Author: M. McGregor <erstwhile_visionary[at]>

Disclaimer: Disclaim is my claim, disclaim is your claim. From claimohio, to the claiming islands! So disclaim might be mine, but the characters in this story? Not so much.

RATING: R for violence and sexual suggestiveness.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: This is a semi-dark Xander story, but I think, still retaining the core of who Xander is. However, there may be views expressed in this story that don't mesh with my own views. There will be another author's note at the end, which may explain a bit of why Xander may seem out of character at times.

This fic is also based (very loosely) off of a certain video game, which I'm sure many people will be able to figure out just by the title. It's also based on the idea of Faith giving herself over to the Mayor so completely, and wondering what would have happened if she gave someone else that kind of control over her life. Hopefully I'm not delving into an area too out of character for her, but this is sort of an experimental fic, so bear with me.

I'm hoping that I can keep Faith in character and not degenerate into the "Oh no, I'm so sorry! And now I'm cured!" kind of Faith that pops up now and again in fanfic land. Whether or not I succeeded is another story. She may seem a bit off in her characterization, or you may think she's dead on. If you think she's completely off...well keep it to yourself! I don't need that kind of negativity in my life, ya jerk!

Last thing: The narrative changes from first to third person, although only Xander (sorta) is ever in first person, and also chances tense once or twice. I hope this doesn't make it impossible to read, cause I know that kind of thing can be annoying sometimes. Changes are usually marked by a chapter break or similar, so it shouldn't be anything jarring like a change mid-paragraph. The changes are intentional though, and it made this fic a lot more interesting to write. Please let me know your feelings on the style, good and bad.

And now after that way-too-long author's note, onto the story!


"I could make you die," she says breathlessly. Her hands close around my throat as her face tenses up. I pound at her arms, trying to get her to release me. She's strong, far too strong. Her face holds an expression of loathing, fear, anger, anguish and joy. As my vision begins to blur I think that I could easily see that face in the mirror. She begins to fade, and I realize that I've failed. Failed myself, and failed her. I don't want to go out like this, and while it's mostly a selfish desire to live, there is the small voice wondering what will happen to Faith if she kills me in cold blood.

Was I too nervous? Too sure that she would recognize that I saw her in a way others did not? I shouldn't have made the jokes about sleeping together; I shouldn't have done it in the first place. How could I have said no? I couldn't, and I curse myself for the person I am.

I've seen her with that look in her eyes. The faraway look of horrors long past. The horrors of regular human beings. I had thought she recognized that same unspoken look in me. I was wrong, and it's going to cost both of us our lives. There's no way Buffy will let her live if I die.

I can't let myself go. This is more than me, more than even Faith. My mind feels like it's working at light speed as I envision the future where I'm killed by Faith. Buffy becoming a killer herself, avenging me. Part of me wonders if we're still close enough that she'd kill a human, kill a slayer to avenge me.

It takes a long time for someone to pass out. How long can I hold my breath? One. Two. Three...

I can feel myself slipping away, unable to even fight her anymore. I just wanted to help. Just wanted to offer her the help no one ever offered me. As she fades from my vision, I speak it without sound.


The laughter echoes and I wonder if I made the right decision.


It takes me a second to figure out where I am. Some chick's on top of me, and that'd usually be a good thing, only this chick's got her hands around my throat and a grip that's just not natural. I'm always disoriented at first, but this time there's a clear message waiting for me.


Right, this is Faith. And those are Faith's fingers around my neck. Ok, first order of business.

The come away slowly but surely. I love that shocked look in her eyes as I pull her hands away. I can already feel the feral grin slide onto my face. She's gorgeous, and I decide right there that she'll be mine.

An echo sounds in my mind. Already mine. Even better. Obviously she doesn't think the whelp is up to snuff. Or rather, she thinks the whelp is fun *to* snuff.

Oh yeah, I'm a real comic genius.

"How the hell!?" is her oh-so intelligent response to the removal of her fingers from my neck. I'd speak, but my esophagus is pretty nearly crushed. Shouldn't take but a minute to heal though. So instead of speaking, I just shift my weight slightly, wrapping my legs around the backs of hers, my hands still gripping her wrists tightly.

Stupid Slayer should have realized she only weighs a 110 pounds soaking wet. Hmm...Faith soaking wet, put that on my to-do list.

With her on top of me she's got barely any leverage to use that slayer-strength of hers, and my own is more than enough to hold her arms at bay. She's on top, but now I'm in control. She struggles for a few seconds, and apparently decides against trying to headbutt or bite me.

She smiles now, grinding her ass into my crotch, obviously able to feel my pleasure in our position. It's a false smile though, and as I integrate more, I realize it's been false almost as long as I've known her.

I can feel my throat's almost healed, so I take a long inward breath through my nose.

Her scent is beyond description, but she stinks of fear. The entire room is filled with it, so I know it's not just because of my show of strength.

"You been holdin' out on B all this time, Boytoy?" she says coolly, trying to mask her fear. "You got some mystical warrior deal, or am I going to have to cut your head off and bring you to Giles to find out what kind of demon you are?"

"What I am Faith," I say, my voice gravelly due to my almost healed throat. "Is Superior.""

I wonder if she'll recognize the big honking capital S in Superior.

"Don't go getting ANOTHER swelled head," she grinds herself into my crotch again to emphasize. "You were a good lay, but not that good. " I grin at her. If I hadn't already decided that I'd have her, that would have done it. She blurs in my vision for a second as another echo surges.


Whelp must be real determined. Never had an echo like that before. Why the fuck should I help this bitch, when two seconds ago she was trying to see if I could beat Houdini's record for holding your breath?

Another echo and she blurs out again. Fucker's been in control for too long, he's getting to thinking he can push me around.


I growl, and for a second I feel Faith's body tense as her fear vanishes for a moment. I guess she's responding to an apparent demonic action on my part. Dimly I wonder if that's a slayer thing, being able to put aside fear based on a demonic presence. Regardless, Faith's newfound lack of fear is gone as quickly as it begins. I file away the whole thing for later thought.

But the rest of me, quite literally, is busy coming to terms. The little shit is right, and I know it, but I still don't like him trying to tell me what to do. I'm the one who gets things done, and if his stupid ass hadn't fucked things up, I wouldn't even be here. That's what pisses me off the most. I'm the desperation move.

He is right though. She's one of them, and their protection is always top priority. So I'll help the bitch. But I'm doing it my way, you hear me?

Yeah. I thought so. Sometimes you just gotta show them who's the Alpha.

Now that gives me an idea.

"I can smell it on you Faith, the fear you feel at every moment of every day. This place fucking reeks of it."

She stares into my eyes for a few seconds, wide-eyed, as if I'd blurted out some horrible secret I planned to blackmail her with. It's as if I can see the decision to lash out being made behind her eyes. She's so damned predictable. Of course, most of them are.

As her head comes down in a vicious butt to my nose, I release my grip on her right arm and slam my palm into the side of her face. She lurches and tumbles off the bed as I relax my hold on her legs at the same time. I'm on my feet almost before she's landed.

"Gonna prove you're not so scared Faithy?" I grin at the aura of rage that consumes her as I taunt her. She gives a wordless scream and rushes me. Slayer speed really is pretty impressive.

But not that impressive.

She's back on the floor with an ache in her jaw before she realizes what happened. It's not like I didn't tell her I was Superior, but like I said before, sometimes you just gotta show them who's the Alpha.

Here's a hint: It's always me.

If usually don't toy with my prey, even if I've got to give a reminder. But this one needed a lesson, so I let the fight drag on a few minutes. She was a natural fighter without a doubt, but she was also unfocused. After a few hundred missed punches on her part I ended it with one of mine. I do hope that her Slayer healing takes care of that bruise before I claim her.

"How the hell are you doing this?" she screams in frustration as she staggers back towards me for another round. I'm done with this portion of the lesson though, so instead of taking her down again I grab her wrist as she throws another punch, pulling her spinning into me. In a blink she's unable to move as I've got her pressed up against the wall. Tears fill her eyes as she stares at me, helpless now to do anything but rage inwardly to try and suppress her fear.

"Toldja Faithy, I'm Superior. As in better than you. In just about every way. I'm the top dog, the Alpha. The leader of the pack."

She thinks she knows now. I can see it plain as day.

"The leader of the pack? You're the wolf thing, right? The thing that possessed you a while back. Buffy told me about it."

"Oh yeah? She tell you...ALL About it?" I smell her neck again. I think I may be getting addicted to the smell of her fear. "Did she tell you about how we stood almost like this as I prepared to claim her? Did she tell you of the disgust she had with herself at how badly she wanted it? How much she wanted to say yes?"

"You're a twisted little wolf-demon, but at least you gave me an excuse to cut your fucking head off without getting Buffy's panties in a twist," she snarls.

"That's Hyena not wolf. But sorry to inform you Faithy, I'm more me than I ever was."

"Bullshit. Xander doesn't talk like that, and he sure as hell doesn't fight like that."

I'm going to enjoy proving her wrong.

"Well I never did say I was exactly Xander, now did I?" I grind my crotch into her for a moment, mimicking the very same movement she used on me just moments before. "I'm Alexander Lavelle Harris."


"You bet your sweet ass." I'm not ashamed of who I am, not like the whelp. I emphasize with another rolling of my hips into her.

"None of this is convincing me you're not a demon I should kill."

Unable to help myself I lick the side of her neck and up her cheek, and then press a savage kiss into her lips. I can smell it, the same thing I smelled with Buffy so long ago, only Faith lets her body do the thinking for her so often that she's on autopilot for now. She kisses me back, deeply and powerfully for at least half a minute before I pull back slowly, licking my lips as I grin at her.

"Y-you," she breathes deeply and swallows, beginning again. "You bastard." Her voice is subdued and quiet now, and I marvel at how easy it is to guide her reactions. I stare into her eyes again.

"It is true you know Faith. I do have a connection with you, and I'm not talking about twenty minutes of rutting either." I'm sure to keep my eyes locked with hers. She can fake her bravado everywhere else, but her eyes always give the lie to what she says. I trust in the notion that my eyes will show her the truth of what I say.

"We've seen more. More than Buffy, way more than Willow, maybe even more than Giles. You know what I'm talking about, yeah?" Her fear is rising. No one is supposed to see past her exterior. Even though she desperately wants someone to do just that. As soon as there's a hint that they may see the true Faith, she puts up another barrier, railing inwardly all the while at why no one could know the real her.

But here, in this shitty motel room, with me pressed against her, eyes locked on each other, she can't form a barrier I won't see through instantly. Because the thing she's hidden for so long behind that mask is the thing she sees in my eyes.

"You know it and I know it. So I'm here Faith to make you two promises. It's over Faith. That's my first promise to you. You're in my pack now, and that puts you under my protection. You'll never have to go through any of that shit ever again, and it's my word that nothing'll happen to you from here on out. You understand?"

Her bottom lip is trembling and I can see the unspoken horrors she's "seen" flicker in her eyes. Demons don't have the monopoly on terror. Finally she nods, eyes never leaving mine.

"The second promise is this. I'm Alpha. You're part of the pack, but you defer to me. You do what I tell you. You hurt the pack and I will deal with you personally. You *try* to hurt me and I will remind you why I'm top dog. Understand?"

This may be the tougher of the two. She's been looking for a hand to grasp onto for years. Someone to help her that she believes could actually do it. Maybe for a while it was her first Watcher, but that ended in a way that only reinforced her fear. I'm someone who's been through the same kind of fire she has, and I've proven to her I've got the strength to protect her.

She thought when she became the Slayer that she'd be tough enough to leave it all behind. She'd be the one doing the pushing around; she'd be the one dealing out punishment. Instead Kakistos showed her that being a Slayer would just mean a new kind of abuse. It was an unfortunate part of her psyche that she equated power with strength. I wonder if it's a slayer thing.

So the first part is easy, relatively speaking. I've got to get her to give in and deal instead of running with the mask. That's why I'm the one who's gotta *HELP*, got that you wussy little bastard? Cause I'm the one who DEALS.

But the second part is tough cause she's a Slayer on top of being a scared girl with a tough-guy persona. Slayers are used to being top of the food chain, and they don't want to give it up for anything. That's why the dumbass Hyena screwed things up, cause it didn't count on the Slayer being more Alpha than it was. Of course, maybe without the Hyena I wouldn't be doing this shit at all. Past is past though, and this is what I am now. Deal with it and move on.

She tenses under my grip and for a moment we have a silent battle of strength. I let my rage at the Hyena and the whelp overwhelm me for a second and give her a taste of what I can do. Eye to eye we stare each other down until finally, slowly, she lowers hers in submission.

"Yeah. I understand."

"Good. Get whatever shit you can't live without and can fit into a duffel bag, then we're getting out of here."

I let her go, and sit myself calmly in an uncomfortable chair while she packs.

It's a testament to how drained emotionally she was before I even arrived that she obeys me so quickly now. She was already barely keeping the mask together before this, and now that I've shattered it she's put all her feeble hopes onto me. Good thing for her I'm someone worth following.

She packs barely anything, as she had barely anything to begin with. She packs everything in complete silence, and I can tell she's trying to look at me intently when she thinks I don't notice.

When she's done she stands in the middle of the room holding the bag. She looks at me slowly, and I can see that the mask really is gone as tears are filling her eyes.

"I killed him," she whispers. I curse the zookeeper and his damned Hyenas as that urge to protect the pack rises up, and I can feel the influence of the other as well. Integration gets to be more of a bitch every time. I wonder if someday it'll just be some new me. I'll deal with it, same as I always do.

"You did. Do you deserve to live, since you killed an innocent man?" My voice is as even and restrained as I can get it, but I rise to my feet and look directly at her as I ask the question.

She's shaking slightly as she answers.

"No." Both tests are passed as she drops her arms to her sides and stares down at the floor in resignation. There's no doubt now that my judgment is the one she has put her stock in. Because of the person she is and the life she's experienced, she's put her entire life into my hands based solely on the last ten minutes. Some other part of me might (DOES! claims the echo) care that she's that fucked up that she'd put all her faith into me, but I don't. She'll be better off this way in the long run, and thus so will the pack.

"Then that's why you do. You and I both know how you really feel. You killed a man, and you'll never be able to take that away. But since you don't revel in it and you didn't do it on purpose, that means you're not a murderer. Shit happens Faith, and you know that more than most. I'll help you deal with it, cause that happens to be my specialty, but all I can do for you right now is tell you that this situation isn't half as bad as you built it up in your head."

A derisive snort shows that maybe she's not as far gone as I thought.

"I kill a guy and that's not bad?"

"It ain't good, but it's not like you cut his nuts off with a rusty knife after hiding in his closet all day. He got killed by friendly fire in a battle zone. You're almost as much a victim as he is."

Her submissiveness returns and she shrugs, but I know that she doesn't believe me...yet. I performed emergency surgery on her psyche today, but the recovery's going to take her a helluva lot longer.


She said very little on the drive to the library. I'd decided that the first thing to do is meet up with the pack. Two reasons, first I'll need to establish my place as Alpha, and second I'll need to make certain they understand that I'm dealing with Faith from now on.

I could admit to myself, well one of my selves anyway, that I was more than slightly confused at Faith's sudden change of heart. There's no doubt that Faith grew up in any number of abusive situations, long before becoming a Slayer. The mindset of an abused, scared teenaged girl and the mindset of an abused, scared, Slayer were not a good combination.

The only way I could figure it was that Faith blamed herself for virtually ever evil that had ever befallen her. No wonder he was so keen to help her. The whelp's the exact same way. Luckily for the both of them I'm around, and I don't plan on leaving any time soon.

So since she blamed herself for everything, she'd grasped at the first that seemed able to offer her a real chance to forego any responsibility. I'd have to make sure she didn't look to me as a father figure, cause I definitely had plans on doing things you shouldn't do with your daughter.

I wondered if all Slayers had a deep desire to give up responsibility. Based on Buffy's constant whining about wanting to live a normal life, there seemed to be validity to the idea. Certainly Kendra had given up virtually all her responsibility to her Watcher. Hmm...I wonder if the Watcher's Council had somehow figured out a way to mystically "breed" the trait into Slayers. Buffy was, for all outward appearances, a strong willed and take-charge person. But dig a little deeper and you find that she rarely ever wants to be in charge of anything, and certainly doesn't want responsibility forced upon her. She takes charge in combat situations, which of course she'd have to do as a Slayer. But decision-making, planning and things of that nature, she just didn't care for them. From what I could see, Faith was even worse in that regard.

Kendra as well seemed to just follow orders rather than come up with a plan herself. Could it be that Buffy's continued success was not just that she had a support system of friends, but that she had more than just one person, usually just a Watcher, coming up with plans? After all, Buffy believed Giles when he said she would die at the hands of the Master, and went off to her apparent suicide anyway. That incident was one of the few times I'd been able to exert any influence in "normal" life.

There did seem to be a clear indication that Slayers had a built in desire to follow orders. However, before last night, Faith had always been extremely independent. That didn't fit the mold.

Except that Faith's first Watcher had been killed. I figured that Faith had obeyed her original Watcher up until her death, just as Buffy obeyed her first Watcher as well. Besides the theory of the built-in obedience, both Slayers would have been scared teenaged girls in a situation they didn't understand. They would obey the Watchers purely because the Watchers seemed to know what they were doing.

Then Faith's watcher, like Buffy's, was killed. Buffy, living in a safer situation to begin with, reacted to this by being less than dutiful with Giles, but more like a teenager acting out against a parent than anything else. Whereas Faith reacted to this by giving in fully to the Slayer instinct. She told herself she was strong, powerful, and untouchable, even as she grieved over the death of what I was sure was one of the few people to ever even pretend to care about her.

So as Faith drowned herself in the persona of the Slayer, still another part of her was fighting against the notion of ever obeying a single authority figure for the rest of her life. Considering how she grew up, and what authority figures had done to her, this wasn't surprising, and would explain why Faith seemed to contradict the idea that Slayer's had a need to obey. Instinct only goes so far, and Faith was far too damaged mentally to ever listen to another person.

Until she killed a man. She had told herself for so long that she was an untouchable, uncaring, and powerful. There was only so far a lie, even one with a grain of truth, could go. I'm living proof of that. Her first reaction was to build the lie stronger, thus tipping herself over the edge to a violent insanity.

But when I'd proven to be superior to her, she finally released the lie. So what is she now? A scared teenaged girl with no sense of self-worth, an instinctual desire to obey authority figures, and a history of being abused by virtually ever authority figure she'd ever had. Faith had swung from one extreme to another, and placed all of her hopes onto me, someone she knew even less of then she thought she did.

I grinned ferally as we pulled into the parking lot of the school. Good. If there was any person in the world she should give control of her life to, it was me. I would have to be sure to be dominant and unwavering with her, especially in the beginning. She must have full confidence that I am sure of my course and will remain true to my promise.

I still planned on claiming her at some point, but not until I had repaired her to the point of being an asset to the pack. For now I would do as the whelp wanted, and help.

I was just going to help *my* way, that's all.



I strode into the Library, inhaling deeply through my nose as my eyes surveyed the surroundings. It was such an odd feeling. I had been here, and yet I had never experienced it in this way. So much sharper and clearer. The whelp never allowed himself even a taste of what he could have truly been.

Well...hardly a taste.

She stood at the doorway, staring at the floor and shifting her weight back and forth slightly. I rolled my eyes.

"Come in and sit down," I gestured at the half dozen chairs around the conference table. She said nothing, hugging herself as she slinked into the room. She slumped into the chair and stared at her wringing hands.

"Xander, is that you?" came the British voice from the stacks.

"More or less," I replied. Oh how true it was.

"I take it you've decided against speaking with Faith, have you?" he said as he emerged from the stacks. His eyes widened as he noticed her sitting there. "Oh, well, I um...that is to say," he paused, doing that mental switch I've seen him do before, the one where he becomes far less the bumbling Hugh Grant personality and far more James Bondish.

"Hello Faith, you're doing well, I trust?"

She said nothing, instead looking up at me with pleading eyes.

"She'll be fine Giles," I said, putting the attention onto me. "Eventually. We're here because I have some things to tell the gang."

"What things?" Willow said as she and Buffy entered the Library. Willow's eyes were slightly puffy and an unmistakable scent was in the air. She'd been crying recently. She stopped in mid-stride as she spotted Faith.

"Oh. You and Faith things," her voice was cold, with that slight wavering quality that told me she was trying very hard not to show her emotions.

Meanwhile, Buffy was chewing on her bottom lip, looking equal parts amazed, betrayed, hurt, and sympathetic. It was very interesting to watch.

"Mostly," I said, grinning.

"So you, uh, you two talked, huh?" Buffy said, trying to be nonchalant.

"Among other things." I grinned a little wider at what she assumed I was implying. Her face grew pale and Willow just nodded curtly, taking a seat as far away from Faith as she could.

"Ahem. I think that perhaps there are other things to discuss?" Giles interrupted. I took a brief moment to remember that he and Buffy, together, were the rivals for Alpha. He the brains and she the brawn, so to speak. They'd both have to be put in their place eventually. All in good time. He noted the obviously distressed look on Faith's face.

"Faith, do you have something you'd like to say?" This was more the Watcher in him than anything else, but I could get a sense of that so-called "Ripper" side of his personality lurking underneath. We're more similar than he's ever realized, Giles and I.

Again Faith looked at me to answer for her, but I was already speaking before she had much chance to even look up.

"Yeah Giles, Faith's here to admit to the accidental killing of the Mayor's Aide, for one thing. Although that's not necessarily the most important thing," I said. Buffy's eyes widened at the second-hand confession, as did Willow's.

"I think perhaps it would be best if Faith spoke for herself, Xander," Giles said.

"I don't really think that's necessary at the moment Giles. Frankly I'm only telling you all that because it would be causing problems within the group for it not to be cleared up. So you now know that yes, Faith did it and admits to it, and that I will be dealing with the problem from now on. The rest of you don't have to concern yourselves with it."

"What is this Xander," Buffy began. "You're her personal spokesman now?"

I spread my arms wide and smiled broadly at her.

"That's me Buffy, Alexander Harris, press secretary for one Faith Masters, Vampire Slayer." I took a bit of pleasure at the subtle responses from each of them that indicated they'd never even heard Faith's last name before.

"So what, you just want us to like, forget this ever happened? It's a big deal Xander, and it's not something that's just going to go away." Buffy was panicking over the mistaken impression she had that she would somehow be held responsible for all of this.

"I didn't say it would go away Buffy, I just said that I would be dealing with it, and you guys don't have to."

"Xander," Giles said. "I hardly think that this is an issue we can leave in your care. I'm sure Faith appreciates your support, but we will need to discuss the matter fully with Faith in order to come up with a plan to deal with things."

"Oh but I've already got a plan. Sunnydale is not a town that investigates mysterious deaths with anything but a cursory glance, even a particularly important government official. But as Faith and Buffy found out earlier, the Mayor himself is a baddie himself. That would explain why this particular death is getting investigated, dozens of other deaths and missing people in town are barely ever looked at.

"So I plan on having a little talk with the Mayor, as he would be the logical person behind any push for a real investigation. He'll either understand that our group is to be left alone, or we might have to have an emergency recall."

Buffy looked at me like I was out of my mind, and I can't say that Giles and Willow gave me any better responses.

"As for any psychological issues Faith may have from the accident, I will be dealing with those as well. There, does that make everyone feel better?" I finished by hopping up on the counter, grinning eagerly at them all. Buffy just stared at Giles in silent supplication, deferring once again to his leadership in a time of crisis. Willow remained silent all throughout, and I strongly suspected she was brooding over my relationship with Faith.

"Xander, it's apparent from both her presence and her silence that Faith trusts you, and I can certainly respect that you two have a relationship with one another," Giles spoke the word "relationship" carefully, as if the word might ignite in mid-air and singe everyone in the room.

"However, that doesn't make you qualified to single handedly treat the psychological effects of such an unfortunate incident. Now Faith, I really think it would be best if you would speak to us yourself, rather than have Xander speak for you."

She looked up from her hands, staring first at Giles, then pleadingly at me, then back to Giles.

"I'll...I'll do whatever Xander thinks is the best thing to do." She said quietly. This was a big step. She'd formally announced, in part at least, our new arrangement. That would solidify it in her mind and make things easier in the long run.

"Ok, that's it! Did you hit her with a love spell or something Xander? This is NOT how Faith acts." Buffy shook her finger at me accusingly.

"No Buffy, *I* don't use love spells." I said, which was mostly true.

"Uh excuse me? Did you get hit in the head? Cause I seem to remember being turned into a rat thanks to that love spell that you 'didn't' use," She made air-quotes around the word "didn't".

"Oh I remember it all right, but you're under the mistaken impression that I was the one who did that. I don't use love spells, and I don't need love spells, and Faith is not under any supernatural influence at all." Which again was mostly true, although Faith (and Buffy) may have been both under the influence of the Slayer spirits, but that was an entirely different issue.

She threw her hands up in frustration.

"What the hell are you talking about Xander? Why is Faith acting like that? Why are you acting like this?" I suspected she was referring to my obvious confidence and almost complete lack of wisecracking. She leaned in closer to me and looked me in the eyes. "You didn't get vamped, did you?" she said warily.

I couldn't help myself. I took a deep inward breath through my nose as she stood so close to me, taking in her scent. It was far better than I remembered, and I grinned at the memory.

Her eyes opened wide in shock.

"No," she breathed. Sigh. I could see where this was going. Well, bound to happen sometime.

Before anyone else could react she threw a solid punch at my head, but she had reared back for extra power, so there was ample time for me to lean back. She recovered as only a Slayer could, attempting to backhand me. I raised my forearms in front of my face, taking the blow harmlessly. She hit just about as hard as Faith, so I wasn't worried. Even the stupid Hyena could have taken her if he hadn't been so careless. I was anything but.

I grabbed her left hand as she threw another punch, twisting her around much like I had to Faith earlier. She tried to elbow me in the face with her other arm, so I pushed her forward. Off-balance, and certainly not expecting the force with which I shoved her, she barely managed to swivel in time to hit the weapons cabinet fence shoulder first instead of head first.

"Buffy, I'd really rather do this without having to seriously hurt you." I said.

She was up on her feet, looking furious.

"Giles, he's the Hyena again!" Giles was already off to my side holding a fairly heavy club, and Willow had turned almost beet red, although to her credit she was on her feet and mouthing a few incantations to herself. I took a quick glance at Faith, who looked scared out of her mind. Of course, because if I was the Hyena that meant Buffy and company would soon banish me back to the zoo or wherever Hyena spirits come from, and she would be back on her own again, something which she could no longer even conceive of handling. That made this confrontation doubly important.

I stood at the ready, fists slightly clenched and my body loose. I am the Alpha. All others are second to me. Time to prove who's top dog.

The double doors burst open and Wesley came striding into the room, two men holding a cross in one hand and a pistol in the other flanked him. Wesley himself had a revolver in his hand. One was aimed at Faith, another at Buffy, and Wesley's was aimed at Giles. I was frankly a bit surprised at how his hand only shook slightly as he spoke.

"By order of the Watcher's Council of Britain, I am exercising my authority and removing you, Faith the Vampire Slayer, to England, where you will accept the judgment of the disciplinary committee."

Another man walked in behind them holding a sturdy looking set of steel chains. Well this was unacceptable.

"What the hell do you think you're doing Wesley, you bloody idiot?" Giles's voice was cold and there was no fear in his voice at the gun aimed directly at his head.

"My duty of course. Kindly remain where you are while we secure the Slayer."

Faith didn't even attempt to move. She seemed oddly resigned for the moment, but I was certainly not going to let these fools take her and find out what choices she might be forced to make if that happened.

I so rarely get out for any exercise at all. My grin widened as I found myself looking forward to it. Too bad it would be so short. I cracked my knuckles, causing Wesley to give a slight glance in my direction, although to his credit, he kept most of his attention on his target.

That wouldn't help him. I let myself go fully, my grin widening as I did so. I basked in it. The world was mine.


Faith could barely think. Too much had happened in the last twenty-four hours, and her brain had taken a vacation. When Xander, or the Hyena, or whatever the hell he was had convinced her he could help her, she had given into the idea as fully as she had anything else in her life. It had felt right somehow, allowing him to be the one she deferred to, even for the short time that the arrangement had been in place. Now she'd learned that this really was just the Hyena back for round two, and that not only would he be gone once Buffy was done with him, but she'd be taken away to England and probably killed. Maybe that's what she deserved.

She heard the sound of knuckles cracking and looked to Xander/Hyena. He grinned that terrifyingly seductive grin he'd been using since she...since she tried to kill him. Then all at once, he wasn't there.

Her Slayer instincts kicked in barely an instant later, and she realized that he hadn't so much vanished as he'd just moved. FAST. She could barely track his movement as she saw a Xander-shaped blur zip around the room. A heartbeat later and he was standing by the counter again, three guns laid carefully on top of it. His grin was ever-present.

Looking back around the room she saw the Watchers all crumple to the floor, save for Wesley who was clutching his hand and stomping up and down in pain.

"Good heavens!" he exclaimed. He shook his hand as if it had been burned.

"W-what happened?" said Willow. Faith had been able to track Xander, albeit barely, because of her Slayer senses. To Willow it must have seemed that the men had simply collapsed, and their guns had just disappeared.

"Xander," Buffy said, with a whispered disbelief that echoed how Faith was feeling.

As Wesley hopped up and down in pain, Xander calmly strode over to him and grabbed him by his shirt collar, yanking him off his feet. Wesley's breath was forced out of him as he was slammed none-too-gently against the door to Giles's office. Xander leaned in close to Wesley.

"Understand this, Watcher. Faith is my responsibility now, and I will be making decisions regarding her future, not you, and not the Watcher's Council. She is under my protection and leadership, which will be far greater than anything you and your council could offer." His voice was low and threatening.

"You have exactly three choices right now," Xander counted off on his fingers. "One. You and your loyal army of fools there pack up and get the hell out of dodge. Two. You acknowledge my position as leader and swear your allegiance to me, keeping in mind that if I think you're insincere, I'll probably rip your throat out. Or three, you decide to keep doing the Council's idiotic work, in which case I rip your throat out."

Wesley took a moment to get his breath back.

"You can't seriously expect the Watcher's Council to sever any ties with the Slayer. It would be unheard of!"

Faith had to give him credit for trying to stay true to his supposed duty. That didn't make him any less of a prick though.

"I don't give a rat's ass what the Council decides to do. You've got your three choices, choose now, or you get option three by default." To emphasize the threat he slammed Wesley against the wall again.

Buffy was suddenly next to him, a hand gripping his arm menacingly.

"That's enough Xander, you're not killing anyone over this."

"Sit down and shut up, Slayer," Xander sneered. "I'm handling this."

"OK! That's it! Hyena boy is going down...again!" Buffy called out to no one in particular. She yanked hard on his arm, forcing him to release his grip on Wesley. She threw a quick punch at his head that Xander dodged, swiveling to one side. Faith, despite her near complete mental shutdown, couldn't help but analyze the fight. Buffy was a damned good Slayer, something she'd known ever since she first saw the other girl fight. She was fast, strong and agile, with an ability to improvise in battle that often meant the difference between life and death.

Buffy snapped a kick to Xander's midsection that he blocked by raising his leg up defensively. A punch combination was blocked as well, including a devastating roundhouse that would probably have had Faith out cold.

If this was the Hyena, as seemed likely given how Xander could barely win a fight against a particularly stubborn grass stain as far as she was concerned, then why was he playing the defensive game? Was he hoping that the Slayer would tire herself out? If he did, then hyenas must be very stupid animals. Slayers didn't get tired just from punching.

"Buffy," Xander said briefly as he blocked another strike, dodging the follow-up kick. "I think we're going to have to..."

Block. Sidestep. Block.

"Deal with your..."

Sidestep. Swivel. Block

"Delusions of leadership..."

Dodge. Block. Block.



*Holy shit, he killed her,* thought Faith as she saw Buffy's head snapped back and her body twisted as it sailed upwards.


*Good Lord, he's killed her,* thought Giles as he watched Buffy's eerily graceful spin in mid-air. Xander had struck brutally, a single hard uppercut to her exposed chin. He'd always known Buffy left herself open for a counterattack when using that particular punching combination, but it was not something most people would have noticed.

Buffy landed with a thud, and Giles was heartened to see that she'd been knocked out, but was still breathing. He rushed over to her, carefully checking her neck for injuries. She seemed unharmed beyond the growing bruise on her chin and her obvious unconsciousness.

Good, then he wouldn't have to deal with her injuries.

Giles looked up to see Xander grinning that same damnable grin. Wesley looked as if he was about to pass out, and Willow was pale enough to be mistaken for a vampire. They shared a brief look, and Giles gave a surreptitious gesture he hoped she would recognize as meaning, "Stand down, but be ready."

"I don't know what you've done to Xander, demon, but you can be sure that I will find some way to destroy you, for Xander's sake as well as Buffy's."

The thing in Xander's body laughed.

"Demon now, is it? I've graduated from Hyena to Demon? Really Giles, I would have thought you of all people would be a little more open minded. No demon here, just pure Alexander Lavelle Harris."

"Xander would never harm Buffy in such a way, even if he were capable of it physically," replied Giles.

"You'd like to think that, wouldn't you Giles? Selective memory is such a beautiful thing, as I know firsthand," Xander countered.

It's trying to trick you. Letting it talk is fine, but don't let it make you doubt yourself. Giles's training was taking over for the situation. One must never be swayed by the emotion of a demon in the form of a friend or loved one.

"I know it for a fact," said Giles. "Xander would sooner die than harm any of us."

"Half right, Ripper. Or rather, quarter right," the demon-Xander was still grinning maliciously. "Ask yourself, if Buffy were to do something that would threaten Willow's life or prosperity, would Xander hurt, even kill Buffy?"

Giles couldn't help but be reminded of something he'd heard second-hand. A threat made to Buffy when Willow seemed in danger do in part to Buffy's actions. No! It's trying to cloud your judgment.

"Xander might do such a thing in an extreme circumstance, but not so he could threaten to murder a human being."

"Ah, now this time you really are half-right, Giles." Xander said with a condescending tone to his voice. "Xander wouldn't hurt Buffy just to threaten to murder a human being, even if that human being was one that might be in a position to harm a friend of his."

His grin widened.

"But I never claimed to be Xander. I am who I said I was. I am Alexander."


Willow's eyes widened as a memory pushed itself into her mind.

They were children, both sitting in a sandbox, her Mother across the playground explaining to some of the other neighborhood mothers all about her latest child-raising techniques.

Xander had claimed he could dig to China, and was determinedly scooping out sand with his hands. Willow didn't believe that China was under there, cause she heard that it was really a Tex Tonic Plate, which she thought maybe was a kind of fine china, which was why Xander got confused and thought the country China was down there.

"I bet we can get Chinese food when we get there," Xander said happily, shoveling a handful of sand to one side.

"Ok but I only have thirty five cents, so we can't get a lot," Willow replied, briefly taken with the idea of coming home with a bag full of Chinese food, then wowing her parents with a tale of how she and Xander had dug there way there and back. Then she reminded herself that she didn't believe China was underneath all that sand.

"Yeah just some eggrolls and some noodles and fortune cookies and one-ton soup."

She frowned as she noticed something in his hair.

"What's that?" she asked, pointing at his head. It was hard to see, but a small black plastic looking box was nestled at the back of his head. She wouldn't have noticed if the sun hadn't hit it in just the right way, or if she hadn't been staring at Xander while picturing them getting married someday in her castle.

He looked briefly panicked, then touched the back of his head slowly.

"Oh...nothin'," he said shortly.

"Did you get gum in your hair, cause I got gum in my hair the other day and then Mommy said that I wasn't allowed to eat non-newt-licious food substitutes anymore but I don't know what that has to do with getting gum in your hair but maybe that's what's in your hair." Willow explained.

"I said it's nothin'."

"Nuh uh! Let me see Xander!" she decided, reaching for his head. His hands reached out and grabbed her arms, holding her back.

"Xaaandeerrr!" she whined.

"Don't call me that," he said threateningly.

"That's your name, dummy!"

"No, my name's Alexander." he shoved her back so she fell on her bottom. She grunted, but was too stunned to think to cry.

He leaned over her and looked right into her eyes. She couldn't speak, suddenly afraid of her best friend.

"There's nothin' there, ok? Never talk about it again, or I won't be your friend anymore." He was holding her by the shoulders, and shook her slightly. "Understand?"

"Y-yes X...Alexander, I'm sorry!" She didn't understand why he wouldn't admit there was something there, but she was too frightened to argue with him anymore. She didn't want to lose her only friend, cause then who would she marry?

"Good." He looked sadly at her for a moment, and then sat back down. He stared out at the rest of the playground for a moment, and then went back to digging.

"Maybe if we bring back lots of food then your mom will let us have a sleepover tonight!" He said, suddenly cheery.

"Y-yeah, ok Alexander." she said shakily.

His eyes widened, and for a moment it seemed like his hands were going to reach back behind his head. Tears formed in his eyes.

" I'm Xander, Willow. Remember? I'm Xander, right? Don't ever call me..." He swallowed, and then sniffled. "Don't ever call me that, ok? Please?" A tear dripped down his face as he stared at her pleadingly.

She forgot all about her own fear as she felt the wave of fear he was obviously feeling. She was more confused than she'd been in all six years of her life. She began nodding vigorously. She didn't like seeing Xander like this any more than how he was a moment ago.

"Right, you're Xander, an' I'm Willow!" she said with a falsely cheery voice. "And we're best friends forever and ever, right?"

Xander wiped his nose on his shirt, and then grinned at her.

"I'm not gonna be friends with a girl!" he said teasingly, touching her lightly on the shoulder. "You got cooties! Can't catch me!" then he was off running.

Like so many odd happenings in childhood, the moment was quickly replaced by other, more important issues, and Willow soon forgot the strange exchange she and Xander had that day. But she never again called him Alexander, even if she didn't remember why.


"Alexander?" Giles asked.

"That's right." Alexander replied.

"Obviously there's some significance to the use of your full name." Giles took a tentative step towards the weapons cabinet.

"Yes, well I'd love to tell you all about it, but I've got a Watcher to threaten," Alexander said, crossing the room swiftly and once again pinning Wesley against the door.

"Time's up, Wesley. What'll it be?" Alexander's grin was as feral as ever.

"It is my d-duty to remain ever loyal to the council," Wesley said, his voice quavering. "And do everything in my power to return the rogue Slayer to be properly disciplined." Giles was slightly shocked that Wesley hadn't wet himself, considering how badly the man was shaking in fear.

"Wrong answer." Alexander grabbed a stake lying on the counter, and slammed it into Wesley's chest.

Or at least he was in the process of doing so when he simply dropped. One moment he was moving with that truly terrifying speed of his, and the next he was crumpled up on the floor. The stake clattered across the library floor as everyone else remained deathly silent.

Giles took of his glasses, wiping them with a handkerchief. Partially because it was a nervous habit, and partly because Wesley finally had wet himself, just before fainting.

"Well, I suppose we should secure him before he awakens, Giles said. "Willow, would you clear out the weapons cabinet?" She had done the same thing often enough for Oz when he stayed there during his werewolf nights.

Buffy groaned from her position on the floor. Giles knelt besides her.

"Are you all right Buffy?"

"Inna fifteen corduroy he says, I never wanted albums!" Buffy suddenly shouted, before blinking her eyes and looking around.

"I beg your pardon?" Giles asked.

"Um...why am I on the floor?"

"I suspect it's because you were knocked out," Giles replied dryly.

She groaned and got to her feet.

"What hit me?" Buffy asked, looking around. Willow shrugged and pointed at Xander.

"Huh," Buffy said. Then she sat down at the table, staring into space much like Faith was.

Once Xander was secure in the metal cage, and Wesley had been cleaned up, it was time to figure out what exactly was going on. By now Buffy had recovered from her fight with Alexander, and was pacing back and forth in front of Faith.


Buffy was stalking back and forth in front of her, ranting so fast that Faith could barely keep up. Something about magic and Xander and women and murder and...Buffy sure could talk fast.

Faith was struggling just to keep herself from completely flipping out herself. This Alexander had punched his way through all of her defenses, sometimes literally. Now that he was unconscious in the weapons cage, she was starting to question why she gave into him so completely.

Well he was strong. He was damned strong, again possibly literally. Strong, fast, and as far as she could tell, smart too. Smart enough to get right under her skin in less than five minutes.

She ignored Buffy's tirade and slid her gaze over to where Alexander lay curled up in the cage. If he was just the Hyena returned, if he was just some possession that they'd exorcise soon, what did that mean for her?

It meant that once again, someone that had promised to protect her was breaking that promise. It was funny that after all these years; that sort of thing could still surprise her. Still, that part of her that trusted in him was still there. He hadn't abandoned her quite yet, and it was her curse that she would remain trusting in him until he finally screwed her over completely.

Just like her mother, who promised she had to be with the man just the once. Just like Antonio, who swore they'd be living in a mansion right after this deal. Just like Elizabeth Derrens, who said being a Slayer meant you were always the one in control. Even when she knew they would just hurt her more, once she had given them her trust, she couldn't take it away until it was too late.

She hated herself right now more than she could ever remember.


"All right Buffy, now let's just calm down for a moment and think this through," Giles's voice pierced the fog of Faith's thoughts.

"Calm down?" Buffy was in full rant-mode, and Faith knew she couldn't be taken out of it that easily. "Xander's been possessed! AGAIN! What is it with him anyway, does he have a sign that says "Help Wanted - Inquire Within" on his soul? I don't even know why we get surprised anymore!"

"Well yes it is rather odd, statistically speaking, but that's perhaps a question for another day. In the meantime we'd best investigate the current possession and see what we can do about it. I suggest we make a list of the various abnormalities of the possession and begin with a search in Maudlinger's Reference to Mystical Spirits and Embodiments."

Willow raised her hand eagerly, "Ooh! Enhanced strength, speed and agility!"

"Quite right. It also appeared that this particular possession still leaves the core identity intact, as he was rather insistent that he was Alexander Harris."

Willow flushed, the memory of Xander's strange behavior all those years ago echoing in her mind.

"Uh Giles, about that..."

The Library doors swung open, and in walked a short balding man in a fedora, wearing a leather suit that was out of fashion when it was in fashion.

"He's insistent about it cause he is Alexander Harris," the man said in a thick Brooklyn accent.

"You!" Buffy exclaimed.

"Me," he said, almost apologetically.

"I gather you know this fellow, Buffy?" Giles asked.

"Hey I ain't no fella," the man said. "You can call me Whistler though, if ya want."

"This is Mr. Cryptic from the night I sent Angel to...from the night Angel died."

Giles nodded, having finally gotten the fully story out of Buffy only a few weeks ago.

"I see, you seemed rather timely with your information then Mr. Whistler. Can I assume you have information on Xander as well?"

"You better believe it. Might as well call me Mr. Exposition, cause I got more information than you're gonna want to hear," he extended his arm briefly, revealing a silver watch on his wrist. He checked it, and then glanced at the unconscious form of Xander.

"The kid should be up in a minute, then I'll give you people the goods."


My head was pounding like Michael Flatley was Lord-of-the-Dancing directly on my brain. I groaned as I tried to remember what huge demon thing we were fighting this week that might have mistaken my head for a bongo. When you live my life, waking up with a splitting headache and not knowing how you got it aren't that uncommon. You learn to remember quickly though, unless you want whatever hit you to hit you again...harder.

I opened my eyes slowly, the light causing my head to throb. Faith! I was in Faith's room; she was...on top of me? Well that's not so bad, in fact I have pretty good memories of the last time she was.. .

Faith's fingers around my throat. Ok maybe not so good memories this time. What happened after that? I asked for...I don't remember.

I was in the library, the weapons cage it looked like. Had Faith taken me prisoner?

"Nggaah!" was supposed to be 'You won't get away with this, Faith you treacherous villain!' The sound of my own voice made my eardrums throb for a moment before my brain seemed to figure out how to work them. Why did I feel like someone had hit me with a tazer or something?

"Hey sleeping beauty's awake," came a voice I didn't recognize. I opened my eyes again and saw Willow crouching by the cage, staring at me worriedly.

"Unggah..." was supposed to be 'Hey Wills, you have a frog in your throat or something?'

"Xander?" Willow asked.

"Yeauuhh?" I managed to groan. Hey I was getting good at this. A few more painful groans and I'd be fully capable of communication.

"Are you ok?" She looked as if she were about to cry. I hate it when Willow cries.

"I...fink so...head hurts. What hit me?" I was pretty proud of my newfound ability to speak.

"Umm," she paused and bit her lower lip. "Nothing."

I let out a sharp bark of laughter. Ooh! Bad idea. I clutched my ribs in pain.

"Then why do I feel like I went twelve rounds with a lightning bolt?" I sat up, leaning against the cabinet. I took a deep breath, and felt a little better.

"That'd be part of what I'm about to explain," said the unknown voice. I looked up and saw a short bald man grinning kind of sadly at me.

"Hey. Nice clothes." I said. He seemed to look genuinely proud for a moment as he fingered his jacket.

"Yeah well thanks," he said, smoothing out an imaginary wrinkle. "So, uh, what do you remember kid?"

What did I remember? I remembered Faith -- no wait, I think that was just a dream I'd had.

"Well I think I was going to go over to Faith's and talk to her, and then I..." Fingers clutched tight around my throat. No! Just a dream. "And then I woke up here."

The weirdo just shook his head and looked at me kind of sadly.

"Well it's a good thing you's awake now, cause I don't wanna have to tell this story twice," he took off his hat, placing it on the counter, then smoothed back what little hair he had left.

"This world's old, real old. Like Big-Bang ain't got nothin' on Earth old. And for like, I dunno, 99 percent of the time, it's been run by demons."

Buffy raised her hand, "Yeah thanks Deepthroat, but we already heard this one before."

"Yeah well maybe you wondered then, how'd a bunch of humans drive out demons ten times the size of the biggest dinosaur? How did a bunch of primitive cavemen almost completely destroy the entire demon population on earth? You ever seen a real demon? They'd swallow you like a raisinette before you could move.

"So how'd humans get rid of 'em? Humans that ain't strong, ain't fast, and don't live even a hundredth of the time the demons do. well I'll tell ya how. Humans ain't always been the way they is now," he spoke softly, in a tone of voice that almost implied we should have known this already.

"Hey that's great, but what's that got to do with me getting the werewolf treatment here? offense Wills," I quickly added.

"None taken," she replied.

"I'm getting to that," the bald guy said, ignoring my exchange with Willow.

"You," he began, pointing at me. "Are not precisely normal."



"You," Whistler said. "Are not precisely normal."

Buffy felt like screaming. It had been months since she last saw this Whistler guy. He was a short balding little man that gave off a vibe somewhere between Yoda and Huggy Bear. And while he may have helped her, sort of, she still didn't trust him.

"Hey come on, I'm Mister Normal," Xander said defensively. "Can't leap a tall building in a single bound, can't go mano y mano with a vamp, and me and magic have a restraining order against each other."

Xander had to be normal. He was the one of them who would live a nice normal life, free from the duty and responsibility that being a freak like her meant.

"Now you see here mister!" Buffy stalked across the room, shaking a finger in Whistler's face. "Xander's perfectly normal, he's just got a bad case of Hyena possession or something, got it?" She waggled her finger threateningly.

"Yeah I got it, and so do you," Whistler said, unfazed. "He's perfectly normal."

Buffy frowned. "What's that supposed to mean?

"It means you didn't let me finish my story, sweetcheeks." He grinned at her suggestively.

"Ugh!" she grunted in frustration, stomping back to her seat and sitting down sharply. The whole room looked at her in silence for a few moments.

"So finish it!" she yelled.

"Right, well, like I was sayin'. It depends on how you look at it really. On the one hand, yer pal here ain't exactly normal. On the other hand, he's the most normal person to exist in the last coupla millenia. Tens of millennia, even.

"Demons were driven away by human beings a thousand times stronger, faster, and more powerful than you've ever comprehended. Human beings that were completely human, to the last drop."

"I beg your pardon," Giles interrupted. "But I've never heard anything of this sort."

"Yeah, you ever heard anything 'bout how the demons got driven out?" Whistler inquired.

"Well, that is to say, I assumed that the Slayer had something to do with it."

"Off by an eon or two, Jeeves. Slayers came around after the majority of the old demons were driven off this plane.

"Here's the deal. An army of these true humans rose up against these beings that considered themselves gods and eventually pushed them out of this dimension.

"The only problem was there was one fella who figured that he should be even more powerful than the rest of his species. So while the demons were fleeing, he made a deal. A deal to merge his power with part of the demon's, so that he might be able to rule over the humans once the demons were gone.

"That's what screwed things over for the rest of us. When the True Human and the Demon merged, they were both destroyed almost instantly. Except for a little thing that stuck around. Something part biological and part magical. It kinda...I dunno, I'm no good at this stuff, kinda fused with the mitochondria of human beings and," Whistler paused, taking in the eyes of everyone around him. "Destroyed that potential.

"Nobody knew nothin' was wrong until they realized their kids were weaklings compared to them. They'd driven the demons out, and aside from a few retaliatory strikes, things were calm for a long time. But the True Humans kept having kids, and the kids kept on being human. Regular old-fashioned can't-open-a-jar style humans.

"True Humans lived a long time, but they still don't live forever. Eventually they was all dead, and none of their children had their abilities. It was about that time that the demons started breaching the wards between planes, and the first demon mixed its blood with the New Humans, creating vampires. The rest, as they say, is history."

Buffy was astounded. If this was true...this couldn't be true, could it? The brief idea that she might not have to be the One Girl in all the World was enough to bring tears to her eyes. If this was true, it was just too unfair. With a capital U.

"So what are you saying, that I'm one of these True Humans?" Xander asked from his cage.


"That's ridiculous, I can't open a jar either! Tell 'em guys, I always have to get Buffy to open it for me!" The look in his eyes was desperate, and Buffy felt horrible for him. She knew what it was like to think you were a freak.

"Y-yeah," she said, hoping she could convince everyone this was a big mistake, for Xander's sake. "Xander doesn't have any weird powers or anything."

"Xander don't," Whistler said. "But Alexander do."

Xander fell back into the weapons cabinet as if he'd been struck. He seemed barely able to stand.

"Who?" he croaked weakly.

"That brings us to exposition number two," Whistler held up two fingers. "Who is Alexander?"

"I-I have no idea," Buffy thought Xander might faint at any moment.

"Yer half right. So lemme clear things up for you." Whistler gestured to Faith, who had been listening to the story with rapt attention. She looked a little startled to be the center of attention again.

"What?" She asked, self-consciously.


"An hour or two ago our pal Xander here decided to see about giving you some support, see if you could use a friend given your recent...troubles. That right?"

She didn't want to go here. She really didn't want to be reliving this, to be talking about it with these people who couldn't understand, would never understand.

Faith stared at Xander, hoping for some glimmer of the person he had been earlier, the person who swore to help her. Instead all she saw was her same fear reflected back at her.

"Yeah...that's right."

"So he comes over to talk with ya, and one things leads to another. He tells you he wants to help you out, so you decide to wrap your fingers around his neck and try and squeeze the life out of him."

"WHAT!?" Buffy was on her feet in a flash. Faith rose with her, backing up and looking for a way out. She didn't think she could go toe to toe with Buffy right now, not when she felt utterly drained and Buffy looked ready to rip apart the whole school with her bare hands.

"She lay on top of him, and choked him to death. Crushed his throat pretty much completely."

"That's it! Wrong person in the cage!" Buffy tackled her. They both rolled, up almost as fast as they fell. Buffy threw a quick combination of deadly-to-anyone-else blows, with Faith only able to block about half of them. Her head was rocked to one side, and she had a quick glimpse of Xander clutching the cage so tightly his knuckles were turning white.

Not much he could do to help her now, even if he wanted to. If he was the Hyena thing, or True Human or Alexander or whatever.

She dodged Buffy's kick, punching out at her leg to try and spin the blonde slayer around. Buffy just pulled her leg inward, absorbing the force of the blow and responding with a palm strike to Faith's chest. Faith slammed back against a bookcase, just in time to hear Giles yell at Buffy to back off.

Buffy was lost in her anger though, not that Faith could blame her.

Buffy flew at her again, hitting her twice in the stomach and again in the face. Faith was barely standing now, beaten more from lack of willpower than anything else. Buffy grabbed her by the neck with one hand, holding her against the bookcase. She pulled back a fist, preparing a punch that would knock Faith into next week.

Instead, Buffy flew across the library and out the double doors.

Faith looked up, through a swollen eye.

Xander was grinning at her, and the weapons cage door was bent in half.

"Xander?" she gasped.

"Close," he said. "Alexander. Don't look so surprised, I told you, you're under my protection now." With that he scooped her up in his arms and walked her to the table. She flushed red, equal parts humiliated to be picked up like some damsel in distress, and happy that someone cared enough to be so chivalrous with scum like her.

He sat down, making no attempt to move Faith out of his grasp as he did so. Feeling more than a little self conscious, she silently consented to sit on his lap!

She was Faith the Vampire Slayer for fuck's sake! What was she doing?


Buffy stalked back into the Library, absolutely livid. After everything she'd done for Faith, the girl not only tries to frame her for killing Finch, but also she tried to kill her best (male) friend!

She wasn't sure at first how to react when she opened the doors and saw Faith, busted up and bleeding slightly, and sitting on Xander's lap.


With one arm protectively draped around her, and the other hand, lightly inspecting her injuries.

"Nice to have you back, Buff," he said.

"What the hell are you doing Xander?" She looked at the weapons cage, to find that it was near torn in half and bent clean off its hinges.

"Fulfilling a promise. I think I probably mentioned it before. Faith's under my protection now, so no face bashing, please."

"She tried to kill you!" She felt like she was living in the twilight zone.

"Well, sort of. Tried to kill the whelp, anyway." He brushed a strand of hair out of Faith's face, and the dark haired slayer looked as if she wanted to kill him and kiss him at the same time.

Buffy froze.

"The whelp?"

Whistler placed a calming hand on Buffy's shoulder.

"Maybe you should sit down fer a minute, Slayer."

Buffy just looked back at him blankly, then back at Xander. How she could go from feeling so dreadfully horrible for him one moment and so absolutely pissed with him the next, she couldn't really fathom. She sat down, as far away from Xander and Faith as she could.

Giles was standing, trying to look non-chalant as he inched his way over to his favorite broadsword behind the main desk. Willow was trying to ignore Faith and Xander sitting together, but her almost cherry-red skin tone gave her away.

"I think I gotta apologize here. I figured somethin' like that might happen, just not quite so violent," Whistler said.

"Something like, what, exactly?" Giles asked.

"Something like Goldilocks here gettin' pissed at Faith. I did it on purpose."

"Why would you do that?"

"Cause I figured that a nice threat on our girl Faith here'd wake up Alexander. And whaddya know, I was right."

"Next time you want to talk to me, runt, you come to me directly. You ever put Faith in harm's way again, and I'll rip out your eyeballs and piss on them." Alexander growled.

"Or ya might just pass out again," Whistler replied, dryly.

Alexander fixed him a cold stare.

"The Whelp can throw a fit when I try to kill a human if he wants, runt. But he don't give a rat's ass if I waste some cryptic little demon in man's clothing."

Whistler seemed to actually pale a little at that.

"Yeah well I was saying," Whistler stammered a little, trying to gain his momentum. "Faith here uh...tried to kill Xander."

He paused; making sure Alexander didn't get angry over this. Alexander seemed not to care though; instead he seemed to be trying to reassure Faith by rubbing her shoulder.

"So that's when Alexander here woke up, and the two of 'em had a bit of a talk."

Alexander snorted. Whistler ignored it, pressing on.

"What do you mean, he woke up?" Giles was leaning against the main desk now, trying to remain casual but still within reach of a weapon. "Who is he?"

"Who am I?" Alexander said to Giles. "I'm Alexander. I'm the person the whelp doesn't want to be, the one who knows things he doesn't want to know. I'm the strong one, I'm the Alpha and the fucking Omega."

Buffy could almost hear the growl in his voice. She didn't like this, not at all. Xander wasn't supposed to be this kind of angry, violent creature. She was sure it was still the Hyena, somehow different but in no way the real Xander. The Xander she knew could never be like this.

"Alexander here is Xander. He's the part of Xander that cares about self-preservation. About getting what he wants and doing what he wants. He's the Id," Whistler said.

"But he's also the part of Xander that went through things no kid should go through. He's the part of Xander that houses every bad memory, every traumatic experience, and every scar.

Giles took off his glasses slowly.

"You mean Xander has...multiple personalities?"

Alexander snorted again.

"Just the two," he said.

**AleXander -- AGE SIX**

"Increase it."

"Mommy! Help me!" cried the little boy.

"Are you sure?"

"I said increase it!"

"Mommy no!" he wailed.

Jessica Harris looked at her son, strapped down to the examining table and unable to move.

"Be quiet Alexander, or I'll gag you," she said softly. She stroked his hair gently as she looked down at her son with cold eyes. He shook his head back and forth, but didn't make a sound.

"We're ready."

She turned to the technician and nodded. Despite her threats, AleXander couldn't keep the scream from coming. By the time it was over, he couldn't have made a sound even if he wanted to.

It happened more often lately, that his mother would suddenly change from the loving figure of warmth of joy that he knew and became this cold woman. The first time she took him to the cold metal room in the strange building, he had no idea his life would change so dramatically.

That night, after the first "test," as his mother called them, he tried to talk to his Daddy when he came home from work.

"Jesus Christ, I hate that little prick Mitchelson," Anthony Harris griped as he came in the front door.

"Hi Daddy," AleXander said.

His father just grunted, idly patting his son on the head as he took of his coat.

"Daddy?" AleXander asked. He knew that once he told his father what happened, it would never happen again. Daddy never let Mommy do the wrong thing at home; it was cause he loved her so much, he said.

"Yeah, what?" his father was obviously in a bad mood, but AleXander knew this couldn't wait.

"Mommy's being mean to me," he said as seriously as he could.

"What?" a flicker of fatherly protectiveness actually showed in his eyes for a second.

"Hey Jess, what's the kid on about?" he called to his wife. She called back from the kitchen.

"He didn't clean his room so he's getting no desert, don't let him talk you out of it!" she called back in a voice that was both stern and playful.

AleXander's eyes widened. That wasn't true! He even cleaned his room last night cause he saw on Sesame Street that sometimes your toys would come dance with you if you did. They hadn't, but he still cleaned it!

"Nuh uh, she's lying!" AleXander cried, boldly.

"You callin' your mother a liar?" Anthony Harris said.

AleXander sniffed, wiping his nose on his sleeve. He nodded.

The shot came fast, more shocking than painful. After today, the pain itself was almost pleasant in comparison. No, it was the act that made AleXander burst into tears.

"You little shit, you don't never talk that way about your mother! After all the shit you put us through, you should be on your knees thanking her every day! Who cooks your food and drives you to school, huh?" his father was screaming right in his face now, and AleXander could smell the alcohol on his breath.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," whimpered AleXander.

He got another smack upside his head.

"Don't be such a goddamn pussy. A good shot once in a while keeps a boy in line. My daddy woulda hit me a lot harder. Go clean your room or some shit."

Nobody was going to help him. He was the bad one, he shouldn't have said that about mommy. She would never do anything bad...that's what daddy said, right?

In a dark room in a place that didn't exist, Alexander Lavelle Harris looked at Xander Harris. For a long moment they stared at each other. Then Xander turned and walked up a flight of stairs, into the light, and Alexander Harris turned to face two demons. One wore the face of Jessica Harris, and the other wore the face of Anthony Harris.

Xander stood up on shaky feet, and wiped his tears away.

"OK Daddy, I'm sorry," he said. He really shouldn't have made up lies about Mommy. He had a good image-nation, that's all. Mommy was always nice to him, and Daddy was just trying to teach him how to be a good boy.

In the place that didn't exist, Alexander Harris struggled against the demons, and won. But the battle would be fought again and again, alone and in the dark.

Trust no one, and care for yourself. This was the first thought Alexander Harris ever had.


This was truly astounding. Giles had heard of multiple personalities of course. Anyone with access to bad made-for-TV movies had heard of them. He'd never actually met anyone with the affliction however, and had at times strongly supposed that the affliction was, at best, overly exaggerated.

And yet there seemed to be proof here before him that alternate personalities existed within one person, and that this personality had access to abilities beyond the personality he was familiar with.

Assuming of course that this truly was an alternate personality, and not simply the Hyena. There were similarities between this Alexander and the Hyena, but they were not completely similar. Alexander seemed far less feral and shortsighted.

"You recognize yourself as being an alternate personality then?" Giles asked of Alexander.

"Hey, I'm THE personality. He's the alternate. I know everything that ever happened to me. I AM everything that ever happened to me. He's a bad copy that gets to blank out the bad stuff," Alexander replied.

"And you have these abilities that this fellow...?" Giles trailed off, realizing he had forgotten the short man's name.

"Whistler," Buffy chimed in.

"That this Whistler mentioned?"

"Something like that," Alexander said.

Faith turned in his lap, looking directly at his eyes.

"So you really are Xander? You're not the Hyena or anything like that?" Giles was surprised at how scared of the answer she sounded.

"I'm really Alexander. I'm not the damned Hyena. I'm more me than I ever was." He grinned at her in a way that still strongly reminded Giles of the Hyena.

Faith stared at him in silence. Then, as if a switch had been thrown, she actually burst into tears. Sobbing almost hysterically into his shirt as she held onto him like a life preserver.

For a long time nobody spoke as Faith bawled and Alexander seemed completely incapable of moving. He sat stock still as she wept, muttering incomprehensibly into his chest.

After a while though, he seemed to relax, and stroked her hair softly as he whispered words of support into her ear.

Giles was shocked to see her crying, but he did believe it would be good for her in the long run. Faith had obviously been through trauma even before being a slayer, and he had never been quite sure how to deal with that. He hoped that finally being able to lay her emotions on someone else would be a good thing, and he could think of no better person for emotional support than Xander Harris.

Except...was this Xander Harris?


I was sitting in a chair with a girl on my lap. Normally I wouldn't be complaining, but since A) I didn't know how she'd gotten there, and B) She was sobbing hysterically, I was a little mystified. From the hair and, yes from the scent of her I suspect it was Faith. She had that aroma of cinnamon and leather that always seemed to be around her.

The last thing I remembered I was in the cage, and some short balding guy was explaining...what?

I decided to deal with the matter at hand. Whoever this was, and it was probably Faith, she was hurting and definitely asking for help. I hugged her tighter and stroked her hair, hoping she'd calm down. To Xan-Man, a crying girl is like kryptonite.

"It's ok. You're safe now, everything's going to be fine," I whispered, hoping I wasn't lying by saying such things. At my touch she began crying harder, which almost had me pull away. Her bear hug of me grew even tighter however, so I don't think she quite wanted me to leave. Distantly, I wondered why the Slayer Strength wasn't crushing me.


Finally after several long minutes, she seemed to calm down, still holding me tightly, but only whimpering in an exhausted kind of way.

"Uh...what's going on?" I whispered to everyone around me.

"Xander?" Willow asked. She was staring at Faith and me with an expression that looked like some weird mixture of horror, fear, loathing, and sympathy.

"Uh yeah, who else?" I joked.

"You don't remember any of the last few minutes?" Giles asked.

"I remember being in the cage, then I'm sitting here with a sobbing slayer on my lap. Take out the sobbing part and I wouldn't have even brought it up."

Faith shifted in my grasp, and I began to suspect she was actually sleeping. I looked down to see her face snuggled against my shoulder, as she lay curled up on my lap. Her eyes were closed, but they had been the entire time. Now however, instead of being shut tightly closed with tears streaming out, they were closed peacefully and she only hiccupped slightly every minute or so.

"Yeah uh, that's the part I was getting to, people. Only one of 'em remembers everything, and it ain't Xander," the balding guy was still here, I guess.

"Don't remember what?"

"Bad stuff, mostly," he said.

"Hey I remember plenty of bad! Like uh...Christmas's on the lawn or...preying mantis teachers!" I certainly had enough bad stuff to choose from to prove I could remember them.

Willow's eyes suddenly grew wide.

"Xander, do you remember Jesse?" she asked.

"John Stamos from Full House?" I quipped. "Uh, not that I watched that show."

Willow looked as if she'd been stabbed in the gut.

"What? What'd I say?"

Her eyes filled with tears.

"I always thought you just never talked about him because you were so sad. I didn't suspect...I mean...I thought it was weird that you never talked about him after he...after you...oh Xander I had no idea!"

Warning. Warning. We have Willow-Tears in Five, Four, Three, Two. ..

"Whoa whoa whoa, hold on Willow!" I said as loudly as I could without disturbing Faith. "C'mon Wills, I can't deal with sad-Willow on top of everything else."

"But he's...he was your best friend Xander!" She slapped a hand over her mouth, struggling not to cry.

Jesse? I think I'd remember if I had a best friend named...


An echo sounded in my head.


I remember Jesse. We grew up together. My best friend, since... since what? A long time, that's all. He was staked. No...I staked him. How could I have forgotten?

"Jesse...I remember Jesse," I said solemnly. I felt like the worst human being to ever live.

"Hey don't kick yourself over it kid, it's all part of the package," the little man said.

"You better start explaining yourself Buster Brown, or I'm going to," I looked down at Faith, sleeping soundly and holding me with as much slayer strength as she could muster. "I'm going to chastise you in a harsh whisper!" I whispered harshly (natch.)

"Alright, here's the quick and easy version: You had some heavy duty stuff happen to you as a kid. Bad enough that you don't wanna remember it anymore, and I can't blame you. So you split yourself. You took your Id, the core, primitive self and you used the strength of that part of you to face the things you lived through. Then you created a shield that could live your normal life while the Id dealt with the bad stuff. You're the shield. Alexander's the Id."

"If that's true Whistler, why is it we've never seen this Alexander before?" Giles asked. Good, yes, you ask the question Giles. I'll just sit here and let my sense of self crumble all around me.

"I dunno that you ain't seen him before, you might've seen him briefly when the baddest of the bad is going down, I dunno. But mostly, when Faith was...was killing him, Xander and Alexander both decided, on one level or another, that they couldn't be separate no more. Integration has started."

Integration. I'd heard that before.

"So does that mean he'll just be one Xander soon?" Willow asked.

"Maybe, but probably not soon. And when Integration is finally complete, that don't mean he'll be the Xander you knew. It sorta depends on just how strong this personality is in comparison to the Alexander personality."

Great. I was going to get my personality swallowed by some whacked out version of myself. Man, just when I thought my life couldn't get any weirder.

Giles began cleaning his glasses. "If what you say is true, that this Alexander was Xander's Id, then why does he seem so intent on protecting Faith? Or on being pronounced 'the Alpha?'"

Whistler cleared his throat.

"Well, that's where the Hyena comes in."


I knew it! Buffy thought.

"I knew it!" she raised a finger in triumph.

"Buffy, shh!" Xander hissed. It was too late, and Faith began to stir. She sat up quickly, and seemed to flush red when she realized where she was and what had happened.

"Uhh...mornin'" Xander smiled at her.

"Alexander?" Faith asked carefully. Buffy frowned at the way Faith was acting. Maybe she had multiple personalities too, because this was definitely not the Faith that she knew.

"Xander actually," Xander said, almost apologetically. "Alexander's not at the brain right now, but you can leave a message." Buffy almost burst into laughter, but managed to remain solemn and dignified, except for a rather loud snort.

"Oh," was all Faith said. She began to slide off of him. He held her arm.

"Hey, I mean uh, you don't have to, if you don't want to," He looked her in the eyes briefly, before lowering them. "I mean, you know, it's up to you."

She nodded slowly, but slid off of him anyway. Buffy suspected she was trying her very best to maintain her image in front of everyone. Fat chance.

"Y-you were saying, Whistler, about the Hyena?" Giles said, breaking the uncomfortable silence.

"Yeah, well that's why the kid, Alexander that is, that's why he's into the whole protecting thing."

"So he really is the Hyena! Oh I so totally knew it!" Buffy was more relieved than she'd remembered being in a long time. This wasn't Xander; this was the Hyena with a bit of Xander mixed in, that's all.

"No, he ain't the Hyena. He's just got a little of the personality left over, that's all," Whistler said.

"Look, the Id's a primitive thing. It's selfish, instinctive, and mostly unconscious. A real want, take, have kind of personality. The Hyena comes along and you got yourself a pretty good match."

Giles nodded, getting that kind of look on his face that Buffy usually associated with "Oh how fascinating, I simply must read thirty books on the subject immediately, and so must you Buffy!"

"I see, so the personalities complimented one another to the point of...merging?"

"Close, Alexander's way stronger than the Hyena, but the Hyena left at least a little portion of its personality there. So maybe before he just cared about himself, now he thinks about the pack and protecting his own too."

ALEXANDER -- Age Sixteen

No one ever came in the dark place, not since he had proven his dominance over all the demons they had ever met. The memories floated around him, but with a snarl he blasted them with his power. No, the dark place was his kingdom, and he alone ran it, all while struggling to attempt a way past the Chicken's defenses.

Someday he would have control for more than a moment, someday he would be the one in charge of himself. Not this upstart copy. He was the true self, and he would rule forever someday. First himself, then the world. He could do it, he knew more about his own abilities than the Chicken could begin to comprehend.

A brilliant light suddenly blinded the darkness. Extending his senses to the body he had no control over, he saw the darkened room with the hyenas in their pit. He felt the Chicken being sucked out. This was his chance!

But somehow the Chicken held on where the others had failed, stubbornly clinging to his Self. This intruding entity simply forced the Chicken to one side, taking the control for himself. The Chicken railed uselessly, unable to fight both Alexander and this new entity at the same time.

*MINE* Alexander intoned. He exerted his will, and the entity was before him. A great hulking beast, far larger than normal Hyenas. It snarled and snapped at him, but in this place nothing could hurt him. Not since he had gained mastery of it.

*MINE* he said again.

No the Hyena cackled, Now is ours. Now is the pack's

*WRONG* He boomed, and slammed into the Hyena. Their energies crackled, surged, twisted upon one another. For an eternity they struggled, each pouring everything they had into the fight.

One was an elder spirit, the embodiment of every Hyena that had graced the planet. A being of pure instinct, immortal and with a strength of will that could not be comprehended.

The other was Alexander Harris. He won.

*MINE!* He laughed at his vanquished foe. His foe was.. .himself?

The Hyena cackled again. What it might not win in strength, it would win in cunning. The bargain was struck in unconscious thought, and suddenly the Hyena was Xander.

The Chicken! THE CHICKEN! In order to drive him back, drive him out, the two had merged, and now the merging was afflicting him as well. No! He had to break off, had to keep himself separate until he was strong to overtake, not to integrate with the two.

It was too late to leave unaltered. He could feel the Hyena's influence in him now, the need to protect the pack, the need to prove superiority. The influence of the, now he was the whelp, was there too. Protect his pack. He snarled, and with one last surge of power he broke free of the Whelp and the Hyena.

He retreated to the dark place, changed, but still mostly himself. The Hyena was in control now, the Whelp giving up his control in order to stop Alexander. Wait...bide your time. Someday, you will escape. Someday you will prove yourself top dog, and your pack will be stronger for your presence.

While he knew he was changed, he wasn't sure it was bad anymore. Why would he want to harm his pack, when he could make them stronger? And with them stronger, he would be stronger as well. Yes...this was much better.

He was the Alpha, after all.


"I see," said Giles after Whistler finished his explanation of the changes to the Alexander personality. "So Xander himself sacrificed control in order to keep the larger threat at bay? It's noble...I think. Is the Hyena's influence why he didn't kill Wesley?"

Willow's mind was reeling. Xander, not really himself? Xander not remembering Jesse? Xander letting the Hyena have control? Xander...and Faith?

"No," Xander said. "That was me."

"I thought you didn't remember anything," she said.

"I felt it. The intent, the absolute decisiveness of it. He...I was going to kill him. I couldn't let that happen, so I took it back." Xander's voice was low, almost a whisper.

"Took what back?"

"The control. He was going to kill someone, a human who...who couldn't hurt him. No, I took it back. I don't kill people."

Whistler moved in front of Xander, eyeing him almost like a specimen.

"Y'know we sorta suspected that you were aware of Alexander, on some level. That maybe at certain times you're even consciously aware of it, like when you're about to die."

That's right, he almost died. Faith almost killed him. Would have killed him, if not for this Alexander personality. Xander would be dead if not for him...himself. What a strange thought.

"Tell me kid, when she was killin' ya, why'd you give him control? You started integration, not him, which is something nobody ever figured you'd do. So why? You almost died before and never gave him control."

Xander seemed defeated to her, and she realized he must have been going through something unimagined right now. Not only did he have all the events of the day to contend with, but also she could hardly imagine what the memories were that created, that created XANDER in the first place.

"I...I wanted him to help her," Xander said, barely audible.

He did it for Faith? He released this killer for Faith?

That's not fair, he didn't kill anyone, and he's still Xander. Isn't he?

"You got a good heart, kid."

"I've got a question for you," Xander whispered.

"Sure kid, shoot."

Xander lashed out with his foot, catching Whistler right under the chin. The smaller man went horizontal in midair for a moment before crashing into the main desk. Xander leaped on top of him, grabbing him by the lapels of his jacket.

"Just how is it, Whistler, that you know all the inner workings of my head, hmm?" He grinned at Whistler, eyes shining with rage.

"Damn, we gotta get a bell or something for when you switch," Whistler groaned. Alexander slammed him against the desk.

"That's not an answer."

"OK OK! Jeez! Look, I work for the Powers that Be, ok? I'm a balance demon, my job is to make sure one side don't get too much of an unfair advantage."

"I think you mean that your job is to make sure the war between good and evil never dies," Alexander growled.

"Hey I don't know the whole game plan, I'm just the messenger, OK? Look, they gave me the inside scoop on that noggin of yours and told me to come down here and give you the info, that's all!"

Alexander released him, stalking back and forth as he stared at Whistler.

"And why exactly do they care?"

"Are you kidding me? You're the first True Human to exist in...I dunno, since anyone's been counting! You could turn the tide for either side, and that's no good for balance. So I'm supposed to convince you to just kind of step aside, and let things be."

Alexander laughed. "Throwing off the gameplan, am I? Well they'd better get used to it. Nobody tells me what to do, and right now I already made a promise to somebody that works for the good guys."

He turned his head to look at Faith.

"That's assuming you still want to work for the good guys."

She looked around the room at everyone, eyes lingering on Buffy. Willow held her breath. Finally Faith looked at Alexander, holding his gaze for a long time.

"Yeah," Faith said. "I do."

"Good," he said matter-of-factly. He turned back to Whistler. "And seeing as how I've got this little *parasite* in my head whispering echoes, I'm sticking with my pack. Got it?"

"You don't understand what could happen if the balance is disrupted, it can be just as catastrophic one was as the other," Whistler pleaded.

"Somehow I think that's about seven different kinds of bullshit. I think maybe it's time you moved on, Mr. Exposition. I don't need you telling people what's going on in my head anymore." He bent down, picking Whistler up off the floor and tossing him out the library doors.

"A-are you sure that's a good idea Xa-" Willow caught herself. "I mean Alexander?"

He turned his gaze to her, and she realized she hadn't really *looked* at him yet when he was Alexander. His eyes burned with passion and rage, and she could see nothing of the Xander she knew.

"No, but it sure felt good," He grinned at her, and Willow shivered a little.


Faith sat in Xander's -- Alexander's car, staring out the window in silence. She was exhausted. Scratch that, she was dead on her feet. She just wanted to go home (to her crappy roach infested motel) and sleep (alone, in her crappy roach infested bed.)

Faith barely recognized who she was anymore. She had tried so hard to tell everyone that she was cool, fearless, and had seen it all. She'd even convinced herself of it. Sitting here now she felt completely lost. She had cried in front of everyone. Not just cried, but well and truly bawled like a frightened baby. The instant she realized that Alexander wouldn't be abandoning her like every other person she'd ever trusted had sent her into a tailspin. It was all going too fast, and she could barely be sure what was the right thing to do anymore.

Except to trust him. She'd put it all on him, and part of her really loved the feeling of freedom that gave her. She wouldn't have to figure it out, he would.

The only problem was Alexander was nuttier than she was. How could she rely on someone who could vanish at any moment? How could she be sure he'd even come back?

After Whistler had left, Alexander was quick to begin barking orders, and for some reason, people were following them. He'd convinced Giles and Buffy to leave Faith in his care, which had involved a feat of doubletalk and logic traps that Faith couldn't begin to follow, and which had left Giles frowning and cleaning his glasses.

He'd had Buffy make arrangements with Angel to hold Wesley and the Council goons until tomorrow. Alexander promised that he would keep them away from her, but that little could be done today. Angel had taken her off to the side then and asked her a few questions about how she was feeling. His concern touched her, but he seemed to think that she had been tainted forever because of the Mayor's Aide. Maybe he was right.

Afterwards, Alexander had walked her to his car, while she thought of what Angel had said. About getting a taste of the darkness, of death. Maybe she did need to repent, to atone for the horrible thing she did. She didn't deserve Alexander's help, especially considering he seemed capable of killing people very easily, and had tried to kill Wesley.

To protect her.

Still, the Xander personality supposedly stopped him. What did that mean? Maybe she should just leave, start over someplace on her own.

"I think, I think maybe you should drop me off at the bus stop," Faith said.

"No, we're not going to do that," Alexander replied, not taking his eyes off the road.

"Look, I appreciate you wanting to help but really, it's cool."

He laughed then, and gave her a lopsided smile that made her think the Xander personality had returned.

"I don't need you to tell me what's cool, Faith. I'm sure you think it's a good idea to go do some good old fashioned Angel-style brooding while you think about what a horrible person you are."

Her anger flared. He was just as much a killer as she was! He only got lucky and his...his self stop him first.

"That's why I make your decisions, remember? Cause you make silly decisions that don't help matters much. You think that accidentally killing someone who wanders into a battle is the same as being a soulless mass murderer for a hundred years?" He snorted.

"Angel really does think he's helping you with that line of shit, I think. Too bad the guy is such a dunce. Trying to atone for all the bad he did when he wasn't even himself, it's pitiful. You know why you don't feel bad for staking John Q. Vampire? Cause Mr. Vampire isn't a person, he's a soulless monster pretending to be a person. So what does Angel have to atone for, besides being an obnoxious cowardly prick?"

She stifled a laugh. She wasn't supposed to be laughing; she was supposed to be...she wasn't sure what she was supposed to be anymore. She stayed silent.

"You think I give a rat's ass for the dumb shit the Whelp does when I'm not in control? He's not me, so I don't care about what he does. It's not my responsibility."

She frowned. Xander was the one who had supposedly tried to help her. He'd come to her, offering his support, and she'd thrown it away. Even while he lay dying at her hands, he had made this bargain with the darkest part of him to help her. So did that mean this part didn't care about her?

"What about me? He wanted to help me."

He looked at her then, and she thought she saw a flicker of Xander in his eyes.

"Some things go through whether I want them to or not. I want to protect you, so I will. I made a promise, and I don't break promises."

That wasn't exactly the answer she was looking for, but she supposed it would have to do.

"So where are we going?"

"Your place."


"Pack up whatever you can't live without, and do me a favor? Make sure there are no roaches on anything you bring back. Then we'll see about finding a better place to spend the night."

She smiled; any place was better than her place.


It only took her a few minutes to get all her shit together. She didn't have much, just a few changes of clothes in a duffel bag and a small backpack of stuff. We were in and out in less than five minutes, and I made a mental note, to both of my selves, that she was never going back there.

Hell of a day, really. For most of my life in the dark place I'd been afraid of the Whelp initiating Integration before I could. Yet now that it was happening, it didn't seem too bad. I got control half of the time, and only had to suffer minimal intrusions to my core.

I looked over at Faith. Intrusion with a capital I.

*HELP* said the echo. Yeah yeah, I heard you the first time. Each time it echoed, I felt it a little more. She was like me, more like me than anyone I'd ever met. Scared, determined, and you could read the scars of her past in her eyes. I'd protect her.

I would claim her too, but that might have to wait. The urge to help was stronger than my urge to stake my claim, though since at least part of me had already had her, I guess it wasn't as urgent. Still, a part of me was irked that the Whelp had her before I did. A memory, one of the ones that I lived in the dark place with for so long, rose up in me.

"It must just eat you up that I got there first."

I growled softly. She looked at me then, concerned and scared.

"Bad memories," I said.

She just stared at me for a few long seconds, and then went back to looking out the window.

When I pulled up to Willy's Alibi Bar she gave me a look.

"Stay here, don't move until I come back. We clear?"

"Five by five," she said. Apparently it meant yes.

Willy's was dank, dark, and demon infested, so it reminded me of home. I stood in the doorway for a moment, letting my senses linger over everything. I had been aware of my abilities for so long, trapped there in the Dark. Now I had access to them, and I didn't know where to begin, or what my limits could be.

The best marks were easier to spot than I thought. They wore better clothes and drank better blood.

"Hey what are you doing here, kid?" Willy asked me as I walked in.

"Window shopping."

"You better get your ass outta here before something decides to make a snack outta you." He reminded me of another short balding man I'd had words with recently. I punched him directly in the nose.

"Ahh! You don of a bit!" he wailed as he bled all over his hand. I just smiled at him.

"Maybe next time you'll speak to me a little more respect."

A shadow loomed over my face; I looked up to see three giant demons with spikes coming out of every joint. I wondered briefly how they sit down without spearing their own asses.

"Maybe next time there won't be a next time," the biggest of the three. He was obviously their wordsmith.

The entire bar had silenced, all waiting to see what would happen. A voice from the back spoke up.

"I wouldn't do it F'reddflynstoan. He's one of the Slayer's crew, she might take it real personal if you killed him."

I burst out laughing.

"Fred Flintstone? Oh man that's great! Hey where's Wilma?" I looked at the other two. "Barney and...Bam-Bam?"

Fred roared and swung a huge spiked fist at me. I met his fist with my own, and felt the grin form on my face as the spikes shattered beneath my strike. His roar turned into a wail of anguish as I grabbed his chest with my other hand and threw him into Wilma. The sound of their spikes piercing each other's bodies was oddly appealing.

"RRAAAGHH!" announced Bam-Bam. I silenced him with a kick to the chest that sent him flying against the back wall, impaling two vampires along with him. They remained undusted, but I'm sure they wished that weren't so, by the volume of their screams.

The rest of the bar seemed split between two courses of actions: Run like hell, or fight like hell. Most chose the former, and the latter didn't get to many any decisions after that. Hard to make decisions when you're demon goo.

I spotted one of my marks making a break for the door. I grabbed a pool cue and jumped the distance between us, blocking his path.

"Hey hey, I don't want no trouble human," he said, putting his hands up.

"Good for you. Now stay!" I shoved the pool cue through his head, sticking the other end into the wall a few inches. The vampire stared at me glassy eyed as he was held upright by the cue. I waved my hand in front of his eyes. He wasn't going anywhere for a while.

I chased down the other mark, finding him only half a block from the bar. He was a bit more aggressive than his pal. He lunged at me, fangs bared. I kicked him hard in the face, sending him spinning down onto the street. As he lay there dazed, I placed his upper teeth against the curb and kicked hard onto the top of his head. His fangs shattered along with most of his upper skull, and then he lay there, motionless.

A feeling tickled at the hairs on the back of my neck, and I looked up. Down the street I could see where I'd parked, and saw Faith watching me with wide eyes.

Well not like she's never seen someone fight a vampire before.


I stripped the two vamps of their watches, sizable money clips, and other assorted gold and silver accoutrements. Neither of them was actually aware of their surroundings when I finally staked them. I suppose I should have been surprised at how much cash they had on them, but I guess when you're a vamp, you carry your money with you in case you have to skip down on a moment's notice.

Faith was looking at me oddly when I got back to the car. Obviously she was wierded out over my fight with the vampire. She'd have to get over it.

We stopped by my parent's house, and luckily for them Dad was out in a drunken stupor somewhere and Mom was nowhere to be found. I took what I cared about, and begrudgingly took what the Whelp might care about too. No sense in coming back here a second time if I could help it.

The Sunnydale Lodge wasn't the Ritz, but it wasn't the by-the-hour hole Faith had been in for the past few months. I bought a room with two beds, paying for the week in advance. I hoped it wouldn't take that long to find something permanent, but no sense in taking chances.

The guy at the checkout desk wasn't quite as big a sleaze as the guy who ran Faith's motel, but I didn't like him eyeballing her just the same.

"Why don't you put your eyes back your head before I stomp on them?" I growled at him. He seemed to get the message, and it was nothing but "Yessirs" and "Nossirs" after that.

The room was nice, and seemed clean enough.

"I'm taking the bed closest to the door," I said as we walked in. Faith just looked at me.

"Hey tough rocks if you wanted it, I called it first," I said.

"No, I mean, I just thought you'd want to...sleep together," She looked down at her feet. This new shy Faith was a little off-putting, but alluring all the same.

"Oh yeah? The euphemism, or the actual sleep?" I leered at her.

"Right," She said, and began unbuttoning her shirt.

"Stop," I said. There was no way I was going to claim her like this.

"Sleep where you want, but we're not fucking." I looked her in the eye until she buttoned her shirt back up. "I'm still taking this bed though." I threw my bag on my chosen bed to mark my spot.

Once she'd gotten situated, I told her I was going out for food, and that she was to stay here. She just nodded. She'd been sitting on her bed staring at whatever crap was on the television. I gave her one last look before I left.

She'd have to stay with me, wherever I went, at least for a while. And if I did claim her, I expected her to stay with me until I felt otherwise. That meant I'd have to deal with her living with the Whelp too, and that meant me and him needed to come to a decision.

I picked up a large notebook and a pack of multicolored pens at a drug store down the street. If the Whelp was too stupid to remember things, I'd write down the important stuff for him. On the way back I picked up a pizza and a bottle of coke.

She was asleep when I got back, curled up into a ball on MY bed. Her clothes were folded neatly on one of the chairs. I wondered if she slept nude, but the blankets were covering her. I'd find out soon enough.

I wrote in the notebook for the first time before sleeping, then wrote on my chest, backwards: READ THE NOTEBOOK. Hopefully the Whelp'd look at a mirror at some point.

I put the notebook in my bag, stripped down to my boxers and t-shirt, and got in bed. Oddly enough, she wore pretty much the same thing. She whimpered slightly as I slid under the covers, and I felt her snuggle up to my warmth after a minute.

My last thought before sleep was that cracking that vamp's skull on the sidewalk had been sweet.


I woke up to find a warm body pressed up close against me, one arm holding onto me slightly, as if she might fall off during the night. I blinked away drowsiness in the morning light, recognizing the dark hair of Faith sleeping next to me.

Oh man, oh man. He did her, and she stayed with him! She never stayed with me. And he did her! This was so not the time!

Or wait, was it the time? It occurred to me that I might have been out of control for more than just one night. It could be months, even years since I was last in control.

No wait, there were the clothes she was wearing earlier, folded neatly on a chair. It looked like we were in a hotel room. Where did we get the money for this?

I looked over and spotted the wad of cash lying on the dresser next to me. That's where, I guess.

He slept with Faith!

I couldn't believe she would sleep with him after only knowing him for a day.

What was I thinking? This was Faith, and I Or rather, he is me, and she's known me. I mean KNOWN me, before. So what should it matter?

Because he was wrong. He's not of the good, I can tell just from the vibes I get thinking of him. She shouldn't trust him, and she damned well shouldn't sleep with him.

What time was it anyway? I'm pretty sure I had school to be at today. I glanced at the little cheap digital clock on the dresser. 7: 18. Yeah I'd better get up.

I really didn't want to though. Sleeping with Faith is nice. I mean actually sleeping, although the other kind is nice too. She was so soft and gentle as she slept. I could hardly believe that yesterday she'd tried to...?

To what?

My brain must have been cloudy from sleep, so I decided to get up. I rolled away from her slowly, but she just held me tighter.

"Faith," I whispered. "I have to get up."

"Mmm?" she mumbled, and seemed to sigh contentedly as she buried her face into my chest.

"I need to get up, Faith," I shook her gently.

Her eyes snapped open and she jumped out of bed.

"Whoa whoa, calm down!" I said, holding my hands up.

"What?" She was panting, looking around the room with wide eyes.

"It's ok, just calm down. Everything's fine," I tried to calm her down.

"Xander?" She asked in a voice that was party angry, part scared, and part confused.

"Yeah, yeah it's me. Everything's cool, I just needed to get up, that's all. I'm sorry if I scared you."

She looked at the bed, and then looked at me.

"No, you didn't...scare me. I just, wasn't sure where I was, that's all." She seemed to be calming down. It was then that I noticed she was dressed only in a very tight old t-shirt and boxers. It was a *good* look for her.

I blushed when I realized I was staring at her, and then squeaked when I realized the little soldier was starting to stand at attention.

"Uh...I just need to go take a shower, to...y'know, get ready for school," the last word squeaked embarrassingly high.

She grinned a little at my humiliation.

"Hey not like I haven't seen it before," she said.

Yeah. Recently too.

It was when I was getting ready to shower that I noticed the message scrawled on my chest. It checked it in the mirror.


What notebook?

I found it after showering as I looked for clothes, trying to minimize the amount of time that Faith saw me in my underwear. It was just a cheap spiral bound notebook, like you'd buy for school.

"Uh, shower's free, and I guess I can give you a ride to school if you want," I said to Faith once I was dressed.

"Nah I'm cool," she said as she walked into the bathroom.

I frowned, trying to remember if Faith ever actually went to school in all the time I'd known her. She had to be younger than Buffy, so she couldn't be out of school yet. Was she even enrolled?

I read the notebook while she showered.


*Took the cash off of a couple of vamps after I cleared out Willy's Bar. Stay clear of there until you feel like you can handle yourself, or until you can call for my help easily. If you get killed, I get killed, and Faith is fucked.*

*Speaking of which, I didn't fuck her, so stop bawling your stupid eyes out. You better not touch her either, or I'll figure out a way to make you regret it.*

*The room's paid for through the week. Don't let Faith run off, and you better work on trying to let us switch on a regular basis. I plan on getting us a permanent place the next time I'm in control, so the sooner the better. The money there won't last forever, but there's always more vamps to rob.*

*The Council's Goons are under guard at Angel's mansion, hopefully the walking corpse hasn't fucked things up too badly since we gave them to him. Don't let him put any weird ideas about guilt into Faith's head either. She needs someone to help her put things in the proper perspective, not someone to guilt her into misery for the rest of her life. Man that guy just bugs me.*

*The notebook's for your benefit and mine. I'm never going back to the Dark place again, so plan on having me around. That means we either fight to the death or we work together. Frankly I would have rather done the former, but your stupid ass almost got yourself killed by Faith and started Integration before I could get around to it.*

*Oh yeah, in case you forgot, you fucking coward: Faith tried to choke the life out of you yesterday, so you finally let me out to deal with her. Don't be such a wuss and maybe you can remember it yourself.


I paused there, and thought hard. I could remember, if I thought about it. Faith's fingers around my throat. The remarkable clarity as I slipped from consciousness.

I felt the flashes of other memories as it stuck with me. A cold metal room, pain beyond anything I could imagine. My stake piercing the undead heart of my best friend, ending his existence forever. A meaty fist slamming into my head as my Father spat on me. The cold eyes of my Mother as she...

I slammed the notebook closed, trying not to run from the memories. That's what created him. Or is that what created me?

They stayed with me, but I didn't think about them long. I couldn't afford to dwell on them, to be frozen in the fear of the past. There was still the Council to deal with, and Faith would need me to be at least halfway sane in order to help.

Assuming she wanted my help. Seems like she only wants HIS help.

I wasn't sure how much of my memory transferred over to him, so I figured I should write down the important stuff too.


*Like the name? I figure if I'm Whelp, then you're Uder. As in "Other." See, I can have fun with nicknames too.*

*Faith kind of freaked out when she woke up with me in the bed this morning. I guess she was expecting you but got me instead. She seems a little better today though, more like her old self. Although maybe that's not so much a good thing. Maybe I have to learn more about who Faith really is.*

*I think I realized today that she doesn't go to school. I'm going to try and convince her to go today, but she probably won't listen to me. After all, I'm not a super powered demon hunter like some people.*

Once I thought about it, it seemed like poetic justice. I'd been praying for some kind of power to make me special ever since I'd met Buffy. Now I had a superpower...only I wasn't myself when I had it.

Welcome to the life of Xander Harris. Population: Two.

(Cue scary music)

Author's Endnote: Just because Alexander thinks it, doesn't make it so, although (in the AU of this fic anyway) he does have a certain insight into how many characters act and why. But even then he makes decisions based on his outlook, and they aren't always right. Just because he says a character is acting a certain way for a certain reason, doesn't mean it's true. Then again, it doesn't mean it's false either. Also keep in mind that Alexander is very much an underdeveloped personality, and doesn't include a lot of the character traits that makes up the Xander personality. The two are very different sides of the same person. Just because Alexander thinks something doesn't mean Xander thinks that way, secretly or otherwise. Again though, it also doesn't mean he DOESN'T think that way. Alexander is better than Xander in some ways, and a lot worse in others. He's not evil, but he is based on the idea of the Id, which makes him extremely self-centered as the core of who he is. He sees almost everything as how it affects him, although the impression left behind by both the Soldier and Hyena memories have altered that somewhat, and as Integration continues, he may become a bit less of a selfish, arrogant prick.

Just don't think that because Alexander's got some weird views, that Xander necessarily thinks that way. Alexander's not quite as perfect as he thinks he is.

I do hope to write a sequel to this, hopefully in a more serialized format than all at once like this one was. I can make no guarantees on how long that takes though.