I met Jesse. Wow, does he ever look different. I mean he's not the same skinny, semi-geeky, guy he was in high school. He's gotten a lot taller; he has a nice build, lean but muscular - not unlike Spike. He and Xander have been together since they were fifteen. Since Jesse kissed Xander the night of his birthday. Kinda like the other world with Xan and Spike. Only this time, Jesse wasn't vamped.
Turns out, instead of grabbing Jesse and running like hell, Darla grabbed Willow instead. So Darla got Willow, turned her, and Jesse was the one to stake her. Tough break.
I asked them not to tell me anything until after I had a nap - all this shifting from place to place is making me ill. By the time I woke up, it was rather late and since Xander and Jesse both had to work early in the morning, I didn't learn much more than what I've told you.
Angel still lost his soul, Buffy still sent him to Hell; since Cordy and I never dated, Anya never came to fulfill her wish, and Dawn still showed up a couple years ago and was chased around by a Hell God. Same old same old. Oh yeah, and Spike is chipped. I want to ask about Cordelia and Oz, find out if they were ever fringe members of the group, if Oz is all wolfy here, or if Cordy ever moved to L.A., but at the same time, I'm afraid I won't like the answers.
I know that Angel saved Cordy's life after she moved to L.A., so if he never came back after the whole Acathla deal, who was there to rescue Cordy? Did anyone rescue Cordy? And what if Oz is a werewolf, but because he never dated Willow, he didn't come to us for help. Was he hunted and killed by that wacko hunter? Too many unanswered questions, too many differences to learn about them all.
I borrowed a few books to read from Giles. I told him about the magical abilities of some of my doubles and he suggested that I stop messing around with spells until I get back home. But seeing as I don't know if I'll ever get home, that doesn't seem likely. I need to keep my mind occupied, and I need to learn what I'm capable of. I'm not crazy, I understand the dangers of magic use; I'm not going to go all Amy or anything. I just want to learn, to find my power and bring back Spike - if there's even a way to do that.
I told Giles about my theory - that I don't get to shift until I find out about myself in each new reality. He brought up a few good points, as well. He reminded me that I hadn't actually learned anything about myself in the Acathla world, that when I shifted it could be reasoned that it was because I was in danger. It made sense. 'Cause also, I shifted when the Initiative stormed the Hyperion, thereby bringing Spike along with me. There goes my 'dying before I ever get home' theory. Unless it's of old age, which is highly possible.
So, moral of the story? If I don't like where I end up, I could always just place myself in mortal danger and - if Giles theory is correct - shift right out of there. Hmm, maybe I could use this to do something I normally would never do, like rob a bank or something equally stupid - like make Giles eat a book the next time he says my situation is "fascinating". It's not frigging fascinating when you're living it!
Nah, not my style, I'm one of the good guys after all. Just, you know, something to think about, break up the monotony. Oh, but the look on the G-man's face... might actually be worth it. Maybe I will have those flyers printed up and beat him over the head with them. He can learn the answers to his questions by osmosis. See, I do read.
The other thing we talked about was the speed of my recent shifts. He didn't want to get my hopes up, but he said it was entirely possible that my journey - read 'curse' - was coming to an end. God I hope so, but I don't want to get my hopes up either. Like Dad used to say: "Don't hold your hand on your ass waiting, it'll grow there." Ah, the pearls of wisdom of my youth.
It's 3 AM here, Giles is sleeping; everyone else has gone home and I'm bored to tears. If it weren't for this journal, I think I would have lost my mind by now. I can't help but wonder if Spike felt the same way… Did he use his journal to figure out his feelings the way I do? Or did he just keep track of our journey in it. Was it a personal thing, or merely a log?
I feel a lot better, more in control of myself since that other Spike gave me his blood. He was right, it did help. Maybe now would be a good time to go through Spike's things? I really do want to read his journal - I miss him and I think it would help me to feel closer to him again. Yeah, I'm going to do it.
Xander quietly crept upstairs to the guestroom and retrieved Spike's bag. He brought it back downstairs to the living room with him and set it beside him on the sofa.
He sat and stared at it for a long time before finally working up the nerve to undo the zipper. He leaned in and inhaled the scent of his mate that still permeated the clothing inside. He closed his eyes and savoured the feeling of Spike's scent surrounding him. He remembered the last night they had spent together, the way his lover had driven him insane with desire. The soft touches of leather on his sensitive skin, the feel of the restraints around his wrists. He remembered how Spike had looked at him, like he was the most beautiful thing in the world.
Eventually, Xander had to open his eyes and come back to the present. He reached into the bag and reverently ran his fingertips over the leather of Spike's duster. He would always associate leather with Spike, whether he was wearing it or not.
He moved aside the coat and felt the soft leather thongs of the flogger and was instantly hard. He swallowed down his arousal and moved on to the next thing in the bag. It was one of the soft pairs of faded denims he had talked Spike into purchasing on their trip to Wal-Mart. He still couldn't believe he had gotten the vampire into the chain store. He lifted the soft material to his face and rubbed his cheek against it. It felt nice.
Reaching deeper into the bag, he felt the leather wrist cuffs, and the beaded thing that Spike had never gotten around to explaining to him. He kept digging, but still couldn't find the book. He was beginning to worry. Now that he was ready to read it, the book seemed to have disappeared.
"Where is it? I have to find it; I lost Spike, can't lose this too. It's all I have left!"
Xander dumped the bag out onto the couch and began to dig through the pile of Spike's belongings. In his haste, he accidentally made a small rip on the seam on one of Spike's shirts. It was enough to jar him out of his frenzy. He stopped and then carefully began to fold and repack Spike's clothes. Then he put the "toys" and CDs into the bag. Next he shook out Spike's duster and went to wrap his boots up inside of it when he felt the square-shaped lump in one of the inside pockets.
Xander sighed in relief and pulled out the book. He picked up the ring of Amara and placed it in the deepest pocket of the coat before rolling the coat and boots up together and putting them back into the bag. Then he sat holding the book in front of him. Now that he had it, he hesitated to read it. He wondered if it would be an invasion of privacy. If he had died, would he have wanted Spike to read his journal?
Yeah, he would have. But there was a glaring difference between him and Spike. Spike had spent two years as property of Riley Finn and the Initiative. Xander didn't know if he was ready to read about the things that he had been through. If Spike had wanted him to know, he would have told him. Right?
With a heavy sigh. Xander put the book back into the bag and zipped it closed. If he ever got home, he would find a way to bring Spike back and then he would ask him if he had done the right thing. If that didn't work - if he couldn't find a way - then he would lock himself in his bedroom with a couple bottles of Jack and read the journal. That way, he could get drunk enough to forget the atrocities he would most likely learn about.
Xander took Spike's bag as well as a couple of Giles' spell books back up to the spare room. He settled on the bed and started copying out the spells he thought he might be able to cast with his limited knowledge.
He fell asleep with an open book across his chest, a pencil in one hand and a notepad in the other. This was how Giles found him the next day when he came in to wake him for breakfast.
"Oh good. You are still here. Would you care for some breakfast?"
Xander stretched and yawned and then sat up in the bed. He looked at the mess of books and paper surrounding him and smiled somewhat sheepishly.
"Yeah, food would be good."
"I see you had a productive night?"
"Well, I thought about what you said, so instead of trying the spells, I just copied them. That way if I ever get home, I can try them there."
Xander figured this was easier than admitting he had no intention of not improving his magical abilities. Plus it would save him a lecture or two - at least.
Giles left and Xander dressed, put his notes away, and then followed the scent of coffee and cooking bacon down to the kitchen where Giles was making breakfast. He sat at the table and sipped at the scalding hot liquid while Giles finished cooking eggs and making toast.
I don't even know where to start. After having breakfast with Giles, I went to the shop with him; he said he had a couple of books there he thought I might find helpful. On the way there, as is my luck, I shifted.
This Sunnydale is a fucking nightmare. Not in the "Angel opened the gates of Hell" or "Glory tore down the walls between dimensions" kind of way. More in the "Everyone's a Stepford Wife" kind of way.
The Initiative owns this town. Literally. The University is now a military base, all the people in town? Soldiers and their families. The high school has been destroyed and cleared away. A small building surrounded by electrified fences, topped with barbed-wire sits in its place, directly over the hellmouth. The people walking around town are like automatons. Perfect little people going about their lives in a perfect little town where nothing is out of the ordinary. Like I said, Stepford Wives. Only thing is, they know what's going on; they just don't want the rest of the world to find out.
I never realised that something I did could have such an impact on the world. It's all because of me. This world's Xander joined the army. He took Spike's advice to heart and enlisted. Turns out he did exceptionally well in the military. He's now a head advisor on demons to the Sunnydale branch of the Initiative. But I get ahead of myself.
I was walking through town, looking at a lot of empty shops; shops like the Magic Box, and other occult stores. They have no reason to exist here; the army doesn't need magic, it has stun guns after all.
A.D.A.M. almost succeeded in this reality. Without Xander, the scoobies were a man short to complete the spell that led to his demise. They ended up going ahead with it anyway, and it almost killed Willow and Giles. Buffy managed to blow up the base but A.D.A.M. escaped.
It took months and the assistance of the military before he was captured and destroyed. In the mean time, a lot of people - and demons - died needlessly. Buffy and the others thanked the army for their assistance and wished them well. They thought the Initiative was gone, over, defunct. They were wrong. It came back, and it was stronger than ever. Because they now had one Alexander LaVelle Harris on their side.
With my double's knowledge and experience with fighting the forces of darkness, they understood what had gone wrong the first time around. Demons could not be tamed, could not be used as a weapon to destroy their enemy. All humans were enemies to a demon's way of thinking, enemies and food. They now knew that Maggie Walsh was a fool. They wouldn't make that mistake again.
But being the military, they couldn't just keep their noses out of it either. They knew about the slayer, about her calling and her obligation to do her duty. Xander made sure they understood how committed Buffy was to her job. But, he also told them about Faith; about what happens when all that power falls into the wrong hands.
So, instead of capturing and experimenting on demons, they just want to destroy them. Annihilate them from the face of the earth. It's a good theory, but not all demons are bad. Some of them are even good, or at the very least, necessary.
They make no allowances for prophecy, or the future. They don't discriminate about status either. Half-demons are still demons as far as they are concerned. This is the part that scares me.
I know Angel had a friend - his seer - who was half demon. Doyle. In one reality this man was my lover; he was a good man and never did anything to hurt anyone. But by this Initiative's point of view, he would be an animal, something to be destroyed. Black and White. Good and Evil.
This Xander is so naive. He hates demons. All demons. I wonder what it was that made him so hard? Yeah, I know I was once like him, but not to this degree. I was never this bigoted when it came to demons, was I? Sorry, off topic again.
So, I was walking through town when this guy comes up to me and pushes me into an alley. At first I thought he was going to mug me; boy was I wrong. He pushed me up against a wall and kissed me. Shock doesn't begin to describe my feelings. I pushed him away and wiped my mouth while staring at him in what must have been a mix of shock and anger, 'cause that's what I felt. He looked at me like he was confused by my reaction before understanding swept over his features. He looked me over again, taking in the differences in my appearance.
You would think, he would have noticed the shoulder-length hair, the duffelbags slung over my shoulder, the fact that I don't look like a soldier. But apparently not. He introduced himself as Graham Miller and then asked me if there was a reason Xander never told him he had a twin brother.
I should have said that he was ashamed of me, that I was given up for adoption at birth, that I was kidnapped as a small child. Anything but the truth. If I had lied I wouldn't be in this mess.
This mess, being that I am in a detention cell in the basement of the University-turned-military-base. It seems that they don't believe my story, but seeing as the tests they performed deemed I was in fact 100% human, they didn't know what else to do with me.
I tried to talk to my double; he was less than accommodating. He stood silent and stone-faced as I explained everything I had been through. He never even blinked when I told him about Anya being a demon again. I wisely kept my mouth shut about Spike.
They let me have my journal, deciding that it couldn't cause any harm. Thank God, because otherwise I would have nothing to do. This place is beyond boring. White walls, white floor, even the damn bars on the cell are white. No TV, no radio, no magazines. I've been contemplating giving myself a papercut and drawing on the walls with my own blood; I'm that bored.
If there was ever a time to be glad that Spike isn't with me, this is it. I don't know what I would do if he was captured and killed by these guys. By my double. Talk about the ultimate betrayal- being dusted by a man with your lover's face.
By the way my double and this Graham guy - I'm pretty sure he was one of Riley's friends, by the way - carry on, they're obviously not out of the closet. Then again, the military frowns on that kind of behaviour, doesn't it? So, maybe I can use this to my advantage if I'm stuck here much longer. I mean, there isn't even any privacy to use the toilet.
Not that I think I'll be here long; if the pattern holds, I should shift out soon. I think I've learned about what happened here, after all. Oh yeah, I should probably tell you about Buffy and the others.
After the spell to defeat A.D.A.M., Giles had a heart attack. He's still alive, but he went back to England. Willow and Buffy left after the Initiative took over the town. There was no reason to stay, seeing as most of the demons were dead or gone. Plus, there was another hellmouth in Cleveland.
Far as I know, Spike escaped to L.A.; he went to Angel for sanctuary. I don't know what happened to him after that. For all I know, Angel may have staked him on sight, or the soldier boys might have tracked him down. Hard to say, seeing as how this world's Xander has such a hate-on for vamps and all. Hell, they might have gone to L.A. and staked Angel, as well.
Miller is back; he's standing a few feet away from my cell, just looking at me. To tell the truth, the guy gives me a wiggins. The way he looks at me is seriously creepy. It's the same way that demon back in Acathla's dimension was looking at me - like I'm a fuck toy. I really hope he doesn't get any ideas.
Crap. Seems like he's the guard on duty for the night. The others are leaving; no sign of my double at all. Great. I hope Giles was right about my shifting if I'm in danger, otherwise I think I'm about to be raped by my double's boyfriend. Why do these things always happen to me?
The cell door opened and Graham stepped inside. He held a tazer in his hand as he approached Xander - who was sitting against the far wall. When he was only a foot or so away he stopped.
Xander closed his book, laid it on the floor beside him and slowly got to his feet. He looked at the soldier and waited to see what would happen next. He was still putting a lot of faith in Giles' theory of self-preservation.
"Turn around. Hands on the wall, feet apart."
When Xander made no move to do as instructed, Miller pressed the button on his tazer and let Xander see that he was serious, and what the consequences of disobeying would be. Xander rolled his eyes and then did as he was told. He could feel the soldier's hot breath on the back of his neck and a shudder of revulsion tore through him.
"Drop your pants. No funny stuff or I'll zap you."
"And the bad part of that would be?"
Xander felt the tazer press into his neck and he swallowed his fear, waiting for the pain.
"The bad part would be that then you would have no idea what I could do to you while you were out."
He had a point. Xander began to undo his pants, popping the button and then slowly lowering the zipper. His inner monologue was a steady stream of 'any time now, the world will shift. Come on, shift already.'
"I don't get it. Why are you doing this to me? Aren't you and Xander together?"
"We were. Up until yesterday. Now he thinks he can do better."
"And I get to pay for his arrogance? Is that it?"
"Something like that, yeah."
As his ass met cool air, Xander began to panic. He was so sure that he would have shifted by now, that the threat of rape would be enough to get him on his way again.
"So much for Giles and his theories."
Xander muttered unhappily as Graham unzipped his pants and got himself out. He felt the blunt head of the man's penis pressing against his hole and he squeezed his eyes shut against the pain he knew he was about to experience. He'd never been done dry before, and he wasn't looking forward to it.
"This might hurt a little. Oh, who am I kidding? This is going to hurt... a lot."
Then, just as he felt himself being breached, the blessed dizzy feeling took over once more.
When Xander opened his eyes, he was still in the University basement. Only this time it was an actual basement, not a military holding facility. He wrenched up his boxer shorts and pants and screamed out at the ceiling.
"Think you could have cut that any fucking closer?!"
Xander stomped around the room, kicking at the piles of boxes and other various things that were strewn about. He was extremely unimpressed and had big plans to have Willow turn Anya into a rat when he got home. Then he was going to go to the pet store and buy himself a nice pet. Something along the lines of a boa constrictor. He was going to make popcorn and enjoy watching as the snake swallowed her whole and digested her slowly. Hell, he was going to videotape it so he could enjoy it again and again.
With the rage slowly subsiding, Xander took a better look around him and noticed that he seemed to be in some sort of storage/records room. He wondered if this door would be locked or alarmed in any way. He really didn't want to be stuck in here until someone came down to find a paper on astrophysics that had been written by someone ten years ago - 'cause face it, that wasn't very likely to happen.
He found the door easily enough and it opened when he tried it. Breathing a sigh of relief, Xander packed his book away and pushed the motorbike out of the room and down the long hallway toward the door to the stairwell. He hoped he managed to get outside without being stopped by campus security.
There were no people in the stairwell, so Xander managed to get outside without incident. He walked the bike out to the road and climbed on. Normally this would be where he went in search of the scoobies, but after what had just almost happened to him, all he wanted was a hot bath and an enormous amount of alcohol.
Pulling into the parking lot of the Holiday Inn, Xander parked the bike and went inside. He rented a room and immediately set about drawing a hot bath. He ran the water as hot as he could stand it and climbed in. He began to scrub himself with soap and a washcloth. He felt sick, beyond sick to tell the truth.
He had almost been raped. He wasn't sure what he would have done if he hadn't shifted. He never wanted another man inside of him. Spike had been the last person to make love to him, and as far as Xander was concerned, it would stay that way. He would never let another erase the feel of being filled by his mate. If he couldn't have Spike, he wouldn't have another man in his bed again.
His ass was sore - not the good kind of sore either. He knelt in the tub and gently cleansed himself as he mentally played out Anya's future ratting and being eaten by a large snake. It was enough of a distraction to get him through the worst of it. He examined the cloth and grimaced at the smear of blood on it. He had never bled with Spike; his lover had always made sure he was ready before taking him.
Once out of the bath, Xander quickly dried, dressed and headed outside. He desperately needed a drink or ten. Of course it was probably safer to get a bottle and go back to his room than to attempt getting drunk in a bar in Sunnydale. Then again, no one had ever accused Xander of being the smart one.
The Bronze was out. He didn't want to run into the gang - not yet anyway - so was Willie's, as he wasn't a demon, and even though he wore Spike's claim, he didn't think that would be enough to deter any demon who had a beef with the vampire. Better safe than sorry, Xander headed to a bar near the University; it was one of those new trendy places where everyone looked like a Gap or J-Crew model.
Xander found a small corner table and sat down. When the waitress - a suitable Britney Spears look-a-like - came by, he ordered a bottle of Jack and a glass. She frowned at him but left to fill his order all the same.
After a few drinks, the music was less annoying and the people weren't so loud. Xander continued to drink and try to forget the feel of Miller's hot breath on his skin, his hand on his hip, his hard cock against his ass. He wasn't nearly drunk enough to forget that yet.
An hour later and Xander was pleasantly pissed. He got up to use the bathroom and almost fell over. He steadied himself on a nearby table and continued on his way.
Trendy bar or not, the men's room was just like every other public bathroom Xander had ever been in - filthy. He couldn't understand why it was that men's bathrooms always smelled like piss. Well, other than the fact that there was piss all over the floor, and on the walls next to the urinal. Obviously a drunken man's aim wasn't up to snuff.
Xander approached the urinal and got himself out. He sighed in relief as his bladder emptied, then shook himself off. He was just zipping his jeans when he was knocked sideways by a rather drunken, familiar face.
"Spike! What are you doing in here? Vampire's don't pee."
Xander was drunk enough not to think about the possibility of Spike being unchipped in this reality. Since he hadn't been by to see the scoobies yet, he had no information on any of them whatsoever.
"Oh. Right. I forget that sometimes, ya know. Thanks."
Spike staggered back toward the door and then stopped. He looked back at Xander and blinked.
"Do I know you? How'd you know what I am, or who I am?"
"Er, I'm Xander."
"No, yer not. First off, you're too old. Second, you smell too fresh."
It was Xander's turn to blink.
"What? And eeewww! You make a habit of smelling me?"
"Not you. Him. And yeah, I know all their smells. You smell... like me. How come?"
Xander walked to the sink and washed his hands. He ignored the vampire until after he had rinsed and dried them.
"I don't know about you, but I don't think I want to stand around in the men's room all night. I'm going back to my table. You want answers? Follow me."
Xander staggered his way back through the crowd and sat down. He was amazed to see that his almost-half-full bottle was still there. He caught the waitress looking at him and smiled. She winked and then walked away. Too bad he wasn't interested; she was cute.
Spike took a seat across from him a minute later; he had a bottle of his own, only far emptier than Xander's was. He took a drink straight from the bottle and set it on the table before raising a brow in question. Xander downed his shot and then started talking.
By the time Xander finished explaining about why he smelled like Spike, the vampire was shaking with laughter. Xander was less than impressed.
"What the hell is so funny?!"
Spike wiped the tears from his face and smiled gently.
"It's just, finally I meet someone who's been fucked over worse than me, and it turns out he's mated to an alternate reality version of myself. It's funny from my perspective."
"Speaking of, what's your story then? You don't act much like the Spikes I've met so far."
"Got a soul. Little witch gave it to me. I'll tell you a secret."
Spike leaned across the table and whispered in Xander's ear.
"If my demon ever gets loose, he's gonna eat her first."
Spike leaned back into his chair and cracked up laughing again. Xander wondered if it was because of the booze, or if he was just crazy. He figured it was probably a combination of the two. He poured himself another drink and downed it in one swallow. He set his glass back on the table and looked at the vampire across from him.
"So, what did you mean before, when you said I couldn't be Xander because I'm too old and smell fresh?"
"Just that. You are too old, and you're not dead, are ya?"
"So, Xander's a vampire?"
"Not hardly. Zombie, more or less."
"More or less? What do you mean 'more or less'? He's either a zombie or he isn't."
Spike took a long swallow from his bottle before setting it back down and wiping his mouth on the back of his hand. He looked at Xander and then sat back in shock.
"Bloody hell! You really are him, aren't you?"
"That's what I've been telling you. Now would you please explain about this zombie thing?"
"Oh, right. That. Well, see, zombies are nothing more than animated corpses."
"No, they're stupid, mindless things."
"Like I said..."
"You want to hear this or not?"
"Sorry. Go on."
"Xander's dead, make no mistake about it. But he ain't mindless. Nor does it seem like he's soulless. Just he ain't breathing nor ageing any more. So like I said, a zombie - more or less."
"Don't really know. Was busy trying to deal with my own overwhelming grief at the time, wasn't I?"
Spike fell silent and continued drinking. Xander joined him. This was a first. He thought he'd seen everything by now, but a dead Xander, who wasn't a vampire but some sort of zombie-like creature was totally mind-boggling. If he was sober, he might have been able to figure out what had happened to the Xander of this reality that made him a zombie - more or less.
A couple of pretty young girls approached the table and asked if they could sit down. Xander was about to subtly tell them to move on when Spike answered for the both of them.
"Oi, push off, would ya? Can't you see we're together here?"
The girls left in a hurry and Xander gaped at the grinning blonde vampire across from him.
"What the hell did you tell them that for?"
"What? You saying you were interested?"
"No! Of course not."
"You saying we're not together here at this table?"
"Then what's the problem? All I did was tell 'em the truth then. 'Sides, you're wearin' my mark, technically you're mine."
"Are you calling me an arse hole?"
In his drunken state, Xander couldn't remember what they were arguing about, but he was pretty sure that Spike just called him a name. Spike tilted his head and thought for a minute.
"Maybe. Don't really remember. What were we talking about?"
"Dunno. Something about a couple of girls."
"Hmm, yeah we should pick up a couple o' those."
Spike finished his bottle and then helped Xander to finish his as well. They leaned against one another as they staggered toward the exit and out into the night.
Xander woke up to the familiar presence of a cool body draped along his side. He sighed in happiness and began to drift off to sleep again. Then he suddenly remembered that his mate was gone, and there shouldn't be anyone else in his bed. He sat up abruptly, dislodging the blonde head of his bedmate from his chest as he did so.
"Bloody hell, what did you do that fer?"
Spike sat up in bed and rubbed his head. He looked at the pained expression on the human's face and understood immediately. He reached out to touch him and swallowed down the hurt feelings when the boy flinched and drew away from him.
"Easy, pet. Didn't do nothing but sleep last night. Promise."
Spike held his unnecessary breath and waited to see if he would be believed or not. He watched as Xander cocked his head and seemed to replay the night's events in his mind. He sighed in relief as Xander nodded his head and offered him a sheepish grin.
Xander remembered asking Spike to stay with him. Telling him that he didn't want to be alone and asking could he just hold him while he slept. He also remembered waking up at one point in the night thinking it was his Spike he held in his arms and kissing the man next to him. Spike had gently pushed him away and purred to him until he fell back asleep.
"Sorry. I just... I kinda freaked for a minute there. I thought... "
"I know. And if I thought for a minute that you actually wanted me, not your Spike, but me, I would have taken you up on it. It's been a long time since anyone has wanted me to hold them, even in friendship."
"I'm not. I enjoyed it, hell I haven't slept that well since the witch cursed me four years ago."
"I have to go see them today. If I don't get the facts about what happened here, I won't shift."
Spike sighed and flopped back down on the bed. He knew Xander had to do this, had to get back to his own reality, but he was going to miss him. He felt like they had become friends over the few hours they spent together. He didn't really have any friends anymore.
"Yeah, I know. Just, could you stay till it gets dark? Then I could walk you over."
"Yeah. All right. I'm still kinda sleepy anyway."
Spike smiled as Xander lay back down and pulled him close again. He closed his eyes and sighed in contentment at the warmth that he felt seeping into his cold flesh. He would definitely miss this.
"Okay. 'Night Xander."
The next time they woke it was after 5pm. Xander rose from the bed and padded into the bathroom. He relieved himself and then climbed into the shower. He stood under the hot spray letting the pounding water eases the stress from his muscles. He was slightly hung over, but he could deal with it. He washed quickly and then emerged from the bathroom in his towel. Spike was sitting on the bed smoking a cigarette.
"Mind if I use the shower?"
"Nope, help yourself."
Spike went into the bathroom and Xander quickly got dressed. He had no idea what he was thinking last night. It was a dangerous game, bringing the vampire back to his room. If Willow had used the same curse on him as she had on Angelus, then one roll in the sheets and he could have woken up next to a very hungry, recently unsouled demon. Not a good thing. On the other hand, it was the best sleep he could remember having since he'd lost Spike. Spike seemed to need the companionship, as well.
Spike came back from the bathroom, dressed in the same clothes he had been wearing when he went in. His wet hair was the only thing that gave away the fact that he had been in the shower just moments before. He watched Xander brood for a few minutes before clearing his throat to get his attention.
"Don't suppose you've got any hair gel?"
Xander dug through his bag and pulled out the tube of gel that his Spike had purchased the morning he came back with all the soap, shampoo, and lubricant. It was the same day he had bought the hair dye. He said the gel was a promise of things to come; that when they got back to Xander's world he was gonna bleach it and gel it as soon as he found a bathroom.
"Here. Keep it."
Spike went back into the bathroom and returned a few seconds later with his hair slicked back. Xander smiled at him and picked up his wallet and door key.
"Lead on, pet."
They took the bike; Xander even let Spike drive as he knew where to go and Xander didn't. Seems Giles was back in England in this world, and Buffy had had to sell the house after Joyce's death. She and Dawn lived in a small two-bedroom apartment a few blocks away from The Bronze. Not the best place in town to live, but the rent was affordable on her Doublemeat Palace salary.
Spike gave Xander's shoulder a supportive squeeze and told him he'd wait for him at The Bronze if he wanted. Xander nodded his head and thanked him before disappearing into the apartment building. It didn't even have a security buzzer. He took the stairs down to the lower level and walked down the hall to the last door on the right. He knocked and then waited for Buffy or Dawn to answer.
An hour later, he was at The Bronze looking for Spike. Buffy hadn't believed him at first, but then she slowly came around as he talked to her. She said she would get the others - meaning Xander, Willow and Tara - and meet him in about a half-hour. He told her he was going to meet up with Spike at The Bronze and that they could find him there. She gave him a strange look but accepted his meeting location and closed the door behind him.
So here he was, standing by the bar, scanning the room for the sight of platinum blonde hair. He ordered a beer from the bartender and then jumped when a cold hand came down on his shoulder.
"Sorry, pet. Didn't mean to scare you."
"Sure you didn't. You want anything? Beer?"
"Nah, I'm good. How'd it go with slayer and company?"
"Alright I guess. Buffy's getting them together, they're gonna meet me here in a half hour."
"Hmm, I should make myself scarce then."
Spike looked around and then pulled Xander over to a dark corner where they could talk privately.
"I kidnapped the witch back in high school. Yer double as well. Tried to make her do a love spell on Dru for me. Might have roughed your other self up a bit. Threatened to do nasty things to the girl. She souled me for it. Haven't exactly been on friendly terms since, you know?"
"Oh. Wow. I mean, that exact thing happened in my world but Willow didn't curse you there. I wonder why? I mean she had the spell, you would think they would have used it more than just the once."
"Well, she did here. Can't say as she's one of my favourite people. Would have been better to stake me than this."
Xander nodded his understanding. He knew how his Spike would have reacted to being given a soul. Not happily, that's for sure. He didn't know what to say to him though, so he said nothing and took a deep drink from his beer.
"Why do you stay here? In Sunnydale, I mean?"
"Where else 'm I gonna go?"
"What about L.A.? I'm sure Angel would take you in."
Spike snorted in disgust.
"Poof hates me. Having a soul isn't gonna change that."
"I don't think he does. He destroyed a man for you in one of the worlds I was in."
"He did? Why?"
"Let's just say, that you had been hurt. Seriously hurt. He took vengeance for you. You asked him to give you final death. He drained you. Even though it nearly killed him to do it, he did it. For you. I think you might be wrong about him."
"Maybe I am."
Just then Buffy, Willow, Tara and a much younger-looking Xander entered the club. Spike said his goodbyes and went to leave. Xander stopped him with a hand on his shoulder.
"If I don't see you again before I leave, I just wanted to say thank you, for last night."
"Not necessary. I enjoyed our time together."
Spike leaned in and kissed Xander on the cheek. He turned and headed for the door, but stopped a few feet away and looked over his shoulder.
"I think I might take your advice and go see Angel. Can't hurt, right?"
Spike winked and disappeared in the crowd. Xander smiled and went to meet the gang. He almost laughed out loud at the look on Xander's face when he saw him.
"Holy crap! I mean, she said you were... but you really are... and just how did you get so big, anyway?"
Xander smiled at his younger-looking double. He saw Willow staring at him in fascination and smiled at her.
"Construction work. Does a body good. Let's find a table, shall we?"
The group sat down and everyone continued to stare at Xander. He finally couldn't take it any longer and broke the silence.
"Okay, I'm assuming Buffy has told you guys what's going on with me?"
"Yeah, she said you were cursed by Anya. You were really going to marry her?"
"Yes. I was. Now I'm going to have her turned into a rat so I can feed her to a very large snake."
Willow and Tara looked at each other and smiled. Xander could feel the low thrum of their magic surrounding them. It was almost as if they were one person, they felt so complete. Buffy and Xander went to the bar to get drinks and left Xander with the two girls
"Oh, before I forget."
Xander reached into his pocket and pulled a crumpled slip of paper out and handed it to Willow.
"This is for you."
Willow looked at the spell and then her eyes got big and she stared at Xander.
"I know. It works, too. Use it. On both of them."
"Can't know. Wills, it's not her decision. Let Angel decide if he tells her or not. Okay?"
"Okay. Besides, she and Xander seem to be happy enough with each other."
Xander spit his beer through his nose and then began to choke violently. Willow rushed to his side and began to pat his back as the coughs subsided. He wiped his face with a napkin and took another smaller sip of his beer and then closed his eyes. When he looked up again, Buffy and his double were coming back to the table.
Here I am a zombie. Sort of. Not really, but I'm the walking dead, so what else are you gonna call it? Remember back in high school, Jack? Yeah, the crazy guy who wanted to raise his buddies from the dead - and succeeded. Turns out, he killed me. Stuck a knife through my chest and then let me die. He brought me back like ten minutes later, but still. So we have dead Xander. Or Zombie Xander if you prefer, which he doesn't, by the way.
You want to know what's really sad though? I finally realise why I never stood a chance with Buffy. I have this pesky little breathing problem. Seems she prefers her guys without circulation or that annoying beating-of-the-heart sensation. But hey, if I had known that back then, I probably would have let Jack kill me. So who's the pathetic one?
Now that I think about it, I wonder what was going with Spike and Buffy back home. They seemed awfully ... close. I know she trusted him to look after Dawn, and we all accepted him as part of the group after Buffy died, but since she came back he seemed to be hanging around a lot more, acting like he belonged by her side, like he was ...
Oh. My. God.
Buffy and Spike are sleeping together. They're having sex. I should have figured this out sooner. I mean it's not like I haven't been in places where they were together - Hell I'm a pregnant woman because of their involvement. Crap. Now what am I supposed to do? How am I gonna look at Buffy, knowing she gets to hold her Spike, kiss her Spike, and I don't. She has this wonderful man - vampire - who loves her completely and I have nothing but memories. I'm going to end up resenting her. I don't want that.
God. For the first time since this happened, I don't want to go home.
Xander closed his eyes and let the tears fall. He knew he would have to face them, accept them being together. If it made her happy - made Spike happy - than who was he to stand in their way? Maybe the next world he went to, he should just drive out to the middle of nowhere and stay there. Then he wouldn't have to worry about going home and facing them together.
As the dizziness swept over him, Xander began to laugh through his tears. Maybe a rat was too good for Anya; he could turn her into a vegetable and feed her to a bunny. Yeah, a big juicy carrot. That would work.
Xander sat up and got his things together. He strapped the bags to the back of the bike and began to push it out of the room. He was glad he was able to book a room on the first floor this time - trying to get the bike down several flights of stairs wasn't an easy task. He exited the hotel through the side door and got on the bike.
He drove through town towards the cemetery. If he was going to stay in this world, he needed to go somewhere that he wouldn't run into himself. Therefore, he was going to find Spike and ask him where the scoobies lived in this reality. He didn't want to know anything else.
The crypt was empty. In fact it looked like it hadn't been lived in for awhile now. Xander let out a frustrated sigh and went back out to his bike. He sat on the seat and tried to figure out where to check next. He figured he could always go to L.A. and ask Cordelia and Deadboy. But it was a hell of a trip to make just to ask a simple question.
Xander looked off to his right and saw Buffy running towards him. Behind her were Willow, Tara, Dawn, and Anya.
Xander closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Oh well, he thought to himself, there's always the next world.
"Xander, thank God! Are you okay? Where have you been? What happened to you?"
"Buffy. Slow down. I think I need to explain."
"Explain what? How you've been missing all this time? How even Willow's tracking spell couldn't locate you until tonight?"
Xander looked around wildly and then narrowed his eyes as they fell on his ex-fiancée. Anya cringed under the scrutiny and Xander smiled an evil smile and stepped toward her.
"Why don't you answer that, Anyanka. Tell them where I've been, what you did to me!"
The others all gasped and looked at Anya. Xander stared her down as she began to weep.
"I didn't. It wasn't me!"
"Bullshit! It was vengeance magic; who else could it have been?"
There was a blinding light and then Halfrek appeared.
"That would be me."
Xander looked from Anya to Hallie and then back again. He tried to figure out what was happening. All this time he had assumed it was Anya, that she was getting revenge on him for leaving her at the altar.
"You? Why? Why would you do that to me?"
"Easy. You hurt Anyanka; she couldn't take vengeance against you on her own behalf so I did it for her."
Buffy interrupted with a question.
"Who made the wish? What was it?"
"Why that's the best part, he did. He was crying in his beer and said, and I quote 'I wish I knew how my life could have been, if I had made different choices.' So, I granted his wish."
Xander lunged at her and she disappeared. He turned around as she reappeared behind him. He went to lunge for her again but Buffy stopped him.
"She'll just keep doing it, Xander. Don't give her the satisfaction of letting her get to you."
Xander growled but didn't try to go after her. He thought back to the night before he first shifted realities. He honestly didn't remember making a wish. He thought he of all people would know better, drunk or not.
"I must say though, you certainly made quite a mess of those other timelines. I had so many things I had to straighten out. A dead person here, a spell removed there. People in the wrong realities. Not to mention the soul restoration spell. Plus, I seem to be missing one vampire. Did you know that D'Hoffryn is threatening to suspend my teleportation privileges over that?"
Xander was stunned. All the good he had done had now been undone just like that. Dawn and Spike sent back to that crazy world, Spike and Angel losing their permanent souls, Riley Finn back from the dead, everything back to the way it was, as if Xander had never been there. He was glad that Spike had been killed by the sun; it was far better than what would have happened if Halfrek had sent him back to his reality and Riley fucking Finn.
Willow, who had remained behind Buffy with Tara and Dawn all this time stepped forward and reached out to touch Xander. Xander flinched back from her and closed his eyes against her pained expression.
"Not now Wills, okay? I need some time."
"Time? For what?"
"To think, to sleep, to just wrap my brain around what I've been through. I've been gone so long, I can't quite believe it's finally over."
Xander got back on his bike and drove away. Willow turned a puzzled expression to her friends, and then glared at Halfrek.
"How long has Xander been gone?"
"Mortals! Time moves differently in other dimensions, you know. A couple months here could be years somewhere else. To you it's been what? Two, two-and-a-half months? To Xander, he's been gone almost a year."
Hallie smiled and then disappeared. Anya slunk away from the group when they weren't looking. As soon as she was out of sight she disappeared into thin air, as well.
Xander lay on his back on his bed and stared at the ceiling. He was home. It felt odd to be here, in his apartment, in his own bed. He had gotten so used to sleeping in hotels and Giles' guestroom that he was almost uncomfortable here. He heard someone clear their throat and he looked up to see Anya standing at the foot of the bed.
"Okay, I know you didn't come in through the door so I assume you got your power back?"
"Yes. After you left me standing at the altar, D'Hoffryn offered me my old job back. I took it."
"Look, Anya, I've had a really bad day, hell I've had a whole shitload of really bad days, and I'm not in the mood. Why are you here, what do you want?"
"I just wanted to say I'm sorry. I saw Hallie; she showed me what happened to you. I'm sorry, Xander. I may have turned you into a woman, and made you carry Spike's love child, but I would never be this cruel, not to you. Do you hate me now?"
"I thought it was you. That you were getting revenge on me, that you must have hated me to be capable of this. I was going to have Willow turn you into a rat. Then I was going to feed you to a snake. Then, I decided that was too good for you, and I was going to have you turned into a carrot and be gnawed on by fluffy little bunnies."
Anya gasped in horror and then looked at Xander speculatively.
"Do you want a job? You know, I think you might have a real knack for vengeance."
Xander almost smiled at her.
"Hey, An? Where's Spike?"
"Gone. He disappeared about two weeks after you did. No one knows where he went. He and Buffy had a fight. Did you know they were having orgasms together?"
"I suspected. So what happened?"
"He tried to force her and then he disappeared."
"Oh. Look Anya, I'm beat. Can we do this later?"
"Of course. I really am sorry, Xander, and I understand why you left me now, I just wi... well, it would have been better if you had done it before our wedding day. Can we be friends?"
"Yeah. But only if you go away right now; like I said, I'm beat.
Anya smiled and then disappeared. Xander sat up and opened the closet door. He unpacked his bag and hung his clothes. He set the clay pot of Spike's ashes on top of his dresser and touched it lovingly. Then he unpacked Spike's bag. He hung up his clothes and his duster and set his Docs on the closet floor. He emptied the toys into his bedside table drawer and then set the vampire's journal inside the drawer as well. He took out his own journal and picked up a pen.
"I've made it home. It was never Anya; all this time I thought she was the one responsible. It was Halfrek. And it was my wish that was granted. I think I might have to have a spell cast that prevents me from saying that word ever again.
If Spike had survived, she would have sent him home, back to Riley and his life of slavery. I'm glad he's gone. It's better this way. The only thing is, if I find a way to bring Spike back, I can't use it until I find a way to destroy Halfrek's powers first. It's too much to think about right now. Too much pain, too much loss.
I miss Spike. I always thought that he'd be here with me, that our first night home would be spent making love in this bed. Instead, I'm here alone. Alone and miserable. God. I don't even know if I have a job anymore. I can't do this. Not tonight. I just want to sleep. I'll deal with everything else tomorrow.
I'm finally home.
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