Chapter Twenty Two
: I've decided to leave it up to you readers. Was Elizabeth an innocent victim in all this? Was Buffy right, and Elizabeth made some choice that turned her into a monster? Does Elizabeth know what she's doing, here, what it'll mean for her own timeline in 2003, or did she notice how desperate everyone was to get Buffy back, and simply think she was doing them a favor?
I'd like to think the best of her. That, in Elizabeth's eyes, this confrontation was a way for her to make up for all the trouble she caused in this timeline. But it reads either way, and so I leave it up to you.
You may think this story is almost over, but we're actually about 75% of the way through. You might be asking me why, because all the mysteries have been cleared up. But, well, they haven't. For one thing, Willow's confusing knowing-the-future thing isn't clear, 2003 isn't clear, and Buffy hasn't shown up, yet!
In the Summers residence living room, the Scoobies had all sat down to figure out what they were going to do next. The Doctor had materialized his TARDIS where it sat, now, right smack in the center of the room. He'd ducked his head out the door, to make sure he was in the right place, then gone back inside to do something to some telepathic circuits, so he could get Elizabeth home. None of the Scoobies really understood what that meant. But they were all ready to placate Elizabeth, or protect Dawn, or whatever else needed to be done.
Except Elizabeth, far from what everyone had expected, wasn't kicking up a fuss.
"So… you're just okay with going back, now?" asked Tara.
"Yep," said Elizabeth. "He's finally admitted the truth, which means he'll probably get all mopey and depressed and throw himself down a black hole or something. So, the Doctor's basically dead anyways, and that gets him out of the way! And this time, when I go back, I'll know that I have to fix that little design thingy that Willow pointed out when I build the super-mind-control device. This time, I'll break the cycle. This time, I'll get the Doctor's brain and make sure that no one else dies."
"Okay… this is just a crazy Xander idea, here, but… have you ever considered that the best way to change your future is… not
to try to mind-control the Doctor?" Xander asked her.
Elizabeth looked at him as if he was insane. "That would never work!" she said.
"I'm just throwing it out there as a possibility," said Xander. "That's all. I mean, if you don't build the device in the first place—"
"Then my future will have
to happen, and I won't be able to change it!" Elizabeth told him. "Don't you get it? It makes perfect sense!" She unconsciously tapped her fingers against the couch in a rhythmic, four-beat pattern as she spoke. "I have to fight the Doctor!"
"Yeah, but he isn't actually the voice in your—" Anya tried.
"Just stop," said Elizabeth. "I don't know what kind of hold he has over you, but just stop. I'm not giving in to him. You're not going to convince me to give in."
"Xander, Anya, just leave it," said Willow. She could see pretty easily that Elizabeth wasn't going to compromise on this. It was the one thing she was certain of — the Master was not
the voice in her head. It was the Doctor. (And of course, if the Master had been the one who'd done it, he'd want to make sure she never doubted it was the Doctor all along.)
All of which meant that, in Elizabeth's mind, the only way for it to stop was for her to mind-control or kill the Doctor. If she didn't, it was only a matter of time before she went crazy and destroyed the world — the one thing she couldn't allow herself to do.
Elizabeth would build that machine in 2003. Nothing the Scoobies or Willow could say would change that.
But Willow had pointed out that wiring problem to her. Elizabeth would fix it. The tragedy of 2003 didn't have to happen anymore! And as for the Doctor — well, the Doctor was smart, in any incarnation. If the past Doctor was smart enough to see through Elizabeth's plan — and Willow was guessing he was — she still wouldn't mind-control him. She'd just fix the machine so that she wouldn't kill anyone else while she was trying.
All Anya and Xander were doing now was risking Elizabeth's entire web of denial falling apart, pushing her into crazy psychosis. Xander caught Willow's eye, and realized what the problem was, immediately. He whispered something to Anya, and she nodded.
And Willow knew… she and the other Scoobies were only trying to discourage Elizabeth's denial because none of them wanted to come to terms with their own. The denial that had led to their trusting Elizabeth so completely. The denial that had led to them not checking the notebook, them collaborating with Elizabeth on all her little schemes, them not helping the Doctor when Elizabeth didn't want them to. It was the truth that none of them really wanted to face. Elizabeth wasn't Buffy.
Because Buffy was dead.
(And they could never, ever get her back.)
Elizabeth looked down at her hands, and noticed the four beat rhythm she was tapping against the couch. Her eyes went wide with horror, and she stopped tapping the rhythm, clenching her hands into fists instead. Clenching her hands into fists — just the way she always did, Willow realized, whenever she was under stress. A look of intense concentration crossed Elizabeth's face, as she fought an inner battle that none of them could see, forcing back something too evil for any of them to understand.
The Doctor stepped out of the police box, and folded his arms across his chest. Elizabeth wouldn't even look at him, just stared, determinedly, at the floor. "I've made telepathic contact with my friend," he said. "It'll be a few minutes before I can get you home."
"So… you're not going to kill Dawn?" asked Tara.
The Doctor raised an eyebrow. "Sorry?"
"No great big swirling portals and magic blood and crying girls?" Xander checked.
"Why is everyone so convinced that I want to kill Dawn?" the Doctor asked them. "I'm quite fond of Dawn."
Everyone looked at Anya, who tried to do her best to melt into the couch.
"Well, it's just… you said you needed the Key to send Elizabeth back home," said Anya. "And Dawn's the Key, and she's the one who opens portals to other worlds and stuff, so… it just made sense."
"Dawn isn't the Key," said the Doctor, his voice tinged with vague amusement. He noticed the blank looks around him, and shrugged. "Look. Far as I know, far as you know, and far as the rest of the universe knows: the Key to Time was destroyed in the War, Dawn's a normal human being, all your memories are perfectly fine, and any rumors about a seventh segment are absolute rubbish. That's all I'm saying on the matter. To anyone." He gave Dawn a little wink.
"Huh?" asked Xander.
"He means you guys are being total spazzes, and he's not going to kill me," Dawn explained, rolling her eyes. "I always knew he wasn't."
The Scoobies all breathed a collective sigh of relief. And Willow realized that Buffy must have known this all along. Buffy had trusted the Doctor to protect Dawn, even if he'd… done whatever he'd done last year with that whole in-and-out-of-time thing (which was weird and confusing and made Willow's head hurt).
"There's one thing I still don't get, though," said Dawn. She turned to Elizabeth. "In your timeline, did you really kill Mom?"
Everyone tried to hush Dawn, but the damage was done. Dawn had already asked the question.
Elizabeth glared at the police box. Then dropped her eyes down to the ground. "Yes," she admitted.
No one said anything for several long minutes, but they all tensed. Would this be enough to send Elizabeth over the edge? Would this admission be enough to make Elizabeth believe she wasn't a truly good person, to turn Elizabeth into a crazy psychopath?
So far, the question hadn't sent Elizabeth off the deep end. That was a good sign. But Willow wasn't sure what she and the others should do, now. Should they ignore this confession of hers, or try to deny it, encourage her own self-denial?
"How?" asked the Doctor, suddenly.
Everyone looked up at the Doctor, trying to give him a death glare, but he didn't notice.
"No, really," said the Doctor. "How'd you do it? How'd it happen? What makes you think it was your fault?"
"Because I should have been there!" Elizabeth shouted. "Mom was just lying here, on the couch, dead, while I was out talking to Warren's stupid robot, trying to avoid her because I hated her and I didn't understand why. And if I'd just come home sooner… I could have done CPR or called the hospital or something! I should have been able to stop it! I should have been able to save Mom's life!" She buried her face in her hands, and burst into tears. "I really am a monster."
Willow, Tara, and Dawn all tried to comfort Elizabeth, trying to reassure her that that kind of thing wasn't actually her fault, that she didn't
actually murder her own mother. The Doctor didn't. He just raised his eyebrows, as if to say, 'I knew it.' Then he went back inside the TARDIS.
"Remember that 'kind of a jerk' thing I said earlier?" said Xander, looking at the police box. "I stand by it."
(Willow just kept remembering — It's easier to blame himself for the crimes of others than it is to blame himself for his own crimes,
Elizabeth had told them, earlier that evening. Another one of her own traits she attributed to the Doctor.)
Elizabeth wiped her eyes. "Willow," she said. "I… I have to talk to you. Alone. Before I go."
Willow hesitated, but nodded.
Elizabeth and Willow went upstairs, to Buffy's old room, and closed the door. Elizabeth took a deep breath.
"I'm sorry," she said. "About… you know. The evil thing."
"It's not your fault," Willow reassured her. "And you're not evil — you're a hero. Really. I mean, everything you've done the past two weeks was just amazing. Like, Buffy amazing."
"At least Buffy got a choice," said Elizabeth. "Chose to save the world. Chose to help people. I never did."
"Um… Buffy sort of didn't, either," said Willow. "She sort of… look, never mind. The important thing is, you're a hero. You're always throwing yourself into danger to save innocent people, you're always sticking up for what's right. And… and you didn't actually kill your mother, either!"
"I know," said Elizabeth. "It was the Doctor." She gave Willow a small smile, and Willow could see that healthy dose of denial that had been keeping her sane throughout the years rising up, again. Blaming the Doctor for everything she'd ever done. And everything she hadn't done, but inwardly blamed herself for.
"You know, that whole not-killing-the-Doctor thing that Xander mentioned — you might want to consider that," Willow added. "Not that you're not still a hero, or anything! And you can still hate the Doctor and blame him for all your problems. Just… maybe you could do that without wanting to kill him?"
Elizabeth hung her head. "I've thought about it," Elizabeth confessed. "So many times, I've thought about it. Giving in to the Doctor, doing what he keeps telling me in my head, letting myself become a monster like he says. It would be so much easier to give in, kill all my friends and family, start torturing and conquering, and…" she shuddered. "Everything else. Things you don't even want to know about. You don't know how hard it is for me, Will. Fighting every single second of the day. Making sure there isn't a single moment I'm not completely in control… just in case…" She hugged Willow, tightly. "I'm sorry."
Willow hugged her back, not exactly sure how to reply to this.
Elizabeth pulled out of the hug, and took a deep breath. She then replaced the sad expression with a determined one. "But I don't care if it's hard. I have to do it. I can't give in, not even a little bit. Because the moment I start, I don't know if I'm ever going to be able to stop. So I won't start. I might not be a superhero, but I'm strong enough to fight against the Doctor. And I will. I promised myself I wouldn't become a monster, Will, and I'm going to make sure I keep that promise. I'm going to keep defending the Earth, keep saving people's lives, keep stopping the monsters and doing the right thing. Until the day I die, I swear, I'm going to defend humanity and the people I love!"
Willow nodded, slowly. She still had no idea what to say to this. Elizabeth seemed completely convinced that fighting against the murderous voices in her head was the same as fighting against the Doctor. Kill the Doctor, and no more voices. Stop trying to kill the Doctor, and it meant she had to give into the voices.
The only thing Willow could do, by encouraging Elizabeth not to hate the Doctor, was push Elizabeth into a major mental breakdown, resulting in full-scale carnage. So Willow decided to just drop it.
"But that's not why I need to talk to you," said Elizabeth. "Look, Willow. It's about Buffy."
Willow felt every muscle in her body tense.
"I mean, I've heard you guys talking about her," said Elizabeth, "and I sort of… overheard when you were telling Tara about… the Hell dimension thing. And I don't know where Buffy's soul is. But I do know one thing." She gave a soft smile. "Buffy isn't really gone."
Willow blinked. "What?"
"The Doctor said her death was a fixed point in time," said Elizabeth. "But the thing is, when I was talking to him, during those eight hours, I found out… Will, the Doctor's seen her. Buffy, I mean. The Doctor's seen her in the future. Your future, his past. He's seen her several times. And every time he's run into her, after 2001, she keeps telling him to remember that she's still alive."
"But time can be rewritten," said Willow. "Time has been rewritten. He might still remember it because he's all Time Lordy, but none of it's actually going to happen. Not anymore."
"Except you can't
rewrite a fixed point in time," said Elizabeth. "That's why the Doctor assumed she'd survived the portal, or wound up in a parallel universe or something. That's why he keeps insisting that Buffy shouldn't have died, that it doesn't make sense. He's seen her in the future, and that's impossible if she died in a fixed point. There has to be some probability that the future was different, some chance that Buffy could have survived — and if her death was fixed, that probability is 0. Which means, if the Doctor's really seen Buffy alive in the future, then the event that decides whether Buffy lives or dies isn't
her jumping into the portal. It's… well, actually, I think it's you."
"Me?" asked Willow.
"Willow," said Elizabeth. "You can bring Buffy back."
Willow said nothing.
"I don't know how or why it's possible," said Elizabeth, "but it's the only thing that makes sense! Think about it. There's some way that Buffy managed to keep being alive, even though she died. And if it had been anything else — like she got sucked into a parallel world or was in a super coma or something — the Doctor would have worked it out and told you how to bring her back. The only reason he's not is because she really is dead, but there's some crazy witchcrafty way to revive her. Something the Doctor doesn't want you to know about."
"Because it would be wrong," Willow said, in a flat voice. She wasn't sure if she believed it herself.
"To the Doctor," said Elizabeth. "But… seriously. Don't tell me you've never seen him make a mistake. Who cares if it goes against his precious laws of time and space? Wherever Buffy ended up, whatever nightmare she's living, you can save her from it, Willow."
"I can save her?" Willow asked.
"Yeah," said Elizabeth.
"You're not just trying to be all evil and mind-controlly and stuff?" Willow double-checked.
Elizabeth put her hands on her hips. "Willow," said Elizabeth. "I've never been evil and mind-controlly and stuff. The only person I'm evil and mind-controlly towards is the Doctor — and he deserves it."
But Elizabeth's idea of reality didn't always match the outside world. Willow knew that. She crossed her arms. "How can I trust you? What if you're just trying to make things worse?"
"Okay, okay," said Elizabeth. "I get that you don't trust me. But this is real. When the Doctor saw Buffy in the future, she kept making sure he knew she was alive. She told him, over and over again. 'Remember, in — whatever year he saw her in — I'm alive'. But not just any him. The younger him. The version of him that hadn't been to this time and place, yet. If you were stuck in a Hell dimension, tortured for all eternity, and you wanted to give your friends a sign to get you out, what would you do?"
"Tell the time traveler," Willow realized.
"Exactly!" said Elizabeth. "It's a sign, Will. Don't you see? Buffy's giving you a message back through time. She's asking you to rescue her. Wherever her soul's wound up, she wants to come back." Elizabeth gave a little shrug. "You can ask the Doctor about what Buffy told him in the future. He'll agree with me. Just remember — if you tell him you're planning to revive Buffy using magic, he'll stop you. Stupid Web of Time stuff and everything."
Willow remembered the way the Doctor had reacted to Buffy's death. The way he'd kept insisting that she was alive. That she'd survived. That she wasn't really gone. And he'd even said that exact phrase — "she told me to remember…." Elizabeth was right. This was a message from Buffy. Buffy was in Hell, Buffy was in trouble, and she wanted Willow to bring her back to life.
"Thing is," Elizabeth continued, "Buffy's like… the me I should have been. The me I wished for. And if she's around…" Elizabeth took a deep breath. "If she's around, I know you'll all be okay." She looked into Willow's eyes, pleading. "And, well, that's
why I'm okay going home. It's not because of the Doctor, it's not because of the mind control machine thing. It's because… if I go home, I know you guys can get Buffy back, and then you'll all be okay. And I need you to be okay. All my friends are going to die. I can't let you guys die, too."
Willow threw her arms around Elizabeth, who hugged her back. Because in spite of the evil-thing, Willow liked Elizabeth. She was so strong, so brave, so determined to do the right thing. Even in the face of evil murderous voices in her head, she still fought for what was right. And fighting against all odds for what was right — that was just so Buffy.
"I'm going to miss you," said Willow.
"Me too," said Elizabeth. She gave a soft laugh. "Other-you is never going to believe half this stuff."
Willow pulled away. And in that moment, in that instant, she made up her mind. She didn't care how many rules of the universe it broke. She didn't care what the consequences were. Elizabeth was right. The Doctor could chide and chastise and whine about the laws of the universe all he wanted, but the era of the Time Lords was over. The Doctor wasn't the ultimate authority over everything.
Willow was going to bring Buffy back.
--000--Additional Author's Note
: Can I just say that I was going through, writing in all the characters' inner thoughts for this whole story, and Willow's inner thought as soon as Elizabeth said that she could bring Buffy back was, "But I only just came to terms with Buffy's death a few paragraphs ago!"