Doctor Who Crossover Internet Adventure #06 - "Kindred Spirits"

Chapter 6
"Missing Time"
by John Seavey


People don't think about much in lines.

       There's a sort of Zen contemplation you wind up in as the line moves forward. You shift from one leg to the other, you count the number of people in front of you, you watch the clock shift from one second to the next, and a small portion of your life drifts away without your conscious knowledge or volition.

       But sometimes important things happen in lines.

       Sometimes when you're waiting in line to get out of Sunnydale, having already fulfilled a fairly major, and all-too-hazardous duty to the Powers That Be (hazardous enough, in fact, that you're hoping this'll clear the slate between you and them, and that this is the last time you'll have to get another one of them). Well, the last part of the sentence doesn't even make it through your mind, because you're too busy having one of them mind- numbing, brain-cracking, heart-stopping visions of yours. And so you have what looks like a small epileptic fit; perhaps you even drool a little. And when you're done, you stagger back to your feet with a mutter of "Not again...", and you get out of line to head back into town.

       Some people wish they didn't have much to think about in lines.

* * *

There was a sharp shower of sparks, and a loud hiss as the Delphighnin cut eir way into the cage that held the captive lycanthrope.

       Well, it wasn't a lycanthrope anymore. It had just undergone metamorphosis, even as the Delphighnin was considering the best way to get into the cage it was trapped in. A shame, really; most of the best recipes for Lupine insisted that the beast be killed in its wolfen form to seal in the juices. But there were still quite a few good ones left, and this particular one looked very succulent; especially the way it had been penned up. Probably they'd locked it up here to keep it from getting stringy and gamey, an excellent choice.

       Suddenly, the lycanthrope looked up. It gathered together a few shreds of fabric, tugging them over itself, probably out of some impulse of modesty. "This is bad," it said, its brow furrowing in consternation. "In the not-good sense of the word."

       "Do not panic," the Delphighnin said. "Please. Panic sours the blood, and can make you difficult to digest later on."

* * *

"--and then you, and Snyder, and the Delphighnins were all gone! Needless to say, if Oz and Xander hadn't picked that moment to arrive, I..."

       Xander shrugged self-deprecatingly. "You would have been lost without us."

       "--wouldn't have received the thwacking great lump on the head that I got while trying to reseal the Hellmouth, is what I was going to say," Giles offered cuttingly. "We came back here to try to research the subject, hoping we could find some way of getting you back, but I'll admit, I'd rather lost hope." He paused. "How did you get back, anyhow?"

       The Doctor looked at Buffy; Buffy looked at the Doctor. "Don't remember," Buffy finally offered up. "It was... no, nothing. Sorry."

       The Doctor shook his head as well. "I recall... a... no. It's gone."

       Giles sighed. "In any event, Oz is locked away in the library. It was the night before the full moon last night, and he needed to be penned up." He looked at the window. "Still, he should be back to human form now. Xander, perhaps you should go and unpen him? Instead of devouring all the doughnuts that you were supposed to be purchasing for me?"

       Xander said something, but his mouth was muffled with custard. After a brief, munch-filled pause, he repeated, "Willow caught up with me at the donut place, said she'd do it. I think it's a 'cuddle' thing."

       There was a moment of uncomfortable silence, and the Doctor finally broke it with, "However it is we're back, we are now back. The important thing now is to try to recover some of the lost ground on this problem, and that means we need to find the rest of the Delphighnin and discover why it is they're here."

       "I thought it was obvious," Fitz commented from where he was sitting, near Giles' record collection. He hadn't joined the conversation, or even looked up yet.

       Everyone turned to look at him.

       "I guess the Beatles really make a go of it," he commented by way of reply, still engrossed in the albums. "I thought they were just a flash in the pan."

       Sam ahemed. "Fitz? Could you finish your highly relevant, dramatic revelation that you were involved in?"

       "Oh. Right. It just seemed pretty simple to me. Between the vampires, werewolves, and old professors with occult libraries, this place is pretty much like the Hammer holiday camp. If these Delphighnin really do snack on the monsters, then this place must be an all-you-can-eat buffet. No puzzle there."

       The Doctor blinked. "You're right--"

       Sam grinned. "Oddly enough."

       The Doctor shook his head. "No, I mean he's right, it is obvious. So why do I keep thinking there's something more to it?" His hand went, involuntarily, to his pocket, only to close on empty air. He leapt to his feet. "I need to go for a walk. Clear my mind. Everyone else, stay here. Unless you have school, in which case go there and learn something important. Student apathy at this school is horrible, if I remember rightly."

       "Yeah," said Xander, "it's that whole 'tomorrow I could be eaten by a hideous monster' thing. Kinda makes tests seem pretty irrelevant."

* * *

"You know," Oz said to the Delphighnin as ey finished slicing through the bars, "I think I'm actually missing a test right now." He darted back from the gigantic alien as it squeezed its bulk through. "Kinda seems... irrelevant, now."

       The Delphighnin chittered at him. "Sorry," it said, "but if it comforts you any, I am a gourmet. You'll taste quite delicious, and your leftovers should last days."

       Suddenly, the bar ey had cut seemed to slither from where it lay on the floor to twine between eir legs. Ey crashed to the ground with a thud, missing Oz by inches.

       Willow unclenched her hands, the effort of moving it causing her to gasp for air. "That's... for trying... to eat... my boyfriend!" she gasped out.

       Oz looked down at the alien, even as he stepped over it to get out of the cage. "You're getting good at the witchcraft," he commented, taking her hand as the two of them beat a hasty retreat. "Y'know, if you want to skip college, I'm sure we could work up a great act in Vegas."

       Willow shook her head. "I get stage fright."

       Oz shrugged. "Maybe. But I'm betting you'd look great in the spangled outfit."

* * *

The Doctor was drawing more than a few odd stares as he walked along the streets of Sunnydale, smacking his own forehead as hard as he could. "Think," he muttered to himself, "thinkthinkthinkthinkthink!"

       An Irish brogue from the open-air cafe rang out. "Keep smackin' yer forehead like that, an' I don' think you'll be doin' much thoinkin at all!"

       The Doctor stopped short, the uncanny familiarity of the voice catching his attention. He spun around. "Have we met?"

       "We have," said the man who sat at the table, dressed in a floral- patterned shirt and a brown leather jacket, "but you'd not be in the way of rememberin' much of it. Name's Doyle, by the way. Didn't get a chance to tell ye before, because I didn't think it'd matter, what with all of ye drinkin' the waters of Lethe."

       "Waters of... Lethe? It's... that was how we escaped, wasn't it?"

       Doyle nodded. "There was a portal back to Earth at the mouth of the river. Not that ye'd have remembered that, either. S'why it doesn't get used much. Ye dive in after it, and five minutes later ye come floating back downstream because ye've forgotten how te swim. But ye got a little aid from a buddy of moine." He paused. "Well, not really a buddy. But he promised to look the other way when ye left and even help ye get to the mouth of the river, in exchange fer me forgettin' a few gambling debts for 'im." He prodded the Doctor in the stomach. "An' that was five large, there, but don't ye be thinkin' ye owe me or nuttin'. Glad te be of service."

       "You were there with us. In... the otherdimensional realm. In... Hell." The Doctor sat down. "Tell me more."

       "Not much ta tell, really. I've got a few, eh... relatives down there, so I can travel back an' forth if I haveta. But only if I haveta. There's more'n a few down there that don' like half-breeds, and they're not shy about showin' it. If it weren't for the fact that the Powers That Be wanted me to, I--" He paused. "This is where ye ask about the Powers That Be, right?"

       The Doctor shook his head. "I've met them. Well, a few of them. Go on."

       Doyle clutched the Doctor's sleeve. "Really? Listen, ye couldn't put in a good word or two with 'em for me, could ye? It's just that these visions I get, they're really messin' up me social life, and--"

       The Doctor coughed delicately. "I don't find them. They find me. And when they do, I don't usually get to ask them favours. It's more... the other way around, actually."

       Doyle sighed. "Just my luck. Anyhow, they wanted me to get ye back up here after ye'd learned what ye needed te learn. Problem is, the closest portal that doesn't rip apart the fabric of reality got shut down a few months back, after some bit of a girl broke up a recruitment centre and killed the local recruiter. So I had to bring ye back the long way." He paused. "Probably for the best, really. That girl with ye looked pretty broken up when she found her boyfriend."

       The Doctor blinked. "I... remember this bit! It was Angel. He looked horrible... like he'd physically aged."

       Doyle nodded. "Bein' in Hell for a thousand years or so'll do that to a fella, even if he is a vampire."

       "A thousand years? But I saw him, not more than two years ago."

       Doyle rolled his eyes. "Listen, mate. Time flows differently in Hell, even differently in different parts o' Hell. You were there for a few hours, and it came out as a day here. Angel, he's been in a part o' Hell that's kept him in constant torment for a thousand years; and there weren't no way we could get him outta there, either. They're keeping a close eye on him. That was what got her so broken up."

       "And the Delphighnin? What happened to them?"

       "They were in a bad way when I last saw 'em. Wouldn't leave, kept goin' on about 'great cuisine' or somethin'. I coulda tol' em, even shark steaks aren't worth swimmin' in a shark tank for. They went down under a pile o' pissed off demons, and the Powers That Be don't pay me enough to dig for 'em." He smirked. "Come ta think of it, they don't pay me at all."

       "So why did you stay here after rescuing us?" the Doctor asked.

       "I didn't. I was on my way outta this town, but I got another vision - and wasn't that a beaut. See, the other two, they ain't gonna remember nuttin'. They're too human. But you, you can piece it back together with a little help." Doyle slapped his own chest. "That's my job. I prod you, and you'll remember."

* * *

The Doctor burst into Giles' house. "I know why they're here!"

       Everyone looked at the Doctor. "Didn't we, um, cover this?" Xander asked.

       "Yes, but - no!"

       Buffy blinked. "Thanks. A perfect example of 'vague'. Now we can frame it."

       The Doctor shook his head. "I remembered what happened to us when we went through the Hellmouth! The aliens — they had some papers I'd stolen! I deciphered them, but I must have lost them when we got out!"

       Buffy pouted. "You remembered? Howcome I didn't get to remember?"

       The Doctor smiled gently. "You're only human, Buffy." His smile turned abruptly into a frown. "The aliens — they're here after a Nexus Crystal!"

       "And that is?" asked Sam.

       "It's a crystal... it can focus and absorb trans-dimensional energies!"

       "Oh, good," commented Fitz. "Just what I always wanted, but the shops were out of them. They tried to pawn me off with bath salts, but those never worked as well."

       The Doctor sighed in exasperation. "Don't any of you get it? They're trying... to steal... the Hellmouth!"

       Several blank stares were exchanged. Finally, Buffy asked, "And this is a bad thing? I say good riddance!"

       The Doctor shook his head. "They feed on monsters, remember? Monsters need to feed on people. They drain entire planets dry. If they can find the Nexus Crystal, they'll take the Hellmouth with them, unleash it on every inhabited planet they come across to manufacture their own portable larders.

       "They'll be a scourge across the entire universe."

To be concluded...

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