The Devil and "Dr." Walthrop...

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

PG-13

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



Book I. Rebecca and Her Sisters

Brief intro...Go ahead and skip if you're up on the BR verse...Or prefer to figure things out...

The quick runthough...The BR verse takes off with an alternate season 5 in which Spike and Warren's little robot project took an amazing turn, partly due to the fact that the BRverse Warren is a true genius and a rather nice if nerdy guy (there had to be one good one, in some AU somewhere). Utilizing his invention of a remarkable artificial human brain and an accompanying neural transfer system capable of copying a person's entire psyche into said brain...and the much superior components provided by his employer, the Severn Corporation, Warren gave his fellow lonely guy and new buddy Spike a perfect copy of Buffy, in super-strength robotic form...Complete with an artificial blood supply...

And a human soul...One of the infinite potential Buffies of our infinite universe...One, while as ready to sock William into another dimension for his act as any Buffy, was the Buffy on a good day who could sense his soul's desperate cry for help and was, over the course of their time together, willing to take a crack at saving him...Protected as she was by her robotic nature from the danger of the Spike demon attempting to take advantage of her feelings and transform her...

Buffy, who'd not realized she'd been tricked into acting as a neural template, was rather annoyed to find her mourning for her mom interrupted by the arrival of her twin...Who wisely refrained from seeking to move into the old homestead, taking up a fugitive existence with William in a new, well-hidden crypt at the twins' mother's cemetery...

Meanwhile Glory and her beloved minion Dreg planned to locate the Key...Glory here being a former Roman goddess of Glory and Victory, dethroned and insulted by the Christian emperor, Gratian in 382 with the destruction of her Altar, which had contained the Key, a neural energy gateway. Glory naturally sought vengeance but had been blocked between dimensions by her brother/counterpart, Benedictus, better known as Ben...here a god of Mercy and Healing who'd been happy to spend 1600 plus years on Earth holding Glory back and practicing medicine...Until the Master's opening the Hellgate for an instant gave trapped, pissed Glory enough strength to occasionally take Ben's spot here for brief periods and seek her Key...The energy source which would give her enough power to displace Ben and destroy the Humanity which had scorned her...

A Glory story told to BR by the Emperor of Rome and Byzantium, Professor Constantine Drages, descendant of the Caesars and Commander of the Knights of Byzantium in secret conference with her, Willow, and Giles...Who'd arranged the meeting hoping to substitute BR for Buffy in the Glory fight and save his charge without having to sacrifice Dawn as he'd originally intended...BR quite willing, despite her growing love for William, to risk death playing her sis and saving her loved ones...While a desperate William sought some way to prevent the destruction of his own beloved Buffy...Rebecca...

The battle ended in triumph, BR using her robotic nature to allow Warren to electroshock Glory with half of California's power output...Splitting her and Ben apart and trapping both on Earth as near-...but Immortal...humans...And leaving Glory with a serious case of amnesia and no power...More important, William quietly achieved a kind of redemption/soul restoration when he accepted his fate and allowed BR to risk death to save her sisters and the world...

But before love could take its full course, tragedy ensued...BR showed a delayed reaction to the electroshock which steadily destroyed her artificial brain, its destruction helped by the sinister employer of Warren, Dr. Hannis Severn...Who'd hoped to cheat Death and win Immortality either via Warren's neural transfer system... Enraged on seeing BR's mental decay and what he took to be the failure of his hopes, Severn prevented Warren from saving her...

Though not before Buffy had had a chance to begin dealing with her feelings regarding her twin...And with Warren, attempted to save her...An attempt followed up by the gang with William...Sadly too late...



But having achieved love and redemption...And having some experience with Death and Immortality, William was able to see things in perspective and believe that he would, one day, find the soul of the Buffy of his dreams again...

And lucky fellow, he had just the sort of friends in Willow and Tara to enable him to begin the quest almost immediately...With success...A seance confirming that the soul of his beloved BR in fact existed and waited for him...

A seance which came just in time for Buffy and Dawn, as Darla and Dru took a hideous revenge on them, using their returned father, the hapless Hank, as the tool of their destruction...Buffy killed and transformed, Dawn barely alive, preserved only by her Key nature...

But with her twin's soul on hand, Buffy was able to hang on in her transformed body, fighting her demon "sister" until the gang could defeat Darla and use the purloined Wolfram-Hart resurrection spell to restore her human body...Ably assisted by her new "brother-in-law" William...Soames Walthrop...

Warren having reactivated Buffy Rebecca's body with April's computer brain, he and Buffy decided to make an attempt to restore BR's human, if artificial, brain...Her memories having been merged with Buffy by Willow as an act of gratitude by her human twin when BR was required to leave her sister's body...Rejecting the chance to live again in Buffy's body, which a depressed Buffy had offered her...

The restoration a success...BR wasted no time in marrying her Will, their honeymoon in Europe part a business trip for Warren's...And his partners' (William, now posing as "Dr." Walthrop, cybernetics genius... and his Missus) firm...And part hunt for Drusilla, William being anxious to bring his siress' human soul peace at last...

Naturally Dru's demon essence, backed by human allies from the European branch of Wolfram-Hart, fought back...But with the aid of Dru's human soul, reaching out from her limbo prison...And William's human descendant, Ms. Amelia Hunt-Walthrop...The Walthrops' honeymoon was able to continue without serious incident...

Apart from a minor murder mystery in Scotland which turned into a major case of attempted revenge on William by relatives of victims of Spike in Florence, Italy...And a minor war in Greece against renegade Knights of Byzantium, the Templars...Who sought to destroy a now almost helpless and considerably sweeter Glory living at the restored Benedictine monastery near Athens in the care of her brother, Ben and the Byzantine monks...

Nothing they couldn't handle...Except...

William, increasingly concerned over the nature of his redemption...All too well aware that his demon counterpart Spike remains very much in place, waiting...And now facing the prospect, thanks to his partner and "father-in-law" Warren's efforts, of parenthood...Is determined to get answers to the questions troubling him...And his wife...Life together on Earth for perhaps even a few thousand years thanks to Warren and Drusilla being all very well, but he has Eternity in mind...Not to mention the potential kiddies...

The Missus might have a problem if they turned out to be hideous, soulless fiends or something like that...

And..Fortunately...(Unfortunately from BR's point of view...However much she wants the answers herself...)...The abbot of Glory's monastery had had some information...A portal, a one man or whatever only job, to Hell could be opened, using the Well of Souls at Wolfram-Hart...Though with considerably more danger than to the WH senior partners...Worse yet (Better from William's pov)...The abbot agreed that Hell might hold the answers poor Will seeks...

What else?...Well, everyone's alive...Including sweet Tara...Xander and Anya are still together...There's a new human Slayer, Basey Granger...With eyes for one Rupert Giles...Summoned when Buffy died briefly at Darla's hands...Watched for by the same relative of William's, Amelia Hunt-Walthrop, who had aided the Walthrops in England...

A peace agreement of sorts is still holding in Sunnydale for at least some of the more practical vamps and demons...They behave themselves and receive Warren's artificial blood minus the long and weary hunt...And the Slayers' waiting stakes...Though of course not all underdwellers can restrain themselves from their natures...

Oh, and remember...The BR verse is running behind the normal Buffyverse timewise...It's only December 2001 there...



And there is one other minor difficulty...Concerning the twin Buffies...One happily married to the more or less man she loves...The other...Now ever more increasingly aware of the depth of her long-buried feelings for her "brother-in-law"...

But with no conception of just how long those feelings have been buried...

That should get you up to speed...But try the earlier BR stories on my site at www.geocities.com/buffyrebecca if you want more (Sunnydalopolis, In For A Penny, The Tie That Binds, Adventure of the Freckled Man, Of Mice and Minions, Mona and The Monsters, Lazy Daze...And if you want more about the merging of Buffy and BR, the Semi-Parallel Lives tales...)

***

Part I...

Relative high spirits...

If one had to character the mood of Mrs. Buffy Rebecca Summers-Walthrop as she completed her packing for the trip home to Sunnydale, California...That would be it...

Seven weeks of rather arduous Watcher training finally complete...

God, who knew such tweedy and bespectacled types could actually endure such a grueling pace...

Well...She'd never again wonder where Giles got his fortitude...

Tough work...Even for redeemed half-human vampires and human-souled treble-Slayer strengthed robots, it was tough work, she reflected...

But, mercifully, all over...And...

He'd made it...

Not that she ever had the slightest doubt...Fortitudewise, that is...

It was just...Well...One never knew how some members of the Council might react to Spike's presence...

Particularly if they had ever had the pleasure of his company before chip and redemption...

But, he'd made it...Flying colors...

All his old Victorian charms rushing in to stand him in good stead when needed...

And likewise all his century of fighting experience...

She had her Watcher at last...Meaning, of course...She was accepted as well...

As a Slayer...And more importantly...As a human being...

With the COW seal of approval...

Neat...

Not that she didn't accept and stand by her dear dad's, Dr. Warren Mears, assurances of her independent humanity...

But it never hurts to have the certification of a third party source with no family or friendship ties...

And they were headed home at last...Early November, in plenty of time for Thanksgiving...



Odd to think for all her years of memories of home, she'd actually lived longer abroad than there...In the physical sense...

After all, she'd been born in April 2001...Barely six months...Died, been reborn...and married in May...And lived in Europe since mid-May...

She'd have to fake an accent when she got back...Wear dark sunglasses and cultivate a cool, brittle air...Continental Buffy, the sisters could call her...

The Buffy with that certain...Savoir-faire...

After all, her cover story for the neighbors was that she was the twin who'd lived with Hank in Spain all these years...

And going home meant that she could begin final preps towards her greatest adventure...

Motherhood...Courtesy the genius of one Dr. Warren Mears...

And her own dear "cybergenius" William Soames Walthrop...Even if all he'd done was get in Warren's way and suggest some ridiculous names for their embryo-fetal life-support unit...

The... "Bun Box"...being the worst yet...

But she was also a bit...Down...

Helping with the seven weeks' intense training had allowed her to put her husband's insane plan to the back of her mind...

A trip to Hell...To check into his redemptive status...See what might lurk in the hidden depths of his dual nature that could potentially pose a threat to their children...Or their future as husband and wife...And, maybe...Find out why the...Here...you people had condemned a poor sweet fellow like Will in the first place...

A trip by dimensional portal...That, sadly could only be made by one per lunar cycle...

And had every chance of ending in disaster...

But he felt he owed it to her...What with the past career of demon Spike, the initial mind-raping of her sister to create her, the forcing his robot-bodied, human-souled wife to question her existence as a independent human being, her providing him with his redemption chance, her having to kill the demon-possessed human bodies of two of his past victims, her constant striving to protect him from other similar threats, and the eventual likelihood of her one day having to separate him from a resurgent Spike...Permanently...

A dozen roses or a nice vacation just wouldn't do the trick...At least by his lights...

Yes...All for her "peace of mind"...

Right...

Please...This was Walthrop versus the legend of Angel...

If Brooding Man could do it...

Still, there was a point and purpose...She couldn't risk maternity not knowing for sure that her potential children would not be subject to some curse via the hubs...Or if he wasn't going to be around to do his bit in parenthood due to a return bout of homicidal mania...

Not even Giles, Willow, and various sympathetic Council members of considerable ability could assure them on those scores...

But now the time was drawing near...And the thing was looking much less impossible than before...



At least in terms of making the start...If not in terms of a safe return...

A prospect which filled her with dread...

But...If Angel could do it...The devoted Ms. Summers-Walthrop noted...

However, the Brooding One hadn't stopped to ask questions and demand answers...

He'd been far too busy just going insane...

***

Home sweet Sunnydale...

Buffy, Dawn, Basey, Anya, and Giles greeted the Walthrops enthusiastically at the airport...And with relief...

Safely home from Europe...After multiple brushes with death...Well...Destruction at least...

Not to mention...Seven weeks training with the COW...

For their part, William and his bride were pleased to find Sunnydale in one piece and all well and accounted for...

Willow and Tara at college...Xander and Warren at work...All planning to drop by asap...

The LA gang...Likewise well and planning to drop by...

Spike's great plus four niece, Amelia Walthrop-Hunt, Basey's Watcher, recently arrived, happily settling in, and eager to drop by to see "Uncle" Will...After she dealt with her apartment hunting session...

And one Riley Finn?...BR asked her sis...Who frowned...

And...Missus...Buffy noted...

"Which lady it seems you've already met, sis..."

Oh...BR sighed...

"I would have told you in England when you guys came, sis...But he and Samantha wanted to tell you themselves...And swore us to secrecy when we met them at the Council training center..."

Yeah, I know...Buffy glared...

I'm not mad at you, you understand...Buffy noted...

Or at them...Really...

Just...

(What happened to the guy who left me because I couldn't commit?...He sure as hell found "comfort" quick...BR filled in silently...

After all...)

Anyway...As to the happy couple...

Off to NYC, to see her family...Then home for a few more days...But due on assignment in Central America...Another covert military demon-hunting operation...



At least...She hoped it was demons...

There had been those rumors about US-backed operations against land-seeking peasants...

And the general situation?...

Peace-loving vamps...Still peace-loving...Hunters...Still hunting, though hard-pressed with two Slayers at hand...No major problems, excepting the little episode with the "Mona and the Monsters" TV series and the effort to gainfully employ demons as part-time actors and extras...Though even that hadn't been a major catastrophe...Indeed, she and Dawn and various gang members had picked up valuable job experience and a hefty chunk of cash...While a good number of the local underworld populace still enjoyed the privilege of being allowed to earn a generally honest living under the Slayers' watchful eyes...

Just too bad about poor Mr. Mechamber...And Libby...And...Well...Buffy sighed...

"My short-lived career in television...But it was good experience..." she concluded...

And?...You know who...BR asked Buffy...

She knew who...

"So?..." BR asked, questioning...

Daddy and son are quite well...Though some problems with one or two of Angelis' old foes...

BR nodded...Spike and the others watching...

The sisters moved off...Personal twin business, guys...

Did he?...BR looked at Buffy...

Oh, yeah...Came by twice...

Cute kid...Looks like his mommy...Buffy was unsmiling...

Said I'd take him in if things got very bad...Buffy continued...

And...? BR waited...

He...Thanked me...

"Darla would have been very grateful..." he said...Human Darla, of course...Buffy sourly noted...

The grim expression on the twins' faces left little to the imagination...Even at a distance...

Angel...? Walthrop eyed his fellow Watcher...

Giles nodded...

The...Ummn...Kid?...Spike hesitated...

Very nice boy, Giles noted...Even with the sudden sprint to adolescence...

Buffy...?

In her room...Two-and-a-half days...Giles nodded...

Not too bad...Spike noted...



Warren was very good with her...Giles replied...He looked at his new subordinate...

Rebecca?...Giles asked quietly...

Rather quiet for a day or so...Walthrop replied...

Then...Rather pleased about it...

Potential of the thing for us and all...

Naturally...Giles nodded...

***

But Buffy wanted to talk to Walthrop...Alone...

She understood that her sis had undergone a terrible trial in Florence...And was anxious to hear how she was bearing up...

And as much as the sisters shared of each other...Even their mutual temporary deaths...This was one experience unique to BR...

He was happy to discuss it with her...Rather nice to have a perfect neural copy of your wife to review her ups-and-downs with...But couldn't help noticing that Giles and Dawn seemed a bit perturbed at Buffy's rather eager efforts to pull him away for a few...

A slight perturbation that he immediately sensed in his bride as well...Though she masked it well enough to have covered it from most of those present...

Well...Rather nice to see the Missus a wee bit jealous...Long as it was limited...And utterly ridiculous...

***

For his part, Spike was pleased to see that Sis had recovered her balance...After the past terrible months...

And despite the loss of two members of the adoration society of Warren, Riley, and Angel...

Helped majorly by a return to Slaying...Though with major back-up thanks to Ms. Granger's presence...And the reduction of pressure that the ongoing peace agreement with a segment of the vamp-demon population continued to provide...

And of course the resumption of a full college schedule...Leaving her with little time to dwell on the past...

Well...he noted wryly to her...Here we are...William the Bloody...And Buffy the Slayer...

In-Laws...And dearly loving in-laws at that...

"I'm long past even asking... 'Did you ever think?'..." Buffy noted to him with a grin...

BR smiled over to them as she sat with Giles, Dawn, and Anya...A hair nervously...

"Sis hates to be away from you I see..." Buffy smiled...And saw...she thought...Back in England...When she hovered round us, pulling you away every time I got close to you...

It was a tough time...Happy as we were...Walthrop noted...

But...I think we're even closer now...If that's possible...

Buffy nodded...It was obvious...And she ought to know...she grinned, a bit wanly...



"Warren says her neural net is fine according to the information you've been sending...But...I guess she..." she hesitated...

I was afraid for her...he eyed his "sis"...I kept thinking of Faith...

Me too...Buffy agreed...

"But...Like her original, she's one hell of a tough lady..." Walthrop smiled over at his Missus...

"Still..." he concluded... "I'm glad we're home...She's been desperate to get home, these last few I think..."

And how was he?...Buffy asked...

"Because of me...She's killed..." he paused sadly... "Even if the Vitachi ladies were demons...Even if destroying those...Shells...Was the right thing to do..."

She took his arm gently...

"Will...You haven't killed anyone..."

"That's what everyone tells me..." he looked at her... "But I didn't prevent Spike from killing...I couldn't now if he came back full force..."

Sometimes...I think...

"No...Will..." Buffy looked him in the eyes...Firmly...

"You...And Buffy Rebecca...Are here now...This is your redemption...And you have earned the right to be here..."

"If Spike ever breaks through...And I don't think even he wants to right now...Sis and I will deal with him..." Buffy told him...

"Until then...We have work to do...And a right to be as happy as we can..." she concluded...

Walthrop nodded...Just what the Missus says...he noted, smiling at her...

By the way...he looked at her...How are things going?...In the "happiness" department?...

Buffy now grinned...Wryly...

Well...As to developments that way...

Dawn looked over at them...

William the Bloody and Buffy Summers...Happily discussing family matters and sharing what apparently was quite a joke...

Brother and sister...

What a year...

However...She returned to Buffy Rebecca...She had her own questions...And someone to inquire after...

How was...?

"Ben?..." Buffy Rebecca asked with a sly grin...

Well...She had meant to ask after dear Oz...She was curious as whether he remembered her...But...Now that you mention it?...

***

Giles had a little surprise for the Walthrops waiting at the shop...

A gift...From a rather unusual source...

Call it a tribute, really...

Buffy Rebecca gazed at the little book in wonder...As did William...

"The Writings of William Soames Walthrop"...Published by family and friends in 1884...

Sent to BR by no other than Sir Harold Milliken...Retired head of Wolfram-Hart, Europe...Dru's ally in her last desperate struggle with Spike and BR...

The gesture of a defeated enemy to his more than worthy adversaries...

"You did check this out...Throughly?..." Spike asked Giles...Looking in astonishment at his lost works...

Which BR now thumbed through eagerly...Though carefully...Not wanting to destroy the only survivor of her husband's human days...

Throughly...In every possible way...Giles noted...

Plus...The Council had a firm eye on Sir Harold in his rather comfortable retirement...Which continuing so comfortable was dependent on his continued good behavior...

Pity having to allow that...Giles sighed, looking at BR...However exposing Sir Harold's sinister connections would be difficult...Possibly exposing that which must remain secret...And might hurt many innocents...

However the Powers That Be would presumably meet out punishment at the proper time...And after all the destruction of Wolfram-Hart and its plans on a world-wide scale was nothing to sneer at...

"I'm just glad he's out of business..." BR noted...And smiling at William... "And very glad to have Will's stuff back...For us and posterity..." Buffy nodding in accord...

Well...Dawn and Giles could agree as to being glad for the Walthrops...As for...Posterity...

After reading through the book...

Well...They were glad for Will and BR...

***

(You might care to read the intermediate story "Lazy Daze..." at this point at www.geocities.com/buffyrebecca/ld1.html)

December 24, 2001...The Summers' living room, Sunnydale...

"Ahem..."

"THE LOVER CONJURES THE PORTER TO OPEN THE DOOR OF THE BELOVED'S HOUSE...

By...PUBLIUS OVIDIUS NASO..."

"Ovid?..." Willow stared at the reader...

Hot...stuff...she nudged Tara beside her...As they eyed the reader who beamed at the group...



From her seat Buffy looked over at Dawn who was watching eagerly...Hmmn...Somehow doesn't quite seem Christmas Eve-ish...Still, this one isn't supposed to be too...

Xander looked at Anya...Who grinned back...This poet you'll like...she hissed...

"And if you don't, you gotta admit the reader catches your attention...In that toga..."

The reader hitched the said toga up a bit and eyed the group a little more coolly...

A little quiet, please ...Thank you...

"Ahem..."

"Hapless porter, laden with unmerited fetters, push me back this cruel door upon its hinges. 'Tis little enough I ask of thee. No, do but open it a little, just enough for me to pass in sideways. I have long been a lover and it has so reduced my body and my limbs that such a thing were easy. 'Tis Love that tells me how to creep in softly in the midst of the guards. 'Tis he that guides me and safeguards my steps.

(Hic)

Time was when I dreaded the night and its empty shadows. I marveled how anyone could fare forth in the darkness. But Cupid laughed in my face with his gentle mother, and whispered in my ear, "Thou too shalt grow a mettlesome [one] ." Love's hour has come; (Hic) I fear not the mazy shadows of the night, nor weapons uplifted against me. I only fear the slowness of thy movements; thee alone do I cajole; in thy hands thou hold'st the weapon that can undo me. See--and that thou may be the more surely convinced, take down awhile these cruel bars--see how this door is moistened with my tears. This is I, thou knowest it well enough, who seeing that thwackings were about to rain down on thy naked shoulders, interceded for thee.... How now! Shall my supplications, which erstwhile proved so powerful in thy behalf, to-day--oh shame!--prove powerless in my own? Come, pay back what thou owest; now mayest thou show thy gratitude to the top of thy bent. The night is passing--slide back the bolts. Open the door, and so may thou be freed for ever from thy long chain and from thy water-drinking serfdom.

Vain are my prayers, (Hic) O man implacable; harder than iron is thy heart. Thou hearest me and yet thy door of oak is barred against me. That a beleaguered town should need unyielding gates, 'tis well; but in the heyday of peace, what fear hast thou of arms? How wouldst thou treat a foe, if thou repel a lover thus? The night speeds on; slide back the bolts.

I come not as a warrior attended by henchmen. (Hic, hic)I should be alone, were not cruel Love beside me. Him, even if I desired it, I could not send away. 'Twere easier to sunder my soul from my body. Love, a little wine in my head, (A lotta wine, I'd say!...Willow called, the reader mock frowning at her...) a chaplet slipping from my perfumed hair, these are the things I bring. Who could be scared at them? Who would be daunted by such foes? The night speeds on...slide back the bolts.

Is it thy slowness, is it sleep that is no friend to Love, that makes thee heedless of my prayers and flings them to the winds? Yet, if my memory deceive me not, when, once on a time, I sought to evade thee, I found thee astir in the middle of the night. Peradventure at this moment thine own beloved is reposing at thy side. If this be so, how preferable is thy lot to mine. If it be so, pass on to me, ye cruel chains! The night speeds on...Slide back the bolts.

Do I dream? Did not the door swing upon its hinges? Did it not grunt its signal for me to enter? Alas, I was deceived! 'Twas but an unruly gust of wind that made it creak. Ah, hapless me! How far away that gust doth bear my hopes. If, O Boreas, thou dost bethink thee of the ravished Orithya, come swiftly hither and, with thy blast, beat down this heedless door. All is quiet in the city. Moist with diamond dew, the night speeds on...slide back the bolts! (Don't do it, porter!...Xander called, the reader frowning at him...Ahem...Hic, hic...)

Open! I say, open, or I, better prepared than thou, with my sword (Hic, the reader raised a fist...) and with the fire I bear within my torch (Hic, hic), will break into this disdainful house. Night (Hic), Love (Hic) and Wine counsel no half-hearted measures. Night knoweth not shame. Love and Wine know not fear. (Hic, hic)

(Sigh...Hic)



Everything, prayers, threats have I essayed, but all in vain, nought could avail to move thee, O man more deaf than the door thou guardest! Thou wast not made to guard [my love]'s door. Thy office should be to keep the key of a loathsome dungeon. But see, the morning star is risen, and the cock's shrill trumpet calls the labourer to his task. And, flowery wreath, which from my brows sadly I disengage, lie there upon this heartless threshold through the night. When on the morrow my [love] shall descry thee trailing there, tell [my beloved] the hours that, sick at heart, I wasted at...[this blasted] door. Farewell, porter; in spite of all, I say to thee, farewell. (Waves a hand dismissively) Mayest thou thyself suffer the agony of unrequited love. Muddy-mettled villain, who wouldst not give admittance to a lover, fare thee well. And ye too, ye cruel doors with your pitiless hinges, and threshold more slavish than the churl that guards thee, to all I say...

...Fare...well (Hic, hic)."

Yeah!...Xander, Warren, and William leading the applause for the reader...Mrs. Summers-Walthrop...

She bowed and removed the "flowery crown" from her head, grinning at the group...Eyeing her twin who grinned back...

A twinkling grin for dear ole 'Dad'...Warren beaming...

Hmmn...Willow looked at Tara who smiled back...

"'Bout time we ladies got to do that one..."

I know I'd beat drunkenly all night at your door, sweetie...Willow grinned at her...

Wouldn't be...All night...Tara replied in a whisper...I'd club the doorkeeper one the moment his back was turned and get you in...

That's my girl...Willow beamed...

Neat...Dawn grinned...Buffy looking still a tad uncertain bout this...I mean, I thought she'd read a little Dickens or something...Or maybe one of Will's better poems...Still...

"Don't suppose you could give me one of those supplemental memories, someday...?" she hissed to Warren, seated beside her, and smiled at her sis...Neatly done, twin...

"Nice to see a lady taking Ovid by the horns..." Giles smiled at their reader...

Oh...Yeah?...Basey beside him was thoughtful...Like his ladies forthright, does our Rupert, eh...Well, natch...Secure in his unpretentious manhood, my Giles...

"One can do no less when one's husband is a Cambridge man..." Buffy Rebecca replied, beaming at William, tossing her flower crown which he caught...Rather deftly...

"Could I get a copy of that?..." Tara hissed to BR as they sat listening to Xander as he weighed in with "How the Grinch..."

Me too...Basey bent over...

***

Show and supper over, William and BR took a tour of the Summers' backyard...Bit overgrown, she frowned at the bushes...Still, sis did have a lot of other concerns pressing...

Maybe she could ask to slip over and offer a hand some time...

Quite a performance...He grinned at her...

Yeah?...she stared at him...

"Well, it kept me busy the past few, now that exams are over...Kept my mind off things..."

"Remind me to put it out that you memorized it instead of using your sm..." he smiled...

Thanks...

"Best to enjoy your break while you can, girl...You'll have enough on your plate when next semester starts..."

"It'd help..." she hesitated... "If you'd...Change your mind..."

Please, Will...Please...she whispered, taking his arm and putting it round her...

"It's too soon for us...Wait..."

Buffy...he sighed...And smiled...

"Sooner I'm gone...Sooner I'm back..."

And after all dear heart...You have the world to save...

Surely enough to keep you occupied if I should be delayed...

She shook her head... Angel can have that job...

"Spike...I do my work...We both do...And I'll do it again as I have to...But I never wanted to save or...Have to save...The whole world...Neither of us ever did..." BR looked at him firmly...

"Just my piece of it..."

***

Out of Joyce's old bedroom, a figure standing by the window, watching William and Buffy Rebecca below...

"Hey...?" Dawn called, lightly, as she came slowly in...Buffy turned away and stared at her...

The saddest, most haunted face she'd ever seen...

No, there was one other like it she could remember...William's...The moment after he and she had run to Buffy Rebecca after Glory had made her ill-fated attempt to drain her artificial brain and received several dozen gigawatts of California power thanks to Warren...His face as he stared down at her crumpled body on the Mall floor...

"Buffy...?"

Hmmn?...She wiped the look off and gave a noncommittal, almost expressionless stare...

"Yeah, Dawn?...What's up...?"

A vague cloud of dread passed momentarily over Dawn's soul...A sudden chill as she watched her sister for the instant before she answered...

Oh, Buffy...Not now...You can't...Not now...

"Just wondered what you were doin'..." she replied... "I saw you looking out there..."

At your twin and our brother-in-law...she did not say...

The man both of you Buffies love...As I do...she likewise did not say...



"Yeah..." Buffy nodded, a faint smile... "Just lookin' at the lovebirds...Ummn...I'm sorry for her and all..."

But he'll be ok and back soon...she noted...Firmly...

"Sure..." Dawn nodded... "He will...Buffy..."

Oh, sis...Sis...I love him, too...But, it's too late now...You can't start with this now...she thought...

"Yeah...Well, I should leave them be..." Buffy shook her head and grinned...

"Pickin' up bad habits from you, Dawny...Snoopin' on my sis and all..."

A shadow of her former sadness came over her face...And passed...

"Well, lets get downstairs...Family and co to feed..." she came over and took Dawn's hand...

"Buffy?..." Dawn stared into her face solemnly...

Hmmn...?

"Everything...Ok?...You seemed a little...At the window, just then..."

"Oh...I felt sorry for them...You know..."

Lovers parting and all...

"Yeah..." Dawn nodded, patting her hand... "I understand...I'm sorry for them too...But it's his..."

"He should stay...She should make him stay..." Buffy pulled away a moment...Whispering harshly...

"This whole thing is insane...There's no need for it...If she loves him so much, she should make him stay..."

I'd never let...she paused...But I did...I did...

Buffy...

"But..." she waved a hand... "That's between them, right...?...Their decision..."

She decided to try and help him...Love him...And now she's decided to let him go...Well...

"He'll be ok..." Dawn eyed her...

"Sure..." Buffy nodded... "And it's their decision...In any case..."

She looked back at the window...

"What a little coward I was..." she suddenly murmured...Then got hold of herself...

"Just...Thinkin' of something...I should've done..." she lamely and hastily explained... "Lets go down..."

Say...She paused at they reached the door... "I haven't told you...I've given them a present...I just told them a little while ago..."

No...The thought crossed Dawn's mind in a moment of crystal, brittle clarity...I know...No, you mustn't Buffy...No...

"I've decided to go ahead and help them out with their little infertility problem..." she smiled at Dawn...

Maybe we can even get things started before Will leaves...



"Buffy...? Is that such a good idea?...Before we know if he'll...?"

You can't sis...You mustn't do this to yourself...Not now...she thought...You can't be the mother of his child now...

"He'll be back..." Buffy replied, her voice hard and steady...

"Or sis and I will go get him..."

But...With luck, we can have a little surprise waitin' on him when he comes through the door...Neat, huh...?

"Don't you think, Dawn...? What's the matter?..."

Dawn took her hands firmly, staring into her eyes...

"Buffy...Don't do this...Please..." she pleaded...

"They can find someone else to be their donor...You can't..."

"Don't be silly, Dawn...This is what they want...A chance to have a kid as closely related to us...Both of us Bufs...As possible...And I'm glad to..."

"Don't do this!..." Dawn repeated, harshly now...

"It's too late, Buffy...Don't hurt yourself like this..."

"I understand..." she stared up at her sis solemnly... "I love him too...But Buffy..."

"You're worrying about nothing, Dawny...I'm over the memories I picked up from sis that night..."

I'm not talking about memories...Dawn eyed her...

"This is about feelings..."

"Don't be silly, Dawn..." Buffy replied coldly... "That's a lot of nonsense...You're just a kid..."

"A romantic kid..." she smiled now, good ole sis again...But, something behind the eyes, Dawn saw...

"I should tell sis this one...Dawny, you've got a noggin full of romantic daydreams...Well..." she grinned, gently... "Don't toss em too quick...Except for this one...Which is a mite silly..." she shook her head...

She won't tell her...Dawn realized...And this is no silly romantic notion...

"Buffy...Please..." Buffy stared at her as she took her hand...

Be careful...Dawn held her firmly, staring back into her eyes...

"Enough already..." Buffy waved a hand, pulling free... "I should get back down..."

I haven't even told Warren yet...she smiled...

"He's about to become a grandpa...If all goes well..." she looked at Dawn's solemn face...

"It will be fine, Dawn...This is just my Gift to them...Though it will make me a kinda unique auntie..."

"I love you, sis...But...Be careful..." Dawn repeated...

Always have been...Buffy nodded...Careful caution...That's me...



That's me...she looked out the window again...

***

"Sorry I couldn't do one myself...But...I think this one..." William paused, fumbling in his pocket...As he and Buffy Rebecca sat now, under the one large tree in the Summers' backyard...Neither magical nor occupied by some demon essence or tormented soul, he rapped the trunk, grinning...Ummn...She stared at him...

"Don't go, William...Please, please baby...You don't have to go...I don't want you to go..."

He closed his tearing eyes and sighed...

"Yeah, I do...I do...You know I do, Rebecca...Cause I love you so...And we have to know..." he passed her the paper now in his hands...

She opened the sheet...Hands trembling...

"Wait for Me"

-Konstantin Simonov

"Wait for me...Wait for me very hard and I'll come back,

But wait with might and main,

Wait throughout the gloom and rack

Of autumn's yellow rain.

Wait when snowstorms fill the way,

Wait in summer's heat,

Wait when, false to yesterday,

Others do not wait.

Wait though from that far off place

No letters come to you.

Wait when all the others cease

To wait, who waited too.

Wait for me and I'll come back.

Do not lightly let

Those who know so well the knack

Teach you to forget.

Let my mother and my son

Believe that I have died;

Let my friends, their waiting done,

At the fireside,

Lift the wine of grief and clink

To my departed soul.

Wait, and make no haste to drink

Alone amongst them all.

Wait for me and I'll come back,

Defying every death. When he

Who could not wait shall call it luck

Only, let it be.

They cannot know, who did not wait,

How in the midst of fire

You, with your waiting saved me.

Your waiting and desire.

Why I still am living, we

Shall know, just I and you:

You knew how to wait for me

As no other knew."



"Well..." he smiled... "It got a lot of Russian women through World War II...Even if the end result wasn't always..."

"If you don't come back...Whenever I decide I've waited long enough...I'll reopen the portal and come after you...Tell them that when you get there...Tell them I'll tear Hell apart if they hurt a browning hair on your unperoxided head...Let 'em have fair warning..." she said coldly and grimly...

"It's nice to be Mr. Buffy Rebecca Summers-Walthrop..." he grinned...

So I've heard...she smiled...Looking at the house a moment...Hmmn...

And catching sight of Buffy staring at them through Mom's bedroom window...An expression on her face that one did not even have to be an exact neural copy of her to read...

She felt him looking as well...Just as Buffy, again called by a desperate Dawn, wiped the look from her face and turned away...

"You think you were right about sis, then?..." he glanced at her as they watched the window a moment...Dawn visible a moment, giving a quick wave and grin...But a worried expression on her face...

Yeah...I was...she nodded...And I oughta know...



"Should I...Speak to her?..."

Yeah...After I do...she nodded...Still watching...No one returning...

"She couldn't bear it if you left without saying goodbye to her..." she said quietly...

But let me speak to her first...

***

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