She wasn't quite sure what sort of magicals they were, yet. They'd showed up in the middle of her garden in true magical fashion, complete with what seemed like a museum piece police box - she'd been to London enough times in the past couple of years to know that those police boxes weren't exactly commonplace. It was, however, far too modern to be a relic from before the Sleep. So Toby was left wondering what on earth had possessed two magicals to raid a museum and then transport the whole thing with them directly into her pansies.
She had to stifle another mental groan. Her poor pansies. She'd just gotten them to bloom after the gnome debacle had destroyed them last year and now half of them were squished flat once more. Her poor, poor little flowers.
Still, they seemed ... well, not normal, but reasonable enough. They were currently sitting around her kitchen table, drinking soda and eating potato chips. The tall man - "the Doctor", whatever that meant - was chattering away about the difference between British chips (french fries) and American chips (potato chips) and how funny it was. The blonde woman - who, if Toby judged correctly wasn't too much older than Toby herself - hadn't said much, but was staring at Theodore with big, round eyes. Theo had been standoffish until the Doctor's chatter and his easy charm had won him over, and now they were trading stories about chips in ancient England.
No surprise how Theo knew about the time he'd grown up in, before the Sleep, but how did this strange man keep talking about the past like he'd personally been there?
Toby's fingers strayed towards the Tome hanging at her side, but she schooled the impulse. Some magicals got highly offended when she jumped right into reading their Story. Considering that this Doctor and his companion had teleported right through some of the strongest magical wards anyone alive knew how to conjure, Toby wasn't quite keen on angering them. Yet.
Besides, her House hadn't tried to eat them, and House was an impeccable judge of character.
"So. Toby." She straightened up; apparently the Doctor had reached the end of his chatter and was now regarding her with that level, scrutinizing gaze of his. Toby had faced down berserker Troll warchiefs and Fairy queens and everything in between, but there was something about the way that he looked at her that made her slightly uneasy. "Can you tell me a bit about... that?" He leveled one finger at the top of the table. No, at the book still hanging, out of sight, at her side.
"The Tome? What about it?"
"As you may have gathered, Rose and I aren't exactly from around here. In fact, we're not from this world at all. Something - or someone - brought us here. Now my ship runs on a very particular energy, a psychic energy that isn't found anywhere else in the universe, no where else in any reality, except for my people's ships." He folded his arms and leaned forward. "And... that book."
Toby glanced at Theo. He'd always been good at detecting malicious intent - a side-effect from dragons being naturally empathetic and completely telepathic. He simply shrugged one shoulder in a gesture that Toby knew meant it's your choice.
She reached down and pulled the Tome from the holder it sat in, like a sheath to a sword, and set it upon the table. A small puff of dust billowed out from the edges of its pages. Three years she'd had this, now, and it still acted like it'd been nearly a thousand years since it'd been opened or even touched.
"It's my Tome, my... way of seeing into the world. You say you're not from around here, all right, I'll buy it. I've seen some crazy stuff, magical space travel through an old box isn't the craziest. I'm the Storyteller. I'm the one responsible for making sure things go smoothly between Earth and Believe, including handling any... conflicts that arise between magicals and mundanes."
The Doctor held up a hand. "I'm sorry - Believe?"
Toby inhaled, shifting forward slightly. "Well... you know Earth. Lying right next to it, connected in many points, is Believe. It's like... another half of our world that you can only get to through certain entrances. And the citizens of that part are called magicals .They're the stuff of fairy tales and legends - dragons, fairies, unicorns, you name it, we've got it."
"Boggarts?" Rose chimed, cheekily.
"There's a family of them in Chester, it's not too far from here, and about two dozen living in Philadelphia. Of course, good luck catching them unless they're in the midst of pulling a prank on you."
The blonde leaned back in her seat, chastised. Toby turned back to the Doctor, running her fingers along the spine of the book. "It's the mark of my office, the power behind the Storyteller, and it's the only one in existence. It allows me to know what I need to know to keep our two worlds existing in as much harmony as possible. Recently, however, it's..." She trailed off, a frown on her face. "... been off."
"Been off? How so?"
"It just keeps saying the same thing, over and over again... I don't understand it, the Story can't tell me anything beyond those two words." Toby raised her eyes without lifting her head, studying the Doctor intently. Finally, she sighed. "The Fairy Godmother's going to have a caniption that I'm doing this with a complete stranger, but..."
She flicked the Tome open. The smooth white pages were blank, and Toby couldn't help but smile faintly at the look of confusion on the Doctor and Rose's faces. Before they could object, however, something began to sprawl itself across the pages as if written by a hand that was neither visible nor tangible. Just two large, bold words that stretched from one edge of the book to the other, written plainly, boldly, urgently, as they had been for weeks now.
As one, both the Doctor and Rose stood up so violently that their chairs went clattering to the ground. "Doctor!" Rose gasped, grabbing his arm.
"I know, I know!" he snapped, teeth gritted, a look of wild intensity about him that made Toby straighten up in her chair. Then he reached forward towards the book.
"No, don't-!" Toby flung herself forward, but it was too late. He'd grabbed the page as if he was about to turn it. She whipped her hands up to protect her gaze from the flash of the Tome's self defense spell, the inevitable mini-explosion that came anyone tried to touch the pages of the magical book. Instead, from outside, she could hear a strange noise - like the slow inwards outwards groan of air across a vibrating piece of metal.
"... impossible..." The Doctor breathed. Toby lowered her eyes to find the man's hand still gripping the book. But instead of being blown back ten feet, like the Storyteller would have expected, he was standing there, hand on the bare pages, while her Tome pulsed with light.
In tandem with the noise from outside.
"They recognize the link... Incredible!"
"Doctor, what? What is it? Why are those words on the pages? What's going on?" Rose leaned forward next to the Doctor but didn't touch the book, just stared at the tall man with a slightly breathy terror in her eyes. Whatever the words meant, they meant something to these two. Something big.
"What're you doing to the Tome?" Toby shoved herself to her feet, reaching to snatch the book away. Instead, the Doctor grabbed her wrist and shoved her hand, palm down, on the page.
"We need two feeds, two inputs, to sync them up!" He yelled at her, but Toby could barely hear him over the noise rushing through her ears, the pounding from behind her eyes. Because she was touching the pages, and she still couldn't control it, even now, even so many years later. Her eyes were locked on the man in front of her and all she could do was hang on as the Story shoved its way into her mind, feeding her years and years of glimpses, of clips, of half-remembered days and fully remembered instances standing clear in her mind as stark flashes in the midst of the sweep of ages going by. Because it was ages - it wasn't just years, it was so much more, so many more - and his story was so much bigger than anything she'd ever been forced to take in at once, so much grander and darker and more.
So it was with no surprise that when she finally came to, she was on her back staring up at the kitchen, Theo hovering over her protectively. Reading someone's Story had gotten easier for her over the years, to the point where she could usually stay standing when she was doing so. That, however, had been different from any Story she'd ever read before. She blinked several times, lowering her eyes to find the Doctor and Rose backed against far side of the kitchen, the Doctor still calmly patting a singed and smoking part of his sleeve. Theodore might have been in human form, but he could still breathe fire. Maybe she should have warned them.
Nah, they didn't look too burnt.
"Toby," Theo breathed. "Toby, look at me." His eyes were shining with love and fear, his hands cupping her cheeks tenderly.
She tried to speak, swallowed, and tried again, reaching up to brush the side of his face reassuringly. "It's okay. I'm okay. It was just... stronger than normal. There was more in it. Help me up." His arms slid around her waist and he easily lifted her to her feet, not letting go of her even once her feet were fully on the ground. She leaned into him, breathed the warm, smoke-tinged scent of him, and tried to get the throbbing out of her head.
"I'm sorry," the Doctor said from behind them. "I'm so sorry - I didn't know..."
Theo bristled, but Toby put her hands on his chest and stared at him quietly until he forced himself to deflate. The last thing she needed was for her boyfriend to set the kitchen on fire. Again. Then she turned to look at the tall man. The Time Lord. The man who was over nine hundred years old. The man who'd seen more than she could possibly imagine. The man who was here, even though he wasn't supposed to be.
"It's ok. You don't have the Story in your world - just your TARDIS." Toby's eyes swept to the window and she could see the square outline of the box standing amongst her bobbing pansies. It was alive - she knew that now. Knew that it had come here not by accident but by some means she didn't quite understand... but she had a strong feeling that the Doctor had already figured out a lot more than he'd yet let on. "I don't understand. Your world should be completely cut off from ours - you said it yourself."
The Doctor's mouth worked soundlessly for a moment before he managed a strangled noise of surprise. "... that's true, I did. But how did you know that?" His eyes flickered to the ancient, still-dusty book lying with deceptive stillness on the kitchen table, the words BAD WOLF slowly fading out and being re-written, over and over again. "... it downloaded into your brain."
"Wha, like Station 5 and the -?" Rose snapped her fingers.
"Sort of, but not exactly. She has a mental link with the book. It, in turn, can access information and provide it directly into her mind. Viola! - Instant and complete knowledge at her very fingertips. It's brilliant, it's what it is... and dangerous. Very dangerous." He turned a serious gaze towards Toby. She felt her stomach wrench.
"Don't." Her tone was sharper than she'd meant, but she didn't back down. "Don't look at me with that pity in your eyes. I can handle it, and I'm sick of people thinking I can't just because some of the ones before me couldn't. I chose it just as much as it chose me."
A slow smile spread across the Doctor's lips.
"Good girl. Now, we should probably talk about the real issue at hand - how, and why, we got here."
"I thought you had a ship," Theo said, jerking his head over his shoulder at the blue box in the garden still framed in the kitchen window.
"But we didn't mean to come here. We were headed somewheres else. Someone ... hijacked us," Rose protested.
"Who would be capable of doing that?" Toby asked quietly, a furrow in her brow.
"Other than you, you mean," the Doctor replied with that amused expression still hovering on his face, hands in his pockets once more. "You and your little book, that is."
"But I didn't - I couldn't've -" Toby felt her head swim. She'd brought them here? But how? There'd been nothing out of the ordinary - well, any more out of the ordinary than normal. If anything about her life could even be called normal without being completely snarky or ironic, that was. Even her dreams had - "oh."
"'Oh'?" repeated the Doctor, regarding her intently.
"Three weeks ago. I had a dream - not unusual, but I've gotten better about dealing with them. I've had... help." She glanced over at Theo and couldn't help but color slightly. For his part, the dragon stared resolutely at a spot just over the Doctor's head. "But this dream, it was different. There was this woman's voice. She was crying for help, that something had her and it was trying to drag her into the darkness. That's what she kept saying - 'Into the empty dark.' So... I reached for her, to pull her free."
Toby sighed. "When I woke up, I was sick to my stomach, weak, feverish. It took nearly three days for me to feel better again."
"That wasn't just a dream. You heard her - you heard my TARDIS. Something had her and she reached through the Time-Space Vortex - what you call 'the Story' - and found you. You, one of the only beings in any world or universe that has a connection to the Vortex strong enough to help her. You pulled her free... and conversely, us into this world."
"But that was weeks ago!" Theo protested.
The Doctor shrugged nonchalantly. "Emergency brake. Must have stopped us earlier than was meant to be. Well - to you, later, since we were heading opposite directions."
"So I brought you here," Toby managed, her voice trembling ever so slightly. "I... rescued your ship. But... from who?"
The Doctor placed his hands on the table once more, a dark look on his face. "Ah... That's the question, now, innit?"