Author : Tenhawk
Disclaimer: All characters belong to their rightful owners... none of which are me. If they knew what they were doing I wouldn't have to write this stuff.
Summary: Grads over and Xander leaves on his Road Trip. He winds up going a lot further then he ever expected.
Warning : I'm a B/Xer and this will be a B/X fic, but NOT FOR A WHILE. It will be X/Others in friendships and relationships for the first part of the story. Expect to see Buffy/Riley at one point as well... but I swear to God above that absolutely NO Buffy/Spike crap will be found within. (What kind of sicko thought that up anyway? Don't get me wrong, I liked Spike... until Buffy lost what little sanity she had.)
Warning : Crossovers ahead. (Yes Plural.)
Rating : PG-13 to PG-16; for mild cursing, violence, and demonic horror content... in other words a bit more grown up then the series... but only cause I don't have to suck up to censors.
Sunnydale, California; Late June '99
On the passenger seat lay a ripped open envelope from UC Sunnydale, inside were his enrollment papers. Papers that he knew he wouldn't be able to use. I can't believe I actually got in. Shit. Xander shook his head mournfully, I just wish I had a chance in hell of affording it.
Xander just shook his head, half in disgust, and the other half, despair. Finally he forced the thoughts back, clearing his mind of his worries as much as he could and turned the nose of the car North and West. He'd decided to follow the coast up as far as San Francisco before turning East and heading cross country.
"Just me, the sun, the open road. And NO DAMNED VAMPIRES!" Xander screamed into the whipping wind as he pushed the accelerator down and sped away from Sunnydale.
San Francisco, California; A few hours later
Some nice, normal tourist stuff. Xander was smiling to himself when the man flew out of nowhere and crashed across the hood of his car, rolling up over the windshield, and tumbled into the backseat of the moving vehicle.
Well... Xander managed to think to himself as he lost control of the car, swerving out of his lane and narrowly missing a parked car. That didn't take long. Nice while it lasted... all HALF A DAMNED DAY!!!
"Would it kill you to give me one full day off!?" Xander screamed at the sky as he unbuckled his seatbelt and turned to check on his 'hitchhiker'. "Christ, Mister. I'm not going to ask if your ok, cause even I'm not THAT stupid, but are you at least conscious?"
The man's slight moan, while not confirming or denying Xander's question, at least told the boy that the man was alive. Xander quickly checked the man out, looking for any obvious injuries that could be treated with First Aid. When the man suddenly opened his eyes and sat up, Xander jumped back as if he'd been bit.
Which, upon reflection, he could easily have been, Xander figured. As the man vamped out Xander's hands closed on a Stake he had placed next to the gear shifter.
"Sorry, Fangy," Xander joked as he vamp grabbed for him, "no ticket, no ride."
As the vamp's hands closed around his throat Xander drove the wooden stake into it's chest, smirking at the vampire's shocked look as the bloodsucker turned to dust.
"Aw damn. Now I have to get the backseat vacuumed out."
Xander looked back at the Alley the vampire had flown out of curiously, what the hell could have tossed a vamp that far?
It had been a couple of years since the 'Soldier Boy' incident had imparted its 'gifts' to him. Frankly Xander couldn't say whether the experience had been beneficial or not. He could remember that night as clear as a bell but, of the Soldier memories, only the most intense ones seemed to have stuck with him.
On the plus side that meant that he had certain instinctive skills that tended to control his actions when he was under stress. Patrol techniques, hand to hand combat, weapon skills, and a handful of other useful traits that tended to lie hidden until he needed them.
The downside was the nightmares.
He hadn't told anyone, but the first couple months after that Halloween were like hell on earth. He could remember seeing firefights that killed hundreds, cowering in tunnels while Vietcong troops scoured the fields above him, holding countless friends and allies as they lay dying.
Even so, Xander thought as he silently approached the alley with his weapons in hand, it was a tradeoff that he was willing to accept. The nightmares were a heavy price to pay, but he'd pay more for less if it meant he could help Buffy.
At the entrance to the alley Xander could hear the sound of heavy fighting and he slowed his approach, flattened himself against the wall, and glanced quickly around the corner. His eyes widened at what he saw.
Down the alley three women were facing off against a dozen vampires and one very mean looking demon. Xander forced down a grin as on of them leapt up and spin kicked two vampires to the ground. His grin turned rapidly to a frown when the girl didn't follow up on her move, instead opting to engage another vampire further on.
They don't know what they're fighting.
Phoebe was starting to sweat. She didn't know what these things were, but they just kept coming back for more. Prue was tossing them right and left with her power, Piper was working on the vanquishing spell for the demon they had been hunting, and she was kicking ass if she did say so herself.
But this demon had minions. Some real stupid ones but they were strong and tough, and they bounced back faster then she could put them down.
Not good. Not good at all.
Phoebe screamed involuntarily. Then she blinked.
The thing froze in its tracks and then vanished into dust, revealing a young man in a hideous Hawaiian shirt grinning lopsidedly at her.
"Ashes to ashes." He said, tossing a small object to her. "Put it through their hearts. Vampires react poorly to wooden stakes."
Vampires? Phoebe wondered for a moment before shrugging it off, she'd seen weirder. And it wasn't a huge leap from Demons and Witches to Vampires. Hey. Wait a second... why is this guy wandering around equipped to fight vampires?
Slowly the tide began to turn as Phoebe and Xander waded into the attacking vamps, stakes in hand. Unfortunately the Demon who had assembled the vampires had other plans.
"I will see you all dead", his voice was unreal, low and macabre as it resonated through the alley. He conjured an energy ball in his hand, the blue lighting crackling and casting shadows through the alley.
"Whoops," Xander saw the Demon lift its hand, "Incoming!"
The three sisters glanced around at the shout, each catching sight of the Demon's energy blast. Prue screamed as the demon let it fly, "Piper! Now!"
Piper's hands came up, freezing time and the ball of crackling energy a scant few feet from Xander and Phoebe.
"Ok, the spell is ready. Phoebe, Prue, get back here so we can cast it."
The three sisters gathered together, reciting the oddly rhyming spell as Phoebe threw the potion at the feet of the demon. A thick white mist rose from the splattered potion, enveloping the Demon and ripping him from the time freeze spell long enough to scream and vanish into the ground.
The sisters looked at each other, then back to the remaining creatures.
"Why didn't they vanish too?" Piper asked.
Phoebe looked around and pointed at the guy who had helped her, "he said they were vampires. I guess that means that they aren't tied to this demon."
"Great," Prue groaned, "Damned Demons are hiring help now."
Phoebe grinned, hefting the wooden stake the guy had given her. "Guess we get our hands dirty."
Piper scowled at her, "We don't have any stakes."
Prue moved over to the frozen guy in the Hawaiian shirt, "He's got a bunch in his belt."
Prue grabbed two and tossed them to Piper, then took two for herself. "Ok, let's get these guys."
The remaining vampires were easily handled, being frozen in space and pretty much helpless. When the sisters had dispatched them, they turned back to the frozen guy.
"Well... what do we do about him?" Piper said, eyeing the gaudy shirt with distaste.
"I don't know... take him shopping?" Prue snickered.
"He needs it." Phoebe grinned, "Let him loose, we'll figure something out."
"We always do." Piper said as she waved her hands.
Xander came out of the freeze lunging for the heart of a vampire who wasn't there anymore. "What the!?" he managed to get out as he overbalanced, spun twice, and landed on his ass.
On the ground, he opened his eyes in pain and saw three sets of feet standing a short distance away. Groaning, Xander let his eyes travel up the long legs, the cute... Ummm... not thinking about that now. Not thinking about that now.
The three sisters looked at each other uncomfortably, "Uh... the Muggers got scared off." Prue managed to keep a straight face.
First he snorted. Then a snicker broke free. And finally he was rolling on the ground in laughter, much to the ire of the eldest Halliwell.
"What's so funny?" Prue didn't notice the smothered laughter coming from her youngest sister.
"Was *that* the best you could come up with?" Xander managed to get out between breaths, "Come on, even I can tell that your witches. What type? Wiccan? Hecatian? Ummm.... those are the only two types I know..."
"How..." Piper trailed off when she got an elbow from Prue.
"Oh please. I'm driving along, minding my own business when a vamp flies out of an alley and lands in my back seat. I dust him, then come over here and see three women taking on a demon and a dozen vamps... And the kicker is that they're holding their own. What else could you be? Last time I checked Wonder Woman worked alone... Although I do see some similarities in fashion sense."
Phoebe was laughing openly now, but Piper wasn't amused. "Hey! You're not one to talk about *our* fashion sense."
Xander chuckled, picking himself up off the ground, "Sorry. My bad."
"Alright then," Piper said, mollified.
Xander looked at Prue, "You were the one tossing the vamps around right?" He didn't wait for a response before he went on, "You're powerful. My best friend is wicca, and she can't manage much more then a pencil..."
"You have friends who are witches?" Phoebe was interested now.
"Sure," Xander replied easily, "I've known a few... Only one is still around though." Xander finished the statement a little sadly.
"What happened?" Prue asked quietly.
"Life." Xander answered, "And death. It can be a tough world when you look beneath the surface."
The three witches could understand and agree with that.
Halliwell Manor: San Francisco, California
Xander shrugged, "Such is my life. Truth is, it beat the hell out of what I was doing before that."
The sisters looked at him in shock, "What in God's name were you doing before??"
"Not a damned thing." Xander grinned.
Piper looked at him oddly, "You mean you CHOSE to fight vampires and demons?"
"But why?" Piper couldn't understand the choice. Demons always sought her out, trying to kill her and her sisters. She couldn't fathom seeking them out.
"Why do you?"
"It's a destiny thing."
"Ah..." Xander understood now. "I have a friend with that problem. The whole 'Chosen One' scenario. She doesn't much like it either."
"So why do you do it?" Piper asked again.
"Think about it, Piper." Xander said, his face serious. "Now that you know about the evil floating around out there, could you turn a blind eye? Could you leave someone to die?"
Piper was silent for a long time, refusing speak even though the answer was clearly written on her face, finally it was Phoebe who put her feelings into words. "Of course not."
Xander accepted that, "You're a lot like my friend. You both have to understand that your destiny doesn't define you. You define your destiny."
"Easy for you to say." Piper said sourly.
Xander smiled, "Maybe. But I can tell you this. I've been dealing with prophecies, destinies, and all sorts of mystical gibberish for three years now. And I have yet to see one shred of evidence to convince me that our lives are decided for us."
Piper smiled, "Thanks. I think."
Xander decided to stay in town for a while, finding it refreshing to find others engaged in the 'good fight' as he and his friends were. The truth was, it was lonely sometimes, facing off against the darkness. And this was the first time he'd seen evidence that there were others holding back the dark.
It felt good.
A week later
Phoebe grinned, then looked a little sad, "Yeah, but he's leaving soon. He say's he wants to get a little farther from Sunnydale then San Francisco before he goes back."
"You two going to keep in touch?"
"You bet!" This time Phoebe's grin was wide and pure, "I finally taught him how to access a web-based email account I set up for him. All he has to do is get to a computer and 'presto', we're in touch."
"That's good." Piper smiled, they all liked Xander... even if he was more then a little annoying at times.
Xander whistled as he hopped up the steps to the manor house, admiring the craftsmanship as he did. Don't build 'em like this anymore.
"Hey man, how's it coming along?"
"Hey, Xander." Leo answered as he leveled off the window sill he was working on, "pretty good. I've got a few more weeks before I'm anywhere near done with this place though."
"Old places like this need a lot of upkeep don't they?" Xander was genuinely curious, he enjoyed doing some simple carpentry at home.
"Yeah," Leo smiled as he tapped the sill into place, "But they're worth the extra effort. Heck of a lot nicer to be around then a pre-fab box."
Xander laughed, agreeing with the observation, and rang the door bell.
"Xander," Phoebe grinned, "Come on in. You're just in time for another lesson."
Xander groaned, "I managed to avoid computer lessons for years before I came here and you manage to sucker me into letting you teach me how to surf the web. How?"
Phoebe grinned at him and just walked away, leading him to the kitchen and her laptop.
Xander's eyes glazed over as he watched her hips sway, Oh yeah... now I remember.
After the lesson, in which Xander learned more about web searching and email then he had ever wanted to know, Xander decided to push his luck a little.
"Hey Phoebe," Xander began timidly, "I was wondering... Would you like to go out to a movie or something?"
"Why Alexander," Phoebe grinned when he winced at the use of his full name, "Are you asking me out on a *date*?"
Xander smirked at her tone, "Yeah, I suppose I am."
"I hope you have something better then that kaleidoscope to wear." She smirked herself as she nodded at his shirt.
Xander looked down, chagrined. "What's wrong with my shirt?"
Phoebe raised her had and started to tick off her fingers, opening her mouth to start the list as Xander interrupted her.
Phoebe grinned, but lowered her hand. "So do you?"
"Yeah, I figure I can pull something of a single color out of my trunk."
It was a few hours later that Xander showed up at the manor house again, this time dressing in a loose forest green shirt and black pair of jeans.
Phoebe grinned at him when she answered the door, "Better, but you still need work."
"Har de har har. Real funny." Xander smiled, a little chagrined. He didn't understand the whole deal with clothes, it was more important to be comfortable then anything else... or at least that's what he had always believed.
"Can we stop by Bucklands for a bit? Prue wanted me to bring some things by for her."
"No prob." Xander said easily, "What sort of stuff? Spell casting?"
"No." She laughed, "She forgot her lunch."
"Doh." Xander comically smacked his head as he held the car door open for Phoebe.
Bucklands Auction House, San Francisco, California
"Hey, sis!" Phoebe grinned, holding up a brown paper bag as she moved forward.
Xander held back a bit, looking at the items on display in the room. Truthfully, he was a little surprised that no one stopped him from coming back this far. There were signs all over the place saying 'employees only'.
I guess being a guest of the curator cuts a lot of red tape, Xander mused as he examined the various items gathering dust in the large room.
"Man, Giles would love this place." Xander whispers under his breath. He could see ancient pottery, urns, chalices, and other items that he could remember from Giles' books and private collection.
Xander moved through the room, running his fingers lightly over some of the more dusty objects, and finally stopped at an odd item that was resting on a black velvet cushion. What is this?
"We done?" Xander asked as he walked up to the sisters.
"We're done." Phoebe said cheerfully as she grabbed his arm and led him out, "let's go see that movie. Bye Prue!"
Prue turned back to her work as the other two left. None of them noticed the faint glow return to the cylinder, a glow that slowly expanded until it encompassed the small artifact and then faded, taking the cylinder with it when it vanished.
It awakened slowly. It had been centuries since it had been touched by a worthy host, centuries that only Demons and their ilk had laid hands upon it. It hated demons, in so much as it could hate anything. They contaminated all that they touched, even to the point of spreading their plague to other species. This one, though, had a touch that was clean. Not pure, but close enough to stir the Old Ways from its memories. It bonded the touch to itself in reflex, not really certain what it would do immediately. But there was no choice really, no choice at all.
It had been passed from one demonic hand to another for over eight thousand years, or worse through human hands that were blinded by avarice, greed, or evils as black as any the demonic races could lay claim to. Those people had no concept of the fundamentals of existence. Honor. Sacrifice. Life. Death.
As far as it was concerned the world had fallen upon a dark age. Ten millennia ago had been a more civilized time. Thousands of its brethren had existed then, joined with Warriors and Scholars, Healers and Builders. It hadn't been a perfect time, the entity would not permit its memories to cloud its judgment to that extreme, but it had been better. Demons had known their place, and their place had NOT been here.
It still remembered the fall, and grieved the loss of its comrades as much as it grieved the loss of the era. It had been time when the Ancients ruled the Paths to the Heavens. Before their fall, and the arrival of the Petty Gods.
Now, for the first time in almost nine millennia it had found a host it was willing to bond. Not a warrior. No, that would be too much to ask for. This was a host that had seen the road, but had yet to decide to walk it. It would be difficult, It knew this, but it was long past time that the Old Ways were returned to the world.
Xander and Phoebe, their arms looped behind each other's backs, half staggered out of the theater, not because they were impaired but because they couldn't stop laughing.
"I wish demons were like that."
Xander laughed, "Hey, I've actually *seen* demons like that."
"No!" Phoebe pushed off him, giggling at the joke.
"No kidding. I swear." Xander held his hands up in supplication, "We had this freaky vamp a while back who actually had *access* to the Slayer's home and he just left her some gifts to play with her head."
"You've got to be kidding me," Phoebe didn't believe it, Demons weren't that stupid. Were they?
"God." Phoebe laughed, and hit Xander in the shoulder.
"Ow!" Xander whined as he rubbed his shoulder, "What the hell was that for?"
"Ruining all my delusions about how smart Demons really were."
"Jeez... I guess I shouldn't mention that there's no Santa Clause then, right?"
Another smack sounded through the night air, followed by another whine.
All right, It mused to itself, He isn't the ideal host. But he is better then any I've seen since the fall.
Dangerous. It considered the find carefully, the boy had no less than two separate spirits intertwined with his essence. It was a miracle that the child was still sane, the stress on the boy's psyche must have been immense.
And yet he had survived. And grown stronger from the ordeal, he was even fighting off the changes invoked by the spirits within him. It was slow, but given time the boy would be free of them. For a long time the being considered the spirits, and the changes they had invoked. They were dangerous, but it was too late to do anything about that. Now, perhaps, they could be put to good use.
Low Rent Motel, San Francisco, California
He just had this feeling that someone was in the room with him, and he couldn't shake it. His eyes flitted around quickly, but saw nothing out of the ordinary, until they came to rest on the end table.
What the...? He stared at the table and could have sworn that for an instant he saw something glowing. A blink later and it was gone. Xander shook his head and laid back down, closing his eyes, and prayed that the dreams wouldn't come back.
It shuddered. That was far too close for comfort. The boy should never have awakened, let alone been able to locate its position. It was beginning to see how the child had survived the events of his life. He had a strong spirit, one strong enough to make up for whatever other fault's lay within. That coupled with the child's remarkable tolerance to mystical energy fields made the issue of control a touchy one.
Perhaps the boy was not a suitable host after all.
It was mid-morning before Xander woke up for the day, the daylight was streaming into the room and already making the place uncomfortably hot. He was sweating and uncomfortable, but just happy that it wasn't the cold sweat of the night before.
Damn. What a nightmare. Xander tried to bring it back to mind, but all he could recall were the impressions it left. The lingering smell of sweat and cordite, and the rush of fear even though he couldn't remember what he had been afraid of.
Slowly he shook it off, pulling some clothes from the floor he got dressed and figured that it was time for some breakfast. Or lunch. Whichever.
A drive through breakfast. Man, I love living in the age of fast food. Xander chortled as he scarfed down the egg and muffin sandwich, following it with a large shake and some hash browns.
He was driving through the 'burbs, winding his way toward the Manor. He couldn't quite place it, but he had been feeling weird since the day before. The hair on the back of his neck always seemed to be standing on end, giving him the eerie impression that he was being watched.
It watched, disgustedly, as the boy crammed poison into his body. Times had changed far too much for it's liking, far too much indeed.
Just as Xander approached the Manor house, the three sisters came rushing out like the devil himself was chasing them. Something, Xander supposed, that was entirely possible.
"I had a vision!" Phoebe yelled as she spotted Xander.
"Need a hand?"
"Sure," Phoebe said, hopping over the door into the passenger seat of the convertible. "You guys coming?"
Piper and Prue looked undecided between Prue's car and Xander's, finally choosing the latter.
At least I won't have to worry about some demon wrecking my car, Prue smirked as she jumped into the back.
"Where too?" Xander asked as he pulled away from the curb.
"Gee, imagine that." Xander shook his head, "Why is it always the warehouse district?"
"Low rent?" Prue hazarded a guess.
"Lots of room, no prying eyes?" Piper tried.
Phoebe looked over at Xander, who was smirking. "Nope, They've just watched to many bad movies."
Xander laughed as he turned the car toward the waterfront.
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California
He managed to straighten up and stagger toward the sound of traffic, finally finding someone out walking their dog.
"Hey buddy," he managed to rasp out. "Where am I?"
The man looks at the figure oddly, taking his smoking orange flight-suit, "Golden Gate Park."
"Cool." A grin cracked though his soot-covered face, "Right on target."
"So what are we after?" Xander tried to sound nonchalant as he drove, but failed miserably.
Phoebe smiled, "Big, nasty, demon. I saw him make some people really sick with a wave of his hands."
"So... in a word, yuck?"
"Yeah, that about covers it." Phoebe lost her smile, "You should probably stay back, Xander. We're witches, we might be immune... or at least have a better chance at beating whatever this thing puts out."
Xander grimaced, "Sorry. I know you're just trying to protect me and everything, but what I told Piper about not believing in being controlled by destiny works two ways. I may not be destined to fight the good fight, but I have a right to choose to fight. And I've made my choice."
Phoebe nodded, but shared a concerned glance with her sisters in the back seat. At Phoebe's piercing glance Piper nodded once, understanding what she was being asked.
"This the place?"
Phoebe looked at the warehouse across the road. "Yeah, this is it."
Prue leaned forward, "what time was it in your vision?"
"It was daylight, I think." Phoebe was concentrating, "could be anytime..."
"So we wait?" Piper asked.
"We wait." Prue confirmed.
Three long hours of boredom later Xander spotted someone moving around the warehouse.
"Hey," he nudged Phoebe, "Check it out."
The young witch looked up, her eyes scanning the building. "This could be it. Piper... Piper."
"Huh?" Piper shook her head, blinking her eyes. "What?"
"Give me the detection spell we got from the Book of Shadows."
Phoebe took the spell and components, mixing them carefully as she uttered a quiet rhyme. "Reveal the source of illness foul, Open our eyes and do it now."
Xander looked over at her, "What was that?"
"Hey, you try finding a proper rhyme to go with foul."
Xander shrugged, and cracked a crooked grin. "Whatever."
The group got out of the car, and started to move across the street. As Xander stepped to the curb Phoebe looked back at Piper. Piper nodded and flicked her hands, freezing Xander in mid step.
"This is a little public." Prue didn't like the idea.
Phoebe grimaced slightly, "We'll have to take that chance, Prue. I don't want him to get hurt."
"It won't last long you know," Piper said as the sisters started across the street.
"It doesn't have to."
It observed the witch's actions with some amusement. Even on his own the child would fight off the magical field holding him rather quickly, with the bonding now complete the field would hold the boy for exactly as long as he allowed it. The being surmised that it would take the boy less then a minute to break free, less if his emotions became inflamed.
He blinked his eyes, and was even tempted to rub them a couple times to see if that would clear them. Nothing changed. There was still a man, in mid step no less, apparently frozen in the act of closing his car door.
This mission is getting freakier by the minute. He cautiously approached the young man, calling out to him as he walked closer. "Hey! You all right?"
He peered into the young man's eyes, and saw no recognition or even life. "Christ. This wasn't reported as a symptom of the plague. What the hell happened to this kid?"
The man waved his hand in the boy's face for a while, mostly out of curiosity. He almost jumped out of his skin when the boy's hand flashed at lightning speed and grabbed his wrist in a strong grip.
"What plague? Who the hell are you?"
Xander was incensed. He was also confused, puzzled, and generally freaked out. What is it with me and girls? Do I have some kind of damned sign on my back saying 'Im helpless, smother me!?'
Hey, what's that? Plague? What plague? Hey you prick, I'm not blind! Not so damned close, what are you trying to do, stick a finger up my nose!?
"What plague? Who the hell are you?"
The man stared at him in shock for a second, before responding to the second question.
"I'm Frank Parker, NSA."
There was a long moment of silence while Xander absorbed that. NSA? What in the hell? A thousand conspiracy theories circled in his mind while he tried to assimilate the events of the last few minutes.
"What the hell is an NSA agent doing here?"
Parker looked at him, "That's classified, Kid."
"Yeah right." Xander dropped the man's hand, "You probably don't know much more then what you were mumbling earlier. Where is your back up?"
"Back up?" Frank tried to put the kid off.
Xander ignored him, grabbing his machete from the car and fitting a couple stakes into his belt.
The ex-Navy SEAL watched as the boy fitted sticks of wood into his belt and tied a large machete to his thigh with all the seriousness and focus of a member of the 'Teams' preparing for patrol. What the hell is he doing?
"After my friends, and if you grab for that pistol your nickname is going to be stumpy from now on." Xander tried to bluff him, lightly fingering the machete on his thigh.
Frank wasn't stupid, he stepped back before continuing to pull his pistol. "Hold it right there."
Suddenly they both heard a scream from the warehouse and Xander took off like a shot, yelling over his shoulder as he went. "I don't have time for this. You want to shoot me, do it."
Frank watched the kid run off, the muzzle of his pistol drooping downward. Finally he shrugged and took off after the kid. What the hell. Can't be any weirder then my other missions... can it?
Inside the warehouse things had gone to hell, or so close as to make little difference.
"Piper! Freeze him!" Prue screamed as she tried to tend to Phoebe, who was crumpled on the floor.
The demon wasn't having any trouble fighting off the witch's attempts at freezing him. It was laughable actually, that these were the so called Charmed Ones, these three slips who couldn't muster sufficient power to so much as slow him down.
"You're dead, witches!" He spat that last word like it was a vile obscenity.
The demon strode forward, intent on ripping the three girls limb from limb when a sharp pain struck him from behind.
When he entered the building Xander had an overwhelming feeling of deja vu. Phoebe was slumped on the ground, her sisters trying to tend to her. The Demon was easily shrugging off both Prue's attacks and Piper's attempts to freeze him.
At times like this Xander didn't think. Literally. Not one coherent thought passed through his head as he charged the Demon, his machete already clearing leather.
The demon never saw him coming, and Xander made it up to his back before swinging the Machete down in a wicked arc that left the heavy blade buried in the demon's shoulder. When the demonic form swivelled about in pain, it took the blade with him, ripping the machete from Xander's hand.
Xander didn't get a chance to curse or run before the Demon's big fist connected with his jaw, and sent him flying back. He hit the ground solidly, his eyesight going black as his head struck the ground. When it cleared he could see a very angry Demon stalking toward him screaming something, but his ears were ringing so badly that he couldn't make it out.
Frank Parker followed the kid into the warehouse just in time to see him charge an eight foot 'thing' that was attacking the three girls he had been sent to investigate. Sweet Jesus, what is that thing?
Kid's got guts. Frank made his decision, lifting his Berreta and moving slowly forward as he fired.
Xander's eyes cleared as he staggered to his feet, grabbing the only weapons available to him. Two wooden stakes against THAT freak. Oh no, this couldn't be any simpler.
That Parker joker had entered the fray, emptying a clip from his service pistol into the demon. Xander knew that the bullets weren't likely to do much more the piss the freak off, but that alone might provide him the distraction he was going to need.
"Prue!" Xander yelled, "I'm going to need my machete back!"
Prue looked up from her fallen sister, and nodded one, narrowing her eyes at the blade embedded in the Demon's shoulder. First it quivered slightly, drawing even more screams from the Demon as it did. Finally it flew free, hitting the floor and clattering a bit to the left of Xander's position.
Frank's eyes widened as the creature took his bullets and shrugged them off. He heard the kid yell to one of the girls about getting his Machete but Parker knew that there was no way that ANYONE was getting close enough to grab that knife without getting ripped to shreds.
That was when the blade apparently decided of its own accord that it wanted to return to its owner. How the hell?
Xander had his machete now, and was circling the demon again, trying to stay clear of parker's line of fire as he did so.
"Come on ugly," Xander hefted the blade and grinned crookedly, "I got a present for you."
The demon roared at the mocking tone the child was using, "Come here yourself, child. I have a gift for *you*."
"Xander!" Prue screamed as he started forward, "Don't let him lay his hands on you! That's how he infected Phoebe!"
"Great." Xander muttered, "The big bad demon's got cooties!"
It didn't matter anyway. The demon was trying to hurt his friends, and that meant only one option was left open. The demon had to die. His face closing up in determination, Xander lifted the heavy blade in his hands and moved in to attack.
Frank held his fire, watching helplessly as the boy moved in closer to the beast. Kid, you are out of your freaking mind. If bullets won't stop that thing there is no way in hell that butter knife you're carrying will.
The boy got in close and, ducking the creature's first swing, slashed it across the belly with the blade. Frank winced at the demon's scream as it echoed through the hallowed out building. How the hell?
No. Definitely not 'host material'. The being decided as it watched the conflict. It was torn by the scene it saw. If it should help the child, it would risk revealing itself to a person with the potential to lock it up again for another Ten Millennia. But... it hated demons. And the child fought demons. Perhaps a host is not in the cards. But maybe... I can have a Partner again?
Xander ducked the second blow the demon aimed at him, slashing the Demon's arm as it passed. Xander smirked, mostly to himself, as the Demon's roar of pain echoed though the warehouse again. It was still going to be a hard fight, the Demon wasn't slowing down but neither, surprisingly, was Xander.
Xander leapt up after the blow had passed, planting one hand on the Demon's shoulder and the other on its head. Using his grip to boost his jump, Xander brought his knee heavily into the Demonic visage in front of him. There was no finesse to his movements, just a simple brutal efficiency that would haunt Xander when he had the time to consider it.
Frank's jaw may as well have hit the ground. He knew the fighting style he was watching the boy use. He'd learned it himself in the 'Teams'. It was distilled from several styles from around the world. The art of combat, the art of killing, distilled to it's simplest and most brutal form for use in Special Forces Units around the world.
That kid is younger then I was before I signed up. How the hell does he know that style? Frank didn't have time to think about it. He'd had enough of standing on the sidelines in this fight, the least he could do was help the kid out. Pulling his SpyderCo knife from his pocket and flipped it open he advanced on the fight.
Xander's heartbeat was hammering in his ears as he kept hammering and slicing away at the demon in front of him. For all the hits he was getting in, the Demon didn't seem to be faltering at all. Xander knew from his personal experience that decapitation would probably do the job, but the Demon was pretty good at guarding his neck.
He had just been blocked again when the Demon suddenly roared in pain and spun around. Xander could see the handle of a folding knife sticking out of its side when he did. Parker, I owe you one.
Prue watched the fight, feeling helpless as she did. She knew that she wasn't cut out for a physical toe-to-toe match with a demon, but normally her powers insulated her from that necessity. It was Phoebe who learned to fight, who learned to protect herself without relying on powers, because her own powers were non-confrontational in their origins. It was Phoebe who faced off with the Demon first, giving her sisters the time to prepare their spell... A spell that they couldn't cast when Phoebe went down, taking the power of three with her.
Now it was Xander and the new guy who were battling the beast. Using no magic, just their own strength and skills pitted against a demonic entity.
Xander's scream of anger and frustration was drowned by the Demon's scream of pain. He put all his strength into the jammed blade, sawing it further along its course through the writhing demon's neck. Demonic blood and ichor splattered his face and chest as he kept pushing, following the Demon down as he fell first to his knees and then on his face. Finally Xander stood up from the motionless demon and kicked the machete blade the rest of the way through its neck.
As the Demon's head rolled clear Xander looked around, his vision suddenly spotting with bright white lights and his legs turning to rubber. He fell, not even noticing when Parker caught him inches from the floor and dragged him away from the Demon's already decaying corpse.
"Help us!" Prue yelled as the new guy laid Xander down gently, "We have to get back to our place!"
"No way, lady." Frank shook his head, "You guys are infected with the plague I was sent to stop. Hell, by now, so am I. We can't risk spreading it to the rest of the city."
Prue glared at the man, her eyes narrowing as she focused her power. "We have to get to the manor if we want to find a cure!"
Frank shook his head, bringing his pistol up. "No way. The CDC is on their way, I can't let you leave."
He never got a chance to finish as the gun was ripped from his hands by an unseen force, flinging it completely to the other side of the warehouse. Next he felt himself be picked up off the ground and tossed several feet back, landing on his ass. "What the hell!?"
"I'm telling you this one more time. Pick up Xander," Prue said, nodding toward the boy on the ground. "We've got our sister. We're going back to the manor to look for a cure. NOW."
Stupid people are not allowed into the Navy Seals and Frank Parker, despite what his friends may say, is not a stupid person. He knew a force majeure when he saw it, even if he didn't understand precisely what it was. He did the only smart thing he could think of, he obeyed the order.
The drive to the Manor was short and quiet, no one spoke because no one knew what to say. Frank was in the back, flanked by the motionless forms of Xander and Phoebe, constantly checking himself for symptoms while trying to do the same for the two women in the front. Prue was driving fast, probably too fast to be safe considering the shape of Xander's car. Piper was worrying, muttering to herself and throwing constant glances at the back seat.
It was her that Frank was worried about mostly. He'd seen it before, she was in shock and she wasn't handling very well. Not that he blamed her, it was a rough gig watching a death match like that. Especially when your sister and a friend are the ones on the line.
Once at the Manor, Frank managed to lift the kid on his own while the first two sisters grabbed the third. The group of them rushed, as much as possible, into the big house and laid the two people down on the couch.
"Ewww..." Piper moaned as the blood and ichor from Xander's face and clothes wiped off on the couch.
"Hush, Piper," Prue grinned before she rushed up the stairs to the attic.
"Oh, Hurry up with the book, and leave me to worry about getting that mess out of the fabric!"
Frank looked at the two sisters, an incredulous look on his face. They're acting like they do this every other day...
"Got it!" Prue announced as she walked back in, reading the Book of Shadows as she did.
"Belgari Demon. Hmmm... Damn, wish Phoebe's vision had been clearer earlier.... There's a vanquish here for it. Hmmm... let's see, Belgari Sickness... Typically results in a coma-like state while welts and pustules form along the victims skin... gross... Ah... here we go. The antidote requires a sample of the demon's blood."
Piper looked at Xander, "I think we've got that covered."
Prue grimaced, "ok, scrape some off him and we'll mix the potion."
Demon? What in the....? Frank watched as the two sisters went about their task, taking a sample of the blood that had spattered the boy and mixing with herbs and roots from their kitchen. What kind of person keeps essence of toad in their pantry?
A low moan served to announce the awakening of the boy laying on the couch, and the three of them rushed to his side.
"Oh man...." Xander groaned as his head rebelled at his attempt to move, "What hit me?"
"A Belgari demon." Piper answered primly, her voice much more relaxed now that she was confident that her sister and friend would be all right.
"A who what now?" Xander shut his eyes, trying to ease the headache.
"A Belgari Demon. Nasty type, they collect pathogens and infect humans for fun." Prue answered, still reading from the Book of Shadows.
"Well..." Xander drawled, "everyone needs a hobby."
Another low moan sounded through the room.
"Phoebe, are you all right?" Piper's voice had a worried tinge again.
"I was until he made a joke THAT bad." Phoebe moaned.
Frank watched the proceedings with some amusement, tempered though it was by the fact that he really had no clue what they were talking about most of the time. Finally he had had enough.
"Ok, everyone, hold it!" Frank held up his hands, "What the hell just happened?"
Xander flashed him a weak smile, "Hey, Mr. NSA. Well we almost got our asses handed to us by some kind of Demonic nerd who collects germs."
"Demon." Franks tone was unbelieving.
"Demon." Xander agreed. "I know, hard to swallow. Don't worry too much about it, it's over and you can explain it any way you like."
Frank thought about it long and hard, there was no way in hell that anyone back at Never Never Land was going to buy into a story about demons... even if he couldn't find another more likely explanation. What the hell am I going to tell them?
Frank rubbed his forehead, "As for anything else I may have seen... I didn't."
Xander grinned, "I've heard that tune before. But before you go forgetting everything you didn't see I want to thank you."
"Cause you saved my ass when you distracted the thing that wasn't there. Twice. We'd be dead if you hadn't come along."
Parker nodded, You and three quarters of San Francisco.
Xander laughed along with him, wondering why he was getting such a strange vibe off the NSA agent. It wasn't bad, it just felt like the guy was out of place.
It watched the events with satisfaction. It hadn't been discovered, and it had secured some very valuable information. It was beginning to hope that it might be able to trust the boy, his willingness to sacrifice himself for his friends was a good sign.
The other man, the one called Parker, bothered it however. He was carrying a powerful aura about him, one that the being had seen only rarely. He was a man out of time. And that was something that always brought trouble. The being hoped that it wouldn't have to deal with that man much in the future, time travel made it nervous.
Halliwell Manor, Two Days Later
Xander smiled, "Yeah, You guys don't really need me around and I want to get a break from the whole 'demon hunting' gig for a while. Besides, it's not like I wont be back, heck I only live a few hours away... We'll probably be calling each other up for help every time an apocalypse rears its head."
The sisters grinned, it was a little strained... but it was a grin.
"Out!" Prue pointed to the door, her eyes narrowing.
"I'm going, I'm going!" Xander laughed, holding his hands up in supplication, as he made a run for the door.
Phoebe stopped him at the door, "Be careful."
"Aren't I always?" Xander grinned.
Phoebe hit him. "I'm serious you nut."
Xander's smile turned serious, and whispered. "So was I. I only take stupid chances when the prize is worth the gamble."
Phoebe smiled wide at that, and leaned in and kissed him lightly on the lips.
"Be seeing you."
Xander stared at the door as it closed, and whispered, "You bet you will."
With that he headed down the driveway and hopped over the drivers side door of his convertible and bade San Francisco good by.
Terrace Point, Montana; Two Days later
They had the same feelings, but the subject matter had changed. Instead of Vietnam, Korea, or a Black Ops mission into Columbia or Peru he was fighting demons and vamps. Xander figured that he should have expected that twist sooner or later, but it just didn't sit well with him.
Some times he would see a demon in his dreams and, suddenly, he'd just KNOW. He'd know its name, its weaknesses, hell he remembered walking up to one of them in his dream and chatting back and forth in its language. The weird part was that he didn't understand a word that either the demon or he was saying... Just this overwhelming feeling that it WAS a conversation.
Sighing he reached over the seat and turned on the radio, deciding that if he couldn't sleep then he'd listen to some tunes and hope to drift off eventually.
"Your listening to KBTP radio, the sound of the heartlands. We'll be back in five with more songs from the heart, right after this news break."
Xander groaned, the last thing he wanted to listen to was the news. His life was depressing enough.
"Top story tonight is the shocking murders in the small town of Terrace Point, fifteen deaths have been attributed to this sadistic killer in the past two nights..."
Xander sat bolt upright in the car, his head swiveling until he caught sight of the sign he had parked next to.
Welcome to Terrace Point, Population 5032.
Shit. 5017 you mean. Xander shook himself awake, reaching around for his machete.
"Police refuse to comment but some eyewitnesses claim that the murders were committed by monsters. Witness descriptions have been written off as mass hallucinations and public paranoia concerning the dangers of having a murderer in the area..."
Shit. He thought again. Why am I always in the middle of this crap?
Why is he always in the middle of this crap? The being watched as the boy prepared for war, even as he hoped that the communication was a false alarm. The boy was a born Sentinel, unable to walk away from a threat to the whole. The being sighed, and marshaled its own energies in case the boy again bit off more then he could chew.
The child will soon require my capabilities directly. Can I trust him?
Xander drove into town slowly, his eyes scanning the road as he did. This seemed odd for a Demon attack, they usually kept a lower profile. Something this big usually meant one thing. They were preparing a sacrifice for some major bad, and things were about to hit the fan.
He was within sight of the town when the screams started. Screams so loud that he could hear them over the engine and the sound of the tires on the road.
Xander hit the breaks, slewing the car to a stop, as he looked for the source of the cries. Jesus, what the hell is that?
Next time, I bring more weapons. He thought, disgustedly, as he once again strapped the machete to his thigh and carefully fit his remaining stakes into his belt.
Lynn Johnson cowered away from her attacker, its grotesque figure no longer the source of her terror so much as the fact that she had just witnessed it rip the stomach from three other people with less regard then a person would give a rabid animal.
It was advancing on her, following her as she shrank away, until she backed against a tree. It grinned at her, a disgusting image, and reached out its arms for her dace. Then its smile turned to shock as it stumbled once and then fell over, revealing a young man behind it holding a bloody machete and a slightly insane look on his face.
The young man looked at her for a short moment then said, "Come with me if you want to live."
Lynn stared at him in shock for a second until his face broke into a goofy grin and he spoke again, "I've always wanted to say that. Come on, girl. we've got to get moving."
Xander pulled the young girl to her feet and half dragged her across the clearing to where the other people had been gathered together.
"Come on people, let's not let the grass grow here. We've got to get moving."
"Who.. Who are you, man?" One young man asked as he looked around in terror.
"Name's Xander, but we don't have time for introductions. Move it!"
That last was snapped in a tone of command and brooked no argument, even from terrified teenagers. They grouped up behind him as he led the group of eight people back towards the main road. They hadn't gotten more then a few steps when three demons stepped forward to block their path.
Xander continued toward them, even as the people following him shrank back in fear, showing an outward confidence that he certainly didn't feel inside. "Hey, uglies. What say we call it a night and everyone goes home, k?"
The Demons didn't even bother to respond, they just attacked.
Xander ducked under the first punch, and swiped at the demon's underbelly, gutting the thing where it stood. The second demon's punch caught him on the jaw and threw him back, crashing him into the group he was protecting.
"Ouch." Xander muttered, tightening his grip on the machete. "Toss me back in, guys."
The two men who had caught him gave him a strange look, shook their heads, and did as he asked. As they watched the young man wade back into the fight, they both shrugged their shoulders and one muttered to the other.
Both men followed Xander into the melee, keeping well clear of the young man's machete, and tried to flank the two remaining monsters.
Xander didn't bother to duck the next swing, instead opting to block it with the business end of the Machete. The demon screamed as the blade cut deeply into his arm, and Xander winced in sympathy as he drew a wooden stake with his left hand and drove it into the general area of the Demon's heart. He hoped.
The demon let out another scream and fell to the ground, twitching.
"Well, he didn't turn to dust, but what the hell." Xander muttered as he tried to extract the machete from the Demon's arm while the other two guys struggled to hold back the last monster.
"Be right with you, guys!" Xander yelled as the blade finally jerked free.
"Oh, please, take your... ugh... time!" One of them yelled back sarcastically as the Demon landed a solid blow to his chest, cracking ribs in the process.
Xander charged in again, bringing the machete down in a powerful stroke that actually cleaved through the distracted Demon's skull. As the ugly creature fell to the ground Xander screwed up his face in disgust at the slime that clung to the machete as he pulled it out.
"Ewww." Xander bent down and wiped the blade off on the ground. "That's really disgusting."
The group of people have come a bit closer as the fighting died down and were gaining enough nerve to ask questions.
"What the hell was that thing?"
Xander grimaced, and straightened up. "Funny you should mention hell..." He trailed off as the lights came on in some of their eyes.
"Demons? Please. Those are myths."
"They've gotta be aliens."
Xander rolled his eyes at that one. Aliens, yeah right.
Paranoid much? Christ, these people watch too much TV. Xander's eyes widened in shock, Oh God! Did *I* say that!? Crap I have to find some better guy pals then Giles, Wolfman, and Deadboy.
That, was a suggestion, the group could get behind. They followed Xander out of the small grove and back to his car.
Oh goody. Now I get to see how we can fit nine people into my car. If one of them makes a joke about clowns I'm gonna stake him.
The town meeting was amusing to watch, from Xander's point of view at least. He sat off to one side slowly running a whetstone over the blade of his machete and tried to keep from grinning at the wild theories that were flying around the room.
"Mutants!!" One man was screaming, "They're mutants I tell you!"
Xander shook his head, Another one reading too many comic books... GOD! I did it again, If I start snacking on tea and crumpets instead of soda and twinkies me and G-Man are going to have a serious chat about the responsibilities of role models on today's youth.
The first voice, presumably Mike, immediately started arguing and Xander let out a sigh at the uselessness of the debate. Keep them from killing you first. THEN worry about what to call them.
"Demons." The man spoke the word almost reverently, as if it meant something to him.
Xander took a look at the man and understood why instantly, "Yes, Father. I was serious."
The priest sat down, the look on his face was a cross between fear and relief. "Why do you think this?"
"Been protecting my hometown from the things for nearly three years now." Xander shrugged, "They're not hard to spot once you know what your looking for."
"But..." the man trailed off for a moment, "What evidence do you have that they are demons?"
"This bunch? Nothing but personal experience." Xander watched the older man sigh, "But since Vampires and most Demons react badly to religious icons and holy water it's a safe bet."
The man smiled, "Crosses hold them back?"
"Like I said, I don't know about this bunch. Maybe, they are a lower level group."
"Lower level? How..."
"Do I know?" Xander smiled and hefted his machete, "This thing killed them easily. That's a pretty good sign, even if I did have it blessed by a Priest, a Rabbi, and a Wiccan witch."
"Witch?" The priest paled slightly.
Xander smiled again, continuing to run the whetstone over the blade. "Sounds like the setup for a joke doesn't it? A Priest, a Rabbi, and a Witch go into a bar..."
The priest actually chuckled at that, "I suppose it does."
"Witches are a powerful force on the earth, Padre. But they're human, so a few bad eggs ruined their name over the centuries. From what my friend keeps lecturing me on," Xander smiled at the thought of all the Wiccan lectures Willow gave that he had tried to tune out, "Witches, the Wiccan ones anyway, draw their power from the nature spirits that roam the planet. Call it the Earth Mother, Gaia, or whatever else... Same thing, different names. You and other men of the cloth draw your abilities, whether they are blessings, holy water, exorcism or some other stuff that only a few of you probably have any clue about, from your God."
Xander laughed, "Any of them from what I've seen. I had to hold a Vamp back once with an Egyptian symbol, can't remember what it was called, and a friend of mine used her Star of David to good effect. Frankly I prefer crosses, but that's mostly cause they're easy to hold in a fight."
The priest laughed at that, "I never considered that as a good reason to carry a cross before."
Xander chuckled, "Considering my after school hobby, it's sometimes all I think about."
The priest became serious again, "Do others... know?"
"What? About Demons?" At the Priest's nod Xander continued, "Sure. I've personally had a hand in preventing Armageddon at least... oh three? Four times? Something like that..."
The Priest paled at the calm manner the boy in front of him spoke of the End of Days.
Xander ignored him, and continued. "Now, granted, my town was built on a dimensional portal to hell, so that sort of thing happens a bit more often there then elsewhere. But I doubt that all the worlds evil is located in Sunnydale. So, since we're still alive, it's safe to say that there are other groups fighting the good fight around the planet."
"You don't know?" The Priest asked somewhat fearfully.
"I've met some. Not many, but some." Xander shrugged again, it was becoming a familiar gesture, and continued to sharpen his machete. "Our fight isn't meant for the light of day, Padre. Most people don't want to know what's out there, and they're pretty militant about it."
The Priest followed Xander's eyes to the argument that was still burning through the town meeting. Sadly he shook his head, uncertain whether to feel pride that there were people like the boy beside him willing to fight the evils of the world, or shame that the members of his flock were so quick to bury their heads in the sand.
"What will you do now?"
Xander considered his options slowly, "I think I'll hang around town for a bit, Father. Those four last night might have been the bunch, but I doubt it. Probably something big going down if they are desperate enough to attract this kind of attention."
"Do you need any help?"
"Wouldn't mind some Holy Water, and a couple crosses," Xander winced, "I lost mine in a fight a few days ago."
The priest smiled, "That I think I can help you with, anything else?"
"A gun would be nice," Xander grinned.
"That too can most likely be arranged."
Xander eyed the priest with his eyebrows raised. "Really?"
"I wasn't always a Man of God, my son."
Xander and the Priest left the town meeting while the 'discussions' were still in full swing. The local Sheriff seemed to want to stop Xander on his way out, but an odd look from the Priest turned him the other way.
"You have a car, padre?" Xander asked as the hit the curb.
"No." The Old Priest replied, "I normally walk."
"Well, not tonight." Xander wasn't walking anywhere. "I'll give you a lift."
The old man acquiesced, climbing into the passenger's side. "Let's go to the church. I live in the Rectory."
Xander nodded, he could see the steeple from where he was, and drove off in that direction.