An Alternative

Author: Danielle Frances Ducrest <sword_girl[at]>

Disclaimers: Buffy the Vampire Slayer belongs to Joss Whedon, Marti Noxon, Kuzui Enterprise, Sandollar Television, Greenwolf Corporation, Twentieth Century Fox Television, Mutant Enemy, and UPN. Highlander: The Series belongs to Gaumont Television, Rysher Entertainment, and Davis/Panzer Productions. No copyright infringements were intended. This story was written for entertainment and not for profit.

Spoilers and Timing: For Buffy, this story takes place during late third season some time after "Earshot," with minor spoilers for both parts of "What's My Line," "Innocence," both parts of "Becoming," "Faith, Hope and Trick," "Revelations," "Bad Girls," and "Consequences."

Author's Note: This story is the third in An Immortal Life series. You'd understand it better if you've read the first two stories, Too Late and Need.

You need some familiarity with Highlander and Buffy also.

Summary: An older, wiser Xander Harris must return to the year 1999 to prevent one of Willow's spells from going awry, but will he be successful?

Wednesday, April 7th, 1999

Xander glanced down at the metal blade of his sword. So much time had passed since Peter Lionhardt, his first mentor and teacher, passed that blade down to him. Too much time had passed since the last time he saw Peter or any of his high school friends. All because of one little accident, one stupid mishap that caused one of Willow's spells to go completely and utterly wrong.

But now, finally, it was time to correct that mistake. He sheathed his blade in the hidden scabbard inside his jacket, then glanced down at the piece of paper in his other hand. On it, Giles had scribbled a date many years ago. It read April 13th, 1999.

He glanced at the calendar on his house's wall. April 13th was only seven days away. It was time to go back to Sunnydale. He'd been away from that little town on the Hellmouth for long enough. He grabbed his packed duffel bag and looked around the room. The room was decorated in furniture and little odds and ends he'd collected over the centuries. The couch his duffel had been sitting on was one he'd picked up a hundred years ago in England during the Victorian Age. On the wall behind it was a painting that was made especially for him three centuries ago in Spain. In another room, his private gym, was where all of the weapons he'd picked up over time hung on the walls. There were broadswords and chain mail from his days as a medieval soldier. There were a few rapiers, too, from when he went to the Americas a few centuries ago and lived as a Spaniard. He stayed in the Mexico territories for a century or two before finally settling down in the United States during the 1830's, where he got a job working on railroads before fighting in the Civil War for an end to s lavery.

In the early twentieth century, he helped fight the two world wars. Afterwards, he got all sorts of jobs. After spending two millennia before that doing all sorts of work, he could do just about anything the modern world had to offer.

Now, as he walked through his hard-earned house for probably the last time, he once again wondered if he was doing the right thing. Willow's spell had sent him back in time two thousand years. Actually, it also sent back everyone who was within five feet from him at the time of the spell - Giles and Anya. What Xander had trouble deciding now was whether it really was an accident, or was it supposed to happen?

When they finally realized they'd been transported back to the time of Christ, Giles had tried hard to find a way to reverse the spell, but to no avail. He simply did not have enough books or knowledge to guide him. The oldest books he'd used back in Sunnydale wouldn't be written for another ten decades, which would be too late for Xander's mortal friends.

They died in the past, leaving him with the responsibility of making sure the spell never happened in the first place. The only way to do that was to live out the centuries alone until April 13th, 1999, came around once again.

Now, two thousand years older and wiser and forever stuck in an eighteen-year-old's body, Alexander LaVelle Harris left his empty house on the outskirts of Chicago and boarded a commercial flight for Los Angeles. He didn't know what would happen after he stopped the spell and changed history. Would he, his older self, disappear? Would his younger self, presently in Sunnydale and still a new player in the Game, remain? He had no idea. But he knew that younger version of himself would never live the same life he had. He wouldn't have to see Giles or Anya live out their days in a small Greek polis controlled by the Romans. He couldn't let that happen, no matter what.


Sunday, April 11th, 1999
Meanwhile, in Sunnydale...

The younger Xander Harris did a handstand onto a stool, using only his left palm to hold himself up off the ground. Giles had recommended this as a great form of meditation. It was something he wanted to try with his Slayer, Buffy, and he wanted to see if it would work for Xander as well.

He was concentrating so hard he didn't notice Giles pacing around him, his shoes creaking every time they hit the tile floor. He certainly didn't notice Wesley seated at the library table doing more research into the upcoming Ascension. They wouldn't break his concentration.

His mind wandered to recent events. Angel going bad. Kendra dying. Buffy sending Angel to hell. Faith, the Slayer after Kendra, moving to Sunnydale. Angel coming back from the dead. Xander himself dying and coming back, now Immortal. Faith killing a man on accident and switching sides to work for the enemy, Mayor Richard Wilkins. His friends finding out and accepting his Immortality. And, the most recent event, finding out what the Watchers were.

That was enough for a year. Hell, it was enough for a lifetime. A mortal lifetime, anyway.

The door to the library suddenly slammed open and shut, breaking his concentration. Oh, shit...Xander thought as he lost his balance.

"Hey, Giles, what's-" he heard Willow say at the exact same time he landed on the floor. "Oops."

"Xander, are you all right?" Oz asked.

"Yea, that landing didn't look very comfortable," Buffy chimed in.

He stood up and looked at the three teenagers who had just entered the room. "Just peachy," he told them, although it wasn't too far from the truth. His Immortal healing abilities were already repairing the damaged tissue. Soon there wouldn't even be a bruise. Too bad, Xander though. Even though he didn't really enjoy the pain, his healing powers left him without any excuses not to train.

"Sorry," Willow said. "Next time, I'll remember to keep my mouth shut."

Xander smiled at her. "It's all right, Will. It was bound to happen sooner or later."

"I had hoped not," Giles spoke up. "You shouldn't let anything distract you like that, Xander. I expect you to do better next time."

Xander groaned. Buffy gave him a look that said she was sorry for him. She knew what it was like to have Giles on her back all the time. Xander smiled at her, a silent 'thank you.'

All five of them took seats around Wesley. He and Xander were once again on speaking terms, so Xander asked, "So, what have you found out about the Ascension?"

"Not much, I'm afraid," Wesley sighed and put the book on top of a very high stack.

"That was the last book of my collection," Giles said. "But some more just arrived today. I called all of you over so you could assist in researching them."

There were groans all around the table. Xander sighed. He knew this would be a long day. Too bad his Immortality didn't give him any excuses for this, either.

There was one thing he could do that would help pass the time. He instantly stood up. "I'll go on a donut run. Anyone want anything?"

"Jellies, please," Giles said as he took a few books out of a box and placed them on the table. Everyone reached for a book and flipped it open.

"Me, too," Buffy said.

"I'll be back, then." Xander grabbed his jacket, which hid his sword, and walked out the door. Not long after he was gone, Giles looked up from his book with a look of horror on his face. "Oh, no."

The others looked over at him. "Giles?" Buffy asked when he didn't continue.

Giles stood up and walked to his office. He came back out holding another book, then cursed when he found what he was looking for. The others stared at him, shocked. They'd never heard him curse and hadn't thought he was capable of it.

"It's the Month of Hell," Giles said. He noticed everyone's stares, still in place from hearing him curse, and sighed, embarrassed and annoyed that they weren't focusing on more important things.

Shaking herself out of it, Buffy asked, "The Month of Hell? There's a month and a mouth?"

"Yes, quite. Something will happen in only a few days, and if we don't find a way to prevent it, we may end up in our own personal hell. All of us."

Shocked once more into silence, Willow finally broke it by saying, "Okay, that's not good."


Meanwhile, Xander stepped out of the donut shop with a box of jelly donuts under one arm. He reached into his jacket pocket for the keys to his convertible when he felt the Buzz.

Now on alert, Xander dropped the donuts onto the front seat and looked around. He saw a shadow move in the nearest alley. Cautiously, Xander took out his sword and proceeded forward.

He walked into the alley and looked around. "I'm Xander Harris," he called. "Show yourself."

A form stepped out of the shadows. Xander stared at him, open-mouthed. "What the-"

The older Xander Harris smiled apologetically at him. "Sorry, Xan," he said.

He held up a gun equipped with a silencer and shot his younger self, who promptly dropped to the ground, killed instantly.

The older Xander dragged him into one of the buildings and tied him up, then took his sword, jacket, keys, and wallet. Then the older Xander left the building and his younger self behind, unlocked the door of the convertible and got inside. He took a deep breath before backing out. This was it. He just hoped he had enough time before his younger self revived.

Then he backed the car out of the parking space and headed for the library.


When he got to the high school, he parked the car and stared at the building. He was two thousand years old, and some things still managed to make him feel like it was his first day of kindergarten. Get a grip, old man, he mentally chastised himself. Just because you saw them die almost two millennia ago, doesn't mean you can't go in there and act like you're eighteen again. This was harder than he thought it would be, and he hadn't even gotten up close to them yet.

He took a deep breath and got out of the car, grabbed the donuts, and headed inside.

There they were, researching, just like he remembered. He held up the donuts, recalling everything he could about his personality when he was this age, and said, "Hey, everyone. Your favorite donut buyer just returned with some..." He opened the box. "Jelly-filed donuts, as ordered."

"Thank you, Xander. Put them on the table, will you?" Giles said, distracted. "We've discovered something that you should know."

Xander did as he asked. "What's up, G-man?"

"I just discovered that this is the Month of Hell. That means that at sunrise before the night of the half moon, on March 13th, the Devil will take all the mortal souls living on the Hellmouth and trap them in their own personal hells with no way of escaping."

"Woah," Xander said, feeling chills go down his spine. He'd heard it before, but he knew what the actual consequences were this time. He had a part to play, however, so he played it. "Not that I'm happy that everyone could end up in Hell, but you said mortal souls, right? That wouldn't include me?"

"No," Giles said. "Which means you must play a very important role in stopping it. You're the only one among us who we know won't be affected."

"Understood," Xander said. "I'll help out any way I can."

"Good," Giles said. He turned to Willow. "Willow, there is a spell in here that we can use to stop the Devil from taking any souls. I'd like you to perform it."

Willow nodded and took the book. "Sure, I'll get all the supplies."

"Xander, you'll need to study it with her. You'll be playing a major part in the spell's success." Wesley spoke up, "We have two days to prepare for this. Buffy, before you retire you will patrol."

"Of course," Buffy said, standing up and grabbing her coat and heading out the door.


As the night progressed, Xander inwardly jumped for joy. It worked. They didn't suspect a thing.

Before he went to his parent's house that night, he stopped by the warehouse just as the younger Xander was awakening. He shot him again. "Sorry, big guy," he told his younger self as he died of a second gunshot wound. "You'll get your life back on Wednesday. I promise."

He needed to take him to a more secure location. So the older Xander took his younger self to his hotel room and left him there. It was several miles outside of town, and even if the younger Xander revived before the older one returned, it would take him awhile to get back to Sunnydale.

Then the older Xander headed for his parents' house, already thinking about the next part of his plan.


Tuesday, April 13th, 1999, two hours before sunrise

After spending most of the little time they had preparing for the spell, Giles was sure they were ready. He just hoped they were successful. They'd had some pretty close calls in the past, and he hoped everything would run smoothly this time. The survival of the entire town depended on it.

He was bent over the texts for the fifth time that day, scoring it over and translating it again with his memory and a dictionary. He bit onto one of the ends of his glasses as he worked. He didn't want to miss anything. If he got a single translation wrong, it could be their undoing.

The first three paragraphs were what he thought they were, but in the fourth, he ran into a problem.

His glasses dropped from his suddenly loose fingers. "Oh, no..."

He stood up immediately. He had to stop the others from performing the spell. It was the wrong one. It wouldn't work. He knew that now.

"Giles," Xander said from the door. Giles whirled around. Because he was so tense, he immediately got into a fighting stance, then relaxed when he realized who it was.

"Xander," he greeted the teen, "I thought you would be at the site right now."

"Not this time," Xander said. Before Giles could question the past tense he'd used, Xander said, "I know it's the wrong spell. I've already given Willow everything she needs - some of my blood, me drawing the circle with blessed chalk on the ground, everything."

"But if you know that the spell is the wrong one, why did you help her?" Giles asked.

"Because it has to be done." Xander held up a bag. The Magic Box's label was on the side. "So we could do a correction spell."

Giles' brain moved quickly as the pieces began to fall into place. There was no way the Xander he knew would have all of this information. "Who are you?"

"I'm Xander Harris, but I'm older than the one you know," he answered. "On March 13th, near sunrise, I met up with Anya, the ex-demon, on my way to meet all of you guys at the site. She followed me to the site just as the ritual was supposed to begin. Willow poured my blood into the circle I'd drawn, then she and I lined up on opposite ends of the circle and began to chant like we were supposed to. You, Buffy, Oz, and Anya watched. But it didn't go according to plan."

"Because I was wrong," Giles filled in, "I thought you wouldn't be harmed because you were Immortal, but I translated the text wrong. It would affect Immortals."

"And none of us knew it," Xander said. "As a result, the spell went awry."

"When we finished chanting, none of the Sunnydale residents went to Hell. Almost none of them, anyway. A beam of light shot from the circle of blood directly to the half moon. The sky became cloudy. Then lightning, like the kind in a Quickening, came down and struck me."

"No one expected it, least of all Anya, who ran forward. You tried to stop her, and both of you fell against me, pushing me forward. All three of us feel into the beam of light."

"The next thing we knew, I was lying face down in a hay stack, and you and Anya were still on top of me. We were in a barn. Somehow, we were transported back in time two thousand years. It wasn't the kind of personal hell we thought we would be sent to, but living through it was certainly hell for all of us."

Giles stared at him. "My God," he said. "You lived out all two thousand of them, didn't you? Just so you could keep the spell from happening again."

Xander smiled sadly and nodded. "Yes."

Giles was silent for a few minutes as he processed the information. Then he nodded. "We should get to work."

They laid out everything on the library floor, right above the actual mouth of Hell. Then they sat across from each other and watched the clock. They had to do this at the same moment Willow was performing the other spell, or it wouldn't work.

They stared at each other while they waited. Xander smiled at him. "It was good to see you again...kid."

Giles smiled before becoming serious again. "What will happen to you after this is over?"

Xander shrugged. "Don't know. The Anya and Giles that got stuck in Greece with me weren't sure. Giles thought I might simply disappear. Anya thought I might continue to exist. It could go either way."

Giles reached out and grasped his shoulders. "I'm glad you survived so long, my friend. It gives me hope for my other friend."

Xander smiled. "Thanks." He glanced at the clock. "Time to get down to business."


In a clearing near Lovers' Lane, overlooking the sleeping town of Sunnydale, Willow glanced at her watch. "We can't wait for them any longer. We have to do this now."

"Don't you need Xander to do some of the chanting?" Oz asked. Buffy wondered that, too.

"I think I can do this on my own," Willow said, hoping she was right. She picked up the bowl of Xander's blood and poured it into the circle, then closed her eyes and started chanting.


In the library, Xander picked up his sacrificial knife and slit his palm. Biting his lip because of the pain, he held it over a wooden bowl and let the blood flow into it.

When he felt the wound close, he dipped a finger into the bowl and used his own blood to draw three lines on his face, two across his cheeks and the other down the middle of his forehead. "Oh great Hestia, hear my prayer," he began.

Giles dipped his own finger into the bowl and decorated his own face. "Goddess of the Hearth, symbol of home and family, hear us."

Xander dipped all five fingers into the blood, and Giles did the same. "Use my blood, my life force, shed for your bidding, to correct the other ritual which is under way even now, also using my life force. Correct according to our will, so that our home and hearth may be safe. Hear us! Work according to our will! Hear us!"

"Hear us!" Giles cried.


Outside, the sky darkened, and a beam of light shot up from the spell circle straight toward the half moon. "What the hell?" Buffy asked.

Worried, Willow said, "Giles didn't mention any of this!"


He could feel the negative charge in the air before the first bolt of lighting struck through the skylight, showering glass down on them. The powerful blue bolt struck Xander with enough force that made him feel like he was being squashed. He ground his teeth together and met Giles' eyes. He had to fight against the force pounding against his back to reach his arm over to Giles' outstretched one. Their blood-coated fingers met and clasped. Gasping from the pain and pleasure the Quickening energy brought him, Xander cried out with all his will, "Hestia, hear us! HEAR US!"

Suddenly, the Quickening bolt released him, and he collapsed to the ground. He and Giles stared up through the broken skylight to see the lightning retreat and the skies clear, revealing a beautiful dawn.

Giles looked back down at this older version of Xander. The Immortal was gasping for breath. "I don't have a lot of time," he said. "I can feel myself fading."

Giles leaned forward. "Is there anything I can do?"

He shook his head. "No. Let it happen. I was never meant to live for two thousand years before I was even born." He paused to breathe. "Tell Xander everything. You'll find him at the motel a few miles south of Sunnydale in room 16."

"Thank you," Giles said, grasping his arm.

Xander smiled, then he began to fade.

A few seconds later, the two thousand year old being was gone.


Giles broke into the motel room and looked around. There was Xander Harris, tied up and gagged and very awake on the bed. His eyes widened when he saw the librarian.

Giles came over and untied him. "Xander, are you all right?"

"I think so," Xander said. "Thanks." He examined his bloodstained shirt, then looked up at Giles, confusion in his expression. "Giles, the guy who grabbed me...he looked like me. Exactly like me. He even sounded like me."

"I know," Giles said. "I'll explain later. For now, let's get you back home."

He helped the younger Xander out of the motel, wondering just how he was going to explain everything.


Wednesday, April 14th, 1999

Willow and Buffy spotted Xander across the quad before he saw them. "Xander!" Willow called as they caught up to him.

He gave them a smile. "Hey, gals."

"Where were you yesterday?" Willow asked. "First you weren't at the ritual, then Giles said you were staying home from school yesterday."

"I did," Xander answered. "I had a lot on my mind."

"Like what?" Buffy asked.

He shook his head. "It's not important anymore. We should get to class."

Of course it was important. His older self had just saved his life. It really had been a lot to think about, and still was.

As he followed Buffy and Willow to homeroom, he hoped he would survive the future just as well as his other self survived the past. He'd been given an alternative, and he planned not to let it go to waste.