The Element of the Matter
Sorry it's taken a bit longer than I planned to get back to this one, there are a few others I really want to finish. But on reflection this isn't going to be a long story.
All irregularities will be handled by the forces controlling each dimension.
Trans-uranic, heavy elements, may not be used where there is life.
Medium atomic weights are available.
Gold, Lead. Copper, Jet, Diamond, Radium, Sapphire, Silver and Steel.
Sapphire and Steel have been assigned...
Xander sighed as he threw the old back pack back over his shoulder. Smiling at the clerk behind the counter he left the Hardware shop. No sooner had he clocked off from his construction job for the afternoon than his cell phone rang. Somehow the lock he'd installed for Giles at the magic shop had been broken. Alright it was second hand when Xander had gotten it, but he had cleaned it up and tested it. No way should it have just broken like that.
Outside the store Anya was waiting. "How much longer before we can get back home?" she asked with her usual lack of tact.
"You know what Giles would do if he found out I blew off fixing his door?" Xander pointed out, turning to the Magic Box. It was just down the street after all.
"He'd shout at you and call you a useless idiot?" His girlfriend said falling in step. "How is that any different than normal?"
"Ahn, I'll have to do it some time. Now when's better, now or later tonight when we could be doing something else?" He pointed out with a slight smile.
She caught his gist immediately. Anya might have pretended to be ignorant but Xander knew her too well to fall for it. Again at least. "Oh alright, get to it then." Anya said before suddenly grabbing his arm and pulling him back.
"An..." He almost said before she clamped a hand over his mouth, dragging him down behind a rubbish bin.
"They can't be here!" she whispered urgently before poking her head up quickly. "Oh Thor's beard, it's them!" She hissed dragging Xander down again.
"Thor's what?" he whispered back, not knowing what the former vengeance demon was talking about. "It's who? Thor?"
Anya blinked. "No. What would Thor be doing here? It's Sapphire and Steel, they're in the Expresso-Pump, the table opposite the Magic Box!"
Xander blinked, trying to understand what she was talking about. "So?"
"They're two of the Elements! They'd never come to to the Hellmouth, not unless... We've got to warn Buffy!"
That was all Xander needed to know. "Right then, we'll go in around the back." Xander poked his head up for a glance. Anya was focused on the two people over looking the Magic Box. This time it was his turn to drag her and he pulled her down a back alley when he knew the couple weren't watching "How many of these guys are there?" he asked as they dived down the back of the shops.
"A hundred and forty-seven." Anya said urgently
Xander looked at his girlfriend. Having spent a thousand years as a vengeance demon, smiting men in a long list of painful and creative ways not much scared her. In fact he had only seen her this nervous when she learnt the Mayor was trying to become a giant snake. "A Hundred and... They're not all here are they?"
"No, it's just the two of them." She explained, glancing around a corner. "Usually that's all it takes."
Buffy was keeping one eye on Dawn and another on the shelves. She was supposed to be helping Giles sort out what was what. So was Dawn, but that didn't mean the little brat wasn't going to drop something, rip it, smash it or do something unexplainable. At that moment the pain in Buffy's neck was going through a bookshelf. "Ohh Curses!" she said happily pulling the book out.
Giles was closer and before Buffy could say anything she would probably regret later he plucked the book from her hands and put it back. "I wasn't going to read it." Dawn protested.
Giles gave her a look Buffy had been on the receiving end of far too many times. "Here, read this one." he said, handing her one he had picked up earlier.
She turned the book he had just given her over and read the spine. "Blessings? Cool." Far happier than she had any right to be Dawn found a table and sat down.
Rolling her eyes Buffy went back to counting whatever these things were. "Giles, you've got sixty of these big black finger nail things." she held one up.
"Ahh dung beetle shells. Their useful for..."
"Dung beetle?" Buffy interrupted putting it back in the jar. "As in..."
"As in a small insect like creature that pushes dung around, yes." He polished his glasses.
Before Buffy could wash her hands Xander and Anya burst into the shop from the back. "Buffy, we've got a problem." Xander looked around.
"Two elements are outside, it's Sapphire and Steel! We have to get out of here, now." Anya waved her arms about before running to one of the bookshelves.
"Wait, what's going on?" Buffy asked.
Anya was too busy looking through the books to answer. "We saw two people over in the coffee shop" Xander explained. "Ahn recognised them and just went crazy."
"I'm not going crazy." She said throwing a book down on the round table in the middle of the room, shuffling through the pages. "Teleport spell, portal spell... nothing."
Giles put his glasses back on. "Who are these Elements?"
"You know they're... You've never heard of them."
"Evidently not. Now what are they?"
Anya glanced around, "They're... they... They're not demons, but something else. No one knows what though."
"So no one knows what are and you're afraid of them?" Dawn asked, unhelpful as always.
Anya was rifling through another book. "Back when I was working for D'Hoffryn I was into the usual things. Boils, plagues, always stubbing your toe, spontaneous spouting of horns. Then, about four hundred and something years ago, I made a mistake. I changed time. I didn't think it was a big one, I just did it in the wrong place."
"What happened?" Buffy asked. There was something in her voice, she was worried. When a thousand year old vengeance demon worried it was usually a bad sign.
"It went wrong, these little cracks of light appeared everywhere. The lights began taking people, things got weird and then those two showed up..."
"They stopped it." Dawn finished, a strange far away look in her eyes. "They got rid of the lights, but there was a price."
"How'd you know that?" Anya asked and Dawn snapped out of it.
"Isn't there always?" she shrugged
Anya nodded fiercely "Yes, yes there is. They killed the guy I cursed and the girl. They just touched them and poof, they were gone. Lights too. After that they had a word with D'Hoffryn. We weren't supposed to change time again."
Giles hummed and Buffy saw him frowning. "So just how did you end up powerless? You told us you changed time and that an alternate version of myself destroyed your amulet."
Anya winced "We kind of bent the rules a bit. It wasn't big, or it wasn't supposed to be. I didn't know you were the Slayer Buffy and I kind of lost my powers anyway." The former vengeance demon looked at her feet. "And that was why D'Hoffryn wouldn't give me my powers back."
"So these guys were bad enough to scare the big boss of vengeance demons and freak out after taking one look at my sister?"
"Hey, don't look at me. I'm not conjuring the powers of darkness." Dawn picked up her book. "See, Blessings." She waved it about. Buffy grabbed it and tossed it to Xander.
"No magic." She insisted. "I'm going to have a talk with our two stalkers out there. Don't worry I won't let them touch me."
"Are you sure Buffy? We're dealing with creatures we know nothing about. Probably dangerous, likely powerful..." Giles warned
"Hey, I can handle it." Buffy said and left. She was angry, no one messed with her sister and let it show. If these guys wanted to play she'd let them know who they were playing with.
Hopping over the low wall she didn't even bother to order. Buffy just sat down in front of them. She knew she wasn't going to surprise them, but she would have liked some reaction.
Instead they just watched her, cooly. "Alright, Sapphire and Steel aren't elements. So why are you called that?"
The man rolled his grey eyes, just going on eye colour he was Steel. The woman smiled. "We're not that sort of element. How did you know about us, we don't mix with the supernatural world often."
Buffy wasn't going to tell them everything. "Oh we've got a few books, Your mentioned here and there. What I want to know is why you freaked when you saw my sister?" This was the big one. It was only last night that Buffy had found out what the monks had done, knowing that and all of a sudden two super-powerful people turn up out of nowhere.
"We didn't." The man said simply, "If that's what you think you're wrong. Emerald is one of us."
"She sent us a message, we heard it and had to leave." The woman explained.
"I didn't hear anything." Buffy pointed out, their answer didn't sit right with her.
The woman just smiled and then said "You wouldn't." without moving her lips.
"Oh telepathy." Buffy winced "I hate that. So Em just sent you a thought. Alright." It still didn't feel right, but she'd accept it for now. "So what you doing here, I wouldn't advise sticking around for the nightlife around here."
The two of them looked at each other and Buffy got the feeling she was being left out. "We work with time. Protecting it, sometimes weak points get tapped. Become weaker." She explained. "Think of time like a howling gale on the other side of a wall. On this side there's still air and everyone is safe, but if someone opens a window the whole room could be torn out."
Buffy put it together. The room could mean Sunnydale, it could mean more. "And you guy's lock the windows?"
"No, we board them up. Windows are wrong." He said. "There are things out there, in the storm. They might break through. That's worse."
Buffy just took a deep breath. "I thought we had enough trouble with Hellmouths."
"You do." He said.
"We don't know why we're here." The woman explained. "But we can sense when one of these windows is going to open. Or is getting weaker. Emerald thinks it might be the hellmouth itself going though a phase."
"It happens." She shrugged. "Nothing we can do about it but sit and wait."
"And that's what you're doing here, waiting incase something happens." Buffy put it all together. It fitted. "Right then, this sounds a little out of my league. It's usually vampires, demons and that stuff." She admitted. "So if you're going to be around for a bit we better agree to keep out of each others way."
"Agreed" The man said. "You keep out of our business, we keep out of yours."
Buffy stood up. "Sounds good." she said and left, determined to keep an eye on them both.
Inside the Magic Box Buffy found the gang in full research mode.
Steel watched her leave before looking at his companion. "Why did you lie to her?" he asked.
Sapphire didn't answer for a moment. "However she got here Emerald means a lot to that girl. They are family."
"So are we." Steel pointed out. "She doesn't belong here, we should take her."
"No" Sapphire shook her head. "Until we know what's happening and how she got here we could do more damage than good."
He thought about that. "Inserting her here was done carefully. We can be fairly certain it was done magically. What we need to know now is why a child, how she survived and why she ended up with these with these people."
The two of them sat in silence, watching the shop. One of the curtains twitched slightly. "They will be watching us." Steel pointed out
"Then we should call for help."
Steel knew that was a bad idea. "They would send Lead, if he found out..."
"They were partners." She reminded him. "He should know."
"Sapphire." He said "Lead took it badly. He's not been able to keep a partner since. Too willing to sacrifice himself."
"So we watch, learn what we can and develop a theory as to how she got here."
Steel drank a mouthful of coffee "Agreed."
Joyce had, for the first time this month, been able to close the gallery on time. She wasn't surprised that her daughters weren't home, but if she knew Buffy her eldest would be back for food. Joyce never understood what it was with Slayers and food. A quick look in the refrigerator decided what was for dinner.
No more than half an hour later both Buffy and Dawn showed up, arguing as always. "I'm just saying why can't I?" Dawn asked as they came in though the back door.
Joyce didn't know what they were arguing about but she got the feeling it had been going on for awhile. "I'm not saying I want to fight demons, I just want to know a little magic."
"What are you going to do with it?" Buffy asked. This was one time Joyce was going to have to take a side. She didn't have a choice with Buffy's destiny, neither of them did, but they both silently agreed to keep Dawn out of it.
Dawn however didn't seem to understand that. "I don't know... float a pencil!" It was obvious she hadn't put a lot of thought into it. "So that if I ever lose one I just have to, you know, poof and I've found it." She smiled, obviously pleased.
Joyce shared a look with Buffy. "So you're going to call on the Dark Arts to help you find a pencil?"
"Not just that..."
"No." Both Buffy and Joyce said at the same time. Cutting off any argument.
Dawn looked at the two of them helplessly. "But Mom!" she whined.
Joyce wasn't about to let her start. "No buts. Dinner." She pointed at the table. Dawn pouted all through the meal but seemed to enjoy it. When they finished she picked up her bag and moped upstairs. A few seconds later the pained sound that could be called music came from her room.
"Thanks mom." Buffy smiled. "She's been a pain about that since the Magic Box."
Joyce decided to put her foot down. "I don't want Dawn playing with magic. It's bad enough she gets kidnapped."
"Now I've got her back every time, and three weeks ago was her fault." Buffy defended herself. "But you're right and the guy's agree. No magic, no fighting. Nothing, but how to run if there's a problem."
"Good." Joyce nodded, that was what she wanted to hear. If Buffy's friends were on the look out as well Dawn was safe.
Buffy stood up. "Speaking of problems we've some visitors in town. Nothing bad but I'm keeping my eye on them. So I've got to go."
"Nothing bad?" Joyce frowned, she didn't like that Buffy patrolled. It was dangerous even after all these years she wasn't happy with it. "Okay. Any idea when you'll be back?"
"No, but I will be back. Love you mom." With that she left, leaving Joyce to worry.
A few hours later Joyce had finished the latest tax report she had to do and the weepy movie she had on in the background finished. Dealing with the IRS had given her a headache, so she took a couple of aspirin and looked at the clock. It was getting late and Buffy wasn't home yet.
Putting her worries to one side Joyce headed upstairs and checked on her youngest. She was fast asleep in bed, curled up around her teddy bear. Joyce was so glad for her, she didn't have to worry about her fighting demons or other nightmares. Just the usual teenage angst; bad hair days, boy's not liking her, being too old for somethings and too young for others.
Joyce often watched her, she used to watch Buffy until she was called. Only tonight something was different. It was like Dawn was changing in front of her.
At first it was only a little thing. Dawn rolled onto her back, dropping the bear. Joyce thought it was a trick of the light, but she looked older. Her face became ageless as she straightened up. Then she began to twitch, dreaming.
As Dawn began to flinch Joyce realised it wasn't a dream but a nightmare. Jumping to her daughter's bedside Joyce tried to wake her "Dawn, Dawn wake up."
"No." she muttered in her sleep and Joyce worried. It didn't sound like Dawn, she sounded almost English. 'We have to get out.' she mumbled. "Can't hold back... the people. Have to save..."
"Dawn, Dawn honey, please wake up." Joyce almost pleaded, shaking her gently.
It wasn't any use, it was like her youngest was trapped. "Lead, get them out. I'll seal it." Dawn ordered someone in her sleep. "I can do it. You have to save them. Take care of yourself Lead." Then, to Joyce's horror Dawn stiffened up like a plank.
Then, as quickly as it happened Dawn was back to normal. Rolling back to her side Joyce's youngest took hold of the bear and started snoring lightly.
Shaken Joyce backed out of Dawn's room. Everything was normal again inside and it terrified her.
End Part Two