Birth of the HyenaSERIES:
Sunnydale X-TremeDISCLAIMER: Buffy the Vampire Slayer is owned by Joss Whedon and the X-men are owned by Marvel Comics.
I don’t own any of the characters and am not making a profit from this story.WARNING:
This is a non-vampire & demon AU. The gang are Mutants in the Marvelverse.SUMMARY:
A school trip to the zoo has unexpected consequences for Xander.SUNNYDALE X-TREMEBirth of the Hyena
Buffy sighed and leaned her head against the glass of the bus window while Xander and Willow babbled beside her.
Things in Sunnydale hadn’t been what she’d expected and she wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Her dream had led her to believe that she would be moving to a nice town that was friendly to mutants. That she would be making mutant friends and be accepted.
Only, that’s not exactly how it all played out.
She’d met the two teenagers from her dream on the very first day at her new school. Willow Rosenberg and Xander Harris really were just as nice and friendly as her dream had suggested. The two of them had made friends with her and welcomed her into their little group.
They had been a little sad because a friend of theirs had run away over the summer, but were slowly getting used to life without him. She had easily slid into that boy’s spot. They’d been getting to be closer and closer friends ever since.
Xander had realized she was a mutant that very first day and even though her dream had told her he’d be fine with it, she had still feared he would react like her friends at Hemery had. The amount of relief that had poured through her when he’d just shrugged, grinned and wrapped her in a one-armed hug nearly knocked her over.
Then he had flashed her some impressive puppy-dog eyes and begged her to beat up the vending machine that had stolen a dollar from him. She’d giggled and called him a goof before going off to wrestle the machine for a can of soda.
Willow had figured it out two days later. Her eyes went wide with shock for a moment and Buffy was sure she was going to start screaming about mutie freaks, when Willow began to babble so fast that she couldn’t keep up. After having her repeat herself slower, Buffy realized that Willow thought it was wonderful, was trying to assure her that she didn’t hate mutants, and was trying to quiz her on her powers all at the same time.
She’d demonstrated her super strength by lifting up Willow’s chair while she was still sitting in it. That she only used one finger of one hand made it even more impressive.
Things seemed to settle down after that.
Mom had managed to rent a shop and open up an art gallery that she named Summers Beauty. School was…school. The classes were either too hard or too boring with nothing really in between. Mom had wanted her to try out for the cheerleading squad like back in L.A., but Buffy wasn’t that girl anymore. She was a mutant and a warrior.
Besides, the town seemed to be polarized between those that were strong supporters of mutant rights and those that hated mutants strongly. The jocks and cheerleaders of Sunnydale High seemed to be those that were anti-mutant and constantly harassed people for being ‘losers’ and ‘freaks’.
It was pretty much an open secret that she was a mutant. There were those that recognized her face from the news after the whole Hemery incident. Then there were those that witnessed the whole mess with Mrs. Madison and her daughter Amy.
Hadn’t that been a wild and dangerous time? It had been so messed up and so unnecessary.
Amy’s parents had divorced a few years ago when the political climate against mutants took a turn for the worst. Amy’s mom was a mutant and while she wasn’t completely obvious, she’d never really hidden that fact. When the laws changed and public opinion began to sour, she left her family in order to keep them safe.
Things had been fine for a while even though the family was hurting and missing her.
No one knew where she had gone or what she had done, but whatever it was it had changed her. And not for the better.
Catherine Madison had returned to Sunnydale with a hate-on for normal humans and a huge chip on her shoulder. According to those that had known her before, she was much harder and nastier than they could ever imagine her becoming. Still, Mrs. Madison wasn’t looking for revenge for whatever pain the normal humans had dished out to her. Instead, she had returned for Amy.
Mrs. Madison was convinced that Amy was a mutant, that she just needed something to shock the X-factor in her genetics to wake up and mutate her. Amy was convinced she was just a normal girl; a human, like her father.
That had led to Mrs. Madison invading the school and shooting blasts of raw magic around while wearing a creepy costume that looked like a bad mix of a cheerleader’s uniform and something out of an anime film. She called herself Witch Heart and chased Amy through hallways and classrooms in the hopes that the trauma would cause her to mutate. Instead, Amber had gotten burned on her hands and arms, Joy had fallen and twisted her ankle, and several lockers had been destroyed in the main hallway.
It had finally gotten down to a face-off between Witch Heart and Buffy; one trying to terrorize her daughter and the other trying to defend her fellow students.
Honestly, she had been amazed at how difficult it was to fight the woman. She didn’t want to kill her. She still had nightmares over all the mutants that had been trapped in the gym when it had burnt down. She didn’t want another death on her hands; not human and not mutant.
Desperate and praying it would work, Buffy had ripped a mirror off the wall and held it up to block Witch Heart’s magic blast. The sizzling energy had scorched the air as it flew at Buffy. She’d braced herself and the mirror, but the force of the hit still pushed her back a couple feet. Thankfully, the energy had reflected off of the mirror and rushed across the hallway to smash into Witch Heart. The twisted mutant had slammed backwards into the wall and fallen unconscious.
Things had been tense after that.
While most of the people in school were grateful that she’d stopped Witch Heart, they weren’t so thrilled with the idea of her having mutant super strength. Xander had never said anything, but she knew that he’d gotten into a few fights over her honor. There were also several people that started calling her names. Mutie Freak being the most common.
Still, things had eventually gone back to normal. She trained with Giles in the library for any possible Council mission that might come up, she hung out with Willow and Xander at the Bronze and doing homework. She occasionally helped her mom out at Summers Beauty.
And she grit her teeth and ignored the signs that the FOH were gaining more recruits in town, that their message was becoming more popular.
The only thing that really bothered her was the fact that as far as she knew, she was the only mutant in town now that Witch Heart was gone. Her dreams, which had never been wrong before, had told her that Xander and Willow were mutants.
They were normal humans with no powers. Oh, they were wonderful people. They had accepted Buffy into their group with open arms. They didn’t care that she was a mutant at all. She was their friend and that was all they really cared about.
And she was grateful to them for that. She was. They were fun and interesting and supported her whenever she needed it. It was just…she was alone. Singular. Different.
“Hey Buff,” an elbow jostled her softly in the ribs. She turned to look into Xander’s dark brown eyes and smiled faintly at the concern she could see there. “What’s with the frowny face? It’s the school’s trip to the zoo today!”
She sighed and shrugged, uncertain how to explain what was going on in her head without sounding mean or crazy.
“I don’t know…it’s just, I’ve done this all before. Same old, same old. And things have been a bit…tense lately. I don’t see how this helps and I’m just not in a happy place, I guess.”
“Is this about those big poopy-heads earlier?” Willow asked, her voice filled with worry. “’Cause you should totally ignore them. They’re mean. Nasty, even.”
Her smile turned into a grimace as she thought about the incident back at the school. Four bullies that liked to shove around the other students; Kyle, Tor, Rhonda, and Heidi had headed straight for Willow until she’d stepped in between them and glared. They’d turned and sauntered off, but not before tossing a few cruel insults about mutants at her.
Willow turned to look at Xander, “Remember when Kyle shoved Jesse’s head down the toilet? He was paranoid he’d end up with some creepy brain infection.”
Xander nodded seriously at her and winced. Then he turned around and poked Buffy in her ribs again.
“Hey, Wils is right. Ignore them. Its like, when you move to a new school; you get your boring teachers, your chalkboards, your desks, and your mean kids.” He shrugged and smiled widely. “It’s all part of the educational package.”
She shook her head. “No…I mean, I get it. Ignore them. And I will. It’s just…” She shrugged sadly and looked out the window.
“Hey, look at it this way Buff. A day without school. Sunshine, candyfloss, and animals. Not a lecture or detention in sight.”
Buffy shifted to bump her shoulder against his lightly in thanks even as she tried to paste on a cheerful smile for her friends. “You know, when you put it like that, the animals look all shiny and new.”
Willow huffed and rolled her eyes. “School is not a bad thing, you guys!”
She didn’t get to reply because suddenly the bus lurched to a jerky stop in the parking lot of the Sunnydale Zoo. One of the teachers stood up and began explaining where they would meet up at 2:00 to get on the bus back to school. Buffy ignored her, knowing Willow would listen. Instead, she checked to make sure she had everything she needed and that her hair was all in place.
Then they were standing up and exiting the bus. The same teacher stood there at the door, ticking everyone’s name off of a list.
“Okay,” Willow bounced on her toes with excitement, “Don’t forget that we’re on bus number 143. Now…let’s go.”
Grinning widely, Xander looped one arm through Willow’s and then the other through hers. “This way, ladies. The animals await.”
Smiling, Buffy leaned forward and shared a look with Willow around Xander. The red haired girl giggled and then the three of them walked across the parking lot towards the zoo entrance. At the gate, each of them exchanged their school pass for a cheap plastic wrist band.
Standing in the front courtyard, Buffy turned to the others and said, “So…where first?”
Willow pointed to a gift shop across the way. “Let’s get a map. I’m pretty familiar with the place, but you’ve never been to this zoo. So…I say, map first.”
Then she shrugged and looked a little nervous as if they would argue. “I mean…its best, don’t you think? Just in case there’s a, I don’t know…potty emergency.”
Buffy nodded. She didn’t really think a map was important, but she also didn’t want to slam down Willow. The girl was far too shy as it was.
“Okay. Makes sense and you’re right. It’s always a good policy to know where the lady’s room is.”
Willow’s smile was back again and the three of them set off for the shop. Willow pulled open the door and led the way in. The air conditioning must have been set on high because the cold air prickled at her skin and made her shiver. Xander gave her an odd look, but then he was distracted by something on one of the shelves.
“Cool, it’s like a 3D puzzle or a model or something.” Xander held up a small cardboard box with a picture of a polar bear on it.
“You gonna buy it?”
Another odd expression flashed over his face too quickly for her to recognize. He blushed lightly and shook his head. “Ah…no. I’m not so good with the puzzles and stuff.”
Buffy wasn’t certain why, but she knew he had just lied to her. It didn’t make sense. She watched quietly as he gave the box a last longing look and then put it back on the shelf. It was strange and she was a little hurt that he lied. Especially since she didn’t know why.
Before she could say anything about it though, Willow was back with a big grin on her face and a map of the zoo in her hand.
“You guys ready?”
Buffy nodded and Xander wrapped an arm around Willow’s shoulders. “Sure are. Just lead the way.”
And then they were out of the shop and back in the courtyard.
“So…ladies’ choice. Where to first?”
Grinning, Willow unfolded the map and held it open while gesturing for Buffy to help her look. Stepping over and looking down, Buffy bit back her groan. Things were feeling awkward and she couldn’t really put her finger on why.
Maybe because she was a bit down over being a mutant and all the insults that got tossed her way. Maybe because Xander had lied about not wanting the puzzle when he clearly did. Maybe because Willow kept sending cow eyes at Xander and he kept on not noticing. Maybe because it was Tuesday. She never did get the hang of Tuesdays.
“Okay, how’s this?” She pointed at the courtyard on the map and ran her finger along one of the paths. “We go up this way. See, it has penguins in one pool and across the way is a pond of pink flamingos. Then, there’s a pool for seals and over here a pool for polar bears.”
She looked up and smiled at Xander when she said that. His grin softened and he nodded a silent thanks.
Willow bounced on her toes and nodded. “Cool. Then, we can turn left at the end of the path and see all the African Animal Exhibits. It’ll be fun.”
Smiling softly, Buffy watched Willow fold up the map and tuck it into her back pocket. Then the three of them headed off down the path with the penguins and polar bears. And it was fun. Xander was smiling and a bit goofy as he cracked jokes about the animals and Willow was bubbling over with enthusiasm and trivia information about their habits. The sun was warm and bright and she thought that maybe it would be a good day after all.
Then, from the corner of her eye she watched as Harmony whispered something to her group of friends. Most of them laughed, although Cordelia rolled her eyes and shook her head. Still, it had other people around them listening and then they would look over and stare at her.
Feeling self conscious, she followed Willow and Xander from the penguin pool over to the seals. The sleek animals swam around and were funny and cute, but Buffy couldn’t really focus on them. She was too busy trying to ignore that a lot of whispering was going on over by the flamingos. People were looking at her and a few even pointed. She thought she heard the word ‘mutie’ somewhere, but she couldn’t be sure.
She listened with half an ear as Willow explained how many fish the seals needed each day and Xander commented how cool it would be to be able to swim that fast. The whole time, though, she felt very exposed and she could only imagine what was going on in the minds of everyone around her as they looked at her. Did they see a person? Or did they just see another mutant freak?
Her smile had faded away into a grimace by the time Willow and Xander dragged her over towards the polar bears. Xander was really excited and talked about how big and strong they were. Willow was making tsking noises over the bear’s shrinking wild habitats. It was all perfectly normal.
Until you realized that a lot of the people there were stepping out of their way and crossing to the far side of the path to avoid them. To avoid her, really. The mutant. The freak of nature. The gene joke.
It was all she could do not to cry.
And she liked Willow and Xander. She did. But it wasn’t supposed to be like this. Sunnydale was supposed to be her haven. She wasn’t supposed to be alone. And despite the facts that they were her friends, she really was alone. Unique.
That hurt in a way she couldn’t really explain.
Swallowing hard she tried to push back the self-pity and sense of isolation. She had good friends. Her mother had a business that was thriving. She lived in a nice house and went to a decent school. Her life was good.
Not perfect, no. There were things wrong, but that was normal. No one had a perfect life. No one lived in complete serenity and contentment.
Those people pointing and staring, whispering nasty little insults about her…they were wrong. They were ignorant and fearful and wrong. She wasn’t a monster. She wasn’t evil. She wasn’t going to go insane and start killing everyone. She was just a normal girl…with extras. See? They were wrong.
Just like her father was wrong.
Her breath hitched in her throat and Xander looked over at her, an eyebrow cocked with curiosity. She forced a smile.
“Uh…I think, um, I think I need to find a bathroom.”
Anything, to get away. Just a few moments to pull herself together.
“See!” Willow beamed a huge smile over at her. “I knew that map would be important.”
Then the redhead pulled the map out of her pocket and unfolded it. She pointed out where they were standing by the polar bears.
“We’re here, so you just have to go….here.” Her finger trailed along the path and around the corner. It wasn’t far at all.
“Hey!” Xander smiled at her. “We’ll wait outside the zebra exhibit for you. It’s right across the path.”
She nodded. “Thanks. I’ll see you there.”
And then she turned and dashed off. She pretended not to see how a lot of the people around her flinched away from her or stared and watched her go. Still, sometimes it was too much. She just wanted to fade into the background and not be an outsider. And if it hadn’t been for Harmony opening her big fat mouth…
She pushed that thought aside even as she pushed the bathroom door open. Instantly she was hit with the combined scent of urine, mold, and cleaning supplies. It was…foul. What was it with zoo bathrooms that they always stank?
Sighing, she walked over to the row of sinks and looked into the mirror hanging there. A beautiful teen with golden hair and bright blue eyes looked back at her. It always amazed her to see her reflection and not see a monster looking back. With the way some people reacted to her, she tended to expect it. But no, she looked normal. Pretty. The perfect So-Cal girl.
Buffy turned on the water and slowly washed her hands. She didn’t need to, but she thought it might help to give the crowds time to shift and move. Then, hopefully, when she walked outside again the people that had been staring would have moved on. Finally, she turned off the water and reached up for a paper towel. She dried her hands and tossed the towel into the trash can.
Pushing the bathroom door open, she stepped out into the sunshine and looked around. She saw Xander and Willow standing by the zebra enclosure and waved. With a wide smile on her face, Willow bounced over to her and clutched at her arm.
“Oh my god! Buffy, you missed it! We saw the zebras mating! It was like the Heimlich. With stripes!”
Buffy couldn’t help but chuckle at that. Willow got hyper over the strangest things. Even live animal sex shows. She rolled her eyes playfully.
“I’m sorry I missed it.”
Willow giggled and nodded, a light blush on her cheeks. Buffy smiled at her and for a long moment, all was right in the word. She felt content with herself and her situation.
“Oh my god!” A voice screamed from farther down the path. It was filled with tones of shock and fear.
“Shit! Look out!” Another voice joined the first.
Buffy’s head snapped around towards the sounds just as several large beastly animals burst out of a building. A woman shrieked in terror and Willow clutched at her arm as she fell back in fright. Unthinkingly, Buffy reached out and steadied Willow.
“Hyenas!” Willow’s eyes were wide with shock, “Who let the hyenas out?!”
Then a pack of five of them turned with yipping cries that mimicked human laughter as they ran towards them. Swallowing hard, Buffy carefully but firmly peeled Willow’s hand from around her arm. Then, she stepped in front of her friend and braced herself.
This was gonna hurt.
People were running and screaming. Things were chaotic and confusing. A man with a small child in his arms ran past, dashing in front of Buffy and blocking her view of the crazed hyenas. When he was gone and she could see again, Xander was there standing in the middle of the zoo path, blocking her and Willow.
“Xander! No!” she cried, terrified for her friend.
But he just crouched down low as the hyenas approached and growled
at them. It might have been the stress of the situation, but Buffy swore that she felt her brain tingle and then a wave of aggression and protectiveness washed over her, nearly drowning her in its intensity.
The lead hyena ran up to Xander and she was sure it was gonna try to eat him, but then it just stopped. And looked at him. The hyena growled at Xander…and Xander growled back.
“Mine!” he insisted.
The hyena tipped back its head and yipped its chilling laugh, then it stepped around him and continued its wild run. The pack chased behind the leader, all of them dipping their heads down as they passed Xander.
It was the craziest thing she’d ever seen.
Then Xander stood up and spun around. He stomped over to them and stood in front of them for a moment. Buffy looked up into his scowling face and noticed that his warm and smiling chocolaty brown eyes had turned an eerie glowing green.
“Mine!” he growled.
Then he reached out with both arms and pulled her and Willow into a tight hug. His head bent down and he snuffled at her hair a moment and then he twisted to snuffle Willow’s as well. She didn’t understand what had happened. She was confused, but she wasn’t the only one.
“Xander?” Willow leaned back to look up at him, “What were you doing? You could have been hurt! You just stood there growling at a wild animal! You can’t growl at animals like that!”
Then she saw what Buffy already had and panicked. “Oh my god! Your eyes! What happened to your eyes?”
Her brain tingled again and that wave of aggression, protection, and possession faded away to leave her feeling slightly dizzy. Xander’s face crinkled up even as he let go of them both to clutch at his temples.
“I…I don’t know. I was just…they were gonna hurt you and you’re mine. I couldn’t just…”
Then he dropped to one knee, a wince hissed out between clenched teeth as he squeezed his eyes tightly shut.
“God! Wils! So…so loud! So…many, too many. Uh!”
He curled up even further.
He cracked open one bright green eye and glanced up at her, “…help…” before he passed out.
For a long moment, Buffy stood there staring at him but not really seeing him. Instead, she was seeing that dream she’d had so many months ago. She’d dreamed of Xander and Willow. That was how she knew she’d have friends in Sunnydale. Only…in her dreams they were mutants and in real life they weren’t.
Now, Xander’s eyes were just like they had been in her dream, glowing green with his mutant power.
Guilt washed over her in a huge surge. Was this her fault? Did she damn her friend to a lifetime of bigotry by wishing she wasn’t alone? Did she use some unknown power to turn him into a mutant?
Willow’s panicky voice snapped her out of her spiraling thoughts.
“Grab Xander! We’ll, uh…we’ll take him to the main gates and call Giles. He’ll know what to do. If anyone asks, the hyena knocked him over and he hit his head. Okay?”
Yeah. Yeah, that would work.
Stepping forward, Buffy bent down and scooped Xander up. He was a lot taller than her, so she draped him over her shoulder in a fireman’s carry and followed Willow as the redhead ran through the crowds.
It was easier to ignore the stares this time through. Partly because she was too busy watching Willow so as to not get lost while trying not to drop Xander. Partly it was because so many people were running about as well, as everyone tried to get out of the zookeepers’ way while they hunted down the hyenas.
Finally, they made it to the courtyard. Things were just as crazy here, so everyone ignored them as they ran over to the payphone. Willow reached into her pocket and pulled out a handful of change.
“Giles so better be in the library or I’m gonna…” Willow huffed out, “well, I don’t know…but it’ll be bad.”
Buffy dragged her eyes from where Xander was laid stretched out on the library research table and glanced over at Giles. The man had a thoughtful look on his face.
He glanced over at her and sighed.
“Let me be sure I understand? You were at the zoo when someone released the hyenas from their cage?”
She and Willow nodded in unison.
“Then, the…the animals ran down the path towards you?”
Again they nodded in unison.
“Only, Xander stepped in front of you and growled at the animals?”
They nodded a third time. Then Buffy spoke up to add something.
“Yeah, only…when he growled it made my brain tingle.”
Willow gasped and turned to look at her, “You too?”
Giles paused and looked over at them, his eyes focusing intently. “Your brains tingled?”
They nodded and Willow said, “Um,…yeah. It was like a tickle, but I didn’t feel like laughing.”
Buffy nodded and pointed at Willow. “Yeah. It felt more, I don’t know…aggressive? Possessive?”
Willow nodded back and shrugged. “Wild? Animalistic? But…uh, yeah. Brain tingles.”
Giles considered it for a moment before looking back at Xander. “And then the hyenas ran from him?”
“Yeah.” They agreed in unison.
“Interesting…” Giles sighed. “What happened next? A…after the hyenas left, I mean?”
“Oh,” Buffy sighed and reached up to run a hand through her hair. “It was mega freaky, but not scary freaky. More like strange freaky, ya know?”
Giles blinked at her.
“See, ‘cause Xan turned around and said something like, ‘You’re mine!’ and his eyes were all green and glowy. Then he hugged us and was sniffing our hair.”
Willow nodded and waved her arms around in the air. “I’m never one to turn down a Xander hug, but it wasn’t like any Xander hug I’ve ever had before. It wasn’t a cheer-up-don’t-be-sad hug, or an I’m-your-friend hug, or even an I’m-sorry-I-broke-it hug. It was a how-dare-that-dirty-hyena-look-at-you-when-you-belong-to-me hug.”
Giles blinked at the Willow babble even as Buffy nodded in agreement.
“I…see. So, he was very possessive of you both?”
They nodded in unison again.
“Then he collapsed?”
They nodded, but Willow clarified all the same. “Yeah. He let go of us and reached up to grab his head. He said something about it being loud. Then he dropped to his knees and he seemed to be in pain.”
She turned to Buffy, her eyes wide with worry. “It did look like pain to you, didn’t it?
Buffy nodded and sighed sadly. “Yeah. He was definitely hurting. It’s just, I don’t know why. The hyenas didn’t even touch him and despite what we told people, he didn’t bang his head.”
Both Buffy and Giles turned to face Willow.
She bounced on her toes once and said, “I remember now! Xander said that there were too many!” Then she settled and frowned. “He passed out before he could tell us what it was there was too many of, though.”
Buffy watched as Giles reached up and pulled off his glasses. He looked at them absently while he polished the lenses, then he slid them back on his face and turned to them again.
“And you’re sure he didn’t…uh, touch anything that you did not? Or…or eat anything?”
They both shook their heads.
“Well,” Giles’ began softly, “if there was no external influence then my, uh…best guess is that the stress of the situation, er…’caused him to, uh…mutate.”
“Yeah.” Buffy sighed. “That was my first thought too.”
Then both she and Willow turned to watch their friend as he lay unconscious on the library table.