Author's notes: This is where, as was likely expected, things take a turn for the worse.
“My meal coming to me. Isn't that nice.”
Xander stiffened, and he frantically looked around, looking for the source of the voice. He had heard variations of that remark before, usually aimed at Buffy, the unfortunate vampire who uttered it failing to realize it had only seconds of unlife left. Getting surprised by a vamp while going home, however, was another story entirely. He was all too aware that he had no chance in a straight hand to hand fight with a vampire. The vampire's voice had been somewhat muffed... Xander swore under his breath as he realized the remark hadn't been aimed at him a moment before he heard a girl speak, her voice full with fright.
“What do you want? Let go of me!”
Hearing the vampire laugh left no doubt in the boy's mind, the thing had cornered a girl on the other side of the truck parked in the street. As he had been crossing the street, he had remained out of sight. Xander knelt down to see the feet from under the vehicle, then as quietly as possible ran around it, trying to come out at the vampire's back. He was in luck; the vampire was of the kind that played with their food before eating it. A terrified scream escaped the girl's lips, no doubt the vamp had showed her his 'game face'.
The boy smiled grimly as he readied the crossbow, mentally thanking Buffy for insisting that he carried extra weapon when he had to walk through the town at night. The vampire had the girl pinned against the door frame of the house, almost directly under the street light. A perfect shot. The boy took aim... then changed his mind, and the target before letting loose the bolt. It sank into the demon's neck at the base of the skull, damaging the spine as the boy had hoped. The vampire dropped to the ground like a sack of potatoes, and the girl ran off without sparing it another glance.
“Success.” Xander grinned, this was a perfect research opportunity. Taking out a small knife, a souvenir from a Slaying night couple of weeks ago, he couldn't help but think of the moment it all started A drop of sweat trickled down his temple as he channeled magic, using what looked like a crystal egg made of transparent crystal with a slight reddish tint to it. It was supposed to glow bright orange, instead, it was faint and pink, and was was slowly fading.
“Ugh! I give up!” Xander growled, the light from the crystal in his palm fading. In frustration, he threw the mystical object to the far side of the library. It struck the wall, making a slight dent to it before falling to the floor, but miraculously, didn't break.
“Xander, do desist trying to destroy my property!” The Watcher snapped. “That you are unable to use the orb of Un'goro doesn't mean nobody else can!”
“Sorry, G – man.” The boy mumbled, then got up from his chair and picked up the orb. “It's just... Not that I’m complaining about this wacky 'figuring out how stuff works' thing, it certainly opened up possibilities, but the one thing I wanted to make a difference the most with it was the demon fighting, and I got my hopes high when I mastered the magic detection, but I don't have to tell you how well that worked out. I tried a few other things that I thought might help, like finding some self – defense manuals, since I figured that no matter how complex fighting styles there are, they are just use of a complicated combination of a few basic moves, but while the analyzing part worked, he help part didn't, since the fighting styles you will find are all designed for use against someone whose abilities are within the human limits. Buffy can use them against vamps since she can match them in physical abilities, but nobody else can. So all that I got for my trouble was that now not only I am getting my ass kicked by them, but I get detailed understanding of exactly how they are doing it.” A weak laugh escaped Giles' lips. “Yes, that would get frustrating.” Xander made a face, and handed the crystal egg back to the Watcher. “Tell me about it. Damn it! All I want is to be better at at saving lives. But it would seem that this is one thing my wacky gift is useless for.”
“Um, Xander?” Willow spoke hesitantly. “I think you are wrong. About not being able to save lives with that ability of yours to save lives, I mean.” Xander sighed. “Nothing works, Wills. Better to call it quits than to drive myself crazy trying more and more stuff.”
“Nothing works about you fighting.” the redhead argued. “But... remember Helen Connors?” The boy winced as his mind put a face to the name. The timid bookworm had died only three weeks after transferring to Sunnydale High, having crossed paths with a Polgara demon. He remembered the attack because Buffy had surprised the demon before he actually killed the girl, but the injuries she had suffered had been grave, and Helen had died before they could get her to the hospital.
“I do.” the boy said quetly.
is one of the things your ability is helping you learn.” She said excitedly. “Think about it, Xander. You told us that for the simpler stuff you tried to fix, like bicycles, you learned to figure out what was wrong with them just by looking at them. Think how valuable that would be if you can learn to figure out what's wrong when someone is hurt with a look, and to help them out”
“I don't think healing someone would be as easy as fixing the mechanical stiff, Wills.” Xander said, frowning.
“It doesn't need to be.” Giles commented thoughtfully. “Often taking immediate measures, however small, can make a difference if someone lives or dies. Willow is correct, Xander. Your scores were affected by the manifestation of your ability, so it is likely that if you were to devote yourself to studying medicine, you could master whatever discipline you choose in a fraction of the time required normally. You seek to make better contribution to our work, this can be it.”
“But...” the boy trailed off, realizing he couldn't think of a good argument. “I'll think about it.”
Xander shook his head; they had been right. Not even Buffy was immune to injury; the affair with the Master had made that quite clear. Sooner or later, their luck would
run out. And when that happened, someone with proper medical knowledge would be welcome. Even better, while nobody had realized it at first, studying anatomy was,
in fact, a way to improve his Slaying skill. After all, nearly all the demons they fought were humanoid, in a sense of having hands and feet that operated the same way as humans', and were thus susceptible to crippling the same way human's hands or feet would be crippled. Not to mention that the most common demons on the Hellmouth were the vampires, whose body structure was identical to humans. And while a month was far from enough time to learn to identify illness or injury with a look, (he had his doubts he ever would) he had learned enough to properly identify the positions of their ribs or sternum, and as a result no longer misaimed a staking while previously he needed two, often even three attempts to hit the heart.
Yep, he couldn't help but think as he looked down at the disabled vampire, talk about better slaying through anatomy. Not bad for a little more than three weeks of dedicated study... and couple of bodies of an 'animal attack' victims found, sliced and diced. It was a good thing those were not found yet; while the Gang had dealt with eviscerated bodies before, so the chance of being discovered as the perpetrator was minimal, there was a chance he'd give himself away once it happened, and there was no telling how the others would react. And it would only be worse if they discovered what he planned to do right now. He grabbed it by the feet and started dragging it to a more secluded area.
…................................... three hours later
Xander plunged the stake in the vampire's heart, putting it out of its misery, and stood up. He had been successful.
He discovered that as demons went, vampires were actually quite weak, at least at first; when he thought about it, it made sense. After all, they were only able to manifest into the physical world by possessing a corpse, and only a corpse to which 'the door had been opened' so to speak, by another such demon, by leaving some of the demonically corrupted blood in it. A vampire who had just dug itself from a grave was no stronger than the human whose body the demonic entity inhabited. But that would only last until the vampire fed on creature with warm blood, as once that happened, the demonic spirit could absorb what he could only describe as 'life energy', a strange kind of energy that was also a magic, (like electrons were particles and waves at the same time) from the blood, and use it to enhance the body it inhabited. He couldn't be sure from only one vampire studied, but it was likely that as the vampire spirit grew stronger with age, it could hold more 'life energy', and thus make itself stronger.
On a hunch, he sought to detect the strange energy within himself, and as expected, he discovered that his body was generating
it. This did make sense; after all, magic users did call upon entities from another dimensions, but there was no reason to believe that this dimension was unique in not having its own magical presence. And if it was focused within the humans, it explained why many demons went to great lengths to subvert humans to their will.
The best part was, his discoveries indicated that someone with sufficiently developed control over tiny flows of magic would have little trouble copying the process, thus giving himself a vampire's strenght and speed. A definitely handy find for sure, even though it wasn't without a serious drawback. In a vampire, the magic coming from the demon's spirit provided mobility, and the 'life energy' – enhancement. For a human to do it, it meant a drain on the 'life energy' stored in the blood, resulting in blood cells dying with each moment the enhancement was active. Which meant that he could only use the 'vampire boost' safely for no more than couple of hours a night. More than that without giving his body a chance to recover could result in a stroke. More than enough; if he was right, and the weird gift was yet to fail him in figuring how stuff worked, he would only need the physical boost just in case, anyway.
He had studied the vampire's head in extra detail, as he had known from before that it was there and around the heart where the demonic spirit was anchored in the body, and couldn't help but wonder how that
worked. It had been somewhat tricky, as he could sense the demonic energy focusing in the brain, and removing the top of the skull using only the vamp's own long knife with minimal damage to the soft tissue beneath was far from easy. He discovered a structure in the brain that allowed for conscious direction of 'life energy' through the eyes. What for, he could not determine from the study, but it didn't exactly take a genius to figure that one out, at least not for someone who had heard Buffy's tale about the Master. No doubt this vampire had been able to hypnotize its victims. And there was nothing to indicate that he couldn't copy the effect produced by the structure by precise control over his own 'life energy'. Better still, the amount of 'life energy' the hypnosis required was so small he didn't actually have to take damage to use it, although it would make him tired.
The boy smiled. Between the hypnotic trick and the rest of the 'vampire boost', the nightly denizens of Sunnydale were suddenly much less of a threat to him, and he had no intention of wasting the opportunity to study them. With luck, he could discover a way to use his 'life energy' in a way that was less dangerous for him.
So, off to Sunnydale's most wretched hive of demonic villainy, a.k.a. Willy's place he was.
Five days later
The librarian of Sunnydale High dropped the paper he had bought less than an hour ago on the table with a weary sigh. On the front page, there was a picture of Cameron Walker, a student of the school, who had been killed in a shootout with the police while inside the vault of the local bank. The boy had been cornered while emptying the contents of the deposit boxes into a bag. The paper was focusing on the shootout, which had resulted in a policeman being injured, and had nothing to comment on the details of the suspected robbery, however, another picture on the front page showed the vault door, half of which was melted, the pool of metal visible on the bank floor.
This went against just about every conclusion the Watcher had made about the thief at the Chase's, as while the lack of magical traces on the scene of that thievery could be attributed to a mage of considerable skill with eccentric approach to doing things, someone who could use the 'melting' magic to make a hole in a seriously reinforced steel door would definitely possess both the skill and the power to teleport at will, and the fact he had not done so opened an entirely new can of worms. Was Cameron Walker another 'Xander', so to speak? Someone with unexplainable ability that had nothing to do with magic? The possibility could not be ruled out, nor it could be proven now. But then, what was the deal with the glassified Inca mummy? Another person with strange ability? Giles rubbed his temples. If that
was the case, then he definitely had a major problem on his hands, as such abilities did not just appear at random. The detection spells cast on Xander would have revealed the involvement of an extradimensional entity only if the entity in question had taken interest in the boy specifically, but what if the boy's enhancement was a result of magic trying to balance itself out to counter the empowerment of someone one the other side? It was
possible; except when things like that happened in the past, the people to gain the powers had at least the inclination to join the 'white hats', which wasn't the case with Cameron Walker.
The Watcher shook his head; the mystery surrounding the boy would have to wait. The last couple of nights, Buffy had found several dead demons who had been cut open after being killed, which meant someone was either collecting spell components, or performing some kind of rituals on the bodies. Either way, it meant trouble, and the grave robbery the Slayer had witnessed, but had failed to prevent as one of the vampires had escaped while she had been dealing with the other present at the scene, was most likely connected with what was going on in some way. Hopefully, inspecting the desecrated tomb would provide some answers.
Xander yelped and waved his hand about, trying to disperse the heat he had himself just generated in his palm. Then, after making sure he hadn't burned himself, he looked down at the red – skinned female demon he had just cut apart. He had really hoped he could make use its power, as he had witnessed the demon set a vampire on fire with a heat – inducing touch – a perfect anti – vampire tool. But it was obvious it was not going to work; human skin simply didn't have the heat resistance necessary. The boy growled in annoyance, not liking the pattern that was forming one bit.
The dissections (and in some cases, vivisection) he had done the last few nights revealed that all demons possessed some measure of 'life energy' that seemed to be identical to human's. But in the most cases, this was useless thing to know, as any unique power they possessed depended on structures on their bodies, and in a few demons, it looked like that while the life energy' was generated from their bodies, its effect was not to enhance, but rather to 'pollute' the demonic magic, making the demon weaker than it could have been otherwise. Only a handful of demons possessed abilities directly linked to manipulation of the 'life energy', but it seemed that in each case, there would be side - effect that would make those abilities even more dangerous for him to use than the 'vampire boost', such as a weak telepathy that could result in him frying his own brain from overcharging in minutes. Only one trick he had learned so far did not have the potential to hurt him badly.
The ability in question came from a creature so pathetic that if it wasn't a demon, he would have actually felt bad about killing it. It had floppy ears and loose, wrinkled skin that made it look like a human – shaped pug. It wasn't helping that the creature was no stronger than the average human, and its 'special power', the ability to feed on emotions, could not endanger a human's life by itself. Unfortunately, the efficiency of the feeding was rather low, and the creature possessed specialized organs to enhance it. Without those, he could only benefit from the ability when those around him felt the strongest of emotions.
Not for the fist time, he thought about the one person he knew who was enhanced, without any drawbacks to worry about. He hadn't had a chance to try and find out how that
worked; after overdoing it in his enthusiasm the night he acquired the 'vampire boosts', he had looked too tired for Buffy to allow him to join her for a Slaying night; that he was going out to research demons every night was not helping matters. And during the day, there had been no good opportunities for him to use, especially since the hypnotic trick didn't work on Buffy. (he had tried.)
Oh well. It wasn't like there was a shortage of alternative specimens to study. Sooner or later, opportunity would present itself.
Kendra stiffened as she saw blood on the sidewalk. Silvery, glowing in the dark blood. She remembered all too well her Watcher's warning. When any part of the demon glowed with power without the demon making an effort to make it so, then the demon was to be expected to be more powerful than most. Especially dangerous were those whose blood glittered, as if that got into contact with human's blood, unexpected, most likely unpleasant and more often than not lethal magical infection would take place, so they were to be approached with extra caution.
And there was something else that was worrying; the sheer amount of blood spilled indicated that something had managed to, at the very least, injure the demon severely without being hurt enough to leave a visible trace. Then the demon, dead or alive, had been dragged away. The Jamaican Slayer frowned; in only a couple of hours, she had found three dead demons in varying states of decay, which had been dismembered during or after the killing in very similar fashion. It was a strong possibility that some kind of ritual was being performed on the dying or dead bodies. Normally, the procedure demanded that she contacted Mr. Zabuto, so he could discover what could be behind the attack, however, the blood was still glowing,
which meant that the fight could not have happened more than twenty minutes ago. There was a chance that if she were to hurry, she could at a very least find out more, and if she was lucky, catch whoever was that was dismembering these demons in the act.
It proved to be easier than she expected; the perpetrator was apparently getting cocky, as had he not cared about the glittering drag marks on the asphalt, which lead to the graveyard that was just across the street, then twisted and turned amongst the graves, leading to an area not visible from the street. The demon lay on top of a pile of freshly dug earth, in the light of a small flashlight placed on a nearby gravestone, the blunt end of what was most likely a stake sticking out of one of its eye holes. There was a deep, wide cut along the demon's right hand, ending at the palm, glowing blood still dripping from it. Kendra snuck closer to have a better look at the person (probably) responsible for killing the demon, who was in the process of splitting the demon's chest open, despite the injuries he had sustained himself. His right eye was black and swollen shut, his clothes were torn, and a small whimper escaped his lips as he moved about; the fight had certainly not been as easy for him as it had seemed at first. But still, the demon had been defeated in a direct fight, something not achievable by just anyone, which meant that he simply couldn't be an ordinary human despite looking like one. As Kendra watched, man withdrew the knife from the demon's body, cleaned it up in the grass, and looked up. His eyes flashed white for a moment, then all of his visible wounds emitted the same, silvery light, as if his blood had turned into the demon's... before the wounds closed.
Kendra's lips curled in disgust; ordinary humans doing demon hunting she could accept, after all, one person couldn't possibly handle every small thing the other side cooked up, but this... this was something else. This one was clearly using magic he was somehow taking from the demons themselves. He was already turning into a monster. So as he walked past her to retrieve his flashlight, she seized her chance, and attacked.
However, it turned out that her opponent was not as unaware of his surroundings as she had come to believe. Moments before her fist connected, he started to move, and while he didn't manage to avoid the punch completely, he twisted away enough to be able to turn his fall into a roll, and quickly regain his footing. The knife appeared in his hand, but that did not deter her; she pressed the attack, and despite discovering that he was able to keep up with her speed, it took her only a few seconds to remove his advantage by landing a kick in his hand.
The man hissed in pain, and tried to back away from her, almost getting a laugh out of her; she was aware that when dealing with magic users, one had to prevent them from concentrating on their spells, and she wasn't about to make this kind of mistake. Kendra pushed on, her eyes registering the fact that his attempts to maintain a distance was causing him to back to a corner of the graveyard; if she could just get him pinned against the fence...
Moments after she thought that, an opening to end the fight sooner presented itself, and she seized it, landing a solid punch in his chest. The man grunted in pain, and instead of trying to block the following strike as she expected, he grabbed her wrist. She pulled free with little trouble... and then their eyes met.
Suddenly, the Slayer found herself unable to pull her eyes away from his, and her moves became sluggish, as if moving through tar. She could do nothing to stop him from grabbing her shirt, and drawing her closer to him. At this distance, the power of whatever was affecting her became even stronger, and she realized she couldn't move as he knelt down, pulling her to kneeling position as well, seized a large stone in his intact hand and swung at her head. The last thought to pass through her mind before the strike at her temple caused everything to go black was that she had failed.
Three days later
Xander frowned as he watched Buffy nearly punch Larry after he opened a classroom door a little too enthusiastically, and caused a loud crash. It was the Master thing all over again. Back then, both Giles and Deadboy had begun to mourn her because of the stupid book instead of acting to help her. This time, they had spooked her instead. Very helpful indeed, having her jump at every loud noise.
He couldn't help but think about the mysterious assailant from a few nights ago; was she
one of those assassins that were supposed to be after Buffy? It didn't seem likely. According to the Watcher, while they would not hesitate to kill anyone who got in the way of their attempts to do their jobs, random killing was not something they were known for, as they were on nobody's side, and vengeful allies to their targets could, in one way or another, turn to them
for vengeance on those ordering the job.
But if she wasn't an assassin, then why had she attacked him? Possession? He certainly hoped not, even though if that was the case, he had probably done her a favor. When he had begun studying her body, (and by that he didn't mean removing her clothes for easier access), he had detected the presence of a very powerful demonic spirit within, which had departed when the body had succumbed to the damage he had inflicted on it (he had learned the very first night not to be hasty with killing the demons, as good number of them dissolved into messy substances that were no good for studying) Furthermore, the changes undergone by the body were permanent, which meant that even if there had been the chance of expelling the demonic presence, it was gone long before last night.
The problem that was nagging him was, permanent changes made no sense in case the other possibility that came to mind, a pact with a demon, came to mind. A demon would want the victim hooked to the power, but would keep the ability to take it away.
And there was more; while he was certain the demon's spirit was present in very fiber of her being, it seemed to be doing nothing.
Her power seemed to come from a process nearly identical with the vampire's physical enhancement, but instead of being driven by the demonic magic, it had somehow become a natural process of the body, ingrained on cellular, if not genetic level, and was supported by a physiology that operated noticeably faster than ordinary human's, and thus was capable of churning up much more 'life energy' than was the norm. For the first time, he had failed to discover all that was possible to discover, as some of the things, such as the manner in which the learning centers of the brain were affected, could only be determined by studying the functions of a living body, something he had realized too late.
At least that hadn't been the case with the demon he had studied before being attacked, and. He had learned how to drain 'life energy' from bodies that had it. The process was excruciatingly painful for the victim, and once started, it couldn't be stopped. The problem was, only in human the 'life energy' was in an amount that made the process viable, and he wasn't about to go killing people for what was, in essence, feeding, even if the energy could be used to heal himself almost instantly, or to use the vampire enhancements without making himself sick. However, for a change there was something actually useful he had found, and already used twice: the demon could increase its size to a point when feeding, to store the energy it stole, and shrink when it needed the energy to heal. While he couldn't manipulate his own body size in the same way, the ability to access his own body's reserves was something he could copy, as well as the healing.
Xander chuckled softly; an ability to use up body fat fast. A pity it couldn't be taught, nor was it important enough to prevent a 'let us fix Xander' session if the others were to find out how he had acquired it. He could think of many girls that would pay handsomely for it.
The boy followed the Slayer to the library, really hoping that they would find some clues as to what was going on. The Terakan Assassins were supposed to be relentless, yet after a fake police recruiter had tried to shoot Buffy, there had been no other attempts on her life. And naturally, Deadboy had pulled one of his vanishing acts just when he was actually needed. A/n: To the best of my knowledge, there is a huge plot hole with the intuitive aptitude, namely, while he would understand how the abilities worked, nowhere is explained how that understanding allowed Sylar to copy the processes in his own brain, so I introduced a medium to allow for that myself. Think of it as being the same as the 'life force' thing with the Wraith on SGA, but one that can be manipulated by both physical and mystical means. And a note on Sylar: While he is obviously consumed by the desire to find out more and more, regardless of the consequences, the hunger does not take his wits away completely, otherwise, he would be attacking his victims the moment he sees them use their powers, and we know he usually corners his victims alone