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Fan Fiction: They Also Serve
Chapter Ten: A Battle Won
""Men are at war with each other because each man is at war with himself."
Xander pressed his way towards the bar, still scanning the chaotic crowd for a glimpse of Warren or Andrew. Along the way, he paused to assist a young woman who was partially trapped under a collapsed table. He vaguely recognized her from his high school years, and he wondered idly where her boyfriend was. Surely she wouldn't have come here alone?
She didn't seem injured, just a little bruised and in shock, so he helped her carefully to her feet and started to lead her towards some more solid furniture where she could sit down and catch her breath. They hadn't gone more than a few steps when she looked up, at another section of the crowd, and called out a name in alarm. "Frankie!"
Xander followed her gaze and winced inwardly at the scene before him. Warren was here all right, posturing in front of one of the jocks Xander remembered none-too-fondly from gym class. From the looks of things, Warren's memories had been pretty similar, and he was looking to get some of his own back. They were facing each other, perpendicular to Xander's line of sight, and Warren was looking mighty sure of himself. The jock didn't seem to realize that something was a little off about this confrontation... not to mention the fact that he'd left his girlfriend in trouble while he was reliving his high school role!
"What'd you say?" Frank was saying, loudly. He had a few inches on Warren and was using them to best effect, leaning slightly forward and squaring his shoulders in his brown suede jacket.
Warren didn't seem intimidated; if anything, he seemed viciously amused. "You heard me, meathead," he replied.
Frank's face was getting pretty red. He reached out to grab Warren by the shoulders, probably to push him away, and scowled. "Oh, you're dead, you little..."
Warren didn't budge. "This ain't high school," he said, with a self-satisfied smirk, and shoved Frank in the chest with one hand.
Frank flew backward, colliding with a couple who were making their way towards the exit. His girfriend cried out in alarm and dropped Xander's arm like a hot potato, scurrying over to check on the fallen man.
It looked like Giles was right; strength was definitely part of the Orb package. Judging from the force Warren had used-- or lack thereof-- and the length of Frank's flight, Warren was probably a match for Buffy right now. Not good, not good at all. Well, this was as good a time as any to test the invulnerability part; if Xander waited any longer, the supergeek would see him, and the element of surprise would be lost.
Casually, Xander picked up a chair, strolled over toward Warren, and swung it with all his might at Warren's back. Xander's friends tended to see him as the wimp of the group, given that there was nothing supernatural about him, but he wasn't the same lanky fifteen-year-old he'd been back when this all started. Six years of maturing had put muscle on his bones, and at least a third of that time had included heavy manual labor. Against a purely human opponent, he wouldn't have had much trouble. Against Warren...
The chair hit Warren's back hard enough to shatter, collapsing in a shower of sharp wooden pieces that Xander's subconscious automatically catalogued as potential stakes. Warren didn't even flinch. He turned and gave Xander a surprised look, then backhanded him. Xander winced at the sudden, sharp pain as he commenced his own flight through the air. His backside made a brief acquaintance with the bar-top, and then he was on the ground behind it, gasping for air.
Xander scrambled immediately to his feet, planting both hands on the bar for leverage, and found Warren grinning at him from the other side in a similar posture. "Oooh," Warren challenged him, "it looks like the Slayer's lapdog grew a pair. Guess it was too little, too late, though; I hear your girlfriend left you and became a vengeance demon. I gotta say, I don't even know how to quantify how pathetic that makes you."
Xander narrowed his eyes at the other man, and the fight shifted from being the usual "gotta save the world", to something more personal. This, from a guy whose life had until recently been even lower on the loser scale than Xander's? Not only that, Warren had actually had the temerity to try to use Anya to further his evil schemes, plus one of his major goals was taking Buffy down. This could not be tolerated. Xander squared his stance and threw a solid punch at Warren's face.
The punch had even less effect than the chair. Warren smirked as Xander clutched his hand in pain, then taunted him. "You hit like a girl."
"At least I know how to get one," Xander hissed, still smarting over the Anya comment as much as the damage to his hand. Warren had his facts wrong, of course, but that didn't change the tangled guilt and love and anger that seethed in Xander's stomach on that subject. Anya should have left him, long before the disastrous wedding attempt. He'd never quite been what she deserved; surely, if he had been, he'd have respected her more; he would have been able to dismiss those horrible pseudo-visions; she'd never have ended up with her old pals doing vengeance again...
In short, this was not a topic he wanted the likes of Warren anywhere near.
Warren's face settled into an angry scowl at the insult, and he punched Xander, hard. Xander hit the ground again, ending up sprawled on his back. He could feel the blood starting to trickle from his nose, running down his face. Damn, that hurt!
Andrew seemed to materialize from somewhere, hovering in the background as Warren approached Xander again. Xander scowled at them both and struggled to his feet, determined not to go down that easily.
"Warren, we gotta get going," Andrew said, and clutched at Warren's arm. "We got that thing to do, and I don't know if the earthquake will throw the schedule off, or if the cops are gonna show up here..."
"This'll just take a minute," Warren said, shrugging Andrew's arm off. "We go when I'm ready." He pulled back his fist, preparing to deck Xander again, and his jacket pulled back a little at the waist.
Xander blinked as he registered the pouch exposed by that movement, attached to Warren's belt. Could the guy really be that stupid? A smart warrior never allowed the enemy easy access to his most important weapons. Hadn't Warren ever run across the Evil Overlord list on the Internet? If he could just get the Orbs away from Warren...
That thought had barely registered in Xander's mind when a sudden flash of light enveloped the other man, and Warren staggered backward, taking the Orbs out of Xander's reach. On the plus side, though, that also took Warren's fist out of reach of Xander.
Warren's face abruptly went pale, as though all the blood had drained out of it. He hunched forward, clutching at his ribs with one arm, and made a strange moaning sound, as though all the air had been knocked out of him. Then he touched his other hand to his lips, and stared at the wet redness that came away on his fingertips. His legs buckled, as though they could no longer support his weight, and he went down hard.
"Warren!" Andrew yelled, and dropped to his knees beside his fallen friend.
Xander blinked at the tableau in astonishment, then looked up and mouthed a "Thank you" in the general direction of the ceiling. Whatever had just hit Warren must have been pretty powerful magic; someone, somewhere, was looking out for Xander... or, at least, for Xander's side of things. He wasn't going to quibble about the details.
Warren coughed a few times, bringing up more blood, then swallowed hard and clutched at Andrew's arm, trying to struggle back to his feet. The color was already starting to come back into his face-- maybe the attack had only partially penetrated the Orbs' invulnerability spell? Xander knew that if he didn't act immediately, he probably wasn't going to get another chance. He lunged forward, latching onto Warren's belt pouch with both hands, and tugged it away. He pulled hard enough that the pouch ripped where it had been snapped around the belt, and the momentum sent him stumbling back a couple of steps.
Warren yelped and tried to snag the pouch with a flailing hand as it moved away from him, but missed. "No!" he gasped.
Xander felt relief wash through him at the sudden look of fear on Warren's face, and he couldn't resist firing a Buffy-esque remark at the defeated man. "You're nothing but a sad little boy, Warren. But it's time you grow up, and pay for what you've done."
Warren scooted backward on the floor, panting as the Orbs' effects left him. Whatever injuries had been given him were apparently not completely healed; he went pale again, and a cold sweat broke out on his forehead. "Get away from me!" he gasped.
"Oh, no," Xander smirked. "I'm gonna take you down. You piece of... "
His voice trailed off then as an unfamiliar wave of sensation passed through his body, spreading outward from his left hand. It felt mildly electrical, and kind of tickled. He looked down at the pouch he was holding in surprise, and saw a faint purplish mist trailing up his arms. What the...?
"Oh, God," Andrew blurted. "Now he's got the Orbs! We're doomed!"
"Shut up, Andrew," Warren slurred, still backing away. He'd managed to get his feet back under him, but he was leaning heavily on his short, blond friend.
Xander stared at the Duo in surprise. Was it really that simple? No activation spell or anything? Just grab them and presto, you're empowered?
Apparently so. Andrew quivered under his gaze, then hurriedly pulled Warren towards an exit, half-dragging the injured man in his haste to get away.
Briefly, Xander was tempted to dart after the pair and give them a thrashing they'd never forget. Then the door shut behind them, and suddenly the rest of the club snapped back into focus. There were injured people here, and Willow to worry about, and Giles outside on the street looking ill and suddenly being one with the Earth, and really, what threat was Warren now? He'd lost his lair, he'd lost his magic wielder, and he'd lost his super artifact. Buffy could finish running him out of town when she got back. After all, Warren & co. had only been after her for months now; who was Xander to deprive her of the cathartic final takedown?
In the back of his mind, newly reawakened instincts niggled at him; you never left an enemy standing, not if you could help it. The "responsible Xander" instincts, however, were stronger.
He emerged from the club fifteen minutes later, considerably dirtier than he'd been when he entered, but a lot lighter in spirit. Despite the initial chaos, the total injuries and damage hadn't actually been that bad; a good thing, considering that the Bronze already spent way too much money each year cleaning up after Acts of Hellmouth. That didn't leave much in the way of resources to deal with Acts of Nature.
Giles was still there, leaning against the wall of the club. He looked much better than he had earlier; he was staring off into the distance with a deep, thoughtful look on his face, but the lines around his eyes and mouth had relaxed considerably, making him look younger than Xander was used to.
"Hey, G-Man," he said, nudging the older man's shin with the toe of his boot.
"Hmmm? Ah, Xander." Giles blinked out of his reverie and gave him a quick once-over. "You encountered Warren, I see? Are you all right?"
Xander touched his sore nose self-consciously, and laughed a little. "Oh, yeah. I'm good. Guess what this is?" He waved the pouch containing the Orbs under Giles' nose.
"The Orbs of Nezzla'khan?" Giles' eyebrows shot up and his eyes fixed avidly on the pouch. "However did you...?" His expression was a cross between downright astonishment and rabid curiosity, and it wrung another laugh out of Xander.
"Got it in one," he said, dropping the pouch into Giles' outstretched hand. "And it's kind of a funny story, actually..."
© 2004 Jedi Buttercup.