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Challenge #7: Leather Pants -- "A Big Year for Vengeance"

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  • Challenge #7: Leather Pants -- "A Big Year for Vengeance"

    Title: "Xander: A Big Year For Vengeance"
    Rating: R (language, violence)
    Characters: Xander, Buffy, Faith, Willow, Kennedy, others
    Setting: Shortly after 7.22 "Chosen"
    Beta: Dorian's Kitten


    Chapter 1

    "Do you know where you're going?" Anya asked, her voice edging on impatience.

    Oh no, Xander thought. Here again. No, no I don't know where I'm going, Ahn.

    "I've been thinking about getting back into vengeance," Anya continued, her tone easing into casual conversation.

    Xander heard his own voice answer her, "is that right?"

    "Well, you know how I miss it. I'm so at loose ends since I quit. I think this is going to be a very big year for vengeance."

    Xander tried to set his jaw, tried to protest that it wasn't, but again, his voice answered without him, "but... isn't vengeance kind of... vengeful?"

    Dreaming, his mind insisted, just dreaming. The part of him that could tell he was sleeping tried to tune out the conversation proceeding by rote, the one he'd dreamt in that all too vivid dream the night he'd combined with Buffy and the others. He watched in angered, shamed silence as he saw Dream Willow and Dream Tara kiss. It felt like such a complete violation now, of both his living friend and the one long gone. Beside him, his real girlfriend, Anya, sat ignored and unappreciated.

    And then the real nightmare began. He blinked, just blinked, and where Willow and Tara had stood, he saw others. It was always someone else who asked now, someone else who called him away from her. He saw Caleb, the evil priest, something bloody and slimy held in his right hand. He saw Buffy, smiling pleasantly, but somehow cold and distant. He saw? he saw?

    "Do you wanna come in the back with us?"

    Xander gasped as he snapped awake, bolting up in bed. He reached up and wiped beading sweat from his forehead and reached out in the dark room for the nightstand where he had set his eye-patch. The entire time he spent adjusting the patch in place and pushing his hair back he also spent remembering where he was.

    It was light outside the Hyperion hotel in Los Angeles, and a light tinkling suggested that it did, in fact, sometimes rain in southern California, no matter what Albert Hammond tried to convince the world. Xander rubbed his face in his palms, feeling the stubble of four days without a shave dragging against his fingers. Four days since Sunnydale, since his whole past had dropped into a hole, since he'd? since she'd?

    Not the time, he decided, and sprang out of bed. It was the first time in weeks he'd had a full night's sleep in a room by himself. He glanced around for his clothes ? the same flannel shirt and jeans he'd had on for almost a week now ? and found nothing. Well, great, he whined in his head, I could have sworn I put a do not disturb sign up before I went to bed.

    He laughed at a little at the thought. The only reason he had this room to himself was because they had decided to squat in the apparently abandoned hotel that was supposed to have been Angel's headquarters. What a joke that had been, this safe haven. A big empty hotel. Angel and his people had gone off to some law firm. An evil law firm, and Xander wasn't sure which idea troubled him more ? Angel evil, or Angel the lawyer. Regardless, that was obviously Buffy's deal, she and Giles had gone to do lunch or something the day before and she'd been tight lipped about it. Other than to say they wouldn't be staying long.

    Just as well, Xander sighed mentally. He was pretty sure this room was Wesley's, or had been Wesley's, and? that guy had changed. He wasn't sure to whether to be scared or slightly turned on when he had opened the dresser drawer to find a porn-ucopia of weapons. Spring loaded stakes, pistols, a shotgun, and what appeared to be some kind of collapsible swords. In a word, yikes. Last Xander had heard, Wesley was still screaming like a woman in the face of danger.

    Searching through the closet and dresser again, Xander was disappointed to find nothing of Wesley's that would even remotely fit him. He hated the idea of putting on his stinky jeans again, even if just to go to a discount store for new clothes. If he so much as had to look at them again, he'd probably throw up.

    That fact made it more of a surprise when he turned to pull them off the office chair where he'd left them and found that the clothes there weren't his. Instead, there was a neatly folded red button-down shirt and dark pants. He had never seen them before, but wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth. He reached down and picked up the shirt to judge the size. At least it looked big enough. As he shook it out, a note slipped out and fell to the ground. He fit one arm through a sleeve while he crouched to look at the note.

    "Xander," the note read, "We took your clothes out of the room to get clean but could only find this for you to wear. We'll go shopping if you want as soon as you wake up. I promise not to laugh, but Faith and Kennedy didn't. Hope you're feeling better, Love, Dawn."

    Not to laugh? Xander questioned. Then he glanced up to the chair where the pants Dawn had left him waited for him.

    They were leather.

    *******

    Fifteen minutes later, Xander began walking down the steps to the Hyperion's lobby, convinced the whole way that he must be squeaking. Black leather pants, a red dress shirt with a collar and lapels that felt far too wide, and his hair brushed back with wet hands. This was going to be great. It had been a rough enough few days before he'd been wearing Angel's hand-me-downs to what was sure to be the unending amusement of Buffy, Willow, Dawn, Faith, and everyone else in the world he still knew.

    Might as well just try to ?aw shucks' my way through it, he willed. Still a half-dozen junior Slayers that are trying to hold it together, seeing me bitch about these ****ing leather pants isn't going to help.

    "Anything around here for breakfast?" Xander asked, more amiable than he felt. Kennedy, Faith, and Dawn were all gathered at the front desk, facing away, and appeared to be eating something. He could hope, anyway. It was closer to lunch than breakfast already.

    "Help yourself," Dawn said, turning around, "there's still some hash browns in the bag if you want to yeeeeeh my goodness, those pants really are leather."

    Xander lowered his head and took a breath after Dawn turned around and started gawking. It wasn't a moment later that Kennedy and Faith were looking, too. Kennedy was clearly stifling a laugh, and he couldn't stop from glaring at her. Without all the others around, he didn't feel as diplomatic.

    "Not bad, Xan," Faith cut in before Xander could unleash a torrent of profanity at Kennedy. The disruption made him turn his face to her in confusion. "You should have had a pair of those back in high school."

    Did she wink at him?

    "Thanks," he mumbled, rummaging for food in the McDonald's bags. He'd only been prepared for frustration and annoyance about this outfit. Being around Faith was already awkward enough without her appreciating the merchandise.

    Xander had just bitten into a cold hash brown patty when Buffy and Giles came back in through the front doors. Willow was right behind them. Wherever they'd gone this morning it hadn't been worth waking him up, apparently.

    They were in the midst of conversation still, and exchanged only perfunctory smiles and waves with him from across the lobby. They weren't the only ones wandering in; Xander saw a few of the other? refugees, he supposed? coming down the steps. They were Shannon and Caridad, who were arm in arm, and crying. Xander had seen this a few times in the last couple days, more after the memorial than before.

    Two nights before, Giles had parked the bus at an overlook near Point Mugu State Park and the survivors, all fourteen of them, and had a service of sorts for the sixteen who hadn't. Well, in theory for the sixteen. But it was feeling more and more to Xander like it had been for fifteen. Buffy had barely been able to talk about Spike, but she had. So had Faith, despite only knowing him for a week. So had Willow and Giles. Hell, so had he. The younger girls talked about their friends, nearly two thirds of the Slayers having gotten killed that day.

    It wasn't that nobody said anything about Anya? it's that nobody said anything real about her. Years before, he and Willow had explained to Buffy what it meant to tell someone to "have a nice summer" in their yearbook. Fairly or not, It felt to Xander like everyone in the world he loved besides Anya had just walked up and told her to "have a nice being dead". And most shamefully, when he'd had the chance, he couldn't do more than that himself; it felt awkward to grieve in such indifferent company. It's like? it was like?

    ? what if I really am nobody?, Anya's voice in his memory?

    ? It was like she was never there in the first place. Like he was the only that remembered her at all.

    "Xander?" It was Buffy's voice, bringing him back to the moment. "Did you? aren't those??"

    Sigh. "Yes, Xander's wearing the mighty Angel pants. I don't get it. Didn't he only have leather when he was evil? Do you think he kept this shit around just in case, so he'd have something to wear?"

    Buffy shrugged, apparently unable to comment beyond that. Probably for the best, Xander silently thanked her. Whatever was going on with Angel wasn't going to lead to positive remarks about this bold new fashion choice.

    "? our losses are getting more considerable. First Spike, now Angel," Giles was speaking to Willow in hushed tones as they walked past, toward the manager's office. Again, Xander bit back a surge of anger. Anya didn't even come up, she never did. He was so aggravated by the thought he almost missed the next thing Giles said. "With the amount of work we have ahead of us, we needed all the allies we could pull together. And with Cordelia in her current state ?"

    Xander's hand flew out and caught Giles by the arm, more roughly than necessary. "What's wrong with Cordelia?" he demanded, his good eye gleaming.

    Giles missed the tension in the younger man's look. "She's, er, she's in a coma apparently. Which means we're short yet one more capable person who could ?"

    Xander punched him. It happened so fast that Giles was on the ground and Buffy and Willow staring slack-jawed at him before Xander was even sure what he'd done.

    "Xander!" Willow exclaimed. Buffy shoved him in the arm, outraged. Xander ignored them both.

    "Cordy's in a coma? Did anybody think to send flowers or go visit her before looking at her as an asset? Is that why nobody cares about Anya?" Xander snarled at Giles, who was only just sitting up and staring at him, bewildered.

    "Xander, what the hell are you talking about?" Buffy demanded, getting into his face. He shrugged her arm away from him.

    "I'm taking a walk. Which hospital?" Xander answered sharply, ignoring her anger.

    "Xander, you can't just ?"

    "Which. Hospital?" He stepped right into Buffy's face when he said it. He didn't know if it was the Angel clothes or what, she was a Slayer after all, but she flinched.

    "Cedars-Sinai," Buffy answered, quietly.

    "Thanks," Xander whispered as he whirled toward the door. Everyone in there was staring at him as he walked out into daylight. He laughed bitterly, realizing that these pants had probably never seen daylight before.

    *******

    "Visiting hours? Can smell my balls," Xander declared as he put the empty beer mug down on the bar. He'd been nursing a couple of beers for the better part of two hours, sitting along in a bar, too angry and empty to want to be drunk. It was 7pm, still infuriated that he couldn't get in to see Cordy, and too angry and embarrassed to go back to the Hyperion. Especially in these ****ing pants.

    He nodded his thanks to the bartender and tipped him well. His occasional bursts of profanity were worth the extra cash.

    He paused for a second outside the bar to remember which way led him back toward the hotel. When he finally turned to walk that way, he was stopped short by a woman standing just inches from him. He could swear she hadn't been there before.

    "Look like you have problems a bottle can't solve, honey," she said with an arch of her eyebrow.

    Xander sized her up, and despite what she said, he realized this wasn't a hooker. Her hair was a glossy, straight black. Her eyes, however, weren't quite blue, they were? periwinkle? Purple? Not human, is the point, and he was smart enough to figure that out on his own. She wore a black pencil skirt and a matching vest, covered by a cardigan that matched her alien eyes. She was like the sorority rush chairwoman of hell. The color in her eyes was set off even more by sunlight reflecting off a huge sapphire necklace she wore.

    "They make those?" he snarked, stepping around her. She stepped with him, staying in front of him.

    "You look like you've lost something. Someone," she corrected. A little too insightfully. "And it's someone else's fault."

    In his mind, Xander raced back into the ice cream truck, the conversation with Anya. This time, it wasn't Caleb or Buffy in the back. This time it was someone else, and it made sense. It made a cold, hateful sense. It was someone else's fault.

    "Sure that's a longer story than you want to hear," Xander forced himself to smile. "And I'm in a hurry to get home."

    "Oh, I'll walk with you, you can tell me all about it. Just hope it includes the eyepatch," she flirted back, falling into step beside him. He smiled at just how un-subtle this one was, and said a quiet word of thanks to the education he'd gotten. "I'll walk as far as you like. My name's Cascade."

    "Xander," answered. "Named after a mountain range in south Florida."

    She giggled at his bad, bad joke, and he smiled gratefully, walking her along the path. He told her about his poor ex-girlfriends, one in a coma, one lost in a giant sinkhole. He told her about the friends that seemed to dismiss them both. She listened with attention and empathy to every word, just as he knew she would.

    As he spoke, he gestured to a shortcut, leading Cascade into an alley way behind the Hyperion.

    "That's awful, Xander," Cascade sympathized, "it's like they just forget all about your pain like you're not even a part of a family. I hate hearing about broken homes. Don't you just wish --?"

    "Not really," Xander cut her off. He flicked his right wrist and felt Wesley's collapsible sword spring out and lock into form, and before Cascade could react, he shoved her against the alley wall and plunged the sword into her chest.

    "AAAAaaaaagh!" she screamed, but kept moving. Xander pulled the blade out and grabbed her sapphire necklace in his left hand, yanking it off her neck. Cascade sank to the ground, and Xander put one of his boots on her chest, glancing around to make sure they hadn't gotten anyone's attention in the faded evening.

    "What? what the hell are you??" she panted, stunned. But only stunned.

    "Swords in the chest hurt a lot. That's one of the things she taught me about you guys," Xander explained. He felt a snarl build in Cascade, who was finally realizing the trap. Before she could try to use her strength against him, he dangled her necklace in front of her. "Ah ah, Cascade. I can tell you haven't been a vengeance demon for very long. You're as subtle as a Humvee. But I know you know that you don't want me to break this thing."

    She relented, staring up at him hatefully. He pulled her power center back up into his fist and let his foot off her.

    "You're right, Cascade. It's great that you found me. There is someone else to blame."

    Cascade gritted her teeth at him, seething. "Then why the stabbing and not the wishing?"

    "Because I'm going to need a bit more help from you than an ordinary wish is going to get me."

    Xander crouched down and met Cascade's cold, alien eyes with his one healthy eye. He raised the tip of the sword back toward her throat.

    "I want you to tell me everything you know about your boss. You're going to help me kill D'Hoffryn."
    Last edited by KingofCretins; 25-03-08, 05:21 PM.
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