"I Love Ya...Truly..."

PG-13

Summary: With the aid of some demon brew, a little party at Angel's new offices to celebrate William's resurrection in LA gives Buffy her chance to say it and prove it...The hard way...

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




Play theme

Part I...

***

LA, next year, late evening...An alley outside Angel Investigations' new offices at the old Wolfram-Hart building...

Crashing sounds as two large green demons are hurled out a side door...

"And stay out...!..." Angel's voice calls...Slamming the door...

Ohhhh...One rises...

"Chester!?..." he calls, rubbing his frontal skull horns...Always hurts when Angel hits those...

Arrrggh...Chester staggers up...

"What happened...?"

"Angel and William the Bloody clobbered us that's what happened..."

Never saw em...The office was too dark...Chester notes...Hey, though...

"But...Isn't Spike dead?..." Chester eyes his pal...All seven mucous feet of him...

Nah...the other, Sid, shakes what passes for a head...I just got the call while we were in there...They were about to abort our mission here...

"The Firm's survivors tried to resurrect him tonight...But Angel found out about it and screwed things up...It's human William the soul in that Bloody body, not Spike...Damn it all..."

Well...He sighs...At least we accomplished our end...Albeit it's no use now...William and Angel are already workin' together, that's obvious...There's no point in drugging Angel with that phony brew we put in his fridge...No Spike to come and kill him...

"They might both get plastered on it...Then fight...Or we could have someone come round to get 'em...Lets get some guys and try it in a hour or two?..." A dedicated employee of Wolfram-Hart is Chester...

Angel...And William?...Together...Drunk or sober?...Even with our intellect-depressing brew helping out...Not a chance...

"Lets just be glad we're alive and hope those two wind up with a hell of a hang-over..."

Leastways we didn't screw tonight's mission up...Sid notes as they head off...

***

Two hours later...



An aggrieved-looking Buffy enters Angel's office...Throwing the front door open...A rather plastered William stands up, startled...

"Buf..fy?..." he stares at her...Swaying...

William...she looks back...Trembling a bit...

"It is you?...You, William?..."

Yeah...he nods...Searching her face...

She tries to maintain a cold calm...

"What happened...?" she eyes the wreckage in the office... "I called all the way in from Crestwood...Nobody answered the phone..."

Eh...he shrugs...Ang'land I...he wobbles a bit on his feet...

Angel swings round in his chair, sprawled and looks up...Hya, Buf!...Hic...

Welcam to L...A... He solemnly greets her...

"Wanna a little drink?..." he offers a bottle...

No...Thank you...she glares... Looking round...Damn...

"I knew it...William...? You just resurrected and you two were at it right away?..." she frowns...

"So?...Whadayou care, girl?..." he staggers back to his seat...

But ifya needta know...We was fightin' demons...A whole crew...My vamp bro and me...

Demons?...she looks at Angel...Who nods...Ahole crew...alltwo...He holds up four fingers...

"Look, William...I just came cause I heard you were resurrected and I wanted..."

"Sowhatsit to you..." he frowns at her waving an arm... "Whatdid you care when I dissoci...dissolva..."

"Dissolved..." Angel solemnly corrects...Nodding at him...

"Right...Dissolved...Thanks ole pal..." Will pats Angel's arm as Buffy glares...

But she senses some real pain there...

"I cared...I told you I loved..." He bangs the table...Angel nods...

"Buffyshit..." he glares at her... "It's alllllll....Buffyshit...!" Head wobbing...

Right, ole pal?...he turns to Angel...Who nods stiffly...All Buffyshit...And he oughta know...

"Jesus...William..." she hisses... "Can't we go somewhere and...After you sleep this off...Talk things over...?"

"If youd loved me...Ya woulda stayed..." he frowns at her... "Til the bitt'r end..."

Dru woulda stayed...When she luved me...Whay...Back wheeen...he waved his arms...

"I woulda died...Hell, I did die for ya...And I woulda stayed with ya...If the rules...roars..."



Roles?...she hisses...What the hell have you two been drinking?...

Angel waves the bottle again...Wan some...?

Later...she frowns...Thanks...

"Right..." Will nods... "Roles...Was reserved...er reversed..."

Ummn...she blinks a little...

"Ya jumped inta the hole for lil' Dawny, right?...Thats whatya did...Thas wha she did, right, Angel?..."

"Ye...up..." Angel solemnly nods...Hiccupping...

Arrgh...

"But not for William...Uman-souled William...Souled nice and neat for you..." He put an extended hand down several times like a chopper on the table for emphasis..."...you icile...Ici..."

"Icicle?..." she asks, hands folded...

Ya...Thanks...he sits...

"Will...If you thought I didn't care...You're wrong...I cared...And I do care...Maybe I was wrong to say...It...The way I did but..."

"I luvya...That's what she said..." Will turns back to Angel...Banging the table for emphasis...

Angel nods solemnly...Thats what she says all right...he notes...

I luvya...But any fool could tell ya didn't mean it...Will sighs....

"I meant it...In a way...At the time..." she begins...

Oh Lord....He rolls his eyes, glaring again...She withers a bit...

"You have a place in my heart...I told Angel that...Didn't I?..." she looks at Angel desperately...

"I supp...ose...you did..." Angel replies...Pondering the matter...

Yep...You did...he nods...

Urggh...

"And now...Youre here...Back again..." Will wags a finger... "Wan me to go savda world for you again?...Or wha is it this time...?...More using ole Willy lika punching bab?"

That's the way she dos it...Angel nods...Alla time...He puts a forefinger down hard on the table in front of him for emphasis...Ow...!

"Look...I'll come back tomorrow...After you've slept this off..." she sighs... "I really do want to talk things over, William...Please..."

"Oh...Buf...!" he moans, putting his head in his hands, halting her in mid-turn away... "Ya didn't stay with me...Not even a try of a resuccc..."

Resur-hic-rection...Angel helpfully suggests... "Ya, right..." Will resumes...



"Didntcha even care enough to put me up a proper tombstone...?"

Ummn...She stares...

"We...Ummn..."

Not even a freakin' plaque...He begins sobbing...Angel staggers over and pats his poor lil' soul brother...Glaring at Buffy who shakes her head...Please...I...

"We were going to...I wanted to check things...I..." she begins to break down a little...

"I didn't know your name, William...Or where in England you were from...I was having Willow and Giles check after things with the new Slayers settled down, I swear..." she bursts into tears...Sitting down...Hands over her face...

"I'm...I'm...Oh...Will... I'm...So...Sor...Sor...Sorry..." she sobbed....

"But you have to believe...I really did care...And we were gonna get a stone...As soon as they got your information..."

"Oh...William...I was so glad when Wesley called us about you...I came right over, soon as I could..." she continued sobbing between words...

You ok...? she looked up at him...No aftereffects, I mean...

"No prob..." he waved a hand...

None after Ange here...Made sure those Wolfram-Hart types didn't getta chance to bring Spikey back...

"Thanks, Angel..." she beams at him through tears...

"For my lil' soul vamp bro...No prob..." he nods...

"But we did hafa lil' trouble with a bunch who came over tonight, just afta I got Willum home..." he noted...

"But that was justa lil' post-res exercise for Willy here..." he pats William again...

"Walthrop..." William eyes her...Head wobbly...

Huh?...

"My name...Ya said ya wanted ta know my name...It's Walthrop...William...So-hic-ames...Wal-hic-throp..."

Nice to meet ya...

"William Soames Walthrop...It's a nice name, Will..." she beams...

"It was...I kinda drug it through the mud the last century..." he sighs...

No, no...No...She eyes him firmly...Not you William...!...

"Spike was the monster Will...Not you..." she told him...

"Yeah?...You sure didn't seemta think so last year..." he frowns at her...

Oh...Will...Please...Listen...she pleads...Taking a small sip of the beer to clear her throat...

Hmmn...That's pretty good...she notes...A little strong...



Funny, it takes...er, tastes...Familiar...

"It's good brew...Impor from the Old Country..." Angel notes...

Ireland...Eire, we livers there call it...

"Nice..." she takes another sip... "Anyway, Will...I hadda come to see ya...you...when I heard you'd been revived...Resurrected..." she takes a good swig...

"Cause I had to let you know...I did mean what I said..."

"Ya did?.." he stares...

I did...she nods...Blinking a little as she takes another swig...

I luv ya, William...I really luv ya...she smiles at him...Her head swaying a bit now...

Hic...Cuse me...she giggles...Good beer...

Only da best for my-hic-lil' soul bro and my...Angel pauses and then smiles, kindly if drunkenly...

My...lil' Slayer...sis...

She beams at him...Thanka...she nods...Thanka Ang'l...

"So...Canna geta kiss...? From my double-dipper dead guy?..." she grins, wobbling over to William...Who stares up at her...

"Buffy...Oh, Buffy..." he hugs her...Kissing her hair, face...

Willy...Will...OH....she sobs again... "I thought ya were gone forever...Stupid, stupid..." she shakes her head...

"I dint do anything to get ya back..." she hangs her head...But, oh! Will...! she beams...Taking another swig...

"I was gettin the spell from Willow...The one she used on me...I even found out where ya could geta fawn..."

Fawn?...The boys look at each other...Hmmn...

She's been drinkin'...Angel notes solemnly...

Cute little Bambi...she makes a slice across her throat...Grooss...But I was goona do it, Will...I swear...

"Buf...You've had too much..." William attempts to assert boyfriend perogative...

"Im fine...I know my lim...limits..." she insists...Standing up...

See me walka straight line...she staggers...And falls into Will's lap...

"Hiya, honey..." she grins... "Oh...Will!..." she hugs him...

"We gotta tell everybody...Wakem all up!..." she cries... "Wil'iam's live...He's Up!..."

"Yeah..." William seems down as yet...

"Will?..."

He shrugs...Angel rising to fetch more brew...And staggering off...



"Still the same stit...siuta...Situation, Buf...Ima vamp, plus soul...Youra Slayer, plus soul..."

So?...she stares...

"Doesn't mix, girl...We been through this before..."

"It's diff...diff...changed a lot...You gotta soul...You'rea hero...Ma cute lil' blonde hero..." she beams..."First class!..."

You say that...Now...

"When ya had a lil' too much..." he wags a finger...

"I luvya Will!...Lemme prove it!..." she pounds the table...

Angel!...She calls...

Yeah...?

"I luv Will, right!?...You'd vouch, right?..."

Yeah...Sure...

See...she eyes Will...

Angel says I luvya...And he oughta...Know...

Well...he sighs...

"I'm sorry about things before, Will...I shoulda helped ya more...Even before ya got the soul..."

The Slayer...she frowns...She's the one...The Bitch...

No heart when I gotta be on the clock...she sighs...

"But now...There's a lotta Slayers...They don' need me..." she smiles...

Well...he sighs...Angel brings more brew...

Maybe so...But ya still...he pauses...

"What?" she stares...

"Ya still don't wanna...Be with me..."

Sure I do!...Right now!...she nods emphatically...

'Cuse us, Angel?...she calls...

Sure...he nods...

No...Will shakes his head...

No?...she pauses in rising and sits..Taking her hand off her blouse buttons...

"No...Buf...I mean...The whole shebang..."

Oh...But Will...I want that too...she nods...



She...Bang...The whole one...she notes...

"And this she bangs a lot..." she giggles...

But comes down a bit, seeing him looking downcast...Oh...Will...

"Dawny won't want me round...Alla time...The other guys..."

"Sure she will..."

Or else...she notes firmly...

"And if the guys say anythin'...Screw 'em..."

"Will...We'll make it work...You'll see..."

You'll be ashameda me...A vamp...A killer for a...He puts his head in his hands again...

No, Will...she shakes her head...You ainta killer...Oh...

Say...she beams...I gotta idea...A great idea!...

"What if I was a vamp...For a lil' bit...Evil demn and all...?"

Just like Spike was...Before you were so brave and gotthe chip anda soul?...

My soul...For me...she beams...

Hmmn...Angel nods at them...

"Yeah and the guys couldn't say anythin against ya then...Cause I'll haf beena vamp too..."

Huh...? he stared...

"Sure...Look, it's easy...We knowhowta get the soul back...Ya just gotta tie me up and take me to Africa...Or curse me and then take me to Africa...Or stake me and Willow'll resur...res...wake me up alive...Or whatever...It's simplac...samp...simpleacity...herself..."

All ya gotta do...Is kill me...A coupla of good bites...Shoot a lil' of ya blood in my mouth...

"Then ya chain me up real good...Sos I don' hurt anabody...Cause a Slayr'll make a real powerful vamp..." she notes solemnly...Real powful, Angel nods... "And you and Ang'l can take me over ta Africa...And I do whatever you did...Or do the spell...or wha'ever...And I'm all back the Salyer...er Slayer agin..."

"And then we'llbe boyfrien and girlfrien?...Just like before?...Only better...The whol' she...band...Cause now I'llha been a vampurer..." Hee, she giggles... Vampar...Undead guy, you know...

"Cause I really wanta be your girl again Will...I mean it...Cuz, God...I really miss the sex, Will..." she moans....

"And I luv ya...Really I do..." she beams at him..."Allda way..."

And I don' wanna be no ici...hic...ice...Icicle no more...

"Ya never were, Buf..." he pats her fondly... "I wus just kinda upset...Hurt, ya know..."

Yep...she nods... "But it'll be all a-ok after ya bite me and shoo' a lil' blood in here..."...she points to her mouth...



"Kinda like that time..." she giggles... "'member Will...?"

In ya crypt?...When I wus inwisble...?

Oh yeah...he nods...That time...Wha great time...

Angel looks a little down...She never did that kinda thing with me...

"So...Will...Les get started...Cause I gotta go home to Dawn tomorrow..."

We can go to Africa and back by tomorrow, right?...she stares at the boys...Who nod solemnly...

Sure...Think so...They nod...

"Ok...Then...Will..." she pulls her blouse back to reveal her neck...He staggers over...

"Sink 'em right there..." she pats a spot...

"Don' wanna hurtcha honey?..." he hesitates...

Eh...I been ded twice...she pats him...Go ahead...

"I luv ya and dis is for us...Go on...It'll only be for a lil' while...And then...Nobody'll say nuthin' about us...Cause we'll both have been vamps..."

Sounds real good to me...Angel chimes in...And we can keep Buf from hurtin' people...

See...she beams at Will...Who considers...

Well...Me and Angel did it...And cam' through jest fine...After a while...And Buf's the...er, A...Slayer...

"I wanna see the Heart o' my Darkness...Like you did, Wil'am..." Buffy notes solemnly...William and Angel staring...

Heh...Think I nefer open a book...she thinks...

"Maybe...If you're chained up real good...And if it don't hurt ya too much..." William hesitates...

Oh...Chains...she looks round...

"I'll get em..." Angel calls...

May as well do ya blood furst...she looks at William...That's da icky part for me...

Ummn...

***

At her request, Angel politely left them alone after returning with the chains and helping William secure them...More or less...

A priate thin' ya know...she'd explained to him...He'd nodded...solemnly...Staggering out to the outer hall...Thanka...she called...He paused...Swaying...As Will gathered his nerve...

"Guess the cookies are baked, now...huh...?...At least...da heart-shaped ones?..."

Yeah...she smiled...The heart-shaped onesa dun...And there's a couple for ya, too...

***



Eeh...She grimaces at the taste of the blood in her mouth...Will looking ashamed...Maybe dis aina good...But she swallows it down...And stretches her neck again for him...Smiling up at his face...

William trembles a moment...Buf?...Ya don' hafta...Lets not do...

She looks at him...Swaying a little...Slurring the words...

But there is total sobriety in her eyes...

"Itsthe last thing between us Wil'am...I wanna knock it down...Right down...Suf'r what you suff'red..."

You'll safme...Ib'lieve in ya...Always...Ang'l help ya...

"Buf...I cana...No..." he wobbly starts to move from her...

She pulls him down to her...Wil'am...!

"Do it, now!...For us!...Oh...My...Love!..."

OW!...she howled...

Oh...He pulled away...Sorry, sorry...

"S'ok...s'ok..." she pulled him back... "Im ok...Jest hurta lil' bit...Go on, honey..."

***

Part II...

Angel eyes William...William eyes him...

Both stare at Buffy, dead in her chair, chained...A measure of sobriety having returned owing to the funereal atmosphere...

Will sighs, his head on the table... "Dis wasa bad, bad idea..." he moans...

Nah...Angel rises from his chair, patting him... "It wus wha she wanted..."

And we'll watch her...It'll all turn out...

O...kee...Dokey...

"No..." Will shakes his head... "It wus a dumb idea...Crazy...Oh..." he rises and staggers over to his poor lil' dead Buffy...

"My poor lil' Buffy girl...Forgiv' me..." cradling her in his arms...

Damn...He strokes her hair... "Damn...How coulda guy be so stooopid...?"

"It'll be o...k..." Angel comes over as well, standing over them... "You wusan been stoop..."

"I mean you, ya big...Lummox..." Will glares up... "You said dis wus a great idea..."

And now...My poor lil' Slayer girl's dead...Oh...He buries his face in her hair...

"Wus her idea...Not mine..." Angel frowns down...Wobbling...He stumbles to a chair...

Her idea...He repeats...



"And she'll be back...Soon..." he eyes the corpse in Will's arms...

So ya better leave her be and tighten up dem chains...

A ghostly figure appears...Buffy...Looking a bit hung-over...

"Guys...?..." she eyes them...Hey, Will...

"Oh..." William sighs, looking up... "Buf...I'm sor'...Sor'..."

No, no...It was da...ummn...the right thing to do Will...I'm not sorry you did it...

"It had to be done...I had to go through this...So we can be together...With nothing between us..." she notes, nodding...

And Heaven is a nice place to wait while you fellas take care of Anne...

Anne...? they look at her...

"My counta..." ummn, she focuses...That was strong stuff... "Counterpart...The demon..." she eyes her body... " That's about to come...Soon..."

Anyway...I'm fine for now...Heaven's nice this time of year...

"Oh, yeah?...How's it..." Angel asks...

Real nice...But guys...I don't have much time...And I won't be able to help you out much...

"And God knows, you two are gonna need help with her...Especially the way you are now..."

"You sure it wasda right thing...?" William looks at her sorrowfully...

Absolut'ly...Sorry, that was powerful stuff...Absolutely, honey...she nods...Don't feel bad...

"But don't let her get the best of you...Keep her locked up, if you possibly can...She'll be dangerous, even with that stuff in her...She's loves you too Will..." she pauses, smiling wanly... "Can't help it, I guess...But she'll kill you and go for Spike's return if she has to to get what she wants..."

Fellas...Buffy eyes them sternly... "She's probably the worst vampire you boys will ever encounter..." A slight touch of unmistakable pride... "And if she gets her way...You guys, Angel's buddies, our old gang...The whole world's in big trouble..."

"Thank God, she's plastered..." Buffy's spirit notes...

But I believe in you, William...You'll finish the job right and we'll be together...As we were meant to be...

"Really?..." William stares...

Yeah...she nods...Everybody I meet up here says so...They can't understand why we took so long...

"And Will, I found out a bunch of things about our past...See, back in 1880...Ooops, time's running short...Tell you later..."

"I'll try to see you again...but maybe it would help if you or Willow or somebody could do a seance next time you need to reach me...Until ya...er you...Bring me back, Will..."

She fades...Be careful, fellas...Love ya, William...She blows a kiss... "And lay off the brew...It's cursed..."

Cursed...? Angel stares...It sure cost enough....Damn those ancient Irish monastic breweries...



"Oh!...Will, I met your mother!...She's so nice...I think she likes me..." Buffy fades away...

"Course she likes ya..." William calls... Thanks, Ma...he calls to the air...Swaying...

She luvs me...Her soul...said so...he happily notes...

Yep...Angel nods...Solemnly...Heard it right here...

Well...? he eyes Angel...

"Sounds ta me...Ya dun the right thing, Will..." he nods... "And Buf's soul says so...Heard it right...Hic...Here..."

Yeah...But...William sighs...Eyeing the body...

"Can't we tie 'er up a lil' bettah...? You heard wha Buf said...Worse vamp ever..." A faint note of pride in there, his girl after all...Natch...

Hmmn...Angel ponders...Buffy's body suddenly twitches...

Whoa...She's on'r way...he points...

"Hey...I gotta idea...We gotta contan...contaima...A cage...In the other room..."

The Wufram and Hart guys used it for new demmns...Til they learn'd who wus boss..."

"Great...Lets putt'r in...She'll be all safe and snub...snug..."

Y...ep...Angel nods... Les putt'r in...Saf'n snug...Ummn...?

"Then what...?" he asks...

"Then we say hi to Anne and take'r to Africa...Or we call Willow to doda resurc...revive thing..."

And haf the curse reddy jest in case...

Hmmn...Say...Angel has a flash...

"Ya wan'r human or vamp with soul?...Cause the Africa thing didn' send ya back uman...Right?..."

Oh, yeah...Will nods...Right...

"I think she'd wanta be uman...Shoulda thoughta ask her soul...Damn..."

O...K...Then we call Willow...Les' ya try the one they got ina vault here...The one dey used on Dara...Darla...

"A great girl...Soul...by da way..." he smiles fondly...Good ole Darl'...Muthda of my child...

Good thinkin' ole pal...Will pats his vamp soul brother...

"And faster than goin' to Africa...'Cause she did wanna be back to go home to Dawny tomorrow..."

Ya got Wil...ow's number?...he asks..."Cause I don' think you're in any shap' fora spell...."

Sure...Som'where...Les putt'r her in first...Angel suggests...

Good thinkin'...Will pats him again...



"Anne...Thatsa luvely name...Almost nice as Buffy..." he notes as they lift Buffy's corpse...

Y...ep...Angel nods...

"Luvely..."

***



Part III...

***


Play

"I luvs ya...Truly...Truly, dear...Life wid its pass...ions...Life wid its...Tears...When...sumthin' sumthin'...And lif is thro'...I luvs ya truly...TRULY...(Angel joins William at the last...) DEAR!!!..."

William serenades his dead lady love as she lays in the Wolfram-Hart containment cell...Takin' her time, Anne is...he notes to Angel, siting nearby...

Y...ep...Angel agrees...Solemnly...

"Bet ya she's already here...Tryin' to fool wid our heads..." William eyes her...

Anne...he hisses...Anne?...

"Oh..." he turns to Ang'l... "Look at her pretty blous'...I got blood all o'r her pretty white blous'..." he tears up, swaying as he stands...

"Ima kill'r...A mad dog...!...They oughta tak' me out an' jest stak' me...Stak' me right now!..." he trembles, sobs beginning to come...

"Wheresa stake?..." he looks round... "Ima gonna go find'r in Hea...Ven..."

If dey leta mad dog kill'r in...He starts to stumble round, looking for a stake...

"No..." Angel rises...Good vamp soul brother that he is...His lil' vamp soul brother and vampiral grandson clearly in need of a steadying hand...Even from a swaying body...

"Ya gotta stop dis, Wil'am...Ya herd her soul...She's hap..py ya did it...I tellya...It's gonna work out jest fin'..." he tries to pat the staggering William...

"Outa my way!...the mad dog kill'r...The vulgar'an Spike...Mus' die!...For 'is crimes!..." he pushes Angel away...

Wheresa stake...Ah, ha!...He spies a wood crate panel...

No!...Angel races over... "We gotta see dis thro...My lil' Slayer sis is countin' on ya, Will..."

Will shoves him away...Angel whangs against the opposite wall, stunned...

"Death! To da vulgar'an...Sike...!" William calls...Raising a torn piece of wood...

An appropriate poem is clearly called for...he eyes his beloved...

"...My hart expands...Tis grown...A bulg..e...in it...Inspir' by..." he shakes his head sadly at Buffy's body...

"Your beauty...Efful..."



No!...Anne hops up... "Wil'am!...Don'!...Im ok...! Ok! See!...Ang'l!..." she calls desperately, rattling the cage door...

William halts, staring at her...

Angel pulls himself up, racing...Best as he can...Over to William...

"Stop'im Ang'l!...Im ok, Will...Sorry I scared ya...!" Anne cries... "Don' do it...! Ok?!..."

Oh, yea...she looks round the cage...Gotta try and get em to lemme out...she thinks...

"Im fin'...My har' jest restarted...Like when Xanda saved me...? Ya know bout dat...?"

Im Buffy...And Im a-ok...

"Jest a lil' unda dar weada...Hic..." she sways, looking at them both...

So don' kil yaself?...Please?...

"And....Ya can lemme out now...Guess it didn' wok..."

William and Angel eye each other...Will lowering his improvised stake...

"Is it Buffy?..." Will looks at Angel...Who trains his experienced, judicious eye on her...

Hmmn...

Nope...Angel shakes his head...

The demon brow ridges and the yellow eyes being a dead giveaway...

"Hello, Anne..." he waves...

"It...Is Anne..." he pronounces to William...Who stares...

Damn...Dah Ang'l is clev'r...she thinks...Gotta use all my wiles...

She rubs her chin...Oh...Demon-face...she hastily reverts...

"Ang'l?...How ya thin' Im Anne...? Wil'am...Its me...Ya Buffy..."

Lemme out...Please...she pleads...

"I gotta go...Bad..."

C'mon guys...A very winsome Buffy look...

They eye each other...Hmmn...Well...

She is a crafty one...

But...She is dealing with the combined forces of Angel and William the Bloody, redeemed human-souled vampires and new legal/investigative firm partners....Soon to start their mutual law degrees...Dedicated to the protection of Humanity...And, of course...Their beloved Buffy...

"There's a toilet in the backada cell..." Angel eyes her...She looks back...Damn...

She thinks fast...As befitting the new Queen of the Damned...



"Ya 'pect to me to use that...? Geesch...Wil'am?!" she turns to him in offended outrage... "Demons used that, ri'...? C'mon honey, letya Buffy girl out..."

"C'mon...Wil'am!?...Aw..." she sighs...Ok...

"Well...Gimme a lil' pria'cy...Ok?...Geesch..."

They consider the matter...Well...Should be ok for a mo or two...

"Wil'am can stay...Wid' me...If he wants ta..." she smiles at him...

The boys exchange looks... "She's tryin' Divid' an' conka..." Ang'l hisses...

Divid' an' conka'...Will nods...Classic strategy...

A...Crafty one...No doubt 'bout it...

"Wha' we do...? She proba' does gotta go..." Will whispers as she looks hopefully at the conferring law/investigative firm partners...

And a Victorian-born gentleman like Walthrop simply can't let a lady suffer...Even the likely fiendish vampire counterpart of his true love...

Angel crafts a shrewd countermove...

"We'll go out ina hall...But...We'll listen real...Careful..."

O...K...William nods...

"We'r gonna go ina hall...But we'll be listen'...For anythin'...So...Don' you try it..." he turns to Anne...

Anythin' I mean...

"Wil'am..." she looks down... "Ya thin' Im lyin'?...Honey...Me?...Ya lil' Slayer?....Geesh..."

I tol' ya...My hart resta...rest...Got goin' again...Like wid Xanda...Only no CPuR...she sways...

Soul's ri' here...she taps her chest...No demmn...

Will looks at Angel...?

"She's lyin'..." the new senior partner pronounces firmly... "We sawya Anne...Ya cana fool us..."

Damn...But Anne is not a girl to say die easily...Being Buffy's dark side and all...

"Will...Ya say ya don' bel've me...? Oh..." she tears a bit...

"Ya don' luv me no more...That was dis is alla bout..." she shakes her head...

"Ya hate me...Both aya..."

Oh...She begins sobbing...

Will wavers...Buf...Oh...Honey...No...

"Doncha cry...Please..." he makes a move...Anne watching out of the corner of her sobbing eyes...



Angel is resolute, however...And sternly reminds his new junior partner of their duty...Holding him back gently...But, albeit unsteadily...Firmly...

"No...Will...She aint Buffy...We cana let'r fool us...'member wha Buffy's soul said..." he pulls his poor love-lorn little vamp soul brother back...

Soul?...They talked ta Buf's soul...? Damn...Anne sighs...

"Thawas me...Before I got sucked back in here...Buffy's soul..." she quickly counters...

Oh...Yeah...? Angel folds his arms...Waving to William...It'll be ok...

"Wha didcha say?..."

Ummn...

"I don' ramemb'r..." she gives it a try... "But it was...me...Hic..."

Hmmn...Maybe...

"Ya can test me...Will, go geta cross...Or jest put those sticks dere togetda..." she points...

"Nope..." Angel shakes his head... "Buf aint that religious...Ya gotta beli've it for it ta work...She's tryin' ta fool us, Will..."

Hol' wa'...? Will suggests...

Oh-oh...Anne blinks at that...Ouch...

Besides...She really does have to go...That demon brew moves fast...

"Ah...Jest go ahead and go..." she waves a hand... "I can' wait no more..."

"Ya shoulda trusted me...Wil'am..." she tells him as he and Angel take their brief leave...Giving him a sincere, if bleary look...

She is a crafty one...Angel shakes his head...We are gonna have some trouble here...

***

Part IV...

Meanwhile, in the misty reaches of Heaven...

Buffy's disembodied soul is preparing for a quest...In search of answers...

And naturally, as part of that preparation...She's paying a visit to Mom...Something more easily accomplished this time around in the afterlife...Knowing the ropes a little better...

To her relief, Joyce is not terribly put out by her romantic choice...

Angel always seemed to lack a certain something with regards to commitment...Though Riley was very nice...

Whereas, especially with Joyce being in possession now of crucial info regarding his and Buffy's past, William always had a certain stick-to-itive quality in romance that appealed...Not even considering his excellent, even remarkable in pre-chip days, house manners...

However, her daughter's having more or less committed an interesting variation on suicide is not exactly sitting well...And she would have preferred Will to have shown a little more good sense...



"I had to do this, Mom..." Buffy's billowing, occasionally forming, then dissipating face sighs out into the white void...

Not just for William and me...I realize that now...

Joyce's head briefly appears...Shaking a bit...

She'd expected a bit more from her real...And eldest daughter...

"Buffy...I can understand you're wanting to undergo what William's been through, hopefully very briefly...In a limited...Very limited fashion..."

But you've had him kill you...And let a fiend take your body...

"My own fiend, Mom...It's me...She's a part of me..."

Yeah...And I oughta know...Joyce frowns back...

"Angel and Will can deal with Anne..." Joyce's face takes form, rolling eyes... "Well...The other guys will help them...And when they've seen what she..." the spirit took grinning, wincing form for a few seconds, then dissipated...

What I...Am capable of...They may be able to understand and see why I trust William...Why I'm willing to be with him, despite Spike and Spike's past...

"And you're the one who told me about Cicely...Showed me the scenes of her...My...life...in 1880..."

"And that's why I say...I do understand...in a limited fashion...Why you want to help him and understand him..."

Yeah, well...Buffy's face holds form a few seconds...When you kill the man you love...Worse than kill...

"Drusilla killed William, Buffy..." Joyce insists sternly...

"I sent for Halfreck...I had her take my place...I told her the words that drove Will away..."

"You wanted to save him, Buffy...And you reincarnated to save him...The people who should have been helping you...And betrayed you both were the ones you should blame..."

I do...Buffy notes quietly...But as the chief ones are in Hell already...My old Watcher, his minions, Halfreck...

"Guess I need someone to blame...For now, I'll do..."

Buffy...Joyce's frowning face takes form...

"But this is about more than saving William..." Buffy pauses...Her face holds form for a moment, beaming... "After all...He's already saved himself..."

With your help...Joyce sternly notes...

"Mom...I'm the Slayer...Or was The Slayer...Until I became just...A Slayer...One among many...And now that I have a little leisure...I have questions to answer..."

William's soul hung round Spike, never letting go...Believing in me somehow, that I'd come for him, and tell him...That it was all a mistake...That I loved him...And that there was a reason...

"He would've been wiser to let go and find you in Heaven, honey..." Joyce notes...

Yeah, well...He didn't wanta take the chance...A free thinker type...He didn't know if there was a Heaven...



"But, leaving Will aside...The question is...How many others...How many others are like my Will, souls still around, trapped maybe...Looking for help..."

"You give them help, sweetie...You free them...If and when they're still around..."

Maybe...But ...

"Mom...For years I've wanted more than Slaying...It's not enough to just kill 'em...Set them free if you like...I want to help them...At least try to do what I can, when it's possible...But it's hard...Giles always..."

"Giles was right...Buffy, Slayers who are too compassionate...Who try to help where the only help possible is to free these...People...Die...Or worse..."

"Or worse..." Buffy pauses...

The soul is Immortal...We are Immortal, Mom...So, it's not death that we have to worry about...

And in fact, I've really saved no one...No the way it could really count...

"It's how we live...Whether...God...Whether we're living lives that won't...Lead to the warmer afterlife climes..."

"You know..." she shakes her misty head... "Of all the vamps, demons, and people I know...Human souls, I mean...The ones who were most in danger...Really facing the real horror...Were Warren Mears, Andrew, Jonathan, Amy...Dr. Walsh, Faith...And I guess, Mayor Wilkens...Willow...And William and Angel..."

Their souls' destruction...or at least, Eternal confinement...Away from all mankind...Forever in prisons they've constructed...

Terrifying thing, that Angel and Will were in danger because their souls had been restored...Buffy sighs...If they'd given into despair...Surrendered to evil...

"But they didn't..." Joyce points out...Thanks in no small part to you...So you have saved people, Buffy, the way it really counts...And God knows...It/she/he really does...That your Slayer work kept others from falling into despair...That someone cared and cares enough to free them...

"And you helped Jonathan, Andrew, and Faith, Buffy...Jonathan and Andrew found redemption through helping you...Faith through your example...If she makes it..."

Robin Wood'll see to that...Buffy's face reappears ...Grinning...

A slight sigh...Mom?...Buffy calls...

"Cute guy that principal...Why'd I have to go and die before he showed up..." Joyce's smiling voice...

Well...I gave it a try in your absence...Buffy notes...Consider me your stand-in...

"Pretty lousy job of standing-in, I'd say..." Joyce's voice, a faint laugh...

"Mom...I'm married after all..." Buffy takes on a mock shocked tone...

What would my Will have done?...

"Seriously, Mom...I have to learn more about what really happens to these people...See how I could...Maybe...Make an effort to help them when it's possible...Especially now, when the Hellmouth is down and the world has zillions of Slayers..."

Buffy the Vampire/Demon Redeemer...she chuckles...Well, I always like being the One and Only, much as I say I hate it...



"And Will would help me...Hell, he'll have to be dragged away from my side when he hears what a crazy career idea I've got in my head..."

It won't always work out, I know...But William and I saved him...Angel saved himself with a little support...There must be others who can be saved as well...And I want to find out how to tell who they are and how I can help them...However much harder it may be than Slaying ever was...

"Even if all some of them need is a short piece of wood through their chest...And a kind word at the end..."

"And experiencing Anne...In your body...Is part of the way you hope to understand?..." Joyce sighs...

Can't know em...Really...Till you've walked a mile in their shoes... Buffy chuckles...

"And being safe in Heaven, isn't gonna cut it...I hafta see it...The void...Limbo...And see...What the ones who get trapped see...Watch my demon, helpless...Feeling the rages and darkness in her...That's really just a part of me..."

And if Anne kills...People you love...Family..? Joyce hesitates...

"William won't let that happen...But then I'll have seen it all...What Angel and William and all those others have seen...And I'll never..." she pauses...

I'll never again treat these people as weak for letting their demons run the show...Because I'll know...completely...How impossible it is to hold the darkness back when the soul is helpless...

"Even for Buffy..."the Law"..." she eyes Joyce ruefully...Sweetheart...Joyce sighs...

"Buffy...My dear child..." a voice calls...

Are you...Ready...?

"Buffy?..." Joyce calls to her...

"I'll see ya again Mom...I love ya...Always..."

Will and I will find a way to give you grandkids...I promise...

"Good luck...Daughter..." Joyce's face formed a last time, nodding... "I am so proud of you...Take care of her, Mrs. Walthrop..."

"She'll be fine...Mrs. Summers...And thank you...Thank you for raising her so very well...Each time...Mr. Addams..."

Joyce's face takes on a new form...Cicely's father, Buffy knew...My father...She thought...

"Cicely...Forgive me, my dear girl...My many failures...And remember me to your William..."

He turned out rather well, after all...

"I will, Father...I love you...Thanks for being such a good mom this last time..." she beams at him...As his face smiles back fading...

"Shall we go...Cicely...?" Mrs. Walthrop calls...

"I'm ready..."

***

Part V...

Back in LA, Earth...



Angel has wisely decided to get things moving along...And, while not wanting to hurt Will's feelings, realizes, courtesy his longer existence, his years of fighting some of the world's most fiendish minions of Evil...And his own period as Buffy's number one...That William is the more likely of the partners to fall prey to any efforts on Anne's part to appeal to emotion and sentiment...

"Bes' ya go and get Willow on da phone..." he notes to Will...

S'long as we out here anyway...Get da ball...Roilin'....

Who nods...However...One slight problem...Besides having no memory of what her number is...

"Wha' I sa t'her?...Can' say I kil' Buf and mad' her a vamp...Wil'ow f'ay me...And she's good at dat...First class..."

Hmmn...Very likely, Angel nods...Solemnly... "Certain I'd kil' ya if ya called me wida stor' lik dat..."

'Xactly...Will agrees... "Sh'd be breat'ng fir'...Good ol' Red...Never'd let me geta way wid it..."

Hmmn...Angel ponders...Call Wes, perhaps...? Let him explain the situation in proper terms...

Nah...He'd be all Burrtish...(Not mea' ta offend and nefer lettin' histor' crap up a friendship but hey, gud Eire guy here...he thinks...Hmmn...He eyes the Limey blonde sob wha stole his girl...Descendant of those wha stole his cuntry...But hey, vamp-resouled brotherhood in suff'rn outweighs all other ties...An' he's a good'un, no doubt bout it...An', most of all...It's wha ma lil' Slayer sista wants...)

Well, in any case...Not quite the best thing for it...

Hmmn...

"Tel'r...Buf wan's her to come...She' been cussed a' is turnin' inta vamp...So she gotta come...Soon"...

That'll get her here, for sure...

A crash from inside Anne's cell's room......

Hmmn...Angel eyes his partner...She's a crafty one...

"Go an' make the quall...I'll watch Anne...." he notes...

***

While Walthrop places his crucial call...Angel watches over Anne in her cell...

"C'monnnn...Ang'l..." Anne gives an attempt at a seductive look...

Urp...Sorry...

"Ya still like me, dontcha...Wellllll...? huh..." she looks at him...

Whoa...She's using the ole...Smold'ring eyes...Mmmn...he frowns...Now...Dang'rous vamp lady here, boy...Watchit...he thinks...

"Ya know ya do...So...C'mon...I'll be nice to ya..." she smiles...He eyes her carefully...Not moving...

"C'mon!..."she frowns, rattling the cage door..."I'll giva the screwing of ya Unlife...!...Geto' here...And tak' these chains off!...Now!..."

No....pe...he shakes his head... "I aint Angelus, lady...he notes...And I didna become head of a LA law firm cause Im stoo...pid..."

"Ya damned pointy haired...Gay!...Basta...!" she rages...Demon-faced...

She reverts, curious in spite of her hideous anger...Head of a...?

"Ang'l?...Ya gota law degree...? When's ya geta law degree...?...Don' it taka long time...?"



"No...pe....Don' nee' one cause Ima head honcho...But Im gettin' one...Night scho'..."

"Thatsa nice, Ang'l...Conn'r be proud...Good luck if I don' destroy ya..." she smiles rather kindly...

Hmmn...Oh, yea... she rattles the door again..."Lea' me outa here, ya damned Mick punk!...Ya trait'r to ya own kind!!...Cuz Ima gonna rip Conn'r's head off if ya don'!!...Maybe even if ya do..."

Urrrrp....Cuse me...she blushes a little...

"Wher's my honey...? Wher's my lil' Wil'am?...He'll lemme out...Wher's he gon' at?..."

"He's makin'...Arra...Arrag...He's callin' Willow..."

Willow...?...Whoops...Iknoo wha that means...she thinks...

Wai' a min...Willow?...That lil' red-hea'd wida b...hic...-itch...

"Why's he callin' her?...Is he datin' her...? His furst night bac'...? Tha' two-timin' lil' wica!...Lemme out!...Lemme out, Ang'l!...Aw...Don' let'r tak' my Willum awa...Oh..." she tears up ...

"She's gonna steal'im awa...He lik'sa...And she wus alwa sayin' he wus so nice tha time he come ta kill her... "So 'Uman, Buf..."she alwa sayin'...Oooh "lets no' killum Buf...He's sooooo uman..." Yeah...dat witcha' bitch...Oh...Ang'l...Ya gotta lemme out...Don' let'r takim awa..." she pleads...

"Willow ain' gonna take him away..." Angel kindly explains... "She just gonna kill ya...and bring Buffy back..."

Oh...

"Ya sure...She ain' lookin' to takim....?"

No way...Angel nods emphatically...

"Good...Thankya Angel..." she smiles back...

Whoa...Kil' me!...

"Lemme out...LEMME OUT!..." she smashes at the cage door...

Noooope...Angel shakes his head...

"Damn pointy-ha'r...lil'...bloody studpy fa' jacass...!" she tries rocking the cell...

Fa'...? he stares at her...Fa'?...As in...?

Eehew...Got him right in the sensitive spot...he winces...Unless...

"Wha' ya call me...?" he asks her hopefully...Maybe it was the sexual orientation thing she meant...

But Anne knows her victims...

"Fa'...Lika beech' whal'..." she smirks... "Wha' ya been doin' over here in da city...? Eatin' steada killin'...?" she blows out her cheeks... "Dis' you..."

Fa' slob...she sneers...

That hurt...she notes contentedly...Eyeing his face...



"No wonda I didn' taka back...Hmph..." she tries to thumb her nose, missing...

Embarassin' ta be sin wida fa' slob lik' ya...My Willy...He don' go and get all fa' slob...Lik' ya...

"Not my Willum..." she smiles...

Angel tries Unmanfully to repress the urge to take a quick look at his waistline...She jest tryin' to gemme ril'd up...His gaze drops...Don' seem bad...No worse anywa'...

Best perhaps to take Buffy's soul's advice and lay off that imported, cursed brew though...

Heh...heh...heh...Anne gloats in her first evil triumph, watching him...

Soon to be followed by many more...No doubt...

***

Part VI...

"Excuse me..." Kennedy gives Ira Rosenberg a winningly innocent smile as she vacates the Rosenbergs' bathroom in their temporary rental...Awaiting settlement of insurance claims for the Great Sunnydale Earthquake of May 2003...home in Crestwood...Not far from the Crater, now in process of becoming a major tourist attraction...

Yeah...Ira stares at his daughter's "friend"...

"No problem..."

And no questions...At the insistence of a Sheila Rosenberg, overjoyed to have her Willow back home safe and sound...Under any conditions...

"Hey, dad..." Willow deftly slips in past him before he can turn back to enter...

"Willow!..." Sheila calls from the kitchen...

Bathroom!...Ira calls back...

Cell!...Willow calls from inside... "Just tell 'em to call my cell!..."

Lucky she's not in a cell...Ira thinks...God knows what she was up to last coupla years with that crazy Summers girl...

Why did we ever agree to letting her live away from home while she was at UCal-Sunnydale?...

Sheila emerges from the kitchen...A frown...

Umm?...Ira looks at her...She waves a hand...

"Willow...I think you better speak to this...Gentleman...On the house phone..." she calls...

I don't think he could manage a cell phone call...A dark look...

A loud sigh...Ok...

Kennedy appears at their bedroom door...Her brightest smile as she looks to see what's up...

Sheila avoiding a look at her daughter's latest "friend"...She has learned to deal, but there are limits to how much she can stuff into her memory hole...Seeing Kennedy as little as possible helps...



"Who is it?..." Willow emerges...Toweling her hair...

Repressing, for the parents' sake, the urge to paste one on her girl...Laater...she winks at Kennedy...

"Someone...A bit...Out of sorts...Named William?..." Sheila gives a sour look...

On the other hand...Hmmn...she ponders, eyeing the puzzled Willow...No, not this one...God, he sounded like he'd been on an all night bender...

William?...Ira thinks, somewhat hopefully...Eyeing the beaming Kennedy...

"Oh!..." Willow suddenly realizes...William!...She looks at Kennedy...Who likewise makes the connection...William!...

"He made it!...He made it!...Mom, it's William!..." she cries, overjoyed...Hopping over to Kennedy, who is equally excited, after spinning Ira round...

Hurray for William...Sheila notes dryly...

"Who the heck?...Wait...Is he that...Blonde guy?...Buffy's old boyfriend with the cemetery job...?" she looks at Ira who's happily, if cluelessly attempting to join in the celebration...William!...

"Yeah!..." Willow nods vigorously... "He made it! He's back!...I knew he could do it!...He...Ummn..."

He left for a while...she calms, realizing the details of where William is back from are a little too much for the senior Rosenbergs...

And now he's back...she grins...

Oh...Sheila stares...He's back...From...?

Ummn...Willow has a brief mental freeze...The overwhelming news is just too much...

"England..." Kennedy helpfully puts in...Another beaming smile...

"That's nice...Why didn't you think he could come back from England...?" Sheila eyes Willow...Who darts a thanks glance to her girl...

Ummn...

"Visa problem..." Kennedy quickly covers...

Yeah...Willow nods...

"Those can be tough..." Ira nods in turn...

"Buffy was so heartbroken when he left, Mom..." Willow explains... "She raced off to LA to meet...Ummn...His plane...The moment her friend Angel's friend Wes called us yesterday about this..."

She's gotta be so glad...she grins, eyeing Kennedy who nods...

"And he's our friend, too...He really helped us out when the Big One hit last year..." Willow solemnly tells Sheila...

"We all might have died if he hadn't helped us out..." Kennedy chimes in...

Really?...Sheila eyes a nodding Willow...Really, Ma...Great, great guy...



"That's nice to hear...Though, Willow...I gotta tell you...The boy's been drinking..." she frowns..."I could barely understand him..."

So...Buffy's not...? she thinks...I suppose I owe poor Joyce an apology for all my cursing the poor thing...If she's really not the one who got Willow involved in... "alternative lifestyles..."

"Well...It's only understandable he'd be a little disoriented...Cause, after we pulled Buffy up..." Willow pauses with a gulp...Kennedy frowning...Willow...

Ummn...After... "After he thought Buffy was lost in the Big One...And we pulled her up out of the hole..." Willow hastily reconstructs a suitable series of events... "He nearly went to pieces...Went home to England...To...Ummn...His uncle...You know, Mr. Giles?...(Kennedy stares...Blinking...) And was kinda...Outta it for a while...You know, Dad..." she turns to Ira, appealing to her therapist dad's expertise...

Oh, sure...Musta been a great trauma...he nods...

"And I'm sure he...Well, knowing he'd be seeing Buf again after all this time and all..." Willow smiles at Sheila...

"He had to get drunk...To see Buffy Summers again...?" Sheila glares...

Not all that surprising actually, she thinks...

Well..Plus...He gets airsick...Kennedy helpfully throws in her two cents'...

"Yeah...He probably had to scarf down a ton of pills to keep from losing it on the plane..." Willow nods hastily... "I'm sure he's ok, Mom...I'll go talk to him..." she hurries for the kitchen phone...

Hey, Will!...they hear as she carries the phone over to the side porch door and goes out, closing the door carefully...

"Great news..." Kennedy innocently beams at the sourly frowning Sheila and the rather innocently pleased...Yeah, great...Ira...

What!!!!!...They hear from the porch, through the closed door...

The house trembling slightly...

Oh-oh...Kennedy thinks...

"Great news..." she repeats, beaming at the Rosenbergs......Not another of those aftershocks, Ira sighs...

"Great, great news..."

***

Part VII...

LA, early Sunday morning...

Back at the former Wolfram-Hart building, this bright Sunday morning found those intrepid human-souled vampiral guardians of Humanity, Angel of LA and William the Bloody confronting perhaps their most formidable opponent...The fiendish Anne, demonic counterpart of their beloved Slayer...Raised up in her body under the unusual circumstance of Buffy's voluntary choice and with the crucial help of her own dear William, resurrected only the night before himself in his old vamp body by a newly perfected spell of the ever-resourceful...If currently somewhat resource-deprived ...remnants of Hell's once-favored legal team...Their desperate effort to make some attempt to redress the critically-shifted balance following the catastrophic defeat of the First Evil at the Sunnydale Hellmouth by reviving the evil Spike a failure due to a mysterious forewarning which had led to Angel's timely intervention...Armed with a demon blocking spell hastily provided over phone by Willow, he'd prevented Spike's return, leaving William's redeemed human soul firmly in the saddle...Albeit a trifle depressed to find himself both once more in a vampire's body and with no Miss Summers at his side, eagerly awaiting his return from the beyond...



Having accepted his benefactor's (?...Well, going the Evil route again would've been rather a bore...he'd noted) generous offer to join him in his latest venture in the war of Light against Dark...symbolically speaking, of course...given the daylight problem and all...William with Angel had settled down in the new digs of Angel's team to review the situation, evaluate the threat, consider who their mysterious forewarner might have been...and quaff a few bottles of Angel's finest imported Irish ale...The return of a prodigal grandson to existence and virtue being clearly a cause for celebration...

Until a rather pathetic counterstrike by two rather unusually loyal demon agents of the former tenants had briefly interrupted the festivities...But unbeknownst to the vamp boys, before the two agents had been detected and driven off, they'd had time to complete their true mission...A portion of Wolfram-Hart's grand scheme in using Spike...That portion being to replace Angel's vintage import with a powerful demon brew that would render him far too plastered to oppose the famed junior prince of Evil when (sadly, and if ) he attacked...

Though the grand scheme had failed...The lesser mission had resulted in a brew-impaired Angel's and William's acquiescence in the later-arriving but all too soon equally smashed Buffy's decision to voyage into that country which even she had never seen...The Heart of her demonic counterpart's Darkness...Both for love, albeit somewhat drunkenly if sincerely stated, of her William...And for her own desire to seek a new path in her fight against the Dark...

While her soul journeyed to experience that which the souls of her victims suffered, the task for her beloved Will and her dear ex- being to prevent perhaps the most dangerous vampire ever created from wreaking havoc and to arrange for her soul's restoration...A piece of cake, she'd felt, at least in her inebriated state, given how easy soul restoration seemed to have become by now...

William having been sent to contact Willow, Angel watches over Anne...Having correctly judged, despite his utterly wasted condition, that even plastered, Anne would cleverly attempt to exploit poor William's devotion...She was a crafty one, he'd realized from the start...And had just confirmed to his slight embarrassment...Anne having made swift use of her Buffy memories to strike him at his most vulnerable point...

Ye ole waistline...

***

Will however has run into a slight snag in his critical mission...In contacting Willow to alert her to Buffy's "change of lifestyle" and request immediate assistance he'd quickly forgotten the cover story Angel had suggested, which avoided naming him as the instrument of Buf's transformation...

"Tell her Buf wus cus and's changin' to a vamp...That'd bring her..."

Both he and Angel feeling it a little much to expect Willow to believe that Buffy had requested transformation in order to prove her love...Far more likely she'd assume Spike had returned and was gloating over a triumph...Leading her to strike blindly and perhaps put a abrupt end to the latest twist in Buffy's romantic life...

But his guilt over going along with this "bad, bad ida..." had briefly overwhelmed him on hearing Willow's sweet, delighted voice...So overjoyed he'd found his way back and thwarted Wolfram-Hart...That he'd spilled the beans...

"I bit ma poor lil' Buf...Ima mad dog kill're Willa...Mad dog kill'r...Buf, she's Annie the vampur now...oh ma poor lil' Buf...Oh Willa...I..."

What!!!!!!!...and a minor earthquake being Willow's natural response...

Willa?!...William looked at the phone...

Red?...Hmmn...Line dead...And rather...Hot...

Indeed...Lucky for Will, Wolfram-Hart had discovered a way to jump the brief human stage that had characterized Darla's resurrection...Had he been human, the 100,000 volt charge Willow's burst of rage had sent up the line would surely have killed him...Even given the reduction in voltage to 1000 at his end of the line, thanks to California's capable system of transformers...



He returns to the room where Anne, locked in the most demon-proof containment cell the Wolfram-Hart building can offer is engaged in her battle of...well, making allowances for the effect of demon brew...Wits with Angel...

Angel still recovering from her last shrewd verbal thrust, is relieved at first to see his lil' vamp soul bro...Anne being quite a clever one, he can use the moral support...

Anne quickly shifts from harsh invective to a more suitable tone with her...Well, she is part of Buffy...devoted one...

"Willum?...Ang'l bein' mean to me..." she tries a little more of the divide and conquer strategy Angel had previously suspected her of attempting...

Am not...Angel frowns...Bad enough she calls him fa'...Now to callim mea' too?...

"He' Angelus...Not Ang'l..." she tries a ploy... "He lyin' to ya ...Sayin' I ain' Buf...I's ya Buffy, Will...I wouldna lie to ya...He'...urpppp....Ang'lus...the basta'...Kil'em Wil...And lemme out..."

It's alla pl.....ot...she waves a hand, swaying...A big...she smiles wickedly at Angel...fa' plo'...

"Kil'em Will...And lemme out..." she nods... "Cause I luvs ya..."

No way...Will shakes his head sadly, convinced by her heinous suggestion once and for all...This is not his Buffy...

"Ya ain' ma Buffy...Ya Anne..." he nods emphatically... "Ang'l?..." he turns away from the fiend using his love's body to his vamp soul brother... "We gotta a lil' prob...Wid Willa..."

Angel puts up a cautious hand...Best not to give out any potentially useful info in dealing with the crafty...And rather nasty...Anne... Les' go outina hall...he suggests...

"Oh...Wil?..." Anne bursts into tears as they move to the door... "Ya don' beli've me?...Oh..." she sobs...Rather sincere tears, actually...It's rather hard for her to have her Will distrust her...She is part of Buffy, after all...

And she's a bit under the weather...Smashed and in need of a little fresh blood...Being newborn and all...So it takes little to bring on quite honest tears...

Though Anne is in every way capable of exploiting any opportunity those sincere tears may give her...Much as she loves William and his counterpart, Spike...She is Buffy's darkest side...

However she quiets quickly having heard a possibly useful tidbit...A prob' wid Willa?...Hmmn...

She strains every fiber of her vamp-enhanced Slayer's being to hear what the hell her former and true loves are discussing out in the hall...

Willow, her most feared opponent right now...The one person most likely to succeed in driving her back without having to lose Buffy in the process...

William might be persuaded to avoid a staking if she could convince him it would lose him Buffy as well...But if Willow could offer the safe return of Buffy's soul as well as Anne's permanent departure...Anne was a gone goose...So anything suggesting a " prob' " with Willow was something likely to be useful...

Very useful...

***



"Ok...Ok..." Willow nods to Kennedy...Kennedy having managed to get her back to their bedroom to calm down after her little phone-shorting rant...

Freak lightening bolt, no doubt...Used to see it all the time back on Long Island...she'd noted to Ira...As Willow's dad eyed the blasted kitchen phone...Just lucky the plastic phone gave our Willow some insulation...

"I'll teleport to LA..." Drive...Kennedy firmly corrects... "Drive to LA...Find out what's really up if I have to tear that city of Angel ap..." Find out what's going on from Angel and Buffy...Kennedy eyes her sternly... "Find out what's up from Angel and Buffy...Curse the truth out of him..." Hear him out... "Hear him out...and if he has transformed her..."

Kill him...Kennedy nods...

"Kill him..." Willow finishes...But a bit of uncertainty...William seemed so sincerely...If whacked out...Guilt-ridden...

"I can't believe William would transform Buffy...If she was transformed, it must've been Spike...Angel must've failed..." Kennedy ponders...

"I can't believe Spike could transform Buffy...She'd never give him the chance...Unless..." Willow hesitates...

She did blame herself...For last May...she looks at Kennedy...After it all sunk in...?

Figuratively as well the literal sinking in at the Crater, that is...

"If Angel failed...And she thought she was the cause of Spike coming back...?" Willow...

Kennedy stares...Whoa...And I thought last year had romance...

Nah...Willow shook her head at the thought...Crazy...Let herself be killed out of guilt?...To keep poor Spikey company?...Crazy...

"Even if she loved him that much, our Buf would go the practical route...Bend every effort to catch Spike, club 'im...drug 'im...And bring him in for cursing, resurrection, or a fast trip to Africa...With me along to blast ole demon god into doing a rush job..."

"Could he have tricked her...?" Kennedy eyes her girl...

You sure could, babe...she thinks...I'd fall for your vamp's line in a hot sec...

"Please...Buffy knows Spike through and through...And William..."

But...Willow pauses...He sounded sincere...Utterly smashed...But sincere...

"Kinda wish I'd held off on the phone-blasting now..."

"Call him on cell?..." Kennedy suggests...

"Don't have the new number...I could call Wes, maybe he'd go over and check things out..."

Hmmn...Angel destroyed...Spike and...what was...ah, Anne...Anne?...The Vampire...dancing on his ashes...And opposing them...Wes...

"Lets get headed for LA...You drive...I'll try information and we'll call Wes just before we get to town..."

"Willow?!..." Sheila calls from the living room...

"Dawn Summers and Xander Harris are here..."

And that strange little guy who's always around the Summers' girls these days...she does not say, eyeing Andrew, beaming beside Xander and Dawn at the Rosenbergs' front door...

"Tucker's brother..." Ira places him...

***

LA, the new location of the battered remnants of a once-mighty Evil law firm...

"So..." Joseph, senior partner of Wolfram-Hart, Inc, eyes his firm's latest...One of the very few new, customers...Looking across his booth table... "Mr. Crudgins...You were injured in the great quake last year...And the State of California has denied your claim to a disability pension...?"

"Yeah..." Crudgins frowns, shaking his head... "They say my neck ain't broke...And I got the X-rays ma broda took and everything...Bastards won't accept it..." He pounds the table...Ooops...Supposed to be a quadraplegic...

I call that...Shocking...Joseph shook his bald head...

"But...For you...Potentially very profitable..." he beams...And for us, thank the First and even the damn Slayer's damned blonde boyfriend...he thinks

"Of course...You understand that Wolfram-Hart, Inc...Usually doesn't handle cases of this type...However...Given our firm's long-standing concern for the workingman..."

And our own desperation...

"That's not the way you do it, Ms. Morgan..." the heavy-set woman standing over Lilah, decked out in Doublemeat uniform, frowns...

"Who the hell cares, so long as they're greasy and salty!...Urrgh..." Lilah slams down the fries basket...

"If you are gonna run this franchise according to Doublemeat standards...And you are..." the heavy-set woman, an official Doublemeat franchise trainer/supervisor states firmly... "You do everything...The Doublemeat way..."

Arrgh...

"Listen, you...I was once a top LA lawyer...I bought and sold little people like you...Literally..!" Lilah glares...

"The Doublemeat way...Or you go tell that boss of yours, I'm revoking the franchise..." the trainer stares grimly...

"Lilah!?..." Joseph calls... "What the hell's going on...I'm with a client here..."

Our last desperate hope of a client...

He comes over...The trainer immediately at his elbow...

Lilah glares at the trainer...Who gives her a set and determined look back...

"I'm sick of this Joseph!...I'm a highly skilled attorney...What the hell am I doing this for!?..." she shrieks...

And the grease is ruining my hair...she starts to sob...

"You oughta lay off the fries as well...You're putting a few on since I was last here..." the trainer coyly smiles...

Lilah stares, shocked...

Hey, she's good...Joseph eyes the trainer...When I get things back on track...I may have a place for this one...He turns to Lilah...God, all we need now is to lose the Doublemeat franchise...Our last steady source of income...

"Damn it, girl...You're supposed to be a team player...!...The team is down a bit this season...We all have to make sacrifices...Look at the First..."



You rode the crest of the wave when it was goin' up...Now you gotta hang in the down times...he frowns...

"Besides...After what happened last year...What firm would hire a former employee of Wolfram-Hart?...And the only other experience you have...Is what?..." he smiled coldly...

Filed for my uncle...In his trucking company before I went to law school...she sighs...

"Of course, you could go out into that cold world and find yourself some nice fellow..." Joseph leers...

Maybe that carpenter friend of Buffy Summers...Bet he'd provide for you well...Heh, heh...

"Better than I'm doing here..." Lilah glares...Hmmn...Wonder what that guy's like...The report on him I read last year said he was very sweet...

The trainer eyes the franchise contract in her large hands...Hmmn...Joseph stares...

"Lilah..." he puts a hand on her shoulder... "You know the firm will be back...And when we're back on top...I want my most capable attorney available...And able to reap the benefits of her loyal..." he eyes the trainer... "Service...Above and beyond..."

Way beyond...Lilah glares...

"The call of duty..."

Well...

"A successful outcome to Mr. Crudgins' case...And Wolfram-Hart is back on its way to the top...Ready once again to lead Evil to its inevitable triumph..." Joseph beams...His bald death's head gleaming in the glow of Doublemeat fluorescent lights...

"Can I...Help with the case?...I gotta keep my skills up, you know...Besides learn to fry the...urgh...Doublemeat way..." she sighs...

Of course...he beams...I'd never go to court without my Lilah beside me...

I need somebody to distract the judge, pass me papers, and go for coffee...he thinks...

"Well..." she eyes the smugly smiling trainer...Catching sight of Mr. Crudgins beaming down the aisle to her...

Ok...she nods...Looking back to Crudgins...Hmmn...If we win, he's loaded...

Lilah Crudgins?...Oh, God...she moans inwardly...As Crudgins waves his "paralyzed" arm...Hey, Lilah...

"Lets try your customer service manner..." the trainer eyes her clipboard...

"May...I...Take...Your..." Oh, God!... "Order..." Lilah groans...

"A little more enthusiasm...That's the Doublemeat way..."

"Right..."she sighs....Hey...she waves back to Crudgins...Trying to smile...

Lilah Crudgins...It's not so bad...She thinks...

Oh, God...!!!

***

Part VIII...



The containment cell room at the old Wolfram-Hart building...Where Angel and William have just returned from their brief conference in the outer hall...To consider what can be done to prevent a disaster in the form of a rampaging red-haired Wiccan from complicating matters still further...

Though Angel can sympathize with his vamp soul bro and new partner's guilt over his role in Buffy's death and transformation, he can't help but express frustration over the new fly in the ointment...

"You shouldna don' it Wil'am...It wa' stoo...pid...Dis stoopid..." he spreads his arms to indicate the magnitude of William's error, shaking the hands to suggest the depths of his annoyance....Will sadly nods his head in agreement...Dat stoopid, yeah...

"Willum's no' stoop...Ya'r big stoop!..." Anne loyally cries from the cell, glaring at Angel...He wisely ignores her, enraging her, naturally...

"I dunno wha' we gonna do...When Willa' gets here...Whoop...Big mes'....Big, big mes'..." he sighs to the chagrined William...Who hangs his head...

"Big fa' stoop...!...Pointy-haired fa' stoop!!...Doncha lis' Willum..." Anne hollers.... "Ya...Stoo..." she sways, rather more than ever...Clearly wobbily in the knees... Oh...she moans...A hand to her head...

"Anne...?" the boys look to see her collapse...Genuine enough, but not without some element of calculation...

Newborn and weak from her need of blood, Anne has decided she may as well turn her weakening condition into an opportunity, crafty fiend of Hell that she is...

Will can't resist the urge to rush to his lady's side...By the outside of the cage that is...He's a practical kind of romantic after 100 years with Spike, after all...

But even Angel...Wise in experience and resolute to his duty as he is, cannot help but feel sympathy for the lost one...Po' lil' dead thin' that she is...No need to make her suffer...

"Annie..." he eyes her from the cage door as Will reaches through to pat her hand... "You ok?..."

She prob' needs a lil' blud...he notes to Will who nods...After all, he sure did last night...Went right through four pints Angel had thoughtfully brought to the cavern where the W-H minions had made their attempt to revive Spike...

Anne opens her eyes...Looking blearly round...Ohhhh....she moans, still on the floor...Eyeing the anxious William and the clearly concerned if watchful, Angel...

She stoops to conquer, heh...heh...

"Ok, ok..." she waves a weary arm...Sitting up slowly... "I ain' gonna fool ya no more...I's Anne...The demmn...Annie...The Vampur..." she announces with a touch of pride... "But I luvs ya, Willy..." she looks to him, a sincere look on her sweet Buffy face... "Mor'an Buf does...I swears ta ya...Ya don' beli've me?..." she shakes her sad head... "Ok...Tim' ll tell ya....But fa' now...I sure cou'd use a lil' blood...Ya got a lil' blood, guys?...C'mon...I don' feel sa good...I..." she staggers, as she tries to rise...

"If I don' get no blood, ya gonna los' us both, Willum..." she notes...Ohhhh!...she collapses again...

"Anne...?...'nnie...? Oh?..." William looks to his senior partner and vampiral grandsire for the benefit of his extra years of wisdom in the nature of their dark kind...Physically that is...Given their own human souls...

Hmmn...Angel eyes the fallen Anne...

"She cud be lyin'...A fak'r..."

Ri'...A fak'r...William nods...But to see her lying, stretched out on the floor as poor Buffy had been just a few moments ago...and with her blood still staining her pretty white blouse...It's hard to maintain an indifferent air...



"Ang'l...She didn' get no blood after she trans...trom...went vamp...Maybe she's no fak'r...And maybe if she don' get some, and she goes poof!...I los' ma Buffy fa good..." he frets...

Hmmn...Angel ponders solemnly, reviewing his vast knowledge of vampiral lore...

"I dunno..." he shrugs... "Cud be she's no fak'r..."

"I ain' Willum..." Anne decides to return to the land of the conscious...But remains on the floor, pathetically weak...

"I's dyin'...goin' back...Gonna go poof!...If'n ya don' gemme no blood...Please, hon'?...." she pleads...

"I wudn' lie ta ya, baby..." she coos, her voice trailing off weakly... "Ma lil' Wil'am..." She passes out again...

"Cudn' we getta som' blud...?" Will looks at Angel... "Jest a lil' ta tid' her over...?...So she don' go...Poof!...?"

Well...Angel must allow that he can't see that it would make her condition any worse...So long as they don't provide her with too much...And don't leave her alone for any length of time... And in fact he does have a small stock on hand, left from what he'd brought over earlier, in part to nourish William on his rebirth, some of which is still on hand in the office fridge...

"O...K...I'll getta som' blud...But jes' a lil...Not too...much..." he sways...

"And a lil' beer...jes' for her thro..." cleverly reasoning the demon brew may be of use in keeping her in her current somewhat more manageable state...Not realizing this particular formulation is both fast-acting and long-lasting...Quite long-lasting...So that additional doses are not currently needed...

Will to his credit, catching on quickly...Ya, a lil' beer...Jes' for her...

Anne, listening from the floor, maintaining her faked unconsciousness, is rather pleased however...That was good brew...A little more would go down nice with the blood...

Heck, the new Queen of the Damned can handle a little beer...Even a strong import like Angel's...

***

Meanwhile, back at the new HQ of Hell's rather battered law firm...Joseph's crowded booth table at Doublemeat Palace franchise, #10002, LA, CA...More of the usual bad news is being dispensed...Along with seven Doublemeat Specials, eight cheesy fries, five cokes...And...Lilah checks her order slip...three coffees...

"Where's my cheery cherry pie?..." the former head of Wolfram-Hart's actuarial division looks over the trays...

Fresh out...Lilah shakes her head...Looking for the remnants of the once-mighty...And soon, sure to rebound...Wolfram-Hart staff to slide over...

Joseph eyes her...And the counter, attended rather poorly by a former head of the trust division...

"Lilah...I think we'll need you on duty...I'll fill you in later..." he nods over to the counter...

Urrggh...She curses under her breathe...Heading back...

"Could I have an able apple one instead...?" the department head calls...

Mr. Crudgins is looking better and better...

"So...Our efforts to revive Spike...Have failed..." Joseph sighs, summing up...Oh well, another failure...Nothing new really...

"In fact, worse than failed..." a distinguished-looking middle-aged type speaks up...A Vice-President, once never seen without a phalanx of secretaries and flunkies in the corridors of LA power...Now his one remaining suit looking a bit worn...



Assigned the thankless task of attempting this one, over his strongly-voiced, depressed insistence that Angel was sure to ruin it for them...And that William revived would be far worse a danger than Spike could be a benefit...He was rather happily painting as black a picture as possible...

"William the Bloody's human soul is back...Joined with Angel to fight against us...Not that there's much to fight just now..." he sighs...As does the whole table, the two demons who'd been clobbered by Angel and Will the night previous, Chester and Sidney, joining in...Only the indomitable Joseph maintaining that positive attitude...

Rather like Quentin Travers just before the blast...

"People!...We've got to see ourselves through these tough times!..." he notes... "So we've taken a few hard knocks...So the First was defeated, the Apocalypse averted..." Several times in one week, the depressed VP notes... "So William the Bloody is redeemed and now Angel's partner...So there's an army of activated Slayers loose in the world..."

"So the remaining assets of Wolfram-Hart, Inc are now tied up in this one crummy Doublemeat franchise..." one of the others sighs...

"May I take your order?..." Lilah tries to smile at the counter...

Couldn't we sell something that would kill the little brats at least?...she suppresses a glare at the whining little boys and girl demanding she give 'em a Doublemeat hat...

Fresh out...she explains to the frantic mother again...You got one, Gemme!!...The little girl shrieks at her...

"Well..." Chester points out... "Sid and I did get the cursed brew to Angel's office fridge..."

My office fridge...one of the staff sighs...Such a short time ago...

Great...The depressed VP shakes his head... "They're probably getting plastered and having a ball on our brew right now..."

In my office...the staffer who'd formerly held the lower level office sighs again...

"Now, boys!..." Joseph puts on his best "win-one-for-our-beloved-former-movie-actor-President-playing-the-Gipper" face... "We can't let these temporary setbacks get us down, break our spirit...We are Wolfram-Hart...We are Evil...We are strong..."

The boys look at each other...We are sitting in a booth at the last bit of property saved from the wreckage...A Doublemeat Palace...

"And, once we bring our skills to bear on Mr. Crudgins' case...Take it to victory...We shall begin to rebuild our Empire of Evil..."

Hmmn...Oh, yeah...the deadbeat "quadraplegic" guy...Case did sound promising, given last year's quake...If any of us senior staff still remember how to handle a case in court...A staffer thinks...

"What we need..." Joseph eyes the group...Munching on his Doublemeat Special...Hey, nice job, Lilah...! he calls encouragingly, waving the sandwich... "Is a consultation...A little pep talk from one of Hell's finest...To rally us and revive our spirits..."

The First...? one looks at him...

"Institutionalized...She'll be well soon..." Joseph hastily adds...God if the guys got a look at her now...

"No, we need some words of wisdom from the one opponent of Buffy Summers who nearly took her out...Went straight for the heart...None of that "destroy the world, Buffy only a minor detail", long-winded Angelus nonsense...No, this one nearly accomplished the dream...Nearly took home all the chips..."

Nearly...?



"And...The really inspiring thing is...He's a mere human..." Joseph beams... "Well, a mere dead human now...And a genius...But still...Ya gotta admire a human gettin' that far on his lonesome..."

Another loser's gonna inspire us...? the depressed VP sighs to himself...Well, maybe he can suggest painless ways to toss in the towel...

Let me open this hell-portal and bring up this hologram of our friend...Joseph pulls out a battered laptop...Which sputters...God, don't let me lose the Crudgins file...he thinks...

A mist forms near the table...

"Fiya!!!..." the little boy torturing Lilah at the counter hollers...No, no she smiles sweetly...Just our Doublemeat management testing a safety system...

Without me...she glares back...

A bright light is seen from Joseph's mist...Strains of the "Flower Duet" from Lakme sung by what, considering the source of the music, cannot be considered an "angelic" choir but was certainly good enough are heard...And in the center of a flowery bower, in hammock, dressed in toga, and attended by what appear to be multiple adoring...Buffies, and various other attractive young ladies...One Buffy happily offering him a peeled grape...

And Andrew'd thought the First was lying about the "living as gods" thing...

"Hello, Warren...How goes it...?" Joseph calls...

"Hey, Joe, my man...Great, just great..." Warren calls out, sitting up a little and waving...No more right now, babe...Thanks...he tells the Buffy feeding him...

Warren Mears, Hell's fair-haired boy...Well...He came close...And a mere human to do so well after all the others?...How could they resist casting him as their greatest hero?...And as their chief current consultant for matters regarding Buffy...However much Angelus might fume...

And they say crime doesn't pay...

Ok, so he's piling up mucho punishment debits to be called in on Judgement Day...Warren always was a "fly now, pay later" kinda of guy...

"What can I do for my favorite attorney...?" Warren grins...Another beauty offering him a towel...Hey thanks, babe...

"Warren...The boys and Lilah are down...We need a little of that ole Mears...We'll-go-back-and -shoot-the-Slayer-even-if-world-conquest's-denied us spirit..."

Well...Warren beams...

"I think I can do one better...Guess you haven't heard the news..."

News...? Joseph eyes him...

News...? the gang stare...

News...? Lilah tries desperately to hear from the counter as she and the other staffer there are swamped by the after-church crowd...

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer...My Nemeses...uh...Nemesis......" Warren's Hell-residing spirit smiles...

"Has had a little...Incident..."



With the help of her blonde boyfriend...he smirks...

Hmmn...Joseph waits eagerly...The boys beginning to perk up a bit...Good news for Evil?...Possibly? At last?...

On a Sunday morning?...

"Hey...Warren..." Lilah tries to catch his eye, waving...

Hey, he's Hell's fair-haired boy this year...If things don't work out and Angel kills them all, she might want connections in Hell...

***

"I Love Ya...Truly..."

PG-13

Summary: With the aid of some demon brew, a little party at Angel's new offices to celebrate William's resurrection in LA gives Buffy her chance to say it and prove it...The hard way...

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 Buffy Rebecca verse, Cicelyverse page...www.geocities.com/buffyrebecca/Cicelypg.html

(ok, so this one's a bit of a throwaway part to get in the Hope tribute...I was gonna try to have Lilah and Joseph do the song but ...Maybe a second chorus later if I can figure out how to have them do it...)

Part IX...

Dawn, Xander, and Andrew have stopped by the Rosenbergs having themselves decided to head for LA to help Buffy and Angel properly welcome William back to Earth...Unaware of the potentially tragic outcome of the previous evening...

Their early morning decision having been especially easy considering their favorite Slayer had slipped out the evening before for LA like a bat out of hell after hearing word of the resurrection attempt via Willow after Angel's call to her for assistance with the demon blocking...Leaving a hasty and rather incoherent note for Dawn...

Not that they weren't glad for him...And her...Or that they thought them capable of doing anything foolish or headstrong (Uh-huh)...Just...It might be best to see that they had a leetle more of a crowd between them right now than just Angel...And his staff...

Willow and Kennedy decide reluctantly to accompany them...Hoping somehow to divert them, perhaps with Angel and co's help until Willow can learn if the grim news about Buffy is true and what can be done...Apart from vaporizing the newly restored William, that is, she notes to Kennedy aside as they hastily finish dressing...

After we hear him out...Kennedy eyes her...

Yeah...I'll hear him out...Then kill him...Willow nods...

***

Andrew sings a little Bob Hope 100 year birthday tribute as the gang drives to LA, Xander backing up...Dawn frowning a bit at Andy...But tolerating...After all, Xander hasn't shown this much spirit in weeks since Anya's passing...

And they are kinda cute singing it...

(Andrew and Xander)



[Buttons and Bows...from "The Paleface..." ]


Play

"A Western ranch is jest a branch of nowhere junction to me...

Gimme the city where livin's pretty

And the gals wear finery...(Geesh...Dawn sighs...Guys...?)

Oh...East is east and west is west

And the wrong un I have chose

Let's go where you'll keep on wearin'

Those frills and flowers and buttons and bows

Rings and things and buttons and bows...

Ye...ap!..."(Xander and Andrew)

(Andrew)

"Don't bury me in this prairie

Take me where the cement grows

Let's move da...own to some big ta..own

Where they love a gal by the cut o' her clothes (Dawn glares, Willow grins at Kennedy, joining in...)

And you'll stand out

In buttons and bows..."

(Kennedy, Willow, Andrew, Xander...Hey, Bob's birthday...Xander grins sheepishly at Dawn...Unnnh...Oh, well...)

"I love you in buckskin

Or skirts that you've homespun (Oh, yeah...Willow grins at her honey...)

But I'll love ya' longer, stronger where

Yer friends don't tote a gun..." ( or stake...Xander adds)

(Andrew and Xander)

"My bones denounce the buckboard bounce

And the cactus hurts my toes

Let's vamoose where gals keep usin'

Those silks and satins and linen that shows

And you'll all mine in buttons and bows..."

(Xander and Willow)

"Don't bury me in this here prairie

Take me where the cement grows

Let's move down to that big town

Where they love a gal by the cut o' her clothes

And you'll stand out

In buttons and bows..."

(Dawn and Willow to Andrew...Dawn grinning at Andy...)

"The wide open spaces...don't suit you like a rook

I will love you longer, stronger

where the steak ain't on the hoof..."

Oh, that follows...(Xander)

(The gang)

"My bones denounce the buckboard bounce

And that cactus hurts my toes

Let's vamoose where gals keep usin'

Those silks and satins and linen that shows

And you'll all mine in buttons and bows..."



"And another thing...(Andrew does it in one breath)

Gimme-eastern-trimmin'-where-women-are-women

In-high-silk-hose-and-peek-a-boo-clothes

And-French-parfume-that-rocks-the-room

And...hrrrrrrrrrrrrrrh....(Desperately takes a breath)

buttons and bows..."

(The gang)

"Buttons and bows...

Buttons and bows...

Ye...ap...!"

***



Buffy's soul and that of Mrs. Walthrop, William's mother, traverse the interdimensional void between Heaven and Limbo...That formless blankness where poor trapped souls, still not able to free themselves of Earthly links, awaiting punishments for unresolved crimes, or held fast by the clutch of their counterpart demons on Earth await liberation, resolution, salvation, and release to Heaven or in some cases, rebirth on Earth...William's mother naturally experienced in these travels having made many a journey from Heaven to comfort her poor son's trapped soul as best she could...Though his case had been rather unique...His soul blindly choosing to stay on Earth as near the rampaging Spike as possible...Hoping and believing that his Cicely would come for him, tell him it had all been some kind of hideous misunderstanding...And that the vampiral murdering thing was some kind of equally hideous dream...

Buffy is still a bit nervous around the lady...Will's mom after all...And she'd never met her...Even as Cicely back in 1880...And considering that she and William had sneaked off for a quick and secret marriage back then...It was only natural her...gulp...Mother-in-law...Might harbor a little resentment...Not to mention the driving William off into the arms of Drusilla for 100 plus years of torment thing...

Though she accepted that the immediate sock in the jaw Ms. W. had given her on their initial introduction on Buffy's return to Heaven had been simply a devoted mother's instinctive and natural response to seeing her poor loving son beaten silly for a full year by the woman he'd been slowly overcoming his own demon to reach out to and help...Perfectly understandable, even if the pain still lingered...Buffy felt her jaw...Can teeth be loosened in the formless afterlife...?...Sure felt like it...And Ms. W. had profusely apologized...Sorry, dear child...Loving mother here...No problem, understand completely...Buffy'd nodded...

And it never hurts to have your more or less new mom-in-law feeling a little guiltily in the wrong regards you...she thought...Working her mouth carefully...Quite a right hook for a formless being...

Besides...My mom/Cicely's father is quite ready to do much worse to William when he shows up...Despite her/his sympathizing with his plight...she noted to herself...I'll probably have to slip him into Heaven the back way...At the very least stay right by his side for the first century or so...When we do finally come for keeps...

"We are here, dear..." Mrs. Walthrop quietly tells her...As they drift in white emptiness...

Hmmn...Quiet place...Nice place to think over your life...Buffy thinks...

"I still don't understand why I didn't wind up here instead of Heaven..." she looks at Mrs. W's diffuse, then somewhat solid, floating head...

"You were here, dear, instantaneously..." Mrs. Walthrops notes... "But as you were fully aware of what had happened, nothing held you bound...And your demon was rather anxious not to remain linked to you...No doubt hoping to keep you from learning her plans..."

"Not much to conceal there...She wants to stay, kill everything human, get William or at least Spike to stay with her, and rule the world...Anne's not exactly a complicated personality..." Buffy replies...Sighing a bit...

Little embarrassing discussing your own Darkest Side...

"She probably hopes you'll be distracted and content to remain in Heaven..." Mrs. Walthrop eyes her...In part, anyway...Daughter-in-law...A bit anxiously...

"No way..." Buffy's soul shakes a formed head... "I'm not ready for eternal bliss just yet...Not without William and not until I've done my work..."

Phew...Mrs. W. thinks...Not that I doubted the poor child's love for my boy...But as Buffy dear Cicely had tended to forget William a bit...And I'd hate to have him battling alone on Earth for any additional time he spends there...

"I see, dear...Well...If you are ready...I will leave you now and you can seek others here as well as try to link with your counterpart..." she pauses, staring...

"Are you sure you want to do this, child?...It may be very painful for you...It is not easy to observe the darkness in yourself as well as others...And be capable of doing almost nothing to stop its rampage..."



"William...And Angel...And many of the others I've been dealing with back home had to do it...I'll deal...I need to see this...Ummn...Mother...Walthrop..."

Sorry...she hastily begins...A little Cicely fugue...

Mrs. Walthrop shakes her floating head with a smile...

"Oh...My dear...No...Please do call me Mother, Cicely...I only hope that you, Buffy as well as Cicely will choose to consider me your mother-in-law..." she beams...

"Ummn...Thanks...I'm sorry we didn't too it more formally in 1880...I hope you don't hold it against me..." Buffy sighs...

Oh...Dear...No...Mrs. Walthrop smiles...Hardly something to be embarrassed about...

"William never did tell you, did he, Cicely?...About...me...And his never-present father...?"

Ummn...Well...

"Mrs." Walthrop stares...Oh...?

"No...Not a word..." Buffy smiles nervously...Ok, one minor white lie to spare my mum-in-law's feelings...

'Sides I only just pulled up that particular Cicely memory...It could be...Mistaken...

"Well...Nothing of any importance...Mr. Walthrop slipped...er passed away...When William was quite young..." "Mrs." Walthrop smiles a bit nervously...

Ah...Buffy's disembodied head nods...Dutifully...

As a good Victorian daughter-in-law should...her Cicely nature noted...

***



Part X...


Play

"There's a party going on right here!...A celebration...To last a year!..." Joseph happily swings Lilah round in the aisles of the new Wolfram-Hart HQ/Doublemeat Palace franchise #10002...As Lionel Ritchie warbles on...

The boys of the staff raising their cokes and coffees, spiked in several cases with a little booze which some had managed to salvage from their old offices before their expulsion...

The tremendous news that Warren Mears' spirit had passed on to them had to be properly celebrated after all...Within the cramped means currently available to Evil's legal team...

Buffy the Vampire Slayer...The Greatest Slayer of All Time...Twice for those like Joseph in the know as to her past life as British Slayer Cicely Addams...Dead...And transformed...Her fiendish demon essence Anne free (in spirit at least) as a vampire in her Slayer-vamp body...At the insanely voluntary...Perhaps the one worrisome aspect, their still somewhat depressed Vice President (trade/commerce regulatory law and copywrite) noted...choice of Ms. Summers herself...And at the hands of her own beloved...Likewise in her past life, William Soames Walthrop aka William the Bloody...

The sort of news that just makes you wanta dance on a bright Sunday morning...Joseph notes to Lilah...

Who is still a bit uncertain as well as...Ow!...Another foot trampling...Sorry, dear...Joseph apologizes...Annoyed at not being consulted as to the next move...



"Next move?..." Joseph shakes his head... "What's to plan?...Obviously we sit back and let Anne the Vampire come to us, seeking our expert advice in her schemes of world domination and destruction...Hoping that at the very least, William and Angel will have to destroy their Buffy, Earthwise anyway, in order to save her soul...And taking no risks ourselves..."

"No Risks Ourselves..." The boys in their booth echo the Boss firmly...

The new mantra of the reorganized Wolfram-Hart team...

Just in case this one sputters out like that little "lets revive Spike and have him destroy Angel and lead Evil to triumph" scheme...he notes...

Hmmn...Joseph's clearly learnt his lesson...Still, considering Warren's info regarding Anne's imprisonment at their old home ground...Lilah can't resist making a suggestion for an attempt at supporting their potential ally...Much to his surprise, involving her taking the risk...

Hell, anything to get out of this damned Doublemeat uniform for a few hours...

"I could go to Angel's...See if there's anything we could do to help Anne get out of his clutches..." she hopefully suggests...

Hmmn...Joseph reflects, swinging her round the floor once more to the rhythmic sounds of Lionel Ritchie...On the one hand...A little help might give our new Lady of Evil a fighting chance with Angel...And Lilah's the one amongst the team competent enough to possibly succeed...

On the other...Cab fare to our old place?...We'd be cleaning out our little emergency supplies cash fund...Plus, Lilah's the only one of us who can make a Doublemeat Special worth a damn...Her skills are vital to our sole remaining source of income...

"I'd be very careful..." Lilah tries... "Please, Joseph..."

I gotta get outta here for a few hours...she hisses...Use my intellect a little...I'm going stir-crazy here, turnin' into a zombie...

Becoming a first-rate Doublemeater...she sighs...

"I'll go after that Crudgins if you don't let me go...And I can still land him at least..." she eyes him...

Hmmn...

Be nice to get the hell away from our depressed team of legal aces for a few hours at that...And I can see she doesn't try anything likely to have Angel on our last doorstep...And may as well put her dregs of enthusiasm to use...

"Lilah...That's the kind of spirit that will soon be putting us back where we belong..." he beams...

"You...And I...Will throw our experience and skills into the balance for Evil...Doing what we can to assist the latest addition to Evil's ranks..."

Taking No Risk Ourselves...he notes...Merely observing and awaiting any...Utterly safe...Opportunity to help Anne out...Ok?...

Ok...She nods, happily...Back in the saddle again...

"Can I have a mo to press my suit?...It's in the back room..." she notes...

My one remaining good suit...

"By all means..." Joseph waves expansively... "I've got to rework the day shift schedule and check the city bus schedules in any case..."

She eagerly races back...Tossing her hat at the depressed VP...Joseph nodding...Take the helm, Fred...



"Boys...Wolfram-Hart marches again...!..." he raises a fist... "With Buffy Summers' evil counterpart as our new ally!..."

We hope...he thinks...

"Anyone gotta city bus schedule?..."

***

"So, Willow..." Xander eyes her as he drives along towards LA...Dawn and Andrew now happily on their third chorus of "Buttons and Bows..."

Can it, guys...Kennedy hisses...We done paid Bob enough tribute...

"You don't seem all that excited about Will's return...? Anything wrong?..."

As in...Should I be ready to stake our little resurrected blonde boy?...he thinks...

"Hmmn...?...No, nothing...Wrong..." Willow shakes her head innocently... "That I...Know of..." Kennedy eyeing her...

Provided all went as well as Angel's last message about William's soul's making it said...she notes...

"Quite a thing..." Xander nods... "Not that I'd be completely comfortable seeing Buffy take up with him again..."

Dawn halts in midsong line...huh?...Take up...?

And Buf did zip off last night after Willow called without so much as a quick word...Just that lame note... "Went to LA to check on William...Call Willow or Xander, they'll explain...Back tomorrow asap...Do not do anything but homework..."

"On the other hand...He did good...And it sure would be nice to see her happy..." he sighs...

"Buffy's very happy...Just as she is..." Dawn hastily announces...

She's just glad that William's alive...Er...Undead alive...

"Poor guy..." Andrew notes... "Seems a little hard on him...A vamp again?..."

Yeah...Dawn jumps at the opening... "We really oughta give him peace at last...Right, Willow?"

Ummn...Well...

If he did what he told me he did...I'll give him peace all right...she thinks...

"Well...Dawn...We'll see hafta see..."

"Maybe Buf's gone to do that...As a Gift to him..." Dawn suggests...Hopefully...

"Dawnie..." Xander pauses... "I think we better be prepared for another outcome..."

And...he gives a rueful smile...If it's what I think it is...

"Be to nice to see her happy...And he has a soul now...Again..."

We hope...Willow notes...Kennedy eyeing her again, this time a quick nudge...Holdoffscray on the grimnewsmay...

"I mean..." she pauses as Dawn and Andrew look at her, Xander giving a brief glance...

"There was no guarantee the blocking spell would work..."



"But you said Angel called last night after he got William back to the office..." Xander notes... "And that Will'd made it..."

"And your mom said William called this morning..." Andrew adds...

Yeah...But...

"Nothing's sure until we see him and I check his soul out..." she tries... Gotta be cautious, guys...Potentially dealing with Spike here...You know...

"Absolutely...And Buffy had better be being cautious with him..." Dawn grimly notes...

And Angel had better be helping her be being cautious with him...Cause if nobody's being cautious...

"There's gonna be trouble..." she finishes...Arms folded...

Trouble with a capital D...

***

"Don't you think we should consult with the First before we go...?" Lilah, happily decked out in her one remaining suit, carefully applying lipstick from her last decently expensive tube, notes to the waiting Joseph...

Rally all our forces on this one...What's left, I mean...she eyes him...

The boys still in the booth, minus several ordered to man the counter and grill, reluctantly...Nod...

Ummn...Perhaps later...Joseph smiles brittlely...

"The First is busy regathering her strength...It may be a while before she can communicate with us...Let alone intervene here..."

Well...she notes...I just thought...She'd be glad to help out on this one, at least advicewise...What with it being the death and defeat of Buffy Summers and her soul and all...

"Please...Lilah...Don't go on about the First..." he hisses as they head towards the front door...Bus coming in ten minutes, one of the boys having pointed out...

"The last thing the boys need now is to see her...In her present state..." he eyes her...

Hmmn?...Lilah stares back...

****



"Demons and vampires beware!...I'm Buffy the Vampire Slayer..!..Here's the deal!..." The First hollers as she materializes in Warren's Hell chamber...Wildly waving a stake at Warren's various terrified female attendants, now reverted to their demon forms as Warren frowns...Damn...Hate when she gets like this...Who the Hell let her out this time?...She's supposed to be watched 24/7...

"Hey...Buffy..." he tries a little sugar... "Lookin' good, Slayer...Remember me, your ole pal...?"

"Warren Mears...You evildoer?...What petty nastiness are you up to now?..." she glares...Raising stake...

"Can't kill a human, Buffy, remember...Especially a disembodied human soul, like me..."

Oh...she ponders...Muttering to herself...Right... "Buffy doesn't kill humans...Come, Warren...I have to take you to the police, you evildoer..."

Not that kick again...Just last week we wandered all over Hell looking for a police station until her attendants managed to drug her essence...

"There are some vampire demon essences just outside my bower chamber, Slayer..." he tells her...She looks over to the chamber exit...

And some of them...he smiles...Look like real hunks...Redemption-seeking...With souls...he notes...

"Souls...?" she beams... "Looking for me to save them...?"

And...Hunks...?

"Oh, yeah...Hot ones...If I were female...And a Slayer..." Warren sighs... "I couldn't keep my hands off 'em..."

Especially when they seem so sincere about the redemption thing...he notes...

"And redemption-seeking...?...Just needin' me to help them find the way?...Through my incredible power of love and compassion...?" she stares at him...

Oh, yeah...Warren nods...

"But you better hurry...Some of them are right on the edge of slipping back into evil..."

Oh...!...she put a hand to her mouth... "I've got to save them...!..."

Stay here, Warren...she tells him...I will send police to arrest you, after I save or kill those poor vampires...

Or tries to sleep with all of them...he thinks...Like last time...

"Absolutely..." he nods...As she vanishes...

Phew... "Ok ladies..." he turns to his attendants... "She's gone...The attendants outside'll take care of her..." they resume human form...

"C'mon...Each nanosecond here is costing me a thousand years of post-Judgment Day torment..." he notes...

Lets make it worthwhile...he grins...

***

The basement area of the new offices of Angel, Wyndham-Price, Gunn, and Walthrop...At least on the strength of phony law school degree documents, LA's crack new investigative/legal team...

"H'ok...Will...Got'r blood and som' beer..." Angel waves a packet and bottle as he returns from the other room...William nervously watching the pathetic-looking Anne as she moans and slowly twists on the floor of her cell...Willum...Willum...Help ya Ann...ie...her feeble whisper...

"Anne...Ang'l got ya blud..." Will staggers to the door of the cell...Angel raising a cautious, experienced hand as his junior partner looks anxiously at him...

Gotta handle dis careful...She's one crafty one...

"Here ya go, Anne..." he carefully pushes the blood pack towards her as she lies on the floor, still groaning...Setting the beer down inside the cell as well...

"Cana sit up..." she moans... "Help me, hon'..Darlin'..." she opens her eyes at William...



"Gotta help...Cannna...Get...it...Oh...." she closes her eyes...

Will looks at Angel...Angel at him...Hmmn...

On the one hand...She cud be a fak'r...On the other...Can they really take that chance...? If she reaches the vampiral point of no return, it's several fewer chances to restore Buffy later on...

Still...Willow could probably do it without the vamp body...Angel notes...

Oh...Anne groans...Crap, he would remember that...she thinks...

"Jes...A lil' help...Please fellahs..."she whispers... "Canna reach it..."...she feebly feels for the blood packet...Just barely out of range...

Can' we?...Jes one of us...? Will looks at his senior partner and former rival in love...

"If it wus Dar'a...I'd say we do it..." he notes... "Jes lemme go...Ya can keep a watch...She won' do anythin'..."

No'a thin'...Anne whispers in agreement from the floor... "I's all out..."

Hmmn...Angel sighs...The Darla argument clearly causing him to waver...And he can keep a watch if she's trying anything...

"Ok...Jes sos we don' have trouble gettin' Buf back lat'r on...Anne?...Ya be good and let Will feed ya and we'll give ya more blud lat'r...Fore we haf Willa kill ya...And bring Buf bac'...Ok?..."

O...K...she groans...C'mon in, Wil'am...Ples'?...

He stands by the door, waiting for Angel to unlock...Leaning on it for support a moment...It pushes open...Hmmn...? Anne raises her head slightly...

Whoops...Angel looks a tad embarrassed...As Will stares at him...

Forgot to how lock it before...he explains...It opens in not out, that's why Anne couldn't force it open...By pushin' it, anyway...I just kep actin' like she should push not pull...Figur'd that'd kep her in...

But dese buttons'll lock it...he notes...Tapping two buttons on the door's edge...Jes saw da inst...insect...The rules for it...Outside...

Damn...She sighs...A cleva ruse on Ang'l's part...

But mine's cleverer!...She hops up...Waving...A broken-off piece of the toilet...At Will...And pulling him in towards her...

"Ok!...Now Igotcha!...Sor' hon'..." she sighs... "But dis is got wood stuff in't...Maybe..." she holds the piece at his throat...

"Don' mak' me do it Ang'l!...Cause Im Evil, ya know!..." she hollers at the senior partner as he stares in shock...A clever one, that Anne...Husbanding her strength and secreting the one (possibly) semi-wood element in her reach...

"Thanks for trustin' me...Ya ok, hon'?...Lemme know if Im hurtin' ya, Will..." she hastily asks her beloved...Dragging him back...And quite sincere in her gratitude about the trust...and her concern...

Hey, she's Evil not heartless...

"Lemme go, Anne..." William struggles...Angel opens the cell door...

"Bac' Ang'l...Or I does it...!...I will...!" she holds the improvised stake on Will, twisting round the cell...

"Ya won'..." Angel shakes his head... "Ya won' kill Willum..."



"He wus gonna kill me...!" she shakes her head, a bit miffed... "And I knows there's ways to bring 'im back...Spike or Willum...After I make him go poof!..."

"Sides...Im Evil...And I don' care if I..." Will gives a groan...The stake scraping his cheek... "Oh!...Ya ok, hon'?...Oh, I's sor'...Sor' babe..." she pats him and looks up...Whoops!...Angel closing...She pulls her hostage back...

"Ok...I luvs him..."she nods... "But if I can' haf him...Buf ain' gonna get him..." She raises the piece...

Hmmn...Angel ponders...He might...Possibly...Under the best conditions...Rush her successfully and free Will before she plunged the improvised stake into his heart...

But these are not the best conditions...

On the other hand...That thing might just be plastic...And useless as a stake...

However, most of these things contain at least some percentage of wood product...And some might be just enough...

What to do...?

"Don' wor' bout me, Ang'l...Lock us in...She won' kill me..." Will calls...

She beams a mo...That's her brave boy talkin'...Then frowns...

"I's gonna do it Ang'l!...Ya better bac off...And lemme go..."

"She won' do it..." Will cries...Angel holding his ground by the door...She sighs...

"Ok..." she waves her stake, still holding William tightly... "I won' kil ma lil' Willy..." she nods...

"But I's gonna kill Buffy and me!...And that ya know I will do!..." she tosses William back at Angel, holding the stake to her own throat...

"If I gotta die anyways...I mays as well do me..." she grimly tells them...Edging towards the door...

"No, Anne..." Will cries... "Ples'...Don'...No, Ang'l!..." he turns to hold Angel back...Giving her her chance to race for the door...She's out in a sec and closes it...Pressing the locking buttons...

"Ok...I won'..." she grins...

Hey!...Angel shakes at the cage door...William tries as well...

No...Hic...Good...Angel sighs...Dey built it ta hold the strongest demmns...

"Ya...It's a strong one...I tri' it..." Anne nods...

Jes tried it the wrong way...She notes, still a tad embarrassed over that one...

"No!..." Will cries... "Anne...You gotta let us out...Now!...Buf says you luv me too..."

No way...she shakes her head, nearly losing her balance...Whoa!... "I'm here and Ima gonna stay...Let Buf taka hike..."

"But I do luv ya, Will...In my ev'l way...And Ima gonna have ya...You or Spike...As my own...Soon..."

But...I got things ta do...She sways...Furst...She tries to take a dramatic pose...

"Now...!" Urp...Cuse me... "Da evil regi...reign o' Anne isa hand!...Ha!...Hic-hic...Ha!"



The Queena Anned!...she grins...

"Ummn...Damned, I mea..."

Angel and William exchange stares...Uh-oh...She leaves the room...Stumbling into the wall outside...

Oops... "Really gotta haf soma da blud fore I go..." she mutters... "See Willum!..." she happily turns back to him... "I wusn' lyin' all of it to ya...!"...she stumbles away...

I knew dis wus gonna happen, Will sighs...Jest knew it...Angel pats him...Gonna wok out, bro...Doncha wor'...

If Willa don' kill us when she gets here dat is...he notes...

She heads over to Angel's office...Staggers to the fridge, quickly scarfing down a couple of blood packets...Ah, dats the best...And grabbing some bottles of the demon brew...Then back to the containment room door...

"Bye fellas!...Ang'l? Ima gonna take some of dis neat brew?...I'll pay ya for it later...Ok?...Wellis too bad, 'cause Im evil an' I won't anyway...Hah!..."

Luv ya, William...Tr'ly...See ya later...Bye...she waves...Stopping a sec as she heads out...

"That was a beoootiful poem, hon'...Tanka..." she nods to him...

"Beoootiful as it wus in 18 an'80..." she smiles gently...Leaving William staring after her...Anne?...

"Bye Ang'l..." Oops...she stumbles on the first stair to the ground level...

"Im ok...Bye..."

***

Part XI...

Whoops...Anne halts by the front door on the ground level...

Just out of range of the golden morning sunlight pouring through...

Yikes!...It's mornin'...Geesch...The guys cudda tol' a girl...she grouses to herself...Grabbing overcoat...Hmmn...Musta been Wes'...and umbrella...

What to do?...Still not enough cover to go out in broad....

Ah...She spies a side exit, leading to what seemed to be a covered alleyway...

Furst thin's furst...Anne notes to herself as she departs the former Wolfram-Hart building...

Needa square meal...Feelin' kinda unda the weada...

Another blood packet just doesn't quite make the cut...

And gotta find a safe place to hole up...

She heads into the alleyway...Hafta head for the next building and make for the...Yuck!...Sewers?...Aw...Hopefully finding some Sunday dinner companions along the way...

Hmmn...she sniffs...Peering down...Rather dark, thanks to the overhead cover...



Fee, fi...Phooooooo...Tum...No, wai'...

Fum...Ya, das it...

I smell da blooda...Anyone...she chuckles, wobbling on her feet...

"Hey!..." she calls... "Somebod' da...?...I smell ya...Cum on, out..."

"Cum on!...demmit...I ain' got all day...!...Cum out and lemme me..."

No, no....Deys won' wanna be kil'...Gotta be clever...Use my...Wiles...

"Hey...You a guy?...I'ma hot chic...Cum on out!..." she calls...

Sorry, Willum...But Im jest gonna kil' him...Not mess around wid him...

Cause Im evil...But I ain' unfait'ful...

"Hey!!!!!!...Im cumin' in...And..." Whoa...she halts...

"Buffy...?" Drusilla, her dinner still clutched in one hand, stares...

Hi...Dru!...Anne waves...

"An' left...?" she eyes the middle-aged woman Dru's just had over for dinner...

***

"You sure this is the way?..." Lilah eyes Joseph as they head downtown on the fourth bus they've taken so far on their odyssey back to their old stomping grounds...

"The guy back at the station said this was the right bus..." he notes, shrugging...But I'm not used to traveling this way..."

She beams at a rough looking, seated young man...Who gives her a sneering glare back...

"Young man..." Joseph looks at the young fellow... "My employee...A lady...Would very much like to sit...Please get up..."

"Make...me...Po...Arghh!..." the young man chokes in Joseph's firm grip...Rather strong for such a small old fellar...

"With...Pleasure, friend..."

The boy gasps...Turning blue...He struggles to rise..."O....K....O....K"...Joseph drops him...

A sudden round of applause catches both Joseph's and Lilah's attention...Not used to being hailed as a gallant gentleman is our Joe...He gives a modest nod...

Thanks, Boss...Lilah beams a bit at him...Taking a seat...

"There's our place...!.." he points out the window...A catch in his voice...

Our beautiful old office tower...he sighs...Lilah reaching to pat him as she stands for the stop...

***



"Buffy...?" Dru backs away...Blinking...

And is even more shocked at seeing Anne happily grab at the dropped corpse and lap up the remnants of blood on her dinner partner than terrified at being trapped in a narrow dead-end alleyway with the Slayer...

Well, a Slayer now...But still the best of the bunch...

Hmmn...Oh my...? Dru claps a hand to her mouth...

"Buffy?...You've gone and felt the velvet..." she smiles at her... "Was it Spikey who gave you the touch...? Oh?...The other one?...The little one?...He did this?..." she stares...

Me toff gentleman...?

Whaa?...Anne stares...

William...Dru explains... Oh...Anne nods... Yeah, wus him...But Buf axed 'im ta...

Buffy asked him...? A quick look to Miss Edith...

Strange indeed are the ways of Slayers and their human-souled pet vampires...she reflects...

"Well...Here you are ...In the dark...With me...Oh, so purpley velvet...Say hello, Miss Edith..." she raises the doll...

Hiya...Anne looks at Miss Edith...

"We must have a party, Miss Edith...All our lovely tea cups on the table...Come, Buffy, sister...It's time for tea..." Dru moves away to the back of the alley, and forces open a door in the building wall at the end... "Come, come...Time for sister's birthday party..."

A rat runs out the door...Past Anne's feet...

Hmmn...Anne looks at the open door...And scans the alley behind...No William or Angel...

Too bad, that containment cell is starting to look pretty damned good right now...

***

In her latest lair...An underground abandoned service tunnel co-op with another vamp, presently out on hunt...Dru has a fine tea party underway...

Tea...she firmly notes, as Anne offers a bottle of Angel's finest...

After all, demonic counterpart of a devout and strictly teetotaling young lady here...

"We have a new sister, Miss Edith...Say hello..." Dru waves Miss Edith's arm...

Nice to have company...she sadly notes...Her fellow tenant not being very much one for tea parties with Miss Edith, there hasn't been one in some time...

Obviously, it's been a while...As Anne can see, staring at the rotting cake on the tiny tea plates...

"Please say hello to Miss Edith, sister...She thinks you don't like her..."

Hiya...Anne stares at Miss Edith...Dat's one craz'...Wai'...Wai' one min'..

Dru...silla...Ya, das the one...the one who...! She slams her tea cup down...Startling Dru...

Hardly the sort of behavior one should...Even given an American vampiress...



"So...You kil' ma Willy...Bitch!..." Anne stares at Drusilla...

But thats ok...she waves a hand...Hesa vamp now...And mad' me a vamp...And Ima gonna get him to stay wid me...Willy...Or Spike...Onea da othda...

"Spike...?" Dru stares... "I felt him...My silly little boy...Drifting all the way down to Hell...For you, Buffy..." she sighs... "Now there's just that sparkly little soul...William...Silly,silly little boy..." she shakes her head...Right, Miss Edith?...she asks her doll...

Anne stares...God, dah is one craz' bitch...But...She does kno' her killin'...And I wan'r round...Tils I got my Willy or my Spik...ta help me out...

Then we stak'r, resure...er, wak'r up, and cut'r up...An' do it all ovra again...And aga'n...

Cause...Nobody kil's ma hon'...And getsaway wid it...

"So...Buffy..." Dru smiles...Anne...Anne notes firmly...Da's ma name now... "Oh?... So, sorry..."

"You're a good one, now, sister...So jolly..."

Yeah...? Anne eyes her...

Dru blinks...A vision...Not a good one...From her pov...

"But...Not so jolly!...No!!...The light's coming...coming for me...All sparkly!..." Dru twists a bit... "You...Oh, why did you come...? Why did you let her come back...?"

Wha'...? Anne stares...

"Wha' li', Dru?...Whos' cumin'?...Buf's soul?...William?..." she looks around hopefully...

"No!!..." Dru shrieks, trembling...Anne backing away a little... "SHE'S coming for me...!...The BAD ONE!!...Oh, Spike, save poor Dru!...No!!!..." she collapses, huddling...

You craz' Dru?...Anne asks, curious...

"Hea...Hafa lil' drink..." she offers a bottle...Ooops...Lemme open...she breaks off the neck...Hea...

Dru remains in her fearful huddling state...

Hmmn...Anne patiently eyes her new "sister"...The people one has to work with in order to rule the world...And win one's true love away from one's own soul...

"Hafa lil' drink, Dru...It'll makya feel bettah...Hea..." she presses the broken bottle into Dru's left hand...

Dru ignores it...Starting to rise...Some measure of sense returning...Best to put tracks between herself and...IT...Which she can feel coming...Soon...So soon...

"Hey...?!" Anne is offended...Such rudeness to the new Queen of the Damned is intolerable...

"I wan ya ta stay and hafa lil' drin' wid me...Now, Dru...Now...Or...Else..." she narrowly eyes the vampiress who'd killed her Will...Grabbing her arm...

Dru tries a stare...

"Don' ya try no hypo stuff...I's imm...allum...It don' wok wid me..." Anne glares back...



So...Her eyes narrow again...Whoops...Out of focus in her current condition...She widens them...Well...A challenge for the new Queen...

She twists Dru in front of her and begins to bend her arm up...Dru struggling rather helplessly...she lets out a howl!!!...

Sorry...Anne notes...But Ima Queen o f the Pride...And I's buss now...So ya do wha' I say...

"And I sa...It's hap' hour now...Ri'?..."

"Ri'...?!"! she glares...Bending the arm further...OW!!!...Dru hollers... "Me mum told me never to drink any spirits...Especially with strangers..."

"No?...All ri'..." Anne narrowly eyes...The Other Woman...

"Then...I gotta taka hostage..." she snatches Miss Edith...

"Miss Edith?..." Dru stares...Oh!...

"Say ya prayers, ya Willum murderin' bitch..." Anne gloats... "Dollys goin' for a ride..."

In two parts...she smiles wickedly...Grabbing each leg with a different hand...

No!...Buffy...(Anne!...Get'd ri', ya craz'...Anne frowns...)...sorry, Anne...Please!...Dru pleads...

"Dubba-split..." the new Queen of the Damned chuckles...Pulling the legs tight...

All right!...Dru grabs at the bottle...And takes a swig...

Hmmn...Not too bad...Me mum couldn't've tried this...

"Anne...!..." she screams, as Anne snickers, tearing Miss Edith in two...Hah...

Hey...She's no mere Evil Willow doing things by halves...she happily notes to the now sobbing Dru...

"Miss Edith!!!..."

Actua'y...she eyes the doll halves on the floor and the head, rolling...Guess I do do thin' by hafs...heh, heh, heh...

Dru, on the floor, staggers for the doll parts...Taking a few more swigs of the bottle as she goes...

"Nasty, nasty...!" she rages, looking up at Anne, who leers, gloating...

"Veng'nace...For Willum!!..." she cheers, raising a fist...

Hah, hah...Whoa!...Dru charges her...

Down...They struggle on the floor...

"You...Killed Miss...Ed...urp...ith...!..." Dru howls...Anne throws her off...

"Ya kil' Willum!!..." Anne rages...Starting to stand...

But tha's ok...Lik' I said...she notes...Dru charges again!...They go down...

"If...Me...Mum...Were...Here..." Dru begins, choking Anne...

Me poor...ole mum...she sighs...Anne again tosses her off...



"Oh..." Dru stares round as she stands...Taking yet another belt...

"Mum...Mum...Help me..." she cries... "Help your poor daughter in her hour of..." Anne grabs her by the throat...

"Hou'a need's right...Ya craz'..." Anne frowns...Throwing her back...

Settl' dow'...she glares at her as Dru slowly staggers up...Looking round the room...

"Oh, dear mother...Mother of God...What horror has befallen me?..." she stares...

"Wha's wid ya?..." Anne stares...Oh...She clucks her head...

Ya drunk, ya craz'...

"Well...sob'r up...Cause I need ya..." Anne sways, glaring...

"Blessed angels of God...Intercede for me..." Dru trembles, staring at the hideous apparition in front of her...Surely a demon of Hell itself...

"No mor' for ya..." Anne takes the bottle away...

The people one must turn to sometimes...she frowns at Dru...Resuming normal face...

"My dear God...What are you?..." Dru stares...The fiend has become a rather pretty if vicious-looking...And rather blotto young blonde woman...

"Hello...?" Harmony calls...Entering the lair...

"Drusilla?...It's me..."

Ah...Anne beams...

Anoda recru't...For ma Army o'Ev'l...

"Help!...Please!..." Drusilla screams... "A fiend of Hell itself holds me captive...!"

Gonna need'r too from the looks of Dru...Anne eyes her terrified vamp sister...

"Buffy?..." Harmony stares...

"Anne...Fres' in from Hel...Hihowrya, Harm..."

***

A quaking Drusilla kneels by, desperately whispering prayers, as Harmony stares at Anne...

Reasonably willing to accept Anne's evidence of her demonality...Buffy would never go along with wearing all that face stuff...she thinks...Even to take me, her nemesis, by surprise...

But still in no little shock...Buffy transformed...?...The Slayer of Slayers one of us...?

Dru praying for God's merciful protection...?

Well, they do seem to have been putting it away...she eyes the bottles on the floor...

Anne confidently, if woozily , moves swiftly to set the new hierarchical order in place...

"Dru's my lieutenant...Wenshe sob'rs up ....And yous...?" she stares, blinking... "Oh, yeah, Harmony...Yous my..." she giggles...Harmony glares...Hey...Just who does Summers think...

"My cheerleada..." Anne snickers...

What?...Your what?...Harmony stares...

My top cheer'eada...Anne throws a bone...

"Now listen...Buffy...Or "Anne"...Or ...Whoever the heck you are..." Anne swiftly cuts Harmony's grouse off by grabbing her by the throat with one hand, hoisting her up...She struggles, gasping...

"You sayin'..." Anne glares narrowly... "Ya don' wanna be my cheer...cheer...Pom-pom girl?...Cause I wuldn't like it if yous sayin' ya don' wanna be my Pom-pom girl..."

"Sounds...Goo...d ...Poooomp-Poooomp...urgh..." Harmony gasps...

Anne releases her...Thats beta...

Onla queen o'da pride, honey...And that's....

Me...

"Is she...Drunk?...Or what?..." Harmony hisses to Dru...

Who nervously backs away...Dear Lord, another one...Save your poor servant, oh blessed virgin...

***

Part XII....

In the dark and hideous lair of The Damned Ones, a terrified and rather confused Drusilla eyes her fiendish companions...Dark and savage sisters of Hell, no doubt...

Though the one apparently not stricken by the curse of alcoholic spirits on top of her dark, foul nature...And rather at odds with the self-proclaimed Queen of the Evil ones, rather the worse for use of demon rum herself...seemed friendly enough on her arrival...

Strangely...These evil ones seem to regard her...A handmaiden of Christ...As one of them...

Worse yet are the strange and hideous images crossing her mind...Visions at least, perhaps even...Memories?...Of Evil...Suggesting perhaps...They might be right...

And most horrible of all...She feels a strange craving within...A hunger, really...For...

Merciful God!...

True!...True!!...she shrieks suddenly, howling in her torment...Rather startling her vamp sisters in the middle of a little debate over precedence in the new pride...Harmony having tried a last, desperate counterstrike, only to be stopped in her tracks by a powerful slam across the face by Anne...Who might be smashed but was still throughly capable of dealing with the likes of Harm...

"I have tasted the blood of the innocent!...I have killed!!...Oh, dear God!...Oh, blessed virgin!...Cleanse my foul essence and grant me the grace to be once again your handmaiden..." she drops to her knees, praying fervently...

Waita minute...? Anne eyes Dru narrowly...Harmony looking as well as she staggers to her feet...Here...Anne passes a bottle of brew to Harmony...No har' feelin's...Bu' I will kil' ya if ya does dat aga'n...She returns to the kneeling Dru...



"You soun' lik ya got a soul?...You gotta soul?...Cause we don' take no vamps wida soul..."

Exceptin' my Willum...she nods firmly...

"If he'll com'..." a slightly mournful note creeping in...She brushes it off...She, Anne, New Wuean..er Queen of the Damned, will have her William...Or at least her Spike...Beside her...In good time...

Harmony gives a rather loud blurp...Cuse...she giggles...Hey...Dat's good suf...Stuf...she nods...

"I...I'm not sure..." Dru stares at Anne... "I feel God's presence within again...Glowing and warming my dark heart to purity once more..."

Purdy?...Harmony stares at the bubbles in her bottle of brew...Dat's purdy too...Yep...boootifull...Oh...Jes lik' Xanda...boootiful...she thinks...Twisting a brew-soaked finger in her hair as Anne frowns at Dru...Ya sure sounds lika soul girl ta me...

And like Xanda, conveniently available, Harm eyes the bottle at hand, gulping down another belt...If what she heard about poor Anya's true...Oh...Ma po'r lil' Xanda...she murmurs...

"But can't exactly say as to soul..." Dru notes...

"Xanda...Is...So Boootifull...!..." Harmony cries...

***

In the containment cell in the basement of the former Wolfram-Hart tower, Angel and William contemplate the disastrous ter...er turn of events...

Demon Anne released and roaming free...To do whatever unspeakable mayhem she cared to...

A furious, even avenging Willow likely on her way, almost certainly convinced that the fiendish Spike had won out and murdered Buffy...

Or, at the very least certain to be furious with the two drunken human-souled vampiral dolts stupid enough to have helped Buffy in this insane little scheme...and dumb enough to have let a plastered Anne get the better of them...

William, rather depressed once more, was actually inclined to see the Willow thing as a positive...If she'd blast him straight to Heaven where a somewhat let-down, possibly disappointed, but always forgiving Buf would be waiting...Wouldn't necessarily be all that bad a conclusion to the whole dismal affair...

Darla waiting, too...He kindly noted to his vampiral soul brother...Currently nearly as depressed...

"Nah, Will...We can' let Willow fry us...Anne'll cause alkinda trouble..."Angel shakes his head... "And Buf'll be feelin' bad...We gotta stop her..."

Dat's so...William shakes his head sadly...Ma poor lil' Buf...Watchin' Anne killin' and torturin' from Heav'n...With blud all ov'r her purdy blouse...

But other images grip him...Buffy at the Summers'...Believing in him, placing her faith in him...The first person in so long...

At the Hellmouth, their hands united in flame...Her saying the words he now realized were truer than even she had known...

Buffy staring up at him...Waiting for him to bite, ready to die for their love...Serenely confident in him and utterly trusting...

Could any man...Even a human-souled Unman...Let a woman like that down?...Especially a romantic poet...

Hell, no!...



And then there was that thing Buf and Anne had both mentioned regards 1880...He'd really like to get the low-down on that one...

No...He shakes himself..."We...Urrrrrrrppppp!....Sor'...Gotta stop her...Save ma po'r lil' Slayer girl...Ya ri' Ang'l..." He folds his arms decisively...Well, decisively as he could given the effects of the demon brew and his own uncertainty...

Angel nods quietly and solemnly, as befitting the occasion...Nearly falling over...Dat wus some brew...

That's my vampiral, human-souled grandson...And my lil' vamp soul bro...talkin'...he notes proudly...

One could even overlook the Brit thing for a promising fellow like this...

So...Will eyes Angel...Who stares...Swaying somewhat...back...

"Wha'we do?..."

Angel ponders...Eyeing the bars, the room as a whole, and finally back to Will...

"I dunno..."

"Can we turn the wole thin' ov'r...?" Will suggests...

Les' try...Angel nods...

They strain their mighty vampiral muscles against the bars, trying to lift and rock the cell off its base...No good...

Hmmn...?

"Tunn'l?..." Will looks at the floor...Stamping on it...What do you know, a tile loose...He hopefully pries it loose...Hmmn...Concrete floor underneath...

Well, Rome wasn't built in a day...And Buffy took a good year to come round even after I got the soul back, he notes...

"Dey's a way outta any cage...We'll finds it, Ange..." he nods determinedly...

How?...Angel stares at him...

***

Jesus...Joseph sighs as he and Lilah enter the ground floor of their former home away from home...Well, home away from Hell in his case...The Wolfram-Hart tower...

"Doesn't Angel even keep security around on Sundays...? God, does he have that little respect for us, now?..." he shakes his bald head...

Probably hasn't got the cash flow for such a layout...Lilah shrugs...

Can't understand why he tried taking a big place like this building on for his little outfit...she notes...

"Ah...He's got "Big Plans"..." Joseph sneers, waving a disdainful hand...

Ambitious, resourceful, heroic...Hmmn...she ponders...

Wonder if Angel ever thought about me...That way...

And of course, there's always Wesley...

They crept cautiously across the first floor...Hearing faint sounds from below...Through the floor...As if some incredibly powerful, savage creature were trying to escape a high-tech containment cell...

"Sounds like our Annie is antsy down in the basement..." Joseph hisses... "Lets see what we can do for our new partner in Evil..."

At...No Risk Ourselves...he carefully notes...

Absolutely...Lilah nods...A bold new direction for firm policy that she for one can whole-heartedly support..

***

Part XIII...

En route to LA, early Sunday...

With Willow's strong endorsement...Backed by a supportive "starved, guys...Absolutely starved..."

Kennedy, Xander had pulled into a restaurant for breakfast before the final leg of their ride to LA...Where he happily, if cluelessly, notes long-overdue good news awaited them...

Well...From a certain pov, he also notes...Dawn giving a slight glare...

"I mean...Anything that makes our Buf happy..." he continues...A more intense glare...Willow now staring at him as well...

"But not...too happy..." he desperately finishes...Ducking behind a menu...

"You sure you're not a Slayer?..." Andrew asks Dawn...That was some Slayery glare there...

Great teacher...Ya can't help but pick it up living with the champ...she shrugs...

"Gotta hit the bathroom..." Willow gets up...Giving Kennedy a slight squeeze... "Ok..." the new Slayer nodded...Scanning the menu...There having been some truth to her "...starved..."

"Coming, honey?..." "I'm all set..." Kennedy continues to browse...

"Stay away from the cheese eggs..." Andrew notes to the group... "We had breakfast here on our way to Meihico...And couldn't eat again until we got there..."

You gotta go!...Willow sends a telepathic message, carefully blocking as best she could from the others...

"Huh?..." Kennedy looks up...

"What's that?..." Xander stared at Willow...

Gr...eat...Now we can't keep our thoughts from each other?...Why couldn't we've been like this back in high school?...she sighs..."We gotta talk...Sweetie..." she goes the conventional route...

Oh...Kennedy nods, getting up...Sorry, guys...Girlie talk...Willow gives a nervous beam...

I hear "girlie talk" telepathically now?...Xander thinks...As Willow and Kennedy head over to the restrooms...

Like...Mel Gibson?...

Neat...O...



Oh, yeah?...And just how is being able to hear lesbian "girlie talk"...Neat?..O?...Willow's projected thought pops into his head...As she and Kennedy pause just within the restrooms...

Hey...?...Privacy invader...I was just the innocent telepathic conversational bystander here...Xander thinks back...

Sorry...Say what's that image of me with yellow crayon all over my naked...?

Egg yolks...Thinking of nothing but egg yolks...Xander mumbles...Dawn and Andrew staring...

What's with the shirt?...Dawn asks Andrew across from her...Looking at the T-shirt under his open outer one...

Oh...he spreads the outer shirt to boldly proclaim...

"I have Issues with My Mother Goddess..." she reads...

Cute...she frowns...

Your idea...? she eyes Xander...Catching his grin...

***

"So...?" Kennedy eyes her wiccan...Jest a minute...Willow waves a hand...

God, Xander...Didn't know you still...she thinks, blushing a little...

Well, my fault for prying...He's right...Privacy invasion...

Do I really look that good naked...? Gee...

"Willow...?" Kennedy taps her...Off in another world, smiling at some crazy magical...

"Why did you drag me down here...To this..." she looks around the ladies room... Eggh...

I take back every smart remark I 've ever made about men's restrooms...

"Oh..." Willow comes back with a nervous start... "Sorry..."

Well, anyway...she hastily moves on...Yellow crayons firmly back in the box...

"I gotta get to Angel's building...Alone...And see what the hell's going on..." she explains...

"I'm gonna teleport..."

"Are you crazy?...Spike could be loose, Angel and Buffy could be dead...Buffy could be a vampire..."

And you told me you weren't gonna try teleports except in emergencies after that last time...

Ah...Willow waves an airy hand..."That was just a leetle miscalculation..."

"You wound up with half your foot in the wall...!" Kennedy hisses...

Ouch...Why'd she had to remind me?...It's still sore...

"Take me with you..."

"Too much power taking on passengers..." she shakes her head... "Look...Just tell the guys I'm having a little trouble and keep em happy about half an hour...No problem, especially once Xander and Dawn get served..."



Only imminent world destruction would stop them from taking the feed bags off once they get going...

"What if you're more than half an hour?..."

"How long can it take to see if Spike's back, Buffy's a vamp, and fry them both with a teleport out into this sunny morn...?"

"Resurrecting Buffy and maybe Angel again may take a little more time...But she already got a fawn back at her new place for William anyway..."

She sighs...Well...Maybe William too...If that idiot soul of his lost out to Spike and didn't have anything to do with Buffy getting vamped...If she was vamped...

"A fawn...? Buffy's got a fawn in her apartment...?"

"In the basement storage room...It's a cutie..." Willow smiles, then sighs again...We were really kinda hoping to avoid having to go it my spell way...

"C'mon, hon..." she eyes her anxious, frowning sweetie...Tara on an "attitude" day...she beams...

If Tara had that long raven hair and those deep black-brown eyes...Oh, my God...Did her face just morph into Xander's for a sec...?

Note to self...Avoid Psych class Monday...And possibly Wednesday...

"Willow?..." Kennedy frowns...At least pay attention when I'm trying to exert a little dominance in this relationship...

Sorry...The wiccan sighs...Mind all over the place...Side effect of too much fooling with telepathy...

"Ken-Ken...Baby...I gotta see what's up...Before the others get there...You saw how I took it, even when William was clearly kinda out of it...I might've...But for our wonderful state system of transformers...Fried him over the phone...If Xander or Dawn gets wind of this..."

And I can handle Spike if he's out and about again...she eyes her beau firmly...

"Can you handle Buffy the Vampire too?...If it's true...And she gets her fangs into you?..."

"Then I get to throughly kick every square inch of her butt...For all the right reasons this time..." she grinned...

As for the power, it stays with me, kiddo...Not a drop to my poor lil' demon self...Whatever happens...

"Not that I'll let Buffy the Vamp get that close..." she waves off Kennedy's nervous look... "Besides, Will was plastered to the gills...He and Buf probably just went to Vegas smashed and got hitched in some Elvis chapel...And he...Rightly...Figured this was a good way to break the news...Get us really upset, then let Buf spring the lesser of two evils..."

Though Dawn would probably see it as worse...

"C'mon Ken-Ken...Lemme see what's what and try to get it sorted out..."

O.......K......Kennedy gives a long sigh...

"But only if you swear never to call me Ken-Ken again...Unless you'd like me to start calling you...Mom..."

Hmmn...Kinky...Willow grins...A quick peck on the cheek...

"Bye...Love ya...Watch the guys and keep Xander from overdoing it on the home fries...We have a pledge to Anya to maintain..."



"Plus he's my fallback guy if you flop...So we gotta keep him in tip-top shape..." she vanishes...

Kennedy sighs and opens the door to find an open-mouthed Dawn staring at her...

"Hey..." Ummn... "Willow's not feeling too well...Why don't we..."

Dawn blinks at her...

"Buffy...Is a...?"

***

"I must leave you now, child..." "Mrs." Walthrop told Buffy's drifting spirit gently...

"But just call to me if you need me and I will come to help..."

Thanks...Buffy nodded...Or, at least her floating head moved in a kind of nod...But...

"Yes, dear...?"

"What do I do?...I mean...Sorry if that sounds...I know this was my idea but..."

Those who are in torment will come upon you in time... "Mrs." Walthrop noted...And you will soon re-establish a link to your own demon...

"Are you absolutely sure, darling child?...William would never want you to suffer..."

I know...Buffy smiled wanly...He's spent a hundred years trying to keep me from suffering...

Just like I tried to keep him safe...

"Doesn't seem to have worked out too well...For either of us..."

I think...We have to take a different route now...Face our fears head on, not try to push them away again...

"But whatever happens here and on Earth...The important thing is...We've found each other again at last...And I....And he...Will never let anyone separate us again..."

Excepting the occasional voluntary vacation apart, like this one...she grinned...

"God bless you, dear girl...And thank you for keeping my William's soul alive...All these years..."

That was the real issue at...Stake...Here...she grinned...Never the existence of that...Other...In his body...

Funny mum-in-law...Buffy thought...Strictly to herself...

Now I see where he got that bloody awful bone from...

And that noble soul...she beamed at her...Gulp...Mother-in-law's spirit...

"Never doubt, Buffy...I will be with you, dear...And William...As will your mother/father, dear Cicely...Every day and...Always.. " she faded out...

Bye, Mum...Buffy's spirit called...

Hmmn...More white emptiness...I wonder if I could get in another call to William...She concentrates...Nothing...Well, Mom warned me I'd only have the very rare opportunity to make contact on my own...



Urpp...Excuse me...Hmmn...Geesch, would've thought that brew would have worked itself off by now...Up...Or is Limbo Down...Here?...

Thank God I didn't do that while Mum-in-law was with me...

Hmmn...Quiet..

Nice to just drift a moment...Think things over...

Wonder what kind of ceremony we should have...?...Dawn'll want it simple, no doubt...

If they don't find out what's happened and send Will on up here...

But then, heck...Heaven seemed like a nice place for a wedding...And honeymoon...

Wish Will would get in a call to me?...Like to know what's going with Anne...

But Mum Walthrop did say I'd plug back into Anne's doings soon...

Wonder what she's up to?...God, I hope Angel kept a little sense and got her secure...

Though of course...It being my demon...She's probably giving them every possible degree of Hell...

Hmmn...Maybe I should try to anticipate her for when I see Will and Angel again....If I went mad killer demon vamp, what would be my first move?

I mean after I clunked Brooding Man and his Blonde Boy Wonder over the heads and tied them up...

Well, seek shelter...Place to crash and plan...And reinforcements before I made my move on the gang...

Probably Dru...She's at hand in LA and...

"Hey?...Is someone there?..." she called...Sensing a presence...As a dense cloud formed from the mist around her...

"Tara?..." Buffy's spirit stared at the constantly, rapidly reshaping form in front of her...Tara's face occasionally but...

"Buffy?..." a sad vision of Tara's face briefly holds then vanishes into formlessness...

"Why are you here, Tara...?..." Buffy's spirit calls...Her face taking on a grin... "Were you trying to keep an eye on Willow?...I mean, after all...Nobody deserves Heaven more than... "

No!...she shrieked...Staring at the form in front of her...A dark-haired, wan...Even waifish...

"You!...No!...Get out!!...Liar!...Murderess!...You murdering whore!..."

"Buffy...Buffy...Cicely..." a sad, rather British-accented voice now... "Please...I'm so sor..."

"Whore!!!...I'll kill you!!...You murdered my husband, you bitch!!!...Worse than murdered!!!..." Buffy's raging, sorrowing but misty face now took on very different features...As her voice, full of tears, cracked...Dark hair, a bit more weight perhaps...A face worn by sorrow and disaster...Halfreck's if you took off twenty years in age, and some poundage from the "guidance counselor" who'd appeared to Dawn...

"I didn't know, Buffy...I swear...I had no memory of my past when I came to you and the others as Tara..." Drusilla's spirit desperately pleaded, sobbing now...

"I had no control over It...My demon...When she killed poor Mr. Walthrop...Oh...Please, please...I had no power over It..." she sobbed... "Try to understand, Cicely...Forgive me, Buffy...Forgive me...Mrs. Walthrop..."



Forgive me, William...Forgive me, God...she sobbed...

"Murdering, adulterous whore!..." Cicely shrieked... "You killed William!...You killed him!...You...!!...You!...You..."

Her howl becoming a pitiful cry...And plea...

William...Forgive me...Forgive me...she sobbed...Her cries mingling with Dru's...And the countless trillions of others condemned and lost in the white void...

***

Part XIV...

"I Love Ya...Truly..."

PG-13

Summary: With the aid of some demon brew, a little party at Angel's new offices to celebrate William's resurrection in LA gives Buffy her chance to say it and prove it...The hard way...

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



Part XIV...

***

This is what happens...Lilah grouses to herself...When a small-time outfit tries to grow too fast...As she and Joseph climb the thirty-three floors of stairs to his old office...Elevators being shut down either for Sunday or simple lack of cash...Probably both, she thinks...

"Gasp...Isn't there...Wheeze...Some other way to get down to the basement without being detected?..." she groans...This is ruining my last good suit...

"Do you...Wheeze...Want to be a guest of Angel and his new partner?..." Joseph glares... "Not to..." Hrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrg, he gulps air desperately.... "Mention violating our new firmwide cardinal policy...No Risk Ourselves...On the first mission...?"

"And this is great...Wheeze...Exer...Gasp...Cise...Like being back...Gasp...At the ole...corporate gym...Hrrrrrg...Stairclimber..."

"Are you saying I'm fat...?" Lilah manages it in one breath...Looking back at him...

"What?...Gasp...Wherdyou...Pant, heave...Get that from?...Gasp...Of course not, girl...You modern...Wheeze...Women...Gasp...And this weight hangup...A few ex..." Hrrrrrrrrrg, pant, wait a min, he waves... "Extra pounds..." He caught a few breaths... "Would...I said would..." Staring at her pout... "Look good on you..."

"Don't be ridiculous..." he concludes... "You're a beautiful, Evil woman...And I'd best drop this kind of talk or our best legal mind will have me up on sexual harrassment charges..." he gives a panting smile...Pointing ahead...Lets go...

Aw...she shyly grins at his shiny lil' bald dome a moment as he comes up to her...When he gets like this...

"Thanks, Boss..." she beams...

"Onward and..." he takes a deep one... "Upward..."



"What..." Hrrrrrrrrg, she grabs a desperate breath as they resume... "If your secret elevator doesn't...Gasp... work?...Angel seems to have most of the power shut down all over the building...The...Hrrrrrrg... cheapskate..." she frowns, pausing to try to get some air in...

God, look at all this sweat...Damnit, when we get back the Boss is springing for a dry cleaner or a new suit if he has to mortgage our Doublemeat Palace...

"It's my escape clause...Gasp...In case Angel...Or my partners...Wheeze...Ever cornered me...I made sure it had its own generator...Don't worry, it'll get there and we'll be...Gasp, pant...Concealed...Especially after we use the magics in my office..."

Hey, I'm in damned good shape...he proudly notes to himself as they pass the thirtieth floor...For a guy who sat at a desk most of the day, lording over the innocent, defenceless, and helpless...

If Angel didn't already remove them...And if he isn't in your office, lording over us right now...she suggests...

Hmmn...Certainly what I would do...Joseph has to agree to himself...Though I'd never have wasted much time in Angel's dinky little place if the roles were reversed...

Oh...Firsty...He sighs a mo within...How could you've failed us like this?...All our hopes and dreams...Shot down in one instant...

Well...Life...And Unlife...And Immortality...Go on...We must press on and keep our spirit...We are strong...We are Evil...

"We...gasp...Are..." he starts a cheer out loud as Lilah staggers to the thirty-third floor stairway door...Staring back at him...

Oh, God...It's locked...she moans...Banging desperately...

"I've got the key, don't fret..." he pulls out a chain...A little wobbily...Feel a little...

"We...Gasp...Shall overcome..."

" 'Cause..." Hrrrrrg, he leans on Lilah...Hand on her shoulder as he fumbles out the key... "We...Are..."

The door opens...

"...Wolfram-Hart..." he flops to the floor as she goes through...Writhing a bit, clearly not in as good shape as he had thought...

"Boss?...Joseph?...Oh..." I knew this would be too much for him, why didn't he say something?...she anxiously looks round...

"Should I call 911...?" He just gives a moan...

Maybe...666...she ponders...Racing to the nearest office...Phone dead...

Damn pennyanny operation...she bangs the phone...Running back out...

Well...she ponders...Joseph groans again...Oh...She looks anxiously...Not good...Maybe Angel or Wesley are in his office down the hall...And if they're morons, they are compassionate types...

"Help!..." she hollers...

"Angel!?...Wesley!!!?..."

Ohhhhh...Joseph gives a gasp...Turning somewhat blue...

Oh... "Joseph..." she knees by him, loosening his tie...Unbuttoning his shirt...

"It's gonna be fine...I took the corporate CPR class...Just give me a minute...Ok?..."



Lets see...Right...

"Are you ok!?..." she shakes him...Now, lift the head, check for...Stuff, eehew...

Hands on the sternum and...

"One and two and three and four...And..." Breathe, breathe...she blows air in...

C'mon, Joseph...We can't lose you now...Not our guiding spirit...Our Wolfram-Hart essence...Not now...she thinks desperately...

"C'mon, honey!...You're Wolfram-Hart!...You're Evil!...Oh, please Joseph..."

One and two and three and four...

And kiss...er breathe...

***

"How's things with you these days?..." Andrew asks kindly as he and Xander hold the fort at the restaurant table...

"Well..." Xander shrugs... "About what you'd expect, I guess...I'm trying to get by...Working as much as I can...Glad I have Buf and Dawn and Wil not too far away..."

"Anya...Wouldn't want you to..."

"An...?...Please..." Xander grins... "I've no doubt she's having trouble holding herself back from haunting me cause I'm not still all in black..."

Though I'm still wearing my black underwear...he smiles...

"She'd like that..." Andrew nods...

"Wish she would haunt me actually..." Xander sighs... "I was kinda countin' on it..."

"I mean...We know there's an afterlife...In our business and after all we've seen you can't doubt it anymore than this table..." he taps the imitation wood table...

But it worries me a little that she hasn't come to me...he stares...

"Maybe she's mad at me...Doesn't think I was worthy of being spectrally nagged...I did let her down, after all..."

Absolutely not...Andrew shakes his head...

"Or the worse alternative...She's being punished...Isn't allowed to come and visit me..."

A thousand years of vengeance-infliction...It's gotta pile up a large bill...he notes...

"And her soul was involved...It wasn't like with some poor vamp who can't help what his demon does...She consented to it..."

"No, Xander...She died saving us...And the world...She's fine...And I'm not just saying that out of fear for my own status..."

They give you bonus points for heroic redemption...Andrew concludes...And she took the cake...

"Thanks, Andy..." Xander nods..."You've made us all proud these last few months, you know..."

Andrew blushes...Ummn...



"Why not try a seance...? Willow or even I could do it..."

"Yeah, I've thought about it...But I'm a leetle nervous about it...What if I get bad news?...Like what I was saying..." Xander shakes his head...

"We won't...But if she needs help, then we could..."

A slight howl from down the hall at the restrooms...Unmistakably Dawn's...

***

Willow appears just outside the Wolfram-Hart tower...A quick look around suggests no unwanted bystanders...

And no feet or limbs trapped in sidewalk or walls...Phew...

Hmmn...Teleport in now that it's just a short jump?...Eh, big office tower I'm not familiar with...They could be on any floor...Why take chances...

Especially of p.o.ing my honey off if I get hurt...Or at least having her laugh her head off at me for a month after I have to be jaws of life extracted from the steel skeleton of the building...

She heads for the front door...

Not locked?...No security?...Hmmn...Our team LA is getting a mite overconfident I'd say...

"Angel?...Buffy?!...William?!..." she calls as she walks through the main foyer...Silent as a grave...And she oughta know...Except for...

A faint banging from below...

"Spike?!..."

"C'mon guys...It's me!..." she tries to follow the sounds...And I promise to hear you out before I start flaying she thinks...

***

"A vampire?!...Buffy is a vampire?!..." Dawn wails... As Kennedy tries to calm her...

Ummn...No...Not exactly...Ummn...Willow was just...Nervous after William called...

"Worried about what they might do, ya know?...Those two crazy resurrected kids..." Kennedy smiles desperately...

"Willow said Buffy was a vampire!...I heard you talking!!..."

"We don't know that she's a vamp, Dawn...It's just William called Willow and seemed very distraught...And preety drunk...And he mumbled some...Nonsense..."

"Spike made Buffy a vampire?!...I'll kill him!!...Lemme at him!!..." Dawn shrieked...

***

"Whatdaya mean...You won' be invol...invu...(involved, Drusilla kindly repeats)...Ri'...Thanka..." Anne nods, and glares again... "In anythin' ev'l...?...Yous a vamp...We're ev'l..."

Les' ya gotta soul?...she eyes the still kneeling Dru narrowly...

"I've told you...I don't know about my poor soul...But I know I will not do more evil..." Drusilla shakes her head firmly...



God has cleansed me and I am his handmaiden once more...

"Dats boooootiful..." Harmony nods... "Jes lik Xanda..."

Poor lil' Xanda...

"Is he real sad...?" she turns to Anne...

"Yeah..." Anne sighs, forgetting Dru for the moment...

Real sad...she shakes her head...Poor Xander...Like Will when I died...The second...No, Cicely was first...Third time...

"We oughta kil' him and mak' 'im happy again..." she brightens...

"Dats a good idee...Annie..." Harmony nods...Banging a hand...OW!!!...On the table for emphasis...

"But dats for lat'r..." the new Queen turns back to her problem sister, staggering a bit... 'cuse me Ima a lil' unda da weada... "...Dru...Yous gonna help us...Or yous ashes..." Anne glares at her disobedient new lieutenant...Waving a finger vaguely at her...

"Kill me then, but I will not help the doing of Evil..." Dru looks firmly back...

"Ya gonna come wid' us...Or so hep me..." Anne fumes...Looking for her...Ah, good ole Mr. P...

Drusilla braces for the blow...Redemption at hand...

However...If lives might be spared by my agreeing to accompany them...And my intervention...she ponders...

A chance to begin my atonement...

"Wait...I'll accompany you...But I will not take human lives or do harm..." she offers...

"Wha' good is dat gonna do me...?" Anne glares, wobbily raising her stake...Still..the thought occurs...Angel...If he sees her like this...

Even better than her earlier reference to his waistline...And...Almost worth listening to Dru pray incessantly...

"Ya willin' to fight demons?...If they gives us any trouble...?"

"I would do battle with the Evil ones...To protect innocent lives..." she nods...

Well...

"I'll put ya on probablation...(Probation?..Dru eyes her)...Whatever..."

"But Harm'ny's my lieut...my numba two girl now...Ok, Harm?..."

O....kee...Dokey...Harm attempts to nod...Banging her head against the table...OW!!!...

"Whers we goin'?" she asks, seeking to determine the strategic plan asap...Capable second-in-command that she is..."Ta see Xanda..?" she asks, hopefully now...

"I dunno..." Anne ponders...Still feeling rather under the weather in spite of the additional blood packets she'd just drained from Dru and Harm's little emergency stash...

"I think...We gotta go see ma Watcha...Giles...And have him check me out...Cause I don' feel so good..."



In Sunnadal...? Harm stares, managing to lift her head off the table...Where Xanda's waitin'?...Poor sad little Xander...

"Sun'dal's gone...Jes a big, big hole now..." Anne shakes her head... "Dey's all in Crestwud..."

"Xanda too?..."

Yeah...Dey's all der...

"Les' go..." the Queen issues an executive order...

"You gonna vamp Gil's...?" Harmony looks at her as she tries to rise...Jes a min...O...K...Thanka...As Dru helps her to her feet...

"I dunno...Maybe I'll jes fool him for now...Tell 'im I'm good ole Buf...Jes feelin' unda da weada...Gotta hafa checkup..."

"I will not help you kill this man..." Drusilla states firmly...

"I jes said I dunno if I will...Mi' be gud ta see if I can fool'im..." Anne glares back...

Ummn...Annie...Harm interrupts...

Yeah?...

"It's dayli' out there...How's we gonna go ta Sunnadal...?"

"Crestwud, ya stup..." Anne frowns...

The Queen however has already considered and resolved that little matter...Another demonstration of why she is so suited for her crown...

"Dey's sewers at the station ri'...?...We go dat way and we goes on da train where da windas are painta up...We gets to Crestwud and tak' da sewer to Gil's new place and dat's dat..."

The train station...Another minor chance at atonement...Dru thinks happily...

I never did pay my fare to Sunnydale and back that time...

***

Part XV...

"I Love Ya...Truly..."

***

A relieved Lilah tends to a slowly recovering Joseph on the thirty-third floor of the former Wolfram-Hart tower...

"Had the worst nightmare of my existence..." Joseph sighs...Sipping from the cup of water she holds to his lips...

I dreamt we voluntarily evacuated the firm from LA...Just handed everything over...To Angel and his people...

Not even a fight...And everything in perfect working order...

"With a sinister intent, no doubt..." Lilah eyes him, suggestively...Patting him on the shoulder as she sets the cup down...

"That's the worst thing...I don't know..." he shakes his head sadly...

You were there, Lilah...You handled the negotiations...



"Oh...?" she smiles...

"Of course you'd been killed by Angelus...Instead of Wesley rescuing you the way he did here..."

Well...she patted his lil' bald head, helping him to a chair...Don't fret...It was only a bad dream...

"We did fight it out...And Jasmine creamed us, those of us who weren't susceptible to her before Angel finished us off...Remember?..." she notes...He nods vaguely...

"But I'm a multidimensional being since I accepted the First's offer to sign away my soul...My nightmares are visions of alternate realities in which my counterparts fight for Evil as I do...They really do exist...Somewhere..." he sighs...

What a humiliation...Even worse than what happened with the First...Oh...Is Evil being whipped everywhere?...

"Well...Like I said...Maybe there you're planning a brilliant, diabolical scheme to corrupt Angel and his people..." she tries encouragement...

And it hardly matters to us here...Where we fought and are fighting the bad fight...she smiles...

"And maybe this was just a message...A note to you from your counterparts that things could be worse..."

"Well..." he ponders, brightening a little... "You could be right...And it does suggest that things could even be worse..."

Oh, God...Worse?...he sighs again, losing ground...

"So...Was I a vampire or what in that other existence?...After I came back to negotiate with Angel, I mean..." Lilah asks...

***

"Angel!!!!...Buffy!!!!...Where are you?!!!!" Willow calls as she opens the stairway door to the basement floor of the Wolfram-Hart office tower...What the hell's this?...Hmmn...She picks up a bottle of rather fine-looking imported beer on its side on the stairs...Still cold...Another, broken, beside it...

Dropped by Anne in her hasty, stumbling march to freedom...

Ow!...She sucks on her cut finger...Jumping back from where she'd been looking at the two bottles...

Hmmn...Not bad...Angel's wasting no time upgrading his tastes to match his new station in life, she notes...

She picks up the intact bottle...A leetle early in the day, but hey...Delicious and highly addictive...

***

Willow?...Angel and William, in their containment cell look at each other...

"Ya betta speak to her, Ang'l...See if ya can 'plain it to her..." Will notes...Angel nodding...Though he would put money on Willow flaying them both...

"Willow!..." Angel calls... "Camere...We ned ya..."

"Hey, guys..." she walks in...Eyeing them carefully...Oh, Lord...

"It's true, isn't it...?" she frowns at Angel...William looking sheepish behind him...

"Don't kil' 'im, Willow...He dint mea ta...Buf thought it wud hep..." Angel sighs...

"Buf...fy...Asked ya to do dis...this...?" Willow stares...

Taking it rather well, Will notes to himself...

Oh-oh...he catches sight of an open brew bottle in her hand...

"Willow...Don' drink dat!..." he cries...Angel staring as well...Don'...he joins in...

"Wha?..Dis is great stuf..." Willow smiles at the bottle as she lifts it...

"Impor...Urpppppph...Sorry...From Dube...Doob...lin..."

"It's demmen brew..." Angel shakes his head...Not my stuff...

"Ah...Ya craz...And yous in big treble, yous is...Spike..." Willow glares at the fiend...

"Ya kill'd ma bestus frend inallda word...World...And...Afta I finish dis...Ima gonna kil ya..."

"He dint do it, Willow...Well he did do it but he dint mea' ta..." Angel tries...

"Yous aint gettin' off either, Ang'l...Or shud I say..." she tried to put on a formally confrontational air...Willow has figured this little scheme out...

"Ang'lus..."

Heh! Thought ya cud fool me, huh?!...she wobbles a bit as she exposes the diabolical little plot...

"Ya lied ta us...Got Buf ta com' and mad' her thin' Willum wuz bac'...And alla time ya wus plannin' and schemin' to kil' her...Ma bust frend in alla werld..." she shakes her head sadly...Another swig... "You...Basta..."

"He aint Ang'lus, Willa!..." William steps forward... "It wus Buf provin' her luv for me..." he sighs...

My love...He pictures her face as she looked up to him...Just before he...Oh...

"Shudup!!...And get reddy ta die!...Or wha'ver...Afta ya tell me where's Buf.." she takes a long pull from the bottle...Eyes briefly darkening...But unable to quite keep the power up...

"Willow!..." A desperate cry from the middle of the room...

"Wha?..." she whirls round to see...

Drusilla...A ghostly Drusilla, floating in midair...Somewhat on the faint side...

"Hey, Dru..." Angel waves...

***

"Ok..." Xander eyes Kennedy as he, she, Dawn, and Andrew stand by their car...Having been somewhat less than politely asked to vacate the premises after Dawn had begun shrieking up and down the hallway with regards to Buffy's possible transformation...

Jesus...Where do these crazies come from?...The owner grouses to two of his waitresses as they and several customers watch the nutcase little girl in the parking lot...Her family under orders to leave said lot within ten minutes or face cops...They're as bad as that weird tall depressed guy and his friends a few days ago...

"So...William told Willow..." Xander continues carefully... "That he transformed Buffy...And she's dead right now...?"

But he seemed kinda drunk...Kennedy nods...



"Buffy...Killed and transformed...By Spike...?" he eyes her...

Suddenly bursting into a chortle of giggling laughter...Andrew joining in...

"Xander!!?..." Dawn stares at him furiously...

"Aw, come on, Dawn...Buffy?...By Spike?..." he laughs...And suddenly halts...Whoa...

Oh, God...

"See?..." Dawn glares at Kennedy... "Xander believ..."

"They've gone and gotten married or something..." he cuts her off, shaking his head...

And William and Buffy are trying to put us off...While she thinks up some way to try and tell us...Oh, God...

"Xander?..." Dawn stares... "But, Angelus could be in on..."

"Dawn...? Let me ask you...What do you believe is more likely?...That Angelus came back, helped Wolfram-Hart get Spike back...And together they ambushed Buffy...Our Buffy?...The Greatest Slayer of All Time and then some?...And then William called Willow this morning to tell her how sorry he was...?"

"Or...That they all got smashed last night and Buffy took him to some fly-by-night chapel last night with Angel as witness...And married him...?...And now they're terrified to tell us the truth..."

"Willow was kinda seein' that as the best alternate explanation..." Kennedy notes...

"I'll kill him!...That vampire got my sister drunk and married her...!" Dawn shrieks... "I'll kill him, then her...!! That idiot!!!..."

After all...Buffy Summers...? Ambushed, killed and transformed by...Spike...Even with Angelus in support?...Please...

"And that moron, Angel...!!!...He's dead too...!!!!" Dawn cried...

"Lets get in town...And see what's really up..." Xander suggests...

Before we get arrested...he eyes the frowning owner though the restaurant window...

***

Part XVI...

"I Love Ya...Truly..."

PG-13

Summary: With the aid of some demon brew, a little party at Angel's new offices to celebrate William's resurrection in LA gives Buffy her chance to say it and prove it...The hard way...

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 Cicelyverse page of the Buffy Rebecca verse, www.geocities.com/buffyrebecca/Cicelypg.html

Or direct to story at www.geocities.com/buffyrebecca/ilt1.html

Part XVI...



The weird sisters....Plastered Anne, smashed Harmony, and dementedly pious Dru...Had made a temporary diversion on their way to the commuter rail station...

Dru having pointed out that Anne was not exactly fitly dressed for a demure train ride to Crestwood...Not in her Buffy-blood-soaked blouse...Purty...er pretty...As it was...

Fortunately an easy solution at hand...This being LA...Mall City...And the rail station situated well by several...With easy indoor access, even early on Sunday...

At least for three super-powered, if bombed vamp ladies...

Lemme see...Queen Anne ponders, as Harmony, last of the trio to clear the twisted-open metal barrier door...Owww!...she moans a bit as a sliver of metal catches her arm...Emerges into the mall's main corridor...

Don' know how cum we gotta camere...she grouses, stumbling...Thought we wus goin' to see Xanda...she grumbles...

Poor lil' Xanda...All 'lone...A widdow...er...Well, sorta...she tears up a bit...Hmmn...Widdower?...Widdow?...Her eyes narrow a bit now...Oh, yeah...

Willa...er Willow...

"We tole ya...I gotta get sum stuf..." Anne replies... "Can' wea dis ta see ma Watcha..." she indicates her stained blouse...

Gotta look ma best...Lotta clas'...If I'm gonna fool Gilesy...she wobbles a bit as she looks down the long hall...

"Well...I wan' sumthin' too..." Harmony firmly insists...Gotta look nice for Xanda...Even if he might not be quite inclined to appreciate her efforts just now...she sighs a bit to herself...

"Ova dere..." she points, falling after her pointing hand...Neiman Marcus, naturally...

Smashed she may be, but some instincts cannot be repressed...Hmmn...NM, oooh...Nice choice, lieutenant Harmony, Anne beams, following after...And pausing to help Harm back onto her feet...Upa dazey...er daisy...Dere we go...

No poor security fellows in sight, thank goodness...Dru gratefully notes to herself, following...

***

Back at Angel's new offices at the former Wolfram-Hart tower, Angel and William locked within their own demon containment cell and Willow outside, all stare at the hovering, ghostly form of Drusilla...

"Willow..." she repeats... "Please, you must lis..."

"Ya get outa here!..." Willow waves her arms...Vague sparks trying to form as she sways...

"Ya killer!...Ya here for ya boyfriend,huh?..." she sneers, eyeing William in the cell...

Willow...Please...

"Ya won' go?...O...K...Wheresa..." Ah, ha...A stake...She picks up the wood slat William had planned to immolate himself with during his earlier depressive fit...

"Now, dus' ya bitch!..." she tosses it at the floating Dru...Who winces a bit as it passes harmlessly through her misty presence...

Whoops...? All three stare at the stake on the ground as Drusilla tries to hold form a bit more stabley...

"I'm not the one you think, Willow..." she sighs... "I'm the human soul of Drusilla...Buffy sent me...She couldn't materialize again so soon without help..."

"Dru!?...Ya saw ma Buffy...?" William calls...

"Oh, Mr. Walthrop..." Dru slowly shakes her head... "What can I say to you?...I..."

"Eh...Wa' unda the bridge, kiddo..." William waves... Yep, Angel hopefully nods...Wa' unda...

Hopefully applying to a certain brooding male vampire with regards to the poor floating waif soul as well...

"Ummn....Nice to see you...Sir.." Dru eyes Angel...A bit coolly...

Hey...He waves...Well, she seems kindly disposed enough...Maybe she's gone and li' bygones bes gone...an' all...

"Willow...Please..." she turns back to the swaying Wiccan... "You can see I'm not the vampiral Drusilla..."

Who actually just right now is acting rather...

"Wher'ya get off callin' me Willa...?" Willow fumes... "Eve' if ya are poor Drus' soul..."

OhmiGod!...she stares...As do William and Angel in their cell...As Drusilla morphs into Tara...

"Willow...I'm so sorry you had to find out like this..." she sighs...

***

Whoa...Harmony waves her fellow stupor sisters to a store window...Looka dat...she points...

Nice...she beams at a manniquin in lovely sheer cream blouse and camel suit...

"Dat's for me..." Anne firmly nods...Shood be bout ma siz...

"Jus da kinda thing ta see Giles in...Lotsa clas'..."

"Dere's a nice one for ya, Harm..." she kindly points out a consolation prize to her blearily glaring lieutenant...Bit more her size, Harmony did have to admit...And kinda nice sweater/skirt...Cashmere by the looks of it...

"Couldn't you wait until they open?...I have some money with me..." Dru nervously cuts in...

Hoping to avoid details as to where and how she'd acquired her little stash of pin money...In the darker moments of her existence...

"Theft is a sin..." she notes...

Anne stares at her...Geesh?...Lady, ifnn I gets ma way, Ima gonna kill thousands, maybe millions...she thinks...

'Sides this stuff is ridiculously overpriced...

No prutty stuf for Xanda?...Harm looks at "her" outfit...Gee...she sighs...

"Looky you..." Anne glares at their new moral compass...Dru staring back, serenely ready as always for martyrdom...

"Dat's mine...See..." she thumbs waveringly at the suit... "And you is gonna shud up and keepa watch out..."

"Cause I can take 'em off that stiff..." Anne points at the mannequin...

"Or oneada movin' stiffs out dere..." she vaguely waves a hand at the metal-door-barred windows of the far wall to sweepingly take in the great city beyond... "So...Whatdaya wan'?..."

All right...Dru sighs, shaking her head...God pardon this fault in my newly cleansed essence...Tossing a rock which shatters the window...And triggers an alarm...

Oh...Harmony blinks, wobbling...Dis dinnt sound so good...

"Geesh..." Anne stares... "Ya craz' idiut...!"

Take what you need and lets go...Dru firmly replies...

"I've no intention of allowing you to rob and plunder at will, Anne...Or whoever you call yourself...Be assured of that..."

"If I wuzn't sa undaweda, you..." And if William my human soul guy wasn't likely to be bothered by my shredding you, she did not say...Not wishing to offer Dru what would likely be a dangerous upper hand on her... "I'd letya have it soooo....Bad..." Anne furiously glares...

But not much time...And a shame to let that nice blouse and suit go...She picked her way carefully over the shattered glass of the storefront window and carefully grabbed at the outfit...Ah...Dats da way...she happily pulled her arm back in a swift movement, blouse, suit jacket, skirt all lovingly clutched in her hand...

"OW!!!..." Harmony howls as her mannequin topples forward and she cuts herself on the storefront glass...However, despite her slight incident, she falls back in triumph...Raising her prize...Gotcha!...

"Les go finda a ladies room or sumthin'..." Anne looks round, carefully folding her suit under an arm...Staggering off...Whoa...

"We gotta fin' sum makeup...Cause I gotta look...Jes ri'...Classy, ya know?..." she notes to Harm...

Yea...Me, too...Classy...Urpppppp....Harmony replies...

Cuse me...she blushes...

"Sisters...The wages of sin are Death..." Drusilla solemnly notes...

Shudup...Anne frowns...

A door opens at the far end of the corridor...Security...

Oh-oh...Harmony looks down, hand to mouth...

"No, sir...Stop! Run from this place, in God's name, I beg you!!..."Dru calls...To a blinkingly startled, rather elderly man in mall security guard's uniform... "Your very soul is in danger here!!!"

Geesh...Anne glares, rolling her eyes...As the old man stares down at them...Slowly pulling out a cell phone...

Well, not much blud in dat ole guy...

"We must go!!..." Dru turns to Anne... "I will not harm the innocent!..."

Yeah, yeah...Anne waves a hand...We gotta get goin' anyway...Dey's only a coupla trains this mornin'...

She quickly and deftly smashed another window...Racing in and out in a few seconds...Barely enough time for the elderly guard to call down to them to "Hold it, there...Ladies?..."...Somewhat mildly, not having any great inclination to take on three of those dangerous female gang types single-handedly...

Anne, now emerging, waves a packet of make-up...Les' go...

"Maybelline ok?..." she looks to Harmony...

Weeeell...Guess so...her lieutenant sighs...

Wush it coulda been Estee Lauder...

They make for their original entrance as the guard continues his call...Carefully giving his location...Wisely holding his position at his end of the corridor...

"May God bless you, sir..." Dru calls...

Bye...Harm waves...

Anne staring at her minions...Geesh, guys...

Wha' ki'da Evil team are we anaways?...

***

On the thirty-third floor of the former Wolfram-Hart tower...

"Ah..." Joseph beams as his high-speed, top secret, office elevator glides to a smooth stop in his former office, concealed panel door opening with a whoosh... "See, Lilah...Works as well as ever..." he turns back the locking key and pockets it as they enter...

"And with this little invisibility spell...Guaranteed to keep us from being detected by all visible light readers...Including human and vampiral eyes...For up to one hour...So long as we make no sudden, fast moves..."

Hmmn...Lilah frowns...Sounds pretty limited to me...

"We should be able to see what's up with Evil's latest...And, following the new corporate policy...At No Risk Ourselves...See if we can't offer her a little assist...When the time's right..."

"You're sure you're up for this, Joseph?...You ought to be headed for a hospital ER, you know..." she asks, a bit anxiously...

"Never..." He blinks a moment, swaying... "Better...Rarin' to go..."

He wanly raises and feebly shakes a fist...

She eyes his haggard face, shaking her head...

Well, my...er, our... Joe would rather die in the saddle I guess...And he is an Immortal after all, would be returned shortly after any temporary little death here...Though maybe not for some time...Gee...

But...An Evil leader's gotta do...What an Evil leader's gotta do...she notes to herself...Eyeing his sweet, lil' bald dome...

Ok...she sighs, nodding at him...Hell, anything's better than spending a dull Sunday morning at our Doublemeat Palace franchise, trying to improve my people skills...

Always providing this "Anne"'s first act on meeting us isn't to have us over for breakfast...

The door closes and they zip down the thirty-three floors...

***

Part XVII...

"I Love Ya...Truly..."

PG-13

Summary: With the aid of some demon brew, a little party at Angel's new offices to celebrate William's resurrection in LA gives Buffy her chance to say it and prove it...The hard way...

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 Cicelyverse page of the Buffy Rebecca verse, www.geocities.com/buffyrebecca/Cicelypg.html

Or direct to story at www.geocities.com/buffyrebecca/ilt1.html

Part XVII...

"Hello...Wyndham-Price here...Well, actually not here...Out for a bit...Leave a message, would you?...I will get back to you as soon as possible...If this is an emergency please call our offices at...No, hold a bit...One mo...Ah, yes...The new number is...Beep..."

Dawn frowns at the cell phone in her hand... "Wesley, this is Dawn...We're on our way to kill Spike, meet us at your new place and we'll explain...We may have to kill Angelus too...Watch out if you see Buffy, she may be a vamp...Or married to Spike...Or both...See ya, bye..."

Xander glancing at her briefly as he turns off the freeway...Kennedy and Andrew as well...

"He must have gone out..." she notes, shrugging...

"Dawny...We are gonna check things out first, you know..." Xander sighs...

"Vamp or married...Or both...I'm gonna kill him..." she replies grimly..."Then her..."

Sure seems like a Slayer to me...Andrew thinks, eyeing her set face...

***

A shocked, and rather plastered on demonic brew, Willow eyed the floating ghost of a sad-eyed Tara in the basement of the former Wolfram-Hart tower as William and Angel watched from the containment cell in which their former captive Anne, Buffy's demon essence, had in turn captured them...With embarrassing ease...

Tara...But if she was telling the truth...Also...

"Dru...Silla?..." Willow wobbly shakes her unstable head...Nearly staggering as she does... "Yer Dru...Urrrrrrrp...(Sor')...Silla?..."

Ya lia'!...she rages...Shaking a wavering fist...

Drusilla...Angel stares at her...Uh, boy...

I wus a leetle late gettin' round to helpin' her...Magine she'a lil' pissed a' me...he looks away in embarrassment...

"Ya made me think ya luv'd me...! Ya schemin'..." Willow rages, starting to sob... "All dis tim'..." she wobbles to a chair and collapses, head in hands...

Great...Led on by the nutty nun from Hell...William the Bloody's ex-...And vamp mum...To boot...

No wunda I kinda thought Wullum and me hada connextion...she sighs...Especially afta he trieda kil' me dat tim' in ma dorm...

Well, she eyes William who is trying to give a sympathetic look...At least it wasn't all the slut in me...We really did have a connection...A common interest...

In addition to Buffy...

"No, baby...I never lied to you..." Tara shakes her ghostly head...No...

No...? Willow looks up...

"I loved you...I love you...Always...Forever..."

But...I can't help what...Part of me...Was...

Is...

"Dru..." William calls to her... "It's real' ya?...Ya wer Tar' all the tim?"

"Oh, William...Mr. Walthrop..." she sighs to him... "If I had known...If the memories had come back to me while I was still alive with you guys...I swear...I would have tried to find someway..."

"Wa' unda the bridge, girl..." he repeats to her, swaying as he holds onto the cell bars... "No problemo...But, wha' happened to por ole Dru?...Is she ded'...?"

"No, Will...The demon half of me is still with you on Earth...But..."

"We'll get her, hon'..." Willow interjects... "Doncha wor'...Ma babe...Ma poor lil' sweetie..."

Yeah...We'll get'r...Angel chimes in, a bit feebly...Tara gives a brief, slight glare...Uh-huh, right...And returns to Willow...

"No, Willow...You don't understand...Dru...My demon...May be of help to you...In her current state..."

At least she certainly wants to try...

Wha?...Willow stares...Will and Angel as well...

"She had a somewhat different reaction to Angel's demon brew..." Tara explains... "Due to that psychotic demon essence of hers..."

Ours...she looks sheepishly at the wall...

Wha' demmen bru...? Willow looks at her love's ghost...

***

In Limbo, Buffy pondered, awaiting Tara-Drusilla's return...

Gentle Tara, the soul of Dru...My Will's killer..

Who came to Sunnydale blindly after her reincarnation, drawn just as Spike was...Just as I was drawn to William...

And like me, was killed before she could begin to remember and understand...

Great way to make amends, reincarnation...Geesch...If I'd put that kind of effort into checking Halfreck's credentials back in my Cicely days...

Well, hope what I gave her in mystic energy was enough to help her punch her way to Earth...If what she said about Anne's escape and Willow being on the warpath is true..The boys need any help they can get...

God, William I love you with all my soul(s) beyond life and death but what the hell were you and your idiot vamp-gramps doing?...After I warned you and all...

Oh...she shakes her misty head in the void...

I have just put all my trust in the soul of the woman who murdered my husband...

But then, poor Tara wasn't...Completely...To blame...Even poor sad ole Dru was just doing what came naturally...

I called on Haly...I let him go...Never recognized him even when I came back to find him...And never helped him...Not even releasing him when I could've like I do every other vamp I beat...

Beat...Oh, God...Why'd I have to think of that?...Oh, Will...

Well...At least Mum Walthrop got a little of that back for him with that sock in the jaw...She felt her chin...

But I must've known...Somewhere...Deep down...I knew...He was mine...

And when he told me a little of the story...Our story...That night...What did I do? What did I say to him?...I said...What I'd told Haly to say...The words that would drive him away...That did drive him away...

"You're...Beneath me..."

Oh, Will...My poor Will...Why'd you have to be so romantic and noble?...You could've let go of Spike like my Mom said and been safe in Heaven when I came after Cicely and our poor Amelia died...

Oh...I wanted to save you, baby...And look what a mess I've made of things...

Of course, whatever guilt I feel I am gonna take a profound pleasure in hunting vamp Dru down like a dog and staking her when I get back to Earth...

Gotta give my dear friend peace and all...

***



A blinking Wesley stared at the group on his doorstep...So much for a peaceful Sunday morning contemplating the joys of his new socio-economic bracket...

"You're telling me...That Angel's effort last night with Spike...er William...Failed...? That Spike is out and has killed Buffy...Possibly Angel as well...?" he looked at Xander...Who gave an uncertain...Weeelll...look...

"That's it..." Dawn said shortly, arms folded determinedly...

"Unless she married him..." she noted...Clearly indicating this to be an equally bad outcome...

"We don't really know what's happened, Wes..." Xander tried the voice of reason... "All we know for sure...More or less...Is that Will called Willow and told her he'd made it but that he'd transformed Buffy...With her consent...And that Angel was helping him watch over her..."

"Hmmn..." Wes pondered...Neat place, Dawn thought, peering in...Did he just get it after they took over Wolfram-Hart?...Or was that bastard Angel too cheap to even consider helping poor Buf out all this time... "Seems to me that the marriage thing..." he began, ready to point out that "transformation" could after all be a valid euphemism for the matrimonial state...When Dawn gave a hard glare...

"Is not at all likely..." he lamely concluded...Dawn cooling her gaze a degree...

"Perhaps you'd all best come in and we'll discuss the situation..." he suggested...

What does an upper-level, three bedroom place with library and den with great view in a good downtown LA neighborhood go for these days?...Xander wondered, staring round as he entered...

Buf should really give thought to moving her operation to the city...And maybe An's old idea about charging for her services wasn't all that...

***

"Enjoying the sights, Buffy...Cicely?" a chuckling voice drifted to Buffy...Cicely's tormented soul as she floated in the void of Limbo...Still anxiously waiting for word from Earth...

"I hear...Your own personal monster is proving to be one murderous fiend..." the voice laughed...

Always knew you had it in you...It's why I tried so hard to be with you...it sneered...

Male...Deep...Who?...Buffy wondered...Wait a minute...

"Angelus...?"

"Your own true...At your service, Slayer..." his form now appeared, grinning...

"What the Hell are you doing here?...And why the Hell aren't you there, you bastard murderer?..."

"Why, yes...Cicely..." he smiled to her...His form stable for a mo... "I have killed many a bastard...Like you with your dear illegitimate William..."

***

"Well...?" Anne stares at her troupe...A bit shyly for the new Queen of the Damned...Attempting to make a turn, Dru catching her as she nearly falls...Whoops...Thanka dere, Drusie...

"Wuw..." Harmony tries to hold her head steady as she looks at multiple Annes...Which one was...Ah...There we go...As they resolve to one...Trying to stand erect...

"Ya look...Good..." she solemnly nods...Looking her Queen over from wobbily top to staggering bottom...The new suit a bit rumpled but quite nice all in all...

"Very nice, Anne..." Dru nods as well...But...A kind smile... "Let me help you with the buttons here..." she hastily does up the open blouse for her...There...

But...She can't resist a chance to get in a moral lesson... "You will find these ill-gotten gains will do you no good..." she sighs...

"Eh...Shatup..." Anne waves a hand, nearly losing her balance... "Ya get the tickets...?"

Yes...Dru holds up the train tickets...She having volunteered to make the purchase, given Anne's and Harmony's somewhat questionable conditions...Huh, whadaya mean...? Anne had frowned...Under the weather as you've said, I mean...Dru diplomatically noting...

"Whas about me?..." Harm frets... "Don' I look gud...Cause I gotta look purdy for po'r Xanda..."

"You look wonderful too, dear..." Dru kindly notea...

"But I looks da bes...Cause Imda Queen..." Anne firmly cuts in...

"Well...Our train will be leaving soon...Shouldn't we go over?...Get seated..." Dru quickly averts another battle for pre-eminence, catching Harm's glare...

Seated far away from any potential victims...Dru thinks...While I try to find a way to contact poor Mr. Giles...Or one of Buffy's friends...If they'll listen to me...

If only a payphone had worked or the clerk had believed my story...she sighed to herself...But then, even the watered down version...Help, my two insane sisters are plotting to kill their former high-school librarian...Hadn't exactly...Especially after he'd caught sight of Anne and Harm staggering round the station...

Another sorority prank...Which a resigned Dru had finally given up and admitted to, begging forgiveness for her little playlet...A requirement for membership in the group, just as he'd cleverly guessed...she nodded...But...If he could find it in his kind heart to forgive her and still let her have the tickets...Her sorority sisters being, as he could no doubt see, a bit worse for initiation night...

Better a little white lie than having to try and stop Anne and her lieutenant from massacring the dozen or so train personnel and passengers when the clerk refused to let them have tickets...

"Yeah...Lets geta seat..." Anne agrees... "Gotta practice bein' Buffy for Gilesy...If Ima gonna fool him..."

This one, Dru cheerfully suggests...The last car, empty but for them...Nice for Anne's Buffy practicing, she notes...

"We're cumin' Xanda...!..." Harm calls, boarding...Ow!...Wacking her head on the door frame... "Don' ya be sad..." she stumbles inside...

And she'd be happy to wait up front and give the conductor their tickets when he came by...Dru beams at Anne as she helps her board...

***

"Who sent you here, Angelus...? What do they expect from me?...I'm not letting Anne stay on Earth..." Buffy's soul glares at her former opponent and Undead boyfriend's counterpart...

"True love..." he sighs... "Just a sucker for it, darling..."

I mean, you know better than anyone how much I like to watch...he chuckles...And you know I exist only to make you happy...

"Enough...Tell the First or the Master or whoever sent you I've no plans to make Heaven my home just yet...Anne is not staying..."

"Heaven?..." Angelus' head takes shape again, a cold smile on his face... "Heaven's not the place for you, Cicely..."

You know the punishment for murder after all, don't you, dear?...he grins...

"But hey, your ole friend Mr. Mears is there...Having quite a time I understand..."

"I didn't..." she blurts, then pulls up short...Good ole Angelus, punching my buttons...

"Get out..." she tells him quietly... "And tell your boss..."

"I've no "boss", girl...You know I'm the independent sort, Cicely..." he sniffs...

"Tell that to Darla's demon..." she sneers back... "That's likely to be news to her..."

"Now, Buffy..." he sighs... "Here we are...Together again...And unable to hurt each other physically...And all we can do is argue?...Lover, what's happened to us...?"

Oh, right...he smiles...You've found out you're an adulteress...Mrs. Walthrop...How many times over?...

"Not to mention guilty of murdering your husband and child..."

***


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