Whole New World
Title: Whole New World
Author: Jinni (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Disclaimer: The world of Anita Blake belongs to Laurel K Hamilton. BtVS and AtS belong to Joss and Co. This takes place after BtVS Season 5 and after "Narcissus in Chains" in the A.Blake world.
Summary: Challenge response - though I think this will probably end up being pretty long, more like an actual fic instead of the light heartedness challenge
responses usually entail.
Author's Notes: This will end up being in answer to the challenge that was posted recently on the WillowCrossings list. Right now I'm just setting the scene for what's to come. Unlike most challenge responses, this will be a full-out multi-part fanfic. I've been wanting to write a BtVS/Anita Blake crossover for a while.
Author's Notes2: You may be asking yourself - why Jason? Well - if you're a fan of the Anita Blake books you'll see real quick that there weren't too many others to pair her up with. Richard and Jean Paul are taken. Jamil? Shang-Da? I'm just not seeing it. Edward would have been damn interesting, but I'll save that for another time. Nathaniel/Zane/Gregory/Stephen/etc - nah, I just can't see my red headed heroine with any of them *grin*
There were some things in this world that were better left unexplained - at least that's the way a majority of the population felt. Hellmouths were one of those things. The area surrounding them was, for all intents and purposes, a zone of oddness. Those 'monsters' that were normally considered civilized, cultured to a point, were nothing more than savages when confronted with the sheer power of a Hellmouth. They became warped, twisted, abominations. Those that lived in these small towns that grew up around these mouths of Hell were oblivious to the outside world. Life itself could cease to exist everywhere except in their little 'world' and they wouldn't realize it.
And it was better that way.
A vast majority of those living on these Hellmouths were not aware of anything that went 'bump in the night'. This was due to many reasons, the largest of which seeming to be that nature tended to send those with a predisposition not to believe in the supernatural to live there. Those types of people were 'safe' around the mystical energies. Even those individuals that migrated there soon learned to forget what went on in the normal world - the world outside of their Hellmouth existence. They didn't believe in ghosts, in witches, vampires or werewolves. Magic was just a thing that parents told their children bedtime stories about. Even the evening news that was broadcast to these regions was edited, abbreviated to show that there was nothing 'abnormal' going on. Those vampires and lycanthropes who spent too much time on the Hellmouth, or were created there, soon found themselves changed beyond what the 'normal' world would recognize. They lost all sense of self and surrendered to baser, demonic urges.
There were those few, however, that knew about the supernatural. Those who had been sent there to do their 'holy duty', their 'sacred birthright'. Did those girls know that they weren't 'The One' girl in all the world? Did they realize there was one of them for each Hellmouth across the globe? Certainly they didn't know that the Council of the Watchers was nothing more than a group charged with making sure that the Hellmouths didn't get out of control. Because of those girls the world wasn't overwhelmed with the hideous offspring of the demonic world. Few even knew that these places existed.
But Richard knew.
He looked down at the letter laying on his kitchen table, sighing. The letter had been from his cousin. It was because of his cousin that he knew all about Hellmouths. She didn't know he knew, of course. That would be violating the rules of everything - to discuss that which no one was 'supposed' to know about. She was a part of the 'blanket of obscurity' that seemed to shroud those mystical convergences, knowing nothing about the 'outside' world or what went on in it. Her parents knew all about it, but they chose to keep their baby girl away from the horrors of the world. They thought she was safer there than anywhere else. Not that they could stand it there - no, that was one of the reasons they chose to hardly ever go home. His mom, her aunt, agreed with them that perhaps she shouldn't be made to deal with this type of reality.
And maybe they had been right at one point - but certainly not now.
I hope this letter finds you in good health. Its been at least a month since I heard from you and I was just wondering how things were going. Did things with that Anita woman work out? I hope so. She seemed to make you happy. Happier than you've been in a while, at least.
Remember when we were kids and you'd come visit? You and Daniel. Me and Xander and Jesse. We wreaked havoc back then. Little terrors. You were like our big brother, trying so hard to keep us in line and failing every time. It was fun. But - most importantly, it was innocent.
Whatever happened to innocence?
Jesse died a few years ago. I've been through more hell than I can ever possibly hope to tell you. Things you wouldn't understand, couldn't possibly believe. And now? My best friend died two weeks ago. She was young, Richie. So young. Her life had barely started and now she's gone from the Earth. It's not fair. I miss her so much and I have no one to turn to. Mom and dad haven't even called in months. I wonder if they even remember they have a daughter. Its all I can do to get up in the morning and go to classes. I know I'm probably about to get a 'C' in a class for the first time in my life and I'm powerless to stop it. I just don't have the energy to do anything anymore. At least school is almost over. Only two weeks left.
Xander and I barely talk anymore. My friend's death tore us apart. I have no one. I come home to an empty house. It's sort of frightening to walk into a dark house. That moment before you turn on the lights when you're wondering if something's there, watching you when you can't even see. Scary.
Help me, Richie. Help me find some meaning to everything again. I'm lost and I don't know if I can find myself again. Give me some advice to get through all of this? You're the 'older' and 'wiser' cousin, after all.
Write back soon, ok? I miss hearing from you. You're the only one I really have to 'talk' to now, you know.
The letter dropped from his fingers, fluttering down to the table. A pit of sadness had formed within him, brought on by the words in his cousin's letter. How easy it was to just think back and remember those times, so many years ago, when they had still been young. True - he was a few years her senior; that had never stopped him from tagging along for their more juvenile pranks, though often he had been forced to put a halt to the antics. She had always been so full of life and love for everything around her.
But now she was 'lost', as she had put it; a prisoner of sadness that he could understand. Losing a loved one was difficult enough when you had people to fall back on and nearly impossible to do alone. That made it easy enough for him to make a decision on what he needed to do, even if it meant taking her from the place she had known all of her life and bringing her into the 'outside' world. She needed family and apparently Ira and Sheila weren't doing their job very well. He wondered idly if his mother had even heard from her sister recently. Somehow he doubted it. Sheila had been pulling away from the rest of her family gradually for many years. That it seemed to have now become complete didn't strike him as odd at all. He knew that no one in his own family had visited Sunnydale in a few years. It was hard for them, to go there and make believe that everything outside of the town didn't exist. Three years had passed since he'd laid eyes on his red headed darling of a cousin. He felt guilty, ashamed. While it was true that he had been dealing with his own personal hells, he should never have neglected her in this way - even to the point of not having written to her in so long.
Well, he could still be her family; he could take her away from all of that. And things away from the Hellmouth wouldn't be too hard for her to adjust to, he hoped. He'd have to make some adjustments to his own lifestyle, of course. There was no way he wanted her to find out what he was. His own mom had only hardly just found out, for God's sake. Coming out of that 'closet' again wasn't something he wanted to do anytime soon.
So that meant no more pack meetings at his house and being a little more careful when he took those delicate phone calls. He'd come up with some hasty excuse as to why he wasn't dating Anita anymore. No inconvenience at all, really. It would be worth it to have her here with him and to make her happy again - to help her find herself. And maybe, just maybe, with her here he could rediscover that little bit of himself he had lost along the way. There wasn't a sliver of doubt in him that he'd have to tell her it all eventually - especially if she liked things enough to stay, like he was hoping.
Summer break was here, leaving him free to go to Sunnydale and collect her in person, to explain to her all the things she would need to know before she entered the 'real' world. He would show her all the wonders that the world really held, away from the horrors on the Hellmouth. It might take some time for her to adapt, but, in the end, it would be for the better. She had nothing to hold her down to that tiny little town anymore and she had family here, someone who would care about her and take care of her. He'd get a flight to California in the morning. LA was the closest city that would have an airport. From there he could make it to Sunnydale in a couple hours. Sylvie could watch over things until he got back - the pack would be taken care of.
Tomorrow he'd start rebuilding his life right along with his cousin's.
He cut the engine of the rental car, staring up the sidewalk at the house he recognized so well from years gone by. It hadn't changed a bit. The grass was a little tall, the flowers beds slightly out of control - but who was there to tend to all of that? Willow? He just couldn't picture her getting out there and mowing the grass or pulling weeds from the flower beds. In fact - he couldn't really picture her doing any outdoor chore. She had always preferred to be inside.
The street was just as quiet as he remembered. There was no sign of any of the neighbors he knew lived in the houses around this one. At least, he assumed they lived there. It was entirely possible that the houses were deserted, though their immaculate lawns and perfectly tended flowers decried that idea immediately.
Richard stepped from the car, stretching the aches from his muscles. He had driven straight from the airport to Sunnydale, wanting to get this done with as soon as possible. He had called his mother before leaving, telling her what he planned to do. She hadn't been too thrilled with the idea - had, in fact, told him that he could possibly be ruining Willow's life by doing this; but she had said there would have to be a family reunion of sorts if he got her to come to St. Louis. At least she had promised to wait until Willow got settled in to spring on her with a big party full of extended family she had never met in her entire life. He knew because of that alone that his mother wasn't completely upset with his decision. If she had been totally pissed off she would have never offered to have a reunion. It was a good sign.
No one answered when he rang the doorbell. He peered into the small windows on either side of the door, noting to himself that there were no lights on. There didn't appear to be anyone at home. He sighed, sitting on the top step of the porch to wait for her to get home. It was still early enough in the day that she was probably still in school. By his calculations he figured that she should be done with her finals either today or tomorrow. He wouldn't have to be here any longer than that, hopefully. From the moment he had set foot within a five mile radius of the city he had begun to feel the energies of the Hellmouth, calling to his beast, teasing and taunting it. A lesser wolf would have given into those callings, losing control over who and what they really were.
Thank goodness he was stronger than that.
Still, as strong as his control was, he knew that staying in Sunnydale more than a couple days was to risk losing his control, letting go of that fine leash he kept around the beast lurking within him. He hadn't thought that being here would be this difficult but, in hindsight, knew he shouldn't have assumed that it would be anything other than hard. The only other time he had come to visit since he had been infected had ended after two days, with him pleading sickness so that he could get away from the Hellmouth. He had assumed his own increased control would give him a better handle on things. But he had been wrong.
If all went well he'd be on the first flight out tomorrow, Willow in tow.
Willow walked slowly down the sidewalk, her mind a million miles away. Today had been the last day of finals - a day that normally would have brought joy to her. It meant the end of school for the summer and a chance to relax. Not this year, though. No - this year the last day of finals meant an assurance that she had received her first 'average' grade in all of her school career. She was a 'C' student, middle of the road. No more top of the class for her. No more dean's list. She had fallen just short of perfection.
And, despite the sadness that that thought caused her, she couldn't find it within herself to otherwise care. What did grades matter now that her best friend was no longer there to share her triumphs with her? Not even Xander was around anymore. She had no one and nothing to look forward to seeing at the end of the day. Wake up, go to school, come home, eat, sleep - that was how her day went now. She tried, sometimes, to still study her magick. That brought back memories of happier times, though - times that were best left in the past. Never again would she have those nights where she spent hours researching a pending apocalypse. No more rummaging through musty old books learning the spells needed to save the town -again-. That was all behind her. Giles had gone back to England and Buffy was gone. There was supposedly a new Slayer running around Sunnydale. But Willow didn't want to meet her.
No, that would be entirely too difficult.
She shifted her backpack, distributing the weight a little more evenly on her tired back. Finals had started early that morning and had kept her running for the entire day. She hadn't even had a chance to eat lunch yet. 'Just a few more yards and I'll be home. Then I can rest. And eat. Can't forget to eat.' She thought tiredly. Her eyes flickered up from the ground as she started up the sidewalk to her house.
There was a man sitting on her porch.
And that man looked suspiciously like her cousin Richard.
His warm brown eyes turned to her and he stood up.
"Richard." She repeated again, her face breaking out into a smile. "Oh goddess! I can't believe you're here!!!" Her backpack fell to the ground, the top snapping open to spill her school books onto the sidewalk. She didn't care. Her cousin was here! He was really here! She rushed the last few yards between them, grabbing him for a tight, warm hug. Tears were burning the corners of her eyes.
'Goddess?' Richard questioned silently. 'Since when has Sheila's oh-so-Jewish daughter been saying things like -goddess-?' It was a little known fact that his aunt, Sheila, had converted from strict Catholicism to Judaism to marry Ira, his uncle. It wasn't something they really talked about at family reunions since it never once left anyone with anything other than hard feelings. But when had Willow become - Wiccan? Pagan? There were so many options to choose from and he wasn't about to question her about it right now. "Hey, Will."
"You're here." Willow whispered, pulling back and wiping at her eyes. She stared up into his face, beaming happiness. "You have no idea how happy I am to see you."
"Well I'm hoping its at least half as happy as I am to see you." He grinned. "Can we go inside? I've been sitting out here for a while. Sort of hot."
The red head nodded fervently. "Just let me get my stuff." She backed up, almost tripping over her own feet in her excitement, before coming to kneel beside her backpack. She shoved the books inside, careless of the papers that were already in it.
"Let me?" Richard asked, bending over and grabbing hold of the bag's straps before she could.
"Always the gentleman." She smiled, standing up and fishing her house key from her pocket. She led him up the stairs and into the house, flipping on the lights. "You can just drop it there, by the door. Do you want something to drink? I know it's hot outside."
"Some water would be nice."
Willow nodded, leading him into the kitchen. She opened the freezer and took out a tray of ice cubes. The cold pieces made clinking noises as they settled to the bottoms of the glasses Richard had taken from the cabinet she indicated. Some bottled water from the refrigerator finished off the drinks and she slid one across the counter to him. They drank in silence for a moment, her only to kill time and him because he was thirsty from sitting outside for so long. She smiled as he sat the glass back on the counter. "Now - don't take this the wrong way, Richie - 'cause I am certainly happy to see you. But what are you doing here?"
Richard nodded, for once thinking his cousin's 'jump right to things' attitude was appropriate. How better for him to explain himself and get out of this place? Already his control was slipping, becoming not as stable as it normally would be. No one would be in danger from him - yet. But best to get this over with and get back to St. Louis. "Weeellll." He drawled, giving her a smile. "I got your letter in the mail the other day and thought I should come invite you to come visit for the summer - or forever. Your choice."
~*~End Parts 1-2~*~