Disclaimer: See first chapter
It wasn't until the following morning that Willow had the opportunity to
have a proper reunion with Tara. It wasn't exactly surprising, since she
arrived home somewhere between two and three in the morning. After a quick
hug and a "missed you so much", Willow had gratefully collapsed in her bed.
Now at the ungodly hour of nine (she had wanted to sleep until noon, but
with the everything-ness needing doing she woke up waaay too early) Willow
could finally talk with Tara.
And there was much to discuss. Last week, she had been happily basking in her geekness at the tech conference. Then she had decided to do the right thing and visit a distant relation who happened to be in prison. And now she was technically a fugitive from the law and had to help stop a mini-apocalypse. Definite Need to Speak with Significant Other time.
Which was why she was sitting down with Tara with coffee. Lots of coffee.
"What really worries me is not the whole Sl'kanith thing, but my cousin. 'Cause I've dealt with demons before. Been fighting the good fight since sophomore year and all. But Erik or Magneto or whoever he is, I don't get him. I mean I think he's happy we're family and all, but there's this whole MUTANT thing he has going."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean whatever went down at Ellis Island. Which was obviously bad enough he got sent to prison. I mean, they built this way big expensive prison just for him. Really doesn't say 'I'm an all around good guy' does it?"
"Have you asked Erik about Ellis Island?"
"Um, no. But he hasn't brought it up, either! And when I was at their whole secret base thing, they were all 'stay with your guide' and 'don't wander around'. And I think his office/lair was full of not so legal stuff."
"And when I told the Brotherhood I was a human, they got freaky about it. Like I was a lesser being or something. If I wasn't a witch I think they would've gone all scary on me. And these are like Erik's people! He's their leader, so what they say is what he would say, and Tara, I'm so confused!"
"You've been wanting to let that out for a while now, haven't you?"
Willow nodded emphatically. "It's kind of been me and the Brotherhood for the past few days. And so totally can't vent with them."
Tara sighed. From Willow's descriptions, it sounded as if Erik/Magneto was not a shining example of humanity. But it was in her nature to be as optimistic about people. And Willow obviously needed the Voice of Calm Reason.
"Willow, what do you know about the mutant situation?"
Willow looked down sheepishly. "Not so much. Sunnydale doesn't bother much with the outside world. If we have any mutants, like Marcie, it would be treated the same way we treat anything out of the ordinary."
Tara was a little amused about this. In so many things Willow was far more knowledgeable than her, but apparently in this she was light years ahead.
"You know that the rise of mutants has a lot of people concerned, right?"
"I know that much. But you and I both know that there's been people with funky powers a lot longer than that."
"And somewhere around the Middle Ages we stopped openly practicing and went into hiding for a couple centuries. Mutants don't have the same background of secrecy that witches and demons have, Willow; they want to part of the world and not hide."
"So, the same reason the supernatural world went underground is the same reason why mutants are pretty scared of the unchanged humans. They're outnumbered by a group that has a bad history with dealing with the unknown and different. Just look at how hard it can be for you and I to be together."
"I know - It's just that Magneto's got this whole 'mutants are the future' attitude and it scares me."
"I'm not saying he's got the right way to go about it, Willow. Just try to remember where he's coming from."
Willow slumped in her chair. "Why'd you have to go and validate all my reasonable voices?"
"Because that's what I'm here for. The validation of reasonable voices."
"You know you're the best, don't you?"
Tara's eyes twinkled. "Of course."
Later that day the Scoobies and the Brotherhood assembled at Giles' place. The final round of introductions occurred, going uneventfully barring Anya's remark to Mystique, "You look like someone I once enacted vengeance for. Quite a creative wish. Do you know a Raven Darkholme?" Mystique did not reply, though Magneto got a faintly disturbed expression upon this revelation.
Once the formalities were out of the way, Giles quickly took control of the meeting.
"We've managed to determine the wisest course of action in dealing with the Sl'kanith demon. Thanks to the help provided by Magneto and the, Brotherhood, is it? we will be able to effectively patrol the town once the chaos begins."
Avalanche spoke up. "How come you need us to watch out for the straight genes, anyway? Isn't that what police are for?"
At the mention of the police all who knew Sunnydale gave Avalanche a Look. Buffy said dryly, "Just so you know, the police in Sunnydale are deeply stupid. Natural side effect of totally ignoring the demon population."
"About that," Giles broke in, "you should know that the likelihood of your more unique traits being noticed is quite low."
"Delusion, thy name is Sunnydale."
"Quite right, Xander. Now back to the Sl'kanith issue, we have five days before the dampening spell can be cast. Tara, I believe you have the spell with you?"
Tara looked up. She had rarely participated in deep Scoobiness beyond research, but now she had to talk? In front of people, strange people?
Willow gave her hand a quick squeeze.
"W-well, most of the ingredients are fairly basic. W-we'll need a focusing crystal, rose hips, monkshood, sage, a-and a cauldron containing copper, silver, and gold."
Giles nodded decisively. "Those are all easy enough to procure. Perhaps a visit to the Magic Shop later today?"
Tara blushed. "I'm n-not done. There's t-two more things on the list. A-a bag woven of s-siren hair and um," here her voice trailed off uncertainly.
"Yes, what else is it?" Magneto broke in impatiently. He was surprised at the lack of confidence Willow's lover displayed. The girl seemed so unsure of herself it was almost laughable. He thought Willow would choose someone more her equal in strength.
Tara flushed under his stare, as if she heard his thoughts.
"And the blood of a victim," she mumbled.
"The Blood of a Victim!" The girl almost sounded as if she had a backbone. Willow glared at him for being so rude to Tara. Magneto was not bothered at all. It wasn't his fault the girl was so nervous.
Giles frowned a little at the last ingredient. Spells requiring blood rarely tapped into the good sources of magic. It would be most unfortunate if their primary weapon in fighting the Sl'kanith involved the Black Arts.
"What is the blood for?"
"Ooh, I can answer that!" Anya broke in proudly. "You need the victim's blood to focus the spell on the demon, so that the demon can no longer create more victims. It's like a white magic version of a vengeance spell. That's why it doesn't, you know, kill the Sl'kanith."
So that meant using the blood was okay. And as Giles was well aware, despite their best efforts there would be blood shed before the spell could be cast.
"The blood will be way too easy to get." Buffy joined the conversation now. "But the siren hair thing? Doesn't exactly sound like an over the counter item."
Anya was practically bouncing up and down in her seat. "I know this one too! There's a siren who lives an hour away on the coast. She's a friend of mine from my vengeance days and was always saving her hair - siren hair grows so fast, of course." Everyone nodded as if they too knew "of course". "She usually wove it sell - Siren hair makes for an excellent secondary income, given how the market for wrecking ships went down with the invention of efficient tracking methods. Melly has a good understanding of the dollar. She'll sell."
"Yes, thank you, Anya. So a few of you will go speak with this Melly -"
"Only send women, Giles. Melly's mostly retired, but she still appreciates the destruction of the males of the species. I don't want to lose my Xander."
"Thank you for the warning, Anya, we will take note of that."
"Are we done now? Because Xander said that once we had a big meeting he would no longer be too worried to give me orgasms. So can we go now? I want my orgasms."
The Scoobies rolled their eyes at Anya, for being, well, Anya. The Brotherhood proceeded to do a group impression of a fish gasping for air. Anya rolled her eyes at the Brotherhood. Some people were so uptight.
Giles coughed and restrained the desire to clean his glasses. "Yes Anya, we are done for now."
"Willow and Tara, would you stop by the Magic Shop for the more easily obtained supplies?"
"Right then. Well, until tonight."
Everybody got up to do whatever business they thought needed doing. Anya grabbed Xander by the hand and practically dragged him out the door. Xander gave them all looks of apology as she pulled him along.
Once those two were safely out the door, the rest proceeded to leave in a more normal fashion.
The mutant turned towards the intellectual leader of these Scoobies. What was he called again? A Watcher?
"Might I have a word with you?"
Magneto paused, prepared to listen to whatever concerns this Giles had to bring up.
"I suppose you're wondering why I asked you to stay?"
Magneto looked the other man over. He was impressed with Giles' reaction to him. Of all these "Scoobies", Giles seemed most aware of precisely who and what Magneto was. And he had not been intimidated in the least, as evidenced by Giles' request.
"It had crossed my mind. Do you care to warn me to behave myself while in this little town?" Magneto looked him straight in the eye. "I can assure you, if I wanted to cause trouble there is little you could do to stop me."
"Quite right," Giles agreed calmly, taking Magneto aback. "But by the same token, should any - situations - arise, I have no doubt things could be made difficult for you, as well."
The mutant's eyes narrowed. Did this mere human dare to threaten him? He tensed, preparing to unleash enough power and ensure that Giles understood exactly who held the power.
Giles continued as if he did not notice the mutant's reaction. Inwardly, he was surprised he dared to challenge one of the most notorious people on the planet, but there were things that needed saying.
"Actually, I feel that Buffy has made clear our stance on the issue of your presence here. Given your," Giles paused as he sought the best words, "unique legal status, it is unlikely you will draw attention to yourself at the moment. My real question to you is, what are the odds your pursuers will be able to track you to this location?"
"Why do you care?"
"What do you know about recent events within Sunnydale?"
An interesting rebuttal. "A demon has been raised. Willow's services are needed in curtailing it; since I am here as well I have offered to help." Pause. "Is there more to it than that? A piece of information not mentioned?"
"To that? No, not at all. I was referring to events earlier this year. I'm not sure what Willow has told you about our activities."
Magneto shrugged. "She mentioned fighting a creature called Adam; beyond that all I've heard concerns the changes in her personal life. Is this where the dark secret comes out?" His voice grew dangerous at the last part. He had hoped Willow would know better than lie to him.
"Interesting. I am not surprised Willow did not go into more detail; it would be a sensitive topic to bring up."
"And what would that be?"
"An attempt made by the military to study and harness demons for their own purposes," Giles stated bluntly. "It failed rather spectacularly, since their vaunted creation of a demon human hybrid decided to kill them all. That was the Adam Willow mentioned. The Initiative, as the organization was called, has since been disbanded."
"And what does that have to do with my pursuers?" Magneto responded in icy tones. This was the sort of information he had specifically asked Willow for; he hated being at a disadvantage. But you were not honest with her, a particularly Charles like voice whispered. He told that voice to shut up. What Willow did not know would not hurt her. This was entirely different situation.
"Very simply, I do not want the military or any related organization to take an interest in Sunnydale again. They messed with forces they had no business dealing with and we paid the price. If they take interest again, it could very well mean a repeat of the Initiative. Do you understand me?"
Quite the backbone this Watcher had. Magneto could see where Willow was learning her habits from. He wondered if any of these Scoobies had the sense to back down when faced with a superior force.
"You want me to avoid getting recaptured?"
"I want the issue of your recapture not to come up at all."
"Then we are on the same page."
Magneto turned to leave, having a strong desire to track down his cousin. Willow had some explaining to do about this "Initiative."
Willow and Tara sat on the couch in Tara's apartment. Bags from the Magic Box rested against the wall, containing the required items and a few extras. There'd been a sale on some very juicy items - she still couldn't believe the deal they got on the eye of newt - that was just too hard to pass up.
At the moment they were talking about the good parts of her trip.
"And then someone started quoting the funniest poem, it went like 'Twas Unix and the C++/Did compile and load upon the VAX:/All Ritchie was the Kernighan/And LISP ran in GNU EMACS.' Can you believe it? And then everyone started laughing, especially at the 'LISP ran in GNU EMACS' part, and - "
The two girls looked up at who burst in the door. Willow grabbed Tara's hand as she prepared to cast a defensive spell. She had barely summoned enough power for the first syllable when she noticed the intruder was an extremely pissed off cousin of hers.
Uh-oh. What had set him off? Not good, not good, so not good.
"Um, hi Erik," Willow managed to squeak.
"I believe before I came here," he thundered, "I asked you to tell me WHAT HAPPENED HERE!"
"But I did!"
"Then why was Rupert Giles the one to tell me about the Initiative!"
Double, Triple, googolplex uh-oh.
"Did it not occur to you that it might be important. This organization sounds precisely like the sort of thing I need to know about!"
"But - "
"I've dealt with so-called Initiatives before. Going to a place where I have no knowledge that they operated there is tantamount to walking into a trap!"
"They don't exist anymore!"
"Do you honestly believe that? If they were here once, they could be again, and I have no intention of dealing with them in anything beyond a superior position."
"But - "
"I trusted you to keep me informed so my people and I would not be compromised! This could put my mission at risk!"
"Erik, it wasn't my secret to tell!"
"And it was Giles'?"
"YES! I didn't think it had anything to do with the Sl'kanith which was why you were coming here and - "
"I CAME here to make certain that you did not divulge any information about the Brotherhood to our enemies. Helping with the Sl'kanith is the side issue."
Willow gaped at her cousin. How could he say that? While she tried to form a reply, Magneto continued his rant.
"It doesn't matter if it wasn't 'your secret'. What matters is that I trusted you to give me the necessary information. Which you failed to do."
Magneto's head swiveled to note the other girl in the room. And so the mouse speaks.
"Y-yes," Tara suddenly felt very small and scared under Magneto's condescending stare, "Y-you are wr-wrong."
"And how, pray tell, am I wrong?"
Tara's eyes flicked over to see Willow. The redhead was still reeling from the blow about the importance of the "mission" over life- saving, her expression wounded.
"B-because," Tara's back straightened now as she spoke with conviction, "because Willow told you what you needed to know for this situation. She couldn't go around telling you other people's secrets when she wasn't sure if they applied. That would be an abuse of their trust." Here she set her shoulders and looked him in the eye. "Her first allegiance is to them and not to someone she barely knows. And can you honestly tell her you told her everything?"
So the mouse was not such a mouse after all. Magneto was impressed with the shy girl who was meeting his eyes so calmly right now. He had met much "stronger" people before who backed down at the slightest hint of intimidation on his part. Not so for this one.
"It always is." Tara gathered her courage one last time. "I think you should go now. You've gotten the answers to your questions. We'll see you later tonight, anyway."
Magneto didn't want to leave, but he realized he had nothing left to say in his defense if he stayed. As he turned to go, he asked Willow one last question.
"The computers in the prison - where did you learn the systems?"
"Hacking into the Initiative last year," Willow responded quietly. "We sometimes had to cause a few breakouts of our own in their little prison."
He nodded and left. This little adventure was proving most uncomfortable for him. First witches, then demons, and now this. He felt as if someone was determinedly testing every one of his cherished beliefs in the world and how it worked.