Facing the past
Buffy was checking her make-up. The lunch break was almost over and she was going to a class with Scott on urban combat. “Buffy there is a call for you,” Buffy heard Kitty call out from their room.
It had been four days since their battle in DC. They were all mostly recovered, except maybe Scott, who had taken to giving her afternoon private lessons in the Danger Room every day on how to control the collateral damage caused by shooting energy blasts. “Coming,” she yelled back and shut off the water.
She walked out and over to Kitty who was holding their room phone out. “Who?” she whispered.
“It's your Willow,” Kitty replied. Buffy had explained all about Willow to Kitty in bits and pieces over the last few months and in even more detail yesterday evening.
Buffy grabbed the phone, “Hi.”
“Buffy, hi. Listen I am in New York City looking for an apartment. I wondered if you were allowed out of the ivory tower on occasion,” Willow asked.
“Not unsupervised usually,” she replied, “but I could ask someone.”
Willow's tone changed, “I need to speak with you in private it is important. Very important and kind of urgent. I am at the Metropolitan Museum of Art near the obelisk. Please for the sake of the Scoobies come today.”
“I am coming as soon as possible,” Buffy replied sensing the urgent tone in Willow's voice.
“I will wait. Bye,” Willow said.
“Bye,” Buffy replied. They hung up.
“You can't go anywhere. Scott and Logan would blow a fuse if you took off and the Professor explicitly said you couldn't leave while he hadn't finished dealing with SHIELD,” Kitty said.
Buffy turned to Kitty and frowned for a moment then said, “Kitty, it is something about my friends. I've gone through so much with them. I owe it to my friendship with them and our past to go. Someone is in trouble or Willow wouldn't have said what she just did.”
“And it could also be a trap. You don't know everything about all those weird kinds of enemies we have yet. And I know you. You don't really listen during the history lessons either. Please listen to me, don't do this you might get into a lot of danger,” Kitty said.
Buffy turned to her brown haired friend and frowned. “I am going. But you could come along? I could carry you,” Buffy offered.
Kitty stood in silence for a while then nodded, “Okay, but I am bringing communicators and a tracking beacon. And we're going in costume as Shadowcat and Ragnarok.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “I don't like that codename you know. It's better than Inferno, but seriously it makes me sound like a villain.”
“And you think codenames like Storm, Wolverine or the rest are much better. The only ones with cutesy nicknames around here are Bobby and Kurt,” Kitty reminded her.
“I just know I should have picked something myself, but I just don't feel the entire codename thing and it being tied to being a mutant is right. It's like we're trying not to be like humans by choosing weird names for ourselves and making them true,” Buffy argued.
“For some people, but for you and me maybe it is just better to think of it as a way to protect those we love and all the kids here from further problems if our names were known in the media,” Kitty said.
Buffy looked at her and then laughed.
Kitty blushed for a moment then said, “That sounded a bit like I was presenting stuff in class again right.”
“Just a little,” Buffy replied.
“But I am serious. So Ragnarok, I'll sneak us downstairs, you'll get in costume and then we'll go together to New York okay,” Kitty said.
“Fine,” Buffy agreed.
Kitty drew them through the sealed door to the X-Men costume chamber and again Buffy felt slightly sick. Being phased through things was disconcerting even having tried it a couple of times before in the Danger Room and a few other occasions.
“Do you think they still think we don't know that they have made uniforms for all us kids,” Buffy said as she popped open the slide-out cabinet and rolled it out revealing several uniforms clearly not in adult sizes. One of which was the black leather with a white trim.
Kitty had brought out her own uniform and looked over at Buffy. “I think they do yeah,” she replied.
They quickly got dressed in the uniforms. Kitty stuffed their civvies into a large bag.
“Okay you have to have a plan. I can't just pop the hangar hatch and fly out. For one the kids are probably playing on the basketball court right now,” Buffy argued.
“You remember those 'school under attack' drills?” Kitty asked.
“Secret tunnels, cool,” Buffy said.
“There is one right over here,” Kitty said and held out her hand. Buffy smiled and grabbed it. Buffy took a deep breath and soon after they were through the armored wall and into one of the many underground tunnels that led away from the school into all sorts of places in the woods.
After nearly ten minutes walking they came out into the daylight. “My turn,” Buffy said and picked up Kitty. She ignited her aura, making sure it enveloped Kitty completely and took off into the air. Buffy pushed her speed. She was already worried Willow might leave or be in danger given her tone.
Buffy glanced at Kitty who looked a bit queasy, which Buffy guessed was because of the speed. They had practiced this in the Danger Room and Kitty had been pretty green around the nose every time.
They came in over what Buffy hoped was New York, the landmarks seemed to match. Buffy had missed Westchester several times when she had come back from DC and her visit with SHIELD. “I need some sort of map function in my super suit,” she said and smiled. Kitty just looked at her funny. Buffy guessed the girl couldn't understand her over the noise of her aura.
Kitty pointed down as they came over what Buffy was now positive had to be Manhattan. She recognized Central Park and the Fantastic Four headquarter building. She wondered for a fleeting moment if she would catch a lucky glance of Spider-man. She had several times considered how it would be like to meet him. She had always felt a bit of kinship with him back when she was the Slayer. Buffy headed in the direction Kitty was pointing, the girl was usually right about most things anyway.
They slowed and Buffy turned in the air, she slowed them down and ended up almost standing on the air hundred yards over the park near the museum Kitty had been pointing towards. Buffy switched off her flight but kept the aura on. Kitty screamed as they fell to the ground.
Buffy landed and found that Peter had been right. Dirt was spongy when you hit it at speed. She shielded them from the impact and stepped out of the hole and the broken branches from the trees they had passed through.
“Don't do that again,” Kitty asked.
“We needed to get down without glowing like a star,” Buffy argued.
“Right and you could have tuned your aura. I know you're working on it with the Professor and that you're an adrenalin junkie. Let's move a bit in case anyone was looking up anyway then find a place to change clothes,” Kitty said.
Willow was feeling very warm. She was wearing her exoskeleton and the lower part of her armor underneath the over-sized pants. Next to her in a large and heavy suitcase the rest of her armor was hidden. She was also a bit anxious. The longer she waited the bigger the chance whomever was after Xander would get to him first. She had expended a lot of effort to track Xander back to New York's mutant underground, but no one was speaking to her and her skills in convincing anyone were lacking it seemed.
“Willow!” Buffy's voice was the first she sensed of her old friend. Willow turned towards the sound and was enveloped in a hug by the blond before she could step forward or identify her friend.
“Buffy, are you all right you weren't in supershape last time,” Willow recognized the smell of her friend's hair and the shape of her body before she saw her face.
“I am peachy for now. Say Willow is that iron underwear or?” Buffy joked.
“The first thing,” Willow said feeling strangely flustered for a moment. She had forgotten that Buffy still didn't know about her legs.
Buffy stepped back and studied her for a moment then said. “So what was so urgent?”
“I need your help. It's about Xander. He ran after the thing in DC. I hacked some government databases and surveillance systems and a facial recognition program I wrote spotted him on a camera arriving by train here on Manhattan. But I have no idea where he is now and there are others after him. I went to the station Xander arrived at. Someone had torn through there. The station personnel and even the homeless in the area had been hammered and questioned about Xander. I couldn't get a good look or talk with too many though the police was all over that place. I have one good clue but I don't know if the one after Xander has something like that or better. I hoped you'd help,” Willow explained.
Buffy looked taken aback for a moment. “We've gotta help him, but I am worried. Xander took me down the last time. He is really angry with me and I have no idea about why,” Buffy replied.
“You fought some telepathic girl some months ago. She died accidentally, but she was Xander's girlfriend and he was told by that other mutant group that you were to blame,” Willow explained.
“Esme,” Buffy whispered and seemed distant for a while.
“Listen, I am sorry. I want you and I to talk about what has happened. There are so many things I don't know and things you don't know. I am moving to New York you know, but we have to go. I have a car just outside the park,” Willow said.
“Okay,” Buffy said and turned. A brown haired girl with an intelligent expression stepped up to them.
“We're good, I haven't spotted any agents and I used all the tricks Logan has taught us,” the girl said.
“I think we're cool. I didn't see anyone either. Willow, this is Kitty, she's my roommate at my school,” Buffy explained.
Kitty nodded to her but didn't hold out her hand. Willow felt almost like the girl resented her a little, but wasn't sure why. “Will, the clue. About Xander,” Buffy asked as Willow turned and headed for her car with Buffy and Kitty following behind.
“I got another hit on Xander not long after I had seen the ruined station. Xander got his picture taken heading into an old abandoned warehouse that according to SHIELD is a known Mutant Underground meeting place. That was nearly two hours ago, but he hasn't been seen leaving,” Willow said.
Buffy asked, “so what do we do when we get him?”
“I don't know. Someone is out to catch him and brainwash him,” Willow said.
“How do you know this?” Kitty asked her skepticism clear in her voice.
Willow paused and thought about what to say. She wondered what she could say if she wanted to lie. But maybe she should trust Buffy instead. “The one, who saved Buffy in DC, wasn't me, it was me from some sort of terrible future. I met her and she told me that someone in her future had captured Xander and brainwashed him turning him into some sort of mass murderer using his powers only to kill,” she explained and pressed the unlock stud on her car keys. “She also told me to stop what was happening in DC. If I hadn't you would have been turned into a villain too Buffy.” Willow looked at Buffy who seemed surprised.
“That sounds whacked. But hell we have a kid at school who can teleport from place to place immediately and a girl who can absorb your personality by a simple touch, who by the way is gonna be pissed she wasn't asked to come along on this outing. So I believe you. But I am not going to be a villain if I can help it,” Buffy said.
“I wouldn't let you go that way any way,” Kitty replied as the other girls got into the back seats as the passenger seat was occupied by the chest and helmet of her armor. Willow noticed that both Buffy and Kitty wore some sort of black leather under their outer clothes. Probably some sort of uniform.
They arrived at the empty warehouse and Willow parked her car. “Should I put my armor on?” Willow asked.
Buffy and Kitty looked at each other. Kitty winced and Buffy guessed her opinion matched hers. She turned back towards Willow. “No, you'd just spook people. Bring the suitcase. It's in there right,” she replied
“But it's so heavy,” Willow complained, but took the case along as they left the car.
“Yup, Mutant Underground,” Kitty confirmed as they approached the building.
Buffy also spotted the stylized M's that often decorated MU hang outs. Orion had taught her to recognize and paint them herself. Several of the kids at the school were talking about getting the design as tattoos. She also spotted two lookouts.
“We're gonna need to show off a bit to get inside. They've got guards out. I bet they've had trouble recently,” she said as she spotted the chips and holes in the nearby walls a strafe of automatic weapons fire.
They stepped up to the man near the hole in the fence that led onto the grounds around the warehouse. Buffy could see the faint blue glow of his eyes even from behind his sunglasses. Storm and Cyclops had told them to just show their uniforms. The professor and the X-men had good reputations with the Underground, but Wolverine had warned them that most of the street level mutant were just as likely to consider them soft and resent them for their cozy lives. Buffy believed the latter. “We wanna go in, is that fine with you,” she said forcing her voice to remain hard and let her eyes glow with the power raging inside of her.
The guy nodded and held the fence open for them. As they passed she noticed that he wasn't really a lot older than them. Willow seemed a bit wary, which Buffy considered a good thing. If there was some big dude out for Xander, anything could happen. Which meant this could end like one of her near daily battle scenarios in the Danger Room. She looked around when they got inside.
Some rock music was playing in the background. A mixed group of mutants some of them very young were scattered around the room. The teens were decorating with graffiti, while the youngest were gathered around a working TV and the elders were standing a little to the side at what looked like a strange combination of bar and improvised grocer.
“There are so many,” Kitty whispered almost in awe.
Buffy wanted reply but she spotted Xander across the room. He was sitting on a concrete ramp looking at the ground. He was wearing a thick winter jacket and his hair was unwashed but he was unmistakable. “Look,” she whispered addressing Willow.
“Let's go over and sit with him. He was really unhappy last time we spoke. I don't want to spook him,” Willow replied.
Buffy nodded. Willow went ahead of her. “Stay close and keep an eye out, I trust Willow when she said someone was after Xander,” Buffy told Kitty as Willow walked over and sat down next to Xander, while putting the big suitcase next to her.
“Right on,” Kitty said. Buffy headed over just as Xander looked over at Willow in surprise as she greeted him.
Buffy walked up. “What are you doing here, Willow, this is a mutant place?” Xander asked.
“I can't visit?” Willow replied.
“Not legally no,” Xander replied. His mood seemed to improve. “But seriously why are you here?”
“Someone is after you and we didn't really resolve everything in DC either,” Buffy said.
Xander turned and looked torn for a moment. “Hi Buffy,” he said and sounded contrite.
“Xander, I am not angry with you. Willow's told me most of what went on and I think I've puzzled out the rest. Something I did angered you didn't it. What did I do? I'd like you to tell me,” Buffy said.
“You didn't do anything. I was fooled by the people I thought I could trust the most. They told me you killed Esme intentionally,” Xander said and studied her for a moment. He got up and paced for a moment.
“I didn't. My power reacts badly to telepathy, she essentially got burned on me. I was... I am sorry. She didn't like me much. I never got why, but she didn't,” Buffy wondered out loud.
“I... I am sorry for what I did to you. I was an asshole. I even told myself that I owned your life because I used my power to bring you back in the Master's cave. But I was wrong to think so and I am sorry,” he replied. They stood across from each other. Facing each other.
“Can you forgive me,” they both said at the same time and then both laughed. Willow rose and hugged them both. They pressed together into a warm hug almost not noticing a wall shattering and a large shape thundering into the room.
“Surrender Trauma,” a voice boomed. They all let go of each other. Buffy tossed off her jacket as she turned. Xander who was already facing the problem paled as he turned. Willow meanwhile ran for her suitcase yelling for some guy named Jarvis.
“Juggernaut,” Xander said sighing. “Buffy he is tough. We couldn't even give him pause the last time I met him. He is unstoppable...” Xander paused as he turned and saw Willow's suitcase turning folding out into an advanced body armor that was slowly unfolding over her body.
“There you are. Someone paid me to get you. Come quietly and no one gets hurt,” the armored guy yelled. He had a brutish English accent.
Buffy lighted her aura to full and yelled, “Pull the other one, you pillock,” she hoped she had remembered Giles' cursing right and that she hadn't just said something too dumb.
“I am Juggernaut!” the man yelled and thundered towards her. Buffy however hadn't underestimated her opponent. Months of intensive training where she had no idea what kind of threat she was facing in the Danger Room and more than a year as a Slayer had taught her a lot. She flew up, while firing at the guy trying to pound him into the ground.
It had no effect.
“Get down here,” the huge man yelled and tore chunks of concrete out of the ground and threw them at her. Buffy's aura deflected them but the bombardment was forcing her back as he threw bigger and bigger pieces. Suddenly there was a small explosion and the bombardment stopped.
“Stand down,” the electronic voice of Willow echoed as she hovered into view near Buffy. Buffy smiled.
“Awesome entrance,” Buffy said as she noticed Kitty handling the evacuation of the innocent bystanders. Buffy wondered if she let loose if she could damage the man below at all. He seemed untouched even by the intense fire bombing Willow had just subjected him to.
“Thanks. We need to get Xander to safety,” Willow suggested.
“I have an option. I have a lot more power. I was thinking of hammering the guy with it while you take Xander out of here as soon as the bystanders are clear,” Buffy suggested.
Willow's armored head turned her way for a moment then back again. “I don't like it. We did the DC thing to prevent you from overusing your power too,” Willow said.
“Trust me, I won't just turn into a villain from using my abilities. I didn't become a murderer from being the Slayer,” Buffy argued. She spotted a reinforced concrete slab heading their way. Willow held out a hand before Buffy could and blasted it to dust.
“Let's try together first,” Willow yelled over the echo. Buffy nodded and turned toward the man who had chosen to ignore them and look for Xander again.
“Hey, doofus, focus,” she yelled and fired a near full power blast of force and heat from her body.
Willow fired a hot red laser beam from her right hand while several grenade-like spikes hammered into the Juggernaut from a cannon on her left arm.
The Juggernaut staggered slightly but didn't seem more than surprised by their onslaught. The pressure waves blew out all the glass and most of the roof however.
“Hold him in place,” Xander's voice reached them. He was sprinting towards the Juggernaut.
Willow immediately flew a half-circle around Juggernaut, while Buffy widened her beams and made them pure force. She wondered why she didn't even feel slightly tired by pouring out her energy, but she didn't feel even worn yet.
Xander ran close and stopped. Buffy saw a visible flow of white energy from the Juggernaut to Xander.
“Wa... nooo... st...” Juggernaut suddenly seemed affected. Buffy poured everything into her beam and felt the drain quite suddenly. Juggernaut was pounded into the ground. Willow fired another explosive round. The man dropped unconscious.
Buffy stopped firing several seconds later and then landed close to Xander together with Willow.
“That was awesome,” Buffy said.
“The scoobies ride again,” Xander said. Willow opened her helmet smiling.
“The old team to the rescue,” Willow agreed and looked around. “I am glad this building wasn't being used,” she said.
Buffy nodded and smiled. “Now let's go some place nice... Errh what do we do with this guy,” she said and looked down at the huge shape of Juggernaut before turning around to face her friends.
“I guess there is no normal jail that will hold him,” Xander said.
“I know some people who can fix it. And I guess if they suspend him in some force field he can't just break free either,” Willow said.
“Cool,” Buffy said when suddenly a large hand closed around her neck.
“You fucking stupid bird think your weak shit can stop me,” Juggernaut screamed and lifted Buffy by her neck. She couldn't breathe. Ineffectually she kicked at him. She manifested her power and pushed at him with her burning aura, but she couldn't just detonate herself, her friends were too close.
Buffy focused she needed to do something. She had one last card to play but it was a dangerous one. “I will kill you, then the red head and beat you boy before I take you to Apocalypse. I will not be,” and like that he stopped speaking. He released his hold on Buffy then toppled backwards unconscious bleeding profusely from his nose and eyes.
“What happened,” Xander asked.
“I think you softened him a lot. I tried something we discovered about my power after the thing with Esme and especially after DC. You saw me exert force and make heat, but really that is not my raw power. My energy is mental in the end. And I can at the moment only when I am having a good and lucky day, produce a bit of it and make something a kin to a mind attack. Basically I tried to burn his mind instead of his body. I guessed from your power Xander that it could work, and I was lucky it did,” she said and moved warily away from the toppled giant.
“So what now,” Xander asked.
Willow looked at Buffy then back at Xander. “I am not sure. We need to get you some place safe.”
“I have a suggestion,” Kitty said as she walked up.
“Well, hello there,” Xander said and immediately gave her friend his best attempt at a charming smile.
“Oh please,” Kitty said and rolled her eyes, but there was a small smile on her lips too. Buffy considered the options and slyly looked from Xander to Kitty and back before glancing at Willow remembering her girlfriend's interest in him too, but Willow looked like her.
“You had an idea?” Willow asked enthusiastically.
“Well, I know Xander might not agree with us politically, but not all of the teachers do either. I mean. I think maybe Xander should come with us to Xavier's at least until he is safe from this guy and others like him,” Kitty suggested.
“I don't know,” Xander immediately replied. He was clearly not that taken with Xavier's.
“Don't think about the politics, just let us protect you for a while. I promise they won't turn you away. Willow can't come though,” Buffy suggested.
Xander looked towards Willow who nodded gravely.
“Well alright, but I won't be happy about it,” Xander agreed.
“Trust me there will be people out there who won't be happy about it either,” Buffy commented and looked at Kitty.
Kitty looked at Buffy and simultaneously they said, “Wolverine.”
“I guess I will drive,” Willow said and her armor started to fold itself back into the shape of a suitcase.
Giles looked at the television. Willow had been on in her armor last night. Something about stopping a rampaging monster together with that Spider-man person. She had given a nice interview. It had been fascinating to see her as a grown woman out of her armor. Apparently she was dating some nurse and had started her own corporation that gave away most of its profits to charity. Willow was in all the tabloids regularly albeit not willing unlike the man who had started her on her path of armor wearing heroism.
Tonight however it was a different and a lot more serious matter. Magneto, one of the mutant community's leaders and someone the media portrayed as the mutant equivalent to Osama Bin Laden, had managed to trigger a rampage hundreds of gigantic robots meant to control the mutant threat in case of a war. Now another group of mutants were trying to stop the rogue machines before more innocent humans and mutants were killed. He was watching the footage as Xander yelled for several of mutants in the same X marked uniforms to follow him. They were struggling against the monstrous machines. Xander used his power to decay some robot's arm into the rust and bits before it could grab him, but several more readied their large cannons to shoot him. Xander didn't seem bothered by the mortal threat.
The robots blew up as a big white star of energy appeared overhead and detonated with burning energy. Buffy appeared as a vision of light coalescing into existence as the legs of the melted robots remained surrounding Xander. He waved at her and she flew off. Moments later Willow and Tony Stark appeared along with the Avengers to help defend the midwestern town that the robots had been attacking. The camera's focused their attention on the more media friendly Avengers.
Giles took a sip of coffee and smiled. His former charges were doing well. The world was safe for the moment. Faith and her current watcher and lover were in Cleveland guarding the Hellmouth there with Sunnydale having gone dormant. And Giles could just enjoy a evening of peace. But tomorrow he had a case to solve. A revenant was stalking the area near Glen Coe and so he had been called upon by the Coven and the Watchers. After all he was the Ripper.The End
I am leaving it here. In effect all comic stories never end and so I decided to stop while the game was good and my muse could be made to give up a few more lines of story. If anyone wants to jump in and write their own continuation, feel free. Me I am off to other pastures.