Dawn: "This is blood, isn't it? It can't be me. I'm not a key. I'm not a thing."
Joyce: "Oh, sweetie, no. Wha-what is this all about?"
Dawn: "What am I? Am I real? Am I anything?"
- Blood Ties, Season 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Silence echoed through out the library in Cardiff University. A musty, old-book smell wafted through Dawn Summers' nose.
"ACHOO!!" rubbing her nose, Dawn sighed.
Why was she here again? Oh yeah, the book that The Council needed might be in this hellhole, at least that's what 'they' were told from an anonymous source.
Seeing this as a perfect opportunity for her to help out without slaying, because for some reason Buffy was wigging out on her about patrol, Dawn volunteered. It was only to go and find a book, Dawn argued, nothing for her to get in trouble with. Go in; get the book if it was there and come back home.
Dawn continued to shift through the database on the computer, stopping every once in a while to double check the title to see if it was the right book.
Many hours later on, moonlight filtered through the windows.
Dawn had to shoo away the annoying librarian who tried to make her leave, saying it was time for them to close. She had silenced the librarian with a look and a flash of a card stating she had permission to be here as long as necessary.
Eyes widened, a curve of a smile appeared on Dawn's face. "Ah-ha!"
Getting up from her chair and cracking her back, Dawn allowed herself a small victory dance at finding the book she needed.
Hitting the 'Print' button, a sheet of paper was ejected out of the printer, listed with the necessary information.
Eyes danced across the page.
Dawn grabbed her purse as she headed for the stairs. "Of course, it's in the basement. Empty library, important book downstairs, let's have the monster of the week pop out somewhere and disembowel me while we're at it."
Checking to make sure she had the necessary weapons, she headed down the four flights of stairs to the basement. Dawn paused as she took in the state of the room. "Great, I'm in the rejected set of The Ghostbusters."
Books were piled high in stacks on the floor, the old card catalogue system had shelves pulled out, cards were strewn about, and an old mildew smell was coming from somewhere.
The light bulbs blinked on and off ominously as Dawn made her way through the stacks. 301.456, 301.456, 301.456 was the number Dawn repeated to herself as she wove in and out of the stacks. Stupid serial numbered book had to be in the stupid basement, she bitched in her head.
Weaving in and out, a sigh of relief escaped from her lips as she saw on a plaque '301.440-301.370'. Smiling, Dawn headed in the row to collect the book. Stopping at the second shelf down, she bit back a scream as the book was not there. Checking the printed paper, it listed the book as being there, but the book was not on the shelf.
Growling, Dawn spun on her heel and proceeded to march out of the stack when all of the sudden she bumped into someone. Yelping, Dawn fell backwards onto her bottom. The person she bumped into fell on the stacks and had several books fall on top of his head.
"Ouch! That almost caused a skull fracture right there. Are you okay, Miss?"
The hand that was held out to Dawn was attached to a lanky limb. A man in a blue suit with red chucks, wild brown hair, and brown eyes smiled warmly at her.
Dawn stared at the hand and picked herself up. "What are you doing here? The library is closed, and no one is supposed to be here."
"Well, that's a bit rude. You bumped into me and here you all go with the asking of the questions." He sniffed and shoved his hand into a pocket.
"Only because they're the right kind of questions to ask in a closed library, when no one is suppose to be here!!"
"I could ask the same of you."
"I have permission to be here! I'm looking for a book."
"Well maybe I have permission to be here too! And yes. Good for you. Looking for a book in a library of all places."
They stared at one another; anger danced in Dawn's eyes, but the man merely looked amused at their verbal jousting.
It was during the glaring that Dawn sized up the thin man, eyes glancing at the book he was carrying. "You have the book I need." There, that sounded perfectly reasonable.
The man grinned at her. "Do I? I'm sorry, I thought this was a public library, anyone could get whatever book they needed."
"Well, the company I work for is buying that book from the library, seeing as it's the one we need and this was the closest place available to buy the book from. I would greatly appreciate it if I could have it please." Hopefully that sounded as polite as possible to get The Dream and the Rune of Dwijil.
The man was just about to open his mouth, when his eyes widen. Something leapt out of the dark and attached itself to Dawn's shoulder. "MEROW!!!!!"
Dawn let out a shriek and jerked backwards. Grabbing whatever was on her shoulder, she tossed it forward. The cat landed on its paws and scrambled forward, yowling as it went. The man started to lean forward as if to stop Dawn from going anymore backwards. Still shaky from the attack from the cat, Dawn stepped backwards; her foot caught the edge of a book, ankle twisting to the side, and Dawn lost her footing. Falling backwards and to the side Dawn hit her head on the metal bookshelf. Blackness crept around the edges of her vision and then finally darkness.
Light greeted Dawn as she slowly opened her eyes. Grimacing, she concluded that was not a good idea. Sharp stabbing pains made themselves apparent behind her eyes. Closing them once more, she breathed deeply.
A clean smell greeted her nose. A hospital she concluded. What happened?
She slowly remembered the library and finding out the book she had wanted was in the hands of a very annoying man. And oh! That stupid cat had attacked her, she had fallen backwards, tripping over something and then darkness.
That man must've brought her to the hospital. Okay, so not so annoying.
"Hello! I see my patient is awake!" That man was back, okay, so scratch that last comment on him not being so annoying. Wait, his patient?
"What do you mean your patient? Aren't I in a hospital?" Dawn asked confused.
"Well, not exactly a hospital. See I'm a doctor, well actually The Doctor. It's nice to meet you in all of the concussion. You knocked yourself out on the bookshelf and seeing as my infirmary was closer than the hospital, I felt I should fix you up." Dawn swore she could feel the man grinning like a loon.
"I've dimmed the lights down, so you should be able to open your eyes without it feeling like someone is poking tiny ice picks behind them."
Dawn chuckled weakly and opened her eyes. The lights were dimmed to a manageable level. Opening her eyes slowly, she took in her surroundings.
The room was a pure white, even with the lights dimmed. She could make out the strange man who patched her up fiddling with something on a table. Slowly bringing herself to a sitting position, she swung her legs over the side. Head pitched forward, hair splayed and covering her face, Dawn breathed in and out deeply.
Long lanky legs strode forward purposefully; fingers touched her chin and brought her head up slowly. "Careful now, don't want to re-injure the noggin there."
Dawn smiled weakly.
"Do you have a phone I can use? It's probably way past the time I should call my sister. She'll be worried about me."
The man tugged on his ear. "Ah, well, yes. See, I'm having some technical issues with my phone line recently. My place of residence was ransacked by an old friend who isn't really amongst the living anymore."
"I'm sorry about your friend."
"Thank you. Now you missy are a bit of a puzzle that I'm having a bit of fun trying to figure out. You're giving off an energy signal that no human should be capable of giving off." Waving a metallic pen with a blue light in front of her, Dawn's eyes widened from the light slightly before settling on a neutral look.
"What? I have no idea what you're talking about. Now, I would like to have my stuff back so I can call my very worried sister who knows martial arts." Crossing her arms, Dawn tried to look unconcerned, but on the inside she was unsettled.
"Easy-peasy, oh there's a word I'll never be using again. I mean no harm. Look, my name is The Doctor, and I'm an alien. I was on earth in that library looking for an energy signature and stumbled across you. Well when you knocked yourself unconscious, I took it upon myself to fix you up and see about that energy signature. No human should be giving off that kind of energy and I was hoping to save you if it endangered your life. But now I see it's a part of you and interacting with your system in a way I've never seen before." The Doctor smiled reassuringly.
Dawn's mouth opened and closed a few times, no sound coming out. "Alien."
"Yep!" The Doctor emphasized the 'pah' sound and smiled.
"Right, as if my life can't get any weirder."
"Well, that's a bit refreshing, no screaming and you're not telling me I'm nuts."
Dawn snorted, "Yeah, well my entire life is very strange. Look, I'm not saying I believe you or anything, but that energy reading? Ignore it. I'm not anything but a very ordinary girl."
"Oh well, I doubt that. I'll take you home myself, but I just want to tell you something before you go. By the way, do you have a name? I can't keep calling you 'that girl who is very clumsy' in my head."
Dawn eyed The Doctor, sizing him up. "Dawn will do for now."
"All right Dawn. Here's a brief history lesson before I take you home."
The Doctor pulled up a chair in front of Dawn; looking like he was collecting his thoughts, he started.
"A long time ago and in a galaxy far, far away…I always did love that series. Thought episodes four, five, and six were much better than episodes one, two, and three."
Dawn sighed exasperated. "Doctor?"
"Oh right, my story. Now where was I? When I was a younger man, I was asked by a cosmic entity called The White Guardian to assemble a Key. It was called The Key of Time. It's a cosmic artifact resembling a perfect cube that maintains the equilibrium of the universe. Too powerful for any single being to possess, it was split into six different segments and scattered across space and time, disguised by the raw elemental power within them into any shape or size. At the time I was asked for this quest, The White Guardian claimed that the forces balancing the universe were so upset that the segments of the Key must be found and assembled, to stop the universe so that he could restore the balance."
Dawn rolled her eyes, "Sounds bogus and like a trap to me."
The Doctor tugged his ear again, "Yes well, it was a trap, but I wasn't as experienced and wise as I am now."
"So what happened next?"
"Well, I found all six segments with help from some friends of mine. But it turned out that The White Guardian was being impersonated by The Black Guardian. The opposite of The White Guardian. I finally saw through his disguise and scattered the segments of the Key across time and space."
"Right, I don't know what that has to do with me. Thank you for that lovely history lesson, but I have to be off now." Dawn started to move towards the doorway.
The Doctor continued as if he hadn't heard her. "The thing is Dawn, you give off the same energy as the completed form of The Key of Time, yet it acts as if it's been tampered with and it fluxes every once in awhile. That's why I was worried about the energy signature you're producing and will continue to produce."
Dawn paused in the doorway of the infirmary, "Will continue to produce?"
"Yes. It's like sending out a radio signal to whoever is sensitive enough to track it or has the right equipment. And that signal will only get stronger as you get older. There are ways to suppress it so you aren't sending it out as strongly, but I'm afraid you'll be hunted all your life."
"Hell Goddesses, snakes and canines, oh my!" Dawn muttered under her breath.
"What was that?" The Doctor asked.
"So Dawn, what is your story? I have a feeling that you know exactly what is transmitting that energy from yourself."
Dawn sighed heavily. "This 'story' has gotten people killed Doctor. I don't know why, but I feel like I can trust you with this. It's like all my instincts are screaming at me to trust someone outside of my family with this secret."
"Well, screaming instincts are the best kind to listen to. It's that gut feeling that should never be ignored. I know this tribe on planet Zahlia that do nothing but listen to their gut feelings all day long and it's kept them alive this long."
The Doctor grinned. "Really, really."
Smiling lightly, Dawn made her way back to the medical bed and sat down. Getting back up again, she started pacing back and forth in front of The Doctor. He let her continue pacing, letting her get it out of her system. Finally stopping, Dawn faced The Doctor.
"Czech monks of the Order of Dagon had possession of The Key, a mystical ball of living energy that could open a portal to all dimensions. Once opened, the portal would create chaos on Earth as hell dimensions flooded into this world until the energy was used up and the portal was closed again. The monks wanted to put this dangerous power to good use, but forces of darkness tracked them down. In an act of desperation, three surviving monks used powerful magic and part of The Slayer to forge The Key into human form as a fourteen-year-old girl and sent it to The Slayer as a sister to protect from Glory, a hell-god bent on returning to the hell dimension from which she had been exiled for being too vicious. As far as anyone was concerned in my family, they believed I was inserted into their lives in the year two-thousand."
"I haven't interacted with the Supernatural world in a long time. I assume that the monks worked some sort of mind magic that tweaked the brain with that insertion."
"They did, a lot of stuff was doctored. Photos, memories, feelings. You name it; I think they took care of everything. I don't even remember being this Key. And the story isn't over by a long shot. A few months later, I found out I was The Key, but I didn't know what it meant. I didn't know who I was. I hurt myself." Dawn looked away, ashamed at her past actions.
The Doctor just held her hand, his eyes conveying sympathy and understanding.
"Is this Glory still around?"
"No, she was stopped. Let's just leave it at that."
"Not since Glory was stopped have I really talked about what happened. I actually feel a little lighter."
The Doctor had started to pace back and forth, mumbling to himself, running a hand through his hair. "Maybe an energy matrix vibrating at a dimensional frequency beyond normal human perception. Add in black magic; also assume the monks possessed the ability to transform energy, bend reality."
Dawn watched on amused.
"Ah-ha! I got it! You Dawn, were The Key of Time. I'm assuming when I separated the key, it fell to earth and landed in the hands of Order of Dagon. Being the curious simple-minded humans that they were, they went 'Oooh shiny new toy' and properly mucked about with the original functions. After they were done tinkering, I'm thinking the key evolved to survive all the new ministrations that were being done. The Key of Time became something else and those were the fluxes I was reading on you! From your previous statement, I'm thinking the new functions involve dimensional travel."
"So what? The key evolved into 'The Key of Time and Dimension'?"
"Exactly! Spot on!"
The Doctor was jumping around, excited, grinning like a loon.
"The thing is Dawn, that The Key of Time and Dimension is now you, you are this Key now. It will never leave you. And I need your help."
Dawn's mind had shut down with shock.
"I thought I was done being The Key. That after the ritual had passed to use my blood, that I would no longer be something I'm not supposed to be and just an ordinary girl!"
"Oh Dawn. No, you can't just stop being something just because you want it to be." Sensing her distress, The Doctor gave her a hug.
Melting into his jacket, Dawn held on.
After sometime, Dawn pulled away. "Sorry about the mind meltdown there."
"Oh, I don't know, I think everyone needs a good meltdown every once in awhile. I certainly know some people who could use one."
Dawn shook her head, "Right, you said you needed my help?"
"Right. Well, I know we just met and given you've just re-discovered yourself. And I'm not trying to use you, well I am, but for a good cause and of course it has to do with The Key of Time and Dimension, that is a bit of a mouthful, I wonder if we can acronym that to something short, like my ship's name The TARDIS. That's Time and Relative Dimension in Space. Maybe something like TKOTAD, although I guess that's not really pronounceable…" a finger was pressed to The Doctor's mouth.
"Breathe and then ask your question."
"Right, I need your help to rescue a young woman. The young woman that I love. A woman named Rose."