Fate's Pawn

Author: Caitlin <cmakintosh[at]yahoo.com>

Disclaimer: Not mine. At all.

A/N: I started writing this fic at the end of Season 5. It's been sitting around on my hard drive since that time. I recently started it back up and actually wrote the first episode.

Anyway, here goes:


Xander had always known that it would all end some day. Ever since Buffy had plummeted to her death two months earlier, he had known that some big bad would overcome their forces. However, knowing it and seeing it happen before his eyes were entirely different things.

He had thought that he would actually get married. The wedding was set for two weeks from this day. If nothing else, he had thought that fate would be kind enough to allow that - they had suffered so much, couldn't the Powers That Be give them that much? Glancing over at where Anya laid, blood running from the hole in her chest where a demon had torn out her heart, Xander found himself suddenly unable to breath.

Five warlocks had come into Sunnydale, bent upon opening the Hellmouth. The Scooby Gang, still healing from the wounds of Buffy's death, had thought they could defeat them with the combined efforts of Willow and Tara. How wrong they were. The warlocks had known they would be coming and had been prepared. Two of them had stood guard, casting offensive skills at the witches while also protecting their colleagues from the witches' spells. Anya and Xander had found themselves unable to do anything during this magical onslaught. Upon seeing exactly how much trouble they were in, Giles had morphed into Ripper, as the dead warlock in the middle of the floor who had been turned entirely inside out could attest. Ripper had come out more often since Buffy's death, as if Giles no longer cared about his soul. Of course, Xander reflected, catching sight of the man out of the corner of his eyes, Giles would no longer care about anything.

While the Scooby Gang was being kept busy, the three other warlocks had opened the Hellmouth. Three demons had immediately entered into the realm, which was when Anya had fallen. Giles had been taken out next. Willow, seeing Giles being hit by a demon and being thrown across the old library, had dropped her part of the shield protecting both her and her lover. The warlocks had taken instantaneous action, incinerating both witches. They had fallen together, as they would have wished. Xander could only hope that they had felt no pain. Spike had been next. Enraged by the destruction around him, the former Big Bad had rushed the warlocks. It was the last move he would ever make, as one of the warlocks had been able to levitate a nearby piece of wood into his heart.

Xander's mind cried out for the loss of his friends even as he tried to fight the demons and dodge whatever the warlocks threw at him. Who would have ever thought that he would be the last man standing from the gang? He had always expected Buffy to be the one who would mourn over their bodies. Taking one last look at the people who had been so dear to his heart, Xander dropped his ax. He spread open his arms in supplication, closed his eyes, and waited for the demon he was fighting to kill him. The demon rapidly took him up on the invitation.


When Xander next opened his eyes, he found two golden people dressed in togas staring down at him.

"Okay," Xander muttered as he pushed himself off the ground, "not exactly what I thought hell would be like, but whatever works, I suppose. I must admit that this doesn't look anything like Buffy described it."

The golden man sniffed arrogantly. "This is not hell, mortal. This is just a place outside of time, if you will."

"Cryptic much?" Xander wondered. "Who are you?"

"We are the Oracles," the woman replied.

"Oh, well, why didn't you say so earlier? That explains everything." Xander rolled his eyes. "Would you mind telling me what I'm doing here?"

The man turned toward his partner. "Mortals," he said as if the single word explained the secrets of the universe. He sighed and then faced Xander again. "We are the Oracles of the Powers That Be."

"Oh, the Powers That Be." Xander felt anger rising up inside of him. "You work for the Powers That Be. Then, Oracles, maybe you can tell me exactly why the Powers That Be just let all of my friends die!"

"Death is a part of life," the woman answered.

"Thank you, Yoda," Xander said sarcastically. "What does this have to do with me? Why am I here?"

"You have been chosen by the Powers That Be..." the man started.

"Whoa, stop right there, Toga Boy." Xander held out a hand. "Even if I was, who said that I wanted to be chosen by anyone, especially the Powers That Be?"

"You have no choice," the woman said.

"Oh, even Buffy had a choice, and she was The Chosen One." Xander crossed his arms. "Technically she could choose not to use her powers. So don't give me any of this no choice stuff. There is always a choice."

"Perhaps," the woman acquiesced. "The guardians of the Hellmouth were not supposed to die at this encounter."

"What?" Xander's mouth dropped open. "Then why don't the Powers That Be just fly around the world a couple of times and send us back twelve hours?"

"Even the Powers That Be don't have that kind of power, mortal. One cannot just reverse time with the wave of a hand."

"Why are you telling me all this?"

"There are more realities than just yours, Alexander," the woman explained. "Reality is relative . . . a world of ifs . . . if Buffy had said yes when you asked her to the Spring Fling, your world would have been different . . ."

"I'm sure I've seen this episode of Babylon 5."

"If you hadn't kissed Cordelia in Buffy's basement," the man went on, "if you hadn't gone after Buffy when she was killed by the Master . . . all these could have happened."

"Could have being the key word there, Toga Boy, but they didn't."

"Not in your reality," the woman said.

Xander shook his head. "I am in hell."

"The Powers That Be have chosen you to be sent to these different realities and to manipulate the timelines there so that what happened in your reality doesn't happen in another reality. The Hellmouth must not open or else the Earth is doomed."

"Guess we're too late for my home."

"The only way to ensure that the Hellmouth will stay closed is to make sure your friends live. If ever the entire gang falls, like they did in your reality, all is lost."

"So what? I'm going to be sent to other realities that are fated to be doomed in order to make one small change and therefore save the world?"

The man raised an eyebrow. "Perhaps there is hope for some of the mortals after all."

"You've got to be kidding!"

The woman pointed toward Xander, and a gold ring suddenly appeared on the thumb of his right hand. "The ring will help guide you in your journey."

"Wait! I haven't even said I will do this!" The world around Xander started to fade out. "I don't want to be chosen!"

"There will be an end." He heard the woman faintly. "You will have a second chance."

"A second chance?" Xander yelled, trying to make out figures through the darkening room. "What do you mean by that?"

Then there was only blackness.

Chapter 1

Xander let out a loud grunt as he slammed into the ground. "What? The PTB's couldn't find a smooth roller coaster?"

He stood, rubbing his protesting backside, and glanced around. His eyes narrowed as he tried to pinpoint his location. It was a cave of some sort with a pool of water to one side . . . his breath caught as he realized he was standing in the Master's cave. He had only been down here twice - the first time to save Jesse and the second time to save Buffy. At least there didn't seem to be any vampires around, although he could see signs of recent use, such as the drying red spot in the middle of the room.

"All right," he muttered. "I think the first order of business is to get out of here. After that I'm going to give Giles a big manly hug and get him started on the research." He paused and bit his lip. "As long as he's around, that is."

Shaking his head, he started moving towards the exit. Even though he hadn't been down here in nearly five years, his journey here with Angel had been burned into his memory. He often traced the route in nightmares when he had been too late to save the drowned Buffy. Shuddering, he walked faster. The sooner he was out of these caves, the better he would feel.

During the walk, his mind tried to pull up images of his dead friends, and he kept pushing them away. He wouldn't - couldn't - think about that right now. He had to know - had to see - if his friends were all right and alive in this reality. After that - well, after that the Powers That Be could go screw themselves. While he had completely failed his friends in his reality, he would be damned if he let it happen again. If keeping his friends alive meant helping the Powers That Be, then so be it, but he would not be led around like a kicked puppy. He had already been through hell - and again his mind brought up unwanted pictures of Anya's death - and nothing the Powers That Be could think of could ever compare.

He was nearly running when he finally burst through the doors and into the mausoleum where Xander had seen his first vampire dusting. The full moon illuminated the cemetery, and Xander swiftly made his way toward the entrance. His eyes cataloged every difference he could find between his world and this one - although he couldn't tell much of a difference yet. Tombstones had a tendency to look exactly the same no matter what universe one was in. As he made his way toward The Magic Box, he noticed that store windows seemed to be decorated for Halloween. Xander stopped in front of a barbershop and frowned. It had been summer when he had . . . well, died. What was going on?

A soft scuff from a footstep behind him made him reach towards his waistband, where he normally kept a stake. He cursed softly when he realized he didn't have one and remembered that he had only been armed with his trusty ax when he had gone to protect the Hellmouth.

"Oh, Xand," a welcomed voice said, "how many times have I told you not to go out during the night without a stake?"

Xander's mouth dropped as he slowly turned around. "B-Buff?" He didn't even care that tears were gathering in his eyes. "Oh god . . ."

She was standing before him. The light from a nearby lamppost reflected off her golden hair and Xander just stood, basking in her presence.

"Xander?" Buffy frowned. "What's wrong? Did something hurt you?" She took a step toward him, her eyes searching for injuries.

"I'm not hurt, Buff," Xander whispered in reassurance. He still couldn't take his eyes off her. "You don't know how good it is to see you again."

Buffy's frowned deepened. "It's only been about three hours, Xand. Did you hit your head on something?" She put her hands on her hips. "And what are you doing out here alone? I thought you and Willow were going to study tonight."

An image of Willow burning filled his sight, and Xander fell to his knees. Wrapping his arms around his chest in a tight hug, he gasped, "Willow's . . . alive?"

Buffy got her knees in front of him, reaching out to touch his shoulder. "Of course she is, Xander. I would never let anything happen to either of you. What's this all about?"

"And Giles? Is he alive?"

"He's at the school, like normal. Tomorrow's Halloween, so he's using the non-supernaturalness of the night to," her voice took on a horrible British accent, "get in some extra research."

"Halloween? Tomorrow?" For some reason, Xander's mind couldn't seem to grasp the idea.

"Yeah." Buffy grimaced. "I am so not looking forward to dealing with a bunch of kids. You know, if a vamp were to attack Principal Snyder, I don't think I would save him."

"Snyder? Halloween?" His mind, which felt like it was moving through molasses, finally connected the events. "Oh no." He struggled to his feet. "Giles . . . I've got to see Giles."

Buffy moved to help him up. "No problem." She reached over to brush his bangs out of his eyes, and she paused as she studied his face. "Xander?"

"Yes, but not yours."

"You're not evil, are you?"

"No." Xander shook his head. He missed this Buffy - this Buffy who accepted things and just didn't hit first and ask questions later. This was a Buffy who had yet to be completely weighed down by her destiny and saving the world. This was a Buffy who still had hope and love to give and didn't look at death as her gift. Reaching out, he cupped her face with shaking hands. "You're so beautiful." He swallowed hard. "I've missed you so much."

Buffy gripped one of his hands and smiled gently. "I'm here now. Come on, let's get to the high school."

Xander let out a small laugh as they started walking. "I can't believe I've actually missed that place."

"You've graduated?" Buffy asked. "You look older than my Xander."

"Yeah, I've graduated. Of course, we also blew up the high school during the graduation ceremony."

"What?" Buffy's mouth dropped. "Why?"

"Demon," Xander answered succinctly. "What else?"

Buffy shook her head. "What else indeed? Don't they have anything better to do?"

"It is sad, isn't it? You know, I've never understood why vampires ever decided that Sunnydale was a good place to visit, Hellmouth or no Hellmouth. I mean, come on, California. There's lots of sun here. Why don't they go somewhere up north - like Seattle - where it's never sunny."

Buffy smiled. "Maybe we should make up brochures and pass them out to all the vampires. I'm sure we could make up some reasons as to why Seattle would be more hospitable."

Xander nodded. "I think we're definitely onto something here, Buff." He spread his hands wide, as if imagining a headline. "Go to Seattle! No sun! No slayer! Seattle - the place where the nightlife rocks!"

"And," a voice behind them interrupted, "no wise-cracking punk kids!"

They turned to see two vampires step out of the shadows of an alley.

"Oh please," Buffy said, shifting into a fighting stance. "Can't you leave us alone for one night?"

"Yeah," Xander seconded. "By the way, Buff, do you happen to have a second stake?"

Buffy shook her head. "No, sorry."

"That's okay," Xander replied, tensing as the vampires decided to rush at them. "I'll just keep dancing until you're done with yours." He ducked as one of the vampires punched at his head. "Please don't take long, as I'm sure you've seen my dancing skills."

Buffy shuddered and then threw a round kick into her vampire's stomach, causing him to double over. "It's not a pretty sight."

"How well you know me." A poofing sound told him that Buffy had taken care of her vampire even as he avoided another punch. "I do have an amazing Snoopy Dance, though. It makes Willow smile every year."

"I haven't had the privilege of seeing it yet," Buffy remarked as she side-kicked the remaining vampire.

The vampire growled and rushed toward Buffy, who executed a jump round kick to his head.

Xander smiled. "That was nice. I give it a 9.5."

"Only a 9.5? How did I lose points?" Buffy asked as she blocked the vampire's front kick.

"There was no punning involved. Puns are very important to the entire process, you know."

"Well, I've never been one to stake," Buffy said as she dusted the vampire, "my life on it."

"Oh, very nice. I'm going to have to give that dusting a 9.8. Unfortunately, the Russian judges are only giving you a 9.0."

Buffy shook her head. "Those Russians." She slipped the stake back up her sleeve and then glanced at Xander. "To the library?"

Xander nodded. "To the library and the man of tweed."


"Giles?" Buffy called as she swung open the library doors. "We have a small problem."

"Buffy?" Giles wondered as he stepped out of the stacks. "What's wrong?"

"That would be me."

Giles took off his glasses as Xander stepped out from behind Buffy. "Xander? I thought you were going to be studying with Willow tonight."

"Your Xander probably is," Xander admitted. "I am dimensional traveling Xander."

"Good Lord," Giles muttered as he pulled out a handkerchief. "There's two of them."

"Been there, done that," Xander remarked. "It was quite . . . well . . . funny now that I can look back on it. It was definitely not funny at the time, though."

"Is he evil?" Giles asked Buffy.

Buffy shook her head. "He says he's not."

"Ah, just annoying then. Very well." Giles motioned toward a chair. "Sit down, Xander, and tell me what you're doing here."

"Don't you think you should call Willow and your Xander?" Xander asked as he settled down.

"I'll do it," Buffy volunteered as she moved towards Giles' office.

Giles' eyes narrowed as Xander watched Buffy from across the library. The young man's gaze held something he couldn't place immediately.

"Xander?" Giles asked quietly.

Xander jumped, startled, and turned his attention to the older man. "Yes, Giles?"

"What are you doing here?"

A silly grin lit up Xander's face. "Getting philosophical, are we, Giles? See I learned things in high school . . . sometimes even big words."

"Learned?" Giles asked. "You've graduated?"

"Two years ago," Xander confirmed. "We blew up the school."

Giles put his glasses back on and wrinkled his forehead in confusion. "We what?"

"Giant demon," Xander explained. "The only way to kill him was to blow up the school."

"Yes, of course, why didn't I think of that?" Giles took of his glasses and rubbed his forehead. "Why are you here?"

"Willow and Xander are on their way," Buffy interrupted. "They should be here in a couple of minutes." She sat down next to Xander. "While we're waiting, tell me all the good stories about the future. Do we go to college? What big bads do we get to face?"

Giles observed as Xander emotionally shut down. The smile disappeared from Xander's face and his eyes lost the familiar twinkle.

"You shouldn't know the future." Xander's voice was flat. "Besides, the future I can tell you about isn't the future that will happen." There was a small pause as Xander swallowed. "Besides, there is no fate except what we make," he quipped.

"Let me guess," Buffy said with a smile. "I sent you back in time to save the world."

"One out of two isn't bad," Xander replied. Suddenly restless, Xander stood up and started to pace around the library. "You don't know what it's like . . . seeing this place again . . . seeing you . . . both of you . . . I -- I don't know what I'm doing, and I have no idea of how I'm supposed to make things right."

Giles took a step toward the distraught young man. "Xand . . .?"

"You're dead," Xander said bluntly. "You're both dead. Everyone's dead!" He wrapped his arms around his chest, as if to ward off a chill. "I saw them all die! Willow was . . ." He turned teary eyes to the ceiling. "Oh god. And Anya . . . I loved her. And then she was gone. I turned my head for just a second, and when I looked back there was blood . . . blood all over her dress . . . the one she bought with the overtime money you gave her, Giles. She wanted that dress so badly because it made her chest look bigger. There was blood in her hair. At first I couldn't understand why her hair was so dirty, because she had just washed it that morning. And you guys remember how Anya is with her personal hygiene. But then - then I saw the hole in her chest . . . and I . . ." His breath hitched. "She died." He buried his head into his hands. "You all died."

Slim arms surrounded his upper body and pulled him close. "It won't happen here. I promise that I will not let it happen."

"You weren't there." Xander pulled away from Buffy's grasp. "You died and left us."

"I won't this time. Tell me what happened, and I will make sure that I don't die," Buffy promised.

"Xander?" Giles kneeled down beside them. "How long ago did this happen?" he asked gently. "When did we die?"

"Buffy died about two months ago," Xander replied. "Everyone else . . . to me it feels like it hasn't been longer than five hours."

Giles closed his eyes for a long moment. "Will you tell us what happened?"

"I will when Willow and your Xander get here." Xander drew in a deep breath. "I don't want to tell the story more than once."

Giles nodded and got to his feet. "Can I get you anything while we're waiting? Some tea perhaps?"

Xander shook his head. "Never was one for the tea, Giles." Slowly, he, too, got to his feet. "I think I'm just going to go to the bathroom."

"Do you want any company?" Buffy asked.

"Nah, I'm good," Xander answered.

As he passed Giles' office on the way out, he felt a strange pull coming from the thumb of his right hand. He had completely forgotten about the ring that the Oracles had given him, and he played with the ring, his face set in a mask of confusion, during the rest of his walk. When he got to the restroom, he turned on the water and splashed some on his face. After drying his face, he somehow managed to glance into the mirror and meet his eyes. He winced at his reflection.

"You will not fall apart like that again," he commanded. "You are here to help them, not vice versa. You will bury your universe so deep that it will take years to dig it all out again. These are not your friends. They may look like your friends, and they may sound like your friends . . . but yours are dead. You can't help your Willow or Buffy anymore, but the other Willows and Buffys are counting on you. If you can't hold it together you won't be able to help them." He took a deep breath and set his jaw. "I won't fail them."

Turning away from the mirror, he looked at the ring adorning his thumb. The ring was about a quarter of an inch wide with the lone image of a wolf carved into the band. His brow furrowed as he remembered the words of the female Oracle. How was the ring going to help him? Obviously it had been trying to tell him something about Giles' office, though he didn't understand what he was supposed to know.

Taking another breath, he squared his shoulders and made his way back to the library.


"Giles, what do you keep in your office?" Xander asked when he entered.

"J-just some personal effects and my Watcher's Diaries," Giles answered. "Why do you ask?"

Xander frowned. He could vaguely remember Willow saying something about Buffy looking through the Diaries for . . . the dress! The one Buffy had worn during Halloween . . . she had been wearing it in order to impress Angel. Was that what he was here to change?

"Buffy? Giles?"

The sound of Willow's voice made Xander jump. He closed his eyes, nodded minutely, and then squared his jaw as he turned to meet his best friend.

"Oh, Xander!" Willow squeaked. "How did you get here before me? I thought you were making a snack run to the vending . . ." The door behind her swung open again, and a second Xander walked into the library. "Oh." She blinked as she studied the two Xanders. "This is new."

"Whoa," the younger Xander said as he looked at his older twin. "This is weird and totally unexpected. I'm guessing this is a Hellmouthy thing."

"Not exactly," the older Xander answered. "Actually, it's a Powers That Be thing."

Giles raised an eyebrow. "You were sent by the Powers That Be?"

"Yeah." Xander nodded. "They wouldn't take no for an answer." He shrugged. "Go figure." He took a deep breath. "In a nutshell, your world is doomed. I was sent to change things so that it won't be doomed any longer."

"Good Lord, that was subtle," Giles muttered as he started cleaning his glasses. "What needs to be done?"

"Doomed?" Willow squeaked, her face pale. "Like blow-up-the-world doomed or open-the-hellmouth-and-let-spawn-the depths-of-hell doomed?"

"How do we stop it?" Buffy demanded. "This world will not go down without a fight."

"That's what I'm here for," Xander replied. "At least, I hope I'm right on how to fix things." He paused momentarily. "Buffy, why did you and Willow look through Giles' Watcher Diaries?"

"You what?" Giles asked, replacing his glasses.

"I was curious," Buffy defended, "and I didn't want to ask you."

"You wanted to know about Angel," Xander clarified.

Buffy nodded. "How do you know all this? Did this happen in your dimension, too?"

"Buffy, Angel is a vampire."

"We know that," the younger Xander interrupted. "We don't all like it, but we know that."

"Angel has a soul, a gift from a gypsy curse. What no one knows is that the curse can be broken."

"What?" Giles wondered. "Broken? How?"

"If Angel has one moment of perfect happiness, his soul will leave, returning him to his demonic self of Angelus. If Angelus is set free . . . well, let's just say that people will die." He glanced over the three teenagers. "People you know and respect will be killed at his hands."

"I would dust him before he has the opportunity to hurt anyone," Buffy said.

Xander shook his head. "No, you wouldn't be able to dust someone you love." He took a step towards the blonde slayer. "That is why you must, despite what your heart may say, remain friends and only friends with Angel. I take no happiness in telling this to you, but it needs to be done. If you go beyond the boundaries of friendship with Angel, he will turn into Angelus." He put a hand on Buffy's shoulder. "Why don't you go down to Ethan's and exchange the dress for something else?"

"Ethan's?" Giles asked.

Xander nodded and lifted an eyebrow. Giles' returning hard smile assured Xander that the librarian would take care of the problem before the chaos spell could take effect.

"I know how you hate having people tell you what to do, but please listen to me on this one, Buff. I don't want what happened on my world to happen again here. Better to have loved and be loved in return than to have loved and to have dusted, right?"

Buffy closed her eyes and nodded. "I wouldn't want anyone's deaths on my hands. I already have too many."

"I know." Xander kissed her forehead lightly. He could feel a slight tingling sensation throughout his body, and he could only hope that meant he had done the right thing. "Take care." His gaze swept across everyone in the room. "All of you take care and watch each other's backs."

His eyes met Willow's just as the tingling grew worse, and they shared a small smile.

"By the way, Xand," Xander said, ignoring the weirdness of naming himself, "make sure Buff sees the Scooby Dance soon."

"Sure thing," the younger Xander replied.

"I love you all," the older Xander mouthed as he felt himself being pulled away into darkness.

The remaining group watched as the older Xander seemed to explode into a million pieces of light and fall to the ground. Willow gasped and ran to where he had last been standing.

"Was that supposed to have happened?" Willow asked. "Giles?"

Giles could only shrug. "I don't know, unfortunately." He turned his eyes toward the ceiling and said softly, "And you better watch over him, PTBs. If I find out you've harmed him, I will let loose Ripper in the afterlife to the extent that heaven itself will be ripped to shreds."

"Was he right?" Buffy wondered, her eyes sad. "Can we really believe anything he said?"

"Do you want to see what will happen if we don't?" Giles asked. "Are you willing to take the chance and gamble with people's lives?"

Buffy shook her head, and Xander put a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

"Then we have no choice but to believe he was telling the truth," Giles concluded.

Willow looked once more at the spot where the dimensional Xander had stood. "Take care, Xand," she whispered, "and hopefully we will meet up some other time."

"Well then," Buffy started, "who wants to go back to Ethan's with me?"

As the three teenagers made their way out of the library, Giles found himself hoping that someday, somewhere along the line, someone would be able to help Xander heal from the trauma of what had happened on his world.

"Be well," Giles muttered as he headed back into the stacks.


"I didn't like that," Xander said the moment his vision cleared and he saw the two figures standing in front of him. "That was not fun at all."

"You did a good job for your first time," the male Oracle replied. "However, not all the dimensions will have such an easy answer."

"I don't want to do this anymore." Xander reached down and tried to remove the ring.

"You cannot take it off," the woman interrupted. "You have been chosen, and you cannot stray from your fate."

"Watch me. I will stray every chance I get. I will not be some pawn in your game!"

The woman smiled. "You have no choice."

"We're back there, are we?" Xander crossed his arms. "Believe what you will, there is always a choice."

The man smiled mysteriously. "We won't always meet after each encounter. If you have any questions, ask them now."

Xander glared at the Oracles before relenting. "How will I know if I do something wrong? What if I lead a dimension to destruction instead of salvation?"

"Then it takes longer to reach your second chance," the woman answered.

"We are out of time," the male Oracle said. "Your next journey awaits."