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Nope, We're Definitely Not In Kansas, Anymore

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Story

Summary: Things go the least bit wrong when the resurrection ritual the Scoobies are attempting is interrupted.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Anita Blake > General > Alternate UniverseGreywizardFR1312,6640123,62214 Dec 1014 Dec 10No
Rating: FR13 for mention of violence and death and probably some language.

Disclaimer: They all belong to Crack-Head Joss and ME. The setting belongs to Laurel K. Hamilton. Deal with it. I have.

Category: Response to TTH Challenge 2889 (Call of the Haunted).

Time Frame: Starts at the beginning of Season Six, Episode One, then goes AU – *VERY* AU.

Spoilers: None intended, but if you don’t know what happened up to this point, why are you reading this story?

Character Bashing: Nah. Not this time.

Feedback: Of course!

Archiving: Talk to me first, please.

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

Author’s Note 2: I'll be answering this challenge over the course of several stories, not in a single long one.

As usual, "word" indicates speech, :: word :: indicates mental communication and { word } indicates a character's thoughts.

~~~

A place where nothing is as what it seems
Mid-August, 2001


{ After everything we'd gone through since sophomore year, you'd think we'd have finally learned that it's a BAD idea to mess with creepy, mystical forces already, } Xander privately reflected to himself once things had finally settled down a bit.

But no, they'd basically just ignored everything they'd seen, everything they'd experienced and everything they'd done and learned over the course of the past half-decade, and had still gone ahead with what even Willow had later agreed had to have been the craziest, most insane plan that they'd ever come up with since they'd first come together, back when Buffy had first come to town.

It wasn't entirely their fault, though.

They were all pretty much in agreement on that much, at least, if not much else.

True, the fact that that particular night just happened to be both the night of the full moon and Mercury had been in retrograde had been the major part of the reason that they had all agreed was the best time to try to resurrect Buffy. Especially after Willow and Tara had pointed out that it would offer the most propitious time and circumstances for the ritual they'd finally decided to attempt, what with the generally-held belief that the dimensional barriers were much thinner that night, than at other times of the year.

But that demon biker gang's zooming in and interrupting Willow right after she'd begun the ritual and the Hellions then shattering the urn that Anya had spent so much time and effort finding for them to use wasn't exactly something that anyone, especially not the Scooby Gang, could have reasonably anticipated.

That it had also happened to be the same night that certain people (whom the gang had later determined through various divination rituals had been three local idiots looking to establish themselves as the newest Big Bads in town) had lost control when they tried to tap into the Hellmouth for the energy they'd intended to empower themselves with was another thing they'd had absolutely no control over.

Though the fact that the aforesaid idiots would most likely screw up and completely lose control of the ritual they were attempting was something that the Scoobies would have predicted was a virtual certainty, had they known about it, since given the history of the people in question, destiny would pretty much demand it. (That idiot, Andrew, had been the primary cause – distracted by a shiny object, a cheerleading trophy that he insisted was looking at him.)

But absolutely no one could have reasonably predicted the consequences that ensued when all of the different types of energies involved started mixing together and interacting, although the initial results had kinda reminded Xander of some of the more memorable and less enjoyable moments of their high school Chemistry classes. You know – the times when things started going 'BOOM!' and people began screaming and running around in stark terror while everyone tried to run through the exits or dive out the windows at the same time.

Unlike his high school days, though – where the explosions had quickly stopped once they ran out of combustible materials – this particular eruption of arcane energy had continued to grow and propagate, destroying everything in its wake as it fed off the tainted energy that saturated the area.

{ Oh, for the good old days, } Xander had semi-reminisced to himself for a moment, { when things didn't degenerate into an Apocalypse at the drop of a hat. }

Of course, it also just *had* to have been that precise moment when Spike and Dawn had appeared, zooming in on Giles' classic Norton 'cycle that he'd left in storage with them while he returned to England to discuss various things with the Council, and with a bunch of screaming demon bikers on their heels, to boot.

To his credit, the Bleached Wonder had, quite literally, tossed Dawn into his arms, knocking both Xander and Dawn to the ground and the wind out of them, an instant before Spike had then spun the bike around and headed back directly into the bikers' midst, screaming insults at their pursuers and flailing away with a length of chain he'd produced from one of his duster's pockets, in an desperate – but nonetheless successful – attempt to wreak sufficient havoc among them that he could divert their attention away from Dawn and the other Scoobies.

And of course, at almost exactly the same time, Tara had seen the oncoming wave of devastation released by the Hellmouth's botched opening that was heading their way and, after seeing Willow collapsed on the ground in some sort of semi-stupor from the backlash of the urn being destroyed, she had quickly started throwing up a defensive shield around them.

Unfortunately, the blonde witch hadn't noticed that Anya had moved away from them and was several steps beyond the protective barrier, swinging the shovel they'd brought along with them to dig up Buffy's grave at one of the bikers who'd attacked them, only to then be knocked even further away when the former vengeance demon was sideswiped by yet another of the demonic one-percenters swinging its own length of chain and wrapping it around her neck, to begin dragging her body along behind him after snapping her neck.

Sprawled on his ass fighting for breath and with his arms filled with a stunned and semi-hysterical Dawn, Xander had been unable to scramble to his feet in time to even try and grab his fiancée (although seeing the way her head was awkwardly twisted to one side made him realize that there was little hope that Anya had survived the biker's attack) and there had been less than a moment to register the horror of the poor woman's demise.

It was a fraction of an instant later that the roaring tsunami of destruction had swept over them, annihilating everything it touched and the world around them had disappeared in a blinding flare of senses-shattering light and impact, Xander's consciousness reflexively shutting down under the impact of the overpowering sensory input as he instinctively curled himself around Dawn in a reflexive effort to protect her from whatever the hell it was that was occurring.

And so it came to pass that, after a sufficient passage of time, the mystery of Sunnydale’s disappearance was ultimately consigned to the realm of the never-to-be-explained, to be mentioned in the same breath as the Mary Celeste and Grantsville, West Virginia – although the satellite photos of the catastrophe which eventually made their way onto the Internet supplied the various conspiracy aficionados and alien invasion/contact groups with sustenance for debate for decades to come.

~~~

When the surviving members of the group had finally awoken some indeterminate time later, they'd found themselves lying out in the middle of some seemingly remote stretch of elm forest, all of their heads aching and bodies throbbing like they'd been beaten with Olaf's troll hammer – something that Xander could personally attest was no picnic, at all. They'd ended up wandering around for several hours, with Xander carrying an unconscious Willow and an extremely fatigued Tara helping to support a barely conscious Dawn, before they'd finally stumbled across what appeared to be someone's weekend mountain hideaway bordering a rather large lake, with the power and utilities still turned on and functioning, luckily for them.

They'd reluctantly broken into the cabin then, since Dawn and Willow were both clearly incapacitated and still in shock from everything that they'd been through and Tara looked like she might be joining them at any moment if she didn't get a chance to rest, too. Thus, the somewhat depleted Scooby Gang had taken advantage of the opportunity Fate was offering them to let all three women rest while Xander settled down in an old-fashioned wooden rocking chair to try and ponder their situation and evaluate everything that'd happened to them.

Once he'd discovered that the computer in the den was connected to the Internet, Xander had tried utilizing some of the bare-bones skills he'd developed over the course of the past few years as the jack-of-all-trades he'd been after graduating high school, and he'd begun an urgent search to figure out where and/or when they might have ended up.

It was actually kinda scary the way his fingers seemed to dance like lightning across the keyboard and vague memories (that he couldn’t actually remember learning) of various tricks and ways to circumvent the security protections guarding the computer had just suddenly popped into his mind whenever a problem had appeared. But, not wanting to question good fortune (especially after all the bad fortune they'd experienced lately), he'd gained access to the needed accounts quickly enough.

And Xander Harris had then spent several incredulous hours reading through the various articles posted on innumerable web groups before he'd stopped trying to deny the undeniable realization that insisted on pounding its way into his already throbbing head – that they'd all apparently been thrown through some sort of interdimensional breach (he had been a fan of Sliders, after all) and they now found themselves in a world that appeared to be even more insane than the one they'd left.

It was freaky enough finding out that magic was apparently universally recognized as existing here – and that its use was pretty strictly regulated, at that – and that there was a much wider variety of shapeshifters living among the human population than just werewolves. But it was the revelation that vampires were recognized as citizens in this clearly insane world, with most of the same legal rights as the people they fed on, that had left Alexander Lavelle Harris wide-eyed and dumbstruck with astonishment and disbelief.

Yes, by all means, let’s give equal rights to the creatures who think of you as food! There was absolutely no questions about it, he decided after reading about the Addison vs. Clark case which had established such a precedent – lawyers were certainly going to be at the enter of the next Apocalypse!

Of course, it was right about then that Dawn, Willow and Tara had finally woken up, and it had taken the First Scooby a while to explain to what he believed had evidently happened, and then even more time to calm both Dawn and Willow down sufficiently that they could begin discussing what they needed to do to get themselves established in this new world they'd found themselves stranded in.

It had been while they were checking themselves out, examining each other to ensure that no one had suffered any injuries aside from the self-evident bruises and abrasions that Tara had discovered the first of the changes they'd all undergone.

***

"Uh, Xander – your, uh, your aura's r-really different f-from what it used t-to be," the blonde witch had announced, her eyes wide with surprise, after giving him what Tara had expected to be merely a cursory examination of his aura as the preliminary stage of an arcane examination they had all agreed they needed to perform on each other.

"All of ours are," she then added a moment later, after giving their entire group a quick but searching glance.

"What do you mean, honey?" Willow had demanded as she had immediately sat up from where she had been lying on the bed resting, and turned to look at her childhood friend.

"Xander - his aura is a lot more in-intense than I remember it being, and it's a lot more, uhm, w-wild, and, and chaotic or something," Tara replied as she continued staring at the male member of their group.

"It's like he's been touched by some kind of elemental earth spirit or, or force of nature, and maybe some other sort of power, too," the Scoobies' Good Witch of the North added uncertainly, frowning with puzzlement as she examined her friend more intently. "And he also looks like he's gotten some sort of blessing or something – I'm not exactly sure what to call it.

"And Dawn's aura is a lot different now, too," Tara added, as she turned to examine the former Key in greater detail. "Hers looks sort of like Buffy's did, but different.

"Can't you see the changes, too, sweetie?" she asked as she turned to her lover.

"What?" Xander exclaimed at the same time that Willow and Dawn both gasped with mixed surprise and dismay at the blonde's observation. “Tara, what are you talking about? Changes? Forces of nature? That *can’t* be good news...”

"Oh, Goddess! There must be something wrong with my eyes! 'Cause none of you guys look the same as you used to! All of you a-a-are looking *way* different than you should when I look at your auras!" Willow suddenly exclaimed, her voice sounding as though she were about to lapse into some sort of panic-stricken babble she was prone to back in high school.

"What do you mean, sweetie?" Tara immediately asked.

"Well, when I used to look at you guys, your auras weren't all that bright – they were kinda faint and I had to really focus when I looked at you, so that I could see them," the redhead began to explain frantically.

"But now, when I look at you three, all of your auras are so bright, it almost hurts to look at you!" Willow elaborated. "They're all really multi-colored, which I think would normally indicate that you've been affected by a lot of different things, magic-wise, like Tara says, a-and the brightness probably means that you're all a lot more powerful than you used to be, but it also looks to me like there's also some sort of tinge to your auras that I've never seen before, and I don't have any idea what it could mean," the redhead began semi-babbling.

"Oh! And my own aura's a lot different than I remember it being," the redhead then added as she glanced down at herself.

"It's a lot – darker now," Willow observed, her expression dejected and heartbroken as she spoke, as well as looking as though she were about to break into tears.

"Like something's trying to tell me that my magic is a lot darker now…" her voice trailed off as the clearly dejected girl slumped back onto the bed, as though all her strength had deserted her.

"Oh Goddess, I've gone dark! I'm turning evil!" Willow began sobbing with hysterical despair as she tried to curl up into a fetal ball. "I-I-I've become a Big Bad, and you guys are gonna have to fight me and kill me!"

"No, I'm sure that's not it, sweetie," Tara immediately rushed over and began trying to reassure and console her lover. "You're not dark – not at all. You're a good person. Whatever's happened, it's changed all of us, remember?

"Just 'cause things are a little different for us now, that doesn't mean that what's happened is, is necessarily bad," the blonde pointed out optimistically.

"Uh, well, I'm not exactly sure I'd agree with that, Tara," they heard Dawn say, interrupting the blonde witch before she could say anything further.

Turning to look at her, the three other Sunnydale survivors stared with astonishment as the sight of the sylph-like brunette crouched on the edge of her seat, an expression of dismay and apprehension on her face and the stainless steel arm of the chair she was sitting on dangling loosely from her left hand, the impressions from her fingers clearly visible on the deformed section of the chair arm.

The End?

You have reached the end of "Nope, We're Definitely Not In Kansas, Anymore" – so far. This story is incomplete and the last chapter was posted on 14 Dec 10.

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