Romance Palace...Part XXXI...


Part XXXI...

"So..." Giles summed up Travers frantic answers to his questions...Now given a bit more easily with
the effects of Anya's demo fading...

"You and the high Council alerted D'Hoffryn to Cicely's reincarnation after your psychics sensed
her soul in Buffy..."

But he didn't act until Buffy...Cicely's fears about William started unconsciously crying out, Anya
noted to Xander...As they listened with Willow...

Anya...Xander put his hand to his head...I know you like your old boss and that's great...But he is
trying to release Buffy's demon and make her some kind of "super" vengeance demon...

"He plays by rules, Xander..." she eyed him...And he has a different pov...

To him, he's offering Buffy...Immortality and incredible power...

"But I'm not speaking up for him..." she eyed Willow as well...

He's constrained by the rules...He won't act outside them...

"And we can use that..." Willow nodded...

Her cell phone buzzed...
***
"Buffy...?" Will called to her...

"Cicely...?" he tried again...She stood in a daze by the counter, staring out the window...No one
waiting thank goodness...

She's off again...Spike noted...

Was that fool of a doc competent?...Or just some cheap quack...?

***

"Where is he?...Where's William?..." Buffy glared at Halfreck as they stood in the center of the
Addams parlor...

"Oh...Writing some epic to us...Somewhere...Back there, I think..." Halfreck grinned, pointing...

She's younger...About my age now...Dark-haired...So...Buffy thought...

That's me...In 1880...
Not bad...Maybe somewhat heftier...

But not bad...And guys didn't mind a few pounds on their ladies then...

Er...Now...

But where is he?...If I can get to him before she does...

"You can't speak to him, Cicely..." Halfreck smiled...

This isn't time travel...Just a replay of what happened...Think of it as say...A summer rerun...

All you can do is re-experience what happened...

And first...We need to go upstairs...To your room...

***

She looked around the well-furnished bed and sitting room...

"I remember...This..." she smiled...Looking at the bed...

Oh...She grinned...Shaking her head in wonder...

Even back then...er...now...

"Mr. Gordo..." she smiled at the little stuffed pig...On her pillow...

Named after our dashing general, Charles "Chinese" Gordon...A brave soldier and a good
man...Who tried to defend the interests of those poor Chinese against even our own before they
transferred him...

One of my heroes...As a girl...

I...She paused...Seeing Halfreck watching her...

You came to me here...Buffy stared at her...

"After..." she thought a minute...

"After I followed Mr. Farris' instructions...And called on you..."

To make my life less...

Complicated...

"And you must admit...Dear..." Haly grinned...A mirror reflection of Cicely...
"I certainly did that in grand style..."

***
"Dawn...?" Willow gasped, listening...Diverting Xander and Anya's attention from Giles' ongoing
conversation with Travers...

Sweetie, what have you done?...You sent Halfreck to Buffy?...she spoke hastily into the phone...

Anya eyed Xander...

"I'm on it..." she kissed him...And vanished...

Giles, hearing part, looked at them...

"An's gone to the Palace...To see what she can do..." Xander replied...

"Quentin..." Giles turned back to the phone...

"How were D'Hoffryn and his demon originally summoned by Farris?...I want the ceremony...And
I want it now..."

Willow...A voice called her...As she listened to Dawn's pleading, desperate explanation...

Oh, honey...I know you meant well...Willow began...

"What is it Anya?..." she turned and looked to see just Xander and Giles, Giles listening intently to
Travers...

"An's gone to Doublemeat..." Xander explained...

Willow?...Listen to me...the voice whispered...

"Is Dawny ok?...Did Halfreck hurt her?" Xander went on...

Hey, damn you...A familiar, male voice cut in on the first...

We're talking to you...And...For Christ's sake you better listen, girly...

"Warren...Mears?" Willow whispered...

Warren?...Xander stared at her...

Wil?...What about...gulp...Warren?...

"He's...Here..." Willow stared at Xander...

In the defleshed disembodied spirit...Warren sneered...
Enough, Mears...the other called...Brushing him aside...

"Tara?..." Willow gasped...

But somehow...Not quite...Tara...Ummn...

Different..Even accounting for the disembodied spirit thing...

Willow...Sweetie...I'm so sorry I had to use...Creepo here...To reach you...But...

Hey!...Warren muttered...I'm helping here...

For your own sake...Not quite Tara replied...

"Tara?..." Xander looked around the room...

Wil?...Tara's here?...he eyed her...

And...Warren?...

I'm not a free soul anymore...So I had to have help to reach you...Not quite Tara explained...

"Giles?...Gil...es..." Xander called...

"I'm not flipping out, Xander..." Willow hissed to him...

She's ok Xander...the voice now reached him as well...

Hey...I only volunteered one contact...Warren sniffed...

This is cutting into my assigned contacts big time...I deserve extra points for this...

Like anyone but your mom would want to talk to you in seance, Mears...Not quite Tara
replied...Brushing him back...

"So..." Willow eyed Xander...

It was Mearsy...He's the one...I...

Yeah, you bitch...Warren replied huffily...And if I ever...

"Tara...Why are you calling to us?..." Xander called...

Giles now staring at them...As he copied down notes from Travers...

"And why are you working with...That thing..."

Hey...Xander...Not quite Tara called softly...Kindly...

Buffy and Will are in terrible danger...And I'm...In a big part...Responsible...

Had to offer Mearsy a chance to win some points towards a parole to Purgatory to reach you guys...

See...Not quite Tara explained...I'm trapped...As I was when I first met poor Will...and...

"Trapped...? Baby...?" Willow eyed Xander...

Do something...her look said...

What?...his look said back...

Sorry...

She tried a glance at Giles...

Who motioned for her to go on talking to whoever, eyeing Xander carefully...

"There is somebody out there, Giles..." Xander noted...

He nodded but had to return to Travers...Now impatient to give the requested info...Collect
transoceanic call after all...

"Baby...What do you mean...Trapped?...I..." Willow paused...

Oh my God...Xander stared...

Willow stared...

"Oh Willow..." the vision before them moaned... "I never wanted you to see me...Like this..."

I swear...I didn't know myself when I was with you...You have to believe me...I had no memory of
this life...Or that horror...

But I had to do something...To keep it from happening again...To help them...

William...Mr. Walthrop...saved me...My soul...Helped me escape limbo and...Her...It...Freed me to
be reborn...Even after It...My dark half...Killed him...

They stared at...A sad-faced ghostly Drusilla...

I haven't got much time...It...Will come for me, drag me back...she pleaded...

You're damned right you haven't got much time...the disembodied voice of Warren groused...And
since it's coming out of my hide...
You better get your business settled...Fast...

Or I pull the plug at my end...

***

"You waited here..." Halfreck indicated a well-concealed seat on the balcony overlooking the main
hall and parlor below...

And I..."Handled" your little problem for you...

"You can stand if you wish, Cicely..." Halfreck eyed Buffy "Jump, shout if you wish...But it will
make no difference..."

These things have already happened...And this is just a re-creation...

Courtesy our lil' Dawny...

"Nothing that happened tonight, that night in 1880...Can ever be changed..."

***

A cluster of London's elegant stood in the Addams parlor...More standing in groups out to the hall...

Mostly the aristocratic elite of the city, but...Scattered about...A few of Henry and Cicely's
Bohemian friends, students, artists, thinkers...

Henry and Cicely's oddities, a few of the gentlemen chuckle to each other and their ladies...

Though they carefully avoid tweaking the tails of the better known and experienced ones...Well able
to turn the tables on them...There are a few insecure, shy types wandering about...And dear ole
Henry is not at hand to look out for them...

Several groups discuss the strange stories of bizarre attacks circulating around the city...

"The Angelis pride..." Buffy looked at Halfreck, standing beside her as they listened from above...

"The menace you failed to deal with...Cicely..." Halfreck smiled at her...

Until you found you couldn't run from what you were...What you are...

Your duty...

***
Leaving Buffy-Cicely at her seat, Halfreck-Cicely begins her entrance down the master staircase...

Several gentlemen cluster in the main hall, awaiting the entrance of the lady of their desire...The
divine Miss Addams...Led by Henderson, the man who had provided William with his new title the
other night...Annoyed by Cicely's attentions at dinner that evening to Henry's little mongrel...

William pauses before a couple to explain his lack of interest in the recent attacks...A sheaf of pages
in hand...

He has other concerns, he thinks...Smiling at Cicely...Halfreck-Cicely...Who turns away from him as
she steps into the hall...

"Ah"...Henderson smiles as he overhears William...And here is the little fellow again...

I see dear Cicely has exhausted her interest in him...

Needs to learn his place, this ridiculous little "poet"...

"I see. Well, don't withhold, William..."

"Rescue us from a dreary topic..".

He snatches the pages from William's hands.

William pleads to Henderson...

"Careful. The inks are still wet. Please, it's not finished..."

"Don't be shy. (reads) "My heart expands/'tis grown a bulge in it/inspired by your beauty, effulgent."
(laughs) Effulgent?..."

Everyone in earshot laughs.... With an uncomfortable air, Halfreck-Cicely glances at William and
walks off. William shoots them a sour look, snatches back his poem, and follows her...

Dolts...But not tonight...

Tomorrow...Fools...You'll all sing a different tune...he thinks...

When we leave....Together...And you...All of you...Learn what's happened...

Henderson laughs after him...

"And that's actually one of his better compositions..."

He chuckles to his companions...

"Have you heard? They call him William the Bloody because of his bloody awful poetry!..."
The other gentleman sneers...

"It suits him. I'd rather have a railroad spike through my head than listen to that awful stuff!"
William approaches Halfreck-Cicely now sitting on a sofa, away from the main party, and looking
out the window.

"Cicely?"

She turns and sighs when she sees him.

"Oh. Leave me alone..."

(Buffy-Cicely moving to the stairs, rushing down...Stop!...No one seeing her...)

I've embarrassed her, he thinks...Nothing's to be said until she's ready...Spoken to Henry at least...

"Oh, they're vulgarians...." he smiles at her..."They're not like you and I."

"You and I? I'm going to ask you a very personal question and I demand an honest answer. Do you
understand?"

He nods...But...Why should she need to...? For these...Fools?...

Well...I've given my word to say nothing...

"Your poetry, it's... they're... not written about me, are they?"

They're about how I feel...he replies, staring at her...Blinking...

"Yes, but are they about me?"

(Buffy-Cicely stands before them, unseen by all but Halfreck...

Stop it, Halfreck!...Stop it!... Oh, please...)

Every syllable...he nods...

Cicely...You know...he thinks...

"Cicely..." he reached for her hand...
"Oh, God!"...she stares at the others, now clustering a bit...

What have I done...he thinks...Why is she so?...

Unless...She's had second thoughts...

Spoken with Papa?..Perhaps even ole Henry?..

But he can't help blundering on...Unable to believe she could be so...Cold...

To him...

The fear gripping him...

She's thought it over...They've persuaded her...

He stumbles on...

"Oh, I know... it's sudden and... please, if they're no good, they're only words but... the feeling behind
them... I love you, Cicely..."

Cicely?...What's happened?...he thinks...Ready to blurt it all out to the crowd...

"Please stop!" Halfreck-Cicely eyes him...

(Stop!...Stop it, Halfreck!...Oh God!...Buffy-Cicely screams at them...

Will!...Listen to me!...

No one hearing...)

"I know I'm a bad poet but I'm a good man and all I ask is that... that you try to see me..."

"I do see you. That's the problem." Halfreck-Cicely pauses...

"You're nothing to me, William. You're beneath me..."

She stands and walks off...(Looking coolly up at Buffy-Cicely standing in horror)...William looks
after her...Speechless...

"Cicely..." He stands...Staring...And grabbing his sheets, dashes out of the room...And stops just
outside the house...(Buffy-Cicely racing after him...)

He puts his hand in his pocket...And slowly pulls out the ring she had given him two days ago...

(William!...William!...Buffy-Cicely cries out, sobbing, trying to grab at him...

I love you, Will...William! No!...Stop him, Halfreck!...Stop him!...

Stop him, God...Have pity on me...Oh, Will!...

William!!...)

"Eternity is ours...Cicely..." the inscription...

He puts it slowly back in the pocket, and stumbles off down the street

(Fallen to her knees where he had stopped in the street, Buffy-Cicely watches...In horror, shame, and
sorrow...

William...she murmurs...William...Rubbing her temples...

My Darling...My Fool for Love...

"You're beneath me"...And I remembered the words...Even a century later... They were what I knew
would drive him away...Halfreck didn't dream them up...She got them from me...And finally...I used
them myself...

"Your simpler life...Back..." A voice hit her...

"Wish...Granted..." Halfreck-Cicely now stands beside her...)


***
Romance Palace...Part XXXII...

Part XXXII...


"Danger, Will!..." Anya cried, appearing before him in front of the grill at Doublemeat from which
he was eyeing his dazed Buffy at her counter...

Hmmn...Xander would get a kick out of that image...Her doing the Robot from "Lost in Space" she
thought...One of his favorites...

"Haly's..." she looked at the immobile Buffy...

Here...she gasped, sensing the demon's spell field around her friend...

What?!...Will and Spike chorused...

"I feel a spell field...She must have Buffy in some kind of hallucinatory spell, probably a memory
spell..."

Dawn called and told Willow...Anya paused...

She summoned Halfreck again...I'd bet she's showing Buffy something from the past...Anya looked
at Will...

Who rushed over to Buffy...

"Break it, Anya!..." he cried...

I can't...she called to him...
"Buffy...Buffy!..." he shook her...She staring blankly...

"Cicely...Listen to me!..."

Spike echoing the words within...

***
"You see now..." Halfreck-Cicely paused....Now standing before Buffy-Cicely in the 1880 London
street outside the Addams home...

It was your choice...

Your decision...

Buffy stared at her...

"I spoke the words you couldn't..." Haly continued...

But they were the words you wanted to say...

"I wanted to save him...I had to stay...After Henry was attacked by Darla and almost killed...The
night before...I knew I couldn't just leave..."

And the Council wouldn't have let me...

Didn't let me...she stared thoughtfully at "her" vengeance demon...

And sent me a demon godmother to help me see the way out...she thought...

Their way out...she thought darkly...

"It was selfish of me to take him...To try to escape with him...Knowing the danger I was putting him
in..." Buffy-Cicely eyed her mirror image...

Yes...Haly noted coldly...And your Watcher warned you...Had tried to make you see that it was time
for you to break all ties...Leave your family...Not form disastrous new ones...

"Poor boy might have lived to become...God knows..." Halfreck shrugged... "Maybe
nothing...Maybe another Joyce or Keats..."

But he would have had a chance...Until you took it from him...she looked at Buffy...

"Where did he go from here?..." Buffy-Cicely stared at her twin...

What?...Halfreck looked back at her...

She wants to see more?...Not quite what I expected...Haly thought...
Still...Maybe seeing Dru in action will provide that once and for all final blow...

"Well, if you must see more...I suppose I can accommodate it within Dawny's wish...But it will be
hard, I warn you, Buffy..."

I want to see everything...Buffy-Cicely eyed her coolly...

***

"Can't you get me to her?!...Anya?!..." Will pleaded, as he tried to revive the blank-eyed Buffy...

Or at least Spike...

Anya...Please...Spike pleaded...

"Will...Spike...Oh, I'm sorry...I can't break into Haly's spell... " Anya mournfully eyed them...

My God...They really are the same person...she thought...Fundamentally...

And I was...Am...Anyanka...As well as Anya...

But just as Will could pull free of his id...I don't have to fall back into her...

Id...?...

Wait...There is someone who can help...Who was a part of this...

"Keep trying...Fellas..." Anya told him...

And vanished...

***

"Forgive me!...Willow..." Tara-Dru cried out to her...

Not a thing to forgive, baby...Not a thing...Willow called back...

"All this suffering...My fault...I wasn't strong enough...Not strong enough in my faith..."

I failed God...And all of you...Tara-Dru mournfully shook her head...

Hey!...spirit Warren groused...Time's awasting...If you two ladies want to sob your eyes out, it's
fine with me but I ain't giving more of my seance minutes when you hafta go back and try to settle
this again...

Shut up, Mears!...Xander growled...Or I will have Giles make you relive that defleshing...Over and
over again...Like your little loop experiment?...Remember?...
Yeah...Mears giggled sneeringly...God that was a great day...Buffy was at her wits' end that time...

"Sorry guys..." Xander sighed, shaking his head... "Shouldn't've reminded him..."

Well...Willow hated to admit but Mears was right...Time was awasting...If Anya's rush to
Doublemeat hadn't caught Halfreck in time...

"Tara?..." Willow turned to the vision...

Where are Buffy and Will now?...At Doublemeat?...Can you see them?...

What do you want us to do?...

"Willow!?..." poor Dawn's voice cried from her neglected cell phone...

Xander, talk to Dawny...Willow handed him the phone...

"Tara?...Is she still here?..." Anya appeared....

There...Xander pointed...

"How'd you know she...?" he stared at her...

Crossed her path as I teleported...Anya replied...

Willow...the vision called to her...Buffy is reliving that night...With Halfreck...

But...Halfreck is not telling her everything...There was more than Fate involved in Will meeting up
with...

Me...

You have to find a way to reach her...And...Tell her...

She's been...Is being...Tricked...

"Tara...It's Anya..." Anya called to her...

Hey, An...

Hmmn...Tara is Dru...Makes sense somehow...Anya thought...

"Can you get to Buffy in her vision?...Through your counterpart...If I can give you a little more
power?..."

I can't enter the vision myself...Anya explained...Or send Will...He's physical...Rooted in this
world...
But I can give you more power...And you were there...With the other...

"Hey...Dawny!..." Xander took the phone...

"Alls well so far..." he told her...

Jesus...Dawn rolled her eyes...Glaring at the cell phone in her hand...

Clem...she turned to her assistant...

Do I look five years old?...

Well...Clem pondered...

If you were a Comez demon...

"Come on..." she hissed to him...Holding the phone away...

Hmmn?...Clem eyed her...

Doublemeat...she hissed...Lets go...

"Ok, Xander...Call me when you have something..." she called into the phone...And hung up...

Dawn?...Xander stared at the phone...

"Willow!..." Giles called...

I have the ceremony...Come here...

She hurried over, but with one eye on Tara-Dru and Anya...

"Can we pull Halfreck here?..." she asked Giles...

Yes...he paused...But it will take the best part of an hour...If we hurry...

We're not a natural client...Nor was the Council in 1880...

Lets get to it...Willow replied...

"Anya and...Tara...Will do what they can..."

"Stand back, honey..." Anya commanded...

Everyone...Cover your eyes...she stroked her pendant...

A bright pulse of light filled the room...
A howl from the disembodied Warren...Arrgh!!...

"I meant you too...In the spectral vision sense, Warren..." Anya told him...

All right Tara?...she called...

"I'm heading back to Doublemeat...Help Will at that end..."

Tara-Dru hesitated...I'll try...I don't know if I can...Deal with...It...Even in a vision re-creation...

"Baby..." Willow called...

You are stronger than that crazy maniac...You always were the stronger, you just didn't believe
it...You can do this...I love you, Baby...

Always...

"I'll try..." Tara-Dru nodded....Starting to fade...

Hey!!!....Warren cried...I never said I'll be a part of this...That crazy psycho'll be after me here in
Hell...Hey!!!..he faded out...

Looks like I'll have company...Tara-Dru smiled gently to Xander...Who grinned back...

Yuck...she grinned...

I love you, sweetie...she called to Willow...

"Thank you...Tara..." Giles called over to her...The vision nodding...Hey, Giles...

Giving a last long glance to the fading Tara-Dru...Willow turned back to Giles and set to work...

***

Romance Palace...Part XXXIII...

Part XXXIII...


Anya reappeared in the front area of the Palace to find a desperate Will with Buffy...

To lose her...Now...she heard faintly...

She blinked...As Spike of all people moaned in sorrow...

No...Will replied to him...Cicely is a century stronger...We know she loves us...

We won't lose her...

"We won't..." he eyed Anya...If I have to wait another century...A thousand centuries...

"Because...We never really did..."

She nodded...

Ummn...Might be best to see if we could get her to the back room?...she noted...

My God...Dr. McCoy in "Star Trek" was right...she thought in wonder...As they gently pulled the
blank-eyed Buffy back...

That is where the real courage comes from...

"Tara's...Trying to help..." she told him...

She'll reach her...

Tara?...the brothers chorused...

***

God damnit!...A disembodied Warren hollered at Tara-Dru...As she staggered in the 1880 London
street of Halfreck's replay...

This is what I get for trying to help here!...he groused...

When that maniac of yours catches up with us...

"What you get...Murderer...Is my two cents' worth towards your getting a punishment with a time
limit rather than spending Eternity in my demon's home backyard...If you cooperate..."

Say...You're speaking with an English accent now...Warren noted...Rather...Interested...

You know...Tara...Your ole English bod wasn't too...

"Can it, Mr. Mears..." In an oddly Drusilla-like voice...

Great...Now the Hell-imprisoned spirit of the worthless turd of a guy who blew my heart open is
getting interested in my old self...Tara-Dru thought, sighing...

A very Dru-like sigh...

Well...Should I be surprised?...she thought...

She stared around the street...Vaguely familiar...
Where did...she gulped...I...and It...Go...That night...? We were with Angelis and Darla...Until...

I didn't volunteer for this you know...Mears grumbled...

"Shut up...Please, sir..." Even more Dru-like...

God, does my involuntary English politeness bone hafta kick in with him?...she groused internally...

Hmmn...Please...Disembodied Warren thought happily...

She likes me...

Even defleshed, dead, and in Hell...The ole Master of the Sunnydale Universe has still got it...he
noted to himself...

And what's a few thousand years in Purgatory when you've got a crack at a waifish hottie like this
for Eternity?...

***

"I married him the day before yesterday...In 1880..." Buffy-Cicely eyed Halfreck-Cicely as they
moved through the dank London streets...

We stayed at Henry's cottage at the lake that day when he saved me...

I never went back to my hotel...

Poor Will...He was terrified...she smiled...

Never really been with a woman before...Just once at Cambridge...

A "lady of the evening" as we used to say...I guessed anyway, judging from what he left out...

Hired by his mates to celebrate his passing all exams...And his twenty-first birthday...

He didn't remember much...Probably too drunk...And probably didn't get very far at that...

"He was only 21 when he died...Oh..." she gulped back tears...

I was...

Well, doesn't matter...she hastily went on...

Twenty-three, dear...Halfreck smiled thinly...

Glare...

"But he was such a beautiful lover...So sweet...I knew he would be..."

We met again...There...And in London...

Henry knew what was up...But he loved us both so much...Wanted us to be happy...

He didn't know about me...Then...

But he knew how unhappy I was...

And what a good man my Will was...

But...Papa was no fool...He sensed something right away...

And watched and waited to see...

And so did...Simon Farris...

Poor papa...I was so terrified of him finding out...So like a fool...I turned to my Watcher...

Dear old Mr. Farris...Always so concerned for me...

But so annoyed that I failed to see reason...And leave my family...Safe...

Always harping on my duty to the world...

I actually thought he'd be pleased...I was ready to sever my ties...All but one...

Just William...The one bit of romance I'd keep alive in me...

He couldn't conceal his rage that time...Buffy-Cicely noted...

All the effort he wasted on me...Training me to be the Greatest of the Slayers...

To be thrown away on some fool poet?...Some piece of dirt from the gutter?...

He was ready to take the Chairmanship of the Council...One step away...

If I could defeat the Angelis pride...It would be his like that...

And I...Would be at his side...Ruling the Council...And who knew...With the power of the Council
behind us...

"Guess that was one of the less successful Watcher-Slayer relationships..." she noted wryly...

I was...Horrified...I'd never suspected what he had had up his sleeve...He'd been closer to me than
anyone but Papa and Henry for all these years...And...Now...
I saw him for the first time...And what he had had in store for me...All this time...

The King of the Universe needed his Queen Slayer...And really did need her...Or at least a Slayer...

He tried to conceal it again and told me his only concern was for me and William...That I would be
endangering myself and William...Even the Council might take offense...

I believed him...Now...

So...I had no one...Just dear Henry...

And Will...

Neither of whom knew what the issues at stake were...

"But...You had your duty..." Halfreck-Cicely noted hastily...

The Angelis pride was a great danger...And you had no right to leave with them in the streets...

"I know what my duty is...Simon..." Buffy-Cicely replied...Drifting a bit...

Ummn...Halfreck-Cicely stared...

"Buffy?..." she asked...

You're in a vision now...No need to drift away...

She blinked and continued...

"I decided...To take my chance...And escape...With Will..."

I'd have money from Mama's inheritance...Even enough to help his sister and brother...

We could just go...Go and never think of any of it again...

I could live a normal life...With the man I loved...

Of course...I still had to ask him...Buffy-Cicely smiled at Halfreck-Cicely...

And I did...Three days before I sent him to die...

In London...In the rooms Henry had lent him...And so kindly refrained from asking questions as to
whether I was seeing him there...

Oh...He was so...

Shocked...
"Here's the arrangement I propose William..." I started...So frightened I...The cultured Miss
Addams...
Couldn't come up with a better opening than the English equivalent of "Here's the deal..."

Marry...Me...? I thought he was going to die on the spot...

And we had been at it preety rigorously...

It was my turn to be terrified...He took so long to answer...

He didn't want my father's money...He told me...Though he appreciated the power of money to
change lives...

And I had to understand...He might be poor his whole life long...Unable to make anything like the
living I'd been accustomed to...

I had the living...I told him...Not enormous...But...We'd manage until his career got underway...

Yes, I had the means of living...

What I needed was a reason to live...

Odd...He wasn't surprised...He'd sensed my sadness...He knew...How much I needed him...

And he knew...That he could give me the love I needed...

Never a moment's doubt...

So...If I could bear what I'd lose...

The answer is...Yes, thank you...Cicely...

It did floor him that I had the rings ready...Inscribed...

I was an unconventional girl even then...

But he'd said a few days before that "Eternity is ours..." was a fine inscription for a wedding
ring...Thinking I meant my distant cousin Sallie...

***

Romance Palace...Part XXXIV...

Part XXXIV...


"So..." Anya beamed at the harassed young woman standing in front of the
Doublemeat counter trying to quiet her squabbling children long enough to get
her order in...

Buffy being somewhat preoccupied by her visionquest with dear ole Haly...Will
preoccupied with his Buffy-Cicely as she sat blankly in the employees room
oblivious to the world...

"What'll it be...?"

How come you don't got the uniform on?...One of the kiddies narrowly glared at
her...

"Well...I'm management..." Anya beamed again...

We don't wear the uniforms...But I do wear the hat...

She put Buffy's hat on...Beaming yet...Her retail experience never having come
in more handy...

Kind of nice actually...For once she really was the best person for the crucial
task at hand...Saving Buffy and Will's second jobs for Babbie's sake...

Joey, stop it...the mother pulled him back...

"You ain't one of them..." the boy sneered... "I'll bet the real people are
dead in back...You shot 'em and you're gonna kill us when we turn around..."

Well...The thought crossed her mind...If that's your...Wish...

Mom!...Make her do the Doublemeat song...

Hmmn...They have a song?...Oh, right...The one Xander sings all the time...

"Enough, Joey!...Tell the lady what you want and go sit down..."

Ummn...He glared at Anya...And the hat...

"I wanna hear the song!..."

Sure...Anya smiled...And began...

Rather enjoying the grudging, defeated look on lil' Joey's face as she sang
both verses...

Hey, sometimes you need the Slayer...Or a mighty witch or sorcerer...Or a man
with incredible powers of love...

And sometimes you need a first-rate retailer...With extensive customer
relations experience...
***

"We're almost there..." Halfreck-Cicely paused as she and Buffy-Cicely stood
near a dark alleyway...Lights from a few taverns and shops dimly cutting
through the murk...

"Are you sure you want to continue, Buffy?...There's no need for you to see
this..." she told her...

"You're so considerate Halfreck..." Buffy-Cicely eyed her...

Just like you were in 1880...I'm remembering more every minute...

But thanks, I'll keep on with it...My Dawny's wish after all...Right?...

Ye..ah...Halfreck-Cicely replied...Hesitantly...

And a wish is a wish...Buffy-Cicely noted...

Like mine was...

Ummn...Yeah...Halfreck-Cicely eyed her...

This is not how I envisioned this little scheme would break...she thought
nervously...

Ah...But my little Slayer friend is waiting to see nasty fiendish Dru do the
evil deed...Of course...A leetle guilt absolution...

Well, dear...Haly noted to herself...Dru did do it...But...You may not find as
much absolution or comfort in that as you're hoping...

Not when you see and hear our poor William screaming for you in his last
throes...The Slayer who could have saved him...

And you...Safe at home, having your leetle cry in your room...

Time for us to settle our little bargain...And for you to pay in full...she
thought in triumph...

Ummn?...Haly felt...A pull...Hey?!...

I'm not on call...she thought...

D'Hoffryn?...What the...?
Halfreck vanished, leaving a bewildered Buffy-Cicely alone...

"No!..." Buffy screamed...

"Halfreck!...Come back..."

I'm not done yet!...Come back!...
***

What the...? Willow stared at Halfreck-Cicely in her 1880 dress...

Now in the middle of the Magic Box's main room...

"You must be...Halfreck?..." Giles smiled at her...

"And you must be...Ready to die..." Haly glared back...

So...That's Buffy in 1880...

She looks good with a few extra pounds...And the brunette is a kinda nice
change...Willow thought...

***

Ummn...Spike...? Anya called inwardly...

You got something, demon girl?...he called back within...

Ummn...Anya?...No offense...

Whoa...Poor Spike is desperate...she thought sympathetically...

Not yet...But could you ask Will back there which keys I press for a DM
special, Double cheesy fries, and chocolate Double shakes?...

Yeah, sure...Let us know if Giles calls...Please...he faded out...

Oh God, poor guy...she thought sadly...

***

"Let me go..." Halfreck narrowly eyed the Watcher and his assistant...

Your friend's consciousness is in my vision spell...If you don't release
me...She spends the rest of her natural life as a vegetable...

"We called you Halfreck...Just as the Council did in 1880...No reason to take
offense..." Giles replied...

It won't work, guys...she smiled at them...

"Wishing Buffy free of me will not end my work on her previous wish...Didn't
Anyanka tell you?..."

We know that...Giles smiled back...

We just want to prevent the odds from rising against our Buffy...And Cicely...

Willow, care to do the honors?...he grinned at her...

"Halfreck...Our wish is for you to continue your little replay of 1880...With
no interference from the Council...Or D'Hoffryn..." she eyed the demon...

And...For it to be final...Completing the cycle you started in 1880...How ever
it turns out...

Hmmn...Haly eyed them...

"That's it?...I can go back?..."

With no additional help...And this as your last chance...

Otherwise...You stay right here...And we'll take our chances with our Buffy...

"You could spend the rest of our lives and even Eternity in this room,
Halfreck..." Giles noted...Or, you can take your best shot at our
Buffy-Cicely...

"I don't need any help...And I wasn't even allowed it...By D'Hoffryn..."she
grinned at them...

As for your "Council"...Please...

The day I need their help is the day I retire...

"Wish...Granted..." she grinned...And vanished...

Hope she has her retirement fund properly set up...Giles smiled at Willow...

Who nodded but...

"Giles...?"

There wasn't more we could do Willow...Just cut Halfreck off from additional
support if dear Quentin or D'Hoffryn tries to interfere...And give Buffy a
moment's brief rest in the fight...

"She can do this, Willow...She lost a round last time, perhaps...But she's back
for round 2...And Buffy learns from her mistakes..."

Willow nodded dutifully...

"But...Does Cicely?..."
***

"So sorry, dear..." Haly smiled at Buffy-Cicely...

Your little friends had some ideas of interfering...But that's all settled...

"What did you do to them?..."

Absolutely nothing, dear...They saw the sense of the situation and let me come
back to you...

Buffy-Cicely stared at her "demon godmother"...

"I'm telling you the truth, Buffy...They are all fine...So far..."

I guess they figure...You can handle me...she smiled at Buffy-Cicely...

"As I am sure you can...Not that there's anything to "handle"...I'm simply
showing you what happened...As Dawn and you both requested..."

Now...Lets see...Drusilla should be coming by us in just a moment...

And then...William...
***

"So where's your nutcase counterpart?..." Warren groused...

And remember, I'm just an innocent bystander...

"This is just a re-enactment, sir...er Mears..." Tara-Dru shook herself...We
are not gonna be polite to the creep who murdered us...We are not under that
obligation...

"She'll just be an image of what my counterpart was that night...You don't have
worry..."

Well...Mears giggled...Not while I have you around, eh baby...?

"However...When we leave here...And my still-living demon counterpart comes
after me...In quite a rage over my abandoning her...Again...After only
returning a short time ago after twenty-two years..."

You may want to be back in Hell by then...she finished...

Hmmn...Yeah...

Thanks...Say...

"Demonic Dru...Likes you?..."

She's...Lonely...Tara-Dru replied...

Even a demon needs someone to talk to...And all her "family" is gone now...

Whatever else I am...I am her counterpart...Her..."Sister"...in a sense...

Hmmn...So where's my...Warren began...

"Bastards like you, sir...er Mears...Have already merged with their demons..."

She scanned a familiar alleyway...Down here...and out into the courtyard...That
where the..."family" is coming...she thought, gulping...

"Though hopefully...Somewhere in the multiple dimensions of this infinite
universe...There are other Warren Mearses and some of them, at least...Are nice
guys..."

"Hey...baby...Nice guys finish last..."

"Tell that to your buddies...If any...In Hell, sir...er Mr. Mears..."

Damn that Drusilla politeness bone...

***

"Will?..." A somewhat beleaguered Anya looked back at him as he came up...In
uniform...

Assistant Manager Walthrop to the rescue...Just in time, we're nearly out of
everything...

She dropped back to him a moment...

"Is Buffy...Ok?..."
He nodded...

"There's nothing more I can do for her right now except believe that she can
handle Halfreck..."

I'm back to my old job...Waiting and hoping...

Watching, you might say...he smiled wryly...

But this time...I know she's fighting for us...

Anya stared at him...

"You do know that Spike is saying exactly the same thing...?" she looked at him
as he took his position at the griller...

We're preety much of one mind on this one...he grinned at her, firing up the
griller...

And we are one person, in the end...

***

Romance Palace...Part XXXV...

Part XXXV...

"Xander?..." Anya looked up at the latest customer to enter...And his companions...

Dawn...?

Found her and...Rin Tin Tin here...Just outside...I went looking for her after she hung up...Xander
explained...When I couldn't find her at the house...

I figured...She must be headed here...

Will came over from the griller...

"Clem...You're supposed to be protecting her...Keeping her out of danger..."Anya frowned...

"It was my fault..." Dawn cut in...Looking at Clem embarrassedly...Sorry...

I told him Buffy ok'd our helping her out...

"Damnit, Nibs...You should be..." Will looked at Dawn's sad and guilty face...And sighed...

Clem looking equally sheepish and guilty...
My poor lil' sis...In-law...Who made the wish...With the best intentions...And, perhaps, somehow
knowing it the right thing to do...To put an end to all the ghosts of our past...However it works out...

My God, Spike...I never quite realized...How much Dawn looks like...

Amelia...Spike finished...

So...That's why you never could bring yourself to kill her...

How should I know?...the demon groused...

I guess so...he conceded...

Our Amelia...Our little sister's face, made from our Buffy as she was...A gift from the Powers that
Be?...Will thought in wonder...Staring at her...

And perhaps, however unconsciously on Buffy's part...A gift from our dear Cicely...

The first person to recognize something human alive in me...A little of Buffy...And...Me...In her...

"Anya...One mo..." he called to her...

And turning back to Dawn, led her and Clem back toward the employees' room...Where Buffy sat
motionless...

"Xander, back here and grab a hat..." Anya told him...Unlocking the counter gate for him...

Geesch...The next guy in line behind him thought...

Turnover here is fast...

"She's..." Dawn looked at Will...As they sat with the dazed Buffy...

"Absolutely fine...But she's still locked in there with Halfreck...Reliving that night...When we were
separated..." he told her kindly...

And she's going to come back to us...In just a bit...

"So...Just sit with her...And tell her...You know she'll make it..."

And that I'm trying to keep my end up out here...As a good Assistant Manager and future papa
should...

And this time...She's not alone...And never will be again, no matter what happens tonight...

She nodded, eyes tearing...

"Keep a sharp look-out, Clem, old fellow..." Will told him sternly...

Give a call if anyone or anything manifests or even walks back here but me or Anya or Xander...

"Will...I...I'm sorry..." Dawn looked at him...

"Had to be done sooner or later Nibs...She had to face that night again..."

I'll tell her...Her husband loves her...And is waiting for her...she eyed him...

"Please do...Sis..." he smiled at her and headed back...
***

"There she is...Oh, God..." Tara-Dru cried...

Wow...Resemblance is uncanny...disembodied Warren sneered...

As they watched Drusilla stroll quietly but with an expectant air...Along the alleyway...

Seeking...The One who'd been promised to her...

"Angelis..." Tara-Dru shook...Closing her eyes as Angelis strode past her, unseeing...

Oh right, your demon dad...Warren noted...

So..Shove a stake in him and call it even...

"He's a vision image, sir...er...Moron..."

Though the idea was appealing...she rather happily noted...

At least her Dru nature wasn't rendering her totally helpless in the presence of That One...

"I can't affect him or Dru here...I can only try to reach Buffy...If I can do that..."

"Drusilla..." Angelis sharply called...

The vampiress whirled....

"Papa Angelis was angry...Naughty Dru mustn't run off..." she whispered out loud...Eyeing him...

Oh God...Tara-Dru sighed...How I hated that in her...

Used to drive me crazy...Even from limbo...

Hell, I was a gentle, sweet girl...Devoted to the Church and all...But until Mr. Manic Killer showed
up I was coping quite well with my clairvoyance and all...A fine student...
I was even good with my uncles' machinery...

I came from hard-headed, practical miner stock...Tara-Dru explained to her disembodied companion...We don't talk to ourselves
out loud...

All that was Angel's...Angelis' doing...Years of psychological torture...But I held out almost to the
end...Even his slowly murdering nearly all my poor defenseless relatives didn't do it...

And all for no reason except he had lots of time on his hands and thought it would be fun...

"Kinda like you, nerd-boy..." Tara-Dru noted to Warren...

So...he thought...I'd have made quite the vampire, eh...

Yeah...This babe...Wants her Warren-daddy...

Darla caught up with...the "family"...Equally annoyed if not more so...

Dru whimpered...

God...Tara-Dru rolled her eyes...If me old mum had ever seen me like that...Her daughter that
thing's doormat...

"Dru's waiting for her prince...The fairy told her he's coming...Soon...Here..." Dru explained to her
glaring "relatives"...

God, bitch...You've abilities he can't even begin to conceive of, let alone match...Tara-Dru frowned
at her whining counterpart...

At least kick his ass before you go and murder my friend's husband...And dear ole "Grandmum's"
as well...

"I'll bet you could..." Warren noted solemnly...

Shut up...Sir...er...Ah...Forget it...Just shut up...

The pride moved out into a larger street...A crossing...

A young, shattered, and extremely drunken...William stumbled across the street...

Oh God...Mr. Walthrop!...Tara-Dru cried...

Will!...

The "family" bumped him out of their way...Fortunately for him, this street was still rather crowded
and reasonably well-lit...

"Watch where you're going!..." he cried futilely at them...Darla and Angelis taking no notice of the
little man...

But Dru turning and eyeing him...Carefully...

Her...Prince?...The one the fairy lady had told her of?...So dashing...

Oh God...Tara-Dru bowed her head...

And I...she thought...Encouraged her...

Well?...Mears complained...So get Buffy over here and tell her how nutcase killed my future best
bot customer...That's why you're here right?...

And why innocent bystander spirit Mears got dragged in...So much so that your nutty sis may come
gunning for me someday...

"You're right about that Mears...Whatever else Dru is...My counterpart is very fierce about
defending family..." Tara-Dru noted...

Gets it from me and mine...You should have seen me uncles in their prime...They could've handled
Angelis himself back then if they'd had warning...Even old as they were, they gave him a rough
time...Yeah...


You're probably quite right to be worried...And she can pursue you into Hell...The one place you
were safe from my poor Willow at least...

Ummn...Warren gulped...

Unless of course I chose to speak up for you and get you that ticket into Purgatory,
sir...er...Jackass...So just shut up and come on...

Hmmn...Ok...

Say...How come the little putz poet is so important, anyway?...Warren asked...

Thought Buffy didn't like Spike...And there was that Slayer-Vampire thing...

"Sir?..." Damn... "Mears? How the hell did you ever get that poor Katrina to date you in the first
place...?"

***

"Will..." Buffy-Cicely gasped...As 1880 Will stumbled on past her and Halfreck-Cicely in the
street...Heading for an alleyway...

Tell me...Buffy...Halfreck smiled at her...

Time to begin the final strokes...

"Why did you leave him out there after I sent him away?"

You must have known how he'd feel...How desperate he must be...

Even if you felt he had to go...You might have tried to see that he got safely home...Sent someone
after him...

But...You sat in your room...And you had your cry...And...

"If I had gone out...After him...I would have told him everything...And left with him that night..."
Buffy-Cicely replied...

Hmmn...So leaving him to die was the best course of action...Well...Haly sighed...It was your
decision to make...And I guess he wasn't all that valuable...

"I didn't think...I didn't realize how much danger he was in..."

I thought I'd saved him...

There was no one to send...No one turn to...Henry was in hospital, recovering from Darla...

Darla?...Wait...Yes...I remember now...

Halfreck eyed her...

Simon had told me...After poor Henry was brought in...Weak, but not tainted with her foul blood,
thank God...

That Darla would flee London after attracting so much attention...The Angelis pride would pull
up..."stakes"...At least for a few days until the hue and cry ended...

And...I did send someone out...To protect him...Buffy-Cicely eyed Halfreck-Cicely...

I sent...You...she stared at her mirror image...

I sent you...I told you...

"Buffy!!..." They heard a cry...

And looked, shocked...At a distraught Drusilla...Running up to them...

Oh...God...Halfreck-Cicely sighed within...

The shit is really hitting the fan tonight...
***

"You told me...Told Her...Someone would be coming tonight..."

Someone...Different...

Dashing...

Just be in Drury Road around ten o'clock...And look out for him...In the alleyways...

Oh...Tara-Dru closed her eyes...

And you were speaking to me too...You bitch...Covering all bases, weren't you, Halfreck?...

You called to me in limbo...Hinted he could help me...Free me...Or at least ease my loneliness...

"Tara?...Buffy-Cicely eyed her...

I encouraged it, Buffy...Pushed her...It...To listen to Halfreck...

I was so lonely...Tara-Dru sobbed...So trapped...

Oh, God...I didn't know...I didn't really understand then where I was or what had happened to me...

But I knew...He'd suffer in some way...

But I went ahead and pushed her...My dark half...To meet him...she dropped her head into her
hands...

"Forgive me, Cicely...Forgive me, Will!...Oh God!...."

Buffy stared at her...My nemesis...The thing that killed my husband...And took his demon for her
unholy lover...

The poor lost girl Angelis tortured and murdered. for no reason..And Angel abandoned to her fate,
that thoughtless bastard...Whom my husband...My sweet Will...Loving and kind man...The truest
form of gentleman...Did his best to comfort...And save...

My poor trapped friend...

She knelt beside the stricken girl...A sobbing, pleading Drusilla she'd never imagined seeing...And
hugged her...

"It wasn't your fault, Tara...Dru....It wasn't...You were all alone...No one hearing you..."

Until my Will came to help you...

"He freed you, didn't he?..."

He called to me in limbo...Tara-Dru nodded...So kind, never accusing...Never blaming me...

Then...In 1977...In Prague...When Spike and Dru were trying to hide from the mobs...He helped me
cry out to some of the people while she...It...Rested...And expose their hiding place...

When Dru was so weakened by the fire they set to destroy her and Spike...I was able to flee limbo at
last...

"Buffy...Believe me...I wasn't aware of any of this...When I came to you guys as Tara..."

I know...Buffy patted her gently...

But you came to Sunnydale to help Will and me...As soon as you'd grown and could
come...Without even knowing it...You pushed us on the path to recognizing each other...

Tara-Dru stared at her...

"Will was always searching for me...In every Slayer Spike met...And I was looking for him...In
Angel, the vamp with a soul...And Riley...So kind, so much like that part of him..."

But it all started coming together...The year you showed up in Sunnydale...Willow's will spell
triggering our memories...The Initiative helping Will to begin freeing himself from Spike and seeing
me for who I was...

I don't say you arranged that...But you were there...And I think...You were pulling Spike and Dru
apart...And us together...Even if unconsciously...

Ummn...Halfreck-Cicely interrupted brightly...

The original Dru is here...Round the corner...

Waiting for William...

Buffy-Cicely rose up...

"No!..." Tara-Dru grabbed at her...

"Don't Buffy!...She wants you to see it..." she glared at Halfreck-Cicely...

Don't do it to yourself...It's what she wants...

Yes...I know...Buffy-Cicely smiled at her...Friend...

I know Tara...

But I have to see...

***

Romance Palace...Part XXXVI...

Part XXXVI...

"Wait here, Tara..." Buffy-Cicely told her gently...

Yeah, babe...disembodied Warren sneered...Daddy's here to hold your...

Blow it, s...ss...sir!...Damn!...Jackass!...Tara-Dru hollered...

Tara?...Buffy-Cicely eyed her...Hearing just her part...

Hardly...The sort of thing, dear...she found herself unconsciously thinking...Cicely's Victorianism
kicking in a bit...

"Mears is here...I needed his help to reach Willow and Giles...The little pig got dragged along
when Anya strengthened me to get to you..." Tara-Dru explained...

"Warren?..Helped you...?"

Long story, but it's in his interest...Tara-Dru noted...

Ok...I can't suspend the moment forever, Buffy...Are you coming or no?...Halfreck glared...

Yeah...she eyed the demon...And started...

"Buffy!!..." Tara-Dru cried...

This...What she shows you now...Is not forever...You know that, now...

William loves you...Forever...Cicely...

"No one knows that better than me..."

Buffy looked back at...A pleading, loving...Drusilla...And nodded...

Hey there, dark-haired and nineteenth centurish ladies...I ever mention...Daddy likes
twins?...disembodied Warren leeringly called out to the departing Cicelies...

Nothing like a matched set...And Slayer, the brunette look is you...

Buffy can't hear you Mears...I'm blocking you out...Tara-Dru replied...

S...ss...Sir...Damn it!...Oh, well...Tara-Dru sighed within...Original Brit mum and second Yank
mum would both want me to be polite to anyone...Under any circumstances...As Buffy-Cicely and
Halfreck-Cicely rounded the corner....

So...Ok...Tara...I killed you...Accidentally I might point out...Does that have to be the last word in
our relationship?...Warren resumed to the waiting Tara-Dru...

"Who is that awful person hovering around?..." Halfreck-Cicely eyed Buffy-Cicely...As they
disappeared from Tara-Dru' s view...

***

"Giles...?" Willow looked at the Watcher as they sat waiting in the main room of the Box...

Anya says there's been no change in her as yet...he replied...Laying his cell phone down...

"Kinda figured..." she nodded...You being so easy to read and all...she grinned wryly...

Thank you so much, Giles...she stared at him...

"If you'd hadn't come home that day I'd'of lost my soul and my chance to see Tara again
someday...forever..."

Over...Warren Mears...Urrgh...

"Oh...Willow..." he sighed...

Xander's the man of that hour...

"Yeah...But without your coming...And boosting me...He wouldn't have had his chance...I would
have lost out to Buffy...And be right now in some demon lair, plotting revenge...Like every second-
level, returning baddy we've ever dealt with..."

"Oh..." he grinned back... "First-level, no doubt..."

Well...she grinned...Maybe...

But you know as well as I do...

Somebody would have come along and saved the world from me in any case...

Like Spike used to say...There's been Apocalypse plans since the first day...

None's succeeded yet...Probably...None ever will...

But I would have been lost...Xander wouldn't have had his chance to reach me...

"Thank you..." she leaned over and kissed him...

Whoa...she blinked...

Geesch...How did Buf ever keep her cool around that Ripper...Energy?...

And that's just from a quick peck...she eyed him nervously...As he patted her shoulder...

"I love you, too, my dear..." he nodded...

"And I am so proud of you...As proud as I am of Buffy..."

Ummn...Ok...Well...So maybe it should have been "Bi, now"...she thought, reddening slightly as she
returned to her seat...

But that's got nothing to do with my love for my Tara...

Maybe...I really oughta think about getting out a little more...

Tara would want me to...If only to keep me from bothering Xander and Anya...Or turning to Clem...

She looked into the shop...Then back...

"Rupert...? Are you sure there isn't anything else we can do for her?..." she asked...

Just wait...And pray...he eyed her...But smiled...

"Buffy and Cicely...And their William...can handle this, Willow..."

They've been waiting for another chance at her for a hundred and twenty years...

Hmmn-hmm...she nodded, eying Giles....Hmmn...

Rupert never did say what happened with Olivia...

Wonder how the guys would take me and...

I mean...Sorta a "this brief lifetime" stopgap, "he needs a nice girl to look after him" kinda thing...

Tara would approve...Kinda...

Maybe...

Whoa...? Did I just call him Rupert?...

***
"You have great things within you..." the 1880 Drusilla image told the William image...Backed up
against the wall of the alley...

"I can unleash your imagination...Do you want that?..."

Halfreck-Cicely eyed Buffy-Cicely carefully...

Tears streaming down her face...

William...she gently murmured...

But still she stayed...And watched...
***

A gasping Will dropped to his knees...Shaking in his death throes...As Dru left him, wandering off...

"Unnh..." he shivered...Oh...

Will...Buffy whispered gently...I'm here...I've never left you...

"Cicely..." he cried softly... "Cicely..."

"I always loved you William...Always..."

I'm here, Will...It's all right...She tried to reach to him but her hands felt nothing...

I'm so sorry Will...For everything, my sweet darling...

But I'm here...You're not alone...And you won't be alone again...

Neither of us...

It's all right...

It's all right...

He stared blankly...Repeating her name until he died...

After five long, quiet minutes Buffy stood up and eyed Halfreck squarely...

"We can go now..." she said simply...

Tara!...she called...

***
Romance Palace...Part XXXVII...

Part XXXVII...
Tara-Dru hesitantly looked up at Buffy-Cicely and Halfreck-Cicely as they came round the corner
from where they had left poor Will's body...

"He's gone...Tara..." Buffy-Cicely eyed her...

"But...This time..." she wiped the rolling tears...

This time...I was there for him...

"See...I...I had to...be...there..." she fumbled back more tears....

"Oh...Tara...my Will...my poor Will..." she burst into tears...

Tara-Dru hugged Buffy-Cicely as she sobbed...Or as best she could in a visionquest...

"He cried out for me...He didn't hate me...He didn't die hating me...Oh..." Buffy gasped out...

No, Buf...No...He never stopped loving you...Not for one minute, Cicely...Tara-Dru gently
murmured...

Halfreck-Cicely waiting nervously...Fully aware of the magnitude of her defeat...

And left with only one faint hope now...

Even if it meant a major transgression and antagonizing D'Hoffryn...
***

"I was wrong..." A composed Buffy quietly explained to Tara-Dru, a defeated and shaken Halfreck
standing by them in the London street of her 1880 re-enactment... "To try to abandon my duty..."

"But my duty isn't to save people from Death..."

I can't do that...No one, not a Slayer...she glanced at Halfreck...Not even a "justice" demon can...

Everyone I've ever saved...No matter how many times I save them...Even ole Jonathan...

Will die one day...

No Slayer can change that...I've learned that the hard way these past years...

"William, my family from 1880, Mom in this time...I can't even save the people I love most..."

But...I also know now...That their souls live on...

I learned that the hard way too...

"What I do is not so much saving people from these creatures..."
Neat as the saving can be to my ego...And especially to poor lost Slayers like Faith...Who
desperately need that feeling of meaning something to the folks of the here and now...

I save the trapped souls of those poor folks lost in horror...Free them to find whatever fate and,
hopefully...She eyed Tara-Dru...Happiness...They can...

"I should have told Will what I was....When I married him...And stayed as close by London and my
duties as my family situation would allow..."

We should have been out there together, even then...Fighting...

And if I had lost him...Even that night...To the other Dru...

I should have had no doubt that he'd still be with me...And waiting for me...

She turned to her "demon godmother"...

"I want my husband back with me, Halfreck...Fighting with me this time...Even if I lose him
tomorrow to a well-shot arrow or a sunbeam..."

I do owe you though...You gave me a chance to be with him when he died...I needed to be there...she
paused...

I've needed that for a century...A chance to properly mourn him...

And...she smiled for a second...You've helped to greatly enhance his fighting skills...God...We may
be together a very long time here...

Though never so long as we will be...Afterwards...

But...I also have a complaint for your boss...Regarding customer service...

"I was supposed to "watch over" him..." Halfreck-Cicely eyed her...

Those were your words, dear...And I did "watch"...

If you'd wanted me to intervene and protect him...Well...You should've checked your own
Council's literature on "justice" demons...

Only one wish at a time...

Buffy-Cicely stared at her...

"I see...But...You had your own interest at stake here, didn't you?...Just as Farris and the Council
did..."

You wanted Dru to turn William...And release Spike...
"But...Fate...Had a leetle surprise for you...Spike wasn't interested...He stayed by Dru, with Will
pushing him to protect her..."

I'm disappointed in your D'Hoffryn...Anya had told us he enforced a strict code...

"Engineered to allow for us to take action to lead our clients to our path...Nothing comes free in life,
dear..." Halfreck-Cicely replied...But there was a resigned note in her voice...

A sound of defeat...But a "jd" must soldier on...And never say die...

Can't actually...

"Either you pay in service as one of us...Or the client eventually pays in remorse, heartbreak, and
suffering..."

"She...And Mr. Walthrop have paid enough.." Tara-Dru glared at the demon...

And summoning you was the Council's doing...

"But I did take her offer in the end..." Buffy-Cicely sighed, interrupting...

Whatever games my then Watcher and the Council were playing, I did take the offer of "help"...

"You thought you'd saved him, Buffy..." Tara-Dru replied... "They had Dru...Me...waiting for
him...You were tricked..."

And it's long time you stopped blaming yourself...You saw...Will doesn't blame you...You know all
he wants is you back with him...

You should take your little ghost friend and vamoose while you can, Drusilla...Halfreck-Cicely
stared at her...

"Your real counterpart is seeking you already...And will be pulling you back..."

Tara?...Buffy-Cicely eyed her...

She nodded... "It wants me back now that I'm a spirit again...And It is my counterpart...I can't keep
from it for long...And the power I got from Anya is fading out...I can't stay here much longer..."

"Can't you be reborn again?...You're free now..." Buffy-Cicely stared at her...

Yeah, babe...disembodied Warren perked up again...Lets cut this scene and head back to Earth...We
can be born as fraternal twins, huh?...Kinky...

God, sir...You are one sick puppy...Tara-Dru groused within...

"I've had my shot, Buffy...I don't think I can get another...At least not for a while..."
Buffy-Cicely turned to Halfreck-Cicely...

"Halfreck..."

"No, Buffy!..." Tara-Dru insisted... "I won't be...And I won't let you be...Under obligation to this
thing..."

No #$%&ing way...she smiled at her friend...Who nodded back, smiling...

I thought these two were polite Victorian ladies...Halfreck-Cicely groused to herself...That's no
polite way to talk...

"I'll be all right..." Tara-Dru continued... "I'll be able to cope better now that I understand...And, in
time...I'll get my crazy "sis" to try Angel again or find someway...I don't want Halfreck's kind of
help..."

Hey, baby...You don't need any other "help" with Warren-daddy around...Mears leered within...

Hmmn...Maybe there is one thing I could ask Halfreck for...Tara-Dru sighed within...

"We won't leave you like this, Tara...Will and I...And Willow...Will help you..." Buffy-Cicely told
her...Taking her hand as best she could in a vision...

Just keep Dru in LA...Or get her to come to Sunnydale after us...

"LA..." Tara-Dru replied...Eyeing Buffy...

I don't want It sensing who Willow is...What she means to me...And catching her off-guard in
Sunnydale...

And no chasing after me until my god-kid is born...she grinned...Buffy grinning back...

Our kid is gonna have a plethora of great god-parents...Buffy thought...

"I'll be ok..." Tara-Dru smiled at her... "I'll keep clear of It as long as I can...And do what I can to
restrain It when It pulls me back..."

We will come...Though I can't promise to keep Willow away...Buffy-Cicely smiled at her...

Tara-Dru began to fade out...

"God bless you, Drusilla..." Buffy-Cicely called to her... "Thank you...Tara..."

"Tell Will...Mr. Walthrop...Thank you...For keeping part of me alive...And I am so happy for
him...At last..." Tara-Dru smiled back at her...

"And tell Willow...I love her...Forever..."
And...It's ok about Giles...Or anyone else who can make her happy...

She disappeared...

Giles...? Buffy-Cicely thought...

***

"Will!..." Dawn called to him at the grill, standing in the break room doorway...

Clem on dutiful watch beside Buffy...

William raced over...

"She's...Crying..." Dawn pointed to the blank Buffy in fear...

Tears running slowly down her face...

Will sat beside her, smiling at Dawn...

"She'll be ok, Niblett..." he nodded... "Buffy...? Girl, I'm here..." he hugged her gently...

Don't fret...Darling pet...It's all right...

It's all right, love...My love...

Will is here...Always...For you...

"Till the end of the world...And beyond..."

Spike echoing the words within...

***
"I'm not done yet...Miss Addams..." Halfreck glared at Buffy...

My wish and Dawny's are over, Halfreck...And I have no intention of joining your little firm...

"Then...Lets see which of us gets out of here first..." Haly smiled...

Bet it'll be me...

Buffy stared at her...

"I'll played you before, Buffy...It's not so hard..."

They were suddenly in Spike's crypt...Both as Buffy now...

Spike stood before them...Another vision, Buffy realized...

"I want you..." Halfreck-Buffy told him solemnly...

But...It's killing me...

Goodbye...William...

The image Spike looked at her in astonished resignation...

And vanished...

Well...Buffy thought...I thought he seemed kinda...Slow to try to restart things after we blew his
crypt...

But he was right back, pestering me to tell the guys about us...Within in a few days...

Not grim poverty or my father in 1880...Not a vengeance demon...an insane vampiress...a scheming
Watchers' Council...Or even an angry Slayer...and all the foes he fought these long lonely years
could stop his loving heart from reaching its destination...

That's my guy...she thought proudly...

Halfreck-Buffy smiled at her twin...Good, no...?

But Buffy smiled back...Coming over to her twin...Speaking softly and coolly...

"You failed then too, Halfreck...William didn't give up..."

As for your little threat...If you could take my body with any hope of success you'd have tried it then
or in 1880...

If you try to take my body now...He'll know...And so will Anya and the others...

And expulsion of a foreign demon?...For Giles and Willow?...

Kids-stuff...

Halfreck-Buffy stared at her...Buffy came closer...

"You see...You and your boss never had a chance...Bitch..."

"But just to be sure..." she grabbed Haly's pendant, tearing it loose from her neck...Halfreck-Buffy
screamed...

"D'Hoffryn!!!..."

***

Ow!...Clem howled as Halfreck appeared in the breakroom of the Palace...

Standing beside him...And on his left foot...

"Aww...Arghh.!...Get away from me you hairy lap dog!..." a human Halfreck shouted at the
frightened and pained Clem...

Unfortunately in ancient Egyptian...

Buffy stirred, started to stand up...Confused...Now holding Haly's pendant in a clenched left fist...

"Will!..." Dawn screamed...Seeing her move...

"Buffy?!..." Will cried...

She blinked and looked at him...

"William?..." she let out a gasp...

Babbie?...She looked down nervously...

"Fine as far as I know..." he replied...

"How...Long?..." she asked, staring at him...

"Barely an hour..." he smiled... "Are you all right?..."

Hmmn-hmm...I think so...

"You?..." she asked...

"Sure...This was a piece of cake after that last century..." he grinned at her...

However...Trust being the basis of their lasting relationship...

And Spike groaning within...

"Well...to be honest...We were freaking out of both our minds..." he eyed her...And came beside
her...

Though we both knew...You'd come through...he took her hand...And kissed it...

"Will..." she looked at him...

I remember...Everything...now...
"I'm..." she began...He interrupted, patting her hand...

"What matters, pet...Is that we're here now...Together..."

Halfreck?...Dawn stared at human Halfreck, now nervously looking for an exit, while muttering
what were no doubt the most lethal of curses ancient Egyptian had to offer...

"What's up...I sensed..." Anya appeared...Having teleported from up front after dodging round the
grill...

Haly?...She stared at human Halfreck now sobbing brokenly as she muttered more ancient Egyptian
curse words at the Walthrops...

A young woman now, rather darker-skinned...With rather bad teeth...Though still baring a
reasonable resemblance to Cicely...

"She's human now, Anya...I think..." Buffy eyed her friend...

I got her pendant...Like you said last time we had that trouble with her...She opened her fist to reveal
the darkened pendant...

"Ah...Great job, Buffy..." Anya nodded...

Now if you'd just mention the pendant in front of my Xander...

***

Anya teleported back up front to a concealed spot by the main grill...

To find Xander dealing rather well...

Happily teasing a couple of young girls who were clearly deep in his thrall...

And rather disappointed to find that their Prince of Doublemeat Palace had a Princess...

Rather a Wicked Stepmother of a Princess...

Who urged them to either purchase more items...Or to thoroughly enjoy their Doublemeat Specials...

At a table...


***
Clem "took charge" of Halfreck under Dawn's watchful eye...

Buffy still tentative...Looking at Halfreck...As Will watched her...

She turned back to him...

Will you tell me something?...she looked in his eyes...

"How did you know...?"

You knew who I was Will...Almost right away...

"Of course I didn't know, Cics...Not until that night...Though I felt...Something about this Slayer..."

Hey!...A loud grouse from within...

And Spike felt it too...he hastily added...

But that night...In the bar...

When you called to me...

And said...

"You're beneath me?..." she repeated...

"That made you believe I was...? And that I still..." she eyed him...

It was your only way of catching my attention, pet...

"Will, I'm here..." was what you really said...

Oh...Will...she sobbed...

Why do you still love me?...Why don't you hate me?...For...

Everything...

***

Cicely...Buffy...he stared at her...

"The truth is...I wasn't sure...How you felt..."

I did despair...

But I couldn't give up hope...You gave me so much, Cicely, back then...In such a short time...

I couldn't let go of it...Hell, even poor ole Spike couldn't fight its hold on us...And was pulled here
to Sunnydale...

And here, after you came back...After I thought...We thought...We'd lost you again...Forever...

You started coming back to me...In stages...Struggling against your better instincts and the memory
of our previous twentieth century encounters...

And I started believing again...That there was hope...

If you could come to love me...Us...As we knew you did...Terrifying as the situation must have
been...As Buffy...

Cicely's love couldn't have died...

"So...When I was pulled back in, after our African sojourn, rather than having to hover around,
trying anything, even to persuade Spike to attack Slayers in hopes they'd be strong enough to kill
us..."

What?! Spike cried, within...All those times?...You were trying to kill us!?...You crazy...!...

Will crushed him down...

And finally able to run the show again...I went...Home...

To England...To see if there was anything left of my family...Or yours...If you'd left anything
behind...For me...

And then...I knew...I had to come back here...

"Afraid I couldn't help still feeling a little peeved with you..." he grinned...

But it wasn't about...That night...

I knew the truth now...I was just annoyed that it was taking you so long...Impatient...

Always was you know...he smiled...

"An angry young man...Though the past century has taught me a modicum of patience..."

How...? Buffy looked at him...

He bowed his head a moment, smiling back up at her...

"Cicely...Your cousin Henry Foxcroft was the best friend I ever had...The best friend we ever
had...Until our new friends came to bless us...And his love and friendship lasted beyond both our
deaths..."

He carried out your instructions to the letter, Cicely...Will gently smiled at her...Taking her hands...

And four weeks ago...When I found the remains of your old body...And our little Amelia...Buried
besides my coffin in the crypt Henry provided for us...Cicely and Amelia...Walthrop...

"I knew...Beyond all doubt..."

We knew...Spike muttered within...

We knew...William corrected...

***

Romance Palace...Part XXXVIII...


PG13

Archived at the Buffy Rebecca verse, www.geocities.com/buffyrebecca

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...

Part XXXVIII...

"I'd better see about Haly...I think I can translate..." Anya turned to Xander...A brief lull having
appeared in the stream of customers...

She'd managed to slip him the gist of what she knew of Buffy's visionquest...

"Well...Tell Buffy...And Will..." Xander smiled wanly...God, what a year...

"Congratulations..."

I will...she nodded...By the way...Great job, sweetie...she smiled at him...

High praise, coming from someone with 1000 years of customer service experience...he noted...

And on her vanishing, turned to face two more customers...

"A Doublemeat Special, A Fisherman's Delight, two cheesy fries, diet Coke, and...tea..." Willow
grinned at him...Giles beside her...

"Somehow you manage to carry off that hat, Xander..." Giles smiled at him...

***
In the breakroom, a frustrated Halfreck was desperately trying to sign for her pendant to be
returned...Clem smiling and nodding as pleasantly as he could, offered her a sip of his Slurpy...

She kicked him...Hard...

OW!!!...He howled...Will and Buffy frowning at the retired vengeance demon...

"Hey!..." Dawn went over and smacked the girl's arm...

He's only trying to be nice to you, you...Thing...

"Sit down and shut up...Or I'll really let you have it..."

You ok, Clem?...

He nodded...

"She's just mad cause I can't understand her..." he noted sympathetically...

"You're a good sort, there, Clem..." Will smiled at him...

Human or demon the world could use more like you...

Haly pointed frantically at Buffy's fist where she still clutched the pendant...

"Oh...No...Kid...No way..." Buffy smiled at her...

Anya reappeared...

"Make sure you keep the pendant away from her..." she noted...

"It's the source of her power or something, right?..." Buffy asked...

Hmm-hmmn, Anya nodded...

And mine...she could not say...Rats...

I love you guys but gee...Do you all hafta be so clueless?...

"Anya?..." Will asked her... "What the hell is she speaking?...I don't recognize Greek or Latin in
it..."

My Cambridge scholar...Who'd know Greek or Latin in a heartbeat...Buffy thought proudly...

"Haly's Egyptian...Very ancient Egyptian...In her human days..." Anya explained...

Kid could do quite well in museum studies...Will grinned...
"Oh-oh..." Anya looked at Halfreck...Who had fallen to her knees and was clearly beseeching her
gods to inflict serious smiting...

What?...Buffy stared at the girl...

"She's offering her recovered soul...Calling on..."

A flash...

"D'Hoffryn?...Hi..." Anya smiled nervously at the demon lord...

Anyanka...he nodded...And looked at the others...Eyeing first Haly then Buffy...

Who drew back towards William...A rather protective stance...

"Miss Summers...Or should I say...Mrs. Walthrop?...And Mr. Walthrop?..."

"Hi guys!..." Willow cheerily called as she and Giles entered...

Whoa...Hey, D'Hoffryn...

"Miss Rosenberg..." he nodded... "Mr. Giles..."

He turned back to Halfreck...Frowning a bit...

"Haly..."
***
Haly rose and hurried over to the demon lord...Who eyed her rather coolly...

She halted...And began a lament in ancient Egyptian...Which suddenly turned back to English...

"...all that you asked I did...Give me back my Immortal life and power, O great lord...I kiss your feet
in humble..." she realized the others could understand now...

Please D-H...? she finished hastily...

No need to appear excessively submissive in front of these 21st century types...Hell if they'd ever
seen some of the cringing prayers Anyanka used to make to him...

"Halfreck...You know the rules...Miss Summers has taken your pendant...And your Fate is now in
her hands..."

"%&$#!!!!..." Haly slipped back into ancient Egyptian for that one...

Wailing and beating her fists on the floor...

D'Hoffryn sighed...Looking at the others...Whatdaya gonna do?...his expression saying...
The head that wears the vengeance demon lord's crown never rests easy...

"Well, Haly..." he called over to her gently... "Why don't we see what Mrs. Walthrop has to say?..."

Mrs. Walthrop...My sis is the "Mrs. Walthrop..." Dawn thought happily...As she checked poor
Clem's foot...

Nice ring?...Definitely...

"Nothing broken..." she patted her friend on the shoulder...

Hmmn...She eyed him...

Will is gonna need ushers...Xander a shoe?in for Best Man, after all...

Anything wrong?...Clem looked back...Glancing over to the big demon everyone seemed rather
focused on...

"Nah, the Walthrops..." Dawn grinned... "And Willow and Giles got it covered..."

Yeah...He wouldn't look worse than any of Anya's demons in a tux...

And I will need a steady dance partner for the evening...

I mean, hey...The Walthrops deserve a decent ceremony this time round...

D'Hoffryn turned to Buffy...

Who eyed him...Feeling for a stake with one hand...Will's hand with the other...

"I am not your enemy, Buffy...Much as you may feel I am..."

It's true I did want you for my ranks...And do...

Myself...I've never understood why people like you and Willow here...he smiled at her...So resist
what I have to offer...Given your short, often so-imited lives here...

"You think I'd join you?!...You and your "justice demon" murdered my husband!..." Buffy replied
coldly...

Hmmn...Giles, you're the expert...Willow whispered to him...

Was that an English accent Buffy was speaking in?...

London, upper class...he replied...My guess is Cicely is anxious to finally have it out with
D'Hoffryn...

"It was your Council who contacted me...And you who accepted Halfreck's offer..." D'Hoffryn
noted...

But...I always operate on the free choice principle...He raised a hand as Buffy started to object...

And as dear Anyanka's told you...he smiled at Anya...I do have compassion...Of a kind...

I wasn't aware that your old Watcher was negotiating with Haly secretly regarding Drusilla...Until it
was too late...

"That was pushing the envelope on that wish..." He eyed Halfreck...

Though it was within the letter of my law...Utilizing any loophole in the wish to allow for the
mission objectives to be achieved...I did feel it was rather...

"You let Will stay..." Willow eyed him... "Prevented his soul from being driven off..."

He would have found a way to stay...Or come back...D'Hoffryn noted, smiling at William...Who,
with Buffy, stared back...

A very determined young man...

I just felt...He deserved an honest chance...To try...

Though I did not prevent Haly from continuing her own efforts...

"However...As you very well knew, Haly...Trying to seize a body and leave my employ without
notice or permission...And an involuntary seizure to boot..."

Haly gulped nervously...But...

I'm afraid I really must leave the decision on you up to Mrs. Walthrop...he sighed at her...

Haly eyed the grim-faced Buffy...And sobbed...
***

"Hey...?" Leroy, the part-time evening guy, stared at them all...As he came in from the rear
employees' entrance...

What's up...?

A dog-eared, flabby guy with real bad skin sitting at one table with a young dark-haired girl smiled
at him...While a dark-skinned kinda cute little brunette was bawling her eyes out next to that very
cute but very strange Ms. Summers and some short blonde fre...Whoa, watch it boy, Assistant
Manager uniform...guy...And this really weird, very bad skinned...Were those horns on his
face?..very tall guy eyed him...

The red-haired gal next to the other tall old normalish guy was kinda cute...And gave him a nervous
smile as well...

Hey...Willow waved...
***

Romance Palace...Part XXXIX...Conclusion...

PG13

Archived at the Buffy Rebecca verse, www.geocities.com/buffyrebecca

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...
***

Shes got a Secret Garden...
Where everything you want...Where everything you need...

Part XXXIX...
        
Willow having explained the situation to Leroy...

Assistant Manager Walthrop and Ms. Summers treating one of the members of a circus troupe who'd had a slight mishap out front...But no serious damage done, Clem nodding and smiling...

Despite his wife's...Halfreck furiously glaring but keeping silent on that one under Buffy's intense stare...Anxious concern...

I dunno Haly, Anya thought...Clem would sure beat the guy who had you locked in Queen Nefri's crypt...

The assistant manager suggested Leroy assist the new fellow...A Mr. Harris, working the counter...Out front while he and Ms. Summers got things set back here...

Leroy nodded and hanging up his coat, headed up front...

Doublemeat Palace...He sighed as he gave a "Hey!" to new guy Harris...

People come...People go...Nothing really interesting ever happens...

***
"So..." Buffy stared at Halfreck and back to DHoffryn...

Her fate's in my hands...

Still with that Cicely English accent, Willow noted...

I'd be nervous if I were you Haly...

***
"D'Hoffryn...? You actually did help Will to stay?..." Buffy eyed the demon lord...

He smiled...

"Don't sentimentalize me, Mrs. Walthrop...I simply believe in trying to keep the playing field a little level...It makes the game more interesting..."

Summers-Walthrop...she replied, looking at the demon lord steadily...Turning to Will...

"If you don't mind, Will...?"

"Beautiful name, dearest...Thank you..." he smiled at her...

And Spike agrees...Wholeheartedly...

She squeezed his hand, grinning broadly at Dawn and Willow...Hey, guys!...I'm Dearest!...Her beaming expression momentarily shouting...But returned with a glare to her subject...

"Halfreck...By all rights...I should make you experience what William did that night..."

I'd like nothing so much as to see you dead...she paused...

Will eyed her...

Not worth it sweet...his look said...

She nodded and again squeezed his hand...

"But..." she continued...

Maybe what happened...Was necessary in a way...

I was looking for an escape when I took my Will...The love was there, to be sure...But I was ready to use him...

She eyed him...Will shaking his head...Never felt that way, pet...

Use me?...Please do...Spike noted within...No problem...Tell her anytime...Anywhere...

"Use him the way I did when I resurrected..." she continued....
"Until I realized how much I loved him...And then...I tried to do what most Slayers try to do..."

Run from everyone and everything they love...Push them away...Forever...

With the usual results...I died alone...And young...Like every Slayer had before me...

And lost everything I cared about...

Except...I hadn't really lost Will's love...

The love that gave me a second chance...And a reason to come back for that chance...

And find out...As Buffy...

"That the way for a Slayer to survive...As Spike, bless him..." she grinned at Will...

Hear that, bro?...Spike called triumphantly within...

Indeed, bro...Will replied kindly within...

"Tried to explain to me...The night Will realized who I was..."

Is not to isolate herself...And lose everything that gives life meaning...

"Love...And...The romantic...Which..." she smiled at her...Dearest...Will...

"Must never die..."

The secret I've learned as Buffy...Thanks, I guess, to you...Is that the only way to survive...And the only way life has any meaning...Is by keeping the ones you love...She looked at the gang, one to the other...Lastly on dear old...she blinked...Papa?...

Er, Giles...

Close...

As far as my sweet husband is concerned... she gripped his hand tightly... All I can do in the end...Is love him...And our children...As long as something of me...Buffy or Cicely...Exists...

"And leave our fate...to Fate...Knowing that we will be together, somehow...That as long as we love each other..."

"Eternity is ours..." she nodded at Will, clenching his hand in hers...He nodding back with his gentle boys smile...

She stared at the frightened girl...

I'm sorry for you Halfreck...You gave up so much...Without thinking...

Existence has consequence for me...And now, again, for Will...Because there is the chance of losing what we have...Family, friends, life...

Everything but the love...Which never dies...


Existence didn't have consequence for you...As a demon...

Maybe that's why, like Glory, you didn't give a damn who you hurt along the way...It couldn't matter, what did you care?...You had nothing and no one to lose...

"So...I'm giving you back an existence with consequence..." she eyed her...

And crushed the pendant in her fist...

Causing a bright glow to briefly fill the room...Followed immediately by a hideous, desperate shout from Haly...

"No!!!!!...Oh!!!...No!!!..."

You...!...she eyed Buffy...And burst into another stream of ancient Egyptian invective...

Whoa... Anya blinked...Didn"t know ancient Egyptian was so...Creative a language...

Buffy!... she screamed, hearing Haly's last call on the gods for a glorious death...

The girl jumped at Will and Buffy grabbed her...Holding her by the throat...

"Young lady..." Buffy said...In a precise, cold, English accented voice...With a menace only Halfreck and one of the others had ever heard before...

"My...Patience with you...Is...At...An...End..." she lifted the strangling girl off the floor in one movement...

Hmmn...You know, Spike...Will noted...She sounds exactly the way she did that first afternoon we met...Remember?...When I started to leave and told her where I was going...In no uncertain terms...

And she nearly knocked me out of my shoes...

That's our Cicely...Spike agreed...

***

"Mrs. Summers-Walthrop?..." D'Hoffryn called to her gently...Looking to Anya...

Please...Anyanka?...

Haly struggling desperately in the Slayer's grip...Eyes rolling...

That glorious death becoming visibly near...And clearly less appealing...

Buffy?!...Willow and Dawn called...

"My dear..." Giles joined in...

"Buffy..." Will called gently...

Darling...

"She killed you...William...Took you away..." Buffy stared at Halfreck twisting in her grip...

Don't...Its not worth it...he paused...Eyeing the squirming, desperate Haly...

"You know it's not..."

Not worth your soul...Or us...

Buffy sighed, nodding...Yeah...And put Halfreck down...Eyeing Will...

William the Bloody...The Bloody Awful Poet...My compassionate, merciful, and dear husband...Who forgave Drusilla, Halfreck...And me...His three murderesses...

Oh, God...Mom...You were so right about him...As was I...In 1880...

Haly broke away and raced up to the front of the store...
***

Haly...D'Hoffryn sighed...Watching her flee up the hallway...

"She has no idea of the gift you've given her...Mrs. Summers-Walthrop..." he smiled at Buffy...

A life of consequences again...

Well...Perhaps someday...She'll understand...

Buffy stared at him...As did Anya...

"D'Hoffryn?...I thought you looked down on mortal existence..." Anya began...

It's a useful experience, Anyanka...the demon lord smiled...

And one day, Haly may be a better vengeance demon for it...More discriminating and compassionate...

Yes...He grinned at Buffy's surprised look...

"Your William is right..."

Compassion does matter...Even in my business...

"And yours..."

***
"Hey...?!"

"You know that girl?..." Xander looked at Leroy...As Haly fled past them, hopped the counter gate and ran to and out the door...

Leroy shrugged...Turnaround's damn fast here...he noted...

The customer load at zero, an anxious Xander now left Leroy to hold the fort and hastened down to the gang in back...

Whoa...The big D-H himself...

Mr. Harris...D'Hoffryn frowned a bit at him...Anya moving over protectively...

"All's well, Xander..." Willow smiled at him...Standing by Giles...

"Meet the Summers-Walthrops..." she indicated a beaming Buffy and Will with a grin...

Ummn...

"I saw a girl leave just now...Who was it?..." Xander asked...

Haly...Anya smiled at him...

In human form...

"Why?...You interested?..." she grinned...

She's even older than your Inca mummy girl...

Still...she noted sadly to the group... At least...She'd be human...

Anyanka...D'Hoffryn sighed... You know I love you...And I wish I could help you...

"Are these rules of yours...So important...?" Buffy eyed the demon lord...

"They're the same rules that kept him from allowing Halfreck to kill you or steal your body, Buffy..." Anya noted wanly...

They're good rules, really...

Can't argue with that Buffy thought...But oh, An...

"Look, D-H..." Xander began...A sharp glare from D'Hoffryn...

Ummn, D'Hoffryn...

"You gotta help her...She's no use to you now as a vengeance demon...She's got too much love and humanity in her..."

Oh...Please...

"I'll do anything...The soul sale bit...No problem..."

No, Xander...Anya hurriedly interrupted...

"You don't know what Anything can be..."

It really can be...Anything...she noted...

"I don't care..." Xander shook his head...

As long as we're together...

Uhnnn...D'Hoffryn sighed, shaking his head a bit...

Good sign...Spike noted to Will...And Anya...Who quietly agreed...

Have Harris keep it up...

For once...

All right... the demon lord shook his head...

Kid...he eyed Xander...

"For Anyanka...I'll bend the rules...And give you one chance..."

But you have to determine her power source...Without your friends' help...

Now...

"A piece of cake for a world-saver like you, Xander..." Willow called...
***

The gang waited...Watching...

"But...?" Clem hissed to Dawn where they sat at one table...

"Doesn't he know it's her..." D'Hoffryn gave the demon a chilling glare...

Oh-oh...

"I won't let him hurt you..." Dawn patted the frightened Clem on the shoulder...

Ummn...But you might want to keep things to yourself for the next coupla minutes or so...
        
So...? Spike groused within to Will...

Club this overgrown Anointed One a good one and grab An's pendant...

Lets let Xan have his chance, bro...Will returned...

He'll come through...

Spike groaned...

However, if things get tight...Will noted...It's an excellent idea...

Careful, guys...Anya told them telepathically...

He can hear you...D'Hoffryn added...Smiling at them from where he stood...

Hmmn...Xander pondered, looking Anya over...Power source?...

Must be fairly portable...What with all the teleporting she does...

"You see..." D'Hoffryn looked sideways at Xander... "If something should happen to Anyanka's power source..."

Ummn...Xander looked back at him...Clueless yet...

The demon cast a glance at Anya's pendant...Giles and Willow stared at the pendant...Buffy and Will stared at the pendant...

Clem and Dawn stared at the pendant...

"Ok...So as to this power source?..." Xander asked innocently...

D'Hoffryn rolled his eyes...Well...

"For example, if it were say...Smashed..." the demon lord noted...

Uh-huh...Xander nodded...Still not quite with him...

So...If I could locate this power source...he hesitated...And smash it?...

The demon sighed, looking at Anya a little sadly...This is what you'll settle for?...His look saying...

Please...Her look back...

Oh, please...

He smiled wanly at her and tried again...

"Exactly...Say for example if she wore it around her neck and you smashed it..." D'Hoffryn looked at him...

C'mon you moronic human...I don't do this as a rule you know...the demon lord groused within...

You're lucky I love my Anyanka so much...

"She'd be powerless...And human again..." DHoffryn continued...

Like...Halfreck...

Hmmn-hmm...Ok...Xander nodded...So...

"If I could find this power source and smash it...She'd be human again..."

Like...Halfreck...DHoffryn paused...Waiting...

Sigh...Ok...

Anyanka...The demon lord groused to her telepathically...You'd better be planning to give your first born son my name...At least for a middle name...

Absolutely...she replied within...Alexander D'Hoffryn Harris is a great name...

"A moment ago...Perhaps you noticed Haly was missing something...When she ran past you?..." he glared at Xander...

Anya desperately rocked herself, trying to make the pendant sway...

Alexander, if you love me, come on...You can do it...she thought...

Oh, Xander...Please...

"You ok, An?..." he looked at her...

Wait a minute...Say...

Whoa...he stared at the pendant...

"It's just like the one..."

Took you long enough, DHoffryn thought, grousing within...

Yes sir...That's my baby...Anya thought happily...Oh...

Never thought my heart would jump for joy at the sound of my pendant shattering...
***

Congratulations, Xander... Giles shook hands...

Oh...God bless you Anya...Shalom... Willow hugged her...

D'Hoffryn...Willow turned and smiled to him...

Thanks...

"Not that I accept your previous offer..." she hastily noted...

Just...The demon lord nodded kindly...

Say...Why is Buffy kneeling by Spike...er Will?...she wondered...

"Make me the happiest woman...On Earth..." Buffy was teasing...Batting her eyes at him...

But with a serious edge in her words...

And seriously wishing she was wearing something besides her greasy uniform...

But...God, they'd waited long enough...she thought...Our 10th anniversary can be the big splashy party thing...

Maybe they'd even have found another gem of Amara by then...And could do the under the trees ceremony she'd wanted last time...

Dawn's jaw dragging the floor as she and Clem watched...

Will you get her up?...Spike groused...This is so embarrassing...

She asked us the first time, Spike...Will noted...

He knelt beside her...

"I reminded my little brother that you asked us once before, Cicely..." he smiled at her beaming face...

And the answer is as always...If you can deal with all that you would lose...he eyed her...

"Yes, thank you, Buffy..."

***
"Say..." Leroy noted to Xander as they watched the counter...

Those circus people can really pack it in...As he eyed D'Hoffryn, Clem, and a few of D'Hoffryn's employees, friends of Anya invited in on short notice chowing down on Doublemeat's best cuisine...The Walthrops and the Harrises having decided to make it legal as quickly as a minister could be located and marriage licenses found...

Anya and Xander's from their apartment...Still valid...

Cicely and William's by D'Hoffryn, from 1880...A little wedding present to make a leery Dawn feel more comfortable...It being likely to take a few days for the minor formality of an official California license...Assuming all of Spike's old documents held up...

Minister located, courtesy Giles...And en route...

***

Hmmn...Dawn heard her cell phone buzzing...The necessity that every Slayer's sister must have...

"Hi..."

Whoa...her expression said...Willow noticing...

"Buffy?..."

"Ummn...It's..." Dawn paused...Phone covered by a hand...

"Angel...He couldnt reach us at home...Your phone must be in your jacket..."

"I'll take it..." Buffy smiled...

Spike?...she grinned at Will...

"This one's especially for you..." she smiled...Uncovering the phone...

"Yes?...Angel?...Nice to hear from you...Finally..."

"Oh...Buffy...I've been so worried about you this past year..." Angel solemnly intoned...

And a half...she thought grimly...

Hey...Clem...Dawn pulled him over...C'mon...

What?...The dog-eared demon stared at his charge, friend, and...date for the evening...

"Gotta get the appropriate music going..." Dawn explained quietly to him...

The others too busy enjoying Buffy's side of the call...

"Tell it to poor Dru..." Buffy replied into the phone... "If you ever get round to trying to help her..."

"Buffy...?"

"I'm sorry...Angel..." Buffy resumed...Putting on a strong English accent...

"Is that how...?" Dawn eyed Will...Pausing with Clem just before the door to the little music system closet...

To a T...he grinned...Too bad she can't do the head throwback and down the nose look for Angel over the phone...
        
Isn't she wonderful?...Our girl...Spike intoned within...

Worth waiting a century for, brother...Will replied...

An eternity...

Ok...Dawn noted to Clem, handing him a tape...This one...When I raise my hand...

He nodded, devotedly...

What're they up to?...Willow looked over from where she sat with Giles...

Tara's seal of approval having been passed on to Willow by a slightly uncertain Buffy...Ummn...Willow and Giles?...Ummn?...

Not that Willow was pressing anything...But, if one considered the matter, could she possibly do better available guywise...Should she be so inclined until Tara became available again here or in the Afterlife...than Rupert?...And in time...Who knows? she thought...

Hmmn...Clem...And Dawn...Realizing suddenly...she blinked at them...

Should I speak to...Nah...she eyed Buffy...

Think this can sit a few days...Just a lil' ole teen crush...Please God...
Still, he is a nice guy...

Heck...If Spike and his soul could win the Slayer?...Who knows...

"I am afraid your Buffy has lost out to my Cicely half...She's in possession now...And really can't remember you well at all..." Buffy continued to Angel...

"Grateful as she remains to you, sir...For your courteous help in her battles with evil..."

"Buffy?!..." a shocked Angel cried...

Sir?...Buffy replied...

A returning Dawn eyed Will and Willow a leetle nervously...

Cicely's?...Taken over?...

Hmmn...Willow frowned at Buffy...

Stop it, you clown, you're scaring the kid...

"Angel, seriously...I love ya...Lets always be friends...But...Darla's the girl for you, boy...And Mrs. Summers-Walthrop is taken..." Buffy concluded...

Say hi to Connor for us...William and I will stop by with some wedding cake when we come for Dru...

Buffy hung up and grinned at the others...

"Buffy...?" Dawn asked hesitantly...

Dawn...Buffy groused at her...Shaking her head...

"I'll never give up my Buffy...I was Cicely...I am Buffy...And we are..."

The Missus...she smiled at Will...

Who was dutifully returning to the grill...Hungry friends, family, and eventually, more customers to feed...

She followed him over...

"I know it's not exactly a society wedding, Cics..." he began...

"Don't be ridiculous William..." she picked up a spatula and began turning burgers...

"This...Is the perfect place...With all the people we love...
The Palace...Of Romance..." she grinned at Dawny...

Dawn nodded...And raised a hand...

Her tape played through the Doublemeat Palace...

Buffy grinned...Xander grinned...And grabbed their respective partners...Willow pulling Giles along...

Yeah...Will beamed at his sis-in-law...As he and his wife sailed across the floor...

That says it all...

Suggested theme... "Help" (Help) I need somebody, (Help) Not just anybody, (Help) You know I need someone
(Help) When I was younger, so much younger than today, (I never needed) I never needed anybody's help in any way
(Now these days are gone) But now these days are gone I'm not so self assured
(And now I find) Now I find I've changed my mind, I've opened up the doors
Help me if you can, I'm feeling down, and I do appreciate you being 'round
Help me get my feet back on the ground, won't you please, please help me?
(Now my life has changed) And now my life has changed in oh, so many ways
(My independence) My independence seems to vanish in the haze
(But every now and then) But every now and then I feel so insecure
(I know that I) I know that I just need you like I've never done before
Help me if you can, I'm feeling down, and I do appreciate you being 'round
Help me get my feet back on the ground, won't you please, please help me?
When I was younger, so much younger than today, I never needed anybody's help in any way
(Now these days are gone) But now these days are gone I'm not so self assured
(And now I find) Now I find I've changed my mind, I've opened up the doors
Help me if you can, I'm feeling down, and I do appreciate you being 'round
Help me get my feet back on the ground, won't you please, please help me? Help me, help me, Ooo


***

***
"You'd be foolish to dismiss our help, Buffy...Over an incident...However
unfortunate...That took place well in the past..." Chairman Travers
continued...

At work the following day Buffy had decided to have her own little talk with
her Council Chairman...Collect transatlantic call of course...

Geesch...Willow fumed...Is this the definition of a schmuck or no?...God, I'd
like to have my defleshing ability back for thirty seconds...

Anya...human Anya...And her Xander happily watching beside Giles and William...

"Past as in when you and your psychics summoned Halfreck to Sunnydale a few
months ago using my subconscious memories...And fears...As the trigger...?"
Buffy pleasantly asked...

The way Farris summoned her in 1880?...

"My dear Miss Summers..." Travers began...A shocked, truly shocked tone...

I assure you we have always acted in your best interests, Miss Sum...

You will call me...Mrs. Summers-Walthrop from now on, Mr. Travers...she grimly
cut him off...

We Victorians prefer the good old Mrs...she noted...Especially from fellow
Englishmen who tried to kill my husband and condemn me to demonic servitude...
                
"Actually, I'm calling to discuss my...And my husband's...Future relationship
with the Council..." Buffy explained...

As well as my Giles...See...

I feel a certain responsibility...Given that I have been the longest surviving
Slayer...

Twice...

To protect my fellow future Slayers...

From...You...And Council members like you...And Mr. Farris...

So...

"We have to talk...Mr. Travers..."

In fact...Buffy paused...

"I want to talk to the full Council..."

Please set it up...By conference call...

ASAP...No later than tomorrow evening...

"Unless you'd like a personal interview...At your home tomorrow night..."

With the Walthrops...

Hmmn...Anya thought...

Three jobs...William is sure gonna have a rough time trying to get a college
schedule put together...

Still a Watcher's hours are flexible, judging from Giles in the past...

And he does have a close working relationship with his Slayer already in
place...

***
The negotiations were brief...The full Council expressing its...Displeasure and
sincere apologies...Yeah, right...Buffy, William, Willow, and Giles rolled
their eyes...With the Chairman's handling of the recent situation...

As for Mr. Walthrop...Well, given that the current Watcher vouched for his
soul's return to control...
And his unique abilities...

And the Slayer's extreme insistence on this one being non-negotiable,
fellas...she reminded them...

And since Mr. Giles would remain in contact as Master Watcher for the North
American continent...

Perhaps...With sufficient training...In England...Mr. Walthrop might make a
rather useful addition to the Council...
We should have a three week training period open within a month...One member
noted...

Three weeks...At your expense...Buffy noted...And I will be accompanying my
husband...To ensure the agreement is kept...Along with Mr. Giles and two
friends...

"He already has the proper uniform..." Willow grinned to Xander and An...

Thanks to ole Randy...Bless him whoever he is...

Hmmn...Buffy thought...Honeymoon in England...

Free honeymoon in England...And a chance to see the ole homesteads...

And visit our poor little Amelia's grave...Together...

"You ok with this, boss?..." Will asked Anya...

Well...Considering how good business has been since our celebrity staff joined
the firm...And that the time off will be unpaid...Buffy and Will being anxious
neither to cost their employers so early in their employ and equally anxious to
reserve paid leave for Babbie arrival...

And since she and Xander would be getting three free weeks honeymoon in England as well...

"If my partner approves..."
***

Five months later...

In the Summers...er Summers-Walthrop home...

The gang in attendance...For dinner with a very pregnant Buffy and her hubs...

Who had a serious problem to deal with...

Back from Will's Watcher training in England...And an extended double
honeymoon...On the Council's nickel...

Both now students at UCal-Sunnydale and he deeply engaged in his first serious
literary work in 120 years...

In addition to their respective duties at Doublemeat, the Box, and as Slayer
and Watcher/Assistant Slayer...

A frustrated Buffy...Cicely glaring at them all...
She'd reluctantly agreed give up Patrol in her last three months at Will and
the others' desperate pleas...Very reluctantly...

Gradually cut back on her working hours...Though insisting on working at least
one shift a week at the Palace...And the Box...

The jobs had grown on her...Especially now that she had the ear of the Palace's
part-time Assistant Manager...And the Box's head, well he was full-time after
all...clerk...

But this...Was too much...

And worst of all...She was sure he'd discussed it already with practically
everyone else...Excepting Dawny...

Though she herself had already let it slip out to sis...Not intentionally
but...God...

How could he do this to her?...She couldn't keep it bottled up...

Besides...Dawny was getting older...They'd had...The Talk and
everything...After she'd started dating Clem...

Just movies and the like...

Just a crush...Buffy hoped...Though...

Dawn could do worse...

The tension between the Walthrops was thicker by the second...

"Well..." Dawn nervously smiled...Collecting plates with a devoted Clem as she
played for time...Hoping against hope to avoid the "problem" a few minutes
longer...When everyone but Willow might...Go home...

Wasn't this nice?...she grinned blankly at William...The others...Clem...

Clem nodding in agreement...Devotedly...

"Whatdya mean you think we should stop?!...For now?!...Why won't you sleep with me?!!" Buffy blurted, staring at him...

Hand flying to her mouth in horror...

You heard nothing...Xander told himself...Absolutely...Nothing...

Giles deep in his protective reserve...Mentally reviewing his past two years of
journal entries...As befit the newly selected Chairman of the Watchers
Council...A strong reform movement in the full Council having coalesced around
him and Walthrop after their revelations of Travers and the inner circle's
misdeeds during their stay in England...

Willow firmly planted by his side...

Not that anything was settled between them...Just...Dear Rup needed someone to
keep an eye on him...And...One never knows...In time...If Tara-Dru can only be
released, not restored...

Heh...Ummn...Just a leetle marital tension, Dawny...Guys...Buffy embarrassedly
smiled at them...

Ummn...Sorry...Didn't mean to bring you into our little bedroom problems...

Hormones, you know...

Clem frowned a bit at her...Miss Dawny is a bit young for this, Slayer...his
look clearly saying...

Coffee?...she suggested...

Will sighed...As the others moved into the living room...Rapidly...Thankfully...

The baby's due in two months, Cics...Do you think I'd...Hell, even
Spike...Would take a chance with it now?...

"It's perfectly safe...The doc said it was safe..."

If we're careful...And you know what happens when we get at it...

Oops...Nibs...Spike hissed...

Oh...Ummn...William looked down at Dawn...

"Dawn...!" Buffy pointed...

Urggh...Dawn groused, moving off into the living room to where a now pregnant
and radiant Mrs. Harris was sitting by Xander...

"You can still hear him right?..." Dawn hissed to her... "Spike, I mean..."

Oh...yeah...Anya hissed back...

Xander discussing Dru hunt plans with Willow and Giles...Demon Dru having fled
LA, probably having picked up impressions from poor Tara, William and Buffy
would set out with her after Dru as soon as Babbie was born and could be safely
left with its Sunnydale extended family...

Neat...Dawn grinned...Casting a demure look in her sis and bro-in-law's
direction...

"Dear..." Will sighed... "It'll just be two months...Two little months..."

Urggh...Buffy groused...Screw Victorian chivalry...

Hmmn...

"Hey, Spike..." she grinned...Eyeing Will...

Can't believe you'd go along with this...

Believe it, Mommie...Spike sternly replied within...

When it comes to the kiddies...Even a demonic half-dad...Is a half-dad...

"Spike agrees with me..." Will smiled at her...

But...We can still do all the cuddling we want...

Dear...

"You'll call me Cicely...And Buffy...When I ask you to...?" she eyed him...

Absolutely...You've been merging your memories very well these past months...Giles doesn't feel we need to be cautious about psychological effects any more...

"I can use my Cicely voice?...Whenever I should feel the urge?..." she asked,
switching to a high-pitched nasal...

Of course...I love the Cicely voice...

She paused...The real question next...

"I'm not hideous...?"

Certainly not...Even Spike hasn't got a single sarcastic remark in his little
demonic brain right now...

Radiant...Spike hastily noted...And remember to say I said it...

"Spike says you're radiant...And I completely agree..."

"Really?...You still want to be with me...?"

Have either of us ever lied to you...? Threatened to tear your throat open,
drain every drop, maybe...But lied to you?...

What about Patrol?...Just a little, I could take the small ones...? she asked
hopefully...

He sighed...Well...You can walk with me...It's good for you...But no running
and no fighting...

She rolled her eyes...But...A Cicely moment overcame her...

William was doing his best...And no way are we losing Baby Two...Lil' Amelia
Joyce or Will Jr is gonna make to the world...

"All right, Will...Just the walking...And the talking..." They headed out to
the living room to rejoin the others...

And the cuddlin'...she grinned at him...As they sat...

"I can still do my "Here's the Deal"...Right?...Before you kill em..."

If you even kill em...she frowned at him...

"Buffy...We agreed...We give the non-aggressive ones one chance...Hear them out if they have a story..."

After all, Angel and I may not be the only redeemable ones...

Right, Willow hastily interjected...Absolutely, she nodded vigorously...

Gotta find out more about Spike's African demon god...she thought...

O...K...Buffy cast a sour look at him...Rolling her eyes...

Well...For poor Willow's sake...her look said...If there's still any chance for
Tara-Dru in this world...

"But I won't kill one before you do your thing..." he smiled...

They'd be hurt if you didn't...It would be as if you didn't respect them...

***
"Is this a good idea...?" Willow asked, whispering to Will...As the gang began
joint Patrol...Buffy happily hand in hand with the hubs...

"She's seven months pregnant..."

Buffy glared...Hearing...

"It's either this...Or she and I have sex...And she is a determined woman..."
William whispered back, eying Willow...

Who gets what she wants...In any century...No matter how long it takes...

As we know...he grinned at her...

Buffy-Cicely nodded...Firmly...Nibbling on a Doublemeat Special...

We just ate...She just ate enough for three strong men...Xander whispered to
Anya, staring at her...

Just a little something extra...Slayer eatin' for two you know...Buffy
sheepishly noted to Willow beside her...

Slayer metabolism finally giving way, Willow noted to herself...Eyeing Buffy's
girth...Hmmn...I wonder...

Giles seemed a little concerned himself at her weight gain...And no Slayer has
ever survived long enough to become pregnant...This could be a permanent
thing...

Willow unable to repress a certain sly satisfaction...All those years of seeing Buffy
scarf down anything in mass quantities and never gain a pound...

"Anyway...Will likes me plump..." Buffy noted contentedly... Heading on over to
where Giles was peering down a dark alleyway...Gotta keep an eye on our new
Chairman...Our third...and by far, best-paying boss...

See...William explained to the others...In my day we didn't mind a woman having
a few extra pounds...In fact we rather preferred it...

"Hate to see a healthy young woman nowadays starving herself to bones when
there's so much more to love in a girl with a little cushiony cuddle fat..."

Clem nodding solemnly...

Dawn, Anya, and Willow looked at each other...As Will strolled over to his
beaming Buffy-Cicely...

"William!...I've always loved you...William!..." they raced after him...

Buffy eyed them...
Very funny guys...

You know...she noted to her grinning sis and female friends as they clustered
round her Will...

"As Cicely...We don't really know any of you people..." Narrowing her
eyes...And unconsciously throwing her head and looking down her nose at them...

Hmmn...Willow looked at Anya...Anya at Willow...Dawn at both...

Are you sure she's not...? Dawn's look said...

That's our girl...Spike grinned within...

***
Alone at last...she grinned at her hubs...The others taking their assigned
areas...Within earshot but at least a little privacy... A little like the old
days...

But not too much, please...Could hardly call them the "good old days" after all...

"I love you, Miss Summers..." he stared at her...

She vaguely nodded, looking down the road...Yeah, yeah...

"Miss Addams...Did you hear me?...I absolutely adore you..." he
paused...Grinning at her...

Uh-huh...she looked up the road...

"All clear...They're playing it cautious tonight, I guess..."

She turned and smiled at him...Reaching for his hand...

"The name's Summers-Walthrop, William...Don't you forget it..."

"Cause I never will...Again..."

"Thanks...Mrs. Summers-Walthrop..." Will kissed her... "For all of it..."

All the help...

"Hey..." she kissed him... "You too...William Soames..."

She put her hand in his and they strolled cautiously on down the street...

[Suggested end theme...Crazy Little Thing Called Love...]

***
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