power & responsbility
Xander looked at Joyce's grave. She was annoyed and Xander had to admit she was right.
"You are so right Mrs. S, that was the time I should have said something. But, Buffy she can be a bit well… I mean it was not too long after Spider-man started appearing everywhere that she got suspicious of him, Hell, downright hated him. I think she felt Spider-man was horning on her action…of course she wasn’t the only one."
"What do you mean you're calling it off."
Snapped from quiet reflection by High Volume Screaming, Xander eavesdropped on the latest about a public appearance of his spidery alter ego. A roaming demon band terrorizing the town had run afoul of Buffy. While she had taken out the leader, some of his follow thugs had been equally busy and Spider-man had lent a helping hand. Among those rescued was Cordelia, snatched from demonic attack by Spider-man.
Xander suspected that Warren's cowardly retreat from danger, leaving Cordy to her own devices had the Queen C royally cheesed off.
"Warren you do well in English so I'm guessing you understand the meaning of the phrase." Cordy furiously sneered.
"Of course, I understand you I…Look just lets try going to the spring fling and then we can talk about this some more."
"You abandoned me. Weirdos were chasing me through the streets. And where was my so-called boyfriend? …Racing for safety."
"I was just going for help." Warren pleaded, "Spider-man just got there first, According to the papers he could have been behind the whole thing anyway."
Xander winced at that, his costumed persona while hailed as a hero by some was considered a menace by the police, an influential local newspaper, and a certain young Slayer who felt that the masked vigilante had an agenda that was not of the good.
Cordelia was wrapping up her verbal assault. "Going for Help from where, The next county? You know the least you could do is pretend to be a man. Hell Harris is King of the Loser-People, and he can at least do a passing imitation of a man."
Xander turned to Willow." What a unique sensation, My self-esteem just swelled and contracted all at once."
"Shh I'm being amazed at your photographic skills." Willow was engrossed in a copy of Sunnydale Ledger, on its front page was the story about the attack and in the midst of the chaos a photo of Spider-man.
During the fight, some of the demons chased Cordy up to a rooftop where Spider-man had dropped from the sky. After deftly wrapping up the bikers in webbing and leaving them dangling several stories above the street, Spidey has scooped up Cordelia, delivering her to safety.
The latest appearance of the masked vigilante had gotten rave reviews…sort of. The editor of the Ledger was portraying his appearance as part of the disturbance, hinting that Spider-man had been involved with the attacks. Willow was sure that was not true. Xander pointed out she was bias since Spider-man had rescued her from a demon thug by slam-dunking it into a garbage can.
Buffy was less convinced. She ranted against Spider-man almost weekly. She saw his being masked as suspicious, she saw his powers as dangerous. Xander suspected that in truth his best friend was jealous of the highly public nature of his actions since, with a mask on, Spider-man could operate at will and not fear the wrath of school officials, or the ever worried and over-protective Joyce Summers. Plus Xander's pictures of the ever elusive Spider-man had made the vigilante front page news, an option denied Buffy. Toss in Willow's obvious Spidey-love and Buffy was feeling like her Slayer-efforts went unappreciated.
"Don't you dare blame Spider-man for your staggering like of balls." Cordelia cried as she poked Warren in the chest.
"Fine, you want to become a drooling fan-girl I won't stop you." Warren looked like he was either going to hit Cordy or cry. He apparently discovered a third option and slunk away.
"God at least I don’t have to hang out with him and his geek parade friends this afternoon." She muttered
"What do you mean?" Xander asked
"Oh come on are you telling me little Miss Science here isn't already drooling about the demonstration.
Cordy's father was on the advisory board overseeing the conversion of an old power facility outside of town. With the changes in the outdated equipment brownouts and other annoyances of life on the States, power grid would be a mere memory. Warren was interning at the company that had done the refurbishment and would be on-hand for the trail run that afternoon.
Willow gushed at the thought of attending and began speaking in a new language that consisted of numbers and power transfer rates. As near as both Cordy and Xander could tell she had been observing the story for a long time. Cordy, in a moment of rare charity, offered her and Xander spots observing as long as Xander promised to take many pictures of her for the society page.
Buffy was an easy sell to come along since her choices where a boring evening training with Giles or a boring evening watching eggheads lecture about a power plant then turn it on.
Giles was mildly worried since the expansion of the plant had involved building on lands considered sacred by several local Indian tribes. There had been some protest but California's power needs won out over all objections.
They were all there later that night. The test team ran all the usual checks then began lecturing about their brilliance. During a demonstration an old man broke from the crowd and started chanting and gesturing wildly. Buffy identified him as a local shaman.
Everyone was trying to ignore his nonsense when the test went haywire. Smoke and the strange chattering voices filled the air. Building lights flickered.
Willow and Xander began herding the guests including a shrieking Cordelia to the exit.
Buffy faced off against the shaman and some of his bodyguards.
Unnoticed by anyone, Warren broke from the crowd of escapees and began fiddling with the controls. Xander saw him and raced back to grab at him but Warren waved him away. "I can shut this down I know the power down sequence."
"Warren the place is about to chain react if we don’t get out now we will be charbroiled." The boy ignored him and Xander was about to grab him using Spider-strength when electricity began to arc over the panel and then over Warren himself.
The boy screamed as power flowed in and out of his body and the chattering in the air grow louder Xander tried to grab him but was thrown backward into a wall.
As he picked himself up Buffy appeared. "What's with him?
"Not on our watch he isn't." She unbuckled Xander's belt and whipped if off in a smooth motion. She wrapped the belt around Warren and yanked him clear of the controls
Whatever he had been trying to do seemed to have worked since the huge machines powering the plant began to die with a slow pitiful whine.
Warren shivered on the ground with power still arcing over his body. Xander staggered to Buffy and helped her up. "Where is the shaman?
"Gone, but I'll get him tomorrow. How is Warren?"
Xander looked at the senseless youth. "Looks like he took a jolt of power, That kind of thing can't be doing a body good."
Buffy picked him up and settled him over her shoulder. ."Lets hope he snaps out of it," she listened as Warren mumbled something in his unconscious state. "Is that Indian he's speaking."
Xander shrugged He had no idea what the boy was saying, but now that he thought of it, it sounded a lot like the chattering that had been filling the air only a few moments ago.
The day dawned bright and clear. The Scooby Gang was trying to figure out what had happened the night before and when Xander arrived the rest of the team was still at it. So intent were they on the project that all save Willow ignored his friendly greeting.
She looked up from the computer she was typing into relentlessly. "Warren is comatose in intensive care downtown." She reported "The doctors say that he is suffering from electrical burns and shock damage but that he shouldn’t be in the coma-like state he is in now."
"Any ideas what's up" Xander asked
Giles dropped the book he had been reading with a curse. "I think the Shaman is the key He may have unleashed local spirits, it is they who have possessed young Warren and are keeping him unconscious."
"Awesome work G-man, well then let's venture forth and deal much butt kicking to Big Chief Creeps-Me-Out."
"Uh-uh" Buffy shook her head, I'm going to be busy dealing with the Shaman and his bulldogs I want you and Willow someplace where you won't be in danger."
"Buffy I'm in danger walking down the street at least with you I'm with the Slayer, protector of guys who get pizza and doughnuts"
"Not this time, I want you where I know what you are up to. And, no telling Spider-man where I am and what I'm up to. He got lucky with those Demon Bikers it could have been so not his lucky day if they had been packing some major mojo."
She crossed her arms and stared at him, Xander recognized Willow's resolve face, obviously Willow had been teaching Buffy her best trick for ending Xander arguments.
"Fine, I'll check on Warren." Xander turned
"You could hang out and help with the research." Willow said in her I'm-Still-Here voice. She made Xander feel guilty when she did it cause it made him feel like he was ignoring her.
"No thanks Willis, I think I'll go see if I can be helpful with the comatose patient."
Across town, Warren was going into cardiac arrest. The doctor shouted for the defibrillator. A nearby orderly grabbed the machine and rolled it into the room where the doctor grabbed the paddles as a nurse prepared them.
"Clear." The doctor screamed and shoved the paddles to Warren's chest firing off a multi-volt charge. Spasms convulsed the body on the bed. "Again" the doctor shouted the nurse upped the power output as again the doctor shoved the paddles in place and shocked Warren's stubborn heart. The shock doubled the Boy's body completely in two. He screamed as electricity arced over his body and he thrust out his fist to grab at the nearby doctor.
Hundreds of volts of electricity flowed through the two bodies. Warren's took the energy and turned it into life, the doctor had his insides fried. The corpse dropped to the ground as Warren stood up from the bed. Looking at his hands, energy flicked and danced across his fingertips. "What have you done to me" he screamed "What have you done."
The explosion took out he entire floor of the hospital. Warren began moving down the hallway, if he knew he was floating two feet above the ground he gave no sign. He murmured to himself, listening to music that only he could hear. Music trapped within the walls of the hospital. He stretched out his hands and felt as that music flowed into his body Electricity from this floor and the ones around it. The more power he drew into himself the more in contact he felt with the power that flowed everywhere, outside, in the air. Even in the bodies of the meat puppets around him.
A guard pulled his service revolver and targeted the floating boy. "Alright sonny, that will be enough hi-jinks from you. Now stand down."
Warren looked at the old man in contempt "Get away from me." He lashed out his arm and power arced between the two figures throwing the old man to the wall where he sprawled like a rag doll.
Warren floated onward murmuring to himself. The music was calling him and it was telling him that the time had come to reclaim what was rightfully his. The time had come reclaim Cordelia.
Xander ran into Cordy in the lobby on the hospital. She was obviously grumpy. "Daddy ordered me to come down, like having a visit from the boss's daughter will keep anyone from suing us into the next world."
"Think of it an a humanitarian gesture." He joked
She responded with a blank look.
"How silly of me a humanitarian gesture requires that you have a working grasp of humanity."
"I'll have you know I'm very active in the community and my work for charities is well known."
"I know, I know" Xander sighed "I read the Cordelia Chase for-Prom Queen literature."
"You'll understand that if I win I won't acknowledge you publicly." The Cheerleader said airily
"Of course I'll understand, you are Cordelia Chase."
An explosion interrupted their verbal riposting. Xander quickly realized the blast had come from several floors above, Warren's floor. The two teens began helping to lead people out of the hospital and on the street. On the sidewalk, they joined a group of onlookers who gazed at the spectacle of a floating Warren with electricity playing over his body.
"You were dating him did he have super powers when you were together." Xander deadpanned
"Not as such no, what do you think he is going to do now that he has powers." She asked.
Warren threw blasts of electricity to the street where they ignited cars turning them into plums of flame and smoke.
"Does that answer your question." Xander said. Turning, he pushed Cordelia away from the action. "Call Giles, tell him to get Buffy down here. Whatever that Shaman did is still going on."
Cordelia started to run then stopped "Wait a minute you're just the sidekick, what are you supposed to do until the Calvary arrives."
"Anything I can." Xander responded as he ran inside the hospital. He darted up the stairs shedding his clothes on the way. By the time he burst out on the roof, where Xander had been Spider-man now stood.
"Hey Warren, how's about easing off the rampant acts of terror cliché."
"You," Warren snarled. "You took Cordelia away from me". The mutant teen was demented.
"And I just remembered you might have an issue or two with that." Spider-man muttered
Warren screamed and launched bolts of power at the wall-crawler. Dodging them as best he could, Spider-man landed close to Warren and punched him hard. The blow sent the teen crashing to the street. However, An Electrical discharge threw Spidey to the rooftop. The electrified body of Warren carried a charge so deadly even touching him was risky. "Can't punch him, Can't reason with him." Spider-man picked himself up and prayed for an idea. An idea that would occur to him in the seconds it took him to reach the street.
"Power, I need more power." ranted Warren. He tore the hood off a car and grabbed the battery inside. "Yes, more power, must have more."
"Sorry, I think Tim Allen has that more power thing wrapped up." Spider-man swung down kicking out and sending Warren crashing into a building.
"Leave me alone." he cried out. He used his powers to haul a bus into the air and send it careening toward Spider-man.
Xander would never remember how he did it but Cordy later raved about the trick. He dived through an open window of the bus landing on the other side. Then he web-lined Warren, tying the line to the still moving Bus. The Bus jerked the mutant off his feet and dragged him along the ground before the bus finally came to a stop. Warren bounced to a stop and Spider-man landed next to him.
"You are on a time out young man." He punched Warren hard. The boy slumped to the ground unconscious.
"You did it" Cordy shouted coming out of the crowd,
"Yay me, listen could you keep an eye on bolt-boy over there. I have to scram." He asked motioning toward the phalanx of arriving cops.
She nodded "What happened to Xander he ran inside the building."
The lie came easy "I saw him up on the roof grabbing a few shots, hope he got my best side." Spider-man skittered up a lamppost then leapt away.
Cordelia turned and saw Giles and Buffy running up. The Slayer had some kind of spear in her hands "The Shaman told us how to stop the creature, where is Warren." She asked breathlessly
Cordy pointed to the senseless teen. A black Van had arrived on the scene and its dark suited drivers were loading him into the back. "Spider-man showed up and took Electro down in one shot."
"Why not? These guys always have to have a name and Drusillia picked out Spider-mans name."
"Why can't they have normal names." grumbled Buffy
"You mean like Buffy?" Cordy supplied sarcastically
"Hey guys, you made it" Xander smiled as he strolled up to the group
"Where were you Xan" Buffy asked
"Up on the roof, best place I think. I got some great shots of that thing with the bus."
"Taking pictures of Spiderman up on the roof you could have been hurt
"Well I wasn’t and I got some great shots." He could not hide his annoyance anymore. "Besides its not like you needed my help, you were pretty clear on how much you don't need me."
Xander turned and walked away, He told himself he did not see the shocked look on his friends' faces. That he did not feel the hallow place that opened in his heart at what he had said.
I admit it Mrs. S, The fact that Buffy didn’t trust me to back her up and hated Spider-man getting involved in our cases had me testy. I thought I had earned that trust but I had some harsh lessons to learn. About how to be a hero and how to trust your friends and I was going to learn that lesson in the worst possible way.
Everything had lead to this moment. Angelus had harassed and harried the group for the better part of the school year. Angel had lost his soul unleashing Angelus. The newly released Angelus immediately turned to the takes of sadistically harassing his former allies, the Scoobies. He had succeeded in killing Jenny Calendar, a teacher secretly sent to Sunnydale to watch Angel. She had been trying to restore Angel's soul as recompense for lying to Buffy and Giles. Angel had discovered her plans. Willow had tried the spell herself but Drusillia and a gang of undead had attacked them.
Xander had been fleeing the scene intending to suit up and fight as Spider-man. Instead, a stray bookcase had knocked him out. Giles had suffered the most of them all. He had cared for Jenny, had opened his life to the woman and just when things were looking like they might work, boom, harsh reality.
Giles found Jenny dead. Her body lay on his bed by Angelus. Angelus unleashing his inner bastard, the vampire's plan was simple, Unleash Acathla and destroy the world. Eventually he kidnapped and tortured Giles. He needed the Watcher's knowledge to awaken the statue and besides, it bothered Buffy.
Willow had made it clear she wanted to try the spell even in her weakened state. She sent Xander to find Buffy; she was to delay killing Angel until Willow could restore the vampire's soul.
Xander had other plans.
The final fight was progressing. Xander found Giles and rescued him. About half way to the door, the librarian collapsed as vampires surrounded him. Giles was out of it so Xander hit them with everything he had. .
One of the vampires chased Xander toward a wall. Xander did not stop and the vampire was amazed when the boy ran up the wall. Flipping off, he landed behind the vamp and dusted it. His Spider-sense flared and he ducked to avoid two more. Rolling underneath to pop up between them both, he launched himself in the air, kicking out with both legs to slam both enemies to either wall of the corridor. Twisting his body to impossible angles, He dusted them both.
He scooped Giles up into his arms and skittered up a wall toward a skylight. Busting out the opening to the roof he leapt to the ground and took Giles to safety.
"Where is Buffy," Giles was awake again.
"Inside, facing Angelus."
"You left her alone, she must not face him alone. "
"She can handle Angelus."
"Danm it boy don't argue with me. To close the portal she will have to kill Angelus and push him through. "
Xander nodded, she might hesitate if she thought Angel might have come back and Angelus knew this and would use it against her. He put Giles into a taxi, then sprinted toward the mansion tearing open his shirt to reveal his costume. Xander Harris had done all he could. It was time for Spider-Man to make an appearance.
Angelus was losing or maybe Buffy was. That was the nature of the fight. It was going back and forth. Angelus had the cards that much he was sure of the longer the two fighters danced around the mansion floor, the greater the chances Acathla would awake and swallow the world.
Angelus finally battered the girl to the ground. He stood over her. He prepared to drive the blade in his hands into her. It would be quick but hey he was about to destroy the world you had to prioritize.
"No weapons, no friends, no hope…take all that away and what have you got." He raised the sword above the Slayer.
"Me" answered a cry from the shadows. Angelus whipped his head around and took the full force of Spider-Man's blow directly in the face. He went spinning to the floor. Spider-man landed on the ground, picked up the vampire, and threw him into a wall.
"Finally somebody who is in this for the big prize." Angelus got up and came at the wall-crawler
Buffy raced to get between them. "Stop" she cried out to the masked vigilante "you don’t know what you are doing."
Spider-man raised his fist and fired off a mass of webbing that caught Buffy in the chest and shoved her back against a wall. The webbing fixed her to the wall like a moth pinned to a board.
"You mounted the Slayer" Angelus snarked "that makes two of us."
"You degenerate" Spidey snarled
"That is your real problem isn't. You have always wanted my place. The Big Bad, and thanks to me you're barely a distraction."
"I'm going to enjoy kicking your ass Dead-Boy." Spider-man scored a hit hurling Angelus backward. He and Angelus traded blows as the Slayer struggled to get off the wall.
Angelus was many things but not a fool; he finally for the fist time in months looked past the bravado and the quirky comebacks to see his enemy. He began to laugh, as they traded blows across the floor.
"You'll never have her you know. Even if you beat me, you will never have her. You're a barely a man in her eyes and killing me won't change that."
"It will make me feel better." Spidey kicked at him.
"Feel this." Angelus backhanded him sending the webbed one crashing to the floor. "Go on make your play loser, and if by some miracle you pull if off you can be just like me."
"I'm better then you."
"You're right You hide the demon within so much better then I ever did. But then I never really tried"
"You're a killer not me."
"After today you will be. Just like me, a demon hiding just behind a mask."
Spider-man screamed and kicked at him sending Angelus flying as he flew through the air Spidey snagged his body with a web-line and sent him whirling into a stone column. Buffy finally tore herself off the wall and ran to the vampire as he climbed to his feet.
"Summers get out of the way." Spider-man yelled
"Buffy what's going on. I feel like I haven't seen you in months." Angel said weakly. Willow had finished the spell. Angelus was sealed and Angel was back.
"Angel, Oh my god; baby, you're back." Buffy cried, tears brimming in her eyes
"It can't be Willow must have done it. She must have done the spell." Spidey muttered mystified.
That was when the vortex started pulling in the room, first small things then larger. The pull from the gapping tear in space began pulling the three fighters toward hellish oblivion.
Angel instinctively reached for Buffy and grabbed her. Spider-man crouched on a wall and fired a web-line that entangled Angel's hand. Anchored, They were now floating in space. Their bodies being pulled by the vortex, a pull that was getting stronger and stronger.
"Listen to me, Angel screamed "Fire a line and grab Buffy, when you have her, pull her in."
"No Angel I just got you back I'm not losing you again."
"I'll be right behind you."
Xander Harris looked into the eyes of Angel and saw truth at last. Angel knew who and what Spider-man really was and what he could do, most painful for Xander though was the forgiveness he also saw. Forgiveness for what had to happen next. Xander nodded silently, and fired a line snagging Buffy and reeling her in.
When Buffy was clear of the vortex Xander released his hold on the line holding Angel. Angel went flying into the vortex. It slammed closed behind him static discharges in the air the only marker of where it had been.
Buffy screamed her tormented frustration at the world. Spider-man came off the wall.
"I had to, it was the only way to close the portal."
"I could have found a way, I was right about Willow being able to fix Angel and I would have been right about this. You had to interfere. Get in the way just like you always do. Not enough you steal my best friends from me now you send the only man I ever loved to hell."
She stood up and stalked toward him. "Xander told you where we would be. Well you tell him the next time that you see him that I will never forgive him for that. I could have saved Angel but you got involved and that's his fault. You wanted to be The Big Bad, consider this your promotion. I'm going to devote the rest of my life to see you just as dead as Angel is right now. "
It was a day or so later Buffy was walking down the hallway of Sunnydale high. She met Giles and Oz pushing Willow in a wheelchair.
"You've been hard to find Buff" Oz was casual almost hiding the tone of worry in his voice.
"I've been hunting, Xander's little wall crawling friend has been impossible to find. Where is Xan I, want to talk to him."
"Xander's gone," Willow said miserably
"What do you mean gone."
"I mean packed his stuff and left. No one knows where and his parents aren't exactly being helpful."
"Didn’t he leave a note."
"He says that it's his fault that Angel had to die and he thinks you will never forgive him. He's sorry he allowed Spider-man to screw everything up. He promises that we will never see him again."
"What happened to Angel was Spider-man's fault." Buffy said, "Xander just made a bad call."
"It would appear that Xander doesn't see it that way. " Giles said as they walked into the school together.
Xander watched from afar. His life as Spider-man was supposed to make everything better. Buffy would not be alone. They would not have to worry about him and instead Angel was gone, Buffy hated him in both his guises. People had been hurt.
Everyone would be better off without him around. He stopped at the bus station next to a garbage can. Taking his suit out he stuffed it into the trash and emptied half a bottle of lighter fluid on top of it. Setting the whole thing ablaze he watched it go up in smoke.
"In the end Angel was the real hero, He was barely in his body a second and he gave it up to save Buffy and relied on me to help him. " he muttered talking to himself
"Being a hero is kind of like that." Whistler answered him
"What do you want?"
"To know where you think your going, Sunnydale needs a hero."
"It has one, Buffy, and frankly I should have been content with that."
"Kind of late to be having a change of heart don’t you think."
"That's the wonderful thing you can break ties with your old life and start fresh somewhere else."
"You only have enough to get you to LA
"Its not Sunnydale and right now anything that’s not Sunnydale is ok with me." Xander climbed aboard the bus out of town leaving Whistler behind.
Whistler looked at the charred uniform in the trashcan. "Poor kid thinks he can just walk away from you …why do they always have to learn things the hard way."
Joyce let a meaningful silence pass between them. "All right Mrs. Summer I'll admit it I ran and I actually didn’t plan on coming back." Joyce smiled indulgently as she always did. "You're right running away was not the solution but fortunately the Powers that Be were looking out for me. I may have given Up on Spider-man but Spider-man didn’t give up on me."