Suggested Theme..."Secret Garden"

Romance Palace...Part XVI...

She'll look at you and smile
And her eyes will say
She's got a secret garden

***
Now this was more like a First (real) Date, Buffy sighed contentedly...

Sniffing the wild flowers William had picked for her...At some risk, considering the two attack dogs
guarding the field...

And...While she absolutely respected his desire to avoid killing when possible, given his only natural
inclination towards nonviolence after a century trapped with serial killer Spike...She couldn't help
relishing the way he'd sprung to her defense and toasted the two new vamps who'd tried to jump
them just after she'd winded herself chasing him down...

Always knew William could handle himself she thought, drifting a bit while watching him checking
the road ahead...

In spite of all they said...Whatever the family thought, I knew we'd manage...I...

She shook herself...The family?...

He came back to her...

She looks funny...Spike noted...Is she ok?...

"Are you all right, Buffy?..." Will asked her...

Het-hum!...

"Spike's worried, too...Asked about you..." he smiled...

Too?...@#$%&ing!! "too"?

"I...I've been having these weird...Flashes..." Buffy explained...

Harris is right...A doctor for you tomorrow...he insisted...

But eyed her carefully...Wondering...

What's the #$%&@;ing deal?!...Spike groused within...

Tell her...She's the reincarnation of one Cicely...Walthrop, nee Addams...

Born 1855...
And our personal property...Given the status of nineteenth century married human females...

No wonder Dru and Darla preferred the vamp lifestyle...he sneered...

"Yeah...Well, maybe it's not a bad idea..." she looked down the road...

"What...?" William gave a start...

She looked back at him, grinning a little...

Looks like I'm not the only one with concentration problems...

"The doc...Tomorrow...If Xander and Giles can arrange it...It probably wouldn't be a bad idea..."

Ah...He nodded, eyeing her...

Now he was worried...While Spike was approaching freak out...

If Buffy Summers agrees to see a doc...Without protest...

Call an ambulance, you moron!...Spike fretted...

Our girl is at death's door!...It must be a side effect of that bastard Mears' ray gun...

Calm down, Spike...It's got to be her memories...Cicely's...Resurfacing...

You're a good fellow, though, bro...Always knew you had compassion potential...

#$%&@;!!!...

"Spike is very concerned..." William noted...As am I...

You sure you're all right?...Ummn...

Dear...

Whoa...Poof-boy makes his big move...Spike sneered...

"Dear..." he mimicked...

Gee...Who knows?...Maybe you'll be holding her hand in twenty years...

"Why don't we call it a night?...We both start with Anya tomorrow..." William noted...

Things seem very quiet...he went on...

Dear?...she blinked...Dear...?

"Buffy?..."

Buffy Anne...?

"Cicely" on the tip of his tongue...Cicely my darling, my beloved wife...My one reason for enduring
all these horrible years...

But not yet...

Arrgh!!!...Spike groaned within...

Still, maybe...Poof-bro has a point...

The Spiked One can appreciate the values of patience in the hunt...Though not to the ridiculous
extremes of the Angelic twit, please...

She blinked at him...

Dear...?

I'm...Dear...?

Ok, ok ...Spike conceded generously, seeing her beaming face...

She liked it...

The "Dear..." works...Keep it in...

"Yeah..Well, I do have Doublemeat duty tomorrow too..." she nodded...

But...This has been really...Nice...

William...

D...Dear...she hesitated...

Dear...she repeated...

Dear...I am...Dear...she thought...Closing her eyes, breathing it in...

Amazing what those Victorians could do with a little word like that...

Dear...

***
What, no "she's ready, go for it" brother? he teased Spike as they started back...

Urghh...Spike gritted back...

Good imitation teeth-grinding, brother...William noted...to himself...

She's not right...What's with these "flashes"?...And don't let her strain herself...Make sure she sees
the bloody doc...

Why Spike...Will grinned within...

You're a regular Alan Alda...The Fred MacMurray of demonic dads...

Sod off...the demon growled...And make sure she sees the doc...And the Ripper checks out these
flashes...

Might be her demon trying to cut in, you know...

"Will?..." Buffy eyed him...

Spike trying something?...

"He..." William grinned at her...

"Unbelievable as you may find this...He really is very concerned about his Slayer girl...And the
bambino..."

Wants you to see that doctor...And talk to Giles about your visions...

"As do I..." he noted...

Tell him...Buffy grinned...

He's a disgrace to the Angelis pride...

And...I'm ok...Just a little...she waved a hand...You know...

"No...I don't know..." William replied, a little sternly...

"But we're going to find out..."

Hmmn...She paused...

They were nearing her street...

And...Probably not a good idea to suggest a quick dash back to his place...

First (real) date...after all...And the baby...And...

She didn't want to seem too...Forward...First (real) date...

Much as Spike might love it...William might be a little...Nervous...

"Dear" would do...

Oh yeah...For First (real) Date...

"Dear"...Was just fine...

"What are you going to do?..." she continued...

"Back to the shop, get some rest before my first day..."

No...I mean...She hesitated...

The future...

He eyed her...

"Are you...Feeling...Very guilty?...About...Spike and all?..." she looked at him...

"I suppose..." he nodded...And stopped...Looking down the road...

I didn't stop him...he sighed...

"No one could stop their demon..." Buffy noted...Taking his hand...

I couldn't...She looked up at his tired face...

Anne would be quite a challenge...If Spike is right about her...he nodded...

"Anne?..." she stared at him...

Spike's encountered your counterpart...Back in his Hell days...Will explained...

My...Counterpart?...

"A wild lady...So he says..."

So...? she paused...Why didn't he...?

"Kill and transform you when he had the chance...? After you weren't protected by the chip?..."

I'd like to think I had some role in that...Thanks to the chip...And...

Hey!...A little gratitude!!...A bellow from below...

"And...(I said "and", bro) He was letting more of me through

Trying to impress his girl with his human side, I think...Will grinned...

"But...He loved you...We loved you...And not even Anne would satisfy..."

She grinned wanly...And kissed him...

"That's for Spike too...Though I don't want him expecting it too often..."

They continued...

"Are you...Going away?..." she paused, reaching the question she'd been moving towards all night...

Am I what?...

Girl...He eyed her...

"Do I look like Christ Jr...?"

She grinned...She knew who he meant...

"Are you out of your resurrected, half-melted mind?...I've got no plans to leave...And I don't intend
to die of remorseful guilt..." he stared at her...

"I don't brood well...Sloppy sentiment is more my style..."

Though I was a poor man...From the working, Hell...the servant class...And there's always been a
practical side to my nature...Even before Spike came along...

He looked away...

"Yes I feel guilt over what Spike did...And I intend to do whatever I can to make amends...But hell,
I was a victim too...And I have a right to seek out a little happiness and..."

He eyed her...

"...A life for myself...And the ones I love..."

"I want to help you...If you'll let me...After all, Cicely...I am..."

He paused...

Even Spike was hesitant...

Cicely?...Buffy looked at him...

Cicely...?

***

Cicely...Buffy thought darkly...As she reached the front steps of the house...

First date ending on a somewhat stilted moment...

Cicely...He called me...

Cicely...

"Just got..."Confused there" for a second, Buffy..."

She kicked the steps...Each one...

Bloody @#$&ing Cicely!!!...

Who the hell is...Cicely...?

"Dear..."

Dear Cicely he meant!...

God...It must be her...

The one he said rejected him...

That night in the bar when he told me how he killed the other Slayers...And just a little...

Wildly exaggerated little...

About his past...

Of course I knew even then the "Always been bad, baby..." was a load of posturing crap...

Cicely...He's got me confused with some...@#$%& Victorian girlfriend...

Dear...I was...Dear...

For one moment...

But it was Cicely's...Dear...

She paused...

On the other hand...
All the last year...All the year before...

He loved me...Me...

"Are you gonna stand out there all night?..." Dawn groused, opening the door...

So...She peered around...

Where's...

"Went...Home..."

Back to the shop, I mean...

Phew...And she didn't go with him...Dawn sighed to herself...

Thank God...

Unless...

Nah, it was only an hour and a half...Sis is too conscientious not to do at least a light Patrol...They
wouldn't have had time to get back to the shop...do...whatever...And get back here...

On the other hand...Geesch...Didn't he even want to stop by...? Wish his date's sis good night...?

Spill a few over a late cocoa...

"How'd it go...?" she tried a causal air...

Fine...Buffy eyed her...

Oh...God...

"Was he mad at you again?..." Dawn groused...

Mad?...At me?...Buffy stared at her...

Well...He was a leetle annoyed earlier...About you're not trying to help him last year...Or the year
before...Dawn explained....

Oh...

Say...Buffy thought...Maybe that's it...

Yeah...He's pissed at me for not showing how much I cared...Trying to free him from Spike...

And he's brought up old galpal Cicely to jerk my chain...
No...

Will isn't the type...

Unless Spike persuaded him...

Besides...Drusilla would make a much more effective chain-jerker...

"Buffy?..."

Hmmn...Dru...Silla...

An involuntary glare crossed her face...

Buffy?...Dawn stared...

May that fiend burn in Hell forever...That murderess...That...
Adulteress...

She blinked...

Adulteress?...

"Ok..." Dawn glared..."I'm calling Giles..."

Oh...

Sorry...

"This one wasn't all a weird out, Dawny...I was thinking of ways to...Help Will out..."

Get him back into the stream of life, you know...

And nobody better than someone who's experienced a little of what he's experienced...Right?...

Dawn glared...

"I'm gonna see the doctor tomorrow or as soon as Giles and Xander can set it up...I promise...And
I promised William too..."

Hmmn...Dawn frowned...

She couldn't contain it any longer...

Even if this "Cicely" had cut in on her...

"Dawn..." Buffy took her hand...
He's not leaving...He wants to stay...

"He called me...Dear..."

Dear?...Dawn stared at her sis' open, joyful face...

Oh...God...

A night of wild sex would have been less dangerous...Hell, she's already pregnant...

Damn these gentle Victorians...

***

Romance Palace...XVII...


Part XVII...

***

Well...? Spike groused...As William headed back to the Box...

What?...

What did you do to her, poof?...

What?...To Buffy?...

She was mad...She didn't even ask us in...

It was late Spike, she was exhausted...She kissed us good night...Said she see us tomorrow...

She...Was...Mad...I know anger when I see it...

William sighed internally...Well...

She did seem a little...Cool...At the end...

Frigid...And we ought to know frigid, being Victorians...Spike pointed out...

It was right after I called her "Cicely"...William noted...

Oh, @#$%%!...You moron!...

What?...It was an accident, slipped out...

She is Cicely, after all...he continued...

But you didn't tell her that...You poof, no wonder she was your first!...If you ever really
made love to her...Mate, you can't call a woman by another woman's name...Damn you, I'm
the demon counterpart and even I know that...

Go back!...Spike commanded...

What?...

God damn you, go back!...Tell her about Cicely!...Apol...@#$%&!...Spike struggled with the
word...

Apol...ogize...he choked out...

I can't tell her about Cicely yet Spike...She has to let it come to her...

She'll remember...In her own good time...

Arghh!...Go back!...Spike hollered...

Besides...William noted...to himself...

Would it really so terrible for her to think she had a leetle competition...? From the past...

What?...Spike pulled up...

We spent the last two years chasing her...William noted...

Couldn't hurt to let her chase us for a day or two...See if she really is interested...Or just sympathetic
to our plight...

Hmmn...Interesting...Bro was showing a little edge after all...

But...What if she...? Spike was hesitant...Admitting that his prowess had been limited mainly to Dru
and Harmony was not something he cared to let slip out...Even to his human counterpart...

She cares, don't fret about...She was angry...You were right, Spike...William noted to
himself...Moreover...

She returned the "Dear" ...he pointed out...

But it couldn't hurt to have her staking a claim...(must you use that word, Spike groused)...And the
Greatest Slayer of All Time is not about to let some old flame from our past crowd her out...

And we do have to be sure...That Buffy loves us...That it's not some residual guilt on Cicely's
part...Or solely the effect of Cicely memories...
If I go and tell her now...Well...

I don't want her pity...Or her guilt...

Bull...Spike noted...

Fair enough...Yeah...Pity and guilt would do in a pinch...William admitted...

But...If she goes at her own pace...And deals with her past...Herself...While we get to know each
other again...

Uhhh...Spike groaned...

This sounded like the Angelis style to him...

And Summers as sack-mate not likely for some time...

She liked the "Dear"...William smiled within...

Yeah, yeah...

It's best to leave things for tonight...And Buffy needs her rest...

Uhhhh...

Well...William pondered...

We could go back a moment...Ask her if anything's wrong...

We didn't say good night to Dawn, after all...

Absolutely...The Nibs will be crushed...Spike solemnly noted...

Besides the little bitch will spill anything Buf told her the moment we get her alone...

***

"Hey..." Dawn eyed him at the front door...

Sorry, Nibs...William smiled...

"Didn't mean to leave without saying good night...Buffy just seemed tired..."

Will...? Buffy came out of the kitchen...Cocoa in hand...

Anything wrong...?

"Sorry...I...Just wanted to ask a question...And say night to the Nibs..."

She came out, Dawn watching narrowly and frowning severely as Buffy closed the front door...

Came to say "night" to me, huh?...Bullcrap...she thought darkly...

***

"Did I do something wrong?..." he asked her...

Ummn...

You seemed....Unhappy...When you left me...

"No...Ummn...No, really..." she paused, eyeing him...

I was just a little pooped...

"Ummn...The name I mentioned...She's just..." he looked at her...

My ideal...You might say...

"Name...?" she asked brightly...

Spike listening intently within...

There was a Cicely...But...

"Oh..." So there was a #$%&ing little Victorian Cicely...she thought, glaring involuntarily...

Oh...Bollocks!...You poof!...Step back and let me han...William crushed Spike down...

But...What I loved in her...Is what I love in you, Buffy...If you can just under...

"It will be all right, William..." she murmured...

"I'll write Papa...Once we've...Gone..."

Buffy?...he blinked...

She came back with a start...

"Yeah...So...Ummn...So I'm "Cicely"...I mean what you loved in her?..."

Miserable @#$%^$ing Cicely...she thought...

Bet she never would have made love to Spike...
Out of sympathy and compassion for William, I mean, of course...

Just wasn't consciously aware of it when we were at it like crazed animals...

But it was all for a good...Who am I kidding?...She looked up at him...

I should have taken him back to the shop...First Date or no...

There'd be no Cicely in his mind when I got through with him...

"I'm not substituting you for someone else..." William went on...True enough, after a fashion he
noted. to himself...

"I understand, William...It's ok...Hey...We still have to get to know each other, right?..." she noted...

But hey...She thought happily...Cicely sent him away...Rejected him...Maybe even caused his
death...

Bitch...Some snotty little Victorian princess...William wasn't good enough for her, no...

Probably as shallow as...

"Buffy?..." William stared at her...She was staring blankly...

There she goes again...Spike groaned...

Doctor, tomorrow...No excuses...If he won't see her, let me handle him...he groused...

Elegantly dressed people swirled around her, men in top hats, women in long gowns, candles and gas
lights burning...

I...She looked down...A long dress on her as well...

What the...?

A handsome man, top-hatted, elegant, dark-haired, rather...Xanderly in his manner...Hurried to her
side...

"My dear girl..." he paused...

Henry...she replied, without thinking...

Henry?...The name Xander said I called him...

I...What...?

"I..." he paused...Looking at her stricken face...A sad, gentle look on his...
"They've found William..."

She looked at him...Knowing somehow...Not able to say the words...

"Take me..."

"My dear...Not tonight...You mustn't see him tonight..."

"Then I'll go myself..." she turned...

It's...He's...She looked at him...

The morgue, yes?...

Henry bowed his head...She trembled...But...She had to see...

She already had guessed, knew...How he'd died...

And she knew why...

She'd failed...Fallen into the trap so neatly set by her own Watcher and Council...

Who would be dead as shortly as she could make it...

But there was still one thing she could do for her beloved...Husband...

"I'll take you..." Henry told her, looking back at his cousin's steady gaze...

Buffy came back with a start...

Holy...

***

You see...Spike noted...

She was glad we came back...

You're right...William generously conceded...She was happy, even if she's still upset about Cicely...

Both brothers couldn't help it...Buffy Summers jealous of...Herself...

William chuckled...Spike guffawed...

But oddly it was Spike who fretted more...

"We have to tell her...Soon..."

At her own pace, Spike...It has to come to her...And it will...

You heard what she saw tonight...

Hmmn...

So...She did come after us...That night...

Spike...William beamed...She came to help us...Even after...

I don't consider having a stake shoved in my newly arisen bod... "Help"...

She cared...She still cared...I knew it...William was rapt...

After sending us to our death, she got the guilts...Spike noted, sneering...

William glared within...Reaching unforgivable territory, there, bro...

Language skill pulling territory, he noted...

Sorry...Spike astonishingly replied...

Not our Cicely...She couldn't have done it...Knowingly...he conceded...

And how she was led into it is one of the things I...we have to find out...William finished...

He pondered a bit...As did his "brother"...

She's working too hard...William noted to himself...

Hmmn...Doublemeat duty...

Doublemeat...Well...

Oh, no...NO!...Spike screamed within...

A place with high turnover...Always looking for night help...

And a unique chance for a writer returning to his craft...(NOOOO!!!!! Spike bellowed)....

To observe the human condition, close hand...

And...Buffy will be there...

Hmmn...Spike pulled up short...Forgot that one saving grace...

And one never knows what a desparate girl might do, endlessly working a dead-end job...William
noted...

Hook up with the first lout who flashes her a smile...And has a steady income...Spike pondered
within...

Not on my...our watch...the demon noted...

Right then...You see what we have to do...William told...himself...

Yeah...Spike sighed...

But, look mate...This is your bright idea...I'm not taking any share on this one...

Except that I consented only for Buffy's sake...the demon hastily added...

You're a demonic prince of a fella, bro...

Damn straight...Spike groused...

And use your own name...Don't call yourself "Spike" there...

Jesus...Spike moaned... "Doublemeat Hell..."

Well...If you "can get money"...Another, relatively honest way...Like you promised her...William
noted...

Hey!...I gave it a shot...Spike cried...Lets be fair here...

And I didn't even tell Buffy the whole eggs story...

Left Harris and his little veiny girl out of it...Just like I promised her...

Even when Summers and war-boy blew my crypt sky-high...

You did well, brother...William agreed...But you know as well as I do, it would've been
worse if you'd ratted on the (soon to be, hopefully, at last) Harrises...

And Anya was only trying to help us help Buffy...

***
Romance Palace...Part XVIII...

Part XVIII...

Strange...Dawn nodded in agreement...

Very....Strange...

William having departed for the Box...For the second time, finally, Dawn noted to herself...

Buffy had brought up the strange way she'd somehow known William's name...

A very nice name, by the way...A truly fine name...

A name that really defined...Dawn glared...Enough already...

" 'Course...I could of heard Spike say it sometime..." Buffy finished sheepishly...

Just forgotten it in the heat of battle maybe...

Absolutely...Dawn nodded...

Mystery solved...

She being no more anxious than Mr. Walthrop for Buffy to learn about her past just yet...

No, not until they had more to go on...More about this "Cicely"...

Oddly enough Buffy had mentioned...

Spit out the name, rather...

Cicely...

Apparently some ole girlfriend of Will's...Buffy had noted...Just as William had returned...

And she'd quickly donned the cap of forgetfulness...Cicely, Will?...Oh...right...

My God...Dawn had blinked...As Buffy had rushed out to hear Will's..."Question"...

Ha...He came back!...Her joyous manner clearly shouting...

Sensitive, romantic...Dear...poet that he was...He'd caught her skillfully masked apprehension...

My God...Dawn thought...As she awaited Buffy's...Hopefully quick return from the front steps...

She's jealous...

Of Cicely...?

But...Unless Halfreck was lying to Anya and Xander...She was...

My God...

Will she be jealous of me next?...It would make more sense, after all...
Unless Halfreck was lying...

Hmmn...

And "Guidance Counselor" Halfreck had made one or two quiet attempts to resume contact at
school...

Just call on me, she'd said...

I'm here for you...Anytime...

So nice Dawn had hesitated about telling Buffy...The first time...Having carefully avoided any wish-
making whatsoever, Anya having warned her wishing Haly away was a nongrantable one...

And so difficult to track down...Given the hunt the Slayer and Scoobies had made for her at school
after the second contact...There might be no other way to get hold of her except via Anya...

And the vengeful demon was probably on guard in her encounters with her fellow demon lady...

But who knew what she might reveal to the sweet young girl she'd for some reason taken a shine
to...Innocent Dawn, who if she played the role to the hilt might squeeze demon lady for a few facts
she'd hid from Anya...

Well...I mean if Halfreck was so anxious to be helpful...

And was the best source for direct info on the situation...

So long as she was not allowed to massacre all the loved ones via involuntary wish...

***

No time like the present...William noted...

Uhhh...Spike groaned....

As the "brothers" looked up at the gleaming Doublemeat sign...

Can't we just hold on this till tomorrow?...Spike whined...

That first busy day with dear ole An starts in less than eight hours...Want to make a good impression
on boss number one, right...?

Sooner it's over, sooner we get a shift with our girl, Spike...William pointed out...

Documentation...Spike solemnly noted...

We need proper documentation...Birth certificate, Social Security card, Driver's license...
Passport...

You no doubt want to do things the legit way, eh bro?...Spike hopefully went on...

A few days and Giles can arrange things...

I...we...have a passport...And a driver's license...Remember?...Will noted...

Both quite legit...Excepting that you put the poor lady at the bureau in thrall to do it...

And making her go out to the office at 12:30 am...

Hell...Bout time a government employee put in some overtime...Spike groused within...And I didn't
kill her...he smugly noted...

Of course you didn't kill the poor thing, you needed her alive to make sure the forms went
through...And she wasn't your type anyway...

So, we're all set...

But wait...Spike smiled within...The citizenship docs...

Fakes...He noted...

Courtesy the vamp network of references...An army of vamps bound to their crypts by daylight,
making extra cash by providing "references" and phony documents to the underworld...

Never hold up under the intense scrutiny of the INS...Spike proclaimed within...

Please...

This is Doublemeat Palace...Not the CIA...

And they take the guys who bring their "ids" hand written on a scrap torn from an old cigarette
box...

Shift with Buffy, Spike...William dangled the carrot...

Uhhh...Home Depot is probably hiring...Spike noted...Or maybe Barnes and Noble...A bookstore,
Will, right up your poof alley...Either at least several lesser degrees of Hell...

Afternoon at the Box with her...Night at the Palace with her...William pointed out...

Unnnm...

Us...Maybe alone lots of nights...William continued...

It'll be a veritable...Romance Palace...

You can make sarcastic commentary on the clientele...I'll pass it on to Buffy, I promise...

As mine...? Spike asked within...Growling...

Have I ever taken credit for work not my own?...William replied sternly...

***

Ok...Willow spoke into her cell phone...

From her surveillance post, 100 yards from Fort Summers...

"He's definitely gone for the night...Lights are out..."

You sure...? Xander rasped into his phone...From his post at Spike's former favorite cemetery...

Just in case he...er Will...and Buffy decided to try to relive some fond memories...

"Xander...He did the come back thing...He's gone...For the night..." Willow replied...

And Buffy's fine...

Hmmn...

Willow could hear the frown over the phone...

Why did I let him talk me into this one...? she thought...

Surveillance...Ok, spying...On Will and Buffy...

Just for their own good, he'd noted...After Buffy had asked Will to join her on Patrol...

A Patrol that was without doubt, giving the ridiculously coy way she'd asked, a First Date...

Even Willow had been a hair worried...And when she'd left a somewhat freaking Dawn, had been
somewhat amenable to Xander's cell phoned suggestion that they... "Keep an eye on things"...Just
this one time...

In case Spike or Cicely make...Trouble...

First day back for Will after all...

Well, lets face it, Willow had to admit to herself...It was kinda nice to be back on Scoobie
assignment...After weeks of inaction...

Even if the first new assignment was somewhat bizarre...

And as long as Buffy didn't catch them, it probably wasn't a terrible idea to watch out for her...

Pregnant Slayer struggling with past life flashes, besottedly in love with a newly human?souled
vampire...Who might, if Anya was right and the vengeance demon Halfreck was not lying...Be her...

Husband...?

Still the "Blue Velvet" line definitely applied here... "Detective...Or pervert?..."

Oh well...

"An?..." he switched to another line...

"No sign of them at the shop...Yet...." Anya reported...Having popped directly in front of him...

Telephones were so slow...And so one-dimensional...

And so tactilely deficient...

"An!..." Xander jumped...

Sorry...

Just trying to be efficient...she noted...

And see my honey at any opportunity...she grinned...

He twisted his face at her...But his eyes were pleased...

"Will just left Buffy at the house...He's on his way home..." Xander noted...

Hmmn...Well...Maybe we should go to the Box together...Stake it out...she suggested, eyeing him..

In case Buffy plans to sneak over again...

And since it would take Will thirty minutes at least to walk back, Buffy having had Xander slip his
car over to a friend's body shop for dent repair...Handing William a cock-and-bull story, furnished
by Xander, at dinner that the alternator needed replacement...

They'd have a leetle...Time...

And a chance to wipe out that terrible image of her and Spike on the main shop room's
table...Replacing it with one of their own...

Hell, it was her...And partner Giles', she dutifully noted...Place...
Will would probably go in via the basement entrance in any case...

Well...he eyed her...

Might be more...Efficient...But what if they're actually planning to meet here...To avoid us...

At Spike's old crypt...

Hmmn...

Spike's...Old...Crypt...

Blasted perhaps but cleaned up a bit since...

And quite a trysting place...Or had been for Buf and Spike in any case...


Sealed shut by the new security...

But no real obstacle at this hour when the guards were a bit fewer and much more hesitant to poke
around...Given the high attrition rate the first late night shifts had seen...

Yeah, best to stay here...She could always pop quickly back to the shop to check on things, using the
cover story for William that she just wanted to see he was ok and settled...

While she and Xander had a unique chance to replace that terrible memory with a great one of their
own...

After she popped back to the apartment to get some clean sheets and blankets of course...

To make their make...er stake-out more comfortable she noted...

He bowed to his mate's thousand year old wisdom...

Still, she had one question...

What do they do if they catch Will and Buffy...At it...?

Ummn...

Well...

Willow called back from her post...

"Guys...She is staying put...I really think we can call it a night..."

Ok...Xander replied...
"Get some sleep, Wil...See ya tomorrow..."

Anya a leetle...As he hung up...

The stake-out in the crypt nixed?...

"I think we'd better hang..." Xander noted...Eyeing her...

Can't be sure with Spike...Who knows how much control he might have and what he might do when
Will is asleep...And Buffy acting so strange...

Best to go on with our stake-out...he finished...Smiling at her...

Absolutely, Anya solemnly nodded...One can never be too cautious with Spike...

***

I told you it'll be easy...William noted as he walked back to the Box...

Doublemeat uniform...Tax form and "the Palace experience" brochure in hand...

The night manager had been more than eager to take him on...

That strange Summers girl had an evening shift tomorrow and he was dreadfully shorthanded...

Be a relief to have a cultured fellow like this Mr. Walthrop, newly in from England to write about
his impressions of American life...On hand to watch her...

Wasn't like he was the first writer to ever show up on the Doublemeat doorstep...Hell, William
Styron once spent an evening shift at a New York Palace...

Just hoped Walthrop'd try to give a few happier impressions of the Doublemeat experience than the
last one...

Mr. Irving had been so negative...

***
Romance Palace...Part XIX...

Part XIX...


A pleased if rather dazed Buffy had returned from her last quick "g'night" on the front steps with
William...

Dawn eyeing her questioningly...

Of course, Buffy noted to herself...There was the little problem of what seemed to be the initial
stages of insanity...Given these bizarre visions and all...

But Giles would work that one out...She had larger issues to deal with...

William came back...she happily noted to herself...Just to make sure I wasn't upset...

Over that @#$%^&!...Cicely...

His "ideal", eh...

Snotty little Victorian princess...

Well...Buffy Summers would take the challenge...And raise William Soames Walthrop's notion of
"ideal" to a whole new level...

Hardly a fair competition at that, the little...Being long dead...And having rejected him to boot...

Bet she wasn't even a blonde...And probably shorter...

And she had the additional slight advantage of being the mother of his child...

This was gonna be a piece of cake...

Fairy cake...William's favorite...I spent a whole afternoon with Mrs. Rands learning to make it
properly...

Dear Henry kindly consenting to try it...Through four failed attempts...Until I finally got it...

Ummn...she blinked...

Hmmn...Hold the insane thought there Summers she thought...

Anyway...this Cicely?...Please...

Piece of cake...

Why is she smiling like that?...Dawn stared at her sis...

It's that peaceful expression she gets just before she makes a really good kill...

***

Just making sure of things...Xander noted to Willow...For the fifth time...Anya nodding...Yeah...

In case Buffy and Will decided to do something as foolish as...Ummn...

As the three strolled back to Xander's car...Still parked just outside Spike's former favorite resting
place...

I understand...Willow nodded...Trying desperately to push the image she'd just seen out of her
head...

When she'd entered Spike's now unsealed crypt in search of a Xander and Anya whom she'd failed
to reach by cell phone...Wanting to hear their final reports before heading home...

A cell phone long forgotten in the pile of clothes the hopefully-soon-to-be Harrises had left by their
blankets...

Good idea...she added...Both eyeing her...

And I saw...Nothing...she told herself...

Never knew demons had moles...Especially there...

But then Anya was trying hard to maintain her human form...

And apparently succeeding quite well...

Well...Wasn't like it was anything unexpected...

Still...

In Spike's old crypt?...

Well...

A neat place for the purpose at that...

Gee...Shame Tara and I never thought of it...she bowed her head...

Ummn...Wil?...Xander began a sixth apologetic try...

It's ok, Xander...she smiled at him...

She eyed them slyly and nudged him...

"Been picking up some lessons from your new "brothers Walthrop", eh..."

Spike will be proud...she teased...

Actually...Anya grinned back, nudging him in her turn...

Spike will be seeking advice from his new "brother" from now on...

Really...? Xander quickly asked her...So innocently pleased, looking at his loving, generous face

Willow found herself suddenly on the verge of tears...

Oh...

Xander...My Xander...

But no...My brother, my love...My Xander will always be there for me...

Always loving me...Though nearly all of him goes to Anya... Always a place for me...

My one fixed constant in this crazy, painful...lovely, and wonderful universe...

Well...One of two...Can't forget my Giles...

Hell, one of so many who came through for me this year...Even Momma and Pop when I finally let
them back into my life...

But my Xander is special...And always will be...

One of the two great loves of my life...

Both equally precious...Though I may have taken him for granted a little these past years...

Both lost...

But at least...She smiled at Anya as they neared the car...

Yeah...Willow agreed, giving him a final nudge...

"Spike will be begging him for advice from now on..."

At least...I can give him up freely...Generously...And by my own choice...As a gift...

To him...

I never really did before...Somewhere...In my heart I never really let him go...

Thinking, somewhere deep down...She wasn't worthy of him...That demon Anyanka would return
and human Anya would fail...That he'd always be on standby...And if Tara and I flopped....

But...At last I see...She is worthy of him, ready to fight and die for him, wait through all Eternity for
him if she must...

So, for his sake...For his happiness...

Goodbye...Though I know my brother Xander will always be there...
Goodbye, my love...

Unless of course you screw it up completely, demon girl...she eyed Anya...Who sensed the gift she'd
just been given without a word being said...

"Really sorry I came in like that, guys..." she sheepishly smiled at them...Anya staring back...

Thank you, Willow...her eyes saying...

"Shoulda thought to knock..."

My fault...Xander replied...Shaking his head....Shoulda realized you'd call...Be coming...

His sheepish smile filling his open-hearted, endlessly loving face...

My yellow-crayon love...Against whom all the powers of the underworld were useless...

Hurt him?...Kill him...? I would die for him...Will die for him or his Anya if the need ever arises...

For him...I spared the world...

"Come to think of it..." she grinned at Anya...

"Yeah...It was your fault..."

Goodbye...

***

"Good morning...Mr. Walthrop..." Buffy grinned...As she entered and he stood near...But of
necessity, not too near the shop door...

Ms. Summers...the Randy-suited William nodded politely...

"Did you sleep well?..." she asked...

Oh...she paused...

No offense...

"None taken..." he grinned...

"As a matter of fact I've been trying to get used to some night sleeping...Now that I hold my first
day job in 122 years...Not counting a leetle writing Spike tried to do...With some help from me..."

"Really?..." she looked at him...

Spike wanted to write?...

Hey!...The demon called within...I had wonderful ideas...Tell her how I came up with a Hannibal
Lecter killer decades ago...

Spike...She doesn't want to hear a story about a guy who kept a collection of cute infants in his
freezer to nibble on at night...

She'd get a kick out of the idiot police inspector...Spike noted...And his gruesome death...

Well, true...William admitted...She probably never admit it, but seeing Angel bite the dust as a
moron inspector probably would bring a surpressed smile to her face...After the way Christ Jr.
"handled" her post-resurrection...

Thank God for our dear Angel...Spike solemnly noted.... And the marvelous way he utterly failed to
lift a finger to help her this past year...Or protect Dawn when Buffy was gone...

They eyed their beaming Buffy...In her red suit...Decked out as well as her "professional" mindset
for the first day as well as Dawn's stern eye, would allow...

Perhaps just a tad anxiously scanning herself in the shop room mirror...Doesn't show, please don't
let it show...Nope, it's fine...She turned back to him...

Praise be to Christ Jr...And his son...And his newly rediscovered "true love", Darla...the "brothers
Walthrop" chorused within...

"Well..." William continued to her..."We both share an interest in literature...Though his tastes are
on the far side of extreme for me..."

Do you see what I see?...Spike asked within...Better tell her to stop wearing that suit after today...

Do you want her to run home in tears?...Or more likely rip you out of me with her bare hands?...

Hmmn...Spike agreed within...Has a point, my poof bro...

Well...Tell her she looks...Radiant...

Much better, brother...William noted...

Anya entered, blinking at them...

Such enthusiasm...While a joy and inspiration to see...

"Ummn...Guys...It's only seven am...I can't put you on the clock until 8:45..."

That's fine...her dedicated new employees chorused...

"We can go take a look at Will's new digs downstairs..." Buffy replied... "Dawn and I had some
ideas last night..."

The door chimes rang...Willow...

Bearing bagels and coffee...

"Hey..." she waved...

Hell, no way was she gonna miss "First Day..." for the new Magic Box staff...

Whoa...Buf...About time to retire that suit, sweetie...At least for the duration...she thought, smiling
at Buffy...

Xander entered, bearing a couple of boxes from his car...Eyeing William...and the beaming Buffy...

"More things for me...?" William grinned...

"You two don't have to empty your apartment for me, you know..."

Why the hell not...Spike groused within...After the fallout from that little eggs deal of Anya's?...

"It's stuff from your old place..." Xander explained... "We found it and thought you might like to
have it..."

Willow slyly grinned at him...Just kinda strolled into his crypt and found it, eh...

"Ummn...I mean...Over the course of the summer...When we were checking out your crypt in case
you'd come back..."

Buffy eyed William...Looks like someone was afraid we'd try returning to the old stalking
grounds...her smile said...

Another chime...Giles...

Bearing scones...

Great...This is so nice, Anya thought...

Family breakfast...

Of course it all ends at exactly 8:45 am when we staff persons all turn into professionals...

"Well...We'll be back in a mo..." Buffy grabbed William and headed for the stairs... "Just gotta
look over a few things downstairs..."

Ummn...Well...Buffy...The others looked at her...
Hows ębout a scone...? Xander called...Too late as the basement door closed...Firmly...Behind
them...

Ummn...Willow eyed Giles...Anya eyed Xander who eyed Giles...Giles eyed the basement door...

They wouldn't try anything now, Willow thought...Not with us up here...Ummn...

Of course...If Halfreck wasn't lying...They have overcome some preety big obstacles to their love
over the past century...

And a little thing like a roomful of friends and family above is hardly likely to stop them...

Xander nervously edged toward the basement door...Not wanting to intrude...Just to be where he
could rush down to their aid should any loud or low, steady noises be heard coming from below...

Immediately...

They're terrified...Buffy grinned at William as they looked around his now increasingly "posh"
basement...

Think we'll be at it again in a minute if they leave us alone...

And you know Xander and Anya must have been at the old...she hesitated...Our old...Place...Last
night...

Makin' sure us two crazy kids didn't try anything...Foolish...

She eyed him...

Losing a little of the bleached blonde suited him...she noticed...Hair looked more natural now...

Even...A little curly...

The suit actually didn't look bad on him...William clearly a bit more at ease in one than Spike had
been...

So...she looked at some Dawn-chosen posters...

"Place is really coming along...Almost as nice as..."

Ummn...

Hmm-hmmn...William nodded...Staring at her...

Spike waiting...Desperately trying to hold back his raging impatience...

Knowing if he pushed too hard, William would go all nervous and poofy...Insist it was too
soon...Suggest she remember her condition...That they... "Wait"...for the "Right Time"...

And Spike wanted this to come off...

Lord, how he wanted this to come off...

She paused, staring at him...

He stepped back, looking around him...And tripped over a lamp cord, falling to the floor...

Dolt...Spike growled...You moron, she's gonna think we're both as feeble as you are...

Really?...William grinned inside...As Buffy came over...

Huh?...Spike did the equivalent of an internal blink...

Watch and learn the human approach, bro...

Will?...She bent over him...Kneeling besides him...

"You ok...?"

It's fine, Xander..she called upstairs to where the door was being rattled...

Hmmn...Spike pondered...What the hell is he...

"Fine..." Will grinned... "Just my true clumsy nature reasserting itself..."

She smiled back, looking at him as he sat up...Into his eyes...

Ummn...

Some of his hair brushed her cheek...

"I guess we'd better..."

Hmm-hmmn...he nodded...

A few loose hairs from her bun drifted to his lips as she looked nervously back up the stairs...

But made no move to rise from her kneeling spot by him...Or release the hand she was holding...

My demon God...Spike thought in wonder...

No charging Xander...Yet...she smilingly noted to William...But she was clearly anxious not to bring
anyone down...Just now...

She was wearing that perfume he liked...Just a touch...He mentioned it to her...

She was looking away...Around the room...

I thought you liked it...she replied...

Their heads were almost touching now...She turned back to him...

Staring deep into his eyes...

Ummn...

"I can get this thing off and on in two minutes..." she looked at him...Breathing deep... "How about
you?..."

"Bit longer with this suit..." he looked at her... "But I could run for the bathroom in ten seconds...If I
have to..."

They ripped in record time, diving for the blankets, as quietly as circumstances would
allow...Leaving poor Spike gasping...But rather...Admiring...

That's my poof human counterpart there...

***
Romance Palace...Part XX...


PG-13...

Summary: Season seven tale...William/Spike returns with atonement?seeking Will firmly in the
saddle and romance on the menu...

Archived at www.geocities.com/buffyrebecca

Part XX...

In the main room of the Magic Box, Giles, Willow, Xander, and Anya ate breakfast and nervously
awaited the return of Buffy and Will...

From the depths...Of Will's new place in the basement...

We'll have to find him a basement apartment somewhere...Xander noted...

Now that he's a working man...And as legit as possible under the circumstances...He'll need a real
address...

Well...Willow began...Without pausing to think...
Buffy will probably want him...

They all looked at her...

And the basement door...From which no sounds had emanated for the past sixteen, nope Xander
rechecked the clock...Seventeen minutes...

Except for one strained..."Just...A...A...Min...Minute, guys!..." from Buffy at the eleven minute
mark...

A reply which had naturally not relieved their anxiety...

Ummn...Willow paused...I mean...Want him to live in her basement...

Hmmn...Not exactly the best recovery she noted as their looks at her took on a narrow focus...

"Think we should call them again?..." she asked brightly...

Give them a minute...Giles eyed her...

Why, Rupert Giles...You crazy romantic you...Willow thought, smiling at him...

Fifty-nine...fifty-eight...Xander thought...

***
Ummn...William eyed Buffy...She eyed him...

They both eyed the blankets around them...

"So...You like what I've done with the place..."

Oh...Yeah...she nodded...

Really coming along...

Ummn...

"Look..." he paused... "This is ridiculous..."

Absolutely...she nodded solemnly...Just plain silly...

"We're acting like sixteen year olds..." he went on...

Hmmn...These days more like fourteen year olds...she noted...

Whoops...

I need to speak to Dawny again...Tonight...she thought...

He grinned...You know...he eyed her...

"Romeo and Juliet were only fourteen..."

Oh...she smiled back...

Ummn...he paused...

"Actually I guess I have been acting like a moronic fourteen year old..."

Will?...

Well...You see...he paused...

"My little fall back there...Wasn't entirely accidental..."

I'm afraid in part...I was trying to prove something...he sighed...

Hell, to be perfectly honest I was trying to show Spike up...

In part...

But only in part...he eyed her...

Oh...she eyed him...

God bless you, Spike you demon imp from Hell, you...she thought...

"Don't worry about it Will..."

Frankly...she paused, grinning...If you had taken any longer...I was seriously considering clubbing
you over the head and trying to get Spike to take over for an hour or so...

Now there's a pl...William crushed Spike down...

"Besides..." she giggled...

The "trip over the cord and wind up with your girl...Or guy beside you" is a very old one...

Ah...he sighed...Well then...

"I'll be a love-struck...Fourteen year old...For a minute longer..."

Love-struck...she thought...Love...Struck...she cheered within...

Ya hear that Cicely, you little...

I am...Dear...And he is Love Struck...

He sighed again and looked at her...

How was it...? he asked...A nervous look on his face...

I know it was a bit of a rushed thing...

"Next time we'll have more time...Maybe all night..." she smiled at him...

Oh...His face fell a little...So...

Oh...No, Will...It was wonderful...Terrific...

And it really had been...She wasn't trying to please him...And she'd been worried...That maybe
her...Craving...Was something connected to Spike's nature...Maybe even bound up with her own
demon...

But...Nah...

Will had come through...And now she knew...

He had been there...Every time...Every moment...Fighting to reach her...

Oh...She closed her eyes again...It wasn't disappointment that had kept her quiet for the last few
minutes...It was shame...

I did nothing for him...Nothing...Not even when he stopped me from throwing my life away to the
police...

I took all he gave...And told myself it was my due...For what?...For not sticking a stake in him...

That at least would have been some kindness...Offering him release...

Oh, William how can you love me so much?...Even after...I...

"You're beneath me..." the phrase drifted into her mind...

What?...

I said that to him...Once...

When?...Oh, right the night we talked about the past...And Spike fed me that load about what a "bad
boy" even human Will had been...

But...There was another time...

"Buffy?..." Will looked at her...

She'd drifted off again...

She blinked at him...

Well...Rome wasn't built in a day...I can make amends...In fact I can do something for him right
now...she thought, happily...

I mean in addition to giving him the best sex he's had in 122 years...

She put her lips to his ear...

"Better than you, Spike..."

A still dazed Spike came to on that one...Hey!...

Will smiled gently at her...Oh...You sweet girl...

I know that smile she thought...The smile he gave me that time in the crypt...When we actually
started talking...Like lovers...

The smile he wore after I kissed him...When Glory tortured him...

A boy's sweet smile...The smile he wore when we first met...When Henry brought him to the
house...When I asked him to...

She blinked...

Asked him...To...?

"Guys...? You finished down there..." Xander hollered...Rapping on the door...

"Scones are getting cold..."

And I am starting to freak...he did not say...

"Guess we'd better..." she eyed him...

Yeah...

She gathered up her "professional" suit and standing, caught sight of the Doublemeat brochure...His
eyes following...

Will?...she blinked...
You...?

Me...he sighed...Signed on last night...

Oh, Mom...Did you hear that?...I am Dear...and he is responsible to boot...Oh, Mommy you were so
right about him...she thought ecstatically...

"Well..." she looked away... "You really shouldn't waste your talent like that...You have to get back
to your writing...Finish your degree..."

"Can't think of a better place than Doublemeat to learn about people..." he noted...

You...And the baby...he paused....

We....

Need the money...

It'll be a while before anything I write will be marketable...

As for my degree...Well...I don't think century-old transfer credits will apply...

"Say...You could apply to UCal-Sunnydale...For night courses...A Cambridge man from 1880
oughta be able to breeze through their English courses..."

Maybe...We could take a class or two together...she noted shyly...Buttoning up her blouse as she
brushed off his suit jacket...

She licked her fingers and plastered down a curling lick of his hair without even thinking...He took
her retreating hand...

And holding it...As she stared at him...Kissed it...

"I was beginning to think this would never happen for me..." he eyed her...Tears forming and
rolling...

"That I was lost forever..."

William...she hugged him...

Oh...Cicely...he sobbed...

Oh...Bloody Hell, you poof!!!!...Spike bellowed...

"Will...It's..."

Cicely...?...she pulled back...
"Cicely?!..."
****

Romance Palace...Part XXI...

Part XXI...

Hmmn...Dawn thought as she stood in the empty gym room...

No time like the present...Even if I am gonna get it when I show up late for
first class...

But...How do you summon a vengeance demon?...

I mean...Without wishing gory death on somebody...

***

Upset?...Buffy eyed William as they finished dressing and made for the
stairs...

Not...At...All...

I...Completely...Understand...she eyed him...

We are dead...Even you know that, don't you, poof...

Dead...Spike moaned within...

"Naturally you confused me with the woman you really love..." she continued...

Buffy...Will sighed...

"Just like Angel...With Darla..."

Whoa...Now that is an unforgivable insult, girl...Spike cried within...

Buffy Anne...

"I'm sure Giles can arrange some kind of seance...So you can meet up with
her..."

Her being the woman you really love and all...she noted, coolly...

The real...Dear...she thought in sad despair...

"Damn you!..." he grabbed her...
I love you!...And you are Cicely!...

She blinked at him...

Whoa...He's getting all like Jimmy Stewart in that movie...Ummn...Oh,
right..."Vertigo"...

Will want me to dye my hair and wear one of Cicely's dresses next I guess...

Hmmn...I wonder how I'd look...

"You are Cicely Addams Walthrop!..." he told her...

And...

And I didn't mean to tell you that...he eyed her sheepishly...Not until you were
ready...

Oh...She nodded... "Well...That's very kind of you, Will..."

Mustn't get him too upset...

Say, if he's gone a leetle crazy, maybe there's hope yet...I can nurse him back
to sanity...Sanity being the state in which Cicely is dead and
forgotten...And...

Whoa...

Cicely Addams...Walthrop?...

As in...Mrs....Walthrop?...

As in...Oh my God...

***

Hmmn...Well, Dawn thought...Lets try this the methodical way...

"Halfreck...!" she called...

Hal...

"Dawny...Shouldn't you be in class, sweetie?" the demon smiled at her...

***

Odd...Willow thought as she eyed Buffy and Xander...As the gang sat eating the
remains of breakfast...

Hard to tell which one of them is glaring harder at poor ole Will...

Something must've gone screwy down there in Paradise...

Anya pleased to see that everyone was keeping to schedule...Even Buffy and Will
had managed their little...Rendevous...With alacrity...

Boded well for their performance as employees she noted to herself...


***

A still narrow-eyed Xander cast a final accusatory...What the hell did you do
to my sister?...glare at Will as he headed out for work...Anya escorting him to
his car...

"Keep an eye on them..." he cautioned her...

Sure...Hows about my...

And...Find out why she's upset...

Right, but...

"I'm not being unreasonable..." he insisted...

"Unreasonable would have involved immediate staking..."

No...Not at all, honey, but...

"I know he's had a rough time...I do sympathize...But..."

Xander!...Anya grabbed his head...

Kiss me goodbye!...she demanded...Before I make you kiss Anyanka...

Oh...

"I would you know..." he smiled at her...

So long as I know it's you in there...

***
Cicely...Addams?...Halfreck paused...Looking at the frowning Dawn...

Hmmn...Well...I do think I've heard that name...Somewhere...

Some old enemy of yours, Dawny?...she smiled innocently at her ...

"Knock it off, Halfreck..." Dawn replied...

And remember...My sister defeated the Goddess Glorificus the year before
last...

A vengeance demon?...When she's ready for her?...

No problem...Dawn glared...

"Now tell me about Buffy and Cicely...And why they sent William away..."

***
"He's my...What?..." Buffy blinked at Anya...

Willow eyeing them with Giles from the back table...

Just doing a little prelim research before class, she'd explained to the
gang...

Check out the still unfulfilled prophecies...Search the Net for any rumored new
arrivals in town...

A chance to get back into the saddle gently with dear ole Giles
guidance...Before any new Big Baddies reared their heads...

Maybe cast a glance or two at vengeance demon records...She'd smiled at Anya...

And to check out one Cicely Addams, Slayer, active in England in the 1870s,
1880s...And her husband, William Soames Walthrop...she did not say...

"Well...Buffy..." Anya paused...

William discreetly moving to the other side of the main room, checking out a
display of Cretean cyclops idols...New item, sure to be a hit, Anya hoped...

He does have more experience with the occult than you...

And he is full-time...Whereas you will only be afternoons after today...

"Supervisor?...He is my supervisor...?"

And two years education at Cambridge...Anya added...

Grrr...Buffy glared over at...

Cicely's husband...

He did say..."We"...though...The thought popped in her head...

You and the baby...We...Need the money...he said...

But this crazy stuff about my being...

Hmmn...1880...Oh-oh...

Whoa...

"People wore top hats and used gaslights in 1880, didn't they?..." she asked
Anya...

Ummn...her employer blinked at her...Yeah...

Anya looked over to Will...Who was looking for a friendly sign...As in...
"She's getting over it, come on over"...

And over to Willow and Giles...Both immersed in their research...

No one in vocal range without addressing Buffy as well...Oh well...

Spike?...She concentrated...Buffy's asking about 1880...

What should I do?...
***
"So you see, Dawny..." Halfreck sighed...

It was out of my hands...I was just doing my job...

Dawn stared at the demon...Rather easy to do with her in her true form...All
veiny and bulging...

"Cicely wanted him gone...Realized she'd made a terrible mistake..."

They were married...They really were married...Dawn gasped...

"Only two days..." Halfreck noted...

Though unfortunately...It did have consequences...

***

Fortunately the arrival of 8:45 and two customers postponed further discussion
of 1880...To Anya's relief...

Spike's advice...Tell the silly little bitch she's Cicely...And she belongs to
us...Not really of much use...

William handled his first sale with aplomb...Even his glaring Buffy had to
admit to a leetle pride...

Of course the "customers" were Apotx demons in disguise...Probably as much
anxious to see if the story Clem had been spreading...With a little
encouragement from Anya...Through the underworld was true...And that William
the Bloody was not only now souled...But working at the Sunnydale Magic
Box...In the company of the Slayer herself...

"Guys..." Buffy cornered them before the two left...

"This stuff is not to be used on humans, right?..."

Ummn...Ms. Summers...Will called to her...

"Just a minute...Mr. Walthrop..." she called...

It's harmless, Slayer...A minor sleeping-aid...one of the demons explained...

Mr. Walthrop?...the other thought...

William frowned at her as she left them to scurry out the door...

"Do you think I'd sell something dangerous...To anyone?..."

Sorry...she eyed him...

Anya hastened over...

Ummn...Buffy...I know some of our clientele may not be...Fully human...But we'd
never allow...

"I get it...I get it...No need for Slayer customs inspection..." she frowned at
them...

I'll cool it...I promise...

She turned away...

"Bear down..." the doctor told her...She lay weak on a pallet...

She gasped, gritting her teeth...The stench of blood and death all around
her...

A matron holding her hand, glanced nervously at the surgeon...

Arghhhhhh!...She screamed as the final contraction hit...

The doctor, the matron now beside him...Were quiet...Not a sound...

Not a cry...

"My baby!..." she screamed...The matron eyed the doctor...And gasped looking
down...

Doctor!...The matron screamed...

Oh, God...the doctor sighed...And set to work...

Baby?...My baby?!...The matron rushed to her...Stroking her head...

"I am so sorry my dear..." she told her...

No...No...she whispered...Feeling herself weakening...Her life flowing
away...The doctor cried out for help...Blood everywhere...

"What was it...?...Tell me..." she grasped the matron's hand, crushing it with
rather surprising strength for an exhausted woman bleeding to death...

A little girl...the matron told her sadly...

"Tell my...Cousin...Tell Henry...Foxcroft...To bury...Us...Next to William's
coffin..."

My dear...? Tears were rolling down the middle-aged woman's face...

The baby's name...Amelia...After his...Mother and...Sister....

"Tell Henry..."

Yes, yes...

"There's nothing we can do...The bleeding can't be stopped..." a second surgeon
whispered to the first...

"They've tricked me...They sent that...Thing to me...Oh...God..."

My dear...?
I wanted...To save him...I had to ...she gasped for breath...

"Give me...Baby..."

The matron rushed up and brought the little stillborn girl over...

Amelia...Oh...William forgive me...

Oh...She desperately grabbed at the matron's hand...

"Tell Henry...William...Must be found...Released..."

Tell him...

Forgive me...Will...I will save you...I will...I...

"She's gone..." the surgeon said quietly...

Buffy?...Anya stared at her...

"William needs you..." she pointed at a William now surrounded by five rather
animated young women...

"I'm here, Will..." Buffy murmured...

Buffy?...

Hmmn...

Oh...She eyed the customers...

This looks like a job for...

Buffy Anne-Cicely Addams Walthrop-Summers...

***


Romance Palace...Part XXII...

Part XXII...

On the one hand, Dawn thought...Nodding as her homeroom teacher lectured her on the merits of
promptness...No trip to the principal's office thank goodness...

Halfreck is up to something...

She's not hanging around here for my sake...And I'm not ready to buy this "just doin my duty"
story...

On the other hand, it might be true...Cicely might have called her in 1880...And if Buffy really is her
reincarnated soul, all she's been through with Spike in the past couple of years, plus her
resurrection...Gee, her third resurrection if you think about it...Might have raised some memories,
including some Halfreck-summoning subconscious memories...

Unless Halfreck has her own motives for staying on the job so long...Hmmn Anya did tell Giles she
claimed to have known Spike before...

When I "accidently" overheard them talking about Cicely after Buffy fainted the other night...And
made Anya tell me the little Giles would let her...

She cracked her book as the teacher resume her math lesson...Almost a shame Halfreck didn't keep
her a little longer...God, I hate Algebra...

But my sis wouldn't...Couldn't...Send her own...gulp...Husband...To his death...Even if she thought
she'd made a mistake in marrying him...

But on the other hand again, if Cicely didn't have any way of knowing where Will would run to or
who the demon was in town...London town...That night...

And we don't know Cicely...She might have been capable of...

No...Not someone who is, was...Buffy...

And I oughta know...

But...Buffy does have a hard side...And she let Riley go...

Oh...No....No...

And she was pregnant then, too...Though she didn't know until after...

"Hey...Dawny..." her friend Janice hissed...

If Haly's not lying...

"Is it true about your sis, Buffy?...Angela says she's big as a..." Whoops...Teacher at twelve
o'clock...

God...Pregnant...Again...And not sure what to do about William again...And Halfreck within easy
calling distance...

Again...

And you wonder God why we don't attend church regularly?...You and Your practical jokes make
Angelis look like a sweet guy...

"She's barely started to show..." Dawn hissed back at Janice as the teacher turned to the board...

And...She's...Married...

To a very sweet guy...

"No way..."

Way...

"Not that weird blonde guy I used to see her with at night?..." Janice hissed...

"He's not "weird"...He's a poet...And his name is William..." Dawn hissed back...

When the heck did they get...? Whoops...Jan pulled back...

Teacher at two o'clock...End of conversation for now...

Phew...
***

Having proven equal to the task of diverting several of the female customers surrounding poor
William, Buffy Anne-Cicely Addams Walthrop-Summers had a chance to settle and collect herself
for a mo...

Not quite yet ready to face...

The Mister...?

Huh...So...

I'm Dear...Dear...Wife...Missus...Mrs. Walthrop...?

Cicely...she blinked...

I am Cicely Addams Walthrop...And Buffy Summers...

Whoa...

Time for a break, I'd say...

Well, no...I'm leaving for my Giles' arranged neurology consult in one hour...And the place is,
amazingly enough for a magic shop, getting packed...Gotta do our duty by dear Anya...

Hell, whatdya know...The word about Will and me being here must've got out...At least half our
customers this morning have been curiosity-seeking demons in disguise...

We're a hit...

But I hafta let Will know...I know...

She beamed a warm...A Dear...smile over at him, now again increasingly beleaguered by
customers...But struggling valiantly on...

We do something right?...Spike asked within...

Apparently so...William noted, sending his own warm smile of gratitude back, then turning back to
the three Comez demon triplets in the guise of bratty teenagers who were demanding a look at Giles'
classified stuff locked in the room above the main floor...

"Ladies...I know who you really are...And I will have Mr. Giles expose you if you don't behave
yourselves"... he told them...

Geesch, a very Dawn-ish threesome replied in unison...

C'mon Cherl, we know where we get some decent magics...one huffed...

He really is cute...the second one noted to her "sisters" as they left...

Yeah...All three chorused in unison, looking back at William as they went out the door...

Let him know...Buffy thought...

What?...That I know I sent him away...Killed him?...Condemned him?...

And that he spent a century in torment waiting for me to save him...And I never did...

Oh God...How can I face him?...

But...I don't know yet what really happened that night...Maybe it wasn't all my fault...Maybe...

Maybe offering him Drusilla's severed head would be enough amends...

If only I'd let him kill that psychotic little nun when he had her...

Well...In any case...I have to know more about that night...About Cicely...er me...

And I got work to do...she eyed the stream of customers...

God, what did Anya do?...Drop flyers over Sunnydale?... "The Magic Box welcomes "William the
Bloody" and the Slay..." No...
William Soames Walthrop...And his wife...Buffy-Cicely Anne Addams Walthrop-Summers...

Well...Summers-Walthrop...Much better...

With a last beam at the hubs...She dived into the stream of customers...

Whatever we did, keep on doing it...Spike insisted...

I am the Missus Walthrop...Buffy thought happily...Well, ok maybe a new ceremony is required to
make it legal nowadays...

Gangway for Missus Walthrop...she thought, guiding two...Human, at last...Customers over to the
Cretean idol display...

Knew they'd be a hit...Anya beamed radiantly...

At both the idols and her dedicated new staff...

***
Bingo...thought Willow, staring at the screen of her laptop...

Hmmn...I need a mo alone with Giles...she looked for him...Now dragged out to the shop floor to
deal with the flood of customers by his partner...

We need to have a leetle talk with the Council of Watchers...

Whoa...Not a bad turnout for a Thursday morning at a magic shop...she thought, seeing the crowd
for the first time...Much of them centered around William and Buffy...

Course this is Sunnydale...And the staff is...Unique...

***

Romance Palace...Part XXIII...


"Well...? Whatdya think?..." Willow eyed Giles as they sat in his office, away at last from the bustle
in the main room of the Box...

He sighed...

"I think...The Council has been up to its usual games..."

"I can't get through the blocks on these files..." Willow told him... "But Cicely Addams was a
Slayer, no doubt about it..."

Hmm-hmmn, Giles looked at her laptop screen...
Must be somethin' big to have all her Watcher's and nearly all the Council's recorded files on her so
blocked...Willow noted...

"I'll have to make a few calls..." Giles nodded thoughtfully...And smiled at Willow...

Time to call in a few long-standing favors, I'd say...he noted...

"What about her Watcher?...This Farris?...Ever hear of him?..."

Oh yes...Giles eyed her...

I have heard of Simon Farris...he said...Coldly...

Whoa...

Oh, boy...This sounds bad...Willow thought...

And Giles has..."That" look in his eye...

Farris was briefly Chairman of the Council in the late nineteenth century he explained...

It was not a reign that reflected credit on the Council...

"When was he Chairman?..." Willow looked at him...

About 1882 or 3 to 1886, Giles replied...

Hmmn...Just after Cicely's career seems to have ended...Willow noted...

Farris...Giles paused...

Arranged the deaths of two Slayers...Who refused to follow his instructions when called upon to
carry out assassinations...Of his enemies...

Whoa...

"So...The good ole Council took care of him...Expelled him from the Chairmanship, provided
justice, that sort of thing...?" Willow asked...

No...Giles eyed her...

The Council of his day...Sanctioned his actions...

They were only too willing to follow his lead...

"He was killed by a man named Foxcroft...Presumed to be a relative of one of the murdered
Slayers...Or someone else Farris had harmed..."
After his death there were vague attempts to condemn him...Generally along the lines of criticizing
his personal ambition...But his actions against the Slayers went unquestioned...

"He murdered two Slayers...And the Council didn't care...?" Willow stared at Giles...

"The Slayer's obedience was...is the foundation of the Council's authority...And power..." Giles
stared at the wall...

If they lose control of her...They're just a bunch of occult scholars, magicians, and...he smiled
faintly...

Librarians...

And...There is always another Slayer...

"But...The modern Council...Isn't like that?..." Willow paused...

They let her go...

No choice...Giles eyed her...Though we do like to pretend we have more scruples nowadays...

With Buffy the council had to accept the situation and employ patience...Hoping that she will one
day see reason and return to the fold...Or be forced to, of necessity...

The assigned Watcher, it seems...he smiled...Is a rather rebellious fellow himself...

***

Hmmn...Pondering a customer's question on the freshness of newt eyeballs, Buffy eyed
William...Who was trying to restock the fast depleting table of idols...

Anya's instincts having been quite correct...

No...I can't go into this yet...

I hafta get more info...she looked back towards Giles' office where Willow was emerging...

"Gotta get some info from our top researcher..." she beamed at the customer...

Willow?...she went over...

***

Ummn...Check on Cicely Addams' background, Buf?...Willow eyed her...

Actually...

"Who's...?" she began innocently...

Anya came over...Caring friend winning out over greedy capitalist...

"Buffy?...Your doctor's appointment is in twenty minutes...Don't forget..."

And...Great job...Both of you...she smiled...Nodding at Will who waved at them with a wry grin...

Again besieged by a bevy of young ladies...Mostly human, Buffy narrowly noted...

Stroller ladies...With their kiddies...Well...

Willow caught her friend's glare...Whoa...

Wants to know about Cicely...And ready to annihilate any female approaching her Will...

Offhand...I'd say Mrs. Walthrop is back in town...

Holy...Willow thought...She didn't come back just because I summoned her...

Mrs. Walthrop had unfinished business here...

Oh...Customer waiting...Buffy thought...

"Anya...The newt eyeballs...?"

Fresh yesterday...she replied...
***
Customer dealt with she rushed over to help free William from his stroller lady captors...

He tossed a grateful smile...Which she beamed back at double intensity...

Keep it up...Keep...It...Up...Spike growled within...

Whatever poof thing you're doing...

Mrs. Walthrop...The Missus...The Dear Missus...she thought...Smiling at him...

The ole lady, the ball-and-chain... the...

Buffy?...Willow eyed her...

Time to go...Doc's awaiting...

He came over...Taking her hands...

"Good luck, Buffy..." he stared into her eyes...
Let me know as soon as you've finished...he insisted...She nodded...

The beloved wife of...she thought...

Gee...

"You know...Cicely's not a bad name at all..." she quietly noted to Willow as they left...

Ummn....
***


Romance Palace...Part XXIV...

Part XXIV...

Hmmn...As she strolled the school corridors in "guidance counselor" disguise,
Halfreck mentally reviewed what clever little Dawny had told her...

Cute little thing, trying to pump me for Cicely info...she thought...

But she'd given her more than she'd got by a long shot...

So...Buffy was experiencing Cicely flashes...And seemed quite enthralled with
her dear William...

Once again...But more important...

Even...Perhaps...Somewhat guilty...

Very guilty, considering Dawn's attempts to avoid that shoal...

Natural enough, considering what Cicely would remember of that fateful night...

Hmmn...It might not be worthwhile to make another entrance as Cicely...Or
Buffy...Halfreck thought...

But perhaps...As William?...Or even as honest Halfreck, dutiful...And
truth-telling...Justice demon...And while Buffy was struggling to recover the
past...The sparks of Cicely's guilt could be fanned into a flame...

That would consume her...This time for all time...
***

I am with a child...Willow thought, frowning at Buffy as they drove towards the
neurologist Giles had booked with...

"I don't see why I have to go..." Buffy groused...

I feel fine...And I know why I'm having these visions now...

"I wanta go get something for William...C'mon Wil..."

"I'll tell you what I found out about the visions..." she slyly added...Smiling
at her friend...

Buffy...Willow sighed...You promised you'd see the doctor today...Giles went to
a lot of trouble to arrange an appointment so quick...

And Anya let you off...

Buffy frowned...But was silent...

Ah...Duty...Willow thought...That got her...

"O....K..." Buffy groused...

But I don't need him...Now...

Willow sighed...Eyeing her as she made a hard right to Forsyth St...

Clem's neurologist it was...And a excellent choice at that...

"Buffy...How can you "know" you don't need a doctor?..."

Ok...Leetle curiosity behind that one...Willow had to admit...

But Buf had been acting so..."Cicely friendly" all of a sudden...

What had she learned...?

They pulled up to the doc's...

"Willow..." Buffy paused...

"I have to tell you something before we go in...But you hafta promise not to
say a word..."

"Especially not to (my beloved husband, father of my child...er children, she
thought)...William..."

And...she grinned...If I give this out...

You gotta promise to give me twenty minutes in the nearest men's store when
we're done here...
***

"See..." Buffy noted as they stepped out from the neurologist's office...

Piece of cake...

"Abnormal EEG tracings?..." Willow eyed her...

"He said it was probably stress and anxiety..." Buffy pointed out...

Both of which...I've had aplenty this year...she noted...

"Besides...Anyone with an active past life memory bank is bound to have a lot
going on in there..."

Piece of cake...she concluded happily...

And the babbie's brain's fine as well...

We said "babbie" more than "baby" in the nineteenth century, you know...she
explained...

Willow blinking at her as they headed to the car...

Buffy paused...Grinning at her friend...Raising her brows...

"Call me Cicely, Wil...I want to hear it..."

Buffy...Willow rolled her eyes...

This kick you're on is very cute...And it's great that you're taking your
Cicely nature so calmly...

But...

"C'mon...Just once..."

O...K...Willow nodded, groaning under her breath...

But don't tell Giles I encouraged you...

"Cicely?...How ya doin'?..." Willow asked Buffy... "Twenty-first century
treating you all right?..."

"Great, Ms. Rosenberg..." Buffy grinned back...Rubbing her tummy...Hey there
little Will or Amelia...Please God, another Amelia...With our first little
girl's soul...

"Just great..."

Willow shook her head...

"Ok...Now do..."

No...Willow hastily replied...As they reached the car door...

No way...

There is no way I'm calling you Mrs. Walthrop...

***

Dawn had fidgeted her way through Algebra, History and English, waiting for
lunch and a chance to call the Box...

Not that she wanted to spill to Buffy just yet...

What Halfreck had told her...What little she'd told her...Dawn groused
within...

Sounded potentially explosive if handled improperly...

Not that she took it at face value, of course...

That Buffy...er Cicely had willingly made the wish that sent poor Will to his
death and more importantly, his damnation...?

No way...Well, at least...Not likely...

I hope...

Unless of course Cicely had been some utterly clueless type...Like say that
Emma from the movie...The one they made "Clueless" from...Directed by
that...What's her name...? Jane Austin...?

And had had no idea of the possible consequences...

Oh...But she was the Slayer...Even then...

And the chosen bride of William Soames Walthrop...Who clearly preferred a brain
in his permanent mate at least...

Not that she would ever suggest that Harmony was prettier...Dawn loyally
thought...

Still...They did wear corsets back then...And hers could have cut off the
oxygen to the brain for one fatal moment...On one fatal night...

In any case, this was vital info...Acquired by Special Agent Dawn Summers...And
had to be gotten to Spymaster Watcher Giles and his top researcher Willow
asap...

Just hope he's not too pissed about my calling Halfreck...
***

"Lets see..." Buffy eyed the rack of ties thoughtfully...

I think the blue and gold...she mused aloud...

Goes so well with his eyes...

Willow watching in shock...

Mrs. Walthrop shopping for the hubs...

Poor sweetie needed just about everything...After what had happened to his old
place...

And he couldn't wear Xander's hand-me-downs forever...

She turned to Willow...Unsure...

"Wil...? Does he have a watch?...Did you notice?..."

Ummn...

Well...One hundred twenty-two years of missed birthdays, Xmases, and...Willow
gulped...

Anniversaries...

"Think there'd be time to get this inscribed?..." Buffy asked, raising a
wrist-watch to Willow's view...

Ummn...
***

Romance Palace...Part XXV...

Part XXV...
Hiring William Soames Walthrop and...Aw, she had to think it at least, just once... "Mrs.
Walthrop"... had been the best idea she had in months, Anya happily noted to Xander at lunch
break...Sparing her nervous honey the "Mrs. Walthrop" part...

Especially if it meant Xander would be coming to the shop for lunch for the next month or so...she
thought contentedly...To check on William...

"Any word yet?..." William came over, looking a bit anxious...

After all, as an even more nervous, in fact rather freaking Spike had been pointing out
within...Steadily for the last hour...On their favorite soap opera a "joyous lovers reuniting" situation
like this would inevitably end with the discovery of a fatal brain tumor or degenerative neural
disease...

Buf had been having these wonky bits and flashes since being resurrected...the demon had been
constantly reminding his "brother"...

And it would be just the style of the Powers That Be to take away with one hand what they cruelly
held out with the other...

A point William had to agree with...

Unless of course the consulting neurologist turned out to be some lout of a ridiculously tall, muscle-
bound, square-jawed Angel imitator...Equally dangerous, Spike noted...

Likewise a point William had to agree with...

"Nothing yet, Will..." Xander rather kindly replied...

Why don't you sit down and have some lunch?...he went on...

"She's gonna be just fine..."

William nodded a bit abstractedly...And sat in the chair Xander pulled back for him...

Just a leetle worried...You know...She has been dead...And all that fighting...It takes a toll...

"She'll be fine..." Xander repeated, sympathetically... "Remember, we know what these visions are
all about...This is just a little precautionary check..."

Right...Right...Will fidgeted a bit in his chair...

Thanks...he smiled at Xander...

Anya blinked...And grinned...

What?...Xander eyed her...
"Oh....Just..." she bobbed her head at him, grinning happily...

You're a good brother, Xander Harris...she teased him...

Indeed...William seconded, with a smile...Turning back to the table and grabbing a sandwich...

Xander blinking...Brot...?

"Ummn...William?..." Anya paused...Dropping her voice a notch...

There's some extra blood downstairs in the fridge if you need it...I had Clem bring it in this morning
while you and Buffy were working...

"That's very kind of you...Boss..." Will grinned at her...Casting a sly look at Xander...That turned
serious for just a moment...

Give me my fair chance, Alexander...But...Don't ever forget...

"I'm set for now, though...Maybe before I leave for Doublemeat this afternoon..."

"Doublemeat?..." Xander pulled up short...Coughing up part of his sandwich...

You're working at Doublemeat Palace?...You...?

Knew he was the responsible type...Anya thought...Patting Xander on the back...

I have an instinct for this sort of thing in my employees...

***

Ok...Buffy nodded sheepishly at Willow...Eyeing the stack of bags and boxes...

It was a bit...Much...

But heck they were each working two jobs now...

And William needed clothes...

Hmmn...You know, Willow thought...I'm not half so much worried by the amount she bought as I
am by the way she had all his exact sizes memorized...

"Guess we better head on back..." Buffy noted...

A leetle nervous, Willow noticed...

And quiet now...

They headed back to the car, Buffy in serious thought mode...

Willow too busy struggling with the purchased goods...Well, couldn't let Mommie here strain
herself, ludicrous as that thought seems now...To think much more about the situation...

"Well..." she sighed as they finally got in and buckled... "Off we go..."

Yeah...Buffy looked ahead out the windshield...Abstractedly...

"Ummn...Willow...?"

"He'll love the stuff, Buf...The ties were a perfect choice..."

Hmmn...Yeah?...Thanks...But...

Buffy twisted her hands anxiously...

"Buffy?..." Willow held the key back a second...

"Wil...Why did I do it?..." Buffy looked at her...And burst into tears...

Ummn...Well...Buf...I know you kinda broke the budget on this one...But, we still have the
receipts...Willow noted...

No...Willow...Buffy eyed her...

"I condemned him..." she sobbed...

"I sent him to his death..."

Oh...

"Buffy...We don't know that..." Willow began...

He told me...Years ago...Cicely sent him away...Rejected him...

"We were married...And I rejected him..." Buffy sobbed...

Well...Willow patted her back, hugging her...

You didn't sink fangs into his neck and leave him for dead...

"I could have saved him...I was the Slayer..."

I didn't even release him...

"Well...Buffy...And..er Cicely..." Willow eyed her, pulling back...
You love him, right?...

She tearfully nodded...

Great, now I'm encouraging this...Willow thought...

"Ok then..." Willow sighed...

Obviously...You...er Cicely...Musta loved him then...Right?...

Yeah...Buffy paused...Nodding...

But I didn't even try to help him when he made it back to me...Found me here in Sunnydale after a
century...she resumed sobbing...

Hmmn...Great...Pregnant resurrected Slayer with romantic...Hell, might as well go all the
way...marital...problems adding to the natural depression...Willow sighed within...

"Buffy...You didn't know...How could you have known...It was only after..."

Buffy eyed her...Whoops...

Whaat?...Willow looked at her...

"You all think this thing with Spike...and William...Only started after I was resurrected?..." Buffy
eyed her...

Willow blinked at her...

"Willow...Why do you guys think that Riley left?..." Buffy asked her...

What?...

"Well...Buffy...Xander said that Riley told him...He knew you didn't...Love...Him..."

And you guys all assumed it was because of Angel...? Buffy eyed her...

What...? Willow choked...

"One night, three years ago..." Buffy paused... "We were...Ummn...Together...and I woke up
screaming...In bed...With Riley..."

Do you know who I was screaming for?...Buffy stared at her...

I do now...Oh my God...Willow thought...

"Why...Why didn't you tell us?..." she looked at Buffy...
I...I thought it was an aftereffect of your will spell...Buffy eyed her...

You know, when you nearly got us hitched...

Re-hitched at that...Buffy giggled at the thought a mo through her tears...

"Well...That's what I told Riley anyway..."

But he knew...Somehow...Though he was kind enough not to force me to face it...

That's why he wanted to play with vamp fire...Try to understand what it could be that was
pulling me to Spike...

Might have been kind enough to tell us...Willow thought...

'Course we probably would've staked Spike immediately...Still...

"I couldn't deal...With the idea I cared for...Spike..." Buffy noted...

But I didn't even try...Didn't ask Giles to try...Something, anything...

"And then...All last year...He was calling to me...I could feel William in there..."

And still I did nothing...Not one thing...

"Spike had every reason to take advantage of me...Kill me...Hell, it would have been the natural
thing to do...Giving a fellow demon a crack at the world and getting a new vamp mate in the
process..."

But instead...He fought his nature...At every opportunity...

And saved me...

And now...I know...William fought for a century to stay in this world...To reach me...

And I did...Nothing...

"No..." she paused... "That's not true...I did something all right..."

I sent him into this torment...

"Buffy...Has he blamed you?...Accused you?..." Willow frowned...

Certainly not...Buffy glared...

What do you mean by that?...she eyed Willow narrowly...

William would never...she began...Rather fiercely...

Protectively...

Whoa...The Missus resents criticism of the Mister...Better note that down...Willow thought...
***

Giles emerged from his office...Something in his manner suggesting this was not the day to suggest
that full review of the books Anya had been looking forward to...

"Will...?" he paused eyeing William...

Something's up...Spike noted within...Ripper's got that... "Somebody needs to involuntarily die for
my Buffy and I'm here to help" look...

"Might I see you upstairs for a moment?..."

Anya....? Spike called from within...Could you ask good ole Xan to join us...?

Know he's been anxious to participate more in the high level stuff...And as a senior member of the
team...Hell, the Slayer's second-in-command and sack mate...I say...It's time...

No need to panic...Poof-boy...William grinned within...

"Giles...Wouldn't...?" Xander eyed Anya, after William and Giles had left...

Stake him...? Anya looked up at Giles' office...

"Hmmn...Not while Buffy still finds him sponge worthy..."

But he is upset about something...she noted...

Perhaps a tad irritated...Gee...she looked at her Xander...

Spike gets a little Williamy with the soul and all and Giles is suddenly holding high-level staff
conferences with him?...

"Mrs. Walthrop" not being the only member of the team who resented even potential, implied
criticism of her significant other...

***
Well...? William waited for Spike's reply...As he and Giles descended back to the main shop room...

Unnh...Spike growled within...

Kinda makes ya wanta treat a guy with a leetle more respect, eh, bro...?

To be targeted by the Watchers' Council for assassination...Not too shabby, I'd say...William went
on...

Only for the Cicely connection, poof...Spike growled back...

You happened to stumble into their gunsights when our Cicely took us up...

"Well?..." Anya looked at the two...

Do we get in on the big secret?...her look clearly saying...

Xander was more inclined towards relief that Will had returned in one piece...

Much as he hated to admit it...Buffy needed her...You know...just now...

"I'm sorry to have excluded you and Xander, Anya..." Giles replied...

But I needed to discuss the situation with William...And I think I should speak to Buffy before the
rest of you...

Sorry, pet...Spike noted to her from within...

Junior members excluded...Until otherwise...

Great...Anya thought back...

Then you won't be needing Xander to protect you, I'm sure...

Hmmn...Harris was a rather large target...Maybe...

So...Anya grinned within, keeping a noncommital look on Giles...It does involve a threat to you and
Buffy...

"I promise you both...As soon as I've spoken to Buffy, I'll tell you what I know..." Giles eyed
Xander and Anya...

A rather dark look in his face...

Must be preety bad...Anya noted to Spike...

Haven't seen Giles like that since he...

Oh...So you know about young Benny-boy, do you?...Spike replied...

Ripper was in rare form that day...

"Ok.." Xander sighed...

"It's more me than Buffy, Xander..." William eyed him...

But...Don't worry...As far as she's involved...We'll keep her safe...

"And I count on your help in that..."

Giles nodded quietly...

Naturally...Anya groaned within...

Everybody turns to Xander...Expects him to do the impossible...Without proper briefing or
instruction...

Well...she eyed her mate proudly...

He's done the impossible...Saved the world...Rescued and is in the process of re-rescuing a lost
soul...

Whatever little crisis this...Piece of cake...

Though his devoted spouse-in-waiting will be on guard, gentlemen...

By the way...Will eyed Xander...Now preparing to head back out to work...

How bad was it?...

Hmmn...Xander looked at him...But knowing...Having expected this one all day...

Knew the "bum alternator" story would never hold up...

"How bad...?" he replied...

The car...William paused...

"How much damage did she do...?"

Spike waiting breathlessly...Not a difficult feat actually...

Well...Ummn...

"Dents?..." Will sighed...

Oh my demon God...Spike moaned...

A...Few...Xander admitted...

Little ones, really...he insisted...
"Just a mo..." Will raised a hand...

Xander looked at Anya...What?...

Poor Spike...she shook her head...It's terrible...

It's so sad when a maniacal killer demon cries...she sighed to Xander...

"It's ok..." Will noted, looking down...

Only an old car...

"I took it to Herb Edson..." Xander hastily replied, a sad-eyed Anya staring at him...

If you think Will looks sad...

The Herb Edson?...Spike called from within...

The one human being on Earth I might hesitate to kill even without the chip?...For the sake of
preserving his skill...

"I thought Herb Edson had a six months waiting list..." Giles looked at Xander...

Last time I tried him anyway...he frowned...

Ole pal...Owes me one...Xander noted...

Harris...You are a Prince...Spike joyfully cried within...

"Spike feels better...That was very nice of you, honey..." Anya patted his hand...

Indeed...Will grinned...

"Hey!..." Buffy called from the shop door, Willow following with her load...

William and Giles hopped up...Xander and Anya following...

"Alls well more or less brainwise..." Buffy told them...

No short circuits...she grinned at Will who'd hurried over to her...Taken her hands...

He nodded...Sighing...

Ask about the lout of a doc...Spike insisted within...

We stopped off to pick up a few things for Babbie and Will...Buffy indicated the struggling
Willow...
Ummn...Xander eyed her...As he tried to help the staggering Willow...

Babbie?...his look said...As he glanced at Will...

"Will knows Xander..." she grinned at him...

"Go on, congratulate the future papa..."

Whoa...Willow eyed the now blank-eyed, blinking William...

Papa?...He was clearly choking on that one...

Whoa...Willow grinned at the others...William the Bloody decked...And we are there...

I mean...It was one thing to know...And quite another to be hit in the gut with it like that...

Our Slayer hasn't lost it with him yet...she thought...

***

Romance Palace...Part XXVI...

That place that you can't remember...

And you can't forget...

***

Part XXVI...


A startled William was under a steady deluge of Buffy gifts...

Buffy thoroughly engaged in carefully gauging his reaction to each opened box...

Giles and Xander watching in some amusement...

"Oh...Willow..." Anya pulled her back and into a corner...

Dawn called...A few minutes after you and Buffy left...

She wanted you to call her at school...Have her pulled out of class to speak to you...But don't tell
Buffy or let her hear...

"Aunt Willow"...Anya grinned....

It really did sound important Anya noted...
And it concerns Halfreck...But she didn't want to tell anyone but Giles or you...And she preferred
you...

Really...? Willow thought...

Guess I'm back on Dawny's A list at last...And back in the loop to boot...

Me...Before Giles ?

Wait a mo...Halfreck!?...What the...Dawn!?...

Besides...she thought, grousing a bit...Dawny knows Giles would never pull her out of class to
talk...Unless the world was about to end and only she had the secret code to start the world-ending
reversal spell...

Only ole "Aunt" Willow would be soft-headed enough to...

Still, back in the loop...With privileged info...From both the sisters Summers...Like old times...

And best of all...she smiled at Anya...The guys trust me again...Not that they ever suggested
otherwise...But...

And a perfectly understandable "but" given what I remember of World Destroying Maniac
Willow...

They were being cautious around me...

Thank God the life of Buffy Summers/Cicely Addams Walthrop allows very little time for such
things...And the philosophy of one Rupert Giles is to throw you right back into the stream of life...

Buffy's treated me these last few days...Just the way she always did...Bending my ear the first night
he came back with her fears...And hopes...For William...And today...Turning to me first with the
Cicely story, looking to me for absolution over her shame and guilt about poor Will...

Welcome home, Willow...she thought...Smiling a bit...

Gee...If only...she sighed a mo...Pausing...

But Life goes on...

And Eternity does exist...Waiting for us...At the right time...With the people we love...

And our Buffy and Will are the living proof...

Shalom, my love...I will see you again...At the right time...Courtesy my other love...God praise and
bless him...

For now, rejoice with us from Heaven for poor Will's salvation...And our friends' chance for
renewed love...

Well, Dawny's "big news" is awaitin' and I've lots of amends to be makin'...

"I'll call from the back storeroom..." she told Anya...

***

Buffy had carted away the gifts to Will's basement with Xander's help in record time...There still
being a couple of hours left until Doublemeat duty the least she could do, given Anya's kind
indulgence of her little "Xmas" in August for William was get back to Box duty asap...

"Did he like them?...He did like them?...Right?..." she nervously hissed at Xander as they took the
last load...

In the room William was quietly, joyfully staring at the inscribed wrist-watch Buffy had given him...

He definitely liked the watch...As Giles now noted to Anya...

"It's..." Will paused...Hesitating...Unable to go on...

My God...Spike was murmuring within...

After all...he was a part of William...And this was Big...

"Will...?" Anya looked at him...

My God...Spike continued...William looking at the inscription...

Spike?...Anya thought...

"Is something wrong Will?..." Giles stared at him...

Well, of course only natural the boy would take this rather effusive display of Buffy's affection
strongly...

And his natural English reserve had been sorely tried over the past century...

"I...Have something to get...For Buffy..." he paused...

From my stuff...Excuse me...

She remembered...She remembered, Anya...Spike had to tell someone else...

Remembered?...Oh right...Yeah I guess she's accepted Cicely as part of her...Anya thought back...

No, you moron...The inscription...Wait a mo...Spike groused back...As William reached the
basement stairs just as Buffy and Xander returned...

"Ummn...Will...?" Buffy paused...

"Everything was ok?...You didn't hate it all?..."

He kissed her check...Wait...he whispered...

"My turn..."

He turned and went downstairs...

"Interesting inscription on the watch..." Giles noted as she and Xander came back to the others...

Customer...Anya noted as the door chimed...

Buffy dutifully hastening over...

"Just came to me...All of sudden..." she briefly looked back to Giles...

"Eternity is ours..." That was a nice inscription...Anya thought...

***

"Yes..." Willow sighed into the cell phone... "Her aunt, Ms. Rosenberg..."

Dawny...This had better be...

"Yes, it is important...Please..."

Cause Buf will have my head...Skin me alive...

Hmmn...Odd thought just passed through my head...

Like deja-vu, kinda...

Eehew...Is that how I did in Big Baddy?...Skinned him...?

Guess I coulda been angry enough...It was my Tara after all...Still...

Eehew...God I have no desire at all for Giles to pull that memory block any sooner than he feels it's
time...In fact...

"Thank you..." she replied to the school secretary...Who promised to have Dawn paged...

***
Customer dutifully served, Buffy waited...Looking at the others...

"You really think he liked everything?..." she hopefully asked Anya...The third person in a row...

Sure...

Hmmn...She's nervous too...Anya realized...Sensing something big...

What's up?...

A thought echoed by Xander...Who looked at his mate quizzically...

She shrugged...Spike's keeping mum...

William came back upstairs...

Holding a small packet...

"Before..." he paused...Looking back into the shop...Good, no customers at present...

Before I give this to you, Buffy...he looked at her firmly...

"I am Spike as well as William...And Spike is William as well as Spike..."

It's important you understand that...We may be separate to some extent owing to the nature of our
transformation...

But he is my id...Given form and substance...My instinctual nature...Minus Reason and
Conscience...

Hey...I'm not retarded you know...Spike groused within...

Hmmn...Xander thought...So the Hellmouth is kinda like the Big Machine in "Forbidden
Planet"?...Powering the id monsters into reality?...

"I understand William..." Buffy replied quietly...Smiling at him...But looking more nervous than
ever...

We all have a dark side...

And no one can fight theirs off, once it's been released as a demon...she noted firmly...Eyeing the
others...

"All I can do...Is promise you I will never willingly let Spike run the show again..." he paused...

The thanks I get...Spike growled...

"And swear to you...That I did what little I could to influence him..."

Million times better than Liam she thought loyally...

Well, mustn't blame Angel for my mistake...Somehow instinctively thinking I'd found my souled
vampire...

"I kept this...Somehow..." William began...

Hey!...

"Well, we kept it..."

He put the packet in her hand...

She trembled...Somehow knowing...

And unwrapped it...

Looking at it in wonder...

My God...Anya looked at it...And the waiting William...

Buffy held the ring up to the light...Tears running down her face...

She dropped it...Oh...Oh...she fell to her knees...

Hunting desperately on the floor to find...Ah...Got it...

She held it tightly...Swaying...

Buffy?...Xander looked at her...

She raised a hand...Will came towards her...

She put out both hands...Waving them to block him off...

"I...Oh, Will..."

"What I have done?!..." she cried, sobbing...

She raced back and headed for the front of the shop...

Buffy...William called to her gently...

"No...No..." she sobbed...Putting the ring down on the front table, she raced out the door...

"Cicely...!" Will ran for the door...

No!...Will!...Xander did the 20 ft dash...Grabbing him back as he struggled with the door...

"You can't go out, Will!" he held him back...

She'll be ok...She'll be fine...She's just trying to deal...Give her time...

You're no good to her burned alive...

First rate advice there, bro!...Spike cried within...

Will got hold of himself and nodded...Right...

"Thanks...Little too much humanity surfacing just then..." he grinned wanly...

Anya...? Xander called to her...

"On it...Don't worry Will..." she called...

Stop looking at Xander's...and move it, girl...Spike cried...

Anya vanished...

Giles came over...Putting a hand on Will's shoulder...

"I thought she was ready...Honestly, Rupert..."

"Perhaps she was Will..." Giles noted... "At least as ready as she could ever be..."

Xander's right...Just give her some time and space...

He nodded...

Xander picked up the ring on the desk...

"Eternity is ours" the inscription read...

"Cicely..."

Your wedding band?...Giles asked...

Will nodded...

Even Spike couldn't wear it while...he paused...But we kept it...

We thought one day...We might want it again...
***



Romance Palace...Part XXVII...

Clip:

"Mr. Walthrop!!...Stop!!..." Cicely cried to him in a startlingly loud voice...

He halted, staring back at her...

"I am talking to you!...Where...Are...You...Going?!..."

In five words or less...Sir...she frowned...

Five words, eh...? Walthrop glared back...

"Out...For...A ...." Walthrop began...

Buffy blinked...God damn...

Spike, you little fraud...

***

Part XXVII...

A distraught Buffy wandered downtown Sunnydale...

His wedding band...The one I gave him...

He kept it...All these years...

"Eternity is ours..." My choice...

A pledge kept for exactly two days on my part...

But Willow...

Willow said I must have loved him then...To love him so now...

I did love him then...I know it...

But...Oh God why did I send him away?...She looked down the street...Pausing...

"Miss Addams..." the slender young man nodded at her...An annoyed look on his face...
William...? Yes, that was it...William...

She frowned a bit...The household footmen Smike and Squears who had been lounging out on the
back portico with Henry's "friend" eyed her...She repeated a thinly veiled "suggestion" that they
resume their duties...

The two got up...Smike in an especially impudent mood...

"Well...Be seeing you, mate...Maybe we'll stop by at that..." Smike cast a brief leer at Miss
Addams...

"480 Merriweather St...Thursday night at eight..." Walthrop replied...

See you there mates...

The two sauntered back inside...Cicely glared at them...

She'd also caught the tail end of Mr. Walthrop's little performance...As she had come in to see about
Henry's little guest...And where those two lazy oafs had gotten off to...

As the strutting Miss Addams...

Regally bowing to all and sundry as she made her little procession...Accepting the natural adoration
of her male peers...Awaiting the doffing of caps and the bowing and scraping of her inferiors...

"Ah...Mr...er...Pardonnez-moi while my maid fetches my opera glasses so I might have a look at
you...Ah...yes..." In high falsetto voice Walthrop had thrown his head back and looked down his
nose...A rather good imitation at that... "Mr....Wal...trop?..."

Much to Smike and Squears' amusement, obviously...

She turned back to little Walthrop...Barely taller than she, she amusedly noted...

If rather beautiful eyes...Staring deep into one...

The people cousin Henry takes under his wing...Still...dear Henry did admire the little...

A bit of a rough diamond he'd called him...But...A true and worthy friend...With a bright future...

And anyone admired by Henry Alexander Foxcroft was usually worthy...she had to admit...

"Fomenting revolution in our household, Mr....Walthrop?..." she unconsciously had thrown her
head back and looked down her nose at him...

"We were just talking, Miss Addams...I wanted to hear about their lives..."

"And encourage them to attend some meeting of radicals?..."
He eyed her...Truculent but a bit off balance...Had she heard his little performance?....

Hardly radicals, Miss Addams...Just a meeting of students, thinkers, and workingmen and -women...

"Socialists?...Communists?...Or just Anarchists?..." she smiled at him...

Amazed she knew there was a difference he thought, looking at her sourly...

"Even the dogs in the street have a right to meet occasionally Miss Addams...And try to better their
lives a little..." he replied coldly...

"I see...And is making fun of us...My cousin who's been so kind to you...And me...In front of our
staff...Another right of the "dogs in the street"...?" she asked...Sweetly...Turning to glaring stone at
the end...

Self-righteous little...If I could have him on the receiving end of my stake one night for thirty
seconds...she thought...I'd teach him a lesson or two about making snap judgments of people...

Quite a glare there...Walthrop noted to himself...

But was angry in a moment...Thankfully angry...Considering how she'd thrown him off balance,
putting him in the wrong...

Not to mention...Well...He still wasn't used to dealing with women like this...

Especially wondrously beautiful women like this...

"I wasn't making fun of...Your cousin..." Walthrop paused...Eyeing her...

Henry is my friend...I don't make fun of my friends...Even if they are rather of the "toff"
persuasion...

He's a good sort...And can't help the inbred toff in his bones...

"I see..." she eyed him coldly...So...

"Buffy?..." Anya suddenly appeared in front of her...By a partially hidden corner of a building....

Buffy blinked...

Damn...

***
Well?...Dawn paused on her end of the line...

Hmmn..."Aunt" Willow frowned at the phone...

"Do you think it's true?" Dawn asked...

Well...I believe Halfreck had a hand in whatever happened that night, Dawny...Willow replied...

But...I can't believe Buffy...er Cicely...Simply turned on him because she'd gotten nervous about
marrying a poor man...Suddenly despised him...

Hate spell...? Dawn suggested...

Doubt it...Haly would have to have had Cicely's approval to act...

Well...Dawn noted...Remember that actress, Gillian Anderson?...And the TeeVee Guide episode a
few years back...?

Dissed her own still-husband...In TeeVee Guide of all places...

It can happen...

True...Willow had to agree...

Though I wouldn't diss my worst enemy in TV Guide...Heck I'd even try to say something non-
committal about Angelis...she thought...

Still...Dawn hesitated...Buffy wouldn't hurt someone she loved like that...

She couldn't...

Hell...She wouldn't even do it to that weasel, Jonathan...

"And she loves Will, doesn't she?..."

Xander came into the stockroom...Waving a bit...

Trouble...Willow realized immediately...

"Yes..." No point in prevaricating...

"She does Dawny...And I'm positive...She did..."

Buffy...Xander mouthed to her...She waved him over...

Gone...He whispered in her ear...

"Will gave her...His old wedding ring...

She freaked and ran..."

Uh-boy...

"An's after her..."

Whoa...Wedding ring?...Spike, er Will...Had his old wedding ring?...she thought, blinking at
Xander...

"Willow?...Anything wrong?..." Dawn raised her voice...

No...Xander just came in to tell me something...she replied...

My...Rather nice to feel ole Xan's warm breath on my ear again...

Down, girl...Happily almost married man and dear brother there...Willow told herself...Sternly...

"Willow?..." Dawn was getting irked...

Right...Duty calls...Willow looked at the phone...

"Everything's ok here, Dawny...As to Cicely..."

Dawn rolling her eyes at the phone...Geesch what the hell do they take me for...?

"I think Cicely was trying to protect Will, Dawny..." Willow continued, pondering... "Maybe from
her enemies...Maybe from her family..."

She was pregnant then, too...Dawn told her...

What?...Willow looked at the phone...

Xander stared at her...What's up...?

Cicely died in childbirth six months after William was killed...Dawn explained...

"The baby died too..." Dawn added...Sadly...

I must really thank that demon for her tact and good sense in telling this to Dawny...Willow frowned
at the phone...

She pulled away from the phone, giving Xander a nod...

"I'll be with you guys in a minute, Xander..." she whispered...

He nodded and left her...

My he sure smelled nice...she thought...Looking after him...

But a pledge is a pledge...Hmmn...

Molecular biology...That's the field for me...

That cloning and all...Yeah...

***

"I'm ok now, Anya..." Buffy eyed her...

You can go back...I'm just gonna walk over to Doublemeat...

"Will is so worried, Buffy...Spike too..." Anya paused...

Spike is Will...Buffy replied...Of course they're both worried...

"I'll see him at work in an hour...Tell him it's ok...I'm fine..."

It just threw me, that's all...I need some time to think...

"And...Tell him...I'm glad, really..."

"About the ring..."

Anya nodded...

I'll see him at Doublemeat...

Anya looked at her...

"You had another long vision, didn't you?...Just now..."

Wish it had been a little longer...Buffy thought, frowning...

"Yeah..."

Buffy...Anya paused...

"Be careful...These memories are coming back in pieces...Don't make any decisions based on a
fragment or two of the past..."

You and Will are together again...With a chance...Don't let a confused memory or two ruin that...

"And above all...If Halfreck comes to you..."

Halfreck?!...Buffy stared at Anya...

Why Halfreck?...What about her?...

Ummn....Anya looked nervously away...

Oops...

***

She didn't know what to do about Will...Then...Dawn was summing up to "Aunt" Willow...

She doesn't now...

"Halfreck said she was pregnant then...She is now..." Dawn noted...

She loved him then...

She does now...

And Halfreck got involved...

And she's here now...

Buffy made the wrong decision then... "We can't know that, Dawn..." Willow hastily interjected...
Lost him...And died...Dawn concluded...Waiting...

"Whatever happened in 1880..." Willow hesitated... "Doesn't have to happen again..."

There are differences, Dawny...

"Cicely and Will faced obstacles...They didn't even know about..."

"Will is able to protect himself...Much better this time..."

Lord, thanks to Spike of all things...she thought...

She paused...Well...Dawn knows as much or more than most of us already...

"Giles and I have learned a few things about what happened..."

***

Halfreck...Buffy thought...Staring at a sheepish Anya...As they sat, Anya having persuaded Buffy to
stop for a snack and something to drink...

Babbie, you know...

Oh...Gee...Anya sighed within...
Xander is gonna be so pissed with me...

God...Of course, Buffy thought...Dawn is part of me...Made from me...

Halfreck isn't her "justice" demon...

She's...Mine...

***
Ok...Spike whispered nervously within...

Now...The other side...

Both brothers holding their breath...Considerably easier for Spike, of course...Though not really a
problem for William...

"Well?..." Xander eyed him...

A Prince, I said...Spike noted within...A worthy friend...

A regular Henry Foxcroft...

Indeed, William agreed...The ole girl looks wonderful...Untouched...

"Xander, thanks..." he turned back to the waiting Xander...Where he stood by the side of Herb
Edson's garage...Having brought Will over for the car in his under several coats and blankets...

From both of us...William grinned...Rubbing his hand along the ole girl's side...

"Buffy really didn't do too much damage..." Xander loyally noted...

She just didn't realize...

With a classic like this...

A classic...the waiting Herb echoed reverently...

"It was an honor to work on her..." he noted...As Will thanked him profusely...

***
"You can't trust her, Buffy..." Anya pleaded...As they walked along...Trying to repair the potential
damage...

Any info she may give you is sure to be slanted towards destroying you...

"But she's the only one who can tell me...What really happened that night..." Buffy noted...

The only one who could give me my full memories back...

Oh...Anya sighed...Why did I have to mention Haly...?

"It's getting late...I've got to get to Doublemeat..." Buffy eyed Anya...

I won't do anything without letting you guys know...she promised...

"Please Buffy...At least let me walk you over..." Anya begged...

And leave you safe with Will...she thought...At least for tonight...

While Giles, Xander, Willow, and I deal with Haly...

O...K...Buffy grinned at her...

But...I want to learn more about Cicely...So if I drift off...

Don't pull me out too fast...Just don't let me walk into a car...

***

"Take this..." Dawn handed the newly arrived Clem...Baby-sitting...er demon rehab night while
Slayer did Doublemeat duty...A crossbow...

She'd followed "Aunt" Willow's instructions to the letter...And gone home after school instead
of demanding to join the others at the shop...For "Operation Halfreck"...

A leetle too willing to follow her instructions, Willow had wondered...But as long as she'd be safe at
home while they summoned Haly, forced answers from her...And her...Allies...

And settled "the Walthrop case" once and for all...

A two-front attack, Dawn explained to Clem...Who nodded...

Sanctioned by the Slayer, of course...she lied...

While the gang at the Box prepared their thing to save Buffy and Will from whatever malicious plot
Halfreck had in store, she and her assistant would keep demon lady occupied...And diverted from
any chance of using the past to hurt the Slayer and her William...Until the Box gang was ready to
finish the job...

It's...What a good sis...And sis-in-law..Does...she noted...Clem nodding...

Well...Long as Slayer's ok'd it...

***
Hmmn...

Anya blinked...Looking at the frowning Buffy, now in Doublemeat uniform...Well...

Of course...He is a former Cambridge man...

Buffy's beaming smile on seeing Will having faded as the afternoon manager, Flo...Had explained
that Mr. Walthrop, who'd just come from England...Was her new...

"Manager?!!... "Buffy glowered... "$%&*ing manager!!!?"

"Him...?!..."

Only assistant manager...William noted...

"What did you do to her?..." she glared at him...

Sleep with her?!...

"Buffy..." Flo looked at her in shock...

Thankfully no customers or other staff in earshot...

Not that the thought hadn't occurred to her...Mr. Walthrop being far and away the most dashing
thing to enter Doublemeat since that mysterious tall Man in Black had visited Buffy here a few
months ago...

He was hired by Mr. Yelvin himself...Last night...Flo noted sternly...

And you're...

"Training him?!..." Buffy glared...

Hell, why not...I've been "training" him for the past two years almost every night on...

Flo stared at her...

Hey?!...Spike was hurt...I never needed any...

"Ms. Rhoades..." William interrupted...

Let me explain...

I'm...Ms. Summers' fiancee...Mr. Yelvin was kind enough to let me take some shifts with her as
she's...

Oh...Flo's face fell a notch...
Well, at least it was nice to know she wouldn't have to pretend ignorance of Ms. Summer's
condition any longer...

And wait until the dayshift heard this...

Buffy rolled her eyes...Right, tell everyone...

Whoa...Fiancee...?...

Why...Will?...A smile came up...Another frown immediately following in rapid succession...

Geesch...Might have asked me, first...If I remember correctly...I asked you before telling Henry...

Thought I did have the rings ready...

Anya was staring...Wow...

Buffy shook it off...That "assistant manager" thing was still sticking in her craw...Not that she
blamed Will, mind you...Just...

Geesch...

A glass ceiling...At Doublemeat Palace?...

God...

Cicely frowned and looked at the little Mr. Walthrop...

Who had decided to terminate their rather angry discussion...

She having accused him of being a rather classic example of a self-righteous, self-proclaimed
working class hero...

An intellectual snot...Who'd probably never seen the inside of a factory...Walthrop choking,
remembering his years slaving in the Brusset bottle works...

While he had noted her unfortunate "priggish" tendencies...Questioning as to whether she had ever
known anyone or thing outside her little circle of fellow prigs...

A conversation she was actually rather...Enjoying...

"My cousin will be expecting to find you here, Mr. Walthrop..." she glared at him...

Oh...Don't go...she thought...

You ungrateful little...

"Please tell Henry I'll be back later..." he stubbornly replied...Turning away from her...And moving
rather swiftly to the door of the back garden...

"Where are you going?...Henry will be coming in a few moments..." she called...

Uhhh...He mumbled, fumbling with the door...

"Mr. Walthrop!!...Stop!!..." Cicely cried to him in a startlingly loud voice...

He halted, staring back at her...

"I am talking to you!...Where...Are...You...Going?!..."

In five words or less...Sir...she frowned...

Five words, eh...? Walthrop glared back...

"Out...For...A ...." Walthrop began...

"She wants us to let her be during the visions, Will..."Anya was explaining to a nervous
William...And Spike...

Flo thankfully having headed out...

Buffy blinked...God damn...

Spike, you little fraud...

***


Romance Palace...Part XXVIII...

Part XXVIII...

"You gotta make sure the grease is at just the right temperature..." Buffy eyed William...As she
demonstrated the proper preparation of that vital vegetable, the deep-fried French fry...

She'd recovered a bit from her initial resentment...After all wasn't his fault that idiot Yelvin didn't
trust her to handle the evening shift...

And he'd called her...His fiancee...

Almost as good as...

Dear...

And to other people no less...

He nodded...Patiently attentive...

She eyed him with a grin...

"I thought you wanted me out of here...That this place would...

Do "things" to me..."

I do want you out of here...Will looked at her...

And helping you and...He grinned...Junior...Is the way...

"Will..." she paused...

I'm sorry...About my little freak back at the shop...

I...Know about...

"Customer..." he noted...A couple having entered...

"Duty calls, Slayer..."

She frowned...Well...At least we have until 7 before that guy Leroy gets in...

Pity we couldn't just have the place all to ourselves this evening...

"C'mon...We're ok back here for now, Mr. Assistant Manager..." she smiled at him...

Lets head up front and I'll show you the wonders of the Doublemeat ordering system...

Hmmn...Place all to ourselves...she thought...

And I did want to have it out with Halfreck...Who does grant wishes...

Especially to her client...Namely...Me...

***

It's simple...Dawn explained to her assistant...A confused but loyal Clem...As they locked up the
house and entered the back yard...

Halfreck will come when I call her...

We just gotta keep her busy here until the guys do...Whatever Willow and Giles have cooked up...

Just keeping her away from Buffy until the others are ready...That's our job...

Self-assigned job...she did not say...

But heck, it was time Cicely/Buffy and William had some help in their romantic fight against the
malicious forces trying to destroy them...Long overdue...

And she was part of Buffy...And therefore Cicely...The part who had first recognized human Will in
Spike...

It's a family thing, she noted to Clem...

Who, as a demon, understood the importance of family...
***

Giles?...Buffy blinked at the "customer"...

"You had us rather worried, my dear..." he sighed at her...

Hello, Will...he nodded to William...

"Didn't Anya go back and tell you guys?...I'm fine now..." Buffy frowned...

Just a little too much in one day, you know...she smiled over at Will...

"Assistant Manager Walthrop is looking out for me..."

Really?...Giles eyed Will...

"Well...You will go far, Randall...Especially in that hat..." Giles grinned at William...

"Buffy...May I speak to you a moment?..."

She looked at Will...Ummn...

"Will already knows what I have to tell you..." he explained...

Oh?...she blinked...

So now Will gets info from my Watcher before I do?...she thought, grousing to herself a bit...

Unless...Ah...Cicely...Giles wants to tell me about Cicely...Confirm what poor Will's been telling
me...Well, trying to tell me...

Damn it, guys...What I really need is a solid half-hour alone with...she couldn't help beaming
inwardly...

My husband...

Just give the Walthrops a few minutes alone...We'll get this worked out...

Maybe after a little titanic sex...

Hmmn...Well...

Couldn't hurt to hear what Giles has...

"You be ok for a few minutes...? Mr. Assistant Manager...?" she threw a wry grin at Will...

See what I mean? Spike groused within...As Will tried to figure out the Doublemeat symbol
system...Kicking us around like...

Bro...She's trying to deal with Cicely, the baby, us...All of it...

Somehow doing it too...

And she's got a legit gripe...

Besides, we've been "kicked around" by Buffy Summers...Literally...Since the day you brought us
to Sunnydale...

If she just needs to vent a little...I'd say she's entitled...And as long as she's been willing to put up
with my grousing last night about her not recognizing my presence immediately....It's only fair that
I take it...And I will...Any day of the week...

She's certainly tolerated a hell of lot worse from us...

Damn, poof...Show her who's...

Shut up, you little maniac....Or I do have to remind you who got his posturing demonic ass whipped
on a regular basis in this town for the past...

He smiled at the customer who'd just entered...

"One minute...Lets see...Coffee, apple pie..."

Well...he beamed at the middle-aged lady...

"You're actually my first...Thanks very much...And come again..."

I wanted it warmed...The lady frowned at him...

Ah...Just a mo...

That was...Love...Spike noted solemnly...

Please...William choked inwardly...Returning the greasy pie from the microwave to the counter...

"You call this...Warmed?..." the lady groused...

So sorry...One moment...

Throw the doddering ole biddy in the grease vat...It needs more fat anyway...Spike noted...As I was
saying...

Hmmpf...the lady grabbed her microwaved pie with a glare and moved off...

Don't choke on the reconstituted apple pairings, dear...Spike sneered within...

Buffy in forty years bro...Unless we transform her...Soon...Spike noted...

You expect me to believe you let Buffy beat us...All those times...Will chuckled within...

I always held back...Spike insisted...

Uh-huh...And Angelis took it slow because he wanted her to stop him...A year?long cry for help...

Actually...Will had to be fair...Angel probably was trying to do what he could...Wherever he was
while Angelis was out on the town...

What?!...Spike snorted...Hell, poof-boy, even you managed to...Ummn...

To...Restrain you...? Why, bro...From you...? High praise indeed...Will teased...

Urggh...

As for dear Angel...

I'm sure he gave it his best...William smiled within...The same valiant effort he made for Buffy and
Dawn this past year...

Thank God for our Angel...he noted...

Amen...Spike echoed...

***

No...Buffy shook her head at the Watcher...As he sat across from her in the employees' dressing
room...

No...
Buffy...Giles sighed...

"I am sure your reasons for calling on Halfreck were valid...To Cicely at the time..."

And it's clear the Council pressed you to do something about William...

"I did...not..." tears were running down her face... "Want...William...to..."

His death was purely accidental, my dear...All you did was to send him away...

You were merely doing your duty as a Slayer...

"He was my husband, Giles...I...did...not..."

"I wanted to protect him...I'm sure I wanted to protect him..."

You realized...Giles paused...That your duty came first...

And even if William had to be...Sacrificed...

As he may now...

She stared at him...

"The Council will not allow you to take the risk Buffy...They made you give him up before...And
they are prepared to take stronger measures now..."

Only if we send William away...As soon as possible...Can we protect him...

Though...Giles sighed...As long as they fear you will turn to him...And fall prey one day...Either to
Spike and transformation...Or to abandoning your duty as Cicely nearly did...He will be in danger...

"I can protect him..." Buffy desperately argued, wiping tears... "He can protect himself, now..."

You told me Will has a horror of killing...As he told me himself...And the chip will physically
prevent him from fighting humans...

If the Council catches him...As he is now...Giles pointed out...

"Let me arrange a safe haven for him...And send him there..."

Perhaps...he eyed her...One day...

"As long as I live...As long as I'm the Slayer..." Buffy shook her head...

I'm killing him all over again...

"Giles, how can he bear losing me...And the baby...His family...Again...?"

Then perhaps...Giles paused...The best thing...

She stared at him...Giles...? she gasped...

"He's almost human now...You want me to stake him?..."

His soul would be free Buffy...You would be at peace regarding him...And one day...In the
afterlife...

"Get out of here..." she looked up at him...Her eyes smoldering...

And tell the Council...If they try...Anything...

"You can't protect him, Buffy...You knew that Cicely...And that is why you made the only possible
decision in 1880..."

"Get out!..." she was trembling, ready to rise up...But she put her head in her hands...And sobbed...

"You see that it's true, Buffy..."

You have the baby...And Dawn to consider...

Giles paused...

"My dear...I am sorry...But you know I am only trying to warn you...And to help you..."

If you try to protect him...The Council will not hesitate to take action against you as well...Even
considering the baby...

For them, after all...

There is always another Slayer...

He got up and headed out, nodding to William...Now occupied with a small group of Little
Leaguers...

Buffy sat, trembling...Looking at her hands...

"Buffy...?!..." William called...

I need you...

Yes...

"I'll be right there, Will..."
Yes...He needs me...My husband needs me...

To send him to his death...Again?...

Oh...God...she sobbed...Burying her face in her hands...

***
Hmmn...Giles looked at back at the restaurant...I'd say that should just about do it...he thought...

Well done...If I do say so myself...Halfreck smiled at her reflection in the gleaming Doublemeat
window...Resuming her form...

Ummn...she felt a summons...Dawny?...Ah well...

Might as well make it a matched set...she grinned...

And vanished...
***

Romance Palace...XXIX...

PG-13...

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

Summary: Season seven tale...William/Spike returns with atonement-seeking Will firmly
in the saddle and romance on the menu...

Archived at www.geocities.com/buffyrebecca
(the Cicelyverse page or use the quicklist link)

She'll lead you down a path...

There'll be...Tenderness in the air...


Part XXIX...

It's like the prison scene in Richard the Second...William noted to Spike as he turned a burger...

Who was after all a poet at heart...At least in Will Shakespeare's play, William noted...

Right, another poof...Spike sneered within...

He tried to adapt to his confinement by utilizing his poetic talents...And conceive of the prison as a
little world...
Just before he got stabbed to death...Spike sullenly noted...

All I'm saying is...I managed to hang on and endure...You...

Now you...And I...Just have to adapt to...He eyed the grilling burgers...Turning several...

This...

But most important of all...

He looked back at the counter where Buffy was taking orders from the last of the Little
Leagues...Having assigned Assistant Manager Walthrop to grill duty...

We have Buffy-Cicely...Our baby...Our sis, Dawny...Our friends...And who needs anything else to
make this place Heaven?...

You really were locked inside me for 120 years, give or take the chip, weren't you?...Spike
sneered...

Well...If you'd care to leave...And leave Buffy to me...Will grinned within...

Point taken...Spike groused...Say...

Why was she so...When the Ripper left?...Spike pondered within...

She did look a little teary...William agreed...

"Five Doublemeat Specials, Will!..." Buffy called...

Little point in relying on the wondrous Doublemeat ordering system...Take all evening for him to
get it anyway...

Besides even the regular staff only used it at the register and ignored it the rest of the time...

Oh...Will...she sighed...Ok...Focus on the at hand stuff, Buffy...she told herself...

We...Cicely and I...Will find a way...Out of this...We will deal...

Like we did in 1880?...

Did she just wipe some tears?...Spike and Will worriedly called to each other...

What the hell did Giles say to her?...Will wondered...

Throw this crap on a bun and go find out...Spike groused...

Let the little tykes crap their guts out...They'll all die of cholesterol in forty years anyway at this
rate...

Not with Doublemeat imitation beef burgers, Will grinned inwardly...

She won't tell us at the counter anyway...We'll have to catch her when things settle...he noted...

@#$%!!! poof...Why not just go out and let what's left of the sun have you now...Spike groused...

But...Will resumed...Ignoring Spike's mutterings...

No reason we can't manage a quick call to Red...And find out what Giles came by to say...

Hmmn...Red?...

So..?...Spike pondered...You think it was more than... "Buffy my dear, the Council ordered Will's
assassination in 1880 on the recommendation of your own Watcher...And tricked you into using one
of D'Hoffryn's vengeance demons to do it..."...? That alone would've been enough to set Summers
off after all...

She didn't come to us...Giles must have told her more...Things he didn't tell us...She'd have come
over for a hug and an "it's all right, Cicely..." if all he told her was what we already know...Will
pointed out...

And knew...He added...

But...Somehow...All these years...Even with her "beneath me" ringing in my ears...I knew...She
couldn't have done it...

At least not without some reason involving my protection...Her father wasn't too keen on us for
starters, after all...And not the type to waste time in gentle persuasion...A surprisingly ruthless and
brutal fellow under that toff veneer...

And then when I learned she had been the Slayer...In our wanderings...

It had to be...She had to have been trying to protect me...Us...

And then I got control back...And we went to England...And there was no doubt...Anymore...

Thanks to dear ole Henry...

Preety poor "protection"...Spike began...

Backing off as he felt Will's furious glare...Bordering on the unforgivable there, bro...

Well...She did her best I suppose...Spike pulled back...

Damned right...And we'll get her the proof of it...And put it to rest...At last...Somehow...
If you'll keep your end up, demon-boy...

Hey!...Lets remember who found Buffy...er Cicely...Spike growled...

Will took the burgers off and laid them on buns, adding the hideously processed chicken slices...

Urggh...Human flesh would be more appetizing...

Exactly...And I could do with a bit of a sn....Hey!...Will crushed Spike down...

You wanted to help Dru...You weren't seeking Cicely...he noted to Spike...

It wasn't until the chip pushed you down a bit...And I started slipping through...

And...? Spike waited...

And you started listening to me a little...Regarding Buffy...

Has any demon ever been more accommodating to its human counterpart?...I ask you...Spike
groused...

The chip forced you down...You absorbed my feeling for Cicely/Buffy...Just as you took and
adapted my natural feeling for poor trapped human Drusilla...Of course you wanted my help with
her...

He brought over the Doublemeat Specials and the other regular burgers...She smiled and nodded...

"Are you all right, Buffy?..."

Fine, fine...Hormones...she laughed a little...Wiping a tear...

Honey, I'm fine...

My turn...she thought...Smiling within...

What did Giles...? he began...And blinked...

Honey...? he stared at her...Speechless...

Honey?...Ok...Lets go get a bottle...This is her secret sex code...Spike insisted within...

"Customers..." she noted...Eyeing a new group...

Honey...? he thought in joyous wonder...Why...Buffy-Cicely Anne...?

Anne...She always had the same middle name...

And it's a beautiful name...Spike noted...Innocently as possible for him...

You are never meeting demon Anne on this dimension, bro...William replied sharply...I will kill us
both before I let you bring her out...Accept it...

After all, I'd hardly call having Buffy smile on you once in a while, settling for less...

If I had wanted Anne...Spike growled, a bit hurt...Any time in the crypt when she was sleeping this
past year...

Fair enough...Will noted...But I was involved by then...Thanks to the chip...

"We'll talk in a bit...I promise..." she pecked him one on the cheek...Turning to the group clustering
at the counter...

I told you Spike...Will noted within, feeling his cheek gently...She'll talk when she's ready...Red's
the source for us now...

She paused, turned, and whispered in his astonished ear...

"After all...Eternity is ours..."

"My fiancee..." she smiled at the little girl staring with her mom...

***

So...Dawny...? Halfreck eyed her...And the loyal Clem...Who stood by, crossbow in hand...

As the three stood in the Summers' back yard...

"This is becoming a regular thing with us..." she smiled...

Does your sister know you're calling on me so much...?

***

"Rupert, dear fellow..." the voice of Quentin Travers, Chairman of the Royal Council of Librarians
and Library Scientists...Issued from the Magic Box speaker phone...

"How is our resurrected Slayer...?"

"Hello, Quentin..." Giles spoke quietly into the phone, Willow and Anya beside him...

Xander watching from across the table...

"We've had some interesting goings-on here regarding the nefarious William the Bloody recently..."

"Really..." Travers paused... "Will up to his old tricks, eh?..."

Are you and Miss Summers in need of assistance...? Traverse asked...A little too pleasantly, Willow
noted...

"Since you and the high Council seemed so concerned about his appearance in Sunnydale a few
years back, I thought you might wish to know what's going on..." Giles continued...

There have been some...Developments...

And I have been doing some research which has opened up several questions I would like answers
to...

Immediately...

***

"Why is your dog-eared friend holding that crossbow on me, sweetheart?" Halfreck smiled at the
nervous Clem...

You must remember all that sort of thing is useless with me...

Besides...she beamed happily at Dawn...

I'm only here to help you, honey...

"And my sister...?" Dawn eyed her carefully...

Of course...Just as I told you...Right here...The other day...Your sister summoned me as Cicely
Addams...

To deal with rather a big one...she nodded pleasantly...

"I was only too happy to help...After all it's my job, my duty...And a source of great personal
satisfaction..."

You murdered my...Dawn gulped...Well, now's as good a time...

Brother-in-law...

You're trying to murder him again...

"Dawny...I told you...All I did was fulfill Cicely's request and drive him away..."

The rest was...Well...Fate...she waved her hands...

"Now...that's all in the past...But what can I do for you now?..."
***

"Haven't you ever been in a boat, Mr. Walthrop?..." Cicely asked...Smiling at the little man...As he
struggled with the oars...

A day out in the Lake District, courtesy dear Henry and his generous offer of his little cottage and
boat...

Ummn...Walthrop shrugged...Trying to seem casual about it...Casual as one could with one oar
floating off into the center of the lake while the other seemed likely to pull him in...

Why the hell she'd asked him to come out here...He'd never know...She must enjoy the spectacle of
him constantly being humiliated, trying to cope with a world he'd never experienced outside of his
beloved books...

Well, there goes the other oar...

And he'd given up critical exams time for this...Not to mention precious dabs of his funds in
traveling here...Money much better spent on his books or better still sent to his sister and brother,
Amelia and Philip...

Still, she'd promised to "fire his poetical imagination" with new sights...Actually she'd teased that
she would do what she could to fire anything that might possibly be there...

Dim coals, judging by what she'd read of his work...

Well, to be fair, a remark she instantly withdrawn and profusely apologized for after seeing his
crestfallen face...

Rather remarkable, her consideration for his feelings just then...Considering her usual haughty prig
manner...

She'd almost seemed...To care...

But then, she simply wanted to please ole Henry...And demonstrate her capacity for compassion to
the lower orders...

Who knew, maybe she was in love with ole cousin Henry...? Unable to act on it, perhaps, but
desperate to please him...

The boat was drifting out into the center of the lake...At least in pursuit of one oar, he noted, if rather
slowly...

Oddly enough she didn't seem much distressed by the situation...Lost out on the lake with her
cousin's ragamuffin charity case "friend"... The "dangerous radical" William Soames Walthrop...A
joking sobriquet she'd placed on him at dinner the other night...Which her father had taken quite
serious umbrage at...Glaring at the "radical" Henry had smuggled into his home all the rest of the
evening...

Well, he supposed if she was so determined to take it calmly, the least he could do was demonstrate
similar fortitude...

In the end, after all, he could always try...Drowning...er swimming...back to the shore, dragging the
boat behind...

"Don't be distressed..." she told him...Kindly, he noted with surprise...

William...she paused...

He stared at her ...

"We can just drift a bit...We'll catch up to one of the oars soon enough..."

Tell me about your family...William...she eyed him...

"Henry says...He told me...Your mother died last year..."

Tuberculosis...he nodded...

And years of slaving like a dog...With beatings from the masters to boot...

"Amazing what "gentlemen" can get away with when the woman beaten almost to death by her
employer is a poor servant..." he noted...

God save the Queen, our just legal system, and our noble Parliament...

"Henry is hoping to better things like that..." she noted...

When he gets to Parliament...

I wish there were more like him...William noted simply...

"I've always said it...He is a good man...And my friend..."

Who owes you a great deal, William...she looked at him...

"He needed a bit of help...I was glad to oblige..."

"He would have failed and been sent down...If you hadn't taken him in hand..."

"I rather enjoyed helping a toff..." William said curtly...

Nice to have one indebted to one...Can come in handy...

"Are you always so ready to snap at anyone who shows you a little kindness...?" she glared...

"I'm sorry...I didn't mean that..."

As I didn't mean to hurt you the other day...she noted...

I thought you could take criticism...You certainly claim to be able to...

"I never claimed to be a great poet, Miss Addams...I just...Try to write..."

You need more...Experience...William...

"I've had years of it, Miss Addams...Assisting my mother and her fellows in service, working in
factories, working anywhere I could make a few shillings...Trying to keep a roof over my brother
and sister's heads...Bury my mother in some dignity..."

He eyed her...

You can't know the "experience" I've had...And frankly, I'm glad for you, you haven't...

It was clouding up and getting gusty...

"I may have had more "experience" than you can imagine, William..."

He stared at her...

"My name, by the way, is Cicely...Please use it...I don't like calling you by your first if you refuse to
use mine..." she smiled wanly at him...

She looks tired...He noted...As if she's been working at the books or something...All night...

"Perhaps we'd best try heading in..." he looked at her...

Wouldn't want to compromise your reputation any further...

"I can bear a little "compromising"..." she smiled...Stared at him...

Was she...Nervous?...

And looked away...

"Henry thinks you have a great future..." she began...

Henry...Is a very kind friend...

"But when you get your degree..."

I will be a poor man with a degree from Cambridge, two others to feed...And...

A very bad poet...

"Your story the other night was very good..." she paused... "You have promise..."

A tale to friends about my working days...A hair better than my poems...

As your friend Henderson pointed out...When he gave me my new nickname...

"Bloody Aw..."

"Henderson is an ass!..." she eyed him fiercely...

You wrong me to call him my friend...

He stared at her...So angry...So suddenly...

Like a summer storm...

For...Him?...

"Are you going to let a fool like him tell you to stop...?" she went on...

Is that what your mother killed herself for...So you could give up at the first hint of criticism?...

"I have to think practically...Mouths to feed, remember?..."

"Don't belittle my opinions, Will...iam...Just because I don't know hunger and cold right now
doesn't mean I don't understand..."practicalities"..." she told him crossly... "I'm not a little fool, you
know..."

Just because you must think of the practical doesn't mean...The romantic in you has to die...she
muttered...Looking out toward shore...

Odd...? He could almost...Think she was talking about...herself...

The romantic mustn't die, Will...she looked back at him...Life's not worth living without it...

Wind was really picking up now...Boat rocking...

"Are you all right?..." she looked at him...

Just...he paused...

A trifle...Giddy...

A swell caught them neatly, lifting the boat, turning it over...

"William!..." she cried, grabbing for him...With simply amazing speed...

But a hair too slow...They went in separately...

He bobbed up...Much to his own surprise...

She wasn't there...He looked round in terror...

"Cicely!!..." he screamed...

"Cicely!!!"

He pushed himself back down...And found her just under the upturned boat, stunned by striking the
side...

Grabbing her, he desperately dived back under, while trying to cover her mouth and nose from the
water...And popped up with her on the other side...She coughing and choking as he propped her up
against the upturned boat...

"Miss...?" the tall man called, tapping her on the shoulder...

"You ok...? I'd like to get my ketchup sometime today, please..."

Buffy blinked at the customer...Oh...Yeah...

Sorry...

"Alls right, pet?" Will came out from the grill area, having seen the tail end of her blank-out...

Ummn...she stared at him...

Yeah...Fine...I'm fine, Will...

He headed back, looking for another chance to try a cell phone call to Willow...

He saved me that day, Buffy thought, staring out the window...And I thought...He's tougher than he
looks...This sweet little William...

And he is a beautiful soul...A true romantic under that front...Who needs someone...Like me...

He can see it, I can tell...He sees there's more in me than some vain little fool...He can see the
Slayer...

And even more...The fellow romantic...

He'll do for me...I want him...

God bless you, dear Henry...For bringing him to me...

If we have the courage...I can escape my fate...With him... And help him escape too...I know he has
the courage...I feel it...

If he wants me...If he can love me...

Best to get that straight, Miss Addams...And I will...

But I think...He could...He does...

If I can make him believe my story and we fight together...And we have the courage...

Do I?...

Buffy paused...

Did I?...

Do I?...

If we fight together...?

Last time, I gave him no chance to fight with me...I believed he had to be protected and never gave
him a crack at the truth...I didn't believe in him and I failed him...

I won't fail him again...

If I can't save him this time...

I'll go with him...Wherever that is...

***
Romance Palace Part XXX...

She'll let you come just far enough...

So you'll...Know she's really there...

Summary: Season seven tale...William/Spike returns with atonement-seeking Will firmly
in the saddle and romance on the menu...

Archived at www.geocities.com/buffyrebecca
(the Cicelyverse page or use the quicklist link)

Part XXX...

"The records on Cicely Addams...Walthrop...Were deliberately expunged, Quentin..." Giles told
Travers coldly...

Except for a few sealed accounts, including Farris' private journal...

"But you...Chairman of the Council...Had access...And knew the truth...All this time..."

Travers' sigh was audible over the speaker phone...

"Let me ask you, Rupert...What possible good would it have done for Miss Summers to know...As
you choose to call it... "The Truth"?..."

That her husband died and was transformed as a result of her own...

"What do you take me for, Quentin?!..." Giles cut him off, in fury...

Farris and the others lied to her, deliberately deceived her...

"William Walthrop was not a hapless victim of a psychotic vampiress or of well?meaning protectors
of Humanity...He was singled out for termination...By a group of ruthless men and women who
realized they were about to lose their access to power..."

And you and the current Council, the inner High Circle, at least...Have continued the deception...To
keep Buffy under your thumb...Knowing that like Cicely Addams...She would be the greatest of the
Slayers...

"Miss Summers has hardly shown a tendency to remain "under our thumb", Rupert..." Travers
replied coolly... "What great benefit do we derive from keeping this secret, apart from her peace of
mind?...Useful to us, I grant you..."

"We wanted to protect her from the past, that is true...And from what would have been her natural
inclination to help William, at any risk to herself..." he went on...

"Would you have preferred we encouraged her to put her life at risk, trying to help a William the
Bloody who would have immediately transformed her?..."

"If I had been told...If Buffy had had a chance to learn her past in stages...We might have sought
help for poor Will, reached his trapped soul..."

It was only thanks to Cicely's buried feeling for him...And his Drusilla-given prowess...That he
survived to receive the Initiative's "help"...And lived to free his soul again...

"Then...Alls well that ends well, eh my friend..." Travers answered pleasantly...

Wish I had my magics back for thirty seconds...Willow thought...Xander eyeing her...With the same
thought, she realized...

"The same demon sent to her in 1880 is back...With a similar agenda, no doubt..." Giles told him...

"And you and the high Council...Have offered D'Hoffryn a free hand in the matter...So long as
Buffy either returns to your authority...Or is removed to make way for the next Slayer..."

If Miss Summers' subconscious fears about Spike have brought her vengeance demon
back...Quentin paused...That is hardly our doing...

"As for negotiations...In secret as you imply...With the demon lord you mention..." A velvet tone of
sarcasm in Travers' voice... "I believe I...And the full Council...Would have to see some proof..."

***

"Leave them alone?..." Haly smiled at Dawn and Clem... "That's your wish?..."

That's it...Dawn noted grimly...Leave Buffy...And Cicely...And William...Alone...

Hmmn...Well...Difficult one, Dawny...she grinned...

"Buffy is Cicely...And Cicely is my client...I have a duty to her that supersedes a wish like
that...Even by a part of her...Like you..."

She wants you gone...Dawn replied...

Ah...Haven't heard her say that...

"You just did...I'm "part" of her...You said so yourself..."

Even if I accepted your right to the final word here...Which I do not, sweetie, sorry...Sending me
away is one wish I can't grant...Not allowed to me...

"All right, then..." Dawn frowned...

Then tell her what happened that night...The whole story, no lies, no leaving out parts...Now...

That's my wish...she glared...

Haly grinned...Why, thank you...Sweetie...

"Wish...Granted..." she vanished...

Clem eyed Dawn...

"It's the right thing to do, Clem...We couldn't have held her much longer..." Dawn stared back...

It's best we have her where one of us...One part of Buffy/Cicely...Can watch her until Giles and
Willow deal...

"Buffy is strong and she loves Will...Halfreck won't fool her again..."

Whatever really happened...She didn't want him hurt that night...She was trying to protect him...I
know it...

She looked down...I know it...

Clem nodded...But...

"She'll be all right..." Dawn repeated...

I hope...

And now...I've used Halfreck too...Trying to make things better...she thought...Like Cicely did...

But Buffy knows more than she did in 1880...And Will is there to help her this time...

She'll deal...

She has to...

Twisting her hands...She looked up at her friend...

"We better call the Box...And the Palace..."

***

"I am not going to play these little games, Quentin..." Giles paused... "Nor will I expose the people
who gave me the information on the Council's past...and your current ...negotiations with
D'Hoffryn..."

There's two people here I'd like to introduce...

"Willow..." he smiled at her...

"This is Ms. Rosenberg, the Wiccan I've mentioned at the Council...The one so powerful in her last
rage that I had to teleport back here with all the power I could gather..."

She's quite stable and magics?blocked now...Despite brushing my gathered power aside like thin
fog...

However...If I remove the block on her access to power...

"Hi there, Mr. Travers..." Willow grinned into the phone...
Understand you've been messing up my best friend's love life...For your own profit...

Would you care to hear how I killed the last Big Baddy fellow who gave us cause for grief?...

Xander eyed her...Glancing at Anya...

It's ok Xander...Willow smiled at him, nodding reassuringly...

"You think we of the Council have no protection against minor magics practitioners, Rupert?"
Quentin sneered...

You underestimate us...You and your Slayer always did...

As she did as Ms. Addams...

Willow eyed Giles, questioning, nervous...They probably do got preety good shielding...And I really
don't want to try powering up again to what I'd need...Ever...she thought...

Even for my Buffy...

It will be alright...his kind look said...Don't fear...

"Well then..." Giles paused... "Lets move on to a whole new level...Let me introduce our own
vengeance demon...Anyanka..."

Hello,. Mr. Travers...Anya smiled...

Appearing in front of him as he sat in his favorite armchair...In his London apartment...

"I can't interfere with Haly's case...But..." she took on Anyanka's form...

"If my friends would care to make a wish regarding you...I'd really like to carry it out..."

***

Anya...If you would be so kind as to briefly give Mr. Travers a taste of what a massive stroke feels
like...Giles smoothly requested...

She eyed Travers...Who backed against his chair...

"Rupert...?" he tried unsuccessfully to cover the fear in his voice...

He hadn't quite counted on this...And her power worked on a different level from the "minor
magics" of the ordinary (non-super charged Willowian) practitioner...

When did you people acquire a vengeance demon?...Travers squirmed...

"You really should have read my reports on Sunnydale more carefully, sir..." Giles smiled at the
phone...

I mentioned our dear Anya several times...

"This is hardly ethical behavior, Rupert..." Travers insisted...

A violation of Council dictates...For personal reasons...

Using a vengeance demon...

"To murder a Slayer's husband...?" Giles asked quietly...

Anya stared at Travers...

"I don't think...I can do this, Giles..." Anya paused, calling into Travers' phone

Travers smiled and relaxed a hair, eyes gleaming at Anya...

"You see, Rupert...You and your quaint band of well-meaning do-gooders are helpless outside of
your little heroics against the underworld...This is why in the gray spaces of the real world our
Slayer needs the protection and guidance of the Council..."

Even when we must act with what may seem...Ruthlessness...he continued, smugly...

The gang, listening, heard a sudden gasp...

Travers clutched his chest, one arm rigidly paralyzed, the leg on the same side giving way...

"I said..." Anya paused, staring at Travers whimpering on the floor...

"I don't...think...I can..."

***

Anya reappeared in the shop, trembling...

"He...Should be ok...In a moment..."

She looked at them...As Anyanka...

"So..." she eyed Xander...

Now you finally see what I really am...

Willow eyed her...And stared at him...

"A beautiful, beautiful soul..." he replied...Gently taking Anya's hand...

"The love of my life..."

She buried herself in Xander's arms...

I'm sorry...she sobbed...I...

"No, honey...No...It's all right..." he rocked her...

"Giles..." Xander looked at the Watcher...

Never again...

Not even for Buffy...he said firmly...Hugging her tightly...

***

"Welcome home...Cicely..." Halfreck grinned at Buffy...

They stood in the London townhouse of the Addams family...

Gaslights, elegant women in long dress...Men in formal attire, deposited top hats and coats with the
maids and footmen near the door...

A party, Buffy realized...Turning around in astonishment...

Not any party...The party, she realized...

"What...? she looked down and saw she was in long dress herself...As was Halfreck...

The identical dress actually...From what she could see of hers...

"Dear Dawny made a wish...that you remember...Exactly...What happened..." Haly smiled...

"Tonight..."

***


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