Title: A Simple Twist Of Fate

Author: Jane McCartney

Disclaimer: Despite numerous attempts to make it otherwise, none of them are mine. Joss and UPN and ME own 'em all.

Feedback: Don't make me beg for it. Oh hell, whatever: pleeeease? Pretty please? It'll just take a sec from ya!

Acknowledgments: Everyone who reviews and helps me. And my beta reader Starway Man. You rules, T!

Author's Note: AU. This chapter is practically a rewrite of "Welcome To the Hellmouth" with some changes and characters mixed around along the way. This story will deviate more in the following chapters.

Summary: For Buffy Summers, it took only a single glance to fall in love with the new student at Sunnydale High, Xander Harris. And with that look, she'd forever seal her fate as the Slayer.

***

Xander was walking down a dark street that night, having decided to go to the Bronze after making sure his younger brother was safe for the evening in their uncle's house; it was his unique idea of a place to search for Buffy, after the scene at the library earlier that day.

But all of sudden, however, the teenager felt hit by the funny, insistent feeling that he was being followed.

Walking forward and sending the occasional vigilant glance behind him, the Slayer took advantage of the chance to duck down an alley and looked around for a hiding spot. Nearby, a cat yowled and kicked some shattered cans in its way, and let Xander spy something above him.

The mysterious figure approached slowly, walking into the alley with the smoothness of a hunting jungle-cat. When the stranger strolled underneath him Xander, who was in a handstand on a bar high above the pavement, enjoyed the opportunity to kick the unknown character in the back, knocking it to the ground.

The dark-haired boy then positioned himself above the figure, setting a foot on its chest while noticing, with some surprise, the form of a very attractive girl underneath him.

She looked maybe a couple of years older than him, and the raven-colored locks of slightly wavy hair fell around her pale skin to highlight her piercing dark eyes and scarlet lips. The black leather pants outlined her well-shaped body in all the right places, with a purplish-red silk tank-top and a black leather jacket to match.

The brunette cocked a sly eyebrow at him. "A man who likes being on top, huh? Not very original, but I can work with that."

Xander's resolve face never faltered. "Why were you following me?"

The corners of the girl's lips twisted upwards just a bit, in a seductive way. "Don't worry, I don't bite. Unless you want me to..."

Xander backed off and let her get up, still keeping his fighting stance though.

The brunette stranger started to walk encircling him, and stopped to glance at the boy. "Truth is, thought you'd be more menacing-looking, and have bigger muscles and all that. You're kinda slim, but it's for damn sure you're pretty spry though. That was one sly move," she said, massaging her neck.

"Hey! This shirt can be very misleading, and FYI, no girl I know has ever complained of any lack of muscles if you wanna..." Xander started defensively, but quickly stopped himself to ask more seriously, "What do you want?"

Suddenly the girl's expression didn't contain any trace of amusement. "The same thing you do," she spoke meaningfully.

They exchanged looks for a fleeting moment, and Xander at last let down his guard.

"Okay, let's try that again. What do I want? So not the same thing you do, 'cause you're not talking about a scenario that involves a beach, Carmen Electra and a bikini being thrown into the ocean, is what I'm thinking," he smirked.

The brunette stepped forward him, ignoring his sarcasm. "I want to kill them. To kill them all."

Xander tried his best not to be disturbed by the attractive stranger's presence, pushing himself away from her. "Sorry, that's incorrect. But you do get this lovely watch and a year's supply of Turtle Wax. Look, what I want is to be left alone!"

"Don't," she said severely and with a hint of madness, promptly stepping in front of the boy to stop him from leaving.

The 16-year-old Slayer tried to shrug away the unsettling feeling of unease crawling along his insides, every time that beautiful-however-sinister stranger came close to him. "Are you trying to make me angry?"

"Depends," she cocked a cool eyebrow. "Is it working?"

Xander just stared at her for a moment, now utterly intrigued. "Just who are you?"

Getting no answer, the Slayer started to walk away determinedly; but the brunette woman shouted behind him, "Do you really think walking away's an option anymore? You're standing on the mouth of Hell, and it's about to open!"

Xander stopped and turned once again, looking at her with a wide-eyed gaze. The girl reached into her jacket, and took a small box from it.

Tossing it to the dark-haired Slayer, the woman hinted darkly, "Want my advice? Don't turn your back on this. You've gotta be ready now, pal."

Her words settled a disconcerting feeling inside him. "What for?"

The reply was cryptic, however still meaningful. "The Harvest."

Disconcerted, Xander glanced at the girl and asked once again, "Who are you?"

"Let's just say... I'm a friend," she replied with an air of mystery, starting to leave.

"Yeah, well, maybe I don't want a friend," the boy called out behind her.

With a cool smirk on her lips, Faith turned back to him one last time and raised an eyebrow, before disappearing into the dark night of Sunnydale. "I didn't say I was yours, stud..."

Xander stared after her for a moment and then opened the box, to find within it a small silver cross and a thin chain. He took it out and held it in his hand, sending another glance in the mysterious brunette girl's direction.

***

Gradually, a legion of teenagers arrived at their favorite hangout and met up, forming small circles near the entrance of the Bronze and in the club itself, as waiters and waitresses busily walked from one side to the other with the requested drinks.

Xander absently passed a hand along the silver cross around his neck, hidden under his shirt, and gave the doorman the admission price before going into the club.

The band was playing loudly while young bodies moved along the dance floor, some skillfully and others not so much, in accord with the earsplitting music's penetrating rhythm.

/Oh, I just want to believe Can you hear me? Can you see me? What's inside of me? Oh, I just want to believe If my life can have a purpose Help me to believe/

Xander spotted a pretty girl staring at him, sexily. After she waved in his direction he, with a silly grin, waved back. But noticing a guy behind him waving back as well, the Chosen One quickly pulled his hand down, embarrassed.

/Everybody wants to find the circle The line of truth that has no end Because so many night I've slept with the feeling of empty And I say, right now I'm ready to believe/

The dark-haired Slayer found the bar and ordered a soda, when the pretty brunette approached him. "Oooh, look who's here. Burn down any gymnasiums lately?" she hissed in a sugarcoated voice, with a saucy grin and foxy attitude to match.

Xander grinned incredulously, at his unbelievable lack of luck tonight. "Cordelia. Is it just my imagination, or did you gain an extra pound since this afternoon?" At the girl's wide-eyed gaze at herself, he sarcastically added, mocking stupefaction, "Are you sure you didn't broke the bread-and- water diet today?"

Cordelia clenched her perfect teeth and eyed him wildly and questioningly, in incredulity.

The boy looked around uncertainly, appearing a bit creeped out, and frowned. "Wait a sec - Cor, that wasn't actually some kind of secret password or anything, was it? No secret cult of satanic purse-worshippers will come over, and suck my brains out or something?"

Queen C rolled her eyes. "Aren't you gonna get up?"

Xander stared at her in confusion. "Okay, I'll begin with a 'huh' and I'll follow that with a 'why'?"

"Well, there's only one place here to sit, which you just took!" the 16- year-old brunette cheerleader explained in annoyance.

"And?" the teenager asked, still honestly oblivious to what she was talking about.

"And I'm a lady! You're supposed to get up, and offer me your seat. Did your parents forget to teach you any manners?" Cordy censured him in indignation, when suddenly a fragment of information she'd heard previously that day popped up in her mind. "Oh, that's right. They probably were too busy drinking in the nearest bar in LA, to do that..."

The second Cordelia played that card, she felt a deep pang of regret hit her heart; but what was done was done, and Queen C knew she couldn't let herself falter at any time.

Xander flinched at the crack, but quickly recovered and eyed the girl with more annoyance. He got up and gestured, "Is that all?"

"No witty comebacks this time? Ooh, I hit a nerve," Cordelia bantered triumphantly. Soon afterwards though, the brunette girl sighed deeply and came to a very risky but doubtlessly worthy decision.

Maybe it was a feeling of sentimental remorse, or perhaps that she had found the strength within her to try to help the fallen quarterback recover his coolness factor. Possibly it was also that Xander was the only good- looking guy she'd ever met that didn't fall down to worship at her feet, but mostly Cordelia knew it was damn well because of the mega-fine way he looked in those jeans.

"Okay, it's like there's all these weird Mother Theresa vibes floating around right now - so what the heck, I'm willing to forget everything you did to me today. Um, what do you say - are we gonna be able to start over? I'll even let people see me with you, without seeming utterly annoyed at your presence," Cordy proposed sincerely, flashing a big smile of enjoyment to the passing-by teenagers, which the Slayer deduced to be her opposite of typical utter annoyance.

Xander was amused and, deep down, even slightly tempted by the cheerleader's offer - but just as he was about to reply to the 'tempting' proposal, the boy looked up and noticed Giles on the upper level of the Bronze. And instantly, he became startled and suspicious with this occurrence.

With a big grin, Cordelia raised a perfect eyebrow at him, thinking he had finally seen the light and already planning on what to wear for their first date the next evening. But, when she opened her mouth to talk, she was immediately cut off by a distracted Xander.

"Um, you can have the seat, no problem. 'Scuse me, I'll be back in a minute," the Slayer absent-mindedly muttered and fled, leaving a flabbergasted Cordelia behind for the third time that day.

"Cordelia, hi!" Lydia, one of the Cordettes with medium-length blonde hair, came towards her.

Gasping in surprise at her friend's sudden appearance, the brunette girl turned around with a quick, perfectly faked grin and met the blond-haired teen head-on. "Lyd, hey! I was just doing the clean, if you know what I mean," Cordelia said looking intentionally at Xander, getting further away into the crowd.

The blonde girl, clueless of the scene that had passed less than a minute before, smiled in comprehension. "Oh, yeah, Harmony filled me in. Such a shame, the case of that Alex guy - and can you say, a waste?"

Feeling the intolerable humiliation of being abandoned three times, her reply was as prompt as it was disdainful. "So, you don't know yet? Hear this and try not to hurl - he calls himself 'Xander'," Cordy scoffed maliciously.

Lydia burst out in hysterical laugh. "Xander? Gosh, what kind of name is that? I almost feel sorry for him! And the things Aura told me... it's like, who'll even try to talk to him now? I mean people that count, of course..."

Cordelia bit her lip nervously for an instant, but still carried herself impeccably. "I know what you mean - almost. But, oh, why don't we move on, huh? Susan told me about that hunk of a hottie she saw you with, on Saturday. So I wanna know everything!"

"Oh! Well, lemme begin with this: the parents have a yacht, an island, two houses in Europe *and* he has his own car!" Lydia started, and subsequently engaged in telling every little detail with a lot of excitement and a wide smile.

Amidst the endless chatter though, Cordelia couldn't help popping her head up without her blonde friend noticing and looking around, trying to spot the maddening Xander Harris in the middle of the mob of teenagers.

***

Xander approached Giles. "So, you like to party with students. Isn't that kinda skanky?"

The Watcher snorted, as he turned to his young charge. "Right, this is me having fun. Watching... clown hair prance about is hardly my idea of a party. I'd much rather be at home with a cup of Bovril, and a good book."

"Wow. Man, you're really in need of getting a life, aren't you? Want my advice?" the teen offered.

"Hardly," Giles replied, mostly to himself.

"You need a personality, like right now. And the tweed look? That's only cool on the 'We-Don't-Have-Sex' planet," Xander said.

The Englishman decided to ignore that. "This is a perfect breeding ground for vampire activity, you know. It's dark, it's crowded..." He then sighed at Xander's look, "I knew you were likely to show up, and despite your tenacious contentions I've got to make you understand..."

"...that the Harvest is coming," the boy completed for him, and then informed the British guy, "I know, your lady friend told me that."

Giles flinched. "What did you say?"

"The Harvest. That ring any bells for you? 'Cause I'm drawing a big blank here," the dark-haired teen shrugged.

The middle-aged Watcher furrowed his forehead. "I'm not sure. Uh... w-who told you this?"

The Slayer looked at him curiously, a little surprised at the question. "This... girl. Definitely the kind you dream about riding you like a wild stallion - till you sorta burst like French champagne, right? But there was also these dark, sorta hardcore vibes about her too, I gotta add. Figured you two were buds."

The Watcher sighed. It was no wonder, in his opinion, that most Slayers died so quickly - on account of young men like this, just couldn't help thinking with a piece of anatomy that was very far south of their brains. In fact, Giles had often wondered whether it would have been preferable to have a female Slayer to combat evil in the world, to avoid exactly this sort of situation.

"No. The Harvest. What did she say?" Giles inquired, his features still and disquieting.

"Something about the mouth of Hell," Xander said, and glanced at the older man. "Did I mention she creeps me out already?"

"Implied it very plainly," Giles retorted absently, eyeing the scene unfolding beneath them, where the band had finished its set and the masses of youths were applauding vigorously.

The Watcher leaned over the railing, and looked down at the crowd. "Look at them, throwing themselves about, completely unaware of the danger that surrounds them."

"Lucky them," Xander instantly commented.

"Or perhaps you're right. Perhaps there is no trouble coming, the signs could be wrong. It's not as though you've been having nightmares..."

Xander gave him an immediate wide-eyed sideways glance and offered lamely, "Nightmares? Pfft. Only 'bout the powers that be canceling Baywatch next year - oh, and there's also this very creepy one about Martha Stewart, a pair of tongs and colorful little drinks with those cool mini-umbrellas," the boy shivered uncontrollably at that.

Under his Watcher's gaze, Xander promptly changed the subject. "Look, let's get something straight. I know you've got a job to do, and heck - I didn't say I'd never slay another vampire. It's not like I've got these fluffy bunny feelings for them, I'm just not gonna get way extracurricular with it. You know, if I see one, sure I'll..."

Giles cut him off gravely, "Will you be ready? There's so much you don't know about them, about your own powers. And vampires appear to be completely normal until the feed is upon them, only then do their reveal their true demonic visage."

"You're like a big textbook with arms, legs and an accent, I know this," Xander informed him with a sigh.

"The point is, a Slayer should be able to sense them anyway. Without looking, without thinking. Can you tell me if there's a vampire in this building?" Giles inquired matter-of-factly.

"Well, of course," the dark-haired boy replied unconvincingly, but rapidly added in admittance, "Maybe..."

"You should know," the Englishman broke in sharply. "Even through this mass and this... din, you should be able to sense them. Well, try! Reach out your mind."

Xander looked around vigilantly as Giles continued the instruction, "You have to hone your senses, focus until the energy washes over you, you feel every particle o-of..."

"There's one," the boy interrupted him.

Giles faced him in surprise. "W-where?"

"Right there, talking to that girl," the Slayer indicated towards the menace with a nod of his head.

"B-but you don't know..." the middle-aged British man stammered.

"Ah, come on! Really, look at the guy for a second. He's got a leather duster, spiky belt - and what's up with the hair anyway? Deal with the all- Billy Idol look, here."

Giles glanced at the referred threat. "You're saying it's dated?"

"Carbon dated. C'mon, only someone living underground for ten years would not know that there's a good reason why people say the 80's are dead and buried," Xander said pointedly.

"But you didn't... hone," something about this fact seemed to worry Giles.

"You know what, G-man? You're getting just a little too hung up over the whole honing thing. Sometimes, ya just have to relax and... oh, crap," Xander cut himself off, noticing the girl who the vampire was talking to with an abrupt pang of apprehension.

"Ah, I think I'd absolutely prefer to be called Mr. Giles, if you don't mi... what?" the Watcher started to say with a twinge of irritation, but then trailed off to investigate the Slayer's sudden alarm.

Eyeing the crowd immediately, Giles was surprised by the same realization that had hit Xander seconds earlier. "Isn't that..."

"Buffy Summers," Xander replied sharply.

"What's she doing?" the Watcher inquired with a hint of anxiety.

The dark-haired Slayer narrowed his eyes once again as the vampire that called himself Spike took Buffy by the hand, and started to lead her outside the club with a cool smirk, a seductive look and a black leather duster hanging around the petite girl's shoulders.

"Research on a theory she heard earlier today," Xander hurriedly replied, and added, before speeding down to go to Buffy's rescue, "And she's ready to move on to the practical stage right now, but she doesn't quite know it yet."

***

AN: So Faith's the souled vampire. Well, thing is, I'm really twisting the Buffyverse to Jane's way, and, oh well, AUs can be pretty moldable... But she's not taking Darla's or Dru's place, she has a completely different story.

And to finish... an invocation :) Please, pretty please, let me a review! It'll only take a sec from you, but a world of yays to me and this fic to be updated faster!