Disclaimer: I own nothing. All Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters and Harold Gray characters are the property of their original owners.
“Good evening, madam. Have you by any chance seen in this neighborhood a young girl, about ten years of age, possessing curly red hair, and accompanied by her faithful canine companion? I must not be remiss in my assigned task of protecting that particular orphaned child.”
A totally bewildered Joyce Summers, after listening to that matter-of-fact statement delivered in a steady monotone, now exclaimed with utter disbelief: “Xander?!
Standing on the porch in front of the open door of her house shortly before dusk of tonight’s Halloween, a teenage boy then ended his very peculiar behavior, to instead present a more familiar grin followed by a jaunty greeting to this woman, “Hey, Mrs. Summers-- OW!”
After his unexpected yelp of agony, Xander then rubbed the sides of his head where the metal clips attached there that had been pulling back the skin below his temples to provide him with a semblance of slanted eyes had just reacted to his facial muscles performing a smile by digging painfully into his flesh.
“Are you all right, Xander?”
That concerned question from Buffy’s mom made the high school student reassure his favorite older Summers female. “Yeah, I just have to be careful to keep a straight face, which is how my character’s supposed to act, anyway.”
Joyce lifted a bemused eyebrow in mild puzzlement, as she further examined the young man giving her a truly deadpan look. This soon produced another question from the woman: “Why are you dressed up like that, Xander? I heard from Buffy earlier today that you were going to be a soldier when you escorted the younger children tonight from your school.”
Giving a rueful shrug of his shoulders, plus an equally depreciating wave of Xander’s hand along the front of his body indicating what he was now wearing for tonight’s trick-or-treating holiday, this boy glumly informed his listener, “I was gonna, but at the costume shop, the single pair of Army fatigues there was just too big for me to wear. The only other thing that I could find in the place in both my size and my price range was this outfit. Hey, at least I managed to come up with a really cool character who looks like this, even though nobody will ever guess it until I tell them who I am!” The teenager’s previous mood of being down in the dumps had quickly altered into his normal cheerfulness, as he smirked at the confused woman.
A baffled Joyce continued to eye with perplexity the young man standing before herself, with his hair slicked back and wearing a cheap black suit cut in a very old-fashioned style. The combined jacket, narrow tie, dark pants, and shiny shoes had to be at least fifty years out of date. Combined with the fact that he still had a vaguely Oriental appearance due to the metal clips pulling on his face, Joyce had the sudden unkind thought that Xander looked a bit like the first ever Toyota car salesman.
Hastily banishing from her mind that really insensitive image, the Slayer’s mother then sheepishly admitted, “Well, I’ll be more than happy to be the first one that you explain to exactly who you are. Because, I have absolutely no idea.”
A flash of evil delight now appeared upon Xander’s features, as he gleefully identified his Halloween character in just two short words, followed by another minute or so of a more detailed explanation.
This ended with a dumbfounded Joyce asking in sheer incredulity, “Somebody like him
was actually added to that newspaper comic strip?”
“Yup,” happily nodded Xander, who continued, “And it’s even his anniversary, since he showed up sixty years ago.” Seeing Joyce’s stern look directed at him for dressing up as such a vicious person for Halloween tonight, the high school student hurriedly said, “Hey, it’s true that he’s in no way any kind of nice guy, but he’s totally loyal to those people he cares for! Like I said when I got here, the kid he spent years looking after was absolutely safe from his boss’s enemies when that mysterious man from Asia was around!”
Joyce just rolled her eyes as she stepped back from the open door in clear invitation to enter, when this woman now heard from the upper floor of her home a pair of approaching girls’ voices. “I see. Well, you’re the one who has to convince Willow and Buffy about that. Good luck in getting them to buy your story.”
His face once again completely austere as he instantly got back into character, Xander gave a calm nod to a sardonic Joyce, as the teenager smoothly strode into the house at 1630 Revello, chilly eyes flickering around as he checked out the fields of fire and other security concerns in the small California suburban dwelling.
Ethan Rayne was giving the small statuette of Janus set upon the costume shop counter a very fond look at the exact moment a slim steel blade pierced his brainstem below the back of the man’s skull. The smooth thrust of the stiletto was so quick and expert that the English sorcerer died without even knowing there was now someone else in the Sunnydale shop he’d rented for Halloween.
The expressionless Eurasian in the black suit let the falling body slide off the knife he’d just used, holding his weapon with a steady grip until the assassin then bent down to wipe off the blood there onto the back of his victim’s shirt. Straightening up again, the stiletto vanished into the depths of his jacket, as the man coolly regarded the body lying at his feet. That corpse’s instant death hadn’t been done out of any quality or concept of mercy. Which was just as well, since the assassin would have ordinarily been more than willing to inflict any number of tortures upon someone who’d dared to endanger those he’d vowed to protect and guard.
However, time was of the essence now, as the Chaos enchantment needed to be ended that had brought pure anarchy to this city by the Pacific Ocean tonight. Along with his own unanticipated presence into an American boy’s body. Sending a composed gaze towards the small stone bust of a being with two faces resting on the counter, the Eurasian gave a short nod to himself, as he immediately recognized who that piece of artwork was representing. During his travels and studies early in his life that had been discussed with only one other person ever, he’d witnessed and experienced often enough the forces of the universe that the unlettered described as ‘magic.’
His previous encounters concerning the supernatural had also come with the precise knowledge of how to presently stop the spell of pure Chaos that was still continuing to bring to life the characters of the numerous costumes sold by this Ethan Rayne, evidently for that man’s own idle amusement. As he stepped over the Briton’s body that had terminally paid for his criminal blunder, the Eurasian reached for and gripped the Janus statuette without the slightest hesitation.
There was no regret whatsoever in this man’s mind, when he then hurled that magical object as hard as he could towards the shop’s floor, even though he knew he was effectively committing suicide. Life and death were merely two faces of the same coin. Duty, however, was all.
Several months later, Xander Harris was lurking in an alley. Ordinarily in Sunnydale, that specific course of action would normally lead to the city coroner painfully stamping onto the required death certificate the usual verdicts of ‘barbeque fork incident’, ‘gangs on PCP’, or the tried and true ‘wild animal attack’. However, in the last couple of weeks, things had become remarkably peaceful in this Golden State municipality. So much that a very grateful public official had started to have his carpal tunnel syndrome clearing itself up.
Ignorant of this, the cause of his hometown populace’s sudden increase in longevity continued to keenly regard out past the alley’s mouth the large building where his latest target was working away far into the night, presumably in the service of those fine citizens who’d put Richard Wilkins III into City Hall as the Mayor of Sunnydale. In the alley, Xander softly snorted to himself, as he wondered just how the townspeople would really react if they suddenly found out this guy was in fact a century-old sorcerer determined to transform himself into a major demon in the next year or two.
A derisive smirk promptly appeared onto Xander’s face, as he then decided that most folks in Sunnydale would be perfectly fine with this, as long as they continued to enjoy clean sidewalks, no crime (any prospective muggers were quickly eaten), and uninterrupted cable. The teenager began to quietly snigger to himself, thoroughly enjoying his sardonic thoughts. It was certainly a lot more fun than what he’d been contemplating lately, how his friends had become increasingly distant from the high school student ever since the awful events of last Halloween.
Maybe he shouldn’t have told them then just about everything that had happened to him, but Xander had unthinkingly expected Giles, Buffy, and Willow to provide some real support for him in dealing with all his memories of what he’d done on that night. Unfortunately, the others of the Scooby Gang had been too horrified by the murder of Ethan Rayne at his hands to understand that Xander felt totally guilty, enough that the young man needed actual sympathy and caring from the older man and the two girls. Instead, there’d been shown to him shock and revulsion, even from Willow, from whom he’d expected far better.
In the alley, Xander bitterly snarked to himself that his yellow-crayon friend had been around Buffy much too long, so that she’d gotten caught up in the Slayer’s unceasing lamentations over what had happened to her vampire boyfriend. Hey, considering who he’d been and what type of situation that guy had just found himself in, when Deadboy had come waltzing into Buffy’s home and then instantly gotten turned into a sackful of ashes, that bottle blonde should console herself that at least Captain Forehead had a quicker death than any that Angelus had ever provided to his
Besides, while chasing after a brainless noblewoman who’d bolted out of the Summers house, Spike and Drusilla had then bitten the dust, so that left the Scooby Gang one vampire ahead in the ‘dead monster’ stakes. Nobody else seemed to see it this way, which lead to yours truly getting the cold shoulder from his former friends. Maybe it was just as well that he hadn’t completely
spilled the beans.
Those jerks in the school library, they wouldn’t let him patrol with them anymore? Fine. He’d do it on his own.
Well, on his own and with somebody else.
Yep, the guy he’d been changed into was still there inside his head. How? Why? Frankly, Xander had absolutely no idea, and Giles wasn’t talking to him. Maybe because whoever had been in his body then had been the one to destroy the Chaos statuette. Who cared, anyway? The most important thing was that his newest mental passenger was quite willing to come out when needed and help with his own set of unique skills.
Like now, after defeating the latest killer squad from the Order of Taraka. Apparently, the sudden decrease recently in the hostile demon population of Sunnydale had caused grave concern to someone very high in the power hierarchy of the Hellmouth. The highest, in fact. Mr. Big, no less, who’d previously confined himself to manipulating the Scooby Gang into going after his enemies and other nuisances, had now decided to wipe out the Slayer and her friends while keeping his own hands clean. In the process, an organization of assassins and bounty hunters that comprised of both humans and demons had been hired to kill a British librarian and his charges.
The Order of Taraka’s initial target had sensibly been what was outwardly the most ineffectual member of that small group guarding the Boca del Infierno. Not the Slayer, her Watcher, or a very intelligent redhead. Nope, let’s first knock off a dumb kid who seems to live on nothing but Twinkies, and then we’ll go after the rest.
Boy, did they get a surprise.
After that, a ‘code of silence’ had gone up against a power sander.
It was really lucky for Xander later on that he had more than enough to ponder while scrubbing away the resulting mess. An evil politician, check. An evil politician who wanted to turn into a demon and eat everyone in Sunnydale, check. Just why an evil politician wanted to transform into that
exact demon…. As Xander stuffed the last full, squishy garbage bag into the dumpster behind the nearest Doublemeat Palace, the teenager just shrugged in absolute bafflement, and then he returned to making his plans on exactly how to deal with good ol’ Dick Wilkins.
The urgency of this whole situation had only increased after Xander had handily dealt with the second group sent by the Tarakans after their first team never reported back. At least the Sunnydale native had managed to find out that if all of the assassins wound up dead, along with the specific person who’d issued the bounty on the heads of the Scooby Gang in the first place, those schmucks with their ridiculous rings would shortly cease and desist. Both of which had better happen as soon as possible, because even if his former friends had no idea what was going on, Xander still firmly felt that they should remain safe and sound, no matter what.
Which finally resulted in him being in this alley in the dead of the night. Looking once more at City Hall and a certain lighted window on the top floor of that building, Xander took a deep breath, and then he slowly released that exhalation.
Inhaling again, the ultimate assassin, who contemptuously regarded his most recent opponents as nothing more than bumbling amateurs, checked his weapons, both magical and mundane, for the last time. In the middle of this, a faint thought rose from deeper in his mind, a final message sent by the Harris boy who would be waiting in the older man’s subconscious until events had taken their proper course.
*I still can’t believe that Mayor Dick wants to change into a giant snake!*
A fractional quirk of his lips was the only response seemingly given by the assassin over that comment by his mental companion. Though, in the privacy of his own mind, the man proudly scoffed to himself, *There is only one supreme serpent in this land, and that is I.*
Gliding out of the alley in his smooth stride, the Asp headed down the deserted street directly towards the Sunnydale City Hall, where his latest victim was unknowingly waiting.
Author’s Note: Ever since his first appearance during 1937 in the newspaper comic strip ‘Little Orphan Annie’, the Asp has been one serious bad-ass dude. Which makes his presence in that children’s entertainment even more incongruous, on a par with a real-life teamup between Shirley Temple and Otto Skorzeny. Still, if that mysterious martial arts master from the near East, whose earlier life is totally unknown to anyone but Oliver Warbucks, is definitely on your side, then all of your enemies are doomed.