Demon's Due...

Not A Buffy Rebecca Story...

Following from "The Gift"...

Rated PG

Buffy makes a devil's deal with her worst enemies for her resurrection...
Spike faces moral choices and excruciating torment...

Disclaimer: As always the characters portrayed remain property of Josh Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Sanddollar Productions, and other owner/creators of the Buffy the Vampire Series...

Main Theme (The Third Man)

Part I

Joseph, senior partner of Wolfram-Hart, Inc watched his "client" warily...All depended on the acceptance of the deal...

But with this particular "client"...

***

Buffy Summers was looking in the clear pool of water where Joseph of WH had led her in the cavern...Looking at her own reflection, in wonder...

Alive, actually alive...Human...And Buffy...She smiled at herself...

But it was not the smile of Buffy Anne Summers...

Angelis-Buffy Theme (Mona Lisa)

***

Joseph cleared his throat...Loudly...It was time to settle affairs before Ms. Summers' return to the world...

She looked at him...

"You understand the terms of this arrangement?..." he asked her carefully...He had to get a firm agreement on this...All was lost if full cooperation was not obtained...

She pouted at him...Not exactly her favorite way of doing things...Dependent on someone like this...Forced to operate within their constraints...

Still, for now...A necessary evil...And not without its potential for pleasure...
And to be able to return to the land of the living...And see all the...dear ones...Buffy loved so much again...

"Well...?" Joseph asked dryly...He had little time for foolishness...And he had someone else to speak to as well...To finalize the arrangements...

She nodded...After all, if one must work for someone else...Perhaps a necessity in this modern, globalized world...She could do worse than Wolfram-Hart...

And it wouldn't necessarily be for all that long...

Joseph looked at her...And requested a moment...With Ms. Summers...

Buffy looked at him...But a slight change came over her features...A little more worn, even fear...And shame...

"Ms. Summers?...You understand everything?...And will keep your part of the bargain?..."

"My sister?..."

"You are the guarantor of her safety my dear..." he smiled at her... "So long as you cooperate, she remains safe...After all, we do require your help..."

Bless the dear monks for bringing little Ms. Summers into the world he thought...And leaving the Slayer so dedicated to her preservation...Above all else...Even in death...

Even to jeopardizing her eternal soul...

"How can I be sure?..."

"If the agreement is violated...You can reveal everything...To your friends...Alas it would be too late for the little one, but our friend would be exposed...and lost..." he grinned at her...A death's head grin which made her shudder...

"So you see you do hold the cards..."

"My friends..."

"Are safest if you cooperate...If we lacked your cooperation, immediate action would have to be taken against them...On your resurrection..."

"My resurrection?...Hardly..."

"Well, all they would see...Is their dear friend...Destroying them..."

"I know it's foolish to trust you..."

"And we place no great faith in you, my dear...But...We need each other, don't we?...Else we would never have bothered to summon you..."

"And him...Does he 'need' us?..."

"Absolutely...If he wishes to survive...And he does..."

"You people want more from me than just his survival..." she hesitated...

"You may think so, my dear...Based on my instructions, I couldn't possibly comment..."

He smiled the death's head smile again...

"But surely, if there is more afoot...You will want to be there...To protect the ones you care for?..."

***
Buffy's resurrection was rather unspectacular...She emerged from a cavern in the hills about a half-mile from the main road into downtown Sunnydale...

And paused to feel the sun on her face...For the first time...In so long...

Fringe benefit of the little arrangement...She noted...

And headed for the road...Ready to bring joy and comfort to her dear ones...

She hoped she'd find some place to eat...Soon...

She hadn't had normal food in so long...And was curious to try it again...

But she had an important stop to make...Before she saw her dear friends again...

She had to thank her new hero...

For his love and devotion...He certainly had earned the right to be the first to learn the joyous news of her return...
***
Demon's Due...Part II

That "new hero" had in fact been looking for a way to accomplish the resurrection which had just taken place...

Spike had come far in the short time since Buffy's death...

The gang had...With understandable trepidation...Welcomed him as their new, and as Giles reluctantly admitted, essential member...

Buffy-appointed Protector of Dawn, and for the time being... "honorary assistant Slayer"...Owing to his Drusilla-given prowess...

Responsibilities he was determined to fulfill...All for the love of Buffy Summers...And the affection of Dawn... And, well...

He liked his gentle friend Red, dear Willow...

As for the others...Well...If he hoped to earn any credit with his beloved Slayer's soul...

***

And he had an special assistant...Courtesy of dear Willow...One whom the gang had mixed feelings about...

But...for the traumatized Dawn's sake...Who they quickly had realized desperately needed a replacement Buffy...If only to sign papers, legally hold on to the house, and keep her out of state custody...Until the ever-feckless Hank Summers deigned to appear...Tolerated...

Buffy's robot copy...Repaired and reprogrammed by Willow to as near a copy of Buffy as a computer could hope to be...

Posing as Buffy's twin sister...Home from Spain after her sis' tragic death...To take charge of poor Dawn...

A good caretaker for Dawn...Reasonably able to hold her own in fighting the enemy...And quite unwilling to serve as Spike's doormat...

Which while he assumed a pose of annoyance...the idea of a robo-Buffy pushing William the Bloody around...secretly pleased him greatly...

Not Buffy, of course, never...But every now and then...Just a touch of the old dear... "Spike!..."

Which joyed him even as it cut through his heart...
***
But he was a fellow of practical nature...And even before the tears had stopped flowing...Had pondered ways to restore or reach his lost love...

If nothing else a devotion sure to charm her soul...And peg him up in the competition with a certain LA-based brooding Christ-imitator...Not to mention that long absent war-boy...

And the key to any success...Resurrection, seance, or just a friendly reminder that her devoted vampire was thinking of his Buffy and doing his best to keep his pledges...

Was dear Willow...

Who, for her part...Was interested in spite of her fears...And had a potential starting point...

The Wolfram-Hart ceremonial that had resurrected human Darla...
***

But Giles, as much as he had loved the only child he'd ever had...Did not approve...

To think of such a dangerous, even blasphemous scheme...Hadn't they learned their lesson with poor Joyce?...

Even Dawn didn't want to consider it...

And, even if the Wolfram-Hart process could be obtained...And worked...

Buffy was at peace...With her mother...Free from all the anxieties and torments she had suffered so much from...

To drag her back...For what?...So she could die at the hands of some fiend?...Perhaps succumb to vampire transformation?...Be imprisoned in a vampire body, possibly for all eternity?...Watching helplessly while her demon reigned...

No...Never...He would not hear of it...And if they tried anything...

They'd learn that Rupert Giles, sorcerer, still had a few skills even Willow could not match...

***
But...A vampire in love is a determined...being...

And Willow couldn't bear the thought of Buffy's death...A sheer waste in her estimation...
Yes, the world had been saved...But damn it, all because a manic goddess and some fanatic monks couldn't work out a simple interdimensional transport...Without threatening the world...

And Buffy lost...Sheer, stupid waste...she thought...

Especially after Spike had thoughtfully purchased her a few "Bronze Blasters" one evening...

And once Willow Rosenberg promises to try to do something...Even when rather plastered...And to a semi-reformed former killer...

Well, she'd continued to look into it...As cautiously as she could with Spike's help...
***

While Giles did not mind Dawn hanging around the shop after school or on a Saturday morning like today, he couldn't help avoiding her as much as possible...

It wasn't that he blamed her...Exactly...For Buffy's death...

He loved her...Sincerely...Even knowing his memories of her were false...And grieved for her despair...And double loss...

But, much as he loved the little girl, he could not help associating her with those he truly hated...And despised...

The fanatic monks who'd created her...The fools...cowards who'd played so skillfully on his "daughter"'s vulnerabilities with such delicate craft...

He wouldn't put it past them to have arranged Joyce's rather convenient death...A little strengthening of Buffy's tie to Dawn...A tie that had, in the end, strangled her...

He did not...would not...allow himself...to hate Dawn...But sometimes...He simply couldn't bear the sight of her...

***

More of the gang collected at the shop as the morning wore on...Including Buffy's "twin"...Who, painful as it might be at times to have her around, had to be kept up to date on events in town...

Particularly as her "assistant" had difficulty attending all meetings...And was rather lax in his attention at the ones he did make...

***

Xander couldn't help thinking the same thought he'd had every day since Willow had brought forth the restored twin...

Couldn't...Will...Do something...With her?...Heck, you heard about souls in inanimate objects all the time...

In trees, in statues...living in the walls of houses...I mean, take that old TV show about the Mom living on in her son's car for instance...

Surely Buffy wouldn't object to...Camping out in the bot...Just say, for the remainder of their lifespans...

But Willow had no intention of trying to dragging Buffy's soul out from its resting place to stuff it into a computer...

Much as she would give to have her back...

Spike however...Could live with the idea...In a pinch...If they failed via the other route...

***
But at the moment he was enjoying the solitude of his crypt...Which Dawn had already begun to, as she put it, "brighten up"...A few chairs...Some pillows...A couple of posters...An old fridge from the Summers' basement...For when he had the gang over...And to keep his purchased blood properly chilled...

And the thing that really touched him...A large photo of Buffy, Dawn, and Joyce...

Those Summers girls...

***

Buffy entered and was a bit started to find him nonchalant...He was used to impromptu visits by her twin...Usually to make sure he was training or ready for patrol or ok on blood supply...Even just to talk...

Willow had allowed for random action on her part...To give her a little "spontaneity"...

And he was expecting her to drop by at some point today...It being Saturday they were all sure to be holding some kind of discussion...Having no lives outside their little shop and Slaying...

"Well, Slayerette..." he teased... "Some menace rear its ugly head?..."

Much as he liked the bot...Appreciated her efforts...Desired to bypass Willow's programmed restrictions on intimate physical contact with him...

He couldn't call her Buffy...

"Spike?..." Buffy asked him... "Were you...Expecting me?..."

Well...not for a little while yet actually...Giles does love to hold forth on his tedious details for most of the day when he gets the chance...

"Anything wrong there, girl?..." She seemed confused...Fuse blown, perhaps?...Head need to be tightened down again?...

"It's me, Spike..." she went over to him...And took his hand...

He backed away in shock...He knew that touch...And it wasn't synthetic skin...

He trembled...Had Willow?...Without letting him know?...

But there was something else...Something wrong...

His chip was reading something besides human...In there...

She smiled at him...

"Don't you want another kiss?..."
***

Demon's Due...Part III

Spike pulled back from...Buffy?...And whatever was inside her...

He grabbed her...The chip fired...But noticeably less than full strength...He grimaced but held on...

"Who are you?...And more to the point, lass...How long do you want to live?..."

She threw him off, still smiling...Almost, but somehow...Not quite Buffy's smile...

Someone...Some enemy...Someone he almost knew...In there...

But not for long if William the Bloody had any say in the matter...

***

She frowned at him a little...Disappointing for what should have been such a joyous
homecoming...

He had no interest in games right now...

"Tell me who you are?...And if this really is Buffy Summers' body, vacate immediately..."

"Spike, don't you love me anymore?...Where's my devoted monster?...Who I made 'feel like a man'?"

"All right...You have her memories...Terrific...I'm impressed...Now, get out or I will strangle you out..." he moved to grab her again...

Oddly enough she let him...And kissed him...He dropped back...For just a moment...Just after she'd kissed him...In her eyes...

She was there...Too...

Angelis-Buffy and Spike(As Time Goes By)

***

"Xander...Have you finished your wedding plans?..." The bot asked him... With an appropriate degree of curiosity...

"Well...Annie...We've just about got things set...Anya says...We should have a firm date in a few days..."

She nodded, smiling...

"We'll be looking forward to it...It's about time..."

He...None of them...could call her Buffy, either...But as they had to call her something...And she was passing as Buf's twin...

Annie...From Buffy Anne...was as good as anything...

And she was friendly, kind, and well-meaning...Always...

Not to mention doing an all-around fine job of Dawn caregiver/business manager, Slayer, and keeper-of-Spike-in-line...

So Xander did his best...As they all did...

To treat her as a friend...

***

"Buffy?...Buffy?...Can you speak to me?..." Spike shook her, ignoring the chip...

She smiled at him...And struck a typical Buffy pose of hand on hip, glare...

"I can if you'd stop shaking me..."

Spike was tiring of the game...

"Let me speak to her...Or I will hurt you..."

"Is this anyway to greet your beloved?..." she pouted at him...And backed off a bit...

And gave him the full Buffy stare...Open-hearted, innocent, loving...Buffy...

He wanted to ram something down the little weasel's throat...Enough...
He swung at her...And found she was ready for him...With a stake...

"Now...William...Has your chip gone on the blink?..." she sighed...

"It would be a pity...On my first day back...If I had to stake my dear loving vampire...Who went mad when he saw me..." she moved on him...throwing him back towards his favorite slab...

"Even those idiots of yours wouldn't buy that..." he backed up...

"If I step on your chip...After everything else of you is dust...Well...Who's to say my poor lamb didn't short his electronic conscience out when I came walking through his door?..."

She grinned and pushed him back onto the slab...

"But I sure am attracted to you, sweetie...Any chance you might like to...Have a last fling?..."

Spike glared back at her...Looking desparately for any sign of Buffy again...

"No?...What?...Has partial redemption turned you gay or something?..." she chuckled and dropped back, releasing him...

"Not the William the Bloody I once knew..." she sighed again...

"Did we ever know each other?..." he decided to try a little pleasant conversation...

Of course...If she's really that interested...Maybe...Strictly in the line of duty...It would...Drop her guard...

But she had dropped the notion for the moment...And glared at him...

"All these years of fighting, Spike?...We know each other as well as two enemies could, I'd say..."

"Which is why...You can stick around in this world... For now..."

"And of course, my little demon-detector..." he guessed...

She nodded, pleased...Spike hasn't lost all his edge...she noted...Dull as he's gotten
bootlicking...me...

"Yep...Your little 'detector' is why you're still here and why I'm here...With a little offer...If you still luv me, snookums, that is..."

"I speak to Buffy...If she really is there...Before we go any further..."

She gave him another sweet Buffy look...Why honey?...

"And you tell me...Who...or What...and Why?"

She frowned...

"Spike...I come here...Ready to give you the girl of your...Nightmares...And this is the thanks I get?..."

She moved on to full Buffy glare...

"Grandson, is this anyway to treat your old granddad...?"
***

Demon's Due...Part IV

Angelis...It's Angelis...But...

Has that twit in LA finally croaked?...

Joyous news under other circumstances Spike thought...

And yet...Buffy...In there as well...
She smiles so sweetly at him...He could just smash her face in...

He regards her...

"I want to talk to Buffy...Then...How...And why?..."

Actually...He could guess why...

"Sure you don't want to reconsider a quick fling?" she grins... "You've never done it properly till you've done it with an experienced relative..."

***
Willow was a bit nervous at the shop...She had spoken at length the night before
regarding Wolfram-Hart's little miracle-working...To Angel in LA...Who, while uncertain, was anxious to consider
anything that might offer the slightest chance...Still...

He'd always suspected he'd have to wait one, two, perhaps many lifetimes to be with his Buffy, very probably in some reincarnation after his redemption was complete...Perhaps only after both their deaths...

So he could take the long view...And warned Willow against hasty action and reckless dabbling...For reasons identical to Giles'...

So she was worried...If he had decided her research was too dangerous...Had spoken to Giles...Well...

Hell to pay...Or at least a very stern lecture to listen to...

But so far...Just the usual review of events...

***

Angelis reluctantly allowed Buffy to take the stage...Briefly...

Clearly he was in control here...But equally obvious...He needed her cooperation...

Spike could see it was her...With shame in her eyes...And...To his astonishment... And his joy...

Happiness to see him...

"Why Buffy?...Why?...How could you agree to this?...You know what he is..."

"I had no choice...They summoned me...And told me he would be released in my body...To do whatever he could before you guys could stop him...And Dawn would be first..."

Dawn...Always Dawn...I love the little Nibs too but God-dammit girl...

"What makes you think he won't do all this now?..."

"They want him to survive...He wants to survive...If he starts a killing spree first thing...Even in my body...He won't last...But if I help him...To conceal his nature from the others...When Giles and the others check...us...out..."

Naturally...Even Giles and that band of fools wouldn't accept resurrected Buffy at face value...They'd check for demon, first thing...But if Angelis temporarily left or pulled back to have her cover for him...Couldn't she?...

"They?..."

"Wolfram-Hart...They've arranged this...They want him...To work with them...And with me around...They're hoping to keep him under their thumb...Somehow..."

"That can't be all, Buffy...They must have more reason than that to risk reviving you..."

"I know...I know they want me, too...My soul..." She looked at Spike desperately...

Her one hope...The stupid clod...God help him he'd better come through or...

***

Annie...Annie-Buffy...noticed Willow's nervousness...After all, she was naturally best attuned
to the one who'd programmed her...

"Will?...Anything wrong?...Is there a problem?..."

She shook her head...Getting a little too perceptive that bot of mine...

"Just remembering old times..." she smiled at Annie...

Annie-Buffy nodded sympathetically...Within the limits of her abilities, she hated to see her friends upset or disturbed...

She decided to check on her 'sister'...Dawn was over by the main counter peering at the same items she'd peered at a thousand times...

No menace threatening her...Anya at the register was a friend...And she had eaten recently...No obvious signs of unusual depression or anxiety...Beyond what would be expected given her mourning state...

She was fine...Annie returned her full attention to Giles...

***

Angelis-Buffy explained...She...and she did consider herself female now...gender after all is host-body based for vampire demons...Was still linked to the old body, now run exclusively by Angel's human soul...

Leaving his demon consciousness trapped in limbo...Like some foolish human soul...

But Wolfram-Hart had managed to contact him there...And, after Darla's little game with Angel had failed, had offered an escape...Of a kind...A way to let the limbo-imprisoned Angelis project his consciousness into a resurrected but soulless human body...Rather like a soul returning, like Angel...and Darla...Not able to alter the body, pass on new abilities and defects as with your average vampire...But able to use the body, and the memories contained within...

And if that body happened to be that of a Slayer...

As for the body...Well, dear old Buffy had kindly provided that...And if Spike cared to go to the trouble of exhuming Buffy's empty casket...

Spike pointed out that Giles had taken precautions with Buffy's gravesite, anticipating at least attempts at desecration by Buffy's "fans" among the demon underworld...

But such things only work on demons...Not on the human staff of Angelis-Buffy's new employer...

And sadly, Buffy's friends had not expected her grave to be threatened by daylight...During "renovations" and new site work at the cemetery...Over the past couple of weeks...

Nothing like having a large corporate work force and their bankroll striving like beavers to do the work for you...

***
But what does he...she get out of it?... Vengeance of course...but why the elaborate delay and deception?...

Vengeance?...She asked him...On her dear ones?...Why...snookums?...How could you think that?...

Surely Angelis was entitled to seek redemption as well as he...With dear Buffy's help and support...

She just wanted to be the best Slayer she could be...Look after sweet little Dawny...And her beloved friends...And, if dear, devoted William was willing...And firmly promised to continue on the road to redemption...

Pursue a new relationship...
***

But...first, she had to convince her friends that she was dear Buffy, back from the grave...

Saved by the Powers That Be as a reward for her world-saving heroics...

Surely a long-overdue reward...

And for that...Buffy's cooperation was essential...But dear Spike, whose chip could sense a demon at the drop of a hat...

Was also a player with a key role...

Devoted friend, whose joy at her resurrection, hopeless but everlasting love, and new found selflessness would shortly be found to have won Buffy's heart...And body...If he played his cards right...

And confirmed that she was as human as...

"And the point?..." Spike cut in...

Well...Let time show her trustworthiness...One thing she could swear to, right now...

She would not be adhering to Wolfram-Hart's game plan...Those devilish ghouls...

And...Even if William had his doubts...Which she could understand...Surely it was best to go along for now...See what came up...Not that she was threatening anything...Anyone...

But who knew what those WH fiends would do if their plans seemed in jeopardy...

At the very least they'd destroy her...Both of them...And Buffy would be lost to Spike, her friends, Dawny...Forever...

Spike believed Angelis...Angelis-Buffy...would never stick to the WH rulebook...Apart from that...

Mayhem was definitely on the menu...But apparently she was still restrained...By the nature of her resurrection...So, it might be best...

To see what Buffy said...And take his cue from her...At least for now...

But whatever Angelis had in mind, Spike had to admit...From what he could see of its outlines...

It was a clever plan...

You've got to give the demon his due...Spike thought...
***

Demon's Due...Part V

Buffy, allowed one more brief audience with Spike, confirmed that she was willing...For the moment...To keep to the agreement...

There was little else she could do...Except refuse to cover for Angelis' demon nature...Expose him...At a terrible cost...Given that she could do nothing to control her body but what he allowed...

She begged him to go along with things for now...She was putting her trust in him...Counting on him...

Then, later...perhaps...When the time was right...

She took his hand and squeezed it...Looking in his eyes...

They could stick the old bastard up a chimney and screw like minks...

Angelis-Buffy smiled at Spike...She was getting pretty good at Buffy, wouldn't you
say...Snookums?...

Spike realized he'd had to be more careful...

Even with the chip it had taken him a minute to register the demon's return...

He...She...Was getting pretty good at Buffy...Spike had to admit...

***

Giles summed up...Annie's riveted attention making up for the rest of the gang, excepting Willow who was likewise showing Giles her studious side...

Anything to keep him from checking up on her... "research project"...

Things were relatively quiet in town, Giles concluded...

Thanks to Annie, he nodded to her...She smiled...And...

Their "honorary assistant Slayer"...

Whom he hoped Annie would persuade to attend their nightly briefings on a more regular basis...

She'd be happy to...

Which thought conjured up a very pleasant image in Xander's mind...

Spike, bound and gagged, dragged to every gang meeting by a kind and pleasant Annie...Who had a certain literal-mindedness regarding instructions...

***
But joyous tidings were on the way...

Spike had suggested that Buffy not simply knock at the shop door...

Best to be a little more dramatic about the thing...

No, not a naked Buffy draped over her tombstone...having clawed her way out from the casket...Though he couldn't help finding that a rather appealing image...

Angelis-Buffy would make a rather interesting girlfriend, he had to admit...

***

Anya took a phone call...As Giles was suggesting possible areas for preventative research...

With Buffy gone, the more prevention the better...

With the exception of Annie...Who immediately went into defensive mood...They all jumped as Anya screamed...

And called Giles to the phone...Before becoming even more incoherent than usual...

Xander hurried over to help her...And saw Giles trembling...Was he...Crying?...

"Yes..." he said into the phone... "Yes...Quite well...Well...We'll be there as soon as we can..."

And hung up, shaking...

They all looked at him...What now?...

Annie was gentle but insistent... "Giles?...What's wrong?...What can I do?..."

He looked at her blankly for a second...

And then told them that Buffy had just called from Sunnydale Hospital's ER...

Having just found herself wandering through town...Confused...She thought it best to head there, see a doctor, and call them all from there...

Has anything happened?...Is Dawn alright?...What about Glory?...She had the vague memory of Glory's being defeated...But wasn't sure...And after that...

They looked at each other after Giles told them...

Maybe I'm off the hook...Willow thought...Before going into near shock...

***

Spike in his daylight-shielded car, had beaten them to the ER by a few...But was having a leetle trouble getting from car to inside of building...

She'd called him via his purloined cell phone...He explained...The number of which he'd given to her before the final battle with Glory...In case she needed him...Which she had...Almost immediately...

But right now she wasn't quite sure why she would have called him, she told Willow and Giles after the gang had arrived...Somehow she felt she should...As if Spike'd done something to earn her trust...

Had he?...she asked Willow...

***

Giles thought it best to give her some time and not mention the 'death thing'...

Xander wanted an immediate answer...And turned to the fastest possible source... Spike...

Who quietly told them that he could sense no demon within...At present...

Which was more or less the truth...Angelis having pulled back somewhat...

***

Demon's Due...Part VI

Angelis-Buffy Theme (Mona Lisa)

The gang with one of their new members... "Honorary assistant Slayer", Spike was at the Sunnydale Hospital ER...With what they hoped...Was the resurrected Buffy Summers...

"Where's Dawn?..." Buffy asked, anxiously... "Is she ok?..."

They had not told Dawn yet, naturally, and left her in Annie-Buffy's care...

"Dawn's fine, Buffy..." Willow assured her... "We wanted to make sure you're all right, first..."

She nodded...And smiled at her friend...But...

"What's happened, Will?...Where was I?...Why is everyone acting so?..."

She frowned...

Giles had gone to see if he could hurry these idiot doctors along...

Xander had desperately offered to make a drink run...

Neither could face her for long...Until they were sure...Beyond all doubt...

Spike however...Was quietly watching...

A fine performance by Angelis-Buffy who had come forward once more, after seeing that the gang would not be rushing her over to the shop immediately for "inspection" and was clearly enjoying her little playlet...

Coauthored by William the Bloody...With reluctance...

She expressed some concern for him now...Nothing too...Just a hint that her memories of the battle were returning...

"Spike...Should you be out now?...Will, don't let him too near the windows out there..."

Willow nodded and smiled at Spike...Who combined a certain feeling of concern for her with a glum annoyance at her idiocy...Couldn't she see through this?...I thought you had some brains there, Red...

At this rate, they'd all be dead before the day was up...Except that Angelis was taking the cautious route...For the moment...

Buffy now grabbed dear Willow's hand...Startling both Willow and Spike...She remembered...

Fighting with Glory...Glory down...She running to Dawn who was bleeding...And the portals opening to the other dimensions...Oh, my God...

"Willow...I jumped...Into something?...Oh, God...I'm dead?...Am I dead?..."

Willow hurriedly reassured her friend...She wasn't dead...This was home...

Everything would be alright...Now...

A fine performance thought Spike grimly...A little thick on the sentiment...But under the circumstances...

But there was still the testing to come...Where Buffy's soul might have a chance...If Angelis pulled back far enough...

But he...she, Spike corrected was doubtless ready for that...
***
Annie took the call from Giles who asked her to take Dawn home...They had some business to discuss that would be much too upsetting for her...

Dawn protection being one of her prime motivations, Annie complied...But asked to be informed as soon as possible...So that she could assist in any way she could...

Giles thanked her...He would bring her up to date as soon as time allowed...

***

The doctors had pronounced Buffy fine...Perhaps a little dehydrated...

After three weeks in the ground...Xander thought...Not too difficult to believe she'd be a little dry...

After an hour and some IV fluid she could go home...
***
They were a little preoccupied now with calming her...

She had apparently regained most of the pre-death memories and it seemed...Some of the post-death ones...

The tunnel with the light at the end...A bright room...Vague voices, Mom she was sure among them...Calling to her...And someone...Someone she didn't know...

Telling her her time was not yet over...That she had work to do in the world still...If she was willing to return...

Sheepishly she confessed to her friends that she had been ready to say...No...She wanted to go with Mom...Not go back...

But she'd been given vague images of the world...Her loved ones' sorrow...And new menaces facing them and the world...She was needed, desperately...And even Mom had told her...In some way...

It wasn't yet her time...

So...She'd agreed to come back...And found herself in the middle of Sunnydale... After wandering from who knows where...

Giles pondered, looking at her...Could it be the truth?...

It would certainly be about time that Buffy Summers received a reward for her selfless devotion to saving humanity...

But...He had to be sure...

He checked again with Spike...Who confirmed that he had not yet sensed any demon within...

This time it was a lie...

But Giles would have to have more assurance than that...Whatever his natural inclination to accept her story...And planned to get it as soon as possible...
***

Spike considered the possibilities as he watched Willow happily talking with Buffy...Who was seeming stronger by the moment, though Will did not want to overdue...First day back and all...

He could tell them right now...Squash Angelis' and his "friends" little schemes before they started...

But even if they believed him...Buffy would shortly be lost...If he and Willow could stop her before Angelis-Buffy killed them all...

If he tried to take Giles aside...The game would be up...Same for Willow...At least as long as she was watching him...

And she obviously intended to keep watching him...

Of course there was always Harris...She probably wouldn't care if he talked to him...

Well, no...Even Harris might be capable of alerting the others...

Spike would have to wait...For now...And hope that Buffy's soul knew what it was doing...

And wasn't simply having another case of mad Dawn obsession...
***

Tara hadn't made the morning meeting having class work to catch up on...

She met them at the shop as they returned...A carefully protected Spike in tow...With Buffy...

Spike was pleased to note the other Wiccan seemed uncertain...Finally...Someone with a brain...

Well, to be fair...Giles wasn't falling all over his resurrected "daughter" yet...

But still...He'd have to elevate Ms. Maculay to human-with-brain status...

A rare position in that gang...

***

Buffy was quite willing...Wanted, really...To be tested...

She herself would feel better knowing there was nothing in there with her...That might have crawled back into this world with her...To threaten her friends...
But she wanted to know how things had been going...She asked Willow while Giles consulted his books and began setting things up...

Had they been dealing with everything ok?...Well, obviously they had...But you know...Anything new and terrible on the horizon yet?...

Well, Willow told her...So far, so good...And Annie had helped a lot...

Annie?...Buffy asked, wondering...Sincerely, Spike thought...A new Slayer?...Called after her death?...

Not exactly...Although they did anticipate a new Slayer might have been chosen...And would be coming...

The bot...A reprogrammed bot...Who'd done a fair job of keeping Dawn out of the hands of the State of California...

Buffy nodded...Thanks, Will...Good job...She patted her hand...

Willow was glad to see she wasn't upset...Buffy was always skittish about the bot...

Buffy cocked her head and motioned toward Spike...

"And has Prince Charmless been behaving himself?..."

"He's been a good boy...A credit to you..." Willow grinned...

Moron...Spike thought...

She goes down in status, he decided...And looked at Tara who still regarded Buffy with caution...

Tara was not fond of resurrections...Particularly unexplained ones...

Maybe some hope there...
***

Spike sensed Angelis dropping back again as Giles' preparations neared completion...Willow excused herself and joined him just as he was about to call her over...

Harris was nervously hovering...As was Anya the rabbitphobe clerk...A lot of help to be expected from those quarters...

Well, perhaps things would work out for the best...And Angelis would be exposed and driven out in the course of ripping their throats out...

***

Much to his surprise, Buffy took his hand...And it was now Buffy, he realized...Angelis had fallen back to a position even his chip couldn't detect...

Now was the time for her to fight...Like the champion Slayer she was...Free herself...

But...She was looking at him with pleading eyes...Don't let me down, Spike, he realized...

Was she actually going through with this?...Buffy, God-dammit girl...Where's that old "here's the deal" sass...Kick him out, girl...Come on...

Not that "dear Dawn, I must save her above all else" nonsense again?...

Perhaps a good hard shake to back to her senses...Too late they're coming for her...

***

There was some vagueness about the "edges"...Nothing strange given she was back from the dead...

Definitely human by all tests...And a summons to Buffy's spirit indicated the spirit was already here and in her body...
She was back...And it was time to celebrate...

Though Giles was still concerned about the nature of her return...And the reason...

It wasn't like The Powers That Be to simply start dispensing rewards to the virtuous...

They seemed to get far too much pleasure out of jerking the innocent around...Cursing them or sparing them as their whim suited...

***
Spike sensed Angelis' return in strength...The moment had passed...Buffy, damn you, you fool...he thought...

But for the moment Angelis‑Buffy seemed to want to continue playing...And as long as Buffy's soul was still around...There might be hope...

He'd have to find an opportunity to speak with Tara...

But Buffy was anxious to include him in their celebration...Not leave him out...After all William'd done in saving Dawn...And she remembered his tears...For her...

Xander was a bit annoyed to see Buffy looking a little cow‑eyed at Spike...William?...For crying out loud Buf...Yeah, he did good but...

One vampire boyfriend was quite enough...And at least Angel had a soul...
***

Buffy wanted Giles to call Dawn...Not alarm her but just have her come back and tell her gently...

While she was talking to him, Willow slid over to Spike and grinned at him...

"So...Looks like you've finally made some headway there...William..."

He looked at her...Brain‑dead smile on her face...Shortly to be amended to just dead, he thought...

Hmmn...

She got up and went over to Buffy and Giles...

Spike felt the slip of paper she'd put in his hand...And asked Giles if he could possibly use...

In the back, left door...

Buffy watched him...But kept her attention on the others, hugging Willow, Xander, and Anya, kissing Giles, much to his embarrassment...And greeting Tara...Who seemed a little nervous and apologized...

Buffy shook her head...Perfectly understandable under the circumstances...She grinned at her...

In the bathroom Spike looked at the note Willow had passed him...To meet her...At his cemetery by the large mausoleum...Just after the party broke up...

Perhaps he should rethink her status...

***
Demon's Due...Part VII

Angelis‑Buffy had not lied to Spike...As yet...

She had every intention of regaining her secure place in the hearts of her friends...
For the moment, violent revenge was not on the agenda...

And she had no intention of blindly following the dictates of Wolfram‑Hart... Forever...

But she had her own plans...Or intended to...When she could sort things out...

This resurrection thing was confusing...So many new emotions...And oddly...Being with the others...

She was beginning to find happiness a rather pleasant experience...

***
Giles called the Summers' and asked Annie to bring Dawn back...They had some important news...Which could not be given over the phone...

Yes, she should do what she could to keep Dawn from getting too excited or upset...

***
The celebration was understandably, somewhat low‑key...Most of the participants being still too shocked to be able to enjoy the moment...

Buffy seeming still rather weak and hesitant...

Spike was quiet...And watchful...

Therefore, by default leaving the life of the party to be...At least until Dawn and Annie arrived...

Giles...

Who did his best to remind his shock‑staggered crew that this was truly a joyous occasion...

Even as he continued to have his doubts...

***
Annie‑Buffy was very pleased to meet her original...Their previous meetings having been before her final programming...

She was sure their friends would be greatly relieved to have her back...And it would do a world of good for her 'sister' Dawn...Who had been very gently told the news by Willow and Giles and was now firmly attached to her human sister's arm...

And would probably have been so even if she knew the truth...

So desperate to believe and have her back as Dawn was...

***
Giles took Dawn and Buffy home...Annie being quite content to remain in the shop after Willow had requested it...

Spike made no protest as Buffy walked out with her arm around Dawn...He'd have to trust that Buffy's soul could hold Angelis from harming Dawn...

Besides he didn't believe Angelis‑Buffy was ready to give up her role as dear Buffy just yet...

And she had to place a certain degree of trust in him as well...Leaving him with the others...

Rather amusing if one came to think about it, Spike thought...Considering the two "trusting" individuals involved in this affair...Angelis and Spike...

***
Whatever Willow's concerns were she masked them quite well...

Of course all she might want was to invite him to a surprise welcome home party or some such nonsense...

But he got the feeling...Red had her doubts...
***

Spike waited cautiously by the mausoleum entrance where Willow's note had told him to be...

Willow called to him softly...From inside...

She'd been watching him...

She hadn't trusted him?...Wise precaution...Good to see someone in the gaggle of fools showing some brains...

Willow looked at him...And he suddenly found himself lifted up about a foot off the
ground...Then dropped with equal suddenness...

"What do you take me for, Spike?..."

Well, today at least...Up until she'd passed that note to him...
But his opinion was rapidly changing...

***
Red had seen almost immediately that something was up...Buffy's aura was funny...Human, but funny...

And the explanation of her resurrection just a little too...

She didn't buy the kind indulgence of The Powers That Be anymore than Giles did...And she had noticed Spike's watchfulness...

As always, Angelis had underestimated the gentle and quiet one...Vainglorious
blowhard that he...well, she now... was she never could see ability without the trappings...

***
Spike cautiously told her what he knew...

Angelis?...Willow thought...How could it be?...She'd just spoken to Angel the other night...

Spike patiently reminded her that Angelis had said he...she was still linked to Angel...But projecting into Buffy...

Young Christ Jr. was doubtless still alive and kicking in LA...

Possibly a call to him by her might be a sensible way to start...But if contact with Angel somehow alerted Angelis...

She agreed...If they were to have any chance to save Buffy...They'd have to go slow and learn everything they could...

He was not happy about the idea of telling others...Perhaps Rupert could be a help but the rest were just a liability...

Willow glared a little at the impugning of her sweetie's value...But...

She agreed to tell only Giles...And only when the opportunity was right...

But they had to watch her...And learn what was up...

And there was only one person who could get close enough...
Blond...William the Blond...

Who accepted his assignment...With a certain degree of pleasure...
Which earned him a severe Willow frown...

If he was planning to take any advantage of the situation...

He'd seen her in action against Glory and had better damn well remember it....

***

As always Angelis did the unexpected...She persuaded Dawn to head for bed early...Then went straight to bed herself, exhausted...

It had after all been quite a day...

***
The next morning she bundled a happy Dawn off to school...

Can't let a little resurrection interfere with completing the school year...

Besides...What with Mom's illness, the funerals, her little past attendance problems...

She'd be lucky to avoid summer school...

She waved Dawn off...What a sweetie...So good to be back with her...

Then she went to check on her new beau...

Poor devoted Spike must be lonely in that dark crypt...

And she wasn't quite ready to get back to class...Besides her understandable exhaustion...

Little problem regarding her being declared legally dead and all...

***

Willow had told Giles early that morning...Fearing even to call him...Wolfram‑Hart was very likely tapping their phone lines...

He had nodded thoughtfully...He suspected something like that though he couldn't help hoping...

Willow was to be commended for her astuteness...And Spike was probably right to have acted as he did...Given the need to leave a door open to save Buffy...

The solution was simple enough, however...

He'd go over to the Summers and rip Angelis out of Buffy with his bare hands...

***

Giles reluctantly consented to Willow's alternate plan...

Set a vamp to catch a vamp...

And, for now...Pretend that all was well with the world...

While they searched for any way to drive Angelis out...And leave Buffy with them...

Maybe a good, old‑fashioned exorcism...

But Giles doubted that Wolfram‑Hart had left it that easy for them...

He wanted to know what Willow had gleaned so far of the Wolfram‑Hart ceremony...

It might have been involved in Angelis' "transplant"...

Oh...Willow tried to look innocent...The Wolfram‑Hart ceremony?...But you said...

He looked at her...What did she take him for?...

So much for leaving Buffy at peace...Willow couldn't help noting to him...

Well...It was a different situation now he pointed out...If Buffy's soul was already back in this world...

Rupert Giles would do anything that was required to keep her here...
***
Buffy had come to pay a call on her devoted hero...

Who was ready to begin his undercover assignment...

With any luck, literally...

***
Angelis-Buffy Love Theme

But Angelis‑Buffy, having won back her status as Slayer, was behaving more in keeping with the ladylike demeanor required of the Greater Slayer of All Time...

And hoped that Spike would accept her gentle kiss as a token of her growing affection...

And restrain himself...As a true hero ought...

A frowning Spike had to note that she might easily have decided to dispense with his services altogether now that she'd "convinced" them...

But of course his sudden and unfortunate demise so soon after her return might raise a few eyebrows...And even Angelis would not expect Buffy's shop of fools to accept her so easily...

***
He requested another audience with Buffy...Pledge of faith, so to speak...

Why, honey...With Buffy?...she grinned...Well...

***
Buffy was clearly near the end of her rope...

And seeing no way out, was ready to accept the situation as it stood...

While Spike couldn't risk encouraging her with the news that Giles and Willow were on the case...If that news could encourage anyone...He felt he could go ahead and urge her to fight on...

Angelis‑Buffy would expect it anyway...

She mustn't take this lying down he told her...She must wait and keep her hope alive...

And by no means agree to anything more...

"Does it matter?...I'm trapped here..." she said despairingly...

Spike looked at her...

"If you allow this to continue Buffy, voluntarily...You become complicit in whatever it eventually does..Your soul will merge with his consciousness...You become one...His new crimes, yours..Eternally dammed...Together..."

"And that is probably what our dear Angelis is after...And his 'friends' at Wolfram‑Hart..."

She bowed her head in thought...He was right, but what could they do...
He sensed the demon's return...She was a little miffed, having heard all...

Upsetting poor Buffy like that...New crimes?...Eternally damned?...Now if she were still the nasty type and chose to point to some of Spike's recent misdemeanors...One might well wonder which of them was the less worthy redemption candidate...But, as she had said...

Let time reveal her trustworthiness...

But for now...She was wondering if William might like to come to dinner tonight...After sunset of course...She'd suggested it to Dawn at breakfast and Dawny loved the idea...

Nothing too elaborate...Just a nice, quiet family dinner to celebrate a rebirth...And the start of a new relationship...

Did he like chicken?...

***

Demon's Due...Part VIII

William the Bloody accepted the Slayer's gracious invitation to dine at her home...

Chicken would be fine...

***

She poked around his crypt a bit...Dawn had obviously been busy...

Sweet kid my sis...She noted to Spike, who nodded...

And wondered...

Angelis was clearly being affected by what he'd picked up of Buffy's personality and memories...Just as in his original host, he'd been motivated by some of what human Liam had left behind...And not being a vampire in his...her current state...

Possibly...Her motivations were not quite those of the old Angelis...

Who, as befit your standard vampire demon, had incorporated every petty grievance his host Liam had ever nursed into his nature...And acted immediately to revenge himself on his human family and all who'd ever crossed Liam in life...

But now being in a human body...The blood‑lust was not fueling his...her rage...Say at every time Giles had put her mother in danger...Or trained her on a night when she'd rather have been out with her friends...

But it was highly unlikely any new drives were innocent ones...And she had definitely retained Angelis' memories...

Certain not to be pleasant in regards to Buffy and her friends...

She smiled at him...She had to head on over to Giles'...See what could be done about her little legal problems...

What with being dead three weeks and all...

But she'd be looking forward to seeing him tonight...

***
Giles greeted her...Very kindly considering his attitude earlier that morning...

Yes...As to her legal status...A difficult matter to resolve...But he'd consult with the Council and see what could be done...

If all else failed, she could take over Annie's role as the long‑absent "twin"...

There hadn't been much time for them to talk yesterday, she noted...Was there really no word yet from Dad?...Nothing?...

"I'm afraid not, my dear..." Giles told her, all sympathy...

She frowned...

A man like that...Leaving his two daughters alone in the world was bad enough...But to leave little Dawn to face both funerals...And leave her to fend alone for herself in the world afterwards...

No that Giles and the others hadn't done a terrific job...Thank God for her friends...
She hoped Giles would forgive her getting so silly...And teary...It was just ...

"Of course, my dear child..."

He reflected that there might be a positive thing in all this...If Angelis could encounter Hank Summers before they drove him out...

On the issue of how to deal with Buffy's father's behavior, he and Angelis, Giles was sure, shared similar opinions...

***
As to other matters...Things remained quiet at present in Sunnydale...

And she should rest and relax for the next few days...Especially with Spike and Annie to hold things down...

She smiled at her Watcher...Me, rest...relax...Please...

The best thing was for her to get back into action...Quickly...

She didn't want to find herself brooding about things...Mom...Her death...

Still, of course, she had to get college straightened out...And the financial situation...The house and all...

Maybe a couple of days without too much pressure would be a good thing...

***
Giles found it a relief to be able to review the Summers' financial status...Anything to distract him until Willow showed up...

Else, watching Angelis‑Buffy smile at him...Talk so happily about Dawn and her friends...Giles was sure to repeat his crime of a short time ago...
***
That situation was in fact not bad...Joyce had left plenty of life and mortgage insurance...And death benefits...

The main problem had been Buffy's absence...Which Annie had partially solved...

***

She noted Annie, now pleasantly helping Anya near the counter...

Speaking of Annie...

Giles assured her that the robot would be painlessly deactivated...In a few days...When Buffy'd had a chance to rest and they'd sorted out her legal status...And checked out what the Council could and would do

Well...Just as long as she didn't have to watch...Creepy...You understand...

Giles understood...And could appreciate a fine performance...

Especially being forced by the circumstances to give one himself...
***
Handsome fellow her Watcher...Angelis‑Buffy thought...I wonder if he ever...Seriously, apart from the normal fantasies of the middle‑aged bachelor... Thought about me...

Perhaps with a little encouragement from his loving Slayer...Who had come to better appreciate her Watcher's devotion, experience, skill...And considerable charm...

And so desperately needed a little comfort...
***

Willow dropped by as causally as possible in the early afternoon after classes...With Tara...Who as agreed she had kept in the dark...

Having decided in spite of her fears for her beloved that it was best to maintain a facade of normality...Besides Tara would be miffed at being left behind...Even if she did her best to accept t...

She took her cue from Giles...Who continue to give a sterling performance...

She relaxed enough to forget a little and her laugh was genuine when Angelis‑Buffy told her about the little upcoming "dinner party" with Spike...

Until she caught herself and suddenly found she had to hit the ladies room...

That monster...Using her...Laughing at us all...Playing on our love and our sorrow to get us to accept her...

Buffy, my poor Buffy...Giles and I will kill that thing in you...Even if we have to kill you again to do it...

***
Buffy left finally about three...She had some shopping...And cooking to do...

She hugged Willow...Who did her best to return it, but was a little stiff...

Not unusual, really, under the circumstances...

And Giles who managed his role a little more naturally...

Too bad Xander had to work ...She was so anxious to see him again, she told Will as she headed out...

Anya promised to give him her best...

Another attractive fellow Angelis‑Buffy noted as she went out...How could I have been so foolish as to pass him up...Such a nice guy too...

Well, things change, don't they...
***
A quiet family dinner...At the Summers'

Dawn, Buffy...Angelis‑possessed Buffy...and their new hero...

William the Bloody...

Who brought flowers...As befitting a former Victorian poet from the nineteenth century...
And who had politely dined on his "essential nutrient" before coming so that he could give full attention to their cooking efforts...

And who assured Dawn that his praises were sincere...He could still appreciate good food, you know...In spite of...

Buffy was shyly pleased to see that he liked it...She wasn't that experienced in the kitchen...

And told them she had feared she might have forgotten what little she knew during...Well...The last couple of weeks...

A beautiful performance their guest noted...Worthy of the Angelis who had convinced a terrified, but fatally compassionate Drusilla to let him enter her convent by sparing her mother, then professing his desire for redemption and her sweet prayers...

***
Demon's Due...Part IX

Spike had not expected any chance to speak with Buffy during the course of his pleasant evening at the Summers'...

Angelis‑Buffy however suggested that he accompany her on Patrol...

Patrol?...Dawn frowned...Buffy was supposed to be taking it easy and leaving that to Annie and the others...

Buffy smiled at her protective sis...

"I'm sure to be safe with William along..." she grinned at him...

Well...Dawn was skeptical...But...Also a romantic...

And was secretly rooting for William...At least the human in him...If Buffy and the others could bring that part out...

And Buffy had already spoken of the need to encourage Spike to be as human as possible...A vital step in his redemption...

So, in the interest of redemption...And romance...Dawn reluctantly bowed to her sister's wishes...

And looked confidently to their new hero to protect her restored sis...

Or else...
***

And once on patrol, much to Spike's surprise, Angelis‑Buffy suggested he might care to raise Buffy's spirits by talking with her...

She was concerned...After all Buffy and she were...Like that...Almost one now...

In spite of himself, Spike was intrigued...Most of it was just Angelis' little joke, of course...But buried in there somewhere was the faintest touch of sincerity...As if Angelis‑Buffy was in fact merging with the human soul...

Was Buffy's soul finding a new way to fight?...Or losing the game?...

"Spike..." His chip soon confirmed it was Buffy... "How much longer is this going on?...I can't bear it..." She looked down...

"I know he's planning something...Horrible...Waiting..."

"Can you sense anything specific about his plans?..."

She shook her head...Except...

"He's determined to be free of Wolfram‑Hart..."

Well...thought Spike...Didn't need to be told that...

Angelis always was an ingrate...And a loner...

They had reached his crypt...She followed him in...

She looked at him...Hopeful...
"You can still help me, William...Before it's too late..."

He looked at her...If only I could risk telling her...That help of a kind is on the way...

If you can call it that...With Giles and Willow as the bearers...

She needed something to buck her up...Or soon, she'd surrender to Angelis completely....

But, she was still Buffy...And he knew how to fire Buffy up...

"Slayer, I expected more from you...Running to me, William the Bloody, for suicide
help?...When did I start looking like Dr. Kevorkian?..."

"God, what ever happened to your charmingly self‑righteous Slay speech?...You, losing to Angelis...Ha, Angelis, that slow‑moving maniac...If I had known it was this easy to break you, I'd have tried soul‑merging years ago..."

He grinned at her...

"But then, maybe you like it...The ultimate lover...And he's had you before..."

That did it...And then some...

She smashed him into his slab, grabbed a nearby stake...And held it...Over him...

"You worthless bastard...You...slime...I was counting on you...I believed you'd help me..."

"What?..." He grinned at her again... "And pass on Angelis' generous offer?..."

"I admit I was squeamish...At first...But now he's kind of...Grown into you, so to speak..."

She slammed him down...And was ready to stake him...

"Tut‑tut, Slayer..." he wagged a finger at her... "Angelis won't be pleased if you send me to hell just yet..."

She shrieked at him, threw him back again, and raised the stake...

He sensed the demon fighting his...er her way back...

"Spike!...What are you doing!..." Angelis‑Buffy put the stake down...Furious...And
understandably so, Spike noted rather happily...

It had taken the demon considerable effort and time to reassert control...

"For two cents, William...I'd have let her finish you just now..."

Let, eh...Spike noted happily...Yeah, right...

Buffy was back in the game...He was sure of it...

When the time was right just a little more "push" on his part...And...

Of course, given her response when aroused like that he could only do this sort of thing once...At least to the full extent...

But it was a price he'd be willing to pay if necessary...Which fact astonished him as much as it would have her...

Sort of thing brooding boy Angel would have come up with...Hard to believe...

On the other hand, self‑sacrifice like that was sure to win his soul points with her when it was over and she'd realized what he'd been up to... Even if his demon were long gone and that soul had to wait till Judgement Day to collect...

After all...

Buffy Summers was worth waiting for...
***

Angelis‑Buffy attempted to brush off her nervous anger...

And trace of fear...Spike noted...

With satisfaction...

"That sort of nonsense won't do either of us any good, Spike..."

Oh, I don't know Granddad...Watching Buffy push you aside...Knowing you must be nearly ready to piss with fear in your dark brooding pants that your only chance for a return was draining down the toilet was rather worth it...

"If you push her too far, I'll let her do it...I mean it..." she glared at him...

Ah, "let" again...You'll "let" her, will you?...The way you "let" her send you to Hell?...
Still, mustn't let the confidence blow up too much...Long way to go yet...

"Sorry...Just had to try, you know...All's fair in love and etc..."

She shifted gears and smiled at him...

Speaking of love and etc...
***

It was all in the line of duty Spike noted...As he watched Angelis‑Buffy pull her clothes back on, blow him a kiss, and slip...rather happily...out of his crypt...

Buffy would understand...

Well...

A cruel necessity...To keep Angelis‑Buffy distracted and off her guard until Giles and Willow came up with something...
***
Angelis-Buffy Love Theme

It had been quite a surprise, Angelis‑Buffy noted, walking home to Dawn...How much pleasure she'd gotten out of something as ridiculous as human sex...Well...human and vampiral sex, taking into account her partner...

Of course...The last time Angelis had had sex...He had rather been catching the tail end of Angel and Buffy's mating...And had been too busy tormenting Buffy to enjoy the physical experience...

And as for sex with Darla...Well...

William was really a lamb when you came down to it...A surprisingly considerate and generous lover...Must be the poet in him...

Despite his desire to help Buffy, he'd also been anxious to demonstrate his abilities...Clearly hoping something would be passed on to Buffy's trapped soul...A little sample of what she'd could expect from him if and when they drove her...well, at least...Angelis...out...

But she had to be fair...He obviously wanted to provide comfort to Buffy...As well as keep her...Angelis‑Buffy happy...

She couldn't help feeling...Well, moved...After all, she was part Buffy...More each day...And some of what he'd offered was sincerely for her...

Angelis-Buffy Theme (Mona Lisa)

Pity...all that feeling wasted...If only he'd see what she could offer him...

But he always was a fool...A ridiculous mix of demon and soul, thanks to Drusilla...
Still...she wished she could...Somehow...Keep him...

Pity...

Well...Let time handle that...

She heard a sound...Rushing feet...Two sets...One pursued, one pursuer...

A hunt was in progress...
***

She'd caught up to the vampire, a rather scruffy sort, and his prey, a teenaged boy, in a few minutes...

She looked at the cringing vampire...Who, recognizing the infamous Slayer, felt his doom...And smiled at him...

"What are you afraid of?..." she asked him solemnly...

The boy beside the vampire rose cautiously, as the vamp desperately tried backing off...

Angelis‑Buffy stopped the vamp...And cocking her head at him, pointed her stake at the boy now starting to move closer to her...

"He's all yours...So long as no one else drops by...So..." she put a finger to her lips... "Quietly..."

The boy and vamp both looked at her...The vamp perhaps a hair more startled...After all vamps and Slayers were equally new things to the teen...As opposed to the vamp...Who couldn't imagine a Slayer who watched and did nothing...Or even encouraged the hunt...

She sighed and tried again...

"He's yours if you're quiet...But be quick..."

The vampire looked around...A trap?...

The boy ran off...

"You just can't help some people..." she told the vamp as she staked him...

****
Demon's Due...Part X

Giles and Willow had met at the shop while Angelis‑Buffy and Dawn were entertaining their guest...

To discuss what, if anything, could be done about Angelis' possession...

Although Spike had assured Willow that Buffy's presence was still strong, both were discouraged by her lack of attempts to reach them...

Surely the Buffy they knew would have tried to overcome Angelis' control at least during the testing when it was weakest...

Still...Giles noted...Spike had told them she was desperately afraid for Dawn...
And all of them...Willow loyally added...

Though like Giles she couldn't help thinking...

Dawn...again...

God...What did those monks do to her?...
***

Should they try contacting Angel after all?...Willow wondered...Even if there was some risk, Angel would be sure to do what he could...

Not much he was likely to be capable of...Giles cautioned...Angelis was apparently operating from limbo...Probably the only ways Angel could effect Angelis' activities would be through recalling Angelis to full control in his body...or... destroying his body and releasing Angelis and his soul...

And if Angelis were released from Angel now...It was quite possible he'd be well rooted enough in Buffy to stay...Permanently...

While to lift the curse and restore Angelis in Angel...Might be exactly what he was hoping for...Willow concluded...Though it might free Buffy...

Well...Should they at least try Wesley?...Or Cordy?...See how Angel is behaving now...Maybe have them standing by in case they needed to reveal things to Angel quickly?...

Giles agreed that might be helpful...But could they be sure neither would reveal their knowledge even unconsciously to Angel and therefore Angelis?...

Hmmn...Well...They'd do their best, Willow was sure...But of course they'd certainly be nervous around him...

She felt Wesley at least was worth a try...A contact person near Angel might be vital if they needed to include him in any ceremony they came up with...

Giles reluctantly agreed...But suggested she contact him by telegram, not phone...And have him call some pay phone near her from a pay phone at a time when he was away from the office...

Now as to possible solutions...
***

Dawn was waiting a bit anxiously for Buffy's return...

Angelis‑Buffy reassured her that all had gone well...A quiet patrol...And William had been a perfect gentleman...

Such a sweetie to be so concerned...

She confided to Dawn that she was hopeful that William...the human...was gaining the edge over Spike...the demon...

Dawn agreed...Maybe Willow could help...Work to restrain the demon even more...
She was sure William's human soul was fighting...In there somewhere...

Angelis‑Buffy nodded...She felt it...Definitely...She grinned at Dawn...

"So, we're going to try soul‑saving, eh?..."

"Might even beat Slaying"...Dawn grinned back...

My Dawny has developed a bit of a crush on my William, I see...Angelis‑Buffy noted...

I really should have him speak to her...Let her down easy...

Teenagers...she sighed...

***
Alone in her room later, Angelis‑Buffy stared at herself in the mirror...

All right, what happened with the vamp was a step out of line...But really, had she done anything to threaten friends or family?...And no one, human, not even that boy, had yet been hurt...

Look, a leetle regression was only natural...How long had it taken soul-boy Angel to decide to become Humanity's Savior?...Nearly the last century...

And the key point...No one had been hurt...

Buffy?...Please...

Don't leave me alone...

I can't do this alone...

***

Ok, someone might have been hurt...It was wrong and she regretted it...

But after all, she couldn't help a little natural sympathy for a vamp...

It won't happen again...

Wasn't Buffy going to speak at all?...

Was she upset about her and Spike?...Be honest, Buffy...Wasn't that something you've thought about?...

After all, she doubted Angelis had been thinking of Spike in quite that way in the previous host...

In any case hadn't William been a surprise?...Such a gentle and dear lover?...He really does love us, I think...

Cat got your tongue, Buf?...

Well, if she wanted to influence events...She'd better reconsider her attitude...

For her part, she was quite willing to give Buffy an equal say in all things...And clearly she was already gaining quite a bit of Buffy's pov...

Would it be such a terrible thing for them to stay together?...To live on by becoming one...

She could see that Dawn had accepted her...Who else could possibly protect her?...Spike would do his best but...Not to mention keeping the others safe...How long would they last without her?...

Buffy had been dead...It wasn't at all like what she...Angelis‑Buffy...had told the gang, was it?...

No tunnel of light...No Mom...No friendly guidance...Just white blankness...Nothing...

Until the Wolfram‑Hart folks had summoned her...

And if she returned to that...No reason to believe that it would ever change...

Well...She wouldn't press...Buffy knew she had no intention of playing Wolfram‑Hart's tune...At the very least, then, let them work together on that...And so protect Dawn and the others...Let time settle the rest...

Giles was working on their legal status, she informed her...In case she hadn't heard that...They might actually end up having to play their own twin, taking over the robot's role...

He looked tolerably well but definitely worn, didn't she think?...They really had to take better care of him...All the strain he's been through...

Did she know he'd actually killed young Ben?...For us and Dawn no less...

Our sweet Giles...

***
Demonic exorcism was the simplest route...

Still both Giles and Willow couldn't help feeling it was too easy...Angelis... Angelis‑Buffy...Must be aware that it would be their first move on knowing what had happened...

And Giles seriously doubted Angelis would be fooled for long, if at all, by their attempts to feign knowing nothing...

On the other hand...It had gone to Spike and made a deal to cover its nature... Clearly it was vulnerable...

What would happen to Buffy if Angelis' demon were tossed out?...Willow asked him...

Well...Buffy's body was restored...Her soul was in place more or less...Ideally she should be back to her old self...Still...All kinds of spell traps, protections could be in place about Angelis...They had to be more sure of things before they tried anything...

If they could get information from Wolfram‑Hart itself, Willow reflected...It might allow them to act less blindly...

Giles agreed...But penetration of WH would be difficult under any circumstances...And their only instrument was Angel Investigations...With the obvious drawback...Of Angel...

What if she went to LA?...Willow asked...Met up with Wes and they tried...Something...

Giles pondered...Maybe...But dangerous in the extreme...And, any disappearance of Willow, not to mention Wes, just now was certain to arouse their new Buffy's suspicions...

Well...Willow thought...You've been after me about my lack of control...What if I...Say...Took your advice and sought guidance...Say...From the wisdom of the Council of Watchers...She smiled...

A sabbatical with the Council?...Not a bad cover story...Giles agreed...

As for Wes...No need for him to disappear, Willow pointed out...They could meet in his off‑hours...

"Course, he'd have to manage a performance for Angel..." Willow admitted...

It was a possibility...Even if Angelis did not completely buy it...But the danger would be extreme...And if Willow fell into the hands of Wolfram‑Hart...

She'd take care, she assured him...Just keep things together here and with luck she'd be back in a few days...

Giles pondered...To risk Willow, with her ever‑growing skills, even to save the only child he'd ever had...

And yet...

"Giles...I'll do it either with you or without you...So there's no need to worry over it..." Willow smiled at him...

Kind of her to make it easy for him...he reflected...
***

They made the announcement at the next meeting at the shop the evening of the next day...Willow having taken the time to lay some groundwork cover with Tara...

Not lying per se, just reminding her that Giles had been hinting at Willow's need to learn control for some time now...

Giles explained that he and Willow had planned this a while back but in view of Buffy's death and the need to keep all possible help at hand...

The Council would evaluate Willow's skills and educate her in methods of control which gifted members practiced...

Tara of course would be offered the next available slot...If she felt ready by that time...

Annie...Still functioning as the primary Slayer and now as Anya's assistant at the shop...Nodded attentively...

She recognized that Willow had been singled out for special attention and gave her an occasional warm smile...

As well as watching Dawn...Although her primary motivation was no longer to care for her...She was still the Slayer's sister and therefore of special concern...

However she seemed quite well and happy...

She'd also seen to it that a certain blond vampire and Slayer assistant made the meeting on time for once...

Getting help from England, Watcher?...Spike wondered...Or is there something else in mind?...

Buffy was sorry to hear that Will was going away...So soon after her return...Rats...

Giles noted that of course she could accompany her to England...If she wished to leave Dawn in Annie's care a bit longer...

A rather bold ploy on Giles' part, Willow thought...

Be nice if you let me in on some things, idiots...Spike thought...What are these two morons up to?...Ship Angelis‑Buffy off to England?...To be dealt with by the moron Council?...Or?...

No...Buffy sighed...Too soon for that...Besides...Little legal problem yet to solve, remember..
.
Be difficult for a dead woman to get a passport...

Nothing the Council couldn't handle, Giles replied...

Pushing it, Giles...Willow thought...Enough already...

Nicely done, Giles...Spike thought...Very neat play...Nothing like good old English nerve...Steely and all that...

"Well...Thanks, Giles...but..." Buffy looked at Willow and shook her head... "I have to get things settled here...And Dawny needs me..."

"Sorry Will...God, I'd have loved to go..."

Still the sooner she went...the sooner she'd be back...

And of course she'd call her every day...Willow assured Angelis‑Buffy, a sweet Willow grin on her face...

Let her know all the dirt she could get on those Council types...

A truly great performance by one Rupert Giles, his appreciative audience of two...Willow and Spike...noted...

And Red had been no slouch, Spike thought...

They'd have made quite a killing team, Willow and Giles...he noted...

Still yet might, depending on what Angelis' plan for them were...
***

Apart from Willow's England trip, there was little going on to review...

Annie gave a brief report on her Patrols...Only a few strays lurking in the past nights...Spike..she smiled at him...Had been very helpful, as always...

Speaking of Spike...Buffy and Dawn wanted to talk with Giles a moment...

Xander asked Willow about the trip plans...Well, nothing had been definite until they were sure about Buffy, she told him...But he must remember she'd told him Giles was anxious for her to get special counciling on her abilities...When time permitted...

He nodded...Hadn't quite realized it would involve her putting herself in the Council's hands...Still...Expert advice...

And Will's powers were getting rather...
"Will she be a Watcher now?..." Anya asked...

Not exactly...Just getting the benefit of some skilled members' experience...

"I don't know Will..." Angelis‑Buffy smiled at her as she and Dawn went over to Giles to quietly request a moment after the others had left... "They'll probably send you back in a tweed suit and glasses, reciting Council rules..."

Annie asked Spike if he felt up to a Patrol immediately after the meeting...It could wait if he needed a little time...A chance to fill his "special nutrient needs"...

No, no, a spot of violence in the twilight hours with her sounded delightful...He smiled at her...Poor thing, hardly ever out of the shop now...He knew what that was like...And facing imminent deactivation at the hands of the Slayer and her little gang...

He knew what that was like as well...

He looked over at Angelis‑Buffy and Dawn, both now by Giles...

They were quietly quizzing him about something...And looked over at him from time to time...

Hmmn...What was that all about?...

Well, at least for the moment Angelis‑Buffy had seemed to accept Willow's trip to Europe tale...

Might be nice if they told him where she was really going...Though he had his strong suspicion...

It could only be...England, for Council help in cleansing Buffy of Angelis...Or...Los Angeles...To deal with the boys of WH and perhaps seek Christ, Jr's assistance...

He watched Angelis‑Buffy who gently held Giles' hand as she talked with him...

He had to give Angelis his due...If not for the chip he'd never be able to tell her from Buffy now...

But how much longer would she be content to give this performance?...
***

"Could you help him, Giles?..." Dawn asked Giles anxiously...

She and Buffy had been quizzing Giles on Spike and vampire redemption in general...

Angelis‑Buffy looked equally anxious...Poor Spike, he's tried so hard for us in the past few weeks...Surely there was something...

He smiled at them...Touching really, their concern for a lost and tormented being...Much as his inclination was to strangle Angelis out of Buffy...And to send the Key, however innocent her role in Buffy's death and current torment, along the path Ben had recently followed...

He promised to look into it...Perhaps Willow would learn more while in England...
***

Spike and Annie completed their patrol fairly quickly after the meeting broke up...

Angelis‑Buffy was awaiting him at his crypt...With a friendly and very Buffy smile...

"My twin safe and sound?..." she grinned at him...

"Good as ever...Granddad..."

She pouted a bit at that...He might show a little faith in her...

Had anything...Anything...Evil happened as yet?...

Besides what they'd done the other night, she teased...

Wasn't it clear that Buffy's soul was winning out?...Leading her on the path of true redemption...

Uh‑huh...By the way, speaking of Buffy's soul...Spike looked at her...

Certainly...If you ask politely, she smiled demurely...

He asked...Politely...To speak with Buffy...

***

Spike and Buffy in the Crypt...(As Time Goes By)

She was quiet, regarding him...

"Slayer...What I did..."

"You did what you wanted to do, Spike...Nothing that I shouldn't have expected..."

"I am trying to help you..."

"Yes...I see how you're trying to help me...Can I go now?..."

"Buffy...Don't be a fool...Whatever you think of me, if you surrender now..."

"Well...What do you have for me?...What help?...Or are you planning to give me a little more comfort..."

"Buffy..."

"I trusted you, Spike...You let me down...I won't forget that..."

"I am what I am...I'll do what I can, but...I can't help what I am..."

She looked at him...

"Why are you bothering at all?...You have a good setup here now...All the Buffy you want...And who knows, maybe a few good murders thrown in...In time..."

"Is that what he's planning?..."

"God knows...And speaking of the white‑bearded one..." she looked fiercely at him...

"Where is He?...Where is my salvation?...My help?...Is it you?..." she laughed bitterly...

"About what I would get..."

He looked at her quietly...

"You know, Slayer..." he smiled at her... "You remind me of a young poet I once knew...Seems an unjust fate condemned him to eternal life as a homicidal maniac...Unable to control himself, doomed for all time..."

"Then he met a young blonde fairy who threatened repeatedly to drive a wooden stake through his heart...And was instantly smitten...Well, maybe not instantly... Almost..."

She looked at him...

"He hoped she would free him...But she was busy...And would get to him when she had the time...So...He waited...Until one day...When a passel of government errand boys sent by grocery clerks gave him their own peculiar brand of help..."

"But he couldn't forget the blonde fairy...And hoped to prove himself to her somehow...Even though he knew she could never love the monster he'd become...He could hope...Somehow, someday...She might...Pity the man he once was.."

She continued to look at him, saying nothing...

"I'm not that man anymore, perhaps...But let me try to help you Buffy..." Spike asked her...

"I guess I have no choice, do I?..." she told him...

***

Angelis‑Buffy patted his hand gently on her return...

And smiled at him...

"I won't spoil it William..." she grinned at him...And moved to leave...

Angelis-Buffy Love Theme

"But I'm sorry Buffy doesn't appreciate you more..."

She looked at him, almost...compassionately...

"After all where is my noble former host anyway?...If he loves us, why did he leave, curse or not?...Where was he when Glory came knocking?..."

She was genuinely angry, Spike noted, a little startled...

She shifted gears, almost as if she was afraid to pursue that line...

I wonder if even Angelis realized it would go this far, he wondered...

"Where is Will going, William?...Is she really heading for England?...Or..."

"I don't know..." he was able to say fairly honestly...After all, he didn't know...For sure...

"Giles is wrong to put her in danger if she is going to LA..."

"They haven't chosen to confide in me on that..." Spike told her...

"You know, Spike, I believe that... That they'd have no confidence in you..."

She halted at the crypt entrance...
"But tell them...If they do know about things...That they're risking Willow's life...All your lives..."

He looked at her...A warning?...

"That's not a threat...Just an observation..."

Poor William, she thought as she headed home...Such a poor sweet fool...

Wish I could keep him...

Pity...

***
Demon's Due...Part XI

Willow's telegram reached Wesley early the next afternoon...

Although he was mystified, he followed her instructions to the letter and called the pay phone number she'd given him after leaving the office that evening from a pay phone...At the time she'd specified that she'd be there...

She gave him what they knew and told him she'd be LA bound the next morning...

Angel had shown no signs of being affected by whatever Angelis and Wolfram‑Hart were doing...Wes told her...

But he understood the need to conceal things from the boss for now and agreed to meet her in LA the next evening...He'd try to learn what he could about Wolfram‑Hart moves and what method might have been employed for Angelis' projection from limbo from some of his demon contacts...Without giving the game away...

***
Angelis‑Buffy spent the day at the Magic Shop...Studying...

She didn't want to get too far behind...Especially if things could be worked out in time for her to continue with the current semester...

Annie felt that was an excellent idea...She was sure things would work out with her classes she told her...

"I still feel a leetle nervous around her..." Angelis‑Buffy confided to Anya...As Annie went to help Giles move boxes in the storeroom...

Anya assured Buffy that her robot twin was really quite nice...And dealt with customers very well...

Although of course having a human clerk...Anya looked nervously towards the storeroom where Giles and Annie were working...Was much better...

An unattended robot might require no pay, benefits, or time off...But could possibly go crazy and kill someone someday...

***
Angelis‑Buffy requested a few minutes alone with Giles just after they'd had lunch...

"How is Dawn adjusting?..." he asked her after they'd gone to his office...

"She's in stride...A Summers, you know...Learns to deal quickly..." she smiled at him...

"Yes..." Giles looked at her...

"Giles...Is there anything up with this trip of Willow's?..." Angelis‑Buffy asked him...

"I mean, anything I should know?..."

"Well...You must be aware Willow's abilities are reaching a rather dangerous level..." he told her... "She must learn to better control these powers or they will end up mastering her rather than the other way round..."

"Guess you're right...She was something with Glory, wasn't she?..." Angelis‑Buffy grinned...

She thought a second...

"So...When do we get back to my training schedule?..." she beamed at him... "I'm up for it, really...In fact, I'm getting a stir‑crazy for some action..."

Just as soon as I can learn to restrain my inclination to smash your skull in, you miserable...Giles did not say...As he listened with attention and smiled gently back at her...

"Well...I suppose we could resume today if you're quite ready..." he nodded...

***
Spike had an unexpected visitor that afternoon...
Dawn...Armed with some more items from the house...For "Operation Humanization"...

He let her set to work with a grin, watching from his slab...

It was nice to have someone care...After more than a century...

Dru had needed him at times...Been amused by his protectiveness...But she'd never been capable of returning his affection...Her soul was too deeply buried, too innocent to face what she had become...

Dawn smiled at him as she worked...And asked him to please get off his butt and help her hang this one...

What had his mother's face been like?...he struggled to remember...

Somehow he had the feeling it had been like hers...
***

She was a little out of shape and off form, Angelis‑Buffy apologetically explained to Giles...

It had not been one of her better training sessions...She had missed cues and moves...

"All understandable, my dear..." Giles told her... "Considering the past several weeks..."

Such a sweet and understanding man...Her real father, when you got down to it...

She vowed to do better...

Things were just...So confusing right now...

He nodded sympathetically...

But she'd be okay...After all, she'd beat Death twice now...Not to suggest that she was getting cocky about that, believe me, she told Giles...

And thankfully, she had two first‑rate back‑ups until she was back in top form...Nodding at Annie whom Giles had brought in to play attacker...With careful instruction as to how much force to use...

Annie was pleased to be of help...And sure that Buffy would be fine very soon...
A little disconcerting fighting myself, Angelis‑Buffy sheepishly noted to Giles...Not that she meant that as an excuse...

A little more of this game and I will not be able to contain myself, Giles thought as he smiled at Angelis‑Buffy...

"How was Spike the other evening?..." he asked her...Anything to get her to stop giving him Buffy's big‑eyed innocent stare...

His beloved daughter's stare...

She grinned...Well, it was an interesting dinner...But he seemed to appreciate the chance to act like a human...Which was why she and Dawn had thought it was time to speak with Giles about helping the poor guy...If anything short of a staking could...

"Of course I don't want him cursed like Angel...Willow was right not to try that for either Spike or Dru...Imagine if poor human Dru had ever woken up in that vampire body?...No, I couldn't do that to him..."

"Well, as I told you..." Giles said... "There may be ways...But it will take time...And careful research..."

"Wolfram‑Hart restored Darla to humanity...Giles?..." she paused, looking worried and thoughtful...

"Willow hasn't gone to LA, has she?...To get the ceremony from Wolfram‑Hart for Spike?..."

He looked carefully at her...Nice touch, you miserable piece of egotistical...Very sincere with that concern...

"Buffy...Willow is off to England as we said...However we have considered the Wolfram‑Hart ceremony between us...For you before...And Angel...As well as Spike...And it might offer some hope in the future..." he paused...

"But obviously any attempt to acquire it would mean a major effort on our part, careful planning, and the closest coordination with Angel's people...Still..." he smiled at her...

"No reason why we can't do some advance planning while Willow's away..."
***

Willow met Wesley at a small restaurant in LA that evening...She'd taken a hotel room and done a bit of prowling about the area of the Wolfram‑Hart building...Plus some Internet searching at a nearby Internet cafe...
Not much yet...

He had little to offer so far...Angel seemed unchanged, although he'd only seen him for a few moments that evening...One of Wes' day watch shifts...Not much from his contacts either...They reported no special activity among those subdwellers who worked for WH...

All he could offer was that the ceremony used by WH to raise Darla was obscure and not familiar to even the demons he worked with...

So the focus must be on entering WH...But how?...

Willow pondered...There was always her crazy will spell...She could do just about anything with that one...

But that had been a mischance...An accident she was not likely to ever be able to repeat...

There was however...Possession...One thing she'd never tried...And had never planned to try...

Still with WH, turnabout was undoubtedly fair play...

Possession?...Wesley looked at her...

"You can do that?..." he never suspected her powers had grown so much...Gentle little Willow?...

However, if she really could do that...He had just the candidate in mind...

Someone whose access to the hallowed halls of power at WH was nearly complete...And who would have all the latest WH "special" activities at her fingertips...

Who resided in this world rather than hell, thus being a little more vulnerable than the senior partners...

Who tended to scorn magic per se and so would not have any special protections about her...

And, being a woman, might make the transition a little easier on dear Willow...

***
It seemed like a good plan, Angelis‑Buffy noted to Giles...If they could put it into effect when Willow returned...She was sure they could penetrate Wolfram‑Hart and get the resurrection ceremony...

Giles was so on the ball, she reflected to Annie and Anya who'd been sitting in...

Did he think it was all right to tell Spike?...she asked...After all, he was a major player in Giles' scheme...

Not that she wanted to raise his hopes unduly...Just he might appreciate it that they were trying to help him...

Not yet, Giles told her...There'd be plenty of time for that later...

She nodded...

Anya asked about Angel...What would she do if this could help both Angel and Spike?...

Buffy looked at her, a mock frown on her face...Hmmn...Two suitors?...Whatever would she do?...she grinned...

Anya laughed...Annie joined in, although she had no idea what she was laughing at...

Social compliance skills...An essential part of Willow's programming...

"Cross that bridge when I come to it..." Buffy told them...

It was getting on to closing time...

She turned to Giles...Could he possibly drop her at home?...She was a leetle pooped for that walk...

Giles smiled at Angelis‑Buffy...

"I'd be happy to my dear..."

***
Lilah Morgan, star of Wolfram‑Hart, was looking forward to a rare event...An early night‑in and good night's sleep...Undisturbed by enemies mortal or otherwise...

She was not to get her wish...

***
Willow, Wesley by her side, concentrated in the hotel room...This was not going to be easy...
Nor was it easy for Willow to accept...Crossing a line like this...

But it had to be done...And these people...These so‑called human beings...Had helped Angelis...

All for a little money and power...

Angelis was an idealist by comparison...Dedicated solely to his art...Murder and torment...

Wesley had provided some personal items...A pen...A discarded notebook...Several hand‑signed reports which calmly discussed the inflicting of cruel suffering and death on innocents in the most polite and technical terms...An old scarf...

Willow had looked at him, grinning...Had he and Angel been rooting through the lady's garbage?...

Contrary to how movies portray detective work, Wesley told her...True investigation requires quite a bit of grunt work...Drudgery...Valuable nonetheless...

Well...Yes, we...or rather our operatives... root through her garbage and that of all the Wolfram‑Hart senior staff on a daily basis...

After all the WH staff did not come out hunting at night as did the Sunnydalers' foes...One had to use what tools were at hand...

Valuable nonetheless...she had agreed, patting his hand...
***

Lilah tossed in her sleep...Bad dreams...Of someone she'd never met...

She saw a door in front of her...And opened it...A red‑haired, pale, short young woman looked back at her...The same one whom she'd been seeing in flashes all night long...

The woman regarded her coolly...And shoved past her, throwing her through the doorway...Into a closet...Or some kind of small, close room...

The door slammed shut in front of Lilah...Screaming, she beat on the door...No good...She was trapped in the dark...

A voice called to her...Somehow she knew...It was the red‑haired woman...

She wanted something from her...Just a little cooperation...And then she could go home...
Unless of course she liked staying in the closet...

***

Willow looked at herself in Lilah's bedroom mirror...Well, she'd fantasized of being tall and...

Lilah's mind continued to struggle but geared as she was to self‑preservation, she soon took the course of least resistance...At least for the moment...

And let Willow have access to her memories...
***

The doorman of Lilah's building was not surprised to see her leaving at night as he buzzed her out...But to see her smiling at him and apologizing for the fact that she would be returning in just a minute...Without someone with her to give a reason for acting kindly to the help...

Now that was unusual...

***
The phone rang in Willow's apartment...Wes picked it up...

It wasn't so odd to hear Lilah's voice on the phone...It was hearing her speaking to him in a folksy, warm, and friendly tone...Rather than the usual velvety one of cynical sarcasm, laced with menace...

"All's well Wes'..." she told him... "Ms. Morgan is being very cooperative for the present..."

Actually Lilah, from her limbo closet prison, was rather miffed at her body being dragged out to a pay phone in the rain...She had a phone in her apartment she noted...

Willow had little doubt a phone of a prominent WH employee like Ms. Morgan was bugged...Not to mention her apartment...

Lilah continued to grouse...How long were they going to stay out here?...Her hair...Did her "companion" know how much it cost to do her hair properly?...Not to mention the fact that her shoes were not designed for water...

Willow pushed the complaining Ms. Morgan down a bit and told Wes she be in touch...Could he see that her body was left in as comfortable a position as possible?...

***

Afterward...Willow‑Lilah finally got their night's sleep...

There was nothing more to be done until morning anyway...
***
Wesley made sure the entranced Willow was as comfortable as possible and left her...

His job now was to maintain a normal face at work...Watch for any signs of change in Angel...Maintain contact with Giles...And hope that gentle Willow could handle the role of ruthless, scheming Lilah in the corridors of Wolfram‑Hart...

GentleWillow...Fighting for her best friend's soul...For the lives of all her dear friends...

Lindsey wouldn't know what hit him...

***
On their way to the Summers' in Giles' car, Angelis‑Buffy told him with a smile that she'd had an ulterior motive in wanting him to take her home...

"We haven't had any time to really talk, Giles..." she noted...

"It has been a rather rushed couple of days, Buffy..." Giles told her...Eyes fixed firmly on the road...

"I know it's been hard for you...I mean for all of you...But you especially Giles..." she patted him on the arm...

He nodded but did not look at her...If he looked at her now...Saw Angelis‑Buffy looking at him with that wide‑open innocent Buffy stare...

Angelis would get a one way ticket back to limbo...But sadly so would Buffy...

I wonder...If I threatened to drive into that concrete pillar coming up on that bridge?...he thought...

Angelis always was a coward at heart...

"Giles...What am I going to do?..." she asked him...

"Buffy?..."

"Dawn, the house...College...It's all too much...I haven't even got a legal identity..."
"We'll set things right my dear...Don't worry..."

"I haven't got anyone but Dawn now..." she told him, sadly... But brightening a little... "That is, Dawn and you..."

"I'm always here for you, my dear...Whatever I can do..."

Too late for the pillar he reflected...Well, there is a cliff side up ahead...

"I mean, I don't think Spike is exactly good boyfriend material..." she chuckled...

"Though of course he'll make his best effort, I'm sure..."

"Riley will be back..."

"Riley..." she was a little bitter... "He hasn't even called to check on me...At least let me know where he was..."

"Even Angel...Wasn't there for me..."

A pity about Angel, he thought...If only I hadn't missed him that time...None of this would be happening...

Still, the poor fellow is not responsible...And Buffy would be dead...Gone...If not for him...And his loathsome "brother"...

"Giles...You know I love you..." she said to him...

"Certainly, my dear...And I the same..." True for both Angelis and Buffy...He was sure Angelis was as anxious to flay him alive as Giles was to see him in eternal torment...While he knew Buffy loved him as he her...As the only father she'd known since Hank walked...Perhaps the only real father she'd ever had...

She surprised him by taking a new tack...

"I'm...Worried about my...resurrection...Are you sure?...Nothing could have...Come back with me?..."

"You mean...Something from the underworld?...A demon?..." he finally looked at her for a moment...

She nodded, biting her lip...

"Well, Buffy...Willow and I did check you...There were no signs of a companion presence...But of course one can never be sure...We'll continue to monitor you..."
"Sometimes...I almost feel...Like someone else is there..." she told him...

"Can you sense anything else...Any idea of what it might be...If anything..."

"It's just a feeling...Giles, I'm afraid...If there's something there...If you and Will can't detect it...How can I be sure?...It won't...Use me..."

He regarded her for a moment, returning immediately to the road...They'd passed the cliff side and were coming to the Summers' road...

"We'll take every precaution, Buffy...I promise..." he put a strong note of concern into his voice...

The Ripper had been a famous poker face back in his early days...It stood him well now...

She hugged him on leaving the car...Her dear Giles...

"I love you, Giles..." she said, releasing him...And went into the house...

He had to admit to himself...That note of sincerity in her voice seemed almost real...

Perhaps Angelis himself had not realized how far this merging might carry him...Her...

***

Dawn told her about her decorating session with Spike...

He'd grumbled but was clearly pleased at their concern for him...

Had Giles said anything about help for him?...

"He's got a few ideas, Dawny...But don't get your hopes up too high just yet...It's not an easy thing to do...Saving a vampire's human soul..." Angelis‑Buffy told her...

Dawn nodded...She just...Hoped they could help him...

Well...Whatever happened they'd take care of Spike...See that he harmed no one and was made to feel as human and loved as possible...Within the necessary limits, of course...

Dawn went happily to bed...Such a sweet kid...

Giles...dear Giles, she thought...Either he really did not know yet or he had given a truly great performance...But in any case, she knew he'd help her...Free herself of Wolfram‑Hart...

And then...Well...Let time settle things...

If only he wasn't so reserved...Would let himself see how much she needed him...How much he needed her...

She looked in the mirror...

Perhaps, in time, Buffy?...If we can't help Will?...

After all the boys we've been dealing with...We could use the love of a man like Rupert Giles...

Be honest, Buffy...We love him...

***
Willow‑Lilah felt somewhat uncomfortable in her power dress suit but...One must look the part...

She did her best to assume Lilah's confident "Mistress of the Universe" air as she entered the Wolfram‑Hart building...

She nodded causally to the security guard who seemed a little...Puzzled...

Had she made a mistake?...Nope, right building...It was a weekday...It was Lilah's normal start time...Id was in place...

At least he didn't run after her to stop her...Maybe she was supposed to yell at him for slowing her power stride down on the way to her office?...Insult him?...Make some crack about overpaid security guards?...With Ms. Morgan, one never knew...

The "Mistress of the Universe" just hoped she could remember where her office was...
***

Demon's Due...Part XII

Willow‑Lilah rode to her office floor...Fortunately Lilah was close to no one in her company...

And her memories indicated that she knew none of the people in the elevator other than by causal sight...

"Excuse me..." she smiled as she left the elevator...

The remaining riders couldn't help looking at each other as the infamous Ms. Morgan strode out the door...

Was that the Ms. Morgan who rode up with them every day?...Smiling, excusing
herself?...And...Were those actually?...

"You know, I think she was wearing that suit Monday..." one rider told her friend...

"She never wears the same suit twice in a week..."

***
"Lilah?...Rough night, dear?..." A blonde woman smiled at her...A Cheshire cat grin...

Lisa?...Willow‑Lilah concentrated on the face...A fellow lawyer, a rival...Well everyone was a rival to Lilah...But this one genuinely constituted a threat...

The woman laughed a bit...Not a friendly laugh...

"I don't think I've ever seen you without makeup..."

Make‑up?...I put lipstick on...Willow‑Lilah thought...

Deep from within, Lilah in her limbo prison raged...

"And what's with?..." She tapped on the frames of the glasses Willow‑Lilah was wearing...

Lilah, "Mistress of the Universe", was near‑sighted...Dangerously so...

"Ummn...Contacts were bothering me...Couldn't drive without my glasses..."

"You wear contacts?..." Lisa wasn't sure if she was more shocked at the fact or the admission...

Arrgh...Groaned the imprisoned Lilah...

***

Giles slipped over to see Spike after dropping Angelis‑Buffy...

It was time to fill him in on their latest moves...

"About time you got round to letting me know what's going on, Watcher..." Spike told him...

"Spike...I'm taking a risk in trusting you as it is...Don't press me just now..." Giles glared at him...

"I'm here because you may be able to help us...Not because I have faith in you..."

"Fine..." Spike looked at him... "How is she?..." Genuine concern in his voice...

It is astonishing how much he's changed, Giles reflected...If we do succeed, I will have to try to help him...If only for Dawn's sake...

"I can't tell as far as Buffy is concerned...As for...That one...It seems reasonably safe for the present...Still content to play its role for now..."

"And Red?...She did go to LA, didn't she?..." Spike asked... "To get what she could from Wolfram‑Hart?..."

Giles nodded...

Spike smiled at him...

"A nice performance you gave Giles...You should have been on the boards..."

"Angelis won't be fooled for long...If it ever was..."

"Does Red have any help at all?...I know she'd die for Summers, but we need more than that here...Harris would do the same...More quickly perhaps..." Spike grinned...

"Wesley is helping her...We didn't feel we could risk informing Angel..."

Spike nodded...Not that he had great faith in Watcher the boy wonder...Still...

"Would it help...If I joined them?..." he asked...

"It...Angelis...might become suspicious if you suddenly disappeared Spike..."

"She suspects already...I actually get the feeling she wanted Willow to go..." he regarded Giles who thought for a moment...

"Possibly she's hoping it would help her deal with Wolfram‑Hart?..." Giles mused...
"Maybe the only way to break its link with Buffy is to give it Angel's body...If Willow learns that and we have to take such a route...It might be hoping for just that..."

Spike looked at him in surprise...Take such a route?...

Giles was prepared to sacrifice Christ Jr?...

Well, of course...He never made a secret of not exactly loving Angel...Especially after his Jenny and Angelis' little torture session...

A small price to pay for getting his little girl back safe and sound...

***
Spike agreed to continue his little undercover operation...Walking in both camps...

But if things changed suddenly...If Red needed him...

In spite of himself Giles couldn't help feeling sympathy for Spike...He cares for Willow too, he thought...

Yes, there must be something there still...Something of human William in him...

But, he had to be up front with him...

"You realize Spike...While we appreciate your help...If you betray us...Buffy...I will destroy you without hesitation..." he looked at Spike firmly...

Spike nodded...To be expected...

"We'll save her, Giles...You should have seen her push Angelis aside the other day...When she got fired up at me..."

Giles nodded...

If anyone had told me two months ago that William the Bloody would be comforting me over Buffy...he thought...

***
The next morning...While Willow‑Lilah had begun her penetration of Wolfram‑Hart...

Angelis‑Buffy visited Spike to discuss the plan Giles had laid out...To achieve the same goal...

It was a neat plan she noted to him...

"And what good would it do you to have the Wolfram‑Hart ceremony?..." Spike asked her...

She looked at him, pouting...Couldn't she have an unselfish motive?...Maybe she wanted to help him regain his humanity...

Or maybe she wanted her friends to destroy Wolfram‑Hart for her...Spike noted...

Well, if that came about as a fringe benefit...Would there be any reason to complain?...

Even Angel would be pleased with that outcome...
***

Willow‑Lilah had managed to reach her office...

Though she was aware of Angelis' importance to them...Lilah had had no memories of the senior partners' efforts to create Angelis‑Buffy...

But she did have access to their occult research...And knew where to begin the search for the resurrection ceremony...

Thanks to Lilah's memories Willow‑Lilah recognized the handsome young lawyer who strode in without knocking...Lindsey...

Wesley had warned her to beware of this one...And what kind of attitude to take with him...

However in those glasses...

***

Perhaps they should contact Angel...Angelis‑Buffy noted to Spike...

See what he thought of Giles' plan...Maybe it could be put into effect even before Will's return...

Contact Angel?...Spike thought...

Rather interesting sight to see those two together...

"Wouldn't Angel...Sense something?..." he asked her...

Why?...she asked him...Oh...Well...It wasn't like Angel had a demon‑sensitive chip built in, you know...She grinned at him...
And wasn't she more Buffy than ever now?...Why she'd be willing to bet even Angel would accept her...

Still, perhaps premature...After all it would be up to Giles to let them know when the time was right...

Up to Giles?...Spike thought...

Talk about being obsessed with the part...

"Might I speak to Buffy?..." he asked...Politely...

She looked at him...For just a moment he realized she really didn't know what he meant...

The merging was clearly reaching a critical stage...

Buffy seemed weak...And not inclined to much conversation...

"What is she up to?..." Buffy asked...

"Slayer, that was my question for you...Why does she want the Wolfram‑Hart ceremony?...I can understand her wanting information on them...To destroy them..."

"She must be planning to make use of Giles' plans for something else...Maybe once she's in there...She'll be able to destroy them...Somehow...But it's odd..." she paused, looking at him...

"I almost get the feeling she really does want to get the ceremony for you..."

Spike looked at her...Maybe she...But this was not the time to ask...Deep down, she was affecting Angelis‑Buffy...That would have to be enough for him for now...

"Buffy...She's been acting...More and more like you...Can you sense that?...Are you...Pushing that?..."

She looked down at her hands...Then at him...

"We're merging Spike...I can't help it...I can't stop it...If you and the others don't do something soon...We'll be one..."

"But she's been...Well...Not acting as I would expect Angelis to..." Spike told her...

"Well...Since you prefer her...And since she's so friendly towards you..." Buffy was bitter...
"Enough, Slayer..." he had no time for her hurt feelings...She could rage at him later when all was done...Hopefully there'd be a little directed at her rather slow‑moving friends as well...

"I'm trying to help you...I have to know why she's behaving this way...Is it you or she is trying to fool us somehow?..."

"I don't know...Spike...I'm so confused sometimes...It's almost like I'm there at times, almost back to the way I was...But then I feel her...him...it scraping at me...But...she...I think she's not quite sure herself...Anymore..."

"This can't be what the Wolfram‑Hart folks intended...Does she seem frightened?...Can you tell if she's concerned about what's happening to her?..."

Spike put a hand on her shoulder...

She looked at him...He removed his hand...

"She is confused...It wasn't quite what she...it expected...But...I almost think..." she paused...

"I think...She's happy...Maybe for the first time ever..."

***

"They told me...But I didn't believe it..." Lindsey regarded Lilah with an amused grin...

Willow‑Lilah did her best to give him a cold stare...

"My contacts bothered me...I needed my glasses for one damned day..."

He stood in the doorway grinning at her...

"What is it you want Lindsey?..."

"The boys want a word with us...Joseph is upstairs..."

Joseph...Joseph...Senior partner...Often bears the instructions of the rest from Hell...

Definitely someone to meet...

"Is there anything specific they want?...Should I bring...Something?..."

He shrugged, looking at her...
"It's got to be something new...He'll let us know..."

"More with Angel, I suppose..." she said, trying to seem in the know...After all, according to Lilah's memories...It nearly always was in part to do with Angel...

"Always seems to be..." Lindsey nodded...
***
After Buffy had retired...Angelis‑Buffy noted Dawn's latest handiwork...

He'd better be careful...If this kept up the cemetery owners would be charging him rent soon...

But she did have a serious request for him regarding Dawn...

Could he?...Well...

"Well?..." Spike asked...

She didn't want to make a big deal out of it...Embarrass Dawny...But he could see...She was getting a little...Well...

"Could you speak to her, Spike?...She's a little young yet for this kind of thing..." she shrugged a little... "I mean...Romance and all...I know it's just a teen crush but...You understand, don't you?..."

Speak to her?...Angelis‑Buffy wants me to speak to her little sister?...About her little crush on me?...

The homidicial maniac who wanted to end the world last time we met is concerned that her little sister might be making a bad romantic choice?...

Why certainly...He'd be happy to...Speak to Dawny...When time allowed...

"Thanks William...I appreciate it...Not that I would ever want her to stop being your friend, you know..." she smiled...

"Guess we both know what it's like to be alone..."

The Powers That Be have quite a sense of humor...Spike reflected...
***

Angelis‑Buffy gave Spike a rather shy kiss and headed over to the shop...She was anxious to continue the planning with her Watcher...

Spike felt the imprint of the kiss on his cheek for some time after it had faded...
It was not the kiss she had given him the first day or when they'd had sex...

It was the kiss Buffy had given him the day he lay in torment after Glory's torture...

What was happening to her?...He asked himself in wonder...

Buffy was happening to her...He realized...

But as for Buffy herself...It was as if all the love and compassion she bore...Was draining into the merged Angelis‑Buffy...

Filling the emptiness in Angelis?...

After all, Angelis had never had anything to him but emptiness...Negativeness...: Loneliness...

A demon's due...A vacuum where a soul should be...

And Nature abhors a vacuum...
***

For her part, Angelis‑Buffy needed to talk to someone who might appreciate her situation...She really was confused...

And well...Spike was part of the confusion...

So while on the way over to the shop, she started a rather one‑way conversation with her "companion"...

She didn't understand her feelings regarding Spike anymore...She...Well...Hadn't thought of him as necessary to her...

But now...More and more...She didn't want to lose him...In fact she regretted that Buffy was so angry at him...It really had been her fault...He couldn't help himself...

She...Buffy...Wouldn't...Hurt him?...Would she?...

Up until this morning she could have accepted it...Allowed Buffy to stake him and never worried about it...She might even, she admitted...Have found it necessary to do it herself...But now...

It must be her own...Buffy's own...feeling...Couldn't she see that?...Couldn't she...Forgive him?...

Buffy did not respond...
But there was more than Spike on Angelis‑Buffy's mind...

She was sure now that Willow and Giles were up to something...Spike had been just too complacent...

She had to speak to Giles...Get the truth out of him...If she could just make him see the danger...

Protect Willow from her own folly before it was too late...Even if she lost the chance to break the hold Wolfram‑Hart had on her...On them...That didn't matter anymore...

She couldn't lose Willow...She...They couldn't bear it...And Willow would definitely be on WH's list of desirable acquisitions once they had a glimpse of her abilities...

"Buffy...You have to help me on this...Giles won't believe me but if you back me up...Tell him it's too dangerous..."

From deep within Buffy pondered what she had been "hearing"...Either Angelis‑Buffy was merging with her in ways no one could have ever imagined...Or...She was witness to perhaps one of the most remarkable acting performances ever given...

But if it was a performance...Why would she want to prevent Willow from succeeding at Wolfram‑Hart?...Or was this all a ploy to get confirmation that Willow was there?...To be followed by a warning call to her WH employers?...
***

There was no joy in Mudville...Willow‑Lilah realized as she listened to Joseph's summation...

Things were not going well with the latest Angelis project...Unanticipated complications had arisen...

No one had suspected Buffy Summers' soul and memories would have such a powerful effect on the mighty Angelis...

Their prince of darkness was turning into a concerned mommy and loving friend...Who, even if her compassion did not extend to all humanity as the Slayer's had, would never consent to do the mayhem they'd counted on her for...

Her dear friends and sister would never forgive her...In fact at the rate she was going she might well take up full Slaying responsibilities just to please them...

Well...What to do...

The termination of the gypsy curse had failed...Well that had been a lucky accident, courtesy of the Slayer...A failure, but not to be laid at their door...

Strike one, Willow‑Lilah thought...

The effort with Darla had failed...And proven quite costly to the Special Projects Division...

Definitely attributable to their mistakes...But the error had been paid for...

Strike two...

Now this latest...What had seemed a perfect mechanism for destroying the Slayer's soul and restoring their greatest tool...As a daylight operative no less...Was showing signs of being the greatest disaster yet...

Strike three, the umpire said...Thought Willow‑Lilah...

Lindsey didn't seem too downcast...Obviously he wouldn't be sorry to see efforts with Angelis abandoned...And Angel's protected status lost...

Angelis...Becoming a reasonably decent human being...Willow‑Lilah thought in shock...

From just the spill‑over, really, of Buffy's compassion...

I knew my friend Buffy Summers was a special person, but...

Still...It was to be expected that these people would never understand the power of love and compassion...And always underestimate it...

***
There were few options available now Joseph concluded...

Wait...And hope that Angelis' true nature would win out in the end...

Dispose of the unfortunate mess created by their experiment...

Make a last attempt with Angel...By letting him know what had happened to his beloved...

With his rather Angelis‑like ego, he would doubtless insist on doing the noble thing and sacrificing himself to pull Angelis out of Ms. Summers before it was too late...
***
Lilah opted for the cautious approach...With so much invested in Angelis and the latest try...Why not wait...

Angelis would surely win out in the end...

Lindsey however found the Angel sacrifice plan too tempting to pass on...He'd be pleased to deliver the news on Buffy Summers to Angel himself...And provide suicide implements should Angel prefer not to let Angelis back in while his body remained functional...

***
Demon's Due...Part XIII

Giles had a surprise for her when Angelis‑Buffy reached the shop...One that caused her to hold off discussing Willow's situation just yet...

He'd been contacted by Angel...Who was anxious to speak with her...Right now in fact...

She took the phone...Nervously...

Giles watched her, smiling...

"Buffy?..Buffy?..." Angel was calling into the phone...

"Angel?..." she said quietly...

"Oh, God...Buffy...Thank God, thank God...Are you?..." he laughed over the phone, a little hysterically...

"I was about to ask if you were ok...Hardly cuts it does it?..."

"I'm ok, Angel..." she grinned at Giles... "I guess Death doesn't become me..."

"Who told you?..." she frowned... "I wanted to tell you myself..."

"Giles called Wes...Wes couldn't contain himself...I'm sorry...I know you wanted to tell me yourself..."

Wesley?...She mouthed at Giles...Who shrugged a bit, smiling...She shook her head...

Wesley had handled it beautifully, Giles thought...Just the right touch of sheepishness and overenthusiasm...Letting Angel drag the glad tidings out of him...
No one could doubt that an old friend had simply been unable to sit on such wonderous news...

Angel wanted to come...Or, have her come to LA...As soon as possible...

Curse danger be damned...He had to see her...

Giles recommended that he come to them...Buffy was still undergoing tests...Was exhausted and trying to recover her balance...

Angel agreed...Oddly, and seemingly without thinking...so did Angelis‑Buffy...

She genuinely seemed thrown by Angel's call...

And uncertain...

***
It had gone better than Giles had expected when he had worked it out with Wesley...He'd been sure Angelis was planning to make its move, under the cover of "helping" dear Willow...

Particularly after Spike had called him and told him Angelis‑Buffy knew Willow was in LA and had been speaking of "Willow's danger..."

No doubt she had planned to play "upset friend Buffy guesses all", insist that she should join her dear friend in any action against Wolfram‑Hart regarding the resurrection materials, and move to "help" Willow in LA...With what consequences Giles could only guess...

But even if her focus was on destroying WH Inc rather than warning them, it was hardly likely she'd have much concern for poor Willow's safety...In fact she'd be certain to ensure Willow did not return with anything that could be used against her...

Giles had hoped at best that Angelis‑Buffy would find itself...herself under Angel's happy, clueless wing in a rushed LA trip...Keeping her well away from interference in Willow's efforts...That she had let herself be talked into staying in Sunnydale was a boon he hadn't expected...

If they couldn't use Angel directly...They could at least use him to throw Angelis off balance...

While Willow did her work...

Still...An odd thing...That she was so flustered by Angel's call that she would allow a change in plans?...

Hardly Angelis' style...

But then, perhaps she was content to sit tight and wait out Willow's efforts, striking when a better opportunity presented itself...

And after all...He wasn't his...her...its usual self...

***

Joseph reviewed with the rest of the senior partners and came back with their joint decision...

They would follow the recommendations of their Special Projects Division team...Both of them...

They would wait and hope that Angelis would let his real self shine through...But at the same time lay the groundwork for destroying Angel...

After all, if they had succeeded in the first place, Angel would have been eliminated as unnecessary to them once Angelis was permanently merged with and rooted in his new host...

Lindsey could indeed bear the glad tidings to Angel if he wished...

"You'll pardon me if I don't want to be around when you tell him..." Willow‑Lilah smiled thinly at him as they returned to their offices...

"Have to get the happy couple back together first..." he grinned at her... "I wouldn't want Angel to have to trust my word on it..."

She considered trying to seduce and then, in some quiet place, strangle the grinning sleaze...Lilah was after all a good deal bigger than the little...

But that might seriously compromise her main effort...

She'd have to get word out to Wes...Perhaps even to Angel directly...

Lilah, deep within, was a bit disappointed...Strangling Lindsey had sounded rather interesting...

If done so as not to compromise the career...

Willow hoped she wasn't...Catching anything from her dear host...
***

In spite of her disconcert at Angel's call...Angelis‑Buffy had decided to speak again with Giles regarding Willow...

And it was her turn to present a surprise...

She asked for a training session minus dear Annie...Who raised no objection...

"Giles..." she looked at him at their first break... "Willow is in danger...I know Angelis is inside me and I know Will has gone to LA to help me...But the Wolfram‑Hart people will be expecting an attempt on the resurrection materials..."

She took his hand...He looked at her calmly...

"You've got to believe me...She is in danger...When they learn who and what she is...They'll do whatever it takes to capture or kill her...I know..."

"You don't have to tell me anything...But you've got to warn her...Get her out of there before it's too late...Or, let me...Spike...And Angel, if he'll help me...Go there..."

"Buffy..."

She smiled wanly... "I know, 'Will is in England'..." She looked down at her hands...

"I know you feel you can't possibly trust me Giles...I wish I could convince you somehow...If you could prove to yourself that I'm telling the truth..."

"And how is it that you know that Angelis is inside you, Buffy?..." Giles asked her...

"Because...I lied to you when I told you what happened to me...We...Are almost one now...I know you know that..." she smiled again... "Spike just isn't that good a liar...Bless him.."

"And if I thought this was true...That you were even partially Angelis...What possible reason could I have to trust you or for that matter what reason could you have to want to help Willow?..."

"Not to trust me...Just let me try to help...As for why?...I don't know...It wasn't what
I...We...intended when this started..."

She looked sadly at him...Rubbing hand to her head in a typically Buffy pose...

"I can't help loving you Giles...All of you..."

***
She agreed to a new testing...In his office...Without letting the others know what was up at present...This time a vague demon presence definitely was present...But not a clearly defined consciousness...A blurring...

She further agreed to try to let Buffy speak on her own...

Buffy was weak...But still there...

"Giles..."

"Buffy...Can you tell me anything?...What is she...it planning now?..."

"I...We're nearly merged now Giles...I...think...I think she's sincere...She wants to help Will..."

"That can't be...Not Angelis...Buffy, you must try to concentrate and clear your mind..."

"Giles...I can't hold on anymore...Don't trust me...her, blindly...But...Let her...Help..."

"We won't lose you, Buffy..." he told her...

Angelis‑Buffy returned...Looking sorrowfully at him...

"I know you hate me, Giles..."

"Not knowing what or who you really are...I can't say, my dear...But I want Buffy back as herself...Whatever happens to you in the end..."

"I will do my best, Giles...To be Buffy..." she looked at him, pleading...

He regarded her coolly...

"Well...Why don't we let time settle this...For now, Angel is coming...And you should try to keep him from being upset by this...If only for your own sake..."

"But Willow..."

"Willow...Wherever she is...Will be fine..." he stared at her...

"If you want to earn my trust...You'll do as I've asked..." he told her...
She nodded...

***
Willow‑Lilah scanned through her computer files as the afternoon wore on...

She'd have to wait until later to tackle the Occult Research storage area...In the basement vaults...Off‑limits to all but the elite...Fortunately including a recently promoted up‑and‑coming young star...

No computer records of course of demonic possession cases involving a deceased Slayer...But she did find a trail of events leading to Wolfram‑Hart's involvement in Buffy Summers' resurrection...

Payments to Sunnydale operatives...Standard surveillance of someone unmentioned in the town...

A deleted urgent report on certain events in that little town...Occurring on the day of Glory's defeat and Buffy's death...

Legal work for the cemetery where Buffy's poor body lay...Clearing the ground for a major and rather sudden series of renovations...

She suppressed a strong urge to disable fire‑control and set fire to the tower...

Instead she indulged herself briefly by rereading a copy of the grisly report on the massacre of the Special Projects Division...

Never thought I'd be grateful to Darla and Dru, thought Willow‑Lilah...

She horrified her secretary by ordering Chinese for lunch...

The buried Lilah groaned...A week's worth of calories...

Oh, Lilah could use a few extra pounds...Willow‑Lilah smiled at herself in a desk mirror...

Might make her a happier person...You know, fat and jolly...

***
Demon's Due...Part XIV

Possibly as much to her surprise as anyone's, Angelis‑Buffy had no intention of disregarding Giles' instructions...

But she had to do something...To help Willow...And she knew of only one person to turn to while she awaited Angel's coming...

Her latest beau...

And realizing Giles' polite urging that she stay at the shop until Cordelia could bring a specially protected Angel to them...by the afternoon or early evening at latest...was not a request...

Had to make use of an intermediary...

And when an opportunity to use the phone in private presented itself...Giles for his part continuing to keep Anya and Annie in the dark...So that he was forced to leave her unwatched at times...
***

Dawn, though a bit confused by Buffy's call at school, agreed to come by the shop after school to bring a message to Spike...

Something that was too dangerous to let the others in on just yet...

She frowned as she hung up and walked back to class...

Eager as she was to finally be a player in one of Buffy's missions...Besides the fight with Glory of course...Which had involved her of necessity...

And neat as it was that the operation was of a secret and rather romantic nature...Involving Spike as it did...

Buffy was supposed to be taking it easy...

***

In his crypt, a surprised Spike looked at the packet Dawn had brought...

A pleading note...Not at all the tone Angelis‑Buffy had used with him in the past few days...Until yesterday...

Acknowledging his right not to trust her, but hopeful, that for Willow's sake...He'd try to make use of what she'd sent...Alerting him to Angel's coming...And that she would try to enlist his help as well...

Angel's help?...Angelis...well, Angelis‑Buffy... was going to try to get Angel's help?...

And then...What she had sent...A copy of the Wolfram‑Hart report on the operation to restore Angelis...In rather excrusiating detail...Complete with extensive warnings as to the limits of his...her abilities in the new host...And her...his...its extreme vulnerability...

The WH boys believed in documentation...

But most startling of all...The last part of her note...

"If you ask me why...I don't why I'm doing this...But if anyone can help me now, I know it's you...I can't be the cause of losing Willow...I know you can't have faith in me, William, but I have faith in you.

Now you know...There's no need for Willow to be at WH...The materials there are bait...Willow is the one they really wanted...Even more than us...Buffy and me...
They need her to join them voluntarily...In exchange for me...us...Buffy...

But Giles will never believe me now...

As for me...us...She and Giles...And Buffy...Can end this anytime they want.

If you can reach her, warn her...If you know where she is...Tell someone who can get to her...

Please help me...

I love you..."

***

"Is it important?..." Dawn asked...

She'd impatiently kept her word not to break open the packet...

He nodded and smiled at the Niblett...Secret agent Dawn...

"Is Buffy?...Are you?...In danger?..." she took his hand before he realized what she was doing...

Looking at him...Concern?...Even...Love?...

For him...After all the lost years...

These Summers girls...he thought...

He patted her hand...
"It's not me or Buffy who's in danger right now, Nibs..."

He grinned at her...

"And as usual, thanks to the Slayer...and her assistant spy..." he looked teasingly at her... "We should be able to set things right fairly quickly..."

Dawn nodded...

"Be careful, William..." she told him...And stopped...Looking at him as she stood in the doorway...

Sadly...And for the first time he ever seen her with the face of an adult...

"I don't know if she loves you...Will...I hope so, for your sake..."

"But I do..."

And left...Leaving him staring at the entrance where she had stood...
***

He tried Angel's office, hoping to reach young Wesley...

Who would no doubt be startled to receive a phone call from William the Bloody, but at least had some clue as to what was going on...And was Willow's primary contact in LA...

No good...Angel had insisted on him coming to Sunnydale with Cordy and himself...To celebrate Buffy's return...

Bloody stupid twit...Did Angel except Evil to take a holiday because dear Buffy was reborn?...

No doubt Wesley had felt it too dangerous to risk refusing...

He cautiously asked the fellow...some staffer named Gunn...who told him Wes had joined the Sunnydale excursion...If he might have idea as to Willow's..Ms. Rosenberg's whereabouts...

Ms. Who?...

Spike sighed...No matter, many thanks...

Who was he?...

Harris, Xander Harris...Dear friend of Buffy's...And good old Angel...
***

Not much point in calling WH...No great sense in asking if Ms. Rosenberg had by any chance popped in...

If he could reach his car...Drive to LA as evening fell...But it might be pointless without knowing where Willow was...On the other hand if he were at least somewhere near her...

Until Wesley arrived only Giles would have any clue as to where she was...And even his knowledge was probably limited...Deliberately, Spike guessed...As a precaution with Angelis around...

But that still begged the question...Could he trust Angelis‑Buffy?...Or was this some new ploy?...

To "help"...Help deliver Willow into the waiting arms of WH, perhaps...Or more likely to prevent an exchange that Angelis‑Buffy sensed would not be in her favor...

***

Evening was approaching and the Wolfram‑Hart offices were steadily emptying...

Except of course for the occasional eager beaver would be Master of the Universe...

Like one Lilah Morgan...
***
Special agent Dawn returned to the shop to find a heavily bandaged but cautiously jubiliant Angel being carefully unwrapped...

By Buffy and Cordelia...

Wesley and Giles in the background smiling...

Dawn watched Buffy...She seemed happy to see Angel...But perhaps...Not overwhelmed...

Of course...Recent resurrection, new relationship with Spike, the whatever‑it‑was‑secret mission, not to mention the need to prevent Angel's pleasure at her restoration from exceeding certain limits...

All tending to put a damper on sis' emotions...

She saw Buffy look at her...And nodded to her sister...Mission accomplished...
Angelis‑Buffy flashed Dawn a grateful smile...

And turned to Angel to tell him the story of her rebirth...The Sunnydale ER version...

Both Wes and Giles watched Angel carefully...With a degree of professional interest...

He showed no signs of sensing Angelis' presence in Buffy...
***

Spike had decided to light out for LA as soon as he could wrap up and safely reach his car...

If Angelis‑Buffy was telling even part of the truth...Willow had no back‑up on hand in LA...If he could at least be somewhere near the Wolfram‑Hart building, and reach Wesley later by cell phone...He might be able to warn Willow or help her in time...

***

Lindsey had learned from his operatives that Angel had headed out for Sunnydale with his staff early that afternoon...Under careful daylight protection of course...

He was only surprised it had taken this long for the brooding lover to get word of his beloved's resurrection...

He was pleased...Two lovers reunited after death...Touching...

Too bad it would soon take a horrifying twist for Angel...

He couldn't resist seeking someone to crow about it with...

And there was only one person besides the senior partners with the inside knowledge to appreciate the situation...

Fortunately Ms. Morgan was working late...

***
It occurred to Willow‑Lilah that as long as sleaze‑bucket wanted to hang and gloat she might as well make use of him...

She had some checking to do in Occult Research storage...Since blame was sure to be dished out for the latest Angelis fiasco, even on the uninformed members of the SPD, she'd been thinking of ways to retrieve the situation...Strengthen Angelis' dark nature...

She could use a little help...And it would be to his benefit as well...

If it was to his potential benefit...Lindsey told her...He was willing to poke about a bit...

He needed to give Angel and Angelis‑Buffy time to get reacquainted in any case before he paid Angel a call...

***

Of course, Spike reasoned as he carefully shielded his face from what twilight remained...And dodged traffic as best he could given his limited field of view...Angelis‑Buffy had probably not been entirely altruistic in giving the Wolfram‑Hart report to him rather than Giles...

She still might harbor a hope of survival...Hope that he, Spike, might keep the fragility of her link to Buffy secret even now...Even if she hadn't requested it...

In the end...Giles would have kept freeing Buffy as top priority...And made immediate use of the report...

Even if he dispatched Angel and Wes to LA to do what they could...Even that would in part be a fallback...If all else failed to negotiate Willow's trade for Buffy's freedom...

Loving fathers are like that...

But even if saving Willow really was Angelis‑Buffy's priority...Giles would not have trusted her...Probably could not have acted until Wesley arrived anyway...And he'd have delayed until testing confirmed some part of the report...

And Angelis‑Buffy had exposed herself...She could have let Willow be taken...Avoided revealing her weakness...

Spike pondered a moment...Angelis‑Buffy had not sworn him to secrecy about the report...

Yet he was beginning to believe that she had come to care for him...And he knew...Buffy did not...Probably never would...Love him...However grateful she might be at the end of all this...

Still that wasn't exactly news to him...And he'd made a pledge to Buffy...And to Dawn...Who at least, if it was true, was part of Buffy...And did love him...
The Powers That Be must have their little jokes...

He called to Giles' cell phone and reaching him, told him of the report...Still in his crypt...

Giles agreed to call Wes to the phone...And to retrieve the report...

Wesley with Giles' silent concurrence told him where and who Willow was...

***

Angelis‑Buffy asked Angel to walk outside for a bit...

Giles watched them but did not try to stop them...If she told Angel herself...And Angel chose to take immediate action to pull Angelis out of her in the only way he knew...

Buffy would be free and Giles would not face the choice of telling Angel himself...With the accompanying responsibility for what he decided to do...

They would then have to fight a restored Angelis‑Angel, of course...But a relatively minor problem which Giles had taken steps to deal with...Courtesy of Annie...Who, supposedly on patrol, was actually standing by in the shadows to deal with the developing situation...And who, on Giles' order, would act against Angelis in whichever body he wound up...To whatever extent he deemed necessary...

If, on the other hand, Angelis‑Buffy simply enlisted Angel to help Willow, it would...If Spike's information regarding the WH report was correct...Only be a matter of a slight delay in Buffy's restoration...With the benefit of possibly preventing Willow's loss...

***

Willow‑Lilah and Lindsey had entered the basement vaults of Occult Research...

Never thought to see her grubbing it in the basement, Lindsey told her, grinning...

She gave him an annoyed glare...Made more so by Willow‑Lilah's slight embarassment at the fact that she was finding him rather attractive...

Well...Obviously Lilah was not gay...

Hmmn...Well, if Lilah'd like, Willow‑Lilah'd be happy to start the ball rolling in that department...

How about if she offered to quit work and stay home minding the kiddies?...Lindsey seemed like the type who'd be pleasantly surprised to find Lilah an old‑fashioned girl, deep down...

Buried Lilah groaned...

Sorry, but lover‑boy Lindsey is your fantasy, lady...Not mine...Willow told her...How about helping me cool it down a little?...

***
Spike reached LA shortly after darkness fell...His phone ringing, he pulled up to take the call...

At the corner a young man in the rather passionate embrace of a young woman...Rather surprisingly frail‑looking girl for such...

Oh, God...Drusilla...

Not wanting to interrupt an old friend at her dinner, Spike gave the startled‑looking Dru a brief but pleasant wave and drove on down the street as he spoke to Giles...

***
"Angel...If I tell you something...Will you promise me to listen?...To hear the whole thing out?..." Angelis‑Buffy looked at Angel...Taking his hand as they stood outside...

He nodded...With a tightening sense that things were about to take a less joyous turn...

"I need your help...Willow and Will...Spike are in danger...In LA..."

From a courtyard accross the street, Annie monitored them carefully...Awaiting any instructions from Giles...

"Why is Willow in LA?...I thought Giles said..."

"He sent her to help deal...With me..."

"I...I'm not quite who you think I am, Angel...I am Buffy but...I'm..." Angelis‑Buffy told Angel...Who looked at her carefully...

"Wolfram‑Hart made a deal with me...us..." she halted, apparently a little confused... "With me...Buffy..." she continued... "And...me..."

"Angelis?..."
She looked at him...Startled...

"Wesley isn't as good an actor as he thinks...I knew there was something wrong..." he held her firmly by the arm...

"It had to be either you or the Master...And I had a feeling it'd be you...Call it brotherly insight..."

"Angel..." she pleaded... "I'm not one or the other, anymore...I...we..."

He continued...Ignoring her...

"But I am puzzled as to why you'd tell me...Voluntarily...And since I promised to hear you out...You have five minutes...Brother..."

***

Angel looked at...Whatever was left of Buffy...And her "guest"...

"So this is all for dear Willow and sweet Spike?...Quite a change of heart for you, brother..."

She regarded him...Dry‑eyed, composed, but just a touch of pleading...

"You don't have to trust me Angel...Only to help Willow if you can...Talk to Giles...Spike is probably there by now..."

"And what do you get from this...The satisfaction of saving your best friend?... Remarkable..."

"Best friend...And someone else I love..." she looked back at him...

"You know you can destroy me any time, Angel...By pulling Angelis out and taking him back...

But you don't even have to do that..." .

A simple demon exorcism would do nicely...she told him...And avoid costing LA it's savior‑hero...

***

Demon's Due...Part XV

***
Willow‑Lilah and Lindsey had reached Occult Research storage deep in the basement vaults of the Wolfram‑Hart tower...

Reaching into areas the city planners had probably never approved...

They had found a locked storage area...Fenced off from the rest...

"I don't have a key, Lindsey...You?..."

He looked at her...What was she up to with this?...Still...If she was going to pull something, he wanted all the info he could get...

"Better..." he grinned...And picked the lock...

"Hidden talents..." he smiled at her as he waved her in...

Willow‑Lilah felt herself uncomfortably responsive...

Lady, I asked you to help me cool it...Willow‑Lilah told the buried Lilah...

Lindsey was peering around the filing cabinets and boxes...Why is it this demon stuff never gets put on disk here?...he wondered... Hell, Angel puts his stuff on computer...But not here...At a place with some of the most advanced IT in the world...

She's doing this deliberately...Thought Willow‑Lilah as she found herself looking at Lindsey's backside as he bent to open cabinets...Thinks I'll be distracted and she can try something, eh...Ok, fine...

"Lindsey..." Willow‑Lilah looked at him with a wide, open stare as she entered... "I'm actually glad you came..." She smiled warmly at him...

What is she up to?...He looked up at her...

"You must know I've always been attracted to you..."

A shriek from below...
***
Angel and Angelis‑Buffy had re‑entered the shop to speak with Giles...

Annie, watching carefully from her corner, followed Giles' instructions to end her "patrol" and follow them inside after a moment or two...Reporting that all was well...

Wesley was talking with a rather lonely Tara who was inquiring about England and what the Council might be having Willow work on...

She had been carefully advised by Giles and asked beforehand by Willow not to try reaching Willow by magic...The Council disapproved of such frivolous use of the art...And contact with Willow would be restricted by them to phone...At specified times...

Hope she gets some sight‑seeing time...Tara told Wesley...Who assured her that Willow would have quite an adventure to talk about...

He was pleased not to have to lie about that at least...

Xander greeted Angel and Angelis‑Buffy as they headed over to Giles' office...

"No, Xander...He never thought this day would come..." Angelis‑Buffy anticipated him, smiling at him...Patting Angel on the shoulder as they went into Giles' office...

Strange...Angel doesn't seem all that...Pleased...Xander thought...

Well, I guess he has to tone it down...Can't let the joy go to his head...

***
"Can you pull him out of her, Giles?..." Angel asked him, holding Angelis‑Buffy firmly by the arm...

You don't have to break my arm, she told him...I won't go anywhere...

He smiled coldly at her and relaxed his pressure a bit...

Giles regarded her...Even if the information she'd passed on to Spike was true...The two were so merged now...

"I'm not sure they can be separated now Angel..." he told him...

He turned to Angelis‑Buffy...

"Let us speak to Buffy..."

She nodded...But they had to understand...She wasn't holding Buffy back...She was Buffy now...She wasn't sure if there was a separate identity to speak of anymore...

Nothing...Not a whisper...

Giles commented to Angel that something of Buffy might be husbanding her strength...Waiting for their signal...
He nodded...The only hope left...

They'd need to retrieve the Wolfram‑Hart report from Spike's crypt...

Angelis‑Buffy looked nervously at them...

"Guys?...What about Willow?..."

Giles looked at her...So Buffy...But he had no intention of weakening on this...

Angelis was not going to triumph by default...Not even as some hybrid, with some dregs of Buffy's compassion...Whatever he had to do...

Angel considered...And turned to her...

"But you still haven't told me...Why?...Why should you care?..."

She looked at her hands...

"Angel...I honestly haven't an answer for you beyond what I've told you...I love my friends...You should know better than anyone...They're the first family I've ever had..."...she thought a bit... "'What you know you know'..." she smiled weakly at him...And Giles who continued to watch her without a word...

Shakespeare...Iago...There was still a good deal of Liam as well as Angelis in her...Angel noted...

Anya knocked to come in a moment with a question for Giles, smiling...Nice to see them together again...

Hope he isn't getting...Too happy...

Angel smiled back at Anya and put his arm on Angelis‑Buffy's shoulder...And whispering, answered Angelis‑Buffy in kind...From the same play...With a coldness that made her involuntarily shudder...

"Torments will op your lips..."

After Anya closed the door, Giles suggested Angel take Wes and do what he could for Willow...

In any case, if there was any chance of restoring Buffy he needed Willow's skills...

Angelis‑Buffy looked sadly at him...

"I know you can't accept me, Giles...I...we...will accept whatever you decide..." she stood and looked at them both, pleading... "But, let me do what I can to help Willow...And Spike..."

He looked fixedly at her...

Angel quietly agreed to go to LA...For Willow's sake...

***
Lindsey was recovering from the shock of Lilah's...Willow‑Lilah's declaration...When she found what looked like the resurrection ceremony material...

"I think this is what I needed..." she smiled at Lindsey... "Why don't we get out of here and go back to my office..." Where I can clobber you in quiet...she did not say...

A phalanx of security guards, entered the area outside the fenced‑off storage room with senior partner Joseph in their midst...Courtesy of a hidden camera and silent alarm...

They looked at Joseph and his guards...What the?...

Jig's up...Though Willow‑Lilah...Lilah struggled a bit from below but she pushed her down and watched quietly...Not quite time to sever the link, if there was to be any chance of still getting the material out...

Joseph regarded his startled SPD team...

Hmmn...No Ms. Rosenberg...However, Joseph had no doubt his little trap had sprung...

He smiled at them...

"Well...So nice to see our Special Projects Division so eager..."

***
Joseph considered...One of his SPD chiefs was either controlled by or in Ms. Rosenberg's possession...That much he was certain of...Unless of course she'd developed a remarkably effective disguising spell...

But he doubted with her power she'd have put herself in such direct peril...Unfortunate...But still an opportunity...Either possession or control...If possession, a chance to trap her spirit...If control of some kind, her location in LA could be obtained from the subject...

The logical one would be Lilah, a woman...On the other hand, according to what information his operatives in Sunnydale had gathered on Willow Rosenberg, following their report on her remarkable battles with the Goddess Glorificus...She wasn't always a logical person...

His operatives were already on the lookout for her in town...It was merely a matter of learning her present location...Neutralizing her abilities...And moving quickly...

Joseph had them brought out to the main basement area by the corridor to the elevator...

He called for certain materials to be brought and a certain skilled agent...A wizard...To perform an isolation spell...To trap Ms. Rosenberg's spirit or at least detect where her control emanated from...

Lindsey and Lilah both seemed clueless as to what was going on as the spell was prepared...

"Joseph..." Lindsey called to him... "What the hell are you doing?..."

Joseph regarded him with a smile...Nothing to worry about...

Call it a clearance test...Just one of the little inconviences that goes along with the many benefits of being a top Wolfram‑Hart employee...

Willow‑Lilah considered...Her abilities were limited while with Lilah due to the effort needed to maintain control...If she snapped loose of Lilah without time to purge her memories, Lilah would have every WH operative in LA on her hotel room in five minutes...

But if she stayed any longer, the spell would reveal and trap her in Lilah...And she had little doubt they'd find a way to reveal the location of her true body...

***
But help of a kind had arrived...

Spike had stumbled through every floor of WH looking for the Lilah woman Wesley had told him Red was using to penetrate the firm...And noting from a corner the flow of security to the basement had decided he should take a look‑see...

Spike listened from the corridor...It sounded like time was fast running out...

Well...If that Euro‑trash Dracula could get away with this kind of scenery‑chewing...Spike thought...Putting on his best William the Bloody menace...And sweeping his favorite Slayer coat around him...
He threw the door from the corridor open and strode out before them...Startling them all...

"Back..." he commanded...Moving quickly between the shaken guards and...Joseph...

Who clearly was Mr. Big here...

They all looked at him...Who...Or what...the hell?...
***

Joseph stared at him, a little goggle‑eyed...

"Who the?..."

Spike grabbed him and whirled him around to face the guards...

"I think that's William the Spike..." Lindsey helpfully called to him...

William the Spike?...Spike thought...God where has my reputation gone?...

Leave off mass kills for one year and this is what happens...
***

Joseph struggled in his grip...

"Don't be a fool..." he raged... "Whoever you are...You'll die here..."

"Too late for that threat, mate..." Spike told him with a grin...

More guards...Some with crossbows were arriving...

"Come...Lilah..." Spike looked at Willow‑Lilah...

Spike?...What are you doing?...she thought...

"Come..." he commanded...Giving his best blazing eyes look...

Would she please take the hint and get a damned move on, girl?...

Oh...Willow‑Lilah realized...Why I'm supposed to be in thrall...

Why, William the Bloody...You're rescuing me?...She thought amused...

She put on a glassy stare and walked slowly, then a leetle faster past the frightened guards...Over to him...

He waved her to kneel...

You've got to be kidding, Spike...she thought...Lilah strongly concurring...

"Down, my dear..." he ordered...

She's going to kill me for this when this is all over he noted...But it's worth it...

I'm going to kill him for this when this is all over she thought...Kneeling by his side...With the best thrall expression of devotion she could muster...

The guards requested orders from Lindsey...

"Keep back or your boss here dies instantly!..." Spike shouted...

"Hold their fire, Lindsey..." Joseph commanded...Spike holding him firmly...In front...

Lindsey considered...If he ordered the crossbow‑bearing guards to fire...As well as the gun toters...

The other senior partners would probably not be all that put out...No real love lost among them...

And his rival Lilah eliminated...An unfortunate victim...

On the other hand, if the partners, however secretly gratified, decided to make an example of an employee who failed to protect one of them...Not unusual for them...Or if Joseph survived...

And Joseph tended to be the survivor type...

"Stand down..." Lindsey ordered the guards...

***
Joseph tried negotiation...His forte...

"William the Bloody?...Listen to me...Our interests coincide..." he gasped out as Spike kept an arm securely round his throat...

Nice to know someone remembers me...Spike thought...

"You want Ms. Summers for yourself...Our client can give her to you...Forever when time serves..."

Enthralled Lilah cast a glance at her lord and master...Dammit Spike if you let us down...

"Well...Boss, suppose we try it this way..." Spike told Joseph... "You let me have the resurrection materials...I take my little friend here out for dinner...And maybe...You won't be the main course..."

Lindsey called to Spike...

"You might as well surrender...You'll never leave this building...Except as ashes..."

Spike grinned...And nudged Joseph...

"Looks like your protege wants to run the show, eh Boss?...Shall I give him his big break?..."

He tightened his arm lock on Joseph's throat...

Joseph ordered the guards to clear the way through the corridor...And for Lindsey to give Lilah the resurrection ceremony material...
***

Demon's Due...Part XVI

Willow‑Lilah and Spike carefully backed up the basement corridor of the Wolfram‑Hart tower, Spike keeping a firm grip on his prisoner, senior partner Joseph...

Followed at a cautious distance by WH security and keeping to a safe rear, Lindsey...

"Look William...We can still make a deal..." Joseph gasped as Spike dragged him
along...Willow‑Lilah moving ahead towards the stairwell... "Why end your existence for Buffy Summers?...What do you get from this?...Surely we can offer you more..."

"Maybe I'm in business for myself, Boss...I might be stealing this material to keep it out of the hands of Buffy's little gang...Protecting my new girl, so to speak..."

Willow‑Lilah looked carefully at Spike...

"All we want now is Ms. Rosenberg...Take the materials if you want them..." Joseph told him...
"We know she's here in town...Just tell us where she is..."

"And I meet with an unfortunate crossbow accident on my way out?...No, Boss...Think I prefer it my way...But tell me...What makes you think old Red is here?...Our new Buffy give you a call?..." Spike squeezed a bit...

"We've watched her since the fight with Glorificus...Our people in Sunnydale told us she'd left...We've been tapping her phone...All of Summers' friends..."

They'd reached the stairwell door...Locked...

The guards moved in cautiously and halted...Spike motioned Willow‑Lilah towards the elevator...

"It's probably shut down, Spike..." she hissed...He waved her to go on...

He continued with Joseph...

"Really...I should have thought you'd rely on your client's assistance..."

Joseph did his best to give a sneer while being severely choked...

"Our client is out for herself only...If you're doing this for her, you're a bigger fool than I thought...She'll betray you in an instant..."

The elevator was shut down...Well?...Willow‑Lilah glared at her hero...What did I tell you?...

"Tell your friends to get this thing working or I rip one arm off right now...My friend here will be happy to tie off the wound with her stockings so you don't bleed to death..." Spike told Joseph...

"And you'll still have three other limbs for me to play with..."

Joseph ordered Lindsey to have the elevator restarted...And the three of them entered...

***
Wesley had reached Willow's hotel room without being detected by any WH agents...She remained in her trance, propped up on the sofa where he'd left her...

Hmmn...Well...Nothing else to be done...She wouldn't come out of this trance until she chose...Or Wolfram‑Hart forced her out...He lifted her gently and carried her out to the elevator, calling Cordy who waited in her car outside from his cell phone...
He couldn't very well carry an unconscious young woman out the hotel door...Even in LA...
***

"Well...What now Spike?..." Willow‑Lilah asked him... "They'll be waiting for us whatever floor we stop on..."

Hmmn...Doesn't seem like the usual thrall state...Joseph thought...

Of course, William the Bloody might just prefer the light touch...Leave his victim with some initiative...

***
"Hello...Is Mr. Joseph in?..." the young blonde woman asked the desk guard in the WH tower lobby...Handing him a card with Joseph's direct number and ok'd by his signature...

"It's a little after hours, lady...I don't think he's available..."

"Well...Could you tell him that Buffy Summers...Buffy Angelis Summers...Is here and would like to speak with him?...Immediately..." she smiled pleasantly at the guard... "I promise you...He'll want to see me..."

Well...He looked at the card...And the tall young man standing quietly by the woman...

"Please...Just tell him I'm here..." they each took a seat by the desk...
***

"You know...You could have just grabbed my body..." Willow‑Lilah looked at Spike... "You didn't have to risk coming here..."

"I figured the boys here would have someone like that fellow waving the incense back there...If he had finished, I seriously doubt you'd have enjoyed life as a zombie..."

Ah...Possession...Joseph thought, looking at Willow‑Lilah...

Our operatives in Sunnydale were certainly right about Ms. Rosenberg's abilities...

Pity she'll probably have to be destroyed now...
***

The elevator stopped and the lights went out...

Phone dead...

"Red, I don't suppose you're up to getting this thing moving?...I'm afraid our friend here isn't as valuable to old Lindsey as I hoped..."

She'd try...

Joseph, groaning under Spike's arm, helpfully suggested they try a cell phone call...He had Lindsey's direct number...

A sound came from above...As two powerful demons smashed and dropped through the trap door at the top of the elevator cab...Knocking Spike flat and freeing Joseph...

***
The lobby guard was called to allow Ms. Summers and her friend to pass on through...Up to the second floor conference room...

Where Joseph, Lindsey, and their guards now held Spike and Willow‑Lilah...

***

"Angelis..." Joseph greeted Angelis‑Buffy and Angel as they entered...

"We're here to make a deal, Joseph..." Angel told him...

"A deal?...Now, why should I negociate when I have all the cards in my hand, Angel?..." Joseph smiled at him...

"I'll give you Angelis back...As he was meant to be...Here..." he tapped his chest lightly... "In exchange for you releasing all the others..."

Angelis‑Buffy looked at Angel quietly...

"Tempting Angel...Very tempting...But, we think Ms. Rosenberg is too valuable a prize to bargain away..."

"And besides...Angelis has not exactly fulfilled his part of our arrangement...No...I think it best that I have you all...With the exception of dear Ms. Rosenberg and her host here...Destroyed immediately..."

"Wait...Joseph..." Angelis‑Buffy came forward... "I think I can offer you a better deal..." she smiled ...

And smashed at Angel, knocking him out before he could move to dodge...
***
Joseph looked at the unconscious Angel and his client...Now apparently behaving rather more true to form...

"Take him and Willow there...Let me go...And Spike..." Angelis‑Buffy told him...

The things we do for love, Spike thought...

"You still want my services available in the future..." she told Joseph... "Destroying me now gains you nothing...Destroying Angel on the other hand..." she smiled at him... "Keeps me around...In this body...Permanently..."

"At least until I tire of being human..."

Joseph considered...She couldn't be trusted of course, still...To have Angelis in this world, working for the benefit of all things evil...

"I've kept my part of our bargain...You have Willow Rosenberg...In spirit...And if you act quickly, her body as well...Not that the body really matters..." she grinned, looking at Spike and Willow‑Lilah... "It's what's inside that counts..."

Amen...Thought Willow‑Lilah...And thank you, Angelis, for behaving true to form...So that I can kill you with a clear conscience before myself...These bastards will never get help from Buffy Summers' body or my soul while I have anything to say about it...

"William here has behaved rather badly tonight...I don't know if I could allow him to go unpunished..." Joseph told her... "However..."

"He's a fool for love..." Angelis‑Buffy smirked at him... "But leave him to me..."

"Can you tell me where Ms. Rosenberg's body is now?...That might seal a bargain..." Joseph told her...

"She's in a hotel room...The Hyatt on Drum Street, Giles didn't know the room, I'm afraid ...Just six blocks, but I suggest you hurry..." she smiled... "Deal?..."

She extended an arm...

Joseph came out of his phalanx of guards and took her hand...

"Deal...My dear Angelis..."

Angel jumped to his feet, panicking the guards as Angelis‑Buffy whirled Joseph around and held him in front of them...Spike and Willow‑Lilah broke loose and came over to them...

"Deal's off, Joseph..." Angel grinned at Angelis‑Buffy... "Let it go, Lindsey..." he called to Lindsey who was fuming...

Not again, Joseph groaned...

***
Willow‑Lilah looked at Angelis‑Buffy who smiled at her...

"Nice to see you again, Willow..."she told her... "Interesting body...And hello, Spike...How are you?..."

Spike smiled at her...

"I'm fine, Annie...Thanks for asking..."

Annie?...Thought Willow‑Lilah...This is Annie?...Wait a minute...She turned to Spike...

"You knew?..."

He grinned...

"Well, no demon popped up when Angelis‑Buffy made her little declaration of ill intent...Of course it might have been our new Buffy doing her bit for us...But I know my Annie's style..."

Angel suggested they get moving...Back down to the basement, out the freight level door...

With their "guest"...Who continued to struggle a bit but saw the wisdom of cooperation...

"Nice play‑acting..." Spike grinned at Angel... "Annie, I mean..." Who smiled at him...

Angel smiled...

"I have to give credit some credit to your latest, Spike...Giles and I didn't trust her for this but she did give us enough info to prep Annie and Joseph's card to get us through the security desk..."

"However I don't think it'll work on the way out..."

They went back down to the basement in the elevator, Lindsey and the guards following by stairs...

And with Annie dragging Joseph...Reached, and passed through the heavy metal double‑door to the freight dock area...Secured it from Lindsey and his goons...And waited by the outer freight dock door...Angel calling Cordy by cell phone to pick them up asap...

***
Lindsey ordered several of his men to head out and circle round to the exit, the rest to break down the door...

***
Cordy was on the way...Just a few more minutes Angel told them...They'd have to make a break as soon as she was near enough...

They moved by the outer door, ready for a rush...

Annie, holding Joseph firmly with one arm, stood by the inner door, behind which the sounds of pounding could be heard, smiling at them...

"Goodbye..." she said quietly...

Spike paused and went back to her...Willow‑Lilah and Angel looking after him...Spike?...

He took her hand gently...

"Thank you...You were a wonderful Slayer, Miss Annie..." he told her...

"It was a pleasure working with you, Spike..." she smiled at him...

"And you, dear heart..." he gently kissed her...And returned to the others...Looking back at her...until they heard the sound of a car horn...

They ran out and Angel and Spike threw back those guards who had made it round...Spike staggering a bit as the chip fired multiple rounds, Willow-Lilah hurrying to help him...

My...Vamp hero...she shook her head at him as he crumpled in her arms...Oh...William...she murmured anxiously as he shook, a little convulsively...

Hmmn...Is that Lilah?...Or me?...having these...Sensations...she thought as she helped a nearly unconscious Spike to the parked car where Cordy was leaning on the horn...Angel now taking Spike's other arm...

Guess somethings are best left unknown, she looked at the battered vampire...

***
Lindsey and his guards came through the battered door...

Annie smiled at them as the guards shot at her...She staggered a bit...But remained standing as the guards grabbed her and pinioned her...

Joseph came over to her...Not Angelis‑Buffy...What?...
Suddenly she threw three guards back and grabbed him...

"You gentlemen should leave immediately..." she told Lindsey and the guards... "I'm going to detonate a small bomb inside me in 53 seconds..."

They decided she looked just serious enough to possibly mean business and ran for the exits...

"Lindsey...Lindsey!...Damn you!...You!...All of you...Are Fired!..." Joseph screamed as they left him...

"Who are you?..." Joseph demanded, struggling... "Let me go...You can't kill me
permanently...I'm an immortal...I'll be returned...You...You'll die..."

"According to my friend Giles...Your partners are not likely to pleased with you when you return to Hell in failure...He seemed to think that would do..."

"By the way, my name is Annie Summers...I'm sort of a sister to Buffy and Dawn..." she smiled at him...

And exploded, destroying herself, Joseph, and most of the Occult Research storage area...

***
Demon's Due...Part XVII...Conclusion

Wesley was with Willow's limp body in the back of the car...

Cordelia smiled at the group...Noting the blasted ruins of the Wolfram‑Hart freight area...

The few standing guards milling around in shock...

"You fellahs need a lift somewhere?..."

Willow‑Lilah got in back with Wesley and...herself...

Lilah was still in shock, deep below...

Fired...I'm definitely fired...She moaned within...

Demoted...At the very least...

Nonsense, Willow‑Lilah assured her...A little thing like this, in a broad‑minded firm like Wolfram‑Hart?...
A nice clean assassination was far more likely...And Lindsey would surely be looking for a fall guy...er girl...

Course you could always try dating him...If he doesn't have you killed before you can wow him with your charms...

***
After Willow broke the link, they dropped a dazed Lilah near a bus stop, with cab fare...

Can't leave a pretty woman like that wandering all alone in the big city with no cash...Inhumane...

Besides...Her friends at WH were sure to be looking for her...Anxiously...

***

Cordy was speeding out of LA and heading for Sunnydale...No pursuit in sight...
"So Wolfram‑Hart wanted me?..." Willow asked Spike and Angel with a sly grin...

"The least they could have done is made me a half‑decent job offer..."

***

Giles received the cell phone call from Angel with Angelis‑Buffy sitting across his desk...

And relayed the good news to her...

She asked to speak to Willow...

Her greeting was so natural...So Buffy...That it was a moment before Willow realized who she was talking to...

And moved to cut off Angelis‑Buffy's beginning of a typically Buffy chat...

"I understand you were very helpful, Angelis...Thanks..." Willow told her... A pause at the other end...

"I guess I can understand how you must feel, Will..." Angelis‑Buffy told her... "But there is a lot of Buffy in me...us...now... I just wanted..."

Willow cut in...She'd had quite enough ersatz Buffy... "Maybe you should talk to Spike here..."

And handed him the phone...Looking at Angel who was looking back at her...Intently...

"William...Thank God you're ok...Is everyone all right?..." Angelis‑Buffy told him...

"Yes...We're all fine...Excepting poor Annie...Tell Giles she did more than her bit today..." he told her...

Poor Annie... Angelis‑Buffy had forgotten one of them would not be coming back...She was so sorry for William...And Willow...Knowing how much they liked the bot "sister"...

But she'd died a true Slayer...And a worthy Summers sister...

Giles watched Angelis‑Buffy while she talked to Spike...

This was not going to be easy...If it could be done at all...

She looked up to ask if Dawn could be allowed in to talk to Spike...She knew the poor kid was waiting breathlessly for news...

Giles had revealed to the others that Willow, Spike, and the Angel Investigations team had gone with Annie to LA...Hoping to capture the Wolfram‑Hart resurrection materials...Ostensibly to review for Spike's and Angel's sakes...

He nodded and Angelis‑Buffy went to call Dawn in...And to give the good news of the success to the gang...Plus the sadder news of Annie's termination...

No...This was going to be very hard he thought...

***
Spike fielded Dawn's mile a minute questions...With a grin at the others...

Had they used the resurrection materials yet?...Was his soul already saved?...And if so would he be able to go out in daylight?...

No, no...and much to his regret not yet, Miss Nibs...he told her...

Annie...She didn't...Suffer?...Did she?...

Never felt a thing...And was a true Summers to the end...Took one of the most evil creatures at WH with her as well...

He given her their best before she left them...And tried to properly thank her as Dawn and Buffy would have wanted...
Thank you, Will...I knew you would...She told him...

The group from LA reached Sunnydale about an hour later...
***

They entered the shop where Angelis‑Buffy was quietly studying with Dawn nearby...

Xander and Anya had headed out to get some refreshments...Seemed like a little celebration was called for...

Not forgetting poor Annie of course...

Tara was checking some information Giles had asked her to look up...

Angelis‑Buffy got up to greet the guys as they entered...

Dawn realized immediately...Something was wrong...Though they greeted Buffy and herself in a manner suggestive of the winning team...

They all seemed...Reserved towards Buffy....Even Spike and Angel...

Giles came from his office and looked at Angelis‑Buffy...

Who returned his look, imploringly...Don't...Please...

Father...

"Well..." he looked at her... "Will you keep your word or must I do it?..."

She looked at Dawn...

Who stared at her...And began to realize....

Tara came out from the research area and looked at them...What?...

Willow, Spike, and the LA group stared at Angelis‑Buffy...

Angelis‑Buffy bowed her head slightly and looked at Dawn sadly...

"Dawn..." she began...

***

Xander and Anya returned and Angelis‑Buffy began over for them...
Dawn watched her...Hot tears running down her face...That thing...That monster...Using Buffy's body...Using her...For what...To destroy them all?...

Giles quietly pointed out that in fairness, she hadn't had to tell them anything...When she could have kept mum...And hoped for survival...She'd helped to save Willow...Refused to carry out her undertaking to assist Wolfram‑Hart...

He was willing to accept that whatever she was, a great deal of Buffy was present...Perhaps, a new being had been formed...And that separating Buffy from her might be extremely difficult now...

She looked at him, hopeful...Could he possibly?...

"Dawn, guys...I will do my best...If you'll let me..."

Dawn looked away from her...

"I won't...I won't stay with her...With that..." she told Willow...

Angelis‑Buffy looked at Willow, Spike...Pleading...Talk to her...Please...

"Dawn..." she told her... "I've told Giles I'll accept whatever he decides to do...But if he can't remove...Part of me...I love you...I always will..." she looked at the others... "All of you..."

"Prove it..." Dawn told her coldly... "Drop dead..." They all looked at her...

"I'd rather have Buffy dead...With Mom...Than trapped with that thing here..."

"I imagine Will and Giles are working on that right now..." Angelis‑Buffy sadly replied...

"They feel the same way, I know..."

And looked at Willow who returned her stare...
***

"We must be in agreement on this..." Giles told the gang...After leaving Angelis‑Buffy with Spike and Angel in his office...

"Are you sure this won't kill Buffy as well?..." Xander asked him...

"No...We can't be sure of anything now..." Willow told him... "Only that we can drive Angelis...Or whatever she has become back to wherever she came from...It may kill Buffy again to separate them now..."
"Buffy would rather be dead..." Dawn said firmly...

"Demons..." Anya paused...Looking at them...

Xander took her hand....

"Demons are partly human...Some..." she smiled at Xander... "Were human once...They can change...Sometimes...With new hosts...When blood or death lust is taken away...With friends who believe in them..."

"This is Angelis we're talking about..." Willow told her...

"No..." Anya shook her head... "Look, I'm not saying we shouldn't free Buffy...Even if it kills her...But this is not the Angelis you knew...And it's wrong somehow to pretend that she is..."

"Are you against this, Anya?..." Giles asked her quietly...

"No...Not if you all feel Buffy would want this...But we are killing someone tonight...Who may not be blamed for Angelis' past crimes...We'd better be prepared to accept that..."

"Can you do this with me Willow?...Say so now...Once we start...It will soon be too late..." Giles regarded Willow...Who nodded...

***
Angelis‑Buffy came out quietly with Spike by her side...Holding his hand tremblingly in hers...

Angel followed...

"If you're not lying...If you want to retain any of what you gained from Buffy...Then you know what you must do..." Giles told her quietly...He held the Wolfram‑Hart report from Spike's crypt in his hand...

Trembling she handled him an amulet, concealed on her upper arm...Which Wolfram‑Hart's agents had placed on poor Buffy's body to call Angelis into her...

"Giles...If I...we...Whatever we are now...If I make my peace...With God...Do you think?..."

"I can't say...But we will give you your chance to try...Before we start..."

"When will you?..."

"You'll know when we're ready..." Giles told her... "For now...You can go...Dawn will stay with Willow..."

She nodded...And turned to Spike...

"William...Will you?..." she stopped...
***

"Guys?..." she looked at them...

And clutched her throat...Something was wrong...What?...

"Giles?...Help...Help me..."

Giles stepped back and looked coldly at her...

"It's over Angelis..." he told her...He began to chant a ritual...

Xander looked at Giles and Willow...You said you'd....

"We had to be sure she was off guard, Xander..." Willow told him... "And couldn't wait for her to find something to protect herself..."

Angelis‑Buffy raged at them...They could see the demon now, full force...

"You'll suffer for this...All of you..."

But there was something else there...Sadness...Pleading...Even...Love?...

"Please...I'm sorry...I'd never hurt you...Any of you...Please don't send me away...I love you all..."

"You are not Buffy..." Giles told her...

"I...I don't know...Anymore...Help me...Willow?..."

Willow backed away from her...

"I can't be alone anymore...I can't bear it...Let me stay...Please...I ...We...Can be Buffy..."

She pleaded to them, reaching out...

"Xander...Dawny...Help me...I didn't hurt anyone...Please...please...I love you..."

Xander looked at her, sadly...Spike motioned him to stay back...

"Dawn...You know...I...Buffy and I...We wouldn't hurt you...We won't hurt anyone..."

She reached out to Dawn...Spike held her back...

"I didn't hurt anyone...Please...Let me stay...Let me be Buffy...I can be...We can be..."

She looked at wildly at them...She could feel the pull now...Breaking away from the body...

"Giles...Please...Don't send me back...I can't be alone anymore...Help me..." she pleaded...

"Spike...You know I love you...Please..."

"Oh...please...I'm afraid...I'm afraid..."

Spike took her hand...Spoke to her gently...Compassionately...

"We can't let you stay...This is Buffy's life...Not yours..."

She looked despairingly at him...

"I'll come with you..." he said quietly to her... "You won't be alone..."

He pulled a small stake from his coat...And gave it to her...

She stared at him...And tossed the stake away...Falling to her knees...

The others looked at them, shocked...Willow bent her head...God...How can you do this to us?...

Angelis‑Buffy stared at Spike...She was nearing the final throes now...

"Poor William...My poor, poor William...She doesn't love you, you know..." she stroked his hand...

Angelis-Buffy Love Theme

"I know..." he told her...

"I love you William..." she clasped his hand in hers...Looking at the others...

Giles looked at her, tightly holding Spike's hand...Trembling...He came over to them...

"We can't help you...Angelis...Or whatever you have become...But, if you really are sincere...If there is a new being here...Perhaps God will have mercy on you..."

She looked at him...Comforted?...

Willow thought...No...No...I can't do this...I can't...Not even for Buffy...

"I will pray for you, my dear..." Giles said gently...

She was shuddering quite a bit now...But there was gratitude in her eyes...

"I won't give up...I'll try...Giles...I'll try...William...I...won't be Angelis..."

"I know..." Spike told her gently... "Try...And one day...We'll see you again...At least I will..."

Giles turned to Willow...Who looked back, pleading...

"This must end, Willow..."

"Willow..." Angelis‑Buffy looked at her... "It has to be..."

No...No...Willow thought...Curse me, threaten me...Don't tell me it's alright...Don't...Forgive me...

Angelis has finally beaten us...She realized...With our own weapons...

"Foul blight henceforth....To hell with thee...Go..." Willow said quietly through tears...

She...he...it trembled and collapsed...

***
Buffy was unconscious as Spike gently carried her to the house...

Despite Angel's efforts to take her while in the car...Even with Spike's acquiesence...

Somehow the lock she'd...Angelis‑Buffy at least...Had placed on his hand...Couldn't be broken until he got her home...

A Slayer's death‑grip?...Giles wondered...

Or a lover's?....

After placing her in her bed, Spike left...Although Dawn asked him to stay...

No...He had smiled at Angel who stood by...He knew when a true Victorian‑born gentleman should scoot...

If it was all right, he'd check on her later...But, he grinned at the Niblett...The Slayer was going to be fine...

Buffy Summers was too tough to let a little exorcism knock her out of the game...

***
After Giles had determined that Buffy's spirit was hanging on in the body...All but Dawn and he left...

Buffy having remained unconscious, the next day he stayed with her while the others with Dawn returned to the Magic Shop...To wait...

The resurrection materials were something of a bust...Willow noted...As she reviewed them with Tara...An interesting ceremony, but allowing too much scope to the demon consciousness...

Unless of course one had negotiators in Hell to cut a deal as WH must have done with Darla's demon...To hold the demon back and allow the human soul to regain control...

Any resurrection...Of a vamp‑contaminated body...Done without the demon's approval and restraint was likely to result in a demon‑souled human...Who would either require immediate killing or prove a dangerous homicidial maniac...Harder to deal with than a vamp in some ways...

She was sad to see that Spike was as disappointed as Angel...

But as to Angelis...A spell testing Angel suggested the dear old monster was still in his limbo prison...

"Sorry, Angel..." Willow told him...

Just as long as brother was back where he belonged...Angel replied, a sad smile...Which brightened as he noted....

"And Buffy is back with us..."

"Meaning that the other one...?" Spike questioned Willow...
"I think...I can't be sure of course...That she may achieved a kind of independent consciousness, Spike..." Willow looked at him...A Buffy‑Angelis hybrid of sorts...

"Your new girl may possibly be waiting for you...Somewhere in Hell...Or maybe...Somewhere else..."

Who knows Willow thought...A new Buffy, waiting for Spike?...And the old for
Angel...Someday?...A gift for two wrongly condemned souls from the Powers That Be?...

Or perhaps just different sides of the same unique consciousness...

She looked at Dawn...Another side of that consciousness?...

Dawn wondered...And shyly asked Spike...Did he?...Had he come to?...

"One can't help loving a Summers' girl, Nibs...But it's the Buffy in her I cared for..."

He smiled...Grinning a bit at Angel...

"Ole Granddad never really did it for me, you know..."
***

Angel had to leave with Wes and Cordy for LA next morning...But promised to return as soon as Buffy revived...

Dawn kissed him goodbye as Willow and Giles thanked the LA team...But she couldn't help thinking that Spike would never have left Buffy's side...If she'd allowed him to be by...

But that was unfair...She told herself...Angel had come to save Buffy and Willow...And had, with considerable help...

To save Buffy and Willow?...Or to defeat Angelis and drive her back?...

Prevent his demon from winning the redemption he'd been seeking?...

First?...

Dawn wondered...

***

She remembered nearly all of it...Buffy told Willow and Giles after she awoke finally...Later on the second day...
Even the time before her resurrection...When she'd been lost in nothingness...

"Is that all there is, Will?...All we get at the end?..."

Willow pointed out that Angel's trip to Hell had confirmed that there was something after death...And if there was indeed a Hell, there must be a Heaven...

"Then why didn't Mom come?...Why was I left there?..." Buffy asked her and Giles...

"Perhaps it simply wasn't your time, Buffy..." Giles told her...

She nodded...

Dawn and Xander came up...She managed a smile for them which faded quickly when Dawn mentioned Spike...

He'd done so much to help...Dawn went on hopefully...Couldn't Buffy?...Thank him on his return?...

"I'll talk to him..." Buffy told her...Coldly...

***
They'd moved her down to the living room where she lay on the sofa...Watching the flames of a fire Giles had built...

She asked Xander about his wedding plans...'Bout time he got round to it...

And they all needed a little joy right now...

Dawn told her that Spike was at the door...Could he see her?...

She nodded...

"Come in Spike..." Buffy said, pleasantly enough...

He entered nervously...She looked at him...

"I have something for you, Slayer...If..."

He had a few sheets of paper in his hand and held them out to her...

Buffy grabbed the sheets and threw them into the fire...

"Buffy!..." Willow cried...

The Third Man

Spike looked at her sadly and calmly...And made no move to escape as she staked him...

It wasn't as if he didn't expect it...

He hounded Slayers for a century hoping for it, Willow realized...

And had always known...Somehow...Buffy was the Slayer who could release him...

A demon's due...

With a cry, Dawn ran over and pulled the sheets out...Buffy moved to take them from her...

The others were in shock...

But Willow came between the two sisters and looked sternly at Buffy...

"He raped me..." Buffy said to them coldly...

***

Spike Love Theme (Love Me Tender)

Dawn looked at the sheets... The first poem, a pretty, halting love poem about flowers...and nettles...

The second began..."To Buffy Anne..." Then a blank page...And on the second...

"I love you more than I will ever be able to explain...

...William..."
***

Buffy had not made any objection to Willow's having a small marker placed for Spike in the same Greenwood cemetery where her mother lay...

Dawn had been staying with Willow and Tara for the past week, refusing to go home...

She was with Willow and Giles at the marker for a brief memorial service they'd arranged when they saw Buffy standing outside the cemetery gate...

The service completed, Giles went over to Buffy...Spoke to her for a bit, patting her, and left...

Dawn asked Willow to leave her at the marker for a moment and Willow went out to the waiting Buffy...
***

Angelis-Buffy/Dawn Love Theme

Dawn looked at the marker... "William, beloved friend... 'Oh, lost and by the wind‑grieved ghost...' "

She spoke to the marker...

"Will...I guess you'll have to blame the Powers That Be...or the Fates...That it was me...And that...Other...not Buffy who came to love you in the end..."

"If it's really true that I am a part of Buffy...Made from her...Than between us...That other and me...Some part of her did love you...I hope that's some comfort to you..."

She touched the marker...

"If there is such a thing as an afterlife...If I have a soul, too...We'll see each other
again...Someday..."

***
Willow looked at Buffy...

"Will?... Is she coming home?..." Buffy asked...

"I don't know, Buffy..."

"Can't she...can't any of you understand?..."

"I'm not...That one...It's gone...For good..." she looked pleadingly at Willow...

We know that Buffy...Willow thought...And reassured her...They knew...

And the odd, sad thing is...

"Buffy...I understand...But...Do you?..."

"He raped me, Willow...I put my trust in him and he used me...Besides...He's at peace now...I couldn't have given him anything else...You know that...He probably did too..."

Willow nodded...Yes, he knew...But...

"He saved you, Buffy...And you knew what he was...I don't say you didn't have a
right...But...Knowing what he was...What his soul must have overcome to do what he did for you...No demon would do that..."

Willow looked at her feet...

"What I don't understand is...How you could have done it so coldly?...Let him think...Besides..."

She looked straight at Buffy...

"You didn't kill him because he raped you..."

Buffy looked back at her...

"Angelis didn't spend the last century dreaming of Spike...or Giles or Xander, I think we can agree on that...Those were your fantasies, Buffy...He absorbed them when he entered you, sure...But they were yours...And that's why you killed Spike..."

"Because he knew..."

She eyed Buffy...Angelis had sensed and been fatally attracted to the hard core of selfishness that lay within the only Slayer to ever have survived so long...By allowing family and friends to place their lives in peril...But Will had always known that, accepted it as they all had in their own individual ways...

The Slayer, savior of millions, had a right to demand their sacrifice...

Yet in the end, Buffy's compassion had, absorbed into the emptiness of the demon, changed her...Recreated her...Or perhaps given her what she'd never had...That couldn't be denied...

The two sides of the Slayer...In the end, the same human mix as all of them...If on a superhuman scale...

Odd...Angelis‑Buffy had gained so much from her...Yet in a way, the new being formed had been exactly what one might have expected...Angelis beating Buffy at her own game...Outloving, out self‑sacrificing her old enemy...And probably doing her sincere best to maintain her new self and win redemption even in the face of Hell's torments...

Just like the egotistical bastard...er bitch...And wringing our prayers out of us even as we condemned her...A perfectly believable combination of Angel and Buffy really...

No wonder Buffy and Angel had hit it off...As selfish and egodriven as they were noble and self‑sacrificing...

She couldn't repress the thought that Spike...Or at least human William...Deserved better...

But then, Angelis‑Buffy had shown self‑sacrifice at the end...And maybe...If they had found each other again...

Buffy looked at her...

"I do have one question for you though..." Willow asked her... "Why did you let Spike live so long?...These past years...If you didn't care at all..."
***

Willow knew of course in time she'd make excuses for Buffy...Good and valid ones...

And Buffy would...Had already...Regretted what she'd done to William...At least in terms of not telling him why...And not thanking him for what he had been able to do...

But she knew it would never be the same...They'd help her in the future, but she...And Xander...And Giles, even Giles...Would never be able to get the image of poor William, so hopeful and so sad...Facing her as she killed him...Out of their hearts...

***

Dawn emerged from the cemetery....She walked straight past the hopefully waiting Buffy without looking at her and continued down the street until out of sight...

They learned much later she had contacted the Watchers' Council secretly and offered to maintain contact with them...Let them know her Key nature and promised to occasionally let them meet with her, study her, if they helped her start a new life...They'd provided her with some funds and a new ID...

She died young...Of ovarian cancer at age thirty two...

She never saw Buffy or Sunnydale again...
***
A few months after hearing of Dawn's death, Willow received a box containing the poems Dawn'd saved from the fire years ago...

She gave copies to Buffy who accepted them without a word...

They were found on her bedside table when she died at 83...The first Slayer to reach retirement and ripe old age...
***
Mona Lisa


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