brutti_ma_buoni (brutti_ma_buoni) wrote in plot_wout_porn,
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Fic: Through the Wintergate (1/3)

Title: Through the Wintergate
Author: Brutti ma buoni
Characters: Xander, Vi, OC Slayer and OC ‘Watcher’
Rating: PG
Words: 5000 (in total)
A/N: This story is set in the Rulesverse, my post-Chosen AU. For the purposes of this fic, the only important points are that there are new pseudo-Watchers (Slayer Support Operatives), and Xander is one. The Slayer Council is a fully developed administrative structure by now, including a Research and Development department for spells, prophecies and scary experimental work.
A/N 2: This fic was inspired by a gate photographed by curiouswombat. The contrast of the radiant flowers on this side of the gate and the apparent winter beyond was a bunny that would not be denied. So much so that Wombat is also writing a fic for this photo, though in a different fandom and with a completely different feel! Thanks also to quinara for emergency Latin services and for running this ficathon! Thanks also to katekat1010 for the beauteous fic poster at the end.



April 2008

It was years before Vi asked the question. When she did, Xander really, really wished she hadn’t.

“Why are we here?”

That was a very Vi-type question. Unanswerable, except for a confused ‘mmm’ sound, which Xander duly produced. It wasn’t that he disliked Vi. Just her questions.

Vi’s co-head of R&D, Erik loved that type of question. “Metaphysically? Because you know I’m an existentialist deep down...”

Xander was just getting ready to slink out of the Conversation From Hell, when Vi snorted impatiently and said, “No, dumbass. In Scotland.”

Xander knew the answer to that one. “Because the Council owns a big old castle here. And it’s secure.”

“Uhuh. Why does the Council own a castle in the middle of nowhere that was secured against every threat we’ve ever faced, even before the new Council made it their headquarters?”

Erik shrugged. “Council owns lots of places. Protects ’em too.”

“Sure,” Vi accepted. “Major strategic hub control centres all over the world. I get that. Also the expensive real estate which we now know made Slaying vampires pretty darned lucrative over the centuries. So again, why the castle? It’s not strategic. It’s not high value land. Why are we here?”

Xander didn’t care. “Why are you asking?”

“Because of the gate.”

Xander was very happy to see Erik looking just as blank as himself on that one. “What gate?”

“The gate we never talk about. The one by the walled garden. The one where it’s winter.”

Vi had to take them to the spot and point at the gate before they believed her. Then Erik and Xander spent some time feeling very, very stupid.

*

It was an ordinary garden gate. Wrought iron. Half open. You could see through it perfectly well, to a small space of grass and a pale stone fountain. It was a little out of the way, but far from hidden. Yet somehow no one but Vi had ever noticed it. Even though, as she’d said, it was winter through the gate. Surrounded by blooming camellias and daffodils, the gateway opened onto bleached grass, rotten leaves and a sense of chill. A steeply pine-wooded hillside climbed behind. There was no sound beyond the gate. No insects buzzed nor birds trilled. It was midwinter.

Erik shivered. “How did you spot it? It must be glamoured or something.”

“I’ve been practising with disenchantments a bit, so I guess I’m less glamourable than usual. Also, I was doing the mapping project, and this bit of wall was the wrong size. I couldn’t see it for ages, even though I knew where to look.”

Oh damn. The castle society had been more than a little patronising about Vi’s decision to measure and map the entire building and grounds “in case something ooky shows up”. Now it undeniably had.

“Want to go through?” Erik leaned eagerly forward, only to find both Vi and Xander dragging him away.

“We do not do this any more. We do not do the running into scary situations without a plan. We have planning tools. We’re going to go up to R&D, do some R, and make with the plan. Then we’ll go through the gate.” It was a speech Xander was getting better at giving. It was the main reason fewer Slayers ended up dead these days.

*

“So many, many old documents. So very dull. Where’s Giles when you need him?” But Vi’s joke backfired, because Giles’s mission to fetch Faith home wasn’t funny even a little bit. The reminder of the very real dangers of Slayer life wasn’t funny either.

“It’s not so bad,” said Erik, from under a pile of deeds. “We know the Council had this place from the thirteenth century, and they added to the lands later but the gate is on the original plot, so it’s core. I can’t believe the Council had some enchanted spot on their land for 800 years and never spotted it. It’s a Council thing. Let’s go explore.”

“I hate to be the boring sensible one,” said Xander, unwillingly. “But no. Not all three of us. The going through of mysterious doorways leads to badness, which in turn leads to either violence or a need for research which I’m betting we can’t do through there in Wonderland. So I’ll take one of you with as backup, but the other stays here and finds out what in hell is going on. ‘Kay?”

Not actually okay with Erik – because who’d take a research geek into danger in preference to a Slayer? “I never get to go on missions.”

Vi was strapping on her hunting knife and packing extra crossbow bolts. She managed only a halfhearted, “Hey, someday you’ll get your own Slayer and you can go off on big dangerous missions too, y’know.”

Erik didn’t pout glamorously, but he certainly pouted thoroughly. They left him anyway.

*

Vi threw a pebble through the gateway. It landed with a plop-rustle on the other side. No zapping forcefields or weird buffeting visible. “Okay. I guess we just go through.”

Xander nodded agreement, “But if we meet a pointy Ice Queen and a symbolic lion, I’m going to be seriously pissed.”

He went first, braced for unexpected badness, whether Aslan or something unexpected. It didn’t come. Sure, it was chillier through the gate, but that was the only sign of change. He turned, half-expecting the gateway to have vanished, but no. It was there, and Vi was there, eyebrows raised. He nodded permission for her to come through too.

“Okay. Not too scary so far.” Even as he said it, Xander wanted to take it back.

“Uh... maybe.” To hear the quaver in her voice, you wouldn’t think Vi was one of their toughest operatives. But she always talked a lot of scared, while getting it done, so Xander wasn’t too worried as he followed her pointing hand.

Oh. The gateway was still in place, but the gate was now closed. It was shimmering slightly too, like a heat-hazed illusion. Except: no heat.

Vi tried the pebble-throwing trick again. The small stone flew towards the gate. Just as it would have passed between two iron uprights, it stopped. A wall of ice grew instantly from that point, blocking the gateway, covering the pebble completely. It must have been eight inches thick, minimum.

Xander became very aware of how loud their breathing sounded in the dead chill air. “Okay...”

Vi was moving already. For a terrible moment, he thought she was going to try the gateway despite the magical ice field which would probably engulf her. But, actually, Vi was a damn good field operative when she got the chance. Great eyes. (Lucky plural-having person).

She’d spotted a carving on the wall beside the gate. It had only two words clear – any others weathered away in that exposed position. “SENATVS CONSVLTVM.” A carved seal-impression was below it – the Grand Seal of the Watchers Council, used for their most official activities.

Which confirmed hypothesis A: this was a Council Thing. Not necessarily reassuring.

“How are we going to get out?”

Vi wrinkled her nose, considering. “I think Erik’s probably gonna work this out. There must be more documents about this place and how it works, assuming that’s why the Council ran the castle. We should take a look around, map this out a little. If we find an escape, cool, but let’s not panic, ‘kay?”

We’re in a mystical Council imprisonment thing. I am not panicking. But Xander didn’t say the lie aloud. Is it hot in here? Oh, wait, no: magical winter outdoors. Not with the hot-making. Collar too tight. Must appear calm. Focus.

Consider the surroundings: one small walled garden. One stone fountain, non-functional, in a basin of water, partly iced-over. Grass, twigs, winter-dead shrubs. Nothing sinister as such. There was another gateway at right-angles to the iced up exit/entrance. Pebble-checking didn’t suggest this one would have a freeze-ray of death, and it opened onto more wintery landscape. A couple of bare trees, more grass, and a path into towering pine woods beyond.

“What is this place?” Xander realised suddenly that they’d been exploring in silence. His voice sounded explosive, terrifyingly alive in this place of suspended animation.

“Get in but not out? Official Council seal? I’m thinking Watcher jail.”

“Almost right.” That wasn’t Vi’s voice.

Xander jumped and spun round to meet the voice’s owner. “Shit. You scared the crap out of me!”

It was a girl. Maybe sixteen. Long hair, bare feet (in this cold!), wearing a smocky dress-thing, and a scarf round her head. She didn’t look like a jailer.

“Who are you?” Damn. Stranger girl got in first. “Are you a Watcher?”

“Uhm. Yes. But then again, no.”

“If you’re a Watcher, I might kill you.”

“I’m a Slayer Support Operative.” Crappy title, but it might be unWatcherly enough to do the job. Xander was very aware of Vi slowly approaching behind him. Stranger girl would have a fight on her hands if she tried anything.

“Is she a Watcher?”

Vi huffed, offended. “No! I’m a Slayer.”

“You’re too old to be the Slayer.” Stranger girl said it flatly.

“I’m twenty-two! And I moisturise nightly!”

Xander intervened. “Well, this is all pleasantly surreal. But could we stick to the introductions first? I’m kind of a Watcher. Vi’s definitely a Slayer. And you are...?”

Stranger girl blinked at him. “Me? I was the Slayer too.”


*

Part two is here
Tags: a: brutti_ma_buoni, c: vi, c: xander, f: buffyverse
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  • In The Winter Garden Chapter Nine and Epilogue

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