He was vaguely conscious of a bright light, then being carried, accompanied by loud noises, smells, and flashes of scenes he tolerated only until he pressed himself against a warm and soft presence that hugged him back. After an unknown period of time, Xander Harris finally opened his eyes and looked upwards at the ceiling of the room he was now occupying.
At once, he was aware of two things. Initially, how keen his vision was. Second, for the first time in over a decade, he was observing the ceiling with the same kind of depth perception he'd had earlier in his life, until that bastard Caleb had ripped out his left eye.
Barely able to lift his head, Xander now disbelievingly looked down at his new form that had once been a grown man's body, to instead regard his pink, spongy flesh clad only in a diaper and being the proper size for a six-month-old baby.
The Sunnydale survivor, New Council veteran, and possessor of emergency chocolate for the Slayers in his charge, then quickly analyzed his situation, and he at once performed the most fitting action in response to this supremely absurd event.
Xander immediately howled at the top of his infant lungs.
Any parent can tell you the ear-splitting shriek of their child who wants attention RIGHT NOW will pass through any walls, however thick, which was why this brought someone into the nursery at their fastest run. As expected, this abruptly cut off their son's bawl, though Xander had an entirely different reason for shutting up and goggling at his company. Particularly when Joyce Summers leaned over the crib and sniffed his diaper.
Continued his wide-eyed stare at the woman he'd last known in Sunnydale ten years ago, Xander gurgled helplessly, unable to speak any comprehensible words, as Joyce now straightened back up, a resigned look on her face, as she turned around to take another diaper from a package of these on a nearby table. As Xander suddenly noted for himself a pungent stench clinging to him and also the uncomfortable feel of a soaked diaper, his eyes widened even further, as Joyce reached for him, and he mentally groaned to himself, *This can't be happening! Oh god, can this get even more embarrassing?*
A few moments later, Xander learned he really shouldn't have said this, as while he stared determinedly up at the ceiling past Joyce's calm face during her skillful working away in changing him, the man in the infant's body now heard to his left a child's piercing observation of, "His wee-wee is really, really little!"
Swiveling his eyes to where he'd heard that, Xander got another immense shock, as he now stared at Buffy Summers standing by the crib and squinching up her little girl's face, all while continuing loudly, "He smells yucky! Yucky, yucky, yucky! Boys are yucky!"
*For saying all that, you're going to wake up one day with your head shaved*, absently promised Xander in his mind, as he numbly stared at his friend since high school, who at this precise moment couldn't possibly be more than six or seven years old, and who now looked up at her mother, with that woman dryly commenting as she finished pinning the diaper, "One of these days, you'll have a boy of your own, and he won't smell so yucky."
"Nuh-huh!" The little girl firmly shook her head, as Buffy went on in her most assertive tone, "I'm gonna be a cheerleader! Cheerleaders don't have boys!"
As she disposed of the used diaper, Joyce sardonically replied, "Well, one of the girls on my high school squad could have told you differently after she had to quit the team."
"Huh?" her daughter frowned, showing the older woman the uncertain look children usually give adults for saying something perplexing.
Joyce smiled and chuckled, "Never mind, you'll understand when you're older. Where's your daddy?"
"Watching football," beamed Buffy, who then added, "And the cheerleaders, too."
A mother rolled her eyes, and then she looked thoughtful, as Joyce then slowly had a smile of pure evil appear on her face, just before she casually suggested, "Why don't you join him, and when the cheerleaders come on, tell him how much you want to be one?"
"Okay!" whooped Buffy, as she now turned to skip out of the room, with the sound of her mother's snickers following after the little girl.
Xander had been witnessing all this in absolute fascination, and he now shifted his head to look up at Joyce smiling down at him in absolute love, which she then demonstrated by bending down to plant a kiss upon his soft tummy. Despite himself, Xander giggled, getting a happy look from Joyce for this, and the woman then turned and went to an armchair in a far corner of the nursery. Settling down in this and taking a book from a side table, Joyce started to read her paperback, while glancing up every few minutes to check on her son in the crib, who was also gazing back at her with an unusually direct stare.
After a few moments, Xander finally broke off his intent look at Joyce, not wanting to stir up the faintest possible suspicion in her thoughts that something wasn't right. The man in the baby's body now blankly eyed the ceiling, and he finally asked himself what the hell had happened.
*Let's see, the last thing I clearly remember…*
/A parking garage at night, a Kyrosk demon leaping over a Volvo and making a savage swipe with its claws at his stomach, doing the trained shifting of his body that should have taken him out of range, his feet abruptly skidding on an oil spill, moving him right into the sweep of the demon's strike./
/Renee Pierson, his Slayer, enragedly hacking the demon in two, running to his crumpled self lying on the concrete floor, kneeling down by his body going into shock and heart failure, crying as she embraced him, not caring about the massive blood pool that was soaking her lower legs, and sobbing, "Xander, I wish-"/
*Oh, Renee, you didn't!*
/'-that you had a happier life, a better family!"/
The memories faded into the background of his mind, as Xander now mentally groaned his opinion to himself. *Geez, honey, couldn't you have been a little more specific? Don Corleone and his merry Mafia clan would've been a better family than Tony and Jessica Harris, not to mention you could've said how old I would have been! Dammit, somewhere in his wish-demon dimension, D'Hoffryn is laughing his ass off!*
Still… Xander looked at the corner of his eye at Joyce in her chair. He was here, no matter how it had happened, and apparently the child of the woman who'd been the first adult in his entire life in Sunnydale to clearly show that she'd cared for and loved him like a son. It hadn't been until much later in that town with its Hellmouth that Giles had done the same for Xander.
All right, so now what? The infant's face grimaced, as if he'd felt a moment of gas, and then he looked back up at the ceiling. Even if he was currently a baby, he had all the memories of Xander Harris' chaotic life, which meant they were part of the wish that had brought him to this dimension, and there was surely a prime reason for keeping those recollections. Which lead to a dreadful conclusion:
In this dimension, there was also a Sunnydale, and it too possessed a Hellmouth, that one day Buffy Summers would be forced to protect and guard, with all the coming tragedies and sorrows about to happen to the little girl that had joyously skipped out of the nursery a few moments ago.
Well, fuck that. Fuck the whole 'Terminator' time-changing shit, all those warnings about meddling with history, never daring to actually do anything. He was here, and he remembered everything, so he'd damn well take that as permission, to make sure things happened much better for Buffy and everyone else than they'd done before in Xander's life!
*AND IF ANY OF THOSE FUCKING POWERS THAT BE, ANY GOD, ANY DEMON, ANY FORCE IN THE UNIVERSE DOESN'T LIKE THAT, EITHER KILL ME NOW, OR I'LL SERIOUSLY FUCK YOU UP!*
In his crib, Xander Harris directed that mental scream to the entire cosmos, and then he wrathfully awaited whatever reaction this would bring.
Still unable to move his head very well, Xander grimly nodded to himself inside his mind, and with his infant body seemingly dozing off in a nap, the man started planning. First, he plainly couldn't DO anything for the next couple of years, having to simply concentrate on growing up.
*Toilet training is gonna be a bummer.*
Instead, he'd just have to remember as much as possible about what had happened in Sunnydale, organizing all his memories so that he could change things in the proper order and not mess up with what would occur after his alterations. Well, at least he'd have more than enough time to do that while being a baby, a toddler, a boy, and then a teenager, all with Joyce and Buffy and-
*Wait a sec. 'Daddy?' Crap, Hank Summers must be around.*
Inwardly, Xander grimaced, as he recalled a particular funeral that named man had never attended, and the harsh look Buffy had suddenly borne when a cautious question had been hesitantly asked back then by one of the Scoobies, if her father had been delayed. An abrupt, one-word answer of "No" had been delivered by the Slayer in a truly frigid tone that kept anyone else from further inquiries, and Elizabeth Anne Summers had never again spoken of him in all the time Xander knew her.
In his crib, Xander sadly sighed, not noticing the concerned look this drew from Joyce and her watchful scrutiny of her son in his crib for the next few moments, until she was reassured there was no cause for alarm, and went back to reading her book. Occupied by his own thoughts, Xander sorrowfully noted that the little girl he'd watched bounce out of the room several minutes ago clearly loved her daddy, and it was too bad this was going to change to deep heartbreak for Buffy Summers.
*Uh, maybe it doesn't have to.*
Xander felt his spirits rise at this sudden thought. The specific reasons for the divorce and the sudden abandonment of his family to run off with his secretary by Hank had been kept private by the Summers women for all the time Xander had been around them, but surely things had the opportunity to be changed? After all, in the old dimension the man in the baby's body had formerly inhabited, Hank didn't have a son, unlike now. Maybe, when Xander was growing up here, he could influence things to make sure that he had a loving, sober father who actually stuck around.
*Which would be a hell of a difference from last time*, sourly thought Xander. His mood improved, as he realized this was a clear goal he could have a crack at while being stuck for the next couple of years as a little boy.
*Okay, Hank- Dad, I mean. You're gonna be the receipt of the famous Xander charm, making sure I get the best possible father to both me and Buffy, and the best husband ever. 'Cause if you even THINK about being unfaithful to Joyce- Mom, I'm gonna break your kneecaps. That's not an idle threat, since I'm a lot closer to the ground than before.*
This time, Joyce was too engrossed in her book to witness how the baby in his crib smirked upwards, until the infant let his face relax back to the normal vacant expression for his age. *Damn straight, man. There's no way I'm gonna see those strained looks that came up whenever your name was mentioned when I was around Joyce, Buffy, and Dawn-*
There was a short pause in the baby's mind, until an horrified mental voice continued; *Crap. Crap! CRAP! What about Dawn?*
Xander frantically considered what he knew of the monks' spell that had added a second child and a sister to the Summers family, until he finally calmed down a bit, after remembering several discussions among the Scoobies, after they'd had their memories straightened out. The monks hadn't actually sent Dawn back in time to grow up as a Summers daughter. Rather, the spell done by the Monks of Dagon, that had materialized the Key in her human form in the house at 1630 Revello Drive, had simply changed the recollections of everybody who had the chance to encounter Dawn Summers, to think they indeed had met and lived with her, plus causing some physical changes to back up this falsehood. The spell had created a birth certificate, hospital and school records, Summers family photographs and mementoes, and all the clothing and other objects in her bedroom that a California teenage girl would have ordinarily possessed.
*So, that takes care of that. Just as well, 'cause the truly unspeakable alternative would be for me to be Dawn. Judging from things, I'm about her age, if she'd actually been born here in LA. Whew, not much chance of that, since I really don't feel like I was previously a glowing-green ball of energy as old as the universe. Plus, I got all my man-bits, even if Buffikins called 'em what no female should ever say. Just for that, I'm gonna pee on her the first chance I get.*
A toothless grin then appeared on the baby's features, until he became serious again. *Let's see, she looks like her first-grade picture that I saw once, and she became the Slayer when she was fifteen. So, eight or nine years to go, and I'll be the same age then, when it'll be the time for me to act as the total movie cliché of the Annoying Kid Brother Who Yet Saves The Day. No prob, dude.*
A very confident mental nod was performed by Xander in his head. *Take out those vamps at Hemery High, keep her first Watcher alive- What was his name again? Merton? Melville? Well, whatever, you and Buffy do the job, and then comes the hardest part. It'll be time to spill the beans - me to everyone, and then Buffy to Mom and Dad about what she's become. Hopefully, this time, nobody will be sent to the nut house. Looks like all my experience in explaining to new Slayers and their families what happened to them will finally pay off.*
Xander blew a saliva bubble from his lips as he looked ahead into the future, and determinedly continued in his mind. *There's absolutely no choice about that. I'm not going to have Joyce and Hank risk their lives with Sunnydale Syndrome, not after last time. Telling them right from the start about the Hellmouth, the Slayer, and what goes bump in the night is the only way to go, particularly since we'll all be moving there then, no matter how they feel about it. The Council will make sure of that, one way or another.*
Starting to brood about that, the baby frowned in its sudden worry. *It'll have to be explained to everyone just what the Council is now, a bunch of hidebound assholes who think they need to control every breath of their Slayer, and are quite willing to do anything to make sure that happens. We'll need to work around that, keeping up an appearance of an ordinary family who just has a daughter with a secret life and a tendency to sneak out of the house after sunset. I think we can do that, while making our first moves in dealing with the Council. Namely, getting those bastards to send Giles to Sunnydale.*
A happy giggle then came from the seemingly slumbering baby, causing Joyce to lift her eyes from her novel, and smile at her dozing son in his crib, not knowing just what was in that infant's mind. *I wonder how fast he's gonna start polishing his glasses when G-man listens to a third-grade kid describing just how Mr. Tweed got his 'Ripper' nickname? Not to mention that pesky mark of Eyghon thing, and everything else embarrassing in his past life that I've learned during the last decade or so.*
The baby shifted on his back, and then he presumably returned to his slumber. *About that, what the hell do we do concerning Ethan? There's probably no chance of finding him before that Halloween, but do we need to? If we dress up in the correct costumes and somehow actually keep the powers and abilities afterwards, it'll really boost our chances of cleaning up the town. Well, that's one of the things to go into the long-term files. Along with the possibility of giving Ethan a permanent dirt nap afterwards. That chaos jerk damn well deserves that, considering what he'll do that I know about.*
Xander now carefully considered his next thoughts. *'We.' Yeah, way to dodge around it. Okay, come right out with what you should've said: Me.*
The baby smacked his lips, and he became still in his crib. *Either I'm going to be around, as a sophomore at SHS, or I'm not. Could go either way, so let's say I do fall flat on my ass from my skateboard, to then act totally cool - not! - after seeing a truly hot blonde. One thing's for sure, I'm gonna be there to see it. Maybe take pictures for blackmail purposes, since I'm - he's - gonna be around a lot, not just in the Scooby Gang, but in the family.*
Xander opened his eyes, to stare fiercely at the ceiling. *Yeah, I'm damn well serious. The guy's gonna be adopted by the Summers' before he knows what hits him. Willow, too. No way will Sunnydale Syndrome block that, particularly since I know every fucking dirty secret the Harrises and Rosenbergs have. Those so-called parents either hand over their kids to Joyce and Hank, or it'll get nasty. Still, I'll sweeten the deal with a very large carrot, namely that they have the chance to leave town with a serious wad of cash. Tony will go for it, absolutely.*
Another smirk appeared on the baby's face. *Damn, I never knew how lucky it'd turn out for Jesse to be such a baseball fan, with him reciting all those statistics so many times that I learned them by heart, too. It's not like I memorized lottery numbers, but I do know who'll win the World Series for the next fifteen years. Best of all, computers don't care how young the fingers are that type on the keyboards to lay down the bets and deposit the winnings in an off-shore banking account. Buffy will finally get all the shoes she could ever possibly want.*
Xander's features became a bit more somber, as he started planning on what to do about his friends in that demon-haunted California city. *Jesse, he gets tied up and stuffed into a closet until I'm damn well sure he won't get turned. After that, we'll see. Willow, honey, this time you learn how to deal with your magic. I don't ever want to watch you turn black again. Anya, I don't know for sure, since it took a fairly unique set of results to change you back to human, but I'll try. Oz - just tell him beforehand to not visit his nephew, and he won't turn into a werewolf. Cordy and the Cordettes - sheesh. At that point, they were classic bitcas, and as for the rest of the SHS population - those other students, jocks, nerds, and teachers - oh, well, just keep all of them safe. That also goes for Principal Flutie 'cause I can live quite happily without ever seeing Snyder again. Stay the hell away from the zoo, except for taking care of that dumbass zookeeper. Hyena caused more problems that she was worth. Jenny - I dunno, she might never visit, but if she does, she'll be told to come clean with Giles and it'll be fun to see what happens next. Let's see, who else? Oh, right, the stupid, would-be super villains. Jonathan and Andrew might be worth keeping around, once I explain to them if they ever actually cashed in a couple of their inventions, they could buy a strip club and finally get laid.*
A very cold expression that was truly strange to see on an innocent baby's face was next produced. *Warren, he goes. If I can't railroad him into a rubber room or a jail cell, I'll seriously consider putting him in an unmarked grave. He was already a psycho in high school, and that can't be cured. I swear, he'll never hurt anyone else ever again.*
The stern look produced by the infant lying in his crib became deeper, as Xander followed this line of thought, leading to what to do about the others who were already there in Sunnydale, or would soon appear in that city.
*Angel. Angelus. Deadboy gets one chance. A one and only, stinking, sole, solitary chance. Buffy won't be there, if I have to lock her in her room with a gallon of double-chocolate ice cream, but the instant he shows up, me, Mom, and Dad will be holding weapons on him during every single second I explain to him about 'a moment of pure happiness' and that goddamn well won't be with my underage sister. I think he'll really be paying attention, 'cause Mom will undoubtedly be aiming her sawed-off shotgun right at his balls. He wants redemption so much, he can do it in LA, or for preference, at the other side of the world. Just not in Sunnydale, and if we ever hear about Angelus getting loose, the biggest forehead in the world gets a redwood tree rammed right through it.*
A satisfied smack of his lips was then made by the baby. *The rest of the Scourge of Europe, they get staked, every single one of them once they show up. All of them were soulless monsters then, more than eager to murder and torture, so they get turned into dust right off. Yeah, even Spike. He might have managed to change a teensy bit later on, with his soul and all that, but there's just no chance of that happening now, not when I know he'll keep on killing humans right up to the point when he got his chip. Particularly since Buffy won't be with him this time, either. The other two skanks, too. Drusilla might be more difficult, with her Seer powers, so we'll have to work on that. Darla, damn straight. Yeah, it means Connor won't exist, but, well, sorry, man, that's the way the cookie crumbles.*
Xander gave a mental shrug, as he went over what were to him more regrettable consequences of his forthcoming changes. *Since Buffy won't be killed by the Master, the Slayer line won't be split. Hey, if I actually have to break that dumb prophecy - again! - I'll just point my finger at the Buffster and shout 'Bang!', and she can pretend to drop dead. Still, what about the stuff that happened next, in my original dimension? Kendra, right now she's probably in the hands of the Council and being molded into a good little Potential. Nothing I can do about that, but at least here, she won't get her throat slit by Drusilla. Giles once told me that during previous times, when it became clear that the girls and women who were being groomed to be Slayers wouldn't be Chosen, they were usually allowed to have a life of their own, provided they kept quiet about the Council. Considering they frequently married a Watcher or one of those guy's relatives, since they'd been the only people allowed to come near the Potentials, that wasn't so hard for those ladies. That'll probably happen to Kendra, so, hey, I hope she finds a nice guy and has a good life.*
A truly pained expression now appeared on the baby's face. *Oh, Christ, Faith, I'm so sorry. You just have to live through the next couple of years, no matter how bad they get, but I swear I'll get you out of what you'd never talk about. As soon as I can, I'll use the money from my World Series bets to anonymously hire a private detective to find you, and get you away from your monster of a mom and your hellish home life. I WILL make sure you get placed into a kind, caring foster family. We'll have to see if the Council ever shows up about you being a Potential, but that'll be dealt with if it happens. Who knows, maybe the Summers family will get another kid or two, one of them a mouthy, trash-talking Southie girl who doesn't take shit from anyone. Along with a shy, stuttering, really nice girl named Tara.*
Xander allowed himself a toothless smile at the last, until he started contemplating something equally serious. *What about the rest of the Slayers worldwide who got Chosen before Sunnydale collapsed? There might be no reason to power them up, since here Buffy won't die for the second time and get brought back, which created the imbalance that allowed the First Evil to get its foothold into my dimension. I know where to get my hands on the Scythe, but will this dimension's Willow have the kind of power to do that spell, now that she won't go through what my Wils did? Oh, well, that's another for the long-term plans. Note: use the same private detective to find Caleb and get me his address, so that I can personally go medieval on his preaching ass. He might not have the power of the First Dipwad then, but I'll happily terminate him with extreme prejudice anytime, anywhere.*
Maintaining the malicious glint that had appeared in his pair of eyes, Xander finished making his plans for the remaining supreme villains that had been fought by the Scooby Gang. *Maggie Walsh, the Initiative, and Adam - drop off an anonymous note to the Army Inspector General explaining what exactly that frigid bitch is doing with her budget and suggesting things get cleaned up before a Congressional oversight committee gets told about things to give everybody in sight a royal ass reaming. The Mayor - he won't be invulnerable until his ascension, so a simple bullet might solve the problem. On the other hand, he was around for a century, long enough for other sorcerers and demons to know about him and try to usurp him, so he might have a few surprises ready for anyone trying that. Maybe I can hire the Order of Teraka to do the job. They caused us enough problems, so they might make themselves actually useful here. Glory - I can probably find Ben well before she took out the Monks of Dagon, so destroy her or send her back home, IF we can do that without creating another portal that could wipe out the world. If not, then Ben will just have to be another victim of Sunnydale's dark nights. I didn't say innocent victim, but even if he was that, he's still going down. I'll trade him anytime for Dawn, which is what's going to happen next. A little chat will be made then with the monks, pointing out we got rid of a certain hellgoddess for them, so in return we want the Key turned into a Summers sister AND we keep our memories of everything.*
A sleepy, satisfied look now appeared on the face of the child in his crib, as Xander mentally checked out his outlining of his plans, and was content for the nonce about his strategies. Just before he began dozing off, a last random thought flickered through his brain. *Maybe, early on in my old hometown, I could use an aging spell on myself? I'm not really all that thrilled about having to go through puberty again, what with the acne, breaking voice, and constant boners. Assuming anybody notices through their Sunnydale Syndrome, we could just come up with something like Cousin Xander is permanently visiting, and we sent off to be with relatives our- Hey. What the hell's my name now? Something Summers? Please let it not be Scott; I don't really need the teasing by X-Men fans.*
Momentarily startled back to wakefulness at this odd thought, the infant in his crib opened his eyes to blink at the ceiling, and he also noticed his mother checking her watch and getting up from her seat, to step over to his crib, and pick her son out of his baby's bed. As she gently hugged him, Xander gurgled in sheer happiness, not at all minding how weak and helpless he was, as long as he was in his mother's arms. As Joyce Summers carried the baby back to her chair, taking her seat again, she carefully placed him in her lap, smiling down at him, with Xander sloppily grinning back up, drool coming out of the side of his mouth. Taking a cloth from the nearby table, Joyce wiped this away, and then she flipped the clean rag over her left shoulder, causing her hands to be free for beginning to unbutton her blouse.
In the woman's lap, Xander Harris' eyes widened in absolute astonishment, and as Joyce's nursing bra was loosened, a voice now gleefully howled in the mind of the man changed into a hungry baby:
*I'm going to burn in hell for this, and I - DON'T - CARE! YIPPPEEEEEE!*