LOOKING FOR A TOMORROW
Tara slowly sat on a chair as she let Anya’s words sink in; three weeks, three weeks. “That’s impossible,” she said, as she tried to wrap her mind around the news.
“Ah, yes, about that,” the Doctor said. “I forgot to mention that the TARDIS can also travel through time, didn’t I?”
“I think I’d remember it, if you had,” Tara said dryly.
“Time travel?” Anya asked, perking up as she eyed the Doctor. “That’s supposed to be impossible.”
“No, just improbable,” the Doctor said, leaning against a bookshelf as he surveyed the shop. His head tilted up as he noticed the mezzanine. “Let me guess,” he said. “That is where you keep all the interesting stuff!” In a blink, he was across the room and taking the steps, two at a time. “Oooh, what’s this?” he asked, as he held a book aloft. “It looks like a Carthagian prayer book, but it’s written in Minoan.”
“Be careful with that!” Anya said. “It’s an Atlantian summoning ritual and it’s very, very expensive.”
“Ah, but does it work?” the Doctor asked, perching a pair of glasses on his nose as he began rifling through the shelves.
“Is he always like this?” Anya asked frostily. A precarious book pile was beginning to form in the Doctor’s arms.
“Pretty much,” Tara admitted.
“We were very worried about you, you know,” Anya scolded, suddenly remembering Tara’s disappearance. “Willow was all manic and scary, we thought she was going to drop off the wagon – I’ve barred her from the magic box.”
Tara winced. “Is she okay?” she asked.
“Well, she still looks like she’s in need of some fashion sense, but she hasn’t used magic, if that’s what you mean,” Anya said huffily. “Buffy calmed her down; she and Spike have been combing Sunnydale every night and Dawn even put up ‘missing’ flyers…and Xander hasn’t wanted sex for days,” she added, for good measure.
Tara sighed. “I’d better call Buffy,” she said, getting to her feet.
Anya’s eyes narrowed. “I’d hold off, if I were you,” she said. “At least until you came up with a way of explaining him.”
Puzzled, Tara followed her gaze. “Who, the Doctor?” she said, surprised. “Why would I need to worry about that?”
“He’s a stranger and he isn’t human,” Anya pointed out. “You know how Buffy gets about that sort of thing…and he is responsible for your disappearance.”
“But it was accident,” Tara protested. “And he’s not a demon, he’s just…not human.”
“He’s an unknown, and an outsider, Tara,” Anya said calmly. “They’re going to ask a lot of questions. Are you sure they’ll like his answers?”
Their eyes met and Tara nodded. Both she and Anya knew what it meant to be an outsider in the Scooby gang. It took them a while to warm up to people. “He doesn’t want to harm us,” Tara said, at last.
“Doesn’t mean he’s not dangerous,” Anya muttered.
“Are you two finished talking about me, or shall I stay up here for a little longer?” the doctor called down, bending over the rail.
“It’s not polite to eavesdrop,” Anya informed him, crossing her arms.
“But how would I know what people were saying about me if I didn’t?” he asked as he descended the steps. The pile of books wobbled in his grasp, and Tara could hear Anya mutter under her breath as she hastily stepped forward and grabbed the ones tucked under the Doctor’s chin.
“Thanks,” he said, as he dumped the rest of the books on the table. “Quite a collection you’ve got here. I presume the Watcher had something to do with that?”
Anya sniffed noncommittally as she sat at the table and looked at the books she’d ‘rescued’ from the Doctor. “Fire and Brimstone: Breathing the Flame Through the Ages,” she recited. “Demonica Incendius, The Abraxus Aphillia: a brief compendiary,” She raised an eyebrow. “Draconius et Dracon…I think I’m beginning to see a trend here; although I don’t know what the The Abraxus Aphillia has got to with it.”
“Just curious,” the Doctor said, grinning at her, and Anya smiled back before she remembered herself and changed it into a frown.
“We’re investigating a demon that breathes fire,” Tara said, amusement colouring her voice.
“Well, why didn’t you say so?” Anya declared. “What did it look like? I might know it.”
Tara wasn’t sure if Anya meant she might know the species or the actual demon, but decided to let the matter lie. “Um, it has big, curling horns and blue skin,” she said. “And it’s about nine feet tall.”
Anya nodded and flipped through the Demonica Incendius. Eventually, she found the page she was looking for and turned the book around. “That it?”
Tara looked at the drawing. “Yes, that’s it.”
“H’rarli Goyan,” the Doctor said, reading from the page as he pulled the book out of Anya’s hand. “The largest member of the Genii family, can grow up to 280 centimetres high; responds to the traditional summoning, and is usually held in a container no more than forty cubic centimetres. Limited wish capacity, but has strong destructive capabilities due to its ability to breathe fire.”
“It’s a Genie?” Tara asked, surprised. “But I thought Genies wore Turbans and were kind of…I don’t know, more Genie like.”
“You’re thinking about the H’rarli Abu,” Anya said matter-of-factly. “Although they’re not exactly how you’d picture them, either. The H’rarli Goyan are rarer and hardly ever used. They can appear anywhere at will, can grant small, material wishes and set things on fire.” She shrugged. “Compared to their more popular cousin, they’re not that special.”
“So somebody rubbed a lamp and there he was?” the Doctor mused aloud. “Who would have anything against the Minosians? It doesn’t make sense.”
“It’s a wish demon,” Anya pointed out. “Wish demons rarely carry out their wishes the way their clients envisioned. The wish could have been something innocuous, something like: “Oh, I wish so-and-so knew what it was like to have a bad day’. Believe, I should know.”
“Ah yes, you were in the wish business yourself, weren’t you?” the Doctor drawled.
“I’m human now,” Anya said primly. “I don’t do that sort of thing anymore.”
“You know,” Tara said slowly. “This still smells fishy; even if the wish had backfired, how would someone here know about the Minosians? I mean, they’re not exactly locals…”
“There must be something we’re missing,” the Doctor said. “Some factor we’re not taking into account.”
Realisation dawned on Tara. “Us,” she exclaimed. “We’re the extra factor!”
The Doctor smiled approvingly. “I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.”
Alarmed, Anya jumped to her feet. “But you’re in my shop!” she said. “Do you realise how much damage a H’rarli Goyan would do if it appeared here?”
“Oh, not much danger of that,” the Doctor said dismissively. “I’ve got him safely locked up.”
“Um, Doctor,” said Tara, as a thought occurred to her. “Didn’t the description say it could appear anywhere at will?”
The Doctor straightened in his seat. “That could be a problem,” he admitted.
“What could be a problem?” a flat voice drawled. “Do tell.”
Tara turned in her seat and saw Buffy standing at the back door, arms crossed. “H-h-hi, Buffy.”
Buffy’s stern expression melted. “Tara, you’re okay,” she said, her smile glowing as she crossed the room and hugged her. “I was so worried. Where were you?”
“It’s a long story,” Tara said, hugging her back. “I’m sorry I put you to so much trouble.”
“Don’t be silly,” Buffy said. “I’m just glad to see you’re back.”
The Doctor rose to his feet and coughed. “Hi, I’m the Doctor,” he said, giving her a toothy grin.
Buffy’s lips twitched in amusement. “Do you have a name to go with that title,” she asked.
“No, but I can make one up if you’d like,” he declared, shoving his hands in his pockets. “Will John Smith do?”
Buffy gave him an appraising look. “You sound British,” she said.
“I’m not, but you’ve already figured that out, haven’t you?” he said amiably. “Good instincts; is that a Slayer attribute or something you’ve developed yourself?”
Buffy threw Tara a look, and she blushed. “I told him,” she admitted, embarrassed.
“I swear, I must be the worst kept secret in the universe,” she sighed. “I might as well just take out a full page ad in the papers: ‘I’m a Slayer, ask me how’”
“Hello?” Anya cut. “Fire breathing Genie on the loose, remember?”
“A Genie?” Buffy repeated. “Like Sinbad and the lamp?”
“More like George and the Dragon,” the Doctor said.
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