Chapter Twenty Eight
"Oh," said Willow. She had a mug of drugged tea in her hand, although it looked like she wasn't going to need it. "He's already unconscious."
"I hit him," said Buffy. The Doctor was draped across her shoulders, and she carefully placed him down on her bed.
"Oh," said Willow. She poured the tea out into the sink.
"He was asking for it," said Buffy. "He went to our old school and told me to throw him into the Hellmouth. Then he said he just killed 38,000 innocent people."
Willow's breath caught in her throat. "What?"
Buffy looked up at Willow. "He didn't."
"How do you know that?" asked Willow. "What if he really did?"
"Because I know," said Buffy.
Willow just gave her a pointed stare, and Buffy knew she'd have to give a better reason than that.
"On his way here, he went all crazy monster-killer," Buffy told Willow. "Killing vampires and demons and basically everything evil that was on the streets. And he must have come across a group of human thug guys. Because I found them." She gave a half shrug. "He left them alive. Tied up, and gagged, but alive."
"So… you're saying that he didn't kill 38,000 innocent people," said Willow, "because he didn't kill a few humans who actually deserved it?"
"Okay, so it's not a good reason," said Buffy. "But it's the only concrete piece of evidence I've got." She took a deep breath. "Besides. I think… he's more upset about him convincing other people to do bad stuff. Not, you know. Him doing bad stuff."
"I know you've probably already considered this," said Willow, "but… he thinks vampires are people, right? What if those 38,000 people were, you know. Vampires?"
Buffy didn't say anything, just kept staring at the Doctor.
"Or… vengeance demons?" Willow offered. "I called up Anya, like you said, and she sort of freaked. Apparently, he's kind of infamous to vengeance demons. They call him the Uncreator."
Buffy wasn't really listening to Willow, anymore, though. She'd spotted something, beneath the collar of the Doctor's shirt. She pulled down his tie, and unbuttoned the top of his shirt, pushing it aside to reveal…
"Oh, God," said Willow.
Buffy didn't even have words.
Riddling the Doctor's upper body were dozens of tiny puncture wounds, all in pairs, bite marks that were only partially healed. As Buffy continued to unbutton his shirt, she could see more and more of them, so many, discoloring his skin with dull purple bruises. She reached out to touch one, by his right heart, and he gave a small groan of pain as her fingers stroked the surface of the skin. She pulled her hand away.
"If he lost that much blood, how's he still standing?" Willow asked.
"I knew he went down way too easily when I hit him," Buffy scolded herself. She ran over to get a first aid kit, and started bandaging up the puncture wounds. "He must have been half-dead this whole time, and we never noticed."
"You think this… 'she' that he was talking about… was a vampire?" asked Willow.
"Doubt it." Buffy picked up one of the Doctor's wrists, and showed Willow the faded marks of rope-burns where he had been tied up. "This wasn't just an interrogation," she said. "This was someone with a soul and a guilty conscience, who wanted to convince him he was the one responsible."
"Who would do something like that?" asked Willow.
"No idea," said Buffy. She sighed. "But if I ever find this 'she' person, I need to give her a piece of my mind."
Willow nodded. She looked the Doctor up and down. "How long do you think he'll be unconscious?" she asked.
"I have no idea," said Buffy. "I guess that means it's no sleep for Buffy tonight."
"You can have my bed," Willow offered. "I sort of have this… you know. Friend. I could sleep over with her."
"Thanks," said Buffy, "but that's not exactly the issue. If he wakes up in the middle of the night… I don't want him running off." She stared down at the rope-burned wrist. It looked like the rope had dug into his skin, as if… he'd been hanging from his bound wrists. Eight hours of interrogation, hanging from bound wrists? Vampires biting him all over? Yeah, Buffy wanted to smack whoever it was that had done this. "And I can't tie him up," she whispered.
"Well, we could take shifts," Willow offered.
Buffy gave her a small smile. "Willow," she said. "It's okay. I'll handle it."
Willow nodded, very slowly. Her eyes were still fixed on the Doctor. "Buffy," she said, after a long moment. "If… it turns out he really did
kill all those people… what are you going to do?"
"But what if he did?" asked Willow. "What if he's flipped out and turned evil?"
Buffy said nothing for a very, very long time. Then, "I don't know."--000--
The Doctor awoke in the middle of the night.
It took him a few seconds to register where he was. He looked around. All the lights were off, but the moon shone through the window, sprinkling silver light across the small dorm room. The dresser to his right, assorted items strewn across its surface. Willow's abandoned bed, beside him.
He tried to get up, but felt something on his chest. A weight. He looked down, and found… Buffy. The blond strands of hair tumbling across her face, waving with every slow inhale and exhale. She had taken a desk chair over to the bed, and sat beside him, presumably to watch him. However, now, she was leaning across him, her arms wrapped tightly around his chest, hugging him as if he were all she had in the world, her head resting just below his right heart.
She was asleep.
Asleep, hugging him tightly, while he was… well, it looked like she'd partially undressed him. And then bandaged up his wounds. Which wasn't exactly what she was supposed to be doing. She was supposed to be killing him.
Then again, he suppose she really shouldn't be hugging him like this when he was half-dressed, either.
Here she was. Buffy Summers. Alive, wonderful, and… so very human. So very opposite to everything he associated with Elizabeth, at the end. He'd wanted, for so long, to remember Elizabeth as she had been before she'd been destroyed, before any of the death's and the massacres. The Elizabeth that he wanted to remember, the Elizabeth without the Master, without the madness and paranoia and killing sprees — that was Buffy.
And in a year and a half, the Doctor would kill her.
The Doctor tried to get up, to extricate himself from her hold, but the moment Buffy felt him move, she frowned (in her sleep), and hugged him tighter. A bit too tight for a human being. Ah. Right. Slayer strength. Well, then. Best not move. Didn't want her to cut off his breathing and circulation.
In truth, the Doctor's mind was at war with itself. Part of it was screaming at him to run, run far away, tear himself from her and head for the hills. Yes, they had his TARDIS key, but that wasn't really any obstacle for him — considering he could open the doors with the snap of his fingers. He just… had to run. He had to get away from her, because she was going to kill him, she had to kill him, what he'd done was unforgivable, and Anya had been right, so very right, when she'd asked him what made him better than her. Nothing. Buffy would know that. Buffy would know what to do.
And he didn't want to die.
The other part of his mind just wanted… to see her. Buffy Summers. See her alive again. Hear her voice, feel her touch, enjoy that same trust and friendship they'd shared with one another. And… well, if he were going to be completely honest, he was actually enjoying this. Rather more than he thought he should. Feeling her cheek on his bare chest. Feeling her breath as it tickled across his skin. Feeling her arms around him, pulling him close, making sure he didn't leave her, making sure he didn't go. He wanted so much to feel that again — that sort of intimacy, that sort of love. He hadn't felt that in so very long.
But this wasn't love. He knew that. She was reacting in her sleep — a telepathic instinct. The telepathic instinct to hold him close, to make sure he was always there, always inside her mind, always alive and breathing. While she was asleep, that instinct would keep him alive. When she woke up, she would kill him. He'd known that from the moment he arrived.
The price for seeing her again was his own death.