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One Continuous Singular Incident in the Life of Faith Lehane

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Dust.

Faith grins and glides down into a crouch, half-turning. Three more vamps by the gate. She tenses, springs into a run -- damn, she's never gonna get tired of this -- and one two three they're down. The third one dissipating around her, Faith feels crushing hands at her throat. She swears, starts elbowing backwards, and her arm glides through dust. She has time to pull the punch, but she still connects with the guy who staked that last vamp.

"Oof," he says.

"Careful." Faith regains her balance and turns to look at the guy. Nice tailored suit, hair like an emo kid, chucks, stake held like he knows what he's doing. "So is this Watchers: The Next Generation or what?" Faith asks.

"What? Oh, no, I'm not a Watcher." The guy sounds surprised. He has an English accent, which says Watcher to Faith, but hey, she's in a graveyard in the Thames Valley. English accents are the norm.

"Good action with that vamp, though," she says, and shoves her hair out of her face, holds out a hand. "I'm Faith."

He shakes it in that particular way Brits have. "Good to meet you, Faith, I'm the Doctor."

"Cool." Faith sits down on a headstone, swinging her feet. "So what brings you to a place like this, Doc?"

"Unusual readings," the Doctor says. Faith just gives him a look, because, seriously? He sighs and leans on the headstone. "So you're the Slayer."

Faith laughs a little. "A Slayer, Doc. You're up on vamps and Watchers but you don't know 'bout the Slayer gig these days? There's hundreds of us now."

"Really." The Doctor gives Faith a fascinated look. Doc wasn't lying; he's not a Watcher, cos if he was Faith would be feeling like a specimen by now, and she doesn't. "That explains the readings," the Doctor says, and apparently remembers that not everyone speaks his language, because he adds, "Energy readings. You've had mystical energies through the roof on this planet, and I was curious. So -- hundreds of Slayers! How did you do it?"

"The mystical ain't my department, Doc, just the slaying." Faith kicks the headstone a bit. "You from another dimension?"

The Doctor gives her a surprised look. "What makes you think that?"

"You said 'this planet'. I assume that means you're not local."

"No," the Doctor says, rubbing the back of his neck. "No, not really."

"Damn." Faith gives the Doc another once-over. Maybe crazy-gelled hair is normal where he comes from. "So you a demon or what?"

"No," the Doctor says, leaning back again and giving Faith a sideways look. "No, not demon. Alien."

"What, like ..." Faith flicks the tip of her stake in the direction of the sky, clear and a little fuzzed with light pollution from London.

"Yep," the Doctor says, popping the P. Jeeze, he's trying to charm her. Faith feels a bit charmed.

"Get out. What's a guy like you doing on a planet like this?"

"I told you," he says. "Energy readings."

"So what you read on me, Doc?"

He shoves his hands in his pockets. "Power, Faith. You're a Slayer. Very impressive."

"Aw, I bet you say that to all the girls." She smirks at the Doctor; he gives a little snort of laughter; and they've broken through charm into camaraderie. They actually sit in silence for a minute, and Faith breathes out, releasing the tension of the fight and all the stupid petty things that have been annoying her about living crammed into a houseful of Slayers.

"So," Faith says. "Where'd you learn to stake vamps, you being an alien and all that jazz?"

"I've been around a while." At Faith's raised eyebrows, he elaborates, "Nine hundred years."

"Lookin' good," Faith says. She thinks now that maybe the guy's a crazy vamp having her on, so she reaches over casual-like, fingers against his neck where she'd really like there to be a pulse. Then she snatches her hand back. "What the hell --?"

"Two hearts, Faith," the Doctor says.

"Damn, okay, this is gettin' weird." Faith hops down from the headstone. "Real nice to meet you, Doc, but I gotta get back to my life."

"Right, more cemeteries," the Doctor says, and Faith stops short.

"'Scuse me?"

"Your life," the Doctor repeats. "Graveyards all night, and in the morning you'll go back to all the other Slayers and fight over breakfast and try to sleep, and the whole time you'll be just waiting for night because then you'll mean something again."

Faith stands frozen. "How do you know that?"

"Because I live it," the Doctor says gently, "and it's there in your face."

Faith crosses her arms. "So what's your deal?"

"I travel," the Doctor says. "All over the universe, and I try --" He stops, takes a breath. "It's not always night. It's not always sewers and graveyards."

"Oh yeah?" Faith says, not giving an inch.

The Doctor rubs the back of his neck again. This time it almost looks like a studied gesture. "Would you like to see my ship?"

Faith thinks of five dirty things worth saying. She says, "Sure."

His ship is out the graveyard and across the road. From the outside it looks like a weird old British phone box, and on the inside it looks like something huge and alien and almost organic. Faith circles the central navigation console, looking it all over critically. The Doctor hovers to the side, a bit like a puppy, so Faith relents. "Pretty big in here."

"Suppose it is," the Doctor says happily.

"So this clunker goes anywhere in the universe?"

She gives the Doc points for not taking offense to clunker. He says, "Anywhere at all," and like an afterthought, "Anywhere in time, too."

Faith stares. "You're kidding. You got a time machine?"

The Doctor leans against a coral strut and gives her a very serious look. "You'll never have been away. You can come back just a minute after you left."

"Well," says Faith. Her fingers itch and her spine tingles and goddamn, she needs a vacation. She can kick the Doctor's skinny ass if she needs to. Sometimes she hates how the world is so damn small. "What the hell," Faith says. "Why not."

The Doctor beams like the first sunrise after an apocalypse averted. "Welcome aboard, Faith."

~

Paskmeg Five is populated by aliens that look a hell of a lot like raccoons. Faith scuffs her shoes along the boardwalk and breathes in the cinnamon-y air. "Wicked," she says, and even mostly keeps from laughing at the raccoon aliens. She and the Doctor head up a hill to an observation deck looking out over the Great Southern Paskmegi Plateau; below her stretch a thousand thousand autumn-colored trees and a shining gold river reflecting the shining gold sky. The Doctor gets them both candied almost-apples.

Faith leans back on the railing and munches, taking in the view. The Doctor leans back next to her. "Like it?" he asks.

"Hell yeah," Faith says. "I bet there's no vamps on this planet."

The Doctor gives her another one of those sidelong looks. "The trees are dying," he says.

"Gonna cure 'em?" Faith asks.

"It's not up to me," the Doctor says. Faith recognizes the tone. It's not up to me but I really wish it was. "This is all part of their history."

"So what's gonna happen?" Faith asks. She stares out at the brilliant flame-colored panorama and adds, "Nah, don't tell me. I like it this way." She goes back to her candied apple thing.

When they're done, the Doctor says, "Where would you like now?"

Faith thinks: Same place, two hundred years from now. Faith thinks: This is so damn stupid, just take me back home. Faith feels a corkscrew of tension in her chest. "Anywhere, Doc," she says.

~

Twenty-third century New York City ("there's always a New York, Faith!" the Doc says): someone's trying to peddle mood drugs hundreds of thousands of years before they're supposed to be invented. That's not part of history, the Doctor explains; so they go poking around Haddyn General Hospital, and fifteen minutes in, some crazy bastard hits the Doctor over the head and throws Faith out a window.

She doesn't appreciate the Attack of the Clones-esque flying car flashbacks, but she manages to swing herself back into the hospital all right, and beat the shit out of the extremely surprised crazy bastard before the Doctor wakes up, at which point he starts shouting at her to stop.

Faith stops kicking the guy's ribs and wipes the blood from the corner of her mouth. "Cool it, Doc," she says.

He stares at her like she's something out of a bad dream, the same stupid hunted look that she's seen a time or two on Angel's face, and something goes slotting into place in Faith's head. "C'mon, Doc," she says, "let's go kick some ass."

So they stop the drug peddlers, the alien in shining chucks and his Slayer sidekick. Five by five.

Back in the Doctor's ship, Faith gives the crazy interior layout a try and finds the nearest bathroom so she can take a nice long shower. She doesn't feel that dirty, but she doesn't feel any cleaner toweling off than she did going in.

~

They sit in the doorway of the Doctor's ship in the middle of space, a supernova in slow explosion all around them. The TARDIS is shielding their eyes, the Doctor explains, shielding them from radiation and keeping them breathing. Faith squints out at all the splendor and her eyes sting a little anyway.

"What do you think?" the Doctor asks.

"Dangerous question, Doc," Faith says. "Just let me enjoy the view."

The Doctor makes a sort of noncommittal, agreeable noise, and seriously, Faith's just about had it. "No," she says, "hang on, I am gonna tell you. I think I should be askin' you a few questions right about now. What exactly do you want from me? You just want to have a Slayer around? You were out shopping one day and I seemed like a nice model? What?"

The Doctor sputters a bit and gives her an honestly astonished look. "What -- no -- I just like the company. That's all. Honestly, that's all."

"So I ain't here for any particular reason."

He looks floored. "Because I like you."

He's being nice like Wilkins, and he's as serious-kicked-puppy as Angel, and there's this thing about him that's good the way Buffy is. It's crazy. "You're serious," Faith says. "Damn, Doc, you're actually serious here. You just like the company. Jeeze."

The Doctor breathes out slowly and stares out at the supernova. "Not everyone has to want something from you, Faith."

"Yeah." Faith draws her knees up to her chest, wraps her arms around them, chin propped, squinting out at the vastness of space. "I'm gettin' that."

~

"No way am I wearin' that thing," Faith says, staring in horror.

"But --" the Doctor starts.

"I don't do dresses," Faith says, "and I don't do frills, and I really don't do corsets. And if you keep givin' me that disappointed look I'm gonna think you have a fetish."

"You'll cause a fuss if you go out like that," the Doctor says reasonably, adjusting the cravat he's put on in exchange for the tie. As camouflage goes, Faith has a few choice words to say about him keeping the chucks, but hey, if the Doc thinks late Victorian England is a treat, Faith's up for a tea party, anachronistic shoes and everything.

"Fine," she says. "Just this once," and catches the mess of skirts the Doctor throws at her.

Ten minutes later they're out on the street, Faith trying to breathe through fucking whalebone around her ribcage. Points to the Doc, again, for keeping his eyes up despite the sudden obvious cleavage. Victorian prudery, Faith's ass.

The Doctor offers Faith his arm and off they go through a rising evening fog.

First stop, coffee house. The Doctor flashes his cheating psychic paper and gets them both what Faith assumes is hot chocolate until she drinks it; she revises it to hot sin in a cup. "Damn," she says, "they don't make the good stuff anymore."

The Doctor grins at her over the top of the newspaper he's picked up from an abandoned adjacent table. "I knew you'd like it." He shakes out the paper and begins reading studiously. Saturday 10 November 1888 Faith reads at the top; she's seriously not used to this yet. She sips her chocolate and tilts her head until she can see the half-folded headlines: GHASTLY MURDER IN THE EAST-END.

"Gimme the front page, Doc?" she asks. The Doctor nods and hands it over absently. DREADFUL MULTILATION OF A WOMAN, the subheader reads excitedly. Faith frowns and keeps on: horrible series of murders in Whitechapel, starting late August; consistent markers, throat brutally severed, internal organs removed. Faith rubs her neck absently. "Doc?"

"Hmm?"

Faith waves the front page at him. "What's this?"

The Doctor blinks at it. He fumbles with his pocket and produces a pair of glasses, slides them onto his nose and leans forward. His eyes widen. "That," he says, "is Jack the Ripper, Faith."

"Huh." Faith is tempted to say wicked, but the urge seems sort of tacky when a Miss Mary Jane Kelly was apparently eviscerated just last night. "See the sights, go to the coffee houses, huh, Doc?"

"I wasn't planning --" The Doctor sighs and snatches the paper from Faith. "Mary Kelly was the last one." He looks up again, eyes shining. "The police never caught him, but after last night, the murders stopped."

"So let me guess," Faith murmurs, "we're gonna find out why, huh?" She tosses her hair over her shoulder and grins.

"Well." The Doctor makes a show of considering before he turns that thousand-watt grin on Faith again. "Oh yes."

They finish their chocolate and head down to Whitechapel by way of a carriage that stops near an extremely rundown set of streets. "Cool," Faith mutters, keeping pace with the Doctor as he strides determinedly down an alley. "Slummin' it." She'd be a hell of a lot more comfortable out of this dress. "How many vamps in London these days, Doc?"

"Hundreds. Maybe thousands." The Doctor shoves his hands in his pockets. "And I don't know where the Slayer is. Hard to keep track of when they --"

"Die so quick?" Faith supplies when he doesn't finish. "Don't sweat it."

They continue on through the darkening streets. Street-merchants are still out, hawking their wares or whatever it is they did in the back-then-that-is-now; Faith starts spotting girls and women in too much makeup, lingering on street corners. They all look scared.

"So what makes this Jack the Ripper guy so special?" Faith asks quietly. "I mean, place like this, there's gotta be murders every day, and with vamps around ..."

"He's special," the Doctor says, "because he drew attention to himself. Place like this, ohh, you have plenty of people who can recognize a vampire when they see one. They don't advertise it. Keep it local, take care of it yourself --"

"'s what most people do," Faith agrees, nodding a little and watching lurking forms out of the corner of her eye.

"But this man," the Doctor says, "and he doesn't have to be a vampire to have done all this -- he made a production of it. He didn't just kill girls and drain their blood, he took organs too, and sometimes when the police arrived the body would still be warm."

Faith shivers. "Great. Sounds like a real charmin' guy."

Then one of the flickers of movement at the edge of her vision becomes obviously a girl struggling with something much bigger than her, and Slayer instinct kicks right in. Faith turns, hiking her skirt, and runs towards the alley -- just in time to see a man in a dapper suit flip right over and go crashing into a heap of refuse. The girl still standing -- straggly red hair, inexpertly applied makeup, holes in her dress -- gives Faith a cursory glance and says, "Best be gettin' the hell out, yeah?"

"Hell no," Faith returns.

The man in the suit stumbles to his feet, red in the face with fury. He's extremely handsome, Faith sees: total scum. "How dare you!" he says. "And after I offered to pay twice what your services are worth --"

"I don't go for men with shiny knives, see?" the girl snaps. "'Specially not ones as were last seen walkin' out with Ginger."

The man laughs derisively. "Defending your pretty friends! What's it to you who I frequent?"

"But you don't," the girl says, shaking. "Read the papers, mister? She's only Mary Jane Kelly, she is! An' that makes you --"

"The infamous Jack the Ripper?" The man looks bored instead of bruised. "Very well. If you don't want the money ..."

That's about when Faith punches him in the face.

"Oh, Faith --" she hears the Doctor start admonishingly behind her, but the dapper man snarls and comes over all vamp, and driven by relief more than anything else, Faith kicks him hard in the chest, skirts flying. He sails back to crash against a wall. Faith doubles up, gasping -- stupid corset -- and turns to tell the girl to run, but the girl already is, full-tilt at the vamp who is maybe Jack the Ripper.

"You killed Ginger," the girl says, slamming him back against the wall with another kick, "and you killed Annie, and you killed Liz --" with every name another slam into the wall, before he snarls and grabs her hair and throws her against the bricks. She slumps.

"Doc," Faith says out of the corner of her mouth, "you got a stake?"

"No," the Doctor says, "not really, no."

"So I'll look for wire," Faith says, and takes as deep a breath as she can before rushing at the vamp.

It's not a fair fight. He's at the height of confidence, and she's hampered by impractical skirts and shoes and a constraining corset and the fact she hasn't fought a vamp for at least a month; she holds her own for maybe a minute and then she trips and is down for the count, gasping and trying to struggle to her feet. He grins and lunges, leaning right over her and she's all revved up to kick him in the nuts when he goes frozen.

"I think you should get up," the Doctor says quietly.

Jack the Ripper straightens very carefully, face shifting back to human. Faith tries to focus her vision enough to see what's going on, and then she sees the Doctor has an extremely pointy bit of fencepost pressed to the vamp's back. For a moment she's actually surprised; the Doctor is so disapproving whenever she gets violent, and somehow she's managed to forget that she met the Doctor while he was staking someone. But this is the first time she's seen his face, and she recognizes this expression too: it's cold and distant and it makes her skin crawl.

There's a groan at the far side of the alley, and a scrambling noise. The other girl coming to, Faith guesses.

"Now," the Doctor says, still in that awful quiet voice, "what shall I do with you, Jack the Ripper?"

"I don't want trouble," the vamp says, controlled as anything. "You'll move along, sir, if you know what's good for you. Call the police if you like."

"Oh," the Doctor says, "I don't think so. No police. Not this time."

"Doc," Faith starts. She's not sure what she's going to say, because the smart thing is just stake the bastard but she sees the look on his face and she seriously doesn't want to.

She doesn't expect the next thing, though: a shout, and the nameless girl rushing straight at Jack the Ripper. Before any of them can respond, she's slammed her hands against his shoulders, and he stumbles forcefully back into the Doctor's stake. A momentary astonished look crosses his face.

Dust.

The Doctor lets the stake clatter to the ground, and Faith forces herself to sit up. The girl sinks down next to her, shaking.

"Hey," Faith says quietly. The girl looks at her with huge eyes. "Hey, you did good."

"I -- I almost didn't do it," the girl says, and snuffles. "Mr. Marlow says it gets easier, but I couldn't an' if I'd done it earlier Ginger'd still be here but she ain't --"

"Slow down," the Doctor says, just as quietly, folding up on the girl's other side. "You did very well. Exceptionally."

The girl sniffles again and swipes a hand across her face. "I still ain't staked one all by meself, an' Mr. Marlow says if I don't soon, I won't never be a proper Slayer."

Faith feels a band constrict her chest, an entirely different feeling from the physical constriction of the corset. "Mr. Marlow's your Watcher?"

"'s right, Miss." The girl looks around at both of them and her back goes straight. "Thanks very much for the help." She sticks out a hand to Faith, like another weapon. "Penny Bowden."

"Faith Lehane, and this is the Doctor."

"And we were just going," the Doctor adds, getting gingerly to his feet. He offers a hand to Faith. She takes it.

Neither of them offer to help up the Slayer. Faith wants to. She clenches her fists and digs her nails into her palms instead.

She and the Doctor walk out of Whitechapel and down towards the shiny new Westminster Palace. They stand on the banks of the Thames and watch the sun rise. Faith's beautiful dress is torn and dirty in the pale dawn.

"When I was seventeen," she hears herself say, "I killed someone. Thought he was a vamp, but turned out he was human as they come. Totally panicked. Decided it didn't matter a damn bit, and it started bein' a real quick slide."

The Doctor carefully unties his cravat and tugs it off, wrapping it absently around one hand. "What's this about, Faith?"

"I saw you," Faith says. She doesn't elaborate.

The Doctor is quiet for a very long time, long enough for the sun to come up completely and city bustle to rise around them.

"I want to show you something," the Doctor says.

~

Eye of Orion makes Faith imagine a nebular cluster or something else that is outer-spacey and not at all planet-like, but when they arrive it's all soft green grass and mossy ruins and calm misty air. Faith's skin tingles pleasantly. She doesn't feel calm, but she does feel a lot less on edge than usual.

They walk about half a mile along a worn footpath, picnic basket under the Doctor's arm. Finally they stop, just under a big stone, less like a headstone than like a war memorial. The Doctor spreads out a checkered blanket and they eat really good sandwiches. Faith stretches out and watches the blue-grey sky and waits.

"There was a war," the Doctor says. "There was a war across time, and my people were losing. I ended it -- I destroyed them. The entire opposing side, but my people too."

Faith lies there and tries to imagine it. Sometimes she can imagine all the things that Angel's done, but this is too big.

She waits.

"And I had a friend," the Doctor says -- and here are the hard words. Faith props herself up on an elbow. "I had a friend, and she -- Her mind was going to collapse unless I removed every memory she'd ever had of me." He plucks at a blade of grass.

"And that's the worst thing," Faith says. "You're tryin' to feel bad for this huge thing you still can't even deal with, and all you can do is think of the little thing you shoulda done different only you don't know when that time was." She laughs and sits up for real. "Damn, Doc. And here I thought you had me around for no particular reason."

The Doctor looks at her. "I didn't know," he says. "Not until you told me." Hesitates. "Do you want to go home?"

Faith thinks about Buffy, and not being special. Faith thinks about the crazy new mess that's the world with hundreds of Slayers in it. Faith thinks about dying planets, and scrubbing herself in the shower until her hands shake, and Penny who killed Jack the Ripper, and she thinks about small honest fragile moments without words, and about all the looks she's seen on the Doctor's face.

"One day," Faith says. "Not just now. C'mon, Doc, let's go kick some ass."