The girls were staring at him again. The Doctor felt a frisson of dread. “What? Have I got something on my face?”
“Nothing other than your normal sunny looks,” chimed Buffy. “We need to go shopping.”
“For what? The TARDIS kitchen has been acting sublimely of late. I had a fantastic steak tartar the other day, admittedly, it was an odd choice for breakfast, but it was delightful all the same.” They were advancing on him, and he quelled the instinct to run.
Martha replied. “Buffy really needs to buy some clothes.”
The Doctor glanced at Buffy. “What do you mean? She looks, um, lovely.”
“I’ve been wearing the coveralls we got on the Tau Ceti space station for three days now.” It was true. They were bright green and she’d rolled the sleeves and legs up considerably. She looked like a Technicolor Dickensian moppet. But what was wrong with that?
“Well, haven’t you explored the wardrobe yet? I thought you two spent hours up there last week.”
Martha sighed. “We did. It’s either period clothes-“
Buffy interrupted, “And might I add, we really need to get Martha to Louis XVI sometime because she seriously hotties up those gowns.”
Martha blushed and finished, “- or Rose’s old things, and she was a half foot taller than Buffy.”
The Doctor faltered. “Yes, she was.” He turned away from them, back to the controls. “So, I don’t suppose any of that would do?”
Martha looked like she was about to die of either embarrassment or envy, so Buffy cut in, “I mean, they’re nice, but it would be nice to have, y’know, my own things. Something of my own, here.” She sighed. “And you wouldn’t want me running around in Rose’s clothes anyway.”
Pressing his arms against the console, the Doctor muttered, “Yes, you’re right.” Then his demeanor altered and he twirled around. “So, where would you like to go shopping? There’s a couple of fashion planets in the thirty-fifth century that could do wonders for you, if you’d like.”
Buffy had gotten used to these mood swings and took it in stride. “Twenty-first century Earth is fine, Doctor.”
“We were thinking we could maybe go to L.A., seeing as I’ve never been there and it’s where she knows the shops.” Martha had recovered finally and joined them at the controls.
The Doctor grimaced. “Oh, this is going to be expensive.”
Martha smirked. “Like you care about money. Wait till you see what he does to cash points.” Buffy tilted her head at her. “Money machines?”
“Oh, the ATM?” Buffy nodded. “Lemme guess?” She pantomimed the Doctor pointing the sonic screwdriver at an ATM in a heroic pose, “I am the Lord of Time, Thief of ATMs, Denier of Fiscal Responsibility, and you will give cash to me!”
Even the Doctor couldn’t help but chuckle. “Har, har. You make fun, but it’s only to fund your shopping extravaganza on Rodeo Drive. Or we could get jobs?”
Martha and Buffy made simultaneous faces. “Never again. I’m never forgiving those angels for forcing me to work in a chip shop,” avowed Martha. “I think I only just got the grease out of my hair yesterday.” She felt a strand and frowned. “Nope, still there.” Buffy set a companionable arm around her shoulders, while the Doctor finished setting the coordinates.
“Here we go then. Los Angeles, California, 2007.”
“Oh, this is exciting. Sunshine, Hollywood, movie stars, I can’t wait.”
“Martha, I’ve taken you across galaxies, you’ve met Shakespeare and beaten the Daleks and you’re getting this excited about Hollywood?” The Doctor shook his head. “I’ll never figure you humans out.” He lifted one last lever and the TARDIS swung to the side.
“Got something against California, Doctor?” Buffy seemed to be taking a slight personal affront.
“Well, the last time I was there, I got shot. Had to regenerate. Got amnesia. Kept having amnesia till I regenerated again. It was a whole twisted cycle.”
“Yeah. But don’t worry, that was San Francisco. I’m sure L.A. will treat me just fine, what with a local guide and all.” The Doctor grinned, and it was business as usual. Buffy excused herself to go find an outfit that would get her service at a respectable Los Angeles clothing shop, and Martha sidled up to the Doctor.
“There’s something you’re not telling her. Out with it.”
“Oh, it’s nothing important. Just did some checking up on her.”
“Well, Sunnydale, California, in our dimension, happens to be the site of a rift in time and space.”
“Sounds like she’d be right at home.”
“Oh, she would be. She lived there.” The Doctor coughed. “The Buffy from this dimension.”
Martha’s eyes went wide. “So, she’s here?”
“Yeah. Not in Los Angeles, but in New York now. She’s married. Buffy Summers-Grey. She does some sort of work in fashion. Was commended for her efforts in defending her office during the Cyberman invasion last year.”
“That’s our Buffy. And her Mom?”
“Dead. Embolism, same as in Buffy’s world.”
Martha gulped. “Oh my. And her sister?”
“She was an only child. No dimension-breaking energy source to latch onto her here.”
“Oh. Are you going to tell her?”
The Doctor shook his head. “Only if she asks. I’m not sure she wants to know.”
Martha bit her lip. “Yeah, you may have a point there.” Buffy still stared off into space a lot, when she thought Martha and the Doctor weren’t looking. Martha didn’t know exactly what it was she was thinking of, but she suspected the Doctor had a better idea. Sometimes Buffy and he would share glances, or just one or two words, which Martha knew not to be jealous of. But they did seem to understand each other in a way that sometimes made Martha keenly aware that she was the only “normal” human in the room.
“Is that my shirt?!” Whether it was all shock or partially fury in the Doctor’s voice, Martha couldn’t tell.
“Why yes, yes they are.” Buffy had found a 1970s black mini-skirt that wouldn’t draw too much attention and paired it with one of the Doctor’s blue oxford shirts, which was opened to the third button revealing one of the Doctor’s undershirts, and had rolled the sleeves up to her elbow with open cuffs. “And they’re kind of tight too, skinny man. But I like the cotton-silk blend. This is nice.”
“I think she looks better in it than you do, Doctor.”
The Doctor shook his head and shut his jaw. “I am never traveling with two women ever again. And that shirt’s going to be returned too.” He frowned. “I like that one. Let’s get on with this then.” He grabbed his jacket, but Buffy grabbed his wrist. “What now?
“What month is it?”
“I dunno. June, July?”
“This is Southern California, not London. You don’t need the jacket, trust me.”
He looked down at his own shirt and whimpered. “But, um, we match?”
Martha smiled. “It’s cute. Really.”
Buffy continued, “And do Time Lords burn, because some SPF 30 is never a bad idea with fair skin like yours-“
The Doctor grabbed his hand back from Buffy, briefly made a fist with it, then pointed at Martha and Buffy in turn: “Okay. No jacket. Cute matching shirts. But no more sunscreen talk.” He headed towards the doors. “And if you offer to give me a makeover I’m stranding you on the next swamp planet we find. That goes for both of you, Martha.” He opened the TARDIS doors and was immediately grateful for Buffy’s advice, as it was at least ninety degrees out, and bright. He patted his chest, returned to the TARDIS, and retrieved a pair of sunglasses, the sonic screwdriver, and the psychic paper from his jacket, before returning outside where the girls were.
“Now. Where are we headed first, oh fearless leader?”
Buffy smiled up at him, then took Martha’s arm and started walking off. “ATM first, then Victoria’s Secret.”
Martha called back, “C’mon, Doctor!”
“Oh, God help me.” And he ran up to squire them off. The day went well, although Buffy burned through the money at an alarming rate. They kicked him out of Victoria’s Secret after he asked how many bras a woman really needed. He did better at the department stores, and the girls actually deigned to ask him an opinion of a few outfits. Martha picked up a few things as well under Buffy’s discerning eye. Shoes were an interminable task, but Buffy pointed out to him that spike heels gave her an extra edge in a kicking match, which he had to allow for. While Buffy was picking out make up, they ate gelato on the sidewalk and she quizzed him on celebrities who were aliens.
“Oh yes. Fienskari. Which explains why her legs are so gorgeous, Fienskari in their natural forms are rather similar to herons. Lovely race, really, and well-known as minstrels throughout the universe.”
From down the street there was a shriek, and a crash. A large, gooey blue ball rolled down the street, then unfolded, and the alien tossed a manhole cover aside and crawled down. Buffy emerged from the store, herself the center of a ball of bags. “Alien?”
The Doctor licked his spoon. “Yup. Looked like a Ragashian. Or maybe a Nutu. Hard to tell the difference. Hope it’s a Nutu. Ragashians can be nasty buggers.” Martha nodded in agreement.
“Down in the sewer?”
Martha wiped her face. “Yeah, your favorite.”
Frowning, the Doctor looked up at Buffy and asked, “What is it with you and sewers, and tunnels, and caverns? Ever since you showed up that’s all we see any more.”
Buffy frowned and whined. “It’s how my life works. Do I have time to take this stuff back to the TARDIS?”
Martha volunteered. “Probably not. Hand them over, you and him go in.”
Buffy hesitated, “Martha, you’re not our Kato or anything.”
“Nah, I just don’t feel terribly inclined to see another sewer. And if it’s a Ragashian, I’m not much one for reconstructive surgery either. I’ll take the bags and check out Mann’s Chinese Theater. You two have fun though, with the sewer.” With a peck to Buffy’s cheek, she took the bags and headed back towards the TARDIS, leaving the pair to stare off after her.
“She’s much brighter than I am, isn’t she?”
“That’s why you’re the one who’s going to be taking my shirt to the dry cleaners after you slog through another sewer in it.” He took her hand. “But she’s going to see movie stars, and you’re going to see a new, interesting, and very blue alien.”
“And the difference is?”
“Movie stars are usually less blue and not in the sewers.” They grinned at each other. “Come on then.” She hopped first down through the manhole, then held back to wait for him to lead through the pipes. Every once in awhile she would correct him at an intersection, asserting her superior tracking abilities. She moved differently, he noticed, slinking and crouching rather than bouncing along the path. Hunting.
She let him take the lead, in negotiations. The alien, a Ragashian fugitive, claimed that he’d simply been surprised while out of disguise and fled when the woman screamed. But when the creature lunged for the Doctor, and nearly knocked him out against the pipe, Buffy was there. The Doctor had seen Ragashians pull steel bulkheads apart, they had seven limbs all of them deadly, but Buffy simply fought like there was no other purpose in life, fought like it was all she knew.
Death, the Doctor considered, did seem to be her gift. Everything was a bit swimmy, but he watched her force the Ragashian down into the water and hold him there until he quit moving. She was very good at switching between the silly little girl and the vicious killer. She twisted its head until there was a final, sickening snap. Maybe too good. But now she was kneeling over him. “Doctor, Doctor, are you okay?”
“Fine. Just a knock on the head. I’ll be fine.”
“Doctor, you left a dent.”
He looked up at the impression of his head in the pipe wall then grinned at her. “So I did.” He noticed a trickle of blood coming from his eye. “Know I’ve got a clean hankie somewhere.” He patted his chest, but Buffy pulled a kerchief from one of his pants pockets and wiped the blood off of his face, then pressed the cloth against the cut. “Ouch, not so hard.”
“Sorry.” She squeezed his shoulder. “You’re not – we should get you checked out. Who knows what that did to that big brain of yours, Doc?”
He found her hand and held it. “Honest, Buffy, I’ll be fine. Just give me a moment, and a hand – hey, no tears.” He brushed them away from her cheeks with his finger.
“Sorry. I shouldn’t be crying. You just, when he grabbed you, you looked like a rag doll, looked like he’d cracked the life out of you.”
“Shhh. Worse comes to worse, I’ll regenerate. Which I’m not going to do right now. Hand?” Buffy obliged and helped the Doctor to his feet, then let him support himself on her. “It does smell like you’re replacing my shirt, however.”
Buffy looked down. “Oh God, it does. I’m sorry.”
He tucked her in closer. “Nothing to fear. Sewage happens. And you saved my life, I think that counts in your favor.”
Buffy leaned back into him. “Just, quit letting your guard down around these dangerous alien types. I can’t have you dying on me.”
“Buffy, it’s gonna take more than a punk thug like that to get you rid of me.” With one last squeeze, he ascended the ladder back into the sunlight, leaving Buffy to wipe the last of the tears off her face before she followed.
The Doctor followed Martha, then saw Buffy and stopped dead.
“No. No. I don’t have to and I don’t want to.”
Buffy smirked at his reaction. “Why not, Doctor? I’m sick of doing it for you.”
“There’re more important things for me to concentrate on: the fate of worlds; the nature of justice; whether John Lennon or Paul McCartney was the most important Beatle. Big stuff!”
Buffy pointed the practice blade under the Doctor’s chin. “I’ve now saved you in three sword fights. It’s time for you to learn. Now pick up your sword, and my name is Inigo Montoya.”
“Ooh, can I be the Man in Black?” Martha was a far more malleable pupil than the Doctor.
“Martha, you’re just encouraging her. I’ve survived plenty of sword fights. Honest, it doesn’t usually crop up this often. Who brings a sword to a laser fight?”
“You’re so useless with these things that it’s actually dangerous for me to have you around.” She stood down and stepped back. “Martha’s been practicing with me for a while. Give it a shot against her. Remember, Martha, that’s a scimitar, so don’t overestimate your reach.”
The Doctor managed to disarm Martha in four minutes. “Lucky shot,” she huffed.
“See? I’m not so bad.”
“You aren’t? Try me.” Buffy entered the other side of the practice ring. The Doctor winked at Martha, before attempting to sneak Buffy’s leg out from beneath her. Six seconds later, his blade clattered to the ground.
“Again.” Buffy’s smirk was gone, her hand on her hip.
“I fail to see how I’m a danger to you.” Their swords crossed again, with Buffy playing the defense to draw the Doctor in. Her banter, however, took the offensive.
“What’s a Queen’s biggest weakness in chess?”
“Overconfidence. Trying to take every other piece without paying attention to the other pieces around her.”
“No, Doctor, it’s the King. I’m the best offensive weapon around, but if they trap you, I’m useless. Can’t fly the TARDIS without you. I get sacrificed. And I’m sick of dying.” His saber flew back into the wall. “Again.” Martha retrieved the blade and handed it to him. The Doctor decided to swap positions with Buffy both in the banter and in the sparring.
“So where did you and that strapping young bloke from Betelgeuse disappear off to the other day?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?”
“Arthur and Buffy went for a picnic, Doctor.”
“I thought he was a bit dull. What did you do? Talk about ternadium mining and smelting?”
“Nah. But the sex was fantastic.” With a punch to his gut, Buffy grabbed the Doctor’s sword out of his hand. Martha had covered her face with her hands, peeking between her fingers. The Doctor was flat on his back, panting. Buffy flipped his sword over and presented the handle to him. “Again.” With a grunt, he got back up to his feet, and glared at Buffy before engaging her again.
“So how many does that make?”
Buffy grimaced. “None of your business and mind your slashes.”
“Oh, I’m minding them. Got lots of mind power, y’know. Genius. I think with the big head.”
“That sure is a big head you’ve got there, Doctor,” countered Buffy.
“I walked into that. But your track record is impressive, Casanovette.”
“Oh really? I hadn’t noticed.” He attacked her legs, which she neatly dodged to the side, smacking his butt with the flat of her sword.
“Oi!” he cried.
Buffy laughed. “What?”
“Then don’t make stupid lunges.”
He turned on her, “It wasn’t stupid, it was calculated and methodical. You’re just very small and very fast.”
Their blades locked, and they slid up close together. Buffy whispered, “It was methodically stupid. Quit projecting. You’re going to lose a hand with those horrible thrusts.”
The Doctor grinned. “Did that once already.”
Buffy broke the lock with a kick near his groin, pushing back. “And yet you haven’t learned.”
After losing his sword eight more times, though holding out for nearly ten minutes in the last bout, the Doctor’s sword clattered to the ground again, and he collapsed on all fours, panting. “That’s enough. I can’t do this anymore.”
Buffy nodded, falling to her knees beside him. “Good session. You’re not entirely beyond saving.”
“I’ll beat Mondego yet.” He lurched to his feet. “You girls, keep doing your girly things. I’m going to go. Do things. Drink things. Cold things. Cold wet things.” After he stumbled away, Martha joined Buffy on the mats.
“Well, I hate to say watching him get his arse handed to him was satisfying, but that was a lot of fun.”
“Yeah. He can definitely improve. Plus, the man gets more ego massaging than just about anyone I know, a good butt-whupping is good for him.” She eyeballed Martha.
“What? I don’t massage his ego.”
“Your eyes do.”
“I’m very discreet about it.”
“You lope after him.”
“I do not. Well. Maybe. A little bit.”
“He could hand you his dirty underwear and you’d beam and say, ‘Thank you, Doctor, do you really mean I get to do your laundry?’”
“That’s not very nice.”
“Did you see yourself when he gave you that bow after you saved him from that lizard lord guy? It’s true.”
Martha sighed and laid back. “Yeah, yeah it is.”
“I’ve seen this show way too many times, Martha. And I know it’s a cliché, but I guarantee you, there’s somebody else out there who will appreciate you more, and by the time Doc here realizes what he’s missed, you won’t even be interested anymore.” She made a face. “Going lesbian is an option.”
Martha laughed. “Thanks for the choice. But who do you love after you’ve loved the most amazing man in the universe?”
“You’re an amazing person too. Other amazing people are going to find you. Just you watch.”
“They sure seem to find you.”
Buffy shrugged. “It’s a discipline-complex thingy. Riley explained it to me once. Guys dig chicks who can beat them up.”
“And who do those girls dig back?”
“The ones who still treat her like she’s a girl. Corn-fed Iowa boys with nice shoulders. Reformed serial killer vampires. Y’know, the usual things. The occasional fling with dim-witted but sweet ternadium miners if she knows she won’t have to make much conversation with them later.” Buffy flopped onto her back. “I’m still adjusting to being the one doing the leaving at the end of the day. It’s kind of new territory for me.”
“So you’re completely immune to the Doctor’s charms?”
Laughing, Buffy stretched her arms. “I never said that. He’s charming. I mean, no butt to speak of, and a little unstable, but hey, that’s a big Buffy aphrodisiac. It’s the way he looks at me sometimes? I’m an intruder in his little kingdom. I’m all sorts of things he doesn’t believe in, magic and brute force and sex and violence. And I’m okay with that, it’s who I am. But I don’t think he really likes me. It’s like he just keeps me around because he’s afraid that I’ll screw this universe up if he lets me out.” She flipped to her feet. “Anyway, ready for your session?”
“He could barely walk after that, and you’re popping right back up for another round?”
“Martha, I’ve got muscles he couldn’t even dream of.”
But it was too late. Buffy had lifted the idol off of the rock. Her Terfayle scout squealed with glee before the distant rumbling became apparent and he quickly ran out of the chamber, the Doctor allowing him to leave. Buffy spun around, terrified that a giant boulder was going to appear and chase them out of the cavern, but no such thing appeared. “What the hell is that noise?”
In silence the Doctor strode up to her, grabbed her arm and pulled her towards the door. “Come with me and you’ll see what you’ve done. Did you pay no attention at all in the city? No you just run off on your bloody own.”
“No I listened! If we get this idol to that Xylitol guy then he’ll get the throne. He’s the rightful heir, and you said he’d make a good king. Stop pulling so hard!”
He released her arm roughly as they breathed fresh air again. “This is what you didn’t pay attention to.”
Down in the valley, the half of the city that wasn’t destroyed in the landslide was beginning to burn. A steady stream of Plagians was pouring out into the countryside. “Remember, Tisnala is a republic now. Two hundred years ago the Terfayles rigged the idol to destroy the city if the Plagians tried to raise another king.”
“Martha’s down there.”
“Buffy, I don’t know how many are dead yet. Not to mention how many will die in the civil war that’s going to come of this if we don’t figure out a way to stop it.” He took the idol out of her other hand, shaking his head. “It’s a good thing Zytanel will be a good king, as these people are going to need a leader.” He turned to her. “We’re going to go rescue some people. Then I’m going to decide what to do with you.”
The city was something out of a nightmare, timbers burning and embers scorching her throat. Buffy followed the bucket brigades in, finding Martha at the head. “Martha, are you okay?”
“Just fantastic. Doctor didn’t catch you in time?”
Buffy passed her the next bucket. “No, I didn’t-“
“Yes, I know.” Martha was cut off by the sound of wails, all too young, coming from the upper floors of the building. “Can you?” Buffy nodded. “Then run!”
Buffy started, but a hand caught her shoulder. “What are you running into now?!” The Doctor’s eyes were wild, and he scared her.
“Doctor, let her go, she needs to get those kids!” Martha nearly threw the bucket of water over the Doctor’s head. “Now!”
The Doctor nodded and released Buffy. “I’ll be by the windows.”
Buffy just turned and ran into the building. The flames burned, and she splashed a bucket of water across the stairs to dampen the flames enough to pass. The first floor was empty. The second had only a body. No pulse, oh God no pulse.
Nonetheless Buffy took her to the window and dropped her to a net-team that the Doctor had arranged. The cries upstairs were still coming, so Buffy continued upwards. A young girl held her baby brother, crouched in the corner. She had thought to wrap wet rags around their faces. “Help!” A wall of flame separated the pair from Buffy and the door.
Buffy didn’t think, simply ran through the fire. “I’ve got you. I’ve got you.” She held the girl on one hip and the infant on the other.
“Did you find our Mom? We heard her coming, then there was a crash.”
“I got her out, I’ll get you out too.” Please Doctor, please have saved their Mom.
Buffy looked around. The lone window in the room was small, too small for anyone but the infant. Buffy put the little girl down. “Your brother’s going the express route. You and me, we’re gonna have to fight through. Okay? But you’ve already saved your brother, you’re very strong, and we’re gonna make this.” The girl nodded.
Buffy poked her head through the window. “Doctor!”
“I’ve got a bouncing baby boy, you ready?”
“Ready!” shouted the team.
“Okay.” She kissed the boy’s forehead then dropped him towards the net, then grabbed up the little girl. “Put your face in my chest and close your eyes. You don’t need to watch.” The girl huddled into her, and Buffy braved the flames again. She found the stairwell the worse for wear. She managed to leap down the balcony to the second floor, but the next stair well was aflame, and the room with the window was blocked with flames as well. Buffy prepped herself, then watched steam rise as Martha doused the stairs with water again.
“Well come on then, hurry up!”
“Thanks, Martha.” They ran out of the building together, then Martha took the child from her.
“Good work. Now go up the street and take the third left, there’s another building that needs your talents. The Doctor and the net-team are already on their way.”
“Okay. Their mother?” Martha simply shook her head, then turned to take the girl to a baby-brigade that passed children back out of the city.
Buffy swallowed then dashed up the street. The Doctor greeted her with a bucket of water in her face. “Don’t argue, maybe now by the end of this you’ll have an un-singed hair left on your head.” He tied a wet kerchief around her mouth. “I think these ones are on the fourth floor. We’ll be waiting.” Buffy nodded and rushed in. The Doctor’s intelligence was right: three Plagians on the top floor, and thank God, no bodies.
Every second counted. She began to lose track of the number of flights she’d climbed. Though there was a sense that the bucket brigades were beginning to control the fires, the buildings Buffy stormed were never the ones under control. As the day dimmed to twilight, there were fewer live screams, and more bodies. Finally, coughing and choking, Martha and the Doctor led her out of the wreckage of the city to the riverside, where they collapsed into the water and hacked and, in Buffy’s case, quietly wept.
Afterwards, she found herself in a tent with the Doctor, Martha, and Zytanel. Plagians were a tall, thin, hairy, and thoughtful race, with no discernible ears beneath their shaggy coats, though their hearing was acute, as the hair served as sense organs. Zytanel regarded her thoughtfully, while Martha looked exhausted, clutching the Doctor’s arm as though it was the only thing keeping her alive, much less upright. The Doctor divided his attention between Martha and the new king. Zytanel spoke of impulsiveness, and of how unwise it was to follow fairy tales, and how he would have been content to be Chancellor of the Republic, but it seemed destiny had been forced upon him. At that moment Buffy couldn’t imagine anyone appearing more tired. Ending his speech, he thanked them for their efforts, told Buffy she was forgiven, and asked them to leave.
Back in the TARDIS, Martha excused herself to go soak in a tub and collapse in her bedroom. The Doctor went wordlessly to the console, seeking calm by shifting knobs and dials. Buffy shimmied up and climbed into the rafters. Her hammock and training ropes were still in place, as were her collection of clippings. She’d found lots of Dawn look-alikes, and a few Xanders. Giles had been easy, (though the Doctor claimed that he looked suspicious) and there was even a pair that could pass for Willow and Spike (frighteningly, the models were lip-locked, but she tried not to let that get to her). Angel proved more difficult, but then, he always did. This nest was her safe and private place away from the Doctor and this whole alien universe.
“Yes?” She dropped down to the console room floor. He still wasn’t looking at her. “I know saying ‘I’m sorry’ is worthless. But I am.”
“I know.” He adjusted another switch. His voice sounded dead to her. “I know that you find the endless talking bits boring. But now do you see why I do it?”
“Yeah. I get it.”
“I’m not sure you do.”
“People died because I didn’t listen. Died screaming.” She looked down. “It sort of got my attention.”
Buffy hesitated, not able to look at him as she said, “If you want to send me to Earth now, that would be okay. I’d stay quiet. No more accidental stabbings or civil wars.”
“Dammit, Buffy.” He punched the console. “You know I couldn’t do that. If you’re retiring, you’re going to a distant moon at the end of the universe, and you know it.” He rubbed his sore and abraded knuckles with his other hand. “I don’t want to be your jailer. But you’re too much power that isn’t supposed to be here.”
“I see.” Buffy hadn’t noticed that she’d backed into a column. “You aren’t my jailer. I’m not some mad dog you either chain up or put down.”
“Then bloody act that way!” The Doctor slammed his hand into the console again, this time he screamed. “Bloody stupid -- gyahh.” He fell into a crouch. Buffy approached him slowly.
“Let me see it.” The Doctor glared at her, then gave her his hand, which was turning a lovely shade of purple. He winced as she turned it over, though he hadn’t broken anything.
Martha entered the room, attracted by the noise. Observing the scene, she asked “Nothing broken?”
“Is Buffy staying?”
The pair looked at each other, then simultaneously gritted out, “Yes.”
“Good then. I’ll go get him some ice. You two finish up your shout.”
Buffy helped the Doctor back to his feet. “You need to start paying attention, Buffy.”
“Yes, I do.”
“I don’t do second chances.”
“Yes, I know.”
“I’ll accept this one as an honest mistake.”
“Thank you. I am… I want to know what I can do to fix things.”
“Nothing, Buffy. There’s nothing. We’re not welcome there. The Tisnalian war will now rage an additional decade, who knows how many more will die? And you’re going to have to live with that.” Martha arrived with the ice, and Buffy wrapped it around his hand. “Thank you, Martha.”
“You’re welcome. I’m going to bed now. Please keep it down, Doctor.”
“And, Buffy, I’m glad you’re staying. But no more civil wars, okay? Especially no more picking them with him?”
“Okay then. Right. Sleep.”
They watched her retreat, then Buffy noticed she was still holding the ice to his hand. She drew away and ascended the rafters once more. “Buffy?”
“I do what?”
“Learn to live with it. When terrible things happen, and you happen to have helped them along. Eventually, you learn to live with it.”
Buffy swallowed, keeping her head turned to the wall. “Yeah, I know.”
“Yeah. I guess you would.” He gave a curt nod. “Get some sleep. I think we all need it.”
She climbed into her hammock, and he clutched the ice tighter around his hand, and the engines of the TARDIS pulsed in silent witness.