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Reckless Choices

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Possession is an overused word. Officially it is the state of having, owning, or controlling something. In the supernatural sense, it is the domination and subsequent takeover of a body by another entity. It is not simply the presence or even the influence of another. Possessions also do not take place immediately. They start as an impulse, a drive pushing you to do things you wouldn’t act on before. Make mean things seem funny, dangerous things look like good ideas. Most assume possession before the victim truly is possessed. The improperly termed ‘possession’ will eat away at the conscience that keeps you in check. That part of you that understands you core values, that lets you feel how you affect others, keeps you caring, keeps you you. Once that is devoured that's when you are possessed. There is no going back from true possession. Who you were is gone. The demon has taken your place.


For vampires it feels immediate, looks immediately. Die a human, awake a demon. Soulless, without conscience. But if that were true the sire would not have to wait. There would not be time for the body to be buried or mourned. Most vampires cannot remember the time between, those who do imagine it as a dream. The ones that recognize it as real? Most go mad.


The time it takes for a vampire to wake up varies drastically. The Watchers Council theorizes that it has something to do with the amount of blood used, or the purpose of the new life, be it minion or childe. In truth it has much more to do with strength of spirit. Conviction of self, a will to live.


Most possessions, barring the creation of vampires, are done by such a strong demon or spirit that the struggle is minimal. In this type of possession, nothing of the host remains. Even the original soul of the body is gone. Not gone as in passed to heaven. Gone meaning obliviated, destroyed. Sacrificed some would say.


Vampires are only barred because the ritual of possession by the demon is also the birth of one. The demon they become has everything in common with the person they were. Similarly, there are the lesser known possessions. Those which involve spirits not fully developed. Primal. Studying these incremental possessions are how we know anything at all about the way the mind is twisted into something else.


Death and birth are far more complicated than a simple circle of life. Even failed 'possession' leaves its scars on the host. Changes them in ways more integral than you can imagine. Much like the Ship of Theseus, can you truly say that who comes out is the same as who went in?


Xander slammed open the door and tore into his house. He didn’t stop to take his shoes off or drop his book bag. He didn’t even have a bag to drop. It was still untouched where he left it the night before. Tossed in a corner of his room. No reason to bring it on a field trip day after all. Following a familiar pattern, he made a beeline for the kitchen. The smell radiating from there was intoxicatingly savory. It had struck him the moment he opened the door to his home. A few seconds and he would be at the source of the scent.


“Close the door.”


Someone nearby was saying something. It was a voice he knew. Within a fraction of a second, he assured himself that it didn’t matter. When was the last time he had eaten? He was so hungry his mouth was watering just thinking of taking the first bite. A juicy hamburger, a rare steak, chicken wings. He wanted something greasy. Something fatty, something with tendons he could rip apart between teeth and hands.


“I said close the door! I’m not paying to air condition the whole goddamn neighborhood!”


He was being shouted at. A buried instinct of his made him consider slowing down. Consider turning around and addressing this man behind him. He didn’t. If anything he moved faster. Again he told himself the voice didn’t matter. He continued forward into the kitchen, pulled by the rich scent wafting out from within. There was a pan sizzling on the stove. Seeing the source magically made the smell stronger. He could practically taste it on his tongue through the air.


Crackle, sizzle, pop. The grease from the pan was flying over the sides. It covered the smooth top of the burners in a halo of tiny dots. It was exactly what he wanted. In front of it now he reached for the bacon frying within. A sharp sting on the back of his hand made him draw away.


“Xander, stop that! You’ll burn yourself.”


His eyes flashed up to the location of the sound. His mother. He stared at her, unable to comprehend why he had just reached for what he knew would burn him. Yes he was hungry. That shouldn’t have stopped him from remembering common sense. She, with wide, bewildered eyes, was likely wondering the same.


The slam of a door had him snap his head to the side. There was nothing in the doorway to the kitchen yet but he kept his gaze trained on the entrance anyway. The sound had made his mother jump. He didn’t like seeing her startled. Without considering what he was doing he took a step forward, placing himself directly between his mother and the doorway.


The other male in the house crossed the threshold in the next moment. “You know how I feel about leaving the door open. I’m not made of money.” his stance was tense and irritated. Eyes trained on Xander.


“I need a drink.” He declared. A moment of silence in the room followed. “Now.” He added, clearly discontent that his son was not hurrying to do what was expected of him. Xander refused to budge. He stood between the two and said nothing. He did nothing but stare at the man before him.


“The hell is with the way you are acting? That's how people in the ghetto look at each other. You don’t look at me like that. Not here. Not with me.”


Xander was in tune with reading body language from the moment his mother jumped. He could see the ripples of tense muscles in the man's arms and face. They were tightening in preparation of a fight. Were, like normal, Xander about to run from this, he would be showing reflections of fear.


Instead he was pumped with a naive confidence that he could stand up to his father. He hyper focused on making sure he didn't look scared. Xander knew fear, knew it too well, and he was very afraid now. He already told himself he had to keep his chin up and eyes straight ahead. He mentally checked his stance, his hips were turned a slight sideways which made it easier to get away. He had to fix that. He was not going to run this time.


The eyes in front of him grew narrow. The man's shoulders were lined up over his hips which in turn were over his feet. It was a solid line down to his base, strong foundation. Not one easy to take down but it made for a big target. He could still drop it. Barrel in with a low center of gravity. Grab the legs, cut up fast and send him to the floor. It would be quick.


That would be his plan of attack. It wasn't a plan that would see the light of day but it felt satisfying to daydream. In reality he could never bring himself to do it. He just had to keep his mother safe. What that meant to him was being the punching bag his father wanted so that she wasn't.


“You have a problem with me Xander? Say it." His father baited him on. "Right here, say it to my face. Come on. Be a man and say it!”


They were only words. He repeated the mantra religiously but still felt the rage build inside him. Xander was past words right now. The only part of them getting through was intonation and he didn’t like what he was hearing.


“Jessica.” He addressed the woman over Xander’s shoulder. “Get me a beer since Xander wont. I don’t want to deal with this sober.”


His mother moved and there was no time to question it. Leaving her unguarded was dangerous. Something inside him screamed threat so much louder tonight. He tried to sidestep with her but to know exactly where to go, he would have to be looking. It was dangerous to take his eyes off of the man so he could only guess by the shuffling sounds she made. That’s what he tried to do. He did a poor job of it being more concerned with the menace in front of him.


“You think I’m a threat don’t you?”


Xander watched with wide eyes as his mother slipped past him and over to the enemy. For a moment his eyes flicked to her face. She flashed him an apologetic expression before handing the chilled can over. Without a hint of lost threat the man quickly cracked it open. The sound was ominously familiar. It brought back the memory of too many sleepless nights.


“Let me tell you this.” A step forward.


Xander wasn't here anymore. All his instincts had been screaming at him to protect his mother. She was in danger. She needed him, but she wasn’t with him. She was with the monster. It was too much for him, he regressed into the 6 year old boy who was ripped a new one for chewing loudly at dinner. I messed up, I did something wrong. He wanted to fall on his knees and beg forgiveness but real men don't beg, real men stay strong and take it without crying. He had to be a man, it was the most important lesson.


While he was struggling to surface from the unpleasant memories, his father encroached on his space. They were inches away from touching. He looked angry but worse there was a hint of pleasure there. A sadism that sparkled in his eyes. He liked the fight, a part of the man loved it when Xander missbehaved. He liked punishing him, flexing his control. The thought made Xander flinch.


“You don’t know what a real threat is.”


He hadn’t noticed that he was moving backward until he hit the stove. He had chosen to put himself in front. Braved the vanguard to protect his mom. Now here he was, trapped with nothing to show for it.


As a last ditch effort he looked to his mother again. She was scared. That was what he had been trying to save her from. She wasn't going to help him now. Even pleading with his eyes, she wasn't going to help him. She didn't trust him enough. She didn't believe that he was stronger than his father. And she was right, he was scared now too, terrified.


If there is one thing to know about animals it’s that they are most dangerous when trapped. The most cunning, the most ruthless. Same with humans. When you feel your life is really in danger, that’s when you fight back the hardest. It’s analogous to primals, just more pronounced.


Xander's body moved without him telling it to. The immature primal inside of him took over, as terrified as Xander but more willing to act. He groped at the air behind him, looking for something. A searing pain enveloped his palm the moment he touched the hot metal pan. It didn’t make him stop, instead he swung it out in front of him. He didn’t react to the feel of his skin smoldering, even as it grew worse. Keeping hold on the metal was causing his skin to blister and blacken, but it didn't matter. Nothing mattered at that moment but getting free. Grease splattered all over the floor. The can of beer that just a moment ago was held firmly in one hand was now on the other side of the room pulsing out onto the tile floor. His father shouted, his mother screamed. All while Xander fell back on old habits and ran.


The shriek that passed her lips was one of terror not pain. She had not been so much as touched tonight. Her family had been fighting, that was nothing new. And then? How had the situation escalated so quickly? What did Xander do?


Oh god Tony.


She pulled him up to a sitting position from where he fell. She was petrified of what he would look like. Images of his face horribly disfigured filled her mind. She couldn’t see properly with tears filling her eyes. Her vision was mostly blobs of color with the torrent that was seemingly impossible to stop. She could see blurrily that his face was red. Oh no. God no. Only he wasn’t holding his face. He was holding his arm. She forced herself to breath which calmed the tears slightly. Then she wiped the water away with her shirtsleeve. Seeing clearly now she could tell that the red of his face wasn’t a burn. It was anger.


That’s to be expected right? Anger is a natural response to pain for men. And Xander too, he had just overreacted. Everything would be okay. Her mind was full of excuses for his actions. It had become so natural it was instinctual. The truth could be right in front of her and she wouldn’t see it.


She internally scolded herself for breaking down. Useless, you're being useless. Try and remember your EMT training from college Jessica. Burns, you know what to do for burns. Cool it down, keep it clean. Pain is good. It means that the nerves are still there. He doesn’t have a third degree burn. At worst it’s a second degree. She was wetting a towel with cold water in the sink when her husband stood. He stumbled out to the doorway and shouted after Xander in the dark.


“You better not come back if you know what's good for you! You hear me?! You’re an animal!”


She ran to his side and caught him before he fell again. She was able to guide him to slide down the wall instead of collapsing. Once the cloth was draped over his arm she spoke.


“I’ll go get the silver sulfadiazine. You can apply that while I drive us to the ER.”


“No hospitals. Just bring me another beer.” Not a second passed before he continued with an afterthought. “Actually I’ll take the cream too. But beer first.”


He was clutching the cloth against his arm and trying to stand. She didn’t help him. Nor did she argue that he go to the hospital. She was calmer now, knew better than to argue the point. Their son was gone, his pride couldn’t stand any more hits than that tonight.


In the dark outside Xander ran through the mostly empty streets of the suburb, driven by nothing but adrenaline. His hand throbbed. The skin was far too hot. The air had not yet cooled so it whipped against him without the relief of a desert night breeze. That was yet to come. Instead it added to his miserable state of being.


Xander and the primal spirit had been in agreement. Now they were pulling different directions again. The person he once was wanted to find a hole and curl up. He lost everything. He was worthless. The primal wanted to act. Wanted to work off the energy that had been building within them. The primal wanted anger. Anger was easier to understand than sadness, than guilt. Anger was easier to act on. The state Xander was in left no room for a fight, right now the primal was driving. The Xander of before too distraught to be making decisions.


He knew they weren’t alone. There were others. This one had a pack. He could find them but they were sure to already be looking for him. It wouldn’t be long.


And it wasn’t. The four others came from the side of the street. Circled around him, unsure yet if he was worthy to be one of them.


"What happened to your girlfriends Xander?"


"Yeah?" Another one of the cut in. "Did they break up with you for being too pathetic?"


As if anything they said could make a dent after what he had just been through. Xander knew what to do. He knew how to prove himself and wanted it. He wanted the fight. The desire placed in his head by the primal was more than tempting. It was intoxicating. That he could be something more than useless. Mean something. Be someone. Be the leader of this pack.


It took seconds to single out the current alpha. He was closer than the others. He moved first. The rest only followed. Xander had never seeked out a fight before. Arguments sure, he knew how to make people bleed with words, not fists. Still he knew how to defend himself. If this wasn’t over quick he could win by outlasting the other.


His eyes followed the brunet. All four had circled him but only the other brunet matered. Kyle, his mind managed to supply. He was the one who they were waiting for to decide. A smile snuck onto other primal's lips when their eyes locked. It wasn’t cruel or hateful. If anything it encouraged Xander. His stance now was an echo of his fathers. Solid, threatening, muscles tense and ready. The pain in his hand was again nothing to him. His fingers rolled tight into the burnt palm, thumb outside the fist. He may not know how to fight but he had heard plenty of bar brawl stories Best way to win was to end it before it starts. Throw the first punch as a finisher.


He moved faster than he knew he could. All at once his arms flew up, both to strike and to block. His left leg drew back. An imaginary T drawn between his feet’s wide stance. The rotation added to the momentum of his right arm as it snapped forward. His fist twisted as it approached the target. Thumb pointed inward by the time his knuckles connected with the bridge of his opponent’s nose. He could feel the snap of his arm at extension reverberate through him. Just as quickly as he had thrown it out he brought the arm back like a rubber band.


All of his pent up anger was unleashed in the compound movement. He had been coiled like a spring just waiting to be let go. Now that he had, adrenaline rushed through his body for the second time that night.


His untrained punch had been enough to knock the other back but not enough to knock him out. Good, he wanted more. This small taste of violence was not enough, his every nerve was screaming for more.


To his credit, Kyle completely ignored the red streaming down his face. He snapped his vision back to Xander and spit out the blood which had made its way down into his mouth with a grimace. Then they lunged at each other. Who moved first was impossible to tell. The three remaining primals watched the fight in rapture. They cheered, jeered and laughed in enjoyment of the spectacle.


Xander was right in predicting the outcome of a prolonged fight. Where his competitor had been focused on offense, Xander had iron defense. The hits that did land were nothing in comparison to what he knew. The old alpha was tired out far before Xander. When that much was clear he dropped the defense and turned to a brutal onslaught of shots. They weren't practiced and they weren't pretty but they were angry. He didn't have to hold back and he enjoyed every second of it. At his victim’s whimper of defeat Xander gave one last hard kick to the boy who had fallen. Just hard enough to make it clear who was in charge. Clear who decided when it was time to stop.


He dragged his eyes from the bloody mess at his feet to the eager faces of the other three. His pack. Old memories flickered within him. He already had a pack. He was supposed to meet Buffy and Willow at the Bronze. He had to go soon, besides it was about time he got something to eat. The Bronze was as good enough place to eat as any.


“Get him cleaned up. Then you can find me.”


They scrambled to grab the other and then ran off. He could get used to this. Before leaving himself he decided he should do something about his injury. He couldn't feel it, being still riled up from his fight, but knew it was there. He brought the hand up and opened it so he could see. What met him was unexpected. Rather than an angry burn there was only a faint scar over his skin.


The rest of the pack would be back sooner than expected. Best he make the most of it.