When Xander woke up it took him a while to put it together. He didn't recognise the bed he was in or the room around him. The bed was too comfortable to be in the Harris household, they bought the cheapest they could get so they'd have more dollars to spend on booze and that meant threadbare second-hand mattresses all-round, and the room itself was nowhere messy enough to be in that house either. That got him to wondering what had happened last night and that brought up all sorts of bad memories.
Xander winced and closed his eyes again when the memories hit him. It sure as hell isn't every day you wake up and realise that your body was used to commit a murder the night before. Not every day you get the life and times of Darth Revan, Dark Lord of the Sith, jammed into your head either. It was a real special occasion for him. A special occasion of overwhelming suck. Even worse than a Harris Christmas it was. It was hard for Xander to imagine a way in which it could get any worse.
And then he opened his eyes again and looked down. It could get worse. It could get a whole lot worse. And that opened up a whole new vista of sucky memories for him to peruse. Like going virtually catatonic at the site of a massacre and being manhandled back to Giles's place by Buffy before Willlow brought some pyjamas around for him to be squeezed into before he was put to bed in Giles's spare room. It's a very special sort of suck that sees you, a male, squeezed into your female best friend's pyjamas. It really was. And, even better, they were gender appropriate. He had boobs. Boobs and no penis.
At least he didn't think he had a penis. It would be kinda weird if he did. He wasn't even sure if that would be good or bad. Yeah, sure, nice to still have it, but way bad to have both sets. Just awkward. Would make the locker room a real special sort of hell, that would. A chick with a dick in the girl's locker room: it kinda sounded like a porno scenario, but he somehow doubted it would end quite that well in real life. His luck just didn't run that well; exhibit A being the whole possession/murder/gender-swap thing. Still couldn't bring himself to check though.
Before he could come up with any other points of suck, there was a sharp knock on the day that grabbed his attention. "Xander," he heard Giles say on the other side. "Are you awake?"
"Uh, yeah," replied Xander. Revan's voice too. Wonderful.
"If you could come downstairs when you're ready," he said. "We need to talk about the situation at hand."
"Right," said Xander. "Sure thing, Giles."
Xander heard footsteps moving away from the door a moment later. It would have been nice to get some reassurance or something but then what would you say? He could just hear it. "Sorry about the involuntary sex-change, old chap. Still, stiff-upper lip and all that. Tally ho. Fancy some tea and crumpets?" Or something like that. Giles was a bit British, in the way that Uncle Sam is a bit American, but he didn't know if he was quite that bad a living stereotype.
Still, you had to wonder how Giles could wear tweed, of all things, in California. It was enough to make Xander wonder if British people actually sweated like normal people or if they were some sort of genetically-engineered uber species with the power to . . . not sweat. Okay, maybe not, but enquiring minds wanted to know!
Getting out of bed proved to be an experience not to be repeated. Not only did it set off the dull headache she'd had since waking into a killer headache but her pyjamas were also laughably tight in all areas. Apparently Revan's body was close enough to Xander's in size to make Willow's pyjamas a bit too small. And by a bit she meant 'oh my God, how did they squeeze me into these?' It was ever so slightly irritating. No doubt, had she been staying with Willow or Buffy, she'd have been sleeping in her boxers. But that wasn't going to happen at Giles's place with this body. Would be a bit wrong anyway but he was ever so slightly too stuffy for it.
And so Xander had his first brush with his new feminised body as he stripped off the over-tight pyjamas and changed into the clothes he'd been wearing last night while resolutely not looking at or touching any of the actual female bits if he could have it. As luck would have it, those happened to be his Halloween costume. Wonderful. But without the outer layers it just looked like a black pair of trousers and shirt. Sort of anyway. He'd need clothes.
Once dressed, he headed for the shower. Maybe a good shower would clear up the aches he was feeling from yesterday. Problem with that decision, one he should have thought about in advance really, is that there's no way to have a shower without, you know, getting naked and paying attention to it. There really isn't. Even if you were blind, you'd still have to touch things. Xander would curse himself later for not thinking of that rather obvious fact.
It was the mirror that got him in the end. He didn't even make it into the shower. He managed to strip off again without it catching him, but the mirror got him. He caught a glimpse in the mirror and that was that. He had to see. And what he saw was Revan. Same face, the same sharp cheekbones and dark hair, though the eyes were a dark brown rather than a bright, piercing blue, same above average height, same long arms and fingers, same breasts, same flat stomach, same slightly narrow hips, same . . .
The next Xander knew he was on the floor breathing rapidly and seemingly unable to catch his breath. Panic attack, whispered a voice in his mind, though he was in no frame of mind to listen to it then.
"Xander!" called out Giles, almost shouting. "Are you alright?"
Xander didn't answer. Then Giles did shout. "Xander!" he shouted.
The voice no longer whispered. Its voice cut through Xander like a whip. Control yourself, it said. Get up. Answer. This is no time to give up and wallow in your misery, you stupid child. Get up!
And Xander did. He firmed his resolve and stood on legs that were still slightly shaky. "I'm fine," he said, though his voice quavered. He took a deep breath and spoke again, drawing on that cold part of himself. "I'm fine, Giles," he said finally. "Just a little surprise, you know."
"I don't know," said Giles. "But I can well imagine if not understand. If you need anything, anything at all."
"I'll be fine, Giles," said Xander. "Just need a little time to get washed up."
"As you wish," said Giles. "But I will be just down the stairs if you need anything."
Xander said nothing in reply and a moment later he heard Giles slowly walk away from the door. He gave the mirror an imperious look and then set about showering. It wasn't that bad really. He'd live. At least he was still human. He didn't even want to think about what it'd be like if he'd got stuck in some of the other costumes he'd seen. A life stuck as some sort of visible monster would redefine suck in new and interesting ways.
It should, however, that having your first touch of a pair of real, in-the flesh breasts be your own is a special level of suck in itself when you're a teenage boy.
Xander found Giles waiting for him at the dining room table when he came down after his shower. The look of concern that the Watcher shot him was absolutely honest and absolutely not the sort of thing that Xander was used to seeing from authority figures when it came to him. It was nice . . . yes, nice was the right word. The last thing he would have needed right then was old Tony's usual rant about his son's uselessness. And yet there was a part of him that sneered at this. Xander frowned momentarily and stamped that down with great force. That was just ridiculous.
"Xander," said Giles as Xander sat at the table in front of him. "I . . . I have no idea what to say. I had so many ideas for how to start this conversation and yet they all seem somewhat inadequate when faced with the reality of it all."
"Say you can fix it," begged Xander. "Please."
The look on Giles's face said it all. "I . . . I wish I could," he said. "This isn't something I would wish upon my worst enemy and you are far, far away from being that. I've tried, I've looked it up, ran analysis spells, and they all say no. You, your entire body, it's saturated with chaos magic. More chaos magic than I could ever defeat. More chaos magic than I think anyone could ever defeat. And it's divinely powered chaos magic at that."
"There has to be a way," said Xander. "You could put Amy back in her right body after her mom did all that crap. This can't be worse than that."
"Ethan Rayne is a far better mage than Catherine Madison could ever dream of being," said Giles with a heartfelt sigh. "She was a rank amateur and, even out of practice as I am, it was easy to break her spells when I had things in the right position. Ethan is a professional trouble-maker and magic is his stock in trade. You'd need far more power than I've ever seen to even begin attempting to break this."
"Well, where do I get that?" asked Xander. "Come on, Giles. I'm begging you here."
"You can't exactly walk down to a corner shop and order this sort of spell," said Giles, taking off his glasses to rub them clean. "The people who can do this sort of thing . . . they're beyond my reach. Totally. They are little more than whispered rumours to me. The Council could help, perhaps, but they'd exact a price for it and they'd want it in advance."
"I'll do whatever they want."
"If you knew the Council . . . that's a very bad thing to say, Xander," said Giles. "They'd take great advantage of it. They'd use up and then, once you're finished, they might just consider helping you, if it wouldn't be too much trouble for them."
"So much for being the good guys."
"Such is life in such an organisation," said Giles. "Office politics get carried to ridiculous extremes in the Watcher's Council and only the worst sharks can rise to the top of the pack. And those are the people you'd be dealing with to get the use of an artefact of that power. We are talking about things like Excalibur here, Xander, or perhaps the blood of a god or goddess. That sort of power is guarded jealously at the best of times by the best of people and we are far from either of those conditions."
Xander slumped down in his chair. "So I'm pretty much screwed then," he said. "I either have to play with the sharks and hope I don't get my legs bitten off or put up with being the amazing gender-confused-woman."
"I suggest you take a little while to see if you can adapt," said Giles. "Paperwork can be arranged that would allow you to live in this form if necessary. I still have some contacts that aren't entirely in the Council's pocket and Willow's computer skills would, I expect, prove useful."
"I don't want to adapt, Giles," said Xander. "I want my body back. I want my life back; I mean, it's not like I can go home and be all 'hey, mom, hey, dad, it's me, Xander. I just had a little . . . accident," or anything. I'm cut-off. With my family, maybe not such a bad deal, but I'd like it to be a choice at least."
"I am sorry, Xander," said Giles. "And rest assured, I won't see you on the streets. You don't deserve that."
"I appreciate that," replied Xander, feeling somewhat less despondent. "It doesn't fix anything but it makes me feel a little less like I'm completely screwed."
Giles smiled. "Good," he said. "Every little bit helps, as my mother was fond of saying. It's not all doom and gloom, Xander. You still have your friends. Willow and Buffy won't abandon you. In fact, I virtually had to throw them out last night."
"I just didn't think you'd want to be crowded when you woke up."
"Oh," said Xander. "Yeah. Thanks again."
"Hmm," said Giles. "You will need clothing, of course. You cannot wear that forever. I can only hope, and perhaps pray, that you will not have acquired the same need for vast quantities of clothing that Buffy has been afflicted with."
Xander looked up sharply. "Not likely," he said. "Still a jeans and shirt sort of guy here if I have any say in it, though it'd be nice if they'd fit. But I can pay for it myself, Giles. I have some money in the bank. More than enough to cover buying some clothes unless I go Buffy-level mad."
"Are you quite sure?" asked Giles. "You are still a teenager and it's quite possible that what you buy today will be utterly useless a few months down the line. It would only take a single growth spurt."
Xander shook his head. "This . . . this is pretty much it," he said. "This is Revan's body. I look a little younger but the sizes and shapes are adult-Revan. I won't be growing any further."
It was one thing to have someone giving you house-space -- worst case he could go into foster care, shitty as that would be -- but it was quite another to have them start buying you clothes and stuff. Giles really wasn't the assholish type that'd use that against him but it was better to be safe than sorry.
"As you wish," said Giles. "I cannot complain about a teenager wishing to take some responsibility for their own affairs. Rather refreshing in fact. Ah, there was something else. If you need advice about, umm, female things, and you don't think you'd be comfortable talking to your friends about it, I'd advise talking to Ms. Calender. She's in the know, so to speak, and seems to be relatively sensible despite her love for those wretched machines."
Xander couldn't imagine ever being uncomfortable talking to Willow about something but that was before he had a rather excruciating conversation about ways to remove hair from the female body with her and Buffy. After that he would resolve to talk to Ms. Calender about such things.
"Oh, Giles," he said after a moment's thought. "Were there any others? Anyone else get trapped in their costume."
"Ah, no," he said. "I did look. I scryed for such people using the remains of the spell focus; you're the only one, Xander. I am sorry but you seem to be unique in being caught halfway between your normal self and your possessed self."
"Yes," said Giles. "Oh. Now if you could think of anything, anything at all, that was unique about your costume, then it might help to ameliorate this. I can't say cure but it may help in some other way. You never know."
"She . . . she wanted to stay," said Xander. "That's why she went to the bar. She wanted to find someone who could bind her to my body permanently. No-one could so she killed them . . . killed them all. She tried to fight the end of the spell, tried to force herself on me, but she wasn't strong enough. Guess even a Sith Lord can't mess with a spell powered by a god."
"No," he said. "But that may help. Thank you."
The first thing Xander did after clearing out his bank account via ATM and buying enough clothes to be able to walk the streets without people staring at him as if he was from another planet -- which he supposed he kinda was after Halloween, which was kinda cool in a sci-fi, comic-book geek sorta way -- was to head to his parents' house. He might not want to talk to them or even see them as he was, hell he didn't much want to do those normally, but he did want to retrieve some of his more important possessions before they wised up to him being gone and pawned or junked everything he owned.
Getting into his room without attracting attention was easy as pie. His bedroom window didn't close properly anyway so it was easy enough to climb the tree next to it and swing on in and his parents would be out cold from their night-before drinking session at that time of the day so there was pretty much no danger of them seeing him in all his new-found feminine glory. Perfect really.
His room felt almost like an alien environment when he entered. It had been his space before, one of the few places he could be alone and not be disturbed when he needed that, and now it was almost like the home of a stranger. The scattered clothing was of little use now obviously but it was other things too. Everything just felt . . . well, it felt like nothing. He didn't care. He knew that he could walk away and not look back. Sure, he pretty much hated his family, but that was . . . disturbing.
Well, there was no point in moping about it. He had things to do. He started with the few pictures he had dotted around the place of the gang, taking special care to get all of the older ones with Jesse. He could always get more pictures of Willow and Buffy, not the case the Jesse anymore. The old twinge was still there about that, thank God. Killing your best friend was one hell of an initiation into the darker parts of life, that was for sure, and it left its marks. And he'd rather they stayed there, thank you very much. There are some things you shouldn't just shrug off.
After the pictures came his Babylon 5 collection. No way was he leaving that behind. Those plates would be worth a fortune in years to come and it had taken a hell of a lot of odd jobs and paper rounds to pay for them in the first place. No, there was not a chance he was leaving those behind. And after those came the few comic books he'd been able to afford to buy for himself. The collection was smaller than he'd have liked but it was his all the same and he'd be damned if he let his parents pawn it all off for the cash to buy a bottle of Jack to continue their filthy, disgusting addiction.
He threw a few more things into the box, CDs, tapes, a few videos, things like that, and then hopped out the window and made his way back down the tree. It was remarkably easy to do so. His new body seemed to be quite the flexible thing if nothing else. That was something, he supposed. There had to be some up-side somewhere to the whole affair.
That momentary burst of optimism came to a screeching halt when he encountered a rather non-plussed looking policeman at the bottom of the tree. If there'd ever been a proof that there was someone powerful up there looking over him and making sure things always went wrong, that'd have to be it.
"I really hope you have a good reason for this, girl," he said. "Otherwise you're coming down to the station with me."
A part of Xander, a part that just hadn't been there before Halloween, began to pick out vulnerable areas on the cop, began to evaluate where it could strike and end him before he could draw his gun. The cop didn't even notice the danger he was in; his stance remained loose and nonchalant; typical stupid Sunnydale cop, didn't even realise when he was being eyed up like an animal about to be sent for slaughter. Xander forcibly shoved those thoughts away before he replied. "Ah, umm," said Xander. "Well, you see, I forgot my keys and I was just fetching some of my stuff. I'm not stealing or anything like that. It's all mine."
The cop looked sceptical and Xander found himself looking the guy in the eye while running the 'believe me, believe me, believe me' mantra through his head over and over as he awaited his decision. Just when he was about to conclude that he was, in fact, screwed and try to make a run for it, the cop spoke up again.
"Okay," he said. "I don't know why I'm believing this stupid story but there you go. Next time, get a locksmith out or something, okay?"
Xander let out a sigh of relief and, after giving a quick nod and a verbal agreement, made tracks. It was a miracle but, hey, it was about time one of those went in his favour for a change.
After delivering his stuff back to Giles's place, Xander went for a wander around town, trying to get his mind in order. He could feel Revan's memories hovering at the edge of his perception and he wasn't sure that he could repress them for much longer. There was a powerful weight behind them as they pressed on his mind and it scared him. It honestly scared him, maybe even more than when he'd dragged Angel down to the Master's lair to try and help Buffy. The worst he'd figured on then was death. Not exactly his idea of fun but it could be a lot worse, he'd seen that with Jesse. And then he'd got the worse because of some stupid spell.
Death was one thing. Sure, he'd rather not die, but it came to everyone eventually. Being used as a meat-puppet by some evil spirit, though, that was the worse. Being used to go around murdering people was not one of his life ambitions. It was very high on his list of things not to do, in fact. And those memories? Well, he was kinda worried that they'd change him. Make it so that murdering people wasn't so high on his list of bad things not to do. He knew that Revan was way stronger than him. He could no more out-will Revan than he could out-muscle a vampire.
So, yeah, he was honestly scared. And who could he go to for help? Buffy couldn't beat up memories. Willow couldn't solve them like an equation. Giles couldn't wave them away with a spell. He very much doubted there was a 1-800 number for how to deal with having the memories of a Darth Vader wannabe crammed into your head either. He had to figure it out on his own steam. It sucked.
By the time the end of the school day rolled around, Xander still had nothing. Twenty-five years worth of Revan's memories were pressing down on him and he had no idea what he could do about it. He might as well have been trying to figure out rocket science for all the progress he was making. As levels of badness went, it was up there. Worse even than the Hyena possession and that had been a nightmare and a half. Three-quarters even. Possibly even a full two nightmares.
He didn't much like the looks he got as he waited for Buffy and Willow outside the school either. He well remembered the lecherous teenage boy look and seeing it on the faces of guys looking at him didn't do much for his mood at all. Made him want to go find a pair of shears and do away with some manhoods. Not that he was, you know, irrational or anything.
"Hey, Xander," said a subdued looking Buffy. "How you doing?"
"Been better, Buff," he replied. "Been better. Hey, Willow. Sorry 'bout last night."
"And so you should be, mister," she said. "That really hurt!"
"What?" asked Buffy, her voice taking on a slightly shrill edge.
"His costume was a big, old meanie," said Willow. "A real poopyhead."
"That's . . . one way to put it," said Xander. "You know, I don't think anyone has ever called Revan a poopyhead before. Lots of other things but not poopyhead. That's a new one."
"I try," said Willow with a sunny smile. "So . . . "
"Yeah, I'm stuck like this."
"Oh, Xander," said Willow before latching onto him in a tight hug. Suffice to say, it felt somewhat different than it did when he'd had his own body. It felt even stranger when Buffy joined the group hug a moment later.
Xander didn't really feel all that much like going out and having fun that night but he still found himself at the Bronze. Such was the power of Willow's puppy dog eyes when she chose to use them. The place was, as usual, filled with the teenage population of Sunnydale, people who simply had nowhere better to go, and some older guys who were actually kinda pathetic in all honesty. Xander really hoped he'd have better things to do with his time when he was in his mid twenties than lurk at a teen hangout drinking over-priced beer from a styrofoam cup and leching over teenage girls.
Speaking of disgusting old lechers, he could see Angel in one of the many dark corners of the Bronze doing his usual stalker thing. Yeah, bad enough for a guy in his twenties, but for a guy in his third century? Truly pathetic. Also, awe-inspiringly creepy when you stopped to think about it.
As he potted the final ball for his seventh consecutive victory, Xander really began to wonder how deep the changes went. He'd always been a fair pool player but Willow'd always been able to give him a decent game before. Now, instead of being challenged, he was just sweeping her aside casually. She'd barely even managed to get a turn at the table. Same had happened to this Ford guy when he'd stepped up to play him.
And that was a weird one. There was just something about Ford that set his teeth on edge and had done from first sight. The guy was supposed to be an old friend of Buffy's from LA who'd just transferred in but something . . . something about him just didn't sit well with Xander. His intuition said the guy was wrong, but nothing about the way he acted was giving anything away. Okay, his patter was irritating. Xander didn't need to be smarmed like the average teenage girl. But that was nothing exceptional. He looked female and that meant he was going to have to deal with that sort of thing. It had to be something else. Or maybe his imagination was just playing up.
He had to admit that hearing about Buffy's over-enthusiastic approach to some beauty pageant back in LA when she was younger was kind of amusing though. He could just imagine a younger Buffy trying way too hard and messing that sort of thing up. And then the girl in question arrived.
"Ford!" she said. "You made it!"
"Wasn't hard to find," said Ford. "Could have warned me about your friend here, though. She's quite the shark at the pool table."
"When'd you get to be such a hustler?" asked Buffy to Xander. Xander just shrugged and then Buffy put two and two together and winced.
"Buffy," said Willow. "Ford was just telling us about the ninth grade beauty contest and the, uh, swimsuit competition."
"Oh, my God, Ford, stop that! The more people you tell, the more people I have to kill," said Buffy, half embarrassed, half joking.
"You can't touch me, Summers. I know all your darkest secrets."
"Wanna make a bet on that?" quipped Xander instinctively. He did have a role to play after all.
"I'm gonna go get a drink," said Buffy. "Ford, try not to talk."
As Buffy wandered over to the bar, Xander took a moment to look at Ford. He looked normal enough, but there was still something about him, something indescribable, that set his teeth on edge. He frowned slightly but then dismissed it as unimportant. "Wilow, why don't you play Ford now?"
Xander slumped down in the nearest chair and cast an eagle eye over the club. Most people were paying him no heed. A few boys were stealing glances -- yuck -- but mostly he was being ignored. One thing that puzzled him was the strange, speculative look that Cordelia was shooting him. He didn't think she knew anything so why was she looking over at him? She wasn't going to try and recruit him into her little gang was she? He had to forcibly restrain the shudder that he threatened to break out in at that thought.
He saw Buffy talking to Angel at the bar and managed to fire off a comment about Angel being her special friend but his heart wasn't in it. It just didn't feel right anymore. How could he still be attracted to Buffy and slightly jealous of Angel now? It was even more pointless than it had been before. Buffy was no lesbian and in all honesty there was no way to know if he was in this body so soon. When he got used to his new body would he find himself attracted to males? Ick. Mega-ick. Nuclear-ick. What a truly foul idea that was. What was next? Swooning over Angel? Barf.
The only conclusion he could come to was that this truly, more than anything else that had ever happened to him, even more than being cursed with Tony Harris as his father, sucked ass. Most people get maimed or killed or turned on the Hellmouth, but not him. Oh no. He got turned into a freaking girl. He just had to find something unique to happen to himself, didn't he?
Well, with what little good cheer he'd been able to acquire truly dispersed, Xander decided to call it a night before he rained on everybody else's parade as thoroughly as he'd rained on his own and after making some excuses he headed back to Giles's place to try and get some sleep. Maybe things would look better in the morning
They really didn't. In fact, they looked even more sucky than they had the day before. At least then there'd been a part of him that could hope it was just a bad dream that he'd wake up from eventually. That particular, ridiculous, hope really couldn't last a second day out.
Giles greeted him with a nod when he surfaced that morning and took a place at the dining room table. "I have some news," he said. "You are now on record as the fictitious daughter of my fictitious brother. My parents would be thrilled, I'm sure."
"How'd you manage that?"
"I have some friends, contacts really, who aren't in the pocket of the Council," he said. "Not completely anyway. Welcome to the family, Rachel Giles. At least you sound like you have the accent for it now."
"Oh, it could be a lot worse," said Giles with a grin. "Imagine if you'd acquired a Geordie accent."
Xander just stared at him. "What?" he asked. "I don't even know what a Geordie is."
Giles quickly dissolved into ranting under his breath about ignorant American teenagers. Some things never changed. Then he looked up. "Oh, you start school today," he said. "You can't afford to miss that." Okay, some things did change.
Principle Snyder really did look as if he had some non-human blood in him stemming from some distant part of his family tree. Humans didn't come that ugly in looks and personality, not at the same time, it just wasn't possible. Maybe some troll? No, he was too small. Did orcs really exist? He'd have to ask Giles but it would sorta fit Snyder's looks and personality.
"Rachel Giles, niece of Rupert, sophomore. Formerly of England. Welcome to Sunnydale High," said Snyder from his seat behind his desk, giving Xander the gimlet eye as he spoke. "Your records seem innocent enough, too innocent if you ask me, but I'll be keeping an eye on you, mark my words. Keep yourself in line and out of trouble and we'll both be happy. Turn out to be like the other brats here and there'll be consequences. This isn't a school for troublemakers. I expect your uncle will have told you what's expected of you."
"Yes, sir," said Xander crisply. He didn't have the energy or the inclination to deal with the git this early in the morning. He really didn't. There were slightly more important things for him to be worrying about.
"Pick up your timetable from the receptionist," said Snyder before turning away from her and putting her file back in the cabinet. At this clear dismissal he turned and marched out of the office. It was nice to see that Snyder hated everyone equally and not just everyone associated with Buffy Summers, though then again Giles was associated with Buffy and by extension so was his new identity. Ho-hum. Well, he was just a bastard anyway.
Willow had been quite obviously on edge all day. Xander'd known his best friend long enough to spot the signs when Willow was sitting on some information that she wanted to share and they were manifest in her that day. As such, it came as no surprise when Willow pulled him aside for a chat when Buffy was away doing something or other to catch up on some math she'd missed for some reason or other.
What did come as a surprise was that Angel had been in her room. Xander hadn't even been allowed in there overnight once puberty had hit! Not that he thought that was unreasonable or anything, it would look kinda dodgy, but Angel! Hello, he's a vampire! Talk about taking unreasonable risks. Now the bastard would be able to go in Willow's home whenever he felt like it. Not that Willow would hear anything of it. Damn her and her romantic ideas regarding Angel and his 'tortured soul' and Buffy.
Still, the information had been useful. His gut instinct had been correct. Something was off about Ford. Something was very off indeed. If he'd been on the level, his information would have been in the records like everyone else's. And that made Xander angry. It made him very, very angry. He knew how he'd feel if an old friend showed up and then screwed him over and Buffy took that sort of emotional stuff way harder than he ever did. She'd be crushed.
And so he found himself accompanying Willow and Angel on a trip to a club of weirdos in some sort of old bomb shelter. It was all pretty pathetic, to be honest. Some of the girls managed to look good despite the lame, lame, lame Hollywood vampire-type outfits they had on, but the guys . . . oh, boy. He was tempted to go buy a plastic beak so he could strap it onto the face of the one in the ridiculous high-collar and cape outfit: that way he'd look just like Count Duckula. And that would amuse Xander greatly.
Unfortunately, the drivel falling from the lips of the club's residents wasn't half as amusing as that though.
"You guys are newbies," said one blonde-haired girl when she saw them, a girl who looked rather tasty indeed even if she was probably another one of the idiots. "I can tell.
Willow turned to face the girl. "Oh, no," she said. "We come here all the time."
"Oh, don't be ashamed," said the blonde girl. "It's cool that you're open to it. We welcome anyone with an interest in the lonely ones."
"Please tell me you're not talking about vampires," said Xander with a groan. "Please."
"They are," said Angel, appearing behind them. "I've seen this sort of stupidity before. It never ends well."
"I can imagine," said Xander. "Lots of death and happy for the vampires, not much in the way of happy for the humans."
"So many people have such misconceptions," said the girl. "But they who walk with the night are not interested in harming anyone. They are creatures above us! Exalted!"
"You're a fool," said Angel.
"You don't have to be so confrontational about it. Other viewpoints than yours may be valid, you know," said the girl before flouncing off in a huff. Xander would have enjoyed the view, but the terminal case of stupidity the girl was afflicted with kinda spoiled it.
"Too much Anne Rice," said Xander. "Not enough Bram Stoker. Or Hirano Kouta."
"For once I completely agree with you," said Angel. "Hirano Kouta? Sounds Japanese."
"Now nobody's gonna talk to us," said Willow with a frown.
"A truly devastating loss, I'm sure," said Xander
"I've seen enough. I've seen this type before. I mean, they're children making up bedtime stories of friendly vampires to comfort themselves in the dark," replied Angel.
"Is that so bad? I mean, the dark can get pretty dark. Sometimes you need a story," said Willow.
"These people don't know anything about vampires. What they are, how they live, how they dress . . . "
One of the idiots walked past in the exact same outfit as Angel. Xander could not hold back the laughter that welled up inside him at that and Angel had the decency to look sheepish.
"I think we have enough now to prove that Ford, supposed bestest bud of the Slayer, isn't what he wants to make us think he is," said Xander. "I vote we run him out of town immediately."
"Somethings up with him but I think we should give him a chance to explain," said Willow. "He's known Buffy a long time he's at least earned that."
Xander rolled his eyes. Typically soft-hearted. It would end in tears.
Buffy did not look happy when she ran into Xander and Willow the next day. Her resentment was strong enough that it was practically tangible but it was only to be expected. She would not want to believe that Ford would betray her and so she resented those who found the evidence of the betrayal. To her credit she did not show and the resentment soon faded to be replaced by a slow-burning anger that would serve her well if the situation turned nasty.
The school day mostly passed without event till Xanders free period after lunch. He was heading for the library when a surprisingly strong female hand grabbed his arm and yanked him into a nearby closet. Even more surprising was that it was Cordelia doing the dragging.
"What on Earth are you playing at?" demanded Xander immediately.
"I wanted to know what the Hell you were playing at, geek. I never had you down as a cross-dresser. An idiot, yes, but not that."
"Charmed, I'm sure. Now I'll just be leaving."
"Don't you turn your back on me, Xander Harris! You will tell me what's going on and you will tell me right this minute!"
"So what makes you think I'm this 'Xander Harris' then?" drawled Xander, being deliberately aggravating. "Last I checked I didn't look much like a guy."
"Oh give me a break. Xander Harris disappears and his friends don't seem even vaguely freaked? If you were really missing, Rosenberg would be unbearable. And slotting straight back into your little group gave it away completely. Give me some credit."
Xander had to smile at that. "You're smarter than you let on. You are correct: I am Xander or at least I was before Halloween. I think you can probably guess what happened."
"Freaky magic turned you into a girl? I almost feel sorry for you."
"My heart is warmed by your concern," snapped Xander. "Now if you'll excuse me I have things to do."
Xander didn't even notice the slightly hurt look on Cordelia's face as she stomped away. Old habits were, after all, hard to break, and there are few habits older than the instinct to snipe at each other for those two.
Buffy's 'plan' for dealing with the situation did not appeal to Xander one bit. Wandering into an old bomb shelter with only a single exit was bad enough. When that shelter was full of people who could easily be classed as collaborators then it became grand idiocy at best and suicidal at worst. All they had to do was hold the exit and any vampires involved would have Buffy caught between a rock and a hard place. And it wasn't like she'd just beat up the weirdos. Those guys were puny and Buffy'd never be able to bring herself to brain them. And that's assuming they couldn't just seal the door in a way that would let vamps in while trapping Buffy.
Welcome to Trapsville, USA, population: Buffy Summers in other words. Unless she developed the ability to teleport then she would be stuck. And she wouldn't listen. She just would not listen. And that's how Xander ended up kicking his heels with Willow and Giles as they waited to see how it turned out. And he felt like shit doing it. It just wasn't in him to be able to sit aside and wait for this sort of thing to play out. He had to be there. He had to help. And he couldn't. It was one of the most awful things he'd ever felt, that feeling of uselessness.
They'd seen a bunch of vampires storm the place. Xander'd wanted to try and do something, anything, but that voice, that cold rational part of him, had been overwhelmingly persuasive and stopped him from doing so. Sensible, yes, but it pissed him off. He wanted to fight no matter how futile and fatal it would be. That was just who he was.
Time passed and then the doors swung open once more and a tide of humanity swept outwards, running for their miserable lives. They looked terrified one all. They'd seen the truth of vampirism, clearly. They'd seen what they'd wanted so much and it had terrified them. Pathetic. They'd brought it on themselves and Xander had no sympathy for them. People who played with monsters get hurt. That's just how it worked.
Then Buffy came out and slammed the massive door shut. They immediately set to joining her and she turned to face them as they approached. "You guys are just in time," she said.
"Are there vampires?" asked Willow.
"They're contained. They'll get out eventually, though. We should probably go. We can come back when they're gone."
"I vote we torch the building," said Xander. "That way we'll kill off a whole mess of vampires with very little risk to ourselves."
"They're sealed in the basement and it used to be a bomb shelter. A fire won't reach them and they won't be affected by the smoke. It would be pointless," responded Buffy immediately.
"Just a thought."
"Why would you want to come back?" asked Angel.
"For the body."
Ah. Well, there was nothing to say to that.