Spike looked up and Angelus was poking his head in the door.
"Well," said Spike, "the prodigal returns. Again. Sorry, we've used up the fatted calves by now. Not to mention the fatted thighs -"
"Do you feel it?" Angelus interrupted.
Spike glared. But he said, "Yes."
"She felt it too. Went out - you just missed her. Wants to know what it is."
Angelus nodded. "Yeah. Me too."
The person entering didn't look any older than Angelus or Spike, and neither could a human have known any different. But Angelus and Spike on recognizing him realized that what had been under their skin for the last hour was the proximity of a truly ancient vampire.
"Ankle," said Spike, startled and not entirely able to conceal nervousness.
"Hello," said Angelus. He handled it better, sounding respectful. "What are you doing here?"
"Oh, courtesy call on the locals," said Ankle, "just like those FBI agents on tv always do. Before getting on with the important business."
Angelus might actually have meant, What was Ankle doing in Sunnydale?, but that would have been a foolish question. There was only one piece of business to have brought him here.
Ankle wandered down the center of the floorspace toward where Spike sat in his wheelchair. Angelus had been standing in his path, and moved off. Spike scrabbled with his wheels to move too. "This one's getting a little cheeky," Ankle continued; "offing the prophecied Master, then refusing to stay dead like the prophecy said, and all. Time I seduced her to the Dark Side."
"We should have known you'd come," said Angelus.
"I'm glad that's the view you're taking." Ankle reached the end of the room, turned back, and favored them with a smile that had nothing of amusement to it. "You should be too." Then - quicker even than Spike's eyes could follow - he flew off.
"Who does he think he is?" growled Spike - after Ankle was out of earshot.
"Just the oldest surviving vampire," said Angelus. "About ten times your age and mine put together. Or our strength."
"Yeah, well," said Spike, "it's gonna be trouble. Dru has this Slayer marked out for herself."
"You'd have to be insane to cross Ankle," said Angelus.
"Like I said," said Spike. Suddenly he eyed Angelus closely. Angelus had scores to settle with the Slayer too; but he was taking Ankle's sudden appearance with nothing but the docility Ankle considered his due as the Sire of Slayers. "I seem to recall you've called dibs on a slice or two of this Slayer yourself. Aren't you griped about seeing your prerogatives trodden on?"
"We'll see what happens," said Angelus.
"Ankhtutomen's first act as a vampire was to avenge the Slaying of his sire," said Giles.
"Up until that moment," said the Doctor, "he'd been one of the pyramid construction crew his sire was terrorizing."
"Once he was made, though, he was subject to that body of instincts that vampires seem to wake to."
"He became instantly outraged that he was to be denied his need to be shown the ropes by his sire."
"So he turned on the Slayer who'd done it."
"But he wasn't satisfied with just killing her."
"He made her a vampire," said Giles. Buffy stood and walked to the window. Dusk had just fallen. "Then he denied her the mentorship she'd deprived him of."
"I was just then. I was too late to stop it, and only escaped because he was occupied with her," the Doctor shuddered.
"He must have resisted terrible instincts of his own as sire to turn his back on her."
"As with so many things, first impressions were lasting. Ankle - as he has been known the last few centuries - decided it was his destiny to be the Sire of Slayers."
"And he's still at it."
"He's the oldest vampire extant."
"His time trace runs all through Earth's skein of the Web of Time."
"Turning Slayers into vampires seems to be a great source of power."
When the barrage of information was obviously over, Xander said, "You two should take this act on the road."
"But," the Doctor concluded, "his time trace seems to peter out here and now, which means it's possible to destroy him without affecting the history of the universe. We should find out whether there's anything about his coming on the gravevine." The Doctor grimaced. "I never thought I'd say this, but how do we get in touch with Angel?"
Buffy turned from the window to see everyone else exchanging awkward looks.
"What is it?" said the Doctor.
Reluctantly Buffy said, "Angel isn't our ally any more, Doctor. He ... It was a gypsy curse that made him act - decently. I accidentally broke the curse."
"How?" said the Doctor.
"I made ... him happy."
Thankfully the Doctor didn't ask what she meant by that. "I hate to say I told you so -" the Time Lord started.
Even on their limited acquaintence Buffy knew better than that. "You love to say I told you so."
The Doctor bobbed his head in admission before continuing. "I'm sorry you had to find out this way. But you had to find out. There are no good vampires. They are animated corpses, with nothing of heart or soul to them, and they can respond to the universal drive to reproduce only by turning others into corpses. After all, they can't propagate the race the normal way."
Buffy tried not to look at Willow, who she knew was looking at her.
"You're talking about vampires like they're subject to Darwinian evolution," said Giles.
"Well of course. Even a parasitical organism has to have the drive to reproduce and tend its offspring to be a viable species. That's what the mentor-fledgeling instincts, or whatever you want to call them, are for."
"But it's not science, it's magic," said Willow.
"Magic," said the Doctor, "is just the manifestation of those psychic abilities that so many humans deny exist and none really understand. Vampirism is a curse, and a curse is a post-hypnotic suggestion in the collective unconscious. Faith," he pointed to the cross Buffy wore at her neck, "and not necessarily religious faith, is effective against such evils because they are matters of faith themselves."
"So what," Buffy asked, "is the scientific basis for Slayership?"
"Genetic, primarily," said the Doctor. "Genes for psychically enhancing the physical abilities. For enhanced intelligence. For psychic manifestation of opportunity to utilize your aptitudes."
"For what?" said Xander.
"For getting into trouble," Giles translated. "For instance, Buffy and her mother moved to Sunnydale before she knew that the Hellmouth is here. Her mother still doesn't know. Everything the Doctor is saying is described in the prophecy books too - in more mystical vocabulary of course."
"Sounds like a certain Time Lord we all know," said Buffy.
"At least the getting into trouble part," said Xander.
"Well, if that's true," said the Doctor earnestly, striding up to Buffy, "then let me walk your patrol with you tonight instead of Giles."
"What?" Buffy gave the Doctor her best adults-are-so-stupid frown. "You want me to attract this horror? Why?"
"Because he'll come eventually anyway," said the Doctor, "and this way you get to pick the field."
"What a stupid curse," said the Doctor suddenly.
"What?" said Buffy.
They were wandering Sunnydale in Buffy's usual night patrol pattern. The Doctor peered into every shop's windows as if he'd never seen hardware or sticky buns before.
"Angel's. Look at the results. You've been made miserable. The rest of us are miserable in sympathy. But Angel's agony is over. He's an unfeeling, conscienceless monster again - the consequences are over for him. It's the people around him who are suffering now."
"Yeah. That's why Miss Calender's family's quest was to make sure it never ended."
"Maybe the curse should've just been for him to be souled forever. Hey," said Buffy, hope rising, "maybe it still could be! We could talk to Miss Calender, get the curse cast again so that this time it can't be removed!"
The Doctor shook his head. "These things have to have a loophole, an escape clause. It's in their nature. Love's first kiss, guessing the dwarf's name, a time limit, as may be. Has to be there or the spell isn't structurally complete and doesn't work, like a string of Christmas lights with one bulb out."
Unaccountably the prince's song from the end of the Disney SNOW WHITE began playing in Buffy's head. She tried to shake it off. "You know, this one is just like Beauty and the Beast in reverse. Angelus was a monster, and having a soul made him unhappy. Then he ditches the curse - and to do it he has to get happy himself, instead of making someone else happy - and now he's a normal vampire again with normal vampire evil joys."
"I just think it could have been constructed so there'd be less fallout for those nearby if it went wrong. Quite sloppy really."
"So you're saying it's impossible to restore Angel." Buffy thought she'd accepted this, but at the Doctor's response she found herself beating back hope again.
"No, I'm only saying it's impossible to do it permanently with a simple curse or spell. Restoring a vampire's soul ... that amounts to bringing a corpse back to life. That's a major working with a poor success rate. In this context vampirism's a means of preserving the body until its reunion with the soul, or mind; though a means that preserved the body dormant in the interim would be excrutiatingly preferable.
"I know of a case or two of people who've pulled it off by other means. Chap I know had his corpse rejuvenated by a terraforming experiment." Buffy knew that tone - the Doctor was off in storytelling mode now. "He'd backed up his memories with a friend - on his planet there's a memory repository for after death, like the Time Lord matrix - so the trick was just getting the memories and the fresh body together." Midnight began to chime from the clock tower of a nearby church. "Complicating the matter was that ..." Buffy turned back in the direction they'd come and began to walk off. "Buffy?" The Doctor sounded very startled. Buffy couldn't blame him. "Where are you going?"
"I have to go," she said, walking on.
The Doctor leapt in front of her and took her by the shoulders to stop her. "Where are you going? Are you sensing Ankle, is that it?"
She shook her head. "I can't say."
The Doctor was peering into her eyes. She could see in his face that he knew she wasn't exactly under her own control. "Then I'll go with you."
"No human can know about this."
"Well, I'm a Time Lord so it's all right."
Loopholes, Buffy thought. He was right, the wording of the stranger's command technically didn't cover the Doctor. She tried to say, "All right," and it worked.
When Buffy and the Doctor broke into the darkened medical clinic, the stranger was waiting in one of the laboratories. Now that she could finally see him, in the florescent lighting of the laboratory, he looked to be only a few years older than she was, about the Doctor's apparent age. He was indeed dressed in long, flowing robes, in red and orange, of a style Buffy had never seen before but would've attributed to some sort of east European royalty or clergy.
"You were told to come alone," he said. There was no anger in his voice, just a modicum of confusion.
"You!" The Doctor pulled up short when he saw the stranger.
"You recognize him?" Buffy asked.
"This is my father!" said the Doctor. "Well, from before he became my father."
The stranger - another Time Lord? - double-took at the Doctor. "Ah," he said.
"He wants -" Buffy started. The trance seemed to be fading under the burden of the revelations.
"I know what he wants," said the Doctor.
"And she has agreed," said the other Time Lord. Not knowing the Doctor's name either, Buffy began thinking of the other as the Father. "I have only compelled her by hypnotization to keep our transaction a secret. Among my compulsions is that she respond to my request with her own will, and I've given her two days to consider."
"You're here for genes for a half-human Time Lord," said the Doctor.
"Yes," said the Father. "The genetic legacy of a Slayer in particular seemed most worthwhile to infuse into the Time Lord gene pool."
The Doctor suddenly looked at Buffy as he never had before - the way most people did who learned about Slayers: as if she wasn't who he'd believed she was.
"Are you my mother?" he said.
Astonishment - and a flashback to P. D. Eastman - banished the last lingering traces of the trance. "Am I what?"
"Time Lords breed in the laboratory. He," the Doctor pointed at the Father, "is crossbreeding us with other races - against our laws and customs, in secret - to counteract the high degree of inbreeding. One Gallifreyan half-breed for every other race he selects. And I'm half-human."
Buffy mentally threaded through the time paradox. "You're my son?"
"If," said the Father, displaying a vial made of some transparent material, "I may complete my procedure without further interruption."
"Oh, so sorry, that's not going to be possible."
All three turned to the new voice. From the shadows of the hallway came a man who looked about the same age that the Doctor and the Father looked - but whom Buffy knew to be three or four times as old as her Time Lord milleniarian friend.
The red eyes, lupine brow and fangs kinda gave it away.
"I'm afraid," said Ankle, "that you're about to experience a fatal interruption."
END OF CHAPTER 2
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