The Witching Hour
Book One of UnChosen
By Shawn Knight
Usual Disclaimers Apply
I own nothing, yet.
If I did, things would be very different
AU S3. Buffy left, new players arrive, rules change, and the game begins anew.
But for Xander, losing the battle might be worse than winning the war.
Warning: Crossovers Ahead
My Beta, no words can fully express it, so I will simply say thanks.
To Tenhawk, Danyel, Icewing, Banquo, Lizbeth Marcs, Nick, Tim and others too numerous to mention. Your works and advice helped inspire this idea.
And remember, Feedback is the coin of the Realm
* Denotes thoughts*
The Witching Hour
“We can help one another to find out the meaning of life, no doubt. But in the last analysis the individual person is responsible for living his own life and for “finding himself.” Others can give you a name or a number, but they can never tell you who you really are. That is something you yourself can only discover from within.”
Angela thought the evening had gone easily thus far. She was looking for a mark, an easy target, in a bar she liked to frequent. She normally preferred hunting on the east side of town, the industrial side. Her sire and some of her smarter brethren had noticed that neither of the slayers nor the traitor tended to patrol this area much. They only broke the barrier when something went down, something obvious, or when occasionally trolling for info.
Therefore, she thought she was in for a very good night. She was simply sitting there, nursing her drink, when he walked over. He looked young, dressed casually in dark clothes, like he was still a high school kid, just misplaced. She was about to dismiss him; a teen “lost” on this side of town may prove to be more trouble than it would be worth when more anonymous catches could be found. Then, she really looked at him. There was something about him. He spoke, said something almost innocent, but she could almost feel the cool edge under it. It intrigued her. *Who are you.*
It was not the first time someone tried to pick her up tonight. Looking the way she did, like the blonde runway model she had been before she was turned, it was often her most useful weapon. Especially when wearing something tight like she was this evening. However, that was when she was hungry. This man, no longer a kid in her mind, may be worth more than a simple meal. This accidental meeting could turn into something else. They started talking, but it was not the words of the mating ritual that were important to her. Instead, it was the way he spoke, the subtext, what he did not say, the body language. He was mysterious, but under that smoky exterior, was an undertone of danger that she found both arousing and intoxicating.
She invited him for a nightcap at her place, which, of course, he accepted. Ordinarily, she would have just led her prey to a back alley and simply drained him or her. Sometimes, she made out with them first, letting her lust and the demon rise in concert, working herself into an absolute frenzy before feeding. Nevertheless, she was not going to do that to this one. No, he was special. She would take him back to the apartment she shared with her sire and convince him to turn him. It might take some doing, but she was his little girl, she had him wrapped around her little finger. He would give in, and she would get a new playmate, a very powerful one at that. She smiled to herself.
She led him to her building; as she approached the steps, she could feel her sire was home. He seemed quite satisfied, or perhaps the better word was sated, as if he just recently fed. *Good,* she thought. He was easier to handle when he was full, she had noticed. She took a glance back at her new friend, he did not seem to notice anything amiss, and he still had the sexy, enigmatic smirk on his face, like he knew a secret, something she was not privy to yet. She grinned, almost dizzy with anticipation. She had a secret too, and she was looking forward to sharing it.
She opened the door and let them both in. Tomas was standing in the living room, wearing his long robe and silk pajama pants, looking at her curiously but saying nothing yet. She was right, he had just been feeding, and she could see that cat-ate-the-canary grin he always wore when he was extremely satisfied with himself trying to peek out. She wondered if she would have to dispose of the body again. *Was it her turn to do the dishes?* She sighed internally, trying to remember, and then disregarded the errant thought. What was about to happen was much more important.
She introduced them to one another; her sire’s eyebrow twitched slightly when she referred to him as her older brother. She looked back at her new friend; he did not seem to notice. They shook hands briefly, before her sire excused them both under the pretense of needing to speak with his sister; he requested her guest to make himself at home and gestured toward the kitchen. Her guest nodded his thanks and walked toward the fridge. They kept nothing supernaturally or criminally incriminating in the public areas of the house, for just this type of situation.
They walked into the bedroom; she geared herself to argue the case. They spoke in low murmurs and whispers, to avoid being overheard. He knew what she wanted; he always seemed to know, even before she did sometimes. He had noticed her guest’s aura, by now it was almost tangible. It concerned him; she dismissed it, appealing to his pride at having such a dangerous ally in his stable. She used his dreams of being master of the Hellmouth against him, pointing out that with lieutenants like her new friend, who could stand in their way? He was not completely convinced, so she pulled out her big guns. Her lower lip dropped a touch, her eyes widened; at the same time, she eased her cleavage toward him. His eyes dropped for a moment, involuntarily. She held in her own canary-eating smile. *Checkmate,* she thought.
They rejoined their soon-to-be childe in the living room; he was sitting on the couch nursing a Corona. Emboldened by her recent success, she sat down next to him, after getting two beers for her sire and herself, placing a hand on his thigh. His eyes darted to her sire for a moment before gleaming in hidden amusement. *I really do like him.* The three of them made small talk, her “brother,” subtly interrogating her sister’s intended. She thought it was cute, she played her part to the hilt, getting offended and embarrassed at the right parts. All throughout, her guest never was rattled, he just stayed cool, making her sire laugh with the quirky sense of humor he had. She could see her sire was impressed, she grinned, it was never easy to impress him, but this young man had done so with ease. She caught her sire’s eye for a brief moment; he nodded slightly, so quickly that if you blinked you missed it. It was time.
“Welcome to the family, Alex.” Tomas said, standing up to excuse himself.
Alex stilled for a moment. He cocked his head at Tomas briefly before that mysterious smirk of his became a full-blown wolf’s grin. Tomas could see his childe’s excitement, feeling both her demonic and human nature began to rise heatedly through his bond with her. Tomas flashed a smile, one she matched easily.
“Thanks,” Alex said casually, pausing; he reached for his corona again. He took a deep swig, almost finishing the rest of the bottle. He turned to look at Angela again, that smirk playing on his lips. He began to lean in slow, she matching his motion. Their lips touched briefly, she could feel his heat, and it almost burned her.
Tomas grinned. He could feel her arousal; she was practically swimming. Her hands started rubbing Alex’s chest, feeling the rhythm of his heartbeat. She grabbed him tight, pulling him close. As Tomas turned to leave, he could hear them kissing with real passion.
“Won’t be long now,” he smirked. He was already plotting exactly how and where he would use his new childe. He could see the end of the rainbow, when he and his family would rule the Hellmouth. His name would be legend, like the Scourge of Europe, whispered with envy and fear everywhere demons and their ilk congregated. He laughed, it was a totally clichéd, megalomaniac, B-movie villain type of laugh, but he did not care. Everything was going his way, and nothing could stop them.
That is when he heard her moans change to screams.
That is when everything changed.
As he heard Tomas, laughing at his “victory” in the background, he held her tighter, closer, opening his mouth fully to close around her cold lips. He could hear her muffled moans changed to screams as the holy water he held in his mouth poured down her waiting throat. She thrashed, her game face blazing, but he maintained his grip, ensuring he did not spill a drop. He released her then, her face showing both the debilitating pain she was in as well her shock at his “betrayal.” She fell back to the couch, still gurgling, before rolling to the floor, crawling weakly away, practically seizing, while clutching at her ruined mouth and throat. He noted Tomas had turned around rapidly after hearing his childe’s painful gurgled screams, staring at the scene in stunned silence. He almost laughed at the expression on his face as he grabbed the near-empty bottle by the neck in his right hand, rising to his feet and stepping away from the couch into the open.
Tomas’ face changed quickly to rage as he vamped out; he charged at him, arms outstretched, hands curled into claws. He stood his ground; at the last moment, he sidestepped left and half-pivoted, using his empty hand to guide Tomas’ reach off-target. At the same time, he reverse-whipped the bottle through the air, shattering it against the side of his opponent’s head. The remnants of the holy water/Corona cocktail burned into the vampire’s skull, mixing with the bloody cuts from the broken glass. Tomas screamed himself now, grabbing his aching head. It was music to him.
He spun his grip on the bottleneck and whipped his arm backward, jamming the still-coated sharp edges into Tomas’ unguarded crotch, leaving it buried in flesh. He winced sympathetically for a moment as Tomas screamed from the depths of his demon. Tomas fell to the floor hard, twitching on his side, grabbing at himself. He smiled at the pretend-master vamp, now mewling like a helpless kitten. Reaching into the small of his back, he pulled the stake he had hidden there. He finished him quickly and decisively, before glancing again at Angela, who managed to crawl to the wall near the door. She stared at him, her demonic face showing an equal mixture of pain, shock and blatant fear. He grinned.
Angela pressed herself closer to the wall, unwilling to believe something so beautiful had ended in such painful tragedy. Her master was simply dust on the carpet after being brutally destroyed by this boy before her. Her insides felt like she had eaten fire, the alcohol residue mixed in only exaggerated it. She was scared now, more scared than she ever remembered, paralyzed by it.
She could see him smiling that wolfish grin at her as he walked closer in measured steps, taking his time. He was stalking her, letting the moment drag. *Like I don’t matter,* she thought angrily. Her anger was quickly buried beneath her rising fear, hopeless tears building behind her eyes. She was helpless, too weak, too afraid to move, her unnatural strength drained away from the pure turmoil and shock. Her eyes darted desperately around her; there was nothing that could be used as a weapon in reach. She whimpered, crying unabashedly now, blood tears crawling down her face. She wanted to beg, to plead, but her incinerated mouth could not even form the words. It would not matter, she knew, the cold look in his eyes as he stopped a few feet away told her that.
He could see her stark terror as he crouched before her, the confident huntress reduced to a quivering mess. He saw her humiliation, looking into her crying eyes. He felt so angry when he saw her. He had known what she was, the last two years, and this summer especially, giving him almost a sixth sense. However, it was who she was, or whom she reminded him of, to be more exact, that made him want to drag this out, to make her suffer longer. He stared at her face coldly, memorizing its features. She could have been a twin, he noted.
His eyes blazed now, fueled by a barely-contained anger. Her face was so like that other face, the one that haunted his dreams for all these years, and the one that enticed his best friend, his brother in all but blood, away from him and into the darkness. The face that betrayed his brother, perverted him, corrupted him. He could only put his brother’s soul to rest by murdering him, making his failure to protect him come full circle, complete.
He stood quickly before lashing out, his boots stomping and kicking her. He could feel her trying to protect herself, to no avail; his rage gave him a hellish strength that could have matched hers even if she were healthy, it was no contest. He smashed her face and body, he could hear bones breaking. A hideous, crazed giggle was bubbling up, from something on a leash buried deep in his mind. He stopped suddenly, stepping back, chest heaving. He heard the giggle receding back into memory. The face he stared at before was now a beaten pulp. She sagged down the wall, collapsing bloodily flat on her back, not moving, eyes glazed, swelling up.
He watched her for a moment, feeling most of his fury drain away. Finish this, a voice from within said with quiet authority. He crouched down again, stake still in hand from killing Tomas. He looked at the stake, and stared at his beaten enemy.
Angela laid there, somewhere between worlds. She knew she was about to die, again, and she was still unable to believe her misfortune. Any slight hope left for survival had left the building. She could feel her ribs swimming, fangs rattling like the Chiclets she loved when she had been mortal. All she wanted to do was lay still. She was in so much pain that she could not feel it anymore; it was a contradiction, yet completely true.
The only thought she had left was “How?” He was a human, a very dangerous one obviously, but still just a human. Wincing, she dropped her game face, choosing to face death without her demon. She could feel his eyes on her somehow; he was just watching her lay there. Even Tomas had not been this methodical. She hoped there would not be any more torture; if she were lucky, he would make it quick.
She heard him take a deep breath; he had come to a sort of resolution. He began to move toward her. Her prayers were answered as she felt the wood penetrating her heart.
“For Jesse,” he said as he plunged the stake into Angela’s heart. He watched as her body crumbled to dust. He shuddered briefly, dutifully returning the Soldier to its corner of his psyche, as he’d been taught. The downside was that while doing that, remnants of the Hyena Alpha surfaced too, though he could reluctantly admit that it was useful tonight.
He needed tonight, he realized. The gang had been trying to force him to the sidelines lately. Tonight reminded him of the real focus of his mission. His purpose in getting involved was never just about helping Buffy, or the Scoobies, or his new “friends,” for that matter. Nor was tonight about him simply trying to prove he could out of spite; even though he could admit it was a factor.
Instead, the reason was something simple that had existed all along, just waiting to be understood. He’d never put it into words before. He wondered if it was a test or a sign that tonight would feature a Darla look-alike just when he was feeling somewhat lost. He shrugged; either way he passed and was not planning to stop hunting any time soon. He smiled, shaking his head as he stood.
One week later,
He stood solemnly in a grove. The grove was on the top of a hill that looked out beyond Sunnydale to the Pacific in the distance on a clear day. He could remember often watching Jesse stare into the distance; Jesse used to say that it made him feel bigger than everything and yet smaller at the same time. They used to sit there for hours, just the two of them, talking, running away from things. He sighed, glancing down to read the plaque he bought to go under their tree.
Jesse L. McNally,
A true friend and brother,
You will always be remembered.
He stared at the last line, unsuccessfully fighting back his tears. Willow had almost never mentioned Jesse, like he was an afterthought, easily forgotten. It was the first time he himself had truly mourned Jesse properly. He’d always felt too guilty before, especially when he’d visit the McNallys before they moved away. He could never meet their eyes, too busy seeing the image of the stake entering Jesse’s heart, dusting him, killing him, over and over again. The nightmares were always extra-vivid after that.
He did not want anyone else to go through what he’d been through. No one should have to lose a friend to the night, no one should have to kill their brother. And if he had anything to say about it, no one else would. He knew it was a fool’s errand, like swimming toward the horizon. You know you’ll never quite reach it, but sometimes what’s important is that you try. His uncle used to say that sometimes accepting one is on a journey could be half the trip itself.
He straightened, looking toward the heavens, subconsciously looking for his friend. In a way, he could almost feel Jesse looking down at him. He smiled briefly, letting his tears fall, before his face became deadly serious.
“Remembered and avenged.” Without a second glance, Xander turned toward home, to prepare for the night ahead.