Second Chances

Author: Cyclone <cyclone[at]>

Feedback: Please be gentle.

Distribution: Gimme credit and a link. Plus, archived at

Rating: I'm gonna go say PG-13 for some strong language.

Spoilers: Um, lots of pure speculation on season seven, and pretty much anything up to that is fair game.

Disclaimer: The characters depicted herein belong to the almighty Joss. I'm just borrowing them for a while.

Summary: Xander's real power is revealed... and he's not too happy with it.

Author's Note: Got bored, so I thought I'd write this.

Latest addition


"Don't do this, Spike," Buffy pleaded. "You have a soul."

Xander coughed up blood. When will she learn? "So did Hitler," he croaked out.

"Droopy Boy's right on the money there," Spike smirked. "You wanted the Big Bad back? Well, you've got it, luv."

With that, Spike turned and hurled Kennedy's unconscious and broken body into the physical opening of the Hellmouth.

"Nooo!" Willow shrieked, power thundering through her veins. She hurled bolts of lightning at Spike, flinging him back.

He howled in pain, but cruel laughter filled the room.

"Thanks, sweetie," the First Evil said, stepping out of the shadows in Tara's form. "That was just the last bit of power I needed."

The First shifted to Glory's form, "Goodbye, world. It was nice while it lasted. Not!"


Xander bolted upright, looking around the dark room wildly.

"What... the... hell?" he wondered aloud.

"Bravo," a voice said.

Xander turned, "Who...?"

"Name's Whistler," the Balance Demon said, stepping out of the shadows. "I'm here to fill ya in. I must say, I'm impressed that it took this long to trigger a rewind."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"Look," Whistler said, "here's the deal: You're basically the universe's failsafe. World ends, you get tossed back in time to give you one shot at fixing it. Screw it up again..." he shrugged, "...well, if the world ends the same way, that's it. Different way... well, you get another shot, but only one second chance per apocalypse. Right now, you're in the summer of ninety- seven, just before the Slayer returns from L.A."

"Okay," Xander said, shaking his head. "Suppose I buy that... why me?"

"'Cause you're normal."

Xander blinked. That didn't make any sense. "I don't follow."

Whistler sighed. "Look, there's two types of people out there: Those who have a destiny and those who don't. Those who do can't really change it. It's part of who they are, but their destinies define the fate of the world. Your Slayer, that witch friend of yours, heck, even Mr. Boo-Hoo-I-Eat-Rats are all like that."


"Most folks, though, don't, which means they can change the destinies of those around them. With the folks you hang around with, that means your choices affects the destinies that define the fate of the world."

Xander stared, "You have got to be shittin' me. You mean I'm, what, the world's circuit breaker?"

"Pretty much, yeah."

"And I've got six years to figure out what went wrong and save the world."

Whistler nodded.

Xander groaned.


Chapter 1
Take Two

Xander swallowed hard and licked his lips, trying to refrain from staring at Willow's lips. And eyes. And other parts.

*Aw, hell,* he thought as he stopped resisting the urge to lean down toward her. *What could it hurt?*

His lips met hers, and he could feel the redhead virtually melting into his arms.

*Wait...* he thought. *I'm forgetting something. What am I...?*

He suddenly pushed away from his childhood friend and whirled around, drawing a stake from under his shirt and swinging it around in one smooth motion. The vampire stared in shock at him before crumbling to dust.

"Nice shot."

He grinned, "Well, we can't all be Slayers, Buff. Welcome back."


"Greetings, daughter of the Kalderash."

Jenny Calendar, known to some as Janna of the Kalderash clan, whirled around, eyes darting back and forth but unable to pierce the darkness. The voice was familiar, but she couldn't quite place it. "Wh-who are you? Where did you hear that name?"

The voice ignored her questions and continued, "There's a reason your clan sent you to watch Angel, Janna. The moment his soul is no longer a burden to him, it will be taken from him. Should he achieve even one moment of true happiness... Angelus will be unleashed on the world again. Do not fail in your mission."

"Who are you?!" she demanded of the darkness. "How do you know all this?"

"The Shadow knows," the voice said, then trailed off into mocking laughter.


Xander snickered. That was _too_ much fun! Still, he'd better not try that stunt again, or he might find himself attracting a little too much attention.

"Well, well, well," a female voice purred, "looks like we've got delivery tonight, boys."

Xander jerked his head up and swore.


There were five of them: four male, one female. She would probably have been pretty good-looking if it weren't for the vampiric ridges on her face... not that that was any great surprise. Vampires tended to turn their more attractive victims.

He drew his stake and a vial of holy water and waved them on with false bravado, "Well, come on then."

The vampires looked at each other in surprise, then looked at the female, who was obviously the leader of the group. *Figures,* he thought sourly.

She nodded, and they attacked.

He staked one on the charge, and the holy water sent a second to the ground screaming before he staked it. He held his cross up, warding off the other two, looking around wildly.

Suddenly, something struck him on the back of the head, hard, and he fell to the ground. Trying to blink his eyes clear, he saw the female vampire leaning over him.

"I think I'll keep this one," she said with a wicked smile.


Xander sucked in a breath. Where...?

His gaze dropped to his hand. He shook his head in denial as he pulled the sword free of the body skewered on the other end. The blade fell from his nerveless fingers and clattered to the ground.


The Slayer coughed up blood and smiled up at him, "Xander... you're... back. Gotta... tell you... never realized... love you..."

"Oh, God, Buffy... Buffy? BUFFY!"

He stumbled back and looked around frantically, searching for something -- anything -- that would help the fallen Slayer.

Instead, he found the stone form of Acathla... and the portal it was producing.

"Oh, hell..." he muttered, rather appropriately, before the orange light engulfed him.


Xander bolted upright, gasping for air.

"What the hell happened?"

"Well," Whistler said, stepping out of the shadows, "to put it bluntly, you happened. You'll remember in a little while when the curse really kicks in, but the Reader's Digest version is this: Angel never lost his soul, thanks in part to that little performance of yours, but you kinda got turned by that gang of vamps. Vampire you... not a nice fellow. Woke up Acathla, sent the world to hell. Great big reset button, and bam! Here you are."

"Oh," was all Xander could say.

"Christ, kid," Whistler shook his head, "you're supposed ta _save_ the world, not end it! Ya gotta be more careful than that."

"Right, right, ri-..." Xander stiffened suddenly. "Oh God."

Whistler winced, then made himself scarce. The kid needed to be alone for this.


Tap tap. Tap tap tap.

Willow blinked and looked up from her book in surprise. She opened the glass door, her face screwed in confusion, "Xander, wha-? Ooof!"

She found herself pulled into a desperate hug as Xander's arms wrapped around her, holding her close.

"Oh, God, Willow," he murmured, "you're all right. Thank _God_ you're alive!"

"Aren't I usually?" she asked, puzzled but not complaining at the surge of affection.

He pulled away, blinking back tears, and said nothing.

"Bad dream?" she asked tentatively.

He hesitated for a moment, and she almost flinched from the haunted look in his eyes, but it vanished a moment later when he smiled faintly and croaked out, "Yeah. Bad dream."

"C'mon," she said, "I'll make you some hot chocolate."

"Thanks, Wills."


"Feel better, Xander?" Willow asked as he finished up the hot chocolate.

"Yeah," he said, smiling back at her. After a moment, he said, "You know I love you, right?"

"Yeah..." she said, wishing he meant it in the more-than-friends way.

"Just... don't forget. Don't ever forget, okay?"

"All right," she said. "So, umm... you okay to go home now?"

He sighed and stared at the bottom of his mug. "I dunno," he said, his voice tired. "Can I sleep with you tonight, Wills?"

Willow's eyes went round, and she could feel her face burning, but he didn't seem to notice. "Um, uh, sure. Sure, Xander. N-no problem."


Xander stirred awake and blinked his eyes open.

"An...?" he muttered in confusion. No, this wasn't the apartment he shared with his fiancee. He sat up and looked around... and froze.


Then his mind unfogged, and the memories returned. He lay back down and pulled her into a hug, relishing in her warmth... and rejoicing in the simple knowledge that she was alive.


"Mmm..." Willow moaned in satisfaction as she buried her face into the warm, manly chest in front of her.

The thought penetrated, and the morning fog suddenly vanished.

*Oh, God!* she thought. *I'm in bed with a man! Who?!*

She blinked and looked up, then smiled in relief. *Mmm... Xander...* she thought, then pouted, *...and clothing...*


"You sure this is the place?" Buffy asked, nodding toward the warehouse.

"Yeah," Xander said, his voice hard. "I'm sure."

Buffy glanced at him and was surprised by what she saw. His expression was so grim and hard, it might have been etched in stone for all she could tell. In his eyes, she could see tightly controlled anger and a hint of something else she couldn't identify.

And how did Xander find out about this vampire nest, anyway?

She shook it off. She'd ask him later.

"Let's go."


Xander threw a right hook and followed it up with a left cross. As the female vampire stumbled back, he brought his leg up and kicked her across the face, spinning around and backhanding her with his clenched fist.

He advanced again and threw three rapid punches into her gut, followed by an uppercut and a punch to the throat that left her reflexively clutching her throat and gasping for air she didn't really need. He lashed out with a brutal kick to her knee, snapping the joint in a direction it was never meant to bend.

Finally, Xander crouched down and held his stake to her chest. With a feral smile, he said, "Goodbye, Cindy." She stared in shock -- how did he know her name? -- as he shoved the stake home.

Dusting his hands off, Xander stood up and looked around, "That all of them?"

Buffy stared at him for a long moment before she looked around and answered, "Uh, yeah. I think so."

*Where did he learn to fight like that? And when did he get so... vicious?* she wondered uncertainly.

Xander's thoughts ran parallel, *Okay, that wasn't Soldier Boy, so what was all that?* The only thing he could think of was that it was a holdover from his time a vampire. Black belt-level martial arts prowess seemed to part of the whole bloodsucker package.

He shivered. He did _not_ want to think about that.


Chapter 2
Inner Darkness


The ensouled vampire turned, "Harris. What do you want?"

"To..." Xander hesitated, then took a deep breath and plowed on, "to apologize. For the way I've treated you. I... di-don't know what you're going through, and since you've shown up, I've done nothing but give you a hard time for things you wish you'd never done. I'm sorry."

Angel stared hard at him for a long moment. He seemed sincere, and the black-clad vampire couldn't think of any reason Xander would say it if he didn't mean it.

"Apology... accepted." How could he refuse to forgive Xander for what were very justified actions? He couldn't, not if he wanted to maintain that spark of hope for his own redemption.

Xander let out a heavy sigh and said, "But understand this, Deadboy: You lose that soul of yours, I'm staking you first chance I get. I promise you that."

Angel nodded, "I know. And I'm glad." His eyes narrowed, "And if it does come to that... you'd better keep that promise."

"Don't worry," Xander said as he started to turn away. "I will." He paused, "Curses have loopholes, don't they? Ways to break the spell?"

"Yeah, usually. Why?"

Xander turned, "Maybe you'd better find out the clause in yours, so I never have to keep that promise."

"I'll keep that in mind."


Xander blew out a shuddering sigh. He'd kept secrets before, hard ones. It had taken Willow three years to figure out what his parents were really like. It had taken over four years for Buffy and Willow to learn about his lie, and even by the time of the first reset, they still didn't know about Jack's bomb.

But those secrets paled in comparison to the ones he kept now, secrets that threatened to rip his sanity to shreds.

A part of him recognized what he was going through. He wasn't sure if it was a remnant of Soldier Guy or something half-remembered from a movie, but he knew he was starting to fall apart inside.

Combat fatigue. Shell shock. Post-traumatic stress disorder.

Whatever they were calling it now, he could tell that he was dangerously close to it. Staking Jesse was one thing -- it wasn't really Jesse, and it was really an accident -- but what he'd done to Buffy... to Willow...


He started, then turned. Forcing a smile to his face, he waved, "Hey, Wills. What's up?"

"What's wrong, Xander?" she asked.

"What makes you think something's wrong?" he asked mildly.

"Xander..." she said, shifting to her Resolve Face. "You can't lie to me, you know that."

"Willow, I..."

"No, Xander!" she interrupted stubbornly. She poked him in the chest and said furiously, "You've changed, Xander. Ever since you had that nightmare -- whatever it was -- you've gotten almost as broody as Angel!"

"Hey!" he protested reflexively, glaring at her. "I resent that comparison!"

She folded her arms, "But do you deny it?"

"Uh, well, that is, uh..." he stammered. *Geez!* he thought to himself with no small amount of irritation. *You'd think after all this time I'd've figured out how to lie to her!*

"I'll take that as a 'no,'" she said. "So what is it, Xander? What's been bugging you?"

"I..." he trailed off and tried to collect his thoughts. "Willow, I wish I could tell you, but... I can't. I... I just can't, okay?"

"Why not?" she demanded. "Xander, we're best friends. We tell each other _everything_."

He snapped his head up and gave her a penetrating look. "Not everything, Wills. Never everything."

She blinked in surprise, then said, hurt, "What? You mean there's something else you've been keeping from me?"

"I'm mean we all have our secrets, Wills," he said quietly. "This is mine."

She frowned, "Xander, I'm not leaving until you tell me what's bothering you. Resolve Face."

Xander barked out a bitter laugh, "That stopped working a long time ago, Willow."

He turned and walked away, leaving a very confused redhead worrying about her childhood friend.


"Hey, G-man."

"Don't call me that, Xander," the Watcher said tiredly.

"Just had a weird thought," Xander shrugged. "Back when Buff killed the Master, she kinda drowned, remember?"

"And you saved her with CPR."

"Well..." Xander said thoughtfully, "...what if... what if her being physiologically dead for those few seconds was enough to Call the next Slayer?"

Giles' eyes widened.

*Okay,* Xander thought, *that's the Kendra situation... minimized. I already crushed the Master's bones, and Deadboy's thinking about his curse. What else do I need to...? Of course. Gotta make sure I'm in shape if I'm gonna save the world.*


Xander swung the sledgehammer one more time, driving the sharpened two-by-four deeper into the ground. He gave it a solid shove. It didn't wobble.

He smiled and put down the sledge. Picking up a long coil of rope, he began to wrap it around the top end of the two-by-four.



The musician turned and cocked an eyebrow, "Do I know you?"

"No," Xander shook his head, "but I know you. Remember the cultural exchange dance?"


Xander smiled and said, "I'm a friend of the Eskimo."

"Oh," Oz said. He was a little upset at that, though no one who didn't know him well would be able to tell. He had hoped she was single.

"Strictly friend," Xander reassured him. "I know you've had your eye on her lately, and I was wondering if you'd like an introduction."

"When?" Oz barely bat an eye.

"Tonight. Bronze. Eight o'clock."

"I'll be there," Oz nodded with a small smile... which, for him, was equivalent to Xander's Snoopy Dance.


Xander punched the rope-wrapped wooden post angrily.

*Who the _hell_ does she is?!* he snarled mentally as he swung around and lashed out at the post with a forearm blow. *She hasn't seen what I've seen. She has _no_ right to judge me!*

Throwing a one-two combo into the practice post he had set up two nights ago, he thought back to the previous night.

* * Flashback * *

"Hey, gals," Xander said with a smile.

Willow looked up at him, Resolve Face on, it vanished in a wave of surprise. "Who's this?"

"Buff, Will, meet Daniel Osbourne, better known as Oz. He plays guitar for the Dingoes. Oz, these are my two best buds, Willow Rosenberg and Buffy Summers."

"Hi," Oz said, his attention clearly focused on the redhead.

"Hi?" Willow said uncertainly.

"Well, I'm gonna get some fresh air," Xander said, rising and ignoring the panicked look in Willow's face.

Buffy frowned but said nothing.


"Hey," Xander said, "where's Oz?"

"He's off getting some drinks," Buffy said.

"Xander, what- what is with you lately?" Willow asked. "First you get all broody, then you start pushing me away, and now you're trying to set me up with a guy? Xander, I appreciate the thought, but I don't want you to set me up with someone. I... I..." she stuttered to a halt and looked to Buffy for support.

"Go ahead," Buffy said with an encouraging smile. "Tell him."

Xander snorted derisively, "You mean your little crush on me, Wills?"

Willow's eyes widened, and Buffy's jaw dropped. The Slayer finally found her voice and asked, "You know?

He rolled his eyes and said condescendingly, "I'm not _that_ blind, Buff. I was hoping she'd get the hint and move on."

"'H-hint'?" Willow asked in a small voice.

He let out an annoyed sigh, "God, Wills, for someone so smart, you're pretty damn stupid sometimes. You're my friend, Wills. That's all, and that's all you'll _ever_ be. Our relationship would be the same if you were a guy."

That said, he spun on his heel and walked out of the Bronze. Buffy hesitated, then stormed after him. Stepping outside, she called, "Xander!"

"Yeah, Buff?" he said, pausing and turning toward her.

"How could you _do_ that to her?!" she snarled angrily, walking up and poking him in the chest.

"I'm doing her a favor, Buffy," he said evenly. "Trust me. It's for the best."

"A _favor_?!" she sputtered incredulously. "Xander, you just broke her heart in the worst way I've ever _seen_, and you call that a _favor_?!?"

"Just shut up, Buffy!" he snarled. "You don't understand."

"Damn right, I don't!" she shot back. "And I don't _want_ to."

He rolled his eyes and turned to leave.

"Hey! I'm talking to you!" she shouted. "Don't you walk away from me, you bastard!"

* * End Flashback * *


Xander blinked at the sound and realized he'd broken the post. There was also a slowly expanding red spot on the rope wrapped around the post.

That's when the pain registered, and he let out a low hiss. Looking down, he saw his arms and hands were bruised and bloodied. Although most of the damage was on his knuckles, bruises and small cuts covered his arms all the way up to his elbows.