Getting To Know Me
The Harris Files
Disclaimer: All characters belong to their rightful owners… Joss/Mutant Enemy; Jim Butcher is the novelist of The Dresden Files. With very few exceptions, the books and not the unfortunately-canceled television show will be the basis of this fanfic.
I strongly encourage the purchase of the books in the Dresden Files series.
Worried about a super-Xander? If you’ve read the Dresden Books, you know that Power itself isn’t everything, and sometimes very uncomfortable. And compared to others that come along in this story? Not super…just wily.
I used to live in Sunnydale all the time; in fact I grew up there. I had a couple of good but dorky friends, and an odd yet strangely satisfying verbal war with a hot brunette that ruled her popular clique with an iron hand. Who would’ve thought I’d be up to my neck more than ever once I left the Hellmouth.
Who am I? I used to be named Xander Harris, but now? Well I won’t directly give you my full name—that’s something a real ‘Practitioner’ will never do. Tends to give power over one’s self. Not a good idea.
I’m living and working in Los Angeles, now. Every so often I’ll get together with Harry when one of us has a really bad situation and we need someone at our backs we can trust. I have to say, I’m probably the only one from that night that really has to thank Ethan Rayne for everything. The slimy git does deserve a kick in the pants, and worse, but my life makes more sense. Shame I can’t play video games, watch much television or surf the ‘Net, but Magic—and yes you heard the Capital Letter—doesn’t like to interact well with electronics, or any technology too fancy for itself. Unlike Harry Dresden, I’ve adapted quite a bit, but then again, while he was learning real magic, I was with Jesse and Willow playing role-playing games and making up outrageous spells to pretend. Came in handy later, though.
Might as well start at the beginning—yeah, go ahead and smile at that—it IS the best place to start, and Halloween 1997 for this story is that beginning.
I was in Ethan’s store, looking for some kind of Indiana Jones or vampire hunter kind of cool costume, but only found bits and pieces for them—all together hanging up in back next to what I at first thought was one of those ‘rain sticks’ you see at tourist traps? Don’t know what one is? Huh…Imagine a tube with little beans in it, maybe only five or ten percent full but not heavy at all. With me so far? Good. Now, take it, and simply turn it up and over slowly in the air, letting the beans slide from top to bottom. Supposedly it sounds like rain, and hopefully will move the rain to wherever you are.
Yeah, sounds silly, unless you actually have a fair amount of magic in you, and actually will it to rain. Where was I? Yeah. Ethan’s.
“I can offer you a good price on that lot there,” the proprietor told me. “See all the runes on the staff, there? Supposedly strong magic in the right hands? Makes for an excellent costume if you want to be something different and not another pirate or soldier.”
“So what’s the costume, and why’s it have a fake gun?’ I asked, noticing the black replica of a Desert Eagle. “I’d expect something Indiana Jones like this to have a revolver or something.”
“Well, I agree, but as it was supposed to have a weapon, but I couldn’t find one to match, so I tossed in that.”
“So what’s the costume?”
“I believe it’s supposed to be a streetwise modern-day wizard or such,” Ethan told me. I really should have noticed the dark look of memory. “Maybe from one of those technology and elves type books popular a few years back? I can let it go for twenty quid? Um, thirty dollars.”
He shrugged, and I bought it—literally. He wasn’t talking rental, and the coat and hat alone were worth that, let alone some of the stuff that came with it, including a skull. I saw four more almost exactly like it, and Ethan looked at me funny.
“Hey,” I told him. “Five skulls make a pentagon.”
“Pentagram,” he corrected, then rolled his eyes. “I can’t believe I’ve gotten old enough to correct my youngers.”
I laughed and told him it was alright, since I bothered Giles the same way. He became very enthusiastic as he to my later surprise admitted to knowing Giles, and after Halloween to let him know his old friend would be looking for him.
“Let me box these up for you,” he smiled. “Oh, and since you seem to be a lad who knows Rupert, you might have more fun if you make up a True Name for yourself and make him guess it later.”
So what does buying a costume have to do with me being a wizard? Hold your horses, I’m getting there. But you need the background, so grab a coke or something, and kick back. This might take a while.
Any way, I’d gone home that evening, and dug out my old role-playing books—I know, geeksville, but since I actually AM a wizard…you get the idea. Anyhow, Jesse and I had gotten a little too into gaming a year back, and had to stop. We’d actually nick ourselves when role-playing us making items for the game during study hall in our freshman year.
Guess where we played when there wasn’t a librarian? Yup, right atop the Hellmouth. SO it was a surprise later when I realized the two rings and athame I included with the costume worked. I picked what I thought Willow would think was funny—the first ring was ‘Created’ as The Ring of Cantrips—household chores, minor jokes, back-scratching, pet grooming, the little things in life that seem to matter most but aren’t ever in the role-playing games. Not THOSE role-playing games. Sheesh. The other ring? The Ring of Purification?
No, it wasn’t anything weird. Nah, the joke was that water, air, food, you pretty much name it—if it came in contact, stuff bad for me just wouldn’t work. Kinda like electronics around me now. Some of you are thinking—wow, can’t be poisoned. There’s that, and when me and Jesse and Willow threw the dice, that’s all I thought too; but since I KNOW soda pop isn’t good for me, I end up with water. Not even fizzy water most of the time. So I have to remember to either take it off once in a while or live a monk’s life. If I feel like one glass of something alcoholic, I can usually get away with it since a lot of research shows limited quantities might be good and more than that ends up with folks like mine.
The magic only works for me, and the rings are invisible to everyone less-magically powerful than I am—or anything from the Nevernever. What’s that? Never heard of the place? We’ll talk about that eventually.
So that leaves The Book. Yep, more capital letters. I haven’t figured out where the information comes from, but it seems that if I know the correct name of any book ever written, I seem to be able to access it. If I’ve read the thing, I don’t need to know the name. Celestial Lawyers must’ve written the rules of how things can work. Again, keyed somehow only to me. No fun stuff, though. Pretty much only non-fiction, though I’ve occasionally scored a minor success. Though if some of the things I read ARE non-fiction…well, I’ll postpone the headache about that for later.
Thinking about what happens if they’re stolen? Nothing. They don’t work for anybody else but me. Sorry. Something about the Blood Magic the Chaos Magic activated, as when I games with my friends, it was the blood of ‘my wizard’. So, there’s a little background. Definite Geeksville. I even pricked my finger and wrote Fire, Air, Earth, Water and Spirit. For good and bad, this would come back to haunt me later. Really. It’s me, remember?
So there I was walking along and I dropped my kids off at the parking lot—we’d covered all of the good spots, and scooted back before the other groups. I made my way in full character back to Giles’ Den of Books, and pulled out big volume labeled Beyond Rosetta. I’d flipped through pages and pages of translations of ingredients for magic, verbs, nouns, that sort of thing—one hundred languages. And I was sitting there just browsing for the heck of it, getting to the end and about to set it down, when Ethan’s little spell hit.
For me it was like a mule kicking me in the head. Bam, I was out. Turns out it was because I traded places with Harry, who happened to be asleep in Chicago. Harry Dresden went on a road trip, and I got unwanted shut-eye. Oh well, we became friends after that. Each of us figured it could only happen with our luck, and together? No doubt it was almost fated.
It only took Harry a few minutes to convince Giles he wasn’t me, and to cast a spell calling up my memories of where I’d gotten my costume. Damn Hellmouth…Harry and I got each other’s memories in full when we traded back. Only our luck, right? So Giles and Harry headed over to this Ethan’s store. As we reached the place, they ran into an older guy. They thought he was another costumed individual when he showed up, but he assured them he was real.
“As I said, I am Shiro Yoshimo, Mr. Giles. And if Mr. Dresden is indeed in the body of this young man, he has made the acquaintance of Michael Carpenter. I am, as he is.”
Harry knew Michael, and when the man showed him only the first inch of the blade above the hilt, it left no doubt—the man was a bearer of one of the three swords.
“Okay, Mr. Yoshimo,” Harry nodded. “Why are you here?”
“I am here because I was caused to be here. And as you seem to be where I’ve been drawn, and followed, you are my mission.”
“Me or the kid?”
“The young man, but perhaps you as well.”
Harry had access to my memories, and didn’t think much of a lot of stuff.
“Okay, I don’t know if the kid’s gonna keep my abilities and knowledge, Mr. Yoshimo. Since he fights vampires and insists on helping out a Slayer, ya think you could stick around and train him in self-defense for a while?”
“If he is willing, I will stay until Called elsewhere.”
“Thank you. Now we have to deal with a Chaos Mage inside. With all the craziness, maybe you could make sure nobody interrupts us?”
The Knight bowed.
“None shall pass, Wizard Dresden.”
Anyway, Harry being Harry—not that I’d have done anything different—while Giles was beating the hell out of a kid-enspelling dumbass, I—or rather Harry—simply smacked the bust with his staff, meaning to knock it off. But Janus wasn’t happy with all the fun being cut so short, so he took out his displeasure on us—by of course making Harry and I almost identical. Sure, we looked like we’re supposed to, but Harry didn’t expect to look twenty-one again, and I didn’t expect to come to the attention of the White Council and Harry’s godmother. Lucky me. Luckily, looking a little older for me means I could probably scam brewskies if I wanted. More on that later.
I naturally did what anyone overpowered by an annoyed god with a sense of humor would—I collapsed into unconsciousness. I woke up the next morning on Giles’ sofa, my every muscle aching from what I later found out was the conversion of Earth Energy being converted into the attributes the ol’ hyena made use of months ago. No toning or nothing, just as strong as a guy could get working heavy construction for a couple of years without hurtin’ anything. As I forced the pain down, I noted ‘my’ staff on the coffee table, and my hat and duster hanging up next to the door. But I guess ‘Ripper’ decided a little payback was in order for past nicknames, as on the coffee table facing me were all five skulls.
“Yahhhhgh,” I responded to the sight, and halfway climbed over the back of the couch to get away. And when I sensed the magic inside, I had an uneasy thought, which I voiced aloud.
“Most assuredly,” a droll British-accented voice replied from the Spirit Skull, eyes slightly flaming. “Though between you and Dresden I don’t know which is worse for getting into bloody trouble.”
“Not exactly,” the inanimate object sighed. “Ethan Rayne, actually.”
“Oh. How’d you get in there?”
“How else? Janus. He wasn’t happy with my lack of protective wards keeping him from his fun. So until I’ve provided you with seven years’ loyal service or am released by you, here I remain.”
“Whoa, that’s rough,” I considered. “But you did stuff to kids, so it’s better than you deserve.”
“No one died…” the skull protested, somehow seeming to look put out.
“Hey, how many would have if the spell hadn’t stopped then and there? No more about that. Who are your friends, here?”
“I seem to be a Wizard now, with…hmm…all of Harry’s memories, the poor bastard. So yeah, I noticed.”
The skull levitated over to the one to my farthest right and hovered next to it, the one that now carried a Rune for Earth on it.
“I believe you know this chap…”
“Yeah man, it’s me.”
“But…you…” I most eloquently responded in shock, sitting back on the sofa. “How?”
“I’ve been hanging around; my last thought when alive was hoping to see you or Willow again…”
“You’re a ghost, then?” I blurted intelligently, though I was thinking it as more of a psychic echo than a spirit or soul.
“No, I’m actually me, Xan. There was a Black Court Vampire visiting her old friend the Master, and had a warlock with her. I got bottled up in something and turned into a present for Old Fang. When Janus went looking to annoy you, I got stuck in the skull here.”
“I’m sorry, Jesse.”
“For what? I have the same deal as Ethan here, so after seven years I get to go on when I want to. Better ‘n spending eternity down in the caves watching vamps do what vamps do. And let me tell you, there’s all sorts of weird kinds, though the Primordials of the Black Court seem to hang out in Sunnydale the most.”
“So we’re cool?”
“Still thinkin’ ‘bout the stakin’ thing? Don’t, it wasn’t me. Much better havin’ a job and being able to talk to you again.”
“Um, so what’s your job?”
“I’m just a spirit, but I can read, watch tv, advise you.”
“You know stuff?”
“Sort of. While trapped in the bottle with all that Hell Magic, I had what Ethan calls The Sight. And I couldn’t turn it off. Plus, I think I’m almost an Earth Spirit.”
From my Harry Memories that didn’t seem so good. The skull seemed to chuckle, also not of the good.
“It’s cool, now, Xan. When I was Skull Boy, I couldn’t really go crazy. But once I learn what all the crap I saw means, I should be able to help you out about vamps, Hell Energy, and that kind of stuff. And the shape of the birthmark on Buffy’s—”
“Stop!” I cut in a little too loudly. The skull settled down on the table.
“So, Xan…We’re cool, even if I ain’t as pretty as I used to be. I better let ER intro the others…”
Ethan’s skull eyes of flame rolled in their sockets. I could hear Giles moving around upstairs from the commotion.
“Oh goody, a seeming-eternity with you both…” Ethan intoned as he floated over to a skull marked ‘Fire,’ “And this here is ‘Thomas.’” The skull’s eyes flared a little and went dark again. “He’s an old friend of mine and Ripper’s—when I got crammed into this little studio apartment in Skull Acres, he was busy dying in London.”
“So why’s he here?”
The skull looked rather embarrassed. He relented after a moment.
“Well, back in our University days, a group of us, including Rupert, were rather stupid, and managed to combine power to raise a small demon…”
I gasped in horror at such an obvious breach of the Laws of Magic. At least as a religious worshipper of Janus there had been the possibility of, well, I hadn’t thought of that yet. The White Council wouldn’t like it, but might not want to tick off a god. I noticed the skull seemed to look over my shoulder. At Giles, halfway down the stairs. I turned back.
“We put Marks on ourselves, and as I was physically as well as spiritually converted, Thomas, and Deirdre, the pretty Aqua Skull next to him, were being overwhelmed by the Demon trying to force its way through a spot weakened earlier that night by a warlock. So as they perished, Janus decided it only fair I have some company.”
“OH. GOOD. LORD.”
The horror in Giles’ voice was so full of despair. Ethan’s eyes drew back into the skull, and he emoted regret and sadness himself. But he continued.
“But at least, Rupert, Eghyon couldn’t tear them into the Outer Places; after seven years of service to Alexander, here, they will also be free without restraint. Janus was that kind at least.”
I stood as Giles methodically stepped next to me, off balance enough that he didn’t seem to know what to do. I reached out and placed a firm hand on his shoulder until he looked over. I nodded at the sofa, and we both sat. Ethan continued.
“You should be lucky you were standing behind Mr. Mage, there, Ripper. The fact that you opposed me, and were caught in the backwash of energies meant that our next compatriot was manifested instead of you being forced into old bone.”
“As both Thomas and Deirdre also have academic credentials, knowledge of magicks both Light and Dark, that sort of thing, they’ll be able to advise you too, Mage. Which leaves our Air Spirit to say hello…Bob.”
“Oh, don’t even think of ‘Bobbing’ me, you bungling hedge wizard,” the pained British-accented voice sniffed. You brought this on all of us. Now I’ve been split in two for the amusement of Powerful Beings. And it’s most certainly your fault.”
“Don’t even attempt a half-hearted apology, you charlatan carnival trickster—” the skull looked indignant as it turned to a broadly-smiling Giles. “And what do you find oh so amusing?”
“That you are so eloquently and precisely dressing him down so justly.”
The skull turned to me, “Now him I like. You could do worse as a Mentor—like Mr. Oily here.” Ethan’s skull seemed to shrink back as ‘Bob’ took control. “Alexander, unlike the others I am an Air Spirit—not a trapped soul. And since Janus wasn’t paying too close attention, I too will freely and loyally serve you for seven years to obtain my freedom.”
“What—oh,” I responded. “Unlike the others, you can wander around then.”
“Exactly, though it appears I can ‘phone home’ to my twin self in Chicago.”
“Really? Can you tell if Harry remembers anything?”
“He’s made quite a ruckus, I must say, though he hasn’t been down to the lab, yet.”
“Mind takin’ a message to call me?”
“Oh not all, Great One.”
“Stop it, Hrothbert.”
“Oh, striking so low as to use my name against me, however shall I survive?”
“I could start using you as an ashtray…”
“Even greater threats, oh fie, I shall inform his Greatness when I’ve a message back for him.”
So there I was in semi-bliss at my new situation, Giles and five skulls to keep me company, and yes that is sarcasm you’re sensing. That’s when Mr. Shiro Yoshimo came down the stairs and greeted everyone. I stared at him a moment, and memories from the night before, and what Harry knew about the Knights flooded my mind. I stepped over and offered him my hand to shake.
“Mr. Yoshimo, how are you?”
“I am fine. I take it you are Xander?”
“Yes sir, I am. Thanks for helping Giles get me home last night.”
“It’s part of what I do. Do you know why I am here?”
“I remember what you and Harry talked about real quick. So…um, you’re willing to train me how to use a sword?”
“Perhaps. I was thinking we might with Mr. Giles discuss a course to follow that would benefit you as both Wizard, and as ally to a Slayer.”
Giles smiled politely, glad to be included. He gestured at a seat.
“Please, make yourself comfortable. I’ll put on water for tea. And the skull on the left—he’s an arse, so ignore him. I intend to.” Ethan’s skull rolled its eyes and floated over to a bookshelf. The other skulls joined him.