Previous Chapters are HERE.
Summary: AU from some point during Tabula Rasa, when the crystal doesn’t get broken and something else happens to it instead. Events bearing some similarities to those in kallysten and kantayra’s excellent story Tabula Rasa Ad Aeternum took place off-screen during the earlier chapters of this story.
The severed head of a Mind Flayer looked remarkably like an octopus. Spike kicked one along the floor. “Eng-er-land, Eng-er-land, Eng-er-land,” he chanted. “’Ere we go, ‘ere we go, ‘ere we go, ‘ere we go ‘ere we go ‘ere we go-oh.” He chased after the improvised ball and kicked it again.
Xander sat on the floor and rummaged through his pack. “Donuts, donuts, donuts,” he muttered. “Want donuts. Mmmm, donuts.”
“Donuts?” Anya echoed. “There is treasure here. I think that’s a little more important than donuts.”
“Treasure? D’oh!” Xander smacked himself on the forehead. “Ow!” He pouted. “Treasure, donuts. Treasure, donuts. Donuts!”
“Two pints of lager and a packet of crisps, mate,” Spike said. He kicked the Mind Flayer head between two of the sculpted columns that adorned the walls of the chamber. “Goal! We are the champions, my friends. And we’ll keep on fighting ‘till the end. We are the champions, we are the champions, no time for losers, ‘cos we are the champions, of the world. Eng-er-land!”
“No donuts,” Xander moaned. “Uh, anybody got any beer? I got, uh, beef jerky. That’s, uh, maybe we could go fishing.”
Spike began to kick the Mind Flayer corpse. “Up jump turn around, kick him in the bollocks, up jump turn around, kick him in the head,” he sang. “Bugger! Dunno if the pillock’s got any bollocks, but he hasn’t got a head. Can’t wear a hat, then, can he?” He giggled. “’Ere we go, ‘ere we go, ‘ere we go, ‘ere we go ‘ere we go ‘ere we go-oh. Come on you Reds!”
Anya raised her eyebrows at Spike but concentrated her attention on Xander. “Xander, get up,” she ordered. “What is wrong with you?”
“Maybe it’s a guy thing,” Willow said.
Tara raised her eyebrows. “Another reason why I’m glad I’m a lesbian.”
“They have had their intelligence drained by the Mind Flayers,” Jaheira explained. “Do not feel superior. Had you been struck by the facial tentacles you would have suffered the same fate. Although the effects might have manifested themselves in a slightly different form.”
“What?” Anya’s eyes became huge circles. “Cure Xander! Cure Xander!”
“Yeah, cure Xander,” Willow urged. “And Spike.”
“It will wear off,” Jaheira assured them. “I have healed their physical injuries. Their minds will return to normal in time. I do not think that it lasts for long. Overnight at the worst.”
“It had better not last for long,” Anya said. “I’m not going to get any worthwhile orgasms from, well, Homer Simpson there.”
“Spike’s turned into an English soccer fan,” Dawn observed.
“He always was an English soccer fan,” Willow pointed out. “But yeah, he’s like one of the ones that they didn’t want to come to the World Cup when we had it in the States.” She wrinkled her nose at Xander. “And our representative doesn’t exactly fill me with American pride.”
“Yeah. It’s lucky nobody else got hit,” Tara agreed.
“Ow!” Sorkatani yelped. She dropped Celestial Fury on the floor. “Cut myself. Sword sharp.”
Dawn rolled her eyes. “Well, duh.”
Willow raised her eyebrows and Tara’s brow furrowed.
Jaheira strode quickly to Sorkatani’s side. “Were you struck by the Mind Flayers, jabbress?”
“Icky things,” Sorkatani pouted. “All squiggly and slimy.” She turned away from Jaheira and craned to look at her own backside. “Does my bum look big in this armor?”
“That’s a relief,” Randy said. “Was beginning to think that the other me is a complete idiot. Good to know it’s not his fault.”
“I know how you feel,” Alex said.
“My son the football hooligan,” Rupert commented. Randy laughed.
Warren’s brow creased deeply. “Uh, you do know you’re not really father and son, right?” He swallowed. “Oops! Uh, maybe I shouldn’t have said that?”
“I assure you that we are father and son,” Rupert said, his eyes twinkling, “and I have documents to prove it. Rupert and Randolph Giles.”
“Git,” Randy muttered. “Had to stick me with that name long-term, didn’t you?”
Rupert raised one eyebrow. “Would you have preferred ‘Desperate for a Shag’ Giles? I must admit that I was rather tempted, following your quips about Rupert Bear, to have you christened ‘Paddington’.”
“Paddy,” Joan cut in, grinning widely, “can we stop watching the other you acting like a total dumbass and take a look at the other me?”
“And, ah, the other me,” Rupert said.
“Sure thing,” Jonathan agreed. He scrolled down the icons at the side of the screen and paused at Yoshimo. “Huh? Red border? What’s happening?” He clicked on the icon and the view changed. Buffy’s party was in a large room with a dozen alcoves and doors along the walls and a floor that was decorated with a mosaic portrayal of someone who looked like an Egyptian pharaoh. A battle raged throughout the room. Minsc battled a wraith, Viconia and Anomen fought giant skeleton warriors, Giles used his staff-spear to fend off the attacks of a shadow fiend, Nalia was firing off spells from the rear, and Korgan slashed and hacked his way through a mass of zombies and ghasts.
Buffy was fighting Yoshimo.
Buffy brought up Dragonslayer to block Yoshimo’s slash and began to make a cut with the Blade of Roses at his exposed side. She held back the blow and gritted her teeth. “This sucks,” she moaned. She swung up a leg in a kick. Yoshimo blocked with an elbow. The impact rocked Yoshimo but it hurt Buffy more. He struck once more with his katana.
Buffy was faster than Yoshimo, more skillful, and much stronger. Winning the fight wouldn’t have been a problem for her. Winning without killing or seriously injuring him, however, was more difficult. The two swords in her hands were hampering her. Taking time out to sheath one wasn’t really feasible, however, Yoshimo was too dangerous to present with such a good opening. Buffy feinted and sidestepped. Her gaze fell on the vampire who had charmed Yoshimo. The vampire was lurking back at the far side of the room, out of harm’s way, no doubt hoping that the less powerful undead and the enthralled party member would weaken Buffy’s group significantly before he entered the fight.
Buffy’s eyes narrowed. She saw that the vampire was standing in front of a door. Heavy timber, but not stone. Her right hand whipped back and then forward. She threw the Blade of Roses as if the heavy sword was a knife. It blurred through the air and struck the vampire in the stomach. He was slammed back against the door and pinned like a butterfly.
Yoshimo flinched as if he had been struck, but only for an instant, and then he drove his katana forward at Buffy’s heart. Buffy deflected the strike with Dragonslayer and brought her empty right hand around in a palm-heel strike to Yoshimo’s jaw. She continued on with the movement, turned her body, and seized Yoshimo’s sword arm. She reversed direction, jerking his arm upwards, and slammed her elbow into his chin. He went limp and would have fallen to the ground if her grip on his arm hadn’t kept him upright.
Buffy drew back her other hand, ready to hit him with the pommel of Dragonslayer if another blow was necessary, and something seized her arm in a vise-like grip. A second vampire had raced out from one of the alcoves and attacked while Buffy’s attention was concentrated on Yoshimo. She released Yoshimo’s arm and grabbed for his katana as it fell from his hand. The hilt seemed to writhe in her grasp and it slipped away and clattered on the floor. The vampire bared its fangs and lunged forward towards Buffy’s exposed neck.
“Eep!” Joan yelped as she saw her computer counterpart in peril. “What happened? The sword…”
“It’s enchanted so that only Yoshimo can use it,” Warren explained. On screen Buffy had punched the vampire hard in the face and sent it flying backwards. It sprawled on the ground near Korgan. The dwarf had just disposed of the last of his zombie opponents and he fell on the vampire with a series of brutal axe blows. “Interesting,” Warren mused. “There’s only supposed to be one vampire in that room. The game’s definitely upgrading the opposition to compensate for the larger party.”
“They could get killed,” Joan complained. She watched as the avatar Buffy charged at the first vampire, who was struggling to free himself from the sword that pinned it to the wooden door, and slashed its head off. The vampire turned into a cloud of white vapor and drifted away. Buffy pulled the Blade of Roses free from the wood and turned to look for other opponents. “Yay, go me! Uh, her,” Joan enthused. “Hey, what’s with the turning into mist or whatever? That’s not what vampires do.”
“It is in that world,” Warren told her. “They return to their coffins like that and then regenerate. You have to find the coffin and stake the body for them to stay dead.”
“Bummer. That must make a Vampire Slayer’s job a lot harder,” Joan commented. “I’m glad it’s not like that here.”
“Indeed,” Rupert agreed. “Our counterparts seem to be managing quite well, however.” He shot a glance at Randy. “They’ve destroyed their opponents without any of them being turned into moronic hooligans.”
“Oi, leave it out,” Randy protested. “Your lot didn’t have to fight any of those octopus-headed gits.”
“The Mind Flayer lair is much tougher than this crypt,” Jonathan confirmed.
“Although much peril still lies ahead,” Andrew declaimed in portentous tomes. “Yet Buffy the Slayer of the Vampyres shall no doubt prevail.”
“I hope so,” Joan said. Her eyes narrowed and she focused an intense gaze on Warren. “And when she has prevailed, we can have a little talk about just how she came to be there in the first place.”
“Ye bastard,” Korgan grunted, aiming a futile swing of his axe at the vampire mist as it drifted away. “Shouldnae hae tried tae sneak behind ma back, should ye? Serves ye richt, ye scunner.”
Giles sensed that Korgan’s animosity was personal rather than merely being directed at an opponent. “You know that vampire?”
“Aye, ah ken him fine, though he wisnae a vampire then. He wis wi’ the bunch whae ah gathered tae loot this place,” Korgan said. “They must hae cam’ here wi’oot me, cuttin’ me oot o’ ma ain deal.” He hawked and spat onto the eye of the mosaic pharaoh. “Hope they were aw’ eaten by yon beasties an’ ghoulies. Ah hope their goolies were eaten by thae ghoulies.”
“Your neck is bleeding,” Anomen said to Buffy, who was kneeling beside the unconscious Yoshimo.
“It’s just a scratch,” Buffy said. “It’s healing up already. A vampire jumped me when I had both my hands occupied.”
“And it drew blood?” Anomen’s brows creased up. “The vile creature will have drained your life energy. I shall perform a spell to restore you.”
“You waste your time, waela jaluk,” Viconia said. “Buffy has taken no harm.”
“So you say,” Anomen said skeptically.
“The naut-elghinyrr have no power over Buffy.” Viconia raised her chin and curled her top lip. “But waste your meager power on futile spells if you wish, Anomen. I care not.” She turned away and began to check the dismembered bodies of the undead for any items of value.
“She’s right,” Buffy assured Anomen. She twirled the Blade of Roses and spun it into the scabbard all in one smooth motion. “It’s supposed to be that their touch drains away your skills, yeah? Well, Sorkatani only taught me that move a couple of days ago. I don’t think I’ve lost a thing.”
“You are immune, it seems. Your abilities are remarkable,” Anomen said. He frowned down at the prone Yoshimo. “I wonder if we shall have to fight our comrade once more when he awakes?”
“I am already awake, cleric,” Yoshimo announced. He opened his eyes. “Although with this headache I could wish to still be unconscious.”
“Uh, healing spell here?” Buffy prompted Anomen, who obliged.
“Thank you,” Yoshimo acknowledged, and climbed to his feet. “Ah, how humiliating for the great Yoshimo to have been merely a pawn for a vampire.”
“Yeah, vampire pawn’s no fun,” Buffy agreed. “Except maybe for the Anita Blake books.”
“Okay, that’s convinced me,” Joan said. “I was thinking that, hey, they couldn’t really be, you know, us. It’s pretty hard to believe. I thought that it must just be clever programming so that they sorta seemed like us. Only she has my style.”
“Yeah, she’s just as bad with the puns,” Umad said.
“Hey, that one was good,” Joan protested. “Okay, nobody laughed, but hey, I’m betting Anita Blake isn’t exactly on the bestseller list in Asscattle.”
“Athkatla,” Jonathan corrected her.
“Whatever. Anyway, I believe it now.”
“I can get them back,” Warren said.
Joan frowned and chewed on her bottom lip. “I don’t know. I mean, I know what I want, and I would say no right away, only maybe there’s more to think about now than just what I want.”
“We all voted to stay this way,” Randy said. He frowned as he looked at her. “Don’t tell me you’ve changed your mind?”
“You voted to stay without your memories?” Warren’s gaze flitted back and forth between Joan and Randy.
“We did indeed,” Rupert confirmed. “I found a spell that I believed would restore them. Perhaps it wouldn’t have worked after all, in these circumstances,” he jerked his head towards the monitor, “but we thought that it would. We all decided that we were happier as we are.” He raised an eyebrow and looked at Joan. “You were most persuasive in arguing in favor of rejecting the spell,” he reminded her. “Surely you’re not having second thoughts?”
“No way have I changed my mind,” Joan said. “It’s just – there are those other versions of us trapped in that place. If they really are people, well, maybe we should be thinking of getting them out. Rescuing them. We have to think about more than just ourselves. That is, the ourselves who are us. Us here and now.”
“Well, I only have one body, and I’m very attached to it,” Anya said. “I don’t want to hand it over to anyone else. Even if it is me.”
“I would be adamantly opposed to anything that would jeopardize my relationship with Anya,” Rupert stated. Anya beamed at him.
“Got to say I’m dead against it,” Randy said. “I mean, that other you isn’t even sha- going out with me, Joan. Prefers that toffee-nosed git of a priest, for some bloody weird reason, don’t she? Unless half-pint here was kidding me.”
“Buffy won’t date Spike in that world,” Jonathan confirmed.
“See? S’ppose you get the memories back and you dump me?”
“I wouldn’t,” Joan said. “Would I? I couldn’t.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t want to bloody risk it,” Randy growled.
“It would be cool to remember all that stuff,” Umad said, gesturing at the screen. “But hey, I can live without it. It’s you guys who are the important ones.”
“I know,” Joan said, “but we can’t just leave them there.”
“They seem happy enough,” Tara said. “I d-don’t think we should do anything.”
“Yeah,” said Willow. “We know there was badness all round, Joan. Maybe they’ve worked through it, but if we suddenly remember it then everything might go all wobbly again. And hey, think of Randy. And Rupert and Anya.”
“Yes, think of Rupert and Anya,” Anya said. “I don’t want to be all confused about who I’m engaged to. And I don’t want Rupert remembering having feelings for some stupid elf.”
Jonathan was unable to restrain himself from correcting her. “Half-elf.” he said.
Anya gave Jonathan a scornful eye-roll. “Her race isn’t exactly the point. What matters is that she isn’t me.”
“I don’t think that the other me has any sort of physical relationship with, ah, Jaheira,” Rupert said. “On the other hand, the Anya in that infernal machine is, ah, well…”
“Shagging Alex’s other persona stupid as enthusiastically as you two go at it here?” Randy suggested.
“Not quite how I would have put it myself, but, well, yes,” Rupert said. “It is rather, ah, disturbing.”
“It’s not exactly filling me with the joys of spring,” Alex put in. “I mean, Anya’s a great girl, don’t get me wrong, but there’s zero sparkage, you know that. If the sparkage comes back, and I remember her being my fiancée, but I know she’s been, uh, boinking you like crazy for the past three months, uh, I don’t think I’m going to be a happy bunny.”
Anya squirmed. “I can’t even imagine being with someone who uses such horrible expressions. I don’t want to even think about not being with Rupert.”
“Yeah. Let’s not do this,” Alex said.
“I don’t want to do it either,” Joan said, “but we can’t just leave them there. Not if they’re real people.”
“They seem t-to be happy there,” Tara said.
“But they’re having to fight all the time against horrible monsters!” Joan protested.
Randy raised an eyebrow. “And your point would be?”
“Okay, so maybe not that different from Sunnydale,” Joan conceded.
Rupert smiled. “But so unlike the home life of our own dear Queen,” he said, and caused Randy to chuckle.
“Huh?” Joan was thrown off her stride for a moment but then decided just to ignore the comment. “Okay, okay. I want to see more of them when they’re not actually fighting, but okay, I’m good with not bringing them back for now. If there was some way of doing it without handing over our bodies…”
“I thought of making them robot bodies,” Warren said.
“Robot bodies?” Willow sat bolt upright. “You can do that? Well, I guess yeah, ‘cause of the Buffy robot. Maybe that would solve everything.”
Umad bounced in her chair. “Wow! Way cool.”
Tara frowned. “I wouldn’t want to have a robot body.”
Anya’s eyes became very round and the corners of her mouth turned down. “Certainly not! How could a robot body have orgasms?”
“I seriously doubt that I would be content as a robot,” Rupert said.
“Bloody right, dad,” Randy agreed. His mouth twisted and his hand went to his crotch. “There’s a few things that just wouldn’t be the same.”
“It’s not feasible anyway,” Warren admitted. “I, uh, kinda requisitioned a lot of things from the College when I made April, and I re-used most of them when I built the Buffybot.” He detected a reproving expression on Rupert’s face and raised his outspread hands defensively. “Okay, I kinda stole the parts for April, but it started off as a legit experiment for my course. I just took it too far.”
“Hmm.” Rupert looked sternly at Warren over the top of his glasses. “I suppose we can let it pass. My diaries indicate that the Buffy robot was invaluable to us in Buffy’s, ah, absence, and may have played a significant role in preventing the destruction of the world.”
“Uh, thanks. Anyway, I can’t get parts the same way again. I looked at some costs and, well, it would cost way more than a hundred thousand dollars to build a robot from scratch. Just for one, and we’d need eight. A million bucks at least. The only way I’m ever gonna have that kind of dough is if the Pirate game is a totally huge hit. Maybe in a couple of years.”
“That reminds me, I have to see that game,” Willow said. “I was thinking you were getting your hopes up too high, ‘cause these days the hit games are produced by great big development teams, and you just don’t get a couple of guys writing one in their bedroom any more. Well, that’s what I thought. Maybe I was wrong.”
“I hope so,” Warren said. “We’ve been working our asses off on it. Some days we start in the morning and work right through until bed. We’re getting by on pizza for lunch, pizza for dinner, even cold pizza for breakfast sometimes.” He clenched his teeth. “I never thought I’d ever say this, but I’m getting sick to death of living on pizza.”
“See?” said Jonathan. “We totally would have been better off working for Google.”
“Maybe,” Warren admitted, “but if we make a million bucks it will have all been worth it.” He went to his own PC and clicked on an icon. The Pirate game began to load.
“Even a few thousand,” Jonathan said.
“Well, a few tens of thousands,” Warren said, breaking into a grin for the first time since the visitors had arrived. “Oh, what the hell. I can probably count myself as coming out ahead of the game if Buffy – I mean Joan – doesn’t break my nose for pulling the stunt with the memory crystal.”
Joan’s eyes were fixed on the monitor display. Nalia had just cast a fireball into a corridor. Two mummies lurched out of the flames, their bandages smoldering, and advanced towards the party. Buffy met one of them with her twin swords. The other came up against Korgan, fighting low with his axe, and Minsc, smiting it over Korgan’s head with his blade Lilarcor. “Maybe I ought to,” Joan said to Warren, without looking aside from the screen. “But hey, it worked out okay. If we’d gotten our memories back straight away we’d have kept on the way we were before Willow cast the spell and I think it was kinda bad.”
“I guess it was,” Warren agreed, “from what we saw anyway. Before they went into the game, and the first few days they were there, they were hardly talking to each other. Willow and Tara were fighting all the time, and when the group split up Tara wouldn’t be in the same party as Willow, and you wanted to stake Spike when you found out his chip didn’t work there.”
“I did?” Joan’s jaw dropped. “She is so not me.”
“Think I got the better end of the deal for sure, love,” Randy said. He stood behind her and put his hands onto her shoulders.
Joan leaned back onto Randy’s hands. “She’s bound to realize what she’s missing eventually. Isn’t she?”
“Dunno, pet,” Randy said. “Know I’m not worthy of you. Still seems like a bloody miracle that you took up with me. The other me hasn’t had that miracle. Maybe he won’t.”
“The other me must have a heart a lot harder than mine if she can resist lines like that,” Joan smiled. “She’ll come round. She has to.”
“You know, I really think that we ought to be going,” Rupert pointed out. “It is getting rather late.”
“He’s right, sweetie,” Tara said to Willow, who was gazing raptly at the screen of the other computer as Warren explained the character creation system. “We have morning classes.”
Willow glanced at her watch. “Oh, poot! I guess time does fly when you’re enjoying yourself. Is it okay if we come back tomorrow, Warren?”
“Yeah, that would be great,” Warren said. “I guess there isn’t going to be any nose-punching or anything? Are you guys all cool with this?”
“I can hold back on the nose-punching,” Joan told him. “I’m coming back tomorrow too, okay? I want to see what they’re like when they’re not all getting with the monster-fighting. You’re sure there isn’t any way of giving Buffy and Spike a kind of nudge to get them together?”
“Afraid not,” Warren said.
“Crap. Okay, guys, see you tomorrow.”
“This has been absolutely fascinating,” Rupert said, as the group stood up and started to gather up bags and jackets. “Quite remarkable. Almost unbelievable.” His eyes twinkled. “We have met the avatars, and they are us.”
The characters in this story do not belong to me, but are being used for amusement only and all rights remain with Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, the writers of the original episodes, and the TV and production companies responsible for the original television shows. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (c) 2002 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer trademark is used without express permission from Fox. I don’t know who currently owns the copyright to Bioware’s game ‘Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn’, but it isn’t me, and characters and dialogue extracts are used without permission and with no intent to profit from their use.