Title: A Learning Experience

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Rating: K+

Summary: Sorcerer's Apprentice. This sorcery thing was more complicated than Becky had initially thought. 1500 words.

Disclaimer: The words are mine; the world is Disney's.

Spoilers: The Sorcerer's Apprentice (2010)

Notes: 4th in my post-movie sequence. Touching on a few more issues that concerned me, and indulging in a bit of wishful thinking.

Becky watched with a critical eye as the older woman stepped out of the dressing room, smoothing careful fingers over unfamiliar fabrics. They'd been at it a couple of hours, with Becky suggesting styles and Veronica stating her preference in colors and cut and trim; the sorceress seemed to prefer jewel tones and icy pastels, though she wasn't as hyper about modesty as Becky would have assumed.

Well, what she knew about day-to-day life in the Dark Ages could fit into a coffee cup, just as Veronica was pretty much at sea for the details of modern living, so their shopping expedition had turned into a learning experience for them both. Balthazar may have filled his girlfriend in on the broad historical changes, but little things like bras and underwear and feminine hygiene products? Yeah, not so much.

She smiled and clapped her hands together as Veronica presented herself for inspection. "Perfect," she said. "I really like the collar on that one; it shows off your necklace."

Veronica laid a hand over the antique bauble Balthazar had saved for her and smiled; it lit up her face and made her look years younger. Not that she looked anything like her actual age regardless, but the things she'd been through- even just the things Becky knew about- were enough to give anyone nightmares.

"I had hoped; but I truly did not expect him to wait so long," she said.

"That's because you love him," Becky replied. They were so stuck on each other; it was absolutely adorable. "And he waited because he loves you."

Not to mention, a certain level of fixation seemed common in her small sample of Merlinian sorcerers. Who would have predicted Dave picking up a paper beneath her chair in Physics 101 and recognizing her immediately despite the ten years that had passed since their last meeting? Well- immediately after checking out her legs, anyway. He might be a geek, a sorcerer, and all in all the strangest boyfriend she'd ever had, but there was something almost unbearably steady about him. Becky couldn't help but be drawn to it, and his mentor had something of the same quality.

It was kind of reassuring, actually. It was pretty clear Dave wasn't ever going to dump her, not voluntarily, no matter what happened. That might be a problem if her feelings ever changed, but somehow, she didn't think they were going to. Unless it was to grow stronger. She wasn't sure why she was so certain of that; but she was, and watching the older couple make eyes at each other just made the future seem brighter.

"Balthazar," Veronica said reminiscently, still touching the necklace. "He was such an awkward little boy when I met him; but even then he could not take his eyes off me. I led him a merry chase first, of course; it was not easy, being a female sorcerer in those days."

"Of course," Becky replied. She couldn't quite picture Balthazar as anything less than the intense, layered guy she'd met, slinging casual displays of power and acerbic wit around, but it was easy enough to imagine herself and Dave in their places. The only thing lacking was- something she'd lived her entire life without, and had no right to be jealous of. "How did you find out you could do magic? Dave says Balthazar just handed him the dragon ring, but that can't be how you usually go about it."

Veronica opened her mouth to answer, then frowned pensively, examining the tag dangling from one sleeve. "Perhaps we should conclude our business here before we discuss more delicate issues?" she said.

Becky blinked, then glanced over at the nearest check-out stand on that level of the department store. Yeah, the can-I-help-you person there was starting to give them concerned looks. "Sure," she said. "Bring out the ones you decided to keep; you can probably leave that outfit on if you want, just make sure you hand the tags to the cashier so they don't think we're shoplifting. We can get lunch in the food court."

Veronica processed that a moment, then nodded in comprehension and went back into the changing rooms. She understood modern English much better than Becky had expected, too. Becky knew a little about linguistic theory from some of her social studies classes; the language that would grow into the dominant form of Old English, warp into Anglo-Norman after waves of Viking and French invaders, become Middle English, then mug several other languages for vocabulary along the way, was still just a West Saxon dialect in Veronica's time- spoken in a relatively small area of Britain that she may not have even lived in. It was one of many things Becky had been curious about, but hadn't yet asked.

Maybe she'd get a few of those answers, today. She fished Balthazar's credit card out of her wallet- he'd been declared dead sometime in the last ten years, but he'd had several bank accounts under alternate names, too- and piled her own small selection of purchases in her arms. She'd warned him he couldn't ask her to go clothes shopping and not get anything for herself; he'd laughed and told her that was only to be expected, so she'd decided to take him at his word.

Dave had looked a little more worried. Then again, Balthazar had been planning to drag him off to interview the surviving Morganian apprentice while 'the girls' were busy. Becky hadn't met the man, but after Abigail Williams and Balthazar's rival Horvath, the idea gave her the shivers. She'd have something to say to Balthazar if Dave didn't come back in the exact same condition she'd left him.

She voiced her concern to Veronica as she paid for the clothes, distracted from the earlier topic of conversation. "What do you think about this thing with Horvath's apprentice?"

"The entertainer?" Veronica smiled wryly and shook her head as she and Becky took their bags from the cashier and walked out of the store. "The chief trait of those history calls the Morganians has always been their refusal to follow any cause but their own. The enslavement and deaths of others are nothing to them but a means to further power. This boy- Balthazar said he seemed reluctant to kill; and he has spent the last several years pleasing others, even if it was for his own profit. That is not common among those who follow the heterodox ways Morgana championed."

Becky frowned a little at Veronica's choice of terminology. She hadn't said evil, and she seemed not to like the term Morganian as a descriptor; maybe because it identified the entire counter-Merlinian branch of sorcery with feminine imagery? She had mentioned earlier, too, that life as a female sorcerer hadn't been easy. How many of them had there been over the years? Maybe more to the point: how many had chosen to support the male dominated status quo rather than follow one of the few strong female role models available to them?

She bit her lip. This sorcery thing was more complicated than she'd initially thought when she'd offered to help Dave stop a resurrected sorceress from destroying the world. No wonder the struggle had gone on for so many centuries; it wasn't as simple as light versus dark. "So what cause do Merlinians follow, if the other side doesn't have one?" she had to ask.

Veronica gave her an approving look. "Merlin always said 'we were but servants'; but to what- that is what each of us must discover for ourselves. Love is part of it; belief in a force greater than ourselves; commitment to constructive forces rather than destructive. Merlin showed us the way; but Balthazar and I helped each other to learn why. I only wish it had not come at the expense of Horvath's friendship."

Becky shivered. Weighty subjects, for a music undergrad at NYU. Veronica's speech reminded her a little of Sunday mornings spent in church as a girl, thumbing through the pages of an illustrated Bible while the preacher droned on. It wasn't the kind of thing people usually talked about outside that kind of setting. It made sense, though; in the words of a more modern generation, with great power comes great responsibility. Magic without a moral structure was a scary prospect even in the abstract, never mind what she'd witnessed in person.

"He made his own choices, though," she replied. "It wasn't your fault he treated you like a prize to be won."

Veronica smiled at her as they entered the food court. Then she set down her bags at an empty table and reached out a hand toward Becky.

Becky blinked at the gesture, then set down her own bags and reciprocated the gesture.

"You asked how we knew we were gifted," Veronica told her. Then she closed her eyes.

A faint wash of tingling energy spread up Becky's arm, leaving a sense of wonder in its wake.