None. No spoilers for anything. Authors Notes:
This is based on the Triumvirate Redux Challenge by Greywizard (see General synopsis below) and will span over three fics. I have also taken some liberties with the challenge and have gone a bit beyond what was requested because I got a little carried away. I hope Greywizard won't mind too much. The first fic will be about Xander/Richard, the second about Angel/Jean-Claude and the third will be about Buffy/Anita. Each will go further into the relationship between the three and their powers. In the first two scenes of the fic all the dialogue comes from Prophecy Girl. Thanks to the wonderful Demona for the beta.Timeline:
This fic takes place during Prophecy Girl (Season 1 finale) and then beyond in AU. For Anita Blake, well, let's just say their past lives incorporate everything up to NIC then it's all AU. Disclaimer:
I own nothing. Buffy and Angel people belong to Joss and Mutant Enemy. Anita Blake people belong to Laurell K Hamilton
Please note: This fic/Series is not a rewrite of any Buffy seasons – everything will be wildly AU from here on in.
I'm not really a fan of fics that rehash what's already been on TV, so please don't expect an AU version of season 2 or even season 3 being incorporated in this series. Everything
Triumvirate Redux Challenge:
For some mystical reason, Buffy, Xander and Angel all regain memories of their previous lives as Anita, Richard and Jean-Claude from the Anita Blake-verse...
Please go to challenge 4952 for full version.
~ Ulfric Incarnate ~
The first time Xander feels a spark of a foreign memory is when he and Angel are deep in the Master's Lair and Buffy's lying dead before him. Xander's never felt this scared before, or this much pain. Seeing Buffy dead hits him in a way he never imagined. Pain is shooting through his body and he almost feels as though he'll die from it if she doesn't open her eyes. He idly wonders if Angel's feeling the same way. He must, because that's the only reason Angel would ever hold his hand. His grip is becoming increasingly painful as they wait for what feels like an eternity, but is more than likely only a few seconds, for Buffy to open her eyes. He's not sure why he's not pulling his hand away from Angel's, nor is he sure why he's now reaching down and grabbing Buffy's hand. He notices Angel reach for Buffy's other hand and wonders if Angel is praying for Buffy to wake up like he is.
It's at that second the spark occurs, a burst of power, a flash of a memory that isn't his. Suddenly Buffy is no longer Buffy, but a brunette woman who is lying bleeding on the floor. The brunette is in Buffy's place for only a moment before he's looking at his Buffy once again. She coughs and opens her eyes.
For reasons Xander can't quite understand, he doesn't correct her. Instead, he smiles and says, "Welcome back." ~*~*~
The spark of a single memory ignites into embers as the three of them walk towards the high school. Buffy is in front of them and he and Angel are following dutifully. It's as they walk that he feels something, a power different from what he felt in the Master's Lair. The power scares him more than a little because the last time he felt something like this was when he was possessed with the spirit of an evil hyena.
Xander doesn't like it, but doesn't voice what is happening out loud. Instead, he lets the power flow through him and that's when he realises that the power he's feeling isn't coming from outside him, but inside. It's almost the same as the hyena spirit, but not quite. The hyena was evil to its very core. This... thing he's feeling, this power, isn't. It's stronger and makes Xander feel stronger. Strangely, it's almost familiar, which for some reason scares the shit out of him.
He matches his pace with Angel and follows Buffy as they head towards the Master. It's then the scene suddenly changes and it's no longer Buffy he's following, but the same brunette he saw in the Master's Lair. On a whim he glances to Angel and isn't all that surprised to see that it's no long Angel he's walking next to. The man next to him is shorter than Angel, with black hair and blue eyes instead of usual brown. Somewhere in Xander's mind he knows he should be wigging right about now, but he's not scared that Buffy and Angel have changed. Nor is he scared that the school is no longer a school. Instead, they're walking towards a building which Xander thinks is somewhere in Europe.
Just like the previous memory, it changes back to the present without warning and now they're back in Sunnydale High, stopped in front of the stairs leading to the roof. Buffy spins to look at them and freezes for a second, frowning in confusion. Xander's about to ask her if something's wrong when she shakes her head.
"Okay, you two wait here, keep the rest of the vampires off me," she orders.
"Right," Xander says, wondering for a moment why he's not scared of the thought of fighting vampires like he usually is.
"Jean-Claude, better put on your game face."
"I'm ready," Angel says.
"One way or another, this won't take long."
Xander watches her disappear from sight and fights the urge to follow her. It's not long before the first vampire arrives. He doesn't even notice when he growls at the vamp right before attacking it.~*~*~
The embers of memories ignite into a fire hours after the Master is dead and after their victory dance at The Bronze
. It's past midnight when it happens, when he's tucked in his bed. Unlike before, however, he doesn't see flashes of memories that aren't his.
This time, he sees everything.
This time, he feels
He sees the memory of a man who lived and died in a different time, a different city, a different world
. He watches every minute of that life, from birth until death, as it flashes before his eyes. As the images flitter through his mind they're instantly ingrained into his memory. He now remembers a mother that actually loved him, brothers that loved him, he remembers falling in love for the first time and having a fear of monsters that led him to becoming one.
Most of all, he remembers them
. He remembers meeting Jean-Claude and hating the vampire on principle, much like he did with Angel. He remembers meeting Anita and falling madly in love, just like he did with Buffy. He also remembers every moment after that; her breaking his heart, his breaking her heart, her choosing Jean-Claude over him, Jean-Claude controlling his wolf. He also remembers the triumvirate. The three of them combining their powers to survive and the nightmare life that followed. He remembers watching the woman he loved become one of the monsters, someone he hated and loved with a passion so all consuming that it frightened him.
Xander's not sure how long he's watching Richard's memories, but as soon as they're over new memories begin. It takes Xander a second to recognise them, but when he does his entire body freezes in fear. The new memories don't belong to Richard the man, they belong to Richard's wolf. Like Richard's memories, they're in surround sound and Xander can't help but scream as the feelings, the hunger, the lust and most of all the power wash over him.
When the onslaught is over, Xander's left with Richard's memories and the sensation of the Ulfric's beast under his skin.
He needs to call Giles.~*~*~
"Okay, Giles, please tell me you know what's going on," Buffy begs in a tone that Xander finds both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.
Xander wasn't surprised to discover when he called Giles that Buffy had beaten him to the punch. He's not the only one who has new memories now. Buffy and Angel endured the same thing he had. Now they're all sitting in the library at three o'clock in the afternoon on the first Saturday of their summer vacation waiting for Giles to give them the answers they so desperately need.
It reassures him that Buffy is as confused and scared as he is, although seeing her this way makes him forget that they're not lovers like Anita and Richard are and he has to fight the desire to comfort her.
"Whatever it is, it's not a spell," Ms Calendar tells them. "I couldn't feel any traces on any type of magical interference on any of you."
"A curse?" Angel suggests, the hope in his voice is undisguised. "Something that the Master's death released when Buffy killed him?" Or something that was released when he revived Buffy
, Xander adds silently. It was the last time the three of them were alone before the memories started surfacing.
"It's not a curse," Willow says. "We checked that, too."
Buffy swears, which causes both Xander and Angel to freeze. Not so much because of the word Buffy uses, but because Buffy doesn't swear. She
does, however. Although, Xander can't really blame her for swearing. A spell or curse can be reversed, the fact that whatever is happening to them isn't either of those things makes him worry that maybe it's not something temporary. That it's something real and permanent.
Xander takes a deep breath. "Okay, so it's not a spell and it's not a curse. Is there anything else that can make... this
happen?" He can't actually verbalise what's happening, how he's feeling.
"We're not sure," Giles admits and Xander's hopes of this going away and him returning to his old self – whoever that is – plummets.
"You're not sure?" Buffy whimpers. "Giles, you can't not be sure! You have to make this stop! I... Giles, I have all these memories of a life I didn't live. I can remember everything, Giles, all her memories from the moment she lived until the moment that bitch Mother of all Darkness killed us. God, it's more than just memories. I feel what she felt. I love who she loved and it's wrong. I...I can't..." Buffy stands and so does Angel. Typical.
"Angel, don't," Buffy cuts him off before he can finish the pet name that Xander loathes more than he can say. "I'm not her. I'm not Ma Petite
The room goes silent and Xander wants more than anything to go to Buffy, but he can't. If she turned down Angel's attempt to comfort her there's no way she'll accept comfort from him. After all, Anita and Richard could hardly stand to be around each other when they died.
"Giles..." Buffy takes a deep breath. "The memory, Anita's memories, they're of a world different from this one. In that world vampires are legal citizens and they died at dawn. Lycanthropy is a disease, not a curse, and they lived in packs. And I... I was one of the monsters."
Xander flinches at the word monster, he can't help it. "What about possession? Are we possessed?" Even as he asks the question, he knows the answer is no. Xander remembers the hyena possession, now more than ever, and this isn't the same thing. The beast Xander felt under his skin last night is still there, but it's not like the hyena spirit. It's not controlling him. It's just watching, waiting, in an oh so creepy way.
"It's not possession," Jean..Angel says. "I don't feel compelled do anything."
"Neither do I," Xander agrees. "So what does this mean? Is there any way we can get rid of these memories?" Right now getting rid of the memories, and the beast under his skin, is more important than anything because he doesn't feel like himself anymore. He's changing. He's no longer the carefree Xander he was just a few short days ago, he doesn't even feel sixteen anymore. He's not sure what he is or who Buffy and Angel are, either. When he looks at them, he doesn't just see one of his best friends and his worst enemy. No, Xander sees them
. He's even having trouble trying to work out if he's a high school student or a high school teacher. At least his grade in science is going to improve.
"I'd rather not attempt to do anything until we work out exactly what this is," Giles confesses. "If we try to block these memories we may damage your real memories."
Xander closes his eyes and drops his head onto the table with a thud. A hand pats his arm gently. It's Willow and he leans into her, he craves the touch.
"We'll find out what this is," Willow reassures him. "We just need a little time."
"In the meantime you three will have to continue on as you are," Giles tells them.
"It might even help if you write down everything you learn from the memories," Jenny says. "The identities of the people whose lives you're remembering might hold the key to how this is happening."
Xander nods. "I'm Rich... I mean, he was Richard Zeeman, high school teacher by day and werewolf by night. Ulfric, Alpha, of the Thronnos Rokke Clan."
Angel sighs. "Jean-Claude, vampire. Master of the City of St Louis."
It's quiet once again and Xander doesn't blame Buffy for hesitating. If he was in her shoes, he wouldn't want to say anything about Anita either.
"Anita Blake," Buffy says finally. "Vampire Executioner, Necromancer, Human Servant to the Master of the City of St Louis, Bolverk and sometimes Lupa to the Thronnos Rokke Clan, and Nimir-Ra of the Blooddrinkers Clan."
None of them mention the triumvirate.
"Wow, that's quite a mouthful," Willow says, her voice full of false cheer. "But it gives us a lot to go on."
"You'd better hurry," Xander says, standing. "The memories are pretty powerful. They're... they're hard to resist."
"Resist?" Giles repeats, alarmed.
"I... It's getting harder to remember if I'm Richard or Xander." And he'd like to be able to look at Buffy without feeling like someone's cutting out his heart – or like he wants her to rot in hell.
Richard's not the happiest of puppies. ~*~*~
The days that follow are pretty much hell for Xander. He avoids his friends and spends his days walking around town alone. It's what he, Jesse and Willow used to do during summer when the novelty of summer vacation had worn off and they were bored to tears.
He misses Jesse.
He misses Willow.
He misses Xander.
He wasn't kidding when he told Giles the memories were hard to resist. More often than not he finds himself thinking that he's Richard and not Xander...
He misses his pack.~*~*~
It's a little over a week later when Xander finds himself back in the library.
"Okay, so, we're all here, Giles," Buffy says. "You found something, right?"
Xander takes a deep breath and reluctantly looks towards the Slayer. It's the first time he's seen her since their last meeting and she looks... beautiful. She's dressed nicer than usual. He wonders if it's because she's leaving for LA as soon as this is over or if it's because Anita wouldn't be caught dead in those clothes.
He really can't wait for Giles to fix this.
Giles clears his throat, which is never a good sign. Nor is the look he shares with Ms Calendar and Willow. "I'm afraid we didn't find the solution you're all hoping for."
Xander's stomach drops to the floor. "Did you find out anything?"
"We've contacted every source we know, even the Council. There's no record of anything like this happening because of a spell or curse," Ms Calendar tells them.
Xander sits up and so do Buffy and Angel.
"There's no record of this happening because of a spell or curse?" Angel repeats, picking up on what Ms Calendar didn't say. "But there are circumstances of this happening without magic?"
"In actual fact, yes," Giles replies. "There are many, many documented instances of people claiming to remember a life prior to the one they were living."
Xander just knows he's not going to like this. He's just about to yell at Giles to get on with it when Angel speaks.
"Reincarnation. You think that the lives we're remember are our past lives?"
Past lives? No. Just no
"It's the only explanation that fits," Willow says. "Although, not all the pieces fit."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, for one, the timing," Giles replies for her. "From what you've described of the night Buffy died, Buffy was the only one who had an event that might trigger something like this. Her dying may have broken the barrier that kept her from remembering her previous life as Anita. However, there was no event that would have caused the same thing to happen to Angel and Xander."
Angel voluntarily held his hand, didn't that count for some sort of major metaphysical trigger? Xander is pretty sure it did. An event like that would usually follow Hell freezing over or pigs flying.
"What other pieces don't fit?" Buffy asks.
It's Giles who replies. "Well, for one, the way in which the memories returned. It happened suddenly, and rather painfully, for all three of you and in the exact same way. Normally memories of past lives come as flashes or as a result of hypnosis and, most of the time they don't retain all their memories. In fact, there has never been a documented case where a person has every
memory of their past life like the three of you do."
"It's also not unheard of for people connected in one life to be connected in another," Ms Calendar says. "But it is unusual that Richard, Anita and Jean-Claude all come from an alternate reality."
Xander doesn't like this.
"The parallels between your lives and theirs are a little wiggy," Willow says. "I mean, Jean-Claude was a vampire and Angel's a vampire. Buffy's a slayer and, from what Buffy's told me, Anita was that world's version of a Slayer. She was a lot of other things as well, but she was a type of Slayer. And Xander..." She trails of and looks at Xander.
"I'm not a werewolf." The denial comes thick and fast. At the moment it's true. He's never been bitten, scratched and there's no bad batch of vaccine in this reality to infect him. He's human. He is.
"But you were possessed by that Hyena spirit," Ms Calendar reminds him.
He shudders. "It's not the same thing. It's so
not the same thing."
"I thought you couldn't remember anything about that?" Buffy asks.
When he looks over at her she's studying him through narrowed eyes. The sight reminds him so much of Anita that he feels a stab of pain in his heart. "What I mean is that I'm the odd man out. I'm still plain old human Xander." He stumbles over the word human, but no one notices. He's not ready to admit that he's been feeling different ever since he received Richard's memories. He's eating more, his senses seem a little stronger and he's been craving human touch, almost desperately. Which is why he's practically sitting on Willow's lap.
"Xander's situation aside, the fact that three extremely powerful supernatural beings in one dimension have reincarnated together into another... Well, quite frankly I'm not sure what this means," Giles confesses. "The only thing I can think of is obviously the three of you were tied together in some way in your old lives."
Xander, Buffy and Angel freeze as realisation dawns.
Xander's the first one to react. He's out of his seat and charging towards Angel. He doesn't care that, for all intents and purposes, he's human and Angel isn't. He doesn't care that this is probably going to hurt him more than it will hurt the vampire, but he does it anyway. He clenches his fist tight and slams it into the Angel's chin as hard as he can. Xander expects his hand to shatter at the impact, but it doesn't. It's not hurting. It's not even throbbing. Shit!
"XANDER!" Buffy screams, her tone so much like Anita's that he's half expecting her to pull out her Browning and shoot him because he dared to touch her precious Jean-Claude.
The room fills with shouts of alarm a second later. The only one not shouting is Angel. The vampire is staring at Xander's hand, frowning.
"Xander, what the hell are you doing?" Buffy demands, furious.
He ignores the question, instead he focuses on Angel. Jean-Claude. "Did you know?" he asks quietly, calmly. "Did you know that this would happen?" That they would be tied together, even beyond death.
"No," Jean-Claude replies.
"Xander..." Giles begins.
He holds his hand up to the watcher, cutting him off. Xander – Richard – wants answers and he's not going to let Jean-Claude get away without answering them. "Did you think to check what forming a triumvirate with a necromancer
might do to us after death? Did you bother to check to see what this kind of bond would do once we married the marks and you fully bound yourself to Anita?"
"Triumvirate?" Ms Calendar repeats.
"Marks?" Giles repeats.
"Married?" Willow whimpers.
Xander sighs. "The three of us formed a mystical bond in our past lives, a triumvirate. Jean-Claude was the Master, Anita was the Human Servant and I was the animal to call. Mr Puffy Shirt here obviously didn't think to make sure there wouldn't be any side effects because of Anita's necromancy."
There's a moment silence before Willow says, "Mr Puffy Shirt?"
Xander and Buffy ignore her.
"Angel, answer the question," Buffy surprises Xander by asking. "Did you – he – know?"
"No," Angel denies. "I swear, he didn't know."
Xander snorts. "I don't believe you. You were never really concerned with the consequences of what you did to us." Although, Xander can't deny that some of the blame of this belongs to him. He agreed to join the Triumvirate. Richard needed power as much as Jean-Claude.
"You think this triumvirate you formed is the reason Anita, Jean-Claude and Richard's memories have returned?" Giles asks.
Xander doesn't answer. Instead, he does the one thing that Richard always wanted to do.
He runs away.~*~*~
Xander runs from the moment he leaves the library. It's probably a stupid thing to do, especially since the sun has gone down, but he can't seem to stop himself. He doesn't run as fast as he did in his previous life, but he's running a little faster than he could before the memories returned.
More than anything Xander wants to kill Angel. He's so angry, so furious, that he knows he'll kill the vampire on sight if he so much as dares to come near him. The part of him that is Richard (and it's getting incredibly difficult to differentiate between Richard and Xander) is screaming inside of him. Richard's smarter than Xander. It doesn't take him as long to clue into things. Like the fact that Richard's part in the Triumvirate had – has – nothing to do with the human side of him and everything to do with the animal side of him.
Xander knows, through Richard's memories, that this is why Xander's been feeling the beast Richard had loathed with every ounce of his humanity. More than once, over the span of his life, Richard would tell people – Anita – that once a person contracted lycanthrope that they were no longer human. The beast wasn't separate from them. Being a lycanthrope wasn't something they could escape just because they were in human form. Their beast was the core part of them. And it was the core of his joining with Jean-Claude and Anita. Richard never would have been able to be a part of the triumvirate if he hadn't been a werewolf. And it's that reason Xander is beginning to suspect that his days as a human are numbered...
It wasn't Richard the man who was bound to the triumvirate with Anita and Jean-Claude.
It was Richard the wolf. ~*~*~
Xander's not all that sure what time it is when he stops running. All he's sure of is that he's tired, hungry and more than a little scared. He's not sure what to do or how he's supposed to feel. Xander's never felt this lost before. He's decided that he really doesn't like Richard. Xander's life had been pretty shitty before all this started, but with Richard's memories, his love, hatred and prejudices, he realises that his life wasn't all that shitty. Sure, his parents were asses, but he had friends – the best friends – and he had been happy
He's not sure Richard remembers what it's like to be happy.
It's this realisation that made Xander stop running where he did. It's early, dawn's not that far off, but he's so desperate to remember who he is, to remember Xander, that he ignores the part of him that's telling him this is a stupid idea and he slips into Willow's bedroom. He knows there's a chance she won't be here, that she's still out there look for him, but he has nowhere else to –
"Xander?" Willow sits up in her bed, her hair wild. She's half asleep. "Xander! Are you okay? Where did you go? We looked for you everywhere!"
"I'm cold." It's the only answer he can give her.
She falters at the words.
"I'm cold like he
was cold," he confesses. It's always so easy to confess everything to Willow.
Xander nods. "Can..." He takes a deep breath. "Can I sleep with you tonight?" Today. Willow's eye go comically wide at the question. Xander would have laughed at the sight if he wasn't so freaking scared.
"You want to sleep with me? In my bed?"
"I need pack."
The blood drains from her face. "Angel told us about the triumvirate and about marrying the marks. He told us that your beast was as much a part of the triumvirate as Richard was..."
"More," Xander tells her.
She nods. "Giles doesn't know exactly what that means, but he and Ms Calendar are pulling an all nighter at the library to find out."
They don't need to. Xander knows exactly what it means, and in the confines of Willow's bedroom it's easy to admit. "It means that I didn't just inherit Richard's memories."
Willow doesn't gasp in shock and Xander didn't expect her to. She's too smart not to make the connection. She doesn't say anything as she lifts up the blanket and he crawls into bed with her. It's a little awkward at first. More so for him because he knows how she feels about him, but he pushes it aside and snuggles as close as he can to her. They lie in silence for a while, but he knows she's not asleep.
"Angel said that in your past life, that you could feel your beast underneath your skin while in human form. Angel said he could sense your wolf." She's quiet for a moment. "You feel Richard's beast, don't you?"
"Yeah." They fall into silence again, and Xander feels a little reassured by it because it means that Willow's searching her mind for answers. Having Willow on the case reassures him in ways that he can't explain.
"I don't think you'll change into a real werewolf," Willow says some time later, when light begins to filter into the room. "Angel said last night that if you have a beast, it might be like Anita's beasts, one that can only manifest metaphysically."
That doesn't exactly make him feel better. Richard was Ulfric and his wolf was far more powerful than Anita's. He also remembers Anita almost shifting more than once in their previous life and the only thing that prevented her shifting was another lycanthrope taking her beast inside them. Since there's no other lycanthrope around, and he's on the Hellmouth, he's not sure what will happen at the next full moon.
"It's going to be okay, Xander," Willow promises.
He wants more than anything for that to be true.~*~*~
The 'morning after' is not as awkward as it could have been. Willow's not in bed when he wakes, she's downstairs making breakfast. Xander takes advantage of the fact that her parents are out of town and uses the shower. When he finally goes downstairs the kitchen table is full of so much food that he expects to see Giles, Ms Calendar and Buffy to join them. He asks her if she's expecting them when he starts on his first plate of food.
"Giles and Ms Calendar are still at the library. I talked to them about half an hour ago," she tells him. "I hope you don't mind, but I told him what you said about inheriting Richard's beast."
To be honest, he doesn't mind. In fact he's glad he doesn't have to tell them himself.
"He did seem a little wigged when I told him, and a little hurt that you didn't tell him yourself, but he's going to look into it. He'll find out what's it means."
Xander nods and takes a bite of his bacon. "What about Anit...Buffy?"
"She went to LA. She wanted to stay and look for you, but her dad arrived and she's in enough trouble for putting the trip off for a week. Angel told her it was probably easier on you if she goes to LA and gives you a bit of space."
Xander nods. "And Jean-Claude?" Xander's really not sure why he wants to know where Jean-Claude – Angel
– is, but he does. Maybe it's because he's feeling more than a little uneasy, and relieved, that Buffy's so far away from them. He wonders if they're as vulnerable as a triumvirate in this life as they were in the last one.
"You mean Angel? Last I saw him was last night when he walked me home," she tells him between bites of food. "He didn't say it, but I think he was going to keep looking for you. He seemed really upset you ran off like that."
As much as he doesn't want to admit it, Xander's not surprised by this. "Jean-Claude is a power hungry ass, but he does care about me."
Willow looks at him in surprise.
"There's nothing sexual about it, at least not from my side, but Jean-Claude cares for me as much as a vampire can care." Richard hates him though, most of the time. "I think it is a by-product of the triumvirate, Anita's love for me, my love for Anita and being his animal to call. The triumvirate allows us access into each other's minds at times and I think what he saw influenced him as well. He cares about what happens to me beyond the impact it would have on the triumvirate, more so over the past few years. I had a lot of issues with what Anita became. I blamed Jean-Claude for pretty much all of it and it took me a lot time to get over it. Before the end Jean-Claude and I came to a sort of truce." Unfortunately, he and Anita were too in love to come to any truce. It amazes him, even now, how easily love can turn to hate and it pains him that they died hating each other so much.
"Xander, I think we should go see, Giles."
Xander snaps himself out of his macabre thoughts and focuses on Willow. "Why? What's wrong?" There's still food to eat.
She stares at him for a full minute before putting her fork down. He's wondering if she's going to eat the rest of her bacon when she asks, "You didn't notice it, did you?"
"Well, for one thing, you said something nice about a vampire."
"And when you were talking about Jean-Claude just now, you stopped referring to Richard in the third person. You kept saying 'I' and 'me' and speaking in present tense."
"Angel started doing that, too," Willow admits, much to his horror. "Not with the present tense thing or for as long, but he called you Richard twice last night."
He drops his fork. ~*~*~
He's not even remotely surprised to see Jean-Claude in the library when he and Willow arrive. Nor is he surprised that Giles doesn't have any answers for them. The only theory Giles can come up with is that their memories are slowly taking them over and that, with Richard's beast, it's worse for him. An assault on two fronts. Apparently, Angel's experiencing something similar, but it's not as bad or as sudden as Xander. The same with Buffy. Xander's not sure what to think about it, part of him wants to deny that it's happening, but it's hard to deny it when Giles had to call him Richard to get his attention.
Xander thinks about running again, but the thought is forgotten when he feels an ice cold hand on his shoulder.
"You're hot," Jean-Claude says, causing Willow to choke on her soda.
Xander glares at Jean-Claude – God damn it, Angel
. "You're a corpse."
Angel rolls his eyes. "Your temperature, it's spiking. You're hot
Xander's eyes go wide. "Spiking, as in..."
Angel nods. "Your scent is changing as well."
"Xander's scent is changing?" Willow repeats. Ms Calendar and Giles are silently watching the exchange. "Why is Xander's scent changing?"
Angel doesn't answer the question, instead he keeps his attention on Xander. "You smell like you used to. Like Richard."
As if on cue, he feels his beast move around inside of him. It's restless, eager. Xander closes his eyes. The urge to panic is so overwhelming that he wants to scream. He hates this. He really
hates this. He wants to go back to the way things were before. He wants to go back to being just Xander, to Buffy being just Buffy, to Angel just being a really annoying vampire who spends way too much time on his hair. He doesn't want to be Richard or a werewolf. He just wants to be boring old Xander.
"Xander?" Ms Calendar says his name in a tone that as much cautious as concerned. "Are you okay?"
"How long?" Xander ignores her, much like Angel ignored Willow. He's more than a little surprised that this particular thought didn't occur to him before now. Denial, maybe?
"How long till what?" Will asks, confused.
But it's Giles who answers, which tells Xander that he's probably already considered this.
"Tonight is the full moon." ~*~*~
Xander's pretty sure he must have pissed someone off in a past life, other than Anita, because, really, he shouldn't be this unlucky. No one should be. The blood still hasn't returned to his face since Jean-Claude's little announcement and none of the others are any better. Giles is in full research mode. Every book in the library that even mentions the word 'werewolf' is now on the tables. Ms Calendar is calling a friend she knows in Tibet, who apparently has had some dealings with werewolves. Jean-Claude has even surprised him – Xander's given up trying to remember to call him Angel – and is on the phone with some of his contacts who have experience with alternate realities and dimensions. Well, the contacts that don't want him dead.
Unfortunately, Xander's no help at all. All he seems to be able to do is sit and silently freak out.
"Okay, we have werewolf factoids," Willow announces.
Xander doesn't feel all that excited by this announcement, mainly because he knows everything there is to know about werewolves. He suspects the differences between the werewolves in this world and the ones back home will be minimal, possibly on the same line as the differences with the vampires. Still, he doesn't want to worry Willow, so he keeps his thoughts to himself. "Hit me with your werewolf factoids."
Willows smiles gently before beginning. "Well, for one we can relax a little. I still don't think you'll change into a wolf. This book says that a werewolf changes into his wolf form three nights a month. The night before the full moon, the night of the full moon and the night after. Last night was the night before the full moon and you didn't change so..."
Xander's shaking his head before she even finishes. "It's different back home. We can change into wolves at any time, but there is only one night we can't fight the change. The night of the full moon. The surrounding nights have no effect."
"Well, it also says that the curse of a werewolf is spread through a bite," she points out.
Interesting. "A scratch can infect a person in our reality."
"But you haven't been bitten or scratched in this body," Willow points out. "Have you experienced any heightened senses or abilities like smell, sight, hearing, speed or strength?"
This causes Xander to falter because while he's had an increase in strength and agility, his other sense haven't heightened all that much. The changes he has noticed are a fraction of what it used to be like before. "I haven't accidentally broken anything and I couldn't hear the other side of Ms Calendar's phone call."
Willow brightens immediately. "See! No werewolf Xander!"
His relief is short lived when he remembers something he would rather forget. "But I am running faster than normal. Last night I ran for hours. I didn't get tired until just before I stopped." Damn it! "I also didn't break my fist on Jean-Claude's face. In fact, I barely felt it."
"And you growl," Jean-Claude points out, making his way over to them. For the first time, Xander's notices a slight French accent. "When we were keeping the vampires from Anita while she fought the Master, you growled at the vamps. It wasn't a human sound. I didn't think anything of it at the time because it was so familiar. You didn't seem to have any trouble fighting vampires, either."
"But I'm not as strong as I was back in St Louis."
"But you are stronger?" Giles asks, joining the conversation. "Is there anything else you've noticed? Anything at all. No matter how small."
Xander thinks for a minute and shrugs. "Ms Calendar's lavender perfume seems a little strong today."
Ms Calendar's expression is alarmed. "Xander, I'm not wearing lavender perfume. I used lavender soap this morning."
He puts his head in his hands. "Shit."
"It doesn't mean that you're going to be a werewolf, though," Willow says, forever the optimist.
"Can we take that risk?" Jean-Claude asks.
As far as Xander's concerned, no, they can't.
"We need to find a lupanar." ~*~*~
"Well, that was a whole lot of fun," he grumbles as he packs his bag. His mom is asleep on the couch and his dad is at work, so he doesn't have to worry about explaining why he's packing.
"Yeah," Willow agrees. "I thought Giles was going to stake Angel, for a second there, when he told Giles you couldn't spend the night in the weapons cage and that he was going to take you to Death Valley for your change."
He frowns for a second, momentarily confused. "Who's Angel?"
Willow freezes and her eyes widen in concern. "Jean-Claude, he was going to stake Jean-Claude."
Oh. Shit. He sits on the bed with a thud and puts his face in his hands. It's getting worse and there's nothing he can do to stop it. He's turning into Richard and losing Xander. It's not a merge of personalities, but a complete replacement.
It scares the hell out of him.
"Xander, are you okay?"
His head snaps up and then he groans. "I'm losing myself, Will."
Will sits next to him. "I know." She slips her arm through his and rests her head on his shoulder. "I don't want you to go. I want my Xander."
"I want me, too." He takes a deep breath. "I... Richard is so screwed up, Will. He spent most of his entire adult life hating himself and I mean really
hating himself. He hated being a werewolf so much and loving Anita was the straw that broke the camel's back. He was so unhappy, Will. I used to think my life sucked before this, but it didn’t. I had a good life. A good life full of death and horror, but still a good life. Richard didn't have a good life. Being a werewolf destroyed him and it will destroy me, too."
"Maybe not," Willow argues. "I've been doing a lot of reading about reincarnations and there are quite a few theories out there about it. One theory says that we will continue to reincarnate until we've learned all the lessons our soul needs to learn."
He laughs at this. "You mean I'm stuck with Anita and Jean-Claude for a second time because I need to learn a lesson?"
She shrugs. "Richard hated what he was, his beast. Maybe this is a chance for Richard to handle things better. Maybe not just with his beast, but with Anita and Jean-Claude as well."
His laughter fades and an uneasy feeling washes over him. She's wrong. He doesn't think the reasoning behind the awakening of their past lives is that simple. But, still... "What, you think if the three of us work out our issues this will all end?"
Willow shakes her head. "I don't think it will end, but maybe it won't happen again." ~*~*~
The trip to Death Valley is all kinds of fun. Firstly, because it's a trip to Death
Valley and secondly he's stuck in a car with Jean-Claude and Giles. Giles still thinks this is a bad idea, that they should chain Richard up, but neither of he nor Jean-Claude will agree to this. They’re both certain that if he does change into a wolf, it will be the same beast he had in St Louis and if that’s the case, then no cage is going to hold him. So, Giles is driving them while Jean-Claude is locked in the trunk. It's not the most ideal way to travel for Jean-Claude, but it's amusing as hell. Ms Calendar is following in the car behind them with Willow. Once they get to a cabin of one of Jean-Claude’s friends, they're going to leave the car with him and Jean-Claude, and Giles will head back to Sunnydale with Ms Calendar and Willow. If things go to hell, he’ll be spending tomorrow recovering in the cabin with Jean-Claude and then they’ll return to Sunnydale tomorrow night.
"Have you heard from Anita?"
Giles turns and looks at him, frowning. "Willow's been speaking to her daily. She's worried about you."
"Willow or Anita?"
"Buffy," Giles corrects with a sigh. "She seems to be handling this better than both you and Angel. She doesn't have the trouble separating her memories that you do. At least, that's what Willow seems to think. She said that Buffy remembers to call you Xander more often than not."
"More than likely it is because she's the Slayer that she's able to withstand what's happening," Giles goes on to say. "She has more resistance to magic and the like than humans. I daresay the same goes for Angel."
"And because I've got Mr Wolfy wanting to make an appearance as well the rules are different for me."
Giles nods. "You have not only Richard's memories trying to overwhelm you but his wolf's as well. Although, what is happening to you is more than a simple case of past life memories resurfacing. Unlike Buffy and Angel you have a supernatural creature inside you that didn't exist before. We're not sure how this will change you. Your humanity also makes your situation unique. It makes you more vulnerable to the changes going on inside you."
"What you mean is that they can stop Anita and Jean-Claude from taking them over, but I can't."
"Perhaps, or perhaps what is happening to you will happen to them and that Buffy's slayer nature and Angel's vampiric one is simply delaying the inevitable. We just don't know."
He sighs in frustration. "So I’m a lost cause."
"No, that is not the case at all, Xander," Giles assures him. "I give you my word Jenny and I are doing everything we can to get you your old life back.”
He nods, but doesn’t voice his fear that it’s too late to get his old life back. ~*~*~
He’s scared shitless in the few moments before the moon is supposed to rise. He’s not sure what’s going to happen and the suspense is driving him insane. A part of him is convinced that he’ll be all right, that his beast is just like Anita’s and doesn’t have the power to force him to change.
But then he remembers that he lives on the Hellmouth and that weirder shit has and will happen. Xander thinks that Giles is onto something. This is more than reincarnation, it's the triumvirate and Anita's necromancy. That's why he feels like more like Richard than Xander and it's why his beast feels exactly
like it did in his past life.
The triumvirate is changing them back to the way they were when they created it. That or some really evil demon is trying to drive him insane.
"Are you okay?" Jean-Claude asks.
He shakes his head. "If I change, you’ll make sure I don’t eat anyone, right?"
"You won’t hurt anyone," he promises.
"Wolves are your animal to call," he reminds Jean-Claude. "At least they were in St Louis. It might come in handy if you can do that here. Can
you control my beast?" The thought suddenly makes him feel more than a little uneasy because he has a beast, regardless of whether or not he changes.
"I'm not sure. I feel drawn to you, but I'm not sure if that's because you're my animal to call or because of the triumvirate."
"You feel 'drawn' to me?" he repeats, glaring at Jean-Claude. "Thank you
for making what could be my last few minutes as a human so very awkward."
Jean-Claude laughs. "My pleasure, Mon Lupe
He flips him the bird which only causes Jean-Claude to laugh harder. Strangely, annoying Jean-Claude distracts him enough that the fear inside him fades to a more manageable level. Although, it's only a moment before the fear returns to an insane level because the moon is rising. He can't see it, but he can feel
it, just like he could in his last life.
"Oh fuck," he gasps as his beast moves inside him. "It's going to happen... I think I'm going to change..."
The sensations flowing through him are too similar to back home. A wave of dizziness washes over him and he screws his eyes shut as he tries not to throw up. When he opens them, his view of the world has changed – literally. He can see clearly in the darkness and he can't even describe the scents overwhelming him, the hunger he now feels inside him.
On instinct, he starts stripping.
"Richard?" Jean-Claude yells his name.
He doesn't answer because in the next moment he's screaming in pain.~*~*~
The sun warming his skin is what wakes him, followed by a rock digging into his back. It only takes a second for his mind to catch up with his body. When he's fully awake he instantly wishes he was asleep, unconscious or even in a coma. He's naked, outside and the only reason he's ass isn't out there for all the world to see is because Jean-Claude must have put a blanket on him before retreating to the cabin when the sun rose. He sits up, wraps the sheet around him, but makes no move to go inside. Richard's not ready to face Jean-Claude yet, or Anita for that matter.
He wants to cry, scream at the injustice of it all. It's not fair, none of this is fair. His memories of last night aren't as clear as usual, but he remembers enough. He's not Xander anymore.
He's Richard now, through and through. ~*~*~
He stays outside the entire day. Jean-Claude tries to talk to him a few times, but Richard ignores him and moves further into the sun. There's nothing Jean-Claude can say and the thought of receiving comfort from the vampire makes him sick in many different and fun filled ways.
Xander's memories are rapidly fading and Richard knows it won't be long before they're forgotten completely. He also knows that once it's dark, Jean-Claude will want to take him back to Sunnydale, but Richard's not sure he can to back there. He's not sure he can pretend to be sixteen or even pretend that he's Xander. Nor is he sure if he wants to be near the Hellmouth, where his beast will be exposed to God knows what. One thing he does know, is that he doesn't want to go back to Anita and Jean-Claude.
He can't want to go back to the life he had with them in St Louis.
He doesn't want to live a nightmare a second time around. ~*~*~
Jean-Claude doesn't say anything as they silently load the car. Richard feels fine now, in fact he recovered from the full moon a lot quicker than he did back home. He can feel Jean-Claude's concerned eyes on him almost constantly and, quite frankly, it's annoying as hell.
It's annoying, but it helps him make a decision he's sure no one will like.
He waits until they're on the road before opening his wallet. He doesn't have much money, just enough for a bus ticket. "Instead of heading back to Sunnydale, do you think we could go to Vegas instead?"
Jean-Claude raises an eyebrow at him in silent question.
"Willow told Xander, me, this theory about reincarnation. She said that some people think that the reason behind reincarnation is for the person in question to learn lessons. Willow thinks that maybe that's why the three of us have come back, so we can make up for the way we fucked up back in St Louis... how we fucked each other up," Richard says. "She doesn't think it will change anything, but she thinks that it might stop this from happening again."
Jean-Claude says nothing.
"I don't want to live that life again. I don't want to go back to loving Anita and hating her. I don't want to go back to being tied to you. I don't want to go back to hating my beast."
"And the only way for you to avoid that life is to avoid us," Jean-Claude finishes for him.
Richard nods. "You two weren't to blame for all of my unhappiness, but you were tied to a lot of it. I don't want that again."
Jean-Claude falls silent once again.
"I need to accept my wolf and I can't do that in Sunnydale... not near you two."
"Willow will be upset."
"She'll be upset if I go back to Sunnydale," Richard counters. "Xander's gone."
"I know. You don't smell like him anymore."
They both fall silent. Richard doesn't think will go for the idea. He was never one to let power slip away from him and, well, Anita would kill him for letting Richard run away. Not to mention what Xander's friends would do to him.
"Don't shield," Jean-Claude says.
"Don't shield," he repeats as he slowly turns the car around. "Or at least lower it once in a while to and let me know you're okay. He... He hasn't completely taken over me, but I've been noticing changes, more power."
It takes Richard a moment to understand what Jean-Claude saying... and that he's not actually talking to Jean-Claude. Unlike Xander, Angel still has some control over his body, his memories.
Jean-Claude would have found a way to make him stay, but Angel understands enough to let him go.~*~*~
By the time Richard decides where he's going to go, Jean-Claude is standing beside him holding a paper bag which smells like money. They're at a bus depot just off the Vegas strip and thankfully, there's no one around to watch their exchange. Richard's not sure where or what Jean-Claude did to get that much money and he doesn't ask. His need to leave and start again is too overwhelming.
"You should call in a couple of days," Jean-Claude says. "Anita and Willow will worry, so will Giles."
"I'll... um, I'll probably call Giles. He won't yell as much as Willow will."
Jean-Claude nods and then stares at him with an unreadable expression. "Are you sure that this is what you want, Mon Ami
Something about his French accent reassures Richard. "We tried staying together in our last life and it didn't work out. Maybe it will make things easier for the two of you if I'm not around."
"Leave a contact number with Giles if you can," Jean-Claude says.
Richard nods. "I will."
There's nothing left to say after that and after a minute Jean-Claude nods and then he's gone. Richard stares at the place where Jean-Claude stood only seconds ago for a full minute before he picks his bag up from the ground. He's a little surprised that he's not scared now that he's alone. In fact, he feels relief. He knows how to take care of himself, especially now that he's no longer human. In fact, he fears Willow right now more than he fears a life on the streets.
Smiling at the thought, he turns and heads towards to the ticket booth.
"I'd like a one way ticket to St Louis."
He knows it's possibly stupid, returning to the scene of the crime, but his instincts are telling him to return home. He's running away from Anita and Jean-Claude, but he's not running away from his past life.
No, he's trying to build a new one.