"Fated..."

PG-13

Summary: A little post-Chosen, post-Destiny adventure...

Disclaimer: All BTVS characters remain the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and all other owner/creators of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series...

Archived at the "normal" Buffyverse (Note the quotes!) page of the Buffy Rebecca verse, www.angelfire.com/zine2/buffyrebecca/index.html

Spoilers for Angel to "Destiny": Fly, my lords! Fly! There is no tarrying here!...Unless you wish to learn that which you do not care to...









Play theme

Part I...

Spike stalked down the hall...Loyal employees of the new Wolfram-Hart, now rather used to the Blonde One's rants, scattering...Waving his hands in rage...He threw open Angel's office door... "What the hell does this mean, poof?!!..." He thrust a memo at Angel...Hello, Winifred...Harmony...he nodded curtly to the ladies...Junior poofs...He gave Gunn and Wesley a nod...

"Look at this!...Not that it's gonna slow me down a bit...But what the hell are you doing to me?...After I saved your bloody poof body and your whole bloody poof law firm?..."

"It's just a precaution, William..." Wesley eyed the memo... "We're still not clear as to why the senior partners restored..."

"So now that I'm finally ready to go and take the chance?...You've given orders for me to be kept here...In this building and this rotted city?!...Indefinitely?!..."

Again not that that will stop me for a second...But this other thing...

"All my accounts...Including company charge and my own personal ATM and bank account...Are frozen?!"

"It's just a precaution, Spike...As Wes said...Just till we get a handle on what's up here..."

"Listen, you feeble imitation of Christ...I'll beg, borrow, steal...And kill any of your moron underlings who try to stop me...Hell, I'm still a vamp...I'll walk and swim to England if I must..."

Dammit, come on Angel...he sighed... "You gave her up years ago when you left Sunnydale...Don't hand me that crap about the curse...You could've stayed with her...Helped her...I did, even with poor ole Spike running the show...Be fair...You don't love her the way I do..."

Angel rose, glaring...Hmmn...Harmony watched contentedly...Always nice to see the boss in kill mode...

"Don't you...You little mass-murderer...Tell me..." he began...An aide entered and signed to Wesley...

Yes...Wesley picked up a phone...

"What?...Who?..." he stared at the two vampires, Angel now moving from behind his desk, Spike taking a "take all comers" position in the center of the office... "Wait Angel, Spike!..."

"Buffy is here..."

***

Wesley, Gunn, Winifred, and various staffers and a very content William stood by Buffy in Angel's office...Angel a bit slumped in his chair as Buffy continued in rant mode...Clearly not too pleased with her former...

She glared at Angel..."I can't believe you, you bloody stupid..."...(England's had a good effect on her, Spike noted to Fred)..."Angel?!...How could you not tell me William was back?!...He could've been dragged off to Hell!!...And I coulda had Willow working on this corporeal thing the first day!!!..."

He glanced at his staff...His loyal staff of devoted friends...For support...

Fred eyeing him a bit coolly...Was wondering about that myself...

"Buffy...I thought it was for the best if..."

"Ok..." she waved a hand, cutting him off... "Look...We need an office or something to ourselves...William and me?...We got a lot to talk over..."

"This one'll do just fine..." she eyed Angel coldly...Ummn...sure, he nodded...I can let you have it for a bit...Spike watching, an evermore contented look on his face...

"Thanks, bye...We'll all get together later ok...?" she glanced at the others, now staring at Angel as he grabbed a few essentials off his desk... "Giles and the new Council have some questions for you guys..."

Take your...She slammed the door on Angel as he paused...Thanks, bye...she repeated...And turned to Spike...A careful look...

A lot to talk over?...Fred eyed Wesley, Gunn...And finally Harmony...Who shrugged...

"Buffy Summers never seemed the 'talking' kind to me..."

Mmmmphf...Spike gasped and staggered a bit as Buffy released him from her embrace...Even for a non-breathing vampire, a ten minute Slayer lip-lock was an exhausting experience...

"Will...Oh, William..." she stared at him... "Tell me it's true...This isn't a trick...A lie by the First?..."

You're really here...Still here...she breathed...Touching his face gently... "I didn't lose you...Oh, William..." she started to tear...

Oh...She looked at his hands...Taking one gently... "Andy told me..." she began, looking at the deep scar where the hand had been reattached..."Oh, Will...My poor Will..."...She kissed the hand... "Oh, why didn't you call?...Come right away?..."...she looked at his staring, rather overwhelmed face...

Buffy...he patted her gently...Mmmmmphff...As she grabbed him again... "Let me say it, Will...At last...For the first time...I love you...I do..." she sighed...And pulled him to the floor...

***

So...Angel nodded as he stood with the staff in the hallway... "We've settled things in the Crenshaw case and the tobacco companies are agreeing to pay up...Great...Any other items to go over, guys?"

Several eyed his locked office door...From which a few loud, brief, gasping sounds had been heard but nothing else for nearly twenty minutes...

"I need a new blood source..." Harmony waved a hand... "My stuff comes from cows and I saw a piece on 60 Minutes that said mad cow disease was on its way here...And I'd like a raise..."

"Your blood's the same as mine...Checked and irradiated..." Angel replied... "And you haven't been on the job here long enough...Talk to me next quarter if we're still making out well..."

Hmmn...Harmony frowned...A non-souled vamp who does a professional job oughta make professional pay...she thought...Looking at the door...

"They oughta be done by now...It never takes Spike more than fifteen minutes even with the soul..." she noted to Fred...

The door opened...Hey...Buffy grinned...Hair a bit...Moved...Wesley noted...

"Sorry to keep you outta your own office, Angel...Lots of things to discuss..." she smiled...Spike standing behind her...A brief, pleasant smile at the frowning Angel...She stepped out into the hallway, William following quietly...

"Will's going back to England with me...After I look over a few things here..." she began... "Ummn...I guess the best way is to say it out quick...He's gonna be staying with me..." she beamed at the shocked group...As Spike punched her from behind, grabbing at her back...Sparks flying as she collapsed forward...

"Spike!!..." Angel leaped at him...Throwing him back...But reigning himself in as he did so, seeing the sparks and now a large mass of wiring and melted plastic at "Buffy"'s back...Wesley and Fred calling to him...

William picked himself off the floor...Harmony stared at the writhing "Buffy"...Gee, I always thought Buffy wasn't human...Such coldness when she killed our kind...Never any sympathy unless they had a soul or something...

"It's another cyborg, Angel..." Wesley told him as he came over...Angel nodding...Eyeing the twisting cyborg on the floor with Wes...Spike joining them...

"You knew?..." Fred looked at him...William?...The cyborg moaned...Wesley and Gunn moved to secure it...

"She told me she loved me...That she was finally ready to say it...Though she had most of it right, that wasn't true..." he sighed, looking at the copy... "Buffy told me back in the cavern, before I died..." he paused...

Of course...I had to be absolutely sure...And while she shags well, it wasn't quite that 'end of the universe' thing we shared...he smiled faintly at Angel...

"If you killme...William..." the cyborg struggled to turn over... "Buffy dies..."

"Right..." Spike grinned... "I really believe you and your plastic pals have my girl at death's door...Frankly, I feel sorry for you lot...If you even have her at all...When she finds out what you and your masters have done..."

"We have no... 'Masters'...William..." the cyborg, now allowed to sit up a bit...Eyed him...A sad Buffy smile...Kill that magics glam will you?...Spike noted with a frown to Wes...Who summoned an assistant...

"Your friends Wesley and Winifred must have realized by now that we are not machines...Merely enhanced...Capable of independent action..."

"And, clearly...Of stealing memories and personality..." Spike glared...Mmmn...Well, the cyborg shrugged...

"But you failed with this one...Somehow..." he paused... And eyed Angel...

"She did it, Angel...Buffy...She implanted that memory, thought, whatever...To warn me..."

She knew I'd catch on...he beamed...

"Does that mean Buffy really is a prisoner of...These?..." Wes looked at him...

"God help them if she is...If they're still alive back at their home base...Still..." Spike frowned... "There is the Nibs...That fool Harris...And ole Gilesy and Willow...They could be holding any of them as well...And that might make Buf hesitate..."

"We aren't your enemies, William..." the cyborg tried...Hmmn...Funny way of showing that, lass...he noted coldly...

"I talked to Rupert just the other day..." Wesley noted... "But I could have our people in London check..."

"Lets take the direct approach..." Will shook his head...Grabbing and lifting a moaning 'Buffy' by inserting his hand into the gaping hole in her back...

"Don't...Oh....William!!..." she groaned... "Please, darling...There's so much of her in me now...You can't..."

"Spike might have considered you an alternative...Not William..." he frowned... "Talk...Where is my Buffy..." (His Buffy?...Angel glared...) "...And who else of her family do you have...?"

Angel?...We are a legal firm, supposedly now on the Light side more or less?...Gunn eyed his boss... "Boss?...Torture maketh for a grand lawsuit...?" he hissed...Hmmn...Angel nodded... "Spike...?"

"They'll kill me...William...They're monitoring me...I can't tell you...Please..."

"Check that out..." Angel turned to Wes and Fred... "Better wait, Spike...She might be telling the truth..."

Yeah...He pulled his hand out carefully, setting 'Buffy' down gently...She looked up at him...Whimpering a bit...Not exactly your standard Borg type, are we, love?...he looked down at her...

"I told you...I'm still human...Just enhanced...Please don't let them hurt me...I have Buffy's memories, Will...I..."

"If you want me not to hurt you myself...Don't remind me that your makers stole her memories..." he told her coldly...

"Just tell me how it was done...That won't get you into too much trouble, right?..."

"She wasn't harmed...It was a simple psychic probe..." the cyborg stared at him...Pleading...

"But she must have been aware of it...To warn me like that..."

"I don't know...I was given her data on memory and personality, my instructions, and sent out...Guess they musta screwed it up somehow..." she tried a wan smile...

"Guess so..." he replied coldly...Geesh...A frown on her face...And after we just had such a nice time...she thought...

Fred looked up from the laptop her staff assistants had brought in...

"There was a microwave signal...We've blocked it...I think she can talk now..."

"So..." Spike eyed her... "Lets here what you have to say..."

"I love you..." she stared at him...and closing her eyes, died...

***

Part II...

"Will?...Please, you're getting in my way..." Winifred gently moved Spike back a bit from the dead cyborg 'Buffy'...Oh...Sorry...He looked at her...But continued to hold the dead 'girl''s hand...Which he'd been holding since she'd died an hour ago...

Poor thing...he murmured...Eyeing the cyborg again...No longer quite a Buffy in appearance with her magics cover spell stripped away...And yet, she...It...Had clearly been a young woman...About Buffy's age, weight, and height...Perhaps even...A more genuine blonde...Judging by what real hair was still on her...

"Winifred, you're sure...?"

"It wasn't you, Will...She was designed to die if captured...They made sure she wouldn't tell us anything..."

Right...He absently stroked the dead hand in his...

"But you can get something...?"

"If you'll let me be, William...I don't know if there's a memory bank in here I can access...But even some clue as to who manufactured the components might...Hello..." she eyed a small unit imbedded in the skull... "This must be how they loaded her up with Buffy's memories..." she noted... "A direct plug into the cerebral cortex and probably every brain area associated with memory...Stuff it in and presto...She's Buffy or a reasonable facsimile..."

"No...Never..." he shook his head... "Still, nice version of speed learnin'...But no way to take out info?..."

"Maybe...The brain is amazingly well-preserved...Where it wasn't fried by whatever self-destruct was in there...In fact..." she frowned, peering through a microscope at some tissue she'd cut loose... "The brain's a little too well-preserved...You know, I'd say this lady was dead already..."

"Human dead?...Or..."

"Can't say just yet...I..." she jumped back as the cyborg moved...

"...Pig, Mr. Gordo...My mom's name's Joyce Summers..." 'Buffy' said clearly...Slurring just a bit on the "Summers"...

William tensed, but the cyborg simply trembled a bit...He looked at Fred who'd pressed an alert but was now cautiously examining 'her'... "I don't think she's...functional...Maybe some automatic systems are still working...Keeping her moving a little..."

"Yeah?..." he sighed, looking over the still trembling body... "Sounds...Pretty much like me..." he gave a wan smile, eyeing his friend carefully a moment...

"Maybe even, like me...Somebody loved her once..."

"I'm sorry...I didn't mean it that way..." Fred paused, embarrassed... It's ok...He waved a hand... "Lets just not forget she wasn't all machine...Who- or what- ever she was once..."

Angel and Wes entered the lab, followed by several security guards...

"It's ok guys..." Fred raised a hand... "Our borg Buffy just decided to say a few words from the grave...I think I accidently started a few residual systems..."

"...ssssSpike was so kind to Dawn..."

Wes jumped a little...Angel staring at the cyborg, then Fred and William...

"Dawn Summers is my sister...She has brown..."

"Can't you turn her off?..." William looked at Fred... "Let the poor thing rest in peace?..."

"We might be able to access something now..." she noted... "Can she answer questions?..." Angel suggested...

"No, there's no consciousness now...She's just repeating some of the data they stuffed into her...But..." Fred looked at her diagnostic computer, wired now into the 'borg's main systems... "We might be able to get her to..."

"...He saved my life...My soul...I wouldn't have made that year without..." the cyborg spoke...Angel eyeing William...Still stroking the "girl's" hand...

"It sounds almost like she's talking to someone..." Wes noted...Yeah...Fred nodded thoughtfully... "Or maybe Buffy was...While they scanned her psychically somehow...Let me try and see if I can stimulate any other surviving..."

"...Please...let...die...Stake me, please..."

Will looked at Fred...No...She shook her head... "Just memory traces...But these are definitely not Buffy's..."

Wes looked at Angel...A vampire?...

"...Yes...I want..." a wan sigh... "No, please...Let me go!...Help!!..." the cyborg trembled again... "Oh, God...What are you?!...Let go...No!!...No....Ahhh!..."

"Enough, Winifred!..." William cried sharply... "She's suffered enough!..."

"...I don't even remember my mother's face..." 'she' murmured... "...Anything, anything...I just want to live again...Please..." she was still...

"That's all I can get...There's nothing else left..." Fred looked at the others...

"Let her be...Poor, poor thing..." Will released the cyborg's hand...He looked up

"Angel?...I'd say our guest here was a member of an exclusive club...Vampires restored to a kind of Humanity...A little different route from ours, but..."

"Guys?..." Fred interrupted suddenly... Pointing at the corpse... "I think you were right, Will..." She backed away from the body... The corpse glowed a bit...And crumpled to ashes...And a collection of electronic parts...

"Do you really think?..." Angel turned to Winifred... "She...It...Was a vampire?...Before..."

"She was one of us Angel...That much is obvious...Till someone or something offered her a crack at a kind of Humanity..." Will shook his head... "Lovely idea, eh?...Offer some poor vamp a chance at life again...As a half-human cyborg spy with someone else's memories stuffed into her..."

"Who...?" Wes stared...

"Some one with a droll sense of humor, no doubt...But I think I can hazard a guess as to the overall group..." Will noted... "Winifred?...Any chance the technology is good ole US of A?..."

"The components aren't marked as to manufacture...No serial numbers or anything...But yeah, they generally follow American cybernetic designs..."

"Well..." he sighed... Pulling a small envelope out of a pocket... "Here...See if it's at similar to this..." he shook out a tiny square into the hand she stretched out... "Is that?..." Fred stared at the chip in her hand...

Yeah... "A souvenir..." Will smiled... "Check it against her stuff, would you?..."

"The Initiative?..." Angel looked at him... "Or some one using their data on underdwellers and the Undead..." Will nodded... "Plus a few of their ole test subjects, I'd bet..." he eyed the remains...

"There is a new Initiative, Willow mentioned it when she was here..." Wes noted...

"Yeah, I've met them...They were kind enough to dig my chip out once and for all..." Will eyed the remains... "Well, best to try and see if we can get hold of dear ole Riley Finn while we're trying to get a line on Buffy..."

"Surely Riley wouldn't have sanctioned something like this?..." Wesley looked at the remains...Winifred now carefully disconnecting her computer link and diagnostic equipment from 'Buffy'...And slipping the chip into a scanning microscope's specimen tray...

"The circuitry is very similar..." she noted...

"I doubt if his grocery clerk bosses care much about our Riley-boy's moral scruples..." Will shook his head... "But it may be someone simply using their results..."

"What was your story, eh love...?" he sighed at the ashes and components... "You were so desperate to live again you even accepted being a copy of someone else?...God rest your poor soul, dear heart..."

"We still have a few of the prisoners we captured when they attacked before..." Wes suggested... "Maybe we should be talking to them..." Yeah...Will nodded...Winifred?...he turned to her...

"You'll see they don't vacuum the poor kid up and throw her in the garbage?...Give her ashes a decent resting place?..." She nodded... "I'll try to break the systems left down and see if there's any info on who she was..." "Thanks..."

"And someone is trying to reach my girl in Europe?..." he eyed Wes sternly...

"We should hear shortly..."

What?...William looked at a frowning Angel... "I step on your hair ends or something?..." he grinned...

"I'm still giving the orders round here, Spike..."

By all means, poof...he waved a hand...

"Wes, lets go see our guests...And see we're informed the moment we get something from Europe..." Angel commanded...

"Now that's what makes you such a successful and unindicted as yet CEO, Angel..." Will noted as all but Fred headed out the lab door... "I couldn't have come up with a better plan myself, boss..."

***

Much to their collective surprise, the group...William, Wesley, Angel, rejoined now by Gunn...Found the several surviving cyborg prisoners quite willing to confirm what they'd just learned...Some of them, though not all were in fact semi-humans restored from vampire essences...By their organization...

"Whoever our sister was...She was right, gentlemen..." one noted... "Our people are not your enemies...Though our leaders are suspicious of Angel and his group...We obviously know vampires and their natures well...And we don't have full confidence in one as close to the edge of darkness as Angel is..."

"Suddenly rather eloquent aren't you?...You lot have been quiet enough these past few..." William eyed the self-appointed spokesman...

"Nothing you've asked about we're required to keep secret, Mr. Walthrop...Believe me, anything our organization doesn't want you to know, we physically can't tell you..."

"That includes the name of your group?..." Angel stared at him... "I'm afraid so Angelus..." the cyborg nodded... "Sorry...Angel..." 'he' corrected...

"Have your people taken Buffy and her family?!...If so, where...?!" William demanded...

"I don't know...It's probably not information any of us needed to have..."

"Can you get...?" "Spike, damn it!...Let me handle this!..." Angel interrupted...

"Can you get in touch with your people?...Tell them we want to negotiate...At least meet with them?..."

"Not directly...But if you'd care to let me or one of us go..." the cyborg attempted a smile...Rather ghastly on the skinless face... "All right, tell them..." William began... "Spike!!..." "Fine, fine...Just tryin' to cut to the chase...Don't let your spikey hair go limp, boss..." he shrugged...

"All right...We'll let you go with a message...Tell your leaders..." Angel began...

"Buffy...And family!...Released today!...Unharmed!...Or by the God I'm newly able to again swear by!!..." "Dammit, Walthrop!!..." "Oh, bloody hell!!...Then get on with it, poof!...My girl's loved ones could be in danger!...And I damned well stand to end up looking rather like you in her eyes if we don't get a move on!!..."

***

"Spike?...Will you stop pacing?...It's only been ten minutes since our messenger left..." Gunn noted... "Even a cyborg's barely had time to leave the building..."

William paused...

"Mr. Gunn's right, Spike..." Harmony chimed in from her desk... "And even our kind would need more time to drain and transform Buffy and anyone with her..."

Though of course, they might have started the killing or torture as soon as their phony Buffy was taken...she thoughtfully reflected...And that would have been plenty of time...

"Thanks for your input, Harmony..." Gunn sighed...As Will glared at her...Then shook his head... "My Buf's in no danger, I'm sure...Not a girl who could wipe out the First and a hell goddess...It's the others I'm worried about..."

"I don't know..." Harmony shook her head... "They must have had access to Buffy for that borg to get her memories...And Buffy wouldn't have had all her friends with her like she usually does when facing hopeless odds...You, for example, Spike...She might have been ambushed on her lonesome..."

I nearly did that to her once...If only my minions...er, fortunately my minions...she corrected...Weren't up to snuff...

"Again, Harm...Thanks..." Gunn led William away, down the corridor to Wes' office... "Anytime..." she nodded...

"You know she means well..." Gunn began as they walked...

"Yeah..." Will nodded... "Which is rather terrifying in a way, considering she's neither souled nor chipped...One wonders what she'd be like with either..."

***

Two hours later...Wes' office...

"Maybe I should go out, hook up with Angel and help bash...er coax... A little info out of our city's underworld populace..." William noted as he sat in a chair next to Wesley's desk...Feet again on Wesley's desk following the third request to have them removed... "Angel can handle it, Will...And one of you should be on hand here...Our people in London should have something soon even if our plastic friends refuse to deal..."

And if you wouldn't mind...Mr. Walthrop?...he eyed the feet...Hmmn?...Oh, sorry...

"It's instinctual...Not Spikean contempt, Wyndham-Price..." he noted, a faint smile...Lowering his feet to the floor and standing...

"That's good...Else I'd have to take it as a symbolic vampiral act of disrespect and following time-honored Watcher tradition, immediately cleave your head from your neck...Or at least have it done for me..."

The advantage of being a senior partner...he smiled... "Sounds like a soft existence, poof junior..." Will grinned back...Tell me you lot still do get your own hands bloody now and then...

"Demonically I mean..."

On occasion...Wyndham-Price nodded in turn...

"I honestly think they'll negotiate William...If the reports we've been getting on them are true...We may even find them allies...Of a kind..."

Hmmn...

"You're not entirely sorry to hear about these people...Are you, Wesley?..." William stared at him...

No...Will...I'm not...he agreed... "If they really are basically on the same side...It's a major potential help for Angel...All of us...If we can ever manage to negotiate with them..."

"But more important...I rather like the idea of humans...Ordinary, non-super-human humans, that is...Fighting and winning some of these battles themselves..." he smiled... "The Council may have been foolishly wrong at times as a whole, and contained many weak individuals from time to time, but it was a group of humans acting together...Quite successfully for many centuries...I rather think your Buffy prefers to forget that the Slayer was their creation...In a moment of panic and quite honestly, brutal abuse when the hybrid demon-human vampires threatened to overcome the ancient world...But the Slayer was the result of human ingenuity and ability..."

"The simple truth is William...I don't care much for the notion of putting our utter faith and trust in some 'savior of Humanity'...Grateful as I am for Angel's...and Buffy's...Leadership and abilities...And much as Angel is my friend and proud as I am to fight with him...I watch him..."

He smiled...

"If I were religiously inclined I'd be grateful that Christ opened the door to salvation...But even more grateful that the fight for my soul is still mine to make..."

"You're also not entirely sorry I'm here?...Given my excellent behavior since my whatever the hell it was..." A faint smile...

"You're a help for Angel and the rest of us too...Not to mention almost entertaining to have round...At times..." Wes nodded, giving a wry grin... "But yes, it's good for Angel to know he is not unique...As it probably was for Buffy when the other Slayers were activated...Judging from what Willow and Giles told me about her behavior over the past two years..."

"She was right in the end..." Will looked at him sharply... "They were wrong..."

That time...Wes nodded...And she is a great and compassionate leader, I grant you...But...

"I do not want her to be the Leader...Especially self-imposed as she would be... After all a major part of the struggle for Light the past thousand years has been to win the right for us to rule ourselves...Our people fighting and winning a number of those battles, William...Whatever odd notions and poor sense of history the folks over here may have regards that...I don't want what we've won in that sphere sacrificed in the fight against the Darkness...However much I may trust and love Angel...And Buffy...I do not want them ruling over me...Or the world...However benevolently..."

"And so...I watch him...With admiration, respect, and genuine affection...But I do watch him...And not merely for fear of Angelus' return..."

***

Angel's office...One hour later...

"You're sure about this?..." Angel eyed the staffer who'd brought in grim news from Wes' contact at the New Council offices in London...She shrugged...

"Unless Chairman Giles has the strength of five men...It was a cyborg in his office...It was only lucky that Mr. Dobson had a couple of Slayers with him when he went to see him or we might not have a report..."

"And the cyborg Giles escaped...?" Angel began...

"No trace of Buffy or Dawn...?" William hastily cut in...Angel waving him off...

"No word of them..." she shook her head... "Their flat was empty..."

"Right..." William hit the button on Angel's intercom... "Harmony, have the company lear jet fueled and ready to head for Heathrow Airport...Yes, the England Heathrow..."

"Well, I'm off to merrie ole...Oh, Winifred, I'd like you to come along, too...We'll leave Wes here to hold the fort...Angel?...If you can manage to get your hair care products into a bag and meet me at the garage in ten..." Angel staring...What?...

"C'mon...Get the lead out, poof!...My girl's...Well, her family's, at least...in danger...Come on if you're coming!...Lets get moving, Winifred..." Will pulled her to the door... "Grab or have sent over what you need science-wise to study these things...You can buy what clothes you need in England...Christ, Jr?...Are you going to stand there brooding all day?...Right, then...Call you from England, Wes...Angel?...Time's awasting...If you still want the role of comic relief, see you downstairs..." he pulled Fred out and down the hall...

Angel blinked at Wes...Ummn...

He hit the intercom button... "Yes, William?..." Harmony replied... Oh...Ummn...Yes, sir...she sheepishly replied to Angel's curt correction... "Go ahead and get the jet ready, Harmony...Tell them to wait for me if William gets there first...Have someone make up proper passports and papers for us..."

Hell, at least Spike didn't think of... "William told me to get on that on his way out...You want a set for you too, then?..." YES!!!...he whanged the button...

"Hold the fort, Wes...I'll call you from Europe...Let me...And I mean me...Know if you hear anything in the meantime..."

***

Part III...

A dank, enormous open cavern...Light by torches set in the walls and large candles placed at various points about the chamber...

Dawn and Buffy a bit worse for spending a day in a dank cavern, now confront...It...

"So...At last you two have found me..." the large creature, about eight feet in height beams at them...

"Isn't it delightful, Slayer?...To meet your worst nightmare?...Personified?..."

Dawn eyed Buffy...That?...That's your worst nightmare?...Her look saying...

An eight-foot Barney?...The purple, rather benevolent-looking fellow beamed at them...His voice Barney to a T...

"Actually..." Buffy gave a cold smile, whipping out Mr. Pointy... "Killing Barney has gotta be one of my fondest wishes..."

Aw...Barney sighed, shaking his head... "Now that's just mean...Don't I scare you at all?...After all the trouble I went to to get you two here...I'm feeling really bad now..."

Time for a happy song...he noted...As Buffy moved in...Dawn stepping ahead of her, annoyed now...

"Listen, you overgrown purple pillow!...My hair's a mess, this place is doing a number on my skin, and my clothes are soaking wet!...If you don't want my sis to rip your head off!..."

Oh...Barney gave a frightened look...Wouldn't want that...

"So I'll do it to you first..." he grabbed Dawn with a violent swipe and throwing a charging Buffy back across the cavern, opened his mouth...And shoved Dawn's shrieking head into it...

"Dawn!!!..." Buffy screamed in horror as her sis' headless body hit the cavern floor...Blood spurting...

"I don't like whining, bad-tempered children...I like polite, happy children..." Barney noted...A burp... "Excuse me..."

Buffy tensed for another charge as 'Barney' chuckled...

"What did you think, Slayer?...That I'd take this humiliating form without being guaranteed some damned hefty strength?..." He threw her back again as she raced at him...

"Who are you?!..." she started to pick herself up...Suddenly surrounded by some kind of energy, she collapsed, unable to move...

"Your worst nightmare...I told you..." he grinned... "Oh, and did I mention I came equipped with magics ability?..."

I wouldn't try fighting my field...It draws its strength from you...

"Now, Buffy...You're mine..." he came forward...

"Not quite..." a voice called from the rear of the cavern...Angel...Still wearing the harness of the parachute he'd just used... 'Barney' whirled round...

"Angel!..." Buffy screamed... "Thank God!...Be careful!...He's got magics..."

"But not rhythm..." Spike noted, emerging from the rear behind Angel...

"Hey?..." 'Barney' glared... "I've won the hearts of children everywhere with my dancing..."

And now I'm gonna kill two human-souled vampires, including the famed Angel with my fancy footwork...he smiled...Hurling a ball of pure energy which hit William, flattening him...

Angel carefully moved in...William struggling to rise... "One down..." 'Barney' chuckled...

"He killed Dawn, Angel!!..." Buffy screamed, trying to rise... "Kill him!!!..."

"Aw, come on, Angel..." 'Barney' laughed... "You never liked the whining brat, admit it...That's why you never bothered yourself about her after Buffy died..."

Angel?...Buffy stared...

'Barney' tossed another energy ball...Angel waving a fist in which a small protective orb was enclosed...The energy dispersed...Hmmn...The purple face twisted a bit in disappointment... "Clever of you to bring some protection..."

"Get me up, Angel!..." Will called... Just a moment, Walthrop...Angel called back...Hang in there...

"So...You're our enemy...What or who are you, really?..." Angel eyed the creature...Now within striking distance...

"Just a figment of your worst imagination..." 'Barney' grinned...

"A nightmare, he said!..." Buffy called... "Say, what was that about Dawnie?...You didn't like my sis, Angel?!..."

"And he's never really wanted to commit to you..." 'Barney' smiled...A vicious swipe of his clawed hand just missing Angel...

What?...she stared...

"But you have me, pet...Anytime..." Will called... "The one who's always there for you..."

"Buffy?...We can talk this out later?..." Angel noted, dodging 'Barney' again...

"It's always 'later' with him, isn't Buffy?..." 'Barney' sighed...And charged...Angel hopping to the side and whanging him with a hard blow...OW!!...The 'dinosaur' howled...

And collapsed...Dead...His magics fields round Buffy and William dispersed...

Will looked at Buffy, she at him...They at Angel...

"Vulnerable spot in the neck..." he noted...

"Oh, Angel..." Buffy raced over...Will looking grim now...Ah, well...Damnit...She stopped just beside him...Seeing Dawn's headless body...Oh...

"Sorry about Dawn..." Angel noted...

"Yeah...And what was that about not liking her?...You didn't help her much while I was...gone...you know...Is it true?...Well?..." she glared...

Ummn...Buf...

"It's the responsibility, girl..." Will shook his head, coming over... "You know poof-boy never could handle responsibility...He probably thanks Angelus on bended knee each morn for allowing him to flee having to stay with you...And it's only that he has Wes and co, holding him to the grindstone that he manages to function at the new place...Ask my poor Dru's soul about his sense of responsibility..."

"Yeah..." Buffy glared...

Buffy?...Angel stared...But...

"You never did ask Willow or Giles to try and find a cure for Angelus...Though to be fair, I never did either..." she stood up...

Guess I really wasn't all that interested, myself...she grinned... "Will?...It's so good to see you again!...Thank God...For once..." she took his hand...

Buffy?...Angel stared...Will happily taking her hand, she embraced him... "Angel was a son-of-a-vampiral-bitch not to tell me you were back, darling..." she kissed him...

"Well, lets go...Bye Angel..." she waved... "Have your guys clean Dawnie up, please?...Try and make the funeral if it's not too much... 'responsibility'...for you..."

You know, I really think you'd do better running that firm...she noted to William as they headed out... "I'll speak to Wesley and Giles when we get to London..."

"Only with your help, love..." he smiled... Aw, Will...she grinned... "Now that sounds like commitment..."

"My middle name, girl...Besides Soames..." he grinned back...

Hey?...Angel stared after them...

"Did you know poof boy has a kid?...Oh, right you forgot cause of his spell..." William noted to Buffy... "Couldn't deal with him, so he resorted to a magical evasion...Sold out to Wolfram-Hart..."

"Sounds like him..." Buffy shook her head...

Angel staring...As they walked out of the chamber...

Poooooffff...A faint cry in the distance, trailing...

"Poof?..." William called gently... "Hey, boss..." he shook the sleeping head of Wolfram-Hart...Angel waking with a shudder...What the...?

"We're closing on Heathrow, landing in about ten...The little sign says to put your seat belt on..."

What's up...Had a bad one...? he eyed Angel...Or just a reaction to your new mousse?...

Ummn...Angel blinked...

***

"Fated..."



Part IV...

London, Heathrow Airport...Early evening...

"Dobson?..." Angel eyed the small, dark-haired, fair-complexioned man who was moving towards the group of Angel, a fast-moving William, striding ahead for the gate... "C'mon, poof!"...And a rather weary Fred, trailing behind...Will pulled up short as the man nodded to Angel...

"Great..." he looked Dobson over hastily... "Take us to Buffy and Dawn's place...Angel, you go on to..."

"Spike!...Damnit, I give the orders here!...Dobson, is there anything more on the cyborg you found in Giles' office...? How badly was he damaged?..."

"It surrendered just outside the office, without a struggle after the first bolt...My guess is he just needed a moment or two free to send out a warning by microwave to his people...We've tried to interrogate it...Him...But he's not talking...And with the methods we've been employing...If he could talk...He would..." the small man beamed...Angel staring at him...

"You're referring to skillful interrogation methods based on non-violent persuasion, of course?..."

Ummn...Dobson blinked...Uh... "Yes, sir..." he nodded quickly...

Gee, guess that training video they sent in the mail meant what it said...he thought...

Spike began pacing...Fred trying to hold him down... "We can't sit here all evening..." he began, glaring at Dobson and Angel... "We've already lost too much time..." he noted to Fred who made sympathetic noises...

"Spike...Calm down...Dobson?...It?...Er, he's still alive, though?..." Angel returned to Dobson...Who nodded... "Our people have him secure at the new Council Hall...But there's..."

"Really?...Then take me to him...I'll get him to talk..." William turned to eye the little man...Spike!...Angel put up a hand... "Lets try and do this the right way...And not make matters worse by running into whatever this new group has waiting for us...There's more?..." he looked at Dobson...Afraid so, sir...

"The other new Watchers...And all Slayers who were in the Hall this afternoon...Have left...Vanished...They were gone by the time I had the cyborg secured and confined in a basement holding pen...Excepting the two who escorted me to Mr. Giles and helped me with his copy...And they disappeared after I went to call our office..."

"Sounds like your Wolfram-Hart spy on the new Council let the whole bloody Council slip past him while he was on the phone..." A glare at Dobson...

"Mr. Dobson is not our 'spy' Spike..." Angel began...Well, ok...Before I took over...he thought...

I'm not?...Dobson blinked...This mean no fat bribe this month?...

"He simply acts as a liaison...Since the firm changed hands..."

Uh-huh... "And did Giles or Buffy know about your 'liaison' to their Council?..."

Hmmn...Fred looked at Angel who hesitated...

Does this mean what that Ms. Kendall said over the phone was true and not the usual cool WH cynical denial...That I '...had the gratitude of Mr. Angel and would be receiving his personal thanks' here?...And nothing else?...Dobson thought in panic, while maintaining flawless composure as befitting his years of mole work on the old Council...



"I hadn't had time to coordinate with them..." Angel explained, a trifle lamely... "We...Wes and I thought it was best to let things settle down first...Then later on...When we were sure Buffy and Giles understood the situation in LA and trusted us to handle things with W-H..."

We thought it was wise to maintain a Council source...he turned to Fred...

Oh, God...I have to make do on my Council stipend now?...After all the risks I've been taking?...Dobson groaned inwardly...

"Right..." Spike eyed Angel coldly... "Well...Interesting that it was only your mole boy here who wasn't called away on...what?...The company picnic, you suppose?..."

"He may have just been lucky not to be grabbed..." Fred suggested...

"How many Vampire Slayers were at the Hall?!.." William barked at Dobson...Who flinched a bit but answered... "Ten should have been on active duty...At least fifteen others were on training assignments, though most attend the training center outside London..."

"So there were as many as twenty-five Slayers at least...All snatched in what...?...How long were you tied up tying up your prisoner?..."

"Ummn...At most, twenty minutes...Sir..." he eyed Spike...Who glared at Angel...

"Twenty-five Slayers in twenty minutes...A record to be proud of..."

"They must have left deliberately..." Fred shook her head...

"Were there any signs of a fight?..." Angel asked... Not really, sir...Dobson paused... "Some files disturbed, probably some taken, certain computers seemed to have been wiped...But no real damage..."

"What about that training center?...How many Slayers are there?...Did anyone from the Council building go there?..." Will asked hurriedly... Pulling at Dobson...

"No one..." he replied...Shaking his head... "I called and sent two of our people...The place was abandoned...All personnel gone..."

"So...Everyone connected with Buffy and the Council have just dropped off the face of the Earth?...As of this afternoon..."

"As of the moment the false Giles was informed that the false Buffy had been exposed here..." Fred noted...

"Well...no, sir..." Dobson eyed the fuming Spike... "I've reached members of the new Council around the world including..."

"Angel?..." They whirled as a group to see Willow facing them in the terminal...Small travel bag in one hand, Doublemeat Palace plastic soda cup in the other...

"Spike!!!..." she dropped the soda to put a hand to her mouth...

"Red, thank God..." Will hurried to her... "Hey, Slayer..." he nodded to Kennedy beside her...

"I was afraid they'd bagged the whole lot of you..." "William?!...How?..." Willow stared at him...Backing off a bit from his initial move as if to hug her...

He pulled back...Sorry...

"No, no...Will, I'm sorry..." she sighed...And beamed...Camere...Raising arms, she embraced him...Kennedy eyeing them carefully...

"Buffy will be so glad, Will!...You've no idea..." she told him...Releasing him...And looking him over carefully...



"You still got the soul?...Or have you made it all the way...?"

"Souled still...But still needing to avoid that UV exposure..." he smiled...

"Angel, Fred...It's good to see you guys..." she turned to them...

"Did you...?" Fred looked at her... "Nah, plane...Teleportin' from Rio would be a major navigational hassle...Not to mention the power drain...Mr. Dobson called me early this morning and we headed right out...Say, Angel?...Harmony is your secretary?..." she grinned at him...He nodded, shrugging a bit...

"I called Wolfram-Hart..." she grimaced a bit... "Still a little hard to take, that one, Angel..." her voice hardened a little... "And I don't think Buffy was any too pleased to hear about it..."

"I did what I felt was best for me and my people..." he gave her a steady look... "And I'll be happy to explain the situation to Buffy when we find her..." Willow nodded...And returned to the clearly anxious William...

"How long have you been back, Spike?...God, I still can't believe it...Wait..." she stopped... "Was this some kind of Wolfram-Hart thing?...Some deal?..." she eyed him firmly...

"If they had anything to do with it, I didn't know about it...I'm totally in the dark as to why or how, Red...Except that somehow, I...Or my soul...Or essence...Survived in the amulet Buffy gave me...The one she got from Angel and he from Wolfram-Hart..."

Hmmn... "But how did..."

"Somebody rub your lamp or something?..." Kennedy grinned at him... "Something like that I think...But damned if I know..." he shook his head... "I was a ghost or spirit first for a bit...Then some kind fellow sent me a corporealization spell in the mail...Still haven't received the bill as yet...I guess I got sixty days or something like that to see if I like it..."

Anyway, he waved a hand... "We're here about my..." Ummn... "Our Buffy...And the rest of the lot...Have you and yours got anything?...Any kind of potential lead?..."

"Not since I last talked to Buffy...The other day from Rio...She seemed fine..."

Uh...She noticed the slight fall in William's face... "I mean as fine as she could be, while mourning you, Will...And she did, believe me...You've no idea...Uh..." she looked at Fred who opened a small suitcase... "Nice stuff..."

Thanks...Fred beamed... "Would you and..." Kennedy...Kennedy noted...

"Kennedy...Thanks...Would you and Kennedy hold still a minute while I check you out...?"

Uh...Willow blinked at her...

"Just a precaution, Red..." William explained... "We had a visit from a borg Buffy who wanted me to run away with her...Winifred, your spirit daughter here, brought some stuff to check anyone we met up with...Without my ole built-in demon detector, it's a little hard for us to be sure..."

Yeah, sure...Willow nodded...Fred beginning her check with a quick sweep...

"Spike?...Do you mind?..." Angel fumed... "No prob, boss..." Spike shrugged..."Just anticipating your decisive commands like a good little W-H independent...And I mean independent...Consultant..."

Mmmn...Angel frowned but remained in place...

"Can you confirm they're human?..." "Just a min..." Fred waved a hand...

"Calm down, poof...Winifred has this in hand..." Will smiled... "He gets excited when we let him out of the office these days..." he noted to Willow...

Ah...She nodded...Grinning at the frowning Angel...

"You use a variable EM field for the detector...?" she asked...Fred nodding...Plus infrared/thermal...Should catch any of the components I found in Buffy II...

"Buffy III, actually...Right, Will?..." Willow grinned at him...He looking a bit sheepish now...Fred blinking at both...

"You never told her about our Botty, William?..." Willow shook her head..."Your Botty I should say...Quite a heroic and selflessly devoted girl, Fred...And very fond of a certain blonde bad boy...Poor thing died quite courageously..." she noted solemnly...Casting a little smile at Spike at the end...

"Enough, Red...Well, Willow, Jr.?...Are they ours or no?..."

Willow, Jr...That's so sweet...Willow beamed...Catching Kennedy steadily staring at her...Hey, just accepting my spirit daughter, babe...Like Buffy with Dawn...

"They're human..." Fred nodded... "With a little extra in their EM fields, but nothing borgy...Indicative of their respective special powers, I guess..."

"Vive la difference..." Willow grinned...Hugging Kennedy who beamed at her...Say?...She turned to William...

"Borg Buffy?..."

***

"Fated..."



PG-13

Summary: A little post-Chosen, post-Destiny adventure...

Disclaimer: All BTVS characters remain the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and all other owner/creators of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series...

Archived at the "normal" Buffyverse (Note the quotes!) page of the Buffy Rebecca verse, www.angelfire.com/zine2/buffyrebecca/index.html

Spoilers for Angel to "Destiny": Fly, my lords! Fly! There is no tarrying here!...Unless you wish to learn that which you do not care to...

Part V...



Enroute to the new Watchers' Hall, London...Evening...The group in two taxis, Angel having insisted they stay together for the moment until the situation had cleared...

"So this 'Buffy' seemed a pretty near perfect copy?..." Willow asked Spike, sitting next to her, Kennedy on her left side...

"With the two exceptions I've mentioned, yeah...Though maybe..." he paused...She stared at him...

"She wanted me to go with her...Seemed pretty overjoyed to see me...I suppose I should consider that, along with the 'I love you' for the first time..."

"No..." Willow shook her head... "That would've come from Buffy, Will..." She eyed him firmly...

"You've no idea what she went through...After things calmed down and we really knew we were gonna make it...Your borg was right on the money regards what Buffy would've done on seeing you again..."

Especially if she thought you were in LA, anywheres near Wolfram-Hart...

"Only difference is...She probably would've sent in a task force of Slayers to get you out safely..."

Really?...he smiled at her...

"Heck...We practically had our marching orders..." Kennedy chimed in...

Really, William...Willow nodded... "God, Will...When she hears...Well, when we find her...If she doesn't already know..."

I'm so glad...she paused... "William you don't know how much she needs you...We sure as hell didn't..."

"Well..." he sighed...Not looking at her... "Gotta find her and the others first..."

"We will...C'mon, Will...Buffy?...She's probably kickin' ass right now and just hasn't wanted to stop and check in...She's fine..."

And you got my girl here on hand if need be...Kennedy added, grinning...Hell, she's gotten her back from the dead...

Yeah...He nodded in return...Eyeing Willow carefully a moment, finally a faint smile...

"Speakin' of which, Spike...Ummn...Sorry, William..." Willow apologetically corrected...S'ok...he grinned back...Spike is still a damned good moniker...Keeps the newer employees as well as the junior demon fish from tryin' to kick sand in my face...

"Well...Anyway...Buffy did speak to me about you, Will...She did try to reach you...In Heaven..."

Kennedy looked down at the taxi floor...Willow staring in Spike's face... "She did Will...In fact..." she hesitated...

Yeah?... "So she tried a seance?..." William smiled wanly... "Thanks, Red...That's..."

"She tried to kill herself, William...For your sake..."

"What..." he stared...Kennedy eyeing him, nodded...Yeah...

"Kennedy found her a few nights after we got away from Sunnydale...We'd gone to Cleveland, figuring some of the new Slayers would be pulled in there...There's another Mouth there, did you know?...She was supposed to be sweeping the local area, checking things out..."

"The Cleveland Hellmouth, sure...Not nearly so nice as our ole Sunnydale Mouth, they used to say...It's the new hot spot, eh?..."

"Yeah, though even the few vamps we caught there weren't any too crazy about it...Cleveland, ya know...Anyway...Buffy'd gone on Patrol, supposedly...We'd thought she was fine...Maybe holding things in a little but...Fine..."

Then Kennedy, on Patrol too...Decided to check on her and found her...With some nobody vamp, talking to him...Not fighting...Asking him...

"Hell, you said he seemed as shocked as you were?..." Willow turned to Kennedy who nodded...

"What?...Another vamp therapist?...Giles and the new Council have really got to provide some mental health benefits..."

"Will..." Willow frowned... "She was asking him to make her a vampire..."

What?!...He started to stand up in shock and nearly put his head through the taxi roof...



"She explained it to me later, after Kennedy did a long-distance staking..." she beamed at her girl... "And called in the rest of us to get her home...Though we kept it between ourselves, never told Giles..."

Soul goes to Heaven, Demon takes the body...She figured she'd kill two birds with one stone...She'd be with you in Heaven...At peace with you...And in the few minutes before our little army took her down, we'd get to see that her demon would be every bit as evil as Spike ever was...That not even Buffy could overcome that...

"After that I had to promise to try and reach you in Heaven...Starting that night...To get her to agree not to try it again...Obviously...I failed..." she grinned... "But we'd no idea of the reason..."

And by the next morning...Well...she shrugged... Things had changed...Thirty more Slayers had arrived, drawn by the Cleveland mouth and their natural instinct...More were coming...Confused and desperate for somebody to tell them what to do...And there wasn't even time for her to consider suicide anymore...

"She hasn't mentioned your name to me since...Though I know she's kept trying to summon you...Dawn's caught her at it..."

"Heaven, eh?...Didn't she give the other place a go?...I nearly wound up there as it was..."

No...Willow shook her head...She never believed for a moment you were headed there...Not your soul...

"Which is lucky for us..." she grinned... "As I'm sure she would've had us invade Hell to get you back..."

***

"William?..." 'Giles' stared at him from behind his cell bars... "My God?...I don't believe it...Is it really him, Willow?..." he looked at her...

"Whoa..." she looked at Angel and Will who both stared back... "He is good..."

"Yeah, it's me...And if you don't tell me what this is all about..." William eyed the cyborg, still in 'Giles' face... "Why you were sent to take Giles' place and what happened to him and the others..."

'Giles' put up a hand...While taking off his glasses with the other in a purely Gilesian gesture...

"Buffy will be so happy William...I'm truly glad for this..."

"Yeah, so everyone's been telling me...Buffy will be tickled pink...Now why not tell me where she and the others are and speed the happy moment of our reunion along..."

"I wish I could...Sincerely, William...But..."

"But you weren't programmed with that information...?" Fred, beside Angel suggested...

"I prefer the word... 'Supplied'...Winifred..." 'Giles' noted with a smile... "I'm not a robot, as I'm sure you know..."

"Any chance you were 'supplied' with any useful information?..." Angel asked him a bit testily...

"As to my organization, no...I'm afraid not, Angel...Except that I can assure you that we're neither malevolent or intending harm to any human being..."

"How's about to super-humans and souled unpeople...?" Will eyed him...

"We're neither Buffy's enemies nor yours, Will..." he replied..."At least according to what I know...Which I apologize is so limited..."

"Can I ask?..." Fred paused... "The other one...The Buffy borg...Died when we unmasked her...How come?..."



"I couldn't say, poor thing..." the cyborg shook his head... "I'd assume there was no need for me to be terminated but some danger in letting the other continue...I do assure you, she was a volunteer and was aware she would die if taken..."

"Do you retain any memories?...Your own past?..." Fred tried again... "Nothing except a profound sense of gratitude to those who helped me..." 'Giles' gave an apologetic look as he wiped his glasses and replaced them... "I am aware of what I am, of course...And that this is a chance to redeem myself for terrible things I did in that past, none of which I can remember...But no more than that...I'm truly sorry I can't help you more than that..."

"Angel?..." he turned to him... "I'm sure my organization will contact you...And the reason for my presence and Buffy's and the others' disappearance will be explained...They're in no danger, I'm sure..."

"So far as 'they' allowed you to know..." Will pointed out coldly... "The fact that your 'people', or whatever they are, found it necessary to replace the world's greatest Slayer and her Council Chairman with their own agents doesn't exactly lend credence..."

"I understand your feelings William..." the cyborg nodded... "For what it's worth I promise to cooperate as best I can and make no trouble...If Winifred and Willow wish to examine me further, it's quite all right..."

A pleasure...Willow frowned...Eyeing the copy...

"How long have you been masquerading as Rupert?..." Angel asked him...

"Frankly...I'm not sure of the exact length of time...I was slipped in as seamlessly as could be done...I don't believe more than a few weeks at most..."

"You must have remained in touch with..." Angel paused as his cell phone buzzed...

"It's Wes..." he noted to the others...Backing away a bit...

"William?..." Cyborg 'Giles' eyed him... "May I ask a question?..." Spike stared at him coolly, nodding... "Fire away...The answer being yes, I will kill you if you don't tell us what happened here, however human-souled I may be..."

"So you are still human-souled?...That's been confirmed?...Willow?..." the cyborg turned her with a purely Gilesian expectation of an immediate answer so convincing that she inadvertently shook her head...Not me as yet...But...she turned to Fred...

"He's still got the soul..." Fred began, nodding... "Hey!..." a now-fuming Willow glared at the false Giles... "Where do you come off speaking to me like that?...You talking store dummy!!...You've been talking to me, lying to me for days...Weeks...Haven't you, you half-plastic son of a plastic bitch?!...Where are Giles and the others?!!!...Damn you, if you don't talk...I'll make you talk!!!!..." her eyes darkening...

Red...Will turned to her...Kennedy staring as well...

"Yeah?...When did he return?..." Angel spoke into his phone... "Ok...And that's all?..."

"Lemme in there!...I'll make this clown talk!!!..." Grabbing at the cell door... "Girl..." Spike pulled her back...Hmmn?...Then again maybe not such a bad... He let go...

"Willow?!..." Fred grabbed at her...Glaring at Will...Not helping here, William...Kennedy lent a hand... "Enough Rosie..."

Willow?...Angel stared from his corner...

"Willow, I apologize...Truly I didn't mean to offend you..." 'Giles' sighed at her... "I'm afraid I can't help using Rupert Giles' mannerisms, they're a part of me now..."



She calmed a bit, looking sheepishly at Fred and Kennedy...Then the others... "I'm sorry, fellas...It's just...It just really hit me there when this...Thing...Asked me...The way Giles would've...I've been letting him fool me...He's been fooling Buffy and the others..." she started to fume again...

"He's magics-protected Willow...All of them are..." Fred noted... "Yeah...?" she eyed him...

"Not protected against me smashing his skull in!..." she glared, eyes black... "And if he doesn't talk...William?..." she turned to him... "Care to join me?..."

Sure...he nodded...

"But not in the cell...Where you'd be able to get at whatever teleport coordinates he's got for you, Red..."

She stared at him...Will...? Angel, still on phone, Kennedy and Fred looking at him as well...He smiled at her coldly...

"You're in on this, Willow...I knew it from the moment we got into that taxi at the airport...You'd heard Buffy, Dawn, Giles, Andrew, and a host of Slayers, maybe even including ole Harris in Africa, might have been taken...That their lives could be in danger if they weren't dead already...Yet you sat in that cab as if you'd never teleported in your life...And spent the whole ride giving me a long explanation of how much Buffy cares for me, trying to judge if I felt the same as always...The Willow I knew might have done that when she was powerless and helpless...But never now that she's the world's greatest Wiccan..."

"But..." Fred looked at Willow who was blinking at Spike...But with something other than total shock... "She's not..."

"No...She's our dear Willow..." William nodded... "But not here to help us..." He eyed her... "Buffy sent you, didn't she?...Just like she sent that copy of herself to LA?...What were your orders from the Great One?...Take Spike alive or dead?..."

"No..." Willow shook her head sadly...Staring at him...As she waved arms and sent out a pulse wave that staggered Angel and the rest back, leaving him the only one still standing, a few feet from her... "To find out if you still were the William she loved...And bring you to her...After the first try failed..."

Kennedy, now flat on the floor, stared up at her...Clearly not in on this one, Spike noted... "Willow?...You lied to me?...You..." The color drained from her face a moment...

"No...Sweetie...No..." Willow shook her head, anxious pleading in her voice... "I wasn't lying...I am afraid of what is going on...But...Baby...I'm sorry...But I had to agree to help in this...For Buffy's sake...And yours too, Angel..." she eyed the frowning, now-struggling-to-rise Angel...Fred trying as well, but now also carefully feeling in her purse with a concealed hand...

"Don't try to stand until I go..." Willow told them sadly... "You'll be fine in a few minutes..."

"So it was Buffy who tried to have me..." Angel stared back...Willow returning the stare with no answer...Just a sad and weary look...

"You lied to me..." Kennedy shook her head, a harsh tone... Willow sighing... "Kennedy...You know what Buffy's been like...I had to..."

Spike suddenly grabbed at the distracted Willow and she quickly knocked him back with a new wave, as Angel managed to drag himself to Winifred... "Can you?..." She nodded and pulled up a small device out of her purse which gave out a burst of green energy as she pressed a control button...Willow breaking off from the fallen Spike and Kennedy's accusing stare, eyed it with a smile... "Magics dampening field, huh?...Nice...Kinda short range, though..."

She backed off...Waving the cell open and went over to cyborg Giles...And turned back to the stunned group...

"Winifred...?..." Angel looked at her...

"Not enough power...I can't extend the field beyond us into the cell..." Fred shook her head...William now back on his feet with the rest, staring coldly at Willow...

"William?..." she called to him... "Please?...Come with me...Buffy wants to see you...She'll tell you everything if you'll just...And she needs you, I wasn't lying about any of that...Believe me, the only reason I agreed to this is because she needs you so desperately..."

"Tell her to come to me...And explain this...If she really can..." he shook his head...

She sighed..."I'll try...Kennedy...Guys...Forgive me..." she called to them...And vanished...With the cyborg Giles...

***





P>"Fated..."

PG-13

Summary: A little post-Chosen, post-Destiny adventure...

Disclaimer: All BTVS characters remain the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and all other owner/creators of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series...

Archived at the "normal" Buffyverse (Note the quotes!) page of the Buffy Rebecca verse, www.angelfire.com/zine2/buffyrebecca/index.html

Spoilers for Angel to "Destiny": Fly, my lords! Fly! There is no tarrying here!...Unless you wish to learn that which you do not care to...

Part VI...

Evening...

Outside London...The new Council's Tactical Training Center...

Angel, William, Fred, Dobson, and a coldly furious Kennedy were combing the large complex for anyone left behind...Or any clues as to where Buffy and the others had vamoosed to...

The large, empty complex...Not a soul on the grounds...And everything in place just as at the new Council Hall...

Well, well...William looked at the poster over the weapons training gym door...

"Know your enemy"...A large image of demon-faced Spike in his favorite duster...Hearing someone coming, he ripped it down with a hand as a door behind him opened...

"Winifred..." he nodded to her, holding the torn poster...Anything?...she looked at him...His face dark...Approaching what might be considered healthy in a normal human...

Was that?...A tear in his eye...she blinked at him...

No...He shrugged... "Not a thing..." He folded the poster and tossed it in a wastebasket...

And you?...

"The place seems pretty well cleaned out...Records-wise...Which suggests whoever did this knew what to take..."

"Of course they did...Buffy and probably the real Giles ordered this...Do you and Angel still have doubts after Willow?..." he eyed her...

"Not really..." she sighed... "But why?...Why would they pull out like this just because..."

"Just because their little schemes to capture Angel and then me failed?...They don't trust us, that's obvious..."

Buffy doesn't trust me...But then no doubt she's sure I'm back to bad ole Spike...he noted bitterly...

"Nice of her not to have her copy stake me right then and there, eh?..."

"She went to some trouble to get you out safely, Will...She could have done it the other way...Or the way she tried with Angel...And Willow seemed sincere..."

"Well...We'll see then, right?...When Her Slayerness chooses to reveal all..."

"There may be good reasons...I'm not completely sold on our deal with Wolfram-Hart...Maybe they've learned something we don't know..."

"Are you saying I should have gone with Willow?..." he eyed her...

"I don't know...But I am definitely saying you shouldn't give up on her just yet, William...She may have been trying to save you, by her pov...We just won't know until she contacts us..."

Yeah...He paused...Then suddenly kicked the rather sturdy door on which the poster had hung...Savagely, until it fell off its hinges and onto the floor as he jumped back...

"Feel better?..." Fred gave him a wry stare... "Yeah..." he grinned sheepishly...Rubbing his leg a bit...

"Anything more on our returned borg negotiator?..." he asked...

Just what Angel told us after Wesley called him...He returned as he'd promised and said his group had told him to tell Wes they'd be in touch as soon as conditions permitted...He's talking but saying nothing else...she shook her head...

"We were having him followed, weren't we?...Hell, what's the use of running a place like W-H if you can't send out weasely types to spy on friends and enemies..."

"If we did...Angel's not saying yet what we got..."

Great...he sighed...

So nobody trusts me...He looked at her... "Hows bout you, Willow, Jr?...Do you trust me?..."

"You'd be vapor or in Hell if I didn't Will..." she smiled...Yeah, he nodded, a faint smile back...Thanks...

"Sincerely...Don't let my good ole humanish depression obscure it...I do thank you, Winifred...More for believing in me than anything else..." he gave her a steady look...She nodded...

"She believes in you too, Will...I'm sure of it...Whatever else is going on with her..."

"Well, lets get back to our Fearless Leader and see if he's willing to share any new tidbits with the minions..."

***

"It would have taken a tremendous amount of power..." Dobson was noting to Angel as William and Winifred came up to them in the main office of the training complex...Kennedy seated, frowning with arms folded, near the desk where Dobson had been checking some remaining computers for any data...

"Guys..." Angel nodded to them... "Find anything?..."

"Not a trace..." Fred shook her head...She eyed the computer screen Dobson was working on..."You're trying an EM trace?...They would've covered that...Willow or Giles if not Buffy would've known to..."

"There'd still likely be residual waves yet..." Dobson looked at his potential rival huffily... "At least we'll know how...There..." he pointed... "It was a mass pulse...They were all pulled out at once...Probably at a number of points around the world...Wherever they had relays established..."

"It must have been Willow..." Kennedy sighed... "She must have arranged it, probably when we were separated just before we went to catch our flight to London...She..." Her voice turned bitter...

She lied to me...Kept it all from me...she glared at the far wall of the room...

"She said Buffy'd been acting...?...That she was worried about her...?" Angel looked at her...Yeah...Kennedy nodded...

"And that suicide thing was the truth, William..." she eyed him... "If I hadn't called the others in...She'd've done it..." He stared back...

"But recently...?" Angel tried again...

"We got calls from her...Towards the end, demands really...She wanted us to send our Slayers coming in to our field site in Brazil directly onto London...Willow refused...These were girls and women most of whom couldn't speak a word of English...A lot were just street kids from Rio...We couldn't stuff them into planes and send them thousands of miles away from their homes...It was crazy..."

After Willow gave her hell about it, Buffy backed off for a while and then agreed just to take volunteers...she paused... "But come on, you know what a lot of them said...Of course they wanted to see the Greatest Slayer and see London and the other Slayers...They had no idea what they were getting into and Buffy refused to tell us why she wanted them or when, if ever, they'd be coming home..."

"It was the same for Xander in Africa...Round 'em up and send 'em to Queen Buffy..." she shook her head... "Though he seemed less bothered about it...Until towards the end...Ummn, I mean...Towards the other day when we left...He seemed agitated on the phone when we called him..."

But I never thought for a moment...She eyed them carefully...That Willow was in on this...

"I still can't believe she..."

"She said she only went along because Buffy was so desperate..." William eyed her... "Why was she desperate?...Was something new going on?..."

"No...At least not that I know of...Things seemed kinda quiet...Relatively...We were doing fine where we were, training the girls and getting them some kind of support knocked together..."

"But something must have changed..." Angel noted... "And Willow must have been convinced...Somehow...That she had to help Buffy in this...Is there anything you can remember?...The last few days...?"

"Buffy called...Several times a day the last few..." Kennedy thought... "I thought it was another round of calls for more Slayer-fodder...But they must've been coming to some kind of agreement...Or something..."

"What about the borgs...?" Fred asked... "Did you guys hear anything about them?..." "Not till I first came here and saw our phony 'Giles'..." Kennedy shrugged...

"Slayer-fodder..." William repeated...And looked at Angel...Who nodded...

"She's massing the troops...For something...And it must be Big..."

"But...?" Fred stared... "We haven't seen any sign of anything major building up since the First and Jasmine went down..."

"It could be something pre-emptive..." Will noted... "Maybe ole Giles has had a twitch in his right leg that made him think something's on its way..."

Or...Angel paused... "Maybe we're the Big One..."

Us?...Fred eyed him... "Wolfram-Hart?...But..."

"She'd need some pretty hefty firepower to hit W-H, Inc on a worldwide basis..." William nodded... "A few thousand newly activated Slayers would fit the bill nicely..."

"And before you launch an all-out extermination campaign, it's customary to try and take out the leadership..." Angel gave a grim smile... "And...To save the loved ones....If possible..." he looked at the tense-faced William...

Rather sympathetically...

***

"Fated..."

PG-13

Summary: A little post-Chosen, post-Destiny adventure...

Disclaimer: All BTVS characters remain the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and all other owner/creators of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series...

Archived at the "normal" Buffyverse (Note the quotes!) page of the Buffy Rebecca verse, www.angelfire.com/zine2/buffyrebecca/index.html

Spoilers for Angel to "Destiny": Fly, my lords! Fly! There is no tarrying here!...Unless you wish to learn that which you do not care to...



Part VII...



The lobby of the New Council Tactical Training Center outside London, evening...As Angel, Fred, and the Councilor/W-H mole Dobson continue their attempts back in the main office to locate any surviving computer files of use, William, and Kennedy check the rest of the building for any clues...

"Kennedy?..." Will turned to her... "Did you meet with Buffy directly?...You and Willow, that is...In the past few?..."

"Yeah..." she nodded... "She flew in a couple of times to our place for discussions...But if you're asking how she seemed...I've told you guys...She was a mite obsessed with gathering in the new Slayers and the training...Focused on the work, more than I've ever seen her...But not otherwise different that I could tell...And after what happened in Cleveland, we were keeping tabs, believe me..."

Unfortunately...she sighed...I guess Willow decided I was best left out of some of those discussions...

Actually...William gave a wan grin back...

"I was wondering if she ever mentioned me..."

Kennedy smiled back... "Just like Willow said, Will...In words...No, not at all after Cleveland...But we knew she was thinking of you all the time..."

"There was this one time...Xander and Dawn came in with her...We were watching a movie after dinner... 'Gattica'...Jude Law and Uma Thurman?...Well, they got to the next-to-final scene...You know, Judie's big death scene?...Buffy couldn't stay...She ran out and Dawn found her crying in her room..."

Not to mention she nearly flattened Xander when he made some dumb joke about Mr. Law's guy flaming out...

"Oh?...What pearls did ole Harris impart?..."

"Don't remember...Willow'd said something about Jude Law making her ovaries ache and I got distracted..." she frowned... "Anyway...Something dumb that Buffy took to be aimed at you..."

"Well...It was Jude Law...A special case, I'd say..." William grinned at her... "I'm sure Willow hasn't reverted...Completely..." Kennedy gave a mock glare..."But nice to know an ole friend stands up for you after you've bit the Big One..."



"She's in love, Spike...Love and mourning..." Kennedy eyed him..."Ya really should've tried to reach her before..."

Thanks...he nodded... "Well, we'd best continue our poking round..." He glanced around the lobby...Nothing except for a couple of chairs and wastebaskets...

"I could take the other wing that way..." Kennedy pointed... "Ummn...No, I think we'd better follow my hair-challenged boss' edict and stick together..." William shook his head... "Always a chance Red is still lurking, just waiting to catch you alone for a chat...If she does, I'd say one of us should be there..."

"I'd give her a chat all right..." Kennedy frowned... "I still can't believe she'd keep this from me...Say...?" she eyed her companion...

"You guys do trust me at least, right?...This watchdog thing isn't because you think I'm a plant and lookin' for a chance to phone in or somethin'...?"

Well...Will gave a hard look...

"I'd say we've all got our guard up, girl...Only natural, given the current sit...But I want to believe you're not in on this...And I think it's likely Willow would be anxious not to involve you, if Buffy is up to something dangerous with her little army..."

Yeah...She sighed...I guess that makes sense... "Well thanks for 'wantin' to believe' in me..."...Hmmn...

"So this is my girl takin' care of lil' ole me?...Jerk..."

"She's lost a love before...It's bound to make one cautious and a mite overprotective..."

"Yeah?...Sounds like you and..."

"Dru always needed special handling, for sure...Though I'd been thrown away by my first, not lost her..."

A frown from Kennedy..."I meant you and Buffy, Will...Aren't you ever going to accept it?..."

"She's not here now, is she?...If she loved me...Why wouldn't she stay?...Why would she run, knowing I'd come after what happened in LA?..."

"She went to a lotta trouble to try and get you...Twice..." Hmmn...Kennedy pulled away a small wastebasket...Some crumpled papers in the corner whoever'd swept through the rooms before the former inhabitants' flight had missed...

"It sure smells like love to me..." she noted...Opening and smoothing a couple of papers as he shrugged...We'll see...

Anything?...Will eyed the papers...

"Just some bills...A memo from..." she looked at it... "Buffy...Hmmn...Buffy Summers, Slayer Councilor General..." He came over...

"Nice title...Sounds like my girl is movin' up in the world of Watching and Slaying..."

"It's new...Anyway I'd never heard of it...Not that I was ever given a chart of the hierarchy..."

"Just grab that stake like a good lil' soldier, girl, form ranks, and Slay, Slay, Slay..." he grinned... "Hmmn... 'Slayer Councilor General'...Well, our Angel will have to do his unmanful best to contain himself...Our Brooding Leader had trouble with sharing the spotlight as it was..."

So...What's the word from the 'Slayer Councilor General'?...he looked at the memo in her hand...



"By order of the Slayer Councilor General...Slayers, Councilors, and staff are warned to maintain maximum security as of today...No off-site leaves are to be granted until further notice...No outside communication is allowed unless official approval is obtained...No visits by nonpersonal to the facility are to be allowed...This order is to be enforced and regarded as of the highest priority...Buffy Summers..."

Dated five days ago...Kennedy eyed the paper...

"Total lockup...The ladies must've loved that..." Will smiled...

"A lot of them weren't too happy even before...Willow'd told me there was a lot of grumbling...Quite a few wanted to go home after they'd met with the Council and the lead Slayer...Faith was..."

"Faith, eh?...Was she leading the angry mob of the pissed?..." he grinned...

"She was giving Buffy some grief...Natural enough as her fiancee had had to go to a new job...And she wanted to join him...After being in England a few months she and some of the others were getting antsy..."

"Fiancee?...Our free-spirited Faith's got a steady?..."

"Robin Wood..."

"Faith went with the principal?..." he grinned... "Ah well...Always suspected, like me, that girl had a buried conservative streak...Well, that's just wonderful..." Thank you, God...and Faith...he fervently prayed within... "I'll put something for them on my company card soon as I get back and make the Brooding One free mine up again..."

"Relieved, eh?..." Kennedy smiled at him...

Yeah...he nodded frankly... "That was one dangerously hunky and reasonably noble human authority figure...And our Buf does tend to be attracted to anyone who can teach her something new..."

Was she?...By any chance?...Last time you were in contact with her?...he eyed her as causally as he could...

"Seeing anybody?...I dunno..." she shook her head... "If she was, it wasn't anyone important enough to get Willow talking..." she stared at him as he tried to avoid her look...

"I thought you were angry at her...?"

"Sure...Pissed...But I always like to know what competition's at hand..."

She eyed him sympathetically..."I hope it works out...For the best...For you and her, Will..."

"Most would've said it had when I fried..." he replied, a bit sadly...

Maybe at heart she would...Does...Too...

***

Administrative office at the Tactical Training Center...Same time...

Angel, Fred, and Dobson continued their search for any retrievable computer files or other clues...

"So our borg negotiator only told Wesley his people were willing to meet?...But they'll let us know when and where?...And that's it?..." Fred eyed Angel...

"That's it..." he nodded...



"Do you really think Will's right?...That it's Buffy behind all this?...Even to trying to capture you before?..."

"She and maybe some of the old Council survivors...I know Giles would view me as a threat and danger to be eliminated at the slightest prodding...And they tried twice to take William..."

"Why wouldn't she just call him?...Ask him to come to England, knowing he's alive?...Ummn...Well, sorta alive..."

He shrugged...

"She might have thought I...Or at least my bosses, the Senior Partners...Wouldn't let him leave..."

"They're not our bosses..." Fred began...

"To Buffy...And her people...I think they are...And God knows, maybe they're right...Maybe we are being pulled in too deep..." he sighed...

"I wanted to make this work...For a lot of reasons...I thought I could but...Maybe..."

You know Cordelia...Her spirit or whatever...Seemed pretty dead set against what I was doing...he noted quietly...

"Maybe it was the wrong decision, made for the worst of reasons..."

"I'm not convinced of that..." Fred shook her head... "And whatever doubts I have about our new work setup, I believe in you, Angel...You'd get us the hell out in time if you ever really thought things were going the wrong way..."

"Thanks..." he sighed... "But there might not be much chance to tell when things have gone too far...And maybe they already have...Maybe that's why..."

"They don't understand, Angel...When you have a chance to explain it to them..." she began...

"They better...Or else they'll be dealing with me..." she grinned...

"Well...I guess we'll see..." Angel smiled, a hair sadly... "But Winifred..."

"You are too good for this sad, evil ole world..."

***

"Fated..."

PG-13

Summary: A little post-Chosen, post-Destiny adventure...

Disclaimer: All BTVS characters remain the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and all other owner/creators of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series...

Archived at the "normal" Buffyverse (Note the quotes!) page of the Buffy Rebecca verse, www.angelfire.com/zine2/buffyrebecca/index.html

Spoilers for Angel to "Destiny": Fly, my lords! Fly! There is no tarrying here!...Unless you wish to learn that which you do not care to...

Part VIII...

The administrative offices of the new Council Tactical Training Center outside London...Night...



Angel having arranged for a deployment of agents from Wolfram-Hart, Europe to comb the Center, all previous local Slayer residences, and the London Council Hall the next morning, and having decided to spend the night in the Training Center building, in order to keep his group safely together...Following a sweep of the building for explosives or possible mystic self-destruction devices...(Now you think Buf would kill us?...Will'd grumbled at him, while they checked the basement floor...No, but real Giles and his Watchers might consider it, Angel'd noted)...The group was holding a final brainstorming session before retiring...

A thought occurred to Will...He turned to Dobson...

"You said there were twenty-five slayers on duty or training at the London Council Hall?...How many were staying here at the Tactical Center today?...And around, in residence in the area?..."

"Last report I saw, about the usual...Two hundred..."

Will looked at Angel...Two hundred?...He shook his head...Fred and Kennedy looking puzzled as well...

"But...Only two hundred?..." Fred eyed Kennedy... "You said..." "There should have been lots more..." Kennedy frowned... "Are they staying in other places...?"

"There's no record of it..." Dobson noted... "I was told each group was being sent home after completing training..."

Will looked at Kennedy who shook her head... "They went here, the ones we let go, but only a handful came back...Mothers who refused to stay, a few who couldn't hack the training...Very few..."

"So...This has been going on for some time then...Almost from the start if your mole's facts are straight..." he eyed Angel... "Our 'Slayer Counselor General' has been mighty clever...Concealing the size of her army by hiding them away..."

They must be getting herded somewhere...Angel agreed...

"Wherever Willow went to?..." Kennedy suggested... "Which could be anywhere on Earth or somewhere else...?"

"Fred...?" Angel eyed her... "Could you backtrace where Willow went?...With the team's equipment, tomorrow?..."

"Possibly..." she nodded... "But it'll take time...And no guarantee she went straight to headquarters...She could have jumped about to throw us off..."

"Buffy must be almost ready to move if she pulled the plug on this place..." Will noted...

"Unless something happened to make her jump the gun..." Angel was thoughtful... "Maybe Buffy the Borg striking out with you...?"

Could be...A shrug...

"You know...It was such a waste her sending the poor lamb...A friendly note or card would've been much more effective and straighter to the point..." William gave a slight grin...

"I suppose now she's assumed I've sold out to Evil with you..." he sighed...

"Neither one of you has 'sold out'..." Fred replied quickly, a hard stare at both..."If Buffy's come to believe that or even suspect it, I say it's high time we disabused her of the notion..." An almost maternal stare, Kennedy saw...Smiling at her...Catching Will's and Angel's grateful looks...

"Maybe it's not such a great idea to have the WH team tear the place up tomorrow...It may just get Buffy convinced we're against her..." Angel looked at the others...



"Our fair lady's not left us with many alternatives..." Will frowned... "If a few of your snoops poking round in the daylight are gonna get her panties in a crotch, we may as well head home and wait to see if she deigns to make..."

The phone on the nearest desk rang...They all looked at each other...

"You wanna get it?..." Angel eyed William... "It's not Wes...He'd call my cell..." Ummn...Will stared at the phone, now on third ring...

"Shall I?..." Dobson looked at the two...

I got it...Kennedy scooped the phone...

"Hello...Buffy..." she said after listening a moment...

"Yeah...There are two very pissed human-souled vamps standing right here in front of me...And I ain't doing so well myself...Where's Willow?..." a brief pause...Ok...

"She wants to talk to you, Will..." she lifted the phone headset from her ear towards him...

***

Venice...An open-air restaurant...The next afternoon...

"Guys..." Buffy beamed at her vamp boys as the somewhat bewildered William and a frowning Angel were shown to chairs... "God, it's great to see you again..."

You both got your daylight protective spells going, right?...she eyed them...They were reasonably well protected just now by the shadow of St. Mark's and the café awning but it was a bit windy... William nodding wordlessly...Buffy...On his lips...

Great...Well, thank those foully acquisitive magicians of Wolfram-Hart's occult division...Guess accepting the WH offer wasn't such a bad idea at that, huh?...she grinned...Maintaining an innocent expression as Angel looked at her...

"Buffy?..." Angel stared at the broadly smiling Buffy, holding a poodle in her lap, dark sunglasses, dress, and large hat clearly aimed at an Audrey Hepburnish effect...

"I'd think we'd both like an exp..." "Yeah, sorry about London..." she waved a hand... "I didn't mean to get you upset...Hey, Will!...Sit next to your girl, babe..." she pushed a chair... "You too, Angel..." she moved another...

"I just wanted to be sure you'd come...I know you're both busy these days...As am I..." she grinned... "I'm sorry nobody was in England to greet you...I can explain...But don't worry...The new Slayers and Council are safe...And doing pretty well...Or so Giles says...I kinda come by and train and give motivational speeches these days, that sort of thing, ya know?..." Hey, Spikey...she suddenly cooed...Hmmn?...William looked at her...

Hugging the poodle... 'Spikey', she explained...As William blinked...

"After you, Will...To remember you by when I thought..." she turned solemn...Angel managing to conceal a slight grin...Which he gave full vent to, in Will's direction, when Buffy looked away...

"Oh, Rudy?..." she waved to a tall, darkly handsome young Italian sitting at a nearby table...Who came smilingly over... "This is Rudolfo Cini...Rudy, Angel and William..."

Gentlemen...Rudy beamed...Bowing slightly... "Grab a seat, Rudy..." she told him...

"Oh, but I should leave you to the company of your friends, my Buffeta..." he smiled at her...William glaring... "I have business to attend to with my uncle at the university...I will meet you later, my dear...About five?..."



"Oh...Ok..." Buffy sighed at the prospect...Well...

She noted Will's still crestfallen face as he watched Rudy stride off, waving gaily back... "Ciao..."

"Ciao, Rudy..." she waved...Ummn...she looked at William...Then Angel...Who, oddly enough was looking rather sympathetically at William...

"Rudy's a good friend...His uncle's a professor at the University here...I'm planning on taking classes next semester here and in Rome..." she rushed a bit...

Guy who died for you, Buf...Angel's stern look to her and then at Will said... A little sensitivity?...She stared at him a moment...A hard look flashing...

So it's true, he sighed inwardly...She doesn't trust me anymore...Her pleasantly beaming look returning immediately...

"It's so great to see you back, William...I was so sorry to have to leave you..."

"To roast to death for you...?" Will finished... "No problem, girl...I made out well, as you can see...Just a few minor problems with the corporealization thing, since solved and losing my hands courtesy your psycho Slayer...But no big one..."

Hands?...she stared at... "Reattached, courtesy Angel and W-H's finest medical staff" he explained...Nice, she nodded...A quick, direct stare at him...Her lip trembling for just a second?...

"Evil law firms flush with cash have their uses..." Angel noted quietly...

"Spikey...Naughty boy..." she frowned at the poodle, squirming in her lap... "Mustn't muss Mummy's dress..." she set the dog on the ground...

"He's a badboy..." she shrugged...Angel giving William a slightly arch grin...

"So...Here we are...All together again..." she eyed them...Perhaps a bit...Uncertain...

"Yeah..." Angel looked at her carefully... "And thanks for the invite...But what the hell was Andrew up to with that twelve-Slayer posse?...And why did you evacuate the London center without contacting us?...You don't trust me anymore, cause I've taken over Wolfram-Hart?..."

William simply eyeing Buffy, arms folded...Glaring occasionally at 'Spikey' on the ground...

Well...she sighed... "They were your nemeses, right?..." Then brightened... "But Andy exceeded his orders...I didn't mean for him to threaten and go all def con four with you..."

"We did have a visit from you..." William noted... "Or at least a reasonable facsmile thereof..."

Yeah...she nodded...A sheepish tone...

Actually that's part of the reason I contacted you, fellas...I...

"You sent her, right?..." Angel eyed her coolly... "And the borg Roger Wyndham-Price and his little team...?" Will stared at him...Then her...

"I sent the other Buffy, yes..." she nodded... "But not the other...That was a Council thing...If you'd let me explain, fellas..."

"William is alive...Or at least Undead and souled again, in case you didn't notice..." Angel eyed her...

"Of course I 'noticed'..." Buffy stared at her ex-number one...Then her other ex-demonic former number one... "What kinda crack is that, Angel?...Will, you know how glad I am to see you back..."



"You know I love you..." she beamed...Ummn...She glanced quickly at Angel who wore a noncommital expression... "Angel, you understand?...I..." Uh-huh, he nodded... "... 'He has a place in your heart'...I got that..."

Hmmn...Loves me, loves Angel, loves her new Italian lover-boy, loves lil' 'Spikey'...And above all, loves those new Italian shoes...William thought...Settling back in his chair...

Still...There's something phony here...She's putting it on thick...And after what Willow said...

Angel eyed him a second...We are being played...

And yet...He looked back at Buffy, now glancing at William...Whatever she thinks about me now, she cares about him...Maybe needing him as desperately as Willow said...

"And we've... 'taken different paths'..." she quoted, a slight glare back at Angel... "As you told me not too long ago...And recent events seem to have confirmed..." a definite hardness in her voice...She waved it off and smiled brightly again... "But we'll get it all sorted out...I'm sorry if you were hurt Angel..."

Hurt?...No...he smiled thinly... "Just nearly enslaved by you and your friends..."

"It wasn't me...And it wasn't my idea...I'm sorry if you thought it was..."

"William..." she returned to him... "I'm sorry about how I had to handle things...But I meant what I..."

"So your copy told me...Though she had things a little confused...Deliberately, I figured..." Will noted coldly... "Had this notion you were trying to warn me about her bosses...Maybe even in danger from them..."

Silly me...

"Not her bosses..." Buffy eyed him...Angel giving a cold stare at her...Which she returned in the briefest of flashes...

No...He thought...She doesn't just distrust me now...She hates me...He watched her glance again at William...Barely able to conceal the anxiety in her eyes as Will bitterly looked down at his feet, refusing to meet her gaze...

Hates me because...I kept William from her...Nearly let him slide to Hell...She must've known about him practically from the moment he reappeared in my place...

"She would have told you everything later though, if she'd lived..." Buffy continued...A pleading note creeping in...

Mmmn...Will nodded, finally looking up at her... "And that self-destruct feature was a nice touch...Or did you push the button yourself from wherever you were then?..."

"William..." she sighed... "She was a volunteer, a former Initiative vampire subject under restraint...The Council offered her a chance to be free of her demon...Once she was free, she honestly wanted to help us and knew the risks...If you'd let me explain..."

Sure...He stared at her coolly as she glanced away, nervous...And rather more worn and exhausted he realized now, than her bright manner would've suggested...

"But anyway...Angel, I'm sorry things got miscommunicated...It's been real busy for Giles and me and the rest...And we just figured we'd best take precautions...You gotta understand..."

As for the borgs, they're a Council project...

Uh-huh...he nodded... "Precautions...Like letting me know we're no longer on the same side?..."

"Andrew said that?..." she blinked...Oh...Her face now bright and bland again...



"Sorry...He really exceeded my orders...See I just told him... 'Andy, you get that crazy Slayer and bring her back...Take a bunch of Slayers from Training...Don't let any bad guys stop you'...And I guess..." she looked down... "Giles and some of the other old Council survivors had been suggesting the W-H people might be using you...Andy musta taken his cue from that..."

Don't be mad...she looked at him sheepishly...You know how Giles felt about Jenny and all...

"You understand...?"

Right?...she looked at both...

Guys?...Her face fell a little...

"Are you two mad at me?...Will, I thought you were dead and all..."

Life goes on you know?...she nodded solemnly, suddenly pulling... "Spikey, come away from Will's shoes..."

Sorry...She bit a lip... "Bad Spikey!..." she hissed at the poodle...

"No..." Will sighed... "Just about what I'd expect..." he eyed his wet shoes...

"But you're alive now...Sorta..." she smiled at him... "Souled and a hero...A real Champion..."

Yeah...he sighed...But waved it off, seeing her embarrassed look...And Angel's sympathetic one...Hey, she's just a kid, fundamentally, Will...stare...

"What about Willow and the false Giles?...Why did she con us like that in London?...She said you..." Will hesitated...Buffy eyeing him intently... "That you needed to see me..."

I did...she began...Some of the false perkiness falling away again...

"Buffy..." Angel stepped in...She looked at him... "I just want it straight between us...I'm not working for Wolfram-Hart...They've surrendered to me and given me full control...More or less...It's true I did it partly for my boy's sake but I'm on top of things and you have nothing to worry about..."

Well...He admitted... "They may have a secret agenda...Hell, we're sure they do...But you oughta know me well enough by now..."

Yeah, oh yeah...Angel...she put up a hand... "I trust you completely...It's just Giles and the other older Watchers were unsure about you...I had to go along and agree to go slow with contacts and such...I'll explain it to them..."

Right..he nodded...Looking carefully at her unruffled face...Not a concern or suspicion on it...

Never suspected my Buf had such a flair for poker...

"Then can you explain why these cyborgs..."

"Well...If there's nothing else, I think..." William stood up suddenly, interrupting...His face almost a healthy color, Angel noted with some concern...William?...Buffy stared...

"I'm sure you've got things to do...And while you're busy with my new boss here, I may as well see the sights as long as we have daylight protection..."

Will?...she looked at him...The brightness gone from her face...A tense, almost...Frightened?...Angel stared...Quaver in her voice...



"We've got time, Will..." Angel looked at him... "And things to discuss..." Glancing at Buffy...Who gave him a look that was somewhere between accusation...And plead...

Yeah...I'm free for a couple of hours...Buffy eagerly noted...Brightening...And giving William a careful glance... "Spikey!..." she pulled the dog back as it growled at him now...

Great...William noted... A couple of hours...He sat down again, looking out on the plaza...Her look to Angel now simply pleading...Make him stay, please...

Hmmn...Buffy eyed him... "Say, lets go for a walk, Will..." she stood up...Arm out to him...He eyed her from his chair...

"You don't mind, do you Angel?..."

Why no...he shook his head... "You young things go to it...I should check in with Wes and tell him we can stand down from 'def con four' now that things are straightening out..." He waved a rather high tech cell phone...She beamed and stood next to Will's chair...Waiting...

"Ready?..."

Yeah, sure...William nodded and rose...Reluctantly...

"Angel, would you watch...?" she turned to him...Holding out the leash...Sure, he nodded...She, pulling at Will...

Hey, 'Spikey'...he eyed the dog as Buffy and William turned a corner...Taking demon face as he bent over, out of view...

Boo, you little bag of ...

***



"So..."

So...William nodded...He looked into a shop window...

"Rudy, eh?...Nice..."

"C'mon..." she frowned... "Have you been a model of steadfastness since your resurrection?...He's a nice guy and passes the time..."

"None of my business anyway..." he shrugged...Well...

"So why'd you want me to come along?...Your negotiations only required Angel, I'm sure..."

"That's charming..." she glared... "That's really..."

"Right...Sorry...You know me...My demon falls for a girl, tries to be a man for her, gives up existence on Earth for her, my regained soul dies for her...and I have the sheer gall to hope..." he waved a hand..."I shouldn't have said that...I had no right to expect anything..."

"But you can't blame a guy like me...For..." he turned away... "I knew it was foolish to come...Torment myself..."

And it's not your fault...he noted to her...I know I should be grateful for that kick in the groin that got me to Africa...Except...

"I'm sorry, Will..." she sighed...

"Yeah?...Sure...By the way, I really liked that poster...At the new Slayers' Training Center?... You know..." he looked at her puzzled face... "The 'know your enemy' with Spike in demon face?...I loved it..."

Oh...She bit a lip again...

"Andrew had a shot of you in face...They wanted a shot of a vamp demon...It wasn't my idea..."

Uh-huh... "Well nice to know you didn't let a little thing like being my lover interfere with business...Tell me, who do I apply to for a percentage of the royalties?...I should get something out of it, besides being the target of choice for every new Slayer on Earth, right?..."

"I'll have it taken down, all of them destroyed...I didn't know you were alive when they were made, Will..."

"And you took your time about coming to me..." she noted suddenly...Looking at him squarely...

"I didn't want to come until..." he paused... "But when things seemed to be going badly over here...Judging by our cyborg visitor..."

"You came to help me...Like you always do...I know...I knew you would..." she smiled... "I'm glad you did at last..."

"I did plant that thought in my copy, Will, cause I knew if she failed, it would bring you...And I need you..." all perkiness gone now, deep weariness and sorrow filling her face...Shadows across her eyes...

"You seem preety well set up, Miss Summers..." he eyed her... "I don't think complicating your life with me right now would..."

He eyed her closely... "But then maybe things haven't been going so well?...You look a trifle exhausted at close range, Miss Summers...For some one who only gives the occasional motivation lecture..."

She frowned at him... "So I still do my own Patrolling some nights..." she began...

"The 'Holly Golightly' routine, the dog...and the makeover aren't working, Buffy..." he stared at her coolly... "You've been working almost 24/7, haven't you?...I'd say you'd been going on maybe two or three hours sleep a night, right?..."

"There's a lot going on...I need your help..." she interrupted...A serious set to her face now... "We have some problems in China..."

And 'Spikey' really is mine...she smiled at him...

China?...he blinked...

Oh...He nodded coolly... "So, it's Spike you need, you mean...Good ole killer demon...and 'soldier'...Spike...Well, thanks for the job offer...But...Sorry...Spike's left the ranks and returned to Hell...For good...And William prefers an independent path, now..."

"I see..." she stared... "So you're with Angel and Wolfram-Hart now...?"

"I believe I said... 'independent', Miss Summers...Though I'll fight with anyone who chooses to make the good fight for the innocent...And Angel does need my guidance...As a feller who won his soul back, I think I can help to keep him on the straight and narrow...From my own...Personal...Corner..."

And if you should ever need a Champion to save the world again...On a temp basis, of course...

"You aren't staying then?...You're going back?..." she eyed him...



"I'm settling in well in LA...And I've certainly no desire to try and finally learn Chinese at this late date..." he looked at the shop window again... "China..." he sighed...And stared at her... "That was thoughtless of you, Buffy...You didn't used to be so thoughtless..." he looked at her...

"I thought it was a way for us to stay in touch...Work together...China'd only be a temporary thing, Will...Then you'd be based back..."

"Stay in touch?...Work together?...Rudy should be concerned, I think..."

"Knock it off..." she frowned...They resumed walking... Ok...She turned... "I handled that badly...How long are you in town?..."

"Long as I care to be... 'Independent' hero types can set their own schedules...But as you seem reasonably safe and well, I was planning to head back for England shortly...I'd like to check and see if any family has survived there...Tour my old human haunts again...Get back in touch with William and his world...And maybe off a few of my victims if any are still hangin' round...Give em peace or even the soul thing if they'd care to try it..."

"Come to dinner with me and Dawn tonight..."

"No, thanks..." he shook his head... "Especially not with the Nibs..."

Dawn?...she stared...

"I think she'd prefer it too, Buffy...Dawn wasn't too keen on me the past year if you recall..."

"That was a different situation...She didn't realize...Will, I'm sure she'd..."

"No...You're missing the point, Summers...I don't want to have dinner with you and your sister...I'm acting a bit childishly, perhaps...But too many painful memories...And I haven't forgiven the Nibs for abandoning me..."

What?...

"She was the first person to believe in me...But when I came back and she knew I'd won a soul back...When she knew I was fighting with you...And you had faith in me...Not a word from her...I didn't exist..."

Will...she sighed...

"Besides...You're still dodging...Why did Willow lie to us?...And duck out?...Why are you massing thousands of Slayers somewhere in secret?..."

"Council things, Will...I'm not at liberty to discuss..."

"Is it Wolfram-Hart?...Angel?...Are you planning to hit them?..."

She eyed him a long moment...Then shook her head... No...Not them...

"Not...Specifically them...And Angel is not a target...If we can get him outta the way safely..."

As I think...she paused... We have...

He stared at her... "I'm sorry, Will..." she sighed... A cold look coming into her face..."But he made his choice..."

And he never told me about you...Nearly let you go...she began...A harsh tone...

He pulled away, stepping back from her...Turning for a moment to look down the quiet street, then back at her...



"What have you done...?"

William...she trembled, as she stared at his glaring face...

"I've done it all for you...My love..." she grabbed him before he could move...Pulling him down as she sank to her knees...

Sobbing brokenly as she held him against her...In a steel grip he could not break from...Forgive me, forgive me...she whispered...I didn't forget you...I would have been there, I would have come for you...If he'd only told me...

"Oh my love, forgive me...Forgive me..."

***

"Fated..."



PG-13

Summary: A little post-Chosen, post-Destiny adventure...

Disclaimer: All BTVS characters remain the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and all other owner/creators of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series...

Archived at the "normal" Buffyverse (Note the quotes!) page of the Buffy Rebecca verse, www.angelfire.com/zine2/buffyrebecca/index.html

Spoilers for Angel to "Destiny": Fly, my lords! Fly! There is no tarrying here!...Unless you wish to learn that which you do not care to...

Part IX...

The open air café at St. Mark's Square, Venice...Late afternoon, just moments earlier...Angel watching from his chair as Buffy and William had turned a corner and disappeared...Buffy trying her best to look happily unconcerned, Will looking something less than a lover joyfully reunited with his beloved...

"Spikey" now rather well-behaved following Angel's little fear therapy session...He pressed a button on the somewhat elaborate cell phone he'd just pulled out...

"Fred?..." he asked pleasantly... "Yes..." he nodded... "She was here...Yes, I'd say the situation was about what we'd expected ...She's with Will now...What's the word from London?...Any progress?..."

Well, keep at it...he told her... "I think we need to know where Willow went...More than ever now that I've seen Buffy..."

A few newly arrived couples took seats about him...A number of the women and men eyeing him, rather intently...

Hmmn...He gave a pleasant return smile to several...While wishing Fred success, offering his best to Kennedy...And a "Sorry no sign or word of Willow yet" as he promised to take care, gave a good-bye, and pressed a couple of buttons on the phone's side ...One or two of the couples offering friendly nods back to him...More coming in and taking seats...

The Italian "friend", Cini, returned... "Mr...Angel?..." he asked pleasantly ... "Is dear Buffy still...?"

Left for a walk with William...Angel noted... Ah...

"Might I...?" Cini hesitated... By all means...Angel waved him to a chair... "Forgot to ask her something...?" he asked equally pleasantly...Cini giving a noncommital look... "Merely a trivial thing I should've remembered before..."



"You seem to have gotten the little fellow to take a liking to you..." Cini smiled, indicating the quiet Spikey...

"Mutual admiration..." Angel shrugged, leaning over slightly... "So...Just how many Slayers and Counselors are here, waiting to take me out...?" he asked in a low voice, smiling thinly...Cini returning the smile...Leaning back to him...Likewise in low tones...

"A sufficient number...Though Buffy is hoping you'll come quietly and avoid any danger to the few innocents yet here...As well as to yourself...We don't plan to harm you or William..."

"I see...And if I choose to risk a little harm...?"

All measures necessary will be used...Cini nodded...Though we intend to take you alive...

"Hard thing to do in my case...Or Will's ..." Angel smiled...Rising slowly as Cini did...

"You are a Counselor?...Or..."

"One of the survivors of the old Council...I coordinate our activities in Italy..."

"And I assume...A car is waiting nearby?..."

"In Venice?..." Cini gave a genuine smile... "No, we'll take a pleasant stroll to the docks, if you would...Much faster..."

"I give you my word, Angel...And Buffy's...No harm will come to you...Or your friends...In LA as well as London..."

"If I cooperate...?" he sighed... "Buffy and I have taken quite a long road away from each other I see..."

"Fate...Had other plans, my friend..." Cini shook his head... "And, if what she's learned is true...It's the course she...And William...Were meant to take...At last..."

A true case of star-crossed lovers...he smiled... A pity we weren't able to do this in Verona...He waved discreetly to several of the couples who had already risen and began moving out into the plaza...Taking positions as unobtrusively as possible...Cini keeping close to Angel...

"Though Venice will do...And was more strategically situated for us..."

"Then Slayer Central is near here?..."

"All your questions will be answered...When we reach our destination...Please..." Cini indicated a couple in front of them now... "Lets take a stroll...We've no desire to overtax the spell you're using..."

"Always wanted to see Venice by day..." Angel smiled...Moving forward, the Watcher beside him...Both following the couple in front with other couples quickly moving in by their sides and behind them...

***

London...The Tactical Training Center...The same afternoon...



A frowning Fred staring at her version of the high tech phone Angel had used...The receiver for a rather sophisticated tracker and scanner...An anxious Kennedy and curious Dobson beside her...A few of the Wolfram-Hart, Europe team carefully examining various items about the room...Several standing by near Fred, awaiting instructions...One sitting at a large, open briefcase containing a computer and various other components...She handed him the receiver which he plugged into his system...

"They've taken him or both of them...He's signaled...There's no doubt about it..." she turned to nod to one of the waiting agents who spoke into a cell phone...The technician at his workstation finished installing the receiver and began operating his equipment...We have contact, he announced, staring at his screen...Fred, Dobson, and Kennedy moving over to look...An encrypted tracking signal blinking on a map of Venice...

"Buffy did this to them?..." Kennedy looked at Fred... "Grabbed them when they came to help her?...Tricked them?..."

Tried to...Fred shook her head... "Angel was right...She's ready to do anything now...Even betray them, at least to capture them...Why, God knows...But we can assume..."

Hmmn...She eyed the tracking screen...A number of red dots glowing around Angel's green... "Either a lot of Venetian locals or tourists are running high fevers today...Or Angel's surrounded by people with very high metabolic rates..."

Slayers?...Kennedy stared...

The agent on cell phone waved to Fred...LA wants you, Dr. Burkle..he called...Her own phone buzzed from her pocket...She grabbed at it...Hey, Wes...

"He's been taken...Just after making contact with Buffy...Probably Will too..." she paused...

I don't think we need to worry...He wasn't...

"It's Buffy after all..."

She looked at Kennedy... "Wes, I think we'd best follow Angel's orders and keep a low profile...The copters and assault teams can stand by...Any word from our borg negotiator?..."

Really?...Fred gave a wry smile... "Same ole tune?...Just trust them and all will be explained, eh?...I think we'd best follow my dad's old saying-'trust in God but demand cash up front'...Anything else...?"

Uh-huh...One mo...Ms. Kennedy would like to be kept up to date...She pulled the phone from her ear and gave the anxious Kennedy a grin... "Our borg ambassador to LA called to let Wes know he'd been given word Angel'd been taken...We shouldn't worry, and should do nothing, no harm's intended...It's for his 'protection'..." she put back the phone, listening again...

Great...she told the phone...Looking at her Slayer companion... "It also seems the real Mr. Giles finally decided to get in touch..." Giles?...Kennedy stared... "If it is the real one..." Fred turned back to the phone...

"We've nothing to worry about...The new Council...And good ole Buf are involved and have the sit well in hand..." she noted to Kennedy, another, grimmer smile on her lips...Returning to the phone...

"We'll try to follow their advice regards worry, Wes...Though we may possibly choose to 'do' something...No..."

Right...I'll try not to blow up London...she smiled at the phone... "Yeah?..." she paused...A wan smile breaking out... "Me, too...I mean that...Bye, Wes..." she closed the phone...

Kennedy noting a slight, but definite blush in Fred's expression as she put the phone away...An expression not entirely devoid of pleasure...

***

"My love...my love..." Buffy hugged William passionately as she knelt by him...But held him yet in a steel grip...

"Buffy...Tell me what you've done to Angel...Or I will make you have to hurt me..." he told her coldly...Trying to pull away...



"We should've taken him by now...He's fine...He won't be harmed...We just had to get him out of the way...For his sake..." she paused... "And yours..."

William...If you knew what I've been through since May...she pleaded...

"Oh?..." he eyed her carefully...Halting his struggles for a moment... "Well it would have been difficult...As I was dead and then a ghost trapped at..."

Wolfram-Hart...Buffy finished...

"I tried to reach you, Will...As soon as we knew for sure...But Giles and the others felt...Going there myself..."

They were sure you were sent there for a reason...Probably as bait for me...she eyed him...

"Bait, I swear I would have gobbled in a minute...If I'd thought I could be sure to get to you...But there was no way to know what the Senior Partners had up their sleeves..."

Angel wouldn't have let you come to harm, Buffy...Will sighed...She still holding him tightly...

"I'm sure..." she replied dryly... "Just considering how well he took care of you..."

"He had reason not to trust me...Not knowing my sterling new character..." he twisted a bit to look at her face...Tears streaking... A perfectly good makeover ruined...he noted to her, forcing a wan smile from her...

"Might I?...Much as I appreciate the togetherness..." Ok...If you'll promise not to try and fly off to my ex-s' rescue...she smiled again, a bit relaxed now...

They rose slowly, she watching him...She indicated a bench at the end of the street and they went to sit down...Watching the birds flock for a moment without a word...She holding his right hand gently in hers...Stroking the fingers, then feeling to the wrist, then lifting it to her lips where she kissed the scar of his reattachment gently...He looked at her careworn, exhausted, yet now, genuinely radiant face...William...she breathed to him, lowering the hand...A real smile now...

"Is he really all right, Buffy?..."

She frowned, releasing the hand she'd held... "Since when did you become best buddies?...And I told you..." she paused, staring at his stern, cold face...And bit a lip...

"Right, I'm nothing but a liar to you now...A liar in love and war..." she sighed...Look...

"Even if I trusted him...I couldn't be sure of Wolfram-Hart's plans...They wanted and got him...They had you...If they got me as well..."

"All you had to do was call..."

"I did...Call...Write...They wouldn't let me speak to you...Harmony said you didn't want to speak to me..."

He shook his head...Harmony...he sighed...Well...

"I might've guessed...Evil vamps slash jealous ex-lovers are not the best..." he saw a hard look in Buffy's eye...

"Angel's personal secretary..." she noted... "And who gave her her orders?..."

"Angel was jealous of me...Yes..." he nodded... Rather a nice state of affairs for me, actually...Once I'd avoided the pull of Hell...he grinned...

"But once I'd had a chance to prove myself a little..."



"He knew I cared about you...That I trusted you..." she replied...Bitterly... "He sold out and couldn't bear to let you escape to be a living..." she gave him a faint grin, which he returned... "Well... Unliving...Reproach to him..."

"He didn't 'sell out'...You don't know what his motives..." she waved a hand... "I know about Connor...And he knew I knew...Willow penetrated the spell the day after we found out what he'd done...When I was still sure there must be some good reason...A plan to bring the Partners down...But it was all for his son..."

"You've risked the world for someone you loved...A someone who wasn't even real and might have been a deception..." he pointed out... "And Angel has been doing a fine job holding them down and learning how their organization works...When the time comes, you'll see where he really..."

"If I didn't believe that some part of him was trying...He'd be dust right now...If only for keeping you from me..."

And by the bye...she eyed him... "Even without hearing from me, you could've called...Or come to Rome or London..."

"I thought about it...But figured..."

"Right..." she looked away... "I couldn't really care...I didn't really love you...Heck, a real lover would've died with you or trying to save you, right?...I was busy being Slayer Commander and you were just a soldier boy I sent off with a nice memory..."

Willow told me what happened in Cleveland...he began...

"Yeah...Fit of emotion...A lil' remorse that briefly got to me...But you know me..." she laughed bitterly... "Got my act together when the job came crashin' back down on me...Oh, God..." she suddenly dropped her head into her hands...Sobbing...

He reached to her, patting her back...She sighed and looked at him...

"William, I tried...I tried to have Willow reach you...You have to believe me...If you'd only trusted in what I said that day...And come to me..."

If he'd or they'd have let you leave, that is...she turned cold again...

A buzz from her purse...She pulled out a cell phone and opened it...Yes...she replied to the mouthpiece after listening a brief moment...

"We can talk this out later...They've got Angel and he's ok..."

So?...he eyed her... "Now we...?"

"Sit and watch the birds together a moment...Just us, together again, for a moment?...Before it all comes crashing in again?...Please..." she pleaded...Taking his hand as he stared at her...

"Let me pretend I'm free...With my love again...Just for a moment..." she put an arm round his shoulders...He could feel her trembling, partly from the cool breeze and pulled off his jacket to give to her which she took with a grateful beam...And something approaching joy...Holding his hand, their arms about each other as they watched the birds and the sinking sun...

"For giving me you back...And you this moment in the sun, I could spare the Partners..." she murmured...Feeling him tremble now...

With, in spite of his obvious cautious hesitance...Something approaching joy...

***

"Fated..."



PG-13

Summary: A little post-Chosen, post-Destiny adventure...

Disclaimer: All BTVS characters remain the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and all other owner/creators of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series...

Archived at the "normal" Buffyverse (Note the quotes!) page of the Buffy Rebecca verse, www.angelfire.com/zine2/buffyrebecca/index.html

Spoilers for Angel to "Destiny": Fly, my lords! Fly! There is no tarrying here!...Unless you wish to learn that which you do not care to...

Part X...



Venice, near the docks...Late afternoon...

Cini led Angel, hemmed in by a good-sized but not too obtrusive crowd of 'tourists' and, judging by their looks and fluent Italian, 'locals', toward a dock where a group of rather high-powered-looking speedboats waited...Another fair-sized crowd causally milling around them as well...

"Quite the reception committee...I'm touched by Buffy's thoughtfulness..."

"She would have preferred to do this practically alone, Angel...But as she was so anxious to have a few moments alone with William...We were able to persuade her to let us take you..."

"She has no reason not to trust me, Cini...And she should know that..." Angel eyed him as they started down the stairs, a number of Slayers, detached from their male companions, now in front of and behind, happily chatting as if tourists without a care in the world...But one or two occasionally pausing to stare at them...

And if I wanted to make trouble here...he paused on the last step to the dock... "Despite your little Slayer-Watcher task force..." Several Slayers near him tensed a bit...

Cini nodded... "Your reputation precedes you...But the best way to prove your trustworthiness, my friend...Is to come along without argument...You want answers and you will find them where we're taking you..."

Angel nodded and giving a faint smile to those Slayers eyeing him...To whom Cini gave a discreet sign, clearly a 'stand-down'...Those further off still attempting to maintain the illusion of carefree tourist...Stepped onto the dock...

"You know..." he smiled at Cini, stepping just after him now onto the boat his companion had indicated, in the wake of several Slayers, more following behind...

"It was many years before I dared travel over running water...As a boy in Ireland I'd always heard vampires couldn't travel over rivers and such...Darla, my mate, used to howl at me as an ignorant, superstitious buffoon..."

"Many false legends have grown up around vampires and their demonic fellow creatures..." Cini smiled as they moved up towards the front of the boat at his gentle urging...

"But after all, what the human soul believed, the demon essence accepted as fact and was affected by..." he noted... "Luckily for us, else many of our religiously-based protections would have been useless all these centuries..."

"How long is your protective spell good for?..." he asked as they passed a door to the inner cabin...

About another two, possibly three hours...Angel noted...Should last til sunset...

Excellent...Cini beamed...Waving him on... "Then, with Buffy's and the Council's compliments, let me try to make amends for our somewhat brusk summons and treat you to one of the world's great pleasures...Venice from the sea in the late afternoon..."

***

"So there I was..." Buffy sighed... "I'd thought it was over...The First herself and Evil in general, beat...Back at the Crater, Willow had told me I was free...Could now do what I wanted...But there we were in Cleveland and a whole new, though, thank God, smaller-scale, Hellmouth waited...And Slayers were pouring in by the dozen, looking for someone, anyone to explain things to them...Give them some direction..."

An army of potential Faiths...As Faith pointed out to me that night... "When you..." Will paused...

"When I tried to do what I wanted...And join you, yeah..." she nodded... If the wrong persons took them in hand...Demon or human...

"So like Michael Corleone...I was pulled right back in again..." she looked down the street to where the sun was sinking...

"How long's your spell good for?..."

"Should hold til sunset..." he shook his head...

"It was all for nothing, Will..." she looked at him... "You died to save the world...It made no difference...I could have, should have clubbed you one and burned the place and gotten you out..."

Joke on me, eh?...a wan grin... "On us..."

"I wasn't sorry to die that way, Buffy...I felt it was the right thing to do...And even if I didn't believe..."

"I hated you for that..." she looked at him... "For a day or two, I hated you for not believing me..."

For letting yourself die alone, again...Unloved...When I loved you so.. Tears ran down her face...

"We'd been through that..." he began... "No picket fence for us, right?...And what we were fighting for was important...Even if it..."

"You think I don't know that!..." she cried... "I did my Slayer duty, didn't I?!...I told the man who fought his demon down and won his soul back for love of me that I didn't need him, I needed the monster he'd driven back!...The mission required Spike, not William...William was of no use to the Slayer except that his soul controlled the one she needed, held Spike in the fold..."

So I sent my soldier...And my useless lover with him, off to die for me, again...And never looked back, focused on the mission...Like a good little Slayer should...

"Neither Angel or I have any regrets, Buf..." She stared at him...Angel...?

"I'm talking about you William..." she eyed him...Taking a hand... "I sent you off again to die that day..."

For the second time...

"Just like I did in 1880...Though at least this time I didn't condemn you to eternal torment...Though this time I knew you would die..."

***

"Fated..."

PG-13

Summary: A little post-Chosen, post-Destiny adventure...

Disclaimer: All BTVS characters remain the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and all other owner/creators of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series...

Archived at the "normal" Buffyverse (Note the quotes!) page of the Buffy Rebecca verse, www.angelfire.com/zine2/buffyrebecca/index.html

Spoilers for Angel to "Destiny": Fly, my lords! Fly! There is no tarrying here!...Unless you wish to learn that which you do not care to...

Part XI...

London, late afternoon...

"Anything...?" Kennedy eyed a Fred glued to her computer screen...Deeply engrossed in following EM wave patterns... "Not exactly..." Fred waved the Slayer off... "But there is something there left...Give us a few..."

"Dr. Burkle..." Dobson, monitoring Angel's tracker with the Wolfram-Hart technician at the tech's suitcase console...Fred looked over... "He's definitely been brought out on water, they're moving out into the harbor rapidly..." Ok, she nodded...Calling another staffer over to help her with her equipment...

Fred?...Kennedy hissed, eyeing Dobson and the London W-Hers... "Can we talk?..."

"A minute...I think I may have a real trace..." Fred eyed her screen... "But we need to amplify the pattern a bit..." she looked at the staffer next to her, a tall, dark-haired, rather colorless type...Who nodded...

"Fred...I want to talk with you...Now..." Kennedy put a bit of Slayer into her command...Fred turned to her...An anxious look on the Slayer's face now...Fred?...

"Ok...Jackson, keep recording the pattern and go ahead and try to boost the signal...I'll be right back..." she rose and with a stern look of her own, led Kennedy off out the door of the office complex into the hall...

Dobson looking briefly after them as they left...As did one or two of the W-H staffers...

***

Venice...Same time...

"I've had the dreams for years...But it wasn't till you died at Sunnydale...And Giles brought me to London...That I finally began to piece things together..."

Though...Buffy smiled wanly at the William listening intently beside her on the bench, the setting Venice sun making shadows flicker over his face...Poor Riley guessed something of it...

"Finn?..."

"He left me because I couldn't love him...Cause he knew there was someone else..."

And you...Everyone...Heck, even I tried to...Believed it was Angel...she paused...

"But it wasn't Angel's name I screamed in my dreams when I was with Riley...And that's what led him to try and find out what it was that was pulling me to you...A monster..."

"Well..." William stared... "Knew ole Finn hated me...Spike anyway...But I never guessed..."

"I told myself it was residual from Willow's spell on us...Or maybe I was dreaming of you transforming me...Anything to keep from believing..."

And when we became a couple...When I was so ashamed of myself for what I felt for you...What Spike made me feel...Not wanting to consider...Trying to block anything but the sex and the shame out...Hating myself for even the tiny shreds of feeling...Let alone affection or compassion...I offered you...

"I could have remembered...I did in flashes, like the night you told me about how you killed those Slayers...And a little about yourself...I remembered, without even realizing it...I remembered how I killed you..."

She heard him sigh softly...Bitterly...

"And you've known...It's what pulled you to me...You've always known, somewhere, William..."

And poor Spike, trapped by your memories and dreams of me, couldn't tear himself away from me...Not permanently...Until, in the end, he surrendered...And gave it all up for me...And you...

"But it wasn't till you died again...That I began to remember us clearly...Still flashes but I saw...And knew..."

Then I got to London, and lying to Giles that I just wanted to read up on the older Slayers...He guessed I was lying but I dodged by admitting I wanted to find out all I could about you...I got into the old archives that were still intact...

"And that's how I found...The records about us...And my house in London...Do you remember it, Will?...It was a grand place in its day..."

He was trembling now...But she went on...Holding his hand tightly...

"I still wasn't sure then if you were gone or no...Willow hadn't fixed your soul's location then...But whether or not I'd lost you, I had to know...So, without telling anyone...I went to the house...My house..."

Cicely's house...she eyed him...

"Luckily it's been taken over by a law firm...I got in at night...And even with all the renovations, I knew my home...I saw the staircase where I first saw you when my cousin Henry brought you in that day...And where Halfreck descended in my place to..."

"Halfreck...?"

"My Watcher summoned her for me...I couldn't do it myself, I was too much of a coward...He offered me a way out...A way to save you from what had to happen to you if you stayed with me...and I took it..."

Cicely...he whispered...His grip on her now a vise...

And in the basement...she eyed him carefully... "I found what I was looking for...The place Henry had put...To keep us safe from Spike, if he ever took it into his vicious little head..."

Though I wish he had...she sighed...I wish he'd come and brought you...And whatever he did to us...You would've known...

"There was a wall, mortared up, covering a section of the basement that the renovators I guess didn't care about or thought best left undisturbed...But the bricks and mortar were different from the rest of the basement walls..."

"I kicked at the bricks, tearing away the crumbling old mortar...Nearly every instinct in me trying to hold me back, calling me away, but one...One voice leading me on, the one I heeded, silencing the others...As much as I dreaded where I was being led...

I heard a scream from somewhere deep inside me...Then, suddenly it was all round me...A howl like an animal's, insane...Nothing I'd ever fought had ever made such a cry...And I knew, though I felt somehow, completely calm and rational...That it was my cry...My howl of despair, shame, torment...

As I looked at the tombstones within...Two medium, one small...For William Soames Walthrop, born in 1859, died March 13th 1880...Beloved husband of...Cicely Anne Walthrop, born in 1857, died September 12, 1880...Six months after her beloved husband...And between the adults, the small marker for Amelia Walthrop...Born September 19th 1880, died same day...

My husband, my baby...And me...I knew it without being told..."

***

Off-shore, Venice harbor...A few minutes later...

"There..." Cini pointed back to the city, Angel standing beside him... "The most glorious city in the world at sunset..."

I can almost...he smiled faintly at his companion/prisoner... "See why you accepted Wolfram-Hart's offer, when it could allow you even a brief chance to witness sights like these..."

"I haven't betrayed Buffy and the Council..." Angel noted firmly... "I'm still fighting for the right cause, whatever I felt I had to do for my boy's sake..."

"We want to believe you, my friend..." Cini nodded... "And if we didn't believe in you...However much we fear the influence of the Senior Partners on you...You wouldn't be here..."

"I'd be in the path of whatever Buffy is about to unleash, right?...So she was kind enough to want me in safe custody...That's nice to know..."

Especially seeing how much she obviously hated me back there...Just now, I mean...he eyed Cini...

She doesn't hate you, Angel...You're being here with us proves that...But...Cini paused...

"You kept William from her, Angel...Nearly let him be destroyed...And you were the one who created Drusilla..."

Dru?...he stared at the Watcher...

"Drusilla...The one who took William from her and condemned him to worse than death..."

And, really...Along with our own dear Council...Killed her and her child...

***

"Fated..."

PG-13

Summary: A little post-Chosen, post-Destiny adventure...

Disclaimer: All BTVS characters remain the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and all other owner/creators of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series...

Archived at the "normal" Buffyverse (Note the quotes!) page of the Buffy Rebecca verse, www.angelfire.com/zine2/buffyrebecca/index.html

Spoilers for Angel to "Destiny": Fly, my lords! Fly! There is no tarrying here!...Unless you wish to learn that which you do not care to...

Part XII...

London...A small office in the new Council Tactical Training Center building...Late afternoon...

"Fred..." Kennedy eyed her as they stood in the office, door closed... "Is it such a good idea to let these Wolfram-Hart guys know where Buffy and her Slayers might be?...I realize they're supposed to be workin' for Angel...But their real bosses may...Must...Have their own agenda..."

"So it seems does Buffy...And her Council...And Willow, from what she pulled last night..." Fred leaned against the closed door...

"Even so..."

"We've gotta know where they're taking Angel...We need to know what Buffy is up to and where the Slayers are..."

"And if what she's up to is destroying the Partners?...And we give that away?...Maybe even expose the new Council to attack?..."

"I'm not going to sit back and let them take Angel and blindly trust Buffy and her people...Not after what they pulled with the borgs before..."

She raised a hand slightly as Kennedy began to make an angry reply...Showing something in her other hand...Which she squeezed...

"Ok...That will block any electronic or magical eavesdropping devices our loyal troops out there may be using for a little while..." she smiled at Kennedy's startled expression... "Wes and Angel don't have absolute faith in our employees' utter loyalty to us either, Kennedy...But we need them...We just gotta see they don't learn anything critical too quickly...And maybe be ready to stop them from calling in if they do..."

Which makes it just as well they believe you and I are not seein' eye to eye on this...she gave the Slayer a narrow look...Kennedy nodding...

"Ok, we'd best get back to them...And keep on suggesting you don't quite like how I'm handling things, we want our 'helpers' believing I'm funneling everything through them..."

She raised her voice slightly...Frowning at Kennedy as she opened the door...

"If you don't like the way I'm handling things, Ms. Kennedy...You can go back to Rio, you know...We'll find Willow and Buffy without your help..."

"I'm stayin'...I'm not going until I see Willow and get to the bottom of this..." Kennedy replied coldly...

"Then you'll follow my orders and we'll do just that..." a stern look... "Lets get back..." she waved her companion out the office door...Kennedy passing with a grim look...

Watch Dobson...Fred breathed as she passed her...

***

Venice...Sunset...

"Say something, Will..." Buffy eyed his quiet, clouded face...Taking his hands in hers...He remained silent...Just staring at her...

"Two days before you died...We were married just outside London...We were going to leave right after the party at our townhouse the night after...But..."

"But..." his voice was a harsh whisper... "You told me I was beneath you...That you couldn't see..."

"That's what I told Halfreck to say...I couldn't say it to you...I..."

"And these memories...You felt them before...From the day I..."

"The day Spike came to Sunnydale...Maybe, God knows, even before..."

"It..." he paused... "It could be just that...Memories...Cicely's...Passed on to you as other Slayer memories are..."

No...she shook her head... "These aren't memory fragments intended for me to hone my skills...I am Cicely...Back for you, Will...And I can prove it to you, if you want..."

"You knew...And still you left me...Like that...?"

"I didn't know...I felt...I saw flashes...And I tried not to believe in them...When Spike came to Sunnydale, as a monster, I had to...The Slayer had to..."

"But...Even when I was...When Spike was...Your lover?...How could you not...How could you leave me like that?..."

"Even if I weren't Cicely...How could I leave my lover like that is the better question, isn't it?...I couldn't bear to lose you that year, William...I couldn't even though I knew the real sin was leaving you as you were...I needed you..."

"You needed me..." he sighed bitterly... "You needed me in 1880 but I didn't quite make the grade...Hope my performance in 2002 was more suitable..."

You can thank Spike for that of course...Shame I bothered to go and...

"I wanted to die to be with you, William..." she cut in, a quiet tone... "I wanted to go...As a vampire, my worst nightmare...So that the others would see that my demon and know what you must have overcome to find your way back to me..."

But even before that...she eyed him... "I had to be careful because I wanted to be with you regardless of the consequences...I didn't know why then, I just did...Before the year I died I told myself you were manipulating me...Pushing my buttons with more skill than even Angelus...After all, you always seemed to know me so well..."

Then that year...When Spike tried to save me and Dawn...I was terrified...I wished you'd be a monster again so I could tell myself it was a trick, that I didn't feel anything for you...I wanted to have an excuse to kill you...

"But the more I tried...The more the memories pressed...Thank God for Glory, I was telling myself by the end...Fighting her, I didn't have to think...I could just be the Slayer..."

Then I died...And when I came back...she turned his hands over to look at the scars...

"My husband was waiting to patch my hands..." her tears ran onto his outstretched, open palms...

But still...I was the Slayer...You were a monster...A monster who loved me...Whom I loved...The only one who could reach me, help me...

"I told myself the memories were lies, I was trying to justify my little affair with sexy ole Spike...I couldn't really care for you...I couldn't, I wouldn't let myself love a monster..."

And as always...The thought of trying to help you...Even just to give you peace...

"Hey...Buffy had to get her life back together...And you were convenient...And hell, you were allowed to exist and getting some, right?...What else did she owe you?..."

He looked away...Towards the setting sun...

"I couldn't even give you peace..." she shook her head... "The Slayer needed you to get back on her feet..."

I beat you...Cause I wanted to love you...Not screw you...Love you...I knew I did...I felt, dreamed that I had...

"And that was a dream too horrible for dear Buffy to contemplate...Better to beat the crap out of you and pray you'd see the light and leave..."

Even as I prayed you'd stay by me...Not give up on me...Keep tryin'...And you did...

"Until finally Spike did what was only natural for a demon...Hell, he was a model of restraint even in rape...And I saw my William in his eyes...The shame, the torment...The love..."

And the belief...The faith...That took Spike to Africa...And brought William back to me...

"And what was my joyous reaction to all this...?"

"You didn't know, Cicely..." he murmured gently...Taking one of the hands that she'd pulled away from his...

"I told you I needed the monster back..." she gave him a hard stare... "The Slayer needed Spike...So long as he behaved himself, she'd let him hang...And give him a chance to die for her..."

"I've failed you, Will...My love...My husband..." she sighed... "In every possible way...I didn't believe in you then...I didn't let myself recognize you...I didn't believe in you now...I didn't even destroy the monster that had taken you..."

And I failed our child...I couldn't even save her for you...

"But..." she gave a wan smile... "Hey, these things happen in a long marriage, right?..."

***

"Fated..."



PG-13

Summary: A little post-Chosen, post-Destiny adventure...

Disclaimer: All BTVS characters remain the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and all other owner/creators of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series...

Archived at the "normal" Buffyverse (Note the quotes!) page of the Buffy Rebecca verse, www.angelfire.com/zine2/buffyrebecca/index.html

Spoilers for Angel to "Destiny": Fly, my lords! Fly! There is no tarrying here!...Unless you wish to learn that which you do not care to...



Part XIII...



Venice, just after sunset...

William stood beside Buffy...She, Audrey Hepburn hat back on head, holding his hand firmly in hers, looked carefully down the street from the well-concealed alleyway corner where they'd been waiting for the past ten minutes since she'd led him from their seat...

Should be just a moment...she noted, smiling shyly at him... "Things are kinda..." They vanished...

And reappeared an instant later in what Will could see was some kind of large, well-appointed office...With a spare, rather over-loaded...With papers, files, computer, and other equipment...Desk...A photo frame containing images of Dawn, Joyce...And to his surprise, himself, unsteadily propped against the computer...A rather anxious-looking, standing Willow greeted them...

"You two ok?..." Perfect...Buffy beamed, squeezing Will's hand in hers... "Nice teleport, Wil...Thanks..." Yeah...Willow nodded coolly at her...Then eyed William...

"You've told him...Everything?..." All the important stuff...Buffy lightly replied...Swinging William's hand in hers...Yeah?...Willow stared at her...

"The rest I figured it's best to explain from here..." the Slayer shrugged...Then eyed Willow coldly, every inch the Slayer Counselor-General, William noted... "It's between us...And for me to decide when to tell him, Willow..."

"If you want any more help from me, Buffy..." Willow shook her head... "I intend to tell him..Everything..." Buffy frowned darkly...But allowed her face to clear... "I do, William..." she turned to him a sec...He eyeing her carefully...Then back to Willow...

"Please Wil...Leave it to me..."

"Buffy..." William stepped away slightly...She turned...Refusing to let his hand go... "First, where's Angel?..."

She eyed Willow who shrugged... "They should be bringin' him in any minute..."

"And as to the rest..." William began...As the office doors opened and a very harassed, short, brown-haired young woman entered, several other young to middle-aged men and women, all talking and waving arms at once, just behind her... "Ms. Summers!!..." several called to her...

(Play Theme... "Everybody Wants to Rule the World...")

"Ms. Summers...?" the harassed young woman ran to her, clipboard and palm pilot in hand...

A mo, honey...Buffy smiled apologetically at William...Just a couple of things... "A madhouse round here these days..."



That's for sure...Willow murmured under her breath, but loud enough for Will and a briefly glaring Buffy to hear...

"Ok, Cheryl...Shoot...The rest of you, just a mo..." she waved the others off and they stood impatiently silent in a clot as the brown-haired girl, Cheryl offered her clipboard list...And began running down it...Indicating various apparently crucial items which Buffy glanced at hastily...The assistant supplementing the list with her palm pilot data at various points...

Willow rolling eyes at William...Our Leader in action...

"Pass..." "No..." "What's the latest we have on this?..."

"Ms. Summers!!...We need an answer on the Liotung matter!..." a call for one in the little crowd of waiting petitioners...She put a hand... "Not ready to call that one yet!..."

"Yes..." "No, definitely not..." "All right tell them they have until Thursday to get those stakes into the Duluth center..."

"Are you...William?..." The harassed Cheryl suddenly stared at William, eyes bulged a bit...A Slayer, he realized immediately...He nodded...Yeah...Buffy beamed... "Meet my Will, everybody!..." she called to the clustered group...Who collectively nodded to him...A few of the women in the group staring as Cheryl had...William!...One openly gasped...

Better get used to a lot of fan attention, here, William...Willow gave him a wry smile...

"Slayer memories..." Buffy quickly noted, calling over... "Cicely's as well as my modern ones...But just traces..."

I hear a few of them keep shrines to you...Willow grinned to him, he just beside her...Her face falling a bit as he stared at her coldly... "Sorry about London, Will..." she nervously looked away...

"So is Kennedy..." he noted coolly...Watching Buffy as she now sent Cheryl away and turned to the group waiting on her...Several calling to her as she went to them... "Just one more min, Will..." she looked over to him... And began taking papers, answering questions, and making quick comments as they clustered round her...

"Our Slayer's become quite the CEO I see..." Of necessity...Willow agreed... "Better take a seat, Will...She may be a little while..." the wiccan indicated a small sofa by the far wall, which he made for, she sitting beside him...

"So China's a problem I understand..." he smiled a bit, waving at the cluster now surrounding the Slayer Counselor-General... "I guess..." Willow shrugged... "Demon monks on the warpath or something...But lots more problems than that now..." Though she gave a grateful return to his faint smile...

"Ken was pretty pissed, I suppose..." she sighed...

"Should've brought her in on it, Red..." he nodded... "The girl loves you, and I can tell you, it hurts to be shut out..."

"I didn't want her here...For what's to come..."

"William?..." Cheryl, twelve additional anxious-looking Slayers in tow, had returned to the office, she now pushing a small cart... "I can get you anything...Coffee, soda..." He likes whiskey...One of the other Slayers, all around the sofa now, noted, eyeing him intently... "We can get you that..." Cheryl nodded hastily...

That'd be grand...he smiled at her...The Slayers in the circle about him all smiling back...

"I'll like a diet coke..." Willow noted... Hmmn?...Cheryl stared at her blankly... "Oh, sure...Miss Rosenberg..." she nodded vaguely... Just a minute while I get William's...She headed out the door, leaving the cart...Willow eyeing William as she opened the cart to fetch her coke...

"Are you ok?..." one of the other Slayers asked anxiously... Just fine...he smiled at her...

"We'd've all come with the Counselor-General to you get out, you know that..." one spoke up...

Ummn...He looked at Willow...Who rolled eyes...



"Nice to have folks care..." he began... "We do..." an eager chorus... More of the Slayers from the group around Buffy having broken off and come over, joined by additional Slayers and now a few others, curious Watchers he guessed, from outside...

Buffy now frowning a bit at the crowd about William from where she continued to deal with her obviously onerous, though he suspected, not entirely unsatisfying, executive duties...

"Nice..." he blinked at his increasingly openly adoring circle of fans...Who maintained a generally respectful silence while nudging each other and jostling for positions near him... "Right...So..." he turned to Willow as Cheryl came running back with a glass... "Thanks pet..." he nodded to her beaming face as he took the whiskey...

"Where the hell are we, anyway, Red?..."

"About 2000 feet below the sea floor of the Adriatic..." she noted...A cavern base constructed for NATO originally during the late 50s and 60s...Handed over to the Council years ago...

Nice, he nodded... "And is everyone..."

Hiya!...Dawn's excited voice at the open office door...He looked to see her entering, followed by Xander...Who bore a somewhat depressed look...

And to Will's surprise, but he saw, not Willow's...Cast a rather angry glance at Buffy...Ever more swarmed by her staff...

***

The Adriatic Sea, just sunset...

Angel looking out over the water towards the Italian coast...Cini beside him, and a few Slayers and presumably Counselors scattered round the railing of the boat deck...

My worst nightmare...he sighed to himself...That's what 'Barney' told me in that dream...And he, or my id, was right... That's what this is...

Buffy's turned completely against me...Not only distrusts me...But, in spite of what my polite host hear says...he eyed Cini with faint smile, who nodded... "Almost there, my friend..."

...She hates me...Though willing, almost certainly as much for her friends' sake and my good ole renewed best buddy William's, as for our old times' sake, to spare me when she takes the field...

Against?...Well, certainly my dear employers...And God knows and I would guess, probably every demonic force or organization on Earth...

On Earth or maybe even?...Could she actually be considering?...An offensive?...

No, she wouldn't...She couldn't...The risks would be insane...And yet...

"All right, Angel?..." Cini was staring at him...Hmmn... "Oh, fine...Need to get my sea legs, I guess..."

Several sailors scurried round the deck, a number clustering round some equipment and cables at the railing on the side opposite from them...

"Perhaps a drink while we wait to make the final leg of our trip?..." "Thanks, that'd be nice...A gin and tonic if you've got it?..." Cini turned to a sailor...

Cicely...Angel pondered...All these years...She was waiting, in Buffy, til William the Bloody showed his head...And Buffy, drawn to me because she thought, somewhere in that lost other self, that the vamp with a soul had to be...

Never realizing that I...Angelus...Was the one who'd set the whole fatal cycle in motion by taking poor Dru...

And I, was there something in me?...When I backed away from her after Angelus reared his head and even more so after she died...Did I sense, was there something in me that knew she'd never be mine, that there was someone else she was seeking?...



Or was I just afraid of commitment?...Offering her excuses little better than Angelus', who after all is me...

A chamber of some sort popped up on the surface...A diving bell of some advanced design...Cini returned, offering a drink which Angel took... "Thanks..."

"Ms. Rosenberg would bring us down directly but she's a bit drained after transporting so many today, including Buffy and William who are already safely below...But I think you'll enjoy the descent...In spite of overuse and pollution, our little Adriatic is still a beautiful thing to see from beneath the surface..."

"So your HQ is underwater, on the sea floor...?" "About 2000 feet below the floor...An old base turned over to the Council some time ago...It's where the Council developed the prototypes for the cyborgs you encountered..."

"Pity they weren't around to protect your London office from the First's minions..."

"Chairman Travers, who did survive by the way, though chose retirement from the Chairmanship due to his wounds...Had the foresight to protect the most secret of our operations by scattering them at different sites about the world...We would have recovered and struck back had the First overcome the Slayer army..."

"So you have a borg as well as a Slayer army at your disposal?..."

"The cyborgs represent both a weapon and an attempt at salvation, my friend..." Cini looked at the vampire earnestly... "After so many fruitless efforts to help the unjustly condemned ones in ways other than to simply destroy them, we had the example of first one, then two, human-souled vampires...Doomed ones who'd found their ways back..." he smiled at Angel... "To prove to us it could be done...And the research carried out by the Initiative and our own staffs to give us a way...We are not merely seeking soldiers and they are truly grateful for what help we've been able to give them..."

"Sounds like you've had a hand in that project..." "Indeed, from the start...With Roger Wyndham-Price, your friend's father..."

"I thought it was likely he was in on it...Considering him being the template for the leader of the team that hit us before..."

"We were, in our way...Trying to help you, Angel...Get you out before you might be lost to Wolfram-Hart and your own guilt over your son..."

"If so..." Angel nodded... "Alls' ready..." a Slayer called to Cini who waved... "I appreciate the intention..."

Though a simple phone call or note...

"Monitored by Wolfram-Hart's leaders?..." Cini eyed him... "Why do you think Buffy was unable to reach William by phone or letter?...And why did she not simply go herself?..."

A frown by Angel...

"If you've come to trust the Senior Partners to leave you to your own affairs to that extent, Angel...I think we've removed you in the barest nick of time..."

But, I should leave the rest of these matters to Buffy...Shall we go?...he indicated a ramp to the bell now secured in place...

***

"Fated..."

PG-13

Summary: A little post-Chosen, post-Destiny adventure...Departs somewhat from Angel's last season as it was started well before.

Disclaimer: All BTVS characters remain the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and all other owner/creators of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series...

Archived at the "normal" Buffyverse (Note the quotes!) page of the Buffy Rebecca verse, www.angelfire.com/zine2/buffyrebecca/index.html

Spoilers for Angel to "Destiny": Fly, my lords! Fly! There is no tarrying here!...Unless you wish to learn that which you do not care to...



Part XIV...

London...The Council Tactical Center...Evening...

"Is Mr. Angel's signal still deactivated?..." Kennedy turned to the Wolfram-Hart technician manning the tracking system...He nodded...Ever since his last position on the Adriatic...

"Same situation as before ma'am...He's either been brought somewhere off Earth, or somewhere on Earth where the signal is completely blocked, perhaps under the sea floor there...Else the tracker's been destroyed, or it's simply been turned off..."

And since the tracker's extremely powerful...And very hard to detect...And would leave a disruption trace if he'd been pulled off Earth...

"And since Angel confirmed by cell phone that he was ok..." "If it was Mr. Angel..." Dobson noted from his station at the EM wave monitor...

"All right...We have orders from Angel to sit tight and our instructions from Wesley to keep monitoring the situation..." Fred told them quietly, surprising them as she came up from her office in back... "Lets avoid speculation...Dobson, we need to keep watching the EM frequencies I gave you, not play at the whole spectrum..."

"We've no way of knowing of if the Council is using other frequencies..." Dobson sniffed a bit... "Do like I told you, or head home...With my thanks for your help..." Fred eyed him...

"Sorry...No offense intended..." he gave a weak smile... "Just trying to assist..." "Appreciated, thanks...But I want to keep on the direct trail..." she nodded... "Certainly, Dr. Burkle..."

She turned and headed back...

"Do you think she's wrong?..." Kennedy eyed him... "I think she knows more than she wants us to..." Dobson replied, a tad miffed...But smiled... "But...It's probably nothing we need to know..." He returned to his monitor...

"Well, the Slayer sure as hell 'needs to know'..." she fumed... "And this Slayer is gonna find out, now..." She stalked off...

"Well?..." Kennedy put a confrontational note into her voice as she stood in the doorway of the small inner office Fred had recently taken for setting up some sensitive scanning equipment in isolation from the machines in the main room... "Any news to tell?..."

"I'll let you when I have any, Kennedy..." Fred replied...Kennedy stepped in at Fred's narrow look and slammed the door shut with a rattle...

"I want to know what's up!...I'm the Slayer here and I won't be left..." Kennedy's shout came through into the larger office...Dobson, at his EM wave monitor, eyeing the office where Kennedy could be seen through the glass door, waving her arms a moment...

Several of the Wolfram-Hart technicians from their seats at their various controls and monitors likewise staring over for a moment or two...

"We're ok as to being overheard, but keep it up with the angry waving..." Fred hissed...

"Anything?...Dobson's getting suspicious...We oughta send them all home..." Kennedy hissed back... "Everything that comes in should come to me!..." she shouted, waving arms...

"Best to keep them here where we can control what data they get fed, otherwise the Partners might set them to work on their own..." "Can we be sure they don't have others...?" No... "No!...You'll get whatever I get as it comes..." Fred shouted, shaking her head...It's just the best we can do...Eve had nothing to give Wes when he contacted her... she whispered...

"And there's nothing new on Angel since he called Wes...But I've been monitoring wave pulse traces that were sent out from here and some other sites around the world...Low power tests of a much more powerful system, I'd say...Kennedy, I think I have an idea now what Buffy is planning..." Fred eyed her...

"One of these frequencies is the same used in opening the portal to Pylea..."

"Buffy wants to go to Pylea?..." Kennedy blinked... Wherever the hell 'Pylea' is?...Sounds Greek...



"Is that in Greece?...Some mystic site?..." she asked...

"Another dimension...A whole demon world...Keep up the 'angry Slayer demands info' bit..."

Right...She waved arms, trying to take an angry pose...

Oh... "So Buffy is going to a demon world to catch...Demons?..."

No...Fred shook her head eyeing the screen readout...

"She's going to every demon world, following every interdimensional string trace they'd ever left in coming here...And she's going, I think, to all or a lot of them at once...God, this is a blueprint for an extermination campaign..."

Or a disaster...She looked at Kennedy...

***

Aboard the diving bell, about fifty feet down and descending...

Cini offered a glass of wine... "From my family's vineyards back on the coast directly across from here...It's become something of a tradition to offer a glass to a visitor to the base on their initial descent..." Angel took the glass, Cini raising his briefly... Excellent...Angel nodded, sipping slightly...Looking out the wide glass portal...

"It's said Alexander the Great was the first recorded passenger in one of these things...And, it being Alexander, his vessel was probably as well stocked with good wine as ours..." Cini smiled at Angel... "I hope you understand, my friend...You are not a prisoner but a guest...And an honored one..."

"Buffy just afraid I might turn her hospitality down, eh?...She only had to ask, as I've said..."

"The situation didn't allow for it...You aren't as free and untrammeled as you may think, Angel...Your Partners monitor you and your friends far more carefully than you give them credit for...We couldn't take the risk of them learning too much too soon..."

"She might have trusted me...For old times' sake if nothing else...I did, after all, let you know about my tracker and deactivated it when you asked..."

"And we appreciate that...Even though we started jamming as a precaution the moment you stepped on the boat..." a slight grin... "It was only natural you would've kept in touch with your people in your own way...We would've done the same...But I hope Mr. Wyndham-Price and your friends will be satisfied with phone calls for now..."

"Wes and the others are sitting tight...But you're wrong, friend...Whatever she says regarding me and the 'honor' your organization bears me, she hates me now, somewhere in her heart...I saw it back there in the café..."

Or maybe it's better to say...Cicely hates me...he sighed... "And Buffy...The Buffy I knew...Is lost in her now..."

"And I thought it was her being the Slayer and my little Angelus problem that was keeping us apart..." he smiled wanly... "And all the time she was simply a wife looking for her lost husband...Mistaking me for him for a little while when she stumbled across my soul in the darkness..."

"She blames herself for what happened to William and that burden sometimes causes her to strike out in her pain..." Cini hesitated... "And if there is anger buried in her towards Angelus, you may as well know she has far greater reason to hate the Council and all of us...We who betrayed her earlier self...Or at least, allowed Cicely to be betrayed...And kept Ms. Summers in such ignorance of her past...A past some of us were aware of...That she nearly destroyed him...And herself..."

"And you're all atoning for it now, by following whatever scheme she has in mind...?" Angel gave his host a hard stare...

"The Council is generally of her mind on the current project...But yes, we do feel we owe her our support as well..." Generally?...Angel eyed him... "So there is some opposition?...To whatever this 'project' is...?"

"As I said, Buffy and the others below will answer your questions in... " Cini eyed the instrument read-out on the control panel to his side where a sailor was monitoring... "Ten minutes..."



"Whatever has happened to her regards Cicely, Buffy still needs your help and support, Angel...And I think, from what I know of you and your existence, you love her unselfishly enough to give it to her..."

***

The Council base, Buffy's office...

"So..." Dawn eyed William, now seated next to him on the sofa... "Buffy's told you..."

"More or less...Still some pesky details about whatever it is she's up to..."

"I mean about Cicely, Will..." she stared at him... "Geesh, you just found out and you're sitting there like a lump..."

"Gotta get used to the thing, Nibs...The shock of finding out I'm your long-lost brother-in-whatever, you know..." he grinned...As she gulped a bit...Then smiled at him, gently...

Not exactly...she breathed... "But welcome home...Father..." she gave him a shy kiss on the forehead...

Xander gave his first smile of the scene to Willow, she grinning faintly back at him... "You might've warned the fella..."

Father?...Will blinked...

"Guess I did have a soul of my own after all, Daddy..." Dawn grinned at him... "Buffy...Mama...Told you about losing...Me...In 1880, right?..."

Amelia...? he stared... "After my aunt, yeah...Can we keep it Dawn Amelia, I'm so used to the..."

Whoa...She gasped as he grabbed at her, hugging...Buffy looking over...Oh...

"Tell me you're not mad at her...And you will stay with her...?" Dawn pulled back, eyeing his face carefully...

I don't think she could bear it if...Xander looked at her, then William from where he stood quietly, by Dawn's side of the sofa...

"I don't hate her...As to being angry with her, well..." he paused... "But, yes...I will stay with her...If she wants me to..."

A successful CEO as significant other is hardly something I'd turn up my nose at...he waved at where Buffy was still intensely engaged with her staff...

And I never really left her...he smiled... "At least if what she's told me is true, I've been waiting for her to pick me up for a century..."

"And she did, Will...Ummn...Dad...Or is Father...?"

"Neither...Please, just yet...Let it sink..." he eyed her slightly fallen face... "Ah, hell, my girl...'Dad' is just fine...Just fine..."

"Buffy hasn't told you the rest?...About what's up here?..." Xander cut in, staring at William intently... "Not yet..."

"But she will..." Buffy suddenly broke in...Having freed herself and come over before they'd noticed... "I see Dawn...Amelia's told you..." she grinned at William, tightly held in Dawn's arms...

"That's good..." Xander was quiet and withdrawn...

He might want to know before you make the biggest mistake of both your lives...

"Xander..." Willow moved to him as Buffy reddened...

"Xander and I have agreed not to agree on this one..." she turned to William...Pasting a smile... "Which is his perogative and I still appreciate his input and pov..."



And the fact that as always, he's here for me...she smiled a brief but genuine smile at Xander who nodded...Always, Buf...

"But I still want my chance to speak on this at the final review...To everyone...Including..." he paused...Then grinned sheepishly at William...What the hell... "Your husband..."

"Everyone will have a chance to make their comments..." Buffy nodded... Then brightened...Squeezing herself in on the sofa on Willow's side between William and her...

"So...I see your vamp nature saved you from a coronary...I was gonna tell you, with her, in private..." she frowned at Dawn...Who gave a sly grin back... "But I guess it was best for it to be a daughter-father thing..."

"Get her...She still isn't ready for me to call her 'Mom'..." Dawn grinned...

"Buffy...Not wanting to disrupt the happy reunion..." Xander broke in... "But when will we...?"

"After I talk everything over with William..." she noted... "The review meeting will be tonight, Xander, don't worry..."

"But first...Now that we're nearly..." Hey!...Dawn waved at the entering Angel, Cini, and at Angel's side, Giles... Giles?...William eyed Willow... "Yeah, the real McCoy..." she whispered... "Our phony's back to the borg look"...She waved at him...Hey!...

"Well..." Buffy grinned at the new arrivals... "Now that we're all here..." She got up and paused to let Cheryl push through the now fairly packed room, passing glasses...Another staffer behind her pouring out what William took to be champagne from bottles on Cheryl's cart...

"Guys...Giles...Angel..." she smiled at the two briefly...Then moved to William, reaching for and taking his hand...Pulling him to his feet as Dawn rose as well, patting him on the arm with a rather possessive air...

My God, she's glad...He thought in wonder, looking at her...Glad...Proud...To be my daughter...

"Thank you all for being here...This is a special, special day and I am so glad to have you with us..." Buffy began... Ummn... "Even if it wasn't exactly the way you might have preferred, Angel...I am sorry...And I hope you understand..." He gave a slight nod... "Anyway, for now..."

"Please, everybody...Meet my husband...Mr. William Soames Walthrop..." she stared at his face, a pleading in her eyes...Passing her glass to Dawn...With a hard, don't-even-think-about-more-than-a-sip stare... "And our daughter..." she reached a hand over to Dawn for a moment which Dawn briefly squeezed...

He took her hand now and kissed it gently...Buffy...Cicely...he whispered...as, clearly relieved, she moved to embrace him...The others about them raising glasses in toast...Slayers beaming, scattered Councilors a bit more mixed in reaction, but generally enthusiastic...Angel nodding to the staring Dawn with a kind smile...

Thank you...she mouthed back...

"Welcome home...Home...Home forever..." Buffy whispered in his ear...Holding Will tight as she kissed him... "Never lose you again...I'll never let them take you away from me again..." she whispered...Rocking him in her arms slightly...

Xander, then Willow in turn, eyeing Giles' somewhat clouded face...

***

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