Title: Distraction Tactics
Warnings: Slash, established relationships,
Pairings: Spike/Xander, Willow/Tara, Buffy/Angel, slight Cordy/Xander
Disclaimer: I don't own Buffy or its characters.
Summary: It's a standard war tactic; keep the enemy occupied elsewhere in order to allow the true attack an easy win. In an attempt to get the Slayer's gang out of his way for a takeover, the newest Big Bad makes a mistake.
Chapter #1: Welcome to the Future
Never let it be said that going from standing among library shelves one second to lying face down in carpet the next was not a very disorienting experience. Especially when accompanied by no memory of the actual fall. Or when the aforementioned library didn't have carpet.
"Um" Xander paused to fully take in this new position and his now aching head. "Ow?" Keeping his eyes closed, he removed his face from the carpet and sat up on his knees, rubbing his head. That had really hurt.
And was his hair longer?
"What the—?" Behind him, Buffy's voice sounded a little weak and very confused. Then, voice a little stronger and even more confused, "Xander?"
"Yeah?" He opened his eyes and turned in the direction of her voice only to come to a stop at the actual sight. "Uh . . ." He said intelligently and blinked, "Buffy?" he asked, just to make sure. Because she really didn't look the same.
She looked older. More mature.
Xander blinked again but the picture stayed the same. What the hell?
Buffy was a bit more useful. Recognizing their situation as of the weird, she quickly shook off any shock and jumped to her feet, going into Slayer-mode. Snapping out of his momentary daze, Xander instinctively followed her lead, standing on his suddenly bare feet and scanning the room for enemies and potential weapons.
They were in an apartment. The living room of an apartment.
From what he could tell, it was obviously lived in; posters on the wall and the random clutter that came with a home spread throughout the room. Movies littered the floor near his feet, and a pile of junk food had been collected on the coffee table, open sodas included.
No enemies were in sight and, on the scale-o-evil, Xander would have to give it a 2.
"Xander?" came a somewhat weak voice from somewhere behind him, "Buffy?"
Turning in that direction, he was again surprised to see Willow, also older and standing at the entrance to what he assumed was a kitchen, absently removing the last bits of popcorn in her suddenly shorter hair.
"Wills" he asked, surprised by the sight. What was she wearing?
"Oh thank god." Taking this as a confirmation of his identity and looking relieved, Willow fully entered the room. "Do you guys know what happened? I could've sworn I was just in the library, but then I'm lying in this pile of popcorn in this strange kitchen with a really bad headache, and I'm wearing different clothes and my hair's short and you guys look so different. Weren't you in the library too? Where are we? Is Giles here?"
"I don't know." Buffy still looked a little suspicious, but had relaxed in the face of the sheer normality of their surroundings. "To all of the above."
"But we were just in the library, right?" Xander turned back to face Buffy, thankful to look away from the freaky sight of Willow in flattering clothing. She was like his sister for God's sake.
Buffy looked around again, obviously just as lost as he was. "Well, we were . . ."
"Okay good. . ." Xander nodded to himself, thankful for the reassurance to his continuing sanity. "And we've now been instantaneously transported into someone else's home, and are now wearing someone else's clothing?"
At this, Willow looked down and picked at her short shirt self-consciously. Buffy looked up at him with a shrug. "I guess so."
"And we all look older?"
Even though this fact had already been noticed, the three couldn't help themselves from quickly looking around to examine each of the others. Willow nodded.
"And this isn't some freaky bizarre dream?"
Buffy turned her examining toward the room, looking at it with critical eyes. Then made a face at an older poster of some band she didn't know. "An empty apartment with ugly posters and weird stains?" She gave a portion of the carpet a look, bringing Xander's attention to the dark stain almost hidden by the coffee table. "Not exactly something I normally dream of."
"True," Xander allowed, "And obviously not something from my head. No naked ladies in sight." Hair in his eyes, Xander reached up to push it back, paused midway, and pulled the hair back to into his line of view to give it a strange look. It was longer.
"Maybe it's an illusion?" Buffy guessed.
"I don't know." Having walked around to take a seat on the couch during this exchange, Willow bounced a bit on the cushions and frowned slightly. "It feels real . . ." picked up a stray mini-Snickers wrapper left on the couch.
"And detailed." Xander added, giving up on his hair and flopping down next to Willow. He eyed the chocolate sitting on the table suspiciously and reached out to grab a piece. "Do you think this is poisoned?" he asked, bringing the candy up to his nose for a sniff.
Buffy ignored his question as she considered the situation "Then, maybe a . . . a dream-world, or something?"
Chewing the candy he had decided was safe and shoved in his mouth, Xander looked up at her. "I thought we'd already ruled those out."
"Not dream-dream, I mean like . . . like, you know, that whole dimension-thing," Buffy waved a hand around as she tried to explain, "Only, just dimensiony, not alternate."
Xander visibly brightened, sitting up straighter. "You mean, like a pocket dimension?"
"Yeah, sure," Buffy said, obviously not quite sure what that meant, "One of those things."
"I don't know." Willow said uncertainly, looking around again, "I've always kinda thought those things would look a little . . ."
"Not like this," Xander finished with a decisive nod, "This is all just a little too normal. Pocket dimensions should have these weird swirls of fog and start to blur or fade into nothing at the edges. And the ceiling should be blue and this junk food should be glued to the table. And everything should be really warped and funky looking because the dimension is actually shaped like a ball. And there should be some type of deep and creepy voice coming from nowhere to cackle and explain what's going on before killing us slowly." For a moment, Xander seemed to drift off into his own little sci-fi geek world. "That would be so cool." Then he paused as he seemed to think this through a little more. "Well, maybe not so much the killing-thing."
"Well then I can't figure out what's going on," Buffy said, looking frustrated, "Where's the heck's Giles?"
"Oh, yeah," Willow said, looking up, "I hope he's okay."
"Yeah," Buffy said, starting to make her way towards the door. "Me too."
"You think he's still at the library?" Xander asked, grabbing one last candy bar and standing up. "Maybe he got grabbed too."
Opening the door, Buffy paused, looking back at him with a frown. "Wouldn't he have been with us if he was?"
Fifteen minutes and one vamp-staking later, the three stood on the sidewalk, trying to process what was in front of them.
"Well that's not good." Xander frowned.
The three of them had easily left the apartment and walked to the school, thus proving that they had not been kidnapped in any way. Now they had arrived at the school, only to find no school. There were only the under construction destroyed remains of a school.
"At least it doesn't seem like this is new," Xander continued. "So it didn't just explode a few minutes ago."
Slowly coming out of her shock, Buffy looked at him. "But that's just the thing. This doesn't seem like it's new. We were just here."
"This . . ." Willow slowly shook her head. "This doesn't make any sense."
Slowly, an idea was forming in Xander's head. It was crazy but it would just be so cool.
Turning to his now older girls, he asked, "You don't think, that, maybe," he grinned, "we're in the future?"
Willow looked at him with wide eyes. "The future? But that . . ." She seemed to turn the idea over in her mind. "That actually makes sense."
"Yeah . . ." Buffy frowned, turning away from the school remains. "Or maybe an alternate reality."
"But that wouldn't explain our new looks." Xander pointed out, getting excited. He couldn't believe this. This was a sci-fi geek's dream come true. "And that apartment?" he continued, "It could've been one of ours and that's why we woke up there and why it seemed like it was set up for a movie night with friends. Because it was!" He bounced. "Oh, this is so cool. We need to find Giles."
"Yeah, we do." Buffy gave him a pointed look. "It's late and we need to figure out what's going on."
"But I just told you. We're in the future!"
Willow smiled, "I think she means how we got here and why."
"Oh, yeah. Okay." Xander nodded, his enthusiasm not dimmed in the least by the thought of this situation being of the bad. "Do you think he still lives in the same place?"
Buffy looked determined as she turned and started walking towards Giles' condo. "He'd better."
Giles answered the door in a simple pair of slacks and a t-shirt.
"Whoa G-man," Xander said, stepping back in surprise, "What happened to the tweed?"
Giles blinked, confused by the reaction. "Ex - excuse me?"
Buffy ignored them. "We have a problem," she said, all business.
"Oh? What kind of problem?" Giles asked, stepping back to allow the three of them to enter.
"A big one," Buffy answered, stepping in the door, "But first. Did you know that the school's been destroyed?"
Giles frowned, confused by the question. "Of course, I did. That's not something I'm likely to forget."
"Right," Buffy said, nodding. That confirmed it. This wasn't their Giles. "And what year is it?"
"2003," Giles answered, only getting more worried. Why would she need to ask a question like that?
"2003?" Xander exclaimed from his spot on the couch, sitting up in surprise. "That's . . ." he tried to do the math quickly, using his fingers as he counted down. "That's six years," he finally said. "Woah."
Giles turned to Xander, still confused, "I'm sorry?"
Buffy sighed. "I don't think we are who you think we are."
Giles turned back to her, starting to look suspicious. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, I'm Buffy, but I'm not the Buffy that you know." She paused to consider this, "Well no, actually, you do know me; you're just expecting me to be a different me. We're us, we're just a different us, you know?"
Giles blinked, even more confused. "Not quite but please do continue."
Buffy took a deep breath and got to the point. "We're not supposed to be here like this. We think we're from the past."
"And just what makes you think that?"
"Oh, I dunno, maybe the fact that we have absolutely no idea what's happened in the past six years?"
"It could simply be a matter of amnesia," Giles said, and then turned to the others, "And are you all like this?"
Xander and Willow nodded.
"Interesting," Giles said, looking contemplative before going over to his bookshelf and thumbing through a few of the volumes, looking for a book, "And just what year do you think it is?" he asked over his shoulder.
"1997," Buffy answered.
"Right." Giles began pulling out book after book. "Well, I'm not sure what has happened but I'm sure that one of these books will tell us. Um, here." He began to pass out the books.
Xander groaned miserably. "Aw man. More research. I wanted to go out and see the future."
Giles frowned and looked at him. "That . . .that may not be the best of ideas, Xander. If you – if you really are from the past and this isn't just some kind of, um, am – amnesia, then that could have a disastrous effect on the timeline and—
"Yeah, yeah. I get it," Xander cut in, waving a hand. "No walk-abouts for the Xand-man. You really are no fun."
"I'm not trying to be."