Having your Cake
“Xander wouldn't want you to blame yourself,” Willow told Jesse as she laid a hand on his shoulder, her heart was breaking but she'd be strong for Jesse, the way Xander would want her to.
Jesse just stared down at the table, a far off look in his eyes. “I doubt he wanted me to stick a stake in his heart either, but I did that just fine.”
Giles continued with his work, content to let Willow comfort her friend as she was the closest one to him and he didn't feel he had a right to say anything.
Buffy watched helplessly, having never really gotten to know Xander before he'd gotten caught and turned.
“I just wish … that Xander were here.”
“Granted!” a voice boomed all around them, making them jump.
“Aah!” came the scream of someone falling, which they all looked up at.
There was a flash of light and a screaming figure fell through the ceiling and did an impressive belly flop onto the table, “Owww!”
“Xander?!” the two chorused.
“That would be me...” Xander agreed, standing up and revealing an eye patch on his left eye and that he was older than he had been.
“Bro! What happened?” Jesse burst out.
“When?” Xander asked as he rubbed his stomach and looked around the room.
“With the eye, being older, not being dust; considering you were a vampire and I staked you yesterday?” Jesse asked, his voice getting progressively louder and more shrill.
“It’s not Xander, it’s the thing that killed him!” Buffy warned, moving to take down the vamp she'd seen in the Bronze that Jesse apparently hadn't staked.
Seeing Buffy come at him, Xander did the sensible thing and maced her. While Buffy was rolling on the ground and clawing at her face Xander tried to diffuse the situation, “It’s just mace, she'll be okay in a minute as Slayers bounce back from things like that like we do getting sand in our eyes.”
“I don't know who you are,” Giles began...
“Xander Harris and considering how young everyone looks I guess I'm not in Kansas anymore, any idea why I ended up here? I was just in Africa a minute ago.”
“Africa?” Willow asked confusedly.
“As soon as I can see again I am SO staking you,” Buffy growled as she rubbed at her eyes.
Seeing Giles was bringing up a crossbow, Xander quickly held up a cross. “Back Man of Tweed! I doubt you'll want to explain to the police why you have a human corpse with a crossbow bolt in it.”
“You're human?” Giles asked, reflexively polishing his glasses to cover his confusion as he put the crossbow down.
“Not a vamp?” Buffy asked Giles cautiously as she blinked the last vestiges of mace from her eyes.
“Nope, human,” Xander said.
“We don't know that for sure just yet,” Giles said cautiously, “all we know for sure is he's neither a vampire nor one of the demon types affected by crosses.”
Xander turned to the Scoobs. “Yellow crayon, May 1964, Mr. Gordo.”
“It’s him!” Willow chorused with Jesse just before they both tackled him in a big hug.
“Vamps know everything their victims did!” Buffy warned, “There could be other demons like that and how did you know about Mr. Gordo?”
“Vamps don't know anything their victims know,” Xander said shaking his head, “their childer know everything the corpse they're possessing knew in life however.”
“Very true,” Giles replied, “but few people bother with the distinction.”
“Unless you pay close attention to the little details they can bite you on the ass, that's why I get annoyed when people say things like 'that's not him, that's what killed him!' when really they should be saying, 'that's the child of what killed him!' Normally that’s not very important, but when you're trying to banish a poltergeist and you're brought the ashes of its corpse, rather than its killer's corpse, so it can rest, things get a little hairy.”
“Yes, I can see your point,” Giles conceded.
“I – I staked you,” Jesse said, his face buried in the older Xander's chest.
“Okay, I'm guessing in this time line I got captured and turned instead of you,” Xander guessed, patting his friend on the back.
“I got turned?” Jesse asked, his confusion obvious.
“Yeah, and I staked the vampire who thought he was you,” Xander confirmed. “That’s the thing to remember; vampires are just demonically animated corpses with all the memories the person had when they were alive so it thinks it’s them but it’s not.”
“Really?” Jesse asked hopefully.
“He summed it up quite succinctly,” Giles confirmed.
“All you did was prevent a monster with my face from running around and killing people.”
“That is such a relief,” Jesse said, sitting back down with a smile on his face.
“Uh huh,” Willow agreed, not moving from where she was wrapped around Xander.
“So … any idea how I got here?” Xander asked carefully.
“That would be my doing,” a familiar looking demon said as he stepped out of the stacks.
Buffy and Giles readied their weapons, but held back from attacking; Giles because he was trying to identify the demon, and Buffy because she was waiting for Giles to tell her how to kill it.
“D'Hoffryn,” Xander said with some resignation, “and why would you alter the time line to bring me here?”
“D'Hoffryn!” Giles exclaimed.
“Is that bad?” Buffy asked.
“A major demon lord capable of altering reality at will,” Xander explained.
“That's bad,” Buffy said, wishing she could just go back to fighting vampires and avoid demon lords all together.
“Not necessarily,” Xander said, “the Hoff is evil and only does things that benefit him, but he's also one of the few demons smart enough to know that Armageddon would put him thoroughly out of business.”
“You have all the pieces you need to solve the puzzle,” D'Hoffryn said with some amusement.
“You brought me here to prevent the End Times,” Xander said thoughtfully, “something changed the past so that I died and without me getting lucky, every now and again, everything went to hell?”
“That's part of the answer,” D'Hoffryn replied with amusement.
“Changing the past is damn near impossible, the only power I know of that managed it is you,” Xander thought aloud. “You changed time so that I was vamped instead of Jesse, but this lead to the big game over.”
Xander groaned. “The new girls didn't work out, so you rewrote time to get Anya and Hallie back, and rather than have to hang around and continually fix events to prevent the end, it was simpler to drop me here, so that I could do it.”
“Exactly!” the demon lord said, grinning evilly, “and I'll be keeping my girls far from the Hellmouth to make your job easier and make sure you can't corrupt them with your … morality anymore.”
“So I'm back for good, no way to repair the time line?” Xander asked, his mind already suggesting changes he'd like to make to how things had turned out originally.
“Exactly, I'll just leave things in your capable hands; enjoy.”
“Wait!” Xander burst out. “I can't do half the things I did last time if I can't fit in, and going from being a teenager to being a man in his twenties is going to attract attention.”
D'Hoffryn nodded. “That sounds reasonable.”
Xander winced as the demon lord's power rolled over him, like a wave of fire burning away the years until he was 16 once more.
“Oww,” Xander said as Willow helped support him, “that hurt.”
The demon chuckled before vanishing in a burst of light.
“So … future?” Jesse asked. “Did I get Cordelia?”
Xander laughed. “You got vamped and I had to stake you, or rather the demon wearing your face.”
Jesse thought about what he heard. “So I got saved by a demon lord who had it in for you, because you … corrupted his girls?”
“You corrupt demons?” Buffy asked plaintively, obviously confused.
“I'm kind of a demon magnet,” Xander explained. “Anyanka was made human when her power center was destroyed; while helping her learn how to be human she ended up joining our group and died fighting, at one point she backslid and became a demon again and killed a bunch of frat boys before she repented and undid her actions. As punishment Hoff killed her friend Hallie in front of her.”
“How much do you know about the future?” Giles asked.
“Not as much as you'd think,” Xander said, shaking his head, “since Jesse is alive and I have a head full of future memories the future isn't going to be the same. I know a lot of things that can help us, but we're going to be running blind for the most part, just like everyone else.”
“Always in motion the future is,” Jesse declared in an impressive imitation of Yoda.
“Exactly!” Xander agreed.
“So we form a group?” Giles asked.
“Yep, Slayers normally have a short lifespan, but with all of us backing her up, Buffy was still alive and kicking when I got yanked here, not to mention the danger level in Sunnydale makes sending a lone Slayer out stupid.”
“I see,” Giles said thoughtfully.
“We can talk about it more tomorrow; right now I need a hot shower and a bed. It’s been weeks since I've had either.”
“We'll use my place,” Willow said. “My parents are in Sweden for some conference right now anyway and my shower is plenty big enough.”
As the door closed behind the two teens Buffy asked, “Plenty big enough?”
Jesse nodded. “I don't think she's planning on letting him out of her sight. She was holding things together pretty well for my sake, but losing Xander about destroyed her; now that she has a second chance she's not going to waste it or take no for an answer.”
“But he's like 25 or something, even if his body is 16 again!” Buffy protested.
“Then he's probably wise enough to know better than to argue with her,” Jesse said cheerfully.
“You're taking all this surprisingly well,” Giles said.
“Not only did I find out I didn't kill my best friend, I now have him back,” Jesse said, “demon lords and time travel just don't compare.” AN: Another idea on a possible redo fic, but just not good enough to continue.