Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy or Quantum Leap. Dialogue from Halloween and the Leap Home Part 2 are used in this story.
Warnings: Language and a racial slur
Fandoms: Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Quantum Leap
Series: The Unsolved Mysteries of Xander Harris - Unsolved Mystery #2: Where was Xander’s mind really at during the Halloween costume fiasco?
Follows: Leaping Hand
Beta: Thanks azraelz_angel
Summary: Seeing the death of vampires, demons and other creatures of the night did not compare to the gruesome, all too human death inside the wreckage.
Set During the Following Episodes:
Leap Home: Part 2 (Vietnam) – April 7, 1970
Halloween – October 31, 1997
Crossposted: i_need_a_parrot; twsthellmouth
April 5, 1970
The percussion of the rocket taking off the tail of the chopper rang through his body. It was as if someone had cut him open, poured acid in the open wound and stitched it shut. They were right; everyone who ever said your life flashed before you in that split second before death. He saw his childhood interlaced over top his team, his friends dying. He saw Beth, dear sweet Beth, her face a mirror of anguish as she was told he was shot down in Vietnam. Time did not exist anymore. Even the deafening roar of the chopper pounding into the foreign soil did not register. All he saw was Beth’s face, tears in her eyes, as he faded into unconsciousness.
October 31, 1997
Xander spun around in the street at the sound of children screaming. He held the toy gun in a defensive manner even though it would do him no good against whatever the Hellmouth had decided to spew forth. It was then that he felt it; that familiar tug against his mind that meant something else was trying to come inside. Perhaps he was becoming sensitive to the signs, having experienced it twice before, because he thought he could hold it off this time. Thought he could keep the intruder at bay. As he bent over, staring at the asphalt below his feet, he lost the battle. All he saw was darkness.
A moment later in Sunnydale…
His eyes opened up. Feeling the familiar weight of the gun in his hand he pulled it up to chest as a wave of disorientation moved over him. There were screams echoing all around and, god help him, the last thing he remembered was the sounds and smells from the crashing helicopter. At least, he thought that was where he had been. Who was he? He could not remember even the simplest fact about himself, just the helicopter and the face of some lovely woman.
Turning around, he saw… Well, he couldn’t quite describe what he saw. It wasn’t natural. It was short and green with horns coming out of its head. ‘In battle, one must shoot to kill,’ his mind supplied. ‘But how do I know whose fuckin’ side I’m on?’ he questioned back at himself. With no answer forthcoming, he settled for warning shots in the air. It seemed to work as the ‘thing’ ran off down the street.
“Xander!” a very feminine voice carried over the chaos. “It’s me, Willow!”
He spun around to see, for lack of a better word, a hooker standing in front of him. She had this short red top that revealed too much at the top and even more at the bottom leaving little to the imagination. The extremely short, leather skirt exposed a nice set of legs. Despite a nagging feeling that it was dirty of him to ogle her in that manner, he couldn’t help but look.
With his gun still trained on her, unsure of the situation, he brought his eyes up to meet hers. “I don’t know any Willow,” he responded in a clipped, military tone.
“Xander, quit messing around. This is no time for jokes,” the redhead held her hands up in a defensive measure.
With his memory still shot, he decided to question the streetwalker. “What the hell’s going on here?”
“You don’t know me?” She sounded scared and just as confused as he was.
Taking the chance that she was a friendly he pulled the gun back. “Lady, I suggest you find cover,” he told her as he started to head down the street. This situation had gone fubar and he felt the need to help.
She flung her hands up in an attempt to stop him and cried out, “No! Wait!”
Then, to their utter amazement, he walked right through her body. There was no way in hell he was in Kansas anymore. This had to be hell. He died in a helicopter crash, that was the only thing his mind remembered for sure, and now he was in hell. He flung the gun back in preparation to fight for the rest of his undead life. “What are you?” he asked in a quiet voice.
Vietnam, After the Crash…
The smell of gasoline and smoke burned through his nostrils and down his throat. With a gagging cough, he woke at once. Immediately, he closed his eyes again. Something was wrong, something had gone horribly wrong.
Cracking his eyes open with more caution this time Xander noticed he was surrounded by smoke and twisted metal. He felt something dripping down his face and reached his hand up to wipe at it. He fingers came back soaked with blood. Then the problem hit him; those weren’t his fingers, it wasn’t his hand, this wasn’t his body. ‘Oh god!’ his mind screamed out. ‘I’m not me again.’
In an attempt to move from his resting place, he noticed more blood coming from cuts across his borrowed body. He felt the pain like he had just been run over by a truck, a truck that had backed up afterward for good measure. Crawling precariously through the smoldering metal and smoke, he saw an opening and headed for it.
Once free of the metal, he took ragged deep breaths. The fumes were still present, still burning his lungs, but at least he was free of the wreckage. Rolling over on his back, he saw a sight that would haunt him forever. Hanging half in, half out of the wreckage was a man, or what was left of him. The sight of the man’s torn, twisted body sent Xander’s control out the door. He rolled back over and heaved the contents from his borrowed stomach onto the ground. Seeing the death of vampires, demons and other creatures of the night did not compare to the gruesome, all too human death inside the wreckage.
He was soon left with an empty feeling and dry heaves making his throat go raw. ‘Wait,’ he thought, ‘not my throat.’ He rocked back as the gravity of the situation washed over him. He was trapped in someone else’s body in an unknown place. “Oh god… Where am I? Who am I?” The unfamiliar voice greeted his ears.
Then a choking cough startled him from the worry he was spiraling into. “Bing-“ the voice was cut off by another rack of coughs, “Bingo? Is that you man?”
Not sure if he was the ‘Bingo’ the other man was looking for, he gave a cough instead and started making his way toward the voice. He kept his head firmly in the opposite direction of the dead body in the wreckage behind him.
“What happened?” he forced out of his borrowed throat as he drew closer to the other man.
“The fuckin’ gooks shot us down, Bingo!” Xander cringed at the vehemence in the other man’s voice but feeling the pain, seeing the dead body and finally noticing the blood soaked leg of the other man, he couldn’t care less.
“What do we do, Sir?” Xander hesitantly said, hoping the man in front of him was a commanding officer.
“You’re getting the fuck out of here. We should be a few miles north of the line. You grab what’s left and get your ass over that line.”
Xander stumbled backward from the shove the officer had given him. He risked a glance around the burning chopper and then toward the direction the man had pointed where, for lack of a better description, a jungle waited for him. Then he looked back at the rapidly bleeding leg of the man and felt a strong urge to try to save him. He knew that the officer would not survive on his own. He also knew that he wasn’t likely to survive on his own for long either.
“With all due respect, Sir,” Xander started out, “I’m not leaving you behind.”
“Damn it Bingo! I can’t get two fuckin’ feet from that burning shit behind us. I’m already dead. You can get out of here. Get back to that girl of yours you’re always talking about. Live.”
Xander felt tears building in his eyes as a brief flash of a woman he didn’t know crossed his eyes. “I--"
The officer cut him off with a look. “Stop thinking and get the fuck out of here. Head south about two miles and you should make it. Just keep your head down and no diddy-bopping.”
“Understood,” Xander said gruffly even though he wondered what the man meant by diddy-bobbing.
Thirty minutes later, Xander was fervently wishing he had stayed with the burning chopper. He was lost in the middle of a jungle, in the middle of the damn Vietnam War.
“If only I’d paid more attention in history,” Xander mumbled to himself as he sliced another finger on a razor sharp piece of grass. He sucked the bleeding finger into his mouth and winced at the taste of blood mixed with dirt and fuel from the chopper.
‘Hope this doesn’t turn me into a vamp,’ he thought just before a sharp pain tore through his arm and sent him crashing to the ground.
He wasn’t sure how long he lay on the hard ground, grasping at the bleeding wound on his upper arm. Finally, he heard voices above and around him but he couldn’t make out what was being said. The words were fast and garbled in a foreign language.
Then arms were tugging at him, forcing him to his feet. He cried out in agony as one of the arms squeezed his wound. The cry earned him the butt of a gun to his jaw and he slumped back to the ground. He was pulled back up and the hands were there again, tying a strip of cloth around his injured arm and then tying his hands together in front of him. The hands divested any potential weapon he was carrying and then there were more unknown commands and a gun poking his back, urging him forward.
Only the gun to his back kept him from stopping. The gun poked and he stumbled over the jungle surface for what he felt was a death march.
Hours later, they were joined by others who had their own prisoners in tow. Xander found himself being marched in line with other American soldiers. Some were cursing their captors and receiving blows to the head for their defiance. Others were quiet and had tears mixing with the dirt and blood on their faces. Xander wasn’t sure what he felt. Over the past year, he had faced death many times but the situation he was in now was so far out of his normal routine, that his mind was having trouble coping. Demons and vampires he could understand. They killed because it was their nature. They were soulless. Humans doing the things he was witnessing and experiencing to other humans was too hard to comprehend.
With those thoughts he in mind, he turned his head slightly to avoid looking at the blood torn shirt of the soldier in front of him. When he did, his eyes connected with the eyes of a woman holding a camera. Before he had a chance for the shock of seeing her to set in, there was a white flash and he found himself holding a toy gun pointed at Spike with vague memories of the chaos of Halloween night mingled with the all too real memories of crashing and being captured in Vietnam.
Over the following months, sleep did not come easily at night. Every time he closed his eyes he remembered the smells, the dead body, the pain as the bullet tore through his arm. He would wake up in a cold sweat and never get back to sleep. He took to spending time in the library outside of normal, looking through books about Vietnam.
One night, he was browsing a book containing prominent photographs from the war when he stopped short on a picture of a soldier facing the camera as he was marched in line with others to a prison camp. He had never seen what he looked like during his out-of-body trip, but he knew the look in the eyes of the man in the picture and knew that it had been him in that brief moment captured on film.
He looked under the picture and noticed the photographer’s name was Maggie Dawson and the additional note stated she was awarded a Pulitzer posthumously.
Vietnam with the Prisoners
Al ‘Bingo’ Calavicci blinked to clear the burning from his eyes and gasped when he felt the gun poking at his back. A minute before he could have sworn he had been in some city warehouse surrounded by monsters and now he was on a prisoner march with his hands tied and burning sensation in his arm.
The only thing his mind could supply was that he had slipped away rather than facing the reality of what was to come. He wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or bad, but he hoped that he could keep his mind intact through all he was about to endure…
Still in Vietnam at the Bar…
Sam sat in the chair as he thought over the results his actions in the past had caused. He had saved his brother’s life, but in return, Maggie Dawson had lost hers.
Tom was looking through the Maggie’s last pictures when Sam heard him speak up. “She was one helluva photographer.”
“She was one helluva woman,” Colonel Grimwald added.
“And I killed her,” Sam said quietly as he took a sip of his drink.
“No I did,” the Colonel corrected.
Tom looked as if he was going to slap both of them when he said, “Oh stop it, both of you.”
Al had been standing quietly beside Sam looking at his handheld when he asked Sam a question. "What did she say to you that time in the bunker?"
Sam gave a small smile as he spoke up, "She said she'd sell her soul for a Pulitzer."
“Not just her soul,” the Colonel added.
“Yeah, well I wish she’d have got it,” Tom said.
“She did,” Al said, even though Sam was the only who could hear him.
“What?” Sam said and had a confused Tom looking at him.
"The Pulitzer. I wish she'd have won the Pulitzer prize,” his brother said.
“She did,” Al elaborated for Sam. “For her last photograph.”
Sam grabbed the pictures from his brother Tom and spread them out on the bar, looking for her last photograph. What he found shocked him. Staring back at the camera was a younger version of Al being led with others as prisoners of the VC. They had been so close to saving those men and he had just learned that Al had been one of the prisoners. His heart clenched with the desire to run back to that jungle and save the man from the horrors he had to being going through, had went through. He finally looked up at Al, the question he wanted to ask clear in his eyes.
Al gave a wane smile as he said, “What the hell? I get repatriated in five years.”
Sam all but whispered, “You could have been free.”
“I was free. Up here,” Al said as he tapped his head, “I was always free.”