Dedication and Deception

Xander made his way into the darkness of his grubby basement. He closed the door quietly, not that slamming the thing would rouse his drunken parents from their stupors.

As he had done nightly for nearly two years, Xander pulled the box from the hidey hole behind the water heater. He sat up his own personal alter with an efficiency borne of nightly practice.

When everything was in it's place, he went to his backpack and pulled out the spiral bound notebook that he had been writing in just an hour earlier. No one ever guessed that while he was researching for the demon of the week, that Xander had his own agenda.

Two years ago, he didn't know exactly what he was looking for, but the more research he did, the more accounts he found of it being done successfully. The problems with most of those stories is that they were vague about the spells used, if they mentioned them at all. But two years of work was about to pay off.

Tonight he had found a passage in one of the Watchers Journals that Giles kept locked away, presumably to prevent someone from doing this very thing. Buffy was facing a specially tough demon and Giles himself had asked Xander to look through this particular journal for any references. The journal entry refered to an ancient book of demonic rituals which Giles happened to have in the stacks of the library.

This was the reason that he never told any of them about his own motivation for joining the 'Scoobies'. Where else could he have access to a library of the occult, and the Watcher's Journals? And after two years of dedication, it finally paid off.

Xander looked carefully at the handwritten pages of the ritual that he would enact tonight. It had taken him hours to write down every detail of the ritual without Giles, Buffy, or especially Willow discovering what he was doing. He was too near to his goal to allow a screw up to ruin it all in literally the last hour.

As he finished reading through his own writing, he gathered the spell ingredients from his box. He had tried some thirty spells in the past two years, and had an impressive collection of spell-casting ingredients. Not that he had the same collection as Willow. Her spells were sparkley, fluffy bunny, white magic.

The demons of the underworld did not respect sparkley, fluffy magic. No, the demons of the underworld understood power and pain and grief and blood. These were the things that were parts of Xander's spell-castings, not that Xander himself had a taste for such things. He just understood enough to know that these things were necessary to achieve his objective.

As he automatically ground foul smelling herbs and minced the organs and appendages of various beings necessary for the ritual, he let his mind drift back into the past. He sometimes thought that he was one of the few children of alcoholic parents who could look back on his childhood fondly. There was no doubt that they neglected him, and sometimes they were sober enough to be abusive, but at least in those days, all he had to do was leave the house to escape the horrors of his life. He was happily ignorant to the demons of the night.

He stopped his motion as he realized that all the preparation was done. It was finally time. He lit the candles, started the fire in the brazier, and as everything was set, he cast the circle, then began to chant.

The chant was in an ancient tongue that Xander didn't have any business being able to read, much less pronounce. But once again, years of research had paid off. Xander Harris, the screw up of the Scoobies, the Zeppo, had taught himself to read, write and speak the three demon languages he was most likely to need, and nobody knew.

At certain points during the ceremony he would add the different elements to the brazier. He had so much experience with this type of spell that he could read it like an equation. He had easily seen the trap written into the spell. A person reading the spell without understanding the language would have been liquified as a result. Xander could easily circumvent the trap and use the remaining spell to obtain his objective. He could see the balance of forces within the spell and the vacuum that was being created when the ritual was near completion. The forces of the underworld would have to fill the void that he had created. Now, in the final moments of the spell, it would be determined, with what.

He took the most precious item in his life into his hands; a small carved wooden box. He opened the lid carefully and put his hand inside. As his chanting was reaching it's crescendo, he sprinkled the precious dust into his cast circle.

The candles went out and the rumbling of an earthquake could be heard. Then again it could be thunder, because flashes of lightening were showing through the drawn shades of his basement windows.

Dark. Silence.

Then the sound of breathing in the darkness. Xander held his breath to be sure that it wasn't his breathing. It wasn't. With trembling hands, Xander felt through his pockets to find the lighter that he had used to light the candles.

Once he found it, he didn't seem to be able to make his fingers operate the thing properly. After a few seconds that seemed to be hours, he was able to light the lighter.

He slowly moved the lighter around until he was able to barely make out the body laying in the circle.

"Xander." a whisper of a voice came from the barely visible form.

With a trembling tear-filled voice of relief, Xander answered, "Jesse."