Title: Through the Looking-Glass
Fandom: Buffy/Stargate SG-1
Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Stargate: SG-1.
BUFFY: "They told me I was sick. Crazy, I guess. And that Sunnydale and... all of this, none of it was real. Just part of some delusion in my head."
XANDER: "Come on! That's ridiculous! What, you think this isn't real just 'cause of all the vampires and the demons and the ex-vengeance demons and the sister that used to be a ball of universe-destroying energy...? Well, I'm real."
"Hm, that's weird."
"What, honey?" Willow asked, yawning and rubbing her eyes. They had been at this all day and she was getting tired. Sure, shopping trips were great, but she needed a break. Maybe some nachos too.
"Look at that weird mirror-thing," Tara said. "It's glowing."
Willow glanced over at where her girlfriend was pointing, and felt her attention being dragged in almost against her will. The thing glowed to her inner eye, while normal people wouldn't notice a thing about it except that it was kind of ugly and weird. "Whoa! We better get it and take it back to Giles and the rest of the Scoobies."
"Yeah," Tara said, "that's not something you see everyday."
"I wonder how much it costs," Willow said. "We don't have much money left after our trip through Halliwell's Magical Emporium." Where they had gone a little crazy with the purchasing of all the stuff they couldn't get at the Magic Box.
Tara tugged her over by the hand and they stood in front of the rock-mirror thing, examining it closely. It was about three feet tall, black rock with a reflective silver surface in the middle of it. The rock formed a four inch thick frame around the mirror, which should have left plenty of room for a reflection to fit, only when Willow stood in front of it, she didn't see herself, just the room behind her. Very strange, and definitely something of interest.
"Ah-ha! It's $25.99!" Willow crowed.
"That's pretty cheap for something that feels so powerful," Tara said, low-voiced. "I don’t think they know how strong this thing is, otherwise someone would have jacked the price up."
"Yay for us!" Willow reached forward carefully and picked the rock-mirror up, cradling it gently in her arms. It was surprisingly light, weighing about the same as a gallon of milk, maybe a little less. There was no zap of energy and she didn't die, so she figured the thing had to be activated with some kind of spell or something, so they were okay. "Let's pay for this and go. I need to eat and take a nap. I'm sleepy."
Tara smiled at her with her usual sweetness. "I'm... hungry and tired... too." She ducked her head a little and a blush colored her cheeks.
"That wasn't what I was talking about, but that's good too," Willow said, heading toward the cashier. "Come on, baby. Let's get back to the hotel."
Willow paid for the weird artifact and the two women left the magic store.
It was kind of weird that it was their vacation and they went to a magic shop, but that was the way they were. Witches through and true, always with the magic.
* * *
Xander walked around the table, looking at what sat on it. "All right, I give up. What is this thing? Some kind of ornate paperweight?" He looked at Willow, who shrugged.
"I have no idea what it is, but it's magic, that's for darn sure. The thing almost blinded me when I looked at it in the store." She turned to Giles. "Do you know what it is?"
Giles gazed at the rock-mirror and "hmmed." He rubbed his chin speculatively. "I don't know what it is, but it is powerful. We're going to have to research it."
"Ooh, another Saturday night research session, whoohoo!" Xander cheered sarcastically.
Giles rolled his eyes. "Yes, yes, Saturday night on the farm and whatever other asinine jokes you want to make. This could very well be something serious, Xander, and I would like it if, for once in your life, you treated a life-and-death situation with the proper kind of respect."
Xander made an 'oogity' face. "Now what's the fun in that?"
"Oh Xander," Giles sighed in that voice of his, the one that said he wasn't exactly pleased, but couldn't really get angry either.
"All right, all right, serious Xander promises to make a short appearance at tonight's soiree." Xander raked a hand through his hair. "Be gentle with him. It's his first time."
"Oh Xander," Willow giggled. Tara covered her smile next to her.
Xander gave the girls his best grin. It was always nice to hear them enjoying themselves. Their laughter was like music to his ears and he never wanted it to stop playing.
They spent most of Saturday night researching the rock-mirror, but there was no information on it anywhere. They wasted their time scoping the books while Willow surfed the 'Net, but there was nothing.
Finally even Giles had to admit that they didn't have the tools necessary to identify the stupid thing. He was so frustrated he was practically foaming at the mouth. If there was one thing Giles hated, it was a mystery he couldn't find an answer to--he really loved solving so-called unsolvable mysteries, but this one was beyond them.
The Magic Box was usually only open a few hours on Sunday, and since everyone else had something to do, and Anya was on vacation, Xander had volunteered to man the register. He didn't really mind since he didn't have anything else planned and there were no good cartoons on Sunday morning. Besides, when he did nice things for Giles, he was usually rewarded when it came time to receive Slaying assignments.
"That'll be eighteen-fifty-three," he chirped at his last customer.
The woman handed him a twenty and he passed over her change. As soon as she was out the door, he was locking up the place and reshelving books and getting ready to close down for the day.
Just as he was about to flip off the light switch, standing there with his jacket over his arm and the shop keys in his hand, a flicker out of the corner of his eye had him turning his head.
There was nothing.
He snorted a laugh. "Whoo, looks like I'm cracking up." But he walked over to the center of the room anyway, looking around for any suspicious movement or anything else. There had been plenty of times when he'd shrugged off some sense of strangeness or other only to find himself almost being eaten.
He was standing next to the table, looking in the opposite direction--of course--when the rock-mirror thing began flashing colors and he felt himself being tugged off his feet.
"Oh shit!" he had time to yelp as he flew across the intervening space straight toward the mirror. He felt like he was receiving a full-body press, then everything went blank as he disappeared into the rock-mirror head first.
* * *
"What the fu..." Jack's words were abruptly cut off by a flash of brilliant light. A flaring of neon green around the black rock frame of the mirror, then shimmering purple across the surface of the mirror itself. He blinked tears out of his eyes, trying to see what had happened.
They'd found the mirror on some uninhabited world that was like a bare rock with a cover of blue-green peach fuzz. The mirror had just been laying flat next to the Gate, seeming to be waiting for their arrival.
Jack had wanted to leave the thing there, pretty much sure by the chill running up and down his spine that it was bad news squared. But Daniel said the fateful words "It looks kind of like the quantum mirror," and boom, Jack found himself agreeing to bring it back to Earth for further study.
Now he was regretting that decision as his corneas twinged with pain and he watched the reflected surface of the mirror shimmer and disappear, turning opaque so fast he felt a shiver of vertigo.
The mirror flashed color for a long couple of seconds, then the color was abruptly sucked back into the mirror, where it whirled around and around like a blender, then rippled once or twice and was shoved back out in a mini-vortex. Jack couldn't help but to think of the Stargate, which really had him wondering what was going to be coming through.
At least he had the reassuring sound of cocking guns to make him feel a little safer, though not much. Until he saw for himself what was coming out of the mirror, he didn't want to relax his guard, especially not with annoying blobs of color still blinking in front of his eyes.
A young man stumbled out of the mirror to fall to his hands and knees on the floor, wild-eyed and panting. "What... where am I?"
"You're on the planet Earth," Daniel said, already in his meeting-new-cultures-for-the-first-time persona, of course.
"Duh," the guy said, looking around. "Wait a minute..." His forehead wrinkled in dismay. "Ah crap." He looked right at Jack. "Does this universe have shrimp?"
* * *
Xander had been poked and prodded worse than his last torture session. The doctor, a Dr. Janet Frasier, kept asking him about various scars and breaks he'd gotten from fighting vampires and demons. She was horrified to discover that he'd had at least four serious concussions, maybe even more that he didn't remember. Like the possibility of massive memory loss was a bad thing.
Finally, he was allowed to put on a pair of loose drawstring pants and a long-sleeved fleece shirt. Both were in a horrifying shade of puke green. He figured they were a kind of military prison wear or something, but it didn't matter as long as they were warm. All the metal walls and shiny equipment made the room a bit nippy.
As soon as he was dressed and settling on the bunk he'd been given in the infirmary, the door opened and the two guys he'd met earlier, Colonel Jack O'Neill and Dr. Daniel Jackson, came in along with someone wearing the uniform of a general.
"Hiya," Xander called, raising a hand in a wave at them.
O'Neill gestured at his superior. "This is General Hammond," he said. "We want to ask you a few questions."
Xander shrugged. "Ask away, I've got nowhere else to be, and I don't have a clue how I'm supposed to get home. I guess I'm yours for awhile."
Daniel strode forward, so close that his knees almost bumped the bed. "How did you know about alternate Earths?" he asked eagerly.
A smile twitched Xander's lips. "Just lucky, I guess. Had a run in with a version of my best friend from another dimension. She was kind of... skanky, but hey, that's my Wills on a bad day." He laughed.
"How did she come into your world?" Daniel asked.
Xander shrugged. "My Wills made a bit of an icky booboo, and before we knew it, her evil-self was running around trying to kill us all. Then again, that’s not such a foreign concept."
"What, your friends trying to kill you?" O'Neill asked sarcastically.
Xander nodded. "Yup, pretty muchly. We've all gone on an evil-bender at least once, and whenever we get our dark on, we seem to go for killing the people we love." He cocked his head with a furrowed brow. "Huh. Never really thought about it, but it's true that every single one of us has tried at least once to kill another member of the group. Though, I'm the only one that tried to rape one of my buds while under the influence of the evil, so I guess I should be proud of that or something. I'm unique."
O'Neill went tense. "You raped someone?" he demanded.
"No, I just tried to rape her." Xander shook his head. "Don't worry though, I was possessed by a hyena-spirit at the time and had no control over what was happening. At least while I was assaulting Buffy, I wasn't off eating a principal or anything. I guess that's something positive."
"What kind of world do you come from?" O'Neill was looking at him with a kind of sick horror.
Xander shrugged. "On one hand, I'm doubting whether it would be a good thing to tell you everything, but on the other... There's no Temporal Prime Directive or anything holding me back from being completely up front and honest with you guys. Hm, decisions, decisions..." He sat cross-legged with his elbows against his knees, resting his chin on his fists. "I just don't know what to do. I'm not usually big-thinker guy. I'm more action man, you know? It's all Xan-man to the rescue as I save the day with my buddies, beating the bad guys into dust."
"What are you talking about?" O'Neill demanded.
"Little bit of this, little bit of that," Xander said. "I guess... I should probably tell you about my world."
"Ya think?" Xander had to admit that O'Neill was good at the sarcastic and insulting tones of voice.
"Jack," Daniel said reprovingly, giving his associate a sideways glance.
O'Neill shifted his shoulders uncomfortably. "Sorry," he murmured.
"It's all right," Xander said, scootching up the bed to lean back against the wall. "Um, my world is a normal kind of place, I guess. People live their lives, stuff happens. But below the surface of what's supposed to be normal, there are vampires and demons that..."
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," O'Neill held up his hand. "Vampires? Do you really expect me to believe that?"
Xander nodded. "Yeah, 'cause it's true. Vampires and demons and all other kind of monstery goodness are real, and they're all out there trying to cause some kind of trouble for us. Maybe it's just 'cause Sunnydale is a Hellmouth, but whenever some Big Bad gets himself a plan to either take over or destroy the world, they end up in Sunnydale. I guess the Hellmouth is the place to be if you're a power-hungry psychopath." He shrugged.
"I didn't even know about vampires until I was a sophomore in high school, and I only found out because that's when Buffy moved to town. She's a Vampire Slayer, born to fight the monsters, or whatever. Before that, I was like everyone else. Weird stuff would happen, people would die, and I just never noticed. People don't want their comfortable worlds rocked, which is what monsters do."
"People would die and no one would notice?" Daniel asked.
"Yeah," Xander said. "According to the statistics, Sunnydale has the highest overall death rate of any town or city in the United States. It's funny, though, but no one makes a big deal about the fact that people are dropping like flies in Sunnydale... or that people that are declared dead one day are seen a week later walking around causing trouble. It's just the way things have always been at home. Weirdness happens and no one cares, and neither did I until I met Buffy and found out for myself what was out there.
"I've had friends--good friends--killed, people I've known nearly my whole life. We've saved the world well into the double-digits. We've all fought hard and long. This is a war, and even though we're holding our own most of the time, we're not winning. And that's the world I've come from. That's who I am." Xander cocked his head. "Bad things happen all the time in my world, and sometimes the people fighting the badness make horrible mistakes, I'm not denying that, but there are extenuating circumstances. We've all had things we had to make up for, apologies we've had to give, but we're gonna keep on fighting, and when we get too hurt or die, someone else will step up to the plate and take our places. That's the way it works."
He realized even as he stopped talking that maybe he was pouring it on a little too strong. It was just that it felt so good to honestly admit what he'd been spending the last eight years risking his life doing. He'd carried around this huge, world-altering secret for so long, and it was just such a relief to share it with a bunch of people that hadn't ever heard or believed anything like it before.
"Sorry," he said. "I know it's kind of a lot to just pour on you like that, but... it felt good to finally be able to unload on someone."
"You're really fighting a secret war against vampires and demons?" Daniel asked.
Xander nodded enthusiastically. "Oh yeah, since I was fifteen. You get kind of used to the patrolling and the demon slime after awhile and it all just kind of becomes your life."
"Do you know how you got here?" Daniel asked.
"There was a rock-mirror thing that Willow brought back from her vacation. I was closing up the Magic Box when it started glowing and stuff, and next thing I knew, I was being sucked into it and here I am." Xander furrowed his brow a little. "It looked just like the one you guys have, but ours was smaller. Yours is about seven feet high, while ours is only about half that. I went in headfirst, but came out upright and walkable."
"Very interesting," Daniel said.
"Yeah, sure, interesting," Jack said. "What's it mean?"
Daniel asked Xander, "Do you know when the 'rock-mirror' began glowing?"
"Um, about five seconds before I was sucked into it, then I was just suddenly being thrown out of your mirror. Why?"
"Because if I'm right..." Daniel said.
"And he usually is," Jack interjected.
"Then your mirror activated when we brought ours back through the Stargate with us," Daniel continued as though Jack hadn't interrupted. "I think they're sympathetic devices. One mirror is in one universe, while the other mirror is in another universe. When the two mirrors are on the same planet in both universes, then they resonate on the same wavelength or something, and they can be switched on somehow so people can be passed through from one world into the other."
"Great, so the reason I'm here is because someone left our mirror-thing set to the 'On' position and you just started the juice flowing, is that what you're saying?" Xander asked, upset.
He figured he'd been pretty cool about the whole 'being in another reality' thing, but he was pretty close to his limit. He hadn't wanted to come here in the first place, and he wanted to go home, back where he belonged. Sure, his life hadn't been exactly happy-happy-joy-joy 24/7, but it had been his life and he wanted it back.
"I guess that's right," Daniel said. He gave Xander such a look of compassion that Xander felt like a jerk for sounding so mad. "I'm really sorry. I had a similar experience with a Quantum Mirror, an artifact almost exactly like the one you came through."
"Does that mean you can get me home?" Xander asked.
Daniel looked sadder and shook his head. "I'm sorry. Your mirror may have an 'On' switch on it somewhere, but ours doesn't seem to. I examined ours closely when we were still off planet, but there are no markings or anything. I think... I think your mirror is the sender, and ours is the receiver. Unless we find another set of mirrors, only with the worlds reversed, I don't... I have no idea how we can possibly send you back. We can't even use a Quantum Mirror because even if we found one of those, we won't be able to tell which universe is yours. I'm so sorry, Xander." He laid his hand on Xander's knee, squeezing gently for a few seconds before letting go.
Xander shrugged like it didn't matter. "It's all right. I've faced worse situations. I guess I can learn to live with this one."
Inside, he felt as though he was dying. He was never going to see his friends--his family--ever again. He was trapped here, and the walls were closing in.