Story 2, "A Family Affair"
Prologue...With a loud "Whunk" and flash of light, a hole is broken in a wall which had stood solidly for over a thousand years.
The floating clouds of dust raised by the collapse is speared by a flashlight as its wielder shines it around the room, his eyes taking in the ancient hieroglyphics which indicate this chamber was more a part of an ancient temple than a simple tomb. "I'm through the stone" he whispers to his radio in Egyptian.
Playing the light around the long undisturbed room, he examined the three sarcophagi and the fading images along the walls.
The radio crackled, and an urgent voice replied in Egyptian, "Hurry Hamid, We only have another hour before the security patrol returns."
Scowling as he fully entered the room, Hamid asks back, "You're sure it's the middle sarcophagus?"
"Yes. Look for Ra-Atum, the sun god." the other voice replies.
Hamid brushes the dust off the top of the center sarcophagus, revealing a golden inlay of the seal of Ra-Atum. Peering at the glimmering gold, and thinking of the vast riches supposedly hidden beneath it's surface, but also of the rumored protections over the riches he asks, "What if the legend is true, what if Am-Hotep decides I'm unworthy and my soul destroyed?"
The sneer in the answering voice was obvious even over the radio, "The only thing we have to worry about is moving all that treasure out of there before the patrol's next pass."
With an avaricious smile, Hamid shoved a bar under one side of the cover and lifted up, cracking the seal, which seemed to emit a brief flash of light in the darkened room.
He levers again, and the top of the sarcophagus fully cracks into two pieces with a loud CRACK, Hamid yelping in pain as the stone slid back along his pry bar and smashed his hand, shredding the skin and causing him to bleed.
"Hamid? What's going on?" the voice crackled over the radio.
"Ungh, The cover broke. The sarcophagus is open, but I injured my hand. I'm bleeding. Give me a moment to bandage it." Hamid replied as he used his uninjured hand to fish out a cloth with which to wrap the bleeding one. As he pulled the cloth out and shook it, he also flopped his injured hand, shaking the blood off it, never noticing that some of the blood was splattering into the darkness of the now open sarcophagus.
"Ok, I'm alright now." he said, the cloth wrapped clumsily around the hand, staunching the flow of blood.
With an eager glint reflected in his eyes, Hamid now returned to the sarcophagus, bending over to shine his light inside and reveal the long awaited treasure, rumored to have been left here by the Lost General of Pompeii.
As he looked into the depths of the sarcophagus, however, his hopeful expression crumbled, as all that was revealed was a desiccated body of child long dead. "Um, Hasim?"
"Yes, how much treasure is there, Hamid? Will we be able to get it all on the truck?"
"I don't think we'll" Hamid started, but even as he spoke, the body being light by the beam of his flashlight, which had at first had speckles of blood on it, speckles which faded unnoticed by Hamid as he stared forlornly at the corpse which was not the treasure he and his friend had sought, suddenly stirred, and opened it's animalistic yellow eyes to stare at him. "Ahha!" Hamid cried, leaping back from the sarcophagus in alarm, his sentence forgotten.
"Hamid? What is it?" Hasim asked, concern evident in his voice.
Hamid had backed away until he ran into the far wall of the tomb, his shaking hand still shining the quivering light on the desiccated form which had sat up in the sarcophagus and was now looking at him with those lambent yellow eyes, long sharp teeth evident in it's mouth through it's rictus smile. "Ahhaha!" was all he could articulate as his mind was flooded with memories of every late night horror story told to him in his youth about cursed mummies who rise to consume the souls of the unwary grave robbers. And the rest of the legend of this place, the warning that whosoever disturbed the tomb would face the judgment of Am-Hotep, who would weigh their soul, and if found lacking would consume it.
"Hamid? Talk to me Hamid!" Hasim yelled from where he was watching for the return of the patrol, "What's going on? Hamid?"
A gurgle of abject fear was all he could reply with though, as he sank to the floor, his legs failing him in his abject terror, as he watched the course of the child, a girl he thought based on it's dress, climb free from the sarcophagus and slowly approach him, one bony hand reaching out to gently stroke his face as he lost control of even his fingers and dropped the flashlight.
As the light rolled across the floor of the tomb, the reflections from the tumbling beam showed the girl leaning down to the quivering hand, as though to kiss him, her hand seeming to gently cup his chin, but as the next pass of the bean showed, she wasn't going for his lips, but rather for his neck, and the next flash revealed her mouth berried deep in his neck, covering his jugular, as a scream of enormous pain echoed off the walls of the tomb, and were transmitted over the radio to Hasim.
Then, as the flashlight finished it's movement and came to rest on the floor, the reflected light dimly showed Hamid's still form, the no longer desiccated looking form of the girl straightening up from his body, a trickle of blood running down her chin as she looked around the long abandoned room, and smiled. A smile which by itself was more terrifying than the scene which had preceded it.=+=+=+=+=+=+=
Story 2, "A Family Affair"
A single small orange light flares briefly in the darkness, then fades in brightness as it starts to move out of the shadows towards one of the many pools of light which lay scattered about the cavernous room.
Rod Serling steps into view, cigarette lowering from his mouth as he exhales a plume of light grey smoke. He looks once more at the Family Portrait, takes a final drag on his cigarette, then starts to speak, "Family is a tricky thing. It has been said that you can choose your friends, but your family is chosen for you. Despite this fact, family can be some of the most important people in a life. For Lucien LaCroix, Family has always held a prominence. But since first becoming a Vampire, his family has been uniquely distributed to say the least. His beloved daughter in his Mortal life, Sired him into his later Vampyric one. Her name was Divia, a young girl trapped eternally on the cusp of womanhood by her mortal death shortly before the destruction of Pompei.
"And that brings us to this little piece," he said, gesturing to a new picture hanging in a nearby pool of illumination. The same brunette girl from the first picture was visible in this one, what looked like a crossbow in her hands, as a child like vampire lunged at her from behind, her face a study of furious rage. "I present, for your contemplation, 'A Family Affair.'"
The lack of windows in the apartment over the Raven didn't prevent morning from coming, however the unique design of the Portal between the two worlds meant that on this, the new family's first day at school, they were all able to sleep in, and take their time making and eating a hearty breakfast, getting dressed, and insuring they had all their anticipated supplies.
Cat took in Faith's concerned expression as she came out of the bedroom to watch her husband stuffing Twinkies and recently made sandwiches into a bag for lunch. "What's the problem, Faith?"
Faith started, not having heard Cat's naturally stealthy approach behind her until she spoke. "Oh, just thinkin'. I haven't really been all that big on school, ya know."
Cat smiled and reached out to capture Faith's hands in her own. "You want to know something? This will be my first time in a school at all. You think you're nervous? I have no idea how to behave. I'm horrified that I'll make some major faux pas and embarrass Xander."
Faith giggled and said, "Well, not saying words like fopah would be a good start."
Cat nodded solemnly at that, as Faith asked, "Wait, never been to school? I thought you were like four thousand years old or something? How'd you manage to ditch school all that time?"
Cat shrugged, "Like you said, I'm over four thousand years old. Back when I was first growing up, schools hadn't even been invented. You had scholars, and their students, but it was more a one-on-one kind of thing. Places of learning were generally cities, or palaces where people gathered to exchange information and ideas. Later, I just learned things from my brothers, my mother, my father 'Uncle' Janus, or friends of the family. So no, never went to a school."
"Damn. And now ya have to face High School. Suddenly I don't feel so bad." Faith said with a soft smile.
"You two about ready?" Xander asked, walking over with three genuine paper bags filled with lunch. "I've got lunch ready, and we should head over to Sunnydale sooner rather than later. The longer we put this off, the harder it'll be, ya know."
Cat nodded, turning towards the portal embedded in the living room wall, which connected the Sunnydale and Toronto halves of the apartment. "You said, eight am, right?"
"Class starts at eight-ten, so yeah, maybe seven fifty five, so we don't have to hurry. We can point Faith towards her first period on the way to our own." Xander replied, reaching down to lift one of the three nylon daypacks setting on the floor by the archway to the other half of the house, and Sunnydale.
Cat closed her eyes, and the view through he arch seemed to flicker for a moment, then Cat opened them and smiled, "Ok, let's go before we're late again. "With that she also bent down and lifted the other two bags, slinging the yellow one experimentally over her shoulder, and handing the black one to Faith.
Faith scowled at it and asked, "Why do we need these again, X?"
Xander grinned as he stepped through the arch, seamlessly crossing realities, and replied, "Because the breaks between classes are barely long enough to get from one room to another, and you don't want your arms full of books for two or three classes at once. Plus, a bag of books can make a useful weapon, just never mention that fact to the G-Man. But remember that if the pen is mightier than the sword, the book is far heavier than the pen, and you can do a lot of damage by throwing it at your opponent at the right time."
Faith grinned as she filled in the rest, "Especially when his back is turned."
Xander nodded. "Plus, since Cat made these with a hidden pocket, it gives you a good place to carry your stake so you won't have to worry about Snyder catching it on you and trying to kick you out for violating his zero intelligence policy."
Cat blinked, "I thought it was a zero tolerance policy?"
Xander grinned at her as he opened the Sunnydale front door and replied, "You don't know Snyder very well yet. He just calls it his Zero Tolerance policy, but in a school like Sunnydale High, that policy itself is a demonstration of his lack of intelligence."
Cat shrugged and followed her husband through the door and up the steps into the early morning sunlight, Faith trailing silently behind.=+=
First period for Cat and Xander, who unsurprisingly shared all the same classes, was likely to be the single most boring for them both – History. Since both of them shared memories of events going back over four thousand years, and Xander's mind held several parallel memories of events from different vampire's perspectives over that time as well, although most of those from the most recent five hundred odd years, and from an alternate but mostly parallel reality, the odds of the teacher's droning voice providing the pair with new, and useful information were minimal at best. However, at least it was in the morning, rather than in the afternoon, when Xander had historically so to speak found himself fighting the urge to take a nap after lunch. Being the first class of the day he hoped he'd be able to remain awake for it despite its monotonous boredom.
Cat on the other hand was fascinated. Not so much with the instructor or his monotone babble, but with the class in general, and her fellow students. As she had told Faith that morning, she'd never been to an actual school of any type, having spent her formative centuries being tutored in the basics one on one by relatives and friends of the family. But it was more than that. She had also spent most of her existence being protectively shielded in one way or another. It was only since meeting Xander that she'd really started to experience life for herself. Granted, that experience actually started a bit before meeting Xander, when she'd tired of living life in what was essentially a gilded cage, and had opened a portal and 'run away' to experience things on her own for a bit. Not that that worked out that well, within hours she'd literally walked into a trap and found herself locked into her cat form, unable to access any of her powers due to a combination of drugs and spells laid upon her. From there she'd been transported literally to Hell, and offered to a Demon Lord for sacrifice. And then her Alexander had saved her. And her life had been forever changed.
Cat looked around the room, taking in the startled glances the other students gave upon seeing Xander's presence, and noting the happy or relieved expressions which flitted over several of the faces, before often being replaced with wary or guarded ones, worry visibly creeping into their eyes, eyes which seemed on more than one occasion to glance speculatively between Xander's oblivious form and the sunlight filtering through the windows from outside. Based on their reactions, Cat determined that more than a few of them were aware of Sunnydale's nightlife, or rather unlife, and were at first relieved to see Xander had returned, then concerned that it might not really be him after all.
Cat spent the majority of the class soaking up the fluctuating emotions from the other students, and wondering just how many of them had also had their lives forever changed by Alexander Harris. It seemed that more than a few of them felt as though they owed him something.
As soon as the bell rang ending the class, several of the students made their way over to Xander, reaching tentatively out to shake his hand or touch his arm, as though to subtly verify his body temperature and to welcome him back at the same time.
A boy whom Cat recognized as Larry, a prominent member of the football team was speaking to her husband as she slowly shoved herself through the milling students to stand at his side and take his hand in hers, mostly to deflect several of the boys who had been making their way towards her as opposed to her husband, their intentions radiating so loudly that even without her new sensitivity she'd have been more than aware of them.
"...asn't really the same without you around, dude." Larry was saying.
Xander smiled and shook the football player's hand as he replied, "Well I'm even gladder to be back, trust me, other than meeting Cat here, it was literally pure hell."
Larry's eyes flashed over to meet Cat's own, then jumped back to Xander's face as he nodded and said, "Well you'll have to tell me about it sometime. I'm sure everyone's goanna want to know what happened to you man. You know, a lot of the others wanted to have a memorial service for you, but your friends kept saying that they couldn’t give up, that they were sure you'd be back. I have to tell you man, I didn't think I'd see you alive again. And I'm not the only one who realized just how much you'd done for us, I mean, a lot of us were talking about stuff after you disappeared, and it's amazing how many of us had been in, er, situations when either you or Summers came along and saved us, I mean, I used to think I was the only one. It hurt to think they'd finally gotten you, so I'm glad your friends were right."
Xander offered Larry a lopsided grin and nodded his head amicably, "Well, we'd better get going if we don't want to be late for Home Room, I'll see ya 'round Larry, and trust me when I say it's good to be back."
With that, Xander took Cat's hand in his own, and led her towards their Literature class.=+=
Faith wondered, not for the first time that morning, just what the heck she'd been thinking when she'd let her new 'rents talk her into going back to school.
Her first period, English, had sucked more than something she'd stake. Now she was off to History, where from what X had told her she'd be hanging with B. In fact, she'd be hanging with B 'till lunch, since they both had the same History, Spanish, and Algebra classes. It wasn't 'till after lunch that she'd actually have a class which looked to be remotely fun – Auto shop, followed by P.E. Could be worse, B had Chemistry and English Lit after lunch, which Faith knew would just put her to sleep.
Still, as she passed Xander and Cat in the hallway between classes, the warm feeling in her core caused by their proud and encouraging smiles at her reminded her why she was here. 'Sides, hanging with B couldn't be much worse than kicking it at the library or wandering the streets aimlessly as she tried to spend as little time in the crappy hotel as she'd been doing less than a week before. When she considered everything in context, going back to school wasn't that bad at all. Even if she did have to hang with B half the time.=+=
Amy looked up as she heard a stir pass through the class. Xander and Cat were entering through the door, and she realized that for most of the students in the class, other than a few of the ones who were following them from whatever they had for first period that this was the first they had seen of Xander since he, vanished, last year. And in Sunnydale, kids who vanished rarely returned, and when they did, most kids knew enough to avoid them, especially after dark.
However it was the cautious enthusiasm which most surprised her.
She thought back to the reaction of the general student body the year before when Xander had suddenly turned up, "Missing.' How shocked she and the other Scoobies were when student after student came up to them to cautiously enquire about him, trying to seek assurances they couldn't give that he was alright. It had seemed somehow to impact the whole school on some level – plummeting morale at a point where it usually soared as Summer Break approached and the students found themselves looking forward to their forthcoming vacations.
Instead it had been almost like an invisible shroud had been dropped over the school. There had even been talk of a memorial or something by some of the students, however Willow and Buffy squashed that idea as soon as they heard about it, announcing that as long as they held out hope, that there was a chance, however faint, that their absent best friend would return.
Then had come the call a couple of months ago from Giles. Xander was alive, and getting married, and that she was invited if she wanted to go, all she had to do was get to the library by ten that evening, dressed appropriately. Talk about a mad rush!
And then there was the trip through the portal created by the god which looked surprisingly like a six foot muscle-bound version of Principal Snyder to the alternate Toronto and the wedding which followed. That trip gave the word Surreal a whole new level of definition for her.
Afterwards Amy at least had known Xander wasn't dead, or even in Hell, just, elsewhere. But she hadn't told anyone outside the core Scoobies. And noting the reactions from the other students around the room, neither had any of the others. Amy tried to remember what the cover story was that Faith had mentioned last night while they'd been hanging out in the Vampire Bar in that alternate Toronto. Something about Russians, and Cat's full name was Katrina. But otherwise she couldn't remember. And based on several curious glances being sent her way, she realized that that was a bad thing, as it appeared there actually WOULD be a test on it, later. =+=
Xander was actually enjoying his first day back at school.
Part of it had to do with getting to show Cat off to all his old acquaintances. Granted, all his real friends had already met her, both at the wedding and then again the night before. But Xander was swiftly realizing that he was enjoying the reactions from the other guys, and many of the girls as they learned that he and Cat were an item, and more than just dating, but actually married.
After first period he'd been approached by several of the students, including Larry, who were cautiously welcoming him back and politely enquiring about what had happened. However the press of time to get from the History class all the way over to the Literature classroom before the bell rang. But it was long enough to get the feeling that far more of his fellow students were pleased to see he'd returned than he'd ever imagined were even aware he existed.
After Literature was done, there was a twenty minute break before he and Cat had Calculus, a class that he figured might prove to be a challenge even for himself and Cat, as neither of them, or any of the memories in his head had any experience with advanced mathematics, other than perhaps in real-world applications. On a good note, it'd be just like old times in a way, as that was one of the two classes they shared with Willow.
As he and Cat made their way, hand-in-hand towards their lockers, Xander realized that he was finally back home, and all was well with the world. And he was happy.=+=
Cat looked forward to their next class as the bell rang, dismissing them from the boring math class. Next up however on their schedule was a class she actually expected to enjoy, and learn from. As she'd discovered shortly after meeting Xander, knowing how to make food and how to cook it were two different things. Looking back into her husbands memories of the first attempt at actually cooking a meal where she made him pancakes and bacon, the pancakes being both lumpy and slimy on the inside while slightly overcooked on the outside, and the bacon being well and truly burnt, she was impressed by the echoes of joy she felt in her husband's memories of eating that awful food, just because she'd made it for him. It was just another of the innumerable ways she knew beyond the slightest doubt that he loved her with his whole heart.
But today she would start actually learning how to cook. While the history class that morning had been beyond boring, and discussions about something someone else had written were only slightly less so, the math class just finished would prove challenging in that neither she nor her husband knew much about calculus, it was this coming class, and the Computer Programming class after lunch which intrigued her.
Although upon reflection, the programming class would likely not prove much of a challenge, since Xander had inadvertently incorporated the memories of several Enforcers recently, and while they were from a world a few years behind this one, they had also made the efforts to accumulate computer knowledge from several of that world's top hackers and computer trackers, to aid in the furtherance of their duties in policing the vampire population of that world. And since Xander had absorbed their memories, he'd also gotten their secondhand skills and knowledge, which when combined with the knowledge he'd picked up from his best friend Willow, secretly known to the hacking world as will-o-the-wisp, and that which his fictional immortal alter-ego Alexander had accumulated, it was no surprise that the tests the day before had placed them as qualified for the advanced programming class, despite her own unfamiliarity with computers.
Their last class of the day would be French. Only because they had tested lowest on French of all languages, having both theoretically missed the same three questions. In her mind it was a matter of interpretation, but since they had to take a foreign language, and they'd answered every one of the Latin, German and Spanish questions correctly, it looked like they'd be 'learning' French. Ce la vie.
Cat squeezed her husband's hand one last time before letting it go so they could settle down at an unoccupied table near the corner of the room.
Taking in the mostly female makeup of this class, she was glad that here at least they could easily sit together at the same table. Not that she was worried about some other girl here trying to stake a claim on her husband, since she was literally inside his mind she knew that he loved her and always would, but it should reduce any potential for friction or hurt feelings later if the opportunities for misunderstandings never arose in the first place.=+=
Faith looked across the crowded cafeteria, slightly self-conscious about the paper bag containing the lunch X had made for her that morning clutched in her right hand. Who would of thought that a cool chick like her would ever be 'bagging' it. Shaking her head at the idea that this was really happening, she scanned the swiftly filling tables looking for familiar faces. X and C should be here at the least, B, Red, Wolfie, Gandalf and Glenda as well, somewhere. She just knew they had a table somewhere, the unofficial Scooby lunch spot. But for the life of her she couldn’t spot it.
A brief flash of panic shot through her mind at the idea that they'd dumped her somehow, and all gotten together to laugh at her as she wandered aimlessly through the cafeteria looking for a place to sit, a paper bag of humiliation clutched pitiably in her hand. She was about to say 'Fuck it" and leave when she caught sight of The Cheerleader making her way through the crowds, the gaggle of followers the Scoobies had nicknamed the Cordettes following in her wake. Taking a breath against the humiliation, Faith closed her eyes, counted to three, then opened them, and after a final glance around for any sign of a familiar face, pushed her way gently but firmly through the crowd over to the table Cordelia and her clique had apparently staked out.
Cordelia looked up at her approach, her eyes widening in faint surprise at seeing her there, "Faith? It's not raining, so shouldn't you be eating outside with your other looser friends?"
Faith scowled at the cheerleader's not-so-subtle putdown, but she was silently grateful for the information as to where to find the other Scoobies, even if it was couched in an insult. "Yeah, I should, I was considering inviting you to hang as well, but I guess you just aren't cool enough now that I think about it. My mistake, you really should stay here with the trophy-wife wannabes."
With that Faith spun on her heel and headed for the door before Cordelia or any of her friends could manage more than a gasp of shock as a reply.
She could hear one of the Cordetts telling an apparently furious Cordelia as she walked off "She can't say that. Can she?"
Faith just smirked as she turned out the door of the cafeteria, heading for the tables outside, suddenly feeling a whole lot better about things...=+=
To Be Continued...