Disclaimer: none of the characters are mine, but belong to Joss Whedon and co.
Note: this story contains spoilers from the original BtVS series.
Xander woke up and he was feeling poorly – some sort of a hollow feeling inside his soul. This sort of situation happened relatively often now that Sunnydale collapsed into a sinkhole and Anya died, but he did not enjoy it, and decided to get it treated instead.
“So, you have an empty, hollow feeling – is that it?” Giles commented later on that day, during breakfast. “Interesting. Do you think that it’s your magical syphilis, coming back?”
“No, because it doesn’t hurt when I’m peeing,” Xander said flatly. “Can we talk about something else?”
“You’re the one who started to talk about how you’re feeling poorly-“
“I mean, do you have any other theories about that, besides magical syphilis?” Xander said irri-tably.
“Well, let me think. How are you feeling? In general, besides being empty and hollow?”
“Seriously?” Xander frowned. “Like there is something missing in my life, something I have forgotten...and I know that it isn’t Anya, because I haven’t forgotten her. Any ideas?”
“Well, I suppose that we can try hypnosis,” Giles thought aloud.
“Ooh, can I help?” Rona, who was also quietly eating breakfast at that moment, spoke up for the first time.
“Well, I don’t see why not,” Giles shrugged, as he pulled out a pocket watch. “Xander, are you ready?”
“I am not sure,” Xander confessed. “Doesn’t Willow handle all the magical stuff? True, she doesn’t have a 100% success rate, but still...”
“Xander, this isn’t magic, it’s hypnotism,” Giles said wearily, “so we don’t need Willow’s help with it – I am quite capable of carrying it out by myself.”
“Well, if you’re sure,” Xander muttered reluctantly, but did get up and sit next to the older man. “Very well. Hit me with your best shot.”
“Certainly. You’re getting sleepy...”
Xander fell asleep.
* * *
And immediately awoke in Sunnydale. It was empty, unpopulated, except for Xander – not even a tumbleweed went tumbling past.
And it was clean, Xander nodded idly as he walked through empty streets, though not pristinely so – Xander could see pale (very pale) yellow mold on some of them, seemingly creeping towards him.
“Yeah, that’s not creepy...okay, it is creepy, but also normal for Sunnydale,” Xander muttered, before the street before him ended abruptly and he ended up in a giant space of blackness instead. “Whoa!”
* * *
Back in the real world, Xander suddenly stiffened and began to flail his arms. Instinctively, Rona reached out and grabbed them. “Xander, calm down, you’re going to be okay!” she cried.
Instead, Xander’s eyes rolled upwards and he vomited.
* * *
“Whoa!” Xander yelled once more in his mental landscape, as a flood of white came crashing into the blackness - and the blackness dissolved and reformed itself into a land straight out of an African savannah, with grasses, acacias and baobabs spotting the landscape. As Xander looked around in confusion, something emerged from the tropical grass – a hyena.
“Oh no, not you,” Xander muttered as the mammal approached him. As it did, Xander noticed that the hyena did not appear to be too formidable as he initially thought that it would be; in fact, it appeared to be rather small, or at least lonely, and certainly not very hostile.
“Well, hello there boy,” Xander said brightly, as he leaned down to face the hyena at its own level; he assumed that the hyena was a male because this was Xander’s mindscape, so odds are that the characters in it were male as well. “Are you lonely?”
“You shouldn’t be that friendly to it,” a different voice answered. Well, not that different – it was still clearly recognizable as Xander’s. Still startled, the original Xander turned around – and faced himself, albeit clad in a crazy commando outfit. Around him, the savannah grasses and shrubs were growing slightly taller and greener, more tropical jungle than savannah...before settling back into the savannah mode, albeit still slightly taller and greener. “This beast’s a coward, but it can be dangerous.”
“Yes, well, the worst that ‘this beast’ has done was to eat a pig – a piglet, really,” Xander said wryly as the hyena crouched next to his legs. “You, on the other hand, had not done even that – just like the hyena you were present for less than 24 hours, and almost all of these hours went with Willow being charge – I remember Willow telling that Halloween story. She was a ghost...”
“What’s your point?” the commando was still glaring in a threatening way, but he was not advancing any more.
“My point?” Xander became genuinely thoughtful. “I’m not sure. Maybe that we can be friends for real...”
Something rumbled in the distance and the earth beneath their feet – or paws – shook. The trio turned around only to see water sprout from underground, forming a river – a tropical river, for the land around the river was still an African savannah. As Xander and his new entourage watched, a third figure emerged from the river, swinging a trident. Relatively human-shaped, the newcomer had a long fish-like tail, his hands and feet ended in claws and the piscine head had a toothy maw.
“And here we got the fishman,” Xander said, still not impressed, but thoughtful instead. “I’m not sure if Giles and the girls ever managed to flush the coach’s ‘steroids’ from my system, but still... you too stayed here, in me – in my mindscape. You’re a part of me – you’re all a part of me, and I have forgotten you, all of you.”
Xander shook his head. “I cannot say that I am fond of you, but forgetting you aren’t the answer either, it’s not right. So, how about I accept the three of you and we move on with our lives. Deal?”
There was a set of nods and barks and some mutterings by the fishman as he moved over to Xander and the others.
“Good,” Xander began and then something changed. A wind began to blow, smelling of rot and wrongness; the savannah plants began to shiver slightly as pale yellow mold slid through them, forming into a rather misshapen humanoid figure; not quite corporeal, but still present.
“And that must be the curse that Gus had cast on me,” Xander muttered to his new entourage. “I guess that it managed to hang on as well, using the same trick as you three did, but no more – I am a broad-minded fellow, but even I draw the line before syphilis, mystical or not. Do you gen-tlemen agree that it must be gone?”
And there was a feeling of agreement between Xander and his new entourage that passed between them and beyond them, and to the curse before them without any words – Get Out!
And in a burst of silvery-white light the curse was gone.
* * *
“Whoa!” Xander was jolted back into real life. “That was intense.”
“What was intense?” asked Giles, who was just talking to Andrew – the younger man had just come down for breakfast of his own.
“My hypnosis experience... G-man, you all right?”
“Xander, you’re conscious once more,” Giles said with an evident relief. “We were rather worried about you: you threw up on Rona-“
“Sorry,” Xander quickly replied: Rona was not as hot-tempered as Buffy or Faith, for example, but throwing up could test anyone’s patience, especially a Vampire Slayer’s. “I didn’t mean to. It was just a side effect of me purging the remains of Gus’s curse from myself and embracing certain forgotten aspects of mine.”
“Well, that explains why you look like someone else now,” Andrew replied sagely.
“What?” Xander quickly walked over to the mirror – and gasped. The reflection showed a slightly older man, still one eyed, but with clear Afro-American roots, military-style haircut and sideburns on his face too.
As Xander realized that his mental journey did have other consequences besides getting rid of the remains of magical syphilis, he screamed...
* * *
...And back in the Sunnydale’s crater, one of the sides formed a small, cracked indentation as if something small yet hard did return home to roost.