I Am What I Am (fanfic)

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I Am What I Am by M. McGregor is a Buffy the Vampire Slayer Peggy Sue Fanfic. At one end of his life, a 97-year-old Xander is about to make himself a willing sacrifice in a magical ritual intended to protect the soul of his wife, lost decades ago in a hell dimension when she made a Heroic Sacrifice to Save the World. At the other end, a teenage Xander spends his only two bucks at Ethan Rayne's costume shop for a wig the same color as his own hair, wears it and two sets of clothes, and goes as himself on a certain fateful Halloween. When the one becomes the other -- permanently -- destiny is rerouted entirely and not even the Powers That Be know what will happen next.

I Am What I Am can be read at Twisting the Hellmouth. Deleted scenes and commentary by the author can be found at his LiveJournal.

WARNING! There are unmarked Spoilers ahead. Beware.

Tropes used in I Am What I Am (fanfic) include:
  • The Ageless: Future!Willow.
    • In the future timeline, it's discovered that Slayers' aging seems to halt at age 20, plus or minus a few years. It's also noted that some slayers seem to enjoy being able to pass as a teenager at need.
  • Amplifier Artifact: The weapons that Xander and Cordelia craft for Jonathon, Giles and Jenny provide enhancement to their magical abilities.
  • Anachronic Order: The Flash Forwards to Future!Xander's life cover a span of some seventy or eighty years, and bounce around unpredictably within that period.
  • Badass: Xander. Giles describes him as possibly the greatest human warrior ever. And this is said of his teenaged, incompletely-retrained incarnation.
  • Badass Bookworm: Kendra, Faith and of course Giles. Jonathon and Willow are close behind.
  • Balance Between Good and Evil: The goal of the Powers That Be. They used to help the good guys because Good was always in the weaker position. Since Xander's return, however, Good's been on an inexorable upswing, and the Powers can't figure out how to stop it.
  • Bi the Way: Despite Future!Willow telling her that she's a lesbian, Willow decides (after many talks with Faith) that her attraction to Oz means she's really bisexual, weighted strongly toward the lesbian side of the spectrum but still interested in some guys.
  • Biopunk/Cyberpunk: Much mention is made in the Flash Forward segments about "nano-fibers" and their assorted health and augmentative benefits. Exactly what kind of technology nano-fibers are is never revealed, but the general impression given of the world they've created includes at least some flavor of either or both of these genres.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Of a sort. The immediate threat is defeated, the Scoobies have all survived and are greatly empowered against future enemies, and Xander, Buffy and Faith are entering into a three-way relationship. The final paragraphs of the story are upbeat and predict good things for the future. However, the defeated threat was explicitly identified as only the first attempt the Powers That Be will make to try to put the timeline back to the way they like it, and the next one is likely to be far more dangerous and difficult. There are still years worth of minor threats ahead, all of which Xander isn't sure he's remembered. Ethan the Chaos Mage is still out and about, and there's no guarantee that he will remain on their side. And finally, there's no indication at all that the events of Revelation have been averted, meaning the world is still going to be subject to a massive demonic invasion in a decade or so.
  • The Blacksmith: Xander, and eventually Cordelia. In the future timeline, Super!Willow (re)discovers how magic weapons are created -- by smiths who have little to no magic of their own to interfere with the imbuement of magic into the weapons they create. Xander has no magic at all -- lower than anyone else, ever -- and is able to forge the most powerful of magical weapons.
  • Come with Me If You Want to Live: Xander discusses this trope when meeting a pre-Slayer Faith for the first time, then deliberately invokes it for humor value after he kills a pair of vampires in front of her.
  • Cooldown Hug: When Willow Rosenberg's future self gifts her with her "core" , it effectively doubles or more her power, knowledge and most importantly (for this trope, at least) her emotions. She's subject to immense swings and powerful extremes of emotion, necessitating many Cooldown Hugs and other tactics for helping her recover her equilibrium.
  • Crapsack World: Earth, post-Revelation. Outside of guarded and protected cities, the world is described as being as dangerous as Sunnydale was before Revelation.
  • Day-Old Legend: According to Godlike!Future!Willow (who should know), once they are forged magical weapons essentially transcend time and always exist and always have existed. They cannot be uncreated, not even by Time Travel.
  • Easily-Thwarted Alien Invasion: Averted by the demonic invasion that triggered Revelation in 2012 -- it takes several years of all-out war before the invasion itself is stopped, with considerable casualties. And afterwards, the earth is still infested with far more demons and vampires than it ever had before, essentially raising everywhere outside of protected enclaves to Sunnydale-standard levels of danger.
  • Flash Forward: The signature device of the first two-thirds or so of the story, which alternate between the story's "now" and an anachonic selection of scenes from the future showing Xander's life and the world in which he lives. And even as the plot heats up in the back end of the story, the flash forwards still show up irregularly.
    • In-Universe, Buffy begins having dreams -- true and accurate ones -- of her future life with Xander.
    • In both cases, though, these are subversions, because according to Future!Godlike!Willow, it's not the future, but the past, because of a loop in time caused by Xander's time travel.
  • Forging Scene: Much of the last third of the story includes scenes of moments during the two months Xander and Cordelia spend crafting magic weapons for the Scoobies.
  • Four-Star Badass: Future!Xander is better known in his timeline as "Protector Harris", the legendary and nigh-undefeatable leader of the Protectors of Humanity.
  • Fusion Dance: Buffy and Faith do a Mental Fusion version in which Buffy's mind/soul supports and imbues Faith with super-Slayer powers. They manage this twice in the story -- once, before they even really meet, and months later, when they and Xander face down The Judge; at that time they discover that the key to the fusion, which they had been trying without success to recreate, was both of them fearing for Xander's life.
  • The Ghost: Dawn. She briefly appears in a few of the Flash Forwards, but the entirety of the fic's main action takes place before the Monks create her. When Xander realizes this, it's a shock as he's forced to viscerally accept what he's long known intellectually.
  • God Test: Giles expresses doubt as to the truth of Xander's memories of being Future!Xander, suggesting that Ethan's spell may have created them out of wholecloth. Xander responds by asking, "If I were to say 'The Mark of Eyghon' to you, Giles, would that mean anything?"
  • Hollywood Homely: Discussed by Faith at one point, when she comments on how even the short nerdy members of the Scoobies are good looking.

"Is there anyone in the Scoobies who isn't a hotty?"

  • Info Dump: Provided In-Universe by Future!Willow directly to the minds of the entire world at once in order to prove the existence of magic and the nature of the demonic invaders.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Between Xander and, well, everybody, since he's really 97 years old. His relationship with Giles, however, comes closest to the usual implementation of the trope.
  • Kill It with Fire: The sword Xander and Cordelia make for Angel gives him fire powers -- including throwing fireballs -- as well as immunity to fire. Xander also designed it to immolate Angelus if Angel ever loses his soul.
  • Loyal Phlebotinum: Bearer-specific magic weapons. Not so much because they "recognize" only the person they were made for, but more because the "activation conditions" for their magic are so specific that only the person they were made for (or someone very, very much like them) can use them.
  • Magic Staff: Xander and Cordelia make one for Jonathon.
  • Magitek: Surprisingly averted. Magic and technology seem to exist in a comfortable harmony in the future timeline, but don't seem to mix.
  • Mental Time Travel: Future!Xander unintentionally sends his mind/soul back in time to permanently replace his 17-year-old self.
  • Mind Screw: Future!Willow's attempts to describe the functioning and higher-dimensional topography of the universe to both Future!Xander and her younger self.
  • Morph Weapon: Some of the weapons forged for the Scoobies can change shape or otherwise transform themselves -- for instance, Jonathon's staff becomes a cane, and Cordelia's greatsword Subtlety becomes a tattoo when she doesn't need it. Faith's paired tomahawks can combine to become a battleaxe of light. Two transform once, permanently, to better serve their users -- Oz's sword becomes an unnamed set of Wolverine Claws, and Xander's battleaxe Cleaver II becomes a shield, called Protector; Protector later demonstrates the power to turn into a wristband while still providing all its other benefits to its user.
  • No Endor Holocaust: Although Future!Willow supposedly dumped a full dossier on the true nature of the world into every human mind on Earth over the course of two full minutes, during which everyone essentially blacked out, there was no mention of car crashes, bungled surgeries or other adverse effects which one would expect from such an event.
  • Noodle Incident: One of the ways Xander demonstrates how well he knows Buffy is by bringing up the "Apple Cider Incident". All we learn about it is that it involved a half-gallon of apple cider and a four-year-old Buffy, and Buffy is both appalled and impressed that she trusted Xander enough to tell him the story.
  • Older Than They Look/Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Slayers, in general. They appear to "freeze" in physical age at their ideal physical prime, somewhere around age 20 or thereabouts, and may actually be immortal for all practical purposes, although none have lived long enough to prove it yet.
    • Specifically, Future!Buffy looks to be in her late teens or early twenties when she's in her forties or older. And Xander's daughter, who is also a slayer, is 66 years old when she first appears in the story, but looks no older than her twenties.
    • Also anyone who's made use of nano-fiber technology for life extension and/or other health reasons.
  • Order Versus Chaos: In pursuing and ensuring the Balance Between Good and Evil, the Powers That Be embrace and extend Order, regardless of the morality of the side they have to help to maintain that Balance. Xander's arrival and subsequent changes throw the Balance wildly out of whack because his efforts at empowering the side of Good are unpredictable and cause Chaos that threatens the Balance. Because Ethan Rayne worships and is in turn empowered by Chaos, he supports Xander and the Scoobies and undermines the Powers' attempts to destroy them and return the timeline to something approximating its original state.
  • Physical Goddess: Future!Willow, full stop. Effectively immortal, so powerful that she singlehandedly is able to guard the planet from magical threats (forcing The Legions of Hell into physical assaults only), and even early on was able to contact every human mind on the planet at once to give them a two-minute briefing on the true nature of the world.
  • Polyamory: A Type 8 Triang Relation forms between Xander, Buffy and Faith at the end of the story, after the defeat of The Judge.
  • The Power of Trust: What leads Faith to join up with the Scoobies after Xander approaches her in Boston.
  • Psychic Link: The first time Faith uses the tomahawks Xander forged for her, she gains an unexpected psychic link to and Mental Fusion with Buffy, which allows her to tap into the Slayer spirit and kill Kakistos. Afterward they can't recreate the fusion, but are able to share impressions and feelings, and after several months of effort reach actual Telepathy and are able to hold conversations and share memories and images with each other. At first this requires they both be touching their weapons, but later that requirement vanishes.
  • Really Seven Hundred Years Old: Xander was 97 years old when he died and went back to That Halloween. Subverted because everyone who knew him can see an obvious change in his behavior and maturity level afterward.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong:
    • Xander's plan once he realizes he's gone back to the past.
    • Conversely, what the Oracles and the Powers That Be are trying to do (from their point of view) in the wake of Future!Xander's arrival in the current timeline, through the agency of the demons Whistler and Skip. Although in their case it's more a matter of putting things back to the preferred mix of right and wrong, as they're less concerned with "good" than "Balance".
  • Shout-Out: Xander being Xander (and BtVS being BtVS) there are more than a few.
    • Willow telling herself she has to be "like a Vulcan" when trying to control her emotional roller-coaster.
    • Xander first discusses and then invokes the Terminator movies when he first meets Faith, holding out his hand to her after fighting off a vampire attack and saying, "Come with me if you want to live".
  • Situational Sword: Practically every magical weapon that appears in the story has one or more powers that require certain conditions in order to manifest or use, even if those conditions are as simple as "touch the hilt" or "draw from scabbard/holster".
  • Slap Slap Kiss: Future!Xander and Future!Faith's relationship grew out of this into a considerably less "slap slap" one.
    • While Xander's relation with younger!Faith never even gets close to the antagonism they shared in the previous timeline, there is a playful subcurrent born of Faith's general irreverence that seems to echo it.
  • Spanner in the Works: Xander, in regards to Destiny as the Powers That Be see it.
    • Later, Ethan Rayne, employing the massive power-up he received from Chaos for accidentally enabling Xander's time travel, continues to interfere in the plans of the Powers to ensure that Xander's spanner remains in the works for as long and as disruptively as possible.
  • The Spock: Future!Willow turned herself into this as a side-effect of setting aside her "core" (essentially, most of her soul) to give to her younger self.
    • After receiving the core, Willow focuses on being like a Vulcan in order to control the initial extremes of emotion she becomes subject to.
  • Terrifying Rescuer: Played with and discussed by Xander when he goes to Boston to find Faith and meets up with her.
  • Took a Level in Badass: In the future timeline, Xander took all the levels, including training under a reclusive master who takes only one student at a time, once every few years. (She chooses to train him because she understands what he means by "wanting to be Batman". Well, that, and because he's so used to fighting vampires that he is able to casually defeat a world-class fighter who is also seeking to be her student.)
    • Later, many of the Scoobies also level up, but none so much as Cordelia, whom Xander personally trains to his exacting standards while also teaching her weaponsmithing.
  • True Companions: The Scoobies, who are a larger group with more sub-groups than they were in the original timeline.
  • Ultimate Blacksmith: Xander. Only a smith without significant magic of their own can forge magical weapons, and the less they "interfere" with the natural magic, the stronger the weapon will be -- and Xander has no magic at all.
  • The Unmasqued World: Starting around 2012 in the future timeline, when a worldwide demonic invasion begins and in order to prove that the New Watcher's Council weren't just a bunch of crazies, Future!Willow provides an Info Dump of the world's true history and a lot more to the entire world at once. The whole period is referred to afterward as "Revelation".
  • Unplanned Manual Detonation: This is how Faith died in the future timeline -- the remote detonator for a nuclear bomb (intended to shut down a portal through which demons were invading the earth) was damaged in the field, and Faith carried the bomb through the portal and set it off by hand.
  • Weapon of Choice: Taken to extreme lengths. Prior to the climactic battle, Xander and Cordelia forge custom magic weapons for every member of the group except Willow (at her request). Each weapon's name, type, and special powers are explicitly designed to complement the personality and fighting style of their recipient, particularly because the weapons' powers will only function for their intended wielders.
    • Buffy gets a short sword named "Companion" that enhances her secondary Slayer powers (prophetic dreams, sensing vampires, etc.), and provides a mental link to Faith.
    • The free-spirited Faith gets a pair of tomahawks -- "Tommy" and "Tammy" -- that come back to her when thrown, and provide a mental link to Buffy. Under the right conditions they merge to form an immense battleaxe of light called "Unity".
    • Cordelia gets a greatsword named "Subtlety" that grants her minor healing powers, doubles as a lie detector, and is actually very light when in her hands.
    • The straitlaced Kendra gets a katana named "Honor's Grace" that allows her to stop time for a few seconds every time she draws it.
    • Angel gets a short sword, "Solitude", similar to Buffy's that can burst into flame, and will burn him up if he loses his soul.
    • Giles receives a rapier, "Wisdom" that enhances his casting abilities.
    • The D&D-loving, spellcasting Jonathan gets a staff, "Backbone", that enhances his spells and can heal others.
    • Jenny gets a pair of daggers -- "Twilight" and "Dusk" -- that enable her to turn invisible.
    • Oz's weapon was originally a bastard sword named "Cool Sword" with frost powers. However, it spontaneously transformed into a pair of Wolverine-esque claws that gave him some measure of control over his werewolf.
    • Xander made himself a battleaxe called "Cleaver II" (named after, and made partially from, his first and favorite axe, Cleaver). However, in the fight with The Judge, it permanently turned into a shield which could stop the Judge's attacks and gave him reasonably fast regeneration. He later renamed it "Protector".