Nov 1, 97: Conversations with Manic People
: Dramady, YAHF.Word Count
: Familiarity with Tenth Doctor, and through to “Halloween”, Season 2 of Buffy. Timelines: Hm. Certainly not up to Bad Wolf Bay, but definitely as far as “The Impossible Planet” and “The Satan Pit” two-parter (2x9 and 2x10 respectively).Disclaimer
: I do not own Scooby, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Doctor Who, or David Tennant, though I’d very much like to own David Tennant. I am not profiting financially from this bit of silliness. Borrowed lines of dialogue from Ten and Five and Nine, in respective order.----------------------
Giles studied his brandy, as if that would give him any answers. He sat by the fire in his study, swirling the amber liquid around and around in his glass. He was still trying to process everything that had happened; including the appearance of a man he thought was long, long gone.
He remembered the first time he met the Doctor. He had been twenty, still trying to convince girls he was a founding member of Pink Floyd, and delving more and more heavily into black magic. To this day, he still cringed to think of what a dangerous little wanker he had been in his early 20s. So repulsed by his quote-unquote ‘destiny’, the notion of becoming a Watcher completely abhorrent to him, he would rather become the problem than be a part of the solution.
It had come close, so extraordinarily close, to a full-out addiction. Days and nights of rituals designed to do nothing more than serve as pleasure. Mind-affecting spells to influence women and men into doing what they wanted. Cantrips tantamount to date rape. Summoning demons so dangerous they would have been slain on principle if anyone had ever caught them.
No, he thought as he sipped his brandy. That wasn’t exactly true. Someone had
caught them. But he’d been far more forgiving of them than the Watcher’s Council or, god forbid, the Slayer, would have been. A madman in a ridiculously impractical scarf, with a big blue box, pulling them back from the brink of pure evil. Even with his help, Randall had still died, but reality-altering demons hadn’t been allowed a permanent foothold into this world, so Giles had to still chalk that one in the “win” column.
Sometime soon after that, Giles had reformed from dark magic, let his magical talent wither and become a Watcher. He hadn’t even kept in touch with the others, not really. A card at Christmas with Deirdre and Phillip, the odd phone call with Thomas to discuss various aspects of his work, and Ethan…
Good lord, Ethan. Where to begin?
Ethan had been his best mate. His brother in all but blood. There was no act of rebellion and anarchy they hadn’t engaged in together. The others had been middling spellcasters at best; it was Ethan and Giles that had the power, the drive, the intelligence and the motivation to lead their little coven of warlocks and sorcerers.
Ethan, the mate he had tried very, very hard to forget in the ensuing decades. Ethan, who had gone deeper into darkness than sanity would allow. Who would no doubt welcome Giles back with open arms if he ever slipped off the high road, but would make his life as miserable and chaotic as possible until he did.
Ethan bloody buggering Rayne. Of course he’d come to the Hellmouth for Halloween. With the Slayer active, the Hellmouth waking up for the first time in centuries and, best of all, his old mate Ripper present, where else would he go?
Giles should have seen it coming. Logically, he knew he couldn’t blame himself for the whole debacle, but he also knew he held some responsibility for it. He’d been complacent. If it hadn’t been Ethan, it would have been something else. Just because Halloween was traditionally a night off for all the ghosties and ghouls didn’t mean that tradition would be followed.
He should have been more prepared.
His Slayer had almost died, stripped of her memories and power. Willow had
died, and it was just incredibly lucky the condition was temporary. Children had been turned into monsters, innocent people had been killed by their neighbours and friends, and Xander…
Xander had become the Doctor. The one person Giles both respected deeply at the same time he wished to never lay eyes on again.
He’d spoken to Buffy and Willow briefly. Buffy had shaken off the experience like it was nothing. Maybe to the Slayer it was. He still didn’t fully understand the Slayer essence, how it protected and empowered Buffy. Perhaps the abilities of the Slayer offered some compensation for shaking off trauma and shock. It certainly seemed to, now that he thought about all the horrors Buffy had faced in her small handful of years as the active Slayer. And Willow… Giles could comfortably say he knew her as well as he knew his Slayer. When he asked her how she was doing, she had responded brightly, but there was a brittle quality to her words that made Giles think she would be having some nightmares about suffocation and death in the near future. She would no doubt bounce back from it, but it would take some time.
He hadn’t been able to reach Xander, however, and that concerned him. Buffy remembered some things from her possession and Willow expressed her expectation that parts of her body would continue to pass through solid objects. So there’d obviously been some lasting effects.
What sorts of lasting effects would Xander have?
Giles glanced at the phone, then at the clock beside it. It was very late, or early, but he debated the merit of trying to contact the boy in question again. His one meeting with the actual Doctor had unsettled him to the point where he’d completely turned his life around; his meeting with the pseudo-Doctor had left him just as uneasy.
No, he decided. It was too late. The last thing he wanted to do was wake the boy’s parents. He’d leave it until the next day at school.
He finished his brandy, and set the glass on the table next to the snifter. He really should bring it into the kitchen, but nights like this made him feel every single one of his years. Besides, he didn’t have a roommate to worry about. Even Jenny wasn’t here to gently nag about his lack of housekeeping. He was just going to go to bed, and he’d clean up after himself in the morning.
He had just gotten out of his chair when a knock at the door caught his attention. Reflexively, he glanced at the clock. It was well into the wee hours, far too late for any trick-or-treaters. He picked up the candy bucket anyway, just in case.
He opened the door with the bowl of candy cradled in his arm, and blinked in surprise to see Xander standing on the porch, wearing jeans and a sports jacket, hands half in his pockets. “Xander?”
“Hello, Ripper,” Xander said with a wide grin, with an echo of Estuary English in his voice. “Trick or treat.”oOoOoOo
Giles waited for the kettle to boil, polishing his glasses on the dishrag. He glanced over his shoulder at the dark-haired boy seated on the couch in the living room and fought the urge to rub his temples. Part of him wished the kettle would just not reach boiling, because then he could just stay in the kitchen and not deal with what was no doubt a fairly large problem waiting patiently for his tea tray.
To distract himself from thinking too hard about Xander, if only for a few moments, he fished the canister of tea leaves out of his cabinet and began spooning them into the pewter tea pot on the warming tray. When the electric kettle clicked off, he poured the water into the pot, arranged the milk and sugar, and then looked for any other excuse to put off going into the living room.
He had none so, with a sigh, he picked up the tray and joined Xander in the living room.
Xander looked up as he entered, and a smile split his face. “I never thought I’d be so happy to see a British man with a tea tray.” He made room on the coffee table by moving several tomes and magazines to the side and Giles set the tray down. Xander poured himself up a cup, mixed in sugar, and inhaled deeply over the steaming mug before taking a sip. “Ahh,” he said with no small amount of satisfaction. “That’s fantastic.”
That hint of accent again. Giles poured his own cup and debated splashing a large dollop of something little harder than tea into the cup. But he was already one past his own brandy limit, and he had the feeling this conversation would require a large part of his attention. So as tempting as getting pissed was, it was probably better that he didn’t.
“Do you know,” Xander said, bright smile still in place, “that I hate tea? Really, I do. The smell, the taste, the very look of it. I’m American. I drink coffee and soda and overly sugary beverages of questionable colors. I’m a Sunny D man. A Tang man. A Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts man.” He stared into the dark liquid, then picked it up and sipped again. “But it makes me feel better. Clears the ol’ noggin. Shakes out the cobwebs, so to speak.”
Giles refrained from comment, simply drank his own tea slowly and watched the boy. Despite his improved dress sense and sudden desire for tea, he seemed relatively unchanged. But there’d been that disturbing “Hello, Ripper,” when he’d opened the door, and the accent that Xander slid in and out of.
“How much do you remember, Xander?” he asked.
Xander glanced up and smiled tiredly. “I don’t think there’s a word that can properly quantify just how much I remember,” he said. “I’ve got ten men in my head, all way
smarter than me, and none of them can think of a word either.”
Giles blinked and set the cup down, suddenly concerned. “My word, Xander… Are they disparate entities in your head?”
Xander gave Giles a look that clearly said he thought he was crazy. “What? No. Well.” He looked thoughtful for a moment, then shook his head. “No. Not really. It’s… hard to describe.”
Giles nodded, even though he really didn’t understand. Then again, he didn’t have ten men in his
head, so how could he rightly understand? There were so many questions he wanted answers to, including do you know about Eyghon?
and can you still see the time stream?
“How did you end up being possessed by the Doctor?” he asked instead.
“I had a limited budget for Halloween. King of the two-dollar costume.” There was a hint of bitterness in Xander’s tone. He sat back and pushed his hands into his hair. “I actually went to Ethan’s to buy a toy gun. I had army fatigues at home, so I figured I could go as a soldier. Man, that would have been a better choice.” He gulped more tea. “I had ten bucks in my pocket, not nearly enough for a full costume. But the last toy gun went to a kid, so I had to find something else. There was this suit…” He trailed off, and Giles nodded from there.
“Buffy mentioned Ethan offered a deal she couldn’t refuse. I assume much the same thing was offered to you?”
Xander blew out a breath. “Yes. The pinstripe suit, for whatever I had in my wallet.”
Giles growled, wishing he could hop back in time to a few hours ago and kick Ethan a few more times for good measure. The blighter had known what he was doing, damn him. Though, Giles considered a second later, had he known his spell would bring the Doctor, he doubted the pinstripe suit would have been on display. The Doctor had disturbed Ethan just as much, if not more, than Giles.
“And then you were possessed by the Doctor.”
“And then I was possessed by the Doctor.” A brief moment of hesitation, an uncertain look in Xander’s eyes. “But there’s more.”
Giles sighed. “There usually is,” he murmured into the rim of his teacup.
“I’m… different, now.”
“How do you mean, different?”
“The end of the spell, it… I’ve thought about it, and thought about it, and the best explanation I’ve come up with is that the spell essentially killed the Doctor, ripping him back out of my head. It… triggered his regeneration cycle, and it … changed me. I can feel the Earth spinning through space. I know history, all of it. Even the history that hasn’t happened yet. If I think hard enough about it, I can remember being there. And there’s this.” Xander reached into his pocket and pulled out a thin metal device. Giles recognized it, and wished he didn’t. “I’m not…” Xander swallowed, looking sick. “I’m not human anymore. I’m a Time Lord.”
Giles decided to break the brandy back out again after all.oOoOoOo
“You’re taking this rather well,” Xander said.
Giles set a glass of amber liquid in front of him and snorted. “I fail to see the benefit in running around in panic, as tempting as the thought is.”
“Fair enough.” He eyed the glass. “Giving me brandy? You know I’m underage, right?”
Giles swirled his glass, speculatively. “Are you?”
Xander opened his mouth to answer, then snapped it shut. It was a fair question. Was he still underage? He had the memories of almost a thousand years of experience in his head, but he distinctly remembered only sixteen years of life. “Never mind,” he said, somewhat sullenly. The first experimental sip didn’t burn his mouth as he expected it would, but he didn’t follow that sip with another. Too many alcoholics in his family to want to indulge himself. That didn’t mean he didn’t appreciate the gesture. Giles was the first one to ever treat him like an adult, and this was just one more example of that.
“Why come to me, Xander?” Giles asked. “Why not speak with Buffy or, or Willow?”
Xander arched an eyebrow. Another fair question. “Because the explanations would be messy, long-winded and exhausting. You already know about the Doctor and, well… I’d rather not test how far my new body registers on Buffy’s demon senses without preparation.”
“I hardly think you have to worry about registering as a demon, Xander. From what I understand, which is admittedly somewhat limited, you appear human.”
“Two hearts, Giles. You really think Buffy won’t eventually hear the extra one?”
“Well, no. I see your point.”
“And beyond that…” Xander fiddled with the sonic screwdriver, avoiding Giles’ eyes. How could he explain the sudden desire to speak with companions? The Doctor, many times over, had grown lonely and bored. Plucking ordinary folk out of their lives to hare across the universe on temporal adventures was one of the perks. Even poor old Nine, melancholy and haunted, had eventually settled on Rose Tyler to keep him sane.
Rose. Oh Lord. There was a kettle of fish. Was she still traveling with him? (The other him? He really needed to pick a pronoun.) He hoped so. Rose was always good for a laugh.
Xander decided not to try and explain himself to Giles. He didn’t even have a TARDIS, even if he had some vague notions as to how to go about obtaining one. That wasn’t his first priority, though. His first priority was to somehow get in touch with his other self, have some tea, and have a chat.
“Thanks for the tea, Ripper,” he said, standing up and leaving the nigh-untouched glass of brandy on the table. “And for the chinwag. I feel much better now. But things to do. Busy, busy, busy. Like a bee. Bee-like.”
It was Giles’ turn to arch his eyebrow. “Glad to be of service,” he said. “Where are you going?”
“It’s come to mind that I should really sit down and have a chat with Other Me. If nothing else, he should at least know he’s not the last Time Lord anymore. Or, maybe he is. Maybe I don’t get regeneration. Maybe this is all there is. I really don’t know. I’m not even a hundred percent sure I can even get his attention – the Hellmouth tends to block temporal transmissions, though I’ve got a ton of ideas about how to get around that. Still, I should try. I owe the old bloke that much. So I’m off to build a Time Lord distress beacon.”
“Good Lord.” Giles blinked rapidly, then downed the rest of his brandy in one swift swallow. “Is that even possible?”
Xander grinned the wide, bright grin that held a slight note of mania in it. “Everything’s possible when you’ve got a sonic screwdriver, an old AM/FM radio and copious amounts of free time, Ripper old boy. Plus,” he said with a twinkle in his eye, “I got a first in jiggery pokery.”oOoOoOo