In Medias Res
Title: In Medias Res
Author: Carol (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Rating: PG13 or FR15
Pairings: Willow/Harper, Faith/Brendan
Summary: Willow and Faith find themselves in the future in which
Andromeda is set. Wait until the Nietzscheans get a load of them.
Disclaimer: Willow and Faith belong to Joss Whedon and associates. Andromeda and the universe it is set in belong to Gene Roddenberry and associates. I'm only borrowing them for a while. I promise to put them back when I'm done.
Andromeda spoilers: Up until “Bunker Hill” then it goes AU.
And I’m borrowing Flux from the episode, “In Heaven Now Are
Three.” Somebody has to be responsible.
Buffy spoilers: Up to season 7 then it goes AU.
“May you live in interesting times.”—Ancient Chinese Curse
“Aw, come on Red. Do we have to go in there?” Faith pouted.
Willow smirked at the mini tantrum the slayer insisted on pulling. “Yes, I agreed to come to Boston with you on the condition that we do some things that I enjoy. So, suck it up! We are going into that bookstore.”
Faith continued to mutter but obediently followed Willow into the strange little bookstore. They had only been in Boston for a few days now. After all that had happened with defeating the First, Buffy dying, and the Hellmouth closing, they needed a vacation. So, they decided to get away from Sunny Hell and go on the road. Eventually they wound up back in Faith’s hometown.
Willow looked around the bookstore in rapt delight. Faith rolled her eyes at Willow’s continued nerd-like behavior. It still felt strange to Faith that they could be friends. Time moved on and they had both grown up. They were no longer jealous enemies. They had gotten closer. Willow was the closest thing Faith had to a best friend. Faith would do anything for Willow including going to boring places like museums and this bookstore. She would still complain though. She couldn’t help herself.
Willow ignored the sulking presence of Faith as she wandered around the dimly lit bookstore. She shrugged off the creepiness factor that she had felt since strolling into the store. She had been on the Hellmouth too long. She was probably being paranoid. Anyway, the nice old man behind the counter didn’t look a thing like Ethan Rayne. That had to count for something.
Willow eventually succumbed to Faith’s whining. She had tortured the dark haired slayer enough. She gathered up the few magical tomes that she had found. She sighed at Faith. “Fine, we can go. Just let me pay for these.”
Faith gave a little squeal. “Good, we will have enough time to make it to Fenway Park. The Red Sox are playing an exhibition game.”
Willow groaned as she trudged to the counter. The things she did for friendship. She smiled at the old man behind the counter. “Will that be all for you miss?”
Willow nodded and he rang up her purchases. He reached down under the counter and came up empty-handed. He looked mildly flustered. “Just a moment, miss. I have more bags in the back. I’ll be back real quick.”
Willow didn’t get a chance to tell the man that it wasn’t necessary. He just seemed to vanish. Faith pulled herself up to sit on the counter.
“Get down Faith. Act your age.” Willow admonished.
Faith snorted. “Don’t think so Red. Much more fun being immature.”
The man quickly returned with a bag. He arched an eyebrow at Faith’s nerve. He quickly scooped up Willow’s books and placed them in the bag. He smiled gently.
“Enjoy your reading, Miss Willow.”
Willow looked flustered for the moment but was dragged out of the store by an impatient Faith before she could ask how he knew her name.
The man’s form shimmered for a moment. The old looking man was replaced by a much younger looking one. He had pale blue skin and reddish-gold horns that wrapped around his head. He smiled enigmatically as he scratched one of his pointy ears.
“Hope you’re up for an adventure. This one is going to be a doozy.”
He gave a little chuckle and vanished.
Willow muttered her daily mantra under her breath, “The things I do for friendship.”
Faith laughed at Willow’s sour expression. “Don’t tell me that you didn’t enjoy the ballgame?”
Willow huffed in annoyance. “I think the real reason you wanted to go was for the food.”
Faith chuckled and slung an arm around Willow’s shoulders. “Yup, you found me out. So, what’s next on the hit parade?”
Willow sighed. “I’m tired. Let’s just call it a day and head back to the motel.”
Faith pouted but grudgingly agreed. “Fine, but more fun will be had tomorrow. I want to take you to my old stomping grounds.”
Willow rolled her eyes. “Whatever. Let’s get a taxi. My poor feet ache.”
Willow smiled softly. Utter contentment slowly seeped into her pores as she continued her long soak in the bathtub. Her moment of tranquility was shattered by her impatient roommate pounding on the bathroom door.
“Red, hurry up! The movie on pay-per-view is starting. You don’t want to miss Matt Damon in all his salty goodness.”
Willow groaned and slowly slid beneath the water. ‘So much for relaxation. Might as well get out of the tub,’ she thought to herself.
She climbed out and grabbed one of the motel’s thin white towels to dry herself off. She quickly patted herself dry. Another round of knocking by Faith hurried her lethargic motions. She threw on some pajamas and marched out of the bathroom.
Faith cocked an amused eyebrow at Willow’s irritated expression. “Thought I was going to have to call out the coast guard to rescue you.”
Willow rolled her eyes. “Faith, patience is a virtue you know.”
Faith smiled slyly. “I prefer vices to virtues.”
Willow snorted and joined Faith on the bed in front of the television. The opening credits rolled and soon they were wrapped up in the movie.
Faith groaned and covered her faced with a pillow. “Turn that damn light off. You’re making me cranky. Go to bed. You can read those books later.”
Willow ignored Faith’s demands. She was pulling her recent purchases out of the plastic shopping bag. She couldn’t wait for tomorrow. She wanted to just take a quick peek at the books before going to sleep. Faith didn’t understand Willow’s love for the printed word.
Willow realized that something was wrong. There were six books an her bed when she had only purchased five. She scanned the titles to find the stowaway. She picked up an old leather bound book. She had never laid eyes on it before. “How did this get in here?”
She opened the cover to scan the title. It read "Also Sprach Zarathustra, Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen." It was a first edition book by Friederick Nietzsche. Why would this be in her possession? She really didn’t go for much philosophy and wouldn’t want a book by Nietzsche in its original German. How strange?
The old man at the bookstore must have made a mistake. He probably grabbed this along with her books in his rush to get rid of Faith. The book looked expensive. She would just have to return it to its rightful owner. Her conscience wouldn’t allow for anything less.
Her musings were cut short by Faith’s muttered threats of bodily harm. Willow put her purchases back in the bag. She put the book by Nietzsche on the night stand by the bed. It would serve as a reminder to take it back to the store the next day. Willow turned off the light and climbed into bed. She would need all the sleep she could get. Running around with a slayer could be very tiring.
"Do we have to do this? I refuse to go to another bookstore, Red." Faith stood still with her arms crossed.
Willow sighed and shoved the hair out of her face. "I'm just going to return this book. I promise not to buy or browse for anything else."
"Hey, it's his mistake. Let him live and learn." Faith muttered.
Willow put her resolve face on to end the argument. "This is a first edition book. It is expensive. I can't have this making me feel guilty. I have enough guilt already without adding book theft to my list of crimes."
Faith chuckled. "Fine, hurry up and take the book back you goody-goody."
Willow smiled and led the way down the street to the bookstore they had patronized from the other day.
Willow paused at where the store should have been. All she saw was a vacant overgrown lot. She scratched her head in bewilderment. She had excellent memory for these types of things. The store should have been right in this spot.
Faith stopped and watched Willow's continued bafflement.
"What's the what?"
Willow turned and pointed at the lot. "It should be right here. I know it. This was where we were yesterday. I recognize the neighboring stores. I can't be wrong."
Faith paused for a moment to think. "That is easily fixed, Red. We ask the locals."
Willow gave another long-suffering sigh and followed Faith into the pawn shop next door. An elderly woman stood behind the counter. "Can I help you young ladies?" The white haired lady smiled warmly at them.
Faith gave a charming smile in return. "Yes, m'am. We are looking for a bookstore. We know it is nearby but can't seem to find it."
The lady pondered for a moment. "I'm getting up there in age honey. But I don't remember there ever being a bookstore on this street and I've had this store for thirty years now."
Faith thanked the woman and they returned to the vacant lot.
"Don't know what to tell you Red. Seems like a lot of trouble for just a book. Let me see it."
Willow handed the book over to the slayer and waited for the witty comment to follow. She didn't have to wait long.
"What the hell is this? It isn't even in English!" Faith exclaimed as she thumbed through the pages.
Willow rolled her eyes. "It is in German."
Faith looked up from her perusal of the book's contents. "Why can't it be in English?"
Willow reached for the book and Faith playfully slapped her hands away. Willow decided to just plow through with an explanation.
"The book is in German because Nietzsche was a German philosopher."
Faith nodded. "Can you read this?"
Willow smiled. "A little."
Faith arched an eyebrow. "All hail the all knowing Willow! Fine, let's test that knowledge." Faith turned to the front and saw a handwritten sentence inside the cover. She read it out loud.
"Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein."
Willow frowned slightly and grabbed the book to see the passage Faith was pointing at. She realized that it was a famous quote by the author. She contemplated the sentence a moment longer and realized what it meant. She smiled widely.
"It means, 'if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.'"
Before Faith could ask what the hell that could mean, she uttered a curse and dropped the now glowing book.
"Um Willow? I may not know much about books and such but I know that they shouldn't be able to do that."
Willow nodded. "Let's get out of here. I feel pressure building. This is giving me the wiggins."
The book on the ground flew open as the pages turned them selves. The girls stood transfixed at the sight. A flash of light and a loud whooshing sound emanated from the book. They didn't have the chance to scream as they felt themselves being pulled into thevery pages.
Normalcy returned to the quiet city street. A homeless man shuffled along in a drunken stupor. He stopped and looked down at the ground. He slowly bent down and picked up a leather bound book. He opened the cover to find nothing but blank pages. He snorted andpocketed the strange book. He whistled a merry tune as he continuedto stagger down the block.
`Ugh, what the hell did I have to drink?' Faith silently mouthed. She had come to in the middle of a vacant lot that was strewn with trash. It had been a long time since she had felt this bad. You had to drink lots and quickly if you wanted to get around that pesky slayer metabolism.
Her pity party was cut short by a soft moan from nearby. Obviously, she didn't drink alone if the painful mutterings coming from the bushes were anything to go by. Might as well see if it was friend or foe.
"Yo, who is there?"
Another softly muttered curse was uttered as a response. Finally the person in the bushes spoke. "It is Willow in desperate need of painkillers. Did someone invite the Lord of the Dance into my head without telling me first?"
Faith snickered at the sight of Willow on her hands and knees praying to all that was holy to make the nausea go away.
"Um, Red? What the hell happened? I don't remember us drinking. I usually remember the beginning of a binge. Do you remember anything?"
Willow managed to finally get into a sitting position. She shook her head slowly. "Faith, I don't drink. Not since all the stuff in college. Willow plus alcohol equals bad consequences."
Faith nodded and sat down by Willow. They sat quietly trying to piece together their fuzzy memories. Faith took in their surroundings. The place looked familiar but at the same time not. Where were they? The surrounding area looked deserted and well wrecked. Nothing but rubble and more rubble to be seen.
"Red, we were in Boston. I remember that. How did we get on the set of "Beyond the Thunderdome?"
Willow sighed. "It does kind of look like that. Wonder if Mel Gibson is going to make an appearance in this dream."
Faith smiled slowly. "If he is then I get first dibs."
Willow chuckled. "Whatever, Super Slut."
They paused and looked at each other. They erupted into quiet giggles. Finally their glee tapered off into an uncomfortable silence. Reality was setting in. Something major had happened. They both knew it. The problem was. What had happened?
Willow stood up quickly. Too quickly, thought Faith when she saw the redhead teeter for a moment. Willow regained her equilibrium and turned to face Faith.
"I've got it! I remember! The book is to be blamed for this. The book did something to us. It dragged us in."
Faith looked dumbfounded for a moment. "Are we inside of a book?"
Willow looked around. "No, I don't think so. I think it dragged us somewhere. But where?"
Faith stood up and brushed the dirt off of her pants. "Well, we just need to find someone and beat out some answers."
Willow arched an eyebrow. "Violence probably won't be necessary."
Faith mock pouted. "Take away all my fun why don't you."
Their unease increased as they walked further down the block. Everything was so dark and uninviting. Where was everyone at anyway? There had to be people somewhere.
Willow whispered to Faith. "I think we wandered into the Twilight Zone. We are the only two people left on Earth."
Faith smiled. "Guess humanity is doomed then. Just you and me and no males to get naughty with."
Willow gave a small smile in return. "Considering joining the other team?" She winked at Faith.
Faith slung an arm around Willow. "Such a hardship for me. I say we at least look for a male for the sake of the species and all that."
Willow nodded cheerfully. "Yes, must for the species. We can have naughty threesomes too."
Faith laughed. "I think that I may be a bad influence on you."
The unnerving quiet was broken by a scream. Faith took off like a shot after the sound. Willow did her best to keep up with the Slayer. Willow knew that Faith would go charging in without checking the situation. Who knew where they were at? Maybe an evil parallel universe like where her evil vampire self came from. Willow shivered at the thought.
Willow found Faith crouching down low behind a pile of broken bricks. She crept up quietly and joined Faith on the ground. Faith turned and gestured for Willow to stay silent. They both peered over the pile and stared at the scene unfolding before the very eyes.
There was a rag tag group of humans huddled together in fear. A strange vehicle floated nearby. The humans were being herded into the vehicle by tall brawny looking guys.
Faith looked over at Willow with a question in her eyes. Willow shrugged her shoulders. Faith pointed at her forearms and then pointed at the group. Willow looked back and saw what Faith was wondering about. There were protrusions of some sort coming out of the forearms of the brawny looking guys. Willow guessed that Faith was wondering if they were human or not. Willow didn't know.
They stayed there frozen in shock. What was going on? Were they still even on Earth? Who were those guys? And why is the truck floating? Too many questions and no answers. Willow's brain hurt from the mental stresses she was undergoing. This was completely unfair. Why couldn't they have a normal vacation like everybody else? Was that too much to ask from the Powers that Be?
Faith jumped into action when she saw a struggle break out. The muscle bound bad men were trying to separate a mother from her child. The woman was wailing and holding on for dear life to the tiny little baby. Faith couldn't stand by and watch that happen.
Willow sighed and jumped over the rubble to join Faith. This was going to turn out badly. She just knew it.
Her gut feeling was justified when she heard Faith's greeting to the group.
"So, the wannabe he-men got bored at the gym and decided that beating down innocent women and children was the perfect way to kill time."
“Color me so unimpressed. You need to pick on someone your own size.”
Willow mentally sighed at Faith’s belligerent tone. This was going to get messy. She just knew it. This was also very dangerous. They had no clue where they were or what sorts of
dangers might lurk around here. In other words, normal operating procedure for the Scoobies.
“You? A worthless kludge challenging me?” One of the muscle-bound bad men stepped forward to face Faith.
Faith graced him with a cheeky wink and a wide grin. “Don’t know what a kludge is, Conan. But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that you can last against me. Try to stay in the saddle for at least eight seconds, cowboy.” With that taunt said, Faith threw a hard right fist into his chin.
‘Conan’s’ head whipped backwards from the force of the punch. His hand went to his face and came away wet with his blood. He looked shocked. Willow stifled the insane urge to giggle at his comical expression.
‘Conan’ growled lowly. Willow rubbed her arms in reaction. Her skin prickled at the menacing tone. Some unconscious urge to seek refuge in a tall tree rose unbidden in Willow’s mind. She shook off the foreboding feeling. They’ve handled worse.
‘Conan’ surged forward in an effort to grab Faith. She easily side stepped him and rewarded his rage with a punch to his lower back. His legs buckled under the sharp sudden pain. She quickly maneuvered him into a headlock.
He wheezed from the pain. He managed to choke out a barely audible command to his troops. “Not human…android…shoot them.”
Faith laughed. “You are so wrong, Conan. I’m one hundred percent real human. Accept no substitutes.”
Willow looked around nervously at ‘Conan’s’ friends. The shock of meeting Faith was wearing off. They were pulling out what Willow could only assume were guns of some sort. “Faith, this isn’t the time to flirt.”
Faith looked up at Willow and saw the growing unease in the redhead’s eyes. She took in the battle ready stances of the creepy he-men. “Red, no need for me to have all the fun. Make with the mojo and teach these guys some manners.”
Willow smiled serenely as she conjured up a fireball. She tossed it at the waiting floating vehicle. Everyone scrambled away as an explosion rocked the area.
Mayhem quickly ensued. People screaming and running for their lives and not caring what got in their way. Faith quickly grabbed Willow’s hand to drag her away from the scene of the crime.
“That might not have been a brilliant idea, Red.” Faith said dryly as they ran away.
Willow huffed in annoyance as she was dragged along behind the Slayer. “Didn’t see you coming up with any brilliant plans.”
They stopped to hide in an abandoned building that had only a partial roof and three standing walls. Faith casually leaned against the wall waiting for Willow to catch her breath.
Willow glared at Faith for having the audacity to not be gasping for breath. “Well.” She paused a moment to wheeze. “At least we broke up the party.”
Faith smiled. “That we did. We need to find out where the hell we are. Got any clues, Velma?”
Willow arched an eyebrow. “Does that make you Daphne?”
“Hell no, I would prefer to be Shaggy or Scooby. They were always eating.”
Willow looked thoughtful for a moment. “Probably the munchies.”
Faith pretended to be shocked and didn’t pull it off convincingly. A sound caught her attention. She hushed Willow and crept to the door to cautiously look out into the dark night.
A squeak issued forth from a rag covered kid at being spotted. Faith forcefully dragged the eavesdropper further into their shelter. Faith let go with a curse. “It bit me.”
Willow rolled her eyes at Faith’s whiny tone. “Serves you right for grabbing people. Can’t you see that it is just a kid? We probably scared it.”
“I’m not an it. I’m a boy.”
Faith recovered quickly. “So, what’s your name or should we call you Oliver? Don’t give me that look Red. I read. What do you think I did in prison when I wasn’t lifting weights?”
The grubby street urchin looked disbelievingly at the two strange women. “You’re weird.”
Willow scoffed. “We get that a lot. Can you help us?”
The kid shook his head. “I don’t know if I should. You might be collaborators with the Ubers.”
“Ubers?” Faith glanced at Willow questioningly. “What the heck are Ubers?”
From the look of shock on the kid’s face, they realized that they may have made a mistake in admitting ignorance. Willow quickly covered up for the gaffe. “We’re not from around here. We need somewhere safe to lie low for a while. Can you take us
somewhere like that?”
The kid hesitated for a moment. “I don’t know if I should. I’ll ask Brendan. Come with me but quietly. We don’t want to get caught after curfew.”
Faith chuckled. “We caught you didn’t we? You don’t seem to be so good with the stealth little kid.”
Willow shot a warning glance to Faith. “Shut up and be nice. We need to find shelter. I think we have ended up in a very dangerous place.”
They crouched down and followed the lead of the kid. Hopefully they weren’t being led to their doom. Willow was pretty pessimistic about that happening. They always have the worst luck. Why should this place be any different?
Willow was wondering if maybe they were being led on a wild goose chase. The little kid sure had a roundabout route to whatever passed for refuge in this strange place. She understood the need for secrecy though. They had to stop several times and crouch down quietly to wait for passing patrols of the scary he-men to go by.
Willow had revised her opinion of what movie set they must have stumbled upon. Yes, it had elements of Mad Max but it struck her more of movie set during World War II. Something just seemed to scream ‘Ghetto’ to her and not the kind that she ever wanted to find herself in. The people of this place lived in squalor. Fear permeated every torn down block they traversed. She had the chills. Had the hellmouth opened here? If so, where were all the demons?
She didn’t get a chance to ponder as they entered the sewers. She fervently hoped that there were no swamp-like demons lurking down here. Or rats. Or heaven forbid, frogs. She shivered at the thought.
They walked for what seemed forever to Willow. She was completely turned around. She wouldn’t be able to find her way back out even if she had remembered the trail of bread crumbs. Too dark to see a trail and the rats would probably eat them anyway.
A cold voice pierced the quiet. “Halt! Who goes there?”
Willow covered her eyes to shield them from the harsh light being directed at them. Totally rude, whoever these people were. She was beginning to think they didn’t like visitors. She also had the feeling that they were armed with something. You only hear a tone like that when someone is pointing a gun at you.
Their little guide stepped forward. “Yo! It’s Aidan, Quinn. Stand down. I need to see Brendan. We have visitors. They might be collaborators.”
Faith decided to jump into the conversation at this point. “Please. Me a collaborator? I don’t play well with others. Right Red?”
Willow sighed. This was just so not the way to meet strange new people who had a healthy distrust of everyone else.
Willow raised a placating hand towards Quinn. “Really we just need some help please. Can we see this Brendan guy?”
Quinn looked at them for a long moment before nodding once. “Fine, follow Aidan. Don’t try anything funny. I’ll be right behind you.”
They followed Aidan down further into the labyrinth. Eventually they came up into an abandoned warehouse of some sort.
Faith looked at Willow. “I feel right at home. How about you?”
Willow groaned. “Very true.”
They approached a group of people standing around old 55 gallon drums. They had fires burning inside of the drums. They were of all ages and sizes. They all had tired looking expressions on their faces. Willow felt depressed at this. What had happened to all these people? They looked cold, hungry, and scared. You couldn’t forget scared. Willow was beginning to really dislike wherever they had landed.
Aidan turned around and beckoned for them to stay where they were. He went further into the warehouse. Willow assumed that he was getting Brendan. At least that was what she hoped. She nervously shuffled around on her feet. They were being openly stared at by the inhabitants. She grew more uncomfortable as the moment stretched out. Where was that kid?
Just when she was sure she would melt into the floor from the embarrassing silence, Aidan jogged back to them. He was closely followed by a young man. This must be Brendan. He didn’t look to be very old. Probably the same age as them. He was scruffy looking but had an air about him. He had to be the leader of this group. He looked like he had the charisma for the job.
He stopped just a few feet from them and gave a hard penetrating stare. He seemed to be pondering if the strangers were a threat of some sort. Willow realized that she had better do the talking. Faith had a tendency to rub people the wrong way.
Willow cautiously stepped closer to Brendan. She offered what she could only pray was a friendly open smile to the scowling young man. “Um. Hi, we’re not from around here. We’re kind of lost and needing help. If that is okay with you, Mr. Silent Broody Leader guy.”
Faith chuckled at Willow’s nervousness. Willow glared at Faith. She raised an eyebrow at her dark haired companion in a manner that stated, “Like you could do better?”
Finally Brendan spoke. “Who are you people? What is your business here?” He looked back and forth from Willow to Faith.
Faith smiled at Brendan. “I’m Faith and that nervous ball of babble is Willow. I assume that you’re Brendan. As for business, you might say that we were dropped off here and don’t know why. We have no clue where we are at all. We would like you to answer our questions if you wouldn’t mind.”
Brendan continued to stare at them with mistrust. There was just no winning some people over, Willow thought sourly.
“Tourists? You’re on Earth. I assume from the way that you’re dressed that you’re off worlders.” He threw an arm out to indicate the dreary surroundings. “Enjoy your stay on the hellhole we like to call home. All this brought to you by your friendly local Nietzschean pride. Or we like to call our oppressors.”
Willow closed her eyes. Definitely not in Kansas anymore. Must be some terrible alternate reality. She would sue her travel agent if she had actually signed up for this trip.