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by Raven

PG, gen. Xander knows the plural of apocalypse.

For some reason, when he’s lying awake in bed at night, Xander thinks about strange things. Thinking about sex is normal. Attempting to do a connect-the-dots on your life, not so much.

But it’s something to do. He can’t sleep; he had some crazy tripped-out dream all about runes and tarot cards and the black arts, and while he finds those things more normal than most people, he doesn’t want to dream about them. That way lies insanity, or possibly prophecy; he isn’t sure which is worse, and there probably isn’t a shrink alive who could make sense of the things that happen inside his head so he’d better just not go there.

Connect-the-dots it is, then. He begins, as you should, with dot number one. Such a little thing, really. As impressive beginnings go, those single defining moments that change your life forever, it’s barely a blip on the radar. A mere footnote in the annals of his life, at a time where you might have expected the sepulchral booming voice from upstairs – “Alexander Lavelle Harris, this is it!” – or something like that.

First day of the new semester, and a new face at school as he passed by on his skateboard. Pretty girl. Damn it, he was a teenage boy, this was how he was supposed to behave, and yeah, she was the major hotness. Had the shy new-girl look now, but give her a few days to find her feet and she’d be skipping along with Cordelia and the Cordettes and henceforth totally out of his league. But he could look. Teenage boy, right?

Which was the point one of his irritating inner voices chose to cut in – not the one that talked about sex all the time, nor the one that channelled his father in redneck righteous rage, but the one that gave him the irrelevant comments at the stupid times.

Band name, it said. If you ever start a band, you could call it Cordelia and the Cordettes.

Later, she dropped her bag, and a fence post fell out. That was weird.

At which point another inner voice cut in – defusing-situations-with-screwball-humour-voice, and dear god he’d never been happier to hear it. “The only thing I can think is that you're building a really little fence,” he told hot shy girl as she took back her stake-type-object, and she smiled awkwardly before departing to class and place-where-Xander-wasn’t.

She was female and she hadn’t actually slapped him. She’d even smiled. So far, good day.

Interesting day. In a town where new faces weren’t exactly the regular thing so much as quietly disappearing old faces, two strangers in one morning was quite possibly a record.

Teacher, this time, holding a big pile of musty old books. Possibly not teacher – all those books notwithstanding, he might be the librarian. Actually, books, librarian – that made sense. And that was right, there would have to be a new librarian.

And how did you know that, Xander Harris? asked an inner voice that sounded like a disturbing meld between Larry-the-jock and his own mother.

Well, he liked looking at books, sometimes. He could read, which was probably more than you could say for Larry. And he’d been in the school library enough to know the previous incumbent, all kittens and fuzzy angora sweaters and with handfuls of aspirin as her only weapon against the students, really wasn’t cut out for modern American school librarianship. Add that to Principal Flutie getting all Oedipal about her and the whole firing thing seemed less surprising somehow.

That could have been that. It really could have been. New girl with fence post in her bag. New librarian with a stack of volumes that, going out on a limb here, probably didn’t have ISBN numbers. Didn’t have to be a connection.

And he, Xander, would never have thought about it again if he hadn’t chosen that day of all days to be adolescent and horny. Not that it had been a choice; the one tended to imply the other, and he was sure he remembered something about the National Geographic being educational, or frolicking nude nymphs that dated from the Renaissance and were therefore art. Plus Willow told him to check out Theories in Trig, and she was wearing her resolve face.

Any other teenage boy would have looked at porn on the internet, but no, he had to be different.

And that was it. That was the moment his life changed, once and forever. Standing behind the stacks, listening to hot new girl fighting with new English librarian. One was a Slayer, the other was her Watcher, and they had destinies, both of them – and he, well, he didn’t.

That was the whole point, wasn’t it? There was no convergence of mystical energy the day he was born. No destiny, no sacred duty, no tweedy people in England getting excited and spilling their tea. So, technically, he supposes it’s all the fault of his adolescent hormones, or the people who publish the National Geographic, or maybe it was Willow’s fault for being late to school that one day in her entire school career and leaving him to his own devices just a bit too long. If he hadn’t been there, in that library at that specific moment, they’d hardly have come running after him, would they? Sorry we can’t save the world without your Xander-specific expertise and incidentally did you bring doughnuts?

When it comes right down to it, he was in the right place at the right time and he knows it. In his quieter moments, he has a whole life-not-lived to take out and look at, a life where he blew off school that day and went to the movies with Jesse, a life that was different.

They’d have gone on battling evil without him, of course. They didn’t exactly need him, except possibly to be insect-eating guy or funny man with funny syphilis. Slayer, Watcher, witch, and… that other one. It never exactly rolled off the tongue.

So he’d have lived his life, got on with being the Xander Harris who never needed to know the plural of apocalypse, had gone to school and flunked math and been slapped by girls, and graduated with or without the help of Willow Rosenberg. Perhaps he’d have been at most peripherally aware that Sunnydale wasn’t exactly your average town. Not vampires, not demons, not those words, but something rotten that accounted for the high mortality rate and low property prices.

He always gets into it, starts adding detail to the fantasy in a way he doesn’t usually do in matters that aren’t pornographic. So he’d have gone to school, graduated, lived in his parents’ basement, got fired from Starbucks, and his girlfriend, if he’d had one, certainly wouldn’t have been an eleven-hundred-and-twenty-year-old ex-vengeance demon (and try saying that ten times fast).

And he’d have lived his life, day by day, and maybe he’d have gone home one evening to find his entire family dead in a freak barbecue fork accident.

There would be no-one to run to. Nowhere to go. No Slayer to slay, no Watcher to watch and no witches to do witchy stuff. No books to consult, no doughnuts to buy, no last-resort vampire to call in LA. Not even Spike to be annoying.

Not like they’d disappear, either. They’d be there, right there in Sunnydale – only, not there for him.

And that sucks, the whole Scooby experience gone from his life just like that. Death, torture and venereal disease aren’t particularly cool, but as a general thing, he enjoys it. Stupid things like jelly doughnuts and being all I-told-you-so about Angel, and not that he’d ever tell the guy, but he actually quite likes Giles’s apartment. It’s full of weapons and musty magic books and records by obscure British rock bands, all of which are more or less guaranteed to scare the pants off most of Sunnydale’s resident evil.

And that’s good.

It’s late, much too late to be awake, and he’s depressed himself beyond belief imagining it. It’s time to give up with the whole what-might-have-been concept and relax. It’s all right, it happened – he was there, in the library when Giles and Buffy were having the first of their many, many so-called differences of opinion, and that’s all that really matters. He might not have the whole scared duty thing going on, but someone needs to go get doughnuts and supplies from the magic shop; there’s always got to be someone who isn’t currently Slaying or combusting in sunlight or getting knocked on the head.

Having decided this, he can probably go to sleep. In the morning, he will not, emphatically repeat not, go up to everyone he knows and thank them for being a part of his life. It would be freaky.

But he might order a pizza or three and go round handing out slices. That would not be the same thing at all.

He makes a mental note – no olives, or Giles will go Ripper on his ass – and then he goes to sleep.

He falls straight back into the dream. But this time it’s linear, it makes sense – they’re all sitting in the circle, magic crackling around them, and that’s not an acid trip, it’s a memory.

It’s the only spell he has ever really cast, that primeval-power-enjoinment-type-thing, which for some reason he always associates with cheese. The dream brings it all back: what it felt like to be part of a giant Scooby gestalt entity, what it was like to be the chosen one, what it was like to do magic, what it was like to be Californian and English and a Watcher born and a good little Jewish girl and even what it was like to be himself, Xander Harris, all for one and one for all.

Or something like that.

In the morning, he wakes up with a start. There was something bothering him last night, but he can’t remember what it was. He does remember the dream. He gets up slowly, trying not to disturb the memories, and finds a pencil and paper. Willow and Giles would probably do this much better than he can, with candles and chalk on the floor and those weird-smelling herbs they’re both so fond of, but then he’s a simple kind of guy and this is good enough.

He writes down the words on the paper. He remembers them perfectly.

Manus, hand; spiritus, spirit; sophus, mind.

Animus. Heart.

He rips the sheet off the pad and folds it up, pushing it under his pillow. He knows he’ll have the dream again.

Then he gets dressed and goes out for pizza.


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