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Xander looked at the sleeping form of his best friend and thought back on the night before. Jesse had appeared out of nothingness into the circle he had cast. As soon as he had realized that his spell had worked, he fumbled his way across the dark room and found the light switch. He had turned on the light to find Jesse's naked body laying on his basement floor.
Xander had run to him and dragged him onto the bed. He had intended to pick him up, but Jesse was heavier than he looked.
Once they were on the bed, Jesse had begun to shake and sweat. Xander had been worried for a moment until he had realized that Jesse was suffering from shock.
Xander had washed Jesse's face with a damp cloth and uttered soothing words to try and make his friend comfortable. Eventually, Jesse had quieted and fallen into a peaceful sleep.
Xander had carefully gotten out of the bed and put away his magic supplies hoping to never have to use them again. Then Xander had returned to the bed to protect his sleeping friend from whatever nightmares might decide to attack him in his sleep.
Xander had laid for hours beside his best friend with happiness and disbelief vying for control of his emotions. In the fullness of time, however; Xander also slept.
* * * * *
Jesse awoke and looked wonderingly at Xander who was staring into space. His memories were vague. The last thing he could clearly remember was being taken by vampires and bitten... and dying. After that was a foggy memory of pain, torture, and an agony of hopelessness because he had known that the torture would never stop. He had known that he would never get used to it, every cut, every burn, every bit of torn flesh had hurt like the first time...
Jesse snapped out of his remembrance and looked around. From his vantage point on Xander's bed, he could see Xander's basement. It wasn't exactly how he remembered it, but there was no denying that that's where he was.
When he shifted his weight to get into a more comfortable position, Xander focused on him. Jesse looked into his eyes and he could see something that hadn't been there before. A hardness that Jesse couldn't account for.
"Mornin." Xander said with a smile, and the hardness in his eyes became hidden behind joy.
"Mornin" Jesse responded, not knowing which of his thousands of questions to ask first.
"I guess we have some things to talk about? What do you say we have breakfast first, then we'll sit down and talk." Xander suggested.
Jesse just nodded his head, food sounded like a wonderful idea. Xander got out of the bed and grabbed a pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt and dropped them on the bed at Jesse's feet. Then he started working in the kitchenette-like area of the basement, preparing scrambled eggs on the hot plate.
Jesse absently got dressed and stared at Xander preparing the meal in a daze. Then something caught his attention and he thought to himself, [Xander looks like he's older. How long have I been... gone? Dead?]
Xander placed the completed meal on the card/dining table and pulled out a folding chair in invitation to Jesse. "Breakfast is served Monsieur." Xander said with a horrible fake French accent.
Jesse smiled at the familiar antics of his friend, and was happy to know that at least some things hadn't changed.
They ate as men often do, with grunts, scrapes of silverware against the plates and the occasional slirp of something or another. Finally the meal was finished and it was time to talk.
"Was I dead?" Was Jesse's choice of first question.
"Yeah. Tell me what you remember. I can fill in the rest." Xander replied sadly, reliving the pain of staking VampJesse for the millionth time.
Jesse thought for a second then said, "I remember being captured, and being bitten by a vampire, was that for real?"
"Yeah, as real as it gets. They killed you. They turned your body into a vampire like them. I killed it." Xander said, trying not to break out into tears, that being SO not a man thing to do.
"How long?" Jesse asked distractedly.
"About two years." Xander answered, getting himself back under control.
"I've been dead for two years? How am I back?" Jesse asked, beginning to panic.
Xander noticed and spoke calmly, hoping that it would calm his friend, "I brought you back."
"But I'm supposed to be dead. Right? What are you doing raising the dead?" Jesse asked, his panic escalating.
"Jess, you died an unnatural death at the hands of a vampire. That's why I was able to bring you back. If you'd been shot in a convenience store robbery or hit by an ice-cream truck, I would have been sad, but I would have accepted it. But you weren't. You were killed by an unnatural being, drained of your blood and your body was filled with a demon... "
Xander looked at Jesse to see that he was getting through, then continued, "I killed the demon. And as soon as I could figure out how to do it, I brought you back because you're my best friend and you didn't deserve to die."
Jesse could see that Xander meant it and sat dumbfounded for a few minutes, trying to make sense of it all.
Xander watched as Jesse tried to process the information. He figured that he would wait for Jesse to ask about the things that he needed to know, so as not to overwhelm him.
"What about my parents?" Jesse finally asked.
"They moved away from Sunnydale about a year and a half ago. I don't know where. After you... died. The police assumed that you ran away from home. Your parents thought that I had something to do with it and wouldn't talk to me." Xander said with pain in his voice.
"I guess they donated your clothes to charity before they left because I found some of your things at a used clothing store." Xander said as he got up from the card table. He went to the far end of the basement and came back with a large cardboard box and set it beside Jesse. "I bought back all the things that I could find."
Jesse bent down and opened the box. He looked through the entire box, item by item without saying a word.
Xander just sat back on his chair and watched, waiting for the next volley of questions that he knew were on the way.
"What am I going to do now? I mean, everything... everyone... it's all gone." Jesse said with a lost tone to his voice.
"I've had two years to think about that, and I have some options for you. If you want to stay here in Sunnydale, then you'll have to use your real name and we'll come up with a cover story for where you've been. If you want to start a new life, I know some people... sort of... who can make that happen. We can get you all the identification that you need to cover any story you want to make up." Xander said, as if reciting a speech.
"How do you know about stuff like that, what have you been doing the past two years?" Jesse asked, surprised by the look of determination that fell over Xander's face.
Xander said with hardness in his voice. "I know about that stuff because I've been working with a group of people who fight supernatural creatures, like the ones who killed you. I've been keeping my mouth shut and learning everything that I would need to know for when you came back. Buffy and Willow..."
"Willow? How is she?" Jesse interrupted.
"Willow's fine. She's become involved in magic, Wicca, she uses it to fight the bad guys. And she's met someone, this really cool guy named Oz who's in a band... and he's a werewolf." Xander ended quietly.
"Werewolf." Jesse parroted in shock.
"Yeah, things aren't like they were before you died. There are a lot of things out there that want us dead. Demons and stuff. Maybe it's because I've been hanging around with Buffy but..."
"Buffy... Uh... Summers? The new girl from LA?" Jesse interrupted again.
"Yeah, her. She's the slayer. Let's see if I remember this... 'The one girl in all the world with the strength and skill to fight the forces of darkness...' or something like that, I can't believe I don't remember it. I've heard it enough times." Xander said distractedly.
"So you and Willow and Buffy fight the demons?" Jesse asked disbelievingly.
"Well, there's also Giles, Buffy's watcher... " Xander noticed the confused look on Jesse's face and clarified. "This British guy who trains Buffy to fight and tells her how to kill different demons and stop apocalypses and stuff. And Oz helps us sometimes... Oh, and Cordelia shows up now and then."
"Cordelia Chase? The beauty queen fights demons?" Jesse asked, not buying that one for a minute.
"Well, she doesn't actually fight the demons, she helps with the research sometimes. Oh yeah, and there's deadboy... "
"Deadboy?" Jesse asked suspiciously.
"Yeah, Angel, he's like this 250 year old vampire who's cursed with a soul. So he helps us sometimes to make up for the crap he did as a demon." Xander said nonchalantly.
"Okay, this is getting to be a little too much for me. You're friends with a slayer, a werewolf, and a vampire?" Jesse asked, with his voice raising into the hysterical range.
"I didn't say I was friends with Angel, I've been treating him like crap since I met him. I couldn't be friends with any vampire after what they did to you. But I couldn't bring you back without the watcher's journals and magic books, so I had to put up with him since the others wanted him around."
Jesse nodded in acceptance. Then he asked, "So what are you going to do now? I mean, if you've been hanging around with them so you could bring me back... well, I'm back... so what now?"
"I don't know. I haven't made any definite plans because I need to know what you want to do. If you're going to stay in Sunnydale, then we'll have to decide how we want to deal with the Scoobies. If you don't, then it isn't an issue." Xander said matter-of-factly.
"Since I haven't really met any of the... Scoobies?... except for Willow, I guess I should meet them before I make any decision about that. I mean, we can always leave anyway, right?" Jesse asked with hope.
"Right." Xander said emphatically.
"But they know I died, don't they? I mean Willow knows." Jesse asked with his spirits falling.
Xander noticed his friends darkening mood and said, "Yes, they know, and the only way I can explain your being here is to tell them the truth." [As little of it as I can get away with.] He thought to himself.
"And what is the truth?" Jesse asked, not sure he wanted to know.
"That I found a spell in one of Giles' books that could bring you back." Xander said simply.
"That's it? You resurrected a guy who's been dead for two years, and that's all you're going to tell them?" Jesse asked suspiciously.
"Yep. That's all I'm telling them. I've had to put up with their crap for two years, so this once, they can just deal." Xander said with finality.
Then, Xander was struck with inspiration. "Let's get out of this basement. We need to get our minds off this serious stuff for a while. You haven't seen the town for two years. And it's Saturday so we HAVE to go to the mall. We can get all serious and stuff when we get back."
Jesse saw Xander's enthusiasm and couldn't help but join in. "Okay, I guess I've got my clothes right here. So I'll be ready in a minute."
Xander walked over to his dresser and opened the top drawer. He pulled out a pouch on a necklace and handed it to Jesse. "Put this on."
Jesse took the necklace and smelled the pouch, "It smells like my grandmother, I'm not wearing this." He said emphatically.
"Then your grandmother wasn't bothered by werewolves, thoth demons or Z'nor because this is a ward to keep them away." Xander said snippily.
Jesse looked into Xander's eyes and said, "I'm guessing that there is like zero chance of me getting out of this basement without this. Right?"
"Right!" Xander said with steel in his voice.
Jesse put the grandma smelling pouch necklace on and tucked it inside his shirt. Within moments he was ready to leave.
* * * * *
Jesse couldn't believe how many things had changed in the past two years. Most of the stores that he remembered in the mall were gone, and there were so many new ones that he couldn't keep track.
As they walked away from the food court, Xander heard a familiar voice say, "What is that smell?"
He turned just in time to see Oz running for the public restroom. And in front of him was a pale, shaking Willow.
She finally gasped out, "Jesse?"