Title: Sense of Self
Warnings: Mentions of love spells, behavior mods
Series: Self – part 3, but can be read alone
Summary: Xander has let Willow and Buffy destroy any sense of self he has left long enough. It’s time he cut them out. He has given them enough of himself, and now, after one final betrayal, it’s time to find himself.
Timeline: 2 years after fall of Sunnydale, does not follow comic book series.
Thanks to my lovely beta, MyzticMyanMøøn
It had been going on for days — well, weeks, really. He had been training one of the Slayers in Africa, doing his best to make sure these girls would survive whatever would come their way when he would suddenly remember something – something he swore would never have happened. After it had occurred enough times he sought out the village Shaman.
Around these parts Xander Harris was known as the The White Knight, the White Warrior, The One Who Sees All, etc etc…. It seems that all the lovely nicknames from good ol’ Sunnydale had made it around the world all the way to Africa ahead of Xander Lavelle Harris’ arrival. The only difference was, outside of Sunnyhell, he was respected. Here they didn’t think of him as ‘the Normal One’; here he was the one who fought beside women of power without anything but his wits to guide him.
Most of those he spoke with were not impressed with either Buffy or Willow, much to his surprise. Their habit of looking down on men as a completely useless species instead of capable partners was detrimental to the cause; it took a lot of fast talking on Xander’s part to have backup for the African slayers that could be trusted due to this. They didn’t want to be treated like day old garbage as they had heard he had been treated, or the leashed vampires that stayed with them. They would rather work with Slayers such as Faith, who accepted help where it was offered, spoke to those around her as equals and didn’t abuse her authority or think herself above anyone.
Xander thought he was going to have to prove himself over and over again to gain these strangers’ respect and in the end he already had it. It was the rest of the council that was found lacking. The problems came when he would fall back on the “Teachings of Willow” as they called it. Xander would one day seem like a completely reasonable guy and the next act an idiot and fall back to Zeppo status. But the times between those two characteristics were now few and far between., The memories of certain events, like him standing up to Willow and Buffy, or him reaching out for help from outside parties, were resurfacing with repeated frequency.
Willow’s reputation definitely preceded her. Her habit of using magic for the most frivolous of reasons, especially selfish ones, was very well known. That she thought no one noticed was very naive, it made people very hesitant to work with her and in turn trust The New Council. If it wasn’t for board members like Xander and Faith, no one would have anything to do with them. As it was, Xander knew that Faith was on the verge of breaking with them completely, but he didn’t understand why.
He couldn’t comprehend why he had felt so weird lately, though, and so when he finally went for help, it was given freely with relief.
“Knight, I have most grievous news for you,” the Shaman told him, “in your current state you would not believe us, so we will fix you and ask for forgiveness later.” Without giving him a moment for even a token protest the Shaman’s helpers took ahold of him and kept him still whilst a potion was poured down his throat. The last thing he saw was a smudge stick of white sage being waved over his body as chanting began, the beat reverberating through his skull, his very brain. His whole body it seemed.
And then came darkness.
Upon waking, Xander was not a happy man in the least. It felt like the hangovers he had been avoiding for the last decade of his life was hitting him all at once.
“I’m pretty sure I didn’t have anything to drink, and I still have my clo – correction: I have most of my clothes on. So anyone want to clue me in ‘what’s the what’ here?”
The Shaman gave him a small smile in response, glad to see his patient and friend awake once more.
“I am happy to see you with us again, Knight. It was not a sure thing that you would rejoin the living, as you have stayed on the precipice of death for most of the last two days.”
“Two –” Xander couldn’t get the rest of the question out, he was in such shock. He accepted the proffered water with a nod of thanks. “My Slayers?”
“They are fine, guarding from the outside just in case anything or anyone took advantage of your vulnerable status. However, the most dangerous enemy for you are those far away, as they are the reason you were in danger in the first place.”
“Please, in plain English. I don’t have the energy to do the cryptic-wise-one-dance right now. I just can’t. What’s with the markings on my body?”
“I understand, young one, we will give you the answers you seek. First, let us speak of the ritual cleansing and its results.” The Shaman then described what was revealed as they stripped him of all the magics in and around his body and mind.
When The White Knight had arrived at their village to train the warrior women, what he called Slayers, it was noted by the medicine man and his apprentices that there was something not quite right about him. He seemed sick, off. Yet, they could not seek answers without his permission, and until a few days ago they had not received it.
Finally, they now knew what the problem was.
“You have been layered with compulsion spells for lust, behavior, memory –”
“Wait, you mean like in Harry Potter? Like the Imperius curse or something?”
The younger man, Xander didn’t know his name, smiled in recognition of the character and nodded.
“I do enjoy that series. But yes, just like in those stories. From what I saw in the ritual I would say that the spell caster knew the series as well. I would say the Imperius and something akin to a spell version of Amortentia.”
And that’s all it took for Xander to know exactly who to blame for this entire mess.
“And let me guess, part of the behavior modification – because that’s definitely what it is you’re describing – part of it was suppression of feelings and exaggeration of certain behaviours, right? It’s why I felt so insecure about innocuous things, why I didn’t try harder in school even though I seemed to excel in certain areas? Why I was attracted to a specific type of women?” He waved away the response the young man was about to give as he reviewed memories he definitely didn’t have a few days go.
Memories of studying languages that interested him, mathematics that piqued his interest, histories of the demons that they were coming across — to make sure that what Giles was telling them was actually the truth. He didn’t trust a damn thing that came from those disgusting Watchers. Apparently, his budding interests and intellect was a threat to his childhood friend and so she wiped it away, like one would a chalkboard or etch-a-sketch.
His abundance of failed relationships with women who always degraded him, tried to change him, treated him like garbage, and yet he just took it. His sudden urge to be with Willow when he had never seen her in that light before; when he had always been a loyal partner, yet he would randomly decide to cheat on his girlfriend? When he knew that shortly before anything had started with Cordelia or even before he had met Buffy he was struggling with his attraction for his best friend Jesse — not that he had mentioned that to anyone.
Oh, and Jesse. Willow had pretty much done her best to erase him from everyone’s memories. Part of it was Sunnydale itself, but the other part was Willow’s spells, he could tell. How could she? How could she do something so foul to someone she was supposed to hold so dear?
And wow, did he suddenly understand why Faith wanted to get the hell away from The Council now. He wondered what she had found out or if something similar had happened. He’d have to contact her to find out.
“And the markings?” Xander asked, looking down at the new tattoos he sported now.
“The triskele near your heart protects you from being possessed against your will. I am unsure as to why your Watcher did not train you, especially once it became known that you were a medium. But to leave you as open as you were was very dangerous. You will stay here and train your gifts with me until I am sure that you can be on your own, Knight.”
“Yes, sir. I would be honored,” he answered, humbled by the offer. Yet another thing that was taken away from him by Willow, most likely at Buffy’s request, he bet. He knew she was jealous over any attention that was taken away from her. Giles had at one time offered to teach him how to fight, but that too was nixed in the bud fairly quickly once she had gotten wind of it. And when he had objected to Angel, she had put it down to jealousy over her, but it was really the ick factor over him being a vampire and her being a Slayer that could not do her fucking job. Also, the ick factor of fucking what was essentially a walking corpse. Does the girl not have standards?
“The ones on your right breast and going over your right arm are to protect you against foreign magics. Only those spells that you consent to can be cast upon you. And the ones behind your ear are to protect your mind so that you know it is only you in there, merging the spirits within you into one. I am sorry that we could not separate your guests.”
“The hyena and soldier? That’s okay, they have been with me so long, I’m not sure what I would do without them at this point.” Xander drank some more water and lay back down. He felt so lost, so betrayed. “Do they know?”
“Your Slayers? Yes. They are angry for you, feel betrayed on your behalf.”
“What do I do now?”
“First you train with me, and then in time you will know. There is much for you to learn before you need to make any such decisions, Knight. And in turn, much you still need to teach your young warriors.”
Xander nodded in agreement and closed his eyes to return to his rest as the Shaman and his apprentices left. He had much to think on.
It had been a year since Xander had been cleansed by his mentor, this Shaman who had basically saved his life in a nowhere village in Africa. During his time here he had finished training his Slayers, content that they now knew how to defend themselves and their village; knew the helpful demons from the harmful; knew when to fight and when to negotiate peace; he now knew when to ask for help and when to go it alone.
He had asked for volunteers to be trained as their backup and to help train others so that there would never be innocents without help in the village, no matter whom or what was attacking. He explained about thinking outside the box, using what materials were around you, and about never jumping to conclusions. His guidelines and advice were making the rounds from village to village, reaching the ears of some very important soldiers and even scientists that would later have a profound affect on his own future.
“You are now fit to return to your world, Knight,” the Shaman informed Xander, although it seemed as if the younger man was already aware of this, seeing as he was packing his belongings.
“Yes, Shaman, I had a feeling you would say this. These last few weeks have come with the feeling of closure to me, of an ending.”
“And? Are you ready for a new beginning?”
Xander sat down on his bed and stared at his mentor seriously. This past year had been hard, oh so very hard for him. Gone were the days of carefree Xander with the Snoopy Dance at the drop of a hat. Willow and Buffy had definitely seen to that.
Once he was up and about after the cleansing Xander had gone online to check things out now that his mind was finally clear, most importantly his finances. And lo and behold, Ms. Rosenberg had been helping herself to his funds without his permission. Well what Ms. Stickyfingers didn’t know was that during his galavanting around the continent, Xander had made quite a few friends. Having the respect he did, and earning more along the way, he was able to request some assistance with this little banking ‘issue’ and the last two years of pilfering were returned to him. With interest.
All of his personal accounts were switched to a corporate name with him as a primary signatory. The encryptions on their systems were such that She-Whose-Shit-Does-So-Totally-Stink wouldn’t be able to hack in and mess around.
On top of that, Xander had finally finished getting his B.A. in Ancient and Modern Languages. He’d had a lot of downtime whilst healing from his eye injury and then the final battle before they had decided on him coming to Africa (more than likely trying to getting rid of him), so he had secretly signed up. How he had gotten it past any of them, he didn’t know, but he bet it was just something that had never occurred to them, like it was unbelievable that he would want anything to do with school. But Xander knew he would need a college degree at some point just in case they finally kicked him to the curb.
Now he was signed up for some of the Master’s programs that extended the Ancient Language portion of the program.
Well there would be no kicking him, as he was going to make sure that they hit that curb first! One of the many gifts that was unblocked in the cleansing, along with his medium ability, was his gift of foresight. It wasn’t sight in the normal sense – ha! He was so punny! — it was more of a sense of just knowing things. “You will not see visions, young one, not in the smoke, nor in your dreams like the Seers of old,” the Shaman had explained. “It is your instinct made into a Knowing.” The way he had said it there was no mistake that there was a capital letter involved, which was Very Important in Xander’s mind. He had committed himself to his training so as not to put himself or anyone else in danger.
Today he just Knew that the path to his future would be embarked on. So he here he was getting ready, packing away, no use wasting time.
A storm was brewing, and at some point he was going to have to face it. But that day wasn’t today. And when the time came, he would be ready and he would have people with him to help him face it, people he could trust.
A man appeared outside his hut in BDUs, a funny little patch on his arm, M-16 rifle slung across his chest. After he made sure it was safe, a second man in the same uniform minus the gun but with large glasses came around him, exasperation was apparent both on his face and within his body language, he held a hand out in a welcoming gesture.
“Mr. Harris, I’m Dr. Daniel Jackson. I’d like to speak to you about your studies and some of the papers you’ve written.” He seemed like such a nice guy, all ready to give him some kind of prepared spiel to sway him to his cause, Xander almost felt bad for derailing him from it. Almost.
Xander happily accepted the offered hand. “I’m already packed Dr. Jackson, we can talk on the way. I’m sure we can take turns shocking each other and giving your buddy here headaches the whole way back to wherever it is you’re based.”