Title: I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas
Rating: Nothing worse than the show.
Summary: Part six of the Dreams series. No matter where, or when, they are, Xander, Buffy and Dawn find a way to celebrate the holidays.
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters depicted within this story. I will not make any money from this story. Please do not sue.
A/N: Just watched the (2007) Christmas special of Doctor Who, and this bunny popped into my head and multiplied. Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!
A/N2: A warning to the wise; I am a firm believer that fanfiction is *never* canon; from the moment the story starts, it is an AU of the author's design. I know that not everyone sees it that way, and they are entitled to think so, but that is how I have, and always will treat my stories. That means, if elements of a story veer away from what you believe should happen, or the history does not match what is 'known', please feel happy to say so (politely of course, there's no need for rudeness). However, while I'm sorry you feel that way, it isn't going to make me write any differently.I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas
"Dawn! Get down!" Xander screamed as he fired his phaser at the hulking great alien chasing after her.
Dawn, knowing that this was one of those times that doing as she was told was a *very* good idea, dropped to the ground just as the red beam of energy passed millimetres above her head and hit the alien behind her dead centre, which knocked it back several feet. When it didn't vaporise, Dawn knew that Xander wasn't trying to kill it, which made a modicum of sense given that they were the ones in the wrong, or more specifically, that *she* was the one in the wrong.
'How was I supposed to know that those crystals were actually alien eggs?' she thought to herself as she scrambled to her feet and continued running towards Jesse. 'They really should put signs up or something.'
"Buffy!" Xander shouted to his girlfriend as he passed Dawn and closed in on her. "Stop playing around and get back to Jesse!"
"Playing? *Playing*!?"Buffy screamed as she ducked under a swipe from one of the aliens, and with the pure ferociousness they were displaying they had to be the mother. "I'll give you playing!" she groused, even as a small smile spread across her face.
It had been almost seven months, relatively speaking, since Buffy and the others had been reunited with Xander and she and Dawn had joined him on his adventures. She had to admit that, despite the reasons for doing so, she was having the time of her life. Sure, her sister was still able to get herself into more trouble than she and Xander combined, and given that Xander was now a Time Lord, and almost genetically predisposed to landing in the middle of trouble, that was a lofty claim, but apart from that Buffy was having more fun than she could ever remember.
Back in Sunnydale, Buffy had to deal with problems like the one she was in all the time, but she always did it in the same place – the deceptively tranquil town of Sunnydale – which made things rather tedious after a while, and especially after almost five years. Out here, in the vastness of time and space, every problem felt different even if they weren't at their heart, and even the most perilous of situations were made that little bit more bearable by the exquisite beauty of the planets and moons they were on at the time.
Another good thing that had come from leaving Earth, the best thing in fact in her opinion was that she and Xander were now together, and had been for four months. After a month of being around each other, Xander had still shown no sign that the deep depression he used to fall into whilst in her presence had returned, and from that point on Buffy had done whatever she could to slowly deepen their relationship. It had taken a while, but it eventually got to the point where Xander had felt confident enough to ask her out on a date for the second time, and this time he'd received the answer he had always wanted.
Dawn had not surprisingly been of two minds over the whole thing, as while she had been happy for them both, she still felt jealous that Buffy had gotten Xander and she hadn't. Buffy had made sure to talk everything over with her sister, just to make sure there wouldn't be any problems between them because of what was going on, and while she had been distant at the beginning, by the time they'd finished talking Dawn had said that she would be fine with the whole thing, but asked that the kept the PDAs to a minimum for a while, to allow her to get used to the new situation.
Their first date had gone as well as they had expected, which meant that they'd had a run in with one of The Doctor's old enemies, the Cybermen, when Xander's presence had been enough to activate a lone Cyberman that had been left in stasis on the moon they had picked to have dinner on. Luckily, because of Xander's more ruthless approach to dealing with things than The Doctor, the Cyberman hadn't been too much of a problem, although they still hadn't been able to save a few of the other patrons of the restaurant they had been in when it had crashed through the front window, firing indiscriminately into the crowd.
Although they both knew how the other felt, and that their desire for one another grew with each passing day, Buffy and Xander had deliberately taken their relationship slowly, and had only become lovers a month ago. Since then, Buffy had moved into Xander's quarters, which had pleased Dawn as she now had a room to herself.
Dawn, beyond her almost supernatural ability to get into trouble, had also taken to gallivanting around the cosmos quite well, and had come out of her shell a lot more now the spectre that was Glory was no longer bogging her down. They all knew that they would have to return to Earth and face the Hell Goddess eventually, but knowing that she was safe from Glory's clutches until such time that they were ready for her made things a lot easier on the young woman, and she soon began to flourish.
Dawn had taken to Jesse quickly, which had been a blessing in disguise for the couple, as it meant she hadn't kicked up a fuss when Buffy had informed her younger sister that she would not be missing out on her schooling just because they were light years from the nearest school. That had resulted in Jesse becoming Dawn's teacher, which was something that both parties had taken to with gusto; Jesse enjoyed it because he loved nothing more than imparting his knowledge to someone else, and Dawn enjoyed it because she got to learn a *lot* of stuff that would never be found in any text book on Earth. Jesse was also more entertaining than all of her previous teachers combined, always able to find ways of making Dawn's lessons fun, which in turn made learning something Dawn wanted to do.
Buffy and Xander also became Jesse's students, as Buffy had taken to academia the last couple of years, and Xander wanted to learn as much as possible so that he could live up to the title of Time Lord. They had to have their lessons separately, although surprisingly not because they distracted each other too much. Xander was being taught things that, Buffy had to admit, went so far over her head that she couldn't even see it, not to mention that Xander's brain allowed him to process information at a far accelerated rate, which given that he had eons of knowledge to assimilate was definitely an advantage.
All in all, all three of them were living a life that they could have only dreamed for, and they loved every moment of it.
Buffy's inner monologue was enough of a distraction for the alien she was tangling with to get a hit in, and given that this particular alien was eight feet tall and made completely of crystal, any strike that managed to get through her defences hurt like hell. As Buffy soared less than gracefully through the air, Xander fired his phaser at the alien, using the highest stun setting possible, which was enough to send it flying in the opposite direction.
"Honey, you know I'm the one that's supposed to get beaten up," Xander told her softly as he helped her up and then began to make haste back towards Jesse, "it was one of the things we agreed on during our first date."
"I know that, Xander, but I thought that, as you enjoyed it so much, I'd try it and see what the fuss is about," Buffy replied, fighting the dizziness the blow had caused.
"Well, what do you think?"
"It's an acquired taste, I guess," she replied with a smile, her pace beginning to pick up now that the dizziness had passed.
A growl behind them caused Xander to look back, and he saw the two aliens they'd been grappling with had been joined by the rest of the clan, and he knew that their time on Lechatelierite 5 was at an end. They were soon sprinting towards Jesse, and could see Dawn waiting for them at the mouth of the ship, looking very worried.
#Jesse, man, we're gonna need a distraction,# Xander thought to him, knowing they wouldn't get to the ship in time.
#I have a better idea, Alexander,# Jesse told him, and Xander could hear the smile in his voice.
#What are you...# Xander trailed off as he realised what Jesse meant. #Oh, hell no!#
Jesse didn't respond, instead he closed the door and took off to the sky, using his rear phasers to strike just in front of the enraged Lechatelierites, causing them to slow down and dodge the impact craters.
"Where the hell is Jesse going?" Buffy growled.
"He needs to be at least 200m from us for the transporter to get a lock," Xander replied, feigning nonchalance.
"Oh, that's alright the... what the hell do you mean, transporter? You told me the damage was irreparable after it was broken on Kronos," she said in confusion.
"That was what we originally thought, but we managed to fix it two weeks ago, we think," Xander told her. "We're about to find out if it works."
Buffy's eyes widened as his words sunk in. "Are you out-" her voice faded out as the pair disappeared in a sparkle of lights.
"- of your frickin' mind!?" Buffy finished as they materialised inside Jesse.
"He's in love with you, so he must be," Dawn told her with a smug smile, completely unaffected by the glare that was sent her way by her sister.
"You don't get to comment, young lady," Buffy snapped angrily, using the same tone their mother, Joyce, would have used. "How many times do we need to tell you *not* to touch anything before checking with us first?"
"I *said* I was sorry," Dawn whined, "what more do you want?"
"Ladies, ladies," Xander said as he got between the two women, hoping to nip this one in the bud before they really got going, "the important thing is that we're all safe." He turned to Buffy. "There were crystals all over the planet, Buffy; in fact, the entire planet is made of the stuff. Dawn finding those... babies was just a monumental stroke of bad luck." He then turned to the younger Summers girl. "Dawn, you know that we're just worried about you, especially when you go off on your own like that."
"I can take care of myself," Dawn said grumpily, as she folded her arms in front of her and pouted.
"We know that," Buffy told her calmly, much of her anger now dissipated, "but that doesn't mean we won't worry if we don't know where you are. You weren't even wearing the communicator Xander gave you, so we couldn't contact you to find out if you were okay."
Dawn had the good grace to look abashed at that, knowing that things would not have been as bad if she had been able to speak with Jesse about the crystals she'd found. While she hated the way both Xander and Buffy treated her, at least when it came to their being over-protective, she knew their hearts (all three of them) were in the right place, and that Buffy had only reacted the way she had because she was worried about her.
"I'm sorry," Dawn said eventually, "I'll try to be more careful next time."
"That's all we ask for, Dawnie," Xander told her with a smile, "and you better make sure you always wear your communicator from now on, even when we're inside Jesse, alright?"
"Okay," Dawn replied with a smile, happy to see that she wasn't going to be punished. "I'll go and get it."
"Dawn," Buffy called out to her as she was about to leave the room, "you're on cleaning duty for a week."
"Oh, man," Dawn whined, but resigned herself to her fate and went to get her communicator.
"So, where shall we go to next, fearless leader?" Buffy asked while they had dinner later that day.
"I'm not sure," Xander replied after he finished his mouthful. "There are a few more planets that I really want to visit, but it's not just up to me. There are *four* of us on this journey, and as we're all affected by the decision, we should all get a say in where we go."
"Before any decisions are made," Jesse said as his face appeared on the viewscreen, "I would like to remind you that it will be Christmas in a few days, chronologically speaking. I don't know about the rest of you, but I feel that a family reunion would not go amiss."
Buffy and Dawn look at each other for a moment, and both had matching expression; a mixture of hope and trepidation. "We'd love to spend Christmas with the others," Buffy said, "but wouldn't going to Earth be a little dangerous?"
"Yes, it would be, if *we* went to *Earth*," Xander agreed, smiling as he realised what Jesse was getting at, "but if Mohammed can't go to the mountain, maybe we could get the mountain to come to Mohammed."
"What are you talking about, Xander?" Dawn asked.
"We might be able to persuade a certain Doctor, who always manages to find himself on Earth during the festive season, to pick up a few passengers and meet us somewhere."
"Do you think that he will?" Dawn asked as she remembered that, while he had helped them, The Doctor hadn't been the most sociable of people, and had gotten on almost everyone's nerves, including Xander, Jack and Rose. However, the other three had been able to keep him in line, more or less, so hopefully with the situation being less dire than before, he might be tolerable for a couple of days.
Xander grinned. "Even if he says no, I'm sure that between Jack, Rose and Eve, he'll be persuaded, if only to make them shut up."
Xander was definitely in agreement that a family reunion would be a great thing, especially at Christmas. His last visit with the others had been painfully short, and they had spent most of the time working on ways to deal with Glory and keep Dawn safe. Being able to spend a few days with Willow, Giles and the others would be nice, as would spending more time with The Doctor, Jack and Rose.
Last time, the two groups hadn't exactly gotten on the way he would have liked, and Xander hoped that having them all together over the festive season would help to merge the two sides of his life.
After dinner, while Buffy took Dawn through another self-defence class, Xander went back to their quarters, which always sent a thrill through him when he realised that it was theirs, and picked up the sphere that allowed him to communicate with Eve.
#Eve, are you there?# Xander called out mentally.
Xander knew that Eve was always there – it was the nature of the connection between herself and the sphere – but he also knew that there were times when she didn't have the time to speak with him, so he always gave her the option.
#Always, Alexander, always,# Eve replied after a moment, her voice sounding pleased that he had 'called'. #How are you, and the others of course?#
#We're all fine; how about everyone your end?#
#As you know, The Doctor's life is never an easy one,# Eve told him, her tone indicating that her comment was an understatement, #but I feel that having Rose and Captain Jack as companions makes that life more bearable. You, yourself, should understand that anything is bearable when shared with another.#
#I do, Eve, believe me I do,# Xander replied fervently, knowing that his self imposed exile from the others back in Sunnydale had only made his ordeal that much harder to deal with, even if he still felt it the lesser of two evils. #Oh yeah, that reminds me; how goes making it possible for you to communicate with Rose?# he asked.
#Slowly,# Eve replied with a sigh. #Both The Doctor and Captain Jack have allowed Rose to link with them on occasion, which allowed us to have limited communication, but it is only a temporary solution. We are still looking for alternatives, but so far have not been successful.#
#I'm sure things will work themselves out,# Xander assured her, carefully keeping his emotions and thoughts in check so he wouldn't give anything away, #just don't let it get you down.#
#I won't, although I do believe that Rose will need to be reminded of that from time to time. Humans never do have a lot of patience,# Eve said, although unlike The Doctor there was no annoyance in her tone, only a sense of fondness, #although with their lifespan being as short it is, it is understandable I suppose. So, now that we have the preliminaries out of the way, how can I help?# she asked.
#Are you suggesting that I only call when I need something?# Xander said in reply, feigning outrage.
#No,# Eve assured him with a smile in her voice, #but I could tell there was a reason for your call from the tone in your voice. So, how can I be of help?#
#Does The Doctor and the others have any plans for Christmas?# Xander asked, having decided to lead into what he wanted instead of just coming out with it.
#The Doctor doesn't really celebrate,# Eve reminded him, her tone tinged with sadness as she thought of the reasons why, #although he does appreciate the meaning behind it. Captain Jack is, of course, more than ready for any kind of celebration.#
Xander smiled at that, knowing that if there was a party going somewhere in the universe, Jack would like nothing more than to be a part of it. #What about Rose?#
#While she hasn't said anything, I do believe she would enjoy spending Christmas with her mother,# Eve replied.
#Which no doubt means that she'll soon have twisted The Doctor around her little finger and you'll be visiting Jackie, and probably Mickey too,# Xander pointed out with a grin, knowing that The Doctor, and Jack, found it almost impossible to say no to the young woman.
#Rose does seem to have a way with him, and Captain Jack too,# Eve commented, unknowingly agreeing with Xander.
#Do you think he'd be willing to make a stop, or two, along the way?# Xander eventually asked, coming to the crux of the matter. #We're all missing the others, and thought it might be nice if we could celebrate the holidays together, as one big, eclectic, not to mention slightly dysfunctional, family.#
Eve laughed at the accurate description of having everyone together, and while the idea appealed to her, as she would enjoy spending time with Xander and the others, she had to voice a concern. #Having Dawn on Earth, even if it were only for a couple of days, would not be wise, Alexander. Glory has left Mr. Giles and the others alone, but that would soon change if she were to detect her presence.#
#We know, so I was wondering whether it would be possible to meet us off world?# Xander suggested. #I know what The Doctor is like about having too many people in, well, you,# he went on, #but I thought that, given the reason...#
#While The Doctor would not be entirely happy, he is *not* the one that ultimately decides things like that,# Eve pointed out, her tone hardening slightly. #I cannot see any reason why we couldn't celebrate somewhere else, and I am sure that Rose, Captain Jack and myself will be able to... convince The Doctor of that fact.#
#I'm sure that you can,# Xander said with a smile.
#So, have you thought of a suitable rendezvous site?# Eve wondered.
Xander didn't respond, but she could feel the smile that appeared on his face.
"Giles, move out of the way!" Chelsea Blue, the latest Slayer to be Called, shouted as she charged over to where the Watcher was currently in a struggle with two vampires.
"Would that I could, Chelsea, but they seem to be rather attached!" Giles replied, having wanted to do that very thing for the last twenty seconds. He had been able to keep the two demons at bay, but had been unable to find an opening to either stake them or to retreat.
"Well, you are pretty fine, for an old guy," the fair haired Slayer noted as she flipped over him and struck the two vampires in the head, the impact causing them to lose their grasp on Giles.
"I'll give you old, you daft bint," he growled under his breath, wondering for the thousandth time what he had done in a previous life to deserve this.
When Chelsea had been Called, not long after Buffy, Dawn and Xander had left, he'd been surprised when Quentin Travers had contacted him and 'requested' that he be the young woman's Watcher. It turned out that he went to school with the young girl's father, Jacob Blue, and the man had enough clout within the British government to ensure that he had a say in what was going to happen to his daughter.
Jacob had stated unequivocally that he wouldn't allow his daughter to go off with someone he didn't trust would have her welfare at heart, so when Quentin found out about the man's link to Giles, it solved everything as far as he was concerned. Giles hadn't been best pleased that he would have to 'break in' another Slayer, but given that he knew what the Council would have done to get what they wanted, he couldn't say no.
The decision had been made easier due to his continued contact with Jacob over the years, although when he had to relocate to America it had petered off somewhat, and he'd actually met Chelsea quite a few times when she was younger, so three days after his talk with Quentin, Chelsea had arrived in Sunnydale.
Giles had forgotten, however, one salient point; a seventeen year old girl is a completely different animal, especially when they have the Slayer essence coursing through their veins, to anything else on the planet. If Jacob heard some of the things Chelsea had come out with during her time in Sunnydale, he'd have a coronary.
"I heard that," she informed him as she wailed on the two vamps, "and while I'm not sure what a bint is, I'm certain it wasn't complimentary."
"Neither was calling me old," Giles groused as he tossed her a stake, having noted that she seemed to be weaponless, "I'm in the prime of my youth."
"Yeah, and tweed is the new black," Chelsea scoffed as she staked one of the vampires whilst taking the legs out from under the other one. "If it helps any, I'd still screw ya."
"And now, my life is complete," Giles said sarcastically even as he shuddered at the thought, and then began to cough a little as the dust from the second vampire blew into his face. "I think that will suffice for tonight, Chelsea."
"Damn, I was just getting my rhythm," Chelsea moaned, even as she stepped in line with Giles as he made his way towards the Magic Box.
"Yes, well, us old fogeys need to have their cocoa and listen to Glenn Miller on the wireless before bedtime," Giles said dryly, "so do come along, before I become so senile that I can no longer remember where I live."
"Come on, Uncle Rupert," Chelsea said, using her childhood name for him in hopes to butter him up a little, "you know I didn't mean it," she assured him, feeling a little guilty for the comment.
She'd always had a soft spot for her 'uncle' who, while having a little too much starch in the upper lip, was a genuinely kind and considerate man. When Chelsea had first been Called, she'd been completely freaked out by the whole thing, which hadn't been helped in the slightest by the dreams of all the previous Slayers that had died, and the situation had only gotten worse when people turned up at her house, told her she now had a sacred duty to kill all of the monsters her uncle had told her about as bedtime stories, and insisted she accompany them.
Luckily, having a father who was Secretary of State for Defence, and therefore aware of the Watchers Council, had stalled their plans to remove her from her friends and family, and once they found out that Uncle Rupert was a Watcher, it had been the logical choice for her to be paired with him. The Council didn't look too happy about it, and she'd heard a few comments about how she would be yet another Slayer 'corrupted' by his influence, but that was a plus as far as Chelsea was concerned, as she hadn't liked some of the *other* things she'd overheard might happen.
Her time in Sunnydale so far had been eventful to say the least, and yet, as her uncle and the others helping her had said, it was actually quiet for the time of year. She could understand why they thought that, given that they'd been dealing with an honest to god, well, goddess before she arrived, but she did wonder sometimes how she would handle a rise in demonic activity.
Something else that had made the transition easier for Chelsea was that she found herself getting on with Willow and Tara, two of the people that had been helping her uncle's other Slayer before she left to go on sabbatical. Their relationship had been helped considerably when Chelsea had told them almost from the start that she had no problem with them helping out, stating that she wanted all the help she could get. They had even showed her a few simple spells when she'd shown an interest in witchcraft, although Giles had said that her Slayer essence would impede her magical ability to do much.
The only downside to living in America, apart from living on an actual mouth of Hell, was that this would be the first Christmas Chelsea had ever spent away from her family, and although spending it with her uncle softened the blow, it still made her feel a little melancholy.
As they entered the shop, they found Willow and Tara chatting animatedly with a blonde woman and a brunette man, neither one Chelsea recognised. It seemed, however, that her uncle did.
"Hey, Giles, Chelsea!" Willow greeted them happily, more happily than she normally would Chelsea noted, and Tara smiled and nodded at them.
"Good Evening, Willow, Tara," Giles replied, Chelsea just waving as she kept an eye on the two newcomers. "Rose? Captain Harkness? Forgive my bluntness, but what are you doing here?" Giles asked immediately as he went over and shook their hands.
"How many times will I have to ask you to call me Jack, Mr. Giles," Jack asked the other man.
"About the same amount I'll need to get you to call me Giles, Jack," the, seemingly, older man replied with a small smile. "So, what do we owe the honour of a visit?" he asked again.
"Well," Rose began, her eyes flicking to Chelsea before returning to Giles. "Your friends contacted Eve a few months ago, or a few hours ago depending on your frame of reference, and asked if we might pick you up, so you could spend the Holidays with them."
"I'm surprised that The Doctor would agree to something so... mundane," Giles commented, being careful with his words.
While Giles and The Doctor had remained civil with each other the last time they met, the Time Lord had made a lasting first impression on the man, and because of that he hadn't made much of an effort to get to know him better.
"He wouldn't, at least not normally," Jack agreed, "but he figured that, as it was Christmas, he'd show his magnanimous side."
"That and the fact we all nagged him until he caved," Rose added with a grin.
"Uncle Rupert," Chelsea said, eyeing Jack appreciatively, "aren't you going to introduce me?"
"I'm sorry; Chelsea, I'd like you to meet Rose Tyler and Captain Jack Harkness. Rose, Jack, this is my niece, Chelsea Blue."
"Football fan are we?" Jack asked with a smile, only to receive a glare in return.
"Yeah, like I haven't heard *that* one before," Chelsea snarked, Jack's comment dousing any attraction Chelsea had for him, before turning her attention to Rose. "Nice to meet you, Rose."
"Likewise," Rose replied with a smile, but grimaced a little as Chelsea squeezed her hand a little too hard. "Quite a grip you've got there," she said as she waved her hand around to get the feeling back.
"Sorry about that," Chelsea told her, smiling in embarrassment, "I sometimes forget my own strength."
"Chelsea is a Slayer," Giles explained, and received a surprised look from the lady in question.
"What happened to 'you mustn't tell anyone that you're a Slayer, Chelsea'?" she asked.
"Watcher's prerogative," Giles replied simply, although there was a twinkle in his eye. "Seriously though, Jack and Rose are aware of the supernatural, and know Buffy."
"We hate to hurry you," Rose said apologetically, "but The Doctor doesn't like to be around the Hellmouth too long, so if you want to come with us, you only need to bring yourselves and everything else will be provided."
"Of course we're coming!" Willow cried, her Resolve Face firmly affixed. "Aren't we, Giles?"
"Naturally," Giles informed her, not even having to think about it. He turned to Chelsea. "I'm going to need you to promise you won't tell anyone what you're going to see, Chelsea, especially not anyone from the Council."
Chelsea looked into Giles' eyes, and she could see how serious he was, and knew that if she didn't give him her word, she'd be spending Christmas alone, and that was simply unacceptable. "Of course, you know you can trust me."
"Giles..." Jack began, only to be interrupted by the Watcher.
"Chelsea is family; I will *not* leave her behind," Giles told the pair firmly, both Tara and Willow nodding wholeheartedly in agreement. "This is non-negotiable, and I will have... *words* with anyone that has a problem with that."
"It's fine with me," Jack told him, holding his hands up. He'd lived long enough to recognise that behind Giles' gentile exterior was a man not to be trifled with, at least not without a lot of back up and weaponry. Just because he couldn't stay dead for long didn't mean he wanted to experience the events that lead up to it. "As far as I'm concerned the more the merrier, and Eve has no problem with it either."
"Who's Eve?" Chelsea asked, looking around the shop to see if she missed anyone.
"She's a good friend of ours," Rose told her, "and you'll meet her in a few minutes. Just so you know, I have no problem with you coming with us either, but The Doctor is another story."
"Well, if this is going to cause problems," Chelsea began, "I can stay behind," she told the others, not wanting to stop Giles, Willow and Tara from seeing their friends, even if it meant spending Christmas alone.
"Absolutely not," Giles retorted strongly, "I would *never* allow you to be alone on the holidays, Chelsea." Giles placed his hand on her shoulder and squeezed softly. "As I said, you are family, and Christmas is all about family."
Chelsea looked at him through misty eyes for a moment before hugging him strongly, and Giles held back the wince being hugged by a Slayer can produce.
"Don't worry," Rose told Chelsea, "there's no reason why you can't come along, I guarantee it."
"*We* guarantee it," Jack added. "Anyway, what with Rose's mother not coming, and Mickey in another universe, The Doctor isn't as grumpy as I thought he'd be."
"I take it your mother and The Doctor don't get on?" Giles enquired.
"These days she doesn't get on with *anyone*," Rose said with a sigh, "but she goes through phases like this, so I know it'll pass. Anyway, she doesn't like me doing the whole travelling through time thing, so she'd feel like a hypocrite if she had agreed to come along."
"Alright," Jack said as he stood up and clapped his hands together, "we need to get a move on, as time is of the essence."
"The Doctor told you to say that, didn't he?" Rose asked with a grimace.
Jack nodded. "When it comes to saving the world, he's unmatched; telling jokes? Not so much."
"Wait, wait, wait; you guys travel through *time*?"Chelsea asked incredulously as she stepped through the door and entered Eve.
"She really is your niece, isn't she," The Doctor noted, which earned him a jab to the ribs from Rose.
"Don't mind him," Rose said to the young girl as she walked round the central console to hang up her jacket, "he's harmless."
"And I'm the Queen Mother," Giles said under his breath, which caused Chelsea to choke out a laugh as she was the only one able to hear him. "It's nice to see you again, Doctor," he said more loudly.
"Of course it is," The Doctor replied with a wide smile.
"How did you know I was his niece, you've never met me," Chelsea noted, which earned her a more genuine smile from the Time Lord.
"You're right, I haven't, but Eve was kind enough to inform me. And before you ask," he went on, "Eve is the ship you're currently inside."
"Oh," she said softly as she looked around the inside of Eve, marvelling at a real time machine. "It's nice to meet you, Eve," Chelsea said, feeling a little silly talking to a ship, but somehow knew it would be rude not to, "I'm Chelsea Blue."
The crystals in the centre console glowed slightly, and a sound that could very well be mistaken for a purr could be heard.
"She said the pleasure is all hers," Jack informed her, knowing that The Doctor wouldn't.
Both Jack and Rose knew that The Doctor wasn't really anti-social, it was just that when almost everyone you get to know dies, either through the natural course of life, or because they had been caught in the crossfire between him and whatever dilemma he found himself in the middle of, it made you very reticent to allow people in.
When he was in the thick of things, The Doctor was too focussed on resolving the situation to be purposefully rude, but when there wasn't a deadline, when the fate of the world, or the universe, wasn't resting on his shoulders, his walls went up and very few people had the patience to try and break through them.
"Wait, Chelsea Blue? Daughter of Jacob Blue, the Secretary of State for Defence?" The Doctor asked suddenly.
"Yes," Chelsea replied in surprise, "why do you ask?"
"Oh, no reason," he told her nonchalantly, although everyone could tell he was lying. "Right, everybody here? No one else we need to pick up?" he asked, continuing on before anyone had a chance to respond. "Fantastic! Alright then, everybody hold tight!"
With the assistance of Rose and Jack, The Doctor handled the controls of Eve, and the easily recognisable sound that indicated her arrival or departure resonated throughout the room. The three made the operation look more like a choreographed dance than the piloting of a ship, but then again Eve was no ordinary ship, and these were no ordinary people.
"This is so cool," Chelsea whispered to Giles, who nodded despite himself.
"I must say that, while I have been witness to a great many spectacular things, actually traversing through the fabric of space and time is among the most extraordinary experiences of my life," he said in agreement.
"I just can't wait to see Xander and the others again," Willow added excitedly, so excited that she was actually bouncing on the soles of her feet.
"Just remember to breathe, honey," Tara advised her partner with a small smile, "it's difficult to catch up with people if you're passed out on the floor."
"I'll do my best," the redhead replied seriously, "but I'm not promising anything."
Willow was aware that she could sometimes get over excited, often to the point of unconsciousness if she wasn't talked down, but she was just so buzzed right now that she couldn't help it.
When she had learnt seven months ago that Xander was alive, a void had been filled inside of her that no one else, not even Tara, had a chance of filling, and while she knew that the situation called for it, Willow had felt cheated that she had so little time with him. Now she was going to see him again and she was determined to spend as much time as was possible getting reacquainted.
Willow also wanted Xander to get to know Tara better; they were both extremely important to her and she would love nothing more than for the pair to get on. She had to admit that she was surprised by the ease in which Xander had taken her relationship with Tara, especially as she'd had a crush on him for years before meeting Oz, and hoped that it wasn't just information overload on his part.
Willow was, of course, overjoyed that she would have the added delight of seeing her other best friend, Buffy, and Dawn, the young woman she considered a sister, as she had missed them both keenly. Again, she knew the reasons why they had to leave, and even agreed with them, but that didn't mean she had to like it. She had to say she was a little jealous that they got to go gallivanting around the cosmos while she was left in Sunnydale, but Willow couldn't hold it against them, although she *would* insist on hearing all about it.
The quartet felt a small jolt, and realised that the sounds made by Eve in transit had disappeared, which indicated that they had reached their destination.
"Alright kiddies, all ashore who's going ashore!" The Doctor called out as he grabbed his raincoat and quickly strode towards the door, Rose and Jack following a step behind.
"Impatient fellow, isn't he?" Giles muttered as he and the others rushed to keep up. "You'd have thought that someone who had lived for over 900 years would have learnt that things are better when savoured."
"Over 900 years old, huh? Boy, he's nearly as old as you are," Chelsea teased her uncle with a laugh, and then ran off through the door as Giles chased after her, muttering obscenities that only caused her to laugh harder.
"We'd never get away with saying something like that, so why does she?" Willow whined playfully.
"It's because of you, and Xander and Buffy, that Chelsea *can* get away with it," Tara told her seriously, even though she knew Willow wasn't bothered by it. "From what you've told me, had any of you acted the way Chelsea does when you were her age, Giles would have acted very differently. Anyway," she went on, "you tease him as well; you just do it in your own way."
As the two witches walked through the doors of Eve into the outside world, they looked around for a moment before Willow froze in place, a look of complete shock plastered all over her face.
"Willow, honey, what's wrong?" Tara asked worriedly as she saw how Willow was acting.
"It's... we're..." Willow trailed off for a moment while she closed her eyes and took a deep cleansing breath. "This is *Deep Space Nine*!"
"You really are a nerd, you know that, right?" Dawn asked Xander as they walked along the promenade.
"I am not a nerd, I'm a geek," Xander retorted absently as he kept looking around a place he had always wanted to see, but had thought impossible.
Of course, it wasn't *actually* Deep Space Nine, or at least it wasn't Rick Berman and Michael Piller's version of it, but it was close enough for him. A lot of the ships, stations, and even species shown in the Star Trek universe really exist; Klingons, for example, were pretty much the same as the shows, although they looked more like they did in the original series than later on, and their temperament was less volatile.
They'd found that out to their cost that not *all* races were like the shows when they had visited Ferenginar, and had found that they were a good foot taller, far more muscular, and far more ready to get into a fight. Xander had been surprised to find out, however, that the Rules of Acquisition were real, and had managed to get out of a sticky situation by reciting a few to them, which had made them pause in their attack long enough to allow their escape.
"What's the difference between a geek and a nerd?" Buffy asked in confusion.
"Geeks are cool, whereas nerds aren't," he informed her sagely, and Buffy rolled her eyes when no further explanation was given.
"Well, that explains that then," she said sarcastically, but smiled when Xander kissed her crown.
"Get a room you two," Dawn said disgustedly, although these days it was more for show than anything else. She had gotten used to the pair being an item, and was genuinely happy for the pair of them, but that didn't mean she had to let *them* know that.
"Oh we will, but we really should meet the others first, don't you think?" Xander replied as he gave Buffy a squeeze. "Eve got in contact with me a couple of minutes ago, so they've already arrived, which means all we have to do now is find them."
"Easier said than done on a space station that holds around a million people at any one time," Buffy commented.
"It's a piece of cake when you have a built-in Willowdar," Xander retorted, and pointed to the upper deck, where they spied a very familiar face.
"I guess that means she has a built-in Xanderdar then," Dawn said as they watched Willow become nothing more than a blur as she weaved through the crowd to the turbolifts to join them on the promenade.
"There's no such thing as Xanderdar, Dawn, don't be silly," he replied seriously, and ignored the groan and eye roll that comment earned from both Summers sisters.
"Buffy! Xander! Dawn!" Willow yelled joyously at the top of her voice, completely ignorant of the looks she received as she rushed over to the trio.
"Hey there, Witchy woman," he greeted as he caught her, and then he swung her around in a circle before allowing her feet to touch the ground again. That didn't mean she let go of him, as she seemed quite content to hold onto him like a limpet.
"Hey," she sighed happily, which caused the other three to laugh at her antics.
"You know, if you keep acting like this whenever you see me, I think Tara's gonna get jealous," Xander teased.
It worked exactly as he knew it would; the moments his words registered, Willow went beet red and broke away from him like she'd been burnt. "Xander!" she cried in outrage.
"Hey," Buffy said as she put her hand on his shoulder, causing Xander to turn and face her, "what about me? Aren't you worried *I'd*get jealous?"
"No," he replied simply, even as Willow gasped in surprise at the new development.
"And why not?" she asked indignantly, only half in jest.
"You know as well as I do why not; I finally have my fondest wish, and there's no way I would *ever* jeopardise that," he told her sincerely, which caused Buffy to duck her head.
"You guys are together? Like, *together* together?" Willow asked, her tone hopeful.
While Buffy hadn't said anything to her, Willow had known that her feelings for Xander had changed, especially after they believed he'd died. To begin with, she thought it was just because he'd died, and that she was idealising him in her head. Her opinion changed as Buffy began to talk about him; she never indicated with words, but the way she would speak about the things he'd done told Willow that it was more than that.
As they went to college and Buffy had, politely but firmly, rebuffed any advances from the multitude of guys that had shown interest, Willow had come to realise that Buffy was the prime example of someone who had only realised what had been in front of them after it had been taken away. Now that Xander had been given back to her, it was only inevitable that Buffy would take full advantage of the situation.
Buffy smiled brightly at her best friend as Xander pulled her to him, who had a matching smile on his face. "Yeah, have been for a few months now," he told Willow softly, with none of the bravado, false or otherwise, she had expected to hear in his voice.
Xander wasn't a testosterone driven man, unlike some others Willow had unfortunately met, but she had always believed that if he was ever able to capture Buffy's heart, there would be some note of alpha male machismo in his voice, even if it was only in jest. For her to hear none of that, instead only genuine affection and love, proved that not only was Xander more confident in himself than he had been before, but he was also secure enough in the relationship that he felt no need to advertise the fact.
"That's great!" Willow enthused, pulling them both into a hug.
"I'm just glad that the rooms in Jesse are soundproof, because I'm pretty sure Buffy's a screamer," Dawn added, smiling as she caught the faint blush on Buffy's cheeks, who then decided that talking with Willow was a good idea.
"Dawn, do you know that Jesse keeps a full record of what the replicators are used for?" Xander asked her quietly as Buffy and Willow became engrossed in catching up on each other's lives.
Dawn looked confused for a minute, but when she saw the gleam in his eyes her own widened as she realised the full implications of that statement, and knew that she would need to have an attitude adjustment pretty damn quickly if she wanted to keep certain things from her sister. Not knowing what to say, she simply nodded.
"In that case," he went on, "it would be a good idea to lay off on the jokes at our expense. If you have a genuine problem, then let us know, but it isn't fair, or nice, to make fun of us, especially when you know how important this relationship is to both of us."
"I promise I won't tease you two anymore," she told him, actually meaning it. She really didn't have any problem with them being together, and she knew that if she continued to rag on them, they would return it ten-fold when she started dating. "You're not going to tell Buffy, are you?" she asked, referring to the objects she'd replicated.
"No," he assured her, knowing how Buffy would react, "but I won't lie if she asks me about them either."
Dawn wanted to object to that, but knew she didn't have a leg to stand on. "Okay." Something then caught Dawn's eye and she turned her head in time to spot the others making their way through the crowd, and with a big smile went running off to greet them.
#You do realise, Alexander, that Buffy will find out eventually, and will not be happy you kept it from her,# Jesse told him telepathically, deciding that this was a conversation best left off the communicator.
#Of course,# Xander replied, knowing that if he got through the fallout without needing his healing ability it would be a miracle, #just like I'm sure that an excessive amount of grovelling will be needed to get back into her good graces, but I'm not going to breach the trust Dawn's placed in me by telling Buffy, especially about something that, to be honest, is far better than the alternative.#
#Buffy will find it a lot more difficult to find out if the replicator logs were... misplaced,# Jesse suggested, his tone of voice indicating that he had no doubt already done something to that affect.
#Thank you,# Xander replied sincerely.
#Consider it your Christmas present,# Jesse told him.
Xander didn't reply, knowing that he didn't need to, and instead looked over to where Dawn was practically dragging Giles and Tara over towards him, a young girl around Dawn's age following close behind.
"Hey guys," he greeted them warmly, "nice to see you again."
Giles went over and shook Xander's hand briefly before pulling him into a brief, but heartfelt, hug. "You too, my boy." As Giles released him, he turned to Chelsea and indicated that she come forward. "I'd like to introduce you to my niece, Chelsea Blue, the Vampire Slayer."
"It's a pleasure to meet you," Chelsea said nervously, still a little shell shocked by where, and when, she was to act her normal, confident self.
Xander's eyes had widened imperceptibly at Giles' news, feeling saddened that yet another person Giles cared for had been pulled into his world, and for the loss of the Slayer before her, but he was able to conceal it before she'd noticed, and replaced it with a small smile. "The pleasure is all mine, I'm sure." He turned to Tara. "And how are you, fair maiden?" he asked with a smile, which widened as he saw Tara duck her head and her hair cover her face.
"I-I'm fine, thanks," she replied softly. "Is this really Deep Space Nine?"
"It's as close to it as we're going to find," he replied, "at least in this universe. There's also a fair approximation of Babylon 5 floating around, but we'd have to go back a few hundred years or so for that," Xander frowned, "or a thousand years forward, depending on whether you start from here or where you just came from."
"Oh," Tara said, a little shocked by the information. She knew, of course, that time travel was possible, but she hadn't actually experienced it before, so to be told that she was over a thousand years in the future knocked her for six.
"Don't worry, Tara, you get used to it after a while," Dawn assured her as she bounced around, having all of her family around her again making her more than a little happy.
"Listen, Tigger, why don't you take Chelsea and give her a tour of Jesse?" Xander suggested, thinking that it would be good for both of them to have someone their own age to talk to for a while. "Then you can regale her with stories of our journey, although if you keep out the ones where you get into trouble it won't take long," he added with a teasing grin.
"Or, I could tell her about the time on Braxis 4, when you..."
"Dawn?" Xander interrupted, his tone unmistakable to the young woman. "Two can play that game, and we both know I'll win."
Dawn held his gaze for a moment before she caved and looked away, a small pout on her face. "Fine, spoil all my fun."
"Hey now, I never said you couldn't talk about *Buffy*, now did I?" Xander said conspiratorially, which caused Dawn's smile to return, bigger than before.
"Sweet," she replied with a gleam in her eye. She turned to Chelsea who, after receiving a nod from Giles, smiled and indicated that Dawn lead the way.
"She looks like a good kid," Xander told Giles as they watched Dawn drag Chelsea away towards where Jesse was docked.
"She is, although I shall have to thrash you if you tell her I said that," Giles replied with a small, fond, smile. While she could often try the patience of Job, he wouldn't change his niece for the world.
"Duly noted. So, where's The Doctor, Jack and Rose?" Xander asked.
"I'm not sure to be honest with you; he strode out of Eve the moment we landed, with Rose and Jack following in his wake, and we lost sight of them. We would have looked for them, but once Willow spotted you we made our way down here."
"Oh well, I'm sure they'll turn up eventually; maybe they've gone Christmas shopping?" Xander suggested.
#Alexander,# Eve cut in, her tone urgent, #The Doctor, Captain Jack and Rose are in trouble!#
"#What sort of trouble?#" Xander asked immediately, which caused the others to instantly turn to face him.
Eve's one word response was enough to send a shiver down Xander's spine.
"This place is *so* cool! Far better than Eve," Chelsea enthused as she looked around the interior of Jesse.
"I thank you for the praise," Jesse said, "but I would suggest that you not allow Eve to hear you say that, as *she* is the one that will be taking you home in a few days."
"I didn't mean she looked bad or anything," she quickly stated, trying to back-pedal slightly, "it's just that..."
"Don't worry about it, Chelsea, Jesse's just teasing you," Dawn told her new friend with a smile, and was surprised that she sounded convincing, knowing how defensive he got whenever there was even a hint that someone was slighting anything to do with the Time Lords.
Jess was indeed just teasing her, but that didn't also mean that he meant what he said. While he kept it from both Buffy and Dawn as best he could, he would often speak to Xander about his anger over how little of the Time Lords had survived the Time War. It wasn't just the people and technology - although that was in itself enough to make him glad he was incapable of crying - it was also their history, their literature, their music that hit him the hardest; those were the things that had truly set the Time Lords apart from other races, not what they had been forced to become due to the war with the Daleks.
"I am aware that you didn't mean anything by what you said, Chelsea," Jesse assured her, "but you must remember that Eve is not your typical vessel. While I was built for war, Eve was built for exploration; at her peak she would be able to make herself appear to be anything she wished, from a pebble to the Eiffel Tower. Now though, she is stuck in her current form, which is due to The Doctor having little to no resources to properly maintain her systems. Despite all of that, however, she is still one of the finest ships in existence."
"I wasn't being insulting or anything," Chelsea said, feeling guilty, "but whenever you think of spaceships you think of something that looks more like a, well, *spaceship*, and not a..."
"Blue police call box?" Dawn finished for her.
"Exactly!" Chelsea exclaimed. "Eve is great, she really is, but *Jesse* is, well, nicer," she trailed off lamely.
"Once again, thank you for the praise, Chelsea, but Eve is..." Jesse trailed off as the lights dimmed before changing colour to red. When he spoke again, there was a hardness to his voice that Dawn had never heard before. "Dawn, Chelsea, please strap yourselves in, as this is going to be bumpy."
Neither girl even thought of disobeying, the commanding tone in Jesse's voice more than enough to make them comply, and quickly sat down and strapped themselves in, barely being able to do so before Jesse began to lurch from side to side.
"Jesse, what's going on?" Dawn asked worriedly.
"We're under attack," he replied simply, although it almost sounded like he had to force his voice to remain calm. "But the *things* attacking us are unaware that this prey has *teeth*."
The viewscreen changed from Jesse's face to an outside view of the ship, where the two girls could see dozens of bronze coloured objects circling the hull, firing beams of energy at him. Luckily, the shields were the first thing that Xander had ensured were in full working order, and had even made a few improvements to them with Jesse's assistance, so they were holding, but for how long Dawn wasn't sure.
It seemed that Jesse was not about to find out, as he'd already disembarked from the space station and was moving away from it, the objects following suit. With a sudden burst of speed, Jesse gained a lead on the objects chasing them, and then dispersed a wide spread of spacial charges behind them, which the objects had no chance of avoiding. The explosions were blinding, and when the girls could see again, all of the objects were destroyed.
"Jesse, what *were* those things?" Dawn asked.
"It doesn't matter what they were, Dawn," Jesse told her, his tone still hard, "it only matters what they will be, and that is *extinct*."
"These bastards have more lives than you do, Doc," Jack growled as the trio sprinted through the corridors of the upper deck to the space station.
"Not if I have anything to say about it," The Doctor replied, wondering what he had to do in order to be rid of this menace forever. "I don't suppose you have any of those nifty little weapons you love to carry around on you?" he asked, setting aside his dislike of the weaponry Jack insisted on keeping around given the circumstances.
"Believe me, if I had them I'd have already used them," Jack replied, even as he berated himself for not being better armed.
"Can we have less talking and more running please?" Rose puffed, her stamina not quite up to Jack or The Doctor's level.
#I have contacted Alexander and informed him of the situation,# Eve informed the two Time Lords, #but his options are limited at the moment due to Jesse's unanticipated departure.#
#What do you mean, unanticipated departure?# The Doctor asked.
#When he and the others went to the docking point,# Eve explained, #Jesse was nowhere to be seen, and is not answering Alexander's calls, either telepathically or otherwise.#
"Damn," Jack swore, which caused Rose to look at him strangely.
"What's wrong?" she asked as ran through a security door, which The Doctor locked behind them with his sonic screwdriver, and would buy them a little time, but not much.
"Jesse's gone missing," Jack informed her as they continued on their way, while The Doctor closed and locked every door they passed through behind them.
#There's more; Dawn and Chelsea were supposedly going to Jesse, and are also missing,# Eve informed them. #Dawn does have a communicator, but they have had no success with contacting her either, and do not know if the pair made it to Jesse before the Daleks appeared.#
"Wait, Jesse is from an earlier part of Time Lord history, right?" Rose asked, and received nods of agreement in return. "Well, back then they probably had protocols, or something, to deal with situation like this, yeah?" Again, she received nods of agreement. "Well, maybe Jesse is just following those protocols."
"What made you think of that?" The Doctor asked, favouring her with a smile.
"I *did* watch Star Trek when I was a kid, and it was based in part on Jesse, so..." Rose trailed off, suddenly feeling a little foolish.
#It does make sense, Doctor,# Eve told him, having listened in through her link to him and Jack. #Once Jesse became aware of their presence, he would have taken steps to ensure that he was not destroyed or captured, including severing all communication channels.#
"And the Daleks would have easily recognised him as Time Lord technology, as he doesn't have the same suppression systems that Eve does," Jack went on out loud, in an effort to keep Rose up to speed, "and would have targeted him immediately."
"That doesn't solve our immediate problem, which is getting away from the Daleks and meeting up with Xander," The Doctor reminded him.
#Alexander is already working on the second part of that, Doctor,# Eve told him, #but his friends are not the type to just sit back while innocents are in danger.#
The Doctor almost snapped at Eve for that remark, thinking that it was a slight against him, but he held it back. He was aware that Eve meant nothing by it, and definitely didn't mean to imply that he would allow innocents to die unnecessarily, but when it came to the Daleks, he had a very short temper. He knew what Eve had meant; Xander's friends would try and mount an attack on the Daleks, which would probably cost one if not all of their lives.
#He'll hold them off long enough for us to get there,# Jack stated confidently.
Jack had already figured out that Xander's friends wouldn't be able to sit on their laurels, but also knew that they were smart enough to defer to Xander on what to do, as he was the one with the knowledge necessary to gauge the situation. The other good thing is that, unlike the three of them, Xander hadn't dealt with Daleks up close, which meant he'd be able to think more rationally.
As the three of them turned a corner, they realised that it would take a little while longer to meet up with Xander, as there were several Daleks in their way.
YOU WILL COME WITH US. The lead Dalek told them.
The trio looked at each other in genuine surprise, as they had all been expecting a very different statement.
YOU WILL COME WITH US! The Dalek repeated.
The Doctor took another look at his two compatriots before he turned to the lead Dalek. "Um, no."
YOU WILL O-BEY. YOU WILL O-BEY!
"Um, just one quick question; why aren't you trying to kill us?" The Doctor asked, tempting fate as always.
YOU ARE THE DOC-TOR. YOU ARE CAP-TAIN JACK HARK-NESS. YOU ARE ROSE TY-LER. The Dalek said as it faced each one in turn. YOU WILL COME WITH US.
"Doctor, what the hell is going on? Daleks don't take prisoners," Rose said in confusion, and fear.
She knew from dealing with them before that Daleks only wanted one thing; to wipe the universe of anything that wasn't a Dalek, especially The Doctor and anyone with him. For them to change their MO was not only surprising, but also very dangerous, as something major must have happened.
"And how the hell do they know who we are?" Jacked added, his own tension levels rising, as his last encounter with the Daleks had been less than pleasant. Sure, he wouldn't stay dead, but those blasters hurt like a bitch.
"I have no idea," The Doctor replied honestly, as he too was curious, "but the only way to find out is to go along with them." He waited for Rose and Jack to nod their assent before he turned his attention to the Daleks. "Take me to your leader," he said before breaking out in a grin. "I've always wanted to say that."
"Xander," Buffy said softly, "what are we going to do?"
"Nothing, at least not yet," Xander replied.
Xander and the others were currently mingling with the rest of the crowd, which were being corralled by the Daleks into one place for some reason. That they were being held captive and not exterminated, which was the usual course of action from the pepper mill brigade, both surprised and worried the young Time Lord, and made him wonder what had happened that could prevent them from following their basic programming.
Even though this was the first time he had encountered this species, Xander hated them with a passion that was only rivalled by the hatred he felt for vampires. Since his... rebirth, Xander had embraced his Time Lord heritage, as the heritage left behind by the Harris' left a *lot* to be desired, and had started by learning everything he could about their fall, and therefore knew how big of an impact the Daleks had in that.
After discovering what had happened, Xander had a greater understanding of why The Doctor was the way he was, and knew that the burden of his part in the Time Wars weighed heavily on his soul. While he expected that The Doctor didn't regret his decision, he most probably did regret the outcome; that he had lived when everyone else had died. The Doctor's one comfort, if it could be called that, must have been that at least the Daleks had gone with them, so to discover that they hadn't must have been a terrible blow for him.
When Eve had first told him that Daleks were on the station, he'd been worried that they might be able to sense him, but they had made no move to single him out as yet, which either meant that they were unable to do so, or more worryingly were waiting to see what he would do first. He was leaning more towards the former, as while they weren't acting the way he'd expect, Daleks still knew that Time Lords were the biggest threat to their existence, and would want to eliminate them to ensure that their final plan could be put into operation, whatever that plan may be.
It was more than a little unnerving to see them acting so passively, standing guard over the crowd instead of cutting swathes through it; they had reverted to type a couple of times when someone, either through fear or bravery, had tried to make a break for it, which had culminated in a tinny cry of EX-TER-MI-NATE!, followed by two dead bodies. Beyond that, their actions were very much out of the norm.
Both times the Daleks had struck, Xander had needed to physically restrain Buffy and the others from doing anything in retaliation, knowing that they wouldn't stand a ghost of a chance against them if they attacked. He did have a phaser on him, having never left the confines of Jesse without one, and he also had a modified sonic screwdriver, that could do a few things that The Doctor's couldn't, by The Doctor's own choosing no doubt, but they were nowhere near enough to take down the sixty or so Daleks that surrounded them, not to mention however many more there were after that.
"We can't just stand around and do nothing," Buffy argued, "I've read a little about these things, and they're not just going to let us go."
"I *know* that, Buffy," Xander hissed, "but until such time that we have a better idea of what they want, that's *exactly* what we're going to do."
"No buts, Buffy; you're on *my* turf now, so *I'm* the one that calls the shots," Xander told her firmly.
The others looked at Buffy, waiting for her to say something to refute that, but instead the Slayer growled slightly before sharply nodding once in agreement, although they could all see she was less than happy about it.
Back at the beginning, when Buffy and Dawn had joined Xander and Jesse on their journey, they had been quick to make clear to Buffy that, while she was the one in charge when it came to demons, *they* were the ones in charge when it came to aliens. Buffy hadn't liked it, and had wanted to argue the point, but she knew that what they said made sense.
Even though the Slayer inside her hated to not be in control of every situation, Xander and Jesse had both the knowledge and the experience necessary to deal with any alien, at least alien to her, that they might come across. Xander had gone on to explain that she wouldn't be kept out of the loop, and would be able to make any suggestions she thought might help, but that the final decision would be down to them, and more specifically him.
She had eventually agreed to it, knowing that it was only fair, but at times like this she wondered if she'd made a mistake. Buffy knew that, if she wanted to, she could ignore Xander and do what she wanted anyway, but was smart enough to realise that, if she did, it wouldn't be long before she was completely out of her depth, and it would also be betraying the trust that both Xander, and Jesse, had placed in her. Worst of all, by doing that she would be putting an obstacle in their relationship that she didn't believe they could overcome, and *that* was not something she could risk for *any* reason.
"Then what is it that you would have us *do*, Xander? Wait for them to start killing people, or should I say *more* people?" Giles asked angrily, his concern for Chelsea blinding him from the truth of the situation.
That was something that Xander was quick to fix. "Giles, we have no weapons, Willow can't use her magic, and we're outnumbered a dozen to one. If we tried to mount some sort of offensive, all that would result from it is that you would all be dead and I would spend the rest of my miserable existence trying to join you."
Xander's blunt assessment of their situation doused whatever flames of anger the others had been feeling, as they then had little option but to agree with him. Right now they were all in a completely unknown situation, and the only person who really knew what they were dealing with was telling them not to do anything. To not listen to him would not only be foolhardy, but also suicidal.
While they might take major risks in their line of work, more often than not they were calculated risks; charging in blindly only was reserved when they were out of time, options and the end of the world was at hand. While the situation was dire, and the threat to their lives very real, they were not in a 'Butch and Sundance' situation, as Dawn had called it once, at least not yet.
If and when it *did* get to that point, Giles knew that Xander would no doubt be heading the charge, a thought that perversely calmed Giles down a little.
"Wait a minute," Willow said suddenly as part of what Xander had said finally registered, "why can't I use my magic, and why didn't you say Tara couldn't either?"
"You're a practitioner, Wills, just like Giles, which means that you need to be in either physical contact or close proximity to the source of your power, namely the Earth," Xander explained. "As we're nowhere near Earth, you both have about as much power as a hairbrush. As for Tara, she is a natural born witch," he went on, "and therefore has her own personal well of power at her disposal. However, she is not powerful enough to take on a Dalek, at least not without causing severe and permanent damage to herself from the strain, and I think we'd all prefer it if that didn't happen."
"Of course," Giles replied, "but if that is the case, I fear that we shall be of little use to you once we are in a situation to mount an offensive against them."
"Not necessarily. While Tara couldn't go on the offensive against a Dalek and win without injury, she could help provide protection against them, at least for a short time. Also, with your combined knowledge, I am sure you will be able to think of spells that will provide the best protection with the least amount of power. In fact, you three could start doing that now, but be careful not to be overheard by anyone, or any*thing*,that shouldn't know."
The three nodded and then huddled together and began to discuss possible spells to be used.
"You did that just to keep them occupied, didn't you?" Buffy asked quietly, making sure she couldn't be overheard by the trio.
"Not entirely," Xander replied, "but I will admit that it didn't hurt to take their minds off of things."
"So, *do* you have a plan for when we do something," Buffy asked, "or will we be winging it like always?"
"A little from column A, a little from column B," Xander replied. "A lot depends on whether I can get my hands on a few things, and if we can join up with The Doctor and the others."
"What about Dawn, Chelsea and Jesse?" she asked.
"Jesse is fine; I'd know it if he wasn't, even with the lack of communication at the moment," Xander told her, his tone completely confident. "The nature of our bond would make it impossible for me *not* to know if he were destroyed.
"We know that Dawn and Chelsea were making their way to him," he went on, "and with the way Dawn was dragging her along, it wouldn't have taken long to get there, so my best guess is that they reached him before the trouble started, which is why we can't reach Dawn on her communicator."
Buffy realised that Xander was making sense, and wasn't just saying it to placate her, but when it came to her sister, only physical proof of her safety would suitably satisfy her. Until she knew for certain that Dawn was alright, that worry would always be there, although she would admit that Xander's words and presence helped considerably.
#Alexander,# Eve cut in, #The Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack have been captured, and the Daleks knew who they all were by sight.#
"Shit," Xander swore out loud softly, before he continued mentally. #Do you think they knew they'd be here somehow, or is it something else?#
#Uncertain,# Eve replied, her tone making it clear that she was less than pleased by that, #although they are being taken to whoever is in charge, so that might shed more light on the situation.#
#Do you have any way of getting them out of there?# Xander asked, a plan of his own forming in his mind.
#I do not have a teleportation device at my disposal like Jesse does, Alexander,# Eve told him, sounding annoyed that he asked, #so my options are extremely limited.#
Xander didn't take her tone to heart, as he knew that, given the circumstances, she wouldn't be her normal cheery self. #The Doctor has his sonic screwdriver on him, doesn't he?# Xander asked, only to continue on a moment later. #Of course he does, stupid question. Alright, I might be able to rig something on my end, but it will take a few minutes.#
#You might not have that long,# Eve told him, #but I shall inform the others that you are preparing something, and I am sure that, between the three of them, they shall be able to stall for time if necessary.#
#If anyone can stall for time, it'll be two Time Lords, Eve,# he assured her with a smile.
#Quite,# Eve replied, a slight smile in her voice. #Alexander, try not to do anything... foolish.#
#You know me, Eve.#
#Indeed I do,# she agreed, #hence the request for caution.#
Xander smiled mentally, but didn't respond. "Buffy," he said, turning to his girlfriend, "I'm going to need your communicator, and one of your hair clips."
"Why?" she asked, even as she passed over the requested items.
"I need to reach out and touch someone."
The Doctor, Rose and Jack were taken through a labyrinth of corridors and lifts, escorted by four Daleks that made them keep a pace just shy of running, no doubt a tactic to try and wear them down before they met whoever was in charge. The Doctor had tried to get some information out of the Daleks the entire time with no success, and eventually stopped trying when he realised that they increased their speed a little each time, which affected Rose the hardest.
Eventually, they were led to a room at the very top of the station, and the first thing The Doctor noticed was that the doors looked very different to every other on the space station, far more substantial.
STEP IN-SIDE, one of the Daleks ordered them.
Knowing that there was no point in resisting, especially as they actually wanted to meet the person behind all this, the trio complied. As they walked into the room, which was dimly lit and almost completely empty, the Daleks left them without a word and the large metal security doors shut behind them with an ominous boom.
Almost instinctively, The Doctor scanned the doors with his sonic screwdriver, and found much to his displeasure that they were among the few he'd encountered that he was unable to open.
"Oh, I'm afraid you'll find that I am the only person capable of opening *that* door, Doctor," a voice from the opposite side of the room said almost sibilantly.
"It takes some doing to make a door I can't open," The Doctor replied as the trio ventured further into the room, wary of what they might find, "and it begs the question of why someone would go to the trouble of doing it, not to mention how they would know I'd be here for it to be required."
"I know a great many things, of what has happened, and what might happen. I guess you could say I have a... mastery of time," the voice said in a tone tinged with amusement, and it seemed that the voice was now further to the right of the room than before. "And of course you wouldn't be The Doctor without a companion or two, which leads me to Rose Tyler, a woman who has looked into the Abyss and lived to tell the tale, and Captain Jack Harkness, known on his home planet as The Face of Bo."
The Doctor and Rose both looked at Jack in shock at that piece of news, having met The Face of Bo before, and couldn't really see any similarities. It would definitely be something to talk with Jack about later.
"You seem to have us at a disadvantage," The Doctor admitted, "another thing that isn't easily done to me. You know an awful lot about us, so I think it would be only fair if we get to know a little about you, like you name, perhaps?"
"Oh, I have gone by so many names over the years, my dear Doctor, but what's in a name?" the man asked rhetorically. "I could tell you my name is Bob, and you wouldn't know if that were true, nor would it tell you anything about me. Alright, for the sake of expediency, and to somewhat satisfy your curiosity, my name *is* Bob; how do you do," 'Bob' said cordially, his voice now coming from their left.
"Well, Bob, Bobby, Bobster, how are you keeping control of the Daleks?" The Doctor asked, his tone hardening at the end.
"Now then, Doctor," 'Bob' chided, "I don't remember saying that this was a question and answer session, and even if it were, we'd be doing this the other way around. Now then, I'm sure that you are all wondering just why it is that I have brought you here, and that is a question I am more than willing to answer for you, even without you asking it."
"You're so gracious," Rose told him sarcastically, having grown tired of their captor already.
"Now, now, Rose," 'Bob' chided, his tone a little harder than before, "speaking to me in that tone will not keep you in my good books. As I was saying, before I was so *rudely* interrupted, I'm going to explain why you are here. Now, I must admit that I had not expected you to be here so soon, so my plans are having to be put into action a mite early, but as they say, no plan survives contact with the enemy."
"You do love the sound of your own voice, don't you, Bob?" Rose interrupted again, wondering how someone could say so much without actually saying anything.
A moment later she screamed out in pain as her head snapped back forcefully, caused by a solid punch to her face. The two Time Lords immediately went on full alert, both more than a little worried that the man had been able to get so close to them that he could strike without them actually seeing him.
"It would behove you greatly to hold your tongue, young lady," 'Bob' growled, his voice still far off in the distance, "as my patience is not what it once was."
"You do anything like that again..." Jack began, only to be cut off by 'Bob'.
"Threats of violence are pointless, dear boy, so do be quiet."
"It wasn't a threat, you bastard, it was a promise," Jack vowed.
"Yes, yes, very scary, please remind me later to change my underwear," 'Bob' said in a bored tone, completely unaffected by Jack's threat. "Now, will I be allowed to explain why you are here, or should I get straight to the part where I tell you your fate?" he asked.
"I think I speak for all three of us when I say that we'd prefer to stave off hearing our fate for as long as possible," The Doctor informed him after having looked at the other two first.
"Very well. Now then, where was I? Oh yes, that was it. I knew you would arrive here on this station, but as I had previously stated, not for a few months yet. I had been systematically taking control of this space station for the past few years, slowly changing the personnel to people under my control, and of course ably assisted by my dear Dalek friends, all in anticipation of your arrival."
The Doctor put up his hand, and waited for a beat or two before he spoke. "Um, not that I don't appreciate the effort you've put in on my, our behalf, but why would you do all that in preparation of our arrival? I must admit that I'm flattered, but it does seem a tad over the top."
"Not at all," 'Bob' argued, "at least, not given the circumstances. You see, despite all logic and reason, you seem to have an unerring ability to thwart a person's attempt at conquering the Earth, or the galaxy for that matter, so I thought it would be an excellent idea to eliminate you before I made my own attempt, thereby guaranteeing my success."
"I'm guessing that we're now going to learn of our fate, not that I haven't already guessed from your explanation," The Doctor said as Jack and Rose drew closer to him, "but there is something I'd like to say before you do."
"Oh?" 'Bob' replied.
"Yes; My name is The Doctor, I'm a Time Lord, I'm 902 years old, and I *will* stop you."
With that, The Doctor lifted his sonic screwdriver above his head, flicked the switch and the three of them disappeared in a shower of lights.
"Well," 'Bob' said to himself, "*that* was unexpected. I'm almost certain that *mine* can't do that." He turned to his right, and a Dalek appeared. "Find them, and bring them back. Do *not* kill them, that pleasure is mine and mine alone."
YES, MAS-TER. CAN WE EX-TER-MI-NATE THE O-THERS? The Dalek asked. The fact that it would even need to ask would surprise anyone that had ever heard of the species before.
"Not yet," he replied firmly, as he knew he needed to use a firm hand to maintain control, "They're currently useful, because if The Doctor becomes too elusive for you, they will serve as bait for the trap."
YES, MAS-TER. The Dalek replied, its tinny voice had the slightest hint of disappointment at being unable to carry out its primary function. WE WILL COM-PLY.
The Dalek then moved off, leaving 'Bob' alone.
"You might have nine lives, Doctor, or to be precise in your case thirteen, but I *will* see you dead if I have to destroy the universe to do it." He paused. "I might destroy the universe anyway; it depends on what sort of mood I'm in."
"I see that Jesse has shown you a thing or two," The Doctor commented to Xander when he, Rose and Jack appeared before them.
"Well, I figured with the amount of times I'd no doubt find myself in trouble, either because of myself or my travelling companions," Xander replied, ignoring the indignant but muffled 'Hey!' from Buffy, "I better make sure I knew as many ways of getting *out* of trouble is I did getting *into* it."
"Sound thinking, especially under the circumstances," The Doctor said seriously, and Xander also noted a touch of pride in his voice. "So, where exactly are we, and why aren't we swamped with Daleks?" he asked.
"We're in one of the storage areas in the bows of the station," Xander replied, "well away from where the Daleks are holding everyone prisoner, and just what the hell is up with *that*?"he asked.
"I'll get into that in a minute," The Doctor told him, and he frowned as he replayed part of the conversation they had with 'Bob', "but before I do, how did you escape?"
"You're best of asking the wonderful Tara there," Xander told him, the lady in question trying to blend in with the background.
Tara coughed slightly and almost wilted when everyone turned to face her. "I-I cast an obscuring spell that allowed us to leave the Promenade, and we made our way here," she told them softly, finding it difficult to look into the intense gaze coming from The Doctor.
"Brilliant!" he told her with a wide smile, and was actually feeling a little guilty for the way she'd acted towards him. "Humans really are amazing, aren't they?" he asked no one in particular, mostly as a way to hide what he was feeling.
The Doctor knew that he could be intense at times, especially in situations like this, which pretty much meant he was *always* intense, but it often meant that he made people wary of him. Most of the time that was a good thing, as the people he was dealing with were the ones he was planning to stop, or the ones that annoyed him like Mickey used to do before he began to see what Rose saw in him, but it was at times like these, when he intimidated someone like Tara, who even *he* could tell was a prime example why he kept such a close eye on Earth, that made him curse the events that had made him the man he was.
He'd survived when everyone else had died, and the price he had to pay for that was the ability to scare sweet and gentle people like Tara when all he wanted was in life was to no longer be alone. The people that stayed with him either died, or left when they could no longer handle the life he led. Even if they stayed with him for the rest of their life, it wouldn't be for the rest of *his*, because he lived when everyone else died.
"So, Doctor, who is the Big Bad that we need to deal with then?" Buffy asked eventually, wanting to get it over with so she could focus on finding Dawn.
"Bob." The Doctor looked up when he could almost feel the looks he'd been receiving from the others. "He said his name was Bob, although I doubt that it was. Nobody truly evil could be called Bob; it's so... banal. Anyway, he said he'd been expecting the three of us," he went on, indicating himself, Jack and Rose, "but not for a few months yet, and wanted to kill us so he would succeed in taking over the world."
"How did he know that you, Rose and Jack would be venturing here?" Giles enquired.
"He said that he had a..." The Doctor frowned as a thought struck him, an unsettling thought that began to make a lot of sense.
"Had a what?" Xander asked.
"Had a mastery of time," he replied, "He said that he had a mastery of time. Can it... could it... no, it couldn't..."
"Doctor? What's wrong?" Rose asked, having never seen The Doctor like this before, looking so uncertain.
Even when he wasn't certain, he made everyone *believe* that he was, which helped to keep those around him calm enough so they didn't distract him. It worried her, seeing The Doctor like this, as she knew that anything that could make The Doctor act the way he was now couldn't be good.
"You think it's The Master, don't you?" Xander asked, which caused The Doctor to snap his gaze on him. "You think that Bob is really The Master."
"How do you know about The Master?" The Doctor asked/demanded.
Xander didn't take the tone to hearts, as he was aware of the reasons behind it. "I'm a big believer in the saying 'those who do not learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them', so I thought it would be an idea to read up on our history and see what lessons could be learnt."
"Who is The Master?" Willow asked. "He's not the same Master as the one we faced in Sunnydale, is he?"
"No, Wills, he's not," Xander replied, "Because if they were the same, we'd have all been killed back in Sunnydale a long time ago."
"Oh," she said softly. "That bad, huh?"
"Let me put it to you this way," Xander said. "If The Doctor is Angel, The Master is Angelus."
"Please tell me you're joking," Buffy asked, knowing that Xander wouldn't joke about that particular individual, but didn't like the thought of what it meant if he were telling the truth.
"Would that I could," Xander replied apologetically.
"I'm afraid that Xander is correct," The Doctor agreed whilst shooting a look at Xander. "And while I would have preferred to have *not* been used in that analogy, it does sum up the situation. The Master is a Time Lord, but went against our beliefs in an unquenchable thirst for power. I've gone up against him more than once, and had believed that he'd died during the last Time War, but if I'm right, he somehow managed to survive."
"Okay, if it is The Master, it would explain how he would know where you'd be," Xander said, "especially if he has his own TARDIS, but the fact that he would get the dates wrong is puzzling."
"The Doctor isn't exactly the best at knowing when he is," Rose pointed out. "I can think of one example which earned him a slap from my mother."
"Oh I understand that," Xander told her, even as he smirked at The Doctor upon hearing that, "but what I'm getting at is if this is The Master, and he had records of where and when The Doctor had travelled..."
"Why did he think we would be here in a few months instead of today," The Doctor finished for him. "Normally when I go somewhere, it's either by choice or necessity, but this time we came here because you asked us to. For all I know we might well have ended up here in a few months time, it isn't as though I have an itinerary or anything, but as I said, the reason we're here *now* is because of *you*."
"Hey!" Willow cried indignantly, taking his comment as a slight against Xander.
"He didn't mean it like that, Wills, he just meant that it seems The Master has no idea about me, otherwise he'd have known we'd be here now," Xander told her in defence of The Doctor. "I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or not."
"At the moment, it's a very good thing," The Doctor assured him, "because if he doesn't know about you, it's a fair bet that he doesn't know about Jesse either, or that Jack is now a Time Lord."
"Not a lot of good that does me, Doctor, as he wanted to kill me anyway," Jack pointed out.
"True," The Doctor conceded, "but I was thinking more of Xander and Jesse."
"I'll do what I can to help out of course-" Xander said immediately.
"As will we," Giles added, indicating himself, Buffy, Willow and Tara.
"-But unless Jesse comes back soon there isn't a lot more I can do, at least not against someone with an army of Daleks at his disposal," Xander pointed out. "Speaking of which, how the hell is he controlling them, especially as they generally have an 'exterminate all Time Lords' policy."
"Daleks are a mixture of biology and technology," The Doctor reminded Xander, "and The Master may well have found a way to reprogram them in some way to obey his commands."
"And probably a command to destroy whatever destroyed him," Xander added grimly. "Of course, even if he hasn't, the moment that we deal with him, the Daleks will come for us anyway, so it really doesn't matter how he does it."
"True," The Doctor agreed solemnly, not looking forward to how they would need to deal with The Master. It would be yet another burden he would have to bear, although this time he wouldn't be bearing it alone.
"Why doesn't it matter how they're being controlled?" Willow asked in confusion.
"Daleks are simple creatures, in much the same way that sharks are. But also like a shark, they are *extremely* good at what they do, and what they do is kill," The Doctor explained. "They kill anything that isn't a Dalek, and whether it's because The Master told them to or not, the outcome would be the same."
"So, who do we go after first; the Daleks, or The Master?" Giles asked.
"Both," Xander, Jack and The Doctor replied simultaneously.
"And how, pray tell, will we achieve such a feat against such overwhelming odds?" Giles asked them, finding their answer absurd in the extreme.
"I might be able to shed some light on that," Jesse told them through Xander's communicator, "but before I do," he continued quickly, knowing what the obvious questions would be, "I want to assure you that both Dawn and Chelsea are fine and well, although due to the nature of my communication with you I'm afraid that speaking with them will not be possible at present."
"The important thing is that you are all alright, Jesse, so don't worry about it," Buffy told him happily, knowing that Jesse wouldn't lie about the well-being of Dawn, or of Chelsea, and had felt the weight that was caused by her worry disappear.
"What happened, Jesse?" Xander asked, raising a hand to ward off the others from speaking. "I guessed that the Daleks went after you, but given the way they've been acting I'm not so sure."
"They came after me alright, but I doubt it was to do with my being a TARDIS, not after we sorted out the suppression system you said Eve had installed to prevent that," Jesse explained. "I checked after I had dealt with the ones attacking me, and they had attacked any ship that had the capacity to put up a fight, although they underestimated just how much fight *this* dog had in him. After I'd dealt with them, I'd moved well outside of their detection, and it took this long to explain to Dawn how to help boost the power to my communications system while masking it from detection."
"So, how will you be able to help?" Xander asked, pulling them all back to the main topic at hand.
"By making myself such a large target, that those jumped up rubbish bins wouldn't be able to resist me," Jesse informed them.
"That might not work, given what we know," Xander told him, having realised that Jesse hadn't been listening in for the entire conversation, and went on to explain what they knew, and what they suspected. "So you see, unless The Master tells them to, I'm not sure you would be as large a distraction as you believe."
"In that case, it might be wise to rethink your position on how The Master, and I can't believe that sorry excuse for a Time Lord survived when so many far more deserving didn't, is controlling the Daleks," Jesse suggested. "If you can undo whatever it is that The Master has done, the Daleks will revert to form and make me their priority target, as not only am I Time Lord technology, I'm also a battle vessel, which is a far greater threat than even Eve is, at least in their eyes, or turrets in their case. In any case, I can still cause a large enough distraction for you to get into position, and thinning the herd a little before they regain their sense of self will obviously be of use as well," Jesse added.
"He has a point," Xander said in agreement with Jesse. "While it's true that it makes no difference why the Daleks want to kill us, if we want to defeat them *and* The Master, we have to sever his control over them, otherwise he's just going to send them all at us, and then get away in the struggle, and next time he comes for you we won't have the advantage."
Xander paused for a moment, and then made sure to look The Doctor in the eye when he went on, and also ensured that he chose his words carefully. "I know that you don't like the thought of what we're going to have to do," he told him, mindful not to state outright what he meant as he knew what The Doctor's natural response would be, especially now, "but with the three of us here, it will at least be done in accordance to Time Lord law. Before, it was an acceptable risk to choose against doing it, as there were enough of us around to stop him before things got out of hand. Now though, the risk is simply too great to do anything else, and not even incarceration is enough of a deterrent anymore."
The Doctor looked at Xander, and so wanted to deny what he was saying, to rant and rave at him over it, but knew that he couldn't. The Master would not be locked up in a cage, and with his intellect and ingenuity, not even *he* could keep him prisoner forever, at least not without giving up everything else and keeping guard constantly. Even then, The Doctor knew that, whether it took months or years, The Master would eventually escape and continue in his quest to become absolute ruler of the cosmos.
The Doctor, despite the way he was seen by the rest of the universe, was an eternal optimist; he truly believed that anyone could change given the opportunity and the right incentive, the one and only exception being the Daleks. However, he had to admit that The Master had been given more chances at redemption than any one being deserved, and that maybe it was time to put a permanent end to his tyranny.
"You're right," The Doctor replied eventually, "I don't like it, and I know that we will all have to live with it for the rest of our lives, but I *do* know that you are right."
"Xander's right about what?" Jack asked.
"We're going to have to kill The Master," The Doctor told him solemnly.
"I pretty much figured that one out," Jack said, his tone one of confusion, "so why the melodrama?"
"We're Time Lords; there is no crime more heinous than to kill another of our kind, and while it is difficult to contemplate, The Master is *still* a Time Lord," The Doctor told him, wanting to instil in him just how big a deal this was. "The only way we could possibly go through a course of action like that would be if a tribunal, held by the three highest ranking Time Lords, decreed it unanimously."
"Isn't there a flaw in your logic?" Giles asked. "I mean that if we are indeed dealing with The Master, who yourself have stated is a Time Lord, wouldn't he in fact have a higher standing than both Xander and Jack?" Giles asked.
"While he holds the title of Time Lord, he has no standing among our community as he turned his back on our teachings," The Doctor explained.
"While that's all well and good," Buffy interrupted, her tone indicating that she was getting impatient, "is there any chance that we can get to the actual kicking butt part of the plan, because I don't know about you guys, but I think we're seriously testing our luck by standing around here like sitting ducks."
"As my lady wills," Xander said formally, bowing slightly in her direction. "Right, as The Doctor, Jack and myself are the best ones to take on The Master, that leaves it down to the rest of you to try and get the hostages to safety. Tara, Willow and Giles, if you can think of anything that will afford Buffy some extra protection, especially against the Dalek's weaponry, do it, because right now she's the only one with the skills to distract them long enough." The three nodded their assent and immediately put their heads together to think of anything that would work.
"Buffy," Xander went on, "I know you want to wail on them for what they've done, and I don't blame you for that, but your goal is to be a *distraction* for the Daleks while the others get the hostages away, and the best way to do that is to keep on the move. You can't take these things on one on one, but if you work it right you could make them kill each other. Also, once you get the word from Jesse, you pull out and you pull out fast, got me?"
"Yes," she replied simply, knowing that, while the urge to just pound them into paperweights was great, and that she might actually be able to take out one or two, she'd eventually get tagged by one of those weapons of theirs, and this time her death would take.
"What about me?" Rose asked, feeling a little out of the loop.
#Send her to me,# Eve told them. #I have a couple of ideas on how to help out, and need someone to help me put them into action.#
#That's a good idea,# The Doctor replied, #but how could she help if she can't talk to you?#
"I can help with that," Xander informed him out loud, and pulled out a small device that looked like an earpiece you see secret agents wear in the movies and handed it to Rose, who put it on before anyone could say anything. "Jesse and I wanted to give it to you and Eve for Christmas, Rose, but now works fine as well. I want you to concentrate and think of Eve."
Rose did as she was instructed, and began to mentally call out. #Eve? Eve, can you hear me?#
#Yes, Rose, I can hear you loud and clear,# Eve replied happily. #I want you to make your way back to me, as I have a few things here that I need someone's help with.#
#This isn't just a way to keep me safe, is it?# Rose asked, even as she rejoiced in finally being able to speak with Eve without Jack or The Doctor's help.
#No, although it does have that added bonus,# Eve replied honestly. While she wanted Rose and the others safe, she would not lie to them to do it. It was their choice to defend the innocent from those that would take advantage, and she had no right to prevent them from doing so. #I really do need help here, and as the others are needed elsewhere, you are the logical choice.#
#Okay, I'll be right there,# Rose told her before ending the link. She looked at Xander for a moment before she leapt at him and kissed him quickly on the lips. "Thank you," she said sincerely, "this is the best Christmas present ever!"
"You're welcome," Xander replied, studiously ignoring the looks he was receiving from Buffy, Jack and The Doctor.
Rose quickly said her good lucks to the rest of the group and then began to make her way back towards Eve.
"Alright everybody," The Doctor said as he clapped his hands lightly, "we have an army of Daleks and an insane Time Lord to defeat, so let's get a move on."
"I love you," Xander whispered to Buffy as she came over and hugged him, "don't get dead, as I've gotten used to you being around."
"Ditto, Xander," she replied, and then went on tiptoe and kissed him, putting a little extra into it to wipe out any trace of the one Rose and laid on him. She knew it hadn't meant anything to either of them, but that didn't mean she had to like it.
With one final look, the couple released each other and went their separate ways, hoping that this would not be for the last time.
#So, Eve, what do you need me to do?# Rose asked breathlessly as she ran inside and towards the console. After all the running she'd had to do since joining The Doctor, she would have thought that her stamina would have gotten better. She'd have to ask Jack if she could join him on his daily jog so she didn't feel like coughing up a lung so often.
#While I cannot provide any offensive support,# Eve replied, #I can supply a modicum of defensive support, especially since The Doctor 'allowed' Jack to start helping with my modifications.#
#What do you mean by that?# Rose asked, smiling slightly at the note of aggravation in Eve's voice concerning The Doctor proprietary nature concerning her. It was rather strange to Rose that he was like that, especially as he'd actually 'borrowed' Eve in the first place.
#Captain Harkness has installed an aversion field into each of my keys, which will provide you all with a certain level of anonymity,# Eve replied. #It prevents most life forms from being able to notice you, allowing you to move around without interference.#
#What, we'd be invisible?# Rose said, a little excitedly. As a child, the idea of being able to turn invisible was a regular theme in her dreams.
#Actually no; they will know you are there, but will not consciously recognise the fact,# Eve explained. #It is possible to have a portable cloaking field, but the power output is immense and would likely be noticed by scanners.#
#Oh,# Rose said, a little disappointed. #How long have we had them?#
#Around three months.#
#Why didn't we use them before then?# Rose asked in surprise, knowing that they might not have been captured by the Daleks if they'd used them.
#Unfortunately, they cannot be activated remotely; it was a concession Jack made to The Doctor before he was 'given permission' to make the alterations. Also, it will not affect other Time Lords, so it will be useless against The Master.#
#So how will it help if The Master will be able to see them?# Rose asked.
#It will at least help them get *to* The Master without incident,# Eve replied.
#Alright, so what do I need to do?#
"Jesse, will they be okay?" Dawn asked after he had informed her and Chelsea about what was going on.
"I see no reason why not, Dawn," Jesse informed the two young women, "but you know as well as I do that there is no such thing as a guarantee in this type of situation."
"I can't believe I'm missing out on all the action," Chelsea moaned, and blushed slightly as she noticed the looks she was receiving from Dawn and Jesse. "Oh, come one, I'm a *Slayer*;being left out of the action just feels wrong."
"You're not being left out of the fight, just out of one part of it," Jesse corrected her. "There are things here that you can help out with, but you are correct in thinking that you will not be in the thick of things as you would like. However, given that you have not been a Slayer for very long, it's probably a good thing that you are here anyway."
"And why is that?" Chelsea asked in a tone that meant Jesse better be careful how he answered.
"I doubt that you would have been able to resist the urge to take the Daleks on directly, which would ultimately result in your death," Jesse said bluntly, completely unaffected by both her stance and her tone of voice, which was unsurprising as he was a ship and not a person.
"*Hey*!I can handle myself, you know," Chelsea said defensively.
"That may be true with demons," Jesse allowed, "but Daleks are in no way demonic. I am not denigrating your abilities here, Chelsea; I am sure that you would put up a good fight against them, but you are simply not equipped to tackle such a foe," Jesse told her sympathetically but firmly. He knew it was hard for her, but she had to learn that there times when it is best not to fight, especially when there is no chance of success.
"Well, what am I going to be doing, then?" Chelsea asked, sounding a little despondent.
"The reason I was able to deal with the Daleks on my own before was because they had underestimated me, but that won't happen this time," Jesse explained. "While I am capable of more autonomy than Eve, I am still primarily a manned vessel, and therefore am more effective if I actually have people manning me. That means you and Dawn."
"I have no idea what to do," Chelsea told him now feeling a little nervous.
"I know, which is why I'm about to give you a crash course, pardon the pun, on how I work," Jesse told her.
"Ugh, I hate studying," Chelsea complained, more to cover her nerves than anything, but nodded her assent and listened as Jesse began to explain.
"So, have we anything resembling a plan on how to actually deal with The Master Baiter?" Xander began as he, The Doctor and Jack made their way towards the room where who they believed was The Master was holed up.
They had been glad of Eve's idea of turning on their aversion fields during their trip, as they had encountered more than one Dalek. The first time had been a very tense moment for the trio; Eve had barely enough time to warn them of its presence when it came round the corner. With nowhere available to them to use as cover, they had no other option but to continue walking as calmly as possible. All three were worried as the Dalek approached, as while they would have been able to deal with it, their location would have been revealed and the element of surprise would have been lost. The Doctor wasn't sure that the field would actually work against the Daleks, but was very glad to have been proven wrong when it had passed them by without comment.
Xander was not initially covered by the aversion field, as while he still had a key to Eve, it didn't have the alterations that Jack had made. However, after seeing what Jack had done, he had been able to do a similar thing with his communicator, and made a mental note to do the same to Buffy and Dawn's after they'd sorted everything out.
"One thing's for sure," Jack said, "either you or I have to go first."
"And why is that?" The Doctor asked, feeling a little put out by that.
"Let's face it; it seems that The Master has his sights set on killing us, and out of the three of us, you're the only one that will be permanently affected by that," Jack pointed out. When he saw that The Doctor wasn't swayed by that argument, he tried a different tack. "It took Rose a while to get used to the new you the last time you changed; I'm not sure she could cope going through it again, especially not so soon after the last time."
"We still don't know that your gift is infallible," The Doctor pointed out.
"I've already explained a few of the more extreme 'deaths' I experienced before you came back for me," Jack stated, "and that doesn't include what I went through with Abaddon. Also, I haven't changed a bit in the past dozen years; I look exactly the same as I did that day."
"I did tell you about the time I blew my own head off with a shotgun, didn't I? Or when I chopped my head off?" Xander said in reply to The Doctor's look as he turned to him. "Or how I would have slowly been torn apart molecule by molecule for eternity by that spell I'd cast if it hadn't been for Eve saving me? I was very determined to end my life when this first happened to me, so I know that my... gift, as you put it, will be more than a match for whatever we'll come up against. And before you say anything," Xander went on when he saw The Doctor about to mount a retort, "I know they all happened before I became a Time Lord, but I have suffered several fatal injuries the past few months, something that Buffy took me to task for each time might I add, and I am still nicely Xander-shaped."
"Alright, I'll take your word for it," The Doctor told him softly.
Xander hadn't, in actual fact, told The Doctor about his attempts to end his existence before he arrived in Eve that fateful day, although the look on Jack's face told him that he had, and The Doctor felt somewhat cheated by that. The Doctor knew that he wasn't easy to talk to, and that most of that was by choice rather than by design, but he never realised that, by being so aloof, he stopped the people close to him from opening up.
The Doctor then realised that Jack must also be holding a lot back over what had happened to him between the Dalek attack on the space station and their reunion in Cardiff last year, and again he felt cheated by that revelation. Oh, Jack had told him about a few occasions when he'd died, mainly the more flamboyant ones that were the culmination of a well weaved tale, but there was a darkness to Jack now that hadn't been there before they'd parted ways, ironically, on another space station. The Doctor had wanted to ask, but had found his courage leave him whenever he actually made an attempt.
It was a shock to the system to realise that he knew far more about Rose than he did his fellow Time Lords, but he had to concede that was mainly because a lot of her life had been, well, boring for the most part, and the parts that hadn't been boring had either happened in his presence, or had been told to him by someone else.
Of course, it was for this reason that The Doctor had been so reluctant to have another travelling companion with him in the first place, until the day he'd met Rose that is, as he had become tired of caring for people that left him. However, as he now knew of at least two people that had a very good chance of outlasting even him, he decided that after they had dealt with this situation, he would think long and hard about finally allowing himself to open up again.
The Doctor quickly realised that now was not the time to be dwelling on things like that, given that The Master would require all of his attention, so he shook his head to clear his thoughts and began to focus on the problem at hand.
"You might well survive whatever it is we're about to face," he told his two compatriots, "but both you and Jack *do* die, at least temporarily, and if that happens we'll lose any advantage we might have."
"Well then, what do you suggest?" Xander asked, deferring to him.
"Blitzkrieg," The Doctor replied after a moment, his own face as surprised as he said it as the others were to hear him say it. "He knows who I am, he knows how I usually like to do things, and will not be expecting me to go on the offensive, at least not in such a proactive fashion. Even with you two here, there is no way he would believe that I would go along with a plan that overtly violent."
"Well, you know Jack and I have no problem with that idea," Xander said once he'd processed it, and Jack nodded in agreement, "but are you sure that you will be?"
"No, not really," The Doctor admitted, "but then again, neither are you two if you're honest about it. None of us really enjoy violence, but we do know that there are times when it is necessary, it just takes me longer to accept it." His face then darkened slightly, and his tone became colder. "The Master not only abandoned his people when they needed him the most, he is now conspiring with the very things that destroyed them. There is no plea, no excuse he can make to justify his actions, and his chances have officially run out."
"Okay, if we're going to do this hard and fast," Xander said, "I have a couple of things with me that will certainly help, but I want you both to promise me that you won't tell Buffy I had them."
"Why?" The Doctor asked, a little surprised by Xander's request.
Xander smiled, and suddenly reminded them both of a shark. "Because Buffy will be jealous she didn't get to blow him up herself."
"Okay, Buffy, this charm will be the focal point of Tara's spell, and will afford you some extra protection against the Daleks," Giles informed her as he slipped the charm that he, Tara and Willow had come up with over her head, "but it is not infallible, nor is it inexhaustible, so do not take this to mean you should not be careful."
Buffy, more adept at deciphering Giles' vocabulary thanks to Jesse's teachings, simply nodded her head instead of asking him to repeat what he said in English as she had done in the past. "Got it, Giles. I haven't dealt with them before, but I do know what Daleks are capable of, so I'm not going to take anything for granted, or take any chances."
"I'm glad," Giles said with a smile, "it seems that your time away has been a blessing in disguise."
"It has been," Buffy agreed, "although there will always be things that I'll miss," she added, looking at Giles, Willow and Tara.
"The feeling is more than mutual, I assure you," Giles replied. "While I would never admit it in her company, Chelsea has been a joy to work with, but there could never be anyone, or anything, that could replace you, either in Sunnydale or in my heart," he told her sincerely, having wanted to say that to her on many occasions.
Giles was rewarded for his heartfelt declaration by Buffy wrapping her arms around him and hugging him tightly. Willow and Tara joined in the hug, and the quartet stayed that way for a few moments before they reluctantly pulled away.
"Right then," the Watcher said after a moment, "all we have to do now is wait for Jesse's signal. What was the signal again?"
A large explosion, coupled with a cacophony of Dalek voices all screaming EX-TER-MIN-ATE! Resonated throughout the room.
"Ah, yes, that was it."
"Jesse!" Dawn screamed. "Remember that the space station is *not* the enemy!"
"Need I remind you that *you* were the one that fired the phasers?" Jesse replied as he evaded the Daleks that had come out to engage him.
"You two are crackers, you know that?" Chelsea said with a shake of her head as she focused on the screen in front of her.
Chelsea would admit to feeling a little out of her depth at the moment, which, given she was in the middle of a pitched space battle, was to be expected. After being given an introduction to Jesse's systems, she had been put in charge of the rear defence weaponry. At first she had been a little reluctant, as the hi-tech consoles were quite frankly too complicated for her to use properly under battle conditions with so little practise, but Jesse had already thought of that and had showed her that there was a more low tech method to hand, although it was originally designed to be used as a back up in the event that the primary systems were taken out.
The console in front of her had changed to two 10" monitors, and below each one appeared a hand controller much like a computer joystick. Jesse had calibrated the system with a Slayer in mind, although the Slayer in question had been Buffy, but at the moment that didn't matter; Chelsea's enhanced hand eye coordination meant that she was able to man two separate phaser cannons, and also had a complement of spacial charges at her disposal as well. Her job was to ensure that none of the Daleks got close enough to do any damage to Jesse's flank, and the best way of doing that was to blow them all up.
While Chelsea guarded Jesse's rear, Dawn had the job of looking after Jesse's front, assisted by Jesse himself. While he had a certain amount of autonomy, there was no way he would be able to do what was required alone and that was where Dawn came in. Working in tandem, they would be able to keep the Daleks distracted long enough for the others to complete their end of the plan, all the while giving Jesse another crack at the beings that pretty much wiped out everything he had held dear.
"I hate that there's nothing more I can do!" Rose snapped as she watched the proceeding on a monitor, for a moment forgetting that Eve could hear her.
#Rose, I would be worried if you *weren't* frustrated, but you must have learned by now that sometimes the best thing to do in a situation is to do nothing,# Eve counselled, feeling a measure of frustration herself.
While she, like The Doctor, preferred to solve situations through brains as opposed to brawn, there were times when she would like to have the option to use both. Being a purely scientific and exploration vessel meant that she had little in the way of weaponry, and even those had fallen into disrepair before The Doctor had taken possession of her.
Despite wanting to sometimes have a more physical role in some of the situations that The Doctor found themselves in, Eve knew that it would be a dangerous path to begin to step down. The temptation to use them would increase, to the point where they would become the first option, instead of the last. The Doctor was of a similar opinion, especially as his mind has allowed him to do things that no weapon could ever possibly match.
Xander and Jack had the unique opportunity to know what it was like to deal with life and death situations without either the technology or the knowledge that a Time Lord has, and therefore had a better understanding of where the line was, and less chance of crossing it. They'd often had to use a combination of brains and brawn to succeed, and had experience of how much of each was necessary.
That was why, despite his vocal statements to the contrary, The Doctor didn't mind them using weaponry, as he trusted them more with them than he did himself.
"Isn't there anything more we can do to help?" Rose asked pleadingly.
#We have activated the aversion fields,# Eve replied, thankful that she was able to hear Rose despite her not transmitting her thoughts now that she was inside her. #We have patched into all of the space station's systems so we can make sure no one is caught unawares, and we have managed to bypass all communications to run through me so that we will know if The Master tries to contact anyone to assist him. Anything else will be noticed, and we are better placed to help out here than if we are moved elsewhere.#
Rose didn't respond, she simply slumped her shoulders and flopped down into a nearby chair, knowing that there was nothing else to do. "I hate being useless."
#You are *not* useless, Rose, and I don't want to hear you say something like that again,# Eve stated forcefully, shocking Rose out of her funk. #You must stop comparing yourself to the others, as that automatically puts you at a disadvantage. You are brave, far braver than most, and you have an open-minded attitude that allows you to accept concepts and ideals that would be beyond most of your kind.# Eve paused for a few moments, to collect her thoughts. #There is something you can help me with.#
#Anything,# Rose replied immediately, almost jumping out of her seat.
#Something has been troubling me about the Daleks, beyond their willingness to follow The Master's instructions, and I need your assistance to find out why.#
#Tell me what you need and I'll do it,# Rose stated, feeling much better now that she had something to focus her mind on.
Giles and Willow stood either side of Tara, who was sat cross-legged on the floor, both holding hastily made weapons thanks to Buffy's preternatural strength and a couple of wall panels. They were situated in a small, dark alcove at the far end of the promenade, a couple of small obscurement charms enhancing the shadows around them to further hide them from view. Their job was to get as many people out of the Promenade and to safety as they could, and to protect Tara. Once Buffy began her distraction, the shadows would lift and they would start herding the hostages through alcove and out of firing range.
The pair glanced at each other from time to time, their grip on their weapons tightening and relaxing as they did what they could to stave off their growing tension in their bodies. They both knew that if a Dalek truly took notice of them that their chances of survival was not great, but after so long of facing the dark having a weapon to hand was almost like a security blanket, and with their magic unavailable to them it would be their only defence.
Tara was oblivious to the nervousness of her protectors; in fact, she was oblivious to everyone and everything around her. Her eyes were closed and her face tight with concentration, ensuring that her entire focus was on maintaining the spell. Her chanting was low, but while it wasn't possible to hear what she was saying, the tone seemed to resonate throughout the station.
When they had gone through the charms and spells that the trio could prepare and cast, it was decided that they would provide Buffy with a dual layer of protection. The necklace she currently wore would provide her with a modicum of protection, enough to if not stop, at least reduce the effects of a Dalek ray, but they knew that wouldn't be enough, especially once things got heated.
They had absolute faith in Buffy's abilities, but were realistic enough to realise that the odds were against her, especially once she started steering the hostages their way and was spotted. Therefore, they decided to err on the side of caution in order to keep her as safe as possible, which was why Tara was now maintaining a second protection spell, one that would actually use the Daleks weapons against them, and help to bolster the spell itself. The problem was that it took all of Tara's concentration to maintain the spell, and she wouldn't have enough power left to reactivate it if her concentration was broken.
Buffy moved slowly, keeping herself as inconspicuous as possible, preparing herself for what was to come. Jesse's distraction was working like a charm, even better than she had expected; instead of the dozens of Daleks that had initially been present guarding the hostages, there was no only six or seven. Despite the sharp reduction in numbers, she was happy that Tara and the others had worked out ways to give her some protection against the Daleks, although she was going to do everything she could not to find out how effective either of those spells were.
Buffy could already feel a tingle going through her body because of the spells, something Tara had warned her about so she didn't think anything was wrong, and realised that she must have added some sort of mild obscurement charm with the protection amulet; as she moved through the throng of people towards her first target, the people in close proximity to her seemed almost compelled to move out of the way before she actually got close enough for them to touch her.
She quickly realised that it wouldn't be quite so effective against the Daleks, and especially not from their egg whisk ray gun thingys, but then she had no intention of finding that out anyway so it wasn't anything to worry about. She was aware of how powerful even a single Dalek could be, and wasn't feeling in the mood to tempt fate.
While she had never faced them before, Jesse had gone over everything he knew about Daleks during their study sessions, which given who he was, was a lot. Jesse hadn't talked about the Daleks in case they ever encountered them, more as a lesson regarding how ruthless some of the aliens they might encounter could be, but Buffy was thankful for the information nonetheless.
Once she got into position, a spot that put her in close proximity to three Daleks, Buffy took a deep cleansing breath, sent a silent 'I love you' to both Xander and Dawn, and then struck. She knew from her teachings that her best chance was while the Daleks were on the ground as they were quite slow and cumbersome, and that they were also disadvantaged by their stork, as it didn't give them a great field of vision.
Taking advantage of that, she waited until she was out of their field of vision and leapt at the first Dalek with every ounce of speed at her disposal, grabbed the Dalek's stork and tugged with all her might. She had hoped that it would rip out, leaving the Dalek blind, but she had instead found herself lifting the Dalek into the air.
Buffy quickly changed her plan and, keeping her momentum going, swung it at the second Dalek. As the two Daleks collided, the resulting collision was enough to crack their shells. Large showers of sparks emitted from the cracks, and a moment later the pair exploded in a shower of lights and a roar of sound.
Buffy didn't allow herself time to marvel at the sight, as she had already struck out at the third Dalek, this time using a well placed kick to snap its stork, catching it as it flew up into the air and smashed it against its ray gun, denting it so that it pointed down. Before the Dalek had the opportunity to cry out in whatever the Dalek equivalent to pain was, she sped off through the crowd to keep herself from sight, towards another group of Daleks that were now moving towards their fallen comrades.
While she would never admit it, being sleight of height was working to her advantage at the moment, as she was better able to blend into the crowd, and was able to reach her next target without being spotted. Her goal was no longer to take them on directly, as she knew the element of surprise was gone; now her intention was to confuse them enough so that they didn't know who was attacking them.
There was a risk involved in her strategy, as she had no idea whether the Daleks would just start killing anyone and everyone to eliminate the risk, but they had discussed it and The Doctor, Jack and Xander had all agreed that if that was their intent they would have already done it. Bob – or as they believed, The Master – wanted the hostages alive, not because of any noble intention, but because without them he would not have any leverage to use against The Doctor should he gain the upper hand.
Once she was close enough, Buffy slapped the nearest Dalek on its dome, sprinting past before it had a chance to swivel round to see what had hit it. She repeated the same thing with the other two, although getting to them without being seen quickly became more difficult as the crowd began to thin slightly, Giles and Willow doing their part by shepherding them through the alcove.
Knowing that the Daleks would soon notice the drop in numbers, she now allowed herself to be seen; at least, she no longer deliberately hid herself from them. Buffy dodged and weaved her way around the Daleks, moving too fast and too erratically for them to get a lock on her. She could see that the crowd was really starting to thin now, and knew it wasn't long before it caught the Daleks attention, so she decided to give them something else to focus on.
"Hey! Mr Wheelie Bin! Over here!" she shouted as she darted past one Dalek, slapping its stork hard enough to cause it to round a full revolution, something that did not do the Dalek much good, nor did it lighten its mood.
Its cry was repeated by its two cohorts and Buffy knew that she had definitely got their attention, especially as she began to dodge energy blasts.
'Bob' was watching the proceedings via a large bank of monitors along the far wall, his face showing more and more of his anger at how his plans were once more being thwarted by The Doctor, even though he wasn't entirely sure how he was doing it. The ship that was currently decimating the Dalek forces outside certainly wasn't the TARDIS, and the way in which it was dispatching them was certainly not The Doctor's usual style.
"Maybe the Time War changed him more than I thought," he mused to himself, his hands gripping the arms of his chair tighter and tighter as he did his best to remain his cool. "It certainly gave me a new lease on life."
The ship may well be formidable, but it was only one ship; soon it would either run out of luck or ammunition, and then the Daleks would deal with it and his plan could continue on course. Either way, it was more of a nuisance than a real threat, especially as it appeared to be taking great care to not hit the space station, although the station had still taken more than one glancing blow.
His thoughts were interrupted violently as an explosion behind him knocked him from his chair, debris flying everywhere. As he regained his footing, he turned round and saw that there was a very large hole where before stood his – supposedly – impenetrable door. As he made to move towards his desk to retrieve a weapon, he was hit in the shoulder by a beam of energy, the force of which caused him to spin and fall into an unceremonious heap on the floor.
"Darn," a voice said, no doubt belonging to the figure that was calmly walking through the cloud of dust caused by the explosion. "I missed."
"But you hit him," another voice – easily recognisable as The Doctor – stated.
"I was aiming for his head," the voice replied.
What surprised 'Bob' more than hearing The Doctor's voice was that he hadn't appeared angry or surprised that the other man had fired upon him. He had anticipated that The Doctor would make an attempt to thwart his plans – The Doctor was very predictable in that regard – but he had not anticipated that he would attempt something quite so destructive, and had therefore not planned for it.
Being fired upon was certainly not something he had expected as part of The Doctor's plan, and even though he hadn't fired it, he did know that he had agreed to it. Death was not an unknown to The Doctor he knew, but he rarely bore witness to it, preferring to have some distance between him and his latest victims.
"I would have aimed for something far more tender after the way he backhanded Rose," A third voice – Captain Harkness no doubt – said angrily.
"There was no way I was going to sully Christine here," the unknown voice said, lovingly stroking the weapon in his hand, "by pointing her anywhere near this guy's Johnson."
"How did you break through my door?" The Master asked, feeling somewhat irked that he had somehow missed something. "It was designed to be impenetrable."
"Oh, you made the *door* impenetrable, but you forgot to do the same thing to the wall surrounding it," Xander told him with a smirk. "Too bad, so sad."
Angry beyond any shred of reason, at both the audacity of the three to come into his chamber and shoot him and by the flippant air about them, 'Bob' let out an unintelligible snarl and reached into his jacket pocket, and withdrew what looked like a sonic screwdriver, but red instead of blue.
As he aimed it at the figure he assumed fired upon him, he screamed in pain as his hand was vaporised from another strike from what he now recognised as a phaser. As he cradled his horrendously burned wrist and forearm, he glared angrily at the trio as they calmly walked up to him while striving to remain conscious.
"How you doing, Bob," the man with the weapon said with a manic grin. "I hope you're a leftie."
"Who the hell are you!?" 'Bob' screamed, spittle flying from his mouth.
"Me?" he said, pointing at himself as though for clarification. "I'm but a humble traveller, trekking through the stars, searching for new life and new civilizations-"
"Cut that out, Xander," Jack said with a sigh. "There's nothing humble about you, and you're neither Kirk nor Picard."
"Take that back!" Xander said indignantly. "You're the one that will flirt with anything that moves, and even that's an understatement. And while I'm at it-"
"*Oi!*" The Doctor shouted, causing the other two to turn to him. "We've got more important things to do." He turned his attention to 'Bob', who was still rocking back and forth in agony in front of them. "How are you controlling the Daleks?"
"Like I'm going to tell you anything," he snorted, grimacing in pain as he did so. He collected himself and glared at all three of them. "I will enjoy watching them exterminate everything you hold dear."
The Doctor stared at him, his eyes feeling as though they were boring through his very skull. "Been there, done that," he said softly, but with a tone of steel. "You of all people should want them destroyed for what they did, Master."
"Ah, so you worked it out, did you?" The Master said with a death's head smile.
"Yeah, we know who you are; you're the guy who ran away and let the rest of his race go down in flames," Xander replied.
"Oh no, I didn't run away; I fought in the Time War like a good little boy," The Mater replied, his tone mocking.
"Then how can you bear to see them alive?" The Doctor asked, his tone mournful.
"But why would I want the Daleks dead?" The Master replied, his tone one of genuine surprise, touched with a heavy dose of malice. "They did what I had always wanted to do myself; destroy the biggest obstacle between me and complete control over the universe." His eyes darkened and he suddenly moved closer to The Doctor, who didn't so much as flinch at the sudden movement. "Well, almost."
The Master's smile returned as he saw his verbal strike at The Doctor hit home, and decided to twist the knife a little. "The Time Lords resurrected me, gave me a new set of regenerations-"
"Why would they do that for *you*?" Xander asked, his tone indicating that he certainly wouldn't.
"They did it, boy, all in order to conscript me like some mongrel dog to fight in the Time War while they cowered in fear back on Gallefrey, planning their 'final solution'." The Master coughed a couple of times, before a sneer appeared on his face. "The audacity of them to think I would take orders from them; that I would allow myself to be *anyone's* servant. However, I allowed them to believe that I was towing the line, that I was behaving like a good Time Lord Lapdog should, but all the while I schemed, and I plotted to ensure that they would never be able to hold my new lease of life over me."
"What do you mean by that?" The Doctor demanded.
"It was quite simple really," The Master went on, as though he hadn't heard The Doctor speak. "A little nudge here, a subtle suggestion there, and there we were, the final battle of the Time War. And that is where *you* came in, my dear Doctor, just as I knew you would. Only *you* would see the option I had left open; only *you* would have the conviction and determination to see it through. You didn't destroy Gallefrey and the Time Lords because you had no other choice; you did it because that was the only choice *I* had left you."
The Master didn't even see it coming; one moment he was smiling smugly at the ashen face of The Doctor, and the second he was fighting for breath as The Doctor's hands tightened around his throat. Only having one hand to fight back with, The Master found it impossible to remove The Doctor's iron-like grip, and turned to the other two in the room, only to see them both looking on impassively. After a few seconds, however, the one who had fired upon him sighed and closed his eyes for a moment before he stepped over and placed his hand on The Doctor's shoulder.
That one word, spoken calmly and without inflection, was all that The Doctor needed. He released his stranglehold on The Master's neck and stepped back a couple of paces, his breathing heavy and his eyes wild.
The Master was looking at Xander closely, starting to feel something he never thought he would again. "I'm going to do something I rarely do and repeat myself; who *are* you?"
Xander looked at him with an intensity that rivalled even The Doctor. "As far as I'm concerned it's none of your damn business who the hell I am, but given the circumstances I'll tell you. My name is Alexander Lavelle Harris, but while accurate, doesn't really answer the question you're asking. I am someone who will do whatever is necessary to keep those I hold dear safe. I am one of four, soon to be three. I am a Time Lord."
"Impossible," The Master replied instantly. "The Doctor and I are the only two left; he made sure of that. Hell, *I* made sure of that."
"Not any more, Master," The Doctor informed his nemesis, not allowing him to see just how badly his words had affected him. "Both Jack and Xander are Time Lords."
Despite his hatred for The Doctor, The Master knew that he wouldn't lie, at least not about something like this. "How can this be?"
"That doesn't matter," Jack told him. "What does matter is stopping the Daleks, and dealing with you."
"And what are you going to do, keep me locked up?" The Master scoffed, looking at The Doctor mockingly. "You know you can't keep me prisoner forever; I will escape and I will see to it that the entire galaxy is under my thumb."
"Who said anything about imprisonment?" Xander asked.
The Master looked at the trio for a long moment before he laughed for a moment before shaking his head in disbelief and fixing his gaze on The Doctor. "You're going to *kill* me? That's rich. I mean, I'd have no problem with doing that to *you*, but I know you, Doctor; you wouldn't kill another Time Lord, it goes against everything you are. Besides, you have had many opportunities to kill me over the years, and you have never taken them."
"I had never taken those opportunities before because unlike you, I believe in the fundamental rules of Gallefrey. To have taken your life before would have made me no better than you," The Doctor said, and then his eyes seemed to lose focus, "and I have enough shadows on my soul as it is."
"The Rules of Gallefrey are clear on this matter," Xander continued, knowing that it was better that he be the lead on this.
The Doctor was too close to be able to speak calmly, and Jack didn't really understand why they didn't just kill him. Oh, he understood how sacrosanct the rules regarding the taking of another Time Lord's life were, but after the life he'd led – both before and after he'd met The Doctor – he found it difficult to see things outside of a wartime context, where the only rule was 'Don't Die'.
Of course, that was a rule that Xander also believed in wholeheartedly, but he also believed that there were some things, some ideals that took precedence over that notion, and while he wasn't certain he placed this among them, he did know that The Doctor did, and that he wouldn't be party to any other course of action.
"The Rules of Gallefrey," The Master spat, "are as dead as the planet they were founded on."
"Not to me," The Doctor replied.
"Can we get this over with?" Jack asked in frustration. "We've still got those Daleks to deal with, especially as he won't tell us how he's controlling them."
"Well, I think information like that has value," The Master said, a sly smile on his face as he realised a way to buy him some time.
"Not to us," Xander replied quickly and firmly. "Whether you tell us or not, your fate is sealed."
"Why you little-"
"Talk to the hand, because yours is vaporised," Xander said, holding his hand up in dismissal. Completely ignoring the outraged look on The Master's face, he turned to The Doctor. "I think we need to modify our plan slightly."
"What do you mean?" he asked.
Without saying another word, he turned and fired his phaser once more at The Master, who only had time to widen his eyes in surprise and fear before being enveloped in a red light.
"What the hell do you think you're doing!?" The Doctor yelled, slapping Xander's hand down, knowing he was already too late to prevent what he'd done.
"Relax, he's not dead," Xander assured him, pointing at the still form of The Master. "I changed the setting to maximum stun while no one was looking; I wanted him to know what it felt like to have his life taken away by someone who didn't care."
"What's the plan?" Jack asked, itching to get things moving, and to prevent The Doctor from berating Xander.
"If this is his control room, then there must be something here that controls the Daleks; we know that Jesse seems to have taken the majority of them out, but there might be more out there somewhere, and we need to make sure he can't call them to him," Xander stated. "You know him best, Doctor, so you should stay and work out what it is and how to reverse it, or even better, use it against them; even *one* active Dalek is two too many. Jack and I will join up with Buffy and the others to help get everyone to safety in case we need to make the space station go bye-bye."
"What about him?" Jack asked, nodding his head towards the still unconscious Master.
"The phaser overloaded his nervous system; he'll be out of it for a good hour."
"This is The Master we're talking about, Xander," The Doctor snapped. "Don't take anything for granted."
Xander nodded, knowing that The Doctor was right, and took out the rope they had acquired on their journey to The Master's lair to bind him securely, making sure to tie the knots extra tight and to take into account his missing hand. Whilst painful in the extreme, it would not be difficult for The Mast to have the rope slip from his stump, and even a one-handed Master was more dangerous than most two-handed enemies.
"Why not just get it over with?" Jack asked, still not entirely sure why they didn't just kill him.
"When I was listening to him, I realised there was something we could do to him that was worse than killing him."
"We're not letting that bastard live-" Jack began only to be cut off by Xander.
"I know that, Jack," he stated, placating the man. "His time is up one way or another, so don't get your panties in a bunch. I just want to make sure I pour a lot of salt into the wounds before we do."
"I'm not going to let you torture him," The Doctor stated, his voice firm.
"Not planning on it," Xander assured him. "Jack and I better go; Buffy will take what I said seriously, but if the Daleks start firing into the crowd, she won't be able to stop herself from taking them on directly."
They could both see the almost palpable fear that thought brought out in Xander, knowing that if she did go head to head with the Daleks, there would unfortunately only be one winner, and it wouldn't be her.
"Let's get moving then," Jack said after a moment, before he turned and strode out of the room, Xander following closely behind.
"How many more do you think there are?" Dawn asked Jesse as she fired another volley of phasers at the attacking Daleks, Jesse's excellent piloting skills ensuring that they were just out of reach of their returning fire.
The Daleks had been coming at them in swarms, sometimes from one side, sometimes from all sides at once. If they had been free to do as they wished, Jesse knew that they would have been in terrible trouble, but The Master's influence over them ironically made it easier for them to evade serious damage, and more importantly made it easier to bring an end to one Dalek after another.
They had not eluded damage completely, it would have been impossible to do so with the amount of enemies they faced, but so far it little more than superficial. Jesse's biggest problem was one of armament, or more specifically a *lack* of armament; they were slowly but surely running out of ammunition. While the phasers were directly powered by his 'heart', the spacial charges were not, and they were nearly at critically low levels. They should have enough to finish the fight they were in, but it would be tight. If there were reinforcements…
"Not as many as we first thought," Jesse replied, his tone actually sounding a little disappointed, even as he masked his own concerns. "If there were a full invasion force here, their ships would have joined in the battle by now, either on their own or on The Master's orders. That means there either isn't one or it's simply too far away to do any good."
"Which do you think it is?" Chelsea asked distractedly, keeping as much attention on the two monitors in front of her as she could.
It had taken a while, including than one very close call that she would gladly never experience again, but she now had somewhat of a rhythm going, and the Daleks found that getting anywhere near the back of Jesse was not conducive to a prolonged existence.
"I would say the former," Jesse replied, "but the Daleks are like cockroaches; no matter how many you kill there are always more around."
In reality, while he would love nothing more than to obliterate even more of the rust buckets, Jesse knew that they would have little chance of survival if reinforcements did indeed arrive.
Buffy hated to admit it, but she was slowing down. Not enough to show, at least not to a normal human, but enough to know that it was only a matter of time before she was caught by one of those ray blasts. There weren't many people left now on the Promenade, most having escaped through the alcove, but she was determined to keep the Daleks focussed on her until they were all clear.
Some had not been so lucky to escape, and had been killed by a Dalek, either on purpose due to a few who had decided to try and help her, or because they were hit by a blast meant *for* her. Every time another body fell lifelessly to the ground, Buffy had needed to harden her heart that little bit more, forcing herself to ignore her burgeoning emotions over the needless loss of life. She knew that if she allowed herself to lose herself to her emotions, that momentary lack of concentration would almost certainly be fatal. There would be time to grieve over those that were lost; now she simply had to concentrate on keeping the Daleks busy, and staying alive while she did so.
Her only advantages at the moment were that the Daleks hadn't taken to the air, and that Jesse had made enough of a nuisance of himself to prevent them from getting reinforcements. Of course, the moment she thought that, Murphy decided to make himself known as the first Dalek slowly rose into the air, quickly followed by the other two. Now airborne, the Daleks were far more manoeuvrable, far faster, and far more dangerous.
A sudden sensation of heat told her that her luck had finally ran out, as she was hit by a ray blast. An up 'til now invisible shield flickered briefly around her body, protecting her from the worst of it, but the sheer force took her off her feet and sent her slamming into a nearby bulkhead, and she cried out in pain as she felt her shoulder pop out of place.
Across the room, Tara also screamed in pain as the ray blast struck, battering her mental defences and destroying her concentration. They had all underestimated the power behind the Daleks' blasters; the sheer power of it overwhelmed the spell, although not so fast that it could do lasting damage to Buffy. The secondary spell dropped, and so did Tara; her eyes rolled up into the back of her head and she slumped to the floor unconscious.
"Tara!" Willow screamed, rushing over to the lover to check that she was still alive, her hands shaking as she reached out and checked her pulse. She sagged with relief when she found one; it was slow but it was there.
Giles wanted to check on Tara as well, but knew that he had to keep guard and to get the last few people through the hole and to relative safety. He also knew that without that secondary level of protection, Buffy wouldn't survive another hit.
Buffy continued running, ignoring the screaming pain in her shoulder as best she could and using whatever cover was available to keep her out of the firing line, but she knew that it was only seconds before one of the Daleks got her with another shot. Her only hope now was for her to get to the alcove, but that was a lot of open space to cross even when she was 100%; with her energy flagging and her shoulder injured, she knew it was a slim hope at best.
"Buffy! Down!" a voice shouted, and Buffy didn't even have to think about it, she just dropped to the ground and made herself as small as possible even as her momentum had her rolling along the ground.
The unmistakable sound of phaser fire sounded in her ears, followed by the death screams of three Daleks. After a moment of blissful silence, Buffy struggled to her feet and looked round; the three Daleks were now nothing more than smoke and wires and Xander was running over to her, his eyes full of concern. Knowing that the immediate danger was passed and that she was safe, Buffy finally succumbed to the emotional and physical toll and passed out.
"That's the last of them," Jesse informed Dawn and Chelsea as they watched the final Dalek die in an explosion of colour.
"Are you sure?" Chelsea asked.
"As sure as I can get with them," Jesse replied with a little distaste in his voice. "I have run a deep scan of the surrounding system, and there is no sign of any Daleks anywhere."
"That's good though, right?" Dawn asked.
"Yes; once The Doctor has worked out how The Master was controlling the ones here, we should be able to use it to double check what my sensors have indicated."
"They may just be further out than your sensors can detect," Down pointed out, remembering what Jesse had said earlier.
"Yes, but at this present mome-"
"Jesse," Xander's voice broke in, "I need you to transport Buffy and Tara to the sickbay, ASAP."
"What's wrong?" Dawn and Chelsea asked immediately.
"Nothing that a few hours sleep and Jesse's tender mercies can't fix," Xander assured them. "However, I don't want them on the station any longer than necessary; we still have The Master to deal with."
"I'll transport them immediately," Jesse said. "I take it that Willow will be accompanying Tara?" he asked/stated as his scans indicated that if Willow were any closer to her girlfriend they would begin to merge into one being.
"I'd say that was a big yes," Xander said with a small fond smile in his voice. "Also, do you remember when we were talking about regenerations?"
Jesse would have lifted one eyebrow up at that remark had he any. "Why do you ask?" he replied, a little warily.
Regeneration was one of the few things that they hadn't gone into great detail with Buffy and Dawn. In the beginning it was mainly because for whatever reason it did not apply to Xander, or at least not in the same manner, and upon his request it had rarely if ever been mentioned in front of them. However, they had talked in great detail about them in private, as Xander wanted to try and understand why both he and Jack didn't regenerate in the way The Doctor did, and also to find out if he had the same limit The Doctor had. Since his arrival on Eve he'd 'died' four times; if he was limited to thirteen regenerations like The Doctor, it meant that he had nine left, if he started with a full set in the first place, and wanted to find out how to know for sure.
During their research, Xander and Jesse believed they'd discovered the reason why he and Jack differed from The Doctor, but they'd also learned a lot about regenerations, including methods of transferring them from one Time Lord to another, and even how to attain new ones. The biggest problem they'd found with all but one method was that they required technology that was only ever found on Gallefrey, for fear of it ever falling into the wrong hands. Jesse knew that it was the one that didn't require specialised Time Lord Technology that Xander was currently interested in, one that before today he had sworn never to use. The method was a relatively simple one, but it required one thing that was at the time unacceptable in Xander's opinion; a sacrifice. The method allowed you to transfer the regenerations from one Time Lord to another, but there was no way to stop the process once it had begun, so it resulted in the death of the donor.
The rite – it wasn't particularly religious or mystical, but it was the closest thing they'd found to an actual ritual – had been banned from use and eventually forgotten, but it was still in Jesse's database. Even while they had discussed ways in which the rite could be modified, the thought of ever actually using it had never entered Xander's mind for two simple reasons; he would be condemning someone to death if he attempted to use it, and even more damning, he was very good friends with the only two people it would have any chance of working with.
Then, Jesse realised suddenly, along came The Master.
"The Master was given a full set in return for helping out in the Time War," Xander told him, confirming Jesse's own thoughts on the matter. "I think they can be put to better use by someone else."
The moment Jack stepped inside Eve, Rose had jumped him, a move so sudden it caused him to get knocked back a couple of steps, and then she'd kissed him hard on the mouth, a kiss that was definitely not platonic, which left the normally cool-headed man feeling more than a little flustered.
"I'm so glad you're alright," Rose said softly, still clinging to him slightly, needing to feel connected to him.
Jack was surprised by Rose's response, not because he didn't know she cared for him, but because she was simply more emotionally grounded than this. Of course, normally Rose was right there with them in the thick of things, so she was always able to see that they were fine; being kept out of the loop, as necessary as it was, must have been incredibly difficult for her.
"Hey, a few Daleks and a rogue Time Lord aren't enough to put me down for the count," he assured her with a smile, one that Rose was not ashamed to say made her stomach flip and other parts tingle.
She was The Doctor's, and The Doctor was hers; it was a statement of fact as undeniable as 'water is wet'. However, she also knew that a piece of her was Jack's, and while he wouldn't admit it, a part of The Doctor was Jack's as well. That they both also had a piece of Jack in return was also a given, but none of them had been able to find the courage to broach the subject.
Maybe it was time for that to change.
"It better not, otherwise I'll be looking Eve in the eye again," Rose stated seriously as she finally released him and took a step back, her tone enough to cause Jack to shiver.
"Rose, we haven't talked about this before, but I want you to swear to me that you will never try and do that again," Jack asked her, his tone almost verging on pleading.
"Don't ask me to do that, Jack; I can't," Rose said softly, her eyes glistening slightly.
"You have to; the only reason you survived last time is because The Doctor was there to take the power from you. If he hadn't been there, you would have burned out, literally. Even then, it cost The Doctor a regeneration," he explained, hating that his words were causing Rose to cry silent tears as he forced her to remember the events that still caused her to have the occasional nightmare.
#Captain Harkness is correct, Rose,# Eve stated. #We have no idea whether you would survive a second exposure to my core, even if it was siphoned away like last time. There is a reason The Doctor insists on you going through those weekly physicals you moan about, beyond being able to put his hands on you on a regular basis of course,# she added with a sly smile in her voice, her comment enough to make Jack laugh out loud and for Rose to blush.
Looking into Jack's eyes, Rose knew that she could only answer one way. "I promise," she whispered haltingly.
Jack took her back into his arms and placed a soft lingering kiss into her hair. "Thank you."
"So, where are the others?" Rose asked after a moment to gather herself.
"The Doctor is still working on how The Master was controlling the Daleks, Xander is with Giles trying to calm the hostages down while keeping an eye out for anything else The Master might have had planned, Buffy and Tara are with Jesse getting themselves fixed up-"
"Are they alright?" Rose asked, concerned.
"Nothing that Jesse can't sort out licketysplick," Jack assured her. "They'll be up and about in no time. Now then, Xander asked me to grab the metaphasic harmonisor The Doctor's been using as a paperweight, as he has an idea as to a fitting punishment for The Master."
#Any idea what that might be?# Eve asked, her mind awhirl with possibilities regarding the implement's use.
"No, he said he wanted it to be a surprise," Jack replied, resisting the urge to pout. "From the gleam he had in his eye, I'm sure it will cause The Master a whole lot of pain."
#Good,# Eve stated firmly.
"Is it?" Rose asked. "I mean, isn't that stooping to The Master's level?"
"I don't think he meant a physical pain, although as we're going to kill him that can't be totally avoided," Jack replied. "No, I think that Xander's devised something that will hurt The Master on a far more personal level than the physical."
#As long as whatever it is guarantees that this will be the last we ever see of The Master, I don't particularly care what it does,# Eve said strongly, herself enraged over The Master's part to play in the demise of the Time Lords and Gallefrey.
She knew the toll that The Doctor's decision had wrought on him, the effects quite clear even now after two regenerations, and to know that he had been manipulated into it by The Master of all people was abhorrent to her, and she would happily see The Master damned to Hell if she believed such a place existed.
Giles was currently sitting in the common room of Jesse, with Chelsea and Dawn sat either side of him with their heads resting on his shoulders, both in a state of peaceful slumber despite the awkward position they were in.
A few years ago, he would have felt very uncomfortable with his current situation, and would have moved away from the pair to maintain a sense of propriety that would have put him at odds with the rest of the group, but now he knew that both young ladies required the physical contact as a form of reassurance, and he wasn't about to begrudge either of them that.
Giles wasn't a particularly social animal, although his exposure to Buffy and the others these past few years had changed that a little, so having to deal with a crowd of distraught strangers made him feel out of his depth. He had therefore requested that he be allowed onboard Jesse so that he might check on Chelsea, as well as Dawn, Buffy and Tara. Xander had been fine with that, going so far as to state that unless either he or Jesse were to tell him otherwise he could come and go as he pleased, and had then moved off to do what he could to calm the crowd down.
"I just want to inform you, Mr. Giles, that Chelsea performed admirably during the crisis, showing an ability to adapt that will see her well in her future endeavours," Jesse said quietly to Giles, mindful of the two sleeping teenagers.
"Thank you, um, Jesse, I'm sure that she did," Giles replied. "And please, just call me Giles, everyone does."
"Very well, Giles. I'm sure that you will also be pleased to hear that both Buffy and Dawn have continued their education while they've been with me, and traversing through the time stream has opened their minds in ways they hadn't imagined."
"What do you mean by that?" Giles asked, a little worried by Jesse's phrasing.
"Anyone that travels through time for prolonged periods is affected by it," Jesse explained. "Their minds begin to grasp concepts that they might have otherwise found incomprehensible, and they're able to accept things that 'normal' people would think unbelievable."
"The same could be said for living atop a Hellmouth," Giles said.
"I agree; that they have both had contact with the supernatural, especially over a dimensional nexus like a Hellmouth, only helped to accelerate the process, as they were already capable of seeing beyond what a layperson would or could comprehend. They were both already intelligent, although it would be fair to say that Buffy had not exactly applied herself during her school years, but now their intellects have the potential to be far above what they would have been."
"Are there any adverse affects?" Giles asked.
"That would depend upon your viewpoint," Jesse replied. "After someone is changed like that, after they have experienced the wonders of space and time, it is often difficult for them to return to what most would consider a 'normal' life. More often than not, they would no longer be able to ignore the supernatural or the paranormal like others, and would find themselves seeking them out to regain the feelings they had before."
"That doesn't sound conducive to a living a long life," Giles commented.
"I don't mean to say that they feel compelled to *combat* it, only that they seek it out. Many become explorers of some note; others become journalists or writers, others directors or producers. They each find ways to get closer to what they had experienced, even if it means fabricating it themselves. In the case of Buffy and Dawn, they would not feel the same longing, as to them a normal life is fighting vampires and other demons."
"I have already spoken to both of them about this, and have explained what it means for them," Jesse continued, having noted the look on Giles's face and the tone of his voice. "They have both stated they see it as a good thing; it allows them to better understand the world that Xander is now a part of."
"Is this why Xander is now a Time Lord?" Giles enquired.
"No, that is due to something else, but that is a story for Xander to tell. Given Buffy's relationship with him, you have to realise that she will more than likely remain with him regardless of the situation with Glory. Even if that weren't the case, I'm sure that you will all journey with Xander from time to time," Jesse stated, a touch of humour in his voice.
Jesse's comment had brought Giles up short, as it wasn't something he had actually taken time to consider. The reason that Buffy and Dawn were travelling with Xander was to ensure Dawn's safety from Glory; he had always assumed that once Glory had been dealt with, that they would naturally be returning to Sunnydale. He now realised that may well not be the case.
While he had never commented on it, knowing that his input would not be valued, Giles had been aware of Buffy's growing feelings towards Xander during the period they believed him to be dead. He'd also been aware of Xander's feelings towards her, although a blind and deaf man who lived at the peak of Everest would have been aware of Xander's feelings, and had early on surmised that it had been those feelings that the Ytin'e'res demon had used to keep him docile.
It was for that reason that he had not been as persistent as the others in trying to keep Xander with the group when he had started to become distant, knowing that his proximity to Buffy must have been torturous for him. That he kept in touch as much as he had proved how loyal and devoted he was to his friends, and Giles' respect for him had grown immensely.
He, like the others, had been overjoyed when they'd discovered that Xander was still alive, and his initial coldness towards him had been extremely difficult to maintain, wanting to believe what his heart had told him instead of his head. He was even happier to discover that for whatever reason the pain he'd experienced whilst in Buffy's presence had, if not gone, had at least waned to such an extent that he could ignore it.
Once it had been decided that Buffy and Dawn would accompany Xander in his travels through space and time, it wasn't difficult for Giles to deduce that their relationship might very well develop beyond friendship; he just hadn't fully realised the ramifications of that change.
"Quite," Giles said eventually, his tone soft and slightly distracted as he was still thinking over his recent realisation.
"You need not worry about them no longer being in your life, Giles," Jesse said, having noticed the man's reaction to his previous comment. "Need I remind you that I am, above all else, a time machine? They could be away from you for months, *years* even, and yet make it seem from your point of view that no more than a moment had passed. Also, do not forget that the only reason we haven't visited you before is because of the threat that Glory currently poses to Dawn; once that situation has been dealt with, I have no doubt that they will be recurring visitors to your home."
"You're right, of course," Giles agreed, "it's just that I'd been living under the impression that this would be a temporary measure, and that both Buffy and Dawn would return home, return to us. I just have to accept that is no longer the case, for either of them."
"Lub you Giles," Dawn muttered sleepily, snuggling a little closer to him.
Giles blinked rapidly, bemoaning the fact that he was unable to wipe his eyes as his arms were pinned, and then bent his head so that he could place a fatherly kiss on the crown of Dawn's hair.
"And I you, dear girl," Giles said softly.
"She's not the only one," Buffy said as she entered the room, having heard Dawn's sleepy endearment.
"The feeling is mutual, I assure you," Giles stated softly but firmly, receiving a beaming smile from the young woman. "Should you be up and about so soon?"
"Probably not, but I'm too wired to stay in bed, and I was kinda feeling like a fifth wheel in there with Will and Tara," she replied as she sat down opposite Giles and the girls. "So, she's the latest to be given the 'honour' of being Chosen, huh?" she went on as she nodded towards Chelsea.
She hadn't been formally introduced to Chelsea before, what with catching up with Willow and then having to deal with the Daleks, but she could see that Giles held genuine affection for her.
"Yes," Giles replied. "As I stated before, Chelsea has been a joy to work with, and I'm especially glad that I was assigned as her Watcher. I would have been upset for anyone who had been Called to be assigned to a Watcher in the vein of Travers, but I have been friends with her father since I was a boy, and have known her all of her life."
"She couldn't get anyone better," Buffy stated sincerely. "I'm just sorry that someone else you care about has been roped in to our crazy existence."
"As am I, but we have little choice but to play the hand we are dealt I'm afraid."
"It's just a shame that Slayers always have Aces and Eights," Buffy said wryly. "So, while we're waiting, how far have you got regarding Glory?"
"Are you *sure* this will work?" Jack asked as he continued to watch Xander fiddling with the metaphasic harmonisor he'd given him a few minutes ago, trying to fit it into place, completing the device he'd been working on for the past hour.
Xander rolled his eyes, sighed, but continued working. "Yes, Jack, I'm sure this will work, and if you ask me that one more time, I might find myself needing to use this *twice*."
Jack backed away, his hands in the air, knowing from the tone in Xander's voice that he was only half joking. He knew that Xander wouldn't really use the device on him, but that didn't mean he wouldn't snap if he continued to pester him.
Jack had managed, after some finagling, to get out of Xander just what his device was intended for, and was personally all for it. However, he couldn't help but be worried about any side-effects this 'ritual' may cause, especially given the people involved. That didn't mean, however, that he didn't have confidence in Xander's abilities, but it was difficult to maintain his normal aloof exterior in the face of what might happen.
"Alright, I know that you'll do everything fine," he said eventually, wanting to ensure that Xander knew he had confidence in him, "but I have to wonder why you were looking up things like this in the first place."
"Well, to start with I wasn't."
"Jack, this'll go a lot easier if you let me talk without interrupting," Xander replied, sending an unfettered glare Jack's way.
Jack resisted the urge to take a step back, as a sudden fear overtook him. It was a bit ironic that the last time he'd felt fear like that was the last time he'd found himself on a space station dealing with Daleks. He trusted Xander with his life, and knew that he wasn't in any real danger from him, but that look he had just given him... "I'm sorry."
Xander was a little surprised to hear Jack say that, as he wasn't someone to apologise. That wasn't to say that he didn't show regret, but for whatever reason the words 'I'm sorry' were particularly difficult for him to say. "Apology accepted," he replied.
After taking a moment to adjust a dial, the light next to it going from green to blue, Xander continued with his explanation. "Anyway, it all began when I began to look into Time Lord History. You and I are both Time Lords, it's been checked and double checked as you well remember," Xander replied, and they both shared a long suffering look as they remembered the myriad of tests The Doctor had insisted on performing to check that they were, indeed, Time Lords, "but we don't react to death in the same way that The Doctor does. I found that strange, as while the circumstances around our induction into the 'hearts numbering two' club were different, the source was pretty much the same, so I began to research the specifics around how regeneration works, and to see if there had been any others that had reacted the same as us."
"Did you find anything?" Jack asked, suddenly more interested in the subject than a few minutes ago.
While he hadn't given it a great deal of thought, it would be nice to know a little more about what he was. He knew he was a Time Lord, and was beginning to understand the responsibilities that came with it, but to have a better idea why he, and Xander, differed from The Doctor would allow him to feel more connected.
"Not when I was doing the research on Eve, but Jesse has historical archives that Eve doesn't. I was going to bring it up with you and The Doctor after we had Christmas out of the way, but I can go into the basics with you now." Xander replied as he finished connecting the final cables in pace, then going over everything again to ensure he hadn't made any mistakes or miscalculations.
"At the very beginning of their, our existence, there were no Time Lords, only Gallefreyans. They were like you and me; they would 'die' only to come back to life a short while later," he went on turning to face Jack. "As I'm sure you can imagine, that caused something of a population problem. I mean, there were deaths, but the circumstances behind them were pretty extreme, like ground-zero-at-Hiroshima extreme.
"When it became apparent that the population growth wasn't going to balance out or slow down, they put in place rules to minimise the rate of growth, a lot like the rules in China in the 20th Century regarding only having one child per family, but it did little more than keep the increase at a steady rate. No matter what they tried, and they tried some pretty extreme things, it didn't solve the underlying problem, and it didn't take long before things started to reach a critical point.
"Luckily, they had long worked out they wouldn't fully solve the problem in time, which is why they had suddenly began to focus so much on ways to travel away from Gallefrey, in order to colonise other worlds in to help further lessen the burden on resources."
"Sounds a lot like Earth," Jack noted.
"Yeah, only unlike on Gallefrey, humans used up all their resources because they *could*, not because they had no other option."
"Harsh, but fair," Jack admitted.
"Yeah. Anyway, it wasn't long before ships started moving out into the universe, although the ships were nothing like Jesse or Eve. The problem came when they began to colonise other worlds; it seemed that they didn't think they needed to consult the indigenous species on the planets about taking up residence."
Jack winced. "Yeah. I take it that wasn't a good idea?"
"You could put it that way," Xander replied with a grimace of his own. "Their expansion didn't meet with approval from some of the other races, especially when it was seen by a few as an invasion force, and things got steadily worse until they got themselves into a 'little' war with their biggest detractor, the Sidiens, who didn't like the thought of another race stretching its interstellar legs and horning in on their action. The war went on for some time, and by some time I'm talking centuries, but back then our Gallefreyan forefathers were a little more gung ho about that sort of thing and were slowly but surely making a good show of wiping the Sidiens out of existence.
"When it was clear that they were going to lose, and become extinct in the process, the Sidiens used the final battle as one big Trojan horse and infected us with a virus designed to wipe us all out as well, sort of the ultimate 'up yours'."
"Well, given that we're still kicking, I'm guessing that the virus didn't work," Jack said.
"Actually it did, just not in the way they had planned," Xander replied. "The virus spread like wildfire through the entire race, and only activated when there wasn't anyone left to infect. As I said, the virus did work, and they did all die, but like every time before they just didn't stay dead. However, it seemed that the virus had mutated the section in their DNA related to their immortality, and instead of just coming back to life, every Gallefreyan experienced their first regeneration, all at the same time."
"Ugh," Jack said, grimacing. He didn't have to be a genius to work out what happened next.
"Yeah," Xander replied. "It was chaos; imagine an entire planet waking up only to find a different face staring back at them in the mirror. You also know that with each regeneration a Gallefreyan goes through they often adopt a different personality, so suddenly you had married couples who not only didn't recognise each other, but when they got past *that*, found that they didn't have anything in common anymore. A lot, and I do mean a *lot* of infighting occurred over the next few thousand years or so, which not only solved the overpopulation problem, but eventually led to the Time Lord society that we know of."
"So you're saying that we have the original strain of DNA, the one before the virus?"
"That's the best theory that Jesse and I could come up with; The Doctor didn't find any differences between his DNA and ours, so it's not as though I can prove it, but it all fits." Xander turned back to the device and swept his sonic screwdriver over everything one more time and smiled at the results. "There! All done."
"So what now?" Jack asked, walking up to stand beside Xander so he could get a closer look at the device.
"We hook The Master here," Xander replied, indicating the alcove to the left, "The Doctor here," indicating the alcove to the right, "and flick this switch here," he finished, indicating the large orange switch that sat between the two alcoves.
"That's it?" Jack said in surprise. "I thought you said that this was a ritual?"
"It is; a Time Lord ritual created during the infighting. The ritual doesn't have anything to do with chanting, or stinky herbs, or going skyclad-"
"Mores the pity," Jack stated with a leer, making a point to give Xander the once over and wink.
"It was about creating the machine required for the transference from scratch and then disassembling it afterwards," Xander continued, studiously ignoring the come on.
"That doesn't sound very convenient," Jack commented.
"It wasn't meant to be," Xander replied. "They believed, quite rightly in my view, that the temptation to use it would be too great if they left one fully assembled at all times. Of course, the construction also gave them the opportunity to think over whether it was really necessary to use it, with the knowledge that they couldn't say it was done by accident if it was later proved unnecessary. They made similar ones later on, ones that didn't have the same lasting consequences, but this original model was always dismantled after use."
"Seems like an awful lot of trouble to me," Jack said, shaking his head slightly.
"The taking of life should never be easy, Jack," Xander replied sombrely. "It might at times be necessary, but *never* easy."
"Why is he gagged?" The Doctor asked as Buffy and Chelsea dragged a violently struggling Master into the room.
Xander had asked that everyone gather in Jesse's cargo bay a few minutes ago, and after having explained in very broad terms what was going to happen, The Doctor had agreed. When they had arrived they could see that everything had been moved to the edge of the room and that a large mechanical device, that looked similar in design to the main console within Eve. The Doctor had been quick to look around it, trying to see what it did, only to be chased away by a smiling Xander, knowing The Doctor's never ending curiosity, and was shown along with the rest of the group to a bank of seats some ten feet away.
"Ask *her*," Chelsea said with a slight pout, "I was quite happy to just hit him."
"And *that's* why I gagged him," Buffy stated, her tone giving some indication that this wasn't the first time she'd said so. At The Doctor's enquiring look, she went on. "'Bob' here," she continued, having refused to call him Master for several reasons, the biggest one being that the last Master she'd dealt had killed her, "wouldn't shut up, and was trying, and succeeding I might add, in getting Chelsea so riled up that she'd snap and hit him, and I think we both know such a blow would have killed him."
The Doctor looked at the rather smug look in The Master's eyes, and nodded slowly. "Ah."
"Again with the 'Ah.'!" Chelsea exclaimed, gesticulating with her free hand. "What's the bloody *problem* here? We're going to kill him anyway, he isn't human so I won't go all gaga from it, so why in the hell am I not allowed to just slay him?" she complained, trying but failing to keep herself from whining.
"Chelsea, mind your language," Giles admonished her, only to receive a raspberry in response.
"Chelsea, Time Lords do not die they way most other species do," The Doctor explained, having realised that no one had educated the younger Slayer about his kind. He wasn't sure whether to be miffed that they didn't talk about him, or happy to know they could be trusted with the information.
After a moment's pause he found himself leaning towards the latter, and decided to give an explanation. "With a few notable exceptions, when we die we have the capability to regenerate. Doing so produces an extreme amount of energy that is volatile and mostly outside of our control, and it is therefore very dangerous to be close by when that happens, something that The Master is well aware of. He had most likely realised you were a Slayer and was no doubt hoping to make you angry enough to hit him without holding back, which you know would have killed him. That would have triggered his regeneration, and the excess energy would have most likely killed both yourself and Buffy in the process. Once the regeneration was completed, a completely healed Master would have then attempted to escape."
Chelsea looked more than a little startled at that revelation, and was reminded of more than one occasion of Giles lecturing her about not always thinking through her actions. "Oh."
"Alright," Xander called out, interrupting whatever else was going to be said, "I think it's time we got this show on the road. Buffy, could you and Chelsea bring The Master up here, please?"
Buffy and Chelsea dragged a still struggling Master up to the odd-looking contraption, and with every step The Master's struggles increased in ferocity, futilely trying to wrench himself free from the Slayers' grip.
While The Master was not entirely certain what the machine he was being dragged towards was for, he had a growing suspicion that being strapped into it was going to be the last thing that ever happened to him, and he wasn't about to give up without a fight, even a futile one.
He knew that, were it not for the mysterious new addition to their race, he would have had The Doctor on his knees prostrate in front of him by now, and with his only worthy adversary having realised the futility of facing an obviously superior intellect, his conquest to become ruler of the cosmos would have begun in earnest.
Now, instead of having the universe in the palm of his hand, he was mere moments away from once again having his regenerations stripped from him, and no matter what he tried he could see no way to prevent such an unfair, such an unworthy end from taking place.
"Doctor, if you could seat yourself there," Xander said, indicating the seat built into the machine on the right-hand side, "and Buffy, if you and Chelsea could strap The Master in there," he went on, indicating the seat the other side of the machine. Once both were in place, Xander turned his attention to Jack. "Jack, given that you missed out on most of the Dalek killing, I thought you'd appreciate being the one to flip the switch."
"It would be my pleasure," Jack replied with a gleam in his eye that would have been disconcerting under other circumstances, and stepped up to stand beside Xander in front of the switch.
"You still haven't explained to me just what exactly this machine is going to do," The Doctor commented, his tone a little put out.
He did, of course, have a few ideas as to what the device was for, but Xander had built it in such a way that it was very difficult to make out what its functions were just by looking at it. He'd also been annoyed to find that he was unable to use his sonic screwdriver to figure it out, as Xander had included a dampening field as part of its construction, no doubt with the express purpose of keeping him in the dark, although more likely to ensure that The Master couldn't pull any last minute escape plans.
"Why have it explained to you, when you can just experience it?" Xander replied with a smile, knowing that it was a lot easier to ask for forgiveness than it is permission, and then nodded to Jack who flicked the switch before anything else could be said.
There was a sudden flash of light that momentarily blinded everyone but Xander, and when their vision returned that could see The Master violently straining against his bonds, his screams of either anger or pain muffled by his gag as his body began to be enveloped in regenerative energy. After a few moments the energy began to expand away from his body in all directions until it was brought to a halt as it came in contact with some kind of purple energy barrier, no doubt designed for that very purpose.
Slowly, the energy began to completely fill the containment unit, while at the same time The Master's body began to fade away, only to be replaced by what looked to be a blue iridescent gas. Once The Master's body had completely vanished, the gas began to condense and solidify until, with another flash of this time cobalt light, it transformed into a blue crystalline sphere, floating in the absolute middle of the containment unit, approximately the size of a softball.
The energy seemed to become more volatile, and the energy barrier containing it started to glow brighter and brighter, to the point that all but Xander began to step away for fear of the energy breaking through. However, just as it seemed as though the containment unit was about to breach, a metallic tube appeared out of the side of the device and sucked the energy inside, and the cerulean ball dropped into the now unoccupied chair.
A few moments of silence passed, and then The Doctor cleared his throat, clearly looking a little discomforted by what he had just borne witness to. "Xander, what's supposed to-"
That was as far as he got as he was suddenly slammed into the back of his seat by a powerful stream of regenerative energy. It was clear to see that he was trying gamely not to scream out in pain, and it was no doubt only his faith in Xander that prevented him from calling for help. Even as he vainly tried to move against the beam pinning him in place, his own body showed signs of becoming saturated in it. His skin began to glow with energy; not the way The Master had done, but in a way that showed that he was almost being overloaded by the energy surging its way inside him.
Rose leapt from her seat and took several hurried steps towards him as he grunted from the strain, and was only prevented from getting closer by Xander, who managed to grab hold of her arm before she passed.
"He's going to be fine, Rose," Xander assured her, even as he tightened his grip on her slightly as she tried to tug free. "It won't be much longer, I promise."
It was the promise that stopped Rose from continuing to wriggle free of his grip, knowing that Xander took such things very seriously, and once Xander let her go she span round and pinned him with a glare that came straight out of her mother's repertoire. "It better not," she said shortly, her tone and stance indicating far better than words what the consequences were if he was wrong.
Luckily for Xander, his promise was kept a moment later as the energy suddenly shut off, and The Doctor slumped down into his seat. Rose and Jack were by his side in the space of a heartbeat, and helped to steady him as he attempted to stand. After he had gathered himself, he indicated he was fine, and once they released him stalked over to Xander and stood barely an inch away.
"What the hell was that?" he demanded, almost vibrating with anger.
He had known that the machine would permanently end The Master's life, and he'd had an inkling that Xander had discovered some way of making it benefit him in the process, but he was less than pleased with the way things had happened, and was especially upset by the way The Master had been turned into what amounted to a fancy paperweight. There was no way he would have agreed to it had he known, and it only angered him more to realise that was exactly the reason he hadn't been told.
Xander remained calm in the face of The Doctor's ire, having known that he would react something like that, even if such a thing would be considered out of character by those who thought they knew him. Just because he had expected it, however, didn't mean that he was not affected or intimidated by it; he was just able to hide it well enough not to show, having had a lot of experience in hiding what he really felt.
Instead of answering the question, knowing that The Doctor was not exactly in a receptive mood to hear it, he simply stood there with an eyebrow raised, silently requesting that The Doctor step back. If he were the one to move, The Doctor would only keep at him, taking the move as a refusal to answer, so his only option was to remain calm and wait for The Doctor to calm himself down.
After a tense moment, where no one dare make a sound, The Doctor sighed and took two steps back, his demeanour returning to his more natural state. "What was that?" he asked again, this time out of curiosity instead of anger.
"That was, in essence, my Christmas gift to you," Xander replied. He held up a hand when he saw the flash in The Doctor's eyes. "You know full well I didn't mean The Master's death, and you'll do well not to insult me like that."
The Doctor did know better than that, and felt ashamed that his thoughts had taken that route, but also felt impressed that Xander would so openly call him on it. During their travels before he went off with Jesse, Xander had not exactly been an assertive person, which The Doctor had mistaken to his chagrin as a lack of intelligence. Their adventure on Pylea had dispelled him of that notion, but he had then begun to worry that Xander's lack of confidence would impede him in the future, especially once he'd left on his own adventures with Buffy and Dawn. The Doctor had more than enough confidence that Xander would be able to overcome whatever obstacles he might face; his worry came from the fact that Xander didn't seem to have the same confidence in himself. He was happy to see that his worries were unfounded.
"You're right, I'm sorry," The Doctor said eventually.
"Apology accepted," Xander replied. "The machine is something I'd found in Jesse's archives regarding the civil war that occurred on Gallefrey just before the true beginning of the Time Lords. It was used as a means of capital punishment, and at the same time used as a means of healing those that had either ran out of regenerations, or had been injured so badly that a normal regeneration would not be sufficient. They had also discovered that it could be used to replenish a healthy person's regenerations, something that was very useful in wartime."
"So I now have a full set of regenerations again," The Doctor asked, not entirely sure whether he should be happy or sad about that. Of course, that he had regenerated nine times already before he'd even reached his first millennia meant that statistically speaking his time was short, no pun intended, but with what he had seen and experienced he did at times find himself wondering whether he wouldn't be better off without them altogether.
"Not exactly," Xander replied.
"What do you mean, 'not exactly'?" Jack asked, entering the conversation. Xander had explained to him that the machine would restore The Doctor back to the way he should have been, so was confused by the somewhat contradictory statement.
The Doctor and Xander looked round and noticed for the first time that they had been loosely surrounded by the others, who all had differing levels of interest in what was being said.
"What I mean is that under normal circumstances there would have been a direct transference of regenerative energy, which would have indeed replenished your regenerations back to twelve-"
"Wait, twelve? I thought it was thirteen," Rose asked in confusion.
"Thirteen lives, only twelve regenerations," Xander replied before returning his attention to The Doctor. "I've already explained a lot of the back-story to Jack, and I know Jesse is going to give Eve a copy of all the relevant information, but as a species we didn't always have regenerations; in the beginning Gallefreyans were just like myself and Jack. A war with another race ended with them being infected with what they believed to be a virus that changed them to having twelve regenerations. Personally, I think mysticism must have had a part to play, as that would explain why they never figured out how the virus had affected them, and why you couldn't see any difference in mine or Jack's genetic structure when compared to yours."
"Alright, but that still doesn't explain just what you did to me," The Doctor pointed out.
"Basically, instead of you getting a steady stream of regenerative energy, and therefore a full set of regenerations, I adjusted the machine to instead hold the energy back and then force it into you in one go. I also added a special filtration system for the energy to go through; my DNA."
The Doctor and Jacks eyes both widened as they realised the possible implications. "You mean-"
"There's a very good chance that you'll react the same as either Jack or myself the next time you get yourself killed," Xander said with a small smile. "At the very least, you're back to a full complement of regenerations. Unfortunately, you know as well as I do that the only way we'll know for certain is for you to die, and I don't think we need to know that badly."
Rose took one look at the expression on The Doctor's face and poked him hard in the chest. "Don't you even *think* about it, understand?" she said forcefully.
"Yes, dear," The Doctor replied automatically, causing both of them to flush with embarrassment.
"Um, I might not know a lot about what you just said, in fact I know nothing about what you just said," Chelsea began tentatively, "but why wouldn't you want The Doctor to test it out, especially as he now has more regenerations than he did before?"
"When Xander or I 'die', we just come back to life. When The Doctor regenerates, his appearance, his personality, in some cases even his gender will change," Jack explained.
"I was with him when he went through his last regeneration," Rose said softly, and while she was speaking to Chelsea, her gaze never wavered from The Doctor. "It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that, while he is still The Doctor, he wasn't the same Doctor I had travelled with all those months. That's not something that I want to go through again unless there's no other option."
"Okay, enough of this maudlin crap; I say it's turkey time," Xander said after a moment, clapping his hands together to bring everyone out of their thoughts.
"I thought that was Thanksgiving?" Dawn asked.
"Only for you Colonials," Giles replied, sharing a grin with Rose and Chelsea as they all made their way out of the cargo bay towards the mess hall next door.
While there was still something of a generation gap, it was nice for the Watcher to be around fellow Brits again, even if one was in accent only.
The cargo bay was dark and practically silent, with only the slight murmurings from the party next door of any note. The device used to end The Master's life, and hopefully prolong The Doctor's for a long time to come, was now in pieces waiting to be stored away. The only light in the bay came from a small blue globe, that gently pulsed with an otherworldly light; all that remained of one of the most diabolical Time Lords to have ever lived.
Within the gloom there suddenly appeared something, something almost invisible to the eye, seemingly indistinguishable from the darkness that surrounded it. If there were anybody in the room to witness what was taking place, they would have found it to have grown more oppressive, the atmosphere almost malevolent in nature.
After a few moments it began to slowly move towards the globe, the shadows that surrounded it almost appeared to move out of its way, whilst still maintaining its anonymity. While there was nothing that indicated any shape or intelligence, it still appeared to be staring at the globe quite intently, assessing it in some way that was only comprehensible to itself.
Eventually, a tendril of some kind reached out and grabbed the globe, bringing it towards itself unhurriedly, as though unperturbed about being discovered either by the people next door, or by the ship itself, until the globe disappeared within it, the bay now completely absent of light.
"The balance has been shifted too far," a wraithlike voice said sibilantly. The source of the voice seemed to be both everywhere and nowhere at the same time, and while no louder than a whisper seemed to fill the entire bay. "Steps must be taken."
With that, the presence in the room disappeared, and once again all that could be heard were the joyful sounds coming from the celebrations next door.