: I'm back from my vacation!
Updates may still be a bit sporadic, due to Passover coming up so soon. But, in terms of good news, this story now has the seal of approval from my cousin Clara. And if Clara likes it, then I've decided that means it's officially "good".
I totally love how Xander calls Elizabeth the "Beth-ster", as opposed to calling Buffy the "Buffster".
Oh, and by the way, I know this is totally lazy writing, but... the guy that Elizabeth freaks out over, in the beginning of this section is someone that I refer to, in my summary, as "a random stranger who looks not completely unlike the 8th Doctor". So, not actually the 8th Doctor. (Don't worry, the Doctor is coming!)
Elizabeth was pulling people out of damaged cars, trying to revive the ones she could revive. Tara soon arrived, running down the sidewalk towards them.
"Are they okay?" Tara asked, as she helped Elizabeth rescue people from the massive pileups.
"Most of them aren't," said Elizabeth. She checked the pulse of the guy she'd just rescued from his crumpled car. She swore. Then she glanced up at Willow. "Do you know CPR?"
"CPR-ify this guy," said Elizabeth, gently laying his head against the sidewalk. "I'm going to get more people out."
Willow bent down over the man, and started breathing into his mouth, and compressing his chest. Elizabeth, meanwhile, ran over to assist a woman calling out for help inside a crushed SUV. Tara tried to bandage up the guy's wounds as best she could, tearing up pieces of clothing to create makeshift bandages. The man coughed, and sputtered back into life.
"You're okay," said Willow. "Help's coming."
"Where… where am I?" he asked.
"Exactly where you were this morning," said Willow. "We just had one of those jump things. You're going to be all right."
The man groaned in pain, and Elizabeth called for Willow and Tara to bandage up the woman from the SUV.
"It's terrible," Tara told Willow, as they walked over to Elizabeth's SUV woman. "What could do something like this?"
"I don't know," said Willow. "Giles says he doesn't know of any demon that could do this sort of thing. Well, okay, actually, he said he knows several, except he was pretty sure they're not the ones doing it, because then it'd just be a local thing."
"And these jumps are happening all over the world," said Tara.
They started to bandage up the woman from the SUV, just as the ambulance arrived. It was clear that the hospital was going to be seriously understaffed, but at least it would be something. Willow and Tara helped the paramedics as best they could, but there wasn't a whole lot they could do.
That was when they heard the scream.
They turned, and saw Elizabeth, backing away, in wide-eyed terror, from some random guy who'd been helping her get people out of the crashed cars. He looked youngish, with shoulder-length chestnut-colored wavy hair, sporting a deep tan and piercing blue eyes. He seemed just as confused as Willow and Tara about why Elizabeth was backing away from him.
"Ma'am," he said, in a thick, New York accent, "I just wanna help. That's all I wanna do."
"Get away from me," Elizabeth growled. "Or I swear, I'll kill you." And then she spun around, and ran away, as fast as she could.
"Elizabeth?" Willow called, but Elizabeth didn't answer, didn't even look at them, as she bolted for the house.
"What did I do?" the random guy asked.
But neither Willow nor Tara could answer that. They looked at one another, then ran after Elizabeth.
As they approached the Summers residence, they found Dawn standing in the doorway, Elizabeth running towards her. Dawn looked worried.
"What happened?" Dawn called out to Elizabeth. "What's wrong?"
Elizabeth knocked Dawn out of the way as she flew into the house, and Dawn fell onto the wood floor with a loud thud.
"Ow," said Dawn.
Elizabeth froze. She turned, and stared at Dawn. "Oh, my God," she whispered. "You…"
"Me?" said Dawn, getting to her feet, and rubbing the arm she'd fallen on. "You pushed me!"
"I pushed you," Elizabeth said. Her breathing grew shallow, as she kept staring at Dawn. "I pushed you."
"You could at least say you're sorry," said Dawn.
Elizabeth squeezed her eyes shut, distress washing across her face, and raced up the stairs to her room. She slammed the door.
Willow and Tara sprinted into the house, rushing over to help Dawn.
"Are you okay, Dawny?" asked Willow. She tried to check Dawn over for broken bones, but she didn't actually know how to do that, so she just pretended, the way she'd seen people do in movies.
"Yeah," said Dawn, her eyes fixed on Elizabeth's bedroom door. "But I don't think she is. What happened?"
"We don't know," Tara admitted. She looked over at Willow. "I'd better go check on her."
"Yeah," said Willow.
Tara turned, and darted up the stairs. The moment Tara was out of sight, Willow said a little spell to check Dawn over for injuries and broken things. Okay, no broken things. Good.
Upstairs, they could hear Tara trying the door, could hear Tara calling for Elizabeth, over and over again. Assuring her that Dawn knew it was an accident, that no one was angry at her. That the weird guy was gone, now. That they all just wanted to help her. Eventually, Tara came back down the stairs, again.
"She's locked the door," Tara told them. "And she's not answering. Something's definitely wrong."
"She does know she's going to miss the meeting, if she doesn't come out, right?" asked Xander, when that evening rolled around again. "Because she was really excited about it last time it was this evening."
"I think we're going to have to run the meeting ourselves," said Tara. "I don't think she's coming out."
"I never thought the meeting was a good idea in the first place," Anya complained, leaning back against the couch cushions.
"Yeah, except for all those times you told us you thought it was a great idea," Xander pointed out.
Anya crossed her arms, and huffed. "Well, it's not anymore."
"Something wrong, honey?" Xander whispered, leaning in and keeping a smile on his face, to try to make it seem like everything was fine and normal in Xander-land.
"I just put in two days of work and got exactly the same amount of money," Anya told them. "That's not right. That's not American."
"Maybe we should just call the meeting off," said Tara, putting her purse down on the coffee table directly in front of where she was standing.
"Oh, but she'd be so disappointed," said Willow. "She's been working on this since she first arrived. It's pretty amazing that she convinced the city council to give her a chance. If it doesn't happen now, she might never get another opportunity."
"I'll try talking to her, again," said Xander, getting up off the couch. "She's got to respond, sooner or later."
He scuttled up the stairs, and knocked on Elizabeth's door. No answer.
"Elizabeth?" he called.
"The meeting's starting, soon," said Xander. "And I know you've been talking about it for ages."
A shuffling sound from behind the door. Then, a soft voice, "I can't."
Xander nearly jumped at the voice. "Elizabeth?" He heard a sob, and tried to force the door. "Elizabeth, it's okay, we're here to help."
"Don't come in!" she shouted. There was a thud, as — it sounded like — Elizabeth threw herself at the door. The sobbing was far clearer, now.
"Elizabeth, what's wrong?" Xander asked. "If you're in trouble, we want to help."
Elizabeth slid some note-cards out the crack under her door. "Give the speech for me, please," she said, her voice barely above a whisper.
"Are you sure?" asked Xander. "Because we can—"
"Please," Elizabeth begged. "Please, Xander."
Xander picked up the note cards. "Elizabeth, you know I can't convince people to do stuff the way you can," he said. "No one's going to listen to me."
"They will," Elizabeth insisted. "If you're yourself. Please. Do it for me."
Xander flipped the note cards in his hand. He wasn't really sure what to do. "Okay," he said, at last. "If that'll make you come out."
Elizabeth said nothing for a moment. "It'll help."
"Well, anything for the Beth-ster," said Xander. He gave a grin, but realized it was lost on her, through the door. "I'll… just go let the others know." He started down the stairs, paused, then went back to Elizabeth's door. "Oh, and, Elizabeth?"
Elizabeth didn't answer.
"Just… feel better," said Xander. "We're all worried about you."
Elizabeth didn't answer.
Xander walked back down the stairs. "Well, she actually talked to me, this time," he told the others, stopping one step from the bottom. "But… she's still not coming out."
"What about the speech and the meeting and stuff?" asked Willow.
Xander waved the note cards. "I guess I'm the substitute Elizabeth for the night."
"Did she say why she won't come out?" Tara asked.
"Oh! I vote secret demon transformation!" Anya volunteered, waving her hand in the air.
"She didn't say," said Xander, ignoring Anya. He took the last step down the stairs, then paused, one hand still on the railing. He bent the notecards in his other hand. "She just said that she couldn't, and then she… well, she started crying."
"Oh, my God," Willow breathed. "She started crying?"
Xander didn't say anything, meeting Willow's eyes with the same sense of concern.
"I still say she's secretly a demon," Anya chimed in. "Locked in a Hell Dimension for four years? That can do things to a person."
"Just cut it out, Anya, okay?" Willow snapped.
"Anya, you know she isn't a demon," Tara told Anya. "Spike can't hit her, remember?"
"I don't mean on the outside," Anya said. "There are a lot of different kinds of demon transformations. Like, there was this one time, when this guy was cheating on his wife, and I—"
"I've got to give this speech," said Xander. "I mean, if there was anything else I could do…"
Willow rested a hand on Xander's arm. "Don't worry," she said. "I'll stay here with her. Just in case."
Willow crept up to Elizabeth's door. She could hear soft sobbing from the other side, and the fact that it was Buffy's voice just made Willow feel even worse. She went over, and stood beside the door.
"Elizabeth?" she asked.
Elizabeth didn't answer, but the sobbing quieted, abruptly.
"I just wanted to let you know, I'm here," said Willow. "I stayed behind." She fidgeted, shifting from foot to foot, not really sure what else to say.
"You should have gone," said Elizabeth, quietly. "I wanted you to feel all cool and superhero-y and stuff."
Relief crashed across Willow as she heard the familiar voice. "Elizabeth, you're… you're talking again!"
Elizabeth didn't reply.
"Or… not," said Willow. "I guess I shouldn't have pushed my luck."
Elizabeth gave a sobby laugh.
Willow rested a hand flat against the door. "Elizabeth, I'm sorry I didn't go. I just wanted to make sure you were okay."
"I don't deserve friends like you," Elizabeth whispered.
"Well, yeah, you do!" Willow protested. "Because you're good and nice and you really care about us, and we're just really caring about you, too. And we don't know what happened to make you like this, but we all really want to help."
"It's just been… hard," Elizabeth said. "Since… you know. I came back. Four years travelling, and dropped off two years in my own past. Dealing with everything. Karanon and Fortupin and… Iphidrin. All that blood, Will, all that screaming and death…" She took a deep breath. "I thought that would be the hardest thing. But then, when Mom died, it was just…" She trailed off, and Willow waited for several long moments, but Elizabeth never continued.
"You know you can tell me anything," Willow urged. "I mean, I don't want to pry, but it's pretty obvious to all of us that something happened in your world that you don't like talking about, and since, you know, you think our world's great compared to your world, even though our world has the Hellmouth and demons and stuff, whatever happened there has to be pretty bad, and—"
"I wish…" Elizabeth started, but she didn't finish.
Willow faltered. "Could you phrase that so it doesn't have the 'wish' word in it?" she hazarded. "Because wishing leads to vengeance demons and yucky stuff."
Elizabeth's sobs increased. "I just want my friend," she said, between sobs. "That's all I want."
"You mean the friend you were telling me about, before?" Willow asked. "Because… he could still be alive, you know. I mean, anything's possible."
"He's not," said Elizabeth. "And if he is, I'll probably have to kill him." And that made her cry even harder.
Willow tried to shush her, but it was sort of a hard thing to do through a door. "Why?" Willow asked. "Who's your friend?"
"You're never going to believe me," said Elizabeth.
"I've been living on the mouth of Hell my whole life," Willow told her. "I'm pretty sure I'll believe you."
Elizabeth's sobs quieted. "You know how vampires aren't really people anymore?" asked Elizabeth. "Because their souls go all poof, and a demon sets up shop in their bodies instead? Well, my friend… has a soul. A human soul. But he's still a vampire."
Willow couldn't even speak for a moment, she was so stunned. Because of course, it was totally obvious, why hadn't she thought of that right away? After all, who else would Buffy call for, in the middle of her worst hour?
"Angel?" Willow asked.
The sobbing stopped completely. There was silence from the other side of the door.
"Elizabeth," said Willow, "this friend of yours. It's Angel, right?"
"Angel's here?" she asked, in a very small voice.
"Yeah," said Willow. "I mean, he isn't here
here, but he's just down in LA. I have his phone number."
"He… he has a soul?" Elizabeth asked. "He's not all evil-killy Angel, right?"
"No, he's good old normal soulful Angel," said Willow. "If I get you his number, will you come out?"
Elizabeth said nothing for a moment. Then, "I can't."
Willow felt her face drop. "Why not?"
"I'm… scared," Elizabeth confessed.
"Well, if you let me in, maybe I can help you not be scared anymore," Willow offered.
"Don't come in."
"What are you scared of?" Willow asked. "Was it that guy you met, this morning?"
Elizabeth said nothing for a moment. Then, in a small voice: "Can you give me the number? For… Angel, I mean? Could you slide it under the door?"
Willow hesitated, but she decided that this was as much as she was going to get. She went downstairs to look up Angel's number.