Chapter 1: First Meetings?
"When I said California, Spaceman, I meant someplace with shops, sea and sunshine! I didn't mean some backwater town with one Starbucks!"
The voices filtering in from the closed library doors made Willow pause just before opening them. Her brows furrowed in confusion at hearing the unfamiliar British female voice. She felt uneasy. Who would be visiting the library this close to the full moon? She could only hope that the woman was some friend of Giles'. But she still didn't want some stranger in the room while Oz transformed.
"Now, Donna, this is just a detour. This place has been going wild with spacio-temporal disturbances recently. Well, I say recently, with time being what it is, this could have been going on forever from your perspective, but-"
This was a man's voice, also British. Willow exchanged a puzzled glance with Oz. He raised his eyebrows and shrugged. His posture seemed to exude only calm, but Willow could feel the faint tension thrumming through him. He probably didn't want strangers in the library either.
"Oi! Don't need a dissertation on the space-time continuum. What I want to know is how soon we can get out. This place was creepy enough the last time and your detours never end well."
Uncertainly, Willow pushed open the doors. They couldn't delay any longer; the sun was going to set any minute.
"That time on Castrogoria 7 was not my fault! It was completely – oh, hello."
The last was said when the stranger had turned around and noticed their entrance. Willow felt nonplussed at the bright grin sent their way. The man was tall and thin, dressed in a brown pinstriped suit with a long tan overcoat on despite the stuffy heat of the library. The woman with him was dressed more appropriately for the weather, but she seemed just as out of place as he. Her hair was red like Willow's and her stance was more confrontational than his. She looked annoyed, but her annoyance was obviously directed at the still grinning man.
"H-hello," Willow said uncertainly, glancing at Oz again. He squeezed her hand in support before moving towards the cage, his eyes never leaving the two strangers. Giles was nowhere to be seen and Willow felt a faint jolt of panic run through her.
"Brilliant to see you again!" The man strode towards her, putting something away in his pocket. He grabbed hold of her hand and shook it, his grin wide and eyes gleaming.
"I'm the Doctor, that's Donna, say hi Donna!"
Donna waved from behind, smiling sympathetically at Willow's confused expression.
"Aga- wha? Can I help you?" Willow managed to get out, looking to Oz in a rising panic. Sunset was quickly approaching. The Doctor followed her gaze and his grin widened even further.
"Oh, don’t mind us, we're just-"
"Just in the neighbourhood," Donna cut in, glaring at the Doctor, but smiling at Willow, "We'll be out of your hair soon." She said pointedly to the Doctor.
"Right, soon, quick, in a jiffy, you'll hardly ever know we were here," the Doctor agreed, finally releasing Willow's hand. He moved away and took out a silver pen-like object, waving it slowly around. Willow noticed he was slowly, but surely circling around the center table and beginning to frown.
Oz and Willow looked at each other again. 'What do I do?' Willow mouthed to him. He frowned, glancing at the clock.
"No time," he said grimly and stepped into the cage, shutting it firmly. Willow spared another worried look at the two strangers before she approached the cage.
"I'll be right here when you wake up," she promised, "I'll keep you safe a-and get them out somehow."
Oz quirked his lips into his version of a smile.
"Never doubted it."
He grimaced, "Don't watch."
Willow only nodded, worrying at her lip.
"What do you mean it's not working?!"
Willow winced as Donna's loud voice suddenly reminded of their unexpected visitors.
"Too much interference," the Doctor started saying, running a hand through his hair and making it stick up in every direction. He grimaced slightly, rubbing at his temples.
"This place is a mess. It's like a hodgepodge collection of bits of space and time strung together and held in place by a piece of string. And not nice, smooth string, more like twine with pieces sticking out and poking and dragging across your skin unpleasantly. Sort of like nails on a chalkboard."
"Yeah, alright, so it's unpleasant.Get to the point, Spaceman!"
Willow breathed in deeply, ignoring their bickering for the moment (although she would really have to find out what the heck they were talking about). She had to get them out before Oz started transforming. And if it meant shouting…well, she'd done it before and for Oz she would do it again.
"The readings are bouncing around like a rubber ball. I had one of those once, although it wasn't made of rubber so much and when I say ball, well, it was more of an oblong shape-" the Doctor had turned around towards the cage during his rambling explanation and suddenly stopped. He paused and looked up straight towards Oz's cage, eyes wide with surprise.
This was bad. Very bad. She had ran out of time. The sun had set and Oz was already doubled over in pain from the beginnings of the transformation.
"I-I'm gonna have to ask you to leave!" She started babbling at them, eyes wide, trying to move Donna towards the exit ("Oi! Watch it, miss Motormouth!"), "We're busy here with the re-shelving and cataloging and it’s a very delicate process that's really very private because Giles is British and he has these weird notions about it, not that you're weird for being British obviously-"
The Doctor was ignoring both her desperate rambling and Donna's snickered accusations that he had found someone to rival him in the gob department. Instead, he was pointing the strange gadget at Oz. Willow stiffened and raced to the cage where Oz was growling and snarling, still in the middle of transforming, but all it did was produce a soft whirring noise with the blue light at the end of it turning on. The Doctor looked up at Oz and then back at the small device. He did it a few more times before breaking out into a wide grin.
"Oh, this is brilliant!"
"What's the matter with him then?"
While Donna sounded concerned, the Doctor looked entirely too gleeful and Willow's mind flashed back to Cain and stories of other werewolf hunters. She glanced around before spotting one of the wooden staffs Buffy and Giles had practiced with this afternoon propped up against the cage beside her. Suddenly very grateful for Buffy's tendency to forget to clean up after training, she grabbed it and brandished it in the direction of the Doctor and Donna. Behind her, she could hear the shifting and cracking of Oz's bones and felt vaguely sick.
"Yeah, well, you can just forget about…about any evil plans you have for him, mister! I'm not letting you hurt him! GILES!" she yelled for the absentee librarian. Normally, you couldn't even separate him from his books, but now that she needed backup, he was nowhere to be found. Behind the Doctor, Donna winced. A distant thud could be heard amongst the stacks of the library.
"Hurt him?" the Doctor looked confused, before his expression cleared, "Oh, no. No no no no no no no! I wouldn't hurt him! This is just brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!" He bounced on the balls of his feet, "I haven’t seen a proper werewolf in ages!" As though to puncuate the words, Oz crashed against the cage door, snarling. "Of course, there was that time in Scotland, but that was completely different! Well, I say different, I mean-"
"Doctor!" Donna interrupted him. She looked annoyed more than anything else. She was glaring at the Doctor, hands on her hips.
"Hmm?" he turned towards her, still beaming.
"Crazy girl with a stick threatening to crack your stupid head open?"
"What? Oh!" he grinned at Willow, "She's not going to crack my head open."
"O-oh yeah? Just watch me! You're not getting Oz! I'm not letting you hurt him o-or kill him or try to take his pelt or run experiments on him, so you'll just have to get through to me first, mister!"
"Looks pretty determined to me, Spaceman," Donna said wryly. Although she seemed remarkably unconcerned about Willow waving the staff around, despite her warnings. Willow didn't know if she should feel offended or not. Surely she was at least a little bit threatening?
"B-but, no seriously. She literally couldn't crack my head open with it," he seemed confused that Donna would contradict him at something that was so obvious to him, "She couldn't get the needed velocity or force with the grip that she has and the angle is all wrong-"
"H-HEY!" Willow shouted to gain their attention, "I'm the one with the stick, so I'll be saying who gets to crack what around here!" she glanced from Donna to the Doctor in angry confusion, "Now, explain who you are and what you want and if this wasn't clear enough - NO MESSING WITH MY BOYFRIEND!"
The cage rattled behind her as Oz in wolf form slammed into it again, growling. Willow jumped, her grip on the training staff loosening.
"Aw, that's brilliant! Did you see that, Donna? That's what I love about you humans. Most people would just run away if they found out that he was a werewolf, but not Willow! She goes and gets involved with him. You lot always keep surprising me! It'll be a few more centuries yet before most of you get rid of all of the hangups you have."
He had moved forwards as he talked and ended up right next to the cage. He stared at Oz. Oz stared back at him, growling softly. Willow gaped at him for a moment. How had he known her name? This situation had not only become freaky and not in a good way, but had already passed that point and entered into the realm of downright weird.
"Oh, you are beautiful!" the Doctor beamed at Oz. Oz rattled the cage, fangs flashing as he snarled. The Doctor didn't even flinch, but kept staring, his expression completely awed and excited. He didn't seem like much of a threat, to be honest, but this was the Hellmouth and you could never be too sure.
Which is why Willow grabbed at the fallen staff, ignoring Donna's muttered 'mad bloody Martian' and was just about to smack the guy over the head when she froze at Giles' startled
Before Willow could do more than flinch away, the Doctor had bounced around to face the flabbergasted Watcher. He grinned delightedly.
"Rupert! Lovely to see you!" he bounded up the stairs to the raised landing where Giles had appeared, book in hand. The Doctor grabbed Giles' hand and shook it enthusiastically. Willow's hand throbbed in remembered sympathy from suffering the same greeting.
"Love what you've done with the place, although I have to say I prefer the shop. It's a marvelous shop. Have I mentioned that I love little shops? It doesn't have to be big, just a little shop and yours was - well, will be brilliant!"
"Giles?" Willow asked weakly, feeling more than a little overwhelmed "Do you know him?"
"I have never met him before in my life, Willow," Giles looked a little dazed at the babble spewing forth from the Doctor.
"And have you met Donna yet?" he vaguely waved a hand in Donna's direction where she had taken a seat at the table, her posture impatient and resigned, "You'll love Donna, she's brilliant and what do you mean you've never met me before?" The Doctor finished with a confused expression. Then he brightened.
"Oh right! Crossing my own timeline again. I don't suppose you'd remember seeing how it hasn't happened for you yet. Blimey, this gets confusing! And the first time we met-"
"I do beg your pardon," Giles finally reclaimed his hand, stiffly adjusting his glasses. He had obviously caught his second wind and was now starting to rally against the intruders in the library. Willow only felt slightly reassured by the cold gaze he aimed at the Doctor; Giles could be damn scary sometimes, even when the threats weren't ever aimed at her, "But I am quite sure that I have never met you before in my life."
"No?" the Doctor seemed to wilt slightly. "Well, can't be helped I suppose. You were ten at the time. Or was that eight?" He grinned brightly at Giles again, as though he would helpfully correct him.
"I think it best if you started explaining yourselves, now." Giles' tone brooked no arguments. The Doctor sighed.
"And this, Donna," he said to her, "is why crossing your own timeline is generally considered to be a bad idea, not to mention rather awkward at social gatherings. Well, that's if you discount the possibility of causing a paradox big enough to destroy two thirds of the universe." The manic grin was back on his face.
At this, everyone stared at the Doctor, who didn't seem all that disturbed by the thought. The library doors opening were the only sound in the sudden silence that had descended on the library.
"Giles?" Buffy called as she entered, "Why is there a blue Police Box thingy in the hallway?"
Chapter 2: Explanations, sort of
Chapter by Carnen
"So...you're time-traveling aliens?" Buffy asked in disbelief. After a whole lot of shouting, exclamations of wonder, excitement, mocking, disdain and threats of bodily harm, most of the Scooby Gang and their two visitors had settled down around the central table to hold as civilized a conversation as was possible under the circumstances.
Donna snorted, arms crossed over her chest (which Xander was attempting and failing not to stare at).
"He's the alien," she indicated the Doctor, who was mostly ignoring the events around the table and was muttering to himself while shaking and glaring at his silver flashlight thingy. At times, he would pause and rub his forehead, as though a noise was bothering him.
"I'm just along for the ride," Donna continued. Buffy glanced at the Doctor again, and then took a quick look around the table. Willow was still staring at the Doctor with huge eyes and more than a little embarrassment and trepidation. Giles had retreated into his office, frantically mumbling about checking something in his books. Xander, who had arrived with her, was taking turns tearing his gaze from Donna's chest and looking at both of the arrivals with skepticism (and just a hint of wonder). Oz was safely locked up in his cage, occasionally making his presence known by growling and snarling from time to time.
Buffy frowned and ponderously started tapping the stake she was gripping on the top of the table. She had grabbed it upon seeing the not-so-tense situation on entering the library when her spidey senses had started going haywire. Just as she had identified the source of the feelings to be the Doctor, they had skittered away to hide in some dark and dusty corner of her psyche. Cowards, she muttered inwardly. So the Doctor wasn't human and he didn't really register as a threat (at least, not to them), but she definitively wasn't buying the alien part.
Tap-tap-tap-tap. Tap-tap-tap-tap. The stake was starting to make a mark on the polished surface of the table.
The voice cut across the chatter at the table and, startled, Buffy looked up into dark, haunted, ancient eyes. The Doctor blinked and the moment was gone. His lips quirked into an apologetic smile.
"Sorry, haven’t had good experiences whenever that rhythm comes up."
Donna glanced sharply at him, but he merely smiled widely and began fiddling with his gadget again.
"But you don’t look like an alien!" Willow suddenly blurted out. Feeling everyone's eyes on her, she blushed furiously and continued rapidly, "Not that that doesn’t make you an alien or anything, but none of the demons we ever fought really looked like humans, well apart from vampires, but they don’t really count because of the whole 'grrr' thing, so I'd always thought if aliens existed, they'd be a bit more-mphrhphmmm…"
"Will," Xander said, his hand still across Willow's mouth, "calm down and take a deep breath."
Buffy and Donna took one look at Willow's horrified expression and couldn't stop snorts of laughter from escaping. The Doctor huffed in fond exasperation, not looking up from his tinkering.
"Humans. You always assume you’re the center of everything. Did you ever think that you were the ones who looked like a million other species out there? The bipedal humanoid form is very common across the universe."
"Yeah," Buffy started, "still not convinced about that part."
The Doctor rolled his eyes.
"You know, this was much simpler when you already believed me when I first met you."
"Oh don't bother asking," Donna interrupted, "He'll go all high and mighty on you with some explanation that'll basically boil down to: Sorry, can't say - spoilers."
"See if I ever get you involved in a predestination paradox again," the Doctor muttered, looking highly put out that Donna had stolen his thunder.
"Wait, so let me get this straight," Xander started waving a finger in the air, making a point, "This is the first time we've ever met you, but since you're some fancy time-traveling alien, this is the second time you've met us, but if you tell us what's going to happen the whole universe will explode because of the paradox."
Buffy was impressed on how quickly Xander had figured it out; all those comic books he read must have finally come in handy for something. As it was, this whole situation was giving her a headache.
"Well, technically only two thirds, but yes, that's it in a nutshell. Isn't it brilliant?" The wide grin on the Doctor's face wasn't really appropriate for the seriousness of the situation. Then again, the Scoobies regularly failed to take apocalypses seriously either. Well, mostly.
"So you have a time machine?" Xander looked positively gleeful.
"Took you long enough to catch up," Donna smirked.
"Yes, I do," the Doctor beamed, pointedly ignoring Donna, "the TARDIS - best ship in the universe!"
"You travel in a blue box?" Buffy asked.
"It's bigger on the inside," the Doctor and Donna said simultaneously.
"Of course it is," Buffy said flatly. She looked over to Willow for eye-roll support, but Willow looked positively entranced by the possibility. So did Xander for that matter. A moment later, they were off, pestering the Doctor with questions which he seemed only to happy to answer. In hindsight, really, Buffy should have known that would happen.
As terms like 'dimensionally transcendent', 'temporal buffers' and 'dimensional stabilizers' flew over her head, she shared a commiserating look with Donna.
"Science geeks," they chorused and shared a grin. Buffy took it as an opportunity to study Donna more closely. She somehow seemed way too normal to be traveling around with an alien.
"So how'd you get involved in all of this?"
"My fiancé was going to feed me to some giant spider alien that wanted to release her offspring to eat the Earth. He saved me," was the matter-of-fact reply.
"Oh," she groped for something to say, "You sure it wasn’t a demon?"
Donna looked at her strangely as though Buffy was the crazy one.
"It had a spaceship."
"Right," a pause, "So he does that a lot then?"
"All the bloody time. Seems like we can't go anywhere without something to fix or save."
For all that Donna looked put out about it, she couldn't quite hide the small smirk that emerged. It was the same look of satisfaction that Willow and Xander sometimes got after helping to save the world. Okay, so maybe they did travel through time, but she still wasn't ready to believe the alien part.
"So he saves you and you just decide to tag along over all of time and space?"
"Hell no," Donna snorted, "I ran off, quick as you like, tail between my legs, all ready to get back to my normal life."
Buffy looked confused.
"But," she looked back to the Doctor, who was now enthusiastically telling Xander and Willow about something that seemed to require quite a lot of hand waving and gesticulating.
"I couldn't, in the end," Donna continued softly, "get back to my normal life, I mean." Buffy watched her silently. "There was so much out there to see, to experience. And after getting a glimpse of that, how could I go back to bills, Pringles and trivia? So I found him again," this time she smiled mischievously, "and hopped on board."
"Just like that?" Buffy laughed.
"Just like that. Of course, I laid in a few ground rules first, but it's been brilliant. Best mate I could ask for."
"Mate?" Buffy's eyes widened. Donna scoffed.
"Why does everyone always think that? Mate as in friend? You Americans, honestly!"
"Right, I knew that." She really should have remembered that was a British thing. But, well, when your only indicator of all things British was Giles, slang was the last thing you were likely to learn.
She and Donna were silent for a moment. They watched the others talking animatedly.
"Must be nice though," Buffy began, trying not to poke a hole in the table with her stake. At Donna's questioning look, she continued wistfully, "just going off exploring into time and space."
"It is. It's brilliant and mad and damn scary sometimes, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. It changes you, seeing all of that. Just knowing that there's something so much bigger than you out there."
"Is it dangerous?"
"No more than a bunch of teenagers saving the Earth from the forces of darkness," Donna said knowingly, eyebrow raised. And for the first time since this conversation began, Buffy realized that if these two were telling the truth, they'd be from sometime in her future. The urge to ask, to find out if she was still alive, if she had managed to save Angel and stop Angelus, if all her friends were still alive and still by her side, was overwhelming.
She had opened her mouth to ask, but at that moment, Giles burst out of his office, book in hand, glasses askew. He looked rather harried. And his timing, as always, was impeccable, she thought sarcastically.
"I-I must say that this is rather unprecedented," he muttered, flipping through his book, "aliens you say?"
"Didn't we just have this conversation?" Xander noted wryly, distracted from his talk with Willow and the Doctor by Giles' sudden arrival.
"I'm still not convinced," Buffy said stubbornly. The Doctor looked rather exasperated.
"Oh, and I suppose thinking that demons exist is so much more logical."
"I've seen demons," she shrugged, "Never seen an alien before."
"Blimey, where've this lot been?" Donna muttered. The Doctor spared a fond eye-roll in her direction.
"Oh, you're one to talk, Donna. You've managed to miss three invasions so far."
She opened her mouth to argue and then closed it.
"S'pose you're right," she mumbled.
"Anywho – ooo, don't let me say that ever again - the really obvious invasions won’t really be starting in America for another few years yet, 'cept in Hollywood of course, but nobody ever notices that place anyway. But I'm surprised you never noticed anything," he indicated Giles accusingly, "Weren't you in Britain during the 70's? Or was it the 80's? In any case, must've been an invasion every week," he recalled with an unsettling degree of wistfulness. Buffy didn't really want to think of the day she would be going on like that about apocalypses past if she managed to survive that long.
Giles coughed, rather uncomfortably. He started wiping his glasses.
"I-I'm afraid I was…otherwise occupied at the time," he muttered, failing to meet anyone's eye.
"Giles, personal exploration of your dark side through demon worship and magic abuse is no excuse for missing visits from little green men," Buffy mocked.
"When did Agrians visit Earth?" the Doctor blinked at her in surprise, while everyone stared at him like he was mad, "Don't get me wrong, they're a great bunch, but I can't recall them ever managing to get off their home planet. They were quite attached to it – literally and figuratively speaking. Lovely opera though."
The silence brought on by that statement was only broken by a few growls from Oz and a sudden beep from the Doctor's silver device. He'd called it a sonic screwdriver in his explanations to Willow and Xander, if Buffy had heard correctly. That had prompted Xander to crack a joke about making a screwdriver sonic to which the Doctor had strangely only replied with a pained 'not you too'. Buffy was growing increasingly convinced that, alien or no, the Doctor was completely insane.
"Ah! Brilliant!" he snatched the screwdriver from the table and jumped to his feet, waving it around slowly.
"So, G-man, what did the books have to say about ET?" Xander piped up brightly, leaving the Doctor to his…whatever he was doing.
"Xander, never call me that again," Giles said with a long suffering sigh, "And as for the books, well, I-I-I found some references in the Watcher's diaries about some institute that had shoehorned in on some of the Council's operations in Britain in the late 19th century, but there was nothing definite. Apparently, after extensive a-and very secret negotiating, an agreement was reached between the two organizations. But there had only been rumours of involvement with extraterrestrial life. Th-there's no evidence to speak of, however, and not a lot of effort had been put into finding out about the institute on the part of the Watcher's Council. In fact, suspiciously little effort had gone into the project. A-apparently, there were even indications of the Queen becoming involved. I-I'll have to research this further, of course."
"Wow, so the Watcher's Council doesn't know everything! What a shock," Buffy quipped.
"Indeed," Giles said dryly and continued in a more excited voice, "But just imagine! If what they are saying is true, there are whole worlds out there teeming with life, unexplored planets a-and wonders one couldn’t possibly imagine!"
"Look at Giles, getting his Kirk on," Buffy smiled.
"This is a moment that should be recorded for posterity," Xander agreed.
"Should we make a plaque?" Willow grinned, "Here were first said the words of Giles, who boldly went where no Watcher had gone before."
"Y-yes, well, plaques aside, we've got quite enough to contend with here, not in the least to figure out the purpose of Ms. Noble's and the Doctor's visit."
As one, the Scoobies turned towards Donna, who had remained in her seat, absently picking at her fingernails. She looked up with a bored expression when she felt their stares.
"What? Don't look at me. Martian boy is the one you'll be wanting for the answers," she gestured towards where the Doctor had been standing. Keywords – had been. Buffy straightened, all of her senses immediately on high alert. And he'd seemed like a nice guy. Crazy, but nice.
"For the last time, Donna! I'm not from Mars! I don’t look even vaguely reptilian!"
"Is he-?" Willow started to ask, but broke off uncertainly. Exchanging bewildered glances, as one, they all looked under the large table.
"Wha-what are you doing?" Willow asked. The Doctor was on his hands and knees under the table, peering intently at the readings coming from his sonic screwdriver.
"I'm trying to locate the source of these disturbances," he said absently, "they're giving me a headache. Seem to be originating from here." He waved the screwdriver only a couple of inches from the floor before he tucked it away in his breast pocket. He leaned forward to look at the floor. He frowned and ran a hand over the wooden flooring. Buffy frowned. Wasn't that where the Hellmouth beastie had cracked open the floor last year? He was acting as if he could sense it. It was not a very comforting thought.
"Oi, Spaceman! Please tell me you aren't going to-" He licked the floor. "…again," Donna sighed and sat back in her chair, shaking her head and muttering something about stupid Martians.
"Eww, gross!" Buffy grimaced. That was just…so unsanitary.
"Okay, I've heard of the three second rule and I live by it religiously, but that's just nasty," Xander said.
Willow only managed to look vaguely queasy, while Giles, who hadn't deigned to look under the table, nevertheless let out a muttered 'good Lord'.
"Oh, that is disgusting!" the Doctor crawled out from under the table, tongue sticking out of his mouth. He had an expression of extreme distaste.
"I could've told you that without the floor licking," Buffy told him helpfully, a nauseous expression still on her face.
"What?" he seemed distracted, "Oh, no, I didn't mean that, although it wasn't the most pleasant taste, I'll admit," he smacked his lips briefly, "processed and polished wood, nothing else quite like it in the universe. But I meant the taste of the energy emanating out from there! I can't believe I couldn’t taste it before - sense it, of course, would have had to be dead not to, but that is just-"
"You can taste the Hellmouth?" Willow asked, eyes wide.
"Is that what it is? And you've built a school right over it?" he dragged a hand through his hair, "That can't be good," he muttered.
"What's it taste like?" Willow pressed, curiosity coming to the fore.
"Eh," he pulled a face, thinking for a moment, "kinda chalky."
"Er…quite," Giles interrupted, a little flustered, "however, if we could get back to the main problem, no matter how fascinating your ability to…taste the Hellmouth - we still only have your word that you are who you say you are and-"
"Oh!" the Doctor smacked a hand over his forehead and pointed at Giles, "hold that thought!"
Derailed, Giles only gaped slightly as the Doctor started rummaging through his pockets. Buffy felt her eyes widen. Did his arm just go in to his elbow?
"Now, where did I put that…?" the Doctor muttered, pulling out a pair of glasses. He put them on and continued rifling though his pockets.
Buffy watched in growing amazement as he pulled out an increasingly unlikely succession of things. The table was soon littered with yo-yos, rocks, unfamiliar coins of all types, a book-like thing with 'Don't panic!' written on the cover in large, friendly letters ("So that's where that disappeared to!"), dog biscuits, a key, a thin leather wallet, the screwdriver, a flashlight, a half-eaten cupcake, a 12-inch sandwich, something that looked like an ostrich egg ("Oh dear, shouldn't let that hatch, be Jurassic park all over again"), a mouse trap, a rubber duck, a letter, a bundle of newspapers with dates from the 1900's all the way to 2134, various electronic gadgets Buffy couldn't recognize, a mobile phone and a heap of other junk before the Doctor let out a triumphant "HA!" and produced a small, neatly wrapped package.
"That. Is. The. Coolest. Thing. Ever!" Xander was in awe as he stared at the pile of junk that had recently inhabited the Doctor's pockets.
"Bigger on the inside!" the Doctor said smugly, bouncing on the balls of his feet.
"So's his head, but that's empty compared to his pockets," Donna rolled her eyes with a smile, watching the whole thing from her seat.
"Oi! No need to get abusive!" he grinned at her.
"Is that a goldfish?" Willow tentatively poked a plastic water-filled bag. The Doctor lifted the bag to eye-height and peered at it.
"I think so. Would you like it?" he offered with a smile.
He held it out to her. Willow squeaked happily and carefully took it. She beamed at the Doctor.
"Thank you so much!"
"Aw, don't mention it. 'Course, I can't remember where I got it, so if it starts changing colours on you, I wouldn't be too worried. There were some subspecies of goldfish on New Earth that liked to do that sometimes." He started stuffing everything back into his pockets as he spoke. He wasn't particularly paying attention to what he was doing so half of the stuff managed to fall to the floor instead.
Giles cleared his throat, awkwardly holding the small package that the Doctor had unceremoniously thrust into his hands upon finding it.
"This is undoubtedly quite fascinating, howev-"
"Oh!" the Doctor interrupted him again, gleefully picking up a small white bag from the table.
"Jelly Baby?" he offered, grinning widely.
Chapter 3: Portents, with a side of fashion
Chapter by Carnen
Morning broke over Sunnydale much as it always did. The various night denizens crawled back into their hiding places to avoid the sun while the (mostly) oblivious human residents woke up and started their day after a good, long, well-deserved rest. Everyone, that is, unless you were one Rupert Giles, whose workplace had been invaded the night before by self-proclaimed time-travellers who insisted that they had met you before, but you hadn't met them and sorry, no, can't tell you more or we'll risk ripping apart the universe and you wouldn't happen to have a cup of tea, would you? Brilliant, milk and two sugars, there's a good chap. It was enough to give anyone a headache, even if you were lucky enough to go to bed at a reasonable hour (which he wasn't).
As the early morning sunlight fell on his eyes, Giles groaned and sat upright on the couch in his office. He looked around in mild confusion. He was quite certain that his last moment of consciousness had in fact been when he was slumped over at his desk surrounded by dry Watcher's diaries. It most certainly hadn't been comfortably lying down on the couch with a long tan coat serving as his blanket, especially when he had a rather serviceable one already.
He blinked. Everything seemed rather blurry. Giles lifted a hand to his face and realized that his glasses were missing. After a moment of trying to get his brain into gear, he spotted them on his desk. He had the vague suspicion that there was a conclusion here to be reached, but Giles told it to bugger off until he had his morning cup of tea. Of course, with the way he was feeling, coffee would also do in a pinch. Dreadful stuff, but when needs must, he supposed.
Rising, he neatly folded the unfamiliar coat and draped it across a chair. A niggling feeling of recognition was trying to worm its way through to his brain. A sense of urgency tried to join it. Giles clamped down on both and told them to join the conclusion until he was awake enough to deal with them. He reached for his kettle.
A few minutes later, happily imbibing the much-needed beverage, Giles noticed the small package innocently sitting on top of the pile of Watcher's diaries. He suddenly remembered the reason he had woken up in the library instead of in his bed.
"Bloody hell," he muttered, pinching the bridge of his nose. He felt a migraine trying to take up residence in his head. He was going to need more tea. A lot of tea. A lot of very strong tea.
The door to his office suddenly creaked open and Giles barely refrained from jumping. His first impression was that of a wild and untamed mass of brown hair. A moment later, it resolved into the Doctor's manically grinning head. He was leaning into the office, the lower half of his body firmly placed on the other side of the door.
"Brilliant! You're finally up. Humans, you'd sleep your lives away given half the chance. A whole lot of you did in the 37th century. Some sort of cult – never get involved in cults – anyway, they thought it would be a brilliant idea to-"
Giles tuned him out, no matter how fascinating the Doctor's anecdote was. There should be a law of some kind against being so bloody chipper in front of someone who hasn't had a shower, breakfast and a change of clothes yet. Giles glanced at the clock in his office. It was 7 am and therefore too late for him to nip back to his apartment for the aforementioned commodities before work. Bugger. And the Doctor was still talking.
"Have you had any sleep?" he couldn’t help asking. The Doctor looked the same as ever and only his rumpled suit and hair hinted at the fact he had been awake all night. The Doctor blinked at him as though he had said something very stupid.
"On top of this place?"
Giles wondered what the hell he meant by that. Then he remembered the Doctor's reaction to the Hellmouth. He probably wouldn't be too comfortable either if he could sense its presence, Giles conceded with a noncommittal noise.
"'Sides, don’t need as much sleep as you lot and even if I did, which I don't, why would I with this amount of books about?" the Doctor looked positively gleeful at the prospect. Giles approved. "Quite a collection you have, though I must admit I've never even heard of most of them and that's saying something if you've been around as much as I have…"
As the Doctor continued speaking, still ridiculously hanging half-in and half-out of his office, Giles spared another moment of loathing for his ability to be so bloody energetic. It also occurred to him that he had been asleep in his office while people he still didn't quite trust had been mucking about in his library. Even worse, Oz was probably still in his cage and most likely in some discomfort after his transformation. The thought sent a jolt of adrenalin through him and with a muttered 'Good Lord', he barrelled past the Doctor into the library, half-expecting to see something quite horrible.
What he saw wasn't as horrible as he had imagined, but it still raised the hairs on the back of his neck. The central table was piled with a haphazard stack of books. And they weren't the nice, harmless, mostly-for-show books he kept around for the students, but his books on the occult.
'Ah…it's a bit of a mess, sorry about that," the Doctor piped up from behind. Giles turned to glare at him only to see the Doctor sheepishly rubbing the back of his neck. Giles vaguely felt like he had kicked a puppy.
"Nothing a bit of re-shelving won’t fix," the Doctor added, grinning brightly.
"Quite," Giles muttered. Never mind that it would be he who was going to have to do the work.
"Tell you what," the Doctor bounced in place, hands stuffed in his pocket, "if we ever get out of this paradox, I'll take you to the biggest library in the universe. Marvellous place, I was going to take Donna there later on, you could join us. Be a bit of a lark and I daresay you'd appreciate it better than most people."
Giles had been quite prepared to tell the Doctor where he could put his paradox, but was, despite himself, intrigued by the offer.
"In the universe? They still have books in the future?" he couldn't help but ask.
"Oh yes!" the Doctor laughed, "They never quite went out of fashion, people always wanted to feel the pages beneath their hands. It's the size of a planet, the Library. It has every book that was ever written."
Giles smiled, feeling faintly vindicated. However widespread technology became, books would still survive. He should probably make sure to mention it sometimes to the Scoobies when they started complaining about research again.
"Sounds delightful," Giles murmured wistfully. He wasn't fully convinced yet that the Doctor really was a time-traveller, but it was still a remarkable thought. What must it be like to have the whole of time and space at your fingertips?
He was brought out of his musings by a sleepy snuffle coming from the direction of the table. Giles cast a questioning glance in the Doctor's direction.
"Willow," he smiled, "smart girl. Wanted to keep an eye on Oz over there," he tilted his head towards the cage. Giles noticed it was unlocked. Oz was sleeping peacefully, a pillow under his head and a warm blanket covering him. So that's where the blanket from his office had gone.
"She seemed to be rather absorbed in researching something on the computer too. Well, she was before she conked out an hour or so ago." There was a knowing glint in the Doctor's eyes, but he seemed more amused than anything else. Giles had been aware on some level that the Doctor had only been humouring them and their scepticism, but to have it confirmed like that was particularly grating.
They both watched the sleeping girl for a moment as she (rather endearingly) snorted and mumbled something about tadpoles.
"I've always wanted to be ginger," the Doctor said, apropos of nothing that Giles could figure out. It did, however, remind him of something.
"Speaking of ginger, where is Ms. Noble?"
"Donna?" the Doctor blinked and looked around as though only just realizing she wasn't present, but nevertheless expecting her to pop up out of the woodwork any moment now.
"Mucking about in the TARDIS, I expect. One thing I've learned is to never get between her and at least a good six hours of sleep. Unless she's wandered off again. I keep telling them, but they never listen and quite frankly, the idea of her running off in this place does not fill me with warm, fuzzy feelings."
He had a lot more to say about his companions' wandering ways, but Giles (from long experience with the Scoobies) only paid attention to the one thing he didn't understand in the rant, no matter how much he might agree with it in principle.
"The TARDIS?" he asked.
"Yup," was all the Doctor said. Giles continued to look at him blankly.
"My spaceship? The big, blue box out in the corridor?" he waved a hand in the approximate direction of the library doors.
Giles vaguely recalled Buffy mentioning it before the chaos last night. Strangely, it had never occurred to him to ask about it after the initial ruckus had died down. Even now, he had the sneaking suspicion it was trying to sidle out of his thoughts while he wasn't paying attention. But something the Doctor had said grabbed his attention.
"You left it out in the corridor? Where anyone could see it? If principal Snyder-"
"Oh, I wouldn't worry about that," the Doctor said airily, "I strengthened the perception filter on it. Unless you're an absolute genius or have some very strange ideas on how the world should work, no one will notice it."
Giles thought the second option was rather likely considering where they were, but refrained from mentioning it.
"Besides," the Doctor continued, "with the general ambiance of this place, I shouldn't think that anyone would notice it even without the perception filter. I know humans have a tendency to block out what doesn't fit into their worldview, but they manage it so efficiently here that it's a bit ridiculous. Maybe you lot have a perception filter of your own. Might explain why it took me so long to notice."
Giles had to concede it was quite likely the Hellmouth had something like that, only there was probably less of a technical explanation. It wasn't as though the demons wanted to be noticed, after all. Well, at least not until their diabolical plans came to fruition.
"I actually mentioned it earlier, but the conversation somehow managed to segue into a debate on the relative merits of bananas versus pineapples. No idea how that came about really, but we managed to get back on track – brilliant lot you have there, by the way, absolutely brilliant!" the Doctor grinned widely as though the majority of what he said had made sense to Giles. Giles couldn't bring himself to be surprised that the Scoobies and the Doctor had somehow managed to get into a discussion about fruit while talking about the Hellmouth. Their thought processes had alarmingly similar tendencies to go off on tangents. He did what he usually would in such situations.
"Yes, they are rather remarkable," he started, completely ignoring the rest of the Doctor's words, "I can hardly imagine anymore what it would have been like for Buffy if they weren't here," he finished.
"Ah yes, this…Slaying business," the Doctor's expression darkened. It was a bit startling how quickly the Doctor's moods could change. Giles suddenly felt a twinge of sympathy for the men who first came up with the idea of a Slayer should they ever be unlucky enough to meet the Doctor. But only a twinge.
Surprisingly, however, the Doctor didn't start ranting about it, like Giles had half-expected he would. He didn't know whether to feel relieved or not. For all that the Doctor acted like a hyperactive five-year old, there were times when he got a look in his eyes or said something that made Giles think that he was far older than he seemed. And looks, Giles knew, could often be deceiving.
A fact which made him think of something else the Doctor had mentioned. Giles honestly couldn't remember ever meeting the man before and he was reasonably certain he would've if he had been ten at the time. That whole year rather stood out in his memory vividly and he would have at least had a vague feeling of familiarity with somebody as…unique as the Doctor. Come to think of it, out of the two unusual things that had happened to him that year (the first being when he was told he was destined to be a Watcher), the only other thing that really stood out was meeting that strange chap in the ridiculously long scarf shortly after. The meeting had involved a bit of running, explosions and for some odd reason he also associated jelly babies with the whole event. Rather like the ones the Doctor had…offered…him…earlier. He glanced at the crumpled white bag still innocently sitting on top of the table. Same type of bag too. But…no, the thought was preposterous. They were two completely different men. Even if there were some types of shape shifting demons-
"Not like anyone'd notice, but I just thought I'd mention the huge blue box in the hallway," Cordelia's entrance into the library was a completely unexpected, but rather welcome distraction. She sounded as cheerful as ever, which wasn't very and she strode into the library as if she owned the place. No changes there then, "Also that blue shade totally clashes with the rest of the crappy décor here. And it was in my way."
Giles would have made a remark to the Doctor about his vaunted perception filter, but he also knew that if anyone had a strange idea on how the world should work, Cordelia was definitely among them.
"Ah, yes, good morning Cordelia," he muttered, moving to tidy the scattered books that had occupied the Doctor the whole night. The table was also littered with various knick-knacks the Doctor hadn't put back into his pockets yet. Giles could vaguely remember Xander fooling around with that stethoscope last night. There had been a lot of excitement at one point, something about two hearts? In any case, he was going to let the Doctor deal with Cordelia for a while; he couldn't muster the energy.
"Whatever," she sniped. "And who're you?" she bluntly asked the Doctor before eying him appreciatively, at least until she registered the clothes. Giles could practically see her double take at the shoes.
"I could ask you the same thing," he grinned.
"I asked first, mister. You aren't related to Giles are you?"
"Should I be?" he seemed bemused.
"Oh for heaven's sake, Cordelia. This is the Doctor. Doctor, Cordelia. He's a time-travelling alien," Giles snapped, unwilling to go through the whole yes-he-has-a-British-accent-so-we-must-be-related-or-at-least-know-each-other thing. Americans.
"Yeah, I kinda figured, thanks," she sniped and then sighed, sitting down on a chair and crossing her arms. The Doctor seemed a bit put out.
"Oh, please! Only somebody dead or an alien would wear sneakers with a suit! And since you're standing in the sunlight and not becoming a flambé, you're an alien."
The Doctor seemed a bit speechless. Giles was too, but probably not for the same reason. At times, he had suspected that Cordelia's logic was not of this Earth, but her previous statement had just about proved it. The Doctor gaped at Cordelia for a moment before grinning widely. Giles experienced a sudden sinking feeling; similar to what he felt whenever the rest of their little group ganged up on him.
"Oh, you're brilliant! I like her," he told Giles as seriously as possible without losing his grin, "you remind me of a friend of mine, you'd love her. If she ever wakes up, you'll meet her. And I'll have you know that there's nothing wrong with this combination," he sounded a bit indignant, "These shoes are perfect for running. And I do a lot of running."
"Perfect if you're into track racing," Cordelia snarked, "What, you've got mobs after you on a regular basis?"
"And the authorities, mercenaries, pirates, government officials, soldiers, angry, hungry, murderous aliens and/or humans. On one memorable occasion, I had plastic dummies after me. Not to mention the robotic Santas and-"
"Alright already! Geez, sorry I asked," she muttered, rolling her eyes.
"Cordelia, what are you doing here?" Giles asked wearily. His attempts at organizing the mess were not coming along very well. For one thing, he had no idea what to with the contents of the Doctor's pocket still scattered all over the table. And the migraine was still making a valiant effort at manifesting. Any longer in Cordelia's company and it would succeed.
"What, I'm not allowed to be here all of a sudden? I know my rights and let me tell you-"
"Loose the lilies!" Willow blurted suddenly, jerking awake, eyes wide.
"Well, look who's awake, it's little miss frog fear," Cordelia was eyeing Willow distastefully from her seat, clearly annoyed at having her rant derailed.
"Cordy?" Willow blinked, "But…oh. Still in the library. Must've-" she yawned. The Doctor suddenly appeared at her elbow and she jumped slightly.
"Here, cup of tea should help," he grinned, placing the cup in front of her. Giles frowned; how had he-?
Willow blushed and mumbled thanks. She did look rather more alert after a few sips.
"Oh!" she jumped again, "Oz! Is he-?"
"It's fine, he's sound asleep," the Doctor put a calming hand on her shoulder. Giles was mildly surprised when she did settle down. He wouldn't have pegged the Doctor as being able to calm himself down, let alone anyone else.
"I should've been awake for that," she mumbled into her cup, "he doesn't want me to see it, but I can't leave him alone for that and it helps if he has someone there."
"He's perfectly alright. It's a bit simpler for him to change back. I expect the only thing he'll really need when he wakes up is a bit of breakfast and a change of clothes. His were rather…er, ripped."
At the Doctor's words, Willow blushed.
"I-it happens sometimes. When it's too quick or he doesn't put them away, so I've always got some spare ones and I should go get them before I start talking about his underwear."
Her eyes widened and she let out a gurgling noise. Blushing furiously, she darted out of the library. Hiding a grin behind his hand, Giles made a noncommittal noise. He reached out for another book to put away, but the Doctor interrupted him cheerfully.
"Oh, haven't read that one yet," he said and snatched it from his hands. Giles sputtered.
"Why on Earth would you want to read the Black Chronicles?"
The Doctor looked up from where he had settled in Willow's vacant chair, nose already in the book, glasses perched on his nose.
"It has stuff."
"That's not vague at all," Cordelia muttered. Both of the men ignored her.
"Stuff?" Giles asked. He wondered idly if the Doctor would insist it was a technical term. He seemed the sort.
"About this thing you're calling the Hellmouth. Mind you, with the samba beat its doing to my head, the name's not completely inappropriate, but that's not the point as it's not supposed to be here and I'm suspicious of things that aren't supposed to be where they are as a rule."
"Yes, well, I should think that would be painfully obvious it's not supposed to be here without needing to resort to this amount of reading," Giles cast a despairing glance over the mess on his table. Some of these books should definitely not be out in the open. Heaven help them if one of the Scoobies got a hold of them, especially Willow. The girl was too curious for her own good sometimes and was in the unfortunate position of being smart enough to make something of these books, but ignorant enough to think she could try.
"No, I mean, literally – it shouldn't be here! I know it wasn't around on Earth before. I've only recently found the time to look into it what with ten other things always vying for my attention. The universe is a big place, takes time for even the TARDIS to register some things, even if they are on Earth. And speaking of time, I'm having a bit of a difficulty making sense of the timelines around here. They're all wibbly and wobbly and tangled up like you wouldn’t believe, especially anytime someone mentions Buffy's sister-"
"Buffy doesn't have a sister," Cordelia interrupted, rolling her eyes. Giles wondered if he had imagined the moment of absolute stillness in the Doctor's expression. He couldn't be sure as the next moment the Doctor waved a hand dismissively and started talking again.
"Someone's sister then, but blimey, this whole place is a right mess of temporal confusion. I can't even take a closer look at it if I don't want to spend the rest of my life living in a cave gibbering in terror."
Giles was of the opinion that the Doctor was already gibbering, but not in terror. He decided to keep this to himself. The sinking feeling from before was trying to take residence again. Foreboding was also gamely trying to join in. Giles ignored them and interrupted the Doctor's distracted speech on timelines and distortions, trying to make sense of this whole mess.
"So you're saying, i-if I managed to understand correctly, that the Hellmouth should never have existed?" the very idea was mindboggling. Giles thought he would feel rather cheated if that were the case.
"Weeeellll," the Doctor ran a hand through his hair, "it might have existed in some other form in this location. Weak spots in time and space aren't as uncommon as you might think, but no. It shouldn't have existed. Not like this at any rate."
Giles blinked and had the insistent urge to sit down. He did so, slowly taking off his glasses to polish them. Dammit.
"So someone changed history to this?" he couldn't imagine why anyone would ever want to. And the very idea was trying to do something funny to his brain. It was all a bit much, especially when all you knew of time-travel was gleaned from fiction.
The Doctor shrugged.
"Or it just changed. It's not immutable; I can’t catch everything. But I came here to find out why. Because this," he indicated all of the books scattered across the table, "should not be possible."
"Yeah, right," Cordelia huffed. Both of them turned to look at her. Giles had quite forgotten she was there. She had been unusually quiet as their conversation had progressed. And in Giles' experience, an unusually quiet Cordelia was a frightening thing.
"It wasn't some mutated sewage thing that almost ate me last year. Not to mention all those vamps that ruined my clothes with dust. Or the snake demon, or inviso-bitch," she continued and Giles could almost see that she was just warming up. Thankfully, the Doctor interrupted her.
"Yes!" the Doctor leapt to his feet and started pacing, "And that's exactly my point! It shouldn't have been possible! Magic shouldn't exist in this universe, but it obviously does," he gesticulated wildly at the books, "and that’s so completely astronomically unlikely that the chances of that are infinitesimal!"
"What, impossible isn’t a word you've ever learned how to use?" Cordelia's voice was positively dripping with sarcasm. In this case, Giles had to agree with her.
"I've sworn off the word," the Doctor said seriously, but with a small smile that seemed to suggest a private joke. His gaze unfocused for a moment and the smile widened.
"So you're saying magic shouldn't exist?"
"Not the kind that's in those books!" the Doctor insisted, snapped back to the present. "Names do have power, just like ideas and words. Like with math, use the correct equation in the correct place and you can split the atom. Use the right words in the right order in the right place and the right time and you could get something like magic. But for that you'd need an energy converter the size of the Globe theatre. Of course, all of the ritualistic trappings and such help with the focusing, but it still shouldn't be possible for humans to channel that amount of psychic energy – it’s a simple matter of compatibility! Not just for humans either. And though that theory is practically impossible - but as I've said before, I've sworn off the word - it still doesn't account for the energy readings I've been getting and – it – makes – no – sense!"
He had stopped pacing and was now glaring at the floor, hands still clutching his hair. He looked a bit like a mad scientist. Emphasis on the mad.
"And you react like this to stuff you thought was impossible? No wonder you need running shoes," Cordelia broke the momentary silence that had descended.
"What?" the Doctor seemed rather distracted. "Oh, no. Not really. I love being wrong. Day I know everything, I might as well stop, but you do have to admit that finding out a fundamental rule of the universe isn't so fundamental is a little bit disconcerting."
Giles rather thought he was taking it well, as things went. Although that remark about knowing everything – the Doctor said it like it was an actual possibility. With the way his day was turning out, Giles wondered if he should stop being surprised by things like this anymore.
"It's like I there are two possibilities," the Doctor continued to himself, tapping his temple distractedly, "And instead of them trying to fight it out and possibly implode the universe, they're merging. The question is why? And how?"
"So, you never really said, what's up with Alien boy there?" Cordelia's voice jerked Giles out of his thoughts. What the Doctor was saying was fascinating if rather disturbing to think about.
That earned him an eye roll.
"Why's he so surprised that magic is real? If he actually is an alien and all?"
"I think," Giles said slowly, trying to sort out everything from the Doctor's fast-paced explanation, "It's because it hadn't been. Not until recently at least."
"I thought you said it was all 'the Earth is older than you know'."
"Yes…um, I'm having a bit of trouble reconciling that myself, but apparently there's time-travel involved."
"How's that work?"
"I don't know, Cordelia," he sighed, "I studied history, not temporal physics. Although with the way the Doctor is going on about history being changed, I rather feel like I've just been wasting my time."
"Geez, excuse me for showing an interest. So, what's his deal now?" she indicated the Doctor. The Doctor was staring intently into nothing, his eyes disconcertingly unfocused on anything physically in the room. He gave the impression that he was going to collapse at any moment, though Giles couldn't figure out any visible reason why he should.
"Doctor?" he prompted, a trifle uncertainly. He felt rather out of his depth dealing with the Doctor. The man had just barged into his life, said he knew him, took over his library and proceeded to turn everything he knew about the world on its head. Although Giles couldn't help but feel a small twinge of satisfaction that they had apparently done the same to him. But what Giles wanted to know was why the Doctor hadn't worked this all out on his previous (future) visit.
The man jerked and almost fell over. He caught himself in time and grimaced.
"Blimey, never doing that again here," he rubbed at his temple again. Giles had a sneaking suspicion he would rather not know what the Doctor had been doing. Probably something alien, which Giles didn't particularly feel like dealing with at the moment.
Cordelia opened her mouth – no doubt to let out a scathing retort – but was interrupted by the library doors opening before she could so much as let out a word.
"I bring donuts for your calorie-filled breakfast-y enjoyment!" Xander entered the library with all of the subtlety of a stampede.
"Ohhh, donuts!" the Doctor grinned and snatched the box from Xander's hands, taking a donut. He had just bit into one when he noticed everybody staring at him. He gulped thickly and then smiled a bit sheepishly.
"I was being rude again, wasn't I?"
"Manners, much?" Cordelia sniped at him, her nose wrinkled in disgust. She grabbed one for herself and bit into it viciously, glaring at the Doctor.
"The man likes his donuts, can't find a fault with that," Xander grinned, helping himself. Giles managed to grab a jelly-filled one for himself, rolling his eyes when the young couple started bickering. He suspected that half the time Xander said things like that just to start them arguing. In fact-
"Those two seem to thrive on sniping at each other," the Doctor remarked, looking at them with his head titled at an angle. He was watching them with an air of a scientist looking at a particularly remarkable bug under a microscope. Giles decided to refrain from mentioning the powdered sugar on his cheek and tie.
"I find I've rather stopped trying to figure those two out," Giles agreed mildly. It was likely to be a futile effort anyway.
"So," Xander said, managing to disengage from his verbal sparring, "Where's Willow? She always sticks around for Oz to wake."
"She mentioned something about his underwear and ran off," the Doctor butted in before Giles could explain. Giles coughed, almost choking on his donut. He noticed the devilish glint in the Doctor's eyes and took another bite to suppress a grin. He really should put a stop to this. A bit later, he decided.
Xander's eyes widened before he whistled appreciatively.
"Go Wills! Didn't know she had it in her, the vixen."
"Didn't know I had what in me?" Willow asked. None of them had noticed her entering the library. She was clutching a bundle of clothes to her chest. Xander just waggled his eyebrows at her.
"Oz, apparently," was Cordelia's blunt contribution, mindful as ever of other people's feelings.
Willow promptly blushed an astonishing shade of red and started stammering.
"Oh no, w-we n-never, n-not th-that i-it would be a bad thing o-or w-w-wrong or that I hadn't th-thought of it-" she cut herself off. Her eyes were very wide. A few inarticulate noises escaped her throat.
"I-I-I'll j-just go look at that thing! That thing I have to-" she faltered and rushed out of the library, dropping the clothes.
"Humans!" the Doctor said delightedly, but didn't elaborate.
The school bell rang. Giles looked at the clock. The time had passed remarkably quickly and he was now expected to actually do some work. Unless, of course, some crisis popped up - which was equally likely.
Giles sighed and eyed the mess on the table once more. Xander and Cordelia were still sitting there, making no indication that they would be moving anytime soon. Giles stared at them disapprovingly, daring them to make eye contact. He felt a glimmer of satisfaction when Xander twitched a bit when he met his eyes.
"Wha-?" Xander asked around a mouthful of donut.
"Far be it from me to imply anything, but I do believe you have classes?" he tried to look stern. He had a sneaking suspicion it wasn't having any affect if the Doctor's amused gaze was anything to go by.
"Right. Yes. Education. It's why we're here," Xander said, mock seriously, "For the learning of things." He paused and seemed to be considering something. Suddenly, he grabbed Cordelia's hand, much to her protests, and hauled her to her feet.
"Let's go do that educating thing," he dragged her out of the library. She kept resisting until he whispered something in her ear. Then she was the one dragging him out and they hurriedly made their exit. Probably to make a thorough study of each other's tonsils. Giles sighed. At least he had made the effort. Hopefully the library would be quieter now. He glanced at the Doctor, who was trying to amuse himself by balancing a pencil on his nose, while leaning his chair backwards precariously. Then again, maybe not. Giles left him to it.
A quiet cough from behind them caused the Doctor to overbalance on his chair and fall to the floor with a loud crash. Giles didn’t bother suppressing a quiet chuckle at this. The Doctor's dishevelled head popped up from behind the upturned chair.
"Blimey, is it just me or is the gravity off in this place?" He grinned when he spotted Oz's quiet form lurking by the cage door. Oz held the blanket tightly wrapped around himself and managed to look only vaguely self-conscious.
"Oh, brilliant! You're up! Amazing what you lot can sleep through," the Doctor's grin brightened. Oz ignored him for a moment and glanced around the library.
"Where's Willow?" he asked.
The Doctor scratched the back of his neck and his grin softened. His eyes were alight with mischief.
"Oh, I expect she's about somewhere. Got a bit flustered at Xander's teasing."
Oz imperceptibly relaxed as he accepted this explanation. He studied the Doctor for a moment.
"You were here last night. Didn't Willow almost brain you?" it was more of a statement than a question.
"Oh, just a misunderstanding!" the Doctor said airily.
"Hello! I'm the Doctor," he bounded up to his feet nimbly and shook Oz's hand enthusiastically, "Donna's still asleep, but she'll be about soon enough I expect. I really should look in on her," he mused to himself, still gripping Oz's hand. Oz stared at him until the Doctor noticed.
"Hand," Oz quirked his eyebrow.
"What?" the Doctor looked down. "Oh! Right, sorry about that," he shoved his own hands into his trouser pockets and bounced on the balls on his feet, still manically grinning.
"For a moment I thought there was another hand in a jar…er, long story," he said, noticing the looks he was getting from the other two.
"Not that I'm not grateful for the blanket or the pillow, but I'm suffering from a slight lack of clothes. Rather wouldn't walk around like this in the halls," Oz diplomatically ignored the Doctor's last sentence although the quirk of his eyebrow suggested there would be further questions later.
"Yes, yes, of course," Giles muttered, "Willow left some clothes for you before she…um…"
"Ran out of here with that delightful blush?" the Doctor said cheekily.
"Quite," Giles handed the clothes to a grateful Oz. The young man retreated into Giles' office to change.
"Right. I'd better go check on Donna. She usually doesn't like missing out on so much of our trips…" his muttering faded away as he left the library. Giles breathed a small sigh of relief, glad to be out of the Doctor's overwhelming presence for a while. He resisted the temptation to wipe his glasses again and stared at the table decisively. The mess had unfortunately failed to miraculously clean itself. He glared at it, trying to squash the utterly unreasonable feeling of betrayal. This time he would make some progress.
"Just thought I'd mention," Oz said, appearing next to Giles. He tried not to jump. The lad could be remarkably quiet at times, "You know he's not human?"
"The Doctor? Yes. In fact, he claims to be an alien!" All right, so Giles still felt disbelief at the thought. You could hardly blame him. Although no self-respecting demons went around saying they were aliens. Maybe it was the other way around. He would have to look into that.
"Huh. That explains it," Oz mused, taking a seat at the table. Giles looked at him in curiosity.
Oz shrugged, fiddling with some of the things left from the Doctor's pockets. He picked up a whisk and examined it.
"His smell. It's strange…haven't really smelled anything like it. Definitely doesn't feel demon."
"What does it smell like?" Giles asked, fascinated despite himself. Oz thought for a long moment, contemplating what looked like a stuffed blue parrot with a grave expression.
Giles slowly took off his glasses and considered Oz's words. Well, another mark in the Doctor's favour. Even Buffy had remarked that the Doctor didn't feel demonic before she had left for patrol. Speaking of which, she had been supposed to report to him this morning. He dearly hoped that nothing untoward had happened.
Oz's noncommittal remark drew Giles out of his thoughts.
"Find something interesting?" Well, more interesting than…was that a pogo stick?!
"Strange thing to have written down in a wallet," Oz said, lifting a thin leather wallet for Giles to see. Pogo stick forgotten, Giles suddenly felt decidedly uneasy when he read the writing. It looked remarkably like a cryptic remark and those had an unfortunate tendency of turning out to be tied with apocalypses.
From beneath you, it devours.
But before Giles could do much more than get a sinking feeling in his stomach, the library doors burst open again. The Doctor barrelled through, looking even more dishevelled if possible. The expression of barely constrained panic on his face did nothing to reassure Giles. He opened his mouth to speak, but the Doctor beat him to it, voice urgent.
Chapter 4: Private Tea Party
Chapter by Carnen
It probably should have worried Donna that her first thought upon regaining consciousness was 'I am going to bloody kill that Martian!' instead of something sensible like 'Where am I?' or 'Did anyone get the license plate on the truck that hit me?' Not that anyone had ever accused her of being sensible and she supposed that nobody ever would now that she had run off to travel with an alien. Speaking of the bloody alien…She looked around. The fact that she was alone was only slightly reassuring. The fact that she had been kidnapped right under the Doctor's nose, was alone and tied to a bloody chair wasn't. And the exposed feeling of being stuck in the middle of some dark, dank, stone hall wasn't sitting well with her either.
At least she couldn’t say that she didn’t have a lot of practical experience with kidnapping (and really, did she have victim scrawled across her forehead or something?). It seemed to be part and parcel of travelling with the Doctor. It just wasn't bloody fair that half the time he was the one who had to rescue her. Though there was that rather memorable time in old London…And if she had known then what she knew now, she probably wouldn't have been so quick to slap that bleached bloke. That bleached vampire bloke. Who had sniffed her. Okay, so maybe she would have slapped him anyway. Just because he was a bloodsucking killer didn’t mean that she had to stand for him getting off on smelling her. Served him right.
And this time, instead of the Doctor being kidnapped by demons (she still felt like laughing whenever she thought of the Doctor's reaction to finding out they existed), she was. Well, she wasn't going go let some bunch of temp-napping Dracula wannabes get the best of her. So rather than wallowing in her terror like most normal people would, Donna Noble set off to do what she did best.
"Oi! You lot have some lousy ideas on entertaining guests! Didn't anyone ever mention it isn’t polite to TIE THEM TO A BLOODY CHAIR?!"
A breathy giggle hadn't been quite the response she had expected. Donna jerked in her chair and almost sent it toppling. Thankfully, she didn't fall. That would have been all she needed.
"You mind giggling to my face?"
"Tsk. Sharp words, little bird."
A pale figure appeared in the doorway of the large, drafty hall. She was tall, dark haired, dark eyed and pale, quite a vision in an old Victorian dress. The woman looked like one of those old porcelain dolls her grandmum had had. They'd always given Donna the willies. She'd always been convinced they had been watching her. Much like this woman was now. Same blank look in her eyes too.
"Screaming out into the dark because no one cares to hear."
Oh great. So not only had she been snatched from right under the Doctor's nose by vampires, she had been kidnapped by crazy vampires. She was never coming to Sunnydale again, strange readings or no strange readings. The Doctor could go stuff his temporal anomalies. She was tired of getting kidnapped every time they came to this town.
"Yeah? Why don't you come closer so I can scream a bit more to your face?"
Granted, taunting the crazy wasn't exactly the smartest thing she had ever done, but being alone and terrified had never stopped her from speaking her mind before and it wasn't going to stop her now. She'd be damned if she was going to show her fear to some bunch of bad-breathed, glow-y eyed, disfigured Neanderthals in sore need of a dentists appointment.
"Hush, my little pet. Soon everything will be screaming," the woman closed her eyes and swayed closer to Donna.
"It's ringing in my head."
"Yeah? Why don't you untie me and I'll give your head something to ring about!"
The woman giggled again and stared at Donna's face intently. She smiled and trailed a red-tipped nail across Donna's cheek lightly. Donna had to suppress a shudder. This was getting way beyond creepy.
"Such a silly little thing, beating your wings against the cage," the woman purred into Donna's ear, still caressing Donna's cheek lightly.
Okay, now she was officially freaking out. How long did it take for that bloody Spaceman to even notice she was missing?!
"You. Are. Bonkers!" Donna hissed at the woman. The woman hissed right back and snapped her teeth in Donna's face.
"Keep that wicked tongue between your teeth, little bird," her voice was sharp and her eyes piercing. "Wouldn't want to rip it out before the tea's ready. The places are all set, but the guests are missing. I do hope they shall taste as sweet as the last ones," she continued in a softer tone, sounding delighted at the prospect.
And never mind the fact that the Doctor himself was baffled at all of this supernatural crap (and a subject that the Doctor didn't know about was rarely good news, no matter how much grief she gave him about knowing everything), this was the real reason Donna didn't like it. For all that aliens looked like demons sometimes (and a few acted like them), you could usually count on them just being people. Strange coloured, sometimes tentacled people, but people nevertheless. And people usually didn't make a habit of ripping your entrails out for fun, no matter how often it seemed to end up that way when you travelled with the Doctor. Most of the time the two of them ended up fixing problems you could find right here on Earth, albeit on a grander scale. But with demons...well, they just felt unnatural in a way aliens didn't. Like they didn't really belong in this universe. And most of them would eat you just as soon as they would say hello.
"Who're the party guests then? Frankenstein, maybe? Or was it Dracula?" When all else failed, sarcasm usually worked.
The woman's mood changed alarmingly, however. She snarled and slapped Donna, her nails leaving four long slashes on her cheek. Donna barely had time to gasp before her head was jerked backwards in a brutally strong and painful grip.
"Such a pretty thing, but not fit to play the mockingbird," the woman smiled again, her harsh mood evaporating. She trailed a finger over Donna's brow lightly. Donna's fear spiked. That bitch was not going there, "You shall burn so brightly, all the stars in your head going out. One by one, smothered in the dark," a breathy laugh washed over the woman, her voice low and hypnotic. Great, she had been kidnapped by a psychic vampire thing. Throw in a toga and Donna would soon be getting déjà-vu.
"What, you going to tell me I've got something on my back too?" she tried to throw in as much disdain as she could in her tone.
The woman ignored her. She stared straight into Donna's eyes, a rapturous expression playing along her features.
"You'll be mourned with such grief that the very universe will sing with it. Killed by the storm, but you'll still patter on…thump-thump, thump-thump. Oh, but there's another heart there."
"You. Have. Completely. Lost. It," Donna managed to gasp out, trying to keep the mad woman in her eyesight. It was a bit difficult with her hair still clutched in a brutal grip and her head uncomfortably held backwards. The woman grinned, her smile sharp and bright. Her eyes gleamed madly.
"Tsk. Mustn't be rude, my pet."
Her face leaned closer to Donna again, until all she could see were her dark eyes. Donna wanted to say something, but found herself unable to speak. The woman's eyes were like dark pools, drawing her in. Suddenly, something wet and raspy dragged across her injured cheek.
"Oh, you did not just lick me!" the sensation had caused Donna to snap out of the strange feeling that had enveloped her. She gagged a bit in disgust. Her cheek stung. The woman moaned and licked her now bloody lips.
"You taste like ashes and ice and time. You taste like the universe, but he is the universe. What a feast he shall be."
"Now, now, Drusilla," a low voice drawled from the doorway of the large hall. The sudden interruption shattered the odd atmosphere that had enveloped the two women, "leave some for the rest of us."
Drusilla pouted and backed away a bit, releasing her punishing grip on Donna's hair.
"And who're you then?" Donna asked a trifle warily, trying to regain her equilibrium. The dark figure chuckled.
"Never you mind," he smirked at her and then fixed Drusilla with an intense gaze, "Dru, lots to do before sunset and not a lot of time to do it. Make sure she's quiet," he smirked at Donna. She felt a bit dirty after that look and a whole lot more scared. Not that that was much of an accomplishment. It just made her want to hit him round that poofy head of his even more.
"We shall play later," Drusilla whispered in her ear from behind. Donna jumped. She ghosted a pale hand over Donna's eyes.
"Sleep, little firebird," she cooed. Donna wanted to snort in disbelief. Like she was going to fall asleep just because some floozy told-
Everything went dark.
Chapter 5: Tête-à-tête
Chapter by Carnen
This chapter references a previous story of mine, Delays and Directions, but you don't need to read it to figure out what's going on. You only need to know that Donna and Spike had a short encounter in 19th century London.
Anyway, enjoy the chapter :) Any and all comments and/or suggestions are most welcome!
The first thing that Donna noticed upon waking (the second bloody time!) was the acrid stench of cigarette smoke. She wrinkled her nose and inadvertently gasped. She choked on the smoke and started coughing.
"Good, you're finally up," the familiar accent made her head shoot up. She couldn't help but gape at the wheelchair bound figure in front of her. What was he doing here? Unless…
"Oh great, just what I needed. You." she rolled her eyes and tried to look bored, although Donna was pretty sure he could still smell her fear and her rapid heartbeats. Spike's eyes flashed with annoyance as he took another drag of his cigarette. Donna couldn't help but wrinkle her nose at the smell. Ever since the ATMOS situation on Earth, she had taken a particular dislike to any and all smoke. Just seeing it made her think of her Gramps choking in the car and that sheer dizzy and terrifying moment when she had thought that idiot Spaceman had blown himself up. Not to mention that the smell took forever to get out of her hair and clothes.
"We know each other then? Have to say, Red, you seem rather familiar," he said after a long moment of staring at her silently and intently.
Donna rolled her eyes, but had a moment of inward panic. She couldn’t very well tell this version of the bleached annoyance that she had seen him in the future, now could she? Especially considering what had happened to him. If anyone would create a paradox trying to change his future, it would be him. Although, strangely enough, he probably would care if the universe exploded. Not that she was sure that would stop him.
And then she remembered something his future self had said. She smirked.
"You need another slap to jog your memory then, Sunshine? I'd like to think I made an impression."
Spike's nostrils flared and his eyes narrowed. Donna resisted the urge to squirm against the ropes that bound her to the rather uncomfortable chair. It was all well and good to taunt him when she hadn't known what he was and when she had been free to defend herself. It was quite another when she was tied up and surrounded by peckish vampires in their gloomy lair. And no points on originality there; this setting was straight out of some overblown horror movie.
"That's impossible," Spike breathed quietly, still watching her intently, as though a visual examination would divulge her secret. Donna wasn't about to tell him either way.
"Yeah? Not so impossible from where I'm sitting, Mr. Ever-Young."
"Vampire, pet," it was his turn to roll his eyes and his lips twitched in amusement involuntarily, "Comes with the package. But you still smell human," he inhaled deeply, not bothering to be discreet. "Well, mostly."
"What do you mean mostly?" Donna's tone indicated that he had better answer and promised dire consequences if he didn't, restraints or no restraints.
"Oh, don't get your knickers in a twist, love. Just a strange scent about you. Come to think of it, you smelled that way the first time I saw you. Tingles a bit actually; bet it would spice your blood right up," he leered at her. Donna gave him a withering glare. "This have anything to do with that bloke you had to rescue last time? That caused a right riot," he said in fond remembrance.
Donna's eyes widened in realization and then narrowed. Oh, unless he had a really, really good explanation, Martian Boy was in trouble. She did not sign up for becoming some sort of –of catnip for vampires!
"It does?!" Spike let out a bark of laughter at her expression and took another drag of his cigarette, "Bloke better be on the lookout, angering a bird like you."
"And just what do you mean by that?"
She was in no mood to be insulted by some Billy Idol wannabe after he had told her he would like to have a few pints of her blood. When she got out of this, she was going to find a way to give him such a smackdown he wouldn't be able to see straight for weeks.
"Don't meet a lot who'd be willing to smack a bloke after they find out he's not human. Gotta respect that."
"Obviously you've never met the Doctor," Donna muttered under her breath. Spike smirked again, obviously having heard her.
"Right, as fascinating as this conversation isn't," Donna stressed, "You're what? Playing guard dog? Just cooling your heels with the victim? Well, you're not biting me, Sunshine!"
Spike shrugged, still watching her. She thought she could sense an undertone of irritation at her comments.
Surrounding his head was a veritable cloud of smoke, making it difficult to see anything through it except a vaguely shaped patch of darkness that signified an open doorway to other parts of the mansion. She considered demanding that he put the stupid thing out and then thought better of it. She should probably save her arguing points for something that actually mattered, like not getting eaten before she knew what was going on or before the Doctor came to get her.
"Had nothing better to do."
Donna bit her tongue from snapping out why he had nothing better to do. He probably wouldn't take too kindly to jabs about the wheelchair. And it wasn't like Donna was one to make cracks about peoples' disabilities. Though she was probably stretching the term 'people' to include Spike.
"'Sides. I was curious what all the fuss was about."
"And you had to kidnap me to take a look?" she mocked.
"Do you use your head for anything apart from keeping the rain out? They're not only after you. You're just the bait."
Right, business as usual then.
"Well isn’t that wizard! Hold on – not only after me? What'd they want with me in the first place? I'm nothin' special."
"Riiiiiiiight," Spike drawled, "And that's why every seer, oracle and mildly psychic crystal ball in this dump of a town started screaming their heads off a couple of days ago. A few of them went mad. Keep babbling that a storm is coming and that the stars are going out. But they mentioned both of you, not just him."
Despite herself, Donna felt a chill creep over her. What was it with seers and their portents of doom? A moment later, she shook the feeling off. Any more of that and she'd start believing in fairies.
"Is that why what's-her-name - Drusilla - was acting all bonkers?"
Spike flicked the butt of his cigarette over his shoulder carelessly. He growled at Donna, his stare cold.
"You don't get to talk about my Dru that way. Don't really need your tongue for whatever they have planned. Shame though, with a mouth like yours," he smirked at her, his grin leaving no room for speculation as to what he was thinking of. The first thing that passed Donna's mind was a feeling of incredulity. His Dru? Good grief. This guy had the worst taste in women Donna had ever seen. Then his last comment registered and all her feelings of vague pity flew out the window.
"Oi! Don't even think of going there, Sunshine, or you'll see what my mouth is capable of! Don't need my hands to maim you!"
Spike merely chuckled, his eyes glinting appreciatively and his earlier anger forgotten. This guy changed moods almost as quickly as the Doctor.
"I like you, Red," he fished out another cigarette from a rumpled pack, "Got a pair on you," he mumbled around it, patting his leather coat for the lighter.
"It's Donna. Donna Noble. Not Red, Sunshine," she said in a measured tone, eying him light up the cigarette with an expression of deep distaste.
"I'll call you Donna when you stop calling me Sunshine," he rolled his eyes in annoyance, taking a drag. Donna smirked.
"Rather appropriate though, don't you think? Suppose I can live with Red. Not too bad, comparatively."
Spike almost choked on his first drag, but caught himself and growled shortly instead.
"Cheeky bint," he muttered.
"What? You thought I'd be a low maintenance prisoner? Should've thought of that before you went about kidnapping redheads."
"Ah, but you've proved so entertaining so far," the answer didn't come from Spike, but from the doorway. Donna tensed at the vaguely familiar voice and noticed Spike trying to conceal his own tension as he settled into a pose that was decidedly too casual. She wondered at that for a moment before she registered who had actually spoken.
"Well, if it isn't Mr. Caveman himself. Gonna put me to sleep again? Or did you finally get the balls to face me?"
A low chuckle was her only answer. Donna tensed even more when she heard the slow, measured steps coming further into the hall. This bloke was menacing in an all too different way from either Spike or Drusilla. She had the feeling the other two would kill her, maybe drain her dry, but him…well, her impression was one of various pointy things and a long, slow drawn out death for his amusement.
"Quite a catch isn’t she, Spike, my boy," he drawled, clamping a hand down on Spike's shoulder. There was a fleeting grimace of pain on Spike's face before he steeled himself and rolled his eyes.
"If you like 'em red and mouthy," he tried to sound bored while jerking his shoulder free of the punishing grip.
Donna was trying to hold on to her temper when they continued speaking about her as though she wasn't right in front of them. Truth be told, she didn't really fancy having the other one's attention focused on her.
However, it wasn't really in her nature to stay quiet for long, especially if her life depended on knowing what the hell was going on. So far, all she knew was that they wanted her to lure the Doctor to them. Well, that was just business as usual as far as she was concerned, but she needed to know what they would do to him. So when Spike growled 'Angelus' in a murderous tone, she decided to intervene. After all, out of the whole bunch of bloodsuckers, Spike was the only one she had even a remote chance of getting on her side.
"Oi! You two mind quitting the love fest and telling me what's goin' on? Isn't this the part where you tell me all about your dastardly plans?"
Angelus turned his head towards her, as though he had just noticed her there.
"Oh, I'm disappointed in you, Spike! You still haven't told her? Shame. And here I was, hoping to avoid that particular cliché," his eyes glinted in dark amusement.
"Oh, please!" Donna said, aware that baiting him was not the smartest move, but unable to resist. "You're one to talk? Leather pants?! Honestly. At least he," she nodded to Spike, "can pull the whole look off. You just look like you've got a crick in your britches."
Angelus' face had been growing more livid as she went on. Finally, he growled and lifted his hand to hit her, probably hard enough to break her neck.
"Now, now, Peaches," Spike drawled from behind him, making Angelus pause, "You put a mark on the merchandise and who knows what will happen when the cavalry arrives."
"Looks like Drusilla got ahead of me there," Angelus said softly, leaning into Donna's face. She wrinkled her nose at him and tried to pull away. He grabbed her face, fingers digging into the gashes on her cheek left by the loony bint's nails. She gasped in pain and tried to squirm away. His grip tightened.
"Don't mock me, Ms. Smartmouth, or your handsome prince won't find anything of you except a few bones."
"Just try it, Leather Crotch and there won't even be a pile of dust left when he's done with you," she growled right back through clenched teeth, glaring at him. Sure, she was terrified, but she didn't have to just sit there and take it. And was that a flicker of fear in Angelus' eye? She couldn't be sure, because in the next moment, he had shoved her away. Donna's chair wobbled and it almost fell. She sat there with her head bowed, trying to catch her breath. Her cheek throbbed and her eyes burned with unshed tears.
Angelus stared at her for a long moment, a sneer on his face. Then he spun on his heels and stalked out of the room.
Donna lifted her head only to find Spike watching her. His expression was unreadable as he silently puffed away at his cigarette.
"Come on, Rollerboy! Lots to do before sunset!" came Angelus' voice. A look of intense hatred flared across Spike's face. He flung the cigarette butt across the room and maneuvered his wheelchair out of the hall without another word to Donna. She stared after him, wondering at the byplay of this particular vampire family, but mostly just relieved to be alive and unscathed. She drew in a few shuddery breaths, but refused to let her tears fall.
Although she couldn't help but wonder why the Doctor hadn't come for her yet.
Chapter 6: A Slayer and a Time Lord walk into a bar...
Chapter by Carnen
Willy tried not to cringe as one of his customers slammed their glass down on their table. His bar was full, unusually so considering that sunset was still a few hours away, but there was a strange tension in the air that had everybody jittery, especially him. And for once, instead of everybody going into their boltholes, the tension had them all huddling together on neutral territory. Not that you'd ever get the various demons to admit it.
And people kept talking and whispering about something big on the way. Although what it was exactly, nobody knew. The rumours flying about were enough to give anyone pause and Willy had the sinking feeling that these rumours would inevitably bring unwanted company to his place in the form of an irate Slayer. He only hoped that the repair costs wouldn’t be too high. It helped a little that he knew someone in the construction business who could give him a discount. Constantly repairing the bar was hell on his budget.
Loud voices brought him out of his musings and he stared at the table of arguing demons and vampires in trepidation. He didn't need a brawl starting. Thankfully, after a bit more posturing, they settled down. This in itself was unusual, but Willy wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Instead, he poured drinks in glasses and set about delivering them. Just because everybody was tense, didn't mean business stopped. In fact, there were a lot of new faces this evening. Well, afternoon. Perhaps he could hire some part time help?
"-if you asked me, he should have drained her dry instead of hauling her ass around-"
"-something odd about that bitch-"
"-was he thinking? I mean, the Slayer's turf-"
Disjointed bits of conversation floated to Willy's ears. He tried to look like he wasn't listening in, but he recognized a few of those vamps as Angelus' lackeys and it always paid to know what that particular vampire was up to. They were huddled together at a table, complaining about their job like any other self-respecting minions.
At a table nearby, a pair of cloaked demons was whispering furiously. Willy sidled to them casually and set their drinks down. They quieted when he approached, but he had managed to catch parts of what they were talking about. It seemed the psychic meltdown two days ago was still on everybody's minds. He was lucky to have gotten away from the whole thing with only a broken table when a Velnari demon had begun screaming about the stars going out and the world changing. And not only were Velnari demons highly psychic, they had the strength of a rampaging bull even when they weren't as distressed as that one had been.
Willy tried not to think too hard about it. If something was coming to Sunnydale that had even the demon underworld spooked, he didn’t want to have any part in it. But the thing was, none of them were really spooked by some specific thing. It was all rumours and conjecture. Like something out of legend was making a visit rather than some Big Bad. Of course, knowing Sunnydale, it was probably both. There had even been whisperings of Wolfram and Hart representatives nosing about and everybody knew that if they were around, it must be big. The bureaucratic nightmare they would be in with the Mayor would not be worth it otherwise.
And speaking of nightmares…The whole bar had suddenly gone quiet. Willy looked up from where he had been drying a few glasses and tried to suppress a groan. And who else but the Slayer had strode into his bar like she owned it, just to make his night complete? She was wearing that cheery expression that never failed to make him realize just how much his death would brighten her day. She wasn't alone either. With her was some new tall guy, an oddball by the looks of him, who was looking around with a look of total glee and wonder that was rather strange considering his surroundings. Really new guy then. Willy gave him maybe two minutes the first time he came face to face alone with one of Sunnydale's more unpleasant residents. And who wore a coat in this heat? Well, other than vampires, but the guy looked way too lively to be a member of the undead.
The demons that hadn't run out of the bar before the Slayer could glare them into submission were now either warily staring at her and her guest or studiously contemplating their drinks in an effort to avoid her notice. If it had been any other day, the sight of a violently pink Grishnor demon trying to hide behind his whiskey and soda would have been hilarious. As it was, Willy was just hoping something would be left of his place when the Slayer was finished with him. He had just finished the payments the last time someone had wrecked the bar. So instead of hiding under his bar and whimpering as he wanted to do, he plastered a fake smile on his face and greeted the Slayer.
"S-slayer! What a…pleasant surprise! Can I interest you in anything? I've got some great new whiskey, straight from-"
His babbling was abruptly cut off when the Slayer slammed her hand down on his bar. Willy winced slightly at the crack that formed under her palm and mentally started tallying the amount of money he would need to fix that.
"Willy, cut the crap," she said, oh so sweetly, "now, you know what I want and as much as I hate to delve into clichés, we can either do this the hard way or the easy way."
Willy gulped and chuckled nervously.
"I-I-I have no idea what you mean, Slayer-"
She dropped her cheerful façade and glared at him. He smiled weakly, not liking the direction this was going. His gaze darted about, trying to find a way out of the pain he just knew was coming. For a moment, he forgot all about the Slayer when he saw her friend making a nuisance of himself, trying to have a chat with a Fyarl demon of all things.
"H-honest! And as much as I appreciate your, er, visit, don't you think you should keep an eye on your buddy there? He's about to become a smear on the wall."
"Right, like I'm going to fall for that," she said flatly.
Willy winced when the Fyarl demon roared and lifted the Slayer's friend only to slam him against the wall. It was holding him up with one big, clawed arm and growling something into his face. Strangely, the guy didn't seem all that worried or affected by the arm around his neck. In fact, instead of cowering in fear like a sensible person, he seemed indignant.
The Slayer blanched at the noise and whipped around to see the newest floorshow, an expression of shock on her face.
Willy breathed a sigh of relief when the Slayer's attention was diverted away from him. He didn't really want to get a reputation of blabbing things to the Slayer. Not that he had anything against her personally, but some of his customers might not take to kindly to that. And everybody knew he was a coward, but Willy liked to think he was a coward with at least a little bit of integrity. That meant that you didn't go around gabbing secrets and information without there being something in it for him. Luckily, avoiding bodily harm definitely fell into that category so nobody really gave him a hard time when the Slayer threatened. After all, if he was out of business, they'd have to go somewhere else for drinks and demons, as a rule, weren't all that fond of change.
"Your friend over there, he have a death wish or something?"
"He will when I'm through with him. I told him not to wonder off!"
Willy did not want to be in the guy's shoes when the Slayer caught up with him.
In front of them, the new guy sputtered at something the Fyarl had growled out at him.
"Oi! Now that's a bit rude! What did I ever do to you? I was merely-"he gurgled a bit as the Fyarl tightened it grip and grunted something out.
"What has that got to do with anything, you-" what followed was a string of sounds Willy vaguely recognized as Fyarl. He was also pretty sure human vocal chords weren't supposed to be able to produce them. He was a little impressed, despite himself. Wasn't every day you saw someone willing to talk back to a Fyarl demon. Of course, that might be because most of the idiots who did that didn't survive the experience.
Whatever the guy had said to it, the Fyarl grew even angrier. It roared into the guy's face before rearing its head back. Willy winced again. If the Fyarl was bringing the mucous out to play, the guy was really in trouble. And he seemed to realize it too.
The guy's eyes widened. With a muttered 'Oh dear', he started fumbling for something in his coat. The Slayer had already started towards the two, but her way was barred by some of the demons who had ringed around to watch the guy get beaten to a bloody pulp. She'd get there too late, no matter how willing she was to bulldoze through the crowd.
But after a few moments, it became clear that her friend didn't need any help. He had taken out some silver flashlight thing and buzzed it in front of the Fyarl's face. The tiny little thing had an instant effect on the room. Every demon flinched away from it and held their ears as though something had hurt them. It had an even stranger effect on the Fyarl, which had started to choke and gasp. It released the guy, who landed on his feet with an indignant sniff. The Fyarl crashed to the floor and was still. Willy found that he had to close his gaping mouth. The guy had killed a Fyarl just by waving a flashlight at it?
Everything was silent for a moment. The crowd dispersed under the guy's haughty glare as the Slayer forced her wide-eyed way through.
He sniffed again and tugged at his coat jacket. He flashed a bright grin at the Slayer while adjusting his tie.
"Yes, hello! Had a bit of a spat, nothing to worry about!"
The guy, the Doctor apparently, sounded entirely too cheerful after being threatened by a demon.
He stepped towards the downed Fyarl and leaned over it, whipping out a pair of thick-rimmed glasses.
"Hm, Fyarl demon if I'm not mistaken and I rarely am. Nasty little fellow, the mucous was a nice touch, but a bit unfortunate for him since I've got my screwdriver with me." He waved the gadget about, "My handy screwdriver, love my screwdriver. Anyway, bad idea to have something I can solidify with it in your sinuses and can I say that was extremely rude!"
He frowned down at the Fyarl as though it could hear him.
"And what is it with Fyarl demons in this town, anywa-" he paused suddenly and seemed to come to a realization, "Oooooh. Well, that's solved then," he grinned. Willy decided that sanity was not one of this guy's strong suits.
"Doctor?" the Slayer said again, her expression vying between amused, confused and impatient.
"Yes?" he looked up from poking at the body.
"On a mission here?" the Slayer reminded him. The Doctor's face brightened and he bounded – almost skipped – to the bar.
"Right, yes, information. Don't let me stop you, you were doing wonderfully," he grinned widely at her. Willy was a bit bemused when the Doctor aimed the grin his way and leaned on the bar, propping his head on his arm to better watch them. He gave off an air of a particularly attentive student. Willy decided the guy was a total whacko, if a completely harmless one. Well, until Willy remembered the dead Fyarl on the floor of his bar. That was going to be a bitch to clean up.
The Slayer gaped a bit at the Doctor before she shook her head. Refocusing, she glared at Willy.
"Now Willy, I don’t like it when there is trouble in my town. And kidnapping my friends, on my turf? That's trouble. And I don't take kindly to trouble."
Willy had heard better threats, but the Slayer had the ability to actually act on them.
"It's a tragedy, Slayer and I'm sorry if you can't keep track of your friends, but I can't tell you anything about it," however, he had gotten his second wind and was determined not to cave in as quickly as he usually did. He still had a bit of pride left in some dusty corner, after all.
"Can't, or won't, Willy? Think about it carefully, or you'll be making the acquaintance of my fist."
"Oh, I see what you're doing there!" Willy laughed nervously, "But you can't touch me! I'm human, against the rules to hurt me." He hoped. Hadn't seemed to stop her before. He gulped.
"And you’re absolutely correct!" a cheerful British voice interrupted the two. Willy had almost forgotten about the Doctor guy and it was a bit jarring to have the usual script interrupted. The Slayer flashed an annoyed look at the Doctor, to which he seemed totally oblivious.
"Buffy here, nice girl. A bit violent, but it comes with the job, I suppose. However, you'd be surprised what you can live through and her job only says no killing humans," the Doctor's tone was cheerfully innocent, but the shrewd look he cast Willy's way was starting to frighten him. Dead Fyarl demon, Willy reminded himself. This guy was far more dangerous than he looked.
"Now, hopefully, we've established that Buffy can successfully make you wish you've never been born."
It was chilling how quickly the cheerful exterior vanished. Willy gulped when he met the Doctor's eyes. There was a storm brewing behind them and they seemed far too old to belong in such a youthful face.
"But I can make it so you never were," the Doctor said quietly, but dangerously, still staring straight at Willy. It felt like the Doctor's gaze was searing through him, judging him and finding him wanting. Willy was just thankful he had already emptied his bladder before this whole thing had started, because he sort of believed the guy. It was one thing to be beaten to a pulp, but having never existed in the first place? Willy wasn't much given to philosophical thoughts of any kind, but that idea had a way of frightening him more than any stay in a hospital.
"Now, Donna Noble. She's been taken. Who took her? And where?"
Willy took a step back at the angry intensity in his voice.
"L-l-look, I-I don’t know anything about a Donna Noble-" the Slayer raised a fist in warning and Willy cringed, "w-w-wait! D-don't know anything about anyone with that name, but word on the street is Angelus has nabbed himself something. Something valuable. There's been rumours everywhere that the highest bidder gets the prize. Now, I don't know what it is, but it's got the upshots in an uproar. Apparently it's rare – rarer than rare! A-a-and some of his lackeys were complaining the whole day about something – someone - they'd taken from right under the Slayer's nose. It's all I got, I swear!"
The two exchanged a meaningful look before the Slayer rounded on Willy again.
"You sure about that, Willy?"
"Y-ye-well, there's been some talk about the psychics going crazy, but everyone knows about tha-"
'What do you mean?" the Doctor interrupted, frowning. Willy looked from the Slayer to the Doctor, nervous, confused and a little bit terrified.
"Where've you two been? Everyone knows about it."
"Busy," the Slayer said flatly.
"Out of town," the Doctor said, a hint of humour now threading through his voice.
"It's all over town; psychics screaming about the stars going out and a storm coming," Willy tittered nervously, "If I didn't know better, I'd say we were talking apocalypse." Apocalypses had the nasty habit of being felt worldwide, portents everywhere. As far as Willy had been able to make out, this was strictly a local phenomenon. Weird, creepy, but local. Still - "We're not, are we?"
"Not that I've head of."
Willy only felt slightly reassured by the Slayer's statement, but he had a feeling she'd take care of it even if there was one brewing. She seemed to be really good at things like that.
"What did you mean by the stars going out? What storm?"
Willy's attention snapped back to the Doctor. He seemed very intent on the answer.
"Look, I don't know the details, alright? But two days ago, all the psychics went crazy, started spouting out some cryptic crap. The only sense anyone could get from them was that Sunnydale was getting a few visitors and a storm front was coming in. It's got everybody on edge and with Angelus getting ready for that fancy thing-"
"How do I not know these things?" the Slayer interrupted him somewhat petulantly and completely inappropriately for the mood. Willy gulped and glanced from the Doctor to her, slightly incredulous.
"Well, all due respect to your ability to beat things to a pulp, Slayer, but if I'm your only source of information on what's going on in Sunnydale, that's not saying much."
He had a sudden feeling that the Doctor was very amused by what he had said. The Slayer, on the other hand, was staring at him in disbelief.
"What? You're giving me tips on how to do my job? I'm getting tips from Willy the Snitch?"
"Hey, now! No need to get insulting!"
They both gave him an exasperated look, although the Doctor still seemed more amused than anything.
"However true it may be. I've got a reputation to keep. And uh, it looks like we're having a pretty friendly chat here, so if you could just threaten me some more, you know, make it look like I didn't cave in so easily?"
"You are a very peculiar man."
"Thanks, Doc, tell us something we didn't know," Buffy quipped, "Right, you want threatening?"
She grabbed Willy by his shirt and yanked him halfway across his bar.
"If I find out you've been holding out on me, Willy, there is nowhere in this universe that you'll be able to hide from me. Clear?" she growled into his face. Willy gulped.
"C-c-crystal," he said nervously, "Much obliged."
"Oh, I wouldn't be thanking her yet, Willy," the Doctor said, lightly bouncing on his feet, his body language completely at odds with the look in his eyes, "Because after she's through with you, it'll be my turn," his tone darkened, "And remember what I've said about that."
Then he grinned. And just like that, the dangerous aura around him vanished and he seemed nothing more than an eccentric man. An eccentric man who could down Fyarl demons in seconds and was far too good at threatening people. Only in Sunnydale.
"C'mon Buffy, we've got ourselves a companion to find."
The Doctor twirled around, long coat swishing behind him as he headed for the exit. The demons seated nearby cowered away slightly and refused to meet his eyes. After giving Willy a cheerful, and therefore disturbing, smile, the Slayer almost skipped after him. They left the room and Willy sagged against the bar, heart racing with fear.
Chapter 7: Philosophical ponderings
Chapter by Carnen
I have no clue when the next chapter will be up as I have a million and one other things to do (namely college and NaNoWriMo). I'll post it as soon as I'm satisfied with it, however! Any comments most welcome :)
Willow only looked up from her typing when Giles let out another muttered curse. It wasn't really like him to swear so much, no matter how quietly he did it. Xander and Cordelia paid him no attention, but were unusually engrossed in one of Giles' books, presumably researching. She glanced towards Oz, who merely gave a shrug in return. So he'd noticed too.
She watched silently as Oz turned back to inspecting the Doctor's belongings. They were all supposed to be looking for whatever happened to Donna Noble, but they didn't have much to go on, so it was more of a random search through the books. Giles was still rather annoyed that the Doctor had left all of his books strewn about the table willy nilly. Not to mention the table was still littered with the contents of his pockets. From all that he had left behind in his frantic exit to look for Donna, Willow thought that the thin leather wallet Oz was so fascinated with was the least interesting. Personally, she was itching to take a look at some of the gadgets, but had so far managed to restrain herself. She could get a look or two when Donna wasn't in danger anymore. Willow rather liked the other redhead, even though she reminded her of Cordelia a bit, all brash and loud. But much nicer overall.
Willow's job was to search for anything relevant on the Web, but she kept getting distracted by the knowledge that there were aliens out there. She really needed to look into a few of those organizations she had found mention of when there was nothing life threatening going on. UNIT sounded interesting and she hoped they had more information on the Doctor. Speaking of which, the Doctor and Buffy should be returning soon. They had left a few hours ago to look for information. She really hoped they found something, because she was drawing a blank and she presumed the others were too.
"I'm going to wring his skinny neck!" Giles slammed a book down on the table, making everyone startle.
"Anger management issues, much?" Cordelia scowled at him. Giles sighed and whipped out a handkerchief to wipe his glasses.
"Just for the sake of clarification, whose skinny neck are we talking about here?" Oz piped up.
"The Doctor's," Giles said, the anger in his tone rising again when he glanced at the book.
"Why, what's he done?" Willow tried to see what was wrong with the book, but couldn't get a good look from where she was sitting.
"He - he-" Giles seemed to have trouble even formulating the words.
"Wrote in the margins and crossed things out?" Xander supplied. Giles blinked at him.
"Well yes. How did you-" Giles had a horrified expression on his face, "he did that to more than one book?"
"Seems like it," Xander said cheerfully, waving the book he and Cordelia had been reading, "very entertaining, I gotta say."
"That's the Compendium of Hopefully Modern Prophecies," Giles' expression was carefully blank and his tone very measured. Probably to keep from going into a rage. Giles was very protective of his books.
"More like his 'been there, done that, not to worry anymore' list," Cordelia took the book from Xander and flipped through the pages.
"I beg your pardon?!" Giles snatched the book from Cordelia's hands, paying no attention to her indignant complaints.
"Yeah," Xander sniggered, "he sort of crossed out the title of the book and wrote in what Cordy had said instead. Then he started to scribble in what actually happened and what he did to fix it. Only more vaguely and with a lot of mentions of spoilers. He really didn't strike me as a fan of prophecies."
Oz leaned over to look at the book, where Giles was disbelievingly turning the pages that were filled with surprisingly neat and structured scribbles.
"Personally, I like the little note that says if he hasn't taken care of something yet, he probably will in the future or he just forgot that he did since the people who wrote this were annoyingly cryptic," he said.
"B-but, that's good, right?" Willow offered hesitantly. She cringed a little when Giles directed a glare at her, "N-not the book writing, 'cause that's bad and books are sacred and must not be written in under any circumstances," she said with only the slightest amount of sarcasm, "but the fact that we won't have to worry about the prophecies?"
Giles sighed again and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"Yes, I suppose you're right Willow. But we should still keep an eye on them. Just because he thinks he solved something already doesn't mean it can't change, if I understood correctly what he was saying earlier."
"You mean the fact that demons weren't around all the time, but some weird time thing changed it?" Cordelia asked. The rest of the Scoobies looked at her in confusion.
"Yes, thank you, Cordelia for blurting that out," Giles said in a resigned tone and turned to pick up more of the scattered books, paying little attention to the rest of them. But that was fine as Willow was having trouble noticing what he was doing herself, because her mind was busy running through the implications of what Cordelia had said.
"Wait - so all of this," Xander waved a hand to emphasize the whole situation, "was never meant to happen? Like some great big event changed time to this? Man, that completely sucks! And not in a good way. I think I feel cheated. How come we're the ones who always get the short end of the stick?"
"I feel vaguely ambivalent about it," Oz said slowly after a moment of thought. Willow stared at him in disbelief, her heart starting to race as Cordelia's words finally sank in.
"Ambivalent?! How can you feel ambivalent about it?! We've changed and we don't even know it! Who knows what we've done?! Maybe we're not supposed to be alive? Our lives changed and we didn't even notice! It could be changing right now! Oh God," Willow said, panicking and almost hyperventilating. Oz reached across the table and grabbed one of her flailing hands. She stopped talking and took deep, nervous breaths.
"Hey," he smiled at her. She smiled back tremulously. He could always make her feel better in that quiet way he had. But she was still more than a bit freaked out that she had no control over her own history. Not even her memories were safe!
"In fact, I've just realized something," Oz stated.
"Willow has an overdeveloped sense of responsibility?" Xander said, but everyone ignored him. Willow looked at Oz, silently encouraging him to continue.
"I don't care if it changed."
She looked puzzled.
"How can you not-"
Oz smiled slightly.
"'Cause I have you now. Who knows if we'd have met without all this?"
She gaped at him for a moment, speechless.
"That's so - so-" Willow gave up trying to form a coherent sentence and just pulled Oz in closer for a kiss.
They only broke apart at the sound of Xander yelping. Turning their heads to see what had happened, they only saw him scowling at Cordelia who was glaring at him.
"What was that for? I didn't even say anything!"
"Exactly! How come you never say such nice things to me?"
"You have to ask?" Xander said incredulously, rubbing his shoulder pointedly.
Cordelia merely huffed and proceeded to ignore him. Willow exchanged a bemused glance with Oz.
"Much as I haven't enjoyed this existential crisis of the day, do you think we could get back to researching? However mutilated my books are?" the last was said under Giles' breath. Willow winced. Sarcasm from Giles; he must be more affected by the books than she'd thought. Exchanging worried glances with the Scoobies, she turned back towards the computer.
Right, time to get back on track, even though she was still more than a little creeped out by the history-is-changing-as-we-speak thing. Maybe she should check out some of the Wiccan sites she had taken to browsing after Jenny's death? They sometimes had useful posts. As she clicked, she kept half an ear out, listening to what the rest were saying.
However, instead of keeping track of what the Scoobies were saying, her attention was drawn to the sound of approaching footsteps and raised voices. She perked up and turned towards the door, hoping it was Buffy and the Doctor with information. But the sight that greeted her when the two entered wasn't quite the decisive let's-get-on-with-this-rescuing-business she had expected.
"For the last time, I didn't kill that Fyarl demon!" the Doctor snapped at Buffy as he pushed open the library doors, his coat whirling behind him. Buffy followed him in, rolling her eyes, whether at the display or his words, Willow couldn't tell.
"Yeah, kinda figured that when we heard Willy start screaming like a little girl when it woke up. Still not sure on the why though. It was a threat."
"He was a sentient being!"
He? Sentient being? Willow frowned. She had never really thought of demons that way. Then again, they could never afford to. Her attention was drawn back to the arguement.
"It tried to kill you!" Buffy persisted.
"So I should go around killing everyone who tries to kill me?"
Willow wanted to hide from the burning in his eyes as he faced Buffy. She noticed the flicker of fear in Buffy's eyes as well, but her admiration for Buffy rose up by a few more notches when Buffy didn't back down.
"Because that would be a very long list," the Doctor continued.
"What? No! It's a demon!"
"Oh, so that's your answer to everything then, isn't it? See something that looks like a demon and just go on right ahead and kill it?" He almost snarled into Buffy's face.
The two were completely ignoring the rest of them. Everyone else was a bit too stunned to react to the argument in front of them.
"Kinda goes with the job description. Slayer see, Slayer slay. I don't get the luxury of blathering on at something. If I don't act, I'm dead." Buffy wasn't giving any ground either.
The Doctor's eyes flashed with something Willow couldn't define and he suddenly seemed to grow sad, the fight draining out of him. His body twitched when he straightened and made an aborted move to back away from Buffy. But instead of moving away, he looked at her straight in the eye, a muscle twitching in his cheek. Buffy steadfastly stared back, still not relaxing from her confrontational posture.
"Violence is never the right answer, Buffy. Killing even less," he said softly.
"But sometimes it's the only one," she said in a firm tone. The Doctor looked even sadder at her words. Not so much, Willow thought, at the fact that Buffy wouldn't change her mind, but at the fact that she was right and both of them knew it. Willow wondered how much it must cost him every time to relearn that lesson if this was how he reacted to killing a demon, nevermind some other threat.
The Doctor was about to reply to Buffy, when a quiet cough from Giles brought their attention to the silently watching Scoobies. Willow had to look away from the Doctor when he turned to face them. It was as though it had just hit him that a bunch of teenagers were responsible for protecting the world from evil. Well...well, they were just as good as those stuffy Watchers in England. No - they were better! Willow looked up and stared squarely at the Doctor, a defiant expression on her face. His eyes flickered to her face and a fleeting, but still sad smile crossed his face.
"Much as I find this conversation fascinating, I believe Ms. Noble is still in need of rescue. Have you found any information on her whereabouts?" Giles tried to get things back on track.
"Yeah, three guesses for which vamp nabbed her and the first two don't count," Buffy's expression was still grim, even though she was now facing the Scoobies.
"Good Lord," Giles paled. "Angelus has her?"
"What the hell does he want with her?"
They all turned to stare at Cordelia incredulously. The Doctor's expression hid a brewing storm, one which Willow would have been glad to see directed at Cordelia at any other day. But if they were going to save Donna, they really needed to get a move on. They could hit Cordy for her tactlessness later.
"What?" Cordelia continued noticing the looks directed her way, "Those two just got here! How could Angelus possibly know she'd be here? And that she'd have anything that'd be remotely useful to him?"
Willow felt that her mouth was open, so she closed it as unnoticably as possible. Cordy actually had a point.
"She does have a point," Oz contributed, echoing her thoughts.
"Apparently they weren't so unexpected as we thought," Buffy explained, "According to Willy, the psychics in town went all cuckoo a few days ago. And Angelus has his very own hotline."
"Drusilla," Giles' tone was grim.
"Exactly," Buffy confirmed, "but that still doesn't explain what they want with Donna."
"Oh, I could think of a few things," the Doctor's voice was light, but his expression sort of made Willow want to hide in a corner, even more than when he was arguing with Buffy.
"Pardon?" Giles turned to Xander.
"C'mon, it's obvious! Donna might not be anything more than human, but who do you think they expect is going to storm the castle wanting her back?"
"That," the Doctor began grimly, "makes more sense than I'd like it to."
He turned to leave.
"Wait! Where are you going?"
The Doctor looked over his shoulder, raising an eyebrow.
"I'm going to give him exactly what he wants."
He exited the library with another swirl of his coat.
"I have to get me a coat like that," Xander said wistfully.
"I'll kill him," Buffy grumbled, ignoring Xander. "All right gang, time to move out."
Chapter 8: The Highest Bidder
Chapter by Carnen
NaNoWriMo and the xover_echange ate my brain. Any comments and/or suggestions most welcome!
This whole experience was getting more and more unpleasant by the minute, Donna fumed. The sun was just beginning to set, leaving the darkened hall of the mansion even chillier than before. She'd been here for hours and her hands and feet had long since gone numb from being tied down. There was still no sign of the Doctor, but she refused to believe he wouldn't come for her. He was probably just having trouble tracking her down, not that that was a comforting thought. Still, she couldn't keep a small smile off her face when she remembered the absolute hissy fit he'd thrown when he realized his sonic screwdriver didn't function all that well on top of the Hellmouth the first time they'd come here. Not that that had lasted as long as it might have, life and death situations being what they were.
It rather irked her having to keep her mouth shut about all this temporal stuff, especially any time she caught a glimpse of Spike. Boy, was she ever going to slap him silly if their timelines ever got back on track. Come to think of it, he'd been rather wary of her the second time they'd met. Now she knew why. Not like he wouldn't have deserved it, the prig. What was the point of keeping her hog-tied if all they were going to do was stare at her?
It wasn't just the vampires living in the mansion surrounding her now, but a bunch of other figures as well. Most of them were cloaked or hidden in the shadows (or behind her, and didn't that just give her the willies), but the ones which really stood out were a pair in business suits of all things. And very snazzy ones at that. Lawyers, she immediately thought and then wondered what the Hell lawyers had to do with this whole thing. Maybe lawyers really were evil.
In fact, what was this whole thing about, anyway? The moment she saw Angelus enter the hall with a dramatic flourish, she knew she was going to find out. Whether she wanted to or not. Behind him trailed Drusilla and Spike. The former looked stoned as usual, swaying lightly in an unseen breeze, while the latter looked bored out of his mind. Donna made sure to give him an extra harsh glare. Even though he would never show it, she was sure he felt at least a little confused as to her absolute hostility towards him. After all, out of the whole lot, he had been the only one semi-decent to her. Well, he was the only one who hadn't tried to either scare her witless or try to snack on her. Donna Noble was pissed, however, and wouldn't let logic stand in the way of her anger.
"Gentlemen, ladies, fellow demons, I'm sure you all know why we're gathered here tonight. So without further ado, let the bidding begin," Angelus smirked at Donna, eyes glinting with dark humour. She glared at him for all she was worth. So we was going to sell her, was he? She couldn't fathom why, not like she was anything special, but she was so going to make him pay the moment she was out of these bonds. She flinched when she saw a rotting hand of one of the demons near her cheek, almost caressing it. Even she could feel Angelus' icy glare directed at it. No touching the merchandise. She felt like a piece of meat, held out for their inspection.
Before, she had managed to reign in her fear and channel it into anger, giving her kidnappers a piece of her mind. But now, it was all she could do not to cower. The things surrounding her watched her silently. There was an aura about them; something old and dangerous and inhuman. It vaguely reminded her of the Doctor when he let the whole Time Lord thing get into his head, but for all that he scared her in those moments, she knew that he still cared for life and living things and that he would never let anyone harm her. In those moments, he needed someone to stop him and Donna was able to do that. Donna knew she wouldn't be able to affect the things surrounding her. They felt like death and darkness and Donna suddenly missed the Doctor's fire. Where the bloody hell was the Spaceman when you needed him?
"Mmm, quite a catch she is. Lovely," a raspy voice near her ear said. She suppressed a shudder. "See how the threads of fate twist all about her? Most unusual, as though it's all converging."
Another raspy voice murmured agreement and Donna caught a glimpse of blood red eyes underneath a cowl before they backed away together, whispering furiously. Donna felt thoroughly unnerved. She glanced about, noticing the lawyers were paying the utmost attention to proceedings, even though they hadn't come off their mobiles throughout this whole thing.
"She has strange energy," a different voice from underneath yet another black cloak rattled. The shadowed part where its face should have been tilted to one side, as though it was studying her.
"Not since the Sundering has it been felt so strong," another rasped. Excited murmuring broke out from the assembled things watching her.
"Oh, I can assure you, lads, she's the finest and rarest catch of this sort you could ever have. Except...well..."Angelus trailed off suggestively and Donna suddenly remembered with frightening clarity that she was just the bait for the real prize. He wanted the Doctor.
"A larger source of Timeblood than in her? Impossible! Only the Abomination and the legends of the -" the demon speaking paused suddenly, stunned, "You cannot possibly mean-?"
"Come now, surely you felt it? The whole town trembled with his arrival. And now I've got the one thing he wants in my hands."
The tension in the room rose by several degrees. Donna held her breath, wondering what would happen next. They were frightened, Donna realized.
"This is madness!" One tall, slender demon broke off from the rest, luminous sweat breaking out on its brow. "You've brought him down upon us! He'll end us all!"
The demon ran towards the door, the rest looking like they might follow him any second. Donna sat there, gobsmacked. The Doctor got this sort of reaction from them? No, she had to be mistaken. Sure, he could be scary, but to send demons running at the very idea of him? They hadn't even said his name, for God's sake!
"Excellent," one of the lawyers snapped his phone shut and nodded decisively. He moved towards Angelus.
"My firm is willing to match the highest bidder and add a hefty bonus. More will follow if you-" he was cut off by a scream near the door.
"What the-?' Angelus whirled around to face the door, murder writ on his features. Next to Donna, Drusilla leaned in over her shoulder. Donna gagged. She smelled like dead flowers and dried blood.
"The Lord arrives," her breathy whisper sounded obscene in her ear. Donna flinched away with a jerk when she felt Drusilla lick her cheek again with another rapturous moan. Those cuts still stung.
The whole room sprang into pandemonium when the tall demon's head suddenly rolled inside. Many of the previously calm and collected demons ran off into the darkness of the mansion, no doubt getting out through other exits.
The body followed the head. It hit the floor with a dull, wet smack. Donna felt sick, staring at the headless corpse oozing glowing blood. She felt immeasurably relieved when she saw Buffy step through the door, blood-stained sword in her hand. Not only for the rescue, but also that the Doctor hadn't been the one to murder the demon. She didn't want him to start killing just because of her.
"Sorry to crash your party," Buffy smirked, "But I've brought party favours to make up for it!"
With that quip, Buffy launched herself at the few demons who had stood to fight. Willow and Cordelia also burst through the door, crossbows held in readiness to shoot fleeing minions. There was more commotion behind them, but Donna stopped paying attention when an ice-cold hand suddenly gripped her neck and the other carelessly snapped the ropes holding her to the chair with the other. Fat lot of good it did her, when her hands and feet were still tied together.
"One more step, lad, and her neck's not the only thing I'll break!"
A chill went down her spine, even though logically she'd known who'd grabbed her. Angelus. She twisted her head to look at who he was threatening, wanting to slump in relief when she saw the Doctor tensely standing only a few feet away. His face was devoid of expression, but his eyes burned something fierce. It unpleasantly reminded Donna of the Christmas they'd met. Despite that, she'd rather be next to him than in the clutches of Angelus. Him, she could slap some sense into, Angelus would probably snap her neck for even thinking it.
"I'm no lad," the Doctor said deceptively mildly, "And it'd be best for you to let her go. It's such a bother fixing the timelines when you wipe somebody from them."
Donna could feel Angelus tense. If she didn't know better, she'd say he was frightened. Chaos still reigned all about them, but this still little space surrounding the three of them was remarkably calm, if very tense. The eye of the storm, Donna thought, remembering one of the Doctor's fancy-pants names. It sure as hell looked like something was brewing in those eyes.
Angelus was about to snarl a response back to the Doctor, when a pale Victorian vision stepped into her line of sight.
"Dru, stay out of this!" Angelus snapped. Both the Doctor and Drusilla ignored him. The Doctor's attention was fixed on Drusilla, eyes hard. Figures he'd focus on the pretty, if crazy woman.
"You're him. The man with starlight in his soul." Drusilla seemed to find that incredibly amusing for some reason, giggling away and swaying. "Oh, you shine so, so brightly. You spin and you turn and you burn so very much."
Drusilla's eyes never left the Doctor's and Donna remembered that strange sensation of falling into them, dropping unconscious at Drusilla's command. Her suspicion was confirmed when she noticed Angelus relaxing slightly, his bruising grip on her throat easing a tiny fraction. The Doctor didn't look away from Drusilla, his eyes almost glazed. Drusilla slowly approached him, light steps dancing to a four beat tune only she could hear, a victorious smile on her face. Donna's heart sank. Just like the Spaceman to get hypnotized by some bloody bint.
"I wonder...how very broken you are. Everything must have screamed so much. How did it feel?" Her fingers fluttered only inches from his face, nails gleaming sharply in the candlelight. The Doctor still didn't say a word, unflinching at her nearness, staring into a distance only he could see.
"Did you feel like a god when you broke eternity? When you pushed the big red button and woke the Big Bad Wolf? It's all cracking, returning through the dark."
"How does it feel? To walk in eternity? Where the skies are made of diamonds?" she was close enough to whisper the last into his ear.
"Show me," she commanded gently, fingers touching just under his neck, poised as though to slash it. Donna wanted to turn away, unable to watch. But the moment Drusilla touched the Doctor, she began to scream. The Doctor's eyes snapped to attention and his mesmerized stance melted away like a mask. Donna realized that's all it had ever been.
Drusilla's scream was a terrible thing to hear. It was a long, drawn out, unrelenting wail. She clutched at her head and fell to her knees, still screaming.
Donna could feel Angelus tense behind her.
"What have you done?" he snarled, looking to and fro from Drusilla to the Doctor. The Doctor turned cold eyes to Angelus.
"Exactly what she asked. I let her in."
Behind them, Drusilla was now screaming out indistinct words. Donna could only make something out about fire and rage and turning universes. It all melded together, screams and words and different languages.
"It's over, Angelus. Let her go," the Doctor's voice brooked no disobedience. Donna finally wrenched her attention from the pitiful sight of the vampiress losing what little sanity she still had to the confrontation between them. Everything else around them was still and Donna suddenly noticed that the other battles that'd been fought around them were over. Battered and bruised, but obviously victorious, the Scoobies were silently ranged around the three, ready to jump into the situation at a moment's notice.
"This is your one chance, Angelus. Let. Her. Go."
"Or what?" Angelus growled. Donna could feel him shifting, muscles tensing, though if it was to break her neck or make a run for it, she couldn't tell. The Doctor tilted his head and glanced at Drusilla, who was now just mumbling incoherently to herself, rocking back and forth.
"Do you have to ask?" he said, still in that mild voice that managed to frighten Donna so much more than his rage ever could. She could almost feel the cogs in Angelus' head turning. All of his minions were dead, he was practically surrounded, Drusilla was a brain-addled wreck on the floor and even if Spike was still anywhere to be seen, there was little good he could do bound to his wheelchair. Things were not looking up for him.
Angelus met the Doctor's eyes and they stared at each other for a long moment. Long enough that Donna could see Buffy's sword twitching in her hand, the Slayer in her no doubt itching for a fight.
With a snarl Angelus shoved Donna into the Doctor and kicked the chair at Buffy. He dashed for the exit, scooping up Drusilla as he went. Donna barrelled into the Doctor, knocking them both over in an undignified heap. Buffy nimbly evaded the chair and raced after Angelus, disappearing through the door. Xander immediately bent down to help right Donna up and pulled the Doctor to his feet.
"Well," the Doctor grinned at Donna, "That went well."
"Don't know about your definition of well, Spaceman, but that was not well! Now would someone please untie me?!"
"Oh, right! Won't be a mo'!" the Doctor took out his sonic screwdriver and pointed it at her ropes. They immediately loosened and Donna grimaced at the pins and needles in her hands and feet as the blood rushed back into them. She squeaked a little in surprise when she was gathered up in a hug by the Doctor.
Donna rolled her eyes affectionately, but hugged him back, relieved to be safe and sound. Well, mostly. The cuts on her cheek still stung. She enjoyed the Doctor's hug for another moment before pulling back and smacking him on the arm.
"Oi!" he turned puppy eyes at her, hurt, "What was that for?"
"That," Donna explained patiently, "Was for taking so bloody long!"
"There's gratitude for ya," Xander grinned at them both. The Doctor shot her a look, as though to say 'see, he agrees with me!'. Donna merely raised an eyebrow. The Doctor deflated slightly, but perked up after a moment.
"Right, back to the TARDIS! Got to make sure you're all right and I daresay you've had enough of Sunnydale for a while. I've learned as much as I can right now. We'll probably be back later - I'm still not satisfied with all this temporal flux-"
Donna tuned him out after that and looked around. Demon corpses were littered about, most of them oozing unidentifiable bodily fluids. Bile rose in her throat at the sight, but she pushed it down. It shouldn't have been different, seeing dead demons as opposed to dead aliens, but it was. All she could feel was relief that they were dead. Even so, seeing these kids so blase about killing them twisted something in her. They shouldn't have had to become so used to death. It was a little surreal seeing Cordelia complaining about getting slime out of her hair and clothes, as though she'd just fallen into a puddle and not gotten it all over her when Buffy had cut a demon's head off. Willow was just watching her with a resigned expression, as though she'd heard this far too many times.
Donna smirked at Cordelia, who scowled at her. Donna crossed her arms over her chest and raised an amused eyebrow.
"Fine, I won't let you clean up on the TARDIS and I won't let you see some of my magazines."
The Doctor remained oblivious to her volunteering the TARDIS for clean-up, still engrossed in techno-babble with Xander. Willow cast an exasperated glance at her and Cordelia and joined the other two, jumping into the conversation.
"And why would I want to look at some magazines?" Cordelia huffed. Donna grinned.
"Because, Cheer-girl, where I'm from, it's 2009."
Cordelia suddenly grew interested.
"Knew that'd get your attention."
Before Cordelia could answer, Buffy trudged through the doorway. They fell silent and took in her frustrated expression.
"I lost him in the when he entered the sewers."
"Couldn't be helped," the Doctor piped up. He glanced around the deserted mansion, his jaw clenching as his eyes passed over the corpses, "Let's get out of here."
No one disagreed and they made their way out of the mansion, mood suddenly grim.