Fractured...


Rated PG-13

Archived at the Buffy Rebecca verse, www.geocities.com/buffyrebecca...

Disclaimer: All TVS characters remain property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and all other
owner/creators of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series...

Summary: Buffy has been resurrected...At the behest of the Watchers' Council on orders from the Powers That Be...However...She has been dead for a while this time...

[Main theme..."Ring of Fire" Play]

Fractured...Part I

Dawn was edgy...Willow noted...With good reason...

Buffy and Spike might return home at any moment...

The past week had been...Stressful...The past three months...Dreadful...The whole year actually...

Terrible...

But the past two days were the kicker...Despite their joyous opening...

Well not exactly joyous right at the opening...In fact...When they learned that Buffy's grave had been...Violated...

It was not joyous at all...
***

Xander and Anya had developed a habit of checking the grave in the morning...Before they went to their respective jobs...

It wasn't that they didn't trust Spike and their new Slayer to have kept a sharp lookout during the night...It was just...

If anyone...Any thing...Disturbed Buffy's grave...With who knows what ill intent...

They'd never forgive themselves...

So naturally when they found the grave site had been torn up and the earth loosely packed back in...The tombstone carelessly shoved back into more or less upright position...

It was not a joyous opening to the week...

***
Xander naturally targeted his favorite candidate for creating mayhem...

Not that he didn't appreciate Spike's efforts to maintain his new status...And fulfill his pledge to protect Dawn...

But...For God's sake...He was supposed to be keeping an eye out...Was this keeping an eye out?...And who knows...He was always going on about ways of restoring her...Maybe...

Anya quickly realized there was a faint note of hope in Xander's ranting...

They hurried over to Spike's crypt...

***
"What?!..." He was clearly shocked...He and the Slayer having checked the gravesite at 4am...Barely three hours ago...No signs of anything...

Even Xander could see he was sincere...And as furious as they...

Anya put her hand on Xander's shoulder...She knew he'd been hoping against hope...That for once one of Spike's crazy schemes might have succeeded...

This was no time to sit around, Spike insisted, hoping from his seat...Who knew what horror was planned for poor Buffy's body...Desecration...Necrophilia...Zomabular resurrection...

Zomabular?...Xander...

We've got to get the others and move on this...Immediately...Spike told them...

Considering the sincerity of his efforts in the past months to be a first-rate Slayer's assistant he could be forgiven the thought that crossed his mind while urging them on...

Necrophilia...Like to see that...

I mean...Put a stop to such horror of course...

After all, think of the Nibs...

And let's be fair...Naturally Xander couldn't keep the necrophilia image from crossing his mind as well...

However the honorary Slayer's assistant puts duty first...

"Lets go..." Spike insisted...

Oops...The light was streaming at the door...

Ummn...A little help here...Please...

They got him wrapped up and safely to their car...Called Giles from a cell phone...

He was at the shop and suggested they meet there immediately...

He'd get hold of Willow and Tara...
***

It still caught them by surprise...When they hadn't mentally prepared themselves...The resemblance...

But after all...The new Slayer had been built as an identical copy of Buffy...

She...Now Bess by name...Was waiting with Giles at the shop...Having sent Dawn off to school before he reached her...

The Buffy-bot...Restored and reprogrammed by Willow...With some involuntary cooperation from its creator, Warren Mears...To fill the vital gap that Hank Summers had not yet deigned to fill...

Someone to keep Dawn from becoming a ward of the State of California...And to help her hang on to her home...

Elisabeth Joyce Summers...Twin sister of Buffy Anne...Long in Spain with her father...Now home to care for her youngest sister and mourn her twin...

A fine Slayer and good caregiver to Dawn...And quite capable now of keeping Spike on his best Victorian gent behavior...Or else...

And a very pleasant lady...At all times...

Though she unknowingly tugged at all their hearts every time they saw her...

And more so when she displayed those flashes of Buffy programmed into her manner...

In some ways...It was most difficult for Spike...He worked with her every night...And when she went into battle mode...Hollering at him to watch himself... "Spike!"...Telling whatever it was they'd run into... "Here's the deal"...Before killing it...

It broke his heart even as it brought him a profound happiness...Buffy back with him for an instant...Screaming at him...Sometimes, thanks to Willow's skill...Even berating him...

Oh the joy...
***

But Giles already had the answer for them...Had just received the call...From Quentin Travers, Chairman of the Watchers' Council...

Buffy Summers was alive...Restored...

Agents of the Council had exhumed her body that morning...And a special ceremony, the project of the entire Council for the past three months...Had revived her...

She was even now being taken to the Sunnydale Hospital ER...Following a short debriefing and rest...
***

"But why didn't they..." Xander, Spike, Anya...At once...

Willow and Tara arrived...Halting Giles' explanation for a moment...

For a second...Willow looked at Bess...Who smiled back...

"Where is she?!...Her body?!..." she hollered...Tara looking nervously at the others...

Willow was a leetle upset when she heard...About Buffy's grave...She started to explain...

"Who do the @$%& do we have to kill?!..." Willow shouted...

They calmed her down and Giles told them what he knew...

"The Council received a communication via several of their more psychically attuned members...Buffy died before her proper time...There must be a fracture in the universe unless she is immediately restored...A fracture that could tear all the worlds apart..."

"Buffy caused a fracture in the universe?...Universes?..." Willow asked...
"Slayers' lifelines carry considerably more weight in the scheme of things than most of ours..." Giles noted...

"To disrupt one out of its normal course...Is risky..."

"But wasn't it?...Normal for Buffy to be killed?..." Xander asked...

They looked at him...Oddly Spike's expression matched the others for once...

"Well...I mean...In the course of time...And she was fighting a goddess..."

Giles nodded thoughtfully...

"Well, Xander...Apparently her manner of death was not the correct one for her...Why that should be...I can't say..."

"Suffice it to say that the Powers That Be felt it was not her time...And provided the Council with the means of restoring her..."

"Why didn't they tell us...Let us help?..." Willow asked...

Those morons probably screwed it all up...She thought...And I know why...To get on Buffy's good side...Put her in their debt...Calculating bastards...Just like the mad monks who made Dawn...

"They preferred to handle it themselves, I'm afraid...But they are turning her over to us..." Giles noted...

Thankfully without sufficient time for a brain-washing session...Giles noted to himself...

Calculating bastards...Well if they think she's going to be in their debt for now on...he thought...

After the gang had recovered from the shock of Quentin Travers' bombshell...Made plans for retrieving Buffy from the ER...Summoned Dawn from school...Looked to Dawn and her near-fatal shock...Their next thoughts had been of Angel...

How to break the news to him...Gently...Without triggering the return of Angelis...

Well...All but one of them...Spike...

He wouldn't have minded old Christ Jr popping off his cross, demented from happiness, and requiring that unique form of assistance...The Slayer's Gift...Not one bit...
In fact, perhaps a quick phone call...After all, he was family...In a way...

A devoted grandson transmitting joyous news to his dear old granddad...

***

A call to Sunnydale Hospital revealed that Buffy was not at the ER...

"Lying Bastards!!!" Willow hollered...Spike, more practical, started looking for the names and addresses of Council members in Giles' files...

"No, no..." Giles told them...Turning from the phone...

"She was there...But she insisted on checking out immediately after the men who'd brought her left..."

Oh...

"No offense, Giles..." Willow sheepishly noted...Tara holding her hand...

None taken he told her...They were, for the most part, lying bastards at that...

And Spike...We may want those names and addresses, Giles told him...

The door chimes jingled...The shop door opened...

Buffy...Looking a bit...

But definitely Buffy...

"Giles..." she said brightly... "How are you?..."

That outfit we buried her in was just right...Spike noted...She looks so...Really so

Good thing the Council folks had it cleaned during their ceremony...

***
"Giles?...Guys?..." she looked at them...

"Didn't the men from the Council tell you I was coming?...Oh...Giles...They said I should take it easy the first few days...Giles?..."

He was busy...Wiping his glasses...She embraced him...

And looked at them all...Happily...She was home...But...
"Guys...You're not mad at me, are you?..."

Mad at her?...Buffy?...

"I know it was a little...Stupid...Jumping like that..."

"And the way I behaved before...That "protect Dawn" mode...You know I didn't really mean I'd hurt you...Any of you..."

Buffy...We love you...

Group hug time...But...She wanted to be clear about the thing first...

"But...of course...I had to protect her..." she added, a little nervously...

We understand Buffy...Don't worry about it...They all looked at her sympathetically...Now for a hug...

"And she is...Part of me..." she smiled at Dawn who grinned back...

"So...Naturally...I'd have to kill anyone who tried to hurt her..."

[Suggested theme...Runaround Sue]


Ummn...Yeah...Naturally...They told her...A shade less brightly...

Still with the Dawn thing Willow thought...Damn monks...

"But it's all all right now..." she concluded happily... "I won't have to kill any of you..."

Yeah...And that's a good thing, Xander noted...As they all did...Looking at each other...

Spike looked at Giles...She's ok, right?...

Giles maintained his composure and gave him a calming glance...Just a little natural confusion...

Dead three months, after all...

She hugged Dawn...Rather tightly...

Who was wondering...And getting a leetle nervous...I'm supposed to take her
home?...Today?...While she's still got this obsessive thing on about me?...

She turned to the others...Smiling...She embraced Giles again...Rather tightly...

"Giles...What about my legal status?...The Council people told me I was declared dead..."

"I'm afraid so, Buffy...But we'll get to work on a solution right away..."

Dear old Giles...She embraced him again...And kissed him...

"You look terrible, Giles..." she told him... "Have you been eating properly?..."

"He's had a tough three months, Buffy..." Willow told her...

Oh...My poor, poor Giles...

"We should get married, Giles..." she told him...

Ummn...They all looked at her...

Ummn...We all love Giles...Buf...But...

"You're my Watcher...And you need someone to take care of you..." she told him...A little stridently...

He looked for rescue to the others...

Willow looked at Tara...

Spike was looking at Giles...A bit...

If we're going by age...Plus 100 year old here...You know...

I have to take her home?...Dawn thought...Today?...

"I'm only a little younger than Olivia...So it should be fine..." Buffy concluded happily...

Giles' care problem solved, she was ready for hugs...

She thought a moment...

"How is Olivia by the way?..." she asked a slowly edging away Giles brightly...

Ummn...Fine, dear...Just fine...Last time we spoke...

She turned to the others...Time for hugs...

"Xander...Where's my hug?..." she embraced him...

Marriage plans apparently forgotten...

Phew...She's ok...Just natural...Confusion...

Three months dead, newly revived...Nothing to worry about that a leetle rest won't...

"Why didn't I ever have sex with you?..." she asked Xander, holding him...Firmly...And looking him up and down... "I should have...You're so cute...And always so wonderfully sweet..."

She seemed quite ready to rectify that right here and now...Willow noted...

Anya looked at her...Too shocked to speak...Momentarily...

Oddly Spike had almost exactly the same expression on his face as Anya did...

"We should start dating...You're such a sweet guy..." Buffy told Xander...Still holding him...Rather tightly...And smiled at him...

"You know I never did give you that lap dance I promised..."

Ummn...Buffy...Ummn...

"Oh...Gosh!..." she put a hand to her mouth...And released him...

"Anya...I'm so sorry..."

Anya was coming out of her shock and proceeding to the next stage...Rapidly...

"You know I love you two...You're such a great couple...I don't know why I did that..."

No...Problem...Anya told her...Grimly...

Dawn stared at Buffy...

I have to take her home?...

"You two have to stay together...You have to..." Buffy told Anya and Xander...

"Are you married yet?..." she asked brightly...

Not...Yet...Anya told her...Grimly...

"Giles, why don't you marry them?...Right now...To celebrate..." she looked at him...

"Watchers can do that, right?...Oh...Maybe not..." she paused...A leetle confused...

Ummn...Well...

"Perhaps, my dear..." Giles told her...Very calmly... "You ought to sit down..."

Oh but she hadn't hugged Willow yet...And dear Tara...And...Who are you?...She asked Elisabeth...

"That's Warren's robot...You remember Buffy...She helped us with Glory..." Willow told her...

Patiently...

Elisabeth greeted her "sister" gently...Having a certain ability to recognize emotional agitation...

"Oh...What's she doing here?...She's..." Buffy frowned...And saw Spike waiting to one side...

"Obscene!...Obscene!...Get her out of here!...It's disgusting..." she raved...Shaking her fists at the robot...

Xander and Giles calmed her down...Gently...

Willow politely asked Elisabeth to leave...Just for a bit...Ummn...Her 'sister' was not quite herself...Hope she understood...

"Of course, Will...I understand..." Elisabeth lied...Politely and gently...Well...She realized at least that Buffy was upset...And went down to her basement storage space...

Perhaps...Buffy should sit down...Now...Giles told her...

But...Willow...

Willow came over...And hugged her...

Giles looked at Spike...

"Perhaps Spike should come back another time...Xander, if you wouldn't mind?..."

Buffy hopped up...Oh no...Please...She remembered all Spike had done for her...And Dawn...

So wonderful...Really...She didn't want him to go...

And as he was here...He clearly had been doing his best to maintain his new status...

Right?...

They nodded...Xander a trifle reluctantly...

"Spike's been very helpful to us..." Willow assured her...

She knew he'd measure up...She'd always seen a little human left in him...That's why she'd hesitated ‘bout killing him so often...

Spike was of course rather...Pleased...

She was sorry about her outburst...Newly revived and all...

"You guys understand?..." She asked...

Of course we do...But why don't you sit back down, Buf?...

"Don't go William...Please?..." she asked him...

William?...She called me William...Spike thought...He grinned at Xander...Who glared a bit...

Poor William...Spike...She turned back to Willow...Had she managed to do anything for him?...

Soulwise that is...

"I've been looking into it, Buffy...With Giles...But...It'll take time...Same with Angel...If we find anything..."

Well...Buffy thought a mo...

Oh...Then...Maybe I should stake him...Now...

The Slayer's Gift...Release his poor soul...

"Spike...Do you want release?..." she called to him...Eager to be of service to her dear new friend...Who'd clearly earned a reward...

Ummn...Well...Buffy...I appreciate the sentiment...Spike told her...

"Why don't we wait on that for now?..." Giles told her... "See what Willow and I can come up with..."

Oh...But wait...Angel had told her...Darla...Darla was revived with a resurrection
ceremony...Right?...Made her human?...Right?...So...I'll stake Spike and Willow can bring him back as human William...

Then we can start dating...She concluded happily...Smiling at them...

She looked round for a stake...Something special...For a dear new friend, possibly a new boyfriend...Where's Mr. Pointy?...

Hmmn...Spike thought...On the one hand...Dating Buffy...

Hmmn...Xander thought...On the one hand...Spike's dead...

"I don't have the Wolfram-Hart ceremony, Buffy...I don't know what they did...I think we'd better wait for now..." Willow told her...Gently...

Oh...Well...Guess so...Buffy told her...

"Sorry, William..." she called to Spike...

This doesn't mean we can't date, right?...Spike thought...
***
To Dawn's very intense relief, Willow suggested that she and Tara stay with her and Dawn the first night...

The house was so empty without Joyce and all...

"Oh...That's great!..." Buffy noted happily... "We can have...Like a slumber party thing..."

Yeah...Exactly...

Slumber party and psych evaluation...

Can Spike come?...She smiled at him brightly...

Absolutely...He looked at the glaring faces of Willow, Tara, Giles, Xander, Anya...

Not...Sorry...

See, he had Patrol duty...But he'd be happy to stop by at the end...

For a check-in...

Well...Dawn at least had seemed to want him over as well...

Oh...Buffy was disappointed...She wanted to get to know him a little better...

Rats...

"Maybe...Buffy...We should think about heading over to the supermarket...Pick up a few things...And head home...Right after..." Willow told her...Gently...

Right after...

Buffy agreed...Yeah...

She was a bit...Dead...

She couldn't help it, guys...The looks on your faces...

Oh...But what about Spike?...William?...Was he still all alone out at the crypt?...

She had had some experience of what that was like she could tell you...

"He's been spending lots of time with us, Buffy...And with our Bess...Ummn...the ummn...You know..." Willow told her...

The robot?...Spike hangs out with the robot copy of me?...

But she's been programmed not to let him...Get away with anything...Willow assured her...

Oh...She looked at Spike...Who did his best to look the part of reformed, penitent vamp...

Think Angel, Spikey...Christ-imitating twit...He thought...

That's too bad...They seemed to have had great sex when she was with him before...Buffy noted...

Titanic...Spike thought...But wisely did not say, looking at the others...

***

Clearly...She was a bit...Giles noted to Willow, Xander, Dawn, and Spike...As Anya and Tara
talked to the happily babbling Buffy...

She should get some rest...Undoubtedly...While he consulted with the Council...

And avoid Patrol for awhile...

"But do I have to be alone with her tomorrow night?..." Dawn asked...

Not that she didn't love Sis...Was glad and grateful to have her home...But...

Alone...With her like that?...

Giles had a suggestion...To help Buffy's return to normalcy...And take a little pressure off the nervous Dawn...

"Well..." Giles smiled... "I think that Spike should take her out tomorrow evening..."

"What you say?..." Xander...Spike take her out?...The way she's been acting?...

"Giles?...Ummn..." Willow looked at him...

Spike grinned happily...Rupert, you are all right...

Buffy came over, bringing an exhausted Anya and Tara in tow...She'd been going a mile a minute in her questions about the past three months...

She seemed quite pleased as well...She'd love to go out with Spike...But she frowned...Would she have to kill him at the end of the evening?...

***

"Yes..." Giles concluded... "Spike should take her out tomorrow...For a pleasant dinner, perhaps a movie...And bring her home...Unharmed...And untouched...By no later than eleven..."

"Him?..." Xander was choking on the words...

Willow on the other hand was beginning to see...

Buffy still wondered what would be the best way to end the evening...Release dear William with the Gift...Or perhaps a leetle kiss?...She'd discuss it with Willow at the house tonight...

Anything that keeps her out of the house for an evening Dawn thought...When we're left alone...

Xander and Willow wanted to see Giles...Alone for just a mo...

Spike was eager to discuss possible venues with his date...Under Anya's and Tara's watchful eye...

Dawn went to get her stuff...Thank God Willow and Tara are coming over tonight...Hope they'll be enough...

Not that she wasn't grateful...Really...
***
"Giles?..." Xander asked him...Choking on the words...

"Giles?...I'm not so sure about this..." Willow...

"Yes..." Giles went on, in a precise manner...

"You see...If we leave her alone...If she went out on her own...We'd soon have some human boy to deal with, almost certainly, considering her present state...One whom we might have hesitations about dealing with...Properly..."

"However...If our dear Spike should attempt to take any advantage of the situation..."

Ah...Xander was getting it now...

Giles concluded...

"We could deal with him...Without hesitation...Besides his chip prevents him from doing any physical harm...And we won't leave them completely alone..."

They rejoined the others...

"Spike has a great idea..." Buffy told them happily... "He wants to take me out tomorrow night..."

Ummn...Yeah...We just told you that, sweetheart...They eyed each other...

Ummn...Great...Great idea...

Hmmn...Forgets things easily, eh?...Spike thought...Rather...Happily...

This sounds like it could be quite a date...

Except...Ummn...Rupert?...

"Might I speak with you?..." Spike asked him...Just need to discuss last night's Patrol, folks...

That was fine...Buffy told them...She wanted to talk with Willow and the others a little more before they all left...

She was curious...Wanted to know if Willow had gotten over the gay thing yet?...You know, that relationship with the shy girl with the psycho hillbilly family from Dogpatch...

"Oh..." She gasped... " Tara...I'm so sorry..."

What's with me today?...

"You just rose from the dead after three months, Buffy..." Tara told her gently...Patting her hand...

She thinks Willow might... "Get over the gay thing"?...Tara thought...

And she knows her better than I do...

Psycho hillbillies?...I know my family's a leetle weird...But...

Spike had a leetle problem regarding his date to discuss with the Watcher...

You understand...Slayer-assisting vampires don't make...A lot of money...He told Giles, clearly embarrassed...

"Don't worry about it Spike...Consider it a gift from the Council for your services in the past months..." Giles told him...

They rejoined the others...

"And of course, my boy...If she is so much as...Scratched..." Giles looked pleasantly at Spike...

"Yes.." Willow looked at Spike...

They all looked at Spike...Buffy smiling happily...Her first date in months...

What?...He looked at them...New minted hero here...He could handle this...The perfect gentleman thing?...No problem...

He was born a Victorian, after all, he reminded them...

It was rather nice the whole idea actually...Squiring Buffy around...For once when she wasn't reluctantly tolerating his presence in some desperate fight with something a little worse than he...

He been dreaming of a real "date" with her for months...Heck, to be honest, years...

Besides what better way to set things up for an eventual pay-off when she recovered enough for Giles and the others to back off...Proving that one William the Bloody could out-Mr. Reliable Angel and Riley Soldier-Boy hands down...

Yes...He could handle this...
***

Well...At least she seems happy to be home...Willow thought, looking at Buffy...Who was now asking Giles a few more reasonable questions about her college status, the house situation, etc...

At least none of that post-resurrection depression stuff...No...Why didn't you leave me safe in Heaven with the angels? stuff...

But she was definitely...Not all there...

That fracture in the universes appears to have moved into Buffy and taken up residence...Willow noted...

Well...She'd be ok...And the main thing is...

She's back safe with us...

***
Fractured...Part II...

Willow and Tara prepared to take a somewhat "pixilated" Buffy and a rather nervous Dawn home...

Before they left...Giles noted...A few quick tests should be done on Buffy...Just to guarantee the Council's resurrection process had brought nothing...Extra...Back with her...

He turned to Spike...Science first...
"Have you sensed anything with your chip?...Demon or otherwise?..."

Buffy looked nervously at him...Did she look demonic? she asked Willow...

No way, sweetie...Willow smiled back...

Yeah...Thought Dawn...Maybe that's it...Some demon crawling around inside her skull..Oh but Spike would've picked that up right away...

He sensed nothing...Just human...Beautifully human, he said, gallantly...

Buffy looked down at her feet and then at him...Shyly smiling...Why William...

So sweet...He's really getting very human...She thought...

Hope I don't have to stake him tomorrow...

***

Giles switched now to the occult...A spell probing for demonic influence...

Buffy was game but nervous...If she failed the test, would she have to die again?...she asked him...

Really would rather avoid that, please...

Death...Bad...Very bad...Was her opinion on the subject...

No...My dear this is just a precaution...And we will deal with any problems...He assured her...

Spike came and stood by her...Took her hand gently...

So sweet...Anya and Tara thought...He's really making progress...In humanity and with Buffy...

Willow and Xander looked at each other, then at Spike...Glaring a bit...Spike's moving fast...

Still she does seem to appreciate it...

She passed with flying colors...No signs of any untoward influence...

So...She's just plain...Psycho...Dawn noted...

Well, buried three months...Sort of like those premature burial stories...Very likely brain damage...Say?...Did the Council wake her before they dug her up?...That would throw anybody...

She asked Buffy, a little hesitantly...Had she woken up?...Well...In the coffin?...

Coffin?...Buffy asked, looking at Dawn...Oh, right...Coffin...No...Don't think so...

"All I remember is waking up in some room with the men from the Council looking me over..."

Hmmn...Thought Spike...And Xander...

Those clothes must have been cleaned...Had she?...By any chance been?...Well, they must have needed to make a full body exam after all...

If I ever...Find one picture of Buffy making the rounds at the next full Council meeting...Giles thought...

***
Giles agreed that she should head out with the other ladies...And get home as soon as possible for a much needed rest...

He'd get in touch with the Council...Definitely...Immediately...

She embraced him one last time...Dear, dear Giles...

"Giles...We should get married, you know..." she told him...

Oh-oh...Back to the wedding plans...Willow noted...

Does this mean our date's off?...Spike wondered glumly...

Xander was tempted to ask Dawn...Did Buffy ever talk about Giles this way at home before?...

But noting Dawny was having enough trouble dealing he refrained...

Fortunately Buffy was eager to head home and agreed to put wedding plans on hold...

And as quickly had forgotten them...

"William...Don't get killed on Patrol...See you later tonight..." She told Spike as they
left...Waving to him...

"And I'll be looking forward to tomorrow..." she called happily...

Phew...Spike thought...Date's back on...

Can he go out in daylight now?...She asked Willow...Pausing to look at him...As they went out the door...

‘Fraid not, Buf...she told her...

Oh...Poor guy...Say had Willow heard what Angel told her?...About how Darla was revived?...

Ummn...Yeah...

Did she think?...Maybe she should stake him and then they could...?

Lets go over this once more, Buffy...Willow told her as they went out the door...

Giles looked at Spike...Who seemed relieved...But who also seemed still ready to risk a possible final ending for his chance at tomorrow's outing...

He really must have been a decent human being...To have retained so much humanity...Giles thought...

I should do what I can for the boy...He has shown great promise in the past few months...

And he was never the maniac that Angelis was...

Nor the brooding egotistical twit Angel has become...

Yes...If she has to choose a vampire...

Hmmn...I should consult the Journals...There must be some psychological fixation...Bound up in the Slayer's Gift...

She kills them and she loves them...

***

Things went more or less all right at the supermarket where the ladies stopped to pick up a few things...

Buffy seemed very adverse to cold...Avoided the freezer aisle like the plague...

Cold...Like Death...Bad...

And sadly had a sudden realization that her mom was not waiting at home for her return...

Dawn felt awful...Poor, poor sis...Maybe she'd been too rough on her...

She just needed someone to look out for her...Constantly...

She hugged the tearful Buffy gently...As did Willow...Tara patting a loose hand...

Say...Hadn't she seen Mom while she was?...So, it wasn't like that TV show claimed?...Dawn wondered...

Well, maybe best to put those kinds of questions on hold for now...

But they managed to soothe poor Buf fairly quickly and she was cheerful again in minutes...

Dawn tentatively began a conversation about school...She was doing pretty well so far now...

Oh?...Wasn't school out for the summer?...Was she in summer school, after all?...Dawn?...Mom would be so disappointed...

It's September, Buffy...Willow explained...School's back in...

Oh...Yeah...

She turned to Dawn...Nervously...

"You're not too scared of me, are you?...I know I'm acting...Weird..."

No Problem...Dawn assured her sis firmly, patting her hand...Just glad to have you home...

***

"So...What do you think?.."

Elisabeth...Bess...regarded Spike patiently...Fortunately Willow had including some

psychological evaluation programs in her upgrades, along with enhancing her ability to project a degree of personality...
She'd thought it would be useful in helping Spike adjust to his new status...Having Bess taking a friendly interest, lending a sympathetic ear...But of course forcing his hands to stay strictly to themselves...

Not entirely for Spike's benefit...Willow saw a fascinating psych case study here...A surefire extra credit report on the effects of behavioral modification and social support...And made sure Bess recorded every detail of their times together...

"Well, Spike...I don't know my sister well...But...Doesn't she kill vampires like I do?..."

She turned to stake a large female vamp creeping up...

Well...Spike pointed out that Bess had not killed him...Nice move there, by the way...

He ducked nimbly as the vamp's mate charged at him...Bess staked the stumbling vamp...

"Thank you...That's true, I haven't...And hope not to..." she smiled at Spike... "But only so long as you continue to merit our trust..."

But what did she think?...Would Buffy like him better in a suit?...Or his more...Traditional garb...

Two more male vamps came up...

He looked very handsome in either...Bess told him, smiling...And deftly grabbing one of the vamps as he tried to slip in at her...But...Come on, what did he think he looked best in?...

Well...Spike grinned sheepishly...Buffy's never seen me in a suit...

He slammed his stake into the remaining vamp who seemed to be more disappointed to be missing the conversational thread than fearing his impending doom...

Ah...Bess smiled...Then the suit...Definitely...

She'd be happy to press it for him, if he'd like...Must get wrinkled in the crypt...

You're a dear heart, Miss Bess...Spike told her...

She always reminds me of my mother and sister now, he thought...Such a sweet lady...So Joyce...
Hard to believe she was straddling me nympho manically only three months ago...

Just go on making me proud of you, Spike...she told him...And be a true Victorian gentleman to my sister...

He'd do her proud...He promised...

***

Xander's third nervous call...

"Everything's fine, Xander...She's just fine..." Willow told him...As she glanced up and over at Buffy who was pouring over photos with Dawn...

An increasingly protective Dawn...Willow noted...

The sisters were exchanging roles...Buffy seemingly as happy to let Dawn take charge as Dawn was to take it...

"Is that Xander?..." Buffy called... "Hi, Xander!..."

Ask him to come over...Buffy told Willow...

No, Buffy...He can't come over tonight...He and Anya are busy...Dawn told her, patiently...For the third time...

She looked crestfallen...No Xander?...

But you'll see him tomorrow...Dawn noted...

She brightened...

"He hasn't married Anya yet?...Right?..."

Hmm-hmmn...

"So...We could still have sex tomorrow...Right?..."

Ummn...

"Xander!...Lets have sex tomorrow before you get married!..." Buffy yelled over to the phone in Willow's hands...

"Buffy...Anya won't like that..." Dawn noted...Patiently...

Oh...Gosh...I forgot...Hand to her mouth...Oh...

"Sorry Anya!..." she screamed at the phone...

No........Problem.....Anya told the phone...Looking at Xander...Who grinned nervously...

Things poor Buffy comes up with these days...He noted to her...

You are working late tomorrow...Anya informed him...

Very, very late...

***
Fractured...Part III

Bess and Spike stopped by the Summers at the end of their Patrol as Spike had promised...

Bess felt it was best for her to remain outside...Given her "sister's" previous reaction to her presence...She'd keep sweeping the area around the house and join him for the walk home...

He assured her that Buffy would soon accept her...Once she got acclimated again, she'd appreciate the extra help...The occassional night off...The extra chance to live to a ripe old age...

Particularly...Given her recent resurrection...That extra chance to see old age...

Bess agreed in her usual pleasant manner...She was sure that would be the case...Poor Buffy just needed some time...

"Please give her my best, William...And, if it should come up...That I understand her feelings completely..." she told him...

She smiled and headed off...Promising to meet him within an hour...

Must compliment Red on that psychologic programming...Spike noted...She's really getting quite empathetic...

He found an undiluted welcome...By all...

Even Willow was glad to see him, despite her reservations earlier...

It had been a long night...
But Dawn and Buffy were especially enthusiastic...

***

"Oh, William...You didn't get killed?...Ummn..." Buffy paused...Thinking...Right word?...Oh, yeah...

"Ummn...I mean...Un-Undeaded?....I'm so glad..."

She hugged him...Rather tightly...

Come Softly to Me


She was so glad he was all right...she told him...

She never wanted anybody she cared about to die...Again...

He was as shocked as the others...

She really is glad to see me...He thought in wonder...

Me?...

This could make a fellow seriously consider rejoining Humanity...

Even if I'd have to die again to do it...

Dawn's greeting...While not quite so...Was as warm...

Watching his reaction, Willow and Tara couldn't help feeling a little...Spike seemed so geniunely touched...

Even if Buffy was a little off her rocker...It was worth it to see the look on his face, Willow thought...

***
The edge in Giles' voice was Ripper-sharp...And even over the phone, Quentin Travers, Chairman of the Royal Council of Librarians and Library Scientists... Known to those in the know as the Council of Watchers...Felt it...Keenly...

"Quentin...I don't know what have you and your dolts done to her..." Giles told him... "But..."

"If she has been permanently damaged...If this little game of yours has dragged her back from eternal peace at her expense...It is going to cost you dearly...I promise you..."

"Rupert..." Travers was all congenitality...With a touch of self-righteous annoyance...After all he'd done to restore their Miss Summers...

"I hardly think we've harmed your Buffy...I should think you'd be grateful to have..."

Giles cut him off, sharply...

"Listen to me, you blathering fool...You simple-minded, selfish...This woman is not your toy...Nor your weapon...You have no right to play God with her..." He pressed the edge in his voice...Travers feeling a chill as if a knife were pressed to his throat... "And I swear Quentin...Without exaggeration...I will be on your doorstep when you least expect it if she does not return to normal..."

"Well..." Quentin paused a bit... "What seems to be the problem?...I understood she was fine, up and about...Quite happy...When our people left her at the Sunnydale ER..."

Giles paused...

On the one hand...He needed Travers and the Council if he was to learn what had happened to poor Buffy and her currently rather...Fractured...Brain...

On the other...A quick slit up Travers' belly to his sternum would bring a profound sense of satisfaction...

And other Members were probably the ones who had performed the ceremony, Travers' skills being limited to the adminstrative...

But...Travers was, after all, in England...So, for now...

Best to make what use of his adminstrative talents he could...

Travers agreed to call in those Members who were expert with the process...To consult by conference call...

It was probably just a minor side effect...Nothing to be excited...

Giles cut him off...And reminded him what the consequences would be if he did not see improvement in his charge...

***
William the Bloody spending a quiet evening...Well, late night...With his future date and her family...

His date clearly wishing for a few moments alone with him...To get to know him...Better...

Good as that sounded to him...And given her recent behavior it was likely to be...Pretty good...

He realized everything hinged on his good behavior...

And, to his own astonishment...He really did want to do right by her, he noted...Startled...

Anyone could see she wasn't herself...He couldn't take advantage...Well, actually, he could...With the greatest of pleasure...Even considering the inevitable consequences...

But...A part of him really did want to live up to his promises...

And it was pleasant to have Dawn and Buffy treating him...Like a human being...Like a trusted friend...

Even Red and her girl were giving him a fair chance...Though watching him like a hawk...

And of course...There was old Joyce to think about...The first human in a century to treat him...Well, the way Dawn and Buffy were treating him right now...

So much like his Mum...What he could remember of her...

And finally, he had to consider his dear Miss Bess...Who would be so disappointed if he screwed up...Not to mention being on his trail like a bloodhound in seconds, once given the order...

Yes...One could consider this a challenge...A hurdle on the track to be overcome...A...

"William...Can't we go for a walk?..." Buffy asked eagerly...

Ummn...He looked cautiously at the others...

Is she ever going to sleep?...Tara, Willow, Dawn thought... Ever?...

Willow returned his look...Firmly...Watch it Spike, he thought...

"Well, Buffy...It's very late...I think..."

"He won't kill me...." she told the others, turning back to him...

"You won't kill me, will you, William?..."

Astonishing as it would have seemed as little as four months or so ago...

"Certainly not, Buffy...But you need to rest..."

Dawn cut in...Anything, anything to get her to calm down and get to sleep...

"Why don't we all take a little walk?...Will has to get headed back to his crypt soon anyway...We can walk him home..."

That started Buffy back on another tack...One Spike soon realized...Rather touched...She'd been on for a while this evening...

"Spike has to go back to his crypt?...All alone?..." she was sad...

Here we go again...Dawn sighed...

He is not moving into our basement...That's final...

"Nobody should be alone..." Buffy told them...

Alone...Bad...And she ought to know how bad...Three months alone in the grave...Very alone...

"Buffy..." Willow sighed... "Spike is not alone any more...We're trying very hard to be his friends...But..."

"Spike...You don't want to be alone in your crypt...Do you?..." Buffy looked at him...Poor Spike...All alone...

She was getting teary again, Willow noted...

Spike was still recovering from Willow's declaration...Friends?...

"Ummn...Well...Buffy, as Willow's said...I'm not alone...Any more...And I think it's best that we leave things as they are...For now..." he paused...

"But it's very kind of you to be concerned...And I would appreciate the company on the walk home..."

Willow cast a narrow look at Tara...He's getting too good at this...I don't know whether to be pleased or...More worried...

Still...He was making a decent effort...

Dawn, taking advantage of a lull, reminded Buffy that they had settled things...They were going to continue what Dawn'd already started...Make Spike's crypt as homelike as possible for him...

Without attracting the attention of the cemetery groundspeople of course....

Buffy nodded...She remembered...Oh and she should get that poster...And the photos she wanted to give him...Wait, Spike...

[Suggested theme...Runaround Sue]

She hurried up to her room...

They all looked at each other...Willow gave Spike a wry grin...

"Nice going there, William...Thanks..."

"Has she been like this...All night long?... "

Willow rolled her eyes...Tara rolled her eyes....Dawn rolled her eyes...

Oh, yeah...

She came down lugging a box of photos and posters...

"Lets go..." Buffy cried happily...

Bess noted them leaving the house and followed at a discreet distance...
***
Buffy's mood changed abruptly on reaching the graveyard...

Never in my...Existence...Spike thought...Would I have thought I'd be sad to see this...

Buffy Summers...Paralyzed with fear...Refusing to budge...

"Oh..." She shook and looked at the cemetery gate...Eloquently...

Nobody needed to ask her why she was so frightened...In fact, they all felt rather like insensitive numbskulls...

Not to realize this was the last place to bring her...The first night back...

They assured her she did not in fact have to go in...Dawn and Tara would stay with her while Willow walked Spike in...

But Buffy was not solely worried for herself...As always, she was even more concerned for those she cared about...

She dropped her box and grabbed Spike...

"Don't go in there, Spike..." she told him...

He mustn't go in there...She told them...He should come back home with them...

He could stay in their basement...Not in the cemetery...

Back to the basement, again sighed Dawn...No way is he moving into our basement...

***

They finally got her calmed down, Spike having walked inside several times to prove he would not be hurt by going inside the grounds...

She kissed him good-bye...Nervously...And reminded him that they had a date for
tomorrow...Well, tonight, actually...

"Hope you like the photos, William..." she waved as Tara and Dawn led her off...

Watching to see that he and Willow were ok as they went in...

***
Willow looked at him...He was still obviously in shock...

She grinned...

"So...This appears to be your week, Blondie..."

He cradled Buffy's box in his arms...And nodded a bit...Struck a little dumb...

She kissed me...Again...

She likes me...She really, really likes me...

My God...

"You know Spike...You are still on probation..." Willow reminded him as they walked across the grounds...

"And we expect your best behavior tonight...Or else..."

He nodded...Only natural her being concerned, he told Willow...He understood and would come through as desired...Dig up all the old Victorian charms...Be a perfect gentleman...Hell, he'd show these American men how to treat a lady and make Giles proud to be an Englishman...

O..k...We'll see how it goes...Willow told him and wished him an exhausted good...er day...

He watched her as she headed back toward the gate, hurrying after the others...

Well, he'd clearly have to watch it...Do his best to be a support for Buffy in her current time of need...And he would, he told himself...And with his electronic conscience to help out...

A simple matter of self-control...And, after all...He was an Englishman...

But...He had to sit down and think about it...The wonder of it all...

Buffy likes me...Really...

Even if she is off her rocker...

Oh, the joy...
***
Fractured...Part IV

Blathering idiots...Giles thought...

He'd been listening to the Council's "experts" on the phone for the better part of an hour...

None, naturally, had any useful ideas...Or a clue as to why Buffy was behaving so strangely...

The resurrection process had seemed so...Straight-forward...

"Is this the process you received by way of psychics repeating instructions...Supposedly from the Powers That Be?..." Giles pointed asked them...

Yes...Exactly...They cheerily told him...

Had they?...By any chance?...So much as bothered to confirm that this remarkable gift was indeed from the right source?...And not, perhaps...A darker one?...

Willow looked at him...She was still exhausted from the previous night but had been determined to be here for this call...

Giles, you don't think those morons...?...she thought...They couldn't have been so anxious to pull this off...Gain Buffy's support...That they didn't even...?...

Well...One of the "experts" on the process commented...They had no reason to doubt...

"You idiots!..." Willow screamed into the phone... "What the hell have you done to my best friend?..."

"If you morons gave any demon or any Wolfram-Hart type access to Buffy...I'll..."

Is this person authorized to speak to us?...One of the Members asked Giles in an offended tone...

"Well..." Giles said, patiently... "If you consider the ability to kill you all in your sleep tonight sufficient authority..."

Where's that list of names and addresses Spike had?...Willow demanded...Loudly...

Perhaps...Travers interjected...Perhaps they could review the process...See what possible problems might be inherent...And get back to them...

"And you will send a full and completely detailed copy of the process to us...By
fax...Immediately..." Giles told him...

Fax?...Surely Rupert understood...A document of this importance...Only a trusted and trained confidential courier...

"Immediately!!!..." Willow screamed into the phone... "It means right now, in case you don't understand!...Or nobody wakes up tomorrow!!!..."

Was that the Ms. Rosenberg Giles had made a detailed report on two months ago?...Describing her incredible abilities and requesting that they be evaluated and she be considered for advanced training at the Council?...Travers asked politely...

"That was her..." Giles told him drily...

Hmmn...Perhaps...Considering the troubling reports Giles had made on Ms. Summers' condition...Protocol could be waived in the interests of the Slayer's health and mental status...

"Damned straight!..." Willow cried...
***
It was one of the charming randomizations that Willow had built into Bess' programming that she sometimes dropped by Spike's crypt just to talk...Keep him company during the day, now and again...At no particular fixed hour, no particular day of the week...

A pleasant little surprise for him...And a good way of checking on his continued good behavior...

She was pleased to hear he'd done so well last night in helping with Buffy...Willow had spoken highly of his behavior...Even Giles had been impressed...

"Have they got any ideas on Buffy yet?..." he asked her...

Not when she'd left...They were in conversation with the Watchers' Council, however...Who were sure to come up with something that would help...

Those morons? he did not want to offend her by saying out loud...She hated hearing anyone bad-mouthed...

***
Xander had decided to take off work a bit early...And have his own little talk with good old Spike...Before tonight's big date...

Not that he doubted Bess, Willow, and the others planning to be within easy call could handle any...Problems...

He was more concerned about emotional damage...He...Buffy's surrogate Big Brother...Had no intention of seeing her hurt...By any callous actions on her date's part...

Spike, after all, had a demonstrated talent for getting inside one's head...Even without the fangs...

He did not want Buffy humiliated or made fun of by her former nemesis...He knew what that was like...

He arrived at the crypt and was shocked to find Buffy...er Bess?...Ironing Spike's suit...

Bess...She assured him, smiling...Just lending William a hand...

He was downstairs...Taking a bath as best he could...And repeatedly brushing his teeth...

She having pointed out to him that vampires' teeth...Because of the nature of their primary nutrient...

He was nervous...She concluded with a smile...Looking at Xander...

Hmmn...As was Xander, perhaps?...She noted...Raising her eyebrows in a distinctly Buffy manner...

Wasn't he usually at work at this time of day?...

Was he concerned about Buffy and Spike?...she asked him...

She's getting good...Xander thought...

***

Buffy had finally more or less passed dead out shortly after they'd returned to the house...

Dawn couldn't help being nervous...Especially after Willow and Tara had left...

Much as she had wanted Buffy to finally get some sleep...And let her get some as well...

She wanted her to wake up again much more...

But, around one in the afternoon, she heard Buffy stirring around in her room...

Phew...

[Main Theme (Ring of Fire) Play]

"Dawn?...How do I look?..." Buffy had come downstairs...In perhaps the strangest outfit Dawn had ever seen her wearing...

And, Dawn admitted to herself...Sis has worn some pretty strange outfits...

"Buffy...It's five hours till Will comes for you...And I don't know if that...Is quite right for a restaurant..."

Oh...But...Wasn't it sexy?...

Well, yeah...In fact that was the problem...Not quite the thing to wear to a restaurant, really...Or a movie...With families around...

But...She was sure the towel look had been in when she died...That girl they watched on TV...She always had had plenty of skin exposed...

Dawn gently tried a new tack...She didn't want to hurt poor Buf's feelings...

"Buffy...You know we have to go slow with Spike...He's just getting used to associating with humans again...On a non-food basis...You can't get him too excited..." she dropped to a conspiratorial whisper...

"They'll be watching him...And if he behaves badly..." she drew a line across her throat...

Oh...Buffy was properly horrified...What had she been thinking?...Poor Spike...He'd be exploding she told Dawn...

Oops...She put a hand to her mouth...I shouldn't say things like that to you...

No Problem, Dawn told her...We study this stuff in Biology and Health all the time now...

Really?...Buffy asked her...Then could she tell her about this little problem she'd been having with...

Ummn...Well...Why don't we wait until you see the doctor tomorrow?...Dawn told her...

Doctor?...Buffy looked nervous...Doctor?...

"Giles wants you to have a full physical, Buffy...All the tests they can run...He told you that, remember?..."

Oh...Right, check me up...Good old Giles watchin' out for me...Buffy told her happily...

"Don't you think I should marry him, Dawn?...He'd be a good father to you..."

Ummn...Well...

Giles would be a great father...To anyone...Dawn noted diplomatically...But...

"Where is he?..." Buffy's mood changed again abruptly...Which was becoming the norm for her actually...

Giles?...He's at ...

"Daddy?...I mean Daddy?..." Buffy looked at her... "Where is he?...Why isn't he with you?..."

"I don't know..." All the adult drained out of Dawn on this one...She looked at Buffy...And quickly headed toward tears...

Where is he?...Why hasn't he come?...She'd like to know the answer to that one too...

Looking at Dawn, Buffy realized she'd brought up a bad subject...And hugged her sister...

"Giles is here..." she said to her, smiling... "And I'm back here..."

Yeah...Dawn hugged back...Thank God...And for Giles too...

You know, that marrying Giles idea is not looking so bad at that...she thought...

***

Bess had reassured Xander that all would be well...She'd be in easy observing distance of the happy couple at all times...Willow and Tara would be close at hand...

"We'll be there too..." Xander told her...

Ah...So, see...Nothing to worry about...she told him...

Hmmn...Well, he'd still like to speak to the Spiked One a bit...

Sure...How about she take a quick run over to the nearest pay phone?...Check on things at Giles'?...Spike's cell phone was having a problem getting through the interference what with all the electrical stuff Dawn had been giving him...

"I appreciate it, Bess..." Xander thanked her...She headed out with a smile, pausing to remind Spike with a call that Xander was here...

Such a sweet lady, really...Buffy on her best days...Xander thought...Politenesswise, anyway...

Spike climbed out of the depths...He looked...Pretty good...Xander had to admit...
And a trifle...Nervous...

He actually seemed glad to see him...

He was in fact...

Bess' pleasant reassurances while nice were not very useful in his quest to truly turn in a stellar performance with Buffy tonight...

Both as dashing, attractive date and thoughtful, considerate gentleman...

And if you want brutal honesty...Administered without the usual considered thought...Turn to one Xander Harris...

***

Giles, Willow, and a newly arrived Tara were pouring over the fax just in from the Council when Bess' call came...

All was well on the Spike front...He seemed anxious...Desperately so...To turn in a worthy performance tonight...

And he looked very nice...Bess concluded...

Any word on Buffy's condition?...Bess asked...Xander was here as well and she knew he'd like to know as well...

Xander?...Willow thought...At Spike's?...

Oh...

"Bess...Was Xander...Angry or upset?..." Willow asked her...A leetle nervously...

Buffy needs this night out...She'd be so disappointed...If...Spike didn't... Couldn't... Show...

"Oh...You mean that Spike was going out with Buffy?...No..He just seems concerned...He wanted to speak to Spike...In private..."

Oh...

Vision of good brother Xander staking Spike as a preventive measure...

Well...Maybe you ought to head back over...Just in case anything... Happens... Willow told her...

Certainly...And regarding Buffy?...Bess asked politely...

"We have the resurrection process...We're looking it over..."

Ah...Shall I come over after I check on Xander and Spike?...She asked Willow...

"I mean...If Xander doesn't seem likely to kill him?..." she told her...

Yeah, actually...Her proof-reading abilities might come in handy...Willow noted to her...

***
"So...The main thing...Is to show her that you really care...Whatever shape she's in, Buffy always appreciates that...Even if it doesn't work out with the guy...She'll remember it..."

Bess had returned to find Xander anything but angry and upset...In fact...

He was happily dispensing advice to Spike...

Regarding the proper way to treat a girl like Buffy Summers...Especially when in...Shall we say...A slightly "off" condition...

To which Spike was listening with attention...And gratitude...

After all...His primary relationships to date had been with females who were...Rather easily satisfied...A proffered human or two...And Harmony's or Dru's heart was won...

And whatever he might think of Harris' killing and fighting skills...Spike appreciated results...And Xander Harris had the most stable and long-lasting relationship in their group...

They greeted Bess warmly...And were pleased to hear that something useful had been achieved in the effort to deal with Buffy's resurrection "side effect"...

Of course, Xander genially informed his protege...We will stake you without mercy if anything goes wrong...

Naturally, Spike told him pleasantly...But the chip was in perfect shape and he was sure Buffy...And he...And all of them, considering that nearly everyone would be headed for the same restaurant and movie theater...Would have a fine time...

But did Xander think Buffy would prefer a film over say...A play?...

Hmmn...In her present condition...He'd have to suggest a film...And not a complex and thought-provoking one, either...Something light...And happy...

Did they show anything but that at the Sunnydale Multiplex?...Spike noted...

***
Fractured...Part V...

Distinctly frustrating...Giles noted...

The resurrection process though needlessly complex in its wording...Like most spells, Willow noted...Was in fact rather straight-forward...

There was nothing to indicate potential sabotage on the part of demons from hell or any other branch of Wolfram-Hart...

He'd keep at it...But it looked like the problem...Whatever it was...Lay with Buffy herself...

And if it was organic...Perhaps a result of the three months' in the grave...Then possibly...

"You think it's irreparable?..." Willow said...Glumly...

Giles hesitated...

"I can't and won't say that as yet...But we may find in the end...That we must simply be grateful that our Buffy is back with us...In whatever condition we find her..."

Willow nodded...She's back...That is the important thing...

And whatever problems she's having she is our sweet Buffy...

Well...We'll deal if we have to...

"Guess we'd better go and get a little sleep for tonight..." she told Tara...

"Yes, ladies...By all means...Get some rest...And...Try to have a nice time tonight...I actually believe Spike will do his best..." Giles smiled at them...

***

Come Softly to Me
With help from Dawn, Buffy had chosen a nice, moderately conservative dress...And gotten her hair into an agreeable state by the time a distinguished-looking blond young Englishman came to call...With flowers no less...

Spike...In tweeds...

"Wow...Spike...You look great...How ‘bout me?..." Buffy spun around...

Words couldn't describe he told her...But if they could...The words would be...Utterly...Just utterly...

She looked down at her feet and up at him, shyly...

Poets...Wasn't he one once?...Say the nicest things...she told him...

Dawn reminded him somewhat sternly that he was due back at eleven-thirty...Sharp...

He nodded...Buffy seemed a leetle...

Eleven-thirty?...So early?...Buffy, a peeved tone in her voice...

Sharp...Dawn said firmly...

It was plenty of time he assured her...
***

He scoped out the restaurant as they went in...No desire to have to do any Slaying just right now, thank you...

So far so good...

Only one vampire that he could detect he told her in answer to her question...She had caught his sweep of the place...

"Where?..." she asked...Looking round...Might be a nice way to release some of the tension...She was so worried about making a mistake...

Here...He grinned at her...She laughed...

"So...Where are they?..." she asked...

He knew who they were...

"Willow and Tara just took the table over by the main front window...See..." he nodded just a bit at them...

"Xander and Anya are at the table to the right in the rear...About three tables down...As for our Bess...She's probably...Ah...My God..."

"What...Is the robot going crazy?..." Buffy looked apprehensively at him...

Hmmn...Pity Bess couldn't be doing that...Buf looks ready to take me on as her hero...

Well...Slow does it...

"No, no...It's just...She's with someone...I think you know him..."

Where?...Buffy asked him...

Front right table...Near the door...Don't look too closely, best not to let him see you if possible...

"Is it that bloody stupid twit?..." she asked...

Who?...

Angel...That bloody stupid twit...Leaving me all alone to fight Glory...Well...Not all alone...she patted his hand...

She's angry at Angel?...At old Christ, Jr?...This is the first time I've heard her speak of him...Since...

Either the Powers That Be must have some dreadful punishment in store for me after this week, he thought...Or I must have forgotten that I was a saint who saved millions in my human life...

"Is it Angel?...I can't see...Oh...I know him..." her eyes widened...

She nearly hopped out of her chair before he grabbed her...

"Parker...You...BADMAN!!!" she hollered in a voice that could be heard in the next three counties...

"My sister..." Bess told Parker pleasantly...

"Your sister...Buffy?..." Parker asked... "But I heard she was...Dead..."

"A very serious accident...She was nearly dead for three months...But she's almost all better now..."

Hmmn...Willow thought as she watched Spike gently calming Buffy...Maybe I should have been more specific with Bess as to whose dinner proposals for tonight she should not accept when I sent her to campus...

It seemed like a good idea at the time...Less noticeable than her sitting alone...Who'd have guessed Parker would be slimy enough to date Buffy's twin sister?...

***
Buffy kept an occasional wary eye on the Badman Parker but had calmed and turned to contemplate the menu...

"It's very expensive, Spike...Can you afford it?..." she asked...

"It's fine, Buffy...The Council's finally coughing up some dough for Slayers and their assistants, thanks to Giles..." he smiled...

"You go ahead and order whatever you like...Two of them if you like..."

He heard from Dawn about Buffy's appetite...When at home...With her friends away...

The true source of Slayer strength he guessed...

The menu kept her mind mostly off the repulsive Parker...Although she noted she was concerned for her "sister"...She hoped she wouldn't let him treat her bad...

Not a chance, Spike assured her...That slime won't get to first base with Bess...He grinned...

"In fact, lets hope he tries...She'll throw him though a glass window..."

"Like April did with you?..." Buffy laughed happily... "Oh, I hope so..."

Oh...She didn't mean that...Her eyes widened...Her "sister" wasn't...Dangerous... Like April?...

Miss Bess?...Oh no...Really...He was just trying to make her smile...Parker would be fine...Although he'd never get halfway to first base...

Oh...Buffy thought a bit...She was a little glum...

"Are you...Ashamed of me?...I let Parker get past the first base with me..." she looked at her lap...

No...No...Not at all...He told her...Hey, look who you're talking to...

"I'm only sorry you feel badly about it, Buffy..." he assured her...

She smiled...He was very considerate, she told him...
***
She was pleased that he'd ordered something, she told him...She'd been a leetle afraid that her memory was screwed up...She thought she remembered seeing him eating or drinking...Other things before...Besides...But...

It just would have been too bad if he couldn't enjoy the meal as well...

"That's very considerate of you, Buffy..." he told her gallantly...

Willow noted that all seemed quite well...

She scanned the place...Xander and Anya were pretty much out in their own world...Parker was obviously trying to score points with a very pleasant Bess...Who was dividing her attention rather unevenly with most focused on Spike and Buffy...

Hopefully no vampires or demons...Neither Spike nor Buffy seemed to have sensed any as yet...

At least neither of them had gotten up on the excuse of a trip to the restroom in search of any...

***
Buffy ate enough for three strong men...But after all, three months in the grave...Spike noted...

However it did amaze him how she managed to stuff all that food into that slender body...And manage to avoid bursting out of that dress...She must have stomach muscles like iron bands...he thought...

She looked a little embarrassed...Asking to see the dessert menu...

"I ate like a pig..." she apologized... "Hope you weren't disgusted with me?..."

Buffy...You ate very politely...And after three months...I would hope you'd eat a decent meal...he told her...

She was much too sensitive these days...He noted...Poor Buffy...And really, considering how much she ate...She did eat very delicately...

It's interesting though...She seems calmer...Maybe all she needed was some protein in the diet...

I should mention it to Giles tomorrow...A few good meals and she may be right as rain...

"So..." she looked at him as they waited for coffee... "We've both been dead...We should compare notes..."

Hmmn...He nodded...Only thing is...He pointed out to her...My resurrection was demonic...I don't really have any after-death experiences...

Unless you count my past career over the last century...

***

[Suggested theme...Movie Night (Come and Go With Me)]

The words he dreamed of for months now came to her lips...

"Spike...Why don't we go over to your crypt?..."she smiled at him brightly...

Well...She probably just wants to overcome her fear of cemeteries...Maybe she just wanted to see what he and Dawny had done with the place...

He noted that his crypt had indeed changed since Dawn and Bess had started a campaign to humanize his living space...And now that her posters and photos graced the place...

Perhaps after the movie...If Willow and the others were willing to join them...he thought...

Buffy continued...She could forego the movie...And maybe they could...After the others were settled in at the film...Slip off to the crypt alone?...

"We could have sex...Ok?..."

Not much room left for doubt there...

He didn't even mind the offer having come after Xander's...

Wow...

Whoa..Wait....

Ummn...This sounded like something that was sure to set Miss Bess and the others off...

Ummn...Buffy?...I'm on probation here, you know...Ummn...How to put this politely...

"You don't want to?..." she quickly moved from disappointment to despair...

"You don't want me anymore?...I'm a freak now...No one wants me..."
She looked sadly down at her hands...

"They're all saying...Look at the crazy dead freak...Who wants to have sex with her?..."

She looked back up at him, in tears...

"No one will love me now..."

Oh...

Spike was heartbroken, and rather shocked to find himself so...

My poor Buffy...

My God, I really do love her...He thought...I'm actually feeling for her without...Much of...An ulterior motive...

Victorian to the rescue...

What's she upset about?...Willow wondered to Tara...Is he?...

He took her hand and patted it...Kissed her on the forehead...

Tara noted Spike's gallantry to Willow...I don't think he got her upset...In fact...

No, actually...He does seem to be dealing with it...Well...Ok...For now...Willow agreed...
***

"Buffy...I swear...If I thought for a moment we could actually get away with it...We would be out there shagging like mad in a minute..." Spike gallantly told her...

Really?...She brightened...

"Absolutely...But we have to be careful...Or else Spikey never sees another sunset..."

He grinned... "More important...I never get another date with my Slayer..."

She was definitely picking up...

"And I have to take care of you, you know...I gave my word to the Nibs..."

She reflected...But he really would like to?...
Burning for it...He assured her...

Well...Maybe we should go slow...She agreed...

But really?...Well...Sorry to go on like that...She smiled sheepishly...

No problem, he grinned at her...A thought struck him...

"Did you ever imagine we'd end up like this?...Back in the old days?..." he smiled...

We had dinner together before, didn't we?...Oh no, we went out and had a drink...When I wanted to know about those other Slayers...Yeah...That was it...Right?...

Yes...He nodded his head, we did...But not quite the same circumstances...

I wanted to have sex with you then too...Buffy told him...

Oh...He looked at her...Blinking...And tried to nod...Pleasantly...

How to respond to this bombshell?...

"I think I started thinking about you...A lot...After we nearly got married that time..." she told him...

Oh...He nodded...Pleasantly...

He had to admit that probably he too...He told her...At that time...

And gave Willow a friendly glance...

Thank God for dear Willow and her magical incompetence...

"Well...Since we are taking it slow...How about that movie, Slayer?..."

She brightened to glowing status...Spike was the only person since she'd revived who'd called her...Slayer...

"Lets go..."

Seeing her "sister" and her protege rising, Bess thanked Parker for a very pleasant evening...

As she had paid for the meal one could excuse her for not suggesting that he accompany her to the movies...

Tara had to nudge Willow...Cool the withering gaze, sweetie...

"You have to admit...She's been having a good time...So far..."

Willow nodded...Lets hope blondie continues on the straight and narrow...

She rather enjoyed watching Parker's frustrated look from their table as Bess excused herself...

Though she didn't have the heart to disturb Anya and Xander...Still off on another world...

Time to call in to Giles...Phase one successfully completed...

***
As Spike had expected...The only problem was at the movies...A favorite killing field for vampires...Dark, romantic, lots of necking...

But Buffy was actually very pleased to sense that there were several vamps lurking around...

And insisted they do what they could to stop them...Though she accepted that one must be discreet and quiet in a movie theater...

However, she...Rather Loudly...Noted that many vampires showed no sense of courtesy...

Letting their dates pay and then killing them...Gross...

The Slayer would enjoy dealing with them...She bellowed...Pointing out to Spike that this oughta clear the place...And since the film hadn't started...

An attendant came by...who reminded her that one should be quiet in a movie theater...Or else...

She would be quiet when the lights went down...She promised...

"Tell him, Spike...I'm just doing my Slayer's duty..." she asked him...

Fortunately the attendant knew the Summers...Oh...This was the dead Summers girl's sister, right?...From Spain?...

"Si..." Buffy jumped into the role rather happily...

Spike noted a small number of patrons vamoosing...Casting rather anxious looks in their direction,,,And he sensed the immediate vamp population declining...Rapidly...

"She...A little?...From all the mourning?..." the attendant asked Spike...As he got up to explain poor Miss Summers' little problem...

He appreciated the attendant's perceptive skills...Spike told him...Yes, poor Miss Summers' sister...A little shaken yet...From the recent shocks...

"I was dead as a doornail..." she informed the attendant happily...Oops...Spanish, right?...

Very tired...From the exhausting past weeks...Spike noted...

"Si..." She said solemnly...Smiling at the attendant...

"You're her sis' old boyfriend, aren't you?...I saw you with her once or twice..." the young man noted...

Great...A chatty lout of a movie attendant...Pity one of the departing vamps couldn't have taken him out first...

Yeah...Buffy's old boyfriend...But of course a friend to the whole family...Spike noted...

"He's making time preety quick..." Buffy put in helpfully...Smiling at her beau... "I was barely...Ummn...Sis was barely cold..." She was so clearly pleased at her skill in assisting with the deception...Spike didn't have the heart to shush her...

She'll be just fine...Spike promised...Really...

Bess and the others were taking their seats...At strategic locations...

Whoops...So...Had he known the Summers a long time?...Spike asked the young lout...Moving him away from view of Bess...

"He used to be our paperboy..." Buffy noted... Oops...

"Ummn...Sis' paperboy...Mom said he stole stuff off our porch..." she became indignant at the thought...

No one steals from the Slayer's family...

"You give that stuff back!!!..." she yelled at him... "Or Spike will tear your throat out!!!"...

She'll be just fine...Spike assured the boy, leading him away from Buffy and keeping Bess out of his field of vision...By the way, was he by any chance a student of Psychology?...That remarkable perceptive ability of his...

The flattered lout admitted to several Psych courses at UCal Sunnydale...

Willow and Tara looked at Buffy who remained glaring at the attendant...As Spike slipped him twenty and again assured him that Ms. Summers would be fine...

Xander, brilliantly catching on to the situation, walked to where Bess sat and blocked her from view...Asking her how her "date" had gone...

Very pleasantly she told him, thanking him for his interest...Buffy seemed very happy, wouldn't he say?...

The lights mercifully dimmed...

Xander looked at Spike...Who nodded a grateful thanks...Both headed back to their seats...

"You'd tear his throat if it weren't for the chip, wouldn't you, Spike?..." Buffy asked, whispering as he retook his seat beside her...

Absolutely...he assured her...

She beamed, taking his hand...

But...Oh...Those vampires?...Shouldn't they?...

Bess...Or she...Would catch 'em later...Spike assured her...For tonight, it's Slayer vacation...

Besides...They were so scared leaving they'll probably give up humans for a month...

He was so sweet...She grinned happily...
***

Spike seemed actually glad to accept his suggestion that they all have a last coffee together Xander noted as they headed out of the movie house...

Buffy had never had a better time...Ever...At least that she remembered...She told Willow and Tara happily...At the coffee house...

But...She knew she'd acted a little...Was Spike embarrassed by her?...She asked them...

Not at all...they told her...

Oh...Then...Why didn't he want to have sex with her?...When she asked earlier?...

Ummn...

"He's just being polite..." Tara reassured her... "It's a little too soon, you know..."

Oh...Oh!...I didn't mean to tell you that...

"Don't kill him, please..." she asked anxiously... "He was very nice..."

No, no...We were there...He behaved himself very well...Tara assured the nervous Buffy...

Amazingly well...Considering Buffy’s little rendezvous proposal...Willow thought...

He was clearly very concerned about her...Tara went on...Considerate...

And wants to see another sunset...Willow thought grimly...

Still...One must give Blondie his due...She'd had a great time...With no visible scars...

"Good job, there, Spike..." Willow whispered to him at the first chance...And sternly looking at him...

"I expect you to keep it up..."
***

Buffy hated to see the evening end...But, Spike pointed out...He had some Patrol to do with Bess...And...

Eyeing the others...

They'd see each other again...

"Tomorrow night?..." she asked happily...

Well...He looked at the others who looked at each other...

No?...She looked sad...And progressively sadder as he hesitated...
Of course tomorrow night, Willow told her...

He'd come over the house, they'd watch TV or something...

Great...Buffy told them...She and Dawny would make...Things...

Xander eyed Willow...Who shrugged...Do you want to tell her no?...

At least we'll all be there again...Anya noted to him...

"Enjoy it while you can, Spike..." Willow told him in a grim whisper...

Tara couldn't help patting his hand...Someone should show him a little appreciation for a job well done...Compliment him on his excellent restraint...Must have been difficult...

Why was Tara patting her date's hand?...Buffy asked...Rather annoyed...

***

Dawn was pleased to see them all returning together...Intact...With a little time to spare...

Buffy was bubbling to tell her about the evening...But first of course...

A hug and kiss for her date...

Which even Xander had to admit Spike handled with adroitness...A polite Victorian peck, a gentle squeeze...

Buffy grabbed Spike and held him close...He was going back to that awful cemetery...Where the dead ones were...

Dawn sighed...

Fortunately Buffy accepted that his promises that he'd take care...And he would be at the house tomorrow as soon as the sun permitted...

Sooner if he could find a good covering...

But she insisted that Willow and the others walk him over to meet Bess...

And that he promise to be very, very careful on Patrol...

Certainly...he assured her...
He had something to live for now...

Buffy looked at him...Open-mouthed...That was so....

Oh, he is getting much too good at this...Willow noted to Tara...

***
Giles was not surprised to find that things had gone so well when Willow called him a few minutes later...

He knew from personal experience how well behaved a wild young man could be when trying to impress the girl of his dreams and her family...

***
Fractured...Part VI

Bess dutifully reported Spike's thoughts on the possible effects of diet on Buffy's condition to Giles the next morning...

He nodded...Not a bad thought at that...Certainly she must be in need of a few decent meals after three months...No matter how relatively well she looked...

"Please tell Spike I will look into it...And I truly appreciate his excellent behavior last night..." he told Bess...

The phone rang...Anya grabbed for it...

Ummn...Giles...She called...A bit anxiously...

He turned from Bess who set to work reviewing a copy of the Council's resurrection ceremony...

"Yes?..." he looked at his assistant...Was it Dawn?...More problems with Buffy?...

"It's Angel...He wants to tell you about an idea he has about Buffy..." she looked at him...

***
"Giles...Wesley has been doing some research down here..." Angel told him... "He thinks there may be a way to resurrect Buffy with the ceremony the Wolfram-Hart people used on Darla..."

Ah...Well...Giles looked at the phone...

"Look, I know you're not anxious to try this sort of thing..." Angel paused...
Well...Angel...Actually...

"But we can't pass up something...If there's a chance..." he continued...

"Angel...I'm not sure how to tell you this..."

***
Giles emphasized...Realizing the potential for danger in undiluted joyous news...That Buffy was not fully back to normal...

There might still be...Problems...

But...She was alive...And there were no signs of demonic contamination...

He'd be out there as soon as Wesley and Cordy could apply enough gauze and bandaging...Angel assured him...

Anya looked at Giles as he hung up...

"What about...Spike?..."

Well...Best to leave that to Buffy...For now, Angel's presence might even be helpful...he told her...Another beloved friend to help jog Buffy's mind back to normal...

And, if he should be a bit...Surprised...To find that she and Spike were now hitting it off so well...

Well, we all know Angel's noble and self-sacrificing nature would lead him to make Buffy's well-being his primary focus...

"You still really hate Angel, don't you?..." Anya asked him...
***

Spike arrived at the Summers' late that afternoon...At the earliest possible moment as promised...

Having carefully wrapped himself up in bandages and a couple of raincoats...

[Suggested theme...Runaround Sue]

Buffy, dressed for outdoors, completely with hat, was overjoyed to see he had come...Especially before the others...

She'd been planning to surprise him at his crypt, she told him...Dawn was ok with it, she added hastily...

Oh...Where was the Nibs, anyway?...

Out...She'd asked if she could go out...And she...Buffy...Had decided, well...Why not?...

So she was free for the evening...she concluded brightly...

Hmmn...

"Lets go on Patrol, Will..." she told him...Looking around nervously...
Ummn...Still a little early for me...Spike told her...

"Besides, Buffy...Aren't you supposed to be taking it easy?...Bess and I have the situation well in hand...I really think..."

A crash from upstairs...Spike looked at her...She rolled her eyes guiltily...And swiftly moved to dodge his questioning look...

"You like that Bess better than me, don't you?..." she looked at him accusingly...

Not at all, Buffy...You'll always be the Slayer of my heart...

The Powers That Be had smiled on Spike...She loved that one...

She grinned delightedly...Slayer of his heart...

"But...What was that sound?..."

Nothing...Probably some of my weapons fell down...Lets go...she told him...
Now...

An upset Dawn came in...Buffy looked everywhere but at her...

Busted...

Spike looked at the angry Dawn...What?...

"Buffy...Why did you lock me in my room?...And where do you think you're going?..."

Hello, Will...she told him...Sorry you came in on this...

Buffy turned away...A half-guilty, half-frowning look on her face...

"I'm going out on Patrol with Spike..." she told Dawn...
Dawn shook her head and rolled her eyes...Not this again...

"Buffy...You're supposed to be resting...No Patrol..."

A grim and determined look came over Buffy's face...But to Spike's wondering surprise was matched by the look on Dawn's...

Buffy's look even had...Dare he think it?...A trace of nervousness?...Well, actually...Fear?...

Fear?...Of Dawn?...

Ummn...Bad moment?...Should I go?...he asked...

No...Both told him...Buffy anxiously, Dawn graciously...

But clearly the boiling point had been reached...By both sisters...
***

Buffy...Dawn asked quietly...I asked you...Why did you lock me in my room?...

"I Want To Go SLAY!!!!..." Buffy yelled at Dawn...

"Dawn won't let me do anything!..." Buffy yelled to Spike and the world at large... "I'm the adult...I'm the grown-up...How come she thinks she can just order me around and I'll just..."

"Buffy..." Dawn said quietly but firmly... "I want you to calm down right now...You're behaving very badly and you'll be embarrassed for it later..."

Buffy looked at her...Dawn returned the look...Spike watching the battle of Wills, fascinated...

She quieted down...Well...Still, she told Spike...She was the adult...Right?...

Of course you are...Spike told her...Gently...

But your sister is just trying to help you until you're all better...That's all...

Dawn smiled gratefully at Spike...Thanks for backing me up Will...

No problem, Nibs...

The mood passed and Buffy smiled at them...A little sheepishly...

She was sorry...She was just getting...So...

She apologized for the door locking...It was...Stupid...

It was all just so...Confusing...And Slaying...Cleared her mind...Helped her focus...

At least...She seemed to remember that it did...

Unless it was the walk associated with the Slaying that did it...She wasn't sure...

Would they forgive her?...Spike?...

Don't even think about it, he assured her...

Look at his past behavior...What she'd done...Peanuts...
***
Buffy now happily began putting out some plates and things for the evening...Spike helping with a smile...It had been a while since he had the chance to help set up for a dinner party, he noted...

Dawn mentioned to Spike that they would be having some special guests...Angel, Wesley, and Cordy were on their way...

Buffy frowned...She didn't want to see that bloody stupid twit...she told them...

"Buffy...He's coming all the way from LA...Most of the way in daylight...Just to see you..."

"I don't want to see him...He left me all alone here to die...And I know what he did with Darla...Wesley told Giles...And all those other girls in LA...Always talking about them...His Kate...Oooh...So brave..." she mimicked... "And his Annie...And all of them..."

"I bet he had sex with all of 'em..."

"Besides..." she smiled at Spike...

"William is my boyfriend now..."

She turned huffily and went to the kitchen to get more plates...Dawn rolled her eyes, looking at Spike...Will you talk to her...Please?...

She went in after her...

Spike looked after the two girls...

Thank You, God...he thought...I just want You to know...This squares us for my unjust damnation...
***

Still, for Dawny's sake...Who was clearly anxious that the evening pass off well...Spike reluctantly pointed out to Buffy that she should try to be polite to Angel...As a guest...

Her mother would be hurt if she didn't behave as a proper hostess...

And after all the fellow had shown up after Joyce died...Remember?...

Well...Buffy frowned...If he thought Mom would want her to be nice...She'd try...

And Angel had saved her a number of times before...she admitted...

But...She asked...He did want to be her boyfriend, right?...

More than he wanted eternal life, redemption, anything...Spike assured her...

More than...Dawn looked at him...Enough already...Well...He was truly very pleased that she wanted him for a dating companion...

Of course they'd have to see how things went once she was all better...

Dawn had an inspired idea...

They needed a few things from the store...Spike had his car outside...Would he mind taking Buffy?...

"Yeah!...Lets go!..." Buffy raced for her coat...

I'm trusting you on this, Will...Dawn told him, taking him aside...

Don't make me regret it...And don't make me have Giles send Bess out after you two...

Less than an hour and back in one piece...he promised...

"Can I drive?..." Buffy asked as they went out...

Ummn...Well...Dawn shook her head furiously...It's a hard car to drive, dear heart...Spike began...
***

Willow looked at Dawn...Dawn looked a trifle sheepish...

But it had only been twenty minutes...

"You think it was a bad idea?..." she asked for the third time since Willow had arrived to help them set up...And learned Dawn had sent Buffy and Spike out shopping...Together...Alone...

"Dawn, I sometimes think letting William the Bloody live a day past the moment we first met him was a bad idea...Still...Spike has been trying..."

Astonishingly Willow had to admit to herself...It wasn't Spike she was worried about...

"He won't let her drive, you think?..." Dawn asked...

"Spike?...Let someone drive his car?...Nah..." Willow told her...

God, I hope not...she thought...

Tara, Xander, and Anya arrived...

"I saw Spike's car at the supermarket on Browell on our way over..." Xander told Dawn...

"Did you send him out to the store or something?..."

Just needed a few things, Dawn told him...Rather relieved...

Willow flashed a reassuring smile...

"Where's Buf?..." he asked...
***

A minor detail...Quentin told Giles over the phone...But it did appear...According to the research by several experienced in the resurrection field...As though it might possibly be a plausible explanation...

Spike was right...At least in part...Buffy was suffering...If these idiot "experts" were
correct...From multiple nutritional deficiencies...Especially in the fatty acids of the brain...The one component not produced in the body...And so not replaced in the course of the spell which had resurrected her...

Trust a nineteenth century Englishman from an industrial town to spot a dietary problem, Giles thought...

An Omega-3 fatty acid supplement should make a world of difference...Travers noted happily...

The Watchers' Council does it again...

"Listen to me carefully, Quentin...If Buffy is not restored by this...If she is left as she is...I will personally perform lobotomies on every Council member involved in this little exercise...Starting with you..." Giles told him quietly...

Rupert...Travers was hurt...After all he'd done...

"And further...If you think to hold Ms. Summers in your debt...I assure you...You can forget it...Buffy Summers has saved us all...Including you and our wretched Council...Countless times...When you have saved her several dozens of times, give us a call..." he slammed the phone down...

Bess smiled at him...It was nice to hear that Buffy's condition could be treated, she told him...

He sighed, looking at her smiling face...

Yes, my dear...It was nice...

There was a knock at the door which Bess went to check...

A jubilant, if mummified Angel embraced her at the door...Wesley and Cordelia behind...

"Buffy...Buffy, Thank God..." he pulled back... "You look wonderful..."

Bess thanked him pleasantly and explained who she was as Giles came up...

"They're all at the house, Angel..." he told him...
***
Forty minutes...

Willow patted Dawn reassuringly...Xander had seen them at the store...No problem...

They'd set back to work on setting up...

Giles called...The LA team had arrived and if all right they'd all head over in a few minutes...

Could Angel possibly speak to Buffy now?...

Ummn...

***

[Suggested theme...At the Supermarket (American Bandstand)]

A robbery...Spike thought...

Of all the things we have run into in our times together...A simple, stupid...Robbery...

The nervous gunmen were still waving their pistols about...Demanding the clientele keep to the floor...Or else...

Buffy looked at Spike...We have to get home...Dawn will be upset...Which means Giles will be upset...Which means Bess...

Oh-oh...Which means I lose my latest boyfriend...

"William...Can you charge ‘em?...You're resistant to bullets...Right?..." she asked in a whisper...

"DOWN!!!" screamed one of the nervous gunmen...Pointed at her...

She dropped her head to the floor...

Well...Sort of resistant...It still hurts...A lot...he told her...

But more important they'd probably shoot you and every human in here before I could reach them...he noted to her...

"You always think of me..." she smiled at him...

But he was in danger...If Dawn got upset and called Giles...

And it was all her fault...Oh...

"QUIET!!!" One of the gunmen screamed at her...Waving his pistol in her direction...

Hmmn...Thought Spike...I don't think all of our friends here are quite...Human...

"Hey..." Buffy hollered at the gunman... "My boyfriend and I have to go home!..."

He looked at her...

"You and your boyfriend have to go...Home?..." he smiled... "Lady, I'll send you both home...Right now..."

She looked at him curiously...She's sensed it too, Spike noted...

"You...You're a vampire?...Why are you holding up a store?..." she asked, genuinely curious...

They didn't seem to be taking any of the hostages for a quick snack...

The vamp blinked at her...His mates, human, Spike now noted...Looked at him and then her...

"She crazy?..." he grinned at Spike...Who smiled feebly, shrugging...

"Nutcase..." he looked at his pals...Apparently he preferred to keep his unique qualities under wraps...Spike noted...

"I am the Slayer..." she told him firmly...

"I kill vampires..." she explained...Just in case he was new to Sunnydale, she told Spike...

***

Sixty minutes...Time's about up...Dawn thought...

He said...Less than an hour...

She looked at Willow...Willow looked at her...

Tara, Xander, and Anya looked at them and each other...

"I could go over to the market...See what's keeping them..." Xander offered...

Buffy might just be having trouble picking out desserts...Or maybe there's a long, long line...

It happens...he assured Dawn...

No reason to think Spike decided to risk taking Buffy up on her sex offers...

If they're not at the market...Willow thought...And not walking through that door before Xander gets back here...

But for Dawn's sake she agreed with Xander...He was sure to find them mired in a make-out...er check-out line...

***
Fractured...Part VII

So...Willow thought...Here we are...

Waiting for Spike and Buffy to come home...

Together...

A happy couple...Resurrected Buffy rather...Rattled...But clearly head over heels with her latest vamp boyfriend...

Unbelievable really...

And with Angel and the LAers on their way... Unaware that Angel is currently not on Buffy's A list...

Dawn getting edgier by the moment...It had been, after all, her brainwave to let Buffy go with Spike to the market...

And for once it's not Spike's behavior we're afraid of...

God, what a past two days...
***

Fortunately, Spike noted, the one vampire in the group of robbers holding up the supermarket he and Buffy had chosen, seemed as unwilling as they for "trouble"...

He seemed in fact to be anxious that his human partners not learn what he was...And tried to brush off Buffy's questions of why a vampire was robbing a store...And not killing the customers and employees held at gunpoint...

Although her declaration of her Slayer identity had clearly made him more nervous than ever he continued to try to laugh off her statements...A real nutcase, he informed his pals...

And came over to her and Spike, grinning...

She was genuinely curious...

"You don't what your friends to know you're a vampire?..." she said in a conspiratorial whisper...

"I won't tell again if you let me and my boyfriend leave now..." she told him...

He really was afraid of being found out, Spike realized...

"Look...Slayer...Just can it will you?...I'm not harming anyone...I just need some cash..."

He paused, and earnestly pleaded...To both of them...

"I'm using it for blood...I'm no hunter...Just sit tight a little longer and I see
you...Everybody...Gets out ok...Ok?..." he looked at them...He put his hands out pleading for calm...Looking back to his friends now engaged in breaking open the closed cash registers...

"Well..." Buffy thought it over...If he really wasn't a bad vampire...Oh!...Spike...

She explained that her sister would be very angry with William if they didn't get home soon...And he was a vampire too...They were brothers, sort of...And he had to help him...

Plus she would remember him if he was nice...And check before she'd Slayed next time they met...Long as he was not bad...She'd leave him be...

Hmmn...Not every day the Slayer offers you a safe pass...

"Is she ok?..." he asked Spike..."She seems a little...And I heard the Slayer was dead..."

"The rumors of my death are..." Buffy got confused midquote... "I'm not dead...Now..." she concluded...

"You'd be wise to accept Ms. Summers' offer, lad..." Spike told him... "Not many vamps get on her good side, I can tell you..."

"Just you Will..." she told him happily... "And maybe you...If you're very nice..." she told the vamp...

Hopefully she's not planning to put him on the sex or marriage list, Spike thought...

"Are you sure she's ok?..." the vamp asked...Looking back at his mates...

She was dead three months...Spike explained...It takes a toll...Temporarily of course, he nodded to Buffy...Now almost all well...

She smiled...He was always so eager to spare her feelings...So sweet...
"I was dead as a doornail..." she told the vamp...

Say...Did he remember what it was like when he died?...They should compare notes...

***
Xander reached the market lot about five minutes later...

Just as Angel and co reached the Summers'...With Giles and Bess...

***
The vamp was apologetic...He didn't have any after-death experiences...You see...

"Spike didn't either..." Buffy told him kindly... "That's ok..."

He had to swing back in to look over other hostages, the vamp told them...Just cool it a bit and he'd be back...

The rest of the gang was now engaged in trying to open the office safe...Without much success...

Except for the several including their vamp who were nervously looking over the hostages at different spots...

Watching the group struggling in the office, Spike noted that they might well be here a while...

Buffy was nervous again...Dawn and Giles will be so pissed...If they don't have Bess stakeWilliam...At the very least we'll never get another date...

She noticed the vamp returning...

Having a moment, the vamp was curious...Why was the Slayer hanging out with the famed William the Bloody...

Buffy was pleased...The famed...Her boyfriend...

And thought quick...

"We're having a meeting...For a peace treaty..." she told the vamp solemnly... "William is representing all the good vamps who want to make peace..." She smiled at the vamp... "Like you..."

Oh...The vamp was interested...

Buffy?...Spike looked at her...

Hmmn-hmmn...And free blood for all the vamps who come in on the deal...she told him...

Really...Free blood?...The vamp was very interested...

Maybe I could slip you two out the door when the others are counting the cash out...he noted...

Nobody'd miss two less customers...

"By the way, I'm Leroy..." he smiled...

Leroy...She'd remember him...Very pleasantly...Buffy told him...If...

He moved to check on progress...Just sit tight and he'd be back...he told them...

Nice going, dear...Spike noted, smiling...She grinned back...Raising her eyebrows...

Not too bad for the crazy dead girl?...she whispered...

She noted Xander causally strolling into the store...Oh!...

That's my friend...she called to the returning Leroy...

"Xander...Hi!!!" she waved...

Buffy?...Spike?...What's?...He looked at them on the floor...And the other hostages, looking at him, frightened...And saw the gunmen in the rear...

They saw him as well...

And were not in a mood to receive additional guests...
***

Leroy now faced a moral dilemma...

Much as he liked the idea of a free and steady blood supply...Without the bother of a hunt or the need for a sustained cash flow...

His human mates were not likely to accept his switching sides with good-natured tolerance...

On the other hand...What were a few bullets compared to a safe pass from the Slayer herself?...

And it wasn't like the guys were old friends or anything...Just causal acquaintances...

"Down, pal!..." he called to Xander and turning back round opened fire on his former associates...Who'd come running out of the office with similar intent towards the unwanted intruder...

"Yeah!!!" Buffy cried... Hopping up as Spike desperately grabbed at her...He followed as she charged in the direction of the now panicking gunmen...Who fired wildly as they fled toward the back...

Xander...Though still a bit puzzled...Joined the pursuit a moment later...Calling to Buffy to watch out...And Spike to watch...Her...

Fortunately two of the three front fast-moving targets now presented had a high lead tolerance...

And the third was the fastest moving of the three...

She was upon one of the fleeing robbers before the rest reached the rear doors...And raced for their cars...

She clubbed the startled fellow one...Good...

Down for the count with one blow...

She was grinning in triumph as Spike and Leroy reached her...

He might only be a human...But...

The Slayer is back...

"She really is the Slayer..." Leroy noted to Spike...Who nodded...

Made the right call on that one, mate...Spike told the vamp...

"She definitely is the Slayer..." Grinning back at her...

"What the hell is going on?..." Xander called, coming up...

Peace negotiations...Buffy solemnly informed him...Smiling at Leroy...

***
Well...Dawn noted grimly...Listening to their explanation...

Long line...Very long line...

As long Xander vouches for you...

It was a madhouse there, Xander informed her...

Smiling at Buffy...And Spike...

Hmmn...Thought Willow...Well, best not to press it right now I guess...

"Hi, Wesley...Cordy!..." Buffy hugged them...

"Hello...Angel..." she said...Politely...Offering a hand...

Angel looked at the others...What's?...Did I do something?...

He glared suspiciously at Spike...Who stood watching with a Cheshire cat grin...

Remarkably similar to one Giles was wearing...

Even Willow was not all that sorry to see his discomfort...

Where the hell had he been during the fight with Glory, anyway?...
***
Fractured...Part VIII

[Suggested Main Theme (Ring of Fire)]


Buffy maintained a polite and composed pose with her dinner guest, Angel...For the best part of ten minutes...

Who...While naturally pleased to find her alive and more or less functional...Was rather distressed to find a less than joyous welcome from her...

What'd I do?...He looked pleadingly at the others...

Cordelia and Wesley surprised as he...Buffy?...

Even Spike felt a modicum of sympathy...

Oddly however...The other Sunnydalers...Did not seem...All that...

"Please sit down...Dawn and I are very glad to have you all here..." Buffy told the
group...Formally...But looking to Giles...Willow...Spike...Xander...Anya...In
turn...Anxiously...For a little encouragement...
First dinner party in months, after all...

Am I doing ok?...They each smiled and gave a nod or a wink...Just fine, Buf...

She looked at Dawn...

"That's the way to do it, right?..." she whispered...Loud enough to be heard...

Absolutely...Dawn whispered back...Don't sweat it...

What's with her?...Cordelia hissed to Willow...Who shrugged...

She has been dead three months, you know...

They all sat down...Spike taking his seat next to Giles and Bess...Dawn diplomatically grabbed the other seat between Wesley and Spike...Hinting with a wave to a disappointed Buffy to sit near the LAers...

The special guests...Oh, right...

"Sorry, Spike...I have to entertain our guests..." she called over to him...

He nodded...Absolutely...

The LAers looked at each other...

Buffy took a seat with her guests...But distinctly away from Angel...And crossing her legs demurely began a pleasant conversation with Wesley...

Had he killed many things since they last met?...she asked...

Ummn...Well...

Wesley looked nervously at his Boss...Who glared back at him...And stepped over...

Buffy not deigning to notice him...

"Buffy?...Could we talk?...Go outside for a moment, maybe?..." Angel asked her...

"Ummn...Angel..." Dawn said, looking over... "I think it's best if you guys stay indoors..."

"I don't want to go outside with you, Angel..." Buffy told him regally, turning back to Wesley...And frowning at Dawn...

"But I could...If I wanted to..." she brightened...And turned to Spike...Who was pumping Giles for info on the medical evaluation performed on Buffy that morning...Pleased to hear that his diagnosis might have been on target...

"Spike!...Lets go out again..."

"NO!!!"...Dawn...

Ummn...Buffy...It's not polite for us to leave your guests...Spike noted to her...

She nodded...He was right, of course...And apologized frostily to Angel...Who'd glared Wes out of his seat...She was sorry if she'd said or done anything to offend him...But he had to understand...She...Had recently been in a terrible battle with a terrible, powerful enemy...

He picked up a bit...An opening...

"Yes, Buffy...Giles has been telling me how great you were fight..."

She cut him off...All alone she told the room at large...Alone...She looked at him...Well, except for her good friends...And dear William...

Yes, I know, Buffy, and I...Angel tried desperately...

William?...he thought...As she interrupted his effort...

All alone...She went on...Except for my loyal friends...Especially Willow and William...Fighting a terrible, powerful enemy...A goddess no less...she noted, nodding...

Well, Buffy...Cordelia tried to put a word for the Boss...Angel was...

And she'd been dead as a result...Of being...Almost all alone in a terrible, deadly fight...Dead...As a doornail...So...Buffy hoped he...And the others...Would understand...

Death...She concluded...Makes one distant...When one has fought...All alone...

She looked...Narrowly...Back at a startled Angel...

Almost...Except for one's friends, of course...

Plus...Buffy couldn't resist breaking her aloof pose and grinning happily at her beau...She had a new boyfriend now...

So Angel would just have to under...

He exploded...This was too much...

"What?...Spike is your...Boyfriend?!!...Buffy?...What the hell?..." he glared at Giles who returned a noncommital look...Before returning to his Cheshire cat grin...

Wesley and Cordelia were equally shocked...Buffy?...And Spike?...

Willow gave Spike a rather Puckish look...

Enjoy yourself, Blondie...While you can...

Actually...

They're being a little rough on old Christ, Jr. he was thinking...In spite of the pleasure of watching Angel squirm...

Tara, sympathetically tried to move the conversation along...And provide Angel an escape hatch...

"Angel, I understand you guys were trapped in another dimension?..."

He got hold of himself and calmed...Yes, he nodded...

Place called Pylea...By way of a dimensional...

"Portal!?...Portal?!..." Buffy jumped up... "You were in a portal?...And you didn't even stop to pick me up?..."

It wasn't the same portal, Buffy...Spike told her gently...

And you were dead...

Angel looked at them...I don't believe this...

"What did you do to her?!!..." he yelled at Spike...

"DON'T YELL AT MY BOYFRIEND!!!!" Buffy hollered at him...Poise forgotten...

"Buffy...Stop shouting...Sit down..." Dawn told her...

Spike tried to calm her...Angel was just concerned...

But she had crossed a barrier...And intended to have her say, now...
She glared back at Angel...Fire in her eyes...

"You had...Sex...with..." she paused...Ummn...Oh yeah... "Darla!..."

Well...Angel looked nervously at the others...Willow?...Help me out here?...

"It was only to help her, Buffy...I knew it wouldn't bring me...Happiness..."

"Just doin' your duty, huh?..." Buffy looked at him, swaying hips as she spoke for
emphasis...Eyes narrowing...

He looked at the other Sunnydalers for help...Spike...Giles...Xander, even...Seemed to be...Enjoying this...

Yeah it probably wasn't all that happy for him...Xander noted quietly to Anya...Very helpful for Darla, though...I'm sure...

Even I find that one hard to stomach, Willow noted...

Giles kept his noncommital look...

Bess smiled pleasantly...

Though he could see Buffy was not herself...Angel was moving...Rapidly...Towards a little...Annoyance...

After all, Buffy had jumped into the sack with ole Riley fast enough...he couldn't help noting...

The Sunnydalers looked at him, a little...Jumped into?...Closing ranks...

However...Dawn tried to help...

"Buffy...Angel couldn't help not being here..." she paused... "When you needed him so badly...He was...Probably very busy..."

Cordelia was getting a bit...Who do these Sunnydalers think they are?...

"Angel was saving our lives...He had no idea that..."

"He knew Glory was after me...He was here before...Why didn't he stay?...He always leaves..."

Buffy noted...Glaring at the now very annoyed Angel...

"Spike never leaves..." Proudly beaming...

Spike did his best to maintain an innocent but concerned...And friendly...look...Avoiding a direct glance at the now hotly glaring Angel...

Buffy...Wesley put in, a trifle indignant...You know Angel can't stay with you...There's Angelis...And the Prophecy says...

Prophecy...Smaphecy...she sniffed...I don't pay attention to dumb ole Prophecy...The Master...He tried to fool us with that...

She looked proudly at Xander and her good, loyal friends...

"Xander was too smart to be fooled by that kind of stuff...What if he'd left me dead?...Went off and said 'Ooh...The Prophecy...The Prophecy...'...#&$@!!!...It's stupid..."

Buffy...Dawn hissed...Guests...What would Mom say?...

Got to watch my language around her these days...Willow thought...

You could've stayed and watched over me...Buffy glared at Angel...At least when Glory came here...

We wouldn't of had to have sex...she told him...

He was struggling to keep his composure...Clearly Buffy was...But even so...

Giles had meanwhile lost a little of his composure...He felt a bit uncomfortable to be reminded that he'd been ready to accept her loss back there with the Master...If only for an instant...

Spike stayed...She told the hapless Angel...Even when Dru came and tried to get him to go way...She looked proudly at her beau...Do you know what he said?...

He said...No way...I'm staying with Buffy...She nodded her head emphatically...

She dropped to a proud, confidential whisper...

"He even offered to croak her to prove he loved me..."

Had her in chains...Knife right by the throat...She smiled happily, picturing the moment...

Angel was staring at her...He looked at Giles...Willow...
What the hell is wrong with you people?!...

His gaze locked back on to Spike...You...

Spike returned his stare...Innocently...

Buffy remembered she was mad at Angel...Eyes narrowing again...

"You didn't even try hard to kill Darla..."

He might have hung around a bit longer after Mrs. Summers died, Tara couldn't help noting to herself...

Bunch of inflated egomaniacs...Wesley thought...

A little reputation, a few minor successes, and they think they can sit in judgement of the rest of us and...

Of course...He couldn't help noting to himself...If it had been my true love...

Oddly enough, outside his LA staff, it remained only Spike who seemed to feel a bit of pity for poor Angel...In the midst of enjoying the experience...

He'd been on the receiving end of Buffy's glare often enough...

"Buffy's been a little...High-strung...Angel...I hope you understand..." he told him...Pleasantly...

No need for a scene, mate...

[Suggested theme...Dinner Party (American Bandstand)]

Angel looked at him...Understand?...Why, you...Little blond maniac...

He started over...

Buffy was watching...A shy, sly grin on her face...

Her boyfriends were gonna fight over her...

Neat...

Dawn looked nervously at Willow and Bess...They're not gonna fight are they?...Now?...

In the house?...

"Spike is quite right, Angel..." Giles told him quietly, stepping quickly over to him... "Buffy is just a little agitated these days...We must make allowances...You understand..."

Bess watched pleasantly...Ready to step in as required...

Angel calmed again...And grimly retook his seat...

He understood...Of course...Glaring again at Spike...

"He looked like Angelis just then, didn't he?..." Buffy noted to Willow...

Actually...Willow thought...

Buffy looked at Giles...Spike...Her mood changing abruptly...Oh?...Had she embarrassed them?...

Not at all...Spike gently smiled at her...Just explaining things to Angel and the others...

"I didn't mean to hurt your feelings, Angel..." Buffy told him, looking back at him...Haughty pose forgotten with the grievance...She remembered how he'd saved her lots of times...She was just...What Giles and Spike said...

She was sad now...She'd done it again...Stupid, crazy, dead Buffy...Does it again, she noted...Despairingly...

Mom would be so...

No, no...William told her, heading over to her...Patting her hand...It's just...A period of readjustment...Angel understands...Right?...

He nodded at a startled Angel...Startled as much by the way the other Sunnydalers looked to Spike...William?...William?!...To take Buffy in hand...

He recovered and assured Buffy he did understand...No problem at all...

The LA team looked in wonder at William the Bloody comforting a now deeply embarrassed Buffy...

Who apologized again for losing it...She'd been dead as a doornail...Ask Spike or Giles...

She held out a hand to Angel...Who finally got his hug...Though still nothing like the hug she also gave to her latest...
Who was always...So sweet...She noted to the room...

Giles mercifully brought this part of the evening to a close...Suggesting politely that Buffy needed her rest...

***
He laid out what he'd learned after Buffy reluctantly went up to bed...Having given Angel a last friendly if rather dutiful hug...While reminding William that she was still his girlfriend...With a rather bone-crushing hug...

"Careful on Patrol, Spike...Bess!...Watch out for him..." she called to the robot...Who nodded pleasantly...

Dawn once again having refused her request that Spike not be forced to go back to
that...Place...Again...

Poor Spike...She groused...I bet Angel doesn't have to...

Spike looked away from a renewed Angel glare...Ummn...You've gotta understand, old pal...

He'd be fine in his crypt...As always...Spike assured her...

Well...They were all friends again...Buffy noted...So...She'd leave it up to Spike on the living arrangements...For now...

Oh!...She reminded Spike to tell Bess about Leroy...The good vampire...Not to be staked...If he remained good...

He'd describe him to her in detail...Spike promised her...Maybe they'd meet tonight...He'd give him her best...If he was still a good vamp...

Good night, everybody...she called...Heading up...

"She wants Spike to live in their basement?..." Angel asked Willow...Wonderingly...

***

The results from the medical tests done that morning on Buffy had confirmed several nutritional deficiencies...Most glaring...Omega-3 fatty acid...

Giles had arranged for an expert consultation the next morning...

"Will they be able to help her?..." Angel asked...

The Council... "experts"....Seemed to believe so...However given their past record...They'd have to wait and see...

Well...But what if?...

"We'll take it as it comes, my boy..." Giles told him...

He nodded...But what about?...He glared again at Spike...Who couldn't resist a return to Cheshire cat status...

"Spike has been handling himself quite well, Angel...And as you saw...He does seem to favorably affect Buffy in her current state...We're keeping a close watch on them at all times, of course..."

Giles assured him...

"I truly believe that this is just a side effect of her nutritional problems...Perhaps a lowering of inhibitions...Like the effect of alcohol for some..."

Hmmn?...Lowering of inhibitions?...Thought Cordy...

So she actually likes Spike?...She and a somewhat disturbed Angel thought...

Well...He'd call tomorrow...And keep in touch...Angel told them as the LAers prepared to head out...

He can't stay one night?...Willow...Tara...Dawn thought...She just revived and he can't stay one night?...

He paused...As the other LAers headed out...

Might he speak to?...William?...Alone...For a moment...

Willow eyed Bess...She came over...

"Watch 'em Bess...Buf needs Spike right now...Don't let Angel kill him..." she whispered...

He took Spike aside...So...Boyfriend, eh?...

It's a temporary thing Spike told him...She'll be back to hating me in a week...

Hmmn...

Well, one must sometimes put one's trust in the Fates and Prophecy...
William...He told his "grandson"...Grimly...

Take...Good...Care of her...

Make me proud of you...he paused...

But not too proud...he noted...

And left to join the others...

Touched as he was...William couldn't repress the thought...

He's leaving the "love of his existence" in the care of a recently reformed homicidal maniac?...

***

The internist consulted was rather shocked...

"What has this girl been doing to herself?..." he asked Giles...

He'd seen some severe anorexic cases but...

Odd, though...She looked well enough...And her weight was while on the slender side not excessively so...

These bizarre crash diets...Giles noted...And while she was away in Spain...Depressed about her mother's and sister's deaths...

Well...

Best to start her on an IV of supplements...Right away...

Giles arranged to have the supplements supplied for home care...

***

Giles explained the therapy to Buffy...No hospital...For now...Just a little IV fluid in her room...

To provide some badly needed nutritional supplements...

Buffy was a little...Apprehensive...

IVs?..Supplements?...
She was already getting better wasn't she?...Did she really have to have needles stuck in her?...

"This will help you get back to full strength, Buffy..." Dawn noted... "You could go Slaying again..."

We hope...

Slaying?...With William?... she asked happily...

Ummn...Sure...

But she caught the look that passed between Dawn and Giles...
***

Fractured...Part IX...

There would be a day or so's delay before a home care nurse could be arranged to administer Buffy's IV supplements...Giles informed Dawn and the gang at the shop the next morning...

Buffy sleeping in under Bess' watchful supervision...

Dawn was a bit...Concerned...Not so much about Buffy...Either this would work or...It wouldn't...

"What about Spike?..." she asked...

The question on all their minds...

Especially since last night's dinner party...

When all of them had found themselves...Unbelievably...Pulling for the Blond One...

Over good old Angel...

If Buffy no longer felt the way...She'd been feeling towards him in her
present...Fractured...state...

Well...Giles noted...If Spike were to try to interfere...Bess...And the rest of them...Would be in position to stop him...

Dawn nodded...But...

She...All of them...Even Giles himself...Weren't so much concerned about that...A worry, of course, but...Somehow...They didn't think he would try to stop them from fully restoring Buffy...

And they could handle him if he did...

No, oddly enough...Though perhaps not so oddly after this past week...The question was...

What would happen to him?...And his slow but definite inching back towards Humanity?...

Who'd ever of thought we'd be worried about Spike's feelings being hurt?...Willow thought...

But...It has been that kind of a week...

Heck, it's been that kind of a year...
***

They were not the only ones concerned about poor Spike...

Who would be left all alone again...In the cemetery...

***
Bess brought Buffy over in the early afternoon...

Under strict orders not to let her wander over to Spike's on her own...

But Buffy had made no objection to coming straight over...She had a fine idea she wanted to discuss...

She should be eating fish, right?...Dawn had told her the stuff she needed came out of fish...

Giles nodded...

So...William could take her out to the fish place near Mom's art museum...

They might even take in a quick museum tour...He'd never seen Mom's museum...And being a poet...He was sure to appreciate...Fine Art...

Then maybe...The Bronze?...she suggested happily...

Just for a little while...she noted...As Dawn frowned...
Well...Giles noted...Perhaps...As long as everyone was with them...

Willow and Tara had to study...They could do the Bronze later...

Giles offered to escort Bess to dinner at the fish restaurant...And the museum...

Both excellent ideas...he complimented a beaming Buffy...

As for the Bronze...Perhaps...So long as there was no drinking on her part...Not a good thing for her right now, he noted...

Dawn was a bit put out...

Giles...You might check with me first on all this...she thought...Looking him a bit grumpily...

"No drinking..." Buffy assured him...She just wanted to hear the music...And dance...

Dance?...With?...Willow...Xander...Tara...Dawn...wondered...

Dawn suggested...Politely...That more support would be needed for the evening...She would have to think it over, she noted to Giles...

She couldn't allow any chances to be taken with Sis...she told him firmly...

Not that she didn't have faith in Will doing his best...But...It was her responsibility to look out for Buf...

Giles looked at her...She looked back...

Buffy looked hopefully at both of them...

Xander and Anya were fascinated...Dawn vs Giles...New mom vs dear old dad...

Hmmn...Maybe they're the ones who should be talking marriage...

Such a heavy burden for such a little girl to take on, Giles sighed to himself, looking at Dawn's firmly set face...And refrained from arguing with her...Smiling, he nodded his agreement...She was right, of course...More help would be needed...

She was after all doing her best to be a Mom for her poor sis...

Buffy however was equally determined...And had a simple solution...

"Xander...Will you come to the fish place with us?...And Anya too?...Please?..." Buffy asked...Too eager for the evening even to grouse at Dawn's latest assertion of authority...

The hopeful, pleading look on her face was hard to resist...Anya noted...

Even if I hate fish...

She nodded to Xander...If ok with him...

"We'd love to come, Buf..." Xander told a delighted Buffy...Who hopped up to kiss him...

"Oh...Sorry, Anya..." Anya doesn't like me to do stuff with Xander, she remembered...

She leggo quickly...

That's ok Buffy...Anya told her...Calmly...

Especially if you leggo immediately...Anya did not say...

Well...If Xander and Anya were going too...Dawn reflected...

"Thanks Dawny..." Buffy hugged her sis...

"Bess!...Lets go tell Will..." she insisted...

They persuaded her to let Bess bring Spike to them...

Give him a chance to get ready...

"Oh...But what if he doesn't want to?..." Buffy was worried...

He might have...Vampire business to do...

Nah...Willow assured her...He had a good supply of blood courtesy of them...As for other aspects of the business...

"I think he's preety much out of that line, Buf...For the moment..."

They were pretty sure he'd accept, they assured her...

"I'll go with Bess and ask him myself..." Dawn promised her...

Willow and Tara could take her home and help her get ready...Then the others'd would all
meet at the shop...Bess would assist Spike if it were still...A little early...

Buffy reluctantly agreed...She was anxious to see his crypt now that it was getting all fixed up...

Maybe she could help him paint the walls or something...

And in daylight, well...The Bad Place wouldn't be quite...So bad...

She hoped...

But maybe, she reflected before the others could begin dissuading her...Maybe it could wait...

In fact, Bess should probably go alone...Nothing would get her...Dawn should... Must...Come home with her...

"I'll be fine Buffy...It's daylight and Bess will protect me..." Dawn assured her...

Bess smiled and nodded...

And the invitation should come from one of them...That was the proper way...Dawn pointed out...

Well...Buffy looked worriedly at her brave little sis...And at Willow, who patted her hand reassuringly...

O...K...
***
Spike greeted them with a minimum of phony grousing...

Fellow gets no privacy anymore...he noted...

Thank God, he thought...

He inquired about the status of the new treatments...And Buffy's current state...

"She's fine...We have to wait a day or two before the treatments start..." Dawn told him...

She explained Buffy's plans for the evening...Was he...Free for the evening?...

Spike looked around his crypt...Does it look like my social calendar is jammed?...Still, one should not let oneself be taken for granted...

He thought he could make it...If it would help Buffy, of course...

A Victorian gentleman is always ready to assist...Especially when it involves his lady...

Dawn thanked him...And hesitated, wanting to get to the real point of her visit...

Buffy would be very pleased, Bess assured him...She'd seemed very anxious for the evening to come off...

***

Dawn had wanted to tell Spike...Herself...

"Spike...You know...If this works...She...May feel differently towards you..." Dawn hesitated...

"She might not...Care for you the same way...But...I'm sure she'll be grateful..." she added hastily, taking his hand...

Of course...Spike smiled at Dawn...He'd guessed as much...And...

He wouldn't have Buffy any other way...But normal...

And to have her...Dawn...All of them...As his friends...Was far more than he deserved...Or expected...

Dawn kissed him...And he headed down to the depths of his crypt to get ready...She watched him...A little sadly...

Bess escorted her home...

***
She found Buffy in a fever of date preparation...

Tara helping her chose an outfit...Not too sexy, Buffy was explaining...William couldn't handle too sexy...It was unfair to him...
***
Willow had headed back home to get organized for their study session Tara informed Dawn...

They were getting rather a little behind, given the events of the past few days...She noted wryly...

Oh!...Buffy was horrified...She hadn't been thinking...So much going on...She was missing so much class...She'd never be able to make it up...

"Giles and the Council have to work out something for you, Buffy..." Dawn reminded her...

But Bess had been auditing a couple of courses...Dawn told her...Preparations for re-entering UCal-Sunnydale as Elisabeth Summers...Possibly in January...

Buffy looked appreciatively at Bess who smiled back reassuringly...Wow, that Warren did a good job on you, she noted to Bess...Who nodded her thanks...

After all, Bess might have needed a college degree someday as Dawn's caregiver...Giles not placing great faith in the Council's pledges of support for Buffy's family...And Hank being nowhere on the horizon...

If she...Buffy...Had to step into Elisabeth's role...Which was Giles' worst case scenario...She might lose the past two years' credits it was true...But heck...What's two years compared to a lifetime...Dawn and Tara noted...

Hmmn...Elisabeth...Not a bad name...But...

"Could I still keep my Buffy?..." Buffy asked...Everyone's used to calling me Buffy...

You bet...They assured her...
***

Tara headed out, promising to try and meet them with Willow later at the Bronze...

She was very nice...Buffy noted to Dawn and Bess...

Hope Willow doesn't get over the gay thing too quick...Except...

Poor Oz...

Had they heard from him?...she asked...

Not recently, Dawn told her...But he'd be ok...Remember, he was doing real well with his control and all...

Buffy shook her head...It was too bad...

Nobody should be alone...

And she oughta know...
***
Spike had switched to a more relaxed suit style for date two...Light gray with open flowered shirt...

As had Buffy...Sweater and skirt...Although not that particular white sweater she had worn...On her last day...

That was on its way to the Sunnydale incinerator...By mutual agreement of the Summers' sisters...

Buffy was quite taken...Not all guys could carry off that look, she informed him...Particularly vampiral guys...

He was properly appreciative of the green sweater and skirt...Matched her lovely eyes just right...

"You might consider bringing me flowers once in a while..." Anya whisperingly informed a hapless Xander as Spike presented Buffy with three roses...Yellow and orange...And one perfect white...

For his three Summers' ladies...Buffy, Dawn...And dear, dear Joyce...

White...For her mother's pure soul...In heaven...

Thank you, William...Buffy told him...Mom always liked you...she told him...
Maybe...When she felt up to it in a few days...They could go by her grave...Together...

He'd be honored...he told her...

Oh, but Bess?...

Bess displayed a pink rose...Spike would never leave her out...she noted pleasantly, smiling at them...
***
This date was the family variety...Which did not seem to unduly disturb Spike...In fact he seemed anxious to make a good impression...

Which did not particularly surprise Giles...

He'd actually been to Joyce's art museum, Spike told them as they sat at dinner...He, Buffy, Xander, Anya, Giles, Bess, and Dawn...

Not for any ill intent...he quickly added...Looking at Xander and Giles...

Just that he'd wanted to see what Joyce's place looked like...Well...He sheepishly noted...To be honest, he had hoped...To understand more about both Joyce and Buffy...

He just had a feeling...Buffy would have picked up some of Joyce's sensibilities about Art...

She beamed...

"It's a beautiful place...I was surprised to see the areas she worked on were so...Avant-garde..." he noted...

Very Avant-garde...Especially in a town like Sunnydale...

Mom was a flame-thrower in Art, Buffy noted...

***
She understandably got a little depressed during their museum tour...It being the museum's late hours day...

Wish the Council had thought of doing a two-fer on that resurrection thing, she noted to Spike and Dawn...As they strolled through the exhibits Joyce had designed...

Yeah...Dawn agreed...But at least we've got you back...She hugged sis...The place was getting her a little down too...

"Why didn't I see her?..." Buffy asked Spike... "Aren't people supposed to come and see you after you die?..."

He moved her discreetly away from a few patrons who looked at her strangely...

"Maybe...It wasn't your time Buffy...And that's why the Powers That Be called you back..." he told her quietly...But Joyce was safe in Heaven...And she would see her again...At the right time...

Giles and the others seconded that opinion...

Buffy pondered...But...Will?...

What about your Mom?...Will you see her again?...

"I don't know Buffy..." he told her simply... "I think...If whatever human left to me is not judged too harshly...And she can forgive me...My...Weakness..."

Maybe...he concluded...

Did he remember her?...

It's been a century...And more...He began...

But...Yes...At times...Every line of her face...

"I hope you see her again..." Buffy told him sadly...

Perhaps...It was time to move on to the Bronze...he suggested...

She brightened immediately...

Yeah!...

"We'll see you, Mom..." she called back as they left the museum...

Yeah...Xander thought, nodding...This is the place to feel Joyce's spirit...Not that damned grave...This and the house...

My God...That's why she brought Spike here...Presenting her new boyfriend to Mom...he realized...

Dawn looked at Giles and Xander...

We have to do something for Will, her look said...
***
She'd had a deliberate reason for coming to the Bronze tonight, Dawn quickly realized...

It was DJ night...With requests...

And Buffy'd been requesting the same song for an hour from a sympathetic DJ...The one she'd been playing at home constantly...

And was currently dancing to...Hugging Spike firmly in her grip, head on his shoulder...As he looked a bit nervously back at the others...Including Xander and Anya on the floor...All of whom nodded to him reassuringly...No problem...

So far...

Enya.. "Only Time"...

Reassured, Spike happily carried the clinging Buffy around the floor...He liked the song, too, he noted to her...

Willow, she and Tara having joined them, watched from their table...And looked at Dawn...

And Giles...

What have we done?...And what we are we going to do?...

More important...What are they going to do?...

Buffy looked at them, still holding Spike...Smiling back at them...But there was something in her look...That vaguely disturbed Willow...

Something determined...

What are they going to do?...

***
At the house after Bess left with Spike...He having thanked and been thanked by his date properly for a wonderful evening...

Dawn got Willow aside after Buffy headed upstairs...Treatments would begin tomorrow...She needed a good night's sleep she had agreed...

Dawn watched Spike and Bess from the living room window as they made their way across the lawn...

"We have to do...Something for him..." Dawn looked at Willow...

Spike paused and looking back, waved at them from the lawn with Bess...

Willow sighed...Well, Buf first, she told Dawn...Then we'll see...Maybe one of the resurrection ceremonies...Maybe...Something with the gypsy curse...

But...At least...We can be friends to him now...Even...Family...At least as long as the chip holds out, she noted to Dawn...

That's gotta be worth something...For someone who's been alone so long...

She put a hand on Dawn's shoulder...And watched him with her...

Someone else watched Spike and Bess walk slowly across the Summers' lawn as well...From her upper bedroom window...

***
Buffy had her first IV treatment the next afternoon...She was nervous but seemed anxious to get on with it, Dawn noted with relief...

Though she cringed during the needle stick...

***
That evening Spike lay on his slab...Pensive as suited a former poet...Who had been considering resuming his craft...

Well...I had a week...The best week of my existence...He reflected...

And we're friends now...Besides...Who knows...Maybe she'll even...Still care...A little...

He slept a bit...

Bess came into the crypt...

"Spike..." she called to him on the slab, waking him...

Bess?...He was up in a moment...

Anything wrong, dear heart?...She seemed a little...

Spike looked expectantly at her...

She came in a little hesitantly...

"Hello...Spike..." she said...Robotically...Exaggeratedly robotically...

He grinned...Ok...He'd go along for a mo...

Hopefully this is a Dawn-sanctioned visit...But I'd bet not...

"Well, Bess...Nice of you to visit today...How's my Buffy?..."

"Very...Well..." she told him...

And why is she here?...Out of bed?...He told her sternly...But with a twinkle...

"How did you know?..." Buffy asked, a little disappointed...She'd practiced all day on this...

Even borrowed an outfit Bess wore...
Bess always knocks before she enters the crypt, he told her smiling...

She grinned...Next time...But...She had something important to discuss...

"We have to leave...Now..."

What?...Leave?...Where?...Does Dawn know you're here?...

Oh...Ummn...Yeah...Well...No...

"Buffy..." he sighed... "You know what happens if Dawn gets worried..."

Oh...Right...Bess comes looking for me...And you get killed...She looked distractedly around the crypt...

What is she up to?...She looked at him...And around the room again...

I never, ever would have thought I be thinking this, but...Please, not the sex request again...Not now...When it's so convenient...

Please, God...Don't ask too much of me...Spike thought...

She paused...Thinking...

"Well...Then you better take me home I guess..." Buffy told him...

Ah...Another ride in the car...Well...Hopefully Dawn will understand...
***
He got them headed out...She suddenly pulled Mr. Pointy out from her coat pocket and held it to his throat...

Ummn...Buffy...We're friends now...Remember?...Dating even...

Have I done something wrong?...He wondered...Hmmn...Not that I was aware of...Some faux pas that set her off?...

"This is a carjacking, William..." she told him solemnly...Holding the stake near his throat...

"Turn left towards the freeway...Step on the gas and drive us out of here...Or I starting Slaying..."

Now Buffy...What the hell is this all about?...He kept his eyes on the road and turned as she had requested...

"I'm rescuing you, William...Well...Rescuing us..."

What?...

"They want to change me...Make me stop loving you..." she told him...

Buffy...Listen...

No way...And keep driving, she told him...

After all, she informed him...It was his human soul she loved...And she could always look for that in the Afterlife, if she had to...Later...

He sighed...Well...Best to go along with it before she hurts herself...She'll be better off with me nearby...

***
Buffy was watching the road nervously, keeping Mr. Pointy to Spike's throat...

She didn't mean to be rude...She told him...But he had to understand...They were going to separate them and she didn't want them to separate...

"I understand, dear heart..." he told her, watching the road carefully... "And truly, I appreciate it...But Buffy...You can't leave Dawn...All alone...And Giles..."

He saw her lip quivering in a quick glance to the side...

Dawn...All alone...And Giles...Oh...

But she was determined...William was her boyfriend...The only one who stayed...And she and he should stay together...She was not gonna leave him...Let him go back to being a bad one...Leave him all alone...In the cemetery...No...

And what about his chip?...If he stayed good....Who'd look after him?...Protect him...

They must stay together...She told him...And no one was going to change her so she wouldn't stay...

She wasn't a Riley...An Angel...Nope...

And as a precaution tossed his cell phone out the window...

She'd pay him back...She promised...As soon as she could...But...

She was firm...And there was nothing he could say to change her mind...The way they wanted to...

If I die tonight...Spike thought, watching the road...I die a happy, happy...Well, whatever I am now...

***
Fractured...Part X Conclusion

They had reached the freeway...Spike's loving companion still holding dear Mr. Pointy firmly to his throat...

But with an occasional deep yawn...

Not that she was sleepy, Buffy informed him...She was prepared to go all night...Until they got to...Where they'd be safe...

He waited her out...She was clearly still exhausted...Probably up all the night before and all day fretting...

About us?...He wondered...

About...Me?...

Dawn had told him of how she been having a tendency to go like blazes for hours, then suddenly with a few signs of exhaustion...Collapse dead out...

She was showing those exhausted signs now...Probably couldn't hold out much longer...

"Where are we going, Buffy?..." he asked her...

It didn't matter...Some big city far away...Chicago, maybe...She loved Chicago...The Windy City...

He'd like it there...

Had he ever been?...She'd show him around...

"Sounds wonderful, dear...But...You know Dawn will be hurt...And Bess will hunt us down...Willow too..."

She pouted...Then brightened...He was William the Bloody...He'd been through this sort of thing, she was sure...He'd get them through this...

She patted his arm...

As for Dawn...Well...She'd send a postcard...Make a video...Outside, in daylight...So she'd know she was ok...Not a vampire...

Besides...She wanted to change her too...They all did...It wasn't fair...It was...

It was unjust...Like what Drusilla had done to him...And Angel...Well, Angelis...To Drusilla...

Poor Drusilla...They should stake her some time...It would be terrible if she got cursed and woke up like Angel...With a soul in a vamp's body...

Poor lady...Angel had told me she was about to become a nun when Angelis killed her...Was that true?...She asked him...

Afraid so...But Angel will find her in LA sometime and help her...Darla too...He assured her...

Angel...Hmmpf...she snorted...

Poor Dru will be a vamp forever if we leave it to him...she noted...

"It's very kind of you to be so concerned about her, Buffy...Especially considering she would probably kill you if she had the chance..." Spike told her...She was clearly reaching the end of today's blaze...Just a little longer and she'd be out...

She was pleased to do it...Buffy told him...Slayer's duty...And if he had liked her so much, human Dru must have been a very nice...person...She yawned...Massively... And nearly ended Spike's present idyll with the sharp end of Mr. Pointy...

Oh..Sorry...She told him...Blinking to stay awake...

No problem...He was fine...

Actually...He went on, glancing at her...He'd only seen the vaguest flashes of poor Miss Drusilla's human soul...She was, if there at all, very buried in what Dru had become...

Which was probably a good thing he noted...Poor human Dru would be so sad and embarrassed to know what had happened to her...

Ummn...Hmmn...Buffy was nodding...

He pulled over just as she passed out...
And called Giles from the first pay phone he could reach...
***

Bess was waiting for him at the shop...She'd drive, thanks...

Buffy woke with a start...But as annoyed as she was with her beau...She was quick to plead with Bess for his life...He hadn't done anything...It was her fault...

Please don't kill him...

It was going to be fine, Bess assured her...She believed them...And Giles had instructed her simply to bring them back...Else, she smiled at Spike...She'd be taking a much tougher line with William the Bloody right now...

***
Buffy insisted on staying downstairs...She was afraid they're stake William the moment she left...

And he hadn't done anything...Except...She glared at him a little...To bring her back...

Dawn sighed...Giles sighed...Bess smiled pleasantly at Spike...

She was pleased to hear he'd hadn't done anything that would signify a return to his old ways, Bess noted to him...

"Buffy...No one is going to hurt me..." Spike assured her...

"They want you to be all alone!..." she cried...

It's mean she informed them...William couldn't help walking into Drusilla last...Ummn...Year?, no...Oh yeah...Last century...

"We know that Buffy...And Spike is our friend now...As long as he behaves himself..." Dawn assured her...

"We'd never hurt Spike unless we had to, Buffy..." Giles told her...

"He won't be alone..." Dawn told her... "We'll go on being friends..."

Buffy looked at her feet...And at them...And they realized...

"What about me?...Will I still be his friend?..." she asked in a sad voice...

"Yes..." Dawn assured her... "Buffy, you wouldn't have taken such a liking to him this week if you hadn't...Cared a little before..."

Spike smiled at her...Taking her hand...Dawny was right, girl...Remember back after Glory hurt me...

Oh...Hurt you so bad...Buffy touched his chest...

Well...Who came to my crypt?...And kissed me to make me feel better?...

What?...Dawn and Giles thought...She never said anything about...

Me...Buffy nodded happily...'Cause you were so good that time...You were...The way I wished you could be...All the time...

If that's how you like me, Spike promised solemnly...Then that how I'll always try to be...

But...He regarded her seriously...If I can't be that way anymore...Someday...

I would want you or Bess...Or anyone...To help me...

He looked at her ...She returned the look...And nodded...

Dawn and Giles watching...In wonder...

She turned to the others...

"You promise not to hurt him?...If he stays good...? "

They nodded...Bess as well, smiling...

After all, that had been the cornerstone of her programming in dealing with Spike...
***

Buffy had one more request regarding her beau...If she was going to change...And there was a chance...She might not feel the same...Before she did...

"Can't he stay?..." Buffy asked... "Until I'm all better..."

"Well...Buffy...I think it would be better if I just came by when I can..." Spike told her...

He went over to Bess...Requesting that she keep an eye on her...And let him know when it would be all right to drop by...

Both unnecessary requests...she told him smiling...She'd be doing it in any case...

He turned for his good-byes...

Buffy looked at Dawn...Pleading...But it was not a childish pleading...

"Just a few days...Please..."

Ummn...Dawn looked back at her...And then at Giles...Well...If Bess stays in Mom's room and guards the hallways...she thought...

Oh, God...William the Bloody...Living in our basement...she sighed...

"Spike...Wait a minute..." Dawn told him...And turned to a now hopeful Buffy...

"Will you promise to stay here?...Not do anything stupid....At least until you're all better..." she asked...

Giles smiled wryly at Spike...

Buffy nodded eagerly...
***

Spike read to her constantly during the next five days...Poetry...Which Dawn obtained from the Sunnydale library...

During which five days Buffy showed marked improvement under the Omega3 therapy...

Late on day six she found him in the basement packing the few things Bess had fetched from the crypt for him...With Bess helping...And watching...

She asked Bess for a moment alone...
***
Buffy smiled at Spike...

"You really came through for me, William..."

And sighed...

"But you understand...It can't work out for us...They...Wouldn't trust you...Or me, really..."

She looked down...

"And I...I can't overlook...What you've done...As much as I care for what's left of your human side..."

She looked at him...She didn't want him to have false hopes...

"I can't love a demon, Will..."

"And then...There's Angel...I...dont't know how that's going to work out..."

"I know..." he smiled back at her...

"But it was nice while it lasted..."

She smiled... "Will, it was great while it lasted...But..."

"You sure were a fool not to take me up on that Chicago trip...You'd love Chicago..." she grinned...

He chuckled...Well, he told her...Not so big a fool as Giles not to accept those marriage proposals...If it had been him...

"As for Chicago...Well...Maybe someday...If I'm ever human enough again..." he looked at her...

She looked at her feet...Oh...

"I do care, Will...I want you to know that..."

"Of course now you know just how much and how long..."

"It's more than I ever deserved to hear..." he told her...

She looked straight at him...So human now...

"We won't give up on you Will...I won't...We'll try to find something...To help you..."

He nodded...

"And I'll try my best to keep my promise..." he told her...

"Till the end of the world?..." she asked...

He grinned and nodded...

"Friends?..." he put out a hand...

She embraced and kissed him...

"Will?..."

He looked at her...

"What the hell is your name?..." Buffy asked him...

"Oh..." he grinned...

We never have been properly introduced, have we?...he noted...

"Walthrop...William Soames Walthrop..." he bowed slightly... "At your service, miss..."

"Well...Good-bye Mr. Walthrop..." Buffy shook hands, smiling...And frowned...

"Remember William...I expect to see you again..."

He nodded...After all...Like I said, I have something to live for now...he told her...

He smiled and left her...Thoughtful...

***

Buffy took a month's vacation about a week later...Well earned and Willow was sure, desperately needed...But without Dawn...And where...They could only guess...
Chicago...Spike suspected...

Giles arranged for Bess to be shut down at the same time...

Which irritated both Willow and Spike...Why now?...Bess was such a help...

And a dear friend...Spike thought...

But Giles insisted...Buffy had asked that Bess be dealt with while she was away...

No doubt she was still squeamish around her...

They could understand that but still...It was a shame...

***
Giles took a brief vacation about a week after Buffy...
It occurred to Willow that Giles had not turned down any of Buffy's marriage proposals per se...

Hmmn...Nah...Not our Giles...

Not that it would’ve been such a bad thing, actually...

***
Willow and Dawn began joint and single alternated frequent visits to Spike's crypt after Buffy's departure...Making Xander a hair nervous...Going alone...Even with the best intentions on Spike's part one could never be too sure of the chip...

And never sure that Dru or Darla or some other "old buddy" from the past might pay an unwelcome visit...

Catching them at the crypt he insisted they never go alone...Which Spike heartily seconded...

He'd been telling them all week, he noted...With Bess no longer on guard...If something nasty dropped by for tea...And he couldn't protect them...

Buffy would be terribly disappointed in him...

They agreed to go jointly only...Dawn a trifle annoyed...

Not much progress on the resurrection front, Willow told them in answer to a question from Xander...No luck so far in modifying the ceremonies for transformed types...She looked at Spike...

And smiled...

But they'd keep at it...
***
So they were coming there together a month later in the early evening when they found Buffy waiting outside the crypt...

Dawn was a bit miffed...Gone a month...And she heads over to Spike's first?...Geesh...

She embraced them one after the other...And grinned sheepishly at Dawn...

She had a leetle surprise in the works...

Bess?...emerged...Looking rather different...In fact...Wearing the same outfit as the first Buffy it was impossible to tell which...
"Bess?..." Willow asked the newly emerged Buffy... "I thought Giles..."

The two Buffies stood side-by-side...

"Buffy..." the new one, on left noted....

Which?...They looked at right Buffy...Who grinned back...

"Spike!!..." left Buffy...hollered at him...Spike came out...

She asked him to start Patrol...She'd join him in a bit...

"Go on, honey...We need to speak to Willow and Dawn for a moment"...she told him...Spike grinned at Willow...

"Damned if I can tell..." he said...As he headed out...

"You've enhanced her programming...And removed my resistrictions, haven't you?..." Willow grinned at...Both...

They just smiled back...Identically...

Dawn looked from one to the other...

"She's immortal...And can look after him forever..." Willow noted...

"It's great of you to do this for him, Buffy..."

They both looked at her...

"Maybe...I'm doing this for myself as well, Will..." one told her...

The Buffies grinned at Willow...

Odd...She couldn't distinguish their aural signatures...According to what she could sense...

They were both human...

My God...She thought...I really can't tell...

But of course...It must be...The one on left who'd just emerged from Spike's crypt...

"Ummn...Bess?...Were you?..."

"I'm Buffy, Will...Both of us are Buffy now..."

The other grinned at Willow...

Dawn looked at Willow...You can't tell?...

"Dawn...Give us a mo...Now..." left Buffy waved her to the crypt entrance...
Dawn looked nervously at Willow...

"Dawn...Move it!..." right Buffy told her...

Dawn went, grumbling...

Willow grinned...

The sisters have resumed their normal roles again...I see...

"Ok...We give...So you reprogrammed her?..." Willow looked at left Buffy...Who nodded...

"Or...She's reprogrammed me...I should say she and Warren, actually...I needed a little technical assistance on this one...Or she did..." left Buffy told her...

"But which one?..."

"You can't tell?...That's good..." right Buffy told her... "And that's how it's going to stay..."

"But...Buffy...The real Buffy...She'd never stay with Spike?...She couldn't..."

They grinned at her...And looked at each other...

You don't know us very well, do you...

"Maybe human Buffy is staying with Spike...For this lifetime...And the copy will take over when she can't stay anymore..." left Buffy told her...

"Maybe we're going to alternate..."

They looked at each other...Smiling...

"You guys would never feel right about my staying with William...You'd talk yourselves into believing I was still...Off my rocker or something...But on the other hand, he would never feel...Be...As human...If he couldn't believe...That I loved him enough to stay..."
right Buffy continued...

"And if he can be human...If love can keep his human self on top...Then I can stay..." left Buffy concluded...

"Well...At least one of us can stay..."

Of course we’ll be looking for a new place come Monday morning...Right Buffy noted...

"But...If you're not the human...He'll know...Someday..." Willow noted...

"What makes you so sure I'm not the human?...I...Both of us...Even bleed now...In any case...The robot would have to take over someday...Buffy couldn't stay with him forever...And he has to have someone to help him...As long as he exists..."

"And by the time the human...Would have to leave...The robot will be about as Buffy as I...Or she...Is...And he understands that..."

"But Bess...Can't...Take Buffy's place...With us or with William...She can't...Exceed her programming...She can't love...In fact she couldn't even..."

"Couldn't is the right word, all right...After all....What do you think Spike and I were doing?..." left Buffy grinned at Willow...

"Or Spike and me?..." right Buffy smiled...

As for love...Human emotion in general...Well...

"Warren is a damned good programmer, Will...And with my more than willing cooperation...Plus I'm not as much of a slouch at it as you might have thought...Once he gave me some pointers..."

"Much more important, we added a little extra...Courtesy Giles and magic..."

"Giles...You got Giles to help you in this..."

"He wants us to be happy Will...And he was pulling for Spike right from the day I came back to you all..." left Buffy noted...

"You're really not going to tell us?..." Willow looked at her... "Ever?..."

"No...And if you think magic is the answer...Giles agreed to help...With a spell that you might say...Copied our soul...And covered our auras..." right Buffy answered...

"Of course we...And he...Can't say that it's a real soul living in the other now...But... As it's close as we can get and still keep human Buffy alive..." left noted...

The two grinned at each other...

"Even he doesn't know now..." left Buffy smiled...

"We'll tell Dawn...She deserves to know and can help us cover...If I ever need an operation or something...But that's all..." right Buffy told Willow...

"But...You said we couldn't leave you with him...You're probably right...How can you expect us to just...Take that chance..." Willow frowned at the Buffies...

"You'll just have to accept it Will...You have a Buffy to help you...And he has a Buffy to help him...Which one...Is my decision to make...And if I chose to be the one...It's my right, I'd say..." right Buffy told her...

"Consider this a little moral...Out for you all...You can choose to believe that I'd never stay with William...That I'm just trying to leave the uncertainly there for his sake..." left Buffy smiled...

"Besides we'll both be around...For as long as we can...And we both love you guys..." right Buffy told her...

"And this is what you really want, Buffy?..." Willow looked at them...

She had the feeling...But it was true, she realized...She'd never know for certain...

"Yes, Will...It is..." they both told her...

They called Dawn back...And hugged her again...

"Guess we've got two Bufs now..." Willow grinned and shrugged at her...

Never can tell what a fracture in the universe...Or in Buffy...Will end up producing she thought...

"But...You will tell me?..." Dawn asked anxiously...

They nodded...She sighed...

But not just right now...They were rather anxious to see if any "gaps" might have been left..

"Well...I'll leave you guys to get acquainted..." left Buffy told them...
"But I'll be back here later..." right Buffy noted... "So I wouldn't make any assumptions..."

Left Buffy left, waving...

Alternate, eh...Willow thought...Looking at Dawn...Who was looking...Hopefully, but unsure at right Buffy...

Wouldn't surprise me one bit if they went that way...


[Suggested theme...Runaround Sue]
[Suggested end theme...Ring of Fire]

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