Trumps - The Devil
This is a derivative work using characters and intellectual property belonging to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Fox Television, JK Rowling, her publishers, Panzer/Davis (and anyone else who owns a piece of Highlander) and probably others.When/Spoilers:
Post BtVS Season 7/ HP -OotP /Highlander - nonePairings:
Buffy/Ginny - mostly impliedRating:
be violence and heavy f/f subtext. And possibly nudity. (Don't read if you are offended by "Six Feet Under", "The L-word" and Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction.) AN:
Sequel to my "Girl in a Bar" series. It won't make sense if you haven't read that. Reading the other stories set in this crossover/AU would help but isn't completely necessary for the first chapter or two.AN:
Runs in parallel with my story "Red Raider - The Pilgrimage" and will occasionally refer to events in that series. Confused yet? Just wait!AN:
Feedback appreciated as always.--- --- ---
After seven years of Hogwarts winters a cold March in Cleveland didn't bother Ginny. But while she hadn't gone out of her way to embrace winter while growing up, the American variety, as practiced in Ohio, seemed somehow very different. She wasn't used to the shear amount of physical effort required to move snow from one point to another. Watching the land around the Council offices slowly emerge from the cold was amazing. At least once a day she would find herself standing at a window watching the snow melt. To the others, even the Sunnydale contingent, it was just a normal part of living in Cleveland. Only rarely did anyone join her.
In sharp contrast to her solitary snow gazing, Ginny's early morning routine was normally spent in the company of her favorite blonde slayer. She knew it wouldn't last but less than three weeks into her tenure in the Council's office in Cleveland, Ginny had fallen into a comfortable morning routine. Around dawn, after Buffy's early morning run, Ginny would join her in the center courtyard in the main building. While gracefully going through her favorite T'ai Chi routine, Buffy would take the extra time to carefully correct Ginny's form as she followed along as best she could. She knew it would be a long time, if ever, before she came close to matching Buffy's fluid movements but that didn't stop her from enjoying the attention.
And gradually, with the weeks of mutual side by side effort, they were becoming more in tune with each other. Ginny sometimes wondered what the other people in the office thought of them working out together like that. No one else seemed inclined to join them or to even comment about it. As she became more familiar with T'ai Chi Ginny would occasionally feel some sort of tenuous mystical connection developing between Buffy and herself. It was just at the edge of her developing magical senses and while Ginny wasn't sure quite what it was she knew that eventually she would have to discuss it with Buffy. No matter how well their friendship seemed to be developing this was completely different and potentially very intrusive. Something she had a feeling the very private slayer would have problems with.
When Buffy began her slayer specific training regimen, propelling her body into positions and through maneuvers that only a slayer could accomplish and which caused others to grimace in imagined pain, Ginny would find an unobtrusive corner where she could still observe the slayer while she practiced the meditation techniques she'd learned from the coven.
As her ability to sense the auras of the life around her strengthened, supplemented by refinements she'd learned from Willow before she'd left to go on her pilgrimage, Ginny would occasionally feel as if someone or something was watching them from one of the windows facing the courtyard. So far though, no matter how hard she tried, she'd been unable to catch them. The presence didn't feel malevolent so she hadn't felt any urge yet to mention it to anyone else.
The two women had begun eating breakfast together every day when they finished with their individual morning exercises. On the days she didn't have early classes, Dawn would occasionally eat with them in the small kitchen in the main building, chattering away about her latest project for the Council. From Buffy's reaction whenever Dawn joined them, Ginny had the distinct feeling that if it had been anyone else interrupting their breakfast, Buffy would have chased them away. But not having spent a lot of time around her before now she wasn't sure if that was just wishful thinking on her part. Afraid to do anything that would be detrimental to their developing friendship, the normally outgoing Ginny hadn't gathered up enough courage to ask her.--- --- ---
The day before, Ginny had been invited to join Buffy, Dawn, and Kennedy when they'd taken Willow to the airport for the first leg of her wiccan pilgrimage. This was the first real indication she'd had of how important Willow was to the Summers sisters. Surprisingly, Kennedy had been the one most in control, stoically saying goodbye to her girlfriend before, with help from Ginny, pulling Dawn and Buffy away from Willow so she could go through the airport security check before heading to her gate.
The evening had ended in the consumption of large quantities of what Dawn called comfort ice cream though she assured the aghast Ginny that the two slayers weren't really eating that much and that she's seen Faith go through three times as much the last time she was in Cleveland. And that wasn't for any special reason. Listening to the others discuss her, Ginny almost dreaded meeting this Faith when she next visited.--- --- ---
Usually they went their separate ways after breakfast, not meeting again until lunch. But the next morning, after a quiet, Dawn-less breakfast, Buffy asked Ginny to join her in the small conference room next to her office so they could speak privately over coffee.
"Willow is really confident in your ability to fit in with the rest of us, but I was wondering how you felt about it?" Buffy asked her with a curious look as they both put their cups down on the small table in the center of the room. As she spoke, Buffy closed the door, locking it to prevent any interruptions. "I'm sure this isn't what you expected when you said you'd help us."
"Well..." Ginny hesitated for a moment as she sat down across from Buffy. "It is very different from what I was doing in London. I've really been too busy going through the things Willow gave me to learn to worry about anything else." she told her.
"So you aren't nervous about filling in for someone as powerful as Willow?" Buffy asked. "And dealing with a large number of super-strong, often temperamental, teenage girls?"
Ginny, feeling like Buffy was trying to subtly gauge her confidence level, answered as positively as she could. "Before she left I talked with her about the things she's done over the past few years, and she showed me some of the things she has planned for the future. As fascinating as they are, the kind of power needed to do most of them is really unique to her." Ginny shrugged. "I don't think I could ever replace her so worrying about that would be a waste of time. There are a number of things she's left for me to do that are well within my abilities, and I know that I can deal with anything short of a major apocalypse if you need me to. And dealing with teenage slayers can't possibly be any worse than having six brothers and going to a boarding school. I'm not really defenseless." She smiled at the thought.
"We aren't due for a major apocalypse until some time after Willow gets back." Buffy told her with a slight smile. "So that shouldn't be a problem. And you don't have to deal with the slayers by yourself when I'm not here. They'll actually listen to Dawn, or Xander if he's in town." Buffy shook her head. "And as long as you don't allow them to intimidate you or get between them and something evil it should be okay."
Ginny smiled back at her hesitantly, not sure if Buffy was kidding about knowing when the next potential apocalypse was going to happen or not.
Before continuing, Buffy removed a small jeweled object from her pocket and, leaning forward in her chair, placed it between them on the table, giving it a sharp twist as she did so. Ginny immediately felt a subtle change in the low level elemental magic she could normally sense in the Cleveland office. She raised an eyebrow at Buffy in silent question.
"It's a little gadget Willow cooked up. It'll prevent anyone from listening in or observing us using magic. It also disables mechanical listening devices. It sets off alarms in my office so we can't use it there." Buffy grimaced. "I don't like taking such measures but this is one of those few occasions where a little secrecy seems justified.
"That could be useful." Ginny said, wondering how it compared to a secrecy charm and marveling at the paranoia necessary to invent such a device. "There were times I could have used something like that." She grinned slightly at Buffy. "And not just to avoid nosey brothers."
"Yes, there were times I could have used it myself when I was growing up. But it's really a one-shot deal. The effect wears out in approximately an hour." Buffy paused to take a sip of her cooling coffee. "The ingredients are so rare that she's been able to make only a few of them so far."
"Okay..." Ginny wondered what was so important that Buffy would use something that valuable just to talk with her.
"There are several things we really haven't talked about yet." Buffy began. "First of all, you should know that Willow tells me almost everything that goes on around here. We found out the hard way several years ago that keeping secrets from each other can be dangerous." A sad expression briefly graced her face before she continued. "The only things she won't tell me are personal things other people tell her. If she feels someone's personal life won't interfere with what we do here she keeps it to herself. We get so little privacy as it is, since we work so closely together, that she insisted on having some very clear rules about personal boundaries." Buffy frowned. "I don't necessarily completely agree with her."
Ginny cringed inwardly. She could feel that Buffy was going to say something that she probably wasn't going to like that involved her personally.
"But Willow can be very forceful about such things so we all follow her rules. Your personal life is your personal life unless you want to share it." Buffy told her.
Ginny relaxing slightly and sighing almost inaudibly as Buffy said this, hoping that she hadn't noticed.
"So, while I know you aren't a run-of-the-mill wiccan, that's all I know. Willow wouldn't give me any details. She said it wasn't necessary for me to know." Buffy frowned for a moment. "She did assure me that you know as much wiccan magic as we'll normally need around here and that you have some unique magical abilities that could come in handy."
"Y..ye..s" Ginny stuttered, not sure what to say. She hadn't really told Willow that much about her non-wiccan magical training.
"Willow also said you would probably tell me eventually." Buffy looked at her curiously. "But she invoked that personal boundaries rule and won't allow me to pry into your personal life. And she's the only person who can get away with that."
Ginny breathed another sigh of relief at the reprieve. "Thanks." She really wasn't ready to tell Buffy about the wizarding world. She wasn't sure when she would be or even if she ever could. "What were the other things we needed to discuss?"
"First of all, why you are really here." From the tone with which Buffy said it, Ginny almost expected a fanfare at the pronouncement.
"Oh..." Ginny blinked at her in surprise. "I'm here because I want to be."
"Sorry." Buffy looked at her sheepishly, as if realizing how she'd sounded. "I meant why we needed someone in Cleveland while Willow is on her pilgrimage. It isn't anything bad." Buffy reassured her. "At least I don't think so. But things around here are a lot more complicated than they might appear. Willow didn't just go on a simple Wiccan pilgrimage for the coven. If she had you could have worked in the London office just as well as here in Cleveland. But we really need a powerful magic user working directly with the Cleveland office. And since I'll be heading to Moscow soon for a couple weeks we really need you to know what is going on around here in case Dawn needs help."
"Dawn?" asked a puzzled Ginny, obviously not seeing the connection.
"Why don't I start at the beginning." Buffy said. "Some of this might seem strange, even for us. But I think you really need to know it."
"That would probably be a good thing." Ginny said with a small smile.
"I'm sure you've gotten the speech from Giles and have seen all of those books about prophecies in the library?" Ginny nodded at her. "While it is true that we pretty much live our lives by the prophecy of the week, that isn't the whole picture. Okay so far?"
"Yes." Ginny answered.
"Written prophecies are great. Once they are translated and correctly interpreted anyway." Buffy grimaced. "But a little known feature of being a slayer is the ability to have prophetic dreams or visions. Some slayers get them more than others and some get them in better detail. It's sort of an early warning system."
"Okay. So you have dreams where you see things that are going to happen?"
"Yes. Unfortunately, interpreting a slayer dream is more of an art form than a science. They often don't make sense until after the events they are about have already occurred."
"That doesn't seem to be very useful." Ginny mused.
"No, it isn't. And now that we have a lot more slayers the dreams are just stacking up and making a mess that takes a lot of effort to keep organized." Buffy gestured at an overflowing shelf in a corner for emphasis.
"Oh. Does someone write them down?" Ginny said hopefully, thinking about lost prophecies.
"Yes. Writing down dreams is something all slayers learn to do." Buffy explained. "And copies of those dreams are sent to the London office where someone tries to make sense out of all of them."
Ginny frowned. "How do I fit into this?"
"Well... last summer, before we met, I started having these dreams."
"I was in one of your dreams?" Ginny blushed. The thought of being in someone else's dreams and what it might mean had never occurred to her.
"Well, actually no, not until recently. At least not in one of my prophetic ones." She blushed also. "Basically, it started with a dream I had of Willow on a long journey through some mountains. She wasn't always alone but I never saw the face of her companion, just a vague impression of a confident woman with brunette hair, in a long braid. Some times she was standing in front of some sort of shrine holding something. Other times she was fighting a demon I'd never seen before."
"And that was it?" Ginny gasped. "That was enough to send her off on a pilgrimage?"
"No. Even for us that isn't a lot to go on." Buffy laughed. "So far I've had five dreams about this journey she's just started. We were eventually able to get enough details out of my dreams to know that the journey I saw her taking was very pivotal in stopping a future apocalypse. Everything points to a Wiccan shrine somewhere in the Pyrenees in southwestern France. We think whatever she finds there is just the beginning of something that will help us in stopping it."
"What did the Council dream interpreters think about it?" Ginny asked curiously. She was sure that dreams from someone as important as Buffy would have been given a high priority.
"We haven't actually told them." Buffy said nonchalantly.
Ginny just looked at her in surprise.
"I really can't tell you why I didn't send them to London at first." Buffy shrugged again. "For some reason I had the feeling that it couldn't go beyond Willow and myself. And no one else seemed to be getting the same dreams."
"How did your sister get involved in it?" Ginny asked quietly, trying to make sense of this. She was still new to the concept of accurate prophetic dreams. Dealing with one as seemingly important as this one in such a cavalier fashion felt odd.
"You've noticed how she always seems to be reading a book in some obscure language?" Ginny nodded. "For some reason, last year she became fascinated with prophecies. The more obscure the better. She was in London last spring during a break from school and she found a book of prophecies in a used bookshop. She claims it's in some lost Frankish dialect. She overheard Willow talking to me about the dreams and connected them to something she'd found in the book."
"She found a prophecy about Willow's journey?" Ginny asked in surprise.
"Not exactly." Buffy took a piece of paper out of a folder she'd gotten out of her office right before their meeting and placed it in front of Ginny. "This is Dawn's most recent translation of the prophecy. If you look here," Buffy pointed out several lines in the document, "it seems to be about something that won't happen until Willow returns from her journey."
"Why the rush for Willow to go on this pilgrimage then?" Ginny asked. "If nothing happens until she gets back?"
"Well... the dreams really don't give us an exact timeframe to work with. And the prophecy could be interpreted to mean several different events a year or two from now. We're not sure if her visit to the shrine triggers the rest of the prophecy or not. Willow felt she needed time to complete it before anything else happens, just in case the timing does matter." Buffy rubbed her eyes. "Dawn is still working on the rest of that book hoping there will be something in it that will narrow things down. Or at least make things clearer."
"How do I fit into this?" Ginny asked curiously.
"If you look here..." She pointed out several more lines. "The prophecy seems to refer to several different people. Possibly a total of seven. We're still not sure about that."
"Oh... Who do you think they are?" She rolled the lines around in her head but nothing in them seemed to strike her.
"Well... so far, based on other clues in the prophecy, we think the 'White Goddess
' refers to Willow, the 'Thrice-Dead Warrior
' is probably me." Buffy noticed the strange look Ginny gave her at that. "Sorry. A long story for another time. The 'Red Witch
' is probably you, though we're not sure what it means by the line 'the first of seven of three'. Dawn thinks it's either a problem with her translation or the writer was trying to be too clever." Buffy grimaced and Ginny could see she wasn't amused by the idea that someone so long ago could have been playing games with people they didn't know. "The 'Green Scholar
' is probably Dawn, also another long story."
"You seem to have a lot of those." Ginny mumbled, forgetting about slayer hearing.
"Yes. A side effect of doing this for much too long." Buffy smiled at her and shrugged. "The other three have us stumped. The 'Searcher
', the 'Timeless Sword-maiden
', and the 'Dark Guardian
'. Those might be roles and not people but while 'searcher
' could be applied to Willow the other two have us stumped."
"Probably women? The rest seem to be." Ginny suggested. "The shrine is wiccan."
"That does seem to be the consensus of everyone else who's read the prophecy. But we don't have any real proof." Buffy rubbed her forehead and Ginny winced in sympathy for the headache she was obviously getting from this. "Something else that is troubling is that there also seems to be a vague reference to time travel."
"Okay, so you have the dreams which are pointing in a certain direction, and your sister finds a prophecy that tells you about seven people or roles and things they'll do. How did that turn into Willow's pilgrimage? And why keep it a secret?" Suddenly struck by her own role in this convoluted mess, Ginny looked at Buffy with wide eyes. "I'm not sure I like the idea that I'm here because of a prophecy."
"It doesn't quite work that way." Buffy attempted to reassured her. "Prophecies are much more flexible than that. If it hadn't been you someone else would have come along and somehow matched the prophecy." Seeing how obviously disturbed Ginny still seemed to be, Buffy walked around the table and pulled her into a hug. "I am glad you are involved. With both you and Willow a part of it there's no way we can fail. How the whole thing turned into Willow's pilgrimage is a rather long story we can talk about in great detail later if you still want to. But to put it simply, we needed a way to investigate that shrine and we couldn't all go. Having Willow go on a pilgrimage for her coven seemed like the best way to keep it all a secret. And keeping it a secret from the people not involved directly in the prophecy still seems like a good idea to me. Willow wasn't too happy about lying to Kennedy but I was able to convince her to go along with it for now."
Ginny felt herself calming in Buffy's grasp. Not wanting to discuss the prophecy itself any further for the moment, she asked Buffy "Wasn't there something else?"
"Yes. It's about Dawn..." Buffy told her nervously, letting her go and returning to her side of the table. "I really need you to keep an eye on her and help her while I'm gone."
"Well... I can't really explain how it happened unless the others involved agree to it," She looked apologetically at Ginny, "but at some point in the past Dawn sort of became a slayer magnet. Stick her in a room full of slayers and they spend the whole time she's there watching her." Buffy nervously shuffled the papers in the folder. "Works great if she's teaching them something or if we need someone to do slayer crowd control. It's not so great in the middle of an apocalypse. Or when they're patrolling."
"Why?" Ginny asked, before she realised exactly what Buffy was saying. "Oh... that's not good."
"No, it isn't. They seem to have this overriding urge to protect her and pay more attention to her than their surroundings. Willow checked into it but we haven't found a way to stop it yet. Until we do she's a dangerous distraction in a fight." Buffy looked down at her cup for a moment. "She was really upset when we noticed it happening. She really wants to do more than stay in the office or library reading old documents."
"I thought you said she loves translating things?" Ginny asked.
"Oh, she does. And she's good at it." Buffy said proudly. "But she's the sister of a slayer and she has that need to be doing things that slayers have. There are times when she can barely sit still. She just doesn't have the strength and innate slayer skills to go along with it. Fortunately it doesn't affect Faith or myself as badly so she can go out with one of us occasionally. But it isn't really the same thing."
"What did you want me to do exactly?" she asked in a puzzled tone. "If Willow couldn't figure something out I'm not likely to either."
"Oh, not about that. As much as I hate it there are times when she needs to go places where she needs protection. I'm not always here and Willow is going to be gone for who knows how long. We obviously can't send a slayer with her, and we can't drag Faith back from wherever she is at the moment just for Dawn."
"Faith? Why can she be around Dawn and not someone like Kennedy?"
"While Kennedy has become used to being around Dawn she's still going to put her safety before her own in a dangerous situation." Buffy paused for a moment to stretch. "I don't think getting Kennedy killed watching Dawn would make Willow too happy with me. As far as Faith goes... she seems to be more in control of herself. She's still affected by Dawn but not like the younger slayers."
"Any idea why?" Ginny asked her, intrigued.
"I'm not sure how much you know about Faith?" At Ginny's soft 'nothing really', Buffy continued - "Probably has something to do with her childhood and being the last slayer to be actually chosen mystically instead of when Willow did her spell."
Before Ginny could ask her what she meant they were interrupted by someone knocking on the conference room door. "Buffy? Do you have a minute?" A voice echoed in the room from the door speaker. Buffy groaned. She'd forgotten to turn off the door intercom when she'd locked it earlier.
"Yes, Andrew?" She rubbed her forehead and leaned back in her chair. "What did you want?"
His voice came tinnily out of the speaker. "There was a woman at the door a few minutes ago asking to see you."
"Is she still there?"
"No, she wouldn't come in when the slayer on duty wouldn't let her come into the lobby armed." He told her breathlessly.
"Armed how?" Buffy asked curiously.
"She had an enchanted sword or something. It set off one of Willow's alarms. Can I come in?" She could imagine him standing there willing the door to open. She shook her head at Ginny, who looked like she was about to get up and open the door.
"And the problem with that was?" Buffy asked dryly.
"She refused to leave it at the front desk."
"Were you there at the time?" She could just imagine his reaction to someone walking in with an enchanted sword. If he was there he was lucky he hadn't lost an appendage.
"No, I was working on something for Dawn. She did leave this message for you at the desk." Buffy could hear him eagerly announce. "It was a courtesy call. She was just passing through on business and was curious."
Buffy got up and opened the door. He obviously wasn't going to be going away any time soon. "Was there anything else? Like a name?"
"Amanda something." He pulled a small photo out of a pocket. "We got a picture of her. Unfortunately, something's wrong with the outside camera. All we got of the person she was with was a blur. We think it was another woman with a sword."
Buffy looked at the photo briefly, before passing it to Ginny. "We've met. She's some kind of professional thief or treasure hunter. Giles has a file on her in case we ever need her services."
Andrew looked up from the message. "That sounds so cool. Can I go with you?"
"Go where?" She attempted to grab the message from him but he skittered out of her way back into the hallway.
"Her secret hideout. She left an address if you wanted to contact her. It's in a bar in Seacover, Washington." Not sure how to take that she let him continue uninterrupted. "I wonder if she has any gadgets like Catwoman?"
Buffy groaned again. "I don't know, but you can check out the lobby and entrance and make sure she didn't leave anything behind. She was probably here to check out our security before stealing something valuable we have somewhere in the building."
Andrew looked disappointed. He handed the message over to Buffy and left. Buffy looked at Ginny and shrugged before closing the door and locking it again. "Where were we?"
"We were discussing Faith and your sister." Ginny reminded her with a smile.--- --- ---
Dawn wandered in to Buffy's office later that day with a bemused look on her face, mumbling under her breath - "Crazy witches... we couldn't find a normal one... no..."
Buffy just barely caught what she was saying and stared at her. "What did you say?"
"Did I say that out loud?" Dawn said, looking at her sister in surprise.
Buffy glared at her. "Yes, you did. Care to explain?"
"Not really." Dawn grimaced before plopping herself down on the small love-seat in a corner of Buffy's office.
"Try anyway!" Buffy growled at her.
Dawn looked at her once more, surprised at the tone of her voice. "Why don't I just show you." Dawn got back up and walked out of Buffy's office. When her sister didn't immediately follow her she turned around and gave her a look from the door. "Well...?"
"Okay, okay..." Buffy got up from her desk and followed her sister. They stopped in the central hallway, just outside of the lobby, silently watching the activity in the lobby for a few minutes."
"Any idea what she's doing?" Buffy nervously asked her sister.
"Nope." Dawn answered laconically.
"Too skinny to be a stake." Buffy observed.
"Seems to be an awful lot of magic floating around over there." Buffy muttered, the hair on the back of her neck standing on end and her slayer senses tingling.
"Yup." Dawn repeated her last answer.
"So you didn't think to ask?" Buffy asked her sister, leaning against the doorway and giving her sister a disgusted look.
"Didn't think it was safe." Dawn told her.
"But how do you know that? You didn't ask!" Buffy protested.
"She's your witch!" Dawn grumbled. "You ask her!"
"My witch?" Buffy looked at her in surprise. "When did that happen?"
"Don't look at me like that!" Dawn objected. "I'm not the one she followed home!"--- --- ---Continued in "The Queen of Disks"