2 - Fateful encounters.
Six months later, 1999.
Xander rubbed his eyes as he woke up, rising to a seated position as he casually stretched his muscles and yawned loudly, going through his daily ritual of the morning. Climbing out of bed, the black haired teen padded out to the kitchen and flicked on the most important machine there before heading off to 'relieve' himself in the bathroom.
When he came back, he breathed out a satisfied sigh as the smell flooded his nose, coming from his ever important kitchen appliance that gave his mornings meaning.
The Coffee machine.
As he poured himself a dose of liquid gold and sat himself down at the counter he ran a hand through his long hair, musing silently. It had been another weird dream last night. This one was just like the others in that he was Gin Ichimaru, the costume he had worn and been subsequently possessed by last Halloween. In his dream Gin, he, had come across a blonde haired girl, passed out from what he had assumed then as starvation.
He could recall now who the girl was in Gin's memories. The love of his life, Rangiku Matsumoto. It was strange to dream of such a nostalgic meeting. Usually when he had a dream he would recall one of Gin's past battles or actions in Hueco Mundo, the world of the demon like spirits called Hollows.
But this dream? It seemed more, placid.
For Xander, his scattered memories of Gin Ichimaru's life were not the only thing he had kept from the events of Halloween. When he had been possessed by the spirit, who had apparently been an actual God of Death, it had had a more, profound effect on his body. Xander Harris, ever the Supernatural world's Butt-monkey, had been subject to a massive amount of spiritual energy that night. The powerful possession had a permanent effect on his body after the night had come to an end. His eyes, which had once-upon-a-time been a chocolate brown, where now a icy blue. His hair, which had previously been an impossible mess, had grown out and now hung down on his head in the same manner as Gin's hairstyle (in the six months since he had had plenty of opportunities to have his hair cut back, but he liked the style so kept it). His actual physique had changed as well, painfully so. It seemed that the spiritual energy had siphoned off his excess fat for fuel, leaving him with a lean, muscled body similar to the proportions of Gin himself.
“do ya have ta' drink that crap Xan'?”
The teen swallowed another mouthful of coffee before shrugging, a wide smirk on his face as he considered the coffee. “I drink what I wanna drink 'kay? Now shut it, got another day of school and the last thing I need is the shakes.”
The voice laughed quietly before commenting. “I'm gunna love the day when ya run outa coffee.”
Xander shuddered at the thought. “Careful now, that's bordering on heresy.”
When he finished his coffee he rose to his feet and looked over to the source of the voice, to a small sword resting on a stand at the side of his living room. Shinso was its name, the same Zanpakuto wielded by Gin Ichimaru. When Gin had left his body, he had also left behind a few, spiritual changes. Xander had retained the full extent of Gin's Spiritual Pressure, Reiatsu as well as the Zanpakuto Spirit, Shinso, within him. It had taken Xander a full three and a half months to manifest Shinso outside his body and in a solid form.
So Xander had some power now, actually, let's face it, the teen had power in spades. Yet he kept it away from his friends. In the aftermath of Halloween, when asked about any bleed-over from the possessions, all Xander had said was that he had some memories and a taste for dried persimmon. He kept the knowledge of his new powers a secret, as well as the extent of the memories he had retained.
It wasn't that he didn't trust his friends, it was just that, he just didn't want to tell them. Yet at least.
When Xander was dressed, wearing a pair of faded jeans and a dark purple shirt with The Joker from DC comics 'Batman' grinning on the front, the teen walked over to Shinso and tapped a finger on it before grabbing his bag and house keys. “Don't watch to much T.V now.”
Slamming the door shut behind him, Xander made his way to the roof of the apartment complex. The school was a few miles away from his house and usually required a bus trip. But as of late, the teen was forgoing the bus in favor of working on his Shinigami abilities. Primarily the ability of Flash Stepping. It usually took him four or five steps to get from the roof to school, more specifically the blind spot behind the bus stop in front of the school.
In the spirit of training, Xander was working on reducing the number of steps to one. Progress was slow, but four to five was pretty good from seven to eight.
Breathing out a calming breath, Xander tightened his grip on his bag before stepping forward and blurring out of sight.
Four 'steps' later and Xander was walking around from behind the bus that arrived around this time and mingled in with the crowd that was piling out of the vehicle, making out that he had actually arrived by bus.
When he had entered the school and unloaded his school books into his locker before stuffing the bag itself inside, the lanky teen turned to make his way to first period.
He was halfway down the hallway and about to start up the stairs to the second floor when he both saw and sensed Willow running up to him.
Turning to his best friend, Xander cocked his head to the side, bracing himself for the expected 'Willow babble' to ensue. After a few seconds, when Xander could have sworn he could see the girls face turning purple he raised a hand and stopped her. “Woah there Wills. Breath while speaking.”
Willow paused and nodded, taking in a few breaths as if she had just run a marathon. When she looked back up to Xander to thank him for reminding her she paused and frowned when she saw that Xander's mouth was stretching out into a wide smile, the expression that the Scoobies called the 'Gin Grin'. It was a frightening smile. “Xander. The grin is back.”
Xander blinked before rolling his eyes and diminishing the grin to a typical smirk. “Better?”
“Good. Now, what's the emergency?” The pseudo-Reaper asked.
Willow took in another breath, remembering to speak calmly and answered. “We've got another Slayer in town. Buffy, Oz and I ran into her last night at the Bronze. She's a real piece of work.”
Xander raised an eyebrow in interest at this. Willow calling someone a 'piece of work' was like the Pope giving someone the finger. It was a rare treat. “Not like the last one I take it? Kendra?”
Willow nodded. “Her name's Faith. She acts like a skank.”
Xander frowned at this. His smirk disappearing. It would seem that Cordelia Chase had a new companion in Willow's book of sluts. “I take it that you came to tell me more than just this? A new Slayer is big news, but hardly Willow babble news.”
Willow gestured to the hallway behind her. “Giles has her in the library. To find out why she's in Sunnydale. This is Buffy's town, not Faith's. She doesn't belong here.”
Xander nodded, pocketing his hands and gesturing with his head for the red head to lead the way. “Then let's go greet the newbie.”
Willow followed after her oldest friend who walked with a casual spring in his step, towards the library.
When the two walked into the Library, the four occupants, three identifiable as Buffy, Giles and Willow's boyfriend Oz. The fourth, a busty brunette that was easily eligible for the 'holy shit shes hot' category in Xander's mind, was no doubt the newly discovered Slayer, Faith.
Xander waved at Buffy and pointed at Faith. “New Slayer I take it. Hopefully this one lasts longer than Kendra.”
Buffy nodded to Xander in greeting before returning her focus back to the new Slayer, who had now looked to the newly arrived male with a confused interest. “Faith, this is Xander Harris. He helps out as well.”
Faith raised an eyebrow at this. “As what? Vamp bait?”
the other women of the room glared at Faith at this comment while Xander smiled widely, and shrugged. “Everything baits a vampire. Hardly an insult Slayer.”
The male walked up closer to Faith and leaned down to catch her eyes with his. His pale blue eyes trapping hers tightly. “Hello.”
Faith smirked and lifted an eyebrow, raking her eyes over Xander's body briefly before returning to meet his gaze. “Hello yourself stud muffin.”
It was a second later that Xander's mouth lifted in a smile and he looked to Buffy. “I like this one. Can we keep her?”
Buffy rolled her eyes, Xander was being an idiot again. “Slayers are not pets Xander.”
Xander merely laughed and shrugged his arms out dramatically. “Awe, you're no fun.” the teen turned back to Faith and looked at her a moment longer before his face went slack and his entire body froze.
The reaction was noticed by everyone as Xander just stared at the new Slayer with a blank expression. Only his eyes, which shifted every now and then told of his continued awareness.
“Xander? What are you doing?” Buffy asked, slowly stepping closer to the frozen blue eyed teen with concern.
Xander didn't answer. He couldn't. He didn't even hear the blonde Slayer speak. All he could hear were the memories of Gin surfacing to the forefront of his mind while he looked at Faith.
Rangiku. Faith reminded him of Rangiku. Xander, and by lingering influence, Gin, could see the similarities between the two. The same flirtatious glint in their eyes. The same fire in their souls.
And sadly, the same pain.
Something, whatever it was, haunted Faith. Made her cry.
“I'll become a Shinigami, so that Rangiku never has to cry again.”
Xander could remember the promise he made, that Gin had made as if it had happened only yesterday. It was one of his most vivid memories. The silent vow Gin had made when he decided to join the Gotei 13.
The teen finally blinked rapidly and shook his head, bringing a hand up to rub the bridge of his nose while he waved at Buffy with the other. “I'm fine Buff. Just a little Xander moment. Sorry.”
Xander could tell that they weren't buying his dismissal so he covered his face with the 'Gin Grin' and looked to the elder Slayer. “Don't worry. Just a headache. I'm gunna head back home. Ain't feelin' too good ya kno'? I'll see ya'll tonight for a patrol if i'm up to it.”
with that Xander turned around, his gaze lingering on a wide eyed, confused Faith for a moment before he turned away completely and strode out the door, his stride long and heavy.
As soon as the door swung shut, Xander disappeared in a blur.
When the blue eyed teenager was gone Buffy turned to Willow. “Uuh, Willow. Was that...?”
The read head nodded. “Yeah it was. Ichimaru.”
Faith recovered herself and looked to Buffy and Willow, completely lost at what had just happened concerning their wield, attractive male friend. “Care to clue in the new gal?”
“Xander was, well, possessed late last year.” Giles supplied, cleaning his glasses for the umpteenth time today. “He was taken over for a short period of time by a powerful and mysterious spirit. What you just saw, was a lingering effect of it. Although I must wonder, what caused it to emerge?”
Faith only partly listened to the explanation, her eyes returning and fixing upon the still swinging door. Those eyes. Those pale blue eyes had cut right into her as if she were nothing more than butter. She had never felt so exposed, so naked than when those eyes had been staring at her.
“Faith, you alright there?” Buffy stepped into the Slayer's field of vision, snapping her out of her trance.
The brunette nodded. “Yeah B, just a bit put off. That friend of yours freaked me out a bit.”
Buffy nodded in agreement, quietly trying to figure out what had happened. “Yeah, sorry about that. I'll make sure he apologizes tonight.”
Faith shrugged. As she started for the door, waving a hand over her shoulder. “alright, later peeps. B we'll hook up later and head over to X-man's place.”
Buffy nodded and waved back to the Dark Slayer. As soon as Faith was gone the blonde turned to her Watcher. “I don't trust her.”
Giles blinked in surprise, caught off-guard at the sudden change of attitude from his Slayer. “Sorry?”
“Faith.” Buffy reiterated. “I don't trust her. She seems to enjoy the whole Slayer thing way too much.”
Giles looked at Buffy for a moment before nodding and rubbing his temples in thought. “There is nothing wrong with enjoying a calling Buffy. Even monster slaying.”
“It's not the same Giles. You didn't see the way she hunted last night. It's like it's nothing more than a game to her. She's going to get someone killed.”
The Watcher nodded slowly. “Very well. I'll contact the Watcher's Council, find out where her Watcher is. I must admit, I did find it hard to believe that Faith's Watcher was held up with family business.”
The blonde haired Slayer nodded, accepting this course of action. “Alright then. Let me know what you find out.”
Giles nodded and waited until Buffy and Willow had left the Library before locking the door and heading to the phone, time for another long distance call.
Back at Xander's apartment, said teenager was running on a treadmill he had bought for a killer price. He had been running now for an hour non-stop. He had to, the distraction was needed to take his mind off what he had seen.
That woman, Faith. She was so much like Rangiku. She had the same look in her eyes that had prompted Gin to join the Gotei 13. Something was making Faith cry, and although it was extremely illogical and silly, Xander hated with every fiber of his being, that thought. He had to do something to stop it. To stop Faith crying.
“Geez kid. Ya kno' if ya keep runnin' like that ya gunna pull somethin'.” Shinso pointed out as Xander thumbed up the speed setting and ran faster.
“Keep tellin' yourself that.” Xander said shortly.
The sword fell silent afterwards and let Xander continue his running. Another hour later and Xander finally stopped and, after a quick shower, sucked down another coffee before sat himself down on the floor in his living room, crossing his legs and placing his hands in his lap.
It took longer than usual to reach his center and fall into a meditative trance. While the point of meditating was to focus his inner power and learn breathing control, Xander always enjoyed the sensation that came with the exercise. It was probably a result of him reacting with his Reiatsu but nonetheless, it was still cool.
It felt like he was pulling free of his body and swimming in an ocean of soda water. Strange image, sure, but it felt tingly.
He didn't know how long he was in his trance, pulling and pushing at his Reiatsu, charging it and releasing small portions into the air around him to test his control, but when he heard a knock on the door his eyes snapped open and he noticed two things. One; he was sitting a foot and a half in midair, and two; It was night time.
The teen straightened his legs to the floor and rose to his feet and walked to the door, his mouth stretching into a smile. “Coming!”
When he opened the door he blinked in surprise when he saw both Buffy and Faith standing there. When he recovered, he pulled open the door, wiping the back of his hand over his head to clear away some of the sweat.
“Hmm. Room service sure has improved.” He said lightly, looking at the two Slayers.
Buffy coughed and spluttered before looking at Xander with wide eyes and a hint of a blush while
Faith simply grinned and cast a appreciative stare at him. “Well, I do like to eat in every now and then.”
Xander chuckled under his breath and glanced down to his body, he had forgotten to put a shirt on and was only wearing a pair of jeans. “Eyes up front Slayer.”
Faith raised an eyebrow as she looked up to his face, avoiding his eyes though. “B here wanted to see if you were going to come killing with us.”
Xander raised an eyebrow and looked to Buffy.
“Patrolling.” the blonde translated. “Giles thinks that with two slayers in Sunnydale it would be a good idea to take advantage and instill some good old fear into the vampire population.”
Xander nodded and turned around, walking back into the apartment. The two slayers followed after him, Buffy knowing that Xander never invited people inside anymore, not since Angelus. Faith just went in cause she wasn't finished leering.
When they came into the living room by the kitchen, the two women saw Xander pulling on a singlet before starting into his room, undoing his jeans.
“Jesus, Xander! Company!” Buffy cried in horror, shielding her eyes at the sight of the guy she saw as a brother on some days, undressing without a care in the world.
The teen looked over to her and grinned sheepishly. “Oh right. Back in a minute.” when Xander closed the door to his room, Buffy and Faith started to look around, curious about the teens living style.
“Haven't you been here before?” Faith whispered to her fellow slayer when she noticed Buffy's curiosity.
Buffy shook her head and glanced at Faith. “Xander doesn't stay at home very much. We mostly meet at the Library or Giles' house.”
“Right. But level with me B. tell me you've ridden that at least once.” Faith cocked her head towards Xander's bedroom. “did you see that body?”
Buffy blushed and shook her head. “First; eww. Second; Xander is my best friend and like a brother to me. Also...eww.”
Faith let out a quiet laugh and licked her lips before sneaking to the door. “Well, does that mean he's free?”
Buffy wrinkled her nose, shuddering at the thought of Xander of all people doing the nasty. The horizontal tango. Granted, Halloween had left him looking pretty hot, but, it was Xander!
The door to Xander's room reopened and the aforementioned man strode out. He was now wearing a black shirt with a yellow smiley face on the front and a pair of loose cargo pants and a pair of sturdy boots covering his feet.
“Well now, if you're finished snooping around. Let's go play.” Xander said.
“Uh Xander? Weapons.” Buffy pointed out, pulling out her favorite stake 'Mr. Pointy' as reference.
Xander clicked his fingers, as if just remembering and walked over to a small cabinet next to his television marked 'toybox'.
Opening it, the empowered teenager riffled through the contents before pulling out a handful of things. Two wooden stakes, a crucifix and a dagger with a ten inch blade.
When Xander closed the cabinet, he tucked the stakes into the back of his belt and pocketed the crucifix. He flipped the dagger in his hand as he turned around before holding it out to Faith.
“Not exactly a traditional gift, but, welcome to Sunnyhell Slayer.” He said with a smile.
Faith blinked in surprise and took the dagger, looking at it for a moment before holding it tightly, as if it would fade away any second. Only Xander noticed this reaction. “Thanks Stud.”
Xander nodded and walked over to where Shinso was, picking it up and tucking it into his belt at his left side.
“That's a small Katana Xander.” Buffy noted, indicating to the Zanpakuto. “You sure you want to be taking that with you. You'd have to get in pretty close to put it to use.”
Xander patted the end of the sword fondly, still smiling. “All part of the fun Buff.”
When the teen had snatched his house keys off the kitchen bench and stuffed them in a pocket he gestured to the two women to vacate the house and followed suite, locking to door behind him and following them as Buffy led the trio out of the apartment complex and towards Sunnydale's more, 'untamed' area.
As the three walked down the dark relatively empty streets, the two Slayers found their attention fixed on the grinning male with them. Faith may have just met the man and was looking at him with far different intentions than Buffy, but the Blonde haired Slayer couldn't help but wonder when Xander had stopped showing fear.
Even in the dark, going to a place where Vampire's loved to hang out, the guy was still grinning and not even looking around or jumping at every shadow.
“Hey Buff?” Xander finally spoke, looking at her as he slowed down to walk next to her.
The Slayer in mention looked up to her Xander-shaped friend. “What's up?”
Xander scratched his head and somehow managed to look sheepish before speaking. “I forgot to tell you that Willow stopped by before you and Faith came 'round. Said he wanted to meet you at the Bronze tonight.”
Buffy blinked. “Willow? Why? And for that matter I don't live with you, wouldn't my house be the place to find me?”
Xander merely shrugged. “Got me there. At any rate, you run along and be merry, Faith and I will be fine.”
Buffy looked unsure, visibly torn between running to the Bronze to hang out with her best friend of the female gender and staying to patrol with Xander and the new Slayer. “You're not up to something are you?”
Xander's face twisted into mock horror and he placed a heart on his chest. “You wound me Buff. To think I'd risk castration just to flirt with the newbie? Scandal!”
Buffy rolled her eyes. Xander Harris, Sarcastic King. “Fine, fine. Have fun and try not to get yourselves killed. Call me the first sign of trouble you hear?”
Xander waved a hand, shooing her away. “yes, yes. go. Be merry and all that.”
Buffy gave Xander one last unsure look before nodding and walking off, making for the Bronze which was audible from where they were standing.
When the blonde Slayer had well and trule left Faith turned to Xander. “What was that all about? B have a fashion crisis?”
Xander shrugged. “I may have fabricated a reason for her to book. Gives us some time to hang out don't you think Slayer?”
Faith cocked an eyebrow. “Oh? Does the slab of hunk wanna take a tumble? Play the horizontal tango?”
Xander, despite himself couldn't help but blush at the shameless flirting and mentally slapped himself before leaning closer to the Slayer, a small smile playing across his face. “Actually I wanted to ask you what it is that has you up at night terrified beyond all belief.”
Faith eyes widened and the blood fled from her face as she stared at those damned blue eyes that bore right through her. “W-what? I don't know what you're talking about.”
Xander frowned and reached out to place his hand on her head, moving her head slightly to the side as he considered her completely. Faith all the while frozen with fear and highly uncomfortable as she was seemingly dissected by the teen.
“You look so much like her.” he muttered, letting go and stepping back. “your pain washes out of you just like hers did. So tell me Faith. What are you running from?”
Faith stumbled back a step as those damned blue eyes continued to stare at her, unblinking. “I-I-I...”
Xander sighed and ran a hand down his face, scratching his neck before looking at Faith once more. “Do you want to die?”
Faith blinked, wondering why the sudden change in topics. “No.”
Xander nodded. “Well if this is how you react, sheer fear and sadness. Then your answer is meaningless. If you allow your fear to control you then you are already dead. Your body just hasn't clued in yet. So tell me. What are you running from?”
Faith said nothing for a while, just looking at the boy standing in front of her, looking at her with unwavering concern and a strength that she couldn't help but long for. “I came from Boston. My Watcher, she-she's dead. A Master Vampire by the name of Kakistos tortured and killed her in front of my eyes. I managed to escape and fled here.”
Xander's eyes widened in horror at the thought of going through that as he saw Faith's eyes moisten and her defiant posture falter. Stepping forward, he grabbed Faith by the shoulders and peformed a quick Shunpo to the nearest warehouse, sitting her down on an abandoned fridge.
Faith didn't even register the high speed movement as she looked up to Xander, her eyes fogged over as she looked back into her horrible and far to recent past. “When I escaped I grabbed the first bus to Sunnydale. Diana, m-my watcher, she said that if anything happened to her to find G.”
Xander nodded. “and you think that this, what was it, kicking-toes?”
“Kakistos.” Faith let out a sad laugh at the name Xander had thought.
Xander nodded. “Right, you think that this Kakistos followed you here?”
Faith nodded. “I am sure of it. I felt him arrive last night. Just after I did. Diana said that when a Slayer is familiar with a Vampire she will be able to sense its proximity.”
Xander nodded at this. It explained how Buffy had known where to find The Master two years back. Turning around the pseudo-reaper walked around in a small circle, rubbing the back of his neck in thought.
When he finally turned to Faith he leaned down and lifted her face to his with a finger on her chin. “Shall I save you?”
Faith blinked and wiped away the tears that had fallen from retelling her story and looked at the blue eyed teen, who was smiling at her with a warmth that she doubted even actual fire could provide.
“Come on Slayer. Let's go kill your demons.” Xander lifted her to her feet and held out a hand. “I did tell Buffy that we would go patrolling. So let's go 'patrol' this Kakistos, yes?”
Faith felt the same twinge of fear that came with ever mention of the Master Vampire's name but still nodded quietly, reaching out slowly and placing her hand in his. As Xander pulled her away from the fridge the teen looked at her with a serious expression, his eyes narrowing and making him appear quite frightening.
“I need you to promise me something.” he said, chewing his words as if unsure how to continue.
Faith nodded. “what?”
“Whatever you see me do tonight. Don't tell Buffy or the others. I would prefer they think I'm relatively normal and boring.”
Faith frowned in confusion for a moment before nodding slowly. “I promise. If you can get me to open up like that, I guess I can keep a secret for you.”
Xander smirked and pulled her close, wrapping an arm around her waist, chuckling when, after her eyes widened in surprise from the sudden move she ground her breasts into his side. “Hold on Slayer. We're going killing.”
With that, Xander's mouth twisted into a 'Gin Grin' and he stepped forward before both he and Faith vanished in a muted blur.