Fic: Through the Wintergate (3/3)

Aug 17, 2010 16:33

Title: Through the Wintergate
Author: Brutti ma buoni
Characters: Xander, Vi, OC Slayer and OC ‘Watcher’
Rating: PG
Words: 5000. Part one and Part two are here. Part one gives full author notes.

Xander had always thought of Vi as pretty calm. Phlegmatic even, though that was a lumpy word for a light-footed girl. He’d also never thought she was in love with Slayer destiny.

But she woke him at first light, sharp jab in the ribs and a whispered demand. “C’m on. I have to know.”


They ran through some basic drills: climbing, throwing, response tests and stamina. She failed.

After a few minutes, Vi sat down on the frosty ground. Knees hugged to her chest. She broke her own profound silence a while later. “Okay. Not a Slayer. Still me.”

There was a wobble to ‘me’.

Xander was tempted to say nothing. He moved on from that cowardice to semi-comforting speculation - “Look. We’re dead here, right? Technically, to the outside world? So maybe you don’t keep your powers this side, but when we get out you’ll be back at Slayer power.”

Vi turned her face towards him. Silvery tear tracks marked her cheeks. She shook her head, a little.

Naked truth then. “Vi... I’m not a Slayer. It’s okay. I’m with the gang. It’s scary, but it’s good-scary. I’m there because I choose to be. You could choose to stay, easily. You’re a hell of a good researcher. You’re valued, and that won’t change, no matter what. Or you could... go.”

She was realising it. “It’s not so bad. I can be normal. I could leave the Council.”

The idea of R&D without Vi - unthinkable. The astrolabe she’d bought. The tangerine walls. The original doodled training schedules for Slayer Support Operatives that mixed fieldwork with compulsory problem solving and demon awareness. Much more complex now, of course, but those originals were Vi’s own first contribution to the workings of the Council. But she needn’t stay around forever.

She wasn’t facing him anymore. Looking far away into the distant fir forest which made up most of this prison. Her voice was so low he almost missed it. “I never wanted to be the Slayer.”

Now, a lot of people wouldn’t know what to say here. Not Xander. “No one really does. No one wants that responsibility. No one wants to fight alone every day and maybe die before you’re twenty.”

Vi sniffed. “Kennedy does.”

“Well... yeah.” Enough said. “But you - you’re one of the good ones, Vi. You didn’t ask to be a Slayer, but when you became one, you grew. So much stronger than just the Slayer powers make you. You’re pretty damned amazing, you know that?”

Then honesty won through, just a little. “Though, all the same I want to be a Slayer now, one of the gang. Just for a while. Just to see how it feels.”

Vi snorted a scornful, “Yeah, right.”

“What, guys can’t have ambition?”

“Why would you want to be a Slayer? You’ve seen what it’s like. With the danger and the early death and the endless responsibility.”

Xander shrugged. “Sure. But I get those anyway. And you’re a real part of the gang then. Superstrength and certain destiny, they seem like pretty good things to have on your side. I mean, unless you want to stop fighting?”

“I thought we were comforting me about not being a Slayer anymore?” Vi was starting to relax: less huddled posture, thousand-yard-stare down to more like two hundred yards.

Handwave. “Eh. We’re preparing you to go either way, when we get out of here. Arguments on both sides, right? No way is the perfect way, life gives you lemons yadda yadda motivational crap. The important thing is a) how do we get out of here and b) what do we do about the girls who are in here? You’re the big strategic ringleader gal. Go plan something.”


Vi wasn’t part of Tactical, as Xander perfectly well knew. But she’d had enough experience of their briefings to put together a decent set of verifications. Establishing, for example, that the First Slayer spirit guard could be fooled by manoeuvres of the ‘just wandering into these woods to see what’s here, not in any way looking for a way out’ variety. Or else there wasn’t another way out so there was no point in setting her to guard against it. Depressing, but more likely since the older girls were still in here. Every time they tried to find a way through, they ended up back at the entrance garden. Looked like moving upwards was something you did over time served, or so Vi speculated. “I wonder how many decades before you go up a level?” They stopped talking about it pretty quickly.

Whatever the cause, no neat open sesame occurred.

So it was back to staring at the unbudgeable wintergate. Impasse. Jennifer and Vi stood around talking idly, speculating on Slayer tricks that neither could perform.

Xander chucked a pebble at the wintergate, futilely.

Except... No impenetrable ice block formed. Hello.

Vi’s head snapped round from contemplating the orchard area. She repeated the experiment, and got instant wall o’ frozen death.

Xander shrugged. Fluke then.

Vi’s voice was tense. “Try again. You throw.”

He obeyed. No ice.

Vi’s voice was almost cold enough to compensate. “Just Slayers, then. Or anyway, not a prison for Watchers. I think you can walk through.”

They paused, expecting First Slayer consequences of an anti-escape nature. Jennifer even said it fully, to confirm. “Yes, Xander. You can get out of here. Watchers can go where they want.” No demonic response. He was free.


Of course, walking through potential death-traps: always a little scary. Xander considered trying an arm-wave through the gate first, but then pictured himself trapped with one arm slowly freezing to death, maybe having to be hacked off with his Swiss Army knife if the girls couldn’t free him. On the whole, he’d rather go the full David Blaine.

He walked through the gate. He didn’t die. His knees didn’t quite buckle.

He walked back and forth twice. Check check.

He tried arguing with the gate to let the girls through, but the enchantment wasn’t susceptible to Slayer Support Officer powers, apparently.

So he dropped by the girls, looking increasingly chilly in their loneliness, and promised to return, with news if not an immediate way out. And added, “Y’know... if there’s such a major prohibition on only you two coming through, there must be a bit of Slayer still in you, right? Vi, I bet your powers will come back when we get you out.”

The look on her face as he left again didn’t give much idea whether she was glad or not.


Erik was a damn good SSO. He already had a pile of research notes about the Watchers’ mystical Slayer holding cell, gleaned from hours of solid reading. He was pretty near a solution too.

Erik’d never bothered to qualify as a Warlock, but he was also pretty hot with the magicks nonetheless. Once he’d got over the surprise of Xander walking in (“Whoa! You got out without me? Sorry, it’s a tough enchantment. It was, like, thirty hours over here - how long was it for you? ... About thirty hours? Huh. That’s disappointingly logical.”), and learned more about the basis of the spell, he put together a response within hours.

Then he went to bed. “Spell needs sunshine.”

Damn good SSO. Lousy people person.

Xander went down to the gate with extra warm sleepover stuff and, from the safety of the non-winter non-First-Slayer side of the gate, reassured the girls they were as good as out. It was glittering with a hard frost in the garden. Crossing into winter, Xander cast a look up at the steep pine forest. There were more girls up there. Ancient girls, frozen. He shivered.

The sooner they got their own girls out, the happier he would be. Except the next day was thickly foggy. And the next. Patience was running thin. Vi and Jennifer were dark-eyed and dozy, as the First Slayer attacked their dreams and, increasingly, their persons. The magic wasn’t going to go without a fight, and the pain kept coming.

Erik kept up the research, looking for a sunless solution. Xander kept up the supply runs and spirits-support, and fashioned them a better shelter out of fallen wood.

Vi and Jennifer talked. Mainly, as far as Xander could judge, about going through the gate. About Slayerness and losing the powers (Jennifer: “I miss the arm strength most. There are animals here I could easily kill if I could get a proper grip.” Xander silently, offstage: “Eeeeuuuw. Squirrel-killing freak.”)

He also overheard Jennifer’s bright, “So, if I come through, things will have changed, right? I mean, I haven’t asked the date where you are, but with the jeans and the knitwear it must be not too far in the future. Is it the 1980s already?”

Vi cautiously broke the news that it was 2008. (Though she noticeably left out any explanation of her own fashion sense.)

Jennifer’s immediate response was, “Crap. My sisters will be nearly retired. That’s so weird.” Silence followed. Then, “They might be dead. Like... permanently.”

After a while, Vi poured them both some more hot cocoa and said, “Are you okay? It’s a lot.” She drank. “I could tell you some stuff. About the world. You could make up your mind later.”

Jennifer was huddled round her mug. She shook her head. “Nope. Well, I mean sure, later, but I need to decide if this is my life forevermore or... y’know. The other thing. Actual life and death and stuff. Maybe being the Slayer again.”

“A Slayer,” said Vi, automatically. Council orthodoxy, to avoid using the definite article these days. Just one tiny change, superficially, but pretty fundamental in the end. “But yeah, I get it. So, what do you want?”

Instantly from Jennifer: “I want to live. Even if it’s tough, I want to live.”

So heartfelt, it sent Vi and Xander into the deep silent woods once more, looking for those other, older Slayers. But they didn’t find any recent tracks. The girls seemed to be lost.


Finally sunshine, on the fifth day. Erik stood before the wintergate, spoke the words, sprinkled the herbs and jumped several feet into the air when the wintergate... um... exploded.

After a long, ear-ringing pause, Erik said, “I may have given that a little more juice than it needed.”

He was immediately hit on the side of the head by two pebbles. Two pebbles flung from within the gates. Xander wasn’t entirely sure whether Vi’s cheer was for the release from mystical prison or the direct hit she’d scored on Erik’s ear. She looked more than a little singed around the eyebrows and hat. But she was free, and she ran through the gate as though the ice-wall had never been an issue.

Then stopped, and turned back for Jennifer.

“So, if you want to come out...” Vi beckoned through the open sunny gate.

Jennifer stepped, paused... waited for the First Slayer or some other dread demon to engulf her... and walked out of the wintergate.

She was much slower than Vi at first, stepping cautiously into the sunshine. Then smiling and turning up her face to the blue sky and fast-scudding clouds. “It’s summer!”

Eh. Kind of. She’d find out.

Jennifer’s steps quickened, and she was almost dancing, swirling on the green grass, lightly touching leaves and flowers in that blooming corner of the garden. Eventually, her dance led her to Xander, and she reached out to give him a hug. Which became a twirl and- okay. That was Slayer strength, thought Xander, almost swung above her head as she laughed, effortlessly strong.

“Okay, okay. Feet on ground please!” But he was grinning. “Hypothesis B confirmed too, hmm? Slayer-ness all back.”

Xander turned towards Vi to see her reaction. She shrugged, wrinkling her nose. “Huh. Like you said. There are good things either way. Let’s focus on the good things about this way.”

He hugged her, briefly, too. Not one of their top dangerous adventures, maybe. But the land of perpetual winter wasn’t somewhere he wanted to revisit.

Then Vi scrunched up her nose, tilted her head to one side and said, “So, you want to be a Slayer. Why are Slayers always women?”

Xander pretended not to hear that one. It could wait.


The gate is still there: filled with sunshine now that the enchantment is broken. Except when it’s raining - which, in Scotland, is mostly. There's no First Slayer guarding the entrance any more. She has whispered into nothingness.

There’s a new sign, on the inside, where they hope a once-trapped Slayer may one day read it. It’s in sixty-eight languages so far, including basic pictograms and says, roughly, “By Order of the Council of Slayers: the prisoners are free. Come through, and join us. We will welcome you.”

But because the new Council isn’t made up of fools, they have also set some wards up to warn them in case any of the other Slayers chose to leave. Jennifer’s forty year backlog of knowledge was surmountable. It seems unlikely the same would be true of a Slayer coming back into her powers after 500 years. Or more. So, practically, a guard on the potential confused time-travelling superstrong women seems like the way to go.

The Slayer Council is growing up. It has to.


a: brutti_ma_buoni, f: buffyverse, c: xander, c: vi

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