Xander found himself on his feet without remembering how he got there. Just as several others there also moved instantly elsewhere in less than the blink of an eye. Bewilderedly gazing off in the distance ahead of the mindscape at where four figures about a dozen yards away were now showing their backs to him, the man glanced down and he did a massive double-take.
For the first time in six months or so, Xander was free to move as he pleased. The quartet of possessions who’d come along with him to this low mana dimension were no longer restraining his spirit form. Which in turn meant he’d probably have no trouble whatsoever waking up and getting around in his asylum cell.
Well, apart from the whole confining straitjacket and shackles he still had on him out in the real world, that is.
Setting aside this admittedly significant problem for the moment, Xander warily headed towards the several beings standing in a line alongside each other. These entities were still paying no attention to their human host coming up from behind them. Xander was pretty much at a loss. Even if this was some sort of clever ploy to further ensnare or otherwise trick him, he had absolutely no idea why the hell those nuisances would try something specifically like this in the first place. He needed more info, and given exactly whom he was dealing with, this was going to be kind of difficult. Fortunately, the particular possession he wanted to confront was at the far left of their short line, which made things a wee bit easier.
At last arriving at the opposite side of Soldier-Boy well away from the other possessions, Xander began to open his mouth in a hopeful demand from that guy for an answer of any kind. However, instead of actually saying something, Xander otherwise gawked in increasing befuddlement at what this military guy was doing right now. Somehow, Soldier-Boy was holding up to his featureless face a pair of surplus U.S. Army binoculars. God only knew where these had come from, and that deity wasn’t telling. The end result of a wild Halloween night years ago in Sunnydale was presently peering through the binoculars despite having no eyes at all. Yet despite this, Soldier-Boy was definitely maintaining a zealous scrutiny of…?
Following the binoculars’ sightline, Xander observed nothing there anywhere in the vicinity which seemed to be expressly catching Soldier-Boy’s avid interest. Ahead, the mindscape faded into misty dimness indicating where this little part of his subconscious came to an end. Feeling even more lost, Xander scratched his head in real puzzlement. He then leaned to his left to look past Soldier-Boy at the remaining possessions in their line. Yet even more confusion came for Xander, who found them acting just as oddly in the same manner as per their own natures, all while completely ignoring the New Council exile.
At the far right of the line, a stiff-legged Hyena was intently staring with her glowing yellow eyes at something invisible in front of this beast. Next to the Primal, Sineya stood stock-still and watched through her dangling dreadlocks in equally absorbed attention towards nothing at all, either. Even Swimmer between Sineya and Soldier-Boy shared the utter concentration of this sea monster’s associates.
Xander straightened back up to thoughtfully regard Soldier-Boy still continuing his own unbroken inspection. While not very happy in the slightest with any of those possessions, the former Sunnydale resident disliked this Halloween invader the least. After all, Soldier-Boy (or SB for short) had genuinely helped out the Scoobies back when Ethan Rayne had his fun with that crummy Chaos magic. Later on, there’d also been the eventful episode with a stolen rocket launcher and the Judge, in which SB had definitely lent an imaginary hand in making things work out okay. Xander had to admit that over the years, a few more less-important incidents also involved advice from that possession. So, the man was prepared to cut this specific magical creation a little slack. Unlike the others, that was for damn sure.
He categorically wasn’t going anywhere near Hyena. Sineya made him almost as nervous, and Swimmer was just too unsettling in being a walking reminder of how close he’d come to transforming into a cheap B-movie fish monster. All of this resulted in Xander cautiously asking a member of the armed forces, “Hey, dude, what’s so fascinating out there?”
Lowering his binoculars, Soldier-Boy turned his head to present a blank visage directly towards Xander’s own startled countenance. These two persons stayed like this long enough for Xander to start feeling a lot creeped out at the other’s evident examination. SB next did something really strange. With a smooth extension of his arm away from his body, the military possession held out the binoculars by one large, masculine hand in a clear offer for Xander to take them.
The man gaped in sheer astonishment, until without actually thinking about it, he indeed accepted the long-range vision devices. Looking down in real awe at what was tangibly clutched in his fingers, Xander also dazedly noted his gift painted in Army-green colors possessed the normal bulk and weight of authentic 1960’s-era binoculars.
Catching a flicker of motion with his remaining eye, Xander glanced up to see Soldier-Boy rejoining the others in their obsessive study of whatever was capturing the mystical quartet’s concentration. Bemusedly squeezing the binoculars one more time to assure himself of their reality, Xander eventually shrugged in reluctant acknowledgement over what he obviously had to carry out now. Bringing up the binoculars to eye level, even though he naturally couldn’t use the left lens, Xander nevertheless looked through these--
Two seconds later, an enraged “THAT SONOFABITCH!” was roared at the top of Xander’s lungs to resound throughout the mindscape.
Letting his now-empty hands fall to clench in tight fists, Xander was too mad to think about how the binoculars had abruptly disappeared from his grasp. Nor was he particularly inclined to worry all that much about the four possessions at this point who’d just as quickly and mysteriously moved into a semicircle in front of him, each of them closely watching the furious man.
Instead, Xander snarled at the others, “My
rules, all the time! You totally behave, or whatever happens afterwards, I’ll let Wils use her mojo to dig you out of my brain with a blunt spoon! Got that, everyone?”
Soldier-Boy was the first to move. From his position in the semicircle, this fatigues-wearing possession marched briskly forward to halt an arm’s-length from where Xander was standing. Coming to attention with a snappy salute following this, the soldier held that respectful posture, until Xander nodded in permission and extended his hand. Dropping his own hand from his forehead, Soldier-Boy reached out to exchange a firm shake with the human. In the very middle of this, the possession completely vanished from the mindscape.
Xander necessarily spent a few moments to recover from this. In the meantime, Swimmer shambled forward to wait patiently at the same distance from the human by which a now-merged Soldier-Boy had maintained. Wincingly rubbing at his head to thoroughly settle down whom was presently in there, Xander blinked at the scaled nightmare who’d evidently made its own decision. Sighing out loud, Xander still held out his hand again, to have it immediately taken in a rough grip which lasted for only a second until both it and Swimmer were gone.
Drawing in a deep breath, Xander uneasily observed Sineya slink in her bare feet into his general direction. She got closer than the previous possessions, right into his face so that the pair were near enough to touch their foreheads with the other if either leaned forward. However, what Sineya did was to lift both her hands up to just under Xander’s nose, and work her fingers with their long, sharp nails as if she was about to--
The man’s sole eye promptly watered, and he just managed to supress the very serious urge to cross his legs. Apparently, the gesture for performing a male castration was a lot
older than anybody might’ve guessed.
Satisfied that her message was understood, Sineya then imperiously seized Xander’s own hands. In the shortness of their contact before the First Slayer departed, an astonished man felt in his grasp not the hardened skin as tough as leather he’d been really expecting, but rather a soft, feminine touch.
His thoughts whirling over what’d just happened, Xander absently looked down for what should be before him, only to find there an empty space. Snapping his gaze up, Xander glared at where Hyena hadn’t moved in her position. On the contrary, the African animal sitting on her haunches was curling her lips to show every single pointed tooth in a matching evil sneer at the human.
Striding forward, Xander fearlessly came to a stop well within biting range. He barked downwards at where Hyena was estimating what to gnaw on first, “You want out
of this cage, you damn well better pay for it! This is your only chance, you flea-bitten mutt! I’m fucking fed up with your attitude! Either it changes, or you can stay behind for all I care! Make up your mind, NOW!”
After shouting that last word, Xander and Hyena locked their smoldering gazes in a silent battle for dominance. It went on and on, even when one of the duelists began to weaken in their mutual stare. Instead of offended hatred, a flash of rapid calculation flickered over the features of a specific combatant, as if they were considering bargaining for terms to end their battle.
This hope by Hyena was dashed by Xander’s steely tone, “Don’t even think about it, Fangpuss. It’s never going to happen again, you acting up like when Buffy fought us. Stick one paw over the line in our deal of me being in full control, and it’ll be tofu for life. Yes or no?”
A vastly resentful growl shivered the entire mindscape. Nevertheless, Hyena finally lowered her head in submission. It was the merest fraction of movement, but she’d unquestionably conceded Xander was the Alpha. For now, at least.
Reaching out with his hand, Xander confidently laid this atop Hyena’s broad, furry skull. Right after, both he and the Primal vanished from the mindscape.