AN> Hopefully a little clarification on the Xan-Man’s ability, and a step into the big bad world of Ultimate X-Men. +++
Xander was out of the house again twenty minutes later in a fresh pair of cargos and a tee. Over one shoulder was a duffel bag packed with everything he couldn’t bear to leave behind, all the cash he could scrounge from around the house, and anything of value worth pawning later. He knew his parents would be furious with him when they found their respective wallets cleared out and half their jewellery gone, but he could care less. As far as he was concerned, it was payback for all the years he had to take care of himself. Besides, he needed the cash a lot more than they needed to look more important than they were. Posers.
As he jogged toward the school, he noted with half a mind that it was a lot easier to keep a steady pace than it had been yesterday. His legs were eating up the pavement with long strides, but his breathing had barely changed. Normally, he’d be panting at the clip he was moving at, but his body was reacting as if he was barely walking faster than normal. A thought tickled at the edges of his mind. I know that mutants are more physically advanced than regular humans, but by this much?
He frowned. He was sure he had read that somewhere – maybe in one of the science magazine Giles had tucked away in his office – but this was a lot more than normal, even for that. A 15% increase in his physical abilities did not give him this kind of stamina. Which means, this is a part of my mutation
, he concluded as he rounded the last bend to find himself across the street from campus. A quick glance confirmed that his Uncle Rory’s Chevy Bel Air was still where he had left it the night before. Or was it that morning? He mentally shrugged. Whatever.
He made his way over and dumped his duffle in the back seat before sliding behind the wheel. Please work,
he prayed as he twisted the key and pumped the gas. The engine growled to life, making the teen cheer and fist pump.
“Thank you, God!” he half-shouted toward the sky before carefully guiding the car back down off the curb and into the parking lot, which was completely barren. Once the car was safely tucked away in the far corner, he raised the roof and locked it all up. Shooting a quick glance at the staff parking lot, he confirmed his deep-seated suspicion that Giles didn’t, in fact, have a life, since the Watcher’s beat up little junker was still there. Good
, he nodded to himself. That means he can help me get the hell out of town until this Sentinel thing blows over, and maybe even help me figure out what the hell I can do.
Hands in his pocket, the mutant teen made his way up the front steps and headed into the hallways. It only took him a half a minute to reach the library doors, but just when he was about to push them open, his newly enhanced sense of hearing picked up voices. Voices that were not-Giles-like in a distinctive kind of way.
He froze, mentally cataloguing the various voices, then scowled when he realised that almost the entire gang was having a meeting. A meeting no one had bothered to invite him to, or even tell him about for that matter. He growled under his breath and – after mentally shoving away the thought that his growl had a lot more ‘grr’ than normal – decided to listen in.
“I think last night kinda proved my point,” he heard Buffy saying. “We managed to beat the Sisterhood of Jade–”
“Jhe,” Willow corrected automatically.
“Jhe,” Buffy amended, “and keep the Hellmouth closed. And we did it without Xander’s help. It proves that we can still work just as well without him here – better even since I don’t have to worry about him getting hurt. Just look at what happened night before last. He nearly got killed.”
“Though I may not like it, I’m forced to agree,” Giles said, and Xander could actually hear him wipe his glasses. “Xander, for all of his enthusiasm, is a liability in the field. You’re a Slayer, Buffy, and you Willow, show great potential for Witchcraft. But Xander… he’s…”
“Normal,” Buffy finished for the Watcher. “I’m not saying we phase him out completely. Just, keep him out of the field. Research and stuff.”
“But what about last summer?” Willow protested, though Xander’s ears could pick out shades of resignation, like she knew her words were nothing more than a token effort. “He did a lot while you were away.”
“But I’m here now, and so is Faith,” Buffy argued. “He’s not… well, he’s not needed anymore.”
Xander couldn’t stand to hear any more. He stepped away from the door and, eyes watering from shame, anger and betrayal flooding through him. He was about to step away when he felt that same sense of otherness snap inside of him. The fluttery feeling from the night before rushed across his body, which came apart at the atoms. It was a shock, one that rattled the very core of his being, but at least this time he knew what to expect. He knew what was happening. In a fraction of a second, Xander was gone and in his place was a cloud of wispy black Xander-smoke.
For a moment, the million billion pieces of Xander merely hung in the air while the individual perspectives of his base components fed the atomised teen a whole host of information that he scrambled to comprehend. He could ‘see’ the atomic structure of everything around him, from the tiling on the floor, to the not-patterns of the air around him, and the way that energy flowed through them. A shift in the air not-pattern drew his attention towards the library door, which swung open in slow motion, making him realise that his ‘perception’ or whatever he wanted to call it, was in a drastically different time-scale than normal. When the door had finished opening, he was treated to the sight of Buffy, or, more accurately, the patterns of atoms that made up the individual called Buffy.
White hot anger flooded through his mind, causing his atoms to vibrate furiously, and, for one moment, one infinitesimal fraction of a second, he wanted to do to her what he did to that vampire. He wanted to push his atoms through hers, shredding the patterns holding them together. But he didn’t. Because no matter how angry he might have been with her, no matter how much that part of himself that now recognised as the Primal wanted to sink its teeth into her throat, he was better than that. He wasn’t going to let himself be ruled by anger. He wasn’t that weak
Guided by instinct, Xander willed himself away. His atoms rippled in the air before streaming down the corridors in ribbons of black smoke. It only took him a few seconds to transit the hallways and burst through the front doors, atomically shredding them along the edges in his haste. When he reached the front lawn, he felt his atoms rush back together, slamming into one another and then snapping and locking into place like Lego pieces. In the blink of an eye, he went from being a Xander-type cloud to a Xander-type human.
The drastic change in form sent him crashing to his knees panting and gasping, but it was still a better transition than last night. At least this time, he didn’t end up braining himself on the pavement. Once he caught his breath, he pushed himself to his feet and stomped off towards his uncle’s, no his
, car, mind buzzing with the gang’s works.
He couldn’t believe that his girls, his so-called friends, would say that about him. After everything he had done for them, they were ready to just throw him away because he wasn’t needed. Needed!? Ha! Just like he wasn’t needed when Buffy was lying face down in a puddle of water, or when Giles needed rescuing from Angelus, or when Buffy ran away. Not needed!? How dare they!? And all because he was normal? Like floating pencils or turning into a mindless animal three times a month was useful in a fight. And Giles! He wasn’t even a Watcher anymore, so he was just as normal as Xander, experience with the supernatural or no. By the time he reached the car and climbed in behind the wheel his anger had overwhelmed the sense of sadness and shame. Fine!
He mentally snarled as he twisted the key in the ignition, bringing the engine to life with a roar. If they don’t want me around, then fine, I won’t bother coming back. Buffy can watch her own back. Maybe they’ll realise how much time I spend guarding it when Buffy ends up with a knife buried in it hilt deep.
Wrenching the car into gear, he gunned the motor before peeling away in a screech of tires and burnt rubber. If he’d bothered to look in the rear-view mirror, he would have seen a very alarmed Slayer burst through the front doors of the school before freezing at the sight of his car disappearing round the corner. +++
After fuelling up the Chevy and leaving a note for his Uncle Rory, who happened to be the only family member he could stand, Xander was gone. He turned the hood East and he started driving, only stopping to buy food and fill the tank up. His plan was a simple one; keep driving.
The SEAL part of his memories, which became clearer as the days passed, told him that the Sentinels would likely focus on major population centres, and then move out to the smaller cities and towns based on field data. He doubted that the multi-million dollar androids would be wasted checking country- and back roads, so his best bet for staying under the radar was to keep on the move and stick to rural towns.
California gave way to Arizona, which gave way to New Mexico, then to Texas. At every stop, he would sell a few more of trinkets he had swiped from his parents, and then call his Uncle Rory for an update on the situation back home.
While the man had originally been pissed at his nephew for swiping one of his favourite cars, he understood Xander’s reasons for getting the hell out of dodge when the teen explained everything (sans Supernatural Stuff). He’d even wired Xander some money to keep him going (on the understanding that he’d be paid back at some point.)
The news back home wasn’t the best, but Xander hadn’t expected much better. His friends were in a panic about his ‘disappearance,’ and for a while, they thought he was a victim of a gang attack – read: vampire attack. It was only after his parents complained about a lot of their stuff going missing and Rory had told them about the car, that they realised Xander had simply left.
What made Xander really mad though - enough that he accidentally shredded the phone when his smoke-thing triggered – was that when Rory had explained why he’d left, the girls had told him to pass on a message; Come home and we’ll find a way to fix it
. Fix it, as if there was something wrong with him.
Needless to say, Rory stopped passing along their messages.
The phone shredding incident, which happened in a little town called Salome, AZ, a week after he left good old SunnyD, was the kick in the ass he needed to start working on controlling his ‘power.’ After all, he didn’t want to lose his temper in the middle of a crowded area and burst into a cloud of molecule-breaking smoke. Not only was it hazardous to everyone else, but with Mutant sentiment the way it was and knowing his luck, he’d had a mob on his ass the moment he rematerialized. So very not
of the good.
By the time he reached Gallup, NM, he had figured out how to ‘smoke’ as he started calling it, since it was a) descriptive and b) wouldn’t earn strange looks if someone overheard him speaking on the phone. Basically, all he had to do was take an emotion, like anger or fear, push it to a major league level and… Poof! Smokey Xander.
It took another week to figure out exactly what ‘smoking’ did. As near as he could figure, he broke all the molecules in his body down to their atoms, which he could control through some kind of psychic field. At least, he thought it was psychic, since he could, you know, think
while in smoke form. That field also seemed to keep all his atoms together, which is what let him to shred things without breaking down too.
By the end of that week, which is when he arrived in Logan, NM, he could reliably – meaning 9 times out of 10 – smoke on command, and had worked out that he could other things with him. He hadn’t tried it on anything living since he was afraid he’d kill whatever it was during the whole atomising phase, but he could take something inanimate of equal size, atomically speaking.
It was during the fourth week out of the ‘Dale, in a sleepy little town called Channing, about a day’s drive past the Texas border that things got weird… +++
Xander was sitting at the counter of a genuine dinner, slowly savouring the flavour of the best chicken fried steak he had ever had, when he felt a tap on his shoulder. Turning his head slightly, he peeked through the curtain of his hair, which had gone through some sort of unholy growth spurt, to see a young man in a Fed-Ex uniform. In one hand he had a manila envelope and in the other, a clip board.
“Can I help you?” Xander asked cautiously, shifting in his chair so that he was facing the man, who looked a little bemused.
“You Xander Harris?” the worker asked, checking his clipboard.
“How do you know that?” Xander demanded, immediately on guard. The only person who had any kind of idea where he was, was Rory, and even then, only the state and general direction.
The guy shrugged. “You tell me,” he said, showing Xander the clipboard. His name was scrawled at the top, but the strange thing was the address, which listed the diner and a specific time, along with a note beneath: Teenager at the end of the counter, long hair, dark blue jeans, black singlet.
“What the hell!?” Xander swore.
“I know, right?” the guy nodded, equally confused. “But you are Xander Harris, right? You got ID I can see?”
“Yeah, sure,” Xander nodded, pulling his license out of his wallet and showing it to the man.
“Alright,” the guy nodded once he finished checking it. “Just sign here and I’ll be on my way.”
Once Xander signed his name, he was handed the manila envelope and left to his meal. It took him a few minutes to shake off the sheer strangeness of the encounter, at which point he turned his attention to the package. It was a standard A4 sized envelope with a single sizable bulge in the bottom. Carefully reaching for his SEAL memories, he triple checked it for anything remotely explosive, before tearing it open. Tipping it, the teen was both confused and surprised when a cell phone slid into the palm of his hand.
It was an expensive phone, Xander knew, recognising the model as the one Cordelia was looking at in a magazine. It was sleek, with a silver cover and touch screen.
He was just about to put it down when it started to vibrate in his hand. The screen lit up, showing a green phone icon with a receiver rising up and down as the base shook from side to side. Above the icon were the words, incoming call. Xander froze for a moment, before taking a deep breath. It was just a phone, which sort of implied talking. If someone wanted to kill him, they didn’t need to involve a telecommunications device, they could blow his brains out with a gun or something equally fun.
Slowly tapping the answer symbol, he lifted the device to his ear.
Now that you’ve got an idea of his abilities, I’m taking suggestions for a mutant name. I’ve got some ideas, but it’s a tricky ability to name without falling back on something lame like ‘Smokey.’