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You Must Be M.Y.T.H.-Taken

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This story is No. 2 in the series "Magical Mystery Tour". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Buffy and Xander try to get back home from the hell dimension Acathla dropped them in.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Literature > FantasyGreywizardFR18310,38414114,18917 Sep 094 Dec 12Yes

Chapter Three

Author’s Note 1: Many thanks to Bill Haden and Theo (Starway_Man) for beta-ing this story.

Author’s Note 2: As usual, “word” indicates speech, :: word :: indicates mental communication and { word } indicates a character's thoughts.

Author’s Note 3: This is story #4 in my own personal Christmas Fic-A-Day Challenge.

~/~/~

Author's Warning: Angel fans will probably not be pleased with how he's addressed in this chapter. Of course, this really shouldn't be a major surprise for anyone who reads my stuff. I will point out, however, that I am describing his canon behavior, so my interpretation is just valid as anyone else's.

~/~/~

Chauncey's Prognostications
"Guaranteed To Happen As Predicted, or Double Your Money Back"
Southeast sector of The Bazaar


"Oh boy."

"That didn't sound like very optimistic news to me," Buffy Summers declared as she turned to look at her interdimensional traveling companion, a concerned frown on her classically beautiful features upon hearing the comment the seer they were visiting had made after viewing them for but a moment. "Did that sound optimistic to you, Xander?"

"Nope, it sure didn't, Buffy," Xander Carter agreed, shaking his head negatively as he shot a concerned and inquisitive look at their host, a demon who could have quite easily passed for an kindly human grandfather, if not for his bright green complexion and the two red horns on his forehead.

"Care to explain why that comment of yours didn't sound very optimistic, Mr. Chauncey, sir?" Xander politely asked the owner of the space-expanded tent they were in.

"All right. Because it wasn't, kid," the cornflower yellow-bearded anagogic demon replied with a somewhat sour grimace, as he spun around in his chair and yanked open one of the lower drawers in the filing cabinet behind him.

Lifting a cut-glass bottle filled with an unknown sky-blue fluid out of the drawer, together with three glasses, the seer carefully set all of the objects down on the table covered with mystical symbols which separated him from the two teens, then poured several fingers worth of the liquid into each glass.

"Here you go, guys," the yellow-bearded demon said, as he tossed his own glassful down his throat, and then immediately refilled the glass. "Drink up.

"You're gonna want that, once I'm finished talking," the seer predicted, his words causing Buffy and Xander to exchange a worried glance, before they then hesitantly reached over and each picked up one of the remaining glasses.

"Okay, sweetie. You've probably already guessed that you've caught the attention of some major players in the supernatural big leagues, and that they've been manipulating things so that future events will favor their plans, right?" Chauncey stated, rather than asked, as he focused his attention on the petite blonde nervously watching him from across the table.

"And it also almost certainly goes without saying, that those plans are mainly intended to keep these creeps I've mentioned in charge of things down here on the mortal planes," he went on.

"Because otherwise – for things to keep going wrong for you the way they've been doing the past couple years, that would mean that you must've really pissed off Lady Luck. To the point that she would've taken a contract out on you," he added, the oracle's words making Buffy's lips purse with suppressed anger at the confirmation of some unstated, random and intermittent speculations she'd had regarding her life over the course of the past two and a half years.

"But what you probably don't know, angel face, is that there's also a number of other beings who've been trying to influence things for their own purposes, to try and make your life a little easier," Chauncey informed Buffy, his unexpected revelation furrowing her forehead with puzzlement.

"What're you talking about, Mr. Chauncey?" the petite blonde asked, trying to make sense of what she was hearing. "Who, exactly, are these people you're talking about?

"And why are these guys trying so hard to manipulate my life?" she inquired.

"Well, like I said, sweetness, you were originally Chosen by some of your world's overseers to stop that arrogant putz, Lothos, from taking over that city the two of you were living in and making himself the putative ruler of the supernatural side of things there," the demonic seer stated, drawing an uncertain nod of agreement from Buffy regarding her past accomplishments. "And then, in order to keep things going the way they wanted, this group of pretentious bastards I've been telling you about – they actually call themselves 'The Powers That Be, can you believe that?" he told the two teens parenthetically in an disbelieving tone of voice, "they then influenced things, so that you and your mother packed up and moved to Sunnydale, home of the most powerful currently active Hellmouth in your world.

"And *then*, after you and your Mom finally got settled down, these putzes then manipulated things so that you ended up marching out to die at the hands of the local master vampire of Sunnydale. This was so that your boyfriend would then become so motivated by your death, that he'd turn himself into a Champion. Someone who would eventually lead a large part of your world's supernatural forces in a series of battles which would eventually result in an apocalypse, which would further secure the Powers’ positions with regard to your home dimension. And I’m not talking about a victory, but a leveling that would keep the status quo for a good half century," Chauncey went on, displaying a disturbing amount of knowledge concerning the Slayer's past, while Buffy and Xander listened in stunned silence.

"But that part didn't work out quite like that group of idiots planned, because yet another group decided to stick their metaphorical noses in and interfere. And that's why you, my friend –" the demonic soothsayer now gestured towards Xander as he continued his oratory, "ended up with the Hellmouth Guardian pulling you through that portal which opened up in that high school library."

"Of course, your then falling out of it again at just exactly the right place and time for you to meet your real family and get trained up the way you have, bubala – that's mainly due to the efforts of yet another group of beings, who don't like the way that the other two groups have been pulling humanity's strings," Chauncey advised Xander with an approving nod.

Noticing the way the dumbfounded pair of teens were numbly staring at him, the avocado-hued demon gave them both a wide smile, and gestured towards the glasses they were still holding, forgotten, in their hands.

"Go on, kids, have a drink," Chauncey urged the pair, gesturing towards the tumblers holding the pale blue fluid he'd offered them earlier.

Bemusedly following his directions, each teen lifted their glass and took a short sip of the pleasant smelling and agreeably-tasting liquid, before then blinking in surprise and glancing with pleased astonishment at the crystal goblet in they held.

"Boy, that's fantastic stuff, there, man," Xander immediately commented approvingly.

"Yes, it is," Buffy agreed with an equally approving nod.

"Actually, it's incredible!" she praised her drink. "If you don't mind my asking, what is it?"

"Oh, just a little something I whipped up a while back," Chauncey replied with a pleased smile. "Nothing alcoholic, mind you. Just a little pick-me-up to help you de-stress a bit, when it seems like the whole world's out to get you.

"Anyway, as I was trying to get to tell you," the seer then continued his impromptu lecture, "because of everything that's happened over the past couple of years, the two of you have already learned a fair number of things you need to know.

"But there's a lot more you're gonna need to learn, if you're going to survive long enough to free yourselves and your world from the interference of all of these meddling, manipulative bastards," Chauncey warned them.

"And that's also one of the reasons why the two of you eventually ended up here, in my tent, listening to me tell you a bunch of things that are gonna be very upsetting to you both," the chlorophyll-colored seer smiled at the two dumbfounded teens numbly staring at him from across the table separating them.

"I was supposed to die, so my death would inspire Angel into becoming a Champion?" Buffy finally managed to say, the slightest quaver of fear and disbelief in her voice as she processed everything that they'd just been told.

"What?!" Chauncey asked, giving her a look of complete surprised disbelief, before letting out a small, harsh laugh while an expression of comprehension finally slid across his face.

"Oh, pantheons above!" the demon seer exclaimed with a snort of disgust. "No, no, no! A thousand times, no! I'm not talking about that brooding idiot vampire, at all, sweetie!

"I meant *him*, dearie," Chauncey went on, indicating an astonished Xander with a nod of his head.

"WHAT?!" the youth in question yelled upon hearing that particular revelation.

"What are you talking about?" the Primal-enhanced warrior immediately demanded, an expression of mixed surprise and annoyance on his face.

"Buffy's not my girlfriend," the eldest Carter sibling snapped at their host, not noticing the hurt and disappointed frown his statement produced in the petite blonde sitting next to him.

Fortunately for the currently oblivious young man, however, Buffy's frown instantly shifted into a pleased smile as he continued, "Not that I wouldn't be extremely happy if she were, mind you! Delighted, even!

"Actually, ecstatic would probably be a lot better description, if I was ever that lucky," Xander semi-babbled, making Buffy's smile grow even wider as she listened.

"No, Buffy and I are just friends, that's all," Carter went on. " Still, regardless of whether or not she's my girlfriend, that doesn't explain why you were saying that I'd end up as some kind of Champion.

"I mean, I'm not the champion type at all," Xander shook his head in disagreement at the description he'd heard. "Champions inspire people to do things they couldn't do before they met them, or heard about them.

"I don't inspire people," Carter went on, making his blonde companion and prospective love interest glower at him with disapproval at his words. "Buffy does! She inspires people to do things they wouldn't ever believe they could do before they met her, and she makes them want to be better people, so they can be worthy of being near her and helping her.

"Seriously, that's not me," Xander repeated himself shaking his head negatively, again. "I'm just the guy who helps the Champions clean things up, afterwards.

"And not that I like the guy, but Angel seems more like the kind of Champion this group of beings you mentioned would pick," he declared. "You know – tall, dark and broody. Able to agonize and fret soulfully at a moment's notice.

"And he had the whole 'Mysterious, Cryptic Stranger' thing going for him back in the 'Dale, too," Xander noted. "He seems like he'd be the perfect poster boy for these putzes you were telling us about.

"Me, though? If I found out that somebody had set things up so that Buffy would die, just to manipulate me into working for them, I'd turn around and frag 'em, the first chance I got," Carter declared, quietly but vehemently, as his eyes seemed to flash for a moment with an inner fire.

"Now, you just wait a damn minute, Xander!" Buffy broke in at that point. "Do you actually think that a demon-possessed corpse – who made no real contributions to help out other than skulking in the shadows and just popping in, every now and then, with vague, ambiguous warnings about some unknown and unidentified menace – would make a better Champion for the forces of good than you would?" she demanded, a look of irritation and exasperation on her lovely features from listening to Xander disparage himself in relation to a former enemy.

"Well, you seemed to think so," Xander calmly replied, looking over at her.

"What?" Buffy gasped, dazed and upset by his comment.

Triggered by his words, the memory of how she'd refused Xander's invitation to accompany him to the Spring Fling because she'd still been enamored with Angel flooded through her mind, again, followed by the far too vivid memories of the death and misery Angelus had left behind him as his legacy.

"Hey, relax, okay, Buffy?" Xander said as, seeing the Slayer’s reaction, he reached over to put his hand on her shoulder in a reassuring gesture. "I'm not criticizing you or anything. Really.

"All I'm saying is that, back before I got dragged through the portal in the library, you and Giles and Willow all seemed to think that Angel was an okay guy – all right, maybe not Giles so much – and that he was helping out about as much as anyone else was," Xander elaborated on his previous comment.

"Yeah, I'll admit I never liked him all that much," the now-battle-hardened warrior freely conceded. "I never thought Angel really contributed all that much to the Slaying, what with his skulking around and brooding, and he never really risked himself, at all, outside of any fights that might happen while patrolling, unless you were around, and in danger of getting hurt.

"And I'll also admit, probably a good part of all that dislike was also because I saw him as a rival for your affections, too, beautiful lady," he smiled at his companion.

"But I should also point out, based on everything you told me about what happened back in Sunnydale, that Angel and Angelus were two completely different beings," Xander went on.

"Angel was the almost completely useless soul that was brought back after he died, in order to make the demon feel guilt and remorse, but Angelus was the evil, soulless blood demon that possessed the body.

"And from what Chauncey, here, has been telling us, it sounds to me like those putzes who've been playing games with all of our lives would probably grab hold of Angel and then be able guilt him into doing pretty much anything they wanted him to do," Xander predicted with a grimace of distaste – for both of the parties he was referring to.

"Oh. Okay," Buffy nodded her understanding. "I think I get what you mean, now," she added, her relief at realizing he wasn't castigating her for her behavior during their sophomore year in high school leaving her feeling a bit limp and somewhat drained emotionally.

Turning back to their pistachio-colored host, the Slayer asked, "So, who are these other two groups you mentioned – you know, the guys working against these 'Powers That Be' guys' plans – who are trying to get things to go the way they want them to go?"

"Well, the first group I mentioned is generally referred to as 'The Senior Partners,' by those in the know," Chauncey replied, pausing for a moment to take another sip of his drink before continuing his recitation.

"That's because the majority of their most effective minions in your dimension are employed by an extremely large and evil law firm called Wolfram & Hart," the chartreuse seer stated with a frown and a small shiver of distaste at even the thought of lawyers.

"And the second group I told you kids about, the ones who intervened so that you ended up in that darling little world your family calls Barsoom, boychik," Chauncey resumed his explanation as he turned to beam approvingly at Xander, "most people generally call them 'The Elders.'

"They're really not all that bad, I suppose. Well, as far as groups of self-important, overbearing, interfering old busybodies go," Chauncey shrugged, a bit indifferently, as he went on with his narration. "They really do have humans' best interests at heart, for the most part, and they don't stick their noses into mortal affairs all that often.

"And you *really* wouldn't have liked where you would have ended up, if they hadn't gotten involved and sent you to Barsoom, boyo," Chauncey informed Xander with a knowing look.

"Okay, fine. I'll be sure to thank these guys for rerouting my bus ticket, if and when we ever meet up," the Scooby Gang founder nodded his acknowledgement of the debt he apparently owned these previously unknown beings.

"So, is there anything else we need to know?" Xander asked their host, reiterating Buffy's earlier question.

"About what's probably going to happening to us, if these groups keep on messing with our lives, the way they've been doing" he quickly clarified his inquiry. "Is there something we need to do? Or not do? Someplace we should go, or someplace we should avoid? Maybe a quest to find a higher-being-killing weapon, and finding where the PTB sleep?"

"Sorry, kiddo. I'd love to be able to tell you guys exactly what to do or not do, but there's only some much I'm able to see about what's going to happen to my customers," Chauncey smiled at the pair. "And that depends a lot on who they are and what they're going to do.

"You and your guy, here, little darling, have the potential to be pretty important pieces on the game board as far as the groups trying to manipulate the two of you are concerned," he informed Buffy with an approving smile. "Sorry if I’m sounding annoyingly cryptic, but I only caught a few glimpses of what's in store for you two before I was shut down. But what I did see, as far as the potential you two could develop is concerned, was pretty impressive.

"And something you both should keep in mind is that you two are completely free agents," Chauncey cautioned the two teens. "Neither of you are beholden to anyone for anything.

"All of these clowns I was telling you about did what they did because they were trying to get you to dance to their tunes, but you two are the ones who are actually creating the music," the seer told them with another of his smiles.

"You both are going to have a chance to see and learn a lot of things you wouldn't normally have access to, and you're also going to have the chance to affect a lot of people's lives by what you decide to do, or not do," Chauncey advised them. "And keep in mind, kids, it's not just be the people in your own worldline I'm talking about.

"You brought everything that's important along with you, right?" Chauncey then inquired with a bit of a concerned frown. "Because I also got the impression that something's going to be happening with you two fairly soon.

"I don't have any sort of idea about a specific timeframe for anything happening, mind you," he told them. "It's just a feeling I have, that's all."

"Uh, yeah, we brought everything we have with us," Buffy nodded her confirmation of his question, indicating the two rucksacks on the floor by their feet. "We picked up a couple of those expanded storage space packs in that shop on Orange Wyvern Road, at the same time we did most of our other shopping."

"Good," Chauncey nodded. "Like my mother used to say: 'It's always best to be prepared for the worst, Chauncey. So make sure you put on clean underwear each morning when you get dressed.'

"She was always worried about what the healers would think if I got hit by a pile of falling dragon dung and had to be taken to the Emergency Room," he explained with a somewhat awkward shrug of his shoulders upon seeing the faintly perplexed expressions on both teens' faces after hearing his last comment. "You know how mothers are."

Buffy's "Yeah, I do," and her affirmative nod was followed by Xander's shrug and a laconic, "Jessica wouldn't have noticed if I never came home until the trash piled up high enough to fall over on top of her, but I know that Dejah cared," causing Buffy to reach over and squeeze her prospective boyfriend's hand reassuringly as she gave him a sympathetic smile.

"Okay then, kids," the green-skinned oracle nodded as he gave them a sympathetic look. "That's all I can tell you, 'cause that's basically everything I saw," he said.

"Now, you gotta vamoose."

~/~/~

The Drunken Unicorn Tavern
Buffy and Xander's room

Later that day…


"So, I'm guessing you kinda like them, huh?" Xander asked, an amused grin on his face as he watched Buffy effortlessly field-stripping his latest gifts to her down into their basic components and then easily reassembling them without any real effort at all. The smile on the petite blonde's face as she worked most closely resembled that of a six-year-old kid who'd been given the key to a Toys-R-Us store and told they could pick out whatever they wanted.

Although, off the top of his head, Xander couldn't think of any toy store he'd ever seen – not even in Sunnydale – which carried enchanted, matte back 10 mm semiautomatic pistols, which could transform into pistol crossbows at their owner's mental command, as part of their normal line of products.

"I love them, Xander!" Buffy exclaimed as she looked up from the end table on which both pistols were spread out. Practically springing up from her seat, she enveloped him in yet another enthusiastic hug, which was accompanied by a quick kiss of thanks on his cheek.

"They're simply fantastic!" she gushed as she returned to her seat and quickly finished reassembling both pistols, before slipping them into the leather twin shoulder holster rig which Xander had also gotten for her as a de rigueur accessory.

His smiling explanation that "the holsters are charmed so that you can change the color to match whatever you're wearing" had garnered Xander a second equally enthusiastic hug as he'd received after first giving Buffy her present. In fact, he'd been quite pleased to accept the brilliant smile and the enthusiastic embrace she'd bestowed on him upon seeing her gifts.

"Have you given any thought to where you'd like to eat?" Carter asked as he returned several of his own possessions, which he'd acquired over the past couple days into his own enhanced storage rucksack.

He set aside one of the small PDA-sized devices he'd previously negotiated as part of the proceeds from their sale of the carved statuary they'd acquired as spoils in the Hell dimension they'd escaped from, and tucked it into his pocket, figuring he could study it further while waiting for Buffy to complete whatever shopping she would almost inevitably decide to do, once they'd finished eating.

{ I *know* I can figure out what this is capable of, if I can just study it a little more, } he affirmed to himself.

The circuitry layout was frustratingly and vaguely familiar, but he couldn't quite remember what it was that it reminded him of.

{ Oh well, } the Primal-enhanced youth mentally sighed to himself. { It'll come to me, sooner or later. It's just a matter of time, that's all. }

"I was thinking maybe we could try that one of those restaurants over on Lurkin' Place," Buffy answered his question about dinner.

"A restaurant on Lurkin' Place?" Xander replied, frowning a bit as he tried to recall the establishment Buffy had suggested. "Which one were you thinking of – Addams' Family Style Restaurant, or Marilyn M's Magnificent Menagerie of Exotic Delicacies?"

"Either one is fine with me, Xand," Buffy shrugged his shoulders to indicate her lack of preference. "The reviews for each of them said they both had a wide range of selections, and that the food was delicious, and prepared exactly as requested."

"Okay, then," Carter nodded his agreement. "We can decide which one we'll try, once we get over there and can check the menus.

"I'm thinking I'm in the mood for some barbecued ribs and maybe some roast beast, too," Xander said, as he closed his rucksack, and swung it up onto his shoulder.

***

They'd just left their room, intent on obtaining dinner, when the world around them was abruptly filled with a deafening uproar, reminiscent of both an explosion and the roar of an inferno, and the area around them suddenly seemed to begin falling apart, while an earsplitting alarm began blaring through the area.

"Watch out! 'Line quake!" Xander thought he heard someone in the crowd around them screaming, an instant before the ground beneath his feet abruptly seemed to vanish, and he felt himself begin falling.

"Xander!" he thought he heard Buffy calling him, and he felt a strong grip fasten around his wrist an instant before something slammed into the back of his head and everything abruptly went black.


FIN (For the moment)

The End

You have reached the end of "You Must Be M.Y.T.H.-Taken". This story is complete.

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