This story officially takes place during my 'Season Eight', but if you have read it and for some reason don't like it, but do like this story, it is at least after Season Seven.
"Why am I even here?" asked Xander Harris in desperation, looking around the cemetery he was standing in.
Buffy Summers and Willow Rosenberg looked over at him in surprised confusion.
"What are you talking about, Xander?" asked Willow.
"What I'm talking about is why am I out here with you guys tonight? What can I do to help?"
Buffy and Willow exchanged looks of concern.
"Well, because you fight well, and we figured you'd want to come along." said Buffy carefully.
"Not to mention we're best friends and have been doing this for years." added Willow.
"That's not an excuse." said Xander exasperatedly, "If a vampire were to attack us right now, what would happen? I'll tell you: The vampire will knock me out, then Willow will paralyze it while it is distracted hitting me, then Buffy will come up and kill it like the professional vampire-killer that she is. Wow! What a great contribution I make to the team! The distracting-punching-bag guy!"
"Why are you acting like this, Xander?" asked Buffy angrily, "We just thought we'd-"
"You thought?" shouted Xander sarcastically, "Well, there's something I can't do either, apparently! You two do the planning and thinking! I'll just stand here and get hit!"
"You're acting like a jerk right now, you know." said Willow, getting angry herself (Which is not very common on a regular day when the world is not in peril).
"Well, maybe that's what I am!" yelled Xander angrily, "All I ever did when we first started all this was get captured and rescued, and maybe picked up a few tricks along the way, but for what?"
"Xander, shut up." said Buffy urgently, "You're probably drawing vampires to us right now, not mention waking up the whole town."
"That's my point exactly! If you hadn't invited me to come, all this wouldn't be happening."
"You know what? Fine." said Buffy, "Next time, we won't bother with you."
Xander breathed deeply, then turned on them both.
After a while, he said, "Look. I'm sorry. I don't want to fight with either of you, but I really feel that I'm not worth anything here. I can't help you guys. The best that can be said for me is that I'm good cannon fodder. My whole existence is pointless."
"Xander, that's not true." said Willow earnestly, "You help out plenty. Remember what you did for me on the bluff? You brought out the humanity in me and stopped me from destroying the world."
"Great." said Xander unenthusiastically, "But anybody else could have done that. I have no special powers, no strength, no big contributions to the world. Nothing to be proud of. I bet the world would be better off if I didn't exist."
At that moment, a vampire lunged out of the shadows and charged toward them. Xander backed away quickly, but tripped on a rock and fell backward to the ground. He closed his eyes, bracing for a painful impact . . .
But it never came.
He blinked and looked around him. He was surrounded by white. There was no ground, ceiling, or walls. It was just white all round him.
"What happened to me?" he thought, "Where am I?"
Suddenly, a voice behind him said, "So, how's it going?"
Xander turned around, or more accurately, he rotated around, seeing as there was no floor for his feet to turn on.
Standing behind him was what looked like a demon. It was wearing a loose fitting black suit with it's hands in it's pockets. It looked mostly human, except for the fact that it's skin was dark green and somewhat scaly. Xander's first thought was of the Creature from the Black Lagoon, but then he noticed that the demon didn't have any gills, fins, or the wide fish-mouth most seas creatures have. It's eyes were dark and narrow.
"I know, it's kind of confusing and alarming at first." said the demon, "But I promise you this will benefit you enormously."
Xander stared at the demon, not knowing what to say or ask first.
"Xander Harris," the demon continued, "You are about to witness the most incredible, realistic, and life-altering experience of your entire life."
Xander finally blurted out, "What's going on? Who are you? Where am I? How do you know my name?"
"One question at a time, sport." said the demon.
"I'm sorry. I get kind of uncomfortable when I find myself in a white empty void with a Black Lagoon Rip-Off Demon who is talking cryptically to me about things I don't understand."
"Quite the smart-ass, aren't you? You really think I wanted to do this? There are much more enjoyable things I could be doing than showing whiny little men things they are too arrogant to know."
Xander took a deep breath, then said in a controlled voice, "Please tell me what is happening to me."
"Thank you. Much less aggravating."
"If you think I'm annoying, you really should meet Andrew or Harmony." Xander muttered.
"You want answers or don't you?" asked the demon impatiently.
"Alright then; First of all, my name is Maurice. I'm a . . . well, technically I'm a Destiny demon, if that makes any sense."
"A Destiny demon?"
"I show and prevent people's destinies, or something like that. I'm not even really sure."
"O-kay." Xander said uncertainly.
"We are currently in a state of non-existence. An area of the universe where nothing is happening. Sort of a shortstop between universes, you know?"
"I . . . think so." Xander said again uncertainly.
"We are here so that I can show you some serious side effects to a demand you had recommended."
"What do you mean?"
"You said a few minutes ago 'I bet the world would be better off if I never existed.', right? Well, I'm going to show you what the world would be like without Alexander LaVelle Harris."
"How and why do you use my middle name?" Xander demanded.
"Because I know and I can." said Maurice matter-of-factly, "Now pay attention. First of all, why do you believe the world would be better off without you?"
"Do you have to ask? What have I done that counts for anything? Buffy would probably have had an easier time protecting the world without having to worry about rescuing me in the early years. And what about now? All I can do is basically fight up to standard. Plus my dating history is a joke: Rejected by Buffy, almost got beheaded by a praying mantis lady, almost got the life sucked out of me by an Incan mummy, got together with my mortal enemy from high school, who I cheated on with my best friend who I used to have a crush on and was secretly seeing behind her back before that anyway, then got together with an ex-Vengeance demon (who had tried to get my first ex to curse me a few weeks earlier), who I ended up leaving at the alter, resulting in her becoming a demon again to try to scorn me again, after which she became human again and then got killed in a battle that I survived for some reason, and before that, there was another demon girl who, after dating me, tried to sacrifice me to raise an Uber Vampire from the Hellmouth to kill all my friends, and finally, back to Buffy (Who only gave me a chance after dating two vampires, two douches, two thrill seekers, and an amped up army man), who isn't even sure if she does like me and even if she does, how can it possibly last with the kind of history I have had with women?"
Maurice stared at Xander for a full 10 seconds, then sighed.
"Well, alright. I was hoping this'd be quick, but clearly with the amount of issues you've got, this'll have to take a while."
He sighed again and exhaled loudly.
"Right. While all of your points are valid (and hilarious, I might add), and while you are still rather annoying to me, I will now show you exactly how the world would have gone if you never existed."
Maurice waved his arms and they faded from the white void, reappearing seconds later inside a house.
"Hey, I know this place. This is Willow's house!" said Xander excitedly.
"Very good. But why are we here, you must be asking?"
"Well, I'm guessing I'll be seeing what happens to Willow in a world without me?"
At that moment, two children ran into the room they were standing in. One of them, the red-headed little girl, Xander recognized at once as Willow around five or six years old (Judging by the Scooby Doo shirt she was wearing, which he remembered had had a bleach stain covering Shaggy's head right before it had gotten thrown out around that time). The black haired boy who ran in with her he couldn't place for a second. Then it hit him. Staring at the boy, he uttered a name he had not said aloud in almost a decade.
Willow and Jesse ran around the room, chasing each other and laughing. Xander turned to Maurice.
"Will and Jesse are still friends?"
"Apparently. But since Willow never met you, her life wasn't quite the same."
"Why? If Jesse was there for Will, then-"
"But you and Jesse aren't the same person, are you? He wasn't quite as big of an influence on her as you were."
"Okay, so Will had a different role model for a best friend. But she still looks happy."
"Oh, well, we're nowhere near to done just yet."
"Wait. Do you already know all about what I'm going to see?"
"Of course." said Maurice, rolling his eyes, "I told you, D-E-S-T-I-N-Y demon. I know people's destinies. Or some part of them. I don't know. The story keeps changing all the time. Come on."
He waved his arms again and they vanished, this time reappearing in front of a building Xander recognized all too well: Sunnydale High School. Looking around, Xander saw Willow sitting on a bench in the courtyard, unpacking her book bag.
"What are we doing here?"
Maurice nodded toward Willow as Buffy approached her. She was wearing the same outfit she had worn the day Xander had first met her, when she had transferred to Sunnydale.
"Hi. Willow, right?"
Willow looked up, startled.
"Why? I-I mean, hi! D-did you want me to move?"
Xander turned to Maurice.
"Why are we watching this?"
"Just pay attention, will you?" asked Maurice.
Xander turned back in time to see Jesse approaching Willow and Buffy and sitting down between them.
"Hey there." said Jesse, sitting down.
"Buffy, this is Jesse." said Willow, trying not to laugh.
"Well, it's nice to meet you both, I think." said Buffy uncertainly.
"I remember this." said Xander, "This was where I gave Buffy back her stake that she had dropped in the hallway."
"What stake? You weren't there to help her pick up her things." said Maurice, "You don't exist, remember?"
"Oh. Yeah." said Xander.
"Right, we've covered this particular part, so let's move on."
"Wait." said Xander, "Why are you showing me things that only have small differences?"
"I didn't say that they were all different. Theses are just important details of your alternate scenario."
They vanished and reappeared again, this time in a cemetery at night. There was a scream nearby. Xander stared into the fog and saw a vampire bending down over Willow. Xander made to rush forward, but Maurice held out his arm to stop him.
"Really? This happened nine years ago, buddy."
"Right." Xander muttered, pulling back and watching as Buffy predictably shot into view and threw the vampire off of Willow. Then they saw Jesse being dragged off by two other vampires. The two vampires, Xander noticed, that had originally dragged him off before. Buffy rushed forward and kicked the vampires off of Jesse, then staked one of them using a tree branch. She and Willow raised Jesse to his feet.
"You okay?" asked Willow in concern.
"Ow. I think maybe." said Jesse, rubbing his head, "And may I once again repeat 'Ow'?"
"Good thing you got here when you did, Buffy." said Willow in relief, "One of us might have died."
"But Jesse did die." said Xander faintly to himself, "He got captured and sired after this. After Buffy rescued me and Will." He turned to Maurice again. "There! Right there! See? Jesse is still alive because Buffy didn't have to rescue me!"
"Yep. You're right." said Maurice sarcastically, "Jesse didn't die and nobody got captured or lured into a trap, the Harvest still failed, and everybody was happy." then he added significantly, "This is only year number one, you know."
As Buffy, Willow, and Jesse made their way through the cemetery, Xander said "So what happens to them after this?"
"Well, Jesse pretty much does all the things you did during this year: He got attracted to the praying mantis you referenced earlier, he got possessed by a hyena at the zoo, and so forth. Up until a certain point."
"Well, whatever. Jesse being alive shows that me not being there is a great thing for the world." said Xander in certainty.
Maurice rolled his eyes at him. "Don't be so naïve. This is only the beginning of our little journey together."
They vanished again, reappearing in an underground cavern lit by torches.
"Where are we . . . ?" He looked around and shivered. He knew this place. "Oh, wait." He looked at Maurice. "What did you mean before about 'Up until a certain point'?"
In answer, Maurice pointed to an area around a pillar in front of them. Xander tentatively poked his head around the pillar and saw, to his horror, Buffy in her prom dress being held by the most fearsome looking vampire he had ever seen. The Master vampire, he figured. The Master was whispering into Buffy's ear while she stood there, looking terrified. Then The Master lowered his head and bit into Buffy's neck. Xander watched in shock as The Master raised his head and exhaled deeply.
"Oh god! The power!" he exclaimed. Then he dropped Buffy's body into a pool of water in front of him. He turned and walked toward the exit of his lair, remarking "By the way, I like your dress." as he went. Then the barrier blocking his exit flashed out of existence and he climbed out of the chamber toward the surface. Xander stared in shocked silence.
"Never witnessed that event, did you?" asked Maurice quietly.
"I-it's gonna be okay." said Xander shakily, "Angel will be here with Jesse any moment and he'll revive her like I did."
At that moment, Angel entered the chamber, looking anxious. Jesse was not with him. He rushed over to Buffy and pulled her out of the water. He felt for her pulse, then fell back, looking devastated.
"No." he muttered to himself, "No, no, no, no, Buffy . . . BUFFY!" he yelled her name out in agony, then slumped over her body, weeping.
"But-" Xander stuttered, staring at Angel cradling Buffy's body in his arms, "But that's . . . no . . . no, this can't be . . ." he looked at Maurice, "She's dead?"
"She's dead. You weren't there to revive her. Angel was a vampire, so he couldn't have done it himself."
"But Jesse . . ."
"Like I said, you and Jesse are two different people. Jesse didn't fall in love with Buffy, so he wasn't jealous of Angel, he never thought to go after Buffy to stop her facing The Master and never recruited Angel's help. Angel, of course, still went on his own because he loved Buffy and was determined to help her if he could. Unfortunately . . ." he gestured sadly at Angel on the ground. Xander was overwhelmed with sadness and hopelessness. In this world, Jesse got to live in exchange for Buffy dying. Permanently.
"I . . . I can't . . ."
"No quite the perfectly improved world you expected anymore, is it?" asked Maurice.
"Alright. I get it." Xander wept, wiping his uncovered right eye with his sleeve, "The world is better with me in it. I count my blessings. Let's go home."
"No, no. Sorry." said Maurice, "You wanted the full experience, so you have to witness it. We still have a couple more years to go yet."
At that moment, Angel got back up, angry tears in his eyes. His face morphed into it's vampire visage and he charged out of the cavern.
"W-where's he going?" asked Xander.
"I'll show you." said Maurice, waving his arms.
They reappeared on the roof of the school, overlooking the library. The Master was watching the Hellmouth spawn below flailing around in the library while Giles, Willow, Jesse, Cordelia ("Oh god, Cordy" Xander thought anxiously), and Jenny Calendar dodged and ducked around it.
"Come forth, my child, come into my world." The Master said gleefully.
"Heinrich." said a voice behind him. The Master turned to see Angel standing there, game face full on, the rage in his eyes blazing like fire.
"Angelus." said The Master, "What brings you up here on this glorious night?"
"I came about a girl." said Angel, his tone low and dangerous, "A girl I loved."
"Oh, I see. You're here to avenge the little girl's passing, are you? How touching: The great Angelus, the Scourge of Europe, crying over a Slayer. Disgraceful. I'll tell you though, she was exhilarating, the power in her blood was unlike anything I'd ever experienced. There's still some left if you want to try some."
Angel roared with fury and charged at The Master, knocking him over. As they ducked and swung at each other, Xander said, "He can't beat him. If Buffy couldn't . . ."
"He's not thinking about that. He's thinking only of killing the monster who killed his love and saving the world for her."
They watched as The Master slammed Angel against the wall of the building.
"It was a gallant effort, but the world is mine and you nor the Slayer were able to stop it." The Master gloated, "But you will get to see your precious Slayer again; in hell."
"If I'm going to hell, you're coming with me." Angel snarled through gritted teeth. He shoved off the wall he was pressed against and pushed The Master into the sunroof. Xander gasped as they fell together through the sunroof and fell on the broken table fragment below, combusting into dust and (In The Master's case) bones as he watched. The Hellmouth spawn shrieked and withdrew back underground. Willow, Giles, Jesse, Cordelia, and Ms. Calendar surrounded the remains of The Master and Angel.
"They're gone." said Jesse faintly, "They're both gone."
"Angel gave his life to kill The Master." said Willow, looking sad.
"But what about Buffy?" asked Jenny, "Wasn't she supposed to kill him? Where is she?"
"No!" said Giles in anguished desperation, "No! I told her not to go! It should have been me! I should have . . ."
He broke down and cried. Jenny put her arm around him. Looking down on the scene, Xander felt extremely miserable. Not about Angel. Though he was surprised and somewhat sad about it, his death was one that he could contemplate rather easily (Like Spike's death a few years back). But seeing Giles break down like this and , especially, having witnessed Buffy's death first hand, knowing that it was because of him not being there for which it had happened, was terrible. He couldn't think of anything to say or do until Maurice said "Let's keep going."
They vanished and appeared in the library again, except it was day and the new year. Giles, Jesse, Willow, Jenny, and now Oz and a girl that Xander vaguely recognized from before were sitting at the table.
Giles was saying "Well, it's a good thing you've arrived when you did . . . Kendra, is it?"
"Yes sir." said the girl named Kendra, who Xander suddenly recognized as the girl who had been called as a slayer after Buffy had died. Except this time, apparently Kendra was now The Slayer.
"Yes, well, after Buffy's death, I was sure a new slayer would have to be called and sent here eventually." Giles said.
"Wait." said Xander, turning to Maurice, "I get Kendra being here, but where's Cordy?"
"Oh. Her." said Maurice slowly, "Well, I felt that it would not be prudent to see what happened to her."
"What do mean?"
"Well, there was a guy who tried to build a girlfriend out of dead body parts for his resurrected brother-"
"Chris and Darryl Epps." said Xander suddenly, "Yeah, I remember them."
"Well, without you and, by extent, Buffy, nobody could rescue her from them, so . . ."
"Oh god." said Xander, recoiling inwardly at the revelation. Cordelia must've had her head cut off and implanted onto a mess of other girl body parts. It was horrible to think about.
"So, yeah, she's dead too. I didn't think us reliving that particular event was necessary."
Xander nodded silently. So far this alternate series of events were more awful than anything that had really happened at any point in his experiences.
"So, since Buffy is permanently dead here, Kendra was summoned to Sunnydale to officially take her place." said Maurice, "Plus, without Buffy or Angel, everybody else has had to be pretty much completely on their guard."
"Okay, so, what happens next?" asked Xander tentatively.
"Pay attention and you'll find out." said Maurice.
"We do have some good news, though." Giles was saying, "It seems that the spell that Spike needed to cure Drusilla cannot be done, because it requires the blood of Drusilla's sire."
"Why is that a good thing?" asked Willow.
"Her sire is dead. It was Angel." said Giles grimly.
"Oh!" said Xander. Maurice turned to look at him. "I forgot about that. So in this universe, Drusilla couldn't be revived?"
"It seems not." said Maurice.
"So, that's good, right?"
"I guess that depends on your point of view."
"Why?" asked Xander.
"Well, not long after he finds out, Spike goes on a crazy rampage, saddened and grieved that he would never return his love to full power, he went straight after these guys sitting here to exact vengeance upon them. The end result? Death."
"For who?" asked Xander anxiously.
"Spike, of course. And Drusilla not long after."
"Oh, well, that's good, isn't it?" asked Xander hopefully.
"Let's think," said Maurice in mock-thoughtfulness, "Spike is dead, never gets a chip in his head, never becomes good, never helps the forces of good . . . I'd say more like in the long run, it would be a bad thing. At this point, the forces of good have lost three key champions in their fight against evil."
"But what about Faith? She's still around, right?"
"Not until later. I'll show you why."
They vanished and reappeared this time at a funeral. Giles, Willow, Jesse, Oz, and Jenny were in attendance.
"We are now in early 1999." said Maurice.
"Wait, but Ms. Calendar is still alive! So, whose funeral is this?"
"Again with the multiple questions. Give a guy some time to rearrange his thoughts!" said Maurice wearily, "Okay, you know that Angel has died. What does that tell you?"
Xander thought for a while, then suddenly, he got it.
"Angel never lost his soul, so he never killed Ms. Calendar."
"Bingo. Secondly, this is Kendra's funeral. The events of last year were pretty tame in comparison without Buffy, Angel, Spike, or Drusilla around, as they were the key players in those events. You see, Dru was never able to kill Kendra last year, so she lived up until this point when she died under the Council's test where the Slayer is de-powered and trapped in an old house with a vampire. Because of that, Faith was not called until much later on."
"Oh. I see." said Xander, feeling worse with every scene they witnessed. Then he remembered something else.
"Wait a sec. What about Anya?"
"The Vengeance demon? Well, with you not existing and Cordelia dead, Anyanka was never drawn to Sunnydale to have Cordelia curse you, resulting in her not becoming human and dating you. So, she's still an evil Vengeance demon and will stay so until the end."
"Well, at least she'll get to live longer than she did before." said Xander.
"Don't be so sure just yet, my friend." said Maurice.
They vanished and appeared this time inside an old warehouse. Xander saw the most hideous looking demon he had ever seen sitting in a tub of water. It looked pretty much like a giant blob. There were vampires dressed in yellow outfits standing around it. Two of them were holding Giles and Wesley before the creature.
"What's this?" asked Xander.
"The big guy in the tub is Balthazar." said Maurice, "One of Olvikan's worst enemies."
"The Mayor, you mean? Hold on, yeah, Giles and Wesley were taken to him, I remember. Then Angel and Buffy rescued them . . ." his voice trailed off.
"See the issue here?" asked Maurice, "Anyway, the story here is, when Faith arrived, she had no positive influences. Buffy and Angel, her biggest supporters, are now dead, so they couldn't keep her from going out of control. As a result, she rebelled against everyone else within the first few weeks, then joined The Mayor. When Wesley arrived to try to control Faith with news of Balthazar's amulet being up for grabs, Faith went to the crypt immediately and destroyed it, by The Mayor's orders."
At that moment, the blobbery Balthazar demanded, "Bring them closer!"
Giles and Wesley were shoved forward toward his tub.
"You know what I want." Balthazar continued, addressing the two Watchers.
"If it's for me to scrub those hard-to-reach areas, I'd like to request that you kill me now."
The vampire behind Giles shoved him angrily.
"Ow." said Giles, glaring pointedly at the vampire.
Xander snorted. He couldn't help himself.
"Are you out of your mind?" exclaimed Wesley frantically, "This is hardly the time for games!"
"Why not?" asked Giles mildly, "There're going to torture us to death anyway."
Xander couldn't help agreeing with Wesley here, seeing as there was no help coming for them this time.
"You're not wrong about that." said Balthazar amusedly.
"Now, now, hold on. W-we can deal with this rationally." stammered Wesley.
"There is only one way to settle this rationally!" shouted Balthazar, "Where is my amulet?"
Wesley stuttered a few times, then looked sideways at Giles.
"We don't have it." said Giles, "It had already been taken from Gleaves' tomb by an accomplice of The Mayor."
"THE MAYOR!" screamed Balthazar, "The one I seek to destroy after being revived? He has destroyed it already then!" He took a few deep breaths, then said "Well, since I can never be returned to power now, the least I can do is be amused by your gruesome deaths."
"No! No! Wait! Wait!" cried Wesley frantically as he and Giles were dragged away from Balthazar to the middle of the room.
"Stop!" yelled Xander, looking at Maurice with wide-eyed panic, "Don't make me watch this!"
They vanished as the vampires were seen approaching the two men on the ground, and reappeared at the school once more.
"I'm sorry." said Maurice, "But that part had to be witnessed. The general idea of what will happen was pretty obvious up until that point anyway."
"So what happens now?" asked Xander, looking around. In the distance, he saw a crowd of people in maroon robes coming out of the school. Maroon robes?
"Oh, no." he whispered, "Graduation."
"Hold it up there." said Maurice, putting a hand on Xander's shoulder, "First let me relate to you of events between where we were and where we are. Shortly after what we'd just saw, Faith had returned and killed Balthazar anyway. She felt no remorse at seeing Mr. Giles and Mr. Wyndam-Pryce dead on the ground, because she had literally become a monster; a killer with no remorse. No, not like before," he added, seeing Xander make an expression, "Much worse than what she became during your past. The Mayor had her kill anyone who might trouble him. She killed the curator who brought The Mayor his Box of Gavrock, she killed the Volcanologist, plus many more just for the sake of it. And, without interference from Buffy, Angel, or the majority of your friends, The Mayor's plan was formed without a hitch."
"B-But what about Will? And Jesse and Oz and Ms. Calendar? Aren't they still alive here?"
"They are." said Maurice, "But what could they do? They don't know what The Mayor's plan is. How could they? The only way you guys found out before was when Buffy and Angel tricked Faith into telling them." Maurice turned ahead to look at the graduating class taking their seats. "They have no idea. None of them."
Principal Snyder had just gotten up onto the stage and was speaking to the group of students which, Xander suddenly noticed, wasn't as big as the ceremony he remembered attending.
"Congratulations to the Class of 1999. You all proved more or less adequate." Snyder began.
"What are you saying?" asked Xander.
"Well, without Buffy's plan, the graduating class was not informed about the demonic or The Ascension."
" . . . guest speaker, Richard Wilkins, the third. I saw that gesture, you see me after graduation." concluded Snyder.
Xander watched as The Mayor stood up and addressed the class before him.
"Well. What a day this is. A special day . . ."
As The Mayor started his speech, Xander suddenly noticed that Faith was on stage next to him.
"Faith is here?"
"Obviously. Who would have put her into a coma?" asked Maurice.
" . . . some people who should be here today . . . aren't."
"You got that right" muttered Xander.
"But we are." continued The Mayor, "Journey's end. And what is a journey? Is it distance traveled? Time spent? No."
"Maurice, please tell me that there is some kind of miracle event about to happen here." Xander said desperately.
"What miracle?" asked Maurice, "Buffy Summers is dead, Angel, Rupert Giles, most of the student body, because there was no protector for them. Who's left?"
"Willow." Xander stated determinedly.
"Willow?" asked Maurice, "What could she do?"
"She . . . She could do a spell . . . And Ms. Calendar too. Plus Jesse must've picked up the army skills that I'd had, right?" Xander stared ahead. "They can still pull this off."
"Nothing will ever be the same. Nothing." As The Mayor's speech concluded, the infamous lunar eclipse occurred, just as it had before. The Mayor staggered. Xander noticed Willow and Jesse standing up in the middle of the group of students.
"See!" said Xander excitedly, pointing at them, "They've got a plan!"
"This was a bit sooner than I'd expected." The Mayor gasped, "I had this whole section on civic pride, but I guess we'll just skip to the big finish."
"Come on, Will. Come on Jesse, man." muttered Xander as The Mayor erupted into his demonic form, Olvikan. Students screamed and ran for cover.
Up on the stage with the teachers, Faith jumped down into the crowd, keeping them from running away. Looking up at the giant snake, she remarked "That was pretty bitchin' boss."
"Mind your language, Faith." said the giant snake in a rumbling, deeper version of The Mayor's voice, "But yes, it was, wasn't it? Make sure the children don't escape, now!"
Faith smirked. "I'm on it."
Xander winced as The Mayor struck down and ate a handful of students.
"Come on Will. Come on, Will." he kept muttering as he stared at the chaos unfolding before him.
He watched as Principal Snyder was swallowed whole once again by the snake, then as Ms. Calendar ran off the stage, trying to come to the aid of the students, who were being literally mauled apart by The Mayor's vampires. Maurice looked in sympathy at Xander as he continued to silently watch the events in front of them unfold.
They watched as Willow, Oz, and Jesse tried to help the other students, but since they had no weapons, it was hopeless. As he saw The Mayor roaring and diving to eat more people, including a group that had Oz, Jesse and Ms. Calendar in the middle of it, Xander and Maurice vanished and reappeared on the same spot, but the scenery was very different.
The school was a ruined mess. Not blown up, but still quite wrecked. Everything around it looked as though a war had passed through the town.
"What . . . What . . .?"
"Not fun to look at, is it?" asked Maurice, gesturing at the remains of the town.
"What . . .?" Xander tried to speak again, but Maurice continued, "What happened was The Mayor had no resistance, so he took over the town within hours. Only about 100 or so humans are now alive on the whole planet."
"Did . . . Did Willow at least . . . ?"
"I'm sorry." said Maurice, "She and your other friends were killed right after we left."
"This . . . That was . . ." Xander was so stunned and horrified by what he had seen and heard, he wasn't sure if he could speak again, " . . . awful." he finished in a whisper.
"So we're of one mind." said Maurice satisfactorily, "Well, I'm glad you've made the same assumption. But we're still not done here."
Xander stared at him.
"How? You've just made me experience the worst simulation I've ever seen with my one eye: Everybody I know is dead except for Faith, who is evil, and the town I grew up in is now in the control of The Mayor. How can there possibly be more?"
"If it's any consolation, there's not that much left to show now. I just have to show you how things on earth go in the long run. First off, we are now in the year 2001."
"2001? But that's two years after The Ascension."
"I know. Between then and now, life was pretty much the same. When The Mayor ascended, The Initiative was destroyed, so their creation, Adam, was never built, so all those events never happened. The Mayor ruled with Faith as his Iron Fist for that time period, spreading their power beyond Sunnydale to the rest of the world. Until this moment."
Maurice pointed to the street, where Xander saw an orange, glowing ball of light sitting on the ground.
"What is that?" asked Xander.
"Really? You don't recognize that? It's the Sphere of Dagon."
Xander looked puzzled, then his eyes widened.
"The thing that is connected to Glory." he said softly.
At that moment, Faith sprung into view, wearing her usual leather attire, albeit with some cuts and dried blood on them. She picked up the ball, examined it, then turned and rushed off.
"Where is she-?" Xander started to say, then they appeared at another part of town where The Giant Mayor Snake was sitting coiled up in the remains of the City Hall building.
"-going?" he finished, "Oh, geez." he said, seeing the snake before them.
The Mayor lifted his reptilian head as Faith approached him.
"Faith." he rumbled, "What have you got there?"
"Dunno, boss. Looks like some kind of ball. I found it near the school building. Thought I'd show it to you."
"Well, gosh golly, it sure is pretty, isn't it?" asked The Mayor.
Faith raised an eyebrow.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Faith. I guess I just have a different outlook on life than you do. Just put it down on the ground in front of me. I'll have the boys take a closer look at it. Now go run off and kill any people running loose, there's a good girl."
Faith turned and strode back down the street.
"By the way, where's your sister?" The Mayor called after Faith.
"Oh, I left Dawn with the prisoners on the east side. Thought I'd let her try out some of those torture skills I taught her."
The Mayor chuckled amusedly.
"Well, you two girls have fun then."
"Dawn?" exclaimed Xander, "She's Faith's sister?"
"Yeah. She's the only Slayer alive now, so where else would those monks have sent her?"
"But . . ." Xander stammered, "So does this mean that Faith is gonna fight Glory to protect The Mayor, then?"
"Not quite." said Maurice, "You see, Faith never found out about Glory or that her sister who appeared out of nowhere was a Key that she was looking for in this universe."
"So what happens when Glory gets here?"
"We shall see."
Maurice and Xander vanished, but reappeared in the white void again.
"What are we doing back here?" asked Xander in confusion.
"We've reached another shortstop. In other words, the universe we've been witnessing is over."
"How? We didn't see anything happen."
"Well, here's what happened, then: Since Faith and The Mayor didn't know about Glory, she came and, because there was no interference, she knew exactly what, or rather who, The Key was. So she snatched Dawn and took her to the 'desired spot' where her blood would have to be shed."
"I don't understand this."
"Oh, well, this is an alternate universe, remember? Most things have been different, so why not this? Anyway, Dawn's blood was used to open Glory's portal and she ascended back home to her dimension. As a result, the side effects of the portal ripped apart all other dimension that existed in the universe, including Earth. So in short, without you, Mr. Xander Harris, everybody dies. Not just on Earth, but the whole universe, all because you weren't there to revive Buffy Summers, and at the end of a long line of side-effects, The Mayor and Glory both achieve their goals, even though The Mayor's plans die with him in the end. As a matter of fact, the only being who benefits from a universe without you is actually Glorificus: She gets to go back home and survives, whereas everybody else, including the new ruler of the Earth known as Olvikan, dies. Do you see know? You are the most important figure of the world. You held the universe together."
"But I-" Xander wasn't sure how to take this, "But Buffy saves the world, not me."
"Yes, but you saved Buffy. That's the difference. Buffy may be the savior of the world, but you are the savior of the savior."
"Wow." said Xander, startled and surprised by this revelation, "I can't believe someone actually just said that to me."
"Well, someone had to make you realize how important to the world you were." said Maurice, "And for some reason that I have completely no idea of, that person happened to be me."
"Hey, I thought you did a good job." said Xander encouragingly, "You certainly held my attention at the very least."
Maurice coughed and cleared his throat.
"Well . . . thank you. But I . . . uh, this was just supposed to be another job, you know? I didn't expect it to be this significant. Because most people I have to help are people who alter one or two events in their lives. Like this one guy I guided, I showed him that because of him being alive, the ripples of his life somehow ended up getting Abraham Lincoln elected as President."
Xander stared at him in astonishment.
"I've been alive for a really long time." he added hastily, "So, do you get my point?"
"Yeah. You're kind of like the guy who seemed to be another face in another crowd, looked over and unanticipated, and then you realized that you have a duty much bigger than you expected and when you realized it, you couldn't believe that this responsibility went down to you of all people."
"Yeah, that's exactly it." said Maurice, "How did you figure that out?"
"Because that's exactly what I'm going through right now. You were talking about me being the savior of the world's savior? Well, since it's thanks to you that I know and accepted my life the way it was and understood my role in it, in a way, you are the real savior of the universe: You are the savior of the savior of the savior of the world."
Maurice looked touched and puzzled at the same time.
"Okay, if I hadn't been able to grasp all that, I would have been very confused and slightly frustrated. But, as it is, I am very moved. Thank you."
"I guess that is why you were chosen to show me all this." said Xander, "Because we were meant to help each other understand each others roles in the universe."
"Wow. This has been a very productive day, hasn't it?" asked Maurice humorously.
"Yeah" said Xander, laughing, "I guess it was."
They look at each other for a while, then Maurice clears his throat and says "Well, I guess we're done here."
"I guess so." said Xander, "Well, thanks for the revelations."
Maurice nodded, "Yours as well."
"Do you think we'll ever cross paths again?" asked Xander.
"I don't think so. Considering the type of work I do, I generally don't reveal myself to anyone except my colleagues or the people that I'm helping. But I wouldn't rule it out."
Maurice sticks out his hand, and Xander shakes it.
"So where are you going to send me back to?"
"The moment I summoned you. From your comrades' point of view, you just fell to the ground. No time has passed."
Maurice backs away.
"Goodbye, Xander Harris."
"Goodbye, Maurice. Hey, if I see you in the future, can I call you Maury?"
Xander waved as the figure of Maurice faded away into the white background. Then he felt as though he were drifting slowly upward and away, then descending smoothly as though lightless, and then-
He landed hard on his back in the cemetery. He looked up and saw the vampire from earlier combusting into ashes, revealing Buffy standing behind it, dusting off her hands.
"I'm back." he whispered to himself, "Could have given me a softer landing, 'Maury'." he added as he got back to his feet, "At least I'm one up on him, anyway."
Buffy and Willow approached him.
"You okay, Xand?" asked Willow nervously.
"Oh, yeah." said Xander, rubbing his head, "Just need to rearrange my organs to their proper places."
He looked at them both, feeling incredibly ashamed of his earlier outburst.
"Listen, I'm sorry I was so negative earlier. I should never had said that I wished I'd never been born."
"I'm glad you feel that way." said Willow, throwing her arm around Xander's shoulder, "You're my best friend. I have no idea what life would've been like if you weren't there."
"It would suck. You'd never want to experience it, ever." said Xander a little too quickly.
Buffy and Willow look at him curiously.
"You seem rather sure about that." said Buffy, raising an eyebrow at him.
She put her arm around Xander's other shoulder, and the three of them began to walk home.
"So, what made you change your mind about what you were so convinced of earlier?" asked Willow.
Xander looked up into the starry sky above them.
"I had a big wake-up call." he said cryptically.
Buffy and Willow look at each other on either side of Xander, then laughed as the three of them made their way back out of the cemetery.
Up in the sky, but not really, a group of demons watched the scene from another dimension through a mystical viewing window.
"Good work, Maurice." said the bigger and more official looking of the demons, addressing the shorter demon next to him, "You've done that young man (And by extend, the world) a real service."
"Thank you, sir." Maurice said proudly.
"Um, sir?" asked one of the other demons standing next to them, "Don't you mean, 'Maury'?"
He and the others around him burst out laughing. Maurice scowled.
"Why did he have to say that?" he muttered, then he thought of something else that might distract the others, plus get him a small revenge against Xander.
"Hey, guys?" he said loudly over the others laughter, causing them to stop and listen, "Did I mention that the man I helped down there's middle name is 'LaVelle'?"
The demons laughed even harder at that. Maurice smirked and said "Now we're even, Harris."