Chapter Twenty Nine
: One more section left after this! (This is my Tuesday update, because Tuesdays are hell.)--000--
Buffy woke up, and found herself looking straight into a pair of thoughtful brown eyes. Her cheek resting against a bare chest. Her arms wrapped around cool skin.
She jerked up, and looked down at herself. Phew. Okay. Fully clothed. He just… wasn't. Completely. She felt herself blushing. Because she'd had some… interesting dreams last night. And she didn't know exactly how telepathic he was, but she didn't want him to know about those.
Apparently, her imagination had really liked the idea of Doctor chained to bed.
No, bad Buffy! You've got a boyfriend, now. Riley. Not the Doctor. Doctor is your friend. Riley is your boyfriend. You love Riley (and she really did). You should be fantasizing about Riley.
(Oh, Riley plus Doctor both
chained to bed — no, no, bad imagination! Shut up, imagination!)
"Is it time?" asked the Doctor.
Buffy couldn't actually answer this. Mainly because now her still sleep-clouded head was swimming with Riley-Doctor-Buffy fantasies, and that was absolutely not helping her figure out what the hell he was talking about. Time? Time for what? Time to call up Riley and indulge a serious fantasy of hers? No, wait, didn't the Doctor not like Riley? Or maybe Riley didn't like the Doctor? And there was something about killing, and…
The Doctor had decided that Buffy was going to kill him.
That pretty much destroyed all of her fantasies right off the bat.
"It's not going to be time," said Buffy. "Ever."
The Doctor began to button up his shirt, and adjust his tie. "I gave you a reason," he said. "A good one."
"Yeah, you did."
The Doctor looked up at her. "And you said if I gave you a good reason…"
"I lied," said Buffy, crossing her arms. "Not killing you. Ever. Sorry."
The Doctor ran a hand through his hair. "Telepathic instinct," he sighed. "Should have known. That's the only reason you aren't going to kill me. You won't want to kill me when I'm about to destroy your life, either."
Buffy slapped him for that. He gave her the most adorable cute puppy face she could imagine, as he held his cheek, and she, once again, had to banish certain fantasies that she'd been dwelling on in her dreams.
"Stop trying to get me to kill you!" Buffy shouted. "I'm not going to kill you. Not now. Not ever."
Her voice seemed to echo through the still morning air.
The Doctor said nothing for a long moment. Then, in a voice barely above a whisper, "What are you going to do to me?"
And the way he said it was so resigned, so hopeless and defeated, that it seemed to drain Buffy of any happiness she had inside of her. Was he expecting her to do something to him, something terrible? Was he expecting her to lock him up forever, or torture him, or throw him in the Hellmouth, or feed him to vampires?
"Nothing," said Buffy.
"If you let me go," said the Doctor, "I'll do it again."
Buffy crossed her arms. "Yeah," she said. "Because after knowing you for so long, I absolutely believe that you're completely evil and planning to do a major massacre."
"I might be," said the Doctor. "You never know. I might be trying to end the world."
"Doctor," said Buffy. "Do you want me to kill you? Do you want to die?"
The Doctor froze. Then his eyes shifted towards the door, and Buffy knew exactly what he was going to do. He was going to run. Buffy caught him by the arm as he slid off the bed, and yanked him back towards her. He yelped, and collapsed back onto her bed.
"You don't, do you?" asked Buffy. "You think I should, but you don't actually want me to do it."
"It doesn't matter what I want," said the Doctor. "You have to do it."
"Why? Because you killed all those people?"
"Yes. And because of everything else."
"What else?" Buffy demanded. "And none of that, 'humans only die because of me' stuff. Because that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard."
Buffy stared at him. Revenge? From the guy who never took revenge? He wanted her to take revenge on something? Someone? Oh. Hang on. He wanted her to take revenge on him.
For something he hadn't done, yet. (Ruining her life?)
"You have to," the Doctor told her. "Justice. Revenge. I deserve it."
"This from the same guy that keeps telling me that you don't do revenge because it's a waste of your time?" asked Buffy.
"I manipulate time and space for my own ends," said the Doctor. "I'm no better than a vengeance demon."
Buffy actually cracked up at this. She couldn't stop laughing. "Doctor, you'd be a terrible vengeance demon!" she said. "You'd be all forgiving, and never actually be able to curse any…" Her laughter fell flat, her smile dripped off her face, and all mirth drained from her as she caught his eye. His sharp, piercing gaze was one she'd seen before, when he lost his temper, when he condemned his enemies to a thoroughly vicious fate. It was his alien look, and one that reminded Buffy that this man had done things she probably couldn't dream of.
"There's a little girl locked in the mirror," said the Doctor, in a cool, detached, icy voice. "In every mirror. She tried to destroy a town, so I trapped her there. For all eternity. Never aging, never dying, never talking to another living soul. That was revenge."
Buffy wasn't sure what to say to this.
"I didn't kill Angel, in Romania," the Doctor continued. "Because death would have been too easy. I sentenced him to an eternity of self-inflicted pain and torment. That was revenge."
"Young man named Adam Mitchell," said the Doctor. "2012. He almost killed Rose twice. So I dropped him at home with a infospike from the year 200,000 stuck in his head. Every time anyone snaps their fingers, his forehead—"
"Shut up!" Buffy shouted. She grabbed the Doctor by his shoulders, and shook him. "Stop trying to make me kill you! I'm not going to kill you! I…." she trailed off, and when she continued, her voice was far lower. "If I ever killed you, I'd hate myself forever."
The Doctor met her eyes, and that same empty chasm of sorrow was back in those brown irises, that same look that made Buffy feel like she was going to break apart the longer she looked at him.
"The 38,000 people," said Buffy. "Was that revenge?"
"No," said the Doctor. "That was… me. Being selfish. They died for no reason, and I killed them."
Buffy took a long, deep breath. She didn't know if this was actual fact, or if this was one more thing that 'she' convinced him was his fault. Buffy suspected the latter. Buffy suspected 'she' was the one who really killed those 38,000 humans.
"Doctor," Buffy said, softly, "why are you really here?"
The Doctor's eyes widened, a hint of fear sparking inside of them. "Had to do it."
"Kill those people?"
Buffy loosened her grip on his arm. "What?"
"Knew you'd have to kill me," said the Doctor. "Or… worse. What with, you know. Slayer and all. Just… couldn't help myself, I suppose. Had to come."
"Because you're you."
For just a second, there was a burst of something bright in the Doctor's eyes, a burst of something happy and beautiful just like Buffy remembered from every other time she saw him.
"You know what I am, what I've done, how many people I've killed," said the Doctor. "And for some reason, you still don't hate me."
Well, yeah. Because Buffy knew he didn't
. Because she knew he was a guilt-trippy alien who liked to blame himself for the world and the universe and pretty much everything else bad that ever happened. Because she knew that his soul was made of sunlight and his mind sang with something too pure to be monstrous or demonic. Because she'd seen him mourn over men and monsters alike, because she'd seen him rush off to help people without caring about the risks.
He could pretend to be a monster. He could pretend to be the worst evil in the universe. But Buffy had seen his soul.
And that was something he couldn't fake.
"I'm not going to hate you," said Buffy. "Ever."
It was as if those words, themselves, were enough to stir something inside of him. Some spark of emotion and caring and feeling that Buffy had thought he'd buried too deep down inside to ever get out. He swept her into a tight, desperate hug, one that she returned whole-heartedly. And it was enough to bring a flush to her cheeks, when she realized that the Doctor was still sitting on her bed, and his suit jacket and trench coat were still off, and he was — for him, at least — extremely underdressed.
And she really, really shouldn't like that this much.
The Doctor pulled away, suddenly. A fearful expression on his face.
"Why?" he asked.
Buffy felt her heart skip a beat. Had he just picked up on her stray thoughts? "Why what?"
"Why don't you hate me?"
Okay, and this was one of those moments where, if this was a Hollywood movie, Buffy would respond by kissing him passionately, and he would kiss her passionately, and then he'd be all better and everything would go back to normal.
Except this was real life. And Buffy had a boyfriend.
"Because you'd give up your life for a stranger," said Buffy. "Because the only thing that will bring you out of a healing coma is to whisper the words, 'help me'. Because you're stubborn enough to think you can save vampires, and because you think that even the worst monsters deserve a chance to make themselves better. Because when I look beneath the surface, at what you really are, I know. You're not God. You're not the devil. You're just… a person. You make mistakes, you lie, you run away when you really shouldn't, and you're forced into situations you can't control. But that doesn't matter. In the end, you're my friend." She gave him a friendly smile. "And life would be seriously sucky if you weren't around."
The Doctor just stared at her, completely speechless. Which was a definite change.
"And if I killed you, it wouldn't be Slaying," Buffy added. "It would be murder. And I don't do murder."
"She said I talked her into it," said the Doctor. "Talked her into loving me. Magic voice."
"Who?" asked Buffy.
The Doctor didn't answer.
Buffy sighed. "If you really had a magic voice," she said, "don't you think that all those evil monsters you tell to get it together and shape up would actually do it?"
The Doctor frowned. Buffy could see she'd just made a very good point.
"I still kill people," the Doctor said. "Everyone I'm close to. Every friend I've ever had. The moment they meet me, they might as well be signing their own death certificates."
"Did 'she' tell you that, too?" asked Buffy.
The Doctor looked at her, and there was such raw pain in his eyes, such terrible lonely sadness inside, that she nearly shattered right then and there. He looked like he was screaming inside his head, like he was barely holding himself together.
"She didn't have to," said the Doctor.
And that was obviously what had really set him off. What had really convinced him he was a monster. Someone he knew had died, and that loss was destroying him. Buffy was guessing this 'she' person had probably had something to do with that friend's death.
"Have you ever thought," said Buffy, "that maybe this 'she' person was just lying to you? Maybe she was just trying to pin the blame for her own mistakes on you?"
"Then why was she right?" the Doctor demanded. "She shouldn't have been right. She shouldn't… why did it happen? It shouldn't have happened! It can't have happened!"
"What happened?" Buffy coaxed.
The Doctor lay on the bed, his eyes fixed on the ceiling. "I don't understand," he whispered. "It doesn't make sense."
"You said… something about the future," Buffy offered.
The Doctor said nothing.
"Did… someone die?" asked Buffy. "In the future? One of your friends?"
The Doctor sat up, and caught Buffy's arm in a strong grip. There was nothing gentle about it — he seemed to be clinging to her as if everything in the world depended on it. "Come with me."
"I can't," said Buffy.
"You have to," said the Doctor. "Please. I need you."
"I've got to stay here and save the world," said Buffy. "The only other Slayer is Faith, and she's sort of comatose. And evil." And the moment Buffy went away with the Doctor, she wasn't really sure she'd ever want to come back. "I can't run away from my life."
"I need you to," said the Doctor, staring deep into her eyes. "I need you to leave here and never, ever come back. Please. Please. Come with me."
Okay, then. Looks like he wasn't planning on taking her back, either. Was that why he thought he was evil? Because he wanted to steal her away from her boyfriend and run through the universe with her? Because he wanted her to shirk her duty and be with him instead?
"Are you planning to kidnap me?" asked Buffy.
The Doctor loosened his grip, and pulled his hand away. "No."
"Good!" said Buffy. "See? That proves it. You're not evil."
The Doctor quirked an eyebrow at her.
"Doctor, I heard your 'I'm becoming evil' rant," said Buffy. "I know all the signs to look out for." She counted off on her fingers. "One, you'd tear apart the universe to get Rose back. Two, you'd wipe out basically everything that ever looked at you funny. Three, you'd wipe out everything that ever looked at any of your friends funny. Four, you'd completely shatter the universe and rewrite it so that your friends never died and you'd be the supreme ruler of everything. Five…" Buffy faltered, nearly losing her courage to continue. "You'd take me away and make sure I never left you," she whispered.
The Doctor's forehead creased, as he contemplated this. "Did I really say that bit about wanting to rule the universe?"
"Yep," said Buffy. Trust him to ignore the awkward part.
"Blimey," he said. "I sound more and more like the Master every day."
"Huh?" asked Buffy.
"Other Master," said the Doctor. "The one who…" He scratched the back of his neck, but didn't go on. He just stared off into the distance. "You won't come with me? Even if I promise to take you back?"
"Doctor," said Buffy, taking both his hands in hers, "if I went with you, I don't think I'd ever want to come back." She took a long, shaky breath. "The thing is… if I ever turned evil, I don't think I'd want to let you go, either. I'd be selfish. Keep you here forever. Lock you up and make sure you couldn't leave."
And it was funny, in a completely depressing way, that even though they were both drawn to one another and didn't want to let each other go, the only thing keeping them apart was… well, their duty. A duty that was greater than either of them, a duty to the world and the universe, a duty that neither of them could run away from.
But it was so, so tempting.
The Doctor threaded his fingers through hers, his eyes still fixed on her. "I'm still evil," he told her. "Just a bit."
Buffy gave a small laugh. "So am I," she said.