Disclaimer: Rob owns the VM characters, Joss the Buffy characters, me the plot and this expansion of who "Sheila Kelly" could have been.
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"Knowledge is power?" I asked.
"Everything I learned, I learned from Schoolhouse Rock," Logan said. "Again, and I can't stress this enough: I have no interest in making us into a well-oiled strike force to take out the bad guys. But if this is the world I'm forced to live in, it's probably a good idea for me to know as much about it as I can."
"Hmmm." I couldn't tell him no; knowing Logan, he'd go learn about it on the streets, and just like with a lot of things that would be a really bad idea. "That's not a bad idea. Means we're going to have to be seen together in public."
"Of the many things about you that bug me, Mars, that has never been one of them," Logan said.
Sheila said, "He's in, I'm in."
I was frantically trying to come up with a syllabus in my head – one that didn't involve a lot of field trips. The only genuinely friendly demon I could think of who'd ever lived in Sunnydale was Clem, and I didn't think he was around yet.
That meant book reading, which meant another trip to the magic store. Ms. Mistwood – Rae – should probably be willing to help me come up with a "monsters and magic 101" course.
"Okay, then," I said. "Either of you have anything better to do right now?"
Logan said, "Nothing that can't wait."
"Got dinner at the Rockefellers at 7," Sheila said. "'til then, free as air, manhunter. What you have in mind?"
"Our one, and probably only, field trip," I said. "Follow me, Logan."
"I'm riding with you," Sheila said.
Logan rolled his eyes and said, "There was no doubt about that. I lack the time to give my Tracker a full antibacterial scrub inside and out."
Sheila bristled, but then relaxed and said, "Any germs you got, I can handle. Just surprised you're being so public about it."
As I tried to refrain from laughing, Logan frowned and said, "Let's get going."
Once Sheila and I got to my LeBaron, I stopped holding it in. "That was good," I said.
"I like having a rep for being a fucking psycho bitch," Sheila said. "But I'm a fucking psycho bitch who bathes."
I laughed again.
Along the way to the magic store, I asked Sheila, "Long books?"
"Don Quixote. The Complete Works of Shakespeare. Battlefield Earth, even though that one sucked. The longer, the better."
A vulnerable look flashed across her face for a second. "'spersonal, manhunter," she said. "But if you come across any long books, let me know. Gotta be fiction." Whatever it was, she didn't feel comfortable telling me.
So I'd let it go. Not everything is my business. Almost, but not quite. "I've got a complete Sherlock Holmes in two volumes," I said. "Interested?"
"You know it," she said with a grin.
"How's your new improved life going?"
"Some of my old acquaintances are ticked at me for not going out drinking with them the way I used to. Fuck 'em. Some of my teachers're surprised that I'm pulling in half-decent grades now."
"If you want them any better --"
"I'm getting B's and they're thinking I'm cheating, manhunter," she said. "I start bringing in A's and they'll call in my mom. 'snot like she'll be sober enough to answer the phone, but I'd rather not go through the hassle." We were at the magic store. She looked it up and down, clearly not impressed. "This it?"
"Didn't anyone ever tell you it's what's on the inside that counts?"
Logan pulled up behind me and everyone got out. If anything, he was less impressed than Sheila was.
I opened the store's front door. "Miss Mars," Rae said. "What can I do for you?"
"I'm running a bit low on holy water," I said, "And my friends here could do with a vial or two. They've recently become aware of the . . . other denizens of our fair city and they'd like to learn something about them."
"I don't encourage vigilantism," Rae said as they headed back towards the holy water. "Not among those who aren't suited for it."
"I have no plans to imitate Charles Bronson at anything other than a costume party," Logan said.
As for Sheila, she shrugged. "Something attacks me, I fight back. Might be good to know how to, if I have to -- or when to run. What I've heard this stuff --" she held up a container of holy water -- "works pretty much only on vampires."
"Not just them," Rae said. "But true, most of the time if you throw holy water at something nonhuman all it's going to get is wet. If you're lucky, you'll get a shard of glass in their eye, but that's about it."
"So what do you have around here in the way of Monster Recognition 101?" I asked.
"Hmmm," she said. "Are you looking for something massive?"
"I'm thinking something that won't cause people to point when we take it out in public," I said. "That means no books that look like they five two pounds, were bound in dragon hide, or might fall apart if looked at funny. Anything in an ordinary paperback?"
"It's not exactly a fertile publishing field," she said. "Still, I'll root around. In the meantime, I can get you a guide to lycanthropes."
"That'll do for a start," I said. "Wait -- is there more than one type of were-critter?"
"The werewolves get all the press," Rae said. "But yes. Not as many as Laurell K. Hamilton would have you believe, but any carnivorous mammal can be a template." She handed me the book. "I'll see what else I can find. In the meantime."
I stepped a bit closer. "Do you have that crystal? The one that tests for magic potential?"
"Could I borrow it? I'd like to test a theory."
She went behind the counter and dug it out. "Here you go," she said, handing it to me. Then she disappeared towards the back of the store.
"So this shit's all real?" Sheila said.
"Try sticking your hand through it," Logan said, though his heart wasn't in it. "Lycanthropes?"
"Hey, a lot of that is news to me too," I said. "I knew about werewolves. The possibility of were-jaguarundis never crossed my mind." I handed Logan the crystal. "Hold this. I want to see something."
Logan shrugged and took it. Shortly afterward, to my astonishment, we could all see a faint glow -- less than Rae Mistwood had generated, but definitely there.
Okay. So it wasn't being transferred from my original timeline to this one that had made me magic-null. And I still couldn't see it being a gift.
Hmmm. I might have to ask The Adversary the next time we talked, after all. Not that I was looking forward to that. But it was either that or let the mystery stay unanswered.
And me letting a mystery stay unsolved? About as likely as me growing wings and flying to the moon.
"What does that mean?" Logan asked.
"I'll tell you in a second," I said. "Sheila?"
Sheila took the purple quartz. A few seconds later, it began to glow fairly brightly -- much more than when Rae Mistwood had held it.
"'scool," she said, giving it to me. "What does it mean?"
"It's an indication of how much magic potential you have," a balding man said, walking in to the shop. "From the lack of a glow, you would be Miss Mars."
"I would be," I said. "How would --"
"My partner told me about you," he said. "A lack of talent like that is rare, believe me." HE turned to Logan. "You, young man -- you don't have much."
"I never saw myself as the next Gandalf anyway," Logan said. The man looked familiar --
Shit. Of course. The shopkeeper Drusilla had killed during Passion hadn't been a woman in her mid-20's, it had been this guy. He and Rae must be partners.
With any luck, his non-death would be another way I could improve things.
"But you -- you, young lady, have the potential to be a witch, if you want to. And a fairly powerful one."
"Really?" Sheila asked.
"I wouldn't lie."
Sheila said, "Cool." Well. This was interesting. I suspected I'd have to add a Magic 101 to the curriculum, though I was the last person who should be teaching something like that.
"This isn't just some scam?" Logan asked suspiciously.
"No. Oh, I admit, much of the material in the store is crap to peddle to the tourists. I'm taking it that the three of you aren't tourists any more."
"Call us informed tourists," I said. "Who want to know more about where we're visiting -- but don't necessarily want to live there." Then, "I've been in here a few times," I said. "I don't remember seeing you."
"I've been on a number of business trips, It's not like you can order mummy hands through the Sears Catalog," he said.
"Depends," Logan said. "Have you seen some of the models?"
The man laughed. "Good point. Ah. Rae- Raven."
I turned. Rae Mistwood had returned from the bowels of the store. "Save it, Piotr," she said. "They know my real name."
"I'm not really even Piotr," he said. "But Piotr Pulaskovic sounds better than Pete Pulaski."
"So you're co-owners?" I asked.
"Yes. We met at a store in Los Angeles, realized we were both from Sunnydale, and wondered why we had to travel two hours to get decent supplies. We realized we'd found a niche and, six months later, opened up this place."
"Any luck coming up with any other books?" I asked.
"A book about vampires that's mostly accurate," she said. "Beyond that, not much. Give me a few weeks I'll see what Pete and I can track down."
"That's good enough for a start," I said. "Vampires, lycanthropes -- and toss in a book for beginning witches -- one that actually teaches something. If Sheila wants to learn about witchcraft I don't want her doing it on the streets."
"Understandable," Rae said, and went over and got a book. "This should do for the moment." I gave it the evil eye. "I know, it's the same thing you could buy at any Borders," she said. "But nothing in it will work unless the person actually has power."
I handed the book to Sheila. "Okay, then," I said. "How much --"
"I've got it," Logan said. At my look of puzzlement, he added, "My idea, Mars. I'm not going to make you foot the bill. And I'll even pay for Kelly's book."
"Don't do me any favors, Echolls," Sheila said. "I can pay my own way."
"Your clothing would argue otherwise."
She glared at him, but stepped up to the counter, paid for the book on witchcraft, and after saying our goodbyes, we all left.
"So," Logan said. "Interesting people." He seemed to mean it.
""They are," I said. "I have somewhere I have to be for the next couple of nights. Any plans for the weekend?"
"Naaah. Guy I was supposed to meet up with, but this sounds more fun."
"The Echolls manse should be unoccupied," Logan said. "Daddy Dearest is headed to LA for an awards show and, lucky Mom, she gets to be towed along to look pretty. And in the moment I'm not in much of a partying mood. You never know who you might be inviting in."
I dropped Sheila off at her house with stern instructions to read the book, nothing else, but she said, "Don't worry, manhunter. I'm just curious, that's all. 'sides, it gives me something else to read."
"I'll bring the Sherlock Holmes books in tomorrow."
She smiled, and left.
Okay. Weird day. Logan's not magic-null; Sheila could be a witch; and on top of everything else, I have to try and stop Pete Pulaski from getting killed.
All of which hinged on What's My Line and Surprise/Innocence, which were still well in the future.
In the meantime, Lie to Me was still in progress. I needed to be sure Angel was following canon from here on out when it came to the Sunset Club. No, I hadn't investigated the place, but if Angel asked how I figured out Billy Fordham's connection, I'd simply have to shrug and say "I have my ways." I wasn't sure how Willow had made the connection; I couldn't, not with the resources as I had available. I couldn't even remember the name Ford's vampire-wannabe friend had used, much less his real one.
I looked at my watch. Best guess, I had a couple of hours to go home, do whatever homework I actually needed to do, talk with Dad, and get back in time to watch Angel, Xander and Willow do their thing.
And the saddest thing? Still, at times, less stressful than Neptune.