In which the 13th Doctor has a lot of questions
: Thank you to all my wonderful reviewers. You really made my day:) I especially loved everyone's speculations. Lady Buffy and/or Ethan as a companion to the 13th Doctor? That would make for one awesome AU.
Xander was leading his kids down the road not far from the school when suddenly he felt a tingling sensation. It started in his head – like a headache but not – and quickly spread through his chest and into his limbs. Idly he raised his right hand and touched the tip of each finger to his thumb, watching carefully as he did so. “Huh.” It was like he was watching someone else’s hand.
Then something heavy slammed into him, a giant wall of nothing that rolled over him like a breaking wave and made his breath catch and his ears ring. Xander stumbled forward as something painfully bright flashed through his eyes, and then—
—just as swiftly as it came, the rather painful disorientation faded back into oblivion. Then suddenly he heard a scream. He looked up, sharply – and gasped aloud at what he saw, jaw slacking open as he took in his surroundings.
It was not long after sunset on an obviously industrialized planet – for all that it absolutely shouldn’t be
– though one he didn’t immediately recognize. Could be earth, but then it could also just as easily be a dozen or so other worlds that evolved along a similar line – and that was just off the top of his head. Realistically he knew he could be almost anywhere though, given the apparent circumstances. Not a moment ago he'd been in the TARDIS – well, more specifically he'd been under
it, both hands buried in her temporal buffer array as he recalibrated the inductor alignment – and now he was wherever here
was and the old girl was nowhere in sight. Not good. Not good at all.
Thankfully his sonic was still in his pocket.
The Doctor fiddled with it, trying to remember which setting was the GPS (the G, in this case, meaning galactic). Then it took him a minute to parse the coordinates.
So this really was Earth, then. Western coast of North America, to be precise; just north of Los Angeles – how perfectly unexpected. He’d not been back to this neck of the proverbial wood since his 8th regeneration – and it looked roughly the same era, too, which went a long way towards explaining the rather foul stench in the air.
Ah, Californians. No one did smog quite like them.
Well. That solved the where and the when. The how, the why – and most importantly the who
, if indeed there was a who behind this – still remained to be seen. Much too soon to be theorizing yet. Guessing, sure. Hypothesizing, maybe, but no theorizing. Not enough data.
Though to be honest, out of everything he so very carefully did not
expect to find when he’d scanned for his relative coordinates, that he’d somehow suddenly dropped in on late twentieth century California was probably the winner. There was the unexpected, and then there was the really
unexpected, and then there was this. The Doctor was rather uncomfortably certain he’d just found himself in the middle of a dreadful mess.
After that horrible business with Satellite Five and the Game Station he’d made damned sure nothing could circumvent the TARDIS’ shields again. Well, he’d thought he’d done. Turned out to be a bit of an ongoing problem, that, if also – thankfully – a rare one, and so his countermeasures have gone through several sadly necessary upgrades. Still, seeing as they hadn’t had to weather a repeat of that particular threat since he’d last flounced about in bowties and bracers, he’d rather hoped that specific weakness had at last been permanently sorted, though he supposed he could’ve been wrong about that.
Still, no use jumping to conclusions, even if realistically there were only two that counted. Well, two that were realistic
, anyway, though Rassilon knew he’d made a habit of shaking hands with the unreal at every other turn, but either he was dealing with someone or something altogether new and different – and wouldn’t that
be exciting, if the evidence of such wasn’t dashed inconvenient right now – or else he'd taken yet another page from his 8th self and was currently walking around with amnesia, because that was always fun. For all definitions of ‘fun’ that also meant ‘abjectly terrifying’ – of which there were a fair few, you ask him, not that anyone did – but still.
He honestly didn’t know which answer he preferred.
An outside threat meant he was entirely on his own. Not insurmountable, but he was definitely starting behind the curve and he absolutely hated playing catch-up. And on the other hand, amnesia meant the TARDIS was around here somewhere, which was good, but then he’d have no way of knowing how much of himself was lost in the ether, and that was decidedly not. Behind the curve again, definitely, and if there was anything worse than trying to solve for x
when he didn’t even know how many variables were in play, it was the fact he knew he was probably solving it twice
. And that wasn’t even timey-wimey. No, instead it was brainy-wainy, and that was an entirely different sort of headache. Quite literally, in fact.
Unfortunately his sense of his own personal time was muzzy at best – consequence of age, that, not that he’d ever admit it, and of entirely too much mucking about inside his own timeline – so he couldn’t entirely trust the impression that almost no time had passed since his last clear memory of himself. He would need an outside source if he hoped to untangle the riddle. Too bad the location of the TARDIS was part of it. He still had his key, of course, so he could call her to him if needs be, but he really didn’t fancy how long it would take to draw her here if she was currently stranded in the vortex. Time, he knew with the absolute and irrefutable certainty of the Time Lords, was decidedly of the essence – and speaking of
The Doctor shivered. A muzzy personal time-sense was one thing, but his grasp of time itself was the strongest it’d ever been. In fact all of his dimensional senses were almost painfully acute this time around – quite handy, that, and almost compensation enough for losing out on his last shot at being ginger – and right now they were positively screaming
at him. Seems he was standing on a very large, very active trans-dimensional rift, one that was leaking enough – oh, everything
, really; according to his sonic – to make him faintly nauseous. Really, the fabric of space-time hadn’t been wounded this
badly since he rebooted the universe.
Well, that gave him the why, then. Where else would the last of the Time Lords be?
Point of fact, it might even explain the how. There was enough negative energy – not to mention arton radiation and all the usual suspects – leeching out of the rift that a sufficiently advanced and expertly targeted pangalactic transmat could possibly have gotten through to him. Especially if whoever it was had any familiarity with TARDISes and Time Lord technology – and wasn’t that
a happy thought.
A sudden sound behind him had the Doctor twisting around, and he gaped at the sight that met him. That sound – a deep-throated roar rather incongruous to its source – seemed to come from a small, red, horned… something… that was shuffling menacingly in his direction. Not a creature he recognized, that was certain, which meant it certainly wasn’t a native of Earth. It must have come through the rift.
“Hi there,” he greeted, grinning at the creature. Hopefully it was sentient. “I’m the Doctor, and you are?”
The creature snarled and leapt at him – which didn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t
sentient, mind. Sadly that wasn’t out of the realm of standard responses to his presence. The Doctor sighed, and dodged.
“Hey, now! No call for that.”
The creature ignored him. Fortunately it also decided he wasn’t worth its continued effort. Or maybe it was distracted by the large, shaggy something lumbering down the road ahead, because it suddenly took off the other way. Actually – and now that he took a good and proper look around – there were rift creatures everywhere
. The whole area was crawling with them, all different, all potentially deadly to the local population. Not to mention all of space and time, if the rift was spitting them out by the truckload like this. And across the dimensional barriers, too, so said the sonic – and bugger all.
“Oh, this is going to take so much
Another shout behind him – “Xander
!” he heard this time – and he spun around again. That was a human voice, if he didn’t miss his guess. And apparently he hadn’t, because there was a human girl – a ginger, how lovely – rushing towards him, the glint of recognition in her eyes.
Well, he didn’t know what a “zander” was, but the recognition itself was still a promising sign. One that fair pointed towards his having come down with amnesia again, but even still. Answers were answers. Maybe she was a companion, then? He hadn’t had a ginger since Pond, and none that dressed like that
since – well, since Rose, actually. River in costume hardly counted. Though if indeed she was
a companion of his, then hopefully she’d forgive him the memory lapse. He didn’t always have the best track record in that regard.
…Not that recognition on her part actually meant she traveled with him, though. She could very well be one of the temporary allies he tended to accumulate in his adventures. If he’d only met her recently then he probably wasn’t missing as much time as he’d first feared, and that would definitely be a good thing. Still, this could get a bit dicey if she hadn’t come to trust him yet.
Well, regardless. Unless she was in the opposing camp then he could probably get at least some of his answers.
...Though point of fact, he might just get them anyway. The baddies did love a good gloat.
“It’s me, Willow!” she said when she reached him. Obviously his lack of recognition must have shown on his face.
At least she knew him, though. Would’ve been awkward if she’d just singled him out as a bastion of humanity in this sea of rift-born chaos. Or seeming humanity, anyway. Now, how best to explain…
“Ah. You know me, yes?”
A look of panic suddenly flashed through the girl’s eyes. “Xander, quit messing around. This is no time for jokes.”
Oh. So the mysterious “zander” was him, then. What an odd name. He must’ve taken an alias at some point, probably to blend in. Mustn’t’ve thought “John Smith” was Californian enough to do the trick. Either that or he could blame the psychic paper. But – not a companion, then. Pity. He did love traveling with gingers – vicarious living and all that.
“Yes, I can see that,” he agreed. If nothing else, this was most definitely not
a time for jokes. A quip or two, perhaps, maybe the odd one-liner, but jokes were right out. “But I’m afraid we’ve got an even bigger problem on our hands. Now, I’ve no idea
what caused it – guesses, yes, and not one of them good, but no real proof—”
“Xander, quit it!” the girl – Willow, she’d said; ah, California
– interrupted. She sounded panicked. “Something’s happened. We need to find Buffy!”
Oh. So they’d had a third, then. Someone who was presently missing. Not good.
“Oh dear,” he said. “Unfortunately I’m not entirely as unaffected by – all this – as I must’ve thought I’d be. You see – well. It seems something’s gone and ripped a great big hole in my memory. Not complete amnesia – I still know who and what I am – but I’m sorry, I’m afraid I don’t recognize you, I don’t know who “Buffy” is, and any information I might have had about what’s going on here – besides the obvious, that is – is completely gone. Blank slate, me – and I’m so very sorry about this, really I am – but if you could please start at the beginning? It would be a tremendous help.”
The girl just stood there, horror-struck, for a very long 8.57 standard seconds before snapping out of it. “You don’t know me?” It wasn’t a question.
He shook his head. “No, I don’t. I’m sorry, but I don’t. You said your name is Willow?”
The girl honestly looked like she was going to be sick. “I dressed as a ghost for Halloween,” she said, keeping her voice even with obvious effort. “And now I am
a ghost – the ghost of Willow. And you – Xander! You dressed as the Doctor! That’s
who you are – you’re the Doctor! Oh, Giles is going to have kittens!”
Well. That didn’t make a lick of sense. He’d dressed as himself for Halloween?
Lovely American holiday, Halloween; a favorite on many a colony world. Peri had loved it. So did River. Though come to think of it, the few times she’d dragged him to someone’s celebration, he’d always gone as one of his past selves…
So – a massive trans-dimensional rift that should not exist at this place and time just happened to be spewing forth displaced aliens by the baker’s dozen on Halloween night? Oh, someone’s
been very, very naughty.
Well, could also be a something. Hopefully
it was a something – then he could skip the whole dos-à-dos
with the villain bit and get straight to the sorting, but first the facts. Apparently this Willow girl knew who he was, which was helpful. Still didn’t explain the bit about Zander though. Maybe she’d had amnesia, too, and he’d introduced himself under the alias, which she still remembered, and then the truth had come out later, which she did not? Would explain her sudden realization, if not how she was able to recover faster than he. Usually these things worked the other way around.
…Unless whatever this was, it targeted Time Lord minds specifically. Another cheery thought.
So – Halloween night, and he hadn’t dressed at all. Probably because it was altogether too much a reminder of River. He hadn’t seen her yet in this regeneration, and if he was honest with himself he didn’t think he would, either. Their song – ha
! – probably really did end at the singing towers, just like she’d said it would. One last absolutely brilliant rendezvous and then—
Halloween! And a rift either created or exploited by someone with malicious intent and a grudge against Time Lords. Oh, this was going to be fun
“I’m sorry Willow, but I’m afraid you’re going to have to back up a bit. If you could please tell me everything you know about the situation here – especially everything I’ve told you about the trans-dimensional rift beneath our feet – that would be exceedingly helpful.”
The girl nodded. It looked suspiciously like she was bracing herself. For what though he’d no idea; she didn’t look scared of him. That was always an unpleasant wrinkle. “Right. Well. Locals call the rift the hellmouth. It’s been here since forever. It couldn’t have caused this, though. Or at least I don’t think it could.”
“Not directly, no,” the Doctor agreed. “But these creatures must have come through it at some point. Likely recently, given the way they’re swarming now. And I’m guessing I haven’t shared any theories?” Because that would be just like him.
“Oh, they aren’t from the hellm – er, the rift,” she said, alarmed. “This is Halloween. Something, probably a spell, made everyone who dressed up turn into their costumes.”
Oh ho! Now that
was different! Worrisome, but different. And it painted a rather different picture. He’d probably joined his new friends in their ritual candy acquisition quest as a guise to better study the rift, probably to try and pinpoint its location. And he’d have gone as his current self, because he honestly couldn’t see himself doing otherwise, and besides which, his current sartorial choices were odd enough in this place and time to serve him well enough. Most likely then, when whatever happened, happened, he’d simply reverted back to himself as he was before this little adventure began. Would mean he was only missing his most recent memories – bit of a relief, that, especially if he had two entirely only-slightly-related problems to sort. If Willow was right then it meant the rift wasn’t the only problem, here.
“Bugger,” he said. It summed things up rather nicely, to his mind.
“I’ll say,” Willow agreed. “We need to find – Buffy!”
Right. Their missing third. Thankfully it looked like Willow had spotted her, because suddenly she took off in the other direction. The Doctor trotted after her, thumbing his sonic to the most basic biological diagnostic setting as he went.
“Buffy! Are you okay?”
Unfortunately the reunion was cut short by the sudden return of the red-horned creature that'd failed so spectacularly at menacing him earlier. Looking at it now though, the Doctor could easily believe that it was once a child in a rather garish costume. He didn’t want to hurt it so instead he flashed the light of his sonic in its face as he snapped an instant scan. Two scaly hands covered its eyes and then it ran screaming away from them. There. No permanent damage done.
When he checked the readout he saw human DNA overlayed with a pattern he didn’t recognize, though it was uncomfortably close to Nestene plastic. Which made sense, he realized suddenly. Frightening sense. Maybe the Nestene were behind this?
“Buffy, what do we do?” Willow asked the girl – dressed in a rather anachronistic dress that, maybe, tried for eighteenth century wealth, despite being all the wrong fabric and pattern – with an absurd amount of hope in her voice. Whoever this “Buffy” was when she was at home, she was obviously someone Willow had a great deal of faith in.
Naturally, whoever-had-been-Buffy’s response was to swoon and topple over in a dead faint. Ah, he might have known.
“She – she fainted! She’s never done that before.” Poor Willow obviously hadn’t been expecting that. Probably she also didn’t expect to find this Buffy character similarly affected by whatever was afflicting the locals – and that was a fair point. Maybe Buffy wasn’t human, either? Sonic said she was, though, which didn’t necessarily mean anything. It also said that Willow was fully human, too, albeit shifted slightly out of phase. And with a completely frozen metabolism. Hm.
Well, she did
say she’d dressed as a ghost.
When Willow reached out to touch her friend her hand passed straight on through. She gasped and drew back, then looked to him with wide, fearful eyes. “I’m a ghost,” she said. “Ghosts can’t touch things.” Apparently the implications hadn’t fully sunk in until now.
Ghosts are also dead
, he thought but didn’t say aloud. For some reason he doubted the reminder would go down so well. The poor girl’s composure looked frayed enough as it was.
“Come on,” he said instead. “We should get your friend to safety.” Safety first, answers later. He’d learned that lesson painfully enough, hadn’t he. And then he kept on learning it.
Then the unconscious girl moaned.
“Buffy?” Willow asked. The Doctor could only hope she hadn’t dressed as a specific person. This would go even worse if she didn’t recognize her true name.
Maybe-Buffy moaned again, and this time she stirred. She rolled over onto her back and her eyes blinked open.
“Buffy, are you alright?” Willow tried again.
The girl sat up, and looked around with a confused expression on her face. “What?”
“Are you hurt,” the Doctor clarified. Sonic said no, but it’d be better if her friend heard it from the girl’s own mouth.
“Buffy?” She asked, very obviously confused.
Well. That answered that question.
“She’s not Buffy,” Willow announced. The Doctor kindly refrained from telling her she should have been expecting that. Thankfully this regeneration wasn’t nearly as rude as a few of his previous ones. Odd how his manners seemed to flip-flop between lives.
Buffy?” he had to ask. Something
had to have caused Willow to presume she’d still be herself, despite all evidence to the contrary, and he’d very much like to know what it was. Unless of course it was just a simple case of denial. That wasn’t outside the realm of possibilities, either.
Willow didn’t answer, though. Just rolled her eyes. “Oh this is fun.” Then she asked her not-friend to name the year. Ah, clever girl.
Not-Buffy reached out and the Doctor took her hand. He helped her to stand and she stood shakily until she found her feet again.
“1775 I believe,” she answered after a moment. Then she glanced around, so obviously confused, not-so-obviously frightened. It was a familiar sight for the Doctor, and he felt for her. “I-I don’t understand. Who are you?”
“F-friends of whom? Y-your dress... Everything is strange! How did I come to be here?” She was starting to hyperventilate – not good, but Willow intervened before he could think of the best way to reassure her.
“Breathe, okay? Breathe. You're gonna faint again.” She shot a pleading look in his direction. “How are we supposed to get through this without the slayer?”
So the Buffy girl had a title, then. Interesting. Not that it actually told him much. He had his own list of epithets, after all, and he was just a Time Lord with perpetual wanderlust and an overactive sense of justice. “What’s a slayer?”
Another ruckus off to their left and the Doctor shot to his feet again. He put himself squarely between the girls and this new threat – a scaly yellow creature this time, with large, bulbous eyes. The creature roared at them and he raised his sonic again, though this time the scan setting did nothing but cast the beastie a rather sickly shade of green. It roared at them again and he cursed in 51st century Standard – it seemed to be his default this regeneration, a fact he was more than happy to blame on Jack. He didn’t want to hurt the poor thing, but then he rather figured reasoning with it wouldn’t work at all.
The creature swiped a massive paw at him, which he neatly ducked even as he raised his sonic again. Thankfully a loud blast in the upper frequencies did the trick – sort of an improvised dog whistle – because the creature ran off screeching.
Well. That was bracing. “I suggest we get inside before we come across anything—”
“A demon!” not-Buffy suddenly screamed. She scrambled behind the Doctor and clutched at his arm, peering over his shoulder as she continued to shout. “A demon! A demon!”
Both he and Willow gazed off intently in the direction of her furious pointing, but all he saw was a mid-90’s American-made vehicle rambling past them on the road.
“That's not a demon,” Willow explained. “It's a car.”
“What does it want?”
“It doesn’t want anything,” he assured her.
Willow frowned. “She's never seen a car.”
“I should hope not,” he agreed. “She’d have had to have been in Tahiti to see anything made by Chevy in the latter half of eighteenth century.”
Willow blinked. “I don’t remember that episode.”
Ah, so he’s told her a bit about himself, then. Exactly how long had he been here? “Oh that? Nothing, really. All River’s fault. Well, River’s and Jack’s – and they say I’m
a trouble magnet? Nonsense. But it’s really not a story for polite company.”
Willow blinked again, looked a bit like she was going to ask anyway, but then finally said instead: “uh, let's get inside.”
He had to agree. “Right. Where?”
“Where’s the closest…” Willow took a moment to stare up the street one way and then down the other until she got her bearings. “We can go to a friend’s. This way.”