" Willow murmured directly into the Slayer's mind. Faith shuddered - it always gave her the creeps when Willow did that. "I can't reach his mind. He's got some kind of barrier.
"Can you break through?
" Faith thought back. She was never quite sure how Willow managed to hear thoughts projected back at her - the witch had once told her that she couldn't read minds.
"It's not that kind of barrier. It's like there's a labyrinth around his mind - there might be a way through, or I could just get hopelessly lost.
" Willow replied. "What do you want to do with him?
Faith mulled it over. From what Buffy had said, there were people involved with this guy - worse, they were police - so they couldn't just hold him here forever. But they could hardly just let him go, not with only a piece of the puzzle. It would be too dangerous. And they couldn't kill him, either (not that Faith thought about that seriously...), which left them in a quandary.
." Dawn interjected. Blast - did Willow really have to bring Dawn into this? Faith liked the littlest Summers (even if she was taller than Buffy), but she hardly had the best track record in terms of decision making.
Apparently, Willow hadn't contacted her. "What have I told you about eavesdropping, Dawnie?
" she admonished.
"I wasn't eavesdropping!
" Dawn declared defensively (as much as it is possible to sound defensive when communicating with thoughts.) "You're broadcasting. I'd be surprised if there was anyone in the building who didn't overhear you.
Willow blinked (Sherlock, sitting in front of her, wondered at her sudden absent look) and thought "Oh, right. Sorry about that.
Dawn smiled slightly. "Don't worry about it. Anyway, what else is there to do with him other than tell him about us? He'll probably figure it out on his own anyway.
"He might be useful.
" Faith agreed grudgingly. "He did figure out just about everything about Dawn in about five seconds.
" And he's kind of hot, she thought, hoping that no one overheard that.
Willow wavered for a few seconds. They knew next to nothing about Sherlock, other than his name and profession - oh, and the fact that his mind was impenetrable. Willow didn't know what that signified, but she was willing to bet that it was important.
On the other hand, Dawn was right. There was nothing else they could do with him. And he might be useful, especially if he could adapt his skills to the magical world and help them find the magic user that had killed a Slayer.
It was that last that decided Willow. No one could use magic to kill a Slayer when she was around and get away with it. "Alright. Faith, go and get a metal bar or something while I give him The Speech.
Faith turned to go and do just that when Willow thought "Oh, and Faith? Don't get dazzled by his hotness.
Dawn burst out laughing, trying to cram a fist in her mouth to stop herself. Not even Faith's deathstare could stop her. Faith walked away, muttering to herself about no-good eavesdropping magical redheads, and how lesbians shouldn't be making comments like that anyway.
Meanwhile, Sherlock was still sitting in his cell, wondering what he'd missed. Willow had looked absent for several seconds, as though she was struggling to recall an almost-forgotten fact, and then Faith had left and Dawn had erupted in gales of laughter. He had to have missed something, but he couldn't for the life of him think what.
Then Sherlock focused on Willow again as she began speaking. "You want me to tell you what's going on? Well, it's a long story. To begin with, the world is older than you know..."
Sherlock listened raptly as Willow told him a fantastical take of demons and vampires, of witches and Slayers. The most remarkable thing was that she clearly believed everything she was saying - either that, or she was an actress beyond compare. And Sherlock had yet to meet anyone who could deceive him.
This left Sherlock with only one conclusion that he could draw.
He'd somehow wandered into a cult. These people were obviously brainwashing these young girls (and themselves as well, if Willow was any judge) to believe this nonsense. Sherlock found himself remarkably disappointed. He'd hoped, when he'd first stumbled across Dawn, that she was involved in something less ordinary, less run-of-the-mill.
"You know I don't believe a word you just said." Sherlock said flatly when she had finished.
Willow smiled and shook her head. "No. This isn't Sunnydale - you're not confronted with this kind of stuff everyday."
Sunnydale - the town that had sunk. Sherlock wasn't an expert on natural disasters (he was more interested in the human variety) but he had been intrigued by the way that experts had said that there had been no discernible reason for it to collapse into a sinkhole the way it had.
And, of course, Sunnydale was in the region near LA. Where, incidentally, Buffy, Dawn and Willow were all from. Sherlock didn't believe in coincidences, just things that he hadn't yet found the links between.
Sherlock filed away this information to process later, though, because Willow was talking again. "I don't expect you to believe me just because I say so. I'm going to show you. Or rather, Faith is."
Faith entered, carrying a metal poker. Which, with no visible sign of exertion, she bent into a circle.
Well, that was impressive, certainly. Sherlock held his hand out for the poker, which Faith passed to him. It was real, too. But strength was hardly a sign of the supernatural. Sherlock stood up, and with a colossal effort, straightened the poker again. "My grip is not much more feeble than your own, Miss LeHane." Sherlock said impassively. "Although I wouldn't expect such strength from a woman of your size, it is hardly indicative that you are one of these Slayers."
Faith didn't reply, although she did glance at Willow and murmured out of the corner of her mouth "I stick by my earlier opinion." Sherlock didn't know what she meant, but judging by Dawn's rosy blush in response to the statement it would seem that Faith had previously expressed some admiration for his physical appearance.
Which was odd. Sherlock would've thought that a cult would've prohibited all such actions, at least towards non-members.
"My, you are a skeptic." Willow muttered. Normally, in this kind of situation she would've done some spectacular feat of magic that would convince him, but she wasn't yet entirely convinced that Sherlock didn't have magic of his own, and she wasn't going to open herself up magically while he was around until she knew for sure.
"Hey, Will, can we bring in Blue?" said Faith. "It would be hilarious."
"Oh, yes, can we do that?" said Dawn, practically bouncing on the spot in excitement. Sherlock surmised that her parents probably died when she was young, and being brought up by an older sister would account for her emotional immaturity.
"Sure, why not?" Willow said rhetorically, fishing around in a pocket for a phone. Upon finding it, she dialled a number (speedial) and said "Hey, Illyria? Would you mind coming down to the holding cell? Oh, and bring Fred." and then hung up.
That was mysterious. Especially given that Sherlock had thought that Illyria was Fred, and had just changed her name.
It was only about a minute later when Fred entered the room. Sherlock thought it was Fred because she lacked the blue hair and eyes that she had had in the photograph. She was wearing a sundress, and moved with the curved back and quick, almost scurrying walk of the incredibly shy. Although Sherlock could tell that she was overdoing it a little - she evidently was acting more shy than she normally did, although he still suspected that she was shy.
"I present to you an ordinary woman." said Dawn dramatically, theatrically extending a hand towards Fred. "Do you accept that that is what she is?"
"I do." said Sherlock, after a moments hesitation. This was largely due to Faith's ridiculously large grin, which led him to believe that this was this was a trick question of some kind.
And then Fred... changed. Her hair became blue, blue patches of skin appeared on her face and hands, her sundress morphed into a red catsuit of a material that Sherlock had never seen before, and, eerily, her eyes changed from a warm brown to a cold, inhuman blue. Even her posture changed - now, Fred (or Illyria, Sherlock supposed) walked with the bearing of a queen, and not just the figurehead that the current Queen was but one genuinely used to command.
"Do you believe now?" Willow said wryly.
"Alright." Sherlock said, although he as beginning to wonder whether he hadn't fallen asleep and dreamt the whole encounter. "I accept your premise."
Illyria cocked her head to one side and said imperiously "You summoned me in order to convince some puny mortal that the supernatural exists? I do not take kindly to such menial tasks." then she turned and left, and Sherlock noticed that she walked away slightly faster than would normally be possible for a woman of that height. Except, of course, that she wasn't a woman, or at least not an ordinary one.
"So what happens to me now?" Sherlock asked.
"Now?" Willow shrugged. "We let you go until we decide what to do with you. We've got something going on at the moment, but I'm sure a Consulting Detective might come in handy. Of course, you can't tell anyone about this."
"Can I tell John?"
"Who's John?" asked Faith, curiously.
"My roommate." Sherlock replied. He didn't see the harm in revealing it - he had no doubt that they would run a complete background check on him before he even got back home.
"Oh." said Faith, evidently disappointed. Sherlock briefly contemplated telling her that he wasn't gay, but decided against it. Sherlock disliked intimacy at the best if times, and if Faith thought he was gay it would eliminate any unwanted attention from that quarter. Although John would probably give it away when he began hitting on Faith. Sherlock had no doubt he would.
"Alright." said Willow grudgingly. "You can tell John. But no one else."
"Of course." Sherlock replied. It wasn't as though he really had anyone else that he wanted to tell, in any case.
A few hours later, Sherlock and John were both sitting in their flat, and Sherlock had just finished telling John about his escapades. Sherlock had watched John's face carefully the entire time, which went from skepticism (which Sherlock had expected) to an even greater degree of skepticism when Sherlock told him about Illyria (which Sherlock hadn't expected. He had thought that John trusted his judgment enough to accept that what Sherlock had seen had really happened).
"You must've been drugged, Sherlock." John scoffed. "No way did any of that really happen.
Then John jumped violently, letting out a startled sqawk and staring in horror at the region of space just to the right of Sherlock. Sherlock turned to see what had gotten John so upset.
There was nothing there. Well, nothing that Sherlock could see, in any case. Which, given recent events, wasn't nearly as reassuring as it used to be.
"What are you seeing, John?" Sherlock asked urgently.
"A transparent redhead just appeared. Out of thin air." John said, voice quavering slightly. "She says I should believe everything you say."
"Ah, that'll be Willow." said Sherlock, relaxing. "She did say she was a witch."
"And now she's just walked through the wall." said John, calming down. Mainly because Sherlock was so calm that it was kind of hard to be nervous around him.
"Do you believe me now?" Sherlock asked drily.
"It's rather hard not to." John replied with a shaky smile.
After walking through the wall, the thing that had appeared to John as Willow Rosenberg shed that appearance, resuming its real form. And then vanished in thin air.