'A Gentleman Of Leisure'.
Scully sat up suddenly in the dark. It was utterly quiet. She shivered, now wide awake. She and Mulder had just been re-assigned to Sunnydale, and had only returned to the town the evening before.
She got out of bed and put on her shoes, pulled on her red fleece jacket, and stepped out of the front door of the house that had been commandeered for them. Outside in the full moon it was curiously cold, despite it being mid-summer in Southern California, so she flipped up her hood and started to walk.
There was no one around. The area was a total exclusion zone this close to the crater. It was a strange feeling, a little unreal, walking down empty streets in the middle of the night, not something you could do in Washington, or any other big city for that matter. She felt as if she owned the world - it almost seemed like she was the only person in it. There were no streetlights, just the brilliant moon, high in the sky, as if put there by God so she wouldn't fall over her own feet.
Somewhere in the distance something howled. It sounded lonely, a solitary creature in the darkness, looking for who-knows-what. It made her feel sad.
Then, just down the road, she thought she saw movement between the abandoned houses, something slinking from one shadow to another. There! She saw it again, a little nearer. It looked like a dog - nothing to worry about, just a solitary stray dog.
She snapped her fingers and it paused, turned its head, and then began to trot noiselessly along the street towards her. It was a big, long-haired dog. A very big dog, 'with eyes the size of saucers', she thought as it approached. It was almost big enough for a child to ride on.
"Good boy. SIT!" she said firmly.
She needn't have worried. It came padding silently up to her and sat down obediently, almost politely, just out of reach. It was a very, very big, very hairy dog indeed. Almost... too big... and too hairy.
"Good dog! I wonder what your name is?" Scully said to herself.
"Woof!" said the dog.
"What?" said Scully.
"Woof!" said the dog again.
"Woof?" said Scully, sharply.
"Woof. That's what dogs say, isn't it? Woof?"
Scully stared at the dog with her mouth open, for several seconds. "You... spoke!" she said eventually.
"Maybe," said the dog casually, lifting a back leg and scratching itself vigorously behind one ear.
"You spoke, you actually spoke! You said Woof," Scully said accusingly.
The two of them stared at each other for a moment. Then...
"Oh, all right then," said the dog. "I admit it, I said Woof."
"You're talking to me, and saying Woof," said Scully. "Dogs don't talk, they bark!" She put a hand to her head and sighed. "I'm confused. I wish Mulder was here."
"That name sounds familiar. A friend of yours?" asked the dog.
"My... my partner," said Scully. "Now wait just a minute. Dogs definitely do not talk. How come you can?"
"This is Sunnydale," said the dog. "You've been here before, haven't you? Years ago? You must remember what this town was like, surely?"
"Well yes, I suppose I do, but my name is Dana, not Shirley!" said Scully.
"Aha! The old ones are the best!" said the dog, and snapped at a passing moth, revealing huge fangs.
"My, what big teeth you have!" observed Scully dubiously. "And I suppose you're hungry too?"
"Wouldn't mind a spicy beanburger," said the dog hopefully.
"You're a vegetarian dog?" asked Scully, sounding relieved.
"Surprised?" responded the dog, and she nodded. "Well it's true, I am, though to be honest, I'm not actually a dog."
"I was just beginning to wonder," said Scully. "So what are you, then - a wolf?"
"No. Or yes," said the not-actually-a-dog. "Sort of. But not exactly."
"Not exactly?" said Scully cautiously. "What does that mean? A cross-breed?"
"Half-dog, half-wolf? No, not that either. I'm normally only like this three nights a month."
Scully considered this. She'd acquired a good store of esoteric knowledge during her long association with Mulder, and recognised the implication of what the 'not-actually-a-dog' had said.
"Round the time of the full moon? Like... tonight?" she suggested.
"A cocoanut for Dana. Don't eat it all at once!" said the 'not-exactly-a-wolf-either'.
"You're a... a werewolf?" said Scully a trifle hesitantly.
"Hey, this is Sunnydale," said the werewolf. "Everyone's got to be something. The town itself may only be a hole in the ground now, and the Hellmouth may have been shut down and filled in somehow, but there is still a massive residual magical field permeating the entire area for miles and miles around. Why not werewolves? You met demons and vampires last time you were here - I know, because the others told me all about it."
"The others?" Scully said.
"Yeah. You know. The Slayer and her friends - Buffy, and Willow and Xander and Giles. Oh, and I mustn't forget Dawn of course. They told me all about your adventures. Great story - I'm really sorry but I have to admit that I laughed like a drain, as Giles would have said."
"I remember him - the Englishman, tweed jacket. So did we meet, you and me?"
"No ma'am, I'm sorry to say not. I joined them a while after that. I did live here, though. My name is Oz."
"As in Oz, the Great and Terrible?" said Scully, and actually managed a smile. She had read her L. Frank Baum as a child, and never forgotten the stories.
"Daniel Osbourne, originally of Sunnydale, ma'am," said the werewolf politely. "I grew up here. You remember Willow Rosenberg, the redhead?"
"Of course I do. We reds must stick together - we're outnumbered seven to one, you know. Sweet girl."
"Yes, ma'am. Smart too. I was her boyfriend. Then, to be brief, I got bit. My cousin - it's a long story. Caused a whole pack of problems. I went away to learn how to control my changes, because I could have killed any of them, just like that, without meaning to. I came back to visit a couple of years later, but I was captured by this bizarre secret military organisation..."
"The Initiative, yes," Scully interrupted. "I know all about them. In a way, I'm afraid Mulder and I were responsible for them coming here. Sorry about that."
"No matter, ma'am. Well, anyway, Buffy and the others got me out. Even Dawn helped. Afterwards, since Willow had a steady girlfriend by then, I left Sunnydale for good. Been studying at a Zen monastery on a mountain in Hokkaido, Northern Japan, ever since. Then I heard about what happened here - saw some video on TV of the Buffster, and well - hey, I'm ba-ack! Took a little while to get here, though," he added. "Was snowed in."
Scully and Oz looked at one another in silence, each absorbing the information they'd just learned.
"They aren't here, you know, Oz," Scully said, cautiously reaching out and patting him gently on the head. "They aren't dead, though. It's just that nobody seems to know what's happened to them. They definitely got out of Sunnydale - on the last bus of all as far as we can tell, but after a sighting a couple of hours after the quake, or whatever it was, they drove out into the desert and half of the group vanished."
"And those who didn't just melt away into thin air?" Oz asked.
"Several injuries from some sort of a big fight - they were all Medivac'd to Oxnard, and then on to LA, but after a week or so they all went missing, too."
"Ah, that'd be the G-man's idea, of course."
"Apparently the group split in two parts quite deliberately, so as to distract us and allow the Slayer and her friends to disappear. The latest information I have is that a Sunnydale school bus, repainted yellow all over to conceal its identity, was found just the day before yesterday, abandoned in one of the long-stay car parks at Seattle Airport."
"Wow! Cool place to be!" said the werewolf.
"We've been trying to track them onto a commercial airline flight, but haven't had any luck so far. It looks as if they took a private flight out, which means they could have gone anywhere - it's a very popular business airport," Scully said.
"Well, wherever they are now, it'll be the last place you expected, and I bet they'll still be long gone when you finally get there," said Oz. He smiled, his head cocked to one side. Scully thought it looked rather cute, in a weird sort of way.
"Giles is a very, very smart dude, ma'am. Multi-talented too. He was even in a rock band once, you know, like me."
"So Mulder told me. Apparently, when he was at school in Britain on a scholarship, he believes he actually saw Rupert Giles playing bass guitar at a club in North London. 'The Railway Arms' I think he said it was called."
"Whoa! Really? That's a famous place in the history of early English Rock'n'Roll. Good for Giles. - and playing bass too! Pretty cool venue - right next door to the Decca recording studios where the Beatles did the demo tapes that were rejected, before they signed to EMI records."
"Really? Before my time, I'm afraid. I don't think I was even born then."
Wait a minute, Scully thought suddenly. Am I really talking to an American werewolf about early British Rock music? How the heck did that happen?
"Bizarre, isn't it?" said Oz, seeming to answer her thoughts instantly. "Apparently coincidences like that happen all the time - it's just that we don't usually notice it."
"Douglas Adams - 'The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy'," said an amused voice from the darkness behind Scully.
"Enter a wood cutter, just in time to rescue Little Red Riding Hood," said Oz. "Hajimemashite, Mulder-san! Oh, excuse me. I meant 'Good Morning, I am delighted to meet you', Agent Mulder."
"The pleasure is entirely mine, I assure you," said Mulder, coming out of the deep shadows into the moonlight.
"I didn't hear you coming," said Scully, surprised.
"As the bishop said to the actress," Mulder murmured, and she glared at him.
"Behave yourself!" she mouthed silently.
"Have we been able to help you, Mr Osbourne?" Mulder said. "Buffy and her friends are probably safe, wherever they are."
"Whatever 'safe' means to a Slayer and her friends," said Oz. "Guess I'll just have to go looking for them. Got to be sure."
"I hope you have better luck tracking than we have so far," said Mulder.
"Oh, I'll just follow my nose," Oz replied cryptically.
"If you find them, will you let us know?" said Scully.
"Or at any rate tell them we'd like to hear from them - that they're OK, and to hear what happened to the town right at the end," Mulder added. "It seems everyone except a very small group had already left before whatever happened actually happened, and we'd really like to know why - how they knew they should leave," he explained. "The USGS people who they met a couple of hours later say there was absolutely no advanced warning at all."
"Is that why you're all still here? To find out?"
"That, and to investigate some odd stories of certain things seen at night in the area recently. Weird things seen by some of the military personnel on sentry duty."
"Oh. I guess that might have been me wandering about looking for clues," said Oz, sounding apologetic. "And maybe... probably... some of the others who used to live here."
"People actually want to come back here? But there's nothing left but a giant hole in the ground!" exclaimed Scully.
"Not exactly people," said Oz cautiously. "At least, not perhaps who you'd call people. Sunnydale was a magnet for other sorts of folks too."
"Ah," said Mulder. "Understood."
Scully looked over at Mulder. "What?"
"Remember our exciting adventures in the cemetery that first time we were here?" he said with a grin.
"What!? Them? How could I possibly forget? You think creatures like that would want to come back here? But why?"
Just then the full moon was hidden by a drifting cloud, and absolute darkness suddenly engulfed all three of them.
"Because there's no place like home?" suggested an invisible Oz.
Then they heard his claws clicking on the asphalt of the roadway - the sound seeming to gradually recede. A moment or two later, when the cloud had slowly moved on and moonlight shone down coldly on them again, Scully discovered that she and Mulder were now standing alone in a deserted street on the outskirts of a wrecked, deserted town at the edge of a deadly desert. Faintly in the distance someone was whistling 'Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf?'
"Where'd he go?"
Mulder smiled, and shrugged. "If you were a werewolf, where would you go right now?"
"Anywhere but here, I would have thought," replied Scully. She shivered.
"You look cold." Mulder put an arm round her shoulders. "Let's go home. Leave the night time to the original inhabitants."
- - -
Scully sat up suddenly. It was broad daylight, and inexplicably, Fox Mulder was peacefully asleep in the armchair beside her bed, wrapped in, of all things, her nice new red fleece jacket.
"Mulder? Hey, Mulder! Wake up...!"
AN: This story is a sequel to "Statistical Anomaly", and to "Kyuuketsuki to Shikeishikkonin" (which it immediately follows in my timeline,) and precedes "Out For The Count".
3 to 19/8/2007