: All right. You guys ready for some answers? Because they're going to come at you pretty fast, now. And not all of them are going to be correct.
Don't worry about Willow's non-explanation. As I said, you'll get the answers to Willow eventually.
Xander looked over at Anya. "What's 'I love you', honey?" he asked.
"The phrase that sets her off," said Anya. "At first, I thought it was 'demon'. Then I thought maybe it was 'Doctor.' But I'm pretty sure it's 'I love you'."
"The phrase that sets her off?" asked Tara. "You mean… a trigger phrase?"
"Are you implying that Elizabeth's some kind of sleeper agent," said Xander, "and she has a trigger phrase that makes her want to kill her family and friends?"
"No," said Anya. "Of course not. This is more like… mental conditioning. I used to do it all the time, when I was a vengeance demon. Like, there was this one time, when a woman found out that her husband was sleeping with another woman, and she wished her husband would hate his girlfriend. I planted the suggestion in her husband's mind, so that every time he heard his girlfriend's name, it would make him hate her a little more. After about two months, the man just snapped and killed his girlfriend." She shrugged. "Looks like this is the same thing, except the phrase that sets Elizabeth off is 'I love you'. Any time anyone tells Elizabeth they love her, it makes her hate them a little more."
"Wait, what?" asked Xander.
"So… you're saying that Elizabeth isn't being swallowed up by a monster, or transforming into a demon, or anything of that sort?" Giles checked.
"No," said Anya. "She's just turning into… well, what Buffy would turn into, if she heard voices in her head constantly telling her to murder her friends."
"But… I've told Elizabeth that I love her," said Willow. She glanced over at Tara. "You know… in a platonic way." She looked back at Anya. "She's never tried to murder me."
"You haven't said it to her that much, though," said Anya. "Of all of us, Dawn's said it the most. And Elizabeth has been trying to drive a wedge in between you and Tara." Anya shrugged. "It's not her fault, really. She probably doesn't even know she's doing it."
"A wedge?" asked Tara.
"Yeah, I mean, she keeps telling you to use more magic," said Anya to Willow. She flicked her eyes over to Tara. "And she keeps telling you that Willow's using too much."
"How could she not know that she's doing it?" asked Xander. "She isn't a sleeper agent. Everything she's saying and doing — she remembers. She's aware. How could she do this stuff without knowing she's doing it?"
"Because she blames the Doctor," Willow realized. She looked around at the others. "You heard her, didn't you? Whatever this psychic conditioning thing is, whenever it kicks in, she thinks it's the Doctor. She thinks he's making her do it."
"Why?" asked Tara.
"Because they were in love," said Angel. "In the other timeline. He would have said that to her the most." He sagged against the wall. "I should have seen it, earlier. It makes everything make so much more sense."
"And if there is some sort of intricate connection between the two timelines… well, Buffy always did have trouble with the phrase, 'I love you'," said Giles.
"So did the Doctor," said Willow. "Buffy said he never even managed to say it to Rose before she left."
"Mom," Dawn cut in. "Mom would have told Elizabeth she loved her. A lot."
"And if she reacted this violently to Dawn after only two weeks," said Giles, "I suppose we know who… really murdered Joyce."
"She killed Mom?" Dawn cried. "Elizabeth killed Mom, in the other timeline, and then blamed the Doctor? But… but… Buffy would never do something like that!"
"Elizabeth wouldn't have known," said Anya. "I mean, she knows she's doing it, she knows she hates the other person, and she's probably able to tell that those feelings aren't coming from her. But she doesn't get why
it's happening. That's one of the things about the mental conditioning that makes it so affective as a revenge tool. The victim becomes increasingly paranoid as time goes on. For Elizabeth, it'd probably feel like… she was being swallowed up by some big evil thing at the bottom of her soul."
"From beneath you, it devours," Angel muttered.
"Just to check — this whole mental conditioning thing — not actually the Doctor's fault?" asked Xander. "Because Angel was pretty sure that the Doctor was the one who destroyed Elizabeth."
"I don't see what he'd possibly gain from it," said Tara.
"The Master did it," said Angel. He shook his head. "Elizabeth even told us. Just now! Remember? She said it started when the Doctor gave her CPR. Brought her back to life. Except it didn't. It must have started when the Master killed her."
"So, wait," said Tara. "If Elizabeth was wrong, and the Doctor was right… they both disagree about what happened in 2003. So what did
happen in 2003?"
"I don't know," said Angel. "If this is true… everything I know about 2003 is from Elizabeth. And she blamed the Doctor. For everything."
"Elizabeth became evil, set a trap for the Doctor," Anya supplied. "He said that. She'd be evil by 2003. And then past-Elizabeth and the Doctor showed up, and whatever Future-Elizabeth did turned past-Elizabeth into Future-Elizabeth, and—"
"What?" Xander asked.
"You lost me a long time ago," Tara agreed.
"The Doctor would probably explain it better," said Anya. "And… understand what actually happened. I mean, I sort of get the basics, but I don't know who specifically did what."
"Well, since the Doctor seems reluctant to divulge that information," said Giles, "I suppose we'll never know what really happened."
Angel gave a small sigh. "Buffy would have known. She was always good at getting the Doctor to tell her things."
Willow's eyes went wide. "The notebook!" she cried. She raced up the stairs, and darted into a room.
Everyone looked at everyone else.
"Okay, why didn't any of us think to check the notebook earlier?" asked Xander. "That should have been the first place we looked when Elizabeth showed up."
"To be honest, the idea never occurred to me," said Giles.
"Nor me," said Tara.
Anya gave a little shrug. "Don't look at me," she said. "I didn't know anything about a notebook."
Angel seemed mildly confused. "Notebook?"
"It's something that Buffy left for us," said Tara. "To keep us safe. She wrote down all the clues the Doctor kept dropping about the near future, and her thoughts about them. If she knew about her other-self, Buffy would probably have been curious enough to work out what happened, too."
"Does anyone else find it weird," said Xander, "that we all seem to be acting exactly the way Elizabeth wants us to act, without really knowing why?"
"What do you mean?" asked Giles.
"Well, none of us remembered to check the notebook," said Xander. "None of us stepped in to help the Doctor, when Spike beat him up. And that speech about taking back the night was really, really successful."
Willow raced down the steps, a bright red notebook in her hands. She was flipping through the pages, and her eyes lit up, as she folded the page back. "I got it!" she said. "What happened in 2003 in the other timeline!" Willow paused, at the bottom step, her eyes skimming across the page. "Oh."
"That sounds like a bad 'oh'," said Xander.
"No, not a bad 'oh'," said Willow. "More of a confused 'oh'. There are… two contradicting versions of what happened. One from a later Doctor. And one from an earlier Doctor."
"How contradictory are we speaking?" Giles asked.
"Well, the later Doctor doesn't want to talk about it at all," said Willow, "except that he fully blames himself. For everything. But the earlier Doctor gives a lot more information, and assigns himself a lot less blame." She looked up at them. "Buffy has her own views, of course."
"Which are?" asked Angel.
Willow stepped down from the bottom step, and went over to the dining room table, laying the notebook down where everyone could see it. Willow sat down on one of the chairs, and the others crowded around her, reading over her shoulder.
There, on the page, was a list of bullet points in two columns, containing information from the earlier Doctor, and the later Doctor. Below that was a brief explanation about how the two timelines are linked, along with the following summary from Buffy:This is what, I'm sure, happened in 2003 in the other timeline:
First, Elizabeth was in 2003 twice. Once as a time-traveler, out of time, with the Doctor. And once, living through it chronologically, after the Doctor dropped her off. Her future and past selves met. And, yeah, that would be super-weird.
Second, Elizabeth was "destroyed" (whatever that means) before 2003. So 2003 didn't actually destroy her, it just helped push her over the edge. 2003 was important, because it was only after Elizabeth visited that year that she decided she had to kill the Doctor. I think this is because she saw everyone die, and thinks the Doctor killed them? Not sure. More on this later.
Third — about 2003 itself. Here's what definitely happened. Some Big Bad was in Sunnydale in 2003. A Big Bad that was unstoppable, unkillable, unbeatable, a Big Bad that the Doctor either created or caused to arrive. That Big Bad killed everyone in Sunnydale — 38,000 innocent humans.
As for the conflicting bullet points above this summary, here's what I think. I'm pretty sure the Doctor faced something, right around Donna's departure, that changed the way he viewed himself. He seems to have suddenly decided to take the blame for everything — not just 2003 in the other timeline, but everything bad that ever happened in the universe. Especially stuff about his former companions.
So I'm pretty sure that's where the stuff from the later Doctor is actually coming from. I'm guessing the Doctor wasn't really responsible for a whole lot of what happened in 2003 in the other Sunnydale. He's just blaming himself like he always does.
The earlier Doctor — the one with Donna — told me that in 2003, the Big Bad set a trap for him. That he was led to believe he was saving thousands of lives, when he was actually being made to destroy them. I think there was something about paranoia and a lack of trust — he wasn't really clear about that. But from all the hints he dropped, I'm pretty sure I know who the Big Bad was in 2003, and I'm sorry, Angel, but you're wrong. It wasn't the Doctor.
It was Elizabeth.
I've had some trouble coming to terms with that. (I'm sure the Doctor did, too, right after he visited 2003 — he probably was in as much denial as I was, when I first worked it out.) After all, Elizabeth is me — she started out as me, and if she became evil, it means I can, too. And I know I have that potential. Dracula saw that darkness in me. So did Sineya, when she told me death was my gift. And yes, that terrifies me. A lot.
But the Doctor says one person can change the future, and you know what? I will. I don't care if Elizabeth turned evil, and the two timelines are linked. That doesn't mean I'm going to turn evil.
I won't let myself turn evil. No matter what.
Of course, if I don't turn evil, the Doctor will say it's because I'm a wonderful person, and if I do turn evil, he'll blame himself. I know that. He blames himself for destroying Elizabeth. For whoever's reading this notebook, if the Doctor shows up, and insists that whatever has happened to me is his fault (and I know he will), don't believe a word of it. And don't let him believe a word of it, either! Mr. Guilt-Trip likes to be all self-blamey, and it's usually not his fault.
Here's the thing that gives me hope. The Doctor doesn't know how or why Elizabeth became evil. Earlier him seems to think it has everything to do with trust and manipulation, while later him seems to think it has everything to do with love. I'm going to go out on a limb, and guess that the Doctor honestly has no clue what really happened. Which leads me to one conclusion.
The Doctor didn't destroy Elizabeth. Elizabeth destroyed herself.
And that gives me hope. Because if Elizabeth did it to herself, it means she must have made some choice that turned her into what she became. Chances are, I'll face that same choice, at some point in my own future.
I hope I'll have the courage to make the right decision, when the time comes.
"Oh, dear," said Giles.
Angel just shook his head. "Trust Buffy to get it right," he said. He kept staring at the notebook, guilt flooding his eyes. "I hated him for it. For a hundred years, I hated the Doctor for destroying Elizabeth. And it wasn't even his fault."
"I don't think Buffy got it right," said Xander.
Tara looked up at him. "Really? Why not?"
"Well, Elizabeth's not evil," said Xander. "She's not a monster. Think about it. She saves the world. She protects innocent people. And when she doesn't… well, when she hit Dawn, she was horrified. When she pushed Dawn, she started crying and locked herself in her room. In fact, until the Doctor showed up, she was ready and willing to go back to her own world to stop the time skips. That isn't exactly Big Bad territory. It isn't even Little Bad territory."
"She did murder her mother," said Giles.
"And she very nearly killed the Doctor," said Angel. "A number of times."
"And she interrogated the Doctor for eight hours," said Willow. "Then fed him to vampires."
"How did you know about the eight hours?" asked Tara. "And how did you know about the number 38,000?"
"Hey, yeah," said Xander. "Willow's been two steps ahead of all of the rest of us since we found the Doctor all blood-drawn and vampire-bitten."
"I… sort of remember this part," Willow confessed. "It was the weirdest thing before, and it made no sense whatsoever, but… okay, it's sort of like, everything that's happening now is because… no, wait, I mean, this is causing..." She gave up, and shook her head. "Never mind. It's just… weird and confusing."
"Look, all I'm saying is, Elizabeth isn't evil," said Xander. "Not Mayor evil. Not Master evil. Not Glory evil. Not even evil-Angel evil. She doesn't act like a Big Bad. We were all looking for signs that first week she showed up, remember? And she never gave us any. She just acted like… well, Buffy."
"Or at least, like a Buffy who's deathly afraid of the Doctor," Anya corrected.
"Fear makes a mob, hope makes an army," Giles muttered. "She always says that. Only — Elizabeth isn't hopeful. She's afraid."
"Of the Doctor," said Angel.
"No, of herself," said Willow. She pointed at the part of the page where Buffy had written, I won't let myself turn evil. "Elizabeth keeps saying that. Remember? She's never upset when we compare her to Buffy. But she's really upset when we accuse her of being evil." She shook her head. "We're such idiots. We just keep saying, Elizabeth doesn't know what's happening, Elizabeth's innocent, Elizabeth's just doing exactly what Buffy would do under the circumstances. But… she isn't, you guys! She knows everything!"
"Everything about what?" asked Xander.
"2003," said Willow. "Her mother. The fact that she isn't in control of herself. Xander, she knew she was the one causing the time skips the whole time she was here, and she never told us anything, remember? And — you remember that time, after she first hurt Dawn, when she locked herself in her room and wouldn't come out because she was afraid? She was afraid of herself — she was afraid of what she might do to us. Elizabeth might think it's the Doctor in her head, but she knows that whatever she does as a result, she's the one who's really doing it."
"You mean… Elizabeth's lying to us?" Tara asked.
"She's lying to everyone!" said Willow. "Us, Angel, herself. That's what the Doctor meant when he said she was in denial. That's why she needed eight hours to convince the Doctor everything she ever did was his fault. Elizabeth blames the Doctor, because she's deathly afraid that she's actually the one to blame. If he admits he was at fault for what she's done, that will help Elizabeth to convince herself she's innocent, help cement her own denial. Elizabeth's been manipulating us this whole time to do her dirty-work. And we believed she was innocent, we believed everything she told us was true, because… well, I don't know why, but we just… did. Over and over again, we kept wanting to believe exactly what she wanted us to believe. About her, about the Doctor, about everything."
"But Xander is right — she still saves the world," Giles argued. "She still defends the innocent. She still goes out of her way to help strangers."
"Because she has to," Willow said. "Everything she told us, just before the Doctor woke up — even that whole speech about how the Doctor thinks he's a hero in his own mind, because if he didn't believe it, he'd crumble — it wasn't about the Doctor. It was about herself. Everything she's blamed the Doctor for is something she's terrified to admit that she did!"
"Uh, Will?" said Xander. "That last speech. Sort of mentioned the Doctor massacring Iphidrin. A whole ton of people. And… if the Doctor wasn't the one doing the massacring…"
Everyone looked at everyone else. They weren't really sure what to say to this. The pause lingered silently in the air, as they all digested what this meant, how this changed their views on Elizabeth. How this meshed with what they knew about her, already.
"Well, that's something…" Angel started, but trailed off.
"Buffy would never do," Tara finished. "Ever."
"Elizabeth did say she only killed those people because she thought it was right," Anya volunteered, in her usual perky voice. "She thought that the Doctor wanted her to do it, and that made it right. So, yes, she murdered a lot of people, but at least she did it for the right reasons!" Anya faltered. "Or what she thought were the right reasons."
"I'm starting to understand why Elizabeth needed the full eight hours to convince the Doctor everything she did was his fault," said Xander.
"But she doesn't act like that, now," said Tara.
"Iphidrin… that particular experience occurred whilst she was travelling with the Doctor, yes?" Giles asked.
He tapped the notebook, where Buffy had written, '2003 was important, because it was only after Elizabeth visited that year that she decided she had to kill the Doctor.'
"That was before she visited 2003," Giles continued. "Before she decided the Doctor was evil and she needed to fight him. I suppose that means… 2003 didn't 'push her over the edge'. It gave her a coping mechanism for her growing madness — one that did not involve the slaughter of innocents. Every ounce of fear and rage… is directed at a different source. The Doctor."
Tara turned to Angel. "You didn't know about any of this?"
"I swear. None of it. She always just seemed… like Buffy," Angel told them.
"She is," said Willow, "as long as she blames the Doctor, and spends every waking moment hating him and wanting to kill him. She thinks he's in her head. If she stops fighting him outside her mind, she'll stop fighting inside her mind, and what happened on Iphidrin will happen again. Except… you know, here. In Sunnydale."
"2003," Tara whispered.
"So you're saying Elizabeth's only acting all nice and saving people and stuff…?" said Xander.
"Because she has to," Angel agreed. "The Master screwed with her head, and this is the only way Elizabeth's found to combat it. Elizabeth has to believe that she's a hero and a sincerely good person, because if she doesn't, if she ever admits what she's actually done, she'll go insane and kill everyone. She only saves the world because she knows that if she doesn't save it, she'll destroy it."
"That's really sad," said Tara.
"I suppose that means there really is very little either we or the Doctor can do to help her," Giles said, with a sigh. "I was afraid of that."
"The Doctor's already helping her," Anya chimed in. "By letting Elizabeth keep trying to kill him."
"I know the Doctor likes to be helpful," said Xander, "but I'm guessing that isn't exactly the kind of help he had in mind."
"But why did none of us picked up on any of this before now?" asked Giles. "We've all been interacting quite closely with Elizabeth for the past two weeks, and we never noticed any of these… homicidal tendencies. As Willow says, we simply wanted to believe that Elizabeth was doing the right thing. For no apparent reason."
"I picked up on it!" said Anya. "I said she was turning evil."
"But we all ignored you," said Tara. "And… I'm not really sure why."
"Dawn picked up on it, as well," said Willow. "Not consciously, I mean, but subconsciously, she knew there was something wrong. She started acting weird, remember? And we all thought there was something wrong with her. But Dawn wasn't the one with the problem."
"Hang on," said Xander. "Where is
The Scoobies all looked around, but sure enough, Dawn was gone.