The Guitarist of Sunnydale

Author: Danii <debrabantknight[at]>

Summary: Answering my own challenge. Xander finds his forgotten instrument during a dark moment, but it's more then just a guitar. It's the first stone on his path to a destiny even he could have never guessed.

Disclaimer: I own nothing. Neither BTVS nor Violinist of Hamelin. I would like to rent Xander, Hamel, and Raiel for a while, but I doubt I'll get them.

Distribution: XanderZone, and anywhere else that just lets me know where it is and puts my name on it.

Spoilers: Up to and including the end of Season 5. You know what that means : )

Ships: Dunno…we'll see!

Notes: I know I have tons to work on, but this won't leave. Well…so it goes. DO expect a new chapter of "Only the Mortal Ones" soon, as well as some other fun from my way.

Notes2: If you know Hamelin…expect references : ) and feel free to correct me

Thanks: To Whitewerewolf, for reading this over for me, as well as to Prospero and Black Crowe as a cry for more of Cat Shadows and The Odds, respectively...

NOTE: If anyone would like to hear the song (sung by a woman), it's on this page...but please obey the download regulations there ^_^ SONG˜Lullaby for Children Long Gone

Latest addition

Chapter 1

Lullaby for Children Long Gone

Anya was asleep.

Buffy was dead.

Dawn was safe.

Buffy was dead.

Tara was fixed.

Buffy was dead.

He couldn't pull his mind from the image of his Slayer, his Buffy, lying there on that rubble. Despite every wish not to, he couldn't help but remember the curve of her sweater, how it had folded just so over her stomach; the slight rumple in her pants near the ankle. Every strand of hair that swept over her far-too-pale face was forever branded into his soul, every speck of dirt a permanent fixture in his heart.

No matter what they'd accomplished, the cost had been too high. If only-

So many of those ran through his mind.

If only he'd gotten out of the wrecker fast enough, maybe he could have gotten to Dawn in time to stop that cut from ever happening. If only Spike hadn't been stopped. If only there had been some way to stop the chaos of worlds merging without costing them Buffy. His friend. His hero.

Seeing her body like that…it had broken him. Anya's head injury had worried him (though it had turned out to be minor enough that she could sleep it off without fear of slipping into a coma), he was in permanent "mother-hen" mode when it came to Dawn (who was sleeping in the guest bedroom down the hall), and he was as happy for Willow and Tara as he could ever be. But it didn't change the fact that he was broken inside. That something within him was gone, never to return, and that his world no longer had a hero.

"God," he whispered sadly to no one but himself, the sound of the word itself almost comfort for pulling him out of his mind a little bit, "I'm one morose bastard."

Not that he had no reason to be, but still. He'd always tried to be, well, if not happy then at least content. Xander Harris lived his life with as little sorrow as possible because, honestly, it didn't do a thing for you, and as for fixing things that needed it…it didn't do jack shit. Sure life sucked, was his mental refrain, but the only way to fix that was to get off your butt and do something about it. Moping (or as he'd often thought when looking at the heap of guilt that was Angel, angsting) helped nothing. Besides, if you spent all that time concentrating on the crappy parts of life, you'd miss the good bits, and seeing as there weren't enough of those for him to spare any, Xander wasn't about to let that happen if he could prevent it.

But this time, it was too hard. He couldn't just jump up, stake a couple of vampires, and declare himself "fine". He was a tough nut to crack, but everyone had their breaking point, and Xander was pretty sure he'd reached his.

He got up from the bed where he'd been sitting watching Anya sleep, and made his way to the closet near the front door of the apartment to grab his jacket. Maybe a dr-

Suddenly, his hand closed around an item that was at once familiar and not. It was not familiar since it wasn't a jacket, and those were the only things that were supposed to be in there, but it was familiar in that he knew what it was. The curve of the head in his hands, smooth tuning pegs slipping between his fingers like an old friend coming home…it was his guitar.

Carefully…oh so carefully, he pulled it out, his effort not to bang into anything hampered slightly by the close space that was his doorway. But pull it out he did, and without a sound as well.

"Wonder where Anya found this?"

He hadn't seen it for years, but it didn't look like it was in any worse shape then when he'd stuffed it into the closet of his room. That day…

That day had been another breaking point for him.

Holding the guitar brought back mixed memories. On one hand, he could remember the many afternoons he'd spent with his mother and grandfather, learning how to play it. How her hands had wrapped around his, her warm arms enfolding his whole little body as she placed his small fingers on the frets. The familiar gruff voice drifting over the hesitant notes he'd play lilted through his mind like a near-forgotten melody itself; the notes weren't hesitant because he was frightened of being reprimanded over a mistake, but because his tiny hands couldn't work the larger guitar as easily as the adults could, and there was laughter in that voice each time it commented thus. Willow and Jesse would sometimes come to watch, Willow awed at the music that she had never had the knack for coming from her friend Xander with such ease, and Jesse commenting quietly about how many chicks his friend was gonna get when he was older, being a guitar player and all.

Willow and he had told him to stuff it because boys/girls were icky.

"Jesse always ahead of his time when it came to that kinda stuff…"

He had gotten older, girls had become less icky, and he hadn't needed those gentle hands to guide his fingers to the note, nor that crusty voice to kindly correct him. Those nights when he'd just play and play and play as those he cared for listened…those were golden times.

Then it had ended in a flash, like lightning in summer, as his grandfather had passed on and the only thing keeping Jessica Harris from submitting to her grouchy, ill-tempered, and often-drunken husband's ways was gone. There had been no more performances in the backyard, no more sing-alongs between family and friends. Her father's death had broken the woman till she was no more then her husband's puppet, an Anthony Harris-clone with as much bile and hatred as could be poured out of the bourbon bottle.

It was then, when he'd turned 15, that he'd decided to stuff the guitar away. His grandfather was gone, those nights of magic were gone, and his mother as he'd known her was gone…so why keep the painful memories around? He'd started his philosophy about then, he remembered, by shutting that part away from view and just going on like normal, but maybe…

Moving away from the closet, he closed it as slowly and quietly as he could, holding the guitar with a strange sort of reverence, and walked over to the couch. Xander sat.

The body as smooth and curvy as he remembered, its dark red color reminding him of blood instead of his mother's hair, as it had when he was younger. Tuning pegs still white from the eager fingers which had once turned them. Strings as taunt as ever, with not a one of them needing replacing as far as he could see. Fretboard sound and solid, the honey color between the notches reminding him of one of the more recent shades of Anya's constantly-changing hair. Not a chip on the bridge. And around the soundhole, that familiar pattern of symbols he'd never understood.

He traced that opening with his finger, running the work-callused pad over the design, and then pulled the guitar to himself, and began to play.

It was a song he'd learned from his grandfather years ago. It had no real words, and a rather simple melody, but somehow…he'd always found it more beautiful then anything else he'd learned. His voice, rough from lack of use at first, began to undulate in harmony. He was no great singer, but this song didn't require that. It was from the heart, and that was all one could hear when they listened.

Often he'd hummed the song at school, and not a single adult (including Mr. Lopez, the band teacher) had been able to tell him what it was called. Well, until they'd questioned him about it, he'd never really thought it needed a name, but once the curiosity had been awakened, he'd had to ask his grandfather.

"It is a lullaby for children long gone…" the old man had said, a peculiar gleam in his eyes, "And the reason those people don't know it is because I wrote it. Wrote it for my Dora…"

And that had been all that was said.

But now it was the only thing he could play. Xander wasn't playing the music…it was coming through him, out of him, releasing something within him that had been locked up for so many years. The wordless notes flowed from his hands, from his lips, from his heart…from his soul. Everything he was…was that song.

When the song ended, Xander leaned back into the couch and closed his eyes, the melody dancing behind his eyelids and in every corner of his mind as the last echos reached out to him through the near-dark.

"Huh…never turned the lights on, did I?" he wondered aloud, the normal words still unable to break the spell that the song had cast.


It had been so long, and it had felt so right…

No, he wasn't healed. His heart still ached, and that horrible hole the events of last night had ripped into him was still there…but now the pain was bearable. The world wasn't ending, and for the first time since Buffy's sacrifice, he actually thought that. She was lost to him, as lost to him as when he'd first picked the guitar out of the closet…but now she seemed less…gone. More…misplaced. There was, Xander was amazed to admit, light at the end of the tunnel.

Looking at the guitar in his hands, he vowed that he would never stuff it back into the closet. There was pain there…but what it had given him was too valuable to thrust behind jackets and coats.

And so thinking, Xander Harris fell into a dreamless, peaceful, sleep.

Chapter 2

In the Hall of the Mountain King – Peer Gynt Suite #1 EDVARD GRIEG

Jesse Capello was very, very lost.

There he'd been, practicing with his weapon as any good warrior against the forces of evil should be doing, when suddenly a bright multi-colored light had blinded him and dropped him into the middle of what looked like a scrap yard.

"Well, that's the Hellmouth for you…" he muttered as he picked himself up from the ground, dusting off his pants and the bottom of his shirt. Then he turned to where he had fallen, and his eyes lit as he saw his beloved weapon. Instantly, he reached down and grabbed it, then cleaned it off with a part of his shirt which was far enough in the front not to have gotten dirty in his fall.

"Buffy and the others are going to get me back from whatever bizarre universe I managed to get myself thrown into," the young man told his prized possession, "but I'll be damned if I leave you behind…"

The metal glistened even in the dull light of the distant streetlamps and the waning moon, its shine something almost otherworldly in the strange torn apart landscape of dull steel which surrounded the young man. Jesse looked around once, then pressed the side of the harmonica to his lips and began to play a pleasant, soft tune as he started his walk to find out just where he was.

He figured out that he was still in Sunnydale (well, relatively) when he got to the main street and saw the familiar stores staring back at him.

Walking and playing, the young man wandered the streets of the town, somehow left alone by the various denizens of the night, until he found his way back to the familiar house on Orgel Lane.

Jesse pulled the harmonica from his lips, ran his tongue over them once to moisten them as he'd forgotten his lip balm in his home dimension, then walked up the familiar rounded steps till he reached his door. Luckily, his keys had been in his pocket during the bizarre experience, but when he tried them, they wouldn't even go halfway into the door mechanism.

"But this is my house! My house! WORK you stupid thing!"

He jingled and he jangled, twisted and swore, then stared at the offending door another moment.

"My house!" he hissed at the door before glaring at it hatefully and turning quickly.

Jesse made his way down the steps angrily, and pulled the harmonica to his lips once again to play the "safety tune" as he called it. It was a simplified version of Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" which he'd arranged for his humble instrument of choice, and it had never failed to keep him safe while waking the streets of Sunnydale. Yet even as his music drifted through the empty avenue, questions swam in his mind.

Where was he? Why was this place like home, and yet not? Who could he turn to in order to get him back to where he belonged?


That was a sure bet. If the gang wasn't at his house, they'd be at Buffy's house, probably watching weird un-subtitled foreign movies with aerodynamically impossible fight scenes that his favorite Slayer delighted in dissecting and critiquing. Or they'd be researching demonic things of some import, which would make things easier since he wouldn't have to go get donuts for the group. If all was right in this world, the snacks would already be there.

Part of him argued that it was silly to assume this bizarre-yet-familiar world (and if the whole light show a la Star Trek hadn't had him already convinced of this being an alternate dimension, his key not working helped matters considerably) he'd been plunged into HAD a Scooby gang hanging around, ready to save it, but another part argued that since the world wasn't a Hell dimension run by demons and covered in blood, there was someone running interference.

Jesse ignored the little voice in his mind that asked why his key hadn't worked if the Scooby Gang did exist here.

His pace quickened as he made his way to Revello Drive since he was now much more confident. The notes on the harmonica sped up as his breathing did, the melody a little faster, but just as effective. However, all music stopped when in his haste, he bumped into the last person he ever thought he'd see.


The man with those familiar eyes and that well-remembered smirk turned to look at him from a body that was much older then Xander had ever gotten to be. But it couldn't be him. It couldn't be him, Jesse argued with himself, because he'd staked a much-younger-looking vampire Xander almost five years ago.

The smirk disappeared when those eyes connected with his face, and a discordant twang could be heard as the man who looked so much like Jesse's childhood friend fell onto his backside with a guitar held to his body like a treasured infant. But even that twang held the familiar feeling that he knew was a part of…

Jesse's thought processes stopped cold as a large wooden cross was slammed into his stomach. The harmonica-playing Scooby shook his head, and looked at the Xander-like man who was holding the cross against him.

"'the hell?" they both exclaimed at once, and then there was staring. Jesse, as he looked at the rather filled out and older version of his childhood friend, couldn't help but smile at the still- Xander eyebrows and the tell-tale twist of the lips which he had always said were permanent features of the Xander landscape. Xander just flat out stared at his friend, this…older version of his friend… one that shouldn't be. That couldn't be.

"Not a vampire then…" Xander finally remarked dryly as he pulled the cross back and tucked it into a pocket of his jacket, "But-"

"What are you doing alive?" Jesse blurted out finally as he absentmindedly pulled his harmonica nearer to his lips. If things went pear-shaped, he wanted to have his weapon at handy.

Xander chuckled gruffly, then heaved himself up from the floor, his movements slower then they would have been if he hadn't been carefully watching the guitar to make sure it was neither busted, nor became that way.

"I could ask you the same thing…"

The two friends, now both standing up and holding their instruments protectively, stared at each other again.

"Damn it, you got taller then me!" Jesse pointed out huffily as he fought to keep a smile off of his face. He was in an alternate dimension, with someone who should be dead, and that should mean that he was deathly afraid and/or concerned. But this was Xander.

'Well, yeah…" Xander replied as he placed the guitar under his arm in a more comfortable carrying position, "I always told you I'd do it. But then-"

"You died…"

Oh, look…stereo.

"What do you mean?" Xander asked, flabbergasted. After Buffy, after the guitar…this was a bit much for Xander to take.

"What do I mean?" Jesse questioned, "What do YOU mean? I staked you!"

"Did not!"

"Did too!"

"Did not!" Xander insisted, "I staked you! You were gonna go after Cordelia, and-"

There was silence as the two thought. Two minds, both still heavily saturated with comic books and various science fiction television, labored at explaining the other, and finally one put out the guess they'd both had.

"So…" Xander started at once, "You're…you're from an alternate dimension, I'm assuming?"

Jesse's eyes moved as if to widen, but truth be told, he'd already been expecting as much. It was just nice to get a bit of a confirmation about that.

"Well, I-"

But then Jesse stopped because he could hear movement, and neither of them had moved a hair. Xander, now holding the guitar close to him, looked around, then at Jesse, and began to pull out what looked to be a stake from his jacket. Jesse quirked his head, unsure of what the update-to-his-childhood-friend was planning.

"What're you-"

"What do you think I'm doing?"

The shorter man snorted, then began moving slowly towards Xander.

"Something stupid?" Jesse hissed as he mentally berated himself for leaving them defenseless in the middle of Sunnydale at night, and drew his harmonica closer to his mouth. An errant breath ran through the instrument, creating the ghost of a note, and in that note, Xander heard something...different.

"What do you-"

"I mean, if you're out here with the guitar, I'm assuming that you can use it." Jesse muttered just loud enough for his pseudo-friend to hear, "Lucky you, on that one. I always wished your folks had taught us the guitar. Guess it's a perk of your dimension? But…uh…what do you need a stake for? Thought that was Buffy's deal."

Xander stared at Jesse, utterly confused.

"What the hell are you-"

And then there were vampires.

Chapter 3

Nutcracker Suite – March TCHAIKOVSKY

Carnival of the Animals – Royal March of the Lion SAINT-SAËNS

Behind Jesse, Xander could see at least three vampires, which meant that there was probably an equal or greater amount standing behind him.

Okay, looking at Jesse's eyes told him it was probably more. They were wider then he'd ever seen them other then that time at Cordelia's birthday party in second grade when she'd kissed him on a dare. The young Jesse had spent an hour and a half sitting in the grass near the pool, a dazed expression on his face, and Xander had blackmailed him with that event for over seven years.

However, unlike the Jesse of the past, this one took action quickly and pulled his harmonica the rest of the way to his lips and started to play a familiar tune. Xander just stared for a moment before, during a breathing break, his friend screamed at him.


Xander stiffened in shock. Not "run", or "fight", but…

"Play,moron!" came the next shout at the end of a line of frenzied notes as the other man started moving toward him again, "Withme!"

Xander dumbly looked down at the guitar in his hands, and then at the advancing vampires who were circling them in preparation to strike. The only thing keeping them from striking was their apparent curiosity as to what Jesse was doing. And he…he couldn't move. The situation was just so…ridiculous.

"I'mnotstrongenoughforallofthem" came out in the next breathing space, the words one long blur of frantic noise in between the even more frantic music, "Youhavetoplay!"

What was going on? Why did he have to play? What would music do to vampires? Give them some pre-dinner music? Was Jesse suggesting this in the hopes of entertaining their way out of danger or something?


But then Jesse had stopped screaming, because Xander's hand had strummed the first notes of the song and the world had stopped.

His heart in his throat, and his mind completely lost in a world eons away from the street they currently stood in, Xander's hands took on a life of their own, a life that had once been his which he'd stuffed into a closet, and began to play along with Jesse's now less-frenetic harmonica. An old piece, one of the first his grandfather had taught him: The March, part of the Nutcracker Suite.

Like the old friends Xander and Jesse had been (and each hoped they would be again), the music of the guitar and the harmonica intertwined in the silent street, transcending the power of either instrument and becoming something beyond music, beyond beauty, beyond power. The piece had not been designed for a harmonica and a guitar, yet anyone listening at that moment would not have been able to tell you why.

Power, a force Xander hadn't felt in ages, and even then, never this strong, rose up within him and flowed from his fingers into the strings and out into the air. The music covered the scene, and wrapped itself around the vampires which surrounded them, and began to act.

Xander watched wide eyed as the vampires began to beat up on each other, the leader turning on his fledgling vampires with reckless abandon. The first two had their heads torn off, and dust flew everywhere. He'd never seen anything like it, but when he turned to ask about this amazing phenomenon, Jesse just smiled at him smugly and continued to play, though there also seemed to be a strange sort of surprise in his eyes which Xander noticed.

Two more vampires lost their heads before Jesse took the harmonica from his lips long enough to speak. However, despite the smile that graced his lips, Jesse's breathing was a little hard for just playing a harmonica.

"Keep playing, bro," he said quickly, pointing to the guitar, "And I'll finish 'em up."

Xander had no idea what Jesse had planned, so he continued to play. It wasn't like he thought he could stop anyway. The song was there, in every part of him, playing him as well as he was playing it, and it was undeniable.

Jesse's harmonica switched to a new tune, this one just as lively, but there was a near-sinister danger to this melody that battled with an unconquerable pride which shone through the music. All this came from his friend, from his harmonica of all things…and then…

From the harmonica blew a bright fiery wind which spun wildly before shaping itself into the largest lion Xander had ever seen. Formed entirely of what looked like golden flames, the lion let out a roar of amazing volume before launching itself at the vampires. One by one, it ripped the creatures to shreds: if the claws didn't tear the creatures' heads off, then the flames of the lion destroyed them a moment later. And all through this, Jesse just kept playing.

Xander watched as the lion cornered the leader of the group, the large body of flame as sinuous and graceful as any lion of flesh and bone. It followed the rhythm of the music until there was a long forceful line of notes which Xander knew was the end.

As that last amazing note hung in the air, the lion pounced on the leader, and the vampire exploded into dust as the fiery lion ran straight through him and disappeared.

The street was quiet.

Xander didn't know when he'd stopped playing, but he figured it was when he'd finished the piece. So, the whole fight had lasted about…

Two and a half minutes.

They'd managed to kill ten vampires in…two and a half minutes.

Xander stood in shock, his entire world flipped upside-down too many times in twenty for hours for his mind to work properly.

Buffy was dead.

The guitar.


The music.

Oh GOD, the music.

And then that creature of flame, that great lion…it had been so amazing.

Suddenly, he turned to look at Jesse, his mind filled with more questions then he thought there could ever be answers for, and he saw his friend pull the harmonica from his lips.

"Good-"Jesse coughed, "Good job, right?"

And then Jesse toppled to the ground, his energy spent.


Willow Rosenberg woke up with the same tear-tracks she'd gone to sleep with, but she woke up a great deal earlier then she thought she would.

She hadn't intended to go to classes since…since it had happened, so she'd shut the alarm off, gripped Tara as closely as she could while still trying to sleep, and figured that she'd be woken up by the late afternoon sun, if at all, that day.

Yet as her eyes opened, it was to darkness. Careful not to wake her still-recovering girlfriend, Willow lifted herself off of the mattress gently, then made her way to the door in the dark before slipping through to the bright light of the dormitory's hallway. Clad in her t-shirt and loose plaid pants, the witch turned and moved to shield her eyes from the light…but she found that it was already blocked by someone. A large someone.

"Willow…" Xander huffed out, his breath gone. After all that had happened, he couldn't think, so he'd decided to go to the person who did that the best. Why he couldn't breath was hefted over his shoulder, weighing a ton and a half, not that Xander would have given him up for the world. Then there was the guitar.

"Xander?" she asked groggily, unsure of what this was all about. She knew it could be about…that…but since they'd all gone back to their separate homes for the night, she figured…

Well, she didn't know what she'd figured, but she didn't think she'd see him again that night.

"Willow…" Xander repeated again, "It's…you won't believe who this is. I was going over to Giles' house to ask him about-"

"Xander." His friend said very finally, "I'm really…I'm really…I don't even know what, but I need to sleep. Why are you here? You know I love you, but-"

"No!" he exclaimed, his voice fervent with the need to be heard, "You don't understand."

Carefully, he placed his guitar to the left of the door before unloading his even-more precious cargo onto the right side.

Willow stared down at the face she'd last seen five years ago, at the face she'd seen grow for over a decade of friendship which she'd lost in a dust cloud so many years ago. And now it was older…their age… like he'd lived all those years.

Without thought or even a glance, the witch's hands sought purchase on something, anything, to hold her up. In the last few days, her heart had been battered, bruised, and nearly broken, and now…

Finally she found Xander's arm, that familiar warmth incased in an old worn out flannel shirt, and she hung on for dear life. Soon, a tender hand enclosed itself over her arm and gave a gentle squeeze.


Willow's eyes turned from the unconscious figure on the floor outside of her room to her best friend. Xander glanced back.

"He's alive…"

"How!?" she demanded in a pained hiss, obviously close to tears. Her gaze ran back and forth from Jesse to Xander a number of times before finally landing on Xander.

"I…I don't know!" Xander exclaimed finally as he ran his fingers through his hair nervously, "I…I mean, I get up, find my guitar in the middle of all this…this stuff! And I play, and there's this…I don't even know what to describe it as. But it was there when I played…you know how I used to play? How it was?"

"Yes…" Willow replied, her mind on the same memories Xander had pulled up before. When Xander had played…

"Well, it was there, but more…and then I finished the song and…"


"And I decided to…go for a walk." Xander let out in a burst of breath, "Well, maybe stop by Giles, but no, I couldn't go to him, I mean, I know the pain he's going through right now, well I don't know the pain cause I couldn't know the pain, but he's in pain, but I needed-"

"Xander!" Willow nearly shouted, her voice desperate. She shuffled to him, her smaller body leaning into his arms to take the warmth and comfort which had always been hers to take from him. God…it hurt…it hurt so much, and then this, and…

Xander's eyes softened from their near-manic state at the sound of his name, and now the young man looked down very gently to his oldest friend in the world as she pulled one of his flannel-clad arms around herself.


"But while I was trying to figure out what to do," he continued, his voice much softer and far more in control then it had been, "I… knocked into him. And I think he's from some sort of alternate dimension or something, cause he said that, back then, he staked me, and that my folks taught him the harmonica, and then there were vampires, and-"

"Sh…." Willow said at last, her voice soft. "We'll…we'll figure it out in the morning, okay? You can…you can bring Jesse in and the two of you can sleep on the floor for now, all right?"

Xander nodded, then slipped away from Willow to lift Jesse onto his shoulder again. He couldn't help it, but…his eyes drifted to the guitar.

"Better bring that in too, Xand…"

He nodded, picked up the instrument, and then followed her into the room.


Chapter 4

Flight of the Bumblebee

Tara woke up in one long wordless stretch before flopping lazily over her girlfriend. It had been a tiring night , and she hadn't actually intended on waking up at all until...oh, three years from now, but nature had other plans, and Tara didn't plan on denying nature.

She also hadn't planned on having her half-conscious shuffling interrupted by a foot. Well, not just a foot. There was a person connected to the foot. But she wasn't expecting that person, or his foot to be there. Xander was supposed to be back in his apartment, doing whatever he and Anya did there, and not in the middle of her floor tangled up in-

Okay, Tara had no idea who this guy was, or why the other young man's head was slumped comfortably on Xander's shoulder, but he didn't seem too dangerous. A little smaller than Xander, with a beakish nose which looked to have been broken once or twice, and something silver in his hand wrapped tightly within his fingers in a grip which belied the peace of his face. Curiousity grabbed her, all thoughts of the bathroom banished, and Tara reached forward to gently nudge a finger over, only to have the young man's eyes pop open to reveal very disturbed hazel orbs staring straight at her with an intensity which almost frightened her until-

Xander and Willow were woken up a moment later by loud screaming only to see the adult version of their childhood friend holding a startled Tara at arms length. Blink. Blink.

"H-h-he k-kissed me!" Tara explained finally as she stumbled back into the bed, away from the young man who still sat on the floor beside Xander blinking furiously.

Brown and green eyes turned to him, but he just continued blinking. "Tara?"

Finally, Willow regained her voice. "How do you know her name?" Jesse, his eyes clearing, looked at his kinda-sorta-well-in-an-alternate-universe-way best friend, and smiled before a shocked expression flitted over his face.

"Willow, your hand...."

Then Jesse came back to the question she had asked, and the smile returned in full force.

"That's...that's Tara," he told her at last, his voice somewhere between uncertain and jokingly sure, "My girlfriend."


"So...lemme get this straight..." Xander said at last, his tone far more sure then he actually was, "In your world, Willow is still with Oz, she's never touched a musty magic tome in her life,'re dating Tara."

"Yup," Jesse replied good-naturedly, though there was a brief flash of guilt as he looked at the still-startled Tara hiding somewhat behind Willow, "We met after Cordy headed to L.A. to try her hand at acting. I was looking for someone who might know more about my particular talents, and she happened to be the only one there with any sort of real magic experience. Then we started hanging out, and things happened. So..."

"Your talents?" Willow asked, intrigued. Then something seemed to occur to her. "Hey, wait. If I'm not a witch, what do-"

"What do you add to the bizarre talent pool that is the Scooby Gang?" Jesse finished for her. She gave a nod. "Well, you're an Alchemist."

Three pairs of confused eyes met his, and he rolled his own skyward before speaking again. Then, in what sounded very much like the voice he'd used when they were children to repeat "Willow's Rules of How the Boys Have to Be so They Don't Get Into Too Much Trouble and Can't Play", he explained: "Alchemy is the science of transmutation. It relies upon one principle: the law of equal returns. Long and short of that is you get what you give. A good alchemist "works the system" so to speak as best they can, with as little muss and fuss as possible. You took to it like a fish to water, really."

He looked up to Willow with a bright smile. "You're so good at this point that you don't even need an array. Just a slap of the hands, and you're good to go."

Xander turned to look at his friend.

"O...kay," he said in obvious confusion, "that's nice and all, but what's an array? And why would Willow have to clap? Does this stuff work on pixie dust or something?"

Jesse opened his mouth to reply, but oddly enough, Tara answered Xander's question, her voice still a bit shaky.

"I-i-it's a s-symbol. You d-draw it on t-the ground. My m-mother showed me o-one once."

The dimensional traveler grinned again, then leaned onto Xander's shoulder. God, he'd missed his friend. After all this time, Jesse had pushed his memories of the other boy into the deeper recesses of his mind as living on a hellmouth can do, but just leaning like this, surrounded by people he cared about (even if they weren't really HIS people, they were still his people) was just great.

"Right in one, dea-um...Tara." Jesse finished awkwardly, more then a little disturbed at the changes. Willow a witch (his Willow wouldn't have touched magic if you'd have paid her...too unscientific for her), Tara as her girlfriend instead of his, and no him. He wondered what else was different?

Xander, seeing an opening, dove into the gap in conversation this awkwardness created.

"So...what's up with the music thing, then? The vampires? And that lion thing?"

At this question, the eyes of all assembled lit up. Willow and Tara were both curious as to the instruments the boys were holding onto like lifelines, and Jesse was always eager to speak about his prized weapon of destruction.

"His name is Regal..." the boy answered as he patted his harmonica, "And he's sorta like a familiar for me. I call him up to finish off any particularly difficult jobs, since summoning him wears me out something fierce."

"But how does-"

Jesse rolled his eyes, then pointed to Xander's guitar. "I don't know what you're so stumped about, bro. You're better then I am. Always have been and probably always will be. In my universe, your grandpa taught you to play the harmonica like that, and since it was cheap enough to get one, you taught me." Jesse laughed. "I always complained about that. Always wanted to learn the's a chick magnet, if you know what I mean. I'm assuming you didn't teach me in this world?"

Xander mutely shook his head, and the witches watched on as they tried to figure out exactly what the boys were talking about. "Not enough cash in my piggy bank to buy a guitar...suppose I shoulda been more thankful, considering."

Finally, the gears in Willow's head had turned, and she felt ready to enter the arena.

"Do magick with your harmonica?" she asked in wonder, her green eyes glued to the silver-toned instrument he held lovingly in his hands.

Jesse nodded. "That's exactly what I do, Wills. Depending on the pieces you know, you can do some pretty amazing stuff. I...don't know why I have to explain all this to you. Xan can do it. He did it tonight."

"He did?"

"I did?" Xander echoed in confusion.

Once more, Jesse nodded, this time slowly, as if to a child. This earned him a playful shove from Xander, then Willow, and a slightly less frightened glance from Tara as she saw the three of them acting like kids. It was cute.

"Dude, did you think that the vampires started ripping each other to pieces because they suddenly remembered they'd forgotten to turn the oven off? It was a standard Marionette piece, albeit more powerful then I've ever seen it used."

"Can I seen an example?" the redheaded witch asked excitedly. She'd never heard of anything like this before. Instruments? She'd heard of instruments used in conjunction with certain spells, but this was something totally different. It sounded exciting.

Jesse shrugged. "Sure"

Gently, and with much less haste then he'd had the previous night for obvious reasons, the young man pulled his harmonica to his mouth and started a joyfull little melody. As his breath came through the harmonica, a little pinprick of light flew out before growning to the size of a normal bumble bee. The little insect, which looked to have been made out of flame, flew around to the beat of the jaunty tune before returning to the harmonica when the song ended.

"Flight of the Bumblebee" the musician announced, "Always a good choice for something sweet and pretty." It looked as if he wanted to give a suggestive look at Tara, but stopped himself before doing so.

"Wow." was all that came out of Willow's mouth. Sure, it was a very small summoning...but it was so complex, so controlled. Even for a spirit as small as that bee, it required preperation and other sorts of nicities. Doing it on the fly with nothing but a harmonica?

"Cute. Does that drain too?"

"A bit."

Xander grinned, but he couldn't hide all of his amazement at the little display.

The alternate version of Xander and Willow's childhood friend laughed. "I don't know what you're amazed about. You always were better. Never did any of the battle stuff...think your grandpa knew what'd happen...but when you played a lullaby, there was sleep. And when you-Xan?"

All eyes turned to Xander as he suddenly grabbed his head in a panic as logic smashed painfully into his thought processes and told him everything he didn't want to hear.


Willow's hand across his mouth stopped the frenzied chanting, but the startled look in his eyes prompted her to remove her hand in the hope that Xander would perhaps coherently tell them what the hell he was freaking about.

"I...I played a Lullaby tonight. I..."


Wild brown eyes looked from Willow to Jesse and back.

"I played...the song grandpa wrote. The Lullaby-"

"-For Children Long Gone," the redhead finished, "Yeah, I-"

She stopped talking when the words from her mouth finally reached her brain. Tara's startled gasp as she too figured things out joined the spaz party. Jesse looked on in confusion before his eyes suddenly went cloudy with thought. Then those eyes narrowed on Xander.


"I called you here," Xander stated finally, his words hollow except for the streak of confusion and horror which colored them, "I called for the Children Long Gone, and I got one."

Willow and Xander shared a look before turning to Jesse. But then Tara, who didn't have to mess with the emotional baggage of Jesse's reappearance like the others did, suddenly realized something else.

"W-who says y-you only g-got one?"

Suddenly, neither Xander or Willow could get out the door fast enough.