Wherein the Doctor does what he does best
: Once again, thank you to everyone who reviewed. I very much appreciate your feedback.AN 2.0
: This chapter contains references to plots happily bastardized from The Eighth Doctor Adventures
. Yes, the Doctor really did fight "real" vampires once. No, it didn't happen as mentioned in this story. Janus is also apparently fond of minor and inconsequential AUs of events only dubiously canonical.
And so they ran.
“Over here!” Angel shouted ahead of them. He’d either found or finagled an open door. He ushered Cordelia inside and held the door for the Doctor and Buffy, then slammed it shut again. The Doctor used his sonic to jam the lock. They’d need considerable force or precision tools – or some of the nitro 9 he had lurking in one of his jacket pockets – to open it again.
“We should check to see if there are any other ways in,” he suggested. “Either that or see if we can find the power source.” Oh, there were so many
delightful things he could do with his sonic and 220 volts of alternating electrical current.
“Just stay here,” Angel ordered not-Buffy, and then he set off along the wall.
“Stick together this time, yeah?” the Doctor added before dashing off in the opposite direction. His sonic detected an underground entrance – steam tunnel most likely – and his gut told him he should plug it. Who knew how close the rift was below them?
Behind him he heard Cordelia mutter, “oh, faboo, more clinging,” and he had to grin.
Better her than him.
“Power’s been cut,” Angel reported once they met back up again. “One other door, but it’s been blocked by something on the outside. A dumpster probably, going on the smell.”
The Doctor grimaced. Well, that was one whole subset of ideas scuppered but good. Maybe he’d been too hasty when he sonic’ed the tunnel shut? “Right! So, we’ve got some good news, and some bad news. The good news is there’s only one way in.”
“And the bad news?” Cordelia asked.
“There’s only one way out,” Angel answered before the Doctor could. “Dead end.”
“I’ve heard that before,” the Doctor said. “Funny how it never seems to take.”
“Yeah, and how many times have you regenerated?” Angel asked him.
The Doctor side-eyed him. “Getting a bit personal, aren’t we.” Yes, this was supposedly his last life. (Supposedly. Though he rather figured the jury wouldn't be returning the verdict on that until the next time – to quote Ood Sigma – his song rang out, and it became time to see if he still could, or would, or even should.) He could have done without the reminder, though.
But that was it for their banter. The hoard had tracked them down, and now they were trying to batter their way in.
“We should block the door!” Cordelia suggested.
“Why?” he asked. “That’ll just delay the inevitable.”
“I dunno. Maybe if we make it hard enough they’ll give up?”
“I saw Spike out there,” Angel said. “They won’t give up.”
The door groaned, and shuddered, and dented inwards. The sonic told him the numbers were decidedly not in their favor. Oh well. He’d faced worse odds before and still came out on top.
Though, generally not without collateral damage.
“Cordelia? Be a dear and take Buffy. Find yourselves a place to hide.”
“But, I want to stay with you.” Buffy protested.
“It’s for your safety,” he explained. “Now go on. Off with you both.” Thankfully they went.
Another series of bangs, another series of dents, and lots of growling and snarling from outside. The structural integrity of the door was going to fail at any moment, and then the creatures would be upon them.
“I suggest we back up a bit,” he said.
“Good call,” Angel agreed, and they retreated into the center of the warehouse. Angel picked up a stray piece of steel rebar along the way, two feet long. He twirled it in his palm like he knew what he was on about.
“By the by, how vulnerable are you to intense friction?”
“If it comes to it, you do what you have to do to keep them safe,” Angel said. “Don’t worry about me.”
“Noble,” the Doctor appraised, “but I’d appreciate it if you actually answered the question.”
He didn’t get a chance, though. Just then the door heaved inwards with a resounding crash and the army of beasties swarmed in.
Angel charged them. To the Doctor it looked like he was aiming mostly glancing blows at vulnerable areas, delivering non-lethal strikes with sufficient force to make the creatures think twice but not enough to do any serious harm. Seemed he remembered they were facing an army of innocent victims, which was good. Made Angel go up in the Doctor’s estimation, at any rate. As for himself, he was limited to using his sonic to keep the creatures in Angel’s immediate path disoriented, blinding lights and mild sonic blasts on rotating frequencies. If the high notes didn’t hurt their ears then the low notes might knock them off balance. That was the theory, anyway, and it worked about as often as not.
It was a fool’s game anyway. They were vastly outnumbered, and neither of them was willing to kill, or even to seriously maim. Distract; wear down; confuse; annoy; and it might have worked, too, if all they were facing was an army of mindless constructs overlaid on human form. This though was an army of mindless constructs following the orders of a moderately intelligent rift creature who’d marshaled them into a controlled effort. Really he and Angel were doing little more than dancing for the fellow’s amusement. Sooner or later he’d tire of it, or Angel would stumble, or something would catch the Doctor unawares.
Then the real fun would begin.
Or sooner or later one of the creatures would discover the girls’ hiding place and drag them out into the open by the hair. That worked, too.
“Buffy!” Angel shouted, agonized, when he saw them.
!” Willow echoed him; a cry of helpless, fervent denial.
“I’d drop the stick if I were you.”
Ah, a London accent. And not a quirk of the TARDIS’ translation matrix this time, the ringleader was actually British. Out of all the things that weren’t
, today, that one was probably an honest coincidence. Or at least the Doctor hoped it was. Really, really hoped. Last thing he needed was to learn this bloke was renegade Torchwood or something, and that all this had been a trap sprung just for him.
Angel dropped the rebar. It bounced off the cement slab with a dull clang, and it rolled through Willow’s apparition and out of reach. She whimpered as it passed. Oh, Willow
. Bless. She couldn’t touch them, couldn’t help them, but still the Doctor knew she wouldn’t leave them. Whatever happened here tonight, he knew she’d see in through to the end; bear witness. Brave girl. At least her affliction meant she was safe. Small consolation of course, the Doctor knew and far too well, so it was just as well that he needed her now. Rassilon knew that of all the things that never helped, having purpose again came closest.
“Willow, I need you to listen to me, alright? If the worst happens here I need you to get to Cardiff. That’s in Wales, yeah? You go to Cardiff and find a man named Jack Harkness. Got that? Jack Harkness. Tell him what’s happened. Tell him I sent you.”
She let out this horrible little mewling sob
at that, poor thing. Of course she wouldn’t want to imagine the worst – these were her friends – and here he was, forcing her to confront the possibility head on. But there was nothing for it. He needed her to listen – her planet
needed her, because Jack was the only person left in this place and time the Doctor trusted to act in his stead.
Oh it would be beyond cruel, making Jack mourn him almost a decade before they ever reconnected, not to mention very dangerous to the time stream, but what choice did he have? UNIT was all but useless these days, if he remembered rightly – far too much politicking about, Alistair practically blackmailed into early retirement for refusing to toe the line – and this needed to get sorted, else the Earth was in serious trouble. Jack was simply the best of all poor options.
…Though come to that, maybe this
was why Jack always came round to forgiving him, even when he shouldn’t’ve, even when he couldn’t always explain why he did so. For all he knew, Jack couldn’ve spent all that time with spoilers
in his head, and never knowing if the next meeting would be their last. The Doctor knew how that felt. Intimately. Just thinking about it made his hearts clench.
“Cardiff?” their British foe scoffed, mercifully distracting him. He must be that “Spike” Angel had mentioned earlier. Another ridiculous name. Too bad he couldn’t blame it on California this time. “Nothing in Cardiff but Welshmen and the BBC. Most boring city in the Empire.”
“What do you want, Spike?” Angel demanded. He was surrounded by baddies. Spike snapped his fingers and the creatures grabbed Angel by the arms, wrenched them harshly behind his back. The Doctor was fair certain he heard a shoulder pop.
“Oh, nothing really. Just enjoying the moment.” He turned to the girls, but from where the Doctor was standing it was clear he only had eyes for Buffy. “Oh, just look
at you,” he crooned. “Shaking. Terrified. Alone. Lost little lamb.” Then he slapped her, hard. Cordelia bit off a scream. “I love it!”
“Did you cause this?” the Doctor asked. He already knew the answer, of course, but still it was the best stall tactic he could think of at the moment.
“Who, me?” Spike asked, all innocence. “Not at all. Would like to meet him, though. Maybe buy him a drink. Thank him for all but gift-wrapping the slayer for me.” He caressed her face at that. Angel bucked in the creatures’ hold, but his strength was apparently no match for them.
“Oh you mean the bloke who channeled the rift’s whedon radiation through an Auton fabrication matrix and turned everyone into their Halloween costumes? Pretty sure his name’s Ethan, runs a costume shop downtown. Actually we passed it on the way here – I can show you if you like.”
Bizarrely enough, Spike responded to that by staring incredulously at Angel. Angel though merely smirked, just as Willow exclaimed—
“That’s what Giles said!”
“Oh well if the watcher says it, it must be true,” Spike mocked.
“What about when the Doctor says it,” he challenged. “Someone – the eponymous Ethan, perhaps? – exploited the natural properties of an active trans-dimensional rift – one that just so happens to be sitting atop a rather finicky temporal nexus (never a smart idea, by the way, and I should know) for – well
. I don’t know what for, yet, do I? Just what methods were employed to achieve it, but I promise you I will
“You claim you weren’t a part of events tonight. Fine. I believe you, but these people are under my protection. This is your one chance to walk away clean. I only ever give the one. I strongly suggest you take it, and harry on back to whatever rock you crawled from. I’ve bigger problems to sort right now than opportunistic Londoners mucking about in other villains’ sandboxes.”
A long, loaded, searing
pause, and then Spike burst out laughing. Something was different though, suddenly; subtly. The rift was changing, its energies shifting; the Doctor could feel it twanging along his every nerve. Timelines were merging, diverging, reshaping themselves; everything in flux. The mysterious Giles, he hoped. Sorting what the Doctor could not.
“You’re kidding, right?” Spike asked, incredulous. “You’ve got to be kidding. Harris, who the hell did you dress as? I haven’t heard a speech that pompous since the last time the Master droned on about the bad old days before the crucifixion.”
“Who indeed,” Willow muttered, just as Angel hissed a quick breath in through his teeth. So he knew what Spike was on about, then. The Doctor would have to ask him later. As it was, it seemed his wasn’t the only reputation to precede him here. How very interesting.
And also good. He could use that. Time, they needed time
“The Master,” he said, his voice dropping down into that frozen register he’d been told played herald to the Oncoming Storm, “is dead. So obsessed with his own mortality and then he died just to spite me, contrary to the last.” Right here, right now, he just had to grin at that. Clever, conniving, contrary Koschei. It had taken him centuries, but finally he could smile again at some of those memories. But only some.
“But that won’t happen for the better part of a decade, and when it does you won’t remember it. Right now there are only three people alive who are allowed to speak his name to me, given the current year, and you’re not one of them, so I’ll thank you to never do it again
Spike almost flinched. Almost, but he’d obviously trained himself to have better control than that. Still, it was good to know he’d startled the bloke; good to know that he could
. Spike paused, just barely long enough to credit it, then—
“What? Say Master
? Kinky bastard, you are, Harris. Never knew you had it in you.”
The Doctor smiled again. It wasn’t a particularly nice
smile this time, because right now his thoughts weren’t particularly nice thoughts. “I’m afraid your information is rather out of date,” he told Spike. “Not your fault, I know. No real way for you to know. Time’s funny that way, all wibbly-wobbly, only linear because you say it is when really it’s so very not. So you knew the Master, then. Alright. I never did know all of what he got up to, but a word of caution – Spike, wasn’t it? Well it might have slipped your notice, Spike
, but I’m not Harris anymore, which means you’ve really no idea
what I’ve got it in me to do. Now you just think on that a bit, before you make your move. I’ve given you a chance. Don’t waste it.”
Another pause, loaded and silent, stretching out five seconds long, seven, nine
while Spike studied him. He was still far too close to the girls for the Doctor’s comfort – and Buffy was crying openly, now, and the villain was far too delighted by that – but at least he still held Spike’s attention. Now if only he could keep it. Giles, wherever you are, please,
“Oh, very good,” Spike said at last, mocking once again, and the Doctor felt it like a door closing, so many possibilities quietly locking themselves away. “Look at you. I’m quaking in my boots over here.”
“You should be,” Willow piped up, suddenly and perhaps stupidly brave. “He’s the Doctor.”
Spike blinked. “What?”
“That’s what I said,” Cordelia muttered, but it was enough to draw the villain’s attention. The Doctor very carefully did not react – he hadn’t for Buffy, he won’t for Cordelia; never give the enemy even the smallest glimpse of your weaknesses – but anything Spike might have said or done was abruptly curtailed when he caught sight of the nametag stuck on Cordelia’s jacket.
On the Doctor’s jacket, rather, the one Cordelia was still wearing.
“What?” Spike repeated, incredulous, and he ripped the sticky badge off in one quick motion. Then he blinked at it again. “Bloody hells!” he sputtered. He tried to toss the nametag aside, only it stayed stuck to his fingers and it took him three tries to shake it loose. “The Doctor! You’re the Doctor
! Oh, that – that is priceless
, that is. Harris, there just might be hope for you yet.”
Ah. So the bloke had
heard of him, then. Good. Fodder for another round of stall the baddie.
“Oh, just wait ‘til I tell Dru – she’s gonna be sorry she stayed in tonight. The Doctor on the hellmouth, wow.”
?” Cordelia exclaimed, exasperated past the point of common sense. “Why does everybody know this but me?”
Again, and oddly, Spike and Angel each looked to the other and, as one, rolled their eyes. “Americans!” they exclaimed.
“No bloody culture,” Spike added. “Makes me wish there really was
a hellmouth in Cardiff. Less sun, more people, pubs that serve black pudding...” He took a moment to indulge the fantasy before some other thought abruptly startled him out of it.
“Hang on – and what the hell did you mean, the Master’s dead?” His sincere expression of disbelief sat all wrong on his face. Evil always looked a tad funny when it was hopelessly confused. His fourth self had practically weaponized that particular ability.
“He can’t be dead,” Spike went on. “Well, alright, Delgato – and wasn’t that a shame; even thought about turning him at the end of his run, he knew how to make evil look, well, fun
– but he can’t be dead. No way. Last I saw he was American, which is actually worse, but then that’s the beauty of you lot. He’ll just regenerate soon’s the BBC gets its head out of its arse and puts you all back on telly, so he’s not dead. He can’t be.”
The Doctor blinked, and tried to parse some sense out of that rather nonsensical ramble. Seemed he wasn’t the only one who liked to keep his enemies terminally vexed, but if he followed it rightly (there’s always at least one grain of truth hidden in all the excess verbiage; that’s what really sells it) then it seemed that Spike really had known the Master at some point after all, or at least enough to know his rather complicated history with the regeneration process. Interesting, that. So too was the level of vehemence with which he denied the Master’s death. In a way it actually eased his hearts a bit, knowing that Koschei had not always been as alone in his travels as he’d thought.
“Like I said,” he told the villain, though not unkindly. “Your information is just a touch out of date.”
Spike waved him off with an impatient hand. “Sod it. I know I’m right.”
The Doctor could tell there’d be no arguing with him.
“And which Doctor did you say you were, again? I’ve seen all of them, and you don’t look like any of him.”
The Doctor grinned. He didn’t even have to pick up the conversational thread this time – Spike was playing right into his hands! “Lucky thirteen, me,” he said, gesturing to himself. “What’d you think? Not bad for a bloke nearing his eighteenth century of life.”
“Impossible.” Spike scoffed, dismissive. “There haven’t been thirteen Doctors – just the eight. And that last one was a total ponce.”
“A ponce?” the Doctor protested, scandalized. He’d been rather fond of his eighth self, or at least of how he'd started. “Maybe so. All that velvet and finery – and the kindness, ah. My compassion, that’s what I remember most. My most patient incarnation, he was, the gentlest gentleman I’ve ever been.”
Spike nodded. “Like I said. A ponce.”
The Doctor shook his head. “See, now that’s always the problem with you lot. You confuse kindness with weakness, brutality with strength, compassion with mercy.” C’mon Giles, what the bloody hell is keeping you? Contrary to popular opinion I’ve never actually talked an enemy to death. Talked them into it, sure, but this is quite a bit beyond that.
Not that he wasn’t about to make an honest go of it, of course. Who said the good guys couldn't monologue?
“Do you know what that ponce did, vampire?” he began. “Wait – do you even call yourself
a vampire? Do you? Do you know why? It’s because my ancestors did. Mine
, I said, not yours – you wonder why that is? It’s because once upon a time – once upon a time lost to all time, now – your ancestors fought
mine. Yeah. And guess who lost. Guess who, after their ignoble defeat, took the scattered remnants of their decimated race out into the universe – had no home anymore, did they? Planet lost forever, banished to nowhere and nowhen – and guess what they found when they got there. Seems they couldn’t even survive
anymore without debasing themselves with other sentient species. You’re not even a half-breed now, did you know that? Not even a quarter-breed. A 64th-breed, if you’re lucky. Just another parasite hanging on to plague the human race.
“And that ponce you speak so snidely of? Well you know, he killed
all of the true
vampires. All of them, everywhere; he hunted your ancestors across the whole of time and space – and he killed them. Murdered them, even; malice aforethought – and when he was done? Well, he went after the half-breeds next; the slave races; the perversions
. He hunted them down until the rabble that remained all bled human red, until every last trace of their heritage was destroyed, their language – their own names! – forgotten, lost to time and Time Lords both. Your whole existence now is dependent on those your ancestors thought were so far beneath them they weren’t even worthy enough to be enslaved. And that just burns
you, doesn’t it? Your blood, your failure, your pride! Down in some deep, dark place you can’t even name, just the shadow of a memory, you burn. And you blame humanity for it. And you couldn’t be more wrong. That’s
what your ponce did. That’s
what he, the very best I’ve ever been, was capable of.
“But – I know what you're thinking. You're thinking we're still here
and there's a great bloody lot of us
– and probably what the bloody hell is this nutter on about?
– and yeah, you're right. I am
a nutter. But I'm also the reason you're standing here, in a matter of speaking. You see I – we
– the Time Lords – stopped. We stopped, and you're still here, but I can guarantee it's not for the reason you think it is. It's certainly not because your ancestors were clever, oh no. No matter what they must've thought, what lies your creator told you: diluting your blood with other species, throw the big bad Time Lord off the scent, how very like a predator to think that way – but no. The reality is, Spike – the actual reality – is that you're so far down the line that you're become irrelevant; inconsequential; something so far below a Time Lord's notice that you really have no concept of just how far you've fallen. You're still here, fiend, because quite frankly, up until this very moment I couldn't be arsed to bother with you. But now I am, and I’m giving you a chance. Just one, because you haven’t done anything you can’t still walk away from. Yet. Do you really want to cross me? Do you, you sad, pathetic little ironic echo of a vampire? Oh, part of me almost hopes you will, so I can finish what I started.”
,” he heard Willow murmur into the sudden, shocked silence that followed, but in truth the Doctor wasn't paying much attention. All of his senses were on fire, lit up with all the potential and probabilities and the sheer weight of time
suddenly pressing in on this moment. Something was happening; with the rift, with the dark energy in Ethan’s shop, with all of time and space.
Somehow, between one heartsbeat and the next, time winked
, and all the possible timelines solidified around him until--
He was standing at a fixed point. Apparently whatever will be, must always be. Well, then.
“I take it back,” Spike said, after a very long, very breathless pause. “That was so much better
than the Master’s stuffy ‘yay evil’ posturing. Seriously. You should sell tickets. Hell, you should sell it to the BBC! Damn – I wish I’d brought my camera.”
The Doctor turned to Angel. “Is he always like this?” he asked, bemused.
Angel shrugged, but all the same he didn't look unruffled. “You have a lot of fans, Doc. Apparently Spike is one of them.”
“Don’t call me ‘Doc.’ Do I call you Ang? Or Gel?”
call him ‘Gel,’” Spike begged. “Use that evil voice again. Seriously mate. I’ll even pay you.”
“Since you’re planning on killing us all anyway, you’ll forgive me for not seeing much incentive.”
Spike shrugged. “Mm, point.” Then he seemed to shake himself. Obviously he wasn’t so far down the rabbit hole he could be distracted from his evil plans indefinitely. “Well, not that this hasn’t been highly diverting, because it has, most fun I’ve had in years. Hell, decades
, even. But I’ve got a slayer to torture, and her friends to kill, and apparently a human named Ethan to find and possibly turn, so if that’ll be all then?”
“Actually, it will be,” the Doctor said. “See, you’re forgetting one thing, Spike.” If he could just keep the villain fixated on him for a little bit longer...
Spike paused, then shrugged. “Okay, I’ll bite. What am I forgetting?”
“Time Lord,” he said, grinning, thumping his chest with both hands, right over his hearts.
“Nope. Pretty sure I remembered that bit.”
“Oh sure you remembered the words
, maybe, but that’s all they are to you, yeah? Just words. But did you ever give any thought to what they mean? I’ll give you a hint. You’re supposed to take us literally.”
“So you’re a Lord of Time,” Spike dismissed. “So what? Doesn’t look like it’s helping you none.”
a Lord of Time,” the Doctor agreed. “Means time is tangible to me. I’m aware of it like you’re aware of, well, the earth’s diurnal cycle I suppose. I can see all that is, all that was, all that ever could be, what should be and what should never be. I can see your future, Spike, and oh, you are
an interesting one. So many fixed points, all strung about you like fairy lights. Time weighs heavy on you, Spike – you fairly glow
“The hell are you talking about?”
. That’s not for you to know yet.”
“You’re stalling!” Spike suddenly snarled. “It won’t work, Harris. You’re still dead. You’re all dead, and my Dru will have the slayer’s guts for garters!”
“Yes, I am stalling, Spike,” the Doctor agreed, grinning still. “And it will
work – you wanna know why? Because it already has
Just then a sudden, blinding flash lit up the sky, inside and out. Oh, Giles, you beautiful person-of-a-maybe-voyeuristic-persuasion, thank you.
The last thing the Doctor saw, seared into his retinas like an after-image, was Spike howling in rage as Buffy’s black wig came off in her captor’s hands.
“Hi honey,” he heard her say, the very last sound the Doctor heard. “I’m home.”
And then pain, hot and sharp, like dying, like regeneration; like every last molecule in his body simultaneously exploding at the speed of light as—