that whispered her anticipation of this future acquisition. “She is exactly like the sort I prefer.”
“I know you like your humans to be complicated, Kali. And what’s more complicated than a burgeoning witch born right here on the Hellmouth?” Gabriel smiled. He was pleased with tonight’s turn of events thus far.
She surprised him with a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you, Loki.”
Gabriel grinned. Sometimes he forgot his true name, he was so used to Loki. A fleeting thought in his son’s direction made him wonder if he should ever tell Xander his true identity. But…no…that would just make the boy more confused and likely expose both of them in the process.
“Glad you liked her,” Gabriel said with a dashing smile. “Now, I thought of the perfect way for you to begin to build your influence within the girl.”
Kali’s precisely manicured eyebrows raised in surprise. “I do not often take advice when it comes to my followers, Loki.”
“I know,” Gabriel said with an innocent smile. “But trust me, I do have the perfect spell – a reensoulment spell.”
Chuckling, Kali spoke condescendingly in her silky alto voice. “That spell was lost by the humans I gave it to long ago.”
The gypsies were originally from India and many of them still adhered to worshipping Kali in their practice of magic. Gabriel was aware, after some research the other week, that Kali had been responsible for the original spell that bestowed a soul upon Angel. As the goddess of eternal energy – one who travels between worlds and through time – she was one of the few pagan gods with the power to snatch a soul from the ether and insert it into a being.
“I think you could gift it again. One of the descendents of the Kalderash clan – Janna – lives in town and Willow certainly has the potential to perform great magic,” Gabriel stated smoothly with a mild shrug.
Kali went silent. Gabriel watched the rest of the fight finish and Oz and Xander start working to fix the van’s flat tire while the females looked on. They were finished fixing the van when Kali turned to him.
“I will do it,” she said simply. “But I will give it to the girl personally.” Kali’s dark eyes shined with excitement. “And I would like to converse with the slayer. It has been many centuries since I have seen on as skilled as she.”
Gabriel wanted to burst out laughing; it took all of his focus to maintain a calm demeanor. He had done it. Kali would give Willow the capability to do the spell. Angelus would become Angel once again. The slayer would be happy. The PTB would never notice his interference.
And best of all, his son would maybe (just maybe) want Gabriel back into his life after this.
An archangel could only hope.
Kali: Kali was seen in season 5 of Supernatural ‘Hammer of the Gods’. In the episode it was shown that she was a sometimes paramour of Gabriel/Loki and also extremely powerful. My interpretation of this deity stems from wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kali) and my other readings on Kali and world religions. Note: I also use Kali in my Buffy/Balthazar fic and my Tara aka Lenore the vampire fic. She’s a favorite of mine :D
Chapter 11: Suck on That!
Xander took a deep breath as he leaned against Oz’s van, enjoying the feel of the cool metal against his body. Adrenaline was still pumping through his veins, regardless of the fact that all the vampires who had been intent on attacking Willow, Cordelia, and Oz were now dead. His hand pressed softly against his heart, mentally ordering the organ to discontinue its heightened beating. Raising his head, he gave his friends a wry smile.
“Score one for Team Slayer,” Xander joked.
Cordelia huffed and rolled her eyes as she walked towards Xander, her fingers wrapping around his wrist; one of the few signs she gave that told Xander she needed him sometimes. Although instead of saying anything sweet, like ‘thank you’, she snapped, “I for one am getting darn sick of this! All we were trying to do is take a little drive, then Oz’s creepy van breaks down, and suddenly we’re neck-deep in the undead. It’s ridiculous!”
“Oz’s van isn’t creepy,” Willow glowered in defense. “It’s cool,” she added as she preened at he boyfriend; Oz gave her a loving smile in return.
“Yeah.” Buffy sighed. “This is kinda weird on the vamp part. Usually they don’t attack groups of people. They’re more of the ‘dark alley’ type.”
“Yeah…except your evil ex-boyfriend probably gave them the head’s up that we’re ‘Most Wanted’ on the vamp hit list,” Cordelia snorted.
Buffy visibly winced, and Xander’s heart went out to her. He loved Buffy – she really was his best friend. He didn’t envy the crappy situation she was put in…but she was put in it and now had to deal with it. The only problem was, she wasn’t dealing with it – and now Angel was coming after all of them.
The realization of it made him sick – they were like sitting ducks.
Worst of all, they could have had help, but the stupid Norse trickster god who said he was his dad, hadn’t done anything to help. Loki talked a good talk, but it was clear he didn’t actually care about Xander. Dammit, now Xander felt like an idiot for even approaching him a week ago. What had he been thinking? Clearly Loki wasn’t his Father. Him thinking that Loki had been….well, that had been a clear sign of his desperation to get rid of Angel.
Yeah, that was it. Stupid Angel, for making him approach a crazy trickster god that thought he was Xander’ dad – and who was responsible for killing Xander’s real dad….
“I’m sorry Cordelia, okay?” Buffy asked in an exasperated voice as she threw her hands up in the air. “I screwed up. Geez, what do you want from me?” Her voice twisted, almost turning pleading, as she turned dark eyes towards her friends. “What’s done is done,” Buffy added in a detached voice. “I’ll work on killing Angel…but you seem to forget that he’s one of the deadliest vampires in the world,” she finished bitterly.
“Maybe you do not have to kill him,” a voice called out. Xander looked past the road and into the darkness, but his eyes searched in vain because no one could be seen in the thick shadows.
Instantly the Scoobies were on alert. After all, random voices in the dark were typically of the bad.
“Who’s there?” Buffy called out, her body reflexively falling into a fighting form.
A woman emerged from the shadows. She was dark-skinned, Indian, maybe; with raven-black hair that fell to her shoulders. Beautiful brown eyes framed by dark eyelashes stared out at them, and a bright red mouth smiled secretly in greeting. Her apparel was composed of black and red – a red silky sleeveless shirt and a black skirt that showcased her stunning legs.
Sure, Cordelia was next to him, leaning against his shoulder, but he was definitely getting dumbfounded over the mysterious hot lady that had just shown up. Va va vooom; Xander thought with a grin.
Something smacked his arm, and Xander looked down to see Cordelia direct a glare towards him. Oops. Apparently Cordelia had seen that bit of drool a moment ago; he should probably be smoother than that. Tossing her a loving – and apologetic – smile, Xander turned back to the mysterious woman walking onto the road.
…and oh, holy crap, Loki was behind her.
The pagan god gave Xander a friendly wave, but Xander evaded eye contact. He had asked this maybe-father dude to kill Xander, not bring his hot girlfriend to meet Xander’s friends!
“I am Kali,” the woman greeted with a slight smile as her eyes passed over them before landed on Buffy. She seemed to savor the sight of the slayer, and her smile deepened.
“Kali?” Willow squeaked. Xander looked at his friend in concern and then back at Kali. Was she someone he was supposed to know?
“Yes,” Kali smiled. “And you, Willow Rosenberg, are a witch with great power.”
“P-power? Me? Oh, no,” Willow denied with a violent shake of her head. “I’m power free.”
“And you are the Slayer,” Kali murmured as she turned towards Buffy; her voice seemed to caress the final word. “It is an honor to meet one of your kind again.”
Buffy’s eyes widened and she backed up slightly as a perplexed expression marred her face. “Um, hi?”
“What are you doing here, Loki?” Xander spoke up, his voice laden with irritation.
Lips twisted into a smirk, Loki’s amber eyes gave him a wink. “Doing just what you asked, kiddo.”
“Xander? What’s he talking about?” Buffy inquired, her voice soft and curious as she stared at the two intruders.
“Um, well…” Xander didn’t exactly know how to tell Buffy that he asked his maybe-dad to kill her evil ex-boyfriend because he didn’t think she had the heart to get it done. No, scratch that – because she had too much heart to get it done.
“We’re here to help you with your soulless ex-boyfriend,” Loki answered cheerfully. “After all, even gods need a break from smiting every once in a while.”
“Smiting?” Willow squeaked.
“No worries, Red. You’re on the good girl list,” Loki winked salaciously.
Oz’s typically passive expression hardened just slightly and he wrapped his arm around Willow’s slim waist protectively.
“Werewolves,” Loki scoffed with a roll of his eyes. “Always so possessive. Gotta piss over everything to mark their territory.”
“Who are you?” Oz asked calmly; nothing really fazed the senior student.
“He’s my—” Xander’s voice cracked and he discovered it was impossible to speak.
“Xander and his friends here have been the latest victims of some of my pranks,” Loki filled in smoothly with twinkling eyes. He blew a kiss towards Cordelia. “Gotta say, I definitely prefer you being visible.” He whistled appreciatively.
Eyebrows arching, Cordelia gave him a finely tuned ‘screw you’ Chase look.
Buffy, who had been staring at Kali with a guarded expression ever since she stepped into the street, turned the conversation back to what mattered. “So what’s this about you helping us with Angel—Angelus?” she quickly added.
Kali gave the slayer an enigmatic smile. “I am always here to help those who ask for me.” Her gaze flittered towards Willow. “And with this one here, I imagine that we can accomplish great things.” She held out her hand and fire erupted from her palm, causing all of the Scoobies to jump back. When the flame flickered and died it left a smoking roll of ancient parchment that was burnt around the edges. “Take this, young witch. It holds the key to giving the vampire’s soul back to him. Perform the spell and all will be right.”
“Serious?” Buffy asked. Her eyes were eager but Xander could see that she was struggling to hold herself back, worried about accepting something from a pagan god.
Willow gingerly lifted the spell out of Kali’s hands, flinching when they made skin contract, and quickly pulling her hand back against her chest. “Th-thank you,” Willow murmured, unable to break eye contact with Kali as the goddess smiled serenely at her.
“Will this…will it really work?” Xander asked.
Kali glanced at him like he was a bug beneath her foot. “Of course,” she replied sharply. “I am many things, but never a liar.”
Xander noticed how she stole a look at Loki when she said that. He wondered what exactly his maybe-dad’s relationship was with the goddess.
Then, remembering how perverted Loki could be, Xander decided that he did not want to know.
“Farewell witch and slayer. May our paths cross again soon.” Kali smiled and suddenly her body was ablaze with orange and yellow flames. As the flames flickered out so did she, disappearing entirely.
“That was different,” Oz observed.
Loki’s lips stretched into an ear-to-ear smile. “So, looks like I came through after all, didn’t I, kiddo? Just like you asked.”
Xander flushed as his friends looked at him in surprise; he hadn’t even told Willow or Cordelia about seeking out Loki. Plus, he realized that Loki had actually helped him just like he promised, and Xander really didn’t know how he felt about that. Sure, he was thankful…but he also wasn’t used to parental-type figures keeping their promises and doing nice things for him. It was a bit discombobulating, to be honest.
“Yeah, thanks,” Xander nodded, his eyes not quite reaching Loki’s gaze – causing him to miss the wounded expression that flashed across the pagan god’s face.
A second later Loki was gone.
The Scoobies – Buffy, Willow, Xander, Cordelia, and Oz – drove Oz’s van immediately back to the high school. Buffy used Cordelia’s cell phone to inform Giles about the spell and he promised to meet them there. He added that he had the spell’s key component on his desk; apparently the Orb of Thesulah made an excellent paperweight.
When they arrived at the school there was only one car left in the parking lot but no one to be seen. Each of them walked surreptitiously into the building, carefully surveying the surrounding area. It was a given that Sunnydale High was a dangerzone of demons, so they didn’t trust that the rest of the night would be easy.
Fortunately, they got to the library without seeing anyone, and Willow went to work preparing the spell. Oz assisted her, Cordelia sat around looking bored, and Buffy frantically paced the length of the room. As for Xander, he watched Willow without really seeing her, his mind stuck on the idea that maybe Loki wasn’t so bad after all. Of course, if he ‘wasn’t so bad’ then that mad Xander feel terrible for thinking that the man who murdered his father was alright.
“Willow, what are we waiting for? Can’t you, you know, just start the spell?” Buffy asked impatiently.
“Well, um, shouldn’t I wait for Giles? I mean…Kali said I was a witch but I’ve never done any spells before. I mean, okay, maybe I’ve read a little and possibly even borrowed a couple of Giles’ books without asking, and one time I think I turned on the lights with a spell, but I don’t really know…” Willow’s face was lined with tension and she toyed absentmindedly with the hem of Oz’s shirt. He rubbed her back reassuringly in response.
Xander stood up suddenly; he just needed a moment alone. “I’m going to the bathroom. Be right back, guys.”
No one paid him much mind but Cordelia, who watched him exit the room with blatant suspicion.
Xander made it ten feet down the hallway before Cordelia hurried up to him, her high heels clacking against the tiled floor.
“Xander, you didn’t tell me you asked Loki for help. Why would you?” Cordelia asked in a huff.
“I thought you were the one who told me to think about reconsidering his bid for fatherhood,” Xander scowled.
Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Yeah, to explain your freaky ability to kill the demon that possessed me,” she hissed. “But to ask him to help with Angel? And have some mysterious creepy goddess give us a spell? Xander you know how much spells and you do not work out.”
Xander cringed as he remembered Amy’s love spell. “Yeah, well we needed something.”
“I know,” Cordelia sighed. “Buffy’s being all clingy with the undead jerk who screwed her and she’s too afraid to kill him before he screws all of us.”
“So you admit what I did was right?” Xander asked, his eyes glittering with amusement.
“No!” Cordelia denied sharply as she crossed her arms. “But maybe…maybe it will work out.”
A scream sounded down the hallway, in the opposite direction of the library, and the two teenagers stared at each other in dread.
“Why,” Xander cried in frustration as he threw his arms up, “did you have to say that?”
Cordelia let out an irritable noise. “I hate this school.”
Xander began running down the hallway, wishing fervently that he had brought a weapon with him, and listened to Cordelia’s clack against the floor in time with his heartbeat. They turned a corner, and then ran straight into Ms. Calendar.
“Xander! Cordelia!” Jenny gasped as she tried to climb out of the tangle of limbs. “Angelus is back there!”
“Back there?” A thick voice drenched with wickedness and derision spoke from the darkness. “Or right here?”
Jenny was yanked backwards by the scruff of her neck, dangling helplessly. In Angelus’ grip. An overhead flickering fluorescent light illuminated Angelus’ malevolent smile as he stepped forward. He shook Jenny twice like a rag doll.
Horror filled Xander like acid, burning him from within. The full force of Angelus’ actions and his future actions struck Xander like a Mach truck, driving home the point that everyone.he.knew.was.going.to.die. Starting with Ms. Calendar.
Xander was sick and tired of death. Ever since Jesse had died a dark hole of vengeance had started to carve out his insides; he wanted each and every demon dead so no on would have to suffer like Jesse had. Then his father—Tony….
Adrenaline coursed through his body, sending his muscles shaking as he stared Angelus down. “Leave her alone!” Xander growled dangerously.
Angelus laughed outright. “Come on boy, you don’t frighten me.” He smirked. “Your hatred, I admit, is amusing. Tell me, how much does it bother you knowing that I got to fuck the slayer first?”
Clenching his fists, Xander was suddenly very aware of Cordelia’s presence behind him. He really cared for Cordelia – maybe even loved her, he didn’t know – and he knew that she was insecure about his feelings for Buffy.
“What bothers me,” Xander snapped, “is that you’re still alive.”
“Xander, run,” Jenny whimpered. Angelus clenched her throat tighter in response and the teacher began choking.
“Oh crap, we need Buffy,” Cordelia muttered as she backed slowly away. “BUFFY!” she shouted down the hallway.
“Not. Yet.” Angelus threw Jenny to the ground; her head hit the floor to loud for Xander’s liking, and then Angelus reached past Xander to grab Cordelia.
Except he didn’t get that chance.
Xander grabbed Angelus’ left extended arm and yanked back ferociously until he heard a cracking sound that reverberated through the hallway. Angelus howled in response and a sense of serenity came over Xander as he saw the demon in pain.
“You stupid boy!” Angelus spat. His right fist flew through the air at Xander, but he dodged it, grinning when Angelus’ fist smashed into the concrete wall
“Who’s the dumb one now?” Xander laughed humorlessly. He raised his leg up to kicked Angelus as hard as he could, but his eyes widened in shock as Angelus grabbed his leg and pulled him to the floor. Suddenly Angelus was over Xander, pinning his arms. His demonic visage smiled in satisfaction.
“God, I’m going to enjoy this,” Angelus snarled. His teeth sank into Xander’s neck, forcing the teenager to gasp in pain. Xander could feel his blood traveling swiftly through his body as Angelus swallowed loudly.
“Get off! Get off him!” Cordelia shouted as she hit Angelus repeatedly with the pointed bottoms of her high heels, but he ignored her.
And then, after two mouthfuls of Xander’s blood, Angelus began screaming and rubbing his mouth, neck, and chest.
“Nooo,” Angelus groaned. He fell to the floor and began writhing uncontrollably.
Xander had no idea what just happened, but he sure was glad. “Yeah, suck on that,” he mumbled, feeling light-headed from the ordeal.
“Xander? Cordelia?” Buffy’s voice called. They could hear her running down the hall, probably in response to Cordelia’s scream just moments ago.
Cordelia rushed to Xander’s side. “Take off your shirt,” she demanded.
Confused by everything that was happening, he found her words most out of place. “But this is a hallway, not a closet, Cordelia,” Xander stated weakly.
Cordelia rolled her eyes in exasperation and then pulled off Xander’s shirt, being careful not to hit his neck. She subsequently pressed the shirt against Xander’s bleeding neck.
“What?” Cordelia snapped at his baffled look. “Just because I don’t want you to die doesn’t mean I want blood all over my clothes.”
His lips turned up into a smile. “You just like me with my shirt off.” He had started working out ever since he began running around with Buffy and his abs were actually pretty nice at this point.
Cordelia actually blushed and that only made Xander smile more.
“Xander? Cor—Angel?” Buffy gasped as she rounded the hallway corner. Her eyes took in the sight of Jenny Calendar lying unconscious on the ground, Cordelia pressing a bloody shirt against Xander’s chest, and Angelus whimpering in pain.
“He’s not—” Xander started to remind her that Angel wasn’t her boyfriend anymore and that he was actually a vicious killer, but then sheer power filled the hallway like an ocean. Its pressure made Buffy’s legs buckle and the others tremble. Xander looked up and saw a shining substance, like molten silver, hover in the air before pouring itself into Angelus. The vampire screamed again, one long syllable that pained their eardrums, and white light flashed in his eyes.
“Angel? Angel?” Buffy whispered frantically as she pulled the still-ill vampire into her lap. His body jerked around involuntarily and the sounds of a dying man emitted from his throat.
“Buffy, he’s not Angel. He just tried to kill Ms. Calendar.” Xander winced as he looked at the teacher’s still form. “And maybe he did. Cordy, go check her.”
Cordelia, never one for taking orders, did as he requested. She actually liked Ms. Calendar and really hoped she didn’t die tonight.
“Buffy?” Angelus moaned weakly. Buffy stared into his eyes and lovingly ran her hand through his hair.
“No, he’s not!” Buffy cried out, tears beginning to fall down her face as she held Angelus tighter against her. “Willow is doing the spell – she was almost done when I heard Cordelia. And-and-and,” she stuttered from the force of her choked sobs, “didn’t you see his eyes? His soul is back, I know it. I just…I just don’t understand. Why is he…why is he in so much pain? And he feels so warm…”
“Burning,” Angel rasps. “It burns.”
“What burns? What burns?” Buffy demanded, to both Angel and her friends.
“Well tall dark and psychotic started drinking Xander’s blood and then he just started to spaz out,” Cordelia answered. Her hand checked for Ms. Calendar’s pulse and then relief flooded her face.
Angel let out another agonizing scream as he clawed at his own chest, tearing his black button-up silk shirt open. “Buffy! Help!”
“Help? Help what? Help how?” Buffy pleaded as she looked at her lover helplessly.
Tranquility swept over Angel and he gave her a loving look. “I love you, Buffy.”
Angel’s chest lit up as if from within and his skin burned red like a sunburn. Heat radiated from him and Buffy involuntarily scooted back before she was burned. Flames erupted from Angel’s chest and swiftly engulfed his entire body, leaving nothing but ashes within seconds.
Buffy’s sobs were heartbreaking…but if Xander were honest with himself, he had to say that he didn’t really care. Angel got his just deserts.
All the same…he was also incredibly curious as to what was in his blood…
A powerful creature in the guise of a woman with long blond hair bound back partially at the crown of her head, stalked the halls of Heaven. Bright blue eyes burned with anger underneath black cat-eyed spectacles and she loosened the color of her white dress shirt.. She burned with fury and suddenly wished that God had assigned her a different role in the Beginning. Her current role was too damn stressful.
The Hellmouth screwed everything up.
Two angels stood at the door entrance; seeing her they cowered at her wrathful look and quickly let her pass though.
She entered the hall of Heaven that was ruled by those assigned to watch over Earth, who were known to the mortals as “The Powers That Be”. At the end of the hall was Raphael, the archangel assigned to this order, and Balthazar, one of his lieutenants who was a damn pain in her ass.
“Atropos,” Raphael greeted her in a deep voice. He wore the visage of his vessel on earth, a man of African origins with an oval face and piercing eyes. Balthazar also wore the likeness of his vessel, a man of Western European origin who was a former forty-year old rock star.
She sniffed. Ever since Balthazar had taken that vessel it seemed that he was influenced more and more by the depravity of his vessel’s former lifestyle. For an angel he sure drank a lot.
“Raphael.” Atropos bowed, as was the custom. She was of the lower heavenly beings, the third of the Fates, and he ranked far above her.
“What bothers you, Atropos? You appear discontented.” Raphael stared at her with interest.
“Discontented?” Balthazar scoffed. “Old ‘A’ looks like she’s ready to make heads roll.”
“I’ll start with you if you don’t shut up,” Atropos snapped. Balthazar had always loved to push her buttons but it was only lately, since his reassignment from Uriel’s garrison to the PTB, that she saw him frequently.
Balthazar smirked in satisfaction, but Raphael saved him from responding.
She sighed heavily, stamping her foot in anger. “It’s that ridiculous Hellmouth! Everything was fine until that Slayer got sent there!”
“Hmm, indeed,” Raphael mused, a secretive smile playing on his face.
“Buffy Anne Summers was supposed to die last year, but somehow she survived!”
“Well technically,” Balthazar interrupted, his voice smooth and accented with an English twinge like his vessel. “She did die. She was just revived using CPR.”
“And in the process another slayer was called! Do you realize how chaotic that is?” Atropos didn’t let them finish. Sure, perhaps she was supposed to show the higher angels deference but she was spitting mad. “And now the vampire with the soul, Angel, has been killed!”
Raphael jerked in his seat. “The vampire with the soul? When?” Concern flashed through his eyes, although Atropos was sure it was not for the vampire’s well-being but for what role he was supposed to play in the battle against Hell.
“Just now!” Atropos snapped. “And, once again, my plans are completely screwed up.”
“But who?” Raphael pondered out loud. “One of the cupids struck the slayer with a temporary love arrow, just enough to ensure she never killed him. And none of the other humans on the Hellmouth are strong enough.”
Atropos rolled her eyes at the mention of cupids. They were even lower than her on the angelic food chain and the whole lot of them were a bunch of simpering fools. “Somehow Alexander LaVelle Harris burned the vampire.”
Raphael’s eyes narrowed. “Was he not also the one responsible for the slayer’s resurrection?”
“Yes,” Atropos growled.
Raphael sat in great thought as he went over this troublesome matter. Finally he waved his hand at Atropos. “Go investigate this boy.” He gestured towards the other angel. “Balthazar, accompany her.” Raphael’s gaze became very cold and Atropos suddenly felt her Grace chill from his look. “You have failed me twice now, Atropos. Balthazar will ensure you do not fail again.”
Atropos nodded and kept her eyes downcast.
“For if you do fail again, I will have your two sisters to carry on the job. You are not required to see this world through to the Apocalypse,” Raphael reminded her calmly.
Atropos nodded again, not trusting her voice (she loved her job! And certainly didn’t want to die!), and began to walk out of the hall. She was aware of Balthazar following her but she didn’t bother to look at him.
And perhaps Balthazar wasn’t as much of an ass as she thought, because he was thoughtfully quiet during their travels from Heaven down to Earth – all the way to the Hellmouth.