Ice Ice baby...
Intro: AU! --Based around the Buffy Novel The Book of Fours by Nancy Holder (for details see explanation at the end .
After their awakening to the power of the elements in ‘The Book of Fours’, Buffy, Willow, Faith and Cordelia defeated the Gatherer using the combined power of slayers past and present to defeat their opponent. However here fate takes a twist.
The 4 elementals bodies are destroyed in the battle, and the power of the line is unable to heal them, though it has destroyed the Gatherer.
However the PtB are unwilling to see the deaths of the four able to unlock the elemental ability to the extreme, instead they are reborn as personifications of the elements themselves and sent to a world in much more dire need than their own, unfortunately the four awaken in a lab having been placed in available bodies. Namely the attempts by one aka The Red Skull, in cloning children of key members of the Avengers. However, none of the Scoobies are ready and willing to play for the bad guys and bust out.
Together Buffy Summers, Faith Lehane, Willow Rosenberg and Cordelia Chase are about to take the world of Marvel by storm, and heaven help anyone who stands in their way.
Disclaimer: Buffy the vampire slayer belongs to Joss Whedon and Marvel owns The Avengers.
Possible Pairings: Buffy/Tony Stark, Willow/Carol Danvers/Tara McClay, Faith/Deadpool, Cordelia/Clint Barton.
Timeline: Buffy season 3, Avengers- Post break out at Rikers, the New Avengers having moved their HQ to Stark Tower. Pre-Civil War.
A/N: Ideas pairing wise would help out.
“We're doomed.” Faith, vampire slayer, embodiment of fire, complete with metal claws that catch and scratch, whimpered in fear, dark eyes wide with horror.
“Maybe we can make a break for it.” Buffy hissed, eyes searching for an escape route and silently wishing for her shield which she was learning to use and already felt like an extension of herself.
Without it she felt vulnerable.
“It’ll be impossible.” Willow shook her head, solemnly, a look of abject misery crossing her face.
“Front exit?” Faith insisted, all but ready to run for it, with or without them.
“Too obvious, we'd be noticed.” Buffy admitted, grudgingly.
“Back door?” Faith’s voice was eager, desperately gripping to that on last shining light of hope.
“Blocked.” Willow muttered from behind her hand, but Faith and Buffy’s advanced senses picked it up easily.
“That's it, then. We're trapped.” Buffy slumped back, her forehead marred by the furrow which had appeared. Resigned to their apparently inevitable and tragic fate, which was worrying for any who knew Buffy and her aversion for doing what fate wanted.
“Well, we could try shouting fire…” Willow stammered, even as Buffy simply raised an eyebrow at their surroundings. “But it's not technically a crowded, and people would know it was us and not go anywhere because they’d see that it wasn’t a real fire and we’d just get in even more trouble because---”
“Babbling Red.” Faith grinned, before allowing a small flame to appear in her hand out of the sightline of others. “Besides, who said we’d have to pretend there was a fire, when we could just DIY it.”
“She’ll know, and kill you, slowly and brutally. We’d never find the pieces.” Buffy replied bluntly.
“Aw, I’d heal.” Faith huffed, extinguishing the flame. “Which is more than I can say for the mental scarring this is causing.”
The three super powered teens glanced around themselves at the aging theatre, walls plastered with the remains of old advertising posters, and the seats, of which most were empty, had seen better days.
Hell the entire building had seen better days.
There on stage, dressed up and flouncing was the source of their mutual pain, the Queen of Sunnydale high and amazing shrinking girl (or growing, it depended on the week) who had, lord knew how, managed to obtain an acting gig at an amateur theatre troupe in New York’s Lower East Side, that they’d settled into. Having managed to actually obtain an apartment that really hadn’t met with Cordy’s approval standards but it was the best they could do with the money they were actually earning.
Their success in blending into the bustling metropolis was mainly due to Buffy and Faith, the former having had that summer fending for herself in much the same manner.
And that time as a showgirl with Pike, hunting vampires in Vegas. But that was never spoken of.
Sequins still gave her nightmares.
And Faith…well the dark haired girl had hinted that she didn’t want the others to ask and they’d respected her wishes.
Correction, Buffy and Willow had respected. Cordelia had pestered until Faith had unsheathed her claws and threatened the former cheerleader with a Mohawk if she kept it up.
Cordelia had been unimpressed, but had dropped the topic in favour of critiquing Faith’s anger management skills.
The four had arrived in New York with little money, no spare clothes other than a few jumpers they’d bought from some charity shops which had almost made Cordy cry, and in all honesty Buffy hadn’t been that far behind. They’d had no idea what New York was like and had later discovered it was like a magnet for most of the world’s superheroes which was going to make keeping a low profile interesting to say the least. They’d also discovered that unlike their world which was I mid-March, it had been mid-November, something to get a grip on. They’d had to sell the car, but reall, there wasn’t much use for it in New York, they could use the subway and having the car would be conspicuous.
Nevertheless, Buffy and the others were making their way in the world. Buffy having gotten a job at a local gym doing beginners classes in martial arts as well as receptionist. Her boss was decent, the pay was alright and it gave her a chance to train herself in her new abilities. Plus, free power-aid drinks whenever she wanted.
The blonde was currently at war with Willow over the fact that she was NOT addicted to the blue, caffeinated substance. Merely that she appreciated the stuff for the interesting flavour.
Willow had pointed out that blue power-aid didn’t actually HAVE any flavours other than possibly ‘additive’ and that if Buffy thought that it had a flavour of its own then she was even more far gone than Willow had feared.
Buffy had chosen to be the better person and walk away from that particular disagreement.
Willow had gotten a job at a two-bit electronics store, playing fixer upper and the like, but apparently due to the slightly erratic nature of her massive and yet to be controlled magic, some of the electronics had a habit of exploding…
Just a bit.
It was one of the reasons that Willow had gone for jobs that weren’t using new stuff, faulty goods could explain away the random self-destructing toasters and portable televisions, or they had thus far at least.
There was also the off chance she could set off the sprinkler system again, like that time when she’d been nervous during one of her job interviews. Needless to say, Willow hadn’t even dared go back in, despite the fact that she’d been offered said job.
In all honesty Buffy was relieved any of them were lucid enough to do said blending, as she had no inclination to be dragged off and be studied by either the government or secret organisations. She’d seen episodes of Roswell!
But the fact of the matter was that no matter how hard they tried things weren’t okay. In fact they were so far fro okay that she couldn’t really remember what it was like. They’d been running on solid adrenaline until their arrival in NYC, unfortunately settling down had the adverse affect of helping said adrenaline and the perpetual states of shock they’d been drifting through began to fade away. Leaving chaos in their wake. Sure they were Scoobies, with experience of apocalypses (was that even the correct plural form---Apocali maybe?), but they were a group of teenage girls who’d been ripped from everything they knew and dumped in a strange land that was eerily similar to their own, and yet oh so different.
And so very far from their loved ones.
There were good days, bad days and worse days. So far this was looking to be one of the good, as disturbing as that was when correlating it with Cordy’s acting skills. But Willow had yet to explode anything (a habit that was making the Red-head babble more than usual and become worryingly twitchy at times); Cordy had yet to grow or shrink out of control, which happened with worrying frequency, apparently the controls on her height had wired themselves to her negative emotions. Apparently her genetics had taken to assuming that bad emotions equals threat. When bad emotions had in fact ranged from cockroach (which had almost eaten a miniaturised Cordy) to ’I hate this and miss my money’ which occurred with worrying frequency and had left one or two holes in the apartment courtesy of giant Cordy.
Thankfully it was in an apartment building terrible enough that the landlord had yet to appear, Buffy was convinced he was too scared to set foot in the place which was so bad that it wobbled when anyone used the stairs.
So the hole in the wall between Cordy’s room and the kitchen/dining room/living room/entrance, now blocked off by a set of floral curtains that Willow had hunted down at a flea market, and Cordy had claimed were hideous.
She’d still used them though.
Their apartment was a three bedroom place, and Cordelia had point blank refused to share a room, Buffy had acquiesced, purely because she was convinced that if anyone shared a room with her, the girl wouldn’t be waking up one morning. They were already (technically) illegal citizens, adding murder to the list wouldn’t end well. And Cordy had apparently found an extra well of bitchiness as a way of reducing her power-induced stress levels.
In the end Buffy and Willow had managed to fit two makeshift single beds into their now shared room, and were co-existing, so far, in a state of harmony.
Even if the other girl’s technology went everywhere, and she had a habit of posting newspaper articles of the Avengers to the walls.
It was disturbing to note that the man that was now ‘biologically her father’ (according to Willow---Buffy had doubts she could ever be related to someone quite so wholesome) seemed to have a fetish for America in general, and wore these ridiculous wings on the side of his head as part of a costume. It was almost like watching a train wreck, she couldn’t look away.
Though she really hadn’t appreciated the US flag t-shirt Faith had bought her as a gag gift, commenting about patriotic genes. The I heart NYC one from Willow had received equal sulking.
She was almost turning into Angel with the brooding she was doing, was it contagious or something?
Not to mention that the clipping really brought it home that they’d somehow managed to settle in supernatural central, and they’d been especially careful to avoid the areas where the crime fighters seemed to cluster.
Faith had the other room, mainly as Buffy had no desire to share with Faith AND any male friends she brought back, with worrying frequency. Apparently this was Faith’s way of relieving stress. Though Willow had made quiet noise about sex addiction, the dark haired former slayer ignored it. In fact, if Buffy was correct, the other girl had, if anything, upped her number of…friends.
Faith had also taken to disappearing in the evenings and re-appearing with suspicious piles of cash. Buffy had persisted about the situation, but Faith had eventually managed to convince the blonde that other than some underage drinking, that she hadn’t broken any federal laws.
Namely, wasn’t selling sex, drugs or stolen goods.
Buffy had ended up going with her just in case, and as it turned out that Faith had gotten into an underground fighting ring.
Buffy refrained from pointing out that with her adamatium skeleton and super-healing, the other girl was technically cheating.
Didn’t want to burst the other slayer’s bubble.
Speaking of bubbles, Buffy was convinced that her bubble was now burst beyond repair, wincing internally as Cordelia posed.
This was a good day?
“One day, I might, yes. Many years from now, when I've lost my looks a little. Do not laugh.” Cordelia threw back her head on the stage.
Faith choked on silent laughter.
“Time?” Willow queried, looking exhausted, as she turned to Buffy. The red-head’s chaos magic making it impossible for her to wear watches, as they had the annoying habit of becoming erratic or just breaking entirely.
Lots of things broke around Willow these days.
Which kind of sucked, because they needed a new microwave now. Their stove having the unfortunate habit of not actually working.
Buffy was currently existing off a diet of instant Coffee and pixie sticks and the others weren‘t faring much better.
“Only another hour to go.” Buffy commented.
“I mean of course, a time will come when Torvald is not... is not...Line??” Cordelia’s attempt at whispering for the prompt had the affect of echoing around the theatre, and by this point Faith was literally hanging off Buffy’s arm as she shook with silent hysterics.
“It hurts B. It hurts.” She gasped between breaths filled with uncontrollable giggles, something Buffy had never expected to see from the younger slayer. But being trapped together in some hoakey universe with suped up super powers that were becoming increasingly difficult to control was apparently having somewhat of a bonding affect between them.
Cordelia had actually thanked Wills for helping the other day.
Though granted Willow had only ’helped’ because she’d been dragged into it, Buffy and Faith having heard the words ’help practise my lines’ and disappeared in blurs of speed that may or may not have broken the sound barrier.
They hadn’t exactly stuck around to check.
Nevertheless, they were admittedly becoming closer than before.
“Is not as devoted to me.” The prompters whisper was, unlike Cordelia’s, audible to those with superhearing- her and Faith, essentially the only ones aware of the murmured lines.
“What??” Cordy apparently was one of the ones that couldn’t hear, and loudly demanded the line.
“I may have been incorrect with the hour-to-go statement.” Buffy drawled.
“May?” Willow hissed in disbelief.
The prompter whispered the line once again, though slightly louder.
“Is not as devoted to me.” Cordelia finally spoke the illusive line with a dramatic sob added to the end.
“Betcha wish alcohol worked on you now.” Faith grinned, pulling out a flask of something and taking a swig.
“It doesn’t work on you either.” Buffy pointed out, quietly disbelieving.
“I like ta pretend.” Faith shrugged.
“They have a name for people like that you know.” Buffy snorted, returning her attention to the----ahem---- acting, in front of them.
T-minus 1 hour and counting.
“Well, I felt we did very---”
Willow quietly rolled her eyes as Cordelia babbled about how successful she’d felt the play had been in helping her on the way to stardom and that she’d been offered a minor part in another play, which made Willow cringe inwardly.
Her brain had barely survived the near liquidation caused by this play. And now they had another?
“Cordy, I can honestly say I never experienced anything like it.” Buffy cut into the brunette’s monologue, utterly deadpan.
Though how her blonde friend managed too keep such a straight face when Willow was used to her being so emotional was…weird.
Not ‘kooky’ weird, more of a ‘what the hell’ kind of weird.
Ever since they’d arrived in this place it sometimes felt like her best friend had been replaced by some kind of robot, the lack of emotional response to their situation giving Willow even more to worry about than her own ability of blowing up stuff in the near vicinity.
It felt like Buffy was closing herself off from everything, almost reminding her of Giles. Not the glasses cleaning or the obsession with books or anything but the whole, keeping emotions secret.
All stiff upper lip and stuff.
It was weird and wasn’t Buffy.
It was so un-Buffy that Willow was worrying about her friend’s Buffy-ness level, maybe the bad guys had messed with her mind or something?
But that would have been on the computer data so no…
But their situation was bound to change even the most normal of individuals, hell they’d probably be changed more. She knew that she wasn’t exactly rolling with the punches right now, at times longing to hide under the bed and not come out.
Missing Xander so much it hurt, sure she loved Oz and missed him, but as far back as she could remember it had been Xander and Willow, or Willow and Xander. Always together, and now…
Now they were a whole dimension apart, and Xander thought she was dead, thought all of them were.
It made her ache at the thought of what Giles, Mrs Summers, Angel, Oz and Xander had to be going through right now.
They hadn’t even gotten a chance to say goodbye.
“I miss school…” She found herself muttering, before realising that the other three were looking at her in bewilderment.
“Huh?” Buffy tilted her head in mimicry of how she would when normally confused, but Willow knew her friend well enough to know when she was pretending.
She knew what Willow meant, and Willow suddenly felt angry at the pretence of it all, kicking at a can that lay on the messed alley which they traversed on the way home. Wasn’t like they had to worry about being mugged or anything.
“From home, I miss school.” Willow shrugged, sullenly rebellious as she gazed at the ground as they continued walking.
“That is without doubt the geekiest thing you’ve ever said.” Cordelia commented lightly, her tone missing its usual malice.
“I know it is, I'm just a big fan of school! You know me, I'm like, ‘Go school, it's your birthday’ even if it was on the mouth of hell itself. And I had all these plans of what I was gonna do when I graduated, I even made a timetable and made annotations and notes that I went over with a system of different coloured pens, before it was pointed out to me that that it was, you know, kind of insane.” Willow babbled, no longer able to stop herself.
“I said quirky.” Buffy muttered softly.
“I just…I mean I don’t even have a diploma now…” Willow huffed, scrunching in on herself.
There was a pause and---
“I miss my bed, in a none cockroachy house sure, but it was a nice bed and it was mine and I could actually get to sleep on it.” Cordelia offered.
“Mom’s hot chocolate.” Buffy added softly.
“Alcohol that works.” Faith muttered huffily, making the others chuckle, despite the fact that Faith was essentially wishing to get drunk. “Christmas is coming up, maybe if we’re really good we can get ‘em from the big guy in red, if Queenie gets over her new phobia of men dressed in costumes based on primary colours.”
“Santa always passes me by. Something puts him off. Could be the big honkin' menorah.” Willow deadpanned.
“Lets go home and see if I can make that hot chocolate.” Buffy sighed shaking her head in resigned amusement.
“Oh please, you burn water, like we’re gonna get anything but sludge out of your attempt to make your mom’s amazing, low-fat hot chocolate with mini-marshmallows, which I might add we don‘t even have because someone ate them all.” Cordelia snorted, flashing a glare at the amused looking Faith.
“I can try.” Buffy huffed.
“But ya won’t succeed.” Faith added.
“What is this, pick on Buffy day?”
“It’s always pick on Buffy day, you’re a painfully easy target Summers.” Sniffed Cordelia.
Willow just watched them, feeling more alone now than ever before.
This wasn’t home.
And it was never going to be.
It was raining, Willow noted when she awoke, her senses when it came to water in the vicinity were becoming sort of ridiculous.
It was like she could…taste the rain in the air.
She’d mentioned it to Buffy who’d been kind of interested as to just what rain tasted of, that hadn’t really been the point.
What had been the point was that she could feel rain, felt more awake when there was rain, her powers were more likely to go haywire when there was rain. It was like they’d taken too much candy or something, and were on a sugar rush. It had been raining during her job interview when she’d set off all the sprinklers in the building at once.
She clambered out of bed, flicking off the alarm as she did so, Buffy snuffling quietly in her sleep on the other single bed, looking worryingly child-like for a girl who supposedly embodied a super-soldier.
“Buffy?” She whispered softly shaking the other girl. “It’s time to get up.”
Buffy let out a muffled groan could well contain the words ‘Leave now,’ or possibly ‘Get thee hence, foul demon.’ but Willow was pretty sure it didn’t mean ‘of course, I will be out of bed momentarily’.
She shook a shoulder gently, attempting to wake up her best friend without being swatted by the hand of a half-asleep, super-strong girl. “Come on Buffy, the alarm doesn’t sound for nothing. Up and at ‘em!”
Buffy merely let out a groan as Willow slipped out of the room, hopefully Buffy wouldn’t need another wakeup call, they needed all the steady income they could get, which was currently being contributed by Buffy and herself, and the last thing either of them needed was to get fired. Cordelia was apparently ‘between work’ and Faith’s habit of bringing home large wads of cash, sporadic at best.
Planning fiscal policies for a ex-valley girl with a thing for knives, a formerly super-rich fashionista and a girl with a policy of ‘want, take, have’ was, she was discovering, difficult.
The laptop she’d picked up was still having difficulty with her monthly accounting logging, but it was tough, it would have to just suck it up and crunch those numbers like the number cruncher it’s excel programme was.
With a yawn she hurried into their communal living area, managing to grab a cracked bowlful of lucky charms and what was left of the juice. She really needed to remind the others that there were people who did not live off: caffeine and sugar alone (Buffy), very little (Cordelia) and pop tarts and whiskey (Faith).
She noted Cordelia curled up in her fairy-like form, apparently she was stuck again.
“I’m not stuck!” Huffed the tiny, flying girl. As though reading Willow’s mind. “I’m practising doing it at will so I wont get stuck any more. You suggested it right?”
Willow blinked, almost surprised at those words, Cordelia taking her advice was enough to shock her into silence, especially when she herself had failed to take her own advice. When it came to her powers Willow’s main policy was to ignore, her gaze fell to the droplet splattered window, almost buzzing with energy.
Willow had started to hate rain. And she wasn’t the only one, whilst Faith’s Boston heritage came to the fore as the other girl willingly embraced the weather. Cordelia with her frequent trips to the cold, damp (and expensive) ski slopes of Aspen was similarly unruffled.
Buffy however, unaffected by temperature change as she was these days, did not appreciate the rain, and had a habit of sulking furiously when it dared occur, as though it precipitated purely to annoy her. When Willow clearly held precedence with that problem.
Wasn’t it supposed to snow at Christmas anyway?
“Um…” She realised Cordy was waiting for an answer, “y-yeah.” She nodded seriously. “It’s like a muscle, the more you use it, the better it’ll work. Muscle memory.” Her gaze caught the time, as she hurriedly began eating. “I’m going to be late at this rate, the weather always holds things up.”
“At least you’ve got a job to be late for.” Cordelia quipped making Willow start in surprise, at the girl putting herself down like that.
“No luck?” Willow tilted her head questioningly.
“Not unless I want to walk dogs professionally or sell people things they don’t want and will honestly never need, over the phone.” Cordy huffed fluttering into the air to land beside Willow‘s bowl, leaning against the rim casually like some odd breakfast-fairy.
“Something’ll turn up eventually.” Willow raised her glass of juice to take another sip and glanced at their ten dollar clock. “Do you think I should give Buffy another wake-up call, she’s yet to emerge?”
“Another wake-up call?” Cordelia’s eyes popped wide with fear. “Meaning you’ve already tried to move her this morning?”
“Well yeah, why wouldn’t I have? It’s what I do every morning.” Willow frowned uncertainly.
“I’m amazed she didn’t create a cyclone to throw you out the room.” Cordy’s tiny frame (wings and all) shuddered at the mention of the power Buffy had yet to manage, the others being close enough to her slayer abilities to be taken in stride. Though unlike Willow, Buffy’s accidents were rare, occurring when she was extremely upset or startled badly, but they happened to manifest extremely dramatically.
It had only happened once since the incident in the lab.
“But she leaves for work at the gym at the same time I do.” Willow insisted. “If she doesn’t get up, she’s going to be late, and then she’ll get in trouble from ‘the man’ and get fired and then that’ll be three people without permanent jobs and we really don’t need that right now because rent’s due soon and…”
“Willow, breathe, okay. If you die from suffocation or something in front of me, then you’ll scar me for life.” Cordelia pointed with a tiny yet visibly and precisely manicured nail, though how she’d managed that without a professional Willow would never know. “And as for the gym, said gym is closed for Christmas renovation work for the next two days, so little miss slayer gets paid vacation. Which she reminded us all of last night, five times each, along with threats as to what would happen to those that disturbed her lie in.”
“Oh!” Willow gasped, she remembered now. Buffy had even stuck a ‘do not disturb’ sign above her bed.
Why couldn’t it just be permanently sunny like California?
The damp that seemed to permeate most of the red bricked New York during rainy periods had literally become a deluge with people (more sensible people) forgetting about where they needed to be and instead focused on getting to shelter.
She should probably do the same, but since when did she ever do what was sensible?
Straight away the umbrella she’d brought proved almost comically useless. Water lay in vast puddles across the city streets, soaking through her trainers and turning her calf length skirt into a wet flap of fabric that stuck uncomfortably to her legs. Still, she scanned the faces of the people hurrying around her, all bundled into raincoats and trying to ward off the deluge with umbrellas. The red brick buildings stood side-by-side with more modern constructions, and her gaze took in the glowing lights of restaurants and shops and internet cafés.
The inevitable Christmas decorations looked pathetic in the downpour and merely managed to depress Willow even further, there was just something so very upsetting about tinsel that looked like drowned creeping vines.
T’is the season to be jolly.
She studiously ignored the newspaper stands which announced the latest exploits of the Avengers and/or of the Fantastic Four, it was just depressing these days, her wall having become more of a reminder as to her own worries than a source of information on their new bodies’ biological donors.
She was only a block from work now, and as usual her gaze fell onto her morning temptation. Willow sometimes wondered if she’d purposefully picked her place of work to be only a block away from the only Magic Shop in the area, some sort of test for her will. Once upon a time she’d have eagerly visited as soon as she could, back in Sunnydale. But that was then…
Willow knew she was having a harder time dealing than the others, or at least it seemed that way. And she also knew why, because unlike the others she had a pretty good grasp of comic book history from her friendship with Xander. He’d toned it down with Buffy, and with the whole focus on saving the world from vampires and demons so Buffy had only gotten a small bit of information on the marvellous comic book world. And Cordelia and Faith were doubtfully even aware that the comic had a storyline.
Willow was all too aware of what her powers could do, of what The Scarlet witch had done when she’d gone insane and lost control. She’d killed people, incinerated buildings, destroyed realities and so much more…
The thought of losing her mind like that, of unintentionally hurting her friends, was enough to make the formerly excitable wiccan terrified of her own power.
That was the reason that she avoided her powers like the plague, unlike Faith who’d taken to using those claws for anything and everything. And Buffy who took the powers which gave the impression of a slayer boost in her stride, if a little emotionlessly.
Willow was constantly afraid if she gave in then she’d lose her mind to the power.
But Cordelia, Miss-I-will-never-touch-anything-geeky-after-Xander-Harris-again-Chase, was practising her powers and that was enough to knock Willow off balance. Make her feel slightly hypocritical. Her friends were all trying to get used to their abilities so as not to hurt people, and she was blowing up evil toasters.
Magic needed practise to be controlled, it was on of the lessons that Miss Calendar had given her before…
Which was why she was here now…Cordy had reminded her of the techno-pagan’s words and now she was here to get some idea of this world‘s magic.
Maybe if she practised she wouldn‘t have the problem with control, after all Xander had once commented that the Scarlet Witch hadn’t been all that well trained. If Willow trained and research, and she was a research queen if she said so herself, then she could control herself.
Like muscles, the magic needs to be trained, she reminded herself as she pushed open the door of the shop.
She had half an hour till she was due for her shift.
There was an air of wonder and mystery about the place, reminding her of Aladdin’s cave or something, as the dimly lit interior shimmered with hidden treasures as she stepped into the shop named Arcania, the bell attached to the door ringing merrily in contrast to the sedate nature of the store itself.
And then there was the smell of paper and ink that filled the store, making her feel at home, it was almost like being in Sunnydale library, minus Giles and the inconvenient mouth of hell under feet. There were books from across the globe from different periods and cultures, some in Latin and others of Greek and one or two even in Sumerian, that Giles had begun to teach her the basics of before the…
Before the badness that was bigger than their usual badness.
The scent of sandalwood and Jasmine hung in the air, and shelves were filled with candles of every shade, smell and texture for spell casting.
The sound of charms clinking against one another due to the breeze she’d allowed in, rang gently through the air, from where they hung beside various amulets, crystals, semi-precious stones for protection spells and the like which she’d only read about and hadn’t managed to attempt back home. Along with odd little coins covered in patterning that she had no idea as to the purpose of but found surprisingly intricate and beautiful.
There were drawers filled with chalk for spell circles along side anthames and crystalline jars of…stuff…
She had a feeling that she didn’t want to know what was in those.
“Can I help you?”
She glanced up in surprise, to see the man behind the counter, besides a glass showcase of rare-looking books. He was an elderly man with a kind air about him, dressed in baggy slacks and an oversized, grey cardigan sweater.
“Oh, um…I’m just here to look around, you know with the looking and deciding if I want to buy and stuff, like you do…in a shop.” Willow found herself babbling nervously, shifting from foot to foot in an almost guilty manner. It was almost like talking to Giles when she’d ‘borrowed’ one of the books from his private collection.
“You’re here to learn control correct?” He tilted his head at her, eyes twinkling suspiciously like Albus Dumbledore’s in the Harry Potter books, which made her start in surprise. Even without the creepy and eerily correct guess of her reason for being there.
“I…” Willow’s hands sparked pink and she squeaked, quickly hiding them and pretending nothing out of the ordinary had happened, the store owner did not appear convinced.
“Impressive.” He commented, raising an eyebrow dryly. “My name is Charles McNeal, and I might have just the thing you need.”
Forget looking like a jolly old man, was he a mind reader or something?
Mr McNeal went hunting around in the back of the counter before dropping an old styled, leather bound book on the counter with a flurry of dust emerging and making her cough slightly.
‘Incantrix’ was the title and it looked old, as in really old. As in expensive old.
“I don’t think I really have the money for it.” Willow shifted slightly, nervously.
“Oh it’s not for sale my dear. It’s what you might call a gift…You see I’m rather good at knowing to whom my books belong, it’s always been a certain…ability of mine. And this one had been waiting for quite a while.” Mr McNeal winked mischievously, almost making her warm to him.
Did this mean he was magical too, she silently wondered eying the book, allowing a hand to reach out and brush the cover. Startled by the feeling of belonging she got from the piece of supernatural literature.
Like it was meant to be hers.
“I…Thank you.” She flushed a she picked up the book, flicking through the index to find that it had exactly what she needed at the very front, meditation and foci. The later stuff was complex, transmutation and summoning and the like, but she wouldn’t need that.
What she needed was help focusing.
“I’m certain you’ll take good care of it my dear.” Mr McNeal smiled mysteriously, and ushered her out of the shop with a grin that made him look like a school-boy despite the white hair.
Almost on autopilot, Willow shoved the book into her bag as she headed out the door, confused by her meeting with the magic store owner Mr McNeal.
She was so lost in her own head that the red-haired wiccan forgot to pay attention to her surroundings. She barely looked which way until a hulking behemoth shoved past her, so rudely and powerfully that she very nearly went sprawling into a nearby puddle and would have had it not been for her sheer dumb luck which meant she instead staggered into a wall. Before she could so much as mouth a protest, the man was gone.
Attempting to control her temper as a nearby puddle began to bubble ominously, Willow returned her attention to slogging through the water towards her job, until she caught sight of the big man again. The brute proved difficult to miss, even in the rain and darkness: well over six feet tall, with the vast shoulders of a professional athlete.
He strode forward with single-minded absorption, literally pushing people out of his way.
A smaller guy with an almost rat-like appearance about him bobbed alongside him, his head barely touching the bigger man's shoulder. Despite the little-and-large difference in their physical appearance, they plainly were working together as a team, and the synchrony in their movements spoke of a long-standing partnership.
They're after something.
Willow realised, and for some reason she had a bad feeling about them.
Ducking her head beneath her hood, and subtly shifting her umbrella so her face could not be seen, Willow Rosenberg continued down the street, avoiding looking at the two men.
Heading for her job with the book all but burning a hole in her bag with the way her thoughts revolved around it and exactly why Mr McNeal had chosen to give her the antique which was old enough t have been printed by Gutenberg himself, the paper aged and waxy and making her silently panic that one wrong move could crumble it to dust.
She silently hoped the damp wouldn’t damage the font of knowledge. Her mind shifting entirely from the two strangers even as she began to run in order to avoid the text becoming damaged by the persisting downpour.
However, even as she did so the ’little and large’ individuals entered the magic shop with a third figure that had gone unnoticed by the red-head. And unbeknownst to her, they would become the harbingers of change.
“What happened?” Willow gaped at the mass trail of pine needles that ran through the apartment, and the ratty-looking Christmas tree that had been ditched in the corner of the room and that Cordelia was puttering around like a…dare she even say it…mother hen?
“Ya don’t want to know Red. I can already feel it leaching the strength from me.” Faith commented from behind the breakfast counter that doubled as their apartment‘s only table, from which she was eying the tree with a wary gaze behind her pop-tart.
“It’s a Christmas tree Faith, not an armed nuclear bomb.” Buffy drawled from behind the magazine she was reading on their battered couch which had seen many more better days and had to at least have been 6th hand by the time they‘d gotten a hold of it.
“It’s…domestic… I don’t do domestic.” Faith huffed with a pout that looked odd on the usually uninhibited slayer.
“I’ve decided we’re doing Christmas, and whether you want it or not, you’ll be helping.” Cordy stood, hands on her hips. “I will have at least a little normality in the middle of this freak-show. And that’s final.”
“Um…Jewish.” Willow raised a hand. “And I’ve got work to do.”
“Work?” Buffy put down her magazine. “So close to Christmas? Are we sure your boss isn’t, you know…evil?”
“We could go ruffle him up if you want to?” Faith queried far too eagerly.
“No! I mean it’s research for me, magic stuff.” Willow hurriedly explained.
She almost smiled, she was researching magical stuff.
She could be research girl again, Willow allowed herself a smile as her hands ran across the pages of the book. She was really good at being research girl.
“Just whatever you do Red, don’t read from the books out loud.” Faith smirked, as she nodded to the book. “With the voodoo that you-do ya never know what’s gonna happen.”
“Yeah Wills, no demon summoning from the ‘great beyond’.” Buffy grinned playfully. “That way lies badness, and dry cleaning.”
“Which we can’t afford.” Cordy’s voice echoed from behind the tree where she was apparently struggling with some cheap fairy lights that had inevitably become tangled between the box and the tree, making the others grin.
“Check, no money spending and no badness.” Willow gave a mock salute as she headed for her and Buffy’s room.
Sliding gracefully into a cross-legged position on the floor, she took out the notebook and began copying out information once more.
She quickly set up the described spell circle similar to those she’d practised previously, and almost reminding her of the ritual to resoul Angel.
The book said she needed to find her inner-calm to aid in her manipulating her magic to her will, open herself to it…
She found herself falling and then…
Sun was shining in the sky, a stark contrast to the week before and there wasn’t a rain cloud in sight, and despite the chill on the air that had forced her to wear a scarf, Willow bounced down the street, barely able to contain her excitement as she headed back to the Magic shop early on Saturday morning eager to talk with Mr McNeal once more about some questions the book had raised.
The book had been amazing, she’d spent the past week eagerly reading it whenever she could, it just helped make sense of everything. She’d even been able to perform some minor spells and her shielding looked promising.
It was weird to be researching over something that didn’t involve the Scoobies and some demon-y varmint, and yet at the same time a Good Thing, as those research opportunities generally involved quite a bit of Ouch.
Willow was hoping for very little ouch during this outing.
As for the shop itself, it just drew her as always and probably would have even if it wasn’t for her kooky powers. In fact Willow would have probably have actually entered said shop sooner if her powers hadn’t been of the ooky.
And she’d, you know, been in her own universe.
She suddenly, and painfully, missed Jenny Calendar. Who they’d lost even before jumping head first into another world. Giles had tried but…he just didn’t get it, though she didn’t have the tea drinking watcher for help.
Mr McNeal seemed to understand and actually used his magic, that had to show for something, didn’t it?
Unsure as to the etiquette of arriving to ask for magical advice, Willow arrived with the book tucked carefully under one arm and a bunch of bagels in her shoulder satchel, she wasn't sure what kind the elderly gentleman would like so she’d picked up one poppy-seed, one plain, and one whole grain (with little packages of butter, cream cheese, and jam on the side).
With a deep breath to steel her courage Willow pushed open the door to the Magical Emporium, and stepped into the dimly lit entrance, the bell jingling to announce her presence.
To find herself gaping at the wrecked interior, jars and statues were shattered, and the shards lay across the floor like some joke of a mosaic. The amulets she’d admired during her last visit were gone, and various books had been tossed higglty pigglty leaving some of them hopelessly damaged after lying on the floor for who knew how long.
She let out a startled cry as two figures emerged from the back room, recognising them as the men who’d knocked her down on the street some days before, on her last visit. Had they been on their way here?
Had they hurt Mr McNeal, who’d seemed such a nice man?
Steeling herself she stood her ground raising her chin as they approached.
“Y-your not supposed to be here. Where’s Mr McNeal? I-I’ll call the police if you don’t leave right now.” She glowered nervously as the smaller and skinnier of the pair unsheathed a pair of knives, and where was Faith with those overused claws of hers when you actually needed them?
Shuffling back slightly, she shifted feeling the sparks crackle off her fingers.
“He’s busy talking to our boss at the moment, but don’t worry little Miss. One ’e gives ’er what she wants ’e’ll be fine see?” The one with the knives spoke in a cockney accent reminiscent of Spike’s as he casually twirled the blades in his hands as she’d occasionally seen Faith and Buffy do. “Why don’t you run along now?”
“She’s got the book, though.” Commented the larger man, with a nod to the tone she held, making Willow wrap herself around it protectively.
“Well, so she ’as. That’s very lucky dearie, cos we’ve been looking everywhere for that, all over this dump and you had it all along. Hand it over please.” Smiled the thin-man, revealing chipped, nicotine-stained teeth as he did so. Holding out a hand as Willow backed up nervously.
His gaze turning hard as she resolutely shook her head.
“The book, now girl!”
“Oh, uh, you mean this book that I in no way have in my hand and haven’t been messing with for the past few days, no sir, not me.” Willow babbled awkwardly backing up attempting to think of a plan.
The pair stepped towards her, threateningly, and Willow had to admit that for such a short guy, the way the man she’d mentally nicknamed ‘weasel’ handled those knives was enough to make him as ominous as the big man.
“Divello!” She yelled, throwing up a sparking pink hand and yelled her triumph as a large blast of magic sent the pair hurtling backwards into the darker reaches of the shop and into crumpled heaps. Her first successful, practical battle-spell of this universe. It deserved celebration, it deserved recognition, it deserved…
For her to run now because the bad guys were getting up and didn’t look all that peachy.
Clutching the book tightly to her chest she hurtled out into the morning rush on the streets, hoping to lose the men that would undoubtedly be following.
“Hi, you’ve reached Fitness First, this is Buffy Summers how may I help you?” Buffy’s voice sounding unbelievably perky down the phone line left Willow momentarily stunned.
It took a few moments for her to pull herself together before, shocked to bluntness, she asked, disbelievingly:
As if the response would be no, good going there Willow, look like an even bigger spazz while you’re at it. If she had a hand free she would have smacked herself around the back of her head.
“The very one.” Buffy drawled, shifting from ‘perky automaton’ to ‘Slayer lacking caffeine-fix’ with such speed that it left Willow reeling. “What’s the what Wills?”
“Do they actually pay you to talk like that?” If so, she was never complaining about her job again.
“It’s part of being a exercise-citizen-interface consultant.” Was the blandly amused tone from her friend.
“Have they medicated you?” Willow was, by this point, utterly bemused, despite the seriousness of the current situation.
“Nope. What’s the what?” Repeated the slayer dryly.
“Are you free?” Willow hissed hurriedly down the line.
“Right now, or more philosophically speaking?”
She could hear Buffy leaning back in her chair, casually and almost yelled.
Instead she growled:
“I could be, I suppose.” Buffy hummed thoughtfully. “I’ve got lunch coming up, and no classes.”
“Good. I’m two blocks from you, by that coffee shop we both know you‘re addicted to and I think I‘m being followed.”
Buffy rocked forward, Willow could tell by the sound of her feet landing squarely on the floor. “What?!”
“Get over here.” Willow insisted, and the line clicked dead, as Willow slumped against the side of the phone booth.
Hopefully Buffy would get there soon. She clutched the spell book worriedly, even as her gaze flickered back to her ’shadows’, choosing to slip into the crowded coffee shop. They wouldn’t be able to do anything to her in such a public place, and hopefully Buffy would take the initiative.
Buffy did arrive about 15 minutes later, dragging the cavalry with her. The cavalry was a disgruntled looking Cordy and Faith looking like she hadn’t had any sleep and exceedingly grouchy about it, but still...
By the time they arrived, Willow’s stalkers had disappeared and Buffy determined that the best course of action was to check out the Arcania shop for clues as to the kidnappers and what had happened exactly to Mr McNeal. Willow and Faith had fully agreed, though Faith mainly went along with it because it looked as though there would be violence to be had. Though they successfully hustled Cordy along with them.
An impressive feat in and of itself.
“Well, isn’t this cosy, you could call it home.” Snorted Cordelia as they crossed the threshold into the crowded shop.
“Universes come and go, but the unfortunately unlucky existence of the humble magic shop owner never changes.” Buffy sighed dryly, from behind a tootsie roll pop held in her mouth, making her look even younger in her over-sized denim jacket and still wearing her gym uniform. “How many owners did the Magic Box back home go through?”
“I lost count.” Willow muttered as she gazed around the wreckage that had been displays and merchandise, the place had been torn apart looking, apparently, for the book that rested under her arm.
“Looks like whoever’s masterminded this little setup wants a word with you though Red.” Faith snorted, holding up a parchment envelop and really that was just really really over the top. Paper had existed for a few hundred years now, whoever this was really needed to modernise.
With a sigh Willow opened the parchment, addressed to Red.
Almost as soon as it was opened the over-the-top paper jerked out of Willow’s surprised hands, hovering momentarily, before it seemed to unravel itself, the words seeming to fly off the page and re-arrange themselves in mid-air in glowing flames.
“Faith!” Willow scolded, before realising that it was a spell and not the fire-natured girl keeping the words alight.
‘South Docks, Quay 5, 9.00 pm, Bring the book.’
The words crackled ominously in mid-air for the four teen-heroes to read.
“One ring to rule them all…” Buffy intoned deeply, voice riddled with sarcasm as she spoke, eying the flaming words even as Cordy blasted the blazing note and letters with the fire extinguisher that had hung on the wall, earning herself bemused looks from the others as it faded from sight.
“Fire hazard, duh!” Huffed the Earth-natured socialite, tossing aside the fire-fighting equipment.
Faith merely smirked, clearly about to make comment, but Willow swiftly cut her off.
“So anyone else thinking…” Willow started, looking from the book to the remains of the message.
“Trap?” Buffy queried.
“Definitely a trap.” Faith nodded.
“So a trap.” Cordy studied her nails
“So we…?” Willow prompted, holding the book tightly.
“We spring the trap.” Buffy nodded seriously, going into ‘slayer mode’ which, if anything, made Willow more confident. She’d missed slayer-mode. “Save mister McNulty…”
“McNeal.” Willow interjected.
“Whatever, we save Mister McNelson, stop the bad guys from committing whatever insidious plans they have to do with hocus pocus and the book and then head home. Hopefully without New York’s significant hero population getting involved.” Buffy finished with a flourish. “Because the last thing we need is the bio-rents getting wind of us, so we’ll have to handle this.”
“So what, you're moon-lighting as a crime-fighting crusader now? Got your call sign planned yet? Ego-woman maybe?” Cordelia interjected regally.
“Nope.” Buffy popped the p around her sucker, “but, I am thinking of building a secret, underground base. I'm a traditionalist like that. I may even get some pet bats.”
“All the cool kids have ‘em.” Agreed Faith, sniffing in the air for scents, which was, in Willow’s opinion, kind of gross.
“I hope you people realise the social sacrifice I’m making here. I was invited to a party this evening.” Cordelia puffed out her cheeks.
“If you do this we’ll help you do the decorating you wanted.” Willow offered hurriedly.
“We will?” Faith blinked, letting out a yelp as Buffy elbowed her slightly. “I mean…yeah…we will.”
Oops, Willow glanced over at Buffy who was rolling her eyes to high heaven. Apparently she’d made the mistake of triggering the much feared ‘overly smug-Cordy’.
“I know you are, which is exactly why you are going to be doing the hardest task out of all of us.” Cordy smirked.
“Now hold up there Princess-Barbie, I…” Began a disgruntled Faith before she was cut off.
“Barbie? I’ll give you Barbie, you streetwalking trull-” Cordelia snarled right back, unsheathing the claws that had made her Queen of Sunnyhell high.
A whistle from the usually quiet red-head cut through the air, drawing attention back to her.
“Quiet down! We’re going to save Mr McNeal, keep the book from falling into the hands of the bad guys so I can actually get a grip on my powers and then we’re going to save the day. Any questions?” Willow rattled out at full babble speed, leaving the other 3 dazed and somewhat confused, her hands sparking with energy as her magic reacted to her emotional state.
There was a pause before Buffy raised a hand.
“Is the magic supposed to come out all pink and shiny?”
The docks were already dark when they arrived, a chill on the air that spoke of possible snow on the air, the mist murky and making the already ominous part of the city even more shadowy and suspicious looking.
The four girls stood in somewhat defensive positions, and by somewhat defensive Willow meant that Buffy and Faith had that look about them. That they weren’t paying attention to anything in particular when in fact they were fully aware of everything around them, indeed the darker haired girl looked utterly bored with the situation as she used one of her claws to clean her nails. Whilst Cordy stood with her arms folded, resolutely glaring at everything in the vicinity even as Willow clutched at the book tightly. Her nose tingly as her magic fought to get free as if sensing the seriousness of the situation.
“Anyone else feel like we’re about to get snuffed by someone called Jimmy the Nose and get sent to swim with the fishies?” Buffy queried conversationally.
“It is an extra level of ooky that sort of reminds me of Sunnydale.” Willow agreed, shivering lightly.
“Well our guests are here.” Commented an oozingly smooth female voice as a twenty-something woman appeared opposite the four, dressed in something straight out of the Adams’ Family wardrobe, with her hair pinned back in an intricate style, but all Willow could do was silently wonder how the woman could wear a dress like that in weather like this, snuggling deeper into her own sweater. Even if she had that fur-thing round her shoulders, and Willow hoped that wasn’t real animal fur, because the number of poor things that would have been killed to make that would---
Willow was drawn out of her inner-babble as Faith snorted under her breath.
“Not like we got here first or anything.”
As the woman stepped forwards the two men from Arcania stepped forward, the larger of the two holding up a battered Mr McNeal as though he were a sack of groceries or something and not a person. Willow let out a gasp and started forward before halting as the creepy-lady was joined not only by those two but a group of about 19 or so teens of around their own age. Eyes glowing with what her book had identified as one of the signs of BMA (Basic Magical Addiction) used by some darker magic users to keep their followers on a high that held them not only under their thrall but also kept them strong at the same time. Without the spark they were just quivering junkies on a withdrawal. It was unbelievably cruel to do that to them.
Not to mention the odd for the Adams family reject just went up.
“Only a few of them huh?” Cordelia commented wryly. “Odd, because there look to be about twenty magically souped up whack-jobs added on.”
“Must have miscounted.” Willow gave a sheepish smile. “Ooops?”
“Don’t here me complainin’” Faith grinned viciously as she held up her balled fists, unsheathing her claws as she cracked her neck. “What d’ya say B, mini or maxi?” She nodded to the two lead minions, knives and the giant.
“I’m flexible.” Buffy punned back.
“I bet you are.” Faith leered.
“Okay, seriously, must you?” Cordelia raised an unimpressed eyebrow.
“I must.” Faith puffed out her chest proudly. “I am Faith hear me howl.”
“That was almost empowering.” Willow muttered, shaking her head as she stepped forward, clutching the book tightly under one arm.
She stepped forward, the others moving to cover her back as the woman scanned over her disdainfully, clearly finding her lacking in some way, which made Willow silently bristle at the unhidden insult. She was plenty butch when she wanted to be!
She just chose not to be.
“You’re the one who took my book?” Snorted the woman.
“It ain’t exactly yours Morticia, possession is nine-tenths the law an’ all.” Faith snorted dryly.
“It’s mine,” The pristine woman snarled, before instantly becoming as polished as before. “I’ve been looking for it for a long time, so if you could just hand it over you can have your fool of a shopkeeper back and everyone’s happy.”
“What do you want the book for?” Willow demanded, finding her voice.
“I assume you haven’t gotten to the later chapters if you’re asking me that. You see whilst the text is good for learning to channel large sources of magic, its later chapters contain information on how to bend the fabric of reality itself.” The woman smiled brightly. “I wish to do so.”
“And let me guess,” Willow frowned, this situation hauntingly familiar. “You don’t like what you’ve got so you’re pulling a switcheroo with the book to have everything how you want?”
“No, I just want total domination over Earth.” Shrugged the woman lightly.
“What do you know, an honest villain, oxymoronic or what?” Cordelia sniffed eying her nails thoughtfully at the corner of Willow’s perspective.
“It wont matter.” Slurred Mr McNeal, making her realise with a start that he was still conscious. “Even if you get the book, you’d be a fool to try the spell Marguerite, in a city inhabited by the Sorcerer Supreme.”
“The Sor-who-whatting-how-with-huh?” Buffy queried.
“Stephen Strange, he’s supposed to be the strongest magic user on this plane of existence. He lives in Greenwich.” Willow shrugged.
“Like ya do.”
“Silence! Strange will be nothing when I have the book, now hand it over to me little girl.” The woman, now identified as Marguerite, yelled, loosing her cool.
“Um…I think I’m gonna have to decline on that.” Willow commented stepping back, book in hand. “Because the whole world domination wouldn’t be of the good and things would go horribly wrong if dimensions were messed with…”
“What Red’s tryin’ to say in a very drawn out and rambly way is ’fuck no’.” Faith sneered, unsheathing her claws once again. “An if you want it you’re gonna have to go through us.”
“Oh sure, bait the insane magic users, that’ll work.” Cordy snorted, even as the thralls started to shift forward as one, and Mr McNeal was dumped unceremoniously by the unjolly giant, who stepped forwards cracking his knuckles as the other man eagerly spun twin knives which after her time around the life of slayerdom, Willow could recognise as parry knives. Both which held a slight pink sheen that spoke of ensorcellment.
“Well…it appears we’ll just have to take it from you.” Sighed Marguerite removing the long-sleeved, black gloves she was wearing casually, and allowing sparks of deep red magic to run up her arms. “Such a shame, I was hoping to do this peacefully.”
“Which is why you brought the entire evil marching band?” Snorted Cordelia and Willow internally winced, calling on her own magic.
You knew things were getting bad when Cordy started making too much sense.
“Wonderful, more religious fanatics after complete global domination…. Must be Tuesday.” Buffy muttered under her breath, rolling her eyes as she moved onto the attack, somehow ending up facing the wall of muscle that was about three times her petite (not short damnit!) size.
Shield on one arm she pivoted on one heel in order to avoid a punch with a fist bigger than her head, using her momentum to swing back and into a roundhouse kick which caught the walking mountain in the gut, and following up with a three punch combo enforced with all the advanced strength she had.
Her blows however, didn’t seem to have the slightest affect…which was really not of the good. It was then that the man moved, blatantly telegraphing the blow, giving Buffy enough time to draw up her shield to block the blow. Starting with surprise as the adamatium let out a loud clang as though hit with something closer to an iron bar than a fist. Making her back up out of his fist’s range, knocking away another magic junkie with a snap-kick to the jaw, but keeping her eyes on the behemoth at all times.
He was not normal, she decided, one of the metahumans that the news kept babbling on about maybe?
She blocked another of the large fist’s blows, twisting away from the follow up blow with acrobatic ease. He was slow, a lot slower than her, which was her advantage. An advantage that she’d be manipulating in order to take the hulk’s only slightly better-looking cousin down.
Making a decision, she feinted a blow with her left, and then put all the induced strength and a little more behind her right arm, not her fist, using her adamatium shield as a weapon and catching the big man in the face directly with the edge of the thing. There was a hollow crack as she heard something give way, leaping back out of range in case of retaliation. A direct blow from this guy would hurt, enhancements or not, if she had to guess she’d say he was stronger than Oz on the full moon and even the Master. Which meant a hit Buffy would be a hurt Buffy.
The giant reared back, nose gushing but other than that unreacting, his patronising smirk gone and replaced with a look of dislike.
Which meant two things.
One: This robo-freak didn’t feel pain.
Two: He was pissed.
She wasn’t sure which bothered her more, dropping into a defensive crouch she smirked once again, motioning for him to come at her.
After all, tough guy or not, she was still the Slayer.
The problem with magic users, Willow noted for future reference as she dodged a (pink) spell blast, was that the most of the time that they were powerful they were utterly nuts. Which meant any attempts to reason with them were ignored, and they seemed to be so up themselves that not only did they pretty much ignore any pain that wasn’t life threatening.
She’d have to be careful about that, make sure the others knew if she started sacrificing chickens in the basement (not that they had a basement but that was beside the point) then they had permission to force her through as many hours of the Gillmore Girls as they deemed necessary to get her away from ‘the dark side of the force’ as it were.
As she moved to focus her burgeoning magic, focusing it into a shield with a yell of ‘desino’ in order to deflect the crates the other woman sent flying towards her, Willow caught sight of Buffy as the other girl catapulted through an arc of backward flips to avoid a ribbon of purple lightning from one of her opponents, and using her shield to deflect the rest. Throwing herself into an almost cat-like spin mid-air to avoid a punch from the big-man.
Faith appeared to be baiting her opponents, as Cordy grew to a dramatic size as she used a hand the size of a door to send two minions flying through a thin partition wall and clear through it, continuing on to explode among several piles of brick and mortar by the looks of things.
The woman in charge of the so-called Black-Thorn coven lunged towards the book still clutched in Willow’s hand, and she was just beginning to understand that maybe bringing it along hadn’t been the best of ideas, and Willow knocked her back.
Her magic was more powerful than this wanna-blessed-be, but the other had more control. Hadn’t cobbled together what she knew on the fly.
Why hadn’t she practised more in the past?
Oh yeah, exploding stuff.
At this point, exploding stuff could really help. With a growl, Willow flicked a hand, sending an arc of unshaped power forward to blast the magically-high tramp hurrying to attempt to free a particularly battered looking Mr McNeal.
Unfortunately her distraction didn’t last long and she was once again forced back by her opponent.
“Do you really think you are a match for me little girl?” Sneered the blonde arrogantly. One thing was for sure, Willow noted silently, Marguerite was a few tarot short of a deck and it was showing.
“We’ll hafta see!” Willow huffed in response, using her shield to block once again, almost sent staggering as Marguerite used the wreckage of the packing crates to attack once more, muttering under her breath all the while, the air beginning to crackle with blood-coloured lightning.
“Oh fishsticks…” Willow muttered as the spell grew in size and strength, slowly but surely overtaking its caster.
Things had just gotten trickier.
“Our Mistress will have the book.” Growled the token male, eyes pink with the power-trip he was currently riding as he lunged at Faith, blades in hand.
What was with the sparkles anyway? Faith wondered silently, as she swiped at the knife-wielder with her claws, thankful that though hers may not be magically enhanced, they weren’t removable and they were made of unbreakable metal.
Point to her rat-boy.
“Mistress? I find myself not even wanting to know.” Drawled Cor-zilla from above as she knocked out two more of the witchy-wannabes with a flick of her finger. Attempting to be careful at such a large size was something Faith would never experience. But at least now the other girl could live up to her ego.
“Clearly they’re into bondage fun.” Faith snorted, deciding that a) it was time for her to get serious and b) they needed to start avoiding the wack-job cultists and their take over the world schemes.
Though the minions were a good way of burning off steam, as Faith had found out recently her more…feral side had come even further to the fore since they’d arrived in the bizzaro-world and didn’t like being caged.
With Faith found acceptable, but these days finding men both good enough and stupid enough to get into the ring with her were getting fewer an fewer.
Either they were growing brain cells or they just couldn’t physically stand up anymore.
She needed a release that didn’t just involve sex, but violence, and this was giving it to her.
With a triumphant snarl, she noted when her opponent had a flaw in his guard, her claws slicing up to catch his wrist and make him drop one of the knives, her other hand flew out, her claws sheathed and caught him a right hook across the jaw, breaking it cleanly, and sending him hurling clean across the docks.
“Haha, touch down for the slayer.” Faith grinned smugly, as she noted Cordelia rolling her eyes. “What’s up Cordy-kong?”
“Less irritating, more fighting!” Was Cordelia’s huffed response.
“Stick in the mud.”
With a flick of the wrist, her other claws were sheathed and she got into some down and dirty with the left over lackies, using the dodging round spells as her own way of letting off steam, playing with her opponents.
Confident in her ability.
All in a day’s work for a super hero- slash- hot chick.
“My guessing is that’s not of the good!” Buffy’s voice echoed over the crackle of the red-lightning Marguerite summoned into her hands, Willow noticing that the other girl was defending her back from the big man, who was apparently impervious to pain.
Willow gave a weak laugh, “you could say that.”
“Well, we’d bet-” Buffy’s eyes widened as she drew up her shield in time to block the blast aimed straight for her own back, but it held enough force to send the other girl tumbling back head over heels and land in a crouch a few meters away, standing to punch the large man in the gut as he attempted to creep up behind her.
Apparently the super soldier serum allowed for eyes in the back of her head.
Willow’s gaze was, however swiftly drawn back to her own opponent. That blast had been enough to knock Buffy over, and though Faith could heal from a blast like that, it would most likely be fatal should one hit herself, Cordy or the still bound Mr McNeal.
Gritting her teeth, Willow drew on her magic in full, unleashing it in a way she’d never previously allowed herself.
The raw power rattled through her system, all but taking on a mind of its own and it took everything Willow had to keep it under some semblance of control and focus it towards her enemy and not her friends. Her brain buzzed as it flowed through her, pink and golden sparks emerging from her fingertips. It was almost like her body was moving of its own accord, as her hands began to rise.
The magic swirled forcefully around the red-head, as she held up her hands, it had been aching to be used, had been locked away and was now going to use all the stored power to keep her safe, the power seemed to inform her. Then to the stunned surprise of everyone, including the spell caster herself, there a mini-snowstorm that hit the air, the magic and her control of water blending seamlessly in one devastating attack that erupted past the unnatural lightning with ease, and with lightning swiftness across the dock and enveloped Willow’s magical opponent almost instantly.
Leaving in its wake a path of ice long the flooring, frost touched and unconscious Marguerite, the lightning fading almost instantly.
There was a resounding thud as Buffy finally felled the big man, whose immunity to physical attacks faded the moment Marguerite fell unconscious and the blonde swiftly dealt him a direct hit with her shield.
Faith’s opponent was similarly down for the count and giant Cordy held two helpless minor spell casters in her grip with a frown on her face.
Apparently it was Marguerite’s power that had kept them running and now she was out…cold, they were quick to make with the unconscious.
Carefully Willow staggered over to her opponent on unsteady legs, glancing down and recognising the signs of on setting hypothermia and realised calling an ambulance would be best at this point.
When she suggested this to the others, Buffy had agreed, commenting that maybe they should just knock out what was left of the coven those that were still conscious seemed to be paralysed in shock that their leader was down for the count.
Or whether they should find out the whole story behind the little snatch and grab.
"Hmmm… lengthy explanations versus gratuitous violence- I'm thinking I like the latter plan better." Faith smirked, showing her teeth, with Willow was convinced were pointier that they had been once, even as a tackily dressed woman wearing a Halloween witch’s cape was dropped with a gentle tap though from a girl with an adamatium frame it was all but a 10-punch-combo.
“Where did you learn the word ‘gratuitous’?” Cordelia snorted, growing to her natural size with an intrigued expression, her two captives having fainted and been dumped with the others. Disdainfully accepting the coat that Buffy offered her to hide the fact that she was essentially wearing a silvered swimsuit type outfit, which still proved to be the only thing that would grow or shrink with the girl.
“G-man’s word-a-day-calendar.” Faith responded smugly.
“I didn’t know people still had those.”
“His time-life one was wrecked by the mucous demons a while back.” Buffy snorted knowingly.
“Damn those were nasty…” Faith gave an exaggerated shudder, as Cordelia pulled a disgusted face, having missed that particular adventure.
The two super-strong members of their little group moved to tie up their opponents and left them for some place that the cops would find. What with them being wanted criminals and all, it made sense.
With a mutter of Latin and a wave of her hand Willow used a binding spell that would last for another day or less, making Buffy nod her appreciation and Faith whistler quietly as they helped an unsteady Mr McNeal to his feet.
“So…magic…not just for show?” Cordelia sniffed, acting unimpressed as she studied the glowy pink bindings Willow had made for the sorceress‘ minions.
“But it’s sparkly too.” Buffy piped up, grinning.
“And pink.” Faith nodded solemnly.
Willow merely shook her head, far too used to the two former-slayers’ antics by this point.
“C’mon Mr McNeal, lets get you home.” Willow smiled at the elderly magic practitioner, helping him forward, as the man gave a grateful nod at her aid and Willow turned to the others. “I’ll take him back and catch up as soon as I can.”
The others nodded, though there was a glint of…dare she say understanding, in Cordelia’s eyes.
And with that turned to head out.
The shop was still the mess she’d found it earlier that morning, though why she’d expected it to be any different made Willow slightly self-patronising.
Mr McNeal, who’d insisted that she call him Charlie, but she had yet to be able to do so, it would be like calling Giles- Rupert- it would just be way too weird.
Mr McNeal shook his head as he pocked at the shattered glass of the display cabinet that lay across the floor like crystalline snow, clucking his distaste. “Kidnappers, no respect for tax auditing,” he said with mock disappointment, making Willow smile slightly.
“I-if you need any help…” Willow started.
“Oh my dear, you’ve done enough already. My assistant will be returning from her holiday soon anyway. Now, would you care for a drink? Coffee some tea maybe, you’ve had a busy day from what I can tell.” The old man held up a white plastic kettle.
Willow gave a smile and requested a cup of tea, it reminded her of the library, in this place of books and magic and adding the scent of tea would help her reminisce.
The old magician flipped the door sign from open to closed, ushering her into one of the comfortable chairs scattered around the shop as he pottered around fixing up two cups of tea. He even had a tea pot, which made her smile.
He placed the cup into her hand, joining her with a cup of his own and she blew on the tea, keeping her eyes on the man before her, who she was now certain was a magic user.
“W-will they be coming back?” Willow questioned. “Any others after certain texts?”
“I shouldn’t think so. Unfortunately they caught me on an off day and my wards weren’t quite up to their usual snuff…Speaking of which…” He muttered more to himself, before raising a hand and speaking a jumble of words clearly which she recognised as Latin after all her time translating and spell-working in Sunnydale.
There was a ripple of soft, pink energy and the walls and door momentarily glowed before fading and leaving a soft hum of power and protection that she could feel hanging in the air.
“Wow…” Her eyes widened in appreciation.
The store-owner shot her a smile as he flexed his hands and blew on his fingertips. “It should be alright till I can get someone else to re-do the originals for me.”
“B…but these are plenty powerful you should be safe from attack with them up.” Willow stammered after taking a sip of her tea.
“It’s not attack I’m worried about my dear, it’s the magicks.” The man smiled self-depreciatingly.
“Why?” Willow blinked. This man seemed so comfortable with magic and had started making her feel more comfortable with her gift. If he couldn’t handle it then…
“Because I’m getting old my dear and the magic is tied to me. In my youth I could have powered the ward indefinitely. Not so much these days. My life force isn’t powerful enough to keep it steady. Which is why a powerful amateur like Marguerite was able to enter with ill-intent in the first place. The wards are usually tied to my younger and much more…resilient assistant, who is unfortunately visiting family for the holidays.” Charles McNeal gave a broad shrug. “My guess is that ’coven’.” He spat the word scornfully. “Waited until the warding was switched to me and then chose to attack while I was vulnerable.”
Willow nodded her understanding, it wasn’t about loss of control it was merely age getting to the kindly store owner.
“It was a good thing I gave you the book.” Mr McNeal continued with a smile. “Or there might have been significantly more trouble.”
“I was meaning to ask actually….wh-why did you…?” Willow trailed off, searching for the right words.
“Why I gave you the book?” Mr McNeal finished with a smile. “It is difficult to explain…In a way you…reminded me of myself. When I was a young man I worked as a stage magicians with illusions and sleight of hand. I found myself, to my own surprise, using actual magic. Uncontrolled, and during one show I almost set the building on fire. I realised I needed to learn control lest I injure another, and so I delved into the magicks, found what I could in order to ensure it wouldn’t happen again. My magic and myself have been on rather good terms ever since, as one finds that it is…to an extent…aware.”
“Aware?” Willow sat up in her chair, startled. That would explain her spell on the docks which had intermingled with the water without her even willing it to do so. Almost as if it had thought for itself.
“Magic cannot just be locked away or it will push uncontrollably to the surface, instead you should work with it. In a…mutual relationship.” Mr McNeal struggled for a moment, visibly looking for the correct way to describe it.
“Like a symbiotic relationship?” Willow eagerly queried.
She felt like she was back at school.
“Exactly.” He shot a broad smile at her, before continuing. “I sensed you from the moment you started walking past my shop, the way you’d shut off your magic and wondered how long it would take to pluck up the courage to enter. Your own ability is so much larger than mine and I hoped the book might give you some grounding. Could you forgive a foolish old man for getting you involved in such a situation?”
“B-But it wasn’t you fault.” Willow insisted hurriedly, and found him studying her thoughtfully before he nodded.
“If you say so my dear.”
“I do say so.” Huffed Willow, let it not be said that she wasn‘t stubborn when she wanted to be, resorting to pulling out her infamous resolve face that made the other man‘s self-assuredness crumble.
“Well then, I shouldn’t keep you. Those friends of yours might be getting worried.” With a smile Mr McNeal began to clean away the cups. “The book is, of course, yours to keep. The least I could do.”
“I…Um…Thank you.” She brushed invisible crumbs from her skirt as she stood to leave. “Would it be okay if umm…stopped by sometimes?”
“My dear, you’re welcome anytime.” Mr McNeal chuckled. “And happy Yule.”
“Happy Hanukah.” Willow returned and headed out into the night, a smile on her face and a skip in her step for the first time in a long time.
Maybe she could do this after all…She wasn’t the Scarlet Witch, she was Willow.
She was the Red Witch.
Cordelia had eagerly jumped on the promises given earlier on in the hectic day and eagerly awaited Willow’s return before enforcing her iron-will upon the other Scoobies and ‘organised’ them into specific decorating tasks. Buffy’s involving paper chains, Cordelia’s painting various decorative items for the tree, Willow was given the lighter option of various paper-snowflakes and Faith was letting out muttered curses as she occasionally stabbed her fingers with the needle as she threaded popcorn onto a string. Though she healed instantly apparently it hurt, and Slayer abilities at instantly knowing how to use a weapon did not include sewing needles.
Willow found herself liking it more than she'd expected to despite her Jewish roots. The coloured Christmas tree lights gave everything in the room a soft glow and the scent of pine hung in the air, rich and sweet. She was even looking forward to watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special on their wreck of a TV that you had to hit multiple times to make it work without going fuzzy on a regular basis.
“Ow…damnit, why did I have ta get stuck with the worst job of all?” Faith growled in playful irritation.
Cordelia pointed at Faith with the paintbrush she was holding. "Shut up and finish your popcorn chain."
Faith rolled her eyes in an exaggerated manner as she picked up another kernel of popcorn and stabbed a needle into it.
“Remind me again why we’re doing this?” She said, even as she slid the popcorn kernel off the needle and along the string until it joined its fluffy, white brethren. “Could we not have just gone out an’ bought a bunch of shiny Christmas balls.” She waggled her eyebrows at the innuendo, even as Willow tried not to blush furiously.
Buffy just snorted and went back to making paper chains from old editions of the Daily Bugle (all of which seemed to have headlines cursing the superhero Spiderman in some shape or form) that their kindly neighbour, Mrs O’Callaghan, who just happened to be overly fond of her numerous cats (including amongst them Snowbell, Mr Tibbles and Fluffy) hadn’t needed and had offered them in exchange for Faith and Buffy helping her do some furniture re-arrangement.
Well it had meant to be all of them, but as Cordy had rightly pointed out---play to your strengths. And they had two individuals with super strength, hadn’t taken a genius.
Willow had agreed and provided the two with caffeine for their trouble, well extra black for Buffy and extra whiskey added for Faith.
She’d made some oatmeal cookies too.
“Absolutely not.” Cordelia resumed applying gold paint to the popcorn she was holding. “We are not having some soul-less modern tree with generic ornaments that we can in no way afford. We are having the good old fashioned, low tech, low cost Christmas. Besides, they’re all the rage at the moment, I saw this cute little article in Vogue about it. You're just trying to get out of stringing popcorn.”
“Yep,” Faith agreed readily, “can’t I go out and get an’ angel for the tree or something’?”
“Oh, you’re doing that later when the popcorn chain is done.” Cordelia responded smugly, as she did what she could with the small tree that they’d managed to obtain, in a way that implied as though Faith should have known this would be occurring all along and any attempts to escape before said popcorn chain was done would result in dire consequences.
Knowing Cordy it definitely would.
“Will.” Buffy shuffled to sit beside her, eying the red-head’s origami attempts at appearing…Christmassy. “I gotcha something.”
“Huh?” Willow blinked in slight confusion.
“Well, technically it was a group purchase, but I must point out that it was I that found it, so any ‘gratuitous’ friendship points get sent in my direction, okay?” Buffy smirked, ducking the handful of popcorn that Faith tossed in her direction without even turning to look, with a graceful ease that Willow would never manage.
Super-magical powers or not.
With a grin Buffy shoved a brightly wrapped present at her that Willow eyed somewhat bemused.
Clearly wrapping presents was not one of Buffy’s super-powers, it looked like the paper hand been torn into little pieces, stuck together with dramatic amounts of duct tape, and shaken up for good measure.
“Oh, open it already, the suspense is killing us.” Cordelia drawled.
She hurriedly unwrapped the gift, and her eyes went wide as the wrapping came off and revealed the burnished metal of a soft gold beneath.
“Oh….” Willow let out a shocked squeak as she ripped off the rest of the wrapping leaving the box of candles that came with the gift to rest in the paper even as she held up the metal construct allowing it to reflect the harsh, overhead lighting.
Knowing full well what a sappy basket case she looked right now.
“You like?” Buffy grinned, knowing her far too well.
Willow pulled her into a vigorous hug, and soon did the same to Cordy and Faith, much to their stunned surprise.
And with that Willow hurried to her feet and proudly rested her gift on the window ledge, ready for when it would be needed.
“Who wants coco?” She smiled, and three hands shot up in unison.
She hurried to do just that, the sounds of Cordelia and Faith bickering as Buffy provided the occasional sarcastic pun making her smile happily, occasionally glancing at her gift.
It felt like home.
Meanwhile out the window it began to snow, in icy flakes that reflected the light of the menorah that now rested on the windowsill of the Summers, Lehane, Rosenberg and Chase household.
End of Chapter.
 Background knowledge of The Book of Four, Buffy Novelisation by Nancy Holder:
Taking place during Buffy's third season, Faith and Buffy are the current Slayers. When mayhem caused by tidal waves and burning forests begin to erupts in Sunnydale as well as vicious attackers appearing with ceremonial axes, the gang knows that something is up. A woman named Cecile Lafitte has sent her element-based servants (known as the Wanderers) to kill the Slayers with special axes, each with its own set element. An a consecutive slayer: Faith being the Slayer of Fire and Buffy being the Slayer of Air. Each Slayer has a special axe made to destroy the Slayer of that particular element. There are four axes in total; air, fire, water and earth. Should Faith and Buffy both be killed with their specific axes then it's believed that the line of Slayers will die out forever. Cecile wanted to bring forth the Gatherer, an old one of enormous power, and the only way to do so is to have the Slayers killed, which would feed the demon enough power to bring him forth into the world. Giles figures out that they need answers from the Watcher of the Slayer that preceded Buffy, India Cohen.
During the final confrontation with the Gatherer, Willow and Cordelia briefly serve as hosts for India and Kendra respectively. As they sacrifice themselves to end the Gatherer they are resurrected by the power of the slayer line. However n this AU something different occurs.