"Cicelyverse: Roundtrip..."



Summary: After the battle with the Senior Partners, The Powers That Be make long overdue amends to William...Just a little fun with my Cicelyverse while I play with some issues in other tales...

(No, I am not rewriting all Cicely tales to use the Underwood name...Though you can copy each one into your wp and do it for your own piece of mind if necessary...It's just this one begins post Underwood, and so given my deep reverence for canon...)

Disclaimer: No, Joss, no...I make no claims, put that thing down!

It's all yours and ME's... (Though the Cicely/Buffy thing was my idea so if it goes in the movie when Sarah wants a nest egg for the kids, where's my cut?)

Archived at the Buffy Rebecca verse, Cicelyverse page...

Spoilers for Angel to the bitter end...Flee at once!...



***

Part I...



Downtown LA...The Wolfram-Hart Boulevard, leading to the grand Wolfram-Hart Tower building...

Currently a little less grand...Having been partly collapsed by what reporters would soon be describing as the second most amazing localized earthquake of the 21st century...

It and the greatest, that which had engulfed the little town of Sunnydale the year before, shortly to lead a number of earnest young seismologists down a wrong path for a good chunk of their careers in their search for a theoretical explanation...

Fires breaking out all over the local nexus of streets...Burned-out cars and buildings lining the main and side roads...The occasional gas main erupting in a heavy explosion...The sounds of alarms, mostly car, going off all through the devastated area and on throughout LA...

Vast amounts of debris and a slippery sea of gore...Though on close examination, very little of it human gore...And a large number of bodies and what still vaguely resembled body parts, much of them blackened and burned by fire...

Though again, very few, even where the corpse was complete and somewhat recognizable, that could be identified as human...

The area was not devoid of life, however...Indeed it still echoed to hideous cries, screams of pain and agony, many fading to death rattles...As well as shouts of encouragement and triumph...

Here though, while many of those alive in the streets...And fleeing toward the portal from whence they'd emerged a short time ago...Were hideously non-human in appearance and manner...A very large number...Perhaps the majority now that the battle had swung decisively in their favor...Were human...

And the overwhelming majority of them, women...Bearing stakes...

***



"So..." a faintly glowing William eyed the jacket and pants in which his ashes lay... A similarly glowing Wesley by his side...

"I'm dead again...Well, you know what I mean..." he sighed at Wes...Who gave a reassuring smile...

"Immortal, William...The way it counts, not the pathetic ghost of extended Unlife your vamp body gave you...And your soul safe and free..."

"I suppose that's a plus..." he sighed again...Looking round the battlefield...

"Angel, the others...?"

"Amazingly enough, they made it...Even poor ole Charlie's on his way to LA General..."

"Lovely...Well, Angel did have a possible life here with Nina...Wonder how Illyria will do though..."

"Charlie will take care of her..." Wes grinned... "That's big of you, Wyndham-Price..."

"Not at all..." a glowing Fred suddenly appeared beside him... "He's all set...Hey, Will..." she waved, beaming...

"Nice to see...Oh, my God..." William looked through and past her...She and Wes turning to see as well...

A squadron of Slayers roaring down the street, a few demons fleeing in desperate panic, a couple simply giving up and throwing themselves down in submission as the Slayers charged past...

Buffy, looking like Avenging Fury personified, in the lead...Halting by one large fellow near the group of glowing spirits, who'd fallen to his...Its...Knees in surrender, raising arms...

"Where's William?!!..." she screamed at the demon...Who gave a confused as well as terrified look...

Oh, God...Will shook his head...She came...She actually came...

"Slayer?...William?..." the fur-covered, horned demon stared at her, trembling as she held the stake to his throat... "You know who the hell I mean, bastard!!...You came here from Hell to kill him!!...William the Bloody!!...Where is he?!!!..." a pleading behind the very clear and present threat in her voice...

I'm so sorry, Buffy...My poor Buffy...Will closed his eyes, shaking his head...Not to have believed in you...That you'd come...That you...Really...

Forgive me...

Fred staring at him sympathetically, patting his glowing arm with hers... "And she's not here for Angel, Will..." she told him kindly...Wes nodding as well... "I bloody well know that..." he nodded... "Now..." a sigh...

"Counselor-General!..." a cry from a thirtiesish, red-haired, short and somewhat rotund Slayer who'd moved on down toward the group of spirits by William's remains...Her voice choking off...

William...the woman breathed...Eyeing the clothes...

Spirit Will made a desperate attempt to try and move the remains, shove them out of sight...

"It's no good, William..." Wes told him quietly... "We have only very limited physical power in this world now...

Buffy racing up, falling to her knees...Taking the jacket carefully, lifting it and holding it to her...Rocking on her knees quietly...

"William, William..." she whispered...Almost singing the words to it and herself...Like a lullaby...Tears streaming down her face...Smearing the ashes on her arms, her face...

"Buffy..." he called to her... "I know...I hear..."

"I would have been here..." she whispered to the jacket... "They never told me..." she looked round for the stake she'd dropped...Grabbing it...A wild look coming over her face... "I meant...every...word..." she whispered harshly... "I mean every word...My love..."

"No, ma'am...Buffy...Counselor General!..." a quartet of Slayers struggled with her as she tried to plunge the stake into her chest...She finally releasing it to retain the jacket...

Which no one could remove from her hands...

"Buffy...My poor Buffy..." Will had moved to her now, trying to stroke her hair... "It's all right, darling..." he kissed her cheek as she quieted...Looking round now... "I'm fine...I know you're here..." he told her...

"The Immortal was one of the Partners...He tricked us all...Me, almost made me..." she whispered...

"You never forgot me..." he replied, stroking her hair... "I know that..."

"I killed him when he tried to stop me from coming..." she noted...

"Thanks, love..." he beamed...Putting an arm round her shoulder...

"It'll be fine...I'll stay...I'll always be here..." A cough from Fred...She and Wes now beside him and the still-kneeling Buffy...

"William, you can't stay..." Wes said quietly... "You can't, Will..." Fred repeated, taking his arm...

"No...I can't leave her..." he replied firmly...The Slayers about Buffy now, trying to get her to stand, come away from the remains...She taking no notice... "William..." she breathed... "He's here...I feel him..." she whispered...

"Will...It will hurt her for you to stay...She'll be all right, we promise...And you will see her again...Sooner than you think..." Fred told him...

"She feels my presence...I won't let them take her from me...Let them separate us again..." he shook his head... "I'll stay and watch over her..."

"This won't help her, William..." Wes tried... "You'll drive her to insanity, Will...Or at the very least, cripple her fighting instincts...I know you can see that...And you'll see her again, believe me...Come with us, now..." Fred pulled at him...

"Never let them separate us...Again..." he repeated...Hugging her...She reaching vaguely for him... "Don't go..." she whispered... "Never again..."

"No one ever will...And many have tried..." Fred told him gently... "Yeah...You're beginning to sense that...Your past..." she smiled...As he stared at her...

"We have to go Will...The Powers That Be..."

"What the hell do they want with us now?!...What more do we hafta go through?!!..." he glared from where he still held Buffy tenderly, she rocking in his embrace, holding his jacket...More Slayers about now, several heading off to find help in the form of Dawn or Chairman Giles, both back with the teams Buffy and her group had left far behind...

"She needs me...Is that deemed so worthy of punishment?..." he looked up at the two glowing spirits... "No, Will..." Wes began...

"They want to try and make things up to you, Will..." Fred smiled at him... "As they did for me and Wes..."

"I don't want Buffy to commit suicide..." he frowned... "Or to get killed this morning, thanks very much..."

"She won't..." Fred shook her head... "Though it will be very hard for her...That's not what they want to offer you...Yet..."

Though you will be together in Eternity...As always...she beamed...

"It's just they feel things were a little too hard on you both this last time..."

He stared at her glowing form...A sly smile on her features...Wes grinning as well...

"This...Last time?..."



***

London...March 13, 1880...

The night of a certain fateful party...

Spirit William, still in glowing form, looked round the room...Winifred, likewise glowing, beside him...Everyone in the room recognized by him...

And frozen in their movements...Like wax-work statues...Even the plate just dropped by a young and inexperience maid hung in mid-air, half turned over, the food spilling from it arrested on its way to the floor...

"We're outside time right now..." Fred explained... "I could give you the quantum physics of what's going on..." she noted, a bit hopefully...

"Please don't lass..." he sighed...Then smiled at her downcast face... "Ok, maybe later...I did once fancy science as an adjunct to my poetry...It was that kind of era then...Now..." he looked round again...

"This is the place...Cicely's house...And the night when..."

"Your chance to rewrite things..." Fred nodded... "Courtesy the Powers That Be..."

"And I do that how?..." he looked to where he could just see his own form, standing in considerable shock, his treasured papers about his feet...

Looking rather ridiculous with that horrified expression frozen on his agonized face...

And in front of him, heading away from him...Having just handed him his head on a platter more effectively than Salome...

"Cicely..." he breathed...

"Pretty..." Fred noted, eyeing her carefully...

"Well?..." he looked at his 'tour guide'...

"If I understand right, you just step into your own shoes and take things from there..." She a rueful expression...Hey, I'm new at this, too, Will...

"Heck, if that's all you might've let me just take ole Harris' body back in the 21st..." Will...she frowned... "And then what?...I dodge Dru and never meet my Buffy?...Is that the great Gift the boys and girls pulling the strings want to bestow?"

"You will meet her, Will...You know that...You have and will many times in this existence..." she waved her arm about the room...

"Maybe that's so...Maybe I do sense that...And maybe the Powers That Be are just having their fun messin' with ole Spikey's human soul's head...You might even be the First, Fred..." he eyed her...

"Do you think I'm the First?..." she frowned...

"Well...No...But you could be...Hell, girl...If you are my friend Winifred, how's about a few details to get me out of the dark...?"

"You have to find your way, Will...Heck, I couldn't even guide Wes when he was working on resolving a few things before we united in Eternity...And frankly the Powers haven't told me much more than you..." she sighed...

But I can tell you...It worked out for Wes and me...And I really believe it will work out for you and your Slayer...she smiled...

Hmmn...He glared...Then sighed...Well, what the hell?...Would be nice to see dear Mum again...Before she no doubt croaks from TB, poor lamb...he frowned...

Thanks again there, PTBs...

He moved across the room... "Just step in..." Fred told him as he paused by his human form...



"Any problem if I spit in Cicely's eye?..." he turned and grinned at her...

"A gentleman like you, sir?..." Fred gave a mock frown and grinned back...

"Winifred...I do believe it's you...And...Thank you..." he looked at her glowing form... "If it hadn't been for you believing in me all that year before Illyria came..."

"Thank you...For letting Wes know there was one other guy ready and waitin' in the wings...He needed that extra push..." she grinned... "I'll try to be in touch if they'll let me...Give a yell if you get stuck..."

"Consider me yelling right now...I'm stuck..." he eyed himself cautiously... "Just do it, Will..." she told him...Giving his spirit a hard push...

"Good luck, William Soames Walthrop!..." she called...

***

"Cicelyverse: Roundtrip..."

Summary: After the battle with the Senior Partners, The Powers That Be make long overdue amends to William...Just a little fun with my Cicelyverse while I play with some issues in other tales...

Disclaimer: No, Joss, no...I make no claims, put that thing down!

It's all yours and ME's...

Spoilers for Angel to the bitter end...Flee at once!...

Archived at the Buffy Rebecca verse, Cicelyverse page...

http://www.geocities.com/Cicelypg.html...

Spoilers for Angel to the bitter end...Flee at once!...

***

Part II...



"My God..." William gasped as the sounds, lights, and smells hit him...Too startled by his sudden reanimation to even notice Cicely walking firmly off and out of the parlor room...

Or even to notice her furgitive look back after she'd moved out of the room...

Hmmn...Not nearly as upset as I'd expected...Halfreck thought, a bit worriedly and to some extent, a bit miffed...Geesch...Thought she was the love of his life...

His hands instinctively went to his glasses, pushing them back in place...The blurs in the room took form...A few of the men leering at him with sneering grins...One in particular...Henderson, he recognized...

The toff bastard "sportsman" who'd stuck that damned tag on him one night at one of Cicely's dinner parties to which for some bizarre reason she'd invited him...William the Bloody Awful...Well...Shortened, it had worked out to be quite a tag...Still...

Rather a comfort, if a guilty one, to remember what had happened when Spike had made his acquaintance a few nights from now...

Hmmn...Odd...Now that he began to remember it...She'd invited him to a number of her little soirees...And...He struggled to think...So many old memories, so long buried, sometimes deliberately...It was hard to sort...



He felt something touching his leg...Ah, the work...He bent and scooped up the papers...

Well, she may have rejected it but it will get a damned fine reception in a century he thought, rather pleased...

The content smile on his face rather annoying Henderson and the group of his idiot mates around him...What's that damned fool Walthrop so happy about?...The divine Ms. Underwood's just dumped him par excellence...And long overdue...She having grossly overindulged the little nobody...

Whose rise in station in life to where he might fumblingly aspire to the finer things had come rather recently, following on his acceptance into Cambridge as a scholarship student...And more important, his maternal...Some would sneer, sole...legitimate...Parent's inheritance of a fairly comfortable legacy from a "friend"...A mysterious, though clearly well-to-do gentleman, now deceased without other heirs... Doubtless the never present "Mr. Walthrop"...

He caught their looks now but surprised them with a hard stare...Moving off and into the living room...

No sign of Cicely...Not that she was his quarry just now...He turned to take a glass of champagne from a tray...

In fact...Contrary to his previous behavior a century ago...Er, tonight....He might just stick around and enjoy the last great party of the 1880 season...

Thus avoiding a rather fateful encounter with a certain insane vampiress...Ah, poor Dru...

Should have done something for the poor thing before back in...er, in the future...In LA...

Well, at least I can remove one victim from her list...

Though...If I don't transform tonight...he pondered...

No, Fred said we'd meet again...No matter what...And I not only trust in my Winifred...I feel she's right...

No, I think I'll avoid that century of suffering and pain...Well, for my victims anyway...And see if my experiences of the future might possibly have a beneficial effect on my work...

Yes...He thought, settling into a comfortable chair just made available, sipping his champagne...Just enjoy the party, say hello to a few friends and acquaintances I haven't seen...Thank God...In a century...And head home to Mum in a few hours, safe and sound...

Hmmn...This may be the cream of London Society...he frowned, looking about the large room at the decked-out crowd of well-heeled gentlemen and elegant ladies...

But they could all do with good showers and a few cases of deodorant...

As he looked round the room, he did not happen to glance up the large staircase to the balcony above...

Where, concealed behind several potted plants and the edge of the hallway wall, a tense and nervous Cicely in ball gown stared down at him...

"It must be the right thing..." she whispered to herself...Clenching hands...

Though he could show a little more feeling...Geesch?...she thought, a tad annoyed...

***

"William?...Where's cousin Cicely...?" a voice addressed Will as he sat, now contentedly nibbling from a small plate of finger foods he'd picked up from a passing waiter...Thumbing through his sheath of work, noting a few that might be worth more effort, a number fit for the fire...He looked up...

Henry?...he stared at the tall, dark- and wavy-haired young man, fitting out his fine suit to the attention of a number of fair ladies about the room...The kind-hearted picture of a noble soul...Cicely's cousin, Henry Foxcroft...

My best friend...The one who introduced me into good Society...And to Cicely...



Though I guess I can forgive you on that score, mate...

"Henry..." he smiled, rising...Pumping his somewhat startled friend's arm as if he hadn't seen him for a century...

Though it had only been twenty minutes ago when he'd left him in the parlor...

"Will?...Cicely?...Isn't she..."

"Oh, well..." an airy wave... "She just told me I was beneath her and she couldn't see any future with me..."

She...What?...Henry stared...

"But it's no sweat, mate...Try some of the watercress, it's excellent..." Will offered a piece...

Hmmn...Ole Henry seems a mite perturbed...At my attitude as well as Cic's...

But then he knew about...

Whoa...Will blinked a moment...

Knew?...About us?...

"Will?...What the devil are you talking about?...Was she upset?...Has something...?" Henry frowned a bit...

"You haven't gone and done...Anything?..."

"Not at all, mate...I think she decided I was getting a bit too tiresome..."

"But...?"

"Best to speak with her, Henry...Anyway, it may be for the best at that...If she's not..."

A long and very puzzled, even irritated look from his friend...

"My uncle...Sir Richard...Hasn't spoken to you, has he?..."

Sir Richard?...Cicely's dad?...Now why would he...?

Unless perhaps my clumsy efforts to have a go at his dear daughter were noticed...

Holy Christ...he gasped suddenly...Having felt something hard in his coat pocket as he'd instinctively moved to pat a leg in puzzlement...Henry still staring at him...

A hard something that felt remarkably like...

He put his hand in his pocket as Henry tried again... "Will, I don't understand what's going on..."

"Neither do I, Henry..." he answered...Staring blankly at the gold wedding band he'd just pulled out of his pocket...

My wedding band, he suddenly realized...

The wedding band Cicely gave me just the other evening...

Along with her hand...

Hmmn...



Well this explains why I was so upset that...er, to-night...

***



After he managed to fumble his way through a brief, confused conversation with Henry, his friend had gone off in search of his cousin...And some answers...

Married...He thought...

We were married...Yesterday...

And Dru was not my first...

Well, Buf will be pleased to know I did human first...

I hope...

What to do?...Find her and choke some answers out of her?...

No, wouldn't quite do...Especially in her own home...

And more important, Buf might be displeased...Hmmn...

I could go and tell her I've met someone else... "Here's your bloody ring back, you..."

Pleasant thought, that...Still wouldn't be quite the thing...After all, I'm over her...No need to make a foolish scene...

Would be nice to know why she suddenly changed her opinion of me?...Now that I remember it, hell...She asked me...

Wealthy society girls...Never know what they want...Go figure, as we'll be saying one day...And come to think of that, Spike met quite a few in his day as I recall, silly cows...

Very strange...Well, fine...He waved the matter off...

I have my love for Eternity...Hoping Winifred wasn't just being kind...No, I saw her...I felt her...She loves me...That, for once and all, is settled...

All I need to do is live my life as comfortably as possible...Perhaps using my memories to help carve a brilliant literary career...And after making a name and leaving a respectable body of work, wait for the moment when my soul re-enters Eternity and they wheel out my Buffy to begin her famed career...

He spied Henry moving through the crowd, clearly in search of Cicely...

Hmmn...Perhaps staying on here wasn't the best idea...Wouldn't want things to get ridiculously complicated...Henry persuading Cics to give me another chance, that sort of thing...

Much as I would like to know what the hell's been going on in that lovely brunette head, I think I'd best leave things be in this relationship and slip out before it gets on toward Drusilla time...

He rose and avoiding a few stares, some openly sneers, headed for the front entrance...

He paused, looking for the footman to summon a cab...

Said footman, one Smike by nickname applied by Cicely's father, giving him a guardedly disdainful look...Not quite sure how low my stock's fallen yet, William guessed...

"I'll take a cab..."

A quick up-and-down look...Followed by an abrupt half-turn... "None at hand...Sir..." Just enough delay on the title to make it a slight sneer... "If you'll give it a few minutes...Something ought to be along..."

"Never mind...Smike..." Will gave him a pleasant smile as several other guests came up...Smike waving in a carriage even as he bridled a bit at the sound of the hated nickname...Especially it being used in front of the quality...Several of whom chuckled at the name...

"Think I'll walk..." Will headed for the street...Now dark, twilight come and gone...Gaslights burning in their lampposts...

Pity Spike never killed that bastard...Well...He looked about...

Evening...And I'm on the street...

Perhaps not the wisest thing, letting my anger get the best of me...It certainly never worked for me before...

Though it did bring me to Buffy...he smiled at the thought...

However, lets try and see if we can't take the spiritual approach this time...Our souls meeting in Eternity after death...Me not complicating things by bringing my troublesome if charming demon into the picture...

All right, no problem...Gotta remember to copyright that expression...All I have to do is head straight for home, avoid all dark alleyways...

Try to remember as much of the twentieth century's literature as possible...

And William...James Joyce/Yeats/Faulkner/Mailer/etc, etc...Soames Walthrop lives to make literary history...

Pity Spike didn't get all that much reading done in between kills...

I wonder if Fred might be persuaded to bring me an anthology of all works produced from now to 2005...Not that I would...Entirely...Copy anyone's style...

He paused...Hmmn...Losing my way here in the dark...Damn, I should have beaten that moron Smike silly and grabbed the first cab...But I couldn't quite remember the old address right away...Yes...

241 Hargow, that's it...Pity I still don't remember the way...He looked down the street...Not a cab in sight...Wait...Damn...Already taken...

Hmmn...Is that Manion's down the street?...The inn I dragged myself to after Cicely wiped the floor with me?...

Might find a cabbie there...Certainly wouldn't hurt to down a pint or three...He felt his pockets...Ah, ye good ole pocketbook still safe...

Of course...This does make two steps in the wrong direction...Still, I know what's what and I'll avoid any slip-ups...Besides...Even in 1880 I had no idea where I was when I found the damned pub...Someone in there's sure to know the way to Hargow, even if no cabbies are about...

***

"Sorry, sir...Not familiar with that part of town..." the server shook his head at the rather fine young man...A little too fine for this place, though we do get our occasional toff making the rounds...

William nodded and pulled a bit at his pint...Still the best in the world despite the glories of twentieth and twenty-first century microbrewery technology and global transport...

Well, all right...No cabs at hand, no one knows the way...So...I just stay, enjoy a night's drinking and...

"Closing time, gentlemen!..." the server called...

Hmmn...

Think it might be time to give a yell for dear ole Fred...



***

"Lets see..." Winifred looked round...Her spirit glow providing some measure of light in the dank, black street... "I think Hargow St should be about four miles that way?..." she pointed... "But I'm not much good at maps and I don't know London...Wes?..." she turned to him... "Afraid I'm lost here..." he shook his head... "Though I think Fred's right, Will..."

Great...

"You know, people...This is starting to shake my faith in the Powers' good intentions..." Will eyed them coolly...

"It's getting toward the time Dru found me and here I am almost exactly where I was that night..." he noted...

"But you did come out here..." Wes pointed out... "Why did you leave the party or not just go straight home?..."

"I couldn't stay all night...And well, I didn't want to face Cicely again...As for going home, I've explained...The memories are pretty tightly packed in there after a century of storing...I can't quite get a handle on everything at once..."

Someone shoved him and he whirled angrily to face...A group now past him he knew only too well...And one in particular, staring back at him...

Drusilla...With a rather intent and careful stare...He blinked at her wan face...She turning away as Darla pulled sharply at her...

Great...Just great...

He looked at Wes and Fred's glowing...And somewhat concerned forms...Well?...

"Maybe you better try keeping to this street and heading for Hargow while there are still people about..." Fred suggested... "At least it's the opposite direction from where they're headed..."

Wonderful...he glared...Turning to move off...

"Look, if you two are the First and some other clown...?...Tell me now and just get it over with..." he hissed...

"Will...You know we're not..." Fred sighed... "We're as worried about this as you, William..." Wes chimed in... "No one warned us things might take this kind of turn..."

"Just Fate I guess, huh?..." Will frowned... "Well, tell your hilarious pals much as I want to see Buffy somehow again, I'm not going quietly this time..." he stalked off...

"What do we do?..." Fred eyed Wes... Who shrugged... Damned if I know... "Best if we keep close with him, in case Dru's got his scent...Maybe we can warn her off somehow or lead her away from him..."

"Could he be right?...Could they be jerking us all around?...After we told him it would be fine..."

"I don't know, dearest...Have to say, given their past record it wouldn't surprise me...Though I thought since we got each other back it would work out for him..."

"Lets hurry...He's getting away from us...Oh, Wes...We can't let this happen to him again..." Fred vanished and reappeared down the street, hurrying after the fast-moving William...

***

Ok...William paused in his hurry to take a breath...Put some good distance between my would-be mate for Eternity and her little family and me...Still on a major street, people about...Some street lighting in place...It could be worse...Which he noted quietly to Winifred's spirit...

Absolutely...she nodded, encouragingly...



"There must be a cab along here somewhere...Heck, I'll settle for a boarding house where I can crash for the night..." he noted...

"I dunno..." Fred shook her head... "Dru could find you there and it not being your home..."

Right, he sighed...

"Where's Wes?..."

"He's..."

Wesley appeared on his left...

"Drusilla's in the area...I'm not quite sure where...She's followed you, Will...She must've picked up your scent in passing..."

Should I be surprised?...he sighed...

"So...I'm doomed...Well, I don't have to accept her offer...I can let her kill me, head for Heaven, and await my Buf's coming..."

Odd...Somehow I do believe Buf'll know me even without our turn of the 21st century meeting...Strangest thing...he noted to Fred...

"Well, keep moving, Will...Dru hasn't found you yet..." she urged...

"What's the point, girl?..." he sighed... "Obviously I'm not fated to enjoy a human life...Especially equipped with an intimate knowledge of the next 100 years..." he frowned at the thought of his great literary career vanishing like mist in the morning sun...

On the other hand, Buffy was never all that big on literature...Sorry as she'd be for me, it won't be that big a deal...

"Will...I really think..." Fred broke into his reverie...

Hmmn...

"The Powers may frown on your not fighting Fate a bit harder..." she suggested...

"Winifred..." he frowned at her glowing form... "If that's a hint and your buddies are conductin' some kind of test of the Walthrop character...Tell them..." he paused, staring at her downcast face...

"All right, love...I'll try...But tell the boys upstairs I'm getting a mite tired of their rope-jerking...And if they keep it up much longer they may find me unwilling to play..."

He looked up the street where a sudden crash caught his and Fred's attention...Wes appearing in front of them... "Turn and head for the side street, Will...She's gone up ahead of you...Fred?..." he eyed Winifred's spirit...

"We'll try to distract her, Will...Hurry..." she nodded at him...

Lovely...Grand...

"Nice to know I've such an eager date for the evening..." he gave a wry, wan smile...Turning left to cross the street...As the two spirits vanished...

***

"Lord...Not that we were ever on intimate speaking terms since I was twelve..." he looked down the side street he'd taken...

Ah...The very street leading to the very alleyway...

Naturally...



"As I was sayin'...You and whoever your friends the PTBs are did me quite a bad turn, my bein' a rather pleasant and gentle sort of a chap, last time I happened to stroll this way...Not to mention this thing with ole Cics...Can't quite see what I'd done to deserve my previous fate...Though I was willin' to call it square and accept your hand on this deal, given Buffy and that moment in LA a short time...Well, a long time ...From...Now..."

But this, dear God...Seems a bit...I mean, from any objective pov, be fair...You have to admit, I'm getting the shaft here...

A rat raced past him...He jumped to the side a bit and turned back to find Dru standing in front of him...

Very funny, Lord...

***

All right...He eyed the disheveled, somewhat wild-eyed Dru standing silently in his path...Poor thing, must have really been racing to catch me...

"Hello, Dru..." he smiled at her...

No need to blame the poor lamb...Just fulfilling her role...

She stared at him...

Her Prince knew her name?...

"I'm afraid, lass...I'm really not..." he began...Suddenly seeing the look of sheer terror in the vampiress' eyes...

Dru?...he stared...Instinctively starting to turn and feeling himself slammed to the ground by a sudden blow to his right shoulder... "Down!!!..." a voice cried...

A voice he knew...Though perhaps never at that decibel range...

"Cicely?..." he gasped...Looking up just in time to see poor Dru give a desperate lunge and gasp as a stake rammed into her chest...

"Oh...My..." Dru blinked a moment...A look of peace briefly appearing on her face just before she crumbled into ashes...

Dru?...he stared at the dress falling to the ground...Ash cloud flowing about...

"William?!!...William?!!!...Are you all right?..." Cicely pulled at him... "Did it hurt you?...Let me see!!..." she tore hastily at his collar...He too shocked to do more than feebly brush at her hands...

"Oh, God...Thank God!..." she gasped...Embracing him...Then pulled back...A hard, questioning look...

"What the devil did you mean by coming out here?!...Don't you know how dangerous these streets are at this time of night?!!!..."

Hmmn...Will nodded...Still a bit dazed...Then...

"You...You're the Slayer..." he stated in some shock...Eyeing the remains of poor Dru's clothing and bits of jewelry on the ground...

"Halfreck...It was Halfreck..." he shook his head...Cicely now blinking at him...

"You know her name...?" she asked, astonished...

"You'll be surprised to hear what I know, girl..." he smiled faintly...Then frowned...

"Cicely...You sent a vengeance demon to drive me away?..."

"Mr. Farris said..." she began, a little timidly...

Farris?...The old historian/antiques dealer who she visits so...My God...The Watcher...



"Farris is your Watcher?...And told you to employ that b...(nineteenth century convention cut in, overwhelming as Cicely stared at him, as shocked by the suggestion of the word as by any of the astounding things he'd said...)...Witch, Halfreck?..."

"He said it was the only way to save you..." she nervously eyed him... "I knew I'd put you in danger...I only wanted to..."

He glared a bit at her now...Right...Now she tells me...

"William?...How the dickens did you...?" she stared at him...Frowning herself now... "How long have you known about me?...Did Mr. Farris?..."

"No, he did not...And I'd like to ask the questions for a bit longer, love...Why the hell did you try to drive me off like that?...Did you think so little..."

"I love you..." she gave a despairing gasp, grabbing at his arm... "If you'd died because of me..."

"Well, as you saw, your brilliant plan nearly did get me killed, you sodden idiot...God, you the Slayer...I..."

Oh, my God...he blinked...

"William...Husband...I'm so sorry...Please...Please, you've got to believe me...I thought it was the only way...I was wrong...I know that...I knew it the moment I saw that thing leave you back in the parlor...Darling, please...When I thought I'd lost you...Forgive me...Please, please lets try again...Oh, Will...If anything had happened to you..."

He just stared at her...

She loved me...She came for me...

Now...And a century in the future...

"Will?...Look...Here's the arrangement I propose..." she gave a nervous smile...

***