Chapter Twenty Six
: And it's time to find out what Elizabeth and the Doctor talked about during those eight hours! And how Willow knew all those extra little tidbits that the rest of the Scoobies didn't know.
I know Willow technically hasn't met Tara at this point. But you know what? Screw it! It's my fic, and I'll do what I want.
I want a t-shirt that says, "Time doesn't have a control z." Maybe that's just me being all Silicon Valley, but I'm proud of myself for writing that line.
Willow went into the dorm room. The Doctor was perched on the floor, his back leaning against the side of Buffy's bed, one leg bent, his arm draped across his knee. He stared at the corner of Willow's coverlet, a somber expression on his face.
His eyes flicked up to Willow. They seemed… curious. Not suicidal, Willow thought. Maybe Buffy was just exaggerating.
"So," she said, trying to put on her cheerful-Willow-smile face. "Buffy says you'll be staying for a few days."
The Doctor raised an eyebrow at her. "Suppose so," he said. "If that's what she wants." His eyes dropped to Willow's clenched fist. "And I'm guessing you won't give me back my key until she tells you to."
Willow hid the fist clenching the key behind her back. "Um, that's just… nothing," said Willow. "I mean, it's something, but it's not…. Tea!" She bolted over to the hot-water heater. "All English people like tea. Not that you're English or anything, but, I mean, you sort of sound English, and that's…"
"Tea would be lovely."
"Good!" said Willow. She crammed the TARDIS key into her pants pocket, and started to boil some water in the water heater. She turned, when she realized the Doctor was staring at her. She shifted, awkwardly, playing with the sleeve of her shirt. "What?"
"Nothing, you just look… different," said the Doctor.
"Well, I cut my hair," said Willow. "Or… maybe not, because I don't know when the last time you saw me was. But… that's not even remotely what you're talking about, so I guess I'll just be quiet now."
The Doctor gave a small laugh. "I like your hair short," he said. "And it's good to see you… happy."
Willow's jaw nearly hit the floor. Happy? Happy? She felt like her heart had been ripped out of her chest and stomped on. She'd never been less happy than this in her entire life!
"I'm not happy," said Willow, slumping down onto the ground, across from him. "I'm miserable."
The Doctor quirked an eyebrow at her.
"It's just… how could Oz do something like that?" Willow asked. "He just went out and slept with her, and then he… left! And I didn't care that he was a werewolf, and I didn't care about any of it, but he… how could he leave me?" She struggled to stop herself from crying.
"Did he hurt you?" asked the Doctor.
"Of course he hurt me!" said Willow. "I can't even sleep at night without thinking of him. I can't get past this. It hurts too much to move, sometimes."
The Doctor said nothing for a very long moment. When he did speak, it was so soft that Willow almost didn't catch it. "Do you want to kill him?" he asked her. "For hurting you that way?"
Willow pouted. "No, I couldn't even harm him," she said, folding her arms and staring at the floor. "I tried, because I was so mad, and I just… couldn't do it. Veruca was right. I'm just a weak, stupid, useless piece of nothing."
"You're remarkable," the Doctor corrected. "A truly remarkable human being."
Willow looked up at him, and she realized he was looking at her with a detached sort of awe in his eyes.
"Do I really terrify you?" he asked.
Willow wanted to jump at this. How'd he known? And what should she say? Because the answer to that was, yes! He did. All the time. Because he might look all normal and human and stuff most of the time, but Willow had seen him when he wasn't, and he was scary. He was really scary.
"No," she lied.
The Doctor nodded, slowly. "I'm sorry," he told her. "About… everything. So, so sorry."
"I'm sick of people telling me they're sorry," said Willow. "I just want this pain to go away. I just want it to stop."
"No, you don't."
Willow pounded the ground with her fist. "Who are you to tell me what I want or don't want?" she demanded. "You're not the alien boss of me. You're just… some stupid skinny guy with a time machine, and you have no idea what I'm going through right now!"
The moment the words came out of her mouth, she regretted them. She wanted to hit the magic "Willow undo" command, to take it all back, but unfortunately, time didn't have a control z.
The Doctor didn't seem to notice. He just stared off into the distance. "That's why they did it," said the Doctor. "The Cybermen. The Daleks. All those races that gave it all up. No more emotions. They're too hard. They hurt. But give it up, and you're left with nothing." His voice sounded hollow, empty. "Nothing at all."
Willow sagged. "I knew this was a bad idea," she said. "I'm not going to be able to cheer you up. I mean, you obviously don't really want to talk to me, anyways. You came here for Buffy, and instead you got me, and I'm not really all that good a listener, and I've got all these other problems right now and… I couldn't even convince Oz not to leave me, so how am I supposed to convince you of anything?"
The Doctor gave a dry laugh. "Oh, Willow," he said. "Eight hours of interrogation, and she couldn't break me. Three words from you, and I knew the truth."
Willow blinked. "Wait, what?"
"Nothing," he said. "You're brilliant, though. After all this is done, just remember that. A truly remarkable and brilliant human being."
Willow fidgeted in her seat. After all this is done? What was that supposed to mean? "After all what is done?" she asked.
The Doctor said nothing for a few long moments. "It's a nice little dorm room you have, here," he said.
"I shouldn't have come," he said. "But I had to. It's what I deserve. For everything that's going to happen. Everything that's already happened. I just want you to know — it's not Buffy's fault. She has to do it. After this is done, tell her I don't blame her for any of it."
"What?" asked Willow. "Doctor, what are you talking about? This isn't… you don't think I think you're evil, right? Because that whole slapping thing — that was just nothing. I mean, it wasn't nothing. But it wasn't something. And… that stuff I said over the summer — I didn't mean those things, either. Well, I did, but I don't anymore. And… you haven't actually lived through any of that, yet, have you?"
"Did I just do a bad thing?" asked Willow. "Telling you about your future?"
"Not mine yet," said the Doctor. "Just a potential temporal probability. Future can be rewritten. Future can be unwritten." He sighed. "People can die too soon, and things can change."
"What do you mean?" asked Willow.
"My future, for instance, only happens," said the Doctor, "if I'm alive to be there. All you're remembering now is the most likely outcome of what I'll do. If I were to die right here, right now, then poof. Gone. New future, new past. You wouldn't even remember it had been any different. Not unless you were a Time Lord."
Willow held the mug, nervously, with both hands. "Well, but you're not going to die," she said. "Right?"
"Do you want me to?" asked the Doctor.
"No!" said Willow. "I… I don't think I ever really wanted you to die. Not even when I thought you were evil. Not that I think you're evil now, or anything. Because you're not. You're Buffy's weird alien friend. Not remotely evil."
The Doctor met her eyes. "Is that what you think?"
There was something very intense in those eyes. Something far too intense. Yeah. Terrifying. Willow tried to get herself to think rationally and calm down. No reason to get scared. This was Buffy's friend. Buffy trusted him, right?
"Well, you haven't tried to kill anyone, yet," said Willow. "I mean, except for that one time, when you did, but Buffy says that wasn't your fault, and…"
The Doctor's entire face went completely blank, as if he were simply an empty shell, with no emotions whatsoever.
"No, I'm sorry, I didn't mean that," Willow cut in, fiddling around with the coffee cup in her hand. "I just meant, you're one of the good guys, and we're okay with you being here, and we're trying to make you comfortable, and—"
"Do you know why they do it?" the Doctor asked.
Willow blinked. "Why who do what?"
"A Dalek has to kill," the Doctor told her, "because it honestly believes that every other creature in existence deserves to die. A vampire has to kill, because it's evolved to depend on sucking the life force from other creatures. A Sontaran has to kill, because they are cloned with that particular genetic programming in their DNA. But human beings — do you know why they do it?"
Willow tucked her hands between her knees. "Well, it depends," she said. "I mean, sometimes, it's an accident. And sometimes, it's for power. And sometimes, it's, you know, because they had a traumatic childhood when they were young. But sometimes it's just what happens."
The Doctor shook his head. "No," he told her. "That's not why. It's because of me. I make them do it."
Okay, yeah. This was way beyond Intro to Psych.
"Well, you can't be everywhere at once," said Willow. "I mean, okay, you can, because you have a time machine, but you shouldn't have to be, and… you're not God or anything. You aren't the boss of who lives and who dies."
"But when I am," said the Doctor, "everyone dies." He gave another dry laugh. "Just like she said. I offer my enemies a chance. But my friends… they never get one. They just die."
The Doctor's gaze was far sharper than Willow would have liked. It seemed to pin her in place, like she was being restrained by some evil monster who was preparing to eat her. Which was stupid, she told herself, because the Doctor didn't even eat people. So why did he scare her so much?
"Maybe you should let Buffy work this out for you," said Willow. Buffy wasn't scared of him. "Buffy will make it all better."
The Doctor took a deep breath. "I know," he said. He looked out the window, at the stars in the sky, longingly, as if… saying goodbye to old friends. No, that couldn't be the expression on his face. Willow had to be misreading that.
"Or… I could do a spell," Willow offered. She made a face. "Except… that probably wouldn't be good, because my energy's all kerflewy, and, you know."
The Doctor nodded. "How's Tara?"
Willow froze. "How do you know…?" She stopped herself. Oh, of course, it was obvious how he knew about Tara. The same way he knew about Riley. He'd been to her future. "She's fine." Willow faltered. "Did Riley really try to kill you the first time he met you?"
"First time I
," the Doctor corrected. "He knew me for a while, before that." A pensive look washed across his face — a detached, pensive look. "He tied me up, so I couldn't fight back, then tried to shoot me in the head." He tapped his temple. "Right here. He didn't think I could regenerate from a head wound like that. And he was probably right."
Willow was starting to think this not hearing about the future thing was a really, really good idea. She was pretty sure she didn't want to know what happened in the future. The future where she had long hair, and she was even more unhappy than now, and Riley shot people.
"I didn't deserve forgiveness for that," said the Doctor. "Never deserve it, when it comes. Riley knew best, in the end. Don't forgive, don't forget, and don't let the girl out of your sight for a moment — because if you do, you'll lose her forever."
"Works for guys, too," muttered Willow.
The Doctor nodded, slowly. "Yes, I know," he said. "I have been assured that all the evil in the world is caused by men." He paused. "And it turns out, it's not caused by men. It's caused by me. Fancy that."
"Wait, all evil is caused by men?" asked Willow. "You… you haven't been talking to Anya, right?"
The Doctor raised an eyebrow at Willow.
"Is that what this whole thing is about?" asked Willow. "You met Anya? Because Anya's a vengeance demon — I mean, she's not anymore, but she used to be, and she's just, you know. Anya."
"I know," said the Doctor. "Manipulation of time and space and matter in order to cause chaos and devastation. In the old days, we would have put a stop to it. But now…" he shrugged.
"We?" asked Willow. Then she worked it out. "Oh, yeah. Right. You we, not, you know, we we."
"I suppose it's up to you lot, now," the Doctor said. "Slayers and Torchwood and UNIT and all that. No other Time Lords." He leaned his head back against the bed. "No place in the universe for Time Lords anymore."
"Wait, hang on, there's still a place for you!" said Willow.
"I was born in a timeline that is locked away," said the Doctor, "on a planet that never existed, to a mother and father that were never born, in a part of the universe that's always been just empty space. I'm an anomaly, completely removed from this reality. It wouldn't even be murder, really, just… temporal cleanup. Since I shouldn't technically exist at all."
"Well, but that doesn't mean that you should be not here or anything!" Willow protested. "Okay, yeah, so you don't have a planet anymore but… you can have our dorm room."
The Doctor gave her a weak smile. One that was supposed to be reassuring, but dripped with sorrow and loneliness and devastation.
Willow knew she had to say something else comforting. But what? She was bad at this at the best of times, and right now, when her heart was torn in two, it was even harder.
"Don't worry," said Willow. "When Buffy gets back, she'll sort you out. She'll make sure you know exactly how much people want you in the universe."
The Doctor got up off the floor. "That's what I'm afraid of," he said, as he walked towards the door to the dorm room.
Willow leapt to her feet. "No, wait!" she said. "Your… the tea's not finished."
The Doctor paused, then continued walking. "You have my TARDIS key," he said. "I'm not going anywhere."
"But you are!" Willow protested. She ran over, and tried to block the door. "You… you're trying to go somewhere right now, and I don't know where, but I know Buffy said you weren't allowed to leave, so I'm not letting you leave."
The Doctor just looked at her, emotionlessly, then put two gentle hands on her shoulders, and moved her out of the way. It was a little like Buffy moving her out of the way — it wasn't trying to be imposing, but it was impossibly strong for the body in front of her.
"Tell her," said the Doctor, "I ran away."
And with that, the Doctor opened the door, and left.
Buffy only came back about a minute later, but to Willow, it felt like hours. She had no idea what she was going to tell Buffy about what had happened.
When Buffy burst through the door, she was already saying, "Okay, Willow, so Riley thinks you have some sort of weird science project thing that's invaded the room, and he can't…" Buffy cut herself off, as she noticed that Willow was alone. "Where is he?"
"Um, gone?" Willow offered.
"Yeah, I can see that!" Buffy said. "Where did he go?"
"I don't know," said Willow. "He just sort of got up and left. He said to tell you that he ran away." Willow fidgeted with the hem of her t-shirt. "I told you I wasn't going to be good at this whole cheering up thing right now."
"No, Will, not everything's always your fault, it was…" Buffy gave an exasperated sigh. "Just… what happened?"
"Well, first we started talking, and he said I looked happy," said Willow.
"He said you looked what?" Buffy asked, jaw dropping.
"Happy," said Willow. "So I was like, I'm not happy. I'm miserable. And then we began talking about emotions and stuff, and then we started talking about why people kill each other, and Anya, and then he started going on about how he didn't have a place in the universe anymore, and—"
"Okay, okay," said Buffy. "So… major depression type stuff. Did you keep him away from the Aspirin?"
Willow hesitated. She wasn't really sure how to say this. "I, um… I don't think the Doctor wants to kill himself," she said, very quietly.
Relief washed across Buffy's face. "Good," she said. "Very good."
"Well, no, not good," said Willow. "I mean, the thing is, he kept talking about how he makes people die, and then how we sort of make sure that bad things get punished and…" Willow swallowed. "Buffy," she said, her voice barely above a whisper. "I think he wants you
to kill him."