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Monsters or Miracles?

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Summary: Ethan was right when he predicted that Janus' spell would be the perfect example of 'Be careful what you wish for." It's a shame *he* wasn't more careful about what he wished for.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Multiple Crossings > Multiple PairingsGreywizardFR18415,35047626,20331 Oct 1030 Oct 13No

Chapter Three

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

Author’s Note 2: Remember – as usual, "word" indicates speech, :: word :: indicates mental communication and { word } indicates a character's thoughts.

Author’s Note 3: I hadn 't realized I hadn't updated this story for a while, so this will be one of my Halloween updates.

~/~/~

Mayor's office
City Hall building
Sunnydale, CA

October 31st, 1997


"Uhm, I'm sorry to disturb you, sir, but may I have a word?” Deputy Mayor Allan Finch announced as he stood in the doorway of Mayor Richard Wilkins the Third's office, his face displaying a mixture of worry and concern.

Unfortunately for Sunnydale's citizens, however, Finch's worry and concern was focused exclusively on how his boss might react to the news he was about to deliver; not on how to fix the current crisis taking place.

“Certainly, Allan. Now, what seems to be the problem?” Wilkins asked, frowning as he looked up from the book of rituals he was currently perusing.

"Well, there seems to be some sort of mystical disturbance going on in several of the suburban neighborhoods. And all we know for certain at the moment, sir, is that it's not a scheduled event, and that it wasn't initiated by any of our usual citizens or any of the visitors we've identified as having entered town during the past week," Finch responded somewhat nervously, as he watched the Mayor for his reaction.

After all, the Honorable (if one wished to use that term *very* loosely) Richard Wilkins the Third (and who also happened to have been Richard Wilkins the Second and Richard Wilkins the First, as well) was quite well-known for his insistence on maintaining order with Sunnydale’s borders. Oh, and also for being quite adamant that *everyone* in town followed the rules he had so painstakingly established during the course of his reign over this very special town he'd helped establish, nearly a century ago.

"Hmmm. That's not good news at all, Allan, I must say - I'm really not very happy to hear that," Wilkins declared.

"Send some of our people out to deal with the situation, will you, please?" the Mayor directed his nervously perspiring second-in-command, who nodded his eager acquiescence at his boss's suggestion. "And tell them I expect them to straighten things out so that there aren't any additional disturbances tonight.

"Or else, I'm going to be quite annoyed with them."

~/~/~

Sunnydale residential area
Approximately the same time


As they were making their way to the spot they'd determined was the most likely location of the being who'd summoned them here, the conversation between Count Alexander LaVelle and his most beautiful and gracious wife, the Lady Elizabeth Lavelle, was interrupted as a woman's scream rose above the din which permeated the night air.

Glancing in the direction the scream had come from, the pair was quite rudely interrupted by a dark-haired young woman who ran directly towards the Count and Countess; chased by some sort of large, furry creature.

The girl was clad in some sort of tightly-fitting attire, which revealed her figure as though it had been sprayed onto her. The two Strigoi Vii were amused to see such a fetching figure so thoughtfully displayed, but her strident, ear-piercing shrieks as she headed towards them did absolutely nothing to enhance her appeal. In fact, it rather killed the enjoyment altogether.

"Somebody help me!" the brunette bellowed in an uncouth, completely ill-mannered voice, her tone shifting as she saw the pair dispassionately watching her being chased by the beast following her.

"Harris! Summers! What are you two just standing there for? Do something, and save me from this thing!" the girl rudely screamed at them as she ran up to, and then past, them.

Alexander sent a questioning glance to his beloved wife, who shrugged indifferently in response, and so the Count released the control he was maintaining over his aura. As he allowed it to flare the slightest bit from its current clandestine state, the Sasquatch-like beast currently charging towards them practically fell on its face as it attempted to halt its reckless, headlong rush.

Exchanging a small smirk over the creature's obviously intelligent and well-developed self-preservation instincts as it ran away from them as quickly as it could, the two living vampires turned their attention to the slatternly young woman who had halted her hurried flight from the beast chasing her, once she had seen that it had sufficient intellect to recognize them as its superiors. To their annoyance, though, she started addressing them as familiarly as though she were their equal, or possibly even their social better.

"Well, it certainly took you two long enough to help!" the trollop declared as she gave both Strigoi Vii a malevolent look. "That thing almost killed me!"

{ It’s almost as if this doxy actually expects us to consider her opinion to be of any importance, } Elizabeth thought to herself, amused by the thought that a chippy like the one before her believed that anything she might think or say could carry any import to her or to her husband. Well, beyond the amusements of her obvious charms, anyway.

Of course, then the tramp had to go and anger her beloved Alexander by attempting to impugn the woman Count Lavelle had, quite literally, slaughtered a veritable army of both humans and demons when they had sought to keep the two apart.

"So what are you grinning about, Summers?" the brunette demanded, apparently addressing the beautiful blonde vampiress in a way which made no sense to either of the Strigoi Vii.

"I was just attacked by Jo-Jo, the Dog-Faced Boy! Look at my costume!" the wench declared in a shrill and indignant tone of voice, gesticulating angrily the torn sleeve of her garment as she spoke to the pair. "Do you really think that Partytown's gonna give me my deposit back? Not on the likely!

"And I bet that somehow, it's your fault, you crazy freakazoid!" the girl yelled at Elizabeth, an expression of pompous and self-righteous fury on her face as she did so. "Ever since you showed up in town, things have been getting crazier every single day, and you're the reason why!

"Why I–!" the chippy began before she was silenced by Alexander.

"Be silent, you trollop!" the righteously angered husband of the woman being slandered by the slattern before him commanded, his righteous and justifiable fury at the girl's words apparently taking the tramp by surprise.

"If you insist on yapping and snarling at my wife like a rabid and ill-tempered bitch, then let your physical form match your temperament," Count Alexander told the wide-eyed and momentarily speechless Jezebel.

And with a quick gesture and a small word of power, the arrogant fool who'd dared to insult the woman he loved more than life itself was transformed into an equally annoying, yapping, black-furred Chihuahua, which gave a clearly flabbergasted yelp of surprise before quickly turning and running off into the shrubbery of the closest dwelling.

"Do you still with to make her a pet, my love?" he asked his wife.

"Training her to her place might well be its own reward, my dear husband," she replied with a Mona Lisa smile.

~/~/~

Elsewhere in town
Approximately the same time


"Hey, Rae. Fancy running into you, here," Mystique heard a familiar voice growl from behind the small copse of trees that formed the left boundary of the yard she was currently pondering her situation in.

Automatically dodging to her left while spinning to face the potential threat, the blue-skinned mutant (currently in her default 'Raven Darkholme' guise) reflexively pulled the semiautomatic pistol she'd found herself carrying when she awoke in whatever this backwater town she'd been involuntarily transferred to was and pointed it at a spot between the newcomer's eyes. She then addressed her former spouse, who was calmly standing among the shadows of the shrubbery, while wearing a wide grin as he witnessed her reaction to his greeting.

"What are you doing here, Victor?" Mystique asked coldly as she simultaneously scanned the area for any additional possible assailants.

"Oh, come on. You really think that little popgun is gonna hurt me, babe? Or even slow me down?" the solidly-built blond mutant who was wearing a set of worn military fatigues and leering at her asked as he gave her pistol a quick look and then ignored it.

"And do you really think you can simply ignore something that Forge built – *darling*?" the currently dark-haired mutant sarcastically challenged her ex-husband.

"Remember, you've never exactly been one of his favorite people, Victor," Mystique reminded Sabretooth with the same semi-malevolent smile he was giving her, while trying to ignore the frantic questions and demands being thrown at her by the girl she was currently sharing her head with.

:: Shut up, girl, and let me handle this, :: Mystique thought at Willow angrily. :: If you distract me at the wrong time, you could get us both killed! :: she informed her host with a mental snarl.

"Yeah, well, you're right about that," the hulking blond behemoth agreed with her earlier comment with an indifferent shrug.

"Anyway, are you here on a job?" Victor Creed then asked, apparently assuming that since she hadn't already done so, Mystique wasn't going to shoot him – at least, not without sufficient cause. "And if you are, you looking for any help?"

"Why do you ask, Victor? You piss off whoever was your former employer before he paid you?" Mystique asked her ex disparagingly. "As I recall, you seem to have a tendency to do things like that fairly often."

"Uh-uh," the mercenary/freelance assassin shook his head in denial of the other mutant's question.

"To tell ya the truth, babe, I just woke up here a couple minutes ago; and I've got no idea where I am, or even how the hell I got here," Sabretooth confessed with an annoyed growl, even as he kept glancing around the area, as though he, too, were checking for a possible ambush.

"Truth is, I was about to grab one or two of the locals and ask them some questions, when I caught your scent," he informed his former wife, "so I figured I'd ask you first, on the off-chance I might mess up some op you were running."

"A surprisingly wise move on your part," Mystique replied, with the least bit of narrow-eyed snark, "since, if you did foul up one of my operations, I'd make it a point to make you regret it most sincerely, once I found you again."

"Whatever," Victor shrugged indifferently to her threat. "And you still didn't answer my question, Rae.

"ARE you running something here?" Sabretooth repeated his earlier inquiry as he moved out of the copse of trees and drew closer to her. "And if you are, did you, or whoever you're working for, bring me here?

"'Cause it seems just a little too coincidental for me to run into you in some little backwater shithole like this one, if that’s not the case," Victor noted, his statement laced with a (for him) fairly subtle mixture of intimidation and menace.

"Relax, Victor," Mystique answered, holding up her apparently-borrowed body's hand while also allowing her pistol to droop slightly.

"Now that I'm giving it some thought, and I've gotten a better look at you, I think we might actually both be in the same boat here," she said thoughtfully.

"Truth is I woke up in someone else's body a few minutes ago," Mystique said, "and I'm thinking you did the same thing, since you really aren't the Victor Creed I know –

"At least, not as far as the body you've gone and occupied is concerned," the blue woman declared, waving her hand to indicate the person standing in front of her and ignoring the venomous glare Sabretooth was sending her way.

"You need to find a mirror or something and take a good look at yourself, Victor," Mystique told her ostensible former husband and he immediately moved to check his reflection in one of the back windows of the nearby house. "Because you're nowhere near seven feet tall, and you're not nearly as muscular as I remember you being either."

"So, what're you saying – that someone's been screwing around and shifted our minds into other people's bodies?" Victor snarled with incipient rage and suppressing curses as he finally got a look at his face and realized the veracity of Mystique's statement.

"Well, I’m pretty sure that's what’s happened to me, *dear*," the shapeshifting assassin agreed with a nod of her supernaturally-purloined head, "so I'm guessing that the same thing has probably happened to you, too."

"Oh, that’s it. When I find the goddamn asshole responsible for this, I'm gonna rip his fucking lungs out!" Creed declared furiously.

"Not before I get a chance to show him the error of his ways, Victor," Mystique told him with a truly cold, vicious smile. “So. Want to do this one together?”

"Sounds like a plan to me," the mentally-transplanted mercenary agreed, giving his companion a blood-chilling smile.

"All right then. Let's go find our benefactor," Mystique declared as she turned and began walking back towards the street still filled with screaming children.

"I can’t wait to thank him, *properly*, for everything he's done."

~/~/~

City Hall building
Sunnydale, CA


"This place looks like the abode of some overly straight-laced, small-minded, provincial boor," Countess Elizabeth declared as she examined the large, two-storied, but exceedingly drab-looking building which served as City Hall with a critical eye. It was almost like the building was trying to hide in plain sight.

"Someone who desperately clings to whichever narrow view of the universe to which they were first introduced by whatever fool or idiot committed the error of allowing them to even learn of the existence of magic," the living vampiress went on with a sniff of disapproval. "Public officials that hide instead of lead seldom have their charges best interest at heart."

"I am certain you are, as always, correct in your evaluation of whomever it is who rules from this hovel, my dear," Alexander smiled affectionately at the petite beauty who owned his hearts as he followed her to the currently closed and locked doors leading to the Administration section.

"Well, then, I would suggest we locate the fool responsible for summoning us here and deal with him as quickly as possible, dearest one, so that we might expedite our return home," the petite blonde suggested as she looked up at her husband with an expectant expression on her beautiful features.

"As always, darling, your wish is my command," Alexander replied with a smile as he casually ripped the right-hand door off its hinges.

"Please. After you, my most beautiful and gracious wife," the Count said as he bowed slightly, indicating she should precede him inside.

~/~/~

Sunnydale residential area
Approximately the same time


:: A question, Willow, :: Mystique thought as she headed off down the residential street where she had first awoken in Willow's involuntarily appropriated body. :: Since it appears obvious that we aren't the only ones affected by whatever it is that’s happened tonight, do you happen to know the boy whom Victor is inhabiting right now? ::

:: Uh, well, I don't really *know* him, but I do recognize him, :: Willow admitted to the woman she was currently sharing her body with.

:: His name's Andrew Wells, and he's a year behind us at the same high school that Buffy and Xander and I all go to, :: the redheaded hacker went on in her typically enthusiastic and long-winded fashion.

:: And from what I've seen, he gets picked on by the jocks and the cheerleaders, because they think he's a complete nerd, :: Willow went on.

:: Kinda like the way they all treated *me*, before I started hanging with Buffy, :: Willow reflected musingly, and Mystique immediately picked up on the somewhat bitter tone which her current body's true owner had used when not-so-fondly reminiscing about the recent past.

:: I suspect – these people you refer to, they treated you quite badly, didn't they, :: the self-declared freedom fighter stated more than asked.

:: Am I correct, Willow? :: the sapphire-skinned mutant followed up on her question, when the redhead didn't immediately respond.

:: Maybe, :: the Scoobies' resident hacker reluctantly admitted. :: A little. ::

The intensity of the suppressed rage and shame which accompanied that admission was almost staggering, though. Something the blue mutant easily picked up on.

:: I rather doubt that it was just 'a little,' Willow, :: Mystique disagreed, in what an outside observer might construe as an almost sympathetic tone.

:: The truth is, during my lifetime I have learned how the vast majority of human beings - and most especially, human teenagers - are almost always cruel and vicious creatures, :: the metamorph went on in what sounded like an almost dispassionate voice.

:: Brutal and sadistic beasts, almost, who delight in torturing those they realize are superior to them. Better than they, themselves, can ever aspire to be, :: Mystique continued her evaluation. :: Most especially, when they believe themselves to be safe from any sort of reprisal or retaliation from their victims. ::

:: I believe the best thing that could happen to people like that would be for them to realize that their opinion that they are untouchable and exempt from retaliation is completely incorrect, :: Mystique stated with an unwavering resolve in her mental voice.

:: Wouldn't you agree? :: the being conjured by Ethan Rayne’s chaos magic then asked the true owner of the body she currently inhabited.

:: I suppose… :: The redhead's agreement with Mystique's suggestion was somewhat hesitant. Still, Raven knew that Willow was leaning towards her way of thinking, from all the churning emotions the child was unable to suppress any longer.

:: You suppose? Willow, do you honestly think that Andrew boy *enjoys* being tormented by his enemies? Did *you* enjoy being the focus of such persecution and harassment? :: Mystique continued to press home her point.

:: No! ::

:: Well, then, if it should turn out that the opportunity presents itself, would you like me to help you show those bullies the error of their ways? :: the dimensionally-transplanted shapeshifter then asked.

:: YES! ::

:: Good. ::

The mental impression of a smile which was associated with that reply radiated an almost arctic cold, and Mystique quickly considered the various possibilities relating to how the rest of the night might unfold.

This teenager she'd involuntarily been bonded to might be a flatscan, but the way she'd responded to the shapeshifter's offer indicated that she might possibly possess the same sort of resilience and strength of will that would allow her to establish a position of power for herself in this strange and unfamiliar world.

One in which the mutant terrorist might be stuck, if she couldn't figure out how and why she'd ended up here.

And if an offer to help Willow gain vengeance against those who'd tormented her also helped secure her a more favored position with the girl with whom she shared this body, then Mystique knew she'd be a fool to toss such an opportunity aside.

Besides, she'd *always* despised those flatscans who would bully the weak and helpless simply because they could, so clearing out the human gene pool of such detritus was also helping to improve the world in general, in Mystique’s not-so-humble opinion.

~/~/~

City Hall building
Sunnydale, CA


"Whoever this charlatan we are searching for might be, he has absolutely no sense of subtlety, whatsoever," Alexander declared, releasing a snort of annoyance as he escorted Elizabeth down the main hallway of what the governing head of this provincial little town laughingly called its 'City Hall.'

"You are completely correct, dear husband," the diminutive blonde agreed. "Of course, anyone who would use such crass and badly-designed wards to hide and guard an eyesore such as this must be little more than a barely-trained, near-illiterate apprentice," the Countess observed with a disapproving sniff.

"Mind you, attempting to limit the amount of power available to whoever might he might be parleying with does show some small amount of base cunning," the vampiress admitted after the briefest instant's consideration.

"And while somewhat crude and wasteful in design, you must admit that whoever established these wards did craft an acceptable level of cross-linking and inter-connection, which would prevent the vast majority of wielders from accessing a sufficient level of power to oppose the wards' holder," Elizabeth reflected with a small nod of approval. "At least on a purely magical level."

"Of course. Ah, I would venture that these two louts approaching us are almost certainly some of this pretender's minions," Alexander observed as they evaluated the two blood demon-possessed corpses heading towards them. "To take care of the more physical tasks, obviously."

"Hey, what the hell are you two doing here?" the taller of the two demonic parasites demanded, towering over them and leaning in menacingly, in an apparent effort to intimidate them with his physical size and stature.

"We are here to speak with your master, of course," Alexander replied cordially, ignoring the underling's posturing. His eyes narrowed irritably, though, as the boorish creature's eyes focused on Elizabeth and ran over her sleek form in an uncouth and disrespectful manner.

Before Alexander could take a step forward and discipline the thug for his insulting and impertinent behavior, Elizabeth reached out to gently place her hand on his arm and restrain her husband.

"You can always chastise this hooligan later, my dear," she smiled charmingly at him.

"I would prefer to meet with his master as quickly as possible," Elizabeth added, "so that we might resolve this situation and return home as expeditiously as we can."

"As you wish, my dear," Alexander nodded his agreement with her words. He could wait to deal with this ruffian's insolence until after they had met up with the oaf's liege lord, and persuaded him to return them to their home – without delay.

Then, however, the fool would deeply regret that he had looked at the Countess Lavelle as though she were some cheap tart or harlot.

Anyone who failed to treat his wife with the respect she deserved would learn from their mistake. He would make sure of that.

That they would not survive long, following their lesson, was something else they would discover in the remaining few seconds of their life.

~/~/~
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