Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or the character of Xander, or the Rokea race. They belong to Mutant Enemy Productions and White Wolf Games respectively, and I make no attempt to profit from them.Into the Ocean
He could Feel it again. Every day, it was stronger, calling him to the water. At first, he’d believed it was the demon’s influence – trying to trick them into its home turf – but no one else felt anything. The hunters continued with their card games, the crew never looked up from their work. Tana, his latest Slayer, was bored out of her mind, just like always. But he could feel everything around him. He could smell every single thing in the boat. He felt strangely warm inside whenever someone walked past. He could taste the salt-water Sea on his lips. More than anything he wanted to drop over the side and swim away.
He saw her face floating before him – beautiful, strong – but only a wisp. Vaguely he thought if he were with her, the Feeling wouldn’t be so horrible, so tempting. But he would never be with her. She was gone over two years now, and she certainly wouldn’t be coming back.
He stared at the waves – flowing over the bow; parting swiftly around the hull. He could Feel them rush down his skin, cooling and energizing at the same time. He could Feel –
“Mr. Harris!” The Captain looked worried. “Radio says great storm coming here. Very dangerous.”
“The Qyrlkind?” He didn’t really have to ask. If anyone had seen a single sign of the demon, he would have known. He would have Felt it.
“Mr. Harris,” the Captain said nervously, “we must go back to avoid storm. No more time left to search.”
“Mr. Harris, Sir-”
“If we let it go it could be too powerful to handle by the time it’s spotted again. Keep going.”
The air temperature fell steadily and he saw the dark skies ahead. A great column of fierce wind and grey water bore on. The first drops of water slid down his face and, revelling in the fury of the storm, he Felt. In the touch of the water, he found more bliss than he could have imagined. The wind on his back seemed like an old friend urging him to finally take what he’d always wanted. The Others on the deck screamed in fear and excitement, but they were nothing more than random noise. His face tilted into the downpour and he knew he was on the very edge of something. Instantly his good eye snapped open and locked onto the base of the storm wall. The beast was there.
“Change course!” he shouted over the winds. “Straight into the eye!”
“Are you insane?!”
“Fuck you, man!”
The shouts could barely pierce the storm, but he heard them, and was far beyond caring what they thought. With one fluid movement, he swept two crewmen out of his way and yanked the wheel starboard until the ship ran straight on towards the demon. The hunters came forward for him but they couldn’t maintain their stance on the slick, wave-rocked deck. He beat them back with ease.
Then the Captain came, with men on much stronger sea legs alongside. They clamped their hands around his waist while the Captain tried to wrest the wheel back from him, but he could Feel the strength of the waves within him and all three of them together failed to move him more than an inch. Looking up at the wall of wind and waves before them, the Captain cursed and abandoned the effort, ordering the crew to head for the lifeboat.
Now she was there, to stop him. She’d been confused before, uncertain whose side she was supposed to be on, but she knew somehow, if he continued, he would be lost to the world forever.
“Mr. Harris - Xander, stop!”
His vision blurred for a moment. “Anya?”
“No, Sir – it’s Tana, Sir, but please, you have to stop this!”
“Please, Mr. Harris!”
He stared into the storm and for the first time began to consciously realize his actions.
“It’s so cold…” he whispered.
“Mr. Harris!” the Slayer said one last time, but he didn’t respond. Decisively, she grabbed the wheel and desperately ripped it from his grip, letting the ship begin to twist away. They both stared at the wheel in shock for the fleetest second before looking back to the storm. It was too late.
Even as the nose finally turned away, the rain intensified a thousand fold. The air warmed several degrees and he knew again what he had to do. The ship was yawing viciously and they could barely hold onto their footing anymore. Suddenly, she realized the lifeboats were already gone, and only the two of them remained. A great crash shook the boat as something massive slammed into the hull. Peering into the darkness she saw movement – long, thin and supple – and she could feel evil radiating up from beneath her. She looked back to her Watcher and saw him climbing onto the side rail. She thought she could just hear the shadow of a word floating on the screams. ‘Goodbye,’ and then he leapt into the deep.
As soon as he entered the water, the Change began. His body twisted and lengthened, expanding viciously. There was pain, all over his body, but his mind screamed with joy. He’d waited so long, without ever even knowing it, but now? He was finally whole. He could Feel again.
When the Change completed, he remembered, but not quickly enough. A massive tentacle slammed into his side, leaving half a dozen fiery circles burning along his hide, but with a twist of his powerful body, he wrapped his jagged teeth around the great arm and tore it open savagely. The tentacle withdrew, the lower half dangling limply, but another came up out of the shadows and slapped across his belly. He twisted desperately, unable to reach the cause of his pain, until it suddenly let go. Instinctively pumping his tail away from immediate danger, he saw the arm of the demon floating to the bottom, completely severed. Confused, he circled around.
The battle was joined by a third: a tiny girl with two sharp blades. He stared at the speed and grace she used to control her movement in the water, even though she was completely unsuited to the environment. Her sharp eyes seemed to see right through the terrible shadows, cutting through every tentacle even as they appeared. Inevitably, though, she was trapped under the suckers of the demon. Instantly, his body leaped forward and bit the tentacle in two, freeing her even as she had done for him.
As she kicked upwards, he began to circle the area, dodging between arms, and taking bites out of any that presented an opportunity. His skills improved rapidly and he began to realize that he could feel the energy of the creature without having to rely on sight alone. And as his skills improved, his memories finally came together. Memories of the favorite bedtime story his mother used to tell him, about the Rokea, the wandering sharkmen. Memories of the insane jealousy he’d felt when the swim team set out to wander the ocean his sophomore year. He knew what he was know, had actually known all along, on some deep hidden level of his soul. He was still Xander Harris, the normal one, but he was also so much more at the same time. Now the Slayer was at his side again, trying to keep pace with his complicated holding pattern and beat off the tentacles that he didn’t notice, and a final memory surfaced in his mind.‘And here’s a handy rule: Don’t go for the flashy tentacles just because they’re waving them about trying to get attention.’
He twisted on his side and bit a mouthful out of another advancing arm. Beside him, the slayer stabbed a tentacle straight through the flesh and used the leverage of her second blade to cut it in two, like she was carving up a turkey dinner.‘Go for the Center. Brain, Heart, Eyes.’
Stretching his senses, he pulled together the best mental picture of the battle that he could get. Tentacles everywhere confused his readings, but he just tried even harder. There. That was the center. He could Feel it.‘Everything’s got eyes.’
Instinctively, his body aligned in a perfect shot. His tail twitched and he launched himself through the water, with all the speed of his Mako heritage and the bulk of his Rokea ‘Fighting Jaws’ form. Three thousand pounds of vicious predator slammed into the center of the demon at almost sixty miles an hour. The force of his body alone pierced the great sack of its body and his jagged teeth shredded everything in their path before he burst out the other side. Turning as fast as possible he went into a complete frenzy, tearing as many chunks of flesh from the monster as he could before its dead bulk sank too deep for him to follow. He ripped his enemy into dozens of pieces before he remembered his small ally and swam back to the surface.
She seemed to have given up on the demon coming back, and stayed treading water at the very surface, bobbing in the waves of the storm. He came up leisurely, trying not to startle her too much, but he could Feel the way her energy charged up nervously when she saw him.‘Don’t worry.’
He tried to tell her. She couldn’t hear him, but he could somehow tell that she understood anyway. He stretched his senses now across the surface. Changes in the lower currents told him the ship had holed and was slowly sinking through the Sea, but he could feel the energy of something else not far away.
She watched in awe as his form slowly diminished, shrinking from a twenty foot monster to a more normal looking thirteen foot shark. Its left eye looked glassy and unseeing and she could see dozens of old scars scattered around it, along with the rapidly healing marks of this latest fight. Quickly, she got a strange feeling of understanding again as she realized she needed to grab onto the rough hide of his dorsal fin, and suddenly they were plowing through the troughs like a torpedo.
She took in every breath she could whenever they were in the air, and he tried not to stay beneath too long, until finally the waves began to flatten out more. Still, they kept on moving. Soon, she could actually see light in the distance, but not sunlight. It was a searchlight from a rescue helicopter. As they got closer, they could watch the helicopter lining up with the lifeboat from the ship. She saw the slowly growing figures of the crew and the hunters as they were lifted, one by one, into the sky. They were just yards away when the last man began to rise, and she tried to cry out, but the noise was too strong. The rescuer disappeared into the helicopter, and she could hear the rotor sounds change as the helicopter started to pull clear of the storm. She was almost ready to give up and sink into the sea, but she felt a sudden sense of incredible resolve as the same strange feeling returned to warn her to take the deepest breath she could.
Instantly, they dove down beneath the waves, as deep as they could reach in the little time available, and then he executed a turn so sharp she could barely believe it. Immediately they driving back towards the surface, picking up speeds she wasn’t used to achieving without a vehicle. The water dragged against her, slowing them down, and stinging her soft skin everywhere, but she held on with all her strength, and suddenly they were out of the water. His leap carried them over thirty feet into the sky, straight from the peak of a high trough, and she could see the helicopter just ahead and only twenty feet up. She brought her feet under her as best she could and felt the strange understanding – ‘Goodbye’
– one last time before she kicked with all her mystical power and soared even higher into the air.
He could feel the pressure of her jump drive him back towards the water, but he ignored it and twisted enough to watch her catch the very edge of the helicopter’s landing rail. He saw the great machine swerve from the sudden weight, but it quickly straightened out and the shocked rescuers managed to pull their last refugee inside. Then the waves crashed back down over him and he began powering forward a bit as he cleared his mind and righted himself. Finally reoriented, he reached out with his senses and began to swim. ‘This way Feels right.’