Hard Choices

Author: Knife Hand <d_lutke[at]hotmail.com>

Feedback: Constructive feedback appreciated, flames unappreciated

Spoilers: Up to Final of series Five, is AU. Reference to Series Six episode 'Normal Again'.

Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy. I would buy the show but I am broke.

Summary: A future version of Xander comes back in time on a mission. Can he convince Buffy to give up happiness to save the world? Again!

The Future, 2016

Xander looked across at Buffy and smiled, especially at the simple gold band on her left hand, he rarely smiled anymore. Buffy and Xander, now thirty-five, barely resembled the young Slayer and the Carpenter that they had been years before.

Buffy was tired, her once vibrant eyes seemed almost hollow, and her body showed evidence of many battles. Several scars clearly visible, including one that ran down along her face, just missing her eye and turning her mouth up into a mockery of a smile. Her once long, silky blond hair was now cut much shorter and was its natural light brown colour, hanging limp to her head. Buffy was wearing long dark pants, a deep blue blouse and a lot of weapons, ranging from the fifteen stakes in her belt to the Claymore on her back to the machine pistols strapped to her thighs. When Buffy saw Xander looking at her she smiled back, though it was a shadow of her former smile.

While Buffy's hair had gotten shorter, Xander's had grown longer. His hair extended just blow his shoulder blades and was kept back in a ponytail, which made him look ruggedly handsome when combined with a two day growth of stubble. Xander's eyes were worn like Buffy's but something shined in them. Hope. Hope was something that they had not known for years. Xander was dressed in long black slacks, a slightly tight back t-shirt and a long trench coat. Xander's vast array of weaponry, which outstripped Buffy's, was hidden under the trench coat, with the exception of the hilt of his Katana which showed slightly through a slit in the back of the coat. Xander's physique had filled out from the high school klutz into a lean warrior.

"Let me go." Buffy whispered to Xander, casting a glance at the woman across the room.

"You know it has to be me, love. There is no other way." Xander replied stroking Buffy's cheek.

"I love you, Xand. Make things right." Buffy said, half pleadingly.

Buffy and Xander hugged fiercely then kissed passionately before Buffy turned away and walked out of the cave that they were currently in. When she reached the entrance, Buffy paused and turned to watch. The other woman began to chant, using her Wicca magic to open a portal in the middle of the room. Xander walked to the portal, but turned to look at Buffy before he went through. Buffy saw the sadness in his eyes, but also the hope.

Xander signed and Buffy before turning back and entering the portal. He pointed at himself, crossed his hands over his heart and then pointed at Buffy. This was their signs for 'I love you'.

"I love you too, Husband." Buffy whispered, before finally leaving the cave.

Buffy walked up into the sunlight, gathering together the few people who were near the cave. Together they numbered a total of twenty, including the Witch from inside the cave.

"I hope you succeed, Xander." Buffy said.

With a screamed war cry, Buffy led the group, the last vestige of human resistance, against the hundreds of thousands of demons swarming the area, the millions overtaking the planet. At least she was going to go down fighting.


The Present, Late 2001

Buffy sat in her old room at her Mother's home thinking about how lucky they were. They had just beaten a Hell God. Buffy thought back on the last year. Firstly her non-existent sister had appeared, probably around the time that Dracula had been around. Next Xander and Anya had broken up, Xander's reasons were that he was not treating Anya how he thought she deserved and had ended it in fear of becoming his father, an abusive alcoholic. Surprisingly Anya, an eleven hundred year old ex-vengeance demon, did not get mad at Xander and they remained friends. Then Buffy's mother had a severe headache for a week or so that had bothered the Slayer, possibly being something serious, but it had turned out to be, after some medical testing, absolutely nothing. Shortly after that, Riley had left Buffy heartbroken, returning to the Army and their demon hunting team.

After that things really started to go downhill. Xander was injured badly, stabbed in the gut by one of Glory's minions who was searching for the Key, and spent about a week in hospital. While visiting Xander, Buffy and Dawn had met Ben, an intern who had also turned out to be Glory's human prison. This had allowed Glory to find out about the Key and to capture Dawn when Giles had been injured by the Knights of Byzantium and Ben had been called out to treat him.

In the end Buffy had managed to defeat Glory using Olaf the Troll God's Enchanted Hammer. It was actually lucky that Glory did not have a capable minion who could have performed the ritual as none of the Scooby Gang, or Spike, had been able to get up to Dawn.

Thing had really gotten emotionally mixed up recently, even more so than usual. In the two weeks since defeating Glory, Buffy had gotten much closer to both her Sister and her mother, re- establishing old family bonds, and she had started training harder with Giles, her substitute father. She spent time with Willow and Tara, trying to include and really get to know her best friend's lover, and she had even formed a decent relationship with Anya.

What really confused her, though, were her feelings towards Xander. In the last two weeks she had stopped seeing him as the semi-goofy, carpenter known as her Xander-shaped friend, rather she began to see him as she had once seen Angel, but without the mystery and tragic streak, and Riley, but with more flare and intensity. She thought that she was falling in love with her Xander-shaped friend and it both scared and excited her. Buffy closed her eyes and fell back onto her bed, trying and failing to push aside her emotional dilemmas until after dinner.


Two Days Later

Buffy entered her room, having now moved permanently back into her mother's house, her movements showing slight exhaustion. She had begun getting changed when she heard something behind her. She spun, clutching the shirt that she had just removed to her chest, and saw a flash of colour that was gone before she could identify it and Xander.

"Xander! What are you doing!" she half shrieked, not noticing that he looked and dressed slightly differently than the Xander she knew.

Xander turned his back to Buffy so that she could get changed.

"Nothing I have not seen before." He said under his breath, low enough that Buffy could not hear him even with her Slayer hearing.

Xander glanced around in front of him, trying to glean information on exactly when he was. The time was easy, Buffy having a small clock on the bookshelf directly before him, and he got the year from the appointment book that Joyce always got for Buffy that she never used, which lay on a side table near the door, off to Xander's left. Getting the date was pure luck. A picture in front of Xander had glass which reflected the window, which in turn reflected the day calendar that sat by Buffy's bed, with that day's date prominent.

"Ok, you can turn around now." Buffy said, gasping slightly as he turned. "Ok, who the hell are you? You're sure as hell not my Xand."

Buffy could still see the Xander she knew, but there was something about this Xander that was different, apart from the fact he could now pass for a warrior or boxing champion and he dressed like Angel. It was his eyes, as if he lost something. His innocence, maybe.

"You're right. I'm not the Xander from here. I'm from fifteen years in the future. I need your help, Buff." Xander responded.

At this proclamation, Buffy was shocked and dropped onto the bed.

"Ok, let me get this straight." Buffy said slightly slowly. "You are Xander from fifteen years in the future. You look like you could kick the ass of every demon in Sunnydale at the same time, yet you come to me, a Slayer who could not even protect her own sister from an intern, for help? Oh, god. I'm insane. None of this is real, I'm still back in LA. Oh god!"

The last part of this was said hysterically and Buffy began to cry.

"Buffy, it's real. You're not in LA; you're not still in the mental institution, Baby." Xander said comfortingly, as if he had said it before, rubbing Buffy's back to get her to stop crying, neither of them noticing the affectionate name he had used.

"H, How do you know about that?" Buffy half sobbed.

"You told me." Xander said, pausing to do some mental calculations. "In about six years."

"Huh?" Buffy said, having stopped crying out of shock.

"From the future, remember?" Xander said cautiously, not wanting Buffy to break down again.

"Oh right. Then why did you come back?"

"We failed, Buffy. The Hellmouth opened and we could not stop them." Xander said, starting to pace. "We never stopped fighting though. It took years but Fred, she'll be a good friend of ours, kept working on ways to help. Eventually worked out the temporal displacement theory and a Wiccan managed to create a portal for one, so I came back to fix things."

"The Hellmouth?" Buffy said, snapping into action. "When is it opening? How does it open? Ok, I'm calling Giles and we're getting strait onto research, and I'll patrol..."

"BUFFY!" Xander screamed, having tried to get her attention a number of times. "The Hellmouth is not scheduled to open for another eight years."

"Oh, ok. Wait. Huh? Now I'm confused." Buffy said. "You came back to now to stop something happening in eight years? Why? Why not just stop it then?"

"Because the damage would have already been done." Xander replied stiffly.

"Cryptic much? I want to know what's going on." Buffy said.

"Trust me, you don't." Xander said, turning away from Buffy.

"Tell me, please. How can I fight it if I don't know?" Buffy pleaded.

"Trust me, you don't." Xander said, turning away from Buffy.

"Tell me, please. How can I fight it if I don't know?" Buffy pleaded.

"Some things you can't fight." Xander said deadpan.

"Then what do you need me to do?" Buffy said, getting confused again.

"I need you, to help me fall out of love with you." He said solemnly, pain filling his eyes.

"WHAT?!?" Buffy screamed, a third of a second before she fainted dead away.

Future Xander just sighed, lifted Buffy up and laid her down on her bed, waiting for her to come around.