Title: The Western Kingdom
Author: TombCrank the Crafty
Summary: It’s not everyday that a short, pretty blonde uses a guy for cover from assassins. Well, if you’re not Xander Harris, that is. B: tVS, The Bourne Ultimatum.
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Notes: The title is an allusion to Morocco’s full Arabic name, Al-Mamlaka al-Maghribiya, or the Western Kingdom. Enjoy your Arabic lesson of the day!
The markets in Tangier were crowded at noon. Xander had heard the dull explosion not twenty minutes earlier, had gone past the destruction as the locals took in the scene with resignation and acceptance. It wasn’t his plan to visit Morocco’s latest scene of terrorism, but he had been swept up in the current of humanity, flowing past the destroyed car and into one of Tangier’ open-air markets in the narrow streets between whitewashed buildings. Xander had been largely content to walk slowly through the vendors, keeping an eye out for pickpockets (pun unintended) as he followed the gentle flow of the foot traffic. So when a frantic looking young European woman with bright blonde streaks in her hair ran into his blind-side, it was rather accidental.
The panicked look on her face probably wasn’t.
She stumbled on the concrete and stone street and Xander reflexively helped her regain her balance, a gentle grip on one of her flailing arms.
“Sorry about that, miss,” he told he with a smile.
She looked up at him, her brown eyes wide. For a long, still pause, she stared at him, her mouth half open with surprise. After a quick glance behind her, she grabbed his arm. “Michael, what have I told you about wandering off?” She lectured him in a tone that made the local women selling kabobs off the cart next to them smile at each other. Sighing, she linked arms with him, dragging him along deeper into the maze-like streets.
Xander was a little perplexed, to say the least, as this petite American-sounding girl led him expertly through the market to a stall with head scarves. Handing a banknote to the vendor, she snagged one of the darker blue scarves and tied it around her bright blonde hair on one swift move.
“Umm… look, I uh,” He started out as she smiled at the vendor and moved on, towing him along.
The blonde leaned into his embrace, his arm casually over her shoulder. “Don’t say anything.” She murmured at his ear. “I swear I’m not doing anything illegal, but I *really* need you to play along with me. Call me Sally.”
“I’m guessing that’s not your real name, is it?” Xander guessed as they walked into a side street full of what appeared to be houses. It was darker here in this narrow alleyway, the sun blocked by the buildings.
“No more than yours is Michael, but that’s not the point.” She stared up at him. “People are out to get me. Trust me, you don’t want to know my real name.”
“And you’re sure this isn’t illegal, Sally?” Xander asked seriously, body ready for action despite the relaxed position he held.
“Positive. Technically, the people who are after me don’t even exist.”
Xander’s free hand reflexively went for a silver cross hanging on a chain just underneath his shirt. “Oh? And do you exist, my dear, or are you a vision brought on by too much sun?”
“No, I exist. As much as they’d like otherwise.” The blonde goes silent, darkly introspective.
There’s a flash of movement at the corner of his eye. Xander slightly turned at the emergence of an Arabic man with closely cropped dark hair. “Sally” did the same and let out a slight moan.
“Oh shit, oh fuck, fuck, fuck.” She curses quietly, swinging around and immediately trying the doors of the buildings. Abandoning the locked doors, she hurried around a twist in the alleyway, out of the Arab man’s line of sight.
Xander followed her. Suddenly, this was much more serious than the prank he had pegged her trying to pull on him. In his casual once-over of the dark windbreaker, he had noted the slight bulge in one of the front pockets as a small handgun. The girl hadn’t said anything about the explosion earlier, but it wasn’t hard to put two and two together. The panicked look, the armed pursuit, the disguise, complete with something covering her eye-catching blonde hair and a new beau. They really were trying to kill her, and missed with the car bomb. (1)
Sally had managed to wrench open a door that opened into an apartment complex. Dragging him inside, she closed it quickly and threw the bolt hurriedly. “Look, you should leave out the back door or something. You don’t need to get involved with this.”
Xander raised his right eyebrow. “Uh huh. You know, that guy is armed.”
She shot him a withering look. “No, really? Imagine that.” She headed for the stairs.
“Wait, uh, Sally, I can help you. You don’t need to face this guy alone.”
She spun around. Giving him a bittersweet smile, Sally laughed darkly. “I’m not alone. I’m serious here, you really need to leave.”
The door rattled fiercely. The hastily thrown bolt was sliding loose. “Go.” She hissed at him fiercely, before swirling around and vaulting up the stairs, two at a time.
Xander didn’t even hesitate in his choice to follow the blonde girl. Too many years chasing after Buffy in dangerous situations had honed his reflexes into automatically providing backup, however unwanted.
Sally had picked the third floor landing to go off into the complex, hiding in the shadows nervously. His boots padded quietly on the tile, but not as silent as her sneakers. She shot him a thankful glare and Xander smiled at her. From a shoulder holster underneath his beaten leather jacket he pulled out an archaic looking pistol. It was more of a tool for hunting werewolves, loaded with silver bullets and all, but Xander figured it could be useful in a situation like this.
Her eyes widened at the sight of the old fashioned pistol, but she didn’t say anything, thanks to the sound of the door creaking open that floated up the stairwell. With a muttered curse, Sally melted even further back into the shadows, slowly creeping along the hallway with Xander at her back.
They continued to stalk around the complex in this manner for a good three minutes, before the loud sounds of a fistfight became apparent.
Hope flared in the blonde’s eyes. So, she had been serious earlier about not being alone. Xander hurried along the hallway behind Sally, following the growing sounds of violence. Xander stopped at the half-open front door to one of the apartments, pausing at the unusual tableau it presented. Two men fought viciously in what had been a normal apartment, a few pieces of furniture overturned and other assorted things broken on the floor. The newcomer, another Westerner by his looks, had just gotten a nasty blow to the temple from the Arab as Sally made a move to jump in and help. Xander tried to stop her, but only managed to grab at the blue scarf, the loosely tied knot coming undone in his hands.
Sally jumped onto the Arab man’s back with a frantic shriek, clawing at his face and scratching at his eyes. The Arab man threw her off with one swift judo move and Sally hit the wall with a thud, slumping to the floor bonelessly. Before Xander could even get close, the other white man in the room jumped up and delivered a series of underhand and downright nasty shots, going so far as to use a book to crush his windpipe. Her friend unceremoniously broke the assassin’s neck with a wide-eyed Sally watching from the floor. In the corner, Xander merely stood guard at the door.
After a quick evaluation of the room, Sally’s friend turned a dark look on Xander, his eyes lingering on the eye-patch and the pistol in hand. “Who’s he?”
“No one. He helped me get out of the marketplace.” Sally told him quickly as she rubbed her back, getting to her feet with a grimace.
“Does he-?” He broke off with a sharp look at the body on the floor.
She shook her head vehemently, getting to her feet with a little effort. “No. Desh is… was
the only operative here in Tangier.”
Another withering glare, this time shot at her friend. “Please. Give me a little credit. But we need to get out of here, fast. The neighbors should have heard this.”
The man nodded. “You won’t be any trouble?” He asked, only a touch threatening.
Xander raised an eyebrow. “Africa’s a dangerous place.” He replied blandly. “As far as I know, he had it coming.”
He received a cool respectful nod in return. The American man moved across the room to stand by his female friend.
“You be good, okay?” Xander told the blonde. “You ever need help, ask around for Xander Harris.”
She nodded slowly. “Thanks.” She paused, biting her lower lip. “Nicky Parsons.”
“You’re welcome, Nicky.” Xander clicked the safety on before slipping the old pistol back into the side-holster.
The man blinked, wiping off a bit of blood off his hand with a napkin from the ruin of the living room. “I’m Bourne. I appreciate you helping Nicky out.”
“Yes, well, if we all don’t get out of here quick, then we’ll be seeing a good deal more of each other from inside a jail cell.” Xander noted, the faint sounds of the police in the distance. “I’ll bid you adieu now.” He sketched a mocking half-bow in their direction, before stepping out of the apartment and down the back way of the hall.
Back out on the streets of Tangier, Xander smiled, a dark blue headscarf tucked away safely in his pocket. It had to be a Tuesday.
Author’s Notes: Well, this was a shitty little thing, not really made any better through the judicious application of a red pen. I liked the idea of Nicky and Xander meeting in Tangier. And as for Xander’s assumptions about the explosions (note 1), well, he doesn’t know about Treadstone, now does he? Beginner’s mistake, that’s all. I know he sounds a tad callous at the end, but he from his point of view, this one man was stalking a young woman to kill her. Not exactly a stellar example of humanity, there. Feedback, as always, is greatly appreciated.
TombCrank the Crafty