Rating: Teen (for language)
Disclaimer: Joss created, corporations own, and I'm just playing for fun not profit!!
Warnings: language, casual disregard of human life, hints of non-con, mention of X/F and X/f. This story goes AU from my launching point, canon is the same up to that episode. Think that covers it.
Summary: What happens when you are always overlooked?
Word Count: 2,170
A/N: This story was written for liz_marcs's Dark!Xander Ficathon, how could I not play? Special thanks to both spiralleds and nwhepcat; their comments were invaluable…this version makes sense to people who are not ME. I tied together a Season One Episode and a Season Four Episode and got this. Enjoy.
"Harris, you just going to point that thing, or are you going to finish the fucking assignment? I'm growing old here."
He didn't even bother to send his partner a glare. He just blocked out her grumbling with the ease of long practice.
He focused on the target, took a deep breath and let part of it out, pausing as he squeezed the trigger. Through the scope he watched the woman's head jerk up. Her hand just had time to touch the growing red blossom on her chest before she fell.
Only then did he begin to break down his rifle, secreting pieces in his multi-pocketed vest and cargo pants. He enjoyed his cover as a guy looking for some fishing. The costume made it much easier to carry things.
"Coming, Ross?" He heard her gather their packs and fall into step behind him.
"Never with you, Harris." It was her standard reply to that question. "Nice clean work there," she continued.
"So glad you fucking approve. I know my job."
"Who pissed in your Wheaties this morning? Not that you're Mr. Giggles at the best of times, but I'm almost wishing that this HAD been a solo gig."
At one point he would have engaged in banter. Hell, in high school he'd fucking thrived on the attention it generated. Thing was, attention was the one thing this job couldn't afford. Wasn't it lucky he was cursed to be overlooked?
The others in the program were always eager to be paired with him. He was visible enough to hold chairs, to buy groceries, to check into hotels. The true invisibles always needed a visible partner to help with these mundane details. But with him? People's eyes just rolled off him without registering any details.
Exactly what an assassin wanted.
And his dad always told him he wouldn't amount to anything.
His bank accounts begged to differ.
Marci continued her babbling as they walked back to the highway and their car. He felt his muscles tensing up with every word. All that wasted energy irked him. Reminded him too much of Before. He hated getting paired with Ross, even if she'd only asked about Sunnydale once. Invisible or not, she'd been covered in bruises for a week by his response. Before didn't exist. Would never exist. He had a skill. He had missions and clear-cut goals. In the last three years, he'd finally seen most of these great United States. Didn't matter that it was always for work.
At the car, they loaded the trunk and headed back to their base. His grip on the wheel tightened every time they passed a jack-o-lantern. He made sure he was never in California at the end of October, no point in tempting fate. Not that he let them assign him there too often anyways. He was unique enough that they submitted to his idiosyncrasies. During each mission he sent himself a postcard. He'd only go to California on pain of firing.
And he never worked Halloween.
After the debriefing at their base, he headed back to his condo. He'd tried to live somewhere with a doorman; it had been something he'd aspired to after watching all those movies set in New York, but the hassle of introducing himself each time hadn't been worth it. It had been a stupid move back when he was still getting used to the curse. He knew better now.
He got in the elevator with Mrs. VonDerek, an elderly Dutch woman who lived on the fourth floor. She was the type to pinch cheeks and tease those who lived in the building. The others who lived in the building. He was safe from cheek-pinching, from any conversation.
He preferred it that way. He had to.
He unlocked his door and hit the code on the alarm system, 1999. He installed it after moving in. Wouldn't do for someone to hurt themselves with his specialty items, questions might be asked. While he was still a government employee, in this business the best eventually went freelance, and he'd begun acquiring his own tools of his trade.
Scooping up the latest postcard, his only mail that wasn't a bill, he walked over to the bedroom closet and unslung the hockey bag from his shoulder. It was the perfect size for his work tools. He pushed aside the dark suits, hitting the mechanism that opened the false back. He quickly assembled his rifle; he'd already cleaned it while waiting to be debriefed. With a gentle pat he rested it on its brace along with his other weapons. He ran his hand over each and every one, in a ritual that had started after a borrowed gun had jammed. It soothed him, knowing he didn't need to rely on anyone else. With a final pat on his Glock, he closed the hidden panel. He'd done the modification himself, all that time working with wood had been useful after all.
Next he unpacked his clothes, checking for gun power residue. He covered the spots with the cleaner provided by his bosses, and then loaded the small washing machine in the hall closet. He liked having laundry access in his suite. There were fewer questions if the job had been more wet than work.
Once he'd put his bag back into the closet, he was done. The laundry and drying would take about an hour and a half. Time enough for him to do his workout. He used the gym at headquarters for cross training, but he'd invested in a bench press for the spare room. He worked without a spotter; he knew his limits and didn't need any help.
By the time the dryer buzzed, he'd finished his work out and showered. He'd even whipped up and eaten a quick omelet. Despite the full day and the extra weight training, he still had energy to burn. He glanced at his binary clock by the T.V., an hour before last call. Perfect.
He arrived at the club twenty minutes later. His only concession to club culture was a black silk shirt. It wasn't like he had to dress to impress. That wasn't the type of girl he was looking for.
By the end of the night, there were girls who were just looking for a body. He was there to provide. Sometimes they'd go back to her place; sometimes it was quick and dirty in the alley. Time to scan the crowd as he searched for a specific type. The one on the prowl, who, like him was looking for a little less conversation and a little more action. It didn't matter what they looked like, it wasn't like he was going to date them. He worked his gaze like a laser through the bodies in front of him. Funny, work skills that were actually transferable.
The skin on the back of his neck tensed up, prickling. He consciously took deep breaths to keep from hunching his shoulders. What was that? He slowly walked towards the bar, not expecting that he'd get noticed and served in the last call rush, but it did allow him different peripheral views. Slowly, without turning his head, he again scanned the crowd; this time searching for a different prey.
There. A dark haired girl was staring. At him.
That never happened. It couldn't happen. It had happened.
He slid on the far side of a couple who were groping each other with all the subtlety of an internet peep-show. That allowed him the opportunity to focus on his target.
Once he got a clear view of her, he took an involuntary breath. She wasn't the last person he'd expected to see, but she was definitely in the top ten. Whatever she wanted, it should be done somewhere private. At least somewhere with more privacy than here.
He let his gaze rest on her, waiting for her to nod her acknowledgement. He headed to the back of the club; she'd know where the exits were. All predators kept their escape routes open.
He waited on the blind side of the door, certain that she would follow. Out of habit, he cased the alleyway. He was assaulted by the blended odors of rotting garbage, piss, puke, and stale sex. He made sure that there were no cans of garbage between himself and where she would exit.
The walls were traditional rough red brick, the kind of brick which would scrape skin raw if you were up for some back alley action. Somehow it seemed her natural element. It was the same type of place where he'd seen her for the first time. This time, the alley was vamp free.
She'd distracted him from his original game plan. Idly he wondered if she'd be willing to play a little. He was still feeling edgy and one thing he was sure of, she wouldn't expect breakfast in the morning. She was the one who taught him that stands were just about the sex.
He heard the click as the fire door opened, covering his position. He automatically fell into a defensive stance. Not that it would help if she was really who he thought she was. The door closed and he clearly saw his stalker.
"Thought you were in a coma."
"Woke up. Slayer healing? Not a bitch."
So much for the small talk portion of the conversation. He could be subtle. He didn't care to be.
"Why now? Why you?"
"No hugs and kisses? No questions about the home team? No nervous babble? I was figuring on wading through way more words than this."
He slid into parade rest, clenching his fists to prevent an unmediated attack. He didn't reply, only glared.
Faith raised her arms in a surrender move. "Fine, fine. We'll start with the easy one. They're all needed to try and keep the Hellmouth from boiling over. Did you know Willow got wicked strong with the magics? That's how they were finally able to find you, not that you asked. And me? I'm the spare Slayer. I knew what you looked like - must say, some things do improve with age. Plus they thought we might have a connection. "
Hearing his own naïve words about connection tossed back at him had Harris revising that non-attack position he'd taken. He didn't move a muscle, didn't even change his breathing.
"Wow, you have changed and not just the hot factor. Look, could we get outta here, go to a Denny's or something? I feel like I'm talking to a plastic G.I. Joe."
He continued to glare at her. Had they really been like this? Had he? He compared this exchange to his current mission briefings and wondered again how they survived any fights, let alone apocalypses.
"Okay, since you seem to be looking for short 'n sweet, so not my specialty."
Not the sweet, he thought, before he could rein in memories of Before.
"Biggest of the big bads. Calling itself the First Evil. It's trying to wipe out the Slayer line. They need all the allies they can get, why do you think they're putting up with me and Spike?"
"Spike?" The incredulity of that situation pulled the word from his month.
"He's all soul having now and he's got the chip. We're both doing the redemption gig."
They had a good vampire and a bad Slayer. With Oz, the Wolf Man position would be filled. Guess they were auditioning for the Invisible Man, although one Op had suggested Mr. Cellophane as his theme song.
And he wasn’t looking for redemption. He wasn't looking for much of anything.
"So? It's cavalry time!"
At one point he would have leapt into action at those words. What had Angel called him? Buffy's White Knight? Xander's only super powers had been a sense of loyalty stronger than his sense of self-preservation. That and the ability to survive concussions almost as well as Giles.
Xander had been one of the Scoobies, the elite, or accidental, team with the Slayer, fighting together - okay her in front and them in rear guard - to defeat the forces of evil and school work. Xander had a best friend in Willow and a mentor in Giles. Xander had dated the head cheerleader and tried to talk down a criminally inclined Slayer. Xander had gone to save the world with just a rock. Stupid Xander.
"I'm not the guy with a rock anymore."
Her confused look almost made him chuckle. She hadn't been there for that fight. Just like that Slayer wasn't here now. They'd sent the second string to recruit the bush leagues. He shook his head. They didn't want him. Not after all this time. They had no clue who he was. He wasn't sure himself. He only knew who he wasn't. He wasn't Xander. Xander got lost in a frat house in Sunnydale and never came out.
Giving her another look, and briefly wondering how long she'd remember this conversation, Harris turned around and walked away.
A/N: The two episodes are of course "Out of Mind, Out of Sight" which told Marci Ross's and the Agency's story and then "Fear, Itself". nwhepcat also saw reference to "Halloween". The title comes from the song "Mr. Cellophane" from Chicago: The Musical. Here are the relevant lyrics:
A human being's made of more than air
With all that bulk, you're bound to see him there
Unless that human bein' next to you
Is unimpressive, undistinguished
You know who...
Shoulda been my name
'Cause you can look right through me
Walk right by me
And never know I'm there...