Chapter One: A Question of Duty
Chapter One: A Question of Duty
With the Watcher gone, Xander’s seventeen-year-old brain returned to thoughts of the previous night’s ‘conversation’ with his parents. Actually, it had ended up being a bit more of a spectator sport, as far as his role in it mattered, but the events were still cause for concern.
Flashback, Sunday, February 1, 1998
“It must be his choice, Tony.”
“No. No son of mine will-“
be his choice, Anthony. He’s been kept from his heritage for far too long.” Jessica Harris’s voice had grown cold, dangerous in a way that Xander had never heard it. “My father follows the traditions, even though he wasn’t born to them. His father was the same after a time. And my mother’s father’s family have followed them throughout most of written history. Tony, you know this. And I should have been able to see the truth of your heart from the very first dismissive remark you made regarding everything I held dear. Instead, I listened to youth and foolish pride. I had made my choice and have stood by it. Yet, my choice is not Alexander’s. I will not make it for him. I will not allow you
to make it for him.”
Xander couldn’t see his parents’ faces, but he’d never heard his mother sound that angry… and with that anger had come a hint of an old accent. Unlike the show of emotion, however, the accent was familiar, and reminded him of happier times… when the various members of his family had still spoken to one another. He remembered speaking on the phone to his grandparents, when his father was still tolerated by the family – if not particularly liked. He remembered the soft voice of his grandmother Samantha as she spoke with him in a mixture of Tarajeq and Arabic that was unique to her people… the quiet confidence of his grandfather Alex. Xander didn’t even know if they were still alive… not since the last time he’d spoken to them, shortly before starting high school, against his father’s orders. By that time, Anthony Harris had forbidden all contact with his in-laws, even going so far as to contact the phone company and pay for a block on his in-laws’ phone number. They could not call the Harris household… and no calls from the Harris household could go to that number.
Xander knew there were ways around it; his mother had taken advantage of a few since his own illicit call from a payphone… but it wasn’t the same as speaking to them himself. He couldn’t truly know
, without hearing their voices again. Obviously, there was more to the disagreement between his father and his grandparents than the simple fact that they were on opposite sides of an ocean. Some small part of him was afraid that something had happened since his last call and no one would pick up the phone if he tried to reach them now.
His mother’s voice brought him back from his memories again. “I made my choice, foolish though it was, and in part cut myself off from my own heritage. I will not
allow that to happen to Alexander. I will not have him remain ignorant of his history, simply because you cannot understand it and are not willing to make the attempt.”
The sound of his father’s fist hitting his mother’s face was nothing unusual to Xander; he couldn’t say the same for the sound of his scream as she broke his arm. I didn’t know that she knew how to fight back. But then, most days, I can’t figure out how to fight back where he’s concerned, either. Vampires, yes. Demons, sure, why not? My own father… not bloody likely.
His mother walked up the stairs to him and quietly informed Xander that they were leaving. “I made a foolish decision once, my son; I have paid for it since, but it was my choice. You shall pay for that decision no longer. Pack what you need, Alexander. We will gather the rest. Jessica Harris died tonight, and Jina O’Connell has no reason to be in this house.” He couldn’t remember the last time his mother had openly used the name her parents had given her, but it suited her tonight.
Packing didn’t take long, and they were out of the house, in the car, and in a halfway decent hotel long before dark, passing by a furious – but strangely frightened – Tony Harris.
What followed was a conversation that lasted until nearly two a.m., a discussion of an ancient obligation, Egypt, mummies, pharaohs, and a trouble-magnet Egyptologist who was just as good at getting out of trouble as she was at getting into it. So, that’s where I get it from. Nice to know that I come by it honestly, at least.
Then, his mother mentioned the Vampires, a Slayer called from the Tribes… and the idiocy that was the Watcher’s Council.
After she was asleep, Xander slipped out of the hotel room and secured it, gratefully noting the subtle cross motif around the door. He had some thinking to do… and possibly, some of Giles’ books to borrow. Thankfully, there was that one loose window that would allow him to slip into the chem. classroom, and with the “Sunnydale Syndrome,” no one would see a thing.
******* End Flashback
Monday, 6:30 a.m.
Sunnydale High School LibraryThis… puts a new spin on things. Mummies… hmm.
In the back of his mind, Xander heard his mother’s voice again. “They fight so that the world may see the next dawn. The Creature is gone, pulled beyond retrieval into the Underworld, but he was not all that they were – and are – bound to safeguard. Egypt is theirs to protect in the hours of darkness, so all might see the next day’s light. It is duty and honor combined in the service of life. They are not called as the Slayer is, Alexander, without choice, but by the workings of their own hearts. You will be asked to make this choice soon, and though I can defend myself, I have not fought alongside these warriors. I cannot tell you all that you need to know, and I cannot make the choice for you.”
The choice was his. The questions were his. He already fought the things that roamed the darkness, and he needed to know how this was different than his grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ work. He needed to talk to his grandfather.