Okay, apparently, at this point, Angel is in Tibet. But I'm just going to ignore that, and pretend that Angel is in LA, and now Sunnydale.
(Usually, I hate it when I do this in crossovers, because it's sort of lazy, but oh well.)
Next chapter, everything explodes. And then the Doctor shows up... hehehe...
It was a phone call Angel had never, ever, in a million years expected.
"Hello?" he said.
"Angel?" came Buffy's voice. "Is that really you?"
If Angel had had any breath, he wouldn't have been able to breathe. Because this wasn't the Buffy-bot. This was Buffy. Real, actual Buffy. He could tell.
"Buffy?" he asked. "I… I heard you…"
There was sobbing from the other end of the phone, and Angel felt his heart break.
"I told you to find me!" Buffy shouted at him, through her tears. "I told you to meet me! And you never came. You never showed up. I've been waiting for you for so long, and you never, ever showed up!"
"Showed up?" Angel asked. "Showed up where? What—"
"1997!" Buffy cried. "Sunnydale! I told you to find me, remember? Back when I gave you that Dalek weapon. Why didn't you come? Why didn't you see me again? I've been so alone!"
And that was when it hit Angel who this was. And it hit him like a ton of bricks. For a moment, he couldn't even form words.
"You didn't have to give me the message," came the voice from the other end. "I just needed you, here. I needed you around. You don't know what it's been like, having to face everything on my own. You, you…" she trailed off, and sniffed. "You don't know what I'm talking about, do you? Of course you don't. None of that happened in this timeline. You're just normal Angel, and you never—"
"Elizabeth?" Angel asked.
Elizabeth said nothing.
"Elizabeth, that's you, isn't it?" he asked.
"Yeah," said Elizabeth, in a quiet voice.
Angel tried to ask fifty questions at once, but that didn't really work with his voice-box. Eventually, his brain settled on one he could vocalize. "How?"
"I don't know," said Elizabeth. "I just wound up here. Why are you
"I did what you told me," said Angel. "1997. Sunnydale. I met you exactly when and where you told me to. I gave you the message. Apparently, that was paradoxical enough to flip me into this timeline. I've been here ever since."
"So… there's another Angel wandering around?" asked Elizabeth. "Like, an evil-killy one?"
"As far as I know, there's just me," said Angel. "I think I started bleeding through in 1898, until I flipped over. This timeline's Angel? I'm pretty sure he's dead." Angel frowned. "I guess, when I flipped, I sort of erased him and shoved myself in his place."
"That's what you call a rewrite," said Elizabeth.
"Tell me about it," said Angel. He sighed, and leaned back in his chair. "Look, Elizabeth, I know you're confused and probably a little bit scared — even if you won't admit it. But don't worry. We can fix this. Willow and Anya have sent misplaced people into the correct timeline before. They'll get you back home."
"I don't want to go back," said Elizabeth.
Angel froze. Oh. He really, really should have expected this.
"Elizabeth," he said, in a soft voice, "how long have you been here?"
Angel was pretty sure he knew the answer already. He'd noticed the temporal jumps. He'd noticed the sudden increase in unnatural phenomena. He just really, really hoped that his hunch was wrong.
"About two weeks," said Elizabeth, sheepishly.
Nope. His hunch was spot on.
Angel shook his head. "Oh, Elizabeth, you know what you're—"
"I'll make them stop," Elizabeth whispered into the receiver. "I promise, I'll find a way to make the jumps stop. It's just — Angel, this is a new future. What I saw in 2003 doesn't have to happen anymore! Not here!"
Angel thought he could work out why she was whispering. He guessed that there was someone nearby, trying to listen in on their conversation. Good, so she wasn't alone. Buffy's friends must be looking after her. But that wasn't the most important thing, right now. The most important thing was figuring out how to deal with this situation, and fast.
Before things got a whole lot worse.
"Okay," he said. "Elizabeth. Listen. I'm in LA right now, but I'll be up in a few hours. Okay?"
"I'll see you soon," Angel told her, and hung up. He didn't know how long he had. He might already be too late. But he knew that he had to try. Because if Elizabeth didn't return home, soon, then everyone was in trouble.
When they came back from the meeting, everyone was ecstatic.
"Xander was amazing!" Anya said. "Everyone loved it. Tell her, Xander."
"What can I say?" said Xander. "I put on the Xander charm, and everything worked. The whole town is in major take back the night spirit."
Tara went over and kissed Willow. "Did you find out anything?"
Willow nodded, and took Tara's hands in hers.
"You found out something?" Xander asked. He sat down on the couch, and leaned forwards, elbows on his knees. "Did she tell you what was wrong?"
Willow took a deep breath. "Okay," she said. "She's not coming out of the room, because she's afraid. Something about those four Hell years she won't talk about. And she knows Angel! No, not just that. Angel knows her. I mean, I don't get how or anything, but from overhearing their phone conversation and stuff… I'm pretty sure Angel knows Elizabeth. This Elizabeth. And Elizabeth says she's not letting herself out of her room until Angel gets here."
"Angel's coming?" Xander asked. He threw up his hands into the air. "Well, that's just great. As if we didn't have enough to deal with, let's all invite the crazy ex-boyfriend, too!"
"Willow, do you think this is a good idea?" Tara asked. "If she's feeling crowded, one more person isn't going to help."
"The only reason she stopped crying was because Angel was coming," said Willow. "And besides. If he knows Elizabeth, he'll be able to explain what, exactly, is going on. And what she's so afraid of."
"Maybe it's a really Big Bad," Tara said. "And she knows it's coming. Like, prophecy dreams and stuff."
"But the Beth-ster isn't afraid of monsters," said Xander. "I mean, not like this."
"Which means whatever it is that's got her this freaked out," said Willow, "it's not a monster. It's something way, way worse."
The moment they heard a car pulling up outside, Willow sprang to her feet, and raced out to the front of the house. There, she found Angel, getting out of his car, his coattails flying with every step.
"How is she?" Angel asked.
"Still in her room," said Willow. "But she's really happy that Xander's speech went well, and I don't think she's been crying since an hour ago."
Angel glanced over at the house. "I better go talk to her," he said, pushing past Willow.
Willow caught him by the arm. "Angel, wait!"
Angel stopped, and looked back at Willow.
"What's going on?" Willow asked him. "Why do you know Elizabeth? Why's she locked herself in her room, and why's she so scared?"
Angel turned around to face Willow. "I'm assuming you offered to get her back," he said. "But she wanted to stay."
"Yeah," said Willow.
"Do you know why she wanted to?" he asked.
"Well, no, but we're pretty sure she's lost someone who's still alive here," said Willow.
"It's a little more complicated than that," said Angel. "I'll explain later, but if we don't get her back to her world, bad things are going to happen. And it's not going to stop with the time jumps. I'm guessing the longer she's here, the worse it's going to get."
"You mean Elizabeth is causing the—?"
"Yes," said Angel.
Willow shook her head. "I don't even know how I'm going to tell her."
"She knows," he said, as he turned and walked into the house.
Willow chased after him. "What do you mean, she knows?"
Angel burst through the door, and confronted Anya, Xander, and Tara in the living room, all huddled around the couch, ears to the window, trying to listen in on Angel and Willow's conversation. They all sprang up from the couch, and tried to look innocent. Willow came in to join them.
"You should all know this," said Angel, very softly. "Because it affects all of you. Elizabeth's a truly wonderful human being, and I know you're probably all attached to her, but she doesn't belong here. The longer she remains in this timeline, the worse things are going to get. You've already seen that. Since she arrived, time's been jumping around like crazy, and the balance between good and evil has been fluctuating between extremes on a minute-to-minute basis."
"Yeah? And what makes you the expert on time jumps, Mister Vampire Undead Guy?" asked Xander.
"Nothing," said Angel. "But since Elizabeth's arrived here, everything's been going crazy, and I'm guessing there's a connection."
"But… maybe there isn't!" said Willow. "Maybe everything that's happening is just a coincidence, and we don't really have to send her back."
"How do you know Elizabeth, anyways?" Tara asked.
"What? No — look, none of that's important," said Angel, slightly confused. "What's important right now is making sure this gets fixed before things get worse. You guys assemble everything we need for a temporal fold, and I'll go talk to Elizabeth."
"So you're asking us to send her back to whatever Hell Dimension we've rescued her from?" Xander asked.
Angel stared at them. "Hell dimension?"
"She hasn't given us enough details to figure out which one," said Anya. "But we're pretty sure it's one of the really, really bad ones."
"We're not sending Buffy — I mean, Elizabeth — back to Hell," said Willow, crossing her arms. "That's final."
"She wasn't in a Hell Dimension!" Angel said. "Her Sunnydale doesn't even have a Hellmouth. Where could you possibly—?"
"How about those mysterious four years she won't ever talk about?" Xander said. "The four years of death and blood and screaming? Elizabeth thinks the Hellmouth is child's play next to what she went through, then."
Angel just gaped at them. "You haven't figured it out, yet?"
"Figured what out yet?" asked Tara.
"Either you're all under a really powerful spell," said Angel, "or you're willfully overlooking a lot of very large clues about what's been going on in Elizabeth's life." He shook his head. "Look, we don't have time to argue. Just trust me on this. If Elizabeth doesn't go home, things are going to get far, far worse. Not just for the world, not just for the universe, but for Elizabeth. And I'm not going to let Elizabeth get hurt. Not again." He turned, and started to race up the stairs.
All the rest of the Scoobies looked at one another.
"Should we do it?" asked Xander.
"I guess we have to," said Tara. "For the world."
Willow looked down at the ground. "It's not fair," she muttered. "It's like… killing Buffy, all over again."
Xander sighed, then came over to comfort Willow. "Look, Will, it'll be okay," he said. "We'll get the stuff together, and if Elizabeth thinks it's a good idea, we'll send her back. Otherwise, we'll find another way. No one's killing Buffy again." He hesitated. "Not that I'm saying Elizabeth is Buffy or anything."
Willow looked down at the ground. And decided Xander was probably right.