Summary: What would happen if you looked in the mirror and you weren't there?
Rating: PG-13 (for language and violence, same as show)
Disclaimers: This fan fiction is copyrighted (2004) by the author. No infringement on the rights of Mutant Enemy, Inc., Greenwolf Corp., Lazy Dave, Kuzui Enterprises, Sandollar Television, Twentieth Century Fox Television, UPN or The WB, or any other legitimate holders of copyright for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, or any other characters contained therein is intended. This material is produced entirely for the entertainment of fans. No profit is made.
Spoilers: Spoilers for up to the end of Season 4 (In fact, it is assumed that you've seen Season 4. It will be hard to read this if you haven't.). Minor spoilers for Season 5. Mostly related to characters introduced this season.
Distribution: Just let me know where it's going. I want to see your site too!
Assumptions: (Spoiler warning!) They still haven't explained how the Connor related mind wipe works. For the purposes of this fiction, it is assumed that all the events that happened are remembered exactly how they happened. Conner was simply edited from those memories. (i.e. Justine cut Wesley's throat and he remembers that, but he doesn't remember the baby being in his arms or her taking Conner.) As you can imagine, this leave's weird gaps in everyone's memory. People don't question this because, as a part of the magical process to create the mind wipe, they were told not to question it. This also means that everyone's emotional state is pretty much the same as it was before the mind wipe. Aren't I nice to tell you? Now if Joss would just tell us!
The story begins:
Fred brushed the sweat threatening to drop off her nose and onto the books she was packing. She sat back on her heels and sighed. Who would've thought there were this many books in the hotel. It didn't look like this many when they were researching. She couldn't help wondering, somewhat irrationally, if the books were propagating or Phantom Dennis had unexpectedly moved into the hotel. She looked around sharply at that. No, that was silly!
The door to the basement slammed open and Gunn stomped through the lobby, shifting three boxes that threatened to fall, while he struggled to get a better grip. "Charles!" Fred started to rise to help him as the top box started to topple over. Not hesitating for a second, Gunn managed to shove the obstinate box in place using what seemed like every available body part; elbows, knee, and even his chin came into play. He continued to the landing and put the boxes down by numerous others at the door.
"When's English goin' to get here?" Obviously annoyed, he started to sit down on the boxes, but at the last second he took a bulky flashlight out of his back pocket and tossed it to Fred. She caught it clumsily and set it on the coffee table. Then he sat in disgust on the boxes.
"You know, considering we're the bosses and all, we could have had some of those evil minions at Monster Inc; pack, move, and unload all this stuff in the time it took us to argue about what we were going to do with it."
Fred pushed the hair that escaped from her ponytail out of her eyes. "Now Gunn, we all agreed that we needed to keep the evil lawyers away from our books and files and stuff and Wesley's apartment is the logical place for them to go, I mean, if something happened, not that it will necessarily, we'd still have them and, even if nothing happened, he could use them as an additional source.." Gunn broke in before she asphyxiated "Okay girl! Slow down." He threw both hands up in surrender. "But if Wes don't show soon, he's going to do the other end by his own damn self!"
With that, Gunn tromped back down into the basement with the echo of the slamming door left behind him.
Fred sat back again on her heels and silently agreed with Gunn. Where the hel-heck was Wesley? They'd gathered this morning, after last night's decision to take over evil incorporated. How did that happen anyway? They'd talked about a lot of issues; the books, the hotel, who would do what at Wolfram and Hart, and then broken up to get some personal things done. It had been weeks since any of them had been able to do anything even remotely normal.
But tonight they were supposed to meet here to pack and move the books and files. All except Angel and Lorne. Angel spent most of the night doing some "important errands" and he was going to spend all day at W.H. "working issues".
Could the man be any more obtuse. When was their little group going to learn that keeping secrets 'always' turned out badly.
Anyway, the rest of them were supposed to pack up the books and take them to Wesley's. Where was that man?
The door opened, as if in answer to her thoughts, and in walked… "Wesley! Where 'have' you been? We've been packin' and Gunn is…"
She stopped as she took in his appearance. He was wearing a neatly pressed, very dapper suit; she hadn't seen him in a suit before (except that tuxedo); and even more startling, he'd shaved…and glasses? "What happened to you? I haven't seen you in glasses for months. And what's with the suit? Not that it doesn't look nice, it's very nice and all, but with the packin' an everything…" Her voice petered out as he tilted his head up, almost as if in disdain, and spoke.
"Ah yes, Fred." Then he did something completely unexpected. He smiled. Not a little one either, a full up grin. It was…beautiful. It had been so long, since she'd seen him smile, she hadn't realized how much she'd missed it. They'd all had so little around here to smile about for so long.
Then, looking around, he stepped slowly down the stairs of the landing to stop directly in front of her. She'd smiled back without thinking, but as he stood in front of her, she saw something in the smile she'd missed until now. A cruel edge, like he was laughing at a personal joke and she was too stupid to get.
She stepped back involuntarily at the look. But he grabbed her and dragged her up against his chest. "Now, now, where are you going my dear?" Then his face warped into ridges and he savagely bit deep into the side of her neck.
She screamed at the pain and cold as she struggled uselessly against his grip. Every bit of warmth in her body was dragged out in rushing gulps from her neck and she sagged in his arms. Dimly, she heard angry yelling and couldn't stop her fall when she was abruptly let go. The whole world was swirling in a dark vortex around her. It was too much. So she silently spun away.
"…arting to move! I don't…………got too much." Angel and Gunn's voices wavered in and out of Fred's hearing. She listened disinterestedly as she took stock of how her body felt. She was lying on something soft. Her neck hurt a little, she remembered being cold, but she was warmer now. Her arms hurt where he'd gripped…Wesley!
She sat up suddenly, almost bumping heads with Gunn. He leaned back and put his hands out. "Whoa, it's Okay! Don't you go moving too fast or you'll be out again." He gently, but firmly steadied her, holding her arms while she blinked her eyes rapidly. Gunn reiterated, "Just relax alright?" Her eyes wide open in shock, Fred rapidly twisted her head in all directions. "W-w-where is he?" Gunn looked up at Angel and then back, looking wearier than any mere physical tiredness could cause. "He's gone."
She wondered if he was talking about Wesley's physical presence or the fact that he wasn't Wesley anymore. "Oh God! W-what happened…How" Both men looked at her in perfect understanding. Gunn stood up suddenly, as if he had to move or explode, and began pacing the floor. "We know what happened! Somebody up and ate him! Damn!!!"
She moved her feet down to the floor and shifted uneasily on the couch. "But I thought, you know, it took a while to turn into…to become a…" Angel finished it quietly for her "Vampire." The three looked at each other in grief as if saying the word aloud somehow made it true. Of course it 'was' true. It had been true for hours.
Gunn stepped up to Angel and spoke with determination "We 'have' to stop him. It's what he'd want. Before he can…" Gunn stopped, unable to go on. Angel looked up, the sadness clear in his eyes "Yeah, I know. I can track him. We'll get some weapons and…"
He gripped Gunn's arm suddenly. "What was that?" Angel tilted his head listening to something beyond the others' hearing. Then urgently "Someone's coming." At that, the lights went out.
She heard the men moving and the rattle of weapons as they, she assumed, armed themselves. Fred tensed on the couch in the dark, hand pressing the cloth against her neck, but decided she'd probably fall over if she got up. Remembering the flashlight, she snatched it up, and snapped it on, sweeping the room with the beam. Angel, obviously moving faster than she would've thought possible, was already by the door, his sword ready to swing. Gunn ran to the bottom of the landing and shifted the two handed axe up to strike as the door opened.
"Angelcakes! Charles! I come in peace!" Lorne threw his hands up and flinched backed in the spotlighted doorway. "Hey look guys, if you don't want me here, a simple 'Go away big green' will do." Vampire and man backed off apologetically. Gunn eased the axe down before speaking. "Sorry man, we're pretty uptight."
Lorne grimaced "Oh no, don't tell me, we're at DEFCON 1 again and there's no Matt Broderick to get us out of it." He stepped in, his neon orange suit flashing garishly in the flashlight beam. "Please don't tell me its' another apocalypse!"
Angel, Gunn, and Fred looked at each other uncertainly. Angel, his face stiff with grief, answered their green friend. "It's Wesley."
Angel, holding the flashlight, warily led the grim group down the basement stairs. They had decided explanations could wait until they checked out the lights. Lorne and Fred stayed at the bottom of the stairs with loaded crossbows ready. Gunn and Angel moved to the far wall and surveyed the remains of the fuse box with dismay. It was ripped out from the basement wall.
Gunn moved to check out the kicked-in sewer access door. "The lock is shot. I think I can jam this door tight though, with some of these boards." He leaned a board under the door jam and shoved it hard.
Angel opened the storage cabinet exposing two neat rows of camping lanterns. He began taking them out and passing them to the others.
"…and after I flung a box at him, I guess he thought it would be more fun to push me around. He did a lot of trash talkin' and all." Gunn flexed his sore arm at the memory. He grinned humorlessly "I'm a little harder to push around than he thought though. Did a little pushin' of my own." He shrugged his shoulders. "Didn't get a chance to see who'd fall down first. I think he heard Angel coming and booked."
After taking care of the lighting issue, they had all settled down for explanations; Fred and Lorne on the couch, Lorne with a comforting hand on hers, Gunn sitting on the steps, axe across his lap, and Angel leaning against the hotel's counter, sword within easy reach.
Gunn stood up, axe at the ready "So, we gonna do this?" He said it as more of a statement than question. Angel pushed away from the counter. "Yeah, I've been thinking about that. If we leave and…he's watching, what's he going to do?"
Gunn stood stock still, his face filled with growing realization. "You're right, we would'a left and he could of come back and 'Lilah'ed Fred's ass!" He looked at Fred as he realized exactly what he said. "Oh, sorry." Fred, horrified at the idea, said "No, no, you said it…just…right."
Angel grabbed his sword and strode up to Gunn. "I'm going to do a sweep and then see if I can pick up his trail. Then I'll come back and we can decide what to do next. Stay sharp, right?" Gunn nodded, they looked at each other for a second, a shared understanding at the enormity of situation, and the vampire stepped through the door and was gone.
"I wonder if Angel found anything?" Fred sipped some of the juice Lorne had gotten her. Gunn had done a check of the hotel and was confident it was locked up tight. Now, he sat back on the circular seat, in the center of the lobby, the ever-present axe next to him. He reminded Fred of a tiger, relaxed, but watchful, ready to spring into action at the first sign of trouble.
She was ready too. A loaded crossbow lay beside her on the couch. She wasn't looking forward to pointing it at Wesley. She rubbed her forehead wearily and thought back with envy to when she was just annoyed that Wesley was late. This was so much worse than when he was separated from the group all summer. At least she knew he was alive…somewhere. She could see him if she wanted…needed…to. She could talk to him, tell him…" She closed her eyes tightly against the tears threatening to spill over. She knew if she started, she wouldn't be able to stop, and now wasn't the time.
When she was able to look up, Gunn was in front of her. His face was calm, but she could read the same sadness she felt in his eyes. "You okay?" She nodded, not ready to trust her voice yet, and gently touched his hand that gripped the axe.
At the sound of something glass-like smashing, they both jerked their heads towards the courtyard door. Lorne ran in from the kitchen, frying pan in hand, and said "W-what was that?" A clattering sound confirmed someone was moving around out there. Gunn moved quickly to the doors and brought the axe up. He paused at the doors. "You all stay right here. I'm gonna check it out. It's probably just Angel." As he opened the door, and slipped out, Lorne commented dryly "Oh yes, because the big guy often throws china around in the courtyard." He picked up a lantern and raised it up.
Fred realized the crossbow was in her hands. She didn't remember picking it up, but she raised it and aimed at the doors. She jumped up at the sounds of combat. She could hear voices, but not clear enough to tell who was speaking. She ran over, Lorne right behind her, and was glad to find her legs supporting her. He put down the lantern and gripped the doorknob and looked at her. She positioned herself to shoot anything in the door and nodded. He took a deep breath and flung it open, frying pan ready to strike.
No one was in the doorway and Fred scooted up. The fighting sounds had stopped and there was a sudden "WHOOP!!!" and then "OH MAN, OH MAN!" from Gunn. Lorne and Fred peered out into the gloom. It was hard to see, but Gunn was kneeling over and had something in his grip. Clear as a bell, Wesley's voice rang out, "Have 'you' completely lost your mind?!?"
Totally confused, Fred and Lorne moved up until they more clearly see Gunn hugging a bewhiskered and bewildered Wesley. He had none of the pristine look of the vampire they had fought earlier. He was dressed in the same burgundy colored shirt and brown jacket he was wearing this morning.
She looked Lorne, who was grinning widely, "No fangs there, pumpkin. He's all soul." A second "WHOOP!!!" rang in the air and she threw her self onto the two men. Under the pile Lorne could clearly hear a somewhat muffled voice say "Have you "all' lost your minds!?! What in the world…"
"Right then, for some inconceivable reason you all believed I was turned into a vampire. Is that correct?"
After calming down, the little group had trooped back into the hotel. They were huddled together on the couch and a pulled up coffee table.
"Right, man. I saw you—'we' saw you, or someone who looked a hell of a lot like you. Although.." he continued thoughtfully "it was like you from the Thesulac demon banishing days. You know, all snooty and stick-up-the-butt guy. Except with a prissy suit."
"Sounds more like his 'scream-like-a-girl' days in Sunnydale to me." Angel, who must have arrived silently as usual, strode over from the landing, a grin on his face, to stand in front of Wesley. The ex-watcher stood up smirking slightly "So nice to know what wonderful first impressions I've managed to make in the past."
Angel looked at the man for a second and then grabbed him in a tight bear hug. When he let him go, he held on to his arms. "I meant what I said, you know. As far as I'm concerned we're good." Wesley was speechless for a moment. Then he regained his composure, quirked up an eyebrow, and rejoined "Faith was right. You did want to hug, didn't you?" But there was a warmth in his eyes Angel hadn't seen in a long time.
Wesley looked around at his friends. "Alright, I have a doppelganger, that looks like some old version of me, and convinced you it, or should I say 'I' was a vampire."
"It 'was' a vampire, Wes." The younger man looked up at his friend. "Killed enough bloodsuckers in my day to know 'em when I see 'em. It wasn't pretending when it nearly killed Fred."
Wesley, shocked, saw the bandage on Fred's neck he had overlooked up until now. "Oh God! Fred, I'm sorry! I hadn't realized…" "It's not your fault, Wesley." Fred said firmly. "I'm just glad it wasn't you. I…" She stopped speaking, her eyes blinking furiously for a moment. "I'm just glad, that's all."
Wesley looked down for a moment, then cleared his throat, and began again. "Yes, well, a vampire then, with some sort of shape-shifting ability. A spell perhaps or a magic-imbued object of some kind. I suppose…" The ex-watcher's voice petered out as he mused over the possibilities.
"He didn't have a scar!" Fred's voice unexpectedly broke in on his thoughts. "He was standin' there, with that pretty suit an' all. I just didn't realize! I mean, what with the glasses, and shaving, and funny behavior, I wasn't thinking about it at the time. How could I have missed it!" She turned wide eyes up to Wesley, obviously distressed by her oversight.
Gunn sat up straight, "You know, I didn't think much about it at the time either, but he said something strange just before he left. Something about being sorry he missed Junior. I just blew it off, thought you were trying to make some kind of joke about Angel or something."
Wesley, clearly shocked, cried out "What? I…" stopped abruptly, paled, and whispered "No." Angel reached out in alarm to steady him as he swayed. "What is it, Wes?" The group looked on in alarm. "I-I need to sit." He dropped back onto the couch. He was breathing rapidly, and for a minute, Angel thought the man might pass out. "I n-need to make a call."
Wesley fumbled his cell phone out from his jacket pocket and opened the cover, then stared like he didn't know what to do next. He stood suddenly. "May I use your office for a moment? I shan't be long." Angel looked closely at the man and nodded.
They watched from the lobby area as Wesley made his call. He paced nervously while he spoke. He abruptly stopped, straightened up, his face stressed as he talked urgently.
Angel, watching the silent conversation impassively, stiffened suddenly. Gunn, standing at his elbow, said softly "You can hear him, can't you?"
The vampire nodded slightly, "Yeah."
Gunn waited a few seconds. "It's bad, isn't it?"
Angel nodded again. "Yeah."
Gunn's face grew grim. "Damn."
Angel sighed "Yeah."
TO BE CONTINUED