Xander stared in the mirror and tilted his head to the side. “You have to tame your hunger or the slayer will drive you out,” Xander warned his reflection. He could feel his lips twitch into a smile. There was more than one form of strength. His silent partner wanted to be the leader of the pack, to take her pack-mates hunting. But the other losers who had gotten the hyena spirits weren’t as strong as Xander’s original pack. If she had patience, she could have them.
“You can,” Xander promised. “They’re my pack. Buffy is the slayer, the strongest living human.”
Xander frowned as knowledge flowed into him. “Strongest living almost human.” He could hear the cackling laughter in the back of his mind. “We could hunt at her side. Willow has magic. Giles is smart. They are a wise choice for a pack.”
He could feel her shiver at the idea of such power. Angel. She wanted Angel too.
“He’s a vampire.”
Ah, but she was a primal, and primals often chose to run with vampires. Xander should choose the strongest, and Angel was strong.
“They all think we’re weak.”
Not for long, Xander realized, or maybe she whispered it to him. He could train with them, let his powers show slowly. None of them were truly human so they would have nothing to compare him against. He could temper his responses, cool his hunger. Her hunger.
“Angel would notice before anyone,” Xander warned. He studied his reflection. He could see the subtle shift in his eyes, the way he had a faint gleam of green when the light hit them right. His hair might shift some, but that would take months. He could dye it. “I hate that he gets to drink blood. If we try that, someone will report us. We need time to prove our worth, to establish our pack before the slayer knows.” Xander reached out and rested his palm against the mirror.
Maybe they could hunt. Xander could feel his haunches gather under him, launching him into the air before his teeth closed in over the neck of the prey. The heartbeat was hypnotic—almost orgasmic. He rocked forward with the sheer force of the memory. Pleasure, power, satisfaction—they all crashed into him like a wave. He could have it again. He could keep it, but only if they played this smart. Xander had seen the slayer take down too many creatures who acted too rashly.
“Xander, are you in there?” Willow called.
Xander blinked and pushed all those thoughts away. He couldn’t let them see his strength, not yet. “Yeah, Will, but this is the boy’s bathroom, meaning boys only.”
“Hurry up. Buffy wants to… you know…”
Hunt down those poor excuses for primals who had taken the others. Yes, Xander did know. The spirits were inferior and the minds they inhabited weak. A primal could be excused if the animal instinct overrode good judgment. However, the human mind must be strong enough to shelter it—to provide protection until the primal’s gifts were developed. The others had failed in that. It amused both her and Xander that they would have the spirits driven from them. They would be forever weak and forever forced to live with the memory of hunting down a human and consuming his flesh while he screamed for death. Their torture would be complete, and delivered by the hand of the slayer. Yes, that was a proper end for one who had threatened the pack.
“And if Angel threatens us?” Xander whispered, his fingertips tracing his reflection in the mirror. The cackle of laughter and the memory of his jaws closing over his prey was answer enough. Xander would bring Angel into the pack or kill him.
Xander watched the mirror, practicing a few innocent expressions before he turned to leave. “I’m here, Will. You know, school burritos plus adolescent appetite does sometimes require bathroom breaks, imminent slayage or not,” he said brightly. The halls were empty, but Xander could smell the hundreds who had passed through recently.
“It’s not slayage,” Willow said firmly. “We’re going to save them by getting the primals out. I’m so glad you didn’t get caught up in all that.” She grabbed his arm and hurried him along.
“Yeah, me too.” Xander’s smile had some malice in it, but Willow didn’t notice. For now, she could see only her Xander-shaped friend. The silent cackle of laugher followed Xander down the halls.