“Smell that summer air.” The Doctor stepped from his Tardis and breathed deeply. “Fresh grass, fresh leaves, fresh... carbon emissions?”
“Doctor,” Donna said. “You told me this was 1655. Way out in the country. No open sewers, certainly no pollution. Fresh air, you told me.”
“It’s, well, relatively fresh. Sort of.” He closed the door and took Donna’s arm. “Let’s explore, shall we?”
The two stepped out into the forest. “You couldn’t have landed us in daytime, could you?” Donna asked. “So we could actually see where we were going? Too much to ask?”
“There’s...” he looked up. “Some moonlight. If you look through the trees. And squint. Definite moonlight.”
She walked forward a few paces, and tripped on what she thought to be a root. “Bugger.” She rubbed at her newly sore knee. “And I’ve ripped my tights.” The ‘root’ wrapped itself around her waist and started to pull her forward, towards two rows of very sharp, very pointy teeth. “Doctor!” she screamed.
Before the teeth could clamp down, they went flying. Along with the head they were attached to.
“You okay, luv?” A hand reached down to her, pulling her up. The clouds obscuring the face of the moon passed, and Donna looked up into the bluest eyes she’d ever seen.
“What did you do?!” The Doctor strode over to the stranger, not even attempting to control his anger.
“As I see it, I just saved your girlfriend’s life.”
“She’s not my...”
“I’m not his...” She still held on to her saviour’s hand. “Really not.”
“You decapitated that creature without even attempting to reason with it.”
“Not in the habit of reasoning with demons.” Her rescuer looked down at her hand, raised an eyebrow, and she let go. He picked his sword up from the grass, wiped it off with a handkerchief from his coat pocket, and slid it back into the sheath on his back.
“There are no such things as demons,” the Doctor replied, the anger still barely simmering in his voice. He knelt beside the creature’s remains. “Looks like a Darvok, of the Deltoid system.”
“Really? Looks like a Ahrashhssh, of the ‘I like to eat pretty girl’s heads’ of the Ahrashhssh head eaters to me.”
“Pretty?” Donna asked.
“It was an alien,” The Doctor said.
“It was a demon.”
“About. To. Eat.” Donna pointed to her temple. “My. Head.”
“Right. And I say we head out and celebrate that it’s still attached to your shoulders. I could do with a pint.”
“A pint?” The Doctor asked. “In the middle of Epping Forest?”
“I know a place.” He winked at Donna. “What’s your name, luv? Can’t call you ‘girl with a head’ all night.”
“Donna.” She had the disconcerting feeling she was blushing. “And this is The Doctor.”
“Donna. Doc.” The stranger grinned. “Name’s Spike.”
The Doctor looked around the pub. It looked like a typical twentieth century tavern, with wood-paneled walls and beer on tap. It shouldn’t have been here, any more than the tall buildings of the streets they’d walked so short a distance to get here. “What year is this?” he asked.
“What year?” Spike set two beers, one for him and one for Donna, on the table as the Doctor sipped at a glass of water. “It’s 2115.”
“Of course! Over-population led to the expansion of London, and a laxing of conservation laws. Not England’s most shining hour. Or Earth’s, actually. Things aren’t much better anywhere else.” He frowned. “I’m going to have to adjust the time rotor. We shouldn’t have been this far off.”
“Right place, though?” Donna asked.
“Well, there is that.”
“What are you two going on about?” Spike asked. “Time rotor? You aren’t trying to say...”
“We’re time travellers,” Donna answered. “The Doctor is a Time Lord. We travel in his Tardis, We can go anywhere, and anywhen. It’s brilliant!”
“Oh, it’s not like you don’t tell everyone we meet. And if you were in any way concerned about people not knowing who we were, you’d have worn a toga in Pompeii, instead of your suit and coat.”
“You have a time machine.” Spike held his beer just a bit too tightly. “Really?”
“It’s true,” Donna said. “We aren’t crazy.”
“Didn’t say you were. Seen some pretty strange things in my time.” He looked directly into The Doctor’s eyes. “Like demons.”
“Aliens. There are no demons.”
“Okay, boys.” Donna lifted up her glass. “To strange things. Whatever you call them.” She clinked her glass with Spike’s. “Besides,” she said to Spike, tipping her head toward The Doctor, “he’s an alien.”
“Really?” Spike said. “Maybe I’m a demon then.”
Donna choked a bit as she laughed and drank at the same time. She grabbed a napkin. “Good one.” She gave a little gasp as Spike took the napkin from her hand and used it to dab at her chin, all the time staring into her eyes. “You’re from London?” she managed to squeak out, kicking herself when she realized how geeky she sounded.
“Originally,” he answered. “I’ve been around. Been back for a bit.”
“Do I detect a bit of America in your voice?” The Doctor asked.
“I did spend quite a few years in California.”
“California!” Donna exclaimed. “I’ve always wanted to visit California. They have palm trees, you know.”
“I noticed,” Spike said, smiling.
“I have an idea,” Donna said. “Let’s go to California. All of us.”
“I’ve found, in the past, that taking my travelling companions’ boy toys with me in the Tardis does not end well.”
“Boy toy,” Spike smirked.
Donna smacked The Doctor, who responded with a yelp. “You are being rude. Spike saved my life not an hour ago.”
“All right,” The Doctor responded. “Quick spin, once around the planet.”
“Sounds like fun,” Spike said. “But you know what would be more fun? Taking the little lady to Vegas.”
“Las Vegas?” Donna’s eyes lit up.
“We could do,” The Doctor said, “had Las Vegas not been struck by a meteor in 2109.”
“Thought you said you had a time machine. We could go back, say to 2010. Heard that was a good year.”
“That was the year they opened The Galactic. Biggest casino on the planet. Everything state of the art. Madonna’s big comeback show.”
“Are you saying we can go?” Donna asked.
The Doctor frowned. “Welllllllll....” Then burst into a wide smile, as he stood up. “Allons’y”
The Doctor was disappointed when Spike didn’t comment on the Tardis being bigger on the inside. In fact, all he said was, “Cathedral ceiling. Nice. Bit sparse, though. Could do with a bit of decorating.”
“This is just the console room,” Donna told him. “There’s miles of storage space, bedrooms, even a pool. Honestly, you could get lost.”
“Which is not going to happen,” The Doctor said, flipping a switch, “Because we’re here. July 10th, 2010. Opening night of the Galactic.”
“You sure?” Donna asked. “Not 1066, Hastings?”
“Very sure. I fixed the calibration.”
“What time is it?” Spike asked. “Do you know?”
“Nine pm. Why?”
“Just thought if we weren’t staying long, Donna might prefer to see the city by night.”
“Good point.” The Doctor opened the Tardis door. “See? All lit up like a Christmas tree. Well, maybe not a Christmas tree...”
For some reason, Spike ignored the casino in front of them and made a b-line for The Imperial Palace, one of the least glamorous hotels on the strip. The Doctor and Donna followed him into the lobby. “Call up to Buffy Summers’ room, please?” he asked, rushing to the front desk.
In less than a minute, a young blonde woman stepped off the elevator and into his arms. “Spike, what happened? I thought you said you were stuck in Spain?” He answered her with a kiss.
“What’s going on here?” Donna asked the Doctor
“I don’t know,” the Doctor replied, crossing his arms over his chest, “But I don’t like it.”
Donna and Buffy looked through the hotel gift shop, laughing at the sequined hats, while Spike spoke to the Doctor. “Buffy died tonight. She went out into the desert to kill a very big bad, and I wasn’t there to help her.”
“So when I showed up with a time machine...”
“I took advantage of the situation.”
“I don’t do that, Spike. I don’t travel back in time to save people’s lives. I don’t change time. I don’t change the rules.”
“Whose rules are that, then? These Time Lords Donna mentioned? She said you’re a Time Lord?”
The Doctor didn’t answer him. He just looked through the gift shop window at the young blonde woman, full of life, laughing with Donna. “How did she die? Tell me more.”
They stepped out of the Tardis and into the desert. “Explain how you knew this was the place,” the Doctor said to Buffy.
“Willow. She’s a friend of mine. There’s a prophecy that it will rise from the desert tonight. This is the place.”
“Prophecy?” the Doctor asked, raising an eyebrow.
“She’s good,” Spike answered. “If Red said this was the place, then this was the place.”
“What I want to know,” Donna said, “Is how Spike could have possibly been here now, or at least in Spain now, if we met him in 2115.” She looked at him, scrutinizing his face. “Are you a Time Lord too?”
“I should have noticed before,” the Doctor said. “Didn’t want to go out in daylight, longevity, and,” he waved a device in Spike’s direction, “low body temperature.”
“Doctor McCoy, I presume?” Spike asked.
“It’s a sonic screwdriver. And you are a hemovore.”
“No he’s not,” Buffy interjected. “He’s a vampire.”
“Same thing, pet.” He turned to Donna. “I’m older than I look. And don’t worry, I’ve sworn off the human red stuff.”
Before Donna could react, a low hum started in the desert. The hum built, turning into a rumbling. Then a shaking as the ground split open and a giant, multi-headed creature rose from the earth.
“Oh, look,” Buffy exclaimed. “Another apocalypse. Must be Tuesday. Except I’m pretty sure it’s Saturday.” She pulled a large axe from her bag and ran at the creature. “Grab your sword, Spike! Slice and dice!”
“Wait!” The Doctor called as they ran towards the beast. “Shouldn’t you try and find out what it wants?”
“I think it wants to eat Las Vegas,” Donna yelled over the roar of the creature. “Look out, Spike!”
One of the creature’s heads lunged at Spike, and he slashed at its neck with the sword. Which passed right through it. “What the?”
Buffy was having the same trouble as she sliced at the creature’s torso with her axe. “I can’t touch it.”
“I’m not surprised.” The Doctor walked in the opposite direction from the creature towards a rocky outcrop. He pulled a small humanoid holding a big box out by the scruff of its neck. He grabbed the box from it and threw it to the ground, breaking it into pieces. The monster vanished. “This is definitely an alien.”
“Okay,” Spike answered, running towards them. “I’ll give you that one.”
“There’s nothing there,” Buffy called, looking down at where she’d thought she’d seen the ground split. “Not even a hole.”
“Planning a little diversion so we could rob a casino, were we?” the Doctor asked the little blue creature as he dangled him over the ground.
“Doctor! What’s that?” Donna called as the little alien raised his arm.
“Ah.” The Doctor took the item from its hand. “Some type of weapon. Probably how it killed Buffy.”
“Killed?” Buffy asked.
The Doctor leaned against the Tardis console. Spike stood with his arm around Buffy’s shoulder. Donna watched the Doctor. “What are you going to do with them, Doctor?”
“Well, I can’t just take them home. Buffy disappeared tonight. That’s historical fact. Spike’s still out there in this time line, Spain apparently.”
“But my sister. My friends...”
“They never saw you again, pet. We assumed you’d died, but we never saw the body. It almost killed me, going through it again, but we moved on. I decided to try and be the person I thought you wanted me to be.”
He squeezed her tighter. “Dawn was amazing. You would have been so proud.”
Buffy couldn’t hold back the tears, and Spike held her against his chest. “What Donna asked. What now, Doc?”
“There’s a billion planets, and even more times. I’ll find a place for you where your presence won’t make a ripple.”
“Doctor,” Donna asked, “What if we didn’t change anything? Spike says Buffy disappeared. What if it always happened this way?”
“It’s entirely possible. Time has a way of working itself out. We’ll likely never know.”
“You mean it’s destiny?” Buffy asked. “Because I’m not sure I believe in that.”
“Maybe it’s true, though,” Spike said. “Maybe I travelled the world for a hundred years until the day I ran into the Doctor and Donna.”
“And you saved my life,” Donna said.
“No,” Spike replied, kissing Buffy on the forehead. “And you saved mine.”
Donna and the Doctor stood alone in the Tardis. “He manipulated me. I don’t like that.”
“And he flirted with you. He manipulated us both.”
“I know. But I have a theory.”
“Really?” the Doctor asked. “Care to share it?”
“I don’t think the Tardis had anything wrong with the time rotor. I think it wanted us to find Spike and save Buffy.”
“So, you think the Tardis is just an old romantic at heart.” He stroked the side of the console. “Maybe so.” He looked at Donna. “Where to next?”
“Home. I want to see my Grandfather.”
“Really?” The Doctor’s face fell.
“For a visit, silly. I’m not going anywhere.”
The Doctor grinned, a wide, happy grin. “To infinity and beyond.”
“Don’t say that.” She leaned over and whispered at the console. “Think you could find me a boyfriend?”
“I heard that,” the Doctor said.
She smiled. “To Chiswick and beyond.”