Breath in... Breath out... Breath in... Breath out... Focus, find your center. The pool of power within you. Channel it. Force it outwards. Through your arms... Your hands... Your fists...
“What the fuck!!”
“Ahh!” Eyes opening, I fell backwards from my seated position on the table in shock, ungracefully landing on the floor in a heap, “Ow.”
Looking up, I saw Faith’s face, twisted in confusion and what could possibly be concern, “Shit! You alright X?”
Groaning a bit as I untangle myself, I tell her, “Yeah, should be fine.”
Accepting her offered hand, she pulled me up.
“Good,” she drawls, meeting my eye, “Now maybe you can explain the glowing knife things.”
“It worked!?” I asked, eyebrows raising in disbelief, “I haven’t even been doing this two weeks!”
“You wanna tell me whats going on?” Faith looks annoyed, in that way that says ‘explain now or I start Slaying’.
“It’s a long story,” I tell her, she looks at me with a raised eyebrow.
“I got time,” she replies, “I ain’t supposed to meet B for a few more hours.”
“Alright,” I concede, looking around the library to make sure that Giles isn’t here either, “But some of this stuff is kinda private, so you gotta promise me not to tell Buffy or Willow about it.”
“Sure, no problem,” Faith nods, “Now explain.”
“Fine,” running a hand through my hair I try to figure out how to start, “I guess I should start from the very beginning.”
“Usually the best place.”
“Hey, I’m the one who makes the jokes.”
“But you suck at it.”
“Do you want to hear the story or not?”
She smirked, but didn’t say anything, round one goes to her.
“Okay, it all started about two years ago, did Buff ever tell you about the Hyena Incident?” I ask, she shakes her head ‘no’, “Well me and a group of four other kids got possessed by a bunch of Primal Spirits at the zoo. We got a pretty sweet power up, but we lost control of our bodies to the hyenas.”
“Doesn’t sound good.”
“No, it very much wasn’t. Buffy once said something about how being the Slayer gives you urges you can’t control, urges to go out and kill demons. Well, for me it was kind of like that, only my urges weren’t anywhere near as socially acceptable.” I had trouble meeting her eyes here, I hate telling this story.
“Shit X, what did ya do?”
“Lets just say that the worst thing I did wasn’t eating the school’s new mascot, raw.”
“Damn, what happened?”
“The girls figured out that I was possessed and Giles managed to to exorcise the spirits, but it left behind a few things.” Seeing her eyebrow raise, I hurried, “Nothing huge or anything, just urges, instincts, a few bad memories, enough to be annoying but I could ignore them most of the time.”
“So what does that have to do with glowing knives?” She asked.
“I’m getting to that,” I replied, “Be patient. Anyway, about a year later, someone cast a spell on Halloween, turned everyone into their costumes.”
“Yeah, Red mentioned that when she was blabbing on about the Judge. Said something about you being a soldier and how she went as a ghost, she wouldn’t tell me what B was though.”
I grin, I love this part of the story, “That's because Buffy forbade anyone from ever telling that particular tale of humiliation on pain of death.”
“Well now you gotta tell me, X-man,” she smirks, “It could be important to the story.”
“My lips are sealed,” I tell her, returning her smirk with one of my own, “But let's just say that 17th century noblewomen are extremely annoying and leave it at that.”
She chuckles at the image and I continue, “Well, after that night, pretty much everybody else’s costume personas just faded away, but Soldier Boy latched on to the remnants of the Hyena, and the two of them have been double teaming me ever since.”
She looks at me oddly, “What, are they trying to take over your body or something?”
“Pretty much,” I admit, “They’re real stubborn like that. Anyway, when I realized that they weren’t going to leave me alone, I went to Giles and he pointed me towards some books on meditation, controlling the inner voices and stuff, y’know?”
“And that led to glowing knives?” She asked, still confused.
“Kinda, actually, I finally got the voices out of my head about a month ago, or at least I got them as quiet as they’re going to get, and then I noticed something in one of the books that I hadn’t seen before. It said that there have been instances where people have been able to channel the energy of the spirit, or whatever, into some kinda spiritual weapons. I figured that with two possessing spirits inside me, my spirit would have a big enough pool of energy for me to do it. The book even outlined a few techniques I could try.”
“Got an easier way to explain that? Book learning's not really my thing,” Faith said.
“Uh, I’m using the psychic power of the Hyena and Soldier Boy to make the glowing knife things,” I told her, explaining it as best I could, “I’m kinda surprised it worked though, I mean I’ve been trying for only a couple of weeks.”
“From what I heard, you had a lot of free time these past couple of weeks,” she was referring to the gang kind of avoiding me ever since the Fluke, and then most recently their attempts to try and keep me away from the slaying. Not that that had worked, while they were fighting blue demon ladies, I was fighting a zombie gang, although, ‘fighting’ might be too strong a word, more like running and occasionally being forced into confrontation, of course though, they don’t know about that.
“Yeah, but still,” I held my hands out in front of me and focused. Finding my core had always been easy for me, but I was amazed at how much easier it was to channel the power this time, maybe once the pathways are opened, they don’t fully close again? I watched as two knives made of concentrated purple light appeared from the back of my fists, dazed, until Faith cleared her throat, breaking my concentration and causing them to dissipate.
“So,” she started awkwardly, “Besides making a freaky light show, what exactly can those things do?”
Looking towards the books, I shrugged, “I’m not really sure, the books weren’t really all that descriptive. But they did say that the energy can hurt people, just not physically.”
“What, it emotionally scars them?” Faith asked, frowning.
“No, I don’t think so at least,” I say worriedly, what if it does? “I think that it means it makes a person think that they’re hurt, makes them feel the pain that the knife would cause, without actually doing any damage.”
“Wicked,” she replies, “You gonna test those things out on patrol tonight?”
“Maybe,” I answer, not really sure myself, “But I’d definitely rather not let Buffy know I’m doing anything ‘too dangerous’ until I’m sure that this can actually work.”
She shrugs, “Fair enough. Tell you what. I’ll patrol with B tonight, but tomorrow, I’ll take you out and we’ll see if those things of yours are actually worth anything.”
I smirk, “I’d like to think that any of my ‘things’ are worth quite a bit, Faith.”
“Don’t get ahead of yourself, Xan,” she tells me, “You weren’t bad I’ll admit, especially if you were serious about being a virgin, and I’ve definitely had worse, but I’ve had better too.”
I just nod, not really much I can say to that, second round to Faith as well. “So we’ll patrol tomorrow night then?”
“Sure, new slaying technique, gotta see if its any good.”
“Meet you where then?”
“G said something about a new Watcher coming in that I’ve gotta meet, so I’ll probably be here all day tomorrow.”
“Great, we get to start messing with a new Giles,” I grin, Watcher-baiting has become a treasured pastime for me over the past few years, “It’ll be fun watching you and Buffy break him in.”
“Might not bother and just break him if he’s too much like that Travers dick.” Faith had not taken the news of the Cruciamentum thing a few months ago very well.
“Hey, if he tries to stick a needle into you or Buffy, just tell me and I’ll help you hide the body,” I tell her, eyes darkening just a little bit, “I’m thinking demon chow. Make it look like a mission gone wrong.”
She snickers, “You have a sick and twisted mind, Boytoy. Glad to see someone in this joint has their head on straight when it comes to people.”
There’s silence for a minute, and I’m not really sure how to break it, luckily she fixes that problem for me.
“You’d really do that, X?” She asks, quietly, almost like she’s afraid of the answer, “You’d really kill someone if he tried to hurt me or B?”
“In a heartbeat Faith,” I for her to meet my gaze, to show her how serious I am. Concentrating, the psi-knives return, that really is getting easier each time I do it, and I continue with a grin, “And while we’ve got him I can test out how well these things work on people.”
As it turned out, the New Watcher was actually about five times worse than Giles had started out as. The man, named Wesley, was a tool. A well meaning tool, possibly, but still little more than a tool for the Council.
Faith had blown him off not long after introductions were made, ignoring him for the rest of the day. From what she told me later on patrol, Wes made the very stupid mistake of ordering her to get some relic thing, rather than asking her.
I met the man that afternoon, before he gave up on trying to get her to answer him with any form of respect. One of the first things he did during our introductions was ask what I brought to the table in terms of Slaying.
“Explosives expertise,” I told him blankly, “And, of course, lets not forget my much more important duties as doughnut fetcher.”
As he tried to recover from my sarcastic comment, he polished his glasses in a way almost identical to the G-man. Losing interest, I went over to sit next to Faith.
“Hey,” I greeted her, as I took the seat across from her, “We still on for patrol tonight?”
“Yeah, sure,” she answered, “Wussley’s got B fetching something from a crypt so we gotta swing by the rest of the cemeteries.”
“Cool, should give us plenty of times to test those things out.”
“Excuse me,” Wesley interrupted pompously, “But the Slayer patrols alone. This type of work is far too dangerous for an untrained schoolboy.”
Raising my eyebrow, I examined him for a second. He didn’t look like he’d ever been in a fight in his life. “I’ve been doing this almost as long as Buff has, and, as you can plainly see, I’m still kicking.”
Wes sputtered for a bit. I’m getting the impression that he had expected to come down to Sunnydale to find us begging to take orders from a ‘Trained Field Watcher’ and is currently having all his illusions shattered.
We argued a bit more about the subject, and he eventually shut up when Giles interrupted.
“Mr Wyndam-Pryce,” he said tiredly, “Xander has proven his abilities many times over the past few years and has been instrumental in several of our victories. In fact, it was he who revived Buffy in the Master’s cavern over a year and a half ago, twinning the Slayer line.”
Wesley stammered for about a minute and a half, looking incredulously between Giles and myself, I get the feeling that the thing in the Master’s cavern might have been more important than I thought, before apparently giving up walking off into the stacks.
“Wow, Giles,” I grin, as I turn towards him, “I didn’t know you cared.”
“You're not ever going to let me forget about that are you?”
I smirk, carefully sounding out the word, “Nope.”
“Good Lord, what have I done?” He asked, looking skyward, as though the clouds would supply him with an answer.
That night, when Faith and I were patrolling Restfield cemetery, we came across our first victim. A newly risen vamp, considering the suit and the dirt, Faith knocked him around a little, before pinning him to the ground.
“Come on, X,” she grunted, the fledge was struggling vainly, but enough to keep her from relaxing, “Let's test that shit.”
Concentrating, the pis-knives appeared, “I’ll try the heart first,” I told her, giving her time to move out of the way.
I stabbed my left psi-knife through his undead chest, directly into his heart, but while he reacted like he was in pain, he didn’t dust. Trying again, this time I aimed for the head, and stabbed him right between the eyes. This time he went limp immediately, leaving Faith to stake him without trouble.
We tried it on a few other vamps, and discovered that if I stabbed it, the vampire would feel the pain, but nothing else would happen, but if I stabbed it anywhere in the head or the spine, it caused some kind off feedback that just knocked the vamp unconscious. No muss, no fuss. Just a quick psi-knife stab and then I could follow through with a stake to the heart while they were down. Patrols were going to be so much easier. But I knew I had to be careful for a while, I still had to get in close to use them and I wasn’t a hundred percent in summoning the psi-knives, and I did not want to get into a fight only for them to fail on me.
I surprised myself that night by having so much fun on patrol. Normally I don’t really get to talk to Faith much, and when we do she spends most of the time teasing me, but on patrol, she becomes more... relaxed, I guess. Weird as it sounds, she calms down when she’s hunting something. It's like her defenses come down when she’s on a post-slay high, showing more of the girl with the attitude, rather than just the attitude by itself.
Later, Faith walked me home, and thankfully didn’t say anything when, rather than take the door, I shimmied up the drainpipe to my window. Laying in bed, I thought about how I would break the news to the others. For some reason Buff had been going on a ‘no civilians’ kick on patrols. She didn’t like it if I came along, and generally didn’t like it if Willow was along unless there was magic to be done. I don’t get it, I mean, we’ve been doing this almost as long as Buffy, and we’re still kicking, so we must be doing something right. Right?
I decided that I’d just tell them tomorrow and see what happens.
I didn’t get a chance. I had decided to do this big unveiling thing in the library at the end of school, but Faith showed up in the middle of chemistry. She dragged me outside, not that I was complaining, to hit up a vamp nest.
“A vamp nest?” I ask her.
“Yep,” she answered, easily.
“And you don’t think that we should bring Buffy or any of the others along with us why?” I ask.
“You said you wanted to test out the knife things some more,” she replied, negligently, “I figure hitting a nest of Vamps during the day oughtta give you some real good opportunities.”
“Ah, Faith?” I say, “I can only keep the psi-knives going as long as I can concentrate, and I don’t think that being attacked from all sides while watching you jump around in leather is going to be great for my concentration.”
“Relax X,” she smirked, “I’ll watch your six.”
“It isn’t my six I’m worried about,” I mutter under my breath, “Its everything else that's going to get hit.”
“Chill, Boytoy,” she said, in what I think was meant to be a reassuring way, “I did a headcount earlier, there’s only six vamps or so, and with the sun out, they’re going to be hiding in the shadows once we bust down the door.”
I smile a bit, that does actually make me feel better. Faith can take down four vamps without too much trouble, five if she has to, that’ll just leave me one or two, which I might actually be able to survive if they’re dumb enough.
When we get there, Faith just kicks the door in, letting sunlight spill into the room. I can hear one of them scream as his skin starts to burn and he backs away from the opening. Faith charges in, me right behind her. I try to concentrate, but, well, like I said, Faith jumping around in leather is pretty distracting, and against a force like that, the human survival instinct can only do so much, so I grab a stake from my back pocket and turn away from her, attacking the nearest vamp.
I catch him by surprise, dusting him before he even manages to get up from where he had been sleeping mere seconds ago, and twist around to see how Faith’s doing. She was doing fine, holding off three at once, while the remaining two circled around her towards me. Uh-oh.
Taking a moment, I try to find that inner pool to let me summon the psi-knives. My heartbeat was too fast, too much adrenaline rushing throughout my body, I couldn’t concentrate enough to get the stupid things to work.
The vamps were preparing to strike when it clicked. Like flicking a switch, I felt the power course through my arms, erupting through my fists. Raising one arm to block a punch from the first one, I punched at the second, stabbing him in the chest and causing him to stumble back from the pain. Launching another strike against the first one, my right psi-knife went through his neck, causing him to fall down unconscious. I bent down to stake his unmoving form, but once he was dust, the second one struck me hard in the head.
I fell down to the ground, and he kicked me in the chest, sending me flying into the wall, only to fall hard against the floor. As he drew nearer, I saw Faith, still stuck with two of the vamps double teaming her, she wouldn’t get to me in time, so as his foot landed near my face, I lashed out, the psi-knives returning in time for me to strike through his upper leg. He screamed as he felt the pain of his leg being severed, and he buckled, as though it had gone numb. He landed next to me and I struck him between the eyes, before staking his still body.
Getting up, I saw Faith dealing with her last opponent, cutting off his head with a sword snatched from the floor, she turned to me and grinned, “See, Xan? Everything went fine.”
Matching her grin, I replied, “I guess I really should’ve trusted you, huh?”
“Like I said, Boytoy,” she smirked, “I’ll steer you round the curves.”
I turned towards the door so that she wouldn’t see my face tinge red at that particular memory.
I ended up just walking around town with Faith for the rest of the day. I considered going back to school for about two seconds and decided against it, if I missed anything important, I could always just borrow Willow’s notes, she usually explains the subject better than the teachers anyway. So Faith and I spent the afternoon together. We wandered around, couldn’t find any more vamp nests, thankfully, and we talked for a bit, about a whole lotta nothing mostly.
We ended up at the Bronze, and after one song, Faith had taken it as her duty to teach me how to dance. She failed, on the dance-floor, there is no one more uncoordinated than I, but it was fun, and that was more important.
Wesley showed up, looking for Faith, told us about the demon Balthazar’s followers and where to find them. Maybe giving that information to two adrenaline hyped, super-powered teenagers wasn’t a very smart idea, but it's not like Wes could have stopped us anyway.
We headed down to the warehouse, overconfident in our ability to take care of a few disciples with a dead leader. Luckily, we were smart enough to grab a peak through the skylight, take a headcount before we charged in, guns blazing.
There were at least twenty vampires, all armed with a pair of swords each, as well as some demon, turns out Balthazar wasn’t dead, living in a bathtub.
Faith had wanted to go for it, but I managed to convince her to hold off until help arrived. Unfortunately, the skylight didn’t have very good structural integrity, and the wood beneath me chose this moment to collapse.
Luckily, or unluckily as the case may be, I landed on the fat tub of lard in charge, protecting me from too much bruising, before I bounced off of him and onto the ground. It took me a moment to get my bearings, long enough for the guards to get their swords out and circle me.
“Xander!!” Faith yelled from the roof, distracting the guards as they looked overhead.
I summoned my psi-knives and stabbed the two nearest through their faces, knocking them unconscious before anyone else could react. I ignored the angry wheezing from the bathtub as I attacked another one, numbing his arm before snatching one of his swords. I swung the sword wildly, decapitating the vamp by pure luck as others raised their own weapons to block.
“Xander!” Faith called out again.
“I’m a bit busy, Faith!” I tell her, ducking beneath a pair of swords.
I hear a ‘thump’ sound behind me, followed by the sound of a vampire dusting. Glancing behind me, I see that Faith has jumped down after me, and snagged her own sword as well.
I jump back to avoid another swing, only to be knocked down by another’s punch. On the floor, my hands are restrained by the other vampires, who pull me back to my feet, where I watch as Faith takes out another three sword fighting vampires before she too is subdued by their sheer numbers.
“Bring them forward,” Balthazar wheezed, motioning with his flabby arms, it made me nauseous, more so then the possible concussion.
“This one,” he gasped out, pointing at me, “He has the gift.” Turning to another, he yelled, “Bring him to me.”
I was dragged forward, I struggled vainly but the vamps had me hopelessly outmatched in terms of strength and I was too dazed to summon the psi-knives, or even use them effectively in my position. I was brought to the front of the demons bathtub, and he placed one of his flabby hands over my left eye. It stank.
“With this mark,” he wheezed, as I felt the skin under his hand start to heat up, “I welcome you, as my disciple.”
The skin around my eye erupted into pain. I was screaming as I was dragged back to my position.
“And the girl, Lord Balthazar?” One of the vamps asked.
“She will be his first test,” the monster proclaimed, “Once I have my amulet, the boy will be turned. When he has risen, he shall be tested against the Slayer, and he shall drink her blood!”
There were cheers from the vampires as we were dragged away to separate rooms. I was thrown into a cell, I didn’t really take notice of my surroundings, I was too concerned with the fading pain over my eye. What had he marked me with?
Eventually, the pain faded, and a quick look around the room revealed it to be mostly empty, but the adjoining bathroom had a mirror. Steeling myself, preparing for hideous facial scarring, I checked my reflection.
The mark was red, it was almost shaped like a daggers blade, crossed down over my eye, starting just below my hairline and with the tip almost reaching my mouth. At the very least it didn’t look hideous. Maybe people would find it exotic? Or will this be covered by Sunnydale Syndrome?
Ah, what am I thinking? If I don’t get out of here soon, I’m going to be turned and loosed on Faith!
I tested the door, it was locked tight. I tried looking for something, anything I could use to hit it with, but there was nothing heavy enough. I even tried using the psi-knives on it, but they just passed right through the door without leaving a scratch.
Eventually, I decided that the best thing to do would be to wait until the guards came back and try to break loose before they got a chance to turn me. I went to the center of the room and sat in the lotus position, I figured I should be ready to summon the psi-knives at a moments notice, so I worked on meditation, trying to clear my mind so that the power channels would be uninterrupted.
I was in there for maybe half-an-hour before I heard anything. Sounds of fighting coming from outside the room and footsteps getting closer. I stood, summoning the psi-knives in case it was one of the vampires. The door broke, as Faith walked in.
“Hey X,” she smirked, “Fancy meeting you here.”
“Ha-Ha Faith,” I grumble, “Need I remind you that you were captured too?”
She lost her smirk, but still answered, “Whatever, if you’re gonna hide the knives, you better do it now.”
“Are there any vamps left?”
“Nope, Tubby’s dead too.”
“Then I’ll tell them later, after Giles tells me about this mark,” I told her, pointing to my new feature.
“Y’know,” she started, peering critically at my face, “That doesn’t look half bad. Looks cool.”
“Really?” I ask, as we exited the room, “You think?”
“No shit, kinda makes you look dangerous or something.”
“Huh, maybe it won’t be so bad.”
We walked into the main room to find Giles, Wesley, Angel and Buffy amongst a number of dust piles and a smoking tub.
“Hey guys,” I greet them, pointedly ignoring Angel, “Thanks for the save!”
Giles and Wesley recoiled when they saw my mark, “Faith, be careful, I don’t think that is Xander!” Giles cautioned.
Hands up in surrender, as Buffy and Angel started towards me, I call out, “Whoa! There will be no slaying of Xanders!”
“Do not listen to him,” Wesley ordered, “There have been a number of vampires documented by the Watchers Council bearing that mark and each of them have been beings of incredible power!”
“Hold up,” Faith said, right next to me, “X here was branded or something by that Ball-a-lard guy. Dude said something about turnin’ him but he was waitin’ for his amulet.”
“That explains things,” Giles sighed, “If the Watcher’s Diaries are correct, Balthazar would have required his full powers to maintain control over a vampire of that power.”
“Wait,” Buffy interrupted, “Why would Xander become a Super Vampire?”
Well, there’s a question I was hoping to avoid, rubbing the back of my neck, I answered, “Yeah, that may have been cause of this,” raising one arm, I summoned one of the psi-knives. “Demon Guy saw me do this to a couple of his minions.”
My attention was drawn to the Watcher Twins, who had gasped in astonishment simultaneously, “What?”
“Xander,” Giles stammered, “When on Earth did you master the Psionic Blades?”
“Xander,” Buffy said sternly, “I thought you agreed not to do magic after the Valentine’s Day incident?”
Faith looked at me curiously, “What happened on Valentine’s Day?”
I felt my face turn a little bit red, Buffy in a raincoat and nothing else can do that, “Long story.”
“I got time.” She smirked.
“Could we please get back to the matter at hand?” Wesley interjected shrilly, “The Psionic Blades are a powerful psychic technique, and I for one would very much like to know how it is that a mere boy was able to learn of such things, let alone achieve it!”
“I found the book in the library,” I said with a shrug, “Thought it would help with the nightmares.”
“Nightmares?” Buffy asked, concerned.
“Soldier Boy and the Hyena, Buff,” I told her, “They never fully left. I’ve been using meditation to keep them quiet for about a year now, I found the one on the psi-knives and thought I’d try it, two weeks later and boom, I have superpowers.”
“Of course!” Giles exclaimed, “That’s how the vampires gained such power. By turning a master of the Psionic Blades, the chakras and internal energy pools are already capable of the technique, allowing the demons much greater pools of psychic energy to be expressed. The victims must be marked as a symbol of their potential power.”
“That makes sense,” Wesley commented thoughtfully, “Those born with the potential for the technique are scarce and those who are given the chance to use it are rarer still, that could explain why so few of these vampires have been documented.”
“Great,” I snark, I had been getting more and more nervous as their conversation went on, “I get turned, and I’ll be unstoppable.”
“Not unstoppable, Mr Harris,” Wesley tactlessly corrected, “Just very, very powerful.”
“Uh-huh, cause that makes me feel so much better.”
My ‘tattoo’ got me a few interesting looks at school and a lecture from Snyder about how much of a degenerate I was but not much else, except for all the vamps old enough to recognize it suddenly deciding that I would be their newest childe. The gang mostly took my changes without too much comment, although Wesley kept bugging me about describing, in detail, the process of summoning the psi-knives.
Giles had later told me about the powers that the vampire masters of the psionic blades were known to have. It made me really curious, after all, if I could learn how to do the teleportation or the manipulating shadows thing he described, then I’d be like a ninja or something.
But for now, we’ve got a brand new crisis on our hands, the deputy mayor, Allen Finch, came to us the day after we dealt with Balthazar, he told us about Mayor Wilkins’ plans to perform an Ascension. Giles and Wesley are researching like crazy trying to figure that one out.
Faith’s been trying to teach me how to fight better, get in closer to stab the vamps without getting beaten to a pulp. So far, we seem to be making progress, years of being pummeled had given me good instincts on when I should duck, so I was getting less bruises out on patrols.
Giles had talked me into trying to expand on my powers, he seems to think that while the teleportation needs more power than I can generate, I might be able to throw the psi-knives given a bit of work. Personally I really hope that I can, knocking out vamps from a distance sounds really good. Or maybe I can hit Angel from across the room when no one's looking?