Buffy sat in a café, a cup of tea in her hand. She'd finished her work for Torchwood. Now, she was just trying to banish the headaches enough that she could drive home.
"Those headaches are getting worse, aren't they?" came a woman's voice.
Buffy looked up.
As the woman sat down at the table, across from her. That same woman with the sunglasses and the dark mahogany hair.
Buffy shook her head, looking down into her tea. "You're a time traveler. You know how this all works out for me."
The woman didn't answer.
"Leave the Doctor alone," Buffy warned. "I don't know what you're up to, but it has to stop."
The woman folded her arms on the table in front of her. "You know who I am?"
"Oh, yeah," Buffy replied. "I mean — Sunnydale? All those moments with me and the Doctor? Skulking around the Powell Estates? That was real
subtle." She inhaled the tea, and the vapors soothed her head. "Are you what's making me sick?"
"And I'm just supposed to believe that?"
The woman reflected. Shot Buffy a sideways look. "Do you?"
Buffy shook her head. "I don't know what to believe, anymore."
"This universe is mine, you know," Sunglasses told her. "To bend and change to my
will, and mine alone. I will
control its fate." Her lips formed a thin line. "And I need the Doctor. I need him alive."
"Oh, don't say you rule the universe," Buffy half-sighed, half-groaned. "We both know it's a lie." She swirled her tea in its cup. "What are you planning to do with the Doctor, anyways, when you get him?"
The woman with the sunglasses winked.
Buffy inhaled the tea, again. Trying to wish her weariness and her illness away.
"Are you going to stop me?" said the woman.
Buffy chuckled. "What's the point? Whatever you're doing, if the Doctor doesn't like it, he'll stop you himself. I don't need to do anything."
"You didn't think so before."
"I didn't know who you were, before," Buffy replied. "Or I'd have known just how easily he could
stop you. Or I could." She met the woman's eyes with her own. "Seriously. Whatever you're planning. Just stop, now. Before the Doctor stops you himself."
"I said stop."
"No one will ever stop me."
Buffy and the woman with the sunglasses sat there for a long moment. Staring one another down. Neither wanting to give in or let up.
Buffy was the first to look away.
As another sharp headache made her wince, hand held up against the side of her head.
"Go home, relax, enjoy life while you still can," the woman with the sunglasses said. She leaned over the table, to whisper into Buffy's ear. "Pretty soon, you probably won't even remember we had this conversation."
Buffy opened her eyes, just as the woman stood up from her seat, to leave.
"You so much as touch my daugh… my Seo," Buffy gritted through her teeth, eyes blazing, "and you're dead. You know that, right?"
The woman with the sunglasses examined Buffy.
"Drink your tea," she said, at last.
Then, in the blink of an eye, she was gone.
Buffy thought the tea tasted funny.
But drank it, anyways.
It did make her feel better. Well enough to drive home.
And it was only during that drive, thinking matters over, that Buffy finally put the last few pieces of the puzzle together.
"Oh, you idiot, Buffy!" Buffy shouted at herself. Gripping the steering wheel a little tighter. "Why didn't you get it before?! Her plan! Why she's here, now! Why you kept seeing her across your past! It's so obvious!"
It had to stop! Buffy had to stop her!
"Because I'm the only one who can," Buffy said. "I'll track her down! Get her for this! I'll… I'll…!"
Better be sneaky about this.
Best thing to do — moment she got home, she had to find some way to alert the Doctor. Maybe write down what she knew and leave it carved into some building he'd find in the future! Or leave it with someone who'd meet him! Or even tell Spike to deliver a…
No. No, she
might intercept that. Smudge out Buffy's warning.
Whatever message Buffy left with Spike, it couldn't say what Buffy meant. It had to be cryptic and indirect, something only the Doctor would be able to grasp the true meaning of. Something that would seem to be innocent, a lover's plea, but actually be telling him everything
"Like… like…" And then it struck her. "He thinks I died in the portal. Oh, that's it! Willow! My being alive! That's what I tell him — he'll work out the rest!"
She called up Spike the moment she got home.
Told Spike everything he needed to know, in order to meet the Doctor and give her message. About IPSA. About the future. About her birthday, 3847, and Lasky's Nebula. And gave him her message: that she was still alive, because Willow had resurrected her.
He'd treat it as a puzzle. A mystery. He'd leap in to solve it.
And uncover Buffy's warning.
An hour later, Buffy's headaches returned.
And Buffy forgot everything. Forgot her latest meeting with Sunglasses. Forgot her drive home. Forgot her revelation. Forgot what was really going on, and how she needed to warn the Doctor.
Even forgot the message she'd left with Spike.
In an instant.
Spike didn't forget.
And neither did Sunglasses.