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Encounters in the Fourth Dimension

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Summary: When the Scoobies meet a rather odd pair, they discover that time does not necessarily have to follow a strict progression of cause and effect.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Dr. Who/Torchwood > GeneralCarnenFR13927,30342814,02717 Mar 0913 Jan 10No

No Such Thing As Ordinary

A/N: As always, any comments and/or suggestions are most welcome!

Chapter 9 - No Such Thing As Ordinary


"This is so far beyond cool that it's not even funny," Xander said upon entering the TARDIS, trailing in after everyone else. The Doctor was bounced in behind them, a gleeful expression on his face. Willow noticed Donna rolling her eyes at him. She hid a grin when Donna mouthed 'show off' behind the Doctor's back. Willow had the feeling she would have continued mouthing off the Doctor silently (or not so silently), but she got drawn into an argument with Cordelia - something Willow wasn't too keen on listening in, especially considering her fascinating surroundings.

As far as Willow was concerned, the Doctor had every right to show off. The TARDIS really was a magnificent place, beautiful in a completely alien way. Bigger on the inside too. The Doctor hadn't been kidding about that; though after seeing that thing with his pockets, it really shouldn't have come as such a big surprise.

Giles was muttering and cleaning his glasses, staring in awe around himself. Buffy was also looking around curiously, but her eyes kept darting about and she kept rubbing her arms, as though chilled. The TARDIS also creaked anytime she accidentally brushed against it. Willow was trying to puzzle that out since she personally kept getting a purring sensation. Her attention was pulled away from the problem when she noticed Donna breaking off her argument with Cordelia by grabbing her and dragging her off into the depths of the TARDIS.

"Don't show her the wardrobe, Donna! You'll never get her to leave!" the Doctor called after them, a fond grin on his face.

Willow turned her attention back to the amazing ship and stroked the console lightly, gasping a bit when she felt a warm feeling envelop her. It was like sunshine, hugs and puppies all rolled into one vaguely motherly sensation while being completely alien at the same time. She thought she could hear snatches of an unearthly song at the edges of her senses.

"Oh, she likes you," the Doctor said softly, patting one of the coral struts, eliciting a pleased hum from the TARDIS. Willow turned amazed eyes at him.

"The ship's alive?"

"'Course she is! No better ship in the universe!" he laughed, obviously proud of his ship and eager to show if off. Willow felt her eyes widen even more, feeling a bit humbled. It wasn't everyday you found out an ancient time and spaceship liked you.

"She's amazing."

Another warm caress; it was less of a physical sensation and more a mental one. Normally, Willow would have been frightened by something intruding in her head, but the TARDIS was such a comforting presence she found she didn't mind at all. She wondered what it would be like to actually travel in her; to whizz about in space and time like the Doctor did. It was a frightening and intriguing thought all at once. She shared a glance with Xander, knowing he was thinking of the same thing. Xander also tentatively petted the ship and there was another pleased hum. It seemed the TARDIS was positively basking in the attention.

The Doctor grinned widely at Willow and Xander, obviously pleased they liked his ship and happy that his ship was happy. Willow leaned in closer to study the various levers and buttons littering the console, knowing better than to touch even though she was itching to. She was dying to know what all these buttons and levers did and whether a human was capable of piloting it or whether you'd need to be sensitive to fourth dimension physics like the Doctor was.

Beside her, she vaguely noticed the Doctor and Xander starting to talk, Xander gesticulating wildly. But the lure of learning something new drew her attention back to the console. It was more advanced than anything she had ever seen before, but it all looked strangely old and battered. Was that a bicycle pump? Didn't he have any repair stations or something for the TARDIS? She was about to ask the Doctor when Xander's voice made her pause. She glanced at them, noticing they were now sitting on the jumpseat near the console, the Doctor's expression unusually serious. He was listening intently to Xander.

'"I mean, you managed to talk Angelus down. With words and things!"

"Well, one would have to use words to talk someone down, wouldn't they?" the Doctor looked like he wasn't too sure where Xander was going with this. Xander made an impatient noise.

"You know what I mean! You managed to make Angelus run away, tail tucked between his legs just by glaring at him!"

The Doctor looked like he wanted to preen a bit, but soon grew more serious.

"Words have more power than you know, Xander," the Doctor said thoughtfully, "Now more than ever, considering this 'magic' of yours is basically just a different sort of physics which uses words instead of numbers. Words can save the world, the universe even." Something in his voice made her feel like he was talking from experience. "Words can kill, make you laugh, cry, repent, forgive, bring a little joy into someone's life. The right word at the right time - oh, there's no telling what may come of it." The Doctor's eyes were warm and earnest, but also deadly serious as he continued, "You don't need super-strength to make a difference, Xander. You don't need to be a genius and you don't need to have all the knowledge in the world either."

For someone who could babble for the Olympics without managing to really say anything, the Doctor had sure hit the nail on the head with those words, managing to highlight the real reason for Xander's misgivings. Her own as well.

"Yeah, I get all that, but we're fighting the hordes of Hell here. I mean, we can't be what Buffy really needs."

The words just seemed to spew out of Xander's mouth, long held doubts spilling forth. Willow waited with baited breath to see how the Doctor was going to reply, because she really wanted an answer to that question as well. Yes, they were Buffy's friends and they would always be there for her, but how much good did they really do her in the end? Most of the time, they seemed to get her into even bigger trouble than if they weren't around.

The Doctor laughed a little at Xander's words, but not in a dismissive way. He glanced to where Buffy was talking with Giles, drawing both Xander's and Willow's gazes with him.

"Oh, Alexander Lavelle Harris," the Doctor dragged out Xander's full name (much to Xander's mortification and astonishment) with relish, "Haven't you been listening to a thing I've said? I think you lot are exactly what she needs!"

A knot of anxiety unraveled in Willow's chest. There was just something about the Doctor that made her want to believe him desperately. And he would know, wouldn't he? He'd been to their future, he knew how things would turn out. A part of her desperately wanted to ask, to know, but she remembered the Doctor's warnings about blowing the universe wide open. Satiating her curiosity was not worth two thirds of the whole universe. It was unthinkable to her that she would ever knowingly want to cause destruction even approaching such a scale.

Willow doubted she'd ever stop doubting her usefulness at Buffy's side, but the Doctor's words helped. Buffy didn't need another fighter, she needed her friends. She needed reminders that the world was worth fighting for. And seeing Donna enter the console room, Willow thought she understood why the Doctor, an old and powerful alien by all accounts, wanted and needed a small, fragile human to travel with him.

"Oi, Spaceman! Where d'you keep that dermal regenerator thingum? These cuts still sting like a b-"

"Language, Donna!" the Doctor interrupted her cheerfully, springing up from his seat. The mood in the room had lightened considerably with the return of his manic energy. "I turn my back on you for one second and look what happens-"

He continued to grumble good-naturedly while he lifted a grate from the floor of the TARDIS and disappeared underneath it. They could still hear him muttering, but this time it seemed to be about the location of the dermal regenerator rather than his Companions' tendencies to wander off and get into trouble.

"You're one to talk," Donna called down to the Doctor. "Honestly," she continued to the rest of them, much to their silent amusement, "I turn my head for a minute and the next thing I know he gets kidnapped by some cult thinking he's their prophesied 'Lonely God'. A right load of rubbish, that was."

In the background, Willow noticed Giles sputtering a bit, hand automatically reaching for his glasses, looking like he'd been hit by a ton of bricks. Probably not as rubbish as Donna thought then. The Doctor's head popped up from the grating at that moment and he looked at Willow and Giles with a secretive smile on his face. He winked at them and then turned to Donna, brandishing something that looked like a Star Trek gizmo in his hand.

"Poppycock, Donna! I'd make a rubbish god, despite what about three dozen religions and planets think. And you're one to talk," he muttered the last so quietly Willow almost didn't catch it.

Despite his manic energy and wild grin, his hands were gentle as he ran the small machine over Donna's cheek. The Scoobies watched in wonder and not a little envy as the cuts healed without a trace that they'd ever even been there.

"That would be pretty useful to have here considering the amount of times we get bashed up," Xander muttered, no doubt remembering all the cuts and bruises he'd sustained in helping with the slaying. The look on Giles' face told Willow he agreed. So did she, come to think of it.

"Sorry," the Doctor interrupted, finishing with the device, "Future technology. Considering how wibbly time is here, best not to introduce another element that shouldn't be around."

Another element? He probably just meant the whole magic thing, but Willow was about to ask about it anyway when Buffy spoke before her.

"One little thing like that could have that big of an effect?" Buffy asked sceptically. The Doctor looked at her and was it Willow's imagination, or did he suppress a wince?

"You'd be surprised at how small a thing can do that. A change at the right place and the right time," he sucked in a breath, looking away," who knows what could happen?"

Willow thought he looked a bit guilty, but it was difficult to tell with the way his expressions kept changing, as though he couldn't decide on which emotion to show.

"Not that it hasn't been lovely to see you, kidnapping and all, but don't you think it's time we shoved off, Oh Lonely God of the Spacemen?" Donna interjected in the suddenly uneasy mood, nudging the Doctor with her elbow. Why it was uneasy Willow couldn't exactly put into words. The Doctor's grin brightened; he was obviously glad of the distraction. He bumped his shoulder against Donna in return.

"Right you are, Oh Flaming-Haired Goddess of Sanctoria V!" he cheekily grinned at Donna, whose eyes narrowed.

"I thought we'd never mention that again?" Her tone was carefully measured in that way when you just knew that she was only seconds from shouting. The Doctor seemed oblivious to it.

"Weeeelll, the subject was discussed, but I don't recall any sort of agreement-" the Doctor stopped in his tracks when he saw Donna's face and her upraised hand, "By which of course I mean that this was just a temporary lapse of memory?" His face was the picture of innocence. Willow had to stifle a giggle and noticed the others suppressing smirks of their own.

"Best you remember that, Spaceman," Donna nodded firmly.

"He is so whipped," Buffy muttered quietly to Willow. She tried and failed to suppress a shocked giggle and it ended up sounding somewhat strangled. The Doctor gave them an odd look, but didn't comment, instead starting to fiddle with something on the console.

"Right, Donna, we've tarried here a bit too long. Something's muddying up the waters again, temporally speaking. We need to leave soon," he turned to face the rest of the Scoobies, hands deep in his pockets again. Taking the hint, they gathered around for their goodbyes.

Willow was the first to break the silence, grabbing the Doctor in a hug. This drew a startled, but pleased laugh out of him as he hugged her back tightly. For all that they'd known the two for a day (in which they'd proceeded to turn her world on her head again) she found herself not wanting them to leave. She was a bit mortified to discover herself holding back tears.

"Aw, none of that, Willow Rosenberg," she could feel him smile into her hair, "It's not like you'll be seeing the end of us when we leave."

She just clung to him more tightly, inhaling his strange, but comforting scent of tea and stardust.

"You'll be brilliant," he whispered in her ear, tightening his hold for a moment before letting her go. His words warmed her almost as much as the hug had. He beamed down at her and she managed to give a slightly trembling smile in return.

The Doctor then proceeded to hug everyone else - even Giles, much to his consternation - with unrestrained warmth and enthusiasm. Donna was a bit more subdued in her goodbyes, but no less warm.

Only minutes later, they found themselves outside the TARDIS, facing the Doctor and Donna.

"Well, it's been fun-" the Doctor started, but was interrupted by Donna poking him in the ribs with her elbow. He grimaced, but Donna just smiled sweetly.

"Except for the kidnapping," he conceded before regaining his smile, "Best stand back for this bit, you'll love it!"

The TARDIS door closed and seconds later an unearthly wind picked up. A strange grinding, wheezing noise echoed throughout the darkened school corridor and the light on top of the TARDIS flashed. It faded in and out of view before finally disappearing, leaving only a faint echo of its engines.

"Wow," mouthed Willow, who'd been unable to take her eyes off the display.

"There is no way that could have possibly been cooler," Xander agreed, echoing his words on entering the TARDIS, still staring at the spot where the it had been. Even Buffy and Giles murmured in appreciation of the sight. A moment later, Willow noticed Buffy's brow furrowing.

"What is it?"

"It's just-" Buffy paused, bit her lip and looked around the empty corridor, "Has anyone seen Cordelia?"

Xander looked about ready to start panicking when a wind suddenly picked up again. The TARDIS's engines groaned their way into existence in front of them once more before it materialized with a dull thump. The doors creaked open and the sounds of an argument drifted out, getting closer.

"I told you to keep her out of the wardrobe, Donna! You're just lucky I managed to land the TARDIS in the right time."

The Doctor's complaints were steadily drowned out as they drew nearer by Cordelia's distressed voice.

"But you don't understand! It's got absolutely everything in there! I'll be ahead of everyone by years! You can't do this to me, I'll never get another opportunity like this again! Think of my reputation as the best dresser in the school! I'll do anything, just-"

She was cut off when the Doctor gently, but firmly shoved her out the door and into Xander's arms.

"I think this belongs to you," he said tiredly, but with laughter in his eyes. He winked at everyone and flashed them another one of his wide grins, ignoring Cordelia's frustrated wail. With a swish of his coat and a thump of the closed door, the TARDIS wheezed out of existence again until everything was silent.

Everyone turned to wordlessly stare at Cordelia, who was straightening her clothes and smoothing down her hair in an attempt to regain some form of dignity. Noticing their stares, she sniffed indignantly.

"He has no idea what he's missing out on," she lifted her chin haughtily and stomped back into the library.

Willow, Xander, Giles and Buffy exchanged glances. Surprisingly, Giles was the first one to crack up laughing.

TBC

The End?

The author is currently looking for one or more beta readers for this story. If you are interested, please email the author or leave a private review.

You have reached the end of "Encounters in the Fourth Dimension" – so far. This story is incomplete and the last chapter was posted on 13 Jan 10.

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