Chapter 2: Beyond Death
Chapter 2: Beyond Death
Xander pulled himself from the hole that had served as his grave. He gasped for breath and looked around dazed. What happened? Where was he? Who was he? He pulled along the wet dirt, smearing himself with the mud. He looked back and looked uncomprehending at the grave that he had come from. His eyes were no longer the beautiful hazel, but they were darker, black almost and there was a sheen on it, bird-like, foreboding, dangerous eyes.
A squawk called to his attention, and the crow flew right over him. He followed the bird with his gaze as it settled on the drain of the house, uncaring about the heavy rain. He looked down, and saw the house. As a jolt of pain and flashes of memory hot through his brain, he squinted his eyes shut and grabbed his head.
[“You know that I love you, right?” a blonde girl asked hopefully.]
[That same blonde girl letting him bleed to death on the ground, while she checked up on something he instinctively knew as a barely wounded immortal being, her attempted rapist no less.]
[The sword descending down, slicing into his chest, watching the same girl saving the vampire’s life. He hated vampires! Why he didn’t know, but seeing that scene sent Earth shattering feelings of rage, betrayal, and pure hate burning through his being.]
Xander pulled aside his shirt which still had a hole in them, but his chest only had a scar. Slowly Xander looked up at the house, more images entered his mind, these much more gentle. *Alexander LaVelle Harris,* a voice sounded in his mind.
“Xander,” he corrected automatically without thinking about it, somehow knowing it was the bird that had spoken to him. He grabbed his head again as new memories flooded his brain.
[“Xander!” a sweet, little, redheaded girl called out, a boy behind her.]
[That same boy, but older taunting him, trying to persuade him to do something, while he sported a deformed face. The boy, Jesse he now knew, attacked, stumbling while bumped into at the same time and he held up a wooden stake, the boy turning to dust right there, followed by a terrible sadness.]
[Kissing a beautiful brunette. ‘Cordy’ clicked somewhere.]
[The death of a beautiful woman, Jenny, at the hands of another deformed monster, but the blonde refusing to do what he did with Jesse. Resentment, a lie to finally get the blonde to do her duty.]
[The blonde - Buffy his mind supplied - hiding the return of the monster. A kiss with Willow, the redhead.]
[Two new blondes, one happy to kiss and even fuck him anywhere, any place. A wedding, a fake future shown of him beating up Anya, then ending the wedding.]
[Finding Buffy assaulted, knowing that the blonde vampire psychopath, had raped her, or at least tried to.]
[The redhead now having black hair, with black eyes, and black streaks in her skin dropping to her knees in his arms; the red hair returning.]
Xander removed the hand from his head and slowly got up. *Remember now?* the voice sounded, accompanied by a caw. A low growl came from Xander’s throat, a grimace on his face. Xander nodded, and said, “Oh, yes.” Xander’s gaze settled on the house. The vampire was in there he knew, the blonde one, the sickening bastard. He took a step forward, but was interrupted by the crow’s caw.
Xander frowned, “What do you want?”
It cawed again, and lifted in the air. *Follow me.* Xander hesitated, he much rather go inside, and tear the vampire limb from limb and then seeing what he could do to the bitch. Finally he gave in, figuring that the bird might have something useful to show him, after all, it seemed it knew a lot about him, and its prompting had allowed him to remember.
He jumped up without thought, and was rather surprised when he landed halfway up the roof without effort, hardly making a sound. He grinned as he took a step, and jumped, following the bird, sailing clear across the street beneath him, and landed just as softly on the house across the street. *WOW!* Xander thought with gleeful surprise. This was awesome! He felt incredibly strong. He jumped from house to house, occasionally across a street, following the black bird, and speeding across Sunnydale. *Buffy isn’t this fast!* Xander realized with a shock. He noticed the bird again, and got curious. “What are you anyway?” Xander asked.
The bird looked over its wings for a moment, and cawed. ‘I’m a crow.’
“You’re pretty big for a crow,” Xander told it with venom, the hate quickly returning.
The crow squawked. ‘I’m not a normal crow.’
Xander’s mind got assaulted with a memory again, his head hurt. How he kept running and jumping, following the crow was a mystery to him, but he managed to anyway as the memory returned to his brain.
Darkness descended upon Xander. Hate, and rage burned through him as he looked around the darkness. Dark colors swirling around here and there. *So much for the white light,* Xander thought venomously, and realized he suddenly had two sets of memories during a four year period. Surprised he saw a big black crow streak by him, cawing at him, pointing in a direction. A faint orange light in the distance. “Fuck you!” Xander snarled at the bird and started clawing against a pull that was growing stronger. “Never! I’m going back!” he yelled angrily. “That bitch is going to help destroy the world! I won’t let it happen! That stinking bitch and the vampire need to pay! PAY!”
Somehow Xander got a handhold of nothingness, and although the pull from the orange light increased, he was no longer pulled a long. Carefully step by step - how he could make steps when there was nothing to put his feet on was beyond him - he walked back to where he thought he came from.
The crow cawed, and circled him for a moment, as if assessing him, and then the pull went away. “Wolf,” a thunderous voice sounded. Xander spun around and looked directly in a blob of energy that had a vaguely humanoid shape.
“What!?” Xander asked in surprise.
“LaVelle, that is your name is it not?” the shape told him, with a normal voice this time.
“Xander,” he corrected angrily, the shape nodded. “Who the hell are you?”
“I don’t have a name,” the shape answered gruffly. “But I can explain. Once there was nothing, nothing but three beings. One was chaos, darkness, feminine, yin, the other was order, light, male, yang, those two joined, and in their joining they formed the universe . . . except they couldn’t. They were too much apart to be able to, they required a third, a mediator, both female and male, yet being neither, chaos and order, yet neither, darkness and light yet neither, yin and yang yet neither; they required balance to join together and form the universe. I am that balance.”
Xander looked at the energy, and his eyes widened. “Fuck!” he cursed. “You’re like the First Evil. I take it that bastard was chaos?”
“Bingo,” balance answered him, with what Xander swore was a smile. “The universe came into existence, with its own set of rules and forces to govern it; it simply is. Our destruction won’t affect it at all. In fact, once the universe came into existence, it stretched back in time, to the beginning, and beyond, pushing us somewhat outside of it. The universe has always exited, and always will - that rather surprising event caused me to philosophize whether we created the universe, or the universe created us in order to be created . . .” The entity trailed off when it saw Xander look at him with venom in his eyes. “Of course that is another story. Me and order, we loved this place. It’s fantastic, anything can happen, and anything will. When you say, ‘that’s not possible’, it won’t take long for the universe to prove you wrong. And Him, well, He enjoys trying to make everything bend to His will, as in, make everything be orderly, follow order. He created a bunch of gods under His command as well, fun guy. A lot of people would consider Him to be just as evil as the First Evil himself, though.”
“Can we get to a friggin’ point?” Xander snapped angrily. He didn’t quite know why he didn’t just leave the halfwit alone, and try to get back to where he wanted to be. Alive and well to deliver righteous pain and suffering.
“Right. /She/ is different, /she/ got scared,” Balance explained, sternly once again. “The universe changes, it grows, it evolves, and all the creatures that burst forth from it as well . . . Unlike us, we simple are, and the way we are, we always will be. /She/ got scared that one day a being will evolve with such vast powers that it could destroy her with a simple snap of its fingers . . . and so she created the demons, with the express purpose to destroy everything, to destroy the universe she had given birth to. Of course me and Him, put a stop to her, as best as we could. Problem is, she’s found a weakness that allows her full access to the world. Three bringers no longer need to give her access. Me and Him though, can’t use the same weakness, we are impotent to stop her from whatever she wants to do.”
“Why the hell are you telling me all this?” Xander asked growing annoyed again.
“Because those who live in the world can stop her, because you needed to know, you’ll remember this, guaranteed,” Balance told him with an unseen grin. “And she’s gone too far this time, she needs to be stopped, preferably destroyed.”
“Ok, huh?” Xander commented confused.
Balance pointed at the impatient black bird. “The crow, you must know. You’ve read through plenty of books during research.” Xander looked at him blankly. Balance started, “People once believed . . .”
Xander’s eyes widened in recognition, and continued with missing a beat, “. . . that a crow guided a soul to heaven. But sometimes something so terrible happened during life, that a soul feels such pain it cannot rest . . . and sometimes, just sometimes, the crow can bring that soul back to set the wrong things right. It’s going to resurrect me?”
Balance laughed hard. “No, after death the crow can only guide you to where you need to go. A human being resurrects him- or herself. At the moment of death, if the pain is great enough, the synapses firing are powerful enough to send the body in a form of stasis, allowing it to repair the damage, and then a few months to a year, on a very rare occasion centuries, when enough has been rebuilt . . . tada. On a very rare occasion, if the body has gotten a big electric surge, this can happen much sooner, as quick as a few hours.”
The crow cawed, it’s impatience growing. Its dark eyes turned to Balance, piercing the being, and if Xander wasn’t mistaken, the being shivered. “Forces rule this universe, Mr. Harris, forces of nature. One such force is a balancing force, it’s why I like it so much, that force is Vengeance. Vengeance is a living thing, it transcends space and time and dimensions. It knows no remorse, no regret, no mercy. That force and the crow are joined. The crow can become its agent, and it will give those returned souls added strength, fighting ability, agility, speed, and makes it virtually indestructible, practically immortal for as long as the crow lives. That’s what you will become when you go down there, you will be the embodiment of that force, you will be /vengeance/ /incarnate/.
“You can choose to stay on Earth for an eternity, or you can tell the crow to go, or you can kill it, and you’ll be a mortal man, you can live out your life naturally, most go back into their graves willingly, end their lives after they’ve done their tasks, because they don’t feel there is anything to live for,” Balance explained rapidly. He took a deep breath. “Now go, Protector of Man, the Wolf Harris, for Vengeance is getting impatient, I don’t want it to turn on me.” The being then turned around and quickly moved off.
Xander blinked several times, more confused than ever, until the crow cawed angrily at him. He looked at the bird, and remembered how he had gotten here, and what he wanted to do. Rage and hate gripped his being, and nodded to the crow. The crow flew in the opposite direction this time, the direction from whence Xander came, and he followed after it quickly.
Xander casually landed on a roof, and ran across it, seeing the crow in front of him. His rage and anger burned even fiercer now. The First Evil, he had almost forgotten about it, which had made him angrier. It wanted to destroy mankind, which was much more important than his vengeance, plus Xander knew he would never be able to savor his revenge properly if it was still busy trying to destroy the world.
“Where are we going?” Xander asked gruffly. He was tired of this, he needed action.
*There,* came the reply. Xander saw the hospital and was confused. Wasn’t he supposed to be invulnerable now? The crow lowered and Xander followed. A short time later he was on the ground and walked into the hospital through the front door. Everything was quiet, nobody really was there, except a night time nurse at the check-in counter. Xander remembered this place, from several of his less pleasant memories. The bird flew along and landed smoothly on the counter, cawing. The nurse looked up at the bird in surprise, and then looked onward to see the dirty, unkept Xander standing in the middle of the lobby. Dying and clawing out of your own grave does that to you.
*The monks,* the crow told Xander as he took another step forward, *they couldn’t comprehend how a normal, non-magical, non-religious guy could be of any help. Their spell reflected that. They were making preparation spells for the big one that created Dawn over a year before they did that last big one. It changed you, your memories. We need them back, all of them.*
Xander’s foot touched the ground, and he was thrown back, and to the side as he grabbed his head and screamed in pain, as his crow souped up abilities tore through his mind, ripping open magically induced memories, and finding those that were stored beneath them. He banged against a wall, and then again after trying to get up. Finally he sank to his knees, screaming in pain as flashes of memory entered his mind.
[The very same hospital, in the very same place. Angelus is standing there, facing Dawn. Xander looks on in awe from the side. “You listen, you dipshit,” the eleven-year-old told the demon. “The only way you get to Buffy is through me. And you know as well as I do, that soul or no soul, demon or no demon, you hurt me - Buffy’s own sister - that sick or not sick, she’ll tear you limb from limb before dusting your ass!”
Angelus growled in frustration, the kid was right. The rage and hatred coursing through Buffy’s body after killing Dawn would make her pretty much unstoppable. He handed the flowers over to Dawn, and said with a sweet voice, “Please give these to Buffy, will you Dawn? I don’t want to leave the impression I didn’t care.” And Angelus turned around and ran off.
“I did it! I did it!” Dawn screamed out excitedly, her heart racing a thousand times a minute, in a mixture of terror and excitement. “I got rid of Angelus!”
“You sure did, Dawnie,” Xander told the little girl in awe, picking her up and hugging her close. “What would we do without you? Better not tell Buffy what you did, she’ll kill me first and then you.” Dawn nodded happily.]
At the same time, as Xander screamed and twisted about, and the nurse got to him with concern, a different memory shone through the first.
[“Why don’t you come back during the day?” Xander told Angelus with a hint of danger. “Oh, no wait, I guess you can’t.”
Angelus looked into Xander’s eyes, and told him, “If I decide to walk into Buffy’s room, do you think for even one microsecond that you could stop me?”
“Maybe not,” Xander told him calmly. “May those cops couldn’t either, or those security guards, or the orderlies. But I’m kind of curious to find out; you game?”
Angelus snorted, “Buffy’s White Knight. You still lover her.” He took a small step closer, and added, “It must just eat you up that I got there first.”
Xander’s eyes grew colder, and he told the vampire, “You’re gonna die . . . and I’m gonna be there.”
“Tell her I stopped by,” Angelus said, and then turned around and walked away.]
Once the first memory not altered by the monks’ spell was free the rest returned to Xander in a giant cascade. Memories of actually standing up to Buffy instead of just nodding his head yes and obeying. Once all of the memories were restored to him, Xander looked into the nurses eyes, and then past them, behind her. The nurse checked his reflexes with concern. His wits returned to him, Xander - still covered in dirt - got up abruptly, and turned to the exit.
“Hey, I don’t think you should be out there. We can help you here,” the nurse tried.
Xander answered calmly, too calmly, “That won’t be necessary.”
“Where do you think you’re going?” the nurse called after him, as he exited the hospital.
“Kill a few people,” Xander answered, before running off at inhuman speeds and disappearing.
The nurse blinked, and then muttered, “Just a trick of the light, can’t be anything else.”
Xander ran along. He knew where he was going: his apartment. He came past a male clothes shop and skidded to a halt. There a dummy was wearing a fantastic long leather coat with a high collar. Xander grinned, and pulled his arm back, then smashed his fist through the window, which shattered easily. Xander looked at the cuts on his hand, healing almost instantly: the blood running back into his hand and then the wound closing. Xander grinned and pulled the coat out. He quickly went inside and found black pants and a black sleeveless shirt.
The crow landed on his shoulder and cawed. “I know,” Xander answered and ran back outside toward his next destination, the bird flying from his shoulder and flying along above him. Xander quickly reached the costume shop and broke in there as well, as before ignoring the alarm. Xander knew the Sunnydale cops were smart enough not to get out of the car at night, so he took his leisure time. It didn’t take long before he found the pots containing face paint, and took them with him. One white, one black, one blood red.
A short while later he reached his apartment, putting the new clothes on his bed and took off the ruined ones. He went into the shower and looked at his body. It was muscle, all muscle. Luckily the halfwit monks hadn’t kept him from staying in shape, working heavy construction helped to, why he had hid it under loose clothes he didn’t know, must have had something to do with the spell. “Fucking monks!” Xander cursed with rage. “If they weren’t dead already, I’d kill them all.” He then took a shower, quickly washing away the grime of his dirt grave.
He returned to his bedroom and put on his new clothes. He rummaged through the closet and found his black army boots, putting them on as well. Then he went to sit in front of a mirror and looked into his dark eyes, glittering like a crow’s. As he watched himself like that, he felt the pain, rage and anger course through him. Angrily he grabbed the pots with face paint. He took the white face paint and painted his entire face with it. The he used black on his eyelids, the skin surrounding his eyes, and his lips, extending a line from the corners of them, gently curving upward. He took blood red, and drew two lines up from the middle of his eyes, and then directly below them, two lines until they intersected the lines from his mouth.
He stood up abruptly, kneeled down by his bed and reached underneath it. He pulled out a large green chest, and opened it. He looked inside, a cruel smile forming on his face. The chest contained the rocket launcher Buffy once used on the Judge - he had stashed it here after Buffy had shown earlier that year her basement wasn’t safe - as well as a shotgun without much ammo, several large caliber pistols, and an assortment of knives and stakes. He took a few stakes and put them in his new coat, then grabbed two guns and put a clip in each, then took two spare clips, which were also his last ones. Xander cocked his head like a bird toward the crow. “First, the bastards who attacked us,” Xander hissed enraged, and showed the guns to the bird sitting on his night stand, “a resupply run to the military base, then the First Evil and his henchmen, and finally Spike and Buffy. That way those two can be pure, raw, no worry of the world to cloud the sensation of making them pay.” The crow cocked its own head and gave an approving squawk. “Guide me, find me the ones who killed me,” Xander finished with a cruel smile.
The crow squawked, and flew to the window. Xander joined it, opening the window, and then bolted from it, after the crow who had flown out. Retribution would come this night.