AN: As I mentioned to at least one reviewer, I have been looking forward to writing the first scene of this interlude since before I began writing this story. Hopefully, you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. However, before we get going, I should make two comments. Firstly, we've jumped forward in the Doctor Who timeline. I think this is apparent from how I've written the chapter, but, if you're confused, this chapter begins during the beginning of the fifth season of Doctor Who, just after the Eleventh Doctor has crashed the TARDIS. In the Buffy timeline, we are right near the end of Bargaining Part II, where Buffy has returned to the top of Glory's tower. Of course, Dawn's not around, as she's with the Tenth Doctor. Secondly, before someone else brings it up, yes, Buffy was really dead, and, yes, the Doctor, not having all the information, jumps to the wrong conclusion at least twice in this chapter. Interlude: Regeneration
He was a time lord: the last of the time lords. He was a being who had lived for centuries, travelling from one crisis to another in hopes of aiding the downtrodden. To some he was a lonely God; to others, he was a force of nature; and some even thought him a demon. One would think that with those sort of credentials, a fellow could avoid home invasions. Well, he supposed that this was more of a TARDIS invasion, really.
He had just finished opening his TARDIS's doors after crashing, still attempting to climb out of his damaged vessel, when some sort of falling woman had hurtled past him to land in his swimming pool. Really, what was with people these days? Did they have no decency or tact? Simply falling into a time lord's swimming pool like that without so much as a by your leave: what was the world coming to these days?
Then the woman had the indecency to start drowning, forcing him to rappel back down into the library (where the swimming pool was found in his TARDIS's current configuration) in order to save her. Luckily enough, once he had brought her ashore, she did not seem to have any troubles breathing. Then the blonde TARDIS invader asked an extremely odd question.
“I-is this Hell?”
The Doctor found himself both rather startled and befuddled.
“Hell? Of course not,” he replied, dismissively.
Smirking a bit smugly, the time lord continued.
“How could it be Hell? You don't see any horned or red-skinned blokes about, do you? It's just you and I in here."
Then, as if coming to a sudden realization, the Doctor froze.
The Doctor began patting the top of his head worriedly.
“I don't have any horns, do I? Never had horns before, of course, but one never knows with these things. No, no, I don't feel any horns, and my skin's a normal pigment, so good.”
The Doctor turned to face the woman again.
“So, no, no, definitely not Hell.”
“But it's so violent and painful,” the woman spoke softly and raggedly from behind a mass of scraggly blonde hair.
The Doctor waved his index finger about pompously, pontificating.
“Yes, yes, lots of painful places about, but no need to go to Hell in order to visit one. One thing humans always seem to be able to manage is causing each other pain.”
“B-but I jumped.”
“Jumped? From where?”
The woman simply craned her head upwards, hair still hiding her features.
The Doctor followed her gaze, but all he could see was an awkwardly constructed platform perhaps a hundred feet above them.
He turned back to look at the strange woman.
“From there? But, but that sort of jump would have been lethal for a flimsy little human like you.”
He abruptly appeared horrified.
“You weren't trying to commit suicide were you? That sort of thing never works out as well as you might think. It's a right terrible idea all the way around, so...”
The Doctor trailed off, as he noticed that the drenched woman was not listening to a word he said, having curled up into a small ball beside the pool, head buried in her lap.
“Come on, come on,” the Doctor coaxed, gently raising the woman's head so that she was facing him. “Come on. Let's just talk this over. Whatever's wrong, I'm sure that it won't seem nearly so bad once we talk about it for a bit.”
Finally getting a closer look at the woman's face unhidden by her hair, the time lord abruptly realized something even more startling than that this woman had suicidal impulses. He knew her.
Then he realized what must have happened, and felt immediately relieved. Talking a human out of committing suicide was tricky, especially when he was as unfamiliar with his new body as he happened to be just now. Fixing faulty programming in a robot, on the other hand, well, that was right up his alley.
“Ah, I see. You're just suffering from a malfunction. Right then, I'll just-”
As the Doctor's hands moved forward to lift off his robotic former companion's sopping wet, black dress, he suddenly found himself flying across the room. Even worse, his face hurt a lot. Had Buffy just punched him in the face?
Holding his bruised right cheek, the Doctor fought the urge to pout, choosing to look affronted instead.
“What'd you do that for?”
“P-Pervert,” Buffy replied, putting her head back into her lap, as she curled into a ball once more.
“What do you mean, pervert? You're a robot! You're hardly likely to have any circuits I haven't seen before. I was just going to perform some basic maintenance.”
Throwing up his hands in despair, as Buffy's only reply was to mutter “pervert” again without raising her head, the Doctor surrendered to Buffy's bizarre mood.
“Fine. I don't have time for this anyway. The TARDIS is stuck sideways of all things, and the engines aren't stabilized. Things to do, things to do.”
“You,” he pointed at his erstwhile companion. “Stay right there and don't wander off. We just need to hop a few minutes into the future, and then we should be fine. I'll be back before you can say 'where has he gone to now,' so don't move a muscle.”
With those parting words, the latest incarnation of the Doctor was off, frenetically rappelling up the walls of the library towards the TARDIS's emergency controls.
Buffy was left sitting alone beside the pool, soaking wet. Looking around at the Doctor's strange library, filled to brim with not only a swimming pool, but also a racquetball court, a jungle gym and a variety of bizarre, extra-terrestrial artifacts, Buffy dimly felt a niggling impulse permeating her mind. This place was rather strange, and, while most of her could muster no interest in anything anywhere, a small, insistent voice could not be silenced. She had never seen anything like this unusual parody of a library before, and the voice, in its pushy way, seemed to urge her to explore. * * *
When the Doctor returned to deal with his now apparently suicidal, robotic, former companion, he was ready for anything. He had stabilized the TARDIS's engines, probably preventing the time machine from exploding and destroying a large part of the universe in the process. He had also reprogrammed his sonic screwdriver so that it would be able to deactivate the Buffybot with the push of a button once more. With any luck, this would keep him from being punched in the face again. Yes. He was ready for anything – except for Buffy having swanned off somewhere while he was gone.
Glaring at the still slightly damp spot on the library's floor where his companion should have still been seated, the Doctor fought the urge to blast the offending bit of carpet for failing to hold his malfunctioning friend. Instead, he began talking to himself, as he searched the library for any traces of Buffy.
“One simple instruction: I just gave her one instruction. I said don't wander off. So what does she do the second my back's turned? Wanders off. Does no one listen to me anymore? Do I have a face which says 'do not listen to this face?' Seriously, I want to know.”
A book dropped on his head from one of the high shelves above him. To all appearances, the book had simply been shaken loose in the crash, but the Doctor knew better. He could already hear the psychic laughter.
“And you,” the time lord continued, pointing an accusing finger towards the ceiling. “What's with all that lip after I just stopped you from exploding? You should be grateful, not dropping objects on my head. What do you mean 'stop moping?' Who's moping? Not me. I'm the Doctor, the last of the time lords. I don't do moping.”
The psychic laughter simply echoed in the Doctor's head once more, as he continued to grumble.
When the Doctor finally found Buffy, standing between two bookshelves in an isolated corridor of his ship's expansive library, as expected, she was doing something both foolish and dangerous. Moving with the preternatural speed he had developed from centuries of having to snatch dangerous objects away from companions before they killed themselves, the Doctor's hand shot forward, seizing the metallic belt Buffy had been reaching towards.
“No, no! Don't touch that. Don't you know what this is? It's a thramaxian voltrocincture! Sure, sure, it might be relaxing for a thramaxian, but it'd fry your circuits in half a second!”
The blonde woman peered at him uncertainly.
“I-I don't have circuits.”
The doctor blinked, startled by Buffy's bizarre statement. Had she forgotten that she was a robot?
“Right, right. Malfunctioning. No problem. I'll have you all fixed up in jiffy.”
Levelling his sonic screwdriver at the malfunctioning robot, the doctor depressed a button on the glowing metal rod, beginning a diagnostic scan. Looking at the results, the Doctor frowned in confusion.
“No, no. This can't be right. Blood vessels, circulatory system, lungs, no, no, no!”
Hitting the screwdriver a few times with his left hand, as if to encourage it to show more palatable results through physical violence, the Doctor pointed his sonic screwdriver towards Buffy once more
“Right then. This time for sure.”
Unfortunately, the results proved no better.
“Ah, sorry, Buffy,” he apologized to the increasingly confused blonde woman. “My screwdriver seems to be acting up a bit. Seems to think you're a real human. Ridiculous really.”
Looking out through haunted eyes, the young woman replied softly, “but I am human, aren't I?”
“No, no. Don't be silly.”
Then the Doctor seemed to consider her response more carefully before his head suddenly shot up, as if he had come to an abrupt realization.
“Wait. Yes, yes, of course! That's it!”
The Doctor grabbed Buffy by her shoulders, grinning widely.
“You are a human! Brilliant, brilliant! That explains everything! The sonic screwdriver thinks that you're a human being because you are a human being. Buffy was supposed to have a human double, after all, so you must be her! Of course. You're not a robot! You just look like a robot!”
Buffy simply frowned. This man was confusing and seemed to have confused her with a sex toy for some reason, but otherwise, except for when he'd tried to cop a feel a while ago, he seemed alright. While using Spike's sexbot was incredibly creepy, it was not exactly a crime.
“You were confusing me with the Buffybot?”
“Yes, yes,” the Doctor replied, waving his hand dismissively. “Easy mistake to make of course, seeing as the two of you look exactly alike. Anyway, let me take a look at you.”
Letting his eyes sweep up and down his old friend's human doppelganger, the Doctor almost immediately noticed something he should have taken care of much earlier.
“Your hands! They're bleeding! Quickly, come to the infirmary and we'll get them all patched up.”
Careful to avoid her hands, which looked as if they had been rubbed raw with a millstone, the Doctor began pulling his unresisting companion towards the TARDIS's infirmary.
“How did that happen, anyway? Wrestling with a meat grinder?”
“No,” Buffy replied, barely above a whisper. “I-I dug. I had to get out of the ground.”
“Out of the ground? Did you fall into quicksand or something?”
“N-no. Dead. I was dead. They brought me back, and I was in my grave, and-”
“Wait, wait, stop,” the Doctor interrupted Buffy, stopping in the TARDIS's hallway. “Right now you're alive, so you certainly weren't dead. Dead people don't just come back to life.”
“Nope,” the Doctor interrupted once more. "You said that you were in a box underground. How long?"
“Ah, I see. Buffy, you weren't dead.”
“Nope. I'm an expert on these things, you see. I don't know how they got one, but your friends probably just used an Almarian healing casket. There must have been some sort of mix-up if you ended up buried underground, but that's the most likely explanation. You just spent a few weeks in a drug-induced coma while the casket healed your wounds and then woke up good as new.”
“B-but, I was in heaven. It was so warm and happy and-”
“That's just the drugs talking. You see, the reason more people don't use Almarian healing caskets is because of the harsh withdrawal symptoms patients often experience after treatment. Some patients have even tried to commit suicide in hopes of getting back the warm and happy feeling of being in the casket.”
Buffy considered this explanation. She had been sure that her friends had dragged her out of heaven, and did things like 'Almarian healing caskets' really exist? Then again, she supposed that she had seen weirder things, and if anyone would have some weird, super-healing, magical doohickey, it would be Giles. Could this guy be right?
Getting forced out of some creepy healing coffin sounded way better than being pulled out of heaven, even if she was suffering from withdrawal symptoms. Maybe the gravestone really had just been some sort of mix-up. Or maybe they had stuck her into the healing casket thingy without noticing. Weird stuff like that happened in Sunnydale. Something in the slayer seemed to steady as she considered the idea that just maybe her closest friends had not pulled her out of heaven.
Yes. She still felt like crap, but she had felt worse before and recovered. She could recover from whatever this was, whether it was drugs, like this weirdo thought, or really was the loss of heaven. Buffy was not better, but she started to realize that she could get better. For now, that would have to be enough. * * *
Less than an hour later, Buffy's hands were all healed up, courtesy of some weird healing beam thingy the Doctor guy kept in his infirmary. Now that she was a bit more coherent, the slayer had started to consider her surroundings more carefully. Was she on a spaceship?
Apparently not. The Doctor had been quite happy to inform her that the TARDIS (his ship) was a time machine, rather than a spaceship. When she expressed scepticism at this claim, he offered Buffy some evidence.
“As it so happens,” the Doctor began, walking frenetically around the TARDIS's control console between peering at something which looked like a submarine's radar screen, “while I intended to only jump a few minutes forward in time when the engines became unstable, we have actually moved forward nearly five years and landed in Leadworth, England. This is ideal, as, here, I can provide you with the evidence you're looking for without endangering any particularly important events to the timeline.”
“Come on then,” the Doctor finished, walking towards the door which led outside the TARDIS.
Peering at Buffy over his shoulder, the brown-haired man smiled mischievously.
“Beyond this door, who knows what might await us.”
Buffy rolled her eyes.
Then the Doctor opened the door, revealing a small, red-haired girl shining a flashlight into his face. The girl rolled her eyes.
“Well, it took you long enough. I've been waiting out here for nearly an hour.”
“What?” the Doctor replied, startled. “Waiting here? Why?”
The girl, barely seven years old, rolled her eyes again.
“Because of the crack in my wall, obviously. You're police, so you must be here to fix it.”
“What? What makes you think that we're police?”
The small child looked at him like he was an idiot before pointing at the sign right above his head.
“It says so on your box, doesn't it?”
Buffy peered out from behind the Doctor to see what was above his head. Indeed, glowing yellow letters spelt out the words 'Police Box.' Then Buffy noticed something else, and her eyes widened in surprise.
“It-it's smaller on the outside.”
The Doctor gnashed his teeth, waving a chiding finger at Buffy once more.
“No, no, no! You're supposed to say 'it's bigger on the inside.' What is it with you Summers women that you always seem to get these things wrong?”
Unhappy at being excluded from the conversation for a few seconds, the young red-haired girl who had accosted the Doctor and Buffy outside the TARDIS pursed her lips and then sprinted forward to look at the inside of the box. What were they talking about?
“Wow, it really is bigger on the inside!” the child announced. “Are you like magical police or something?”
“See!” the Doctor declared, thrusting his index finger upwards triumphantly. “She gets it! Well, except for the magical police anyway: that's rubbish.”
The time lord pointed towards himself and then Buffy in turn.
“We're not police. I'm the Doctor and this is Buffy. Now, I know that she looks like a robot, but don't get confused. She's actually a perfectly ordinary mystical warrior.”
Buffy stepped on the Doctor's foot.
“Ow! What'd you do that for?”
Buffy simply raised an eyebrow pointedly before turning towards the small, red-haired girl who was standing just inside the TARDIS. Something about the little brat's attitude reminded her of Dawn. Getting down onto her knees, she faced the solemn child with the friendliest smile she could manage.
“It's nice to meet you. Like he said, I'm Buffy. What's your name?”
The red-head ignored her in favour of asking another question.
“Are you sure that your name is really Buffy? I mean, if you're really a mystical warrior, or even a robot, then shouldn't you have a better name?”
The blonde slayer gnashed her teeth. She did not throttle small children, unless the child's name was Dawn. She would not throttle this small child.
“That's actually a fair point,” the Doctor spoke up from above her head. “Have you considered getting your name changed?”
The Doctor, on the other hand, as a full grown man, was entirely fair game.
“Ow! You punched me again! What is it with you and violence?”
Buffy did not deign to respond. The red-haired girl was speaking again.
“Normally, my aunt says that I'm not supposed to give my name out to strangers, but, since you came out of a police box, I guess it's okay. I'm Amelia Pond.”
The Doctor immediately grinned.
“Why that's a great name! Much better than Buffy! Ow!”
Ignoring her time lord companion, who was hopping on one foot again, Buffy smiled warmly at Amelia.
“Hi Amelia. Are your parents home?”
“No. My parents are gone.”
Buffy frowned. Were her parents dead?
“Amelia, who are you staying with?”
The girl shrugged again.
“I used to stay with my Aunt, but she left, so I'm mostly by myself now.”
Now Buffy was getting really concerned. The Doctor was beginning to look worried as well.
“Amelia,” the Doctor asked, looking searchingly towards the girl, “where is your aunt?”
The young girl shrugged again.
“I dunno. Aunt Vi spotted this monster hiding out in our house, so she tried to shoot him with her crossbow, but he escaped, so she ran off after him into the sewers.”
Buffy and the Doctor looked at one another. This girl might be lying, but she looked honest, and if there really was a monster hiding out in the sewers of Leadworth, they needed to take care of it.
Then, all of a sudden, a giant spotlight blinded all three of them, as it covered Amelia Pond's house. A booming voice seemed to come from every direction at once, as if they were surrounded by loud speakers.”
“Attention, Prisoner Zero. The human residence is surrounded. Prisoner Zero will vacate the human residence, or the human residence will be incinerated.”
Right, and while they were at it, they might want to take care of whoever was threatening to incinerate them along with Amelia's house at the same time.