The Slayer and her Watcher are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Sandollar Productions, Kuzui Enterprises, 20th Century Fox Television and the UPN Television Network. ‘Jabberwocky’ and ‘Alice’ were written by Lewis Carroll. Geoffrey wandered by and took up residence when the story demanded it, and Ari has been delightfully mine ever since we rescued him and his sister with the kind assistance of the CPL. The story is written for the pleasure of the author and readers, and has no lucrative purpose whatsoever. Please do not reproduce this story anywhere without the author's consent.SPOILERS/TIMELINE:
Umm – if I tell you, I’ll give some of the plot away … Somewhere between start of first and end of seventh season, okay?AUTHOR'S NOTE:
This story was written a while back, in response to a challenge on one of the mailing lists I belong to. The challenge probably doesn't matter that much (although it was met!) Nor was it originally intended to be a crossover - although that, I suspect, begs the question of what exactly a crossover is
. I have wandered, perhaps, in Carroll's footsteps, or maybe stumbled over the place he visited in his dreams. Be wary - here there be smiling cats, and menacing shadows; monsters and magic and the stuff of nightmares; nothing is quite what is seems, and yet everything makes its own peculiar sense. Avoid the Bandersnatch if you can. Beware the Jabberwok. Walk the way.Welcome to Looking-Glass House ...
"This," he decided with exasperation, "is getting ridiculous."
No – make that worse than ridiculous. He had the distinct feeling that he was the victim of some bizarre and unfathomable joke – and that someone, somewhere, was busy laughing at him. He wasn’t laughing. Particularly since the room he’d stepped into appeared be just as peculiar as all the others had been. Pieces of it were crisply defined, sharp and certain with reality, while the rest dwindled into sketchy approximation – spaces where the colours lacked complexity, where the textures blurred and the objects that lurked there lacked comfortable definition. There was a desk, half in, half out of the transition; one end was square and solid, supporting a pattern of sprawled papers, of closed files and office equipment. The other end was bowed towards one corner, its supporting edge wavering upwards from a floor where the tiling shifted from utilitarian squares into something designed by Escher. It looked like someone’s office. The sort of someone who tacked a landscape calendar to his corkboard and stuck ‘to do’ lists on the walls.
He walked across to take a closer look; here, as everywhere else, the words and the letters were the wrong way round.
"Hello?" he called tentatively, just as he’d done in every room before. He’d disturbed something a few rooms back; something that had leapt from furniture and whipped away through a half open window before he could catch more than a glimpse of it. It had been nothing human, that much he was sure of - about the only thing he was sure of, other than perhaps his name.Giles,
he reminded himself firmly. Rupert Emrys Giles.
As long as he could remember that, he felt he wouldn’t be entirely lost.
No-one answered his call – although he had a sudden brief, and disturbing, impression of someone being in the room with him. He turned, but the image he thought he’d glimpsed had already vanished, stepping out of view without going anywhere at all.
"Definitely ridiculous," he decided, flicking along the hanging pages and frowning as he reached the one that only had writing down one edge, many of the words cut off halfway through. The rest of the paper – tacked up on the half of the wall that was suddenly painted brick and then just finger pliant paint – were blank. "Why on earth would anyone ..?"Put up blank pages?Build half a room one way, and the rest another?Pay such attention to detail and yet get so many things wrong ..?
He’d been walking for what felt like hours, stumbling from one room to the next, stepping through doorways that promised one thing yet delivered another. He’d been opening doors that were wood and glass on one side, and nothing more than blank surfaces on the other; moving from tiles to carpet, to wood, to stone and back again, sometimes in the same room - rooms where sharp reality competed with theatrical impression and pure Dhalistical fantasy. He’d dipped in and out of them with bemusement - and hurriedly backed away from the place where everything had seemingly melted, dripping into distorted shape and rippled imagery.
Nothing felt right.
And he had absolutely no idea where he was – or where he was supposed to be, either.
He was looking – he thought
he might be looking – for a library. He was sure it had to be around here somewhere. He had the feeling he’d been in it not so long ago. A good, solid, certain kind of place, with books that actually had text in them stacked on the shelves. A place where his footsteps didn’t echo as if they were slightly out of sync with each footfall, and where there weren’t – things
- moving just at the edge of his vision. A place where surfaces felt the way they looked, where scent matched the things you smelled, and there was the constant, subtle sound of a real world keeping you company.
Here, he was drowning in the silence.
It was a silence that was occasionally broken by strange noises off, by odd sounds muffled by distance and that fell silent whenever he came close enough to catch what might be making them.
He’d thought, at first, that he was dreaming.
The place – wherever it was – had that feel to it. A feeling of unreality, of being not entirely there. The muzziness of his thoughts, the lack of clarity to his memories, had all supported that initial conclusion.
But dreams usually end.
Even nightmares race to heart pounding conclusions, and wake you in a cold sweat, a choked back scream in your throat.
This place just went – on.
Room after room, and all in no comprehensible order. Offices, lounges, bedrooms, boardrooms, deserted bars, seemingly endless corridors – and all them preferable to the glimpses he had caught of outside
, the views from shimmering windows that promised sensible landscapes and became something else
when you looked past the patches of light and into the dark beyond …
Something moved behind him and he spun round in alarm, catching – just for a moment – the impression of image that sank into the chair behind the desk, the shape that wasn’t there, but still made it bow back, made it shift and settle again.
The sight was eerie and decidedly unsettling. His heart had accelerated with alarm and his breathing sounded ragged and forced in the otherwise silent room. He took a moment to settle both, and then made himself walk round the desk and look down at the chair. It was still moving subtly, a creaking shift and sway that suggested it was occupied. But there was nobody in it. He confirmed the fact by reaching down and touching the back, sweeping the seat with his fingers – then jumped back in startlement as paper shuffled across the desk, sheets of it being lifted and turned.
"Oh good Lord," he gulped, pressing his hand to his chest in an effort to keep his heart from tearing out of it. Nothing else had moved, and nothing seemed to be actually threatening him – it was just the sheer unexpectedness of the activity that had triggered all his alarm bells.
He frowned over that while he waited for his moment of panic to subside. The phantom movements continued – but there was no sense of a ghost, no feeling of presence, no frigid air or unearthly energy. That somehow made it more unnerving, not less. He had a feeling he could have coped with a ghost. That encountering one would have somehow helped him focus the swirl of thoughts and memories that were dancing inside his head, just beyond his reach. Where am I?
he wondered, risking a wary glance out of the window at the side of the desk. There was a street below him – a paved street, with dingy buildings and parked cars. It appeared to be a street that went from urban uniformity to a crooked, angled menace only a short distance away. The daylight only seemed to fall on the pavement beneath the window; the rest of it was swallowed in a purpling gloom in which hints of shapes moved in and out of the shadows. Something rippled down the road, under the tarmac. A car bounced up as it passed. Something with too many legs hurtled out from under it – and a mouth opened in the pavement, snatched it and then closed again with a deep gurgling swallow.
Giles stepped back from the window with a shudder. This definitely wasn’t his world. He knew he didn’t belong here.
But nor did he know where here
He was about to turn and leave the room, to look for another exit off the seemingly endless corridors, when something caught his eye. There was a mirror on the far wall, placed to reflect the more coherent end of the room, and it was hanging slightly askew.
It was also glowing.
Only a little. Just enough to draw his attention, just enough to make him realise that the daylight was beginning to die away. Night was coming – and he had the feeling that night was not a time to be wandering these eerie halls alone. A sudden sense of danger caught at him, suggesting that to linger in this place past nightfall might be something he’d have cause to regret; he had to find a place to hide. A place he could barricade and defend.
But the mirror drew him, the light it offered tantalising him with an odd familiarity. There had been mirrors in all the other rooms, he realised, although he hadn’t paid them that much attention. This one was as mundane as all the rest – a simple rectangle of silvered glass with a plain, thin wooden frame. It was filled with an equally simple view of the room, and went on being filled with it, despite his stepping right up to it and getting in the way.
Rupert Giles blinked.
Then reached out a shaky hand to brush the cold smooth surface of the mirror – feeling it flex slightly under his touch. His reflection – such as it was – was barely visible. He was little more than a misted image, echoed in the surface of the glass rather than the silver that lay behind it. Through that, beyond that, he was looking at the inside of a room.
A room with at least three people in it.
One of them was seated in the swivel chair, while another was stood at his shoulder, carefully turning pages from the folder that they were both studying. The third was sitting on the corner of the desk, nodding thoughtfully at the silent conversation that was being exchanged. Outside, in the street, a street lamp was beginning to flicker into life.
Slowly, fearfully, Giles turned his head, in time to see the matching flicker flare into life outside his version of the room. The room that was still empty. The room that echoed the movements taking place within the translucent frame.
"Oh dear lord," he whispered, splaying his palm against the jellied surface of the glass to support himself as his knees threatened to give way. He was shaking, quivering both inside and out, his stomach churning and his whole body trembling with shock and realisation.
Everything suddenly made complete and horrifying sense.
The partially defined rooms.
The way the furniture moved of its own accord. The reason the books were filled with empty pages and why their titles were printed on them in reverse.
The glimpses of an outside world that mocked the sanity of his own.
He wasn’t looking into a mirror.
He was looking out