This Year’s Boy
Chapter 1: Hostage Zeppo
February 23rd, 2000
Near 17619 White Oak Drive, Sunnydale
Xander Harris had lived in Sunnydale for all nineteen years of his life, and he'd known all about the dangerous nightlife of his hometown for three of them.
He knew full well that he really shouldn't be wandering around residential Sunnydale in the middle of the night - sure, he had a stake, a cross and some holy water. He was being stupid and reckless, not suicidal.
Of course, tonight was special. Because in addition to vampires, demons and even the occasional stupid but lucky entirely human mugger, and a cyborg/human/demon/Terminator thing... there was also a psychopathic rogue Slayer running around town, ready to kill and with a hate-on for one Buffy Summers and her friends.
Which included the one and only Alexander LaVelle Harris.
Xander had been planning to spend the night hunkered down in his basement bedroom/home, waiting for Buffy to give him the all-clear that it was safe to come out.
That had been the plan.
But instead, his parents had decided to get even more drunk than usual, and fight even louder than usual, with the sound of his mom throwing things and his dad’s voice reverberating all the way down through the floor. Normal, but tonight felt even worse than usual.
Five minutes later, unable to stand it anymore - he was grabbing a stake, cross, holy water and his jacket, and braving Sunnydale at night.
Dying at the hands of a vampire is better than dealing with that... man, I gotta get me a place to live that isn't at home.
"Right, because that's so easy, of course," he muttered to himself. He'd found mostly steady work with construction, enough to start saving up for his own place at least, but it wasn't like he magically had the money to pay for a new apartment right now. Especially not a place big enough for him and Anya.
Despite his dark mood, and despite the situation, Xander couldn't help but smile a little about his odd girlfriend. Anya was blunt and honest, which he always liked, and even though her other quirks and oddities were just that, they were somehow kind of... endearing, coming from her.
Oh, man Xander, you have it bad for that girl.
But that was the thing - it was humiliating and even a little morifying for them to have sex down in the basement with his parents just above them - let alone just spend any time with his girlfriend there, especially given how small and depressing it was. It was that latter part especially that made him want to make sure that whatever place he moved to was much nicer - for her - and big enough for the both of them.
Assuming Ahn wanted to move in with him, even partially.
And he wanted that. Wanted her to live with him.
And, finally, a place of his own, especially if it was nice, would mean he would never have to hear his parents - or anyone else, hopefully - having a drunken fight above him.
Xander was forced out of his thoughts by a rustling sound in the bushes nearby. Jumping, pulling the stake and turning to the sound, letting out a - very manly! - gasp of startlement, he realized it had just been the wind, or a squirrel or something and let out a sigh.
"Right, right, way to overreact," he muttered. Still, he was within his rights to overreact, with Faith running around - she'd gone after Buffy in broad daylight at college. She could easily go after him at night.
Though, bluster and fear aside, let’s be honest, Xander: You're probably pretty low on the list of people she wants to kill. Faith certainly never seemed to have much regard for him, even after they'd had sex - she'd made that more than clear, despite his own mistaken impression.
I mean, she doesn't like me, if only because I'm Buffy's friend. But Buffy and Willow and Giles and Deadboy all have to be higher up on the list of people she wants to hurt rather than me, right?
He'd only just finished the thought when he felt a knife pressing against the side of his throat, breath on the back of his neck and his right arm being twisted behind his back, all in one smooth motion.
"Ah!" Xander cried out in pain, struggling in vain against the grip around his arm.
"Hey there, boytoy," Faith's voice said, her tone really calm for someone putting a knife to his throat. “Long time no see, right?”
"Oh, the irony!" Xander muttered under his breath - and then gulped as he realized he'd said that aloud.
"Yeah? What's ironic, exactly?" Faith asked, digging the knife into the skin of his neck a little bit harder, which only made Xander inhale sharply in pain - he couldn't tell if she'd broken the skin, but it had to be close. He stood as still as possible, no sudden movies...
I want my Buffy!
Terrified for his life, Xander explained, speaking quickly, babbling the words out in a way that might even have impressed Willow:
"Oh, you know, just - I was just thinking about how - you know, like, how I probably had to be pretty low on your list of people to kill now that you're out of your coma and - you know, feeling kinda murderous, and - then here you are, knife to my throat and all. So, so there. Ironic, definitely, right?"
He laughed awkwardly, fighting the nervous twitches his body wanted to make. Don't give the crazy woman with the knife any reason to cut your throat. You look better with just the one smile. No need for a red one.
Heh heh heh...
"Relax, fella, I'm not gonna kill ya - not planning to, anyway. Might break your arm, shatter your bones, if you piss me off," Faith said, twisting his arm just a little more to prove her point, and Xander could have sworn he heard his bones pop just a little but under the force of the twist. "Really piss me off and I'll nick your throat, break your legs and leave you in a graveyard for the vampires to snack on."
"Really embracing the evil murderous psychopath in you, Fai-AH!" Xander's ill-advised and unfiltered snark earned him another twist and an even harder press on his neck, and this time he felt it cut skin, blood probably beading a little on the knife.
"Now why'd you have to go and start talking like that, boytoy?" Faith asked, sounding almost upset, but it was too over the top to be genuine. Pretty sure she doesn't do 'upset'... just crazy and evil and... stuff.
"Thing is, I was just on my way to B's old house, to have a bit of fun with Mrs. S, make Buffy come to me - but on second thoughts, you'll be just as fun. Maybe even more fun - since I'm guessing B went and abandoned her mom, the way she did Angel. Tell me, where is her undead squeeze? You know, the one she stabbed me for?" Faith asked, her voice getting grim for a moment, before returning to it's creepy-light-casual almost fake friendly tone.
"Deadboy? He's in L.A., last I heard." Xander answered, truthfully. "He broke up with Buffy and split town, after Graduation."
Faith snorted, "Don't try to lie, Xander, you suck at it." At least this time she didn't twist his arm more, but her fingers did press a little harder, tightening her grip on his arm, threatening him without actually threatening him.
Faith can do subtle. Who knew?
"Not lying. I didn't exactly ask - hey, you know me, at the time I was just glad he was finally gone - but yeah, he did the breaking up, not her," Xander said, speaking quickly.
Faith laughed, and for a moment, it almost made her sound normal. But not quite. It was a bit manic, like the supervillain in the cartoon laughing even as his plan fell apart around him.
Or her, in this case.
"I think I actually believe you! Huh. Well, that's something I'd have paid to see. Did she cry? Did B get all teary-eyed at her precious Angel running off into the night, without her? My money says he probably went and found himself a hotter blonde in the big city, while Buffy went and found herself some clean-cut, boring college boy. Am I right or what?"
Someone sounds jealous... Though he couldn't tell if it was because of Angel or Buffy. Xander could be dense sometimes, but he'd noticed - though he was more than willing to concede that it might have just been wishful thinking or something like it on his part - the way Faith looked at Buffy sometimes, especially early on.
"Not that she went into deep and meaningfuls with me about it, but Buffy wasn't happy about Angel leaving, no. Still, she didn't fall to pieces," Xander said hurriedly, speaking more or less the truth. "So... if you're not going to kill me - and Faith, please don't change your mind about that - what exactly am I supposed to be, your hostage?"
"Gotta make sure B co-operates somehow, don't I?" Faith suggested. "So, listen up. I'm gonna take the knife away from your neck, and then we’ll take a nice walk to somewhere where you can call B, and tell her where you are. And, you know, that I have you."
Buffy's not going to walk into an obvious trap, Faith.
"I know what you're thinking," Faith said, pulling the blade away from his neck, but she didn't let go of his wrist as she shoved him forward - he started walking forward, down the street, Faith still holding his arm twisted behind his back. "You're thinking 'Faith, you're such an idiot, there's no way Buffy will walk into such an obvious trap!" Faith scoffed, "Because B's always so smart, and never does something stupid and reckless."The Slayer jerked his arm further around, twisting it and this time definitely heard his bones pop. He nearly staggered and fell under the pain, but Faith yanked him back up before he could drop to the ground.
"You all think you're better than me, right? Especially B. The good Slayer. But the thing is, dude, you're not. And I'm going to prove it." Faith growled out.
"Ah, Faith, you've always been better than me, you know, what with the whole 'being a Slayer' thing," Xander babbled out, very much leaving out the 'except for the part that I haven't killed anyone' addition that rose to mind. “And could I just add -”
"No more talking, Xan. Move," Faith jabbed his back lightly with the knife, and he picked up the pace as directed, making the relatively quick walk from Sunnydale's more residential areas to its downtown - there wasn't really that much distance between the two.
They passed a few people on the street, but it was dark out, and nobody in Sunnydale noticed anything at night. And if I called out, Faith might just kill them anyway. Really, he had no idea what she would do. He'd tried to reach out to her - sure, he'd been an idiot thinking that one night meant anything, but he'd still tried. She'd choked him nearly unconscious or maybe even dead, if she'd been planning to go that far - and he owed his life to Deadboy for it, if that was the case. Not fun all around.
So, yeah, he wasn't gonna give Faith of all people the benefit of the doubt, ever again.
They were passing an alleyway between a recently abandoned hardware store whose owner had died a few weeks ago - barbecue fork accident - and a closed thrift store - when Faith went still for a second, then moved quickly, pulling around, her back to the alley, Xander in front of her - and he quickly realized why she'd moved when he saw three people walking towards them. Two had crossbows, and the other had a Glock 9mm with a silencer attached. Pointed at Faith - and incidentally, at him.
"Faith Lehane," one of them said in a soft-spoken voice, with an accent that sounded sorta British-ish - it wasn’t like Giles's accent, but it did sound like it came from somewhere in the Land of Tea and Crumpets. "By order of the Watcher's Council, you are to be taken into custody until such time -"
"Yada-yada-yada." Faith interrupted, stepping back, into the alley, holding Xander in front of her like a human shield.
Yeah, really great thought to have right now.
"Next, you're going to tell me that we can do this the easy way or the hard way," Faith sneered at the trio.
"No, easy way's where we just shoot you now," one of the other three men said, pulling back his coat to reveal his own gun. "Also the fun way."
"The Council would rather have you brought in alive." The first man said, sparing a momentary look at his more murderous friend, "But they'll settle for your corpse if need be, Miss Lehane," he went on, delivering the death threat in a nice, calm, level way, as if he was just ordering a nice cup of tea or a pint of that imported British beer that Giles drank.
Faith pulled out her knife and pressed it to Xander's neck again, "I'll kill him, you know."
"Hey, hey, hey!" Xander protested, "may I just remind you of what you said earlier -"
"Shut up," Faith growled in his ear, and Xander stopped talking.
"You really think the Council is concerned about this boy?" The first man shrugged, gesturing at him. "One of Miss Summers' little gang of helpers, yes, but not someone of any import. Collateral damage at worst. Now, will you stand down, or will we have to shoot?" He leveled the pistol at her.
"Fuck you!" Faith moved quickly, pulling Xander along for the ride as she ran for the side door of the abandoned hardware store, bullets and crossbow bolts flying where they'd just been. She broke open the door with a kick and pulled him into the back, before letting go of his arm, turning him around and shoving him against the wall.
"Really wasn't planning to do it like this, boytoy, I was actually wanting to go blonde - but then beggars can’t be choosers," Faith muttered, pulling a weird metal device out of her pocket. She fit the device onto her hand, rings on it going around her thumb, middle finger and pinkie. He had no idea what it was she was putting on, but he doubted it was good.
Faith looked at him and smirked wickedly, "Have fun seeing how the other half lives, over in Merrie Olde England," she said in an exaggerated and terrible English accent, and then the Slayer grabbed onto his hand, the tacky-looking silver-y device between their hands.
Immediately, Xander felt... something. A tugging sensation, and - his eyes were fixed on their hands, unable to break free from her grip as the device started to glow, and their hands glowed and the sound of the three Brits coming closer hit him and then -
For a split second, nothing, and then -
Xander was looking at himself. With the device on his hand now.
No, not at himself. Up at himself.
What the hell?
The whole world seemed to come to a screeching halt as his eyes looked down for a moment at his chest.
Not his chest.
Oh, Hello! Boobs!
Before he could faint, his body’s right hand jabbed out at his - her - throat and Xander gasped for breath for a moment, choking, and then -