Disclaimer: See first chapter
Willow wished she was back in Sunnydale. Or possibly anywhere that
was not a dinky, tired gas station in a town somewhere between Nowhere and
Nothing. The shack of building looked like it had fought an apocalypse -
and lost. Magneto was somewhere in there on the payphone, trying to find
his friends. Willow hoped he would hurry up. She wanted to at least leave
Tara a message. Something like, "I'm all right, don't worry."
Magneto was coming out of the shack. Willow looked up from her shoes, which had previously been drawing patterns in the gravel. He looked little less tense and a little more confident. Willow guessed that he had been able to contact whoever he was looking for. Hopefully this was the first solid step in getting out of this mess.
"Did you talk to your friends?"
"Yes. Thankfully, my contacts have remained in place. I understand that they have continued my work in my absence. It won't be difficult for me to locate where they are. Given that, we should go on our way."
"Sure. Just give me a minute to call Tara. I need to tell her I'm okay."
"I would not recommend that. I highly doubt she is aware about what transpired at the facility, while our pursuers would be keeping close tabs on any of your friends. Calling her is an unwarranted risk."
"You called your friends."
"I called my contacts," he corrected. "They specialize in not being noticed by the authorities. Your friend would not have that experience. Or equipment, for that matter."
"You'd be surprised at what Tara can do. I'll just be leaving a quick message. Won't even talk to her."
Willow turned to go use the payphone, ignoring his protestations that she was being foolish. Maybe it was little risky, but she had no idea when she would be able to use a phone again.
The phone looked about as functional as the rest of the place. Willow slipped a few coins into the slot and dialed Tara's number.
"Hello, this is Tara Maclay."
"Tara, it's me. I'm okay. Good bye," Willow moved to put the phone back into the cradle.
On the other end of the line, Tara was both relieved and concerned to have heard from her girlfriend. Willow had called every day of her trip until yesterday. Now she was only getting a brief message? Was she in trouble?
"Wait! Willow, what's wrong?"
Tara stared down at the now silent phone. What had her girl gotten into?
Willow closed her eyes, taking a deep breath. She'd given Tara more questions than answers, but at least Tara knew she was fine. For now.
Willow joined Magneto in their stolen car. She knew he wasn't happy with her decision to contact Tara, but he had allowed it. If he had really wanted to, he could have stopped her.
She slumped in the seat, wishing she was home at Tara's side, where she belonged.
Magneto started the engine and they rolled down the road again.
After driving for what seemed an interminable amount of time (including the
stop in yet
another town to "switch" cars - read dump stolen car one for stolen car
two) Magneto turned down yet another back road.
During the long hours of the drive, Magneto had told her that he and his companions called themselves the "Brotherhood of Mutants" and that they worked to ensure the continued safety of the mutant race. Some of his views on the subject made Willow a little uncomfortable, given her all too human genome. She had a feeling that if she wasn't family, she could be a bug under his shoe for all he cared.
But she was family, so it was okay. And Willow had read enough in the newspapers to realize his fears were not exactly groundless.
On her part, she regaled him with descriptions of vampires and assorted demons. Magneto was still leery about believing in the existence of what amounted to an entire supernatural world coexisting with his own, but the more she described the more he seemed to accept.
Of course, Willow had neglected to go into the full story. Buffy being the Slayer was left for another time. Angel and the soul issue were not mentioned, since that could be a philosophy thing (and Willow knew better than discuss philosophy or how sausages were made). Spike was left out (that story involved the Initiative - not going there yet). Oz was still painful to bring up on her part. That mostly left generic patrol stories and descriptions of various spells she'd studied.
So what if she wasn't in total share mode. Willow didn't think Magneto was either. Fair was fair.
The car was slowing now. Willow looked up as they pulled into the driveway of what seemed to be someone's vacation lodge.
Magneto turned the car off and got out. So this was the hideout of the Brotherhood. It looked very nice. Big, tastefully rustic wood building that was tucked neatly into the clearing, surrounded by old trees. It looked like it could be part of a movie set. They must not lack in funds.
Willow followed him up to the door. It opened before they got there, by a - woman?
She was blue. And scaly. With slicked back red hair. And very little on. Willow gulped and tried not to stare. The woman looked like she'd be right at home in Willy's bar. She had to be a mutant, for all she looked like a demon.
"Welcome home, Magneto," the woman turned to look Willow over. "And this is your little cousin?"
"Indeed. Mystique, this is Willow Rosenberg. Willow, Mystique, my right hand woman."
Willow nodded a hello. There was something about that woman which just felt wrong. Mystique gave her a little smirk in response, as if sensing her discomfort.
"I trust that all is well?" Magneto asked, stepping into the foyer. Willow followed awkwardly, unsure of what to do with herself. This situation wasn't exactly covered in Miss Manners. She could deal with drunken vampires, loco Slayers, and Anya the ex-vengeance demon, but appropriate behavior for visiting the base for a quasi legal group of militant mutants was a new one for her.
Magneto and Mystique were walking away from her, involved in a conversation about whatever it was they did.
She was on her own.
"So, you're Magneto's cousin?"
Willow jumped, startled by the voice suddenly breaking the silence. She looked around for the source.
It came from a man sticking to the wall. Leaning in the doorframe next to him, was a boy about Willow's age. Another one, built like a football player, stood behind the first boy.
The man on the wall spoke again.
"What's your power? Inherit any of your cousin's gifts? Or do y'got something of your own?"
"I'm not a mutant, but - "
Announcing that was apparently a bad idea. All three got this look on their face like she was worthless.
"Then what's a little straight gene like you doing here," demanded door guy.
"Erik and I - "
"His name is Magneto," the football player informed her. "Erik is a human name."
"Aren't you human?"
Once again, all three looked at her. This time they decided she had to be an idiot.
Door guy spoke up.
"We may have started out human, but we are better now. Superior. Humans have no powers. They are insects in comparison. We are a newer, more evolved race."
Whoa there. Were they spouting the current party line? Willow had hoped her cousin was better than that.
Whatever. It was obvious they were just as ignorant of the supernatural as Erik had been. Willow smiled at the thought of...instructing them. Superior powers indeed!
Door guy had taken out a lighter and was playing with it. She focused on it, pulling it from his grasp. Telekinesis was an easy application of magic, one she had mastered senior year.
The lighter now floated about halfway between them. Willow concentrated, flicking the lighter on and off. A simple display of power.
Her three hecklers were staring in amazement. Door guy was apparently ticked off by her presentation. His own eyes narrowed. The next time she flicked the lighter on, he reached out a hand and drew the flame near to him.
With a sudden movement it became a flaming arm, hovering just in front of her face. Willow scowled, the lighter dropping to the floor as she focused on another spell.
"Diminish and be quenched."
The flames dissipated into nothingness.
Football player, mouth agape, stared at her, "Are you sure you're not a mutant?"
Willow grinned. "No, I'm a witch."
This announcement was greeted with dead silence.
"No, really? Can you turn people into rats, and I dunno, build gingerbread houses?" That was football guy.
Wall guy joined in. "I though witches were old and warty. If they were real, that is."
Door/Fire guy made no comment.
"First of all, witches don't do the warts thing. That's a stupid stereotype and totally not true. And the gingerbread thing? A witch had nothing to do with that; it was all some prejudice demon's fault. Long story. Third, I know the spell for turning people into rats," Willow couldn't help but give a slightly threatening smile with that one, "I just don't know how to turn them back."
Door/Fire guy was starting to look a little green at that last part. Willow allowed herself a moment of satisfaction. It wasn't like she would ever cast the spell, but it was nice that he was looking worried.
Deciding they were properly chastened, Willow asked them who they were.
Door/Fire guy was, surprise surprise, called Pyro. His football friend went by the name Avalanche. The one on the wall was Toad.
Willow wondered if anyone in this place went by a normal name. Willow was not the most common name, but had nothing on Toad. Someone would call himself that voluntarily? And they wondered why people thought they were weird.
"So," Pyro said, having decided that Willow was not some weak straight gene, "where are you from?"
"No kidding? We've got one of the Brotherhood from there. Well, she's more of the Sisterhood, I guess. Small world."
"Really? Can I see her?"
"That might be a problem," Pyro laughed. "Seeing her can be quite the issue."
Willow frowned. Who could this girl be?