Title: Changing Lives

A Buffy the Vampire Slayer story.
By: Ghostrider

Summary: Time. It's not a constant. Always moving. Always changing. Live takes you on different paths. Different lives take you on different paths. Are you strong enough to face the changes? Do you accept the challenge? Or succumb to the darkness?

Rating: R

Author's Note: This story starts during the events leading up to Mayor Wilkins' Ascension and move on from there. This story is not beta-read. All mistakes and grammatical errors are mine.

Author's Note II: This is something that just popped into my head one day. I'm not sure where it's going or how it's going to end. Let me know if it's something worth finishing.

Disclaimer: Joss Whedon, Fox, Mutant Enemy, the WB and UPN own the characters.


Xander was walking through the Sunnydale night, searching for Buffy, Angel and Faith. It wasn't the most intelligent thing to do in this town, but then again, staying with the rest of the group, researching, or rather, hanging around the fringes and be insulted, wasn't high on his To Do list either.

'How the Hell did I get here', shot through his mind, as he kicked a small stone in front of him. 'Yes, I know, it's all my fault, as usual.'

It had seemed so simple at the time. Alienate yourself from the others, make them so angry or disgusted with you, that they'd keep their distance from you. That way, you can keep them safe from the other side of your life.

'That worked out well', he thought with a self-deprecating smirk.

Things had gone haywire the second he'd put his plan in motion. Using Willow the way he had, it was something that he'd loathed to do, but it had been the only plan he'd been able to come up with to achieve his goals. But, as per usual with Xander's plans, it had backfired. Willow and Buffy had forgiven him, mostly, even though they still kept him at the fringes of the Slaying. Giles was Giles, siding with his Slayer while continuously giving him that look that spoke of his disappointment. The only one who'd done as he'd expected had been Cordelia. After finding out about the illicit affair and being nearly killed by that piece of steel, she'd stayed away from the Scoobies. That is, until one Wesley Wyndham-Pryce showed up. Now, Cordelia Chase was using every opportunity to rub Wesley's attraction to her in Xander's face. Even Faith seemed to want Xander around, although he suspected it had more to do with the similar backgrounds they shared, even though they'd never spoken about it.

'Once this whole Ascension thing is over, I'm gonna steer clear of them. Provided they survive, Will and Buff are off to college, so it won't be so hard to do. Besides, it's about time I took that roadtrip.'

Xander still wasn't sure what he would do, once he'd gone on the roadtrip. Would he come back to Sunnydale, or would he keep going and see something of the world? His life had taken an abrupt turn the moment he'd bumped into the railing as he had laid eyes on Buffy Summers for the first time. And a year later, his world had turned around on its axis once again.

His senses picked up the sound of footfalls, causing the young man to look up. Xander noticed Faith and Angel coming his way. Picking up the pace as he neared them, Xander was about to tell them what the others were doing, when suddenly, his head seemed to explode in pain. The next thing he knew was that he was watching the stars, both the ones in the sky and the ones circling his head. Quickly raising himself from the street, Xander noticed several things.

'Damn! That hurt! Deadboy hit me! NO! NOT Deadboy! Angelus! Angelus is back and he and Faith are working together! That's just great. And Buffy is nowhere around! Gotta get to the others and warn them.'

That last thought galvanized him into action and Xander ran off into the night, anger and fear raging in his heart.


"We've got major problems", Xander shouted as he stormed into the room where Willow, Oz, Cordelia and Wesley were gathered, researching the upcoming Ascension.

"Excuse you, Mr. Fashion Sense, but what would you know about major problems?"
"Well, for your information, Cordelia, I just had a run-in with Angel and Faith, or I should say, my face had a run-in with Angel's fist!"

Watching the shocked looks of everyone present, Xander felt a second of satisfaction, knowing that they finally grasped that the problems they were facing had just gotten a lot bigger.

"But... But how... I mean... he had his soul..."
"The how is not important right now, Willow. The important thing is that Buffy wasn't with them. And we all know how much Angelus loves Buffy!"
"We need to warn Giles."
"Good idea, Will. You guys warn him, I'll check out Buffy's house and see if I can warn her in time, then meet you at the library. Wait for me there."
"Who died and left you in charge, fashion reject? Wesley is the Watcher and that means he's in charge here", Cordelia interjected.

"Twinkletoes there is in charge of Buffy and Faith, not the rest of us. And wasting time like that is a great way to see in how many ways Angel can kill Buffy. Now shut up, pack up, get your shapely ass moving, get Giles and go to the library."

Wesley's face turned purple in indignation while he sputtered, trying to form a coherent thought as to what had happened just now and when he had lost control of the situation. The others looked on in shock as their goofy friend had turned into a drill sergeant, giving them their marching orders. Oz was the first to react, grabbing Willow and shocking Wesley and Cordelia into action.

Xander jumped into his car, speeddialing the Summers residence on his cellphone. Joyce answered, telling him that Angel and Faith had picked up Buffy some 30 minutes earlier. With that information, he immediately headed off for Angel's mansion, flooring the accelerator, praying that the sadistic bastard would toy with her a while before trying to kill her.

As he arrived, Xander quickly put on a three-quarter length jacket, the heavy black leather calming his senses. Quickly scouting the area, he let his senses fully atune to the world around him. Moving stealthily towards one of the windows, he looked inside. With a sigh of relief, he noticed that Buffy was still alive, chained to a wall, Faith pacing around her with a feral smile on her lips. With that, the last vestiges of Xander Harris, the Zeppo, the goofball and comic relief of the Scooby Gang, disappeared. It was time to fulfill a promise.

".....Mayor's got it wired B. He made this town for demons to feed on, and come graduation day, he's getting paid", Faith told Buffy with glee. Before she could do or say anything else, the doors to the room burst open, revealing Xander Harris.

Buffy watched in shock as Xander burst in, clearly not knowing that the whole thing was a setup to trick Faith into revealing what she knew about the Mayor's plans.

"Xander, get out of here", Buffy screamed, fearing what Faith might do to her friend, before either her or Angel could stop Faith.

"Not this time,Buff. Deadboy and I, we've got a previous engagement. Something along the lines of 'You're going to die and I'm going to be there.' Doesn't it Angelus?"
"Yo boytoy, aren't you the forceful one all of a sudden. Guess that roll we had gave you some balls, huh? What say you and I get down for another round before I kill you? Think B. is gonna enjoy that? I know I sure would, on both counts", Faith said as she walked towards him, smiling all the while.

"Faith, I suggest you get your ass out of here. I've got business with the Tall, Dark and Fangfaced over there. You walk now, you save yourself a world of hurt", Xander stated in a measured, ice-cold voice, sending shivers down Buffy's back.

"Ooh, big tough guy, are we?"

Faith leered at Xander, then, with Slayer quickness, she threw her knife at him, aiming for the head. Buffy screamed in horror as she and Angel watched the death of one of their own, played out in front of their eyes. But horror turned into amazement as Xander effortlessly caught the knife between his hands, mere inches from his face, wearing a bored expression.

"Predictable and stupid. Now you've got no more weapons, girly. What you gonna do?"

With a scream of rage, Faith launched herself at Xander, fists leading. At the last moment, her left leg surged upward, it's intended target, Xander's stomach, not being in the spot it was a split second before. Xander had stepped into the kick with a 360 degree turn, his left arm leading and hitting Faith hard in the side of the head. The force of the blow knocked her off balance but before she could fall to the floor, Xander's right hand had grabbed a hold of her jacket and Faith was sent flying into a wall. Dazed from the blow and the sudden impact with the wall, Faith attacked again, lashing out with a blindingly fast combination of her fists.

Using the force of her own attack against her, Xander again flipped the rogue Slayer to the ground, the air leaving her lungs in a loud whoosh. Before she had another chance, Xander twisted his hips, lifting her clean off the floor to her feet, pulling down her jacket, effectively trapping her arms. Pushing her backwards a few steps, he began his counter-attack. Twisting in position and bringing his right leg up, Xander kicked her in the face, following it up with his left foot. Faith went down again, hard.

Shrugging off her jacket, her face red in rage, Faith got up, breathing hard and attacked again. Feinting to the right, she quickly reversed and rammed her knuckles hard, into Xander's ribcage, smiling in satisfaction at the sound of breaking ribs. Following it up with a palmstrike to his face, she turned and smashed an elbow into the side of his head, sending the dark-haired teen to the floor. Her victory was shortlived as her feet were ripped from under her, crashing her to the ground. The next thing she saw was a fist heading for her face, then blinding pain, then darkness.

Xander stood up straight, not even breathing hard as he looked down on the unconscious Slayer. Slowly raising his head, making eye-contact with a shocked Angel.

"Let's dance."

Xander stalked towards Angel menacingly as Buffy looked on in stunned amazement at what had transpired. Amazement turned to horror as Xander's hands reached behind him, pulling out two swords seemingly out of nowhere.

"Xander! NO!"
"Not this time, Buff. Last time, I didn't do anything to stop this bastard but not this time. Too many people died the last time before you got your head out of your ass."

Xander somersaulted over the couch Angel had moved behind to keep his distance, slashing diagonally with the wakizashi, forcing his opponent to twist to the side. Too late, Angel saw the move for what it was, a feint, as a burning pain ran up his left arm. Stumbling backward, he bumped into the wall, watching as a stone-faced Xander Harris advanced on him. Xander's eyes were ice-cold, not showing any emotion, both swords pointed downwards.

"Xander, it's not what you think. Please, just stop and let me explain...", Angel said, squeezing his injured arm. But he knew it was a lost cause; Xander Harris was here to kill him and nothing was going to stop him from doing so. Under normal circumstances, Angel would not have worried about that, but these were far from normal circumstances. Somewhere along the way, Xander seemed to have acquired impressive martial arts skills, both unarmed and armed. His taking down Faith was enough proof of that. Angel lashed out, his right foot kicking a small table into Xander's approaching form. Using the split second he had, Angel lunged sideways for his weapons chest, grabbing a light cavalry saber from it.

The saber and Xander's longer Ninja-to met in a shower of sparks. Angel winced from the impact of the blades, only giving a fleeting thought about the strenght his opponent was displaying. It became quickly apparant that he was outclassed. Xander's swords seemed to be everywhere, the long sword keeping him busy while the wakizashi slashed at any exposed bodyparts. Angel was using every trick he knew to stay alive, to stay a step ahead. Using the saber as a javelin, he threw it at Xander. Xander quickly twisted around to let it pass, leaving himself open to Angel' attack. He was lifted off the floor as Angel smashed a foot into his stomach, following it up by an elbow to the back, making him crash to the floor hard. Angel smashed a heavy foot onto Xander's right hand, causing him to release the Ninja-to as he bit back a scream.

Angel was about to do the same thing to Xander's left hand, when the dark-haired youth quickly rolled to the side, taking Angel' feet out from under him, causing the vampire to slam to the ground. Getting to his feet with cat-like movements, Xander quickly advanced on the prone vampire, stabbing him with through the chest with the wakizashi. Pulling it out, Xander grabbed the hilt in both hands, lifting it over his right shoulder.

"I'm sending you to Hell. This time, stay there."

As he brought the wakizashi down, Buffy screamed...


Xander felt something enter his back, immediately followed by a burning pain spreading throughout his body. The short sword fell from his limp hands as his body started swaying, blood dripping from his mouth. Turning around on swaying feet, Xander reached behind him, grasping the handle of Faith's discarded knife and pulling it out. The pain seemed to multiply as the pierced chambers of his heart kept pumping out the blood, straight into his body, instead of through the veins. Looking at the bloodied knife, Xander crashed to his knees, raising eyes full of accusation towards the blonde Slayer he'd always thought of as his best friend, one question on his mind and bloodsoaked lips.


Before getting the answer, Xander's upper body crashed to the floor, as he died, the question as to why she would choose a soulless killer over a human.


Buffy's voice was tinged with tears as she walked over to her friend's body, lying in a growing pool of blood.

"Xander? Wake up. Please? Wake up, Xander! It's no time to go sleeping!"

Reaching his body, Buffy rolled him over, pulling him up against her as tears streaked down her face. She began rocking him as she stroked his hair.

"Xan, please wake up. I need you. Come on, baby, wake up. Please?"
"You killed him, you bitch! You think your whining is gonna make him pull a Jesus Christ?", Faith screamed in rage. A rage she didn't know where it was coming from. The sight of Xander's body broke something in the dark-haired Slayer's mind.

"You killed him! You killed him and for what? That piece of shit Angel? I should have staked you the moment I had the chance, you bastard, soul or no soul!"

After her outburst, Faith sprinted from the mansion into the night, her only thought getting out of this hellhole. Getting as far away as possible from the pain this town had brought her.


Angel slowly got up and crawled to the woman he loved, pain etched in his eyes. Buffy was rocking the dead body of her best friend, begging him to wake up, not wanting to believe that he was dead. Not wanting to believe she'd killed him.

"Buffy, you've got to let him go. We need to get to the others, tell them what happened."

She looked up at him, her eyes large and red from crying.

"No, I can't leave him here. He's going to wake up all alone. I can't leave him alone. He needs me."

The look she gave him and her words broke his heart.

"Buffy, Xander... he's dead. He is not going to wake up. We've got to go. Tell Giles and the others so they can take care of this."
"No! I'm not leaving him here! He needs me."

Buffy turned away from Angel, cradling Xander's body close, rocking him back and forth, softly chanting the same sentence over and over again.

"Wake up. Wake up, Xander. Please?"


The double doors of the library burst open, causing the occupants to jump off their chairs and grab for any nearby weapons. When they saw Angel coming in, carrying a catatonic Buffy, the air of dread that permeated the room rose several notches. Giles quickly pulled out a chair, allowing Angel to place her in it carefully. Gasps sounded through the room as they caught sight of the blood drenched clothes Buffy was wearing.

"Willow, get the medical kit! Quickly!", Giles ordered.
"No, that's not necessary. It's not hers."
"Angel, Buffy's clothes are soaked and you say that it's not hers? Whose is it? Surely not Faith's?", Wesley asked with trepidation. Even though his charge was headstrong and had now become an agent of evil, he still felt responsible for her. This whole fiasco was his fault; if he'd only handled it better. Hindsight, such a wonderful gift, the young Watcher thought.

"No, not Faith's either. She... She got away, nothing more then bruises."
"Where is Xander? Did he find you?", Willow interjected worriedly as she knelt next to her friend, her hands hovering over Buffy's body. She didn't notice the pained looked on Angel's face. Willow wasn't sure how to approach her friend, whose eyes seemed to be staring off into the distance. She didn't seem to be aware of her surroundings.

"Buffy? Can you hear me?", Giles asked his young charge, squeezing her shoulder.
"Buffy? Could you.. could you snap out of it? You... You're scaring me."

Buffy slowly turned her head towards Willow's voice, her eyes slowly focusing on the redhead's face. It seemed as if she was slowly coming out of her stupor.

"Where is Xander?"

The simple question shocked everyone, not so much the question but the voice asking it. Buffy Summers' voice sounded paper thin, like a toddler, asking a question of its parents. It was the same tone of voice as when Buffy had found out about the prophecy of her death by the Master's hands. Yet, even then, there had been a mixture of despair, anger and defiance laced through. Now, all of those fragments were gone, leaving only the voice of a frightened child.

"Buffy...", Angel interjected, not daring to look at the blonde Slayer.

"Yes, Buffy?"
"He's dead, isn't he?"
"No, please God, no!", Cordelia exclaimed. Willow's eyes grew large as she stumbled backwards, falling to the floor. Of everyone there, only Oz seemed take the news in stride.

"H- How..."

Giles tried to form the question but it came out as a pained gasp. Buffy turned her tearstained eyes towards the man she thought of as her father, preparing to speak the words that would seal the guilt she would carry for the rest of her life. Bonding it to her heart and sould for all eternity.

"Xander... He.. He stormed into the mansion. He took ... he took out Faith, then went after Angel. He thought Angel had turned into Angelus and was going to kill him. He... He didn't listen to me. He didn't want to listen. He had swords. Two swords and I was still chained up. I was screaming for him to stop but he wouldn't listen. I finally got loose but I was too far away and Xander was about to ... to kill Angel. I had to make a choice... I had to make a choice."

Buffy stopped explaining, taking deep breaths as sobs started to wreck her small frame.

"A choice? You had to make a choice? What the Hell does that mean", screamed Cordelia, unable to believe that Xander was death. It couldn't be true. The little bottle-blond bitch was lying. Yes, that was it, she was lying.

"Answer the damned question! What happened?"
"I killed him! I took Faith's knife and threw it in his back and killed him! He's dead because I killed him!" Buffy screamed at Cordelia.

What happened next caught everyone by surprise. Cordelia practically jumped on top of Buffy, her hands like steel clamps, wrapping themselves around Buffy's throat. Deep seated hatred shone from her eyes as she tried to choke the life out of Buffy. Giles, Angel and Oz jumped in, pulling the two girls apart, Cordelia howling in unrestrained rage, kicking and screaming to get free. Buffy got to her feet, not daring to look Cordelia or anybody else in the eyes. It was then that the next surprise represented itself....

Buffy was flung across the room, crashing hard into the library's counter. As she looked up, she saw the darkened pupils of Willow Rosenburg, the power radiating off of her in waves.

"You sanctimonious little bitch! You had to choose! Between an undead killer and a living, breathing man who would gladly lay down his life for you, without hesitation? You saved a killer's life or rather unlife because you think he's the love of your life? Have you forgotten what he is? A killer! A murdering, raping bastard who loves to torture people, make them suffer before they die! He killed thousands all over the world. He killed Jenny, he killed Theresa and Goddess knows how many more and you chose to save him and kill someone who has stood beside you from the start? And you call yourself his friend? I wonder what you would do to an enemy. Tell me why. Tell me! Come on, you little slut! Tell me!!!!"

"Yes, Slayer, do tell. I've been wondering the same thing."

Startled by the interruption, everybody turned to look at the voice coming from the library's entrance. It was quickly followed by a scream of terror.