Hook, Line and Stinker!
Hook, Line and Stinker!A/N: Well, another round of this seems to have sparked the imagination, and I think I even have an inkling how to pull off the mission.
Dawn peeked through the eastern windows of Giles' apartment, landing across my face where I lay on his sofa. Blinking my eyes from the bright sunshine I shook off the after-images of a brown-haired, blue eyed munchkin. Okay, I don't have to worry about that for a few years yet (I hope). Yeah, our conversation the previous night had gone surprisingly well, considering that the stupid PTBs literally stole my voice every time I came close to mentioning how I knew about Sunnydale. I was finally able to say that due to certain things I knew from my universe, this universe's Powers had bound my knowledge.
He certainly wasn't happy with that answer.
Of course, neither was I.
A whistle of steam from the kitchen pulled me out of my slumber. With a groan, I sat up, most sofas are not designed to be beds, and I especially include those that claim to be so. Rupert's was no exception, my back felt pulled and my neck was in a massive knot.
My host's genial voice cut through the complaints my body was raising. “Coffee Max?”
“Bleh. Can't stand the stuff.” I couldn't help it, me and coffee never got along, and after the one boss I had who boiled his down to battery acid every morning so that the entire store reeked of it; well, it took a force of willpower to not to hurl at the smell.
“Oh,” I should have realized that a dislike of coffee might brighten his mood. “In that case do you have a preference?”
“I'm usually partial to spiced cider or hot chocolate myself.” I stood, stretching the kinks out and walked to the pass-through window between his combination living-dining room and the kitchen. “However, not having had any exposure to English breakfast teas, I am open to the possibilities of a new addiction.”
He continued to putter about the kitchen, and I was suddenly struck by a certain inane element and began laughing. Giles paused while reaching for a cabinet door and looked over at me in askance.
I had to swallow my amusement momentarily. “It's not you. Really.”
“Well, in my universe, there's this guy who looks just like you and he did this whole series of commercials for, of all things, Taster's Choice Instant Coffee.” I snorted and began laughing again.
Moments later I heard a chuckle from the kitchen, followed by a rather hearty guffaw. “Me?! On Television?! For COFFEE!!”
“Not just coffee. INSTANT coffee!”
“Dear Lord.” In spite of his mirthful expression, his hands were rather busy polishing his spectacles.
We laughed so hard that it was only much later that I realized what the Powers had let me get away with.~~~***~~~
After our tea, which was definitely different, me being used to unsweetened iced tea, the two of us grabbed some stakes, Giles handed me a pistol crossbow while he took a sword and we crossed the courtyard to the door to 8B. Okay, so I maybe watch too much TV, because I waved him to one side while I stuck my key in the lock and then spun to place my back against the wall in the, classic from every-cop-show, breaching position.
Reaching up with my left hand I turned the key in the lock then twisted the knob and pushed, letting the door swing open. Giles slid a foot forward, pushing against the bottom of the door making it open faster. Turning, I twisted into a crouch with the crossbow aiming slightly upward into the dark interior. Sniffing I noted the slightly musty 'empty' smell that I had experienced in virtually every apartment and house I had ever moved into.
“Smells empty, but not dead.” Giles concurred.
Reaching in I flipped the switch by the door and the lights came on. “Positive sign.”
Rupert pointed down at hardwood floor beyond the terracotta flagstone foyer. I noted the light sheen of undisturbed dust. Stepping in, I brushed the door causing it to swing all the way flush with the wall. From here, the apartment appeared to be a mirror of the one I had spent the night in. To my left were a set of steps climbing the wall to an upper floor. The main room having a vaulted ceiling and the walls a rough-textured stucco finish. Dark wood beams crossed the ceiling, adding to the Spanish Mission feel of the architecture. Directly across from the foyer was a hallway leading back to the kitchen, a bathroom and the first floor bedroom. A quick check showed the entire first floor to be empty and all of its windows secure. Climbing the steps I opened the door at the top of the landing onto a huge space. The bedroom was almost the same size as the three rooms and hallway beneath it with an en-suite bathroom that took up the remaining space.
“Nice,” I said with a low whistle.
“Yes, it is certainly better than the flat I had in London.”
The sound of pounding echoed in from outside. “Yo Giles! You in?”
I followed Rupert down the stairs and out the door to see a rather scruffy young man knocking again on the other apartment's door. A strange look came over my new friend's face. Something I didn't recall having ever seen on the show. With quiet movements, he glided up behind the young man just as he shouted again. “GILES!”
“Yes Xander?” Rupert answered quietly from right behind him.
The screech the boy let out set birds a-flight and dogs barking for at least five blocks in every direction, and no matter how 'manly' a yell he proclaimed it to have been, my first live impression of Xander Harris was forever going to be an extremely girlish scream.
Ya know, terrifying as finding myself in a world with demons and hellmouths is, I don't think I've laughed so much in a long time.~~~***~~~
Five hours, forty dollars, an empty moving truck, and two lunchtime pepperoni pizza's later, there was a knock on the door of my new apartment. Rising from my sofa, glass of soda in hand, I took a quick look around at the accumulated stacks of opened and unopened boxes. “Guess the second round of pizza's here.”
Xander perked up from where he had been rummaging through my science-fiction book collection.
Opening the door, I was confronted by a petite red-head with a quirky grin and a somewhat mousy look. Stepping back I motioned her to enter. “It seems that the pizza zombie over there is going to be somewhat disappointed. I assume you're the infamous Willow?”
“Infamous?” She immediately shot a stern look at the young man who had been assisting my unloading and unpacking all afternoon.
His reaction was to lumber to his feet, shuffling over to her with his arms outstretched. As soon as his hands touched her head, his fingers began flexing against the girl's scalp. “Piiiiizzzzaaaaaaa.”
She slapped at his hands while chuckling. “Giles said you were helping his new neighbor move in and that he'd be over shortly with a few things.”
The slam of a car door beyond the courtyard wall drew my attention as I saw the same pizza guy from earlier enter. Waving him over, I took the credit card slip from his hands, added a tip and signed. I'm guessing that the Powers had arranged for my accounts to follow me across, because so far my cards had worked everywhere I'd used them.
Taking the stack of four pizza boxes from the driver I wished him a safe evening and retreated to my kitchen counter. “Food's on! One meatza, one kitchen sink, one cheese and one pizzert!”
I immediately found myself smacking hands reaching for the dessert pizza first. “HEY! Meal pizza there...” I pointed at the boxes I had set on the kitchen ledge. “Chocolate/custard dessert for after.”
It was then that I made a critical error. I turned around and was faced with big, watery green eyes above drooped shoulders nestled in a crestfallen expression and accompanied by a quivering pouty lower lip. When I zoned back in, Willow and Xander were hi-fiving with the dessert pizza box on the table in front of them. Oh well, at least they each had slices of the kitchen sink pizza on their plates. I grabbed several slices of the meat special and flopped onto the sofa.
A quick glance around showed me several things that might keep the red-head occupied. I tend to be a bit of an electronics pack-rat, still having every computer I'd ever bought, beginning with my Mac Classic. With the exception of an early Compaq Tablet, all of them still worked. The only reason I'd purchased new machines was the inability to further upgrade them on my part. With a grin, I waved to the boxes containing my early-model Mac G-3. A machine that was only just beginning to roll off the Apple production lines in this reality. I snickered as I thought about what Willow might think if she saw my Mac-Mini with its LCD screen or my Asus Netbook, both of which were upstairs. I was also definitely hiding my wireless router. Thank GOD the cable folks here already had Cable Modems available. Availability was pretty thin on the ground back in '97, but proximity to Silicon Valley and LA had Sunnydale being one of the sweet-spots for their roll-out. Speaking of which, I had already called them earlier and had an appointment to get the whole shebang set up in a couple days. I figured I would be spending a fair amount of time watching old (to me) movies on HBO and Showtime.
A knock at the door drew my attention. “It's open,” I shouted.
Rupert bustled in lugging a box with a couple books and other assorted supplies. Pushing the door shut, he set the box on the yet-untouched stack and made his way over to the pizza boxes, loading up on the four-cheese special. “Ah, I found the, ah, spell, you were asking about.”
“Eggggcellent.” Okay, so my Montgomery Burns impression needs work... especially the bit with the fingers.
“Spell?” Willow chirped, shooting a hopeful glance at the librarian.
Xander pushed his pizza plate away from him and looked at me suspiciously. “You a Watcher?” I swear I could hear the capital 'W' in the word.
“No Xander, if I were a Watcher, I wouldn't need Mr. Giles here to perform the dis-invitation spell on my apartment, I'd do it myself.”
“Dis-invitation Spell? There's a dis-invitation spell??? You'vealreadyinvitedavampireinhere?!?” Willow's voice had gotten progressively higher, faster and squeakier.
“Yes, Willow, there are dis-invitation spells,” Giles answered her in long-suffering tones.
“And, no I have not invited any vampires in here. I am having this done as a precaution, since I haven't been here long enough to establish a proper threshold and don't know what
the previous tenants might have allowed in.” I gave Rupert a serious look. “Maybe Mr. Giles would be willing to teach you how to perform the ritual? Perhaps even have you assist?”
Rupert looked like I had just fed him a lemon, while Willow started bouncing on her chair.
Xander, meanwhile was still staring at me like I might grow thirty feet tall and swallow all three of them whole. I could see it coming a mile off. I knew things that I shouldn't and I was way to close to the three of them for only having met them that same day. I was a threat. “So, if you're not a watcher, what
“XANDER!” Giles' reprimand snapped out.
With a raised hand I waved it off. “Human. 100%, over-weight, wigged-out to find myself here, designated chew-toy wearing milk-bone underwear, human.”~~~***~~~
Xander had seemed to accept my brief channeling of Bill Murray along with a promise of an explanation once we got the basic unpacking done. Giles and Willow had performed the ritual of dis-invitation and my door-frame was now graced by a pair of crosses on the lintel. As expected, she was more than happy to set up my office computer, so I made sure she had all the components, including the flight-sim controllers and their driver disk. Who knows, maybe with Xander around I might even get decently hooked on my copies of Star Trek: Starfleet Academy and Wing Commander.
Then again, maybe I can get Willow to hack the Star Trek game to make it do what I wished it had been designed to do. The game has all the bridge stations available, but wasn't designed to be networkable within a single ship. Imagine a game where you set up several computers, one for each starship bridge station, and then you have your friends over and you fly the missions with each station operating, instead of having to bounce out of flight control to adjust power usage, to answer comm messages, to scan for systems, to target weapons and back to helm... Great game, unfortunately it's too complex to single station play.
With all of the unpacking done that we were going to get done, we gathered in my living room for Xander's promised explanation. I looked at the three of them, Rupert had heard my story already. I'm not sure how much of it he believed, but at least he was willing to give me the benefit of the doubt.
“To start with, I cannot tell you everything. This isn't by my choice, there are things I literally am not allowed to say and higher powers will prevent me from saying them. First off, I am not from this reality.”
I needed something that would make things understandable to them. Then my inner Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy sat up.
Not that the particular movie in question was due to come out for several more years, but the analogy might work.
“Okay before I tell you about me, I need to set things up a bit. I'm not sure if this is how things actually work, but it is how I'm able to get my mind around it. Think about an onion, an infinitely huge onion. Reality is but a single layer of this onion, with other realities squished in all around, up and down from your reality. The closer a given layer is to you, the more alike it is, the further away the more different.”
A light seemed to go on in Xander's eyes, while Willow seemed to be sitting on her hands, while her brain wrapped itself around a rather smelly concept for the multiverse. I looked directly at the young man.
“So if you think about it, there's the possibility that there is a layer of this onion that has Marvel heroes or DC heroes, or both. Heck, there could be a version of reality where you're the subject of a comic book as a one-eyed adventurer running around the wilds of Africa.”
Thunder grumbled in the distance and I decided to back away from that line for now.
Glancing at Willow, I could swear I saw wisps of smoke leaking from her ears. “Oooo! You came out of the hellmouth! The hellmouth connects to these other layers!!!”
“Ah, no. If that were the case, getting home would be much easier. The hellmouths don't connect to other realities, they connect to other onions.”
Willow's jaw landed on her collarbone and I could see the spirals of infinity in her eyes.
“Thing is, they aren't all onions, some of them are potatoes, others are carrots or cabbage, or lettuce or beets or a huge honkin Cayenne pepper. The ritual performed tunes the hellmouth to one of these other dimensions when people or demons try to open it.”
I looked around the room. “Thing is, using the hellmouth to get home is like using a cavalry saber to peel potatoes. Near as I can tell, I got here through a freak accident of magic. In fact, my layer of the onion officially doesn't have controllable magic, we have written fiction about it and movies and TV shows, but I've never encountered anyone who could float a pencil nor who could teach me how to do so. Therefore it must have been leakage from one of the other layers that knocked me from mine to yours.”
Giles cleared his throat. “And since we have no understanding of the mechanism by which you were transported, we have no means of even beginning to determine what layer you came from much less how to get you back there.”
I threw my hands in the air. “Exactly!”
“That still doesn't explain how you know so much about Sunnydale,” Xander pointed out.
“Okay, let's attack this from another angle. You walk into the school theater to pick on Mr. Giles here who is running the talent show. Next thing you know, you're drafted to be part of it. Sound familiar?”
An extremely bright flash of lightning and an equally loud crack of thunder crashed down immediately outside the apartment. “Okay, message received,” I muttered. Looking over, Willow and Xander were peeling themselves off of each other. To their left, Rupert had managed to snap his glasses in half.
I hoped I had managed to say enough for them to figure at least some of it out.