Quantum Xander


by
Jameschick



Part Sixty-Six

Well, it looks like we have now come to the "Buttmonkey" portion of my little sojourn into hell. I am a woman. A pregnant woman. Oh, and it gets better; it's all Buffy's fault.

Let's start from the beginning, shall we? After drinking far more than a human body should be capable of, I passed out in my hotel room in SF. When I woke up I was still in SF, still in a hotel but not in the same reality. I've figured out that the only way I get to leave is when I've learned whatever it is I need to know about this new reality.

That in mind, I hopped on the bike and headed back to SD. I figure the faster I do this the sooner I maybe get to go home. So what do I learn upon entering the Magic Box?

That I am a woman here. That I am pregnant. And that it's all Buffy's fault. You know, Spike would have loved this. He would have seen the humour in the situation; I don't. All I see is a miserable pregnant woman who misses her dick. I know I would.

I can just imagine how my mate would react to this; the leering looks as he tried to picture female me without his clothes on. The biting comments, the teasing looks, knowing that he'd be thinking about his double and my double having a child. He would have loved this. I wish he were here to share it, to tease me, to make me see the humour in it. I just wish he were here. Do you hear that, fates? I made a wish!

Seems the Xander of this world found out about Buffy and Spike's little tryst and got a bit pissed with her. Anya found her at the Bronze - Anya being a demon again and not telling anyone - and plied her with wine coolers. Buffy poured her little heart out about big, mean Xander and then said: and I quote: I wish that Xander knew how it feels to be a woman, how it feels to have Spike so totally devoted to him. To carry a piece of him inside, growing and growing, until it just had to be set free.

So, now you have a completely besotted Spike, a miserable, pregnant Xander, and a very stubborn vengeance demon who refuses to undo her work. Add to that an angry watcher, an apologetic slayer, a giggling teenager and two flustered witches and you have a whole new level of hell. Have I learned enough about this world? Can I leave now?

Xander was staying at the Holiday Inn. Never again would he spend a single night in the Sunnydale Motor Lodge. It was their place; he couldn't imagine being there without Spike.

He felt sorry for the Spike of this world, being in love with someone because you were under a curse was just wrong. Being in love and not having it returned was even worse. Although, he was pretty sure that Xander actually had the fuzzy end of the lollypop on this deal. He was the one who lost his parts and got knocked up.

Xander drew a hot bath and pulled the CD player out of his bag. He sunk into the blissful heat and closed his eyes as the first notes of Queen's 'I've Got to Break Free' poured out of the tiny headphone speakers.

His eyes snapped open and sat bolt upright in the water. He hadn't even looked to see what disk was inside. He wished he would have; the last time he'd heard this, it was his lover's voice singing along softly as he was hunched over his journal scribbling like a man possessed. Xander had just listened to him sing; he loved to hear him, whether he was singing something soft and low or belting it out at the top of his lungs.

Lying back in the tub once again, Xander closed his eyes and let the tears fall. He tried to remember all the good times he had had with Spike, the laughs they had shared; the peaceful moments when it seemed like they were the only two people in the world. A smile graced his features as he recalled the time when, in a giddy mood, he had teased his mate about his poetic aspirations. He had demanded him to describe the colour of his eyes. Spike had looked at him like he was crazy, then a sly smile crossed his face and he stared into Xander's eyes. They he said very succinctly; they're brown, and a bit bloodshot. You should get more sleep, luv. Xander had laughed and kissed him. Then they went to bed and Spike showed him without words all the things that the poet inside him wanted to say.

By the time the water was cooled off and Xander's skin resembled that of a prune, he was feeling a bit better. He had been putting off thinking about Spike, not wanting to let in the pain it would bring. But in doing that, he was also shutting himself off from the happy memories, too. He needed to remember the happiness, the love that they had for one another.

Xander dried, dressed and crawled into bed. Just as he was turning off the light, he felt the familiar wave of dizziness crash over him. He clenched his eyes tightly and waited for it to pass. When he opened them again, he had to laugh. The door was opening and a couple were backing into the room, exchanging heated kisses and frantic gropes. Xander cleared his throat, not wanting them to start undressing in front of him.

"Excuse me?"

The couple pulled apart and the man immediately began to apologise. The woman blushed furiously and righted her clothing. Xander smiled in what he hoped was a friendly way, glad that he had not still been in the tub when this happened.

"I'm so sorry, we must have the wrong room."

The man looked at his key and then looked at the number on the door. He turned a confused look to Xander when the room number and the key number matched.

"Is there a problem?"

"Uh, they gave me the right key, it's for this room. I don't understand."

"Hmm, maybe they double-booked it. You should go back down and get this cleared up."

The man nodded and, wrapping an arm around the still-flustered young woman, left the room. Xander got out of bed and quickly got dressed. He was surprised that the guy never mentioned the fact that the bike was parked in the middle of the room.

Pushing a motorcycle down three flights of stairs while carrying two heavy duffel bags and chuckling to yourself isn't easy, but Xander managed it with a minimum of difficulty. He couldn't stay there, not now that the manager was sure to come up to find out what the mix-up was. Besides, the faster he found the scoobies, the faster he could shift again.

Xander drove through the streets in the direction of Giles' place. It was the most likely place to find the gang at this hour of the night - other than a cemetery. He really wasn't up to searching them all, and if they were out, he could talk to Giles first. Giles always asked a lot of questions, but he was usually willing to answer some, as well.

There was a low light coming from the front window of the apartment, so Xander knocked softly on the door. He smiled when a sleepy-looking Giles - in robe and slippers, carrying a book - opened the door.

"Hey, Giles. What's up?"

"X-Xander? Is that really you?"

The hope and suspicion in his voice had Xander tensing, waiting for the worst.

"In a way. I'm Xander, just not this world's Xander."

Giles sighed the sigh of a world-weary man who had seen too much to be surprised by anything anymore, and opened the door further.

"Well, I suppose then that you would like to come inside and talk?"

"Er, yeah. If you don't mind."

"Are you a vampire?"

"No."

"A demon of some sort?"

"Again, no."

"Under a thrall?"

"Um, I'm sensing some suspicion here. You want to feel my pulse? Do some mojo detection spell?"

"This is the hellmouth Xander, one can never be too careful."

Giles stepped away from the door, allowing Xander to enter without actually inviting him in. They went into the living room where Giles re-seated himself in his chair and watched Xander warily as he sat down on the sofa.

"So, what was with the shock at seeing me? Where is the Xand-man of this reality?"

"Er, it's rather a long story."

"Well, I'm not going anywhere - and I mean that literally - so why don't you fill me in."

Giles took off his glasses and began to polish them on the hem of his robe as Xander made himself comfortable on the couch. After replacing his glasses, Giles looked at him and shook his head.

"I think perhaps, you should tell me your story first, if you don't mind."

"Sure thing, G-man."

Giles pinched the bridge of his nose and shook his head ruefully.

"That, if nothing else, tells me that you really are Xander. Gods, how I hate that name."

Xander laughed and then began the story of his trip through reality, started with the wedding that wasn't. By the time he had gotten to the reality where Drusilla was his sire and he was master of the hellmouth, Giles had begun to take notes and ask questions. Xander once again thought about making up flyers.

Eventually, he finished his tale by telling Giles about the couple that walked into their hotel room to find him lying in the bed. The watcher put down his pen and notepad and studied the young man in front of him.

"This must be terribly frustrating for you."

"You have no idea."

"I will answer any questions you have, but I think I'd like to make some tea first. Would you like some?"

"Yeah, why not."

While Giles went off to make tea, Xander closed his eyes and tried to relax. He had told Giles some of what had happened with Spike, not that they had been lovers, or the extent of the damage Riley had done to him, but that he had rescued him from a life of slavery, that they were friends and that he had recently been killed. He wasn't sure why he had done it. He just felt the need to include Spike in the telling of his story. To have Giles know that he hadn't been alone the whole time, that he had companionship.

After a few minutes, Giles returned with a tray of tea and cookies. He set it out on the coffee table and poured out two cups before handing one to Xander. He then picked up his own and took a sip before clearing his throat.

"Well, I suppose you want to know what happened to you in this timeline?"

"Yeah, would be nice."

"Alright then. But I'm afraid you won't like the answer."

Xander closed his eyes, took a deep breath and waited to hear what his fate had been here. After all, it couldn't be worse than being a pregnant woman, could it?





Part Sixty-Seven

"Dracula?!"

Xander was pacing angrily back and forth throughout the watcher's living room. He was livid, beyond angry at the fate of this world's Xander. He may have been a woman in the last place but at least he wasn't someone's bug-eating-man-bitch.

"That bastard! I'll stake him, I'll kill him 'til his dust is dust! Where is he? Point me in the direction of the bastard's lair. I'll tear him limb from limb!"

"Xander. Calm yourself. This behaviour will not change the facts; the Xander of this world has been under Dracula's thrall for some time now. We're not even sure that he's still human."

Xander spun around and glared at the older man.

"What do you mean, you're not even sure? Have you even tried to save him? Where the hell is Buffy? Spike? Christ, even Deadboy?"

"Buffy has tried - numerous times - to rescue him. As for Spike, well, he's in league with Dracula. Seems that he was more than willing to switch sides since Drac was able to turn off his chip."

Xander slumped dejectedly onto the couch. He cradled his head in his hands and sighed.

"Deadboy?"

"We haven't been able to contact Angel. It's as if he's dropped off the face of the earth. Cordelia, as well."

"Where is he staying? Dracula, I mean."

"He has a rather large mansion just outside of town. It is heavily guarded. It seems we were rather foolish in allowing Spike to observe us so closely. He knows the way we think, every attack we've made has been thwarted. It's most embarrassing."

Xander couldn't help but chuckle. They always did underestimate the vampire. With Spike watching Drac's back, it was unlikely Buffy would get anywhere near him. Not unless they wanted her to. But perhaps, he stood a chance to get inside.

"I might have more luck than Buffy. I have a secret weapon on my side."

Giles perked up somewhat at that remark.

"Really? Do tell."

"I ... well ... "

Xander pulled the neck of his shirt aside and showed Giles his scar. He watched as the implications dawned on the watcher. He saw the shock and then the wariness and suspicion grace the older man's features.

"It's a claim mark."

"I know, I was there."

"Who? No wait, it was Spike wasn't it?"

"Yes."

"Why didn't you tell me you had mated to a vampire?"

"It's personal. If circumstances weren't this dire, I wouldn't be telling you now."

"I see."

Xander sighed and looked at Giles, trying to will the man into believing him.

"It doesn't change anything I told you. I'm not under some vampire mind trick. Spike, my Spike is dust. He's gone, and as much as that hurts, I have no choice but to continue this damned journey on my own. If I can put things straight along the way, then I'll do what I can. Do you want Xander back?"

"Of course we do!"

"Then you'll have to trust me."

Giles nodded and poured himself another cup of tea.

"I'll call Buffy. We can make plans tomorrow. You're welcome to stay in the guest room, if you wish."

"Thank you. I appreciate that."

Xander went back out and retrieved his bags from the bike and brought them inside. He put his and Spike's things in the spare room and then returned to the living room. Giles was just finishing his tea and putting his book back on the shelf.

"I'm heading to bed. Feel free to make yourself at home, Xander. I'll see you in the morning."

Giles went up to his room and Xander spent the next few minutes perusing the books on the watcher's shelves. He selected two volumes on rudimentary witchcraft and settled in to read. He wanted to know if he had any magical abilities or if it had simply been a fluke in the other Xanders' cases.

Xander read through the first book, trying a couple of the simple incantations. He was amazed to learn that he was able to perform the simple spells after only a few tries. He had floated a feather on the second try, and making a pencil burst into flame had only taken a dozen tries before he got it. Of course he had to dump the remainder of the tea on it to put it out, but all the same, he was pleased with his progress.

He decided to keep the book he was reading, taking it to his room with him. He felt a bit guilty at stealing from Giles, but he wanted to learn and didn't have time to order books the regular way. He put the book into his duffel bag and crawled into bed. He was asleep before his head hit the pillow.

Xander woke up to a crossbow pointed at his chest and a group of very startled-looking people. He groaned and sighed in frustration. He really hadn't wanted to shift yet. He was hoping to save himself from Dracula first. He looked up at Buffy - who was holding the crossbow - and smiled.

"Uh, heya Buff. What's with the weaponry?"

Buffy looked confused and narrowed her eyes at him. Giles and Oz stepped forward with a set of manacles and Willow began to chant a spell at him. He looked from one confused face to another before he finally gave up on getting any answers and just held out his hands to be restrained.

Giles and Oz quickly attached the cuffs to his wrists and then roughly flipped him over to chain his ankles, as well. Then they wrapped a length of chain around his torso for good measure. Xander put up with being pulled and pushed around for a few minutes before clearing his throat to get everyone's attention.

"If you're done playing with 'Shackle-me-Xander', can I ask a question?"

Oz quirked an eyebrow, Giles blushed, Willow looked apprehensive and Buffy simply shrugged. Xander took that as permission to speak and asked the question that had been plaguing him since he had awakened.

"What the hell is going on here?"

The group looked at one another and then back at Xander. Willow threw a handful of herbs at him and they watched in confusion as nothing happened. Giles turned to Willow and looked at her quizzically.

"It should have worked, Giles."

"Are you certain you performed the spell correctly?"

"Yes! It's not like it's a difficult spell. It's a simple manifestation spell."

"Well, then how come he isn't glowing?"

"I don't know? Maybe he's got a protection spell on him?"

While the witch and the watcher argued, Oz stepped closer to Xander and sniffed him. Xander shook his head and waited. Oz looked at him, quirked his brow and turned to Buffy.

"He's not possessed."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah, he smells human again."

"That's because I am human. What the hell is wrong with you people?"

Xander was quickly losing his patience. He wanted out of these chains and he wanted answers. Willow and Giles were still arguing over the spell, therefore missing Oz's observation and Xander's statement of fact.

"Okay, I think I've been more than patient. I've allowed you people to chain me up like an animal, talk about me as if I wasn't here and totally ignore my questions. Now, I want out of these chains, I want to use the bathroom and I want answers. In that order."

Giles and Oz unchained him while Buffy continued to train her crossbow on him. Xander stretched, sat up and then smiled at Buffy.

"Don't worry, I'm not going to attack or anything. Can I use the bathroom? I promise to tell you why I'm here after I finish."

"Very well. Oz will accompany you."

The werewolf took the slayer's bow and followed close behind as Xander walked toward the bathroom. Xander wondered just what the hell had happened in this world to merit such drastic behaviour. After relieving himself under the watchful eye of Oz, he washed his hands and rinsed his mouth before shrugging at the smaller man and heading back to the bedroom.

"Do you think we could take this downstairs?"

"Certainly, Xander. It would be more comfortable, after all."

"Thanks G-man. Can I get dressed first?"

Xander looked pointedly at his t-shirt and boxers and grinned. The others all dutifully blushed, except for Oz who just continued to watch him and hold the crossbow steady.

"I'll even let Oz stay and watch if you like. Just getting a bit chilly here if you get my drift."

"Oh. Yes, of course. We'll be downstairs."

The other three left and Xander pulled his jeans on and looked over at Oz.

"You can put that down. I'm not going to attack you."

"Yeah, I kinda thought not."

The wolf lowered the weapon and waited until Xander had gotten his shirt, socks and shoes on before speaking again.

"You smell off. Not animal-like, but there's something off about you."

"Yeah. Look it's kinda personal. I'll tell you, but only because you can sense it. It's a claim."

With that, Xander showed Oz his scar and explained briefly about his mate and what had happened. He didn't mention that it was Spike, and had no intention of telling him, either.

"That explains it. You smell human, but I could tell there was something. I just didn't know what it was."

"You won't tell the others?"

"None of their business."

"Cool. Thanks, man."

They went downstairs and Xander once again explained himself and his curse. When he finished, he was met with mixed reactions. Buffy was sceptical about alternate realities, Willow seemed excited by the idea of it, Oz was his usual aloof self, and Giles was reaching for the books.

"I'm sorry, Xander. What did you say this demon's name was again?"

"Anyanka. She's the patron saint of scorned women. Just one of many vengeance demons out there."

"And you almost married her? I always said you had little sense in these matters."

"Hey! I resemble that remark."

Giles smiled kindly at the young man and went back to his books. Xander waited for a few minutes but when no one spoke up, he finally broke the silence.

"So, what happened to the Xander of this reality?"

It was Oz who answered.

"Hyena possession."

"Oh."





Part Sixty-Eight

Well. I'm not sure whether this is a good thing or not. I seem to be moving through realities more quickly than usual the past few days. I mean, I only spent one day in the Xander-married-Willow world, less than a day in the Xander-is-a-pregnant-women-carrying-Spike's-love-child world, only a few hours in the bug-eating-man-bitch reality and now I seem to have landed in the Hyena-Xander-is-still-at-large world.

Yeah, nice, huh? Somewhere out there in the wilds of California, my pack runs free. Kyle, Tor, Rhonda, Heidi, and yours truly, the Xan-man. It's totally freaksome. 'Cause I know what they - the rest of them - did to Mr. Flutie. Does that mean that I've tasted human flesh? Am I a cannibalistic hyena-possessed monster in this world? Oh god, why didn't they unpossess me, repossess me, whatever, in this reality?

It's hard to think about, knowing that I've killed people. I mean, okay, I've met my vampire self and yeah, big scary there. But he wasn't me. He was just a demon wearing my body, using my memories. The hyena is me. I remember; I was there. It was I that did those things as much as the beast. It didn't push my soul out of my body; it merged with it, made me like it was - wild, passionate, free.

I still remember how it felt to tear into living flesh, taste the salty blood and devour the raw meat of my prey. I remember how liberating it was to shake of the constraints of humanity and just be ... animal. It was scary when I came back to myself, remembering the freedom and the wild abandon. A part of me was sickened, but another part, a part that I tried to bury as deep as possible, missed it.

It was more than just the freedom though. It was the belonging, knowing that I had a "pack", that I wasn't alone. It was the comfort of bodies pressing against me, wanting to please me and be pleased by me in return. One thing I was thankful for was the fact that no one ever found out just how "close" I had gotten with the others. I didn't actually have sex per se with Tor or Kyle, but there was some naughty touching between us while I made use of the female members of my pack. I was very glad that they never mentioned it afterwards.

Going back to being the zeppo was hard after that. I still dreamed of running wild, hunting prey and tearing flesh. I would wake up in a haze of arousal and despair. I wanted to pretend it hadn't happened, so I buried myself back into the role of donut-boy and smart-ass. It was easier. The one thing I never told anyone was how I could relate to both Angel and Spike. Being a predator and then suddenly having it all ripped away. In Angel's case, he got a soul, and I identified with him the most; he now had a human revulsion to the things his demon had done. With Spike, it was more that the temptation was still there, that sometimes I wanted to be that free again, and knew I could never be. That must be what the chip is like for him, wanting something and not being able to have it no matter how much it tempts you.

I hated them both. Angel was easy to hate; he was everything I wasn't. Tall, dark, handsome, mysterious, and able to keep up with Buffy, not appearing weak and inferior in light of her abilities. He had the girl I wanted, simple as that. Of course now I have to wonder if it was that simple. Perhaps I was attracted to him, or would have been if Willow hadn't interfered in my life. I'm not sure if I should thank her for that where Angel is concerned; I mean, yeah, I might have had sex with him, but I don't think I'd want him as a boyfriend or a mate. Too much angst and 'woe is me'.

Spike I hated because he was too human. He was supposed to be a demon, a thing to hate and destroy. Black and white, simple logic. But he wasn't. He was somewhere in between, all those lovely shades of grey. He laughed, he loved, he drank, he ate human food - and liked it. He watched TV - was addicted to cheesy soap operas, and of all of the supernatural creatures I'd ever had the misfortune to meet - I liked him best. I felt that he was someone I could be friends with. After what had happened to Jesse, I hated myself for liking Spike. Therefore I hated Spike for making me like him, and hate myself. I just never really figured it all out until now.

From what I understand, the zookeeper had a hold of Willow, and before he had a chance to act on anything, or even complete the chant that would have transferred the hyena spirits into himself, Buffy knocked him over the rail into the hyena pit. The animals ate him, and the pack and I escaped. Buffy and the others hunted them ruthlessly, but never caught them. Even Angel, with all of his vamp senses and speed and strength couldn't catch them. They left Sunnydale, and other than the odd 'wild animal' attack, the gang has no idea where they are.

I hope to God that if they are ever found, Buffy will have the decency to just kill them. It would be far more humane than to make them live with what they have done. God knows I would be the first one in line to pull the trigger.

You may have noticed I haven't written about Spike. This world's Spike is dust. Seems that when he showed up at Thanksgiving looking for help, Buffy staked him. She said it would have been cruel to leave him alive in his condition. Part of me agrees, but another part is saddened by the loss. They didn't believe me when I told them how much Spike had become one of the group back home. Buffy flat out refused to believe that he was in love with her or that he would risk his life for her or Dawn.

I talked to Oz last night. After spending the day with the gang and learning about the different paths that their lives had taken, I needed to get out and have a little down time. Giles insisted that I not go out alone at night, so Oz offered to accompany me. He's good company. He's quiet and restful.

We rode around for awhile, went to the Bronze and played a couple games of pool, had a couple beers, and then just sat outside in the parking lot and talked. I told him about Spike. About Riley and what he did to him, about how we fell in love. I told him that we had only been mates for less than two days when I lost him. He was sympathetic.

I still feel him - Spike. He's in my heart, my mind, my veins. He may be gone, but he's still a part of me. I understand more now about what Angel tried to tell me, but he was wrong. I have a part of Spike inside me, and as long as I live, he lives on within me. I'm not missing a part of myself; I'm only missing the physical presence of my mate. If I concentrate I can still feel the connection between us. It gives me the strength to go on. I know that I can get through this, that I can survive this constant disruption of my life, as long as I can still feel him. I won't give up on finding a way to bring him back to me. I won't give up hope.

He isn't really gone if I can still feel him, right?

Xander cursed as he felt the nauseating dizziness overcome him once again. At least he was outside this time, preferring to spend the day in the park as opposed to the shop with Giles, or the mall with the girls. When the dizziness stopped, he looked around warily. Everything still looked relatively normal.

"Well, I guess I should go see the gang."

Xander put his book away in his bag and then fastened the bags to the bike. He slid astride the motorcycle and headed off in the direction of the shop. If there was one thing he was getting tired of, it was explaining himself to Rupert Giles. That man always asked the same questions.

After parking the bike in the alley behind the shop, Xander grabbed his bags and walked around to the front door. He walked inside and waited until Giles finished serving a customer before approaching him.

"Hey, Giles."

"Ah, Xander. I'm glad to see that my little speech has had some bearing on you after all."

Xander looked at the man in confusion as he continued on in his quasi-lecture mode.

"I mean, you of all people should understand the dangers. Last month you barely made it in before dark. Now get downstairs and undressed. I'll send Oz down as soon as he gets here. Unlike you, he's always here in plenty of time."

Giles sighed as Xander continued to look at him with a startled expression.

"What is it, Xander?"

"Er. Um, are you trying to tell me I'm a werewolf? Please tell me I'm a werewolf and not involved in some kinky three-way with you and Oz."

"Well, yes. Obviously you've banged your head again, haven't you?"

"No! I'm just not... your Xander. I'm from another time line. A different reality."

"Oh for heaven's sake."

Giles removed his glasses and polished the lenses as he continued.

"I have asked that you and Oz refrain from the use of that stuff on your cycles. It's difficult enough, without having to deal with two stoned werewolves."

Xander gaped open-mouthed and then burst into laughter. The very idea of a stoned werewolf was enough to crack him up, but having Giles lecturing him on the difficulty of caring for one was hysterical. Xander reigned in his laughter and approached the scowling shopkeeper.

"Seriously, Giles. I'm not the Xander you know. I'm not a werewolf, stoned or otherwise. What I am, is a very tired, homesick construction worker who's been cursed by his ex-demon-ex-fiancée."

Xander was saved from further explanation as the shop door opened and a smiling Xander came in followed by an extremely mellow-looking Oz. The Xander in the doorway looked at his double, looked at Oz, looked at Xander again, before turning a quizzical expression on his companion and whispering in a rather loud voice.

"Do you see him? What the hell was in that pipe?"

Oz merely quirked his mouth into a lazy sort of half-smile and slid his arm around Xander's waist. He looked at Giles, clearly waiting for the older English man to fill them in. Giles, for his part, recovered quite quickly and turned back to the Xander that was standing in front of him.

"Told you so."

"Yes. Quite right. Ah, well then, let me just get these two settled, and then we'll talk."

"Sure thing G-man."

"Xander, I have asked you not to call me that."

Giles spoke out of reaction to that particularly hated nickname. He was answered by the simultaneous snickers of two Xanders and one werewolf musician. Shaking his head in exasperation, he headed toward the back room of the shop.

"If the two of you would follow me."

The still snickering werewolves followed the watcher into the back room of the shop while Xander took the opportunity to glance at some of the magic texts on display. By the time Giles returned from his task of securing the two young men in their cage, Xander was sitting comfortably on the stairs to the loft reading through a book and jotting down notes on a pad of paper he had picked up from under the counter.

"So, Giles. When did I become a werewolf?"

"It was a while ago, back in high school. Oz and Willow were still together. You had fallen asleep on Oz watch and he got out of the bookcage. You were bitten, rather badly, on the shoulder."

"And I was rescued by Buffy, right?"

"Uh, no. Actually it appeared that after biting you, Oz simply left you alone and took off."

"Oh. Weird."

Giles fidgeted uncomfortably for a minute, and Xander knew he was working up to something pretty big. He wasn't sure he wanted to know what it was, but he knew he had to hear it. If he didn't find out the facts he would be here longer than necessary."

"What is it, Giles? I can take it."

"Oh, right well, after a lot of researching, Willow came across a reference on were-creatures. It was determined that Oz, in his wolf form had claimed you as his mate. The bite was merely to change you; he meant you no harm whatsoever."

"And Wills?"

"She was less than pleased. As were you, or Oz. The three of you decided to studiously ignore the facts and carry on as usual. Until..."

Giles trailed off and Xander waited while he gathered his wits.

"The next month, we had to lock you both together in the bookcage. Both Willow and Buffy stayed in the library on guard. When the change took place, Oz's wolf form set about to claim his mate properly. After that it became increasingly difficult to ignore the mating. You and Oz were snippy and irritable with each other and everyone else. It came to a head when the new Slayer - Faith came to Sunnydale. You and she ... well, and needless to say, Oz smelled you on her and went crazy. He changed, without the moon's effects. If she hadn't been a slayer, he would have killed her."

"And then what?"

"Then, Willow decided that Oz was too dangerous to continue her relationship with. She didn't want you to do to her what Oz had done to Faith. So she left. She accepted a scholarship from Oxford."

"So, me and Oz?"

"It took some time for you both to accept what your animal natures wanted, but eventually yes, you became a couple."

"Wow."

Xander immediately reached for his journal wanting to write these events down while they were still fresh in his mind. Unfortunately, it would have to wait, as Giles cleared his throat and asked:

"So, tell me how it is you came to be cursed. I find this most fascinating."





Part Sixty-Nine

I'm a werewolf. Weird huh? I wonder if that makes me any cooler? More Oz-ish, perhaps? It's strange though, thinking about Oz that way. I mean yeah, he's a great guy, and before the whole kissing-fluke with Wills, I thought we were pretty good friends, but lovers? Mates? I never would have pictured it. I kinda always thought he and Willow would eventually get married and have a litter.

I guess he's attractive; he's cute, has good hair, and a really soft-looking mouth. I bet he's a good kisser. Not that I want to kiss Oz, I mean, I love Spike. But if there wasn't Spike, then yeah, I guess maybe I would. Wow. I can't believe I'd actually want to kiss Oz. Weird.

I watched them together earlier, in their wolfy forms. It was weird. I remember watching Oz-wolf in the old library; he was always so restless, so aggressive and ... wolfy. He isn't like that now; they were curled up on the floor, nuzzling at each other and making soft, growly noises. Almost like purring, but not the same. They looked content. It was sweet. I wonder if it's always like that for them, or if it's just the pot...

Spike used to purr when we were in bed. After making love, or sometimes first thing in the morning, he would rest his head on my chest and purr. It felt wonderful - the vibrations would lull me to sleep. I miss that.

I don't sleep as well any more. It's like after Anya and I broke up; I couldn't get used to sleeping alone - without her soft snores in my ear or the way she snuggled into me in her sleep. Only it's a thousand times worse. Spike was more than just my lover; he was my mate - my other half.

Sleeping with Spike was a comfort long before we became lovers. He barely knew me the first time he climbed into my bed to soothe my nightmares away. I remember that when I woke up, I felt safe. It was the safest I had ever felt. I think I did the same for him. I hope so.

So, yeah. Werewolf Xander is the thing here. Not so bad as things go - as least he's locked up every full moon and not out eating the populace. It's better than vampire-me, or hyena-me, or - gods I'm still pissed about this one - bug-eating-man-bitch-me. I wonder what surprises the next world holds in store for me?

Xander didn't have long to wonder as his whole world spun out of focus once again. He was gradually getting used to the dizzying sensation; it didn't leave him feeling nauseous anymore. He looked around and saw that he was still in the courtyard of Giles' apartment complex - which was where he expected to be, but he was always aware that things could turn out differently. The Acathla dimension for one, and the wacky Disney-on-acid world for another.

With a heavy sigh, Xander packed his journal into his bag, shouldered the bags and made his way to Giles' door. It was time to face the music again. As much as he was looking forward to getting home - and the fast pace of his recent shifts was encouraging that it might happen soon - he wished he had some time to just relax and really think about what was happening to him. He didn't even have time to properly grieve for his mate. It was beyond maddening.

Rupert Giles opened his door and looked at the young man on his step in open-mouthed shock. He blinked several times, took off his glasses, polished and replaced them before uttering a softly spoken 'Dear Lord'. Xander smiled and shrugged his shoulders.

"Hey Giles."

"Um, hello... Xander. Could you excuse me for just one moment?"

Before Xander had a chance to respond, the door closed in his face and he was left standing in confused amusement on the step. He wondered what it was that had the older man so flustered. Then the door opened again, and it all made sense.

"Hello, Xander."

"You're me."

"Yup. How very astute of you."

Xander reached out tentatively and went to poke his double before retracting his hand and stepping back. He looked at the other version of himself on the doorstep and grinned.

"This is so cool! It's like that episode of Star Trek DS9 where Sisko and the others all meet their doppelgangers."

Xander shook his head fondly at his double and thought to himself about what a geek he sounded like. He started violently when he heard a deep, British, baritone, voice call out from the inside of the house.

"Christ, Harris. You really are a geek aren't you?"

"Oh shut up, Spike!"

The Xander on the inside of the door looked at the one on the outside and grinned again. He was practically bouncing as he waited for an explanation. Xander sighed once again and smiled at him.

"So, I guess you want to know what I'm doing here, huh?"

"Oh! Are you from the future? Here to warn me about a terrible mistake I made, so I can avoid it?"

Xander almost smiled at the sound of Spike's barely coughed over 'Geek' that resounded from inside. He wondered what it was about this reality that made this Xander so much more like the boy he used to be.

"No, sorry. I'm cursed."

The other Xander's face fell a bit and Xander felt kinda bad for bursting the guy's bubble.

"My ex-girlfriend, fiancée actually, cursed me. So I've been doing a Sam Beckett sort of thing, or maybe a Quinn Mallory? More of a combination I guess; I mean there's no huge gaping portal or anything, I just kind of shift into a new reality. A portal might have been cool, actually. All I get is a dizzy spell."

"Bloody hell! There're two of them, now? What is this, Geeks-R-Us?"

Spike stood in the doorway just behind Xander and looked at the newcomer appraisingly. Then he scented the air. Then he shifted to game face and growled.

"Ah, hell. I can explain. Stop growling before they do something stupid and stake you."

"Better be a bloody good explanation, boy."

"Boy? Who the hell do you think you are?"

"I'm the vampire who's gonna rip out your throat if you don't start talking. That's who I am."

Xander was saved from responding to that by Giles coming back to the door and ushering him inside. Everyone took seats and Xander started to explain his situation to everyone. He left out certain parts - the ones about him and Spike being mates, what he had done to Riley, and the extent of what had been done to Spike by the Initiative and Riley in particular. He would rather explain that to Spike in private. Just as he was finishing up his tale, the door opened and Buffy and Cordelia walked in.

The girls looked at each other and then to Giles. The Watcher gestured for them to sit down and then gave them a brief overview of what Xander had already told himself, Spike and the other Xander.

Giles went to make tea and Cordelia stepped in front of Xander and looked him over critically. She then looked at the other Xander and smiled.

"Well, he has better fashion sense, but you're cuter."

Then she kissed him. Xander watched as his double and his high school sweetheart kissed. He looked over to see a grumpy vampire staring holes through him. He knew he needed to get him alone for a few minutes to explain. When Giles came back into the room with a heavily laden tray of tea and cookies, Xander stood and awkwardly motioned towards Spike.

"Um, could I speak to you in the other room for a minute?"

Spike nodded and headed for the kitchen. Xander looked at Giles and smiled somewhat sheepishly.

"I'm sorry, but what I have to tell Spike is sort of private."

"Does this have anything to do with the growling and yelling earlier?"

"Yes."

"Is it in any way going to affect or endanger any of us?"

"No! It's just a personal matter... about his double."

"Very well then."

"Thanks."

Xander took a deep breath and headed for the kitchen. He really didn't want to have to explain his relationship with his mate to this other version of Spike.





Part Seventy

The minute Xander entered the kitchen, he found himself pressed up against the wall with a very angry, game-faced vampire in front of him. He knew enough to submit to the inspection he was being given and waited while Spike sniffed at his neck and then briefly darted his tongue out to taste his skin. Xander cleared his throat and tried to compose himself before speaking. The touch of Spike's tongue on his throat had made him long for his lover; he was rather embarrassingly hard and he really hoped Spike hadn't noticed. But by the smirk on the blonde's now-human face, he knew he had.

"So, it's true then? You and this other me were mates?"

"Yeah. I guess this bothers you, huh?"

Spike snorted and rolled his eyes.

"Have you met Xander? Wouldn't you be bothered?"

"Hey! Okay, so he's a little..."

"Geeky? Bloody hell, he took the cheerleader to a Trekkie Convention for their anniversary last month."

"Ouch. Bet he's still paying for that one."

"Oh yeah. He should invest in a good pair of knee pads with all the crawling he's been doing."

Xander smiled at the idea of Cordelia Chase at Science-Fiction Convention. Gods, what had his double been thinking? Cordelia Chase was not the kind of woman you took to a convention. She was the kind of woman you took to Paris, or Hawaii, or the Bahamas. He was snapped out of his reverie by the sound of Spike impatiently clearing his throat.

"So, you and this Spike were mates. How'd that happen, and what have Farmboy and the Initiative got to do with it?"

Xander gave Spike the highlights of what had happened. Including his part in Riley's torture and death. He watched as Spike once again let his demon out to surface. Yellow eyes filled with hatred and pain listened avidly as Xander described everything he had done, everything he had witnessed Angel-us do to the ex-soldier. Including turning and ensouling him so he could do it all again.

"Sounds like a bloody good time was had by all. 'Cept your Spike, that is."

"Actually, Spike was the one who finally dusted him. After having a little fun with some holy water, a saw and a little piece of scrap metal, which he shoved into his brain."

Xander knew he shouldn't be enjoying Spike's gleeful expression the way he was, but he could still remember the nightmares his lover had had, the screams and the tears. He was glad he could give this Spike a little something to think about, knowing that at least in some reality justice - or rather vengeance - had been served.

"Good enough then. So, you and this Spike? How long were you together?"

"Awhile, but we had only been mated a little over a day when I lost him."

"Must have been hell on you. How'd you survive the bond? The pain had to have been horrible."

"It was. Still is. Sometimes it sneaks up on me so fast I can hardly breathe."

"I could help. Least I can do after such a lovely story you just told."

Xander looked at Spike speculatively.

"How?"

In answer Spike bit into his thumb and held it out to the human.

"My blood's the same as his. It'll help you get the pain under control, for awhile, at least."

Xander hesitated briefly before stepping forward and accepting the offered blood. He needed something to combat the withdrawal. This fast pace he was suddenly subjected to wasn't helping, so any relief was welcome.

He didn't take much. The wound was practically healed before he put it to his mouth, but what he did take was like coming home. He remembered the taste so acutely it hurt. It was Spike. Pure Spike. And it hurt; but it was so good.

"Thank you."

"No worries. Like I said, least I could do."

Spike spun on his heels and strolled out of the kitchen - but not before Xander noticed that he wasn't the only one who had been affected by the exchange of blood. Spike was just as hard as he was.

Back in the living room, Xander drank tea and listened as the group filled him in on the happenings of this reality's Scooby Gang. Things had gone pretty much how he had remembered up until the kissing fluke. It seems in this reality, Xander had been more in control of his hormones. He and Willow had only kissed the once, and then he had gone and confessed everything to Cordy and begged for her forgiveness. She eventually gave it.

Willow hadn't fared as well. When they had been kidnapped by Spike, she had tried to kiss him again, but he refused her advances. Oz and Cordy came in just in time to hear Xander tell Willow that he wouldn't do it, that if he was going to die, he would die a faithful man. Cordelia had been so impressed she instantly forgot all her plans to make him beg and grovel for forgiveness. Oz hadn't been impressed. He left Sunnydale right after graduation - so did Willow, but not together.

Xander didn't mention Willow's spell, or the fact that he could actually feel it surrounding his twin. He was shocked to realise that now that he had begun practising, he could feel magic. It surrounded Giles like a shield, like it belonged there, but on Xander it was more like a restraint - a straightjacket. Seeing as how Xander was happy with Cordelia, he didn't want to interfere, but he would mention it to Giles in private.

"Well, fun as this has been, sun's down so I'm off."

Spike got up and looked pointedly at Xander before leaving. Xander knew it was an invitation, but he had no intention of accepting. It just didn't feel right. Not without his Spike. He was about to make his own departure when he felt it again.

"Oh fuck!"

And then everything was different.

Xander blinked and realised he was the center of attention. He was still sitting in Giles' living room, but the cast had changed. Giles was there, as was his double and Buffy. But where Cordelia had sat only moments before, now sat a tall, slim, dark-haired man. He wondered if it was Buffy's boyfriend, someone he had seen around the University with her. He looked familiar.

"Uh, hey guys."

Xander's softly spoken words seemed to break everyone out of their shock and they all reacted at once. Buffy grabbed a stake, Xander jumped up and moved away from the couch, Giles pinched his nose and polished his glasses, and the tall dark-haired man just stared at him with his mouth hanging open.

"Whoa there, Buff! So not a vamp here; please don't stake me."

"Buffy, I'm not sure what he is, but it is highly unlikely that he is a vampire."

Giles replaced his glasses and approached Xander cautiously.

"Hey, G-man. Want to hear a fascinating story about vengeance curses and inter-dimensional travel?"

Xander tried his best goofy-Xander grin and sighed in relief as Giles relaxed somewhat and Buffy put her stake away. She didn't relax her guard any though, but at least he was no longer in danger of being impaled. The other Xander came back to the sofa but instead of sitting down where he had been, he sat right next to the strange man and took his hand. That answered one question; he obviously wasn't Buffy's boyfriend.

"Er, Xander, Jesse, why don't the two of you make yourselves useful and put the kettle on for tea?"

The two stood and left the room. Xander stared after them and then finally realised what his eyes had been trying to tell him. The young man with his double was his best friend Jesse. Jesse whom he had driven a stake through by accident a long time ago at the Bronze.

"Oh my God. Jesse."

Xander couldn't help the tears that welled up in his eyes. He had often wondered what his friend would have turned out like had he lived. He now had a chance to find out.

"Xander? If that is indeed who you are, would you mind terribly explaining how it is that you just ... appeared in my living room?"

"It's a bit of a long story. What do you know about vengeance demons?"

Giles looked confused and Xander began his story. It was going to be a long night.




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