This is one that's just been sitting on my computer for months now...
There are over six billion people on this planet, and of them, perhaps as many as one thousand worldwide possess psychic gifts. Not the ‘I see dead people’ crap that charlatans and performers fake to make it in the entertainment industry, but true psychic abilities, which come in three very different, yet equally dangerous, forms.
The first are known for their subtlety. The Telepaths, capable of hearing the thoughts of others in a manner similar to a radio picking up broadcasts.
The second are known for their power. The Telekinetics, able to move objects and generate pure force with nothing but the power of their minds.
The third form of psychic ability are known for the ferocity that manifests in those who possess it. The Pyros, who can manipulate the flames to their whims.
For the most part, these Psychics are invisible to the public, their abilities lacking the strength and focus needed to make them truly threatening to the world at large, annoying, certainly, troublesome, of course, but not overtly dangerous for the most part.
But, occasionally, one will be born different. Perhaps a Telepath will realize the potential that lies in their abilities, if only they were to send thoughts out, rather than just receiving them from others, and grows from someone that simply cannot be lied to, to someone who can enslave others to their wills.
In the same manner, a Telekinetic could gain the spiritual and emotional balance necessary to take their gifts from simply floating pencils and opening locks, to leveling an army with a gesture, or a Pyro could go from making the flames of a candle dance in his palms, to torching an entire countryside with a twitch.
These people, who can pose such a threat, are exceedingly rare, only a handful of Psychics every few hundred years have risen to such levels of infamy, and the chances of any one Psychic growing that powerful were slim. But the Watchers Council, as a whole, are not betting men.
The Watchers Council did not like these odds, and had seen it as their duty to end this threat, by eliminating any Psychic before they grew too powerful.
The fact that the Psychics, unlike the vast majority of the Watcher’s enemies, were mortal, only made it all the easier, as they did not have to rely on the Slayer, and instead had a team of Watchers dedicated to finding, and eradicating, the Psychics before they could pose a threat.
Xander Harris had always been a little bit odd, whether this came from uncaring and borderline abusive parents is open to debate, but it’s not really important why, all that matters is that Xander had a somewhat unhealthy obsession with fire.
It all began on his seventh birthday. He had wished for a toy firetruck, and had been disappointed when he did not receive one. To his amazement, however, the house next door caught ablaze-- witnesses would swear that the fire just seemed to jump out of the fireplace-- bringing a real firetruck to his door.
That day, Xander had watched, not the firetrucks that he had desired, but the fire that consumed the home of his neighbor. He observed, in awe, as the orange flames danced and swung in the air.
This fascination with fire only grew as the years went on, and he stole one of his father’s cheap cigarette lighters, one that bore an humorous caricature of Jaws, and, when times were rough, he would take it out and ignite a spark, and simply watch the fire dance, as he contemplated life.
He came to an interesting realization at one point, that fire consumed and grew and breathed, it lived and then died. It was, essentially, alive.
Later, after his introduction to the world of the supernatural, he would wonder if it was the strange form of ‘life’ that a flame seemed to possess that made it such a potent weapon against the undead.
But through all of this, as he watched the flame, wondering what it might be like to command such an element, it was only the night that they finally responded that his life was changed.
The night when, as Buffy fought against the reanimated body of Daryl Epps, brought back to life by his brother Chris, Xander tried to save Cordelia, who was strapped to a gurney, and scheduled to soon become the Bride of Frankenstein, when the struggle between Buffy and Daryl spilled a tank of gasoline and a lit bunsen burner, setting the room aflame.
As Xander desperately tried to free Cordelia before the flames fell upon them, a part of his mind that had once been dormant finally awoke, and called out to the fire.
Too preoccupied with freeing Cordelia from her restraints, Xander did not notice the perfect circle of untouched space that surrounded him. He did notice, however, after Cordelia was safely outside, and Buffy and Daryl were the only ones left, that the flames began to grow, consuming fuel at an accelerated rate as they began to encompass the undead former footballer, whilst avoiding Buffy as though she were surrounded by a force field.
Buffy herself did not question whatever was happening, as she was more concerned with her immediate survival as she fled the room, the flames only rising higher in her absence, but she, Xander, Cordelia and Chris watched on as Daryl was quickly consumed by the flames, and none of them noticed the steely glint in Xander’s eye, nor the slight, almost maniacal, grin that tugged at his lips.
Fire... it grows, it feeds, it breathes. It is born, and it dies.
To most, it is uncontrollable, an unstoppable element that will consume until there is nothing left to feed its insatiable hunger, but that night was the first time that Xander felt something that few people do. He felt the fire respond to him, to his desire to keep Cordelia and Buffy safe, and his desire to stop Daryl Epps. And later that evening, as he stared into the flickering flame given off by his Zippo lighter, trying to reclaim that feeling, he felt it respond to his thoughts again, as the fire morphed into a perfect sphere, and hovered lightly above the palm of his hand.
And that slight, almost maniacal, grin returned.