Picture on the Wall
Title: Picture on the Wall
Author: Jinni (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Genre: BtVS/LXG Crossover.
Disclaimer: All copyrights remain firmly in the hands of their copyright holders. This is not me, of course. I get no money from writing this fic.
Distribution: The normal people. You know who you are.
Author's Note: I tried to deny the muses for as long as I could. I told them that I couldn't start another new fic. . . They didn't listen to me, of course.
Notes2: Takes place after LXG movie, in present times. Exception - Dorian did not die. This means, of course, that everyone from the movie except Dorian and Mina would be dead. Don't expect to see the others . . . they'd be far too ancient to make things interesting, assuming they lived to old age. For that matter. . . don’t necessarily expect to see Mina, either. As for BtVS - AU timeline. Dawn exists. Giles is back in England and Anya runs the magic shop. Tara did not exist. The events of season six/seven did not happen. I may possibly play with the very nature of the Dorian Grey story entirely. . .so don’t kill me if I do.
"You've got a . . . box!"
Willow looked up from the book in her lap, throwing a grin in the direction of the man in the doorway. "Anya's in the back, Xan."
As if saying her name was a summons, the former vengeance demon swept from the back, eyeing the box in Xander's arms with a raised eyebrow. She crossed her arms and looked speculatively at the box.
"You got me a box?"
"No." Xander shook his head. "Giles got you a box. See the little return address there in the corner. Says England."
Anya glared but gestured for him to place the box on the table. It was large, but didn't seem to weigh much at all. Especially not if Xander could lift it so easily. “So you got me nothing and Giles got me a box. Figures.”
"Another shipment of weird things for the store?" Willow offered, closing her book and attempting to veer Anya off the track of presents, or lack thereof, from Xander.
"Probably," Anya shrugged. "The last box was full of junk. Wish he'd stop sending them. It’s like he thinks he still owns the place."
”He does,” Xander offered with a confused look. “Remember the part where he said you could watch it for him while he was overseas? He never actually said you could, you know, have it.”
Willow stifled a laugh, turning it into a cough and earning herself only a minor admonitory glance from Xander. She gave him an innocent look, turning her attention back to the box on the table. Giles had been sending these almost once a month since he left - boxes filled with bits and pieces of magical artifacts that he had found in various shops and estate sales all over England. Most of the time they held nothing of interest, but every now and then there was something worth taking note of.
Very, very rarely, it should be noted.
The packing tape gave way under a small razor Anya produced from behind the counter. With the first inch the lid cracked open the smell of dust and age invaded the air immediately around them. The things in the box were old, it seemed to scream through scent alone, making them cough lightly.
Anya sighed, pushing aside the items in the box. Her nose wrinkled with distaste after a minute of half-hearted looking. "Nothing important."
Willow stood to look into the box for herself, agreeing with Anya almost immediately. Nothing in the box looked even halfway interesting. And most of it appeared to be in pieces from the rough handling of the shipping. She’d have to speak with Giles about that – if ever he sent something that was supposedly useful to them it would never arrive in one piece.
There was one item, though, pushed against the side of the box, which was hidden from view entirely. It was wrapped in cloth of a color so off-white that she couldn't determine if it was supposed to be that color or if age and grime had gotten to it long before she ever lay eyes upon it. Whatever the case, she couldn't readily tell what it was hiding.
And that made her curious enough to reach for it.
She pulled it gingerly from the box, grabbing Anya and Xander's attention with her gesture, and began to pull at the twine that was holding the cloth around it. A picture, it seemed. Some sort of painting, perhaps. It was the right shape and size for it. And that was definitely a frame of some sort that she could feel beneath the cloth. She tugged at a knot worn to a hard nub with time and wear, sighing in frustration.
"Here. Let me." Before Willow could say a word Anya had reached out with her hand, the razor glinting sharply, and swiped once at the mass of knots. She held her breath, waiting to see if there was to be a gaping slash in the cloth and, perhaps, the picture beneath it. But there was none and after a moment she was picking at the bits of twine again, unraveling the stubborn pieces from each other now that there were loose ends to work with. It gave way finally, falling to the floor to lie like discarded trash at their feet.
"Go on, Wills." Xander smirked. "Let's see what kind of junk's inside. Just imagine - maybe a hokey picture that tells the mood of everyone that looks at it?"
“Or maybe it’s just one of those silly fun house mirror things.” Anya shrugged.
The red head laughed. That was silly, of course. Not that Giles hadn't sent sillier things their way. He seemed to try to keep most of the good stuff as far from their hands as possible, out of fear no doubt that they would cause themselves harm. This item, however, radiated magic. Nothing strong. More like a subtle hum in the back of her mind. She doubted that Xander noticed. Anya might have, but she doubted that in the same breath she held it up for consideration. The woman was a ‘former’ vengeance demon and was now no more adept at spotting magic than any other normal resident of Sunnydale.
Willow pulled at the cloth, grimacing in disgust at the way it felt on her fingers. Like something that had been exposed to the elements for far too long and often. It was hard and not at all as supple as it should have been. Sandpaper-ish would have been a good word to describe it, if such a thing could apply to cloth. One tug on the cloth, however, and the painting was free. She pursed her lips, turning it around so that she could see what was painted there.
It was. . .
"That's just sick." Xander muttered, peering over her shoulder.
"What? What's sick?" Anya sounded much more excited now. "Let me see."
Willow turned the painting towards the former vengeance demon, shuddering despite herself. It was grotesque, really. A painting of a skeleton, faded and dirty with age. Leathery skin had been painted tight and drawn to the face, like a mummified corpse from many years past. Whoever would paint such a thing?
Anya’s forehead scrunched up, her eyes narrowing speculatively. She looked over the portrait, ‘hmm’ing to herself. And then, her eyes lit up, and something Willow didn’t expect came from her mouth.
"Huh?" Xander and Willow echoed as one, both looking at Anya with questions in their eyes.
"I heard. . .but I didn't really think. . ." She sighed, grabbing for the cloth that had fallen to the floor. "Stupid, stupid man!"
Willow shared a look with her childhood friend, both intensely confused by this new development.
"An, honey," Xander murmured softly. "What's going on?"
"Dorian!" Anya practically yelled before grumbling under her breath."That's what's going on. He's lost. . .his mind. Letting this picture out of his sight. I told him. . .two hundred freaking years ago! I told him. . ."
She grabbed for the painting, wrapping it up with strong, angry gestures. "I'll have to call him, of course. If I can find him. Ship the damn thing back. Can't have it around here. Definitely don’t want him coming here. . . No. . . Too many people to question it."
"Like us?" Willow grinned, blithely ignoring the glare Anya shot her way.
"Yes, like you. Just don’t, for once, Will. Don’t. Believe me on this. You want no part of this portrait or its owner." The former demon snapped, eyes softening for just a moment in sincerity, before storming to the back of the shop without another glance towards them.
"Well. . .that was odd." The red head muttered, still grinning. Whoever this Dorian person was. . . he was more than enough to get Anya in a fluster. Which either made him very interesting. . .or very dangerous.
"Even for her." Xander agreed, glancing around the empty shop. “Wanna go grab some dinner? We can bring something back for her Miss Paranoid. Maybe she’ll have made with the calming down by then.”
Willow nodded, glancing once more towards the back; thinking of the portrait and the man Anya had named. She was intrigued, to say the least.
This called for some research.
~*~End Part One~*~