Xander grinned as he looked around. “Free at last!” His companions were great, but a guy, a real man, could only take so much ‘girl talk’ without going kabooey.
The last few days after picking up Tara had been hectic to say the least. After fleeing New Mexico they’d headed into Texas, finally ending up in Amarillo. And now the girls had gone off to do their ‘shopping thing’ and Xander, like any wise man, had escaped – although the lingerie shopping part of the trip would have certainly been fun, there were some things he wasn’t willing to under-go, no matter what the reward.
Instead, he’d caught a movie and spent a few hours at a local amusement arcade before heading back to their hotel room. Now that that was a day out, but he’d promised Faith he’d be back for six to take them out for dinner at a local grill, he shuddered at the thought of the bill, Slayers didn’t eat food, they inhaled it, and it was ten past now. “Nag?” he chuckled to himself. “That girl could turn it into an Olympic sport.”
His blissful smile slipped as he turned the corner into the street leading to their hotel and saw a man dragging a protesting woman into an alley. He grimaced as he saw the thug backhand the woman across the face before finally pulling her into the alley. Judging that it was still too light for the man to be a vampire, he eschewed reaching for his stake as he hurried across the road.
* * *
“Damn it!” Faith leapt to her feet, a scowl twisting her sensual lips. “And men talk about us always being late! We could have told him we’d lying naked on the bed making out and he’d still have been late! I swear,” the Bostonian picked her wallet up off the table. “Come on Tar, we’ll go on our own.”
”What?” Tara replied dazedly, her mind still caught with the image Faith’s words had conjured. She realised the Slayer was dragging her to the door. “B..but Xander-.”
“Can catch up if he wants to eat,” Faith interrupted. “Geez, he got the chance to see two kick-ass babes in a ton of different underwear and passes it up for some sc-fi movie! Can you say nerd?”
* * *
Xander swallowed as he approached the man, he might not be a vampire but he was big, real big – maybe six six with the shoulders to match and a face that looked like it had been hit square with a hammer. Maybe he should have gone for Faith after all. Pushing the thought away, he grabbed the man’s arm, wincing slightly at its humongous girth. “Leave her-.”
He broke off when the man spun towards him and sent a shovel-sized fist plummeting towards his head. For a mortal it was probably a fast, well-executed punch – against someone who’d spent three years battling vampires, it was woefully inadequate. His movements unhurried, Xander ducked beneath the attack, allowing it to pass above his head, parting his hair, before slamming a retaliatory hook into the outstretched limb’s armpit. Even as the man’s mouth opened in protest, Xander drove a knee into his groin, before grabbing the doubled-up man by his leather jacket’s collar and driving him head-first into the wall.
Satisfied that the hood was out cold, he turned to the woman, smiling slightly at the awed look in her emerald eyes. “Y…you stopped him.”
“It was nothing,” he smiled modestly. “Maybe you best get home?”
“Thank you,” the small blonde smiled nervously before darting off like a scared rabbit.
Xander’s chuckle died at the sound of a gun cocking behind him. Turning he looked into the hate-filled eyes of the thug. “You bastard,” the man pulled the trigger. A half-second later Xander’s world turned to agony as the bullet crashed into his shoulder, shattering his collar-bone, splattering his blood on the wall behind him, and sending him crashing to the ground. Above his own agonised gasping, he heard the man’s hoarse voice and saw him step over his body. “Time to die hero.”
* * *
Faith grinned as she caught sight of Xander and a man stood in an alleyway just down the street from their hotel. “Dumbass got los-,” her voice trailed off at the sound of a shot exploding and the sight of her friend falling. “Nooo!”
Leaping over a parked car, she rushed into the alleyway. Seeing the thug lower his gun at Xander’s prone body, she hit the man with a flying clothesline across the chest, knocking him to the ground. Before the man had chance to react, she grabbed his gun-wrist and twisted it against the grain, shattering the bone, even as she took hold of his chin and drove the back of his head into the pavement and unconsciousness. Her blood raging, she pulled back to administer a killing blow. “Faith!” she was rocked by Tara’s voice in her head. “No!”
She looked up to argue, to see her friend stood by her Xander. All thoughts of killing the bastard who’d hurt her man were overrun by her concern by the sight of the blood pumping out of him. Fighting back the urge to vomit, she hurried over. “What do we do?” she gasped, tears blurring her eyes. “No way an ambulance is going to get here in time. He’s gonna lose that arm for sure.”
”Y..you know the Charmed Ones right?”
Faith’s head snapped towards her friend, slowly hope began to grow. “Yeah,” she smiled weakly, “good idea.” Her hand trembling, she pulled out her phone and dialled the Halliwell residence.
* * *
”Hi Piper spea-,” her face fell at her friend’s garbled words. “Faith!” she shouted. “Slow down, I can’t understand you.” She listened for a few seconds with growing anger. “We’ll be there in a minute,” she promised before hanging up and looking up to the heavens. “Leo!”
* * *
Faith jumped as Leo and the Wiccans transported in beside her. “SHIT!” her heart pounding, she pointing at Xander. “It’s his shoulder.”
Leo smiled at her and nodded at Tara. “This’ll just take a second,” the angel kneeled beside Xander and did his mojo. Except nothing happened, the wound didn’t heal like last time. His brow furrowed, Leo tried again. “I can’t heal him.”
Faith’s world seemed to move into slow motion at the man’s words. She dropped onto her knees opposite the angel. “Heal him!” she pleaded, her voice even throatier than normal, husky with pain and fear. “You healed him before! Please, I’m begging you!”
The angel remained calm. “It’s not that I won’t,” the White-Lighter explained. “I can’t. A higher power is blocking me.”
“Why?” she screamed, sticking her face into the heavenly being’s face.
This time, the angel flinched. “I don’t know.”
Unmindful of the angel, she grabbed Xander, pulling him into her arms, ignoring the blood soaking her. “Hey babe, you’re gonna be five by five,” she whispered, biting back a sob. Why Xander? Why would the powers that be want him dead? He never hurt anyone, only tried to do the right thing, help people. Her lips parted in a bestial snarl. “Fuck ‘em.” If they wouldn’t let the angel heal the only guy friend she’d ever had, the only male to treat her as a person and not a piece of ass, they’d find out much damage a Slayer could do. If she couldn’t have Xander, then B’s pet vampire was dust in the wind.
Her plans for mayhem were interrupted by a soft hand on her shoulder. She glared up at the angel, uncaring of the tears streaking down her face. Useless bastard, couldn’t heal her Xander. “There’s something I can do.”
“W…what?” Faith heard but didn’t care about the tremble she heard in her voice. Now wasn’t the time for her customary tough girl act.
“I can do a Mind-Quest.”
“What the fuck’s a Mind-Quest?” she demanded.
The angel smiled. “Faith, I can sense Xander’s life force isn’t ebbing even though he’s losing all that blood. That means the powers that be are holding him in stasis while a question is answered.”
Faith’s brow furrowed, she didn’t understand what any of this meant. “What question?”
The man hesitated. “I won’t know until I enter his mind.”
“That sounds awful risky honey.”
Leo nodded at Piper. “I know,” the angel agreed. “But he got hurt trying to do good.”
“Do it,” she stared up beseechingly, her earlier bravado giving way to gut-aching panic. “Please.”
“First, we’ll have to get him to our place,” Leo nodded at Xander. “I’ll transfer him there to the house.”
“I’m coming with you,” Faith declared. No way she was letting her baby out of her sight.
“M..me too,” echoed Tara, her eyes determined.
Leo nodded. “Okay, hold my hand.” The angel turned to the others. “Once I’ve taken these two back I’ll come back for you.”
Faith looked down at the angel’s proffered hand. “Sorry bud,” she cracked weakly. “But we’ve only just met.”
The angel’s eyes rolled. “I need to have physical contact with someone to transfer them. You’d best pick him up.”
She nodded before reaching down and, with a gentleness that would have shocked anyone who knew her from her street kid days, lifted Xander, tenderly cradling his head against her chest. “You’re gonna be fine,” she muttered, her voice husky with fear. “Just you see. And then I’m gonna kick your ass for scaring me like this.”
* * *
“What do we do now?”
Leo stared at his interrogator, watching as she gingerly lowered her friend onto the bed in the spare room. Tears streaking her mascara, and her manner uncertain, she appeared miles away from the kick-ass warrior, little more than a child. “I’m going to go into a trance. Don’t try and wake me,” he warned.
The girl nodded, her face pale. “But he’s gonna be five by five?”
Leo raised an eyebrow, recognising the term from his time in the services. How did she know it? “I’m sure he’ll be fine,” he soothed.
Faith nodded again. “How long will it take?”
“As long as it takes.”
Tara put her hand on the Slayer’s shoulder. “H..he’ll be fine.”
* * *
Three figures rose at his entry. “Who are you?” growled one of the trio.
He stared with disdain at the feral, a hyena spirit unless he missed his guess. Physically his superior, but with his skills he could tear the creature apart. The other two figures, his brow furrowed in thought. It was unusual to see three aspects in the same mind. This made his plan more difficult. It was usually the sign of a mentally ill person but although the youth’s mind stunk of indiscipline there was no sign of insanity.
“W….who are you?” the child’s voice trembled.
He smiled at the young boy and began talking. Once he’d finished he looked at the figures. “Well?”
He nodded with relief when all three agreed, he had to have unanimity otherwise what he had planned wouldn’t work. The boy he guessed had agreed for protection, to be stronger, the warrior out of duty, and the beast because he thought what was on offer would give the wildness within him supremacy. But it wouldn’t, if anything it would chain it even more securely. “Good, then we’ll begin.”
* * *
Leo stared cautiously around his new surroundings. He’d under-played the dangers of the Mind-Quest to the Slayer and the others. If the young man was insane, he’d be trapped in a maze, likewise if the youth died. If, on the other hand, the teen was evil then he could easily be cast back to his old body, a mindless, gibbering wreck. Even if none of that happened, he could easily be attacked by one of the boy’s nightmares and memories. “All fun options,” he sighed. Xander was one of the good guys and as such he didn’t have a choice about helping him.
He looked around his environment again, shaking his head at the images of junk food, naked Faiths, comic book heroes, and science fiction films surrounding him. Including ‘Battle Beyond The Stars’. “So the possibility he’s insane can’t be ruled out,” he muttered.
More worryingly still were the images of a male teen having his throat torn out by a beautiful blonde vampire and of a younger Harris being hit by a belt-wielding man in his early forties. Guessing they were either nightmares or bad memories, Leo gave them a wide berth not wanting to be caught up in them.
After what seemed hours he reached a clearing where a trio of figures, all bearing a passing resemblance to the young man who’s mind he was in, were being drilled in katas by a fourth man. Leo took a second to catch his breath, his heart thundering in terror.
The man was just under six feet tall, with a leanly muscular physique, cold grey eyes, shoulder-length brown hair, and a square jaw. But it was the aura surrounding the man that terrified him. “A..an ascendant,” Leo felt his mouth dry as the instructor turned towards him, a sheen of sweat breaking out on his face.
Ignoring every part of his being that was telling, whimpering, for him to back out before it was too late, Leo took a shaky step forward. “What is your business with Xander?”
The ascendant chuckled but his eyes remained hard and cold. “My, it has been too long if one of your kind thinks to question one of mine.”
Leo gulped. “Xander has friends who care for him very much,” he retorted with a boldness he didn’t feel.
The intruder’s eyes softened a little. “Ah, the Slayer,” he nodded. “She has a fire in her that reminds me of my Arty. I’ll tell you,” Leo relaxed slightly, “for her.”
* * *
Piper tensed as Leo’s body spasmed violently, lifting him off the bed, his eyes shooting open. “Leo sweetie,” in an instant she was hold of her boy friend’s hand, peering into his eyes. “Are you alright?”
Her love smiled at her even as he struggled to an upright position. “I’m fine Piper,” he turned to the terrified looking Slayer. “Faith, sit down.”
The raven-haired teen’s legs seemed to buckle underneath her as she dropped down onto the bed containing Xander. “He’s going to die isn’t he?” even as she spoke, the brunette’s eyes filled with tears. Piper noted that Tara instantly had a comforting hand on the younger teen’s shoulder.
“First off,” Piper noticed Leo’s wince and his drawn face, obviously the Mind-Quest had taken a lot out of him. “He’s going to be fine.”
The Slayer’s full lips parted in an uncertain smile and her eyes grew hopeful. “Really?”
“Really,” Leo hesitated. “However right at this moment an Ascendant’s inside Xander’s mind training him -.”
“What the fuck’s an Ascendant?” Piper had to fight back a shudder at the sudden coldness in the Slayer’s coal-black eyes and the way her face seemed to turn into something predatory. “And what is he doing in my Xander’s head?”
“An Ascendant is a human who through great deeds rose to godhood. You know the story of how demons were defeated?”
”Yeah,” Faith nodded, her brow creased in concentration. “A huge army of men rose up and drove them out of this dimension.”
“That’s correct,” Leo nodded. “Their leader became a god on his death.”
“Oh yeah?” Faith scowled. The expression should have looked out of place on such a beautiful face but instead made Piper’s stomach hollow in fear. “How about you magic me inside X’s head so I can kick the bastard out?” Tara whispered something indistinct into the Slayer’s ear but Faith shook her head. “No Tar. Nobody messes with the Xman while I’m around. God or no god!”
“Faith,” Leo’s tone was patient. “You don’t understand. Mithras is a benign presence -.”
“Eh?” Faith looked confused. “You’ll have to simplify shit for me. Never finished high school.” The Slayer shrugged. “Never started it actually.”
Piper shot the younger woman a worried glance at this revelation even as her boyfriend explained, his tone soothing. “Mithras is a good guy. More to the point, Mithras was a gladiatorial champion of the demonic games, a human who was trained in the fighting style from which all modern styles – oriental, western, boxing, and wrestling originate. Even a Slayer would have a problem with him, and that was before he ascended and became a god of war.”
Faith took a calming breath, her eyes filling with understanding. She nodded. “A god of war? Like Thor?”
“Like Thor,” Leo agreed.
“And he’s,” Faith glanced down at the slumbering body. “Gonna be five by five?”
Leo smiled before squeezing the Bostonian’s slender shoulder. “He’s going to be fine.”
Faith nodded and sighed. “But what does this Misletoe guy want with my Xander?”
“Mithras,” Leo corrected.
“Whatever. Well?” Faith arched an impatient eyebrow.
Leo rubbed at his forehead. “This is where it gets complicated.”
“’Cause it was real simple before.”
Her boyfriend ignored the Slayer’s sarcastic mutterings. “Throughout history, many of the world’s greatest military figures were descendants of Mithras. Some like Darius the Great, Hannibal, Richard Lionheart, El Cid, and the Black Prince are revered and remembered to this day. Others have been forgotten. But at the start of the 15th Century, Mithras’ influence began to wane and he was soon forgotten, his line deemed unworthy.” Her boyfriend looked down at the unconscious body. “Until Xander.”
Faith’s mouth dropped open and Tara gasped. “My Xander’s related to a god? Does that mean he’s a semi-god?” Faith demanded.
“Demi-god,” Leo corrected gently. “And no, because Mithras’ children were born before his ascension he’s still 100% human.”
Realising that the Slayer had lost interest in the conversation once she was reassured Xander was going to be alright, Piper spoke. “When will he come round honey?”
“How long was I out for?” Leo asked.
“Four hours,” she replied. The longest four hours of her life.
“Twenty six more hours then,” the whitelighter replied after a few seconds. “One hour for every two months of training.”
Piper stood. “We might as well go to bed then. Faith,” she turned the brunette clinging to the comatose youth’s hand. “I’ll show you to the spare -.”
“I’m staying here,” Faith shook his head.
“Faith, he won’t waken for hours.”
“Don’t care,” the teen shook her head again. “I’m not leaving him. If he wakes early he might be scared and confused, I wanna be here for him. I gotta be.”
Pier opened her mouth to protest only to hear her elder sister whisper in her ear. “Could you leave if was Leo?”
Piper nodded. Prue had a point. “I’ll stay with her,” Tara whispered.
Faith looked at her friend. “You don’t have -.”
”H..he’s my friend too,” Tara interrupted, her expression suddenly fierce and defiant. “I’m staying.”
Faith smirked. “Sure tiger.”
* * *
Even as she spoke Tara knew she couldn’t leave the younger girl. The Slayer looked so lost and scared, she couldn’t be left alone. And Xander had done so much for her, risked so much to help her. “He means a lot to you doesn’t he?” She knew that Faith cared for their friend but never quite why.
Faith started, as if she’d forgotten she was there. After a second the Slayer wiped her eyes with the back of her hand before nodding and smiling. “He’s my world,” the teen replied. “All my life growing up I learnt one thing. All men are bastards. As a kid I was an inconvenience, in the way of my ma’s johns. When I got older,” the Bostonian’s face shadowed. “They sure noticed me,” Tara’s stomach flip-flopped at the hidden meaning behind her friend’s words. It almost made her life of beatings and insults sound heavenly by comparison. “By the time I got to Sunnydale I knew one thing for sure – guys were only after one thing – sex. And that was five by five, ‘cause that was all I wanted off them. Then,” the girl stroked the slumbering man’s hair off his face. “I met X.” The Slayer’s smile lightened her face. “And god, he was a pain in the ass – opening doors, saving me a chair at group meetings, and talking to me like I was a for real person.”
“And that’s a bad thing?” Tara was confused.
Faith shrugged. “I figured it for a bullshit act, a sort of befriend you into bed angle. I like my guys to be upfront about what they want, cut out the crap, get some and get gone. Truth was,” Phoebe noted that the Slayer’s crooked smile now contained heartbreaking pain. “I was freaked out, I’m not used to guys being nice to me. Why would they? I’m just a slut, not worth shit. In the end I just fucked him to get rid of him, make him lose interest, but it was real good – like it meant something and that scared me even more. So I threw him out, ‘cause there’s one thing I’ve learnt and that’s letting people in only means giving them a chance to hurt ya. ‘Cept for some reason,” Faith softly brushed her lips against the man’s forehead. “X didn’t back off, kept on coming back for more of my shit, trying to be my friend. Then my baby saved from making the biggest mistake of my life, risking his own life to do it. Then I realised it wasn’t an act, he’s the real deal.” The Slayer looked up, her liquid brown eyes terrified and fat tears streaking down her high cheeks. “He’s gotta be alright. He has to be.”
“Oh my head.”
Xander swore in several languages as he struggled back to consciousness before forcing his eyes open to see the welcome sight of his best friend grinning down at him. “You’re awake!” she whooped at a pitch that did nothing for his head before grabbing him in a rib-aching hug. “You ever do that to me again,” she muttered huskily, “and I’ll kick your ass. Got it, you bastard?”
“I’ll bear it in mind,” he smiled at a nervously watching Tara. After a second the Wicca smiled and joined the Slayer in hugging him. He looked around his vaguely familiar surroundings. “Where are we?”
* * *
“You’ve eaten two 12 inch cheese and tomato pizzas, a bucket of chicken wings, and a family sized bag of Doritos. Even by your standards,” Faith shook her head, her expression disbelieving. “Harris, you’re a pig!”
“Hey!” Xander protested between gulps of a 2 litre coke bottle. “I’ve been unconscious for two days and done five years of intensive training. What do you expect?”
“Yeah,” Faith’s beautiful face took a troubled look. “What did you learn anyway?”
Xander felt uncomfortable in front of his audience of three, Tara and Faith having been joined by Phoebe. He hated being the centre of the attention, that was the place for the smart people, and to him, talking about this stuff seemed like boasting. What if he fouled up? Finally he shrugged. “A ton of stuff. Mithras knew about demonology, strategy, and tactics,” he took a breath. “I can handle a crossbow, knife, axe, staff, and half a dozen types of sword,” Faith’s eyes widened. “And,” he took a breath, this was the big one. “I’m the master of Kin’ Tra Lar, the fighting system from which all wrestling styles, boxing, savate, and all oriental martial arts styles are derived from.”
After he’d finished there was a stunned silence as the three women stared open-mouthed at him. Finally Faith spoke, her voice trembling. “You got a dojo Pheebs?”
After a few seconds the witch nodded. “In the basement.”
The Slayer looked him in the eye. “Wanna show me what you’ve got?”
Xander shrugged. “Why not?” he was sort of interested himself. Then, after a glance at the empty coke bottle, he had a thought. “Um,” he reddened. “Is it okay if I use the bathroom?”
* * *
Xander glanced around the dreary basement, noting its Spartan yet efficient set-up, the practice mats in the centre of the floor flanked by practice dummies and punch bags. Opposite him, Faith was practically jumping up and down on the spot with eagerness while Tara and Phoebe watched from their position sat on the stairs. “You ready for this X?”
“Just wait, this top’s a little tight,” Xander replied. As he pulled his sweater over his head, he considered his strategy. After five years of training, he was a top-class athlete, the match of any Olympian. Even so, strength, speed, and agility-wise he couldn’t hope to compete with a Slayer. He’d have to stick and move, use Faith’s greater strength against her and surprise her with his new skills.
Once his jumper was off he threw it to the side and turned back to the girls only to see both Faith and Phoebe licking their lips and Tara blushing. “What’s up?” he asked, uncomfortable under their scrutiny.
“Nothing stud,” Faith replied, her eyes moving up and down his body. “’Cept you put on 30 lbs of muscle and grew a set of kick ass abs.” Faith licked her lips again. “Almost worth you scaring the shit out of us.”
Xander looked down and reddened. He hadn’t realised it, but the training he’d undergone while comatose had somehow changed his physique from that of a gawky teen to the refined physique of a world-class gymnast. Which was great – except from the way the pair of girls were staring at him. “I feel like a piece of meat.”
Phoebe giggled. “But a prime cut.”
“Okay,” Xander’s blush deepened. He stared pleadingly at his best friend. “Want to get this on?” he never thought he’d be in a hurry to be beaten up by a Slayer.
Faith’s face turned business-like. She nodded. “Let’s see what you’ve got.”
The two of them moved onto the mats. “Won’t you need some padding?” Faith asked as they circled.
Xander grinned. “Won’t you?”
Faith’s eyes hardened. “That right?”
As he’d hoped, his words provoked the Slayer’s molten temper. The Bostonian lunged forward with an overhand right that although having none of her usual finesse or skill, but still had enough power and speed behind it to knock the average man on his ass if not knock him straight out.
Fortunately for Xander, his skills were now far from average. Leaning away from the Slayer’s attack, he grabbed the Bostonian’s arm at the wrist and elbow, and yanked her forward, sweeping her feet from beneath her. The Slayer hit the mats hand-first and with a flick of her wrists leapt back to her feet. Before the brunette had chance to turn and face him, he slammed a heel into his friend’s left hamstring, knocking her back to the floor.
Hitting the mats in a forward roll, Faith sprang back to her feet and spun round to face her, an appreciative grin playing on her full lips. “Damn,” she began bouncing on the spot. “Xman has some new tricks.” The Slayer cracked her neck. “Guess I’ll have to up the tempo.”
“Looking forward to it,” Xander retorted.
Faith’s grin widened. “Got a rep as accommodating.” The Slayer threw a left hook that Xander leaned away from only to leave himself open to a right to the ribs. Grunting slightly at the pain exploding in his side, Xander retreated, bending his knees to duck underneath a spin kick to the face. Grabbing hold of the grounded foot, he yanked it from the mats.
The Slayer hit the ground on her shoulder and started to roll up only for Xander to attempt to immobilise with a hold consisting of a knee in her shoulder-blades and an arm wrapped under her right armpit and around her neck. “Shit X!” Faith growled as she attempting to wriggle loose. “If you wanted to get up close and personal -,” the Bostonian reached behind herself with her free arm to grab his left ankle and pull, sending him crashing onto his back. “All you needed to do was ask!” Instantly he rolled over and tried for an ankle lock, but the Slayer just flexed her leg, throwing him off.
They both regained their feet at the same instant. Faith smirked. “Pretty nifty hold X,” Faith rolled her shoulders as if working some stiffness out. “Would have maybe worked even with my strength advantage ‘cept for Slayer flexibility. But then,” Faith grinned. “You should have already known about that.” The brunette’s smile widened. “Felt good having you on top I nearly didn’t struggle.”
Suddenly the sultry teen surged forward even faster than before, her left palm battering through his guard and slamming into his midriff. The wind exploded from him, bringing tears to his eyes. Instantly the Slyer moved into a leaping spin kick that he just managed to duck beneath. The instant the Slayer landed, he threw out a backfist that she blocked on her forearm before countering with a karate chop that he caught on his left shoulder, sending pained jolts down his arm. Next, she followed up by unleashing a kick at his ribs that he caught at the ankle. Before the brunette had chance to pull loose, he swept away her grounded foot, sending her plummeting to the ground only for Faith to somehow twist in mid-air and land on her feet.
Biting his lip against the pain, he resisted the urge to fall backwards and instead stepped into his opponent’s space, slamming a knee into the Slayer’s stomach. His friend grunted but responded with a right cross that he sidestepped before grabbing her wrist and pulling her onto a knifehand to the chest that sent the Bostonian staggering backwards. Seizing his chance, he swayed away from a retaliatory over-hand right, grabbed Faith’s out-stretched arm at the wrist with both hands and flipped her onto her back, still keeping hold of the limb, he stepped over the arm and attempted to go for a leg triangle arm-lock. Unfortunately he’d failed to take into account Faith’s strength and, despite having the advantages of leverage and weight, found himself crashing to the mat when his friend jerked loose, the whip-lash effect sending him to his knees.
”Shit X, pretty good.” Eager to press his advantage, he leapt to his feet and stepped forward just as Faith herself made her feet. Suddenly the east coast native lunged to meet him, grabbed him around his stomach and flung him over her shoulder via a belly-to-belly suplex. He landed with a crunch, moaning at the pain, he rolled up to his knees but before he could regain his feet, the Slayer grabbed him in a full-nelson, her breath hot against his neck. “Cool your jets tough guy,” she rasped.
After a few seconds struggling, he nodded. “Fine, you win.”
“Natch,” the Slayer released her grip and stepped back, allowing him to get up.
“What did you think?” he asked as he turned to face the east coast native.
For some reason the sultry Bostonian looked vaguely troubled. “I figure you could do pretty good. Maybe take 3,4 fledgings on your own. Maybe even take a Master vampire. And you’ll get better with practice.”
Xander’s brow furrowed, confused by Faith’s pensive expression. “So I’m the real deal?”
“Yeah,” Faith conceded. “I guess you won’t be needing me on this trip anymore.”
Suddenly realisation hit. For a second he stared at the east coast native, his heart aching at her lost, almost scared, expression. How many times in the past had she been cast aside once the man concerned had got what he wanted from her? “I never needed you,” he corrected. “Wanted you because you’re my friend.” And the girl I’m crazy about, he added silently.
“Really?” there was a desperate hope in the Slayer’s eyes.
“Really,” he grinned. “Now I’ve got a surprise to show you.”
“Oh yeah?” Faith’s eyes gleamed with interest. “What?”
“Wait and see,” he smiled mysteriously. “Wait and see.” His smile widened at the frustrated look on the Slayer’s face.
Faith ran a hand through her raven tresses as she watched the profile of her friend as he drove them through the busy streets of downtown Frisco. She didn’t think she’d ever been as scared as she’d been when X was in his coma. Not when the worthless slut that was her ma had been murdered, not when Ally had been tortured to death, or even battling the Sisterhood and the Mayor.
But now Xander was back, ‘cept now with some wicked cool moves. A whole new body too and he moved like a super-cold machine. He’d really changed, her brow furrowed in thought, question was how much?
Forcing aside her insecurities, she spoke, her tone casual. “What’s the buzz on this Mithras?”
After a moment Xander spoke. “The first humans walked the earth ten million years ago,” Faith’s mind reeled at the length of time. “But demons have been here far, far longer. Within a matter of a few decades of their arrival, the human race was completely enslaved. Five million years ago, Mithras was born, the result of a selective breeding program designed to breed gladiators. He was taken from his parents and raised to fight in the pits for his demon masters’ entertainment.”
“Sounds like a bad ass,” Faith commented for want of anything else to say.
“He was. By the time he reached his late twenties, he was amongst the best of the gladiators and raised an army to fight the demons.”
“Over forty million,” Faith whistled. “It took a decade, ten million human troops died, and six times that from famine, atrocities, and disease, but eventually Mithras’ army won. Most of the ancient gods, from the major mythologies, good and evil, are either humans that ascended to godhood or demons from that time.”
“Holy shit,” suddenly Faith felt very small. Killing a thousand year old vamp and a few demons seemed pretty small potatoes next to this. “So where we heading?”
Xander smiled his lop-sided grin, the one that made her tingle. She was glad he still had that. “Patience grasshopper.” Faith raised an eyebrow. And apparently he was still an irritating SOB.
* * *
“A deserted parking lot? You brought me to a goddamn parking lot?” Faith looked around and snorted. “Fuck Xman, no wonder all the girls gave you a wide berth back in Sunnyhell. Unless we’re climbing in the back seat to get it on you’re nobody’s definition of a fun date.”
Xander chuckled. He’d asked Tara to come with them, but she’d been more interesting in talking Wicca stuff with Phoebe. Which was cool because he’d enjoyed basking in Faith’s aura of barely controlled curiosity and irritation on the journey here. Teasing a Slayer was a dangerous but fun game to play. “Just wait until you’ve seen it.”
“Seen what?” Now the Slayer looked confused. “Damn it X!” she scowled at his answering grin. “Spill the beans or so help me…”
Xander sighed theatrically. “If you insist.” Reaching into the recesses of Mithras’ memories, he muttered a quick spell.
”What the fuck!” Faith jumped in front of him, shielding him from the magically appeared glowing portal in front of them. “X, you back off to the car. I’ll cover ya.”
“Faith,” suddenly he felt a regular ass. He put a comforting hand on the Bostonian’s slender shoulder. “It’s okay, I summonsed it here.”
“Uh?” Faith briefly glanced over the shoulder at him. “What ya talking about X?”
“It’s a magical bank, servicing clients from dozens of dimensions. Mithras had an account there from the old days. He taught me a code-spell that account users can use to create a doorway to the bank in their own dimension.”
“Oh yeah?” the brunette’s eyes gleamed. “Maybe enough for a new car? ‘Cause your wheels-.”
Xander chuckled. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves uh?”
“Sure,” Faith nodded and took a breath. “Let’s go in then. I’ll lead the way-.”
“No,” he shook his head. “If there’s any trouble, I brought it down on us. I’ll go first.” His friend shook her head and began to open her mouth. “No arguments.”
“Fine,” Faith scowled up at him. “Damn fool man, doesn’t even have the sense to listen to a woman.”
* * *
“Harris, you’re a fucking nut-job,” Faith’s voice trembled, either with awe or fear he wasn’t sure – he was too busy drinking in the scene around them.
The interior of the bank was unlike anything he’d ever seen before, a crazed amalgamation of architecture from a dozen ages and a score of different cultures, some obviously human in origin, and some just as obviously not, with countless signs in languages human, magical, alien, and demonic hanging from its walls. And the bank’s clientele were far from normal too, ranging in height to twelve foot tall fur-covered gorillas whose heads scraped the creamy-white ceiling and pixies barely a few inches tall. As he watched a couple walked past him their arms linked, looking for all the world like upright crocodiles. In another corner he saw a giant insect with as many as twenty legs – just across from the insect there was a hairy, one-eyed ball rolling ponderously toward the counter. In another space two human-looking creatures talked – human-looking until you noticed their forked tongues and their red pupils. And they were just the creatures he could describe.
Realising the Slayer was easing her sword up, he grabbed the crook of her arm. “Cool it Faith,” he whispered. “We’re safe.”
“SAFE?” Faith’s hiss somehow managed to burst one of his eardrums. “SAFE? Are you fucking loco or blind? Or both? Have you seen the freaks’ parade?”
“Be polite Faith,” Xander forced a fixed smile. “Everyone’s staring at us.”
Faith’s face greyed as the Bostonian realised that the hiss and hum of conversation had ended with all the other customers having turned to inspect them. “Oh crap.”
”Relax,” Xander replied. “There’s a non-aggression spell on this place.”
“Kinda,” Xander kept smiling at his audience, god he hoped things hadn’t changed since Mithras’ day. “Anyone who initiates violence in the bank automatically loses all their accounts, the proceeds split between all other account holders.”
“Fine,” Faith lowered her sword. “But if you get me killed, I’m haunting you. You hear?”
“I hear,” he confirmed with a nod. Where was the trust and love, he wondered whimsically as he looked around. “Ah,” he pointed to a cluttered desk in a lonely spot of the hallway, in front of a huge double-door. “That’s the desk we need.”
“Uh,” Faith followed his gaze, her eyes narrowing. “And she’s the second prettiest gal in the place too, coincidence?” Faith snorted. “I don’t think so.”
His remark gained him an elbow in the ribs. “You’re with the foxiest and don’t you forget it.”
“Sure,” Xander nodded. “But look at the competition with most of them we’re not exactly talking same species or even bipe-, oof!” he grunted as the Slayer drove another, harder, elbow into his side.
“Not funny Xman.”
“Yeah,” he groaned. You’d think he’d have learnt winding up a Slayer was a dangerous pursuit. “Sorry ‘bout that.”
* * *
Tantra Lar looked up at the approach of a friendly-looking human male and a raven-haired beauty almost pretty enough to be an elven princess. “Hello,” she greeted the newcomers. “Welcome to the 1st Multi-dimensional & inter-planetary bank.” Despite her polite welcome she allowed her hand to hover unobtrusively over the security buzzer. Although their organisation serviced a number of earth-based demonic organisations it was several eons since they’d had any human earth visitors. If they didn’t know the customs and rules there could be trouble.
“Fuck Xand,” Tantra’s pointed ears picked up the stunning brunette’s whisper, its throatiness dissuading her from any thoughts of the child having a smidgen of elf blood. “She’s not human.”
The beauty’s companion raised an eyebrow. “Look around Faith, we’re not exactly on earth anymore, this lady would be an elf correct?”
She smiled at the young man’s astuteness. “Quite so,” she brushed her hair back to reveal her pointed ears. “And you are?”
“Um,” the young man looked nervous, lost for words.
“You can do this X,” the girl, Faith he’d said her name was, gave her companion a comforting squeeze on the arm. Tantra hid a smile, despite her evident brashness the girl obviously cared very deeply for her companion.
“Yeah,” the youth swallowed. “You’re the Returning Clients’ Officer, right?” she nodded. “Well I’m a returning client, kinda, well a descendant of one anyhow. At least I think I am, I mean the entrance spell wor-”
“What is the account holder’s name?” she broke into the youth’s babbling, she might have a lifespan of several centuries but she wasn’t immortal!
“Yeah,” again the teen swallowed, but didn’t speak.
After a few seconds, the brunette groaned. “Damn it Xander, the name’s Mithras.”
Tantra felt the blood drain from her face. “M…mithras?” her pen dropped out of her trembling hand. One of the founders. Realising that all the other clients had turned to look at the two now nervous humans she forced a smile. “And what’s your name sir?”
“Your full name please.”
“Alexander,” the boy took a breath. “Lavelle.” The girl snickered. “Harris.”
Alexander, the protector of mankind. What an appropriate name for one of Mithras’ blood. “Alexander, just wait here for a second.” After a soothing smile, she hurried to the inner office to return with the security questions. “What was his wife’s name?”
She nodded before looking down to the next question. “Correct. His parents?”
“Odin and Frigg.”
“His five soul brothers?”
The boy paused. “Ares, Tyr, Indra, Nacon, and Ashur.”
“And the traitor?” Tantra asked the final question.
She was shocked when the boy’s eyes darkened. “Dev,” he growled.
“Chill X,” the girl muttered.
After a second the youth nodded, his face relaxing. Tantra released a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding. “Congratulations, you passed all of the security checks. You are now the owner of account AZ – 5,000,000 – BC.”
“That’s great,” Faith commented. Tantra noted the lithe beauty was bubbling with barely suppressed impatience. “But how much has he got?”
Tantra looked doubtfully at Faith before directing her next remark at Alexander. “Sir, these matters are confidential, between the bank and the account owner.”
“I trust her,” Tantra noted the curvy brunette’s beaming smile at the young man’s words. “Go on.”
“Very well,” she nodded. “The total comes to,” her eyes widened. “Just over thirty billion dollars.”
The youth’s jaw hit the floor with an audible clunk. “I’m worth thirty million dollars?”
“Sorry Alexander.” She coughed. “You misheard me. I actually said thirty billion.”
“Oh shit!” the brunette yelled as the young man fainted, leaping forward to catch him as he fell.
* * *
“You think Mithras fainted often?” Xander glared at Faith’s unrepentantly smirking face. “Not that I blame you X, thirty billion dollars!” his friend whistled. “How the fuck did that happen?”
Xander took a breath, the enormity of what was happening to him hitting home with sledge-hammer finality. “When I was in my trance Mithras told me he sensed something’s coming that’s big, real big so big that he could sense the dimensional ripples caused by it. I’m,” he shook his head, this was beyond stupid. “I’m meant to lead an army against it.” He looked at his trembling hand. “I’m scared.”
“Hey,” Faith ran a thumb down his check. “You’re not on your own Xand. I’ve got your back no matter what.”
He smiled weakly. “Thanks.”
“Alexander,” he looked up to see the elf hovering over him. “There are some other objects that came with your account. If you don’t mind coming this way?”
“Sure,” Faith helped him to his feet.
“I’m afraid Faith will have to stay here,” the elf smiled apologetically. “Only account holders are allowed past this door.” The elf indicated the wooden door guarded by a trio of eight foot orges.
“Oh no,” Faith shook her head, the look on her face akin to Willow’s resolve face. “No way am I letting you go in there on your own.”
“Faith,” he placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “I’ll be fine.” He hoped.
* * *
Davrim Nardonn’s three eyes widened as a very old account was opened. Blood pounding through his two hearts at a rate he hadn’t experienced since meeting his sixth wife five centuries ago, he stumbled to his feet. His job as a clerk for the bank didn’t give him the opportunity for much excitement, but this information. Oh yes, the likes of Wolfram & Hart would pay dearly for this.
* * *
David Trenton looked at the heads of his nation’s major intelligence agencies – Frank Horrigan of the Secret Service, Sean Archer of the FBI, Damien Falco of the NSA, and Jack Ryan of the CIA. As the National Security Advisor it was his responsibility to co-ordinate their disparate agencies. After a moment he turned to his aide. “Pearson, no notes.” His personal assistant looked surprised but nodded. Satisfied, he turned back to his audience. “Yesterday, a Code AZ bank account was opened-.”
“Excuse me?” it was Archer. “A Code AZ account. I’ve never heard of them.”
Trenton grimaced, neither had he until this morning. “A Code AZ account is an international account containing a great deal of money that hasn’t been opened in centuries.”
This time it was Ryan who interrupted him. “This is very interesting, but what’s the relevance?”
“And why are we here?” growled Horrigan.
“The account was black-flagged. It appears the account was started by someone who held considerable power at the time -.”
He turned towards Ryan at the CIA boss’ question. “That is uncertain, suffice to say we’re worried that the new account holder might be of a similar nature so we’re ordering surveillance on him. The details relating to the case are in the folders before you. All documentation must be shredded before you leave this room.”
“An 18 year old boy and a 17 year old juvenile delinquent?” Horrigan looked up. “This is all about them?”
“You’re aware of the NID?” Trenton asked.
Archer nodded, his face disgusted. “Yes, their methods are questionable to say the least.”
”That’s as maybe,” Trenton retorted. “But one of their off-shoots, the Initiative, has been running surveillance in the boy’s hometown prior to setting up an operation there.”
“Why?” growled Horrigan.
Tenton hesitated before looking over his shoulder and nodding at Pearson. His assistant unfastened the suitcase secured to his wrist by a chain and pulled out a folder, one of two in existence. “This file is Codename Slayer.”
Half an hour later, Falco looked up from his inspection of the briefing. “You’ve got practically everyone looking for them – the NSA, CIA, FBI, Secret Service, DIA, CTU, Consular Operations, and even the DEA. But no NID or Section. Why?”
“Both organisations have proven themselves to be unreliable in the past,” Trenton replied, his smooth tone giving no hint to just how much both organisations troubled him. “Bear in mind people, neither Harris or Faith are to be harmed until it is decided they are a threat.”
* * *
Bond looked up from the file M had given him. “This is absurd! A practical joke surely?”
He was dismayed when his boss shook her head. “England has been the home of the Council of Watchers for the past fourteen centuries and have worked in tandem with our security services for close to a thousand years.”
“But vampires, demons, Slayers, and this Mithras gentleman? A teenager?” Bond’s nose wrinkled with distaste. “An American teenager?”
M nodded. “Fortunately for us thanks to our relationship with the Council we have rather more information on the supernatural than many of the world’s other intelligence agencies.”
Bond raised an eyebrow. “They’d be interested in this?”
“Very interested,” M confirmed.
* * *
“WHAT!” Travers slammed his phone down, blazing at the news he’d just heard. Harris, the boy who’d run off with his Slayer, was the Mithras descendant, the possible future saviour of the world. “Although,” Travers smiled to himself. Such an inexperienced youth would need guidance. And the Slayer would provide leverage.
* * *
Cancer Man coughed as he grabbed his phone. “Yes!” he barked.
“It’s Pearson sir,” the voice on the other end replied. “I have information for you regarding The Mithras account.”
Return To The Mithras Chronicles