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“Why did he collapse?”
“Should we just pick him up and take him home?”
“Come on, Xander, wake up…please.”
Xander could hear the voices around him, but it took a second to place them. They were the voices of Willow and Buffy. He was about to rise when the surge of memories hit him. He could remember what he had done tonight. He could see Larry’s blood staining the pirate shirt he wore and hear the screams of those he had blown to pieces. No, not him. It was Deidara, not him. But the memories continued. Memories of Deidara’s life hit him. He could remember the first kill he ever made. The taunts about his hands from the other children in the village. Killing the many hunter nins that chased after him as his rank as a missing nin rose all the way to S. The humiliation when Itachi defeated him so easily and the anger he felt when he was forced to join the Akatsuki. Annoying Sasori-danna with his correct concept of art. Fighting the jinchūriki for the one tailed beast. Dealing with Tobi. And his death at the hands of that damn Sasuke. But it wasn’t his death. The things that he remembered had not really happened to him. He knew this, but he could still feel the mouths on his hands.
*Wait a second. That’s not a memory! Those mouths are still there! Shitshitshit*
As he tried to concentrate on his real identity and the permanence of his costume, he heard Buffy and Willows conversation continue.
“Angel, would you please help us get him home?” Buffy asked her vampire boyfriend.
“Sure, Buffy. It’s no problem,” Angel replied.
*No no no! They’ll see the hands and think I’m a freak. Just like when I was little…no, that wasn’t me dammit!*
He pushed away all of his confusion and worries, and he sat up to give a smile to his friends. “Hey, guys. How the hell did I get here?” He saw the relief on Willow’s face. Deidara definitely had not made the best impression on her and she was no doubt happy that he could not remember a thing. She gave him a smile and answered his question.
“Everyone who bought costumes at Ethan’s turned into their costumes. It was chaos. Buffy thought that cars were demons.” Willow was trying to make light of the situation and he and Buffy let out small chuckles.
“I can’t remember much except for a whole lotta French. Thinking about it kinda gives me the wiggins.”
“So, Wills, was I a badass like I said earlier?” Willow’s happy expression quickly dropped and she nervously looked around in an attempt to figure out what to say.
“More like meanie, actually,” she finally said. “So after all this chaos, I’m pretty tired. How about we all head home.” Buffy agreed with her and Xander nodded along. However, a pang of guilt struck him.
*I terrified her…How will she react when she finds out I’m not the same?*
The group made their way to Willow’s house, and then Xander’s. Angel and Buffy continued on to their house, leaving Xander standing outside his house. He gave a big sigh, and he slowly walked through the door. As he entered his house, a bottle came flying at him. With reflexes that he had never had before, he caught the bottle and threw it back without a thought. A thunk and pain-filled groan followed.
“What the hell was that, boy? Where have you been? I’ve been waiting for you to come back so you could get me some more goddamn beer. And now you’ve given me a fucking concussion. You’re gonna pay for that…” Tony Harris’ words were drifted away when he saw the look on his son’s face. It was a look he had never seen before on his dufus of a son’s face.
“Well, Dad, that’s why you don’t throw things. Now I’m really not in the mood for dealing with you right now or at any time really, un. So if you don’t shut up, I will make you. Permanently. Understood?” Now Tony Harris was not the sharpest tool in the shed, but his survival instinct was strong. He gave a meek nod and quickly made his way back to his chair in front of the tv. He’d just have to watch baseball without the help of alcohol. God help him.
Xander gave a snort at his father’s cowardice, not truly realizing how different he had just acted. He slipped into his room, dropped his hat on his bed, and made his way to the bathroom; He wanted a good look of himself in order to see if anything else about him had changed. He entered the bathroom and stared into the mirror. Luckily, he didn’t look too different. His face looked a bit more angled and delicate. Now matter how hard Deidara protested, he did look pretty girly, and now Xander’s face seemed just a tiny bit more feminine. He removed the scope from his eye and gave a sigh of relief that both of his eyes had turned back to their regular brown. With a nervous glance to his hair in the mirror and a prayer to any and all deities out there, he hesitantly reached a hand to his hair to pat it…
*Yes!! It’s a wig. No blond ponytail for me!*
With a smile, he pulled off the wig, only to drop it when he saw his hair underneath. He was now a blond with hair a tad longer than earlier that night.
*I should have known. My eyebrows are lighter as well, I just didn’t really notice.*
Xander’s legs weakened, and he slowly slid down the wall and onto the ground. The entirety of the night’s
events was finally hitting him. Xander dropped his head into his hands. He instantly jumped in shock when he felt a tongue lick his cheek. “Damn. I forgot about those. What the hell am I gonna do? There’s no way I can go to school looking like this, much less see Willow and Buffy.”
With one last look at his reflection, Xander left the bathroom and returned to his room. He walked to his bed, letting the Akatsuki cloak drop to the floor as he went. He fell into his bed and fell asleep wishing that he had just dressed up as some generic soldier. Maybe then things would not be so different.
BEEP BEEP BEEP
Xander was jerked awake by the harsh noise of his alarm clock. He glanced at it to see that it was 7:30. He had thirty minutes to figure out what to do about his new appearance. Suddenly the solution hit him. He was actually surprised he had not thought of it sooner, but it had been an eventful night to say the least. He pictured himself as he had looked before, and then he quickly moved his hands in a set of seals. As he moved his hands, he noticed that he was nowhere near as fast as Deidara, let alone a chunnin. Also, the purple nail polish had not chipped or faded, and the ring remained on his finger.
“Henge no jutsu!” Smoke surrounded him, and when it cleared, Xander was there looking as he had just a day before. The blond hair was brown once more, his face was no longer even slightly girly, his fingernails were free of paint, and his fingers wore no jewelry. However, he knew this was not real; He had changed, and it was likely that nothing could fix it. He once more looked into the mirror to make sure nothing was out of the ordinary and then rushed out of his house and off to school.
Sunnydale High was quieter than usual when he arrived. Although the students seemed to ignore much of what had happened the previous night, the one thing that no one could deny was that Larry was murdered in the chaos. Even though death was disturbingly not out of the ordinary at Sunndydale High, it never got any easier on the students. Xander could not help but flinch as he walked by Larry’s locker. He hoped if anyone noticed they would simply think he was mourning, but in reality, he was reliving the moment when Deidara put a kunai in Larry’s back without a care. He shook his head to rid himself of the memory and the slight feeling of glee that accompanied it and made his way to history. Perhaps he could catch up on his sleep as the teacher gave a painfully boring lecture about the Civil War or the Great Depression or whatever they were talking about.
“Xander, how could you sleep through the class? You’re grades could go down, and then you might fail, and then we might not be able to graduate together! We can’t let that happen!! I’m going to have to be your study buddy!” Xander smiled at Willow’s babbling, one of his favorite things about her. No matter what was going on, he could always depend on Willow to be unable to control what came out of her mouth. Buffy playfully rolled her eyes at Willow’s concerns and pushed the library doors open.
The trio saw Giles pacing the library floor, but he stopped when he heard their entrance. “Hello, children. I was wondering if any of you were experiencing any leftover effects from your… transformations last night. In fact, I don’t have the slightest clue as to what you and Xander dressed up as, Buffy.”
Willow gave a quick shake of her head. “Well, I haven’t slipped through any walls or anything, so I think I’m completely alive again.”
Buffy looked up thoughtfully to the ceiling. “I dressed as a noblewoman, and other than a fluency in French that is already going away, nothing’s changed.”
Xander gave a nearly imperceptible flinch at the question and looked off to the books as the others gave their answers. As Willow and Buffy answered Giles’ question, he wondered if he should tell them the truth. He was almost ready to do so, but the paranoia that all shinobi, including Deidara, possessed in that other world held him back. He did not want to have Buffy chasing after him with an ax in the belief that Deidara was possessing him or something like that, nor did he desire to see Willow’s disgusted and fearful face when he revealed the mouths on his hands. So when Giles turned his head toward him looking for an answer, Xander gave him a goofy smile and lied. “I’m not even sure what I was, Giles. But I don’t remember much, and no freaky side effects. So I’m good.” Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the relieved looks on the faces of his friends. Those faces only strengthened his resolve to not tell them the truth about his costume.
Giles had a smile on his face, happy to not have to deal with any more otherworldly trouble in Sunnydale than usual. The group moved on to Spike’s ass-kicking at the hands of Buffy and then plans for the Bronze that night. For a little while, it seemed as if everything had returned to normal.
Later that night, Xander stood in the cemetery in front of a fresh grave with his new appearance. He knew that Buffy would not be patrolling the area tonight, but just in case, it was better if she didn’t see him here. He knew she would not recognize him with his new look if he quickly got away if she came across him. He intended to train with the undead that night, and if it went well, he would continue to do so. He may have the memories, bloodline, and instincts of a very powerful shinobi, but he lacked the strength, speed, and actual experience of Deidara. He would be able to handle some demons and vampires, but without training he would have to continue to rely on Buffy when the more powerful beasties came to Sunnydale. Luckily, he had Deidara’s memories, so he knew how to make progress.
He glanced at the grave he was standing in front of, but there was still no movement. How did Buffy not die of boredom when she was doing this? He returned to his thoughts of hand seals and weapons for a few more minutes when he suddenly felt the ground slightly shift beneath his feet. A smile appeared on his face that resembled Deidara’s more than any smile of his. A hand popped up out of the grave and was soon followed by another. A head slowly rose up as well, it’s features contorted with the bumps and ridges of a vampire’s “game-face”. The vampire looked up to Xander, and the newborn ignored his instincts screaming to run away and gave a chuckle.
“How nice. I won’t have to search for my dinner.” Xander raised an eyebrow at the vampire’s failed attempt at sounding frightening. He simply looked at his watch, wondering if all vampires took this long to get out of the grave. “Hey! Didn’t you hear me? You’re gonna be my dinner as soon as I get out of this dirt. Why don’t you run off? It’ll be more fun that way for me, and you might even escape!”
Xander continued to stand there until the vampire was finally out of his grave. The nameless vampire reached out to grab Xander, but he was surprised when his prey avoided his clumsy grasp and gave him a punch to the stomach. The vamp bent over to catch his nonexistent breath; Old habits die hard. Unfortunately for the vampire, a knee soon connected with his face, causing his nose to break. He stumbled away and began to flee the teenager. However, he fell to the ground when a kunai was thrown into the back of his knee. He screamed in pain and attempted to crawl away. He was stopped by a foot on his back. He turned his head to meet the cold brown eyes of his soon to be killer. The last thing the vampire saw before he crumbled into dust was the slightly insane smile on the teen’s face.
Xander’s smile fell as he evaluated his one-sided fight against the fledgling. His taijutsu was not very good but Deidara’s was not stellar either as he was a long-range fighter. That was one thing Xander definitely needed to improve upon; Fights were usually up close and personal in Sunnydale. His accuracy was not too good considering he had wanted to hit the vamp’s Achilles’ tendon. And accuracy was necessary for his “art”.
However, his need for improvement did not lessen his determination; If anything it made him even more resolved. He would grow stronger, stronger than Deidara even. He knew it would take years, but he nothing would stop him from fighting the evils of the world. And if he got to spread his art around the world while doing so, that wouldn’t hurt either. With a slight skip to his step, Xander made his way to the next grave he suspected held a newborn vampire. He had lots more training to do.