Feral Urges

Author: lucindas43302 <lucindasiverling[at]hotmail.com>

Author: Lucinda

Rating: PG/PG-13

rating: pg13

Main character: Xander

mention of Xander's crush on Buffy & Willow's crush on Xander

disclaimer: I hold no legal rights to any characters or situations from the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer.distribution: Twisting the Hellmouth, anyone else just ask, I'll probably say yes.note: story #3 in 'Hidden in the Past', a response to the 'Xander's Real Father Challenge'. This is the first one that has significant Xander presence, though he was shown as a newborn in story #1.note 2: Some of the lines of dialog have been taken from http://studiesinwords.de/buffy.html a site for transcripts of the episodes. The initial few parts will seem very close to the episode the Pack.

Chapter 1

The sun shone bright and hot over the Sunnydale Zoo, causing the place to fill with the scents of plants, hay, warm animals, dust, and the inevitable animal droppings, as well as the scent of sandwiches and fries sold at the various little concession stands. There were the sounds of people, busily moving around in the zoo, some much noisier than others. Sunnydale High School had taken the day as a field trip, so the zoo was cluttered with hundreds of unsupervised teenagers.

Buffy sighed as she let her eyes rest on the plaque that stated 'this enclosure holds African Elephants, the largest land animal in the world.' There was just something about the day that seemed so boring. She began to walk away just as her friends, Xander and Willow arrived, Willow slightly red, although it was hard to tell if it was blushing or sunburn. Xander's commentary about the zebra's mating did make it seem more likely that she was blushing.

Xander looked over at Buffy, her hair gleaming in the sunlight, her expression one of complete boredom. " I'm feeling that you're not in the field trip spirit here."

She gave a feeble smile, one that didn't quite reach her eyes to chase away the look of bland disinterest. "Well, it would... It's nothing, I... We do the same zoo trip at my old school every year. Same old, same old.

"Buffy, this isn't just about looking at a bunch of animals. This is about not being in class!" Xander's words tried to convey just how important the idea was. Not only were they not in class, but it was legal.

Pausing for a moment in her slow saunter towards the aquarium, Buffy smiled, like a ray of sunlight. "You know, you're right! Suddenly the animals look shiny and new."

Xander grinned at Buffy, one arm draped over Willow's shoulder. "Gotta have perspective."

It didn't take long before their walking lead them to what was supposed to look like a wilderness hill, but intsead looked like a looming mass of dark stone and concrete, the drying plants on the sides looking like ineffective camouflage thinly disguising the Hill of Dread. A small sign proclaimed this to be the Hyena Exhibit, currently closed. In case the sign went unnoticed, long lines of yellow police tape stretched around it, like bright webs seeking flies before the yawning darkness of the doorway.

They could see the last of the girls following Kyle, one of the school bullies, the group laughing as they vanished into the darkness of the Hyena house. Maybe it was just their past experiences, or maybe it was the Hellmouth, but something about the traces of laughter just seemed... a bit off.

It was Willow who posed the question. "What are Kyle and his buds doing with Lance?"

Xander barely thought about it, the answer being far too obvious to him. "Oh, playing with him as a cat plays with a mouse." Of course, that left the question of why Lance was going in with them...

Buffy glared after the laughter of the bullies. "What is it with those guys?"

Willow could only sigh, remembering far too many of the past actions of that particular pack of delinquents. "They're obnoxious. Professionally."

Xander tried to make light of it, offering a feeble joke. "Well, every school has 'em. So, you start a new school, you get your desks, some blackboards and some mean kids."

Buffy shook her head, a not of reluctance in her voice. "Yeah, well, I'd better extract Lance before..."

"I'll handle it. This job doesn't require actual slaying." Xander felt a little surge of impatience. Why did Buffy keep acting as if they were helpless? Granted, Willow was't much of a fighter, but... well, he should be able to deal with Kyle and his cronies. Probably nobody would even be hit.

As Xander slipped into the darkness, the building filled with a strange, almost musky scent as well as something that smelled almost like sun baked ground. He could hear Kyle and the others up ahead, looking for the hyenas, and caught just the edge of Buffy's voice floating in after him. "You don't think we should follow?"

If Willow had made any response, it was swallowed up by the darkness before he could hear it. He had a feeling that Kyle and the others, his minions, were up to trouble. Maybe he could prevent it.

Deeper inside the, the walls had been molded to look like a cave. There lighting was very dim, giving a dark and ominous feeling to the place, something almost primal and menacing. Bits of yellow tape had been torn down, left to fall like strange leaves on the floor. The voices of the pack of bullies and their now worried victim filled the dark.

With a look of dark glee, Kyle and his fellow bully grabbed the smaller figure of Lance. They dragged him up the steps, closer to the pit of hyenas, laughing at his fearful protests. Oblivious to the swirls of green paint over the floor, they pressed him up against the bars, pushing him closer to the now circling group of hyenas. Low growls and a few noises almost like barks came up from the pit, and the hyenas gathered, almost as if they were waiting for something.

Xander burst out of the shadows just then, pulling Kyle away from Lance, glaring at the bully with almost a growl. He stood between the bullies and Lance, his posture radiating anger. "Why don't you pick on somebody your own species?"

Kyle scowled, trying to look intimidating, but having no effect on Xander. "What, are you gonna get in my face?"

There was a low noise from the pit, the hyenas growling. A pair of them stood to each side, a slightly larger hyena alone in the middle, watching the proceedings with an uncannily intelligent expression. He looked back at the humans, lips drawn back over yellowed fangs in what might have been a challenge. The eyes of the hyenas to the right flared, glowing a heartbeat in the same garish green as the paint, the glow echoing in the eyes of Kyle and Rhonda. A few moments later, the hyenas on the left had a flicker of green, soon repeated in the eyes of Tor and Heidi.

Only Xander noticed as Lance took advantage of the confusion to dart away, grabbing his notebook and bolting from the building, fear rolling from him in waves. The light flared in the eyes of the lead hyena, and then Xander's eyes glowed, and he felt another presence inside him, warm and furry, with the feeling of hot sun and supreme confidence.

He straightens, rolling his shoulders as he steps forward. This body is different... moves different. The other is too strong, and Xander can only watch, furious and helpless within his own body. The Hyena leader has taken his body. Everything smelled so sharp... he could smell everything, hear so much more... Except that something wasn't surprised. These must be the senses of the hyena, somehow here with it's spirit.

With a smile nothing like Xander's, the leader gestures for his pack to follow him. This lair is to easily closed off by the others, the soft helpless tool users that brought them here. Now, they have the perfect escape, the perfect way to take revenge.

Unheeded in the pit, four hyenas wobbled around, as if uncertain how their bodies should move. The leader lay still on the ground, only very slow even breathing showing life remained in the body.

Chapter 2

Xander could only watch as the Pack Leader who had somehow taken control of his body led his pack, now inhabiting Kyle and his goons out of the zoo. Not by the gate, apparently there were too many people and they smelled bad. No, they just... leapt over the walls, something that took far more strength than he'd thought the normal human body had. But they did it, leaping the wall easily. Between that and the intensity of everything, the enhanced hearing, smelling everything... Xander was officially freaking out. Not that anyone would notice, his body was under the control of... of one of the hyenas. He felt like shuddering.

After some time roaming around the area, surveying their new territory, so different from their homeland, they separated. They would find him later. There was something... Xander realized that he could offer a little influence on this... animal that had possessed his body. He'd agreed to meet Buffy and Willow at the Bronze, and it seemed that he could influence the Hyena enough to go there. Surely Buffy and Willow knew him well enough to know that something was wrong... surely they'd notice that he wasn't himself... literally.

Pack Leader wasn't quite impressed with the Bronze, and seemed to be comparing it to a watering hole, where all the prey animals would go for refreshment, the perfect place to spot and trail them from. Filled with noisy foolish prey, the soft-skinned tool users, unaware of the danger that stalked them... His lips curled back in something not quite a smile. Stupid prey-people, so unaware of everything... they deserved to die. A familiar scent, although Xander was trying to place why it was familiar, caught his attention.

Pack leader knew the scents of these two females... their scents had been on the skin of his new body. There was a smaller red furred female (it's called hair), and a stronger blond, with sleek muscles and the stance of a hunter. Xander tried to convince the hyena that these two weren't prey, not helpless... that the people around weren't prey. "Girls!"

The blond (her name is Buffy! She's my friend.) looked at him, her teeth flashing or a moment in a sign of rank, an assertion that she was a dominant female. "Boy!"

The pack leader paid little attention to the words exchanged, although Xander did get the feeling that somehow, the hyena-spirit could use his memories, and felt like swatting himself for the obviousness of that thought. Of course it was using his memories, how else could it talk, or operate door knobs? But what else might it do with his memories? His mouth was suddenly filled with something that part of him wanted to label dry, dust-tasting grass and another part of him recognized as croissant with butter. "Hungry..."

Blech... the bite of grass stuff was not what he wants. There's no blood, no feeling of rending flesh with his jaws... Xander listened as the hyena complained about it, Buffy glaring in what the pack leader took as a contemplation of challenging his authority. "Man, I need some food! Birds live on this!"

But apparently that comment didn't fit, and now Buffy and Willow were looking at him, their eyes full of questions, like looking at a wounded water buffalo and debating if it was weak enough to kill. The pack leader tried to shrug away their concerns, and to Xander's horror, it seemed to be working... Please no, Wills, you have to know that this isn't normal...

He surveyed the area, certain that there was something that had demanded his attention, some little subtle sign... but then he let it go, allowing it to slip from his mind. He turned, smelling Buffy's hair, rich with the scent of flowers and deeper down, the scent of Buffy herself, strength and female and mmm.... The scents of flowers, they didn't come from anything he'd scented outside, in Sunnydale. So, that could only mean... "You took a bath."

She looked at him, her eyes full of confusion. "Yeah, I-I often do, I'm actually known for it."

Something in the memories of the other, of the pack leader were insisting that this was dangerous, that big hungry things lurked in the water... Xander insisted that Buffy was a strong fighter, and could keep herself safe from water dwelling things. He wondered if he could slip into the memories of the pack leader the way the hyena was dipping into his... "That's okay."

Willow frowned, her chin and eyes going down, properly submissive behavior. She wasn't challenging his authority, but the Xander behind the hyena was certain that she was thinking, that she didn't think something was quite right. The pack leader dismissed her, concluding that she was obviously an inferior pack member, probably kept to watch the cubs while the strong ones sought food. Buffy glanced over at Willow, a look passing between them, the sort that probably was full of questions.

Buffy murmured something that the pack leader didn't pay attention to. The others had come into the club, apparently tired of waiting, or maybe they finally had figured out how to open the door. They scanned the room, falling into a hunting formation as they came over, the one that had been his second and rival, now inhabiting the body of Kyle looked at him, his eyes full of challenge. He seemed to think that the fact that the Kyle-body was bigger than the body of the pack leader (Xander, damn it, if I'm possessed, why can't it be something that remembers my name!) that he could take control of the pack. The rest would follow whoever proved to be the stronger. He looked back, allowing his eyes to promise pain and defeat if the second was foolish enough to try. After a few moments, the second submitted, dropping his eyes, shoulders lowering a bit. They moved to a different table, using words to taunt the large, soft looking boy sitting there.

He listened half-heartedly as the others of his pack taunted the boy, knowing that if things had been different, they would be circling around for the kill, certain that this one was too soft and weak to fight back. He chuckled as they mocked the boy, the leader feeling something almost like pride that they were adapting so well to the new bodies, the new wilderness. Turning back to Buffy and Willow, he saw that Willow was looking deep in thought, and Buffy was frowning, clearly not amused. "Kid's fat."

Inside, Xander felt delighted and disturbed. Disturbed because something in him was agreeing with the way the hyena had been looking at things, horrified by the way the hyena was looking at the boy as prey, but... Buffy and Willow had to know that something wasn't right. They would find a way to fix this... they had to.

Chapter 3

But the next day wasn't encouraging. He'd had strange dreams, hyena dreams and had learned a lot about how hyenas in the wild lived. None of it made this situation any better. Nor did the fact that Mark Harris didn't smell anything like he did, there was no similarity to the scent as the hyena memories insisted there should be among relatives. Part of Xander's mind was still trying to figure out what that meant as school began. He'd gone, aware that this was expected, that his pack should be there. It seemed to be a frustration to the hyena, all noisy and regimented order.. the same things that annoyed Xander chaffing at the hyena's limited patience. Pausing, he remembered that he was supposed to study with Willow, to go over his math.

He sighed, walking toward the study area, knowing that he didn't like the math and probably never would. There was Buffy, holding a pig in her hands, talking with an older male, clearly not a good hunter - Principle Flutie. As Xander-Pack Leader passed, the small pig panicked, squealing and twisting, clearly trying to escape. The pack leader smiled, pleased that something recognized him.

There was another surprise that wasn't that surprising. The Pack Leader was baffled by the geometry, staring at what his eyes tried to insist was blurred lines and swooping curves, all entirely meaningless. This seemed to worry Willow a bit, especially since Xander knew that this section was something that he'd actually been able to follow. But the Hyena didn't read, the printed text meaningless marks and blurs to him.

Willow looked at him, her eyes filled with concern, and a hint of worry. "Xander..."

Pack Leader didn't like this part of being human, the blurred marks and swoops that meant nothing in the real world. They would not help him find prey, wouldn't keep his pack in order, what use were they? He growled, the sound apparently audible even to Willow, who made a small gasp and looked at him, concerned, but not filled with prey-fear. He threw the book into the trash can, rubbing his temples, which felt like they were throbbing. "Better now."

He stalked out of the room, his posture proclaiming his unhappiness to everyone. He was vaguely aware of Willow murmuring a comment, but let her too pass from his attention. Why was he even here?

The game of dodge-ball helped some, although the pack leader had flung one of the balls at willow, still unhappy at her for pushing the swoops and blurs at him. She looked so startled, like she didn't understand... Later, he'd spoken to her, harsh angry words oabout the math, and insulting her, hurting her feelings in a calculated cruelty. Xander wanted to scream, how could this hyena be doing that to Willow! Didn't he know that she was his friend? Just about his only friend.

He found the others of his pack, the there was the scent of something... it smelled like meat, like... "Dogs!"

They stalked towards the scent, finding that it was from the hot dogs that the school had provided for lunch. But... the taste... even more wrong than the bread thing had been. This wasn't real meat! They left the bad meat for the weaklings that they had taken it from, moving away in search of something better. A memory teased at him, from earlier today... something about Buffy... no, the thing in Buffy's arms. A pig.

Lips curled back in anticipation, he gestured for the others to follow him. It was simple to find the place where the pig had gone, and they could hear it inside, little noises as it moved around, a few metallic clinkings...was it in a cage? Oh, this would be too easy. They moved into the room, and the pig began to squeal, panicking. Xander pulled the window blinds down, aware that the humans wouldn't understand. "Let's do lunch."

The pig had been delicious. He'd missed the scent of prey, the feeling of his teeth ripping flesh, the taste of fresh meat, still hot and quivering. They left the kill, stepping out into the air. He looked at his pack, seeing them walking in their pairs. No, this wasn't right. He was the leader, he should have a mate as well. A strong mate, capable of being a good hunter, of birthing strong cubs. An image filled his mind, golden hair that smelled of flowers, and lean limbs with sleek muscles... Buffy. Yes, she would be a good mate.

He turned, something from the memories of the boy suggesting that he would be able to find her. He circled through the places that smelled the most like her, finding her den, and eventually, he found her. She was in the small room, examining the remains of his pack's kill.

Inside his head, Xander cringed. He had a bad feeling about this. Yes, Buffy was beautiful, and sexy, and he wanted her so badly... but she'd never given any sign of noticing, being to hung up on Angel. Somehow, he didn't think the hyena would care that Buffy wanted deadboy... And he had the feeling that hyena's didn't do the whole flirting thing very well.

Oh yeah, this was bad. Worse than he'd expected... It was like some sort of horrible blend of bad pick up lines and a fight, and the hyena taunted her, claiming that she liked her men dangerous, pointing out that now he was dangerous. There was a change in her scent, partly fear, and partly something else... The pack leader was certain that it was only a matter of time before the golden female would be his mate.

That was right before the desk hit him with an explosion of pain that pulled him into darkness.

Chapter 4

He woke up, feeling like his body was too heavy. His head was throbbing, and there as this funny taste in his mouth... But best of all, HE was the one in control. Not the hyena, he was. But he could still feel it, still feel the hyena inside him, still smell everything... he was locked in the book cage, and the only other person in the library was Willow. There was something playing, sounded like... a nature program. Listening, he could hear everything so clearly, as if he was right there. It was about hyenas, and their hunting patterns. Maybe they were working on something now?

He rattled the door, hoping to get her attention. "Willow?"

Only heartbeats had passed before she was in view, the dried tear streaks on her face almost imperceptible, but their salt-scent strong. She stopped a bit past the space he could reach, and looked at him, her eyes full of worry and concern, and a bit of hurt. Her words were a bit hesitant. "Xander? How do you feel?"

"I feel... sort of like I got hit by a large object... a desk? But Wills... you got to help me! Something's wrong... it's the hyenas. They've possessed us..." He had to make her understand, they had to find a solution. He didn't want to have to spend the rest of his life prisoner to some furry beast that had possessed his body.

"We already got that part. There's this weird ritual normally used by the Masai tribe to allow animal spirits to possess them... some sort of religeous thing that I don't quite understand. But... it can be dangerous. We're looking for a way... Xander, is it... is it really you this time?" She seemed so fragile, her hands twisting and fluttering like wounded birds.

He rubbed his head, wincing. "For the moment... I can feel him, the pack leader. He's still here, but... it's like I woke up first. You have to find a way to get him out. And tell Buffy I am so sorry about this... It happened at the zoo, there was this weird thing... The hyena's dangerous. He's been looking at all the people as potential prey... I think I convinced him that you and Buffy aren't prey, but... he thinks you're weak, and he thinks..."

"The hyena wants to make Buffy his mate. Sort of like you want her to go out with you, but without the whole civilized thing." There was pain in her voice, and sorrow.

He'd hurt her, the words of the hyena. And even though it hadn't been him, it had felt like it to her. "Oh, Wills, I'm sorry. I'm a shmuck. Pond scum... just, please make it so I'm not a hyena. Wait... could be important... the others, the pack? They don't seem to have the human still in them."

She frowned, looking as if she was trying to sort this out in her mind. "But... if Kyle and the others aren't in their bodies anymore, where are they? And if they got put somewhere else by the hyenas, why didn't you?"

"I have no clue. But, look at me, you have to be able to tell that it's me, right?" Please believe me, please....

Willow stepped closer, looking into his eyes, and he had the oddest feeling, as if he was falling... "You are Xander... but there's something, like a shadow... We're working on a solution. But time's running out. The rest of them... they got identified for eating Herbert. They were sent to Principle Flutie's office."

Xander frowned, trying to remember. "I don't think that's a good idea... They wouldn't respect him. He's not a fighter or leader."

She looked away, fidgeting more, and he could smell her nervousness. "It's a bit worse than that. They... umm... they ate him."

Everything seemed to freeze. He knew, he could smell the sincerity in her words, catch the faint hint of blood in the air... "Oh my god. Why.. it's the hyena spirits, isn't it? Is that... is that going to happen to me?"

"No! I... we won't let it. We're going to find a way to get things back to normal."

He could hear it in her voice, see the Resolve Face... But he'd never known that it had a scent. "Yeah... back to normal would be really good." Something nagged at his mind. "Wills? Where are the rest of my... his pack? If they're loose... they'll come find me."

"They'll... but! Oh no..." Willow was panicking. He could see it, smell it.

"Willow! FOr god's sake, calm down! Panicking like that won't help, they'll think you smell even more like prey!" He shook the door of the cage again, and frowned. Had he just heard something? He pushed the door hard, and it gave way with a painfully loud shriek of metal.

She spun around, surprise replacing a portion of the panic. "Xander? How did you..."

He stared at the door of the cage, seeing the dent where he'd pushed it. "I... the hyena made me stronger, but... whoa. I didn't think I'd be able to use that with him still out of it. They're going to try to come back here, to find me. I'll do my best to keep you safe... hopefully the hyena in me won't try to hurt you either."

"It was at the zoo, wasn't it? When they took over? I think... we'll probably need to go back there to put things right again." She still smelled nervous, but no longer panicked. And she was making a lot of sense.

"Sounds likely. And Wills? I'm pretty sure the whole problem with the geometry was that the pack leader can't read. The lines didn't mean anything to him." Please don't hold that against me...

She smiled, and Xander knew that he was forgiven. "That makes sense. We'd best make sure he's gone before the test, then."

Chapter 5

There was a growling noise, and they could see a face outside one of the small windows at the top of the library. It was Tor, but his face was smeared with something dark. He snarled, and his fist hit the window, sending glass shards flying every where. Another shattering noise came from the other window.

Xander grabbed Willow's hand, and they ran out of the library. Down the hall, passing doors and seeing the signs of trouble, the yellow tape near the Principle's office.

"Should we hide?" willow sounded afraid.

"No point. They can smell you... us. Better to run, at least until we can get to safety." Xander knew then that Willow hadn't considered that hyenas tracked by scent.

She nodded, her hair flying behind her. "Right... the parking lot! If we get in a car, then we can go to the zoo. Faster than running..."

"Keys?" There was the small problem that neither of them could drive...

"Principle Flutie's car. He keeps.. kept the keys over the visor." She fell silent, taking in air. "One of us will have to figure out driving."

Willow wasn't the best driver, but she did get them going. He could see the group of hyena possessed people chasing after them, loosing ground as the car sped away. "Umm... which way to the Zoo?"

They made it to the Zoo, and there was no trouble at all finding the Hyena exhibit. He could smell Giles, and a man... the man was almost familiar smell... and he could feel the pack leader waking up. "Wills? I think... hyena's waking up now..."

His muscles quivered as the mind of Xander fought with the pack leader for control. This time, Xander was prepared, and had no intention of being pushed aside. They reached an unhappy balance, and he could feel the pack leader touching his recent memories. A small snarl emerged as he surveyed the memories of the flight from the school. "Stupid... bad hunting."

Looking over, he noticed the red haired girl beside him. She was important to the human... not a mate, but part of his pack. "Why are my pack being so stupid?"

"You're not Xander... We think... it's a side effect of the hyena spirits stating in the humans bodies. Things start to go bad... and they're getting dumber. Eventually, they'll be to stupid to hide, and they'll be killed." Her voice trembled a bit, but she was not going to abandon her pack.

Frowning, the pack leader considered her words, Xander trying to clarify a few points. Images of prison, or being gunned down by angry mobs. "How can we prevent this?"

She paused, looking into his eyes. Not quite as a challenge, but more like... as if she was trying to find a scent trail. Xander knew that she was trying to figure out exactly who she was talking to. "Maybe. If we can reverse the spell and put the hyena spirits back in the hyena bodies, everyone should go back to normal."

"There was something that made it easier to jump..." HUman things were so complicated. How to put the events into words, to make her understand?

She nodded, glancing around the area as if trying to see some hidden danger. "We know. There's a ritual... it enables the hyena spirits to go into a human. We need to go back inside to reverse it... and I think there's going to be trouble."

It was becoming clearer to the pack leader now. Red might not be strong, or swift of foot, but she was cunning. She would know where to look for prey instead of needing to find it's scent. The swooping marks probably meant something to her. "What sort?"

She made a small gesture, a shrug. "I don't know... maybe vampires? No, not vampires, the pack would probably kill any they ran across. Maybe trouble from your pack, maybe... if there was something done to make the jump into the people easier, then it would have to have been the hyena-keeper. Nobody would be able to do anything big and complicated like that without him knowing. He might be trouble as well."

"You're the smart one then. The thinker. I can make the pack obey. As for the man..." A single human? They would be able to deal with a single human.

They went inside, and there was a man, dressed all in strange clothing, his face smeared with something. Willow asked him something, and the man answered, but... Xander listened carefully, certain that the man was hiding something. Where was Giles? The hyena spirit was uneasy as well... this man looked like he was waiting for the moment to pounce. But what was his intended prey?

"I'll need your help when the time comes." The man had produced some cord, and he was binding Willow's wrists together. She stood there, her face wide with shock.

"Like a diversion? You'll..." Her voice shook, and she smelled of fear and uncertainty.

This one is a very bad hunter... too trusting. Immediately, both Xander and the pack-leader were certain the zoo-keeper was trouble, that he had no intention of helping them. He wanted the power. He would have to go. But if it was possible to wait for the right time...

Chapter 6

Xander could feel the Pack Leader, feel the thoughts of the hyena spirit as he watched the Keeper bind his friend. The hyena had never had a friend before, and found the concept puzzling. There was a scent... the golden female/Buffy. She was approaching, and fainter... his pack? Yes... and if he was right about the Keeper's plan... If the Keeper planned to hurt his Willow-Friend to draw in the power of the pack, it would be very, very bad.

He slipped back, listening to the inside. Willow was afraid, and there was also the scent of the old one/Giles. The Keeper could not be trusted. He slipped outside, seeing the figure of Buffy drawing closer. He could hear his pack chasing her, as if they were swift running cats instead of stealthy hunters. Yes, they were becoming stupid. The blond came closer, and he grabbed her arm, spinning her around into him.

She tensed, one hand curling into a fist to strike at him again. He grabbed it, looking into her angry eyes.

"We don't have time for this. There's a plan, but the Keeper doesn't intend to follow it. He's inside... he wants to hurt Red. Be ready." He wondered if she would even notice the difference from before.

He turned, slipping back into the building that held the lair of his pack in their previous forms. Four hyenas were moving around, whining pitifully in the enclosure, while one simply lay there, looking as if it were napping... And with a disorienting lurch, he realized that was himself/the pack leader. Ehhh, this magic stuff was complicated and confusing.

Buffy moved inside, catching sight of Giles fallen to the ground. She went pale, and smelled very angry. Turning, she looked about to attack the Keeper... but that would bring the knife across Willow-Friend's throat. He couldn't allow that. He leapt, tackling the blond, keeping her from causing harm to Willow-Friend.

In moments, the rest of his pack was there, some trying to join the attack against Buffy, unaware that she was a hunter. Tor-hyena went after Giles, seeing him as helpless prey, and he lunged towards him, tossing him towards the main fight. Giles was important, not prey. He kept the demons, the not right crazed killing things away. He could feel the sensation building, the bridging that would allow the Jump.

The eyes of his pack flickered, his pack now moving with hunger and confidence in their real bodies. The children they had replaced were back, looking dazed and weak. He growled, and moved towards the Keeper, noticing that the knife had moved farther from Willow- Friend's neck. His fist caught the Keeper, driving him back with a slight crunching feeling that he knew meant broken ribs, the faint scent of blood on the Keeper's breathing as he gasped. He growled in satisfaction, he wouldn't let Willow-Friend, the smallest of his pack, be threatened. He hit out at the man again, and the force sent him over the railing, falling and landing with a dull thud and a few wet snapping sounds.

He could hear his pack moving, rushing the helpless prey that he'd driven over the small cliff. Yes... He leapt across the void, feeling the bridge humming strong right then.

Xander staggered back, his balance faltering as his body momentarily didn't know if it had two legs or four, and for a moment, he could almost feel the hyena-body around him... NO!!

He landed hard on the concrete, his hip and buttocks aching from the impact. He was Xander Harris... he was human. For a moment, his skull felt so empty, so alone... He tried to catch his breath, hearing Buffy pick herself up, race over to try to save the Keeper... a futile and foolish idea. He could still smell the harsh scent of the paint used to trace the Masai diagram that had enabled the Bridge. He could smell Giles rousing from his enforced nap, smell the older man's confusion and Willow's fear. He could hear the sounds of the others, Tor and Kyle and Heidi and Rhonda as they scurried away, confused and afraid.

This wasn't right... the hyena-spirit was gone. He was just Xander now, why could he still smell everything? Maybe some sort of temporary after-effects? Could he hope? Or... had this changed him? He shivered, his mind full of the various dark and unpleasant 'what if's' that might follow this having changed him. He'd be a freak and outcast at best.

Maybe he'd best pretend this hadn't... that he couldn't remember, that everything was still the same. How could he explain it anyhow? He could smell his fear, a sour stink that made his stomach tense.

"Uh, did I miss anything?" Giles still sounded a bit groggy.

He looked around, seeing that Willow was alright, physically. She looked pale, and was trembling, and still smelled like fading fear, but she wasn't injured. Buffy had some bruises, and some scratches, but looked pretty much okay also. Time to put his act in motion.

"Ahh.. what am I doing in the hyena house of the zoo?"

They took the car of Principal Flutie back to the school, Giles driving much more slowly and carefully than Willow had, and Willow sat there, quiet and thinking. Buffy attempted to explain how the Zoo-keeper had found out about 'some weird ritual thingy' that would allow somebody to be possessed by the spirit of a hyena, except that they wouldn't really be there. He listened, asking a few questions, trying to make it look as if he had no clue what had happened over the past two days.

It seemed to be working.

Chapter 7

Xander was walking along the edge of the building, listening to Buffy and Willow discussing their English class. Part of him was already wishing that he didn't need to keep this a secret, didn't need to hide things, but... Before he'd gained a bit of influence, bad things had happened. There had been the pig, and Buffy... well, not in the same way, of course, but still... Badness.

"I heard the vice-principal's taking over till they can find a replacement." Willow's voice was soft, but it grabbed Xander's attention, dragging him back to the here-and-now instead of his thoughts.

"It shouldn't be too hard to find a new principal. Unless they ask what happened to the last one." Buffy sounded sort of wistful, sort of... as if she was contemplating violence. Yeah, definitely not telling.

"Okay, but I had nothing to do with that, right?" Please, let things not have been too horrible for them to deal with.

As they started to climb the stairs, on their way to their next class, Buffy spoke again. "No, nothing to do with Principal Flutie."

"You only ate the pig." Willow's voice held a bit of teasing. "Not kosher, but you aren't Jewish."

Xander decided to press just a little, to see what they would say. "I ate a pig? Was it cooked and called bacon or..."

The girls shake their heads. Willow had a small smile, Buffy looked like she was trying not to make a disgusted face.

He covered his face, thinking that might make his act a bit easier, and remembering how delicious the pig had tasted, the memory making him a bit uneasy. "Oh, my God! I ate a pig? I mean, the whole trichinosis issue aside, yuck!"

"Well, it wasn't really you. You were possessed, and... not yourself." Buffy's voice was quiet, and tried to hide a number of emotions, which Xander could smell - fear, anger, uncertainty.

"Well, I remember I was going on the field trip, and then going down to the Hyena House, and next thing some guy's holding Willow and he's got a knife..." He knew it was a lie. But would they know?

"You saved my life." Her voice was soft, and he could smell just a hint of uncertainty.

"Hey! Nobody messes with my Willow." He reached out, giving her a hug. She was his best friend, the only one that had always been there for him.

They were all smiling, everything either alright or close enough that they could pretend. "This is definitely the superior Xander. Accept no substitutes." Buffy's words gave him a small warm feeling in his stomach.

But it seemed a bit too easy, too simple. Maybe he should test it a bit. "I didn't do anything else, did I, around you guys or anything embarrassing?"

Willow gave a small smile, one that said he was her friend, no matter what, and Buffy looked thoughtful. She waved a hand, her fingers still carrying the acrid tang of nail polish, and uttered a dismissive "Nah!"

"Not at all." She shook her head. "Nothing out of the Xander range... not much anyhow." Her final words were whispered so softly that he barely caught them.

"C'mon. We're gonna be late." Buffy grabbed Willow's hand, towing the redhead towards their next class.

Willow looked at him, and gave a small wave and a quick wink. "See you at lunch."

He waved a goodbye at them and turned to head towards the rest of the building, where he'd arranged to spend his 'free period', also known as a study hall, in the library. He was met by Giles, who looked as if he had something on his mind.

"I've been reading up on my, uh, animal possession, and I cannot find anything anywhere about memory loss afterwards." Giles' sounded a bit stuffy, and smelled slightly worried, slightly amused.

Worry seized Xander, and he glanced up at Giles, wondering exactly what was going on inside the man's head. "Did you tell them that?"

Giles gave a small smile, and leaned over, his voice sounding very loud in Xander's ear, though it was little more than a whisper. "Your secret dies with me."

Xander couldn't help it, he shuddered at the idea of Buffy's reaction if she ever discovered that he'd later been able to control... or at least infleunce the hyena and hadn't when he'd made his move on Buffy. She'd be furious. "Shoot me, stuff me, mount me."

Giles just patted him on the shoulder, his head shaking as he walked along the balcony. He leaned on the railing and watched Xander go, a small murmur of almost explanation. "The idea of being possessed by a spirit so alien in nature must be traumatic enough, without people asking questions about it all the time."

Xander couldn't quite believe what had happened to him. Giles was agreeing to play along with his 'not remembering' story. But... they hyena hadn't felt entirely alien, not like Giles seemed to think it should. That almost worried him more than the fact that he could still hear things far better than he should, and smell far more than he'd ever wanted.

Chapter 8

He found Willow sitting under a tree, smelling like chocolate. She was flipping through her English book, looking almost relaxed. Buffy had been there, but was gone now.

"Did you save any chocolate for me, Wills?" He hoped that she had, he could practically taste it in the air...

She looked up, startled. "Xander? Sit down..." She looked into his eyes, searching for something. "How did you know that I'd had chocolate?"

"I... I could smell it." Oh, his flimsy excuse was gone, if she'd ever believed it to begin with. She'd start to think about it, and then...

She made a small nod, as if something thad just added up for her. "Have you been noticing any other after effects? You can talk to me, Xander. I promise. And I won't tell Buffy or Giles anything unless you say I can or it becomes necessary to save someone's life. But... I want to help you. First step, here, I saved you a Hershey bar."

The Hershey bar was wonderful, sweet and rich, melting in his mouth. "mmmm. It's sort of weird. I can remember, pretty much. Not every moment, but... sort of like remembering yesterday. I can still smell things... too many things. Hearing's a bit better. Everything else seems pretty normal..."

She looked at him, frowning a bit. "Maybe not." Reaching out, she pushed his sleeve up, showing his arm that should have been covered with dark bruises from the pack fighting Buffy. Instead of the dark purple blue mottling, it was an ugly yellow green, as if weeks old.

"Oh shit... what... how..." Xander could only stare at the fading bruises in shock.

"You seem to be healing faster, sort of like Buffy does." Her voice was calm as she stated the frighteningly obvious.

"But... I'm not a Slayer. I'm just Xander. Why is this happening to me?" He could feel panic starting to well up inside him.

Willow put her hand on his arm, soft and gentle, but comforting. "It's okay. I have a few guesses, but whatever it is, I'm here for you."

He looked at her, seeing nothing but concern and caring in her eyes. "Okay... what might have happened?"

She smiled, the expression full of friendship. "Well, the first option is that you've been changed by this into some sort of male Slayer. Filled with the power of a predator and all. The second it that this is just lingering side effects and will fade over time. Third... Xander, what if you're a mutant?"

Icy fingers of dread slipped into him. "A mutant? But... aren't mutants dangerous crazy people?"

Willow shrugged. "Well, some of them can do really impressive sort of scary things, but... so can Buffy. As for crazy, probably no more than any other type of people. It might explain the whole enhanced senses and rapid healing."

He reached out, touching a thread that dangled from her sleeve. "Will you still be my best bud if I'm a mutant freak?"

She scowled at him, smelling offended. "You are not a freak! Even... you're still Xander, and you'll always be Xander. That means that I am your friend and always will be! You're still the same Xander you've always been, just older and a bit freaked out."

"Still friends, still your Xander. Yeah... Have I ever told you how lucky I am to have a friend like you?" Xander smiled, leaning on the ground beside Willow, licking the last traces of chocolate from his fingers.

"Friends always. And I'll try to help you figure out what's going on." Willow's voice was full of reassurance.

Yeah, he was lucky to have her for a friend. Especially if he turned out to be a mutant. Friends might get pretty scarce then.