The last thing Willow expected on their Elizabeth-finding expedition was for Elizabeth to find them. They hadn't even left the front yard, yet, before they found Elizabeth running right up to them. She no longer looked like she had before, when she'd run away. All traces of fear, hurt, and betrayal were gone. She now looked determined, her jaw set, her eyes fixed on the group. She grabbed the stake out of Willow's hand.
"Good," she said. "You're ready. We're going to need everyone chipping in on this one. He's almost impossible to kill, but we can do it. Where's Spike?"
"I thought you hated Spike," said Xander.
"I do," Elizabeth insisted, tapping the stake against her palm. "But I need him. And Angel. And anyone else you can get." She gave a small sigh. "I thought I'd have more time than this," she murmured.
"Angel's getting Dawn," said Willow. "But Spike's usually around here, somewhere."
"Right here, love," said Spike, stepping out from behind the tree.
"Call me love one more time, and I'll stake you, chip or no," said Elizabeth to Spike. "Now, come on."
"Hang on," said Xander. "Did you tell us what we were fighting, and I just forgot?"
"I think it's not a what," said Willow. "I think it's a who."
"Oh," said Xander. He paused. "No, wait. Actually. Didn't understand that."
Elizabeth crossed her arms.
"I think she might have found the Doctor," Tara whispered.
"Woah," said Spike, raising up his hands. "I'm out." He turned around.
Elizabeth caught him by the arm, trying to pull him back. Spike yanked his arm out of her hands, easily, and spun around to give her a pointed stare.
"The answer is no," Spike said. "I told Buffy, and I'll tell you. When the Doctor's around, I'm not."
"Why're you so afraid of him?" asked Elizabeth.
"He's… got a bit of a thing against me," Spike grumbled. "Because I killed two Slayers. Told me I was as good as dust if he ran into me after 1998."
"Stick around," said Elizabeth, "and I'll make it worth your while."
Spike scoffed. "You can't possibly give me enough money to change my mind."
"Not money," said Elizabeth. "Blood. Time Lord blood."
"Yeah, thanks, but no thanks," said Spike, turning and walking away.
"It's got magical, mystical properties," Elizabeth reminded him. "Blood in the universe your kind were born to crave, remember?"
Spike paused, and swung around to face her. "Listen, Goldilocks," he said. "There's a reason every vampire worth its salt stays away from him. If you're a vampire, and you drink his blood, you don't stay a vampire for long."
Elizabeth looked confused. "What do you mean?"
"I mean he's found a cure," said Spike. "And he injects it into his blood. If you get caught like that, you better just hope you've drunk enough that it'll kill you straight out. Because otherwise, you're going to wind up human again. And I've got no desire to be human again."
Elizabeth digested this information. "Huh."
"Elizabeth, we've met the Doctor," said Willow. "And he's sort of weird, and he likes to take the fall for other people a lot, but in general, he seems kind of okay."
"That's what he does," said Elizabeth. She turned to the others. "That's what happens. He gets you to tell him your deepest, darkest secrets. And then he starts talking. And he can talk you into doing anything. I've seen him talk people into killing themselves for him. Trust me. If we don't stop him, every single person in Sunnydale is going to die." She turned to Anya. "You know about Time Lords. Tell them."
"If he lets me stay alive, I'm a big fan," said Anya. "Otherwise, we should definitely kill him."
A car pulled up by the house, a red convertible with the roof down, Giles at the wheel. He had a bunch of different patrolling gear in a duffle bag on the passenger seat, and jumped out, pulling his patrolling gear with him. "I'm ready to find—" His eyes rested on Elizabeth. "Oh," he said, dropping the gear back onto the seat. "Hello, Elizabeth."
"Giles," said Elizabeth. "This town's in serious danger. You have to believe me."
"Is it?" he asked. "Actually, I thought this evening went rather well. Most demons will probably think twice before attacking Sunnydale tonight."
"She wants us to kill the Doctor," said Willow.
Giles frowned. "I see," he said. He took off his glasses, and rubbed his eyes. "Terribly sorry, but… haven't we had this discussion several times before?"
"Yep," said Xander.
"And, as I recall," Giles continued, "we agreed that despite being arrogant, rude, stubborn, obnoxious, completely mad, utterly immature, and… what was that phrase you used, Xander?"
"Kind of a jerk," Xander supplied.
"Ah, yes," said Giles. "That was the one." He put his glasses back on. "But apart from that, the Doctor's rather an all right sort of fellow."
Elizabeth looked at them all. "You've got no idea, do you? I know who he really is. I was there in 2003 in the other timeline! I've seen what he's done across the universe! I travelled with him for four years!"
"I just don't think this is a good idea," said Tara.
"Okay, you all think the Doctor's great," said Elizabeth. "Fine. So tell me this. Buffy was the Doctor's friend, right?"
"And now she's dead," said Elizabeth. "Think about it. It's a pattern. Doctor meets someone, they go kersplat."
"Buffy's death wasn't the Doctor's fault, though," said Willow. She frowned. "I mean, I don't think it was." That whole year had been kind of confusing, in terms of the Doctor — she could both remember him, and she couldn't, and it made her head hurt if she puzzled it out for too long. "Buffy gave up her life to save Dawn and close that portal. The Doctor wasn't even really there."
"You know what happened in my world?" Elizabeth asked. "The Time Lords came and closed it. Snap of their fingers, and poof! No more portal. The Doctor's a Time Lord. So why with the no closing?"
Everyone looked at everyone else. They weren't really sure how to answer this.
"Well… he probably had a really, really good reason," Willow said. She paused. "That he didn't tell us about."
"Which falls under the umbrella category of 'kind of a jerk'," Xander supplied. "Which is one of the agreed upon acceptable categories of Doctor-annoyingness."
"You guys, he did
have a time machine," Tara said. "Even if he was all… whatever happened to him last year… he could have taken Dawn away and hidden her anywhere in the universe. Or just hidden her in his space ship. I mean, his ship's shielded from time stuff, right? But he didn't do any of that. He just… let Glory take her. He let Buffy die."
The Scoobies all looked at one another, hesitantly. Was this what Buffy would have done, in this situation? Pay the Doctor back for what happened to Dawn?
("Remember. The ritual starts, and we all die. And I'll kill anyone who comes near Dawn," Buffy had told them.
Maybe this was what Buffy would want them to do.
"He tries to pass as human," said Elizabeth, "but he's not. Give him a chance, and he'll kill every single one of you. Without a second thought."
"Who, me?" asked the Doctor, striding out from behind the house. He gave the Scoobies a friendly smile, then looked back at Elizabeth. His smile fell away, and his face turned grave, cold. "What are you doing?"
"Exposing your lies," Elizabeth told him.
The Doctor nodded. "Good to see you're still well on your way to becoming the person we met in 2003."
"You made me the person I'll be in 2003," Elizabeth growled.
"There's nothing I can do about that," said the Doctor. "It has to happen. And if you tell any of these people about it, you might destroy their future as well as your own."
"That's so typical," Elizabeth scoffed. "You've already done something to this timeline, haven't you? You've released some evil monster that's going to bite them in the ass. Just like Iphidrin. And you don't want to admit it."
"I've done nothing to this Sunnydale," said the Doctor. "I'm not planning on doing anything to this Sunnydale. The only one here who's put this Sunnydale into any danger is you."
Willow just stared at the Doctor. He was speaking in a very quiet but determined voice, yet there was an edge to it that she didn't remember him ever using before. When he had spoken to Buffy, he had never sounded like this.
And Elizabeth — well, her every word might be angry, brave, determine, but Willow could see through that mask. Her movements were filled with fear, panic. Whenever the Doctor stepped closer, she instinctively stepped back. Elizabeth only shouted at him, Willow realized, to stop herself from screaming in terror.
Elizabeth threw her arms up into the air. "What are you going to do?" she asked. "Kill me? Oh, wait, you've done that. Destroy my home? Nope, you did that, too. Kill off my friends and family?"
"I barely knew your friends and family," the Doctor protested.
"Yeah, well, that didn't matter, did it?" she asked him. "You still killed them all."
He shook his head. "I don't have time for this," he said. He turned to the others. "Where's Buffy?"
Willow and the others just stared at him for a moment.
"You mean you don't know?" Giles asked.
"Ah, about jumping into the portal," said the Doctor. "Yes, worked that one out. Amazing luck she has, living through something like that. But… guessing from your faces, she's not here. Other timeline, then? Bit of a switcharoo?"
"Doctor," said Willow. "Buffy's dead."