Halloween and a HalfChapter 5
Disclaimer – I don't own and of the characters from Buffy or Ranma ½.
YAHF – Persuaded by Willow to try a different costume, Xander now has to deal with a gender-shifting curse, assassination attempts, crazy martial arts techniques and a chaos mage who decides to stick around to enjoy the fun.
Wow, been a while. I've not been feeling very creative for a while and recently re-read this fic of mine and decided I still think the story is fun, even though the writing was cringe-worthy. Anyway I've gone over and brought the first few chapters up to scratch and recreated the fifth part from memory as I lost the first half completed draft a long time ago. Hope someone still finds this amusing.
"Where the bloody hell did she go?" Spike muttered to himself as he searched through the dingy warehouse that served as Drusilla's and his base of operations. She wasn't in their room. She wasn't in any of the main rooms. There were no screams of tortured minions so she wasn't playing with them. The minions he had bumped into so far had not seen her when he interrogated them. Nobody had saw her leave, which didn't mean she hadn't as Spike found most of them to be a bit on the slow side and knew if Drusilla wanted to leave unnoticed they wouldn't have a chance at spotting her as she slipped out. He wasn't overly concerned, at least Drusilla had recovered her strength and would be quite able to handle the slayer, or escape her if she had need to, but he would still have liked to know where she had gotten herself to.
Spike sighed and looked up into the rafters where the only light that penetrated the darkness was from the odd missing tile of the roof or the high placed windows that missed a pane of glass. A shape moved around and Spike frowned. He knew it wasn't Drusilla as the shadow was too large and guessed it was one of the minions.
"Oi!" Spike shouted up. "You seen Dru up there?"
The shadowy figure paused for a moment then a male voice called back, "Yeah I did."
Spike let out a relieved sigh then shouted up, "Where and when?"
"At the gate, a few minutes ago," the minion called back.
"Why didn't you stop her?" Spike shouted, paused a moment, then added. "And why the sodding hell am I shouting? Get down here!"
"Coming Master!" the shadow called down in a chirpy tone that made Spike's teeth ache as he mouthed the word "Master?" in disbelief. What the devil? He watched as the figure climbed over the floating walkway's railings and dropped to land on a pile of crates. The blonde vampire's face fell as he recognised who it was.
"Ohh fer crying out loud…" Spike groaned and held his temples as the newly turned vampire Ford got down from the crates. "Oh this is just what I need. What are *you* doing here?"
"What else? Serving my Master right? It's like traditional when a vampire turns a human right?" Ford grinned like an idiot as he approached. "Besides, didn't I mention that this place is cool?"
Spike cursed under his breath and counted to ten before responding. "I hate tradition. Okay, great. You got me that girl and I made you a vampire as per our deal. Congrats. Now bugger off before I stake you myself."
"But Master, you're my sire so aren't I supposed to serve you until you free me from your control?" Ford asked.
"What?" Spike half growled and half groaned. He really did not need this right now. "Listen you little pissant," Spike glared. "It doesn't work like that. That's just a legend those poofters in capes from the olden days used to spread around to make themselves look important."
"Oh…well," Ford shrugged unconcerned by the fact, "I'm still interested in working for you."
"And why, pray tell, do I want you working for me?"
"Well…I found you and snuck past your guards when I was human. I also succeeded in getting you Ranko. So far have your other minions done as well?" Ford smirked as Spike studied him. He did have a point Spike conceded.
"Okay, fine, you're a smidgen more talented than the usual shovel-head I'm forced to deal with," Spike allowed.
"I also used to date the slayer, so I know her *very* well," Ford stated. "I know how she thinks."
"Fine," Spike sighed. "You might be useful for something."
Spike felt his eye twitch in annoyance. "And don't bloody call me that!"
Ford shrugged apologetically before he snapped his fingers as if just remembering something. "Oh yeah, Drusilla said to tell you she was going out to play with her pony."
"She did, did she?" Spike muttered. "When?"
"By the gates as I was sneaking in. She also said I was a very bad boy," Ford replied while looking thoughtful as he pondered quietly to himself. "I never knew vampires kept animals. I wonder if you can vamp a horse?"
"Dammit Dru," Spike groaned. "What are you playing at now?" He looked back at Ford and pointed. "You come with me and you make yourself useful or I'll be cut off your limbs and leave you out for the sun." He turned and set off towards the warehouse entrance.
"Yes Master," Ford dutifully followed.
"Don't call me that!"
"Enjoy your meal," the bored looking drive-thru attendant said with as much enthusiasm as a vegetarian at an all-you-can-eat barbecue as he handed the bags of fast-food over to Angel. The cursed vampire nodded a polite thanks as he took the bags. Pulling back into his car he handed them over to Xander in the passenger side seat before shifting the car into gear and pulling carefully away. He wrinkled his nose at the strong scents of greasy meat, bread and salts mingled in with warm brown paper bag, but otherwise made no further indication he was bothered by the smells. Soon he had guided the car back onto the main road and then they were off, heading in the direction of Xander's home.
"Man I'm hungry," Xander stated as he tucked into the first burger and fries. Angel glanced sideways at the boy as he devoured the burger in great big mouthfuls. "This is good," he said around chewing.
"I'll take your word for it," Angel demurred. They drove in relative silence, aside from the happy chewing noises Xander made as he devoured both full meals and then moved onto the large shake. Angel frowned and shot him an annoyed glare when he hit the bottom of the shake and proceeded to make loud annoying sucking noises with his straw in an attempt to reach the very last dregs of flavoured milk. Xander spotted Angel glowering.
"What?" Xander asked in surprise, the straw dangling from his lips.
Xander seemed to think for a moment before giving another very loud and very long slurp before grinning impudently as Angel visibly winced and then shot Xander a truly murderous glare.
"Sorry," the teen continued to grin.
"Do you always make so much noise when eating?" Angel shook his head at Xander's antics.
"Oh and you vampires don't make loud sucky noises when you feed either," Xander pointed out and then did an impersonation that sounded more like a dog shaking a chew toy than a vampire feeding, but it was enough to get his point across. Angel almost rolled his eyes and held his tongue. Xander mentally marked that down as a victory and then collected up the wrappings and stuffed them all in one of the bags. "Man, that was good but I could have eaten another one actually."
"So…do you always eat so much?" Angel asked as they slowed and stopped at a red light. He placed the gears into neutral and looked over to Xander.
"Hmm?" Xander thought for a moment. "Actually now that you mention it not really. I've kinda been way more hungry recently. Must be in a growing spell."
"A growth spurt," Angel paraphrased flatly as he didn't believe that for a minute. The lights went green and he turned his attention back to the road as they set off again. "Did you think that maybe its due to the curse?"
"Huh? What? You mean it makes me hungry?"
"You do shape-shift. That must take energy," Angel pointed out.
"Yeah…and so does being whaled on for two hours by a vampire," Xander parried. "Can't blame a guy for being hungry after all that training."
"Point taken," Angel acceded. "Speaking of shape-shifting…what's it like?"
"What do you mean what's it like?
" Xander looked at Angel with incredulousness written on his features. "It's a curse. It sucks by definition!"
"I didn't mean it that way. When you change, what's it feel like?"
"Oh…well, it kind of happens that fast I don't really feel anything. Though seeing everyone seem to get bigger is weird."
"I shrink. I'm shorter than Buffy as a girl," Xander explained at Angel's lack of comprehension.
"Ah, but what I really meant is what's it like being female?"
"Oh we are so not going there," Xander groaned. "Look," he said forcefully when he saw Angel wasn't going to let it lie, "I'm a guy. Even when I'm girl shaped. Okay?"
"I didn't say you weren't," Angel said to placate the boy, "I was asking if you feel any different?"
"No! I don't!"
"Surely you feel some difference. You've got different…bits," Angel pointed out. Xander groaned. "Okay fine. Aside from having to sit down to pee it's not that different."
"So…no difference in your senses?"
"Not that I've been paying much attention!" Xander stated. "It's not like I want to spend my time that way! I was born Xander-shaped and I want to stay that way permanently. As soon as a cure comes up I'm taking it. I like looking at girls and not understanding them and thats how things should stay you know? I really don't need to see one in the mirror or know what having my own rack feels like." Angel indicated as Xander ranted. "And let me tell you, I really didn't need to know how sore my nipples get from all the bounc—" Xander cut off quickly with a look of horror on his face at what he was saying. "Err…can you forget that last sentence. In fact…I'd appreciate it if you didn't mention I said that at all. I mean like ever."
"Trust me Xander," Angel looked sideways at Xander and smirked, "I have no intention of talking to anyone about your nipples."
"Thanks," Xander mumbled and looked away to hide his embarrassment. They lapsed into silence until Angel turned the car into the street Xander lived on.
"Pull over here," Xander suddenly said.
"What for?" Angel wondered.
"Because I don't feel like coming up with an excuse to explain you away to my loving parents if they see me getting out of some strange dude's car," Xander explained. Angel accepted the explanation grudgingly and pulled the car over to the sidewalk to let it idle in neutral. "Same time tomorrow?" Angel queried as Xander clicked the seatbelt off.
"Yeah. I guess so," Xander popped the door open.
"And you're going to get those comics? For planning your training?"
"Definitely," Xander nodded at the vampire. "And reading comics is the kind of research I can get behind," he grinned as he climbed out the car, taking the bag of rubbish with him. Turning back to Angel Xander paused for a moment as if struggling with complicated problem. "Angel...thanks." Angel nodded in acknowledgment as Xander shut the car door.
Xander stepped away as Angel pulled away and watched the rear-lights shrink into the distance for a while. It almost felt like an episode of the Twilight Zone what with Angel being the only person to actually listen and willing to help him out.
"My life is getting crazy," Xander muttered as he stepped up onto the pavement. He tucked the rubbish under his arm, stuffed his hands in his pockets and headed up the street towards home. He pondered Angel's observations of his cursed form and wondered how he could exploit it. Hopefully once he got a good understanding of the Ranma character from the comics he'd have an easier time.
The hairs on the back of his neck stood to attention as a sense of danger ran down his spine. Xander paused mid-step and glanced around, paying particular attention to the darkness between the houses. His eyes were unable to penetrate far into the inky shadows that lurked between the buildings and fences. He strained his ears, trying to hear footsteps or breathing or any other indications of somebody approaching. The only sounds were of the leaves rustling gently in the wind and a car in the distance. He glanced around, but in those few seconds of searching nothing made any untoward moves towards him.Great, now I'm either imagining things or I'm really being stalked
, Xander thought setting off at a brisk pace, while still searching for what ever was giving him the wiggins. The feeling of being watched persisted even as he turned up the drive of his parent's house.
Xander wasted no time in slipping inside the home, shutting the door and leaning back against it relieved to have made it home without incident. The feeling lessened, but did not completely vanish as he moved into the kitchen and over to the window, where he spread the thin metal blinds apart with two fingers and peered out at the dark and empty street beyond.
"Oh, so you finally decide to come home," Xander's father's mildly slurred voice cut through the silence and Xander startled enough to leap back and bash his hip off the table. It's legs scraped loudly across the tiles as it slid back a couple inches from the impact.
"Ow!" Xander rubbed his hip and looked at his father standing in the kitchen doorway. "Hey…Dad, didn't see you there," he muttered.
"Awful jumpy tonight boy," Tony Harris stated. "You better not be bringing trouble to my doorstep."
"What? No, I'm not in any trouble," Xander reassured. Unless you count being cursed and hunted by demons to be trouble
, he added to himself.
"Humph," Tony turned and caught sight of the fast-food bag Xander still held. "Where'd you get the money for that?"
"Err," Xander glanced down at the bag and back up. "From a…friend?" he said lamely.
Tony stared at Xander, obviously not believing him for a second but let it drop. He couldn't be bothered to get the truth from the boy and as long as no cops or whatnot landed on his doorstep he couldn't care less what Xander got up to. "Fine. Oh, and take out the trash since you're not busy!" With his demands set he walked away.
"Right," Xander sighed. He walked over to the bin, dropped the bag into it and pulled out the plastic liner. He tied a knot in the top and carried it out to the front door. Xander cracked the door open and poked his head outside carefully. He checked down the drive for anything unusual before being satisfied there wasn't anything there. He stepped outside into the cool night air and wandered around the side of the house to the trash cans.
The feeling of being watched returned as he stepped into the shadows where the trash cans sat by the house. He glanced over his shoulder for a moment. Just dump this in the can and get back inside Xan-man
, Xander told himself. He grabbed the nearest trash can lid that sat slightly off the can and lifted it up.
The yowl of the displeased cat that shot out from the can had Xander yelling out in surprise and stumbling away. The lid landed with a metallic clatter as he tripped over his feet and landed on his rear. The small black shape of a cat shot down the side of the house and vanished into the darkness. For a few moments he sat and clutched at his heart as it pounded away, then he swore under his breath about stupid animals. He pushed himself back to his feet, feeling silly for being startled so badly by one stupid cat and slung the bag he carried into the can with enough force to split it open, not that he really cared. He shook his head and sighed.
That was when a cool pair of hands lightly rested on his shoulders and a female voice that had given him nightmares whispered in his ear, "Hello, my pretty pony." Xander went stiff as a board and was certain every hair on his body stood on end as the cool breath sent shivers uncontrollably down his spine. Xander spun on the spot.
"Oh shit!" He swore at having his eyes confirm what his ears had heard. Drusilla stood before him, wearing a black and red Gothic Victorian Brocade Jacquard gown.
"Shhh," she leaned forward and placed a lacy gloved finger on his lips. "Such naughty, naughty language." Xander backed away and Drusilla matched his pace perfectly until he bumped into the side of the house and she pressed up close to him. This might have been a fantasy come true if not for the fact she was a vampire, and the one that had bit him once already. "Ah, ah, ah. Naughty pony trying to run away from mummy," she cooed. "I might just have to punish you."
"Umm…please don't," Xander winced as she leaned in close to his neck and inhaled his scent deeply.
"Hmm, not quite there yet," her cool breath on his neck made him shiver again. Xander winced in expected pain as her teeth lightly brushed his skin then pulled away. "My Angel's guiltily scent hangs over you."
"Angel…" Drusilla breathed dreamily. Xander stared at the vampiress as she seemed to drift off in a daydream. Xander held his breath for a while not daring to make a sound but she seemed to be dead to the world. Taking a chance he felt along the wall of the house, reaching for the other trash can lid in a hope he could use it as a weapon. Drusilla suddenly snapped back to reality and grabbed his hand before he could reach the lid. She grinned and intertwined her fingers with his before taking him by the arm. "Come along pony. There's things to do and see."
"See? See what?" Xander asked and yelped in surprise as she forcefully dragged him away from the house. He was forced to walk alongside the vampire as she led him down his drive and out onto the sidewalk. Xander swallowed and glanced around in hopes of seeing someone he could call out to for help. No such luck as they were the only people about. As the houses slowly passed by Drusilla suddenly leaned her head against his arm. To anyone watching it would appear as if they were lovers out for an evening stroll. If not for her iron like grip and the threat of being drained dry hanging over his head, Xander might have enjoyed having a beautiful woman hanging off his arm.
"Could you let me go?" Xander worked up the courage to speak.
"No silly!" Drusilla laughed joyfully and Xander wondered how the hell a soulless monster could sound so carefree and joyous. "It's not time! Nope! Not yet."
"Pretty please?" he attempted.
"With sugar on top? Oh no, we can't be having that," Drusilla giggled before her face went serious. "Hmm, now where is the place?" she muttered and looked up and pointed. "Look." After another nervous glance at his captor Xander turned his eyes to the sky. "Do you see them?" Drusilla waved her hand in an arc at the sky above.
"What else pony? The stars fleeing from your wake?"
"Huh?" Xander blinked and looked back at Drusilla sharply.
"They sparkle and change and run and hide as you prance wildly through them."
"Oh but you don't. Do you," she looked downcast for a moment. "Everything changes because of you and they don't like that. Things are all topsy-turvy, inside-out, back-to-front. Will you show me your magic trick?"
"Wait!" Xander's mind reeled as her odd words struck him as familiar. "Back up. They don't like that? By they you mean demons right? You know which demon is after me?"
Drusilla looked him in the eye with sudden startling clarity in her dark orbs. "Demons? Demons are the least of your worries my little pony. You need to grow up all big and strong and soon. The key will lead you to power." Xander frowned as Drusilla went back to whimsical. "Beware the weather man and jester. Don't open it!"
"You know…not that I'm err…ungrateful for you telling me all this, but…why are you telling me all this?" Xander asked. Drusilla's reply was to whoop with laughter and grab both of his hands in her own. She them swung him around and around as if dancing until Xander's back hit one of the trees by the sidewalk. She pinned him with her hands at either side of his head. "I want a promise my little pony," Drusilla growled loosing all playfulness.
"Promise?" Xander swallowed the tight knot of fear that had reappeared.
"Your word. I want you to keep my pretty boy from going away to the slayer. She must not send my Spike away. Your pretty face can stop that and you'll never hide him from me. Promise me. You won't break a promise will you?"
"You wont!" Drusilla slapped him then trailed a sharp nail down his cheek.
"Okay I—I promise!"
"Good," Drusilla purred and rested her head on his chest. Why does this stuff keep happening to me?
Xander wondered as he leaned his head back against the tree and sought an answer in the night sky. He wasn't sure how long he stayed pinned to the tree as the seconds seemed to stretch on for an eternity until he felt something. A sort of sixth-sense warned him to move.
"Xander Harris! Prepare to die!" a deep, booming voice challenged and without thinking, Xander's body tensed. He swept Drusilla up in his arms to her delighted whoop and leapt away from the spot. It was only at the apex of his leap that Xander realised what he had done as he stared down at the ground from about ten feet up in the air. His eyes widened in fright as the ground proceeded to rush towards him. "Oh crap! Oh crap!" he exclaimed and squeezed his eyes shut. His body seemed to take over again and he landed lightly on his feet, before opening his eyes and stumbling forward in surprise at what he had just achieved. The sound of a falling tree crashing onto a nearby parked car was heard behind him and Drusilla clapped excitedly. "Again!" Xander gave her a mucky look in reply.
"So! You escaped my blade monster!" the voice rumbled like the engine of a powerful diesel truck. Xander turned to face his unknown assailant and felt his knees go weak in terror.
"Oh my, he's a big boy isn't he my pony?" Drusilla chuckled in Xander's arms. Xander felt himself nod in agreement but unable to form any words as he stared at the massive demon that pointed a fanged skull decorated double-bladed axe — at least as tall as Xander himself — at him. Xander continued to stare at the demon, who he guessed topped at least seven foot, without including the huge upwards curving thick black horns protruding from his forehead. Bulging muscles rippled under the demon's leathery red hide as it swung the axe onto his powerfully built shoulders.
"Your presence is a blight on this realm of existence that I'll end tonight," the demon declared. Xander found himself fascinated by the way the demon's square jaw that tapered down to a cleft chin bobbed as he spoke.
"Um…I really, *really*, hope that's Tim Curry," Xander stated.
"Silence your tongue!" the demon bellowed and took a threatening step forward that made the various skulls tied to his leather and fur kilt rattle together. "You dare insult Lord Texhniqbovg? Ruler of the Seventh Circle of the Ninth Plane?" Yellow silted eyes burned like smouldering coals as Lord Texhniqbovg glared at Xander.
"Never heard of him," Drusilla piped up before Xander could make any attempt at defusing the situation. "He doesn't look that tough does he pony? Not like you. Bet you could crush him easily."
"What?" Xander exclaimed.
"What?" Lord Texhniqbovg bellowed.
"Yes, you'd crush him and send him crying back home. Why, I bet he's a right old mummy's boy," Drusilla giggled. Lord Texhniqbovg bared his fangs and the veins visible on his bare chest and arms throbbed in rage. "Eek!" Drusilla yelped when Xander dropped her on her ass with an intense look of frustration, bewilderment and disgust on his face.
"That's no way to treat a lady! Die!" Lord Texhniqbovg bellowed and charged, swinging his axe wildly. Xander did the only sensible thing. He turned and fled. "Get back here you disgusting maggot!"
Drusilla pick herself up off the ground and straightened her dress with a grin as she watched Xander and Lord Texhniqbovg racing into the distance. She thought a moment about heading home, but quickly decided she really didn't want to miss all the fun. She gathered her dress up, threw back her head and laughed in a loud disturbing manner, "Ohohohohohohohoh!" before giving chase. For some reason, it just felt like the right thing to do.
Willow chewed lightly on the rubber at the end of her pencil, deep in thought as she studied the printed out translations from the old book on offensive and defensive magic Ethan Rayne had leant her. So far she had the theory down and was already thinking of ways to make the spells easier to cast. Too bad that was all she had achieved, learning the theory.
"Why doesn't it work?" She muttered to herself, scratching out one of her scribbled thoughts written in the margin. She leaned back in her chair and stared at the pen sitting on top of her dresser. Taking a deep breath she repeated the instructions. Centring herself. Feeling for the magic. Then telling it what to do.
"Come here," Willow commanded to pen to come to her outstretched hand. Stubbornly it remained completely motionless and silently mocked her best efforts. "Please?" she tried again.
"Oh fish-sticks," she sighed and slumped in her chair. "I guess its not as easy as following instructions after all. Maybe if I knew what the magic Im' supposed to tap into was supposed to feel like I'd know when I was ready to manipulate it."
She leaned forward and wrote, "What does (my?) magic feel like? Ask Giles / (Ethan?)" in the margin.
Willow glanced at the clock and decided she needed to take a break and get a drink. She hoped a little break would refresh her mind and gain her a new insight into the problem. She pushed her chair back, stood up and flexed her back and shoulders. "Hmm?" she froze as a loud crash from down the street distracted her. There was another one, closer this time and she walked over to her bedroom window. Lifting it in its frame she poked her head out in time to see Xander hurtle past as if the hounds of hell were chasing him.
"Xander?" Willow wondered what was happening when a big red demon stomped past, swinging an axe and smashing anything that got in its way. Willow felt her jaw fall open in disbelief at what she had seen.
"Ohohohohoho! Come back my pony!" Drusilla daintily raced past next.
"Oh…my…Gosh!" Willow snapped out of her stupor. She raced out of her room, skidded to a halt, raced back in and grabbed her cell phone before racing back out. She pounded down the stairs and out the front door, not even stopping when her mother called out.
She skidded to a halt at the bottom of her family's home's drive and stared down the street at the various signs of destruction. The big demon had left a trail of broken fences, scattered trash cans and a couple of cars sitting skewed in their drives, missing chunks from they bodywork and their alarms wailing into the night. A few neighbours had begun opinion doors and looking out windows to see what the noise was about.
Willow dialled in Buffy's number as fast as she could. When the phone began to ring she took off after Xander's pursuers, holding the cell phone to her ear as she ran. After a few rings Buffy picked up.
"Buffy! Its Willow! Xander's in big trouble!" Willow shouted down the phone.
A black Desoto Sportsman rolled slowly down the street. It's blacked out windows were wound down and Spike kept glancing out the side as he searched for Drusilla on the streets.
"No sign," Ford stated from the back seats as he looked out the other side for Spike.
"Damn it Dru, where have you gotten to?" Spike grumbled and sped away towards the next junction.
"I don't think we'll find her Master," Ford hid a grin from Spike. The elder vampire ground his teeth and snapped his head around so he level a glare that promised a painful death.
"I told you to stop calling me that you little prick!" he then proceeded to grumble as he turned back to the front, "Why the bloody hell did I ever bother to uphold that—Shit!" Spike automatically slammed on the brakes as a person seemed to appear from nowhere in front of him. It was Xander. He reacted with surprise a theta squeal of brakes and pressed his hands against the bonnet as if that was going to stop the automobile. Luckily Spike had not been racing down the streets from the search for Drusilla. For a moment the vampire and the almost roadkill stared at each other, before a look of recognition appeared on Xander's face.
"Oi you dozy sod!" Spike shouted as Xander took off at a sprint without even a glance back. A wicked grin slowly spread his face as he shifted the car into gear and turned the wheel in the direction Xander had gone. "Bloody idiot is that desperate to get run over I'll give him a hand."
"Um…Spike?" Ford spoke with a waiver in his voice as he saw through the side window a massive red skinned demon tearing down the road right at them.
"Shut yer trap—" Spike snarled as he revved the engine after aiming the car at Xander's fleeing form. The next thing Spike was aware of was a loud crunch and the world spun as his car was flung aside with a sweep of Texhniqbovg's axe. The car landed on its roof with a crunch of twisted metal and crack of breaking glass and remained still. Spike pushed his face away from the roof after the car hand came to a rest and looked around in surprise. "What the bloody hell was that?" He exclaimed, shaking glass from his hair.
"A big ass demon," Ford stated helpfully as he kicked out the side window and proceeded to climb out the wreckage. Spike pushed on the shattered windscreen making it fall out onto the road. He dragged himself out, stood up and brushed the shards of glass off his duster. "My car! I've had that for bloody ages!" Spike growled as he walked around to survey the damange. He kicked the door in anger.
"Ohohohohoh!" Drusilla skipped by without giving them or the wreckage a second glance. The night had so far been so surreally annoying for Spike that he could only follow her passage with his eyes.
"Hey! There she is Master," Ford pointed. Spike snapped his head around to glare at him. "I can see that you pillock! Come on! After her!" He took off at a sprint. Ford shrugged to himself and followed.
A few minutes later a panting Willow stumbled to a halt near the wreckage and placed her hands on her knees. She stayed that way for another couple of minutes and tried to catch her breath. "Xan...der...I'll...save...you..." she panted.
A familiar battered grey Citroen DS pulled up beside her. She looked dazedly over to see Giles staring out at her from driver-side window. Buffy was in the passenger side. "Willow get in," Buffy called past Giles. Willow gave them a look of appreciation and pulled the rear door open. She plopped listlessly into the back still out of breath. "Xander…demon!"
"A demon? Xander?" Giles turned to look over the seat. "What's happend to the boy now?"
"Big demon…chasing Xander," Willow gulped air. "I mean really *big* demon." She spread her arms to indicate how big the demon was.
"Step on it Giles," Buffy commanded. "We need to find him."
"I know Buffy, but how exactly? It was luck you spotted Willow."
"Um," Willow pointed down the street, "Just follow the destruction. That's what I was doing."
Giles and Buffy exchange a glance, then looked down the street and realised Willow was correct. The street looked as if a truck had bumped up onto and drove down the sidewalk, smashing anything in its way.
"R-right. Follow the trail of devastation," Giles stumbled before making the car accelerate. Buffy stared in growing concern for Xander's safety. She'd had some rough fights but had never seen property damage on this scale before.
Xander pumped his arms and legs and ignored the burning in his chest. Behind him the shouted death threats from Texhniqbovg continued to spur him on to unconsciously push beyond his normal limits. In fact, if Xander had been paying attention to anything aside from escaping the demon's axe he might have realised he had been setting a pace that even a top class athlete would have struggled to maintain.Gotta get away, gotta get away,
Xander repeated over and over in fear as he sought somewhere he could hide. Somewhere too small for the demon to follow would be good,
he thought, seeing a junction approaching. Xander hit the crossroad, skidded, did a sharp ninety degree turn and stumbled for a few seconds as his feet were unable to gain a proper purchase on the road. The massive axe of Texhniqbovg's missed his head by such a small fraction Xander loss a couple of hairs from the end of his ponytail.
Xander sped off as Texhniqbovg was forced to skid to a halt from the sudden change of direction. "Face me like a demon you coward!" he bellowed again and gave chase. The demon stopped swiping his axe at Xander as the boy had managed to put enough distance between them with the quick turn that Texhniqbovg was forced to concentrate on closing the distance gap them before he could attack again.
Xander ignored the challenge and just ran. He judged he had given himself a few moments respite from dodging the demon's weapon by the quieter thump of his footsteps. His body seemed to be responding to his desire to get further away from the demon.
Lord Texhniqbovg began to fall behind as his target increased his speed much to Texhniqbovg's surprise. This boy, what is he?
He wondered. Knowing if the boy got too far ahead he could lose him at any time, Texhniqbovg decided how to slow him down. He slid to a halt, raised his axe and aimed at Xander's fleeing form. With a mighty heave he sent the axe spinning at Xander.
The sixth sense that had warned Xander of Texhniqbovg's first attack screamed in the back of his head as the thuwping sound of something heavy spinning over and over hurtled towards him. Xander let his body react, trusting in his inherited instincts since they had been doing a good job so far of keeping him alive. He leaped into the air just as the axe passed through the space he had occupied. His foot snapped out and deflected the handle as it spun by. The axe careened off at a slight angle from Xander — so he wouldn't have to dodge around it when he landed — and flew ahead a good few yards before coming to a stop by embedding itself deeply into a fire hydrant. Water exploded upwards at an angle, just in time for Xander to pass through it on his way down.
"Typical!" a wet and female Xander snapped as she stumbled in her landing and went into a barrel roll to control her forward momentum. She came out of the roll into a crouch and glanced behind herself. Texhniqbovg was at the other end of the street and staring at her with a confused expression. Xander didn't hang about to explain the curse to his attacker. She kicked off her too large shoes and exploded into a full on sprint, the few seconds of rest or the change had given her a second wind.
Texhniqbovg stared for a moment, more surprised at the way Xander had avoided the axe than his transformation. So, a shapeshifter,
Texhniqbovg thought as he once more gave chase. He grabbed his axe and ripped it out of the fire hydrant as he passed by.
Xander took a sharp right at the end of the block and then a left as she left the houses behind. She thought for a moment she had lost Lord Texhniqbovg, but a glance over her shoulder proved that thought incorrect as the demon followed her around the corner and into view. Soon a wall with iron railings appeared in the distance and Xander groaned.
"Another Sunnydale graveyard. How many do we have anyway?" she growled. The wrought iron gates ahead were closed and locked but that didn't stop her getting in. Xander didn't think about it and just bounded them in an easy vault. She landed on the other side and continued deeper into the mass of graves. Behind her she heard the squeal of twisting metal as Texhniqbovg ploughed on through the gates with a shoulder barge. He paused and sniffed the air for a moment. "You can't hide from me! I can smell your fear!" he charged in a straight line in the direction Xander had headed, smashing and knocking over any unfortunate gravestones that got in his way.
Xander raced deeper into the darkness among the graves. Ahead of her three bored vampires looked up at the sound of her approach.
"Hey look, a self delivering meal!" the closest grinned.
"Get out the way!" Xander demanded with a wave of her arms as the three positioned themselves ready to grab her as she approached. She didn't bother slowing down and instead leaped up on the nearest vampire's head and used him as a springboard. She flew through the air into somersault that had to other two vampires following her arc with their eyes and expressions of surprise on their faces, while the unlucky one Xander had jumped off had his face planted into the dirt.
Xander landed without missing a beat and continued on deeper into the graveyard. The two standing vampires glanced at each other in surprise and missed the massive axe that lopped off their heads as Texhniqbovg ran past. The remaining vampire spat out the mouthful of dirt as he lifted his head and looked about in bewilderment.
"Ohohohohoh!" Drusilla ran past followed closely by Spike and Ford.
"Dru! Luv! Come on! Stop this!" Spike pleaded.
The vampire climbed to his feet, dusted off the remains of his fallen allies and stared at the retreating forms of Drusilla, Spike and Ford. He shook his head and rubbed his neck. Behind him an old Citroen bumped and rattled across the gravel path. He turned as the yellowed headlights illuminated the graves in front of him.
"Oh f—" he swore as the car ran him over and braked, skidding to a halt and grinding him into the dirt beneath its wheels. He dusted as his ribcage was crushed under the weight of the vehicle.
"Oh dear. I sincerely hope that wasn't a person," Giles stated in concern once the car rattled to a standstill.
"Vampire," Buffy stated with a casual wave. She pulled on the door handle and pushed the car door open.
"Oh, good. You've been practising your ability to sense vampires," Giles nodded, pleased that Buffy was taking things more seriously since the Master incident.
"Um…no," Buffy swung her legs out the door.
"What?" Giles opened his door in a hurry, climbed out and dropped to his hands and knees to look under the car. To his relief he only saw dirt and gravel. "Buffy! How many times must I impress upon you that you need to improve your sensing abilities," Giles explained in a long suffering tone.
"Come on Giles," Buffy rolled her eyes, "like who else — aside from me or vampires — is going to be out in a cemetery at night?"
"Oh heaven be it that somebody, say of the teenage persuasion, might decide an out of the way place like this is a good spot for a bit of youthful fun?" Giles brushed the dirt from his trousers.
"Guys! Xander? Demon? Remember?" Willow interrupted before they could start up the old and tired argument again.
"Oh right!" Buffy whipped out her stake and rushed off into the darkness. Willow followed her. Giles shook his head in resignation and rushed after them.
A small, seemingly innocent, intricately carved wooden box sat carefully positioned out of the way of prying eyes on the shelves in Giles small office in the library of Sunnydale High. The box had been one of the least worrying things about the whole Xander getting cursed incident and had been all but forgotten in the following eventful days by the Watcher. Giles had planned to research into the box and figure out what exactly was inside, for even Ethan who had given the box by his mysterious visitor had no idea.
The box shuddered on the shelf, barely enough to be seen and if someone had been watching they might have put it down to their eyes playing tricks on them. When the box jumped an inch into the air — as if something had hit it from the inside — it spun and landed on another face, knocking the heavy tome beside it over and off the shelf to the floor with a bang.
Then like a possessed rubik's cube, the top lifted slightly and slowly rotated around. A faintly glowing ethereal green mist leaked out from the gap as the top continued to rotate. As suddenly as it began the rotation stopped as the moving face dropped back into position with a click. The mist slowly evaporated and there was a little more chaos in the world. If anyone had been about and strained to listen, they might have a whisper that almost sounded like the word, "Soon…"
Xander pressed her back against the cold stone mausoleum and tried to slow her beating heart and quieten her heavy breathing. A bead of sweat ran down her temple, but aside from that she was surprisingly showing few signs of the mighty exertion she had just gone through. The grass was damp and cold under her bare feet, that were stained green and brown with running barefoot across the graveyard. The sounds of pursuit suddenly ceased.
She waited in the dark, pressed up against the stone and counted to ten. Slowly she creeped over to the end of the mausoleum and peeked around the edge. The dark graveyard remained silent and she saw no sign of big red. A deep rumbling beside her warned Xander she was not alone. Xander spun to find Lord Texhniqbovg leaning over her with his teeth bared.
"Um…he went that way," Xander pointed randomly and prayed the demon would be fooled by her current form.
"Do you take me for an imbecile?" Texhniqbovg snarled and took a swipe at Xander's neck. She didn't stand around and dived under the blade. Sparks and chunks of stone exploded from the mausoleum where the axe connected. Xander scrabbled away on all fours as Texhniqbovg found his axe had gotten stuck. He tugged on the handle for a moment before realising he was letting Xander escape. The demon saw her get back to her feet and grabbed the nearest gravestone. With a grunt Texhniqbovg lifted the heavy stone above his head and threw it at Xander who was unable to avoid it as close as they were to each other.
Xander yelped in pain as the gravestone shattered against her back and collapsed face first into the dirt. She slid for about a foot and lay still. "Finally got you," Texhniqbovg stated and stomped over to the unmoving form. He reached down, grabbed Xander's arm and lifted her up to examine her. "Tough little thing ain't you?" Texhniqbovg muttered as Xander was still breathing.
"Don't you hurt my pony!"
Texhniqbovg glanced up at the feminine screech of rage in time to end up with a face-full of angry vampiress with wickedly sharp nails. Texhniqbovg gasped in surprise and dropped Xander as Drusilla began clawing at his face.
"Argh! Get off me you crazy woman!" Texhniqbovg snarled and stumbled away while attempting to defend his eyes from Drusilla's attack as she wrapped her legs around his chest to hold on. Fortunately for him his skin was thick enough that she only left angry scratches in his hide and not the huge gashes she would have in a human. "Dammit woman! Leave me alone!" the demon managed to get his hands on her and pushed her away from his face. He glared as she hissed like a wildcat and then threw her across the cemetery. Drusilla flipped and landed a good twenty feet away on all fours before she slid backwards another couple of feet to a halt.
"How dare you attack Lord Texhniqbovg? Ruler of the Seven—" Texhniqbovg's rants was cut off as a heavy boot collided with his nose. The demon fell backwards clutching his face in agony as Spike landed from the brutal flying kick.
"I don't bloody care if you're the bloody Lord of bloody Darkness him bloody self! For hurting Dru…you're going down!" The angry vampire spat and charged.
As Spike took on Texhniqbovg, Xander groaned and slowly returned to consciousness. She grimaced at the pain in her back, which was the first thing she registered. The second thing was she was still alive. Thirdly, Texhniqbovg was fighting someone that looked surprisingly like Spike. Xander blinked, it was Spike and he was holding his own surprisingly against the much larger demon, weaving around the demon's attacks and using his greater speed to land his own. As Xander watched she quickly realised Spike wasn't going to win. Somehow she knew he wouldn't be able to do enough damage to hurt the demon.
"What hell's going on?" She pushed herself up and sat rubbing at the back of her neck. A strong hand wrapped around her throat and Xander gasped as she was lifted off the ground and came face to face with a vampire Ford.
"Hey Ranko!" Ford grinned with his demonic face showing. "Seeing how our last date was cut short, want a second chance?" he opened his mouth and leaned in the bite Xander. "What?" He stopped midway and gasped as he exploded into dust.
Xander landed awkwardly on her feet and stared at her saviour.
"Sorry about that Ford," Buffy stated. "Actually…no. I'm not."
"Buffy, remember how I didn't want you to save me from being beat up? Forget I ever complained that," Xander sighed in relief.
"You okay?" Buffy asked and Xander gave a brief nod. She rolled her neck to work the kinks out of it.
"Xander!" Willow appeared and tackled the cursed boy. "You're okay! I thought the demon had gotten you."
"So did I," Xander admitted as Giles caught up to them. The Watcher took a moment to catch his breath before looking at the battle between Spike and Texhniqbovg. Spike was losing.
"G-good Lord, is t-that an-an Archfiend?" Giles stuttered in shock.
"That sounds bad…" Xander muttered and looked to Giles for an explanation. Willow still hanging with her arms wrapped around Xander's midsection looked up expectantly.
"How do I kill it?" Buffy asked.
"Y-you don't," Giles continued to stare. "I s-suggest we make a tactical withdrawal."
"Run away and hide? Sound good to me," Xander admitted.
"So…no stakey, stakey?" Buffy mimed staking.
"Absolutely not. There's a reason that Lucifer himself is depicted and known as an Archfiend," Giles explained. "Let us retreat." The group turned as one to leave and were confronted by Drusilla barring their path.
"Don't leave my pony," Drusilla smiled towards Xander. "Remember your promise?"
"What promise?" Buffy and Willow immediately asked Xander.
"Pony promised to keep my pretty boy away from *her*," Drusilla pointed at Buffy and looked disgusted. "If you let him die I'll be sad."
"Uh huh, and that don't include sticking my neck out for him," Xander snapped. "Get out of the way."
To the surprise of the humans, Drusilla did as Xander demanded and stepped aside to stand well out of reach of them, allowing them to pass. The four of them exchanged surprised looks and moved to leave. As they passed Drusilla she spoke once more in a sad tone of voice. "If the pony runs now…he'll be running forever…until the ones make him go away."
Xander paused and turned to regard her. Somehow she knew, felt it deep down to the bottom of her soul that the vampire was telling the truth. If she ran the demon would continue to chase her, perhaps to the ends of the earth. Drusilla raised her eyes and a faint smile touched her lips as Xander glanced back towards Texhniqbovg, uncertainty in her eyes.
"Xander! Come on!" Giles shouted.
Xander glanced back to Giles and saw the look of fear on the Watcher's face. Buffy looked stern and ready to fight. Willow looked unsure and slightly afraid. Xander glanced back to Texhniqbovg in time to see Spike get thrown at them. The vampire hit the ground near Xander and groaned as he tried to sit up and only managed to twitch. Drusilla rushed over to him and helped him sit, she sent an indeciable look towards Xander.
"Xander!" Giles shouted again.
"She's right," Xander replied as he watched Texhniqbovg grab the handle of his axe and yanked it a few times to pull it free from the mausoleum's wall it had been embedded. It was strange she thought as the moment she made her decision to stand and fight a strange confidence seemed to fill her. She could do this if she let the instinct of this body take over. She just knew it.
"Xander?" Giles could only stare in horror as Xander glanced back at them with a cocky grin on her face. The Watcher had a sinking feeling he knew the boy turned girl was going to face the demon.
"If I run he'll just keep coming after me. Guess I've gotta end it one way or the other," Xander shrugged as if accepting a minor problem.
"Xan—" Giles was cut off as Willow tugged on his jacket sleeve. He glanced at her but she shook her head. "I think Xander's got a plan," Willow explained. Xander rolled her head and took a deep breath and stepped forward.
"So, you finally you accept your fate," Texhniqbovg swung his axe about experimentally as Xander walked up to the demon. She stopped just out of his range and shut her eyes and took a very deep calming breath. Okay body, I'm trusting my life in you, you better not screw up,
Xander thought. As she breathed a sudden calm overcame her and she snapped her eyes open to find the world focus into exceeding clarity as if the wool had been removed from her senses. She could suddenly feel the air currents around her, moving over her skin. The dampness under her feet. The scent of damp grass seemed clearer, even if it was no stronger.
She could feel a large energy flowing from and around the demon and smaller ones coming from Giles and Willow behind her. The demon felt powerful, yet strangely light. Giles felt strong, stronger than Xander would have thought and although he felt light there was a definite undercurrent of something dark lurking beneath the surface. Willow was all light and fluffy. Buffy's aura felt primal and powerful, like a barely restrained wild animal. The vampires had no aura, making them stand out like negatives against the background of energy flows.
"Prepare to die freak," Texhniqbovg raised his axe. Xander found her eyes picking out the subtle nuisances in the demon's movements, the little twitches as his muscles tensed that warned her exactly what he was going to do. The axe rushed towards her and her body reacted accordingly by stepping casually aside and letting the blade tear into the ground side her.
Texhniqbovg ripped the axe free not letting missing the cursed boy get in his way of continuing to attack. Xander dodged again, her eyes glazed as she went on autopilot. Soon she was leading the demon in a high-speed dance around the graveyard in an arc.
"G-good L-lord," Giles exclaimed as he watched the display with unbridled awe. "H-he's matching and Archfiend?"
"Wow, Xander's really doing it," Buffy remarked.
"Um, guys…" Willow spoke. "I think she's…oh my gosh she is!" Willow's voice filled with excitement. "She doing it! Oh my gosh! Look at the spiral!"
"Huh?" Buffy looked at the red head in confusion. "Spiral?"
"A spiral?" Giles studied Xander's movements carefully and realised Willow was right. Xander was leading the demon around in an ever tightening spiral. He did not understand the significance though and pumped her for more information. "Why does a spiral matter?"
"Xander's setting up the spiral for the rising dragon's ascension," Willow pointed. "It's one of Ranma's most powerful techniques. Oh my gosh! I can't believe we're going to see it!" She gushed like a fangirl.
Giles and Buffy shared a concerned glance over Willow's reaction, but Giles pressed on. "W-what does this technique do?"
"Oh, it makes a tornado to blow away an opponent or opponents," Willow grinned.
"A tornado? For real?" Buffy looked back and forth between Willow and Xander fighting the demon. If Xander was going to make a tornado she wanted to see it and learn it too.
"As in magic?" Giles frowned as Xander continued to dodge around Texhniqbovg's attacks and tighten the spiral.
"No, no. It's a chi technique. By using an opponents hot chi and mixing it in a spiral with your chi which you have to cool right down you create a tornado," Willow explained.
"Just like hot air meeting cold can produce one," Giles nodded in understanding of the theory. "But does Xander even know how to produce this cold energy?"
"Um…that's a good point," Willow realised. She saw Xander close in right close to the demon. "Well, if he doesn't now would be a bad time to learn that fact." She pointed as Xander made the final move, throwing an uppercut-like punch into the air.
"On another note, last night a freak tornado reportedly tore through a local graveyard causing massive damage to the area and it's surroundings. The cost of the repairs required is estimated to run into tens of thousands of dollars. Is this metrological occurrence an effect of global warming? We asked—" Giles switched off the television and the early morning news. The reports of last night's…incident were being put down to freak weather, but he knew better. He rubbed his tired eyes and stared down at the report he was writing.
Giles breathed deeply and tiredly picked up his almost cold and untouched tea. He sipped at his drink while wondering if he was making the right decision. He knew he couldn't just ignore and pretend the situation with Xander and his curse would blow over anymore. Ethan's story now seemed genuine — as much as it pained him to admit it — seeing as Xander had fought with an Archfiend. If that wasn't scary enough to the Watcher, the fact that Xander had the power to beat such a rare and feared demon in hand-to-hand combat…well it frightened him more than Buffy having to face the Master and knowing she would die. The boy would need guidance to make sure he didn't abuse his power and unfortunately Giles could not be the one to do so. He already had a duty to train and aid Buffy.
He put his cup down and with a sigh picked up the report for the Watcher's council and folded it up and slipped it into a plain manilla envelope. "I hope you can forgive me Xander," Giles sighed.
Deep in the subterranean tunnels that ran underneath the town of Sunnydale, a large red and battered form was dragged along by a much more human sized one, which grumbled to itself in a bored and annoyed tone. After a while the small humanoid stated, "I give up, you weigh too much to be dragging all the way back home, you know that?" and sat down. After waiting long enough to give the large demon time to wake up the figure got to its feet and kicked the demon.
"Hey get up!"
The large demon grunted, rolled over and climbed to his feet roaring a challenge, "Who dares wake Lord Texhniqbovg? Ruler of the Seventh—"
"Oh cut it out Texy you drama queen!" the shorter form snorted.
"Oh, its just—" Texhniqbovg coughed and cleared his throat and then continued to speak in a light and effeminate voice, completely at odds with his massive powerful form. "Its just you Trip."
Trip rolled his eyes. "Uh huh. How many times is this now that I've pulled your ass outta the fire?"
"Like whatever," Texhniqbovg gave a limp wave of his wrist towards Trip. "Did you see me last night? I was totally awesome right?"
"Yeah. So awesome I had to drag your unconscious form all the way down here to keep the humans from finding and finishing you off," Trip snorted.
"It was all part of the act," Texhniqbovg shrugged and winced as the pain from his defeat registered. He rubbed at his shoulder. "That boy…he's something else," he stated as he remembered the tornado sweeping him up and throwing him half way across the town.
"I can't believe you let a human beat you," Trip laughed. "A human boy!"
"Laugh it while you can big boy, you've got to go after the…girl…" Texhniqbovg paused as he remembered Xander had actually changed forms. It now made sense to the demon why the pair of them had been hired to chase two kids with different names living at the same address and with specific instruction that they wouldn't be seen together. Texhniqbovg let an evil grin grow on his face as he decided not to tell the incubus about the little fact that the girl was actually a boy.
"Muhahahahahha!" Texhniqbovg started to laugh deep and manically.
"Will you cut that out Texy! You know it's annoying." Trip snapped stepping closer to Texhniqbovg.
"Hey, sorry, couldn't help it," Texhniqbovg giggled like a school girl at Trip's upcoming humiliation if everything played out the way he expected.
"Hey, how do I look?" Trip asked for Texhniqbovg's opinion of his clothes as the handsome incubus gave a slow spin. Texhniqbovg apprised Trip's twenty years of out date leopard print shirt and suit and snorted.
"That makes you look oh so gay," Texhniqbovg stated.
"Oh shut up Texy Queen of the Hellmouth!"
"At least I'm comfortable with it," Texhniqbovg stuck his tongue out.