One of the lesser known mutants, with a power that is actually detrimental to his health.
It started when we got word of a Goliath demon in town, and yes, that is ‘Goliath’, as in ‘David and...’, capital ‘G’ and everything. It was just after Riley left, which was a shame, cause we really could’ve used the reinforcements, not to mention his crack-shot gunslinging skills.
Y’see, a Goliath’s weakness is laid out right there in the good book, they’re incredibly strong, stronger even than Buffy, but for some reason their foreheads are, like, paper thin or something. One good, hard, hit to the front of the skull and they’ll go down like a puppet without it's strings, so, we really would’ve liked to use Riley’s skill with a sniper rifle and take this thing out from a grassy knoll about 200m away and call it a night.
Without him, we tried the traditional methods, as in a slingshot, and even the crossbows. Problem was, this particular demon had apparently learned from the mistakes of his namesake, and had invested in a helm to protect his Achilles Heel-- or, y’know, in this case, /forehead/, but, whatever. The armor worked perfectly to protect him from the ancient weaponry, so we need more power to bust through it, and, thanks to Ethan’s Halloween Spectacular a few years back, I became Plan B.
This meant another trip to the Sunnydale Military Base for supplies, which was a lot tougher, but thanks to a few not so subtle applications of Buffy’s strength to a few very non-cooperative soldiers, we managed it, and I got to pick out my new toy from the armory.
This had been the tricky part, the selection. Soldier Boy’s memories had long since faded from my mind, but what hadn’t left was an odd muscle memory that allowed me to strip, clean, reassemble and operate a seemingly random selection of firearms used by the U.S. military before 1998, a nifty little ability that had one me more than one bet with Riley’s buddies the year previously.
Problem was that I couldn’t consciously recognize which weapons I would actually be able to use, and that had led to a very awkward round of individually grasping and holding each and every pistol in the joint, Buffy watching impatiently by the door, until I found one that clicked.
As my hand gripped the handgun, I felt my spine straighten automatically, my posture stiffening as muscle memory took over. My hands moved deftly, checking that the weapon was operational, as a memory, rested from the deeper parts of my subconscious mind, supplied a name. Semi-automatic, Colt M1911 pistol.
“You got it?” Buffy asked, as I brought the weapon up and made to fire, looking for all the world like a professional soldier.
“I got it,” I replied, holstering the weapon in the back of my pants as I now hurriedly went to help myself to the ammo.
It didn’t take long to track the Goliath down, it was leaving a very hard to miss trail of destruction in it’s wake after all, but fighting it was a fair bit harder.
It was as far above Buffy in terms of strength as she was to me, which did not bode well for anybody, but Buffy’s speed allowed her to keep out of reach, and draw it into position.
She was ten feet away from me, the Goliath almost directly behind her, when she dove to the side, screaming, “NOW!!”
I aimed carefully, and, bracing myself for the inevitable recoil, fired, eight consecutive rounds, emptying both the barrel and the magazine into the demon’s forehead, obliterating it’s helm and turning it’s skull into the equivalent of a pimple that’s been squeezed too hard.
It was then that I realised a pretty serious lack of planning on my part.
The force of the bullets may have blown the demon’s head away, but the momentum it had gathered still propelled it’s body forward, covering the remaining distance between us before I had time to get out of the way.
Consequently, the demon’s corpse hit me with, what felt like, the force of a freight train, splattering me with it’s blood as I was nearly crushed under it’s weight.
“You alright, Xan?” Buffy called, concern evident in her voice.
“Fine!” I called back, spitting demon blood out of my mouth as I struggled vainly to move the body off of me, “Though I could use a little help here.”
“I gotcha,” Buffy grunted, as her gloved hands found purchase on the demon carcass and heaved, freeing me.
“Thanks, Buff,” I groaned, carefully pushing myself to my feet, spitting on the grass again as I tried to expel the taste of demon blood from my mouth, “So, whattaya say, bonfire?”
“But I haven’t got any s’mores,” she complained, good-naturedly, as she drew the matches from her jeans and lit one.
“I know,” I agreed, as she dropped the match on the carcass, which had refused to just turn into goop, waiting for it to catch alight before returning the matches to her pocket, “It seems like such a crime to let this bonfire just go to waste, burning demons to ash rather than supplying us with chocolatey, marshmallowy, crackery goodness.”
“Yeah, c’mon,” she said, “You really need to wash that blood off before Anya sees you.”
“Nah,” I smiled, “She’ll probably just work it into the sex-play.”
Buffy stopped in her tracks, before shooting me a glare that has sent the darkest denizens of the Hellmouth running in fear, “You are, /so/, having a shower, and I don’t even want to think about what you and Anya get up to if a coating of demon blood could actually fan the flames.”
I grinned unrepentantly, Buffy was not amused.
It really is a pity, I would later lament, that I didn’t obey her and shower immediately before I headed home, (where Anya sent me to shower off anyway, as apparently, the particular odour of the Goliath's blood made her feel a little nauseous). It could have saved me a whole lotta trouble.
Several years ago, Buffy had a run in with a pair of telepathic demons. In that encounter, a tiny splash of blood, barely more than a droplet, landed on her skin, and was absorbed into her bloodstream.
Now, if this had been a normal demon, then there would have been no problems. There’s a slight chance that Buffy might have had an allergic reaction to the demonic bodily fluid, but that was about as worse as it usually could have gotten. Unfortunately, these demons was part of a very restricted class of demons capable of infecting humans, through their blood, with an ‘Aspect’. In Buffy’s case, she gained the demon’s telepathy, the power to hear the thoughts of others.
At first, Buffy had enjoyed her new power, freely using it without thought, but there are two words in the description that really should have tipped us off that something was wrong, the first was ‘infect’, and the second was ‘demon’.
The ‘Aspect’ was just that, an infection. A demonic virus that infused a human being with a demon’s power, and corrupted them from within.
Human beings are not designed for power. Oh, sure, a select few of us are capable of using magic, and even rarer are those who can be Called as Slayers, but those are different, that’s /magic/. The power of the ‘Aspect’, however, is demonic, and no human can stand that.
We saw what happened with Buffy, the power grew-- even growing beyond that of the demon that had infected her, as the Aspect began to corrupt that most powerful magic in the universe, the soul-- until she couldn’t control it, and was lost in the sea of minds surrounding her. We see it happen on an almost nightly basis, when vampires are born, and the corruptive power of the demon kills it’s human host.
And, as I slept, it started to happen to me.
I woke up to a startling discovery. I was buff. I mean, I had always considered myself on the better side of average, but a fondness-- Willow may call it a dependency-- for Twinkies, Hershey Bars, and a variety of other snack foods, prevented me from ever being overly muscular, but now? We’re talking Peter Parker to Spider-man type transformation.
Like Buffy, at first, I was happy, and Anya was happy-- boy, was she happy-- and enthusiastic, which made me even happier. I was strong. A quick test later at the Magic Box revealed me to be stronger than Spike, hell, I was stronger than /Buffy/!
That night, things where perfect. I went out patrolling with Buffy, and, for once, I wasn’t the one playing bait, or the one who got his ass kicked by a fledgeling vampire so young it still had dirt in it’s ears. I was the strong one. I punched a vampire so hard it crashed through the wall of a mausoleum!
I had absorbed the Goliath’s Aspect, and I couldn’t have been happier. Until, later that same night, it all went to hell.
It was a demon, of course, not much else it could be in this town, but it was a pretty big surprise to see anything other than vampires so soon after the Goliath, we usually get at least a week or so between individual demons, after all.
This one was taller than me by at least a foot, with a face that not even a mother could love and a stench that you wouldn’t believe.
We weren’t too sure of what exactly it wanted, but it attacked us, so we were reasonably certain that it wasn’t just on it’s way to a round of poker at Willy’s. Buffy attacked, of course, and it came as no small surprise when the demon batted her aside with a lazy flick of it’s wrist. This thing was strong, maybe even comparable to the Goliath.
I charged it, and it didn’t swat me aside like a fly, instead bracing itself and meeting me head on. I found myself grappling with it, our hands locked together as we each tried to overpower the other through sheer brute force.
In seconds, I realized that the demon was gaining ground, slowly, but surely, and that it wouldn’t be long before he won, so I dug down deep into myself, looking for any last reserves of strength that I could tap.
That’s when everything changed.
The rate of infection of the ‘Aspect’ is sped by usage. Back in senior year, Buffy’s overuse, and damn near dependency, on her mind-reading talent is what allowed it to grow.
When I tried to summon enough strength to defeat the demon, I had prayed for a sea, and expected a puddle, but what I found was an endless ocean of pure, raw, power.
Ripples ran across my body as muscle grew and bulged beneath my skin. I could feel myself growing, at least another half my height, as my strength rose dramatically.
The demon was overwhelmed, and was pulverized by a single punch. For a moment, I felt the strength of a god. Then the spasms hit.
As I’ve said before, the human body is not designed for power, especially not the power of a demon. The strength was too much for me to handle, it was overwhelming me, and my body began to shut down.
Spasms ran through me, pain erupting from every fibre of my being as the extra muscle mass dissolved, returning me to my previous proportions. My body went limp, as my mind slipped into unconsciousness, my last memory being of Buffy screaming.
Later, after I had awoken, I would be told that I had been unconscious for over two days, spasms and convulsions hitting me almost constantly throughout as my body struggled with the inhuman strength that I now realise I had been cursed with.
As I lay, my mind trapped in darkness and pain as my body continued to twitch and erupt into random fits, Giles led the others in research, seeking for any kind of cure.
They found one, like Buffy’s experience, it required the flesh of a second Goliath, which would be impossible. Traditionally, Goliath’s rarely leave Africa, even when they do, almost never going beyond the Middle East. The fact that even one had made it to America suggested that it hadn’t come willingly, which meant that it was likely that there wasn’t another on the entire continent.
But, they refused to give up, and eventually, they found something. It was Willow who found the reference, of a tribe, deep in the heart of Africa, who had been plagued by the inhumanly strong creatures, and had found a way to preserve the lives of those cursed with giants’ strength.
They had found a metal, said to have fallen from the skies as a gift from their gods, that, when melted down into a raw, liquid, form, could be applied to the skin of the afflicted individuals, and contain the demonic strength, absorbing it from the human host, and allowing them to live out the rest of their days, symptom free, once the paints where removed.
Giles called up a coven of witches in Devon, supposedly the most powerful in the world, and, I’m not entirely sure how, but convinced them to help him. With their power, they easily found a practicing witch doctor of the near extinct Wakandan tribe, and got him to Sunnydale within several hours of the request.
The man, T’Challa, had been hesitant to perform the ritual on an outsider, but had relinquished to the pleas for help, and had readied the metals.
I awoke several hours later to find that a lot of things had changed. The good news was that I got to live, the bad news was that T’Challa had arrived too late to simply cure everything with his paints. The Aspect had wormed it’s way in too deep within my very soul, so the temporary paints which would have been able to simply draw it out had they been applied sooner, had instead bonded to my very flesh, right into the muscles, in order to sap the excess and keep it at a manageable level.
This still left me with a lot to deal with, first off being the now very permanent tattoos adorning my entire body. Intricate patterns of silver now coated my torso, my limbs, and even my skull.
Another was the fact that, due to the magic of the tattoos, I had completely lost my sense of touch. I could not feel a single thing, not pleasure, not pain, not even a simple breeze or the sun on my skin. This led to certain other... problems, that Anya was very much not happy about, her own outrage at the situation very nearly matching my own.
The third problem was actually the worst, and definitely the most ironic. As I said, I still had all of the strength lying within me, an endless ocean of raw physical power laying just below the surface, with any overspill being sapped by the Wakandan tattoos. But the tattoos could only handle so much before they couldn’t contain anymore, and the strength once again took ahold of my body. This, effectively meant, that, as of now, I was benched. No patrols, no violence of any kind, hell, I wasn’t even supposed to get mad anymore, because if I used my powers, they could very well kill me before I managed to turn them off again. Which, lucky me, meant meditation.
However, all of this went out the window the second Olaf the Troll-god gave me a choice.
I was battered and bruised. Even though pain wasn’t something I was all that intimate with anymore, I was still exhausted, and desperately trying to remain conscious, as Anya’s ex-honey held me up by the scruff of my neck.
“You have fought well, my friend,” he cheerily explained, “Choose. Only one of your women shall die.”
Looking down, I saw the faces of the two most important women in the world to me. Willow, my best friend, literally, for as long as I can remember. Anya, no longer my girlfriend, due to my inability to give her orgasms in my current state, but still the woman I loved. Both women stared at me, mouths open in horror as a combination of fear and rage blazed in their eyes.
I couldn’t choose either of them, so I chose the ever present, secret option #3. Myself.
“NO!!” I yelled, reaching up to grip his gargantuan hand in both of my own, I pulled.
My tattoos began to glow, as I once again tapped into that endless ocean within me, and I felt myself grow again, into the nine-foot behemoth that signaled the return of my strength.
He was lifted from the ground by the force of the pull, tumbling over me and crashing to the ground before he returned to his feet.
Now actually larger than Olaf himself, however, it was only too easy to rip the hammer from his grasp, his grip slackened due to his shock and pain, and pound him in the gut with his own weapon.
He flew backwards, crashing through the wall of the Magic Box. I internally whined about having more work to do when this was all over, before I felt the first tinges of pain-- the ability to feel in this form was a real pain in the ass-- that warned me of what was to come.
Still, before the spasms hit me, I hurled the Troll Hammer, feeling much like the Mighty Thor as it crashed right through Olaf’s skull, just as pain racked my body, due to the overuse of my inhuman strength, and I blacked out.
Months later, we were all tired and wounded, trapped within an abandoned gas station while we waited for either the Knights to figure a way past Willow’s wards, or for Glory to track us down.
Glory. The current bane of our existence. An insane Hell-goddess, with a supposedly Cordelia-esque flair that the mere thought of which truly terrified me, despite the fact that I’d never even met her face to face, something that Buffy was trying desperately to prevent.
Glory was after the Key, something which had been revealed to be Dawnie, much to our collective shock. I remembered babysitting her for years, watching cartoons, eating pizzas, playing board games, all the while I tried to dissuade her of a childish crush, it’s almost impossible to think of her as a timeless ball of hell unleashing energy.
Problem was, we couldn’t fight Glory. She was as far above Buffy as an elephant was an ant. Willow had tried and failed with her most powerful spells and barely dazed her. And Buffy refused to let me take a shot at her.
We all knew why too. There was a chance, however slight, that I’d actually be able to do it. Actually summon enough strength to finally put an end to her mad quest to return home. But we both knew that, if I did, that’d be it. I’d have to drain that endless ocean I’ve mentioned so many times before completely dry to truly match up to a god, and I would never survive that. No one would. And Buffy was determined not to lose anybody in this, even if it meant saving the world. It was strictly an all or nothing affair.
The painful screams of dying men assaulted us in our temporary haven. We looked outside, seeing nothing but a well dressed blonde women surrounded by carnage. Glorificus had arrived.
Willow’s wards were enough to keep an entire army of Knights at bay, yet Glory punched through them within seconds.
“The Beast is here,” our prisoner announced in fear, “We are doomed!”
“Hey, it’s Gregor,” Glory happily greeted, ripping a piece of wood from the wall as she spoke and hurling it towards him with enough force to impale him, “Now it’s not.”
Buffy and Spike both attacked, but Glory made short work of the traditional enemies, and began to stride towards Dawn, who was quivering in fear behind me.
This was it, I resigned myself. To save Dawn, to save the others, to save the whole wide world and the universe to boot. My time to shine.
My sense of touch returned to me as I began to grow, as I opened up the dam that separated endless ocean, that was the Aspect, from the rest of my being, and strength began to flow through me.
I stepped forward, meeting her head on with a punch so hard it would have done Superman proud.
Her head reeled back from the force of the punch, and I tried not to scream in pain. It was like punching concrete!
I needed more.
As Glory screamed, in irritation more than actual pain, I did the mental equivalent of nuking the aforementioned dam, and, with nothing to hold back the power of the Aspect, strength literally flooded into my body.
I grew again. Now at ten feet tall, and bulging with more muscles than Schwarzenegger, I caught her own wild swing, taking the opportunity to throw her through the wall, jumping after her as I tried to ignore the screams of protest from my friends.
I crashed through the wall, widening the one I had thrown Glory through, and, as I landed outside, I felt the first twinges of pain that told me my body had maybe thirty seconds before it gave in.
That was alright, I thought. You could do a lot in thirty seconds after all.
Glory was only just getting to her feet by the time I reached her, and I didn’t give her the chance to stabilize herself as I began to launch a volley of punches at her prone form, each landing with the force of a freight train and pounding her harder against the ground.
I lost track of time as I tried to find a way to end her. Oh, sure, logically I know that it had to be less than twenty seconds, but to me it felt like an eternity before I finally stood above her. The goddess Glorificus bleeding at my feet, but still not ready to give up, when she started to scream from something other than pain.
Glory disappeared, engulfed in a glowing light, revealing the form of a frightened man, barely older than myself, and I remembered what the general of the Knights had said, that Glory was imprisoned in a cell of flesh and blood. Kill him, and she dies.
Before I could even begin to question the morality of ending his life in order to stop Glory, spasms racked my body, and darkness began to creep into my vision, as my body finally waved the white flag and surrendered to the pressure.
I fell to my knees, tattoos glowing like suns with the sheer amount of power they were trying to contain, and I realized my choice was gone. And so, with my dying act, I summoned the last of my willpower and fought through the spasms that threatened to rip my body apart at the seams, in order to send out one last punch towards Glory’s only weakness, before darkness finally claimed me.