A Buffy the Vampire Slayer story.
Summary: Time. It's not a constant. Always moving. Always changing. Live takes you on different paths. Different lives take you on different paths. Are you strong enough to face the changes? Do you accept the challenge? Or succumb to the darkness?
Warning: Buffy Bashing, at least for the first parts of the story.
Author's Note: This story starts during the events leading up to Mayor Wilkins' Ascension and move on from there. This story is not beta-read. All mistakes and grammatical errors are mine.
Author's Note II: Thank you all for the overwhelming feedback. It's gotten the creative juices flowing again, especially regarding this story. Just as a sidenote, although the prologue resembles the story 'Secrets Revealed' by John T. Angeski, this is NOT a continuation of that story. Nor is it a rewrite. I did contact Mr. Angeski a few months back regarding him continuing that story, but never received an answer. The resemblance is due to the fact that I needed to use that part of the episode for my story. There are just so many ways you can write that scene and not having it come out looking like something someone else wrote, using the same scene from the show.
I don't know whether Mr. Angeski still uses the email address I sent my email to, but those that have read the story at the VSVNP archive or remember it, please take the time to contact him and ask for a continuation. It promises to be a great story. Sadly, I have lost the address. If anyone would be so kind as to post it here?
Author's Note III: This is NOT a crossover with Highlander. Others have done that much better then I ever could.
Disclaimer: Joss Whedon, Fox, Mutant Enemy, the WB and UPN own the characters.
The figure standing just in front of the swinging library doors looked to have taken a bath in a tub of blood. His clothes were drenched, trails of the dark red liquid running down his lips to his neck and chest. He looked like a victim from one of those slasher movies. Cordelia's terrified scream died in her throat as she got a good look at the man's face...
Cordelia couldn't wrap her mind around what was happening. One moment, Buffy was telling them how she had killed Xander to save Angel. The next she and Willow attacked Buffy and then suddenly, Xander was THERE! This was a new kind of weird, even for the Hellmouth.
Everybody was stunned, their minds had given up trying to process everything that had occured in the last hour. To hear of the death of one of their own, then subsequently see him in front of them, resurrected, had proven too much. With one exception...
Angel jumped into action, rushing Xander, as he screamed to the others, "It's a vampire!" His warning jolted everybody awake; Giles grabbed for his crossbow, Wesley for the cross and holy water he always carried with him while Oz reached for the short gladius on the table in front of him. A loud crash halted them all in their tracks. Willow and Cordelia gasped, Oz raised one eyebrow while Wesley's jaw was working but no sound came out.
"Dear God", Giles gasped.
Angel's body had been smashed against the library's ceiling and was currently being held there, as if by an invisible hand. A hand that seemed to be slowly crushing his ribcage as the souled vampire tried futily to free himself.
"Is that any way to greet an old friend, Angel? I mean, considering everything we've been through? Me getting your lazy ass out of your dank basement apartment when Buffy was facing the master. Our little tete a tete in the hospital when you were back to your old self. Earlier, when you tried to shove my jaw into my brain. If I'd known you didn't appreciate me, I wouldn't have gone through all this trouble", Xander commented casually.
Suddenly, whatever force was holding Angel in it's crushing grip disappeared, sending the souled vampire hurtling downwards, straight for the large wooden table in the room. The other occupants scrambled out of the way as his body crashed through the heavy wood, fragments flying in all directions. Angel groaned in pain as he tried to push himself upright, only to be lifted into the air again and be slammed into the walls and bookcases repeatedly, each impact louder then the one before. Finally, his battered and bruised body was hanging in midair in front of the counter, then was dropped to the tiled floor with a thud, the sound of broken bones rasping against each other as he tried to move loud in the death silence of the room.
Xander calmly walked into the weapons locker and grabbed one of the plastic jugs containing holy water. Walking out, he removed the cap and drank deeply, in full view of the others.
Xander stopped drinking and turned to Oz, smirking.
"I guess I've succeeded. That's the most you've ever said about the stuff that goes on around here."
His only response was a small shoulder shrug. Giles however, finally seemed to have found his voice.
"What just happened?"
"Just defending myself."
"But... I mean... How..."
Stumbling over his words, the former Watcher violently ripped his glasses off and strode towards the young man, casually drinking from the jug of holy water. It proved to everybody present that Xander wasn't a vampire. But he was something else. Something far more dangerous. One didn't just stand up from the death and that he was death had been confirmed by Buffy and Angel. And one look at Xander would confirm that situation. One didn't loose that much blood and walk away.
"Xander", Giles growled, his Ripper persona coming to the fore as he approached Xander. Before he'd taken two steps, however, Giles was violently thrown into a chair, which subsequently slammed into the counter. He would have flopped to the floor, had it not been for some unseen force that held him in place.
"I'll get back to you in a minute, Rupert. There is still that little matter regarding not telling me about that little sting you'd set up. You know, the one that nearly broke my jaw and got me a skewered by a knife."
The coldness in the dark-haired teenager's eyes and voice sent a shiver of fear through the librarian. Fear he hadn't felt since the day he'd read the prophecy about Buffy's death.
"Speaking of which, I believe you still haven't answered the question, Buffy", Xander continued, turning towards Buffy.
Buffy's eyes were so large, it seemed like they would pop out of their sockets any second now. She was sitting on the floor, her back against the lower step of the stairs to the first flight of the library.
"Come on, don't act like you're a stereotypical blonde. I'm pretty sure that stuff comes from a bottle, Buff. It's quite simple, really. Willow asked you a question. She would like an answer. So would I in fact. Hell, I'm pretty sure everybody in this room would like an answer, with the exception of deadboy over there.", he stated, jerking his head towards the battered form of Angel. The vampire's eyes shone with fear as he regarded his ertswhile competition.
"What hap- happened to you, Xander? You... you were dead! I know you were! Your heart stopped beating! You had no pulse! You were dead!"
"We've established that I was dead. I got better. Now let's move on. Why did you shove a knife in my back, Buffy? And please, the truth?"
Buffy Summers, Hemery High's most popular girl, head cheerleader and current Slayer, didn't know what was going on around her. Her mind was running around in a hundred different directions, all opposite of each other. The only thing she was certain of was the moment where everything had gone wrong. The moment where her entire world had collapsed in on itself like a house of cards in an earthquake. She had killed her best male friend, someone who was more important to her then her own life. She had taken a knife and thrown in, piercing his back, his heart, killing him. And yet, here he was, alive!
It wasn't possible. Not unless a powerful master vampire had resurrected him. And he wasn't a vampire. He'd proved it, drinking the holy water.
"I... I'm sorry. I'm so... so so sorry, Xander. I didn't mean to... I.."
"Nononono, Buffy. I'm not interested in whether you're sorry or not. I want to know why you killed me. I think that you at least owe me that."
Buffy's hands flew to her head, as if to squeeze the memories out by sheer force of will. Every second of those last few seconds in Angel's mansion played out before her closed eyes. Every sound, every smell, it was all there, contained in the space between her closed eyelids. She could see the fight from every angle. She could hear her desperate cries for them to stop. For him to listen to her. Her struggle to get the chains off. She could see how it seemed that Angel had finally managed to take down her friend, feel the sigh of relief when she realized that she wouldn't lose one of three of the most important men in her life. Then the horror when suddenly, the tide of battle again had turned and the love of her life was about to kill... no... not kill... be killed... wasn't it? Finally freeing herself from the chains, seeing that she was too far away to stop what was happening... Desperately trying to come up with a way to stop the fighting... coming up on Faith's discarded knife... Taking it... Throwing it... Watching its flight as if in slow motion... Watching it pierce the back of her lo- her friend... seeing him turn towards her, his eyes filled with astonishment, pain and betrayal... The question on his lips...
And Buffy screamed. A heart-rending scream of a pain so deep it shook all around her. All but one.
"I guess that answers that."
Then, there was darkness...
Cursing the marching band that seemed intent on pounding a crater-sized hole in her skull, Buffy groaned as she fought her way back from a fitful sleep. The nightmare she'd just had... the chills wouldn't stop.
'Gotta get some Advil. Then I'm going to call Xander', Buffy thought as she tried to open her eyes. The light sent another spike of pounding pain through her brain, eliciting another groan. Gingerly pushing herself up, Buffy kept her eyes closed to tiny slits, filtering the light to minimize the pain.
"God, if this is what a hangover feels like, consider me off the booze for eternity."
Finally sitting up straight, she slowly opened her eyes a little more, surveying her surroundings. The surprise at her surroundings caused the Slayer to open her eyes wide, sending another wave of pain through her tired brain.
'What am I doing in the library?'
Getting up slowly, an icecold pit in the bottom of her stomach, Buffy looked around the room. It was Giles' office she was in; she'd been lying on the old leather couch he kept there, covered with a warm blanket. Heart pounding in her throat, she shuffled to the closed door, a trembling hand reaching out to open it. Her eyes moved from side to side of the main room, taking in everything. The destroyed table's remains being cleared. The subdued faces of everyone, the air of despair that clung to her friends... Buffy's eyes widened impossibly as she suddenly realized...
"No, please God, no..."
Before she could drop back to the floor, a pair of strong arms wrapped themselves around her. Looking up, Buffy looked straight into the concerned eyes of her Watcher. Clinging to him like he was a life-preserver, Buffy sobbed into his chest as she realized her nightmare hadn't been a nightmare. Instead, it had been cold, stark reality.
"What have I done?"
Buffy was sitting on the leather couch again, sipping a cup of hot tea as Giles, Wesley, Cordelia, Willow and Oz stood around her. Angel was sitting in Giles' deskchair, not yet recovered from his injuries. Buffy's eyes were glued to the steam rising from the mug, not daring to look her friends in the eyes. Not wanting to see the loathing, anger and disgust in their eyes. She felt all those things herself, more then they could ever imagine.
"Buffy, I'm glad to see that you're alright. Angel has already explained what happened tonight at the mansion", Giles began. I must say that events didn't go quite as planned."
"Didn't go quite as planned? What planet are you from, Giles?", Cordelia said, using the most scathing tone she could muster.
"Little Miss Fluffy here killed Xander and all you can say is things didn't go quite as planned? Geez, no wonder you guys are so stuffy."
"Cordelia, please. I know you're upset. We all are. The fact remains, what transpired tonight should not have happened."
"And whose fault it that, hey Giles? You knew Xander's feelings towards Angel. He's never trusted him, certainly not after him turning back into Angelus! And then you try this? How do you think he was going to react when he found out? Just let it lie? Xander-leap-into-a-fight-without-knowing-what-I'm-doing-Harris?", Willow broke in.
"Yes, Willow, I too am to blame for everything that's happened tonight. But we must not forget one thing. Although Buffy killed Xander, for no good reason that I can see", Giles said, casting a side-long glance of disappointment at his ward, "he is now alive again and apparantly, has gained some new abilities."
"He had them before tonight", Angel's voice rasped.
"Explain", Giles said, crossing his arms as he sent an angry look at the souled vampire.
"When he charged in, he took out Faith like she was nothing. I KNOW she broke several of his ribs. I could hear them breaking. Yet it didn't slow him down, nor did he show any indication of knowing that they were broken. He was all business. And when he attacked me... I can honestly say that the only other person who had that kind of power, was the Master."
Silence reigned for several minutes as this piece of information sunk in. Finally, Giles coughed slightly, breaking the spell.
"I think it's time we all went home. Buffy, I'll drive you. We'll reconvene tomorrow after school."
Slowly, one by one, the Scoobies and Wesley filed out of Giles' office. Angel kept his gaze locked on the girl he loved with all his heart and soul, wishing he could go back and change things for the better. She looked broken, beaten down. The pain radiating off of her was like a physical thing. He was pulled from his musing by a shadow in front of him.
"I suggest you rest here until your injuries are healed. I expect you to be here in the morning when I come back."
Giles tone left no room for argument, causing Angel to silently nod. He watched as Giles slowly walked Buffy out of the office, listening to the fading footsteps as they walked outside to the parkinglot.
The atmosphere in the room cut be cut with a knife, so thick was the doom and gloom permeating the air. Willow and Cordelia had been in a stupor the whole day, their minds not on anything but the happenings of the night before. Cordelia's sheep had even remarked that their exalted leader seemed to be preoccupied with something. True to form, they'd assumed it was something to do with the upcoming Prom and Cordelia trying to decide who she was going to bestow upon the honor of taking her. If they could only read her mind...
"Has anyone seen Xander today", Willow asked timidly.
"No, he wasn't in any of the classes we share.", Cordelia answered morosely. "Didn't you walk over to his house this morning, Will?"
"Mrs. Harris didn't know if he came home last night. Not that she'd notice", came Willow's subdued reply, a tinge of anger coloring the words.
"In other words, we don't know if young Mr. Harris is alive or if last night had been some ploy by the Mayor to sow discord in the ranks, as it were," Wesley interjected, placing a hand on Cordelia's shoulder, which she promptly shook off. Throwing him an angry glare, Cordelia turned back to the others spread around the room.
"He's alive, you moron. I don't know how, but that was him last night."
"Cordelia, I want to believe that he's alive. More then anyone I want to believe. He's been my best friend since kindergarten! But you don't just get up from having your heart impaled on a knife", Willow stated, throwing angry looks at her former best female friend. "And what he did here last night? That isn't Xander! He doesn't have the skills we saw last night. IF he really had had those, he would have used them a long time ago. Xander's always jumping into fights and gets knocked unconscious, or we have to rescue him. If he had had any powers...", Willow trailed off.
"What about how he just disappeared in front of us?"
Everybody looked up at Oz as he brought up another question that had been plaguing their minds.
"Yeah, he just ... blurred?", Willow said uncertainly, "blurred in front of our eyes, like a... a mirage!"
"It could be that what we saw was Xander's spirit", Giles interjected as he cleaned his glasses, his mind trying to come up with possible explanations. Seeing the weird looks he was getting from the teenagers in the room, he sighed as he put his glasses back on.
"As you American children keep saying, this is the Hellmouth. Wiggin' things happen here."
"No, Giles, it's 'that gives me the wiggins'. Get with the program and speak English already!", Cordelia said, her Queen C demeanor firmly in place.
"What if it wasn't Xander?"
Everybody looked towards the source of the soft, timid voice that floated into the room. Buffy slowly walked into the library, looking like dead warmed over. Her hair hung lifeless in a ponytail, her eyes were puffy and red from crying. Even her outfit screamed despair. Sweatpants and a sweater.
Buffy just continued walking, ignoring Giles until she reached the steps and sat down, wrapping her arms around her as if to ward of the cold.
"The person I saw last night... The person who took out Faith and then went after Angel... couldn't have been Xander. Willow is right, Xander doesn't have those kind of powers. He's the normal one of us, the one we always protect, always try to keep out of harm's way. That... Thing", she spat the word out, "That thing used his face! It used his face, his body and his voice! It has to be some trick that Wilkins pulled. Some way to get us to turn on each other."
"Are you saying that Xander... our Xander has not been with us for some time now, Miss Summers?"
Shaking her head at Wesley's stating of the obvious, Buffy got up and started pacing the floor where the large table used to be. The one whoever or whatever that was that wore her friend's face had slammed Angel through.
"I don't know if Xander is death. I do know that it couldn't have been Xander last night. He may have looked like him, he may have talked and walked like him, but it wasn't him. I don't know how long this has been going on, how long this freak has been inside our group, but I promise you this. Whether alive or dead, I'll find Xander. And whoever it is that's behind this, is going to wish they were never born."
Wesley wisely chose not to bring up the little matter of the upcoming Ascension. He may not have been a Field Watcher for long, but even he had a pretty healthy sense of survival. Willow and Cordelia looked at each other, renewed hope in their eyes. Both girls stood up and slowly made their way over to the Slayer. Hesitation ran through all three of the teenaged girls, but moments later, all three surged forward into a tight hug. They held onto each other for dear life, silently vowing to help each other find the young man that had changed all their lives for better or worse.
"Will you look at that. Nearly brings a tear to me eyes."
As one, everybody turned towards the sound of the voice. There, sitting on the upper railing of the stairs, sat a short man, dressed in a gaudy Hawaiian shirt, not even Xander would wear. A leather pimp jacket and small hat completed the ensemble.
"Heya, Ange, howzit hanging? Not too good, I see. But then again, with what happened..."
"Who are you?", Giles asked as he reached for the hand-crossbow hidden beneath the counter.
"That's Whistler, the Balance Demon I told you about. He works for the Powers That Be."
"Yup, that's me. I'm the guy that gets things done that need doing."
"What do you want, Whistler?", Buffy asked as she menacingly advanced on the short, gaudily dressed demon. "I don't have time for this, a friend of mine is in danger."
Whistler chuckled and suddenly disappeared right in front of Buffy, reappearing in the middle of the floor of the library.
"I think ya got that wrong, Slayer. Yer friend ain't in danger. You saw to that last night, when you threw that knife into his back."
Buffy jumped down the stairs, pouncing on the Balance Demon, hitting him hard, sending him to the floor.
"That thing last night wasn't Xander!", she hissed. "Don't you dare defile his name or so help me, I'll rip you apart."
"Easy there, kiddo. I'm not joking. Ya killed him", Whistler groaned as he tried to crawl away from the angry Slayer standing over him. Giles and Angel came to his rescue, the former pulling Buffy backwards, while Angel helped up his friend.
"I... I... don't understand", Willow mumbled.
"That makes two of us", added Cordelia. "I mean... I... I don't know what I mean! This is so frustrating! And so like Xander! God! I hate him!"
"Whistler, if you know something, tell us now. I don't know how long Buffy is going to stay calm."
"Ya call that calm? Geez, I've seen active volcanoes that are less temperamental that her."
"Whistler...", Buffy spoke through gritted teeth. If looks could kill, the short demon would have been burned to a cinder.
"Fine! You remember when ya came back from LA, after killing the Master, Slayer?"
At Buffy's nod, Whistler continued.
"Remember how you found Xander here after the Master's flunkies kidnapped everyone else but him?"
Again Buffy nodded.
"Well, they didn't knock him unconscious, sweetheart. They killed him. Broke his neck. Snapped it like a twig."
Gasps of shock. Looks of disbelief.
"No! That's not true! He was alive when I came in!", Buffy whispered, her heart again feeling like it had been encased in ice. Yet, somehow, she knew that it was true. It was true but it couldn't, could it?
"You better believe it, girlie! Your buddy died that night. Lucky for him, AND YOU, his kind ain't so easy ta kill."
"His kind?", Cordelia asked in a tremulous voice.
"Our kind", a new voice interjected and as one, everybody in the library turned towards it. There, standing in the dooropening of Giles' office, dressed in a traditional Japanese kimono, stood an old Asian man. His face full of wrinkles, his hair a lustrous dark that seemed to absord the light, his eyes hinting at a power better not challenged.
"What is this? Grand Central Station? Everybody keeps popping up here! Who are you?"
"My name is Nishihiro Nishikawa, Miss Chase."