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Bad to the Bone?

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Summary: Given the power of belief on the Hellmouth, if Xander accidentally kills a major demon or two, what could the possible repercussions be?

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
BtVS/AtS Non-Crossover > Comedy > Xander-CenteredGreywizardFR18112,449528516,68820 May 0720 May 07Yes
Disclaimer: Is this really necessary? If anyone really thinks these characters belong to me, then I've got some *great* real estate investments I'd like to discuss with you. All of the Buffy characters belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, etc. I'm just borrowing them for a while. There is no intent to profit from this. Only the story is mine, and even that is negotiable.

Time frame: End of Season Two. Starts during the vampire attack on the library in ‘Becoming, Part 1’ just as Drusilla kills Kendra.

Character Bashing: None really.

Feedback: Of course! It's like food, water and air to a writer.

Archiving: Check with me first, please.

Author's Notes 1: The only thing non-canon about this story is the fact that Spike is up and about and not confined to his wheelchair any longer and everyone at the mansion knows it.

Author's Notes 2: Thanks to Lori Bush, Tim Joy, Bill Haden and Drake the Archr for beta-ing this story. Extra thanks to Tim for his suggestions about the conversation with Cordy’s folks, and to Lori for her suggestions about how to best rationalize how Xand does things.

// word // is a foreign language being translated.

{ word } is thought.

~~~

Title: Bad to the Bone?


Sunnydale High School Library
May 19, 1998


The insane vampiress swung her hand up and sliced at Kendra's throat with her razor-sharp nails and the Jamaican Slayer gasped and clutched at her neck as blood began to pour from the wound, before collapsing to the floor. Smiling in her typical sanity-impaired manner, Drusilla watched her fall and cocked her head as she looked down at her.

“Nighty-night, False Slayer. No tea and cookies for you,” she said as she kissed the air above her and turned back to her accomplices.

“Let's get what we came for, dears. Daddy is waiting for us to bring the party favors.”

As two minions began heading over towards the unconscious Watcher and another moved in the direction of the similarly insensible redheaded schoolgirl, a raspy voice was suddenly heard.

“Touch them and I’ll dust your ass, you crazy bitch.”

Xander belatedly realized that he had once again reflexively spoken out of turn when the giggling undead nutjob turned her head towards him.

“Oh, it’s my kitten,” Drusilla cooed as she glided over to the side of the library and smiled down at the dark-haired youth struggling to pull himself out of the fragmented shelving in which he lay after being thrown across the room.

All of the subordinate vampires stopped what they were doing, smiling with anticipation as they waited and watched to see what their boss’s looney-toon mistress would do to the blood bag foolish enough to talk to her in such a disrespectful manner. They’d seen what drawing the insane vampiress’ ire had gotten some of their more unfortunate, and now dusty, compatriots, and they were all wondering exactly what she’d do to this mere mortal.

“Bad kittens should be punished,” she announced as she frowned at him. “Tie them up in a sack and toss them in the river. That’s what they do with unwanted kitty cats.”

“You are completely frigging nuts,” Xander said as he stared up at the undead brunette, then blanched as he suddenly realized that he had announced that evaluation out loud, too.

The vampiress’ frown deepened and the only still conscious Scooby began trying to scramble backwards, away from the clearly angry bloodsucker.

In his hurry to escape Dru’s wrath, Xander jarred a piece of broken shelving loose and it began toppling forward, at exactly the same time that the insane Seer lunged forward to grab his throat.

Thanks to the vagaries of fate, the trajectories of both objects coincidentally intersected, the jagged end of the shelf impacting on Drusilla’s breast and allowing it to pierce the ivory skin and drive through her unbeating heart as though following a well-oiled channel.

Less than a half-second after she began moving towards Xander, Drusilla’s centuries old body was a handful of dust drifting down into the face of the seventeen year old who stared with unbelieving eyes at the empty spot in front of him before sneezing as he tried to figure out what had just happened.

***

Even as he tried to encompass the mind-numbing revelation that Drusilla was now dust, Xander thrashed around frantically, trying to free himself of the debris he lay in, realizing that his friends were all lying unconscious and unprotected on the floor and Kendra was bleeding out with three of Drusilla’s bloodsucking gofers still standing a bare dozen feet away.

He had to get free.

Had to get between the fang faces and his friends, to protect them.

Even as he wearily forced himself to his feet, frowning with the effort as innumerable aches and pains made themselves known, he saw all three vamps stare in his direction, goggle-eyed, before one of them suddenly yelled “Oh shit! Run!” and they all took off at top speed in various directions.

He instantly spun around, attempting to look in all directions at once while trying to determine exactly what it was that had terrified the vamps so much that they had run off before taking the opportunity to attack any of the helpless victims trapped here with them.

He knew it couldn’t be Buffy, since she was much too into the quippage to attack before saying something first, even if it was just along the lines of warning them she was going to dust their asses. But try as he might, he couldn’t see any sign of whatever it was that had scared the suckheads off, so he took advantage of their unexpected departure and called for an ambulance for his injured friends.

***

Just as disbelieving of the events that had just occurred as Xander were Drusilla's three remaining minions, who stood frozen where they were, stunned by the impossibility they'd just witnessed, their minds trying to encompass what they believed they had just seen: a centuries old vampire had been threatened by a mere adolescent, had moved to attack him while he lay helpless on the floor of the library, and was now only a scattering of dust on that same library flooring.

Sudden movement refocused the demons’ attention and they saw the youth shoving himself to his feet, a look of raging insanity in his eyes as he glanced in their direction, and the eldest among them abruptly realized that he stood absolutely no chance against anyone who could take down a monster like Drusilla.

The best he could possibly hope for in this situation was that he might conceivably escape if that bloodthirsty maniac could be distracted, so he yelled “Oh shit! Run!” and then, when the other two took off, heading out the main doors of the library, took advantage of the momentary diversion to dive out the nearest window and run as fast as he could back to the mansion.

~~~

Restful Pines Cemetery
Sunnydale, CA


A completely focused blonde Slayer slammed her foot against Angelus’ chest, and he flew back through the door, crashing to the ground and rolling a dozen feet before finally coming to a stop as he collided with the wall of a nearby mausoleum. Buffy immediately leaped forward and her sword slashed downward, blade scything towards her former lover's neck, but the dark-haired vampire's sword managed to somehow parry her blow – barely – and he quickly rolled to his feet and stepped back, away from his seemingly implacable foe.

The following series of lightning-quick attacks and parries blurred the air as each tried to draw the other into an irreparable mistake they might use to their own advantage. Angelus missed a block and Buffy’s blade instantly snapped out and sliced completely through his forearm, the sword and the hand holding it both dropping to the ground.

As her demonic opponent reflexively grabbed at the stolen blood spurting from the abruptly amputated limb, Buffy kicked him in the groin, and as he started to curl forwards, swung her blade in another devastating arc that cleaved his head from his shoulders.

Staring blankly at the drifting motes of dust that now filled the evening air, the full realization of what she'd just done hit her, and Buffy fell to her knees on the grass as her muffled cries of anguish and loss filled the air.

~~~

"Goddamned bleedin' wanker! I'll rip his eyes out! I'll skin him alive and feed him bits of his flesh, piece by piece! He'll be beggin', pleading with me to kill him long before I'm done with him!"

Spike's drunken ranting filled the early evening skies as he paused to gulp down another quarter of the blood-spiked rotgut gin he'd grabbed on his way out of Willie's to go look for the bloody thrice-damned fool who'd killed his Dark Princess.

Who the hell did this Harris wanker think he was, anyway, laying his filthy hands on his darling Dru? He was gonna rip the little bastard's balls off and make him eat them like grapes, he decided as he made his way towards the warehouse where his poofy grandsire had decided it wasn't safe enough to stay any longer after he'd gone and killed the gypsy bitch.

That was where the pair of minions who'd informed him of his Dark Princess's demise had said some of their fellows had agreed to meet, and he had need of a handful of them, to help him locate Harris so that he could spend the next several weeks slowly torturing the killer of his beloved to a well-deserved death.

It was a damn shame he'd gone and lost his temper and just reflexively dusted the two who'd found him and told him of the events in the library, 'cause with the more minions around to help, the faster he'd be able to locate the little bugger and the sooner he'd be able to start listening to his screams of anguish!

He paused again to finish draining the bottle, drunkenly splattering about half the remaining contents over himself as he did so, before tossing the empty container off to the side of the road as he made his way to their old lair.

He smiled to himself as he envisioned the screams and pleas for mercy he'd soon be hearing as he worked his own magic on the mortal who'd murdered his precious darling.

~~~

Xander carefully (and painfully) peeked around the corner of the deserted warehouse's shipping office after cautiously making his way across the parking lot, alert for any sign of vamps, demons or, more hopefully, a tiny blonde Slayer. Inside, he was seething at being helpless to save Kendra – the only thing he’d accomplished was not to let her die alone. And while he knew from Giles that that in itself was a rarity – for a slayer to die being held by a friend – he still counted it as a defeat.

He'd checked the mansion as soon as he could after seeing to his still living friends' safety at the hospital and although he'd found enough dust to account for several vampires, he'd found no sign, whatsoever, of the missing Chosen One.

Knowing of his friend's tendency to work off her frustrations and emotional upsets by beating the hell out of any demons or vampires she might run across, he'd begun working his way around town, checking out various known demon haunts, in the hopes that he might run across her.

{ Nope, no sign of the Buffinator. Just your usual collection of bloodsucking assholes, } he nodded to himself as he caught sight of a half-dozen vamps hanging around inside the abandoned building.

"Ah! There you are! Just the bloody bastard I've been looking for!" he heard an English accent announce at the same moment he felt a hand grab hold of his shoulder.

The next thing he knew he was flying through the air, to slam down on the dirty concrete floor a dozen feet away, sliding across the slick, oil-and-grease-splattered floor to crash into one of the vacant work tables and scatter its contents onto the floor next to him. A half-filled can of oil spilled off the tabletop and onto the floor, splattering his shirt and the cast covering his broken arm.

"You're the one who killed my Dru, you friggin' wanker!" he heard Spike yelling as the vamp drunkenly lurched across the intervening space separating them, an angry and anguished expression on his face.

"Uh, yeah. Sorry about that?" Xander managed to squeak as he tried to scramble back to his feet while also trying to put as much distance between them as possible, only to run out of room to retreat when he almost immediately backed up against the wall.

"I'm gonna rip out your eyeballs, boy!" the bleached-blond vampire loudly declared as he continued advancing on the clearly worried teen. "I'm gonna pluck 'em out and make you eat them like grapes!"

Across the building, the half-dozen minions present stood a safe distance away and gratefully watched with gleeful anticipation, glad to see that the current head of their nest had found the one responsible for the loss of his paramour on whom he could vent his wrath, assuring them of their own safety.

Seeing his prey cornered with no way to escape, Spike paused in his rant for a moment to gracelessly pull a cigarette out of its pack and put it in his mouth, then fumblingly searched his pockets for a minute, a befuddled expression on his face, before finally locating and producing a Bic lighter.

Stepping forward as he tried to light his cigarette, Spike's drunken state caused him to misstep as his foot hit the oil spill and he slipped forward, falling atop the youth in front of him, his lighter accidentally igniting the oil droplets on Xander's shirt as he fell.

Shrieking in fear as he saw his shirt catch fire, Xander reflexively shoved Spike away from him, to slip and totter awkwardly on the slick floor behind him.

"Get away from me!" he yelled while he frantically tore the shirt off, then tossed it away from him in a panic as quickly and forcefully as he could.

Regrettably for Spike, however, the arc of the hastily thrown flaming shirt ended up catching the vampire square in the face as he was drunkenly trying to regain his balance and the small flames instantly ignited the only partially-dried liquor stains on the upper half of his coat, letting him understand for the briefest instant of time exactly how a marshmallow held too close to the fire felt as it ignited.

***

The minions who had been viewing the confrontation with such enjoyment a moment earlier were struck speechless as they watched the teen they had originally viewed as nothing but a potential future snack fight back with unexpected ferocity when their boss grabbed him, easily tossing his assailant away from him before pulling off his shirt, setting fire to it with just a gesture and then nonchalantly tossing it at his assailant.

The fiery garment must have carried some sort of enchantment, the minions decided later when discussing what they had seen, since it wrapped itself tightly around Spike's face and neck, not giving him the opportunity to pull it away before he was consumed in a blazing column of flame that didn't even leave the normal pile of ashes behind it.

At that moment, after seeing the fate of one so much more vicious and cruel than they could ever aspire to be, they looked at each other with mixed dismay and terror on their faces, then turned and fled as quickly as they could manage, diving down the various sewer system access tunnels, none of them wanting to be the focus of attention of the human who had just managed to kill two of the three remaining members of the infamous Scourge of Europe in less than two hours with more casual abandon than they had ever seen displayed.

“Just what we needed,” one vampire witness later complained in a overcrowded demon bar in Los Angeles, “another damn Van Helsing or Ash Williams.”

***

Xander had absolutely no idea why the various minions who had been watching Spike beat the hell out of him all took off, but he wasn't about to complain.

Nope, not even a little.

Right now, his entire body was feeling as if Buffy had been using him as a practice dummy on a day when she was PMS-ing and in desperate need of a triple-strength chocolate fix, so any reason to avoid getting beaten into the ground by a random assortment of vamp minions was perfectly acceptable to him.

The first thing he had to do after getting to his room, though, was find that extra-large bottle of extra-strength aspirin he'd gotten from the Quickie-Mart last week and swallow about half of them. Then, after changing out of his grease-covered clothes, he'd stop by the hospital to check and see how the other guys were doing after that attack the loony-tune had led against the library this afternoon.

After that, he'd have to go looking for Buffy. Since the world obviously hadn't ended yet, that probably meant that she was okay and that, hopefully, Angelus’ dust was now scattered in a fine film across the grass of the graveyard where he'd been supposed to meet her, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to rest tonight if he didn't at least go out and check for her.

Sighing with a combination of fatigue and discomfort, he pushed himself away from the warehouse wall he'd been slumping against, and began making his way back to his parents' house.

~~~

Sunnydale High School
The following morning


Xander joined Giles at the school entrance and they moved together to meet Oz as he pushed Willow in her wheelchair through the gate into the quadrangle. He also noticed that Giles was still moving a bit unsteadily, despite the fact that the ER staff had assured him and Cordelia that the Englishman was in good enough condition to be discharged.

“Willow, are you sure you should be out of bed?” Giles inquired, an expression of concern on his face as he looked at her.

“Look who's talking, Mr. Staggering-person,” the redhead managed to summon up a wan smile as she looked up at their mentor.

“Indeed,” Giles smiled back at her.

“Any word on Buffy?” Cordelia asked, the slightly worried expression on her face seemingly at odds with her image as the imperturbable campus queen.

“None of you guys have seen her either?” Xander asked, clearly concerned at hearing the cheerleader’s question.

“Uh-uh,” Willow shook her head. “Nobody’s seen any sign of her. Her Mom called me this morning to ask if she stayed with me last night.”

“We, uh, Xander and I, uh, checked the, the graveyard where she was to meet with Angelus last night, and found signs of a struggle, but otherwise, nothing,” Giles stated a bit uncertainly.

“Well, maybe she had to kill him and she’s lying low because she’s upset,” Cordy suggested.

“Well, then, she'd definitely wanna be alone, I guess,” Oz agreed.

“Well, she's gotta show up sooner or later. We still have school,” Cordy pointed out.

“Yeah,” Willow agreed as she looked around. “She'll be here in a while.”

The group then turned and headed into the main building, none of them noticing the tiny blonde figure half-concealed behind one of the large trees lining the street and watching them.

Once they’d disappeared inside the school, Buffy shook her head sadly and turned away, heading the opposite way down the street to the bus terminal.

~~~

School library
A few minutes later


“WERE YOU COMPLETELY INSANE?”

To an outside observer, Willow and Cordelia’s questions might seem as though they had been carefully choreographed, considering the way both their words and the volume level of their yells corresponded so closely.

“OR WERE YOU BRAIN DAMAGED AT THE SAME TIME YOU BROKE YOUR ARM?”

Xander merely sighed as he realized, when he saw the matching scowls being worn by two of the four most important women in his young life (and thank god, Buffy and Mrs. Summers weren't here to complete the set and join in!), that he was in far deeper trouble than he had originally anticipated he’d be in after informing his fellow Scoobies of the events that had befallen him the previous day during and after Drusilla’s raid on the library.

On the plus side, though, he also realized, with the faintest stirrings of pride, that he’d actually managed to produce an expression on Oz’s face. The fact that it was a barely perceptible elevation of his left eyebrow that an outsider might easily have missed did nothing to mute the satisfaction he felt at his achievement. After all, accomplishing such a feat was pretty much the equivalent of having Bill Clinton admit to Mike Wallace on national TV that, yes, it was entirely possible that he “actually did have sexual relations with that woman. And that one. And that one. And that one…”

Turning to face their mentor, Xander found Giles also staring at him with a look of stunned incredulity etched on his features.

“I must admit that, for once, I find myself in complete accord with both Willow and Cordelia's sentiments, Xander,” the Watcher stated as he shook his head as though in rejection of what he had just heard.

"For you to have confronted both Spike and Drusilla within the span of several hours and survived relatively unscathed beggars the imagination," he then went on. “They had three –" he stopped and looked sadly at the remains of blood on the floor and then went on, “four Slayers between them.”

"And when one further contemplates the likelihood of your then having somehow managed to successfully destroy each demon in the aforementioned encounters, I must confess, I – I simply cannot even begin to envisage the words necessary to describe the magnitude of such an accomplishment," he said, as he stared at the young man sitting across the table from him looking back at him with a somewhat uncomprehending expression on his face.

"To say you were incredibly lucky to survive is somewhat akin to saying that vampires react badly to sunlight," Giles then said, in an effort to translate the magnitude of the youth's achievements into terms more familiar to him.

"Oh. Okay," Xander then nodded at him in agreement. "But I had kinda already figured that out."

"Wow. He must be related to Einstein,” Cordelia could be heard snarking off to the side, but Xander wisely decided to forego any response, especially after hearing Willow snickering and enthusiastically agreeing with the sharp-tongued brunette’s not very flattering additional comments that followed.

After all, he had made it out alive and relatively unscathed after tangling with both Spike and Drusilla; he wasn’t about to push his luck any further, particularly when he considered the very real possibility of Cordy and Willow teaming up and making his life hell, since they both were still clearly upset with him for his behavior the previous day.

~~~

The school corridor
A short while later


Ah, yes, there was absolutely nothing at all in the world quite as delightful as the wonders of modern pharmacology, Xander decided as he wandered down the hall in a euphoric pain-free cloud of numbness.

He smiled to himself as he remembered the fierce hug Cordy had given him once the two of them had gotten a little 'alone time' back in the stacks after she and Willow had finally tired and run out of breath berating him for his actions the previous day.

And while he had tried to return the hug and the equally passionate kiss that had accompanied it with just as much enthusiasm, she had noticed the slight wince he'd involuntarily made as his battered ribs had protested the extra pressure. After hearing his explanation for his reticence, the little white Demerol tablet – one of her mother’s – she'd then produced from her purse and insisted that he take to offset the pain had done a wonderful job of relieving the throbbing ache of his ribs, and he'd spent the next ten minutes before their next class demonstrating to the beautiful and statuesque brunette that he really was okay, and that he was feeling better with every passing moment.

Of course, the fact that Willow had also noticed his stiff walk and obvious discomfort as he guided her wheelchair to class and had offered him one of the Tylenol with Codeine tablets she'd been prescribed by the ER staff the previous evening – which he had gratefully accepted in order to get rid of the remaining minor aches and twinges he was still feeling – probably had something to do with the really fantastic way he was feeling, too.

In any event, he was completely sure that there was absolutely nothing that could mess up the wonderful way he was feeling, right now – not even something like encountering the little troll with the Napoleonic complex that the school board had inflicted on the student body after Principal Flutie had had his ‘unfortunate encounter with wild dogs.’

Speaking of which –

“Harris! What are you doing here? After seeing the mess you and the other members of Summers’ little group of juvenile delinquents made of the library yesterday, I didn’t think any of you would have the nerve to show your faces around here!”

That snarling, unpleasant little bark couldn’t belong to anyone other than that misanthropic dwarf they were forced to put up with in lieu of a real principal, or even a human being. Why they had hired someone like that to run the school when there had to be plenty of other qualified candidates was a puzzle he'd have to remember to check into later.

“Ah, Principal Snyder,” he said as he turned to look down at the ‘horrid little man’ as he’d once heard Mrs. Summers refer to him, “I thought I’d heard your droning little whine.”

Absently noting the wide-eyed expressions on the other students filling the hallway as he answered, he decided that there really wasn’t any better time to let the little troll know exactly what he thought of him and his overbearing and dictatorial manner.

“You know, now that you’re here, maybe you can answer a question that‘s been bugging me for a while now. Like ever since you showed up, actually,” he further clarified his remark. “I‘ve always wondered how it’s possible for someone who’s so completely and totally unsuitable to interact with students managed to get hired as the principal of our school.

“Are you related to someone really important like the President of the United States and the Board hired you as a favor to him, or are you blackmailing some of the members of the school board with something like pictures of some of them having relations with under-aged goats or something?” he asked, focusing his attention on the wide-eyed and red-faced gnome in front of him and ignoring as currently irrelevant the shocked gasps and delighted snickers coming from some of his fellow classmates as they all listened in.

Judging by the fact that his face was so red he was approximating the color of a well-ripened tomato, Snyder looked as though he might be about to suffer a stroke, Xander reflected idly as he waited for an answer. Or maybe an aneurism, if they were lucky.

The little goblin was practically frothing at the mouth and spittle was flying haphazardly through the air around him as he tried several times to sputter a nigh-incoherent reply, before finally managing to scream, “THAT’S IT! GET OUT OF MY SCHOOL! YOU’RE EXPELLED, HARRIS!”

“Okay. That's fine with me,” Xander shrugged negligently, as he turned to head on home; he was kinda tired anyway, so he could use the time he would normally be in class to catch up on his rest.

“But you never did answer any of my questions.”

***

“Oh my god! I would never have believed that Harris would ever actually come out and say anything like that to that little troll!” Harmony declared authoritatively to anyone who would listen, once she was certain that Snyder had moved out of hearing distance. “He might be a complete dork, and his fashion sense has got to be worse than even a blind person with no sense of taste could ever have, but that‘s gotta be one of the bravest things I’ve ever seen anyone ever do!”

The frenzied buzz of the various conversations going on around her indicated that pretty much everyone else who had witnessed the mini-confrontation between the Troll and Harris agreed with her unreservedly, the cheerleader was pleased to note as she turned to head off to class.

It was always good to see that people listened and paid attention to what she had to say.

***

“Damn! That guy’s got a lot more stones than I ever would have believed he had, talking to the little hobgoblin like that,” the hulking crew-cut fullback commented to his friends as he watched the somewhat one-sided conversation between the dark-haired Scooby and their school's principal.

"What do you think, Jack? Does Harris really have balls the size of watermelons, or is he just plain stupid or crazy?" Bob Marston asked his companion as the two of them watched the guy who had just publicly humiliated their principal in the presence of several dozen students nonchalantly walk out the front doors.

"I don't think he's stupid or crazy, Bob," Jack O'Toole replied quietly as he frowned and kept a worried eye on the departing figure. "I think the little troll might have gotten off lucky, if even half of what I heard my Gramps talking about what happened last night is true," he said as he turned to face the bigger man.

"According to the word down at Willy's place, Harris killed two of the baddest-ass vampires in town last night all by himself because they were threatening his friends and he got pissed off at them," he informed his friend, a serious expression on his face as he spoke.

"Some Polgara demon said that one of her minions told her that that nutjob vampire, Drusilla, was chasing after that nerd Rosenberg, and that when Harris heard about it, he went after her, found her in the school library and staked her, easy as one-two-three, even after she managed to break his arm first," he recounted the story he'd heard his grandfather repeating on the phone to some of his out-of-town contacts. "And then, once he was finished dusting her, he went hunting for her child, Spike, who's another *real* bad-ass vamp.

"Probably so he could get him before he heard about him killing Drusilla and be on his guard, I guess," he hypothesized. "Anyway, when he finally did find this Spike guy, he used magic to set him on fire just as soon as he saw him."

"*Harris* did that? You're shitting me, right, man?" Bob gaped in disbelief at that statement.

"Nope, not in the least, big guy," O'Toole shook his head negatively. "Tell Dickie and Parker I want all of you guys to stay out of Harris' way, and out of all of his friends' way, too.

"I don't want to mess with a fire mage who deliberately goes hunting after bad-ass century-plus old vamps who piss him off," he stated firmly. "Gramps has been working his mojo for a couple dozen years now, and he still won't mess with any bloodsucker if he can help it.

"Ain't no way I’m gonna tangle with someone who deliberately goes chasing after things Gramps goes out of his way to avoid."

~~~

Later that evening


"So, Ronald, what's this I hear about you and young Mr. Harris having some type of altercation at the school this afternoon?" Mayor Wilkins inquired in his normal jovial tone.

"That unrepentant and incorrigible delinquent was extremely disrespectful and insolent when I stopped him in the hallway to speak with him this morning, sir," the principal replied in an extremely respectful voice. "After hearing what he said to me, I had no choice but to expel him."

"Oh my, Ronald, that's not at all what I was hoping to hear," Wilkins immediately replied. "On any number of fronts, I must add. And expulsion? That's an extremely harsh response for what was almost certainly a misunderstanding. I'm sure that the lad wasn't intentionally disrespectful; he probably just misspoke in his nervousness.

"He'll probably apologize once he sees you again in the morning."

"That boy is not going to step foot in my school ever again, sir. Some things simply cannot be permitted."

"Nonsense, Ronald. I'm sure that if you give it some thought, you'll see that you overreacted in the heat of the moment."

"With all due respect, sir –"

"No, my boy, I regret having to interfere in what would normally be your purview, but I think that it's best for everyone if we continue to allow young Mr. Harris to continue to attend his normal classes," the Mayor interrupted, the steel in his voice clearly evident through the genial façade he normally offered to his public.

"It's much easier to keep an eye on any potential disturbances if one knows where they should be during the course of the day, don't you agree?"

"Uh, yes sir. You're completely right, sir. I probably did overreact to the situation."

Had anyone been present to witness Snyder's end of the conversation, they would have seen the beet-red face and the teeth-grinding clenched jaw of the little dictator as he acquiesced to his superior's instructions.

"I'll make sure that Harris knows his expulsion has been rescinded first thing in the morning, sir."

"Excellent, Ronald. I knew I could count on you to be reasonable. Well, good night, then."

"Good night, sir."

~~~

Sunnydale High School Library
May 20, 1998


"Giles, is there any way you can check and see if there's some kind of spell or mind control or compulsion charm or something like that on Principal Snyder?" Willow asked as Xander guided her wheelchair into the library.

"Yeah, Big G, what she said,” Xander chimed in, indicating the hacker with a nod of his head. “And while you're doing that, is there any way you can check and see if he's really human, too?"

"What on earth are you two talking about?" The Watcher asked as he looked up from his examination of an ancient Abyssinian analysis of an even more ancient Sumerian text.

"Well, according to everyone in the school that I talked to yesterday, Xander kinda got expelled by Snyder yesterday for asking him some really embarrassing questions in front of a bunch of the students," Willow immediately declared while concurrently giving her childhood friend her own personal version of the 'evil eye.'

"Which is something I don’t remember doing at all, Giles," Xander emphatically declared as he tried not to cringe from the redhead's disapproving glare.

"I'm thinking that maybe I was under some sort of spell or something," he added as firmly as he could a potential explanation for his uncharacteristically civil behavior.

"Or, it's also remotely possible that it might have had something to do with the pain killers Wills and Cordy gave me," he added a moment later in a much quieter voice in response to the looks his companions were giving him.

"In any event, Giles, Xander got expelled yesterday, and when he came in with me this morning to grovel and try to get himself readmitted to class, we met Snyder in the front lobby and before Xander could say anything, Snyder actually apologized to *him* for overreacting yesterday and told him he had already rescinded the suspension, and was actually – well, not pleasant, but totally not completely and thoroughly denigrating and insulting when he said it," Willow then informed the befuddled Englishman who had been listening to their semi-garbled explanation with increasing incredulity.

"What she said," Xander chimed in again with an affirmative nod towards the redhead. "And that's the reason why we think that aliens or demons have substituted a pod-person for him."

"If what the two of you are telling me is accurate, I would agree there is an extremely strong possibility that one or more of your assumptions may be correct," Giles told them after a moment's consideration.

"I'll begin checking immediately."

***

"I couldn’t believe it when I heard it, but *Snyder* actually apologized to *Harris* for trying to expel him!" Aphrodisia whispered to Aura during a momentary lull in their History class.

"Oh my god! I'll bet he must have heard Jack O'Toole talking in the corridor about Harris going after those gang members who beat up Rosenberg and that new exchange student who was murdered in the library yesterday," the brunette whispered back. "He must really be worried about something like that happening again and wants to have someone around who can fight them off!"

"No wonder Cordelia's been acting so nice to Harris the past few weeks – she realized that it's a whole lot safer dating someone who can protect you from people like that," the honey-blonde theorized. "I always knew she was smart; this is just further proof of how smart she is!

"Wait 'til I tell Harmony about this!"

***

Later that day


"So, according to what I heard, Harris actually picked up the troll by his shirt collar and told him that if he didn’t let him back in class, he'd rip his head off and use it for a bowling ball," Mitch informed his teammates as they began to get changed for practice. "Just like he did to those guys who attacked the library."

"Uh-uh, you're totally wrong about that, man," Percy authoritatively contradicted the third-baseman. "What I heard from Harmony at lunch, who said she got the inside information from Aura who said she heard Aphrodisia saying she had overheard Cordy and Willow Rosenberg talking about it during science class, was that after hearing about Harris taking out two of the leaders of one of those gangs that are always causing all the trouble in town, Snyder called Harris up last night and begged him to come back, to help protect all of us students in case they ever show up again."

"Man, if he's going after people like that and beating them up, he must be one hell of a fighter! I bet he's like those guys on those TV shows, 'Martial Law' and 'Walker, Texas Ranger'!" Blaine chimed in. "He's probably even better than that Chuck Norris guy is.

“And maybe even better than Bruce Lee was, too!"

"Yeah, and I bet he's been hiding the fact about just how good he is so that no one would ever suspect him," one of the other team members chimed in. "That whole goofball thing he does has been an act so no one would ever figure out what a badass he really is!"

“I think he’s a superhero like Longshot,” Andrew Welles chimed in from where he had sitting quietly off to the side of the locker room, having just finished his last class of the day, Phys Ed.

“He’s one of the X-Men,” he went on to elaborate, seeing the questioning looks and the lack of recognition in the others’ eyes at his comment. “You know, a mutant superhero. He’s not only a tremendous fighter, but he’s got the superpower of good luck, too, so that things always work out right for him when he’s in a fight and stuff.”

"That makes a whole lot of sense," Percy agreed after hearing the younger comic book geek’s explanation. "That probably also explains why Cordy started going out with him in the first place.

"You know how she always goes first class," he reminded his teammates, "so he must be a *really* good fighter. I'll bet she must have seen him in action – maybe he rescued her from a gang attack or something like that. And anyone she goes out with is one lucky dude, anyway."

"Wow! Can you imagine – all this time we've been thinking he's just some goofball, and he's really been keeping everyone here in the school safe," someone else piped in, the wonder in their voice clearly evident to everyone present.

"Well, if he's been acting like that and trying to keep what he does secret, he must have a really good reason for doing that, so I don’t think we should be telling anyone else what we just figured out, guys," Percy reasonably pointed out after a moment's thought.

There was a general mutter of assent from the rest of the team as everyone agreed to remain silent about the conclusions they'd all come to, and then headed out to their next class.

Needless to say, by the time school let out that afternoon, virtually the entire student body knew that Xander Harris had appointed himself as the protector of their school.

~~~

As had been demonstrated earlier the previous year with the case of Marci Ross, reality can be altered and reshaped by the perception and belief of those beings witnessing a phenomenon, especially when the mystical energy given off by the Hellmouth permeates its surroundings.

The more people who believe something to be true, the stronger the effect on their local reality becomes. The greater and more evident the effect on reality, the stronger belief becomes, thus forming a never-ending, self-reinforcing cycle.

Xander Harris was about to discover some of the possible effects of that particular perception.

~~~

Sunnydale High School Library
May 22, 1998


"It was so incredibly weird, Giles! One minute, the vamps are attacking and we’re all trying to do our best to not get knocked out or killed immediately, and the next – Wham! Xander is suddenly leaping around and beating the snot out of six of them, just like Buffy would!"

"The twenty foot diameter fireball incinerating those last two vamps running away seemed like it might have been a little bit of overkill," Oz noted a bit dryly.

"But that's really just my personal opinion."

The pair's description of what had transpired while the two of them and Xander had been on patrol earlier had the Watcher as spellbound as though he had been literally enchanted. He ignored the anxious inquiries Cordy was directing to her current paramour regarding any possible injuries and his current state of health, except as it might concern possible explanations for the unexpected events of the evening as he sought more detailed information.

"You say, you didn't feel any significant differences after this sudden display of martial arts skills and apparently spontaneous spellcasting than you did immediately subsequent to it, Xander?" he inquired, his brow furrowed with concentration as he considered the situation.

"No, not all that much, Giles," Xander shook his head negatively. "I was just getting smacked around by a couple newbie bloodsuckers the same way I usually do on patrol when all of a sudden, bam! I realized that these guys were being real sloppy with their techniques!"

He shrugged, a puzzled look on his face as he reevaluated his memories and went on to explain in greater detail.

"I was looking at this vamp who's trying to pound me into the ground and I saw that he was leaving his left side open, so I just reflexively did a roundhouse kick up under his arm and broke his floating ribs," he stated matter-of-factly, "and then I stepped in, reached out and pulled him forward because he was way off-balance, and I just slid my stake into his heart and then turned to go after the next closest vamp to me."

"He moved as though he'd been doing that sort of thing for years, Giles," Oz broke his normal monosyllabic state to provide his own evaluation of what he had seen. "I know a couple of people who’ve been practicing tai chi and kung fu for upwards of twenty years, and he reminded me of the way they move – fluid and graceful, without seeming to expend any effort at all.

"I think he might be moving faster than a normal human can, too," he added before dropping back into his more usual laconic status.

"Fascinating," Giles murmured unconsciously, as he stared at the young man who was the current subject of discussion. "Would you have any inkling of what, exactly, might have been the impetus for your sudden conjuration of the fireball Oz mentioned earlier?" he then inquired.

"Well, Oz was checking Wills to make sure she was okay after one of those leeches knocked her down, and I had just finished staking the one I was fighting when I saw the last two take off out of there," Xander explained, a look of introspection on his face as he recalled the evening's earlier events.

"And I was really kinda pissed at them for attacking us and I remember that I was wishing I had something to throw at them, 'cause I was all out of stakes," he noted, "when, all of a sudden, it sort of felt like a snowball or something got dropped into my hand and when I looked down, I could see this blue ball of fire sitting in my hand, but it wasn't burning me or anything.

"And I just had this feeling like should throw it at them, so I did and when it hit behind them, it just sorta exploded and then both of them went poof!" he continued as he threw out his hands in a gesture as if to demonstrate the type of explosion that had occurred.

"This is fascinating! We'll have to do some tests on the morrow, and see what, if any, changes we can determine have occurred in you, lad, and see exactly what degree of control you might possess over these fireballs you apparently conjured," Giles decided, a look of intense curiosity on his face. "But first, tonight, we'll need to check my books to see if there are any records of anything similar ever happening to anyone."

"Why am I not surprised to hear you say something like that, Giles?" Xander groaned as he reluctantly accepted the rather large pile of antiquated texts Willow handed him.

"And you're enjoying this entirely too much, too, Wills," he observed with a sour expression as she settled down at the research table with both a smile and her own even larger stack of books.

"Oh. You're just grumpy because you couldn't find any more vamps to fry, Xand," the redhead informed him with a beaming expression. "C'mon, don’t be a poopy-head. Research can be fun!"

"You know, Doofus, if you can make little fireballs, instead of a real big one like you did tonight, it'll make helping start that barbeque my parents have got planned for next weekend a lot easier," Cordy commented, a thoughtful expression on her face.

Seeing the incredulous and disbelieving expressions her companions all wore upon hearing her observation, she frowned.

"What?" she demanded a bit self-consciously. "I'm just trying to find things that'll help make Mother and Daddy like you more," she semi-explained to Xander. "It's, like, you know, a reflex with them – if you don't belong to the country club like all their friends do, they think there's something wrong with you.

"I'm just trying to find ways to show them they're wrong, that's all."

~~~

Willie's Alibi Room
May 29, 1998


"I am seeking the whereabouts of Xanderharris, the human warrior who slew the vampires Spike and Drusilla," announced the vibrantly dark purple-skinned being who resembled nothing so much as an eight foot tall melding of a gorilla's body with an anteater's head, which had then been adorned with a crown of foot-long tentacles. "I am Trask’an’moth the Ever-Victorious, and I am here to take his head back to my village as a trophy for my walls!

"Whoever can provide me with the location in which he resides will earn my appreciation and this bag of gold coins," he continued as he held up a pouch approximately the size of a large cantaloupe.

"If you quail at the thought of approaching my magnificence, then fear not, for you can speak to any of my warriors instead, inform them of my opponent's location and still claim the bounty I offer," he declared loudly, indicating several smaller, but still hulking seven-foot tall giants of similar appearance who waited quietly off to one side of the room near the door.

"Uh, excuse me, buddy, but you might want to tone your voice down a little," Willie advised as he looked over the bar top as he rinsed out several glasses. "The kid you're talking about is a personal friend of the Slayer and she gets real cranky if she hears that anyone's trying to hurt her friends."

"I do not fear the Slayer!" Trask’an’moth boomed as he slammed his fist down on the bar top, cracking the wooden counter. "In my time, I have slain three Slayers, and their Watchers, too! Their heads all decorate the walls of my home, as will the current Slayer's, should she attempt to interfere with my hunt!

"I lead the Clan Zarthan'alk'zwellain’tark, having proven myself superior in combat to any who have sought to challenge me over the course of these past seventeen decades, and I would prove myself superior to this Xanderharris that so many now speak of with fear," the newcomer's voice bellowed through the building.

"Okay," Willie shrugged indifferently. "I gave ya the standard Sunnydale visitor's warning, like I'm supposed to. You're on your own now, buddy."

"My name is Trask’an’moth and soon you and all the other inhabitants will be boasting to all of your family and acquaintances that I graced this pesthole of a town with my presence to battle your champion, Xanderharris!"

"Yeah, yeah, whatever. Now, do you want something to drink or not?"

~~~

The Chase Estate pool house
May 30, 1998


“Cordelia, dear, would you mind joining us in the pool house? Your father and I would like to have a word with you and your – boyfriend. It’ll only take a moment or two,” Xander heard Mrs. Chase say as she and her husband walked up to the two of them as they sat and watched the other teens talking, mingling and chowing down at the barbeque set up a short distance off to one side of the pool.

Seeing the way Cordy blanched at her mother’s words, Xander nodded and took hold of his girlfriend’s hand as they turned and followed them, while he began mentally preparing himself for her parents’ undoubted condemnation of their being together and their understandable forbiddance of her seeing him in the future.

“Mother, I really don’t think that us being together is –“ Cordy began a nervous, but nonetheless impassioned defense of their couple-hood, when she was interrupted by her father, who surprised both of them into silence with a genial laugh and an even more surprising declaration.

“It’s okay, Princess, you guys don’t have to keep pretending with us,” Mr. Chase told them with a wide smile as her mother watched with an equally beaming expression.

“We have a fairly good idea of what you’ve been doing here in town over the past several years, Xander, and I wanted to tell you personally just how much I appreciate everything you’ve done to protect our daughter and her friends, as well as everyone else living here,” he declared as he stuck out his hand and took a dumfounded Xander’s own hand in a firm grip.

“Now, we understand that you certainly can’t say anything one way or the other about what you’ve been doing, my boy, but we also want you to know that we have the utmost respect for you and the people who have been supporting you, too,” he went on as both Xander and Cordy stood and listened in shocked speechlessness.

“Anyone the government has working for them as an independent field agent at such a young age is quite definitely someone who knows what they’re doing and who should be respected for the professional they are,” he stated with an unshakeable air of conviction.

“And we also want you to know just how impressed we are with your own behavior, Cordelia dear,” Mrs. Chase chimed in with her own brilliant smile as her husband paused for a moment. “It takes a great deal of character and fortitude to choose to help anyone in the type of work that Xander has been doing.

“Your volunteering to act as his girlfriend in order to help flesh out his cover simply shows that you are every bit the brave, caring and compassionate person we already knew you were,” she added proudly.

As Mr. Chase put his arm around Xander’s shoulder in a comradely way while assuring the temporarily speechless teen that he would be honored to provide any form of assistance necessary, should a situation arise in which he might require it, Mrs. Chase took advantage of the opportunity to offer a piece of motherly advice.

“You know, dear, you might consider the potential advantages of actually becoming Xander’s girlfriend, in lieu of just acting like you are,” she suggested in a somewhat lower voice as she guided Cordy to a remote corner of the room. “An intelligent, talented and determined young man like that is certainly going to end up going places, and he’s going to need an equally intelligent and charming wife at his side. It wouldn’t hurt in the least for you to at give some thought as to the possibility of that woman being you.”

Any comments Xander or Cordy might have had were temporarily sidetracked by a loud commotion outside in the yard.

"Quick," Mrs. Chase said, realizing that something was happening outside that Xander would need to attend to, "you must keep up your cover. Xander, take off your shirt; Cordelia, put on Xander’s." She paused a moment and took a second look at the Hawaiian shirt he’d arrived in.

"I must say, it really is an incredible cover," she said admiringly. “No one would ever look twice at someone wearing such a horrendous shirt.” She suddenly brightened and then added, "Of course, you could always let Cordelia and I do some shopping for you, as part of your cover. After all, my daughter would definitely be interested in helping her new 'boyfriend' refine his fashion sense, and that way you could look good and still keep your cover.”

Xander decided that he'd just treat things as natural from here on in and nodded – as it seemed easier to believe that they'd simply somehow been transported to some alternate dimension than accept what the Chases were saying.

"That would be great, Mrs. Chase," he agreed, as he shrugged off his shirt.

"Those are some impressive scars you have there, son," Mr. Chase said, whistling under his breath and eyes wide with surprise as he got a closer look at Xander’s torso.

Xander shrugged. "It's all part of the job, sir," he noted as he handed his shirt to Cordelia. "So what do you think, Cordy? You are, without any doubt, the most beautiful, brave and intelligent girl I've ever met. Will you go out with me properly, and not just to help protect Sunnydale?"

Cordelia – for perhaps the first time since she was eight – blushed furiously before she nodded, while her parents beamed happily.

There were more screams from outside.

"Damn it," Xander muttered, "I can't ever get a break. Mr. Chase, Mrs. Chase, I, uh, kinda need to, well, make it look like we've been in here, uh, you know, uh, having fun..."

"Of course, dear," Mrs. Chase immediately nodded and turned her back, Mr. Chase copying her actions.

"I meant what I said," Xander whispered as he leaned in to kiss Cordelia lightly.

She shot him a look he'd never seen from her before, before she kissed him. Hard.

"Run your fingers through my hair," she muttered, "we'll make this look good."

“You always look good,” Xander murmured as he broke the kiss, just as another scream ripped through the air. Without a word, he turned, and headed towards the door to the pool area.

"We meant it, princess," Mr. Chase said to his daughter. "That young man is going to go far, and while he may have initially asked you to help out because of his job, it’s obvious he clearly does feel a lot for you."

"I think he does," Cordelia said softly, before she smiled brightly. "I'm not going to let him get away – a Chase always gets the best."

"Damn right," her father agreed with a grin.

"We're so proud of you, dear," her mother added, nodding her head in agreement.

Cordy smiled at them both and followed Xander, adjusting her shirt. That had not gone as expected, but considering what had happened over the last few weeks, it wasn't as much of a surprise as it could have been.

***

“Xanderharris, come forth and face me! I, Trask’an’moth the Ever-Victorious, challenge you to face me in single combat!” the massive plum-hued demon roared as he stepped forward onto the enormous patio abutting the pool as other smaller demons resembling him moved to surround the partygoers and prevent anyone from leaving.

“Oh good lord,” Willow heard Giles murmur to himself as everyone turned to gawk at the creatures who had invaded their annual beginning of summer celebration.

“What’s the matter, Giles?” she asked quietly as she and Oz moved to stand next to the librarian while checking out their potential opponents. “Do you know who or what that thing is?”

“Yes, Willow, I do,” the Watcher nodded, an apprehensive expression on his face as he glanced about the area, as though looking for someone or something.

“It’s a Shedim-Nach,” he explained, “a member of a demonic race who believe their primary purpose for existence is battle. Based on the most recent information available to the Council, the Shedim-Nach have been reduced through internecine warfare to but a single clan, although they still number in the thousands. They are said to be led by an extremely bloodthirsty fanatic who has continually sought out the most famous and feared warriors he could locate, for the purpose of facing and then killing them in single combat.”

“Then, for him to show up here, looking for Xander –“ the redhead began before breaking off in mid-sentence, her face paling to a pasty-white as the reason for the demon’s unexpected appearance here abruptly became apparent.

“Oh no!” she gasped as she shook her head. “He’s here to kill Xander! What can we do, Giles?” she demanded as she grabbed hold of their mentor’s arm.

Before the Englishman could say anything further, they saw Xander and Cordelia hurriedly exiting the pool house, their faces flushed, Xander topless and Cordy hurriedly buttoning and adjusting his Hawaiian shirt that she was currently wearing over her bikini, followed a moment later by her parents, both of whom were staring at the gigantic invaders with expressions of mixed disbelief and incredulity.

“What seems to be the problem here, big purple guy?” Xander asked, as he paused a few yards away from the hulking, extremely daunting-looking demon and stared up at him with a mixed quizzical/uneasy expression. “What was it you wanted to talk to me about?”

“I do not wish to talk to you, Xanderharris!” Trask’an’moth roared indignantly. “I wish to face you in single combat for the purpose of defeating you and taking your head as a trophy to hang on the wall among the other prizes I have won!’

“Uh, sorry, Charlie, but my schedule’s kinda full right now,” Xander shook his head in reflexive disagreement at hearing that statement. “How about you come back in a couple months and we get our people together, do lunch and talk about inking in a date for later in the year, okay?”

“NO!” the outraged monstrosity bellowed with outrage. “I will not be insulted and told to wait for a time when I might battle you, as though I were some unblooded adolescent unworthy of challenging you!

“If you do not wish to fight me now, then I will slaughter all these cattle present who have witnessed you insulting me!” he declared pompously.

“Warriors! Attend my commands!” he turned his head and called over his shoulder to the troops he’d brought with him.

“Hold on there a minute, tall, dark and ugly,” Xander called back, holding up a hand as he frowned reflexively upon hearing his friends and other innocent bystanders being threatened. “If I agree to fight you here and now, do you swear to leave these people alone and not bother anyone else here?”

“Yes, Xanderharris. If you fight me now, then these cattle will be allowed to depart, unmolested, and return to their homes so that they can inform others of the unparalleled expertise I displayed when I defeated you,” Trask’an’moth boomed pretentiously, preening before his followers. “This I swear on my honor as Clan Head of the Zarthan'alk'zwellain’tark!”

“Xander! Are you out of your mind?!” Cordy hissed as she grabbed his arm to spin him around and face her. “That thing will kill you if you try to fight it!”

“Cordy’s right, Xand!” Willow chimed in, having uncharacteristically shoved her way through the throng of people separating them, with Giles and Oz a short distance behind as they tried to follow her. “You don’t stand a chance against that thing!”

“Hey, Giles, glad to see you made it in time for the entertainment, man,” the founding Scooby joked as he caught sight of their mentor pushing his way through the crowds surrounding them. “You gonna make my day complete and tell me that these guys are fireproof or something like that?”

“Er, unfortunately, Xander, I believe you are most likely correct,” the librarian nodded. “I do feel the need to inform you that the Shedim-Nach consider any use of magic in a personal duel of honor to be exceedingly shameful, since it can easily provide an overwhelming advantage to a contestant who does not necessarily possess any true skill at arms, something which they consider to be the only true measure of a warrior.

“Great,” Xander commented sourly. “Exactly the kind of thing that I was hoping to hear.”

“Xand! You can’t fight that thing!” Willow declared as she threw her arms around him to hug him, much as Cordy was also doing. “If you do, you’ll die!” she whispered as she pressed her face into the right side of his chest.

“She’s right, dork-head!” Cordy chimed in, her face reflecting her own surging emotions. “If you try to fight the thing, it’ll chop you up into a pile of hamburger!”

“Well, look, it’s not like I’ve got a whole lot of choices here, ladies,” Xander pointed out with a resolute expression as he held the two of the four most important women in his life. “If I don’t fight him, he’s gonna have his followers start slaughtering everyone here, and a lot of people are gonna die without a chance to get away. Maybe even you guys, and that’s not something I’m gonna let have even a chance of happening!

“Whereas, if I do fight him, then it’s only me who gets killed,” he pointed out reasonably.

“And I have to point out,” he added with a self-deprecating grin, “I definitely have at least a very, very, *very* remote chance of taking this jerk down.”

Seeing the expressions on both girls’ faces, he quickly pulled Willow tighter into their hug and pressed a gentle kiss against her forehead as he whispered to her, “I’m depending on you and Giles to help Buffy out with the Slaying when she shows up again, Will. Don’t let me down, okay?”

Not giving her a chance to respond, he let her go and then turned to pull Cordy into a tight embrace.

“Xander –“ she began, before he silenced her by tenderly placing a finger across her lips.

“No arguments, Cordy, okay? Not now,” he quietly breathed into her ear as he hugged her close to him. “There’s nothing you can say to make me change my mind.

“And like I said, it’s not like I really have much of a choice, anyway,” he pointed out, looking down into her glistening hazel eyes. “I get the definite impression that Tall, Purple and Fugly over there isn’t going to take ‘no’ for an answer.”

“Xander Harris, if you get yourself killed, I swear, I’m never going to speak to you again, you dork,” Cordy told him, her eyes looking at him with a focused intensity that made his heart beat even faster than it normally did when he looked at her.

“I promise, I’ll do my best not to let that happen, okay, Cor?” he smiled down at her a moment longer before leaning down and kissing her. Her arms locked around his neck with a surprising amount of strength and he enjoyed the sensation of her pressing herself against him as he held onto to her for a minute before reluctantly pulling away and turning and heading towards his opponent.

“Okay, Trash Can Mouth, let’s get this thing going,” he said as he headed towards his towering adversary.

“You dare mock my name, insect?!” the demon roared, his outrage at being spoken to in such a manner clearly evident to everyone present.

“Of course, I ‘dare’ mock you,” Xander replied as he looked up at the violet-colored demon with an insolent grin. “I used to mock Queen C here, back before we started going out, and she’s *way* scarier than you are,” he said as he indicated the gorgeous brunette with a nod of his head.

Cordy nodded her head reflexively at his comment as she stood next to Willow and Giles, then paused and turned to look askance at her boyfriend, as though not completely certain whether she should be flattered at that particular comment, or not.

"Very well then, human scum, pick your weapon and then come forth and die!" Trask'an'moth bellowed, clearly furious at the youth's casual disrespect, as he indicated the collection of weaponry laid out on one of the serving tables. Turning back to address his subordinates, he angrily kicked at a small table near him, scattering the various glasses, plates and utensils set atop it across the patio flagstones ringing the pool.

Examining the collection of the widely varying sized and shaped edged and blunt weapons set out before him, Xander pursed his lips and frowned, before reaching down and selecting a long, straight-bladed sword along with a smaller, shorter blade. After taking a few tentative swings to test their balance, he nodded to himself with apparent satisfaction, then turned to face his opponent.

“Okay, Trash Mouth, let’s get this done,” Xander declared as he eyed the massive demon and the near seven foot long claymore-style blade it held, as the humans and demons surrounding them moved back to provide them with room to fight.

“Prepare to die, Xanderharris!” Trask’an’moth bellowed, an instant before it lunged forward, his sword slashing downward at an angle intended to cleave his head from his shoulders.

Dodging forward and to his right under the demon’s swing, Xander slashed his own blade at his opponent’s midsection, hoping to end the confrontation with a swift disembowelment, only to have his foe take a huge step backwards and put himself out of reach.

The two warriors danced across the patio and the pool’s environs in a lethal ballet, each desiring to end the conflict as quickly as possible, only to each find that their opponent was both fast and canny enough to parry their efforts,

After several minutes of fruitless give and take that ended up with them fighting by the side of the pool, Trask’an’moth finally managed, with a sledgehammer-like blow, to knock Xander’s longsword from his hand which, considering his own size and the length of his sword, provided him with an overwhelming advantage that Xander clearly would not be able to overcome.

“Now, Xanderharris, die like the mongrel you are!” he exulted loudly, before lunging forward, his blade sweeping down in an irresistible strike.

Unfortunately for the demon, however, his lead foot landed squarely on a chicken wing slathered in a rather delicious garlic-butter sauce, part of the uneaten debris that had been strewn across the ground when he had given in to his earlier fit of pique and kicked over one of the small poolside tables, causing him to lose his balance and flail his arms in an attempt to regain his balance.

As Trask’an’moth’s foot began slipping out from beneath him, Xander took advantage of his more massive foe’s instability and darted forward to drive his short sword deeply into and then out through the side of the demon’s throat, almost completely severing Trask’an’moth’s head from his shoulders with a single stroke, and spraying the flagstones and the pool with the demon’s blood.

A disbelieving silence ruled the area for several moments after the towering demon’s corpse hit the cement, as though the pair’s involuntary audience were unable to believe what their eyes had seen.

A panting Xander Harris, chest heaving from his exertions and blood oozing from the numerous gashes he had received during the course of their duel, broke the quiet as he stood, hands braced on his knees, and looked down on his now deceased foe.

“Normally,” he gasped, “I’d say something about not getting all upset and losing your head, but I think I’ll let it pass, this time.”

An almost earsplitting cheer filled the air and the bruised and bleeding brunet found himself the center of an exultant and enthusiastically shrieking crowd at the same time two cheerfully screaming women were hugging and kissing him, in the company of an exuberant Englishman and a normally stoic, but currently smiling musician.

~~~

August 30, 1998
Sunnydale Bus Station


Buffy Summers descended the steps of the bus with care, her Slayer sense tingling faintly and giving her notice of the presence of one or more demons near the outer fringes of her sensing ability despite the town’s typically serene and quiescent appearance.

Her concern spiked instantly when she saw two *huge*, vibrantly dark purple demons, who looked like a preschooler had taken parts of a gorilla's body and combined them with an anteater's head before then sticking an octopus’ legs on top, step out of the bus depot building and head towards her and her fellow passengers.

What confused her and short-circuited her reflexive urge to attack them, however, was the exceedingly polite way they were greeting the new arrivals alighting from the various buses scattered across the parking lot.

Well, that and the fact they were wearing what looked to be some sort of official-looking black uniform-type outfits with dark scarlet and purple-y trim that were actually pretty sharp-looking and which appeared to be tailored to their clearly not-human forms, and that they were carrying clipboards in their hands, instead of the clearly-not-ceremonial swords they were currently carrying on their backs.

"Pardon me, Miss, but are you Ms. Buffysummers?"

The polite words were directed at her were still delivered by a voice that seemed to combine the harsh growl of a predator with the not-quite-beyond-the-range-of-a-human-ear screech of a bat's call, she noticed, and she reflexively nodded and acknowledged her identity to the unexpected inquiry.

The reaction she received was evidently just one more in the bunch of surprises that were apparently waiting for her upon her return home.

"Most courteous and respectful greetings to you, Lady Slayer," the seven foot tall demon standing before her said as it? – he? – she? – whatever – immediately bowed deferentially to her. "And I thank you for the honor of being the first to greet you upon your return home and the successful completion of your vision quest.

"The Warlord has directed us that we respectfully request that you grace him with the honor of your presence that he might provide you with 'an update on recent new and interesting developments here on the home front'," the demon politely continued, clearly quoting another's words. "I believe your mother, the Watchers and the other Slayer are also currently at the Warlord's residence.

"She and the Warlord's fiancée are in the process of redecorating the mansion," her escort then added, his comment cutting short the attack that she had been preparing to launch at the thought that her mother was being held hostage.

"I must say," the demon then added in what could best be described as a deferential voice, "Joyce has the most exquisite taste of any human I have ever met. She somehow managed to locate a Ming Dynasty vase that perfectly compliments the Warlord's sword collection in less than two days after first seeing the room in which it is to be displayed."

Feeling more than a little befuddled and dazed, as though she had somehow stepped through Alice's Looking Glass into Wonderland (after all, didn't demons usually immediately try to kill her – not sound as though they'd taken lessons in behavior and elocution from David Niven, while simultaneously acting as though they were honored to meet her and complimenting her mother’s taste in antiques?), Buffy nodded and quietly followed after the almost-obsequious demon.

***

Given the circumstances she'd already experienced, Buffy took it stride when the limousine she'd been riding in pulled up in front of one of the larger mansions in town, while also absently noting that it really wasn't all that far from Cordelia's family's estate.

"Your pardon, my Lord," her escort's voice boomed as she followed him inside and into what was a library probably almost as big as the one at school, "the Slayer Buffysummers has returned to town and has graciously consented to visit with you, as you requested."

As she looked around, checking for the ‘Warlord’ her escort had brought her here to meet, she was idly amused to notice that their unannounced entrance had interrupted a couple of teenagers who had been making out on one of the *huge* couches that were scattered throughout the room. She smirked to herself for a moment as the two brunettes pulled apart in semi-embarrassed surprise, before her jaw dropped in astonishment upon recognizing the two teens energetically groping each other as Xander and Cordy.

It dropped even lower when she then saw her guide bow respectfully to the young man who had been the first to volunteer his services to her the previous year after learning about the things that lurked about in the night.

"Hey, Buff, Welcome back! It's great to see you again!" Xander beamed, his face somewhat flushed as he stepped forward to greet her with an enthusiastic hug while also managing to partially block Cordy from view as the statuesque brunette hurriedly adjusted her halter-top.

"You're never gonna guess what's been happening while you were gone!"

FIN

The End

You have reached the end of "Bad to the Bone?". This story is complete.

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