Xander went to Africa to escape. Somehow he ended up finding himself. Post 'Chosen' ficlet with a splash of Grimm thrown in.Disclaimer:
Xander, BtVS, and Grimm do not belong to me. A/N: Big, big, BIG thanks to MissE and kerrykhat for betaing this for me! Without their look over, I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to post this, terrified as I am of writing non-Buffy centric fics, let alone ones with OCs. So THANK YOU!!! :D All spelling and grammatical errors are my own. +++
Xander closed his cell phone, a strange, hollow feeling in his chest.
His parents were dead. In a car accident, of all things.
According to Willow, they had been on their way to Seattle, where his dad had finally found a job. They had just pulled out of a gas station when they ran a red light. Witnesses reported that they had been arguing as they pulled out of a gas station, which meant that they never saw the red light – or the tractor trailer.
And now they were gone. And he was thousands of miles away, standing on a ferry, on his way to Morocco to find newly activated Slayers.
Xander leaned against the railing, focusing the swell of the ocean waves and salty smell in the air as he tried to sort out all the emotions running through him.
He wished he didn’t care.
Heck, he would’ve settled for some good old fashioned grief, but he couldn’t. It was more complicated than that.
They were his parents
, who, for the most part, filled his childhood memories with their drunken, neglectful, borderline abusive antics. But it hadn’t been all bad, either; not with his mom anyway, before she started worshipping at the shrine of the almighty bottle with his father.
And then there was Anya, whose death seemed to color everything Xander did these days, everything he thought. That was the whole reason he had volunteered to find the newly activated potentials in Africa in the first place. He had needed some time to work things out, to cope with pain and regret that seemed to swallow him whole sometimes.
Only now, with this latest news, it was even worse.
“No big deal, right?”
Xander gave a start. It took him a second to realize that Marcé, a slayer he had found in southern Spain one whole night ago, was talking to him. It took him another second to realize that she wasn’t talking about his parents’ deaths.
With a small, completely forced, smile, he nodded.
“Totally,” he agreed. “Uh, what are we talking about again?”
Marcé rolled her eyes in exasperation. Then she pointed out toward the horizon in the direction he had been staring.
“The Rock of Gibraltar. Everyone here is taking pictures of it like it’s special, but it’s just a big rock.”
Xander shrugged. “I think that’s kind of the point.”
Marcé rolled her eyes again. “Whatever,” she muttered.
She turned away then, toward the Rock, as she began fishing through her bag. She made a small sound of satisfaction when she found what she was looking for.
Xander frowned at the pack of cigarettes that suddenly materialized in her hand.
“Hey, you’re way too young for that. Those things can kill you,” he protested, without thinking.
She ignored him at first, putting a cigarette between her lips and lighting up. It wasn’t until she took a deep drag – making sure to blow the smoke right in his face, of course – that she replied.
“I thought you said it was going to be more... sudden
than that,” she drawled, punctuating her comment with another puff of smoke before she turned on her heel and walked to the back of the ferry.
Xander winced. He probably deserved that. He had
gone a little overboard in the telling of the job description.
But hey, he had his reasons.
He didn’t know much about Marcé. She was pretty tight-lipped about herself. What he did know was that she was living on the streets when he had found her because her parents had kicked her out of the house. He also knew that when he had given her the Slayer speech, she could’ve cared less. She had just wanted an out.
Xander wanted to make sure she knew what she was getting into.
Without the Sunnydale version of Scared Straight at his disposal, though, he had nothing. Except the truth. So no, he hadn’t really held back when he gave her the low down on the slayer situation, in all its gory detail.
At the time, he had thought she had just tuned him out, the bored expression on her face never wavering.
But it looked like some of it had actually sunk in, albeit not the way he intended.
Call him crazy, but he was going to count that as a victory. He’d worry about fixing the message later.
Running a hand over his face, Xander leaned back against the railing, his thoughts turning back to his parents.
The next thing he knew, the captain came over the loud speaker and announced that they would be docking momentarily.
Suddenly, the sleepy ferry surged to life as all the passengers crowded onto the deck floor, waiting to disembark.
And Xander had no clue where Marcé was, all because he let himself get distracted.
Vowing to never let it happen again, Xander began to make his way toward the back of the ferry, where he had last seen Marcé heading.
Talk about an exercise in futility. He was going against the flow of traffic, and no one was going to budge an inch to let him through.
He was about to do his best Barry Sanders impression and make
a path when a commotion about thirty feet to his left caught his attention.
Two guys started yelling at each other; over what, Xander had no idea, but they were definitely pissed. Someone – a friend probably – tried to pull one of the guys away, but he wasn’t having any of it. Instead, he got right in the other guy’s face, which, not too surprisingly, didn’t go over well. He
, in turn, put his hands on the first guy’s chest and pushed.
As shoves went, it really wasn’t much, more male posturing than anything else. Still, with barely any room to move, the guy couldn’t avoid bumping into a little old lady standing behind him.
She immediately turned around, frowning in displeasure.
And in that second, Xander could’ve sworn there was something going on with her face. Something demonic.
Then it was gone, and she was just one ticked off little old lady again, glaring as the two guys slunk away, their fight ending before it had really started.
Xander frowned. It wasn’t like a demon to flash a little game face like that, not in broad daylight on a very crowded, very public boat. It wasn’t like said crowded boat not to notice something like that, either. The Sunnydale effect only rationalized the freakiness away; it didn’t erase it altogether. And yet there wasn’t a single frightened or shocked look on anyone’s face; some people were even making sure the woman was okay.
What the heck was going on?
Xander spun around – only to see Marcé standing right in front of him. He felt a flood of relief.
“Marcé! Quick!” he exclaimed. “I think there might be a—”
The words died in his throat as he scanned the deck. The woman had vanished. +++
Tangier was an exciting, exotic, stressful
town. That much was clear the second they made port.
There was no real order to it. The ferry doors just opened, and everyone flooded down out the ramp, weaving in between the cars until they reached an expanse of concrete the size of a football field. Then it was a long trek across the hot pavement to the customs building.
During the long wait to get through – which made Xander extremely nervous, both because of the bag of weapons on his back and the fake passport Willow had literally conjured up for Marcé – he scanned the crowd for the old lady, but she was nowhere to be found. There were too many people, and he and Marcé were one of the last ones off the boat.
It wasn’t like they could hang around Tangier, either. They needed to get to Marrakech and find the slayer there.
Nope, by the time they made it through customs, he had accepted the fact that she had gotten away.
He didn’t get to dwell on it for too long, though; as soon as he and Marcé left the terminal, they ran into a gauntlet of money changers, tour guides, and taxi drivers.
It was a bracing experience.
Sure, he thinned the crowd when he explained that he and Marcé wanted to go to the train station; but he also saw the way the drivers’ eyes lit up at his very American accent.
The lowest they would go was 50 dirham.
It wasn’t that much money. It really wasn’t. But it was the principle. Xander knew he was getting fleeced. He could see the ‘American tourist’ stars in their eyes.
He was just about ready to walk to the train station, distance be damned, when, surprisingly, Marcé stepped in.
Even more surprising, that bored look on her face – the one Xander was beginning to think was permanent – was gone, swept away by a flurry of Spanish and emphatic hand gestures.
He watched the faces around him change. A few of the drivers even walked away. But the ones that stayed began to engage Marcé in earnest. In Spanish, no less.
Their conversation went beyond Xander’s basic understanding of the language, but he got the gist. Marcé was a badass when it came to negotiating.
In the end, they got in the taxi for the bargain price of 30 dirham. +++
The train station was not at all what Xander expected. Though Tangier, and by extension its rail system, was a major entryway into Morocco, the station itself was an unassuming, one story stucco building, a good distance from the city center.
In fact, if Xander hadn’t recognized some people from the ferry walking into the ticketing office – a small office on the left side of the building – he might have missed it altogether, at least on the first pass.
Yep, he was totally glad they had taken a cab, and he made sure it showed in the driver’s tip.
As they walked toward the ticketing office, Marcé began dragging her feet.
Xander really couldn’t blame her. A line was starting to form, and there were only two people manning the desk. It wasn’t like there was anything else to do around here in the meantime, either.
Then a young group of guys got in line, and she perked up considerably. It took all of two seconds before Marcé struck up a very flirtatious conversation with them.
Deciding that it was the least of his worries, Xander turned a blind eye – literally and figuratively – angling his head so he could study the map on the wall, Marcé and her friends blocked from his view.
The train would take them to Marrakech. After that, they would have to bus it down the coast to Senegal—
“Can we go to Chefchouan?”
Xander glanced over at Marcé. She, in turn, just smiled. She was trying to look as innocent as possible – and failing miserably.
Yeah, she was up to something.
His first thought was that maybe she wanted to follow the boys, but he heard them buy tickets to Casablanca.
Frowning, he turned back to the map, trying to figure out where the heck Chefchouan was and why the sudden interest.
It was a little to the east of Tangier, in the middle of a mountain range called the Rif.
His frown deepened. Why did that sound so familiar?
And then it hit him.
“Hey!” he exclaimed, a little too loudly.
Several heads turned toward him.
Xander immediately quieted down, motioning for Marcé to step closer.
“Are you serious?” he hissed. “Because let me tell you, missy, even if we did go there, there would be no— no ‘kif in the Rif’!”
Marcé scowled. “You really need to... What’s the phrase? Lighten up? People already look at you like you are some... dirty, old man. This might do some good.”
“People...” he replied faintly, feeling really grossed out as her meaning sunk in.
She was only seventeen
. What was wrong with people? Then again, what else were they supposed to think? And what would happen when he got the other, possibly even younger
Yep, Xander had jumped at the chance to come here and gather slayers, but he hadn't thought through all the logistics.
Then it hit him, the veiled insult. “Hey, what's with the 'old'?” he protested.
Marcé just shrugged, a small smirk on her face. “I need a smoke,” she declared.
Xander ran a hand over his face as she made a big show of walking outside and pulling out a cigarette.
He was beginning to realize that Marcé was like a combination between Anya and Faith, all rolled into the form of a little sister. It was both frightening and oddly comforting.
Mostly, though, it was just exhausting. +++
Xander looked up at the road that led to the medina in eager anticipation. Though they were at the bottom of the hill, when the wind blew just right, he caught a waft of the food in streets above, and it smelled delicious
“Ready?” he asked Marcé.
She grinned back. “Five minutes ago.”
Then, without waiting for his response, she began trekking up the hill.
Grinning himself, Xander followed.
When they had discovered that the first train out of Tangier didn’t leave until 11pm, they had both thought the same thing; food. They hadn’t eaten since they left Spain, and Marrakech was a 10 hour train ride away. So after they had their tickets in hand, they took another cab to the medina, supposedly the best place to get some food.
If the smells were any indication, it wasn’t going to disappoint.
Too bad he didn’t get the chance to find out, because wouldn’t you know? That was the exact moment fate decided to step in. In demonic form, of course.
And he almost missed it completely.
Honestly, the sight of a tour guide pointing out some sight to a tourist was nothing out of the ordinary. With the tour guide’s back to him, obscuring the tourist altogether, as they stood a block and a half away, there wasn’t even much to see.
Then the tour guide moved and continued further down the street, and Xander got a glimpse of the tourist.
It was the old lady from the ferry. Her eyes were on the tour guide and there was a small, sly smile on her face when she did that weird flicker thing again.
The effect was chilling.
Xander glanced at Marcé. Even though she was looking right
at them as they passed by, she didn’t show any sign of seeing anything off.
“Marcé,” he hissed. “Marcé
Frowning, she looked over at him. He quickly nodded toward the tourist, who was now walking with the guide away from the medina on a dirt path.
Marcé crinkled her brow in confusion. “What?”
With a sigh of exasperation, he grabbed her arm and began walking quickly after the pair.
“That little old lady is a demon,” he explained, making sure to keep his voice low. “When they’re in a relatively isolated place, she’ll make her move. And that’s when we’ll make ours.”
Marcé looked like she wanted to say something, but they didn’t have time. The pair had a good head start on them, and they had already disappeared from view.
Xander picked up the pace. It looked as though the path was taking them toward the outskirts of town, down by the ocean.
As soon as they reached a spot where there was no one else around, Xander stopped and dropped his bag to the ground – all the while silently thanking the gods above that he had stuck to his guns and kept his traveling out of the friendly skies as much as possible, allowing him to tote around his very own slaying emergency kit.
Moving as quickly as possible, he grabbed a short sword from his bag and handed it to Marcé. She looked nervous, but she took the weapon.
“I don’t know what kind of demon this is, but a good rule of thumb is, when in doubt, behead,” he explained, as he pulled another blade out for himself. At her questioning look, he explained, “We’ll have to work together on this, especially since we have no idea what kind of demon this is or what kind of powers it has.”
A dark shadow crossed over Marcé’s face. Then, before he knew what was happening, she took off at a dead sprint.
“Marcé, wait!” he shouted as he raced after her, a cold panic gripping his chest.
For the first time, the magnitude of the responsibility he had taken on hit him. He wasn’t a Scooby, sent on a mission to collect activated slayers, providing backup and a quick joke where necessary. He was effectively Marcé’s Watcher, and her survival would depend on his ability to guide and train her.
Which meant that if she got herself killed, it would be his fault.
Cursing under his breath, Xander pushed himself harder, pumping his arms and legs until it felt like his lungs would burst as he struggled to close the distance between them.
But it was useless. After living on the Hellmouth for so long, he was no slouch when it came to running. He still was no match for slayer speed, though. By the time Marcé came back into sight, she was launching herself at the demon – who, incidentally, still looked like a little old lady; albeit one with a ring of blood around her mouth and a set of nasty claws.
They were still a good hundred yards or so down the path, partially hidden by an old sea wall.
Helplessly, he continued to run as fast as he could as the two engaged in battle.
She was good, he would give her that much. She possessed the innate talent all slayers had the moment they were Called. She had no real training, though, and it showed. She left herself open after every blow. It didn’t take too long for the demon to see this, and after a few more blows, it got a hit in sending Marcé hurtling through the air.
She hit the wall with a thud, crumpling to the ground with only the smallest whimper. Then she didn’t move again.
The demon went to follow, its claws wiggling in anticipation.
With one last burst of speed, Xander managed to hurl himself in between Marcé and the demon, slashing out with his sword to force the demon back a little. The demon snarled at him, but he could’ve cared less. He was listening to Marcé, who, from the sounds of it, was beginning to stir.
It was music to his ears.
Seriously, any demon that could backhand a slayer into the wall hard enough to knock her out was strong, really strong. The chances of him taking it out himself were slim, especially when he was unable to move from his spot without exposing Marcé to danger.
Yeah, he needed to buy them time. So he did what he did best.
“You know, this whole ‘granny’ look is a little disturbing,” he said conversationally. “And you’re totally taking advantage of senior discounts.”
The demon snarled again, flashing a little game face as it did.
Xander smirked. “Now that’s more like it.”
For some reason, this seemed to shock the demon.
“Grimm,” it exclaimed.
Xander quirked his eyebrow. “Hello, hyperbole. Confused, maybe. Definitely annoyed. But grim? Now that’s a bit of an overstatement.”
This seemed to floor the demon. It quickly gave way to a smirk of satisfaction, which, quite frankly, looked creepy on the granny face. Then it attacked.
Granny was strong and
fast. Xander could only block each swipe of the claws with his sword, the brunt of the blow jarring his arms to the point where he thought they would break.
He wasn’t sure how much longer he could do this.
Acting completely on instinct, Xander threw himself to the ground. Just in time, too, because a sword whizzed over his head a second later, embedding itself in the demon’s chest with a squishy thunk
The demon staggered back, seeming like it had been mortally wounded, but Xander didn’t want to take any chances. He quickly sprang to his feet, and with one smooth motion, he beheaded the demon.
Xander spun back to Marcé, whose eyes were wide. “You okay?” he asked.
At her nod, he turned around and scanned the area for the tour guide.
The guy was lying on the ground about 30 feet away, partially obscured by some shrubs.
Xander raced over to him, quickly assessing the guy’s injuries. To his immense relief, he saw that, although the tour guide was bleeding from the neck, it was only a superficial wound. The nasty bump on his head was a bit more worrisome, but ultimately, he would recover. He was already starting to come around.
“Well, that was... easier than I thought,” Marcé said from behind him.
Xander turned around. He could see the excitement on her face, the smugness, and it rankled. A healthy sense of confidence was one thing; delusions of grandeur were something else entirely.
“You’re lucky to be alive. We both are.”
He knew he was being a bit harsh, but the thought of someone else dying on him again scared the crap out of him.
Marcé crossed her arms over her chest defensively. “Maybe you should learn to run faster then,” she coolly retorted.
“Sure,” he said agreeably. “If you
listen when I tell you to stop. Or, hey, maybe just start using your eyes
. That demon went to its game face in broad daylight, and you didn’t even notice!”
“Do you have any idea what you’re doing? I think I would've known if I saw that
,” she retorted as she gestured to the dead demon. “I don’t need this shit.”
“You and me both,” he shot back.
Marcé’s face flushed red. She opened her mouth to speak again, but never got the chance.
Seemingly out of nowhere, a voice, half-singing half-shouting, suddenly rang out, sustaining one single note for what seemed like an impossibly long time. There was a pause, and then the voice started again. Then another voice joined the first, then another, and another, and so on. None of the voices were in unison as they recited something, presumably in Arabic, each voice overlapping with the next until there was a wall of sound filling all the air around them.
The call to prayer, Xander realized.
He had heard about it, but hearing
it was something else entirely.
It was haunting, beautiful, and despite himself, he felt his anger dissipate.
He glanced over at Marcé. The stubborn teenager melted away, and all that was left was a scared little girl.
That was when he remembered. She had nowhere else to go. And he was essentially threatening to walk out on her.
She caught him staring, and just like that, the wall was back up. Her face contorted into a scowl and she stalked away angrily.
Xander ran a hand over his face. Maybe he wasn’t cut out for this. +++
The train was late. On top of that, the platform was ridiculously crowded.
Xander resisted the urge to tap his foot as he waited. More than anything, he just wanted to get to Marrakech and find the next slayer, thinking that maybe having another girl around would help.
He and Marcé hadn’t spoken to each other since the demon. On top of that, he’d had a very awkward phone conversation with Willow.
He had called to tell her about the demon, from the way it flashed its game face on and off like a flashlight, to the strange conversation he had with it. She also thought that it was of the weird and promised to look into it.
He had been about to hang up when she called out to him. ”Xander, we made the arrangements for your parents,” she blurted out. “The funeral will be in five days. We thought that would give you enough time to wrap up loose ends there and get back here.”
Xander froze on the other end of the line. “Uh, that’s... thanks, Willow,” he said quietly. “I appreciate it.”
And he did. More than he could say. Which was why he didn’t have the heart to tell her that he was considering not
coming back for it.
Suddenly, a murmur went through the crowd, and Xander snapped out of his reverie. The train was coming.
Xander watched as the train’s front lights drew closer and closer. Before it even came close to stopping at the platform, the strangest thing happened.
People were running next to it, throwing their bags on and pulling themselves up as the train slowly chugged along.
Xander frowned, looking back and forth from the platform to the train. There were a lot of people waiting to get on – more than the train could hold.
“Xander?” Marcé asked, almost daring him to give the green light.
“Let’s go,” he said.
They pushed their way through the crowd.
It was like he had hopped onto the Hogwarts Express. Seriously, instead of rows and rows of individual seats like he was used to, each car was divided into compartments; in each compartment, there were two benches facing each other. And they were filling up fast.
Xander and Marcé quickly walked down the corridor, sitting down in the first empty room they saw. A few seconds later, a group of boys – the same ones from the ticket line – sat down, too. After terse nods to Xanders, they immediately struck up a conversation with Marcé again, in French.
"Great," Xander muttered, slouching into his seat as he stared out the window.
Twenty minutes and a lot of commotion later, they were moving. How, Xander had no idea. It was so overbooked, it wasn’t funny. There were people standing in the halls by the time the train pulled away.
As the scenery began to whiz by and the conversational French becoming a sort of white background noise, Xander allowed himself a moment to think about his parents.
He felt guilty, not wanting to return for their funeral, like he was the worst, most selfish person in the world. But he also felt like he would be a hypocrite standing there, pretending to feel a grief he just didn’t feel.
With a muffled sigh, Xander closed his eyes, the craziness of the day finally taking its toll on him.
When he opened them again, he couldn't help give a small jump. He wasn't on the train anymore. He was standing at the foot of some stairs in a very familiar basement. He could even hear the clink of bottles above him -- except his parents' basement didn't exist anymore. Nothing in Sunnydale did.
This was a dream.
A pit formed in the bottom of his stomach. The last time he had had this dream, it was because the First Slayer had tried to go all homicidal.
Right on cue, the door at the top of the stairs slammed open.
Xander swallowed back the fear that gripped him, focusing instead on finding a weapon. Thankfully, there was a wrench on the work bench. He quickly grabbed it and stood at the foot of the stair, the cold metal comforting in his hand.
“You know what they say, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, and, well, I might get my heart ripped out for real this time,” he called up toward the open door.
His grip on the wrench tightened as his father came thundering down the stairs a few seconds later. Just like before, the smell of alcohol permeated the air. Unlike the first time, however, his mom was right behind him, staring at Xander like he had two heads.
“See! I told you!” she exclaimed.
His father just ignored her and took another step toward Xander. “What the hell is this?”
Xander frowned, more confused than anything. “What’s what?”
“That thing on your eye. Why’s it there?” his father demanded.
Xander's hand immediately flew up to his eyepatch. Of course. His parents had left Sunnydale before he had lost his eye. They never knew.
“It’s an eyepatch,” he explained slowly. “To cover my eye, which I no longer have.”
Both his parents blanched at this. Instead of showing an iota of concern, however, they just looked even more disgusted.
“Well, take it off,” his father ordered. “No son of mine is going to look like some... fairy pirate.”
Xander curled his free hand into a fist, staring defiantly back at his father. This only made Tony Harris even angrier, and he took another, more menacing step toward him. Before anything could happen, though, his mother stepped between them.
“I’m sure it’s not that bad,” she said soothingly, reaching a hand for his patch.
"Don't touch me," Xander said quietly, making sure to step out of her reach.
Hurt flashed across his mom's face, but he didn't care. just because he had come to terms with what had happened, it didn't mean he was going to subject himself to his parents' judgment.
“Oh, don’t be a baby, Xander,” a voice said from the top of the stairs. “I’ve seen worse. I’ve had
Xander felt his heart drop. Anya was suddenly there, walking down the stairs, stepping around his parents until she was less than a foot away, looking up at him with that expectant look he had come to know and love.
She looked exactly like she did that last day; the blood was still dripping from the vicious slice through her torso.
“Ahn,” he said hoarsely, and she smiled back at him brightly.
Even though he knew it wasn’t her, that she was just a figment of his imagination, he couldn’t help himself. He reached out to touch her.
Suddenly, a hand shot out, grabbing his wrist and giving it a vicious twist. Before Xander knew what was happening, his father had him in a chokehold. Xander immediately fought back, struggling to free himself. For some reason, though, he couldn't move a single muscle, no matter how hard he tried. And he really, really tried.
"Stupid dream logic," he gasped.
His father's grip just tightened around his throat even more.
Of course Anya chose that exact moment to throw her two cents in.
“Let me guess, you're going to call for Buffy and Willow now,” she scoffed.
Xander grit his teeth in exasperation. “Not helping, Ahn.”
She just rolled her eyes. “Because you don’t need it,” she countered.
“Gonna have to disagree with you there,” he wheezed. "I..."
He trailed off, his words forgotten, as he spotted another hand -- his mom's hand -- reaching for his eyepatch.
In full panic mode now, Xander fought as hard as he could, but it was no use. He was still dream-paralyzed.
There was a rush of cool air as the patch was ripped from his face.
His mother’s scream echoed in his ears.
With a start, Xander woke up – only to see the boys in car recoiling from him in horror, the eyepatch in the hand of the guy closest to him.
It didn’t take a genius to figure out what had happened.
Embarrassed, hurt, angry, Xander quickly grabbed the eyepatch back and put it on.
As he did, he caught sight of Marcé, staring at him, her face completely white.
Instead of looking at him in disgust or horror like he had expected, however, she looked... solemn, like she was seeing him for the first time. +++
Morocco was no place for an eyepatch. Sure, it gave him a certain swarthiness that he had to appreciate; but it also brought a whole new level of nastiness with the way sweat kept pooling underneath.
For the billionth time since they had arrived in Marrakech – a whole two hours ago – Xander swiped at his cheek. He saw Marcé cringe a little at this, though she made sure to hide it by feigning interest in a group of young girls right next to her trying to convince a woman to get a henna tattoo.
Xander felt bad. He knew she was still feeling pretty crappy about the incident on the train. Sweat and leather really didn't mix well, though. And when it was right on his face? Well, the smell alone was starting to make him feel nauseous.
Still, when he felt yet another bead of sweat he felt trickle down into the eyepatch, he ignored it, focusing instead on the controlled chaos in front of him.
Really, there wasn't any other way to describe Djemaa el-Fnaa.
The square was massive, and every inch of it was filled with something
, whether it was stalls of food or trinkets, dancing monkeys, snake charmers, storytellers, tourists, or just people going about their daily business.
It was kind of awesome. It was also the best place to start looking for the slayer.
Xander pulled the stone Willow had given him out of his pocket. She had enchanted it to glow when a slayer was near. As he looked at it now, though, he realized the slight oversight they had made.
The damn thing lit up like a Christmas – because he was standing next to Marcé.
Xander groaned inwardly. He could see this going over well. It wasn't like she had abandonment issues or anything.
"Marcé, we need to split up for a bit,” he began.
Sometimes his ability to screw things up with just a few words astounded even him.
Marcé completely shut down, her expression blank as she shrugged and turned away.
Xander caught her arm. “No, not like that. The thing I used to find you doesn’t work because, well, it keeps finding you,” he said quickly. “I just need to take a quick walk around here to see if we’re even close. Just stay here and I’ll be back in five.”
Something flickered behind Marcé’s eyes, but she just shrugged again. “Whatever.”
Knowing that was the best he was going to get, Xander nodded and walked away, making a beeline for the outer edge of the square.
As he walked along the perimeter, he held the stone in his hand, checking it every dozen steps or so. The farther he walked away from Marcé, however, the dimmer it got. By the time he had made it halfway of the way around, the light was almost completely gone.
Xander sighed. He knew this wasn't going to be easy; he had just hoped
Deciding that he should find Marcé and regroup, he began to head back to where he had left her.
In the span of time it had taken him to walk around the square, however, the place had gotten a lot more crowded. Though the snake charmers were leaving, more carts were rolling in, filled to the brim with spices and other things. Not to mention the dancers.
Using every ounce of agility he had gained from patrolling, Xander dodged and weaved as best he could, but it was only a matter of time before there was a collision.
She seemed to come out of nowhere, hurtling into him like a freight train. They both went sprawling to the ground, knocking the wind out of Xander in the process.
“Ow,” he wheezed, curling into fetal position as he tried to get his breath back.
His inability to breathe was instantly forgotten, however, when he saw the other person sprawled on the ground next to him.
He recognized her immediately. She was one of the girls hocking henna tattoos over where Marcé was. She must’ve been 16 years old at most. What really stood out, though, was the look on her face.
She was absolutely terrified.
She didn’t even acknowledge Xander or the fact that they had collided. She just picked herself off the ground and ran out of the square, down a narrow road into the souks.
A moment later, three pairs of feet passed by Xander, moving in the same direction the girl went.
Xander quickly got to his feet, not liking the situation at all. Then, because the situation wasn’t already bad enough, one of the people following the girl stopped and looked around, maybe to see if anyone had noticed what he was doing.
His gaze immediately caught Xander’s, and for the briefest moment, his face went 100% demonic.
Xander gave an involuntary start. The guy’s eyes widened at this, and he quickly turned and disappeared into the souk.
Xander went to follow when he felt someone grab his arm.
“Excuse me, sir, you dropped this.”
Xander whirled around. There was a kid standing in front of him, a glowing stone in the palm of his hand.
The girl was the slayer they were looking for, and she had been standing a measly ten feet from them the whole time.
Grabbing the stone, Xander shouted his thanks as he took off after the girl and the man following her. He raced by stall after stall of meat, shoes, and leather... and then more meat, shoes, and leather, until it all blurred into one, big dizzying maze of goods.
Still, he pushed on, blindly following the glow of the stone.
He finally caught up to them in a more deserted part of the souk.
Or more precisely, he almost tripped over her body.
“No,” Xander whispered hoarsely, falling to knees as he desperately searched for a pulse.
But it was too late. He
was too late. She was gone.
He wondered if she’d had any idea who she was, of what she had been capable of, if only someone had told her.
Feeling a surge of anger, Xander leapt to his feet. He ran down a few streets, but they were empty, the demons long gone.
He slowly made his way back to where the slayer was.
To his surprise, Marcé was there, standing over the girl with an inscrutable look on her face. The minute she saw Xander, she went off.
“You’ll be ‘back in five’? Does that mean something different in America?” she said angrily.
“Maybe, just like ‘stay right here’ obviously does,” he replied, but there was no heat in his voice.
He was actually really glad she was there, for a billion different reasons.
Maybe she heard it in his voice, because she didn’t try to argue.
Running a hand over his face, he took stock of their situation. “Well, you managed to find me, which is pretty impressive all things considered. Any chance you can find a way out of here?”
Marcé gave him a clipped nod. She didn’t move right away, though, her gaze slipping down to the fallen slayer.
“Yeah,” he said quietly. “But there’s nothing we can do now, and us being here will only cause more problems.”
Though she frowned at this, Marcé nodded. Then she turned on her heel and strode away, with Xander right on her heels.
“God, I need a cigarette,” she muttered.
Xander really didn’t want to bankroll her bad habit, but he wasn’t the moral police, either. It was her decision to make, not his.
“You all out?” he asked hesitantly.
To his surprise, she shook her head.
“I’m trying to quit.” +++
“So it seemed like the demons knew the girl was a slayer, even though she probably had no idea what had happened to her?”
Xander didn’t answer Willow’s question right away. Instead, he glanced over at Marcé, who was sipping at her mint tea like she couldn’t hear every word they were saying with her enhanced hearing.
He didn’t mind, though. It had been nearly impossible for them to find a place where they could have some privacy – trekking across town before they found this empty rooftop café – he wasn’t about to let her out of his sight any time soon just so he could have some alone time, especially with the demons still on the loose. Besides, it involved her, too. She had a right to know.
Forcing his thoughts back to the question at hand, Xander pictured the scene in the square in his head, the way the demon strode after the girl, hunted her down.
“Yeah,” he finally said.
There was a long pause on the other end of the line. Too long.
“What’s up, Will? What does it mean?”
Willow sighed. “It means, the demons are taking the offensive. Slayers all around the world are being attacked.”
Xander straightened up at this. “What? How do they even know?”
“I don’t know,” Willow admitted.
He thought about the girl in the souk. How, despite the fact that she’d had her powers, she hadn’t stood a chance because she hadn’t known what they were, let alone what to do with them.
They would have to move faster.
“And the demons that show a little game face whenever they want? Are they behind it?” he asked.
“We don’t know,” Willow replied. Then she took a deep breath. “Xander, about that... I’ve done a little research – a lot of research actually – and, well, I found something. About you.”
Xander wasn’t expecting that. He gripped the phone, bracing himself for whatever she found. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Marcé practically chugging her tea.
“You’re a Grimm.”
“I am not,” he replied, scandalized. Then he frowned. “Wait, what’s a Grimm?”
“Not a ‘what’, a ‘who’, as in the Grimm brothers,” Willow explained. “Remember Hansel and Gretel and how fairy tales all come from somewhere? Well, apparently Jacob and Wilhelm didn't just write about it. They fought these demons, too, on a more than human scale. And
they passed this on to their descendants, to you."
Xander burst out laughing. He couldn’t help it. "You do remember my family, Will, right? Not really the demon hunting type, aside from the ones at the bottom of a bottle."
"Not your father's side, Xander," Willow revealed. "Your mother's. I traced her genealogy, and there's no denying it. You're a Grimm."
Xander fell silent as he absorbed this information.
"Why didn't I know about this before? Why didn't the Council? Because I find it hard to believe they didn't keep tabs on this kind of thing," he finally said.
He heard Willow make a small, scornful noise on the other end, one he guessed was directed at the Council.
He was right.
"The Council did
know about the Grimms. But according to Council reports, they weren't exactly on friendly terms. The Grimms were 'scurrilous individuals with no respect for authority, whose arrogance is only exemplified by the foodlhardy decision to publish a book of 'fairy tales' for public consumption, undermining their ability to carry out their work in secrecy," she said in a bad British accent. Then she paused. "They also thought the last of the Grimms died fifty years ago."
"And yet somehow my whole family slipped through the cracks?" he immediately asked, trying not to let the skepticism seep through too much.
"They were only tracking direct descendants,” Willow explained. “Your ancestor is a cousin to the Jacob and Wilhelm. Also, it looks like your family might not have even known, not for at least four or five generations. There wasn’t the slightest bit of demonic activity or suspicious deaths around them. Well, not until your mom moved to Sunnydale, but we know firsthand she wasn’t involved in anything there."
Xander ran a hand over his face. He didn’t doubt Willow’s researching skills. It sounded like he really was a Grimm. But... it just didn't make sense. Not that this type of thing always did.
"Why the heck did my mom live on the Hellmouth
then? Because I gotta tell you, this demon vision freaks me out, and I'm in the know," he said with a grimace.
He could practically hear Willow’s shrug through the phone.
"I don't know. Why did anyone live in Sunnydale, with its ridiculously high mortality rate and unexplained phenomena? Maybe, in some ways, it was the perfect place for her to be. She could pretend she didn't see what she was seeing, just like every other person here," Willow said. "And maybe she didn't see them right away, either. You only started seeing them just recently, after she... Maybe it was the same for her."
This made Xander stop. His grandmother had died when he was 6 – right about when his mom had started drinking heavily.
He rubbed his temples, which were beginning to throb.
He was a Grimm, a family of demon hunters.
It was almost funny, really. He had always been the un-special one, relegated to the role of wise-cracking sidekick with no powers to speak of—
Xander practically fell out of his chair, earning him a strange look from Marcé.
"You said the Grimms were more than human. So what are my powers, other than demon vision?" he eagerly asked.
"Maybenothing," Willow mumbled.
He frowned, sure that he had misheard her. "Come again?"
She cleared her throat. "I said, maybe nothing. They would've shown by now, I think. Also, Giles and I are thinking that your family might not have had the same level of powers that Jacob and Wilhelm's line did, which might explain why they opted out of the family business. Factor in years and years of disuse, and, well..."
"And all I have is the ability to see demons. Caleb was right. I really am the ‘One Who Sees’," he finished darkly. "I've been Haley Joel Osmented by my own ancestors."
Willow laughed at this last part, a honest to goodness genuine laugh, and suddenly they were just Willow and Xander again.
"Looks like," she conceded. "But it isn't all bad. It's probably what kept your family safe. Xander, there are certain demons that hunt Grimms. They're called Reapers, and—"
Reapers?" Xander interrupted. "I know this is serious, but really?"
"Really,” she confirmed, though he could hear the smile in her voice. “They’re the reason the Council thought the Grimms were extinct, so it's important that no one finds out who you are.”
Xander thought back to the demon in the souk, the way it seemed to almost recognize him.
"Uh, hate to break it to you, but I think the cat's already out of the bag," he admitted.
Willow fell silent. "Well, that's okay. We can figure out a game plan when you come back," she said. "Have you gotten a flight for you and Marcé yet?"
Right next to him, Marcé went still as stone.
In that moment, he knew what he had to do, what he had to tell her.
Guilt aside, he knew that he just didn't have anything left to say to his parents. They didn’t need him at their funeral. Just like the Scoobies didn’t need him.
But here, he could make a difference. There were other girls who needed help, girls like Marcé with chips on their shoulders the size of Mount Everest, girls like the one in souk, with demons in disguise after them and nowhere to run to.
He was needed here. He needed
to be here.
"I'll ask Marcé if she wants to go to HQ, but I'm not coming back," he said slowly.
He held the phone away from his ear at Willow's squawk of surprise.
"What? I mean, the funeral is in a few days. I just thought... We can send another team to get the other girls," she said, a little desperately. When Xander didn't reply, she sighed. "Buffy's leaving, too."
He wasn’t surprised, and by the sound of her voice, Willow wasn't, either. They all needed time to heal, in their own way. Heck, in some ways, he was only surprised that Buffy hadn’t been the first.
There was a slight pause, then, "Xander... you'll need to come home eventually. You know that, right? Even just to figure out what the heck this whole Grimm thing means."
"I know," he admitted. "And I will, just not right now."
Willow fell silent again, and he could’ve sworn he heard her sniffling. When she finally spoke, however, her voice was cheery – if a bit wobbly.
"So I guess I'll work on a new amulet for you," she said.
Xander smiled, more grateful than he could say. "You know I love you, right?"
"I know," she said quietly. "Take care of yourself, Xander."
They both said their goodbyes and hung up.
Neither Xander nor Marcé spoke right away. They both knew what came next, what decision had to be made. For his part, Xander wouldn’t begrudge her if she didn’t want to go with him. They had already talked about how hard the journey would be. But... he would miss her.
Just as he figured out a way to say all this without sounding like a total sap, Marcé turned toward him.
"When does the bus for Senegal leave?" she asked.
Xander felt the grin spread across his face. "We have some time. I thought we could get some training in," he suggested. "Maybe even tie up a little unfinished business here."
Because he hadn't forgotten about the dead slayer. He never would.
Apparently, Marcé wouldn't, either. Before he had even finished his sentence, she was on her feet and heading straight for the door. "What are we waiting for?"
Grinning, Xander followed her out the café and down the street, past some shops. When they walked by a bookstore, however, he stopped in his tracks.
"Hold up a minute, I want to look for a book on local fairy tales," he called out.
Marcé raised her eyebrows questioningly.
"Long story. I'll fill you in later," he explained. Then he grinned. "But I have a feeling we're gonna need it."
She shrugged and followed him inside the shop. As they walked around, Xander realized he felt a lightness to his step, one he hadn't felt in months.
Sure, he was a townie without a town, a guy without his girl, a Scooby without his gang, and
a son without his parents. But he was still Xander. And that was enough. +++Thank you for reading this story! I know it's a slower, quieter Xander ficlet, but I hope you enjoyed it!