know the Doctor?" Sam asked Buffy. "I'm surprised you
know the Doctor! I must have dropped the name only a hundred times last time I saw you. And no reaction from you! At all!"
Well, yeah. Buffy knew that. Because she'd known that whatever 'Doctor' Sam and Riley had been hunting down, back in Sunnydale, he didn't trigger any telepathic light bulbs in Buffy's head, he was selling evil stuff for monetary profit, and he was trying to destroy the world.
Which was kind of a giveaway that it wasn't the
"But you carry guns and stuff," Buffy protested. "You're military. You're… you're…"
"And you're the Slayer," said Sam. She shrugged. "It takes all kinds, you know."
Buffy stared. Her mouth open. Then shook her head. "I thought… Riley…"
"Oh, Riley doesn't know," said Sam. She paused. "Or, I mean, he didn't know." She winced. "All things considered, he took the news pretty well."
"Good," said Buffy.
"Especially since it involved confessing about that one time," said Sam, "on the planet Hirath, when I was trying to give the Doctor CPR, and wound up seriously frenching him."
Oh, great. That was all Buffy needed. Murderous Riley.
"So… you traveled with the Doctor?" Buffy clarified.
"Oh, yeah," said Sam. She paused. "I mean, sort of." Her face fell. "It's kind of… confusing."
"Uh huh," said Buffy, with a sigh. "Considering the Doctor's involved, I was expecting that."
"You see, I've got this… biodata problem," Sam explained. "And, before you ask, no, I don't really understand what that means, except that — first off — it's got something to do with a group of Time Lords called Faction Paradox, and — second off — I'm pretty sure I was born at least three times to become three different people."
Oh. Okay. So this was some… Time Lord thing. That had to do with Time Lords getting erased from the universe.
"I think that makes sense," Buffy said.
"Two of those me's were born in England," said Sam. "And one of them travelled with the Doctor for… oh, I don't even know how long! Years! The other one… didn't, I guess."
"I've got an other-self who travelled with the Doctor," Buffy put in. "She turned into a crazy psychotic lunatic, and killed off everyone in her home town."
Sam blinked. "Oh."
Yeah. Good going, Buffy. Great way to get people on your side!
"No, look, what I'm saying is… my other-self," said Buffy, "she's not me. Like, not at all me. And I don't remember what she did. I only worked it out because the Doctor dropped hints, and I guessed."
"But that's just it!" said Sam. "I don't think I'm supposed to remember any of it. I'm the third self. In my mind, I was born in the States, grew up totally normal, joined the Peace Corps, and that was that."
"And then, one day, you just randomly remembered?" said Buffy.
"When I met Riley," Sam explained, "it was like there was some… connection. Something bringing me close to the other… me's. Like there was a bridge between the time streams, and I could see the other side. It took me a while to work out what was happening but I think… there is a bridge out there, somewhere. And Riley had… come into close contact with it, some time in the past." She gave a small shrug. "If it wasn't for Riley, I'd never have remembered the Doctor at all."
Oh. Right. Some connection between the timelines. That Riley had been in intimate contact with? Yep, that would be good old Line-Hopper Buffy.
"Actually, at first, it freaked me out," said Sam. "Remembering things that happened to some other me. But after a while, I got used to it. And now… I can't really imagine living without those memories. I mean, I saw some… really amazing stuff. Incredible stuff. You can't just give up memories like that."
"Wait, so… you like Riley," Buffy clarified, "because when you're around him, you remember the Doctor?"
"I love Riley because he's Riley," Sam replied. "I just also happen to like the benefits I get from sticking around him."
Well. That was poetic justice, if Buffy ever heard it.
"How about you?" asked Sam. "How long did you travel with the Doctor?"
"I didn't exactly…" Buffy stopped. Then hung her head. "He offered to take me with him. And I said no."
Sam stared at her. "Seriously?"
"I was the Slayer," Buffy explained. "I thought… I had a duty to… I don't know, the world and stuff, and I…" She squeezed her eyes shut. "You don't know how many times I've wished I'd just said 'screw it!' and gone with him."
Sam gave Buffy a smile. "You did the right thing," she said. "That takes guts. I mean, even if I'd had a responsibility to the world, I don't think I'd have been strong enough to turn the Doctor down."
Buffy opened her mouth to answer, but heard someone scream, "Jack!"
She and Sam glanced at one another, then both raced into the main lobby area, to discover a completely shocked Dawn, gaping as Jack Harkness shoved his hands into the pockets of his greatcoat.
Riley was staring at him, as if he'd seen a ghost.
"You're… you're alive," said Dawn. She ran forwards, and swept Jack into a tight hug. "I thought you were dead."
Sam quirked an eyebrow at him. "Wait a sec. You're the dismembered guy."
"Captain Jack Harkness," said Jack, to Sam, with a wink. "And who are you?"
Riley, luckily, was a little too dumbstruck to notice the serious flirtation in Jack's voice. Sam noticed, but didn't respond to it, as she eyed Jack, curiously.
"Sam Finn," she introduced herself, shaking his hand. "And whatever your secret is to surviving being ripped apart, I'd like to know it."
"When I find out, I'll give you pointers," Jack assured her.
Buffy walked over to Jack, looking him up and down. Then gave him a small smile, and rested a hand on his arm. "Welcome back to the land of the living," she said. "You okay?"
"Better than okay," said Jack, looking down at Dawn hugging him, Sam looking amused, and Buffy actually smiling at him. He grinned. "If this is the love and adoration I get every time I'm torn apart, I'm starting to seriously rethink the virtues of dismemberment."
Wood didn't know how to get rid of the TARDIS. It had taken him this long to even get up the nerve to come down here and look at it. The TARDIS' light burned him. Its presence was a vexation on his skin. If he were a normal vampire, he knew, even just touching it would kill him.
But he was not normal. He had drunk the Time Lord's blood. That protected him.
It would be uncomfortable, Wood knew, to destroy the TARDIS. But he had wasted enough time. He needed to make sure the TARDIS was out of there. Gone. Eliminated.
He knocked on its surface, to double check. The echo of wood rang out through the basement. So it really was just a wooden box. Lucky for him. All he had to do was light a fire, and he'd get rid of the ship once and for all.
"As kinks go," came a familiar voice, "doing it against the side of an alien time machine is more Buffy's thing than mine." The woman stepped forwards. "But I'll have a go."
Wood froze, as he recognized the voice. And the woman.
"Faith," he said.
Faith advanced on him, pinning him against the side of the ship, sliding her leg across him, seductively. "So," she purred. "You wanna play the dashing alien? Or should I?"
He remembered that he should like this woman a lot. Maybe even love her. But all he knew, now, was that her body was warm, her blood bursting with life. She would die, and her death screams would be his music, her suffering his warmth.
His face changed, as he prepared to bite.
And then the light at the top of the Police Box flashed. And a horrible burning feeling crept across his spine, right where it touched the exterior of the ship. He was being roasted alive, destroyed, crumbled to ash, and he… he couldn't…
A part of him, deep down inside — the part of him that shone with stolen blood — tried to compensate. Give him the strength he needed to survive. But he hadn't been drinking the blood for long enough… hadn't built up enough immunity, hadn't…
The vampire that had once been Robin Wood screamed, as he crumbled into ash.
Faith was trying not to act shaken.
"Vamp," she explained to the others, her voice just barely trembling. "Vamp got killed. Dead vamp."
"The TARDIS burned him up," Buffy said, examining the ash. She turned on Dawn. "And you said… your TARDIS key…"
"It only works on the weaker ones," Sam cut in, before Dawn could answer. "I've got a friend, in England — Sarah Jane. She's been working on this for a while, now. She thinks that if they've drunk enough blood, they become immune to TARDIS-light."
"But it still hurts them," Dawn offered. She looked down at the TARDIS key. "Kept me safe. Just like he said it would, when he gave it to me."
"I thought you lost that key back in Sunnydale," Buffy said.
"I've been wearing it," Dawn explained, "ever since you came back to life. Because it goes all glowy, when the TARDIS is nearby, and I just thought…" She glanced away. "You know. You were looking for him, and stuff. And maybe it'd help."
Buffy's expression softened, as she stared at her sister. The hint of a smile on her face.
"Dawn," she said.
Dawn glanced back.
And Buffy swept her up into a hug.
Willow, in the meantime, was examining the TARDIS, carefully. Kennedy standing close by.
"I mean, normally," Willow was telling Kennedy, "I can't really do anything magicky with space stuff. Magic energy's pretty Earth based, and it only works to directly manipulate Earthy things. But… I think this ship's been looking like a police box for a really long time. Because the outer shell has a faint trace of Earthiness on it."
"The outer shell is what destroyed that TBV," said Kennedy. "That's all we need."
"I know!" Willow agreed. "That's what I'm saying. All I have to do is create some kind of… safety zone extending spell, and I can enclose this whole Slayer Institution into a great big TARDIS sealed safety bubble!"
"So we've found a way to keep us
alive," Sam clarified, "while the vampires destroy the rest of the world?"
Willow fidgeted. "Okay, so there are still some kinks to work out," she admitted. "But it's not a bad plan. Overall."
"She's right," Riley agreed. "It's a start. And if it's a choice between fighting a battle we can't win against a group of enemies we don't know how to kill, and using the TARDIS to protect us, I'm voting TARDIS."
The others quickly agreed.
And then the basement of the Slayer Institution buzzed into life, everyone rushing around trying to gather ingredients for the spell. Everyone pitching in, helping out, trying to make it all work.
"And if Wood hadn't come down here to destroy the TARDIS and stop us using it, we'd never have known!" Willow mentioned to Xander, as she rushed past. "I mean, how lucky are we!"
Xander stared after Willow. Then glanced back at the TARDIS.
"Lucky," he repeated.
"Lucky," Joanna said.
As she stared at the evidence before her. As she tried to make it all fit.
The Doctor had escaped, right at the very beginning. He'd outsmarted them, somehow. Gotten out of their clutches. And hid. In the middle of an enormous city, with the vampires still weak enough that they couldn't go out in the sunlight.
They'd still found him.
"They got lucky," Joanna muttered.
And lots of other things were lucky. Carolyn's notes were only here because Joanna had been lucky. Because that stupid little prissy Sam Jones — no, wait, she was married, now, Sam Finn — had shown up, a short time ago, to pay Carolyn a visit, and Carolyn had misplaced her notes. Which is why the vampires didn't find them.
And Joanna had.
"Except no one's that lucky," said Joanna. "Nine hundred years, and I've never met anyone that had stuff like… that happen to them!" Sam Jones Finn has remembered.
Joanna started, at the voice, and turned around. Looked about herself. But there was no one there.
"Hello?" Joanna asked.
Joanna scratched her head. Maybe Angel was right about that sleep thing. Her brain was playing tricks on her. And human brains needed sleep.
Joanna gave up, and went to bed.
"So they've done it," said Razor. His good cheer falling for the first time since his victory over his Time Lord prisoner. "The Slayers have finally discovered how to use their only defense." He turned to Ed. "Tell me you've got another way in."
Ed faltered. "Well…"
Razor gave him a sharp look.
"I did get this idea," Ed said. "About matter transference beams." He stared into the distance. "Funny thing. It just… came to me, all of a sudden. Right around the time our spy must have been burning to death."
"Will this 'idea' of yours get us inside the Institute?" Razor demanded. "Will it make sure we win?"
"It should get us inside," Ed confirmed. "And we'll win, as long as they don't work out what the Time Lord did — about how to kill us. The moment they work that out…"
"If they kill one of us, the others will know," Razor insisted. "We're already approaching singularity. Even the Time Lord can't touch us, when we hit that."
Ed felt a small grin creep up his face. "So soon?"
"It's the beginning of the end of humanity, Edward," said Razor. He licked his lips. "I can taste it."