Sunrise...Part XVI...

 

Anya decided to call it quits early...Given the closed shop and our jangled nerves...

After we finished closing up, I hung with Giles, vaguely discussing Mr. Fryn and co...Wanting
another chance to speak to Spike and afraid to...

And I had a doctor to hunt up as well...One I definitely did not want Dawny to hear me on the
phone with...Who would be willing to help me this evening with no questions asked...Though I
had a candidate in mind...

Someone I knew through my baby's father, actually...

Bizarrely appropriate...

William came up from his basement digs about six-thirty, spoke to Anya quietly, without a word
to me...She nodded to him after a brief glance my way and he headed out...

Never looking at me...

Tara hurrying after him...Willow watching with a look on her face that told me she knew...

"Tara's concerned about him..." she wanly smiled at Giles and me...

Even Anya knew better than to say anything...Watching us from the cash register...

But she ran to Xander when he came in...Hugging him, never to let go...In uncertain times like
these the natural thing to do...I tried to focus on Giles...But even he had really run out of things to
say...Staring at me sympathetically...

But Xander had news...Thank God...

"The nerds took our bait..." he told us...

I blinked at him...

We placed an order for one of Warren's sexbots, Anya explained...

Hmmn...I eyed Willow...

Bet it'd be interesting to see their specifications...

"When's delivery?...Or pick-up?..." I asked Xander...

Well...They claimed...The robot would be delivered tonight...
Wow...Willow smiled at me...

Fast service by nerd express...

"We made it easy for them..." Anya explained...

Asked for a short, attractive blonde...Like the one they had on channel 340 with Jonathan...

"You asked for me...er...for the Buffy-bot...?" I blinked...

Just to speed things...Xander nervously explained...

Uh-huh...I eyed him...

"When do they deliver?...Or better yet, we pick up?..." Willow asked...

By ten pm...So they claimed...At our place...

"So..." I looked at them and Willow...

That gives me enough time for a quick stop-off...

"Buffy?.." Willow looked at me...

Tonight?...Wait a minute...

"Even you can't just rush out, have...that...And go fight Warren and his crew..."

"I doubt it will come to fighting tonight, Will...And I don't want to wait...I can't..."

"Buffy..." Willow paused...

"What if it's human?..."

"I couldn't deal with it now anyway, Willow..."

And William couldn't bear it...It would be torture for him...I did not say...

It was for the best in any case...

"Is this my decision or no...?" I looked at her and the others...

"I think you'll be sorry Buffy..." Anya said quietly...Not looking at me...

I couldn't be more sorry...Or sad...I did not say...
***
However...Dawny chose that moment to arrive and all conservation along those lines ceased...

We returned to the subject of Xander and Anya's newest acquisition...A hefty little sum for my
copy...Willow noted...

Thank God I didn't give them my Visa card...Xander replied...

I slipped off to the upstairs room for a call...Willow watching me...With a glance or two towards
the door where Tara had left in pursuit of William...

The others discussed how to handle the "purchase"...

Dawn stared at me as I climbed up...And grinned on seeing my relatively mild frown ...Taking a
seat next to Willow...Heck she knew without asking she'd never get to see what transpired at the
Harrises when BB showed...
***

"Will!..." Tara called to him...

Wait...Please...

He stopped...And looked back...

She caught up to him...

"Well...?" he smiled faintly...

Don't tie up your panties, girl...I'm not the suicidal type...he grinned...

She looked at him a long time...Straight in the eyes...

"Yes...You are..." she told him...

"I'm trying to get the info I told you about..." he explained tersely...

Don't worry yourself...

"After all...You told me...She was just afraid..." he eyed her...

And maybe...If I can pull this off...

"And if you can't...?" she stared at him...

I'll cross that one when I come to it...he said quietly...
"Let me come with you..." Tara asked...

"Thanks...But my "friends" might sense a rat...And scurry like several..."

"They won't see anything but your latest..." she grinned..."Please Will..." she pleaded...

"Why..." he began...

"Because I care...Someone has to..." Tara replied...Taking his hand...

"No..." he smiled...A boy's gentle smile...Cicely's beloved smile...

"Why am I so lucky to have you and Buffy...Caring for me...?"

She grinned back...And eyed him...

"You know...It's not polite to bring up Buffy at a time like this..."

Your Victorian chivalry is a little off these days...
***

So...? Tara eyes him as they stop outside Willie's...

First contact...he grins...

Old friends...he whispers, holding the door for her...

Uh...boy...Tara sighs...Seeing Warren and Jonathan...

Spike...she hisses...

"Well..." Warren grins...

The two lovebirds...

Wait a sec...He eyed Tara...

"You're not Summers..."

Jonathan looks to the freeze ray...

Uh-oh...Willie sighs from his corner, ducking under the bar...

"What's going on here?..." Mears glares...

Who's she...? And where's the Slayer?...Hiding out front?...

"Enough, old pal..." Spike eyes him...

My friend is just that...And my magics expert...

Summers is with her pals or back with the Nibs...

The deal is still on...If you can deliver...

"That's Willow's friend..." Jonathan notes...

I've seen them together...

I'll bet he has...Tara thought...

"Where's your other playmate...?" Spike asks, looking for Andrew...

"He's occupied...You're not our only business transaction, you know..." Warren replies...

"Just want all cards on the table, old pal..." Spike smiles...

Trust being the basis of any lasting relationship...

"Have you got the cash?..." Warren asks...

"That's my 'friend's' department, old pal...I told you he'll meet us at the Magic Box
tonight...With a certified check for both of us...If your stuff satisfies..."

Tara frowns at him...Spike...You're not helping these...Her expression clearly read...

He raises a finger...Trust me...

Ummn...she grouses...

"Trouble in Paradise?..." Warren leers...

Or is Mommie making you back out...?

"Warren... æMommie' here can turn you lot into toads in a second if you shoot off your mouth
again...So watch yourselves..." Spike smiles...

Tara glares and nods...Eyeing Jonathan, then Warren...

Hmmn...Wasn't counting on magics help here...Warren thinks...
This may take a bit more doing than I thought...

Still...We almost have Spike...And if we have him...We have Buffy...He eyes Tara...

Whoever this Tara is, she's not the one for him...Though a rather hot babe in that leather jacket...

But Buffy is our Spike's own true...I've no doubt...After six months of watching them at every
opportunity...

I guess I just have a natural feeling for these love things...he notes to himself...

"Well we've thought it over in any case..." Warren begins...Eyeing Jonathan and his freeze ray...

And we prefer to do our business here...Not at your friend's shop...

"Especially not if you have a magics æexpert' on hand..." he notes...

"My buyer is heading there..." Spike points out...

He may not care for a chance of scenery...

"Send your girl scout here...Let her persuade him..." Warren suggests...Eyeing a still-glaring
Tara...

"Not our original arrangement, Mearsy..." Spike notes...

"Well...I had a sudden burst of caution...It just came over me..." Warren sneers...

The moment you brought in Little Wendy the Witch here...

"But...As a pledge of good faith..." he tosses Spike a disk...

"There's part of the schematics of the time warper...Enough to impress anybody who knows
anything...If that doesn't bring your buyer here...He's nobody we want to deal with..."

"All right..." Spike nods, turning to Tara...

Spike...she hisses...Are you out of your dead mind?...

"Gentlemen?...Might I have a mo...Outside with milady?..."

Warren nods...And Spike and Tara move out the door...

Willie remains crouched in his favorite position under the bar...One which has carried him safely
through many a disaster...
"You're gonna send her back...?" Jonathan eyes him...

"Someone has to let Buffy know her blondie's in danger..." Warren notes...

May as well be her...

"Aren't we going for the cash first?..." Jonathan asks...

Naturalement...Warren replies...But Tara there will know where and what happened to
Spike...And when we make our move later...She'll provide Buffy with any needed details on our
nefarious doings...

"Thank God I screened this place from magics first thing..." Jonathan sighs...

I don't like being an animal...Especially when I can't reverse the spell...

"But..." he pauses... "Are you sure Buffy will come?..."

If we hold Blondie...She will come...Warren grins...

Ain't love grand...? he sneers...

***

Sunrise...Part XVII...

I asked Willow to drive me...

A quick prelim sweep of the area between Xander's place and Warren's old
lair...A few hours before the bot delivery...I explained to Dawny...And the
others...

Just in case Warren and co chose to check their customers out beforehand...If
we could catch at least one of them early and unprepared, so much the better...

Though excepting her...All of them realized where we were going...

We headed for the office of Spike's favorite neurologist...The former
Initiative doc who failed him on his first attempt to extract the chip...

A little walk down memory lane on the phone, laced with a few minor threats had
been enough to persuade him to call a close friend who owed him and had similar
uncomfortable Initiative connections in his past...To help the daughter of an
old family friend...Who'd foolishly gotten in a leetle trouble and didn't want
to go the normal day surgery route...
***
Our medical "fixer" nervously greeted us at his office door...His friend had
agreed to help out, was ready in the exam room...

Of course...He eyed me...This was not normal practice...

"Neither was experimenting on humans and demons, doc..." I sweetly smiled at
him...

By the way...My friend William sends greetings...He's still a bit miffed about
your flopping with his chip though...

"You know, though, I wasn't kidding on the phone...He actually has managed to
crash through it on a couple of occasions recently...When he absolutely had to
to deal with a couple of people who'd really let him down...Right, Willow?..."
I turned to her...

Oh, I don't think Spike would...she hesitated...I glared...

Ummn right...William gets though the chip all the time now...she smiled at the
doc...

When circumstances call for it...she noted...Eyeing him...

He gulped...

"Please come this way..."

***
A middle-aged...God, I hope so...doctor came over to me in a rear exam
room...Kindly enough
expression on his face considering he'd been politely blackmailed into this by
his old buddy...

I was on a gurney...Lying flat...Waiting...Willow firmly planted besides...

"Well...Miss..." he stared at me... "This won't take long..."

"Ok..." Willow smiled at him...Taking my hand... "Buffy, see...It's gonna be
fine..." She sat by my head...

Fine, yeah...This was the right thing to do...Regardless of William...And his
pleas...

A risk I couldn't handle...I shouldn't have to deal with...Not in this of all
years...

But something was crying out inside me...I didn't know any more...

And memories were surging up...As if...

As if Cicely were crying out to me...To stop me...

"I...Will, do you think?...Am I doing the right thing?..." I grabbed her
hand...Squeezing...

"Buffy...You have to do what's right for you...Nobody else..." Willow patted my
hand back...
And requested a slight lessening of pressure on hers...

Sorry...I let up...

"Ok..." the doc said quietly...

All set, Miss?...he asked...

I stared at him...Nodded...But...

He gave me an injection...Just a mild sedative...And then...

"They're doing this..." I looked wildly at Willow...

Buffy?...

They want him dead...They've tricked me...Sent that thing...

"William!..." I screamed...

"Don't let him go!..." I grabbed Willow...

The doctor?...Looked at us...

"It isn't me...William!..." I screamed...

Come back...Oh...God...William, don't go...It's a lie!!...It's not me...

"They've tricked me!!..." I cried...

"They want him dead..." I pleaded to the red-haired...Matron?...Whom I no
longer knew...
"Buffy?!...Calm down!..." Willow tried to hold me...

I tried to get up...I had to...Get to him...Bring him back...

The Angelis pride is in London...Tonight they'll be out...

And that why...They want him out there...The cowards wouldn't want his blood on
their hands...

"William!!!..." I screamed, struggling... "They've tricked us...It's a
lie!!!...Come back!!!..."

Oh God, Will...come back...Come back!!...

No...No...It's too late...I fell back...

I saw a hospital room...Cousin Henry by my side...And on the slab...

I tried to look closely...To see...If...

I had to know...How he died...

I couldn't look at his sweet face...There...Oh, God...

I fainted...I hadn't known I was pregnant...

By the time I was able to get up and about...Slip away from the family...Break
into the morgue at the hospital...

He'd risen...And fled...And I was too late...

I woke up....Willow desperately patting my hand...

"Willow?...I...I...Want to talk to William...I..."

"Buffy...?" Willow looked at me...

She turned to the doctor who'd called his buddy in...This case was taking a
strange turn and he
wasn't interested in getting involved with some psych case under these
conditions...

Another vision popped in my head...I saw the hospital...the room...surgeons and
nurses running around...Blood all over the bed...

My blood...And my little girl...Dead beside me...

Screaming...For my dead William...My mother...Papa...I felt myself slipping
away...

My death...Cicely's death...In 1880...

And the strongest emotion...Anger...

Not fear...And not anger at William, no...Anger at God...And Fate...

But above all...

The ones who'd tricked us...Destroyed us...

Led me to condemn my...Husband...Without realizing it...

And I wouldn't allow it...NO!...They could do whatever they might but I'd find
a way...Find my poor Will...Somehow...I'd...Save him...

And then I died...

"No!...NO!!!..." I screamed...And pushed the tray table of instruments
back...Willow and the doc struggling to hold me down...

***

Giles emerged from the upstairs room...Came slowly down the stairs...

And slammed several large books on the main table...Plus a zip disk...

Xander, Anya, Dawn jumped as one...

Anya staring at the books...Fifty percent hers after all...

Well, actually...Giles had specified the retention of the bulk of the rare
books collection in his name...

"Giles...?" Xander eyed him...

"Bastards!..." he said in a coldly furious voice...Pulling over a laptop...

Anya eyed Dawn cautiously...

"My apologies, Dawn..." he calmed and nodded at her...
She was, of course, rather delighted to get a taste of the ole Ripper...

He sighed, looking at Xander...While firing up the computer and placing the
disk inside...

"I was puzzled...Not being able to find any detailed record of Cicely Addams as
Slayer...I assumed she must have had a very short career...Probably cut short
by..." he paused...

Her early death...Eyeing Dawn...

"She didn't...Was Halfreck lying about her?..." Anya asked...

No...Giles paused...

"She was the greatest Slayer the Council had ever had up to that time...And the
longest-lived..."

Like Slayer...Like reincarnated Slayer...Xander thought...

"Why couldn't you find her records?..." Dawn asked, looking at the Watcher...

"They were deliberately expunged..." Giles replied...

Only a few secret accounts of her work remain...Kept in case they were
needed...

"I had to call in every favor I had outstanding to get access to these..."

Here...he paused, indicating the computer screen...

Secret journals of the Council...Including her Watcher's reports...

"All of them...Even her Watcher, Simon Farris...Betrayed her..." he muttered...

But...Xander and the others stared at him...

"The Council did not want her to give up her work..." Giles explained "But she
fell in love...And secretly married...Planned to retire...Which they
found...Unacceptable..."

So...With the help of a very willing leader of vengeance demons...Who
desperately wanted to ensnare a Slayer's soul in his group...

"The Council helped Halfreck and D'Hoffryn?...To get Cicely to curse
William?..." Anya stared at Giles...

Married...? Xander and Dawn looked at Giles...

Cicely and William?...Buffy and Spike?...Are...?

"Wait..." Anya froze...

"They're not done...Are they?...The Council and D'Hoffryn are still working
together?..."

Not exactly, Giles paused...

But clearly their interests still coincide...

Judging by the secret files...Certain psychic members of the Council must have
known about Buffy's concealed nature for years...The files are full of warnings
to keep William the Bloody away from Buffy...Giles paused...By all means
necessary...No wonder Travers and the others stressed the charming and lethal
William the Bloody should be kept from our vulnerable Buffy...

They were waiting for and fearing the day William might appear...And jog her
Cicely memories...From the day she became a Slayer...

"But...Why didn't they kill him?..." Xander asked...

The others looked at him...

Well...Vampire Will and all...One more staked vamp wouldn't have attracted a
lot of notice...he noted...

They tried...Giles smiled wanly...

"He was too strong for them...And, in no small part thanks to Drusilla...Too
elusive..."

Giles paused...

"God forgive me...I accepted the stories on William the Bloody...Never
questioning Travers and the others when they specifically warned me to caution
Buffy about him when he appeared here...Even when he began showing such
humanity last year, I never suspected there was more at work here..." he
sighed...

The Council wants a Slayer amenable to its orders...D'Hoffryn wants
Buffy...Cicely...For one of his at least when she dies if not sooner...

And that means calling her demon out of Hell...In a way that will cause her
soul to submerge itself voluntarily in the demon nature...Not fighting as best
it can...the way William is...

"Surrendering...The way mine did..." Anya looked down...Xander applying
immediate hug therapy...

Until you came to save me...she smiled wanly at Xander...She looked back at
Giles...

Who continued...

"After his death, William was nearly lost, barely hanging on from limbo, until
the chip pushed Spike down...And gave Buffy a chance to recognize him...But it
took her death and the resurrection to fully unearth Cicely's memories..."

He smiled wanly at them...

"Buffy didn't come back to us simply because Willow called her...She had
unfinished business here..."

This is her...Cicely's and Buffy's...Last chance to save William...he eyed
them...

"Wait...Giles?...That ceremony...Fryn?...Violadus Fryn...?" Anya paused...

God, how could I have missed that name?...she thought...

"He's...Or his demon nature at least...Is a descendant of D'Hoffryn..." Giles
nodded... "And working to make Buffy his sacrifice...Raising her demon for his
ancestral demon lord at the same time..."

If Halfreck and D'Hoffryn can break Buffy before the ceremony, her soul will
merge with the demon voluntarily at death...D'Hoffryn will finally get his
first Slayer-vengeance demon...

"How could Halfreck "break"...? Oh...my God...Anya?" Xander began...

"It doesn't have to be hate...Despair is just as good...In fact, it usually
goes hand-in-hand..." Anya nodded...

If she causes William's soul to be lost...For good...And learns the truth...?
she began...
"D'Hoffryn gets his new superdemon...Halfreck gets Spike all to herself..."
Xander filled in...

And his descendant Fryn and his company get their full energy burst...Giles
concluded...

"Buffy won't fall for this...Her soul will never surrender to her demon..."
Xander insisted...

Perhaps not...Giles nodded...But...We can't know what the effect will be...If
she loses William again...Forever...

Are you sure about this, Giles...? Xander asked...

"The chips I called in are from people who can't risk being exposed by me...I
believe them..." he replied...

Travers deliberately concealed this information from me...Giles looked away
from them, tensing...Gave me just enough to let Buffy and William know about
Fryn and his Vitulus sacrifice...

"Hoping that Buffy, spurred on by Halfreck, would make a terrible mistake in
her confusion and despair...And drive William off into Fryn and Halfreck's
arms...Ending any chance that her reincarnated self might unite with him
again..."

Leaving her free to devote her remaining life to Duty...And the Council...

Or, failing that...See that she let herself be taken and sacrificed...In guilt
over William...

With Buffy gone, Travers could persuade the full Council to agree to Faith's
release...On the condition that she would have to fight the strengthened
vamps...She'd die in the course of the fight, little doubt...

And at last they could start again with a Slayer who was properly isolated from
any family or standard human attachments and trained to kill for them and
Humanity without any semblance of a normal life...For the few years of her
working life...

After all, they've defeated the Vitulus followers before...

And there is always another Slayer...he concluded...

He smiled again...Grimly...Just the lips...
"Even Glory's defeat wasn't enough for them...They'll control the Slayer
themselves...Or destroy her..."

I should have known...Stopped Travers in England...And never come back...he
looked at the wall...

"Giles..." Dawn came over to him...

"We wouldn't have known any of this without you...Now...Maybe we can warn
Buffy...At least try to help Will..."

"Xander?..."Anya looked at him...
***

"Giles..." Xander began, looking at Dawn...

"Buffy didn't go over to check the area around our place...She's..." he
paused...

"I've gotta get over to her...Tell her what we've learned...Before..."

"The baby...? No...No, she wouldn't..." Dawn looked at them desperately...

"Dawny...She didn't know what it would be...She was afraid..." Xander tried to
explain...

We were all afraid...he finished, looking round...

"Go..." Giles said... "I'll take Anya and Dawn to Buffy's...And head over to
your apartment
in case our friends come early with their...Merchandise..."

"What about Will?..." Dawn asked...

Where did he and Tara go?...she turned to Anya...

He spoke to you...

"He...Has some business..." Anya paused... "To help you and Buffy, he said..."

But he's coming back here...In an hour or so...To meet with...A client...

"Maybe I should stay...Let him know what's going on..." Anya looked at the
others...

"And meet up with his "client"?...Whatever or whoever that is?...No way,
honey..."
Xander insisted...

We can leave a note...I'll swing by after I see Buffy...No arguments, An...he
frowned at her...

"You'd better hurry, Xander..." Giles told him...

He nodded, rose, but turned to Dawn...

"Dawn?...Understand...She may still choose to...It's her right to decide
this...She's the one who'd have to live with the consequences...I just want her
to know what's up behind the scenes..."

She nodded wanly and he left...

"Giles...?" Dawn looked at him...

He turned to her...

"Buffy is here...Back...To save William?..."

"Only in part, Dawn..." he told her... "And even she wasn't aware..."

Yes, but...Does that mean...If she saves him...? she paused...

"We'll lose her again...?"

***
An hour later a tall man in black moved cautiously to the little shop door...Scanning
carefully around the street in front of the building...No one in sight...

He pulled a scanning device from a pocket...Thermal emissions, nearby...Human
from the looks...Not many close by but difficult to ascertain the exact
number...

Hmmn...He'd been expecting at least one vampire...

Tensing, he turned the knob of the door...Unlocked, he realized...

But after all, he was expected...

He cautiously swung the door open...

"Hi, Riley..." Tara chirped...Stepping forward from the dark counter to hit a
light switch...

Riley jumped back, frowned, and sighed...

"Tara...?"

Sorry...she sheepishly grinned at him...

Didn't mean to get you secret agenty jumpy and all...

"I didn't want to be seen if Spike's "friends" were following me back here..."
she explained...

"Well...Hi..." He paused, looking around... "Where's..."

"The "dealers" got all cautious when I came in with him back at
Willie's..." she explained...

Sent me over to tell you they want to meet there instead....

***

A cell phone call had pulled Warren away...His voice could be heard arguing in
the back of the bar with...Someone...

"No, moron...You download the R5 through R12 files into the main computer...You
delete the starred files..."

Arrgh...

"A little trouble...?" Spike asked Jonathan pleasantly, nodding in Warren's
direction...As the little fellow kept his freeze ray trained...

"Nothing we can't handle..." Jonathan replied...Watching the vampire
narrowly...

"Well, seeing as how well you boys have handled murder...." Spike smiled...

Jonathan blanched...

Willie had relaxed enough to surface above the bar counter...Watching the group
carefully as several new customers sauntered in...A couple of vamps and a
demon, Spike noted...

No trouble, guys...Please?...Business to run...Willie eyed Spike and Jonathan,
Spike nodding back to him...

"Alls well, mate...Just a little pleasant chat with my business partner
here..."

"I didn't kill anyone..." Jonathan hissed back in a tense whisper...

It was an accident, anyway...

"I don't want to talk about it..." he looked back to Warren, still hollering
into his cell phone...

Ah...Well there's always a next time...Spike grinned at him...

Yeah...Jonathan thought...Eyeing him...

There is...
***

"You really think the Doctor...er Spike...Is on the level here?..." Riley was
asking Tara as they walked towards Willie's...She having insisted on returning
with him...

"Yeah, I do..." she looked at him...

"He loves her...And this is for her..."

But...She grinned and frowned at him...

"I thought you didn't approve of arms sales by demons..."

"I don't..." Riley replied, eyeing her...

Unfortunately...My superiors want a look at what's out there...

"And you're ready to hand over anything to them?..." Tara stopped...Looking at
him steadily...

I thought we trained you better Riley Finn...she looked at him...

He grinned a bit...Shaking his head...

"Not... æanything'...Just what I decide won't be dangerous in our hands...And
might help save some lives in the corps..."
And strictly tech stuff...No magics...

Our people would eventually stumble across most of the scientific stuff
anyway...

"And as long as I deliver...Something...I get to stay informed on these deals
and keep an eye on what's being offered...To and from whom...And if it's too
dangerous to let the deal go through...." he noted, smiling...

"Besides...This case is special...I owe Buffy...And...I guess...I even owe
Spike...After that eggs thing..."

Tara nodded thoughtfully...

"Do you know the source, Tara?...Is the "Doctor"...?" he shook his head... "I
mean...Spike...Getting into something too deep?...Dangerous for Buffy as
well?..."

"I don't think I can tell you who Riley...I promised..." she grinned... "...
the "Doctor"...But I'm not crazy about this thing..." she frowned...

And you know Spike...Naturally he's in way over his deceased head...

"She does really need the cash though...And this might give her the chance she
needs to go back to school..."

"And he's doing this...For her?..." Riley mused...With wonder...

How about you?...he looked at Tara suddenly...

"Is this for Buffy...? Or Willow?..."

She shook her head...

He eyed her...With some surprise...

"For him?..."

She eyed him...Waving her hands with a slightly embarrassed look...

He stared at her...Kindly...For a long moment...And nodded...

"Well...Why don't we see what Uncle Sam can offer our lovestruck "Doctor"..."
he smiled...

They continued along...Tara even quieter than usual...

Only in Sunnydale...Riley thought...Glancing at her as they walked...

Buffy...And Tara...

Lucky...Unman, our "doctor"...

Thank God I have a wife with security clearance I can tell things like this
to...

***

Sunrise...Part XVIII...

Xander reached Willow by cell phone from his car...And met us at the clinic...

I was still groggy and disoriented...While Willow was silent as we drove over to Xander's...

Leaving my Big Bro to try to raise our spirits...And God bless æim he tried...

Painting a picture for us of the upcoming scene with Buffy-bot and the nerds...

The horrified look on Warren's face when I showed up...And he realized I knew about his little
"commercial"...

Poor Botty "caught" by her "sister" under rather embarrassing circumstances...

Of course, he noted...That was nothing compared to the embarrassment Giles would undergo if
they reached him before we did...

Saluted by them as their "customer"...Maybe Botty would even still know him...Greet him by
name and wonder out loud if he'd been fantasizing about me all this time...

Willow did her best to laugh...I managed a smile...

We did pick up on Giles' info...So...The Watchers' Council...My dear guardians and advisors...
Had sold me out...Twice...To D'Hoffryn...

Almost would be worth it to join the firm...And curse each member of the Council in the know...

Xander was...Naturally...And especially after learning what had happened...Hesitant to tell me all
the details...Regarding William and past matrimony...

But it all jibbed with what I'd remembered lying on that gurney...In the clinic where my second
baby girl had just died...

Mercifully not yet far enough along to be very recognizable ...Except to a doctor like my
attending...Who'd told me the sex at my request...

To neither of my friends' surprise, I was not particularly anxious to hook up with William just
yet...Though to Xander's attempt at carefully concealed surprise, I showed some anger at their
letting him continue his crazy, dangerous "deal" whatever that was and whoever was
involved...And a certain degree of what even to him was unmistakably jealously over Tara's
having gone with him...

I continued to groggily pump Xander for details of Spike's little meeting...Maybe the bot and her
owners could wait...
"Giles is at our place by now, Buffy..." Xander eyed me carefully...

If the nerds show there...He could be in danger if they recognize him...And Jonathan at least
knows him...

Yeah...You're right, Xander...I woozily agreed...

"Why don't you drop me here?...I'll go check on Spike..."

He looked at me, shaking his head...And saw something in my eyes...

"I'll go check...Soon as we get to the place..." he said...

"You promise...?" the words slipped out...Becoming more tense and desperate...

"I can't...Don't...let him be hurt...Please..."

"He'll be fine..." Xander replied quietly...Looking sympathetically at me...

And exchanging a glance with Willow...

But I wasn't ready to face him...Not now...

I still wanted to speak to Halfreck again, though...Under controlled conditions of course...With
Tara in place to provide what magics protection she could...After we dealt with the bot
transaction and any of the Troika who decided to show with her...

Before I could try to face my...Husband...And decide what, if anything, to tell him...I had to settle
with my "guardian angel"...

***
"Gentlemen..." Riley eyes the Trio coldly...
"So..." Warren smirks at Tara...

"What'd Buffy say when you told her about us being here?..."

"If I had told Buffy where you three were..." Tara pauses... "You'd be on your way to jail right
now...And unconscious to boot..."

Which you'd better be shortly or I'll call them myself...she thinks, eyeing Spike...

"Hey..." Warren sneers, waving his hands... "We're not afraid of the Slayer..."

Jonathan rolling his eyes slightly...But attempting to maintain his cool, collected composure to
daunt their foes...

"No..." Tara nods... "You're much too stupid to be afraid of her..."

Warren glares...

"Jonathan...?" Tara turns to him...He tightens his grip on the freeze ray...Uncertain what Spike's
"magics expert" has in store for him...

"Buffy's very disappointed in you, you know...And hurt...You've really let her down..."

She still has that "Class Protector" umbrella you gave her...

He eyes her...

Ummn...

"Ok...Enough with the psychout attempts..." Warren glares...

"Are we here to do business or no?..."

"To business..." Spike raises his beer...Grinning...

"What have you got for me?..." Riley looks at Warren...

Well...he grins expansively...

"All depends on what Uncle Sammy is ready to offer...But for starters...How about an invisibility
ray?...The ultimate in camouflage..."

"With a deadly long-term use side effect..." Riley smiled back coldly...

Well...Warren frowned at Spike...Yeah...
"But it's still a great thing for espionage...Or turning the tide on a losing field of battle..."

***

9:40 pm...Willow and I reached Xander and Anya's apartment building...Xander keeping his
word to me, headed off...

She scanned up and down the street in front...Nothing so far...

I nudged her...A light on in the apartment...

"Probably Giles..." Willow whispered...

But lets be sure...

"No magics, Will..."

Nope...Just good ole fashioned window smashing, Willow grinned...Tossing a small rock at
Xander's living room...

***
"Hello there...I'm...Buffy..." she looks him slowly up and down... "Oh...I wasn't expecting
someone...So...Attractive..." Buffy?...smiles seductively at a startled Giles who'd answered
Andrew's ring at Xander's door...

Andrew standing nervously behind her...

"Sorry...Running a little early...Got some other things to be done tonight, man..."

Well...he giggles at Giles...You like...?

Giles recovers his composure...The bot smiling at him...

"Hey...?" Andrew looks at him... "I know you from somewhere..."

"I used to be librarian at Sunnydale High..." Giles notes...

"Right..." Andrew nods...

Oh...Ummn...Say...You know...I did return that book...

"Mating Rituals of the World's Animals?"...No, you didn't...Giles replies...Sternly...

Damn...Andrew thinks...Fine's gonna kill me...

"Rupert Giles, Giles, Watcher?..." the bot's eyes widens...

Hmmn...Potential trouble here, Giles realizes...

Apparently they didn't delete all her old files...

"Danger, Andrew, Danger!!!...Slayer's friend!..." the bot suddenly cries...

Andrew backs off...The bot blocking the doorway...

"What the...? Buffy, who is this guy?..."

"Giles, Rupert Giles...Watcher...My advisor and guardian, like a second father to me..." the bot
replied, watching Giles while stretching her arms and legs to block the door...

Kind of Willow...Or Spike, possibly...To have included that in her biographical files...Giles
thinks...

"Buffy's Watcher?..." Andrew stares...Looking around in panic...

"Grab him, Buffy!!...Protect me!...Kill him!..."

Ummn...The bot froze in the doorway...

"I can't hurt Rupert Giles...My Watcher who is a second father to me..." she pauses...

"And so sexy and handsome..." she continues...Looking him up and down again...

Hmmn...Was that her customer programming or was Willow trying to tease me?...Giles
wonders...

Geesh...Andrew thinks...Warren, man, you lazy...You were supposed to rewrite the old files and
remove the safety restrictions...

"Well, Buffy...Would you step aside and let me speak to Andrew there?..." Giles asks
pleasantly...

"I can't let you, Giles..." she replies...

"You may want to hurt Andrew and he is still one of my owners..."

"Should've waited for the title transfer, man..." Andrew giggles...

But he looks round again nervously...The Slayer and co must be in the vicinity...

"Botty?...We gotta get out of here...Now..." he tells her...

She begins to drop back...

"Andrew...?" Buffy calls from below, where she and Willow have just entered...

If a rock through a window doesn’t catch Giles’ attention...Something had to be up...

"You and my "sis" weren't planning to leave so soon?...I want to get caught up with her..."

And you...she frowns at him...As he looks over the hall railing down to her on the stairs...

"Hello, Buffy..." the bot calls...Waving a bit...

"Danger, Andrew..." she turns to him...

I know...I know...he nods sheepishly...

"I don't suppose you can fight Buffy, Botty? While I make a run for it?..." he asks hopefully...

"I'm really sorry Andrew...I can't fight Buffy who is Willow's best friend and..."

Ok...he sighs...Resigned...
***

Sunrise...Part XIX...

A subdued Andrew rode in back with me as we drove towards Willie's...Giles in front with
Willow...

Botty temporary deactivated at Xander's...Nice to have her back actually once she's
reprogrammed I noted to Willow...

A leetle extra support never hurts...

"Nice for Spike too..." Willow noted...Problem solved, maybe...she thought...

I froze and she caught my angry attitude...A little startled...

Well...she mumbled...She could keep an eye on him...

"I don't think so..." I said quietly...

Andrew sensing the slight tension...Right, she likes the Blonde One...Giggled a little...

I glared him silent...

God...Buffy...Make up your mind, Willow couldn't help thinking...

No, I didn't mean that...she hastily corrected to herself...Unless you make it up the right
way...The "help him if possible but keep away" way...Far away...

A philosophy she wouldn't mind imparting to Tara as well...

But I had a request for Willow...Much as I hated to have her use magics...

I couldn't let William find out...About what I'd done...Not yet anyway...

But he'd sense it's...Our baby girl's...Disappearance...If it wasn't masked somehow...

I wasn't ready to tell him...That she was gone...Or that in the end I'd tried to save her...

We were a block away...I suggested we park and walk the rest...

"Willow...?" I asked...As we got out...

"Can we talk a sec?..."

***
Violadus Fryn was pleased to receive the good news from Judith, his top aide...

Transaction successful...The human agents had purchased the artifacts during a busy time in the
shop that afternoon with no questions asked...And no sign of pursuit...

They were even now being installed at the altar site...Both the artifacts and the remains of the two
human agents...Likewise needed for completion...All was now ready except for the acquisition of
the sacrifice(s)...And steps had been taken to provide support for their human allies as planned...

Sacrifices...Fryn thought happily...Both the Slayer and the traitorous, but famed William the
Bloody...

And if what his ancestor D'Hoffryn had told him during their negotiations was true...A glorious
new addition to the ranks of demonhood was in the making...A worthy Queen of the
Underworld...Even if William the Bloody's time on Earth must end for it to be...

After all, his demon would live on in Hell...Though sadly with William's soul likely merged in
despair with Spike, there would be no chance of some future return of the demon to Earth...

But, even if D'Hoffryn failed to drive Ms. Summers' soul to merge with her demon...She and
her...Mate...were noble, courageous creatures whose destruction would be a credit to them all...
So worthy of the ceremony...

So romantic really...

Speaking of romance...He eyed the lovely Judith...

Who, like her lord, had the ability to appreciate the fact that very evil...and rather good...things
may come in small packages...

***
Riley had turned to studying the time warper...

Definitely not something he wished to see in the hands of some of his superiors...

All the more reason therefore to purchase the schematics and with wife Sam's help, alter them
just enough to make the device unworkable, if interesting...

Causing them to invest just enough time, cash, and energy to be deaf to any further research in
the field later...

Tara watched Jonathan carefully as he held the freeze ray...Little guy was definitely
uncomfortable...But then he was at least an accessory to murder...

Well, lets get this settled, get Buffy some cash, and we'll call in the cops later...she
frowned...Looking over to Spike...

This is not my preferred way of doing things, Will...Her look clearly said...

He grinned back...

Welcome to my world...His look said...

He glanced at the nerds...

Later...He stared back at her...

Her frown deepened...

The things we do for love...she thought, embarrassedly...

Warren caught the tail end of her frown...

"Eleanor Roosevelt over there dislikes dealing with us...?" he smirked at Spike...

Well...Spike grinned at him...She's got nothing against murderers, obviously...Hanging with me
and all...But arms deals go a little against her grain...

Jonathan winced again...

"Well..." Warren looked coldly at Tara... "Guess she'll find a way to deal...Once the money
comes in and she gets her cut..."

Or are you and she together on this...? he eyed Spike...Jonathan watching...

"Personal arrangements are personal, Warren, lad..." Spike smiled back coolly...

Gee...Warren smirked...Buffy will be crushed...

"Leaves her better off than your Katrina, doesn't it?..." Tara smiled back...

He glared...And turned to Riley...Still reviewing the time warper plans...

"Well...? Does it pass inspection?..."

Spike was keeping quietly close to Warren and the bar where Willie scurried back and forth,
rather hoping this particular bit of business would be concluded shortly...Or elsewhere...

Much as he wanted his cut...That Warren seemed like the vindictive type...

The bar-wrecking, vindictive type...One Willie was well acquainted with...

Besides...He was a witness...And if Warren ever learned that he knew about the murdered
girlfriend...

The head that bears a snitch's ears does not rest easy, he reflected...

But, after all...This was for love...Mainly...Willie looked at Spike...Shaking his head...

And he, Willie the Snitch...was a fool for love...Even vicariously...

***

Xander peered cautiously into Willie's through a side window...

Spike, Tara, Riley...Riley?..., Warren, and Jonathan...

Warren ranting about something, Jonathan holding something that looked mildly dangerous...

The nerds?...Riley?...Spike's "big deal" is with the nerds and Riley?...

Well...Who else...he thought...

But so far at least things seemed to be going smoothly...
***

"So..." Warren smirked... "Unique or no?..."

"Interesting..." Riley eyed him...

" 'Interesting'?...Our time warper alone would give any army an incredible advantage..." Warren
sneered... "And it's the basis for a more powerful system, maybe even allowing for time-travel..."
he noted...

Maybe we should be talking to some government that can appreciate new technology...he eyed
Riley narrowly...

So...You fellas watch Stephen Hawking on PBS, slap something together, and the government
should be impressed?...Riley stared at Warren...

Geesh...How'd he know?...Jonathan wondered...

"But..." Riley looked at the nerds... "There may be applications here..."

"$300,000...For the whole pile...With another $75,000 to your "fixer here..."

"$300,000!!!..." Warren choked... "For these?..."

"For a defective invisibility ray, a time warping system of limited capability, a clunky freezing
ray with very limited range, and robot soldiers who didn't last more than ten minutes against the
Slayer and a demon raiding crew, I'd say you were doing preety well..." Riley noted drily...

"$600,000...For us alone...You pay what you like to Eleanor and Blondie here..." Warren waved
at Spike and Tara...

Or we walk...

"$400,000...and $90,000 for our friends, only because I like them...Take it or leave it..."

"Maybe...We'll just freeze the bunch of you and take it all..."

Kid...Riley smiled...My authorization on the funds transfer and my safe return or you get nothing
and my people come looking for you...

"Geesh...Warren take it and lets get out of here..." Jonathan nervously told him...

Ok...$400,000...Warren spread his hands...

And a couple of hours grace to get out of town...he noted...

"Warren?..." Spike eyed him...

"There's another piece to this deal, remember...?"

We got your stuff...Warren replied, eyeing him...

"Jonathan..." Jonathan put down the freeze ray nozzle and pulled out some documents from a
folder by his side...

"The Wolfram-Hart resurrection ceremony..." Warren smiled...

Filched from their "secure" mainframe...he smirked...

Interesting read...

Tara eyed Spike...He nodded...

"Pass it over..." she told Jonathan...

"Whoa, there..." Warren raised a finger...


"Our money?..." he looked at Riley...

"$400,000 in the account of your choice...Use these codes..." he passed a sheet...

But if I and my friends here don't leave in one piece...

"Just a mo..." Warren turned on his laptop...

This can't be traced, you know...he smiled...

Magically protected as well as the best encryption software...

"For my friends' sake..." Riley smiled...Looking at Tara and Spike... "I wouldn't have it any
other way..."

***

Well...? Jonathan eyed Warren...Checking on the computer...

"Looks like GI man is playing it straight..." Warren looked at Riley...

Ok...Give the "magics expert" the stuff...he told Jonathan...

Tara took the ceremony instructions from him and began scanning them...

"They look like the real thing..." she paused...

Riley scooped up the disks and notes Warren had passed over...

"Well...Looks like we're done here..." he looked at Spike...

Nice work, "Doctor"...he smiled...

"One minute..." Warren looked up...

Ok...Transaction completed...he smiled...

"Boys..." he called to the three supernaturals waiting at the end of the bar...

"You're Fryn's people, right?..." he asked...

"Warren Mears?..." the demon asked...

The vamps moving forward, one blocking the door...

"That's me..." Warren grinned...

Uh-oh...sighed Willie, resuming his place back under the counter...

Jonathan?...Cover our guests...

See...Warren sneered...We've got backup...

And friends who can get us out of the area without any problems whatever GI man's friends try
to do to trace us...

Spike moved in front of Tara...

Well...? he eyed her...

"I'm not really much for combat spells, Spike..." she sighed...

"No good anyway, sweetie..." Warren giggled...

We screened the place from magics hours before you came...

"Not wise to break a deal with Uncle Sam, mate..." Spike noted...

Or with me...

Great...Hanging out with the living dead...Probably forever...Jonathan thought, sighing as he held
the freeze ray on Tara, Spike, and Riley...With one eye on Fryn's compatriots...

All I wanted to do was be Crime Lord of Sunnydale...And see if Buffy might consider dating me
once I was rich and powerful...

Now...I'm partners in a murder...And going into hiding with the living dead...

"Well...I'll deal with the guilt of betraying your confidence somehow..." Warren smirked...

"But hey...I'm a reasonable fellow..." he smiled... "And surprise...Our deal is still on..."

All of you can go...Except Spike...

"Hey...Just want a leetle extra hostage protection..." he smiled... "Until our friends get us out of
town..."

And it's not like I'm threatening any living being...he eyed Spike...

***

Go...Spike told them...

"I'll be fine..."

I'll stay...Tara looked at Warren...

Looks like you've got three hostages...Riley smiled...

Warren blinked...Geesch...

"Very noble...Look...Either you two leave...Now...Or my friends have a late after-dinner snack..."

Why do you want William?...Tara looked at him...

"The charm of his conversation..." Warren smiled...

Or maybe I'm just so shaken by recent events that I can't bear the thought of seriously
threatening another human being...he grinned...
Now...Are you two leaving?...Or freezing?...he looked at them...

"Look...You better go..." Jonathan told them... "While you still can..."

The demon and vamp near them watched carefully...

"Jonathan...What is he up to?..." Tara called to him...

Ok...Time's up...Warren glared...

"Excuse me..." Xander entered, pushing his way politely past the vamp standing to block the
door...

"Willie...? Hows about a beer?..." he banged on the counter...All eyes on him...

Hi...He smiled at the group...

You're not hosting a private party tonight, are you Willie?...he asked...

***
"I know you...Xander Harris...!" Warren looked at him...

"Warren Mears?...And hey, Jonathan...Long time no see..." Xander nodded...

"All right...That's it!...#$%@! It!..." Warren yelled...

Everyone but Spike out...Now...Or we start freezing or eating...!


"I don't think Buffy is gonna appreciate you're leaving so soon Warren..." Xander noted...

Mears looked at him...Buffy?...

Spike looked at him...Buffy?...Coming here...?

For me?...

"Where is she?..." Warren cried...

Excitable little human, isn't he...Fryn's demon whispered to his vamp buddy...As they watched
Spike and Riley...

The boss said to be polite...the vamp hissed...

"Jonathan!...Start freezing!..." Warren called...
All of them but Spike...

Tara looked at Spike...Who shrugged...

"What can I say...Nerds flock to a dashing fellow like me...Must be the need for a strong male
role model..." he grinned...

Andrew entered, looking sheepish...Followed by...

Jonathan hesitated...That doesn't look like Botty to me...Something in that glassy stare isn't
quite...

"Andrew?..." Warren frowned...

What happened?...

"Uh...No show..." he muttered...Rolling his eyes...

"What's with your eyes?..." Warren asked...

"Nothing a good prison optometrist couldn't cure..." Buffy smiled at him, staking the vamp by
the door...

"George...?!" the demon and vamp chorused in horror...

***
Sunrise...Part XX...

***
To their credit, Fryn's surviving "people" did their duty and moved to guard their boss' allies...

"Jonathan!!!..." Warren yelled...

"Freeze 'em all...!"

Jonathan looked at the glaring Buffy...Who'd clearly reached the end of her patience...

Ummn..

Spike hopped over to him...Buffy moving to cover Riley and Tara, but eyeing them...

"Jonathan?...Last chance...And you'll never hit both of us..."

He sighed and dropped the nozzle...

"Wise decision, mate..." Spike smiled at him, looking back at Buffy...

She came...For me...

Well...I suppose Tara was included in this...

Still...Oh, God...The little idiot!...

"Buffy?...What the hell are you thinking?..." he cried...

"Damn you!...Wuss!..." Mears bellowed at Jonathan...Racing for the back door as the demon and
vamp covered him, rather gallantly...

She looked at Spike...What?...

The baby...He glared at her...

Xander gulped a little even as he grabbed a chair to thwack the demon, closest of the two to
him...Giles entering with Willow just as he joined in...

God...the poor guy...he thought sympathetically...

Never thought I'd feel like this for Spike, Xander noted to himself...

Buffy shook her head and charged the vamp, Riley staking him from behind with a broken chair
leg...

"Baby?!..." Riley blinked at her...

Long story...she muttered, hurrying past...

The demon blocked the door for a few seconds before Spike smashed him back...

"Buffy!...That's enough!..." he turned to her...

She eyed him...But stopped and let him go on ahead, following...

Willow looked at Xander who looked at her...

Never thought I feel like this...for Spike...she thought sadly...

Oh, God...Tara looked at them...No...

Oh, Buffy...Damn you...Why didn't you wait?...I could've checked it...And told you about...The
other...
Or, did you already know...? she thought bitterly... You heartless...

William has more soul dead...

But...she sighed to herself breathing deeply...It was your decision...Your right...

Oh, God...All over again...My poor William...And this time he knew he was a father...

She looked at Willow who looked over at her...And at Spike...

So, she knows...My poor Willow...

Xander and Giles, dragging Andrew and Jonathan in tow, headed for the front door to cover the
street...

Spike, followed by Buffy had raced out the back after Mears...The surviving demon making a
surprisingly brave fight of it...

Loyal crew, Spike thought...Pity it has to be for Mearsy...

Riley, Willow, and Tara emerged...To see Buffy carefully peering in the alley for Warren, while
Spike fought the demon...

Buffy's deliberately holding back...Tara realized, looking at Willow...Who stared back...

As if she were...Protecting her baby?...

And there's something odd about her aura...Hard to read or something...Cloudy almost...

"I've masked her..." Willow hissed, looking embarrassed...

"But the baby...?"

Yeah...Willow nodded sadly...

"She doesn't want Spike to know...Yet..."

"She tried to stop it, Tara...At the end..." Willow looked at her...

It was too late...

***
A crash of garbage cans exposed the hapless Mr. Mears...

But Buffy was still hesitant in pursuit...While Spike and Riley now were having a considerable
time with Fryn's demon...

And holding a hissed conversation...

"Baby?..." Riley glared at him...Smashing the demon in the back...

"Guess some of us have it in us...And some don't..." Spike whispered back, grinning...As he
dodged a desperate charge...

"She looks all right, do you think?..." he continued in a whisper...The demon staggered back,
looking desperately for help...

"I oughta let him have you right now...!" Riley hissed back...

The demon caught that and paused hopefully...

"Fine...But our deal's still on, right?...She'll need the cash you know..."

"Yeah, yeah..." Riley slammed his arm into the demon's stomach...

Ah well...the demon thought...Accepting his fate with resignation...

Say are they talking about the Slayer?...

A Slayer baby?...
***

"This isn't over, Slayer!!" Warren screamed...Fleeing down the street, he hopped into a small car
and drove off...

Giles and Xander came up with Jonathan and Andrew...

The demon went down to a final blow from Riley...Spike cracking its neck...

"Jonathan..." Buffy nodded coldly at him...

Riley...? she glared a bit at him as he and Spike came over...

William...Why am I not surprised...?

"Ummn...Buffy..." Willow tapped her...

What?...

"Look!..." Willow pointed to where Warren was now driving back towards them...With two other
cars following...

"I think it's more of Fryn's "people"..." Jonathan noted... "Warren must have called them in a little
while ago..."

For you and Spike...he eyed Buffy...

***
"Buffy!!..." Spike cried...As the cars bore down on them...

He raced over and pulled her back...

The cars roared to a stop...Six large demons emerged out of two while Warren watched carefully
from his vehicle...

Whoops...Willow looked at them...

Hmmn...Jonathan looked over at Giles...Who now carried the freeze ray...

"Just point and click..." he told him helpfully...

Giles fired, hitting the two closest in succession...Frozen solid...

Nice shooting...Jonathan noted...

More cars were racing up the street...

Spike looked back at them...And the four remaining demons moving carefully towards them...

Time for a quick withdrawal...he noted to Riley...

"No, it's my people..." Riley smiled...

Pulling out a small pocket beeper...

The cars pulled up, blocking Warren's...

The four demons were not quite up to the mark of their gallant compatriot and surrendered...

As did Warren...Grousing at Andrew and Jonathan...

A sad day for demonhood Spike noted...

No doubt the effect of you lot...he grinned at Riley...

POW rights for demons and all...With square meals and decent beds included...No wonder they
don't mind surrendering...Probably never had it so good...

Buffy was still moving cautiously about...Both Spike and Riley watching over her carefully...

Tara frowning a bit...

"Is she...Enjoying this?..." she eyed Willow...

Cut her some slack, sweetie...Willow told her...

You didn't see her an hour or so ago...

When the baby died I thought she was going to kill herself right then and there...

Tara sighed, nodding...

"It was another girl, wasn't it...?" she looked at Willow...

Yeah...Willow said sadly...Pausing...

She named it Anne...
***

A disaster...Fryn noted sadly to Judith as the reports reached him...

And if those unworthy prisoners talked even some danger to the home base, reasonably secure as
it was in the hills...

Time perhaps to remove to the river island where the ceremony is to be held...

Well...he sighed...Win some, lose some...

A volunteer for the ceremony could always be secured from among our ranks...he noted...

Well, lord...Judith sighed...A tad reluctant, but dutiful...

Judith?...Please...

"Your devotion is touching child, but really..." he noted...

If all the leadership starts sacrificing itself needlessly...Where will our people be?...

Take a lesson from Humanity, dear...The commanders live to fight another day...

But...he brightened...It's only Friday...We still have the entire weekend...

***
Sunrise...Part XXI...


I’d kept away from Spike after our fight with Warren and Fryn’s “staff”...Hoping he wouldn’t sense Willow’s masking spell and catch on...

And hate me...

Odd, isn’t it...The one thing above all I feared...That William would hate me...

***

He and Riley...Riley? involved in this nonsense, of all people...Were watching me...Concerned...

And I played along...Despite an occasional...Guys?...

Tara clearly aware and rather put out with me...At least until Willow spoke to her a moment...

But I couldn’t let him find out...Not now...

Later...I’d try to find a kind way to tell him...

Kinder than the way I’d driven him off to his death a century ago...?

But my “guardian demon” had played a role there...One I had to get straight about...

First, though, I had to get home, let Dawn know how things had worked out...Maybe even, tell her and cry on her shoulder...

Anne...My Anne...My little girl...Our second little girl...

But what else could I have done?...Tell William and try to raise a possibly half-monster?...With a barely restrained maniac vampire for a father?...One who would never stop trying to be a part of our lives?...

Her soul at least was safe now...With little Cicely her sister...And Mom...And Mama, Papa, and cousin Henry...

I could have tried...A traitorous voice cried within...I could have told him and tried to help him...Saved him...Saved them both...Instead...
I had to get home...Hide in my bed and block out any thought of Cicely...And my...her...Husband...Our babies...I couldn’t bear it...

But there was still the matter of dear ole Warren...Waiting in grousing fear in the hands of Riley’s “friends”...

***
Jonathan, of all people, solved that problem rather quickly...

He’d had enough and offered to confess to his role in poor Katrina’s death...

With that Andrew caved as well...

We took them over to the cops, Riley having dismissed his men with their demon captives...

“Where do they take demon prisoners?...” Willow asked him, a hair nervous...

No more experimentation, please...

A quarantined preserve on an island off the Central American coast Riley explained...

They are studied but no experimentation...And they can roam and hunt and live as they want...Excepting the use of magics and the chance to harm humans, they’re as free as reasonably possible...

No experimentation...That you know of...Tara noted...

“Sam and I and others keep close tabs on the place...We don’t want another Initiative either...” Riley replied...

Demonic Park...Willow grinned...Hmmn...Hope the computers there are more up to snuff...

***

At the station Warren whined a “who?..me?” protest...But realizing his best chance given his partners’ confessions of avoiding sole responsibility and second- or first-degree murder was to come somewhat clean...He confessed as well...To an accident...

Well...What human jury was gonna believe Jonathan’s “cerebral depressor” story?...And we could hope that it had been at least in part an accident...Calling for a manslaughter verdict...

We, the concerned citizens who’d persuaded these troubled boys to turn themselves in, headed out after giving brief statements...

The cops were rather anxious to get rid of us...They always hate seeing me or Willow or Giles involved in what otherwise would be clear-cut cases...

We always add that extra, bizarre dimension...

***
Riley pulled Spike over for a brief talk as we prepared to head home...

I said a quick goodbye to both, glaring a little at the imbecile boys...

My “wheeler-dealers...”

God bless ‘em, I know I don’t deserve them...

“You and you “Big Deal”...Geesch”...Shaking my head...

Yet I was having trouble leaving...Torn...

I could see William watching me as he and Riley spoke...Wanting to speak to me...

Joy lurking in his eyes...Oh...

I’d come for him, you see...I must still love him...Just as Tara had said...And in time...

I almost wished he’d hate me...

But oh God...If only I could take him somewhere and just cry on his shoulder for an hour...

But...I couldn’t let him find out...And I couldn’t let things start all over again...

Riley handed him something...And he came over...I looked at Giles to keep him from me...But...

He simply called to me and asked if I was heading straight home...I looked exhausted...

On that we concurred...As did Giles, Tara, Xander, Riley and Willow...

Riley wished us a good night...He’d stop by tomorrow before leaving...And try to explain what the hell...he grinned wryly...

I nodded, frowning a bit...Well at least the Troika was no more as a result...And...

I couldn’t help it...I was only human...The others had leaked vague details of Spike’s deal making...And cash had come to mean a great deal to me this past year...At least in terms of pushing back life’s more mundane problems...

I wondered how well Spike had done for me...And how he’d get it to us...
The horrifying thought popped in my head...

Such a good husband I had...Fussing over my condition, risking so much to do his duty by me...

Considering all he had had to go through to provide for me...Not like those fools who had come to court me back in London...Everything in life handed on a platter to them...They’d sneered at my little poet...None of them could ever have endured...

I always known we’d manage...No matter what people and the family said about...

I came to myself with a start...Giles eyeing me in my reverie...

“Just pooped...” I grinned wanly at him...He nodded...

Tara chose to walk William home...Suddenly both Willow and I felt that a brief walk might not be the worst thing...But we were already in the car...

“Take care...” he called as we pulled away...

You too...I mouthed as we passed him...

He watched us all the way down the road until we turned...I saw him as I watched through the rear window...

As Xander watched me...Sympathetically...

***
Alls well that ends well...Giles noted as we sat...He, I, Dawn, Xander, Anya...At our kitchen table...

Mr. Fryn would have to settle for vamps to sacrifice...Unless he could get his hands on Faith...

Considering the Council’s past and present unscrupulous behavior, not out of the bounds of possibility...he noted...Unlikely though, given the current situation...

Though we should see if we could locate his ceremonial site and put a stop to his activities...

“Why?...” I asked...Exhausted...And rather bitter...

He’d only be sacrificing his own kind...I noted...

Let the Council deal with him and his super-charged vamps...

“Many innocent lives could be lost if he succeeds, Buffy...” Giles eyed me...

I stared at him...

“Like William’s...?” I asked...

Where was the Council’s concern when they made a deal with D’Hoffryn and sent Halfreck to me...?

Dawn stared...Whoa...The Council...?

“I’m tired...” I looked at Giles...

Tired and I really don’t care...

“If these fellows show up in town after their battery charging...I’ll deal with them...”

Otherwise...I waved a hand...

Giles nodded, knowing it was best not to press...

And realized the real source of my exhaustion...Although when he and the others prepared to
leave, I found a few excuses to drag out the evening...

And begged him to stay with us when Xander suggested he crash with them...

I took Dawn up to bed after Xander and Anya finally escaped me and after more fussing around, settling Giles in on the living room couch...

Dawny...

Next to William, both the last person I wanted to face right now...And the one whose shoulder I most wanted to cry on...

I eyed her carefully as she kindly submitted to the closest supervision of her bedtime preparations since she was seven years old...

Finally, all set for bed...she looked at me...The kind, concerned face of an adult...Mom’s face...

My Anne’s Aunt Dawn...

“Buffy...” she sighed... Taking my hands...

“I know...”

She hugged me...

“I tried to save her...I tried...” I sobbed...

***
I awoke at ten...Still exhausted...Tottering down to the kitchen where Dawn, Willow, and Tara were talking...

Tara looking over the pages Spike had gotten from Warren last night...Pages which as yet meant nothing to me...And which he’d sworn her to keep mum about to me...

She packed them up, indicating she was about to head out...

Giles...? I looked at Dawn...

Out to the Magic Box...she noted...

Tara was heading out that way herself...Help Giles track our friend, Mr. Fryn....

Tara...I had questions for that quarter alright...But settled for a brief...

“Spike get home ok?...”

Fine, she replied...Avoiding Willow’s look as well as mine...

Dawn grinned at her...

“You do it...”she nudged Tara...

I looked at them...

“Here...”Tara handed me...A check...

No point in trying to use Spike’s original elaborate scheme to get it to you...she grinned faintly...

“Riley says it’s ok...The government will get a lot more out of Warren’s stuff than he let on to him...”

Besides they get to keep their money...For legal fees...she noted...

So...Why shouldn’t you get to keep Spike’s share...

$90,000...? I gasped...

Well...You’ll have to deal with taxes and all...Tara explained...

But it should help...
I paused...Clearly hesitant...

Tara frowned...

“Don’t do this to him, Buffy...You need it and he nearly killed himself to get for you...”

No strings are attached, he swears...she looked at me...Hopefully...

I nodded...Ok...

She got up...

Thank you, her look said...

“Can I meet you...At the Magic Box?...Later?...” I asked her...

I need some more help...With you know who...

My “guardian angel”...I thought grimly...

She nodded...

Willow hopped up to go with her...

“Willow?...” I eyed her...

Thanks for being there...I told her...

She smiled and nodded...

My Anne’s godmother...

Dawn eyed me after they'd left...Hesitant...

"What?..." I looked at her...

Are you going to thank him?...she asked...

Yeah...Sure...I nodded...At the right time...Trembling inspite of myself

She looked away...Then at me...

"He'll forgive you..." she took my hands...He will...

I burst into tears...And ran to the couch...

"It's all so unfair...So hopeless..." I choked out...

Not hopeless...Dawn blurted out...As I stared at her...

Sighing, she told me what little Tara had told her about the Wolfram-Hart ceremony...

While I had sat...Fretting over our cruel fate...He'd been trying to change it...

Too late, perhaps...And maybe little chance of success...But
he'd loved me enough to try...

While I...

***
Willow followed alongside Tara...

“So...” she looked for an opening...

What do you say to your ex-lover who’s been out till early morning with a male vampire...

A vampire surely desperate for a little...Comfort...

As for the Wolfram-Hart ceremony...? Willow began...

Tara sighed...

“I don’t know...It looks very dangerous...”

“You and Will at it all night?...” Willow smiled...Nervously...

Whoa...

“I mean...At the ceremony documents...” she explained hastily...

Tara said nothing for a while...Then...

“Try to understand, Willow...There are things involved here I didn’t understand myself...Couldn’t see...Until last night... ”

Things that may change us all...Forever...she eyed her rather sadly...

Willow looked at her...

“William was so close...Almost there, just beneath the surface...You could see it...You know that, Willow...”

We all saw it...And that must have triggered...she hesitated...

Sure, sure...Willow nodded, hastily...Yes, it’s true...I saw it, too...

Tara looked away...

“A couple of nights ago...I had the strangest dream...” Tara went on...

Spike was in a church, begging for help...

“From Virgin Mary of all people...For Buffy...”

Willow stopped...Staring at her friend...

Tara...?

Tara looked at her...Tears streaming down her face...

“He was so desperate...So lonely...”

So lost...

He’d tried so hard...she paused, sobbing gently...

Someone had to help him...I had to help him...At last...
“I came to him and told him...That the practical was the best solution...”

Tara paused...

Well...Willow smiled faintly...

It was good advice...And things worked out well...

“Last night...He told me...”

He was in a church a couple days ago...And someone came to him...Advised him...

And...Then suddenly I....Knew...Tara looked at her...

“You must’ve...Some kind of subconscious thing...Telepathy spell...?” Willow looked at her...

“It’s ok...” she patted Tara...

I understand...she eyed her...You don’t have to feel...Anything bad about it...

You wanted to help...You want to help him...

And we did nothing to help him before...she thought sadly...Nothing...

Tara stared at her...And sighed...

“I don’t say Buffy was wrong...” Tara paused... “She had to do what was right for her...But...”

He can’t do it alone...

Somebody has to help him...Somebody has to care...And I...

“It’s all right...” Willow hugged her...All right...she whispered, rocking her gently...

What you did...she looked at her friend...Whatever you did last night...Was beautiful, really...To help him...

“I can understand...” she began...Again...

“No...”

Tara pulled away...Tears glistening...Shaking her head...

You don’t understand...

All we did last night was sit and talk until sunrise...

Mostly about Buffy...And Cicely...she grinned through her tears...

Going through all the stuff he’d kept from those days...

“He’s a little single-minded on the subject of romance...”

Phew...Willow thought...

Not that I ever had any doubts...Even when she came in at 7 am this morning...

“Well then...” Willow began...

Tara eyed her...

“But then he told me that story...And I knew...”

I’ve been reaching out to him...Subconsciously and now...Consciously...For a reason...

She looked away...Then straight in Willow’s eyes...

“I’m in love with him, Willow, that true’s and you knew that already...But that’s not the issue here...”

It’s not just my sympathy for him...I owe him more than I can ever hope to repay...

“He comforted me when he should have cursed me...For my weakness...Oh, God my weakness...” she sobbed...

So weak that after my soul escaped limbo...And I was reborn and free...Here...I still hid from the truth...Ran from it...Until last night...

“Tara...? Baby?...” Willow felt a chill beginning to run down her spine...

“Willow, Cicely Addams is not the only person who’s come back...”

Willow stared at her...Tara?...

Shy, innocent...Out of place in the world...

Almost as if she were from...Another era...

And in love with...

No...No...It can’t be...She can’t be...Not her...Not my Tara...

I can’t be in love with...

“All those lives destroyed...And all the guilt...The shame...Is mine...” Tara sobbed...

“I couldn’t stop her Willow...She was too strong for me...”

But...She is me...My dark half...Tara looked down...

“No...No...” Willow cried, backing away... “Don’t tell me this!...”

Tara turned to her, pleading...

“I didn’t know when we met, Willow...I didn’t deceive you...”

It wasn’t until...Buffy told me about her and Spike being together...And I saw him...Struggling to be William again...And began feeling for him...That I even began to have dreams...

Of my past...

“Forgive me...” Tara stood trembling...Falling to her knees...

“Forgive me, God...Forgive me, William...Forgive me...” she sobbed...

Willow came to her and wrapped an arm around her...

“It’s all right baby...It’s all right...” she whispered...

“I have to help him...Take care of him...Like he took care of me, before I escaped limbo somehow...You can see that now...” Tara whispered through her tears...

Yes...I see...Willow replied sadly...I see...Now...

“Drusilla, it’s all right...” she whispered...

***
Sunrise...Part XXII...


Tara had something for me when we met at the shop...A box...From William...

She’d agreed to give it to me as he seemed so desperately sure it would help...But she suggested we move over to her dorm for more privacy...

Indicating Spike’s presence below floors with a glance down...

I concurred...Disappointed as that might make Anya and Xander...

And nervous as it might make Giles...Eyeing me carefully when I explained where we were going...Suspecting whom we planned to consult...

A little to my surprise, Willow quietly agreed to stay behind when Tara asked her to...

Staring at her and smiling...Reassuringly...

A little chill crept in my heart...Tara had been with William all the previous night, I knew...

Maybe...She had something to tell me...Alone...

No...He couldn’t have left...She was still reviewing the ceremony...

As long as there was even the slightest hope, he’d stay...I know...

I know, I know...Was there ever a Slayer so...?

The answer is yes...In 1880 there was...

***

Their guest reluctantly accepted Tara’s and Buffy’s invitation to join them in Tara’s dorm room...But she was as interested in the contents of William’s box as they were...

And she was rather interested to see how Cicely would handle Tara’s little bombshell...

And after all...All three of them were linked by the love of William Soames Walthrop...

“How did he manage to keep these?...All these years...” Halfreck wondered aloud for all three of them...Looking at the other two...

Letters...From Cicely...to William...

And each letter...More loving, more devoted...

I...don’t remember...these...Buffy stared at the faded letters...

Tara...And the “friend” who’d responded to the summons the two had made...Watched...

You do remember...Halfreck stared at her...Smiling faintly...She stroked her pendant...

Tara eyed her...

She’s not cooperating out of sympathy...

“Buffy...” Tara called to her...

Careful...

Buffy paused, then nodded...

She stopped reading and quoted the rest from memory as Halfreck and Tara watched her...

“Don’t believe what they say...Believe in me...As I believe in you...”

“...I will wait for you...I will be with you...I love you...Always...

Cicely...”

Buffy’s hand shook as she held the letter...

I remember...she said wanly...

“He had a year left to finish Cambridge...” she told them blankly...Then he’d get settled in his work...

He thought we should wait...At least let him begin his career...

But I wanted him so badly...And the family suspected...Papa was going to see to it I was sent away...

And you married him...Secretly...Two days before he died...But you didn’t wait for him...And you weren’t with him...In the end...Halfreck noted...

“I...I couldn’t ...”

I turned to Tara, pleading...

My jury...

“I was the Slayer...I couldn’t walk from that...”

And I can’t...I couldn’t keep him round me...He wouldn’t survive...And William has too many people who need him...His sister and brother...I...Can’t...It was wrong...

I couldn’t...She looked at the demon...
“And then you realized you were pregnant...With William’s child...” Halfreck eyed her...

“I don’t...I didn’t know what to do...I couldn’t tell anyone, not even Simon, my Watcher...I thought...Hoped...Now we could go away...We had to, now...Even Papa would have to accept things now...” Buffy stared off...

“I was glad, actually...I had a reason to leave...To take him and go...But...”

I meant to tell him that night...After the party...We were going to slip off together...

Henry agreed to tell my parents what we’d done...After we’d left...

William didn’t like the idea of leaving like this but he knew Papa could have the marriage annulled...That I was already under terrible pressure to give him up...

He suspected I think...That I was unsure...About him...That that was why I pressed for the marriage so quickly...

But the baby would force my parents to accept things...

I’d tell him and...Leave with him...Go...

Anywhere...

But Henry was attacked...On his way home to us...Just lucky the vampire fled the police who came...

It was Darla, the elder female judging by Henry’s description...

Angelis and his pride had come...The most dangerous vampires the Council had ever encountered...

And I knew...I couldn’t walk away...Abandon my duty...

But...Will...And our baby...

“I didn’t know what to do...”

***

I stared at my “guardian demon”...

And then...You came...

Courtesy of Simon and the Council...To “help” me reach a decision, you said...
Halfreck smiled...But a hair nervously...Perhaps a few too many memories revived the demon wondered...

“Think about all the burdens, Cicely...you said...” I went on...

You rushed into this...Wouldn’t it all be so much easier...

If he would leave...Leave you free...

If your life were simple again...

Oh...God...I looked at Tara...

Yes...I said...yes...

“I was so frightened...I didn’t know what would happen...I didn’t...”

I just wanted...Things simple again...

That’s all I wished for...That my life would be simple again...

“And...You made it so easy for me...” I stared at Halfreck...

“I didn’t even have to face him...You took my place...And told him...”

But it had been my wish...Even if she had tricked me...

“The crypt...The other day...” I gasped, suddenly realizing...

Tara stared at me...

“You took my place...Again...” I eyed Halfreck...Who shrugged nervously...

Tried to drive him away again...

“It was what you wanted...” she replied...

You wanted him gone...And life simple again...Even more than before...

“I didn’t know you were trying to separate us...” I paused, quietly staring...The hatred building...

Then or now...

“Drusilla...” Halfreck paused, staring at Tara...With a faint smile...

Tara staring back...

“Wasn’t my fault...Just Fate...” Halfreck continued...

“As for William...Would you have decided any differently about pushing him away if I had told you how I’d do it?...”

I just stared at her...Quietly...

But I had no answer...
***

Halfreck sensed danger in my quiet mood...And departed...

But Tara was the quiet one I feared...My judge and jury...

“Do you want me to try recalling her?..” she asked...

No...I paused...

“I don’t owe him anything, Tara...” I looked at her...

What happened back then...Was to another woman...

I’m sorry for him but...

Tara eyed me carefully...

“What about what you owe yourself...You and Cicely...?”

You have the right to be loved, Buffy...she paused...

And Cicely had the right...

Even a Slayer has that right...Whatever the Council or her own sense of duty may say...

And to be honest with yourself...

***

“I am being honest...I can’t help him...I can’t take the risk...”

She cut me off and went on...

“No...That’s not it...”
“Since last night I’ve been doing...” she smiled wanly... “More research, Buffy...” she began...

And a lot of thinking...

You’re not worried about demon Spike...And you’re not all that worried about William failing...

Or that he’ll betray you...Even leave you...

“It’s William’s fidelity that terrifies you...If you open your heart to him...It will be forever...You know that as well as I do...”

He’s the staying type, she smiled at Buffy...However much he...May play at being Mr. Super Stud, courtesy of Spike...

And you’re terrified of it...Having to help him...To be human...To survive...

Protecting him...

All your life...Beyond even...Cause if we can’t help him to be human again, you’ll have to take him with you when you die...Into Eternity...Together...

And the kind of commitment...And love...William Soames Walthrop has to give...The burden of it...Terrifies you...

“Just as it did in 1880, Cicely...When you let him be sent away...And my...other self killed our poor William...”

What...?

“You’re not the only one with bad dreams of the past, Cicely...” Tara sighed...

And of all people, I should know how faithful and loving he is...Tara looked back at me...

She shook her head...

In his worst moments...He never blamed me...Took pity on me...

“Though the guilt was mine...My soul’s weakness in failing to block my Evil One...” Tara bowed her head...And looked up at me...

Drusilla...? I gasped...

Reincarnation...The least efficient way to make amends for past wrongs...she smiled wanly at me...

“It wasn’t until last night when...Talking to him again...He trying to spare me any hurt...Feeling that I’d been with him like this before...”

When his sweet soul tried to reach out, comfort me...All those years when I was trapped in limbo...

Until I found the strength to escape, be reborn...As you did...

And...Like you...I tried to hide from the past in my new life...Even when I was somehow called to Sunnydale to seek him out...And someday, somehow make amends...

As I told you, Buffy...She looked at my shocked face...

“Somebody had to care...

And who else if not the one whose demon murdered him...”

“Murderess!!!...” I screamed...Jumping up, I grabbed a chair...

To kill this thing that murdered my husband...Stole him away...

I gasped and caught my breath...

She eyed me sadly...Waiting...

I calmed...Put the chair down...And sat back down...My head in my hands...

After all...There were two murderesses here...Accomplices in the murder of William Soames Walthrop...

***
Tara...Drusilla...waited patiently until I’d recovered enough to look at her...

My husband’s murderess...Her soul free and secure in its new body...

While my Will...A quiet flame of rage was building up again inside...

But...I knew in my heart she was not the real killer...

Even her insane counterpart didn’t bear the guilt I did...

I let him be sent away...To his death...And never even faced him...

It didn’t matter that the words weren’t spoken by me...The intent was mine...

And in the end I had used them, hadn’t I?...A century later...

“You’re beneath me...”
***

“Cicely, I’ve given you time...A chance to decide what you want to do...” Tara continued...

“But you’re just hurting him now...And I won’t let you keeping doing that...”

I owe him...And care for him...Too much...

Rage surged again in me...

“You care...? Vampire!!!...”

“Murderess!!!...” I repeated...Cicely surging in me...

But I knew...She...Her demon...Had just been an instrument...

Of fate, Halfreck had said...

I know what I am...Tara/Dru eyed me...

And what I’m guilty of...

“He’s my husband!!!...I won’t let you take him again...!!!” I blurted out, angrily...

Hand to my mouth in shock...

“Then you should either help him...Or consider a divorce, Cicely...” Tara eyed me coolly...

***
She left me a few minutes later...Having told me that she had spoken to Willow...

I said nothing to her...Just staring...

“You can hate me, Buffy...Cicely...” Tara eyed me...

That’s your right...

But...I won’t let William be lost...Whether the ceremony works or not, his soul has to be kept safe...And if you won’t help him...

Then leave him to me...As you did in 1880...

“I’ll take care of him...The way his soul tried to care for me when I was lost...”

“Your demon...Is still killing...” I finally replied...

Aren’t you proud...? I eyed her...

Tara...Drusilla...Looked me in the eyes...

“I’m not my demon, Buffy...And I’m not a Slayer...But if Will will agree...We’ll deal with vampiral Dru in time...”

Even if I have to kill us both and have Willow use the resurrection ceremony to drive her back to Hell...

“How’d Willow take it?...” I

Better than I deserve...As I expected...Tara coolly replied...

“You haven’t told him...” I eyed her...

Not yet...Tara replied...

Why...I asked, suddenly...Looking at her...Tara?...

Why did his soul stay with Spike?...Why didn’t it go to limbo like yours?...

Why were you allowed to escape?...And my sweet Will trapped with Spike...?

“I don’t know...Halfreck’s curse in part suspended his soul’s normal traverse to limbo, I think...But...”

Mainly I think...He wanted to stay...Fought to stay...

To be with his wife...In this world...Tara eyed me...

And paid a terrible price...Watching Spike from right up front all these horrible years...


“I’m still waiting for your answer...Will you help him?...”

I don’t know how...I answered...

Maybe if your ceremony works...I paused...

“The ceremony may not work...And even if it does it will be a long time before I can try it...William’s soul needs help now...”

I don’t know how to help him...I repeated...

She sighed...Cicely...she began...

Cicely...Is dead...I replied...Looking away...

“Then I guess I have my answer...” she rose and left without looking at me again...

***
Back at the house, I was shocked to find him waiting upstairs...He’d slipped in somehow...

“I’m sorry...” he looked at me...

But...We have to talk...

“Out...” I hissed, trying to keep it down...

Dawn’s out...he told me...

“Out, Will...” I replied...

I’ll talk to you later...

“You came for me...Last night...” he stared at me...

You do love me...he smiled at me...

“Cicely...Somehow...I knew you’d come back for me...I knew what you said that night...Wasn’t the end...”

Please, God...I thought...He hasn’t remembered...At least not everything...

Not...That night in London...

When...

Two days before my “guardian demon” lent a hand...

Oh, merciful God please don’t let him remember...Our wedding...

Nothing’s changed, the voice in my head said...Nothing...

He’s still...What he is...
Not my William...Not...My husband...And I can’t pretend that he is...

Whatever Tara...Drusilla plans to do ...

I can’t do this...I haven’t the strength...

“Buffy...” he took my hand...Tenderly...Examining my face...

No, Will...I told him...Please go...

You’re just afraid...Buffy...he insisted...His voice took on a pleading desperation...

Tara told me...You’re just afraid...

Just as you were afraid in 1880...I understand now...

“You didn’t drive me away because you’d changed your mind...You were just afraid...”

He hasn’t remembered...Thank God, he doesn’t remember...Not yet...

“Don’t be afraid...Love me...” he embraced me...

“You came back for me, Cicely...You love me...” he whispered...

Your William is dead...This is not William...I told myself...

You came to save me...Save me...And our baby...he pleaded...Kissing me...

Our baby...I thought...Oh Will...No...

No, I can’t do this to him...Let him know...It would only hurt him needlessly...

My husband is dead...

Cicely...Cicely...He repeated...Kissing me...

No!!...I told him...

“I won’t be Cicely for you...Stop this!...”

He grabbed hard at me as I tried to pull away...

“Cicely!...” he pulled me hard against him...

“Don’t make me hate you, William!...” I hissed and pushed him back and he paused...Shaking...
A sound from below...

Giles...I hissed...Home...

“Buffy?...” he called...

“It’s ok Giles...” I called back...

Ok...

“I’m sorry...Sorry...” he backed away...

“Is this... “Being William for me”...?” I asked...

“Is that your kind of love?...” I looked at him...

“Spike...”

“You don’t know what I’ve been through...All these years without hope...” he gasped...

I’m sorry...he began again...Can’t you understand?...

“The only thing keeping anything of me alive has been knowing, somehow, that you’d come for me...There must have been a reason for that...I heard you...Calling to me...”

“I’m not here for you...Cicely is dead...And you are not William...” I paused...Breathing hard...

Anyway...

“Maybe I didn’t love you enough then either...” I said...

Maybe that’s the reason I sent you away...I looked at him...

He stood back from me...Eyeing me strangely...

“The baby...I’m not feeling it the same way...There’s a cloud...”

I hesitated...And lied in a rush...

“Willow’s protected it...I didn’t want to take any chances...”

I haven’t decided yet...I finished lamely...

He trembled...Staring at me...And walked to the stairs...

Giles came to the foot of the stairs, eyeing us...

“It’s ok, Giles...” I called down to him...

I can deal here...Please...

He nodded quietly and went to the kitchen...

William just stared at me from the top of the stairs...

I gulped...I was angry I began...I hadn’t meant to say what I’d said...But he had to understand...

Tell him it’s a lie...Something screamed inside me...A lie!...We didn’t send him away...

But it wasn’t all a lie...And we did send him away...

He paused...Taking something from his pocket...A little packet...

“You know...I’ve been keeping this for years...Never quite understood why....”

He dropped it, walked down the stairs, and pausing to wrap his coat around against the last rays of sun, went out the door without another word...

Does he know?...Oh, God...Will, I’m sorry...I’m so sorry...

I picked up the packet and hurried downstairs...

And suddenly I heard him outside...Softly, bitterly singing...

“You were my sunshine...My only sunshine...” Smashing a stick as he walked...

I went to the door...And watched him walking away...Praying he’d go to Tara’s...

But knowing where he was headed...Even if I didn’t know the location...I knew where he was going...

Home...

For the best?...Maybe...

What could I do for Spike?...I couldn’t love him...And I couldn’t give my William peace...

Yet I couldn’t let Drusilla have him...Not even human Drusilla...So...

A cold stern voice raged in me...Coward!!...It screamed...
No...William is dead...And so is Cicely...I told the voices crying out in my head...

“Murderess!!!!”

“You made happ-y...When skies were grey...”

“William...” I called faintly, almost involuntarily...Standing at the door...

I looked at the clock...Six-thirty...Exactly 12 hours to sunrise...

“You’ll never know dear...How much I loved you...” drifted over...

I looked down at what he’d dropped...And unwrapped it...

A wedding band...The one I gave him back in London that night in 1880...

“Eternity is ours...” inscribed on the inside...A pretty common one in our day...But hey, we were conventional Victorians in some ways...

Anyway I’d liked it...

Giles re-entered from the kitchen...

Buffy?...He stared at me...Turning the band over in my hands...

William hadn’t forgotten...He’d just waited, hoping I’d remember...

He wouldn’t want to hurt me if I couldn’t remember...

It was my turn to tremble...

***

A lone demon sentry covered the entrance to Fryn’s old lair...Almost everything necessary to the ceremony had been removed...Just one more load and he and the last three packing below could go, thank “St. Vitulus”...

He sensed something coming...A fellow underdweller...Vampiral...

A blonde-haired figure, in an unmistakable long black coat emerged from the twilight fog on the dirt road to the cavern...

“William the Bloody...” the demon gasped...

Great...I had to be the one to get the last watch...he sighed...
He tensed for battle...Pressing his beeper...God, guys get up here...Fast...

“Your boss around, mate?...” Spike smiled at him...Raising his hands in a peaceful gesture...

Understand he’s looking for a volunteer for tomorrow morning’s festivities...
***
Sunrise...Part XXIII...

While I held my husband’s wedding band in my hand, Xander called...

Giles went to the phone...

News...Regarding Fryn’s group...

A bunch of stuff had been stolen from various construction sites...Including Xander’s own...

By rather strange-looking creatures, one of whom had just been caught at Xander’s site by a rather angry foreman Harris...And now seemed quite willing to spill the beans as to the whereabouts of his boss’ base in the hills outside town...

He and An were bringing him...With proper restraints...

***
“Great...” I nodded...Putting William’s wedding band in my blouse pocket...

Oddly enough the blouse I’d worn the day came back...And he was so good to me, so concerned for me...So William for me...

Patching my bleeding hands...Trying to apologize for failing...

What a joke, huh?...For failing me...Me...

Who patched his hands when he and Spike tore their way out?...

“Buffy...? May I see that ring?...” Giles asked...

It’s nothing, Giles...Just an heirloom William...Spike...Wanted me to take...

I shouldn’t have accepted it from him, I know...

“It’s nothing...” I stared at him...He stared back...

I pulled it out and gave it to him...He examined it carefully...

“No...There’s nothing here but a ring...”
“You thought he’d use magic on me?...” I couldn’t keep the anger out of my voice...

You’ve never trusted him...I began...

He eyed with surprise...Of course he’s never trusted him...I reminded myself...

Killer vampire, Slayer...Watchers can see a problem in such things...

“I’m sorry...” I resumed...hastily...

Things...

“I understand...” Giles nodded...

“My ring?...” I asked nervously...He handed it back...I put it back...

Next to my heart...

“I’m sorry my dear...Truly...” he looked at me...

“I’ve sent him away again...” I stared at him...

“Me...Not Halfreck this time...”

He won’t be back...

“But hey...” I put a broken smile on my face...Trembling...

Problem solved, eh...I clasped my hands desperately...

“He’ll be all right...In the end, Cicely will find him in Eternity...” Giles put a hand on my shoulder...

No...I shook my head...He’ll be lost in Spike now and...

That will be that...

Unless of course I...Cicely and I ...Wind up in Hell...

“That’s the punishment for murder, isn’t it?...” I looked at Giles...

“I don’t think William’s soul will ever give into Spike, Buffy...” Giles said quietly...

I nodded...And smiled a bit at him...My sweet Giles...

But he was right...I was wrong to doubt...My Will would never give in...Even if he had accepted losing me at last...But...

“No...” I agreed...He won’t give in...Ever...

But I’ve lost him forever now...

Giles sighed...

“Let me review the ceremony with Tara and Willow...See if anything can be done...”

It’s too late now...I replied...

A ring at the door...Xander, Anya, and their “guest”...A large, fur-covered type...Not all that menacing really...And quite willing to cooperate now...

After all, he’d expected to be killed immediately on his capture...Instead, the about-to-be Harrises had bought him a large shake when he’d seemed to be panting a bit...

***
Much to the surprise of those assembled at our table...Giles, Dawny, Xander, Anya, and Floyd the furball...

I seemed suddenly rather gung-ho for an assault on Fortress Fryn...

Anything to take my mind off...

Of course, in the back of my mind the thought did occur that he might still be there...Even though Floyd had told us Fryn was in process of pulling out to his island...Just where that was, he swore not to know...Sucking happily at his vanilla shake...

Honest, he assured us...Mr. Fryn didn’t believe in circulating a lot of key information to the lesser staff...

Giles found it possible to believe that...Looking at Floyd...

But the island was somewhere out on the lake formed by the Sunnydale Dam...Floyd noted...

He was sure of that much...

One of nearly 20 little such...All practically uninhabited...

***
Anya got me aside for a sec...Just as we agreed that Xander, she, and I would head over with Floyd to the hill base...Giles to contact Willow and Tara and see if they could join us in the hills...The decision on trying the island sites could be made after they came in and could try locating the group...

“Where’s Spike?...” she asked...He said he’d be here, was going to speak with you for a moment...

“He left...” I replied...Shortly...

You saw his box of letters...? she asked...

The one Tara took...

“Yeah...”

And...?

“And...Cicely is dead...As I told him...”

He finally got it, I think...I eyed her...

Anya looked at me...The others were gathering stuff...Dawn passed through the living room, eying us...But realized from our looks that we required some space...

She knew exactly what I meant...

“You are a jealous little wifey...Aren’t you Cicely?...” Anya whispered harshly...

You couldn’t lie to him...Tell him you’d think it over...To wait and see...Try the ceremony...

Then leave him to Tara...

No...It was either you or dead...And dead is so much simpler for you, isn’t?....

I glared at her...

“When Xander left me...I tried to revert back...” Anya paused...

I wanted to hurt him, kill him for what he did...

But at least...she paused...

“At least Xander left me at the altar...Not after the wedding...”

Not after promising never to abandon me...

Not when I needed him to protect me against that demon...

Like you did...

“Enough...” I whispered...That’s enough, Anya...

And even then...From the moment he started breaking free of Spike...He wanted to save you, protect you...All Will wanted was for you to admit you were Cicely...And that you loved him...

“Enough!!...”

“I guess it’s true what we used say about Slayers when I was a demon...They haven’t it in them to love...”

I grabbed her by the throat...And let her go...She caught her breath...Eying me...

“It’s what makes them such efficient killers...” she smiled coldly at me...

I breathed deeply...Snap her little neck...Snap it and never hear that voice again...Accusing me...

Instead I pulled his ring out...And gave it to her...

She stared at it...Read the inscription...

“His...?” she looked at me...

Yes...I hesitated...

Ours...I said...

“Anya...?”

What did he do?...

She stared at me...What did...?

“Xander...What did he do to...?”

She blinked at me...We heard the others moving around...And then...She understood...

“He told me he still loved me and made me believe it...”

It was that simple...? I stared at her...

That simple...she nodded...
“I betrayed him Anya...Twice...How can he forgive me?...”

Buffy...Anya took my hand...

“All that mattered to me in the end was...He came back...”

Giles came back in...

“Change of plans, Giles...” I told him...

“I think I’d better collect Tara myself...I don’t the vamps will be on their hilltop and I’d like to start trying the islands right away...Xander and Anya can scout out the hills and see if anyone’s there...”

He eyed me curiously but agreed it might be a better idea...If Anya and Xander were in agreement and would promise not to try probing the cavern without backup...

Anya nodded...Staring at me...

***
At Tara’s...I explained the plan to her briefly...Could she try to find anything that might allow us to locate the vampire group on their specific island...?

Spike’s gone out there, I think...He might be in danger as well, I noted...Eying her...

“Spike...? Why...?” Tara looked at me...

What did you say to him?...she asked me...Somewhat harshly...

“I was a little hard on him...” I looked away...

But...I’d been thinking, and perhaps I’d been too hard...Too afraid of the consequences of trying to help the poor guy...I’d try a little kindness...Encourage him to try the ceremony...

Then we’d see what we’d see...

Tara nodded...She went over to grab some things...

Ummn...Drusilla...? I turned to her...

Tara...? I corrected...hastily...

Sorry...

“I want to try Halfreck one more time...Alone...”
Maybe she’d be willing to help if she thinks Spike’s in danger...But she won’t respond to a voice summons from me...

“That’s dangerous, Buffy...” Tara looked at me...

Exactly...So...If you’d set things up...And wait in the other room...I paused...Looking as innocent as I could...

Well...

Thanks, I smiled...
***

Miss Bulging Veins appeared on cue at my summons...Following Tara’s instructions...

Oh, not again...Halfreck sighed...Staring at me...

Look...Ms. Summers...I’ve told you all I can...All I’m allowed to...

Unless you have a specific wish...she paused...A bit hopefully...

“D’Hoffryn tricked you too, Halfreck...He told you Spike would be yours if you helped to drive William out for good, didn’t he?...” I looked at her...

She stared at me...

“Spike will be destroyed with William...They’ll both fall back into Hell...” I looked at her...

With no hope of return here...

Well...Perhaps only no hope of William returning to me...But I was telling the truth about Spike...

“No...” Halfreck looked at me...

Spike?...Gone...?

She looked away, hesitating...And I had my moment...

I grabbed her pendant and snapped it off her neck...

“No!!!...” Halfreck screamed...Reverting to human form...

I held the pendant in my hand...And closing my fist...Wished...

Nothing...Unless, maybe...

“No...Buffy...I’m not permitting this wish to go through...” a voice called from behind...

“D’Hoffryn...” Halfreck gasped... “Help me!...”

“Hmmn...I’m sorry, my dear...You know the rules...I’m afraid your fate is now up to Ms. Summers...” D’Hoffryn eyed her...

“Give William back his life!!!...” I cried...

“I didn’t take it away...And Halfreck has already told you that we cannot reverse that which we had no hand in...” he replied...

“You tricked me...She took my place...” I glared at him...

“Only because you allowed it...Your wish...To be free of this...Burden...”

Halfreck had her own bone to pick...

“D’Hoffryn?...Was she telling the truth? Did you lie to me about Spike?”

He sighed and frowned at me...

Haly...Have I ever lied to you?...

“If you’d succeeded and driven Will out, Spike would have been free for you...”

But...The Vitulus ceremony will destroy Spike...

I warned you that you would lose him if you failed...

“Consequences of failure, sweetheart...” he told her...Sympathetically...

And consequences of wish, Ms. Summers...he returned to me...

“I was afraid...For a moment...Just a moment...”

It wasn’t William I wanted to be free of...

“Your fear ran very deep, Buffy...And it centered on William...” D’Hoffryn noted...

For him...I was afraid for him...

“Please...”
He eyed me carefully...

“What are you prepared to offer in exchange?...After all this is quite a wish...”

“I won’t join you...” I looked at him...

“Not even for William...”

“I couldn’t even for William...Besides...” I eyed him... “It would only separate us...”

D’Hoffryn nodded and paused...

“It’s true...I do want you for my ranks, Ms. Summers...Or if you prefer, Ms. Addams...”

Or...Mrs. Walthrop...he smiled...

“After all...I’ve never quite understood why you humans cling so desperately to your few little years here on this ball of rock and tears...When immortality can be yours with a wish...”

“We’re already immortal...What you offer is eternal death...And I’d lose him in any case...” I hastily replied...Not thinking, as if...

As if Cicely had answered for us...

I don’t find it... “Eternal death”...Halfreck interjected...

“Well...” the demon lord smiled... “Depends on your point of view, really...”

“In any case, Buffy...The decision on William is and has always been yours...However much I and your Council may have tried to influence it...”

“I didn’t ask for his condemnation...For Drusilla...”

“But it was your wish that drove him away...And into her arms...Both the demon...And...”
he looked at the door behind which Tara waited...

“I don’t believe you...”

Odd...he smiled...Considering you just drove him away again...Knowing he’d die...Again...

“I loved him...” I said simply...

Not enough, it seems...he replied...Looking at me firmly...

“What do you want, Buffy...Cicely?...The fact is...I can’t drive Spike out without killing William as well...I don’t have power over souls and demon essences...”

All I could do at best would be to give him what you yourself could even more easily...Slayer...

You can’t help him?...I stared at the demon...

“Buffy...William has placed his fate in your hands...When you called for help, you made a decision that only you can change...He was bound by it because he refused to give you up...Even in his worst moments of despair...”

“I was afraid for him...And for me...He...We can’t suffer forever because I had a moment’s doubt...It isn’t right...It’s not fair...”

He paused...

“Life is not fair, Cicely...But he can still be saved...If you want to save him...”

I won’t join you...I repeated...

“I’m aware of that...And that you see me as a fiend who took heartless advantage of you and William...But, remember, Ms. Summers...Your Council...And you...Were the ones who appealed to me...And as Anya must have told you...I do care...And I have compassion...Of a kind...”

Even if my pov is radically different from the human one...

“William is being taken to a river island near the Sunnydale dam...Located here...” he waved a map into existence...And pointed...

“But...How can I help him?...I can’t be sure about the resurrection ceremony...And I can’t kill him...”

“Then allow the ceremony to continue and let them solve your problem for you...” he eyed me...

“If he dies...Is destroyed...in this ceremony...?”

“If William dies in despair...The little foothold his soul has been able to maintain here will break...He may merge with Spike as you said...Or his soul may find peace at last...But he will be lost to you... ”

“What can I do for him?...” I pleaded...Tell me...

“Why did you come back, Cicely...? Ask yourself that...” he asked me...Kindly...

Why...?

“Dawny...My friends...My duty...Willow summoned me...”

“No, Cicely...” D’Hoffryn looked at me...Sympathetically?... “Not Buffy...Why did you come back?”

“I...”

After the chip...And after he said he loved me...I...Started...Having feelings...
Then I died...And I knew I’d left something behind...Someone...

Oh...

I wanted to see him..I sobbed...

“I just wanted to see my husband...again...”

“I had to see him again...And I’d never see him in the afterlife...until his soul’s free...”

If he’ll even come to me then...

His soul has lived on a crumb of hope for 122 years...the demon smiled...

Another crumb is probably due...

After all...It’s his soul that matters, isn’t it?...D’Hoffryn eyed me...

The immortal in all of you...

And that’s what truly at stake here...

“But...” he smiled... “The decision is up to you...As it always was...You can save his soul with a few words...Just as...”

Halfreck...Not me...I glared...

“Well...Now you can prove it...” he nodded calmly...

Wish granted...By yourself...If it is what you want...

“That was what you wanted wasn’t it?...The chance to save him yourself...?”

Another satisfied customer...

***

I let Tara back in the room...

Human Halfreck sobbing brokenly off in a corner...

Tara looked at her...And me...

***
“He’s going to the ceremony...Off the dam on the Sunnydale river...To be sacrificed in my place...” I told her blankly...

Protecting me...Just as always...

Freeing me...From him...For good...

And in spite of what I’d done to him...

His nature...Unchangeable, unswerving...Forever committed...Whatever clouds Spike and
Halfreck...And...Your counterpart...had thrown over his soul...

“I drove him away again...At last...And probably for good this time...”

Tara stared back at me...There was some anger, even maybe, a little hatred, mixed in that look, along with the usual sympathy, kindness...And pity...

“What are we going to do?...” Tara looked at me... “We can’t sit by and let him die...”

Again...she did not say...But we both felt the word hanging in the air...

“I don’t know...” I stared at her...

But I did know...And when she turned her back on me, I was on her in a second...

Much as I’d have appreciated Tara’s help here...I knew where to go now and this was a private matter...Between my William and me...

I had something to ask him...

***
“Help me get her to the basement, Halfreck...” I told the startled former demon...

You’re human now...And I can hurt you...

Or, maybe...Intercede with D’Hoffryn later...I eyed her...

***
I had to stop off at home one last time...Just a moment...

Just in case...

Dawn looked at me...And knew...

You’re going after him...she said quietly...

And you’re not sure...

“I want to live Dawn...And I will try to come back...But...”

But...You came back to save Will...she looked at me...I know...

“I think I knew ever since you told me you were in love with him...”

Odd...That she should have known before I did...But then I guess reincarnation confuses you as much as it helps clarify things...And she is part of me...

“It’s funny...” she said... “Right from the start I knew kinda...That he was like a brother somehow...”

Mom knew too...She looked at me...

Was Mom?...Your...Cicely’s...Mother, too...?

“I don’t know...” I replied...

“But you’re right...She did know...Somehow...About Will and me...”

You know, I grinned, thinking...It was my cousin Henry who introduced us...Gave us a place to stay, helped us hide our affair from the family...He always loved and helped us both...

Be interesting if Mom was him, back to help us again...I smiled...

But before I went I had one other person to speak to...One more piece from Cicely’s past, I now knew...

And someone with whom in any case I had to make my peace with...

He was already back at the shop...Reviewing the Wolfram-Hart ceremony info Tara’d passed on to him...

For us...For me...Whatever misgivings he had...

Just as he was always there for me...Now...

And in 1880...

He looked up as I came in...

“Giles...” I smiled at him...

I looked at his table layer of notes...

“The Wolfram-Hart ceremony...?” I asked...

He nodded...

Anything...? I eyed him, hopefully...

“I can’t say for sure...But there’s a chance...”

A chance...

“I’m going to the island to find him...” I told him...

We’ll try when we get back...

But whether it works or not...

He nodded...

“I understand...” Giles smiled at me...

Can’t quite give you my blessing...But...

“Whatever happens...I don’t want you to blame yourself...” I told him...

“You never abandoned me...Never...”

“Papa ...” I hugged him...

He pulled back and stared at me...Buffy?...

“You don’t remember...” I smiled gently at him... “That’s alright...”

I can remember now for both of us...

***

“In some ways I deeply regret this, I must say, William...” Fryn spoke kindly to Spike as he marched alongside the wagon in which the blonde vampire was being carried...

“You were a legend in your time, you know...”

Always nice to be remembered...Spike smiled at the little ruler kindly...

“But after all...Given my Science-restrained condition, just as well I go out with a bang, eh?...”

Fryn nodded...

Good fellow this William the Bloody...A credit to his kind in a way...

A worthy sacrifice even without his Slayer...

And after all, he had been a kind of Slayer for over a year now....

“I have selected the intermezzo from “Cavalleria Rusticana” as our...” Fryn smiled kindly... “your...closing piece of music...”

Beautiful piece for a sunrise...Spike agreed pleasantly...

"However if you would like something additional?..."

“I was always a Gilbert and Sullivan fan in my human days...” Spike noted smiling back...

Ah...Fryn nodded...

“Perhaps... “The Sun Whose Rays...” From “The Mikado...”...?” he suggested...An appropriate piece...

And containing my favorite poetic adjective, William thought...Smiling...

“Sounds fine...” he nodded...

“It shall be done...And I will see that the sacrifice is carried out with all due ceremony, my friend...” Fryn smiled back...

You will be remembered with honor even among your enemies...

“I agree...” Buffy called from the rocky outcrop she’d slipped up to...Just ahead of the procession...

Slayer?...Fryn looked up in shock...As did several of his guards...
“Summers...” Spike called up...Sighing...

“This is a private affair...No humans allowed...”

Girl, make-up your Goddamned mind...he thought...With a little blossom of joy breaking through...

She came for me...Again she came after me...Cicely-Buffy...To the rescue...

My heroine...

Bloody @#$%ing hell!...The baby!...

If I was wrong...And she hasn’t...

“Buffy!...What the hell do you think you doing?!!...” he called...

“Sorry...” she grinned at them...Taking in the group in a sweep...

I need to borrow Mr. Walthrop for a while...A consult with my boss kinda thing...

Boss?...Fryn blinked at William in confusion...While wisely dropping back to the cover of his guards...

He’d reviewed the Slayer’s past actions in depressing detail...Much as he had faith in the quality and determination of his followers...

“I’ve resigned...” William eyed her, unable to keep a grin off his face...As she hopped down to the wagon where he stood, chained in his wooden cage...Standing beside him, looking for some way to break in...

“Buffy...The baby?!!...What about?...” he hissed, trying not to be heard...Not something to give away to the fellows milling about...

It’s fine, it’s fine...she quietly called back...

Really...Our girl is fine...she eyed him...

He won’t believe me unless there’s a reason...It’s not wrong to lie to save him...

And she is fine, our Anne...Safe with her sister...In Heaven...

I just have to keep him safe until I can make him believe in me...

A rather odd turn of events, she thought wryly...As she spied the door at the top...
Unusual design...she noted to him...

The “voluntary” sacrifices must give them quite a lot of trouble to put the only door in the top...

Our girl?...he looked at her in wonder as she scrambled over the cage...Dodging the few arrows and spears a few guards managed to throw or fire...

Could it really be true...? She’s really going to...

“I’ll take it easy...” she grinned at him...

“Just watch out while I get this thing open...” she began fussing with the cage from the top as the startled underworlders struggled to get themselves together and retake their prisoner...

“Buffy...Have you got any idea what an embarrassing situation you’re making for me?...” he called up to her...She clambering over the cage, kicking back the vamp and demon guards rushing to her...

“Gave my word here, you know...”

“So did I...In 1880...” she replied...And I’m the one disrupting things here...

Be careful...he looked at the guards moving up...Now trying to climb into the wagon and up the cage to her...

“Stop her...!” Judith and Fryn cried...

“Duck, William!...” Buffy cried as a small volley of arrows came their way...

He dropped to the side and they missed him...He kicked at several of the guards clambering up the cage towards the Slayer...

She smashed the top of the cage open and began rocking it from the top as she lay spread-eagled, kicking off several of the guards as she did...

Watch it!...Damn you, Summers...he cried as the cage tipped over and out of the wagon...

Buffy jumping just before it hit ground...

“Summers!...Are you ok?...Buffy!...” Crash...

“Spike!!...” she screamed to him...

“What?!!!” he called back from the shattered cage now in pieces about him...

“Run!...This way!...”

Oh, right...he called...Manacled like this, you want me to do the 100 yards dash?!!...

“God, you never change girl!!!...” he yelled...Hobbling as best he could towards her...

“I love you too!...” she called to him...

The scattered remaining guards stumbling after them in the dark...

Judith coming up in support...

Buffy saw the large female hurrying up and raced back to Spike...No time to break chains...

She lifted him on her back holding him by the chains...

“Damn it Buffy...I can walk...”

This is so embarass ing...he looked back from where he lay on Buffy’s small back... Feet kicking in the air...At the pursuing Judith and her guards...A rather put out Fryn back by the wagon, gathering survivors...

Oh...Christ...The kid...

“Buffy?...You’re going to hurt yourself...Put me down...”

“I’m fine...” she called up to him...

Think of the...Our baby...He called back...

“They’ve fallen behind a bit...” he continued...

She halted a second, dropping him...

Damn...I didn’t mean to drop me like a sack of potatoes...he groused...

She broke his chains and eyed him on the ground...WELL?...she asked...Breathing hard...

Thanks...he grinned...Struggling to his feet...

She looked back at the rushing vamps, Judith in the lead...

“You are ok, right?...” he asked anxiously...

Yeah, yeah...
Het-hem...she turned to him...

Oh...He smiled...

“Yeah...I love you too...”

In that case...You’re welcome...she smiled archly...

They raced on down to the road where she’d left Tara’s car...

Oops...Fryn’s numbers were more impressive than I thought, Buffy noted...Seeing the number of vamps and demons surrounding the car...And looking in their direction...

“Well...?” Spike eyed her...

“Can’t you take a leetle initiative once in a while, William?...” she glared at him...

In our day...You may recall...A gentleman took the lead and...

A volley of arrows cut her speech short...

“Back to the lake...They have a raft and boats there...” Spike grabbed her arm...

You are ok, right?...he looked at her anxiously...As they paused after racing up the hill...To the other side of where Judith and co were coming to join their compatriots...

Fine, fine...Geesch...she groused...

“I have done this without you around, you know, Will...” she noted...

“And you lost our first girl...” He stared back...

I’m sorry...he hastily added...Buffy...I didn’t mean...

You knew...?...About little Cicely...? she paused...

“Cicely?...” he smiled...

You like it?...she beamed at him...

“Of course I do...” he paused...

“My poor Cicelys...” he looked at her...

I’m so sorry, love...he took her hands for a moment...
An arrow fell just in front of them...Hmmn...

Better save the mourning a bit...

Oops...Buffy...he pointed...At a boat...

And looked back at our pursuers...

“Pick up the legs, girl...”

The raft and other boats had only a total of three guards around them...

What a sweet guy...she thought, racing after him...God, I’m so lucky...

She smashed her stake into the closest of the three guards...

Bless you Henry for bringing him to meet me...

Spike dragged the boat out a bit, having dispatched a second guard...

She dodged the third...

“Buffy...?” William called...Be...

I am being careful, William...she called back, a hair peeved...

So sweet...She smashed her stake into the last guard...

But when he finds out...? About Anne...?

He’ll cry with me...And forgive me...she eyed him as he called to her...The boat and oars ready...

He already has forgiven me...

It’s his nature...

***

Sunrise...Part XXIV...

A groggy but furious Tara, bound and gagged in the basement of the dorm where Buffy had dragged her finally managed enough noise to alert the dorm janitor who released her...

She left a brief message on Willow’s message unit...

She was off to “help” Buffy with an upset Spike who’d run off and might be out to do something foolish...And didn’t think any other help would be required...

She’d deal...Just fine...

“Halfreck?...” she eyed the former demon...Who’d waited in the room...Uncertain what to do or where to go...At least until Buffy returned...Or didn’t...

Where did she go?...

Ummn?...Well, if you’d summon D’Hoffryn...Halfreck noted brightly...

And maybe ask him to restore me...As a wish...

“I could...”

Tara spied D’Hoffryn’s marked map on the floor...

Come on...she told the retired “justice” demon...

“Me...?”

Now wait a mo...the restored human raised a hand...Free and in control of her own destiny once more...As she reminded the Wiccan...

“Do you want a chance to be restored?...Or do you want to go looking for a homeless shelter?...”
Tara eyed her...

Ummn...

***

No signs of pursuit are seen...As their boat moves silently out into the lake...

Fryn and his gang must be a bit rocked as yet...But we’d do best to make for the opposite
shore...Spike notes...

Buffy nods...Looking at him as he rows...

Oddly familiar...Being out on a lake in a boat with him...

“Well...?” he eyes her...

“Well...” she looks at him...

“Say...” she asks brightly... “What’s with all the reeds?...”

The boat was loaded with them...

He pulls in the oars...And frowns at her...

“They’re for the ceremony...A little kindness...”

She stares...

“Smoke inhalation’s a lot less painful than burning to death...” he notes...

Oh...

“I couldn’t let you kill yourself, Will...” Buffy looks at him...

“Really?...Thanks...Afraid you’re 122 years too late...” he replies...

I know...she looks away...And back...

I had to see you Will...I had...Something to tell you...she begins...

He blinks...You had...?

“What?...Did I bloody well leave the lights on at the damned shop...?!”

“Giles and Tara are sure...The baby is human...” she pauses...

He stares at her...Carefully...

So...she continues...

Here...She hands him a document...

“What’s this?...” he stares at the certificate...

Marriage certificate...she eyes him...

You sign here...she points...

It’s already notarized...

Angel has...Connections in LA now...Had to to help keep his business dealings legit...

And explain dear Connor...
He was a bit...Well, a lot...Puzzled...When I called him and said we needed this immediately...But realized he owes me...And had Wesley fax this...

Though I decided not to tell him it wasn’t going to be Xander and Anya on the signature lines...

“Why...?”

Well...You know how Angel feels about you...she grins...

He frowns...

“No...Why are you doing this?...”

“I’m keeping the baby, Will...And I want to marry the father...”

Believe me, please...she thinks...

Please believe the only lie I’ll ever tell you...

“We’ll come up with a phony birth certificate for you asap...” she goes on brightly...

“You don’t need to do this, Buffy...”

She looks at him in mock shock...

“You don’t want to make an honest woman of me, Walthrop?...”

Some Victorian gent you are...

My mom would be very disappointed in you...she grins, pausing...

“I want to marry you, William...”

“Again...” she looks at him...

“You really are...? You’re keeping it...?” he stares at her in wonder...

And slowly growing joy...And yet...

She’s keeping it...My baby...Our baby...But...I can only sense...A cloudiness...

“We need a ring for me...” she frowns at him...

Hmmn...She broke an ear ring and bent it back into shape around her ring finger...

“With this ring...” she prompts...

“C’mon, Walthrop, you’re the Victorian...This should be easy for an English-born nineteenth century gent...Like riding a bike...”

He stares at her...

Almost as if...She were serious...

“With this ring I thee wed...And with all my worldly goods...Such as they are...” he notes ruefully... “ I thee endow...”

Nice, she nods...

That’s the way to do it...

After all...We’re both Victorians...You and I...

“Here’s yours...” she holds out the band...

He slowly gives her his hand...She slides the band on his ring finger...

“With this ring I thee wed...And with all my worldly goods...Which aren’t too shabby thanks to you...” she grins...

I thee endow...

He stares at her...

Ummn...I may kiss the groom?...she asks...

Buffy...?

She kisses him...

“Looks nice...” she notes...Stroking the band on his finger...

Thank you for keeping it safe, Will...she looks at him

***

They had reached the opposite shore and were rowing down to a well-lit group of cottages...

Fryn’s group must have decided to call it a day...Probably one of the guards is now in the cage...Buffy eyed Spike...
Ummn...he nodded...Looking at his ring a moment...

“Not exactly the kind of ceremony a girl dreams about...” he noted ruefully...

“It was fine for me, William...” she smiled...

I’ve never been one for big weddings...Remember...?

He nodded...

Yes...I do...he smiled at her...

They were passing by a floating dock...A large cottage near the lakefront, well-lit...

Partygoers calling out to them and the few other boats on the lake...Inviting them in...

“Will...?...Lets go...”

The party, I mean...

“Buffy?...We should be getting you home...”

Please...? she pleaded...

“I...?” he eyed her...“Are you serious?...You want to go over there?...”

Considering you’re too cheap to spring for a reception...she smiled at him...You oughta be glad I’m letting you off this easy...

“Well...We should put in, I guess...And it should be safer there with so many people about...”

She nodded...

“C’mon...It’ll be fun...”

He turned them towards the dock...

It’s almost as if...She’d meant it...

But...She’s just being kind...And it’s for the baby’s sake...If she’s telling me the truth...

If she’s really keeping our baby...But...

It doesn’t matter...It doesn’t matter...Lie or truth...

God bless my kind friend, Buffy Summers...

***
“You’ve given me hope again, Buffy...” he smiled at me...Helping me onto the dock...

I looked at him...

He didn’t believe me...But I didn’t expect him to...

I didn’t half believe it all myself...

Later...There’d be time to prove myself...To convince him...Later...

One step at a time, you know...

For now...I was a new bride on her long-delayed honeymoon...And a new bride deserved a dance...

Especially given all the trouble I’d had to go to find my missing groom...

And Anya thought she’d had troubles...

***
It was a pretty big lakefront party...Neighbors from all around the lake in to welcome the start of the summer season...A beautiful night...With a huge moon...

One more couple was no trouble, the host and hostess, a middle-aged couple assured us...

They all welcomed us like old friends...

What a sweet thing...A honeymooning couple on the lake...Brought into their party by a kind Fate...

Will went along...Touched by my “kindness”, I think...

And I could see, hard as he tried to hide it...Almost radiant with joy that I had decided to keep our baby...Only...Not sure...It’d seemed so certain to him at the house what I had done...Or intended to do...

He still didn’t believe me...Maybe this business was all just my little ploy to preempt his arrangements with Fryn and co...A little guilt resolution...

He was still set on fulfilling the final part of his “deal”, I knew...With Fryn...And with me...

Freeing me from my “burden”...
***
“Actually...” I smiled at our hostess’ question...Where were we from?...

We’re both transplanted from England...I guess I’ve just done a better job of losing my accent...

I was much younger than William when I came over...

***
Sunrise...Part XXV...

I called Giles courtesy of our friends’ phone...Willow was already on her way to join me...He’d call and arrange to have her pick us up asap...

No rush, I told him...And she should avoid the landing area where Fryn’s group had brought William...

In fact, tell her to head to North Point...We’d row over to meet her there in a little while...

Things looked pretty stable now and it was the closest well-populated spot coming by her way...

And I wanted one more sail with my husband...Before we went home and faced...Whatever fate awaited us...

“Have things gone well...?” Giles asked me hesitantly...

Yes...I told him...

Better than I deserve...

A pause...

“I am happy, Giles...” I whispered...Don’t worry...

“Well...” he sighed...Tell William...I will do whatever it takes to help him with the Wolfram-Hart ceremony...

And tell him...

“My blessings and love to you both...”
***
It would take at least two hours for Willow to drive up to North Point from where she was on the lake road...I explained to Will...So we had a little time...

To party at our “reception”...

Dutiful husband that he was...William was nervous about my joining in the dancing...

Preggers, he noted to our hostess...I frowned at him...Geesch...

What the hell had we just been doing?...

“He thinks I’m walking on eggshells or something...” I noted to the distaff half of one of the younger couples...She nodded...I know what you mean...she sighed...

Was that the way he was going to be from now on?...I groused to him...

Victorian chivalry is all well and good...And who better to appreciate it than a fellow Victorian... but...

Don’t cramp my style, Will...I grinned at him...

“She looks just fine...” the hostess smiled at me...

“We’ll watch out for her...”

He frowned...

Hmmn...Don’t want to get him wondering about...

But we couldn’t leave just yet...And if we went outside to wait...He might try to slip away...

And more important...I wanted to dance at my wedding...

I hadn’t had the chance in 1880...

“Just a couple, please Will...Then I’ll sit...And we’ll get headed out to meet Willow...I promise...” I looked at him...

He started to frown...And suddenly...The situation hit us...

“You know...” he grinned at me... “We really should have gotten the number from Giles and
let Willow know ourselves...”

She might gripe a bit but she’ll be so pleased to know she was right about us...

“This is all so sudden...”...I quoted, grinning back...

At least I got to ask you one time...he smiled...

***
“Goin’ to the Chapel...And we’re...

Gonna get mar...ah..ahried...”

I swung him round...

“...And we’ll never be lonely...Again...”

The next choice was his...

“Why do Fools Fall in Love?...”

Naturally...he smiled as I glared...

And smiled back...

***

We made our goodbyes...Thanking them all...

William easing me into the boat...I continuing to wave at our new friends...

I’d invited them all to Sunnydale to see us at home...He eyed me a little at that...

So...We’d do the outdoor barbeque thing...I noted...

***

The weather was getting a little rougher as we headed out...William switching to sail at my request...

He watched me, asking if I was ok...Queasy or anything...

I shook my head...I looked around at the sky...Cloudier but still the moon and stars...

Our honeymoon cruise...

He was silent for a bit...

“The baby’s...” he paused... “Gone...Isn’t she?...”

I...Spike...I looked at him nervously...

He looked back at me...Kindly...No anger in his eyes...

“I wanted her...Anne...I did...But it was too late...” I paused...

We couldn’t save her...

A terrible heaviness came into his eyes...

Not anger...Worse...

Resignation...Acceptance...

Anger, I could deal with...Would have welcomed...

“Will...I’m not lying to you...I love you...I want to be with you...”

“Two for two...” he sighed wearily...

My poor girls...he looked down...

Anne and Cicely...

Guess we’re not meant to be parents...Cicely...he eyed her...

“Will...Please...I didn’t come here to fool you...”

“You meant to be kind...I understand...” he started...Staring over her head at the now threatening sky...

“No!!...” I screamed at him...

“I love you!!...”

I stood up...Still rather wobbly from my strenuous day...

Lightening flashed...I jumped...

God, I hate lightening...Can’t watch it even in the movies...

“Buffy!...” he cried grabbing hold of me as the boat rocked...

Sit!!!...he commanded...

The clouds opened up on us...The lake was heaving now...Too dark to see the coast ahead...or behind...

I looked around wildly...
Good, I thought irrationally...Good...We’ll both die...We’ll die together...

And then he’ll believe me...He’ll know...

Still...If there was any chance...If I could still give him...Give us...Another child...

We’d been cheated twice...It was only fair...And it would be as good a proof as any...

He threw his Slayer’s coat over me...I grabbed at an oar...

“Which way...?” I called over the sudden, rising din...

He vaguely pointed left...

Hope vampiral supersenses work under these conditions...

***

It was hard...Tara thought...As she strode towards the lake...A whining Halfreck beside her...

Hard to remember a time ever in my life when I was this angry...This jealous...

Even at the height of things with Willow...

But then, she or a rival never clunked me one and ran off to win the heart of our mutual interest...

Just got as far as mind control...

And I certainly never thought I’d see the day when I’d be angry enough to risk a transport spell...

She looked out over the storming, foaming lake...Out there, she sensed...A leetle of the edge coming off her anger...

Geesch...

God, much as I want to get my hands on those two little blondies...Don’t let them be hurt...

***

We each pulled at an oar...The water fought us but we are the Summers-Walthrops...And Mother Nature herself takes a back seat to us...

At least when we’re trying to save each other...

We cut slowly through the water towards what William was sure was coast...
I looked at him...No anger...Just concern and not a little fear for me...

I remembered...Back in the Lake District...I took him sailing once...

He’d never been before...Never could’ve afforded to...

But when a gust caught us and turned us over...He pulled me up on the boat...Shaking like a leaf...Thinking he’d lost me...

He was tougher than he looked, I knew then...After all, he’d fought his way through terrible poverty to get to Cambridge...And me...

That was when I decided to try...If he could save me then...Maybe...If we could get far enough away...

Maybe we’d be ok...I’d write Simon, my Watcher, resign, we’d leave...We could do this...

I took him to Henry’s little cottage on the lake...And we made love there...

And I asked him to marry me...At three o’clock in the morning...I asked him...

I was an unusual girl even then...

But he took it in stride...And joy...But he wasn’t sure...His future was by no means secure...

America, I suggested...A land of opportunity, even...Maybe especially...For young poets...

I’d write Papa...See that he helped William’s sister and brother...At least out of my inheritance from Mother...We could do this...

We had to leave before the sunrise, me back to my hotel...Him back to Cambridge...So no one would learn what we’d been up to...

But we saw each other again in London...Another night...That week...

And missed the sunrise that night too...When he accepted my offer...

And I wasted no time in holding him to it...I even had our wedding bands ready...

Inscribed...

Well, I had consulted him...And he liked the final choice...

But after that...Duty came upon me again...And...The fear...

“Buffy!!!...” Spike screamed at me...

The water was smashing into the boat...Breaking through growing holes in the hull...

I could just make out the shore...God knew how far away...

He grabbed the reeds that should have been used to kill him and tied them around me...No other life preserver...

A wave upturned the sinking boat and we went under...

I felt him grab me as I went down...Too many clothes, in spite of the reeds...

He got my jacket off...The day had finally caught up with me and I could barely struggle to keep my head up in the stormy water...He held me above the waves as best he could...

Not much danger of drowning in his case, thank God...

Something hit me as I put my arm around him...Trying to tell him again...Make him believe...
I went out and felt myself drifting down...But held back...

***

A bird flew over my head...Crossing the pale moon...I blinked and woke...

I was floating in my reeds in some shallows...No sign of William...

“Will...!!” I cried faintly...

“Buffy!...” I heard a cry...

Tara...

She came out into the water to drag me in...

“Where is he?...” I gasped...

Is he dead?...Tell me...I tried to get up...Couldn’t...

“I haven’t seen him, Buffy...” she looked at me...Trying to get her jacket around me...

Tara...?...I gasped out...

“It’s ok...” she smiled at me...

I’ll find him...

Other cries now...Vaguely I recognized Willow’s and Dawn’s voices...

Tara called to them...

I tried to look at Tara...She nodded...

“I called Willow...When I couldn’t find you guys and the storm looked so bad...”

Thank you...I eyed her...

“I understand why, Buffy...” she looked back...Using a sweater to prop my head...

“But I didn’t say we’ve settled this...Yet...” she smiled wanly at me...

She looked back where I’d come in...A large board and a small board I saw now turning my head weakly...Set up to mark where I...where we’d landed...

A cross of all things...

“God...He must have pulled you in there...Then maybe tried to find help...And you got caught by the waves and pulled back in...”

He must still be around...I tried to get up...

Lie still...Tara ordered...We’ll look for him...

But first lets try to get you indoors and then find Will...

Please...I mumbled...

Please...I looked at her...

“I’ll find him...

I love him too, Buffy...” she stared back at me, nodding as she squeezed my hand...

***

We found his note, fixed to a nail on his makeshift cross...

“Dear Buffy,

I can’t thank you enough for your kindness. I will never forget our little “wedding night”. And I will continue to hope wherever I end up that one day I’ll see you again...As Cicely or Buffy...Or both.

I want to see my babies’ faces...And I’m tired...But believe me, sweet pet, I am not angry or upset...It was a sweet lie...The kindest of lies...And I truly do thank you.

May you find the happiness you deserve.

Yours always,

William”

There were two-and-one-half hours left until sunrise...

***
Sunrise...Part XXVI...Conclusion...

I refused to wait...Either we went to the island now...Or I’d go alone...

“Which one...?” Tara asked...

I stared...And tried to think desperately...

The others...Willow, Dawn, and Halfreck had reached us...

Dawn...Blackmailed Willow into taking her claiming I’d told her the right spot on the lakefront when Willow had come searching for Tara and me...Easier than a location spell and allowing her to stay on the wagon, Dawny had chirped...

The location spell Will had been forced to do in the end when Dawn confessed after they hadn’t found us at North Point where Giles had told them we’d be headed...

Willow had seen a number of boats on the lake...Still stormy enough to be dangerous at the time as well as late for that sort of thing...

All heading back up to one island...

They agreed we could head down the lake...If I promised to take it easy...

Sure...

***
We put in on an island across from the one Willow suspected...It was the one I told them...

Dawn and Halfreck got me to a cottage...Tara and Willow scouting with binoculars...
They got back before I slipped out...

Large group of vamps up on the hill on the center of the island...

They couldn’t get close enough to see if Will was there...But it was safe to assume...

“There’s a problem, Buffy...” Tara told me...

The place is mystically protected...

Oddly enough by some Orbs of Callos...Willow noted...Just like the four Anya sold the other day...

Very mystical energy-absorbent...

“We can’t magics him away...If he’s here...”

“Well...” I grinned...

Then I’ll do it the old-fashioned way...

William will approve...as an old-fashioned kinda guy at heart...

Like his...Wife...I eyed them...

Ummn...Dawn looked at me...Willow looked at me...Ummn...

Tara frowned a bit...But was not surprised...

She’d kindly omitted the head clubbing from her account of how she and Halfreck and I had come...And gotten separated...

Eyeing the newly human Halfreck carefully...Who got the hint and kept mum...

For my part I’d gone along, realizing Tara was equally anxious to avoid explaining how she and Haly had reached the lake without a car... Extenuating circumstances but still not a good example to set for Willow...

“We reaffirmed our wedding vows last night...” I told them quietly...

Reaffirmed?...Willow looked at me...And the others...

Do we congratulate her?...Or...Get her to a psychiatrist...her look said...

But...Tara stared at me...
I shook my head...

“He didn’t believe me...Thought I was trying to be kind...To keep him from completing the ceremony this morning...”

But...I’ll convince him later...I told her firmly...For now...Gotta get the hubs home in one piece...

Husband...? Dawn was still trying to grasp it...

“Buffy...There are dozen of them over there...” Tara noted...

“Then we’ll wait a few...Most of them will have to leave...The rest will have to take shelter...” I replied...

Sunrise, after all...
***

While we waited...I told them about our last week in 1880...And what happened...

“And then I asked him to marry me...”

Dawn stared at me...And grinned...

That’s my sis...

I asked...Him...I couldn’t think clearly...I loved him so...

We spent the night together...

And he left...

Just before...Sunrise...

A romance like that in those days required some skillful maneuvering to avoid scandal and the ruining of one’s reputation...I smiled at them....

For the families’ sakes if not our own...

And I was leery of the Council...I knew they’d disapprove of my relationship...Hell, they were relentlessly pressing me to give up my family...Move away, under their protection...

I told Simon, my Watcher...That I’d accepted the Council’s recommendation to cut all possible family ties...I was going to move away, for my family’s sake...He’d hear from me when I was settled...

Two days later, in London...We were together...He accepted my proposal and we were married in a little church that evening in the countryside...No one knowing...”

“Oh, God!...” I cried, covering my face...

“I married him...But after cousin Henry was attacked...I had to stay...My duty...”

“And I couldn’t let him stay with me...He’d be the first my enemies hunted for...”

But I didn’t know what to do...I couldn’t bear to send him away...

So...Halfreck did it for me...

“And...” I looked at Halfreck... “Then you came in...To “help” me deal with my little William problem...”

Taking my form...To say to him the one thing I knew would drive him away...The one thing I could never have said...

Simplifying my life...Wasn’t that it?...

Twice...I noted...And waiting a century for the second call...

What enthusiasm for the job...Admirable...

And this time, you’ve done it right...Made sure of him...Made sure of me...

He wouldn’t believe me...I looked desperately at the others...

Despair flooding me...The despair I felt in 1880 when I saw him run from the house from an upstairs window in the room where I had hidden to fight with my emotions...Giving Halfreck her chance, even if I hadn’t fully known what she was up to...

The despair and shame I felt when I saw his dead body lying in the morgue with Drusilla’s marks on him...

“He’s gone...He’s gone to die...And I’ve lost him again...For good this time...”

Buffy...Willow tried to calm me...

“We’re going to get him...”

“Well, if not...It’s probably for the best, Buffy...” Halfreck noted solemnly...

Foolishly...
Tara and Willow glaring at her...But her eyes were on me...

And she saw the look on my Slayer’s face...As I got up and came quietly over to our new addition to the human family...

Buffy...Dawn eyed me...

Willow looked at Tara...

I was over her in a moment...

“You killed my husband!...You killed my baby!...”

Buffy!...Tara called...

“Buffy...She’s human now...” Willow called...

They came over to us...I shoved them off...

No...Please...Halfreck pleaded...

It was my duty...I was helping you...

“I didn’t kill your baby...” she pointed out...

The first was an accident...The other was your decision...

I paused...

Buffy...Willow called to me...

My old friend...I eyed dear Haly...

Cicely...Willow tried again...

“Don’t do this...You have more important matters...William needs you...”

I stared at her...

“I did want to save him!...He’d have been killed if he stayed with me...”

And he was killed...Oh, God...

A simple life again...My wish...And that’s what I got...

I began to calm, staring at the wall...

Dawny hugged me...Buffy...She stroked me...

Killed...I murmured...And condemned...I looked up at Tara...

And died thinking...Knowing...I’d betrayed him...I dropped my head into my hands...

Tara came over and stroked my hair...

“Buffy...” she paused...

“Cicely...”

I lifted my head and stared at her...

“Why didn’t I know him?...Help him before...?”

Tara sighed...

“Somehow...” she looked at me...

“Somehow you came back...To find him...And help him...”

“And did I try to find him?...To help him when I had the chance?...”

“You’re here now, Buffy...” Dawn noted...Looking at Tara...

“You’re here to save him...Now...”

Tara knelt beside me...

My husband’s...Murderess?...

No...

Companion?...Mistress...?

No...Not Tara...Not sweet Dru...

The young lady in terrible difficulty my dear husband had stopped to help...And, I’m sure of it...Free...

Doing what she could for the kind gentleman who’d eased her suffering, saved her soul...And with whom she naturally couldn’t help falling in love with in the normal way of any shy, frightened young girl trapped in a horrible situation...

Just as she’d fallen for our gentle and kind Willow...

“You didn’t know...These things, oh...” Tara paused “I’m no expert on reincarnation...But I do know from personal experience that you don’t come back with a full memory and a list of things to do to set your past right...”

It all had to come back to you at its own pace...she noted gently...

As with me...

That’s why I went for Angel...I stared at her...

I was looking for a vampire...With a human soul trapped inside with the demon...He was looking for another Darla...

He had the soul, I had the blonde hair...

New meaning to the term... “star-crossed lovers”...

“It’s not over yet...” Tara pointed out... “We can still try...”

But we don’t even know where he is over there...If he really is there?...I looked at her...

“Tara?...” I took her arm... “Dru?...You could find him for me?...Make sure he’s over there and where...Please...”

“I don’t know if I can, Buffy...I haven’t got anything of his to use...And that place is protected...”

“I know you love him, too...Help me...”

Tara...? Willow looked at her...

“We may not be able to find Will over there...”

But we can rule out that he’s anywhere else...And see if his traces lead to the island...

“And we do have some things of his...The letter and cross he left for Buffy...” she paused...

And smiled at me...

And best of all...His wife...

***
Tara and Willow together probed the area around the island...

He was definitely on that one...And some of the vamps were now clearly pulling out...

We rowed quietly across...One benefit of Fryn’s mystic energy-drainer...His vamps could not make use of their heightened senses while they were in the vicinity...We went undetected...

An abandoned shack just in the forest off the beach gave us a little shelter...And a chance to take stock...

Dawn and Willow headed out to recheck the central hill with Willow’s binoculars...Maybe they’d catch a glimpse of him...At least see if the vamps on the hill were pulling out as yet...

Barely an hour left now...We’d have to find him or go up that hill blind soon...

I thought a moment and gave Tara Halfreck’s pendant from my pocket...

Maybe...It could cut through the mystic dampeners...

“I think I can use it...” Tara nodded...Just a moment...

“My pendant...!” Halfreck grabbed at it and knocked it to the ground, smashing it...

She stared in horror...

I however...
***

Again dear old Haly had put her oar in to keep William and me apart...

Even if it was accidental...

I’d had enough of my “guardian demon”...

My one chance to find Will quickly...

“I’m going to kill you for this, Halfreck!...” I told her...

You...Murdered...My William and you’re going to die for it...My voice took on an accent without my even realizing it...

“Cicely...” Halfreck gasped in horror...As I held her...

Tara tried to stop me...I threw her back...

She was gurgling now...Just like any mere human...I choked harder...

I understood...I told my old friend...she was still coping with the shock of permanent Humanity...

But I couldn’t do that, I told her...Condemn my old friend to mortal suffering?...

I couldn’t be so cruel...

“Buffy...!” Tara cried...But she couldn’t use magics here...

She ran at me and I threw her back again...Keeping my hold on dear old Haly...Whose eyes were now turning in her head...

I held the former demon in midair...Releasing just a little...

To let her hear me pass my sentence...On my “justice” demon...

“You condemned William...I don’t blame Dru...You sent him out...You...”

Halfreck gasped...

Please...I’m human now, Buffy...You can’t...” Halfreck pleaded...Choking in my grip...

“No, Tara!!...” I threw Tara back as she tried again to pull the girl away...Knocking her flat and unconscious this time...

Halfreck twisted in terror...I having again relaxed my grip a hair and set her down while pushing Tara back...

My...Old...Friend...I held her tighter...

Always...There...For me...I lifted the former demon...

“You were the one with the choice, Buffy...” the frightened girl pleaded...

“I was try...to...Ulp...” Halfreck was strangling now...

“Doing...my...job...”

Like you...Had my...Duty...

Buffy!?...” Dawn’s voice...From outside...

Duty...

I stared at Halfreck...And lowered her gently...

“We’ve found him!...I think...”

“We’ve found him!...” she shouted...

“Buffy...?!...Where are you?!...We need you...”

Duty...

***

Buffy blinked at Halfreck and released her, letting her fall to the floor...

Halfreck gasped...And crawled to the door, shoving it open...

“Where is he?...” Buffy looked out at Dawn, with Willow and Fryn beside her...

Willow triumphantly holding a sharp stick to his throat...

“They were leaving the hill...He was one of the last...We...” she grinned at Dawny...

I nodded...

Dawn stared at the crawling, gasping Halfreck...

Willow ran to Tara...Glaring at Halfreck...

It wasn’t her, Will...Buffy told her quietly...

Willow stared back at her...

Buffy...?
***

Willow and Dawn were staring at me...

“Where is he?...” I asked Dawn...In a voice that she’d never heard from me before...

A coldly terrifying...Cicely...

He...He’s up the hill there...

“This one can show you the way...” Dawn noted Fryn...

Is she speaking with an English accent...? she hissed to Willow...

I dragged the little vampire off and up the hill...
Moving too fast for Dawn to keep up...

Willow still in shock as she tended poor Tara...

But then, Miss Maclauy is lucky to be alive...As is Halfreck...

I...both Cicely and Buffy...am a jealous woman...

And I’ve waited too long to share William now...

***

I dragged Willow’s prisoner in tow, presenting good ole Mr. Pointy to the latest vamp “king”’s throat...

Music was playing in the background...From hidden speakers somewhere...

Lyrics and Music
“The sun, whose rays
Are all ablaze
With ever-living glor-y...”

The dawn was being to show...

“Take me to my husband..!!” I screamed at Fryn...

Fryn looked at me in terror...As much of me as the rising sun...

And confusion...Husband?...Slayer?...

“Does not deny His majesty-- He scorns to tell a story!
He don't exclaim, "I blush for shame, So kindly be in-dulgent."
But, fierce and bold, In fiery gold, He glories effulgent! “

Effulgent?...I thought...

“William...Now...” I said coldly, calming...

Oh...Fryn nodded...And guided me to a trail leading to two sheer tall stone pillars...With a platform suspended between them...About 50 feet above us...And a narrow stretch of rock climbing to within ten feet of the platform

The ladder...is gone...Fryn nervously explained...Taken by his men...

The music...? I asked Fryn as it continued...

William’s choice, right?...

He nodded...I sighed, almost smiling at him...

God, sweetheart...I truly love you...In life and in death...

But I still do hate that poem...

***

At a small ledge before the final path up to the stone pillars, she paused with the little Fryn...

World conquest clearly losing its savor for him...

The cries of Dawn and Willow for her to wait, far below...

“He...He’s chained up there...” Fryn pointed...Desperately trying to catch a breath...

He did it himself...Fryn waved his hands...Surrendered himself to us...He could’ve escaped with you...

“I’ll never be able to get him down from there...In time...” Buffy looked up at the pillars...

She shook the little vampire...

“Is there...Anything here...A shed, a blanket...?”

“I don’t know...I don’t have anything but my clothes...Take my jacket...” Fryn told her...

Nothing...she murmured...There’s nothing...

Nothing I can do for him...Isn’t that what I said?...

As Buffy...And as Cicely...

Too late, it’s too late...

“Don’t...Slayer...Please...” the little vamp looked at her in terror...

I didn’t do anything...He ..did this....Himself...

She stared at him...

***

He did this...For me...To spare me...I thought, staring at Fryn...

I looked at my hands...Hearing Dawn and Willow call from below...

And saw my ring...My renewed promise never to abandon him...Never to leave him as long he stayed faithful to me...

Why had I come back...?

To bring my beloved husband home safe...

The opening bars of “Cavalleria Rusticana” played gently in the air...Courtesy of Fryn’s stereo...

Intermezzo from "Cavalleria Rusticana..."(go down page to Mascagni links, select Intermezzo, minimize after music starts)
The sky was just starting to pink in the lower regions...

Don’t be afraid...I stared at Fryn...

“I won’t kill you...”

You’re going to help me now...

He looked at me...Slayer?...

***
Halfway up the hill, Tara spotted Fryn hastily descending...And harshly commanded him to stop...

To Willow’s surprise he came over quietly...With a note...

Fryn handed her the note gingerly...Clearly in terror of the coming dawn...

Willow stared at the note...She looked at Tara...Dawn stared at both...

Willow...?

And in a daze, began reading aloud...

“It is with the greatest joy that Miss Buffy Anne Summers of Sunnydale, California announces her wedding to Mr. William Soames Walthrop of Brusset, England...After a long engagement...”

Willow looked at the little vampire...A faint smell of blood...

Above them the music was building in intensity...

Oh...God...Oh God...Willow stared at Tara...Dawn...

“Where are they?!!...” Tara shook the little Fryn...

Who pointed....Up...
She released him and he fled for the shelter of the woods below...

My God...The thought struck him as he raced along...

I’ve won...

Well...until the next Slayer comes...
***

A few more minutes...Spike looked up at the clouds, now showing wide streaks of pink...

And ...My first sunrise in 122 years...

The music was soaring to its climax...
“William!...” A faint cry...Growing louder...

“William!!...” she clambered up over the rocks near him...

“It’s too late Buffy!” ..he looked down at her...Waving his chained hands...

You’d never be able to get me to shelter in time...

She stared at him...Shaking...

She was pale as a ghost...he noted...

“I know that William...” she paused...

It’s kind of you...he looked at her...Thank you...

Being here to say goodbye...

“Goodbye?...” she stood, blinking at him...

“No...”

“Never...Again...”

He saw her put a hand to her face...She was trembling...

“Well...Maybe...If you’ll allow it...” he smiled gently...

We’ll see each other someday...In the afterworld...

“You didn’t believe me?...Don’t you forgive me?...” she looked at him, pleading...
She was holding on to the pillar by his side..
.
“Nothing to forgive, Buffy...”

But...If it helps...he smiled...

“You already know I do...And for believing...Well...You were kind to do it...”

She swayed, standing near one pillar and grabbing on to it...

“Do you love me?...”

“Yes...Slayer, I can’t help myself...Believe me I wish I...”

He stopped...And grinned...No...

“No, I don’t wish I didn’t...”

Faint cries from down the hill suggested Dawn, Tara, and Willow were struggling up as fast as they could...

She struggled up the sheer pillar to the platform where he stood, stumbled, and grabbed him...He could see now how weak she was...He called to her and she collapsed against his side...He moved his chained arms as best he could to reach her...Lift her...

“Buffy?!...”

He felt the fresh blood streaming from her scars...The old bite scars Angel...And Dracula...Had left...Saw it on his hands...Shaking...

“Buffy, what have you done...?!” he cried...

“You love me...You still love me ...You love me...You love me...” Buffy cried, sobbing...

“Oh, Will...I wasn’t lying...I wasn’t...Being kind...”

I love you...I am your wife...

If you’ll let me be...

She sagged as he tried to hold her...

“What have you done?...You little fool!!...” he cried...

It’s too late for me, too...William...she told him...
“Take me with you...” she begged him...Don’t let my demon have me...

Tell me you love me...Us...Still...

“No...Buffy, go down to Willow...Let her help you...”

All she can do is stake me, now...Buffy smiled up at him...

“And I’d never make it down in any case...”

She looked at his stricken face...Pleading now...

“Tell me, Will...Please...You always were the kind one in this relationship...”

“I know I’m a century late...But I did finally come for you...” she smiled wanly...

“I love you...Buffy...I always loved you Cicely...”

There’s the sun...Look...she pointed feebly...At the clouds, bright now with pink and gold...

And the sliver of brilliant white licking them...

“We’ve never seen a sunrise together...” she hugged him...

We missed it back in London...I had to leave so early that day...

She looked up at him...

“We were cheated back then, Will...But now...At last...”

The demon surged desperately up in her...He could sense it now as well...

Poor thing...poor evil thing, she smiled at William...Hanging on desperately...

Seems almost cruel to do this to her...

“She’s waited so long for this...”

“Buffy, Buffy...” he whispered...

Don’t look at her...she murmured...

Just hold me...And tell me what you see...

I’ll still be here...I won’t go without you...I’ll listen...And then...We’ll go together...Home together...Husband and wife...The way we were meant to be...

“We’ll never be alone again, William...”

“And I finally save the one I love...” she smiled at him...

Sorry to take so long...she murmured...

He held her as she died and the demon struggled in his grip...Battling her as well, he sensed...

He looked up at the sky as the flames began to sear and the demon screamed...Its scream
merging with Dawn and Willow’s as they reached the ledge...

Willow holding back the screaming Dawn...Who tried to run to the burning pyre...Tara rushing up...Dawn desperately turned to her...Tara looked up to the burning pyre...

“It’s mystically protected...” Willow shook her head... “We can’t put it out...”

“Buffy!!!...Buffy!!!!...” Dawn screamed, sobbing...Tara pulling her back...“We can’t help them now Dawn...!!!”

***
William gently caressed the screaming demon in his grip...Who for one last moment quieted...The soul winning out for one last moment...

“Oh...Buffy...the sky...I’d forgotten...the sky...Look..Darling...Look....”

Sunrise...
***

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