"The prophecy is very clear," Giles insisted. "I'm quite certain. Last night, the world ended."
Buffy, Willow, and Xander all looked at one another. Then at Giles' living room.
"Got to say," said Xander, "in terms of apocalypses, this one's a pretty big disappointment."
"Yeah, if I'd known that this was what you meant by apocalypse, I wouldn't have gotten so worried all those other times," Willow chimed in.
"Okay," said Buffy. "First off, great going on the advanced warning, Giles. Always love hearing about apocalypses the day after they happen. And second off… are you sure it's not, like, tonight or something?"
"I'm quite certain!" Giles insisted. "The red crystal and the Kalenford of Corcheck were both stolen, and the prophecy states the ceremony can only be performed at one time. See? Here. 'On the eve when the moon is at its fullest, and Jupiter is in direct alignment with Mars — at that time, the red crystal shall be brought forth, along with the Kalenford of Corcheck, so that the Facksisil of Balime emerges, and Hell devours the world.' And that was last night."
"Well, these hokey astrology things are always a bit inaccurate," said Willow. "Maybe the demons have some wiggle room."
"I… suppose it's possible," Giles admitted. He stared at the page. He didn't look like he was admitting it was possible. He looked like he was trying to will the words into changing before his eyes.
"Maybe we're actually in a Hell dimension and we just haven't noticed, yet," Anya volunteered.
"It's a pretty cushy Hell dimension," Xander said.
"Look, I'll go patrolling tonight, keep my eye out for any red crystals or misplaced Hell Dimensions, and at the end of the patrol, I'll stop by here to see if Giles has worked out when the end of the world really is," said Buffy. "Completely easy." She checked her watch. "Drat. I've got to go. I promised Riley I'd meet him about five minutes ago."
"Maybe we did save the world last night, but we were all in a trance or something, and we didn't notice," Xander offered.
"You know, I think Sleep-Slaying is a bit beyond me," said Buffy, as she walked out the door. "But I'll keep that in mind."
Willow went over to Giles, who was still slumped over the book, peering at the ancient text. "It's okay," she told him. "I believe you."
"That's very kind of you, Willow," said Giles, massaging his forehead. "But Buffy's right. If the world had ended, yesterday, we would certainly have noticed."
Willow thought about this for a moment. "There is one possibility that Buffy didn't consider," she offered.
Everyone looked up at her.
"What?" asked Xander.
Willow shrugged. "Well, I know we didn't save the world last night," she said. "That doesn't mean no one else did."
Tara had been wandering through the halls of her dorm building, books under her arm, when she noticed someone running down the hall towards her. A man. He looked a little too old to be in college — maybe he was a graduate student? He had spiky brown hair, and wore a brown pinstripe suit with red trainers, and a tan trench coat. He was clearly trying to sprint as fast as he could, but he looked like he'd been running for nearly a day, and could barely stand. There were bags under his eyes.
And he was running straight for her.
Tara stood, nervously, trying to decide what to do. She knew she should help him, but she wasn't really comfortable around strangers. She wished Willow was there. Willow was good at this stuff.
The man glanced up at her, and for a moment, their eyes met. His were large, sparkling, brown, and seemed to pick her apart, as if trying to work her out. Perhaps he shouldn't have looked, however, because he stumbled over a chair he hadn't noticed in front of him, and tumbled, head over heels, over the chair, smacking, back-down, onto the floor.
Right next to where Tara was standing.
Tara looked down at him, not really sure what to say. She hugged her books to her a little tighter.
He just kept examining her, with an intensity that put her on edge. Then he gave a very large grin. "Hello!" he said. He popped up to his feet, and examined himself. Then he looked over his shoulder, at the chair, and frowned. "They shouldn't place things like that there. It's a safety hazard."
"Are… are you okay?" Tara asked him.
The man examined himself. "I appear to be. Not really sure." He scratched the back of his neck, then beamed at her. "And who are you?"
Tara huddled back away from him, a little. "Tara," she offered.
"Lovely to meet you, Tara," said the man. "Brilliant, really. I think I like meeting new people."
"Who… are you?" Tara ventured.
"Ah," said the man. He shifted from foot to foot, scratching the back of his neck. "Not exactly sure of that, at the moment. Seem to be having a wee bit of trouble in the memory department. But I'm fairly certain I'm supposed to be running." He reflected. "Yes. I'm definitely supposed to be running." He grinned at her. "Good meeting you, Tara. Better run!"
He turned to run, but tripped over his own feet, and landed, face down, on the floor.
"Ow," he said.
He turned onto his back, and Tara noticed how scuffed and scarred his skin was. That couldn't possibly just be from running so long that he was falling over. Those looked nasty, vicious. Tara thought he must have been in some kind of fight or something.
"There's… there's a hospital…" Tara started.
"No!" said the man, very quickly, holding up a hand in protest. "No hospitals. Very, very bad, hospitals."
He got to his feet, and stumbled, staggering.
"Maybe you should just… lie down or something," Tara suggested. "Go home?"
The man's cheerful demeanor dropped a hair. "Ah. Slight problem." He tapped the side of his head. "Memory."
Oh, right. If he'd lost his memory, he wouldn't be able to remember where he lived. "Well, do you have some kind of… I don't know… ID on you? We could call… your family, or something, and—"
"No family," the man told her. His eyes seemed very sad, very alone. "Certain of that."
Tara was sure she was going to regret this, but… the sun was going down, outside, and whoever this guy was, he was going to be a sitting duck for vampires in a very short amount of time. She had to get him somewhere safe.
"I… have a dorm room," Tara offered. "You could always sleep for a while in there."
"Well, I'd love to," said the man. "Really, I would, but, see, thing is, I should really keep running. It's quite important. At least, I'm fairly certain it's important. I…" He paused. "You wouldn't happen to have any food in your dorm room, would you?"
The man beamed at her, his smile making his entire face dance with glee. "Well, then," he said. "Dorm room it is!"
Tara wished Willow would hurry up and get here, already. Tara hadn't actually gotten through to Willow, on the phone, but she'd left a message asking her to please come over and help her with something, right now. The man she'd invited to her dorm room seemed oblivious to the call, but was looking around her room with all the energetic enthusiasm of a five year old in a candy store.
And he really liked licking things.
He'd licked the walls. He'd licked the floor. He'd licked nearly all of her magical items. Tara needed serious disinfectant, now. She'd given him some food, but that hadn't stopped the licking. He'd simply expanded to enthusing about everything in her room, rambling on at a thousand words a minute, and then explaining things she didn't understand, and licking them. Tara wasn't sure how much longer she could put up with this.
Yes, Willow had better come soon.
He was now pouring through her magic books, an excited grin on his face. He kept flipping through the pages far too quickly to actually be reading them, and muttering things like, "Oh, that could never work," and "Blimey, that's brilliant!" and other such exclamations. Tara had just about had enough of this. When he took the book up to his face, as if to lick it, Tara ran over and snatched the book out of his hands.
That was when she felt his hands.
They were cold. Very cold. Far too cold for human skin. Cold skin, a serious oral fixation, and incredibly curious about the black arts? Tara knew what kind of creature that was. Tara leapt back, away from him, her eyes growing wide. She'd just made a very, very big mistake, hadn't she? She'd invited him into her home, and now he could come in at any time.
"You're a vampire," she whispered.
The man looked at her, blankly. "Am I?"
Tara cowered at the other side of the dorm room, edging closer to the door. The man just watched her with curious eyes.
"I'm not going to hurt you," he said. "But… if I am a vampire, would you be able to tell me what that is? You see, I don't really know that much about myself, and I'm a wee bit curious."
"They… they… they sort of wander around Sunnydale," Tara said. "Looking for—"
The man raised an eyebrow. "They? Plural?"
The man's face fell. "I'm not a vampire," he told her.
"But… your skin's too cold," she said. "You're not human."
The man frowned. "Human?"
"Like me," said Tara.
"Ah," said the man. He shook his head. "I'm not human."
"So… what are you?" asked Tara.
"Don't know," the man confessed. "But whatever I am, there's only one of me."
"Only… only one of… you?" asked Tara.
"The only one left," said the man. "The only one like me. Anywhere."
Tara felt her heart break a little at the loneliness that echoed through his words. She knew how it was to feel alone. And even if he did eat people, maybe it would still be okay, as long as he didn't remember he ate people until Willow came over to keep Tara safe.
"Maybe you should… go to sleep," said Tara.
"Actually, probably should get going," said the man. "Brilliant seeing all this, but, well, rather not meet your friend, when she comes round. Hope you don't mind, just not terribly excited to be poked and prodded about by scientists, or locked up in a cage or that sort of thing. Better get back to the running." He tried to get to his feet, but collapsed back onto the floor again.
He was seriously, seriously tired.
And if he was some kind of evil demon (which, given that this was Sunnydale, AKA Demon Central, he probably was), Willow would want to see him. Make sure he got taken care of. Willow was really into saving the world and stuff.
Tara looked down at the spell book in her hands. She started flipping through it. There was a sleep spell, in here, somewhere. She just had to find it. The man had managed to get to his feet, and was stumbling towards the door. There! Tara started chanting the spell.
The man gritted his teeth as Tara started, and collapsed onto the ground. "Oi!" he said, gripping his head as if in pain. "Stop that! What are you…?" He drifted off, as his eyes drooped, and his body went slack, and he fell asleep.
Tara closed the book.
She really, really, really needed Willow. Right now.
The moment Willow received the phone message, she raced over to Tara's dorm room. She didn't know exactly what was going on, but she knew that something was up, and Tara could be in trouble. Willow found Tara sitting outside her room, her back pressed against the door, looking down at a book in her lap. Tara looked up, and saw Willow. Her eyes lit up.
"Tara, what's going on?" Willow asked. "I got your message."
Tara shushed her. She glanced back into the room. "I didn't know if he was going to eat me," she said, softly, "so I stayed outside. But he's not human, and he sounds English, and his skin's all cold and stuff. And he keeps licking things." She showed the book to Willow. "He almost licked this."
"Wait, this isn't a tall guy with bleached hair and a leather jacket, right?" asked Willow. If Spike had shown up at Tara's, Willow was going to make sure Buffy put a stake through his heart. No questions asked.
"No," said Tara. "He's… sort of... I don't know…" She pushed the door open. "Just… see for yourself."
Willow, a little nervously, edged inside the softly lit room, her eyes scanning the area. They rested on the image of a sleeping man on the floor. He looked as if he hadn't expected to sleep there, as if he'd been trying to reach the door, but had been overtaken by a sudden rush of slumber. Willow just stared, her mouth falling open, as she recognized who the man was.
Tara noticed the shock on Willow's face. "Is he something bad?" Tara asked, stepping into the doorway, hugging her spell book to her chest.
"I knew it!" Willow said. She punched the air with her fist. "I was right! I knew I was right! It's not like there are all that many people who go around saving the world all the time or anything. I knew it had to be him!"
Tara blinked. "Huh?"
Willow pulled Tara inside, and shut the door. "Oh, it's nothing," said Willow. "Just… Giles told us the world should have ended last night. Except obviously, it didn't, because the world's still here. And if the Doctor's around, then that means he's the one who saved the world, and that would pretty much explain everything, and… and… I so knew it!"
Tara just stared at Willow. "If who's around?"
"The…" Willow frowned. "Hang on. Don't tell me you put him to sleep before he told you his name?"
"He didn't tell me his name," said Tara. "He said he didn't know who he was. Or what he was. He just said he knew he had to run. He said he wasn't a vampire, but… he's got cold skin, and he's really into licking things and he was looking at stuff about the dark arts."
"He didn't know who he was?" asked Willow. She walked into the room, and knelt down beside him. She examined him more carefully. He looked like he'd been burned, and there was definitely some deep gashing around the face. Either claw marks, or… maybe a scalpel?
She combed a hand through his hair, trying to find evidence of some sort of knife wound on his scalp, somewhere a scientist might have implanted a chip. But it was a little hard to feel anything, what with all his hair getting in the way. Besides which, he healed pretty quickly. Any scar that those commando scientists might have inflicted upon him would probably be long gone by now.
"Buffy's going to murder someone over this," Willow muttered, stepping away from him.
"What?" asked Tara.
"Nothing," said Willow. "Look, Tara. Does anyone else know he's here?"
Tara shook her head.
"Good," said Willow.
"Willow," said Tara. "What… I mean, who is he?"
Willow took Tara's hand in her own, probably more to comfort herself than to comfort Tara. Because Willow knew that she was the one who was going to have to deal with freaked-out Buffy when she got the news. And Willow wasn't looking forward to freaked-out Buffy.
"This guy's a friend of Buffy's," Willow explained. "And he's not a vampire. He's this… alien thingy, called a Time Lord. His name's the Doctor, and he kind of saves the world a lot. And I think I know what happened to him." She sighed. "He said he wanted to run away, right?"
"Okay," said Willow. "He must have landed here, last night, saved the world, then run into these commando guys who like to do experiments on non-human people. If we're lucky, they just put a chip in his head, and we can take it out. If we're not… I'm thinking they did some exploratory surgery that took a wrong turn. But whatever happened, I guess he escaped. He's probably on the run from them."
"He said he didn't want to be poked and prodded by scientists," Tara offered.
"Did he say anything else?" Willow asked.
Tara hesitated. "He said… he was alone," she said. "He said whatever species he was, he was the only one."
Willow felt her heart sink. He'd forgotten everything except that he was alone? His name, his species, his friends, everything about himself, except that there was no one else?
"His planet got destroyed in a war," said Willow. "And he's the only one that survived. That's sort of all I know about it." She sighed. "I'd better tell Buffy he's here. She's going to completely flip out, though."
Willow went over to the phone, and dialed their dorm. No answer. Great. Buffy must still be off with Riley, then, and who knew how long she'd be off with him. Worse still, Riley might be around when Buffy played back the message. Which meant no stuff about the Slayer, no stuff about the commandoes and no stuff that was too obvious about the Doctor's condition.
"Hey, Buffy, it's Willow," Willow told the machine. "So. It… looks like a certain Doctor we both know is in town. I think he could really use a friend, right now, so… let me know when it's okay, and I'll send him up to our dorm room." She hung up, then looked down at the sleeping Doctor.
"How long has he been asleep?" Willow asked.
"An hour or two," said Tara.
Willow nodded. "That means he'll be waking up, soon. He doesn't usually sleep longer than that."
"Waking up?" asked Tara, nervously, shuddering away from the Doctor.
"Tara, he's not going to hurt you," said Willow, with a smile. "He's not a demon or a vampire or anything."
"Oh," said Tara. She glanced around the room, hesitantly. "He's not… going to lick any more of my things, right?"
Willow sighed. "Actually, that he probably will do," she admitted.
Willow and Tara settled down onto the bed, hand in hand, and began to chat softly with one another, as they waited. They only had to wait about ten more minutes, before Willow heard a soft groaning from the Doctor. She looked over, and watched as his eyes popped open, and met her own. Willow was taken aback. The eyes were sparkling, almost glowing, with a sort of bubbling, happy excitement. It was such an un-Doctor-like sort of happiness that Willow wondered if this was the same person.
"Ow," he said, sitting up and rubbing his head. "Psionics using the earth's morphic field as an amplification module. Very clever but a wee bit uncomfortable, don't you think?"
Yeah, that was definitely him.
"Hi, Doctor," said Willow, pulling herself away from Tara, and coming over to crouch beside him. "Are you okay?"
The Doctor's eyes lingered on Willow. "You seem to know me."
"Yeah," said Willow. "You're the Doctor."
"Am I?" he asked. "What am I a doctor of?"
"You never really told me that," said Willow. "I don't think you're a doctor of anything. I think you're just called 'the Doctor'."
The Doctor examined Willow more closely, his eyes almost crossing. He grinned, his entire face transforming into sudden glee. "Oh, that's brilliant!" he cried. "How'd you do that?"
Willow was taken aback. "Do what?"
"Have you travelled in time?" asked the Doctor. "Because you have this thing, when I look at you, and it's all wibbly."
Willow had absolutely no idea what he could possibly be talking about. "I haven't—"
"Oh, that means I have!" said the Doctor.
He sprang to his feet, then backed up a few steps, still staring at Willow. Then he walked forwards a few steps. He waved his hand in the air, in front of him. He gave an amused laugh at whatever it was he could see when he looked at Willow.
Okay, now Willow was starting to lean more towards brain damage. Because the Doctor shouldn't be this cheerful, he shouldn't be this excited, and his behavior was weird — even for him!
"Doctor, do you remember me?" asked Willow, standing up straight. "I'm Willow. Your friend."
"Ah, well, I don't," said the Doctor. He tapped the side of his head. "Slight problem with memory. Not exactly sure why or how, but I suppose I'll work it out eventually."
Tara came up to Willow, and took her hand, half-hiding behind Willow's body. Willow gave her a reassuring smile, and then looked back at the Doctor.
"Tara, this is the Doctor," said Willow. "Doctor, this is my friend, Tara. We can look after you until Buffy gets back."
"Ah," said the Doctor, backing away, his eyes examining them, carefully. "I see. You… want me to stop running. Stay here. Meet your… other friend. Human friend."
"Don't worry," said Willow. "Buffy's really nice. And she's going to be really happy to see you, again."
The Doctor darted his eyes around the room. Then he fixed them back on Willow, and gave her a wide smile. "Right! Well, then! Nice to meet you, Willow. Very nice. But I'm afraid I can't stay. Very important, you see, that I run. Not sure why, but it's terribly, terribly important."
Willow frowned, as the Doctor began edging back towards the door. "Buffy will be back really soon," she said. "And she'll really, really want to see you."
"Yes! Yes!" said the Doctor, still edging towards the door. "Just…. Running. Have to. Important. That sort of thing." He shifted from foot to foot, then, in one sudden movement, spun around and raced out the door.
"Wait!" Willow cried, as she rushed out after him. But by the time she made it to the hall, the Doctor had disappeared, and there was no trace of where he'd gone.
Riley had gone off to his super-secret-commando-place, and Buffy was on patrol. She hadn't even had time to go back to her dorm or anything, she just ran out. If there was someone trying to destroy the world, she had to find them. And stop them. Right away.
So far, though, she'd seen nothing. No sign of anyone trying to destroy the world. She hoped she didn't have to stay out here for very much longer. It was a Friday night, and that was always a sort of sucky time to go apocalypse preventing. She'd much rather spend it with friends.
A sudden dash of brown out of the corner of her eye, and Buffy, instinctively, leapt out, tackling the figure to the ground. She stopped, as she came face-to-face with the familiar wide brown eyes and spiky hair of the Doctor.
She sighed, and got off him. "Sorry," she said. She offered him a hand up. "I should have known you were in town. What with the world needing to be saved." Then she noticed he was all scuffed and scraped and burned. "Although, judging from the war wounds, it looks like you beat us to it. You okay?"
The Doctor just looked at her with curious eyes, and, for the first time, Buffy noticed that there was something wrong with him. Something very, very wrong with him. He looked… far too happy. Way too happy. There had always been that terrible sadness about him — particularly later in his 10th incarnation and older, when he looked at her, and that sadness turned into something far, far deeper. But all that had been wiped away. Had he been drugged, or something?
"Doctor?" she asked.
"I've just realized," said the Doctor, "that everyone who knows me in this town is a very attractive young female person. Is that normal, or should I be flattered?"
Buffy felt herself blushing. He'd never actually called her attractive before, and it did sort of funny things to her head to hear him call her that. She gave herself a mental slap.
"Um… Riley?" she reminded him.
The Doctor frowned. "Ah," he said. "That doesn't sound like an attractive female." He then gave her a sidelong grin, and a wink.
"You… don't know…" Buffy's mind started racing. "Hang on. Where are you?"
The Doctor looked around. "Not a clue," he said. "Woods, looks like, at the moment. Although, I'm fairly certain we're in some sort of institution or learning center. Because I saw—"
"No, where are you in your personal timeline?" asked Buffy.
The Doctor just blinked at her.
That was when Buffy realized, with a terrible, sinking feeling in her chest, that… the way he was looking at her, the way his eyes kept shifting across her — he didn't recognize her. Not at all. Had he not met her yet? But… no… he'd always known her, with this face. He'd met other-her three faces ago. He had to remember her.
"Doctor, do you know who I am?" Buffy asked. She wasn't sure she wanted to hear the answer.
The Doctor caught her unease at once. "You're… not going to be terribly happy with me if I answer that honestly, are you?" he asked.
A terrible cold numbness settled around her. He didn't know who she was. Even when she'd been drugged out on beer and completely cave-womanny, she'd still known him. Still felt him in her mind. But he… there was nothing linking them together, no lingering sense of her in his mind. Everything she had been to him had been taken away.
She didn't think she'd ever felt more alone.
"I'm sorry," the Doctor offered. He must have noticed how upset she looked. "It's… not just you. I don't remember anything, really. Bit of a blank slate, you could say. Just know I have to run, and… well, better be getting on with that." He beamed at her. "Nice meeting you."
And then he turned, and started running.
If Buffy hadn't had such good instincts, she wouldn't have been able to catch his arm as he spun around on his feet. If she hadn't been as strong, she wouldn't have been able to hold him back. And if she hadn't been feeling so desperate already, she probably wouldn't have tugged him back so close to her, either. So close that she could feel his hearts pounding against her chest.
She hugged him, tightly, and didn't dare let him go.
"You can stop running," she told him.
The Doctor didn't hug back for a few moments, and Buffy kept repeating to herself, over and over again, that this didn't mean anything. Then he put his arms around her, tentatively.
"I really think I should run," the Doctor told her.
"Do you know why you're running?" asked Buffy.
"Well, not… exactly," said the Doctor. "Just… feel I should."
"Because you're feeling awkward and uncomfortable, and you don't know what else to do?" Buffy guessed.
The Doctor scratched the back of his neck. "Possibly." He looked her over, vague amusement playing across his lips. "You know, you seem to know me quite well."
Then, without any provocation, the Doctor leaned forwards, and licked her neck.
Buffy gripped his arms, tightly, because she was afraid that, if she didn't, she'd actually melt.
The Doctor pulled away, and smacked his lips, giving it some thought. "Hmm…" he said.
"Wha… wh…" Buffy tried to regain her breathing and her composure so that she could get out the words she wanted. Her legs were going majorly melty puddle.
"Your skin seems to be emitting certain combinations of chemicals that I'm fairly certain aren't found in most other humans," the Doctor observed. "Least, not the ones I've seen so far. Which means you're not entirely human yourself."
"I'm… um…" Buffy was finding it very, very difficult to speak, as the Doctor had started rubbing circles along the palms of her hands in a very distracting way, and he seriously couldn't know he was doing that, right? This was just some… alien instinct thing, because he didn't remember human social norms, and…
Oh, God, he was going to lick her again.
With a very, very impressive amount of willpower, she managed to push him away. "I've got a boyfriend," she told him.
"Boy, friend," the Doctor mused. Then he grinned at her. "I'm a boy. You seem to be my friend."
"No, no," Buffy insisted. "That means... you're not allowed to lick me or do… that palm rubby thing. Or any of that other stuff. Because only Riley's allowed to do that."
The Doctor studied her, curiously. "That's some sort of human rule, then?"
"Um, yeah, you could say that," said Buffy.
"Right, then!" he chirped.
And then he licked her again. On her neck. And then he started… okay, she didn't even know what he was doing, now, but it wasn't just a swipe of the tongue, and it was definitely pushing the envelopes between friends and something else. It also, Buffy realized, made her instinctively grab onto him, pulling herself into him, and this was really, really not a good idea, she so needed to stop this, and… how'd his tongue even manage to do something like that, anyways?
She pushed him away. "What part of 'you can't do that' didn't you understand?"
"You said it was a human rule," said the Doctor. "But rules are rubbish. And besides. I'm not human!"
"You're just paying me back for that whole drugged beer thing, aren't you?" asked Buffy. She took a few deep breaths, and tried to get herself back in order. The worst thing was that she never, ever got this gooshy over Riley, even when they were being way more intimate than this. But she didn't want to think about that. She gave the Doctor a stern look. "Doctor. Stop."
That seemed to make him stop. Quite effectively. It was one of the things that Buffy always liked about him — if you didn't like what he was doing, the best way to stop him was to ask him to stop. You didn't have to drive a stake through his heart, or do a huge messed up fight in a cemetery, or play some kind of weird power-game where he kept trying to one-up you (like some commando boyfriends she could name). The Doctor might have trouble stopping himself, but he trusted his friends to stop him.
Not that he knew who she was.
"You still don't even know my name, do you?" asked Buffy.
The Doctor looked a little bit sheepish. "You're… Pinkyellowblueperson?" he guessed.
"I'm…" she faltered. She was going to say Buffy, but whenever he said her name, she got telepathic stuff from him. And, in the state she was in, now, she really didn't want any more telepathic stuff. Especially not telepathic lusty stuff. Better give him the alias. "Elizabeth."
"That's what I meant," said the Doctor. "Elizabeth. Yes. Exactly."
Buffy waited for a spark of recognition at the name, for… something. Anything. But nope. Nothing. He seemed just the same as before.
"You are extremely fun to lick," the Doctor told her. "Has anyone ever told you that?"
Buffy felt her face go very, very red. And it didn't help that that particular phrase had an incredibly dirty double entendre, which the Doctor almost certainly didn't know about, what with him being an alien and memory-lost and stuff. Yeah, he definitely didn't know what that really meant. He couldn't know what that really meant!
"Look, you said your memory was wonky," said Buffy, clinging to the new subject with both hands so she didn't get swept back into the old one. "Is there anything you do remember?"
"Plenty!" said the Doctor. "I remember the sky is blue, that trees are green and a wee bit brown. I remember how to speak your language, and a fairly large number of others, although I don't know what they're called. I remember that an object once in motion tends to stay in motion, that electromagnetic forces are—"
"Okay, so you know physics and language," said Buffy. Which wasn't really remembering, or at least, probably not to the Doctor, who might have just worked every single basic law of the universe out when he'd first come to. That was definitely something he'd do. And as for language… Buffy was guessing the TARDIS was helping with that part. "What about yourself? Your past? Me? This place?"
The Doctor thought. "Nope!"
"But you know you're the Doctor," Buffy said. "You remember that."
"Ah, well, didn't, actually," the Doctor confessed. "Met a terribly attractive young woman named Willow, though. She told me that was my name."
"You… didn't lick her, did you?" Buffy asked.
"Thought I'd leave that to her friend," said the Doctor, with a wink.
Buffy had absolutely no idea what he could mean by this, or at least, that was what she was firmly repeating to herself, over and over and over again. No, no, no. Didn't get it. Definitely, definitely, definitely…
Damn it, when did he turn from a hyperactive five year old into a horny teenager?
"Okay, so you didn't know your name," said Buffy. "But you know you're not human."
The smile faded off the Doctor's face. "Yes."
"So you do remember that!" Buffy concluded.
"Didn't," said the Doctor. "Just… knew. Couldn't be."
Buffy frowned. "Why not?"
"Because there's more than one of them," said the Doctor. "Humans, I mean. And I'm alone. The only one left."
Buffy felt her breath catch in her throat. "You… remember you're alone?"
"I don't need to remember," the Doctor told her. "I know." He tapped his head. "It's here. All the time."
Buffy could imagine suddenly coming to, running for your life, and realizing there is no one out there, no one at all. Feeling nothing but that sudden, aching sadness — that lonely echo, that gaping chasm of emptiness, as if there's no one left alive to hear you scream.
Buffy felt that, when he wasn't there. She knew what that was like, and what it was like when that telepathic silence was lifted. But that loneliness… that was all he knew. Not even Buffy could take it away from him. And she so, so wanted to.
"It's okay," said Buffy, taking his hand in hers. "I'm here now. You don't have to be alone, anymore. I'm a lot like you."
The Doctor raised an eyebrow at her. She knew that look. It was the look that said, 'if you insist, but I know you're wrong.' Even completely memory-less, he was still incredibly stubborn!
"We both save the world," Buffy explained. "We both fight off bad things. We both feel lonely. And we both have a responsibility to something greater than ourselves."
The Doctor winced. "Responsibility? Me? That doesn't sound like me." He rolled the word around his tongue, and made a disgusted face, as if he'd eaten something that tasted seriously nasty. "Nope. Don't want to be responsible. Certainly not."
Great. He'd regressed into a little kid. A little kid who didn't want to be responsible, and wanted to play around all day and skip school and break all the rules. Yeah, this was almost certainly what little-kid-Doctor was like. All excited and enthusiastic and curious, while being completely and utterly against authority and rules.
"Could be irresponsible, though," said the Doctor, meeting her eyes with a look that was not remotely innocent. "Might quite like that."
Okay. Not a kid.
"Giles said the world should have ended last night," Buffy insisted. "And I've got a working theory that you were the one to save it."
The Doctor thought about this. "Suppose I might have," he said. He shrugged. "Don't remember."
"What's the very first thing you remember?" Buffy asked.
"Running," said the Doctor. "Found myself running through the street. Nearly empty street. I believe it was rather late at night." He looked down at the scrapes, cuts, and burns on his arms. "These looked quite a lot worse."
"And you don't remember where you were running from, or where you were running to?" Buffy checked.
"Nope," said the Doctor.
"Okay, the street you found yourself running on," said Buffy. "Describe it."
The Doctor thought a moment. "All a bit blurry," he said. "Fogged up in the mind. Can't really describe it. Pretty sure I'm not supposed to look too hard into that memory bit."
"Look, Doctor, if someone's going to destroy the world, I have to…" She trailed off, as she noticed that the Doctor wasn't paying her the slightest bit of attention. "Doctor?"
There was that burning curiosity back in his eyes, that excited grin on his face, as he scanned the area around him. "That's quite different," he said. "Almost as if there were something. Right over…" He spun on his heel, and darted forwards. "There!"
Oh, no. Buffy could tell what that feeling was right away, because she could feel something in her Slayer senses. Which meant… the Doctor had discovered his vampire-hunting senses. Now he was in trouble.
She ran after him, and found he was staring at a vampire, completely fascinated, his eyes glowing.
"Oh, now, what are you?" the Doctor asked it.
The vampire sniffed at him, and his face wrinkled into a vampiric snarl.
The Doctor beamed. "Oh, that's brilliant!" he cried. "Look at that! A sort of biological morphing system built into the DNA — a hybridization of two species in such a way that one acts as a camouflage for the other. I wonder, is the hybridization process more parasitic in nature, or is any of the original host retained?"
"Time Lord," the vampire hissed.
"Is that what you are?" the Doctor asked it.
"Nope, that'd be you," said Buffy, dragging the Doctor away from the vampire. "It's saying that because it wants to eat you."
The Doctor frowned. "Ah." He turned to the vampire. "Actually, I think you don't want to do that. Rather a nasty sort of idea, you see. Regenerative platelets in a body that leeches life force energy could cause some rather nasty side effects, and…" The Doctor darted out of the way, as the vampire lunged at him. Buffy kicked out at the vampire, knocking it back.
"Oi!" the Doctor said to the vampire, walking over to it. "That wasn't very nice, you know."
Buffy wanted to hit her head on something. Had he turned into a complete idiot? He should know better than to walk right over to a vampire.
The vampire grabbed for him, but once again, he managed to get out of the way, just in time. The vampire hissed, and flew at him, teeth bared. Buffy ran over, trying to stake the vampire, only to find…
Her stake had disappeared.
Damn. Damn. Damn! She knew exactly who had that stake, now. And exactly what he wouldn't do with it.
As the vampire advanced towards the Doctor, he took out the stake and, holding it lengthwise, stuck it in the vampire's mouth, corking both of the creature's fangs inside the wood. The vampire, surprised, instinctively tried to morph back into his human face, but found he was unable to do so.
The Doctor grinned. "There," he said. "Serves you right." He turned, his hands in his trouser pockets, and walked off into the woods, unconcerned.
Buffy gave a little sigh, then pulled the stake out of the vampire's mouth. Yeah, that was going to hold the vampire back for all of about two seconds. She'd seen vampires claw their way through cement walls to get at the Doctor, so one teensy weensy wooden stake in the mouth would do exactly zip.
The Doctor noticed she wasn't with him, and turned around. "Elizabe—?"
He stopped speaking the moment Buffy's wooden stake made contact with the vampire's heart. The vampire screamed, then dusted in the night air. Buffy turned.
"Yeah, I'm…" she stopped, as she saw the expression on his face. She'd expected the usual from him. Disapproval. Annoyance. Possibly even anger. What she saw, instead, made her blood run cold.
It was fear.
The Doctor stared at her, raw, naked fear on his face.
"You killed him," the Doctor said.
Buffy swallowed. "I had to," she said. "I'm…" No, not a good time to tell him she was the Slayer. In this state of mind, he'd probably take it as an indication that she was some kind of evil murdering nutcase or something. "He was evil," Buffy amended.
"You didn't even talk to him!" the Doctor cried. "How could you know if he was evil? He was defenseless and confused, acting on his own instincts, and you killed him and didn't even care! As if you did this all the time. As if…." The Doctor's eyes widened, as if a thought had suddenly occurred to him. A thought that scared him. No, a thought that terrified him.
He turned, and bolted.
Buffy ran after him. "Wait, Doctor!"
But he was running faster than she'd ever seen him run before. He was running as if his life depended on it. Buffy sprinted, but even at full speed, she was gaining on him way slower than she should be. She leapt forwards, and managed to tackle him to the ground.
He struggled beneath her, his breathing short, desperate, frightened. He was… oh, God, he was scared of her. His eyes kept darting back to the stake that, Buffy realized, she still held in her hand. He thought… he thought she was going to kill him.
"Stop it!" Buffy shouted. "I'm not going to kill you!"
The Doctor stopped struggling, but that scared look remained. His eyes still flicked over to the stake, his breath still sounded panicked.
He hadn't been scared of the vampire. But she'd made him scared like this, and with no effort at all.
It made her want to throw up.
She dropped the stake onto the ground, and spoke in her calmest, most soothing tone of voice. "Doctor. I'm not going to hurt you. That vampire wasn't defenseless. It would have eaten you in two seconds."
"You still didn't have to kill him," said the Doctor. It wasn't angry or defiant, the way Buffy was used to hearing from him. No, the way he said it, now, was in the small, frightened voice of a child.
"I did," said Buffy. "Doctor, I've seen how vampires act around you. They don't just give up. They're persistent, and evil, and—"
Buffy blinked. "No, that's not—"
"That's why," said the Doctor. "If it's not like you, it has to die." He met her eyes with his own. "I'm not like you."
"You… you… it's more complicated than that," Buffy insisted.
The Doctor struggled a little harder, and Buffy used all of her strength to make him stay put.
"Doctor, stop it!" she said. "I promise, I'm not going to kill you. I'm just trying to keep you safe."
"What have you done to me?" the Doctor asked her.
"What have I…?"
"An institution of higher learning," the Doctor said, "creatures that don't belong, students that keep trying to make me stop running, keep me docile. Me, without a memory. With all these scars and burns. Running away. And you — well trained, well armed, clearly out here looking for someone. Clearly far too interested in me. You don't want to kill me, so what am I for you? A lab rat? An exhibit in a zoo? Or am I next on the dissection table?"
"Why am I running away from you?" the Doctor demanded. "What are you doing to me? How long have you been doing it?"
Buffy squeezed her eyes shut. "Shut up!" she almost shouted.
The Doctor went quiet.
"I'm not the one doing this to you," Buffy said. "I… I'd never…"
"You'd never hurt another sentient creature?" the Doctor asked. "You killed that biologically morphing parasitic life form, without even a word. You killed it, and didn't look twice once you were done."
"It was going to kill you!" Buffy insisted. "Why are you so…?" And then she realized. Something she should have thought of before. "You don't remember ever seeing anyone die before."
His first encounter with death — the Doctor, who had never liked weapons or death even at the best of times — had been watching her kill a vampire. He didn't remember how evil vampires could be. He didn't remember that they had no souls or that humans couldn't dodge and avoid vampires the same way that he could. He didn't remember any of that. All he knew was that she'd seen a non-human creature, and, without even speaking to it, had driven a stake through its heart.
If her very first encounter with death had been watching him murder a human being in front of her — even an evil human being — she'd probably have labeled him as the Big Bad, too. Hell, when she'd first met him, she'd labeled him as the Big Bad the moment she saw him, even without his having murdered humans.
(But she'd never been afraid of him like this, had she?)
"I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't think."
The Doctor looked deep into her eyes. "I trusted you. I thought you were my friend."
"I am your friend!" said Buffy. "Please, Doctor. You can still trust me. I promise, I'm not trying to hurt you. I just want to make sure you're safe."
He went very, very still, his eyes fixed on her. She could see such terrible betrayal in his eyes, accompanying the fear. It was a look that, Buffy knew, would haunt her worst nightmares. Seeing the Doctor, of all people, looking at her like this, like she was the monster.
His eyes darted over her shoulder, and he frowned, looking puzzled. Buffy looked back behind her — and was shoved over, knocked to the ground, as the Doctor sprung to his feet, free from her grip, and ran. Buffy couldn't believe she'd just fallen for the oldest trick in the book. She sprinted after him, but he was still going quite fast, and it was hard to track him. He kept darting in and out of trees, running in a zigzag to try to lose her, throwing her off by running in a loop.
And if he'd been in his right mind, she would have just let him go, but in this state — with no memory and possibly a worse neurological problem — Buffy had to keep close to him. She had to make sure he was safe. Other vampires would find him, in the night, and they would certainly try to kill him. In his right mind, he could get past them, easily, but like this? Buffy didn't want to risk it. If he found vampires, he'd probably just lick them.
(Why did that thought make her feel seriously jealous?)
And then… he was gone. Completely gone. She just couldn't find him. She searched high and low, but there was no trace. Buffy collapsed back down against a tree. It seemed apocalypse prevention night had turned into something else, entirely.
Buffy just wanted it to end.
She found him, eventually. About a half an hour later.
It was the moment she noticed the blue wood peaking through the trees that Buffy had realized exactly where the Doctor had gone. She crept forwards, and, sure enough, there he was, sitting curled up with his side against the TARDIS. His head rested against the wooden paneling of the door, as his hand stroked across the outside, absent mindedly.
Buffy came forwards, very quietly, hoping not to alarm him. She sat down, some ways away.
He didn't look up at her, just kept looking at the TARDIS, but he knew Buffy was there. Buffy was sure that he knew she was there. She could see the way he tensed up when she came nearer, the way his hand stopped on the TARDIS door, his palm flat against the wood.
"It's not Elizabeth," she confessed to him. "That's not really my name."
The Doctor didn't answer her.
"It's Buffy," she said. "You call me Elizabeth. You're the only one who calls me Elizabeth. I don't even like that name, I just… like it when you say it."
The Doctor persisted in not saying anything.
"I just wanted to say I was sorry," said Buffy. "For the vampire killing thing. I forgot that you'd never seen… I mean, you don't like death, and that was the first time you'd ever seen anyone die, and… I guess I just didn't think."
"What do you want with me?" the Doctor asked her, in a very quiet voice.
"To keep you safe," said Buffy.
"I'm safe here with my blue box," said the Doctor. "You can go."
It was sad, so sad, that he didn't even remember that this blue box was the TARDIS. Didn't even remember that the TARDIS was a space ship and a time machine. Did he even know how to get inside?
"You're not safe out here," said Buffy. "Vampires and evil things could be out, trying to find you. They can smell you a mile away. I'm not going to let you die."
"You're going to kill them," the Doctor said.
Oh, and she'd thought that he couldn't get any worse with the don't-stake-vampires thing. Apparently, his memory-lossed self made his memory-filled self seem tolerant and reasonable about this issue. This wasn't stubborn optimism, anymore. This was digging his own grave.
"Tell you what," said Buffy. "I'll leave you alone, with your blue box, if you go inside of her, and lock the door. Is that all right?"
"Can't," said the Doctor. "Key doesn't work."
Oh. Hm. That was potentially problematic.
"Can't you just snap your fingers?" asked Buffy.
The Doctor tried snapping his fingers, but nothing happened. He leaned against the wood. "I think she's mad at me," he whispered.
Great. So the Doctor had no memory, and his TARDIS was pissed off at him. Yeah. That was absolutely wonderful.
His eyes flicked back to Buffy. "What's your name?"
"Buffy," said Buffy. "I told you."
"It's… Summers," said Buffy. "Buffy Summers."
The Doctor nodded, slowly. He went back to stroking the outside of the TARDIS. "Leave me alone, Buffy Summers."
The confusion and loneliness and terror and a deep, deep sense of betrayal and… something else, that Buffy couldn't quite define… seeped through the air towards her. That telepathic brush of emotions that made her stagger under their weight.
He'd really trusted her, Buffy realized. He still wanted to. He still wanted to believe she was a good person, and the fact that he'd seen her kill a living creature was hurting him on some deep level. Like he couldn't come to terms with the fact that the universe could be cruel enough to allow random murders.
(Or could he just not come to terms with the fact that she'd do something like that? No, think, Buffy. He doesn't even know who you are.)
Was this what the Doctor was, at his core? Someone who really, really wanted to believe that everyone was good inside? Someone who felt so shattered and upset whenever a creature or person proved him wrong?
Buffy just wanted him to trust her again. She wanted to make him not afraid of her, anymore.
"The first time I met you," she said, "you remembered me, and I didn't remember you. And, yeah, it was weird, and confusing, and frightening. You kept saying you wanted to save me, wanted to help me, and I didn't know if I could trust you. And that whole time, I thought I was the one it was hardest on, because you knew all these things about me and I knew nothing at all about you. But… it hurts so much, seeing someone you care about, and realizing they don't have any idea who you are. Realizing that they don't even know if you're the good guy or the bad guy. So I'm going to tell you the same thing you told me. I know you don't remember me. I know you don't trust me. But I'm here to help you. I'm willing to put my own life at risk to keep you safe. Whether or not you want that is up to you." She huddled closer into herself, shivering in the fall air. "I'll be waiting over here, for you to make up your mind."
The Doctor still said nothing, but she could see some of the tension draining from him. He resumed stroking the outside of the TARDIS, but his eyes seemed to be looking past her blue exterior, as if he were so deep in his own mind that he wasn't really seeing anything at all.
Buffy huddled against the cold shudder of the wind. She had expected to keep moving, so she hadn't worn anything terribly warm or outdoorsy. She wanted to stand up and start pacing, but she thought that would seem intimidating, so she just clutched her arms, and looked out into the distance, eyes ready for danger.
She felt a large, warm coat draped across her shoulders.
She looked over to her right, and there was the Doctor, sitting himself beside her, his own tan trench coat now wrapped tightly around her. It was a little farther than he usually sat, when they sat together, but at least he'd chosen to let her help him. At least he trusted her enough for that.
"Be honest with me," said the Doctor. "Am I running away from you?"
"No," said Buffy.
"Are you a psychopathic killer of non-human life forms?"
The Doctor nodded. "Do you know who I'm running away from?"
"I've got a guess," said Buffy. "There are these commando guys who run around dissecting nonhumans, and putting stuff in their brains. I think…" She shuddered. "I think you ran into them, after you saved the world, last night."
"That bothers you," the Doctor noted.
"Yeah, it bothers me!" Buffy cried. "That you're all brain damagey and stuff? Seeing someone you care about and knowing they've been hurt like that..." She shook her head. "I think I understand why you went off and yelled at the Watchers Council right after you first met me."
"Yelled at what?"
"Never mind," said Buffy. "It's a long story." She put her arms through the sleeves, and snuggled into the trench coat. "Thanks. For… you know. Letting me stay."
The Doctor shrugged. "Well, see, if you were trying to cage me, you'd probably not give me a choice. And… you honestly do seem worried about me. Not in a clinical way, as I expected. You seem genuinely concerned about whether or not I survive. When you told me about the commandos — well, clear from the look on your face. You're frightened something's happened to me that you can't undo." He glanced back at her. "Are you worried about me?"
Buffy huddled into a ball, her chin resting on her knees. "I'm always worried about you," she confessed. "I always worry that you'll go off, someday, and won't come back."
"I leave you behind?" asked the Doctor.
"I told you to," Buffy said. "I have a responsibility to the world. You have one to the universe. We live two separate lives, and if either one of us fails, innocent people will die. I know you don't remember enough to understand that, but it's true." She took a long, slow breath. "You agreed with me, once. When you had all your memories. You told me that I was doing the right thing."
"You're upset," the Doctor noted.
"Um, yeah!" Buffy said. "I saw you terrified of me, and that's the kind of thing I'm going to have nightmares about forever. The only other time I've seen you that afraid is when you talk about Daleks, and even then—"
And that was when he turned her around, and kissed her.
It was one of those long, lasting, melting kisses that sent Buffy's heart racing, turned her entire body gooey, made her mind hum with a sort of harmonious happiness. And any thoughts about anyone else drifted out of her head, as she just let him encompass her entire world, as she let him become everything to her.
When he pulled away, there was a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.
"What… what… what was that for?" Buffy asked, a little breathlessly. "I thought… you were mad at me!"
"I don't think I like staying mad at people," said the Doctor. "And, well, bit of a snog only seemed natural. What with our clearly being so close in the past."
"How do you…?"
"The way you looked when I couldn't remember your name," said the Doctor. "The way you kept trying to pull me closer. The way you seemed to believe that, in your case, my memory loss might make an exception. The pet name — Elizabeth. It wasn't hard to work out. You're in love with me, and I was probably in love with you."
"I… I…" Buffy was at a loss for words. "We weren't in love."
The Doctor raised an eyebrow at her. "Sorry?"
"We're not… like that," Buffy said. "We're just really good friends. Really, really good friends. But we don't ever take it past the hugging stage. We're not, like, in love or—"
He leaned in, and kissed her again. This time, it was even sweeter, even gentler, and seemed to go on forever, as if time had stood still outside.
"I think you're in love with me," he told her, as he broke away, his eyes dancing.
Buffy just kept panting. Well, if she wasn't before, she was definitely thinking about it, now. Wow. She blinked, trying to organize her thoughts, and… she was forgetting something really important, wasn't she? But all she could remember was the many times she'd fantasized about exactly this — no, wait, not exactly this; when she'd fantasized they were usually quite a bit more naked than this. And not outside. And he knew who she was. And she didn't already have…
Riley! Damn it! That was who she was forgetting!
"I… have a boyfriend," she told the Doctor.
"Yes, you said," the Doctor replied. "And, as I recall, I said it was fun to lick you. Which it is. Incredibly fun. And apparently, it is even more fun to lick you inside your mouth." He flicked his eyes up and down. "Are there any other parts that are fun to lick?"
Ooookay. Face burning, brain exploding, body gushing. And… she was leaning into him, wasn't she? And he was stroking her back. And she… yeah, she really, really, really had to stop this, didn't she?
She just… had trouble remembering why.
"But… you think I'm some… psychopathic murderer person," said Buffy, still a little breathless. "You… you shouldn't be kissing, or licking, or… doing things to a psychopath."
The Doctor gave her a mischievous grin. "There was another one of those biological morphing parasitic life form creatures that showed up right around that first snog." His eyebrows raised, in that boyishly charming way they did when his eyes twinkled. "You didn't even notice."
Biological morphing parasitic… oh, he meant vampires? There was a vampire? Okay, yeah, Buffy hadn't noticed that. Mainly because this new sexy Doctor had been doing funny things to her insides.
"I've discovered your little secret," the Doctor continued. "If I increase the hormonal balance in your body, you don't kill things. And that's brilliant!"
He leaned in for another kiss, but Buffy squirmed out of his grip.
"That's… that's not fair," Buffy panted. "You can't just… act all sexy and stuff so I won't stake vampires. You don't do sexy stuff!"
The Doctor frowned. "I thought you liked it. You're doing that thing that humans do when they're happy."
Thing? Buffy didn't know she was doing a thing. Then again, Buffy didn't know very much of anything, right now.
"Besides," the Doctor continued, "if I call myself 'Doctor', I suppose I must enjoy making people better. And convincing you not to kill things would certainly make you better! Therefore, logically, it must be right."
"You… you still think I'm just a murderer," Buffy said.
"I think you kill sentient life forms because you believe you should," said the Doctor, very quietly and very seriously. "But I don't think you want to be that way. I think you want to rise above it. To be better than that." He walked right up to her, so that they were terribly close to one another. "And I want to help you."
He leaned in, and kissed her a third time.
Buffy dragged herself away from him. "I told you, you can't do that! I have a boyfriend, and…" Buffy trailed off, as she noticed the blank expression on the Doctor's face. "And you still have no idea what that means."
"You don't want me to lick your neck, or rub your palms," the Doctor said. "You never said anything about snogging."
Buffy honestly wasn't sure if he was being stubborn and difficult because she'd told him that being romantic to her was against the rules (she was never telling him anything was against the rules, ever again), or if he just really, really didn't get it.
"Okay, kissing is another one of those boyfriend only things," said Buffy. "As is flirting, licking, having sex, and… okay, basically, if it makes me blush, it's a boyfriend-only thing."
The Doctor pouted. "That a rule?"
"No!" said Buffy. "It's just a… make-Buffy-feel better sort of thing."
Because she knew that he might not like rules, but he liked making other people feel better.
"This boyfriend of yours… is he human?" asked the Doctor.
The Doctor thought for a moment. "You have sex? How?"
The Doctor noticed. "Ah, I see. Not a good thing to talk about. Sorry, just… curious. Because… didn't think you were a strong enough telepath to initiate it, and all. And if your boyfriend isn't telepathic, either…." He shuddered at the thought.
"It's… um… we don't do the telepathy thing, but…" Buffy held her head in her hands. She honestly couldn't believe she was having this conversation — with the Doctor — and he was just looking at her with a sort of academic curiosity. Trust him to be clinical about one of the most intimate things ever. "Wait, how do you have sex?"
The Doctor raised his eyebrows. "Well, mental coupling, generally. Course, there's also a vestigial physical element you can throw in while you're going at it, if you want, but, well, that's a wee bit kinky. Not really all that important, at any rate." He regarded her, carefully. "You're quite interested in this, aren't you?"
"No," Buffy lied.
The Doctor grinned. "Have you been thinking about this for a long time, now?"
"No way!" Buffy lied again. But she could tell from the gleam in his eyes that he knew she was lying. And, even worse, he was looking sexier than ever.
All curious and excited, his eyes sparkling, with that boyishly cute grin of his, his hair all disheveled and his lips still swollen, and his pupils still dilated — she wanted to kiss him again. If he didn't get his memory back, soon, she wasn't going to have a boyfriend very much longer, that was for sure. She took a few deep breaths, and tried to get herself under control.
"Well, I'd offer to show you, except you did put it on the list of things I'm not allowed to do," said the Doctor. "Although, then again, I don't think I'm very good at doing what I'm supposed to."
Buffy was pretty sure she was going to faint from pure lust any time, now.
And of course, the Doctor noticed that, right away, too.
"See, I know you said your rules were supposed to make you feel better," he said, "but, really, they seem to be making you fairly unhappy. You were far happier when we were snogging."
"You… you… you don't even know who I am!" Buffy said.
The Doctor frowned. "Well, no," said the Doctor. "But I'm incredibly clever. Give me a little time, and I'm sure I'll work it out."
"No, I mean, you say you want to sleep with me, but you don't even know who I am!" said Buffy.
"Actually, I'm fairly certain you're the one who wants to sleep with me," the Doctor corrected. "And… judging by the way you seem to have progressively snuggled closer since I brought the subject up, I'd say you want to rather a lot. I'm only offering that, well, seeing as I'm a bit curious, I'd be willing."
"You want to sleep with me because you're curious about it?" Buffy cried. And she… oh, damn it, he was right. She was leaning in closer to him. She pushed herself away, glaring at him.
"Is that… bad?"
"It's not supposed to be about curiosity!" Buffy snapped. "It's supposed to be an expression of love and closeness and… I don't know, lots of other stuff, too. You can't just…" She buried her face in her hands.
The Doctor just watched her, all his happiness melting away, as he saw how upset she'd become. He got up, shifting awkwardly from foot to foot, pulling on his earlobe. Then he gave her a large grin that didn't cover how clearly rattled he was that Buffy had gone from completely interested to seriously upset.
"Well," he said. He faltered.
Then he turned, and ran.
Buffy jerked her head up, and, noticing that he was dashing out of sight, she jumped to her feet, and raced after him. Oh, she should have expected this. It was his answer to everything that made him even mildly uncomfortable. Run away from it.
And here she was, making him feel like he was all stupid and ridiculous and stuff, just because he was… okay, just because he was acting totally stupid and ridiculous, but that didn't mean she wanted him to run away.
"Wait!" she called after him.
He didn't stop.
But he wasn't running for his life, anymore, which meant he was way easier to catch up to. She reached out, and managed to pull him to a halt, a short ways away.
"I… I thought that you wanted me to keep you safe," said Buffy.
The Doctor seemed confused. "Well, I did," he said. "And now it's time to run, again."
"Because you're feeling nervous and uncomfortable?" Buffy asked.
The Doctor fidgeted, but Buffy could see that she'd guessed exactly right.
"Look, just… please. Stay with me," Buffy urged. "I promise. No more awkward topics."
"You won't get mad at me, again?" the Doctor asked.
Buffy bit back her tongue, before she could scream at him that she'd stop being mad at him if he stopped screwing with her emotions like this! Instead, she opted for, "I promise, I won't."
The Doctor thought for a moment, scratching the back of his neck. "I really, really think I should be running."
Buffy gave a soft laugh. "Yeah," she said. "You've been thinking that for 900 years."
"900?" asked the Doctor.
"That's how old you said you were," said Buffy. "Although I've heard through the grapevine that you're a lot older than that."
"Oh, brilliant!" said the Doctor. "I'm vain!"
"And a liar," Buffy added. She tugged on his arm. "Come on. You can stay in…" She paused. She had been about to suggest her dorm room, except that if the commandoes were after him, she didn't want him anywhere on campus. "You can stay with me tonight."
The Doctor hesitated. "Can I stay with my blue box?"
"It's really, really better if you didn't," said Buffy. "Because you really should be staying somewhere where vampires can't…" She looked into his eyes, at his small, scared expression, and gave in. "You can stay with your blue box."
As they trudged back to the TARDIS, Buffy prepared herself for what was going to be a very sleepless night. Standing watch over a brain-damaged alien who was also a vampire magnet, and would freak out if she staked any of the evil monsters who were hunting him. Yep, this was going to be the most fun patrolling night of her life.
But if he licked her one more time, she couldn't be held responsible for her actions.
Willow burst through the door to Giles' house. "Buffy?" she asked.
"She's not here," came Giles' voice, from behind a large stack of books on his desk.
Willow tentatively came over, to find Giles looking quite a bit worse for wear, a book open and a yellow pad of paper beside him, upon which he'd scribbled notes and diagrams and computations. Willow flicked her eyes over to the trash can by his desk. Sure enough, it was filled with yellow sheets of paper, all containing similar notes.
"You've been busy," said Willow.
"I can't make it work," Giles confessed. "I've tried a thousand times, and everywhere I look, the answer's the same. The world should have ended, last night. The artifacts needed were all gathered, the entities were clearly prepared to carry it out. The only way we could possibly be alive today is if—"
"Someone stopped it?" Willow guessed.
"And seeing as none of us knew about it until today, that clearly cannot be the case," Giles concluded.
"Unless it wasn't one of us," said Willow.
Giles frowned. He glanced up at Willow, for the first time since she'd arrived. "Who?"
Willow just shrugged at him, a small smile on her face.
"Oh," said Giles, as he worked it out. He looked back at his calculations, a thoughtful expression on his face. Then his face fell. "Oh, dear." He put his face in his hands. "I don't know how I'll be able to tell Buffy."
"Tell her what?" asked Willow.
"That the Doctor is dead," said Giles.
Willow blinked. "Wait, he's dead?"
"Almost certainly," Giles agreed. "Stopping this ritual would be insanely dangerous, unless you were to kill those performing it. And seeing as the Doctor is… well, himself… I doubt he would have done that. Which means… last night, the world was saved, and the Doctor died."
"Um, I'm pretty sure he didn't," said Willow. "I mean, I saw him a few hours ago, and he seemed pretty alive to me."
"Alive?" Giles asked. His eyes lit up. "But that's splendid news! If he managed to stop the ritual before it even started, then we won't have to worry! Willow, you must tell me, it's terribly important. Did he retrieve the red crystal or the Kalenford of Corcheck?"
"I didn't get major details from him," Willow confessed. "I think the commandos got their hands on him. He's sort of brain damagey."
"Sorry, sort of what?" Giles asked.
"Well, he was all weird, and couldn't remember stuff," said Willow. "And he was all burned and cut up and…" She noticed the increasingly worried look on Giles face. "And that's bad?"
"Terribly," Giles agreed. He took off his glasses, and massaged his forehead. "For all of us."
"Why?" asked Willow.
"I suspect," said Giles, "that whatever happened to the Doctor's mind had nothing to do with the commandos." Giles showed Willow a book with an illustration of the red crystal. "The red crystal used in this ritual is incredibly powerful," he explained. "If the Doctor touched it while the ritual was taking place, it would have sent a massive surge of mystical energy through his entire body. It would turn a normal human body to ash in a matter of moments. Really, it's a miracle he survived at all. It should have been impossible."
"So… he's alive, and the world is saved. What's the problem?" asked Willow.
"The problem," Giles told her, "is that if this ritual was begun, but interrupted, the demon that began the ritual has two extra nights to complete it. Since the world hasn't ended, yet, I suspect the Doctor might have taken the crystal with him, when he interrupted the ritual. And if he's sustained enough neurological damage—"
"He won't know he has it," Willow realized. "Or what it does. Or that someone's looking for it." She started to get worried, fidgeting with the sleeve of her jacket. "He said he had to run," she remembered. "He didn't know why, but he was sure it was really important that he keep running." She froze. "Buffy."
"What about her?"
"She doesn't know!" Willow said. "She says he always runs away from everything. The moment she sees him all memory-lost and stuff, she's going to assume that he's just running because it's an instinct. She'll make him stop! And the moment he stops running, those world-ending demons will find him."
Giles mused the predicament over in his mind. "Actually, it's a rather ingenious plan," Giles said. "He comes to, running, and knows that, based on his own instincts, he'll have to continue running. Unless he finds Buffy, who will make him stop, but only so long as he stays with her. Once Buffy discovers him, she can protect him and keep the red crystal out of the wrong hands. Really, considering that he rarely constructs a plan, it's terribly clever."
"One problem," said Willow. "Buffy might know she has to protect the Doctor. She doesn't know he has the red crystal. And she doesn't know that the demon has three extra nights. She thinks the danger's over."
"Oh, dear," said Giles.
Buffy didn't realize she'd fallen asleep. Not until she awoke to find a cool hand clapped over her mouth, and a very soft voice whispering, "shhh," into her ear.
She looked back and found the Doctor lying behind her, very, very close, his eyes fixed directly ahead. It looked like they were hiding behind a large rock, the Doctor's lanky body curled around hers as if trying to protect her, his eyes looking worried and cautious.
It was early morning.
Buffy removed his hand from her mouth, and tried to squirm so she could see past the rock, but he held her in place. She could hear large, heavy footsteps around them, along with heavy breathing and growling.
Then there was a voice that slithered through the air, a woman's voice, the kind of voice that Buffy thought should work at a sex-phone hotline.
"Come out, come out, Time Lord," she called. "You can't run forever."
Buffy felt her blood freeze. She had thought the Doctor was just running, because he always ran. Or that he'd been running from the commandoes, in which case she could talk to Riley. But it looked like he'd been running from someone else. Someone specific. Someone (Buffy was guessing) who'd tried to end the world, two nights ago.
At a guess, the woman wanted revenge for the Doctor messing up her plans.
Buffy glanced back at the Doctor. She mimed, "Why didn't you run?" at him.
The Doctor mimed someone sleeping, then pointed at her.
Oh, way to pile on the guilt, Doctor!
"I know you're nearby," the woman's voice called, again. "I can smell you."
The Doctor seemed a little affronted by this. He smelled beneath his armpits, then made a little pout. He mouthed at Buffy, "I don't smell."
Buffy gave him a small grin.
(All the while preparing her hidden knife blade for the hack-and-slash of her life.)
"Oh, yes," said the woman. "I can certainly smell you."
The patter of footsteps, and the Doctor curled a little tighter around Buffy, trying to make them less visible behind the rock. Which made it far harder for Buffy to get at her knife, but did make Buffy feel seriously gushy. Buffy could hear the Doctor's hearts against her back, as he spooned against her. Oh, she should not like that this much!
"I'd say, you're right… about…" A face appeared in front of them, over the top of the rock. A crimson-skinned face, with long, drooping golden hair, and sparkling purple eyes. It was one of the most beautiful faces Buffy had ever seen — not human, but still completely stunning. The woman gave a smile, as she met the Doctor's eyes. "Caught you."
"Oh," said the Doctor. "Hello."
He leapt to his feet, dragging Buffy with him, and began to dart away, but the demon woman extended a hand, and a burst of purple energy swirled out of it. The energy extended into tendrils of light that curled around the Doctor's arms, legs, torso, and dragged him back towards the demon woman. Buffy felt his hand slide out from hers, as he was jerked, suddenly, away.
"I'm offended that you keep trying to run away from me," said the woman. She circled the Doctor, moving so that she faced him, and leaned in far, far too close, so that their lips were almost touching. "We could have had such fun together."
The demon woman was bad enough with her sexy-sounding voice and gorgeous face. But she was attired in one of the skimpiest outfits Buffy had ever seen, and the way she was acting around the Doctor was… territorially sexual. As if she knew he was hers, and was asserting her right to do with him as she pleased.
(And the Doctor was looking for someone to have sex with, wasn't he?)
The Doctor still had a spark of fear in his eyes, but it was now overshadowed by an intense, burning curiosity. He wanted to know who and what she was, Buffy realized. What she wanted with him. If he licked the demon woman, Buffy thought she probably wouldn't be able to help herself from throttling the woman where she stood.
On second thought, evil world-destroying demon lady threatening the Doctor? Buffy wasn't waiting for the licking.
Buffy surged out towards the demon woman, but was intersected by three lumbering, white blocky-looking monsters. They caught her, expertly. She swung her shoulder down, flipping one over her back, then lunged forward with the dagger, slashing across another one's lower arm. She somersaulted through the gaps in their limbs, then pushed herself back to her feet, kicking out. She dodged, darted, and ran, separating them expertly and cornering one of them against the TARDIS. She raised her dagger.
"Don't!" the Doctor shouted.
Buffy stopped herself. Damn it. She hit the demon in the head, so that it was mildly confused, then kicked out at the second one, who was rounding the TARDIS. The first one recovered far faster than she'd expected, and if she'd just killed the damn thing, this would have been about ten times easier. But now she was back to fighting off two at once, and when the third one came in…
She felt the dagger leave her hands, as she was picked up off the ground and caught between the three figures. She struggled, but couldn't get free.
"And who's your friend?" asked the demon woman. She scanned Buffy up and down, then frowned with distaste. "Ah, the Slayer."
The Doctor stared at Buffy, that same look of pain and betrayal blossoming in his eyes the moment he heard the title. This was why Buffy hadn't wanted to tell him she was the Slayer. She could remember how he'd reacted, the first time he heard that title. Telling her that she wasn't a butcher, wasn't a killer. Coming from someone who chose his own title, Buffy could imagine what he must think of her. As if she were someone whose psychology was warped enough that she'd chosen to call herself 'the Murderer'.
"It's not what you think," Buffy told him.
The demon woman clasped her hands around the Doctor's chin, and turned his head back towards her, studying his eyes.
"You didn't know that, did you?" the woman asked.
The Doctor didn't say anything for a moment. Then, "Don't kill her."
The demon woman just kept studying his face, curiously. "You don't even know who I am," she realized. "You haven't once called me by my name. And you were so eager to do so, the last time we met."
"Please," said the Doctor. "Do what you want with me, just let her go."
"What happened to that clever, clever brain of yours?" the woman asked. She released his face, and stepped backwards. She raised her hands in the air, palms facing him, at about the height of his head. Then she slowly began to lower her hands.
The Doctor cried out, clutching his head and dropping to his knees on the ground in front of the demon woman. Buffy struggled. The woman's eyes lit up, as she took her hands away, and studied him. Buffy didn't like that predatory look in her eyes, as if she had just been given an opportunity of epic proportions and was trying to discover how best to play it to her advantage.
Then the woman put on a theatrically worried face, and rushed forwards, cradling the Doctor's head in her arms, pulling him towards her, with a soft shushing that didn't seem to put him at ease.
Buffy struggled to get free, but the creatures had a stone grip on her.
"It's Carmen," the woman whispered to the Doctor. Then she tilted his face up towards hers, and kissed him.
A serious kiss. A deep kiss. As if she were claiming him, possessing him, making him hers. And Buffy watched, horrified, as — after a few moments — the Doctor started kissing back.
Buffy kicked and struggled to get free. She so wanted to beat the crap out of Carmen.
Carmen pulled out of the kiss, and looked into the Doctor's eyes. Buffy wondered if that was a hypnotic stare, or just a regular one.
"I know you cannot remember, but I have been looking for you since you disappeared," Carmen told him. "I have been so, so worried about you. I was terribly afraid that you had been killed."
"What?" Buffy cried.
The Doctor blinked.
"Do you believe me?" Carmen asked.
The Doctor considered. "Yes," he decided.
Carmen glanced over at Buffy. "Stay away from that girl," Carmen warned him. "The Slayer. She's the one who took you away from me."
"Is she?" asked the Doctor.
Carmen looked back at him, and drew him in closer, giving him another kiss. They lingered for only a few seconds, but when she drew away, she stayed close, almost lip to lip.
"Yes," said Carmen. "For so long, now, she's been hunting you, trying to kill you. The Slayer — the murderer of any creature who isn't human. She has too many deaths on her conscience to count, my love. They are her trophies, her triumphs. It is a miracle you managed to get away."
"You've got to be kidding me!" Buffy shouted. She tried to get away from the stupid white blocky demon things, but they were strong, and wouldn't let her go.
The Doctor looked back at Buffy, then over at Carmen. He seemed to be considering, mulling this over in his mind. Then he looked back at Carmen.
"That would explain rather a lot," he said. "What with the random murders and all."
Buffy had heard just about enough of this. She finally managed to get herself free from one of the white creatures, and kicked back against the one behind her as she shoved the one to her left against a nearby tree trunk. Then she sprinted towards Carmen and the Doctor. She had to get him out of there. She didn't know what Carmen was doing to him, but he wouldn't just believe her like this. He couldn't!
Carmen held out a hand, and Buffy felt herself choked by a swirling purple energy.
"Stop," came the Doctor's voice.
"You wouldn't tell me to stop if you could remember what this… Slayer has done," Carmen said. "She is the reason you are alone. Every other member of your species — she destroyed them. One by one. Her life's goal."
Buffy wanted to shriek at him that it wasn't true. No, screw that. She just wanted to hit Carmen. A lot. But she couldn't breathe, couldn't see, and she didn't know how much longer she could hold on.
"Then be better than her," the Doctor urged. "Don't sink down to her level." There was a pause, and then, in a frightened, weary voice, he added, "Just leave her, and take me home. I'm so tired."
Buffy saw dots dancing before her eyes. She felt everything draining from her limbs. And just as she thought the darkness would take her, the purple energy vanished, and she was dropped to the ground. She tried to get the world to come back into focus, but the sight that greeted her was not one she wanted to see.
The Doctor, making out with Carmen, her arms wrapping around his thin frame and drawing him closer to her. Buffy just kept waiting for the Doctor to look over at her, wink, or do something to tell her that he wasn't actually going along with this. But when his eyes did dart over to her — only for a second — what she saw there was hard, cold, angry. Buffy tried to run to him, but instead collapsed to her knees, coughing.
Then, he and Carmen, along with the three white creatures, faded away into nothing, and Buffy found herself alone in the woods.
Buffy climbed to her feet, and began to stumble back towards Giles'. She needed serious help, here. Right now.
Buffy burst through the door into Giles' house. "Giles, we've got a problem!" she shouted.
Giles woke, suddenly, from where he'd fallen asleep, draped across a still-open book on his desk. From the couch, at the other end of the room, Willow popped her head up, her hair all ruffled by sleep.
Giles looked from himself over to Willow, then checked the clock. "I suppose we were somewhat industrious in our research," he muttered, closing the book in front of him.
Willow looked at Buffy, a smile dancing across her face. "Well, look at you," she said. "Busy night?"
"You've got no idea," said Buffy.
"Oh, I think the coat says more than enough," Willow replied.
Buffy frowned. Then looked down at herself. She was still wearing the Doctor's tan trench coat. She hadn't even remembered she was wearing it — which just showed how frazzled she'd been by everything else, because it was pretty big and flappy on her.
Then she realized what Willow must be thinking, and blushed.
"It wasn't like that," she protested. "I was just trying to protect him, and then he got captured by this evil demon hussy, and—"
"Wait… demon hussy?" asked Willow.
"Yeah," said Buffy. "You know. Red skin, big boobs, golden hair, purple eyes, skimpy clothing, looks like she came literally out of a horny fourteen-year-old's imagination. Calls herself Carmen. She's got three white blocky minion creatures. And she's got a serious witchcraft thing going on."
Giles frowned, and started picking up books from the stacks beside him, flipping through them.
Willow just looked at Buffy, waiting for her to go on.
"And she kissed him!" Buffy cried.
Willow came over and hugged Buffy, as she broke down completely. The entire thing last night, that entire rollercoaster of emotions and confusion and tremendous highs and lows just came crashing out, and Buffy found herself telling Willow everything.
"—and that's when she told him that I killed his entire species," Buffy concluded. "And he believed her."
"He was just hypnotized, Buffy," Willow soothed. "We just gotta find him, and unhypnotize him, and he'll like you again!"
Giles had a pensive look on his face. He got up from his chair. "Buffy, might I examine that coat for a moment?"
Buffy nodded, taking off the coat and handing it to Giles. Giles brought it over to the chair, as Buffy tried to hold back tears.
"He thought that before, though, too," Buffy told Willow. She clutched at Willow's arms. "Will, he's scared of me. Like, really scared. The kind of scared he only gets when he talks about Daleks. I was stupid, I didn't think, and this vampire was going to eat him, so I staked it, and then he completely freaked, and—"
"Buffy, he's got some weird brain whatever thing going on," said Willow. "If he were normal, he wouldn't do something like that. You're not stupid."
"Will, he doesn't remember what a vampire is!" Buffy said. "He thought I was some kind of psychopath."
"That's not what he really thinks."
"He told me so!" said Buffy. "He asked if I was a psychopathic killer of non-human life forms."
"Yeah, and then he totally first-based it with you," said Willow.
"Because he was trying to distract me from a passing vampire," said Buffy.
"Buffy," said Willow, very slowly. "He kissed you. Three times."
Buffy blinked, as she let this sink in. "He kissed me," she realized. She shook her head. "No, no. He was just doing it because of, you know. Biological urges and stuff. He didn't even know who I was. He'd have kissed the first person he came across. I mean, he only wanted to have sex with me because he was curious about how humans had sex."
"He didn't kiss me," said Willow, "or… wait, he wanted to have sex with you?"
"No, he just wanted to have sex with anyone," said Buffy. "That's what I'm saying. He'd have done all this with the first person he came across. It just happened to be me."
"Buffy, he came across me and… someone else first," said Willow. "And he didn't kiss us. He didn't flirt with us. And he definitely didn't offer to have sex with us."
"Wait, this is… your friend, right?" asked Buffy. She frowned. "Will, you don't have a new boyfriend or anything, do you? Because the Doctor said something about how your friend liked licking you, and… he couldn't have understood what that really meant, right?"
Willow's face went bright red. "Yeah, he's way off base," Willow lied.
"Well, if he has no memory, perhaps he believes that's a formal greeting amongst humans," Giles offered.
"That's got to be it," said Willow.
Buffy breathed a sigh of — relief? Disappointment? Residual lust? "I knew it," she said. "I mean, he'd never have said I was fun to lick if he'd known."
Willow's eyes widened. "He said what?"
Buffy shifted uneasily. "That I was fun to lick?" She stared at the floor. "Then he said it was more fun to lick me in my mouth," she muttered, "and then he asked if there were any other parts of me that were fun to lick."
Willow's jaw nearly hit the floor.
"But, I mean, obviously, he had no idea what that meant," said Buffy. "Otherwise, he wouldn't have said it." She sighed. "Or there's something seriously wrong with him."
"Um… okay, so either he's totally flipped out and gone crazy," said Willow, "which is possible! Or…he's just in love with you and no longer has any emotional baggage to hold him back."
"He doesn't even know who I am!" said Buffy.
Willow sighed. Yeah, he might not know who Buffy was, but if he'd worked out that quickly about her relationship with Tara, Willow was guessing he'd worked Buffy's whole character out pretty quickly, too.
"Buffy," said Willow, "come on. He likes you the same way you like him. This has to be hitting about 500 of your biggest fantasies right now."
Buffy's face turned bright red.
She stared down at the floor, scuffing her shoe against the carpet. "It doesn't matter. Now that he's met Carmen, he thinks I killed off his whole species and stuff, and he's never going to like me again."
"He doesn't think that!" said Willow. "I mean, he stopped Carmen from killing you."
"He would have stopped her from killing me even if I was a vampire with my teeth in his throat," said Buffy. "Either he's just lusting after her because she's there, or he really hates me and thinks I'm a murderer. Maybe he just kissed her because he knew it'd hurt my feelings."
"Actually, I believe their romantic engagements might have had a different reason altogether," Giles called from his seat.
Buffy and Willow turned, to find Giles' desk now strewn with all sorts of junk — presumably from the Doctor's pockets, judging by the quantity and clutteriness of it — and a large, red gemstone in Giles' hand.
Willow looked at it. "Wait, isn't that the red crystal from that ceremony to end the world?"
Giles nodded. "I believe the Doctor was trying to distract Carmen," he explained, "so that Buffy could run off with the crystal."
"He was totally brain-damagey!" Buffy protested. "How'd he even know what it was for?"
"He might not have his memory, but he's still pretty smart," Willow reminded her. "After his little magic book flip-through earlier, I'm guessing when he found the red crystal in his pocket, he worked out that it was important." She glanced at the junk piled on top of Giles' desk. "Especially considering what else is in his pockets. That thing sort of stands out."
"No doubt this was the reason that Carmen wished to apprehend him," said Giles. "If the ceremony was begun, but interrupted, it can be concluded on either of the following two nights. Which means that we are fortunate that this crystal did not fall into Carmen's hands, or the world might well be doomed."
"And what happens when she figures out that the Doctor doesn't have it?" asked Buffy. "And knows I ran off in his coat?"
Giles and Willow looked at each other.
"That actually may present a bit of a problem," Giles said, turning back to his books.
"Maybe you can just hunt her down, first, and kill her before she can do the ceremony!" Willow suggested.
"Where?" asked Buffy. "They just kissed and then, pop! Gone."
"Which presents rather more of a problem," Giles muttered, flipping through books.
"The moment she figures out he doesn't have the crystal on him, the Doctor becomes expendable," said Buffy. "She kills him, then she comes after us. The Doctor dies, and the world still gets destroyed."
"There might, possibly, be a way to…" Giles trailed off. He glanced up at Buffy, a little nervously, then closed the book. "Well, if you'll excuse me, I think I'd better check the mail."
"Be a way to what?" Buffy asked. She stepped in Giles' way, as he headed towards the door. "What are you going to do?"
Giles tried to circumvent her, but Buffy kept darting right in his way, giving him a pointed stare. She wasn't letting him near the door, and with her Slayer strength, there wasn't really any way to stop her.
Giles gave a small sigh, as he gave in. "I've found a way to save the world," he admitted. "One that… you might have… some small objections towards."
Buffy crossed her arms, and waited for him to continue.
"Well, since Carmen almost certainly transported back to her… realm, I believe we might be able to… well, trap her inside of it," said Giles. He gave a cough, then muttered into the floor, "Along with any persons she might have brought with her."
"Yeah," said Buffy, "that's not happening."
"We don't have to trap her there forever, though, right?" asked Willow. "Just until after tonight. Then we can open it back up, and you can save the Doctor."
"Giles has his we-can't-do-that face on," Buffy pointed out.
"I'm afraid that the doorway between these two dimensions can only be accessed using the Kalenford of Corcheck," Giles explained. "Seeing as we have only the red crystal, and not the Kalenford of Corcheck, we would be able to seal the dimensions from one another, but… there would be no way to access them, once the spell was complete."
"Dimensions?" Buffy asked.
Giles looked uneasy, in that British manner he had.
Buffy hit her hand against her forehead. "The Doctor's in a Hell Dimension, isn't he? And you want to lock him in there, permanently."
"Now, before you protest," Giles said, "not all Hell Dimensions are quite as nasty as you think. Some, I believe, are really quite nice, and—"
"No," said Buffy. "We're not locking the guy I like in Hell. Again."
"Buffy, I understand that he is your friend," said Giles, "but the fate of the world is in our hands. I wouldn't ask this of you if six billion lives were not at stake."
"Besides," said Willow, "he kind of wanted you to. I mean, that's why he left you here, right?"
Buffy slumped. "That sounds exactly like what he'd do," she muttered. "Lock himself away in Hell to save the world." Then her eyes landed on the red crystal on Giles' desk, and she perked up. "Wait, the red crystal! If Carmen wants the red crystal, we can do a swap."
"By supplying her with the red crystal, we give her the power to end the world," Giles reminded Buffy. "You may save your friend, but he would die along with the rest of us, when the apocalypse occurred."
"No, Giles, you don't get it," said Buffy. "We trade the red crystal for the Doctor. Then we slam closed that dimension, and no more ceremony!"
"We require the red crystal to lock the dimension," Giles explained. "If Carmen has both the red crystal and the Kalenford of Corcheck this evening, the world will end. The best thing we can do is prevent the red crystal from falling into her hands."
"No, the best thing we can do is get the Doctor out of that Hell Dimension, no matter what," Buffy corrected. "Everything else can wait."
Giles looked increasingly exasperated. "You'd be willing to destroy the lives of countless human beings for a single member of a dead race who also happens to be — and I'm sorry, but it's true — an utterly annoying, thoroughly immature, and rude individual who is also arrogant, stubborn, and completely mad! And not even human! I'm sorry, Buffy, I really am, but I cannot allow this. It's putting to shame every fundamental principle of the Slayer, it's defacing an age old tradition of saving the world, and, on a personal note, it is increasingly insulting to me, who you've asked to guide you through your journey as a Slayer, that you would trust every lie told to you by that nonhuman buffoon more than you would trust any book in my library!"
Giles stood there, breathing hard, his extreme Britishness slowly creeping back into place, as Buffy and Willow just stared at him. Willow fairly shocked, Buffy kind of expecting it.
"Wow," said Willow. "Major Giles freak-out moment."
"Feel better?" Buffy asked Giles.
Giles took a deep breath, then resumed his previous air of enforced Britishness. "Yes, actually."
"What I was going to say," Buffy explained, calmly, "is that if we get the Doctor out of that Hell Dimension, the world will be saved anyways. I know how the Doctor operates. He lets himself get captured, finds out all the evil villains' plans, then screws around with stuff so that, if the villains actually go through with their plans, they'll kill themselves. All we have to do is get the Doctor out of there. When we find him, he'll probably have the Kalenford of Corcheck with him, already."
"Um, memory loss, remember Buffy?" Willow prompted. "He doesn't know there's a ceremony, he doesn't know he needs to steal anything, and he doesn't know about the Kalenford of Corcheck."
Buffy didn't move from her spot blocking the door. "I'm still not locking the Doctor in Hell."
Giles took off his glasses, and squeezed the bridge of his nose. "I suppose… I might be able to find some other way."
Buffy started pacing, trying to think through her options. "How's this thing supposed to destroy the world?" she asked. "I mean, maybe if we know that, we can work out some way to stop it."
"It's supposed to channel a good deal of mystical energy through the crystal, conjuring a rather nasty demon called the Facksisil of Balime."
"Okay, so this… Frac-tissle of Ball-stream," said Buffy. "Maybe I could fight that."
"Buffy, it is said that the Facksisil of Balime will allow Hell to devour the world," Giles said, putting his glasses back on his face. "Even you might struggle with a creature like that."
"Woah!" said Willow.
Buffy and Giles spun around to find Willow by Giles' desk, the crystal in her hand, a shocked expression on her face as she held it. She looked back at them.
"You guys didn't feel that?" she asked.
"Feel what?" asked Buffy.
"There's, like, something inside this thing," said Willow. "Something really powerful. Something huge." She glanced over at Giles. "You said that something in this crystal was enough to completely fry a human being."
"Wait, fry a human being?" Buffy asked.
"Oh, yeah, this is what zapped the Doctor's memory," said Willow, raising the crystal up for Buffy to see. "Giles worked that out. That's why he looks all electrocuted and slashed up and stuff. He probably got pretty fried by this thing." She shrugged. "But, I mean, is that demon actually inside of this crystal?"
Giles thought a moment. "Yes, I suppose that would make sense. The crystal is supposed to bring him into being, and there are a few mentions that he is contained inside a mystical red prison."
"Great, so we just get the monster out of it, first," said Buffy, "kill that, then hand the red crystal over to skanky-demon-boob-lady in exchange for the Doctor."
Giles shook his head. "It would never work," he said. "We would only be able to eliminate the monster inside at the exact moment Carmen would need the crystal to end the world."
"But I bet we could give Buffy a good look at the demon, first," said Willow. "I mean, just to see if she could fight it."
Buffy considered. "Okay, then," she said. "Good look it is."
Seven spell-books and one trip to the magic shop later, and they were ready to perform the spell that would reveal the Facksisil of Balime to them. Buffy kept pacing the room, nervously, as Willow and Giles set up the items they needed in a circle on the floor. The red crystal lay in the exact center, surrounded by candles and other magical items.
"This isn't actually going to release the demon inside, right?" asked Buffy. "Because I'd like a heads-up, if there's going to be major demon-slaying going on."
"It shouldn't," Giles told her. "The spell should simply reveal what is inside. It shouldn't be able to release it."
"Ready," Willow chirped, setting down the last item in the correct place.
She sat on one side, Giles on the other. Giles held the spell book open in his hand, and began to recite the words.
"Ostende nobis hoc naturam," said Giles, speckling holy water across the crystal.
Willow took the nearby incense, and waved it above the crystal's surface. "May all veils be lifted, all mists be wiped away."
"Exponere tenebris, revelare potestatem," Giles chanted, as Willow blew upon the incense sticks.
"By the power of Hylaznia, show what truly lies within," said Willow.
The candles all puffed out, and the entire room seemed cast in a sudden, dark shadow. Giles set down the book, a little concerned, as he looked about himself. Willow looked around, too, confused.
Then a burst of bright light shot out of the crystal, rising to the ceiling and spreading out to become a swirling ball of light. The light expanded, then seemed to morph into…
A series of shapes. All changing, all different. No, they weren't shapes, they were images. Images of people, of places, of things that none of them had ever seen before. They flickered by almost too fast to process, image after image after image, like a slide show or a montage that had been put on mega fast-forward.
"Wait a minute," said Buffy. "That's Martha Jones."
The images continued to change, one to another to another. And Willow started picking out things, as well.
"That's your mom!" Willow cried to Buffy. "And there's Angel!"
"Is that Richard Wilkins in a waistcoat?" asked Giles.
"You know what this is," said Buffy. "These are the Doctor's memories. We found them."
Willow stared at the images. "900 years of memories," she mused. "That is definitely something big."
"And powerful," Buffy agreed. "Lots of people would hack off an arm and a limb to get that kind of information."
"No, no, this cannot be the case," Giles said. "I've researched this particular crystal. It has very specific properties, and none of those include the storage of memories."
"Plus, we're still one mega-demon short," Buffy pointed out.
"Well, maybe the mega-demon's hiding behind the memories," Willow offered.
Giles dipped his hand into the holy water, and flicked it across the surface of the crystal. "By the power of Hylaznia," he said. "Reveal to us all else that this crystal contains besides these memories."
The light flickered out. Then the fog cleared, and the room went back to normal.
"Or not," said Willow.
"I suppose the Doctor didn't manage to stop the ritual in time after all," said Giles. "The Facksisil of Balime must already have gotten loose."
"It can't have," said Buffy. "The world hasn't ended, yet, and Carmen wouldn't have been that eager to get the Doctor, if the monster was already on the loose."
Willow's eyes widened. "Wait, why did Carmen want the Doctor?"
"Clearly, she believed the Facksisil of Balime was still within the red crystal," Giles replied.
Buffy grumbled something about skanky demon ladies seducing mind-wiped aliens.
"Yeah, but, I mean, if you were running away from a world-ending ceremony with a super dangerous red crystal, you'd throw it into your pocket, right?" said Willow. "And Buffy was wearing the Doctor's coat. So… why didn't she take Buffy? Or why didn't she just kill both of you and take the coat?"
"She probably just wanted the Doctor in case he'd hidden it some…" Buffy trailed off. "Wait, but… she knew he didn't have a memory. He couldn't have told her anything, even if he'd wanted to. And her white blocky things only released me after she figured out that he had no memory."
"Exactly!" said Willow. "So why the Doctor?" She picked up the crystal, tapping her fingers across its red surface. Then, she froze. Sudden horror sprouted in her eyes. "Scary thought," she said. "Really, really scary thought."
Buffy and Giles looked at one another, then back at Willow. "What?" they asked, at once.
"Well, Buffy, you know how you said that the Doctor can have stuff in his head that he doesn't know about?" said Willow. "Because he can build up psychic shields?" She raised the red crystal in her hand. "Well, the Doctor used to have his memories, and this crystal had the Facksisil of Balime. But now this crystal contains the Doctor's memories, and the Facksisil of Balime would have nowhere to go except..."
"The Doctor's mind," Giles muttered.
"That's why the TARDIS wouldn't let him inside," Buffy realized. "She must have felt the monster in his head, and locked him out!"
"Ingenious plan, really," Giles mused. "He comes to, running, and continues running based on his own instincts until he finds Buffy, who will make him stop. The Doctor must have known that Buffy wouldn't think to protect the red crystal. But she would protect him. If he was taken, and Buffy had the crystal, she would arrange a swap. If Carmen took the red crystal, but left the Doctor behind, the ceremony wouldn't work. And if Carmen decided to take the red crystal and kill the Doctor straight out, the Facksisil of Balime would be destroyed, and the world would be saved. Really, for someone who is frightfully rude and immature, he is incredibly clever."
"There's only one way it wouldn't work," said Buffy. "If Carmen worked out that the monster was in his mind. And since she let me go, and focused her attention on the Doctor, I'm guessing she worked it out."
"But… that means Carmen doesn't need the crystal at all," said Willow. "Everything we needed to lock that dimension away, and everything Carmen needs to end the world — that isn't in the crystal. It's all in the Doctor's head."
"All Carmen needs to end the world is the Doctor," Giles agreed. "And that's precisely who she's got."
Carmen hadn't exactly believed her good fortune, once the Time Lord had fallen into her hands. And in such a state!
Two nights ago, he had shown up — a terribly old, completely immovable force of nature, determined to stop her from destroying the world. He had known her name, known all about her, and acted as if she were nothing. Beneath him. Barely worth his time.
But she'd shown him.
He'd made that one fatal mistake — he'd given her a chance to stop. And she'd taken advantage of that second of weakness in him, and had started the ritual. She thought that, once she'd started, there would be no way he could stop her — not without any weapons. But he'd grabbed the red crystal, and had begun running. One touch from that crystal should have been enough to burn him to ash. One touch, and the energy it emitted would pour into his mind, overwhelming his brain and killing him instantly. It should have been foolproof.
Except the Doctor hadn't died. He must have compensated, somehow, let the Facksisil of Balime into his mind to absorb the energy. And then he'd escaped, taking the red crystal with him. The red crystal, still draining him of his mind, more and more over time, as the Facksisil of Balime slithered inside.
True, the Doctor had survived. But not without considerable damage to his mind.
His mental shields were practically nonexistent — containing the Facksisil of Balime, no doubt — his memories were now completely gone, and — best of all — he didn't know. He had imprisoned a monster in his mind, built up some of the most impressive psychic defenses Carmen had ever seen, and he didn't even know it was there!
But Carmen did.
She'd sensed it, right after she realized he had no memories, that he couldn't even remember her name. She had scanned his mind using her magical powers, and discovered exactly what had happened. This once great and powerful Time Lord was now so very weak, so susceptible to her hypnotic suggestions, and — he was still all that stood between her and the end of the world.
Oh, how lovely!
One kiss, and that was all it had taken. One kiss, and she could reach into his mind, fiddle around with his thoughts, plant the suggestions in his head. And he'd believed her. About the Slayer, about her, about all of it.
Now, the Time Lord was completely in her thrall. Ready to do anything she pleased. Tonight, the ritual would be finished. Tonight, the Facksisil of Balime would be released, and her Hell Dimension would expand to swallow the world.
Carmen hadn't counted on the Time Lord being such an insufferably annoying individual, however.
He had seemed docile enough back in the real world, but the moment he'd arrived in her Hell Dimension, he had gotten a curious gleam in his eyes, and begun racing around, trying to uncover how all the different aspects of her enchanted kingdom worked. He'd started asking her a million questions about the plight of the tortured souls that her demons were flaying, about the basic rights of sentient creatures, about work schedules and holidays and all sorts of things that Carmen didn't care one jot about.
Then he'd entered her palace, and it had all gotten worse. Flitting around every room with unbounded excitement and curiosity, needing to see, touch, sometimes even taste every magical item she had.
"Come along, my love," she said to him, draping her arm across his shoulders and snatching a mythical gemstone out of his hands before he could lick it. "Rest a while."
"Aw, but this place is brilliant!" the Doctor complained. "An extra dimensional pocket slightly misaligned with normal reality, so that the two overlap but never actually come into contact. Truly amazing. Did you create it, or did you just find it and move on in?"
Carmen didn't like that glint in his eyes. She didn't like that he was trying to work things out. She wasn't sure if the ceremony tonight would actually kill the Time Lord, but she was fairly sure that, if it didn't, she would.
She drew him into a long kiss, delving deep inside his mind, rearranging his thoughts. Ah, yes. Curiosity. Better squash that. Get rid of that insufferable excitement as well. Docile and controlled, that was what she wanted. Docile, controlled, and completely and utterly in love with her. Trusting her in every way.
It took her a little longer than she'd expected.
When she finally pulled away, she realized that he'd switched to respiratory bypass a while back. He now looked completely disheveled, his hair a mess, his lips swollen, his pupils dilated. He stood there, his mouth hanging slightly open, a dull look in his eyes.
Then he snapped his mouth shut, and stood to attention. "Yes, right. Sorry."
He was, actually, not terribly bad looking. Two hearts, too, which implied a certain amount of stamina. Perhaps killing him wasn't really necessary. Perhaps all she really had to do was completely erase his mind and personality. Erase everything. A full mind wipe like that would require far more intimacy than just a kiss, though.
That would mean actually sleeping with him.
Carmen gave him a coquettish smile. Yes, that was exactly what she'd do. Keep him around, her slave, her eternal servant. As she ruled over the Hell that she would bring to Earth, he could be useful. Terribly useful.
She gestured at him to follow her, as she led him through the palace.
"That girl," said the Doctor, his hands in his pockets. "The one you called 'Slayer'. Who is she?"
"The one who slaughtered every other member of your race," Carmen told him. She was terribly proud of that lie. She had asserted, using her magical brain scan, that he didn't remember anything, but she knew Time Lords were telepathic. He would be able to tell if he were the only one left, even if he didn't remember why.
"Yes, of course," said the Doctor. "But… how, exactly? She's a bit small. Well, I say small. Smallish."
"Small but deadly," said Carmen. "She hunted your race down, one by one, until there were none left. None but yourself. That is why she is so eager to get her hands on you. Because she knows that, with you gone, there will be no one."
The Doctor nodded, slowly. "Did she have a good reason?"
"Her reason is herself," said Carmen. "She is the Slayer. That is what she does. Her goal is to rid the Earth of any sentient life form that isn't human."
"Oh," said the Doctor.
Carmen turned around, to face him, drawing him towards her, looking into his eyes. "Do you believe me?" she asked.
"I think so," said the Doctor. He beamed. "Yes! Absolutely!"
Carmen gave him another kiss, just to make sure. Cement the suggestion into his mind. Yes, just like that. Every time she did this, it got a little easier. Every time, he fought her a little less. Soon, she knew, he wouldn't fight her at all. And after she completely wiped his mind, he'd crave it. He'd ask her to put her own thoughts into his head. Beg her to brainwash him again.
Oh, yes, she would enjoy that. She would enjoy that very much.
The Doctor studied her, as she pulled away. "You're quite good at that," he said. "Snogging and whatnot."
As was he. There was something he kept doing with his tongue that was positively sinful. Perhaps she'd let him keep that knowledge, after she wiped his mind. She wanted to know how that tongue of his would feel in a slightly different place.
"Do you wish me to tell you more?" asked Carmen. "Are you still curious about the Slayer?"
"Nope!" said the Doctor. "Just about worked her out. Dreadful woman. Truly atrocious."
"Perhaps the next time you meet," said Carmen, "I will give you the pleasure of killing her, yourself."
The Doctor seemed surprised. "Would you really?"
Carmen could hear the eagerness in his voice. As if he were a kid begging her for a new toy. Not realizing, of course, that he was her toy, that she only let him do things because she wished him to.
"Of course," said Carmen. "I wouldn't want to deny you your revenge."
The Doctor frowned. "Don't think I like revenge, much," he said. "But I would like to stop her from doing it to anyone else. Permanently."
Well, perhaps it wouldn't be so difficult to deal with the Slayer after all. The problem with the Slayer was that, the moment Carmen killed one, another would pop up somewhere else. But with a Time Lord at her disposal, she wouldn't have to worry about the Slayer. Ever.
And as for this Slayer — oh, Carmen would enjoy watching that. Watching the Time Lord kill that little blond thing that dared defy Carmen's wishes. Oh, yes, that would be delicious. And judging by the Slayer's reactions, watching this Time Lord kill her would break her weak human heart. Which made it even better.
"Would that make you happy?" Carmen asked.
"Oh, yes," said the Doctor. He shuddered. "She… killed a creature, earlier. A sentient creature. Without even talking to him. I wouldn't want to live in a world where people could do things like that."
"After the ceremony tonight, you never will again," Carmen told him. "My realm shall rise to encompass the Earth, and I shall let you, personally, destroy every single Slayer there is. Eliminate the Watchers Council, demolish the entire institution."
"Watchers Council," the Doctor muttered, a pensive look on his face.
Oh, dear. That was not good. Carmen should have kept her argument simple, straight forwards. She drew him closer to her, staring into his eyes.
"Would you like to destroy the Slayers?" she asked, nipping at his mouth. "Build that perfect, ideal world of yours?"
"Couldn't we just sit down and talk with them, instead, ask them to—?"
Carmen cut the Doctor off with another kiss. He was so damn stubborn and annoying! For someone who was famed as a legendary warrior, he was incredibly reluctant to fight. Somehow, she'd turned him into a naïve little brat, who believed in the inherent goodness of all creatures. Even vampires, apparently.
What a fool.
"On second thought," the Doctor said, after the kiss was done, "you're right. Better just kill the whole lot of them." He hesitated. "Which would imply there's more than one?"
"Not at a time," said Carmen. "But you'll have your hands busy, my love. Building your perfect world."
The Doctor's eyes lit up. "Oh, there was this absolutely brilliant food, back on Earth!" he said. "I tasted it, earlier. I believe it was called… 'ice cream'. If this is my perfect world, could it have ice cream?"
"If you eliminate the Slayers," said Carmen.
The Doctor seemed puzzled. "Slayers don't like ice cream?"
Now Carmen was starting to get annoyed again. Using this Time Lord to her advantage was going to be hard work, and she wasn't sure she wanted to put in the effort. The Doctor seemed to notice her unease, and hesitated.
"I'm sorry," he offered. "I didn't mean to say anything wrong. Please, forgive me."
Oh, she could get used to him begging her, though. She liked that.
"Ask nicely," she said. She was hoping to get a bow of submission from him, or even a good grovel at her feet, but what happened instead was actually more than she could have dreamed of.
He pulled her to him, and kissed her.
Ha, ha, ha. Oh, this was wonderful. He was already asking for it, already begging her to make him her slave. He had been so stubborn, before he lost his memory, so rigid and psychically strong, Carmen hadn't expected him to cave half this easily. But here he was. Fully in her power. Completely at her mercy. Begging her to control him.
It was too good to be true.
A Time Lord — no, not just any Time Lord, but this Time Lord, the legendary one — groveling at her feet. Obeying her every command. Laying with her, pleasing her. Completely subservient. Oh, yes, it was far, far better revenge for him to be like this, rather than simply killing him straight out.
And as she pulled out of the kiss, she thought — why even wait for the ceremony tonight? Why not begin now? Tear his mind to pieces, remove every scrap of knowledge, every part of him that was still him, every part of him she didn't need. She would let him keep a few things, things she was curious about, but for the most part, he would be her puppet. Her plaything. Her little toy.
"Was that all right?" he asked.
The subservience in his voice was all the incentive Carmen needed, as she nearly dragged him to the bedroom.
"Get out!" she shouted at the guards, as she drew the Doctor into a passionate kiss. Oh, yes, she was going to enjoy this. She was certainly going to enjoy this. And…
Something was wrong.
The Doctor broke away from the kiss, a delighted smile on his face. And that twinkle was back in his eyes.
"You do realize, of course," he said, "that I know exactly what you've been doing to my mind?"
Carmen broke away from him. She shouted for the guards, but the Doctor reached into his pocket and brought out a small, metal tube, which glowed blue at the end, and locked the door.
"Sonic device," he said, waving it in the air. "Isn't that brilliant? Found it in my pocket right before we met. Terribly clever little thing." He put it back into his pocket.
"How did you overcome the mind control?" Carmen demanded.
"I'm a genius!" the Doctor explained. "Great big brain of mine, and all these little tiny spaces I never use. Just created a little replica of my thoughts in a small locked away portion, one you could invade at your leisure. Actually, quite an interesting look into your psychology, seeing what suggestions you tried to plant. Particularly those concerning the lovely Miss Buffy Summers." He gave a lopsided grin. "You despise her, don't you?"
"She is a murderer!" Carmen spat at him. "I didn't lie to you about that!"
"Interesting that you thought you needed to brainwash me to believe it, though," said the Doctor. "If it had been true, probably wouldn't have needed all the coercion. Would you?" He tilted his head to the side. "You know, I was worried, there, for a second. Really thought I'd read her completely wrong, that she was everything you keep claiming she is. I suppose I should thank you for convincing me to trust my instincts and like her."
"I will kill you, Time Lord," Carmen snarled.
"Naw, you won't do that!" said the Doctor. "You need me for something. Otherwise, you probably would have killed me the moment you found me. I thought it was that rather odd red crystal I found in my pocket, earlier, but you seemed completely disinterested in searching me when I arrived. So I'm guessing whatever was in the red crystal wound up in my mind." He beamed. "That's why you had to scan it, earlier."
"Just because I can't kill you doesn't mean I can't cause you pain!" Carmen said. She threw up her hands, and the purple light encircled the Doctor, making him drop to the floor as he cried out in pain.
She lowered her hands, and watched as the light subsided, leaving the Doctor curled up on the ground. She walked over to him, and purposely slammed the heel of her shoe down into his hand.
"I can still shatter your mind," she whispered. "If I can't do it with pleasure, I shall do it with pain."
He looked up at her, a piteous hurt look on his face. A look that pleaded with her to let him go.
Carmen loved that look. She relished it.
The Doctor she had met, a few nights before, had been proud, arrogant, stubborn. A being who had seen every evil of the universe, knew every terrible thing that could happen, was able to circumvent things before they took place. The Doctor she'd met a few nights before had thought she was nothing.
But look who she was, now!
In one instant, she, Carmen, had turned one of the cleverest and most dangerous creatures in the universe into a little boy. Just a naïve little boy who believed that the world was good, and everyone could live in peace and harmony and ice cream, and couldn't understand why someone like her would be so cruel. In one instant, she had taken everything away from him, reduced him to someone who needed to plea, to beg. She loved that.
If she couldn't rule the world — and she still would, she was certain of that — but even if she failed, she could at least be proud of herself for this. Destroying the Doctor. That would be something.
She put more weight on her heel, until she heard a bone snap, and he screamed.
"Beg me to stop," Carmen demanded.
"Please," he said. "Please stop."
She pressed down a little harder, and he screamed again. "Not good enough," she warned. "What are you, to me?"
"I don't know," said the Doctor. "Just… stop. Let me go."
"You are nothing," said Carmen. "Say it."
"I'm nothing," the Doctor repeated.
Carmen removed her heel from his hand, and walked over to the window, her every stride calm, collected, in control. "You are terribly foolish, Time Lord," she said. "Telling me your plans. Boasting about how clever you are. So many ways you could have used that knowledge, so many ways you could have tricked me, run for your life, or even just killed me. But you thought I would be kind. Merciful." She turned around to face him. "Compassionate."
The Doctor didn't answer.
"Let me guess," said Carmen. "You thought that deep down inside, I had a little spark of decency. A little bit of something better. You thought you could bring that out, didn't you?" She gave a dry laugh. "You should have run, Time Lord. You should never have crossed my path. Because after the ceremony is done, I'm not going to kill you. No, I'm going to keep you alive, in pain, forever. I am going to make sure that every day here is the worst day of your life."
"I'm sorry," the Doctor whimpered.
That made a smile crawl up Carmen's face. Oh, she loved it when he begged her.
"Just remember, when you're suffering your fate," said Carmen, "that it is I, Carmen, who managed to—"
A loud popping sound by her feet. Carmen looked down, to find something stuck to the heel of her shoe, something that had just exploded open, emitting a thick black smoke.
"Like I said," said the Doctor, in a far less whimpering tone. "I'm sorry."
The world faded into black, and Carmen collapsed.
Buffy was stalking through the woods, desperately trying to find the Doctor. She couldn't work out how to get to the Hell Dimension where Carmen took him. She just knew that, if she wandered around the area where he'd disappeared, there'd be a chance he'd reappear.
That's what she'd been doing all day, and now it was approaching night, and she still hadn't found him. Which was probably why she didn't notice, when she ran right smack into a brown pinstripe suit.
The Doctor stumbled backwards. Then blinked, and grinned as he saw who she was. "Oh, brilliant! It's you! I've been looking for you!"
Buffy just stared at him. The Doctor. Pinstripe suit, spiky hair, sideburns, and all. Unharmed, it looked like. Happy. Not afraid of her. Not distrustful of her. But honestly happy to see her.
"You… you… don't think I'm evil?" she asked.
He frowned. Then realized, "Ah, yes, Carmen! Have to say, was a bit worried when I heard her call you 'Slayer', but — well, whole destruction of my species? Seemed a bit far-fetched." He grinned, and winked. "Elizabeth."
Buffy ran forwards, and swept him into a tight hug.
"Ow!" he cried.
She jerked away from him. He held his left hand in his right one, and gave her a pout.
"She hurt my hand!" the Doctor whined. He held it out to Buffy. "See?"
There was a very nasty red mark on the back of his hand, where it looked like a high heel had stepped on it. Buffy touched the skin around the mark, tentatively, and he hissed in pain.
"I'm sorry," she said.
"Well, lucky for me she wasn't terribly bright," he said. "Do you have my coat?"
Buffy nodded. "And the crystal," she said. She paused. "Wait, where did you guys go? What happened? How'd you escape?"
"Ah, well, see, Carmen had this little dimensional fold that she was using as a home base," the Doctor explained.
"A Hell Dimension," Buffy said.
"Yes, that's it!" said the Doctor. "Terrible place. Lots of tortured people crying out for help, being mercilessly flayed by demons and such. So, yes. Went there. However, being the terribly clever individual that I am, I pretended to be mind-numbingly stupid, stole some items, used them to create a little smoke-device, and broke out of her palace. Then, I incited a revolution amongst the masses, convinced them to rise up against their oppressors, and helped them write a formal constitution guaranteeing every citizen basic rights and setting up a democratic form of government. At which point, it was only a matter of creating some basic gadget that could seal off that particular dimensional fold from this world." He pulled out a very ragtag little contraption with a great big button on it from his pocket, and tossed it to her. "Which I did, and quite brilliantly! Then I escaped, and now, here I am!" He looked at her, very proudly, waiting for her to compliment him on how terribly clever he'd been.
Buffy burst out laughing. She could barely stop herself from snatching him up and hugging him again. Because this was so something he'd do.
"You brought constitutional democracy to a Hell Dimension!" she said, through her laughter.
"What?" asked the Doctor, a little put out that she was laughing at him. "What's wrong with that?"
"Nothing. In fact, it's the most you thing I could possibly imagine!" said Buffy. She stuffed the device in her pocket so she could give him a far, far more careful hug. "You don't know how much I missed you."
The Doctor hesitated. "I… still don't remember you," he admitted.
"Don't care," said Buffy, into his suit, "just missed you."
The Doctor gave a small sigh, then hugged her back. "Me too," he admitted. He paused. Then, in a far more enthusiastic tone of voice, he added, "Oh, and I've discovered something that is very, very important!"
"Mhm?" asked Buffy.
"I don't like licking people!" the Doctor announced. He made a face. "They taste funny."
"Could have fooled me," Buffy muttered.
"Ah, well, I think I just like licking one person in particular," continued the Doctor. "Who happens to be quite fun to lick."
Okay. Time to faint from pure lust, now.
"And has a boyfriend," the Doctor added. "Which I haven't forgotten about."
"What… what about…" Buffy cleared her throat, and tried to put herself back together. "Nearly-naked big-boobed demon lady?"
"Oh, she's decidedly not fun to lick!" the Doctor exclaimed. "Absolutely not! I believe she was trying to sleep with me so she could wipe my brain completely clean. Which is something I'd very much like to avoid, if at all possible."
"No, I mean, she isn't going to destroy the world, anymore, right?" asked Buffy.
"Don't think so," said the Doctor. "Trapped her in the dimensional fold, see. And I'm pretty sure whatever she needed wound up in here." He tapped the side of his head. "And, well, since she's in the dimensional fold, and I'm not, I'd say she can't destroy the world." He thought a moment. "Although… perhaps I should have locked her out here, and myself in there. Seeing as I'm the thing she needs to destroy the world."
"No!" said Buffy, taking his non-injured hand, and tugging him closer to her. "You're staying right here. Far, far away from skanky demon boob lady."
The Doctor raised an eyebrow at her. "Is someone jealous?"
"No," Buffy lied.
The Doctor's eyes danced with mirth, as they examined her. He raised his eyebrows.
"Shut up," said Buffy, as she hugged him again.
A howl of wind picked up through the trees. And suddenly, the Doctor was jerked out of Buffy's arms and flung into the air, slamming against the ground with a force that would probably paralyze a human body straight out. Bright purple flames leapt up in a circle around them, and Buffy ran over to the Doctor, leaning down to make sure he was okay.
"Death would be too good for you, Time Lord," came an icy voice from Buffy's left.
Buffy looked up, and there, rising up through the flames was… well, Carmen, of course. But this time, she wasn't coquettish or predatorily sexual. She was just plain pissed. And the person she was pissed off at was, very clearly, the Doctor.
Buffy stood up and shifted into a fighting stance.
Carmen's eyes blazed, her hair gusted, and her entire face was filled with rage and loathing. As she landed on the ground, she waved a hand and tossed Buffy away, so she could focus all her rage on her Time Lord victim. Buffy felt herself flying through the air, and thunking against a tree trunk.
"You destroyed my kingdom," Carmen seethed. "You ruined all of my plans. You stole my pet monster and locked him up inside your mind. And then you tore apart the Kalenford of Corcheck, so you could create your stupid little Hell Dimension sealing device! You took absolutely everything I had and turned it to dust, Time Lord. And I will not let you get away unpunished."
"Unpunished!" cried the Doctor, indignantly. "You stepped on my hand!" He waved the hand in the air. "That hurt."
Oh, great, Doctor. Goad the villains into hurting you more! You were only supposed to do that when you knew they couldn't, but it seemed he was falling back on old habits.
Carmen flew at the Doctor, and Buffy heard a loud crack of bones and a scream (he never screamed, not when he was himself, and oh, that was a sound Buffy never wanted to hear). Buffy got to her feet, and ran towards Carmen, but Carmen held out a hand and Buffy found herself running straight into an energy field.
"You think that's the worst I can do?" Carmen asked. "By the time I'm through with you, you will beg me to kill you. You will grovel at my feet, pleading for mercy, even though you know I'll show you none."
"So… same plan as before, then?" the Doctor asked.
Carmen blasted him with purple energy, and he doubled up, falling to his knees in front of her. She surveyed him, a small smile of satisfaction on her face, then grabbed him by his hair and twisted his face up to look at her.
"You think I'm so small, when I've reduced you to this?" she asked. "You dare to call me insignificant when I've turned the Destroyer of Worlds into a poor, lost little boy?"
She kicked him, viciously, in his ribs, and he fell to the ground.
"You know," said Buffy, "maybe if you want people to take you seriously, you should invest in some clothes." Then she lifted the crossbow she'd taken out of her bag of weapons. "Or, on the other hand, I could just kill you." She fired a shot at Carmen.
Carmen glanced back at Buffy, her hand flying up, and the arrow burst into flames in midair, and disintegrated before it reached her.
"You can't kill me," said Carmen. "With him so frightened and scared, so full of childish optimism and faith in the basic goodness of all creatures? You kill me, you become a murderer in his eyes. He'll hate you forever."
"At least he'll be alive," Buffy said, as she dropped the crossbow and charged forwards, managing to force her way through the magical energy thing, then running towards Carmen.
Carmen flicked a finger at Buffy, and Buffy found herself frozen, unable to move a muscle. Carmen advanced towards her, icy eyes leveled at her.
"Silly, stupid little girl," she said. "Going up against someone like me?" She extended a hand, and her nails morphed into claws. Claws that, Buffy couldn't help but note, looked spaced exactly right to produce the healed gashes she'd seen on the Doctor, last night. Carmen crept closer, placing one sharp claw against Buffy's neck. "I could kill you in a second. So very easily. And no one would be able to stop me." She leaned, so that she could glare right into Buffy's eyes. "Are you ready to die, Slayer?" she growled.
"Yep!" said the Doctor. "Absolutely. Long past, really. Go on. Kill her."
Buffy felt her heart sink at those words. Had this been a trap from the start? Had the Doctor not escaped from Carmen at all, but merely been brainwashed completely so that he was working to help her?
Carmen didn't move.
"Come on!" cried the Doctor. "What are you waiting for? Slash her to pieces! Emit your psionics! Do whatever other unpleasant things you had planned!"
Carmen took her claw away from Buffy's throat, then rushed towards the Doctor, pulling him up by his tie. "What have you done to me?" she shouted.
"Ah, well, see, you were so busy trying to plant suggestions in my mind," said the Doctor, "you forgot that I could plant a few in yours. Used your own trick against you. What? Don't tell me you hadn't noticed." His eyes twinkled. "Fairly certain that the first time I entered your Hell Dimension, you were fairly keen on wanting to kill me. By the end, you weren't just convinced that you shouldn't, you were prepared to allow me to keep parts of my mind intact."
Carmen seethed at him.
"And every time you went into my mind," the Doctor continued, "you kept reinforcing that one command. That one suggestion. That I should love you, trust you. So, well, I gave you one of my own." He flicked his eyes over to Buffy. "Looks like I did a pretty good job, don't you think?"
"But… you were scared of me," said Buffy. "You thought I was a killer."
"You're still a person," said the Doctor, with a half-shrug. "You deserve to live."
Carmen growled at the Doctor. Then, in one swift motion, she grabbed him by the ankle, so he was hanging upside down from her hand. Then she snapped it, the bone cracking beneath her hands as the Doctor screamed, and writhed in pain.
"Every second you're alive, you give me another reason to despise you," Carmen told him. "Fine. So you've made it so that I cannot hurt your precious Slayer. But it comes at a price."
"Me," the Doctor whimpered.
"Oh, yes," said Carmen, swiping a claw across his cheek. The blood gushed out, reddish-orange and shimmering in the fading light of day. "If you'd let me kill her, perhaps you'd have gotten off a little easier. What do you think about that?"
He looked scared. Honestly scared. Not quite as scared as he'd looked when he'd seen Buffy kill that vampire, but… the sight of other people being hurt was always worse for him than the prospect of being hurt himself.
"I cannot hurt the Earth. I cannot hurt the souls once imprisoned in my domain. I cannot even hurt the Slayer. The only one left for me to hurt is you, Time Lord. And you have lifetimes of pain still in you."
She let him go, so that he crashed to the ground, his head colliding with a sharp rock. Blood gushed from the wound, and the Doctor curled up into a ball, holding the wound with his good hand, his whole body shaking.
Buffy tried to surge forwards, but she was still stuck in place, unable to get to the Doctor, or even to any of her weapons.
Carmen knelt down by him, taking his chin in her hand, and forcing him to look at her. "Do I frighten you?"
Carmen nodded in approval. "As I should." She gave him a cold smile. "What are you?"
She slapped him, her claws swiping at his ear. "Wrong answer! What are you to me?"
"Good boy," said Carmen. "You're a fast learner."
He trembled beneath her touch.
"Look on me, Doctor. I ask you. Is there really a spark of good in everyone? Or are all creatures evil, on the inside, trying to hide their own darkness under that dreadful mask of goodness?"
The Doctor didn't answer, and Carmen clutched his face a little tighter, her claws digging into his skin. He hissed.
"Answer me!" Carmen demanded. "Is the world really that good a place, or is it already Hell?"
And that was when Buffy realized something. Something she still had in her pocket. She slipped it out, and tried to hide it in her hands. The little contraption the Doctor had given her, earlier. With a great big button on it.
She just had to get Carmen away from the Doctor.
Good thing Carmen had a massive inferiority complex.
"Hey, Carmen!" Buffy shouted. "You know, I beat up worse monsters than you before breakfast."
Carmen snapped her head around to glare at Buffy. But, instead of rushing over to attack Buffy, the way that Buffy expected, Carmen went around to the other side of the Doctor, so that Buffy had a perfect view of what she was doing. She raised a hand that sparked with purple energy, then placed it onto the Doctor's back.
The purple energy seemed to burn through him, like electricity, and he shrieked, twitching sporadically.
When Carmen eventually did release her hand from his back, she looked over at Buffy.
"Who are you to tell me I'm nothing," she said, "when I can do that?"
It was probably good for Carmen that Buffy couldn't reach her weapons, or skanky demon boob lady would be experiencing major decapitation right now.
"Please," came the Doctor's voice, so small and scared that he sounded like a little kid. "Please, stop."
Carmen ran a hand through his hair. "Look at him. So very frightened. So scared. All because of me."
Buffy summoned up all her courage, hoping this bluff would work. Then, she laughed.
Carmen grabbed the Doctor's hair at the sound of Buffy's laughter, and he whimpered. She scowled at Buffy.
"Scared of you?" asked Buffy. "Don't make me laugh. You're not the one he's pleading at, Carmen. You're not the one he's scared of." She forced a smile onto her lips. "I am."
Carmen's face went dark. "What do you mean?"
"Oh, look at him!" said Buffy. "Every time he thinks I'm angry enough that I'm going to kill you, that's when he gets really freaked out. You think he's pleading for his life? Ha! He's pleading for yours. And you're too big a moron to notice."
Carmen released her hold on the Doctor's hair. She snapped her eyes down to him. "Is this true?"
The Doctor didn't answer her.
Carmen straightened, then kicked him in the head.
"You're the one who's nothing, Carmen!" Buffy shouted. "Even Spike's more threatening than you, and he can't kill anything! The only reason you're beating up the Doctor is because you know you couldn't take me in a fair fight."
Carmen's eyes blazed, and she finally, finally left the Doctor's side, marching over to Buffy. Buffy whipped out the device in her hand, pointed it at Carmen, and pressed the button in the middle. Carmen was engulfed in a swirling white light, and screamed, as she disappeared into the air.
As soon as Carmen vanished, the spell released, and Buffy found that she could move again. She ran over to the Doctor. He looked like he was in bad shape. No, he looked like he was in terrible shape. His ankle was broken, his left arm and hand were broken, he was completely bloody and bruised and scraped, and he looked like he was barely conscious.
"You… didn't kill her," said the Doctor.
"I guess not," said Buffy. "I just hit the little buttony thing on that device you gave me."
"You said you would kill her. You said…" He frowned. "Why did you let her live?"
"Because…" She faltered. She wasn't really sure what to say. Because she'd caused him so much pain and misery last time she'd killed something, and she didn't want to go through that with him, again? Because she was scared he'd never get his memories back, and she couldn't stand the idea of him hating her forever? Because it happened to be close at hand, and if the closest thing at hand had been something lethal, she probably would have used that, instead.
"She was still a person," Buffy said. "She deserved to live."
It was the last thing the Doctor heard, before he fell unconscious.
By the time that Buffy arrived at Giles', she found Xander already there. He had, apparently, just gotten back from the magic shop, and had gotten a variety of items that they'd need to destroy the Facksisil of Balime.
Xander, Willow, and Giles all turned and stared as Buffy walked through the room, the Doctor in her arms. Willow looked shocked, concerned. Giles and Xander looked like neither one really knew what to think.
Willow ran over. "What happened?"
She picked up one of his hands, to check the Doctor's pulse, but he groaned in pain as she touched him.
"Not that one!" said Buffy. "It's broken. Just… get me a pillow. Or a blanket. Or… okay, just get me stuff to make him comfortable."
Buffy moved slowly and carefully, positioning the Doctor on the floor in front of the couch, as Willow ran off to get some comfy-things.
Giles took off his glasses, as he and Xander came nearer.
"Good lord," said Giles. "What happened?"
"He brought constitutional democracy to a Hell Dimension, and then locked that Hell Dimension out of the world," said Buffy. "Carmen escaped, found him, and… wanted revenge. And she had serious self-esteem issues."
"Sorry, just… he brought what to a Hell Dimension?" Giles asked.
"How come we don't ever bring constitutional democracy to stuff?" Willow asked, as she reentered the room with blankets and pillows. "That sounds cool."
Buffy took one of the pillows from Willow, and tucked it behind the Doctor's head. She looked at his unconscious face. "I thought it was the most him thing I could imagine," she said. "Until I found out what he'd done to Carmen."
Willow made a 'go on' gesture at Buffy.
"She tried to brainwash him," said Buffy. "But he turned her own trick against her. Brainwashed her… so that she couldn't kill me." She sagged. "That's why he's like this. She… couldn't hurt me. So she hurt him."
For a few seconds, no one said anything, digesting this new information. Giles dropped down onto the couch, staring at the Doctor, trying to understand. Giles' face looked as if he were completely dumbfounded, as if he'd nearly solved a puzzle, then realized that half the pieces had been upside down the entire time.
"Okay, Willow mentioned that he didn't remember anything," said Xander. "Not even you."
"He thought I was out to kill him," Buffy said.
"So… why did he save your life?" Xander asked.
Buffy gave a soft laugh. "Because he's the Doctor," she said. "Underneath the memories, the guilt, the sorrow, the self-loathing, this is what he is. An incredibly curious, insanely optimistic, anti-authoritarian troublemaker, who's willing to lay down his own life for a stranger's."
And who liked licking things. A lot.
"I think, perhaps, I might have been a little harsh on him, earlier," Giles said.
"Okay, okay," said Xander. "So he gets kudos on the whole getting beat up instead of other people thing. But… you got to admit, he's still kind of a jerk, sometimes."
Giles considered, but said nothing.
Willow checked the clock on the wall. "Hey, guys, if we want to get rid of this demon thing inside his head, we better do it now."
"Will that give him back his memories?" asked Buffy.
"No," said Willow. "I'm still working on that part. But this spell's still pretty cool. We ask Hecate to bring forth the demon from the Doctor's head, and then banish it into the Howling."
Buffy nodded. She looked back over at the unconscious Doctor, worry shining in her eyes.
"I hate to be Mr. Point-Out-The-Obvious, but… if he's got all these broken things, shouldn't we be taking him to the hospital?" asked Xander.
"Xander," said Willow. "Alien, remember?"
Xander frowned, and everyone could see the moment when he worked out exactly why an alien in a hospital would be a bad idea. "Oh."
"The bones should heal pretty fast on their own," said Buffy. "I'm just worried about his head. I mean… do you think you'll be able to fix all the damage? Even if we get the memories back, there's probably a whole bunch of other stuff wrong with him."
"I'll try my best," Willow offered.
"Oh, guys, I think he's waking up!" Willow called, from her spot on the floor.
Buffy ran over to the Doctor, and Willow got up to make room for her. Buffy knelt on the floor beside him, meeting his brown eyes with her own. He looked a little groggy, pretty pain-filled, and still memory-less, but other than that, he seemed generally okay. Buffy took his good hand in hers.
"Hey, you," said Buffy, with a smile.
The Doctor tried to sit up, groaned in pain, then resigned himself to lying down. He seemed thoughtful, for a moment. "Something's different. In my head."
"Yeah, we got the monster out," said Willow.
Buffy tensed, a little. Willow knew as well as Buffy what the Doctor would, inevitably, ask next —whether or not they had killed the monster. But — for once in his life — the Doctor let it go, and just nodded.
Then his eyes flicked over to Willow. "Wait a tic," he said. "I know you."
"Yeah, we met earlier," said Willow. "I was hoping to reunite you with Buffy, but I guess you did that yourself."
Willow braced herself, waiting for the moment when the Doctor said something about her relationship with Tara that she couldn't deny. But the Doctor examined her with keen eyes, taking in her unease and worry, and seemed to pick up on everything all at once. He gave her a little wink, then looked back at Buffy.
"Thank you," he said.
"You're not mad at me, right?" Buffy asked. "You don't think I'm evil or some super-non-human-killer or anything?"
The Doctor considered this a moment, then beamed. "Nah, course not!" he said. "Brilliant, that's what you are. If you weren't, Carmen wouldn't have been so insistent that I believe you were evil. Although, I still don't like it when you kill living sentient creatures. And I very much object to you calling yourself 'Slayer'."
"I don't call myself that," said Buffy. "That's what people like Carmen call me. I call myself Buffy."
"And it wouldn't hurt to have someone nearby who could stop you, every so often," the Doctor told her. "And stopping you is terribly fun." He gave a mischievous grin.
"Boyfriend," Buffy reminded him.
The Doctor made a face. "You humans have too many rules!"
Buffy laughed and hugged him, careful to avoid broken bones.
The Doctor hugged her back, with his good arm. "For someone who is supposedly not even remotely in love with me, we hug rather a lot."
"I'm okay with that," said Buffy. Although she did pull away when she seemed to realize that they were hugging lying down, and she was half-sprawled on top of him — a slightly more intimate position than she'd intended, it seemed. "Is there anything we can get you for… you know. Pain and stuff?"
"Not sure," said the Doctor. Then he looked at her, with that same intensity that he'd looked at Willow, when he'd told her she was 'wibbly'. His eyes almost crossing, his brow bent. Then he grinned. "You know, you have one of the most truly beautiful timelines I've ever seen. Absolutely stunning!"
"Is that a Time Lord pickup line?" Xander asked Willow.
"I don't know," said Willow. "He told me I was wibbly."
"Ah, yes, you are!" said the Doctor to Willow, overhearing her and Xander. He turned back to Buffy. "But yours… oh, that's brilliant!" He waved a hand in front of his face, closing first one eye, then the other, looking past his hand at Buffy. He laughed at what he saw. "Sort of loopy and vibrant and — well, absolutely gorgeous." His smile faltered, as he noticed the blush on Buffy's face. He dropped his hand. "Ah. This is one of those boyfriend only things, again, isn't it?"
"I've always said Riley didn't compliment Buffy on her timeline nearly enough," Xander put in.
"Yeah, Buffy, you should have a talk with him," Willow agreed.
The Doctor's eyes widened, and he looked at Buffy, clearly nervous that he'd made her angry. It was sort of sweet, Willow thought, that he was so worried about making her angry.
And Willow didn't think that was brain damage.
"It's okay," Buffy told him. "Humans don't see all the time stuff. Willow and Xander are just playing around. I'm not going to get all angry-Buffy about stuff I don't understand."
The Doctor craned his neck over, trying to see Xander. "Ah, and you must be Xander!" he said. Buffy gave the Doctor a hand up, and he managed to get into a sitting upright position. He turned to face Xander. "Pleasure to meet you! Well, I say meet you, only you probably already know me, so I suppose it's not as much a surprise for you as it is for me. Although… you don't seem terribly fond of me."
Another point to the Doctor.
Willow was starting to think that, memories aside, the Doctor's brain was working just fine.
Xander opened his mouth to speak, then seemed to realize he didn't have a good answer to this, so closed it again.
"Don't worry about Xander," said Willow. "He never likes any of the guys Buffy gets really close to."
The Doctor nodded, his eyes sparkling as the gears in his head started working the situation out. "Still a wee bit in love with her, then?"
"I'm going to go… somewhere else," said Xander. "Until brainiac gets over his psychic whatever thing."
Xander turned, and walked out of Giles' living room.
The Doctor stared at where Xander had just been. Then he looked over at Buffy. "I think I'm a bit rude," he said.
"Yes, well, so long as you don't continue with your… oral fixation, I believe the rudeness is something we might be able to live with," said Giles, walking over to sit on the couch.
The Doctor regarded Giles, curiously. "You sound like me," he noted. Then he said something that was absolutely not English, and not translated by the TARDIS. A beautiful, musical language that seemed to dance across every syllable.
Giles blinked at him, still remaining stoically British despite his unease.
"Or not," the Doctor amended, noticing the confused faces surrounding him.
"What was that?" asked Buffy.
"Exchange of formal apologies," the Doctor replied. "According to the rules of the Prydonian Chapter." He frowned. "Blimey, they must have hardwired that bit in quite strongly. Really shouldn't be able to remember that."
"And what, precisely, is the Prydonian Chapter?" asked Giles.
"Not a clue," said the Doctor. "But if I ever meet the second chapter head's third cousin twice removed, I know exactly how to plead my regret for arriving late to the annual Winter Festival." He faltered. "Not that I ever will, I suppose. Alone and all that."
Buffy got a terribly sad look in her eyes. "Formal apologies?"
"Yes," said the Doctor. "Quite long, most of them. And I seem to know really quite a large number." He puzzled over it. "Although, I didn't remember any of that until Carmen began…" He glanced down at his broken arm. "Sensory trigger, I suppose."
Oh. Now Willow knew why Buffy was so upset about the apology thing. Because if this was something from his childhood — well, that said something about the way he'd been brought up. And his childhood didn't sound as nice as any of them had thought. Giles, in particular, seemed mildly horrified, although he was trying to be too British to show it.
"I'm sorry," said Buffy.
"Well, don't remember any specifics, at any rate," said the Doctor. "Just… some rules. Which are rubbish. I did tell you that rules are rubbish, didn't I? You should remember that. I'm sure it's terribly important." He turned to Giles. "Sorry, never got your name."
"It's Giles," said Giles, extending a hand to shake. "Rupert Giles." Giles then realized that the Doctor didn't know what to do with the extended hand, and also didn't have a good hand to shake with. He dropped his hand.
"I'm the Doctor," said the Doctor, raising a hand in imitation of the gesture. "Terribly nice to meet you. Even if you aren't from wherever I'm from, and even if you aren't even a terribly attractive female person, which I seem to be meeting rather a lot of, recently. Although, to be fair, the last terribly attractive female person I met did try to kill me."
"Yes, yes, I'm rather sorry about that," said Giles. "We do get rather a lot of nasty sorts of demons around this area. Hellmouth and all that." He hesitated. "Is there anything I could do to make you more comfortable? I have tea."
The Doctor considered this, as if pondering whether or not he might like it.
"I like ice cream," the Doctor offered. Then he looked over at Buffy, worried. "Unless… Slayers don't like ice cream, do they?"
Buffy gave him a look like he was insane. "Huh?"
"Well, no, it's fine, just, well, ice cream is rather brilliant, and I thought, but if you don't…" The Doctor looked very much like he wanted to run away, but the many broken things were preventing him from doing so.
"I like ice cream," Buffy said.
"You do?" asked the Doctor. "That's brilliant!"
"I'm afraid I don't have iced cream at the moment," Giles informed them. "But… would there be anything else you'd like?"
"Tea's good," Buffy answered for the Doctor. "And bananas. And basically anything sweet you have in the house. Oh, but no pears. He doesn't like pears."
The Doctor looked over at Buffy, a small smile sliding across his lips. And Willow could see — this wasn't just a crazy mental illness, or some alien biological urge of his. He actually was attracted to Buffy. In exactly the same way she was attracted to him.
Because he might not remember Buffy. But he'd worked her out right away. He'd seen that little spark inside of her. And with no emotional baggage or traumatic childhood experiences or memories of the complete destruction of his planet making him morose and isolated, he seemed interested in taking the relationship further than just 'hugging'.
Willow was pretty sure she could get his memories back for him.
She just wasn't sure if she should.
A few hours later, Willow took Buffy aside into Giles' courtyard to have a private talk. A long overdue private talk.
"So," said Buffy. "Can you get the memories back?"
Willow fidgeted. She wasn't really sure how to say this, and it had taken her a while to get up the courage.
"I… think I can," she told Buffy. "I just don't think I should."
Buffy stared at her. "What?"
"Buffy, look at him!" said Willow. "He's happy. I mean, really happy! I've never seen him this happy before. You've never seen him this happy before. And if that little snippet earlier was anything to go by, he wasn't even this happy when he was a kid. He's had sort of a terrible life so far. We can give him a better one."
Buffy glanced over her shoulder, at the closed door to Giles' house. "In Sunnydale? With demons and Hellmouths and stuff?"
"With you," Willow said.
Buffy snapped her eyes back to Willow. "What?"
"Buffy," said Willow, calmly, "he's in love with you."
"He doesn't even know who I—"
"He knows enough," said Willow. "He's not brain-damaged. Even if he doesn't have his memories, he's just as smart as he was before. I mean, look at the way he acts around you. He's scared to death he's going to make you mad. When you're happy, it makes him happy. He's finally attracted to you in the same way you're attracted to him. You can be together."
Buffy shook her head. "Riley," she reminded Willow.
Willow gave Buffy a pointed look, hands on her hips. "Buffy, I know as well as you who you'd really rather be hooking up with."
Buffy got a far off look in her eyes. As if she were considering. "I can't do that to him, though," she decided. "He's all blank-slate, yeah, but… that's not just bad stuff wiped away. It's good stuff, too."
"Whenever the Doctor comes around," said Willow, "he acts all chirpy and happy and energetic, but… you know as well as I do that he's only like that because, if he let it all out, he'd completely fall apart. The good stuff can't make up for that." Willow shrugged. "And besides. If he doesn't have his memories, he won't remember how to fly the TARDIS. He'd have to stick around. And I know you'd want that."
Buffy said nothing.
"This might be the best thing that ever happened to him," Willow said. "He's been living in his own personal hell and sea of self-loathing guiltiness. Now he can finally get something back. Have a happy life."
Buffy's shoulders slumped, and she gave a small sigh. "It wouldn't work," she said. "He has to fly off in time and space and save the universe. I can't stop that, or the universe will fall apart."
"He's got a time machine," said Willow, "and he can live forever, barring accidents. You can have a long life with him, and still give him back his memories at the end. Then he can go back to saving the universe. And you can be with the guy you really like."
Buffy said nothing.
"It's up to you," said Willow.
Buffy slumped into one of the outdoor chairs, just staring down through the grating of the wire-mesh table, her head resting in her hand. She seemed to be thinking it over, thinking over every single implication of this, what it would mean, what she'd be taking away.
What she'd be giving him.
A life where rules weren't punished with injuries and broken things. A life where people loved him and helped him, and wanted him around. A life where he didn't have to be lonely and abandoned all the time, where he could be surrounded by friends. A life where he could be heroic and save the world, but still be nursed back to health afterwards. A life with Buffy, both of them loving one another in the way she'd always wanted.
"Cages don't always look like cages," she whispered.
"Huh?" asked Willow.
Buffy looked up at Willow. "That's one of the things he's most afraid of," she said. "Being caged. And there are so many people who want to. So many people who would give anything for him to be sealed away, confined, kept in an eternal prison. I'd be just like the Watcher's Council."
Willow just blinked at Buffy.
"That's why they spread all those rumors about the Doctor being bad," Buffy explained. "So they could force him to work for them, free of charge, locked away forever in their basement, never able to see the sun or feel the wind in his hair. If I keep him like this, how am I any different from Quentin Travers?"
"Well, you'd let the Doctor see the sun!" said Willow. "You wouldn't be taking away his freedom or anything!"
"Travelling through time, helping other people, defending worlds — not just our world, but all those other worlds out there," said Buffy. She looked up at the night sky. "Billions and billions of them. That's what freedom is for him." She glanced back at Willow. "If I take that away, I'm just another person who wants to cage him."
"But you're not trapping him here on Earth," said Willow. "You're just…" she trailed off, as she realized that denying the Doctor knowledge of how to use his TARDIS sort of was trapping him here on Earth. "Oh."
Willow nodded, slowly. "So… you think we should go through with it?"
"Yeah," said Buffy. "I do."
Willow sat down, opposite Buffy. "Here's how this is going to work," said Willow. "900 years of memories — that's a lot. They didn't go away from him all at once, and they're not going to return to him all at once. When they were draining from him, he was too busy building walls around the monster thing in his head to really notice anything. But when he gets them back — he's going to be living through all his worst moments again. Whatever happened to him when he was a kid, every friend he ever lost — even the entire destruction of his planet. He's going to get all that back, with no mental shields around any of it, nothing to keep the memories from tormenting him."
Buffy's head drooped. "I'm starting to get why you thought this was a sucky idea."
"He'll get the memories all back in order, eventually," said Willow. "But… when it first happens, it's going to be a lot of raw, bitter pain, and not a whole lot of happy memories to counter that."
"That's the only way to do it?" asked Buffy.
"Even if there was a way to give him his memories back all at once, I wouldn't," said Willow. "It'd either kill him, or drive him completely insane. This is best."
Buffy nodded. "I'll stay with him," she said. "I mean, it's not much, but… it'll help, right?"
"Yeah," said Willow. She hesitated. "Are you really sure about this?"
Buffy didn't meet Willow's eyes. "I'm sure."
Buffy stayed with the Doctor at Giles', that night, as his memories started coming back. She felt it was the best thing she could do for him — just give him a hand to hold, someone to lean on and be with, as all the worst stuff came back to him. Giles had long since gone to bed, and Buffy would have moved the Doctor to her dorm room — except that with Riley and the commandoes tracking down nonhuman life forms, Buffy decided it was better to keep the Doctor as far away from campus as possible.
"So you are Buffy the Vampire Slayer," said the Doctor. "Which implies that you hunt rather a lot of vampires. All the time."
"Yeah," said Buffy. "I mean, usually. Except when you come, and are annoying about it."
"There has to be a better way," the Doctor said. "They are sentient. There has to be some way we could reason with them."
"They're vampires!" Buffy insisted. "They're evil. They've got no conscience. When faced with a moral dilemma, they're always going to choose the morally wrong option."
"Do you offer to let them go, if they promise to stop doing evil things?" asked the Doctor.
"No," said Buffy. "And even if they promised, I wouldn't believe them. They'd just lie to me."
"But maybe they wouldn't."
"You're always like this!" said Buffy. "Every single time! Stealing my stakes before I can use them. Goading the vampires into drinking your poisoned blood. You don't remember, but there are so many times that I've had to save your neck, because you insisted on giving those vampires a choice!"
"Well, you told me to," said the Doctor, a little offended.
Buffy blinked. "Wait, what?"
"I remember," said the Doctor. "You told me not to kill them. Vampires, I mean. I had to give them a chance. You told me I had to do whatever it took to make sure that they got that chance they deserved."
"No, that wasn't me," said Buffy. She knew exactly what he was remembering, now. "That was Elizabeth. From the other timeline. She was the one who wanted you to give vampires a chance. I never did."
The Doctor mulled this over in his head. "Nah," he said. "It was you. This you. I'm sure. You said I had to remember Spike, what he did when…" He trailed off.
"Wait, wait," said Buffy. "Spike? That's your example of evil vampire turned good? Spike? Just because he can't bite anyone doesn't mean…" She trailed off, as she noticed the look on the Doctor's face.
It was a look of horror, a growing look of utter misery and pain, that seemed to swallow up any lightness or happiness left in him. That terrible, lonely sadness sprung back into his eyes — and, as Buffy squeezed his good hand a little tighter, she recognized the way he watched her. The same way he always watched her, that same desperate sadness that seemed to grow so much deeper when his eyes met her own.
And she knew.
He'd just remembered her dying.
The Doctor clutched her hand a little bit tighter, but the conversation was over. Silence reigned in the walls of Giles' house, and neither of them were going to break it.
And as seconds turned to minutes turned to hours, Buffy watched as, one by one, every memory of loss and devastation flooded over the Doctor, as, bit by bit, all that happy optimism drained away from him. She watched as he relived so many deaths, as he relived every memory of war and bloodshed, as he began to scream and didn't stop until his throat was raw and his voice was gone. Watched as he wept until there were no more tears to shed, watched as that bitter self-loathing crawled back inside his chest and nestled between his hearts. Buffy held his hand, hugged him, told him it was okay. But she wasn't sure he could hear her, feel her, or even knew that she was there. And as the night passed, Buffy kept telling herself she was fixing him.
As she watched him break apart.