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I Am What I Am

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Summary: Xander inadvertently tells destiny to go F itself.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
BtVS/AtS Non-Crossover > GeneralMMcGregorFR1867262,027335243731,05222 Jul 082 Aug 08Yes
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Chapter One: Chaos

Xander gasped and his knees gave way. Phantom pain exploded in his chest, and he cried out as he collapsed to the cold ground. He sucked air into his lungs, and then coughed through the burning pain. He curled himself up into the fetal position and shivered slightly. He must be dying. This had to be death.

He wasn't sure how long he lay there as he shivered and fought the urge to retch. He might have remained there forever, if not for the screams that reached his ears.

Xander Harris breathed in deeply, and then opened his eye.

His eyes.

Plural. Two eyes! He blinked rapidly in disbelief. His hand shot up to feel the place where a patch had rested for over half a dozen decades. It was gone, as were the myriad of scars he'd collected in a lifetime of hunting demons and undead. He gazed wondrously at his hands. They were smooth and uncalloused. His arms were skinnier than they'd been since he was a teenager, but felt strong nonetheless. Despite having lost their weathered look, they were definitely his hands. After all, he knew the backs of his hands like...Well, like the back of his hand.

He uncurled himself, and tried to determine his surroundings. It was dark out, far darker than it should be in any populated area. Bright light was one of the first deterrents against demons. What kind of settlement was this?

Getting to his feet, he decided it was a settlement that was clearly overrun. Screams filled the night as demons ran in every direction, their havoc illuminated only by the dim orange glow of halogen streetlamps.

Streetlamps? There hadn't been a settlement using streetlamps since a few years after Revelation. Where was he?

A tiny demon streaked past him, snarling viciously as it chased a...A princess?

He briefly processed the idea that this might be hell. Or at least a hell. Had something gone wrong with the spell?

Or, he thought darkly, was it that Faith's soul hadn't gone to heaven after all? He squashed the idea as soon as it arose. Faith had sacrificed herself for all of mankind. Her past sins had surely been absolved. Besides, he wasn't sure it even worked that way to begin with. There was proof of a serene afterlife, but he'd never seen proof of a hellish one. Hell dimensions were one thing, but existence after death was still another.

Something nagged at his memory. This was so familiar somehow. This place...Had he been here before?

"Xander?"

He spun quickly, arms raised in a defensive position as he clenched his fists. Decades of training had burned the instinct into him. He blinked at who he saw.

"Willow?"

"Something really freaky is going on," Willow said quickly, looking nervous. Xander frowned. Willow was never nervous. Not anymore. He stared at her intently, trying to judge if anything else was strange about her.

"What happened to your robes?" He asked. Willow never wore normal clothing anymore. She hardly did anything normal anymore. Simple robes had become her wardrobe, and he suspected that when he wasn't there she didn't bother with clothing at all. Willow was slipping more and more every day. As her magic grew, her humanity had waned. With the death of each person she loved, a little more of her had died along with them.

"You mean my sheet? Well I kind of...Passed through it," Willow said.

She spoke urgently, a far cry from the stilted, distant speech she used so often. She wasn't making any sense either. A cold thrill of fear ran through him at the idea that Willow might be losing her mind.

"Passed through it?" Xander asked carefully.

"Xander, we have to find Buffy," Willow said. "It's a big time emergency."

Xander stepped back in shock. This was bad. Really bad. Insane Willow meant existence-shattering threat. He swallowed nervously.

"Willow," Xander said softly. "Buffy is dead."

"What!?" Willow screeched. "H-How? What? I...What!?"

Willow searched frantically around them, and sighed in relief as she gazed over his shoulder.

"Don't do that Xander! You almost gave me a heart attack! This is so not a time for jokes." She waved over his shoulder. "Buffy! Over here!"

Xander blinked at her, and then slowly turned around. Half of him feared he would see Buffy standing behind him. Half of him feared he wouldn't.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer was leaning against a large oak tree, and she looked frightened out of her mind. She was dressed in a pink gown, and her hair flowed down her back in wavy brown locks. Xander gasped out loud and fell to his knees. She was alive.

It clicked, and he realized where he was.

"Willow," he said softly. "What did I dress as?"

"What?"

"For Halloween. What did I go as?"

She looked at him curiously. "You went as yourself, remember? You got that wig at Ethan's and put on double sets of clothes."

She frowned and added, "Hey, what happened to your wig, anyway?"

He felt the top of his head. His hair was longer than it had been before, and he suspected it was no longer white.

This was Sunnydale. The Primary Hellmouth. Pre-Revelation. Pre-Awakening. He hadn't even graduated high school yet. If he remembered right, he hadn't even lost his virginity yet. Hadn't met the woman he would love with all of his heart, and who would help him bring Jessica Harris into the world.

He stared at Buffy in absolute shock, and could feel tears coming to his eyes. She was so beautiful. For a long time he had thought that his memory of her was so idealized as to be a caricature of her true self. He could see he was wrong. His memory hadn't come close to remembering her, and no photo, video, or primitive holo-rec could capture her essence.

Even now with her mind clouded under the spell of Ethan Rayne's chaos magic, she was gloriously Buffy, and she was alive. He choked back a sob of joy, and had to slap a hand over his mouth to keep himself from laughing out loud.

This was mind-boggling. He was a teenager again. Right at the beginning of it all. Before all of the horrors, before Buffy's first real death, before Faith's downfall, before Willow's murderous rage, before Revelation and before the horrible sacrifices that had come after.

What did this mean? Was it part of the spell to protect Faith's soul? Or was it something different, something that he couldn't even see? He'd dressed as a soldier that night on Halloween. He could remember it clearly, even as he remembered laughing with Buffy and Willow as he chose the wig to go as himself. Two sets of memories, the latter actually the clearer of the two.

Of course it was clearer. It had happened that afternoon. He'd dressed as Xander Harris for Halloween, the Halloween when Ethan Rayne and his chaos magic had transformed everyone into their costumes.

"I am Xander Harris," he whispered.

He was all Xander Harris ever was and ever would be. The memories of an entire lifetime of being Xander Harris. Is that why he thought he arrived here immediately after dying?

Could it be that he was really nothing more than just some chaos magic memory written into the body of his past self? Was this even his past self? Maybe this was some kind of alternate timeline where he'd chosen a different costume. After all, if he'd dressed as himself in the original timeline, then wouldn't that create a kind of feedback loop where he simply lived his life over and over again?

Except, as far as he knew, there was only one alternate reality, one where he and Willow had been transformed into vampires. Could this universe be the result of some wish that Anya (she was alive!) granted?

It was impossible to determine. He could be the person he was in that sterile room an hour ago, or he could simply be the created memories of the life that Xander Harris would — or could — lead.

He could feel his mind going in circles, threatening to shut down under the weight of the various possibilities. If he wasn't really him, did that mean Jessie was never his daughter? Did that mean she didn't even exist? How could she exist in a timeline where he didn't dress as the soldier, but instead dressed as himself, receiving all of the memories that a lifetime of being Xander would produce?

Or was he really himself, and somehow the spell to protect his wife's soul had sent him here, back to the beginning. It was conceivable that the only way to protect her soul from the possibility of being forced into eternal torment was to prevent her from dying in such a way where that possibility existed. The only way to do that would be to return to a point before she died, and prevent it.

Wouldn't that create a paradox? What would happen if he prevented her death? Would he still have to kill himself in the ritual and return here again and again until existence itself was destroyed?

That didn't seem possible. If that were true, wouldn't the spell that gave him all of his memories of being Xander Harris also give him the memories of the loop he would be stuck in? Furthermore, if he had traveled back to a point of his own past, then what had created the change that had him dress as—

"Xander!" Willow shouted in his face.

"Huh?"

"Are you okay? You look like you're going to hyperventilate."

He blinked, and shook his head.

"Yeah," he said. "Sorry. I just started thinking too much, that's all."

Willow looked at him with intense concern. "Xander, we've got some serious problems right now, so you have to keep it together, okay?"

He nodded, "Yeah. Yeah I got it. Sorry."

Xander got back to his feet, and took a deep breath, trying to keep his brain from analyzing the situation any further. He had to get through the night. After that...Well, if he was still here, he'd have plenty of time to drive himself crazy.

"Damn," he said. "She was right. All those Sci-Fi books really are going to drive me crazy."

"Who was right?" Willow asked.

"Uh, no one. Look, uh, you're a ghost, right?"

She frowned. "How did you know?"

"For the same reason my wig is gone. I'll tell you all about it later. Right now we need to get Buffy and head to her house."

He was racking his brain, trying to remember the events of that evening. It had been so long ago.

"Then I think...Yeah, I think we'll meet up with Angel there. Then we should go to Ethan's."

"The costume place?"

"Yeah. We gotta smash a statue, that should put everything back to normal."

He wasn't sure if he actually wanted things to go back to normal or not. Would he just fade away when the spell was over? Would he go to the afterlife and protect Faith's soul?

"Xander, what are you talking about? What statue?"

Xander tried to put his hand on Willow's shoulder, and sighed in frustration when his hand passed straight through her.

"Uh, sorry," he said. He held his hand up awkwardly, gesturing vaguely as he spoke. "Just trust me, okay? I'll try to explain things later."

If he still could.



-----------



He and Willow managed to convince Buffy to follow them. Lady Buffy was far too frightened to really argue about it one way or the other, and Xander recalled enough about his previous Halloween experience to know that an assertive "gentleman" would earn her trust. He'd sworn on his honor to help her survive the night, and that simple act had seemed to calm the faux-noblewoman greatly.

Buffy clung to him during their quick trek to her home. The feeling sent shivers up and down his spine. She was alive, and the feel of her warm body against his brought up a pain of longing that had been slightly dulled over the years without her. Now it burned fresh, and he wished for nothing more than to hold her forever.

The all too familiar guilt rose along with the feeling and he'd sighed. Nothing was ever done easily when you were Xander Harris.

As the first time, Mrs. Summers was not home when they arrived. The house was dark and quiet.

"Where are we?" Buffy asked as she stared at the strange interior.

"Your place," Willow replied. "Now we just need to-"

A loud banging noise from the front hall interrupted her. She and Xander exchanged looks, and Buffy jumped slightly in fright.

"Probably Angel," Xander said. He knew the souled vampire met up with them at some point, although he wasn't sure he remembered exactly when.

"Or a mini-demon," Willow warned him. He nodded absent-mindedly as he went to check the door, ignoring the slight nagging sensation in the back of his mind.

"This- This could be me," Buffy said softly. She held a photograph of herself in her hands.

"That's because it is you Buffy. Don't you remember at all?" Willow asked.

"No! I don't understand any of this! Uh, uh, this is some other girl!" she put the picture down quickly. "I would never wear this - that low apparel! And I don't like this place, and I don't like you! And I just want to go home!"

"You are home!" Willow insisted.

"Let's all just calm down," Xander said as he peeked out the window to try and see who was at the door. "I told you, uh, milady, that I'll get you home as soon as I can. You have to trust us."

Buffy's eyes were filled with tears, and she was trembling slightly. She opened her mouth to speak, when a fist smashed through the window. Xander leaped back, and barely missed getting large claws swiped across his chest.

"Not Angel!" Willow yelled.

"Kinda figured that," Xander said, stepping away from the window. Buffy shrieked loudly as the front door was smashed open. A snarling gray demon dressed in jeans and a t-shirt appeared in the doorway.

"Could use a weapon," Xander said through gritted teeth. He and the demon stood unmoving, both waiting for the other to make the first move. His eyes flicked around the room for something, anything he could use to defend himself. Otherwise he would have to take more extreme measures, and he had no idea what that might do in this younger body, and on the Hellmouth besides. The best he could come up with was a wooden chair.

"Frrsshh meeaat," the demon growled, revealing dripping fangs as it grinned. Xander rolled his eyes.

"No points for originality," he said. "But I'll give you a break on account of it's your first day as a demon."

The creature roared wordlessly and charged him. Xander dove towards the chair, and rolled across the floor before springing up beside it. He grabbed it with both hands and quickly swung it in a powerful baseball swing when the demon leaped at him.

The chair smashed into a dozen pieces, and the demon was knocked back. It bounced up to its feet almost immediately.

"Great," Xander sighed. "I hope this works."

The demon snarled again and moved to attack. Xander's attempt to dodge was less successful this time, and a shallow slash across his chest warned him he had to move faster next time.

"Screw that," he said. "Not going to be a next time."

He closed his eyes for the briefest of moments, and intoned the words he used only in emergencies. He flexed his fingers and curled them into fists as a soft yellow light surrounded his hands. He grit his teeth, but like so many times before, he was unable to keep the scream from coming out. The pain was close to unbearable, and far worse than it had been for him in years.

It was as if he'd never done this before. Imagine that.

His scream was matched by the demon's, and the two attacked in the same instant. The demon charged with claws out; Xander with his glowing fist. He connected first, sending a powerful shockwave through the room with the force of the blow. The demon's head snapped back, and it collapsed against the wall.

Still screaming with the pain of the enhancement spell, Xander grabbed the demon by the shirt and threw him out the door, sending the spelled teenager out into the street. Hopefully he'd be fine once the spell ended.

Hopefully.

Xander sunk to his knees then, and let the enhancement spell die away. He gasped as the pain left him. For a long moment he knelt on the floor with his arms held limply in front of him, breathing heavily.

"W-What was that?" Willow asked in amazement.

"Minor enhancement spell," Xander said. "For emergency use only."

"Where did you learn to do that?"

From you, Xander didn't say.

"From a friend," he said in a half-truth. He groaned and flexed his fingers. "Hurts like a motherfucker though."

Buffy gasped at his language, and Xander laughed as he shook his head. She'd been dead for decades, and yet Faith had permanently altered the way he spoke. He sometimes laughed with Jessie that it was her greatest legacy.

"Sorry, ladies. Forgot myself."

He almost laughed at the irony. His problem was the exact opposite of forgetting himself.

Xander took a deep breath, trying to recover from the use of the spell. It had taken him years of training with Willow to be able to cast a few relatively minor spells. The enhancement spell was the most useful, but it was also incredibly painful, even under the best circumstances. In this untrained body, he wasn't sure he could hold the spell for more than a few seconds before he'd pass out from the pain.

A woman screamed outside. Xander groaned, but got to his feet, flexing his arms as best he could, trying to get the feeling to return.

"Stay here," he said to Buffy and Willow.

Buffy simply stared at him in complete awe, while Willow nodded silently.

He followed the sound of the screaming outside, and almost fell over when a woman ran into him.

"Xander!" she cried. "Help me!"

Xander blinked at her. It was Cordelia. Cordelia dressed as a cat, but still Cordelia.

Yes. Of course it was Cordelia. How had he forgotten? She was alive too. They were all alive. All except the first person he'd ever lost, his best friend Jesse, namesake of his first and only child.

"Cordy," Xander smiled. "I can't believe it's you."

"Have you given into your psychosis completely?" Cordelia shrieked. "We have to get out of here!"

A large hairy creature was ambling down the street towards them. Xander quickly snapped out of his reverie. If he dropped into a wistful stupor every time he met someone who was dead, he'd wind up on the wrong side of alive himself.

Of course, technically he already was dead. Sort of. This was all very confusing.

"Right," he said quickly. "Inside!"

They both ran back into Buffy's house, and Xander quickly propped up what was left of the door. He and Cordelia shoved a fairly heavy end table in front of it to keep it closed.

"Cordelia!" Willow exclaimed.

"Wait a- What's going on?" Cordelia asked, taking in Willow's abnormal outfit and Buffy's expression of total fear and confusion.

"Okay," Willow said. "Your name is Cordelia, you're not a cat, you're in high school, and we're your friends. Well, sort of."

"That's nice, Willow," Cordelia said. "I see you stopped taking your medication too."

"You know us?"

"She didn't get her costume at Ethan's," Xander said, mostly to himself, having just remembered that fact.

"So what?" Cordelia asked defensively.

"So that's why you remember who you are," Xander said. "The rest of us got our costumes at Ethan's."

Cordelia frowned, "What are you talking about? You're Xander, she's Willow, and that's Buffy."

Buffy whimpered.

"What's her deal?"

"Like I said, she doesn't know who she is. She dressed up like a noblewoman, and so now she thinks that's who she is."

"And I dressed as a ghost," Willow said, passing her hand through the wall. Buffy and Cordelia both stared at her in shock. "And Xander dressed as himself, that's why he still knows who he is."

"You dressed as yourself? That's like an Olympian level of dorkiness. You have so totally surpassed yourself."

Xander shrugged, smiling inwardly at receiving a genuine Cordelia Chase insult after so many years.

"So what now?" Willow asked.

"Uh, Angel should be here soon," Xander said, relatively certain that was the next event to happen. "Then we should head to Ethan's and smash the statue."

"What statue?" Cordelia wondered.

"It's the focal point for his spell that turned everyone into their costumes. That goes boom, and the spell goes poof."

"And you know this how?"

"Intuition?" Xander tried hopefully.

Cordelia crossed her arms and glared at him. "I'm not going anywhere until you start coughing up some explanations."

Xander looked pleadingly to Willow, but she crossed her arms as well. "We deserve to know."

He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. It was strange, a few hours ago he'd sheared off almost all of his hair, and now it was back. Or he was back. Something like that.

"Fine," he relented. He'd have to tell them part of it anyway, but not more than he had to.

"I dressed as myself, right?"

"Right."

"So I turned into myself. I'm Xander Harris."

"I'll call Dan Rather," Cordelia said. Xander chuckled slightly, which caused Cordelia to frown.

"I dressed as me. I just didn't say which me I was dressing as."

"Huh?" Willow and Cordelia said together.

"The Xander Harris I am is a little older," he lied. It was best if they didn't know he was all Xander Harris would ever be.

Willow opened her mouth speechlessly for a moment, then shook a finger at him, "That's how you did that spell!"

"What spell?"

"He did this weird glowy thing with his hands and clobbered a demon!" Willow explained to Cordelia.

"You did?"

Xander shrugged noncommittally.

"So you're like, from the future?" Cordelia asked.

"Seems that way."

They were interrupted by the sound of the back door opening. Angel strode quickly through the house, and sighed in relief when he saw them all in the front hall.

"Oh, good, you guys are all right. It's total chaos out there."

Buffy frowned at him, "Who are you?"

Angel furrowed his brow at her. He looked to the others, and then back to Buffy, who continued to stare at him curiously. "Okay...Someone want to fill me in?"

"It's a whole costume thing," Cordelia said.

"She doesn't remember who she is," Xander added. "We've all been turned into our costumes."

"Oh, so wait: Cordelia's a cat? And Willow's a, um, hooker?"

"Hey!" Willow exclaimed. "I'm a ghost, okay?" She waved her hand through his face a few times, causing Angel to sputter and step backwards.

"Okay! Sorry!"

"And I'm still me," Cordelia said. "Geek-Boy says it's because I got my costume at Party Town."

"Oh, so that's why you're still you too?" Angel asked Xander.

"No he's future Xander," Cordelia answered for him. Xander groaned.

"Way to ease into it, Cordy," he said.

"Future Xander?"

"I kind of have memories of stuff that hasn't happened yet," Xander said uncomfortably.

"He can even do magic," Willow said, clearly impressed by this knowledge.

"Who do you think taught me?" Xander muttered a little too loudly. Willow gasped in understanding.

"Really?"

"Fuck, I shouldn't have said that."

He held up his hands as the others began to ask questions again. "We don't have time for this, you guys just have to trust me on that. We have to get to Ethan's and smash the statue, then this is all over."

"And I can go home?" Lady Buffy asked hopefully.

"Yes, you'll go home."

Or you'll fade away into nothing, since you probably don't really exist, he didn't say. He probably didn't exist either. Maybe their two counterfeit personalities would go to limbo together.



-----------



The evening went smoother than it had his first time around. The four of them stuck together, and so when the student escort in the vampire costume attacked, Cordelia was able to grab Buffy before she ran off in fright. Xander and Angel managed to wrestle the temporary vampire back down to the basement and lock him inside until they could end the spell.

Afterwards they gathered what weapons they could from the false bottom of Buffy's clothes chest. Xander had been speechless when he pulled out the fairly small battle-axe. It was Cleaver, the weapon Buffy had given him on their fifth...

The axe that he had lost the same day he'd lost her. It had been his favorite weapon, both for sentimental reasons and because axes just seemed to fit his fighting style the best. He enjoyed the simple feel of its weight as they moved swiftly down the streets of Sunnydale. It made him feel more secure to have a weapon, and he had never had as good a weapon as Cleaver.

The only real dark spot in the evening had been when Cordelia tried to ask him about her life in the future. His stammering response that he didn't think it was a good idea to talk about it had turned her pale. Xander was sure she was envisioning ghastly deaths and other horrible fates.

He wondered if she could possibly imagine the truth. To be raped mind and body by a near god-like being. To die before her twenty-fifth birthday.

The shop was dark when they arrived. Angel kicked the locked door in, and they entered carefully, weapons at the ready. The front area of the shop was quiet and seemingly empty. Unsold costumes were scattered around, providing an eerie haunted quality to the room. Buffy was whining softly as they all moved carefully through the room.

"Now ain't you just a lovely sight," came a voice from the entrance. Xander whirled, and received another shock. How had he forgotten?

Spike stood there in his trademark duster and blood red shirt, grinning wickedly as he licked his lips. Behind him stood half a dozen other vampires. Xander cursed himself inwardly. Spike must have been tailing them for blocks now. He was getting sloppy if he hadn't noticed it.

"Spike," Angel sneered.

"Angelus," Spike nodded by way of greeting. "What say you step aside, eh mate? I'm feelin' a might bit parched. I figure a bit of Slayer's blood'll fix that."

"Touch her and you're dust," Angel snarled. He raised his short sword defensively. Xander ushered Buffy behind them and held Cleaver tightly.

"Way I figure," Spike said. "It's seven on one."

Xander almost smiled. He loved it when bad guys underestimated him. He twirled the axe slightly.

"I got right," Xander whispered.

"What?"

"Right!" Xander screamed, rushing towards the vampires on his right side. Angel hesitated for only the briefest of seconds before leaping into the fray himself.

Xander ducked a hastily thrown punch and swung his axe perfectly, taking a vampire head with his powerful stroke. Spike roared and attempted to elbow him in the face, but Xander bent backwards in a feat of agility only a teenager could accomplish. He fell to the floor and twisted quickly, kicking Spike's feet out from under him.

Angel had dusted two vamps by then, and was grappling with a third. Xander twisted his body, spinning like a break-dancer before pushing himself off of the floor and onto his feet. He loosed a quick punch at another vampire's face, and spun around quickly to lodge Cleaver in its head. He grunted and wrenched the axe free as the vampire collapsed to the floor, unable to control its body until it could heal the massive trauma to its brain.

Spike snarled viciously and Xander fell back as the vampire's fist connected with his jaw. He crashed against a mannequin, and tumbled to the floor with a flurry of ripped clothing. Spike was on him in an instant, another powerful blow blurring his vision. The master vampire straddled him, pinning his arms to his side as he pounded on Xander's face. Xander quickly chanted the words to the enhancement spell, and screamed as white light exploded in front of his eyes. He threw Spike off of him and moved to attack. Instead, he felt the spell shut down automatically as he fell forward onto his face.

Shit, he thought. That was a bad idea.

The enhancement spell was risky even after all the years he had spent training body and mind to be able to cast the minor spell. He should have realized that he couldn't handle it a second time in less than an hour.

He groaned and tried to push himself up, but his arms didn't seem to listen to his brain. He barely succeeded in rolling over. He was greeted by a blurry vision of Spike. The vampire held Cleaver in one hand, and spat some blood into Xander's face.

"Nice trick," he said, and brought the axe down against Xander's neck.

A dainty hand shot out, snatching the handle of the axe and arresting its downward stroke.

"Abracadabra," Buffy said. Spike's eyes widened in shock, and she slammed his own fist back into his face, staggering the vampire and causing him to drop the axe. She followed up with a roundhouse kick, and Spike was thrown backwards into a display of masks.

Xander blinked and looked around in confusion. To his left he saw Cordelia standing over the rubble of a broken statue. Ethan Rayne lay on the ground beside it. His nose was bloody. So was Cordelia's fist.

"Way to go, Cordy," Xander grinned.

Buffy was beating Spike from one side of the room to the other. She grabbed him by his shirt and threw him into the vampire Angel was still grappling with. Angel blinked in surprise. Buffy grinned at him and pulled the wig off of her head, rolling her head around her shoulders and cracking her knuckles.

"Hi honey," she grinned. "I'm home."

Spike leaped to his feet, and snarled at Buffy.

"This isn't over, Slayer."

"Blah blah blah," Buffy mocked, using her hand as a puppet. "Don't you guys ever say anything original?"

He bared his fangs at her, and suddenly shoved the other vampire towards her before racing out the door. Buffy kicked the vampire in the face, and cart wheeled across the room to pick up Cleaver in one hand. She hopped up gracefully and swung the axe swiftly, dusting the vamp easily.

"Good to have you back," Angel smiled.

"Good to be back."

"Uh hello! Isn't anyone going to congratulate me on my quick thinking?" Cordelia whined. "I could have broken my hand when I punched this creep!"

"Uh yeah, good one," Buffy said.

Xander lay on the floor, his eyes closed and breathing deeply. He groaned and sat up. His face throbbed painfully where Spike had pounded on him.

"Ouch," Buffy remarked, wincing when she took a good look at his face.

"Very ouch," he agreed.

"We better get you home so you can put some ice on that."


Ice. That's right. There were no quick-strip healing tabs here. No nanofibers to knit muscle and bone together inside of an hour. Got a banged up face? You put ice on it like you're a caveman and hope it doesn't hurt for more than a week.

He blinked and looked at the smashed statue. He reached up to his head and pulled off the brown wig that had been his normal hair just minutes before. The spell was over.

And he remembered everything.
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