|Doctor Who Crossover Internet Adventure #06 - "Kindred Spirits"
"24 Hours Later..."
by Julian Eales
Brimstone filled the air of the library for the second time in successive nights, as the maw of Hell gave back its prizes in a major throat-clearing exercise. It spat up three bodies as dead weight, landing unceremoniously upon the floor among the debris. Finally, another figure began to climb from the Hellmouth, arms scrabbling for purchase on the lip, only the leather of their jacket cuff was visible to anyone who might have been watching by the light of the moon, at the height of its power. Perhaps a pair of yellow eyes observed from the farthest corner of the room, behind the protective bars of a cage; feral nature recoiling in primal terror at the heart of nightmare before it.
Hauling himself over the top, the stranger made an attempt to brush himself off, though he was no more dishevelled than normal. It seemed as if he was trying to throw off any vestigial trace of Hell that still clung to him. The most abrasive shower would not wash away that taint. That ran deep. Bone deep. In the blood, you might say. He turned back to the hole, which remained open, and leaned over cautiously, in case the sentinel was alert to his presence.
"Were ye brought up in a barn or something? Ye're letting an almighty draft in." His accent betrayed his ancestry immediately. Where he was from, the whisky was spelt with an 'e'. The Hellmouth began to move beneath him as it stitched back the fabric of reality to something approximating its original form. As the hole grew smaller and smaller, he could not resist a parting comment.
"Don't ferget to write. Love to Uncle Nicky!" There was a rumbling from the deeps, as though a guard dog had been roused from slumber by a burglar, only to find the gate barred before it.
Allowing himself a brief smirk, he went over to the bodies of his recent companions in arms, making sure that the Lethe water they had drunk had merely rendered them unconscious and nothing more. Satisfied, he took the opportunity to admire the physique of the girl, a Slayer, if his sources were accurate, and they were seldom anything less than on the money.
"I don't suppose ye'll ever know just how lucky ye were that the Powers That Be took an interest in ye. Shame really. Ye might have felt the need to thank me personally, for like, saving yer life." He knelt before Buffy, hand outstretched to stroke her hair away from her eyes. Time to exit, he thought, stepping over the bodies of the two men, one dressed as if for a fancy dress ball, and the other the epitome of authority, trapped in a Napoleonic body. As he crossed the library, he had to pass the cage.
"Must be some dangerous books they have here," he remarked, running his hand along the bars, noticing the brand new lock in place. Unprepared as he was for the sight of a crazed lycanthrope bounding at him from out of the darkness, the sights he had witnessed down below, coupled with exhaustion prevented him from his natural instinct to have it away on his toes. With him, it was not so much 'fight or flight' as 'flight now or flight yesterday' As it was, he barely raised an eyebrow, as Oz snarled his fury from safe distance. Glancing out of the window at the full moon, he turned back to study him more carefully.
"Christ! What a mangy old fleabag ye are! Mind you, who am I to talk? Anyway, time I wasn't here, before sleeping beauty and yer men there wake up. I got people to see and a long trip home." With that, he left, finding that breaking out of Sunnydale High was every bit as easy as breaking in had been.
* * *
As the Greyhound bus pulled into the station, the man in leather needed to be nudged awake by one of the other passengers, otherwise he would have missed it. He was momentarily disoriented as to where he was. He checked for his wallet; still there. He definitely wasn't in LA then. Not that he had much in his wallet to tempt a thief, other than the bus fare home, but nobody in LA would have woken him to tell him his ride had arrived.
He was fairly conspicuous among the assortment of families and other travellers, weighed down by an assortment of bags and cases, the trappings of lives on the move. He had no luggage, no sign that he was doing anything other than riding a bus with no destination in mind. As he queued to go aboard, checking his change, passengers were disembarking, brushing past as they entered Sunnydale, weary from the ride. Like the outgoing passengers, most of them carried their lives in their baggage. As he tried to scrape together the exact change, his eyes lit upon a pair of legs the like of which he could not remember. An eye for the ladies had always been his weakness. Well, one of his weaknesses. As his gaze moved up, the view just kept getting better and better, until he fixed on the jade pendant she wore. Magic fairly sang from it. Bad news. He redoubled his concentration upon his coins and tried to make himself as small as he could as she passed by, like him, without luggage. She stopped to sniff the air for a moment in front of him, but shrugged it off as some sort of effect of the proximity to the Hellmouth or something. She strode purposefully through the station, though she had never been here before. It was always a good feeling to find somewhere new, ripe for her to work her will, and that of her Masters. It would take her a few weeks to settle in and find the weak links, but then she could go to work.
* * *
Buffy was the first to regain her wits. It was probably something to do with her Slayer metabolism, hypercharged as it was. Even the Time Lord, with his alien physiognomy couldn't match her resilience, and so for the first time in his memory (long as it was), he was the one being watched struggling back to consciousness in an undignified manner. Drool hung from the corner of his mouth, staining his cravat in the process. The Doctor could not disguise a pang of jealousy mixed with a little embarrassment at his vulnerability, but this incarnation soon shrugged off such feelings. He was no longer given to bouts of brooding in the manner of his immediate predecessor. He gave thanks for the ability to shuck his personality traits the way other races discarded old clothes.
Buffy may have physically recovered, but she was still at a loss to account for her actions in the recent past. She could clearly remember being dragged into the Hellmouth, and reaching out to the Doctor, his sure grip filling her with confidence that all would be well. That was all, until she awoke in the library, with the Doctor, the weasel of a Principal beside her and everyone else absent, apart from Oz, who was rattling his cage a day early. The waxing moon in the sky soon told her the truth of the matter, though it could not explain what had happened to them. At the veil between the waking world and sleep, she felt the lingering memory of something gently brushing her forehead. A kiss? Angel? Her heart leapt for a moment, until the image of the way she condemned her lover to Hell with a single sword thrust came flooding over her.
Comparing notes, it transpired that the Doctor remembered little of their escapade either, though he appeared less concerned by the missing time than Buffy was.
"Some things are best left buried. If I were you, I wouldn't let it trouble you." The Time Lord was used to the gaps in his own memory. Sometimes, the imagination fills such holes much better than the facts ever could.
"As long as I don't find I've got a tattoo on my butt," Buffy decided.
* * *
Snyder finally stirred, a series of snorts and grunts issuing from him as he rose from the depths of slumber. Buffy concluded that his essential piggy-ness was showing itself to the world.
"Whuzzat? Where am I? Oh. Buffy Summers. I should have known that this would have your name written all over it. What did you do to me, and why are you on school premises at this time of night? I thought I'd made myself clear about your suspension, young lady." It didn't take long for the blustering nature of the man to rise to the fore, clutching at any reasonable explanation for the situation they found themselves in. He protected himself from the unexplainable with a shield made of school rules and standards of decent behaviour. The irrational did not stand a chance against his belief in the way things were supposed to be. In a town like Sunnydale, you did not rise to a position of any kind of authority without the ability to turn a blind eye to things. Just ask the Mayor.
"I have just about had enough of you, you..." Buffy struggled to find words to describe Snyder that reflected her growing anger. She settled for "Poophead!"
"You are so expelled, they haven't invented a term for just how expelled you are, Miss Summers."
The Doctor could see that Buffy was rising to Snyder's bait, her fists clenched and unclenched as if she was just waiting for him to stop yakking before giving him a knuckle sandwich to chew on. He did not need to be able to glimpse the future to see how this was going. He stepped between them, hands upraised for silence, his best pacifying smile in place. The scenario played out much as every other confrontation between Buffy and Snyder, with the Doctor substituting for Giles. After a glowering battle of wits, eyes throwing daggers at each other, Snyder broke first and headed for the exit.
"Some of us have school in the morning. If you haven't left the campus by the time I finish lecturing the campus watchman for sleeping on the job again, I'm sure he'll be only too happy to give you a ride to the police station." He turned his attention to the Doctor briefly, "What is it with you Brits in my school? Are you breeding in the Chemistry lab or something?" He made his way to the door, ignoring the debris from the frequent opening and closing of the Hellmouth, as per normal. Snyder sighed and made a mental note to get the cleaners in to repair the damage in the morning before the students arrived for classes. As he passed the cage, Oz made a lunge for him, once again surprised on some level at the lack of reaction from the Principal.
"Get a haircut."
* * *
Giles called in sick, unable to face the library so soon after the Hellmouth had swallowed his young charge, the Doctor and Principal Snyder. Willow and the displaced travellers, Sam and Fitz were staying at his house, hoping against hope that one of the books from his private collection would hold the key to their return, but they knew it was a lost cause. Fighting elder spawn like the Master (either model) was one thing, but to enter the source of such evil was a far greater level of magnitude. He could only be thankful that the effort of opening the gateway had proven too much for the Delfighnin, whose corporeal forms had shrivelled into mere husks, as flimsy as the human suits they had worn as disguise. Xander had offered to keep watch over Oz, safe in his cage for the night, and Giles was sure that he would not be sleeping on the job this time. As things stood, he did not think that any of them would be getting much sleep.
Sam held fast to the belief that the Doctor would find a way to escape. It was in his job description. She attempted to contact him with her pager, but apparently the underworld was not part of the Vodaphone network. While the youngsters huddled together to share some of the pain of losing their friends, Giles was on the telephone to the Watchers' Council. He had yet to pluck up the courage to call on Joyce to explain about her daughter, but felt he must tell his organisation to be prepared for the calling of another new Slayer. How many had been called in the last few years? Were there enough in reserve, or was there a limit to the number of potential candidates for the job? Giles was sure that the Inner Council were bound to have discussed such a scenario at length in one of their interminable round table meetings, but since he had become Buffy's Watcher, he had found little time to keep up with the minutes, much to his relief. He had been on the phone for twenty-seven minutes already, attempting to get in contact with one of the elder Watchers, but so far he remained trapped by the minutiae of red tape, pomp and ceremony of the order. He had given all the correct code responses, more or less, but was still being given the runaround. Perhaps it was the irritation in his voice which was acting like a red rag to the woman on the end of the line, who seemed to think it was her personal crusade to prevent the Elders from being disturbed. "All right! The red bloody robin goes bob-bob-bloody-bobbing along... Will you please connect me with Elder Samuel now? It really is most urgent."
Just then, the doorbell rang. Giles indicated with his finger that someone else should answer it. If he hung up the phone now, he'd probably have to go back to the beginning again. Sam bounded up to the door and opened it. Her eyes grew wide and she threw herself around the person standing at the threshold before he could take a step inside. It was the Doctor, with Buffy and Xander in tow. Xander had arrived late, as always, bearing the doughnuts he'd been out buying to help him through the vigil over Oz, and missed all the fun in the library. "Bloody hell!" Giles exclaimed, his jaw slack with surprise. His telephone nemesis chose that moment to admit defeat and transferred the call to Elder Samuel.
"Rupert? What's so damn important that you couldn't tell Marjorie?" Giles' attention was elsewhere, his mouth answering on autopilot.
"What? Um... how's the weather?" He replaced the receiver and went to hug Buffy, to prove to himself that he was not seeing things. Buffy found herself buried under a mound of hugs. Xander stood back, aware that he was not the centre of attention.
"Hey! I brought doughnuts!" No reaction, as the others all fought to ask for some kind of explanation for the miraculous escape. "They have sprinkles." He bit into one, making appreciative noises as if this were the finest doughnut on God's green Earth. It would have been a textbook example of salesmanship were it not for the squirt of jam, which shot onto his shirt. Luckily, nobody was paying him any heed. As per usual, Xander was beginning to feel like a spare bride at the wedding, but shrugged it off in favour of joining the group hug session. Fitz shook his head in mock cynicism.
Once the others had been informed as to how little Buffy and the Doctor remembered of their journey into Hell, they returned to the matter at hand. Where were the Delphighnin, and what could they do to thwart them?
* * *
One of the Delphighnin had remained apart from the others. Ey was still hungry, but had been sent to locate eir missing comrades. Ey believed that ey would find them fishing from the dimensional anomaly they had detected in this region. When he discovered their fate, eir stomachs began to churn, digestive juices seethed, and not just due to lack of sustenance. Ey could not even pay eir respect to the deceased, for there was not a shred of flesh on either of them. What was ey going to eat? Ey could scent something in the room that might suffice. Within the book cage, Oz paced his prison, biding his time, in order to strike if the bug-man should step into range of his claws. The Delphighnin was smarter than ey appeared (at least to human eyes), and remained at a safe distance while ey examined the catch of the day. A Lupine, or lycanthrope of some manner. Local species, of course, but one had to make sacrifices in the name of authentic cuisine. Ey thought ey remembered a recipe acquired from an Androgum chef of eir acquaintance, though had never before had the opportunity to test it, until now.
Ey wondered what it would taste like...
To be continued...
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