By Estepheia and Marcee
Part 19 - The Bare Necessities
He scrambled to his feet, instantly covering his private regions. Panic evident. *I'm dreaming, I must be dreaming.* It was almost black, but he could just make out that he was indoors, standing in a darkened room. Stark naked.
"Okay," he said to himself. "Okay, I was in the Magic Box. And now I'm not." *Please let me be dreaming.* "In the Magic Box, valiantly fighting a Fyarl demon." *I'm naked. How did I get naked?* "And then I tripped and fell..." *Oh no!* He finally pieced it together. "I tripped and fell into the portal." He covered his face with his hands. *Such an idiot!* Then, realizing that covering his face with his hands left his nether regions exposed, he repositioned them.
"Okay, let's see. Where am I?" As his eyes adapted to the gloom he was able to see more of his surroundings. Wooden floor, paneled walls, ugly paintings, a long wooden table in the middle. Chandeliers. *Wow! Now that's what I call a mess.* Most of the chairs were overturned, and there were all kinds of things littering the floor. And there seemed to be dust everywhere.
*Okay. I get it now. I'm in the 1800's.* He sighed, somewhat relieved that he finally understood what happened to him, then: "But why am I naked?" he asked aloud. "And where's Buffy?" *Let her be here, let her be here, let her be here!*
His eyes fell on a wooden stake that was lying discarded on the floor. "Buffy?" he called. And then louder, "Buff, hey, it's me, the Xand-man, can you hear me? Say yes, and you'll make me the happiest man in the world."
He listened, but there was no answer.
*No Buffy. Okay, I'll settle for second best. How about a portal? Or, maybe a hand reaching through an invisible window right about...now!* He did a 360 degree turn. *Hmm. Didn't think so.*
He walked towards one of the windows. "Ouch!" he yelled, as he stepped onto something painfully sharp. Forcing himself to refrain from madly hopping around on one leg, he gingerly reached for his foot and pulled out a thumbnail sized glass shard. *Swell! Now I've got a bleeding foot. As if a bruised arm wasn't enough!*
He walked on, more carefully, avoiding a dark puddle on the floor that he fervently hoped wasn't blood. He pulled the curtains back. The panes were filthy. Even so, he was momentarily blinded by bright daylight. Through the grime, an alley was visible. There was a derelict building on the opposite site of the road. He didn't see any people. Which was just as well, considering his lack of clothing.
He walked to the door. It was stuck. He pushed and managed to dislocate whatever was obstructing it from the other side. Squinting, he peered through the gap into a hallway. *Gah!* A body, and an ugly one at that. It reminded him vaguely of Olaf the troll who had crushed his hand the year before. Except this troll was dead, his throat torn out. *Ew! Vampire leftovers. What else is new?*
It seemed the portal had brought him to the right place. Stakes, vampire victims... But where was Buffy?
He sighed dramatically and edged past the body into the hallway. *Ooh! Clothes!* he thought and bent over the smelly troll body. He grabbed for the beast's giant tunic, but it wouldn't budge. He was pulling at it with one hand - the other, still covering his lower half. After a minute or so of fruitless tugging, Xander decided to brave the use of both hands. Bending awkwardly at the knee, he grabbed the frock with both hands, and using all of his weight, tried to pull it free. No use. The clothing thing would just have wait for a lighter dead guy.
He followed the hallway to a sturdy door. It was slightly ajar, letting in a brilliant shaft of light. Xander stepped outside, into the dirty road. He thought he saw a few people at the mouth of the alley, about 200 yards away.
He covered himself with one hand and waved sheepishly with the other. There was a distressed smile painted on his face. "Buffy?"
Still no answer. The people he had seen took one look at him and hurried away. The only living thing that remained in his vicinity was a nasty looking cat that eyed him nervously.
"Great," he mumbled. *I have no idea what Maeve looks like. Or where she lives. I guess Spike was right. Never thought I'd hear myself think that. But why am I the one with the consequences - this stupid spell wasn't my idea! And how am I gonna get out of this one?* He kicked at the dirt with his bare (non-hurt) foot and searched the area for some answers. *If only we'd waited for Giles. This never would have happened. I'd still be in the twenty-first century...FULLY CLOTHED. Buffy'd be back by Tuesday...*
He scanned the rooftops for a familiar landmark - without success. *Where's Big Ben? I always wanted to see Big Ben and it's usually just round the corner in the movies...*
There was a sound. At first, he assumed it was his heart beating in his ears. But when it grew louder, he realized it wasn't his blood pumping...it was the sounds of hooves. Horses. *Horses!?*
He spun around, looking for cover...or at least, something to cover him! Nothing! Before he had time to dash back into the building - the carriage was upon him. Unfortunately *or fortunately* the carriage didn't slow or stop. He only just managed to jump out of the way.
*I'm beginning to hate this century,* he thought gloomily.
He was just about to go back into the house to search it for clothes or anything else that might be useful, when he heard brisk footsteps coming near.
*Oh, yay! More embarrassment. Can't wait.* He struck the same pose as before: one hand on groin, the other in the air - plastic smile in place. This time, however, there was no horse-drawn cart. Instead, two men approached him. They were wearing long coats and funny hats and had...*Great Gatsby! They're police officers!*
They came to a halt several feet from where Xander was standing (mortified). Both exchanged worried glances and placed their hands near their billy clubs.
"Were you robbed, Sir?" one asked, straining his neck to look up into his face. He and his colleague were at least a foot shorter than Xander.
*Robbed? Yes, I was robbed.* "Yes, I was robbed. They took everything."
"Who? Could you describe them, Sir?"
"Um. Uh. The robbers. They were...uh wearing masks and they um...hurt my arm. I think it may be broken." He held up his injured arm, which was still slightly swollen.
The two officers looked at each other then back at the odd naked man with the strange dialect. They took in his size, his powerful build and his tan. They also noted the blood on his hand.
"Is that your house?" he asked, dropping the honorific. He used his club to point at the inn.
"Where are you from?"
"Sunnydale," he answered without thinking. "Um. That's...in...America."
"America?" the officer questioned.
"Uh. The United States." Xander's nakedness was beginning to affect his brain.
"How did you arrive in London?" the policeman asked.
"A portal," he mumbled, shaking his head.
"Stay there," the burly policeman ordered. He motioned the other Bobby aside.
"Sure." Xander said, shivering.
The two policemen stuck their heads together. They kept their eyes trained on the huge idiot.
"What d'you think?" the younger of the two asked nervously.
"He's not quite right in `is head, now, is he?" the older stated.
"Most likely he escaped from St. Luke's."
"Well, if he's from St. Luke's it might earn us a few shillings from the Doctor when we bring him in."
"You think he's dangerous?"
"I don't intend to find out, now, do I?"
The other man nodded and both approached Xander cautiously.
Xander watched them, hoping they'd take him to some kind of police precinct. Or maybe a doctor. He needed clothing - and a new sling. Besides, maybe someone there would know Maeve. *What was her last name again? MacIntosh?*
*No, that's a computer,* he figured...right before the policemen swung their clubs against his head and it was `lights out'.
"Will! Wait for me!"
The young girl bounced down the stairs and reached him at the door. "You said you would go to the Museum and to the bookbinder today and that I could come along."
He smiled indulgently. "What about mother?" he asked, as he picked up his hat, gloves and cane.
"Mama is not feeling well today. She said she would take her medicine and try to rest. Surely the maid can look after her? Please?"
"Very well. But we mustn't spend any money. No more books for you, Victoria, until you've finished the ones we bought last time."
"But I already finished Descartes' `Meditationes' and Goethe's `Leiden des jungen Werther'," she complained as she took his arm. "And there are only a few pages left in `Middlemarch.' Can't we buy some more poetry? Browning, I'd like to read Browning."
"Browning? Well, I will think about it."
*That is almost a yes,* Victoria Crawford thought happily.
He waited for her to choose her purse, shawl and parasol. Then he took her arm and they walked outside to hail a cab.
"So, my dear brother, how was Cecily last night?" the young woman asked excitedly, to the merry hoof beats that accompanied their ride to Bloombsbury. "Did you get to converse with her?"
"No, I am afraid she did not take any notice of me at all." William replied with a self-depreciatory smile. "She has many admirers to choose from, and they are all more dashing than I." He saw the protest in his sister's face and shook his head. "We both know that, so don't say it's not true."
"You have to talk to her!" Victoria exclaimed. "Then she just HAS to see how wonderful you are." *And how much you love her.*
Her brother laughed at her, good-naturedly. "You are an incurable romantic, my dear. But just to please you I will try to approach her. The next time I see her I will actually try to speak with her."
"I promise. I will probably make a complete and utter fool out of myself, but that's what love is all about, is it not? Allowing the heart to overrule everything else?"
She squeezed his hand, affectionately.
"How may I help you, young Masters?" the bookseller asked cordially. He recognized the boys from previous visits. Their father was a regular customer. "Are you looking for anything in particular?"
Charles Willoughby handed him the list. "Would you have these in stock? We will be needing them next term." His brother George quietly disappeared behind a large bookshelf. As usual, his interest was with Philosophy and Theology.
The bookseller scanned the list. "There are two titles here that I will have to order. The others I have in stock. This may take a few minutes. Perhaps you would like to have a look around, Master Willoughby?"
"Yes, thank you." He strolled though the shop, picking up a book here and there. Suddenly there was a high pitched shriek and a young girl toppled down a ladder on which she had been standing in order to reach the top shelves.
Charles caught her more by reflex than by design. Holding her steady in his arms he looked into startled blue eyes behind wire rimmed spectacles. The girl's pretty face was framed by honey colored curls. And there was something strangely familiar about her.
"You can put me down, now," she said with a shy smile.
"Oh, um... yes of course, forgive my manners," he stammered and complied, blushing. He had just touched a girl's waist. Only to catch her, of course, but nonetheless.
The young woman, she was about the same age as Charles, blushed, too. "Thank you. I am glad you had the presence of mind to keep me from injury."
"Victoria?" A man came around the corner. Charles recognized him immediately. "Mr. Crawford. How do you do?" He exclaimed with a polite bow. Now he knew why the girl had looked so familiar. The family resemblance was obvious.
"Master Willoughby, what a pleasant surprise. May I introduce to you my sister, Miss Victoria Crawford. Victoria, this is Master Willoughby. His father is a business associate of Mr. Hartford."
"It is a pleasure, Miss Victoria. How do you do?" Charles said.
"How do you do?" She quickly took off her glasses and put them in her purse.
Charles and Mr. Crawford exchanged cards. They were joined by George, and the rites of formal introduction were observed once more. Charles had the impression that young Miss Victoria was secretly amused by the procedure.
They stood around a bit awkwardly. Charles craned his neck to look at the small pile of books Miss Crawford had chosen so far. `Frankenstein', ` Les Trois Mousquetaires', two slim volumes of poetry and a collection of stories by Sheridan Le Fanu.
* `'Carmilla'? He lets her read THAT?* Charles thought, amazed at her audacious taste. This was hardly suitable reading material for a girl of sixteen or seventeen years! Mother would object, but Charles found himself drawn to both brother and sister. They piqued his curiosity.
Under the astonished glance of his brother, Charles drew the Crawfords into a lively but amiable discussion of Shakespeare's History plays. When Mr. Crawford suggested that they go to a coffeehouse for some refreshments, he accepted gladly, because it gave him the opportunity to extend an invitation of his own for the following day.
*I wonder what Maeve will say if I bring her Mr. and Miss Crawford for afternoon tea.*
Xander woke to the murmur of two voices conducting a conversation almost out of earshot. He could also hear birds chirping.
"...he looks strong like an ox, sir... "
"Indeed, he does. Let us just hope he is docile and does not give us any trouble..."
While the first speaker's accent was unfamiliar and difficult to understand, the second man sounded very much like Giles, perhaps a little more decisive.
Xander had a splitting headache but when he tried to touch his skull where it ached most he found that he couldn't move his arms. He couldn't sit upright, either.
*Oh god, please don't let me be paralyzed!* He opened his eyes. A bare ceiling. He turned his head sideways. Bare walls. A window was letting in bright sunlight and a slight breeze. *Oh oh. Iron bars? Now, this is disturbing.*
He lifted his head to check his body and became instantly woozy. He was stretched out on a hard cot. His arms and legs were restrained by metal shackles and a broad leather strap was fastened over his chest. He was effectively pinned. *Not good, this is so not good.*
At least he was no longer naked. He was clothed in some kind of hospital gown. And his foot was bandaged.
*They hit me! I thought English policemen were supposed to be well-mannered! They hit me. Bastards!*
He heard steps approaching and quickly closed his eyes.
Someone touched his hand, turning it over, examining it from all angles. Dropping it, looking at the other.
"Hmm, callused, tanned, short nails, not manicured, do I smell a hint of sap? Carpentry, perhaps? And not very good at pretending to be unconscious," the cultured voice said.
Xander opened his eyes. He saw before him a man in his late forties. He was dressed impeccably. He had a bushy moustache and his black hair looked prematurely grey.
"Ah, you are awake. Good. I am Dr. Burton, Chief Alienist of St. Luke's."
"Alienist? What's an alienist? Do I look like a martian to you?" Xander babbled before he could stop himself. *Great, now I sound like a complete idiot.* He would have smacked his forehead if he weren't shackled to this cot. A rather uncomfortable and much to narrow cot.
"Tell me where it hurts," the doctor said and proceeded to examine Xander's head. There were two noticeable lumps that hurt considerably. Xander told him so. The man nodded, took a look at his eyes and checked the bruised arm.
"Would you please answer a few questions?" the man asked, brandishing a pad and a pencil.
"If you untie me. This is kinda uncomfortable," Xander suggested without great optimism.
"That won't be possible just yet, my friend," Dr. Burton said kindly. "Perhaps later. Now, can you tell me your name?"
"Al-, er... Clark Kent."
"What is your address?"
"Er...I don't have one." Xander said. "I only just arrived from America. Sightseeing. You know, Big Ben, Madame Tussaud's, Piccadilly Circus. And then..." he carried on, getting into the swing of things, "...before I could find myself a nice hotel I got robbed. They stole everything, my money, my suitcases, even my clothes."
"What is today's date?" The doctor asked, scribbling things into his notebook.
"Er... June 1880?" Xander laughed nervously. "I don't... er... remember the exact day. Must be the hit on the head," he added hurriedly. *Amnesia is not that uncommon, or is it? I mean every single one of my favorite TV shows had at least one amnesia episode...*
"When and where were you born?"
"What kind of hospital is St. Luke's?" Xander asked warily.
"St. Luke's is an asylum for the criminally insane," the doctor answered, studying his reaction carefully.
Xander groaned and closed his eyes. *Why do these things always happen to ME?*
Continued in Part 20 - Picking up the Pieces