In which the stakes get even higher
: Thanks again to all my wonderful reviewers. I'm still loving the speculation. Normally I wouldn't answer any of it specifically (spoilers) but I will say that I wanted to adhere as closely to canon as possible, meaning that there will be no surprise canon character death in this story. Spawn of AN
: This is the chapter that earned the rating. There be graphic violence ahead, and above the level typically shown on BtVS. It is only the one instance though.
“She really doesn’t know who we are,” Angel said. He stared after her, bemused.
“No,” the Doctor agreed. “She really doesn’t. Willow claims that everyone who dressed for Halloween has been possessed by the costumes. Well, almost everyone, as Cordelia obviously isn’t feeling very felinous at the moment and I – well. That’s a bit complicated, actually.”
“Xander dressed as know-it-all British homeless guy,” Cordelia told him. Well, how perfectly rude!
Angel blinked. Then he blinked again, and his eyes darted back and forth between the Doctor and Cordelia. Then he must’ve seen the silly little nametag he’d affixed to his jacket in lieu of a costume, because his eyes widened a fraction and he fixed the Doctor with an incredulous stare.
“You’re the Doctor,” he said, flatly. He looked rather like he’d just taken a mouthful of something sour.
“Ah. I take it you’ve heard of me, then?”
“A bit,” he said, grimace tipping into a more of a smirk. “What the heck are you wearing?”
“Oh well isn’t that nice. Do you see me insulting your
sartorial choices? No? And I’ll have you know I could, too. Easily. Wore a jacket quite like that once. I know all the best ways to poke fun at it. But the point is—”
“Which Doctor are you
?” Angel interrupted, neatly derailing his rant. And again with the hair trigger where this bloke was concerned. He really had to watch that.
“The one and only,” he said, grinning.
“He doesn’t know he’s in costume,” Cordelia added.
The Doctor frowned. “Like I said. Complicated.”
“I’ll bet,” Angel agreed, but he was smiling now. Actually, the Doctor decided he rather didn’t like that smile. It couldn’t possibly mean anything good.
What sort of rivalry did Zander have with this Angel fellow, anyway? He really hoped there was more to it than just a pretty face. So very disappointing if there wasn’t.
Then the moment was shattered by the sudden, violent implosion of the rear door. Something kicked it in with tremendous force and it swung round with a horrific bang off the rear wall. The Doctor glared at Angel.
“Didn’t I tell you to lock that?”
A bipedal humanoid stood in the open doorway: tall, gangly, and sporting a rather deformed face that didn’t look at all like it belonged on the individual in question.
!” the Doctor glared at it. Him. Whichever. “Did no one tell you it’s rude to barge in without knocking?”
Their intruder – stray rift creature? Adult human who’d worn a silly mask tonight but nothing else? – growled and leapt at them. The Doctor darted back, trying to put as much distance between himself and the intruder as possible while still keeping Cordelia well behind him.
“Run!” he yelled. “Stay with Buffy!” He heard pounding feet as she obeyed.
The distraction cost him, though. He took his eyes off the intruder just long enough to give it an opening. It leapt at him again and he brought up his hands – he hadn’t yet seen how much this body remembered his Venusian aikido
, though he had a sinking feeling he was about to learn it wasn’t much – only Angel got there first. Instead of an imminent attack now the Doctor was faced with two grown men wrestling on the kitchen floor.
“A steak!” Angel shouted. “I need a steak!”
“Shouldn’t you have thought of that before?” the Doctor asked, incredulous. The two combatants were too close together for him to try anything with his sonic. Not unless he wanted Angel incapacitated too.
“Here!” Cordelia yelled. Startled – hadn’t he sent her to Buffy? – the Doctor whipped around to see her standing in the doorway, a long, sharp-ish hunk of wood in her hands.
Then, before he could do more than think oh, a stake – not that that makes any more sense
Cordelia tossed said stake to Angel, who caught it easily in one hand, and—
!” the Doctor shouted, horrified, but it was too late. Angel slammed the stake home. He buried its length in the intruder’s chest with tremendous force, likely plowing straight through the sternum and into its heart. A hot rush of blood burbled up from the wound around the hunk of wood, and the poor thing gasped and choked as its whole body spasmed, then abruptly went still.
Shocked, Angel jerked back, scooted a bit on his bottom until he hit the wall. His hand was slick with blood, and he stared at it incredulously. “That shouldn’t have happened,” he said, stunned. He flexed his bloody fingers.
“No, it shouldn’t have,” the Doctor agreed, solemn. “That poor soul’s only crime was donning an ill-fitting mask for Halloween celebration. And now you’ve gone and murdered him. Oh, well done
, you stupid ape. Well done.” Maybe that’s
what Zander had against the man? A shocking propensity towards lethal violence. Good on his persona, then. This was a tragedy that should not have happened.
“But – he was a vampire!” Cordelia. And she’d known what Angel had meant by ‘stake,’ had known before he’d thought to ask, even. There was a story there, he was certain. Just as he was certain he wasn’t going to enjoy the telling of it. “The face, the ‘grrr,’ his eyes
…” She was staring at the body, wide-eyed.
“He broke in,” Angel said. “I should have realized—”
“He was a vampire,” Cordelia insisted, and oh, that sounded like the onset of shock. Great. Just bloody wonderful. “A vampire… Why isn’t he dust?”
“Because he was a victim,” the Doctor explained. “Willow dressed as a ghost, and so became a ghost. Buffy dressed in Georgian garb, and so became an eighteenth century noblewoman. And that man put on a rather unfortunate mask, and so gained a monster’s face.”
“I haven’t killed a human in a hundred years,” Angel said, and there was murder in his eyes now like there hadn’t been before, rage at whatever or whoever it was that created tonight’s chaos, and a horrid sort of personal agony that the Doctor knew only too well. What he’d done had sickened him. If he’d known the beast was human he would have stayed his hand.
Xenophobic claptrap, of course. Murder was murder no matter the species. Still, he’d take remorse over fatalism any day. Remorse he could work with, still.
“You!” Cordelia said suddenly, staring at Angel in terrible realization. “I thought Buffy was having me on, but it’s really true. You – you’re one of them, aren’t you. A vampire.”
Angel didn’t answer, but then he didn’t have to. The Doctor read the truth of it in the self-loathing that fair dripped from those hunched shoulders, that down-turned mouth. Angel was exactly what Cordelia accused him of being. Probably some species of plasmavore, then, given the parlance; either a traveler from the rift or a species naturally drawn to its energies.
“He’s a vampire,” Cordelia said again, wild-eyed; accusing. Then suddenly she paled, eyes falling on Angel’s unfortunate victim. “Oh
. I think, I think I’m g
The Doctor caught her just in time, eased her down and pulled her hair back as she sicked up all over the kitchen tile. It was over quickly – not much in her stomach, apparently – and then she sagged back into his arms, shaking all over, face an absolute mess of tears and snot and little dribbles of bile on her chin. He offered her a handkerchief, which she accepted with a grateful mutter.
“I have a soul,” Angel said suddenly. “I drink pigs’ blood, and I help the slayer, and I don’t kill humans. Someone is going to pay.” The venom, the cold, hard promise
in Angel’s voice was enough to give even the Doctor pause.
Oh, how absolutely brilliant!
Well, not the promise of vengeance thing. The Doctor would have to keep an eye on him when they confronted whoever was responsible. No, he meant the fact it seemed a self-styled vampire had thrown his lot in with humanity, and sided with them against his own kind. Oh, Angel, I should like very much to converse with you later.
Though he rather doubted that Angel was actually what he claimed to be. He certainly wasn’t one of the Ancient Enemy. A remnant, perhaps; a perversion unleashed upon an unsuspecting planet as a dying race’s last desperate bid for survival. A shadow of their former selves still daring to call themselves vampires, one last act of defiance that has obviously endured long past their own memory of it.
Or just a plasmavore with either delusions of grandeur or no concept of its own ancestry. That was actually a lot more likely. Sometimes a cigar doesn’t actually have to be a concentrated analogy for penis, after all, or so said a perverted Austrian neurologist of his acquaintance, once. Filthy things, cigars. The Doctor never understood how humans could tolerate the smell. But when in Rome…
“You kill vampires often, then?” he asked Angel over Cordelia’s shoulder.
“Buffy does,” Cordelia answered before Angel could. “Slayer. Um, do you think we could move now?”
Right. He was pretty much holding her above a puddle of her own sick. Nasty, that. “Alright. D’you think you can stand?” Cordelia nodded, and he helped her to her feet. “Water,” he said to Angel. “And something with a bit of sugar, yeah? I’ve had enough of swooning females for one evening.”
Angel stood and very carefully stepped around the body of his victim. Cordelia watched him, sick fascination etched onto her too-pale face. She shook her head. In the background Angel was opening cupboards, testing the light above the kitchen sink – still out – and fiddling with the taps.
“This can’t be happening,” Cordelia said, but he could tell the fight was gone. “Why? Why is this—” but she didn’t finish the thought. Couldn’t, probably, poor thing. She sounded just as lost as Buffy had, stranded in the midst of strangers and so very far from home.
“Because someone’s been very, very bad,” the Doctor said, gently. Staying simple; staying honest. “And they’ve done a very, very bad thing. I don’t know why, but I promise you I will
find out. I’ll find out, and I’ll make them stop.”
“How?” she asked. She was actually focused on him now, instead of Angel or the corpse across the way, cooling in a puddle of its own blood. Meant she was consciously reacting to stimuli again. That was a positive sign.
“I’m the Doctor,” he said, just as bright and cheerful as he felt he could get away with, given the circumstances. “It’s what I do.”
“You can trust him,” Angel said, as he offered her a glass. “Whoever did this, they didn’t count on him being here. We can use that.” He was grinning when he said it.
“Rinse,” the Doctor instructed as Cordelia took the glass. “Then spit.” He shadowed her to the sink, just in case, but she was steadier than she looked at first glance. She did as told, several times in fact; then she finished the water off.
“I’m sorry,” he said to Angel as she did so. “I’m so very sorry, but I have to ask. What is a slayer?”
“She’s the chosen one. One girl in all the world with the strength and skill to take on vampires and win.”
Oh, he rather doubted that. Whoever decided that human women couldn’t triumph over something vastly outside their weight class had never met Leela, or Ace, or River, or any of his companions, really. How many times had Sarah Jane saved the world again?
“Just one?” he asked, because – what else could he say? Nothing that wouldn’t start an argument, that’s what. “Seems dashed inefficient, you ask me.”
“When a slayer dies the power is transferred to another. The slayer line. Been that way since humanity gained a foothold in the world. Oreos?”
The Doctor blinked. Right. Sugar
. This must be how it felt to be offered a jelly baby at random and inappropriate intervals. Also, he would dearly love to contest every last part of Angel’s statement, but now was not really the time.
“Thanks,” Cordelia said, and took one.
“We need a plan,” Angel said. He looked at the Doctor, shook his head, said: “I don’t suppose you have your screwdriver?” Only to gape, full fish out of water, when the Doctor held it aloft.
“Of course I do. Never leave the TARDIS without it.”
“You have the TARDIS
?” He looked like he was about to faint.
“Not at hand. Like I said—”
“Right, right. Complicated.
“What’s a TARDIS?” Cordelia asked, mouth still full of chocolate biscuit.
“My ship. Stands for—”
“Time and Relative Dimensions in Space,” Angel interrupted, grinning.
“Well, yes.” He fixed a sharp eye on the non-human. “You seem to know an awful lot about me, Angel. A bloke could get suspicious.”
“Have I mentioned how weird it is to hear you speak with an English accent?”
Cordelia laughed, a short, sharp, decidedly unladylike bark. “You kidding? I’m having trouble remembering that it’s still Xander under all that ridiculous fashion sense. Well, more ridiculous than usual, anyway.”
Angel was trying to distract him, and Cordelia was unwittingly helping. He decided to let them, for now. Especially since they really did have more pressing concerns, not the least being the poor corpse on the floor, there. They should probably cover him up or something. And Willow’d been gone a long time, now. Something might’ve happened to her. Such a good head on her shoulders, that one; he dearly hoped it was enough to see her through. And poor—
They’d left her alone in the sitting room, and haven’t heard a peep from her since. The Doctor took off running, only to be brought up short by the sight of a perfectly empty room and a gaping front door. He cursed loudly and long. Only Old High Gallifreyan could convey the proper amount of scorn he felt he deserved right then.
,” Angel gasped beside him, just as Cordelia asked—
“Wait, where’s Buffy?”
“Gone,” he answered. “Probably got scared and ran off during the fight. And we didn’t even think to check! Stupid, stupid, stupid. I promised her I’d keep her safe.”
“C’mon,” Angel insisted. “We’ve got to find her.”
“Agreed. Though we should probably leave a note for Willow, in case she comes back this way.”
“Where is she, anyway? You said she’s a ghost...”
“She went to Giles,” Cordelia said.
“She’s incorporeal,” the Doctor explained. “Given the circumstances she thought it best she went alone. And speaking of girls running off by themselves – Angel, can you track her?”
“Only if she’s bleeding.” Angel looked horrified by the very thought.
“Right. This is her house, then? Bedroom upstairs?” The Doctor was already running for them.
“What’s that got to do with anything?” Cordelia called after him.
” he shouted down from the second floor. “I’ll need – aha! Yes! Oh, this’ll do nicely.
” He came bounding down the stairs again a moment later, Buffy’s hairbrush in one hand, his sonic in the other, and already mapping her unique genetic thumbprint. A final beep from the screwdriver and it was done. “There!” he said, pleased, and tossed the brush aside. “Now I
can track her. Come on!” He grabbed his fedora on his way out the door.
His companions had to hurry to catch him up.
Of course, homing in on one specific DNA signature wasn’t as easy as he made it sound. His sonic had a range of about five kilometers in such tasks, give or take, but a) it was directional – conical, to be precise – so if he wasn’t pointed in the right direction she could be standing right behind him and he wouldn’t even know it, and b) with all the interference from the rift said range was probably only half that at best. Sure, once he found her he could keep a lock on her no matter where on Earth she went, but until then…
He zigzagged them round and round the block in a fairly spiral pattern, and still no luck. On the plus side though, a deserted shop called “Ethan’s” had enough dark energy not-quite contained behind its walls it could very well house another rift. The source of tonight’s mayhem, unless he missed his guess. As soon as they found not-Buffy he’d make sure they doubled back this way. Too bad the overflow was giving his sonic fits, making it just that much harder to isolate one specific pattern of human DNA in all the chaos.
“Are you sure she came this way?” Angel asked, dubious, after he’d stood staring at his screwdriver a little too long.
“No,” he replied, tersely. That was the problem. Humans! Why did they always have to wander off?
“She’ll be okay,” Cordelia said, trying to sound reassuring.
would be okay,” Angel corrected. “Whoever she is now, she’s helpless.”
And on they went. Fortunately the streets were a lot emptier than they had been previously, so at least they didn’t have to worry so much about a random attack, rift creatures or otherwise. On the other hand though, the Doctor didn’t really enjoy the implications of that. Then finally, round about four blocks down and six blocks over, he got a lock on Buffy’s DNA signature.
“This way!” He took off down an adjacent alley, trusting Angel and Cordelia to follow after him. They were close, real close. The interference was worse than he thought. Either that or the whole Buffy/not-Buffy thing was confusing his scanner.
Out the mouth of the alley, down another half block and across the street into a different alley, and then around to the north side of what seemed to be an abandoned warehouse – oh how delectably cliché – and he found not-Buffy. Of course, she was currently being accosted by – well, if he had to guess he’d say a horribly anachronistic pirate; another poor bloke in a cheap costume who had no control over his actions.
Not that the Doctor overly cared
, mind. Not this time. Not-Buffy was under his protection. Civilizations have fallen and regimes have toppled and frightful nicknames have been coined because someone dared threaten those he’d promised to keep safe. He couldn’t kill the pirate, of course not, but he could damn well bloody his nose a bit, make him think twice about the proper way to treat a lady for however long he had before this whole dreadful mess was sorted properly.
A flick of his sonic and a clutch of metal trashcans flew apart, the victims of sudden and violent magnetization along mirroring poles. Not-Buffy screamed, and the pirate, distracted, spun about – into the wrong direction, lovely – and drew his sword at the noise.
“Buffy!” Angel yelled, which unfortunately rather got the pirate’s attention. He spun back around, cutting off not-Buffy’s only chance of escape. She screamed again and backed up against the wall.
“Really? You had to shout?”
“I saw ‘er first,” the pirate sneered at them. “Go’n find yer own.”
“The Lady does not appreciate your company,” the Doctor said. “And I for one don’t appreciate your breath. This is your one chance. Leave now, and I’ll forget I ever saw you.”
“Mine!” the pirate snarled. “Mine
!” And then he charged.
Angel tried to rush him, but seeing as he’d been trying to edge towards not-Buffy he was entirely too far away. Not-Buffy screamed, and Cordelia yelled at him to look out, but it was already obvious the pirate construct knew absolutely nothing of proper swordplay. The Doctor stepped left and the creature went flailing by. Then it was absolutely nothing at all for him to reach out, press three fingers to the pirate’s temple—
The brute collapsed to the ground.
“You had your chance,” the Doctor informed the crumpled heap of almost-humanity. “You should have taken it.” Though in the aftermath he was starting to realize that the contempt he held for the creature wasn’t entirely his own. Like his sudden, easy anger at Angel, something from his Zander persona must have recognized man in the pirate mask, and for whatever reason he really didn’t care for the fellow at all.
“What did you do?” Cordelia asked, obviously shocked by what had happened.
“Psychic override,” he said. “Don’t worry, he’s just asleep. Though I don’t envy him the headache he’ll have in the morning.” Then he paused, considering. “Though for some reason, defeating that pirate gave me an odd sense of closure. Zander knows him, yes?”
Cordelia blinked. “Larry. He goes to our school.”
“Y-you saved me again, good sir,” not-Buffy stammered, approaching him suddenly. She was wearing Angel’s jacket. She and Cordelia were practically a matched set. “I fear I shall be forever in your debt.”
“Nonsense, my dear.” He chucked her gently under the chin. “I’m just glad you’re alright.”
Then the moment was broken by Willow’s sudden shout. “Guys
!” She was running towards them, full tilt.
“Willow!” Angel called out to her.
“Guys, you gotta get inside,” she urged them. A moment later the reason became quite clear. A veritable army of rift creatures lurched around the corner into view.
“Something’s united them,” the Doctor observed. “Now we’re getting somewhere.”
“This way!” Angel shouted, pointing back down the alley. “Find an open warehouse!”
Cordelia didn’t need telling twice. Not-Buffy though looked to him first. He took her hand.