Summary: AU Comedy/Adventure. Buffy and Spike must learn to rely on each other as they hunt the deadly Jabberwock through a strange and wondrous world fraught with peril (and many bad jokes).
A/N: Thank you to EnigmaticBlues for the beta work. Although this is my own bizarre version of Wonderland, some quotes and characters are courtesy of Alice in Wonderland and Jabberwocky, both written by the very gifted Lewis Carroll. Chapter titles courtesy of the song White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane. Mr. Carroll, please don’t spin-it was merely for fun.
Disclosure: None of these characters are mine, nor will I make money from them. They belong solely to the imaginative pens of Joss Whedon and Lewis Carroll– I just wanted to watch Buffy and Spike wrest information from a Dormouse.
Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!
Buffy: “Speak English, not whatever they speak in, um….”
Some Assembly Required
One Pill Makes You Larger
Buffy realized she was floating slowly downward inside a pitch black, elevator-like shaft.
Replaying everything in her mind, she realized that seconds ago she’d made a ginormous mistake–she knew better than to try and read strange books with odd, archaic symbols on the front cover. This one, even though it had an oddly familiar looking demonic language, still screamed black magicks. Heck, she didn’t even like reading the more familiar books with archaic symbols and weird languages on their front covers that Giles forced on her. Why had she ever picked a strange one up?
The thought of her Watcher made her wince. He was going to be so mad he’d probably clean his glasses– twice– with a dirty handkerchief when he discovered what she’d done. Even the book’s title had been written in some unknown language and yet–insert head desk moment here– she’d still opened it.
She remembered a slight tingling and then the feeling of being sucked through a small, tight opening. It had felt just like a cheesy middle school science experiment– she’d become a hard boiled egg sucked into the empty soda pop bottle with a lit match.
There was a brief spurt of panic while she wondered if she was actually being pulled into a bottle, where she’d live forever as some unqualified Genie—like Robin Williams, only much stronger and a whole lot less amusing.
She checked her clothes. No filmy veiled Barbara Eden outfit–she still wore the same practical jeans and shirt she’d started the night in and her favorite slaying boots were still on her feet.
Relieved, she let out a breath and calmly decided not to jump to any more conclusions. She would just have to wait. After all there wasn’t anything else she could do until she landed. Then she’d find the book’s owner and force him into giving her the book that led back to Sunnydale. It probably had a picture touting the Hellmouth as a perfect vacation spot on the front cover.
Floating toward a light below her, after a few moments the walls around her brightened and she could see that she was in a brick tunnel, like the older part of a sewer system.
Instead of sewer sludge for once, the walls farther down were covered with tacked-up maps for places she couldn’t identify and random pictures of different creatures–possibly demonic–that she’d never seen before, but looked strangely familiar. In fact this entire scenario was beginning to give her the oddest feeling of familiarity, but she just couldn’t put her finger on it.
Slowly floating a few more feet—whoever was in charge of this joyride had obviously never heard of express elevators— she passed a section with shelves built right into the brick. Crowded together along the shelves were dusty glass jars filled with colorful things and lots of books–all titled in that same demonic language. She resisted the urge to touch any of it. That’s what had started this in the first place, and who knew where a second book might lead?
Struck by that thought, she wondered if she could be heading down into a hell dimension. The way her night was going, it would be just her luck…
Prepared for a terrible crash when she reached bottom, Buffy’s landing was surprisingly anticlimactic. One minute her toes barely touched and the next she was standing up, looking around curiously at her surroundings.
The light she’d worried was hellfire turned out to be several small metal sconces attached to the brick, their flickering flames providing a rosy glow.
She stood in the middle of a cavernous circular room and realized that the tunnel was obviously much, much wider at the bottom than the top. Surveying the space, her eyes landed on three plain identical doors mounted in the brick.
Hurrying across the room, she tested each old fashioned glass doorknob, but none of them turned–all three stubbornly refused to open. Huffing out an annoyed breath, she tried to think. She was raising her foot to try a kick against the bottom of a door when she heard a light cough somewhere behind her.
Before she could turn around to investigate something heavy landed on top of her, knocking her flat on the floor.
Sprawled on her stomach she smelled a familiar blend of cigarettes, old leather and Jack Daniels and wrinkled her nose. “Oof! Spike?! Move. Now.”
“Sorry Slayer, you were on the landin’ pad and someone else was runnin’ the controls.” Spike lightly jumped to his feet, turning to offer her a hand up.
Ignoring his outstretched hand, she scrambled to her feet. “What in the world are you doing here?”
“It’s not what?”
“The world.” He pointed behind her. “You’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.”
She suddenly remembered the odd noise and turned around. One look and her mouth dropped. Blinking, she tried to clear her vision but the sight in front of her stubbornly refused to do the right thing and disappear. She was going to have to deal with it.
“It” was a seven foot tall, snowy white rabbit wearing a glen plaid waistcoat with shiny gold buttons down the front. Shifting nervously, he pulled a pocket watch twice the normal size out of a front vest pocket. Muttering to himself, the super sized rabbit flipped open his super sized watch–which was attached to his vest with a long thick watch fob– and checked the time.
Snapping the watch closed, his whiskers twitched and a frown line appeared. He carefully tucked the watch back inside his pocket, and trained liquid brown eyes on Buffy. “Is this everyone in your party, madam?”
The rabbit had a smooth upper crust British accent that reminded her immediately of elegant hunt balls and croquet played on vast manicured lawns where liveried servants carried small silver trays heaped with rich delicacies she could never afford.
Her eyes narrowed in speculation. What was bunny Godzilla rambling on about? Would it show her the way out at some point? She tried to get a handle on the entire bizarre situation by stalling.
She leaned back to look into the rabbit’s face– height-wise she reached the middle of the fashion victim vest–and tried to stall. “Everyone in my party? And what would that be exactly? Because I’m not in the mood for celebrating, unless it’s a bon voyage party and I’m the guest of honor.”
The rabbit replied, “I require your immediate answer. I can not be late. The Queen will become upset and it will not go well for me.”
Spike snorted. He pointed at the rabbit with his thumb. “He’s waitin’ for an answer, Madam and do hurry, or he might have to drag Lassie down here to mount a rescue.”
“I don’t want to hear your comments at the moment Spike. What I do want to hear is why this overgrown rabbit is expecting me to answer a question that I don’t even understand.”
“Uh, I might actually be able to help you with that.”
Her mouth thinned. “Then I’d also like to know how you know the answer. Because if you’ve set me up, I’ll take the rabbit apart first and you second, and I guarantee Lassie won’t be able to save either one of you.”
Obviously the Slayer was a wee bit agitated over the situation. He could feel an assault that wouldn’t be verbal already. His nose cried out for him to do something, so he held up both hands, palms open. “I swear I didn’t do anythin’, except follow you. And in case you haven’t noticed, I was tryin’ to rescue you. You triggered the spell when you opened the book. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be a nosy parker.”
Wait, who said anything about Parker? She could feel a Spike and rabbit-created headache beginning to throb and rubbed her temples. “So you do know where we are.”
The rabbit coughed discretely and Buffy realized she’d actually forgotten him for a moment– her attention had been that focused on Spike. It was unbelievable how the vamp could make her lose her ability to concentrate. Shaking her head to clear it she snapped, “Not right now.”
“Madam, I do apologize for the interruption, but I must insist upon a response to my original query. The Queen becomes extremely agitated if kept waiting.”
“Just tell him the gang’s all here, Slayer, so he can go do whatever he’s plannin’ with the Queen”–smirking, he turned to the rabbit and stage whispered– “I’ll bet she’s a right looker, eh?”
Buffy shot him an incredulous look.
The phantom twinges on his nose reminded him to play nice. “Go on and answer the fur ball. I swear I’ll explain everythin’ I know after the ponce leaves.”
“You’d better.” She looked up at the rabbit. Arms crossed, it stared down its little button nose at her, tapping an enormous back paw on the floor impatiently. For the first time she noticed the white gloves on both front paws and something twigged.
Headache forgotten, she smiled triumphantly, “I’ve got it! Oh my God! You’re the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland! You looked so familiar; it’s been bugging me since you showed up, but with your size and all the rest of this, it threw me.” She beamed. “That was my favorite book when I was a kid.”
Spike snorted. He had a hard time thinking of the Slayer as a child. She’d probably staked her toys for fun. But the star struck bit was kind of funny. Buffy was acting like she’d stumbled across some A list actor at the local deli.
The rabbit stood there tightlipped as the Slayer wound down. She frowned at the silence. How rude. “Alright, so just how did you show up? Which door did you come through? Is it open now? Where does it lead?”
She pointed at Spike. “How about letting Neo there follow you out?”
The rabbit continued to ignore her.
Sighing, Buffy admitted defeat. Obviously the rabbit wasn’t going to say anything else at all unless she replied to its question first. “Okay, whatever. I mean, yes, we’re all here. We’re a party of two. We’re definitely not together in a date-y way or anything– even though we patrol together sometimes, that’s just waaay too squicky to even contemplate– we’re just here at the same time. Together. We two.”
She watched the rabbit nod solemnly at her rambling answer as if it made complete sense. Probably everyone who discovered themselves talking to the white rabbit rambled.
“Duly noted madam.” Twitching, he took another look at his watch. “Now, I really must be going. Oh my fur and whiskers, I’m very late.”
Picking a speck of lint from his pristine waistcoat with an immaculately gloved paw, he turned and took a few short hops in preparation for an obviously hasty exit. Buffy watched eagerly, hoping he’d lead them out of the room now.
Abruptly, the rabbit froze.
It turned and looked at her again.
She stared back. Now what?
Expression blank, the rabbit suddenly rocked back on long back paws and lifted his face toward the ceiling, giving them a view of his snowy white chest and throat. Opening his mouth widely, he erupted in a loud, high pitched giggle.
She clapped her hands over her ears as the maniacal sound ricocheted from brick wall to brick wall around the circular space, the echo creating the illusion that an entire herd of rabbits had made the disturbingly creepy sound.
The hair on the back of her neck stood up.
Next to her, Spike stiffened.
The rabbit lowered his head. His eyes– now tiny dark pinpoints– were fixed on her. Curling his lip, he planted his feet wide and brought his paws up, assuming a classic karate stance.
It would have been hilarious if he hadn’t looked so deadly serious.
Shaking her head in disbelief– who did the rabbit think he was anyway? An energizer version of Bruce Lee?– she balled her hands into two tight fists.
The rabbit snarled, hopping until he was only a few feet away from her again.
Planting her feet, Buffy raised her own fists in response while out of the corner of her eye she saw Spike change into game face. He was grinning.
Rolling her eyes, she watched as the rabbit opened its mouth again. Still staring straight at her, it began spewing a stream of confusing gibberish. This wasn’t the same mild mannered, overly polite Dr. Jekyll rabbit any longer– they had rampaging Hyde on their hands now. Even his accent had morphed– Hyde sounded decidedly lower class, more fiish and chips than caviar.
“Beware the Jabberwock! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!!!!!
Screaming the final word the rabbit charged, twelve inch long incisors snapping. Buffy shot her foot out in a roundhouse kick and connected with the rabbit’s stomach just below the jaunty plaid waistcoat.
The force from her kick had no effect; Hyde continued barreling toward her.
She leaped out of the way. The rabbit whirled, preparing to charge her again.
Spike waited until the rabbit charged Buffy the first time, then circled around the other way. He watched as the Slayer slipped from the rabbit’s grasp. When the rabbit turned at the brick wall for another go at her, Spike attacked.
He leaped on top of the rabbit’s back, and dug into the waistcoat with his boots, grabbing handfuls of long silky fur. Leaning over the rabbit’s neck, he bit down, trying to reach skin beneath all that thick fur. With a scream the rabbit spun wildly. Spike lost his grip on the slippery fur and fell backwards. Still spitting fur, he hit the floor with a grunt.
Buffy watched the rabbit straighten up after shaking Spike off. The rabbit was strong and she was unarmed– not the best combo for a winning outcome.
The rabbit was already turning back to her, zeroed in like it had automatic Slayer tracking.
Sidestepping, she blocked a karate chop with her forearm and winced. She needed to come up with something fast. No way was she letting this Petsmart reject have the upper hand. Energizer needed his batteries removed permanently.
Avoiding the gloved paws, she dived beneath the slower moving rabbit and snatched his pocket watch, dancing away again.
The rabbit roared its anger and frustration with another round of gibberish. Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun the frumious Bandersnatch!!”
“I’ll Jubjub you.” Holding the chain tightly with both hands, she called to Spike. “Needing a diversion here.”
The vampire had regained his feet. “No problem Slayer– after all, it’s just a little bunny rabbit.”
Avoiding a kick from a razor sharp back claw, she rolled her eyes for the second time in ten minutes. “Do you really think now’s the right time for Python quotes?”
“It’s always the right time for Python quotes.” Spike moved into the rabbit’s line of vision. Raising his hand, he extended two fingers. “Oi, you moth eatin’ furball, what say you and me do this, eh? The bird wants a fur coat.”
Snarling, the rabbit lunged at Spike. Taking the opportunity he’d given her, Buffy leaped in the air and slung the metal watch fob around the rabbit’s neck.
Praying the thick links would hold she twisted, trying to stay on her feet while the choking rabbit hopped around the room dragging her along with it. When the rabbit literally hit a brick wall and started to double back, she called on every ounce of Slayer strength she possessed, planted her feet and gave the chain a hard yank. The rabbit’s neck snapped backward at a 90 degree angle. It slumped to the ground.
Dropping her hold, she blew hair out of her eyes and reached down to check. Most satisfactorily dead.
Spike slipped the watch fob from the rabbit’s neck, presenting it to her with a flourish and a smirk. “You really yanked his chain, Slayer.”
“I’m just sooo glad it didn’t break.” She looked down at the dead rabbit. From this angle it looked like a slightly soiled area rug. Prodding the rabbit with her foot she muttered, “It’s funny, but this experience has made me feel a little closer to Anya.”
“Never mind. I bet the Queen’s going to be more than a little disappointed.”
“Yeah, it’s really late now.” Spike grinned at his own joke. “Can you believe we just killed a soddin’ seven foot tall butler rabbit with a black belt? Wax on and all that rot.”
“For him it was more wax offed,” she quipped, her own lips curving. “But what was up with that two fingered salute? Did you really think he would get it? ”
“He was a fellow Brit, wasn’t he? And it did work for whatever reason– stopped him fixatin’ on you for the moment you needed to get the upper hand.” His grin widened.
Buffy lost it completely then, her entire body shook with laughter. Trust Spike to come up with insane troll logic and have it actually work. This had to be a first.
Giving the adrenaline a chance to ebb, they settled companionably against a wall as far from the carcass as they could.
Still giggling, she wiped her eyes with the tail of her shirt. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but that was actually the most fun I’ve had in awhile. It’s been awfully quiet at home.”
“Yeah, me too. A good fight beats trackin’ every time.” He lit a cigarette and took a deep drag to bolster his courage. “We make a good team, Slayer.”
She hesitated. “You’re definitely an asset in a fight.”
The silence lengthened. Spike smoked his cigarette while Buffy checked out the watch. Finally she placed it gently on the floor and blew out a long breath. “Okay Spike, it’s time for you to tell me everything you can. We need to figure out how to get out of ‘Wonderland’.”
He watched her make air quotes with those delicate, incredibly strong hands while he stubbed out his cigarette. “‘Cause you’re not Alice and Wonderland this ain’t. Right. Well, I’m sure the book is one of a bunch of magicked literary works that were popular playthings among the dark arts set around the turn of the century. Back in the day a couple of mages placed hefty spells that allowed whoever had the dosh to slide inside their favorite story and play a game while interacting with the characters.”
“Oh. Sort of a holodeck kind of thing.”
He raised an eyebrow. “You’ve been spendin’ far too much time with the Whelp; he’s startin’ to rub off. But yeah, exactly like that.”
Buffy ignored his jibe about Xander, letting the comment slide without pointing out that Spike had immediately known what a holodeck was too. She’d had a sneaking suspicion the two of them had spent lots of nights in that basement watching Xander’s collection of science fiction shows and movies and that just confirmed it. Swallowing a smirk, she said, “Are you certain about the book? How do you know?”
“’Cause I did one back in the day. Mage paid off a gambling debt with a trip inside Treasure Island.” He looked sheepish. “It was a chance to fight pirates and play in the sun–even a fake one–and Dru and I grabbed it.”
He hurried on. “The premise is to follow the book’s plot while looking for something, a sort of quest. You interact with the characters, get to ask them things. Keeps everyone entertained, gives ‘em something to do– until reaching the final chapter. The book automatically adjusts to the player’s skill level, so it doesn’t become too easy. In Treasure Island, we had to locate and steal a treasure chest full of gold doubloons. When we did, we were transported back out of the book. It took all day, but that was because I was pissed on rum and Dru was being Dru–kept runnin’ around askin’ the parrots questions instead of the pirates.”
Buffy refrained from commenting on Spike’s ex-girlfriend, she didn’t want him to clam up. She looked up and realized he was watching her intently. She made a gesture for him to go on.
“But there’s one thing I don’t get, Spike—why did the rabbit say all that weird stuff and then attack us? Somehow I don’t see people spending gobs of money to get mauled. And besides that’s not even part of the actual story.”
“You’re right, it wouldn’t be too smart to kill off the punters. Everyone is supposed to just wander around having fun without anything too serious happening. My Latin’s a little rusty, but I think I’ve figured out what’s happened here. The title of this book is The Collected Works of Lewis Carroll.”
At her blank look, he elaborated. “Since it’s an anthology, it includes not only Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, but other things he wrote, too. Have you ever heard of a poem called Jabberwocky?”
Comprehension blossomed and she nodded confidently. “I knew it sounded sort of familiar, but I was so surprised when the rabbit wigged that it didn’t register. I saw the Muppets act the poem once on their show, but I missed reading it in school, I was out slaying. So what do you think caused the rabbit to start yelling lines from the poem? Is the spell screwed up?”
“No I don’t think there’s anythin’ wrong with the spell. It read the first player’s skill set and adjusted accordingly, to make the game challenging. It changed to suit you, Slayer, and if that rabbit was any indication, the safety features are off, too.”
She digested that for a moment. “I needed a diversion to take it down. The spell sets up scenarios depending on the amount of players participating. That’s why the rabbit was so curious about how many people I had with me.”
There was a definite gleam in the Slayer’s eye. “So we’ve got to complete a specific quest having to do with the poem before we’ll be sent back to Sunnydale.”
Spike met her eyes and his lips curved. “Yeah. We have to hunt the Jabberwock through Wonderland–”
“–in order to go back to the Hellmouth and finish hunting a demon,” she finished, shaking her head.
Spike grinned. He’d known the Slayer would appreciate the twisted irony. The thought crossed his mind that they’d both need to keep a sense of humor; they were going to need it– that and the ability to work together as a team.
He realized Buffy was staring at him speculatively; the same thoughts must have occurred to her, but before he could say anything, she abruptly stood up. “We need to find a way out of this room and get started.”
As the Slayer was so fond of saying- Well, duh.
Next Chapter Here
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/338046.html