“Your Email Always Alerts You Before It Deletes...”

Part I

Summary: Angel has (finally) come to help Buffy out...But things have changed...
Blame my wife, she suggested our rereading “The Postman Always Rings Twice”...Just when I had curbed my tendency to go off in a completely different story direction and was concentrating on just 2 stories...


[Suggested main theme..."Wonderful, Wonderful..."]
***
After a while, I gave it up...Left Sunnydale...For good, I thought...

The right thing to do, you say...Pat on the back for noble William coming through?...Giving his Buffy the space and peace she needed...

Well...It’s what I hoped I was doing...

But...The Spike will out, I guess...Even with the chip holding him...

***
I kicked around, all over the modern West, Mexico, demon-killer for hire, odd jobs man, that sort of thing...A postcard to Dawn once in a while...

Little bitch never wrote back...Tara did though, often...

Nice girl that Wiccan...Pity we never hit it off...A real Joyce that one...

Buffy wrote a couple of times...Wishing me well, take care, she’s fine, that sort of thing...

And...Once...On my birthday...Will’s if you can believe it...She sent a cake...A photo of her and Dawn...And of all things, my 1880 Cambridge University yearbook...

With me there, circled and big as life...

Must have taken weeks for her and Willow to track it down...She didn’t even know my last name unless she got it from one of my demon buddies...Or in the ruins of my old crypt...

Then...Silence...But I kept tabs and found out...

Angel...The Brooding One finally made his appearance...

With “great” news...

A improved spell had removed the old curse but retained its demon block feature...And he’d learned the truth...

His soul was never gone, just trapped...As with most vamps...And unable to overcome the demon’s control...

The curse had tossed Angelis into limbo...The breaking of the curse had merely brought Angelis back in control...And now, the new spell would free him of the last obstacle...The fear of his demon’s return...

He’d decided, based on this, what Darla had told him, his son, his good fortune in business, and Wesley’s research...While it was still a worthy goal for the noble Angel to continue saving the innocent...His tormented redemption hunt was no longer necessary...His soul had done nothing...

Like Darla said, there was no way to atone for the crimes of Angelis...But that was Angelis...

He could be happy now, thanks to the spell there was no danger...And now that he understood he had nothing to atone for...He decided it was time to help his old girlfriend...

And have a mother for his son...

A blonde mother...Like Darla...

Like Darla...Buffy had noticed quickly he mentioned Darla an awful lot...

Which only confirmed what she’d suspected since their meeting after her death when he told her his happy news...And gone on endlessly about Darla...Her nobility, her courage, her selflessness...

But, after all she’d been through, it was only natural that she’d grab desperately at the first chance for something approaching a normal life...

And, being the Slayer, as Angel was quick to point out...She’d be an invaluable asset to his firm...

Always an eye out for the practical, our Angel...

He’d moved the firm to Sunnydale...After all, the Hellmouth...And, he'd dutifully noted to Buffy...He realized she and Dawn would prefer not to move...

I’d always kinda wondered why he hadn’t opened his business at the source of evil myself...But Buffy living in Sunnydale and all...

Angel was, of course, a dutiful husband...Though often busy...So much evil to battle...And poor Dru still loose...Must do his duty by her too...

Darla would want that...

But Buffy could sense he was avoiding her...In the spiritual sense I mean...He’d be there...And yet, not there...

She knew now...He’d mistaken her for another blonde when they'd first met...But...She also knew...Duty (and ego) would never allow him to admit it...

But...Dawn was happy and her life secure...Connor was a sweet kid...The gang thought she was happy...A reunited Xander and Anya too occupied in rebuilding their lives to pay much attention...Tara concerned but not wishing to interfere, Buffy seeming relatively content...Willow
too busy trying to win back her Tara, graduate, and keep off her magics...

Then I got a note...From Rupert Giles, of all people...

Who’d returned to America but was living away from Sunnydale...Monitoring, but not interfering now...Making only the rarest visits...

Visits I know Buffy lived for...Her real father come home...And, in spite of herself, poured out more than she realized to him in the course of them...

His note came to the point after a pleasantry or two, asking me to look in on her sometime...

I threw it away...No need to rake up the past...

Can’t believe old Giles would be so foolish...

But...I couldn’t stop thinking about it...About why even Giles would want me to “check in” on her...

And about her...

Angel and Buf’d been married about a year and a half when my feet turned traitor on ole Spikey and turned towards Sunnydale...
***

Business was booming for old Angel Investigations...Largest firm in Sunnydale...

And largest employer...

It was no time at all before one of Angel’s underworld operatives had let him know his “grandson” was back in town...

I got a surprisingly friendly note at my crypt that afternoon...Asking to meet me...

A drink at Willie’s...

***

Willie’s and its owner had prospered with the coming of Angel Investigations...

Ole Willie naturally put himself on the winning side...Allowing his place to be used for surveillance, stakeouts, all that...Until the denizens of the underworld caught on and avoided him like the plague...

Angel, decent chap and all that, naturally came though for his “helper” and loaned Willie what he needed to turn the place into Sunnydale’s favorite watering hole...So good, even some of the hunted underworlders couldn’t resist a night out there...Angel kindly agreeing, for Willie’s sake, not to bother them in the place...

So that Willie could still pass along a useful bit or two...

After all “the Snitch” must keep in form...

I came in, gave Willie the surprised look I knew he wanted as I scanned the new place, and took the booth he indicated...

Angel came in a half-hour later...Sorry, I’m late, busy times...

“So...” he grinned... “I hear you’ve been pretty William these past years, Mr. Walthrop...”

Been keeping tabs on me, eh granddad...? I looked at him noncommitally...

“William the Bloody rates, wouldn’t you say?...” he smiled...

Besides Buffy...And Dawn...Were concerned about you after you left...

He hesitated...

“They told me all about that summer...And the year after...”

I’m proud of you, Will...

Lucky me...I looked at him...

“Thank Uncle Sam and modern electronics...”

“That’s not what Buffy says...” he noted, looking at me...

Oh...

“What does Buffy say?... “

That William has been trying...he looked at me...

That she’s sure there’s something human in there...

He paused...

“You know about the spell...That freed me from Angelis...?”

I heard...Talk of the underworld for all of fifteen minutes...

He grinned...Same old Spike...

“It could be done...On you...” he looked at me...

What?...I paused, trying to catch myself...

“What...Lose that razor edge ole Spike gives me?...”

“I’m serious, Will...” Angel hesitated...

Willie came up, all smiles...

I looked at the beer...Unpronounceable import...

“Getting dangerously trendy there, mate...” I grinned at him...

What next, ferns and a string quartet?...Willie winked and moved off...

I turned back to Angel...

“You don’t owe me anything, young Christ...” I smiled at him...

Buffy would like it...So would Dawn...he paused...

“And frankly I could use the extra help in my business...”

Well..If it’s a job you’re offering...That’s different...I smiled at him..

“A little demon-killing for cash would be right up my alley...”

In fact, I paused...That’s why I came back...Thought I could wangle a few bucks from you on a job or two...

Little short on dough just right now...

Angel pulled out a wallet, and plunked down a thousand...

“You’re hired as of tomorrow...” he grinned...

But...I hope you’ll think about the spell...

Well...I looked at him...Maybe I’ll think it over, I told him...

“And how’s about coming by the house?...It’s early...Buffy was hoping you’d come to dinner...”

You never did see the boy...he smiled...

And Dawn wants to see you too...
***
Buffy wants to see me...The words kept pulsing in my mind...

She wants to see me...But no...She’s got her Angel, her happy life...

She wants to rub my face in it...That’s what she wants...

And, maybe...Make sure I’m not here to ruin things for her...

Well...There’s nothing so enjoyable as making one’s old beloved twist slowly in the wind...

“Dinner?...Well, my social calendar does have an opening...”

And I’d like to see Ms. Nibs again...I nodded...

“Great...” my new boss beamed...

But, listening from the bar, ole Willie eyed me...

Carefully...
***
“Dru is my major focus right now...” Angel explained as we drove over to the old house...

I want to help her as quickly as possible...

Might have done a better job last time you had her...I didn’t say...

“I owe her that much...” Angel noted...

That goes without saying...I did not say...Nodding as we drove...

“But that means a return to LA...Full time for a while...” he paused...
Which is why...I really need your help, William...

“We’ve had good success here at the source...I don’t want to lose the momentum...”

Had no idea this was a football game, granddad...I thought...

***

I tried to psych myself for seeing her again...

No good of course...

“Buffy didn’t want to leave the old house...” Angel explained...

Maybe after Dawny finishes high school we’ll get another place...Or maybe when...he paused...

Waving at Dawn as she came out...

Running up to us...

“Hey Spike!...” she called...

“Hey...Little miss-can’t-pick-up-a-pen-to-write-her-old-babysitter...” I fake groused back...

She looked at her feet...

“I didn’t mean to take so long writing back, Will...”

No problem, Nibs...I grinned...

“Really...I...Just things were so...”

She stood in the door, looking out at us...

I let Dawn prattle on...Trying to apologize for being a teenager...

Watching her, while trying to keep my eyes on the Nibs...

Angel waved to her...

“Got him, Buf...”

She smiled faintly...And I knew...

Without a word...I knew...
Odd...The first thought that popped up...

Poor old Angel...
***

Connor properly presented, a handsome little prince, that...We sat down to dinner...

Dawn flooding me with attention, desperate to make amends...

Buffy quietly watching me...

Only animated when Angel brought up the spell again...

“You should consider it Will...” she told me...

You have a right to be...Free...She looked at me...

“Please...Think about it...”

Angel, clueless...Smiled at her...

“We’ll persuade him...” he told her...

I nodded...Well...

“If it can be done...And the chip wouldn’t interfere...”

I’ll think about it...

“The chip?...” Buffy looked at Angel...

“We’d check everything out first...” he assured her...

Of course...he paused, returning to me...It can’t be done successfully on every vampire...

“Else I’d be long out of a job...” he noted, grinning...

Many vamps have merged soul and demon...Given in to evil...And nothing can be done for them...

“The way that creep Mears would if he were ever a vamp...” Dawn noted...

And Dru?...I looked at him...

Her soul is pure...Angel noted sadly...Trapped in limbo...But...
“I don’t know what the effects of what I...What Angelis...Did to her...Before...”

“She’ll be grateful if you free her, honey...” Buffy told him...

Whatever state her soul is in...

I nodded...

“Still...” he sighed... “If I could try to give her the life she lost...Here...”

At least see if that’s what she wants...Let her choose...

“Angel has trouble seeing things in Slayer black and white...” Buffy smiled...

Demon or vamp...Slay...Human...Don’t slay...

“It’s not that easy these days, Buf...” Angel noted...

Yeah...she agreed...

And looked at me...

***
Angel was off to read his nightly story to Connor...Dawn attending...

Then bring me home to the old crypt...

To be replaced by a decent basement apartment asap he insisted...

I went to assist in the kitchen, carrying plates like a good guest trained in Victorian era manners...

“So...” Buffy eyed me...

Nice kid, Connor...I looked at her...

My heart pounding a 100 miles a minute...

“You’ll try the spell?...” she hesitated...

For you?...I paused...Yes...

“For yourself, Will...” she quickly dodged...

“Your ‘grandfather’...” she grinned... “Is quite concerned with you...”

And his wife...? I looked at her...

Cares...she nodded...

Always will...she looked away...

“Buffy...If things could be...Different...If...”

“It’s too late, Will...” she looked at me...Then at her hands...

Too late...

“I should have tried to help you back then...” she kept looking at her hands...

I didn’t have the courage...Or the faith in you...

And now...

“Angel is a good man...” she looked at me...

But...I returned...

She put up her hands...

I took one...She didn’t resist...For a mo...I held it in mine...

Then she pushed me away...Staring at me...

“Why did you have to come back?...” she whispered...

Trembling now...I could see...

“He’s never loved me...” she shook her head...

“When he first saw me, he saw the woman he’d been seeking all these years...”

“Darla...”

Hey, I was blonde...And fighting the good fight...

“So I filled in fairly well...”

I reached but she backed off...

“Then...Leave him...” I hissed... “I’ll try the bloody spell...We’ll go away...”
“I can’t...” she stared at me...

Dawn...And...

“I couldn’t bear trying to start all over again...With nothing...”

I stared at her...

“I’ve been dead...And I’ve been poor...And I’m tired, William...”

I can’t start from the bottom...Again...

I’m a coward, Will...Fundamentally...she looked at me...

Maybe it’s Death...Maybe, apart from the Slayer side...I always was...

I was afraid to try loving you then...I’m afraid to lose what I have now...

She put up her hands...

“I’m sorry...”

***

Of course, I should have left...Spit in her face, and left...Then and there...Humanity spell or no...

But...I rode home with Angel...Listened to his campaign plan for “Operation Dru”...Made my little suggestions...And promised to be in promptly at the office at ten...Courtesy a shielded car to be sent for me...

And I showed up promptly at ten at Angel Investigations, Sunnydale the next morning...

***

Tara greeted me...Advisor on things magic to the firm...

Sweet lady was glad to see I’d finally come...Home...

Yes, a real Joyce, that one...And equally perceptive...

“How’d you find Buffy and Dawn?...” she asked...

Watching me carefully, if sympathetically...

I mumbled some foolishness about how happy I was my dear girls were doing so well...
She eyed me...Tara Maclauy...No fool she...
***
My assignments were to be fairly routine...About what I’d always done, Patrol...Kill any demon or vamp lurking...Just with a few Rileyish extra tracking gadgets, a better car, and a few more surveillance-oriented tasks...

“Nothing you can’t handle, I’m sure...” Angel grinned at me as he concluded his briefing...

You lot have done a grand job here...I noted...

“Well, with your help, we’ll keep it that way...” Angel nodded...

“Are you looking forward to tramping the old LA stalking grounds?...” I asked pleasantly...

Soon...please...I thought...

“Well...LA has its charms...” Angel grinned...

“You’ve got to come down once Dru is settled and we can take a couple of days off...We’ll take Buf and Dawn and see the sights...”

Sounds grand...I replied...

“Well...Let me leave you with our staff to bring you up to speed on the Rileyware...”

He winked...

“Does come in handy sometimes...”

And then you have a chat with Tara on that spell...

“I’ll catch you both for a late lunch and maybe we can hunt up a new apartment for you...”

My caring gramps...

Poor fellow, I thought again...
***

Part II...

The spell was pretty straight-forward...

There should be no major problems in general, Tara felt...But, as always, she was hesitant about the overuse of magics...

And in my case, what with the chip and all...A full and thorough review of my status as well as the spell would be strongly recommended...

Demon-free...I thought in wonder...

And Buffy lost to me in any case...

About par for the course between the Powers That Be and William Soames Walthrop I’d say...

***
Granddad was pleased to hear at lunch that I’d agreed...Tentatively...To try it...

Another bit of annoying guilt removed...If it succeeded...

And dear Buffy would be very pleased for me...

So grateful to me for my amazing kindnesses last year...Sad that she could return so little...

And as for...

Well, Angel could understand my having come to love Buffy...

She was an easy woman to love...

And the Slayer held a fatal attraction for any vampire...Especially one like me, with a strong human soul fighting within...

We’d all be friends now...Fighting the good fight together...As we were meant to, he was sure...

Though of course, he was also sure a certain romantic poet would soon be reappearing in modern literary circles...

Nice to know your grampa has faith in you...

But Tara watched me...Sympathetically, of course...Her nature...But...Uncertain...

After lunch Angel took me over to a friend in the real estate business and I found myself quite well situated with a new apartment by early that evening...

Dawn, Angel winked as he dropped me off at the crypt...And Buffy...Would love it...

Redecoration and furnishing mode...I should prepare to bear up...Expect to spend the next several evenings at the Sunnydale Mall...

Just make sure they don’t do the place all in puffy clouds and pink...
***

And they were at my crypt...The very next evening...

Angel, wanting me to get acclimated, had me learning the ropes at the office, days for the first week...Next week...Patrol with him and Buffy...

A decent chance to get settled and fully review the demon-block spell...

Buffy seemed out of sorts...

She was a bit miffed Angel hadn’t brought you over for dinner the second night, Dawn explained...

“No reason for you to be alone here...” Buffy stared at the crypt walls, avoiding me...

Kind, Slayer...Thanks...I told her...

“Well...” Dawn grinned... “Now at least that we’ve got you...And Angel’s Visa...”

Let’s see your new place...And make up a list...

“We’ll make it as posh as your old place was...” Dawn teased...

Buffy stared at me...But smiled...

Yeah...It was quite a place...A dream bachelor pad, if I remember correctly...she eyed me...

“That it was...” I said...

“I never apologized...For trashing the place...” she noted...

“Anya told me later about the eggs...I am sorry, William...” she hastily added...

Didn’t know it was for me...Er, she looked briefly at Dawn...Us...Or that she and Xander were helping you...

And the eggs weren’t to be used...The way Riley thought...

No skin off my nose, Slayer...I smiled...And winked at Ms. Nibs...

However if the groundspeople at my old place ever find out...

“So...” Dawn grinned...

“William the Bloody, bright new star of Angel Investigations...”

Soon to be running the Sunnydale operation, I gather...she went on...

“Temporary, Nibs...” I cut in...

Just temporary...I eyed Buffy...Who looked back at me...

Dawn giggled a bit...Buffy?...

“Will will be your supervisor...When Angel leaves, right?...”

I think of all my employees as “co-workers”, Nibs...I teased...

Buffy smiled...

“I guess...I can deal...” she said...Her green eyes staring into mine...

***

After giving the place a thorough once-over, Dawn mapped a look that seemed a bit macho even by my standards...

I mean, danger of appearing poseurish there, I noted to her...

Besides, now that I have an actual place...Might be nice to have a few amenities like curtains, flowers...A decent sofa and coffee table for guests...

Writing desk...

Oh...Buffy looked at me...

As did the Nibs...

“You’re going to try writing?...Again?...” Buffy asked quietly...

Well...I sighed...It did get me into quite a load of trouble in the past, but...Yes...

In fact, I’ve been doing some since I left...

Trying to reconstruct what I’d lost when my crypt went skyward...

“I never...” Buffy paused...

We never...she corrected...Did ask you if you had written anything...Or kept anything from...Before...

A little...I noted...But it was mostly dust by then anyhow...

No masterpieces lost, I promise you...

“I’d like to read what you’ve got...” Dawn beamed at me...

Sometime...

“So would I....” Buffy looked at me...

Sometime...

***
After work on my third day, before another mammoth Mall spree, Dawn and Buffy picked me up and brought me down to the old shop...

Where Anya, Willow, and a very sheepish Xander greeted me...

I eyed him...

“Well, if it isn’t our wayward young groom...” I grinned...

Anya finally track you down?...

“About the size of it...” he admitted sheepishly...

Thank God...he added, beaming at her...She smiling gently at him...

“Don’t be hard on him, Will...Please...” she asked me...

Just letting him know what a fool he’d be to let you slip by again, I smiled at her...

And saw Buffy nervously rubbing her hands...Jerking her head to stare at me...

So...Willow beamed at me...

“William the no-demon...No longer Bloody...In a few days...” she grinned...

Tara frowning at her...

She looked sheepishly back...Come on, sweetie...I been good...

“I’m a nag sometimes...” Tara cheerfully admitted...
Never, honey...Willow replied, winking at me...

“But...Will...” Willow came over to me...

“Humanity...Or at least demon-freedom...?”

Couldn’t come to a nicer guy...

“And this from one who was nearly on your dinner menu...” she teased...

***
Buffy watched rather anxiously as Tara did a few checks on me...The purpose really of my little reunion party...

Willow non-magically advising her, following the spell instructions...

Well...Tara looked at me...And beamed...

“I think...It’s a go...”

I can’t see any way the chip would prevent the spell from working...

Buffy went over to her as the others came by to congratulate me...

“No...” I heard Tara say... “I can’t say as to that...”

But we’ll know in a day or so...

I looked over...Buffy had turned away from Tara and Tara...Was watching her...

Carefully...

But Dawn, bless her, is part of Buffy...And asked the question that I instinctively knew was the one Buffy had asked...

“Will he be different...After this?...” she asked Willow...

Well...Willow looked at me...

Less of a pain in the ass when his chip frazzles...I’d say...she grinned...

But...Honestly...She looked at me...

I can’t say exactly what the effect will be...

“But I’m sure our Will will come through intact...” she grinned at me...

So...I thought...Looking over at Buffy...

That’s it...
***
Now I knew why my two dear friends were both so anxious...Each in their own way...To ‘rescue’ their old friend...

Perhaps a little less consciously on Angel’s part than Buffy’s...

If the spell worked as they each to some extent hoped...Ole Spikey would be gone, and William...

Might be a very different fellow without him...

I was to be murdered...With the greatest of love and affection...And for my own good...

And a troublesome little item from their past...Painlessly eliminated...

So they hoped...Each in their own way...

Buffy...I was sure...With far greater consciousness of what she was hoping for...

But...Why not...

After all, “Suicide is Painless” as the old MASH theme goes...

And if it might kill the pain burning in me...And the thoughts spinning round my century-plus old brain...

I agreed to go ahead...
***
Part III...


The departure of poor ole Spike was rather...Unspectacular...

The next day I left the office with Angel and Tara at noon and we went to the shop...

Buffy was there with Anya watching, Willow in from college just after we arrived...

It was all over in a few minutes...

Buffy...And Angel watching me carefully...

“How do you feel?...” Tara asked me gently...

I shook my head...Not a whit different...

Is it really over?...

“Sorry there couldn’t be more fireworks...” she grinned...

But...Congratulations...And farewell Spike...

But...I told her...I still feel that old blood desire...

Natural in a vampiral body...Tara smiled...But, do you want to kill?

“Only the fellow who cut us off in traffic coming over here...” I grinned...

Sounds like your typical human to me...she smiled back...

“Three cheers for William Soames Walthrop!!!...” Willow cried...Tears in her eyes for me...

As there were in Anya’s, hell even Xander’s...

And Buffy’s...But I knew there was an additional reason besides sheer joy for me in her case...

“Well, William...Welcome home...For good...” Angel came over and shook my hand...As did old Harris...
***

No, Nibs...No difference that I can tell...I told Dawn as she asked me for the fourth time that evening...

A little family party...To celebrate...

“It’s strange...” I told Tara...

“I haven’t wanted to kill for sometime after all...Haven’t been able to, thanks to the chip...”

Humans, that is...

But...I confessed...When I thought the chip had failed, earlier...After Buffy came back...

I tried...

Tara nodded...

“But now...I don’t think I’d even try...At least not without a reason...”

That’s the only difference...

Vive la difference...Tara noted...

“From our pov, Will...Preety big difference...”

“I almost feel sorry...” Buffy blurted out...

For Spike...she explained...

“He...Couldn’t help what he was...And now...”

If it’s any comfort...I smiled at her...

Screw him...The little mass murderer...

She looked at me...

“Sorry, Will...I wasn’t thinking...”

I should have realized...It must have been Hell for you...All these years...

“Not since I had...All of you...” I looked at her...

She smiled at me...Gratefully...

I frowned at her...Can’t you see...I haven’t changed...

I hadn’t had a moment alone with her...

I had to make her see...Will...I...Had always been the one who loved her...

Whatever vague contribution poor ole Spike had made...

But she was avoiding any moments alone...

***
Until late that night...When she showed at my place...Having arranged to take the east half of town while he covered the other...

I let her in...Knowing who it was the moment she knocked...

She stood in the middle of my new living room...Waiting for me to ask her to sit...Or maybe more...

I just glared at her...

With all the self-righteousness of any newly demon-freed human-souled vampire...

Hell, I should develop my brood...I thought...

“Angel’s not a complete fool, you know...And he knows I love...Loved you...” I told her...

“Am I supposed to believe you came back here for the pleasure of working for Angel?...” Buffy glared at me...

I needed cash...And a job...I came where I figured I could get one or the other...Or both...I looked at her...

“Why the hell are you here?...” I glared again...

“You...Are the same, aren’t you?...” she looked at me...Something in her eyes killing my desire to hurt her...To kill her in ways old Spike would’ve been shocked at...

Welcome back to Humanity, William...I congratulated myself...

“If you mean...Are you still kicking me apart inside...?” I stared at her...

Yes...I still love you...I don’t feel the slightest bit different...

“Thank God!!...” she burst into violent tears and ran to me...

“I was so...Afraid...I couldn’t do...Anything...To stop it...But...I was so afraid...I’d lost you...” she sobbed...Kissing me...

***
Two weeks after our marriage...I tried to leave him...Buffy looked at me...

Sitting on my new sofa...A Dawn choice...

I’d realized...And I tried...she went on...

Dawn wouldn’t come with me...she looked down at her feet...

She wouldn’t give up her new family...

“I don’t know what those...Monks...Did to me...” she paused...

But I can’t give Dawny up...I tried...I tried to leave...I did leave...

For a couple of days...

It was agony...I couldn’t bear it...

Then...Dear Angel came after me...To rescue poor dead Buffy from herself...

Liam, you see...Is still a very traditional kind of husband...

He pointed out to me...In the middle of being very kind, very comforting, very reassuring...That while I was well provided for in his will...

We weren’t legally married per se...

I started...What?...

“Common-law thing...To avoid questions regarding Angel’s past...” Buffy noted...

Birth certificates, etc, etc...

And then...She laughed bitterly...

To top it off...

My dear old friends got involved...

See...Naturally...To run like this...From the “love of my life”...Poor Buffy must be crazy...

Poor ole dead Buffy...she smirked...

Angel explained it to them...I needed to be “helped”...Protected from myself...

They knew how depressed I was before...And after you left...Well...

Lets just say...I was a leetle crazy at times...

Willow and Xander had caught me trying to let a demon rip my throat open...A couple of months before my heroic Angel came to save me...

A couple of weeks after you left...she stared at me...

So...

“Not want to be with the “love of her life”...She must still be crazy...”
And they all supported him in having me declared...Mentally incompetent...

I stared at her...

All of them...

“Guess they thought it was for the best...”

And Angel is a true blue hero...Who better, especially with Dawny supporting him, to protect me...?

From my resurrection depressed self...

“But...This isn’t...Well...” I paused...

1880...

“You could leave, get legal counsel...Overturn the court’s decision...”

I told you I can’t lose Dawn...I can’t break the hold...Not that way...she looked at me...

And I’d lose everything else as well...

Including my mother’s house...My house...

Angel would have charge of anything left from my mom...In trust for Dawn, with power of attorney...

I’d be lucky to avoid spending the rest of my life in a mental institution...

And without Dawn...Thanks to the bastards who killed my mom, I’m sure...I probably would go crazy...she finished...

***

I spent the rest of the time we had that night trying to suggest...Something...

Tara...Breaking whatever hold Dawn had over her...

“Dawn is part of me...” Buffy noted...

According to what I could find out...What Giles could learn...The hold can’t be broken...Until...

“Until you or she dies?...” I looked at her...

Or...There’s another part of me to hold me to it out there...

A child...She explained...

If I had a child, I’d be able to fight the hold Dawn has...The link would be weakened...

I looked at her...

Not bad news from my pov...Even if there might have to be a sperm donor owing to genetic difficulties...

But...she hesitated...Even then...I’d still have nothing...

And, except maybe for Tara...My sister and all my friends would back Angel up...

Crazy Buffy must be prevented from hurting herself...

There must be a way...I looked at her...

She looked at her hands...

“I was hoping...Praying that you’d be different after the spell...”

You’re my last chance, after all...

So...I made a deal with the Powers That Be...If you were different, I’d do nothing...Accept my life and bear up...Somehow...

But...If...

“Do you still love me William?...” she looked at me...

“More than ever, Buffy...”

“Are you willing to prove it?...” she stared deep into me...

Buffy...I would die for you...But...

“But...” she sighed, bitterly...

“Everyone would die for me...But...”

There must be a way besides...That...We could leave, I could find a way...

As for Dawny’s hold on you...We can start breaking that...Right now...

“He’ll stop me...They’ll all stop me...Killing me with kindness...” she paused...

And I can’t bear the thought of the life we’d lead...

I saved the world...A lot...she smiled at me...God knows I deserve a break...

Not a life of barely scraping by, hiding forever...Running from the family and friends who want to “help” me by putting me away...

And...If you helped me get away somehow...Angel would convince himself that you were Spike again...

He’d kill you...

“With the most generous intentions, of course...” she smiled at me...

“Give me a chance...” I told her...

Let me try my way...First we break Dawny’s grip...Then...

She looked at me, pausing...

“I love you...And I will do anything to be with you...” she said...Sighing...

I failed you once, William...

I won’t fail you again...

We’ll...Try your way...First...she kissed me...And I held her...

Until she had to leave...

***

Part IV

Angel was naturally buoyed up by the second successful use of the demon-blocking spell...

And more anxious than ever to move on “Operation Dru”...

Though Tara, Buffy...And I...Had misgivings...

What if Dru’s pure soul was freed...And came to full awareness...In that horror of a body?...

Surely it was kinder to just stake the vamp and let the soul finally find peace...
But Angel remembered the young nun his counterpart had killed...Her compassion and love for all in the world...Even a vicious beast like Angelis...

She might want her chance to help the suffering again...Or at least to experience a life before her just reward in Heaven...

She deserved the right to choose...He could after all, give her peace immediately afterward if she requested it...

***

After being back in town for a few days...I could see that what Buffy had told me was probably true...

It was clear from the way the others kept tabs on her that they were concerned about her condition...And that she was obliged to report...At least to someone...On where and when she’d be about during the day...

While her loving “common-law” husband watched over her on Patrol at night...

Hell couldn’t be worse than this...

I confronted Tara about it at the beginning of the second week...The first night I was to work with Buffy and Angel on Patrol...

She was evasive...Unusual for her...

Clearly she didn’t care for strait-jacketing a fellow woman in even the most loving of restraints and surveillance...And yet...

Buffy had tried to kill herself, she acknowledged...Several times on Patrol...Once just after I’d left as Buf had told me herself...And a couple of times early in her marriage...

And if she disapproved of the regimen Angel had set up to “safeguard” his beloved wife...Hated adding her voice to the others in support of Angel’s petition on Buffy’s mental competence...She had to admit there had seemed no other way...

And Buffy had seemed to be settling down, becoming content with her new life...The old depression lifting a tad perhaps...Angel promising to relax things as she improved...

Until I came back...When her agitation had gone through the roof again...For a mo, then oddly, a kind of quiet had descended on her...

A quiet that made Tara even more nervous...

As regards Dawn’s hold on her sister...I had to be cautious...Not wishing to reveal that Buffy was the source of my info...

Simply asking if Buf still seemed as obsessed with Dawny as during the Glory battle...Not having been around in the past year and all...

Well...The sisters were very attached to one another...And everyone, even a certain blonde vampire Tara amusedly noted, had had powerful protective drives towards Dawn in the past...

But...Why was I asking?...Had Buffy mentioned any problems?...

She’d told me there was still an unusually powerful bond between them, at least on her part, I said...That she suspected it was an aftereffect of the monks’ work...And, noting the gang’s careful watch over Buffy, I was simply wondering if that was part of the problem...

Giles...Tara paused...Told me Dawn had a link to Buffy that was potentially crippling...For both sisters...He hoped it would dissipate over time, thought it might fade as Dawn grew older and almost certainly would as Buffy began a new family uniquely her own...

Fortunately Angel was aware of the situation and in time...

Connor would need siblings, after all...

Good, I told her...I just was concerned...

Was Buffy unhappy about the situation?...Tara looked at me...

She knew it was oppressive but...

“I’m hardly in the know on that, Tara...” I smiled...But, I noted...Now that I’m back, I will join in watching her...For any signs of trouble...

Dutiful family friend and former lover that I was...
***

Angel generally Patrolled with me that week...Mostly quiet, rather dull...Sunnydale at peace generally...

Talking about old times...poor Darla, his son, and his hopes for the future...His son’s future...

I noticed Buf did not seem to figure much in these plans...Though he did briefly mention one night that he had been concerned for her at first...That he hoped she would continue to make progress towards regaining her old joy of life...

“It’s nice to have you around as a friend, Will...” he noted at the end of that night’s walk and talk...

Someone who knows Buf...Almost as well as I do...And who cares about her...

She needs people around who care...And will keep an eye on her...

While I’m away...

If I didn’t know better, I thought...Looking at ole granddad...

I’d have said Angelis was playing cat-and-mouse with us...

But...Could it be?...Something in him is trying to push us together?...

And get him out of this...?

Buffy may not be the only one who’s found themselves in a strait-jacket...

Poor fellow...

***

The last night of that second week I patrolled with Buffy...

We hadn’t seen each other alone since that other night...

She was careful to make a fast sweep...Old habits of duty...

Then we headed for my place...Watching carefully for any operatives of Angel’s...Or any of the old gang...

“I haven’t felt like this...Since...” she told me afterwards...Holding me gently...

I know, I told her...

He’ll be leaving for LA soon...She looked at me...

Now that you’re up to speed...

I looked at her...

“He seems...Almost anxious to throw us together...” I noted...

He’s unhappy too...she looked away...

But...Duty will never allow him to admit it...

The same duty will make him keep me on a leash for the rest of my life...she continued...

“Then...Lets talk to him...” I said...

Like adults...With an adult problem...

“He wouldn’t understand...” she looked at me...

I have tried to talk to him...

“He’s very kind...But he is an 18th century man...With a son...And I am now the mother of that son...”

The mentally incompetent mother of that son...she noted bitterly...

“It will work out...I’ve been through a terrible ordeal and I just need time...That’s his stock answer...”

He is right about the ordeal, I noted...

Yeah...she sighed...Rolling towards me...

But where was he during that ordeal?...

“You didn’t have to marry him...” I told her...

Which brought her up short...

“It was him...Or the guy tending grill at Doublemeat...Or maybe, even...Warren Mears...” she looked at me...Angrily...

And sighed....

“I couldn’t go on alone...And when he showed up, at last...And told me he was ready to be with me...”

It seemed like finally...Some light breaking through...And I was so desperate for a little light...

“I’m not blaming you, Buffy...” I said...

But we have to do something...

“You said to let you try your way...” she reminded me...
That’s what I’m doing...she noted...

I told her what I’d learned to date from Tara and other sources...Regarding Dawn and her link to her...

The monks had almost certainly never expected Dawn to survive beyond a short time...

If Glory failed, they’d figured they or the Knights would then return the Key to its original form as pure energy...

They hadn’t counted on all of them being slaughtered first...

So...We were left with two options...At least for now...

Destroy Dawn and the link...Unthinkable...

Or weaken the link in the way Buffy had already been told...

She raised on one elbow, grinning...

“A pleasant solution...If we could do it...”

I will keep looking for alternatives...I told her...

Maybe offering Dawn a hefty shopping spree at the Mall if she comes with us would be one...I teased...

Buffy smiled...Well...But as to solution number one...

“I’d like to have your baby, William...If we can have one...”

We’ll know soon...I told her...I’ve had my little check-up...

“Even that’s no guarantee...” she noted...Frowning again...

And you know what the alternative is...

My carrying someone else’s child...

“If it was the first step that freed you and brought us together....I could live with it...” I told her...

If it were...Angel’s?...she looked at me...

“He is my husband...” she noted, avoiding my stare...

I see...Well, then things should work out well for you...I told her...

She left after that...In a rage...

***

But after a brief Patrol the next night...After Angel had left for LA on his Druquest...And I “took charge” at AI, Sunnydale...Under Tara’s, Buffy’s...And part-time researcher Willow’s careful guidance...

She came home with me...

Like old times, I thought...

And is she still using me?...I wondered...

***
He came back a few days later...Earlier than expected...

Rather weary and battered...

Dru was still Dru...And had handled him and his men rather hardily...

But...He’d pinpointed her general location...And avoided letting her know she was the specific object of the hunt...

Now however, to complete the job...He’d need backup...Just for a night or two...One all-out push to end his last major task of atonement...

And...Sunnydale could spare us for a night or two, given the old and tested gang’s presence...And the Angel Investigations team...

Buffy was quiet on the trip to LA...But I knew what she was thinking...

Angel, her, me...Up against the mighty if psychotic Drusilla...

Not too difficult to imagine one of us not making it back...

***

Part V...


Angel had arranged for Wesley, now his LA chief of operations, to meet us...Along with additional help...And one very special aide...
Rupert Giles...Whom Buffy greeted with joy...And a hair of what only I knew was shame and guilt...

“I thought we should have the best for this one...” Angel noted...

Called in old Rupert...The one person whose presence must nix any chance of Buffy’s committing the act of betrayal I knew she was contemplating...

The same thought I’d had the other night crossed my mind...

Cat-and-mouse?...Or at least, an unconscious awareness of what’s going on with his wife and me...

***

In our meeting at the LA office before proceeding, Angel gave us the outlines of the plan...

The LA staff would seal off the tunnels of the local sewer area where Dru nested in the remaining daylight hours...

They’d been monitoring the area since Angel’s last near disastrous clash with her...

The rest of us would penetrate the tunnels, armed with crossbows, stakes, and tranquillizer guns...

Angel still wanted to try the blocking spell...But for that he’d need to get in physical contact range...

And Giles was actually the most experienced person with the spell...Having personally developed it from the old curse at the Council during his return to England...

Though in any case, Angel would keep him well back until needed, he explained to an anxious Buffy...

Having reviewed the plan, we broke up for a little buffet dinner while the staff people chosen moved to help secure the tunnel exits before sunset...We to follow as soon as the sun allowed...

Giles greeted me as we stood around...

“William, I understand congratulations are in order...” he looked at me...

“Apparently thanks to your work, Rupert...” I smiled...

And...How do you find it with Spike gone?...he paused...

I shook my head...No different for the most part...

“But then the chip had been holding old Spike down for some time...” I noted...

And...How do you find...Our Buffy?...

“Resurrection becomes her...” I smiled...Looking over at her where she was watching us while talking to Wesley...

We moved a bit away from the others...He obviously wanted to talk...

You should have stayed, Rupert...I told him quietly...

“Perhaps...” he sighed... “But Buffy had to stand on her own, especially after this...Experience...”

At least...She seems more content now...he eyed me...Carefully...

“I know...William...That Fate and the Powers That Be have given you a very unfair turn over the past century...” he began...

But don’t make things harder for her...he stared at me...

That’s not what I’m here for...I told him...

“Well...” Giles paused, looking at me keenly... “One never knows how things may unfold...”

Think of Buffy, whatever you do, Will...

Buffy called to him..
.
He patted my shoulder and headed over to his “daughter”...

After all...A devoted father only sees the best in his little girl...
***

After sunset, we went over in two cars...

Angel took the lead, entering us through the tunnel exit nearest to Dru’s lair...

He turned to me once inside...

“Sense her?...”

I hadn’t been sure if I still could...But the good old vamp body knew its mother still...

“She’s in there...Straight ahead...”

A glance at the Rileyware thermal tracker confirmed that a vampire was near...

Buffy stood by Giles, urging him to take care...And called the same warning to me as I followed Angel...

It was not lost on me...Or Giles...That she hadn’t called a similar warning to Angel...

But then he’d been hurrying on ahead...

She moved in after me, keeping a close eye on Giles and his escort of Wesley and several heavily armed men...

***

Dru was aware of us of course as soon if not sooner as we were of her...

And moved skillfully against us...Making use of her knowledge of the tunnels to pick off our support people at any unguarded moment...

But...The exits were too heavily defended...Even for her...And sealed with magics...

In the end, she had to fall back...Deep into the system...And knew, as we did...That the end for her was drawing near...

My poor frightened Dru...I looked at Angel and could see the same thought was crossing his mind as well...

Poor lamb...She doesn’t deserve this...

“It will all be over soon, Will...” he told me sympathetically as we pressed deeper...

And she will be at peace...One way or another...

A kind fellow, my former grandsire...

***

Buffy had swung to the left, entering a broad tunnel which would converge and meet with the one Angel and I were entering...Dru down there, no doubt...And cornered...

Angel watching her as she rushed down...

“She’ll be fine...” I told him...Give her her chance to strut a little...
He nodded...

“Is nice to see her so eager...She’s been a little off these past months...”

I looked back...

“We’d better get Giles up here if we going to do this...”

He called back to the others moving up...Too much interference...

Angel peered down the tunnel in front of us...

“I’ll head down in case Buffy needs help...” I told him...

You grab Giles and bring him down here...Your men know you better...

“No need for me to be crossbowed by a trigger-happy sentry...” I grinned...

He looked at me and nodded...

I raced down towards Buffy...And dear old Mum..
***

In the chamber formed by the converging tunnels...I found them...

Buffy had raced on into Dru’s waiting arms...

Either to kill...Or be killed...

A solution, in any case...

I broke her grip on Buffy...Who staggered back...

Dru smashed me back and I fell...But...She halted, shocked...

Not so much by me being there...As by...What she sensed...Or, rather...Could no longer sense...

“Spike...?”

Dru stared at me...No...Not...

“You?...” she was trembling...

Hello, dear heart...I smiled at her...

You...You’re not my Spike!...she stared in terror at me...

The Bad One...she whispered...

Angel entered...

Giles is coming, he called to me...

“Dru...” he called quietly...

Oh...Father...she whimpered...Looking at him...Then twisting away in despair...

Help me...

A demon’s prayer...

I came towards her...

“No!...” she backed off...

Angel waved me back...

Buffy came over to me...And looked behind us...

“Please...” Dru pleaded... Turning to Angel...A last fear-driven moment of lucidity...

“You killed me Angel...Don’t hurt poor Dru now...”

“I’m here to help you, Dru...” he told her quietly...

No!!!...she screamed...And looked at Buffy...Sensing...

“You know...You want to be free, like poor Dru does...You...”

She paused...Suddenly smiling at us...Buffy and me...

“You hate him...” she grinned...

Poor Angel...she looked at him...And turned back at us...

“You help me and I’ll help you...” she smiled...And jumped at Angel...

I moved towards him but she caught him by surprise and he was down...

But I saw the look in his eyes when Buffy stood motionless as Dru charged at him...
I had to imagine the look she gave him...

Dru smashed at him as I jumped her...She tossed me off...

Buffy staring at me...

I looked at her...And hesitated...

Dru grinned and picked up Angel like a rag doll...

We heard the shout of the men coming down the tunnel, Giles among them...I could hear snatches of the spell as he called out the preliminary stages...

Dru smashed Angel against a wall...Buffy watching...Tears starting down her face...I stared...

“Forgive me...” Buffy whispered...Forgive me...

I ran towards Dru...But I could’ve run faster...

Giles and the others came in and I pulled Angel away from her...

Buffy raced up to us...

Angel was unconscious...And clearly in a bad way...But I knew he’d recover...

Vampire physiology...

Giles eyed us but focused on the trapped Dru...Now screaming incoherently at us...

Fortunate for Buffy and me...

The LA staff called for medical help as Giles read through the spell, finally touching the squirming, desperate Dru with the amulet used to complete the process...She sighed, relaxed, and collapsed, unconscious and trembling...

Buffy, kneeling by Angel, looked up at me...Trembling more than Dru had...

I helped her carry him up and out of the chamber as Giles tended to poor Dru...

“Dru knows...” Buffy whispered...As we carried her husband quickly back towards the staff in the outer tunnels...

“Giles suspects...” I whispered back, coldly...

I...I didn’t want to...Buffy looked at me...It all just...
“We did what we did...” I told her...

But...If Dru talks...

What if he dies?...Buffy looked at him...

Now...She looked at me...

“No...” I said firmly...If he dies now...

Angel groaned...

Buffy sobbed, watching him writhe in pain, as we carried him...

Odd, I thought...

Her tears for him were sincere...

But...I guess a Slayer learns to compartmentalize her emotions...
***

Part VI...
***

We got Angel back to his office and after it was clear he would be unconscious for a while we loaded him up with pain-killers and transported him home to Sunnydale...

Where his loving wife took charge of his care...

Giles stayed to tend to the still unconscious, now demon-blocked Drusilla...A makeshift quarters set up for her in the LA-AI building basement...

I went back to LA check to on her progress the following evening...Nothing unusual in that...The victim who’d sensed her pure soul in flashes anxious to bring closure to the story...

And to learn if she had begun to make sense regarding Buffy and me in her babblings...Which were continuing, Giles had told me over the phone, even in her current state...

Buffy arranging to keep Angel properly sedated until I had had a chance to learn what Dru remembered if anything...And what she’d spilled in her delirium...

As for what he remembered...We’d deal with one thing at a time...

She was apologetic when we found a moment alone in the house...Just before I left to check on my dear old vamp “mum”...
“I shouldn’t have...I should have let you do it your way, Spike...”

“You didn’t do anything, really, Buffy...” I looked at her...

No...she looked at her hands...I didn’t do...Anything...

Her eyes teared up again...

“I didn’t want him...To see me...The way I looked at him...When I thought...”

You’d better hope he didn’t...I told her coldly...Or at least doesn’t remember if he did...

“I didn’t want him to see me hating him...But...”

You never should have let it get this bad, Buf...

She stared at me...Something of the look she gave him that night in her eyes I knew...

***

Dru regained consciousness, after a fashion, while I was there...At her bedside...

Looking at us with no recognition...Mumbling vaguely...

Demon-free...But as lost as ever...

Angelis had done a through job before killing her, I noted to Giles...

Who watched her with me, sadly...

“Is there...Anything...We can do...?” I asked him...

The dutiful Victorian son, that’s me...

“I hate to see her go on like this...” I told him...

He shrugged...Perhaps in time...She’d make progress...

And learn what a first-rate homicidal maniac she’d become over the past century...

I looked at him...

“Angel made me promise to try the spell...” he noted... “And I did...”

But I suspected this would be the result...

He sighed...And gently kissed the trembling Dru’s shaking hand...

Well...

“As I said...One never knows how these things will unfold...”

I sat by her bedside, holding her trembling hand as she fought with the terrors dear Angelis had created for her...

My poor innocent Dru...

But a profound sense of relief coursed through me...

***
A similar sense had eased Buffy’s torments...Angel had regained consciousness...

But had little or no memory of what had happened that night...Even in a vampire, a fractured skill is a fractured skull...

However he was relieved to learn “Operation Dru” had been a success...At least from his pov...

And he wanted Dru to come “home”...Intact...To Sunnydale...Where she could be cared for properly by a new and loving family...

I suspected Giles did not approve of keeping her in her present state but he deferred to Angel...Who insisted on her preservation...

Dru might, with good care, one day recover, after all...he argued...

It was his...Duty...To care for her until then...

Father Angel, knowing what’s best...Extending his kindly paternal mantle over us all...

Buffy and I naturally took over full Patrol duty for Sunnydale while Angel convalesced...

For us, at least...That week...Free of the burden of fear that had weighed on us since that night...Was the happiest, most carefree time we’ve ever had...

Buffy agreeing that we’d been insane to try that way...We’d find another way in time...Breaking the Dawn stranglehold and making a decent life for ourselves...Keeping the pain for all, even him...To the minimum...

Until then...She was content...

And I...Could deal...
***
But...At the beginning of the following week, as an invited dinner guest, I came in on a little family spat...Buffy and the nearly fully recovered Angel alone in the house...

He wanted Dru home...In Sunnydale...

Here..

Dru had a soul again alright but...Needed constant care...And who better to provide it then her “father” of sorts...

He couldn’t abandon the poor thing...To some institution where she’d be alone and little doubt, exposed to sunlight the first day...

Buffy had different ideas...Well suspecting just who the burden of dear little Dru’s care would be falling on...
.
They were not at their best as happy couple when I came in...Perhaps abusing my status as welcome guest by not knocking loudly enough on my entry...

But after all, I wasn’t alone...Tara had come as well...So it wasn’t eavesdropping...

Not really...

Buffy was shrieking at Angel...

“You’re not bringing her here!!!”...

“Buffy...” Angel was cold...And firm... “Dru is my responsibility...That makes her your responsibility, too...”

She trembled with rage...But got hold of herself as Tara and I came in...

“Hi...Guys...” she tried to smile at us...Coming out to greet us in the living room

This isn’t settled, Angel...she told him as he went upstairs...

Tara looked at me...I at her...

Well...Buffy again tried to smile at us, waving us to a seat on the sofa...

“You two seem to be spending a fair amount of time together...”

***
He came down, smiling as always...And we sat down to dinner...
Tara and I carefully avoiding the subject of Dru as we ate...

“Nibs out for the evening?...” I asked...

At Janice’s...Buffy informed me...

“Not that I approve of her...” she glared at Angel...

Dawny needs friends her own age, Buffy...Angel calmly replied...

“You have no right to go back on things I’ve told her to do...Or not to do...” she told him coldly...

Even if you have had me legally declared a feeble-minded child...Like...

“That’s enough, Buffy...” Angel told her quietly...

Dru doesn’t deserve to be talked about that way...

But I do?...she stared at him...Quiet rage...

“If you act like a child...Yes...” he stared back...

Dru can’t help herself...You can...

You said you’d get the decree on me reversed, she told him...

“When I feel you’re ready...” he told her coldly...

“I am not spending my life treated like a child and caring for your past mistakes on hand and foot!!....” she told him...

He got up, excusing himself...

“Buffy...” He eyed her... “Is upset...”

I’m sure she’ll be better in a bit...I’m sorry...

“It’s been nice...I’ll leave you to have a little chat time with her...See you tomorrow at the office...”

She glared at him...As he left...To go upstairs...

Story time for the little prince Connor...And even a furious Angel is a dutiful Angel...

Be interesting to hear tonight’s story I couldn’t resist whispering to Tara...Who slyly grinned back at me...Then remembered to frown at my bad behavior...

Tara made her excuses and left shortly after...Wordlessly hoping I’d say something to her...Calm her down...

I waited...

“So...” Buffy looked at me, off-hand...Bitterly...

“So...That’s my life...From now on...”

Caring for his crazy, dead “daughter”...

For the rest of my life...

She slammed a hand on the kitchen wall...

I stared silently...

Tough for me, eh...she nodded at me...

You can walk now...Buffy’s life is...Settled...

I kept staring...

“You do have a stake here, William...” she glared at me suddenly...

“I’m pregnant...” she eyed me...

And it’s not Angel’s...Though I was ready to tell him so...Until...

I stared at her...Until she decided she needed me to help her out of her little nursing care job...

She shrugged...

“I suppose you don’t believe me...”

I got up...Glaring back...

“I believe you...And I believe you wouldn’t have told me unless you needed me...”

That was always your way, Buffy...No sacrifice is too much for those who serve the Slayer...

In any capacity...

“Anya’s the only one who ever saw though your act...”

‘Oh my dear little friends, I wouldn’t put your worthless lives at risk for the world, but my precious ass is at risk and I need something to throw at my latest enemy...’ I sneered...

So...She stared back at me...

“I get my chance to break with Dawn at last...”

Your way...she reminded me...

What we hoped for...

But...Now...

“Now...He’ll never let me go...”

And...She looked at me...

“He knows...About what really happened in LA...”

I stared at her...She nodded...

He remembers...But...He’s...Forgiven me...

It’s his nature...She noted...

I went to her...Realizing...

“That’s why...I was going to say...” she looked at me...

That the baby was his...

Otherwise...

“He’d kill me...” I finished looking at her...

Or his people would...

Spike...she corrected...He’d never kill William, only Spike...

You’d just be the innocent bystander he’d had to take out at the same time...

Clearly the spell having failed...You...Spike...Having led me on to these awful acts...
she noted...
As for me...Crazy Buffy...In my current certified unbalanced state...

I’d be forgiven...Again...

To continue my happy life with the one I love...Forever...

“I didn’t understand, Buffy...” I told her...

She nodded, tears in her eyes...

I’m not afraid of him...I went on...She put a hand over my mouth...

“I am...” she whispered...

“I said I wouldn’t fail you, William...Not again...”

And I won’t lose you...Whatever price I have to pay...

“You asked me...” I hesitated...

If I loved you...If I would prove it...

She stared at me...

“I’m ready to prove it...” I looked at her...
***

Part VII...
***

After what Buffy had told me, I was surprised, I told her, to find I’d still been in the Brooding One’s good graces...

That he hadn’t staked me then and there in the house...Still treating me as a good friend, loyal employee...Dutiful grandson...

Unless he was a much better actor than I’d ever given him credit for...And simply not willing to disturb Tara...

She explained...She’d taken it...The LA incident...All on herself...

After all, I’d helped him in the chamber against Dru...Pulled her away from him...If perhaps with a tad less of my usual speed...

He had no reason to doubt me...
It had simply been her...Frustration coming to the fore...She’d been furious over the competency thing and it had surfaced at a bad moment...

A moment of hesitation and anger for which she naturally would suffer intense regret for the rest of her life...

But...He was Angel...And Angel understood...Forgave...

Without hesitation...

Although...He now firmly expected her to do his duty by Dru...

And...It was likely he’d be keeping a stricter eye on her from now on...

Just in case poor Crazy Buffy tried something foolish...

Like...an attempt at suicide again...Or...Maybe even...Turning to dear old William for a little comfort...In a fit of aberration, of course...

Recklessly encouraging his poor romantic “grandson” in his hopeless dreams of attaining her...

But Angel’d be there...With his careful love and support...

To see that she did nothing to jeopardize her happiness...Or mine...

Our guardian Angel...
***
But...As we stood in the kitchen...In spite of everything...I couldn’t repress the joy...

A baby...My baby...

Our child...

And sorrowful as she was under the current circumstances...I could see...

She rejoiced with me...And for me...

We hugged each other...Joy shining in our eyes...And for a moment...Neither of us cared...

Not for Angel...Or anything he or the others might do to us...

Our baby...Our child...

Our miracle...
***
I could of course have tried to pretend that it was for the best for him as well as us...

He was as anxious to be out of the marriage in his own way as Buffy was, we knew...And just as trapped...By his duty and his ego...

And we’d be sending him to join his true love...Darla...

But neither of us could quite bring ourselves to that level of dishonesty...

We were going to kill him...For each other...For our child...

And for his money, his property, and what little that rightly belonged to her...

There was no point in trying to pretend...

Just the usual...Human...Motives...
***
But there were practical matters to consider...We couldn’t act rashly as we had in LA...

Another failure would not go ignored...

It had to be done right...And carefully...This time...

But it wouldn’t look careful or “done right”...To be successful, it couldn’t...

It had to look careless, sloppy...Nothing that a William the Bloody would ever be willing to take credit for...

Nothing grandiose...

A simple, messy, tragically meaningless accident...With plenty of loose ends, nothing nice and neat...

The sort of thing that happens to human-souled creatures...Like us...Every day...

***

Part VIII...

It caught me by surprise...And joy, I must say...When Buffy was angered by my insistence that she tell Angel and the others her wonderful news...

That she and Angel had been blessed with a second miracle all their own...

The first step in what would be a happy reconcilation...And another factor explaining her recent unfortunate lapse in LA...

“You want me to tell everyone...That this is not our child...Your child?...” she glared at me...

Despite knowing what the consequences would be...But I understood...She wanted me to fight a little for our child...For her...Even if it in the end it couldn’t be and we had to face facts...

“I want to tell everyone, Buffy...But we both know what would happen...”

All that matters is that we know...And that, in the end, we’re together...With the baby...

“I won’t back out...I won’t go...You know me...I stick around, I can’t help it...” I grinned at her...

“Victorian poets are fools for love, you know...”

I know it’s terrible to make you do this...Buffy looked at her hands...

You’ve just won back so much...And I’m condemning you...Again...

“Will you be there?...Wherever the afterlife sends me?...” I looked at her...

Yes...Wherever...she looked back at me...

“Then I don’t care...It will be Heaven for me...”
***

She told Angel the happy news late that night...After receiving his dutiful apology for any share of his in their little dinner spat...

Dawny came by the office while I was doing research with Tara that next afternoon, unable to contain the great news...

The clear proof that she hadn’t pressured her sis into making the biggest mistake of her life...For her dear artificial sis’ sake...

I love the Nibs...Dearly...But if this scheme succeeds and Buffy is a little less bound to her after the baby is born, I think she’d benefit immensely from a prep school in Switzerland...And college far, far away...

Tara and I made happy noises at the news...Dawn thoughtfully expressing a little concern for my feelings...But I indicated that I was happy for Buffy...After all, it’s nice to see a story of true love work itself out...

Tara seemed a bit more uncertain...I knew she’d been wondering if they’d done the right thing in backing up Angel against Buffy...And , somewhere inside, maybe, hoping my arrival would open up new possibilities for Buffy...Now that door was closed...

She too tried to ease the pain for me...But I bore up very well...Though I admitted to her after the Nibs moved on to dispense the tale elsewhere that it did sting a bit...

But a human-souled vampire adjusts...And I’d accepted that Buffy could not love me when I first left...

I was truly happy for her...

That at least was unmistakably true...

***

Old Willie was likewise sympathetic when I stopped in for a drink a night or two later, just before Patrol...A sector assigned to me on my lonesome...The reconciling lovebirds choosing to cover their areas together...

News travels fast...I told him when he paused by my spot to commiserate with me...

Angel was a proud papa...Willie noted...And everyone is a sucker for a story of true love...With a happy ever after ending...

Even his underworld clients...The ones who still risked coming...Couldn’t conceal their enthusiasm for this one...

Most of them had been human once, after all...

But...Willie eyed me...Must be a pang or two for old William in the midst of all the joy...

A pang...Or two...I cheerfully admitted...

But one moves on...And I had a good life now, a secure future, family and friends...Even the afterlife looked promising for me now...

He nodded, smiling...The old smile of the “Snitch”...Famed for his talent at ferreting out what one did not want to become publicly known...

All the better...And I resolved to make sure I made my ole pal’s place at least a weekly stop...

If Willie’d picked up no hints during the next few weeks...Not likely anyone else would’ve...

Outside the natural regret and ‘pang’ anyone would expect...

***
I spent considerable time with poor Dru during the next few weeks...Who made little if any progress...

Buffy had accepted her role as nurse although Angel naturally had had second thoughts after her little announcement...

But with a little nursing help from a part-time nurse, she could manage, she’d told him...

And she was anxious to let me know...When we were alone with my poor “Mum”...That she could accept Dru as a permanent charge if I wanted it...

Her past display of resentment at the burden had had other roots, she assured me...

As long as we’d be together...She’d deal...

And she’d come to feel for Dru...Another woman trapped in a tragic situation...With Angel...

***
So things went...For a while...

I settled in as a valued asset of Angel Investigations...A fair-haired...literally...boy...And the apple of my “gramps”’ eye after his beloved Connor...

Not to mention my dear new step-grandma...

Who’d given every sign of a happy reconcilation with her true love...

Despite perhaps a hair of frustration at his continued reluctance to start on revoking her competency decree...And the watchful eyes kept on her...With redoubled vigilance for the new mommie-to-be that she was...By loving husband and all her dear friends...

Our private meetings were...Understandably...Brief and on the sly...

Generally during our times on Patrol once Angel had resumed his full workload and Buffy persuaded him to let her handle part or sometimes all of their sector on her own...Easing his burdens like the dutiful and caring wife...

Of a dutiful and caring man...

Fortunate Sunnydale not to be menaced by any new and powerful threat during those days...
***

We waited...As patiently as we could...For the right opportunity...

Generally expecting it would come on Patrol...
Though we could not allow it to come too quickly or easily...

If anything, Buffy pregnant was a hundred times more beautiful...

I was finding the situation less and less tolerable...

And she couldn’t maintain that loving gaze on dear old Christ Jr. for much longer...

But then, Fate...Or the Dark Side of the Powers That Be...Dropped the opportunity we’d been waiting for in our laps...

I’d forgotten Angel’s promise of a little vacation trip to LA when things settled down...But he hadn’t...

***
We all deserved a break...he noted happily...Making his announcement at a family dinner that included his dutiful “grandson”...

A little vacation before Buf was too far along to enjoy it...

A chance to show his new family “His city”...

We both realized as he spoke that our chance had come...We’d never have a better...

Of course dear Dawny would be along...But, as Tara and her Willow would likewise be included there’d be opportunities for isolating my dear grandsire from the others...

I played hard to get from the start...The happy couple wouldn’t want me along to get in the way, someone had to mind the store here, that sort of thing...Buffy following my lead, hinted at a slight reluctance to be burdened with extra traveling companions...

Naturally not wishing to forego a chance to second honeymoon with the love of her life...

But seeing as how anxious Angel was to make it a family affair...She finally gave in with good grace...

After all, Willow and Tara, Dawn and her old favorite babysitter...Everyone was paired off...

She and Angel would find chances to be alone together...

***

Of course the party would have been even larger, but Xander and Anya had had plans of their own when Angel approached them...And Giles, the one person I did not wish to see join us, was returning to his new home in New Mexico, having done all he presently could for Dru...
Buffy was disappointed...If it had to be a family thing and all...

But she bore up...Giles promising to return when and as soon as he could...

Entreating her to take special care during these unsettling times...When he departed a just few days later...

And eyeing me as he spoke...
***
By now, naturally, our dutiful Angel had insisted Buffy cease Patrol duties...He, I, and the AI-Sunnydale team could easily handle what little was likely to surface...

Which actually gave us a chance for a few longer rendezvous than we’d had in a while...

And a chance to plan and prepare...

***

To do it properly...Make it a messy, horribly meaningless accident...Involved a very high degree of risk...

It would require at least one of us, maybe both...Maybe...All three...To be exposed to the same danger as our Brooding one...

But we’d be prepared...And he wouldn’t...
***
Part IX...

Our plan was simple...It would be to all appearances an accident...And we would be taking our fair share of risk...Even putting our child on the line...

Our deal with the Powers That Be...

***

Our happy band reached LA that evening and we settled in our hotel rooms...Angel doing us proud...

We headed to see some LA night sights...Considerably safer town with Drusilla out of action...

Willow sheepishly slipped over to me when we stopped for a bit at a watering hole Angel was particularly fond of...

No, not that place...Buffy and I weren’t fools...And even Angel was reluctant to let his true feelings about his “happy” life surface just now...
Besides this place had much better music...

Would I?...Ask Tara for her?...If she’d be willing to slip out for a little while...Just to talk...While we were away from the Sunnydale routine for a few days...?

Willow looked at me desperately...Progress had been slow since they’d re-established conversation links...

Tara clearly had firm ideas on what constituted redemption in her relationships...

I was happy to help...I said with a smile that Willow gratefully returned...

I guess I’d forgotten there was another tormented love affair in progress here...

Fortunate...I realized...

Our chance to get Angel alone...If I could persuade Willow that taking Dawn on a leetle shopping spree with Aunt Tara was the best possible way to get in their chance to talk...

Willow was happy to agree...Tara clearly pleased when she suggested it...Dawn never one to turn down a mall experience...Especially in LA...

The rest of us would keep ourselves busy...

***
Buffy had been expecting something like this and followed my lead...Including when I tried to beg off further sightseeing and dinner, leave the two lovebirds to themselves...

She indicated that she’d like to accept my generous offer...Get in some quality time with the hubs...Perhaps a romantic drive up the coast to some little wayside place...

Naturally Angel hated the idea of leaving me all alone the first night...

“Why don’t you come with us, Spike?...”

Buffy’s frustration was rather genuine...She might be planning to kill him to have me, but Geesch...He could try to be a little more considerate of her feelings...

So much for the hearts and flowers stage of their marriage...

But on a promise that he would devote the rest of the trip to her, she relented...

She wouldn’t really want me to be alone the first night anyway...
***

We had outlined a basic plan earlier but had only a moment to review it when he went to check his messages as we sat at the little restaurant Buffy’d chosen...After rejecting a number of others closer to LA...

She had a emergency tank of gas in the car...Always forgetting to keep the tank filled was our absent-minded Slayer and mommie-to-be...So...At Angel’s suggestion...She kept a can in the trunk...

All we had to do was find an isolated spot on the road....Where the cliffs were somewhat but not impossibly steep and a poorly driven car might get into trouble...

And make sure our dear Angel didn’t survive the accident...
***
At dinner I engaged my ole granddad in a minor drinking bout...Nothing so extensive as to draw suspicion...Just a few pints of brew from the old country...Just enough to get us both a leetle wobbly...

It was nice to see the Brooding One relax a little...

Buffy naturally keeping to mineral water...But happy to see her boys enjoying themselves just a little...

Within the bounds of reason and sense, of course...Nothing that anyone would find excessive...

Especially for two former maniacal killers...

We’d started dinner late and we finished late...Buffy suggesting a further drive up the coast in the moonlight...

She’d lived near the Pacific for years but almost never had the chance to see it...

Her loving companions, her two redeemed vampires, the best friends she had in the world, were happy to oblige...

Serenading her with a few songs of their respective old countries...Our sheet...er sweet Slayer...

She spotted a perfect place about an hour and a half later and signaled to me...I nodded tersely and we continued on for another hour or so...Then turned back...

With several stops along the way to view the coast from the vantage points she’d noted...

Angel pleased to see her so enthusiastic...His idea for this trip seemed to be a winner, he smiled at me...

I agreed, smiling back...
***
I had slipped to my door in the rear just before Buffy nudged the car over the crumbly spot in the cliff road she’d spotted...And managed to open it just as we went over...

I fell out as the car went over and Buffy screamed...Rolling down after them, I struck hard, undoubtedly breaking in several places, and finally struck my head and went out...

Buffy’s screams echoing in my head...Along with my desperate prayers for my love and my child...

But at that I was lucky...There’d been a ton of wooden trash around me, any of which might have spelled finis to old Spike...

Angel was likewise lucky to avoid immediate destruction...But when I came to, the best part of an hour later, I saw things had worked out as we’d planned...

He was trapped in the car, with it rolled over, pinning him down in the wreckage of the back...

Buffy had hopped out her door, after making a hurried shout to both of us...

He’d come to, somewhat more clear-headed now, but still woozy and disoriented...

I spotted the little pool of gas below the gas tank nozzle, Buffy eyeing me...She’d
already seen to that part of the task...

Now that she knew I was safe we were set...Just needed one small spark...

We just stood there, more or less...Unable to move much...Literally on my part what with several busted ribs and what I took for a broken arm...

Angel struggled feebly to get out, calling to Buffy who responded...Telling him she couldn’t move the car, couldn’t get to the door...Now facing skyward....

Three plus months pregnant after all...And pretty well banged up herself at that...

She called to me... Was I alright?...Could I help?...

I staggered over beside her...Calling to Angel in my turn...Attempting to climb up onto the car to the door like a dutiful grandson ought...

Impossible, even if my effort had been a sincere one...

I could feel Buffy wavering...For a moment...

But then I felt her take my hand from behind...And I looked back at her...
A face as set and resolute as stone...

No going back now...

And it was true...If we gave it up now...Angel was sure to put things together in time...

Mercifully one decision was taken from us...The sun was starting to pink the eastern sky...

I made one attempt to shove the car over with Buffy pushing as well as she could under the circumstances...

No go...

She’d called to Angel who seen the light in the sky...She’d try to reach the highway, flag someone down...Spike would stay with him, keep trying...

We could see him through the glass of the back side window, crushed against the rear...

He knew as we did it was now almost hopeless...Though I tried to cover what window and smashed open spots I could...And he did what he could to cover himself...

“Wait...” he called feebly to Buffy...

Connor...?

“I’ll take good care of Connor...I promise...” Buffy looked at him...

He stared back at her...Nodding slightly...

She backed off, and started moving up the hill...I stood by the car, saying...God knows...Anything that popped into my head...Babbling to keep us both calm...

He could see the sun beginning to creep on us and call to me to take cover...

My “grandfather”, caring hero to the end...

He was that kind of a guy...

I won’t know until I go myself I guess...If he knew what we were doing to him...I can hope, as I do, that he didn’t...

That he died with his loving wife and good friend trying to save him...

I know he would have tried to make himself believe that...
***
All we needed now were a couple of ignorant well-meaning passersby...

Cops if possible...

***
She’d reached the highway...Waving frantically, in terror at every passing car...

Buffy’s terror was genuine...But it was not for Angel...

I had little protection myself except for the car...

Two boys in blue in a police car spotted the young woman wandering about the highway and pulled over...
***

They reached us just as the first fires had begun breaking out inside the car, setting the puddle of gas ...Some of which Buffy had spread just inside the door when she’d poured it out from the spare tank...Aflame...I was hopping about, trying to stay in shade and shoving desperately at the car...

But not as desperately as I might have...

As we had planned they were too anxious to get to the trapped “man” and Buffy and I too injured to stop them from opening the door despite our pleas...

We all managed to throw ourselves down as the car exploded in flames...

Buffy in shock, staring...
***

But the need to keep me out of the hands of the well-meaning cops who would have kindly killed me by suntan brought her to herself quickly...She arranged for me to be wrapped up in coats...As protection against shock from the loss of blood...And hastily carried up to the ambulance the cops had summoned...She beside me all the way, watching carefully...

Grateful that the task at hand kept her from looking back down the hill at our handiwork...

***
With the help of the Angel Investigations-LA people, particularly the grieving Wesley, Buffy was able to get me safely out of the hospital and home to Sunnydale without incident...

As far as the LAPD was concerned, the case was straight-forward and settled in a few days...

Accidental death...

The gang accepted our story as did the AI staff and Angel’s old LA team...In fact they were too concerned about Buffy’s possible injuries to have much time for doubt...Though I knew Tara was...Uncomfortable...

Dawn kindly spared a fair share of her concern for me...Tending me at my place...

Tara joining her after a couple of days...Apparently willing to accept our account of events...

Perhaps she simply felt Buffy had suffered enough...

But there was one remaining fly in the ointment...

Angel, like Buffy, was now officially under the jurisdiction of the Council of Watchers...A sensible arrangement from Angel’s pov...The Council wielding considerable power behind the scenes as they did, could painlessly deal with certain bothersome problems...Like...The occasional crooked pol or cop in bed with the new local vamp leader, the clueless human witness to a demon kill who needs to have what he or she saw “properly” explained away...That sort of thing...

They’d demanded a hearing into the particulars of his death...

And could demand and enforce justice if it became necessary as a result...
***

Buffy was at least pleased to see that dear Rupert would be assigned to investigate the case...

I however...

***
Part X...

He wasted no time in coming to see me with a couple of Council staffers as witnesses...As I recuperated at my new place...

Smiling pleasantly at Dawn and Tara, my nursemaids...

“Buffy alright?...” I asked him after they left...

Naturally my attendants would have kept any upsetting news away from me...

“Do you take me for a fool, William?...” Giles smiled thinly at me...

***

Neither of the others looked at me as I lay under Giles’ stare on my sickbed...
“I’m well aware of your relationship with Buffy before you left Sunnydale, William...”

“Before my demon was blocked...” I pointedly noted...Glaring back at him...

Best to take the forthright approach I thought...The air of a man with absolutely nothing to hide...

“I loved and love Buffy...That’s true...” I stared at Giles...

But that doesn’t give you the right to suggest...What I think you’re suggesting...I paused...

“Besides...” I noted... “What could I possibly gain?...With Angel dead, I’ve lost everything I’ve won in the past months...Financially that is...”

And if Buffy ever had the slightest suspicion...I eyed Rupert...Who stared coldly at me...

“I’d lose what passes for the only possible family I can ever hope to have...”

I was pricking him in his vulnerable spot...Or so I thought...

His little Slayer-girl...His beloved “daughter”...

If he wanted me, he’d have to nail her as well...


He put his hands together and to his chin and stared at me...Smiling...

I tried to press on...Realizing something was not quite breaking my way...

“Will...Do you know what I think?...” he looked at me...

“I think...You and my former charge lured Angel out on that trip to LA...Out on to that road...

And murdered him...”

It was skillfully done...he paused...I grant you...

But...

“Giles, you’re coming at me all wrong...But even if you think I had something to do with it...How could you think...?”

I was Buffy’s mentor for many years, William...he stared at the wall...

I know what she is and is not capable of...

“And bearing up under that horror of a marriage...Yes, I know what a horror it was...After what happened the year before...”

She was not capable of it...

But killing Angel...The one who’d taken her freedom away...Who’d left her to fight Glory and die...Who could have returned to her long ago but preferred to go on playing hero until he needed a mother for his son...And who, in the end she realized, had always loved someone else...But would never let her go as long as he lived...

She was capable of that...With your help...

Or even without it...

He sighed wearily, taking off his glasses and rubbing his eyes...

A “father” who knew his “daughter” completely...With all the sorrow that potentially implied...

You were quite right...In what you said to me in Los Angeles that night with poor Drusilla...
he paused...

I should not have left her alone then...It was too much for her...

“I’m to blame for much of this...” he looked at me...
I stared at him...Trying to look straight at him....

“You can’t believe that Buffy...It was an accident I tell you...I was there...Look at the police report...”

He got up and paced the room...I watched him...

“William, if you escape staking for this and ever have another chance to commit a human-style murder, I have a suggestion for you...”

Never let an insurance company get involved...

Insurance...? I was genuinely surprised and he saw that...

“Angel was heavily insured, my boy...Didn’t she tell you that?...” he looked at me carefully...

“Several million dollars worth, I believe...” he smiled...

Well...I had figured he’d carry some life insurance...But...

“Insurance companies hate to pay up, you know...And will check into a matter like this...Thoroughly...”

***
Giles reviewed the case...Laying out the facts in a way perhaps not quite right...

But close enough to make me shudder...

“So...You came back to Sunnydale after breaking off your earlier relationship with Buffy and leaving...And with considerable urging on Buffy’s part, Angel insisted on extending you a helping hand...”

Perhaps she even contacted you, persuaded you to come back...And help her...

She was desperate to break Angel’s and Dawn’s hold on her...So...

You and Buffy resumed your relationship...Keeping things as discreet as possible...

While you waited for family and friends to accept your presence, the demon-block spell to confirm your humanity, and your efforts with Angel’s company to explain your reason for staying in town and your trustworthiness...

Then she was pregnant...A perfect chance for you...Given the kind of “accident” staged, no one would suspect her in her condition...

“I don’t believe it and no one else will...”

Will, the insurance company that insured Angel also insures businesses in Sunnydale...

I stared at him...he smiled...

You and Buffy had very well defined Patrol routes...Angel being the methodical sort of fellow he was...

“And yet almost every night, when you were supposed to be making your circuit, you both were photographed by several different surveillance cameras headed for your apartment...Often by separate routes, sometimes Buffy alone...But always long before your Patrols were officially over...”

And that night...In LA...You and Buffy and Angel...Drove for nearly three hours up one of the most dangerous highways in the world and stopped on the way back on the edge of a curve that was a well-established death trap...Stopped and came up...Deliberately, right to the edge...

“The police may have been satisfied but the insurance company found the tread marks your car made...Marks that indicated you or Buffy pulled the car right to the edge and turned to face the passenger side to the cliff...”

You did it for her...he paused...

I said nothing...But I know the look on my face must have removed any remaining doubts for him...

“The question is...Will...” he stared at me...

Did she do it for you?...

I looked at him...

She lost the baby, Will...he sighed...

Tara and Dawn had instructions from me not to say anything to you...

They didn’t know what I did, of course...They thought they were simply keeping bad news from you...

“She told you it was your baby, didn’t she?...”

I started...I couldn’t help myself...

She wouldn’t...Couldn’t have done that to me...

“It was Angel’s....”

I went blank...And black inside...

He came over to me and put a hand on my shoulder...

“I’m sorry, William...But it’s the truth...” he signaled one of his men who pulled out a file...

Blood tests...Confirming the paternity of “our child”...

Angel’s child...

A girl...Would have been, anyway...

And Buffy must have known for months, Giles explained...She’d had a battery of tests performed secretly at the insistence of the Council who were anxious to see if the Slayer was breeding another human child like Connor...Or some hideous thing, coming out upon the world via the door she and Angel might have opened for it...

“She was desperate Will...If she had had the baby while Angel was alive...And it was confirmed as his...She’d have lost you and any hope of being free of him...And Dawn...”

I hung on desperately...Trying to avoid letting the words slip out...

Much as I wanted to see her fry or be buried alive in prison now...Practical matters...

I’d burn too...Literally...

Of course...Giles looked at me...You might not be a full participant in this...

She didn’t tell you about the insurance...That’s obvious...

“I didn’t kill Angel...Whatever you may think about Buffy and me...”

Then...I suggest you file a complaint against her...he smiled...

After all, she tried to kill Angel with no concern for you...

Perhaps...If you’re able to convince the Council...They’ll accept that you were an innocent dupe in this...

I stared at him...Giles?...

“You’d let Buffy take the heat for this?...Your Buffy...”

She’s the Slayer, William...If I can get her to confess...Make a clean breast of it...

I may be able to save her from the most severe punishments of the Council...

“Angel, you see...Was considered an irreplaceable asset...”

But...There is always another Slayer...

And there are many in the Council who will insist on her termination...As painlessly as possible for the greater good...

Faith’s case will only add fuel to the fires...

He looked at me...

“If you swear out a complaint against her...And she confesses...I may be able to save her...”

But at the very least, you’d have a fighting chance for yourself...

The shock of what I’d learned was too much for me...
Buffy had betrayed me, lied to me about the baby...Angel’s baby...For months...

And if Giles was telling the truth, I’d be helping her in any case to save her miserable neck...

I agreed to swear a complaint...A petition to the full Council on the incident...Expressing my misgivings about Buffy’s behavior towards her deceased husband...And my feeling that my own precious ass had been in jeopardy...

***
Giles left after instructing the one man remaining behind to get my full statement and have me sign it...

He was anxious to confront Buffy as soon as possible with what I’d given him...

The sooner she caved and talked, the more chance the Council might relent...

***
“Seems a little unfair...” my guardian noted...Speaking for the first time as he typed my statement up on his computer...

You have a right to defense counsel, you know....Even with the Watchers...

I took the hint...Who’d he know?...

“I’ll get him...” my new friend smiled...

***
An hour later he brought in...Good ole Willie...

This your friend?, I glared...

The clerk-guard nodded...An intermediary actually....

“I know a guy...” Willie smiled...

He can help you...

You too...? I sighed...

I can see the markup on this is gonna kill me..

In fact...Willie went on...He’s been asking about you and the Slayer all week...

“What can he do for me?...” I asked...

Well...Willie grinned...Can’t say as to specifics...

But he is Chairman of the Watchers Council...
***
Part XI...

There was no time to see Travers before Giles brought Buffy over to see me...

Clearly he needed to have us confront each other to get her to talk...

He left her with me...A few moments alone to convince her to see reason...

She eyed me...As I lay on my bed...Coldly...

“Did you swear that petition out against me?...”

I was sorry to hear about her losing...Angel’s baby...I told her...

“Would you have helped me if I told you the truth?...” she looked at me...

I had to be tested, I knew the Council would insist, Giles had told me long before, just after I married Angel...

“I wanted it to be yours...” she looked away from me...

It would have been ours...What did it matter if Angel fathered it?...

“You were willing to murder the father of your girl?...” I stared at her...

“You were willing to murder the best friend you ever had...?” she smiled coolly at me...

And betray me...

“I betrayed you?...You...” I tried to rise...

“Careful...” she looked at me...Wincing as I groaned...

“Well...” she stared at the wall... “I see now why I had to be the driver...”

“You and Giles are hanging me out to dry...”

Giles...I paused...Says he’s trying to save your pretty neck...

And I don’t exactly get much out of this, you may have noticed...I waved my broken arm slightly...
“Oh no?...” she grinned coldly at me...

You’re the new head of Angel Investigations...she paused, nodding...

Angel had named you in his will...I wasn’t sure, but I had figured as much...she smiled coolly...

“He’d never entrust it to his silly, mentally incompetent little woman...” she noted bitterly...

So...she smiled...You see, you did make out preety well...

Good old Angel, I thought...Well...Silver lining and all that...I noted...

She glared at me...

“It’s not that easy...I won’t let you off that easy...”

“Giles has your statement now...Plus the info the insurance companies gave him...I have no choice now...I’ll have to talk...”

I could the situation in a new light now...And realized that Giles had lead me deliberately into a trap...

“You turned yellow on me, Will...” she looked at the wall...

If you’d just believed in me...We’d be ok...Giles and all his insurance helpers couldn’t have proven anything if we’d stuck together...

“What did you expect me to do when he told me?...Buffy, we’ve both been tricked...”

It...Oh, William...It was a beautiful little thing...she sobbed suddenly...And brokenly...

I’d forgotten...My poor Buffy...

I saw it...On the bed in the hospital...Just after...It all happened so quick...

“I’m sorry...Buffy...” I tried to reach out for her hand...Too much for me...

But she saw me move and came over...

“I thought...I felt ok...Oh, God...I didn’t want to kill her!...”she looked at me in despair...

I didn’t hate him that much...I would have kept her...she was pleading, with me in...Angel’s?...place...

I wanted it to be yours, Will...But what could I do?...
She paused...

“And you said before...You swore you could bear it being anyone else’s child...So long as it freed me from Dawn and we could be together...”

I had to bow my head at that...

It was true...I had sworn to that, back at the beginning, up and down Sunnydale as we Patrolled...

“I let you down too, I guess...” I nodded...

And...You’ll pay for it...she stared at me...

“Giles!!...” she called...

“You can take me home now!!..”

Giles entered a moment later and took her away...

An hour or so later Willie brought Quentin Travers, Chairman of the Royal Council of Librarians and Library Scientists, the Council of Watchers to those in the know, in to see me...
***

“Well, Mr. William Walthrop...” Travers extended a hand to me as I lay in bed...

“Mr. Travers...”

“You’ve been quite a headache to me over the years, Spike...” he smiled genially...

Never more so than now...

“I take it Giles doesn’t know you’re here?...”

No...I preferred to see you without anyone’s knowing first...he told me...

“And just why are you so interested in my fate...?” I asked him...

He chuckled...

“Interested in your fate...Oh, definitely...Concerned for it...Not at all...”

Except...That your fate is linked to our Slayer’s fate...

The greatest Slayer by far we’ve ever had...

“Giles underestimates her importance to us...At my urging the Council has never assessed her value properly...”

She and Giles were always so independent and demanding...We couldn’t let our bargaining position be undermined too far...

She sounds like a choice piece of real estate...I noted...

“Buffy is a valuable commodity, yes...” he smiled at me...

And Angel’s loss...?

“Bearable...After all, we now have...You...”

And I suspect you will be more willing to follow our dictates than Angel ever would have been...

Especially after I help you out of this difficulty...he concluded...

“You’ll squelch the case?...” I looked at him...

Certainly not...he stared at me...

The Council has a set procedure which must be adhered to...Especially by its Chairman...

“But...I can defend you and our Slayer...”

He grinned...

“In fact, I rather look forward to jousting with our dear Ripper...We’ve broken a lance or two in Council...It’s quite a thrill for me...”

And the stakes are rather high in this one...Both your lives, actually...

“Both?...Giles said...”

Giles has been away from us too long...Travers sighed...He has assumed we’d take the utilitarian view...Forgetting the Council is composed of humans...Many of whom have been angered by the Slayer’s arrogance toward us in the past...

The sentiment in the Council is to deal with the Slayer problem once and for all and start out fresh...he smiled...

Giles may believe we’ll give in, based on Buffy’s past record...

I don’t...Which is why I’m here...And why I’m willing to help you...
“But...If you agree to let me help you...I run the show...You nod your head and do as I tell you...We must get moving at once...”

I nodded my head...I had no choice...

***
I spent a feverish night in bed, alone...Tossing and turning...

If Buffy formally confessed to Giles...Implicated me...Both our necks would be on the line...

I believed Travers about the Council’s feelings towards their rebellious Slayer...I’d seen the COW in operation against other troublesome members, both ordinary human and Slayer, over my extended lifetime...

He’d promised to go to her, let her know the danger of speaking out, even if it would give her the pleasure of seeing me twist in the wind...

If she wanted that...I thought over our last conversation...She’d still spoken of me as if I mattered...Not as the poor fool dupe she was enjoying letting in on her game at last...

Could she have been telling the truth?...Only keeping the baby’s paternity a secret to spare me...

Or was she stringing me along...Hoping demon-blocked, human Will would do the noble thing for his lady and take it all on himself?...

I thought of the little girl...Angel’s baby girl...Who would have been mine...

And I knew it was true...I had promised I wouldn’t care...And I wouldn’t have cared...

My poor, poor Buffy...And my poor baby daughter...

I put my head to the wall and sobbed...

***

To my surprise, I had an early morning visitor...Tara...

Who told me that Travers had come by Buffy’s, offering to do what he could...Whatever that was...

Guess the Chairman of the Council never misses an opportunity to woo back his Slayer to duty...

Judging by her conversation, Buffy had not talked and neither had Giles...

But she knew I had heard...About the little one...
“It must be terrible for poor Buffy...” I told her...

She seems to be dealing...Tara noted...

“But...You, Will?...How’s about you?...”

I’m planning to take up a new profession...I smiled, feebly waving my broken and whole arms...

Something nice, safe, and home-centered...Writing...

“Seriously?...” she looked at me...

Well...I grinned...I’ve come to realize...I may not be a good poet or a great writer...But...

I have a hell of a story to tell...

She beamed at me...That’s for certain...she agreed...

“But...” I noted... “I will be around...To help watch out for you lot...”

Always...It’s my nature to stick to people I care for...

You can still do a lot of good at the agency...she noted...

And plenty of material there for a writer-poet...

“I don’t think I brood well enough...” I smiled...

Angel would want you there, Will...she looked at me...

And we do need you...Bad a poet as you may be...she grinned...

She helped me feed, straightened up the place, and headed off...Blowing me a kiss as she left...

My friend Tara...Joyce reborn in kindness and compassion...

A terrible fear passed over my heart...That she might find out...That she might already suspect...

And come to hate me...

Somehow I couldn’t bear that...Losing the trust and faith she had in me...

The emotional burdens of humanity...It was so much simpler when the one being I cared for at all was Drusilla...

***

Travers brought Buffy over about 11am...So far she’d said nothing...To anyone...

I explained that Travers would be defending us before the Council...A televised hearing from a hall rented in town for the occasion...

The Council spares no expense in bringing you a good lynching...

She stared at him, saying nothing...His man, the same man from yesterday, who got Willie for me, in with him...

Guarding me...From myself I guess...

And from her...

She had reached the breaking point...I’d offered her nothing to suggest that I was going to rescind my statement...Moreover, Giles was threatening to tell the others if she did not start talking...

Like me, she also couldn’t bear the thought of those who trusted and believed in her learning the truth...

Natural for two human-souled creatures like us...
***
Giles came by just after noon...

To plead with her once again...And confer with his Chairman...

Whose presence at my crypt would have been a secret to him had not Dawn mentioned it in passing when he came by the Summers’ to see Buffy...

He was very suspicious of Travers’ involving himself in our defense...

But affected his usual Gilesian air of nonchalance...

Travers however had a genuine surprise for him...

“There won’t need to be a full and formal hearing, Rupert...” he noted...

I’ve reviewed what you’ve learned...And the facts of the “accident”...

And in my clients’ names, I admit their guilt and will beg the Council’s mercy...

Buffy glared...I nearly made it out of bed...

She screamed...

“No!...You can’t....”

I refuse to be a party to this...Giles, listen to me...!!...she hollered...

“My dear Buffy...” Travers told her quietly...The hearing is settled...

Sit down and be quiet or I will have you sedated...

He’d brought several large fellows...Clearly having expected a scene like this...

Buffy quieted...

“It is for the best, Buffy...” Giles told her gently...

I believe the Council will be merciful...If only for practical reasons...

She refused to look at him...And he left a few moments later...

I hollered at old Quentin, our “friend”...

“You son of a bitch!!!...You led us on ...Entrapped us...”

Buffy turned on me...

“You!...You arranged this for me...Oh, I see it now...”

Trust you and your help...Just as I trusted you when you said the father didn’t matter...

The Chairman gets me on his notch, you get off scots-free...

Travers turned to her...

“If you wish to make a statement, Buffy...You can give it to my friend...he indicated the same man who’d brought us all together...

Yeah...A statement...she nodded...Not looking at me.....
***

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