Echoes of the Fallen- YAHF
Losing a bet to Willow, Xander was forced to dress up as a Jewish character for Halloween. She should have been more specific.
Disclaimer: Characters are not of my creation, only my interpretation. Magneto belongs to Marvel Comics, and Buffy characters belong to Joss Whedon and the various studios and networks.
Xander Harris stared down at his arm, his face slack with shock as he slowly reached out, tracing his fingers along his right, inner forearm. Touching the faded inked of a tattoo that had been aged more than three times his own life span. The cold, messy numbers that marked an occupant of Auschwitz-Birkenau. The numbers that marked a man who had been one of the Sonderkommando, forced to help dispose of the slaughtered bodies of his fellow inmates.
Numbers so very much like the ones he'd seen once before, on the forearm of his best friend's grandfather. The look that had been on the man's face, the distant sadness, the numbed gaze. He hadn't recognized it as a boy, but now, as he looked into the mirror, he could see it there in his own eyes. The look of a man who's soul had died slightly because of the horrors he'd seen.
As he closed his eyes, he could remember the choking, consuming smell, haunting him. The looks of horror and fear that sparked in the children, and the souless resignation in the eyes of so many adults, flashed in front of his eyes. The feeling, of his own body consuming itself in hunger, drained and near broken from one of the worst places humanity had created.
He could feel the memories of hatred, fear, anger, pain, and such a myriad of emotions that he could never fully understand them. Mostly at himself, for escaping while others were left behind, to suffer even more. The fevered, soul binding pledge he'd made to himself, not to let it ever happen again, not if he had the power to prevent it. A guilt and pain that shaped everything he would be for decades to come.
Shaking his head softly, he could feel the memories of what happened next begin to form in his mind. Anya, the beautiful daughter, and the fire that had taken her life. Of the mob that had stopped him from saving her, and the first, explosive manifestation of what he was.
Max Eisenhardt had died along with his daughter that day, when his wife had fled in terror at what he'd suddenly found himself capable of.
Erik Lehnsherr had risen for a time, searching through out Europe for his missing wife, desperate to find her. The same Erik that had met a man by the name of Charles, and engaged into a long philosophical debate. A debate each argued with a passion, not knowing the other was the same as they were.
Then, that time had passed, and Erik faded, to give way to the name by which he would be known, and feared by the world over Magneto.
Xander shook his head, to escape the fog of memories as he felt the tears streaming down his cheeks. A part of him, a part his true memories flashed with a glimmer as he recalled the words he'd read being said by the X-man Psylocke in the first issue of the second volume of the X-Men, "The sheer force of the man."
Not his physical strength, the strength of his mind, of his will. It almost threatened to overwhelm him as at the same time, he could feel it an odd comfort. Max Eisenhardt had become a force that shook the very world itself. Ripples of his actions affecting in so many ways, both good and ill as he had struggled to walk the fine line between protecting his people, and becoming like the monsters he hated so. A difficult path he hadn't always been able to follow.
And now, the memories of a man who'd lived a life so far beyond his own running through his mind, Xander Harris stared at the cheaply painted magenta and purple helmet he'd worn only hours early and wondered. If a man as strong as Magneto could fall prey to becoming the thing he feared the most, what did that say about an ordinary boy like he was?
A sudden shot of anger raced through him, a burning, consuming then as he took the cardboard and tinfoil helmet, throwing it across the room with a silent scream as it struck a wall with a dull, near silent thud, the fell, listlessly to the floor.
How could he have done it? How could he have fallen so far? It ate at him, that gnawing realization that the man had betrayed himself and never saw it. Why?
Turning his head, he rose up from his bed, and quietly made his way to an wrinkled cardboard box seated near his decrepit bookshelf. Stacks of comics lay within, years of collecting, savoring the stories with Jessie, the tales they told of heroes, their adversaries and the forces they faced. Almost savagely he would rip through the stacks, searching, desperately until he found what was searching for.
The Age of Apocalypse.
Fingers dimly traced over the weathered cover as he shook his head, flipping through the pages as he fell quietly back down on his bed. A Magneto shaped by one last tragedy that had never happened in the main timeline. A Magneto who took up the dream of the friend that died in his arms at the hands of a time travelling madman who had come to kill Magneto himself.
A madman who was wiped from existence by killing his own father before he’d been born.
On that day, Magneto had changed, taking up the banner of Charles Xavier’s dream. And in that reality, he had as Apocalypse had created concentration camps the likes of which staggered the one he’d endured in his youth. He’d risen up to become a hero, a beacon against the darkness of Apocalypse’s madness.
That potential was always there. There had been glimpses of it, seen in the past he remembered. Times where he stood against the dark, stood with the heroes as they had been known. But, too often, that glowing spark of hope, had been crushed by the fear and stupidity of people who had more power than they should have.
Across the room, he could see a shining gleam of the busted padlock he’d picked up from where a vampire had ripped it from a door. Temptation lifted through him, as memories of a gesture, a pull, of tapping into a power that was more powerful than most ever realized. A temptation that he fought down with a rising swell of fear.
What if he couldn’t do it? Or, more frightening to him, what if he could? What if, along with the memories, along with the tattoo, he’d been touched so deeply by the man, that he left everything behind?
Shaking his head, he tossed the comic in his hands aside, and closed his eyes. For a brief moment, he entered into a blissful nothingness. Then, the dreams began.
“Ugh,” Xander groaned softly as he looked blearily up at the light streaming through the library windows. “Remind me again why I had to be here so damned early?”
“Because of last night maybe?” Buffy Summers suggested, a blonde brow arching up as she shrugged just a bit, fighting back a yawn. “You know, when you went all Big Baddie and tore apart the warehouse district?”
“That wasn’t me!” he protested, hands held up. “That was Magneto!” He paused a moment, before suddenly grinning back at Buffy. “Or, are you saying that it was you that was running around, calling cars Demons and being about as useful as a sack of potatoes?”
“I’m gonna go with the Hey!” The Slayer glared back at her friend, sticking out her tongue playfully.
“As much as I’m sure this is quite the fascinating discussion,” Rupert Giles spoke up as he walked up to the pair. “Buffy has already told me that her… occupation has had lingering effects on her.”
“French test is in the bag.” The girl nodded happily.
“Yes, well, that’s well and good, but...” Giles coughed softly before he turned his attention towards Xander. “I was curious to know if you too had noticed any lingering after effects? Considering what I’ve been told about the man who possessed you…”
While Giles left the words hanging, Xander took a slow, long moment to swallow, a chill running down his spine as he wordlessly pulled down the sleeve of his shirt, to reveal the faded tattoo. “Just… a few, Giles.”
“What is… Good Lord!” the British librarian paled slightly as he stared down at the faded numbers on the boy’s arm. “Is that…?”
“It's… That’s Magneto’s Auschwitz tattoo, isn’t it?” Willow Rosenberg squeaked quietly as she stared at her friend’s arm. “I mean, its just like my grand father’s! All faded and… Oh my god, oh my god…”
“Auschwitz…?” Buffy spoke up, the confusion written on her face as she stared at the extreme reactions of the others present.
“The concentration camp, Buff,” Xander answered her, his voice struggling to remain nonchalant. “During World War II, where, when Magneto was younger than us, was forced to be one of the Sonderkommando.”
“Good Lord!” Giles slumped down in his chair, staring at the haunted look in the young man’s eyes. “And… and you remember it?”
“All of it,” Xander spoke so softly. “The smell most of all.”
“Oh Xander…” Willow leapt up, quickly wrapping her friend in a tight hug.
“Um, could someone make with the explanations for Slay-girl here? Kinda clueless…” Buffy spoke up, her hand raising with her words, before visibly flinching back at the suddenly outraged glare Willow shot at her.
“Wow, easy there, Wills.” Xander reached up, putting his hand on her shoulder. “Not everyone has had a grandfather that survived, or is a historian type person like you and Giles…”
“But…” there was anger there in those eyes, as she looked back at Xander.
“Seriously, she doesn’t know,” he reassured her gently.
“I’m gonna guess it’s of the bad then?” Buffy offered, a slight hesitance in her words.
“Right then,” Giles spoke up, his face drawn and pale, as he shakily put his hand on the back of a chair. “The Sonderkommando were Auschwitz prisoners that were forced to dispose of the bodies of their fellow prisoners who had died or been executed. The estimates by some reports put the death toll for Auschwitz alone at over a million.”
Paling herself now, Buffy turned her hazel eyes back to Xander. “And… you remember it?”
“All of it.” Xander’s voice came out in a half chuckled rasp. “I remember Auschwitz… I remember how he married and tried to put it behind him. I remember the joy he felt when he became a father for the first time. I remember the fear, the pain, the rage that lead to him first manifesting his powers as he was forced to watch as building his infant daughter was in, was burned to the ground by a mob that forced him to watch…
“I remember the look of fear and horror on his wife’s face when she realized what he’d done,” he continued, his voice soft, subdued. “ I remember how that look stabbed to the heart of him, ate at him, how she forsook him because he was different. I remember the years he spent wandering Europe, hoping, desperately to find her… I remember the friendship he formed with Charles Xavier, and how badly it hurt him to face off against his closest friend time and time again.”
“Good Lord… I… Good Lord.” Giles slumped into the chair, staring at the boy sitting before him, that remembered a life not his own. A life of pain and misery like nothing he could find himself imagining. “Xander…”
“Everything he did, he did because he wanted to protect his people,” the boy spoke softly as he looked into each of his friend’s eyes, one by one. “He did everything in his power to try and prevent them from learning the pain he knew. You have no idea the sheer strength he had… Not his powers, not his physical strength… But his will, who he was, he… Its frightening.”
“Xander, I know it can be difficult to come to terms with what you’ve been through….” Giles watched as Buffy had moved next to the boy, hugging him along with Willow. “And, I know having the memories of such a dangerous, powerful man can be traumatic…”
“You don’t understand, Giles,” he spoke up, his eyes shining with unshed tears as he met the Watcher’s gaze. “He was so strong, stronger than any of us… Who he was, and he was determined to protect them all… All that strength, all those intentions and he STILL came so close to becoming what he hated, what had hurt him so badly. THAT’S what scares me.”
The boy took a deep, shuddering breath before he looked across the table at the man. “If someone that strong fell to the darkside, what chance does a weak, ordinary kid like me have?”
“Are you talking about the same Xander Harris that's standing here in front of us?” Buffy spoke up, her eyes looking slightly bewildered. “You know, the guy that ignored what everyone was telling him, the immutable prophecy pertaining to the death of yours truly? The one that refused to believe there was nothing that could be done?”
“Buff, this isn't the same thing,” Xander said softly, his eyes growing distant as he looked towards the shelves. “This is...”
“The same Xander Harris, that when I let Willow and the others get captured, told me in no uncertain terms that if she died because of me being selfish, you'd kill me yourself?” Buffy pointed out. “The one that made me believe every word of it?”
“Not exactly filling me with the confidence here, Buff,” the boy shot back sarcastically. “Reminding someone of when they threatened one of their best friends lives...”
“I do believe,” Giles spoke up slowly, his fingers working to slowly polish the shining lenses of his glasses. “That she’s referring to the fact that your character is far from, weak as you put it.”
“Basically.” Buffy shrugged softly. “Your strength isn’t being all mystical Chosen One Demon fightery.”
“OH, oh!” Willow nodded vigorously as she perked up. “She’s saying that you were already like Magneto, but not!”
“Yeah, but I’m talking about how if he became like he was,” Xander pointed out slowly, quietly. “Where does that leave me?”
“With something Magneto didn’t have,” Buffy countered with a slight smirk. “Friends to help keep you on the straight and narrow.”
Slowly Xander ran over the memories in his head, studying them, carefully, intently before he began to nod. Max had shouldered the burden for himself. No friends, no family. No one to help him stay the course. He’d been on his own, and gotten lost.
“Just like you’re here to help keep me on track,” the blonde girl continued as she leaned down, poking slightly at the boy’s chest. “So, I keep you on track, you keep me on track, sound good?”
For a moment, a part of something bubbled up inside of him, as Xander canted his head slightly to the side, and his voice took on a slightly European tinge. “Why, my dear Buffy, that seems a most… worthy venture. Sure you can keep me up to the task?”
The group stared at him, the girls mouths slightly agape as Buffy broke into a blush first, staring at him with goggling eyes. “XANDER!”
“It would seem,” Giles spoke up, almost sputtering as he pinched the bridge of his nose. “That there are more than a few, lasting repercussions for you than simply some bad memories, Xander.”
“Err, sorry about that,” Xander spoke up, somewhat sheepishly. “I’m still sorting out things in my head and well… “ He paused before grinning at the still slightly blushing Buffy. “Max was known to be a charmer of no small talent.”
“You didn’t even sound all Xandery though!” Willow spoke up, her words a rush. “Well, kinda sorta, but more in a Magneto-y Xanderish way, instead of a Xander, Xanderish way! You know, how you sounded before you went all annoyed went all angry Magneto Xander and trashed the warehouse district!”
“Breath, Wills,” the boy said softly as he shook his head and shifted forward, clasping one hand over the other as he rested his chin against it. “You gotta remember, Wanda’s codename wasn’t just for show. She was a mutant and a magic user. He was more than aware of the supernatural world. And he happened to have a particular… dislike for vampires.”
“Good Lord, you’re saying…” Giles spoke up, his eyes widened in shock.
“That rampage you guys called it?” Xander was grinning slightly. “Magneto clearing out some vamp and demon nests. He was no Victor Von Doom, but he knew enough about the supernatural to know how to deal with vampires.”
“Too bad Spike decided to go out last night then,” Buffy spoke up, her blush fading slightly as she grinned slightly. “That would’ve been fun.”
“Did you… Did you keep any of his powers?” Willow spoke up slowly, her eyes wide with a combination worry and possible awe.
“Nothing has been floating all magnetically around me, Wills,” Xander shrugged slightly. “Nor have I made anything metal move.”
“Is there anything else we should know?” Buffy asked, suddenly looking at the boy’s neutral expression. “Besides, ya know, the wildly inappropriate innuendo and flirting?”
“^Well, you’re not the only one who’ll have an easier time in French,^” the boy quipped back at her in the language mentioned. “And I have a disturbing amount of knowledge about how to brew a decent pot of tea…” He paused before glaring at Giles. “No, I will NOT be mother, so don’t even ask!”
As Buffy and Willow mouthed the word, ‘mother’ to one another, Giles coughed slightly and shook his head in a rueful chuckle. “Nor would I expect you to, lord knows that you’d be replacing a right proper scone with one of those dreadful twinkies of yours.”
“Errr… Right.” Xander paused a moment, before blushing slightly. “But, err, could I talk to you in your office about something?”
“Not trying to hide something from us, are you, Xander?” Buffy spoke up, suddenly with a flash of suspicion in her eyes.
“Less suspiciony, more wanting to know where I can get some good tea-y,” he responded, still red in the face. “And, I would appreciate if this was never mentioned again, as I do not want it known I can talk tea like Sir Tweedalot here.”
“Really Xander, there’s nothing wrong with having a proper appreciation for a good cuppa,” the librarian responded with a soft chuckle.
“Ok, we’ll let you two get your tweedy tea talk on,” Buffy spoke up, grinning teasingly at Xander before grabbing Willow’s arm. “Come on, Wills.”
“But, but…!” the red head began to protest before she was dragged off, by the slayer through the door.
“Well, I can give you the name of a shop that has a…” Giles spoke up, beginning to give off a helpful set of directions to the boy when he saw Xander’s smile vanish, into an almost grim mask. “But, I suppose that’s not quite why you wanted to talk to me, is it?”
“Well.” Xander paused a moment before smiling slightly. “I would appreciate it. But, it’s not the main reason. Could we continue this in your office?”
“Very well,” Giles agreed with a slow nod of his head as he led the boy into the small office and shut the door behind them. “Though, I can’t imagine what you’d want to discuss with me that you couldn’t discuss with the girls.”
“Not girls, as in plural,” Xander corrected quietly. “More, girl, as in singular, as in Willow.”
“What would you possibly not want to Ms. Rosenberg to not know?” Genuine confusion filled the man’s eyes. “I was under the impression that there were no secrets between the two of you?”
“There’s something else that Magneto left me, that… Well..” Xander struggled for a moment, shifting uncomfortably in his seat before looking up at the man. “He was no Reed Richards, or Victor Von Doom, more of a Tony Stark, kinda…”
“Xander,” Giles spoke up as he removed his glasses and looked into the boy’s eyes. “I have no idea who these people are that you’re talking about.”
“Oh, ah, sorry.” Xander struggled a moment as he squirmed down into a seat across from the man. “They’re ah, heroes, well Richards and Stark. Von Doom was a Big Bad, and well…”
“Xander, the point that they all had in common?” the Englishman offered up hopefully.
“Geniuses,” Xander blurted out as he looked into Giles’ eyes. “They were all genius level smart. And, I mean genius level for their universe, as in able to create stuff that’s all scifi here.”
“And, Magneto was…?” rapidly then did the librarian polish his glasses. “Good Lord… And now you…?”
Xander nodded quietly. “He had the equivalent of A LOT of doctorates, G-man. I mean, A LOT.”
“I see… and the reason you wouldn’t want Willow to know this?” the man slumped back into his seat beginning to rub his temples slowly, to force down the headache threatening to burst through his mind.
“I guess some of Magneto’s paranoia is rubbing off on me,” Xander responded, a slightly nervous tinge to his voice. “Her big thing that makes her special, is her being the smart one, the techie one.”
“And you’re worried that if you take that away from her…” Giles’ voice trailed off as he looked at the man before him for a long moment.
“I’ve always been the dumb one as it were,” the boy responded, his eyes growing distant before they locked onto the man in front of him. “If, suddenly I’m better than her…”
“She won’t know her place in things anymore,” Giles finished. “Or she’ll start to resent you… or both.”
“And… I see in her, something that scares me,” Xander said softly as he looked into Giles’ eyes. “Something Magneto had seen before as well… She likes to learn things a bit too much.”
“And you’re worried that if you start showing that you know more than she does, she’ll be pushed to learn even more… with less restraint,” Giles clarified as he looked at the haunted eyes of the boy in front of him.
“I’ve seen where it can lead…” The boy looked back over his shoulder at the shut door of the office. “I’ve seen the men it turned into monsters when restraint was thrown away. When all they cared about was knowing more… More than anyone.”
“I can imagine,” Giles said slowly, softly. “What do you plan to do then? Just let those things go to waste?”
“Not really.” Xander shook his head, slowly. “But, I wanted your help with something.”
“If I can help, I will,” Giles reassured the boy, before giving him a stern look. “Within reason.”
“I want you to form a trust,” Xander spoke up softly. “That I can sell some designs through.”
“Well, I suppose,” the British man responded, looking a bit flustered. “Though I will admit I know nothing about such things, especially the selling of designs of any sort.”
“That’s fine, I’ve got a good idea of how to do it thanks to you know who,” Xander responded evenly. “But, since I’m not legally an adult, I can’t hire a lawyer without my parents finding out about it.”
“And you do not wish them to know about it?” There was a note of confusion in Giles’ voice as he looked in surprise at the boy in front of him.
“I’ve spent every Christmas I can remember, sleeping outside on the rooftop, G-man,” Xander responded glibly. “Including last year. What does that tell you?”
“Good Lord, Xander!” Giles stared at the boy for a moment, before his lips curled down into an almost snarl. “You KNOW how bloody stupid that is!”
“Better than being inside.” The boy shrugged slightly as turned his head, looking off to one wall as if it glued his interest to it. “Got tired of the screaming and breaking glass. Not to mention, they insisted I be around for ‘family’ time if I stayed inside. I’m of the ‘hey, I don’t like being called a worthless idiot’ school of thought.”
The frown that was almost a snarl on the librarian’s mouth turned into one, full force on his lips. It was a dark thin, full of anger and rage as suddenly aspect of the easily flustered librarian melted into something else. Something, that in a way, Xander himself recognized, how his own face had been the night he’d forced Angel to lead him to the Master’s cave. Only, the intensity, the depth of emotion that burned behind the older man’s eyes seemed even more so.
“Bloody stupid…” The man began to hiss, fingers clenching as Xander’s eyes widened a moment, a look of shocked surprise on his face. “Damned worthless wankers, I swear…”
“I guess… I’m not the only one who has a few secrets now?” Xander was edging back slightly in his chair, the almost feral aspect that ran off the Brit’s body a rather unnerving thing.
Taking a slow, deep breath to calm himself, Rupert Giles slowly shook his head. “Ethan, the man responsible for last night…”
“Creepy guy from the land of tweed like you?” Xander offered up, a brow rising slightly in curiosity.
“Yes, well, you see…” Again the typical man Xander had become so familiar with return, muttering slightly under his breath before looking at the boy in front of him. “It was no coincidence that he was here, in this town.”
“And, I’m gonna guess it’s not because he’s some kinda Hellmouth groupie?” offered the boy as he would carefully look back into the Englishman’s eyes.
“Ethan and I… When we were younger, we were friends,” Rupert said softly as his eyes grew distant. “I was angry at the world, I didn’t want any part of the role my father set out for me… so I did what any angry teen does.”
“Well, I’m gonna guess a bit more than just like any other one,” Xander responded evenly. “As this Ethan guy can obviously cast some major mojo… and you well…”
“We were very, very foolish,” Giles said softly as he began to polish his glasses slowly. “But, we were young, and the Ripper thought he knew everything.”
“The Ripper?” Xander blinked in confusion as he asked, “As in, Jack?”
“As in Giles,” the man chuckled softly, the sneering smirk blossomed on his face held only for a moment, a flash of insight granted to the boy. “Rupert ‘Ripper’ Giles…”
“Oook.” Xander slowly eyed the man in front of him. “And how did you go from, the bad to the tweed?”
“As I said, we- I did something incredibly stupid,” the man responded softly as he shifted, a slightly uncomfortable in his seat. “We summoned a demon. I won’t go into details, but we bound and used it… Like people use drugs.”
“And then, it got free, and wasn’t too happy,” the boy filled in, a slight nod. “How many died?”
“Just one,” Giles responded quietly, his eyes distant. “But that was enough. We disbanded. With the exception of myself and Ethan, the rest had nothing more to do with magic in any way, shape or form.”
“And years later, he shows up, in your town, casting a nasty little piece of work like that,” Xander responded. “Looking to cause some trouble, and he figured, might as well piss off old Ripper in the process?”
“And it would seem, he has still yet to grow up,” Giles responded, before he let off a slow, dark growl. “No matter what lessons he’s given.”
“Ya know, Buffy would have more respect for you if you didn’t hide that part of you,” the boy spoke up, head lightly canted to the side. “She needs to trust you, she needs to be able to relate to you,” He paused a moment, before shrugging slightly. “And this ‘Ripper’ part of you, seems to be something she can understand.”
Seeing the dark look crossing the man’s face, Xander shrugged slightly as he held his hands up. “But hey, what do I know? I’m just the kid with the memories of a man who never existed in our reality in his head.” Again he paused before looking back at Giles. “So, will you help me with the trust?”
For a moment, the Englishman glowered at the boy across from him, before slowly, reluctantly almost he nodded his head. “Very well. I’ll contact a solicitor and see about setting it up. Is there anything else I can help you with, Xander?”
“Nah,” the boy responded with a shrug of his shoulders and a wave of his hand as he stood up. “Thanks for getting all ‘Ripper’ when you found out about my parentals. Its nice to have someone care.”
“Ah, yes, well.” the flustered librarian was back in full force as the man watched Xander stand up. “I suppose there’s a kind of charm to you, I suppose.”
“Yeah, I suppose,” Xander parroted back to him, before pausing at the door frame. “Errr... So, you said you DID know a place to get some decent tea, right?”
Soft chuckles followed a red faced Xander Harris, as he clutched violently at the thin piece of paper in his hand. A protective clutching, as he did his best to ensure that no one, no matter who, got to see just what it was in his hand. The address to the tea shop the Librarian had recommended.
Author's note: Ok... yeah, Kinda funny how that popped out. We'll see if I add to it or not.