Chapter Twenty Nine
As if in confirmation of Buffy's remark, the moment Jack touched Lily, she began to squirm away from him, crying out and kicking at his hand. Jack pulled his hand away, as if he'd been burned.
"Said it yourself, didn't you?" came the rough English accent of the Ninth Doctor, in Buffy's ear. "Way back, when you first found out. The little baby who was called a demon. Who was butchered. Massacred. Split across all of time and space. In the end… all she was… was just a baby."
Buffy was expecting some reaction from Jack, but Jack didn't seem to notice the appearance of the leather jacketed man who wasn't the Doctor. He was just looking at Buffy and the Slayer baby, confused, trying to figure out what was going on.
A young, sleep-deprived Rose burst out of the woodwork the moment that Lily began to cry, grabbing Lily from Buffy and shushing her, soothing her, trying to calm her down.
"That baby is… evil," Buffy muttered. "The Doctor said."
"Born to be evil," said the Ninth Doctor. "That make her evil?"
"She's a child," the Ninth Doctor's voice told Buffy. "Killed. Scattered through the human race. Not enough of her left to understand. But enough to know that she's a soldier. Designed to fight. And she'd tear the universe apart to find her mummy. Find her planet." He paused a moment. "Sound familiar?"
Buffy glanced back at Jack. Remembering the story he'd told her. About how he'd first met the Doctor.
"Look at her," the Ninth Doctor urged. "The Slayer. Not the fragment. Not the thing inside your head; not Sineya. The child herself. She look evil to you? She look like some insane, murdering maniac who makes girls either commit suicide, go crazy, or run away? She look like the kind of person who, given half a chance, would destroy the world?"
Buffy's eyes fell on Rose and Lily. Rose grinning at her sister, in that typical Rose-grin, tongue poking out between her teeth. And Lily doing her best to imitate the gesture.
"You saw what the Shadow Men did to Sineya," the Ninth Doctor continued. "Here's the other victim. The child who never got her chance."
"The one who should have died," Buffy whispered. "Way, way in the past. Except… in this reality… she survived. And destroyed the world."
The Ninth Doctor said nothing for a moment, as Lily gave a cheerful giggle, reaching up to Rose. But the action slowed, the giggle turning long and stretching out to last seconds, as time stretched and slowed and stopped around Buffy.
She turned to face the man in the leather jacket. The one who wasn't the Doctor.
"You can save her," he said.
"Or, alternately, I can find a way to send her back in time, and save the world," Buffy said. She felt the bitter unfairness of the situation deep inside of her, but disguised it with a practiced ease.
"Not that," said the Ninth Doctor. "Not here. All this… these people, these places, everything… it'll all go round again. Always does. Too much chaos. Time collapsing in on itself. Unstable." He leveled his eyes at Buffy. "For you. The future. You are Buffy Anne Summers. Last Defender of the Hellmouth. Last Slayer. The last, and the first. And you can save her."
Buffy shook her head. "Huh?"
The Ninth Doctor gave a vexed sigh. "Oh, work it out!" he muttered, as he stormed off, and faded into the air.
The moment he disappeared, time juddered, and started moving again.
"She's… she's got two hearts!" Jack cried. He stared at his hand. "Why didn't I notice that before?" He glanced over at Rose. "Why didn't Rose and Jackie notice that before?"
"I don't know," said Buffy. "Magic, probably. Some kind of… ignoring spell, so you don't notice stuff you didn't want to notice."
"And… that makes her the Slayer… how, exactly?" Jack asked. "I thought the Slayer Line was wiped out before it even started."
"The Slayer was created by a bunch of Shadow Men who killed a baby Time Lord," Buffy said. "Her soul was scattered through the human race, through all of time and space. The reason the Slayer Line no longer exists is because before that baby died, way back in history, someone took her out of time. And brought her here."
"The Monks," Buffy said. "I mean, if you guys all remember Lily — those are implanted memories. They could only have come from the Monks of the Order of Dagon. The monks must have realized how dangerous it would be for the First to get its hands on the original Slayer-baby, so they used the mystical green energy from the Key to reach back through time and pluck her out of the past, before the Doctor could get the chance. Or… I don't know. Something like that. Then they implanted fake memories and magical ignoring spells so you wouldn't notice."
"Yeah, about these… implanted memories," said Jack. "They're not implanted, Buffy. They're real. They have to be."
"Why?" asked Buffy. She then gave a small laugh. "Who's Lily's dad?"
"Lily is Rose's half-sister, right?" said Buffy. "So… who's Lily's dad?"
"Howard," said Jack, automatically. "He keeps apples in his dressing gown." He paused, then frowned. "Wait, how did I know that?"
"See?" said Buffy. "They aren't really your memories. Someone's given them to you. You just think they're real."
"No, Buffy, you don't understand," said Jack. "That's not possible. The memories I have of Lily… and of Rose talking about Lily… that covers the time I was on the TARDIS. That's inside a shielded time machine, and in a bunch of completely different times and places. I mean… I even have memories of Lily getting lost inside the TARDIS corridors! All the memories are completely consistent with their surroundings, and no one — not from this time period, or the 51st century, or anywhere — could fabricate memories like that."
Buffy's mind whirled, as she came up with the answer. As she suddenly realized something. Something she really, really should have realized earlier.
The one person who would know every single detail of Jack's trips in the TARDIS.
The one person who'd be both able and willing to snatch the Slayer out of history.
The one person who'd been specifically tracking down the mystical energy that comprised the Key — not to open a portal, or to create another segment, but to use its powers of transmutation and transformation in order to alter memories and landscapes in order to hide the Slayer, and then just let the extra energy dissipate.
The one person who'd seek out Rose Tyler — of all the people in the world — to fix a broken, lonely, and desperate baby Time Lord.
"The Doctor," Buffy said. "He hid the Slayer."
"From you?" Jack asked.
"No," said Buffy, thinking fast. "No, it wouldn't be — couldn't be — from me! You said the Doctor was trying to make sure you and Rose got here. He wanted me to know that the Slayer wasn't in the First's hands. He was hiding her from the First. From Caleb. From all the rest of them."
"But the Doctor's… working for the First," Jack pointed out. "The First's willing servant."
"That's what the First said!" Buffy said. "But the First also said that it had the Slayer, and it doesn't! Which means… which has to mean…"
Buffy felt her head reeling. Because she so desperately wanted this to be true. But scarcely dared hope that it was. Scarcely dared hope that it might be real. But it was real. Had to be. All the evidence supported it.
"The Doctor's never
been the First's willing servant," said Buffy. "Ever. The First wants him to be, and the First's probably doing its level best to make him do its bidding, but the Doctor's never been cooperating."
Jack didn't say anything.
"Think about it!" said Buffy. "Is the Doctor acting like Caleb? Is he acting like the First's willing servant? He might have killed innocent people, but he never enjoyed it! It was always collateral damage."
"Buffy…" Jack began, with a sigh.
"He wanted me to have the Scythe!" Buffy continued. "Didn't even sabotage it. He hated the Mayor. Hated Glory. Really
hated Caleb. And, I mean, yeah, he destroyed the world, but he did it by saving an innocent little girl!"
"Buffy," Jack tried, again. "He's killing people. Innocent people. The Doctor would never do that."
"But that's what got taken away!" Buffy said. "It has to be. The First's manipulating the Doctor's emotions — we knew that already. But the First didn't take away his soul, when those vampires infected him. It took away something else. It took away the Doctor's ability to tell right from wrong!"
Jack shook his head. "He killed my entire team, and didn't care when I told him it was wrong."
"But I bet he heard you out!" said Buffy. "Gave you a chance to defend your own reasoning. Didn't he?"
"Whenever the Doctor's confronted with people telling him that he's doing the wrong thing, he always listens to them," Buffy said. "He might decide that they're incorrect, and do the action anyways, but he still listens! I mean, the Doctor even sought out Giles, to try to figure out what his deal was. Don't you get it, Jack? The Doctor might not know right from wrong, but he's smart, and he's trying to work it out!"
"He isn't," Jack insisted. "You can't convince him that what he's doing is wrong through logical argument. I've tried! You've tried! Unless you threaten him or trick him, he won't change his mind."
"Except with Rose," Buffy pointed out.
"It's obvious what's happening," Buffy said. "You used to be a con-man. I was a murderous, psychotic maniac in a different timeline. The two of us are unreliable sources of right and wrong. The Doctor has a shred of doubt about if we're really right, and — because the First manipulates his emotions — it can expand on that little shred until the Doctor's certain we're wrong."
Jack opened his mouth, but no words formed.
"Rose can get through to the Doctor," Buffy said, "because he trusts her instincts completely. There's absolutely no doubt. Nothing dark the First can feed off. That's why."
Jack seemed to digest this, his eyes realizing the sense of Buffy's argument. "But… if that's true… then why did the Doctor turn down Rose's offer to help him? Rose could have explained right and wrong, and the First would have been defeated right away."
"He needed Rose to stay and take care of the Slayer," Buffy explained. "Rose couldn't come with him — not yet — because she had other things she needed to do. That's why the Doctor didn't ask her to come with him. He only ever asked…" Buffy trailed off, as her eyes grew wide, and she finally worked it out. "…me."
And it suddenly became clear to her. What the Doctor had said.Come with me.
You're Buffy Anne Summers. And I've seen your soul.
When you understand. When you see what I see. You will help me.
He'd given her a choice. Waited until she understood. Waited until she was willing to make the sacrifice — leaving behind her friends, family, and duty as a Slayer — to help him. Waited until she was ready to realize that the help he was asking her for… was not help working for the First. It was help fighting against the First. Help understanding right and wrong, good and evil, help being freed from the controlling influence.
Buffy understood, now. Understood everything.
And she knew what she had to do.
She shook Jack's hand, and gave him her most reassuring smile. "Good luck," she said. She glanced over at Rose. "Keep those guys safe. And everyone else, here."
"Buffy—" Jack started.
Buffy reached into her pocket, and brought out the Maer'Isa. Placed it in Jack's palm. "If I fail," she said, "and everything goes wrong…" She glanced down at the cube. "You know what to do."
"Buffy, this is insane!" Jack insisted.
But Buffy had already turned away. Already gone over to say her goodbyes to Willow and Xander, to tell Faith to stay on the right side, to tell her mother — one last time — that she loved her. The mother that was already sick, in this time before modern medicine. The mother that would be dead before Buffy ever came back.
If Buffy ever came back.
And then it was time. Time to do what the Doctor had prophesied she'd do. She turned to face the entrance of the cave — turning her back on friends, family, and her duty — opened the boulder blocking the door a crack, and stepped outside. Into the night air.
The boulder-door was rolled back behind her with a resounding crash.
Buffy stepped forwards, not surprised to find the familiar pinstripe-suited figure approaching her. His eyes fixed on her own. His face serious, determined. His hand extended.
"I'm ready," Buffy said.
And took his hand in her own.