Author: spuffy luvr
Rating: PG13 (for now)
Setting: Post-Series crossover with “S.H.I.E.L.D”
Word Count: ~2800/~30,000
Summary: Spike’s amulet is left to languish at the bottom of the Sunnydale crater, until a S.H.I.E.L.D. team accidentally uncovers it ten years later.
Beta: The ever-incredible foxstarreh, who watched “S.H.I.E.L.D.” just so they could beta this for me. You’re the best.
Notes: So, everytime I tried to sift through old submissions looking for an inspiration, I’d inevitably surface days later with lots of fic read but no ideas. When sign-ups rolled around, we were in the middle of binge-watching S2 of “S.H.I.E.L.D”, and I thought, “Gee, I’ve never written a proper crossover before. I know some people have done crossovers for Seasonal Spuffy. Maybe I’ll try that.” And thus was born “Displacement”. Apologies in advance to diehard “S.H.I.E.L.D.” fans. I don’t know the canon as initmately as the Buffyverse, and there’s a good chance I’ve goofed on minor details. Also, this is a Buffy story set against a S.H.I.E.L.D. backdrop, so the exact when of the story is purposefully vague. Sort of mid-S2, during a lull between crises.
I won’t be posting the entire story here since 1) it’s going to be around 30,000 words (I swear it was only going to be 10K words) and 2) I’m still writing the final chapters and editing (damn you, fagends Halloween contest). I’ll have another chapter or two for the next free-for-all, and then post to FF.net, AO3, and Elysian Fields when it’s done.
Warnings: Spoilers through mid-S2 of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, as well as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I suspect knowledge of “S.H.I.E.L.D.” will make the story, or at least the initial chapters, far more enjoyable. Temporary Buffy/Other, sort of.
All clues pointed in one direction: The object their team had been searching for was probably buried, along with the HYDRA sub-organization that had called itself The Initiative, in a crater that had once been a small California town.
“Okay, people,” Phil Coulson said to his assembled team. “Grab your climbing gear and your shovels. Looks like we’re heading to Sunnydale.”
“Sir,” Simmons said. “I’m still not certain what this 0-8-4 is, or if it even is an 0-8-4.”
She held the garish necklace out to Coulson, who took it with gloved hands. “It could be just somebody’s bad taste,” he said. “Somebody’s very bad taste, that should have stayed buried and forgotten.”
Simmons gave him a half-hearted smile. “It’s more than just ugly jewelry, that I can say with complete certainty. Fitz’s DWARFs honed in on it under all the rubble, even though their parameters were set to search for the other 0-8-4.”
Hearing his name, Fitz looked up. “Right, there’s some kind of, um…” He paused, searching for the right word.
Coulson kept his expression neutral. Fitz was getting better. Just – slowly. Very slowly. Some days – every second of every day, if Coulson were being honest – he wished the damage that May had inflicted on Ward would’ve healed just as slowly. Or, better yet, not at all.
Did that make him a bad man?
Maybe he could blame it on the alien blood.
“Energy resonance,” Fitz finally spit out. “Almost as if it were… alive.”
“Alive?” Coulson said. He shot his hand out, moving the necklace further away from his body. “What do you mean by alive?”
“That’s just it. We don’t know yet, sir,” Simmons said. She took it back and set it next to the scanning electron microscope. “It’s sort of a mystery, isn’t it?”
“But not a very high priority one,” Coulson reminded her. “Are you two done with the -”
“Yeah, got the device right here,” Fitz said. “Just a few final tweaks, and she should be good to go.”
“Good. Bring it to my office when you’re done” Coulson glanced over at the mystery object once more. It really was ugly. “And then call our Sunnydale expert. Maybe she’ll know something about Liz Taylor’s lost necklace.”
Simmons squeaked, and spun around to find a red-headed woman leaning casually against the lab bench behind her. “Agent Rosenberg! How many times have I asked you not to pop in like that? It’s very disconcerting.” She frowned. “And really not natural.”
Rosenberg grinned. “You’re just jealous because you can’t do it.”
“Well, yes,” Simmons admitted. “But it’s still unnatural.”
“Sorry, sweetie. I hate to break it to you, but magic is all about being Earth-y and natural.”
“Oh, not that again,” Fitz said from his spot on the far side of the room. He stalked closer. “There’s no such thing as magic. Your hocus-pocus is nothing more than science that can’t be explained. Yet.”
“And hello to you too, Fitz. Nice to see you, and do you need me to turn you into a monkey again? I thought I’d convinced you the last time.”
Fitz scowled. “It was just a hallucination. Some sort of… hypnosis, or mind control.”
“We did all see it,” Simmons reminded him. “With your cute little monkey hands and your cute little monkey face…”
“Yeah, and I missed it. It’s not as much fun having a pet monkey when you are the pet monkey. Not that I really was a monkey, because it was just a hallucination. One I haven’t forgiven Agent Rosenberg for,” he said with a glare her way.
“Aw, Fitz. I guess you don’t want the curry I brought you from that little place you like, then,” Rosenberg said, pulling a bag out of nowhere and wafting it under Fitz’s nose.
How did she do that, Simmons wondered. The rational part of her mind insisted there was no such thing as magic, only manipulation of space-time continuum in an as-yet to be explained fashion. Fitz’s transmogrification, however, was far more difficult to handwave away. Of course, she’d seen Bruce Banner transform into the Hulk before her very own eyes, but that change was triggered by a burst of Gamma-enhanced adrenaline in a man who had been dosed with the super serum. So maybe if you added in an energy burst from a different quantum spectrum combined with some form of…
Fitz’s jerky, abortive movements broke her concentration and brought her back to the here-and-now. Later. She’d puzzle it out later, when things weren’t quite so busy.
HIs nose twitched, and then he finally grabbed for the bag. “Well, it’s not quite a prosciutto and mozzarella sandwich, but I suppose it’s a start.”
Simmons smiled. For a while, he hadn’t been able to recall his favorite sandwich. Sometimes, it was easy to forget just how far he’d come.
He wagged a finger. “But I’m warning you, don’t mess with me again, Agent Rosenberg.”
“Will you two please stop with the Agent Rosenberg schtick?” Rosenberg said with a huff. “Talk about Initiative flashbacks,” she muttered under her breath.
Louder, she added, “I’m just plain old Willow.”
Startled, Simmons glanced at Fitz, and found him staring back at her, eyebrows raised high. She gave him a significant look, and he nodded slightly and turned back to Rosenberg. At least their ability to communicate without words hadn’t suffered quite as much as their usual back and forth finishing of each other’s sentences, Simmons thought. It was nice to see some things didn’t change, no matter what else did.
“You know about The Initiative?” Fitz said, his tone conversational.
“Well, yeah. Secret government agency running around Sunnydale causing trouble? Not as secret as they wanted to be.” She paused a beat. “Plus Buffy dated one of their guys.” Willow fell silent again, her eyes distant. “Riley wasn’t so bad, though. He helped us when they captured my werewolf ex-boyfriend and were running experiments on him. Riley went AWOL after that and had to hide out in burnt remains of the old high school to avoid being court martialled. Buffy took the entire Initiative complex and the Frankenmonster they’d created down not long after. With my help, of course,” she added, grinning.
“How exciting,” Simmons said, leaning closer despite herself. “You always have the most fascinating stories about Sunnydale, full of daring and adventure.”
“Mostly we were just trying not to die,” Willow said with a bemused laugh. “Sad thing is, not much has changed, really, except now it’s aliens instead of demons.”
“Isn’t that a huge difference? Aliens are intelligent life forms from outer space bent on world dominion, while demons are mystical creatures – presuming they are truly mystical creatures – bent on mayhem and destruction.”
“They’re both ugly, terrifying, homicidal, inhuman, and hard to kill,” Willow said, ticking the points off on her fingers. “Not so much with the different, from the average person’s perspective.”
“I suppose when you put it that way…” Simmons turned her attention to Fitz, who’d lost interest in the conversation and was now inhaling his curry as if it might disappear. Which, considering that it had appeared out of thin air in the first place, was a distinct possibility. “Fitz, are you going to save some for me?”
Willow snapped her fingers, and a second take-out bag appeared.
Fitz stopped eating to point at the bag in Willow’s hand. “How’d you -? No, never mind. I don’t want to know.”
“Pocket dimension,” Willow said anyway. “A hell one. Keeps the food toasty.”
“You’re having me on.” He turned to Simmons. “She’s having me on. Jemma, tell me she’s having me on.”
“I’m sure there’s a perfectly logical explanation,” Simmons said. Really, there had to be. Alien worlds, or hell dimensions as Rosenberg so quaintly called them, were real after all. Lady Sif and other Asgardians could travel between them at will. Why not regular people too? “But in the meantime, we should probably focus on the reason Agent Ros – on the reason Willow’s here.”
“Right, the 0-8-4.”
Willow set the second take-out bag on an empty spot on the lab bench. “So, what is this mystery object that’s got you all in a tizzy?”
“I wouldn’t say in a tizzy, exactly,” Simmons said, leading Willow over to a different bench. “More…”
“Confounded,” Fitz said
“Merely curious,” Simmons corrected. She pulled on her insulating gloves, and picked up the necklace. “You see, it’s -”
Willow sucked in a sharp breath. “Where’d you find that?”
“So you know what it is, then?” Fitz said.
Willow didn’t take her eyes off the 0-8-4. “Where did you find it?” she said again. “How -?” She reached out and took it from Simmons. “I never thought -” She looked at Simmons. “This amulet was buried in a giant crater under an entire town’s worth of rubble. How did you even know it was there?”
“Well, that’s the thing,” Simmons said. “We didn’t intend to find the – amulet, did you say?”
“We were searching for an 0-8-4 we suspected the HYDRA off-shoot calling itself The Initiative had left in Sunnydale.”
“The Initiative was HYDRA? Why am I not surprised?” Willow said.
“Who isn’t HYDRA, these days?” Even she had been, for a short while. Simmons shoved the memories aside. There were no good ones there. “At any rate, Fitz had programmed his DWARFs to scan for the 0-8-4 we’d been searching for, but they turned up – this amulet, first.”
“The amulet emits a resonance,” Fitz said. “Similar to human…”
Simmons waited to see if he would find the word on his own. Sometimes he appreciated her help. But more often, he didn’t. She bit her cheek, willing herself to remain patient.
“… electrochemical impulses. And there seems to be faint delta wave activity”
Willow turned to Fitz, her eyes wide. “You mean like… it’s alive?”
“Yes,” he said, nodding enthusiastically. “Exactly like that.”
Taking the nearest seat, Willow sat heavily, and let the amulet’s chain slide through her fingers. “Or undead,” she said to herself, eyes distant once more.
Undead? What on earth did that mean?
Simmons waited, but Agent Rosenberg didn’t explain.
“Explain it again,” Coulson said. “But this time go slower, and use smaller words.”
Willow squashed her impatience, and took a calming breath. “One of our guys wore this amulet during the final battle at Sunnydale, the one that closed the Hellmouth for good. I was somewhere else so I didn’t see it for myself, but from what Buffy told me afterwards, the amulet’s powers were what closed the Hellmouth. Except it did it by killing our friend. Burned him right up. Based on FitzSimmons’ research, I think his essence was absorbed by the amulet.” Here came the tricky part. “Since it came from Wolfram and Hart, my guess is that we need to take it back there to free him. At least, nothing else has worked so far. It’s sort of my last-ditch option.”
“But Wolfram and Hart no longer exists on this plane, as I understand it.”
“True. But maybe just being in their old building will trigger his release,” Willow said. “Their wards are still in place, even if they’re gone.”
“And this… comrade. Can you tell me more about him?”
“His name was Spike,” Willow said. And waited. Either Phil knew about Spike or he didn’t. If he did, no more needed to be said. If he didn’t… well, Spike wasn’t Willow’s to explain.
To her disappointment, his expression remained blank. Phil kept his reaction – and his knowledge – close to his chest. Which, come to think of it, was probably a good thing for a man in his position, but Willow couldn’t help but wonder exactly how much knowledge he had tucked away in that brain of his. Just how much he knew about her, specifically.
Phil considered the amulet a while longer before saying, “I can’t see any reason for you not to try it. But you understand I can’t devote any resources to this right now. It’s not top priority.”
“I’m pretty much all the resources I need.” And maybe Buffy. But not now. Not yet. Not until Willow was sure it would work. “But…”
“It’s just that FitzSimmons seem pretty caught up in the whole ‘mystery’ of it. I think they’d be awfully disappointed if they didn’t get to tag along.”
“Will it be dangerous?”
“Pfft, no,” Willow said automatically. “Easy peasy as pie.”
“All right. I suppose I can spare them for a few hours. In fact, I’ve got some business to attend to in L.A. myself. We can take the bus.” He stood up behind his desk, and straightened his jacket. “Oh. And Agent Rosenberg?”
“No more turning Fitz into a monkey. It turns out I’m awfully fond of him just the way he is.”
Willow smiled, relieved that was all Coulson had to say on the matter. She’d been expecting an angry lecture ever since it had happened. “Don’t worry, me too. Sir.”
“So, who is this ‘Spike’?” Fitz asked as he, Rosenberg, and Simmons walked the final block to Wolfram and Hart’s old L.A. office building.
“He was a – friend. A warrior.”
“And you don’t think Summers should be here for this?” he said, filing away Willow’s hesitation over the word friend to ask Jemma’s opinion on later.
Willow shook her head. “No. If it doesn’t work, I don’t want to get her hopes up for nothing,” she said. She glanced at her watch, and added, “Besides, it’s dinnertime in New York. She’s busy right now.”
“Oh?” Simmons said.
“Yes, with very important things.” Willow’s expression turned mischievous. “She’s on a date.”
Simmons smiled, eyes dancing with interest. “With somebody very exciting, by the look on your face.”
“You might have heard of him. Likes to dress in Patriotic Blue. Carries a shield made of a vibranium-titanium alloy.”
Fitz thought about echoing Simmons’ statement, but felt she’d summed it up nicely.
Willow bounced a little. “Natasha finally talked her into it.”
“Well, that will be nice for both of them, I bet. Don’t you think, Fitz?”
“Yeah, I suppose they’d make a good match, what with the both of them being…”
“Super strong?” Simmons suggested.
“I was going to say heroes,” Fitz said absently, absorbed by the sight of the tall, black building in front of them. Its windows glinted in the sun, as if they’d never been broken, or the building burnt to a hollow shell. “I suppose this is it? What happens now?”
Willow took hold of the door handle. “We go inside and find out if my theory’s correct.”
Fitz followed her and Simmons through the open door, and then three of them stood in the lobby. Awkwardly. Fitz often felt awkward in unfamiliar situations, but this was a whole new level of awkward. He looked around at the gleaming elevator banks, the sharp-dressed business people striding purposefully through the lobby, and the security desk. “Um… what now?” he said in a whisper.
Willow looked around too. “Bathroom,” she said. “Follow me”.
Soon, they were clustered inside the small unisex bathroom hidden down a short corridor next to the elevators.
“Well, this isn’t at all awkward,” Fitz muttered, eyeing the small space with discomfort. “Let’s hurry up, before somebody needs to use the loo.”
Willow pulled a small cloth bag from her purse, and he automatically backed away as far as possible, until he bumped up against the wall. She extracted the amulet, and set it in the middle of the floor.
“Darn it,” she said. “I was hoping just being here would trigger the release mechanism. Hmmm…”
“Maybe you need to abracadabra it,” Fitz said, trying to not to sound mocking and failing miserably.
“I was thinking more along the lines of…” Willow closed her eyes and held a hand over the amulet, fingers splayed. “Libertas,” she said.
“Freedom?” Fitz said. “Really?”
“I suck at Latin,” Willow said mildly. “It’s the intent that matters more than the words, anyhow. Now, hush. You’re making the energy in here go all wonky.” She closed her eyes and chanted. “Libertas, Liberi eritus, defensor.”
Again nothing happened.
Willow opened her mouth to try again, then snapped it shut with a click when a black whirlwind erupted from the amulet, blowing paper towels about and making the door rattle.
Fitz tried to retreat, but his back was already against the wall. He froze, staring in disbelief as a man, roaring in agony, formed out of the whirlwind and reconstructed from nothing but ash before his very eyes.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/526424.html