Usual Disclaimers...blah blah etc ad infinitum
Thanks to Brandon who looked at the first draft (weeks ago) it's
changed a fair bit since then.
Rating: PG-R at the moment
Cross: BTVS/ The Warriors
Main Idea: Xander Roadtrip thing, except this time it's 10 years later.
Xander ends up in New York...
Notes: Assume nothing after Season 3 happened - unless I change my mind -
I'm good like that.
Language notes: I like big words. I'm also in New Zealand, we use British
English. Also note, NZ English vernacular and slang may creep in at some
point - confused noises can be directed in my direction for clarification.
He had left Sunnydale behind.
To say that he had no regrets would have would have been patently false, although there was a measure of truth in saying that the things he regretted were things which, in all honesty, he had minimal control over. He regretted, for example, that he was unable to close the Hellmouth, although it was to his credit that he never stopped fighting it was a regret he had lived with for nearly ten years; nearly, because he had, for the last eight years, taken Halloween off.
And who could blame him?
After the experience of the soldier spell, Xander could, on All Hallows Eve, usually be found inside with a stiff drink and a video, and as far away from anything resembling a costume as was remotely possible. One particular Halloween, he had taken costume avoidance to its logical extreme and sat naked on the sofa, a practise that was almost immediately discontinued due to Buffy and Willow bursting in on him - just as he'd got comfortable - screaming about either a demon or a fashion crime; he wasn't entirely which. Admittedly, his choice of video that evening, and the concomitant reaction it had engendered on his naked self probably hadn't helped matters, and was, with a statistically high degree of certainty, greater cause degree for embarrassment than his actual nakedness; after all, he had nothing to be ashamed of.
Of course, Willow and Buffy's mumbling about swim teams and Speedos wasn't especially constructive, but the little voice in the back of his mind; the primal bit with the missing morals, found it quite flattering.
It would also be untrue to say that the man he had become held no grudges. Frankly, Xander would medal in grudge-holding if it ever became an Olympic sport, but, like his regrets, there wasn't a hell of a lot he could do about it. For example, while he wasn't wildly impressed with Buffy's choices - i.e. not him - Xander had come to the realisation - and the somewhat cynical acceptance - that he had a better chance of holding back the tide with a fork than he did of convincing the Slayer that bonking vampires just wasn't the done thing; especially for someone who was supposed to in the business of reducing Vampires to road grit. Once, in a fit of pique, he had come close to suggesting that if she was so taken with the idea of vampiric carnal pursuits she should open for business, which would not only scratch her apparent itch, but also assist her and Dawn achieving some measure of financial security; or at the very least, help in paying off the mortgage.
Of course, since Xander had no interest in wearing his ribcage as a hat, he kept his thoughts to himself.
Truth be told, while he wasn't overly impressed with the slayer, he was prepared in some measure to write off her actions as the result of some sort of psychological trauma; although he wasn't sure if chronic stupidity could be characterised as such; Willow, on the other hand, made him involuntarily clench and unclench his fists in anger. It was true that he still retained a measure of historical affection for the redhead, however, it held equally true he now felt that he could no longer trust her with his emotions, feelings or dreams as there was only so much 'you'll never do that, Xander" one could take before giving up in disgust. Of course Xander being Xander, he retained an almost infinite capacity for love and forgiveness, yet in Willow's case there were times when he found himself wishing that he'd thrown the witch off Kingman's Bluff.
For all that, he still loved them both; it was just that, at this particular time, he wanted to experience his feelings of love and affection with the addition a few thousand miles between them and himself.
Thus it was that he found himself tooling down the highway in what, by Harris-family-expense standards, passed for a car at something approaching the speed limit - or as near to such as the ancient vehicle could manage without giving itself the automotive equivalent of a hernia. Xander took a moment to consider the possible constituencies of an automotive hernia but came up blank, although he was momentarily unsettled by an image of an irregularly protruding exhaust before he decided that paying attention to the road or, more precisely, the fast-moving metal objects coming from the other direction, might be a better idea. Anyway, as the car was already one moving violation away from contravening the laws of automotive physics he decided to stop tempting the gods of fate and removed all thoughts of exhaust-related disasters from his consciousness.
His direction, he had decided somewhat fatalistically for one Sunnydale borne, was to be wherever the fates took him, anywhere the fates took him that is, except Los Angeles. From a proximity, and known ally, perspective it was the most logical destination, yet it was for those very reasons that he chose to avoid it. While it was true that he had, in some measure, managed to overcome his antipathy to Angel - at least insofar as he no longer wished to reduce the vampire to his constituent particles - he knew that he'd cut his own head off before he turned up on the guy's doorstep asking for help...or a job...or a bed...or a warm meal...or directions...
Yep, he was definitely over his issues with the souled vampire.
Perhaps, and Xander was quite willing to acknowledge his shortcomings in this area, such stubborn avoidance tendencies were not the most practical approach to ensuring one's survival - especially in the world the young man now found himself; but it was also true that he couldn't be someone, or something, other than who he was. Anyway, the stubborn, grudge-holding approach usually served him quite well as he found as it gave him a sense of solidity in a high-viscosity world.
Several days later, Xander had to admit to a degree of surprise as he found himself driving through the outskirts of New York City. Insofar as explaining how he'd arrived at a destination so removed from his origin point, he couldn't have said although a lone shot at coherent analysis would have begun and ended with 'he drove', but as far as having anything to do with actually planning anything, then New York wouldn't have been on his list of 'vaguely maybe' destinations.
Despite this lack of preparedness for New York City and, for that matter, New York City traffic as something felt right about this destination; there was also the fact that if he didn't stop soon he'd hit ocean and he was fairly certain that his car, barely roadworthy, was definitively even less seaworthy. As he
As he drove through the city, Xander was struck by the marked contrasts in architecture that seemed to demarcate the various boroughs; he wasn't sure if the culture such things were economically driven or simply an indicator of the way the city was slowly evolving, what did strike him was the feeling that he was moving through not just one, but multiple cities. Admittedly, since he driven in through Manhatten and turned directly south in Brooklyn, he hadn't had the opportunity to drive up through the Bronx and more closely examine his thesis; but then, since he wasn't here on a sociology field trip this didn't overly concern him...maybe later though, when had a clue what he doing.
Inevitably he reached the ocean and, on parking his car, in what appeared to be a marginally secure area, felt himself drawn towards what was the tired majesty of Coney Island. Due to the weather, a somewhat inclement sea-borne gale, the boardwalk was all but deserted, save for the odd down-at-heels transient and random groups of youths hurrying, he assumed, home as dusk began its leisurely approach encouraging the shadows to race ahead of its encroaching presence. As he meandered along the salt-pitted, wooden walkway he listened to the crash and boom of the waves as they broke on the beach and, for the first time in what felt like ages, began to relax.
He should have known it was too good to last.
Initially, he thought he was mistaken when he heard the cry, shrugging it off as the rantings of an enraged seagull venting its ire to the world at large and obviously, therefore, not a student of Richard Bach. However, a second, more desperate shout convinced him that, unless New York seagulls that had somehow learnt to swear like sailors, there was probably something going on. With a muttered 'why me' - even though he knew the answer to that particular rhetorical question - he made off in the direction from where he thought the sound originated.
Sprinting back along the boardwalk, Xander looked left and right but was unable to see any signs of someone in difficulty, or even, heaven forefend, a cursing member of Laridae family. It wasn't until he looked more closely at the concert-poster and graffiti-bedecked hoardings on the landward side of the boardwalk that he spied a narrow opening, much like an alley. Long experience had taught Xander to be wary of alleys, pseudo-alleys and anything else, which may, under adverse conditions; i.e. someone screaming, be considered in some shape or form an alley. In Scooby terms, an alley was considered to be anything narrow with an opening at either end that caused trouble; thus technically speaking, Chinese finger cuffs were an alley, and so for that matter, was a human being, at least if you regarded it in the strictest of anatomical senses.
If there was another thing that experience had taught Xander, it was that you didn't go rushing in to an alley; rushing out was acceptable, but not in. Therefore he proceeded cautiously, alert to the slightest possibility of trouble; being Xander, it didn't take him long to find it or, more precisely, it, him, as a figure sailed out from the shadows and landed at his feet.
The good news, at least from Xander's perspective, was that the groaning lump at his feet didn't have fangs; it, or more precisely he, did, however, have what was clearly a gang patch sewn onto the leather vest he was wearing; some sort of winged skull with the word 'Warriors' emblazoned beneath. It could only have happened to him, he decided, escaping from alleys filled with vampires to alleys filled with warring gang members.
He was only partially correct.
From the shadows from whence the flying gang member had flown, stepped another figure, this one, whilst not demonstrably a gang member was definitively one of the haemoglobin-challenged brigade.
Joy, thought Xander, vampires and gang members.
"You don't happen to have any PCP on you?" he asked the vampire.
"From Sunnydale, are you?" noted the vampire urbanely, "you're a fair distance from home."
The civility of the response puzzled Xander. "Aren't you supposed to be making comments involving 'deliveries' and 'bloodbags' and going on about 'how you're going to kill me'?"
The vampire idly raised an eyebrow in amusement, "We do things a little differently here; but if it would make you feel more comfortable I could issue a few threats."
"No, really," Xander demurred, "that's fine; just takes a bit of getting used to is all."
The vampire nodded sagely, "I can understand that. Now, can I ask what you're doing in my alley?"
"I'm Joe," said the vamp, and turning to indicate a door set into the wall of one of the buildings, over which a particularly grimy neon-sign flickeringly proclaimed itself to be 'Joe's' "and that's my club."
"...And the alley?"
The vampire managed to look slightly sheepish, "Well okay, it's not strictly 'MY' alley, but because my business is here I tend to keep an eye on things; drugs and gangs and prostitution outside my door is bad for business. Inside my door I can control, but I don't like having my clientele harassed."
"What about him?" Xander asked, nodding his head at the figure groaning softly at his feet.
Joe rolled his eyes contemptuously, "Gang banger, runs with a local outfit, call themselves 'The Warriors'." He thought for a moment, "As gangs go, they're not a bad bunch, their head guy Cleon runs a pretty tight ship, very big on honour and loyalty."
"They know about the 'real' world?" he mentally winced at the almost unconscious emphasis he placed on the idea that an existence populated by vampires, demons and various other oggly-booglies was somehow real.
"Not officially. I mean, it's not like we have open days for the normals; where, for just fifty cents" the vampire continued in his best vaudevillian pitch "you can see and touch a Real, Live Vampire. That being said," he continued in a more normal tone, "it wouldn't surprise me. See, the thing is, 'round here with the gangs, it's a total us-and-them mentality and the 'real world' as you so charmingly put it would in essence simply constitute another 'them'." He shrugged "anyway, when you stop to think about it, your average vampire's going to come across as a hell of a lot more normal than a member of the Baseball Furies."
"The Baseball Furies. They're another gang. They wear baseball uniforms and have their faces covered in bi-colour war-paint. Lovely bunch, never leave home without their bats."
Xander blinked, not entirely sure if he was being had. Deciding to get the conversation back on track he nudged the figure at his feet. "So why'd this one come flying back down the alley?"
"He was chasing someone, one of my regulars. When my client ducked into the club this kid tried to follow and got belligerent when my bouncer wouldn't let him in. When he tried to start something my bouncer picked him up and tossed him down here."
"Picked him up and tossed him?" asked Xander.
Instead of answering Xander directly, Joe turned in the direction of his club and quietly called out "Ballac?"
The door to the club swung silently inward and a figure, easily over eight foot tall, and built like the incarnation of the ancient god Jaggernath, stepped out. "Yes boss?"
Xander took a moment to regard the creature before returning his gaze to the vampire, "I didn't think Granitian rock demons ever left their home ranges."
Joe shrugged, while silently indicating to his bouncer that he could go "Generally, they don't. But I'm giving the kid a job as a favour to his father; he wants the young fella to get out and see the world a bit before he takes over the family business."
"Please don't tell me they run a quarry."
"Sorry, 'fraid I can't do that."
Xander rolled his eyes. "I guess our friend here," he again gestured to the figure on the ground, "should be grateful your bouncer didn't throw him clear across the boardwalk and into the ocean."
Joe grinned mirthlessly, "True, but Ballac's a gentle sort, almost a pacifist by the standards of his race, doesn't like hurting people. I keep him on the door as his presence tends to discourage the more enthusiastic of my clients from getting out of hand."
"Makes sense." The young man acknowledged, "if that's the case, however, what are you doing out here if your bouncer had already taken care of the problem; looking for a snack?"
Now it was Joe's turn to roll his eyes, "You Sunnydale types, always with the suspicion. To answer your question, I came out to make sure he got away okay."
"Why?" Naked suspicion warred with curiosity on Xander's features.
"You don't listen too good do you? I can't leave a gang member lying face down in my alley; it'd be bad for business."
"I guess you've got a point there," Xander conceded, although his very being seemed to rebel at the thought of him agreeing with incisor-dominant. "So what do we do with him?"
"We?" asked the vampire incredulously.
"Well it is 'your' alley."
"True enough." The vampire looked somewhat chagrined at that particular point. "However, that being said" he continued, "you were the one who came charging to his rescue, which to my way of thinking indicates that you have a degree of interest in what happens to him."
Xander shrugged "Call it a Sunnydale-borne reflex."
"I would have thought that would have either had you running in the other direction or ignoring it."
"Must have been the company I kept," muttered the young man.
Although curious at such a response, Joe let it pass, as it was clear that it was not a conversational subject that would be welcomed. "Alright then, I'm open to suggestions."
Xander thought for a moment "How about this; you give me thirty bucks so I can get a room for the night and I'll take him with me."
Joe, businessman to the core; his business instincts so strong in fact that they usually overrode his vampiric instincts, was loathe to surrender hard cash for any reason and thus offered a counter-proposition. "How about you take him away then come back here and I'll put you up myself."
Xander was about to accept the offer when a somewhat groggy voice, originating from somewhere around boot level, made comment. "How about you both stop arguing over what you're going to do with me and help me up."
Xander looked at the vampire, "What do you think?"
"I think I liked it better when he was quiet." Nevertheless, he bent down to help the man - boy, actually, because he couldn't have been any older than nineteen - to his feet. "Alright boy, do you need a hand getting home?"
"Don't call me boy, and no, I'll be fine," was the reply, although the truth of that statement was in doubt as the respondent was developing a rather pronounced list.
"It would appear that your idea of what constitutes 'fine' and mine differ," noted the vampire, "unless of course your normally stand that way."
"What do you mean by 'that way', are you trying to be funny?"
"No, " interposed Xander, "He's not being funny; although you do look fairly amusing at that angle. Tell you what, I'll give you a hand getting back to wherever it is that you belong;" he looked at the vampire questioningly, when it became clear that the young gang member wasn't going to be particularly forthcoming.
"Go down to the end of the pier then head south, eventually you'll run into a few of his friends and I imagine they'll take care of things."
"Do I have anything to worry about?"
"Shouldn't do, at least not once it becomes clear that you're helping this kid."
"Joy," murmured Xander, with noticeable deprecation, before shrugging; it wasn't as if he was unused to walking into potentially hostile territory. "Okay then, we'll be off. C'mon kid."
"Don't call me kid," the Warrior muttered, although he slowly turned to follow Xander.
"Hey" the vampire called out. Both Xander and the young gang member turned back to face Joe who indicated that he was talking to Xander and not the gang member.
"You coming back?"
Xander paused, considering. "Tonight? I'm not sure, it would depend on what happens; but I will come back at some point," he laughed, "I'll even let you put me up."
"That's very kind of you. How about you give me a name."
"Because while I'm human-tolerant, some of my clientele aren't. I imagine you'd feel pretty stupid if you were killed trying to explain who you were and why you were asking for me when such an explanation would never have been necessary in the first place if I'd put the word out."
"Makes sense I guess. You can call me Xander."
Joe raised a disbelieving eyebrow, "Did your parents not like you very much?"
"Actually, no; but that has nothing to do with my name."
Joe shrugged, and made to re-enter his club "I'll take your word for it." He paused for a second before deciding to issue a warning "be careful out there, Xander, New York's not Sunnydale, so don't go making the same assumptions here you would there."
Xander, determining that the vampire wasn't playing with him, took the warning at face value, "thanks; I'll keep an eye out." He grinned suddenly, "You know, this will be just like home 'cept the gang members really will be on PCP," he turned to the young Warrior, "Ain't that right kid?"
"We don't do drugs, Cleon don't allow it, says it breaks discipline; and don't call me kid."
"All right then, what 'do' I call you?"
"Like the painter?"
"That's the one."
"Right then, let's go." He turned to wave to Joe, but found that the vampire was already gone and the door to his club was closed. "Right kid... sorry... Rembrandt, which way's quickest?"
The two walked in companionable silence down the boardwalk, back the way Xander had come from when he had first heard the cry for help.
"So, Rembrandt, why were you chasing the guy in the first place?"
"He held up a liquor store on our turf, we don't encourage that sort of thing."
Xander didn't look impressed "The Warriors running some sort of protection racket?"
Rembrandt was obviously less than impressed himself with the assumption, 'Why do you think that? Because we're a gang? Just 'cos we're a gang doesn't make us criminals."
Xander had to concede that his companion had a point as he remembered something Giles was saying about how Angel had teamed up with a gang in Los Angeles to fight the good fight.
"Anyway," Rembrandt continued "we don't encourage crime on our turf because it looks bad. Weak. Cleon says that the best defense isn't necessarily a strong offense, but a willingness to react to a situation immediately; to not only defend what is yours but to also react to the slightest provocation in a controlled and disciplined manner. Someone does something on our turf, we make sure that they know that there's a price." The obvious respect in Rembrandt's voice each time he mentioned Cleon's name verged on hero worship.
"So who's this Cleon guy?" inquired Xander.
"Cleon's our leader," this was announced in a manner akin to what would be expected if the President or some other major public figure had walked into the room
Xander allowed himself a wry smile. "I figured that much. What I mean is, what's with the whole reverence deal, you're barely stopping yourself from genuflecting each time you mention his name."
Rembrandt had the grace to look somewhat embarrassed, although he didn't move to deny the accuracy of the observation. "Cleon leads by example; he's all about self-discipline and responsibility.
"So why is he leading a gang in New York City; he doesn't sound very gang-like if you ask me."
"He says a gang is just like any other organisation, at least it is if you run it right. Defined goals, defined strategy, clear dissemination and understanding of roles; Cleon says that at any time you should know what you're doing, why you're doing it and the course of action needed to achieve success."
Xander wasn't entirely sure if the kid actually knew what all the big words he'd just used meant, but for the time being he was prepared to let that slide in the interests of learning more. "He sounds like a self-help manual."
"He heard you say that he'd kick your arse. Don't misunderstand, this isn't Tony Robbins we're talking about, Cleon's as hard as nails, he just happens to think there's more to running a gang than petty brawls and turf wars; if there's a reason to fight, to protect what's ours, he's the first one there, otherwise he'd rather make things better for his own."
Xander shrugged, it wasn't as if he had any proof to the contrary. "Okay, let's get back to this liquor store robbery. Once you'd chased this guy off, why did you keep following him?"
"I needed to see where he went. Cleon's always talking about how important accurate information is; I think it's something to with making it easier to co-ordinate a targeted response." The way the young man spoke the words clearly indicated that he wasn't entirely sure what his leader had meant, the shadowed presence of the soldier in Xander's mind understood, however, and the resonance of understanding rippled through the man's consciousness.
"Fine, I can understand why you might need to follow this guy, but why chase him into a building? A building you hadn't previously reconnoitred."
"Ummmm...I guess I got carried away."
"And what would your leader Cleon have to say about that?"
"Why don't you ask me yourself?"