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Enter…the Hellmouth

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This story is No. 1 in the series "Sunnydale Reloaded". You may wish to read the series introduction first.

Summary: Yet another AU Halloween story. This is an expanded version of the first part of one of my other AU Halloween stories, “Good Thing I Didn’t Take the Blue Pill,” and the first episode in my “Sunnydale Reloaded” series.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Movies > Matrix, TheGreywizardFR1818,74431110,11816 Oct 0416 Oct 04Yes
Enter…the Hellmouth

Author: Greywizard

E-Mail: grey.wizard@verizon.net

Rating: PG. Definitely nothing worse than the show.

Disclaimer: All of the really good characters belong to Mutant Enemy and Crack-Head Joss Whedon, although he doesn’t deserve any of them, considering the way he’s destroyed them over the past couple years. I'm just borrowing all of the characters for a while. The Matrix characters belong to Larry and Andy Wachowski, and possibly Warner Brothers. (I'm not completely sure of all of the financial details.) There is no intent to profit from this. Only the story is mine.

Category: Yet another AU Halloween story. This is an expanded version of the first part of one of my other AU Halloween stories, “Good Thing I Didn’t Take the Blue Pill,” and the first episode in my “Sunnydale Reloaded” series.

Summary: Xander doesn’t go as a soldier, but as a rather popular movie character.

Time frame: Alternate Buffy-verse, branching off at Season 2, episode 18, ‘Halloween.’

Character Bashing: None.

Relationships: You’ll just have to wait and see.

Feedback: Of course! Constructive criticism will be greatly appreciated. Flamers will be ignored and/or added to the lists of those to be painfully exterminated, once I am appointed to my rightful position as King of the World. J

Author’s Note 1: I know that the movie I’m referencing wasn’t released until 1999, but for my purposes, it came out earlier in the Buffy-verse.

Author’s Note 2: Thanks to Bill Haden and Tim Joy for beta-ing this baby.

~~~

Enter…the Hellmouth


Ethan's Costume Shop
Sunnydale, CA
Thursday, Oct. 30, 1997


“So, Will, what'd you get?” the Slayer inquired as she walked over to inspect her friend’s Halloween costume selection.

“A time-honored classic!” the redheaded hacker responded eagerly, as she held up a ghost costume.

“Okay, Will, can I give you a little friendly advice?“ the blonde asked, eying the pseudo-spectre outfit dubiously.

“What? It's not spooky enough?” Willow asked, uncertain of what was causing the petite blonde to give her selection a “thumb’s down” evaluation.

“It's just... you're never gonna get noticed if you keep hiding. You're missing the whole point of Halloween,” she advised the taller girl. “It's come as you *aren't* night. The perfect chance for a girl to get sexy and wild with no repercussions.”

“Oh, I don't get wild,” Willow advised the blonde. “Wild on me equals spaz.”

“Don't underestimate yourself,” Buffy replied, as she cast her eyes around the store for possible alternate choices she might suggest. “You've got it in you. Just let it out and run wild.”

“Hey, Xander!” The future valedictorian of the Class of 1999 waved her hand and called over to the third member of their group, seeing him standing off to one side of the store.

“What'd you get?” the hacker interestedly demanded, as he casually ambled up to the other teenage members of the Scooby Gang. “And who did you finally decide to go as?”

Wordlessly, with his trademarked lopsided grin, he partially pulled a pair of black wire-rim sunglasses and several plastic replica Beretta pistols, along with a shoulder rig for them, out of his bag and held them up for Willow to see.

“That's not a costume,” Buffy decided as she looked over the various items on display.

Giving Buffy a ‘Duh!’ look, the tall brunet turned to Willow to answer her question.

“The rest of my costume’s at home,” he stated with a smile. “And I’m still not telling you who I’m going to be, Wills. You’re just going to have to wait ‘til tonight to see who I picked.” His grin turned into a triumphant smirk at their annoyed looks. “Not gonna tell ya…” he sang, badly off key.

“Oh, you’re such a typical guy,” the redhead told him in annoyance, as he simply grinned at her reaction.

“Hey, look, Xander... “ Buffy began, wanting to try to clear things up about what had happened earlier in the day with Larry. “I'm... really sorry about this morning.”

“Do you mind, Buffy? I'm trying to repress,” Xander replied, a grimace on his face as he recalled the blonde’s ‘rescuing’ him from Larry.

“Okay, then. I promise, from now on I'll let you get pummeled,” she said, putting her chin on his shoulder and pouting theatrically.

“Thank you,” he said, as he rolled his eyes, making Buffy smile. “Okay. Y'know, actually, I think I could've ta-.”

He broke off as he noticed Buffy had been distracted by a costume, and was slowly walking over to it, their conversation completely forgotten.

“Hello! That was our touching reconciliation moment there,” Xander announced to a not-quite-totally-oblivious Slayer, as she walked over to a frilly, red, billowy 18th-century gown.

“I'm sorry, it's just... Look at this,” Buffy replied, staring in awe at the dress.

“It's amazing,” Willow agreed, as she moved to stand next to the blonde and check out the ball gown.

Sighing in disgusted resignation, as he realized about whom the Slayer was thinking as she contemplated wearing the dress, Xander headed out, calling over his shoulder, “See you guys later.”

He wasn’t sure either of the girls had heard him, or was even aware he had left, as he heard fragments of conversation from the shop owner, some pompous, overbearing Englishman named Ethan, speaking to both girls as he walked away.

“Magnificent…Yes, I know… My. Meet the hidden princess…”

His curiosity was awakened as, on his way out, he caught sight of Cordelia inspecting the various replica pistols on display in the main showcase near the front of the store.

“What in the world would you need a pistol for, Your Majesty?” he asked as he wandered up next to her, deciding that exchanging vitriolic barbs with the imperious ‘Queen C’ had to be better than being ignored by your supposed best friends while they discussed what costume would best catch the eye of a two hundred and forty year old corpse. “I thought most people in town already considered your tongue to be a lethal weapon.

“And that definitely came out sounding a lot raunchier than initially intended,” he added, as he actually listened to the words issuing from his mouth, for once.

“Well, then, it’s good thing most people don’t consider you worth listening to, isn’t it, dweeb-boy?” the head cheerleader immediately responded to his jibe.

“And I need a gun to complete my costume for tonight, doofus, that’s why,” she semi-explained, as she deliberated over several different replicas set out on the glass counter top.

“You should take this one,” Xander said, picking up a replica of a Beretta Model 84FS Cheetah. “It’s a scaled down version of the 92FS model, and it’ll fit your hand a lot better than the 92 would. And it’s much cooler looking and a lot more stylish than any of those Glocks you’re looking at here.”

“Since when did you become Mr. Know-It-All about guns?” Cordelia asked, her curiosity piqued by the casually knowledgeable way the brunet Scooby had spoken about the pistols laid out on the counter top.

“I’ll have you know the Harris clan can do a lot more than just drink mind-numbing amounts of alcoholic beverages before finally lapsing into comatose states,” he answered. “I’ve been going out to the local shooting range pretty much every Saturday morning for the past eight years with Uncle Rory. I’m pretty sure I could qualify as ‘Expert’ with everything they use if I ever join the service,” he added.

“Well, you do seem to know what you’re talking about, this time,” Cordelia grudgingly admitted, as she hefted the gun Xander had indicated. It seemed to fit comfortably in her hand. “Anyway, it’s not like I’d really need it to work, right?”

On those unknowingly prophetic words, Xander simply nodded his head and made his exit.

~~~

Summers residence
Friday, October 31, 1997

“My, Xander, you certainly clean up well,” Joyce smiled as she answered the doorbell and greeted the brunet.

“Thanks, Mrs. Summers,” the male Scooby grinned. “I guess I really shouldn’t be too surprised at people’s reactions; this isn’t the kind of stuff I usually wear.”

“It does seem a bit out of character,” she agreed with a smile. “I guess I’m just accustomed to seeing all of those wild Hawaiian shirts you usually wear. I never would have expected to see you dressing as a Goth.”

“Well, I’m not, exactly,” he corrected her politely. “I’m actually a character from a movie, you see –“

“Hey, Xand, you ready to head out?” Buffy broke in as she carefully made her way down the stairs, eyes intent on the stair treads before her, not wanting to trip on the hem of her elaborate ball gown. It may have looked good, but making sure she didn’t catch her foot on the gown or the long slip under it was a real pain.

“What are you – Wow, you definitely look different,” she observed in surprise as she looked up and saw his costume for the first time.

“Sometimes, I’m just full of surprises,” he grinned at the Slayer’s reaction.

“How come you’re dressed up like Angel?” she asked. Still a bit stunned at the sight of her friend’s attire, she missed the flicker of anger that her remark triggered, which was replaced almost immediately with his normal ‘joker’ face.

Joyce, however, caught it as she watched the interaction of the two teenagers with carefully masked interest. She had been aware of the brunet’s more than passing interest in her daughter since shortly after they had moved into town, and had been wondering at the reason for the obvious cooling off of said interest that had occurred over the past few months. It had been especially obvious ever since Buffy had returned home after staying with her father for the last part of the summer. The brunet hadn’t been stopping by nearly as frequently as he had during the previous school year, and his comments about this ‘Angel’ person, whoever he was, had become a good bit more acerbic and derisive, although Joyce was fairly sure that Buffy was still a bit oblivious to that fact.

“Actually, Buff, there are other people out there who wear the same type of clothing as Dea-, as some of the sunlight-challenged do,” Xander caught himself before actually naming the souled vampire he despised. The fact that the Slayer’s world seemed to revolve around a long dead corpse didn’t mean that his had to, also.

A quick glance towards the Slayer’s mother seemed to indicate that she hadn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary in their conversation, or the annoyed look Buffy had thrown him at his mention of the monster with whom she was currently enamored.

“So, who is it you’re supposed to be, Xander? You said something about a movie character?” Joyce asked, redirecting the conversation towards the original topic before things could deteriorate. Both of the teens had a real talent for scathing, biting remarks that could rip deeply into whoever they were currently pissed off at, and she wanted to avoid allowing the situation to reach that point, at all costs.

“The character’s original name was Anderson. Thomas Anderson,” he stated, smiling as he watched Buffy’s brow wrinkle as she tried to recall where she had heard that name before.

It was clear the Slayer recognized that there was some significance to the name, but she couldn’t quite pin it down, and before she could do more, they were interrupted by Willow’s appearance, clad in a white sheet with ‘BOO!’ printed across the front of it.

“You guys ready to go?” she asked brightly, ignoring the tension evident between her two friends. She had seen these types of snits happening more and more frequently between her friends lately, and she felt that the best way to handle them, at least to her way of thinking, was to distract them from whatever it was they were sniping about.

“Sure…Casper,” Xander grinned at her, using the same nickname he had come up with seven years before, when she had shown up for the first time to go Halloween-ing with Xander and Jesse, an old sheet thrown over her head for lack of being able to decide on any other costume.

Removing the black wire rim sunglasses he had procured from the costume shop the previous day from an inside pocket of his long black coat, he slipped them on before opening the front door and indicating with a sweep of his hand that the girls should precede him.

“Well, ladies, shall we go find our own personal packs of barely civilized, squalling, sugar-hyped creatures of the night?” he smirked.

~~~

“Ethan’s” costume shop
Friday, October 31, 1997

Kneeling before the statue of Janus sitting atop the small pedestal he had built, Ethan pressed his hands together and winced slightly in pain as the spell he muttered took effect. Pulling his hands apart, he examined the wounds in his palms, and the blood flowing freely from them.

Nodding his satisfaction, he began chanting in Latin.

< “The world that denies thee, thou inhabit,” > he intoned as he dabbed the blood from his left hand with his right middle finger and smeared it over his right eyelid.

< “The peace that ignores thee,...” > he continued as he dabbed the blood from his right hand with his left middle finger and smeared it over his left eyelid, < “...thou corrupt.” >

He dabbed the blood from his left hand with his right middle finger again and smeared a cross onto his forehead.

< “Chaos, I remain, as ever, thy faithful, degenerate son,” > he declared as his gaze traveled from the woman's face on one side to the of the statue to the man's face on the other.

< “Janus, I invoke your spirit. Hear my plea. Seize the night for your own reason. Come, appear and show to us that which is infinite power.” >

The small glow that had surrounded the statue began to slowly brighten, suddenly flaring for a moment into a blinding glare before then subsiding to its previous level, leaving a smug and smiling worshipper behind it.

Outside the shop, a wave of blackness roared throughout Sunnydale, carrying away with it the consciousness of everyone who had purchased their costumes from the outwardly genteel Englishman, leaving behind and in control of their body the personality the costume’s wearer had sought to emulate.

“Showtime!”

~~~

The world stopped spinning and he opened his eyes to find himself – elsewhere.

At first glance, it looked as though he had been dropped into one of the generic small-to-medium-sized towns that seemed to be scattered across the whole of the United States, complete with the lushly landscaped lawns and tree-lined streets that he had never really seen before, in the flesh, so to speak. Numerous small, unfamiliar and very furry shapes were scurrying across the lawn, away from him, as he looked around, trying to find a familiar landmark

“Where in the world – “ he began, before his attention was drawn by the sounds of a woman screaming, followed by several gunshots. He immediately began heading towards the source of the sounds at top speed, while he drew one of his Beretta 92SFs, then cursed under his breath as he failed to find his cell phone.

“Just where the hell am I?” he asked, as he rounded a corner to see a truly surrealistic scene. A tall brunette dressed in black leather and holding pistols ready for use in both hands was standing next to a slightly shorter redhead who looked like a Bon Jovi groupie and who was babbling something about not shooting the children around them who were dressed up as monsters, while a petite black-haired woman in some ornate renaissance ballroom gown was gibbering insanely about demons, monsters and being a proper lady.

“Trin?” he called out in relief as he slowed his frantic pace slightly, while all three women turned at the sound of his voice.

“Neo?” the brunette replied, her face breaking out into a small smile when she saw him, and immediately headed towards him, the two women following her like ducklings trailing after a mother duck.

“Xander?!” the redhead exclaimed upon seeing him. “Oh thank god! I think I blacked out a couple minutes ago and after I woke up, it seems like everything around here’s going crazy! Cordelia’s thinks she’s someone named Trinity, and Buffy thinks she’s an eighteenth century noblewoman and a lot of school kids all got turned into demons like the costumes they were wearing and I turned into a ghost!” she added, apparently not needing to pause to breathe while she spoke. All in all, it was a fairly impressive display of elocution, she had Tank beat by a mile.

“We need to get in touch with Giles right away and get him to figure out what’s going on here,” she finished up as he joined their group.

“I’m sorry, but you seem to have mistaken me for someone else, miss,” he told her politely, as he scanned the area for any sign of Agents or other possible hostiles. “My name is Neo.”

The woman had been babbling nonstop as she headed towards him, but stopped her prattling as she saw him looking at her curiously.

“Sitrep?” he asked, ignoring her as he turned to Trinity. The statuesque brunette quickly holstered one pistol before reaching out and taking his hand as they both scanned their surroundings for any possible hostile activity.

“Last thing I know, we were headed for New York, for you to see the Oracle again,” the brunette beauty replied, squeezing his hand as she made her own scan of the area. “I started feeling dizzy, closed my eyes for a moment and when I opened them, I was here.”

“Do you have your cell phone with you?” he asked, relaxing the slightest bit as their initial evaluation of their environment revealed no obvious or immediate threats. “Mine’s missing.”

“Hold on and I’ll check,” Trinity replied, as she opened the belt pack at her waist. “Yes, my cell’s here,” she noted, holding it up for him to see.

“Xander?” the redhead was talking to him again, a bit hesitantly, as she looked at him, her eyes full of concern. “Oh no,” she muttered under her breath. “You’ve been affected, too.”

He noticed from the corner of his eye that she gave a shake of her head as she seemed to be talking to herself, then looked up at him again, her brow furrowed with determination.

“Xander – I mean, Neo,” she corrected herself. “You guys need to listen to me carefully, okay? There’s some sort of amnesia kind of thing going on right now that’s made everyone think they’re someone they really aren’t, and there’s some other really weird stuff going on, too, I think, because I got turned into a ghost. My name is Willow and that’s Buffy,” she indicated the third woman, who was whining about someone finding her father and her servants. ”She thinks she’s a noblewoman, but she really isn’t, you’re a really good friend of ours named Xander, and Trinity is really one of our classmates in school named Cordelia, and we all live in a small town in California called Sunnydale.”

The woman who was supposedly named ‘Buffy’ immediately began yelling stridently, insisting that she was, indeed, noble-born, quite chaste, and remonstrating the redhead for insinuating she might be otherwise.

“And I would never associate with a low-born trollop of a camp-follower such as her,” Neo could hear her insisting, before he ignored her and turned his attention back to the redhead.

“ – so, you guys need to find someplace to hide out while I go find Giles and get him figuring out what’s going on here,” Willow was saying. “And make sure you don’t kill anything, because they might just be kids turned into their costumes, okay?”

“I really don’t think you should be going anywhere by yourself, if what you say is true,” he told her. “Any of these creatures could attack you before you find your friend.”

“I’ll be fine. I’m a ghost, remember? Nothing can hurt me when I’m like this,” the redhead replied, waving her arm and passing it through him before turning and heading off down the street, leaving him staring in disconcerted surprise at her departing form.

“And remember, no killing any of the monsters!” she called over her shoulder before disappearing around a corner.

“Do you actually believe her story, Lover?” Trinity asked as they continued to scan the area while the annoying brunette continued babbling about the inappropriateness of Trinity’s clothing for attracting anything but the attention of ‘low-born thugs.’

“I’m not sure,” he answered honestly. “I really doubt she’s an Agent construct; her story is entirely too strange for an A.I. to have developed,” he judged. “And I can’t see anywhere around here that could hold the equipment needed to create a hologram sophisticated enough to interact with us the way that girl was doing.

“Until we have reason to believe otherwise, I’m inclined to accept her story as a possible hypothesis to explain where we are,” he concluded.

“So, what now?” Trinity asked him, trying to tune out Buffy’s annoying prattle.

“We find someplace to lay low, try to get in touch with the Nebuchadnezzar and figure out how we got here, and where ‘here’ is,” Neo replied. “And try not to kill any of the monsters unnecessarily, I guess.”

“ A DEMON! A DEMON!” Buffy screamed as she sought shelter behind Xander as a sport utility vehicle drove down the street with its headlights on.

“That's not a demon. It's a car,” Neo corrected the cowering woman, trying to dislodge the frantic and surprisingly strong death-grip she had on his arm.

“What does it want?”

“Is this woman insane?” Trinity asked, an expression of annoyance and disgust on her face at the smaller woman’s behavior.

“That’s as reasonable an explanation as anything I’ve heard, so far,” Neo agreed.

Two blocks over, several monsters chased people down the street past Spike, who simply stood by idly, watching.

“Well! This is just... neat!” he grinned, savoring the fear and confusion that seemed to permeate the night before he headed off to add his own brand of terror and suffering.

~~~

Elsewhere
An undefined position outside of local time and space

// Well, this is an interesting variant of the baseline, isn’t it? // the first being, who would appear to be a shifting globe of light if human senses were sensitive and sophisticated enough to detect it, communicated to its companion as they paused to observe the situation unfolding before them from their vantage point outside the normal time-space continuum.

// I suppose you could say that, // the second ball of light agreed. Focusing one of its twenty-six additional senses which human beings couldn’t even begin to comprehend the existence of, it ‘observed’ something for several moments before letting out the equivalent of a sigh and continuing, // It doesn’t significantly alter this dimension’s ultimate fate, though. This whole continuum’s existence ceases in little more than a decade by their method of time-keeping. //

// A shame, // the first being noted, // this species contains the potential to Ascend to a state approaching our own. Interaction with such would have proven quite fascinating. //

// It is still possible that they could achieve Ascension, // the second being observed, a note of interest in its ‘voice.’ // A minor adjustment to the situation here could produce consequences far exceeding the effort expended, and offer this species the opportunity they will never find, as things currently stand. //

// I strongly doubt that, // the first being scoffed with what might be called faint amusement at the other’s suggestion.

// Would you care to make a wager on that? // the second asked, obviously stung by its companion’s disagreement.

// As a matter of fact, I would, // came the reply. // My k’weelon collection against your collection of third-level disharmonics. //

// What parameters shall we establish? //

// No overt interference that these beings might detect, // came the reply. // No providing any of these creatures with powers or abilities greater than that currently possessed by any other member of their species; no gifting any of the creatures with any type of artifact that could provide an overwhelming advantage to them; and you may only affect one creature. //

// Oh, come now. Can you not see how the destinies of these two creatures in particular are interwoven? // the second being indicated a specific pair to its companion.

// Very well, // the other agreed. // But only those two, agreed? //

// That is acceptable, // the originator of the idea agreed. // And neither of us nor any of our agents will interfere further in the development of this timeline, // it added its own restrictions.

// Done! // the first entity instantly agreed. // If we are agreed on the conditions, then you may begin. What alterations do you intend to make? //

// They are relatively minor changes, // the second replied. // The pair indicated will retain all of the memories, skills and abilities they gained as a result of the alteration they underwent at the instigation of another of their kind. Further, the smaller one will retain the ability to contact the Morpheus entity and other members of the group with which they currently believe they are associated. //

// It will be able to request support from that group a maximum of three times. //

// *Physical* support will be provided no more than three times. Requests for information, however – downloading, I believe they call it – may be made at any time and as often as desired. //

// Agreed. //

// Very well. Let the game begin. //

// Proceed. //

~~~

“Why don’t you try to contact Morpheus, now,” Neo suggested to Trinity as they made their way along one of the neighborhood streets, the aggravatingly arrogant and astonishingly helpless brunette walking between them, an endless stream of air-headed drivel continuing to pour from her mouth.

Nodding her agreement as she mentally shut out the woman’s whining, Trinity thumbed the speed-dial button and listened to the reassuring buzz signifying that the phone at the other end of line was ringing.

“Operator,” a familiar voice on the other end stated as someone picked up the phone.

“Tank? Neo and I have a major problem here,” she exclaimed, a note of urgency evident in her voice. “I know we’re supposed to be in New York City right now, but unless the city’s done some *major* renovations done in the last hour and a half, we’ve ended up somewhere completely different.”

“Trinity? Where are you guys? And what happened? You left here with Morpheus for that meeting with the Oracle, but you disappeared somewhere along the way, and we can’t locate you guys anywhere in the network! I didn’t think that was possible!” The Nebuchadnezzar’s pilot’s relief at talking to her was evident in his voice as he informed the brunette of the current situation.

“We’re not sure exactly where we are, Tank,” Trinity immediately admitted. “It looks like we’re in some small town somewhere in California, but we’re not sure yet, and things are *extremely* strange here. One of the residents we talked to said the town is called Sunnydale, but she was kind of strange, too, so I wouldn’t take that as gospel. Can you check and see if there really is such a place?” she requested

“Will do, Trin,” he immediately agreed. “Morpheus is on his way back, and he said the Oracle was pretty upset about you two disappearing, and had no idea about what could have happened to you. Which is another first, I think.”

“Well, while you try and find out about Sunnydale, Neo and I will –“ Trinity broke off as she heard Neo curse, and turned to see a dozen small furry creatures that resembled nothing so much as dwarven grizzly bears carrying spears swarming towards them, either following or chasing something that appeared to be a seven foot tall humanoid lizard, which was currently headed towards her lover, who was busy trying to protect the loudly screaming and cowering ‘Buffy.’

“Damn! Tank, we’re under attack! Call you back later!” she told their teammate, as she rushed to assist the tall brunet.

~~~

“Are you sure she came this way?” Neo asked as he picked his way down the trash-strewn alleyway.

“No. Not at all,” Trinity shook her head. “I was busy trying to not kill any of those furry little things that attacked us, the way that Willow girl asked us to do, and when I turned around, she was gone.”

“Who do you suppose this Buffy girl really is? This – Willow – said she’s not normally useless and helpless like this,” the tall brunet said, unaware of the small group of demons gathered on the other side of the wall separating the local warehouse lots.

Finding no trace of their quarry, the two searchers then moved on to the next block in their hunt for the missing brunette.

“Well now, do you hear that, my friends?” Spike smiled at the assembled monsters as he considered the news they had just heard. “Somewhere out here is the *tenderest* meat you've *ever* tasted, and all *we* have to do is find her first!”

~~~

Neo grabbed hold of the ersatz pirate who was attempting to molest the cowering brunette and casually slammed him against the large metal warehouse door, the impact producing a hollow ‘Thhoooommm!’ as though someone were pounding on a large drum.

As the pirate blinked in dazed confusion, Neo slammed him into the door a second time, before sending him sprawling into a large pile of trash that had accumulated at the end of the alleyway.

“That felt really good for some reason,” he commented reflectively as he turned back to the two women.

“Neo, we’ve got company,” Trinity announced, looking up to see an advancing group of demons as she checked over the blubbering, terror-stricken girl they had charge of.

At the head of the oncoming crowd of monstrosities was a rather small bleached-blonde man in a black leather duster, a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, who seemed to be focusing the majority of his attention on the cringing girl

“Well now, look at what we’ve got here. The all-powerful Slayer, her lapdog and a really tasty-looking little tidbit, too,” Spike sneered as he gazed at the three people his crowd of faux-demons had trapped in the dead end passage.

“The mighty Slayer,” he mocked the sniveling girl. “Look at you. Shaking. Terrified. Alone. Lost little lamb. I’m gonna love every second of draining you, luv,” he smiled, as he shifted to his game face.

“I think we could probably forget about the ‘no killing unnecessarily’ rule here, don’t you, Neo?” Trinity said coolly, as she drew one of her Beretta Cheetahs and let it dangle at her side.

“Take Buffy and get her out of here while I distract these clowns, okay, Trin?” Neo said, as he removed his sunglasses and carefully stored them in an inside pocket of his coat. “I’ll catch up with you in a couple minutes.”

“Well, I’ll be damned,” the Bleached Wonder laughed as he saw the boy he recognized as one of the Slayer’s minions move forward to stand between the currently helpless Slayer and the crowd of demons filling the alleyway. “The lapdog seems to think his bite can actually slow us down the slightest bit.”

“Get moving, Trin,” the tall brunet instructed his lover, who reluctantly nodded her acquiescence to his direction.

Without a word, the leather-clad brunette beauty pulled the trembling, smaller woman to her feet, then grabbed her and casually tossed her over her shoulder, receiving an outraged shriek from her burden, before she turned and ran diagonally up the alley wall behind them to disappear across the neighboring building’s roof.

“How –“ Spike began as he stared with disbelieving eyes at what he and his would-be minions had just seen happen.

“Never mind that, go get them! Find the Slayer, and that other bint, too!” he bellowed with rage as he realized his prize had just been stolen from him.

“But don’t kill her!” he ordered. “Catch her and then wait for me. I’ll be along to take care of her personally as soon as I deal with this wanker, here,” he said, as the mini-demons all scurried away to search for the escaped women.

“No,” Neo said quietly, the faintest bit of a smile playing across his lips, as he dropped back into a classic Kung Fu defensive stance, “I don’t think you will.”

With his left hand extended, he motioned to Spike in the classic ‘bring-it-on’ gesture, then simply waited.

“I’m going to enjoy this, whelp,” the vampire smiled, then rushed forward to overpower the youth and drive him to the ground, where he would disembowel him, then leave him to bleed out, the unspoken implication that he wasn’t even worthy enough to drain being the ultimate insult a vampire could render.

Contrary to his expectations, though, Spike not only didn’t bowl the boy over, he found himself flying through the air to impact face-first against the warehouse wall that the boy’s companion had run up while carrying the befuddled Slayer.

Shaking his head to clear it of both the shock from the impact and the surprise he felt at the result of his attack, the demon turned to find the Slayer’s lapdog waiting and watching with the same imperturbable expression he had been wearing a moment before.

Moving a bit more cautiously, Spike approached the youth again, examining the fighting stance he had assumed. After deciding that the boy had taken a bit of martial arts training, he lashed out a feint with his right hand that was instantly followed by a quick kick to the youth’s lead knee and a slashing attack with his left hand, only to find himself unbalanced and falling forward as both his kick and slash attack encountered only air.

Indeed, as he moved forward, involuntarily following the momentum of his body, he felt a hand grasp his right arm, pulling it forward and turning it over to lock out his elbow, as blinding pain suddenly exploded, first in his shoulder and then, a fraction of a second later, in his elbow.

As a harsh scream erupted from his lips, an overwhelming force suddenly impacted at the base of his neck and he could feel the vertebrae there shattering under the irresistible force that was driving him face first to the asphalt beneath him.

He hit the street hard and lay there, unable to move a finger, or even curse the person responsible for his condition. The sound of footsteps grew closer until he could see the black tactical boots the wanker had been wearing stop next to his face, and a quiet voice addressed him.

“I promised someone I wouldn’t kill anyone tonight, which is the *only* reason you’re still here,” the brunet informed him. “I don’t like breaking promises.

“The next time I see you will be the last,” the voice prophesied, and the steel manifest in the boy’s tones was reinforced by the vampire’s own silent vow that only one of them would survive their next encounter.

As he lay there helplessly, listening to the receding sound of the boy’s footsteps, he began trying to figure out how he would survive the rest of the night and, more importantly, the coming dawn.

~~~

Sunnydale high School Library
Later that night

“ - and then Cordelia grabbed me, threw me over her shoulder and ran up the wall and across the roof of the next building like she was Spiderman or something!”

The Slayer’s voice was loud and more than a bit excited, making it difficult to determine whether she was angry about her rather cavalier treatment by the possessed Cordelia or simply upset and embarrassed by her behavior as the incompetent and rather pathetic noblewoman she had been turned into, earlier in the evening.

< Goes to show what believing romance novels will get you, > Buffy thought glumly.

The subject of the Slayer’s report was sitting quietly off to one side in the library, her fingers nervously tapping on the arm of the chair in which she was seated, her gaze constantly moving and traveling around the room, before inevitably returning to the other black-clad would-be Halloween reveler, whose chocolate-brown eyes had remained steadily focused on her for the entirety of the Scooby Gang’s reports.

Each time their eyes had met, the head cheerleader had immediately looked away, only to eventually return to meet his quiet and steady gaze, before blushing, breaking away and repeating the entire cycle again.

He and Cordelia were definitely going to have to talk, Xander had decided. That kiss they were sharing when the spell broke was more than just the casual smooch of two people who had been barely dating. Much more.

The fact that Cordelia hadn’t instantly pulled away from him, once they had regained control of themselves, made him wonder if she, too, was wondering if it was possible they might find something more than they expected in each other.

“ – you have anything to add to Buffy’s account, Xander?” the male Scooby’s attention was diverted as he realized that Giles had asked him a question.

“Well, aside from the fond memories I have of Buffy hiding behind me and screaming ‘Demon!’ the first time she saw a car,” he grinned, ignoring the thousand watt glare the Slayer was giving him for reminding her of her less-than-courageous behavior, “the only other thing I’d care to mention, was that I remember kicking the snot out of Spike when we fought, and leaving him lying in the street before I went looking for Buffy and Cordelia.

“I just wish we could have woken up sooner, because when I went back to finish him off, he was gone,” he added sourly as an afterthought. “Deadboy was right, he is a slippery bastard.”

“You what!? That’s impossible, Xander! I’d have a hard time taking Spike down!”

“Are you kidding, Xander? He’s a vampire, he’d rip you apart!”

“Excuse me, but what did you just say?”

The obvious shock and disbelief in the faces of Buffy, Willow and Giles at his statement was counterbalanced by the calm recognition and acknowledgement of his abilities Xander could see in Cordelia’s eyes as she watched him.

“Feel up to a little demonstration of what happened to Spike, Buff?” he smiled slightly as he got up from the chair in which he had been slouching, divesting himself of his black duster and revealing the very real paired Beretta 92FS pistols he still carried in a twin shoulder rig.

The amused smile on Cordelia’s face as he issued the challenge assured him that at least one person present didn’t doubt his capabilities any more.

It would be interesting to see if Cordelia also had retained any of her possessor’s memories the way that he had, he thought to himself as he assumed a modified Shao-lin Dragon-form defensive stance in the cleared space where Buffy usually practiced.

Especially the ones that occurred after Neo had returned, subsequent to Agent Smith’s killing him in the ‘Heart of the City' hotel, he smiled to himself.

Trinity had called to him, to Neo, and he had come back from death at her urging. It might sound hokey, but the two of them belonged together, were a part of each other’s very souls.

And he realized now, after having seen and felt just what a connection like that could be, that he wasn’t about to let anyone or anything stand in the way of his finding out if something like that could happen between him and Cordelia.

“Ready anytime you are, Buffster,” he grinned.

Yes, indeed.

Things were going to get real interesting, real soon now.

~~~

Cordelia Chase, undisputed queen of the Sunnydale High School social hierarchy, still could hardly trust her eyes as she watched Xander Harris, high school dweeb, loser and self-proclaimed class clown, dodge the initial, somewhat lackadaisical attacks Buffy had thrown at him with almost contemptuous ease, the perpetual sardonic grin on his face as he did so quite obviously aggravating the already irritated Slayer.

Despite the memories she retained from Trinity of Neo’s martial skills, Cordy could scarcely believe that this was the same Xander Harris, who, up until earlier tonight, had seemed to have really pissed off whatever Fates were in charge of handing out the shit assignments in life.

The same Xander Harris who seemed to go out of his way to aggravate her and shoot holes in the shields she had erected around herself to protect her from the world around her.

The same Xander Harris she had found herself wrapped around and heatedly exchanging saliva with, when the spell that had been controlling them earlier in the evening had evaporated and left her silently cursing its abrupt departure.

While Giles and Willow watched in stupefied amazement, the statuesque cheerleader watched with more than just a little satisfaction as the brunet Slayerette effortlessly evaded the Slayer’s every attack as he demonstrated some of the new skills he had apparently retained after the abrupt departure of the person possessing him earlier in the evening.

All three onlookers observed silently as the blonde demon-fighter’s frustration became more evident with each passing moment that her opponent continued to easily evade her increasingly more determined efforts to tag him, all the while acting as though he were expending no more effort than he would shelving books for Giles.

The defining moment, however, came when the tall brunet let out a small snort, apparently of amusement, as he casually redirected one of Buffy’s punches and used the same effortless motion to guide her into a controlled tumble to the floor.

The narrow-eyed look of rage on the blonde’s face as she instantly rolled and regained her feet prior to launching a full-power, no-holds-barred attack against her opponent made both Giles, who had become thoroughly familiar with Buffy’s various expressions and moods in the course of training her, and Cordelia, who was using the memories she had inherited to read the seemingly-delicate beauty’s body language, both begin to cry out a warning to her opponent.

Neither alarm had reached more than the first syllable, though, when Xander suddenly seemed to *blur* for the briefest fraction of a second, his movement instantly followed by the somewhat muted thud! of a body impacting the library floor. All three could then hear Xander’s words attempting to placate a visibly pissed off Slayer.

“Calm down for a moment, Buffy, and I’ll let you up, okay?” he was saying to her, as he stood above her, his left foot positioned between her shoulder blades to hold her down on the floor while he maintained his grip on her right arm, which was twisted up and behind her in a straight-armed position, secured in an obviously painful shoulder lock.

As Xander was so competently demonstrating, with the proper leverage, massive differences in strength could be easily offset.

“Let me go, Xander!” the diminutive blonde demanded angrily, as she squirmed around in a futile attempt to gain her freedom.

“Not until you promise to cool off, Buff-meister,” the tall brunet reiterated as he maintained his hold on the irate Slayer’s wrist.

“Look, I’m sorry for provoking you like that, Buff, but I really needed you to not hold back when you attacked me if I was going to show you exactly what I can do, now,” he apologized/explained to the glaring young woman.

“Al right, Xan, I promise to cool off,” Buffy finally, reluctantly gritted out once she realized she was unable to break the hold without dislocating her shoulder.

“I say, Xander, don’t you think that, uh –“ Giles had begun to say, before Cordy broke in and interrupted him.

“Giles, you *know* that Little Miss Likes-To-Fight here doesn’t really pay attention to anyone unless they’re either tall, dark and deceased, or trying to kill her,” the black-leather clad brunette stated unequivocally.

“Dweeb-boy, here, was just trying to get her attention, so all of you guys would actually listen to what he was saying!” she finished up, ignoring the glares Buffy and Willow were throwing her way at her less-than-flattering summary of the Slayer’s attention span.

“Be that as it may, Cordelia, I do think that Xander could have managed to, uhm, inform us of his, uhm, enhanced capabilities in a less dramatic manner,” the librarian replied, his forehead furrowed as he tried to consider all the ramifications the night’s events entailed.

”Look, Giles, we’re gonna head on out for home,” the Watcher/librarian heard his Slayer saying, as he looked up to find all four teens making their way out of the library.

“Yeah. It’s been a long night and there’re a couple gallons of Double Chocolate Swirl ice cream in the freezer calling my name,” Cordelia announced as she led their way out.

“Wait a moment, please!” Giles called after the departing foursome. “I’d like to see all of you here again in the morning, if at all possible. So that we can further determine the scope and extent of the abilities you’ve retained,” he explained.

He satisfied himself with the reluctant assents he heard echoing back to him from the hallway before turning his thoughts back to possible explanations as to why only the two brunets had retained the memories and abilities of the two allegedly fictional characters that had possessed them earlier in the evening.

~~~

Once outside the confines of the library, the four teens’ conversation immediately turned back to the earlier events of the evening.

“I’m telling you, guys, it was just frelling incredible!” Xander was saying as he related the ease with which his alter ego had dispatched Spike during their confrontation. "It was just like they showed in the movie, the way everything seemed to slow down once the fighting actually started!”

Hearing that statement, Buffy stopped in her tracks.

“Wait a minute, Xand!” she exclaimed, reaching out to grab his arm. “What do you mean, ‘everything started to slow down, once the fighting actually started’? Do you mean you weren’t moving at your top speed all during the fight?” she asked, a combination of amazement, doubt and dismay on her face, along with the slightest bit of indignation.

“Well, uhm, I wouldn’t put it exactly like that, Buff,” he equivocated, a bit uncomfortable as he realized that he had apparently just dinged the Slayer’s already battered ego and self-image yet again with his comment.

“Yeah, Buffy, that's exactly what he meant,” Cordelia immediately chimed in with her typical lack of diplomacy.

“Even Willow and Giles could see that when the two of you were fighting! Xander wasn’t moving anywhere near his top speed until he actually took you down,” the cheerleader casually informed the somewhat distraught Slayer.

“Will?” Buffy turned to the redhead for a supportive denial of their classmate’s assessment, only to be met with a confusion of incomplete phrases.

“Well, Buffy, I – you see – it really looked – it was so fast that – I’m not exactly sure –“ tumbled haphazardly out of the hacker’s mouth, leaving a trail of incoherency in their wake.

“How about I walk Cordelia home, and you make sure Wills gets home okay, huh, Buff?” Xander immediately broke in, attempting to derail any additional commentary regarding the events of the evening.

Looping his arm with Cordelia’s, he quickly turned the two of them down the first intersecting street they encountered, as he waved an anxious goodbye to the other two Scoobies.

”We’ll see you guys tomorrow morning at the library! Have a nice evening,” he choked out as he moved the brutally candid brunette on his arm away from their two companions at a pace just short of a dead run.

“So…just how much do you remember?” Xander asked after a few minutes, finally breaking the not-really-that-awkward silence that had enveloped them as they had strolled down the street.

A quick glance over at the intense expression of the man walking next to her dissuaded Cordelia from any attempts at avoiding the true intent of his query.

“Pretty much everything,” she admitted quietly. “My – I mean, Trinity’s entire ‘life’ before Morpheus freed her from the artificial womb complex, her life after that, meeting and rescuing Neo, and everything up to a point shortly past the end of the movie.

“Although, there are some significant differences in what *I* remember from what the movie showed.” Cordelia frowned as she gave some thought to the dissimilarities she could find as she sorted through the memories she still held.

“Yeah, I remember some things differently, too, now that you mention it,” Xander agreed as he, too, began to examine the residual memories he possessed.

“The womb system doesn’t absorb a person’s thermal energy, like they said it did in the movie,” Cordelia noted thoughtfully, as she evaluated the information she was drawing from the disparate memories left behind by Trinity. “From what I can see from Trinity’s memories, it really seems like the system is more designed to tap into a person’s unconscious or subconscious mind.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Xander agreed as he sorted through his own recollection of Neo’s life, both before and after being ‘Unplugged.’ “And according to the calculations Neo made, there’s no way the ‘Sleepers’ could provide enough energy to keep the Machine civilization running,” he commented. “It takes more energy to keep a person alive in one of the wombs than they give off in body heat and kinetic energy.

“Weird,” he shrugged, as he turned his attention to address other, more important matters. He noted that Cordelia still hadn’t really looked directly at him since leaving the school.

“I am so *definitely* not Neo, and you are most certainly not Trinity,” he announced quite decisively as he looked at the sidewalk straight ahead of them, while watching Cordelia’s reactions with his peripheral vision. “So we need to make sure that we don’t mistake any feelings that they had for each other, for feelings we might mistakenly think we could have for each other,” he cautioned the statuesque brunette.

“Yeah, you’re definitely right about that,” Cordelia immediately agreed with him, her own eyes apparently locked on the area right in front of her feet, too. “We don’t have anything in common with them, at all!

“Well, not counting the whole ‘fighting the overwhelming forces of evil out to control the world we live in’ similarities, anyway,” she reluctantly pointed out.

“Yeah,” Xander nodded his agreement with the cheerleader’s statement. “Aside from that, the only things you and Trinity have in common are the facts that you’re both brave, you’ve helped rescue people in trouble lots of times, you’re both gorgeous, and you both look incredibly hot in black leather.” The current sole male Slayerette had stopped walking, and was now simply staring at the black clad brunette as he enumerated the similarities between the two women.

Cordelia had stopped walking also when Xander had begun speaking, and she turned to face him as she replied.

“Well, if you don’t count the fact that you both ignored practically certain death to go rescue someone you knew and cared about, and the whole ‘rescuing people in trouble thing,’ you really don’t have anything in common with Neo, either,” she told him, ”except that you don’t look too shabby in black leather, either,” Cordelia smiled up at him as they looked into each other’s eyes.

“So, we’re certain that we’re not attracted to each other because of any feelings that Trinity or Neo had for each other, then,” Xander said, as he began leaning in towards his childhood nemesis.

“Yeah, we’re definitely not attracted to each other because of anything like that,” Cordelia agreed, turning her face up towards the guy who had gone out of his way to aggravate her innumerable times since they had first met in kindergarten.

“We’re not even really attracted to each other, at all,” she said softly as she closed her eyes in anticipation of what was to come.

“Yep. Not attracted to each other in the slightest,” Xander affirmed her words, as he closed his eyes and gently pressed his lips against Cordelia’s.

The kiss was warm and full of promise and they instantly closed the space separating them, as Cordelia’s arms encircled Xander’s neck while his entwined around her waist to draw her tightly against him.

The two self-appointed demon fighters remained like that, clinging closely to one another until they finally, very unwillingly, pulled apart enough to let Cordelia answer the insistent ringing of her cell phone.

“This had better be incredibly important,” she half-snarled as she put the phone to her ear, the majority of her attention still focused on the lips she was now eying hungrily, “or I am *so* gonna make your life hell for interrupting us! Me, I mean! For interrupting me!” she quickly corrected her statement.

“Is this Cordelia Chase?” she heard a vaguely familiar voice asking.

“Yes, it is,” the leather clad beauty snapped irritably. “Who is this?”

“We sort of met earlier tonight,” the voice replied. “My name is Trinity.”

FIN

To be continued (eventually) in “Lies and Other Fun Games We Play”

The End

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