Authors Note: I forgot to tell you this was my spookathon fic for bumpkin_is aka Marn. So just a stand-alone gift. If I get requests I might open it up for people to add their own "encounter."
Disclaimer - I own nothing, lots of other people own this but not me. Some of them are Mutant Enemy, Fox, etc, etc, etc.... I make nothing off of it.
“October 30th, the day before Samhaim. I wonder if we can pull this off.” Joyce was talking to herself softly as she looked at the others gathered around her. Raising her voice she cut through the soft chatter. “So we are agreed, each of our loved ones need to see something, and this way will work as well as provide them with some much needed friendship and support?”
There was a murmur of sounds of agreement from all involved. “Very well, I have contacted the one who is in the position to help, and he has agreed. Tonight as it slips into Samhain it will begin.” Joyce turned away and offered a silent prayer to all the gods that this was positive for all of them. In all honesty the two she was worried about the most, Logan and Richard were the most likely to react violently to this in general. A small smile crossed her face, however she knew her Alexander, it would all work out.
Xander stalked up the stairs frustrated and tired. He shut the door firmly behind him and subtly relaxed as the artifacts he had brought back from Africa exerted their soothing affect on him. “Damn it I am SO tired of this. I never woulda thought Africa had spoiled me.” Xander flopped down on the bed, a mask of Waaq, a god from Somalia, looking over him. “I guess I just got too used to people treating me with respect, even reverence as I came to find the girls, train them, and help their villages learn to support them. Disabuse the notion she had to fight alone. Families were ecstatic as I proved to them their daughters did not have to die alone. Then I come back here, and once again I am just Xander, handy man extraordinaire, too fragile to do anything except fix things that get broken. ‘But Xander you could get hurt out there.’” His voice was pitched as he imitated a female, then he snarled. “Yet me going to Africa was okay? Bloody hell the humans were a lot more dangerous than the demons.”
Xander took another deep breath trying to calm down, forcing himself into mediation. He was supposed to take the younger girls trick or treating tomorrow night. For the first time ever, he had no desire to go. He did not see the god’s mask change into a soft smile as Xander fell asleep and then faded away.
Daniel snarled as he slammed the door to his quarters, “Daniel you just don’t know how to react in a military situation. Daniel you have your head in books too much. Daniel you have to accept reality, Sha’uri is dead.” He threw himself onto the bed in sheer frustration. “I fucking know all that Jack, but my knowledge has bloody well saved your ass time and time again. You need to give me some credit for knowing my limitations. I am not going to rush into a dangerous situation willy nilly. I know she is dead she has been dead for a while now. I get that, and I don’t have a suicide wish, so lighten the fuck up!! I wish I could understand your issues.” With a sigh Daniel threw his arm over his eyes, Jack had been harsh lately the last couple of missions had shaken him badly, especially the issue with Marin and the Ovarium. As a result both he and Sam couldn’t decide if they wanted to strangle him or just get him drunk and laid in either order. With a sigh Daniel closed his eyes. He knew tomorrow would be better, but occasionally he wished Jack took his contributions a bit more seriously. He fell asleep and slowly faded away.
Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing slipped into his room fuming at Bruce. Again he had stuck his fingers in where they did not need to be. His attitude towards Cassandra Cain was over the top, then there was the way he treated Dick, as a disobedient child who would eventually see the light. “Your way is not mine Bruce. I can’t live the isolated life you lead. Why can’t you understand that? I wish I could make you understand.” Frustrated and confused Dick fell into a restless sleep, then he faded away.
Richard Riddick sat in the dark room up the flagship of the Necromonger fleet, the fleet he now controlled. “Keep what you kill. Great so I have it, what the hell am I suppose to do with it? Leading is not exactly a skill I have ever fostered.” Every movement controlled he laid back on the strange bed, shining eyes open staring at the ceiling, filled with carvings that meant nothing to him. “Jack… Kyra… I wish… I wish I knew what to do,“ his voice trailed off, unable to find the words to express his loss, what he missed. Eyes slid shut, blocking out the world that was now his to rule, and with all doors locked he slipped into a wary sleep. Not even his senses noting when he faded away.
Blair wanted to scream as he quietly shut the bedroom door behind him. The last two hours in Simon Banks office had been an exercise in self restraint. Jim spent the entire time listing all the ways he could have gotten hurt, what he did wrong, and how he put himself and the sting in jeopardy. Not once did he mention how Blair had seen the tripwire and stopped Jim from stepping on it, or how Blair had figured out the pattern to the bombs that the terrorists had been placing, nor did he mention how twice during the chaos Blair had brought him out of a sensory overload. Instead it was all how Blair did not fit here and that he did not have the correct training. “Why can’t he see he needs his shaman, and that I am helpful, I am just NOT a carbon copy of him! I wish I knew how to help and not lose myself.” Ever since the doctorate debacle and accepting the position in Major Crimes, Jim seemed to look for reasons to keep in the office. Fighting back tears that he didn’t want to explore, Blair slipped into a restless sleep, and once firmly asleep faded from sight.
Logan stormed out of the mansion needing to block everyone out. He was not psychic like the professor, nor an empath; but the feeling of grief filling the place was palpable, and he could not stand it anymore. Always a loner, the death of Jean and Charles had almost completely deprived him of knowing how to get along with people. Rage seemed to always be just a hairs breath away. The holes in his memories still had not been filled, but he sensed that once he had known how to get along with people, had once known how to be a friend. But now all of Charles protégés, all of them trying so hard to be perfect just made him want to trip them up, make them screw up like everyone else. “Argh, I need a friend, friends who understand that nothing goes the way you want it. All you can do is hope you don’t leave anyone behind, and sometimes, killing is the ONLY fucking answer.” He slammed his claws deep into the tree over and over again, until his arms were shaking from exhaustion, and the tree had all but been hewn in half. He sank to the ground, the smell of pine rich in the air. “They need to understand, Charles was a great man, but peace isn’t always the answer. I wish I knew how to fix this.” Sleep over took him, and slowly he faded from view, leaving only a broken tree and few drops of blood behind him.
A soft voice, young yet older than any there filled the room, “It is done, your loved ones are at the appointed place. My part is done.” The voice of Waaq faded away, yet you were left with the impression of someone smiling.
Joyce stood looking at the various attendees. “It is done, let us go.” Slowly the room emptied , Joyce was the last to go, she cast a look upwards and said a single word softly. “Please,” then she faded away.
Xander was never able to pinpoint what woke him up, but he was awake and knew he was not in his room, his hand reaching automatically for the knife under his pillows that was not there, realizing that he was standing up, his back against the wall. Looking around he saw five other men, three of them were in the same stance as he was, though one had knives in his hand. A pause and a closer look and Xander mentally changed that, he had knife blades coming out of his hands, so noted. One had eyes that were shining in the low light room, and the other was braced watching everything. The last two were coming awake slowly one with glasses looking around eyes narrowing as he scanned each man, the other waking up blinking and just looking confused.
Strangely the fact that everyone was reacting to the situation in various stages of attack caused Xander to relax a bit as he straightened up, “Well I guess from the various reactions none of you expected to wake up here?”
With a snort the man with knives in his hands answered, “Not hardly bub, but none of us look exactly like this situation is all that surprising, take it ya ain’t a bunch of civilians?” The blades were slowly slipping back into his hands.
Xander responded with an answering snort, “If by civvie you mean someone who is going to panic at the sight of the weird and odd or a detached limb… not hardly,” pointing at the gaping hole where an eye should have been. His patch still laying on his bedside table.
The man with glasses slowly stood, “Same here, not where I expected to wake up, but frankly I have woken up in worse. My name’s Daniel Jackson.”
The other man who had been standing braced started to laugh at Daniel’s statement. “I have to agree with you, I have woke up in worse places, my name is… Dick Grayson.” There was a strange half pause, as if the man could not decide which name to use.
Shining eyes man laughed softly, and the hairs on Xander neck rose, it was a fucking scary sound, “Don’t know yet if this is better or worse than where I fell asleep, but you can call me Riddick.” He moved slowly checking out the cavern they seemed to be in. Everyone watched him move and the same note was made in everyone’s mind, ‘walking weapon, he is dangerous.’
The knife man nodded, “Logan.” He didn’t say much more, but his eyes missed little as he went and scanned each person, his thoughts unreadable by any sort of sign on his face.
The other man still sitting on the floor spoke up, “I’m Blair Sandburg… uh… don’t know what else to tell you, while being kidnapped is nothing new, this just doesn’t feel like the standard run of the mill kidnapping.”
Xander was about to speak but, the sharp indrawn breath from everyone whipped his head around, and he felt himself pale. “Joyce?”
Walking into the room through the wall, a bunch of people appeared breaking off and heading towards each person in the room, but Xander only had eyes for the two headed his way. “Joyce? Tara?”
“Xander, I have missed you, and my daughter had been behaving badly again.” Joyce Summers warm voice filtered through him like sunlight, and Xander gritted his teeth.
“Please don’t be the First, please don’t be the First.”
Joyce burst out in laughter, “No Xander, we are simply spirits who chose to put off our … next step in order to watch over those we love, all of these are similar.” Her voice was soft as she turned and waved around the room.
Dick’s knees nearly crumpled as he saw the two people walking towards him, “Mom? Dad?”
“Son… we are so proud of you. And we love you.” Their rich voices, trained in the circus to carry far, ripped him back to the last time he saw them, the day they died.
“Oh god, no more ascended please.” Daniel muttered as figures walked towards him.
“Dany’el, I was happiest as your wife, ascension is not for me.”
“Or me geek.”
Daniel jerked his head up, and something inside snapped as he saw Shau’ri and Kolwalsky standing looking at him. Shau’ri with love in her eyes, the pain of the Goa’uld long gone, and Kolwalsky with his trademark smirk, yet love in his face.
A covered up bit of laughter, “Well hell had to stay around to make sure Jack didn’t screw things up for himself again, and that included all the SG1 team, and well you’ve been a bit hard on yourself lately.”
Riddick’s face lost its hard protective edge as he stepped backwards into the shadows as a single figure approached him. “Kyra?”
“Swore I’d never abandon you, ain’t gonna break my word. Been watching you, ya hurting too much.” His hand reached out to touch her, but went through with no resistance. “Sorry, can’t touch ya, but I’m here, we did this, go with it, ya might like what happens.” Her face lit up with a smile for the moment, “An iffen ya don’t, well I’m already dead and ya can’t kill me again.” Riddick laughed as he watched her.
Logan watched all of them, frowning as he saw the patterns and connections. But who would be here for him, he couldn’t imagine the Professor or Jean being involved in this. “No they are not, but I am James.”
Logan’s head whipped around seeking the voice, and why that name? A young woman no more twenty five, dressed in late Victorian working clothes stands looking at him smiling. “You, how do you know me? Why do you call me that?”
“That was your name a long time ago, before I changed it to Logan. It was before the long chain of events started that ended up with you being here. You once knew me, I was like a sister to you. My name is Rose.”
Her voice had a soft English accent and she was smiling at him. Flashes of her as a young girl flashed through his mind, forcing a whimper out, but she moved forward looking at him earnestly, “James this was never how you were suppose to be, and much of it I set in motion. I’m sorry; I was young and scared and made all the wrong choices. But you are here because you need to learn something, you can’t live your life alone and walled off from everyone. You are loved, remember that, and love should not be a cage, it is suppose to be support helping you be what you are inside.”
Blair looked around almost excited wondering who he would see, and his breath halted as two figures stalked towards him, the others moving out of the way. He heard the voice of the one called Joyce speak up. “They are the only two not dead, and not human. They however demanded you be brought also and they have helped greatly in setting all this up.” Blair nodded wordless as he felt all the people in the room turn and watch the beautiful and deadly panther, accompanied by a sleek wolf stalk over to him, and demand to be petted.
His hand snaked out and a feeling of home and rightness filled him as his hands sunk into their pelts. They weren’t tame and there was no doubt to anyone in the room that they would not have tolerated this level of familiarity from anyone they did not respect and love. Feelings filled his mind, understanding, respect, love, and humor. Blair looked up at Joyce asking the question that everyone here was now wondering, “So why are we here?”
Joyce and the young woman with her smiled, “You all are caught in a cycle of destruction that could destroy what you can be, what you are capable of being. There is no set future, but some of the possibilities for you, if you can be what you are inside are incredible. We, all of us, made the choice to bring you here and try and let you find what is broken or missing inside you. This is a huge deal, and we only have these few minutes, after that you are on your own. Learn and please regard this as the gift we meant it to be. You are loved greatly by those here and those gone.”
The room was silent and each ghost turned to their loved ones, and for a moment they felt the love wash over them, then the room was empty except for the six men. The six of them looked at each other, then sprang to one side as a door appeared in a wall light beckoning from the other side.
“Well boys, it seems ta me we are stuck together iff’n we wanted to be or not.” Logan said, shrugging slightly, “So we might as well make the best of it. Xander… ya seemed ta be very unsurprised and your ghost lady seemed ta be charge, so what up?”
All the men turned to look at Xander who had a very strange look on his face as he looked at each on in turn, then sighed a bit, “Her name was Joyce, she died about 5 years ago, Tara about 4. She is the mother of someone who was… is my friend, apparently she stuck around to watch over her daughters. She can be rather stubborn, my bet is all of them were talking about their ‘loved one’ they were worried about, and she made a suggestion to show us that we are whatever… and this is their game. I figure it happened because I’m a trouble magnet, and it is All Hallows Eve.”
“And the door?” Riddick waved towards the door that had opened in the wall.
“Step one of our lessons? Hell if I know, just… word of warning, be careful what you wish for, it usually comes true in a way you would not have wanted.” As a group the other men paled slightly then looked at each other. “You guys used the W word didn’t you…. Well then… let’s see where we end up.” With that Xander turned and walked through the door way.
Logan shrugged, “What da hell, I was getting bored anyhow.” He turned and followed, Riddick smiled his cold cruel smile, eyes shining in the dark and followed both of them.
Dick looked at the other two, “Might as well see what our lessons are, not like staying here is going to do us much good.” Blair and Daniel shrugged and nodded, and the three of them followed.
Xander was standing in a large empty room except for a large empty circle in the middle of it. He was wondering through it as the last three came in, and Daniel’s “Oh fucking hell” caused his head to whip around.
Riddick was nonchalantly leaning against a wall, “I take it by that remark, this one is yours?”
“Oh yeah, all mine… “ a bitter laugh escaped Daniel. “Even when being kidnapped by spirits that thing is in my life. Gentleman this is a stargate, it creates wormholes to other planets.”
“Really? Cool.” Xander looked impressed, as did Logan, Riddick just looked bored. Dick and Blair glanced at each other and shrugged. “So… does this mean we are on another planet?”
By this time curiosity had pulled Daniel forward and he slowly answered. “I’m not sure. See those arrow thingys? They are called Chevrons, you use 7 of them to go to other planets in our galaxy, 8 for different galaxies, but the 9th has always been locked at every planet we have been at….but here it is not…..and where are the constellations?”
“Umm.. please tell me there aren’t suppose to be stars in here, because existing in a vacuum is not one ofmy skills,” Dick spoke quietly.
“Hmm.. oh no there is generally an inner ring with symbols that are like an address, but here it is missing.”
“Yo, Daniel… these what you are looking for?” Logan pointed to a corner stacked with elongated hexagons.
Moving over to the corner Daniel slowly nodded, “Yes and no… some of them I recognize,” slowly pulling out symbols that would dial earth, “Here are six of the ones to dial earth, but some of these others I have never seen on a stargate.”
Everyone except Riddick gathered round looking at the symbols, Riddick was busy watching them, seeing how everyone interacted, and he almost smiled in response to the strangely understanding nod from the one called Xander.
Twenty minutes later, “Okay these 8 are the ones for our galaxy and our planet, this stack are symbols I recognize but aren’t part of Earth’s gate address. The rest of these I am not sure of, these I think are Chinese, but this one is Egyptian.”
Blair spoke up, “Well this is the Mayan symbol for hunt, and these two are Incan, one means father, the other means danger.”
“Hmmm… I suspect we are looking for something like home or safe. Would you keep looking while I place these on the ring?” Blair nodded and kept shifting through the pile, and Daniel went and started placing them in the positions, he had all but the 8th tile set, and had a funny look on his face.
“What’s wrong Dan?” Xander’s quiet voice broke into his thoughts.
“Hmm… oh… just… I think this is the wrong tile, but not sure why.”
“What does that tile represent?”
“The galaxy we want to travel to and…. That’s it.” Daniel spun around looking at them, his voice rising slightly so everyone in the room could hear him. “I made an assumption, I think it is wrong. This defines the galaxy we are in, and I don’t think we are necessarily all from the same reality.” His sharp eyes, the glasses not hiding his intelligence pinned Logan and Riddick. “I am pretty sure I would have heard about people who can shoot knives from their hands, and you Riddick your English has an odd accent I can’t place, not to mention your glowing eyes.”
Riddick’s head tilted looking at them with the aforementioned eyes, and slowly shook his head, “I don’t know English, I speak Common and Prime, all racial languages were mostly erased over 200 years ago.’*
Everyone in the room looked at him for a long moment, and Blair slowly asked, “What year is it for you?”
“And LE stands for?” Blair asked, as everyone waited.
“Leaving of Earth.”
“Yeah, that confirms it you definitely are not from our dimension/reality/timeline. So this is the wrong tile.” All of them were looking at each other wondering if any of them came from the same time and place.
Blair and Xander both opened their mouths a couple times, but then closed them, finally there was almost an unspoken desire to not know exactly, but conversely the bonding almost increased. All of them were stranded in a way that was understandable by each. Mental notes were made, but no more questions were asked, though all statements made now had a much greater significance, and nothing was dismissed.
Daniel went back over to the tiles and looked at the seven that were left looking at each of the symbols:
1. an hourglass
2. infinity sign
3. a graph with x,y,z and a small t in the upper corner
4. a Japanese pictogram that he could not recognize
5. mayan pictogram he did not know
6. double helix
7. A weird symbol he had never seen.
A long sigh, “Blair, do you recognize either or both of these pictograms?” pointing to the Chinese symbol and the Mayan.
“Well the Mayan one is one you use for test or challenge.” Blair offered slowly, “The others I don’t know.”
“T’other ones Japanese kanji for home, family.” Logan’s rough voice surprised them and he caught several surprised glances thrown his way. “What? So I speak Japanese, also speak French, b’ my accent’s atrocious in both.”
“And I can answer the last one, it means death… it is a language that has been used in my reality.” Xander offered quietly.
“Hmm…. “ Daniel sat for a long moment, then slowly reached to the Japanese pictogram. “I think this is our 9th chevron, home family, both why we are here and where we want to go, yes?”
Every one nodded slowly, looking at the pieces left. The low voice of Riddick rose to their ears, “The graph there, it is a symbol of space and time, the graph is space, and the t is time. You use it flying space ships for vector calculations.”
“Yes!!! That is it, great Riddick.” Daniel grabbed the last piece and put it in the 8th chevron and stepped back.
Everyone grinned at his obvious excitement. Xander commented, “Your team must really appreciate your skills, wouldn’t mind having you on my side.”
Daniel turned to look at him, his mouth starting to open to deny it, when memories of Jack waiting patiently for him to solve something, Jack believing what he said with out question, Sam accepting his interpretation as a given and inside a piece of him healed. “You know I think they do, I think I just forgot that sometimes, when people care for you, they over react and try to hard to protect you.”
Xander laughed, “Been there, am there… but I think they at least listen to and respect you, no?”
“Oh they do… and I them…. So guys, ready to go through a Stargate?” Daniel pressed the DHD that was standing in the center, existing only as a button to press, no keys to dial with on this one. The gate spun and the backlash of what appeared to be water filled the room.
“Welcome to my world guys,” and Daniel strode through the gate.
The group of them stumbled out of the back wash of the gate, more than a few looking queasy. Blair turned to Daniel, “And you do that on a regular basis?!”
There was a low chuckle of response from Daniel, “Yeah the first few times are rough, after that you don’t notice it.”
Riddick had been the only other one unaffected by the gate travel; compared to some of the space travel he had done, this had been a cakewalk. His eyes peered around the room, and his attention was arrested by the large door that seemed to be entirely constructed of knives. “Gentlemen I believe we are at the next… test?” His pointing arm soon had everyone’s attention on the door and they moved to examine.
The knives gleamed with sharpness and no one had any doubt as to their ability to cut. Daniel and Blair fell to examining the outside looking for a key as to how to get through. Close inspection revealed that the knives should actually retract away from the opening, but no one could find a catch to get them to retract.
Xander who had been standing there staring at it, commented, “Guys I think there is a button in the center where that small opening is… I wonder.” Before anyone could stop him he reached through and gingerly touched the design you could just barely see.
Nothing happened, sighing he pulled his hand back out, not noticing the twin glares from Daniel and Blair, the amusement from Riddick and Logan, and the understanding from Dick. While he pulled his hand back he nicked it, the blade slicing the finger cleanly for about an inch.
“Yeow… that hurt.” Xander muttered a bit more as he stuck his finger in his mouth.
“Guys look!” Daniel was focused on the knives, blood ran down along the knife that had cut Xander, and it was slowly retracing, not much but it moved back towards the wall. “Xander come here and squeeze some more blood on this knife, the one that didn’t cut you.”
“Great, in a dream plane and I’ve still gotta deal with vampires, only this time they are vampire knives!” Xander griped as he stuck his finger over one of the knives and squeezed. The men made note of the comment, and filed it away, his reality had vampires, and their estimation of Xander rose a bit more.
Everyone watched with a mix of horror and interest as the blood fell onto the knife, and it slowly began to move back into the wall. Xander kept squeezing and after about a tablespoon, maybe a bit more, the knife was all the way retracted.
“Hmm… that is a new one. No offense Xander but I don’t think all of us together can spare enough blood to get all the knives to retract.” Dick was rolling up his sleeves as he said that. “Though here is mine.”
The gravely voice of Logan interrupted all of them peeling off jackets and getting ready to bleed. “Not so fast people, I think this one is meant for me, an I’ll be the one t’deal with it.”
A snort of disagreement came from half the group, startling a surprised smile out of Logan, but Xander was the one who spoke. “Look Logan, while none of us wanted this, while we are here we are working together as a team, and that means no one carries the load by themselves, and I sure as hell ain’t sacrificing anyone to a doorway full of vampire knives.”
Various sounds of agreement and “what he said” came from most of the rest of the group, Riddick alone held back watching everything carefully, but he too had a knife, ready to start bleeding.
A slow smile spread across Logan’s lips, followed by a chuckle of amusement and satisfaction. “Well now, that’s mighty… team like of ya’ll, but in our little story sharing stuff I didn’t exact spill all my secrets, see I’m a mutant, and my ability as we call it, is healing, like real fast.” His blades sprang out of his right hand and before anyone could move he had cut a slice down his arm. His face grimaced as the skin parted, but as they watched the wound closed and healed. “See… so I think I can pull this off.”
A snort from Xander who had a rather strange look on his face, “Super healer you may be, but it is obvious it still hurts and with out food to eat you can’t keep that up indefinitely, so while you might have to pull the bulk of this one, but we are all going to help, together or not at all.”
Xander had not even glanced at anyone for agreement, he didn’t have to, all of them nodded, even Riddick moving forward. “He is correct, and I’ll go first, then I can watch to verify there are no other dangers in this room.” With out a flicker of change in his expression, Riddick opened up his forearm, and started coating the knives with blood, watching Logan especially as he bleed.
“Yeesh no bloody forethought at all, he,“ Xander muttered jabbing a thumb at Logan, “Might not need bandages, but for this volume of blood the rest of us will. Xander pulled off the t-shirt he had been wearing and walking over to Logan demanded, “Blades up.” He then efficiently slit the shirt into long strips of white.
“Daniel how is Riddick doing?”
“He can handle a bit more, then he is done.” Daniel just smiled up sweetly at the glare Riddick cast his way. “Sorry my CO has a way scarier glare than that, and you should see Teal’c when he gets in a mood, you just aren’t up there.”
Riddick chuckled, then paused in surprise realizing that everyone in this room accepted him for what he was, no expectations, just acceptance. It was a new, an odd feeling for him.
Logan watched in surprised and slowly respect as each person gave what they could, dripping blood on the blades making them move, Xander having gone first. He then bandaged each person as they finished. When all had given what they could about half the blades were left, Logan stepped up, shaking his head. “Not sure what to make of you guys.”
A snort of laughter from Daniel, “Look whose talking. I think by definition of being here, it is obvious we don’t fit the mold. So get to bleeding and we will see.”
Logan laughed enjoying this feeling, all of these people had seen things and faced them, scared even terrified, but they had not turned away, with a feeling of pride he slit his arm open and let the blood flow. They took turns keeping the wound open so the blood would flow and as he watched he realized, this was a team, one leading and the others supporting, and the leader did not have to stay the same. Xander lead on this one, but Daniel had lead in the last one. A good leader recognized when someone else was better to lead for this situation. Suddenly he missed the mansion and his team, and they were indeed his team, and he had let them down. He had walked away because they did not think the way he did, watching these people he realized his job was to support and lead, not demand they follow.
Finally with Logan pale and exhausted, the knives had moved far enough that they could get through the door. The men slowly moved through the opening and then stopped looking at the next challenge.
Dick’s Test –
“Well this is… different.” Xander said looking at the room in front of them. They were on a wide ledge and way on the other side, at least 500 yards, was another wide ledge with a door. Suspended from the ceiling were multiple trapezes and a few high wires, crisscrossing back and forth creating a maze to get from one side to the other side.
Logan looked at the complicated path, and the flips, drops, and wires you would have to walk and said softly, “Guys I consider myself in good shape and a decent tumbler, but there is no way in hell I can pull off crossing that.” There was a mutter of agreement from the other men as they leaned over and looked at the chasm below, of which they could not see the bottom.
“I think this one is mine guys.” Dick’s voice was quiet and they turned to look at him. He had been by far the quietest of the group and it was a bit of surprise to hear him speak.
“Yours? You can cross this?” There was hope and a bit of awe in Xander’s voice.
“Yeah I think so, I … I once belonged to a group called the Flying Grayson’s, my entire family did stuff like this.”
Again a very funny look crossed over Xanders’ face, and he asked quietly, “Are you the ward of Bruce Wayne?”
Dick shot him a sharp glance, “Yes, how did you know that?”
Xander shook his head, “Wild guess…nothing important… what do you need from us?”
For a long moment Dick looked at him, filing it away, but right now it was not important. Daniel had noticed the odd look in relation to Logan and wondered what Xander knew, but decided it was not important at the moment. Dick finally just nodded and removed his shoes, and pants, leaving him standing in a short sleeve shirt and boxer briefs. He leaned down, rubbing his hands on the dirt floor, getting them dusty, then stood and sprang up, grabbing the first trapeze.
The group stood and watched, amazement as Dick flew through the maze. Flipping from bar to bar, landing gracefully on one of the lines and moving across it with assurance, generally putting any circus act they had ever seen to shame.
Dick wondered how Bruce would do this, of course Bruce would never have been here without his utility belt, and would have probably sneered and shot a rappel line to the other side. Dick moved from trapeze to trapeze, old skills and releasing come to him as he moved, some of his flips got fancier than they needed to be, but he didn’t care. This was almost cathartic, doing what he had done with his parents so long ago, using the skills that had been twisted towards fighting crime, towards Bruce’s plans.
A thought seemed to whisper through his head, but you aren’t Bruce. He paused on the end of a tightrope, and looked back at how far he had come. He had loved doing this, using skills for the joy of using them. Yes Bruce would have done it differently, but he wasn’t Bruce, he had to do things the way Dick would do them, the way Nightwing would do them. Bruce could complain and chastise, but in the end, he needed to do it his way.
“I’m not Bruce, and I don’t have to do it his way, and that is okay. He will always be what he is, and he will always be there if I need him, no matter how much he might want me to follow a different path.” A feeling of relief flooded through his system and there was a small “whoop” of joy, and his flips and transfers became even more complicated and exhilarating to watch.
He landed with a flourish on the other side, and looked around, there on the wall were two buttons each with a picture on them. One was a smooth winding path ending with a symbol of a bat, the other was also a winding path, but this one was jagged with holes and rocks in the way and ended with Nightwing’s bird symbol. He looked look at the two buttons for a long time, fully understanding what they implicated, and then pushed the button with the path ending with him.
There was a rumbling, and a metal plank moved from his side out to the others, giving them a bridge to walk across. The five men did so looking at Dick with wonder. “That was SO cool, how did you learn to do that?” Blair was babbling with excitement wonder inhis eyes at the performance they had seen. Xander and Logan were grinning both recognizing someone who had been doing something he loved. Riddick just nodded, his silver eyes unreadable. Daniel was looking at the two buttons and at him, his head tilted, eyes narrowed, just watching.
“I fell a lot.” Was Dick’s answer to Blair grinning, “Pain is a wonderful teacher, cause falling hurts.” The group as a whole laughed, understanding that perfectly.
They walked towards the next door, only Xander noticing that the tension and anger than had settled around Dick like a cloak was gone. “So Bruce finally lost his hold on you, good for you.” Xander’s voice was soft and only Logan heard him, darting a quick look at him, but saying nothing.
They step through the next door and are instantly hit by the warmth, humidity, and wet smell of a jungle. The men stand looking at the towering trees, blocking the light from above down to a twilight quality. The sounds of animals, the racket of the insects, and the humidity that beaded water on their skin, all this wrapped around them, removing any doubt as to this simply being a high quality illusion. There were lima vines streaming down from the trees, and a rustling sound that had the men turning towards it. They watched as the panther they had seen earlier walked into the clearing where they stood and sat looking at them.
Blair walked forward and sank infront of the panther, ignoring the others completely. “I don’t know if I can do this, I am not a cop, I am an anthropologist, and I keep feeling I should be a shaman, it was passed to me, but I don’ t know how to be one. And how to be one for Jim.”
The panther just sat and looked at him, until Blair sighed, “Okay, so I don’t know what or who I am anymore, Jim is a big boy, it’s me that is lost.”
Later the men would swear that the cat smiled, then stood up and started pacing back into the jungle, stopping to look at Blair. “Guys this is mine, I think this is an internal thing, you can stay or you can come, your choice.”
A laugh from Daniel, “No way am I missing this, shaman records tend to rarely last back a couple of decades. You bet I am coming.”
Logan, Riddick, and Dick all nodded, they saw no reason to wait, unless Blair wanted them to. Only Xander hung back, casting a long glance at the panther. It looked at him and nodded once, then turned and walked away. Blair shot him a look of confusion, Xander just shrugged, “Territorial issues, no biggie.”
No one knew what to make of that comment so they just followed Blair following the cat as it moved silently through the jungle. Blair watched the jungle around him, soaking in the flow and rhythm of the world around them, so different from cities where man ruled. He paused once to rescue a small monkey that had it’s foot trapped. The monkey chattered briefly and then disappeared. He swore he could almost feel the pulse of life around him.
A shaman was a mediator between the man and the unknown, he worked with animals, he provided guidance. But Blair didn’t know how to be one. Incacha had passed the way to him, but nothing more, no guidance on how to learn the way. He kept following the panther and soon they reached steps to a temple, a temple he recognized. “The Temple of Light. This is a place for sentinels, a place sacred to them. I am not sure why I was brought here.”
The panther bounded up the steps, disappearing into a doorway. The group as a whole shrugged and climbed up after it. The reached the doorway and there was a room with a fire burning in the center, six pillows and six drinks laid out waiting for them.
Blair knelt and sniffed one of the drinks, then sat down in a half lotus position. “You can join if you would like, the drinks are ayahuasca, a mild hallucinogenic drink designed by the Urarina to link your mind to the spirit world, open your senses to that which we normally can’t see.”
Xander shrugged and sat, he had been through many rituals like this in Africa, and usually learned something he had not expected.
Daniel was not about to pass up a chance to experience another cultures way of interacting with their view of the world, and he sat also.
Logan went back and forth, but finally rationalized it down, they were in a place out of time and reality, might as well roll with it. He dropped himself down on a pillow, watching the rest of them.
Dick and Riddick both shrugged with a ‘what the hell’ look on their faces and dropped on a spot also.
A smile crossed Blair’s face, both delighted and amazed, “Well bottoms up guys.” Everyone tilted the glass up and drank the liquid inside. It was like a bitter tea, but not unable to be swallowed.
The heat from the fire, the chance to rest, and the feeling of peace had them all slipping into a trance. Blair opened his eyes and blinked in shock. Around each person was an intense aura, and behind each person was an animal, and laying in front of him basking by the fire was his wolf. His attention was grabbed by movement coming towards him from the solid wall infront of him, just before he could hit panic level and dump adrenaline into his body he recognized the person walking towards him.
“Incacha,” a wealth of relief and joy were present in his voice as Incacha looked at each of the men with him.
“You’re attention hard to get. Drastic measures not usually necessary to get a shaman to listen.” Incacha looked at the others again, “Though you travel with good company.”
Blair looked at each of the men, their eyes closed, yet they seemed to be communicating with the animal that was now next to them. “Yes, they are… but I do not understand.”
A gentle smile from the Peruvian shaman, “What is it a shaman does?”
“He acts as a mediator between man and the animals, between man and the spirit world, between man and the life all around him.”
Incacha nodded, “And what do our spirit guides tell those that can see?”
“Information as to the person, their personalities, their needs, and flaws.”
“So look and what do you see.”
Blair turned his attention to the person sitting to the left of him; Dick glowed with a muddied red and bright yellow aura, that was slowly fading and changing to a pale yellow shot through with a deep red strands. The animal resting on his shoulder was the largest bat Blair had ever seen, yet it looked right at his side, supporting but somehow no longer controlling.
Daniel sat next to Dick and Blair almost choked as he focused on the aura surrounding Daniel. A glow of pure white shot with strands of gold, soft blue, and violet. He had a look of peace on his face, and the Egyptain Mau that sat on his lap being petted purred and opened white eyes that saw Blair clearly.
Swallowing he looked at Riddick and a whimper formed at the back of his throat. While Daniel was like looking at a summer day with fluffy clouds, Riddick was a hurricane. Deep red mixed with black in a swirl around him, lightened only by streaks of green and metallic gold that tangled with the black. His guide just about freaked Blair out, it was a dog, maybe. It was huge, had what looked like scales on it, and when it turned eyes that glowed as Riddick’s did, Blair stopped looking, gratefully turning his attention to the next person.
Logan was, even sitting still, radiating energy and his aura agreed. Again the deep red that seemed to be a common theme, but he had so many colors. Clear red, orange red, bright yellow, dark blue, deep rich browns, all over lapping weaving together in a pattern the was laced with thin ribbons of black. The animal that snuffled at his feet was a wolverine and it snarled as Blair focused then when back to sniffing the ground.
Xander was on his right and Blair almost cried as he saw this aura. A swirl of rainbows burst from his hands and feet, and he was encircled by rich brown laced with ribbons of varying widths. Blair saw yellow, gold, yellow gree n, dark forest green, royal blue, metallic silver, and the most intense indigo glow radiating from where his eye had been. At his left sat a hyena, watching him, watching them all, but most curious of all on his right shoulder sat a crow who watched back with intelligence on par with a human.
Blair dragged his attention back to Incacha, confused and overwhelmed. “What am I suppose to do?”
“You said it yourself, mediate between the animal and the man. Guide and learn. The Furian is scary.” Incacha commented nodding at Riddick, “Anger and rage are all he has known for a long time, but his guide is a type of dog, that once you have its loyalty will die for you. What does that tell you.”
Blair thought for a long moment, then slowly relaxed, “That he can be loyal past death, but will put that violence to work protecting, not attacking. He is becoming as seen by the gold tracing through him.”
“So… use that and see what Jim is… what does he need, what does a panther hunt for above all else?” With that cryptic comment Inacha faded away, and Blair felt the drink fading, wondering how long they had been under the sway of the drink.
Each of the men fought out of the haze, each silent focusing over something they had learned or seen, but there was no anger anywhere, simply contemplation.
Finally it was Xander that stood, “I think we are ready to leave. Blair where is the door.”
With out hesitation he pointed to the far side of the room where a pool of crystal blue water was present. “Via that, through water we are birthed.”
Blair walked over to the pool smiling. He needed to think and learn, but for the first time he knew his place was at Jim’s side, as his guide, everything coming at him was simply proof he was where he was suppose to be. A shaman for a sentinel. With a deep breath he jumped feet first into the pool.
Riddick’s Test -
The pool deposited them in darkness, they could see nothing, not even their hand in front of their face. Logan’s growly voice broke through the almost muffling darkness, “Riddick, tell me you can see something with those shiny eyes of yours.”
“Yeah I can, and not moving would be a very good idea.” The others instantly quit moving and Riddick looked around. They were on a small ledge, again over looking a chasm, but this time there was a single path leading to the other side, twisting and turning and in no way logical. “I see a path, but there is no way I can lead more than one person across at a time. It is going to be difficult.”
“So you lead us out, one step of at a time, we will wait.” Xanders calm voice surrounded Riddick and he stopped and looked, lead one step at a time. Was that how you did it, leading one step at a time?
“What if I make the wrong step?” Riddick did not realize he had said that out loud until he heard his own voice. His eyes darted to Xander, but this time it was Blair who answered.
“Don’t let go, and find the right step to take instead.”
“Hmm… so who goes first?”
“I will.” Xander again looking calm and cool his eye staring out blankly at the darkness.
“Okay, just remember I don’t have any experience at this leading stuff.”
A low chuckle, “No one does, until they do,” informed Xander, his hand held out waiting for Riddick’s touch.
“Okay here we go.” Riddick wrapped his large strong hand around Xander’s, slightly surprised to find it rough and strong from labor. “Just hold tight.”
“Oh I will, death by falling, not on my top ten.”
Riddick smiled knowing no one could see it, and started walking, slowly and carefully, guiding Xander along the twists and turns the path took. Xander slipped once, not getting his foot on the path properly, but both of them held on and quickly got him back on the path again.
Once to the other side, Riddick guided him to a safe spot, “Sit down here, I’ll return with the others.”
“You got it, me sitting. Done.”
Riddick had to fight back a laugh, there was something about the kid that made you want to dismiss him as a goof, but at the same time keep him near you because he was a deadly as Riddick was, he just hid it better.
Reaching the other side, “Okay who is next?”
“That’ll be me.” Logan’s voice was unmistakable even before he saw him standing with his hand out.
Riddick took his hand and turned, “Ah shit.”
“What is it?” Daniel’s voice queried, concern obvious in the tones.
“The path has changed again, so what I just learned is useless, I have to follow a brand new path.” Riddick took a breath, “Come on Logan, lets just go slow.”
Again he lead him through the dark, Logan’s hand a firm impersonal grip, moving slowly as some times it felt like he was jumping from space to space, the rotating to make the next step difficult. Finally they were on the other side. “Good job, kinda glad I couldn’t see what was going on, probably woulda freaked me out.”
“Probably a good thing you couldn’t then.” Riddick kept his mouth shut about all the times he almost made a wrong step and went back for the next person. Again the path changed, so again he had to find the new path across, often not being able to see more than a single step ahead.
Each time he led it was step by step, making the best decision he could each time. Each time the paths got more and more complicated, making him backtrack as he hit dead ends. Daniel was with him, and heard him sigh as they backtracked once more. Daniel gave a low laugh, “Leading is not always fun, have the battle is learning that just because you are leading doesn’t mean you can’t and won’t make mistakes.”
A light went on for Riddick and his laughter suddenly filled the chamber. Leading was just making decisions at each step, and as long as he knew he could fail and get back up and try again, no one else would care that he had, they would only care if he quit leading. After that it was easier; he was more willing to take chances, and to give trust to the people he was leading. It wasn’t easy, but neither was it as hard as he thought. The last person over was Blair, and he placed his hand in Riddick’s holding on, and talking about what Incacha had told him. The information, while not essential to Riddick, was still interesting and the enthusiasm Blair had made it contagious. Blair reminded him of Kyra, when she was Jack.
The last person over, the lights in the chamber slowly came up, revealing a checkerboard floor, where the pieces disappeared and reappeared as you watched. Blair looked a little green, “You know I am VERY glad I could not see that.” A bit of laughing agreement and they turned looking at the door.
“Well I am the last one, so I guess this is mine, let’s go see what personal hell waits for me.” Xander laughed mocking at himself and walked into the next chamber.
They walked into the chamber, and you could hear the breath go out of Xander as they looked at the room. It was a large room, with the walls all divided into sections, each section had a label at the top, starting with “Year 1” all the way to “Year 24”. Each section was divided into half, the top half labeled “Selfless” the bottom half labeled “Selfish”. In every section were pictures of Xander, pictures from his life; ranging from him offering a yellow crayon to a red headed girl, to listening to a Shaman in Africa. There was no part of his life hidden, him facing down Angel to find Buffy, him stealing twinkies out of the cupboard, cheating on a test in junior high, trying to rape Buffy when possessed. A flush of embarrassment grew on his face as he looked at everything, memories he cherished and things he wished had never done. He walked over to “Year 21” and touched the picture of him jilting Anya. “Sorry Ahn, I should have talked to you, not run in fear.”
The men glanced at each other then started to walk around the room looking at what they saw and being astonished. Logan, Riddick, and Dick all noted that at “Year 15” you started seeing him fight vampires, do things that no child should have to do; though Dick noted wryly to himself, he had not been much younger. Daniel was drawn to the incident of Kingmans Bluff, Willow attacking him and then him holding her while she cried. Blair went to the Africa pictures in years 22 and 23; marveling at how a man with no training moved and worked with all the different cultures. Somehow when you looked at the picture, you knew the story behind it, why and how something was done.
“Xander how did someone take all these pictures of you?” Daniel asked looking at some of them.
A bitter chuckle, “Believe me for most of these there was no photographer around, something pulled these pictures out of the very ether. I would say my mind, but they are too third person for that to be accurate.”
Taking a deep breath and avoiding looking at anyone directly Xander looked around and saw the pedestal in the middle of the room with a single envelope laying there. He walked over and picked it up, on it words were written. Choose 5 pictures from the room that you feel encapsulate the real you. Xander shrugged not sure what the point was, but walked around and started choosing pictures.
The first picture was him standing in his underwear outside of Faiths hotel room, the look of loss and confusion and hurt clear on his face.
The second picture was him hurting Anya the day he jilted her at the altar, the way she looked as she realized he was not coming to their wedding.
Third was Buffy telling him to get out, that he was useless, just a zeppo.
Fourth was him bringing donuts to a meeting, and then being ignored.
Fifth was him, holding Willow on Kingsman Bluff as she cried, cried over what she did and the loss of Tara.
He slipped all of them into the envelope, then 5 more appeared, each addressed to one of the other men. Written on each one was this instruction Choose 5 pictures from the room you feel best reflect who Xander is. Arching a brow at Xander who was still uncomfortable with having his life, his every action revealed so nakedly, they turned and began to choose.
Logan: Xander facing down Angelus while he sat by Buffy’s side in the hospital; Xander beating Jack o’Toole to get to the bomb under the school; Xander teaching a young African girl how to carve a solid stake; Xander forcing Angel to lead him to Buffy; Xander fighting alongside Buffy.
Riddick: Xander organizing the student for the graduation day fight; Xander standing over a girl as he fought a vampire; Xander threatening Willie with cold eyes; Xander losing the eye to Caleb’s thumb; Xander crying at a grave stone labeled ‘Joyce’.
Dick: Xander sleeping on the roof on Christmas Eve; Xander in Oxnard, stripping for wages; Xander and Cordy stealing a rocket launcher; Xanders quiet stoicism after the Fluke; Xander getting knocked down in a fight, and getting back up.
Daniel: Xander trying to read books he had no training in; Xander holding Dawn as she cried for her mother; Xander standing up to Willow as she through bolts of magic at him; Xander as Soldier, trying to protect those he didn’t remember; Xander standing looking at the crater of Sunnydale, looking for Anya.
Blair: Xander meeting his first slayer in Africa, trying to communicate; Xander building homes for girls he meet in Africa; Xander working with Clem on something; Xander offering part of himself to the ritual to defeat Adam; Xander being the one to go and visit the families who lost girls during the fall of Sunnydale.
All of them came back putting their pictures in an envelope and laying them on the pedestal. The pictures sprung out of the envelopes hanging in the air, and a soft voice spoke, “Each of you, what one word describes the Xander you have gotten to know and the Xander you see in these pictures?”
“Loyalty,” broke the air in Logan’s gravelly voice.
“Strength,” Riddick said looking at the young man.
“Perseverance,” said Dick with a smile of understanding.
“Love,” whispered Daniel, remembering his own life.
“Selflessness” said Blair, seeing even more the white purity that surrounded Xander.
“Xander, these relative strangers see in you what you are, the heart of all around you. Eventually the ones you love will realize that, but unfortunately absence makes the heart grow fonder. Give them time, they are not as mature as you.”
The voice faded and a door opened. They walked through each lost in their own thoughts there was a room with a small table and Joyce standing there. “I hope you found this worth while. You are all loved greatly and we worry about you all. But it is time to go home. We have a gift for you, if you want, when you touch them they will pull you home shortly. It is a way for you to visit each other if you want, simply touch the initial of the one you want to visit, to go home, touch your initial in the middle. You are loved.” Joyce faded away.
On the table lay six odd pocket watches, each of them had a different initial in the center; X,D,L, R,N, or B, and on the outside were the other initials. Dick laughed as he looked at them, “So even here I am Nightwing, so be it. But I will be Nightwing my way.”
Only Xander understood, “Dick, Barbara wouldn’t want it any other way.”
“You know who I am?”
A sad smile, “I know you all, Daniel Jackson of SG-1; Blair Sandburg guide for the Sentienel; Logan member of the X-men; Dick Grayson ward of Bruce Wayne aka Batman, once Robin, now Nightwing; Riddick, criminal, Furian, now leader of the Necromongers. So here is hoping when we get back to our own realities this was not just a dream, but infact the beginning of a friendship. “ Xander leaned over and picked up the one with an X in the middle.
“May your lives be happy, and may we meet again outside of this realm.” Xander felt himself fading and let go, thinking of the pictures in that room.
Silently each of the men picked up their watch and closed their eyes, thinking of what they had learned. All woke up in their own bed, it was morning, yet they lay there looking at the watch in their hand.
Xander lay there for a long time, thinking about how those men saw him, and slowly smiled. “Well figments or real, people like that don’t hang with losers, so let’s try and live up to what they saw. And maybe I will see if one of them would like and extended visit from someone who needs to make his absence felt.” With that Xander got up, and got ready for the sugar overload scheduled for tonight.
*- I made this up, but it just doesn’t make sense for his world to still be speaking English, but it is never specified what language is spoken.
**-all auras are based off of this guide