Upside Down and Inside Out
Chapter Two: Upside Down and Inside Out
Summary: Jack’s reaction to the FULL orientation.
A/N 1: RachelK was quite right - The Grand Tour did read more like a chapter than a complete story, so I’ve made it the first chapter and this is the second. Thank you, RachelK.
A/N 2: Angel Season 5 never happened with some exceptions. For now, all you need to know is Spike is alive and corporeal.
Kendra Wood School for the Gifted (KWS)
Jack walked numbly out of the school library, then leaned against the closed doors. His face was completely blank and he was completely still, except for the occasional eye blink.
“Right. You grab that side,” Victoria commanded Tran. The girls each grabbed an arm, turned and started walking him toward the exit. That snapped Jack out of his stupor.
Wrenching himself free, he asked “Whatcha doing?”
“We’re going out,” Tran replied as if that explained everything.
“I’d rather be alone right now, if you don’t mind.”
“Yeah, we don’t think so. Look, you’ve basically just had your world turned upside down and inside out. Right?! Well, there is only one sure-fire remedy for that,” Silver smiled.
“What’s that?” Jack asked skeptically.
The girls all grinned at him but said nothing.
Willow and Xander peeked their heads out the library doors and watched the group leave. Turning to her best friend, Willow said “You knew they’d adopt him. Didn’t you?”
With a big goofy smile, Xander shrugged his shoulders saying “I had a hunch.”
“A hunch? Uh huh. That’s why you had Victoria assigned to take him around and get him acquainted with the school. You’re an evil genius, except you use your powers for good and not evil so I guess that just makes you a genius,” she smiled at him.
The club was dark, crowded and noisy. The dance floor was the only well-lit area, if you consider flashing, strobing lights well-lit. The music pouring through the sound system was loud enough that the vibrations could be felt through the floorboards.
Sitting at a table on the edge of the dance floor, surrounded by pretty teenaged girls all dressed in their best “clubbing” outfits was Jack, who was trying to figure out the quickest route to the exit.
“So do they call it Asylum cause it drives you insane?” Jack yelled to be heard over the din.
“It’s ‘asylum’ as in sanctuary, refuge. Although it is a place to let go and go crazy,” Tran loudly explained. The “duh” was heavily implied.
“Great, huh?!” yelled Adrienne enthusiastically.
“Yeah. I’m gonna go now. Thanks for everything” Jack hollered back. He was halfway out of his chair when he was pulled back into it by Silver and Tran, sitting on either side of him.
“Did he just try to bail on us?!” Tran asked outraged.
Shy spoke up “You can’t do that. Okay, you’re obviously new to this whole friends thing, so we’ll just have to teach you. Lesson 1: you don’t bail on your friends. It’s okay though ‘cause it works both ways. We won’t bail on you either.”
“But you could! Really, I wouldn’t take it personally.” Jack looked at all the girls hopefully. They just stared back at him. They obviously weren’t going to make this easy. “Look, I appreciate what you’re trying to do but THIS,” Jack gestured expansively with his hands, “isn’t really my scene. I’m more fishing, opera and a cold beer.”
“Okay, what are you, 100?” Victoria laughed.
Insulted, Jack snarked “No. I’m not old! There’s nothing wrong with opera. It’s very soothing.”
Silver leaned into Jack. “And if you were being wheeled to your deathbed, that’d be great! You’re missing the whole point, Jack. You’re alive. Life goes on. The world did not in fact crumble around your feet.”
“Feel the music, Jack. Don’t listen to it, FEEL it. Feel how it pulses through your head into your veins, into your soul. That’s life!” Victoria added. Seeing Jack’s ‘Oh, please!’ look, she laughed and said “Just give it a try. If you can’t feel it we’ll leave.”
Jack looked at them suspiciously. “I close my eyes, ‘feel’ the ... music, then we leave? Promise?”
“But you really have to try,” said Adrienne.
“Fine,” Jack sighed. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes and waited to “feel” the music. Nothing. Zip. Nada. Except for the throbbing in his head, which he didn’t think counted. He was about to tell them it hadn’t worked when he felt it, a thrumming that radiated throughout his body, into his limbs. Without even realizing it he started to bob his head ever so slightly in time with the song currently playing. He shot his eyes open to see the girls smiling at him as though he’d just discovered fire or possibly jelly donuts. “What was that?!”
“Life” they all responded. Jack was not happy with that answer but before he could say anything else Silver grabbed his hand and started dragging him to the dance floor.
“Oh, no! I SO don’t think so!” Jack stated emphatically as he turned back toward the table.
Silver immediately got in front of him cutting off his escape. “Oh, come on! We’re alive, we’re young, it’s our right, no our DUTY to party. Do you have any idea how many old people go on only because they know that we’ve taken up the mantle they’ve passed on to us.”
Jack stared at her in amazement, clearly dumbfounded. “You just like hearing yourself talk, don’t you? It doesn’t even matter that you’re making absolutely no sense, does it?”
Not the least bit insulted, she grinned at him. “Nope! Now are you going to dance with me or am I going to have to have Tran carry you onto the dance floor?”
Jack stood there for a few moments seriously considering whether he could take these girls. He glanced behind him and saw he’d get no help there. “Oh, for cryin’ out loud! Fine. What the hell, you’re only young twice,” Jack muttered.
Jack was laying on his bed in a tee shirt and sweat pants, his right hand under his head and his left one idly plucking at the thin sheet covering him. The girls had finally dropped him off a couple of hours ago but only after he promised to have breakfast with them in the morning. He’d taken a shower, brushed his teeth and crawled into bed expecting to be out in seconds. Jack looked at his bedside clock. That was an hour and a half ago and he was still wide awake. Jack had been trying to avoid thinking about the orientation ever since he’d stepped foot outside the library. The girls had managed to distract him for most of the night but now there was nothing to stop his mind from rehashing it.
Jack entered the library and was surprised to find it empty. “Hello?” he called out. From a side room, the librarian Rupert Giles came out.
“Ah, Mr. Jackson, right on schedule. Please come in. We’re all ready for you.”
Jack followed the man into a surprisingly large room, sat down in the chair indicated to him and looked around. He was sitting at one end of a large conference table. Most of the other people in the room were also seated around the table. Xander was standing at the other end, near a wall projection screen, a Billy Idol wannabe was sitting on a file cabinet, and Faith was near the door. Was it his imagination or did she seem to be guarding the exit? “Well, this is familiar.”
“Hi, Jack” Willow said as she smiled and gave him a little wave. “You remember Xander, Faith and Robin. This is Giles, Buffy and Wesley – they were the ones on the phone. And this is Spike. He’s – well, we’ll get to that. So, did you like the tour?”
“Uh, yeah, sure. It was great, even got to eat with a horde of locusts.” At the strange, inquiring looks he received Jack clarified “The other students. They eat a lot.”
“We don’t even notice it. That is until the food bill arrives and we’re suddenly pulling together a car wash to pay the bill,” Xander said playfully. “So, meet anyone interesting?”
“A few” he responded cautiously. “I understand I’m getting the ‘FULL’ orientation. What does that mean?”
“Do you believe in ghosts? Vampires? The bogeyman?” Xander asked, seemingly changing the subject.
“No,” Jack quickly answered though he was obviously confused – a feeling he was quickly getting accustomed to around here.
“You’ve never seen or heard something weird that couldn’t be explained?”
“That couldn’t be explained? No. What’s going on?”
The others all exchanged looks realizing this was going to be a hard sell. Robin looked rather smug – he tried to warn them, but they refused to listen and now they were going to have to face the consequences.
“Okay,” Buffy said “you’ve NEVER been able to not explain something?! Ever?”
“Me, personally? All the time. Doesn’t mean there’s not an explanation. I had some friends who were really good at the explanations. I was just there to … have fun.”
Xander took over again. “Okay, look, we’re gonna tell you some stuff and you’re gonna think we’ve escaped from the nice men with the white jackets but bare with us, keep an open mind and I can pretty much guarantee that by the time you leave here you’ll understand everything. Well, a lot more than you do now anyway. You think you can do that?”
“Hey, I’m Mr. Understanding. Shoot.”
“Right, then” said Spike as he stood up, casually walked over to Jack’s chair, leaned down so he was eye level with Jack, and growled as he shifted into his game face. Jack jumped up yelling “whoa”, his hand shooting to his hip and grabbing empty air. Spike shifted back to his “normal” face and smirked “Believe in ‘em now?”
Giles sighed “Spike we’ve told you not to do that.”
“I don’t fancy sitting around yammerin’ on all night. I’ve got things to do, ya know.”
“What are you people?!” Jack demanded, keeping his distance as he eyed them all suspiciously.
“I’m a vampire, mate. You know, that thing you don’t believe in.”
“No,” Spike calmly drawled “I’m a vampire. Buffy and Faith are slayers, Willow’s a bad-ass Wicca, the English blokes are watchers, the whelp’s a demon hunter, and then you’ve got the principal. He’s a scary one, he is. If you don’t watch out, he’ll put in detention – make you bang erasers or some such. Ooh!”
Robin’s face contorted in rage as he sprang up from his seat and pulled out a stake he kept concealed in his suit. When Spike just laughed at him, Robin made to jump over the table but was quickly stopped by Buffy.
“Guys, enough! This is not helping.” She looked over at Jack and told him “We’re usually more professional than this.”
“We are?” asked Xander, surprised.
Glaring at him, Buffy emphasized “Yes, we are.”
“As professionals, I believe we should continue with Mr. Jackson’s orientation, yes?” added Wesley.
“Okay, so I take it this isn’t a regular high school then.”
“Uh no, afraid not. This is a school for slayers, witches, watchers and demon hunters or rather those who will eventually be watchers and demon hunters,” Giles explained.
“And vampires,” said Jack skeptically.
Xander jumped back in “No, we kill vampires.”
“Just not all of them for some unknown reason,” Robin muttered.
“Spike’s not your average vampire. He helps us fight the other nasties. There are only two like him.”
“”Oi!” Spike cried, outraged at being compared to Angel yet again.
Xander turned “Deal with it. Deadboy had his soul long before you did. Of course, he just sat on it for forever but” Xander looked up, realizing he was digressing and didn’t want to go there “that’s probably more my issue and not really the point.” Xander shook his head to clear it. Looking around the room, he asked “Okay, who wants to give it this time?”
“I’ll do it,” Faith volunteered. “If any of you get going we’ll be here for a week. Okay kid, it’s like this: the scientists and religious fanatics all got it wrong. The world started out a lot longer ago than people think and demons ruled. It was like demon Mardi Gras all the time. That is until we came – humans. We got our shit together and kicked those mothers out, mostly. See, some powerful mojo guys back in the day got together and made themselves a superhero. Of course, you want the best, you start with the best material – a girl. So they suped up this girl, gave her wicked powers: speed, strength, agility, stamina and fast-ass healing. She became the first slayer. It was her job to deal with all the monsters.
“Course, that doesn’t really promote long life, right – which the mojo guys knew – so they made it that her powers were transferred to another girl when she kicked the big one. And that happened for thousands of years until Buffy died. Xander brought her back with CPR and she got to keep all her powers. Thing is, she was dead, so another girl was called to take her place, Kendra. When she died, I was called. A couple of years ago, we really knocked it all on its ass. Willow, who’s way more powerful than the mojo guys, changed how a slayer is called.
“See, for every slayer, there were hundreds, maybe thousands, of potential slayers available to take her place when she died. A couple of years ago, a big bad tried wiping out the slayer line, killing off the potentials. Long story short, there was a big battle and Willow activated all the potential slayers into actual slayers. Needless to say, we kicked ass! With me so far?”
Jack stared at her. Then he looked at all the others. Then he leaned down and quietly started repeatedly banging his head against the conference table. “Unbelievable.”
Willow was distressed to see him like that. “I realize it takes some getting used to-”
Jack stopped and looked up at her. “No, you don’t understand. I can’t believe that I’ve managed to step into something so … You know what, I can believe it. It wouldn’t be my life if something insane wasn’t going on.” Jack dropped his head into his hands and just sat there for several of minutes. The others sat quietly looking at each other worriedly.
“Maybe we broke him,” Buffy offered tentatively.
Jack’s head came up. “Okay, so what you’re saying is demons are real.” Everyone nodded. “Vampires, witches, magic – all real.” Again more head nodding. “And you guys, this school teaches the students how to fight them?”
Buffy clarified “How to fight the demons and vampires. We try to teach the witches self-control and how to use their magic for good. We guide them away from delving into the really dark stuff.”
“The black arts can be very seductive and it’s easy to fall into performing spells and rituals which are too advanced. That never leads to goodness,” Willow informed.
“And ‘just say no’ never works,” Faith added.
Willow could see he was still struggling to embrace the whole magic concept so she began muttering an incantation softly. A soft light started glowing above the table and continued to glow and grow in intensity until it filled the entire room. Then suddenly it was gone. She gave Jack a tentative smile. “That’s one of the most basic spells. Neat, huh?”
“I’m sure there’s a logical explanation,” Jack said. The Scoobies were disappointed. “Of course, you’d be surprised what I consider logical.”
“I knew it!” Everyone turned to look at Buffy, who said “Well, I did. Once I saw him, I knew Willow and Faith were right. He can totally deal!” She sat back in her chair and smiled.
“Okay, so start at the beginning and go slow.”
They had “briefed” him for several hours. By the time he left he’d had so much thrown at him, he was numb. That’s when the girls had found him. No, not girls, superheroes. Except they were still just girls. It kind of reminded him of Merrin, a little girl shouldering adult responsibilities. He had risked his career to ensure she had at least a taste of childhood. He’d make sure his girls got to be kids too. He turned over and drifted off to sleep, never realizing he’d just claimed that wild pack of girls as his.