Behold, Xiaolin Showdown fandom! Lael Adair has invaded!
I've wanted to write at least one complete Jack Spicer fic ever since I first saw the show and it's great to finally be here. What follows is the brainchild of about a half-dozen ideas scattered across tons of writing notes and more than one rough draft attempt. Big thanks goes out to my beta-reader Senri for helping to iron out the kinks in this. Beyond that, I hope you enjoy! Please feel free to review and/or contact me with any thoughts. I welcome them all.
Disclaimer: Xiaolin Showdown is not mine. Also, the Sweet Baby Among Us wu is CREEPY! That is all.
-------------------- Potential --------------------
By: Lael Adair
"One cannot escape oneself. That is fate. The only possibility is to look on and forget that a game is being played with us."
- Franz Kafka
It was the perfect night for an execution.
The world was dark—the true face of the thrumming soul resting beneath the fragile surface of Man. Wuya had waited all day to get out of Chase Young's fortress and the damp corridors that smelled of stagnant water and cat hair. Her first days in mortal form had been spent conducting errands at the side of the one she now owed her freedom, but Chase couldn't watch her all the time. Wuya had a mind of her own and, when she wanted something, one way or another she got it.
The grass cushioned her bare feet against the ground, the subtle pitter patter of toes alighting on slender blades the only trace of her passing. The sensation of the wind whipping against her body was one she had not experienced in several thousand years. The brief amount of time Raimundo's betrayal had allowed her to walk in human form was not nearly long enough. Though still denied the ecstasy of reveling in her full powers, the hole within her being was, at the moment, satisfied with the simple smell of grass and earth. With arms trailed behind her, black sleeves snapping against her wrists, she could almost imagine she was soaring; far below her Kingdom stretched, endless, across the resting countryside from so many centuries ago. The air had smelled different then. It was an odor of fear, humility—a time when Man knew his place in the shadow of a god.
Jack Spicer's house emerged as a dark spot in the distance far before she ever discerned its details through the night. A curl distorted her lips as she cleared the outer fence in a single leap and landed, crouched, on the other side. She hated this place, almost as much as she hated the people within, but this would be the last time she'd ever visit here.
After tonight, there would be a new ghost to haunt it.
Wuya growled as she floated through Jack Spicer's basement garage looking for the self-titled 'evil boy genius.' For a room so small it never ceased to amaze her how easily Jack could disappear in it. There were many times when, had it not been for the odd expletive or the random crackle of electricity, he could have remained undetected for days in the midst of this junk pile he called an evil lair.
A deep thrum echoing off the walls sent a ripple through her wispy form. Had she a good, solid pair of hands she would have raised them to her head to try and stifle the pain rattling between her temples. It seemed unfair she should have no body, yet still be able to suffer the annoyance of headaches, especially given Spicer's obnoxious tastes in music. Unfortunately, the child had discovered all too soon how easily he could avoid her with a few clicks of the volume dial.
"There you are!" she spat, raising herself in the air where Jack was kneeling upon a makeshift catwalk, electric paint sprayer in hand. She closed her eyes as she passed through the silver mist spewing from the nozzle of the device but it was only from habit—the particles remained undisturbed. Her reflection glared back at her from the yellow lenses of the goggles Jack wore for protection.
"Beat it, Wuya!" he snapped. The distraction did nothing to falter the smooth back-and-forth rhythm of his arm. "I'm busy. Go find some invisible hole to crawl around in for a while."
Tiny ghost fists clenched as Wuya's body trembled in so much rage it was barely able to hold its shape. Pulling back in the air, she propelled herself forward through Jack's head and wrenched a few memories and thoughts as she passed, shocking him enough to nearly drop the paint sprayer. He snapped to his feet once she emerged into the open and jammed a finger through her chest. The goggles allowed for poor depth perception.
"I told you to stop doing that!" The glasses flicked up to reveal a pair of red eyes beneath. "It's creepy!"
"You're lucky I'm a ghost or I'd have you writhing in agony right now!"
Jack turned and unplugged the sprayer with his foot, kicking up the end of the cord so it bullwhipped through her head. Waving her away, he planted a hand on the platform and leapt to the ground at the base of his newest creation: a forty-foot tall bipedal robot that could condense into the size of a compact car.
Wuya bared transparent teeth at the back of this child she was forced to work with. On the whole she did not have a problem with humans. At best they were useful puppets; at worst they were petty annoyances. It could even be said in her own strange, evil way she liked them on a level. She held no desire to destroy the world, merely to rule it, and she was perfectly happy overlooking the humans and their amusing natures as long as they kept to their place.
When she finally came to dominate Earth, however, she had already decided Jack Spicer would be one of the first to go, and not just because he was annoying, either. In truth, he was too comfortable around her. The consequence of relying upon a human to assist in the quest for world domination had not struck Wuya at the time she was released from the puzzle box, but she was beginning to see the damage this...fraternizing...was doing.
To most she was as feared as Death itself. In the time of old when she had walked the Earth in full Heylin form, entire cities surrendered when the mere whisper of her name drifted their way. No humans lived that did not know the depths of her power, and did not understand their place in its shadow. People regarded her with fear simply because Wuya was fear. Resistance was unthinkable, rebellion impossible. Her reputation had always preceded her.
But within Jack Spicer, there was no fear. There was plenty of fear in him, including that of spiders and moldy, mysterious boxes at the back of the refrigerator, yet none of it tendered in Wuya's direction. From the day they'd met she was a laughable threat—her orders optional, her wrath inconsequential. Objectives were accomplished not through force, but dealing and cajoling in an attempt to bend the rules of the game away from Jack's terms. It was a dangerous position to be in. Though hard to believe at first glance, Jack Spicer had a remarkable knack for observation and a keen memory—keen enough to recall all the chinks in a Heylin witch's chain should he ever need the information. In his naïve state at the moment it was doubtful he was filing anything away intentionally. But Wuya had seen inside his mind. She knew what he noticed and what he didn't. He would not forget many of the things he was learning about her now, when she was forced to rely on his help. To Jack she was familiar, she was an equal, and none of that would change when she conquered the world.
In short, she was breeding her own defector.
Wuya extended to her full height in wake of the memory, feeling the muscles uncoiling in her legs with renewed satisfaction. Now flesh and bone, sinew and muscle, she picked her way across the Spicers' front yard towards the side of the house. Her eyes were well-adapted to functioning in darkness, but she didn't need the talent to find the window she sought.
The lights in the basement were on—Jack was awake.
Getting inside was more difficult now that she had a body to contend with. Doors were locked and windows were small, but the layout of the mansion was well-cemented in her mind. Through some creative problem-solving she found a way into the garage and entered the basement—Jack's "workshop"—at the far end of the room opposite the stairs leading up into the rest of the house. As always, her surroundings lay cluttered with half-built machines and tools big enough to serve as furniture. It was difficult to appreciate the perpetual creative mess Jack lived in until one had to pick a path through it.
The hum of a nearby refrigerator served to mask her movements as she prowled through the metal debris waiting to be displaced with an accidental nudge or kick. The caution turned out to be unnecessary. As she rounded a corner she saw Jack slumped over one of his computers, pencil still in hand and frozen mid-stroke amidst a formula taking up seven lines on a tattered piece of notebook paper. She 'humphed' as she approached from the side
The stupid boy never learned.
Reaching back a leg, she kicked the chair out from under him and attacked before he could regain his senses. He was pulled into a standing position and secured by a fist gripping the fabric of his black coat towards the neck. The panic faded from his eyes once he registered who held him.
"Wuya! What are you doing here?"
"You're getting sloppy, Jack. I didn't encounter a single robot on my way in."
"They're offline. I'm upgrading the fleet."
"Why don't you upgrade half at a time, that way you still have half the fleet at your disposal?"
He opened his mouth to snap some retort, then closed it. "You know, I'm never going to get used to seeing you with a body." His gaze trailed down but he received a solid slap to the face for his curiosity.
"Keep your eyes off of me, you disgusting worm!"
"Yeah, well, it's a little hard when you're standing so close!" He struggled, raising a hand to push on her forearm. "Let me go! And might I recommend a shower now that you're back in the world of the living? You smell like wet cat."
"Quiet!"—in a blur of motion he was peeled off the computer console and slammed into a nearby wall. His head hit the cement with a dull thwack—"I want to enjoy this."
"Ow! Not so rough! And use your inside voice! My parents are—wait...enjoy what?"
Wuya clenched her free fist. "You have defied me more than any other creature that has been allowed to live. And now that I am finally able...I'm going to do something about it."
"You know what your problem is? You collect emotional baggage. You need to just let that stuff go."
She reached back her arm.
"Wait, don't hit me! C'mon...it's Jack! I'm the guy that let you out, remember? There's gotta be some brownie points in there for—not the face!"
Her hand came down, but only to join the other one at Jack's neck and give him a rough shake.
"I'm not a genie!"
"I'll say...I didn't even get a wish..."
"Besides, Katnappe was the one that let me out. You helped seal me back in that accursed box!"
"What was I supposed to do? You destroyed my workshop! And you would have killed me, too, along with the rest of those Xiaolin losers if I hadn't helped save my own neck! Why don't you go beat some retribution out of Raimundo? He's the one that's really responsible for all of this—I'll help you!"
"Stop trying to change the subject! At least die with more dignity than when you lived!"
A sudden voice from the stairs caused both to draw breath, though for different reasons. Wuya glared at Spicer before he could cry out.
"Think carefully on what you say next," she hissed.
His eyes never left her as he called back to his mother. "Yeah?"
"You okay, sweetie?"
"Uh, fine. The music was just a little loud. I'll turn it down."
"All right...don't stay up too late."
"I said I'm fine, Mom! I don't need the lecture!"
There was no reply from the stairs—merely a pause, then the sound of the door closing in its frame. Jack continued to stare at Wuya as the footsteps receded from the floor above.
"Why didn't you just magic her off?"
"If you want to hear her scream—"
"Don't you have boulders you can conjure or something? Last time you were barely solid for two seconds before some creepy castle sprouted up from the—" He stopped. A sudden grin passed across his face. "No way...it's Chase! He only gave you a body, didn't he!"
And that time, she did hit him.
It was directly in the gut, with a blow that could have easily broken Jack's spine through his stomach if she'd wanted it to. She released him from her grip so he could fall to his knees on the floor. There he coughed violently, back arching, one arm clutched around his stomach. She could have continued her assault—there was nothing Jack did or could do to stop her—but instead she stood and watched.
Somehow that wasn't as satisfying as she'd been expecting.
Jack didn't take long to recover. As a whole he was a simpering coward, but when caught in the moment he could be surprisingly dauntless.
"What was that for?" he choked.
"For calling me obsolete."
He snarled and looked up at her. "If you're going to hit me for everything I got away with when you didn't have arms we're going to be here a long time!"
She began to move forward.
"Ah! I was joking! JOKING!" He scrambled back into a sitting position but was stopped by the wall.
"I should kill you, you know," Wuya muttered.
Jack paled, which was saying a lot given his naturally pale skin. He rested his hands at his sides. "But...?"
She glared at him. Had he even entertained the notion she was capable of such a thing? "It's Chase Young!" she flared, hands sailing over her head. "He won't let me do anything! He holds me prisoner like one of his cats and won't help me get any Shen Gong Wu!"
"You and those Wu...did you ever think about just dropping the whole Wu thing? There have got to be other, better ways to rule the world, and you are not doing well at collecting them all, sister."
"It's because I rely on imbeciles like you!"
"Yeah, well, now you have a body! So go get them yourself! Waltz right over to the Xiaolin Temple and let me know how it goes! Not so easy, is it? Besides..." Jack stood to his feet and brushed past her, heading for the bathroom, "What did those stupid trinkets ever do for anyone, anyway?"
Wuya followed him but stopped herself before she accidentally stepped through the door. She was so accustomed to floating around as a ghost in this house it was difficult to get out of the mindset.
As for holding a conversation across the bathroom threshold, neither participant batted an eye. After haunting this place twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for the past year or so Wuya had become an intrusive bystander in Jack Spicer's life. She'd floated in on him naked no less than three separate times—all by regrettable accident, of course. She'd rummaged through his thoughts, sifted through his dreams, and listened to his ramblings when he was numb to the world working on his robots. After that, there wasn't much modesty left to exist. She didn't enjoy Jack's company by any sense of the word, but there still was some semblance of a relationship between them. It was a mutual indifference—an extreme comfort to the point of ignorance towards the presence of the other when they were in the same room. In the end, it was all just business.
"They certainly didn't help you out!" Jack called.
"You mean they didn't help you out. And that's because you're a fool with no respect for magic!"
He growled. "It's not 'magic'! It's just a convoluted interpretation of the laws of physics and energy, except physics and energy aren't so chaotic."
"With chaos comes power."
The toilet flushed and the sink ran as Jack washed his hands. Wuya had managed to goad him into adopting that one habit, at least. The door swung open.
"No, with chaos comes chaos. There's no control! The only thing those Wu are good for is causing mayhem and damage, and the more I see of it the less impressed I get."
They'd had this debate many times, usually while waiting for the next Wu to appear, but Jack's last uttered thought was a new piece to the routine. Wuya had always known he was largely apathetic when it came to the Shen Gong Wu...but to completely deny their power?
She tilted her head. "You have something on the table."
The 'table' was the term Jack used for ideas at the forefront of his attention, often grandiose in either significance or complexity. The Detectobot for locating the Shen Gong Wu was a prime example of a 'table' project. Before he was able to build the device, Jack had embarked on a difficult mission to unravel the mechanics that made magic work. Apparently he'd found a common link between science and sorcery that allowed him to manipulate one with the other. He'd never shared the secret with Wuya—not that she would have been able to understand it—but the idea of Jack holding any insight as to the source of her powers made her uneasy.
He stared at her now with a stubborn defiance, his fear suddenly forgotten. The project must have been large for him to leap so quickly to defend it.
There were no more smiles as Wuya raised her arm and conjured a ball of poison-green fire in her palm. "Jack..." she cooed, fingers turning within the flames, "what are you up to?"
"Put that out."
Her eyes narrowed. Flattening her hand, she bid the air swirling around the spell to expand outward.
"I mean it! You're gonna break something!"
In a blur of motion she grabbed for his wrist. Jack squealed and withdrew and, for a moment of time, she forgot herself...forgot to watch him.
She didn't see him reach for the workbench at his back, only his palm as it snapped towards her own and snuffed her fireball out of existence with a loud POP! The sudden change in light was enough to hide her surprise, but the shock was too abrupt to quash. She grabbed for him and pulled him close, fangs bared into his face.
"How did you do that!"
If shrinking away was an option Jack would have withered into the floor. He stared at her wide-eyed and uncomprehending, always so aghast at the punishments his actions earned him.
There was something curled in the fingers of his right hand. She grabbed for it, wrenched it free.
It was a bar of black metal, nothing more.
"It's just a magnet," Jack said at length. Wuya must have gaped at him to earn the smirk she soon received. "Apparently this 'magic' stuff isn't as all-powerful as you guys seem to think."
And there it was—the one element of Jack Spicer dangerous enough, yet so inconstant, it justified treating him with at least a footnote of caution.
Wuya had never liked to examine the feeling thoroughly, but something about the boy had always put her on edge. It was rare. In the time she'd spent with him she'd experienced it on no more than three or four occasions. But the feeling was too strong to dismiss as mere coincident or overreaction.
It was generally agreed among the Heylin players that Spicer would never achieve his ambitions on his own. He was too affectionate for that kind of evil. True his affection was all tendered towards his machines, but it was affection nonetheless. And anyone who watched him working with his devices—watched the care he put into constructing them, improving them, into the physical and emotional effort it took to rebuild them defeat after defeat after defeat—could tell there was a lot of it. He lacked the fortitude, the will, the sheer nastiness of character to build an evil empire on the blood of others. But seizing control of an empire already in place?
That type of villainy was right up Spicer's alley.
The fact remained he was too unpredictable. Chase Young had already been bitten for taking Spicer too lightly. And, when backed into a corner or otherwise motivated, Jack Spicer could bite. His status quo incompetence, however, usually dismissed any caution one might be tempted to harbor against such potential, but Wuya was one of the few who knew better.
"Jack," she said suddenly, "hold still."
He wasn't given enough time to respond. A cage of slender fingers was soon wrapped around his throat, another falling upon the side of his head at the temple. The powers transferring from Wuya's body into that of a mere mortal were enough to throw Jack's head back on his shoulders, his eyes fading completely into white. His body went stiff beneath her hold.
He was hers for as long as she saw fit.
The word 'witch' in human language can be traced to its origins around 500 A.D. In those times the world was a place of mysticism and sorcery that is often disregarded, despite existing in recorded form, by modern scholars as creative folklore. The fear most abundant in that age of Man was a great evil referred to by name as Twu-cia-eh, literally translated to mean 'The power of many.' As the name passed from mouth to terrified mouth the rounded vowels became slurred together, leaving the harder consonants to become lost in between. Twu-cia-eh morphed into twuiah until the 't' sound holding the place of 'the' by modern standards was dropped from the title. Hence it was the humans that gave Wuya her mortal name. A later evolution of the same phrase eventually morphed into 'witch,' creating the title given all females practicing in the supernatural arts.
The term 'witch,' however, does not mean in modern times what it meant in the days Wuya walked the Earth. Though it did describe an ability to manipulate forces using magic spells and incantations, it also encompassed the possession of a variety of seer-like senses, such as clairvoyance. It was these talents that allowed Wuya to detect the presence of Shen Gong Wu even when trapped in ghost form. To a small extent, it also granted her the ability to peer into the minds of mortals and determine certain aspects of an individual's future.
It was not an exact science, and one she had not been able to practice in the centuries she'd gone without a body. Above everything else the future was an uncertainty—to claim to be able to predict it was to make a claim firmly in the realm of impossibility. Choices made every day decided which paths were created and which were destroyed, and Wuya was unable to determine which of these paths an individual would ultimately choose, but she could call to light a glimpse into each of the possibilities.
There were many Potentials lurking in Jack Spicer's future, far more than expected. His motivation was subject to whim, his tenacity parlous yet unpredictable. One future saw him dead before he was twenty-three, two more showed him with a family and job, a fourth marked him as CEO of a major computer company...and a fifth revealed him to be ruler of the world.
At sight of the last one Wuya stopped and attempted to draw it further into light. It was a dark, industrial place of blackened skies and cold existence. Mechanical titans patrolled the landscape stomping out contention beneath gleaming gold feet. Upon attack they split and rejoined, too powerful to be defeated even by magical means. Enemies were humbled, a good portion of the human race served as slaves, those that Spicer didn't like were killed. But the more she attempted to hold onto the vision the more it wavered, until finally it slipped through her fingers and disappeared.
She withdrew her thoughts for a moment, eyeing the child frozen helpless before her. Was it possible a tyrant sat lurking behind this gangly, hopeless fool? If so, was it strong? Did it simply need time to develop to fruition? Or was it a factor buried so deep in probability nothing short of a cataclysmic accident would bring it to light? Most importantly, if such factors were to align in just the right way...was Jack Spicer a threat?
She released her hold both physical and magical, allowing the boy to collapse to the floor in a near-gelatinous heap. As she worked out a kink in the fingers of her right hand she noted a series of muscle spasms arching across his shoulders—she'd held him for a bit too long.
Jack had never liked magic. The comfort he displayed when handling the Shen Gong Wu was partly learned and partly faked. He had a mechanical mind; he liked things he could see and touch and, most of all, explain. When he regained enough wit to focus on her again there was a marked impression of fear in his eyes.
Fingers lifted to his throat where Wuya's hand had once been, but not to examine the damage. He was examining the purpose, trying to figure out what she was really after.
Not exactly smart, not exactly stupid.
"What did you do?"
The question was grim. Wuya chose to ignore it. Jack's imagination was far more inventive than she could ever be.
"You know...on second thought I think I'm going to take a rain check on this little matter of business. There are some things I want to see, first." She leaned down, one hand reaching to cup his chin though he shrank from her grasp. "I'll be coming to you later," she said. Her voice lowered. "Don't go anywhere."
Chase Young was waiting for her in the lobby of the citadel. He stood in his favorite spot atop the grandiose staircase, a tiger at his side.
"And where have you been?"
Wuya flashed him her best smile, making sure to add a few extra slinks to her hips as she walked. "Oh, nowhere," she said. "Just checking up on Jack."
I just love the Jack/Wuya dynamic...
That's all I got! Hope you had fun! If there's something you liked, something you hated, or something you just plain want to rant about, don't be shy about writing up a review. I'm all about the feedback.