Chapter 2 "Knight and Day"
Chapter 2 "Knight and Day"
Xander had regained a level of control over his senses by the time he and Giles had arrived at the library.
The flashes of the street lights had been almost physically painful for the first few blocks, but by drawing on LaCroix's experiences coupled with Alexander's more recent experience in dealing with the same enhanced senses, and he found a sort of volume control in his mind, one that let him turn things down. More disturbing was the feeling that they had already been set somewhat low. He would have to experiment some time to see just what his limits really were, but he'd have to be careful, as he didn't want to go all Sentinel and start zoning out or something. Perhaps he should talk to Buffy, after all she had had to deal with gaining "super senses" when she became the Slayer.
Xander followed Giles into the library, knowing even before he entered that both Buffy and Cordelia were in there, as well as something else. He could smell Cordy's blood from outside, despite the turned down senses. The disturbing thing was that a part of him thought it smelled, nice, almost tasty. Fortunately, the rest of him was of the mind that that very concept was just, icky.
Stepping into the room behind the Librarian, he managed to catch a glimpse of Angel brooding in the corner, before having to drop to the side as a form came hurtling through the air at him like a blonde missile, a sharp wooden stake leading the way. "Woah, Buff, hold on there" he called, as she bounced off the wall above him and landed in a fighting position only feet away.
Buffy looked into his eyes with shock and surprise, and asked, "Xander?"
At his nod, she still didn't relax, instead catching Giles in her peripheral vision, and saying, "Uh, you're giving me a major wiggians, Xand."
Giles cleared his throat, and said, "Well, Xander seems to be experiencing some, er, residual effects from this evenings events."
Buffy still didn't relax completely, instead slowly reaching out with her free hand, and gently taking his wrist, feeling the warmth of his skin and the pulse of his blood before lowering the stake and stepping back a bit. "Uh, Xand, you know you feel like a Vampire, right?"
Cordelia gasped, and Angel looked up in alarm at that declaration, while Giles nodded as though unsurprised by that revelation.
"No, I didn't know that, but I'm not surprised. I don't think I'm a Vampire though. At least, I don't think I'm dead. Look, all breathy and warm and with the heart beat still, ya know?" he tried to explain.
Cordelia walked forward slowly, and asked, "What happened?"
Xander looked up at her, and responded, "I fought the bigfoot, it almost killed me, and then a vampire tried to turn me. But I got better."
Suddenly a new voice chimed in from the doorway, where a just arrived Willow screamed "Oh-my-god-Xander-are-you-ok-I-can't-believe-a- vampire-tried-to-turn-you-how-did-you-manage-to-get-better?" as Willow grabbed him in a hug from behind.
Turning into the hug, Xander tried to reassure his oldest living friend, and answered, "It was my costume, Wills. I was dressed as an Immortal, so even though I died, I came back. But, there was a bit more to it than that. Somehow the vampire managed to release the Hyena when he tried to turn me."
Willow dropped him and leapt back, Buffy raising her stake again in response to a new apparent threat, and Cordelia only looked confused.
Willow was the first to speak, "The-the-hyena? I-thought-we-got-rid- of-it-did-the-deposession-and-and-everything?"
Buffy's eyes hardened as she looked over her closest male friend, her fingers subconsciously tightening around the stake as she watched Xander formulate his reply.
"We did. But apparently all we managed to do was lock it up somehow. It was still there, or at least part of it was. I have all the senses I did back then, maybe even more, because I don't remember things being anywhere this sharp before."
Buffy gasped out at his slip of the tongue, and asked, "You remember? Everything?"
Xander locked eyes with her, his emotions starting to crumble a bit as he said something he had wanted to for a long time now, "Yes, I do, and Buffy, I'm sorry for how I acted then. It really wasn't me in control. I now know how Angel can feel guilty for the actions of his demon, if that's what he went through when he was a vampire, because it feels like it was me, but it really wasn't. Can you ever forgive me?"
Buffy relaxed a bit, and said, "Forgiven a long time ago, Xander. I know it wasn't really you."
Xander nodded and offered a slight smile, before going on, "Anyhow, it is still me in control here, so perhaps the spirit of the hyena or whatever was either gone, or has been absorbed, or maybe it's now the one being possessed, by me. I dunno. But there's more to it than that, I think."
Willow looked confused, as she said, "What more?"
Xander shuddered, and went on, "Well, from what Buffy said when I came in, I think I've got the Vampire in me now as well."
Willow's eyes went wider, and she squeaked, "Vampire?"
Xander nodded, and said, "Yeah, apparently I didn't go back to normal when the spell ended. I have the memories of both the Immortal I was dressed as, and the Vampire who tried to change me stuck in my head. Buffy says she senses the Vampire, and I am going nuts trying to not smell the light around me or hear the texture of the floor through my shoes, if that makes any sense at all."
Cordelia spoke up, "Smell the light?"
Xander nodded and replied, "It's weird. It's like my brain is getting so much information it's still trying to learn how to process it all at once. It's really hard to explain."
Buffy nodded, "I remember when my Slayer senses first kicked in, although it was gradual like, not all at once, but sometimes it was so confusing trying to deal with being able to hear all the conversations in a room at the same time. It was kinda hard to follow the one conversation right in front of you and not to want to jump into a conversation about something going on clear across the room."
Xander smiled at her, "Well, since I remember how LaCroix dealt with it over the centuries, I think I should be able to adapt, but it's still hard, it's not automatic yet for me like it was for him."
Willow looked at Xander for a moment, "LaCroix? Why does that name sound familiar?"
Xander smiled back, "He was the vampire that tried to bring me across tonight. Just like he did with Nicholas 800 years ago, in the TV show..."
Willow's eyes widened as she cut him off, "Forever Knight!"
"Yes. Apparently someone must have dressed as him, and when the costume thingy went off..." Xander answered.
"Oh-my-god-Xander! He was like so evil!" Willow cried out, "And he attacked you? Tried to turn you?"
Xander nodded. "Not that it worked like he expected. The first thing I did when I awoke was to drain HIM."
Angel spoke for the first time, "You attacked your Sire? That's not possible. The bond would prevent any fledgling from going after their creator."
Xander shook his head, "Not in this case. Something went wrong. Between the Hyena and the Immortality, I don't think it worked like it was supposed to."
Buffy now interjected, asking, "You said you drained him - did you kill him, Xander? I mean, if he was a normal person just in a costume, oh my god!"
Xander shook his head, "I didn't kill him. At least I hope I didn't - he was still moving when I flew away."
Willow's eyes widened yet again, "Oh yeah, they could fly! You were able to fly? That's so cool!"
"Yeah, Wills, I could fly. Don't really know how, I just kinda did it. But anyhow, as I was saying, he was still moving when I left him, more stunned than anything else, I think. But when I was draining him, I somehow sucked all his memories into myself somehow."
Giles finally chose that moment to interject, "Ok children. I think we have had enough excitement for this evening. Why don't you all head home, and we'll meet back here in the morning, ok?"
Buffy suddenly felt a worry rise to the top of her mind, "Uh, morning? Giles, Xander's got a vampire in him, if he goes outside, he'll go all burney."
"I hope not, Buffster. I mean, look", Xander said, pulling the large wooden cross out from under his shirt where he'd been wearing it against his skin all evening, "I'm perfectly ok with the touching and the looking at the cross, so maybe since I'm not all dead and stuff, those other things don't apply to me, ya know? But I promise, I'll test the sunlight with my littlest pinky before I step outside and do a Johnny Storm impression."
Cordelia asked, "Johnny Storm?"
Willow smiled at her, and explained, "A comic character. The Human Torch."
Cordelia's eyes widened in recognition of the reference, and she nodded. "Thanks. Sometimes dweeb boy's comments are just so off, I don't know what he's talking about."
With that, everyone filed out of the library, leaving Giles alone to shut off the lights and lock the doors.
The collection of beings known as "The Powers That Be" were not happy. They had not been happy since earlier that year when the unanticipated intervention of the mortal Alexander Harris had revived the body of their recently released Champion.
To say they were more than displeased by the events of the previous night would be an understatement.
"It is certain that Janus has chosen him as a Champion?" one of them asked.
"It is", the conformation came.
"This is unacceptable. We have yet to get our plans back on track. A Champion of Janus, especially Harris, is entirely unacceptable. He must be dealt with before he can cause any further disruption in our plans."
Another spoke, "Balance must be restored."
"We could send the Slayer. We could notify her of the rise of Harris, we simply identify him as a Vampire. She would eliminate him in accordance with her sacred duty."
"What of the Summers girl. She may try to interfere with the Slayer. As may her so-called Watcher."
"We tell her it is important she eliminate this evil before it has a chance to consolidate its power base. And forbid her from contacting Summers or Giles. If she ends up eliminating Summers, that's even better - with her dead as she should be, we might be able to get most of our plans back on track."
"That is acceptable."
"So it shall be."
"Contact the slayer. Send her to Sunnydale. Have her eliminate Harris before he causes any more disruptions."
Xander tossed on his bed, his sleep disturbed as his mind tried to process the day's events into long term storage. The dreams inspired by two alien sets of memories as well as the events leading to their incorporation to his mind were disjointed at best. But then suddenly, his body stilled, his eyes stopping any REM movement, and the dream which filled his mind was no dream at all.
A figure was standing before him in a vast, empty landscape. Xander could feel the power emanating from the apparent man.
"Wha?" was Xander's incoherent comment.
"Alexander Lavelle Harrison. Congratulations. You are now my Champion."
"Champion? Who are you, and what do you need a champion for?" Xander asked.
The figure stepped closer, and turned it's head.
Xander could now see in profile, two separate faces. The first, which had been facing him was smooth, looking like that of a young man, while the second, which had been turned away looked to be old, a short yet well kept graying beard flowing from it's chin. The head continued to turn, allowing the older visage to rest fully on Xander's face.
The memories of both LaCroix and the Immortal Alexander, both of whom had been Roman Generals at one time or another supplied a name, "Janus! You're the bastard who caused all that havoc last night, the supposed god of Chaos. I guess it's no wonder that all these damn fake memories you put in my head are trying to say that the Romans thought you were on the side of Civilization and a force for good. You bastard. Why the hell would I do anything for you?"
The being before him scowled, and stated in a level, yet powerful and angry tone, "Silence! You will hold your tongue a moment, and I will explain."
Xander found himself as immobile as a statue, unable to do anything more than simply listen. The figure before him began to speak again, in a slightly softer, yet still forceful tone, "Yes. I am Janus. I am an Elder God, one who has been around since shortly after the creator did the whole 'Let there be light' thing. In a way, all of us Elder Gods were used as catalysts in the act of creating a coherent universe. Over the ages, I have been labeled as the God of New Beginnings, the God of Change, the Keeper of Doorways, and even the God of Chaos. I was the Protector of Rome, and indeed have always been a patron of civilization, a guardian of mankind against the forces of darkness, I believe I was one of the first gods to take on that role. I am not a patron of chaos however, but rather of change, and change is often perceived as chaos. But I prefer order, and I abhor random and useless destruction. I stand for transitions, for the changing of the guard, so to speak, for renewal. That is why the first month of the year, 'January', is named after me after all. The time when the old year is done, and the new one is beginning. As for what I need a champion for, according to an ancient compact, one formed not long after the Demons were banished from the earth, I can not directly act upon the mortal plane without specific invitation. All I can do is act when called upon, as I did last night when empowering the spell Ethan cast upon this town. I can also communicate with my priesthood, at their instigation, to provide either specifically requested, and severely limited aid or guidance. And finally, I am allowed a single Champion. One human, with whom I am allowed to speak directly, whom I am also allowed to aid from time to time to further my interests. But the compact has several restrictions on who my Champion can be - they must not be chosen from among my followers, for example. And once chosen, I can not discharge them, but must abide by my choice until they themselves relinquish the mantle, or are destroyed. As a result, I have not Chosen a Champion in well over a thousand years. But I know of events which are coming, things which threaten the entire world, and without my aid, and that of my Champion, all which has been built by mankind is in danger of being lost. And I WILL NOT ABIDE BY THAT!"
At that, Janus again turned his head to the side, allowing the second face to be seen again, but as the head continued to turn, the face which was displayed was not that of the young man Xander had first seen, but instead had the semblance of a middle aged woman. As her eyes came to lock on Xander's, she smiled, and spoke in a soft, motherly voice, "When I saw you this evening, I looked into your soul, and I saw the Champion I needed. So I made my choice. I used my connection to you, through the bust and the spell it was empowering, to lock in the changes imposed by the spell, and secure the memories of the two fictional beings you had in your head. I am here now to explain things, and to lay my charge upon you."
Turning it's head again, the female face was replaced with a new masculine one, this one looking to be in it's late thirties. It spoke once more, this time in an almost fatherly tone. "First, I think I should explain what you are, physically. You are not, despite what the ex-Slayer said, infected with a Vampire Demon. Nor is the Primal Hyena spirit really there any more. You will find though that the abilities from both of those are present within you from now on. You have the combined strength, speed, and senses of the Hyena as well as those of the type of fictional Vampire that young Warren Meers dressed as. What happened to you under the spell was, unexpected. When your friends reversed the Hyena possession, they banished the Primal Spirit from your body. However, the very fact that it had been transferred to you left it's mark, much as while your friend Buffy no longer has the Slayer Spirit within herself, the gifts it brought her were left behind when you revived her. In your case, the banishment spell locked away the effects of the possession, leaving you more or less as you had been before. But they were always still there, just buried. When the Vampire released them while trying to bring you across, they returned in full to your body, as they were indeed a part of you, much as Buffy's enhanced senses, strength, speed, and healing are and always will be a part of her. The changes wrought by the Vampire's blood then took that template as the base upon which to build. It again enhanced your senses, your speed, your strength, much as it would have with a normal human. But since the starting point was different, so was the destination. Then the Immortal's Quickening came into play. As you noticed, you are not dead. But for a brief time, you were. However, once the Quickening, aided by the Vampire traits, had healed your body, it restored your life. Which had a suppressive effect on the Vampire. If you were to die from a non traumatic event, for example from poison or suffocation, the portion of you inspired by the Vampire would still remain active. It's likely you wouldn't even lose consciousness. And it is a very old Vampire, due to the age and strength of the Immortal's body the spell had given you, equivalent to that of a 4,000 year old Master Vampire from that fictional universe. However, at the moment you are no longer an actual Immortal. When I ended the spell, I restored the threads of your life in full, however leaving the essence of the Quickening behind, making you technically a pre-immortal. So even if you are killed, you will never be stuck as a vampire, as your Quickening will eventually heal you, and restore you to life. I would try to avoid getting killed for the next few years however, as being stuck as a minor for all time could be a major inconvenience."
The head turned again, this time revealing the face of the young man as it swung around. In a much higher voice, as befitting the now teenaged appearance, Janus continued. "You will find that since you are not a Vampire, per se, none of the curses to such will apply to you. You may walk into homes uninvited, handle holy items, stand in the sunlight, and eat a garlic pizza which you wash down with a glass of Holy Water, should you so desire. At the same time, the enhanced strength, the contact telekinesis which allows you to 'fly', and even the mental communication are all abilities drawn from the 'Vampire' heritage you received from LaCroix. If you are injured, feeding on another's blood will help recharge and heal you, for example. And the transfer of memory through blood is also still an inherent part of your being. But you in no way need to drink blood to exist, just remember that if you ever need to, it is an option available to you."
Xander finally found himself able to move, and for the first time since Janus started his speech was able to interject. "What do you want from me?"
Janus turned his head yet again, displaying the female face once more before replying, "I want you to fight. I want you to save lives. I want you to defeat the darkness, and insure the continuation of civilization. I want you to protect my investments in Mankind over the ages."
The head swung around again, this time going back to the young man, who continued, "I want you to kick demon ass. And make the world a better place."
Xander asked, "You want me to work with Buffy for the Powers That Be?"
The head swung around again, displaying the grizzled older face once more, before answering, "No. Screw the powers that be. They are an annoyance, often more of a hindrance than a help to civilization. " Swinging around to face him with the fatherly face again, Janus continued without a pause, "They are all about 'Balance' about making sure that there is never a true winner in the battle between Good and Evil. The sad fact is there never can be a winner, unless Evil gets it's way, because the very struggle in inherently flawed."
Again the face changed, this time back to the woman's. "What I want you to fight for is to make things better where you can. You can't save everybody from everything all the time. No one can do that. Life is challenge, and struggle. Without pain, there truly is no gain. How can you measure Happy, if you have no Angry to compare it to? You can not cherish Joy without Sadness to act as a contrast. That is the one thing the so called Powers get right. But they get all into these great plans, their so called 'Destinies', and they try to script the outcomes of events, long before they ever can occur. You have no idea how much genuine chaos to their plans you caused by bringing Buffy back. They haven't had this large an upset in millennia. So trust me when I say you are the last person they would want working for them. "
She smiled at him, then turned her head again, displaying the older bearded face before continuing, "Plus, you are MY champion, not theirs. If you follow anyone's agenda, it should be mine. Too bad I don't really have one, never did go for those overblown detailed laid out long term plans, as I tend to prefer to just react to events within an over all strategy. It makes me far more flexible than someone who has to struggle when all their plans are blown away every time something they failed to anticipate occurs."
Xander nodded, "Ok, so what exactly do you want from me?"
The head turned again, back to the middle aged man's, and Janus replied, "I want for you to follow your heart. Do what you want to do, and try to help those in need. If I need you to do anything specific, I'll let you know. But for now, just be yourself. After all, that's why I chose you."
With that the scene seemed to fade, and Xander found himself sitting upright in the darkness of his bedroom, although the lack of light did nothing to hinder his vision of the room around him.
A faint voice seemed to echo through the room though, that of the female face of Janus, "Just follow your heart.", and then all was still.
Closing his eyes, Xander laid down again to go back to sleep.
Kendra's dreams were troubling.
This was not the first time she had experienced a Slayer Dream since becoming the Chosen One last spring. But it was by far the most powerful.
She saw the rise of a great evil on the Hellmouth. She saw a powerful, yet young looking Vampire, and watched as it associated with, and slowly corrupted the spirits of both her predecessor and a man she believed to be her watcher. She watched as the Vampire then turned its attentions on the Hellmouth its self, and worked to open the gateway to hell, thus ushering in the end of the world. And she felt the urgency which would require her intervention. She awoke from her dream screaming for her Watcher, M'buto. She had to get to the Hellmouth as quickly as possible, if she was to stop the Vampire and save the world.
The sunlight coming through Xander's window and falling across his eyes woke him from what had eventually become a peaceful slumber. It took several moments before he realized that it was a VERY good thing he was not combustible in sunlight, as he had worried he might be the night before, as waking up with your face on fire would not be a recommended way to start your day.
Dragging himself out of bed, he made his way to the bathroom for a quick shower, after which he tossed on his cleanest clothes, reminding himself yet again to do laundry when he got home, then he headed to the kitchen to see if there was anything edible anywhere.
A through search of the cupboards showed that while his folks had gone to the store in the past day, nothing not drunk from a glass, and requiring ID to buy had been purchased. Typical. He'd also have to remember to stock up on food as well on his way home this evening.
Grabbing his jacket, he headed out the door and off to school, hoping Giles was in the library already, and if he was lucky, had brought some doughnuts he could er, borrow. After all, even on a Saturday, breakfast was important.
As he entered the library, he could hear a conversation in progress between Buffy and Giles, as Buffy was saying, "...have to be able to change him back. It's not like he has to be the Chosen One or anything."
Xander entered the room at that point and grabbing a doughnut from the conveniently placed box on the table by the door, interjected himself into the conversation. "Actually, apparently I am."
Both heads swung over to look at him, a somewhat guilty expression flickering briefly across Buffy's face, as Giles asked, "Pardon?"
Xander made his way to the table, and pulling a chair around backwards, sat down on it, leaning against the backrest. "I said, apparently I am, a Chosen One that is."
"What leads you to believe this to be the case?" Giles asked, genuine confusion flowing over his face as Buffy looked on in puzzled silence.
Xander looked back at both of them before answering, "Well, perhaps the really wiggy dream where Janus came and told me I was his chosen Champion."
Giles response was a typical "Oh good lord!" while Buffy's was more of an explosion of unfocused sound, which rapidly evolved into a tirade.
"Wait, Janus, like the Big Bad responsible for all the crazyness last night? That Janus?"
As Giles removed his glasses to start cleaning them, Xander interjected, "Uh, sort of. But from what I was told, that really was more Ethan's fault, all Janus did was power the spell. I'm not even sure if he knew what was going to happen, from what he sort of said."
Giles finally replaced his glasses before speaking himself, "Buffy, Janus, if it is Janus is not a 'Big Bad' as you put it. In fact, if anything he has proven over the ages to be more a force for good, a patron of civilization, and a guardian of humanity. Granted, sometimes his efforts were not appreciated at the time, but...'
"Giles, people were KILLED last night. How is that in any way a good thing?" Buffy demanded.
Xander felt a sudden need to speak, asking, "How many?"
Buffy looked at him askance, "How many what?"
Xander, unsure of why he was asking this, queried for clarification, "How many people died?"
Buffy tossed up her hands, and replied, "How should I know?"
Xander, again feeling like he was almist being prompted asked, "Well, perhaps you should check. See how many people died last night, verses how many died a year ago or on other Halloweens in the past, before you start laying blame on people."
As he said that, the urge to challenge Buffy seemed to recede. "Whoah" he said.
"Whoah what?" Buffy asked.
"For a second there, I felt all challengey there, wanting to just kick your ass for no real reason."
Giles uttered an "Oh dear", and again pulled off his glasses to clean them.
Buffy looked at her Watcher, and asked, "Giles?"
"You were challenging him, or rather challenging Janus. And as his Champion..." Giles trailed off.
Xander jumped in, "What, if someone starts talking trash about Janus I have to beat them up or something?"
Giles shook his head, "Not exactly. You wouldn't be forced to do anything, but you would likely feel an urge to support and defend Janus and his endeavors. When Buffy was challenging him, you felt an urge to defend him. Likely, unless you are a far weaker willed individual than I have been lead to believe, you could have resisted the urge to act, especially now that you will know that it is there, but the urge would be instinctive, were you actually to have accepted the mantle of Champion for an elder god."
"What is this mantle thing? Janus said something about having to abide by his choice of Champion until they themselves relinquished that mantle thing. So what is it?"
Giles looked at Xander and answered softly, "It's nothing physical. It is a responsibility. For you to have acted the way you did, it indicates that you likely have indeed accepted the position of Champion offered you, and the only way to change that would be for you to reject the job, with both heart and soul. As long as you believe in what you are doing, then the job will be yours. Only if you decide it is wrong to support Janus would you be able to terminate your responsibilities as his Champion."
Buffy jumped in, saying "Well it's wrong. So just quit it."
Giles shook his head, looking at Buffy sadly, "I'm afraid it isn't that easy, Buffy. It would be as hard for him to 'just quit it' as it would for you to stop being the slayer."
Xander thought back to what Janus had said the night before, about the Slayer Spirit and Buffy, but decided to bring it up with Giles later in private.
"Uh, Buff? From what Janus said to me last night, all he wants me to do is what I do anyways - fight the evil things which prey upon the innocent, and try to make a difference. He also said that there would be things coming up which would need my help for the world to survive, whatever that means. So, I guess what he wants may be pretty important. How could I turn my back on something like that? If I was the kind of person who could do that, I'd never be able to look myself in the mirror - it'd be like saying my dad was right all those times he told me I was a worthless waste of space."
Giles felt a brief surge of anger at the thought that any father could say something like that to their child, but held his tongue on the matter, instead choosing to simply agree with the young man's point, "Well, I don't think the Xander I have come to respect could ever walk away from someone who needed his help."
At that moment, Willow bounded into the library, and ran over to hug Xander. "Xander! You're ok! I-was-worried-you-might-have-a-problem- with-the-sun-then-I-went-by-your-house-on-my-way-to-school-and-I- couldn't-find-you-or-anything-and-I-got-really-worried, so-I-came- here-to-see-if-you-might-be-here-and-not-all-burnt-to-ashes-or- something-because-of-last-night!"
"Willow, breathe" Xander reminded her, as he hugged her back with a smile. "I'm ok sun wise. No burning or anything. Which is good because I forgot to close my curtains last night, and my window faces east."
Willow's eyes widened as she thought about that particular possibility for the first time, then she hugged Xander again, before letting him go and stepping back. "So, what's going on?" she asked in a much more normal tone.
Buffy answered, "Apparently Chosen boy here had a dream last night, and he thinks he's all like the champion of that Janus dude from last night, and don't say anything bad about him or it'll piss him off or something because he has a mandible."
Willow looked totally confused, then shifted her gaze to Giles, hoping for a translation.
Giles, taking the clue spoke up, "What she is trying to say is that Xander apparently had a vision last night from Janus, the god who empowered Ethan's spell, and he was told he is Janus's new Champion."
Willow nodded, then asked, "And the jaw bone?"
Xander was confused now, asking "Jaw?"
Willow rolled her eyes, and explained, "Mandible."
Xander nodded, "Oh, that. I think she meant mantle, as in the mantle of the champion or something. Giles was saying that because I have it I will now want to defend Janus if challenged or something. Part of the champion thingy."
Willow seemed to understand, then turned to Giles and asked, "Uh, isn't Janus like evil or something?"
Giles shook his head, replying "No, quite the opposite, actually."
Willow nodded, then asked, "But the spell?"
Giles explained, "Was a spell. Spells are tools, much like guns. They can be used to defend or to attack. One use can be noble, the other evil, but the gun remains the same. In this case, the spell was empowered by Janus, as to whether it caused more harm than good, we could research that, you know compare last night's death statistics against those from previous years. But in any case, it wasn't Janus who set the spell in motion, only who lent his power to complete it. Same as when any witch calls upon Hecate to cast a spell, doesn't mean Hecate approves of the use of the power, just that she grants her favor to the caster to use it on her behalf. If they abuse that favor, then it falls upon their own shoulders."
Willow seemed to grasp the concept, then hugged Xander again, "So now you are all with the destiny having and all. I'm happy for you, Xander."
Xander shook his head, "No, no destiny. Apparently that is for the Powers That Be and their crew. Janus seems to be more of a roll with the punches kind of being, than a plot it all out and follow the plan no matter what type."
Buffy looks confused, "What are the Powers That Be?"
Giles answers, "According to some mythos, they are a group of higher beings. Apparently they are the ones who have the responsibility for seeing to it that in the battle of Good verses Evil that neither Good or Evil ever wins. They do so by sponsoring Champions, beings such as The Slayer, among others, who fight against the tides of darkness."
Willow asks, "So they are like Buffy's bosses?"
Giles shakes his head, answering "More like the ones in charge of calling the new Slayer when the old one dies."
Xander nodded, "Janus didn't seem that impressed with them, either."
Giles nodded. "Well, as one of the Elder Gods, I don't suppose he would be. From what I recall, the Powers That Be were organized so that a bunch of lesser so called Higher Powers could exercise a collective influence over events, as opposed to just the Major Players, such as the Elder Gods, the Creator, and His Agents. I believe there was some sort of agreement, which ended the Age of Gods here on Earth, resulting in the far more hands-off approach which seems to exist today, as opposed to in ancient times."
Willow nodded, "Which is why people now have to call upon a God or Goddess for their intersession, instead of them being able to just jump in and help out whenever they wanted to, as they could in the past."
"Well put, Willow." Giles agreed.
"Ok, fine. So we can't put Xander back to normal, and now he's all Grr and making with the super powers. I suppose if this Janus guy isn't really evil, then it's ok. At least if he wants to hang out and help with patrol now I won't have to worry so much about him getting hurt anymore. But I think he should have to train with me as well then, if he's really going to be any use, you know?"
Giles nodded, while Xander and Willow looked a little pensive. After all, Xander wasn't sure if he could really hold his own against a Slayer.
"Uh, Buff, I don't know about that. I mean, I'm still all new to this, and..."
Giles interrupted, saying, "And that is precisely why you need to train. Even the memories you seem to have absorbed through your ordeal can not fully prepare you for using your current abilities - you said yourself last night that your senses are far more acute than those possessed by the vampire or your previous experience with the hyena possession. Couple that with the increased strength and speed, and you are likely more clumsy than dangerous at present. Hence your need for training, least you hurt yourself or heaven forbid others simply because you don't know your own strengths and weaknesses."
"Yeah," Buffy chimed in, "And besides that, it's been a long time since I've been able to spar with anyone other than Angel and go all out. It'll be good for both of us. You'd like to get all sweaty with me, wouldn't you, Xan?" Buffy added, with a sly grin.
Xander shuddered, but accepted his fate. Heading through the empty school to the gym, he changed into his PE clothes, before returning to the library for a workout.
As he stood before Buffy, he felt particularly naked without the "Puffy Xander" suit he had used the few times before when helping Buffy train.
"Ok, Buff. But try to take it a little easy on me, ok?"
Buffy nodded, then settled herself into a combat stance, and just stood there.
Xander mimicked her stance more or less, choosing one of the opening positions from amongst the several styles learned in the over 4,000 years of experience inherited from his fictional Immortal self. As the two warriors stood there, both watching the other for the slightest movement, Willow and Giles looked on. After a while Willow spoke up, "Uh, guys? I really think you need to move more when sparring. I mean, unless this is just a staring contest or something."
Xander's eyes didn't even flicker, as he replied, "I'm just waiting for the Bufster to make the first move here, Wills."
Buffy grinned, and replied, "Ditto on me and the Xan-man. As soon as he moves, so will I."
Giles, shook his head, and said, "That's all well and good, but one of you really does have to go first. Tell you what, I'll flip a coin, heads its Buffy, tails its Xander. Whoever I call out, has to make the first move."
Giles pulled out a quarter, and tossed it spinning into the air. Xander watched it out of the corner of his eye, as it seemed to float in slow motion tumbling towards the ground. It hit, heads up and bounced back into the air, but not with enough energy to actually flip over to the other side. Rather than waiting for Giles to speak, he moved, as fast as he could, bringing a sweeping kick towards Buffy's securely planted feet, hoping to take her down before she was expecting him.
Giles, on the other hand, was watching the quarter, and as it settled, he called out "Xander", even as a thump came from where Buffy and Xander had stood poised. Turning around, he was astounded to see Buffy flipping back to her feet, even as Xander settled himself just out of her range with a slight grin on his face.
From Buffy's point of view, one moment Xander had been standing before her, eyes glued to her body as he had for the past several minutes, and the next she was falling, even as a blur danced back from her to Xander's ready position. Even as she hit the ground, she used the energy of the impact in a rebound, flipping around and landing on her feet, before moving forward to launch a counterstrike against Xander, who had developed a small grin on his face at apparently gaining the first point.
Xander ducked out of the way of Buffy's punch, transferring his movement into a roll to summersault himself and come up behind the slayer, where he could try again to kick her feet out from under her.
Buffy saw the move and positioned her left foot where Xander's stomach would end up, only to watch as he seemed to flow around her foot, grabbing the ankle and lifting it, pushing her over backwards into an unintended flip.
Since she was going over anyhow, she kicked off the floor with her remaining foot, trying to bring it into contact with Xander's chin, but instead missing, and over extending herself when he somehow added a nudge of sideways momentum to her trajectory, causing her to loose her balance and tumble out of control, landing for a second time on the floor.
Xander started to relax as he found his body responding almost automatically to every one of Buffy's apparently slow motion moves.
How it was that he could track her so easily at what he assumed was full Slayer Speed he didn't know, but he could. As long as he didn't try to worry about what he was doing, he was fine. But then he made his first mistake. He started getting confident, feeling proud that he was apparently holding his own against a Slayer. And pride comes before a fall. Or at least it should have.
Buffy kipped back to her feet, spinning around and before he could respond, had kicked Xander's feet out from under him in an unexpected move.
Her follow-up, meant to hit him on his way down however failed, and Buffy paused, watching in awe as Xander simply, floated.
Xander looked down at his feet, which were off to the side as he literally hung suspended at an odd angle in mid air, nothing supporting his weight.
Buffy had stepped back from the fight and was just staring at him. Finally she spoke up. "Uh, Xan?"
Xander looked over at her, "Yeah Buff?"
"Um, you know you are floating, right?"
Xander looked back at his drifting feet, and nodded. "Uh, I kinda noticed."
"You know you're not supposed to do that, right?"
"Yeah Buff. Problem is." he suddenly broke off as he fell to the ground, "Umph. I didn't know how I was doing it."
Buffy raced over to her friend and helped him back up to his feet. "Uh, didn't you say that you were flying last night?"
Willow finally shook herself out of her stupor, and rushed over, saying "Oh-wow-that's-right! Last-night-you-said-you-could-fly-like- the-forever-knight-vampires-and-now-you-are-flying! Are-you-ok?"
Xander stood on his feet securely, and said, "I think so. At least I feel ok, not even bruised, really. And yes, I was flying last night, during the spell. Apparently that didn't wear off either."
Willow and Buffy lead him over to a table, despite his protestations that he was fine,
Giles decided that they had had enough for a first sparring match, and everyone adjourned to walk away from the empty school, down the street to the local burger joint..
Xander was surprised by the sheer amount of food he consumed at lunch.
While normally he could match Buffy bite for bite, at lunch he seemed to be eating three for her every two. And when all the food was gone for the second time, he was still just a touch hungry.
"I think I've noticed another change - I seem to be running a higher metabolism. Either that or my sparring with the Buffster really burned the calories off this morning."
Buffy nodded, adding "You used to eat a lot Xan, if you're gonna up that as much as I did when I first went all Slayer, then you've only just begun to eat, and Sunnydale may soon run out of food!"
Xander just grinned, and tore into his meal, relishing on one level the fact that he could still eat food, and hadn't found himself condemned to an eternity of a garlic-free liquid diet as one part of him recalled.
Lunch, other than the sheer quantity of food consumed, it was much as any lunch the gang had participated in over the past year. A normality which may soon come to be in scarce supply. The good mood lasted throughout the day, the situation with Xander being put aside for more mundane concerns, until, as dusk approached, Buffy finally offered to take Xander with her on their first joint patrol, where Xander was intended to be other than simply fray adjacent.
A patrol which would, as much as anything else in the past day mark the changes in Xander's life.
To be continued…