"Dr. Kalomn!" shouted a voice. "She's regaining consciousness."
Buffy's eyes shot open at the voice. She jerked up, almost knocking into the medical emergency person bending over her.
She wasn't in the Initiative.
In fact, Buffy was exactly where she'd been before. In Professor Walsh's office. Except a group of people had flocked around her, investigators and police and doctors and Buffy didn't know who else. All asking her questions, checking her vitals, requesting information.
"Same as the others," Buffy heard one policeman tell another. "Everyone else dead. Only one survivor — unharmed, unconscious, and probably unable to tell us what happened."
…?" Buffy started. But she never finished.
Because that was when she saw the bodies.
All around her, everywhere she could see, were dead bodies. Professor Walsh, the Initiative soldiers, and… oh, God, everyone! Buffy glanced outside the window, and there were more, out there, college students that had just collapsed, all of a sudden, dead.
Buffy leapt to her feet, spinning around. "What… who…?" She swallowed. Whoever this was, whatever had happened, she had to find them and kill them. A demon that could do something like this was something she had to get rid of right away
"Miss," said an investigator, stopping her before she had a chance to race out and track down the demon. "I'm sorry, but I'm afraid we're going to have to ask you a few questions."--000--
"Oh, of course," said Buffy, a twisted smile on her face. "I tell you to do something, and you do it. No questions asked." She gave a sharp laugh. "No wonder you were Elizabeth's perfect patsy."
Angel clutched the bundle of rags that contained the Glove of Mynhegon a little tighter. "You're not her."
Buffy stepped towards Angel. "I could be," she offered. She came very close, a mischievous gleam in her eyes. "You don't really know, do you?"
Angel reached out, and his hand went right through her breastbone, as if he were touching air. He turned away. "You're not her."
"I should slap you for that," said not-Buffy. "You tried to grope me."
Angel didn't answer.
"You want her, don't you?" said not-Buffy, creeping over to him. "You want her so badly it hurts. You could have her, Angel. You could take her."
Not-Buffy rolled her eyes. "Oh, stop being so virtuous and good! I know as well as you that you can barely keep your hands off her. Give in. Love her. Find comfort in her."
Angel felt himself trembling. "I… I…" He swallowed, then gritted his teeth. "I can't. I can't… become a monster again."
"And which part of you is saying that?" asked the First. "The part of you that's strengthened by her — now non-existent — love, or the part of you that doesn't give a damn about any of the implications, and just wants to do it?"
Angel shrunk back.
"You're going to give in to me, eventually," said the First. "Why not make the process pleasant for yourself?"
Angel dropped the Glove on the floor. "You're trying to make me kill her," he whispered. "Lose my soul and kill her, and never think twice about it."
The First gave a sigh. "I wish," she muttered. She waved it away. "No, no. Your Buffy's not going to die. I need her around — at least for a little while longer." She gave Angel a determined stare, and a small smile. "Your job for me is going to be far more important."--000--
Willow shook her head, leaning back from her computer. "Nothing. No connection."
"None at all?" Giles asked. He wiped his glasses, nervously, against his shirt. "Look again. There has to be some reason he's keeping them alive. Something all these people have in common."
Willow took another look down at her list of names. She pointed to the first name — 'Sarah Jane Smith'. "She's a reporter." Then to 'Santiago Jones'. "He's a shiftless vagrant and a political protester." Then to 'Arianna Chesterton'. "She's a secretary for a law firm in New York." Then to 'Tegan Jovanka'. "She runs an animal food company in Australia." Then to 'Donna Noble'. "And she's a temp from Chiswick." She glanced up at Giles. "No connection whatsoever."
"And nothing more on our 'Jack Harkness' fellow," Giles muttered. "Typical of Torchwood. Wiping all records on their personnel."
"I've got reports of a Jack Harkness who died in January of 1940," Willow offered. "In World War II." She clicked a few more times on the computer. "There's also a report of a Jack Harkness who was shot in a fight on Ellis Island in 1892." She typed a little while longer, and frowned. "And… basically, a lot of reports of someone named 'Jack Harkness' dying."
"Perhaps his ancestral lineage chose to keep the same name," Giles guessed. "Would that be some sort of common link between him and the other survivors? An ancient and well-documented ancestry?"
"Nope." Willow typed a bit more at the computer, then shook her head, and glanced up at Giles. "Did the Watchers Council get anything out of him, before he died?"
"Nothing," said Giles. He collapsed into a chair. "Just like the others. No information. No clues. Nothing we can use."
The doors to the library burst open, and Xander ran into the room. "Will, Giles," he said, panting. "It's… UC Sunnydale. Big bomb. Fried everyone's brain. Hundreds dead."
Willow and Giles looked at one another. Thinking the same thing.
"The Doctor," Giles muttered.
Willow consulted her list. "This is just like what happened a few days ago, with Arianna Chesterton," she said. "I wonder—"
"Buffy," Xander interrupted, "was going to UC Sunnydale today."
Willow and Giles' eyes widened in horror. They jumped out of their seats, and ran.--000--
Buffy said nothing, just cradling her head in her hands.
"I promise you, every word of it is true," Giles assured her. "The murders have been happening all over the world. Hundreds dead, but with one sole survivor — alive, unharmed, and unable to tell anyone anything useful."
Buffy didn't answer.
"And… we're really sure it's the Doctor killing them," Willow added. "Like… really, really
Still, no answer.
"Buffy," said Xander, leaning down and trying to look into her eyes. "Are you sure you're all right?"
"They were going to torture me," Buffy muttered.
Xander, Willow, and Giles all looked at each other, a new concern blossoming in their faces.
"Who, precisely, was going to torture you, Buffy?" Giles asked her.
"The Initiative," said Buffy. "Just like they did to the Doctor, that one time. They were going to lock me up, drug me, beat me, put things in my brain." She stared into the distance, sadness and anger and relief all clouding her face. "So he killed them."
"Buffy, he didn't kill just those commando people," said Willow. "He killed everyone
"Everyone," Buffy whispered, "except me. They're all dead because I…" She stared down at her hands, a horrible guilt running across her face, one that she tried to cram down as soon as she realized it was there.
"Buffy," said Giles. "I know it's hard — I don't precisely understand why
it's hard, but that's beside the point — but you have to kill the Doctor. What he's doing here — it's cold-blooded murder. Murder on a massive scale."
Buffy shook her head. "I can't."
"Buffy…" Willow started.
"You don't understand!" Buffy snapped. "You don't get how it feels to be that… alone
. If I kill him… if I actually do it…" She trailed off. "I'll always be alone," she whispered.
"Faith," Willow offered.
Buffy shook her head. "It's not the same. I mean, sure, I've got the whole telepathic instinct to keep her alive thing going on, but… she's not… in here." Buffy tapped the side of her head. "He is."
The Scoobies all looked at one another. Then back at Buffy.
"That makes no sense," Willow said.
Buffy didn't meet her eyes. "Guess not."
"Here's the thing," said Xander. "Buffy's the Slayer. The Doctor's the Big Bad. She's supposed to be killing him. But isn't. He's supposed to be killing her. But is saving her life. Even though he knows she's going to do everything she can to stop him!" He looked at all the others. "So my question is… when did the world stop making sense?"
Buffy froze. Then snapped her head around, and stared at Xander.
"Obviously, the First needs her for something," Giles muttered. "After all, having a rogue Slayer on our hands — I couldn't think of anything more dangerous."
"What about having a rogue Slayer and
a super-duper murderous alien, both being strengthened by an evil from before the dawn of time with powers we can't even imagine?" Willow offered.
Giles considered. "All right," he admitted. "That's worse."
Xander sighed, and waved his arms. "Yeah, yeah, great. Everyone pick on stupid little Xander."
"You're right," Buffy whispered.
Everyone snapped their heads over to Buffy, who was still staring at Xander, something igniting in her eyes.
"The world's stopped making sense," Buffy continued. She gestured at the world around her. "This whole First-taking-over thing… it only happened because I died, and Willow brought me back to life. But… I didn't. Not in this reality."
"Hello?" said Xander. "CPR-thingy!"
"Well, yeah," came a Northern-English accent. "But that's not exactly the same, now, is it?"
Buffy's body tensed at the voice, and she didn't bother looking back. She hated this, so much.
The others all turned, and discovered the tall, leather-jacketed man standing a short ways away, hands in pockets, looking very lax and nonchalant.
"Big difference, see, between a temporal probability and an actual physical reality," explained the Ninth Doctor. "Probability of being dead. And being buried in the ground, corpse-stone-cold dead. Probability. Physical reality." He pointed at Buffy. "You know that already. Difference between IPSA and your Potential Slayer army."
"The Potential Slayers are all still alive in this reality," Buffy said.
"But for how long?" The Ninth Doctor crossed his arms, and nodded at Giles. "Why don't you ask your Watcher, here, what the Council's been up to, recently?"
Giles leapt to his feet, and advanced on the First. "I hardly think that is any of your—"
"Feelin' a bit defensive, are we?" said the Ninth Doctor, stepping out of the way as Giles charged at him.
Buffy felt her heart stop, for just a second, as she saw the guilt in Giles' face. As she realized the First — who'd slipped away, when she wasn't looking — was right.
"Giles," Buffy said, climbing to her own feet. "What's the Council doing?"
A little more tension sprung into Giles' shoulders, and he turned to face her a little too slowly.
"I promise," said Giles, "it won't happen to you. The Council knows you work for them. I'll make sure… you make a full report. They won't need to…" He hesitated, then, in a much softer voice, continued, "…detain you."
Buffy said nothing for a long moment.
"What?" she demanded.
"They're the only lead we've got, Buffy," Willow tried to explain. She shook the list in front of Buffy. "If just one of these people could tell us what was going on…"
Buffy snatched the list from Willow, and discovered a list of names, circumstances, and times of detention. Beginning with Jack Harkness, Torchwood Agent, and ending with Donna Noble, Temp from Chiswick. All just like her — found in the middle of a massacre, the only survivors. The only ones left alive. Unable or unwilling to tell the Council anything.
All the Doctor's friends.
Imprisoned. Locked up. Detained by the Watchers Council.
"Get them out of there," Buffy said.
Giles frowned. "I'm sorry?"
"Get them out of there!" Buffy shouted, lunging at Giles. "Get them out of there, right now!"
"Buffy," said Willow, a little uneasily, "what's wrong?"
Buffy marched forwards, waving the paper in Giles' face. "These are his friends!" she snapped. "That's what he's doing! Taking revenge on anyone who's ever harmed them. Ever imprisoned them. Ever even thought about hurting them. And the Watchers Council is imprisoning them." She crinkled the paper into a ball, her eyes blazing. "The First wants the Doctor to destroy the Slayer, and you've just given him every reason he needs to do so!" She took another step forwards, her hands clenched by her sides. "Now get those people out of there!"--000--
"I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, Angel," said the First, in the voice of Jenny Calendar. "I'm just reminding you who you really are."
Angel huddled in on himself, his head cradled in his hands.
"Weak," continued the First. "Defenseless. Vulnerable. Malleable. Always roped in to doing other people's dirty work."
"Leave me alone!" Angel roared.
"Only one person ever believed you could be better," said the First, its voice shifting into that of his little sister, Kathy. The sister he, himself, had murdered, so long ago. "You were isolated, alone, feeding off rats and unable to come to terms with who and what you were. And then, like a gift from heaven, she appeared to you." The First morphed, again, into the form of Buffy Summers. "Your Elizabeth."
The voice and image gave Angel strength. Courage. He pried his hands off his head, and gave the First a challenging glare. "She knew I was strong."
"Your role model," said the First, Buffy's smile on its face. "Your inspiration. Your light out of the darkness." The First laughed. "An insane madwoman! A murderer!"
Angel leapt to his feet. "I'm not listening to your lies," he said, as he walked away.
"Everyone on the island of Iphidrin," the First called after him. "Dead. Slaughtered."
"The Doctor killed them," Angel said. "Elizabeth had nothing to do with that."
The First shook her head. "The Doctor was tied to a gurney and barely conscious! You think he was in a position to do anything?" She sauntered over to Angel, who had frozen in the middle of the room. "Elizabeth lied to you, Angel. Over and over again. You were her puppet, and she used you."
"I've seen the Doctor's memories," said the First. "Everything he knows, I know. Your greatest inspiration, your shining light, your reason to be strong — was a cold-blooded killer. Someone being driven slowly insane and psychopathic, and unable to stop it."
Angel spun around. "Elizabeth was a good person!" he shouted. "She was my friend! My only friend, in those days! All I had to bring me out of the darkness!"
"You wanted to kill him, in 1905," said the First. "The Doctor. For what he did to you back in Romania. You entertained so many revenge fantasies. And that was when Elizabeth found you."
"She showed me a better way," Angel growled. "She knew…!"
"That you would do anything she said," the First confirmed. "That you hated the Doctor, almost as much as she did. That if she ever gave you… say… an ancient, mystical, lost weapon from the Time War — a cube that could suck the soul out of a body and condemn it to a fate worse than hell — you'd use it."
Angel stepped back. "She… trusted me to keep it safe."
Not-Buffy pouted. "Poor Angel. Tricked so many times. Used so very often."
Angel's hands began trembling.
"You nearly destroyed the universe," said the First, "because she asked you to. You tried to change the future, tried to create a paradox, just because she said, 'pretty please!'"
"I… I…" Angel faltered. "She didn't know what she was doing, when she asked me that."
"You really believe that?" asked the First. She leaned in closer to Angel, and Angel didn't have the heart to back away from what was — so much — like Buffy. "Or is that just the part of you that stubbornly refuses to admit the truth?"
Angel said nothing.
"It tore you apart, when you found out," said the First. "What she wanted you to do. That the mission she'd given you — the most important mission of your life — would destroy the world. Rip apart the universe. It killed you to realize that you could never see her again." The First shrugged. "After all, show up when she wanted you to, and you'd create a paradox, destroying the universe. Show up when you technically should, and she'd know you let her down, and would hate you forever."
Angel felt the entire weight of that decision crashing on top of him, once more. Smothering him. Just as it had, when he'd first learned the truth.
"No wonder you went back to your old ways!" laughed the First. "Began living as a wreck, again! Angel the coward! Too scared to do what she asked you, too ashamed to refuse to do it. So frightened that your savior might be… evil." The First grinned. "Like me."
Angel gritted his teeth. "She wasn't evil! She wasn't trying to destroy the universe! I trusted her! I'll always trust her, in any timeline! Buffy or Elizabeth!"
"Then why haven't you destroyed that Glove?" asked the First.
Angel didn't have any words to answer.
"Angel, Angel, Angel," the First tsked. "You may be a weak-willed coward, but you're not stupid. You know that acting on future information like this is bad. You might not understand enough about temporal mechanics to work out how or why, but you still know it's wrong." She took another step forwards. "And you know who asked you to do this horrible, wrong, heinous deed. The same person. In two different timelines."
"I… it's not… Buffy doesn't…" Angel tried.
"Wake up to reality," said Not-Buffy, crossing her arms and giving him a proud smile. "I know. You know. The Doctor knows. Buffy Summers knows. Elizabeth was evil, insane, and psychopathic — and Buffy's no different." She shrugged. "See, Angel? I'm coming. I'm taking over this world, this universe, this entire reality. And this time, there's no one around to stop me."