Sunrise...

Summary: Buffy has 12 hours to win back Spike's love and trust after betraying him...
(nope that's not a typo...And yes, a little tribute to the FW Murnau film...)

Before, during, and after the "Hells Bells" episode...

Part I...

I never meant to hurt him...

Never...

Even, when Riley came back...And showed me what my life was becoming...

In comparison to his...

Even then...I was still ready to try...

Or, to be honest...To start trying...

To begin at the beginning...

I didn't know someone else had her own plans for us...For him...

How could I know I had such a good friend?...Looking out for me...

But I was still ready...To try...
***

Buffy enters Spike's ruined crypt...After dodging a couple of supremely annoyed cemetery
groundspeople previously engaged in surveying the "vandals" wreckage...

Lugging a large box...

Dawn following reluctantly...

"Wow..." Dawn looks around at the shattered room...Contents of an occasional ancient coffin or
two spilling into the lair...

Major renovation mode...

Buffy frowns, dropping the box...

"Where the heck is he?...Spike?!!" she yells...
Maybe he's realized your insane love affair is hopeless and he's done the noble thing, Dawn
brightly notes...Clearly hopeful...

She is still trying to recover from Buffy's incredible pronouncement of the previous evening,
after Riley and spouse's departure...
***

That previous night she'd been watching Buffy pace the living room for the best part of an
hour...When her sister had suddenly stopped and begun looking for things they could spare for
the Blonde One...

Who would require new furnishings...And probably new digs...

"I thought you were mad at Spike..." Dawn had looked at her...

Well...Yeah...But...He did help us out...Took care of you...she reminded Dawn...

Didn't kill me when I was sleeping in his crypt and he could have transformed me and had me
forever...Unless later my demon made like Dru and left him...she did not say...

We should try to help him, I think...Not just abandon him now that the goings getting a little
tougher...she had noted...

He needs us...Obviously, considering his little slide backwards with those damned eggs...

And of course I did blast his only home to rubble...she had further noted...

Well...Dawn had hesitated...That's a nice sentiment...Very unSlayerishly sympathetic...

But, still we...

"I think I'm in love with William..." Buffy had blurted...

Huh?...Dawn had stared...

In...?

Not with Spike, Buffy hastily noted...Not with a killer demon...

William...Whatever's left of the human who been reaching out to us from within him...

"In...?" A blank-eyed Dawn was still stuck...

She'd noticed Buf's enthusiasm for her nightly patrols with the Blonde One...

Always bringing a story he'd told her or some sharp remark he'd made back with her...

But...While it had caused her to wonder a bit...She wasn't quite ready to hear this...

Fortunately for Dawn she was not old enough that Buffy felt safe confiding other aspects of the
affair...

Not that she didn't suspect...Immediately...On her sis' announcement...But, so long as Buffy
didn't admit to it...Dawn could still pretend this was all some silly little infatuation...

Based on the Slayer's natural sympathy for a condemned one who'd been trying so hard over the
last year to earn her trust...Aggravated by her deep depression and sense of alienation...

Not even mentioning Angel's rather crummy behavior...

No, it made perfect sense that vulnerable sis would fall a bit for her undead devoted one...Her
admittedly very sexy and charming undead devoted one...And, so long as Buffy said no
more...Please...It could all be dismissed as a perfectly natural little "crush"...

Which scene had led them to their present situation...

Buffy arguing...Since the moment of her announcement to the present moment in the crypt...To
herself as much as Dawn...That to abandon William now...Would be horrible...Cruel...

Now when the chip was rendering him vulnerable and when he seemed to be fighting to free
himself of Spike and the past...

And all for her sake...For the love of Buffy Summers...

That is...she had continued to Dawn, the surrounding house, and finally the general outdoors as
they strolled to his cemetery...Until I consult Giles...And maybe Tara...And maybe...

Just for research purposes alone, mind you...

Willow...

And tear through some of the Magic Box's books on vamp redemption and resurrection...

Course, she thought...It might be wise to minimize the passionate love making...Not to mention
the beatings...For a bit...she did not say...

Hmmn...Dawn had thought...

Strange that she never got like this with the Brooding One...

Patched up the old curse and that was that...

Did she sense somehow even then that it wasn't worth the effort?...That Broodo wasn't looking
at her...Not really...

Just at her blonde, Darla-like hair...

***
Buffy hollers as she wanders through the ruins... "Spike....!!!"

Where the hell...?

"Buffy...?!" Dawn calls, looking at the cardboard "gravestone" Spike had propped up near the
battered remains of his favorite slab...

She hurries over and they stare...

"Gentle friend...Here lies the second grave of William Soames Walthrop...

Well, he tried..."

Uh-oh...Dawn looks at Buffy...

"William!!!"...Buffy screams...

...Soames Walthrop...?...Nice ring, she thinks...

He might have told me his name before this...

Course...we were pretty busy whenever we got together...

Only time for one conversation to date...And a brief one at that...

And...she thought guiltily...

I never did ask...

Nice though...William Soames Walthrop...

Hmmn...He died in London, he told me that much...

I wonder if Willow could look him up...In 1880 records...

Ulp... "Second grave"...? She looked at Dawn...

No ashes that I can see...Dawn reported...

Phew...
***
Well...

It seemed for the best, really...

To Dawny anyway...Much as she does like him...

And impressive...

Spike actually being big enough to make the break...

Twice...Though I refrained from mentioning my time as "Invisible Slut-Girl"...

I pretended to agree...Yep, all for the best...

But...Damnit...

Just when I was ready to move to the next stage...

Trying to help...The one I...Ummn, well...

Care for...

***

A photo shop...Late that night...

With a solitary remaining customer...

"Pretty girl..." the clerk nodded at Spike...As a couple of large prints came out of the machine...

Buffy...And Spike...Together, strolling in daylight...At shops in Sunnydale...By cafes...By Joyce's
museum...Smiling...

Nobody special...Just a happy couple strolling around...Maybe on vacation...

Two happy humans...In love...

Miracle of modern digital photography, Spike thought ruefully...

But, what the hell...She'd said it was over...And this time...

This time he believed her...

Even if Anya were willing to explain things regarding his little eggs deal...

So...What did it matter if he chose to make a few false memories...Of a life...And love...she'd
never even tried to share with him...

Yeah...he smiled at the clerk...

She is a pretty girl...

Another customer entered...

By coincidence on a similar mission...Hoping to preserve and perhaps, enhance a few precious
memories...

Tara...

***

"Spike?..." the Wiccan stared at him...

What are you doing here?...

She caught sight of the photos...Which he scooped up desparately...

Oh...

She looked at his rather sheepishly defiant face...

Poor guy...

"Nice pictures..." she noted...

Pictures?...he said pleasantly...

She let him be...But watched him as he left, clutching his phony memories...

Poor, poor guy...

***

I didn't hear a word from him after that...Tara kept mum about seeing him at the photo shop until
much later...

He didn't even show up during my Patrols...

I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss him and his stupid comments on the world in general...Or that I
didn't worry a little...

But...

He was at Anya and Xander's wedding of course...

Thank God...I'd begun to think...Maybe...

But there he was...

Trying to be offhand about it...

Dawn waiting for the sky to fall...But desparate to avoid bringing up what she had learned...

To my shock, he was kind...

In spite of himself, even his attempts to twit me about the whole thing were half-hearted...

But I didn't want a scene either...

And I had no intention of asking him why he'd left without a word...

Though his choice of companion to bring along was rather infuriating...

Human...Though incredibly skanky...

***
Things were going off well...Incredibly well...

Who could've believed it...Xander and Anya almost safely married and then to leave for their
honeymoon at last...

Guest disruptions held to the barest minimum...So far...

No last minute reversion on Anya's part...Despite a teasing offer from her old boss...

Xander's predictable attack of cold feet...Not materializing...So far...

Snide comments by his family over his choice of...Willow...As "Best Friend..." successfully
ignored...

And, I'm managing reasonably well, Buffy thinks...rather pleased...
She grins over at Willow, beaming beside Tara...Nothing settled, of course...

But extremely...Hopeful...

Just one fly in the ointment...Spike, naturally...

Why they had had to invite him...Damn...

But more troubling...The two real sources of annoyance...

Firstly...

He hadn't told her where he'd got off to...Nor asked if she'd come by to see him...

Geesh...I knew he'd be mad after the little crypt trashing and the minor...well, major punching
round...But...I had reason to be furious with him...

And he was the one who left without a word, she thinks...

And secondly...

Of all things to invite...A human date...

Clearly just to get my goat...

And to top that off...Anya had invited...Halfreck...

The killer vengeance demon...

I dunno know but it seems to me that nearly causing the death of one's fiancee is cause enough to
retract a wedding invite...

But...It's Anya's wedding...

Like Hell will there be demons at my wedding...

Unless of course I choose to rub Spike's face in it...Which, after his running out on me...

Oh, why did he leave like that?...she thinks....

Without even a sarcastic word...

***
Halfreck, having suddenly decided that fruit punch was a life-sustaining nutrient, and slipping
over before Buffy could confront her...The Slayer had turned to see Spike on his way out...
He gave his kind fairwell...Thought it best if they left early...Given circumstances and all...

Buffy smiling wryly at his inability to carry through his attempts to hurt her...

But wincing all the more inside...

His kind human nature and generous heart breaking through more than ever...

Damn him...

And still no explanation for his abrupt departure...

Well, ok...she thought...His home was destroyed...

Still...He coulda left me a note...

From the punch table, Halfreck watched them...Attentively...

Dawn caught him at the door as he and a rather puzzled date were leaving...

"Where were you the other day?...We came over..."

My business, Miss Nibs...he looked at her briefly...Staring over at Buffy one last time...

And left...
***
I thought he was dealing...Dealing rather...Well, nobly...Buffy thinks...But, if he won't tell even
Dawn what's up...

Actually this is being childish...

It is not...Dealing...

As I am dealing...

Unless...He's trying to cover for me still...

No...He is just being childish...

And he started this...er...Well, he wasn't there when I came...

Wish we could've talked...But I've no intention of begging him to let me apologize...

Even if I did know...And have known since the day before yesterday that his little eggs deal
wasn't done with ill intent...In his heart of hearts, anyway...If he had a heart of hearts...or even
just one small substandard heart...That he was trying, offering the eggs for sale as potent magic
aids, via Anya....To get the cash he'd promised me...

Which Anya had filled me in on, just a bit late...Keeping mum at his insistence...

Afraid I'd nix the deal...Refuse to accept his help...

So...He'd give the cash to Anya and Xander...Part as wedding gift...

Part to be given by them to me...

But Anya couldn't bear not telling me...

In her current mood, every romance must be given a fair chance...

I love Anya dearly...Buffy thinks...

Never more than when she screws up like this...

Urghh, that Halfreck, looking...Urghh...From what I saw of her before she ran...

Hmmn...Kinda like Blondie's date, actually...Just a leetle more with the veins and all...

But, maybe that look's attractive to him...

Funny if I was his idea of a charity case...

She remembers a few days before...When in the crypt, he lay, watching her, stroking her hair,
gentle as a lamb, whispering to her that in all his existence...she was the most...

That for her...He'd risk ...Mortality...

Nah, definitely not a charity case...she notes...

Rather happily...

Of course...she thinks...Even more happily...

I do have good reason to kill his date...Er, end his date, I mean...

A human...Clueless, no doubt...

In danger...

I should really go and stop them...Right now...
Save the potential victim of Will the Bloody like a good Slayer ought...

No...she sighs...Not the adult way to deal...

And look, Xander's still not out yet...

Hmmn...She glared at the punch-supplied, returning Halfreck...Who smiled back politely...And
nervously...Dashing to her chair and D'Hoffryn's protection...

After what she pulled at the house...Whether or not she did it for "poor lil' abandoned Dawny" or
no...

Still...Anya...Xander...Wedding...

Not now...Not here...

***
And so it went...

But the kindness...Insisting on leaving early...To avoid spoiling the first joyful day in my life in
much too long...

God damn him and his sweet nature...More human every time I see him...

He was so easy to deal with before the damned chip...

Now...He is dangerous...

But why did he leave the old crypt without saying anything?...Where did he go?...

Where the hell did he find that slut?...And...

Why didn't he want to stay and talk?....And dance with me at the reception?...
***

It might have ended there...

The wedding soon taking a drastic lurch for the worse...

Groom gone...And not to the lil' boys room...

This was a job...Requiring the Slayer's services...Along with several of Anya's "circus friends"...

I should hang a shingle...

Buffy the Vampire Slayer...

Major distractions for weddings, bar-mitvahs, etc a specialty...

Until real disaster broke loose...

Courtesy Mr. Harris and a no limit bar...

Hmmn...He couldn't finance a college education for our Xander but he can keep this limitless
flow of booze going?...

Then...The ultimate...
***

Xander...Oh...

Hell, no one better able than me to understand hesitation at demon-human mating...But...Why do
this now?...

You've been telling us for months how wonderful it was...Not a care...Demonic past-wise,
anyway...In the world...

And why do it to poor sweet Anya...Human, I remind you, Big Brother, Anya...

So much for my first joyous day in over a year...
***

But Dawn, whatever her fears of this insane relationship of her sis'...Was a determined and
practical...Romantic...

And sought more info...From the horse's mouth...

After poor Anya was somewhat settled of course...

She might have lost one chance to get Spike to tell her his new digs location...But she had other
sources of info...
***
Dawn'd had an instinctive feeling Halfreck could find Spike for her...And that she might be
willing to do it...

In exchange for what she could provide regarding info on Xander's little walk and Anya's current
status...

Though extremely disappointed that Dawn did not want some fierce and horrible creature or
some hideous fate to befall Xander...Anya being off limits to her as D'Hoffryn's personal
concern...Halfreck agreed to "find Spike" for her...

Dawn was hesitant, fearing a catch...But Halfreck assured her it would be without
consequence...To anyone...

Besides...

She had her own interests in William...she smiled...

***
A slight problem with her sister's chemically-induced psychosis postponed her follow-up
meeting with the "justice" demon for a day...But Halfreck was surprisingly patient and
understanding...

But then she'd probably watched the whole thing with glee from demonland...Dawn noted to
herself, frowning...

Whacked-out Buffy ready to kill us all...

Which I guess didn't really startle the others all that much, Dawn thought...After her "Touch
Dawny and die" mode last summer...

The demon appeared in the Summers' front yard at Dawn's call...Made after a still very
embarassed Buffy had left for her day shift at Doublemeat Palace...

Well, at least Anya doesn't seem to be with her...Dawn noted...

And she had the promised answer...

Though Dawn couldn't help wondering about the demon's interest in..."William"...?

How the hell did she know Spike?...

Well, probably best not to know...
***

The Magic Box...?...Dawn thought as she unlocked the shuttered store door with Buffy's spare
key...

"You're living in the Magic Box?..." Dawn confronted a startled Spike, in process of organizing
his living space in the basement...

Thankfully, minus human skank date...

A date who'd had a really nice time, the girl'd informed him the morning after...With surprising
shyness...

Although she regretted missing the reception...

She hoped he'd...Call...
***

A temporary thing...Spike explained to Dawn...

"Anya has a generous heart..." Spike notes...Smiling at the Nibs...

And felt bad...Having been the one to suggest I steal the eggs from their demon mum and keep
them...

Poor Anya...Dawn loses her focus a mo...

Oh...God...Spike rolls his eyes...First Anya, now the Nibs...

As he pats the sobbing Dawn...Who moves to his shoulder...

Must be my Victorian gentleman's air...Invites this sort of unburdening...he thinks...

He tried to think of something...Comforting...

"So...Harris actually walked..." Brightly...

I knew that idiot couldn't handle this...he told her...

Should've stayed and held him up until it was over...

Anya pounding him, I mean...he grins...

"Spike...Anya's not happy with this..." Dawn frowns at him...

I'd guess that was an understatement on the order of... "Buffy?...Ummn...She's away for the
summer?..." he smiles...

She glares...

God, artificial or no, she is Buffy's sis...he thinks, admiringly...

"So...Where were you?..." she asks the Spiked One...Again...

Who stares at her...

Where was I?...

"We...Buffy and I...Lugged a whole lot of stuff to your old place the other day...You weren't
there..."

Gone...Vamoosed...

He stares at her...Buffy wanted to know...?

After she told me...? he thought...

A door slam...

"Dawn!!..."

"Buffy?..."

"You let that thing Halfreck have a crack at you?...Again?!..."

How?...Dawn stares...

Willow saw you talking with her in the yard...Buffy notes grimly...

Ummn...Hello, William...Buffy turns to Spike...

"Sorry to hear about your little mental condition, Slayer..." he looks at her...

She glares...

"How's Harris...?"

Turned paler than me I understand...Spike grins at Dawn...

"We'll...Deal..." Buffy looks at him...And around him..

So...Eat your date yet?...

He gave her an indignant look...

"Went home...Intact..."

Said she'd had a great time...

"Probably lying....She had the 'liar look' to her..." Buffy notes...

Buffy...?...Dawn lookes at her...

Whoa...There is definitely...A "thing" between them...

Despite a sensible healthy fear and dread...She can't help liking the idea...

Spike is so sexy...And romantic...And not a Brooder...At least not beyond his occassional scowl...

She moves in a bit...

"Sis was hurt, Will..." she whispers...

I mean...When you left...Not saying anything...

Well-intentioned but loud enough to be heard...

Buffy rolls her eyes...

You were...Hurt?...Spike looks at Buffy...

You?...

He blinks...And in a angry, tense whisper...

"How the hell do you think I..."

"Will...iam...?"

Halfreck calls him over from the other side of the basement...

What the?...Dawn looks over...Buffy looks over...

"She just dropped by for a visit..." Spike frowns...

Actually...He eyes Dawn...

:"It seems you sent her..."

Buffy glares...To Dawn's surprise, Spike adds his own...

Dawn attempts a smile...Well...

"I just wanted to know where you were, Spike..."

She frowns at the demon...Who smiles back... "Hi, Dawny..." Halfreck waves...
"And I didn't tell her to go visit you..."

"Well..." he sighs, staring at Buffy... "Best to let things be, I guess..."

Hmmn...How the hell do I think he...Buffy thinks as he goes over to Halfreck...

Felt?...

Well, ok...I didn't say much while Riley was there...

I didn't stick up for him and assume he'd been doing it for my sake...

But I came back...

Damn...I came back...

Where the hell was he?...

And how the hell does Halfreck know him?...

The shop door opens...

A rather flustered Anya...And Xander...
***

"I...Ummn...We...Found each other..." Xander explains sheepishly as they sit...

Anya nodding happily...Very happily...Dawn notes...

Phew...Looks likely we have one problem solved at least...
***

Halfreck had vanished while Xander told the epic tale of lovers reuniting...

At K-mart, Aisle 14 as a matter of fact...

Halfreck wasn't feeling well, she wanted to leave...Spike explains to Anya and Xander...

She just dropped by for a mo anyway...

Buffy rather satisfied...

There's one demon who got my glare...she thinks...

But...Spike continued...She wanted to say...Thanks for a lovely time the other day...
And that she's in the area if Miss Nibs...he grins at Dawn...

"Not in this life ..." Buffy cuts in...

Dawn tries looking away...

Well...Spike notes...I'd best be getting the rest of my stuff in...

Buffy looks a tad surprised...He still has "stuff"?...I thought I blasted everything...

"Need any help?..." Xander asks reluctantly at Anya's insistent nudging...

Well, actually...

***

"Careful with the boxes, old pal..." Spike grins at the loaded-down Xander...

Well...Could be worse...Xander reflects as he manuevers Spike's "stuff" into the shop
basement...

Alls' ending well for us..An's stayed human...And even if Spike is now our tenant...At least
Buf's not likely to make out with him in the basement here...

Like she was back in the crypt when she was invisible...

God...A memory I would definitely like to purge...he thought...But, thank God, I had the presence
of mind not to say anything at the time...

Ok, my brain froze up and I couldn't say anything...But it still amounts to the same thing...

And the main thing...An's still human...And still loves me...

"Just one more load...If you wouldn't mind...Old pal..." Spike grins...

It being daylight still...It would spare me a few third degree burns...

And of course dear Anya is feeling so guilty...he notes...

***
So...Spike is staying in town...Buffy thought as she and Dawn watched a rather content Spike
directing the overburdened Xander...

For me?...Or that skank?...Or...Damn...

How the hell does Halfreck know him...?

Gotta get Anya alone...The human skank I can deal with...But a "justice" demon might be more
of an obstacle...

***
Well...Anya told me she wasn't sure...But thought Halfreck knew William at some point in the
past...

I wondered...Could she have more than Dawn's neglect on her mind?...

But, why would she have suddenly decided to give William grief...?

She never bothered him and Dru...

That I know of...

Of course I naturally refused to confront William about it...

Too simple a solution to just ask him...

But how could I have known?...

Still...I did suspect something...

Must have been some kind of premonition...Or, maybe, a residual memory...

But I let things slide...

Like Dawny said...It was for the best...Probably...

Even though she'd immediately changed her mind on seeing Spike...Romantic teenager winning
out over practical, concerned sis...

It was the sensible thing to do...Just let things be...

Following his advice, God...

William the Bloody, voice of moderation, reason, and good sense...

Never noticing how Halfreck had watched us both each time we were together for even an
instant...

My old friend...Looking out for me...

Just as she...Naturally...Did for Dawny...
***

God, what was I supposed to do?...

William was not human, however hard he had tried...And I know that he has tried...

What kind of life could we ever hope to have?...

So....I accepted things as I thought he had wanted them...

It's just, I'd thought...He might have said "Goodbye..."

But I'd be lying if I didn't admit knowing he was at Anya's shop made my heart sing...

I hadn't lost him completely...Not yet anyway...

***
I went on Patrol late that night...

Willow had had warning of a Umanta demon coming to Sunnydale...

Non-magics warning...Via the Internet...

Even some of Sunnydale's underworld inhabitants were nervous about this one...And deliberately
leaked the word...

A Umanta...Very bad news...

Almost invulnerable...Excepting some soft head parts around the brain...

Very big, venomous...Willing to eat anything live and moving...

Not good...

Who else showed up but my hero...With a few other clueless human bystanders...

He was following me...I'm sure of it...

Unlike a certain LA type who didn't even bother to check on me when Glory came to town...Will
still checked on me...

My fool for love...

My sweet Will...
Damn him...

***

Unnh...Buffy was down...

Spike noted to the young couple watching in horror beside him that the young
lady seemed in a spot of trouble...

The hideous whatever it was...Some animal escaped from the zoo, no doubt...Seemed very likely
to kill her...

Two more people joined them...

"Spike?!!!..." she cried...Looking over at him...

"Is she calling somebody?..." Spike looked at the others...

The Umanta lifted her with one arm above its head...

"Help!!..." Buffy cried...Looking down and over at him...

"Maybe we should do something..." Spike turned to the two men in the small
group...

Ummn...They looked at each other...

"Don't get mixed up in this, Freddy..." one of the ladies in the group turned
to her mate...

The Umanta tossed her down with a thud and closed in...She hopped up...And
kicked it back...

She's ok...The other guy noted...Lets go..
.
All but Spike began hastily leaving...

The demon charged her and smashed her back into a tree...

She staggered to her feet...The Umanta pausing to clear its windpipe...

Disgusting, Spike noted...

"Spike?!!!...You son of a...!"

Hey, innocent bystander here, lady...he called...

No need to insult poor Dru...She was a very nice human being, you know...

"I could call 911 for you?...As a concerned fellow Sunnydaler...?"

At that it'd be more than the others did for me, she noted to herself...

She smashed the Umanta back...It staggered a bit...And fired venom at her,
barely missing...

Nice dodge, girl...he thought...

She kicked the demon in the face and it went down...

"Besides, I don't work for the firm anymore, remember..." he continued...

In fact, you people almost never paid me as it was...he noted...

"You worthless..." she turned back to look at him...

"Miss Summers...Look out..." he called back pleasantly...Whipping out a cell
phone as she hopped back from the charging demon...

"Hello Police...I'd like to report an emergency...A woman is being killed by a
hideous..."

Yes...I'll hold...

"Spike?!!!!...."

What?....He looked up from the phone...

"Look out!!!..."

Oops...The Umanta had caught his scent as well and was now closer...

"Great..." he yelled at her...Dodging...

Always happens...

He smashed at the Umanta who staggered, reared up, and charged him...

"Why I should have to still keep putting my precious ass on the line for you,
God...I'll never know..." he groused...Shoving a broken tree branch into the
demon's throat...

It stood, gasping, clawing at its throat...

Buffy hopped over and stabbed it through the thin brain membrane, following
Willow's instructions...

It collapsed...

They stood by each other, watching the Umanta cough out its last...

"So...How've you been?..." Buffy asked...Breathing hard...

The shop basement working out for you?...
***

Ok...I overdid it with the cry for "Help!..."

He knew I was deliberately holding back...And enjoyed baiting me...

But...I really did need help at the end...

And he came through...As always...

Oh, God...

Was there ever a Slayer so fucked up?...

***

Part II...

Was ever a vampire so fucked up?...

After he'd left Buffy and her dead Umanta...Spike wandered the Sunnydale streets...

I should have left...Damn her...I should left...

Hell, I should've let the Umanta have her...

To pull an act like that...After telling me we were through...

As if we ever were...

A large building loomed...He stared...
Well...he sighed...

First time for everything...

***

"All right..." he said...Staring at the large statute...

I've come...You know bloody well why...

The small, young blonde man paused and eyed the candles at the statue's base...He looked
around the church...No one but an elderly man far in back, praying or more likely, sleeping as he
knelt...And a veiled nun, a few pews behind him...Fingering her beads and clearly not interested
in him...

He placed a few coins in the collection bin underneath the candles and quietly lit one...

"You know..." he whispered to the statue...

"My mum spent a fortune in places like this...For candles, the poor box, the whole
shebang...Money a servingwoman, trying to feed three kids and put one through Cambridge,
couldn't rightly afford..."

Not even considering my own fate...It seems to me, Lady...You and your boy have a debt to pay...

"Well, I'm here to collect...Just this one time..."
***

He twisted away from the statue...Neither of his two fellow churchgoers noticing or caring that
he was still standing there, whispering to a statute...

He looked back and glared at the lit candles...

She doesn't deserve this...You have no right to do this to her...he glared at the statue...

My Buffy's saved millions of your damned worthless followers...

You can't let her drown like this...She's the Slayer for your bloody boy's sake...

And all she has to help are those idiot friends...her Nibs...

Care not help...

And old Red...Who tries...But'll probably never live down being the cause of the whole mess...

Even if she pulls herself together, what's she likely to do for her?...

And then, of course...There's little old me...

The greatest burden of all...Trying to forgive herself for feeling something for me...

Ashamed of herself for caring...And I know she does...

Let me be a man for you...I asked her...A man who can protect your sister, help you...maybe
even...Change...

God knows, she wants to believe me...In her heart I know she does...

And look at all I've done to keep the faith...

Why just call me Galahad...Allowing her to save my ass...Several times...And shag me without
dropping a nasty word to her friends...

Pardonez-moi, Lady...he smiled at the statue...

Better than past performance, I suppose...he smiled bitterly...

I can get money...I told her...God, what a joke...

I'm lucky to scrape together enough to buy smokes and a blood bag...And here I am, promising
her the moon...

While she works herself to worse than death...And loses her mother's house to repair bills and
the tax man...

And my one chance to actually help her...I screw up...

"Saving her again...In my dreams..." he murmured...

But...He looked up at the face peering out from the folds of its veil...

I tried...

"You have to grant me that..." he smiled bitterly...

"I gave it a try...With Anya and those damned eggs..."

Naturally that whipped poodle Riley had to be on hand to muck things up...

And Buffy...Never considering for a moment that I might be trying...To help...
Well...Not fair to ask too much of her Slayerness...

He looked at the statue...What did we used to say?...

Holy Mary, Mother of God...

Have mercy on my beloved...

"Sometimes it's the practical that's God's best solution..." a voice told him...

The nun had come up to him and was standing by his side...

I know that voice...Spike thought vaguely...

She put a hand on him...Gently...And was gone before he could see her face clearly...

Had she run up the long aisle...Or vanished?...

"God bless you, Will..." he was sure he'd heard her say...

Smiling at him...

Drusilla...

But no scent of a vampire anywhere around him...
***

He came to himself there and looked around...

Had he dreamed it?...

He eyed the elderly man cautiously...Still asleep or praying in back...

No trace of a vampire...It couldn't have been Dru...

And yet...

***

The practical he thought...

Well, advice from the Mother of God, or human Dru's spirit, or figment of his imagination...It
had a certain appeal...

And shook him a bit out of his lethargy...
Surely he could do something...Practical...

But if it concerned money, it couldn't be his normal way...Even if Buffy believed any lie he told
about how he'd gotten it...It would do her no good to have to spend twice as much keeping out of
prison after the police took it all back...

Somehow he'd had to find...An honest way...

Not just to save the house for now...Enough to get her back in college with a chance at a
future...And enough to ease her fears for Dawn...

Not to mention enough for a good doctor to look her over and find out what the hell had
happened when Willow resurrected her...Why she kept slipping into traces, couldn't concentrate
on any serious reading, as Dawn had told him...

Why she'd become crazy enough to care...At least a little...For him...

But short of murder of demons for hire...Sort of a cut-rate Angel, actually he grinned to
himself...The "good job" options for him were limited...

And as appealing as taking some night shifts with her at Doublemeat might sound...It would not
fit the bill, much as she might appreciate the gesture...Secretly...

Somewhere in this god-forsaken town there must be a way to make money...Someone who owed
him...

Hmmn...

Well, of course he did have a job offer of sorts...Anya...Who'd had given him a new
home...Needed "experienced help"...

Indeed, Harris at least seemed to expect that he should happily pitch in...For free, out of
gratitude...

Like bloody Hell...Though it was hardly likely dear An could manage more than minimum
wage...

An idea struck him...

There were people he knew in this god-forsaken town capable of making real money...The honest
way...In a manner of speaking...

More or less...

Three people, in fact...
If they weren't such a lazy, selfishly child-brained bunch of nerds...Wasting their genius on
moronic plots to annoy Buffy and acquire toys...And now...

Guilty of murder...And God knows what else...

And probably desperately in need of a "fixer"...To sell their inventions and magics off to the
highest bidder...

Ah, the good old international arms market...A perfectly legit business so long as no US
government property or plans were sold...Though Buffy might not wholeheartedly approve...

And really those dastardly fellows needed to be watched over...And turned over to the authorities
at the proper time...When sufficient evidence to convict had been accumulated...

After a number of profitable transactions had been achieved...This time without drawing the
wrath of Captain Commando and the US government...And the proceeds safely tucked away
for distribution to Buffy and Dawn at some later date...

Heck the invisibility ray alone oughta fetch a fortune in today's arms market...Though perhaps, if
things were handled right...He could possibly render service to his adopted country as well as to
Buffy Summers...

Surely given the Initiative's ruthless behavior there were some in the government of the land of
the free who would be interested in the troika's collection of toys...And would ask few if any
questions...

Just a matter of hooking up with the right people...

Idiot boys have to still be in Sunnydale...They're sure to be caught the moment they get out of
Hellmouth magic range...And I still have a few favors to call in from old "pals"...

Time to arrange... A "meeting"...he thought...
***

After I caught my breath...And Spike wandered off, muttering...After checking me out to be sure
I was ok...

And I finished grousing at him to myself...

I got...The idea...

He'd be at the shop...Anya needed help...And would need someone to keep an eye on him...

And I owed Giles...Lots...

Though of course it would have to be fit around my Doublemeat and Slaying schedules...

And...Maybe I could keep some of what I earned...

Giles would wait, I was sure...Though at least I'd be sending him something...Which I stressed to
Anya when I called that night...

She was...Uncertain...Given my last period of employment at the shop...But kindly consented to
my plan...

***

Buffy reached the Magic Box...

Anya greeted her...Warmly, but...Cautiously...

"Well..." Buffy tries a grin...

All ready for the first afternoon...

"Ready to start payin' back all that money good ole Giles lent me..."

Not that he'd asked her for it, of course...Just...

Time to get priorities and responsibilities nailed down...

Obligations to be met...Buffy Summers the girl to say "Hi" to em...

"Hello..." A bespectacled, suit-wearing...Her jaw drops...

Spike...Greeted her pleasantly...

"Ms. Summers..." he smiles...Nodding...

Decked out in Randy suit...And glasses...

This is a joke, right?...Buffy looks at the others...

You're not going to let him work here as well...?

"Buffy...Spike needs a steady job..." Anya looks at her...

Especially after you destroyed his home...she did not say...

"We have a responsibility to encourage William's movement back towards Humanity"...Anya
notes...

And we owe him...Especially after that demon eggs fiasco...she did not say...

"Oh...And make sure you call him Mr. Walthrop if you need to use a last name..."

"It really is my own..." he smiles at her...

"Are you people crazy?..." Buffy looks at them...

It's one thing to let him hide in your basement for a while...A very little while...she pauses...

But...

Spike assumes a very slightly hurt look...

Just doing his bit...he noted...Trying to earn a honest living...

Strengthen his human ties...

Develop his relationships...She glares at him...

Why is Buffy treating him like this?...Anya nudges Xander...He was very kind to Dawn this
summer...When he had nothing to gain from it...

After she was ...Gone...

We told her how he cried for her...Helped us...

Does she expect him to stay in the cellar all day...Every day?...

Slayer-Vampire thing, honey...Xander notes...Best we keep out of it...

Oh?..Does she harbor some instinctive dislike of all demons?...Anya whispers, looking at him...

Even...Former ones...?

"So...He'll be working under me...er under my supervision..." Buffy looks at them...

Well...Actually...Buffy...

See...Anya hesitates...

He does have a lot more experience with magics and occult history than you...

You should've seen him track down the Necromance figurine we needed this morning...Anya
notes hastily...

He smiles...Pleasantly...

Two years at Cambridge University...Anya adds...

"Well...I would have graduated..." he puts in politely...Pushing up the glasses...But...

Fate can be so cruel sometimes...Anya notes sympathetically...

I should know, she paused sadly...Xander pats her...

"He's gonna supervise me...?" Buffy blinks...

Well, after all...He is full time, Buffy...Anya notes...

"And full time...Is full time..." Xander notes...

"I would say...That we'll be...Coworkers, Ms. Summers..." Spike notes pleasantly...

You look ridiculous in that suit...she tells him...

He gives a slightly hurt, sheepish look...

Actually.. Anya hesitates...

"I asked him to wear it...His other remaining set of clothes didn't set the right tone for the shop..."

And all his other clothes got blasted in his crypt by you and Riley...Anya did not say...

"Since when do you need glasses?..." Buffy glares at him...

Well...Actually Buffy...he pauses...

I've always been rather nearsighted...

Didn't she ever notice his squint?...Anya thinks...

***
Ok...I was glad, I admit it...

Though I honestly thought Anya was insane to let him out of the basement...

And he did look ridiculous in the Randy suit...
***

Well...Buffy smiled wanly...

"Where do we start?..."

I thought we might rearrange inventory this afternoon, Anya replied...

"I've gone over it with William..."

He'll tell you what I want...

He smiled...

Grrreat...Buffy smiled...

***
"I have climbed highest mountain....I have run...Through the fields...Only to be with you..."

Only to be with you...

Spike had suggested a little music while they worked...

She cast a sardonic grin at her "supervisor"...

"Do we have to listen to this?..." she asked...

"You're quite welcome to change it when this side is done..." Spike noted...

"Anya..."

Buffy...We don't censor our employees' taste in music...Anya looked at her...

You can change it when Spike's finished his first side...

Besides...I like U2...

Urggh...Say?...

Mr....Walthrop?...Buffy asked...

"Yes, Ms. Summers?..." he smiled...Pleasantly...

"Should you keep to the stockroom or something...In case somebody opens the door
suddenly?..."
"I'm well able to move about if the need arises..." he noted...

Just making a suggestion...Buffy replied...

Wouldn't want to see my "stuporvisor" burned to death...

***
We kept it up like that all afternoon...

I hafta admit William was the more "professional" of the two of us...

But it was nice...Just to be with him...And by the end of the afternoon, he'd dropped a Spike
crack or two...Mainly regarding our customers...

And it was something to see William the Bloody, friendly and conscientious shop
clerk...Beaming at customers...

I wanted to ask...But I hesitated...

No point in raking things up...

And then the afternoon was over and it was time to go home to Dawn...Night shift at dear old
DP...And Patrol...

***
Sunrise...

Part III...

After Mr. Walthrop had helped a rather radiant Anya and still sheepish Xander close up the shop
and dismissed his new assistant for the evening, he donned his remaining "Spike" togs and
headed out...

To call in a few debts...And arrange a "meeting"...At Willie's...

***
Anya, meanwhile, was having her own "meeting"...With an old friend...

She was as suspicious as Buffy regarding Halfreck's motives for hanging around town...

After all, she'd done the "hang around Sunnydale hoping for another crack at revenge" thing
herself...

Dear Haly was as always at her friend's beck and call...

"Couldn't I just strike him blind?..." Halfreck suggested, looking at a somewhat nervous
Xander...

I mean, after what he did...

"Xander was just nervous, Haly..." Anya insisted, smiling reassuringly at her beloved...

If you were human again, you'd understand...

Humans...Halfreck sighed...

"I mean..." Anya looked at the demon...

"Back when you were human...Say when you knew William...?" Innocently, not looking directly
at her...

In 1880?...Halfreck grinned at Anya...

"1880?...Wait a minute...You weren't human in 1880...?" Anya looked at her...Xander
watching...

Her eyes widened...

"You..."

Moi...Halfreck nodded...

What...? Xander looked at Anya...Who stared at him...

"She cursed William..."

What?...Xander looked at the grinning demon...

I'll never get used to those bulging veins, he noted to himself...

Thank God I never saw Anyanka...

But...Xander paused...

I thought Drusilla...

"A mere tool of Fate..." Halfreck smiled...

But...What did he do?...Anya stared at her...

"Pretty much what he's doing right now..." Halfreck noted...

He got in your Slayer's way, poor sweet fool...

In Buffy's way?...Anya blinked...Xander blinked...

"Well..." Halfreck paused... "Her name was Cicely Addams then..."

***

Anya told me later that night...With Xander beside her...

They couldn't contain news like this...

Halfreck cursing William Soames Walthrop...In 1880...

For my...That is, for Cicely's...Benefit...

My dear old friend...My guardian angel...

And still looking out for old Cicely...In her blonde, reincarnated form...

At her...My...Subconscious request...

We Slayers carry a lot of weight with "justice" demons, it seems...
***

"But what did he do to deserve...Drusilla?"...Anya looked at Halfreck...

Oh...Well, nothing really...But Cicely needed him gone...He was very poor and a very poor
poet...And, as she was the Slayer, even then...

Xander stared at Anya...Anya at him...

"You condemned him for nothing?!..." Anya stared at the demon...

I'm a demon...It's what I do...Haly shrugged...

Besides...What about that poor girl, Drusilla...Did she deserve her fate?...

I thought you said you were a "justice" demon...Anya noted...

Well...Halfreck paused...

Is this... "Justice"?...Anya looked at her...
"Well my...Aren't we the self-righteous little human, now?"...Halfreck sneered...

Seems to me you had no objection to inflicting eternal suffering on human males before you met
dreamboat here...she smirked at Xander...

"You condemned William to eternal damnation...Because he wasn't a suitable mate for
Cicely...er Buffy?...Because he was a poor poet?..." Anya gasped...

Honest, honey...she looked desperately at Xander...I never did anything like that...

Just a mo, there...Halfreck raised a finger...

"Cicely wanted William gone...I just carried out her wish..."

And he was poor...and a bloody awful poet to boot...Not just a poor poet...

"Wait a minute..." Anya looked at Xander...Then back at the demon...

You're not here because of Dawn, are you?...

Halfreck rolled her eyes toward the ceiling...Well...

"Dawn was made from Buffy...So naturally as Buffy is a client...I was happy to include a service
or two for...."

"You're here to stop Buffy and William from coming together..." Anya glared at the demon...

You're still cursing William?...To keep him and Buffy apart...Keep him from winning any
chance of redemption...?

"Don't you people read fairy tales anymore?..." Halfreck frowned...

The Snow Queen, that sort of thing?...

William is trapped in Spike until Cicely...er, Buffy...Says otherwise...

What?...Xander looked at her...

He loved her...And that gives her the right to decide his fate...Halfreck noted solemnly...

What?!...

"Afraid she's right, honey...That's the way D'Hoffryn works..." Anya agreed sheepishly...

Of course males have their own similar setup...It's not a sexist arrangement...she noted quickly...
And of course...It's a system I no longer approve of...And refused to take advantage of...she
pointed out...

Phew...Xander noted...

"Wait..." he looked at Halfreck...

"Do you mean Buffy could save Will...If she wants..."

She's the Slayer, isn't she?...Halfreck noted...

Well...I mean...Xander paused...

Besides the usual Slayer means...If she wanted to keep him around...

"How should I know?...I'm no student of vampires..." Halfreck groused...

Besides...It's William's soul that counts...And Buffy or Cicely or whoever she is when and if she
ever wants to help him will have to find her own way...

"It's the way we work..." she noted...

"And..." she frowned at Anya... "It's a fine system...And it works very well..." Halfreck insisted...

After all Spike's done quite well as a vampire...He'd never have earned a reputation as a human
poet...

Though I do sympathize...I rather like William myself...she grinned...

A very sweet and courageous soul buried in there yet...

But...Anya looked at Halfreck...Buffy doesn't...She couldn't...

"Cicely didn't and Buffy doesn't want him bothering her...And when I condemn someone for a
client...He stays condemned..." Halfreck smiled proudly...As befitting a true professional...

Though, of course...That doesn't mean he and I can't date...she noted...

As soon as this current nonsense between him and Buffy is settled...

Though I have to say she's a very fickle lady...Halfreck sighed...Never was able to make up her
conscious mind about him...

"She's very lucky D'Hoffryn took pity on her..." she noted...

And was rather interested in getting a Slayer in his fold...

"Though, sadly..." Haly sighed... "That hasn't worked out..."

Yet...

"Some people just have no sense of obligation...No gratitude for services rendered..." she
groused mildly...

But perhaps this time...After William's fate is settled...For good... And the time is right for Buffy
to learn what help we've been to her...

Anya smiled woodenly, nodded, and slid back to Xander...

"What do we do?..." he looked at her...Whispering...

Grab the pendant, honey...Anya hissed...

Halfreck, however, felt she'd spent enough time catching up with her old friend...And vanished...

And so she and Xander wound up on my doorstep...With quite a story to tell...

***
A very suspicious Warren Mears...In rather ridiculous disguise...Sat down across from the "fixer"
recommended by good ole Willie...

"Warren..." Spike grinned...

How's the girlfriend murdering business?...

Combine it with the robo-girl line yet?...Sort of your own Stepford in Sunnydale set-up?...

***
Sunrise...

Part IV...

So...Anya and Xander looked at me...Mutually pausing to take a breath from their tale...

I'd waved them out to the yard after they began...Not a story I wanted Dawny to hear just yet...

Me...The reincarnation of some old girl's of Spike's?...Well, William's?...

Cicely Addams...Not a familiar name to me...

And yet...

And a Slayer herself to boot...

Who'd rejected William in 1880...As a poor man...And a poor poet...

Well, he had told he was killed in 1880...

But so much for his "I've always been bad, baby"story...

Yes, of course I shook inside...And I wanted to cry...And I considered racing to the
shop...Waiting for him...

But...Even if Halfreck was being truthful...

It didn't change anything...

***
Much as he hated sympathizing with the Blonde One, Xander was a leetle startled at my
attitude...

No... "My God, where is he?...This is all my fault..."...Followed by a dash after him...

Just a reasonable...Well...If Halfreck wasn't lying...This is interesting...

Of course, I explained...It bothered me that some version of me might have played a small role in
his condemnation...But how did I know why this Cicely had rejected William...

Maybe it had made good sense at the time...But I refrained from mentioning that...

I know...I know...Tormenting, torturing, and condemning poor Drusilla also had seemed like a
bang-up idea to Angelis in his day...

But I had to come to grips with the whole thing...I'd just been dead, remember...

I did hope...I did that much...

Hope that maybe this meant...There might be something for us...Once I verified Halfreck's story
somehow and got some info on this "Cicely"...

But Xander...And to a lesser extent, Anya...were plainly shocked by my lack of horror and
sorrow...

Will might have been my lover...Well, my past life lover...And I might have condemned him to
his current state...
And...I might be his one hope of escape...

They at least expected a leetle more shock...

But I just pointed out that I'd have to think over what they'd told me...

***
"But...Buffy?..." Anya looks at the Slayer...Looking rather grimly back...

"You do realize...? Halfreck is trying to keep you from saving William..."

I mean...If he can be saved...she notes....

Xander stares a bit at Buffy...A side of her he has sensed, even experienced during her fight
with Glory...When she threatened them all over Dawn...

But...

"You won't try to help him?..." he looks at her...

"I said I'd think all this over, Xander..." Buffy replies, arms folded...

"I...I know you're his lover, Buf..." he stares at her...

"So...You were paying attention back at the crypt the other day, after all..." she notes drily...

Well...He walked on me...she continues...Maybe for the right reasons...

And... "Helping" him...Is not something I can just say yes to and hope for the best...

A voice in her head...You can't deal with this...Not now...He was wise enough to make the
break...It's best to leave things as they are...

You have to reject him...

No...No...

But...Hell, if I couldn't deal with a little thing like the class difference, poverty, and his bad
poetry...How do I deal with Spike?...

She looks at Xander...Whose natural caution on matters Spikean is being to return...

"Xander, you know I have to be careful here...And it's my decision..."

He nods, though a bit reluctant...
Anya however...Though less surprised by my attitude...She'd dealt with a lot of women
confronted with the results of their unfortunate wishes...Was somewhat...

She'd invested a bit emotionally in this little romance while waiting for Xander to come to his
senses...And was still guilt-ridden by her eggs fiasco...

"If Xander hadn't taken a chance with me...?" she pauses...

"You were human, Anya..." Buffy firmly notes...

"I was foolish to get involved with him before...And it was cruel to him..."

If I can't really help him, then it would be cruel to let him hope for something that can never be...

"Then stake him..." Anya looks at her...

***
I blinked...Stake him?...

"You're right...If we can't help him, it's cruel to let him hope..." she replied...

Stake...?

I...Ummn...Well...

"Help him...One way...Or the other..." Anya told me...

You owe him, Cicely...she looked at me...Calmly...

That much at least...

I bridled at that...I owe...Him?...

"Whoever Cicely was...I don't owe Spike...Or William...Anything..." I glared at her...

Look at what you'd have to overcome...The voice in my head went on...

It's too much...

Think of Dawny...You can't pour your life into helping William and care for her...

It would take everything you have left...All your heart...And in the end...

He'd be alone again...Or dead...

Or...You'd be with him...Spike's way...Transformed...

It's too much to ask...However much you may feel for him...

God cursed him...Let God come down and take care of him...

"I'll think about it...But I'll decide what to do..." I told her...

Anya glared back at me...

"I won't wait forever, Buffy..."

If you don't help him...Well...

He's our friend too, now...

And we'll help him...One way...Or the other...

***
They left, Xander swinging a bit back towards my pov...Or what he thought was my pov...

Cruel, you think?...

Buffy, you've been Slaying too long, you think?...And that I was overlooking Halfreck's role
in all of this...?

And maybe...Maybe overlooking Cicely's...My...Possible guilt...?

Maybe...But...

God, what was I supposed to do?...

In the end...What kind of life could we ever hope to have?...

He'd made the wisest decision...Leaving...

And much as it hurt...I had to agree it was the right one...

I let the voice in my head go on...The voice of reason, at last...

It was for the best in any case...Whatever Halfreck did...

Look at what you'd have to overcome...

Look at what you've just been through...What you're going through...
It's too much...And he was the one who made the break, after all...

Even if he seems anxious to hang around and hover...

Protectively?...

I had to smile...And cry...A little...

Angel...Gee the thought never seemed to occur to my "true love" that he could continue to keep
an eye on me...Even if sex was out of the question...

But then...I wasn't Darla's human spirit, after all...

I thought about what Anya had said...It might be true...

The right thing to do might be to end this...Give him peace at last...

There seemed to be only two ways to go...the Gift...

My Gift...A quick death...With considerably more feeling than I usually spare on my victims...

Or, leave him be...To whatever Fate awaited him...Quietly...

That's what I believed...

And yet...? Another voice was screaming at me...

No...No...

There must be a way...There must be...

Couldn't I try...Something?...At least talk to Tara...Check things out by phone with Giles?...

God I wish he was here...

Of course he'd tell me to run...Not walk...Away from this relationship...

Or...Would he?...He never tried to harm Will all that summer...He was even willing to entrust
Dawn and the others to him...

I had to learn more...Especially about...My...Ancestor?...Counterpart?...

Other self?...

For now...God cursed William, not me...Not me...
Let God help him...For now...

I'd start with Tara...

Tonight...

Hopefully I could persuade Anya to let me call Giles from the shop tomorrow...

Not that I wouldn't reimburse her...Later...
***

There must be a way...

And in fact...There was...

Darla...And Wolfram-Hart's little special ceremony...

I'd completely forgotten about it...

Hell, Angel only gave it to me in pieces, after all, when we met...He was too busy telling me
about his bouncing baby boy...And making it clear who the real love of his existence was...
As he kept on, praising her selflessness, that human heart that must have always hung on
somehow, somewhere, that soul that must, somewhere, be watching over their child...

His beloved...Darla...Though he may never admit it even to himself...

And the little he'd managed to tell me about the ceremony and Darla's brief time as human
was scattered among his accounts of dear Connor's birth, Darla's devotion, and her two tragic
deaths...

I was too busy trying to find a way to get out to listen closely...One more photo of Connor...One
more word of Darla praise...And...

Connor would've been my responsibility...

How could I know that Will had learned of it...That he was looking to find a way back?...

Trying to be a man again?...For me...

The Powers That Be are so droll, you know?...

And one day...Spike and I will get them locked in a room with us for ten minutes...

Maybe we'll even invite Darla, Angel, and Dru...

Well, not Dru...Her human spirit's too sweet...She'd be taking pity on them the whole time...
***

"Well...?" Warren looked at Spike...Frowning as they sat in their booth at Willie's...

The bar owner watching them surreptiously from his counter with ferret-like eyes...

Listening for anything...Useful...

"I hear you can "arrange" things...No questions asked..." he stared at the vampire...Then over to
Willie...Who looked away...

Spike nodded...

"And how can a vampire "arrange" anything?..." Mears glared...

I have my little ways...Spike smiled...

Connections, old pal, connections...Make the world go round...

And you boys must be in sore need of cash to support your new "fugitive" lifestyle...

"I'm out of the robot business right now..." Warren eyed him...

No more Buffies on demand...If that's what you're after here...

"Hardly, old pal..." Spike tapped him pleasantly on the arm...

In fact...If you have any other Buffy-bots lying around, I'd suggest you destroy
them...Tonight...

Cause if I find one wandering in your company...Or the boys'...

"You'll what?..." Warren grinned...

Send Buffy after me?...

Whoops...He hadn't meant to suggest such a sensible course of action...

"I know you can't hurt me as long as the chip's screwed in your skull..." he hastily noted...

So no point in threatening me...

"Whether I can or can't personally hurt you and the boys...Is debatable..." Spike smiled coldly...

But it doesn't have to have the "personal touch"...he noted...

In fact, that suggestion of yours about the Slayer...

"All right, all right..." Warren, a tad irritably...

"What are you offering...And what do you really want?..."

My services as your go-between in selling off some of your disposable toys...Spike noted...

"A fair share of the profits...Say 30%?..."

Warren glared...

"Inventions like the freeze ray and my time-warper are not... "Toys"..." he sniffed...

And 30%'s ridiculous...

Besides...he glared at the vampire...

Who would you sell things like that to?...

"My business, old pal..."

But I'm willing to negotiate...

"25% and a little...Assistance..."

"What kind of... "Assistance"...?" Warren asked...

Rather curious in spite of himself...

After all, life trapped with Andrew and Jonathan in their "safe" house was getting rather dull...

"I'm interested in a certain series of spells..." Spike paused...

Proprietary property of a certain well-known LA law firm...

Oh...? Warren eyed him...

Something...Good...? He grinned...

Something...To kill the Slayer, once and for all, maybe?...

"Lets just say...Something that would change her life...Considerably..." Spike smiled...
God, these lads are obsessed with my Buffy...he sighed inwardly...

Pity they didn't get out more before turning to murder...

"I'll talk it over with my partners..." Warren noted...

Sure you will...Spike thought...

"I'll be back...In two days...With a customer waiting to sign...And expecting a demo..."

Try not to kill anyone else before then, he eyed Mears who squirmed a bit...

Like what's her name?...

"Katrina...And it was an accident..." Warren hissed...

I understand...Spike smiled...

I've had nearly 40,000 "accidents" in my career myself...

He watched the pudgy nerd as he went out grousing...

"Wil...lie?..." he eyed the skulking bartender...

You did catch that...Didn't you?...

"He said it was an accident...He didn't say he killed her..." Willie hastily replied...

"But you're willing to swear to what he did say...?"

Yeah, yeah...

"You're a credit to loyal and patriotic bystanders everywhere, Willie..." Spike grinned, passing
over a $20...

"You gonna turn him in?..." Willie looked at Spike...

You...? William the Bloody...Champion killer...Now...Avenger of the innocent...?

He stared at the vampire..

"Buffy have you possessed?...Or cursed...Or something?..."

Or "something"...Spike nodded...

As for turning in our friend and his buds...

"All in good time..."

After they've helped me out a bit...
***

I reached Tara at her dorm...

Told her some of what I'd learned...

Anya'd already called her...Willow too...

And like Anya...She was surprised to hear that I wasn't more upset...Ready to run out and seek
my Will's immediate redemption...

But then she had even more cause to expect it...Knowing better than anyone just how much
William had come to mean to me...

Odd though...I sensed...Something more...

A little something...Personal in her concern for Will...

But then, she was involved in her own rather tormented love affair...

And probably sympathesized...

She was already looking into things...And would do what she could to help...

***
Sunrise...Part V...

What do we owe the people we love?...

Doesn't it depend?...Shouldn't it depend?...On them?....

On their actions...Their characters...

And if they are a "person" at all...

And yet...What if they aren't responsible for those actions?...

Viewed one way...Spike was and is a mass murderer...A monster and fiend...

But it wasn't a monster or a fiend who let Glory torture him...Who comforted me when Mom
died...Who tried to save me and kept Dawny safe...And who stayed...Stayed when "my hero"
was too preoccupied to even check on his dead beloved's sister...Who dreamed of saving
me...And is still trying to, judging by the little eggs fiasco...

Viewed another way...William was and is a trapped soul, fighting to stay alive in horror...
Who's had no hope expect that he might face a Slayer strong enough to release him
someday...Until he found me...And the Initiative, God bless 'em...

Like I told Xander...I had a lot to think over...

As I patrolled later that night after speaking with Tara I went over all that Anya and Xander
had told me...

Over and over again...

Me...The reincarnation of Spike's old girlfriend?...Who'd summoned a "justice" demon and
sentenced him to eternal torment?...

To get him out of her...my...hair...?

But it couldn't be true...I...Even as some nineteenth century corset-laced moron...Couldn't
have condemned Will to eternal damnation...

Over his lack of income, working-class birth, and bad poetry...?

No...No...If the story was true...There must be have been a reason...

A good reason...A sterling one, as they would have said in those days...

"You're...He was...beneath me...?" The words...The words...Popped into my head...Just like
they did the night he told me the barest details of his past

Words somehow even then I knew would tear at him...
...
I remembered...The words...And...The look on his poor sweet face when I saw him fleeing the
house...

My cousin's house....Cicely's cousin's house...In 1880...

Betrayed by the woman he loved...And whom he thought loved him...

Thought?...Knew...And with good reason...

But at this time...All I remembered were those words...And his look...

But...They weren't my words...

Not then anyway...

But how could I have known?...

And even if the reason wasn't a good one...Even if that part of me that had been Cicely had
done an evil, monstrous thing...

How could I help a monster?...

But...If William were still there...And somehow I felt he must be...How could I leave him like
this?...

If he were mentally ill, lucid at times, wouldn't someone who loved him or at least cared for
him try to reach him, seek a cure...Or get him some kind of help?...Or if he suffered from
some debilitating illness, a terrible disability that had made him difficult to deal with, a raging
pain in the butt...Wouldn't someone who loved him try at least to break though the anger and
rage, help him?...

If I cared for him?...And if he could be helped...?

Wasn't I at least obligated to try?...

And yet...I am the Slayer...Can I go round trying to "help" every vamp I run into?...

And anyway, don't I already give the only kind of "help" possible...My Gift...

After all, even Anya had said staking was kinder than leaving him as he was...Halfway between
Humanity and Demonkind...Heaven and Hell...

And I had to be sensible about it...Did I care enough to potentially throw my life away again?...
Was it worth the risk, keeping him around...And in hope?...

Could I bear killing him...again?...Or sending him off, which I knew would be even worse...
Maybe even threatening to his soul itself, assuming the kind of despair he...William might feel...

But I am the Slayer...With all attendant responsibilities and duties to the world...

And of course, my Dawny...

And I have a right to a life...God knows, I've earned it...The hard way...

***
Still...As hard as I tried to be sensible about it...I couldn't quite figure out...Why...
If I knew why I...Cicely...Had rejected him...The good reason that had to be in there, buried
somewhere...I could be firm about it...And quiet the other voice raging inside me...

The one that had been winning out ever since I returned from the dead...

Hell, to be honest...Winning out ever since Willow's little spell had made me think of William as
a matrimonial prospect...And led him to love me...

Or, to remember loving me?...

Ok, it was partly good old vanity...Oh, God...I couldn't be...Couldn't ever have been...That
shallow...

Could I...?

Right, the girl who took a former homicidal maniac as her lover...Twice...An undead former
homicidal maniac in both cases...

With such excellent excuses too...

The first was so tall, dark and cute...Well, at least I found some good excuses later with Angel...

My soulful one...A hero, after all...

And the second...

He loved me...Hopeless as it was...Enough to fight his nature...Even with the demon raging...

And I needed someone, anyone...

But...

Oh my God...Angel...He was looking for human Darla and found me...Heck, I was blonde,
wasn't I?...And had some of that self-sacrificing nature he'd always sensed, buried somewhere in
his poor Darla...

And I...Whatever of Cicely that was still left in me...

Was looking for a vampire...With a poetic soul...

Only mine was still trapped with his demon in control...

Oh, God...

The soul I'd condemned with a single wish...But...
Say, wait...If it really works that easy...?

Worth a try, right...?

"Ok, I'd like Will's humanity restored...And everything else back the way it was before Mom
died...Giles back, Mom alive, me with some hope of a future..."

And, while you're at it...Daddy back with Mom, please...

Oh!...

"And Dawny stays!..."

I'm waiting...

Great...My thoughtless wish is welcome and immediately granted when I kill someone I love
but the PTBs are deaf when I want something nice to happen...

But I had to be sensible about this...

So...I knew him before...What did that prove?...

Maybe I simply hadn't loved him...

So maybe I had a hand in his condemnation...

A compassionate God could have prevented it...

But something told me...I had loved him...

Just as I did now...

But even so...

What do you owe the people you love?...Especially when you've been separated from them
for a century...

At least peace, perhaps...At least that much...And William might be grateful once he were
freed...

Any residual debt paid...Any guilt absolved...

But to let him go...Now?...

I had to learn more...
Proof that Halfreck wasn't lying...How she had condemned Will...

And why I'd...Cicely'd called on her...

But...I didn't think she lied to Anya and Xander...

Hmmn...A irritating thought now crossed my mind...

She wants to "date" William?...

My William...?

God, I hope I was shallower in 1880...

***

But now, someone else was involved...

Someone whose pity for William was taking her in directions she'd never have imagined a
short time ago...

But then...I guess we've all changed a bit over the course of the last couple of years...

Tara had hurried over to the Magic Box the next morning to begin her hunt for ways to
help...And to confirm the demon's claims...

"Mr. Walthrop", conscientious head clerk was up and about early...Prepping for the day's
business...And greeted her warmly...

She couldn't help grinning at the sight of Spike in Randy suit...Eyeing the shop displays with
the keen eye of both a former Cambridge scholar...And a denizen of the underworld whose
use of magics centered on practical tasks...

No need to be all mystical with the stuff for the real users...he noted to Anya...An equally
early-riser...

With a renewed, joyous reason to rush to work every morning...

Besides the joy of putting green paper with the images of US presidents in her cash register, I
mean...

The mystical touches are all wrong for the real stuff, Spike explained to her as Tara watched,
amused...It just makes them wonder if you people know anything about the magics you sell...

But, in her amusement there was sorrow for Will...And a slight, growing annoyance at me...
Where was I?...Why wasn't I here telling Will what I'd learned?...Trying to find a way to help
him?...

She was and is a fair person though...And thinking, asked Anya if I was working extra shifts
at Doublemeat...

"Buffy's working here in the afternoon..." Anya noted...

I think she's working evening to night before Patrol and sleeping in the mornings...

Oh...

"How's it going...?" Anya hissed....

They'd agreed not to mention anything to William until I ok'd it...

Tara was simply looking to avert a possible new menace was all they'd told him...

She shook her head faintly, Spike moving towards them she wanted to avoid a conversation on
the subject just yet...

But he had a request of her...Which he passed on during a lull in the morning trade...

Actually more lulls than trade in the morning...It was a magic shop after all...And a weekday...

"What do you know about Darla's resurrection?..." he asked Tara...

Trying to be causal...A poised vamp/shopkeeper of the world...

Just curious, he noted...

Actually...She'd completely forgotten about it...

After all, I'd only mentioned it briefly when I'd told the gang of Connor and all...

Celebrating her death and recovering from the shock about Connor had pretty much preoccupied
all their minds...

Except of course...For Spike...

"I'll look up anything that's out there..." she assured him kindly...

He nodded his thanks and returned to greet a few browsers...Tara watching him...

The Wolfram-Hart resurrection ceremony...
Probably his best chance...Humanity-wise at least...

A former poet, perhaps...But his years of suffering had left him a practical fellow...

And yet...was it right?...To give him hope?...Not only hope of Humanity...But hope of me...

Still...She'd promised the poor guy...And me as well...

She watched him deftly handling the customers and their questions, more coming in as the day
when on...

All his old Victorian charms...The ones he'd trotted out for Mom on occasion...The one person in
a century who treated him with compassion...

It didn't seem fair...It couldn't be right...He had so much...Soul...In him...

Still, only the chip was holding him back...Or, opening a few chinks in the prison wall to let
William shine through...

That was the image that did it, she told me later...A few slivers of William shining through
into Spike...Was enough to do this...

He must have been...Must be...Quite a sweet and courageous soul, as Halfreck had told Anya...

To have endured all this...Hell, Angel had Angelis driven out...And it took him nearly a century
to reach out to Humanity again...

Exactly when Tara fell in love with William, she couldn't say...but it was sometime that day,
she knew that much...Watching him smile...Knowing he thought he'd now lost me...And yet
clinging on to a fragment of hope...Still trying...

Maybe her compassionate soul just couldn't bear it any longer...Slaying and never
helping...Never even trying to help the creatures we destroyed...Evil ones, sure...But some of
them...So tormented...Like Will...

Somebody...Somebody had to care...She told me later...

***
Sunrise...Part VI...

I got to the Magic Box about 2pm...Tara hard at work in her researches...A somewhat clueless
Willow having joined her and happily joined in the search for info on Wolfram-Hart's spell...

Strictly via computer...Non-magically enhanced computer...

She was happy to be at it...And pleased by the notion that it might help Will...

I frowned a bit at seeing even Willow happily and without reservation committing to helping
Spike...

But then he'd been there for them all summer...She'd always liked him, even...especially,
perhaps...When he came after her and found himself torn between trying to transform and to
console her ...

And she was a leetle guilt-ridden, probably due to fall-out from Tara's concern for him...

Rather wishing now when all was said and done that she'd at least considered cracking a book
or two on vampire redemption during those past months...After all, he'd been trying...And Tara
seemed so troubled by his plight...

She was a tad surprised by my lack of enthusiasm...But took it as stemming from the natural
caution of the Slayer...

Besides...After recent events she would just as soon avoid delving too deeply into things like
my current relationship with the Blonde One...

Anya and Xander were back together...Soon to try knot-tying again...With mucho less fanfare
this time...

And we were trying to do something nice for Spike...Something that might potentially help
Angel...And therefore, depending on how things really stood between the Brooding One and
me, maybe Buffy as well...

Best of all...She and Tara were working together again...Another step on the road to
reconciliation...

All happy signs of the world returning to relative normalcy as far as she was
concerned...So...Why probe into causes?...

***
It didn't take long for Tara to let slip that she did not understand my attitude...Not in so many
words...Just in looks she gave William and then directed at me...

Not, as she told me later that day, that I should be Will's lover... Or should be wringing my
hands in desperation, urging on the research...

But...Knowing what I knew...Even if we had to get confirmation of Halfreck's story...

She eyed me from time to time as William, model head shop clerk, dashed about...

Hell...Look at the poor guy...

At least let him know you cared enough to ask me about helping him...

She even managed to slip in a sharp word or two for me...Well, for Tara at least, a sharp
word...When Willow and William were both away and occupied...And she gave me her
opinion of my attitude...

For God's sakes, Buffy...You're his lover...And neither by spell nor bite...Your own choice...

He needs you now...At least to care a little...

Naturally, in my current state, I was happy to let myself get resentful at her...

If she felt he was so deserving of sympathy...

So that a newly arrived Xander was picking up rather hostile vibes between us by about the
time Willow had to take her leave of us for an evening seminar and library work...

Anya rather too engaged with the heaviest trade of the day to pay much heed, along with her
new head shop clerk...

Whom I couldn't help noticing was attracting considerable attention from the female customers...

To my surprise I realized that Tara, oddly enough, was somewhat annoyed by that attention as
well...

However...My "boss" the "head clerk" had need of my services...And I was soon too busy to
either scowl at Tara or watch her watching William...

Though perhaps a bit pleased to be in position to deflect some of our female customers away
from my "boss"...To keep Mr. Walthrop from being unduly disturbed in his labors...

But there was still something in the air...Which Willow, Anya, and Spike may have been too
busy to notice but which led Xander to eye Tara and me with a ....Guys?...look...

Which we both answered with a shrug and glance at the other...Ask her...

Which a wise Mr. Harris, well schooled in dealing with the strange ways of his lady friends,
studiously refrained from doing...

Dawn arrived, briefly breaking the tension, about six...Homework done, bored...

Looking our Mr. Walthrop over from head to toe and shaking her head...

"Ok...Who are you and what have you done with our Spike?..." she grinned at him...

***
At seven, after quietly cleaning up the shop with Buffy, reviewing receipts with Anya, and a
brief descent to his new digs, Spike emerged in his more traditional attire...

Had a bit of clothes shopping to do...Being a bit threads-bare...He grinned at Buffy...

"Can we go?..." Dawn looked hopefully at her sis...Who shook her head...

Home...Supper...Some quality time with TV...A brief Patrol...And thank God, a night's sleep...
No shift at DP tonight...

"Another time, Nibs..." Spike smiled at her...Looking noncommitally at Buffy...

"Tomorrow, Ms. Summers..."

"Wait, Will..." Tara told him...

I'll come with you...We have a few things to talk over in any case...

He stared at her...

Well...My meeting with my "contacts" is hours away yet...he noted to himself...And if Tara has
found anything...

"A pleasure..." he smiled...

Buffy hurriedly asked to see "the old gang" a mo before leaving...If Mr. Walthrop wouldn't
mind going out for a moment with Dawn...

Geesch...Dawn groused...What's the deal?...

Still...She wanted a chance to get Spike alone...See what she could get out of him regarding all
things romantic between him and her sis...

Spike was pleasant about it...

Some matter too indelicate for us innocent types...he grinned at Dawny...Leading her out...

The door chimed as they left, Dawn still frowning back at her sis...

Well...? Tara looked at the Slayer...

"Don't you think it's better for us to go over whatever you've got...First...?" Buffy asked her...
Xander sighing at the sharp tone...

"I haven't..."got"...Anything...Yet..." Tara replied...Looking evenly at the Slayer...

Nice of you to ask, though...Her own rather sharp reply...But I just wanted to give Will some
company at the Mall...And maybe ask a few questions that might help the research...

"Tara..." Buffy eyed her... "I don't want this to get out of hand...It's all very well for us to try
and see if there's anything we can do for Spike..."

You called me in on this, Buffy...Tara noted...

"And I don't see anything wrong with helping William pick out some clothes..."

I don't think it's wise for any of us to get too close to Spike...Buffy told her...

Tara frowned back...Too close?...You're going to stand there and tell me I'm getting too "close"
to Spike?..she did not say...And did not need to as far as Buffy was concerned...

Anya, now sitting with the others, had caught the hostility between the Slayer and the
Wiccan...And, as always, handled the situation with tact and delicacy...

"Are you two fighting?...About Spike?..." she looked at them...Xander blinking nervously, but
not, for once, with surprise...

No!...They both replied hastily, looking back at her...

I'm trying to warn Tara to be careful...Buffy noted sternly...

"And I'm telling Buffy...I can take care of myself..." Tara replied firmly...

Oh...Anya nodded...

"So...Why are you two fighting about Spike?...Oh!!..." she gasped...

Fighting over Spike...

They both stared at her...Fighting...?...Over...?

"Tara?...I thought you only liked women...?" she stared at Tara...

"Does Willow know?...Does Spike know?..."

Buffy rolled her eyes...Anya...

Actually...Anya...Tara paused...

"I never took the 'gay, now' pledge"...

And...No...Tara looked at Buffy...

"I haven't told Willow...And Spike doesn't know I love him..."

***
Yes, my jaw dropped...

I knew she cared...And was hurt for him by the way I was acting...How I felt...Or pretended to
feel...Nothing for his suffering...

In fact I'd been allowing myself to get rather pissed by her dissatisfaction with my attitude...

But...

I wasn't expecting genuine competition from that quarter...

She...Loves him?...

Loves...My William?...

Oh, God I hope I was shallower in 1880...
***

"Don't be ridiculous, Tara..." Buffy muttered, staring at her...

Feeling sorry for him is all well and good...her voice trailed off as Tara looked back at her
firmly...

Tara...Xander said gently...You're very kind...We understand you're sympathizing with him...
But you didn't know William the Bloody...The way he really was...

She looked at them...

"I know you all think I'm a fool...A sentimental fool but...This is not the same creature you
knew..."

And I am not "sympathizing" with him...

I care about him...And I want to help him...At least help him feel like a human...

She stared at Buffy...
"Buffy..."

"Ever since the chip, we've all felt him becoming more human...As if the chip had opened a
window for him ...And then he came to love you...He saved Dawny and helped us all even
when you seemed gone forever...When it couldn't benefit him...What does that say to you...?"

I'm doing what I can for him...Buffy eyed her...

"Whatever he's done for us, Tara...He's still William the Bloody...Held back only by the chip..."

She paused...

As for loving me...

He wants me dead and transformed...Maybe that's his idea of love...But that's all...

"Maybe there is something alive in there...But that is not our responsibility..."

And you can't handle him...If you get too close to him...It could wind up endangering us all...

"If I get too close to him?..." Tara replied, nostrils flaring...

I see that secret's out...Xander thought...

So Tara knows...And I never said a word...Just like I promised my honey, Anya noted happily
to herself...

"I can handle him...You can't..." Buffy stared back at Tara...

The decision's mine Tara...

"I'm not here today to work for you, Buffy...I came to help William..."

And if you won't help him with me...I will alone...Tara looked at her coldly...

"What about Willow?..." Buffy replied...

I'm not talking about hopping into bed with him...Tara eyed the now crimsoning Slayer coolly...

"But in any case, Willow doesn't need me the way Spike does..." Tara looked at her...

He doesn't stand a chance without someone pulling for him...

"Somebody has to help him...Somebody has to care...Otherwise..."

I'm not letting him go without trying...she concluded...

***
I went out and found Dawn talking to Will about his new digs...

She had mucho ideas on just how to bring that repressed air of menace in him to the surface...

Not of course for killing purposes...It just made for such a neat look...

He was both pleased and a little startled...Regarding me sheepishly...

"Your sis has...Interesting decorative ideas..." he grinned at her...

Still not all that surprising if you're ever seen our Mom's art exhibits...A real artistic
flamethrower underneath that demure suburban homemaker...

A true Slayer's mom...

Tara came out to join Will...I considered reconsidering my previous refusal...

After all...Dawn needed shoes...

"Maybe...We should come along...We need to pick up a few things..." I noted...

So much for our first date...Spike grinned at Tara...

Who eyed me...Carefully...
***
Sunrise...Part VII...

So...There we were...Four happy suburbanites savoring the Sunnydale Mall experience...

Well...Two of us were reasonably happy...

Well, maybe content would be the better word in Spike's case...

And even Dawny's bubbling enthusiasm was a little forced...Being so concerned as to the actual
state of things between Spike and me as she was...

***

I decided to be forthright about it...Protect my unwary, unworldly friend...Who'd fallen
dangerously prey to her natural sympathy...

Sliding up to Spike, I asked my "boss" to give me a moment alone as we strolled...
Tara looked back at us from where she'd pulled ahead with Dawn...

Well aware of what I was up to...But she'd deal with me in her own good time...

And she, like me, felt it was best to keep as much as possible from Dawn just now...

***

"Will...I want you to keep away from Tara..." I told him as we dropped back and pulled over
to an empty corner near a shoe store...Telling Dawn I wanted to check over some bargain
shoes...

A statement guaranteed to make her flee down the hall...

Spike eyed me quietly...

"Ms. Maclauy and I are friends, of a kind...She's protected by the chip and her abilities...I
think she can handle an occasional conversation with me..." he replied evenly...

She cares about you, Spike...And I don't want to see her hurt...Or worse...I noted...

"I have a strange way of not killing people these days, Slayer...Especially people I like..."

You may remember I never harmed Joyce or Dawn...Even when I could've...

"You could show me a little faith, Buffy..." he paused...

But then if you're worried I'll violate the bounds of friendship...You have the solution in your
pocket...he regarded me...

"She thinks she's in love with you, Spike..." I told him...

It caught him by surprise, I'll say that...He stared, then smiled gently at me...With just a touch
of wonder...

A boy's sweet and loving smile...I recognized that smile...From our times together...

Now...And...Back then...Though it was only later I realized that...

Oh...My sweet Will...What have I done?...But the moment passed...I got hold of myself...

"Then I am a very lucky...Unman..." he noted...

He stared down the corridor to where Tara had caught up to Dawn...Eyeing shoes in the Gucci
shop no less...Like sister like sister, I guess...Like hell, with our current budgetary state, I
thought...Grateful, however, for the necessity of shifting back to the here-and-now...

"She told you this...?" he eyed me...

Not going the way I had hoped...I realized...

He seems genuinely touched...And much too pleased...

"She's let herself get all worked up over your "tragic" condition, Will..." I told him...

I won't her make a foolish mistake...

He noted that I had ignored his suggestion for a quick solution...

I glared...If he thought I wouldn't...Consider it...

"I wouldn't hurt her...Or Willow...For the world..." he told me...

Or Eternity...

"You were ready to kill Willow not too long ago..." I pointed out...

"Well...From my old pov, granting the gift of eternal life is hardly...Killing someone..." he
grinned...

But I can see the human perspective a bit better these days...

"Besides it would hardly be fair...I'm in love with someone else...And I know how much it
hurts to be rejected by someone you care for..."

Still...If I had any brains...he grinned...Again looking up the way towards Tara and Dawn...

Enough...I raised my hands...

"Just promise me you'll leave her alone...Outside the times you have to see her..."

"Ms. Maclauy is an adult, last time I checked, Slayer...I'm willing to promise to do my best
not to hurt her...For her sake, though, not yours..." he stared at me coolly...

If that doesn't suit...he waved his hands...

I walked away from him towards the others...Him following, with a sardonic look...

I know cause I watched him from the corner of my eye...While I pretended to stare into the
various shops as I moved to catch Dawn and Tara...
He'd be using this as a club over my head, I knew...Not that Tara loved him...But the way I
acted...

Like some jealous ex-lover...

Like someone whose beloved had slipped away without a word...Without a single damned
word...

Even if I had destroyed his home...

But a song plays in my heart as I walk over...

He doesn't love her...he doesn't love her...

***
Tara had watched Buffy and Spike talking in their corner spot, looking one after the other
down at her and Dawny...As Dawny chatted, looking in the various shops...

Chatted in a nervous way that Tara had realized indicated Dawn's own nervousness regarding
her sister and Blondie...

She looks at her friend...Poor kid...She's been through so much this year...

Including coming into existence...she thinks wryly...

Buffy had broken off from Spike and was moving up to them...Dawn taking on a look of
profound interest in the Gucci shoes in the shop window...

Tara looks back down at Spike who is now beginning to follow after his Slayer...

What did she say to him?... "Keep away from Tara?..." "Keep away from me?..." Both,
probably...

God...What is he supposed to do?...she thinks...

Heck, I know what she wants him to do...Stake himself...Or just go way...Vanish for her like
he did in 1880...

When Halfreck did the dirty work for her...

Lucky Buffy...Lucky Cecily...To have a service like that at her beck and call...

But a price must be paid at the end...Wonder what the PTBs charge you for condemning an
inconvenient lover for all eternity?...

Still...A man she must have loved dearly in 1880 to love so much in spite of everything now...

I know she does...In fact, I love him in no small part because she loves him so...And is so
terrified to let him know...

And he still loves her...All that's happened to him...And that much of Will has survived...

Drawn back to his Cicely like a magnet...

But if he knew what we know?...And knew that in spite of it she's still not ready to help him...

He'd still...will still...Go on loving her...I know that too...Which is why...

Oh, God, Will...What a soul you must have...

***

Looking at the Guccis seemed to be having the desired effect on Buffy, Dawn noted to herself
as she continued staring at the insanely priced shoes...

Sis was breaking away from her beloved and coming up after them...

What had she said to him?... "Why did you leave?" ...Or was it "Go away"?...

Poor, poor sis...So much in love...So fearful...

God, why did it have to be Spike?...

Why couldn't You give us a cure for him?...

Why do I have to be in the way?...

Still...She doesn't have to accept total responsibility for Will now at least...

There's someone else besides her "justice" demon ready to take him off her hands...

She eyed Tara, looking down at them...If anyone had told me a year ago that Buffy and Tara
would both be in love with William the Bloody within a year...
***

She hadn't meant to ferret out Tara's little secret...She'd just been looking to unburden herself
about poor Buf...

Buffy had told her that Tara knew about her feeling for Will...So she'd felt ok mentioning her
concerns as they walked...
"I wish Buffy could treat him a little better...He's so lost..." was all Tara responded, looking
back at him...

Odd...Dawn had thought...I should be relieved...Potential salvation at hand...Who kinder or
better than Tara to help poor Will?...Free my poor sis from this terrible load...

But my first thought was...She loves our Will?...My Buffy's Will?...

Looking at sis approaching....Eyeing Tara carefully as Spike watched and followed her...my
second was...

So...Thank God, Buf knows...She'll deal with her...Nobody takes the Slayer's beloved...

"Poor Willow"...A very distant third...

She couldn't help looking down and grinning at the Magic Box's new head clerk...

You're one lucky guy, Spike...Condemned thing not withstanding...
***
Sunrise...Part VIII...

So...It was a very pleasant evening at the Sunnydale Mall...At least for William the Bloody
aka Mr. William Soames Walthrop, head clerk of the Magic Box...

Watching Tara and me eyeing each other...Enjoying it thoroughly...

Well...He was full of sympathy for Tara at least...

And clearly appreciated her regard for him...Regard, which he now knew, thanks to yours truly,
had reached a whole new level...

For her...He was the perfect Victorian gentleman...So much so that he was now even cautious
with me...Ever anxious to protect dear Tara from any embarrassing scenes...On the part of his
jealous ex-lover...

I could believe Willow's story now about how he'd turned suddenly from menacer to comforter
that time in her dorm...

Heck, to be honest...Hadn't he comforted me time after time?...

He eyed me firmly from time to time as our reunited group strolled on down the Mall corridors...

Don't upset her...His look said...

I frowned a little back...Heck, wasn't I the one who told him to back...But the song played on
in my heart and when he turned away, I smiled at him...

Drifting into a reverie...

He always was so kind, my Will...It never surprised me how sweetly he treated Dru...No part
of him ever blaming her...

But, he was always that way...Poverty and hardship never left a mark on him...

The sweetest soul I ever knew...From the first day I met him, when Cousin Henry brought him to
the house...It was always there in his eyes, that sweet soul...

I came back to the Mall with a start, looking around...Thankfully the others hadn't noticed me
zonking out...

But now I knew...Guess I'd been turning things over in my mind since Anya told me about
Cicely...

I didn't need to corral Halfreck for the truth, though I still had as many questions as ever...And
intended to get answers...

That was the first time I clearly remembered 1880...

***
It didn't take long for Tara to see from Spike's manner that Buffy had said something to him
about her...

He was clearly anxious to treat her with consideration...And obviously grateful for her feeling
towards him...

Kind fellow, that vampire...

Sadly, however...It was equally clear to her his feelings would remain the same...But then the
love he'd somehow retained for his Cicely had lasted beyond the grave and more than a century...

Hardly likely he'd change in an instant...And she wouldn't have wanted him to...

Still, practical matters...She was going to help him if it was humanly possible and honestly
wanted to get more info from him for her efforts...

Turning to speak to him, she caught Buffy wanly smiling at him...Lost for a moment in her
thoughts...

Tara blinked...And sighed...Well...I was right...

Thank God, the Wiccan thought, generously...But with some considerable regret...

She still loves him...No doubt about it...

Just terrified for what it means...And may do to them both...Poor kid...

Well...she sighed inwardly...Hell, it would've been awful if all his struggle to keep something
alive for her sake had been for nothing...she thought...

***

Buffy blinked, shook herself, and moved over to Dawn...Beginning a slightly confused
conversation about shoes...

Dawn staring at her as she babbled on...Something about the way a true lady is judged by her
shoes...

Must never reveal too much of the ankle...

Fortunately, Spike and Tara hadn't heard her...

"Spike...?" Tara asked him...He swinging back to look at her in turn...

"I had some questions about your transformation...Anything you might remember..."

"Of course..." he smiled... "But..." he grinned a little sheepishly... "Not much to tell there..."

Poor Dru caught me making a bad turn in the street and that was basically that...he shrugged...
Smiling gently at her...

"Buffy..." she called back to the Slayer...Who looked up at her, still a bit out of it...

Dawn, a leetle worried, kindly refraining from taking Gucci advantage of her somewhat spacey
sis...Who at least had stopped with the etiquette of shoes lecture...

"Spike and I are gonna take a little break and sit...I have some questions for him...Can we catch
up in a bit?"

Buffy nodded...Staring a little at Spike...Hesitating...Clearly a hair reluctant to leave them...

With a question of her own on her lips...Many in fact...

But it was Dawn who asked to join them...Brightly...

Well...Tara thought to herself, sighing slightly...She is part of Buffy...
And I suppose any little sis would look out for big sis' romantic relationships...

Buffy, however, having gotten a bit more of a grip, now insisted they continue the shoe
hunt...And a reluctant Dawn followed her down the hallway, looking back from time to time
at the two now sitting at a small table...

Not that she wasn't relieved to see someone else taking a little of the pressure of the Blonde One
off her sis...Just...

She'd kinda like not seeing all that pressure lifted...

***
"How did you summon Halfreck?..." Buffy asked her sister abruptly as they moved out of earshot
of Tara and Spike...

Summon?...Halfreck?...

Dawn...Buffy glared...

"Honest...I really didn't do anything" Dawn noted..."All I did was call for her..."

You want to talk to her?...Dawn asked, a little eagerly...

About Spike?...she eyed Buffy curiously...

"I need to speak with her...Alone..."

Well...Why not just call her?...Dawn replied...A tad miffed at the exclusion...

I did...Buffy regarded her sister...The other night, back home...

No dice...

She paused, eyeing Dawn...

"Maybe...You could try for me..." she hesitated...

Sure...Dawn grinned...No problemo...

The Key to the rescue...she wisely did not say...

Buffy glared again a bit...But her anxiety won out...In equal part with embarrassment...

"I just need to talk to her...And just this once..." she looked at Dawn, a little pleading creeping
in...
Absolutely, Dawn nodded...A one-time special occasion...she noted, trying to make it easier...

Alone...Once she comes...Buffy insisted...If she comes...And just this once...

Gotcha...Dawn agreed...Her pleasure at being an essential part of the team on this one
overcoming her mild grouse at not getting to stick...

After all, the important thing is that Buffy gets the low-down on Will's condemnation from
their "justice" demon...she thought...

And I'll get it out of her later...

Dawn bent her head to look back down at Tara and Spike, still talking things over at their table...

And motioned Buffy to follow her through corridor doors to a blocked-off, empty exit hallway...

She hesitated, looking at her waiting sis...Hmmn...

Only done this once on my own initiative, you know...she thought...

Well...? Buffy looked back...

"I'll give it a shot..." Dawn nodded...Pausing...

But...I don't think she comes unless she feels like it, she noted...

And when you're not around...she added...

"I kinda think she's scared of you..."

She oughta be...Buffy thought...
***

I got Dawn to put in the call for her demon jinn...Knowing it was a mistake to give Halfreck
any opening in our lives...

But after what I'd just experienced...And what Anya and Xander had told me earlier...

I had to know more...

Dawny of course getting quite the kick out of being the "summoner"...Dragging me to an empty
closed-off hallway and then insisting I let her call to the "justice" demon in private first...

Hmmn...I frowned...My sis is getting much too much into these occult things...And beginning
to get too good at it...
Smart at that I guess...No need to have a demon popping into the middle of the food court...

But after this...No more personal conversations with guardian demons... "Justice" or otherwise...

And at that I told her to call me right back to them if and when bulging veins girl appeared...As I
moved off down the hallway, watching and fretting...

God, how did Mom ever handle all this with me?...

***
"Bit of an obstacle that..." Spike noted to Tara as they sat...

They'd begun discussing the Wolfram-Hart resurrection spell...

Which Tara had little real info on but which seemed, if Wesley's report to the Council via Giles
was accurate, to require the initial death of the subject...Or destruction, if one considered the
vampiral form...

"It's some kind of soul summons, Giles seems to think..." she noted...Along with a regeneration
pretty similar to what Buffy experienced...

And could be pretty chancy...

"But Darla came through..." Spike pointed out...

Only to die a short time later, Tara replied...

Maybe of more or less natural causes...Maybe not...

And soul summoning is tricky...Tara looked at Spike...

You could wind up with your demon in a chip-free human body...And your soul booted out to
limbo for good...

"Odd to think a year ago that would have been my whole plan..." Spike grinned at her...

Tara stared at him a bit...

"Spike...Do you feel...?...Do you have any sense of your demon and soul as separate?..." she
asked...

At least since the chip?...

"I've never felt like a schizoid man...Mind split down the middle, soul versus demon...If that's
what you mean..." he responded...
"But...You have felt different over the past couple of years?..."

Sometimes...he nodded...

Sometimes no different from when I was slaughtering happy meals by the dozen...

He eyed her ruefully...

"I won't lie to you and say I live in an agony of remorse...Or that I even feel grief for the folks
I've chowed down on...I took what I needed then and survived..."

But sometimes?...she began...

Yeah...he nodded...Sometimes, these days...Usually when I'm with you lot...Or the Slayer...I
almost feel...That I'm a man again...As if it's me...Back...

Then I spend time with Harris and thank God I'm a vampire...he smiled...

She grinned back...

Sweet lady...he thought...God, you're a fool to let this one slip by Walthrop...Well..A fool for
love, that's me...he noted to himself...

God, how to handle this one...Letting the human girl who cares for me down easy...

Poor Dru and dear old Angelis were never much for instructing their offspring in how to deal
with difficult social situations...

Fortunately it's generally easy with Buffy...I say the first rude or crude thing that pops into my
head, she whacks me silly...I keep firing them off until random chance and luck lets me say
something that touches her...

And she smiles at me...Or laughs...

Tara needs a somewhat more delicate touch...

***

"Dawny..." Halfreck happily beamed...

Oh...She eyed Buffy who'd hurried back to them at the demon's appearance...Hand moving to
clutch her pendant...

"Wait, Halfreck..." Buffy told her...

I need to talk to you...

"She won't hurt you..." Dawn assured her...

'Sides, you've got your pendant thing...she noted...

Well...Halfreck looked sideways at the Slayer...

"I can't promise I know the answers to your questions..." she told Buffy cautiously...

Or that I'm allowed to answer them...

Give us a mo, Dawn...Buffy turned to her sis...

***
A somewhat tentative, even nervous Spike remained as attentive to his companion as to the
talk of resurrection spells...

He was grateful for her kindness in trying to help him, he stressed to her...

William the Bloody...Desperate to "let me down easy"...Tara smiled inwardly at Spike as
he carefully directed the conversation away from any discussion of his relationship or lack
thereof with Buffy...

He'd do his best to be worthy of the effort she was making, he noted...And her friendship...

"Just don't give up, Will...That's all I ask..." she told him...

After all, you do have something to shoot for...she noted...

She does care, you know...She's just afraid...Tara looked steadily at him...

He stared back...

"Thank you..." he said simply...

"I do have a question, though..." she looked at him...

Did you know that Halfreck?...And how...?

Spike eyed her...And sighed...

"Yeah...I know Halfreck..."

***
"You summoned me as Cicely Addams in 1880..." Halfreck was explaining...

Buffy stared at her...

Well...Halfreck paused...Not a deliberate, "come forth demon and smite" kind of summoning...

You were desperate...Confused...And D'Hoffryn heard your pleas...Sent me to you...

You being the Slayer and all...He took a special interest...

And...At your request...Halfreck insisted...I dealt with him...

Dealt with him...Buffy thought...But before she could bring herself to ask...How...Another
thought tore at her...

"I was the Slayer...If I have gone after him, I could've saved him..." Buffy stared at the demon...

"But you didn't..." Halfreck smiled...

You see...It wasn't meant to be...

You knew it then...And you know it now...It's just impossible...

"I wanted to love him..." Buffy paused...Struggling to remember...

But he was so gentle...So helpless...I couldn't have him around...He'd of died in an instant...

I'd pushed everyone else away...To protect them...

It seemed like the right thing to do...It was what my Watcher had warned me to do...But...

"You couldn't do it that time...So I came..." Halfreck smiled...

And did it for you...

"No...I couldn't have asked for that..." she glared up at the demon...But there was pleading in
her voice...

I couldn't have wanted him dead...And condemned...

No...Halfreck agreed...It was just a lucky accident of fate...

And clear proof that it wasn't meant to be...

Buffy moved up on the demon...Who backed away, clutching the pendant...The Slayer waved
her hands...

I'm not going to hurt you...she told her...But...

"Can you reverse it?..." she looked at the demon...

Reverse...?

"Make him human again...?" Buffy hastily explained...

Ummn...? Halfreck stared at her...

***

Well...? Dawn eyed the Slayer as she opened the doors from the corridor where she'd been
speaking with the now vanished "justice" demon...

Aren't you gonna tell me anything?...her look said...

Apparently not...Judging from Buffy's frown...

Buffy motioned her to a store as she looked back to her...Dawn came to a shocked halt...

Payless...? She looked down to the others for help...Too preoccupied...

No hope of rescue...A pleading look to sis of no avail...

This the thanks I get for helping you?...she eyed Buffy...

But big sis was unrelenting...

"In..." she waved her...Knowing exactly what lil' sis was thinking...

"We're on a budget, Dawn...And some of the shoes here are perfectly fine..."

Affordable...

That dreadful word...Both sisters involuntarily gulping...

***

Sunrise...Part IX...

In spite of Dawn's best efforts, Buffy kept mum about whatever she'd learned from the "justice"
demon...
On the other hand, she caved a bit on the shoes...Raising the budget bar a notch...

So we have a couple Doublemeat days a week for the next month...Some things are just a
necessity, Dawn thought...Clutching her new shoes...

Tara and Spike hadn't noted their brief disappearance down the closed corridor and Dawn took
Buffy's hint to say nothing...

But she'd hadn't promised not to recall Halfreck later, she noted happily...To herself...

***
Tara was preoccupied in any case...Pondering what Will had told her...

Halfreck had known Spike before he emerged on the world trapping William within...Not all
that surprising...Demons spend a lot of time in Hell, waiting for Fate or their human
counterparts to offer them an opportunity, and usually return there pretty quick, what with
Slayers on their backs and all...

She'd put herself forward with D'Hoffryn to take the Cicely Addams case in 1880...Maybe
something to do with knowing his demon, maybe not...Though all he knew for sure courtesy
of Spike was that Cicely had called on her...What she did for her...He didn't know...

He'd encountered her on occasion since, her seeming rather eager at times to get
together...Assuming she'd played a role in disrupting his love affair and possibly his past life,
he'd avoided her...His demon apparently having no particular interest in contacting her...

"You never asked her...?" Tara had stared at him...

Whatever she did...It was at Cicely's request...he paused...

"I didn't want to know..."

Hopefully...It was nothing more than bucking her up to face me...And drive me off...

I'd rather not think she'd of wanted me dead...he eyed Tara...

"Anyway...Water under the bridge, long ago...Over and done with..."

What's the curiosity?...he'd smiled...

You don't know...? Tara had stared at him...

Ms. Maclauy...?

"Vampire here, Miss...Not a telepath..." he'd grinned at her...
"Spike..." Tara paused...Gently taking his hand...

"Buffy Summers is Cicely Addams..."

***
A relief to be back in with the dark and seedy, Spike thought as he entered Willie's...The
evening's Mall experience safely behind him...

Might as well be human again already...He was already back in the stream of relationships
that made up was it was to be a member of normal human society...

Trying to deal with Buffy and her changeable moods... "Get lost, Spike"... "Tell me you love
me, Spike".... "We're through, William"... "Why did you leave, Spike?".... "Stay away from
Tara"...was hard...And painful, literally as well as spiritually...enough...

Not to mention little Miss Kleptomaniac...Who thankfully had been focusing on Buffy and her
disastrous romantic choice tonight...Watching them like hawks all evening, he'd noted...

Add in the care and consideration of gentle Ms. Maclauy's feelings and facing some group of
underworld types or Warren Mears and his pathetic trio was a cakewalk by comparison...

He even had a boss to keep happy now...And her small-brained husband to finally be...

So much easier when Dru was his only concern...

And to top it all off...Tara's little bombshell...So...He hadn't found a new love after all?...

Buffy...His Slayer nemesis...And now beloved...

Cicely reincarnated?...

How'd he "feel about it"?...Tara had asked him...Fortunately she'd immediately realized the
foolishness of what she was asking, empathetic person that she was...

Oddly enough though...In thinking it over, he wasn't surprised, really...

That "you're beneath me..." crack...

Just too much of a coincidence...

And lets face it he noted to himself...I've been waiting for Cicely to show up all these years...

Just as Angel waited to find Darla in human form again...Not quite consciously, of course...
Just somehow knowing she'd reappear one day...

A lot to assimilate...And so it was a relief to return for a bit to the far more simple murky
Sunnydale underworld...Where the rules were straight-forward...Trust no one, take what you
can get...

But hell, even this little escapade was all for the love of Buffy...Cicely...

Humanity and its burdens...he sighed...

Still...He had to admit...He'd deal...Happily...If the damned Powers That Be would just grant
him a half-decent chance...
***

Well...? Spike eyed a sniveling Willie coming over from the bar...

"Did they make contact?..." he asked in a guarded voice...

"I saw a coupla of guys..." Willie nodded...They came in...

The same ones as been sniffing around town for months...On and off...he noted...

Government types or whatever...he eyed the vampire cautiously...

"I dunno if I like it...Ever since that damned Initiative closed down, ones like them've been
snooping around..."

Any idea as to who they might be...? Spike looked at the bartender...

Who...? Willie looked back....I told you, G-men types...Guys in Black...You know...

"Any particular government?..." Spike frowned at the little barkeep... "Did they speak with
accents?...Or were they all-American boys?..."

After all 100% naturalized American vampire here...Can't sell off these superweapons to just any
dictatorship or terrorist group...Only Americans, allies, or American-backed fanatics need
apply...

They spoke English...Looked American...Willie fidgeted as he answered...Coulda been from
anywhere though...

"Maybe this ain't a good idea, Spike..."

I mean...It's one thing to be messing with the powers of darkness and the forces of Hell...

This might be the US government...Those boys don't fool around...

Maybe we do business and they cut our throats to keep us quiet...he hesitated...

"No big concern on my part, Willie..." Spike grinned... Once you've died the first time, the thing
loses its sting...

But don't worry...I'll look out for you...he assured the little barkeep...

So...What did you tell them?...he eyed Willie...Who squirmed a bit...His nature...Both to squirm
and to hold back...

"Just like ya said...You have some stuff they might be interested in if they've got the cash behind
them..."

Did you give them my name?...Spike smiled at him...

I just told them to come by tonight...In the alley off First, past Herr St...Just like ya told me to...

They want you to call first...Gave me a number...

"Willie...?" Spike regarded him...Coolly...

The barkeep winced...

Ok...I had to give them a name...Something to let 'em know I wasn't some nutcase.

You know, a name like Will the Bloody opens doors...he grinned feebly...Fidgeting nervously
again...

"It's fine...Just as well they know who they're dealing with...But...Did they leave any info behind
about themselves?...You mentioned a number?..." Spike leaned over the bar, peering down at a
small hill of papers...Some old tabs, but mostly Willie's eavesdropping notes...

Never know when a chance overheard conversation might prove profitable...

And "the Snitch" must keep in form...

"Just this...Their contact number's on back..." Willie put a small card into the vampire's hand...

"Forestry Service?..." Spike looked at him, blinking...Willie shrugged...

You did tell them this was a weapons deal...? Spike eyed the bartender...Looking over the card...

"I'm not selling endangered species this week...And I'm fresh out of demon eggs..."

Course I told them...Willie frowned...
Hell, would I mess with government types for pennyanny stuff?...

Spike turned the card over in his hand and grinned, looking at the name and phone number
scrawled on back...Their contact man...

Well, well...Who'd of thought...?

***
Mr. Walthrop, head clerk of the Magic Box, took up a waiting position at the alleyway he'd
designated as the meeting place for his "contact"...

Not, perhaps, the first person he might have chosen to meet up with for this transaction...But
fortunately one who knew the Sunnydale situation and enjoyed the confidence of his superiors in
the "business"...

And one who could be expected to take Buffy's position in all this into account...

***
A tall man in black approached the waiting Spike...

He paused to glance around, obviously scanning for any possible eavesdroppers...Spike shaking
his head in amusement as he pulled out a high-tech scanner of some sort and checked it
carefully...

"Good evening, Mr. Finn..." Spike grinned at him...

***

"Is this really on the level, Doctor?..." Riley sighed...

"Cause I was called away from a preety damned important mission for this...Not to mention
having to leave my wife behind..." he frowned...

"Believe me, mate...You are the last...Well, next to last person...I ever wanted to see again..."
Spike noted...

But...Business is business...And it seems your bosses wanted somebody who knew the score
and me on the scene...

"An invisibility ray?..."

"I remind you...I said over the phone it could only be used for brief periods before permanent
damage may set in..."

"I can't believe the US government is talking to you after the eggs' incident..."
Well...Spike noted...You only knew their half of it...

"If you'd just asked me why I had them...Instead of bringing Buffy into it and strutting around
my crypt like some fire-and-brimstone preacher..."

It was still a violation of God knows how many laws, regulations, and rules...Riley noted...

Not to mention...Common sense...And those things were killers when born....

"They weren't supposed to be born...They were supposed to be dead...I treated them just as I
was told..." Spike replied...

And their use was supposed to be strictly medicinal...

"Like I believe that..." Riley frowned...

Harris and his twice-dumped, third-time's-the-charm-bride vouched for me, didn't they?...

I also can't believe they could have been so stupid...Riley noted...

"Getting mixed up in something like that...And trusting you, of all unpeople..."

Harris?...And dear Anya?...You can't believe they'd be that stupid?...Spike grinned...

But as to practical...We'd have made a fortune as well as having prevented your ferocious friend
from hatching her eggs in some secret lair days before you lot could've tracked them down...

"Except that your boiling of them didn't kill them and then you let them warm to room
temperature..."

"Can I help it if Anya got boiling time wrong...And my fridge went bonkers?..."

I had a hell of a time stealing them away from the mommy, you know...

Riley frowned at the little blonde fellow...Comfort as it was to know he could bash the helpless
vamp's face in anytime...It imposed certain unfortunate restrictions on behavior...

"How did you even reach my superiors?..."

"They came to me, mate...Or rather put it out in town that the good ole US government was
interested in anything weaponish that came up the Hellmouth...And ready to pay, no questions
asked..."

Looks like they want a return on their investment in the ole Initiative...he grinned...

"But..." Spike eyed the agent...Ridiculous look for a meeting like this, mate...Not to mention
poor style...All black...Please...?...With burglar's hood, no less...Hell, why not wear a sign,
CIA/Military Intelligence here?...

"If you have qualms, lad...I'm sure the grocery clerks back in HQ will send in someone
else...Maybe that rather nice Missus of yours..."

Riley grabbed his arm...Rather grateful for the valid reason to punch the little fellow out...

"Keep Sam out of this, Spike...For your own good..." he hissed...

Lets get down to business...he sighed...

"I assume you're not contributing this device free of charge to your adopted country..." he smiled
sourly...

"Well...If it was simply me involved, Joe...I'd wave the flag and hand it over...However, there
are others to be taken care of..."

He looked Riley in the eye...

Including the lady we've both let down...

"Does Buffy know about this?..." Riley looked back at him...Starting to pace a bit...

Of course not...Spike glared...

"What do you take her for...Some corrupt government hack?...Or a scheming, power-mad
member of the Council?..."

"But she...And the Nibs will benefit...If we can arrange things properly here and Anya and Tara
can help me work out a way to get it to them..."

We thought maybe Tara or Willow could arrange a letter from the good ole Council, concerned
about Buffy's future and all that...he explained...Wanting her free to continue her work
unencumbered by financial concerns...

Noble fellows that they are...Excepting old Giles...Who did pick a grand time to kick her out of
the nest...

"Like they'd ever give a damn..." he smiled at Riley... "Knowing it's her nature to put her ass on
the line for Humanity without a dime in return..."

Riley paced a bit more...Having looked steadily at the walls of the alleyway a few times as
Spike mentioned Buffy's plight and lack of reward...or help...
He stopped as Spike finished describing his plan to ennoble the COW...At no cost to them,
bastards...

"All right...Does the thing actually work?..."

In the way I described, yes...With those drawbacks I mentioned...Spike replied...

"And the inventor?..."

Secret...Spike smiled...

"Can't divulge my source...Bad for business, you know..."

"But he also has a few other toys up his sleeve...Likewise available for the right price..."

Amazing the effect of the Hellmouth's energy on some people...he noted...

The inventor would probably have trouble adding two numbers together anywhere else...Here,
he's a supergenius...he grinned...

Riley sighed...But somehow, unbelievably...He believed Spike was trying to help the Summers'
girls...

And he'd done damned little enough that way himself...He thought, ruefully...

Spike watched him...

"Look, Riley...You've spoken to the Harrises...If you still don't believe me on this...Talk to..."

I did...Riley nodded...I spoke to Tara...Though I didn't tell her about our little transaction...

"I don't do things like this without as complete information as I can get..."

She believes in you...Riley eyed him...Says you've been protecting Buffy and Dawn since
Glory...

Even when Buffy...Died...

"What I'd like to know...Before we go further...Is...Why?..."

"I'm in love with her...You already knew that..." Spike told him frankly...

Riley nodded...They both tensed as a footstep sounded...Human, Spike hissed...

It stopped...The person passing the alley obviously halted...Perhaps to peer down...They both
instinctively scrunched against the brick wall of one building...No one in sight...

They waited until the step resumed and passed...

Riley resumed the whispered conversation...

"Not hard to imagine...Loving Buffy...But why as a human?...Why not kill her and transform
her?...Tara told me Buffy's not protected anymore by the chip..." he looked steadily at the short
vamp...

"Buffy never needed the chip to protect her from me..." Spike grinned...

Tara said you'd had chances...Passed on them...Riley noted...

"I used to think that was what I wanted..." Spike paused...

After all, even if she cared...I'd lose her to age and dust in the end...

But...I couldn't bear to see her that way now...I won't let her go that way...he eyed Finn...

"Helping her now is one way to avoid it, Riley...She's been desperate at times these past
months...Not seeing any way out...Hell, she'd have married you if you'd come back
unattached..."

He paused to throughly enjoy Finn's brief wince on that one...

Even the Brooding One let her down he resumed...Picked a fine time to reveal that Darla was
the girl for him all along...

Riley...he pleaded...If no one helps her...One of these nights she'll give up...

I've seen it...Hell, I've benefitted from it...

"Please..." he begged... "Help her..."

God knows, soldier boy you owe her...

"I know I do..." Riley agreed quietly...

But...How can you love her that much?...he paused...Staring at him...

"This can't all be the effect of the chip..."

"Mate..." Spike paused... "If I knew the cause and reason, I'd have had them cut out or yanked
months ago..."
I love her...That's all I know...

"It's her soul, isn't it?..." Riley looked at Spike...

"You're aiming at her soul..."

It caught him by surprise...He hadn't quite worked it through but...

Spike nodded thoughtfully...Yes...

"I hadn't really thought it through..." he told Riley quietly... "But I think you're right...After all,
the only hope I have is if she and what's left of William meet...Someday..."

"Yeah...That's why I couldn't do it...When she was with me in my old place...I'd win only a
demon...If even her demon would stay with me...And lose any hope of Buffy...In Eternity...
The only place where it counts, in the end..." he smiled at the man in black...

And lose my chance to regain Cicely...If it's really true...And she has come back...he thought...

Looking for me...

Even if she did take some side turns on the way...eyeing Riley...

Riley stared at him...William the Bloody...Ready to wait and hope until Judgement Day for his
beloved to smile on him...

Poor guy...he thought, involuntarily...

"All right..." he sighed... "Bring your "ray gun" and any other little toys your "friend"'s got...To
Anya's shop on Friday..."

I'll make an evaluation and we'll see what we can get out of Uncle Sam...But, Doctor...he smiled
thinly...

"If the others are wrong about you...Or if you let Buffy down..."

Get in line, mate...Spike grinned...The list of folks who'll kill me if I fail to toe the line or let our
fair lady down is ever-growing...

"And includes me..." he noted...

***

Well...? Warren eyed Andrew, just returned to the trio's "safe house"...

Or "Fortress of Semi-Solitude" as Fearless Leader Mears preferred to call it...

The trio...or "guys gathered to be colossal pains in my butt" as Buffy would have called
them...were grouped about their basement workroom...

Jonathan more nervous and depressed than ever...And carefully watched by the other two...

Not the time to develop an adult conscience, man...Poor Kat's gone and won't be back...

But he couldn't quite manage to move on...

"Spike met some guy...Looked like a cat burglar or something..." Andrew noted...

"They didn't see you?..." Warren asked...

Nah...he grinned...The ole ray held up fine...

"But it looks like Spike is on the level..." he went on...

"I slipped in close enough to hear the guy mention payment if the stuff checks out..."

What about the guy...Government, foreign, demonic...? Warren looked at him...

"He's some military intelligence guy...Finn? I think Spike called him...?"

Actually, he knows the Slayer...Andrew grinned...

Better and better...Warren nodded...

Jonathan pulled his head up glumly at that...

"Why don't we just take what we can get from this guy and get out of this town?" he asked...

"Johnny, my man...This is our best chance to deal with the Slayer once and for all..." Fearless
Leader smirked...

Look...It's her now...Or us...And it's not gonna be us...Warren insisted...

And we are pledged to rule this town as its crime lords...We're going nowhere...

And William the Bloody?...Jonathan eyed him...

Together with the Slayer?...

"Spike's being there is essential..." Fearless Leader grinned...
Our hold on the Slayer...Her greatest weakness...

Vampires...Especially chipped ones...Are such fragile creatures, really...he noted...

Besides...We'll be uniting them...Forever...

"They'll die a very romantic death..." Warren giggled...

***


Sunrise...Part X...

Fragments, not whole pieces...Random bits of memory that somehow had stayed with me...Or
with Cicely...Were slowly starting to surface...The more I learned of my past life...

I walked the length of the Mall with a Dawny desperate to know what I'd ferreted out of our
"justice" demon...Bought an end to her questioning looks by letting her out of a "Payless
Shoes" experience...

A brutal threat, yes...But I wasn't ready to deal...Let alone discuss...

Fortunately...Spike and Tara had wrapped up their business and he was making a quick run into a
couple of stores before heading out...Previous important engagement...

More kitty poker, no doubt...I thought irritably...

And not even stopping to talk to me...Or let me pass on what he'd bought, I noted to myself
with bizarre annoyance...Despite the fact that he was the last person I needed to see just right
now...

Still...I'd be willing to bet he'd be playing for me...For me and unknowingly for...

Well...I suppose it stands to reason a female "justice" demon would know a little obstetrics and
gynecology...

And I had to believe her...She'd been as shocked as me...And rather...Annoyed...

Just like...She'd sighed...Eyeing me...Frowning...

In a century when birth control is readily available, Halfreck had shaken her head...

So...It goes without saying that I was in no mood to discuss what my demonic friend had told
me...Hell, I didn't even want to think about it...

Course...It did occur to me even in my shock that Halfreck seemed a tad...Jealous...After sensing
my little bundle of joy...And terror...

Maybe her motives were not purely dutiful here...All the more reason to be calm and think things
through...Rather than run screaming down the hall like I initially wanted to...

But in all of that fear, repulsion, intense need to barf, and serious desire to take one more pound
at my Blondie...I hafta say...There was just a little...Wonder and joy...

If only I could tell him...I did think that...For all of a crazy half-second...But...

"Looks like I don't get the walk home..." Tara mildly joked as Dawn and I returned to her...

Blondie has a pressing engagement, she noted...Said to tender his regrets and thanks for a
delightful evening...

Phew...I thought...

I can't deal with him just now...Too much screaming around the ole noggin...

Of course...Thought popped up...Involuntarily...

Sex sure would be nice right now...God, could I use the tension release...And that corridor where
I met Halfreck was still empty...

Hell, just to have him hold me for a minute...

Right...And in that minute let him know my "joyous" news, perhaps...?

Not the way to go just now...Even if the worst was already done... Cruel to restart the thing...

Though he was the one who'd left...Without a word...

And equally cruel to tell him...Especially before I'd made a decision...

However...he had been talking to Ms. Macluay for a while...I was understandably curious on
that score...Even if unwilling to divulge my own information...

And I needed Tara's help...Cicely's memories were coming too slowly and in too small
fragments...I needed some way to pull them together...And get answers even my "guardian
demon" couldn't...Or wouldn't...Give...

I also needed to talk...Well...Put my head on someone's shoulder and cry...

Like Will, I'd sensed something of Mom in Tara...And this was emphatically not something for
Dawn to hear about, let alone comfort me on...

And well...yeah...The jealous ex-lover kinda wanted to know how that first "date" had gone for
Tara...

However much she claimed to be kidding in calling it that...

It didn't occur to me that he seemed to be anxious to avoid me in his turn...

Though did I mention?...It did miff me that he was heading straight off without saying good-
bye...

Again...

And this time I hadn't given him cause to go...

Just when I had such interesting news...I thought irrationally...Looking down the main corridor
where he'd gone...

News that I couldn't possibly tell him...I pulled myself up short again...

Couldn't...Possibly...I noted firmly to myself...

Hey...A hopeful thought occurred to me...Maybe that's what really happened...

Maybe I...Cicely really didn't do anything...Maybe Will just ran off that night...Late for a poetry
reading or something, courtesy of Halfreck messing with his watch or the nearest clock...

Yeah...Sure...

After all, anything was better than asking myself the real questions...

What the hell I was gonna do now?...Carrying William the Bloody's baby...

Why had I allowed the death and condemnation of the man I...Cicely...loved?...The father of her
child as well, I'd gathered in part from Halfreck's annoyed "Just like..."...In part from
my...our...own surfacing memories...

Or the buried question I refused to let surface...

Was it all happening...Again?...

***

"The Leader of the Order..." Travers paused... "Is one Fryn..."
He passed a sketch across the table and over to the silent man sitting across from him...

Rupert Giles...Who eyed the sketch a bit wryly...

Hardly a menacing type, this one...Can't be more than five feet tall, he noted to
himself...Otherwise your typical vampire demon in work face...Rather ridiculously sweet-looking
even in demon face...

Dear Quentin is up to something...Bringing me here to discuss this little fellow...

"Don't let his appearance fool you, Rupert..." Travers leaned back in his armchair...

The Order is powerful and well-organized thanks to him...And ready to take advantage of the
coming opportunity...

Giles looked back at the Chairman of the Royal Council of Librarians and Library Scientists...
Or Council of Watchers to those in the know...

"You didn't have me called in here over this fellow, Quentin..." he smiled...

We barely consulted over Glory, let alone the countless other world-destroying menaces and
maniacs Buffy faced back in Sunnydale...he quietly pointed out...Waiting...

Travers watched him, pressing his folded hands to his chin...Smiling faintly...

"It is a serious situation, Rupert...And I want the best on the job..."

Giles took in the room...Large, with carved dark walnut paneling...A huge and cheery fireplace
burning brightly...Oriental rug, priceless no doubt...And likely a trophy from some passed
Slayer's victory...on the floor...

And they say the Watcher's life is without reward...he teased himself silently...

He smiled over at Travers...

"You want me back in Sunnydale in order to win back Buffy Summers' services..."

Travers smiled back noncommitally...

"You'd need her help, that's certain..." he eyed Giles... "And judging by her actions recently,
she needs her old Watcher..."

"What Buffy needs..." Giles paused...

"I can't give her..."
I see...the Chairman stared at him...

"Then perhaps I should open negotiations with William the Bloody?..."

He certainly has her confidence these days...And more...A slight leering edge came faintly into
his voice...

Giles frowned...He had missed that one coming...Despite all the evidence of Buffy's growing
affection even before her death...

"To return to Sunnydale now would set Buffy back in her development...She's trying to
overcome a resurrection, Quentin...If she isn't forced to resume a normal life...On her own..."

Hard to do that if she's sacrificed by the Order...Travers smiled...

"Buffy Summers can deal with vampires, sir..." Giles frowned at the Chairman...Pushing back
his glasses...

Generally...I'd agree with you, Rupert...Travers nodded...

"But there have been developments...Both by the Order and their allies..."

And in her...

"We've monitored her and her relationship with William the Bloody from a distance..."

Naturally never considering the possibility of sending her some assistance in the form of a lucky
lottery ticket or forgotten deceased relative leaving her a few quid...Giles thought...

Just waiting for the moment when she'd be desperate enough to agree to any terms and
conditions you set...Bastard...he noted to himself...

"That surveillance has yielded some rather interesting information..." Travers continued...

"It appears your "little girl" has had a past life relationship with our friend William...And is
currently pregnant by him..."

Never thought I'd ever get to see Rupert Giles drop his teacup in shock...Travers thought, well
satisfied by his bombshell's effect...

"A ticket on the 11:00 pm flight to Los Angeles is waiting for you at Heathrow..." he smiled...

"But, first, as to the Order and its Sunnydale allies..." he resumed...

No...Giles frowned, standing abruptly...
This little fellow can wait...He pushed Fryn's dossier and sketch away...

First...I want details on this "past life"...Proof of...he paused...What you've told me about
her...Everything you have ever held back from us on William the Bloody...And all possible
information on human-demon...Matings...

After I'm satisfied there, I'll discuss this "vital mission"...he eyed Travers...

***

"I've spoken to Halfreck..." Buffy told Tara as they sat...

Having sent Dawn to fetch sodas...

Tara nodded, listening...

"She didn't tell me much..." Buffy paused...

"Don't trust her too far, Buffy..." Tara looked at her...

She has had dealings with Spike in the past...Her interest in you is not just carrying out her
"job"...Or whatever we choose to call it...

"I know..." Buffy eyed her... "That's why I need to get more info...And confirm what's she
telling me..."

I've been having...Memory flashes...

Cicely's memory flashes...she looked at the Wiccan...

"And there's more..." she hesitated...

Tara stared at her...

Dawn was on her way back, having done her soda run in record time...Anxious to miss nothing...

They saw her coming...Buffy casting a cautious look at Tara...

"Can we meet later?...At your place, maybe before Patrol?...Say ten, maybe?..."

Sure...Tara nodded...

Thank you...Buffy looked steadily at her...

She's prettier than I realized...she thought...And so kind...
He told her things about Halfreck...Maybe he does like her...

Oh, God...I am jealous...At a time like this...I'm jealous of William the Bloody...

Please, please let it be the hormones...Buffy thought...

"Hey guys...?" Dawn came up...Clearly eager for details...

"Dawny picked out the nicest shoes..." Buffy noted, smiling faintly...

Tara nodding...

Dawn frowning and rolling her eyes...Guys...? C'mon...

She and Dawn left a few moments later...Dawn visibly sulking at the lack of fresh info...

Buffy stared back at Tara as she left...Honestly intending it to be another "thank you"...

However...Tara saw it also carried another emotion...

Uh-oh...Got a feeling I'd better not invest too much emotional capital in my relationship with
William...Tara thought...Sighing...

But...If this means what I think it means...I am glad for him...If we can help him...

After all, like Will...I'm a hopeless romantic...And a fool for love...Tara noted...

But the sly thought couldn't be kept down...She was only human, after all...

Buffy Summers...The Slayer...Is jealous of me...?

Me?...

***

It was true that Violadus Fryn, Leader of the Order of Saint Vitulus...Patron "saint" of
vampires...Was not exactly the "menacing" type...

But as he himself often reflected...Many evil things come in small, unassuming packages...
Look at the Anointed One...

Though he hoped to have more success than that ill-fated child...

And unlike the grandiose, bellicose past foes of the Slayer...He operated in shadow...And
with patience and care...
Making the most of any allies he came across...Unlike a egotistical loner like Angelis...Or the at
least somewhat more practical William the Bloody...

The underworld had suffered many a defeat at the hands of the Greatest Slayer of All Time...Her
reputation now immeasurably enhanced by the defeat of the goddess Glory...And the rumors of
her return from the grave...

Hell, she even had fans among Sunnydale's underdwellers now... "That Buffy Summers...Gotta
hand it to her..."

And running into the Slayer had become the excuse of choice for any and all failures...

"Well...See...We ran into The Slayer and..."

But...We'll get her next time...Maybe...

All of which contributed to a new-found sense of caution among her adversaries...And an
opportunity for a quiet, methodical planner type like Fryn...

He finally persuaded his compatriots around the world, but most importantly in Sunnydale to
study, rather than headlong attack, the Slayer...Act as his eyes and ears until a true and well-
thought out plan of action could be formed...

One that would take advantage of the coming crucial opportunity...

And as he expected...Enormous dividends were coming in...

The Slayer had human enemies...To his spies, ridiculous ones...But he respected human
science...While his own career had taught him it was best to overlook outward appearances...
And over time he'd learned they possessed some remarkable skills...

And seemed equally dedicated to the Slayer's destruction...
***
Anya and Xander had chosen to pay a late call on the Summers...Just in hopes of catching them
after their Mall experience with Spike...

Just a causal call...Not wanting to pry of course...

"So..." Anya brightly smiled...Sitting with her newly regained beloved in the Summers' living
room...Seeking the right conversational opening...

"Did you and Tara come to blows over William?..."

Honey...Dawny...Xander hissed...

"Sorry..." Anya twisted to look at Dawn who eyed her...

"I meant...Did you both hit Spike tonight?..."

For valid reasons, of course...

More of those eggs or something...she paused...

So that's where those scars on Will came from...Dawn eyed her sister...

"He behaved himself..." Buffy replied coldly...Glaring a bit...

"Buffy spoke to your friend, Halfreck.." Dawn noted...With bright innocence as her sister
directed a glare her way...

Oh...Anya stared at Buffy...

"What did she say?..."

She confirmed some of what you and Xander told me...Buffy eyed her...Frowning...

But Xander noticed a trembling...

Buf...? he thought...

God, if that "Horrorfreck" has upset her...

"But she didn't care to stay and answer a lot of questions..." Buffy finished...

"Haly was always the impatient type..." Anya nodded...

"What did you guys tell Buffy?..." Dawn looked at them all...

Geesch...I've seen a zillion demons and nearly been killed lots of times...Can't I be trusted with
one little bit of...? she groused...

"I'm pr-pre-pregnant..." Buffy burst out...Sobbing as she desperately hugged Anya...

"Oh...Honey..." Anya hugged her...

Xander and Dawn stared at her, mouths open...Same thought...

I just wanted to know a little more about the Halfreck thing...

Did not need this much info...Really did not...
***
Buffy and Anya had vamoosed to the kitchen...Buffy in deep shame mode had begged Dawn
not to follow...Apologizing so sincerely and tearfully...For everything...Dawn couldn't bring
herself to grouse...

Xander took up a standing position in the hallway between kitchen and living room...Utterly
uncertain as to what to do...

Hopeful that it would involve staking Spike...

The sounds of sobbing had settled down...Xander was edging towards the living room...Not
quite off-duty yet...

Dawn flipped channels nervously...And stared in shock at the TV...

Xander looked...Holy...?

"Hey, guys!..." Dawn called...

Guys?!...

The ladies reluctantly emerged...Buffy red-eyed and puffy but looking a hair better...

Anya concerned...Helpful...But clearly pleased for once to be "comforter"...

She looked at Xander...Good?...her look said...

Excellent...he nodded...But...Buffy...His quick glance said...

"We're going over to Tara's..." Buffy began...

I need to...she paused...

Look at this...Dawn interrupted, pointing at the TV...

"Dawn!..." Buffy frowned...

That's an adult cable channel after 10...

"But look..." Dawn insisted...

Whoa...

A even more dopey and morose-looking than usual Jonathan sat in a chair...To the
accompaniment of Warren's voice-over ...
"Sunnydale guys?...Are you bored?....Are you lonely?..."

Well...Your suffering is over...

A rather dim-looking young woman entered the room...And plastically smiled for the camera,
sitting in Jonathan's lap...

Buffy...

"It's the bot..." Dawn looked at Buffy in horror...

God I hope so she thought...

Sis has been so desperate for cash recently...

Buffy blinked...Anya blinked...Xander blinked...

"Sugar and spice may make a girl nice..." Warren's voice went on...

But ours are durable for a life-time...

The bot raised an arm and pressing her wrist, caused the magnetic seam to separate, exposing
the internal arm structure...

"A artificial woman designed to your demanding specifications..."

They all watched in horror as the bot obligingly demonstrated her "specifications"...

"How the hell...?" Buffy whispered in shock...

God...she closed her eyes...I know how...He gave my "specifications" for that thing to that
piece of...

On the other hand...Thank God...Something to take my mind off...

Hmmn...Looks like I have another good staking reason...Xander thought...

Still...He eyed Anya who was eyeing him...Can't really say if it's a valid reason for
termination of our head clerk...In all fairness, he'll probably help to hunt the little geeks
down now...

And Buffy hasn't said she how wants the vampiral father of her child dealt with...

"Call now...And place an order for the woman of your dreams..." Warren's voice intoned...

Strangely...Jonathan did not look any happier with the bot in his lap fervently kissing him...

"Did anyone get their number?...Xander?..." Buffy asked quietly...

Me?...Why me?...Xander looked at her...

***
Sunrise...Part XI...

Much to her surprise...Slight dismay, considering Buffy's earlier request to visit...And secret
pleasure...Tara had a different visitor at ten pm than the one she'd expected...

A rather embarrassed Spike...Who, after pacing round her place for a good fifteen minutes
following his meeting with Agent Finn, had finally decided "what the hell?" and knocked...

A call from Buffy just before his entrance...Requesting an hour or so's grace...Allowed her to
offer him a few minutes...

The news she'd given him...About Cicely...Had thrown him, he confessed...

Was there any way...? he hesitated...

To be sure?...Tara finished...

Well...Difficult...Without Buffy's consensual participation...she paused...

But was it likely Halfreck would lie about something like this?...

Besides...To be honest...Buffy had told her she'd started having memory flashes...

"Ummn...Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned that..." she paused...

Never heard a word...Spike grinned a moment...Then cautiously asked her...

Clearly bracing himself...she noted...

"How did she?..." he looked at her...

Take it?...Tara finished...

Well...she sighed...

"It's an awful lot to deal with Will...Especially this year..."

Don't ask too much of her too fast...Give her time...Tara told him gently...
He eyed her...A very kind lady...Joyce...And Mum...Reborn...

"Ummn...Tara..." he looked sheepishly at her...

She put up a hand...

It's ok, William...I understand...

"It's very nice of you to be so considerate of my feelings..." she smiled...

I do like you Will...she grinned wryly...Guess it's the romantic in us both...But I'm fine...she
nodded...

No damage done...And no intentions of contacting Ms. Halfreck in a fit...

"Actually it's Willow who's probably getting the bad deal here..." she looked down...

But anyway...Like I said...I can't do much about proving the reincarnation without Buffy's
consent...

She looked at him...

Should I tell him?...she thought...The poor guy's so desperate for any crumb of hope...No...It's
Buffy's...Cicely's...right to tell him that she did...does love him...

If even she realizes it...

"What about Cicely?" Spike stared at her...

Is there any way to find out...What happened to her?...

"It might give a clue as to the truth...If she was really a Slayer for instance..."

Hmmn... "Wealthy socialite found with throat torn out in maniac's den"...Tara thought...

Do we really want to look up that kind of a headline...?

Or...Maybe more likely...

"Wealthy socialite celebrates 50th wedding anniversary to...fill-in suitable mate..."

Still he's so anxious...And it might confirm things...At least provide info Buffy will want as
well...

Best of all...We don't even have to use magics...
"Well...If you really want to...We could try using Willow and Giles' stuff for net searching back
issues of the Times...They go way back since they put the microfiche stuff on disk..." she noted...

***
Selling sexbots...On adult cable channel 340?

With my copy as the demo?...

God, those morons must be getting desperate for cash to pull a stunt like that...But odds are I
wouldn't have ever seen their damned "commercial" if Dawn hadn't gone flipping channels
where she shouldn't...

Gotta get that channel block installed...

I asked Xander to call the station...As an interested consumer who somehow missed the
number...

Of course it would be some general telemarket thing...But at some point one of our little rascals
would have to call in or better yet, stop by, and collect orders, if any...

If worst came to worst we could always order one...And grab the delivery boy which ever one of
them it was...

Hey...I kidded...Maybe we could order a Riley-bot...

Cleverly avoiding the Spike-bot option...

Not that I fooled any of them...

The guys seemed surprised at how relatively calmly I took it...A copy of me in the nerds'
hands...Making out on cable TV with Jonathan...Fortunately for my dear Jonathan not beyond
a little passionate necking and minor lap dance...Life in prison can't compare to what I'd have
done to him otherwise...

But...Compared to my current situation...Pregnant by Spike and revealed to be his former
beloved from 1880?...Piece of cake, I assure you...

And I did say...Relative calm...

It was actually good to get the blood pumping over the thought of ripping Warren apart...Forget
about the real problems of life for a while...

Besides, the thought in the back of my mind...Might be nice to have the bot around to help
out...If and when...

"You suppose she's the original?..." Xander eyed me... "Just repaired?...We never did find the
torso when Spike and I went back to get it..."

Probably I noted...Hardly likely Warren would go to the trouble of making a new one if he could
just slap the old girl back together...

Hell, she was half cannibalized from April in the first place...

Anya however had her own questions...

"What kind of girl will you be ordering, honey?..." she asked...

Ummn...Never...thought...about...it, sweetheart...he wisely replied...

"Any ideas...?" he asked brightly...

The Powers That Be are clearly smiling on Xander Harris this year...

***.

The brief obituary of one Miss Cicely Addams...Died six months after William's tragic
disappearance...Cause of death...Politely unmentioned...Survived by grieving parents, etc...

"Dead...Just six months later...?" Spike looked at Tara...

These are microfilmed from some of the old records of the London hospitals at that time...Tara
pointed at a second open window on the screen...There's a hospital record for a young woman by
that name...Rushed in as an emergency...Day before the obit appeared...

Deceased in childbirth...Mother of a baby girl, stillborn...

Tara felt William trembling next to her...Unable to look at him...

"I didn't...I didn't know..." he stammered... "I stayed away from her...After..."

She never told me...If she even knew then...

He stared at Tara...

"That must have been why..." he paused...

"You see...In those days...It was a big..."

I understand...Tara nodded...He was barely able to go on...

All these years...And he never knew...

"But why didn't she tell me?...God, she must have kept it...After I died, she decided to keep
it...you think...?" he looked at her...

"I'm so sorry...I'm sorry Will...I shouldn't have..." she felt his hand and finally looked at
him...And saw the tears starting down his face...

"Thank you, Tara...I wondered...Oh...God...If...I had...Known..." he paused, unable to go on...

My...poor...Cicely...

"Will...Will...It wasn't your fault...You couldn't have helped them..." Tara murmured gently
taking him in her arms...Rocking him as he sobbed...

Finally mourning his century-dead baby daughter...And her mother...

***

Andrew held the freeze ray at the ready...Jonathan, a fire extinguisher filled with holy water
strapped to his back...Crossbow in his hands...

Like I could use this thing...he thought...Sulking...

Fearless Leader Warren had requested a conference with his new "friend"...The newly arrived
to Sunnydale Violadus Fryn...

Odd...Nerd humans pairing with nerd vampires, one of Fryn's devoted assistants noted to
herself...

Not meaning to defy her sire and lord, of course...Merely a statement of fact...

After all...Despite his patient and tolerate nature...Those who truly defied Fryn learned
quickly...Often at the hands of their closest but sadly, well-paid friends...That a small nerd with
power, wealth, and connections can wield a surprising amount of wrath...

Hell, look at Bill Gates...And he's nothing compared to milord...she thought loyally...

Up to now they'd only communicated via intermediary...But both leaders felt it was time to
coordinate their activities...And size each other up...

Little geek...each thought...Eyeing each other...

Still, as geeks...Respectively human and vampiral...They also could sense unique abilities in
each other...
"My dear friend..." Fryn began expansively...

So good to finally meet you and your compatriots...

"This is the time for like-minded humans and the underworld to unite in common cause against
our adversary..." he smiled...

O...K...Warren eyed him...

Strutting little Napoleon isn't he?...he thought...

"Lets be clear on this...Mr. Fryn..." Warren replied...

"We are the crime lords of Sunnydale...In this town the Trio holds sway..."

Once the Slayer is dealt with of course...

Fryn nodded...A vampiral leader with consideration and above all, respect...

Former minor Mob accountant, after all...The one who'd lost Al Capone's tax records in fact...
And suffered for it...Dreadfully...

Though that was all water under the bridge...He'd more than paid Al back with the help of a
female vampiress and her bloodborne illness...

But he retained a sense of the proprieties...A local leader must be treated with respect in his or
her territory...

"Of course Mr. Mears...My people have been instructed along those lines...And have followed
instructions, I trust..." he eyed his local staff...

No problems so far...Warren nodded...They've been very helpful in getting us what we need...

"Well..." Fryn smiled... "As to the current situation...The coming ceremony offers us a golden
opportunity to destroy Ms. Summers once and for all...By pooling our efforts against her...Our
victory is certain..."

"Just what is this ceremony, anyway?..." Jonathan put in...Nervously...

Ah...Fryn grinned...Visibly enthusiastic...

Let me tell you the story...he began, waving a hand...An assistant unfolded a chair...

Nothing the boss likes better than to give a history lesson...his female assistant thought...

Hope we don't have to kill these creeps...she eyed the "Trio"...

All that fat and oil...After all...We are what we eat...

"The ceremony began with the ancient Druids..." Fryn explained...

When first a sect of them summoned the dark forces through the Gates of Hell...

Cute little guy, Andrew noted...Make a great Xmas toy...

***
Sunrise...Part XII...

A returned Willow was perturbed to find Dawn and Xander nervously scanning adult cable
channels...

Ummn...Guys?...she stared at the screen...

It's ok...This is research...Dawn murmured at she flicked channels...

Yeah...Xander nodded in agreement...Research...

We're trying to find the nerds...he explained...

"On cable channel 340...?" Willow eyed them...

Whoa...Dawn blinked at the screen...

Anya does that much better Xander thought...

"Where are Buffy and Anya...?" Willow asked them...

And why are they letting you do this?...she thought...

"Tara's..." Dawn told her, continuing to flick through channels...

Holy...her eyes bulging...

Not even the sight of a "zillion" demons had prepared her for that...

"Ummn...Maybe you better let me keep checking for the commercial, Dawny..." Xander
nervously...

Great idea...Dawn looked at him blankly...

"I'll go make some cocoa..." she nodded... Blinking as she walked into the kitchen...

Some lines into adulthood I can wait to cross, she thought...

"It's not all like that, Dawny..." Willow called to her...Turning to Xander...

"Xander...What the hell were you thinking?..."she hissed...

He explained about the nerds' little "commercial"...

"Didn't get the phone number and couldn't reach anyone at the cable channel's phone number
tonight so we thought..."

Bad thought...Willow glared at him...

Very bad thought...

Buffy asked us to find the number...he finished lamely...

She frowned...

But...Why did they go over to Tara's?...

"Something about Will...er Spike..." Xander explained...

"Tara's found something?...About the resurrection spell?..." Willow looked at him...

Well...Not exactly...See...

Anya had a talk with Halfreck...Who had some interesting news for Buffy...And they had a talk at
the Mall later...

Halfreck...? Willow stared at him...

The maniac vengeance demon had "news" for Buffy...?

But the real news...Is ...Xander paused...

Hmmn...Did Buffy really want this spread around?...he pondered...Oh well, too late now...

Still, might be best to leave it to her to tell Willow...

"Hey, guys!..." Dawn called from the kitchen...

Giles left a message on the machine...
"He's coming home...For a visit anyway..."

"Is that the news...?" Willow grinned at Xander...

He emailed me tonight...I got it on the library computer when I checked...

"Did Xander tell you Buffy's pregnant by Spike?..." Dawn asked, emerging from the kitchen
with a thermos-ful of cocoa and mugs...

"Like I said...The real news..." Xander smiled wanly...
***

Tara had suggested to Will that he leave before Buffy and Anya came over...

Neither party in this relationship quite ready to deal just yet...

"Will you...Let me know...?" Spike looked at her...

If Buffy lets me, Will...Tara looked back...

But...I will promise not to tell her anything we learned tonight unless you agree...

"Might be a bit much for her at that..." he nodded ruefully...

Best to wait on it I guess...

Well...I'm off...he smiled...

"Will..." Tara called to him as he reached the door...

She does care...Whatever she may say...

"And so do I..." she paused...

"Will...?"

"What a beautiful little girl she must have been...If the soul was anything like her father's..."
she finished...Smiling at him...

"Thank you..." he paused... Hand on the knob...

I don't deserve it of course...But thank you...

"And for..."

She nodded shyly and he was out the door...William the Bloody, family man...At least in
Heaven...she thought...

With regret...

***

"So.." Warren summed up Fryn's dissertation...

"We provide you and your people access to the Slayer...You destroy her...And her little
playmate..."

A delightful fringe benefit...Fryn smiled...He leaned forward in his chair anxiously...

"But can you do it?...At the specified place and time?..."

We can...Warren smiled back...

We've practically got William the Bloody in our grip now...

And once Spike is in our hands...So is Buffy...

She loves him that much...? Fryn stared...

Human hearts move in mysterious ways...Warren noted...

But she'll come for him...I guarantee it...

Jonathan frowned...Andrew giggled...

"A pity about William..." Fryn shook his head...

"He was such a magnificent killer in his day..."

Love brings out the worst in people...he sighed...

But...He and the Slayer will make an excellent joint sacrifice...Worthy of the ceremony...

"Well..." Warren eyed him... "Just have your people standing by on Friday...We'll do the rest..."

"Excellent, Mr. Mears..." Fryn nodded, rising from his chair...Taken immediately by an aide...

"I look forward to many long years of mutually beneficial association with the Lords of
Sunnydale..." he smiled....Waving his followers on and following them out...

Do we trust this guy?...Jonathan came over to Warren after Fryn was out of sight and earshot...

Of course not...Warren eyed him...But we deal with him after Spike and Buffy...

We deal with the vampire king...After killing the Slayer?...Jonathan thought...

Somehow I see a flaw in the logic there...he frowned...

So...? Andrew came over...

"He seemed nice...But..."

He looked at his partners...

"Buffy and Spike are a couple?..." he asked...

Andrew...Warren sighed...

We've been following them for the past two months...Fryn's people watching them as
well...We've all seen the video and audio tapes of them together...

"Hell, why do you think Spike is trying to raise so much cash so quick...?"

"Well...I thought they were just friends..." Andrew explained...

***
Preg...nant?...Tara stared at Buffy...Who glumly nodded...

By Will?...

Yeah, yeah...Buffy shook her head...

Anya patted her shoulder...Still happily retaining her "chief comforter" role...

What?...Buffy eyed the Wiccan...

"Nothing..." Tara smiled wanly...

Just caught me by surprise...That's all...

Me too...Buffy looked down...

So...History does repeat itself...Tara thought...

"I need to know more about Cicely...And about...This..." Buffy told her...
Hmmn-hmmn...Tara nodded...Yeah...I can see that...

I know wouldn't want to find something hideous crawling around in there if it was me...she
thought...

Still, Angel's Connor came out ok...So far...Tara noted to herself...

And I'd prefer an additional source besides Halfreck...Buffy went on...

"So...You two won't be fighting to the death over William?..." Anya asked brightly...

Not tonight...Tara smiled...

Hmmn...Good thing Cordelia moved to LA...Buffy thought, eyeing Anya...

***
"Buffy!..." Willow practically hopped out of her skin as I came in the door with Anya...Just after
midnight...

They told you...I eyed a sheepish Xander...

Dawny having wisely chosen the path of discretion and vamoosed off to bed...

"What are you gonna do?...What did Tara say?...Have you told Spike?"

Don't know...

She's gotta get prepared...We'll try something...In private...Tomorrow...

No...And no one is gonna...I stared at her...

She paused...Looking...

"Buffy..." she closed her eyes, shook her head, pursing her lips...And stared at me...

It will be ok...she took my hand...

"Will..." I hugged her, bursting into tears again...

How could I have been so stupid?...I whispered...

We'll get you through this...I promise...she whispered...

What am I gonna do about him?...I pleaded, still whispering...

"We won't let him hurt you..." she said firmly...I'll find out how he got this hold over you...
And deal with him...

No...I pulled back...

Willow...Don't...You haven't?...

"I love him, Willow...Don't hurt him..."

She stared at me...Buffy?...

"Did you order your robo-girl yet?..." Anya whispered to Xander as they watched us...

"Waiting for your input, honey..." he wisely replied...She nodded happily...

"Oh...Buffy..." Anya called over...Pleased to have some good news at last...

"Xander says Giles is coming home...For a visit..."

Some new menace rearing its head, so the Council is sending him...she smiled brightly...

Oh...God...Giles...

Any other time...Glorious news...

Just right now...Oh...God...When he finds out...

Just like when Papa found out...the thought popped in my head...

***

I insisted on making at least a quick Patrol...Alone...

Had to have some quiet time...And terminated any long-winded speeches by my victims rather
harshly...

Naturally...I turned a corner and...

"Well..." Spike eyed me...

Fancy meeting you here...

"Go away..." I told him...

This is not the night to pester me...
"Just wanted to see if you needed any help on Patrol..." he smiled...

I'm fine...Go away...

"Just looking out for the Nibs' interest..." he noted...

Friendly concern and all that...

Besides...You're an employee of the Magic Box now...he grinned...

Tell him...A traitorous voice cried out inside...Will...We're...

"Will..."

Ummn...

"Have you heard?...Giles is coming for a visit..." Brightly...

He frowned...

What?...I stared at him...

"Why is he coming?..."

Oh...I waved...The Council wants him to check on me...There's some new vamp scooting
around...

He stopped...

And began a rapid-fire interrogation...Who?...How many in the group?...Why was the Council
concerned?...Why was Giles concerned enough to come back?...Is this one powerful?...Where
is he?...What's his plan?....

I coulda kissed him right there and then...But...Heck?...Had somebody told him?...I chose a glare
instead...Dammit if Xander or Dawn said a word...

"I can deal...And if I knew who and where...I'd be there now..."

I want to talk to Rupert when he gets here...Spike insisted...

I...Can...Deal...I groused at him...

Thank you, William...I told him a tad more graciously...

He eyed me...Seemed to be thinking something over...
"Let me help you, Cicely...Please..." he looked at me...

***
Sunrise...Part XIII...

So...He knows...Buffy eyes him...

No point in "Cicely?...Who's...?"...I guess...

He doesn't look at her directly...Choosing to begin scanning for anything "out there"...

But clearly...Waiting...For her reaction...

"I am not Cicely, Will..." Buffy looks at him...

Whoever I may have been back then...

However...She can't help...

"But I guess you weren't quite the "always been bad, baby" guy you led me to believe..." she
grins at him...

He sighs and shrugs...

"Would you have believed William the Bloody that night...Telling you what a nice gentlemanly
little fellow he once was?..."

She frowned...

But it slips in...In spite of her resolve...

"You were always...Different...William..." a faint smile...

"Cicely..." he turns to her...

Buffy puts up a hand...

"I'm sorry...I shouldn't have..."

"I know you've been remembering Cicely, Buffy..." he pauses...

Tara shouldn't have...she frowns...

"It makes no difference Spike..."

"It makes all the difference...Cicely..."

You have to see that...If you've started to remember...he begins...

"There are things you don't know...About us..." he takes her hand...

She pulls away...

"No...Enough...I am not going down that path, Spike..."

Cicely Addams is long dead, William...I'm sorry...she looks at him coldly...

"Sorry...Again..." he looks at her...And nods...

All right...he looks away...

"You made the break back at my crypt...I've respected that..." he says slowly...

But at least let me try to help you...And maybe...Someday...

He pauses...

"Then we could talk again..." he stares at her...

If only in the afterlife...

***
I watched him standing there...Don't do this to him...A voice called within me...

Don't do this to yourself...

But Tara and Willow...? If they find something...?

Like what?...Angel's curse?...

And what about?...

But I already know what I have to do there...And to tell him...Or even let him find out...Is just
cruel...

I've got to end this now...Get him to go...

For his sake as much as mine...

But...Something was holding me back...Cicely's love and concern...Or remorse...for
William?...Maybe...

My love for him?...Possibly...

But a big part was simply a jealous... "I suppose Tara will cut right in with tea and sympathy..."
And, hell...Nobody cuts in on the Slayer's boyfriend...

"Just let me help..." Spike continued...

I have good references...he smiled...

I shook my head...

"Will..." I paused...

The girl you loved is gone...

Whether she loved you or not...She's gone...

And telling me the details is not gonna bring her back...

"How did ole Henry make out with finals...?" he suddenly asked...

He was worried...I replied without thinking...

Kind of you to ask William...I smiled...

Whoa...

"Dammit, Spike..."

He grinned...

"Your cousin Henry was the best friend I ever had, Cicely...I'm very glad I never thought to look
him up after..."

I glared...

"I'll see you at work tomorrow, Ms. Summers..." he smiled...Cutting off any further discussion as
he strode on...

Sure to double back and continue following me I knew...

My sweet Will...Damn him...No...I thought hastily, looking for Halfreck...

No more damning...Especially of William Soames Walthrop...

My poor Will...What am I gonna do...?

He didn't deserve this fate...And he doesn't deserve to suffer...When I do...The only thing I can
do...

But I can't kill him...Even if it would be releasing him...

Thank God...Giles is coming home...

Even if he is gonna kill me when he finds out...

Wait...A...Minute...

I broke it off?...At the crypt?...

And he's "respected" that?...

What the...?

***

At 7:15 am the next morning, the buzzer at Tara's rang incessantly...

"Willow?..." Tara looked at her as she stood on her doorstep...

"Hi...God, it's good to see you and the old place..." Willow smiled...For a second...

Then, striding in, she glared at her...

"Just what the hell is going on with Spike and Buffy?...Why the hell didn't you tell me?..."

Who the hell's this "Cicely"...?

Ummn...

Good to see you too...Tara replied...
***

"Not a word..." Dawn looked at me...Nodding...

Mum as the grave...

Just keep it that way...I replied...
11am...I'd reluctantly agreed to let Dawn miss school...Special occasion...

Ok...I needed back-up...

Giles was due any second...

Naturally I'd fully rehearsed our course of action...

Not a word...All was well...

Spike?...Oh...Fine...Working for Anya now...

Of course if Giles had any useful resurrection/redemption data...The poor guy had being trying so
hard...

But all was as well as could be expected...What with Mom gone and my recent resurrection...And
our bills...And my lost college career...And that vicious weasel Mears hanging around...And this
new threat, whatever it was...

But no problems on the Spike front...None whatsoever...

"Buffy!...Dawn!..." he called from the front steps...

Giles!!!...I ran into his arms...Sobbing...

"I'm pregnant...Spike's the father...I'm sorry...Giles!!..." I blurted...

"Don't kill him...Please..." I hastily added...

I'm so ashamed...I sobbed...

And oh, God...Giles...I'm...We think...I'm the reincarnation of Spike's old girl...From when he
was human...

To my surprise...He didn't bat an eye...

That English reserve...Will has it too...In his own version...

One thing I wish I had retained from Cicely...
***

Yes...he sighed, patting her...I know all about it, Buffy...

"You do...?" Buffy stared at him...

Hell, does the Council keep my place bugged or something?...she thought...

It will be all right...He pulled back and looked her in the eyes...

"And you've nothing to be ashamed of...My dear girl..." he told her...

God...Dawn thought...I knew she'd cave the moment he came in...

Looks like Xander Harris owes me ten bucks...she thought happily...
***

Sunrise...Part XIV...

Giles explained his amazing grasp of the situation...

So...Quentin Travers has been keeping his little eye on me?...Nice to know I still rate his
attention...

Going to all that trouble to maintain surveillance he and the Council might of offered me some
cash at least...Geesch...

Wants to dominate the world behind the scenes but wouldn't cough up a few thousand to get me
back on his team...

Not that I'd have taken it, of course...

Well...Maybe as a reward for my past service to Humanity...And for dying to save the world from
Glory's little interdimensional tunnel project...

Without any strings attached of course...

***
Giles felt it was best that I proceed as planned and consult with Tara later when we met at the
shop...

Which I assured him had neither blown up or burned to the ground under Anya's tender care...

And where Anya and Xander were, with the diligent help of their head clerk no doubt,
preparing a little party...Anya frantically readying both books and shop for inspection by her
returned "silent" partner...

Under no circumstances should I call on Halfreck again...At least, not alone...

Her particular type of demon was famous for deviousness and deception...No offense intended
towards dear Anya, he noted hastily, relieved to hear she was back at the shop...
The same went for Spike...he eyed me carefully...

At least until you're prepared to deal with him...

As for...My condition...

Well...He could and would assist Tara in her checking me over...Definitely not to be done at the
shop, I stressed...While Willow assisted nonmagically...

But...If I had already reached my decision...And was satisfied it was the best way...

He understood...And perhaps it was the best, maybe the only way...Even considering Angel's
luck with Connor...

In any case...The final decision was up to me, he stressed...

***

Well...To me...And whatever was left of Cicely in me...

We talked about her as well...Her sudden blossoming in my mind, following Halfreck's
announcement...

Not unusual, Giles noted...Often it takes an unusual event to trigger a past life to surface...

"And a resurrection counts as preety unusual, I guess..." I grinned wanly at him...

But...Was she always there?...Waiting for her chance?...Or just so much a part of me I never
realized...?

"My dear...If I knew answers like that...Your finances would be the responsibility of the Council
of Watchers by decree of its new Chairman..."

Please...I teased...Giles, you could outwit Quentin Travers and the rest any day...On quarter
brain-power...

"You just need a scheming, ambitious wife to push you into the big chair...I hear Halfreck is
available..."

Maybe she's not so bad looking in human face...

He sighed...And gently smiled...

"It's good to have you home, Giles..." I told him...Taking his hand...

Forgive the clinging but there are some times...

"Indeed there are, my dear..." he nodded...

Oh...The thought of William, alone...passed through my mind...

Not even a Dru to ease his loneliness and torment now...

I brushed it aside...He has us now, after all...

But...If I drive him away...

Tomorrow...After I see Tara later today...Tomorrow I'll see what's to be done...

For now...Giles is home...

My real father is home...And I can breathe again...

Papa was much more disappointed in me...But in the end he too was kind about...I remember...

A thought which mercifully passed so quickly I didn't make the connection...Yet...

***

The joyous, soulful strains of the intermezzo from "Cavalleria Rusticana" filled the cavern in the
hills west of Sunnydale where Fryn had set up his base...

Appropriate music for the climax of the glorious forthcoming ceremony...

The little fellow sat in a comfortable chair set against one wall, a large and ancient manuscript on
the reading table beside him...

His principal female follower, the one who'd accompanied him to the meeting with the "Crime
Lords of Sunnydale", Judith by name...Waited patiently for the music to end...

He smiled pleasantly at her...Holding up a hand...Just a minute, his look said, kindly...

Milord set an excellent example she thought...No overbearing egotism as with the Master and
other defeated would-be world conquerors...

And never one to underestimate his opponents...

Yes...Her dear sire would be the one to defeat the Slayer...For once and for all...

Well...At least until the next one was called...
He waved his finger in time to the last strain of music...Perfect for the climax...

"Excellent choice, Anthony..." he told a tall vampire standing by who beamed happily...

Such a pleasure to serve a ruler who appreciates the finer things...

"The gods themselves will bless this occasion..." Fryn noted...The beginning of a new era in
history...The rule of the Immortals...

In association with like-minded humans, he carefully added...A man true to the spirit as well as
letter of his alliances...

After all, he pointed out to the general group clustered respectfully about him, nodding at the
stereo system just tested...Humans do have their uses in addition to being a good source of
nutrition...

A leader of tolerance...As well as vision...One follower noted to his comrade...

Have the speakers and system installed at the altar...Fryn ordered, smiling...

"Yes, Judith?..." he looked at her...

"Sir...We've located the pieces needed to complete the altar..." she paused...

"Well done, well done..." he rubbed his hands...But saw her expression...

But...He eyed her...

They are in a place guarded by the Slayer...she explained cautiously...And William the Bloody...

"The Magic Box" by name...she noted...

"Guarded?..." he looked at her... "Are they aware of our preparations?..."

"Not that we know of, Milord..." Judith replied...

It seems the shop is owned by friends of the Slayer...She works there, it seems...According to our
daylight-capable demons...

Moreover, the traitor William...Now appears to live there...she looked at Violadus...

Hmmn...

"Lives there?..." he rubbed his chin thoughtfully...

And have you worked out a solution to suggest?...he eyed her...

Always one to encourage initiative among the staff...

"We thought...An attack, after the Slayer goes on Patrol..." she explained...

An assault plan has been prepared...she signaled two others to bring a large map of the Magic
Shop's layout on a easel...

Potentially costly in number against the famed William of course...And the Slayer or any of her
friends who might be able to assist him...But no sacrifice is too great...she noted...

You see, the problem is...she paused...Our vampire members would require access to be granted
to the place...Forcing us to rely on the small numbers of our demon compatriots to gain entry...

However...she beamed...We have prepared an elaborate stratagem...I will go to the place in
human guise, requesting assisting from outside as a human female victimized by our brethren...

"I've been practicing my scream..." she noted...Giving an example of a terrified human damsel in
distress...Loudly...

Very nice...Fryn paused...Truly appetitizing...But...

"When William the Bloody emerges, before he detects my nature...We seize him..." she
continued...

Hopefully...After sufficient torture he will allow us access...

Fryn frowned slightly...

Or...she went on hastily...Alternatively we could seize any of the Slayer's followers who may be
around...Perhaps I could even contact the Slayer's home to warn that the place is under
attack...Lure one or more of them into our hands while the Slayer is elsewhere...

And it would allow us to dispense with the services of those three humans...she smiled...

Hmmn...I prefer to maintain our alliance with Mr. Mears and his friends for the moment...Fryn
noted, regarding the map...

Our new human allies have weapons and abilities that can even disable Ms. Summers...

Best to leave her and William the Bloody to them...Especially as they promised to take him by
tomorrow evening...And deliver her shortly afterwards...

After all...We want them unscratched for the sacrifice...he finished...
"Then shall I order an all-out assault for tonight?..." Judith looked at him... "Hoping that a few of
our non-vampire demons can survive to reach the shop interior and obtain the items while the
rest of us create a diversion?..."

We stand ready to give our existences for the success of the ceremony...she noted...

No wonder our ranks have been decimated by the Slayer...Fryn thought...

Judith is a loyal girl but much too inclined to World War I tactics...

Hmmn...Magic Box...magic shop?...

"But...Isn't this a shop, this place?..." Fryn looked at her...

"Why not simply have one of our daylight-capable people purchase the items...?" he suggested...

Or better yet, hire a human to handle the transaction...Avoiding any risk of detection...

And...It's tax deductible...he happily noted...

She and the others looked at each other...

This is what makes Lord Violadus a truly great leader...she noted to one of the assistants as they
removed the battle map...

That instant ability to cut through to the heart of a problem and find its solution...she beamed,
looking back at Fryn as he continued to review his manuscript...

***

So...Tara paused, eyeing Willow...

"That's what I know...From both of them..."

But this all came out in the last couple of days...she hastily added...

"Didn't mean to leave you out sweetie...They each wanted things kept private...At least until they
started telling everybody..."

So...Cicely was pregnant when William was killed...But drove him away in any case...? And
now Buffy is pregnant...And is thinking of driving him away again?...Willow looked at her...

"Sounds like history repeating itself...Though of course Will wasn't vamped when Cicely chased
him off..." Willow pondered...

"And Halfreck "helped" her?..." Willow looked at Tara...

And is back...To "help" her now...?

With ulterior motives, I think...Tara replied...

But why did Cicely condemn him?...Did he do something...Awful?...Willow asked...


"No..." Tara replied... Firmly...

Willow looked up at her...

Well...she hesitated...I don't think so...

I think Cicely was afraid for him...Pushing him away for his own good...We know she was the
Slayer even then...Tara noted...Maybe she didn't know what the consequences of consulting with
Halfreck might be...

"But we need more info..." she went on...We'll have to see what we can find out today...

And there's...Buffy's condition to consider...

Yeah...Willow sighed...

"What a favor I did her...Pulling her back for this..." she looked down...

Actually...Tara smiled...

Odd as it sounds...

"I don't think she's as depressed about all this as you might think from her talk..."

She's in love with him...Still...

Yeah...Willow sighed...

Even I caught that back at the house last night...She kept talking about him...she paused...

"But she is terrified..." Willow eyed Tara...

And why not...Carrying William's the Bloody's offspring...

"We don't know if there'll be any more problems than for Connor..." Tara noted...

"It might be fine..." Pleading a little...

Might...Willow stressed...

That's not enough for Buffy now...

"It's not right to expect her to bear something like this, Tara..."

I know...Tara nodded...I know...But...

"I'm sorry for Spike too..." Willow looked at the wall...

But Buffy has to be our main concern...

"You are right though Tara...She does love him...Which really only makes it that much worse..."

Poor Buf...Poor Will...she shook her head...Hmmn...Will...

"Any luck with the resurrection spell...?"

Tara shook her head...

"Wolfram-Hart keeps their secrets close...There's nothing I've been able to dig out besides what
Wesley reported...And your Buffy spell won't work for William...Not killed by mystic
energy...And not "the warrior of the people"..." she noted...

Nothing I could find via computer, either...Willow sighed again...

"What are they gonna do, Tara?...If we can't help them...?"

I don't know...But I don't think Will could bear losing her again...Tara looked at her...

He's been through so much...His soul has hung on somehow, so long...But there's got to be a
point of no return...she noted...

Even for a beautiful, courageous soul like his...she did not say...

"Buffy can't bear spending her life trying to help him and hope..." Willow replied...

We can't abandon him...Tara looked at her...Not now...When William is so close...

"Sweetie...Much as you may feel for him...And we all do...William the Bloody is a maniac..."

"Who tried to kill me once, remember?..." she eyed Tara...

Spike tried to kill you...Not William...Tara replied firmly...

And I'm not saying Buffy should be his lover...

"Just...He was there for her...Now he needs her to be there for him...At least let him know she
cares..."

"She does care, we both know that...And he has to have something to hope for, Willow..." Tara
stared at her...

Hmmn...

My sweetie is very sympathetic to poor ole Will...she thought...Which is nice...

Up to a point...

"We don't know how much of William is left...And however much the chip may have helped...
We can't trust him..." Willow regarded Tara carefully...

And Buffy can't be expected to take on his salvation...Not now...

Tara looked away...Thinking...

"Well...Giles should be in any time now...Maybe he'll have something..." she noted...

Thank God he's back...Willow nodded...Buffy's never needed him more...Even if he can't help
with the magics...

"But you're right, honey...We all need someone...To care..." Willow looked at her...Steadily...

I'm...Not ready, Willow...Tara eyed her...

Sorry...Willow looked away...

I just...

"We'll see how things go, ok?..." Tara smiled faintly at her...

Yeah...Willow nodded...I understand...

It couldn't be...It can't be...she thought...She's just concerned about him...

"For now...We gotta ton of work to do...If you're up to a little net searching while I finish getting
my stuff together..." Tara grinned...

Right...Willow smiled...

"Tara..." she looked at her...

"It is nice...The effort you're making for him...I don't mean to throw cold water on it...I just..."

It's fine...Tara smiled...

"I want what's best for Buffy too, Willow..."

Just want to make sure someone speaks up for Will, that's all...

***

Sunrise...Part XV...

Tara explained what she knew of Halfreck’s motives...

That’s why?...She wanted Spike out of Hell...?...Willow looked at her...

To date him...?...she blinked...

Plus scoring points with ole D’Hoffryn if she gets Buffy to join the firm...

And she’s been on this “job” for over a century?...

“About the size of it...” Tara agreed...

I guess to an immortal demon Time’s a relative thing...

But I think she wants the William in Spike as well if she can turn him from Buffy...er Cicely-Buffy...Frustrate the love out of him, so to speak...

“But as to why Cicely had her curse Will so horribly...? Buffy told me Cicely loved him...And she kept his baby...It doesn’t make sense...” she shook her head...

Abortion wasn’t an easy out in those days, even for a wealthy girl...Willow pointed out...

She loved him, Willow...Tara eyed her...If you’d heard Buffy speak about what she’s picked
up of Cicely’s memories...You wouldn’t doubt it...

And as for Buffy...

Ok...Willow waved a hand...Enough with the irresistible charms of William the Bloody...

“Lets leave this for now...They’ll have to deal in their own time...Giving Buffy more info on Cicely and...” She gulped... “‘Junior?’ ...Is the best thing we can do for now...”

“Like you said we’ve got a ton of work to do if we’re gonna do this today...So...”

Right...Tara grinned...Settling in...

So lets avoid any more questions that I don’t want answers to...Willow thought, looking at her beloved...Happily tearing into some books...

It’s not true...She couldn’t...But then even I...Thought about him once or twice...Or thrice...

Maybe it’s just her good heart...Her good ole sympathy kicking’ in...Yeah...

God don’t let me think about this...Don’t let me...

***
Warren rattled a stuck key on his master keyboard console...A bleary-eyed Jonathan lifted his head...

“Rise and shine, sleepy-head...” Warren sneered...

Not exactly the best kept watch, Jonathan...he noted...

“Sorry...I was up all night you know...And there wasn’t much to watch once Buffy headed out with that Anya girl...”

Pity we never got cameras into the Summers’...Warren noted...

Neat to see the Slayer and her sis au naturel...

“Pervert...The kid is what?...14?” Jonathan glared...

Hey...Better our love slave-in-training than dead...Warren smirked...

Like her sis...
***

Hey...Andrew called from the door...Invisible...

“Andrew...” Warren sighed...Looking at the envelopes and tape floating in mid-air...Obviously in his hand or pocket...

“Did I not tell you not to carry the stuff in a way that would attract attention?...”

It’s in my pants pocket...Andrew replied, miffed...

“We can see that, Andrew...And it makes for a wonderful party trick...Unless Buffy or one of her little elves catches sight of your magic mail...” Warren groused...

And today is...D-Day, you know...

“Isn’t it Friday?...” Andrew was puzzled...

Warren rolled his eyes...And to think...I’ve got to toast Johnny-boy here after we settle with Buffy and keep this one...

Geesch...he had to develop the beginnings of an adult conscience...Oh, well...With Andy that’s sure never to be a problem...

Visibilize him...he looked at Jonathan who brought up the ray and fired...

“Anyway...” Andrew grinned... “Good news...”

We got a customer...He waved the tape he’d swiped from the telemarketers...

“A couple, actually...”

Two?...Warren looked at the tape...

Hope they don’t want rush jobs...Tonight and tomorrow are likely to be busy...

Nah...Andrew giggled...A couple...Some guy and his girl...

Kinky...Warren nodded...

Pity Kat wasn’t so broad-minded...Must be quite a girl...

***

It’s...A ceremony of renewal...A returning of strength to the Hellmouth, Giles noted...

He was taking advantage of the little time he had before we dashed to the Shop for my session with Tara to discuss Chairman Travers’ “great new menace”...Violadus Fryn and his upcoming ritual...

Not all that unusual...Yet another grab the Slayer and destroy the world...Or gain great new power...scheme...In this case gaining new power as well as killing the Slayer was the goal...

“Between Saturday and Sunday of the second weekend in the month of May...The month when powers of renewal are at their height...” Giles began...

Following a calculated 300 year cycle...The vampires following “Saint” Vitulus kill and transform the Slayer...And sacrifice her to their gods...

“Kinda of a lot of trouble to go to just kill a Slayer...” I stared at him...Wouldn’t it be more practical to keep her around to help with the killings...Advice from the horse’s mouth on how to deal with the new Slayer and co...

Well...Giles sighed...Vampires are not very practical people...

“What happens...If they fail to capture the Slayer...” I asked...

“One of their own voluntarily sacrifices themselves...At least in theory it’s voluntary...” Giles noted...

In return...A small but significant jolt of energy is returned through the Hellmouth... Strengthening the followers to do the “saint’s” work on Earth...he concluded...

“How strong?...If they pull it off?...”

According to Council records...The last successful ceremony gave the followers several times their normal battle strength...It took the efforts of the entire Council at that time, plus three successive Slayers to defeat them...

“But they lost...As always...” I grinned...

Three Slayers, my dear...One after the other...

“Well...That was then...This is now...” I noted...

“And I have Wil...er..low...Willow...of course...On my side...” I grinned sheepishly...

Yeah...Good ole non-magics Willow...And of course Tara...with magics...And...Xander, Anya...

And...All...

Don’t be overconfident, Buffy...Giles frowned...

Death was the result of your last major battle, you know...

And...he paused...You are not in fighting condition just now...

“Thanks for reminding me, Giles...” I glared...

***

I got to the Shop at three...An hour before my half-shift...

One look at Tara said things were not well regarding redemption/resurrection spells...

And as for...My bundle...

Anya had kindly kept Spike assigned to assist Giles who was recataloging old and new works...

Giles likewise kindly keeping Blondie busy...

“I can’t say how the baby will turn out Buffy...” Tara sighed, trying to keep it down...Willow eyed me...

“Nothing on my end either...” Willow added...

“Just Angel and Darla’s little experiment...That’s the only thing recorded....”

“Great...” I smiled brittlely... “I get to be number two...”

And the first pure human...

“Wasn’t there...Ever?...”

Not many humans lived through sexual encounters with vamps in the past, Buf...Willow explained...

Hmmn...Would’ve thought something like that would’ve been right up ole Angelis’ alley though...she thought...

Getting some earlier version of poor Dru pregnant...But if he did...No record exists...

“I’m sorry Buffy...”she told me...Tara watching us...

I shook my head...Ok...

Nothing to go on but Darla’s little miracle baby...

“We can check the kid out by magics...but it won’t reveal the baby’s future development...And it will take a few days...”

That won’t be necessary...I eyed her...

Tara stared at me...Realizing...
“Buffy...” she paused...

At least...Talk it over with him...she hesitated...

“That would be pointless, Tara...I’d just be hurting him for nothing...” I replied...

What about...Cicely?...she looked at me...

Let me try on that first...she pleaded...

“Later...” I told her... “I do want to try to get more info but...that other thing is settled...”

Buffy...Willow looked at me...I understand...

And we’ll support you...In whatever you decide...

“But...Maybe...Tara’s right...”

“I don’t owe him anything Tara...” I looked over at her...

Nothing, Will...I looked at Willow...Who nodded...

But I knew...For once...She didn’t instinctively take my part here...

William came down from the rare books room...

“Anything interesting on our new menace...?” he paused...

Rupert gave me the low-down upstairs...Interesting group...

Make for a nice evening’s sport...he grinned...

“I can handle Mr. Fryn and co...Thanks...” I told him...Coolly...

But I was desperately anxious to speak to him...Fighting another impulse to tell him...And...

Still determined to know what was up with the “I came to his crypt and said it was over” business...

I came?...

Not that I meant to restart or even suggest a restart but...It might be useful to know about it...

But he had business of his own...With Tara...

Grousing involuntarily under his request for ten...Under Willow’s watchful eye...I backed off reluctantly and went up to Giles...
***

Tara sighed...No better news at that end either...

“I’m so sorry Will...But there’s nothing new on Wolfram and Hart’s ceremony...”

He nodded...That’s ok...In fact...He might himself have some new info...By tonight...Or at least the weekend...

If a certain party delivered the goods...

Spike?...Tara eyed him...Nothing...And no one...Dangerous...?

“No one to get worked up about...” he grinned...

Just a leetle info exchange...

****
I told Giles what Tara had told me...Which he’d expected...

The Council would have made any such event a matter of record...Gleaned everything they could from observation and study...

Meaning of course that in certain centuries, they’ve of stolen the kid and raised it as a kind of Slayer in training...

Or dissected it...

I went down to find my dream beau waiting...

Anxious at last to finally review events...Pass on a few choice memories of Cicely if he could slip them in...And make some requests...

Regarding my position as assistant clerk, half-time...

You run a tight ship, Mr. Walthrop...I grinned at him...

Unfortunately I also chose to part with my lunch at that time...

And Spike is a remarkably perceptive fellow...Who’d had no reason to try sensing an extra human in me...Until now...As he stared at his shoes...And me...

“Buffy...” he gasped...Nervously walking me to a seat...
Willow eyed me...I shrugged her away...

Leave this to me...My look said...

“I’m sorry you found out, Will...” I looked at him...

***

“It’s your decision, Buffy...” he told me...Not looking at me...

God knows it would be tough enough if I were a human...And a success to boot...

“But as long as Spikey gets his little electronic anti-psychotic meds....” He spoke in a desperate, pleading voice, pausing...

I can be William for you...

And if I can keep Spike down...And...Maybe more...

I can help you...With...

“No...” I told him...

“Won’t you even try?...To believe in me...”

For us...For our baby...

“There is no ‘us’ Spike...”

And this...Baby...Or whatever it is...Is my problem..Alone...

He sighed and looked away...

And then...Looked at me...Gently...

Help me...he pleaded...Show me a little pity, Buffy...

For the sake of the man I was, once...

The man you loved, Cicely...

He looked steadily at me...Taking my hand...Continuing in an intense whisper...

“I know you care...Help me...Give me some reason to try...”

Voices raging in my head...

Only cruel to let him hope...When there was no hope...

I’ll find a way...But...I can’t do this alone...he looked at me...

“I’m asking you...Begging you...To help me...And spare our baby...”

I stared at him...No...No...God, don’t do this to me...

He took my hand...

“Save me Cicely...Oh...Please...While there’s still something left...”

Before the last bit of me is lost in Spike...

No...Oh, God...I looked away, trembling...

The others watched...I waved Willow back...

He smiled wanly...

“Be a sport, girl...Lie to me...Tell me there’s something to hope for...”

At least until I can try...

Please...Then...Well...

“If things flop, I won’t hold you to it...I swear...”

I wanted to lie...I wanted to promise him redemption, love, anything...

But...I was on the cliff...The abyss opening in front of me...

Or, more appropriately...The dimensional rupture...

And I couldn’t leap again...Not even for him...

“There is nothing to hope for William...”

Only cruel to let him hope the voice in my head said...When there was no hope...

God cursed him, let God save him...

Forgive me...God forgive me...
“There is nothing to hope for William...” I repeated...

He stared at me a long, silent time...

Right then...

“Well...Ms. Summers...Would you bring out these boxes and unpack them on the central table?...”

“Spike...” I paused... “It might be best...If...”

“If you want to terminate your employ, Ms. Summers...That’s your business...Speak to Anya about it...” he stared at me...

“As for me...I don’t intend to leave, if you were hinting at that...And I promise you...You won’t be pestered by me again...”

“Fine...” I looked back at him...

Will...Oh, Will...How could I help you?...What good could come from it?...I should have said...

But I knew him...And if I gave him even that much...He’d hope...

And what hope could we have?...

I wanted to cry out to him...Promise I’d hope...Or try to...

That I’d leave our baby’s fate to God...

But the sensible voices called out...I was the Slayer...There was no hope for him...And whatever was in me...Was more than likely Spike’s...Not William’s...

What do I owe you...Even if...If...I loved you then...And loved you now...

What did he owe me...One small voice cried out...When he tried to save me, saved Dawn and my friends...And...Saved me, gave me a reason to go on...I pushed it down...

“But I want you to keep away from my friends outside work...Tara included...” I told him...

“So long as she wants to remain my friend...I will see Ms. Maclauy anytime she cares to...”

But I won’t bother your sis, don’t worry...

I fumed, grateful for anything to relieve the screaming in my head...

The voices that screamed “How can you do to him?!...” as well as all the sensible ones

“If you hurt her...”

“Ms. Summers?...Are you working here this afternoon?...Or planning to take the whole time off for your ranting?...” he eyed me...

Unless...he paused...

“If you need to rest Buffy...” he began...

I grabbed the boxes and went into the main store...Fortunately I wasn’t feeling all that hot anyway...Struggling with a headache and some nausea at least gave me something else to think about...

Anya eyed me...Hearing most of it had been rather unavoidable...Fortunately she’d hung the “Closed” shingle on the front door when we started in...Guess it was easy to tell it would be a major blowout...

I waved her off...Not now, thanks...

I unpacked the boxes and stacked the stuff...Fertility charms, a sure crowd-pleaser...Without a word....

Ironic jokesters those Powers That Be...

***
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