Disclaimer: See first chapter
"Erik! Erik!" Willow wandered through the lodge. Just when she
actually needed a guide, Pyro had decided she was freaky even by his
standards and had gone off to play Nintendo with Avalanche. Stupid fire
"Looking for someone?"
Crap. Scaly blue lady, what's her name, Mystique, had just popped out of nowhere. This was just swell.
"Yes, I'm looking for my cousin."
"He's busy right now, little girl." Pause for smirk. "Can I help you?"
Willow's eyes narrowed. She doubted that Mystique intended to offer any real help at all. Evil mutant lady. If people were basing their views of mutants off someone like Mystique, Willow wasn't surprised they had issues.
"No," Willow responded coolly, "I'll just find him myself."
"I said that Magneto is busy. He does not need to be concerned with your trivial problems."
Willow cocked her head to the side. Wait. Mystique hadn't popped out of nowhere. She stood in front of a door. A door that blended very nicely with the wall, but a door. I wonder....
Willow took a step towards the door. Mystique countered. Aha! The door had to be to an important place. One possibly containing her elusive cousin. She considered her options. (A) Lure Mystique away and come back. No, Mystique seemed too sneaky smart for that. (B) Attempt to dart around Mystique and open door. Also bad, the woman would probably have some super speed power, given her luck. (C) Hope that telekinesis works long enough to reach and enter door. Yes! Hopefully will come off as mild irritation and not an attack, and safely allows access. Actually, come to think of it, B + C would be best.
A moment of concentration, a quick dart around, a push against the door, and SUCCESS!
"Mystique, I thought I told you I was not to be disturbed!"
"Sorry Erik, it's just me."
Magneto looked up from his desk. The room was filled with all sorts of technology. Most of it seemed communication based. Video feeds from various news stations played mutely in one corner while another revealed what appeared to be satellite images of certain areas. It looked like standard set #21, lair of powerful bad guy, technology class. Not the most comforting. Especially when she noticed some parts scattered a table tucked to the side that looked like they began as some nasty devices.
If the effect was to be intimidating, it was working. For the first time Willow realized exactly how dangerously unorthodox her cousin was. If this was for any other reason, she would have left, babbling multiple apologies. But this was about Tara. And everyone back in Sunnydale. No Scoob worth the title would back out now.
Willow set her shoulders and took a deep breath, preparing for the fight.
Mystique burst into the room.
"I'm sorry, but this little Witch did something which stopped me from blocking her."
"It's all right, Mystique. If it is so important to Willow she had to interfere with one of my people, we might as well hear her out."
Willow tried very hard not to gulp at the "interfere" part. This was so not starting off on the right foot. She doubted she was even close to the left foot, and that made absolutely no sense, and -
You're doing this for Tara. And Buffy. Xander. Giles. Hell, even Anya. Therefore, remember you're entitled to some respect. Innocent victim of circumstances here!
"I was able to cast the spell to speak with Tara." That's it, go for the calm recitation of facts. "She told me that a demon called a Sl'kanith has risen in Sunnydale. The research my friends have says that the Sl'kanith is a very powerful and old demon. It affects humans' and demons' emotions and tries to cause as much chaos as possible, feeding off the deaths. There's a prophecy on defeating it, but until we understand what it means I'm needed to cast a spell that can stop the Sl'kanith from doing as much damage."
Willow paused, marshalling her forces.
"Tara says that children have already died as sacrifices to raise the demon. Erik, I have to go back. A whole lot of people could die if I don't. I belong there. And I will be going, with or without your help. It would just be easier with it." End argument. Wait for rebuttal.
Magneto considered Willow's words. As much as he did NOT want to risk capture, which Willow's departure would undoubtedly increase, his own sense of morality, which despite popular opinion was fully functional, told him that Willow was right. She had to return to Sunnydale.
It's not fun being proven wrong.
"I understand your position, Willow. I'll start making arrangements for your return."
Mystique seemed upset over this. "Magneto, you cannot honestly allow this slip of a girl to endanger us all over some problem she claims to be the only answer to."
Willow turned to glare at the woman. "People will die if I don't help! Innocents!"
"So? People die all the time. Human. Mutant. It doesn't matter."
Before this escalated into a full blown debate, Magneto intervened. "I am aware of the risks undertaken if Willow is free to be captured. That is why," he continued, "we will accompany her to Sunnydale."
Mystique looked, if possible, even less pleased with this suggestion. But she held her tongue, her respect for her leader stopping her from arguing outright. At least in front of the little witch. In her opinion, he was according the human far too much respect.
"Mystique, I would like you to inform the others of this new course of action." The blue mutant turned to leave, inwardly fuming. "And Willow, would you please stay a moment. I would like you to give me a FULL and COMPLETE description of the situation in your hometown. If we come with you, I do not want any secrets surprising me."
Mystique gave herself a smirk at that as she saw herself out the door. ***
Willow was left in the office? communications? room alone with her cousin now. She knew why he was being pushy about having the full lowdown now - she would do the same in his situation - but there were some things that she wasn't even sure that she had the right to talk about.
Okay, Will, just start with the basics. He knows about vampires and demons and magic and Hellmouths; now give it some detail.
"Um...remember how I said my friends and I fight demons and stuff? Actually, most of us are like the helpers. My friend Buffy, the one who told me about vampires? It's her job to fight vampires. She's someone called the Slayer. It's a whole big mystic destiny Chosen One deal."
Magneto nodded. So far, so good.
"The saying is something like 'Into every generation there is a Chosen One. She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness.' There's only supposed to be one Slayer, when one dies another is chosen. She has special powers, like super strength and reflexes and demony detectors and innate fighting skills. So, that's Buffy's thing. She's like our leader."
"Have Slayers ever been persecuted for their abilities?"
Of course that would be what he zeroed in on.
"Besides being the ultimate target for just about every demon in existence? Yeah, there are some accounts, especially during the Middle Ages and stuff where Slayers were burned at the stake or something. I have a funny story about that, actually, but I'll leave it for another time."
Magneto what could be remotely funny about being burned at the stake and expressed that opinion.
"Hellmouth humor, sorry. Anyway, Slayers get help from their Watcher, who is like a teacher mentor guy. Giles is Buffy's Watcher. He knows all about arcane books and random demon facts. When we get there, he'll be the one to go to about the prophecies and stuff.
Let see, what else. My best friend Xander helps out too. He doesn't have magic or anything, but he's really good at helping. His girlfriend is Anya, she used to be a vengeance demon - "
"Used to be?"
"Long story. Come to think of it, most of the back stuff goes under 'long story'. Uh, you already know about Tara. We call ourselves the Scooby Gang - "
"Not exactly striking fear into the hearts of your enemies with that name."
"Hey! I'm proud to be a Scooby."
Magneto personally thought a person would have to be disturbed to think the "Scooby Gang" was a proud name. It sounded like a group of children in elementary school. He wisely did not express that opinion.
"And that's about it. Oh! We might get help from a vampire, Spike. He's got this thing that keeps him from hurting people. Since he can't hunt, he sometimes helps us for money. Or blood, which is an icky way to be paid.
Well, that's it. Sunnydale in a nutshell."
And no mention of anyone else's secrets, Willow whispered to herself. Hopefully, all that is Initiative related would not come up during this lovely adventure.
Magneto didn't realize that Willow was still keeping some information back. Satisfied that she had clued him in on the situation, he nodded his thanks.
"I'm sure that my people will be able to offer some aid, now that I understand the circumstances. As soon as Mystique assembles the Brotherhood, we will prepare to leave."
Yeah! Going home now. But it was really sucky that it took a disaster to convince Erik to send her home. Now that was a joy dampener.
But soon she would be reunited with Tara. Once she was, there wouldn't be anything that they couldn't handle.
Sunnydale. Home of the Hellmouth. Hot Spot #1 among the demons of
the world. A place which, in its own unique way, was the home of Willow's
Her friends were there. And now she was able to rejoin them. And most especially, she could rejoin Tara.
She stood outside Giles' door. With the destruction of the high school and library and all, his place was the current Scooby Central. It seemed to be the best place to temporarily dump her new 'friends' until something better came up. Joy.
Magneto stood behind, along with a several of his followers?subordinates?borderline minions? Unfortunately, that included Mystique and Marcie (mask on, thankfully). On the plus, Pyro, Avalanche, and Toad were there, too. Those three were the only mutants of Magneto's Brotherhood who had really warmed up to her. Willow suspected that a few more of the Brotherhood might have slipped into town, but these five were the official escorts.
Willow rang the bell. The door opened.
"Willow," he said with a sigh of relief, "how good to have you back." Giles peered over her shoulder, noticing her companions, "But would you mind telling me exactly who is standing behind you?"
Willow sent up a prayer to the Goddess that this would all work out. "Um, this is my cousin. The one I went to visit? Erik? 'Cept he calls himself Magneto," Giles visibly tried to control his reaction to that name, "and he decided to come along, with the whole military bad guys out to get us and all." Giles was now raising an eyebrow about the other five people. "And um, he also brought some of his friends along. So yeah. More people to fight the evil demon!"
Okay. The last part fell flat. There was a weighty pause.
"Will this situation be a problem for you, Mr. Giles, I believe it is?"
Magneto's remark shook Giles out of his momentary reverie. "No, I don't think so. It would have been helpful to have some warning, but with the Sl'kanith predicament...Do come in. And it is Giles by the way, Rupert Giles."
Everyone filed into the house. Thankfully, everyone was quiet. Willow was amused to note, however, Giles' reaction to Mystique. That woman probably delighted in disturbing everybody. Though he didn't have to stare quite so much, in her opinion.
The silence continued. No one seemed to have a clue as to what to say. Willow sensed that Giles wanted to yell at her for bringing strangers into Slayer business, but couldn't do so in front of said strangers. Magneto looked like he wanted to say something, but was at the moment willing to let the host speak first. Or maybe he just thought he was being intimidating. And since the rest of the Brotherhood barely trusted her, Willow doubted they'd relax enough to chit chat for a while.
Willow almost jumped for joy when she heard Buffy come in.
"Giles, we have to do something about this Slinky demon. I actually had to break up at least two fights at Willy's just to get close enough to talk to him and you know what? I still got nothing. Nada. All he knows is that all the demons seem to be in the midst of a major free for all every night. No idea where Slinky is."
By now Buffy noticed the mini convention going on in Giles' living room. Her eyes bugged out in a way that would almost be amusing if it wasn't immediately followed by her Demon!Evil! look.
Uh-oh. Demon!Evil! was usually followed by Slay!Now!. Time to intervene and make presence known.
"Hi Buffy! I'm back from my trip."
"Willow? When did souvenirs come in people sized packages?"
Magneto started to look huffy. A dignified huffy, of course, since he was a proper gentlemanly gray zone not so good guy, but it was definitely quick talking time before Slayers and mutants found out who could kick who's butt.
"Oh, well, you see, this is my cousin Erik and his friends and they followed me home 'cause of the big mess I was in. Am in." Buffy started to calm down. "They might help with the Sl'kanith demon thing."
Buffy shrugged. "Okay." Pause. She directed her attention to the most imposing newcomer. "So you're Magneto, huh?"
Magneto's eyes narrowed. There was something about the flippant attitude coming from this child that bothered him. "I am."
She cocked her head to the side. "They say you're the bad guy."
"Is that what they say?"
"Don't really care what they say. You want to help, fine. If you don't, leave. There is a big enough mess going on right now."
"Willow tells me the Slayer functions as something as a peace keeper, a law enforcer of sorts."
"For demons only. At the moment, you and your friends go down as humans in my book. I'm not the law for humans. Now that we've got that cleared up, are you helping?"
Magneto held an inner debate on that. Willow had assumed when they left that he was going to offer aid and he had done nothing to stop her from doing so. While he was not inclined to play the virtuous hero, a task he left to Charles and his protegees, the apparent wanton violence of this Sl'kanith creature gave him little choice.
"Good. Now would you mind introducing me to the rest of the gang?" Buffy asked, waving her hand to encompass the Brotherhood.
Introductions went without issue until Magneto pointed out Marcie. He was vaguely aware of some connection the invisible girl had with this town, but was surprised to see that she actually knew Buffy.
"So Marcie, done anything psychotic lately?"
What a horribly blunt girl.
Giggle. "Not really. Did you miss me? Bet you didn't."
"And I won't as long as you don't do a repeat of any of your stunts while in town."
Another giggle. "Whatever."
Magneto decided to learn exactly what had transpired the last time Marcie lived in Sunnydale.
"So you see, the Sl'kanith demon is quite powerful. Provided that the spell Willow and Tara will perform will work, we should be able to curtail the demon's activities enough to search for a more long term solution. By my understanding of the Sl'kanith, we have approximately two days before its empathic manipulations spread to the human population. Unfortunately, the dampening spell cannot be cast until the new moon, which doesn't occur until the end of the week."
"And where does my Brotherhood fit in your plans?"
"It is my hope that during the five days before we can cast the dampener, you would aid us in maintaining order. According to Anya, the effects of the Sl'kanith can be quite debilitating on a population; any help in preventing the resultant chaos would be useful."
"So what you're saying Giles, is that we get to be the riot police?"
"In essence, yes. Similar to your actions during the Gentlemen's visit to town."
"And that was soo much fun. But hey, voices now."
Willow tried to hide a yawn as Giles, Buffy, and Magneto hashed out the plan of attack. Though it was more defensive than anything. 'Cause of the whole don't know how to kill it thing. Which made planning very annoying. And hard. And would they just finish up already? She was back in Sunnydale and still hadn't seen her girlfriend yet. This was no fair. "I wonder what your basis for comparison is". Whose idea was it to watch the Labyrinth on the flight over? And what was up with that movie anyway?
Self, you are so tired you are reduced to mind-babbling now, Willow thought as she stifled another yawn. She wondered if anyone would notice if she snuck out to find Tara.
Willow was just about to test that theory when Buffy finally noticed how wiped she looked.
"Guys, I think we're done for the night. Will looks like she's about to crash and a few of your people seem two steps behind her."
Pyro looked blearily up from the couch. "Make that one step." The others around him nodded. Except Mystique, who had been coolly monitoring the planning session and occasionally offering her own remarks.
Willow smiled wanly at Buffy, "I think I've got jet lag. Definitely not on Scooby time yet."
Magneto personally felt perfectly alert, but was forced to admit that the majority of his people were in dire need of rest.
"Giles, where would you suggest my people and I go?"
Giles, who was feeling a bit weary himself, was fortunately saved from saying "I have no idea" by Buffy.
"There's an abandoned mansion on Crawford Street. It's big and in fairly decent shape. You could go there, no problem. I can point it out on my way home, if you want."
"That would be most welcome."
After Buffy and the Brotherhood filed out, Willow and Giles were left alone in the house.
"Drive me to Tara's?"
Ten minutes later, Willow was holding her girl in a tight embrace. Whatever happened, it would be okay now. She and Tara were together again.