People of Smoke
Disclaimer: I don't own or make any money from this project.
BtVS created by Joss Whedon.
Dr. Who/Torchwood belongs to the BBC.
The story is inspired by the One More Prop for Buffy
Fate. Destiny. How much is set and how much is fluid? Sometimes, all it takes is a small wobble for everything to change. Oh, it might not be obvious, at first. Maybe it will take months, or even years, for the changes to be truly felt. Or it might be so subtle no one ever notices the change; just a little detour that quickly returns to the regularly scheduled program. Sometimes, an event proves so influential it becomes a catalyst; a fixed point that happens in virtually every version of a particular world, even if the details of that event change drastically.
In one corner of the multiverse, where vampires that burst into dust are hunted by teenaged warrior girls, one of these points formed around a night of chaos, of change. A small wobble, beginning with three friends hijacked into a not-so-volunteer community service and a shopkeeper with a talent for mayhem, spun off a dozen, hundred, thousand different futures, causing even time and space to twist into knots.
And some wobbles take time before the tangles prove they are, indeed, knotted.
Buffy glared at the retreating would-be vandals until they vanished around a corner then at the canisters she'd confiscated. She'd stopped them before they could leave graffiti on the fence, but she now had to dispose of the spray paint before taking the kids back. With her luck, Snyder would catch her with them and give her detention, despite not being on school grounds. Unfortunately, it seemed no one wanted to leave trash cans out on a night known for pranks and the nearest dumpsters were several blocks away.
Suppressing her irritation at the interruption and the wig she'd lost in the scuffle, Buffy plastered on a (hopefully) reassuring smile for the kids.
"How about we try the houses across the street, OK?"
Her smile felt a bit less forced at the instant agreements. Before they reached the street, she froze as something seemed to press in on her mind. Foreign thoughts intruded, shoving her out of the way and blocking her into a corner of her mind...
Ace blinked a few times, wondering what happened to the painter... and the studio. The Doctor wasn't anywhere nearby but at least she had Nitro-9 canisters. She looked around, taking in her surroundings. The houses looked like the ones she'd seen on American TV shows, decorated for Halloween, and cars had been parked on the wrong side of the street. The whole effect was ruined, though, by crashes and screams that didn't sound like they came from speakers, and discarded pillowcases and pumpkin-shaped buckets on the ground.
Something about this seemed vaguely familiar, but first things first. Grabbing one of the pillowcases to make carrying her explosives easier, Ace took off towards the screaming. She needed to find the Professor and she'd lay odds he would be in the middle of whatever was causing problems.
She didn't get far before she caught a flash of color that didn't quite belong in some bushes. Not seeing anyone else nearby, she cautiously went to investigate.
Ace found a young boy in a battered Darth Vader costume. The color had come from the light-up chest plate and plastic lightsaber. She attempted to kneel in front of the terrified kid, more than a little irritated at the layered skirts.
"Oi, you alright?"
He sniffed, rubbing at his eyes, "I want my dad."
"Yeah, I bet you do. Want me to help you find him?"
He pulled himself tighter, "But...the monsters."
Ace reached into the makeshift sack for one of her Nitro-9 canisters. "Do you want to know what this is?"
The boy's face scrunched up in confusion, "Spray paint?"
"Not anymore. Now it keeps monsters away."
She nodded, "And my friend, the Doctor, he's what monsters are scared of."
The boy uncurled, trying to peer around her, "Is he here?"
"No, but he's bound to be around somewhere. He'll fix what's wrong." She held her hand out to the boy. "Name's Ace."
She grinned, "How about we find your Dad, yeah?"
Lance smiled hesitantly as he accepted her help in crawling out of the bushes.
Ace hoped she was going in the right direction. Lance insisted his dad would pick him up at a school, but only had a vague idea of how to get there. The first detour came from a pack of kid-sized monsters that scattered at the sound of nearby gunfire. She briefly considered looking for the shooter but, with a kid clinging to her, she didn't want to risk drawing fire- accidental or otherwise.
As they dodged monsters and villains, Ace kept up a running commentary about her adventures with the Doctor and similarities to the things in the streets. Lance seemed to assume they were just stories, but they kept him entertained and distracted from the chaos in the town.
They'd only gone a couple blocks before they encountered a pack that spotted them before they could slip away.
Ace backed away, pushing Lance behind her. She fumbled a can of Nitro-9 out of the pillowcase.
"Get ready to run."
She popped the top off and started counting. At four, she chucked the explosives at the front of the pack, about half of whom paused to look at it, while she and Lance took off in the opposite direction.
Ace only made it to seven before she and Lance felt the blast. She wasn't quite sure how she'd managed to both stay on her feet and keep the boy from getting knocked over, but decided it was probably a lingering effect from the Cheetah planet.
She glanced back at the now-prone monsters, some of which were still moving. Fortunately, it looked more like writhing-on-the-ground-in-pain, rather than get-up-and-chase type moving.
Ace grinned down at the boy. She grabbed his hand and they continued in the direction she hoped was the school.
Their destination wasn't as far as Ace had feared, although she nearly froze when she saw the name on the building. Sunnydale High School. She hadn't forgotten the town or the girl who had spent some time travelling with her and the Doctor, but she hadn't really believed the girl's story about how she'd known to find them at Vortigern's Lake.
Now, Ace just hoped she remembered enough to get through the night. She shook off the realization as she went inside.
Inside, she found a group of adults guarding a handful of children.
"Dad!" Lance took off for the group.
Ace watched the reunion as she followed a bit more slowly. She couldn't help the satisfied grin when she heard Lance's enthusiastic description of her using explosives in scaring off monsters. The adults seemed a bit disturbed, but Lance's dad looked equally relieved.
He managed a "Thank you" before other adults started demanding information about other children.
Ace held up her hands, "Oi! I didn't see any other kids. Woulda brought 'em if I had."
Most of the adults looked disappointed but others seemed almost angry.
"Why don't you stay until your parents can get here?"
"Can't." Ace shrugged, "There's still some things I have to do."
She ignored the adults' protests as she took off. On her way out, she slipped into an open room. Buffy had never told her how she'd known when and where to meet up with them, but Ace didn't see any problem with leaving a rather large hint.