I wanted to thank those that reviewed (igorawr and Reese Craven and then STIG and cursedgirl because I didn't thank them last time) Thank you!
Chapter #3: Dropped in the Middle
Bakersfield, California; USA
Gunn blinked in confusion.
Where the hell was he?
Everything was far too quiet Gunn thought as he slowly stood from his seat on the bench and looked around his strange new surroundings. The night air warm and dry, there was a slowly moving line formed to his left, leading to the strange sight of a greasy reddish demon shoveling out food to the tired looking humans standing listlessly in line. Filling the rest of the area were more humans, all seated quietly at picnic tables, shoving their faces with food with a tired kind of desperation. Three more demons, with heavily plated armadillo-like grey skin and the hairless snout of a rat, stood around the edges, looking ready to attack at the first sign of disobedience.
The feel of a stray draft in the warm night blowing against his chest reaching his attention, he looked down at himself. He was wearing the same uniform-like clothing as the rest of the humans but seemed to have lost the shirt. Almost distantly he noticed the faint sting of what felt like a sunburn on his back.
This was not normal.
The last thing Gunn remembered was being back at Angel Investigations, wearing his own clothes, just chillin' while he and Wesley waited for a call from Angel and Cordelia who were over in Sunnydale taking care of a vision. Nothing unusual had happened as far as he knew, they hadn't gone out on any jobs, so why was he suddenly here?
Where the hell was here?
And, more importantly, where the hell was Wesley? Had he been taken to wherever the fuck he was too?
Not wanting to be caught in an unknown situation without a weapon, Gunn turned back to the table he had appeared on, and then to the surrounding area, on the off-chance of finding a knife, or maybe a large stick, to defend himself with, but found nothing. Undaunted, he turned to eye the demons in the area warily. Deciding to risk it, and watching the guards for any sudden moves, he began to carefully make his way over to the more crowded benches to look for his friend. He wanted to make sure Wes was safe and then figure out what the hell was going on as quickly as possible.
"Wes?" he called softly, his eyes searching the crowd as he moved steadily in and out of the tables. The people eating didn't seem to notice him, all their attention on their food. "Yo, Wes?" he called again, looking around, and then quickly checked to make sure that none of the demons were looking his way. One of them was, and narrowed its eyes, but seemed to think he was acting normally. He turned back to the tables.
"Wes?" he called again, a little louder, hoping that Wes would hear it wherever he was in the crowd. If he was in the crowd. There was always the chance that Gunn was alone.
Frowning, getting worried, Gunn walked a little deeper into the crowd of people. "Wes?"
"Human," barked another one of the demons standing around the edges of the eating area and Gunn tensed, looking over that way. Apparently, they'd finally figured out that he wasn't just trying to find a seat. The demon was quickly making his way over to Gunn. "What are you doing standing around?" the demon asked, grabbing Gunn roughly and pulling him around to face him, nearly yanking his arm out of its socket.
"I was just trying to find a seat," Gunn lied calmly, quickly squashing his first panic reaction and carefully not showing his disgust at the demon's foul breath in his face.
The demon smiled, a slow twisted thing full of gleeful anticipation, large razor sharp teeth far too close to Gunn's face for his comfort. "We'll have to remind you of what happens to humans that take too long to follow orders then, won't we?"
And staring up into that hideous face, Gunn knew what that meant.
And all he could think of was, "Shit"
Little Dundee, Pennsylvania; USA
Willow sniffled softly, wondering why she was suddenly so sad. Did something bad happen?
And she didn't remember falling to the ground, so why was she sitting hunched over in the wet grass? Did she miss something?
Wiping her eyes with the back of her hand and one last sniffle, she raised her head and got her first look at her surroundings. Leaning against what looked like the back of a barn, all around her was open land, only like on a farm and not like the clearing in the woods. She'd half expected for the bodies of the others to be scattered haphazardly across the grass, but no one was in sight.
The last thing she actually remembered was being in that clearing with the others, trying to stop that wizard guy from completing his spell and going through the portal. It hadn't exactly worked though. The wizard had slipped through Xander's fingers.
She frowned slightly. Was that why she was wherever she was?
Getting to her feet, she looked around herself again and decided to go look around the area. Maybe the others were close by.
North London; England
Wesley blinked into the sudden darkness of the room, disoriented by the sudden change in light. Had there been a power outage?
No. That wasn't right. If there had been a power outage the room would be in complete darkness, save for the light pollution of the city. Here there was a small fire in the center of the room and it was illuminating the small space just enough for him to see that he was definitely not at Angel Investigations anymore. Damp, filthy, and eerily lit by the small light of the fire, it looked like he was in the insides of the sewers. That is, if any unfortunate homeless man had ever decided to set up house there.
Something must have happened.
"You've dropped your apple," spoke a voice complete with British accent.
Pulled from his thoughts, Wesley blinked again, and turned to face the speaker. Two other men seemed to be in the same predicament as him, one seated next to him on the crates he was now sitting on and one seated closer to the fire. The speaker was the younger seeming of the two, the one seated next to him. In this dim light it was hard to tell, but Wesley could make out a prominent nose and darkly colored hair.
"What apple?" he asked uncomprehendingly.
"Your apple." The man pointed and Wesley looked down, following his finger. And sure enough there was a slice of apple lying on the dirty floor. "You aren't getting an extra one," the man continued as though this were some type of punishment.
And something about that comment bothered Wesley. It seemed too casual. Like the fact that they had just suddenly appeared in some strange sewer was inconsequential.
If that was indeed what had happened.
Wesley frowned at the thought and looked up from the bit of apple to take a second look at his surroundings. Everything seemed the same as when he had first looked. It was still as damp, dirty, and eerily lit as ever. Opening up his senses, he felt the steady pulse of wards surrounding the area but that was it. This was a real and concrete place.
The fire crackled softly and the older man shifted in place, beginning to frown in concern when Wesley continued to not speak. "Wesley, are you quite alright?" he asked.
At this Wesley's attention snapped away from his examination of his surroundings and he narrowed his eyes suspiciously. Just how did this man know his name? "I'm sorry but do I know you?"
Obviously not expecting this, the older man merely blinked in reply. Then looked considering.
"Is this some kind of joke?" the younger man asked, beginning to look a little suspicious himself.
"No," Wesley said, turning his narrow-eyed gaze on this younger man, "I'm sorry, but I truly do not know who you are. Perhaps you could enlighten me?"
The younger man glared at him. "Oh no. I have absolutely no intention of playing along with this immature charade. Perhaps if you—"
"I think he may be telling the truth," the older man interrupted, still looking at Wesley in consideration.
Hearing this, the younger man turned to the other, obviously unable to believe what he was hearing. "You believe him?"
"When has Wesley ever been known to play a joke like this?" the older man asked mildly, turning to the other and raising his brow meaningfully.
The younger man frowned but seemed to be considering this carefully. "Never."
"Exactly," and that was that. "Tell me," he said, turning back to Wesley, "Is it just us you don't remember or is it everything?"
Wesley frowned. "I assure you. I remember everything perfectly well. I have no need for your help."
The older man was undeterred. "Then if you remember everything so well, why is it you don't remember us?"
"I assume it is because I have never seen you before in my life." That sounded a little rude, and Wesley wanted to take it back but wouldn't.
The older man tried a different route. "What year is it?"
"2002," Wesley answered promptly, hoping that this would be enough to dissuade them of their ridiculous idea that his memories were somehow gone. After all, if he knew the correct year then how could he have amnesia?
And his attempts to figure out the situation put to a stop by this, the older man frowned.
"Maybe . . ." the younger man spoke up, examining Wesley, eyes narrowed in thought, "Maybe, your memories haven't been taken, but perhaps . . . twisted, in a way. Made so that you remember certain things but not others."
The older man brightened. "Yes! Exactly. That must be what happened." He looked at the other approvingly and the younger man gave a slightly cocky smirk before he frowned as he seemed to realize something.
"But how could they?" he asked, turning to the older man, confused, "The wards are up. We should be safe. We should have at least been warned."
Wesley tried to get them to see sense before they went too far with their ridiculous theory. "My memories have not been twisted in any way. I remember everything quite clearly."
"Yes, but how would you know?" the younger man asked, turning back to him, "If your memories were twisted, as I'm sure they are, then you certainly wouldn't be expected to know that. The memories would have been made so that you would believe in them."
"I . . ." Wesley stopped, becoming uncertain. What could he say to that? It made sense when put in that manner.
But he knew his memories were true, weren't they? They couldn't be anything else. It just seemed silly to think that some other party would want him to remember the things he remembered. It would make no sense. Who would want him to remember fighting alongside Angel?
So, yes, his memories were true. And, as that was so, he needed to somehow discover where he was. Maybe he could use these people for information.
Wesley sighed and put a hand to his head, rubbing his forehead for a moment as he got himself together. Brought the hand back down and turned to the two men "Very well. So I'm missing things?" he asked them, breaking into their discussion of just how a spell would be possible through the wards. They turned to look at him. "Just what exactly am I missing? And what exactly are your names? I don't believe we've been introduced."
The two men exchanged a look then turned back to him. "My name is Edward Walters and this is Stuart Jefferson," the older man said, motioning at first himself and then the younger man. "And as to what you are missing, I suppose it would be easiest for me to give you a rundown of events. Just tell me if you have any questions."
"I do have one," Wesley spoke up. It was just a little one, with most likely a very simple answer, but it would bother him.
"Just how is it you know of magic?"
At this, Walters looked a little worried. "We're used to belong to the Watcher's Council. Do you not remember that?"
Wesley shook his head, for some reason wanting to make the man feel better. "No I remember that. I was just uncertain of your position."
Walters frowned but let it pass. "Very well. Then, to begin, I suppose I'll start with the rise of the demons."
That sounded like something to be concerned about. Wesley frowned and echoed, "The rise of the demons?"
"Yes. You don't remember that?"
Wesley shook his head.
"Well, five years ago, the demons of the Hellmouth began to rise up. We're not quite sure why, but it all happened very quickly. The Slayer fought back of course, but working together the demons were just too much for her. And after a few weeks the Hellmouth was taken and the uprising moved on. First California, then all of America, and then it moved across the ocean . . .
Wesley listened to all this in shock. Silent as Walters went on to speak of the fall of the Watcher's Council, of turning to the streets, of living off of scraps and whatever could be stolen, of death and slavery.
What kind of world was he in? Clearly not his own.
But it sounded familiar . . . Why was that . . . ?
Oh. Wesley's eyes widened in sudden realization.
It sounded familiar because it was.
Wesley remembered everything.
Albany, New York; USA
Catching sight of Xander unconscious to the ground, Spike didn't ask why he was suddenly in the woods and pushed through the brush to hurry to his lover's side, the worrying smell of blood only growing as he got closer.
Turning Xander over, he gently brushed his bangs from his face and took in the damage. A bleeding head wound, the blood running down Xander's dirty and smudged face, Xander showed signs of being attacked and was covered in thin scratches, dark bruises, and dirt, leaves caught in his hair and clothing.
Whoever did this would die.
Starting to growl, the sound low and threatening, reverberating in his chest, Spike looked around to see what could have brought the injuries on and noticed three fledges hiding off to the sides of the clearing. He smirked dangerously and stood up, pausing only to grab a stray tree branch as a make-shift stake.
Stalking over to the first one, he pushed through the brush, grabbed the fledge, and staked him in one swift move. Then moved on to the second fledge, who he snagged by the back of the jacket, dragged back, and threw to the ground. Obviously scared, the fledge scrambled back in the dirt as quickly as he could, backing up into a tree trunk. "Wha – what's the m - matter, boss?" he stammered nervously. Spike ignored the question and ripped his head off.
The third fledge was on the other side of the clearing and, seeing what had happened to the others, had turned tail immediately and fled. Thinking about going after him, Spike took one look at Xander and decided to let the fledge go. He had more important things to do.
Something strange and potentially dangerous was going on and Spike wanted to find a better place to wait for Xander to wake up so that they could figure things out. This place was too open and unsafe.
Cattarack, Montana; USA
Suddenly in a busy kitchen, girl after girl pushing her out of their way as they hurried by, Tara looked into a cupboard in confusion. And, turning around to face the busy kitchen, she wasn't any less confused.
Where was she?
"Tara, stop dawdling!" someone yelled and she looked over to see a plain girl with dark brown hair, wearing the same simple outfit as everyone else, gesturing at her to move, "Get over here!" the girl yelled impatiently, "Do you want us to get punished?"
"I – I – I—" Tara stuttered, having no idea what was going on, but complied anyways. Closing the open cupboard door, she hurried over to the girl, hoping that she would tell her what was happening.
"What are you doing?" the girl asked irritably and took hold of Tara's shoulder, pushing her in the other direction, in the direction of the stove. "This is your place. Keep working, will you?"
"O – okay," Tara said meekly, and turned to the stove, looking around helplessly for what she was supposed to be doing. Finding a wooden spoon lying off to the side, she picked it up and hesitantly began to stir the mixture of vegetables already sizzling in the pan before her.
The girl nodded in approval, "Good," and left Tara to silently panic, not wanting to make a big scene or to look out of place but desperately wishing for some type of clue.
Where was she?
Where was everyone else?
Who were these people that knew her name?
What was she supposed to be making?
Angel rubbed the back of his head. He didn't remember hitting his head on anything, but he must have because that's what it felt like.
And when did he sit down? Why was he so bent over and cramped?
Putting his hand down, Angel frowned. Was that water he felt?
His vampire vision allowing him to see in the dark, Angel looked around his surroundings. Confused by what he found, he attempted to straighten from his cramped position only to hit his head hard again on the low metal ceiling. "Shit," he cursed loudly, the sound echoing down the long sewers.
And what was he doing in the sewers?
The last thing he remembered was the clearing just outside of Sunnydale, where he and the others had been trying to stop that wizard from completing the spell. The wizard had just disappeared through the portal and then he was . . . here?
His frown deepening, Angel looked around his surroundings again, now carefully avoiding the low ceiling. No one was in sight.
He needed to find everybody else. Something must have gone wrong.
Albany, New York; USA
— Demons everywhere. Terrified screams as classmates race by, everything a chaotic blur of memory. Xander stands with Giles at the edges of the cafeteria, helping others to safety, when the room seems to pause and he looks up. Buffy stands still on top of a cafeteria table, an almost surprised look on her face as she slowly falls to her knees, a demon's hand sticking straight through her stomach, claws bloody. The world in slow-motion, she slowly completes her fall, landing face first on the table with an audible thump. A pause as Xander stares horrified. Then suddenly the world starts up again as the demons go wild—
—Swallowing nervously, he holds the cross as steadily as he could at Angel's back. His palms are sweaty and his stomach is tied up in knots. Following Angel down into the sewers, he hadn't even thought this would work and has no idea what he thought he was going to do once he got down there, but the point was just to get down there. He'd figure out what to do from there—
— Loud crashes and terrified screams fill the air as metal flies. Terrified civilians race by his position, all trying to find somewhere to hide. Positioned behind a gas tank at the local gas station, Xander, a calm figure in the midst of all the chaos, carefully aims his crossbow at the demon flipping cars and grabbing people as they fled the scene and fires—
— Straddled by Faith, her hands closing around his throat as she rides him. Auto-erotic asphyxiation. Not something he enjoyed.—
— Giles is still in there. That's all Xander can think. Giles is still in there and the bomb is set to blow any minute. He needed to get out of there and fast.—
—Xander smiles, laughing, Rolling on their bed, naked, Xander straddles Spike's hips and looks down at his lover. The others didn't approve of it but he had never been happier. Spike smiles back, his real smile, and places his hands on Xander's hips.
—Hundreds of demons in the next room, the sound of their chatter reaching his ears. Two guard demons unconscious at his feet, two other rebels watching his back, Xander fumbles with the lock picks. Finally there's a click and the door swings open, revealing a huddled group of humans, dressed in rags and obviously terrified. He tries to smile at them reassuringly as he steps in and they cower back. Just like they always do and the familiar hatred bubbles up—
Xander woke in a cave with two sets of memories in his head.
"Oh. Ow." Dragging himself up, he put a hand to his head in pain. What had hit him?
"Luv? Y' awake?" came a somewhat familiar voice from nearby. Xander looked up and found himself looking at the vampire—Spike---that had been hunting him for so long. Strangely, this made him want to smile. Instead he tensed.
"You," he hissed venomously, eyes narrowing in hate as he struggled to his feet. Something about this hate seemed wrong and that made him confused but he wasn't about to show that to his enemy.
--Gentle fingers tracing his face, Xander looks up into blue eyes with a hesitant smile—
Xander tried to push back the memory, not wanting to deal with it.
"Luv, y' need t' sit down. Yer hurt," the vampire—Spike—actually pretending to care for some reason, reached out a hand to gently grasp his arm.
Xander yanked his arm away before he could and hobbled back a foot to get some distance between them, snarling, "Yeah, and why is that I wonder?"
Spike actually looked confused by this; as though he didn't remember clearly that he had been the one to beat him into the ground and kill Jason. "Pet?" he asked, tilting his head to the side and looking concerned. "Is sumthin' wrong?"
--That same voice, asking that same question. "Is sumthin' wrong?"--
Xander ignored the whisper.
This must be a game to him. Something to throw Xander off balance. .
"Stop it," Xander hissed, entire body tense and ready to attack at any chance. He tried to tell himself that he hadn't already attacked because he knew it would be pointless and not because he was somehow reluctant to hurt the other. This creature had killed one of his men. What was he waiting for?
Spike continued to look confused. "Stop wot?"
-- Spike, naked, looks up at him from the bed. Blue eyes blinking at him, wide and far too innocent for that face. "Wot?"--
Angrily, Xander came back to the present. "You know what. Stop it."
Spike shook his head. "Luv, I don't know wot yer talkin' about," stepping closer, he reached out again for Xander's hand. "Why don't y' come over 'ere an' sit down. Get off that ankle."
Eyes narrowing in disgust at the strangely alluring hand, Xander quickly took another step back. "Stop pretending like you care," he spat, "It's disgusting."
Hand outstretched, the vampire blinked but slowly took his hand back. "Alright. . ." Spike's expression, concerned and slightly confused but open, melted into one of complete disinterest and Xander immediately wanted to take his words back, but bit his lip and held back on the bizarre impulse. What did he care about the feelings of some vampire? The emotions were faked anyway.
--Back tense, hands against the counter, clenching the tile, Spike grit his teeth. Desperately trying to hold back the frustration and pain and anger. Xander's heart hurt.—
And alright. What was up with these memories?
"Xander . . ." Spike started and Xander's eyes narrowed suspiciously.
"How do you know my name?" he demanded. Nobody was supposed to know his name. He and Willow had been almost obsessively careful about keeping any trace of themselves and their group out of the public eye.
Now Spike started to look confused again. "Don't y' remember me?""
Xander let out a short bark of a laugh, half-wild. "Oh no, I remember you. You've only been chasing us for the last month."
"Chasing . . . ?" Spike looked utterly lost.
"Yeah. Chasing. Oh, what? You don't remember that, too?"
Spike shook his head, brow furrowed in thought as he watched him. "No . . ." It didn't look like Spike actually believed him either, but what did Xander care? It was probably just another part of the plan.
--"Oi! My plans were bloody brilliant. Carefully planned and mapped out. Diagrams and everything" a sigh, "But then I'd get bored."—
And these memories were probably just yet another part of the plan.
"I know your plan and I'm not going to fall for it," Xander said, glaring.
"Wot plan?" Spike asked gently, like talking to—Drusilla—a crazy person.
"Your plan," Xander stressed angrily, "The whole being nice, weird memories thing. I'm not going to fall for it so you can just stop it right now."
"Xan, luv," Spike said, looking at him patiently, "I'm not doin' anythin'. I just appeared in th' soddin' forest and y' were at my feet. I don't have a bloody clue wot's goin' on."
"Oh, yeah," Xander scoffed, "like I believe that."
"It's th' bloody truth. Y' know I'd never lie t' you."
-- Gentle fingers through his hair, a miserable look on Spike's face, "Y'll never really completely trust me, will you?"—
Xander blinked and the memory was gone. He tried to ignore it and the feeling it brought. "Why should I?" he asked, remembering where he was and going back to being angry.
A hint of the same miserable look that was in the flash of memory and Spike said, "'Cos I love you."
Xander stared at him a moment to see if he was actually serious and he apparently was. Xander snickered softly then saw the vampire's serious face again and started to laugh. He couldn't help it. They must be getting really desperate if this was their best plan. Come on. A vampire loving a human?
Now Spike was starting to look angry. "Yeah. I love you. Let's all have a laugh at that. I'll give y' a break as y've obviously gone nutters, but y' shut yer gob about things y' don't know nuthin' about."
—Spike glares, anger in every line of his body. "When I say 'I love you' I mean it. If I was tryin' some trick I'd go after th' Slayer or th' witch. Yer not that important."—
And Xander blinked, sudden realization washing over him. "You have the memories too."
"Wot?" Spike not quite over his anger.
"The memories," Xander said, enlightened, his own anger at the vampire put on hold. "I keep having these flashes of memory in my head, but if you actually think you love me then you must have them too."
"Or I could actually just love you." God Xander hoped not. A vampire in love with him was kind of wiggy. Especially this vampire. The one who killed Jason.
Remembering that, Xander frowned and some of his anger came back and he said, a little harsher than before, "But you don't. I think I'd remember something like that and I don't," realizing that that wasn't quite right, Xander angrily amended, "Well, okay, I do. But those aren't my memories."
Spike frowned. "Did you hit yer head when those fledges roughed y' up?"
"No. See. If you were remembering things correctly then you'd know that you roughed me up not any fledges."
Spike looked alarmed and started to protest, "Luv, I'd never—
"But you did," Xander cut in, shooting him a narrow look, "Because you don't actually love me. This loving me thing is a new thing." Spike clearly did not believe him so Xander tried a different way. He huffed irritably and said, "Alright, look. Look around you. Do you recognize anything?"
Spike didn't look. "No, but—
"But I do. Why do you think that is?" Xander went on before he could answer, "Because I have the right memories. And you don't love me."
Xander could see Spike start to waver in the face of his irrefutable logic. He waited until he saw the almost audible click and Spike realized just what had happened. He vamped out and started growling, pacing the small cave. Back to being the vampire that had been chasing him for so long, back to hating humans, and Xander was glad even as he prepared himself to die and hobbled back another step to keep out of Spike's way.
"I thought . . . I actually believed . . ." Spike was muttering to himself. He snarled angrily at nothing and turned, glaring at Xander. "Go."
Xander frowned, confused.
"I said Go," Spike snarled, jabbing a finger in the direction of the entrance and Xander's eyes widened.
"You're going to let me go?" he asked, startled. He wasn't going to die?
And here he'd been all ready too.
"Th' offer only stands fer so long," Spike growled and Xander decided to take it. Hobbling toward the entrance, taking a wide path away from the vampire, Xander paused when he got to the entrance and looked back. Spike was staring at him, hate on his features.
Not sure what to think, Xander turned and left, grateful for the chance to live if a bit confused. Did this mean he was still going to be hunted down and that this was just an extension of his life?
Xander didn't know so he put more effort into hobbling and sped up. Hopefully he had at least enough time to get out of this forest.