Tabula Rasa Take Two

Second Thoughts

Author: Cyclone <cyclone[at]>

Feedback: Please be gentle.

Distribution: Not here, not yet.

Rating: I'm gonna go say PG-13.

Spoilers: Up to Tabula Rasa, plus some of my own weird little fanfic alterniverse ideas.

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

Summary: Let's just say that Willow's spell turns out a little bit differently.

Author's Note: Much credit goes to Garrett Aja for helping with several key scenes.

Chapter 1

"Sorry. Everybody's sorry. I know that you guys are just trying to help... but it's just... it's too much. And.. and I... I can't take it anymore." The Slayer tried -- and failed -- to fight back the tears as she continued, "If you guys... if you guys understood how it felt... how it feels. It's like I'm dying, it-..."

The next thing Xander knew, Willow had collapsed into his arms. He shook her gently, "Wills? Wills!"

Looking up, he saw Buffy and Tara both unconscious, and Spike was crouching over Buffy, shaking her with a tenderness he hadn't thought the vampire capable of, "Slayer! Wake up! Buffy!"

Gently laying Willow in a chair, he headed over and checked on Tara, breathing a sigh of relief that she seemed to be fine. He looked up, "What now, G-man? What did this?"

Spike rose and snarled, vamping out, "Better yet, who did this, Watcher?" His intent was clear.

Giles shook his head and stammered, "I... I don't know."


Xander sat in the training room and watched.

Three of the most important people in his life were unconscious, and they just weren't waking up. He hadn't moved for the last four hours; even though Giles had pronounced that they were -- as far as he could tell -- going to recover on their own, he couldn't stop worrying.


His head jerked up. "Oh, hey, An."

"You should get home, get some sleep. You have work tomorrow."

He looked back at them and replied, "No."

"Xander, they're going to be fine. I'll keep an eye on them."

He stubbornly shook his head, "Sorry, An. I can't."

"You don't trust me."

"No! No, that's not it at all. It's just... they're my girls, just like you and Dawn." He looked up at his fiancee hopefully, "You understand?"

She gave a faint half-smile, the sparks of jealousy that had threatened to erupt dampened by his naked honesty, "I think I do."

"It was you! Why didn't you say anything, Xander?!" two voices demanded.

"Huh?" Both Anya and Xander turned.

The three girls were awake and sitting up, and Buffy and Willow were shooting curious looks at each other. Willow nodded for Buffy to go first, and the Slayer turned a penetrating gaze on Xander, finally saying, "The night I died. The first time. That talk you had with Angel. How come you never said anything? A-and when you protected me from evil Angel while I was in the hospital. How come you never told me he was there?"

Xander paled, and Willow took it from there, "And the night we gave him back his soul. You... you... how could you say something like that and just not say anything about it?!"

"Oh, boy. Ohboyohboyohboy."

Anya frowned and glared at Xander, who avoided meeting her eyes, and asked, "What are they talking about?"

Xander mumbled something incoherent.

"What was that?"

"Okay, they would be talking about the times I... kinda... admittedthatIwasinlovewiththem."

Anya's eyes widened as she sorted through that, then demanded, "You WHAT?!"

He backed away, holding his hands up as if to ward off her anger, "Hey! That was, like, three, four years ago!"


Xander's eyes went round, and heads turned to face the speaker: Tara.

Anya scowled at Xander, then turned her attention back to Tara, "Explain."

Tara cleared her throat nervously and said, "W-well, the summer b- before I came to Sunnydale, Xander and I... w-we kinda... had a thing, and I-I think he thought I was asleep when he said it, but..." She shrugged and smiled weakly.

"Tare," Xander began with a calmness that surprised him, "is now really the best time to bring that up?"

She smirked, "Probably not, but that look on your face..."

His eyes narrowed, and he shot her a mock glare and gave his best Daffy Duck impression, "You're despicable."

Buffy and Willow spent the next few moments explaining the events they had each brought up, and Anya's face grew darker with each new revelation. Shooting a glare at Xander, she asked, "So, Xander, is there anyone you confessed your undying love to last summer?"

He blinked, brought back into the conversation, and answered a little dumbly, "Uh, yeah. You. Remember? The whole engagement thing?"

She let out an exasperated sigh, "I meant the summer before that!"

He hesitated, "Uhh..."

A long moment passed.


"Ow! Just kidding!" he protested, massaging his arms and glaring at the four women who had just smacked him.

Why Buffy, Tara, and Willow had smacked him was beyond him. And, he would add, a little unfair too. What right did they have to be upset, anyway?

*Oh, well,* he concluded, resigned. *I guess I gotta face facts. I'll never understand women.*


Buffy patrolled the cemetary, but she wasn't really paying as much attention as she should have been. Her mind strayed, as it often did, but for the first time, her thoughts drifted to Xander.

This was new, and she decided she liked it.

Whatever it was that had knocked her out, along with Tara and Willow, had given her a... vision. She wasn't really sure what else to call it. It was like someone had just given her memories of how things would have gone if, when Angel left, he had told her about that night, told her how Xander had practically bullied the ensouled vampire into leading him to the Master's lair.

*And,* she thought, with a warm smile, *Xander makes a pretty good boyfriend. Fiance too, if that vision's anything to go by.*

Motion caught her eye, and she turned to see Xander waving at her with one hand, a stake held in the other. With a broad smile, she waved and headed over to him. "Hey, Xand. What's up? I thought you had work tomorrow."

He scratched the back of his head, "I do, but An's kinda upset about what happened in the Magic Box and kicked me out, so I figured I might as well do a little patrolling while she cools off."

"Why don't you stay at my place?"


"The spare room's all set up. You could stay there tonight. I don't want you getting yourself killed 'cause you fell asleep while building us a better tomorrow."

"Thanks, Buff," he smiled and held out his arms for a hug, which she gladly gave.

She liked this. She felt safe in his arms, and -- Slayer or not -- it was nice to feel safe. On an impulse, she whispered in his ear, "If I can do anything else to help, just ask. Anything."

Immediately after she said it, she felt him stiffen in her arms, and she realized her mistake. It wasn't her words but, rather, the way she said them. He pulled away and smiled, "Well, I, uh, I suppose I ought to get going now if I'm gonna stay awake on the job tomorrow. See ya, Buff."

Buffy watched him go. She knew he was barely keeping himself from running all out, and it hurt. Pouting, she sighed, "Okay. So I was a little too forward."


Tara rolled onto her back and flung her arm out across the bed. Nature was calling, and she decided she'd better answer it before she did something embarrassing like wet the bed.

Her arm met an obstruction. With a start, she sat up, gathering the sheets around her. "Who's there?"

"Hmm...?" the sleepy voice that moaned back incoherently was definitely male. Male... and familiar.

She looked and called, "Xander?"

He blinked his eyes open, "Tara."

A long moment passed as the young man's brain began working.

"Gah!" he nearly tumbled out the other side of the bed, snatching at the sheets to keep himself covered. The sheets nearly slipped out of her hand, but she held on with a death grip.

"Wh-what are you doing here, Xander?"

"Uh, well, An kicked me out, and Buff told me I could stay. What are you doing here, Tare? Why aren't you with Wills?"

"We, uh, we decided we needed a little space."


Tara licked her lips and said, "Um, Xander. I, uh, I kinda need the bathroom, a-and I'm sorta naked under here."

"Um, so am I. Kinda picked up that habit from you. And An."

*Oh, Goddess,* Tara thought, feeling her cheeks burn. *We're naked and in bed together.*

It probably wouldn't have been so bad if it weren't for the fact that she hadn't been able to stop thinking about him for the last several hours. While she'd been unconscious in the Magic Box, she'd had what she could only conclude was a glimpse into an alternate world, one where she had overheard Xander's proclamation of love two years ago and had gone with him on his return trip to Sunnydale. One where she was engaged to him.

Since then, she'd had butterflies in her stomach whenever she thought about Xander -- which, since then, had been almost every minute.

It didn't make sense. She was a lesbian! What she had had with Xander that summer... she'd just been experimenting!

*Why?* she had wondered, but she knew the answer. *Because, as stupid as it is, he's still the first person I ever loved. Even if he is a guy.*

But that wasn't going to help their current situation. If anyone caught them like this, they probably wouldn't get a chance to explain.

She sighed, decision made, "Oh, for crying out loud. It's not like there's anything you haven't seen before." With that, she stood and stretched cramped muscles.

She could feel Xander's eyes on her, tracking up and down her nude form. She felt her heart thumping harder and faster. *God and Goddess! This is turning me on!*

Xander's next words, however, replaced her arousal with embarrassment in an instant.

"You shaved."

She felt her face flush and said, as nonchalantly as she could, "Willow's nose is ticklish."

"That, I knew. But I'd never really thought about that being a... problem."

"I-I'm gonna go," Tara announced, picking up and donning the oversized T-shirt she used as nightgown. Once she was decently covered, she left the room and headed straight to the bathroom, fighting the rush of blood to her face -- and other parts of her body -- every step of the way.

Back inside the spare room, Xander took time out from berating himself for his idiotic comment in order to get his boxers on, grab a spare blanket and pillow, and head to the living room. He could crash on the couch instead tonight.

That seemed much safer.


Willow looked at him and sighed. He looked so peaceful when he was asleep, no trace on his face of the chaos and stresses that life on the Hellmouth thrust on him every day. They had been through a lot together, but there were times she wished she could hate him.

Such as now.

It would be so much easier to hate him for tempting her, but she was pretty certain what had happened. Buffy and Tara, they hadn't said anything, but she knew. Her spell had backfired, and she'd gotten whammied with memories of a parallel timeline -- one where the things she'd tried to make them forget had never happened -- so they probably got memories like that too. She liked that world. It was a world where she was going to marry the one person she knew better than herself, a world where the Fluke wasn't just a fluke.

And right now, she truly -- desperately -- wanted to Fluke again.

But she couldn't. She knew she wouldn't be able to live with herself if she hurt Tara the way she hurt Oz.

Assuming Anya let them live long enough for that to be an issue.

Xander stirred, breaking her out of her reverie, and on a whim, she decided to play one of their old games. She moved over and touched the tip of her nose against the tip of his, resisting the urge to scratch her nose when the contact tickled her.

To complete the effect, she crossed her eyes.

Xander blinked his eyes open, and she belatedly realized why she'd enjoyed this little game before. When she'd first been in love with him.

If she moved just half an inch closer, she'd be kissing him.

He grinned and retaliated by sticking his tongue out, but he failed to take into account their proximity. When the tip of his tongue touched her lips, she automatically began sucking on it, her eyes closing and uncrossing.

Xander, for his part, was lost in the sensation too, but when Willow began to moan, he came to his senses and jerked back.

The moment lost, the two childhood friends stared at each other, their faces beet red, and quickly looked around to see if anyone had caught them. To their mutual relief, there was no one in sight.

"Um, uh, I should go. Got work today," stammered Xander as he got up and began dressing in record time.

"Um, yeah," Willow agreed, nodding furiously. "Wouldn't want you to be late. Uh, see ya!"



Carpentry was something Xander could relax into. Measure twice, cut once. He liked working with wood. It was reliable, it was normal, and it wasn't going to transform into some slimey demon and try to kill him.

It also helped him ignore the recent aberration in his friends' behavior. Now -- when he was engaged to a former vengeance demon -- could quite possibly be one of the worst possible times to start Fluking again.

And if smooching around on Anya wasn't enough to guarantee him a slow and agonizingly painful death, doing so with several girls at once definitely would be.

So it was with some trepidation that he walked out at his lunch break after he heard from Jack that he had someone waiting for him. A new girl, at that.

Which meant it wasn't Anya, Buffy, or Willow -- known to his colleagues either as "Harris's Harem" or as the Fiancee, the Blonde, and the Redhead, respectively.

A smile bloomed on his face when he saw who it was, and he waved cheerfully, squashing the image from last night that popped up in his mind's eye. "Tara, hey! What are you doing here? Way things were going, I figured it'd take the end of the world to get you out in public without Wills."

His face fell slightly, but she shook her head reassuringly, "No, no, nothing like that." Smiling shyly, she held up a McDonald's take-out bag and said, "Just thought you might like some lunch."

He blinked and took the bag gratefully, "Thanks." Opening the paper bag, he pulled out the burger and wolfed it down. He noticed Tara bite her lip and cocked an eyebrow but otherwise ignored it. It didn't take a genius to figure out that whatever was bothering her was what she was really here for. She'd get to it in time.

"You know that Italian restaurant downtown? The new one on Main Street?"

He nodded, "Yeah. Mario's. What about it?"

"W-well, two weeks ago, W-Willow and I, w-we reserved a table there for tomorrow night, b-but she w-won't be able to make it. I don't want to waste the reservation, s-s-so... would you like to go with me?" she said the last in a hurried rush.

"When's the reservation?"

"Uhh, tomorrow night. A-at seven thirty."

"Pick you up at seven?"


He shot her a wry half-smile and winked, "It's a date, then." Turning and heading back in, finishing his fries, he didn't notice Tara's face turn scarlet.


Buffy double-checked the papers in her hands. Most of them were forms, but the stack also included three letters of recommendation and a rather long request for special dispensation she'd written.

Xander may not have been a college guy in this world, but her memories included him encouraging her to continue her education -- joining him in Bonehead 101, as he'd put it. She'd think about convincing him to attend later.

Most importantly, as he had made clear in that other world, college was a way for her to look into the future and see something besides death.

She liked the idea of having a future, and she was certainly not above admitting -- at least to herself -- that she enjoyed the prospect of Xander being a big part of that future. It beat smooching with Spike, that was for sure. Even if he was a good kisser.

The only thing she hadn't considered yet was Anya, and that was something she intended to put off until much later.

So it was that she was spending a great deal of effort to hold back a cheerful whistle when she practically skipped into the registrar's office.


She looked up and smiled. There was only one person in the office, standing behind the registrar's desk.

"Willow, hey. What's up?" She frowned and raised an eyebrow, "Don't you have a scholarship?"

Willow nodded, "Well, yeah, but a little extra money's always handy, especially now that Anya runs the Magix Box."

"Ahh," Buffy said, nodding with understanding.

Willow took the forms, and while she was feeding the information into the computer, she asked, "So, you look awfully cheerful. What's the deal? New boyfriend? And what changed your mind about coming back to school?"

"Uh, well..." Buffy hesitated. Did she really want to tell Willow? She wasn't even sure where those memories came from. She really wasn't eager to sound crazy to one of the few friends she had that didn't already think she was nuts.

Willow, on the other hand, was slowly coming to the realization that her spell hadn't given Buffy and Tara memories of the same world. If it had, there was no way Buffy would be this cheerful, knowing she could still be with Riley.

So what...?

And it hit her. It was Xander. He was the one all three of them were thinking of when they woke up again.

There was a long and somewhat uncomfortable silence while Willow finished punching in the data.

While they waited for the computer to process Buffy's information, Willow finally asked, "So, uh, what do you remember? A-about Xander?"

"Wh-what? Xander? Um, he's Xander."

Willow eyed her somewhat suspiciously, "Is that all?"

Buffy nodded nervously, "Well, yeah. What else would there be?"

"Do you love him?"

"Um, excuse me, what?" Buffy sputtered, feeling her face flush.

"You love him!" Willow accused. "He's my fiance!" Her eyes widened, and her hands flew to cover her mouth.

"What?" Buffy's jaw hung open. "'Fiance'? Since when?"


The Slayer's eyes narrowed as it dawned on her, "Wait... I get it. When we passed out in the Magic Box, you got some wacky memories too, didn't you?"

Willow nodded weakly, "Yes..."

"And Xander's Key Guy in all this," Buffy nodded slowly. "You remember being engaged to him too."

Willow nodded again, "Yeah, and some other stuff too."

"Like what?"

"After Oz left, the only one there for me was Xander. You had just dumped him for Riley, and we were both hurting. And then we fell in love. Again, I mean."

Buffy frowned, "Whoa, backtrack. Why would I dump Xander? Aside from my incredible stupidity five years ago."

"Oh, well, he was kinda your Rebound Guy after Angel left. You got together in Oxnard when you saw him stripping."

"Oh," Buffy nodded, then frowned for a moment before realization came to her. The difference was what Angel had told her: That Xander loved her not just enough to literally walk through the gates of hell for her, but enough to go to the person he hated most in the world to lead him there.

Both stood there in thoughtful silence while Willow mechanically filed the paperwork.


Dawn shuffled toward her room, her mind in overdrive. She was hurt, sad, and angry.

Mostly angry.

Mostly at Willow.

*Just because you and Tara are having problems is no excuse to go smooching Xander and ruining his relationship with Anya too!* she thought furiously. She didn't like Anya, and she didn't understand what Xander saw in her, but she seemed to make him happy.

"Oh, Xander, yesss..."

*And furthermore, ambushing him while he's still asleep is just...*

Her train of thought suddenly derailed as what she heard finally penetrated. *Did I just hear...?*

"Oh, yes. Oh, yeah, that's it. Right there, Xander. Ahhh..."

*That's Buffy!* she thought. *Oh my God,* she thought, horrified. *Buffy's having sex with Xander! Buffy is having sex with Xander!*

With that thought, she picked up her pace and burst through the door into Buffy's room. "I can't believe you! You guys ha-ha-... huh?" she stuttered to a halt as she realized that what she was seeing in no way matched the conclusion she had reached a moment ago.

Buffy -- fully clothed -- was sitting on the edge of her bed. Xander -- also fully clothed -- was sitting cross-legged behind her and... giving her a neck massage?

"Believe what, Dawnie?" Xander asked cheerfully.

She blushed and shook her head, "Uh, n-nothing. Never mind."

Xander grinned sneakily, then looked at Buffy, "My, oh my. Buffy, I do believe your little sister's been having some naughty thoughts."

Buffy nodded, looking back at him, "Sure seems that way, Xander." She turned to look at Dawn and grinned merrily. "Of course, now that means she has to be some kind of pervert. Honestly! Walking in on your own sister and one of your best friends when you think they're doing that," she said, faking a miffed tone and expression.

"You two...!" Dawn struggled to find something to say for a moment, and unable to find a good comeback, she whirled on her heel and departed in a huff.