Part XVIII...

"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 XVIII...

LA...Later Sunday morning...

Dawn stalks Wesley's apartment...Pausing from verbally venting her rage to occasionally note some particularly nice aspect of the decor...While the others eye each other...Andrew displaying simple admiration for her colorful use of language and gesture, Kennedy and Xander looking to each other for an calming idea...Poor Wes simply trying to grasp the situation...

Damn...And just when I was beginning to savor the anticipation of my upcoming first day as a member of LA's hottest new legal team...he sighs inwardly...While fixing coffee for his visitors...

Not to mention planning to call Mum in England with the news...And considering a ring to the badly-wounded-but-recovering-in-hospital Quentin Travers...

As in a very politely worded, with all duly appropriate concern and sincere regret for those former colleagues lost, expressed.... "in your face, Mr. ex-employer, retired Chairman..." ring...

"Xander...?" he hisses as Dawn continues her rant all the way to the master bathroom...(First door on the left, with the throne picture hung on the door...he calls...Neat, she breaks her frown a sec to eye the picture of a serene-looking Elizabeth I...) "How can you let her go on like this?...Surely William would never have called you people if Spike had succeeded in regaining control...And even if he did, we can't go charging in there if Buffy and Spike are both on the side of Evil...Not to mention Angel, if Angelus is back..."

"Wes...We're just lucky I was able to get Dawn to hold off and come here to find you first, stead of going straight on into your new place...Good thing none of us knows LA or where the old Wolfram-Hart tower was..." Xander sighs...Kennedy nodding beside him...

"Well..." Andrew notes, coming over... "Willow's probably already taken care of things over there, anyway..."

Kennedy gives Xander a worried look...Just what I'm afraid of...

Nah...Xander pats her...Willow's learned a lot about self-control over the past couple of years...Over and above her natural cool and rationally compassionate nature...

God, I hope she left something we can resurrect from...Clone...Or bury...he thinks...

"We'll head over right away...Don't fret..." Wes nods, smiling kindly at the new female member of the formerly Sunnydale, now Crestwood team...Rather attractive girl...

Attractive...Slayer...Woman...he corrects...Who could lift you with one hand and throw you through your brand new and quite solid for an LA condo...Wall, Wyndham-Price...

Still...Attractive...In an even more forthright than Buffy Summers, American kind of way...

"Did I introduce Willow's new significant other?..." Xander eyes him, having caught the stare...

Ah... "Yes, indeed...You introduced Ms. Kennedy when you came in..." Wes smiles at her...She smiling back...Cute...If I should ever happen to suddenly one day...she thinks, beaming...

And thanks, Xander...For quite probably saving my life...he gives Xander a quick nod..

"So...?" Andrew looks at their host... "Mr. Wyndham-Price?...Can you answer one question about your secret Council...?"

Ummn...Wes stares...Well...

"Rather been out of the loop the last few years..."

Lucky for me...he does not say... "But, please..." the others having introduced Tucker's brother...Ah, Wes had nodded...As a skilled, courageous, and valuable new team member...Who'd played a vital role in the defeat of the First...

"Dr. Who was one of you, wasn't he?...I mean the real Dr. Who, not those actors...In a honorary sense, him being a alien visitor and all..."

Hmmn?...Wes stared...Dr...Who?...

My God...How the devil did he...?

It's been an issue of some contention among some of us who've followed the Council's...And the Doctor's...Doings...These past years...Andrew notes...

I thought our activities were supposed to be completely unknown to the outside world...Wes blinks at Andrew...Excepting the occasional Evil leader like the First with sense enough to appreciate the potential threat of our skill and wisdom...

"Andrew..." Kennedy frowns...As Dawn re-emerges from the bathroom...

"Lets move out!..." A grim call...

Wes trying manfully to repress the thought as he grabs at a few potentially useful items...Including floppy disks of the Angelus curse and the Wolfram-Hart resurrection spell...

If Dawn's right...I may very well be the new head of LA's hottest new law firm...Wyndham-Price and Gunn...

***

In the concealed basement hallway leading from Joseph's secret elevator to the corridor outside the room where the vamp boys stood locked in their containment cell, Willow sitting beside the cell door as she stared at the Tara-Dru spirit...

"Are you sure this spell will work, Joseph?..." Lilah looked back to eye...Nothing...Hmmn...

Does seem like it's...

"If we keep quiet and avoid attracting the notice of anyone who might be able to disrupt the spell...Yes..." he hissed...

Just remember our new company policy...

"No Risk Ourselves..." Lilah breathed...

Words to live...A long time, hopefully...By...

She paused at the door...Sorry...As he bumped into her...

"But I can't see you..." she hissed back... "How'm I supposed to know where you're going?..."

"Just head for a spot near our old demon containment area...That's got to be where they have Anne...We'll observe the situation and when the others leave, make contact with our new ally..."

"But...What if she chooses to tell Angel about us?..."

He frowned...Goddamnit, girl...A little faith and courage... "She won't pass up our help...And besides, we're masked even from vamp supersenses...If she tells Angel we're here, we just slip right back out...He'll never be able to track us..."

And Jasmine's no threat to us...Famous last words...she did not say...

All right now, quietly...he breathed...Just open the door and head for the cell area...Quietly...he repeated...

***

"So...Dru's gonna hep us?..." a bleary-eyed Willow looks at Tara-Dru's shifting form...Can't hang on much longer fellas, it notes...Lets keep this quick...

"So long as she soused on Angel's...Or rather Angel's enemies' brew...She's on the side of the angels..." Tara nods... "Some weird effect opening up old memories from our past and acting on her mental imbalance..."

Grea'...Angel nods...

"Yeah..." She gives him a brief hard stare... "Thanks..." He tries to look away and loses what little balance he's been able to maintain...

Tara's spirit sighs, giving Willow a hasty glance and a slight, Mona Lisa smile...

"Sorry, Angel...I know it wasn't you..." A little guiltiness creeping into her voice as she eyes William...Hmmn...

After all...Even if she hadn't willingly cooperated in the poor lad's death...She had to admit, in her soul's lonely despair back then in Limbo...She had, perhaps, not been averse to a little company...

William staring, swaying...Attempting a nonchalant pose...Pas' mem'ries?...Memories...From the corners o' ma mind...Missy wa'-colored mem'ries...Of the wa' we wus...

In 18 and 80...he thinks...She...Buffy...And Annie...Both sai'...

Tara-Dru stares kindly at him...Her poor victim...And savior...

"Will...It's true...Just as you thought...She came for you...It's her..."

Angel stares over...Her...?...Willow looking as well...

"But I should leave it to her to tell you...It's her right..." the spirit shakes its shifting head... "And my time's about up..." it turns to Willow...Who, although still staring at her and William, is clearly drifting off...

"Wil...Willow?...Hey!..." Tara-Dru calls...Huh?...Oh, yeah...Willow blinks...

"Gonna sav' ya, babie..." she sways, trying to pull up some power...Wha'sa spull fer making ghosties stay?...Oh, yeah...No, dats for making paint stay on da walls longer...Hmmn...Yeah, dat's it...she tries to power up...But can't seem to get that ole black eye color back...Not to even mention the hair...

"I'm fine, sweetie...Really, I'm perfectly safe here..." Tara-Dru sighs... "Just missing you..."

Oh...Tar'...Willow lets out a low moan...

"Don't fret...And don't mourn, Willow...We'll see each other again...Just don't hurt Mr. Walthrop and Angel...Please...It was Buffy's decision..."

However crazy it was...And smashed she may have been...she gives a wan grin...Slipping back into Dru form now...Not much time left, she noted, hastily floating over to Willow...

"O...K...Long as you say so, hon'..." Willow nods, a slight glare at the moron boys... "I'll wait...For now..."

"'Sides I cann' get any pow'r up, anyways..." she sighs...

William looks a tad alarmed at that...No pow'?...Uh-oh...

"How's we gunna get ma lil' Buf back if Willa cana get it up..." he shakes his head...

Hey!...Willow glares at him... "I can get it up anytim'...I jest don' wanna ri' now...Ima lettin' ya and..." A dark if wobbily glare at the murderer of her beloved's former self..."Broddo boy here...Off..."

"For ma lil' babe's sake..." she smiles at the floating Tara-Dru...Now again in Tara form but clearly on the verge of fade out...

"Ma po' lil' Buf'..." Will sighs... "Dum, dum idea...Now Im gonna los' her for sur..."

"Never, Will...Never..." Tara-Dru firmly replies... "You've only seen the tip of the iceberg as far as her love for you goes...Believe me, you'll never lose her...Whatever happens here..."

Eternity is yours...she smiles...Yours and hers...

" 'Course, getting Giles to do something about that brew and maybe getting a little coffee into my Willow here might help move things along..." she notes...

"Buffy will try to speak to you when she recovers some of the mystic energy she transferred to me...Try a seance in a few hours if you need help..."

"Tar'..." Willow stretches her hands out...Pleading...

"I'm with you, babe...My love...Every day and always..." Tara-Dru beams at her, blowing a kiss...Fading out...

"Oh...I'd appreciate it if you'd get off your ass and do something about my counterpart if and when she returns to evil, Angel..." she gave a last glance his way...

But no hard feelings...she smiles, waving to the group...

Ummn...Yea'...Angel sheepishly waves back...I wuz gonna get ri' on that soon as we got the new place set...

"Bye, Dru...Tar'..." Will waves...Willow staring at him a moment...

God...He is one decent kinda guy...Not to be po'd at her...she smiles a bit at him through tears...

Well...If Buf real' wans him...And she mus' ta hav' dun' sumthin' this stoopid...

O...K...

The tip of the iceberg...William thinks...Smiling like a young boy in his joy...

The freakin' tip of da ice...berg...Oh, Buf...he grips the bars tight...Whoa!?...Wait!...



Eter...Nity...Is ours?...he thinks, gasping...

As Angel seeks to resume his normal role of forceful leader of the Good...

"Willa...Ya gotta get this thing ope'..." the Brooding One indicates the cage door... "We gotta get movin' and find Anne..."

Buf' demmun...he explains as she stares...Who?...

Eternity...Is Ours...William stares blankly at the opposite wall...

"Anne...Dat's a nice name..." Willow notes... Ok, she nods at the door...

"So?...How's I do dis...?" she stares at Angel...Then the cage door...

'Cause ma magi' batt'ry's all pooped out...she shakes her head...

Ummn...He ponders...Ummn...

Both turning in shock as William falls to his knees, sobbing...Hands tearing through his hair...

"Willum...? I ain't gunna kil' ya..." Willow tries...Yet...she notes...

"Oh...Cic'ly..." he sobs... "Cic'ly...!...You din' hate me...You cam' for me...At last...Oh..."

Angel and Willow staring at each other...Cic'ly?...Who da the hec...?

She cam' back for me...he stands, beaming at the two...I wus ri' all along...

"She luvs me, guys...She alwa's luved me..."

***

Part XIX...

"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 XIX...

***

An innocent question by Dru was now the cause of considerable upset among the weird sisters as their train sped toward Crestwood in the midmorning sun...The ladies reasonably safe in their seats in the most battered and painted-over-windowed of the cars...

"How will we get to Mr. Giles' place?...It being daylight, I mean..."



Ummn...Anne blinks...Ummn...Oops...

Nefer thoughta dat...Uh-oh...

But even more than Buffy as the "Law", Anne, as new Queen of the Damned cannot allow herself to seem to be in error or suffering from indecision...She puts on a bold front immediately...

"I got it al'set...Yep..." she nods, waving off all possible doubts...All taka car' of...Yeah...

Hmmn...Dru eyes her questioningly as she sits beside her...But not unhappily...If she can keep the fiendish ones confined to the train station until sunset...And perhaps reach poor Mr. Giles and warn him in the interval...

And if he'd ever believe Drusilla was attempting to save his life...Given what she vaguely remembered now of previous contacts with the Slayer and her band...

Even the blotto Harm, sitting just behind them in the otherwise empty car, was left less than completely satisfied by dat...er that response...

"Hows we gonna get dere, An'...? And see Xanda...?"

The Queen is somewhat put out by the clear lack of faith expressed...

"I sa'd I got it all set..." she frowns...A glare at her minions...

An' I got it all set...Allllll...Set...she notes...Firmly...If somewhat blearily...

"So...Hows we gonna...?" Harm persists...

Shedup...Anne glares across the seat back... "I'll tels when we get dere...An' when I's good and..." ...Urrrrrrp...Cuse, she blushed... "Redy...."

"...'Cause Im da Bos' here...An' I says things wen I wanta..."

She sits, affecting an indifferent...Queenly...Air...Harm sulks...Wuz only askin'...Geesh...Putting her chin on the edge of the seat in front of theirs...To contemplate a proper response...Appropriately respectful yet expressing the legitimate concerns of the new second-in-command of the latest Army of Evil...

Wus we gonna do?...Anne thinks...Demmit why'd Dru hafta think of dat now...?...A snore now from Harmony as her head lolls on the back of their seat...Dru kindly settling her back...

Mebbe dis wuzn't a good ide'...Don' wanna go sit in the place all day...And I think the sewas aint sa good in Crestwood...Har' ta get ta Gilesy's dat way...An' wha' if Willum and Ange get out?...God...Shet'll hit the fa' big time...Well...

Too lat' now...Shet...

Gotta think of sumtin'...Use ma...Hic..." 'Cuse me guys"...she sheepishly smiled...Wiles...

***

So ya's see...? Will eyes his companions...Both still looking rather clueless...Angel shrugging as Willow scratched her head outside the cell where the demon-brew sloshed vamp boys cooled their heels, courtesy Anne's "wiles"...

"Cicely wuz ma girl in 1880...And she's Buffy now...She tol' me ta go in 18...ummn...80...But I guess she din' mean it...Or she changed her mind..." he ponders a mo...

Anyways...She cum back for me...In Buf's bod...Lika good wifey shud...



"Wifey?..." Willow blinked... "Ya mean Buf was...?"

Angel staring, the idea finally sinking in...Buf and Will...? Marr'd?...Holy!?...

God, what's me mum gonna say when I finally makes it ta Heav'n?...Bad enough what Angelus did to the family...Sum of it be'en Liam's angry side and all...But fer me good side ta nearly break up a marriage?...Uh, boy...

A good, old-fashioned Irish mum's ear box for sure...Every day for several thousand years, most likely...

"Cic'ly..." William corrects...

"I think got her pitcha back at ma...No..." he sighed... "Dat wus da one Buf and solda boy blew up..." Oh...Waita min...

"Remeber Hala...Half...Haly...The demmun who wuz friends with Ana...?"

Poor ole Ana...he bows his head...As do the others, Willow tearing up...

"Hala..feck...?" Willow asks, looking back up...Will nods, eagerly beginning to lay out the tale...What he knows of it at least...

What'll we do...? Lilah, invisible at the entrance to the room, hisses quietly as possible to Joseph, likewise invisible...

He hastily nudges her quiet...Whoops...Too late, perhaps...As Angel looks their way...Sloshed perhaps but supersenses in perfect...More or less...Order...

"Sumbody dere?..." he calls...Peering...Hmmn...He looks at Will who looks toward the door, having heard something himself...

"Sumbody?...Hi..." Will calls...Hmmn...Willow turning to look now...

"Buf?..." he tries hopefully...She did promise to try again after all...

Joseph puts an invisible hand out swiftly...Ah...And pulls his junior partner back...

Hmmn...Nobody...? Will looks at Angel...Who shrugs...Guess...

A crash as Lilah, led by Joseph, stumbles over a wastebasket...

"OW!..." she shrieks...

"Hey!..." Angel calls... I know dat yell...he thinks...

"Lilah?...Dat you?...Wheres you at?..." he looks round...Willow and William looking as well...

"Come on, come on..." Joseph hisses... "The jig's up...Hurry, that Rosenberg's a witch..." he maintains a firm grip on his partner's...Oh...

God, awfully sorry, Lilah...he whispers hastily as they race out the door...Honestly thought it was your arm...he sheepishly tries...

Uh-huh...she mutters back... "Say...Who's this "Rosenberg"?...Was it that red-head?..."

"She's the witch who got Angel's soul back...Twice..." Joseph grouses at the memory...As they continued up the stairs to the ground level...

"She's not coming, I think..." Lilah looks back...Then ahead... "Joseph?...You still here...?"

"Of course...Right in front of you..." he hisses... "What?...Did you think I'd run out on you?..."



Well...she notes...It would be the Wolfram-Hart way...And as Boss, you do need to live to fight another day...

"I'm hurt, Lilah..." he frowns...Or would've if he were visible...

No offense intended...she replies...And it was nice of you not to leave me behind to slow the lady down...

Who was still showing no signs of pursuit...she looks back again...

"Well...We'd best get back upstairs and see what's to be done...Come on..." he resumes his climb...Only a few stairs this time, thank the lords of Hell...

Anne must've already escaped them...he notes, brightening...It's actually very encouraging...Opening the door to the ground floor...

Still no Willow or the others pursuing...He agrees to a brief halt at Lilah's anxious request...Feeling fit as a fiddle...he replies to her question...Rather touched by her obvious concern...Gee...And after that huge salary cut...

"Anne trapped Angel and William the Bloody in our containment cell...?" Lilah giggles at the thought...

Oh, I like this lady...she chuckles a bit...

"Yeah..." Joseph beams...Or would've... "Best not to meet her alone though until we've cut a proper deal with her...She'd tear you to pieces, if our science team's past evaluations of Ms. Summers' likely demon nature are correct...Much more impatient than Angelus or Darla..."

Very likely the most powerful, dangerous vampire ever created...If our team's theorizing was correct...he rubs his hands in glee...And done with Ms. Summers' own consent...At the hands of her...Human-souled...Lover...he chuckles evilly...

What a couple of morons...Lilah shakes her head...Hard to believe these guys defeated the First...And us...she sighs a little...

"Thank the demon gods for true love..." he grins...Or would've if...You know... "And first rate brew..."

Yikes!...Lilah grabs at the air...OW!!!...Poor Joseph howling as she gets him rather well in the eye...

Sorry, sorry...But...Look!...she points...

Ummn, Lilah?...he rolls his still invisible eyes...

"Sorry...Out the front window...To the left...It's Wesley...And some others..."

He peers...Hmmn...Well, hardly a disaster for us for Wyndham-Price to be commanding the legions of Light...

"Isn't that the carpenter...Alexander Harris...?" Lilah hisses...

The...Rather nice...Carpenter...a tone in her voice suggests...To her employer's slight annoyance...

"Yes...And Ms. Summers' little sister, the whining former energy ball..." Joseph notes... "Looks like the whole gang's decided to make an appearance..."

Hmmn...Even Tucker's brother's with them...he stares at Andrew, following close beside Dawn...Shaking his bald head...

A sad day for Evil...Even if the Slayer of Slayers is dead and transformed...

"Shouldn't we consider a tactical retreat?..." Lilah hopefully suggests... "They'll be letting Angel and William out...They know we're here...Somewhere..."

"Remember our new corporate motto, boss...No Risk Ourselves..." Please, she thinks...

Eh...Joseph waves an airy hand..."We'll be fine...Just hold your place, keep still, and listen...These morons are sure to spill something we or our new ally, Anne, can use...Now or in the future..."

***

Dat's the ticka...Anne thinks...Having used her vast mental powers to craft a solution to the predicament facing the weird sisters...Anne, Dru, and Harmony...On their arrival in Crestwood...

"We're gonna call my Gilesy...I'll get'im ta come and pic'us up..." Problem solved, a radiant and benevolent Queen Anne nods graciously to her minions...

He gonna tak' us, too?...Harmony, newly woken...By an impatient Anne...Wak' up, ya laz'...Stares...

Giles never seemed to take that much of a shine to her back in her high school days...

Ummn...Anne blinks...

"We could call a cab..." Dru suggests patiently...A reasonably hopeful alternative given what she remembered of how long it had taken a cab to come to the Sunnydale station the last time she'd traveled this line...On a weeknight, no less...

Hmmn...Anne gives her junior minion a sidelong glance...Not da craz' Dru I knew...Still, not a bad idea at that...And Giles would surely cover them for the fare...Once she used her wiles to convince him that she was indeed good ole...Souled...Buf...Jes a lil' unda da weda...And in need of her Watcher's skill and experience in dealing with Slayer aliments...

"You could have the cab drop us off just before you reached your friend's home..." Dru adds persuasively... "He'd never have to see us..."

How cum we don' wan im ta see us...? Harm ponders...I lik' Mr. Gil's...And Xanda might cum dere...Gee...she pouts...

The Queen however sees the merit of her minion's suggestion and, weighing all options carefully, makes an executive decision...

"O...K...We'll try an' calla cab...But yous get out wen I says..." Anne notes... "And you better not try anythin' Drusie..." she frowns...But settles down for a brief meditation...Punctuated by earth-shattering shores...As does Harmony...Dru watching them both carefully...Poor misbegotten dears, God have mercy on them...But even in their current states, far too hypersensitive to risk trying to get up and over them to call to a conductor or try and stop the train...

Martyrdom for its own sake was all very well but God requires there be some meaning in every sacrifice...Not to mention the innocent lives at stake...Well...

Surely an opportunity to contact Mr. Giles while they waited for the cab would arise...And if not, a dutiful, newly-cleansed handmaiden of Christ would find some way to safeguard the innocent and begin to make amends...

***

Part XX...

"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 XX...

LA, mid-Sunday morning...

A cautious group entered the former Wolfram-Hart tower ground level, Wesley in the lead with Xander and Kennedy just behind...Dawn and Andrew following...

If things were ok and William's communication had just been the result of a leetle too much celebration at his resurrection...A little caution never hurt and was to be commended...Even if Buffy and the guys might tease a bit at the success of their little party joke...If however, things were as bad as they could potentially be...Buffy's demon and Spike united as Evil's new dynamic duo, Angel destroyed or Angelus...Even Willow possibly lost...

Or even worse, Dawn grimly noted to Andrew, if William and Buffy were a happily married, if somewhat hung-over couple...

Caution was an absolute necessity...

Hmmn...Wesley scanned the ground floor...Really must consider hiring some weekend security as soon as our cash flow allows...Can't help but wonder if we've allowed ourselves to take on a bit too...

A moderate crashing sound from below, as if someone had stumbled over a wastebasket, followed by a faint startled yelp...Nothing too dramatic, but clearly someone or thing was present in the basement area...The group eyed each other...And looked to their new leader...

A rather pleased Wyndham-Price to at last find himself Number One...A pleasure, however, which quickly faded as he considered the situation which might face them below...

Would be rather nice to have Angel, or Buffy, or even human-souled William, (if he'd done as well in the recent struggles as Buffy had insisted in urging Angel and he to do what they could when they'd called to tell her and Willow of Wolfram-Hart's scheme to revive Spike), or Rupert on hand...

Still, trained Watcher, experienced fighter of Evil here...And above all, can't let these Yanks think a Brit can't handle the top spot...

"I think it best if we split up..." he notes... "Dawn, you and Andrew...And Xander..." the wise inclusion hastily and skillfully mitigating Dawn's building glare... "Should check round up here...While the Slayer and I check things below..."

Hmmn...Kennedy beams...The Slayer, eh...?

Holy crap...Me...?

"We should all go down..." Dawn frowns...

"It might take all of us if things are really bad..." After all, she thinks...New bride Buffy might try to hide him from us...

Dawn...Wes sighs...

"Dawny...I think we'd better let Wes run the show and do like he asks..." Xander looks at her...

"We won't do more than a quick reconnaissance, Dawn...Here and below..." Wesley explained... "Just see what we may be up against...And then we meet here and see where we should make our effort...If one is required..."

Say, perhaps to see if that effort should be a quick trip to the nearest mall for a wedding present...While one of us keeps you away from William...he thinks...



A slightly mollified Dawn nods...So long as we make the "effort" together...

And the real job could be up here...God knows Buffy the Vamp would never be stupid enough to get trapped in a basement in daylight with no safe exit...

"All right then...Crosses and weapons?..." he eyed his team...Andrew giving his most professional nod back, patting his crossbow... "Keep that thing pointed at the floor til we see something, Andy..." Dawn hisses to him...As Xander and Kennedy displayed stakes and crosses... "We'll meet back right here in fifteen minutes..." Wes announces... "And lets all be on guard...Make sure you keep Buffy or William or anyone else you encounter at a safe distance until we're sure of them..."

And remember...Best not to take offensive action against any one we know until we've confirmed they're Evil...he eyes Dawn...Who frowns...

Evil...Or stupid...she darkly groused within...

***

Limbo...Mid-Sunday morning, LA time...

"What do you want, Angelus...?" Buffy's disembodied spirit eyes her unwelcome companion as they float in Limbo...

"That any way to greet your old lover, girl?..." his head takes stable human form a moment then demon, then turns to mist again...

And after I came all the way here just to offer you some comfort in your loneliness...he smiles, head taking form again...

"And help you rejoice in your happiness...The happy outcome of all your toils..." he grins...Head back to demon form again... "Cicely..."

"So sorry I was that I couldn't bear the news to you before when we were...Together...Mrs. Walthrop..."

But...As Fate and the Powers That Be would have it, I only learned of your true nature after my return here and my dear counterpart's return to Earth...Via Hell...

"Still...So nice to know we kept it all in the family, eh girl?..."

"Get away from me, Angelus...Go...Or..."

He takes solid form a moment...Head to mid-torso...

"Or...? What, lass?...Tell me, I'm very curious, Buffy...Just what hideous punishment do you have in mind for my disembodied essence...?"

A staking, perhaps...? he grins...And fades...

"He's beaten you again...For good, I'm sure..." Buffy's head glares back... "You've lost your last chance, thanks to Angel and Willow..."

"Eternity..." he chuckles... Just resuming form as he finishes... "Is Mine...Cicely..."

And it's quite long enough for me to happily anticipate many opportunities for my return to Earth...

"But...This is no way for us to behave towards each other..." his human face smiling benevolently...

"The unfaithful wife and her lover, the father-creator of her husband's murderess..."

Unconsciously her face took on Cicely's form, staring at him...

Ah...Girl...he sighs...Couldn't save him, couldn't release him...Couldn't save his child...

She stares...Buffy form back...Then Cicely again...

"Couldn't your reborn self even wait long enough for him to come to you in Sunnydale...?" he sneers...

"Get out of here!!..." she shrieks at him...

"Well...At least you did finally hook up with him...After me..." An Angelic smile...

And left him to die, alone..Again....

***

Part XXI...

"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 XXI...

LA, the former Wolfram-Hart tower, mid-Sunday morning...

Invisible, though not inaudible, Lilah Morgan and her demonic boss, senior partner Joseph flatten themselves against their respective building walls as Wesley and the old Sunnydale team members pass by...Lilah gamely suppressing a scream as Andrew steps, unnoticing, on her invisible foot...

"There a cat around here?..." he turns to Dawn...

Heard something hiss near me just now...

"Alright..." Wes pauses by the basement door... "Ms. Kennedy and I will scout the basement, the rest of you look over this floor...This is reconnaissance only, remember...Avoid any engagements if possible until we're reunited...Try to stay out of sight and call us at once if you make any sightings of Buffy, William, or Angel..."

If...Possible...Dawn glowers...As in if I don't catch sight of a ring on my idiot sis' finger...

Or she shows demon face...

Watch her, Xander...Wes' quick glance to him saying...As he and Kennedy enter the stairway...

Hmmn...My first independent outing as Slayer...she beams...

God, don't let me screw it...Please...

Willow being ok being even more important, of course...she hastily tacks to the thought...

***

Limbo, mid-Sunday morning, LA time...

The peace of Limbo being somewhat disturbed this particular Sunday...

Tara-Dru's spirit having returned...Angelus' pleasant Sunday torment session had taken a somewhat different turn for him...

"Aaaaahhhhhhh!!!!!!" he howls...His misty head, twisting in agony, enveloped by Tara-Dru's field of crackling mystic energy as Buffy-Cicely's disembodied spirit watches with not a little satisfaction...

"I told you, sir..." Tara-Dru takes Dru form, head and shoulders, with a stern frown on her features... "What would be the consequences if I ever caught you bothering any soul here..."

"Arrrggghhh!!!..." Angelus' only whimpering response...

Can I do that?...Buffy wonders, watching...And expresses the thought aloud...

"Well...It takes a little natural ability...Plus you'd need some experience and practice..." Tara-Dru notes...Angelus' head now spinning in her field like a top... "Mer...rrr...ccyyy...!!!" his agonized cry...

"Had enough, sir?..." she eyes him, stopping his spin suddenly...

"Mercy, Dru...Please..." he whines... "It was only my nature...I can't help what I am..."

Crap...She takes Tara form... "You aren't a blood-lust crazed vampire now, and while causing pain may be your reason for existence, you have some power to choose...Like poor ole Spike when he made his decision...And gave up everything...For love..." she smiles gently at Buffy...

"If I had had a chip...Friends to help me..." Angelus began...Tara glaring, as Buffy watches...Friends...The thought passing through her mind...

Even just a friend would have helped him...Even Xander, I know, was looking to help him even when he was most ready to kill him...But I...I...While he...Even his demon...

"Even your demon essence, Dru..." Angelus tried, a gentle, pleadingly Angelic smile... "Would, were it here..."

"My counterpart is insane, thanks to you...But even she might choose a better path here...The point is, you've been freed from your blood lust, given some chance to make a choice...And you still choose this..."

And what is my demon doing down there?...Buffy now in Cicely form again, stares at Angelus as he desperately looks to her in appeal...Is she like this, a fiend tormenting my poor Will, simply because he loves us?...Or just a blindly vicious mass-killer...?...Or...

"A demon essence can only follow its nature..." Angelus tries again...

"Spike and others have overcome that nature...But in any case, I've warned you before, murderer...I have the power to make you suffer so long as you choose to inflict pain..." Tara-Dru resumes the field as he screams again...

It's my chance to serve others as I once wished to before he killed me...she explains to Buffy's floating head...And if it brings a little joy to my existence...she smiles...Well...That's ok, too...

Call it the equivalent of Spike's behavioral therapy...she grins... "Hell, you wanted something like his chip to 'help' you, right?..." she turns back to her 'patient'...Who cringes...

"Let him be...Please, Tara..." Buffy suddenly sighs... "I need to speak to him...And to hear what he has to say..." she takes Cicely form again... "I deserve to hear what he has to say..." a shamed expression...



Tara-Dru, in Tara form now, eyes her... "Are you sure, Cicely?...He only wants to hurt you, drive you to despair if he can...It's what the little animal exists for now that he can't cause physical harm..." she frowns at Angelus, released from her field and quietly watching...

"And you aren't to blame for what happened...I..."

"I let him go, Tara...I sent him away...And you, Dru...Only did what your demon did naturally...If I'd kept him near me, or at least watched over him when..." she pauses...

"You did it to protect him, Buffy...You must remember that now..." Tara tells her gently...

"Ah...The tender care of a lov..." Angelus begins...And halts in terror as Dru glares darkly at him...

"I know..." Cicely nods... "I thought I was saving him...But...I'd put him in danger in the first place...I knew it was death to him for me to take him as my lover, my husband...But I wanted to escape...I was ready to do anything, anything to flee the Slayer and everything about her...And when he came...I couldn't let him go..."

Oh, God...I let him love me...Never warned him of the danger...

"And I did nothing to protect him when he ran from the house..."

"You couldn't have..." Tara begins...

"When he rose...I was too late...I lost our baby...And when we died...And I finally came back..." she sighs...

"Sad..." Angelus sneers... "Yes, very tragic...Even one such as I can appreciate..." he hastily tries as Dru shocks him again...Arrrrgggh!!!...

"I told you, you sob...! Now can it...!"

"Buffy..." she turns back to her friend as Tara...

"I knew somewhere, Tara...In my heart...Almost from the moment we met in Sunnydale...but..."

I was afraid of my feelings...Even when he was there for me...When he patched my hands...And told me how he'd dreamed of saving me...And then...Every day after that...He was there...Doing whatever he could to help me, comfort me...And when he died...Again...Alone, just as he...She turns a misty head at Angelus...Now desperately restraining his urge to commentary...Said...

"I said... 'I love you'...And left him...And he didn't believe it...Cause he knew...I didn't love him...Enough..."

Tara stares at her...And smiles...Oh, Buf...

"Why are you here, Cicely?...If not to save him...If not because ya love him, kiddo..."

Cicely looks at her...

"You responded to Willow's summons, to Xander's CPR...In part cause you had unfinished business here, Buffy...You couldn't leave him behind, any more than he could let Spike flee Sunnydale...As he should've..."

Lord, girl...she takes Dru form... What more could you do?...You came back for him, time and time again...And as for being afraid...Of course you were afraid...Rightly so...

"You weren't restored with all your memories intact, Cicely...And you spared him...Time and time again...When by all Slayer reason, you should have staked him...Just as, somehow, he blocked Spike, just enough..."



Think, Buffy...How he'd've felt if Spike had killed you...? And he might've if you'd been any less on your guard...Even hovering round as he was, Will couldn't control Spike, at least until the chip and then his full restoration...But we can't blame him...

"Indeed we shan't..." Cicely hastily cut in...A slight frown...

"And likewise, you have nothing to blame yourself for..."

"Aye..." Angelus beams... "We're all guiltless in the eyes of...Arrrrrggghh!!!..."

***

The Slayer moved with quiet stealth, her heightened senses probing into the dark recesses ahead as..."OW!..." Kennedy interrupted her reverie as she stepped on a broken piece of demon brew bottle dropped by Willow earlier...

"Miss Kennedy?..." Hmmn...Must ask if that's a first or last name...Wes thought as he hurried up to her on the stairs...

And if, just perhaps, it is a last name...Ask if, perhaps, she might possibly be one of those Kennedys...

A partner in LA's hottest new law firm should extend his social contacts after all...And ought to be able to move in the highest social/political circles in the country...

"Willow?!..." Kennedy happily, if hesitantly calls...

"Hey?..." a call from below...Wes turning to see Willow on the stairs, looking a bit...

Unda weda...

"Gre't ta see ya guys...Hiya..."

Willow?...Wes eyes her...She looks...Willow trips, slowly trying a stair up...

"Ok...Im o...k..." Yes, she is...

Feelin' kinda funny...Kennedy thinks, blinking as her head starts to weave a bit...Say, dat looks good...A lil' pic-um-up...She reaches for Anne's dropped unbroken bottle, set down earlier by Willow at Will's warning...

"Whoops...Lil' diz..." Willow staggers and straightens as Wes reaches her...

"We gotta lil' prob, Wes...Oh...Kenny, ma lil' hon'..." she happily sighs up the stairs to her girl, now pulling hearty at her bottle... "Goodta seeya, babe..."

"Hiya, babe...(urpppp!!...Sor')" Kennedy waves back... "Hows ma sweetie...?"

Hmmn...There goes my trip to Hyannisport...Wes thinks...

***

"What's that?!..." Dawn cried as a loud crashing sound came from a room down the hall as she, Andrew, and Xander in the lead, carefully moved across the main floor of the former Wolfram-Hart tower...

"Hiya, guys...!..." William waved as he emerged from the office next to the stairway he and Angel had just come from...In a vague hope, following Willow's finally finding the cell release button and with her making her own attempt at a move up the opposite stairs, of cornering an Anne still...Hopefully...Trapped by the daylight in the tower building....

"See..." Angel nods at his lil' vamp soul brother as Will happily turns back to him to note their rising fortunes... "It's gonna be..."

"You son of an insane murderous bitch!..." Dawn shrieks at him, pulling off from Xander's hasty attempt to hold her... "What did you do to my sister?!..."

"Oh..." William's improved mood immediately fading at the confrontation with the...Hopefully, if all goes well with Buf up there in Heaven and us with Annie down here...Soon-to-be-more-or-less...Sis-in-law...

"Dawny...Dawny...I kilt ma poor lil'..."

Oops...Even smashed, Angel can see this is a bad conversational opening...And races for Will as best he can as a raging Dawn jerks up a crossbow and fires...

***

Crestwood Commuter Rail Station, approaching noon, Sunday...

Anne readies herself for her call to dear old Giles...Gotta use ma wiles...Be Buf allda way...

A performance as her vapidly dull human counterpart?...No problem for the new Queen of the Damned...Long as he doesn't start with the holy wa' and all dat stuf...Or suggests a brief stroll outside...Hmmn...

As Dru watches over Harmony, now sleeping quite soundly on a bench well out of any chance sunbeams...Head occasionally lolling from where Dru gently sets it back on the benchback...

Oh, no...Thank you, sir...We are getting a cab...she smiles up at a friendly station guard who pauses to inquire as to their need for local transit...

"My sister is phoning the service after she lets our friend know we're coming..." she indicates over to Anne...

"Eh..." he waves a hand... "You'll never get one out of the office on a Sunday...Let me call my cousin Jimmy, he's drives for the local guys...Just a min..."

"Very kind of you, sir..." Dru beams... "May God bless you and yours..." he nods kindly, heading for the station workers' office...

And grant me the strength to keep your poor cousin and all others safe this day...

"Heya Gil's...It's me...ya Buffy..." Anne speaks into the phone, wobbling a bit...Whoops...She grabs at the nearest wall...Bit unda weda...

"I don' feel so good...Can I cum over, huh?...Hafya check me out?...Cause I kinda think it's magicky..."

Hmmn?...

"Willum...?...Oh, he's good...Ange' got him thro aok...Got his lil' soul saf' and ever'think...It wuz no prob..." So nice of Gilesy ta ask bout my Willie...she beams at the phone...But, pressing matters... "Yeah...Ange' s good too...Deys fine...All fine...Cana cum?...Cause I'm feelin' real bad...Unda weda..."

A frown forms at Giles' puzzled reply...And question...

"Haf I been wha'? ...Me?...Drinkin'...?...Nah...Gilesy...I tole ya...I'm not feelin' sa good...Geesh... You still ma Watcha or wha'...?"

"Willa?..."she pauses...Hmmn...Oh, yeah...Willa wuz cumin to kil me...Hmmn...No, she din' know I wus Annie...Only gonna kil me if she found out...

Dru looks over to her...She gives a quick wave which nearly topples her off balance...Alls well...She turns back to the phone...

"I lef fore she came..." Another frown... "Well, we dint know she wus cummin'...And nobody wuz home when we called da furst times...So ma Will says...'Buf, ya don' look good...Maybe sumbody's using magics stuf...Ya best go see Gilesy...'...So, I goes...And here I is..."

"I needs ya, Giles..." Yeah, just a lil' of dat ole Buf whine...And mabe just a lil'a dat ole...Ya know...

Not beyond a certain safe level of course unless absolutely necessary...Annie being Evil but not unfaithful...Unless absolutely necessary...

"Ain'ya ma Wat...(urpp!...Cuse me)...cha...no more?" moving to a plaintive note...

"Thanks, Gil's...Ok, den...Im cumin'...Oh..." Dru sees her freeze a mo as a dangerous offer is made...Anne taking quick action to avert potential disaster...

"Nah, Giles...Ya don' gotta cum...I gotta cab cumin'...Ah, dat's him...Gottago, see ya in a few...Luv ya..."

Heh, heh...Stage three in the master plan of the Queen of the Damned complete...she happily thinks as she hangs up... "We have a cab coming..." Dru calls, trying not to disturb the sleeping second-in-command of the Army of Evil...

Or wuz it Stage fo'r?...Eh, wha'ever...

***

"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 XXII...

***



Limbo...High noon, Sunday, LA time...

Buffy's disembodied spirit has made a decision which somewhat alarms the soul of her friend and counterpart of her greatest enemy, Tara-Drusilla...

"I don't know if this is a good idea, Buffy..." in Tara form, her spirit eyes the watching, waiting form of Angelus...Benevolent smile plastered carefully on his floating, fading then reforming face... "To have him...It...Guide you about here?..."

"No one better to show me what I came to see, Tara...The darkest side of what my victims go through..."

"The souls aren't your victims, Buf...Better to say...You're their savior...You rescue them...Us... from that horrible link to our counterparts..."

"Yeah?..." Buffy sighs, her head shifting into Cicely form now... "I've never quite found myself fighting with that on my mind...Kill em, quick, being more like it..."

"We all must follow our natures..." Diplomatic-mode Angelus hastily grabs the opening... "There's darkness in the best..." Tara, now in Dru form stares at him coldly, he clams...Just a friendly comment, Dru...Contributing my little bit of experience...a desperate smile...

Dru waving an annoyed hand...Had enough "comment" from you to last my existence, sir...And turns to Cicely...

"But you've always known your work brings release...You're too hard on yourself, Cicely..."

"I wasn't too hard on myself when I let William die...Alone, again...In that damned crater..." she sighs...

"You knew it had to be...The First had to be stopped for good...And you knew the main job was done...You'd saved his soul...You knew, somehow, you'd find him again, on Earth or Heaven, just as long as his restored soul never fell into despair and Evil..."

And you did...Dru smiles at her...Found him again in record time, I'd say...

"And still a barrier between us...He told me that, even after I told him and he finally believed me..."

A barrier you've come to smash down...she notes..."The most direct way possible..."

God, girl...In Tara form now...If he doesn't believe you love him now...Nothing is ever gonna convince that boy...



"He loves me..." Cicely suddenly burst into tears...Angelus quickly making sympathetic noises, an eye on Tara-Dru... "After all that's...He still..."

"And you are worthy of that love, girl..." Tara's face smiles at her... "That love you've waited for for a century..."

"Sides..." she beams... "I knew nineteenth century England...Maybe you've forgotten, Cicely, but it could be a preety rough place for a young man with no connections, income, or family...He might well have ended up in some grinding, horrible place in that world...And died, after a wasted, miserable life...If you hadn't stepped into his..."

"My husband was a brilliant, industrious man..." Cicely glares at her... "Nothing would have kept him from making his way somehow...He never needed my or my family's..."

Tara grinned at her...Buffy sheepishly taking her normal form...

Sorry...

"Devoted wifey there..." Tara wagged a misty finger...

As always...she smiled...

***

Harmony fumed as she and Dru carefully made their way, their heavy coats and umbrellas attracting a certain degree of attention this pleasant mid-Sunday...

"Annie shulda letus come alldaway too...How cum we gotta walk da restada way?...You hadda fare, ri'?..."

"Yes, but she didn't want to us alarm Mr. Giles..." Dru calmly notes... "If you're tired...We can stop...Or I can carry you, if you like..."

"Im fine...I don' need ya to carry me...I'm the Loootenant..." Harmony waves a hand...

But she shulda letus come...

"We should hurry, Anne will be waiting for us...And disappointed in you..." Dru carefully tells her...

Hurry and reach poor Mr. Giles before a terrible crime can be committed...she thinks...

"The Loo...Tenant is reddy..." Harm gives a resolute look...stumbling over a rock...

Oh!...Dru hastily covered her with her umbrella as she fell, dropping her own...

Ow!...Harmony struggled to sitting posture as a couple of neighborhood boys came over...

"Hey, lady...?" one looks at Dru...Who gave a quick, if anxious smile...Trying to cover herself as well from the bright...Phew, cloud-now covering...midday sun...

"She's bombed, huh?..."

"My friend is ill, little one..." she smiles... "And you should be careful about talking to strangers..."

"Nice boobies..." the other boy, dark-haired and heavy-set, about fourteen, smirks at the dazed-looking Harmony...Who blinked at him...Yum...Urrp... Yum...She licks her tongue woozily, biting it...Ow!!...The boys snickering... Urrrrrrrp...!!...Dru quietly grabbing her own umbrella...

"Cuse..." Harm blushes...Trying to rise and assume hunting mode...With little success...As the boys hoot at her...The heavy-set one making barfing gestures...



She looks sheepishly at Dru, holding her umbrella overhead unsteadily... "Gonna get em...Jus' gimme one mo..." Struggling to rise again, she slipped...Her human audience staring at each other... "What a bimbo..." the younger, red-haired boy laughes, throwing a stick at her...

Which Dru catches in mid-air, having raced over fast enough to leave them staring in shock...

"Young men..." Dru eyes them sternly, her umbrella wagging as she speaks...A deranged, if temporarily non-lethal, Mary Poppins... "That is no way to talk to...Or about...A lady...And if I had more time..."

"Gimme a mo..." Harmony wags a finger... "I'll take em out..."

Cumere...She gestures to the nearer boy, the red-head...Who grins at his friend...

"She wants me...Bad..."

The other boy a tad less enthusiastic, seeing Dru's cold stare...

"Young men..." Dru glares... "I am a new-cleansed servant of our Lord and would never harm a child...But I have no time...And less patience for this..." Assuming work-face, she snarles at them...Harmony attempting to join in...Somewhat feebly...

"Go!!!...And tell your parents to learn you some manners!!..." the hideous creature screamed at them...The boys ran off...Bye...Harmony waved from where she sat...OW!...She hastily shielded herself as the sun reappeared from its brief cover...

"I'll get'em...Lat'r..." she stated carefully as Dru gently helped her up...

Of course you will, dear...her companion patted her shoulder, carefully holding her umbrella over them both as Harm's wobbled...Inwardly begging the Lord's merciful forbearance in her indulging the fiend in her murderous scheming...Poor soulless, evil thing couldn't help herself after all...

And was clearly so under the weather...

***

Downtown Crestwood...A formerly somewhat less than desirable locale experiencing quite a boom since the Big One of 2003...And quite a degree of overcrowding...

Forcing even one who wields what some in the know might consider a rather hefty authority behind the scenes to accept rather cramped and inelegant quarters...

"Gil's!...Hey!..." Anne pounds on her Watcher's...And new Chairman of the regrouping Council's...Door...

Geesh, wha' a dump...Literally...She looks round at the battered and filthy-looking condo grounds, waiting...And dis one's gotta be the worsta dem...Eyeing the graffiti-scrawled and dented metal door...

Kinda outra...outer...awful, ya know...Ma Giles' da bes' Watch'r ina wor' and dis wha' he gets?...Well...her eyes narrow...Once Queen Anne has made her presence known in the world...And decided whether to vamp dear old Giles or no...Things would be different...Damn straight...

Even if they hada be enemieses...er enemies lat'r...She'd see the Council of Watchers' best received his due dose of respect...Mebbe let 'im win a few small ones against her min...er lower guys, kinda all on his lonesome, ya know...If she din't choose the vamp rout' fer 'im...Xanda too, mebbe...

Harm would approve of that, at least until she had her chance to kill him...

The moving sun interrupts her reverie...Ouch!...She squeezes tight against the door to her Watcher's new abode, the tiny awning above offering little protection...



"Lemme in, please...Quick...!" she pulls at the large overcoat covering her, nervously glancing from Giles' new and rather small front porch at the Sunday midday sun...Banging away...A few strolling inhabitants stare at her...Whadathe hell ya lookin' at?...she glares...Barely restraining her urge to demon-face...

"Cumon, cumon...Gil's?...Wha's holdin' ya up?...Ya gotta let me in..."

Ummn...Maybe a leetle too much urgency there...She falls back on her tried and true strategy...

"Hey, Gil's...I gotta go!..." she hisses to the door...Pounding again... "Gil's?!.."

"Just a moment..." a faint call within...

The door opens partially...Sticking...A hard pull forcing it open...

"Buffy?..." he stares...A rather bleary-eyed Giles...Operating 24/7 for the past weeks on coffee and what the gang had brought over for him while he struggled to pull together the remnants of the Council and secure safe havens and some kind of support and training system for the new Slayers...

Hiya...she waves, nearly losing her balance in the process, but swiftly recovering her natural dignity like the born Queen she is... "Cana cum in?..."

***

LA, the ground floor of the former Wolfram-Hart tower...Now new home base of Angel Investigations and the law offices of Angel, Wyndham-Price, Gunn, and Walthrop...

Angel dives at William, knocking him down and out of the path of Dawn's whizzing crossbow arrow...Xander grabbing at Dawn as the arrow smashes into the opposite wall...

Ouch...Angel, and Wesley, just up from the basement with a staggering Willow and Kennedy in tow, look at the gash in the wall...That's not gonna be cheap...

Uneasy lie the heads that run the newest, hottest, and (almost certainly) highest-maintenance law firm in LA...

"Let me go!...He killed my sister!..." Dawn twists out of Xander's grip...

Or he married her...Or both...And any one of those options fully deserves an arrow through the heart...she thought...

Andrew carefully scooping up her crossbow...Just in case she might be tempted to do something she...And he...He eyes William...And his rather hulky companion...Might regret...

"Gimme that, Andrew!..." she screams, tearing at the bow...Whacking his arms as he struggles to hang on, Xander moving to his aid...

"Dawn!..." Angel calls up from where he is staggering back onto his feet, William standing as well... "He didn' mea' ta kill her...It wuz her i..."

Oh-oh...Now ole Xander ain't lookin' too pleased...He releases his new grip on Dawn and she resumes her tussle with Andrew...

"Her...What?!..." Xander stares at the two fiends who have managed to murder his "sis"...As a startled Dawn releases the bow and Andrew goes flying across the hall...Her what!?...

Not that he doubts that'll keep her down for long...Just...Big Bro Xander must follow the proper procedure in such situations...

"Wuz her id'a..." Angel puts up a hand...Hold on a sec...Gotta try and get back in broodin' leader character...Lil' difficult wha' with the brew and all...



Will now hanging his head a bit...Ready to again seek an instant ticket to Heaven at his...He eyes the raging, but now blinking Dawny...O...h...A boy's smile breaks out...

Lil' sis-in-law's hands...

Ma' lil' sis-in-law...Who wants me immediately destroyed...And probably regardless of whether Buf's vamped or no...

"Buffy wanted to be a vampire?..." Andrew looks at the tall, dark guy on the floor beside William...Rather Warrenly attractive tall, dark guy...

Hmmn...I suppose if one were the Slayer and hangs with them, killing'em like flies...Sooner or later one must get curious about their lifestyle...

***

Part XXIII...

"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 XXIII...

***

LA, the ground floor of the new offices of Angel, Wyndham-Price, Gunn, and Walthrop in the former Wolfram-Hart tower...

"Hey, stoppit, Dawnie...!" Willow called over to Dawn as Wesley came to Andrew's assistance, Dawn having recovered from her momentary shock and dead set on continuing her effort, again grabbing for the crossbow, now locked firmly in Andy's crossed-arm grip...

"Andrew..." she grimly hisses as he stares back...Solemnly...Shaking his head slowly, then staring again...No...

Such deep eyes he has the thought briefly crossed her mind...And, really kinda brave in his way now he's reformed...What a shame...

Ummn...she blinks...Resuming glare... "Give me..." she begins...

"I's ok, Dawnie...I'm gonna kil' 'em both lat'r if theys liars..." Willow addes helpfully...Waving a hand...

Kennedy making an effort to support her honey...On her wobbling feet as well as verbally...

"Willa's got it all.....Set..." she nods in agreement...

"Yeah...Hey Xanda?.." Problem solved, Willow turned to other matters... "You wanta make out afta we kill the bad guys?...Er gurl...?" Kennedy blinked... "I's ok..." Willow pats her...



"Jes wanta makim feel good...He been so sad..." her honey explained...As the others stare...

Hmmn...Wes nodded...Yes...I think I begin to see what happened here...

"We gotta stop Annie!..." Angel tries to reassert authority and set things on proper track...Yeah, that's the ticket, get em back on track...Whichever of the dozen or so he sees floating round his head is the right one...

"Annie...? Who the hell's..." Dawn looks over at the stupid doofus who'd helped that little blonde slimeball murder...Her little blonde moron of a sis...Xander glaring as well...

"Dat's Buf now, I think..." Willow helpfully puts in...

Annie?...Nice name for a demon counterpart...Wes and Andy think...

***

Crestwood...Giles' new condo complex...

"Sos?...It's der?..." Harmony points vaguely from under her umbrella at the first building she sees...

"Hmmn...No, dear...I think it's further back..." Dru eyes the list of tenant names on the phone box by a long-nonfunctional gate...

"Wha dump..." Harm looks round... Indeed, rather poor lodgings for Mr. Giles...Him being the new Chairman of that Watchers' Council...Dru nods in agreement...

We go that way...she points...

"Hok...Loooten'nt Harmony's reddy..." Harm raises her umbrella and turns... "Les go..." she reasserts a measure of authority...And staggers off, Dru hastily following with a sigh...Smiling kindly at a few bystanders...

"Dis...?" Harmony eyes the door...Where things seem distressingly quiet, Dru notes...Perhaps they're too late to save poor Mr. Giles?...

Well, in any case, now that they're alone for the moment, time to prevent poor dear Harmony from doing something her poor soul might regret...

She applied gentle pressure on the Lieutenant's neck at spots Spike had once showed her and her companion collapsed...

Carefully propping Harmony by her side to a reasonable approximation of standing, for the benefit of any passers-by, she knocked at the door with one hand, umbrella and Lieutenant Harmony of Anne's Army of Evil in the other...

"Mr. Giles...?" she called a bit anxiously...

***

LA...Ground floor of the offices of Angel, Wyndham-Price, Gunn, and Walthrop...

"Angel?..." Wes eyes his somewhat incapacitated leader... "Where do you think this 'Anne' might have gone...It's clear she's left the building somehow, even with the daylight..."

Well...Angel focuses his vast experience and natural wisdom...Plus his extensive knowledge of Buffy and her ways...As do the others...To what extent they can...

"I dunno..."

"I bet she's gone off ta find some help..." Will notes... "Betcha it's Drusie..."



To Dru...? Dawn eyes him...Buffy and Dru?...

"Bes' kil'r in LA..." he nods... "And Buf's learn'd ta make usea her command skills..."

Joseph?...Invisible Lilah whispers from a wall to the far side of the group...

I don't know...he gives a faint hiss, noting Angel staring their way briefly...Quiet...

Willow's phone buzzes...

"Hey?...Hiya, Gil's...Hey, fellas...It's..." Willow calls happily...

Whoa...she blinks at the phone...You don't say?...

"Hot damn!...He's gott'r...!" she gives a wobbly thumbs-up...

"Don' wor' Gil's...We knows al...l...'bout it..."

"Got'r...?" Will and Angel stare...

"Ya, we're here in LA...At Ang'l new place...God, i's neat, Gil's..."

"Got who?..." Dawn looks over...

"Annie...Gil's got her..." a happy, if staggering Willow...She tries a high-five with Kennedy...Fortunately missing as Kennedy forgot her new superstrength...

Well...Angel beams at Wes...Another notch for Angel Investigations...

In a manna of spekin'...

"How the hell...?" Xander stares...Willow waving an impatient hand...Jes' a min...Lemme talk...

Holy shit...Joseph sighs quietly from his spot against the far wall...Not again...Not so soon...Lilah instinctively trying to give a comforting pat...Nothing...Well, it's the thought that counts...

"Gil's?..." Willow continues... "The guys wanna...Wha?...Oh...h...Yeah, I guess I hadda lil' dropa...Wha?..."

Wha?...Dru?...she blinks... "O...K...Hang on...I'm gonna cum ri' ov'r...Bye..."

Dru?...Angel looks at William who nods...Jes' as I figured...

"Drusilla?...Wil, what's...?" Xander began...

"Willow?.." Wes calls, hurrying over...William, Angel, and the others following...

"Dru's der...I betta go..." Willow gives a wave...Nothing...Hmmn...

Jes a min...Gotta conc...

"Willow, wait!..." Wes reaches her just as she vanishes...

***



Crestwood...The new Chairman of the re-established Royal Council of Librarians and Library Scientists' condo living room...

AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!....A harsh, frustrated cry...From the blonde, slight, hideously evil-faced creature now looking up from where she'd been pinioned to the floor of Giles' condo by a strong energy field...

Giles sighed, holding his phone to his ear as he stared at the remains of the only daughter of sorts...Not ever wishing to hurt poor Dawn, but he would never quite be able to see her in the same light...He'd ever have...

The demon counterpart he'd every day expected to meet, one day, from the moment he'd first come to take poor Buffy in hand, years ago...Some days perhaps more than others...and with less expectation as the passing years had made her abilities and potential for survival clear...

But for the second time, her first death at the Master's hands having been fortunately too brief to allow for mourning her...The day had come at last...

"Willow?...Giles here...Willow, Buffy is here...In vampiral state, I'm afraid ...I've contained her for the moment, but..."

Willow?...

...HHHHHHHH!!!!...Anne continued her yell on the floor...A mix of anger, rage, and some considerable embarrassment...Demmit, Gil's?...Howda hell'd ya know so quick?...All her Buf practice and that effort in getting her lovely new suit...Wasted...

"You...Know about it?...Willow?...Are you in Los Angeles yet?..."

Anne tried rolling within the field...Demmit no good...

"Have you been drinking...?" Giles asked the phone...

Anne tried a hard lunge up...OW!!...she fell back...

"Stop it, Buffy!...You'll only injure yourself..." Giles called to her as she relaxed a bit...Staring up at him...Hmmn...Mebbe the good ole way...She resumed human face and a slight pout...

"Gil's?...Wha' da hell ya doin'?...I's me..." she began tearing up...

Frowning, Giles moved the phone just as Dru started politely rapping at the front door...

"Mr. Giles?!...I must speak with you...!"

"Please forgive me!!..." she called as she tore the door open...

"It's a very urg...!..." she paused to see Anne struggling on the floor...Oh, my...

"Mr. Giles?..." she stood at the door, blocked by the barrier in place there...

"Drusilla?..." he gasped...And what looked like an unconscious Harmony beside her, Dru carefully trying to maintain umbrella cover over the two of them...

"Dru...?..." Willow's startled voice came over the phone... "Yes, it's Drusilla..." he told the phone...Staring...Not quite hearing Willow's offer of immediate aid...

Yes...But...Dru put up a hand... "It is not what you think, sir...I am not what I was..."

Indeed...? he stared...As a blue light flashed in the room and Willow appeared in mid-air, over the trapped Anne...And fell onto her, disrupting Giles' containment field...

"Willow...?"



Hiya!...she waved...Coming to a sitting position, blinking at Giles...

Made it, she thought happily...Jes' lik' I told Willum...I can getid up anytime I wanna...

"Dis Anne?..." she indicated the sprawled flat body underneath her, KO'd by the impact of her friend's body and the field disruption...

***

Part XXIV...

"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 XXIV...

The misty reaches of Limbo...Sunday afternoon...

A rather surprisingly enthusiastic Angelus was happily engaged in giving Buffy's disembodied spirit the Grand Tour...Wisely for the moment refraining from the sort of commentary that might produce a return of Tara-Drusilla's spirit...

After all, the agony of those trapped in Limbo while their darker selves act on Earth speaks for itself...

Though he saw no reason, Buffy having requested this little excursion herself, the little fool, not to direct the tour past those whose particular sufferings might resonate best...

It being his assignment...And a source of great personal satisfaction...To attempt to drive the soul which had rendered itself so vulnerable, the soul of the Greatest of the Slayers, twice over...Buffy Anne Summers and Cicely Anne Walthrop, nee Addams...To despair and destruction...Or at least, permanent retirement in Heaven...

"Angelus...?" Buffy's head took form as they proceeded through the mist... "You ought to be able to feel the increase in warmth from the souls clustered about here..." Angelus points out pleasantly, in disembodied voice... "Yes?..." his head appears...

"Why are you..." she pauses...The real question hesitating on her misty lips... "Is...?"

"Is Spike here as well...?" he fills in...She was silent...

"Travel here...Is a privilege..." he notes, some pride in his voice... "Spike is not very popular with the Darkness now...They don't view noble self-sacrifice in the same light as you humans..."

Perhaps I could carry a message back to comfort him in his grim and Eternal sufferings...A bright smile...

"A love note...To let him know he was always the one?...After his counterpart, Parker, me, Riley..."

"Would you like Tara back to spend some quality time with her demon's 'dad'...?"

Ummn...

"You asked for my guidance..." he points out... "I don't work free, Cicely...And since money, blood...And sex..." he smiles... "Are meaningless here..."

"I'm surprised they let you out...Here..." she frowns... "I'd think two recent comeback flops with Angel would get you in a bit of hot water...And brimstone..."

"I made the most of my time...They appreciate effort..." he smiles... "Besides they know my counterpart hovers on the brink of destruction at the best of times...A single nudge and I'm on my way...So I may as well be in the afterlife equivalent of the 'ready room'..."

But I'm just glad I could be here to catch up with my old friend...And ex-...

"Angel...Never you, pal..."

"But I am Angel, dearest...As much a part of ole Liam as he...And as Anne is of you..."

"So..." she grins... "Then Spike...Like my William...Was unique..."

I thought so...Thanks...she beamed at the head of a slightly frowning Angelus...

"He's hardly the first of us to lose his head...Or existence...Over a silly human..."

Then...she hesitates... "There are others?...Like Will?..."

Souls bound to their demons, suffering in agony as they follow in their own personal monster's wake, unable to find rest...? he suggests...

"Oh, yeah..." he grins...And as a matter of fact...

"I believe we're near to meeting up with an old friend of yours...Ah, there she is..." he notes, sensing a manifestation...

"You...?" a voice drifts over...A voice strangely altered by agony and suffering, but one Buffy recognizes...

"Buffy?...Why?...Why did you abandon me...?..." a sad cry... "You were the Slayer...My own classmate...How could you leave me like that...?"

"Harmony..." Buffy gasps as Harm's sad, shattered face appears...

"Why do you leave me like this?...Buffy...?" the face sobs... "It killed my gram...My brother...Friends..."

And a lot of folks I never knew...But they seemed kinda nice...she notes...

"I wasn't the nicest person, I know that...But...Whatever stupid stuff I did back there...I don't deserve this...How could you let it exist, roam?...Buffy, you laughed at It...At me...While I'm here, watching It...Knowing It's me..."

"Harmony, I'm sorry...I've meant to..."

"You never even tried...Even when you could've easily tracked It down...It was a joke to you...All of you...I saw...Through It's eyes..."

"She...It...'s in LA now...I was tied down in Sunnydale..."

"Not even Angel bothers to kill It...No one cares..." Harmony stared at her...



"Buffy...I died before my life really began...And even that I could bear...But this...Horror...That never ends, no matter how I try to stop It...Or hide from It...I see It...Free...Hurting, killing..."

Maybe not on Angelus' scale...she noted...He gave a slight nod of appreciation...But then so few could match his record...He wisely refrained from mentioning aloud...

"You think I deserved this?..." her voice sincerely questioning as much as bitter... "What did I do that deserved this?...Tell me...?"

"Nothing, Harm, nothing...And I swear, when I get back..."

"No one will ever care..." Harmony shakes her head... "I'll be here...Watching It...Watching people treat It like a joke, while It tortures and kills anyone It can...Forever..."

"Harmony, I will..I swear..."

"They all hate me now...My family...The only ones who ever cared for me..." she's silent a moment... "I never killed anyone, I never did more than what millions of young girls who are terrified they won't amount to much outside their looks did...Why me, Buffy?...And why won't anyone help me...?"

"I will Harm...I promise..."

"You're dead too, Buffy..." she sighs...Her face swirling into a cloud... "And God won't listen...No..." she gasps suddenly, her voice tensing with fear... "No, no!...Oh! Mama!...Ma!... Daddy!...Help me!...Don't let It!...Help me, I'm afraid!...Oh, please...Please!..." she faded into a heavy mist that Buffy realized somehow was formed of tears... "Help me!...Oh...Buffy..."

"Harmony...Harmony!..." she calls...

Angelus quietly standing by, in a matter of sorts...Carefully concealing his delight...

And that's just one of the less sympathetic pathetic little whiners...he thinks happily...

***

Crestwood...Giles' new condo living room...

Sunday...Early afternoon...

"...Let me understand this, Willow..." And given your present condition, it's not easy, he politely did not say... "You say..." the new Chairman stares at a woozily beaming Willow, now seated on his sofa...Ready for her part to blearily begin victory celebrations...Especially if Ang'l got anymor' o'da swell brew...Dat wus da best... "That William's resurrection was a success...Angel was able to prevent his demon's return with our blocking spell..." She nods eagerly...Yep... "But that last night they were exposed to a demon brew, planted by unknown enemies...?" Absoultootly, she nods, nearly falling off the sofa while glancing quickly at the still unconscious Anne, now secured as well as possible with rope and handcuffs...Giles having earlier noted that 'be prepared' was a motto not confined to the Boy Scouts to Willow's "whydya got dose?..." as she'd eyed the cuffs...

No need to explain that it'd been Olivia's last night before she returned to England..

"And Buffy was exposed shortly after she reached them...With the result that she requested the chance to undergo vampiral transformation...Both to prove her love to William and to better understand what her victims undergo?..."

"Oh...That is so..." Dru sighs from where she stands in Giles' open doorway...Very sorry about tearing off the door, sir...I truly thought it necessary to save you...she'd apologetically noted after her initial greeting...Holding the still unconscious Harmony up by her side...

Yeah...Willow nods...And I wuz thinkin' Buf wuz gettin' kinda col' hart'd...she shakes her head...



"And..." Hmmn...Even in her inebriated state, Willow catches the sharp, cold tone in the Watcher's voice... "Dear William was only too willing to oblige...?" He stars at Anne, sprawled on the floor...

Ummn...Well, see Gil's...she begins... "He din't wanna do it, he says...But her soul told 'em...Him and Ang'l...I tole ya Ang'l' s dere, ri'?...Yeah, he's dere...Buf's soul tol' em...I's ok..."

And I'm gonna kil 'em both if it don' wok out...Sos it'll be...O...K...she nods happily...

"I see...And just how will it be...OK?...With Buffy dead and her soul gone...?"

"Eh..." a quick hand wave... "We done that one coupla times...Jes' gotta do a recall...Mebbe somethin' special to do da human bit...No prob..."

"That's wonderful, Ms. Rosenberg..." Drusilla beams...Ummn...As Giles casts a quick hard stare...

"I'm sure it will work out...Love must triumph in the end..." she notes quickly...

Yep...Willow nods to Dru...Nice kid really with a belt or two of that brew in her... "N....o...Prob..."

Ri', Gil's?...she looks over...

"I means when I get me power back...Ya said it shouldn't be long for the field I fell on to wor' off...?"

"Yes...About a hour, I'd guess...Well..." Giles sighs... "First things first...We must get Anne properly secured and see if anything can be done to clear the effects of the demon brew on you, Willow..."

Unfortunately, acting on Wesley's suggestion that we come to LA is difficult as I can't use magics for some time either...So restoring the dampening field around Anne is not an option for the moment...he eyes her...

"Sor'..." Willow bites a lip... "Mebbe we should jes' drive dere...Take along a bottle...?" Beer preferably, she thinks... "An' hit her ov'r da head if she wakes up on da way...?"

Hmmn...

"Perhaps I could assist?..." Dru suggests pleasantly from the doorway...

"Actually..." Giles eyes her...

"Hey, Dru...I saw Tar', ya soul...She says hi...So long as ya nice..." Willow calls...

***

LA...The basement of the new offices of Angel, Wyndham-Price, Gunn, and Walthrop...

Early afternoon...

Wesley had managed to get the gang, including the inebriated members back down to the basement containment room to review the situation...Which for the moment, based on Giles' last call seemed quite promising...

Meanwhile on the ground floor...

"That bathroom..." Invisible Joseph hisses to his invisible...And hopefully still beside him...Employee/Mission partner, Lilah... "But they're..." she begins in a whisper... "sh...sh" he uselessly puts up a hand as well... "Angel...William..."

Bombed or no, still supersensitive vamps...And Angel had already heard them, though too unsure courtesy brew to fully heed those senses...Lilah gets the point...And follows...



The ladies room door cracks open twice...As if by itself...

"Ok...But keep it down..." Joseph whispers...

"Please get off my foot...Boss..." she hisses back...Sorry...he pulls back...

"What do we do now?...They've already captured her..."

"She's not alive yet by a long shot..." Joseph clearly not willing to let this one...The best thing to happen to Evil in years...Go without a fight...However feeble...

It's what make him so lova...er Commanding...Lilah thinks...That blind refusal to say die...Even long after death...

"They're bringing her here...The new Watcher Chairman and Miss Rosenberg...An incapacitated Miss Rosenberg, if we heard right..." Hmmn... "Perhaps there's a chance in that...If we could alert the boys..."

Those upper level management clowns?...Lilah thought...They couldn't outwit little Dawn Summers...Let alone this Giles fellow...

Hmmn...Rupert Giles...New Council Chairman...Handsome...And powerful Rupert Giles...

Who no doubt could use a capable, driven mate to help him organize the fight against Evil...And perhaps, with a little careful persuasion...? To rule the world via his Slayers...?

Well...she listened to poor Joseph, still muttering as he pondered the situation...Nah...

Damn it, she blinked at herself...What the hell's wrong with me?...I'm Lilah Morgan, devoted solely to my ambition and pursuit of power and wealth...And occasional great sex...I'm not bound to any side...

Well, there is that old Hell contract...But Joe let me out of it in exchange for my 98% pay cut...

"Lets get outside by the main entrance...I'll call HQ from the payphone out there...Maybe between us here and the fellas...Something can still be done..."

I'm acting like a... "Lilah?...Ready to go?..."

"Yeah..." Aw, hell...How can I run out on the poor little guy after all he's been though?...Sides he'd hunt me down and kill me, even without a Hell contract...

It's that damned lova...er commendable grit of his...

***

In the basement, Mission Commander and number two legal partner Wyndham-Price had taken things well in hand...Despite some minor peeving by temporarily incapacitated number one, Angel...

Gunn and Fred alerted and called in...Albeit both currently unreachable owing to their respective trips home to spread the news of their sudden jumps up the corporate ladder...

Contact made with Chairman Giles...Now reluctantly enlisting the help of a very willing Drusilla to get a sedated Anne safely to LA...In the company of a rather spacey Willow and unconscious...At Dru's pleading request 'We can't leave the poor thing alone like this, please sir'...Harmony...

Andrew and Xander sent with an eager if wobbily William to scour the building in case Angel's concerns about voices heard was legit...

And preparations underway to analyze the cause of the trouble...



Unfortunately, Wes had made his first tactical mistake in the choice of those dispatched to bring over samples for testing...Believing that surely, nothing could happen with the brew only being across the hall in the other office's refrigerator...

"Kennedy...Will you stop that?...Put that stuff down..." Dawn glares... "We're supposed to bring it over to Wes for analysis...

"Jes wanna lil' one..."

"You know it's cursed...Don't..." she frowns and grabs at the now open bottle as Kennedy lifts the highly addictive brew toward her lips...

Oops...Sorry...Kennedy eyes the spattered Dawn...most of the open bottle's contents now on her...

"Thanks..." Dawn frowns...Silly fool of a demon brew intoxicated Slayer...

"Please try to be careful with this, Kennedy...We have to know the contents of the brew and study what mystical energy fields may be associated with it..."

Nice as it might be to imbibe a few ounces...she notes, eyeing the bottles...

Oh...Sor'...Say...Kennedy looks at her... "Mebbe yous should wipe dat stuff off...?"

"I'm afraid it's too late..." Dawn shakes her head... "I sense I've already been affected..."

A returned Andrew comes over... "Dawn, Mr. Wyndham-Price says to bring that..."

Andrew...Dawn beams... "Why thank you for coming to tell us..." she smiles gently at him...

Oh!... "Thank God you're safe, Andrew...Everything was all right upstairs?..."

Ummn?...Yeah... "Dawn...Why are you all wet?..."

"I'm afraid we've had a little accident...And I've been exposed..."she sighs...As he stares at her...

But the effect doesn't seem quite the same with me...she notes...Unless skin exposure and what little I ingested was too little to induce a significant result...

Kennedy looks at Andrew...She's talkin' awful funny...

Ummn...Dawn smiles again at dear, sweet Andrew...Nobly redeemed, courageous Andrew...All the more so for being simply human, not some supernatural, mystically energized buffoon... "Maybe..." she hesitates...

"Maybe it would help if you wiped me off...Thoroughly....With a wet paper towel?...Could you get me one from the bathroom there?...I'll change if we can find something..."

He nodded and went into the bathroom...Dawn watching him as he did...

"Such a kind, sweet guy..." she notea to Kennedy... "And rather attractive, don't you think?..."

Well...I mean...she paused...If you were of my persuasion...

"Andrew, bring a lota towels!..." Kennedy calls...

Please do...Dawn sighs...

***

Part XXV...



"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 XXV...

"Well...Right...Are we secure?..." Giles eyes his companions now variously sitting or stretched out on the floor of his new minivan...A necessity for a Chairman forced to spend much of his time now transporting multiple new Slayers at a time to various training sessions, transit centers, encounter groups, Mall shopping sprees...

"Yes, very well, thank you..." Drusilla nods from her seat...

"Fine...hic...Cuse...Gil's..." Willow calls...

"Anne and Harmony are secure as well, sir..." Dru notes...Looking over her two unconscious fellow vampiresses...Both handcuffed and bound with rope...

"Is Willow wearing her seat belt, Drusilla?..." he looks back at them...

"Hey..." Willow grouses... "Im fine...Got it all covered..."

"Indeed you do..." Dru smiles kindly... "She's fine, Mr. Giles..."

Amazing...He shook his head as he turned back to view the driveway and set out...I really must have that demonic brew analyzed...

"Drusie...I tol' ya Tara ya soul said hi...?" Willow looked at her as they headed out...

"Indeed you did, Miss Rosenberg...And it was very kind of you...And her...I only hope I can continue to be worthy of your kindness and some degree of trust until our task is complete..."

Yeah?... Willow stares... "Den wha?...You gonna go be evil again?..."

"It's my hope..." Dru pauses...Glancing at her charges...Ah, still quiet... "That you good people...And the Slayer...Will prevent that...By whatever means necessary..."

Sur...Willow nods...Waving a hand...

"But until that time...I also hope to do what good...Make what amends...I can..." she continues... "Though I trust you will try to remain on guard around me...In case the evil should regain a hold on me..."



"No prob...I gotta stake ri' here..." Willow pats her coat... "And ma magics'll be back up anytime now..."

"Please keep a careful watch on our guests, ladies..." Giles calls back...Yes, sir...Dru calls back...

"Miss Rosenberg?..." she askes, a bit hesitant...Ye...p...Willow turns to her...Head weaving a bit...

"Was my poor soul very unhappy?...When you encountered her?..."

Nah...Willow shakes her head... "She wuz fine...Heaven was treatin' her ri'...And she was real prouda ya, Dru..." A kind, if wobbily beam...Y...ep...Real proud...

"Yous a reg'lar Spike, I'd say...I mean afta he got the chip and all...Before Will the soul cum back all da way..."

"Thank you, miss..." she smiles shyly... "I only wish I could take credit for what's happened to me as poor Spike can..."

Well...Willow eyes her... "Chip...Love...Demmin booze...Whasit madda?...Ya couldn't hep whaya wer...And ya coulda just gone off and done nuthin' for nobody...Ri', Gil's?..." she calls...

Absolutely...he replies... "And we are grateful, Miss Drusilla..."

"Reg'lar chipped Spike...Jes lik I'd 'pect ma Tar' demmin ta be..." Willow nods...

The van pulls to a curb...Giles honking...

"Mr. Giles...?" Two Slayers-in-Training, waiting by the curb, hurried over...One a tall red-headed American in gym clothes, the other a tall blonde English girl in blouse and slacks...Drusilla opening the side door...Hello...she beams...Raising her umbrella against the early afternoon sun...Hiya...Willow waves...

"Brenda, Allyson..." the Chairman nods at them from his seat... "I appreciate you're giving up your Sunday to assist us in this...But, please...We must hurry..." Yes, sir...they nods...Climbing in and taking seats...

"Is that...?" Brenda, the English blonde looks down at Anne...Still unconscious next to Harmony...

"No...It is not..." Giles replies carefully... "And you must be prepared to fight it if the demon awakens...No matter what it may do or say it is not Buffy Summers..."

O...K...Allyson nods...Looking over at Dru...

"And you're...Drusilla...?" she stares... "I've heard lots about you...

I'm afraid so...Dru sighs...

"But Drusie's tryin' ta hep..." Willow notes...Reaching to pat her hand...Missing...But the intention was appreciated...

"Drusilla is operating under the effects of the powerful elixir I mentioned in my call...Which is affecting Miss Rosenberg as well...In a different way..." Giles explained... "We believe she is sincere in her efforts..."

"But you must watch me carefully in case I should regress..." Dru finishes...Smiling gently at the new Chairman... "And please, don't hesitate to destroy me if you have the slightest doubt...You will only be doing what I would want..."

"Are we going to be able to help the Slayer?..." Brenda asks, Allyson staring at the smiling Dru...As Giles pulls out...

"Certainly..."Dru nods firmly... "God will not permit Miss Summers to be lost to you...Or to poor Mr. Walthrop..."

Spike...Willow explained to the puzzled Slayers...Dat's...hic...his name...Hic...Urp...

"Cuse me..."



***

LA...A payphone about one block from the new offices of Angel, Wyndham-Price, Gunn, and Walthrop...Well out of view from the tower building...

"What we need!..." A once again visible Joseph shouted into the rather battered phone... "Is to intercept the Council Chairman before he reaches our old offices with our ally...!"

Like those remaining clowns of ours could 'intercept' a paper boy on his bike...A likewise visible Lilah beside him, groused to herself...

"I want a total mobilization of our remaining forces!...Rupert Giles and anyone with him must be stopped!...And our Anne freed..."

Hmmn...What happened to our new company policy?... 'No Risk Ourselves'?...Lilah sighed...Such a fine concept it was...

C'mon guys...he told the phone, obviously the boys back at HQ asking the same question... "After all the recent failures, we can't let this one success be lost for want of a little courage and daring!...And it's not like this Giles has an army with him...So far as we know all he's got is Miss Rosenberg..."

Yeah, yeah...he sighed...The super-witch/goddess...But she's under the influence of our brew...

"Joseph?..." Lilah hissed... "Remind them that it's daylight...No good if they get her and let her burn to death...Or whatever..."

Right...he eyed her...Good thinking, Lilah...he gave a kind pat...Returning to the conversation..."Fred, do whatever you have to...But, remember don't expose Anne to daylight...Ok?...Good..." he frowned suddenly...

"Well, tell those lazy demonic bastards that if they still want a free ride on our ticket they'd better be in on this one!...And if they won't help out...They're fired!...Once and for all!!..."

"Ok...Lilah and I will stand by here at the office building...I'll be in touch...And remember, Fred...We are Wolfram-Hart!..."

Gotta love that never-say-the-Apocalypse-will-never-happen spirit...Lilah sighed inwardly...Hope the boys at least make a half-decent effort for his sake...

***

Part XXVI...

"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 XXVI...

LA...The basement room of the former Wolfram-Hart office tower containing the containment cell which had utterly failed to contain Anne, Buffy's fiendishly demonic, if fortunately currently plastered by demonic brew, counterpart...



"So as I'm sure you've already realized, Wesley..." Dawn diplomatically deferring to the team leader as she continued her report, standing by the room's computer workstation...As Wesley, Xander, William, and Andrew look at each other...I thought you just asked her to look up 'demon brew' on the search generator?...Andrew hisses to a shrugging Wes...While Angel stared at the screen...Whoa...Lota big words...Latin...Which I knows from school bak in ole Eireyland...he notes to William... "And if you have a look here...You'll see the confirmation in the biochemical data..." she indicated the Advanced Metaphysics and Biological Applications website page she'd just pulled up...Column two...she helpfully pointed out... "If I may sum up..." Kindly noting the glazed look on the three remaining unaffected team members... "The three likely formulations of the elixir involved here are quite unstable... Inevitably affected in unpredictable ways by any mystic or electromagnetic forces on or about the person of the individual exposed..."

"In my own case...My Key nature is clearly inducing an effect different to that seen in..." she eyes a wobbily William and an Angel desperately trying to follow her lecture and maintain the look of a brooding leader...Difficult as he keeps starting to pass out right after reaching the narrowing of the eyes stage...Not to mention his own wobble... "Our dear gentlemen...and..." she eyes a bleary-eyed blinking Kennedy...Trying to hold her head up...I gotta go home...The Slayer notes to Andrew, sitting beside her, as she had been doing at intervals for the past thirty minutes...

"Our Slayer..." Dawn finishes...

"I wanna go home to Loooong Liland...Cans yous fix it sos I can go home?..." Kennedy stares at Andrew... "I wanna see my ma and ma pa..Hic...And Nana...And Unka Frank...And all da other guys...Hows come I can't go see Ma and Pa and Unka Frank...?"...She takes the nice man's hand...He'd surely help her get home...

Ummn...Xander?...Andrew looks round...Dawn giving a rather narrow stare at Kennedy and her offensive hand after pausing in her presentation...

Hey, Kennedy...Xander sits beside her, patting a hand...She turning to him now...But keeping a grip on Andrew...Dawn's stare turning to full glare...

"I wanna...Hic...Go home..." Kennedy explaines to the other nice...Real nice, she notes, looking him over with a wavering stare...Guy who'd come to help her...Andrew having got his hand free, Dawn dropped glare and requested his assist with a winning smile...

If he wouldn't mind...

"Wanna go home and see my doggie, Mike...Ya wanna see his pica?...Oh, gee...I don't got my picas...I lef 'em back dere..." Kennedy sighed to Xander... "And dere's my fiancee, Nicalous...ummn Nick...He's at home too..." Whoops...Xander stares at Wesley...Fiancee?... "But I don' like him so much now...I like Willa..." she smiles at Xander, leaning to his ear, waving him in for a whisper... "My ma and pa don' know I'm gay..."

But I still miss 'em...She shakes her head sadly...I wanna go home...she starts to tear up...Xander desperately trying another round of patting...

"Well...Dawn..." Wes stares at the computer screen... "It's very nice of you to help us out with this but..."

"Don't be a sexist putz, Wyndham-Price..." she frowns at him, rather peeved by his 'thanks, little Dawnie' air... "Or a Watcher elitist...I know what I'm doing...And you're being foolish if you spurn my help..."

"After all...This is the first solid clue as regards the formulation you or anyone has come up with since the start of this whole sorry affair..." she points out...

Hmmn...She has got me there...Wes sighed to himself...

"Andrew?..." Dawn hastily returned to her courageously noble redeemed hero...Who had not, naturally, being a generous soul of depth and tolerance, displayed any similar disappointing attitude... "Would you mind giving me a hand here?..."

"This computer is so hard for me to shut down properly..." An innocent smile... "Xander can watch our inebriated Slayer..." she notes...



"I miss my Ma...Ooooh! Ma!..." Kennedy burst into tears, head buried in kindly Xander's arm...Who patted her yet again...Anoda por' Slayer girl...William noted to his vamp soul brother... "Des' got such a tough life..." he sighs... "And dey cana..." He pauses, blinking...

Wonder wha' my Ma is doing now?...Angel sadly ponders, watching poor Kennedy sob...Ashamed to go outta her Heavenly place causa me...Her no good son...

Oh, Lord...William thinks...That's it...Cicely was a Slayer...Dat's why...

Andrew clicked the shutdown button with the computer's mouse... "Oh...." Dawn beamed, hand on his arm... "So that's how it's done...I never would've guessed...Oh, thank you, Andy... " she gave him a quick peck on the cheek...As Xander eyed Wes...A glare of his own forming...

"Ma poor lil' Cicely...She was protectin' me..."Will shook his head... "She musta been a Slayer den, Ang'l...Dat's why she said I stunk...She was 'fraid I'd be kilt...Protectin' me..."

Not very well, course...But it's the thought dat counts...He notes to Angel...Who continues to ponder his poor sainted ma's fate...While absently nodding support to his lil' vamp soul brother...

"And this is for all your help with my little accident back there..." Another shy Dawn peck as Andrew blinks, temporarily paralyzed by shock...

"And for all you did to help my sis and us with the First..." She grabs him in a tight embrace...Major lip lock...Andrew stumbling back as she holds on with grip worthy of her Slayer sis...

"Dawn!..." Xander hops up, a dark look at Andrew...Gently moving his arm from the still sobbing homesick Kennedy...As Dawn reluctantly releases her nobly redeemed Prince of a feller...Left standing as wobbily as the two brew-impaired vamp human-soul 'brothers' watching in dropped-jaw shock from the far side of the room...Wes now staring a bit coldly at Andrew as well...

"Just expressing my appreciation for Andy's noble services, Xander...Don't get all brotherly protective..." Dawn stepped back...As Andrew gasped for breath...Though she maintained an unbreakable hand hold on him...Guiding him to a chair by the computer desk...No need for him to go sit back way over there with poor, homesick Ms. Kennedy...Quickly positioning herself to block him from any escape...And to protect him from the glares of her ridiculously overprotective male friends, now including William, dutiful would-be bro-in-law that he was, however currently smashed...

"It's high time someone showed him a little thanks for all he's done for us..." she notes solemnly, patting the object of her affection's back...Take a deep breath, Andy... "Why really, he was the one who saved the world this last time...If he hadn't defied the First in that desperate...Incredibly dangerous...Intelligence mission...In which he first began his road to redemption..." she sighs... "Though without any superhuman abilities..." she proudly notes...As he blinks up at her rather adoring face...

Which like mission he shall never attempt again...So long as I have breath in my body...she thought...Beaming at him...As he eyed the frowning Wes and Xander for help...

William, arms folded...As much to help him keep balance while attempting to stand erect as to intimidate...Narrowly watching the little man who would dare toy with the affections of his beloved lil' Nibs and ...hopefully...future sis...

"B'it erver so dumble...Dere's noooo plas lik home..." Kennedy begins singing mournfully, head buried in her arms on the table behind her chair...Back now to the group...

Dat's da truth...Angel nods to William...Sighing...

Uh-oh...Wes and William eyed each other...An inebriated Irishman thinking sad thoughts of Mother and home...

"I'll....Tak' ya...Home again...Kathleen!..." Angel began mournfully...

"Ya gotta tak' me home, too!..." Kennedy calls...



***

Limbo...Mid Sunday afternoon...

Despite the return of Tara-Dru's soul to assist her, the disembodied soul of Cicely-Buffy was currently having a difficult time of it in encountering, courtesy of her friendly tour guide Angelus, a rather overwhelming number of those she'd sought to meet...The trapped souls of the, mostly unjustly, condemned...

For the major part, innocent trapped souls...With a slight bone or two to pick with the Slayer...Who seemed to be taking her time in getting to their counterparts on Earth...

"You haven't even come after my demon yet, Slayer!...It's been six years since I was taken!..." a young woman's spirit cried to her as Angelus politely paused to let a crowd gather round... "That thing murdered my little girl!..." she mournfully cried... "You let my monster go!...You made a dumb joke and let it go!..." an middle-aged man's head howled... "I saw you...You told your friends...It was all a joke to you!...It killed my wife that night...Goddamn you!..."

"Where have you been, Slayer?!...Why didn't you help me!?..." A howling chorus...Angelus watching contentedly...

"I'm only one person..." Buffy desperately cried to the wall of disembodied faces... "I did what I could...Please..."

"She saved the world...Many times...All your families!..." Tara-Dru called out, her face fluctuating between its two forms... "She did all she could...She's here to do more if she can!..." Drowned out in the sea of cries...Some mournful, many angry...More and more drawn in...

"Life is but a dream...Dee-dee-dee-dee-dee-da-da-dee-dee-dah-dah-dah...Life but a dream...Life is but a dream with you, oh yes..." Angelus happily hummed as he watched...All going as well as he and his Hell masters could have hoped...

"Please!...Please...I!..." Buffy's spirit was lost among the multitudes of the tormented...Desperate all for someone to blame, accuse for their unending nightmare...

"Mrs. Walthrop...I've been trapped here since 1877!..." an elderly woman's head, followed by others in nineteenth century dress, now joined in... "I've done no wrong...Why am I here?...Why did you abandon us?..."

"Did you know Ms. Summers/Mrs. Walthrop has friends who can restore her to Earth?..." Angelus quietly asked a soul passing on its way to join the crowd... "No indefinite stay for her...This is just a little sightseeing before she goes back..." he noted as the soul, a young girl killed by one of Harmony's minions in 2002 shrieked in rage...Spreading the word to her fellow sufferers...

"Life is but a crazy dream...Oh, yes..."

***

Sunday afternoon...

LA...Doublemeat Palace...#10002...Pulsating new nerve center of Wolfram-Hart, Inc...

"Our men...And the demonic equivalent thereof..." Chester, one of the two demons who'd planted the demonic brew at Angel's the previous night, was reporting in to his (mostly) human masters at their booth in back... "Are in position to intercept the Council Chairman and his friends when they get to town..."

Great...Fred the depressed VP nodded...Without enthusiasm...

"But lets make that... 'Try and intercept' in the final report...Ok?..."

God what a schlep to be leading us in this one...Chester frowned, annoyed...Angel at his most broody would be more encouraging...

***

Part XXVII...

"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 XXVII...

Downtown LA, five blocks from the former Wolfram-Hart tower, mid-afternoon...

"Cana I roll the winda down, Gil's...?" Willow asks, sitting on his passenger's side... "I don' feel sa gud..." she moans...

"No, Willow...I can't let you, I'm sorry...Remember Anne, Harmony, and Drusilla...Light would destroy them...Try the aspirin in the glove compartment..."

Ri', ri'...she nods...

"I'm so sorry to inconvenience you, Miss Rosenberg..." Dru sighs... "Is there anything I can do?.."

Nah...Thanka, Dru...she waves a hand..."Jus' kep a watch on ole Annie..."

"Mr. Chairman!..." Brenda, looking forward, cries... Yes, I see it...Giles nods...Slowing as he nears the "police" blockade and the two "policemen" manning...Actually men, two former Wolfram-Hart department heads, in fact...

Despite his lack of enthusiasm for the mission, W-H VP Fred had done what he could to enhance the chance of success in his interception operation...

The "cops" wave for them to stop...Giles cautiously pulls to a halt, checking all sides and calling on his Slayers and Miss Drusilla to do likewise...

"Sir...I sense..." Dru begins..A tense look...

A pound at the side door...OH!...Brenda and Drusilla shriek, as a large, gnarled demon glaresat them from the side window...Ummn...Giles sighs, swinging the car as much as he could to the side...So much for my brand new car...My first in ages...

Well, thank God for insurance and the Council's low deductible...He starts backing away...

"Stop, Mr. Giles!..." Allyson cries...He sees the large car and demon emerging from it behind them...

Oh!...Brenda falls on the unconscious Anne and Harmony...Allyson and Dru held by their belts, give respective yelps...Sorry, ladies!..Giles calls...

Ooooh...Willow moans...Head reeling...She blinks, looking out the side at several humans and a demon approaching her door...

"I'll tak' car' 'em, Gil's..." Willow insists...Lemme at 'em...



"I's strong...I's puwerful..."

"You are drunken..." Giles frowns...

"No way..." she shakes a wobbly head...Oooooh...she puts a hand to her throbbing noggin...Wher'd the waves cum from...? Her eyes rolling up...Not...Feelin'...Sa...Burrrrrr...Buhhhhh...

Splash...

Sor'...she sheepishly looks at Allyson, Brenda, and Dru...

Another heavy pound startles them...At the rear door now...Giles jerks the car forward the few feet left to him...A howl as the demon behind who'd just lept on the rear door falls off...

A howl which becomes a hideous screech of pain as Giles slams the car back into him...

Still blocked by its car just beyond,however...He turns his attention to the group approaching from the front...Brace yourselves, ladies!...he calls, revving the engine and slamming into the demon moving on Willow's door...

Arrrrrgggh!!...Outside, poor Chester lets out an agonized cry...Chet!...his pal Sidney screams from his assault position...You bastards!!...he charges...

"Re'l sor'..." Willow pulls her head up...uuuuuhhh....Covering her eyes...

Don'...Move...Anne whispered to Brenda...Surreptiously holding an arm as the Slayer, dazed, started to rise from her current perch atop the vampiress, Anne's head and the Slayer's bitten arm hidden from the others' currently distracted view...Don't lo'kat me...Gud girl...She patted the arm...Keeping her body still...As Brenda stopped in place, staring wanly at the others...

"Not at all, Miss Rosenberg...This may actually help you overcome your condition..." Dru tells her kindly...Passing a rag she'd spotted on the floor... "Just don't let either of the Slayers come into contact with...That..." she eyes the mess on Giles' van's floor and returns to scanning outside...Courtesy UV-screening windows...

The mess...On Giles' brand new van's floor...Willow sighs...

"Gil's...?...Real sor'..."

"That's all right, my dear...The rug is scotch-guarded...And Drusilla is quite right...It may help you...But ladies, she is also right in saying you should avoid contact..." he calls...As he craned his head, looking for some way out...

Crash!...A large, spike-like boney horn, crashes through the roof as the car rocks violently...Allyson smashing at the demon horn as Dru screams... "Sir!!...Over there!..." she points at the two "policemen" who were now pulling what look like very authentic guns....Uuuuuuhh... Buuuuuu....Willow desperately covers...Too late...

"Sor..." Hmmn..Fe'ls a lil' betta...

"Out!!..." The two "cops" bang at Willow's door, demanding surrender, as Sid the demon hastily retracts his rather-more-sensitive-to-pain-than-might-have-been-expected hunting spike from Giles' van's roof...

"I gotsit Gil's..." Willow calls... "Watch out, Dru..." she opens her door in the path of one of the two armed men...One shouting to her...

"No, Willow!!...Brenda, Drusilla...Stop her!..." Dru gamely risking serious third degree burns as she grabs for the wiccan...As Brenda stares, a bit out of it yet...Anne and Harmony beside her remaining apparently even deader to the world than usual..."S'all ri' I got it...!" Willow cries, as she stumbles and falls out of the car...

"Get back, Drusilla!..." Giles calls sternly as the vampiress attempted to continue her efforts, now turning to her own side door...The irony of the situation striking him even as he did so... "Allyson!..." Allyson putting a gently restraining arm on Dru as the fallen Willow shoves her door back...



"Dere!..." she hops to her feet in front of the cops... "Tak' dat!..." a wave...The prewarned "cops" and the other humans...Never pays to let senior executive staff handle field operations Fred reflected as he watches from a safe distance...Well aware of Ms. Rosenberg's formidable rep...Backing off...

Flower petals fell round the group as Willow and her opponents stare...Hmmn...

Ummn...

"Jesus, you clods!...Get her!!..." Sidney takes charge, waving his still-throbbing extended spike from his vanrooftop perch...Glaring at his mates...the damn gutless little human...Which a sudden lurch forward by Giles now shook the demon from...Arrrrrhhhh!....

Say...A newly arrived Joseph beams at the heroic demon rallying the troops from his dangerous position atop...Well, now beside...The Chairman's car...Quite a spirit in that one...He notes as Sid rose, calling for a renewed attack...

"Who is that guy, Lilah?..." he hissed as they watched from a safe observation point across the street... "We could use some new blood in middle-management...If he lives..."

A battered Chester dazedly coming to his feet in the rear...For his part about ready to concede yet another defeat...

"Bac'!!..." Willow waves arms again...A somewhat more effective wall of fire throwing the W-Hers into something of a panic...At least the humans and some of the demons, brave Sidney yet attempting to hold his post to the last...Fortunately a tad more heat-resistant than some of his comrades...

"Fall back!..." Fred calls from his command post...Even Sid taking the best part of valor as Willow fires up a second wave of flame...

Aw, crap...Joseph shakes his head...Not again...Where the hell are our magics guys?!...Or at least our fire safety staff?...

"Laidoff..." Lilah reminded him...Ah, right...he sighed...As Giles swung the van around, Allyson ready to open the side door...

But a dander-raised, inebriated Willow was not about ready to make a speedy exit...And charged the retreating Wolfram-Hart forces...Pursuing them with the magics equivalent of a stun-gun, a charged ball of energy...

Kinda based on what I got of Dawnie's old composition, that time I nearly discharged her, she thought, rather pleased...

But unfortunately burning her little store of recovered power down rather quickly...

"We'll have to swing back and pick her up...I can't follow her down that alley!..." Giles called to the others, turning again and moving back down the street...A quick turn and clear...

"All right..." he sighed... "I think we should be safe now...We'll catch up with Willow in a moment..."

"Don' be soo...sure bout dat...!" Anne hopped up, grabbing Brenda tightly...Who let out a whimper but was barely resistant in her grip...

"Anne!..." Giles whirled...Stopping the car with a squeal...

"Dat's me..." she grinned...Stopit...She shook the feebly struggling girl in her grip...Dru and Allyson turning to face her...

"Let her go Anne...Now!....Or Dru and Allyson here will destroy you..." the Watcher told her grimly...

"We will do it, Anne...All we need do is open the door here...Let the poor child go..." Dru called...

"Dis ain't a game, Gil's..." Anne snarled...Biting Brenda in the neck as the Slayer screamed...



"Oh...Lord..." she moaned... "No wonda ma Spikey goes for Slayers...Whoa..." she pulled away from Brenda's bleeding neck...Giving Giles a cold stare that for all her drunken staggering sent a chill to his bones...Drusilla resolutely waiting by Allyson, quite aware of her likely fate if Giles went for extreme prejudice in dealing with Anne...Sir?...both eyeing the Chairman...

"Don' Gil's..." Anne hauled the now-unconscious Brenda on her feet as she rose, her head bent to avoid the low ceiling... "She's still breathin' but I's can turn her fore Dru and that one kil me...And you can't be sur...Hic...You'll los' Buf too..."

"You know I can do it..." she held Brenda close... "Just a few drops outta me and ya got two Slayer vamps to fight...Or four roasted vamps...Tell 'em bak off..."

Wait, ladies...He waved Dru and Allyson back...

"Dat's betta...Ok..."

"Look at me, Anne..." Dru tried, staring at her... "Be in my eyes..."

"Screw ya, ya Willum-murderin' traitrus bitch..." Anne waved a hand...Keeping Brenda firmly in the other... "I tole ya it don' work on me..." She gave an angry stare back...Hows you lik' it, ya creepy nut...?

"Sorry, Mr. Giles..." Dru sighed... "I'm afraid she's right..."

"...'Sor' Mista Giles'..." Anne mimicked, sneering... "Ya stinkin' Benny Artie...er Arny..."

And I made you my lieutenant...First off...she sighed...Stinking Benedict Arnold...she shook her head...Whoa...She covered her mouth as her stomach did flip-flops...Still don' feel sa gud...

"Guess we gotta standup...er off..." she noted...

A knock at the door...Geesh, wha da hell?!...she cried... "Whos' it?...I'm bus' here...If ya sellin' somethin' come back tanight...I's be waitin'..."

"Anne!!?..." Harmony woozily called from the floor... "Wuz urrrrrrrrpppp (Cuse, she gave a nervous blush, as she tried to sit up and take in the strategic situation...) up...?"

"Ms. Summers?..." Joseph called from outside... "We've come to offer our assistance...I am Joseph, senior director of Wolfram-Hart...We have Miss Rosenberg..."

***

Limbo...

The crowd of spirits...Many angered, most desperately seeking any help possible, others lost in despair but drawn to the faint hope and comfort offered by a clustering...continued to swell around Buffy, Tara-Dru, and their rather content tour guide, the demon essence Angelus...

"Angelus...Tell the First...Or whoever your current master is..." Tara-Dru waved a hand as he began a faint protest...Hell, I'm certainly not working for that feeble-brained lunatic, he thought sulking..."That it won't work...Buffy is not gonna be driven to despair now...Not when she's on the verge of..."

"Letting her demon kill everyone she loves...Including your victim...Poor, sad ole William...?" he grinned...

The pain on poor Dru's face making the pain he now felt as Tara-Dru shocked him...Almost...Worthwhile...

Buffy now slipping again into Cicely form stared at the multitudes crying out to her...Many calling her by name...Pleading...Insistent...Angry...Hopeless...



"I've done what I could!..." she cried back to them... "All I knew to do...Please..."

"Angelus...Enough..." a voice called...A face forming out of the mist... "You've no right to be here...And certainly no privileges earned to do so..."

"No one tells Angelus..." Angelus began...Then stared at the face...Ummn...

"I'll be happy to add what I can to Miss Drusilla's strength if you'd like..." the face, that of a dark, handsome young man smiled...

"This is neutral ground...She took her chances, came here by her own choice..." the demon eyed Buffy's floating face...A bit less strained now, thanks to the momentary release of pressure, but still...

The other spirits still crowding, more and more attracted in, clamoring for justice...Demanding salvation...

"They're just confused, Ms. Walthrop...Lost and alone...And afraid it may last forever..."

Easy prey for your kind...he glared at Angelus...

Our kind, friend...Angelus sneered back...

"We both seek to sway these poor folks to our respective causes..."

"Perhaps you're right..." the man nodded... "But lets see what they say to my case..."

"Friends..." he called out to the shifting clouds of faces... "Listen to me...The Slayer is not to blame for your fates..."

"Please, friends...You mustn't despair...Your times will come...Soon...The day of the vampires is drawing to a close now that the Slayers have been distributed throughout the world..." he called... "Ms. Summers and her earlier self have made that possible...She has done what no other Slayer could...Broken the endless cycle..." The group stared at him...

"You know me...I've been here many times to offer you comfort since I myself was freed...And I am not lying to you...You know more and more of us are freed each instant...Look..." he pointed as the face of the young girl Angelus had incited against Buffy suddenly vanished... "You see...Our current sufferings are only a moment in Eternity...And that moment is ending...Don't give in to despair...That's the only victory the Evil can ever win..." The crowd began to disperse...

"Thank you..." Tara-Dru's Dru face stared at the stranger...I think I...should know him...she thought...

Yeah...Buffy eyed his floating face... "That was getting a bit...Much..." she sighed... "I was pretty near freaking there..."

"But it was what you wanted to face...To learn the truth of what happened to those poor souls so horribly taken...No matter what the cost...And you'd guessed that cost might be high...Might even involve the risk of your being trapped here, after fighting so long to find and save your poor William...Yet you came...You truly are the most courageous and loving of the Slayers, Mrs. Walthrop..." he beamed...

"You aren't?...Ummn...You know..." Buffy eyed him... Oh, no...He waved a misty hand...Not Him/Her...But thanks for the honor of the thought, he shook his head, grinning...Just a former victim, as I said...he smiled...

"Freed by your efforts, in fact..."

Oh...? Sorry I don't...she began...He put up a hand... "You don't know me, of course, Slayer...You've never seen me..." the handsome man smiled gently... "But I know the woman who freed me at last..."

"I am Heinrich Nast...Counterpart of him you knew...Both as Buffy Summers and as Cicely Addams as... 'the Master...'..."

"Author...To my sorrow...Of much of the sufferings of you and your poor husband..."he sighed...

***

LA, the new offices of Angel, Wyndham-Price, Gunn, and Walthrop...

Sunday afternoon...

With things apparently well in hand regards Anne...And Dawn in a mood on some levels rendered somewhat more tolerant of romantic misadventure...William had managed to tell the story of the day's bizarre events...As best he could in his current conditions...

"A bit hard to believe that Buffy could have been so foolish..." Dawn sighed...Yet...She eyed Andrew...Dear, sweet, lovable Andrew...

One could see the possibly of love turning one's head under certain circumstances, she noted to them ...What with William's restoration, the powerful effects of the demonic brew, and Buffy's guilt over her previous treatment of her lover...Yes...She smiled at Andrew...Who needed only a little encouragement and enthusiastic support from a deeply loving companion of any gender to keep him permanently on the side of Light...

"I suppose Love can make one do things that others might call...Foolish..." she gave William a reasonably kind smile...

Xander now giving her a careful look...And Andrew a rather stern one...Andy, if you take the slightest advantage of this...His look to him clearly saying...

A look matched by that of Wes, William, and Angel...Though the countering gaze Dawn returned to them as she sat by her dear, unfairly put upon Andrew, was quite equal to the challenge...

Ni' one...Will noted to Angel in a whisper...Nibs'd make a great baddie herself someti'...

***

Part XXVIII...

"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 XXVIII...

***

LA downtown...Sunday afternoon...

With three demons, including the heroic Sidney and his somewhat battered friend Chester, riding atop the roof of his van, Giles was reluctantly following Joseph's car towards the new Wolfram-Hart nerve center at Doublemeat Palace #10002...A rather drained and demonic brew-smashed Willow a prisoner of the W-Hers outside while inside the car a wobbly Harmony watched over the Anne-enthralled Slayer, Brenda...Drusilla and Slayer Allyson carefully awaiting any opportunities to overcome the two vampiresses...

Anne savoring her triumph with appropriate queenly dignity...

"Haaaaahhhh!...Gotcha, Giles!...Ya, ya, ya!...Thought ya wuz bein' sooooooo smar' ketchin' onta me?...Well...Shoooowwws yu...!" she waved a fist...Oooh...Nearly thrown off balance...

Hey...? she poked the new Chairman on the shoulder...Do not do that while I'm driving...he noted coldly without looking back...Ummn...Sor' Gil's...she instinctively and sheepishly apologized..."But how'dya know anyways?...Wusn't Ia gud Buf?..."

"You were starting to smolder on my doorstep..." he looked back at her briefly...

Oooh... "But I wuz a gud Buf, ri'?...Lotsa class...?" So innocently genuine that he couldn't help nodding, thankful that the road was keeping his attention focused...Thanka, she beamed contentedly...

"Did ya notice ma new suit?..." she began... "Gotit on special fer..."

"Sayyys, Annie...?" Harm looked over...Indicating the wan-looking Brenda seated on the floor in front of her... "Yeah wha' is it Harm...Cancha see I'm busy negot...neg...Makin' a deal with Gilesy?..."

"Annie?... Cans I hafva leeetle bite?...Slayers is real good br'in fud...Spike, ya know he wuz alwas sooo smart and soph...sofa...Realll smar'..." Anne frowning...

"Anne...If Brenda is harmed further..." Giles looked back quickly...

"Yes, Anne...Please, you must stop or I will have to take action...Harmony, I believe I have some blood left over in my purse..." Dru helpfully chimed in, pulling her bag from side to front and opening...Ah, yes...

"Leave her 'lone, Harm...Not cause of dem, ya know..." Anne waved at the others... "Cause I ain't afraida nobody... But I made a deal and the quean sticks ta her deals like gluk..."

"Glue?..." Allyson suggested... "No, dear...Anne means gluk...It's a very sticky secretion many demons void from cheek pouches, used for trapping prey and quite powerful..." Dru explained...

Hey!...Anne grabbed at Harmony...

"I tole ya no Slay'r fur ya!...Whadaya doin'?...Tryin' ta mak da Queen look bad to my Gilesy?..." she raged at Harm as her lieutenant tried to snatch an unauthorized dinner...Anne pulling the Slayer back while slapping Harmony hard on the jaw...OW!!!...she howled...

"Anne, please..." Dru eyed her... "There's no need to hurt poor Harmony...Here, dear..." she waved a half-full blood bag just removed from her purse...And tossed it gently...Harm barely making the catch...Whoa...

"Hey, watchit...Dis ma Watcha's new car..." Anne, annoyed... "Neat car, Gil'sy..." she noted...

***

LA, the offices of Angel, Wyndham-Price, Gunn, and Walthrop...

"We gotta go find my poor lil' ded Buf-girl..." William was insisting as the group debated...To the extent still possible for those inebriated-by-brew members...The next course of action, Giles' and the others' arrival with a captive Anne being overdue and the new Chairman being currently unreachable on cell phone...

Clearly something was wrong, Wesley, Xander, and Andrew...The only unaffected members of the combined team...Had agreed...Backed by the bizarrely affected but apparently quite capable Dawn...Their opinion accepted by the less currently capable members...Particularly the quite-willing-to-accept-a-disasterous-outcome-, depressed and guilt-ridden William...

However, though depressed and guilt-ridden he might be, he'd no intention of abandoning the field to his beloved's counterpart...It was just...Hell, every time they'd been en route to the finish line, some damned thing seemed to knock them right back to start...Ever since 1880, if it was true and his Buffy was the very same Cicely he'd lost...And now, thanks to his foolishly accepting the crucial role in her insane plan...Well, once again a bright idea by his beloved had landed them in a fine mess, he thought...

Still each time it had been with the best of loving intentions, he now realized...In 1880, she'd clearly been trying to save him in no small cost in heartbreak by driving him off, and had never anticipated a conspiracy against them, including Drusilla's involvement...In 2003, she'd risked Anne's triumph to share his suffering and bring them fully together at last, and if this one was looking more and more as incredibly a stupid notion as Cicely's 1880 scheme, it likewise had been done with the greatest of love and devotion...And, after all, as Angel had continued to point out, if they could keep their end up...And somehow get the damned stuff out of Willow so she could work her mojo properly when she and the others finally showed...Everything ought to work out...

Though given the way things had been "working out" for him the last century or so...

Oh, well...What's a century or two compared to the Eternity they had?...And Anne did seem to love him as Spike had come to love Buffy...Sooner or later she be sure to come for him, he'd get her back in his sights and have his Buffy-given chance to play hero yet again...Just had to keep one's end up...

Though it wouldn't hurt to be able to keep one's head up...

"I think William is right..." Dawn pondered... "It's clear Giles and the others have met with some problem...We might be better off to have a few of us go and seek them rather than wait for whatever inevitable effort Anne and any allies she's gathered make...If nothing serious is wrong it can't hurt and if disaster has occurred, the rest of us'll be in position to retrieve the situation..."

Identical annoyed expressions on both the former and current LA team leaders...Though an expression harder for Angel to maintain just now...

Andrew?...she turned to him with a beaming smile... "I think it would be best if you and I...Alone..."

"Dawn..." Xander frowned...A hard glare at the bewildered Andy...

"What?...Xander, I simply mean that no one would suspect us...Two harmless innocents out for a Sunday stroll?...Excepting Anne and any one we know she might have turned of course..."

And even she would never suspect that I've become something of a match for her...she beamed...

"At least on the intellectual scale..." Not that sis was ever all that much of a challenge that way...she did not say...

"Dawn...I think it would be too dangerous..." Wes began... "No wa' Nibs'..." Will agreed...Buf'd kill me fer sure even if Willa don'...he noted to Angel, who nodded carefully, managing to avoid keeling over...Uhnnn...Dat brew ain' sittin' so well...

"Nonsense..." she waved a hand at Wes... "We have access to the Wolfram-Hart vaults...Surely between what's available in there and the lack of caution Anne will display towards little Dawn..." she smiled...

"And if we've lost Willow?...And Giles...?"

"If we'd lost the Chairman...And Willow...The more or less permanent way...We'd be under attack right now, even if the demon wouldn't retain her power...Our best move is as I've outlined..." she stared at him, arms folded...Wesley staring back...Actually, all things considered he thought...

"Lemme go..." Will insisted... "Just gimme an overcoat and I'll get Annie and Willow..."

Lessgo...Angel nodded...Looking round for the nearest exit...And maybe some place to rest his rebellious tummy...Ohhh...After the heroics, of course...

"No, William...Angel...You'd be too vulnerable out there without some more effective kind of anti-daylight protection than a couple of coats..." Wes noted...Not to mention some protection from stumbling round like a couple of moronically drunken...he did not say... "We'd lose you as well as Buffy and we'd be helpless..."

"Dawn's plan may be the best one, actually...Though I think it will work quite well if Xander and I go..."

Hmmn...Dawn frowned...As did the vamp boys...Kennedy somewhat more concerned for the moment with her overdue Willa and her hoped-for return to Loooong Island...

"We're unaffected by the demon brew...I'm perfectly capable of working any magics we can root out here...And it's my responsibility...Xander?...If you're willing...?" Xander nodding back...

"Well..." Dawn sighed...An innocent look... "I suppose you're right, Wesley...And you are in charge so we must defer to your judgement...You will keep in contact with us in case we uncover any thing useful after you head out, right?..." He nodded...Well, perhaps in her case that brew did provide a little common sense...

Her manners are certainly much improved...

"In that case, Andy and I...And William...And Xander..." she eyed the frowning Xander and equally frowning, if wobbily Will... "Should head for the occult materials vaults and start reviewing what might be on hand...You should check via the computer here, plan your route, and Angel and Kennedy can keep watch here in case Anne returns unguarded with or without allies..."

If that's acceptable to you, of course...she smiled gently at Wes...Hmmn...Well, if Xander's with them...And it would allow me a few unbothered minutes to check the archives the quick way...

"All right..." he eyed her... "But Dawn...You and Andrew promise me you'll follow Xander's orders and not fool around with anything you find down there?...And Will, you'll watch out for them...?" She nodded...Of course, Wesley...Offered another winning smile, then gave William a quick glance...Hmmn...Drunken as he was he could still take a cue when given...

"No...hic-hic...Prob..." he nodded solemnly...Staring back at Dawn...Well, well...

Might be there is a place at the family table for me at that, the thought struck him...

***

LA...Doublemeat Palace franchise #10002...

At last...Joseph sighed with contentment as he entered the new W-H HQ, following on the heels of his prisoners and Evil's new Queen...We've finally managed to pull one off...

Ok, so it was the Slayer's idiotic idea to get closer to her vamp beloved...But still...Evil has won!...Well, is on the verge of winning...a major triumph...The permanent conversion of one of Light's greatest to our team...Hah!...

And all due to the Power of Love...he sneered contentedly to himself...And then aloud to Lilah...Who was clearly less certain of the decisiveness of Evil's victory...Lets not count the chickens, boss...Her sour expression saying...

"Get those curtains in place there!..." he called to Fred and several other former top execs... "You want to lose Evil's greatest asset the first day?..." he beamed at Anne in her overcoat and hat...Thoughtfully provided by him...As she smiled back...Kinda nice ta be 'preciated...she noted to him...As he gave a gallant nod...Lilah standing by him, a bit put-out...

Not that she was by any means anything so ridiculous as...Even faintly...Jealous...Of the new female star player...

Just...Joseph didn't have to make all that big a fuss...The thing hadn't even agreed to sign on to the team yet...She might still be quite contentedly planning to eliminate them as well as her moronic friends...

"Well...Chairman Rupert Giles of the Watchers' Council..." Joseph leered as the prisoners were brought along... "The pathetic new Council I should say...Now at the feet of the victorious legions of Wolfram-Hart, Inc..."

Anne glared a bit...Hey...

Only the Queen leers like that at old friends' expense...

"Hardly your feet, sir..." Giles frowned, halted by the guards as chairs, rope, and chain were brought, Dru and Slayer Allyson receiving top priority, naturally...Willow next to him, fuming as best she could in her current state...Jes lemme get it up a lil' bit...I'll wip' dat face off baldy's Charlie Brown's head...Lit'rally...Wan Brenda beside her, staring rather blankly...

"I take it you are one of the senior partners?..." the Chairman eyed the little death's-headed figure, strutting now like a proud Napoleon of Evil...

"Yes, indeed, Mr. Chairman...I am Joseph...Senior director of the Wolfram-Hart firm...And orchestrator of today's little party...With our dear Anne's essential assistance..." he waved a generous hand at the evermore frowning Anne...Demon or no...Nobody talks dat way to ma Watcha...Gettin' ta not lik' dis pushy lil' creep real quick she thought...

"Anne...Who's the chromy-dome guy?..." Lieutenant Harmony, dutifully staggering at her leader's side, hissed to her... "And whens we gonna see Xanda?..." Shetup...Anne hissed back...And keepa...hic... lookout...Fer my backside... Ri'...Harm nodded...Dutifully checking the rear with a glance that nearly toppled her over...

"And our own dear little Drusilla..." Joseph turned to the now well-secured Dru...Who eyed he-who-was- clearly-Chief-Instrument-of-Satan coldly...

"Sir...I am no longer your fiend-like...Well, actually all fiend..." she sighed... "...Drusilla...I have been cleansed and restored to the service of God and the Blessed Virgin...Do not look for assistance from me, however dark my demonic essence may have been..." she told him solemnly...

Hmmn...he blinked...Definitely not the Drusilla he knew...

"Ah..." Anne waved a hand... "She's crazy...Dat one...Musta got a soul or somethin' when she got drunk..."

Drunk?...he eyed her...Hmmn...He looked over to his former VP-in-charge of science and metaphysics development...Who sighed...Yeah...It could've had that kind of effect...he nodded...

"It was an unstable formulation...We warned you it might have unpredictable side effects, sir..." he noted...Especially where we no longer had a testing facility...he sighed...

Mmmn...Joseph frowned...Still, he eyed Dru's calm and composed face...She is at least behaving rationally...Maybe we could find a way to get the stuff to bring our Dru back minus the insanity...Whoa?!...

"She doesn't have her soul back by any chance?...The brew couldn't do that right?..."

Not possible...the VP nodded...This is some kind of bizarre depressant effect on her demon...

"God's mercy, sir...That is the best explanation..." Dru proudly noted... "I am only grateful He has sought to offer me this chance to redeem myself and make this foul instrument of Evil a tool of His purposes...Perhaps even allowing me a chance to die in His service..."

"Geesh..." Anne glared... "You guys did dis ta her...?...Wha' buncha morons..."

"My dear Anne..." Joseph eyed her coolly... "It was our demonic brew that led your counterpart to destruction...Our brew...And, of course..." he chuckled... "True Love..."

"What a pity dear Halfreck did not survive to witness the final triumph of all her efforts to destroy the Walthrops..." he leered...

"Hal...F-ing...Freck?!!..." Anne howled, startling him... "If dat no gud demmen bitch wuz here...Live...I'd let her haf it so bad!!...If she's ya friend...!" eyes narrowed...Ohhh...Widened quickly...

Ummn...Why...Ummn...Joseph nervously blinked...

Giles eyed Dru, then Allyson, now chained and under heavy guard...Well, heavy as the battered W-H could currently afford...Near the still-dazed Brenda...

"But...My dear girl..." Joseph looked at his new ally... "Halfreck made your final triumph possible...If she hadn't arranged for our dear Dru..." Drusilla looked down, shame-faced...

"You..." Anne glared... "Yous guys were in on ma Willy's murda?!!..."

I mean...she noted, calming a moment...Ok...It kinda worked out fer me...But still...Even the demon counterpart of the Missus can't take hubby's murder and eternal condemnation lying down...

Ummn...Boss...Lilah nudged him...I don't think she likes the husband-killing part...Demon or no...

"Ummn...Well...We profited by it...Just as you now have..." Joseph noted...But hastily added... "But it was your former Watcher's and Lord D'Hoffryn's scheme...Not ours..."

She continued a cold glare that somehow cut through her dazed drunkenness and left him feeling a bit wishing perhaps he'd thought this one over a leetle more carefully...And wishing he'd not had to lay off quite so much of his former demon and magics "muscle"...As he looked round at his sadly depleted ranks...Hmmn...

"Your old Watcher Simon Farris is condemned in Hell...We could offer you a chance to witness his torments...Even choose some..." he hopefully suggested... Oh, yeah...? she eyed him coldly...Wouldn't mind dat...she nodded...

"And we might even be able to help you regards action against Lord D'Hoffryn...He's not a favored client of ours...Much too independent for our tastes..."

Uh-huh...she looked round the now carefully curtained...And temporarily closed...Doublemeat franchise...

"Well...Yous guys ain't looking lik' yas could do D-H in jes ri' now...Hic...(Cuse)...I gotta tell ya..."

"Jes...Er...Just a temporary cash-flow problem..." Joseph beamed... "Soon to be rectified, I assure you..."

"Yeah?...Well dat's good... 'Cause if we're gonna do business, I gotta tell ya, I'm high main...maynet... (Maintenance?...Lilah suggested silkily... "Yeah.." .Anne darkly glaring back...Smar' ass type, eh?...)..."

"You can rest assured, my dear, that Wolfram-Hart takes proper care of its clients..." Joseph confidently beamed...

Uh-huh...she frowned, swaying a bit...That is one powerful brew, Lilah thought... "I gotta sit down a mo..." A chair for our friend...Joseph impatiently waved to one of the remaining demons...Thanka...Anne nodded, regally taking a seat...

" 'Cuse me..." Harm waved a hand... "Is Xanda round here?...I wanna say....Hic...Hi..."

"Your Xander is in deadly danger, Harmony..." Dru gallantly tried... "These people will not hesitate to kill him...And not your way...He will lost to you..."

Oh?...Harmony eyed Anne...Who frowned from her new throne, waving a hand...Eh... "Nobody's gonna do nuting to Xanda...Less I says..." she insisted...

"Of course..." Joseph ingratiatingly nodded...A gleaming smile...Which, on his death's-head face rather unnerved Harmony...She backed away towards the heavily chained and seated Drusilla...Don't be frightened, dear...she soothingly whispered...Giles eyeing her carefully again...Hmmn...

On second thought...

"Anne..." Giles spoke up... "If you remember anything of Buffy, you know these Wolfram-Hart people are Angel's opponents...Not to be trusted under any circumstances...Even by you..."

Hey...Joseph glared... I resent that...After all the effort I've been making on Anne's behalf this day...he thought... "My dear Anne...We are your natural allies...Dedicated to the cause of Evil..."

Verrry bad?...Harmony looked at Dru...Very bad...Dru whispered, nodding...And quite willing to kill you as well as poor Xander...Before you can...

"Harmy...Ya gets over here...!..." Anne called, pointing...Frowning at Dru...Whas she up to, anyhow?...Eyes briefly narrowing...Ohhh...Noso good with the eyes small...She put a hand to her mouth...

"I gotta sit down too..." Harmony noted to one of the former W-H VPs...Staggering now...As the VP helped her to a booth seat...A somewhat less nauseous Anne frowning slightly but graciously tolerating the breech in royal protocol by her second...

"Evil...Shmevil..." Anne waved a hand, returning to Joseph... "I cares bout Annie...And dat's dat..."

Great...Joseph sighed inwardly...Another Spike...Utterly self-absorbed...No regard for the big picture...The common cause...Geesh...Even Angelus gave the Apocalypse a decent shot...But he maintained a game expression... "Well...In that case all the more reason to place your faith in us, my girl...We of W-H, Inc take self-interest as our clients' middle names..."

Uh-huh...the new Queen of the Damned eyed him coldly...

This negotiation is not going quite as smoothly as hoped...The watching W-H staff, including an increasingly concerned Lilah noted...As did Giles, Drusilla, and Allyson...Willow rather engaged in trying to keep her eyes open...

Zzzz...Harmony noted...Her head now laying on the booth table....

"Waits a mo..." Anne stared at Joseph, the long-delayed conclusion suddenly hitting her... "I drunk dat stuf too...Ya sayin' it's wha knocked me fer a loop?..."

Ummn...Not intentionally...he gave a nervous beam... "It's just...Buffy drank it...And while that was to your and our benefit...The effect..."

"Ya damn lil' basta'...!" the new Queen raged in imperial wrath, rising from her chair... "Ya poisonin' me?..." A trace of real fear in there, Giles noted...

Ummn...No...Certainly not...Joseph tried...Ummn...

"Look at Harmony, Anne..." Giles moved to take advantage of the opening... "She's ill and you've been getting worse...The Wolfram-Hart people want you dead as much as Buffy...They're simply using you..."

Hmmn...Anne pondered the situation...On da one hand...Gilesy wud nefer lie to Buf...Well, ok...He wud...Lik' when he tried ta kil...Hmmn...A new focus for her rage...

"You tried ta kil Willum...!" she pointed at the Chairman, rope-bound in his chair next to Willow and the others... "Tink Im dum?...Im gonna listen ta ya, ri'?...Yeah..." she sneered... "Ya wants me dead and hellybund sos ya lil' Buf....fy..." an attempt at a sweet Buffy look... "...can cum bak...I knows...Yeah..." she waved a hand...

But...On the other hand...Wudn't trust baldy and co as far as I can toss 'em...Though I can toss 'em prudy far...

She eyed her prisoners, then the rather nervous Wolfram-Hart staff...A blinking Harmony now trying to lift her head off the table...Ohhhh...

***

Limbo...

"No, Cicely...No..." Nast's spirit shook its disembodied head... "It was you who took the first step outside the box...When you sacrificed everything for love of William...As you just did again, Ms. Summers...You began the process that broke the chain...The First's last effort was an act of despair...She knew the game was practically over when you returned yet again to save Will..."

"But I was selfish...I..."

"You transcended your role, Buffy...No Slayer before you ever did more than what was expected of her...They did their duty and freed a certain number of us...Kept the balance and held the Evil in check...But no more than that..."

"It was you who insisted there were more important things than maintaining the balance of power...Refused to accept the limitations imposed on you...Fought to live a full life...To love and be loved no matter what the cost...And that is what the First and those others who maintained this hideous stand-off feared most...A Slayer whose compassion would never let her be satisfied with that...That would lead her to seek to rescue her beloved...And eventually, all of us..."

"Those others?...The Powers That Be?...Are they?..." she morphed back into Buffy's face... "Is God?...Responsible for...This?..." she looked out on the sea of suffering souls, still dispersing...

"Other masters of Hell...And yes, some of those even of Light who feared disruption of the balance have been content solely to maintain it...Even the Powers That Be can fear change...As for God?..." Nast shrugged his misty head... "I wish I knew...Only He/She knows Its intentions...Some day perhaps they'll be revealed..."

But as a loyal son of the Church I can hope that God had something to do with your triumphs...he smiled...

"You haven't won yet, Cicely!..." Angelus snarled... "Your demon is loose and you've trapped yourself here...Forever..."

Evil will triumph, with your darkest nature in the vanguard...As we planned since your rebirth...That is the victory you have handed to us...he sneered...Nast eyeing Tara-Dru, then Buffy...You want we should...?...No, she told him quietly... "I want to hear him..."

"Why do you think the First bothered to destroy your pathetic Council and your fellow Slayer sisters?...Do you really think it was simply because she feared a single new inexperienced Slayer would stop her and her army?...Please..." Angelus chuckled coldly...Moving hopefully in for the kill...

"The First, sadly, drew her power in the world from the hate you foolish humans generate yourselves...And who in the world had most reason to hate and loathe the Council and to wish the Slayer line destroyed forever?..." he grinned...Buffy's face trembling slightly...Tara's face giving Nast a worried glance...

Yes, Cicely...You took your revenge at last...Courtesy our First and her poor ranting Caleb...

"The least you could do, Mrs. Walthrop..." Angelus sneered... "Is thank her and Hell...For doing what you couldn't consciously bring yourself to do..."

And now, Buffy...Your demon will complete the job our poor First is currently unable to...I suppose we should really thank you...he smiled angelically...She stared at him...

"Ok...I've heard him and his little scheme out..." she eyed Nast, then Tara-Dru... "Go nuts, guys..."

Ummn...Angelus blinked...

***

Part XXIX...



"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 XXIX...

Back at the new HQ of Evil, Joseph had resumed his sales pitch for Anne's signing onto the team...Which had become a more difficult task than he'd hoped...

These damned independent vampire types...Evil spawns them and all they wanna do is survive, no matter what happens to Evil, Incorporated...

Where's the loyalty?...

"We'll take care of Drusilla, Anne...Just as soon as I can call in some of our laid-off magics people to work on nixing the brew's effect...Now all you have to do...Is transform our human prisoners...And then we march to destroy our other two traitorous vampires..." Huh?...she stared...

Boss...Lilah tried desperately...Whoa...



"This day will see the greatest triumph of Evil yet..." Joseph raised a victorious fist... "The destruction of Angel and William...And..." she cut him off in mid-gloat...Oh-oh...Lilah closed her eyes...Why did he have to mention William?...

Clearly Anne had come to a crucial matter in her negotiations with her new allies...

"Kill who?!..." Anne whirled to face him...

"But..." Joseph eyed the furious Anne... "He's no longer in our ranks...We'll try to recover Spike of course but as for that miserable soul...We must disp..." he choked as she raised him off the floor with one hand...

Joseph!...Lilah stared...As did the rest of the Wolfram-Hart remnants...

Could've told him this is what'd happen...VP Fred sighed...

"You see, Anne..." Giles called to her... "They mean to destroy him..." She waved an angry hand at him...Keeping poor Joe suspended with the other...Jes a min'...

Loyal to the last, demon Sidney now made a gallant effort to rescue his Commander-in-Chief...A charge Anne ended deftly with a one-handed neck snap...Not even pausing to lower Joseph...

"Sid?!..." a horrified Chester stared...But chose the better part of valor...As did the rest...Queen Anne clearly a lady not to be trifled with...Even in her current state...

"We gotta do wha', baldy?..." Anne glared...Staggering a bit but not at all due to his slight struggles in her death grip...The various remaining few demons and other W-H more or less human staff too shocked...And too devoted to the noble self-preservation-above-all principles of Wolfram-Hart...To follow poor Sidney's brave attempt to intervene...

"Let him go!..." Lilah suddenly whacked the vampiress hard on the back, Harmony and the others staring...Oh...I guess I wuz 'posed to be watchin' Annie's back...Second-in-command Harmony sheepishly noted to herself...Ummn...As Anne whirled to hurl the human back against the far wall...

"Li...L...ah!..." Joseph gasped, still firmly in Anne's clutch...

"Wuz dat for?..." Anne stared at Lilah now huddled down by the wall... "Ya know, I'm gettin' to tak' a real no likin' to yous guys..." She shook Joseph... "And nobody's gonna hurt ma honey Willy...Ya hear me, lil' man?!..."

Well?...she glared as he choked... "I think ya gotta let'im talk, Annie..." Harm noted...Oh...Ok...She loosened the clutch a hair...

Ye...ye..yes...he gasped...None of ...Our people will...

"Oh, no...Yous guys are gonna be responsible for Willy...He gets a scratch...A cold...Ya all get it from me...Startin' with ya girlfriend over der...Got it, baldy?..." she took demon face... "Ya got it?!..."

"Yee...ss..."

Ok...she dropped him... " 'Cause Willum the Bludy's my guy and soul er no soul...Nobody touches my guy...The Quean's guy..." she looked over the stunned W-H forces...The pathetically shattered remnants of the W-H forces... "Ev'rybody gots it?!..." They stared back, several nodding hastily...

"Les' hear it, baldy?...Wha bout ma Willy's?...Wha ya got planned for him...?"

"His fate is entirely in your hands, my dear...We leave him totally to you, of course..." an ingratiating smile...As Lilah stumbled over towards him...What the hell?...He stared at his assistant in shock...Is she coming back?... "Bak off, ya demon's bimba..." Anne growled at the approaching Lilah...Hey...Attorney-at-Law Morgan glared back...

Bimbo?...Hell, Summers didn't even graduate college...



"In fact..." Joseph quickly moved to suavely divert the fuming Anne... "Ms. Morgan and I only just left him and his fellow human-souled vamp at our old offices...In more or less perfect condition..."

"He betta be..." she narrowed her eyes... "Cause if ma Willy's hurt...Soul o' no soul..."

"His continued good health will be our top priority, my dear...Just as long as you assure us of your support..." Joseph smiled...Pushing it boss...Lilah hissed...

Say?...Is he?...Standing between me and...she thought, looking as Joseph carefully stepped in front of her...Nah...Couldn't be...

"Yeah, ya girl-friend's ri'..." Anne nodded... "Don' push ya luck, baldy..."

" 'Cause Annie's runnin' things now..." she picked up Joseph and tossed him back towards Lilah who rather deftly managed a catch...

What?...he blinked...Running?...

Runnin'...Lieutenant Harmony nodded proudly, staggering back to her Queen's side...Hmmn...The Wolfram-Hart survivors eyed each other...

Hell, could things under her get any worse?...

***

"Your friends here maybe able to torture me, and please for your own love of God, not again, not again for your souls' sake, please, please..." Angelus whimpered to Tara-Dru and Nast... "But soon our...surviving...leadership in Hell will order your demon to lead the final attack against your moronic friends, already rendered almost helpless by the same brew that lead you to destruction...She'll destroy my feeble counterpart and your William..."

"She'll what?..." Buffy blinked at him... "Your bosses are gonna order her to kill William?.." she stared...

"Yes..." he again instinctively started to gloat, stopping short with such a genuinely sheepish...Ooops... Look of sudden terror that even Nast and Tara-Dru, now in her Drusilla form, were inclined to forbear...

But only...Inclined...Tara-Dru noted as Angelus screamed...

Wait, please...Cicely put up a hand... "Your bosses are ordering my demon self to...?" she looked at Angelus again...

"Uh-huh..." he nodded nervously, trying to keep the triumphant leer to a minimum... "Via the remnants of our old Wolfram-Hart team, still nobly fighting on to victory in spite of..." She burst into laughter...As he blinked...Cicely?...

Poor thing's gone over the edge with this one?...he thought, hopefully...The horror of realizing that she herself will...?

"C'mon, guys...Lets find poor Harmony and some of the other folks here...I want to speak to 'em and see more of this place..." Buffy turned to the others...Still chuckling...

"Buffy?..." Tara-Dru asked anxiously... Don't worry about it, dear...Cicely grinned at her...And turned back to an increasingly anxious Angelus...We couldn't have screwed this one?...his worried look mirroring his thoughts...

"Angelus?...A word of warning..." Cicely grinned, morphing into Buffy... "If you got any friends in that gang with Anne...Better tell 'em to head for Hell or even further when the marching orders to kill William come in...Less you want go and get that one countermanded before it's too late..."

He stared...

"I think we can leave the situation on Earth to my other self for the moment..." she rejoined Tara-Dru and Nast...



***

"Lessee..." the new queen of W-H pondered...Several former department heads quickly coming to her to offer their happy acquiescence in the new order...A sitting, and rather stunned Joseph watching the sudden shift of power beside Lilah...

"What do we do?..." she hissed... Fred?...Et tu?...Joseph stared as former VP Fred joined the line of those offering fealty...Fred giving a silent shrug...What ya gonna do?...As he passed his late chief...

"Joseph?...We've got to do something..."

"Like what?...You gotta stake or something...?" he glared...

"Didn't you think this might happen?..." she glared back...Typical...Underestimated a woman's ability and ambition...Not to mention her devotion to her beloved...

"Well how was I to know her feelings for him ran that deep?..." he waved hands...Fortunately Anne a bit preoccupied trying to follow the various suggestions her new staff were offering...All at once, each desperate to make a hit with their new leader...

"You told me they did..." Lilah frowned...

"I did?...Well I never meant that deep...I figured she'd be happy to get Spike back..."

"Well...You must have had some emergency plan...Didn't you think she might be unwilling to cooperate?..."

"Actually...I never figured we'd do so well as we did...I didn't bother to think so far ahead..." he sighed...

"Christ..." Lilah breathed... And I'm almost ready to switch to that team...After this latest disaster...

"Come on..." she pulled at him... "We've got to get out of here while she's busy with our fawning morons..."

"And go where...?" he hissed...But let himself be dragged along... "Where do you think?..." she frowned at him as they moved to the counter area...She lifting the bar post to the grills and kitchen as he scooted through...

"Angel and the others will kill us..." he noted as they hurried back through the kitchen...Fred and several others up front by Anne, for old times sake, avoiding noting their departure...Hey, one never knows how things will go...

"Not if we can tell them how to get to Anne and their friends..." Lilah replied...Pushing the door to the alleyway in back open...Fortunately, the mindless killer demon guards formerly on duty having been let go the previous day for lack of cash for their feed...C'mon...

Hmmn...

They raced for the bus just now passing...By luck, the first in the route to the old tower...And climbed aboard just as the new Queen of the Damned and Wolfram-Hart, Inc began making inquiries as to their present location... "Wher'd Baldy an'is bim get ta?...Harm?..." Harm dutifully attempting to look round from her seat...Don't see 'em, Annie...

"So..." a calming Lilah now rather sympathetically eyed her poor Joe as they took seats...Such an up-and-down day for the little fellow...

Girlfriend, eh?...she grinned...

***



"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 XXX...

LA...Doublemeat Palace...Late Sunday afternoon...

A chorus of W-Hers, humans backed by the few remaining demons on staff...Anne watching from her improvised throne...A booth pulled out into the middle of the dining court, with pillow obtained from a former head of Fiscal Planning whose hemorrhoids were once again suffering from that good ole hard plastic...

(From "Killer Queen..." Queen...)

"...Drop of a hat she's as willing as

Playful as a pussy cat

Then momentarily out of action

Temporarily out of gas

To absolutely drive you wild, wild..

She's all out to get you

(The boys give it their all...)

She's a Killer Queen

Gunpowder, gelatine

Dynamite with a laser beam

Guaranteed to blow your mind

Anytime

Ooh, recommended at the price

Insatiable an appetite

Wanna try ?

You wanna try..."





The new Queen of Wolfram-Hart kept court at her new Palace...Doublemeat Palace, #10002, licensed franchise...Tapping to the music, beaming and waving, somewhat aimlessly, at her new minions...Saw Lizzie II do dis on TV, she noted to Lieutenant Harmony's...Wha ya wavin' for?...A special smile for the ever-gallant Fred, now tentatively moving to secure the Prime Ministership for himself, following deposed leader Joseph's departure...Utilizing his well-developed skills at stroking his way up the ladder by providing the new ruler of W-H with the just right touch to appeal to her own well-developed vanity...

A proper coronation...With appropriate theme song...

"Dat's me..." she happily joined in... "...Im da Killar Quean...Im somethin', somethin' really keen...Im dynamite wid a laser beam..." You guys got lasers?...she turned to Fred...Sorry, repossessed a week ago last Wednesday, he noted...Oh... "But our science staff once recalled could whip some up very quickly..." Great... "Oh and rokets wida launchers...Lika bazookas, ya know?...yeah...Get me lots of dose..." she insisted...I like roket launchers...she beamed...Resuming...

"Im really gonna blow ya mind..." Yeah...More waves as the remaining WH-ers lined the table aisles as best they could to cheer their new ruler...

"What about Xanda...?" Harmony whispered to Drusilla...Having taken advantage of the Queen's distraction with ceremonial duties to resume her previous conversation with her ex-comrade of the Army of Evil...Currently held near the main grill well-secured and under guard with the other prisoners, Chairman Giles, Slayers Allyson and the Anne-enthralled Brenda, and a rather inebriated Willow, still suffering as was Dru from the effects of the Wolfram-Hart demon brew...

"He's sure to be destroyed, my dear...No chance for you to speak to him about your offer..." Dru insisted, whispering up to her worried face..."Anne has no interest in pleasing you..."

Eh...Harm frowned...Ya jest wants I shud hep ya...I ain't dum...Yous all for their side now...

"Your Xanda...er Xander...would be pleased to hear you helped us, Harmony..."

Yeah?...she pondered a mo...Hmmn...Yeah, he wud... "Ok..."

"Ya promise you'll tell im I hepped...?" Certainly...Dru nodded...

"I think you shouldn't let your friend speak too much to our prisoners..." Fred noted to Anne... "In her current condition she might be easily influenced..."

Huh?...Oh yeah...Anne nodded...Dat stuf... "Harmy, you get 'way from dat craz' nut...She's a trador and she's gonna get hers..." Harmony looked back and backed off quietly... "Get ova heer..." Anne frowned...Glaring at a peaceful and content Drusilla who smiled back at her...Nu'case...Souly nu'case...Hmmn...

"Hey, I gots to get dat stuf outta me, right?...Hows we gonna do dat?...Fast..." she looked at Fred...Clearly his formal appointment to his new post hanging in the balance...

"Our staff formulated it...We can find an antidote..." he confidently insisted... "That is, if I could have your permission to put some of the science team back on payroll...?"

Ummn...Well...The new monarch gave a sheepish look...Finances never having been her strong point in any version of her existence...

"I don'...Buf didn'...Haf a lotta cash in da bank...How much I gotta cough up?..." I think the idea is we rob and pillage the city at will under your leadership, ma'am...he explained carefully... "Oh..." she nodded...Gud thinkin'...

Hey, Imda Lieuteny...Harm frowned...Was' up here?...Who's dis ole guy think he's?...she glared at Fred...Who gave a polished, diplomat's smile back...

Up yours, vamp bitch...he thought...

"Whens we gonna see Xanda, Anne?!...Ya said we'd go see Xanda!..." she turned to her WH, Incness...

"Drusie says you ain' gonna lemme see Xanda...I wanna see Xanda!..."

"Hey!!...I says when we do sumthin'!!...The Quean!...Not da liks of ya...!!...Ya lil'...Cheerleada..." I's bigga den you, ya lil' shrimpy...Harm glared... "Ya big dum blonde...Ya sec' string Cordy!!..." Anne fumed...Hardly the time or place for such a breach in royal protocol...

Harmy and Xanda?...Willow hissed to Giles... "Dru, Harm'ny and Xanda been messin' round?..."

Hind ma bak...she did not say...A slight frown...Well, ok...Hind po'r ole ded Any's bak...Still...

Sec' string Cor'...Harmony stood up, enraged now...Sec' string?...

"I don't believe your friend is aware of Miss Kendall's feelings towards him..." Dru explained... "If I remember my hideous past existence the past few months since she came to live with me correctly...She never mentioned him until...Hmmn...Yes...Did the poor man lose someone dear recently?..."

"Ya fired!...Brok to da ranks, ya dum bimba...Ya stup...Hey!!..." Anne cried out as Harmony grabbed at her hair...Bringing her crashing out of her improvised throne to the floor... "Sec' string Cor'...?!!!" Fred and the other Whers watching in shock as the Queen and her Lieutenant rolled on the ground...

"Any'..." Willow nodded... Po'r ole An... "I'm so sorry..." Dru sympathized... "But that must have been when she mentioned him...Told me she felt badly...Of course I..." she paused delicately... "I was, to my shame, not in a condition then...To properly express..."

"Dats ok..." Willow smiled... "Ya cudn't hep yerself..." ...Several "Ows!!..."... Crashes..."Ya stup...Gonna kil!!.. " rose from the couple on the floor...Hmmn...They and the other prisoners watched Anne and Harmony struggle...The Wolfram-Hart staff keeping a discreet distance...Harmony's outrage at being compared to a junior Cordelia being enough to finally push her to give Anne a degree of trouble...

"Lemme go!!!...Ya stup...Ima gonna dust ya!...OW!..."

"I ain' no sec string Cordy!!...And I wanna go see Xanda!!!..."

"Leggo my blouse!...Dat's brand...Ohhh!!..." Anne howled as her pretty new blouse received major damage...

You lil'...Dum...Ded!!..

"Willi'm lik'd it wid me..." Harm escalated to the ultimate...Anne pausing in shock...A hush settling over the entire room...Whoops...

"Spike..." she corrected...Almost soberly, calmly pulling away and sitting up on the floor... "You mean...Spike..." A rather regally terrifying calmness now...

"Willi'm..." Harmony shook her head firmly...Sitting up herself... "His souly boy...He said hi when we was togedder afta he came out sometimes causea da chip..."

"You...Mean...Spike...And ya lyin' about him, too..." Anne repeated...Calmly... "You didn' know bout Willum..." A hard, menacing, and anything but inebriated look coming over her face...

Oh, God...Giles eyed her...

He'd seen that look before...Would-be Prime Minister Fred sensing potential disaster as well...

"Willi'm...I mean...Him...Soul guy...He tol' me he lik'd it..." Harm caught the look and vaguely sensed the danger...But was beyond caring...I mean, after all... "second-string Cordelia?"...

Some things are just beyond endurance...



"When he tel ya dat...?" Anne asked in a cold voice, rising to her feet... "Wha's da day?...Wha' time?...Where?..."

"Jes' 'for we tried ta get the doc ta get da chip out..." Harm eyed her coolly, rising as well...A kind of suicidal courage now filling her... "We wus doin' it...And he says... 'Harm, I'm sor', to let ya be used like dis, girl...'...Real quiet...And den... '...you musta been a sweet soul to be so kind to me...'...And den he was back to being Spike...Ya know...So I knew it musta been his soul...Telling me he lik'd it..."

Ladies...? Fred made a feeble try...

"Yous a liar!...You..." Anne choked, fumbling for words... "He wudn't talk ta da the liks of ya...Ya bimba...'Sides..." she calmed slightly... "You didn' say he said he lik'd it..."

"Dat wha' he meant..." Harmony insisted firmly...Anne reddening even in the demon face she'd taken...

Pure murderous rage radiating from every pore...

Hmmn...Willow looked over...As did Allyson...Anne glaring round the room...Harmony, a bit off her adrenaline high now taking defensive mode...Anne, trembling now, fists clenched...Looking frantically for...

"Bye, guys...Nice knowin' ya..." Willow looked at the others... Dru kindly nodding...

Now I lay me down to die...I know my soul will fry on high...Fred and several other W-Hers prayed within...Demon Chester and others, a bit more practical by nature, looking anxiously for the next exit....

"Giles!..." Anne cried, rushing over... "It ain' true?...You know ma Willy...Say it ain' true?...Ahhhhh!!!!..." she burst into tears, collapsing to her knees beside the Chairman...Oooooh!!!!...She buried her face in his side...

Didn' mean to hur' her feelin's...Harmony noted, embarrassed, to Fred...

***

The sub-subbasement storage vaults of the former Wolfram-Hart tower...New offices of Angel, Wyndham-Price, Gunn, and Walthrop...Late Sunday afternoon...

William eyed Dawn as he, she, and Xander stood in front of the sealed vault...She reading over Wes' instructions for deactivating the mechanism and the magics protection...

"Say...Dawny?...How'd ya know about the 'cult stuf vaults...?" he asked...Bracing himself to stand more or less erect...

"I didn't...It was merely a logical assumption that they'd have such a place...This is, after all, the former HQ of an organization obsessed with the occult, Will..." she grinned...

"Gud enough..." he woozily nodded, grinning a crooked grin back...

"Xander...?" she looked at him... "I'm going to be fair to your intelligence and assume you realize William and I don't intend to sit here waiting while Wesley and you go off without our help..."

And that you'd prefer to go with us, rather than be ko'd and then locked in the vault here for the duration?...

"Yeah..." he sighed... "I kind of figured you two would pull something like this...Thanks for not assuming I'd be utterly clueless, Dawn...And for letting me in on the action..." he grinned...

She nodded, smiling... "You're the one who sees all, Xander...And I believe that..." Anyway, first things first... "We've got to get some protection for William here before we can head out..."

Of course, Will...she frowned...



"This doesn't mean I'm ok with you two...Especially if the marriage thing turns out to be..." she noted, a bit grim again... Marriage?...he stared... "How'd ya know about 1880?...I didn' say about dat...Buf's soul tell ya?..."

"I knew it!..." she raged... "That moronic blonde dolt!...I..." she blinked... "1880?..."

"Don' know if it's still legal all dat time ago and all...And her name bein' differ'nt den..." he noted...

***



Ooooooooohhhh!!!!...Anne continued her howl...Even as Giles did his best...Untied now at Fred's executive decision...Patting her head gently...

Either we let him try to calm her down or we all die right now...he noted to his fellow WH-ers

Harmony herself feeling rather badly...Poor kid was taking it so hard...And heck maybe she had exaggerated Will's feelings...

"Anne..." Giles sighed... "You know William loves Buffy...As Spike did...In fact, a large part of that love must have come from whatever bit of his soul somehow protruded back into our dimension earlier...I'm sure of that..."

"Ya don't udderstand..." Anne shook her head... "William...!!...Ooooooohhh!..." she was off again...

"Ya, Giles...Will wuz her hubby...Dat's why she's so pissed..." Willow explained... "Back in 1890..." 80...Anne corrected... "Yeah, 1980..." 18 an' 80...Stup...Anne sighed...Hey..Willow glared...

"Yeah..." the vampiress nodded to Giles' startled face... "I...wus...Cicely Anne Addams... 'member me?...Da bes' of da bes'..." she said proudly... "Willum's wife...Too days..." she held up four fingers... "Den..." she looked at Dru...Coldly...As Dru looked sheepishly down at her feet...

"I...We...Cic and me...Sent him away..." she sighed... "And Drusie got 'im..."

"We wus tryin' to saf him...Haly and ma Watcha said..."

"Halfreck...?" Giles stared at her... "Yeah, she wuz ma vd...not Dawny's...VENGENANCE DEMMIN..., I don't mean I got da clap!...Don't mak' fun!!... " she glared at Allyson, Dru, Willow...Brenda clearly still too out of it to mak' fun...

"Certainly not, Anne..." Dru nodded... "But go on and tell Mr. Giles what happened..."

Yes, please...The WH-ers clustered round eagerly noted...Especially if it extends our lives even a few seconds...

"He died...All 'lone..." Anne wiped a tear... "Thinkin' maybe we didn'..." she sobbed a bit... "But we did...Botha us..."

Me first, course...I luved him even fore Cics...she hastily added...And lots more...

"And den...We couldn't find him...Anywheres in da afterlife...Heaven, Hell...Nowheres...hic...Oh.." she paused... "...Cuse...And 'cuse cause I forgota say...He rose, we couldn' trac him, we died...Cics, I mean...And our babe..."

"Sos...We cum tagedder betw the dimensions...An' talked it all out ina way...And Cics worked it all out to cum back afta him...Cause we knew he hadda be here...Waitin' for us...Thinkin' it was jest a mistake...But not knowin' all the time passin'...And havin' to watch Spike..." she sighed...Poor Will...

He don' like killin' ma Will...He's a gent, first-class...she beamed...And killin' and hurtin''s for vulgarians...Ummn...she looked a bit sheepish...

"And you haven't done either yet, Anne..." Dru noted kindly... "Yeah, kep it up stup...And he won' be mad at ya..." Willow chimed in...Still a bit miffed...



"All we hadda do wus cum bak, finda souly vamp, tell him it wuz us cum to find him and all's hunky-dory..." Anne shook her head... But no...

"Da world's gotta be in danga...Again...From your grand-daddy...And then ya dad had ta show..." she glared at Dru... "And Buf got all confused...She didn't know much but she was lookin' for a souly vamp...Cause Cics and me wus pushin'..."

It all got screwed...Ang'l got in the way...Will show'd up late...she sighed...And Buf nearly killed...she sobbed again...

"But she couldn'..." she raised her head, beaming... "Cause she's us, deep down...And she couldn' kil our Will..."

My demon God...So the story Joseph told us was true...One W-H staffer eyed a comrade...Geesh...We might at least have tried to help...he noted...

Phil, we're the bad guys...We don't 'help'...

"Den the chip and Willow's love spell hepped out...Thanks, Willa..." she called...Willow waving back...An'time...

And then...Bitch-goddess cum ta town...But it wuz ok...Cause Willy gets Spike to show Buf he luvs us...Buf croaked and Willa... "Thanks, Willa..." An'time...

Brought us all back...And Cics stronger now...And Willy...

"Ya saw him dat year Willa...Giles, I wish ya coulda been there for da whole thing...Wow wus he gud...My Will..." she beamed...

And den he got the soul bak in front, all da way...she smiled fondly... "Ma hero..." she said without sarcasm...

But...Buf wus scared...She jes cum bak, she didn' know all bout Will and Cics' stuf was only scarin' her more, pushin' at her ta luv our Will more den ever...

"Den..."

The W-Hers held their collective breaths...All gathered round now...Oh...Harm held a hand to her mouth...I think I know wha' happens nex...Oh...she eyed Anne sympathetically...

"He ded again...Beat da First Evil...Hah...Ma Willum...Bitch couldn' tak him...Hah!!..."

Yeah!...one staffer slammed fist into palm...Oh, right...Our First Lady of Evil...he went quiet as Fred glared...

"And he cum back again...To find me...Sos I can tell him it wuz all all right...We nefa stopped luvin him...Oh..." she sighed...

"The babe..." she looked at Giles... "Gil's wha' I gonna tell him?...He didn' even know..." she put her head down and sobbed again...Harmony coming over to pat her...Annie I's sorry...Willum luvs you...He don' luv me...she murmured...

"Hell, I knows dat!..." Anne raised her head...Glaring...But calmed... "But thanka Harm...I's sorry too...You ain' no sec string Cordy...Yous first in ma bok...And Xanda's gonna be real flattened to know ya lik' him...Even if he kil's ya..."

"Well...Anne, if you truly love William..." Giles eyed her...

Uh-no...she shook her head...

"I ain' going bak to Hell, Giles...I gots ma chance, thanks to Buf herself and Im stayin'...Let Buf taka hike...I wants Willy for me...I shared him and wha'd it get me?...And him?..." she noted... No way...Buf and Cics taka hike...Annie's here to stay...

"I luvs him best...And Im gonna stay...He'll get used ta me afta while...I grows on peeple..."

Fred?...One of his comrades eyed the would-be Prime Minister...

Eh...Fred wiped a tear...So shoot me...I love happy endings...

***

"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 XXXI...

Limbo...Early Sunday evening, LA time...

A fuming...Silently, naturally, given the presence of three spirits who'd thoroughly enjoy any excuse to cause him intense suffering...And two, Tara-Dru and Heinrich Nast, who could and had caused it...demonic essence Angelus had glumly followed in the wake of Cicely-Buffy and her friends...

Things just not working out for Evil this particular Sunday despite the usual fine opening...Buffy transformed and her demon loose upon the world...Her very soul endangered by the despair and shame triggered on learning of her past existence as Slayer Cicely Anne Walthrop, nee Addams, and her role in the death and condemnation of her husband, William Soames Walthrop aka Spike...The same Spike in similar soul danger, given William's role in transforming his beloved...

All this bright start for nothing, it now seemed...With Cicely-Buffy's spirit contentedly engaged in contacting and learning from the trapped souls of Limbo...No doubt planning to decisively better their lot on her successful return to Earth...And from what he could learn via his Hell masters, Anne...Buffy's vicious but wildly loving demonic essence...Doing little or nothing to secure the situation back among the living...Far more interested by all accounts in persuading William that she'd be a preferable mate to her soul 'sister' than in furthering the cause of Evil...

Shocking...Still, having been the independent sort himself at times in his existence, Angelus could see a case for wanting to seek one's own path and goals in Eternity...Though, at a time like this...After so many recent defeats...With the First herself rather incapacitated (and currently under strait-jacketed confinement)...

When Evil United needed every minion of Hell to give his/her/its all...Damned stupid romantic bimbo...Just like her damned soul...

Enough to make one consider Redemption...

Well...Nah...But, one could always try faking it for a few decades...He eyed the floating heads of Buffy, Tara, and Nast, just ahead of him...Giving a pleasant smile as Nast frowned back at him...Waving him along to them...

After all, the way his counterpart soul had strung Buffy along the last years before Spike finally won out... "Just wait till I win redemption and then, Buf...Happiness City...

Uh...Girls?...What other girls?...

Oh, those other girls...

Well, they never made me...Truly happy...

And if Dawnie had ever...Really...Needed me...Why I would've been on the first twenty minute train to Sunnydale...

Well, I'd've been happy to give you a loan, Buf...If I'd had actually made any real money...But having my own kid and all now..."

Made one almost proud of one's worthless soul...And surely he, the famed Angelic One...Could do an even better snow job...

That is, if alls for nought and the whole scheme's fit for the toilet and burial at sea...Which was seeming preety likely...Oh, well...At least Buffy was still stuck here and not back with her William destroying our kind on Earth...There was yet a faint hope...

And for the damned hope must always spring Eternal...

It's part of the punishment...

***

LA...Wolfram-Hart HQ at Doublemeat Palace 10002...Evening...

Anne and Harmony having reconciled their differences yet again...At least, in Harm's case anyway, on the surface...The new Queen of the Damned/CEO of Wolfram-Hart, Inc...Was dispensing romantic advice to her lovelorn lieutenant...

Who was as deep in depression as a smashed vampire could be ...It having come to her as likely that Xander would not be overwhelmed at the prospect of being loved in his turn by a vampire...Much as it might seem an antiquated prejudice in light of Buffy's recent romantic episodes with the Undead...

I mean...Competing with his memories of his lost Anya would be hard enough, but dealable...The fact that he couldn't stand the human Harmony who'd never had a nice word for him...Well, that was the old Harm and it could be credibly argued that she'd grown in the past few years...

But throw in the vampire thing as well?...Did not look promising from the view of romance, she had to admit...As she had, with multiple sighs, to her commander-in-chief...

Who could sympathize...

"Well..." Anne pondered... "Why don' ya see if ya can cut a deal with a soul?...Lik Cics and me did afta we croaked...But I'd try ole Any' cause I gotta tell ya Harm, ya soul?...She's kinda shala, ya know?...Not alotta dep lik ma Buf /Cics..."

Yeah...Harm sighed...She always wuz kinda...Dat way...I noticed ri' frma start...

"Not meanin'...Hic... to bad mouth ya relations..." Anne hastily added...No 'fense takin' Harmony nodded...

"Perhaps you should just kill the fellow?...Transform him?..." a deferentially listening Fred suggested...

"Wha?...The heck you say?!...You ever try killin' ma' Xanda?!...He tough..." Anne noted rather proudly... Yeah...Harm glared... No lil' guy lik yous gonna kill ma' Xanda...

Ma' Xanda...The two vampiresses glared at each other a sec...Then at the now somewhat nervous Fred again...

" 'Sides...I try an' kil' him...He might get mad a' me..." Harm noted...Oh...Annie...I don' wa' Xanda mad a' me...Ohhh....she teared up...

Who is this "Xanda"?...One of the few remaining W-H vamp staffers hissed aside to the current acting head of Special Projects...A former file clerk who'd hung on through the disasters and mammoth layoffs...He shrugged, watching their new ruler and her minion...Some ordinary human carpenter guy who worked for the Slayer...He's Anyanka's mate, one Frid, one of the last demons still on staff helpfully explained...The one who dumped her at their wedding?...

"You jes' try and hook up wida soul...Woked for me..." Anne nodded confidently...Patting her lieutenant...

"Yeah?..." "Hey, Im here now, ri'?..." the Queen pointed out...

Yeah but...Soul comes in...Demmin flames out?...Harmony eyed her... "I don' wanna be flamed out, Annie..."

Sounds good to me...A watchful Fred thought, sneering behind his obsequious mask of Prime Ministerial deportment...

Oh, that Xander...The vamp staffer nodded to Frid...The one every female demon dreams about now ever since the word about him and Anyanka got out...she did not say, picturing the Internet-downloaded framed photo by her daybed side...

"Eh, souls' is stoopid..." Anne waved an airy hand... "Buffy?...Never catches on ta our Will til it's nearly too late...Then gets him back...No than' ta her...and goes havin' him bite er and off she goes...And here yous truly is..." she smirked...

Wha' a dope...she sneered...But hastily looked over to where her Watcher sat, (watching, naturally she noted approvingly to Harm...Ma' Giles alwa's keeps at it...), securely bound up... Ummn... "Don't mean dat Giles..." she called... "Buf's and Cic's ok...I lik um..."

Don't tell Willum I said she wuz a dope...He'd get mad at me...Please...? she sent a sincerely pleading look the Chairman's way... "All da demmens say dat kinda stuf bout their souls...I's our wa'...I's jus kiddin'..." He gave a slight, kindly nod and, relieved, she returned to her lieutenant, still awaiting her sage counsel...

"Here's wha' ya does Harm...Tell Harm or An the soul yous wants to cuta deal...She comes bak, but you gets to stay round too...Ya get her to hep ya get Xanda ta lik ya...Den...Ya bumps her off and yous gots Xanda..." a rather snide grin...

Yeah?...Harm blinks at her Queen...

"Yeah...But only cause I don' wan' him...Cause I gots Will...Cause if I wanted ta kep Xanda too..." Anne frowned a bit...

"You'd be takin' a hik'...The sunny way...But hey...I gots Will and I's a one-guys type..." Urrrrppp!... Ohhhh...Cuse... "Hey!..." she turned, annoyed, to a startled Fred... "When's you guys gonna get dis stuf outta me?...I don' like it...I's barassin'...And i's show...er, slowin' me down..."

"I've recalled a few of our science team boys...They'll get to work on it asap once they get here...Ma'am..."

They betta...she glared...

"Annie...?" Harm stared... "How's I get a souly girl ta come bak in?...Ain't An an' mine up in Heaven wida angels?..."

"Wha's she doin' with Angel's...Wha?..." Anne blinked at her, glaring a bit...Angel...No gud two-timin' sob...Two-timin' Dru faddain'...fa'...sob... "Nah, not Angel's... Angels..." Harm explained...Up dere in Heaven...

Oh...Ri'...

"Whas about ma soul?..."

Hmmn...Anne pondered...How does one do a partial soul restoration?...Oh, yeah...Perfect...

"Ya gotta get a curse, Harm...Lik Angel's...Ya get a curse, souly Harm or An comes bak...The demmin...Thats you...Sticks around and reminds her hows Xanda's a nice guy an' all...Which he is..."

Yeah...Harmony nodded...

Yeah...From the sidelines, the vamp staffer, one Terry, sighed...Hmmn...Soul curse, eh?...

"Den ya get her to mess round wid him...And dumb souly girl's so happy she gets kick'd ri' bak ta Heave...Urrrpp...n..."

Ohhh... "Somebudy gemme a bucket?!...Qik!..." Anne turned to the W-Hers standing by...One hastily brought the nearest...A trash can...

Splash...Ohhh...

Hmmn...Giles eyed the groaning new Queen of the Damned as her new minions kept the receptacle carefully positioned...Harmony patting her...If she unloaded all that brew...And recovered...

Still...He glanced at Willow's wavering head...It did seem like the brew in the bloodstream was quite sufficient to maintain the effect...Dru now caught his eye...Glancing quickly at Harmony...Who'd now left Anne to the care of Fred and the other W-Hers and was stumbling back her way...

"Gotta use da..." she covered her mouth as Fred looked up from where he delicately held the new ruler of W-H's moaning head...

That way...he pointed...

"Say, George..." Terry, the female vamp staffer eyed the jumped-up head of Special Projects... "We used to have Angel's curse on file back at the main vaults didn't we?...To analyze the potential loop-holes?..."

"Guess so..." George shrugged...

***

The subbasement occult materials storage vaults of the former Wolfram-Hart tower...Sunday evening

"Gentlemen..." Dawn announced...Holding up a rather ancient-looking scroll in one hand...And what looked rather like an ordinary rock in the other... "I believe this is what we're looking for..."

"What's in the scroll...?" Xander looked at it...

"Hmmn?...Oh, this is just to aid us in getting out...And a little something for Will here...This is the important thing..." she waved the rock...

"It's a tracking stone...Designed to lead demonic assassins to their hapless victims..."

Xander and Will eyed it...Then her...

"That?..." Xander...

"This..." Dawn nodded firmly, frowning at the obvious lack of faith in her newfound ability... "It's very simple, you provide it with the scent of the victim...It heats as you near the designated target...Goes cold as you move away..."

It was designed for the most brainless of demons so it should suit you two just right...

"We can use this to find Anne..." she gave their puzzled, if somewhat annoyed faces a duh?...Morons?...look...

"Bu' Dawnie..." Will began... "We don' got..."

"Oh yes we do..." she smiled at him...Tapping his stomach...

Hmmn...Xander stared...

"And it would probably not hurt to get the remaining brew out of your stomach in any case...Along with my idiot sis' blood..."

Makes sense...William thought...But...

"Hows you gonna get...?"

She tapped the scroll...Confers Immortality in exchange for one's soul on page one...

Invisibility, incorporeality spell on page two...Very short-lived but perfect for dodging tracking sensors and passing through alarmed doors...

Purgative on page three...

"And all the ingredients are here in the vault...To their credit, the W-H senior partners had strong faith in traditional medicine..."

Xander?...she turned to him... "Grab that box of ingredients there while I start mixing this glop up ...We'll slip out and do...Our other business..." she eyed Will with a narrow smile...Clearly relishing that part of it... "As soon as we've got away from the other guys..."

Then we go Anne-huntin'?...Will grinned...Yeah, she nodded...A grin back in spite of herself...

Can't be mad forever at a guy like this...Death, destruction, ancient purgative, and if his tale was true...Even vamp transformation couldn't make him quit on sis...

Providing he kept it up...And he and Angel made a go of the law firm thing...He might...In time...Possibly...Just possibly...

But then again if the 1880 thing was true...

"Will?..." Xander himself still obviously shocked by this one... "It's really true?...You and Buffy?..."

"Cic'ly...Lik I tol' ya..." William frowned... Yeah...Married two days...Den...he drew a line across his throat...

"Not her fa'l..." he gallantly added... "Dru and all, ya know..."

"But if she was Slayer even den...er then..." Dawn hastily corrected... "How could she let you...?"

I dunno...he shrugged... "We gotta ask her...Say?...Kin wes call up Buf's soul now?...There gotta be seance stuf here, ri'?..."

"Might not be a bad idea, Dawn..." Xander nodded... "I'd say we need all the help we can get right now..."

"Not until we're out and away from the others..." Dawn shook her head... "They'll be down here soon enough anyway...And Wesley has probably activated the external alarms down here already just in case we'd try anything so foolish as going out on our own..."

"How's that secure cam film loop of us doing by the way?..." she nodded at the security camera...Xander smiling...His bit for the common effort... "Should hold Wes and Angel for a few more minutes when they try to check on us...But they will eventually notice they're watching us doing exactly the same things over and over..."

Or at least Wes will...

"Then best we head out...Ready, Will?..." she eyed her br...Oh, no...Not til the last possible moment and irrefutable proof is in...

Eyed her sis' insane romantic mistake...Better...Much...Still...She looked at his swaying, but determined form as he nodded back to her...Reddy...

Eh, what the hell...Sis' possible dating choice...

Acceptable...

***

Bus enroute to the former W-H tower...Sunday evening...

"You sure this is a good idea, Lilah?..." Joseph looked at her...

You gotta better one?...she eyed him..."Look, Joseph...Angel and William will deal if they think we can lead them to Anne...You know they will..." she noted...

Yeah, but...he sighed...To throw away the one blessing Fate and insane True Love had granted them in recent memory...Help the Light throttle the one bright spot for Evil in so long...

Shove one up that ungrateful bitch Anne's...And regain his command...Yeah...

"Think Angel might let us watch them drive Anne back to Hell?..."

Or to dust...Lilah smiled at him... "If we handle things right..."

Hmmn...A stalemate...And dead Summers lost to them forever...William in despair or more likely dust himself after a self-staking...

Not a bad outcome at that...He described his thoughts to Lilah who nodded in agreement...Not bad at all...

"'Course it will redouble Angel's brood afterwards...Blaming himself for his friends' deaths..." she sighed... "He'll come hunting for us looking like Johnny Cash on a downer day..."

***

Part XXXII...

"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 XXXII..

Ground floor of the former Wolfram-Hart tower, Sunday evening...

"Now, Miss Kennedy..." Wes patted her as she sobbed... "I promise we'll get you home as soon as we rescue Ms. Summers and the others...If you'll just pull yourself together...Slayer..." he eyed her sternly... "And help us...We can set things to rights that much faster...All right?..." he smiled at her tear-streaked, red face...

Yeah...she sighed... Sor'... "Not at all...I understand...I get lonely myself for England and my family at times..." Wes nodded...

Ah...The Old Cuntry...Fam'ly...Angel sighed... "Angel..." Wes looked at him... "Lets put a lid on the misty-eyed reminiscing on the past for a bit shall we?...We need you both as focused as possible right now...Especially if Anne has found help and taken action against the Chairman and the others..."

Ri'...Angel nodded as decisively as he could...

"Slayer...If you would watch the phones and the cameras while Angel and I review the archives on disk here...We'll need to get moving asap..." Kennedy gave a swaying nod which was reasonably close enough to a yes...

"Deys still dere?..." A wobbily-but-determined-to-display-a-leadership-kinda-posture Angel eyed Wesley who quickly glanced at the security camera screen for the occult materials storage vaults...

"Yes, Dawn and William...And Xander...Are still down there...Dawn seems to be behaving herself for once and keeping the others in line...A triumph for demonic formulations..."

Though...Andrew seems to have...he began... "Andrew?..." he and Angel looked up as Andrew came through the main stairwell door...

"Gentlemen..." Andrew called as he approached... "Miss Summers requested I bring you some of what we've managed to uncover in the dank and musty reaches of the Wolfram-Hart chamber of secrets..." he lifted a bag and emptied its contents onto Wesley's temporary research desk...

"Mr. Wells...Do you mind?..." Wes glared at his now-buried books and keyboard...Ooops...Pardons... Andy swept some of the items back...Several falling onto the floor...One or two suddenly developing limbs and scurrying off as Angel blinked at them...Hmmn...

"Anyway...Nothing especially useful for our purposes as yet...But Miss Summers naturally wished to keep you informed, Mr. Wyndham-Price..."

Uh-huh...Wes frowned...Glancing again at the security camera screen...Well, still there...

Now...Andrew gave a slight, solemn head nod... "I shall return to assist our comrades in their diligent, but of course, absolutely safe labors below...I..."

Whoa...He pointed to the main lobby in the front of the building...Where two figures now stood...Angel and Wes staring after him...

"Hey, Wesley..." Lilah waved pleasantly... "Angel, how's it going?..." Joseph beside her giving a brief but resigned nod...Gentlemen...

***

Limbo...Sunday night, LA time...

"Harmony..." Buffy's floating head, Tara-Dru's and Nast's beside her called to the sad, stricken face eyeing them...

"Please...I want to help you...I will help..."

"You left me here..." Harmony's head shook slightly...Cold anger now filling her face... "It was all a joke for you and the others..."

Harmony...Buffy sighed...Turning to Nast... "Why is she trapped here?...She wasn't an evil person, she didn't deserve..."

"None of the people here..." Nast eyed her carefully... "Deserved this...Or to lose their lives in such a manner...The ones who did, never left their demons...They're on Earth, merged with their counterparts or suffering in Hell...At their own choice, lost in evil..."

"You can't understand..." Harmony frowned... "You've never been left here...Watched It kill and torture in your body...With your mind and memories guiding It...Knowing It's you...Your darker half..." she drifted away, waving the pleading Buffy off...But remained off at a distance, watching...

And being watched...By someone whose hope, though faint, was again on the rise...

"I'm sorry, Harmony...Please..." Buffy called, turning to Nast again... "Why?..."

"My dear girl...If I knew why..." he shrugged... "But perhaps it's because these poor souls still feel they have lives on Earth to finish...Can't release their grip...Your William was like that, only more so...And their demons play on that...Try to drive them to despair..."

"They're not weak, Buffy..." Tara-Dru chimed in... "Nor anymore sinful than you or Will or me...But something is holding them here...Maybe the hope of a return...Maybe some vague desire to fight the demon..."

"You said William was 'more so'...He stayed with Spike on Earth?...How was that possible?..."

Nast shook his misty, fading head... "Again, if I knew..." he gave a faint smile... "But he's not the first to do so...Though I've never heard of a soul hanging on such a long time without merging with its demon...His must needs be quite a unique and determined one..."

And the love that led him to stay and hope equally unique...he smiled a bit more widely...

Har...mony...Angelus gently hissed to her floating, shifting shape...

Wait...Buffy looked round...Tara-Dru eyeing Nast...She's beginning to...

"I was here...Wasn't I?..." she took her Cicely form now... "Before I became Buffy...I was here..."

"Why didn't you tell me, Tara?..." "We thought it best for you to remember it, Cicely...It's not a pleasant memory to surface, being trapped here for so long..."

She closed her eyes a moment..."Nearly a century of waiting...Pleading...Until the Powers That Be needed me back on Earth...And I forced them to accept my terms..."

"Your counterpart is seeking your return, Harmony..." Angelus quietly noted as they drifted together... "For her own reasons, naturally...But...If you were willing to consider aiding us...I can tell you that some of the Powers That Be, both of the Light and Darkness...Might look upon your assistance in maintaining the vital balance in existence very favorably...Perhaps even to the extent of helping you regain your mortal existence..."

"Right..." she eyed him, a scornful look... "I'm gonna stop Buffy the Vampire Slayer from coming back to Earth?..."

"If you were to return...In a powerful vampiral body..." Angelus smiled faintly... "And poor Anne were occupied with other foes...An opportunity to do yourself permanent good might present itself..."

And an opportunity to be avenged on those who left you to suffer here...Laughed at your sufferings for years...Harmony stared at the angelically beaming face...

"Bastards..." Cicely grimly whispered...Formless, misty tears streaking her shifting, lovely face... "They refused my prayers for my suffering husband, kept my child from me so long as I chose to stay here trying to reach my poor Will instead of moving on to Heaven...But then the Light needed me to save Humanity again...The Greatest of the Slayers had to come back in service to fight the foes Hell was now to vomit up...And I made them deal..."

"Made them send me back with a chance to save him and..." she paused...Yes...she smiled, light breaking out... "To bring Amelia with me when the monks provided me the opportunity, the self-righteous, crazed little fanatics...To let him finally meet our daughter..."

Dawn...Tara-Dru nodded...Your gift to William...But Cicely...

But...Cicely's face darkened... "They did their best to sabotage that chance...Kept the memories from me and Dawn...Nearly let me destroy all that was left of my poor Will...And waved Heaven in my face when I died again, trying to keep us apart..."

"Liars...Betrayers...Murderers...This the reward I got for doing my duty, saving their little experiment on Earth with souls and mortal beings?...I should be helping Anne find a way to kill them all, the bastards...These Powers That Be who love to jerk us around forever...Yes...Shatter their precious balance forever...Destroy their dear mortal Humanity and leave their pretty Earth burning..." she muttered quietly... "The immortal souls would thank us both in the end, I think..."

Cicely... Tara-Dru shook her head sadly...Nast looking at her worriedly...Angelus off in the distance, concealing himself near Harmony, perked up at the wave of dark emotion, looking over...

Hope definitely rising this lovely Sunday evening...

***

Basement of the former W-H tower...

"Dawn?..." Xander looked to her...She, standing by the door of the stairwell...Waiting...Rather anxiously...William watching her sympathetically...

Waiting nervously for her beloved's safe return from potential danger?...God, he'd sure been there...

"Dawn...If we're gonna go...While the scroll spell lasts...And before Wes catches on to my little camera trick..."

Ok, ok...she waved a hand... "I just wanted to give him a chance to get back to us..." William gave her a comforting smile... "Ole And'll ketch up...hic...To us...Dawnie...Don' ya wor'..."

Hmmn...She frowned at his swaying form...Coming from you, you sis-transforming drunken dolt...

Still, he meant well...She ended with a slight smile and nod back... "All right, lets go..." she nodded to Xander...

"Careful...And don't waste time...Just walk straight through..." she pointed to the vault wall...

You sure about this?...Xander looked at her...Then the rather solid-looking vault wall...Steel, reinforced concrete...Not something you'd want to get stuck in if a spell suddenly failed...

"It'll be fine Xander..." Yeah, Will nodded...And walked into and dissolved within the wall where she'd pointed...

Hmmn...Best we get along after him...she noted, unable to repress a little pleasure at his confidence in her...That's my brot...whoa...Ummn... "Lets hurry, Xander...In his current state, he might easily get lost in there..."...She went to the wall...Xander tentatively feeling with his hand...Which entered the tiling then the metal beyond without hinderance...Whoa!...He jerked it back...As Will's head emerged in front of him...

"Yous guys cumin or no?...Get da led out..." he eyed them...

Right with you, William...Dawn replied...And entered the wall, Xander following...

***

Part XXXIII...

"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 XXXIII...

Sunday evening...LA...Lobby of the former Wolfram-Hart tower, by the main security desk...Unoccupied at present due limited funds of the new owners...Where Wesley, Andrew, and a rather wobbly Angel confronted their unexpected and unwelcome guests...

"So...Wesley...Angel...Tucker's brother..." Joseph nodded to Andrew... "As I've outlined we share a common foe...Surely you can see that joint action is called for here..." a beaming Joseph at his most diplomatic and congenial...

"Do you want to kill them, Angel?...Or shall I?..." Wes looked at a swaying but sternly frowning Angel...

Geesh...Lilah thought...And I thought we had something...On his part, anyway...After he saved me from Angelus...

At least the usual needy desire and insistence that he can win me over to the Good of most of my beaus from the Light side...

"Wesley..." she gave her most appealing and soulfully sincere look... "We don't expect you to trust us...But we've put ourselves at your mercy...And we are in danger as well as you...Can't you at least hear us...?"

"Speak to my boss...He's right here and still reasonably capable of understanding you, despite your efforts..." Wesley eyed her coldly, indicating the now sitting and therefore somewhat more stable Angel...Who nodded...Dats ri'...Da Bos' may be a lil' outta sorts but he's still the One...

Not counting romance 'course...he sighed within...But hey, Darl's soul's still available...Mudda of ma chil'...

Ma would prefer I go that route...Make Connor legit and all...

"Now gentlemen..." Joseph began... "Need I point out it was not we who released our joint foe?...And that it being the demonic essence of the Greatest of the Slayers, twice over..."

However plastered currently...

"She must be destroyed...With extreme..." Boss...Lilah hissed...As Angel rose, glaring...And Wes moved forward...

Er...He looked at the two bearing down on him... "I mean, of course, captured and restored at all costs...Only the monster within destroyed..."

Wes for his part, startled as Lilah moved between them and Joseph...A rather sincerely anxious look on her face...Believably sincere in fact...

Please don't hurt him...In every feature...

Him?...Wes looked at the bald little demon in his rumpled suit, trying to maintain a properly commanding air of being one of Evil's movers and shakers ...Wealthy and powerful enough even for her in his day, for sure...But clearly not doing so well just at the moment...Him?...

Well, who can understand love?...Angel and Andrew likewise standing puzzled as they stared at Lilah in defensive position...

"She lik's him?...Wes?...Thought you and her?..."

"Ancient history..." Wes replied...Hey?...Lilah glared...What kinda crack is that?...

Likes me?...Joseph blinked...Regarding the Lilah blocking his enemies in front...

Nah...She's just pulling for that next promotion and raise...It couldn't be...

Likes...Me...He thought in wonder...

"Please hear us out Wesley..." Lilah pleaded... "It really could be to your and Buffy's benefit..."

***

Sunday evening...LA...The dining area of Doublemeat Palace franchise #10002...Current Wolfram-Hart HQ...And current throne room of the new somewhat unda da weda Queen of the Damned...

A rope-bound Giles leaned to the stoutly-chained Drusilla...Chained, and now with a holy circle round her chair adding to her restraint and preventing her from using her hypnotic powers on any of the W-Hers at hand...Though most were currently distracted by their new Queen's urgent need of assistance...Willow and Slayers Allyson and Brenda under similar restraint in chairs near them...

Ohhhh...Another moan as Anne kept her aching head as near the provided waste bucket as possible... "Cold towel!...Bring another cold towel!!..." Former W-H VP and current Prime Ministerial candidate Fred snapped to various staffers at hand...

"Dru?...What did Harmony say to you just now?..." Giles hissed... Harmony having done a fairly-believable stumble by Dru on her way to the bathroom, suffering from similar tummy-troubles...

"She'll do what she can...If Mr. Harris shows up...Else I'm afraid we're on our own...I'm afraid her motives are not of the purest sort, Mr. Giles..." Dru sighed quietly...

Well...Keeping trying to persuade her...She nodded and he looked over to Willow...Who was determinedly, though to little avail, still trying to loose her ropes while thinking up an appropriate low-power spell...Unfortunately not only her imbibed load of brew making it difficult to do either, but Fred having taken the precaution of placing one of the firm's only remaining mystic energy-draining Orbs of Callos near her...There was little hope of her regaining any significant power for the present...

She glanced at Giles... "Get it in a min' Gil's...Get reddy ta bust out..." she hopefully called...Attracting the attention of the few W-Hers available for guard duty...Several others leaving their ministrations to the new Queen to check their most dangerous prisoner's restraints at Fred's hasty order...

Hmmn...Giles sighed...Well, can't fault her as to that enthusiastic can-do attitude...Wish she'd get over that brew though...

Slayer Allyson to Willow's right eyeing her Chairman for any instructions as she likewise if with more caution felt out her bonds...Poor Brenda, still Anne-enthralled, to her right, lost in her dreams...

A real cause for concern, Giles noted to himself...As soon as Anne recovered, her strutting new chief assistant...He glared at Fred now over to check on Willow himself...Anne still preoccupied...Was sure to suggest the completion of the next Slayer-vampire's transformation...Perhaps lengthening the odds to the breaking point...

And while Brenda was a sweet girl...Lacking as she did Anne's attachments to them...She was sure to be less hesitant about doing them major harm...

Then of course her demon might be the competitive type...In which case a Slayer-vamp unenfeebled by demonic brew might prove a tough fight even for the new Queen...

And he was no more willing than William to give the hope of Buffy's restoration up just yet...

"Ohhh..." Another moan from the temporarily incapacitated Queen..."Gonna kil' whoever came up wi' dis stuf..." she vowed...

Already anticipated that and had it done...a returned Fred soothingly noted...She looked at him...Wha?...

"Ya killed the only guy who knows how ta mak' dis stuf?!..." she fumed a brief second...Ohhhh...A quick dive back...Phew...Fred backed off to a reasonably safe distance in the moment provided...

"A junior level researcher...And the fool didn't know how to reverse the spell..." he explained hastily... "We got the formulation from him before his execution of course...Our lead researchers will be on their way as soon as we can inform them they're rehired...They'll crack this one in a few hours, I'm sure..."

Dey betta...She glared at him again...Cause I don' feel so gud...And wen I don' feel so gud...

"Nobody does...Get me?..."

Er... "Yes, ma'am..."

***

LA...Alleyway outside the former Wolfram-Hart building...Sunday evening, same time...

Dawn, William, Xander safely through the vaults and building structure and once again visible and corporeal...Had moved on to the next stage of Dawn's plan...

Burrrh...William groaned...As the vital element for tracking Anne surfaced...

Sor'...he gasped...

Eggh...Xander looked for something, anything to give him a reason to be far away...Ah, right...Protection of our lil' Dawnie...

"I'll check things up the other end..." he hurried off...

Hmmn...Dawn stared after him...Would've thought he'd seen worse than a little regurgitated blood...

"Stay close by, Xander!!..." she called... "We'll be heading out in a moment!..."

"Will?..." she turned to him... "Feeling alright..."

"Peachy..." he sighed... Oops...Gangway!...he turned desperately away...

Ah...Effective stuff that purgative...Dawn noted contentedly...

Rather glad it's not the way to clear our brew though...she eyed the groaning William...

***

Limbo...Sunday evening...Same time...

The spirits of Nast and Tara-Dru trying to console and comfort a raging Cicely/Buffy...Now wrathfully remembering the full extent of the betrayal of her past self and loved ones...And her bitter struggle for a second chance to save her unjustly condemned spouse...

Darkness clearly threatening to gain a grip on her heart and soul...

Angelus's incorporeal essence holding a drifting position near that of Harmony's trapped soul...Having sensed a possible new ally in his efforts to make Buffy's latest trip to the undiscovered country a permanent sojourn...

"Not saying I'm interested...Or committing myself..." Harmony's floated head eyed the shifting...And shifty face by her... "What would I have to do...?"

"Merely wait your chance, my girl..." Angelus smiled benignly... "When your demon tries to summon you back...Be ready to seize the moment...And take your vengeance on those who betrayed you..."

"And I'll be able to stay on Earth...I'll live again...?"

Of course...Angelus lied with all the open-hearted sincerity that had won the trust of ten thousand innocents...Including a certain psychically-gifted nun...

"My friends among the Powers that rule the Universe will grant you anything your heart desires...If you help us now to take vengeance on Buffy Summers/Cicely Walthrop..."

A cold look from Harmony's solid, then mistily formless face...Hooked, he contentedly noted to himself...Just a little more prodding and the right moment...

"Why should I care?!...After what they've done to me?!!...To my William?!!!...My child?!!!...Murderers!!!..." a harsh cry from where Cicely and the others remained in conference...

Oh, what a beautiful evening...Angelus hummed within...

Everything's goin' my way...

***

Part XXXIV...

"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 XXXIV...

***

Limbo...Later that Sunday evening...

A raging, weeping spirit, largely Cicely, occasionally remorphing to Buffy, faced the spirits of Tara-Dru and Nast...Her soul clearly in danger of slipping into the darkness by way of grief, despair, and bitter anger...

A hundred years...she looked out across the empty white wastes... "A hundred years we suffered, kept separated from each other, he in torment on Earth, while here I sat, waited, and prayed in vain...To a God who let me and my child die, and condemned my poor Will to eternal suffering for nothing but wanting to love me..."

And the only chance He or She or Their Powers That Be in Their infinite wisdom offered me was to come back ready to hate and be hated by the one I loved... "Punishment for my daring to take him, you think?..." she looked at the floating face of Tara... "A chance offered me only because I was needed to keep some of Their earlier attempts at creation from destroying the newer experiments..."

"Was She/He/It just not willing to get Their hands dirty?..." she eyed Nast bitterly

"We've all felt as you do, Cicely..." he replied quietly... "When I've had to sit here, helpless as my demon became the monster you knew... 'The Master'...I cursed God and all His/Her/Its creation...I'd been a good man, I knew...I didn't deserve this...To have thousands curse my name, as my darkest side unchained threatened all Humanity..."

But God and The Powers That Be have Their purposes...Perhaps it's because They don't dare interfere, run our existences for us, I don't know...But I still believe there is a purpose...And there is hope...

"After all, Mrs. Walthrop...You saved the world...And you did find and save William in the end..." he noted...

She shook her misty head harshly..."There was no need for him to suffer like this!...And I left him as Spike...He could have existed forever like that and I wouldn't have cared...I didn't find him again...Save him?...I sent him to his death!...Told him I needed Spike back!...Cause the bitch Slayer had a mission...Again...And had to get the job done no matter what..." she broke down, sobbing for a moment...

"Cicely...Buffy..." Tara-Dru corrected as Buffy's face took shape...Eyes closed as the tears ran and faded into the white mist surrounding them...

"When I learned...About It...Was it me, I asked myself?...Was there, could there be something in me that created Drusilla?...Was there that much blackness, Evil in me?...Angelus had told me there was..." Dru's face looked at Buffy's...

And the answer is...Perhaps, yes...I have that within me...That destructive, murderous blackness...But we all do, all humans...

"The one benefit of being here...And maybe it's why in part we're here...Is that we face our darker natures...And come to terms..."

Cicely's angry voice cut her off... "My William is not a monster!...You and Angelus...!" she began...

Buffy closed her eyes and opened them as Tara-Dru in Tara's form winced... "I don't mean that, Tara...I know it wasn't you...I'm sorry...But Will was as innocent as you were...And he was punished simply to punish me for daring to love him...Abandon my post...Well..." Cicely's coldly raging face...

There's only one enemy I want to kill now...she looked grimly at the two spirits...The One who created this game...Played by Its rules...

Angelus, watching quietly by Harmony's spirit...Hiding behind it, actually...Ready to pounce with the offer the Dark Powers had entrusted him with...If things worked out...

"Mrs. Walthrop..." Nast sighed... "There are many like your Will...Who need your help and his...Who have no one strong enough to save them...That's the real task the Slayer..."

She eyed him coolly... "Isn't God strong enough?...Or doesn't It care enough?..."

No...Angelus began mentally rehearsing his speech...And if you'd truly like revenge, Cicely...He waited as Harmony's spirit watched as well...Eyeing him...He noted her gaze and smiled at her, his most charming, just-before-the-kill one... "See how she handles it..." he hissed... "Abandons you to your sufferings with a laugh, but can she handle ten minutes of it herself...?"

"It may necessary that we be Its hands and instruments..." Nast began...Cicely cutting in with a bitter laugh... "Aren't Dru and him, over there,..." she indicated Angelus in the distance who quietly eyed her... "Aren't they Its instruments too?..."

Maybe I've been playing for the wrong team, after all...she eyed them...

Oh, happy day...Angelus beamed...But held back...One mustn't count the chickens before...

"Cicely..." Tara-Dru in Tara form pulled out her last resort... "What would your Will say?..."

Crapshit...Angelus sighed...Why the hell couldn't that bitch soul have caved to my mind games last century?...Fun as my psycho 'daughter' was...Damn...He eyed Cicely's face...There goes that faint hope of immediate victory...

Cicely's floating, shifting face blinked a second...The entire face, including the eyes...Ummn...

"He endured so much for his belief you loved him in spite of what your double Halfreck said to him that night...He stayed by Spike, hoping to find you again on Earth...You're risking eternal death after all you've both been through...How would he feel, hearing you talk like this...?"

Oh...A sob and Buffy's face now took shape... "I'm sorry, guys..." she sighed quietly... "You're right..."

Oh, well...The boys didn't have much hope for her anyway...Angelus sighed to himself...Guess it'll have to be her destruction and William's utter despair and self-condemnation...

Which works for me, natch...Especially if my lout of a counterpart joins them...

"I'll do what I have to for the condemned..." she sighed... "The ones like my poor Will...And from now on that includes trying to help...Whether that spoils God's little schemes or no..."

But don't ask me to pray to that Bastard...she eyed them grimly...

"Well..." she gave Tara-Dru a bitter smile... "My mother-in-law warned me this wouldn't be as easy as I thought..."

Yes...Tara-Dru nodded back solemnly... "And it gets worse, Buffy...Believe me...."

Mmmn...True...She still hasn't seen Anne in action...Angelus' essence picked up a bit...And when she sees that murderous fiend...Her own dark self...And knows it to be her own...

And of course I also have my dear new friend here as back-up...He smiled again at the face of Harmony, staring at him, then the others in the distance...

***

Two blocks from the former Wolfram-Hart tower...Same time...

"You're sure about the way...Dawn?..." Xander looked at her... She impatiently nodded but held the tracking stone out to him...Ummn...He stared...

Covered in the Buffy blood William had just provided...William, looking back from where he was trying woozily...In overcoat, gloves, and pushed down large hat, to check their flanks as they moved down the narrow street, gagging a bit at the sight...

"It's getting warm...Go ahead and feel it..." she smiled benevolently at Xander's greening face...Uh...

"I'll take your word for it, Dawny..."

Great...She pointed... "That way..." Then glanced back a bit nervously...No sign of...

"Here, William..." she offered the blood-covered stone... "I'm going back to take a quick look-see for Andy..."

"Dawn..." Xander eyed her as William grimaced at the stone in Dawn's hand...Uhhh...Jes...Urgh...A mo', Nibs...He staggered back curbside... "We can't stop now...Wes is sure to figure out our little video illusion soon...And it's not like they'll do anything to Andrew..."

"Wesley might get angry at him when he sees we're gone...Andrew is very sensitive..." Dawn looked back again... "I should go see..."

"Dawn..." Will looked up from where he was leaning over a fire hydrant, trying to recover from his latest bout of nausea... "We gotta find Annie 'fore she hurts somebody...Buf would be so sad if she hurt somebody...Ma poor lil' Buf..." he sighed...

"You might've thought of that before you killed her, you idiot!..." Dawn glared...Then relenting at his sad, if weaving, face... "Well...I suppose you're right...We should press on..." she nodded... "Just wish we could be sure he's..."

Call'im...Will suggested...Now standing and moving to the others... "They don' gotta know where's you callin' from...Tell 'im ta say wes still in da vault..."

"Call?..."....Hmmn...Excellent idea...And I have his cell number...Dawn nodded... "Great idea, Will...Thanks..." she dialed eagerly... "Lets get moving, gentlemen..." she waved the stone with one hand, cell to her ear with the other...

"Andrew?..." she hissed... "Don't ask where we are...Did they figure out...?"

What?...Joseph?...Who?...Oh...One minute...

"Xander?...Do we know a Lilah Morgan?...Works for Wolfram-Hart?..." He shook his head... "Seems she and her boss, a Senior Partner named Joseph, have come with word of Anne..."

"She did?...Really?..."...Dawn had returned to the phone... "Kicked them out and took over...?" A definite, faint grin...

Wha'...? Will stared, looking anxious...

"Anne just took over Wolfram-Hart...Or what's left of it..." Dawn told him...

Oh...he nodded...Eyeing Xander...Naturally...Their expressions saying... "But how are you doing, Andy?...They're not on to us...?" Dawn continued, anxiety in her voice as she, Will, and Xander continued on down the street...

"Remember to tell them I forced you to do it...Good-bye, Andrew..." her voice dropped to a whisper...

Did she just say "my darling"?...Xander and William exchanged looks...

A long talk with our Andrew is clearly in order when we link up again...

***

The former Wolfram-Hart tower...Evening...

"So you see gentlemen..." Joseph eyed Wesley, a barely-maintaining-his-stance Angel, and Tucker's brother...Now engaged in cell phone conversation with the remaining team members...

Kennedy, now returned from below, recovering from a little voluntary experiment by Wes to see if removal of the stomach's contents via purgative might reduce the brew's effect, lay sprawled in a chair, snoring for all she was worth...

"We share a common enemy...Only by uniting against this menace can we hope to defeat Anne...And restore poor Ms. Summers if at all possible..." he hastily added...

"Nonsense..." Wes glared... "You want us to take her out for you and resume your little empire..."

Well, naturally...Joseph shrugged... "But I'd say you need all the help you can get...And we can take you to Anne straight off..."

Doesn't really matter to me if you stake her or resoul her...he noted... "Just so long as we get her under control before she destroys us all..."

"You'll never be able to take her intact without help, Wesley..." Lilah chimed in... "Angel here is hardly in shape to take her on...And I doubt William the Bloody is doing any better..."

"Thanks to you..." Wes noted sternly... "And if you want to go on living...Let alone have us consider an alliance, even a temporary one, you could start by giving us the antidote to your brew..."

"Wha' Wes said..." Angel attempted a stern look... "And I's no' so bad I can' kil' ya if I wanna..."

Ummn...Well...Joseph eyed Lilah...Who eyed him...

"We actually don't have an antidote per se...Right now..."

"But they've..." Lilah hastily cut in as Wes and Angel frowned at Joseph... "Our old lab staff, I mean...They've been recalled...Anne will have them working on it shortly...And if she's cured before Angel and William..." she looked at Wesley...

Wes turned to Andrew standing off from them speaking into his cell phone... "Andrew, tell the others to take whatever they've found and come up at once..."

"We'd better get over there, Angel..." he turned to him... "If Anne is restored while you two and Willow are still incapacitated..."

I mean considering how she got past you two dolts even when she was completely smashed...he did not say...

Yeah...Angel nodded...Guess we betta...

"But we betta be reddy for her...Cause she's a crafty one..."

"Well, we have two of the most viciously 'crafty' characters on Earth at present now working with us..." Wes smiled coolly at Lilah and Joseph... "And as long as we don't trust them any further than one of our human staff could throw them..."

Hey...Came here in the spirit of cooperation against the common foe...Joseph frowned a bit...

Much as it is nice to have someone who still thinks of us as at least a potential threat...

"Andrew, are they coming?...Tell them we have to get moving..." Wes looked at a rather sheepish-looking Andrew...

Ummn...Well...Mr. Wyndham-Price...he began...

***

The pulsing nerve center of Wolfram-Hart...Queen Anne's new throne room... In Doublemeat franchise #10002...

"We have our senior science and magics team on its way..." Fred informed Her Anneness...Now feeling a shade better as she sat...

"Dat's gud..." she nodded regally... "Nows I might not hafta start killin' ya all..."

Now as to the major issue...she eyed her new minion coldly... "The thing I real' wanna know is...Where's ma hon'?..."

Ma'am?...

"Willum...Where's he at?...Whatcha got planned to get 'im?...Well?..."

Well...Fred paused... "I would assume he's still..." Urgh...He gasped as she lifted him off the floor from her chair with one hand...

"Dat ain't wha' I wanna hear...Where's he at?...Whatcha got planned?...Well?..." she lowered him...

"We'll...Send...Couple...Human...Agents...Tower..." Fred choked out through her vise grip as the other staffers nervously eyed him and their rather 'We are not amused' new Queen...

"Ok...Dat's betta...But I wan' 'im here...Quick...And in one piece...Got me?..." she glared...

"Yes, ma'am..."

Anne...Harmony came over...Frowning at the retreating Fred who summoned several of the W-Hers...

"Wha' bout Xanda?...You promised..."

Eh...Anne waved a regal hand... "Wen I's good and reddy...William's ma pri...ma furstest guy...Go sid down, kep an eye peeled on Drusie, and shet up..." Go...On...she glared as Harm frowned...

"Willum ain't gonna lik ya treatin' me lik dis..." Harm noted, glaring as she backed off towards Dru and the other prisoners... "He gonna be mad at ya..."

Hmmn...Anne pondered...He might at that...Perhaps a lil' graciousness was called for...

"We'll get Xanda fer ya, Harm...Ya jes gotta wait a lil'...Hey, you!..." she called to Fred... "Fred or wha'ever..."

"Haf ya boys find out where Xanda is...Or else..."

Who?...Fred stared...

"Xanda...Ya stoop..." Anne glared as did Harm...And Willow from her seat, hearing...Wha?...Don' know Xanda?...

"Xanda Harris...Ma lil' spir' bro...Braver o' the brave...Humanwise..." Anne nodded firmly...Yeah...Harm and Willow nodded as well...

"Ya don' know Xanda Harris?..." the Queen glared... Well...Fred looked at his colleagues...Harris, Alexander...Aide to the Slayer...One staffer hissed quickly...Fred pondering...

The better-looking geek who hung around Ms. Summers...the staffer explained...As quietly as possible...

Though not quietly enough... "Geek...!?..." Harm glared...Anne rising in wrath from her throne...Geek?!!...Ma lil' Xanda?...

"Bring dat jackass ova!..." the Queen's angry voice filled the room...Oh-oh...Fred eyed Melvin, the rather hapless...Former...staffer...And waved in two men to seize him...

"Soooo...Ma lil' Xanda is a geek, huh?!!..." Anne eyed the trembling Melvin...Uh...No...I...

Thank God I didn't say 'oh, that one' aloud...Fred sighed to himself...

Hmmn...She looked up at the ceiling fixtures...Not hungry jes yet...But no need to throw away a good meal...

Say, ma lil' vamp Xanda's first...she grinned coldly at Melvin... "Put 'im up dere... " she indicated the light fixture above... "But don' kill 'im yet...He's gonna be Xanda's dinner when he gets here...And wes see how 'geeky' our Xanda boy is den, huh?..."

Yeah...Harm nodded... "Ya won' be laughin' at ma Xanda den, jerk..." Two staffers brought some strong rope from the back storeroom...Anne, pleased at their alacrity, nodded...They threw the rope over the fixture...Melvin squirming in the grip of his captors...

Yeah!...Willow called... "Hang 'em high, Annie!!..."

"Willow..." Giles frowned as Drusilla gave a distressed look... "Anne, please...Be merciful!..." she cried...Sor'...Willow shrugged to the Chairman...But can' let 'im say dat about our Xanda...

"Mr. Giles!..." Dru turned to him as the guards placed the rope about poor Melvin's arms...

"Eh, jes puttin' him up for Xanda, Drusie..." Anne called... " 'Sides...I'm Evil incar...incarnation...And I don' gotta be anythin' I don' wanna...So...Shetup..."

"William will so disappointed, Anne!..." Dru tried...

Ummn...Anne stared...Gee...

Shet...He will at that...Ehhh...She brushed it off... "I tole ya...We ain't killin' dis clown yet...Xanda'll do it..."

Get him up!...she told the guards...Who pulled the rope, raising the struggling Melvin... "Yeah, up wid the basta!"...Harmony waved her hands...Oh...Dru shook and bowed her head, closing her horrified eyes at the brutal spectacle...

"Now, gemme sum news about ma Will...!...Now!!..." Anne glared at her somewhat less enthusiastic minions...Who all quickly nodded in unison...Yes, ma'am...

Hmmn...Anne's hardly the most ruthless killer we've ever encountered, Giles thought as Melvin kicked in the air about ten feet above them ...At least where William's good opinion is at stake...We may be able to use that...

On the other hand...Never suspected Harmony was capable of such feeling...

***

"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 XXXV...

***

Central LA...Evening...

"Straight ahead fellas..." Dawn waved her tracking stone as Xander and Will followed in close support...Will trying his damnest not to stumble any more than absolutely necessary...

Hmmn...She eyed the Doublemeat Palace in front of them to which the stone's warmth was unquestionably leading them...

Maybe Anne's stopped for a snack and to make some friends?...

***

Lobby of the former Wolfram-Hart Tower building...New home to Angel Investigations...Same time...

"They're based in a Doublemeat Palace?..." Wesley eyed Joseph who shrugged, a tad embarrassed...

"It was a brilliant camouflage..." Lilah hastily insisted, smiling at Joseph... "A perfect place for our forces to regroup after..." We kicked your butts...Wesley nodded, smiling... "...our temporary setback..." she firmly concluded...

Uh-huh...In any case...Wes waved a hand...Angel, standing by him, trying to look the part of solemn, attentive Leader without falling on his face...Unnh...Brew aint setting too...Cuse me...he stumbled hastily down the hall...

Not quite making it...

Eggh...Lilah stared...Somebody get a mop...Oh, right...a slight sneery smile at the thought...These clowns probably can't afford mops, let alone have a maintenance staff...

Probably was a brilliant strategy to retreat and let em take this place...It'll ruin em in a month at most...

"Andrew, would you give Angel a hand?..." Wes sighed to him... "And I haven't forgotten your role in letting those three idiots slip out on us...It's only that I know Dawn that I don't lock you in that containment cell..."

Yes Mr. Wyndham-Price...Andy nodded, hurrying to Angel to help him down the hall...Don' feel sa gud...the new CEO noted as he leaned on his helper, staggering off...

"Well..." Lilah stared after them, then back to Wes... "You've basically got Angel out of the action...A Slayer who can't stand on her feet..." she eyed the snoring Kennedy in her chair...

All thanks to you...he eyed her sternly...

She likes him?...A quick look at Joseph...Geesh...And I thought...He hastily scraped the thought from his mind...

"Whatever..." Lilah gave a dismissive wave...Joseph momentarily taking the silent part, sensing she was making headway...Excellent negotiator that she was, he thought fondly...

Standin' betwixt me and my enemies...Even without full compensation...

Wonder if I should pick up some flowers if time, our likely imminent deaths at Anne's hands, and the remains of our expense account would allow?...Course her proper course of action would then be to nail me to the wall with a harassment suit...Which would be a pretty damned fine one, given her wonderfully acute legal mind...he beamed...

"You need us, Wesley..." she continued... "We need you...Lets be sensible about this..."

What does she like?...I saw lilies on her desk once...

"Very well..." Wyndham-Price nodded... "Under the circumstances, we have a temporary alliance until Anne has been contained...But you are functioning solely as sources of information here...And will follow my orders...Any signs of betrayal, any acts against Anne without my permission or against any of us...One of you goes to the bathroom without asking...And we will kill you..."

"Fair enough..." Joseph nodded... "I accept..." he beamed expansively... "Lets go win back Wolfram-Hart..." he clenched a fist...

"We'll need the details of your..." Wes paused with a slight grin...Lilah frowning... "New HQ..."

"Layout, defenses...Greasy spots on the floor we should avoid..." Lilah's stare went to glare...Very funny... "Say you know I never realized what an echo you could get in this place when the corridors of power are almost empty..." she sneered...

People...Joseph eyed them... "Mr. Wyndham-Price, time for both of us is of the essence...Especially if that fool Spike is on his way to Anne right now...If she can persuade him to join her..."

"I seriously doubt that is a worry..." Wes shook his head... "Buffy had complete faith in William's soul's recovery..."

"Was that before or after he killed her?..." Lilah grinned...

"Even so..." Joseph put up a hand... "Once she has him in her grip, there'll be no restraint on her...Except, thank us, our demonic brew...She'll be free to move against us all...And she may even try to restore Spike to his former glory..."

They together then creating an army of Evil unrivaled since the days when we really kicked ass on this planet...he noted fondly...

"Not that we want that..." he added hastily...As Lilah eyed him carefully, noting Wes' frown...

Watch it, boss...

"We of Wolfram-Hart are for stability and balance in our mutual contest...Violence and chaos of the Angelus variety are bad for business..."

Uh-huh...Wes eyed him coolly...

"Angelus was a tool that second time..." Joseph noted...And no world-destroying nonsense that time, I might point out...

Though the bastard did betray us to Jasmine...Treacherous, disloyal, worthless...If it hadn't been for him...

"Boss..." Lilah hissed... "Alliance...Focus..." Right, right...he nodded...

My Lilah...Always lookin' out for me...Say...Lily, Lilah...No wonder she likes 'em...

"Anyway, let me show you the layout..." Joseph pulled out a diagram of the store from his suit side pocket...A Senior Partner must always know where the exits are at any Wolfram-Hart division, he explained...

He shouldn't get too excited... Lilah nervously hissed to Wesley as Joseph eagerly smoothed out his diagram...Heart trouble, she explained to his stare... "Nothing too serious, I think, but please keep an eye on him?...I'm taking him over to the hospital as soon as things settle down..." Right...Wesley nodded...

Well...Sike was...And now Anne seems to be...Madly in love...With human souls, no less...And they have worked together a long time at Wolfram-Hart...he thought..

But...Him?...he eyed Joseph as he moved to rally or at least, wake, his forces...

"Miss Kennedy?..." he gently shook her...And barely dodged a sudden swipe that would have sent him into the far wall as she jerked awake...

"Wha's...We home yet?..." she looked around, blinking...Oh...Still..Dis place... Hmph... Hmphhf...she burst into tears...

Homesick...Wes explained to the staring Lilah and Joseph as he patted her..

"Just take it easy, we'll have everything spiffy in a jiffy..." a mop-bearing Andrew noted to a sheepish Angel, emerging from the mens room...

Hmmn...Wes frowned at his troops over the Kennedy now sobbing on his shoulder...People, our worst enemies are here, watching, lets try to smarten up and show a little attitude...

It just doesn't bode well that Andrew is the most competent-looking of my forces...he sighed within...

"I think this may work out well for us...One way or the other..." Joseph hissed to his partner as she returned to his side...Where she always is, he thought fondly...

"Just make sure you let them do the hard stuff, Joseph...And getting rid of Anne will be enough work for today...We can turn on them later, after you've had a few days' rest... " Lilah noted quietly...Offering an arm for support...

Lilies, yeah, that's the ticket...

***

Inside the Doublemeat Palace HQ of the newly reorganized Wolfram-Hart, Inc...Would be Prime Minister Fred was suggesting his new Queen make contact with those who might be able to assist her in her quest for her souled one...The remaining Senior Partners in Hell...

Hmmpf...She looked round the place...Dey's don't seem ta be doin' sa gud judgin' from dis place...

Well...Their power on Earth is limited...he noted...Only Joseph has Earthly form right now...But they can advise and they might be able to locate...

"Willy?!...Yeah, yeah!!...Callum, getum up here!...Tellum Annie wants Willum now!!...Or Else!!!..." she excitedly waved to him from her plastic throne chair...

Ummn...Best not to threaten the Partners...Fred hesitated...They may be limited in Earthly power but they can usually cough up enough to blast this place to shreds...

"Lemme handle dat, lil nobody..." she sneered at him... "Jes get em up here!...Now!!..."

"I'll put in the call...One moment..." he went to fetch implements..

Fred...One of the other former senior staff hissed as he passed...You've never summoned the Partners...

Just gotta follow the instructions...Fred muttered back under his breath...

If that idiot Holland Manners could manage it, I certainly should have no prob...he thought...

Lieutenant Harmony watched the goings-on impatiently from her duty station in her new second-in-command's plastic chair...Presented to her primarily to keep her from continuing to wander over to Drusilla and the other prisoners...Don' look like anybodys gettin' Xanda fer me...

"Annie..." she turned to Her Anneness...Who gave a regal gaze...Hic...Yeah?...Wha?...

"Nobodys gettin' Xanda..." "Eh, we'll get' im..." "When?..." "When Is gud and reddy...Sheddup!..."

Hmmpf...Harmony sat back, glaring...

Hmmn...Anne regarded her throne room, the main dining area of Doublemeat #10002...Not exactly what she would have hoped for but with a few touches looted from the finest stores and museums downtown, it'd do...And big enough for a wedding reception with a few minor renovations...

And it did have the one essential to ensure the upcoming ceremony once dear Will came achargin' in...as he eventually would, she thought fondly...

Hostages...She beamed at her well-secured friends and family...A slight thing nagging at her though...Hmmn...

She rose and went over to Giles...An attempt at a nonchalant look...Eyeing him... "Ya doin' ok, Giles?...Theys treating ya ri'?...Cause they betta be treatin' ma Watcher ri'..." a glare at several nervous staffers, mostly human... "Anne..." the Chairman sighed... "When will you stop this nonsense...William is not going to..."

"Hey!...I don' gotta listen to you no more!...I's a free vamp lady...Da Quean of the Undoed...Unded...Got my min...guys and all..." she waved a hand at the pitiful remnants of Wolfram-Hart, Inc... "Gotta big plan and everythin'...Gonna rule da wor'd...Yeah..." Ummn...she paused...

"Giles?...Was William feelin' bad?...I didn' mean ta mak fun of him, jes Angel when I locked em up..."

"I didn't see him, Anne...Remember, I came in from..." he began... "He's ok...!" Willow called... "But he's mad at ya, Annie...And he's gonna be madder when he finds ya got us tied up...Betta let us go...Now!..."

Hmmn...Not a bad try, Willow...Giles thought...Perhaps that stuff is beginning to wear off...

Mad?...Annie stared, a worried look...Uh-oh...

"Eh, ya jes tryin' to mess wid ma hed..." she eyed her friend shrewdly... "Will ain't mad, he's sor' fer killin' me...But dats ok cause it wok'd out fine and danny..." she grinned...

Especially when I show my sweetie his first wedding present...Wolfram-Hart, lock, stock, barrel... and complete with Senior Partners soon as I can get em to show...she thought contentedly...Not even Angel ever managed that...

"Gotta get up purty early in the evenin' to fool wid ole Annie..." Hah...a sneering look...Oops, she tripped over Willow's chair leg...OWW!...Several of her new minions racing over to help her up...I'ma ok...hic...

"Hey you, whas yer name?!..." she yelled over to Fred, dragging in a large pot and various implements... "You betta get dis stuff outta me...fast...Cause I'm gettin' not ta like this..."

So...She returned to her social duties... "Willum wasn't feelin' bad, ri' Giles...?"

***

Outside Doublemeat Palace, franchise #10002...Evening...

"All right..." Dawn eyed the building carefully from the alley where she and William had awaited the just-returned Xander, who'd made a quick scouting foray to a side window...

Inside...Anne and at least Giles, Willow...that Brit Slayer, Allyson...(cute Brit Slayer Allyson, he refrained from noting)...That other Slayer, Brenda...Who seemed kinda out of it...A very few demons...Plus a fair number of guys he didn't know but who seemed to be taking Anne's lead...

Oh, and Drusilla and Harmony...But Giles seemed to have been right...Dru apparently was indeed still on our side, being well-secured in ropes and chains with our guys...he noted...

"Les go!..." Will staggered a few steps... "Waits here, Dawny..." he turned back to her...Will!...she called...Xander catching him as he tripped on a board in the dimly-lit alley...

"We can't go charging in the front door, William..." Dawn frowned at him as she came up... "The odds are too high, especially in your current state...And they're holding our friends and family...God knows, those W-Hers would probably not hesitate to take Anne out as well and then where would we be?..."

"Well, the W-H guys dun brought Darla back, we jes do dat...Den she'd be human again...Cause I think ma Buf would wanna be human..."

Hmmn...A possible fall-back plan B at that...Dawn thought...

"Well, we could try that if we have to, Will...But, we can't be sure of the procedure...I think we'd best try taking Anne Undead....I think maybe a diversion to lure her out if possible..."

Well, Africa's nice...Will nodded... "Buf should travel mor'..." he noted to Xander... "Get outta the 'burbs and see some new places..."

Yeah...Xander kindly nodded... "An wanted to travel too, go to Europe on our honeymoon..."

Sor' Xan...Will sighed at his companion's sad face... "Says, mebbe you can use the spell fa her...?"

Doubt she'd come back the way I treated her...Xander sighed...

Guys?...Dawn eyed them... "Diversionary assault and vampiral capture to plan here?..." "Right...Ri'..." the boys nodded...

"But An' loves ya..." Will continued... "She'd cum, I's sure of it...Ask Willa to give her a call later..."

"Thanks..." Xander nodded... "Maybe I'll do that..."

Sorry, Dawnie...they chorused to her frowning face...Which softened a bit on seeing Xander's sad one...

"Will's right, Xander..." she patted him kindly... "You should have Willow reach her later on...And maybe, if she wants back here, we can do something for her..."

"Yeah..." Buffy's drunken voice just in front of them startled them... "We oughta do dat later..."

"Hey guys...Hiya sis!...Oh, Willum hon'...Ya ok?..." Anne smiled at them from where she stood in the alley...A small force of human and a few demonic minions just behind, trying to look menacing...Light from the back entrance to the Palace streaming through the open door through which the group had just emerged...

Hmmn...Dawn sighed...Well, so much for plans A and B...

***

Limbo...Evening...

Anne's been up and about for a day...And still hasn't killed anyone?...Angelus, keeping his careful distance from the others, fumed as Cicely relayed her first vague impressions of Anne's doings on Earth to Tara-Dru and Nast...Tara-Dru helping to strengthen the developing link...

"She's restrained by that brew, thank God...And by William..." she noted proudly to her companions... "Whatever else she is, she is cast in our mold lovewise...As Spike was in Will's..."

"We can't count on that too far Buffy..." Tara-Dru noted gently as Buffy resumed her modern form... "She wants the soul over Spike, maybe...But she's evil and that will out eventually, regardless..."

I know, Buffy sighed... "Believe me, I know her every thought..."

She's trying to use the guys as hostages...Bargain with William for letting her stay with him...

"And she means to turn Willow...Once she can be sure of controlling her...Probably after regaining her full strength..."

Oh?...Tara-Dru eyed her... "I didn't pick that up...in the telepathic stream..."

Uh, no...Buffy looked sheepish... "It's just what I would do if I'd turned evil and wanted to stay that way...Willow's the first human I'd either make an ally of or kill..."

Like the way I knew she'd go huntin' up Dru first thing...Not that I think about things like that a lot...Just sometimes...A Slayer has to put herself in the opponents' shoes and try to think like em...she noted solemnly... "Like say the Master, for instance...Now I could never understand why he didn't turn me when he had..."

Uh-oh...She paused...Tara-Dru eyed Nast...Just outta curiosity?...Why didn't he?... "I think he guessed a turned Slayer like Anne would be too much for him..." Nast shrugged...

"Guys..." Buffy looked at them... "I think she just caught Dawn...And judging by the joy, I'm sure she's found William..."

Now that's more like it...Angelus thought happily...Lets hope to hear there's been some good eatin' shortly...

He turned to Harmony, holding position out of sight from the others behind him... "See...All she's concerned about are her William and her sister...You don't rate a moment of her time..."

So?...Harm eyed his misty, shifting face coolly...

"So...Stand-by, and be ready when you feel the pull signaling your time has come...Don't fight it and you'll be back on Earth..."

Then do the 'oh my God, I'm a souled vampire, oh the agonizing remorse thing'...Look suitably pitiful and sorrowing...

"Then ram the first piece of wood you see into Anne..." he smiled...

"I thought you wanted Anne on your team..." Harm hissed back... "Not the way she is, especially the way she's been going with this crazed romancing over William, no...What we wanted was human Buffy with a vengeance-seeking Cicely in charge...Which doesn't seem likely..." he sighed....Thought Cicely had more spirit...

"But if they have to resurrect Buffy's body yet again, via a spell in the Wolfram-Hart archives...And Anne is ready to deal after such an exit...We might still get something of what we want..."

See, there's a leetle drawback to that particular resurrection spell...he grinned at her puzzled face...

"Our Senior Partners control it and can see which gets to the human...Or superhuman body first...Demon essence or soul..."



***




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