Gift Exchange

Author: Greywizard1235 <grey.wizard[at]>

Rating: R, due to what some people might consider bad language and realistic depictions of violence.

Disclaimer: Is this really necessary? If anyone really thinks these characters belong to me, then you're even more out of touch with reality than Crackhead Joss was. All of the BtVS characters belong to Crackhead Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, etc. There is no intent to profit from this, I'm just borrowing the characters for a while. Only the story is mine, and even that is negotiable.

Category: BX and D/X friendships.

Warning: Multiple character death.

Summary: An alternate ending to the season five finale, "The Gift."

Time frame: Happens while Buffy's fighting Glory at the base of the tower.

Author's Notes: Xander never proposed to Anya in the Magic Shop basement in this AU. She has plans to leave Sunnydale and work for some 'old' friends at Microsoft.

Character Bashing: None... Well maybe Glory and Doc. ;-)

Spoilers: None, if you've seen or heard anything about the season five finale. If you haven't, then don't read any of this.

Feedback: Of course! Constructive criticism will be greatly appreciated, while flamers will be ignored and added to the lists of those to be painfully exterminated, once I am appointed to my rightful position as King of the World.

Chapter 1

Dawn was anxiously watching the battle between Buffy and Glory at the base of tower. Straining against her bonds yet again, the Key found them just as unyielding as they were the last dozen times she had tried. She should have really paid attention when Giles, or more accurately Ripper, explained how to pick locks and Houdini out of ropes.

She had just seen her sister slam the massive troll hammer against the apparently-no-longer-invincible goddess when she felt a presence nearby and looked up to see a small man with dark, intense eyes standing at the far end of the platform, looking at her.

" can help me," she gasped her relief. "Untie me. Please! Help me! She's coming!" she warned, glancing down at the ongoing fight.

"Well, it seems she's running a bit late, is the thing," Doc replied as he looked at her. "And, uh, if her Splendidness can't be here in time to bleed you..."

Realizing that the stranger wasn't there to help her, Dawn frantically looked down at the milling figures on the ground and again called for help.

"Hey, kid!" Doc smiled as he winked at her. "Wanna see a trick?" he asked as he suddenly produced a large shiny knife, holding it up in front of his face.

Pulling a pocket-watch put of his jacket pocket, he glanced at it as Dawn watched fearfully.

"Well, what do you know? It's just about that time," he announced, his eyes lighting up. Literally.

Looking over Doc's shoulder, Dawn saw Spike suddenly appear at the bottom of the small ramp, but remained silent, so as not to alert Doc.

Seeing her eyes flare with hope as she looked beyond him, though, Doc whirled around as Spike slowly strode forward.

"Doesn't a fella stay dead when you kill him?" the vampire asked as he carefully approached the other, his eyes quickly darting to Dawn for a moment to reassure himself that she was okay

"Look who's talking."

"Come on, Doc. Let's you and me have a go," Spike suggested.

"I ... think not, " the other demon replied, tapping his knife against his hand. "I have a prior appointment."

"No problem, there. This won't take long."

"No, I don't imagine it will," Doc agreed as Spike lunged forward. Moving faster than he had in their earlier encounter, Doc sidestepped, grabbed Spike around the neck, and thrust his knife into the vampire's back, eliciting a gasp of shock from his opponent.

Dawn gasped in dismay as Spike let out a scream of pain, even as he managed to break Doc's hold on both him and the knife and shove him away, before turning to place himself between Dawn and the other demon.

"You don't come near the girl, Doc," he managed to gasp, even as he felt the blood flowing down his back.

"I don't smell a soul anywhere on you. Why do you even care, leech?" Doc asked, his head tilted at an angle as he looked at the vampire in curiosity.

"I made a promise to a lady."

"Oh? Then I'll send the lady your regrets," he said, as his tongue shot out of his mouth towards Spike, who ducked aside. Even as Spike was moving, Doc dropped to his knees and wrapped his prehensile tongue around Spike's legs, pulling him to the floor as Dawn anxiously watched the two demons grapple.

As they fought their way to their feet, ending up with Doc holding on to Spike and pinning his arms behind him, the demon's tongue snaked out to retrieve the fallen knife.

Spike gave Dawn an agonized look as the demon then poised the blade at his opponent's neck for a moment.

"Sorry, Nibblet," he whispered in the instant before the blade sliced through his neck, decapitating him.

"Spike! No!" Dawn screamed, not wanting to believe her eyes as she watched her undead guardian angel's ashes drift down to the ramp beneath them.

"Shallow cuts," Doc murmured quietly as he walked up and carefully reached out to slowly draw the blade across her stomach, the razor-sharp edge easily cutting through the fabric covering her and shallowly slicing her skin.

Dawn screamed in mixed pain and protest, as she felt the warmth of her blood begin to run across her skin, her attempts to pull away from the demon useless struggles that did nothing but tire her further.

"Shallow cuts are what we need. Let ...the blood ... flow ... free," he intoned as Dawn's blood dripped over her toes to spill over the edge of the platform.

"Excuse me, but are you licensed to practice surgery in the state of California?" a deep voice asked, breaking Doc's concentration.

Whirling around to confront this new foe, Doc saw a tall, dark-haired figure slowly walking up the ramp towards him and the captive girl.

"Xander!" Dawn shouted in relief when he saw him. "Where's Buffy?"

"Well now. This should be interesting," Doc smiled as he watched the brunet approach.

The boy was holding something metallic by his side as he closed the distance between them, the demon noticed, most likely a length of pipe picked up from the debris on the ground surrounding the tower.

"The Buffinator is currently in negotiations with Psycho-Goddess about her trip home, Dawn-meister," Xander smiled reassuringly at the younger Summers girl. "I figured I might as well as save her a trip up here, so I stopped by to pick you up.

"Hope you don't mind," he commented as he gave her the patented 'lopsided Xander smile' as he looked at her, before he shifted his gaze to look at Doc.

"I'm going to give you ten seconds to leave," Xander offered, stopping about twelve feet away from the smaller figure, just shy of the distance the demon's tongue had reached when he attacked Spike.

The smile had disappeared the moment the boy had looked away from the Key, the demon noted with a bit of interest, and the eyes that were now turned to face him were simply marvelous, he decided. Cold, hard and completely without any trace of mercy in them whatsoever.

This boy had within him the potential to become a truly formidable personage, if only someone showed him the proper way to develop that darkness hidden within him, he mused. Should the boy survive the coming hours, then he just might offer him the opportunity to develop that darkness, himself, he resolved. It had been a long time since he had last taken an apprentice; it would be amusing to see exactly what the boy could develop into.

"And if I don't?" Doc smirked. If the boy attacked, he could easily ensnare him and toss him off the side of the platform long before he could get close enough to hit him with his pathetic, make-shift weapon, and still have adequate time to complete the ritual.

"Time's up," the brunet abruptly announced, as he swung his arm up to point at the demon. "Game's over."

Doc had only an instant to realize that the boy hadn't been holding a pipe, but a shotgun, before the double-ought load blew a rather large hole through his torso and drove him staggering back several steps to the edge of the platform.

Staring in stunned disbelief at the mere human who had just hurt him more seriously than any other enemy he had encountered in the course of his long, dark life, Doc watched numbly as Xander pumped the slide to chamber another shell as he carefully approached along the far edge of the ramp, then leveled the gun at the demon's head.

"Dawn, close your eyes," the carpenter ordered. "You don't want to see this."

Bemused by the shock and chaos of the past few minutes, the Key did as instructed, flinching involuntarily at the loud report of the shotgun as it fired, and then flinching even more as she felt something wet splatter over her and realized that parts of Doc now decorated the ceremonial gown Glory had dressed her in.

"Oh shit," she heard her rescuer mutter under his breath.

Dawn opened her eyes to find the man she had been crushing on for the last five years staring past her, at the empty sky behind her.

Or at what *should* have been empty sky, she corrected herself as she looked over her shoulder and saw a swirling vortex slowly growing ever-larger in the air about ten feet away from their current position. The mystical whirlpool expanded another foot in diameter as a drop of Dawn's blood fell into it from the platform on which they now stood, and through its churning, translucent ripples, they could see Buffy and Glory still slugging it out.

"Cut me loose, Xander," Dawn ordered as she saw the vortex grow another foot in diameter even as they watched.

"I have to close that thing before it gets too big to stop," she explained, as she rubbed at the chaffed areas on her wrists that were aching from the bonds that had held them until just a moment ago.

"So, how do we do that?" Xander asked, seemingly looking for direction from the younger girl.

"As long as my blood flows, that thing'll keep growing," Dawn informed him, trying to remember everything Glory had told her earlier that afternoon.

"And the only way to close it is to sacrifice a life," she whispered to herself, as she recalled the Hellgod's comments about the ritual.

"Okay, let's get busy then," the one-time so-called Zeppo replied.

"Now don't take this wrong, Dawn Patrol; I'm not getting fresh, I'm just trying to get the incisions closed," he explained as he pulled her closer to him and away from the edge of the platform, then pressed his fingers against her stomach, as he pulled a first aid kit from a jacket pocket.

"And this'll probably sting like a bitch, but it *will* stop the bleeding," he added as he removed a small tube from the kit, unscrewed the top and then began running the tube's small nozzle along her cuts.

Seeing her look of surprise as the edges of her injuries remained sealed together, stopping the blood flow, Xander simply grinned and said, "Super Glue. It's a quick and dirty combat medic trick that I came across when I was researching and trying to figure out who I was, after that Halloween when Ethan Rayne turned people into their costumes. Quick, convenient, readily available over the counter, and just perfect for when you don't have an ER doctor on hand to stitch you up."

"Thanks, Xand," the Key smiled up at him gratefully as he finished his battlefield triage. "You do good work."

Her eyes were filling up as she looked at him and realized that she was never going to see him again, was never going to have that chance to become the Mrs. Alexander Harris that she had decided she was going to be, shortly after she had first met him for the first time four years ago.

But he was going to survive; he was going to live, they all were, and that was what would make her sacrifice worthwhile. He and Buffy and Willow and Tara and Giles would all live and, hopefully, have large families with lots of children who they would love and dote on and tell stories about the Aunt Dawn who hadn't lived long enough to see them born, but who loved them all so very much, nonetheless.

"Actually, young lady, I do great work," he corrected her with a mock glare, as he caught her hand as she started to turn back towards the vortex and pulled her back to him. "You make sure you tell your grandkids that, okay?"

"Huh?" she asked, a bit confused at the abrupt change in conversation. "What do you mean?"

"Did you really think I'd let you do it, Dawn?" he asked enigmatically as he smiled down at her, his hand caressing the side of her face erasing her tears.

"The only thing you're going to do is finish high school, go to college, find yourself a nice guy who treats you right and marry him, and have lots and lots of children and grandchildren that you're going to spoil rotten, you understand me?" he informed her firmly as he looked down into her eyes with an intense expression she wasn't sure she understood.

As the young brunette tried to figure out exactly what he was talking about, Xander stooped and picked up the knife Doc had dropped when he had shot him, then stepped to the edge of the platform to stare at the still chaotically churning vortex floating a few scant yards away from their current location.

"Tell everyone I love them, Dawn," he told her as he gazed into the raging maelstrom of energy. "They already know, but tell them anyway, will ya? Oh and if you get to LA tell Cordy and Faith I'm proud of them."

At her perplexed look he explained. "Went to visit them before everything went crazy here, Cordy's got this Seer deal going and Faith is dong the redemption thing. Deadboy's got this rich friend and he thinks that he can get her out early. So be nice to her when she shows up. OK?"


Buffy's scream took Dawn by surprise as she whirled to see her sister standing at the top of the stairway, her hand outstretched towards the male Slayerette.

"Sorry, Buff. Seems like there's been a slight change in plans," he smiled over his shoulder at the tiny blonde

"Please, Xander! Don't move!" Buffy asked, her eyes narrowed with concern and fear for her friend's safety as she slowly began walking towards him.

"The way I'm looking at things, it doesn't appear like there's much of choice here, Buffster," he replied. "And please don't take another step, okay? There's no way you can possibly reach me before I jump, so I'd appreciate it if you don't make me rush what I wanted to say," he told her, halting the Slayer in her tracks. Off to one side, Dawn stood by quietly, waiting for an instant's distraction on either's part to act and take the decision away from both of them.

"Xander, please don't throw your life away," Buffy pleaded with her best male friend. "I'm the one who has to die, not you."

"Wrong, Buff," the so-called Zeppo shook his head in disagreement.

"According to Giles' translation, 'the freely given sacrifice of life and blood of a Slayer' is required to close the portal," he quoted, grinning at the shocked expression on Buffy's face at his words.

"I was coming up the basement stairs when I overheard Giles telling you what he had discovered about the ritual," he explained. "You guys just misinterpreted the words. Kinda like that whole 'forged' thing with the Judge.

"The ritual requires 'the freely given sacrifice of life' *and* 'blood of a Slayer.' It doesn't require that both things come from the Slayer, just the blood," he said, pointing out the possible alternate interpretation.

"So, I've got the blood of a Slayer right here," he said, holding up Doc's knife, still glistening with Dawn's blood. "Remember what the monks told you? Dawn was made from you, so she shares your blood. The other part required is me. Born to be a sacrifice, just like that First Slayer inspired dream-fest said..."

"No, Xander! The First Slayer told me that death is my gift. That's why it has to be me," Buffy insisted, shaking her head in disagreement with his reasoning.

"Sorry, Buff," Xander smiled at both Summers women a final time.

"Guess that's one gift you're gonna have to return," he said, before turning and launching himself through the air, the anguished screams of protest from the girls echoing through the pre-dawn skies.