Faith burst into Giles’ place at full speed, almost tearing the door off the hinges. Buffy, Willow and Giles all jumped up, Buffy grabbing a weapon.
“Xander…vampire…needs help…” Faith panted, gasping for breath. Fifteen blocks is a long way to sprint, even if she was a slayer.
“Xander needs help with a vampire?” Buffy asked, frowning. “I can’t actually see that.” She said.
“It’s a vamp like…like he is. A Kindred.” Faith said, regaining some of her composure. “Come on…” she said, waving her hands and trying to get them to move.
Giles was the first, grabbing a short sword and his car keys. “Come on, then. We’ll take my car. I daresay we want to be able to fight it when we get there.” He said. Buffy and Willow followed him and Faith, groaning as the piled into his ‘perfectly serviceable’ Citroen before leaving and heading towards the diner.
Claire jumped in front of Joe as he towered over the now unconscious Xander. “JOE!” she yelled.
The large werewolf stopped, stepping back and shifting back into his human, or homid, form. “Claire. What are ya doin?” he asked, almost whining.
“That young man comes in here every night, doesn’t cause any trouble and leaves good tips. He’s polite, funny and sweet. He was in the process of getting me and Jake out of the way while you were tearing up the place.” Claire scolded Joe, poking him in the chest as she did.
“Claire…you don’t know what he is. What he truly is.” Joe tried to argue.
“I don’t care if he is Attila the Hun!” Claire snapped.
“But Claire…” Joe began again.
“No. No buts. Now I have to clean up that mess in there, that’ll take me until dawn…” Claire was muttering as she stepped over Xander and past her brother, shooting him a glare, as she headed into the diner.
Jake just stared wide-eyed at Joe. “There…there was a bear or something!” he stammered.
Joe just gave a half-smile. He knew the power of the Delirium would cloud the cooks mind, making him see anything but a werewolf. A bear was not an uncommon line of thought. “It’s gone now Jake. Go and help Claire.” Joe said.
Jake just nodded, muttering about bears encroaching on civilization and taking back what was once theirs. Looking down at Xander, Joe opened his senses to Gaia, using the gifts taught by the spirits. He could sense no Wyrm-taint in the young, he realized that now, leech. But Joe had seen him fight, had seen him take blows that would kill anyone else. Weren’t all leeches evil?
Joe was bending down to check Xander’s pulse when two women barreled around the back of the diner. Looking up, Joe stared at them. They couldn’t be?! “Slayer?” Joe muttered in awe.
Buffy and Faith both came to a halt, holding their weapons at guard and eyeing the man suspiciously.
“Why don’t you step away from Xander, nice and easy, there fella.” Faith said, inching towards Xander.
“Of course.” Joe said, still staring at the two women. Gaias protections could be seen with even the most rudimentary of his sight gifts. “You wish to slay him yourselves.” He said.
“Not really, no.” Buffy said.
“But he is a leech.” Joe shook his head, more questions coming to his mind. The Wyrm could not have tainted Gaias most sacred of warriors. Long ago, before Gaia created the wolf, the bear, the cat, the raven or even the shark, she created the Slayer. One human girl in the world. She was the one charged with hunting and destroying the influence of the Wyrm. She was the one who stood alone against the evils of the pits of hell. She alone was the one created to stay the Apocalypse.
Gaia realized that one girl, no matter how powerful, would not be able to stop the Wyrm. And so Gaia began the creation of the changing breeds. But Gaia always kept watch over her first protector, always made sure that her first creation was remembered, especially by the changing breeds.
Buffy looked down at Xander and then glanced back at the shabbily dressed man standing near him. “You feeling that?” she asked Faith.
Faith nodded. “He ain’t human, that’s for sure.”
Joe stood up straight and grinned. “Your senses are as sharp as I have heard, Slayer.” He said. “I am Joseph Plays-In-Mud.” He said. “Ahroun of the Bone Gnawers tribe.” He said.
Buffy and Faith just glanced at each other before turning back to Joe.
“You do not wish the leech to die?” Joe asked, pointing at Xander.
“No, we do not.” Faith said, stepping forward, raising her sword.
“But I do not understand why.” Joe said. “He is a blight on Gaia, a servant of the Wyrm. Surely you feel it?”
Buffy shook her head. “Xander is different.”
Joe narrowed his gaze. If the tales were true, and he didn’t doubt they were, then a Slayer was nearly immune to the Wyrms corruption. The charms and spirits would not work on a Slayer. Looking down at Xander’s form, Joe remembered how to see through the person and into their heart, reading their very soul. He saw darkness, but no more than in any other person. The Wyrm did not hold sway over this man. Joe shook his head. “How is it possible? He is a leech, he is undead and yet he does not serve the Wyrm.”
Buffy lowered her sword slowly and stepped forward. “We’re taking him now, alright?” she said. “I’d much rather be able to do that and not have to fight you.”
Joe nodded and stepped back. “I must ask the spirits for their guidance.” He said before turning and darting into the blackness of the alley.
Faith kept her guard up as Buffy knelt to gather Xander in her arms. True, he was bigger than Buffy was, but she was after all a Slayer.
Buffy lifted Xander easily and turned to Faith. “Xander’s place is closest. Keep an eye out for our little friend.”
Faith nodded and led Buffy away, stealing glances at Xander when she could. He was a vampire now, and she knew that he would recover from most anything, but she had never seen him look worse, She had seen wounds on Angel close almost as fast as he got them, but even the smallest scratches on Xander were festering. She was worried.
Xander swam into consciousness, barely opening his eyes. He could tell it was daylight, and he was very, very hungry. He opened his eyes fully and looked around. The beast roared inside of him, demanding blood. Hot, rich, life-giving blood. It wanted it by the bucket full, by the gallon…by the human-full. Xander heard the door open and saw a human walk in. The beast inside of him took control and roared through his mouth, launching himself at his meal.
Xander was stopped when the human backhanded him, sending him spinning back, cracking his back over the frame of his bed. This did little to stop him. The food was trying to talk, but all he could see was the blood racing through her veins, he could hear her heart pounding in her chest, beating harder and faster as Xander rose, his fingers curled into claws as he snarled and launched again. He felt something hit him in the chest and looked down, confused. He was about to attack again when another small sting hit him, and another. The beast wailed in agony and defeat as he slumped back into the blackness from which he had just awakened.
Faith stared at Xander’s form, her jaw set firmly. He didn’t even recognize her, she was just food to him. Closing her eyes, she shook her head. ‘No. That wasn’t Xander. That was his beast.’ She thought to herself. Turning to look at the two occupants behind her, Faith forced a smile. “Good shooting.” She said.
Buffy nodded and set her rifle down. “It would take one dart for Oz, even at his worst.” She said.
Willow, holding another rifle, nodded. “Xander just seemed…annoyed.” She said.
“Well, let’s get him restrained while we can.” Faith said. “We can feed him when he comes to again.”
Buffy nodded, helping Faith with the chains. “What about our other guest?” she asked.
Faith shrugged. “I could give a damn about him. Right now, Xander is my priority.”
Buffy nodded. “I hope we have enough blood.”
Faith only nodded silently, setting the heavy manacles around Xanders wrists. “Me too.”
Xander felt himself waking, and he felt hungry. He smelled blood in the air and his eyes snapped open, he screamed in rage when he felt the cool metal encasing his wrists, feet and waist. But the blood he smelled was so close, and so potent. Searching around the room, he saw a woman again, the same one from before, the one he smelled earlier. He roared, straining against the metal.
Faith held the bottle in her grasp, not getting near the bed for fear of the chains snapping. She had been assured they would hold, but she didn’t want to test the theory.
“Waitin’ for a fuckin’ invite?” a gruff voice asked behind her.
Faith turned and shook her head. “Waiting for him to calm down a little.”
“He ain’t gonna be calm for awhile.” The stocky black man said. “Least not til he gets some blood.”
Faith tightened her grip.
“Want me to do it?” the man asked.
Faith took a deep breath. “I got it.” She said, taking a step forward.
Xander saw the woman step forward, and he could smell the blood she carried. The beast inside of him raged against the bindings, but they held fast.
“Just shoot it in.” the man said.
Faith looked at the squeeze bottle in her hands and tried not to shake. All she had to do was aim and squeeze, hopefully Xander would do the rest by swallowing. It wasn’t the brightest plan, but it was all they had. And considering how long they had been working on it, it was very sad. She took another step and popped open the top, tilting the bottle. Squeezing, she adjusted her aim to hit the now snarling and thrashing Xander in the mouth.
Xander tasted the blood, and craned his neck to catch more of the precious, vital fluid. Calming his thrashing, he laid back and drank in the steady stream of blood. Suddenly, the stream stopped and he felt his beast demanding more. But what he did get was enough to sate his thirst momentarily, letting him assert his own will over the beasts. Xander laid back and closed his eyes. “More.” He croaked.
Faith turned to the man in the doorway and at his nod, she picked up a second bottle, slowly approaching the bed. “I got more.” She said. “Just stay still and open up. I won’t shoot it this time, but I have to get close enough to pour it in your mouth.”
Xander nodded, still not opening his mouth. He felt the nozzle brush his lips and opened his mouth slightly. The rush of liquid hit the back of his throat and he drank deeply, gulping in earnest. The blood was rich, powerful and he felt his strength returning, both his physical and mental strength. After the second bottle was gone, Xander opened his eyes. “Faith.” He said softly. “I’m ok now.” He said.
Faith nodded, setting the bottle down and reaching for the manacles. A powerful, cold hand wrapped around her wrist, halting her.
“Hold on.” The man said, now right behind her. “Best to be sure.”
Xander looked over Faith’s shoulder and smiled slightly. “Theo.” He said. “You worry to much.”
Theo shook his head and snorted. “Shit, that was true I would have sent more than a neonate to a fuckin’ Hellmouth.”
Xander nodded. “True. Ok. You don’t worry enough.” He conceded.
Theo barked a small laugh. “Shit, he’s good. Let him loose.”
Faith released Xander and stepped back, taking in the macabre sight in front of her. His face and clothes were covered in blood, his hair matted and dripping. The first few seconds of feeding were messy using their current delivery system.
“I need a shower.” Xander said.
“Bullshit.” Theo said. “You need blood.” He said, looking at Faith. “You sure about this?” he asked the Dark Slayer.
Faith nodded. Walking up to Xander, she tilted her neck, offering herself to him.
Xander felt his canines elongate as he stared, seeing the rushing blood coursing through her veins. Slowly, he lowered his mouth and felt his fangs pierce her flesh. The rush of blood hit him and he drank, the blood tasting very familiar. It was the blood she had been feeding him, but it was different. He heard her heart increase and knew the ecstasy she was feeling. He stopped, finally sated, and licked the wound before stepping back.
Faith staggered, a bit dizzy. “Whoa…that’s a rush.”
Theo raised an eyebrow. “He’s never fed from you?”
Faith shook her head, thought better of it and just looked at the large man. “No. He didn't even like me watching him feed.”
Xander began to head from the room, dropping clothes as he went. “Shower, then we can talk.”
Theo and Faith watched him leave, Faith sighing. “He’s gonna be pissed.” She said.
Theo nodded. “That’s the thing about us. Yeah, we live forever, but not all of it is awake time.”
“You ever slept that long?” Faith asked.
“Longer. A lot longer.” Theo said, shrugging. “He was only out for six months.”
“Only?” Faith asked.
“I’ve known people who went into torpor for years, ages even.” Theo said.
“Define ages.” Faith said.
“A gal who watched the fall of Carthage woke up in modern Chicago.” He said.
Faith’s eyebrows rose to almost her hairline. “Damn.”
“He might still be asleep if you all hadn’t found me.” Theo said. “Or another elder Kindred to wake him.”
“I think we all need to have a long chat about things.” A voice said from the doorway.
Theo and Faith looked over at the small blonde, who was wearing a jagged scar down the side of her face now.
“I think we should wait for Xander.” Theo said.
“Fine. But then, we talk.” Buffy said, turning and heading into the living room.
Buffy sat in the living room staring at some mindless sitcom and listening to Theo and Faith ramble on about this or that. It was infuriating. Xander had been comatose for six months, six very long and painful months. He was out when the changes began, he was out when the battles were fought and he was out when, through a miracle, Theo blazed into town and saved their collective asses. Through everything, Xander was asleep. And Buffy was never more terrified than she was right now for her friend. ‘When he finds out what happened while he was asleep, he’s going to blame himself and push us even further away.’ She thought.
Xander walked into the living room, hair still a little wet. He was rubbing a towel over it and looking at the small group in his living room. Theo, Willow, Buffy, a young girl he didn’t really know and Giles. He also recognized Joe. That caused him to stumble.
The group all turned and looked at Xander.
“Uh…Faith.” Xander said, still staring at Joe. “You’re not supposed to let great big Kindred-killing creatures into the house.” He said.
Joe grinned. “Don’t worry.” He said. “Everything is sorted out.” He said, standing up. “I’m Joseph Plays-In-Mud.” He said. “I’m Garou.”
Xander just stared. “Don’t Garou usually…I dunno…eviscerate Kindred on the spot.”
Joe nodded. “Yep. Usually.”
Xander turned and looked at Faith. “Still confused.”
Faith smiled. “We’ll explain everything. But you need rest, so come on over and sit.” She said, reaching out and taking Xanders hand, pulling him towards the couch.
Xander followed, looking at the new girl. “I’m Xander.” He said, holding out his hand.
The young woman took it, shaking it slightly. “I-I’m Tara.” She said.
Xander nodded and sat back. “Ok. So.” He said.
Buffy wasn’t looking at him and Xander was scared by that alone. “Buff?” he said softly.
Buffy turned to look at him and Xander gasped at what he saw, his Beast suddenly roaring in unbridled fury at what he saw. He was across the small space in an instant and kneeling in front of Buffy. He stared hard at the jagged scar on her face. “Oh god…Buffy.” He said softly. “What…?” he looked at Theo.
“You been out for six months, kid.” Theo said quietly.
Xander clenched his jaw. “The Sabbat.” He growled. Willow swore his eyes flashed red for a moment.
Theo only nodded. “Buffy, Faith, Joe, Willow and Tara did what they could, but they took casualties.” He said.
Xander looked at Buffy and felt the anger slipping into sadness. “What happened?” he asked softly.
Buffy felt the heavy weight of tears welling under her eyes and looked into her friends eyes. She wanted to speak, wanted to tell him everything, but couldn’t find the words.
“They captured Buffy.” Willow spoke softly. “They captured her when we kept botching their plans. At first, that’s all we could do.” She said. “The rituals they were performing had to be precise. We would come in at the last minute and botch things up and run like hell.” She said.
“Worked alright for a while, but then they had enough.” Faith took over. “They took B one night on her patrol.” She said. “Sent a ghoul to tell us that if we wanted to get in the way of the next rite, they would be sending Buffy to us for years, in little pieces. Said they would make sure she was alive the entire time.”
Theo growled. “The Tzimisce.”
Xander looked at Buffy. She was crying now, fat tears rolling freely down her face.
“What could we do?” Faith said. “They performed the rite and Buffy showed up the next day. She was naked, bruised and bloody.” Faith spat. “But she was alive.”
Xander heard her contempt. “What did they do?” he asked.
Faith looked away, as did Willow.
Xander closed his eyes and felt the hot rage filling him. The Beast demanded, begged to be released. He was trembling and all he could hear was the pumping of his own blood, the fury it contained, wave after wave of hatred and rage bashing against his quickly diminishing will. Then, he felt a hand on his arm. Opening his now very red eyes, Xander looked at the slender, pale hand and followed it up to the arm and finally the face of the blonde he was kneeling in front of.
“You couldn’t do anything.” Was all Buffy said. She stood and walked to the door. “I’m the Slayer. I’m alive.” She shrugged. Buffy opened the door and walked out, closing it with a soft click behind her.
Xander sat on the floor, staring at the door his best friend had just walked out through and felt his anger constantly thrumming inside of him. He couldn’t move, couldn’t think, and turned to the others, who had been waiting for him to say something. She may be the Slayer, but alive? He would argue that point after seeing the look in her eyes.
Willow was the one who knew the look on Xanders face. She had seen it a lot over the years. It was the look he got when he was lost; not physically, but emotionally. Kneeling by him, she gathered him in her arms and let him try to figure out what had happened. One of ‘His girls’ was hurt while he couldn’t do anything about it. It was a bit sexist, but it was sort of sweet at the same time. Theo had backed away, giving the young Brujah space. His anger was palpable and he didn’t want t chance a peripheral frenzy.
Joe backed away as well. As a creature of Rage, he understood the fury the Kindred was feeling. He understood the need to run off and claim the lives, or the unlives, of the monsters who had dared to do this to a pack member.
Xander pulled back and looked Willow in the eyes. “I have to go.” He said. “Please don’t follow me.”
Willow swallowed and, for the first time since he came back changed, she could see the Beast he was always talking about. In his eyes, she could see the demon barely chained and straining against its tethers, demanding to be set loose. She nodded and backed away.
Xander turned to Theo. “Where.” He asked.
Theo looked at Xander and stared into his eyes for a few seconds. “Eighth and Waterway. Small warehouse they used when they first came into town. They use it as a breeding pit.”
Xander nodded once and headed downstairs, to the armory.