Xander has a run in with the Initiative that could break up the gang.
Note - thoughts
Giles picked Anya up and set her onto his couch. She started to mutter incoherently about love, Xander, Spike and blood. "No Xander. Please not that," she whimpered. She twist and turned on the couch looking as if she was experiencing some kind of nightmare. "Spike.. Stop.."
A damp washcloth was placed on Anya's forehead. Giles looked up, not surprised to see that Tara was responsible and he smiled at her in thanks. Tara returned the smile shyly and went to stand next to Willow.
"Giles," Willow spoke up. "How is she?"
"It's hard to say. She doesn't have any injuries but.." Giles removed his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose.
"We should find Xander," Buffy said.
"She's right," Willow added. "He'll want to know about this. He would be able to help her better than us."
"Maybe, unless he turned on her," Buffy said under her breath.
Willow stared hard at Buffy. Giles braced himself for the explosion when unexpectedly, Tara grab Willow's hand and pulled Willow into the kitchen. "You know that I'm right Giles," Buffy whispered when they were gone.
Giles ignored what she said and concentrated on Anya. Gently, he wiped her face with the washcloth. The girl looked lost to Giles. He prayed that Buffy is wrong about Xander. He couldn't imagine how the combination of his confinement and Buffy's reaction to his story affected Xander. Giles hoped that the good inside of Xander would prevent him from walking down that dark path like Faith did.
Faith.. His mind dwelled briefly on the comatose Slayer. Giles knows that if Xander has become evil, they would be hard pressed to fight him. He would be worse than Faith simply because his knowledge of us is more complete.
"Giles. Is she going to be okay?"
Giles glanced at Buffy before answering. "I'm not entirely sure. It appears that whatever happened was something terrible to her. And considering that she used to be a daemon, it must have been very disturbing to traumatize her like this," Giles, still holding his glasses, started to clean them. "We need to talk to Xander," he said at last.
Tara pulled Willow into the kitchen. "Willow," she whispered.
"What?!" She hissed. Tara shrank back from the redhead. The little bit of fear in her eyes made Willow feel guilty. "I'm sorry Tara. It's just that I'm worried about Xander."
"I know," Tara smiled nervously. "You love him very much."
Willow nodded slowly. "As much as I love Giles and Buffy. Which is why it hurts me to see them automatically side against Xander. It's as if everything he has done for us all doesn't matter," Willow furiously began pacing in the small room. "Just because Buffy likes Riley, she believed him instead of Xander."
"It c-c-could have been more than that," Tara said in a timid voice.
Willow turned to respond but softened her voice. "Tara, I know that you don't know Xander very well but he would never do what Riley said."
Happy that Willow didn't yell at her, Tara reached out and grasped her hand. "All I'm saying is that maybe Buffy thought she was doing the right thing."
That got a snort out of Willow. Tara was quiet for a second before asking. "What about that story the police asked us about? I got the feeling from you guys that there was some truth to it"
"Some of that really happened."
Tara's eyebrows shot up at that admission but Willow didn't notice as she continued. "A daemon called The Judge had been brought to Sunnydale and we needed some heavy firepower to defeat him. Xander and Cordelia snuck onto the base and stole a rocket launcher."
"And that killed the daemon?"
"Not really," Willow shrugged then let out a heavy sigh.
"W-w-what do you mean 'not really'?"
"It's in pieces now; arms, legs, body and head. As long as they're kept seperate, the Judge can't reform."
"But if someone puts them together?" Tara asked.
"Then the Judge will once again, try to kill all of humanity."
Tara silently looked at the three people in the living room for a few seconds, debating if she should say what she felt. "Willow, about Xander." Willow looked at her. "Maybe Buffy's right."
Anger flashed in Willow's eyes. "Are you saying that you believe her?"
"N-n-no I'm n-not," she stuttered. Willow attempted an apology but Tara waved for her to wait. "All I'm s-saying is that w-what if the Initiative did something to him?"
Willow slumped against the counter. That was another fear that she had. Mainly because she didn't know how long Xander was down there. A person didn't have to be a genius, or paranoid, to guess that there might be scientists in the base doing experiments on the demons that they catch. Especially when you have the chip in Spike's brain as evidence. With a single tear falling down her cheek, she turned to Tara. "I just want to find him before anything else happens."
Tara drew Willow into a hug, rocking her slowly side to side. Tara would be scared if she could hear the oath that Willow was unconsciously screaming deep inside her mind. If they did do something to Xander, I'll make them pay.
Willy was washing down the bar. He had a large number of customers lately. Not that he cared, so long as their money was good. He had to close up for a couple of hours to clean up after a nasty fight. He had almost finished when he heard knocking at the door.
"We're closed," he yelled but the knocking continued. "Sheesh, can't a guy get any work done around here." He glanced nervously towards the back room before he opened the door a little to say. "Hey, can't you read the sign?"
A fist shot in through the opening, clocking Willy on the chin. He landed hard on the floor and watched as the door was kicked in. His attacker, decked out in dark clothes, was flanked by two others. All three had an aura of authority and discipline surrounding them that all but screamed military.
Willy remembered some stories he had heard from his patrons over the last couple of nights. Stories of a group of people trying to capture daemons. That's all he needed right now. A bunch of idiots scaring away his customers. "Aww man, why can't you guys leave me alone. I'm just an honest business man trying to make a living."
"Now Willy," The man in charge said. "It is Willy right?" The bartender nodded, "Word is if information is needed, you are the one to see."
"Maybe," Willy hedged.
"And from what I understand, you've had dealings with the Slayer and her group."
Willy noticed that one of the men took up a position by the door. The other cleaned off a table and set a couple of chairs around it before taking a similar position by the door leading into the back. The man in charge sat in one of the chairs and motioned to the other. He then pulled out a gun and set it on top of the table. "Well I think you should get comfortable because I need a lot of information."
Taking the empty seat, Willy asked. "Who are you?"
"A friend," he said with a cold smile. "My name's Forrest."
Buffy was getting worried. Anya has been traumatized, Xander was nowhere to be found and she had not heard from Riley. "Giles, we need to do something."
"We are Buffy," he sighed at the look she directed at him.
Buffy opened her mouth to say something but stopped when Anya started to moan softly. "No... You can't... Spike... Xander... Stop... Bunnies..."
Buffy and Giles share a look. They tried to hear more but Anya had faded out again.
Giles was pensive. "You don't think that Spike has found a way to remove that chip, do you?" He looked at Buffy. "Perhaps Spike attacked her or possibly Xander."
"It's that or with the way Xander is, he attacked Spike. Either way I think I should go to Spike's crypt," Buffy checked the time. "Sun's still up so there's a good chance I'll find at least Spike there."
"Right. I'll stay here and care for Anya. Are you going to take Willow with you?"
Buffy glanced at the kitchen where the two witches were talking."No. There's something up with Xander and I don't want to fight with her about it."
"You should hold of your judgement of Xander until we talk to him."
"I'm not judging him." Giles' pointed look made her sigh loudly. "Fine. If I'm wrong, I'll apologize." Buffy headed out the door, shaking her head.
Giles was worried that an apology would not make things right this time. The next few days were going to be hard on everyone and he wasn't sure if the group would be able to survive.
Buffy quietly closed the door behind her. She walked out to the sidewalk and headed down the street. After a few feet she stopped, looking briefly over her shoulder. She scanned the area before turning back to where she was headed.
Not far from where she stopped, Marcus Tyler, a blonde-haired man in his twenties, stepped out from behind a parked van.
"Buffy Summers just left," he spoke into a radio. "Rupert Giles, Tara Maclay and Willow Rosenberg are still inside."
[ Follow Summers but do not engage. Report where she goes and who she talks to. ]
He waited for more instructions but none came. "Dumb bitch," he muttered. "She just had to call in everybody who was off-duty like it was our fault that a civilian escaped quarantine." He watched the blonde walk down the sidewalk but his thoughts were on the birthday gift he had just bought for his girlfriend before being called in. He hoped that he could make the surprise party that was scheduled for tomorrow night.
Marcus returned his attention to the job before him which was to follow Buffy Summers. He let her to reach the street corner before starting to follow.
Xander left the church through an underground tunnel located in the basement. He followed it randomly without thinking. His mind was distracted as it sorted and organized every memory he had of the last three years with the two sets of memories that he had unconsciously kept seperate.
Those of the Hyena were centered around the primal feelings of being a part of a 'pack'. Eating, mating and sleeping were the main priorities for the animal spirit. And he didn't think he had felt more alive than when the Hyena possessed him. Every sense was sharper; sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing. Not to mention the rush of adrenaline during a kill.
All these he repressed for years because of what he did to his friends.
And the memories of the Soldier were almost as confusing. The reason for this stemmed from the fact that the Soldier was really a military trained Alexander Harris.
Xander didn't understand exactly how that was possible. He thought about it for months after that Halloween. It was like something out of comic books or science fiction stories where a guy would meet with his future self or a alternate version of himself from a different reality.
He tried asking Giles about different realities once around Thanksgiving. If they existed, would they be the same as this reality or not. Xander even asked if there could be a time difference between two realities where one would be the present; the other a future.
Xander remembered the suspicious look that Giles gave him. After jumping to conclusions, Giles demanded that Xander explain why he was asking these questions. Xander managed to dance around the reason while barely convincing Giles that he had not, and didn't want to, cast any spells. When Giles settled down, they talked for a little while.
The idea that made the most sense to Xander from his discussion with Giles was that the Soldier memories came from a possible reality where he joined the Army and was stationed here in Sunnydale.
What had Xander worried was that he didn't remember seeing any of his friends in those memories. That 'Alexander' never knew Willow or met Kayla. But the thing that screamed out at him was that 'Alexander' was never introduced to the supernatural so he had never heard of a Slayer or the Watcher's Council.
All of this served to keep his mind occupied while letting his instincts guide him through the maze of tunnels that exist below Sunndydale. His subconscious influencing where Xander went and which passages he took.
When his instincts told him that he was being followed, Xander was forced to focus on his surroundings. He knelt down on one knee and listened. He could hear a faint shuffling noise that repeated slightly louder every other second. Like someone was dragging their feet while walking.
When Xander stood back up, he heard the shuffling noise stop. "You might as well show yourself. I know you are there."
From behind him a tall but thin man came into view. His face had all the trademark features of a vampire. "How did you know I was behind you?"
Xander just stared at the vampire, a small tugged at his lips.
The vampire felt that there was something different about the human but then shrugged. "Fine. It's not like I really care."
Xander stayed still, letting the vampire make the first move. He didn't have long to wait as the vampire attempted to grab him by the neck. At the last second Xander dropped to one knee and delivered a two-fisted blow to the vampire just below the rib cage. This caused the vampire to back up and Xander leaned back on one knee and kicked out at the vampire. Xander foot collided with one of the vamp's knees pushing the leg backwards at an unnatural angle.
The vampire fell to the ground, clutching the ruined leg. Xander reached into his pocket and pulled out a short, thin stake. Walking over to the fallen vampire, Xander squatted down and asked. "Is that painful?" Xander pointed at the damaged knee. "Damn, that looks very painful. Do you want some aspirin?"
The vampire lunged for him but Xander just shoved the undead creature down with one hand and thrust the small stake into the heart with the other. Turning away, he didn't even bothering to watch the vampire explode into dust.
The fact that he just beat a vampire single-handedly didn't sink in right away. He got maybe ten feet before stopping cold. He turned back and looked at the pile of dust on the floor with astonishment written clearly on his face. Five heartbeats later Xander laughed out loud, not caring if anyone heard him and left the area through a side passage.
Father Michael was drumming his fingers on the desk he was sitting behind while he for his call to be answered.
[ We Hide 'em Mortuary. You stab 'em, we slab 'em. Dismemberment's are on special this week. ]
"Kayla!" Michael exclaimed mortified.
[ Michael! ]
His temper flared temporarily when he heard her laughter erupt from the phone. "Please tell me that you don't answer your phone like that every time."
[ Oh I knew it was you. ]
Annoyed as he was, he could hear the smile in her voice. "How did you know it was me?"
[ How many times am I going to have to explain Caller ID to you? ]
Michael didn't want to get into that conversation. "Kayla, I was wondering if it would be possible for you to come for a visit?"
[ That shouldn't be a problem. I don't have any plans that can't be put off. But my question now is, why? ]
Michael pondered on what to tell her. He nonchalantly said, "No reason. I just thought that it would be nice to have some assistance this week from one of my favorite helpers."
[ What's going on there Father? You normally don't ask me for favors when you can guilt-trip Xander into doing what you need and... I usually don't need a shovel when we talk. ]
He really didn't want to get into this over the phone but Kayla could be just as stubborn as Xander. So rather than have a long and drawn out conversation, he decided to tell her. "Late yesterday, the town experienced an earthquake and this morning, there has been talk of an explosion near the college here."
[ Was anyone hurt? ]
"From what I understand, there were no injuries or deaths but I've heard from people that came to the church today that a few faculty members are missing."
[ Not to sound uncaring but why do you need me there? ]
"It's... it's Xander."
[ What's this got to do with Xander?! ]
"I don't know. He was here earlier but when I asked him if he was okay, Xander told me that he didn't want to talk about it."
[ Is he okay? ]
"He didn't appeared to be physically hurt."
[ Is. He. Okay. ]
Michael could hear the concern in her voice. "No," he said quietly. "I don't know what caused this shift in him but he was very quiet when he came for some of his stuff."
[ He dug into his stash? That can't be good. ]
He was inclined to agree with her. Michael remembered when Xander first approached him about using the store room to hold some clothing and other items just in case of emergency. Knowing what could happen in this town, Michael agreed to let Xander store some belongings in the church. After that Xander would stop by periodically to either check on the items there or to add more. This is the first time that Xander needed to use what was stored in that room.
[ Father Michael? ]
Startled out of his thoughts, Michael replied. "I'm sorry Kayla. I was just thinking. What did you say?"
[ I said that I'll try to get there as soon as I can. I've got to finish a few things here before I can leave. ]
[ I will. Bye ]
Father Michael stared at the phone in his hand. He hoped that once Kayla arrived, they would uncover the truth of what their friend may be currently involved in.
The sun was low in the sky as Buffy weaved her way through the numerous graveyards towards Spike's crypt. She was battling an internal war over her feelings. She wanted to believe in Xander as much as Willow did but she can't get past the images of Xander fighting.
Despite what Willow said, Buffy had seen him fight. But the only times that she had seen any kind of fighting ability from Xander was when he was possessed. Not so much with the Hyena as when he was the Soldier.
She could clearly remember watching him beat Larry in a fight when they were possessed by their costumes during Halloween. After that night, Xander had plenty of opportunities to show if he remembered any combat skills. The only time he showed any knowledge was when he instructed on how to operate the rocket launcher he stole.
All this led her to believe that Xander might be possessed again. It was the only explanation her mind would accept for Xander's sudden ability to fight. She was sure that once they found him, they would find out what happened and figure out what to do to return Xander to normal.
Buffy's thoughts were interrupted as she was forced to stop before the open crypt door. There was a strong smell coming from inside which made her stomach turn.
She took two steps from the door. The room was dark as the only light in the room was coming from the open door.
A low growl emanated from the far corner. Buffy squinted her eyes, trying to make out the dark form across the room. "Spike?"
She tried to take a step further into the room only to lose her balance on a wet patch of floor. Her foot slid out from under her, leaving Buffy flat on her back.
Buffy twisted around, slowly raising up on her hands and knees. The smell from before was overpowering now. She lifted her hand into the slowly fading sunlight and realized what she has been smelling when she saw that her hand was covered in blood.
At the sound of a louder growl, Buffy looked up in time to see Spike charge at her from across the room. During the three seconds it would take for Spike to reach her, Buffy calmly noticed several things about the vampire.
One second passed.
As Spike was illuminated briefly by the fading sunset, Buffy could see that his face was covered in sores, especially along the jaw and neck. The hands that were now reaching for her, were smaller now as if they were just skin and bones.
Two seconds passed.
As he got closer Buffy locked eyes with Spike. She was startled to see the arrogant intelligence she usually found there was gone. The eyes coming at her were filled with a wild, almost animalistic hunger.
Three seconds passed.
Buffy felt the shriveled, bony hands close around her throat as she was roughly shoved against the wall. Because shock reigned in her mind, she wasn't fighting to free herself. In the back of her mind she was screaming at herself to knock Spike away. To defend herself. To not die.
What happened to his chip?
Buffy was snapped out of her shock when Spike jerked her head to the side, exposing her neck. She began to struggle against her captor. She felt desperately for anything that might help her.
Buffy was vaguely aware of her hand grasping for the small cross that she wears around her neck. She brought it up to Spike's face as he sank his fangs into her neck. A scream rang through the crypt and Buffy didn't know if it was Spike who was screaming or herself.