*looks at previous post*
*lets out slightly
hysterical scream gasp of surprise*
I forgot to give props yesterday to three people who saw bits and pieces of the story. I needed fresh eyes to read it because I wanted to make sure the concept wasn't too confusing. Trust me. You'll understand why when you read this part.
What can I say? Subjecting Xander to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune never gets old.
Continued from Part One
Xander’s flight backwards ended when he landed against someone. There was a rough shove before he found himself stumbling down to the cement ground.
Wait, wait. Cement?
Even though he was still dizzy, Xander scrambled clumsily to his feet just in time to see a screaming woman running for an alley entrance.
He gave his head a hard shake to clear it and tried to focus through the ringing in his ears.
“You’re going to pay for that,” said a voice behind him.
Xander slowly turned around and saw that the voice belonged to a vampire in full game face.
Oh, great. Just great. I’m barefoot. I’m only wearing sweats. I have no weapons. And I’m willing to bet there isn’t a Slayer anywhere in the area. I am so screwed, he thought as he backed away. He tried to scan the alley in a desperate search for something he could turn into weapon while keeping an eye on the advancing vampire, a difficult trick since he had only one eye to work with.
Fast on the uptake like always, it hit him that it was merely cool-ish instead of freezing and the ground was blessedly free of snow cover. Well Toto, it looks like we ain’t in Cleveland any more.
Which left open the biggie: Where the hell was he?
“Willow, you are so dead,” he muttered.
The vampire feinted forward, which was his cue to turn tail and run. He had no chance up against vampire in his current situation. The best he could hope for was to find somewhere that offered more protection and if he was really lucky, a stash of handy weapons.
Just when he thought the vampire was one snatch away from getting him, he broke out onto the open sidewalk and charged across the street. He ignored the squeal of brakes, the enraged shouts, and the mad horn honks as he raced to get as much distance between himself and the big ugly behind him.
Reaching the other sidewalk, he turned a sharp left into an area that looked like a tony restaurant district. His best bet was to get in a crowd of people, lose the thing that was following him, try to get his bearings, and figure out what the hell happened. He put on an extra burst of speed in an attempt to cross the final street between himself and safety.
He had just darted between two parked cars and was already in the street when he heard a car braking hard on his blindside. Out of reflex he turned to see a car bearing down on him. For a brief flash he could see someone behind the wheel doing their best to try to avoid hitting him while the passenger waved their arms.
He jumped out of the way as fast as he could—an action that probably saved his neck. However, he was still off-balance and still dizzy. Although the car barely missed him, he fell backwards, tripping over his tangled feet. He went down, smacked the back of his head on the tar, and blacked out.
It took Willow approximately a half-hour to figure out that the crystal ball needed physical contact to work, which meant she could wrap the thing in cloth and carry it down to the house library.
Slayers were already fanning out through the city, hoping against hope that Xander was nearby. She suspected they weren’t going to find anything.
Willow carefully placed the bauble on the research table while Giles tore through the household’s meager library in hopes of finding a spell that would reveal the ball’s purpose. Buffy was already on the phone to Robin, who was in Europe on a book-collecting mission, to inform him about Xander’s disappearance. The hope was that he’d managed to pick up some magic books that might help solve their problem and arrange to have them overnighted.
“Ah-HAH! Found it!” Giles announced. He triumphantly held an open book aloft. “The good news, we can at least start dissecting the spell. The bad news, we don’t have all of the ingredients on hand.”
“How hard will it be to get the ingredients?” Willow nervously asked.
“We should be able to get everything we need at any magic shop or New Age establishment,” Giles replied.
“It’s going to be a long night, isn’t it?”
“I suspect you may be right. I wish our outlook for a quick resolution was more optimistic.”
Willow dropped heavily in a chair and gave the crystal ball a despairing look. “I hope Xander’s okay, wherever he is.”
Xander cracked open his eyelids and hissed against the sunlight stabbing through his good eye.
Then he made the mistake of moving. It felt like his brain was bouncing around inside his skull, thanks to an ache that radiated from the back of his head.
“I wouldn’t move too fast if I were you,” said a male voice.
“No kidding,” Xander snarled back as he squeezed his eyelids closed. “I want the name of the satellite that bonked me on the head. I’m suing.”
“Told you he had a concussion,” a female voice scolded.
Check that. A familiar female voice.
Xander’s eyes flew open and he sat bolt upright and was immediately rewarded with a dizzy spell and the urge to throw up. He clutched at the mattress underneath him to steady himself and forced his eye to focus.
Anya—an older, slightly rounder in all the right places Anya, but still Anya—crossed her arms in irritation. “You sound surprised to see me.”
He was only saved from stating the obvious—Could be because I am since you’re kind of dead-ish—because his mouth was hanging open in shock. Standing right next to older-and-slightly rounder Anya was an older-and-slightly boxier version of him.
Older other him was wielding a meat cleaver in a vaguely threatening manner. “Whoever you are, I know how to use this, so no fast moves.”
“Where the hell did you come from?” Xander asked.
“Are you talking to me or him?” older Anya asked.
“You. Him. Both. Ow.” He clutched his head in pain. Now was not the time to try to think of something fast since his brain was doing its best to not cooperate.
“Actually, we were wondering the same thing about you, whoever you are,” older him stated flatly.
Just going on tone of voice alone, Xander could pretty much guess that other him was not at all happy to see a maybe-evil twin, albeit a maybe-evil twin who was not up to maybe-evil snuff.
“Ummm, I’m me. Wait. I’m not me. Hold on. Believe it or not, I’m Xander Harris?”
“You don’t sound too sure there. And for the record, I’m Xander Harris so that means you’re not.” Other him was not showing any sign of being willing to believe that maybe-evil twin was not exactly evil.
“We need to back up and slow down,” Xander desperately said. “My head is trying to kill me.”
“You fell and hit your head,” Anya said. She turned to other him. “Maybe we should take him to the hospital.”
“Not a chance.” Other him turned to Anya and added, “Stop treating him like he’s human.”
“Hey! Human here!” Xander protested and quickly winced. “For the record, if you don’t trust me all that much, taking your eyes off me is not the smartest idea. If I could actually move without passing out and if I really wanted to, I could’ve attacked you.”
Other him’s head snapped around. “That a threat?”
“Unh, no. Just pointing out that I’m not dangerous and I don’t mean you any harm, at least until I can figure out where the hell I am and who the hell you two are.”
“You’re in Zihuatanejo,” Anya said.
“Anya,” other him hissed a warning.
“Okay, either I’m in Mexico or I’m in a cut-rate production of The Shawshank Redemption. Either way, this is of the not-good,” Xander said.
For some reason, Anya giggled at that. “I believe him. He’s definitely you,” she stated.
“I don’t,” other him disagreed.
Xander could see the argument coming a mile away. “Look, just tell me: movie or Mexico. I’m not picky.”
“Neither. California,” Anya answered.
“Anya,” other him warned.
Xander didn’t like how other him drew out Anya’s name. Nope. He didn’t like it one bit. Still, he was finally getting somewhere. “Okay. I woke up this morning in Cleveland with a nasty cold and now I’m in Zihuatanejo with a screaming headache.” He gave an experimental sniff and couldn’t resist a grin. “On the upside, I think my cold’s gone. Hah! Knew I didn’t need that stupid Nyquil. Just give me a life-and-death situation and…”
“Do you ever shut up?” other him snapped.
“Well, at least you’re angry at me again, which is probably who you should be angry at.” Even though Xander’s grin didn’t dim one jot, even he could hear his own undertone of annoyance.
Other him narrowed his eyes and didn’t say anything.
Moving as slowly and as unthreateningly as he could, Xander leaned back. The headache was finally settling into a very loud roar instead of incessant pounding, which meant that the maybe-Anya was dead-on about the concussion. He could work through it if he had to, and it was pretty clear that he’d have to.
“So, while you’re waving around the cleaver, nobody’s getting any answers,” Xander said reasonably. “How about I promise not to do something evil, you promise not to chop me into little bits, and we sit down and try to figure out what’s going on like sane human beings.”
Anya and other him exchanged looks.
“The sooner we figure it out, the sooner you can get rid of me,” Xander promised.
“How do we know we can trust you?” other him asked.
“How do I know I can trust you? I don’t know if you noticed, but you’ve got the weapon,” Xander pointed out. “Plus, from my point of view, you’re both the spares and you’re all wrong to boot.”
“That’s actually a smart question,” Anya said. “How do you know you can trust us?”
“Whose side are you on?” the other him asked.
“The side that gets rid of him and keeps us alive,” Anya answered.
Xander attempted to answer. “Actually, you vibe human, so…”
“Vibe?” Anya asked.
“You know,” Xander said to other him. “Ever since Sunnydale went poof, I’ve been better at avoiding the hey-baby-let-me-eat-your-head set. Giles thinks it might be leftover something or other from Sunnydale on account of me being born there and me being there at the end.”
“What?” other him sharply asked.
“I think I’m explaining it wrong,” Xander weakly said. “I know I’m using much smaller words. Probably the wrong words, too. I don’t suppose we could get Giles here and have him explain it?”
“You work with Giles?” the other him asked with surprise.
“You work with Giles,” Anya stated flatly.
This was not good. Neither one of them acted like Giles was a regular part of their lives. “Giles had to explain the vibeage to me because…look, it’s a really long story, okay? My head still hurts and I really think we need to hash out what’s going on.”
He thought it strange that Anya suddenly looked far more dangerous than the armed hulking guy standing next to her.
“Looks like we better,” Anya finally said.
“Ahn?” Other him seemed to clue in that he had just lost the lead in this situation.
If Xander didn’t know any better, he’d think that his dropping Giles’s name was what actually broke the donnybrook.
Anya turned sharply on her heel and stalked over to a closet. “Clothes are in there. Judging by your build, they’ll probably fit. I’m going down to make breakfast. Think you can eat?”
“Probably,” Xander said.
“Ahn,” other him warned, but the bluster seemed to have gone out of his sails. “I really don’t think that this is a good idea.”
“So, we keep an eye on him,” Anya said. “If he does something funny, do something about it.”
The sudden change in Anya’s demeanor raised all kinds of red flags in Xander’s mind. She was bristling like he personally posed a very big threat.
Let’s be honest, if this is exactly what it looks like—not that I think it does—I most definitely do, he thought. “I don’t suppose I could shower? Maybe without an audience?”
He really wasn’t surprised when other him said, “No.”
“On the shower or audience?” Xander asked.
“He does smell bad,” Anya volunteered.
Other him wavered before finally agreeing. “No on the without the audience.”
“Great. If you are who you claim to be, at least I don’t have anything you haven’t seen,” Xander groused.
“B, will you please sit your ass down? You’re making me dizzy.”
“Where’s Willow?” Buffy asked as she made her tenth circuit around the library.
“For the millionth goddamn time, she’s shopping.”
“But she said she’d call when she was done, why isn’t she calling?” Buffy whined.
“Because she’s not fucking done getting her shit together.”
Seeing B freak back in the day was bad enough. Seeing B freak when all she could do was depend on other people to get things done was infinitely worse.
“I should call her cell, see how it’s going.”
Faith propelled herself out of her chair and landed in front of Buffy as the other Slayer continued walking her well-worn path. “Pick up the phone, I break your hand off at the wrist.”
“But Xander is my friend and he’s missing,” Buffy protested.
Faith fought to keep her voice reasonable. “You keep bugging Willow and you’re holding her up. The sooner she’s done, the sooner she’s back, and the sooner we figure out what the crystal ball does.”
“You’re right. I know you’re right.”
“Good. Now sit your ass down and relax already.”
The sound of breaking glass in the entrance hallway interrupted whatever Buffy was about to say. For a startled moment, the two Slayers looked at each other before turning in unison to head for the front door. By the time they got there, a crowd of Slayers had already gathered.
“It’s a rock!”
“It’s a big rock!”
“Don’t touch. It might be booby trapped.”
“Look! A note!”
“Let me see, let me see!”
“I said don’t touch!”
“Ooops. Too late.”
“Well, nothing happened, right? So I guess it’s not booby trapped.”
Faith followed Buffy’s wake and landed in the center of the gathering. Vi was gingerly holding what looked like a rock with a note tied around it. While Buffy snatched it out of her hands, Faith said, “Yo! I know this is a tricky question, but did anyone think of opening the door to find out who threw it?”
Slayers around them exchanged glances.
“Then maybe somebody should go look?” Faith asked with irritation.
Someone, probably Barbara, opened the door to allow the baby Slayers to pour into the street.
“Un-fucking-believable! No fucking brains! Stupid, idiot, fucking…”
Buffy untied the note from around the very normal-looking rock.
“Did you see that?” Faith waved an irritated arm at the open door. “We’re fucking doomed! No goddamn brains to tie their goddamn shoes! We get a rock through the goddamn window and they fucking stand there and stare at it like it’s a goddamn parade.”
“Faith…” Buffy began as her eyes scanned the note.
“We need some spare I.Q. points,” Faith growled as she glared at the Slayers scattering into the surrounding area on the hunt for whomever or whatever tossed the rock. “The shit that comes out of my ass has more common sense.”
“Faith!” Buffy snapped.
Faith turned around. “What?”
Buffy held up the note, which looked like the letters had been cut out of god knows how many magazines. “It’s a ransom note. Whoever’s responsible for our rock kidnapped Xander.”
That stopped Faith cold. “What do they want?”
Buffy was back to staring at the note’s contents, but Faith was willing to lay odds that she didn’t see a damn thing. “They don’t say. Only that they promise he’s safe in a place where we’ll never find them. They’re going to give us their demands later today.”
“Why not just tell us now?”
“It’s a warning,” Buffy said. “They don’t want anyone trying to follow them when the note gets delivered later today. If we do…”
“Let me guess: Xander’s dead.”
Buffy’s face reflected sudden confusion as she refocused on the note. “Unh, no actually. They promise they’re not going to hurt him, regardless of what we do.”
Faith crossed her arms and leaned against the wall. “They’re just going to hold him captive until when-the-fuck-ever we decide to play along? That’s a strange threat if you’re asking me.”
“That’s just it. The only threat here is that we’ll never see him again if we don’t cooperate.”
“So no bodily harm. No, ‘Do it or the Watcher gets it.’ Just, ‘You’ll never see him again?’” Faith shook her head. “That makes no fucking sense. Why even bother promise not to hurt him?”
“That’s a really good question.”
Download (Good for seven days): The Visitors (Crackin' Up) by Abba
(Shaddup...I like Abba in a non-ironic way...bouncy! Except this one not so much. This one is more like a paranoid song.)