What Comes is Better Than What Came Before
Angel melted into the shadows, away from the shouting that had less to do with him now and more to do with deeper issues, and slunk away to the garden. Buffy’s new friends sat by the stone pool, taking turns shattering the reflection of the moon with pebbles. “You have two heartbeats,” he murmured.
The two twisted around. The man’s twin hearts recovered their pace first. “And you don’t have any.” He sprung to his feet, putting on a pair of glasses and pulling a cylindrical object out of his jacket pocket, that he pointed at Angel’s chest. “Unbelievable.”
The girl backed up to the pool, her pulse still rapid. “He doesn’t have the ridges like the ones in the cemetery.”
Angel tried not to flinch as the man continued to point the flashing light at him. “Come now, Rose, calm down, it’s clear this is the mysterious Angel.” He removed the glasses. “She’s in love with a vampire. Gotta love the universe.” The man held out a hand. “I’m the Doctor.”
Angel frowned, sniffing. “Do I – you seem familiar.”
It was the Doctor’s turn to frown, and he scratched his head. “Do I? From when? Time traveling, it can really make garden party introductions awkward.” He held a finger to his lips. “But don’t tell me, it ruins the fun.”
“But that would make you over two hundred years old,” said Angel.
The Doctor pointed a finger. “And same to you. We're both looking pretty good for our ages.”
Rose guffawed. “But you dated Buffy. She’s only seventeen. That’s just weird.”
Angel eyed the two. “Really?”
They took an infinitesimal step apart.
Pursing her lips, Rose dared to move a bit closer to Angel. “So why’re you skipping out on the fireworks inside, shouldn’t you be in there sorting things out?”
“It’s easier without me there.”
Rose shrugged. “Easier on her or easier on you? “
Angel closed his eyes as he shook his head. ‘They’ll never forgive me. They shouldn’t. But they should forgive her.”
“What did you do, exactly, that’s so unforgivable?” The Doctor tone was droll while he looked at the screwdriver like it was lying to him. He shook it, held it to his ear, hit it against the palm of his fist, pointed it at Angel again, then just glared at it while he scanned and listened.
“I-“ the words felt like vomit at the back of Angel’s throat. “I killed. A lot of people,” he finally muttered.
“So have I.”
Angel’s eyes bugged out, his jaw ajar as he sought a reply. “Well... did you enjoy it?”
The Doctor straightened out his back, looking Angel in the eye. “No. Did you?”
“Yes,” said Angel. Rose recoiled from the horror in this admission.
The Doctor rolled his eyes. “No you didn’t. Why are you surrounded in an energy field?”
“Huh?” Angel tilted his head.
“Sociopaths don’t regret afterwards. They justify. You’re in agony. And, also, surrounded by an energy field.” He adjusted the screwdriver. “Really, more of a cage. I’d say that’s what’s keeping you animated, y’know, in lieu of aerobic respiration and a heartbeat, but those other vampires didn’t have one, well, not one like this. So what is it?”
“It’s a soul.” The sound of Buffy’s voice made Angel flinch and Rose jump. The Doctor just quirked an eyebrow as Buffy emerged from the mansion. “That’s what makes him different than other vampires. It’s a cage keeping the soul in.”
“A soul?” The Doctor screwed up his face, but Buffy just nodded, and the Doctor scowled. After a moment of chewing the inside of his cheek, he eyed both Buffy and Angel. “Cages have doors.”
“Doors have locks,” replied Buffy.
“Locks have keys,” countered the Doctor.
Buffy’s gave a small smile. “Yeah.” She took Angel’s hand in hers.
The Doctor nodded, and Rose wondered what he’d understood. She found herself inching closer to him as he grinned and whispered to Buffy, “Keep it,” while the rest of the gang filtered into the garden.
Buffy looked back at them. “We’re all settled here.” Thin lips among certain members of the Scoobies belied this, but Buffy continued anyway. “We just wanted to thank you for all of your help again. Thanks.” She gave the Doctor a hug while he gasped, but then hugged back. After she let go, Willow gave him a much gentler squeeze. He was nearly as taken aback by Cordelia’s embrace, but when he saw how much Rose appreciated Xander’s, he held Cordelia a few seconds extra. Buffy and Rose hugged, while handshakes exchanged among the rest.
Rose and the Doctor stood by the TARDIS doors, framed by the jasmine. “So, back to saving the world, keeping the demons at bay, and passing your literature classes?”
“It’s worked for us so far,” said Oz.
“Well, the literature thing-“ started Xander, but Cordelia pushed a discreet heel on his foot, and he stopped.
“Where are you two off to?” asked Willow.
“Oh, could be anywhere,” aid Rose. “It could be Ancient Rome, or a distant planet, or even a spaceship.” She grinned as Xander and Willow’s eyes lit up.
The Doctor pushed the doors open. “Let us know if you ever fancy a trip.” Now their eyes were likes saucers. Even Oz had to stop himself from taking a step forward.
Giles cleared his throat. “Graduation first." He smiled. "But in case of demon and alien threats, how do we flag you down?”
Stopping, the Doctor pulled his screwdriver. “Any of you have a mobile?” A field of blank stares greeted him. “A mobile – oh hell, what do you say in the States – oh, right, a cell phone, that’s the one.”
“I’ve got one.” Cordelia pulled hers out of her purse.
Xander poked Giles. “You’re still British, right, aren’t you supposed to translate for us?”
“I hate those blasted things, and do shut up.”
Xander folded his arms and nodded to Rose. “He’s still British.” She grinned.
“Here you go. Just dial that number, anywhere you are, any time, we’ll get the message.” The Doctor tossed the phone to Cordelia. “And now, I’m afraid we’re off.”
Rose waved and stepped inside. “Take care of yourselves.”
“If you don’t let the apocalypse happen, we won’t either,” Willow called back.
“Bye!” The doors shut with a click. Engines whirred, and for a moment, Buffy could see the tiny jasmine flowers as a field of stars stretching off forever into the distance. Then the TARDIS was gone. Buffy eyed the phone in Cordelia’s hand, and tightened her grip on Angel’s.
Well, gone for now, anyways.
FINA/N: And that's it. Thanks again to Winterd, for having this marvelous idea, and to all of the loyal reviewers who kept me inspired and happy and kept me honest with my Doctor Who trivia. You know who you are. I loved this story, and I hope you did too. Sequel thoughts
are percolating, but that's for after I get back from overseas (and finish Better With Two). Just so you know.
Oh, and if you didn't notice, all of the chapter titles from three on came from songs I was listening to while writing. For copyright purposes, and also because it makes a pretty good soundtrack for the story, here they are:
3 - Gary Jules "Mad World"
4 - The Weakerthans "Bigfoot"
5 - The White Stripes - "We're Going to Be Friends"
6 - Powerman 5000 - "When Worlds Collide"
7 - Modest Mouse - "3rd Planet"
8 - David Bromberg - "Bullfrog Blues"
9 - Hot Hot Heat - "Get In or Get Out"
10 - Filter "One"
11 - The Who "A Quick One While He's Away"
12 - Liam Finn "Lead Balloon"
13 - R.E.M. "Pop Song 89"
14 - David Bowie "Suffragette City"
15 - Rolling Stones "Sympathy for the Devil"
16 - Jonathan Coulton "Code Monkey"
17 - Jesca Hoop "Out the Back Door"
18 - The Fratellis "Chelsea Dagger"
19 - The Shins "Pressed in a Book"
20 - Cat Power "I Found a Reason"