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[personal profile] jesterladyfic
Title: Chuck Cunningham Syndrome
by Jesterlady
Rating: PG-13
Characters: The Ninth Doctor, Cordelia Chase, Logan Echolls
Fandom: Doctor Who, Angel, Veronica Mars Red Dwarf, Toy Story, Road to Avonlea, The Middleman, Step by Step, Family Matters, Roseanne, The West Wing, Star Trek: The Next Generation, All My Children, Happy Days with special appearances by X-Men, Pirates of the Caribbean, Are You Being Served and a great deal of the cast of Saved by the Bell and Boy Meets World
Summary: The Doctor is just minding his own business when Cordelia Chase and Logan Echolls pop into the Tardis, now they're off on a tv trope adventure to find out what's disrupting reality. If only fictional characters would stop dropping by.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of these fandoms, especially DW, ATS or VM. I owe a great deal to www.tvtropes.com and all of the chapter titles are a play on tropes found there. Written for the [livejournal.com profile] scifibigbang 2011.
A/N: Many thanks to my beta, [livejournal.com profile] exmanhater and to [livejournal.com profile] rainyrocket for her artwork.





Chapter Four: Breaking the Fourth Wall Interpretation


The Tardis materialized on a grassy hillside, on the other side of which the Doctor assumed the base was located. And when the Doctor assumed, assumptions became knowledge, thank you very much.

“This is beautiful,” the slightly higher pitched voice of Cordelia reached him. The
Doctor sniffed the air, yup, high traces of helium in the atmosphere. Best they not stay
outside for too long.

“Why's-” Logan began and stopped.

“Helium in the air,” the Doctor said, grinning at them. Their faces had some unusual
expressions on them. “Makes the grass blue.”

“I thought they were flowers,” Cordelia said in wonder and bent down to inspect it
further.

“Nope, just thick grass.”

“The helium can't do that,” Logan said. “I didn't pay a lot of attention in school,
but I paid some.”

“That's what you think,” the Doctor said. “Besides, it's an alien world, alien
science. Not like humans know everything there is to know anyway.”

“You're kidding us,” Cordelia said.

“You'll never know,” the Doctor said, turning to go. “Now, if you don't mind, let's
get started.”

“How come your voice is normal?” Cordelia asked petulantly.

“Different lungs,” the Doctor called back, not even needing to look to know what their
expressions looked like.

“And you call us showoffs,” Logan said. “What's this place anyway?”

“The Cinu of Melataxas.”

“Mela-what?” Cordelia asked, wrinkling her nose.

“Taxas, now try to keep up. The people here are friendly. Ish. Anyway, they've never
been a problem with the Shadow Proclamation. But they keep to themselves a lot. I'm very
interested to know who they're working with and why they'd be willing to do that at all.”

“Why they're willing to kidnap innocent, make-believe people?”

“Yes, Cordelia, thank you for stating the obvious. Now, this ship we're looking for
should have landed somewhere at this base in order to explain why their prisoners aren't there
or to tell why. Either way, we need to find out.”

“I'm expecting some sort of snappy insult,” Logan said, “but aren't those the same
thing?”

“Depends on if the Teranian ship, not piloted by Teranians, but by Hrudgi, is the boss
or if the Cinu are. They might need to ask for instructions or give them. You see?”

“Oh, yes. It's all so simple,” Cordelia said, rolling her eyes.

“Fantastic. Keep up.”

The Doctor led the way into the base where they crept along as quietly as possible
until the Doctor figured out where he wanted to go.

“This is ridiculous,” Cordelia said. “We don't even know where to go or what we're looking for.”

“Very good,” the Doctor said. “Nothing like an honest inquiry.” Spotting a counter
with a glass window like one would find in a police station, he marched up to it, his
companions trailing behind.

“What is he doing?” Logan asked under his breath. The Doctor ignored both of them.

“Hello,” he said, waving his fingers at the Cinuian behind the counter. The alien's
four eyes looked back unblinking. “I'm the Doctor. Can you help me?”

“Inquiry form?” it asked.

“Form? Oh.” The Doctor patted his chest pockets before pulling out the psychic
paper. “Here you go.”

“Reality Specialist?” the alien said, reading it over.

“That's me! I just need to know which room to pop into.”

“I'm afraid we need this in triplicate,” the alien said blankly.

“Okay,” the Doctor said, taking back the psychic paper and flashing it in the alien's
face three times. “What room, please?”

“Second door on the left,” the alien said in a gray tone.

“Thanks ever so much,” the Doctor said, beaming and led the way down the hall.

“That was awesome,” Logan said. “How did you do that?”

“Psychic paper. Shows them what I want them to see.” The Doctor opened the door and
led the way into the room. Alarms sounded all around them and a gate crashed down behind them
at the end of the hall.

“Or maybe that's what they wanted you to think,” Cordelia said, swatting his shoulder.

He rubbed it in protest, suddenly sympathizing with Logan's frequent complaints of
abuse.

“How do you know I didn't want them to think they made me think that I made them think
that?”

“I will not fall for that,” Cordelia said. “So, now what?”

“We'll meet whoever's behind it,” the Doctor said. He made his way into the room and
sat down in one of the chairs in what looked like an interrogation room, cheekily waving at the
one way mirror. The other two followed, and they didn't have long to wait before some more
aliens similar to the one they'd already encountered entered.

“Hello!” the Doctor said. “Thanks for dropping in.”

“We could say the same, stranger,” the foremost alien said, sitting down across from
them. Or it could be sitting because he seemed to have several legs coming out of his stomach
and a good deal of him was still towering above them.

“Didn't they tell you I was coming? I'm a consultant, just needing to know exactly the
particulars.”

“Of?”

“Oh, everything.”

“Where are you from?”

“I doubt you'd know it.”

“Where?”

“Little old place.”

“Tell us where and why you're here.”

Logan and Cordelia leaned forward, obviously wanting to know the answer as well, the
single name Gallifreyan not meaning much to them.

“I'm here,” the Doctor said, leaning forward, “because some idiot's been messing with
the reality of my universe and I'm getting tired of it. I'm here as a friendly inquiry and
that's as plain as I can be. Now tell me why you lot are condescending to treat with other
species when your usual modus operandi is to keep to yourselves like nice little hermits.”

The alien turned to the other two.

“Put them in the cell. We'll let the Trikini deal with them.”

The Doctor's head shot up at that, but he didn't protest as they were all led down the
hall and thrown into a holding cell of some kind with limited lighting and sparse furniture.

“Don't they have gender specific cells?” Cordelia protested.

“I'm sure they were thinking of your comfort when they designed the place,” Logan said.

“Better all together,” the Doctor said. “Now we can calculate what to do.”

“Don't you want to stay here at the party?” chirruped a new voice. They all looked
around and spotted another alien perched on the ceiling.

It was about the size of a small dog with a red body and thick wings protruding from
the back. A large, mischievous, relatively human face grinned down at them and it raised its
arm, shook one of its two fingers at them and spoke again.

“The band is just really starting to get going.”

Cordelia gaped at the thing and Logan didn't look much better, but the Doctor grinned.

“It's the Space Imp,” he said, pointing excitedly. “Oh, I loved watching you. The
antics, the shenanigans, oh, it was beautiful.”

“You know this thing?” Logan asked.

“Watch who you're calling thing, thing,” the Imp said, pulling its body down so it was
clinging to the walls by its feet. “Me, I'm full blown sentient. How about you?”

“Him, not so much,” Cordelia said, getting a jab in the ribs for her trouble.

“We’ve got us a true case of the syndrome here,” the Doctor said. “The Space
Imp
is a very popular children's show on his planet. A season till the end and the Space
Imp simply disappears and nothing shows up to take his place, just his little pals going on as
if nothing happened. Nothing quite like the title character just vanishing. Obviously the
show didn't last long after that.”

“That was because of the book, silly,” the Imp said, now hanging by one foot and one
hand. “I was made from a book. It happened there too. We take literal translation very
seriously. People always thought it was a printing error. They wanted to make the show, but
they had to stay true to the story.”

“No unwanted sequels?” Logan asked.

“Not unless they were already written.” The Imp hung from his head.

“I could get used to that,” Logan said.

“It's the other extreme,” Cordelia said. “At least we would make up some kind of
closure.”

“Sometimes,” the Doctor said. “Now come down here, you rascal.” The Imp obliged,
letting go and landing with a graceful plop on the Doctor's shoulder.

“How come you know you're not real?” Cordelia pointed out. “That shouldn't be right.”

“I'm very self aware,” the Imp said, straight-faced. The Doctor started to laugh.

“Oh, you're a riot.”

“No, really,” the Imp insisted, starting to smile himself. “Okay, fine, I just have
good hearing. The guards are talking about all sorts of things and I listen. I know I'm a
character. It's a lot of fun not being real.”

“You're telling me,” Logan said. “The Doctor here will poke fun at you and assume
you're stupid.”

“Hey, I'd do that even if you were real,” the Doctor protested. “I'm that genuine.”

“The Doctor, I presume,” the Imp said, shaking the Doctor's ear in greeting.

“Logan and Cordelia,” he said, gesturing to his companions. “And yes, I'm the Doctor
and I'm very attached to that ear.”

“Quite literally too,” the Imp said, vaulting over to the door and perching from it
again.

“Doctor, can we keep him?” Logan asked, peering up at the rough, red, furry body
hanging above him.

“I kept you, didn't I?” the Doctor asked. “Now, Imp, be serious for just a minute and
tell me what's going on.”

“Do I hafta?” the Imp asked sadly, pulling such a face that would make any adolescent
girl long to give him a hug.

“Yes, now come over here.”

The Imp swung his way over to where the Doctor leaned against the wall and started to
explain that he'd suddenly found himself in this room with nowhere to go. Several aliens had
come by and brought him food, but no one had answered his questions or talked to him. He'd
finally decided to listen and overheard several of the guards talking about his show and that's
when he'd learned he was fictional. He had also heard about some aliens called the Trikini
who'd captured some higher up in the Cinuian government and were the ones who were having the
Cinuians hold their captives here. A ship of hired Hrudgi using a stolen Teranian ship were
the legs of the operation, but where the head of it was, he hadn't heard.

“Now there's an informant for you,” the Doctor said, nuzzling the Imp's head. “Good
boy.”

“Hey, how come he could understand them?” Logan asked.

“Universal translator chip,” the Imp said, sounding surprised. “Don't you have one?”

“Kinda,” Logan answered, looking confused.

“So, again, what do we do now?” Cordelia asked, getting back to the matter at hand.

“How you do harp on,” the Doctor said. “We let the Imp keep using his ears until we
escape.”

“Some of us need sleep,” the Imp protested and promptly fell asleep with no other
warning.

“That was unexpected,” Logan said, staring at the creature.

***

They'd been in the cell for twenty four earth hours and the Doctor was getting very bored. The Space Imp was an entertainment show in and of himself, but he could only do so much with his limited environment. The adrenaline and excitement of the chase were obviously wearing off for Logan and Cordelia and their impatience at being imprisoned was about to get on the Doctor's nerves. He disliked being imprisoned as much as the next fellow, but at least he knew how to behave when he was.

“How many times have I been in jail?” Logan mused, looking wearily at his fingers. “A
couple of murder charges and so on. That one time was on purpose.” Cordelia blinked in
surprise at him but didn't ask questions. The Doctor stirred from where he'd been fiddling
with his screwdriver.

“I don't approve of violence much,” he said, “but that was an interesting thing you did
there.”

“I'm not sure if that was supposed to be a compliment,” Logan replied, “but I'll take
them where I can get them. I think I'd rather be there anyway. Anywhere on Earth, anywhere in
Neptune. I'd sleep on Weevil's porch if he'd have me.”

“I don't even want to know what a Weevil is,” Cordelia said. “If he was real, I'm sure
Phantom Dennis would be really missing me about now.”

“He suffers a bit from our favorite syndrome, you know,” the Doctor said. “You don't
exactly come home at the end of season three.”

“Poor Dennis,” Cordelia said. “He was so protective of me.”

“You lot are a bunch of sour pusses,” said the Imp, suddenly awake. They'd managed to
get used to his bouts of sleep and waking which happened at odd iterations of forty five
minutes to an hour and with no warning. “Time for a sing-a-long.”

The Imp burst into a song that the Doctor recognized and laughed at and the other two
seemed to make no sense of, which made sense, considering it was very difficult to translate
and even the Tardis could only manage to substitute the highly questionable 'gestating mermaid'
into an important part of the chorus.

The Imp's performance buoyed morale for the next couple of hours, but soon Logan
started to pace and nothing anyone did could calm him.

“I never wanted to end up like him,” Logan said, almost frantically. “I'm not meant to
be in here. Oh, she'd laugh if she could see me.”

The Doctor was not very patient, he'd already established this. He was not a
comforter, he'd already established that. And he had no idea what to do with a claustrophobic,
homesick, slightly sociopathic bit of fiction.

The Imp might have helped a bit, but his charms seemed to be redirected to listening as
the guards changed. The Doctor silently applauded his focus as that was the most important
part of obtaining their freedom.

Cordelia sighed in exasperation and looked up at the Doctor.

“Don't look at me,” he told her. “I don't do comforting.”

When she still just looked at him, he sighed and made as if to go over to Logan. She
put her hand on his arm and he stopped.

“I got it, champ,” she said sarcastically. “Nice of you to want to help, but us
non-real people have our own way of dealing with crises.”

The Doctor left her to it, putting one of his ears into trying to hear what the Space
Imp was hearing and the other listening to his companions' conversation.

“Logan!” Cordelia said sharply, her philosophy apparently always to shock people into
submission. “Stop it. You're being a crybaby and I, for one, cannot handle it.”

Logan stopped running his hands through his hair and laughed when she stepped closer to
him.

“Nice try, my dear, but I've been listening to sentiments like that my whole life. I'm
immune.”

“Immune to this?” Cordelia asked and slapped him, pretty gently for her.

“Ow!” Logan's loud voice cut into the air and the listeners turned in unison.

“Shush!”

“Sorry,” Cordelia said, then turned back to her self-appointed charge. “Now that I've
got your attention, sit down.”

Logan sat down, probably in shock, and Cordelia slumped down next to him.

“Listen, I get it. This is all really upsetting and confusing and if you think I like
being locked up in a small cell with limited toilet facilities with three outrageously
difficult males, you’ve got another thing coming, but I'm going to handle it. And so are you.
Not that I've known you that long, but we've been through some things and I think you can
handle this.”

Logan took a deep breath and refocused his attention on her face.

“Okay, nice work, Chase. It's actually quite a lot to take in. And when you're not
running around with Cowheads or rescuing china dolls, it tends to take over.”

“I do get that. And I think you might actually have it harder than us. The Doctor is
obviously used to this kind of stuff. The Imp, well, that's his own story.” Logan chuckled.
“And I, at least, come from a fictional world where unusual stuff is normal. So, kudos for keeping it up as long as you have, just don't lose it anymore or next time it won't be a slap.”

“You're verging on annoying again,” Logan said, standing to his feet. “I'll remember
that.”

“See that you do.”

Cordelia stood along with him and shot a triumphant look over at the Doctor. He simply
shook his head and turned back to the door, almost bumping into the Imp as the latter shook his
wings in excitement and flew all about the room.

“The Trikini, the Trikini,” he sang as he flew. “The Trikini are on Marvello,
Marvello. There once were some Trikini and they were so very meanie, that they pulled a little
teeny-”

“Imp,” the Doctor interrupted, “I'd be glad for the musical version later. Let's get
some shorter answers now.”

“Less tone deaf too,” Logan mumbled.

The Imp shook his head and practically flew into Logan's arms, nuzzling him under the
chin like a cat.

“Poor silly human with no motor skills,” he said. “You'll go home soon enough and
you'll miss it here. You'll miss us all. You would if you could.”

“I won't,” Cordelia said, folding her arms.

“You wills, you will,” the Imp said, hugging her, only reaching about half way with his
tiny arms. “The Imp makes everyone happy.”

“Push off, you little squirt,” she said, almost affectionately. “Now, tell us what we
want to know.”

The Imp flew into the air and stood motionless apart from his wings fluttering in
excitement.

“The Trikini lost their home in some kind of war.” The Doctor flinched, then schooled
his face into an impassive mask, but he could still feel Cordelia looking at him intently.
“Devastating. They took up home on the planet Marvello. They kidnapped the Cinu and hired
Hrudgi and stole Teranian vessels and no one knows why. But you can find them on Marvello.
Marvello!”

“Thanks, Imp,” the Doctor said. “Now come on down, Your Magnificence and let's escape!”

The Doctor had made careful charts of the guard changes in his head and so he waited
until the opportune moment and unlocked the door, blessing his pockets for their immunity to
normal searches and led them out of the base. There were a few hairy moments and the Doctor
accidentally trapped his hand in a door, leaving him inwardly cursing, but other than trying to
make sure the Imp didn't break out into song, there were no other dangers until they were
outside and once again by the blue grass.

“My voice is funny again,” Logan said.

“Mine too, mine too, mine too!” the Imp shrieked, getting higher and higher as he flew
above them.

“Calm down, you idiot,” Cordelia hissed, pulling on his leg.

“Going down,” the Imp laughed, falling into her arms and curling up there, as content
as could be.

An alarm sounded behind them and as they started to run back to the Tardis, several
Cinuians came running out of the base. The Doctor turned and started to twiddle with the
screwdriver, pointing it at the aliens and grinning as they began to float, their guns already
out of their hands and plummeting to the ground.

“Helium, so easy to manipulate,” he said, grinning at his companions. “Come on, time
to run.” He took Cordelia's hand again, upheaving the comfortable Imp who jumped to the ground
and starting running like a dog.

They made it safely back to the Tardis and slammed the doors behind them. The Imp
immediately started flying around, making observations and being a general (likeable) nuisance
while the Doctor set the controls.

“All set to Marvello,” the Doctor crowed. “One step closer!”

The Imp stopped suddenly.

“What? But I want to go home.”

“You don't have one,” the Doctor pointed out.

“Come with us,” Cordelia said.

“Save me from Manic Brooding and Her Bitchiness, please?” Logan pleaded.

“I never said he could come,” the Doctor said grumpily. “I don't do domestic bliss
with teenage son, daughter and the family dog.”

“Dog yourself,” the Imp said and landed on the console. “No, I just want to go home.
I don't want to be on my show, I just want to live. Let me live, Doctor. I'm going to open a restaurant.” Three sets of eyebrows were raised. “What? I can do it. I'm the best cook you've ever seen.”

“I don't want to know what you cook,” Cordelia said.

“I'll take you back,” the Doctor said. “Then we have to get going because I don't want
anymore interruptions.”

“Won't he cause rips in reality or something like that?” Logan asked, puzzled.

“What, a little thing like him?” the Doctor said, taking great care to sound careless.
“I'll handle it. I've got nowhere to send him really since he doesn't exist at all. Clean him
up a bit, close his particular rip and Bob's your uncle, a reality-compatible thing. Once I
fiddle a bit. The Imp's lucky we're in his particular time and I know his planet's history.”

The Space Imp didn't look worried in the slightest, though the Doctor could hear
Cordelia muttering something about how he had better not try that with her. He didn't want to
go into the details with them. He knew the Space Imp realized that if the Doctor sent him
back, it would effectively mean his death and he was willing to cheat just a little for him,
just a little more than he'd done for Bo. There was no one to stop him after all. If it had
been time, well, that was different. Space was so much easier.

He reset the coordinates while the Imp fist-pumped the air and then buzzed around with
excitement. The Doctor would be sad to see him go and he could tell the others would, too.
This Chuck Cunningham Syndrome was a complete bother, but rather fascinating.

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