M. Y. S. T. I. C.

Mallory Yvonne Sampson Trip Iggy Chloe

By: A J

Disclaimer: I own neither W.i.t.c.h. nor the Power Rangers. I can claim creatorship for the original characters of Mallory, Chloe, Ignatius, Kyle, Martin, Cordelia, Yvonne, Trip, Arthur, Sampson, and Tobias as well as the plot.

'Air'

Vida Bly sat back, cursing in her grandparents' native Spanish as the traffic ground to another standstill on this scorching hot day. Her two sons paused their near-constant sibling war in the back seat long enough to gape at their normally even-tempered mother. At fourteen, Sampson had taken enough Spanish in school to figure out what she'd said, but poor nine-year-old Toby was blissfully unaware of just how frayed their mother's nerves were getting. 'If Chip and Clare had just stayed in Briarwood with the rest of us,' Vida found her oft-repeated thought-train renewing, while running a hand through her russet hair. 'Instead of carting their little family all the way to …' Here she had to actually look up the highway at the sign that proclaimed "Heatherfield: 2 miles". Fortunately for her son's blistering ears, she could see the traffic starting to creep forward under the sign and into a final cloverleaf interchange. 'Finally!'

Sampson Rocca settled his muscular frame back in his seat behind her and let the previous school year's events replay through his head. His father Chip had been struggling as a beat cop, while Momma Clare had lost her Herbalist's Shop lease just before Halloween to some conglomerate looking to expand into Briarwood by buying an entire block of property and building a mall. Then the unbelievable offer had arrived from Heatherfield; almost double Chip's current salary for a seasoned officer, and a relocation allowance for his family. The Thorns had moved within that month, and except for a few brief hours at Christmas, Sam hadn't seen half of his family in almost a year.

Heatherfield spread out before them as they crested the last curve of the freeway interchange. The trio could see several miles of well-manicured suburbs surrounding a small central area of ever-heightening skyscrapers near a bend in the river. Vida let a low chuckle escape at the sight of the mall just ahead of them.

"Well, Sam, be thankful it's just going to be the four of you boys out here for the summer. You know Yvonne would drag you along as pack mules to shop there, if she could." Sam and Toby just groaned in unison; their cousin was the same age as Sam, and a complete shopaholic.

"How come the total flake in the family was born to the sensible sister, Mom?" Sam couldn't help but tease. A chronic mallrat as a teenager, Vida's rampant consumerism had been reigned in with the birth of her kids. Nowadays, she restricted herself to one splurge a month or less, and as likely as not, that was usually something new for her recording studio. Becoming the preferred master studio for such notables as Kira Ford and Tanya Sloan had led to a great living, as far as Vida was concerned.

"So how come I gotta stay with Uncle Chip and Aunt Clare, too, huh?" Toby whined. Vida just sighed, and her brown eyes met with Sam's green ones in the rearview mirror for a second. Taking up the unspoken plea from his mother, Sam threw a conspiratorial arm around Toby's shoulders.

"'Cause Mom and Dad want to spend some time alone together, and Aunt Clare can cook better than Aunt Maddie," Sam told him without a second thought. That got Toby and Vida both to laugh.

"Yeah, that's just 'cause Arthur and Trip both eat so much, and Aunt Clare figures if their gonna eat, they might as well eat good food," Toby answered with his father's, Zander's, stock response to the old family joke. Sam joined the other two's laughter. While Trip and Sam had both gotten their father Chip's infamous hyper-metabolism, poor Arthur had taken after his mother Clare; instead of burning off his ample baby fat, he had slowly enlarged to the point that, at just shy of ten years old, he was almost as wide as he was tall.

"At least I know you two won't starve to death staying with them," Vida added, while punching the Thorn's new address into her SUV's navigator. The computer started chirping out directions in its nasally proper British accent, and Vida quickly hit the mute button on it. "Can it, Threepio," she muttered in disgust. She always meant to change the voice subtype on the navigator, but promptly forgot about it when she started flipping through the 350-page manual that had come with the stupid car just for the program. Muted, the program started a head's-up display projection, streaming across the top of the windshield, with a very hard to ignore 'DING' as every turn was reached.

Sighing as she wended her way deeper into the heart of Heatherfield, Vida started to watch what she passed with increasing interest, determined to find her way back out of this town without resorting to the computer. As they passed an old brick schoolhouse with a wrought-iron fence around it, her senses came briefly on edge, but without a firm target, she squashed her long-disused magical alarm sense back into its cabinet in the back of her mind. Turning the corner around the building, the trio could just make out the name sculpted over the entrance arch in the fence.

"Sheffield Institute. Hey, isn't that where Trip said he's going to school, now?" Sam watched the old building and its sun-yellowing lawn recede behind them, and wondered: did his half-brother find a new school as difficult to adjust to as Sam had found life without his best friend to be?

Two blocks and another turn later, Vida pulled into the underground parking structure for a residential high-rise. Once parked, she directed her sons in the excavation of their luggage from the back of her SUV.

"Geez, mom, did you have to pack ALL our clothes?" Toby grunted as he waddled awkwardly towards the elevator bank at the end of the parking structure, his slight curly-haired frame burdened with a backpack, a duffel bag slung across his chest, and a suitcase in each hand. Vida just grinned sardonically after her boys, watching as Sampson lived up to his name and shouldered an exponentially-sized similar burden without so much as batting an eye.

"Yes, sweetie, I pretty much had to; this way poor Clare can't call me up later and wonder how one of you arrived after a four-hour drive without any underwear. " Sam knew this last jibe was aimed at him; in the rush to make sure he was stocked up on all the newest music-chips and latest handheld platform games he wanted to show to Trip over the summer, he'd pretty much neglected to leave room in any of his bags for toiletries or underthings. After Vida'd inventoried their bags last night, she had spotted the oversight in a heartbeat, and had made him pack an extra duffel with the missing articles, citing that 'No son of hers was going commando for the sake of his electro-crack.'

A loooong elevator ride later, the trio entered the 24th floor with luggage in hand, and stumbled down the hall to apartment three. Vida took pity on her overburdened sons and rang the bell from behind Toby, wishing suddenly that she could just run back to her car and not have to face her two friends after all that had led to their strange lives. Even as the errant thought ran through her mind, the apartment door opened to reveal a wiry young man with crewcut fiery copper hair and sea blue eyes. While the trio in the hall took in his faded shredded blue jeans and blinding yellow tee-shirt with the phrase "Twinkies: the fifth food group", said eyes were taking stock of their abundance of luggage and sweaty brows. Then the thin teen grinned, and Trip Thorn, son of Charles and Clare, reached out and embraced Sampson Rocca, son of Charles Thorn and Vida Rocca. Born within hours of each other, the two boys had known the truth about their parents' mixed up lives since they could talk, and raised as brothers despite all the confusion, they'd been fast friends as long as they'd known each other.

The special bond, unfortunately, didn't extend to their two respective younger siblings. Arthur Thorn watched sullenly from the couch just inside the doorway, and upon sight of Toby Bly, scrambled up and ran to his room, slamming the door in his wake.

Clare Thorn came into the living room of her apartment just as her youngest son went streaming past her into the hallway. "Who's at the door, boys?" Upon sight of the foursome clustered in the hall, her whole face lit up. "Vida! Sam! Toby! You made it! And early, too! How did you escape all the traffic on the interchange? I know the traffic this time of day is just insane, and they're rebuilding that one on-ramp …"

Vida grinned and waited for Clare to stop rambling long enough to breathe. The flaxen-haired former apprentice sorceress would never change. "We started out early, that's how. And the navigator in my truck actually knew a couple of useful shortcuts. But hey, we didn't come all this way just to talk traffic reports. Come on, you three, let's get all these bags inside. You're not gonna be camping out in the hallway on the twenty-fourth floor." Shooing the boys ahead of her, Vida made her way into the Thorn's apartment. After a suitably awed look around the living room, she turned back to Clare. "Hey, is it just my imagination, or is this place bigger than your old house back in Briarwood?"

Clare's grin broadened. "Amazing, isn't it? And believe it or not, we're not paying any more for this than we were for that … what was it Maddie called it?"

The two women looked at each other and both answered at the same time: " The Money Pit!" They fell into each other's arms, laughing at the old joke together.

Sam and Trip were already busy digging through the pile of music chips Sam had brought with him, and looked up at the sound of the women's laughter. "Our moms are so weird," Sam muttered, shaking his shaggy bronze hair out of his eyes. Trip just grinned back.

"Hey, where do I put all my stuff?" Toby whined. Clare immediately zoomed over to him, her mothering instincts predisposed to look out for the youngest child present.

"Oh, honey, you're staying in A.J.'s room for the summer. Let's just get you settled in, alright?" Clare deftly steered him down the hallway while divesting him of the duffel from around his neck.

Coming up to the closed door, she knocked twice, then twice again. A low "G'way," was the only answer. Clare blew a wisp of hair out of her ice-blue eyes, counted to seven, and opened the door. Arthur was laying facedown on his bed.

"Come on, A.J., is that any way to behave around a guest? Or family?" Raised alone by her aunt Udonna, Clare was constantly amazed at the sibling bickering of her children and their cousins, and was always admonishing them to be thankful for the family they'd been gifted with.

At her gentle reprimand, her younger son sat up. Hopping down off his bed, he stalked forward, fairly seized Toby's hand in his, and gave it a perfunctory shake. "Welcome to my room; make yourself comfortable, Tobias." With an insincere grin at his mother, he stomped back to his bed and flung himself back into his original position. Clare just rolled her eyes at his theatrics.

"Just put your clothes in the tan dresser in the corner, Toby, and come on into the kitchen when you're finished. A.J., why don't you come help me make lunch?" She added, and whirled out of the room.

Arthur pushed himself up on his elbows, sighed "Fine," and threw himself out the door after her without giving Toby a second glance.

Toby was halfway through emptying his second suitcase when what he'd seen sank in. Rushing out to the living room, where his older brothers were sitting on Sam's suitcases and busily duking it out with a pair of wi-fi games, he stopped dead between them, disrupting the signal to the two handhelds.

"HEY!" Sam erupted.

"Ah c'MON, squirt, Sam's owed me a rematch since Christmas!" Trip added.

"SAM! Did you see ARTHUR!" Toby belted out. This outburst got their attention, at least. Sam looked towards the kitchen door, where their moms had disappeared to kibitz and cook, and where the young man in question had followed in a sullen huff.

"Now that you mention it …" Sam began, looking around at Trip. "Something was different, but what?"

Toby leaned in to his brother, as if imparting one of the Great Secrets of the Universe, and stage-whispered: "He's THIN."

Sam leaned back, glancing towards the kitchen again, his brow furrowed in the effort to recall his brief glimpse-in-passing of Arthur. "God, how did I miss that. You're absolutely right, shortstuff. So what happened?" he asked Trip, waving a hand in the direction of the boy in question.

Trip's grin was totally self-gratified. "Well, you know how he was always teased back in Briarwood, right?" At the other two's eager nods, he continued. "Well, we got here just in time for all the Halloween parties, and A.J. was getting called 'Pumpkin-boy' and 'Pillsbury' and … well he kinda lost his top about it, and made mom do something about his weight. He's been slimming up ever since, and you've seen the results. Good for him, huh?"

"So why are you guys all calling him A.J.?" Toby inquired. Trip's smile just widened.

"That's even simpler. Seems there's three Arthurs in his class, and the other two were already going by name with a last initial; Arthur C. and Arthur T. Since another Arthur T. was just leading back to the same problem, my bro decided to be called A.J. End of story. Oh, except for the part where he asked us to start calling him that, too."

The conversation of the two mothers in the kitchen had taken a similar turn, at least once Vida's awe of the room itself had ebbed slightly. The entire room gleamed in chrome-on-white, and included nearly every conceivable state-of-the-art appliance. Clare had lost count of the times Vida had said "God, I so want your kitchen."

"Honestly, V, it wasn't that hard. After trying out like four and a half diets, I checked out this old bottle of pills Chip had in the medicine cabinet from after he'd gotten shot in the leg. You remember that, right?"

"Yeah, straight out of the academy, and after a year of knightly training under Daggeron, AFTER serving as a Ranger, and he gets himself clipped in the leg by a fellow rookie in the practice range." Vida shook her head. "Only Chip, huh? But what's that got to do with the lean, mean, new and improved half-pint here?" she asked while ruffling A.J.'s hair. The soon-to-be-10-year-old just squirreled out of reach while continuing to stack the sandwich halves his mom handed him onto the ginormous serving tray Great Aunt Udonna had gives his parents as a wedding present.

"Well, remember that he sat around the whole first two weeks after his surgery just scarfing pizza rolls and playing online fantasy games all hours? He actually developed a paunch doing nothing, and bought this wonky off-the-shelf stuff called 'Flush the Fat'. It worked, but the things it did to his intestines I won't bother to describe. But anyway, I found the old bottle after we'd moved here, and knew the stuff worked, but that it could also be improved, so I used an old potionbreaker spell on one of the pills after I ground it up, and made a BETTER version out of all-natural parts!" Clare's triumphant grin was slightly dampened by the wary glance Vida aimed at her son, who was patently ignoring the 'gossiping girls' to the best of his short attention span, even though he knew he was the topic under discussion. "Oh, come on. Vida, you can't possibly still be trying to ignore your magic? Or hide it? Everyone knew who we were afterwards; keeping it from our kids was never gonna happen! You realize that, right?"

Vida just sighed. "Alright, I have to 'fess up to somebody, anyway, but, the magic just doesn't come when called anymore, OK? It's like, when we were done being Rangers, it knew I didn't need to be 'the Embodiment of Air' anymore, or something. I really haven't even tried any magic in a long while, now. And the boys? Well, my two, anyway. They think all those stories of us as Rangers are just that. Stories. Go fig, huh? Here I am, playing out the greatest battle of my life trying to raise two kids so they don't eventually become monsters, and the little devils don't even believe their very hip mother was ever cool enough to actually BE a superhero." Her grin belied the sob story, but Clare saw through to the baser problem even as she was listening to Vida's rant.

"'If you don't use it, you lose it,'" she intoned in a beautiful impression of Udonna's old-world accent. "Vida, that's it! You've just got to shake the cobwebs loose and work a spell or two every once in a while. You know, get back into practice! Try it out over the next couple weeks, while I handle our Testosterone Collective, eh V?" Her grin was infectious, and Vida couldn't help but see the logic behind the suggestion. Her hand suddenly itched with the desire to grasp her old Magistaff, and remembering that she'd brought it in the glove compartment just in case of a true emergency while on the road brought back the memory of the ride through Heatherfield, and the odd flutter she'd felt while passing the Sheffield Institute.

"Hey, speaking of magic, have you ever noticed anything odd about Trip's new school? We passed it on the way here, and it seemed to give off this vibe, like the site of the Gate used to after you resealed it, but we could still feel that something was there, you know?" The totally unexpected question caught Clare off guard for a moment, but she rallied quickly.

"Goddess, V, then it's not just me after all? That place gave me such a case of the shakes when I took Trip up to enroll, that I make Chip go to all the parent-teacher stuff. And HE never notices anything while he's there, which is even MORE maddening! Hey!" The sudden gleam in her blue eyes caused the hair on the back of Vida's neck to try to grow back inside to hide, and the former Ranger knew, just KNEW, that she was not gonna like the next thing to come out of Clare's mouth. "Hey, A.J., honey, why don't you take all that out to the others for us, hmmm? Your aunt V and I'll be out in a minute with the drinks, OK?"

A.J. had gotten so bored with their conversation, that he'd taken the last few sandwiches on top and built them into a castle. Now he very carefully stood and slid the tray off the countertop, and slow-marched his way to the door, all the while carefully balancing his creation. When he reached the door, he spent a few agonizing seconds trying to figure out how to open it without ending up wearing the sandwiches, and finally sent a beseeching look back over his shoulder at his mother. Clare simply melted looking at him, while Vida fought back her laughter so hard her eyes started tearing up. "Of course, baby, just let me … " Clare suddenly looked at Vida instead. Fishing her wand out of her pocket, she thrust it handle-first across the counter. "As good a time as any, V."

Vida Bly gasped, gulped, and hesitantly took the wand from her old friend. The faint stir of wind through her hair told her that yes the magic very well DID remember her, and that it had missed her terribly, as she suddenly realized she missed it, with all her heart. Standing slowly, she turned with firm resolve to the problem of the closed door. Waving poor sweating A.J. to step back a little just in case, she waited until he'd taken three careful steps the other way, squinted her eyes squarely at the door, and after carefully visualizing exactly what she wanted the door to do, she whirled the wand at it.

Crafted for Clare as a journeywoman's instrument by Udonna from the Ironwood of Rootcore itself and inlaid with scale-shards from Fireheart, the dragon the Rangers had raised from a hatchling, the faithful instrument knew what was commanded of it and performed the task admirably. Clare's kitchen door gave an almighty creak, and spun out to a perfect 90 degrees with a loud CRACK! Clare's jaw dropped, and A.J. scurried out the door without a backwards glance, not caring anymore that the speed of his passage tumbled his sandwich castle. A single wedge fell off the tray altogether, plopping into the great silence of the kitchen like the blast of an atomic bomb. Two teenage boy's heads poked around the doorjamb, one tousle-haired, one crewcut. The brothers exchanged awed looks with each other, then locked eyes with their respective mothers. Clare just pointed numbly at Vida, who stood frozen in shock, her wand-arm still raised toward the doorway.

"Mom?" Sam gulped. "What'd you do?" Trip, long since used to magic itself with his sorceress mother, had taken to examining the doorjamb. Vida's mistake was a simple one, but profound in its revelations. When she'd visualized the door opening, she had quite horribly forgotten which side the hinges were on, and the great outrush of long-pent-up power she'd unleashed had basically separated door from frame from hinges, the end result being two completely twisted sets of hardware, one dangling from the lower frame and the other stubbornly hanging on the door by one screw. The door itself, strangely enough, was perfectly fine, suspended upright on the wrong side of the doorway by nothing so much as the air itself. Trip conferred this quietly to Sam, who confirmed it with his outstretched hand.

Initially meeting the resistance of what felt like a wind-tunnel-effect just before the surface of the door, Sam gulped and pushed through the airstream to the door itself. Suddenly, the flowing air that had been holding the door upright started swirling around him instead, and he found himself engulfed in a micro-tornado. He vaguely realized his mother and brothers were all crying out to him, but all he could really pay attention to was the air flowing up, down, around, and seemingly through him in a glorious cascade of sensation.

Just then, the poor innocent door, no longer supported by the wind that was now too involved with its new playmate, promptly fell on his head.