"Immortal Beloved..." LXXI...



A shortie...

PG-13

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

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

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

Summary: Various outcomes following "Girl In Question" and /or "Not Fade Away" on Angel...

Ok, I lied about stopping at 50...But me poor ole mum would just say, "so long as I like it, it's ok..." The night of the battle with the Senior Partners...



Obviously, this one is meant to be, well...I intend to play with it a few times more as new ideas occur...

(See I was reading "Ulysses" to help with some scenes in "Devil and Dr. Walthrop" and got to the night scene, after Bloom and Stephen leave Horne's hospital and...)

***

I Get Along Without You Very Well (Hoagy Carmichael, Jane Brown Thompson)-

"I get along without you very well

Of course, I do

Except when soft rains fall

And drip from leaves then I recall

The thrill of being sheltered

In your arms

Of course, I do

But I get along without you very well

I've forgotten you

Just like I said I would

Of course, I have

Or maybe except when I hear your name

Someone's laugh that's just the same

I've forgotten you just like

I should



What a guy

What a fool am i

To think my aching hearth

Could keep the moon

What's in store

Should I phone once more

No, it's best that I stick to my tune



I get along without you very well

Of course, I do

Except perhaps in spring

But I should never

Ever think of spring

For that would

Surely break my heart in two..."

***



William is seen, lying alone in a pool of blood, largely his own...Stillness in the air...He twitches a bit...Opening eyes...



"I get along without you, very well..." a voice sings...Badly... "Of course, I do..."

"Except perhaps in spring..."

He stares in shock at two figures running to him...Identical Buffies...

"Buff....fy...?" They reach him... "William...!"

I'm here...Hey!...their voices echo...

"He's mine...I loved him and tormented him in a purely spiritual way!...Having no physical body!..." the First shouts... "I used him, abused him, and denied him!...I love him, he's mine!!..." Buffy cries...

The First and Buffy fight over Will's body...One pulls off an arm, raising it in triumph... Excelsior, triumphant!...she cries...The other rips away a leg...



"Ladies...If you wouldn't mind..." William calls faintly...

Cicely appears overhead, thinner than the late Halfreck, in angel costume... "My love is effulgent, shrouded in raven's-colored midnight clothes!..." she sings...Descending to Earth, she grabs the First and dispatches her with a stakepoint slice across the throat...

You!...Buffy whirls to face her nemesis... "You come late, but at last you come...William will be free, but not through you!!..." she charges...

"Dah...Dah-dah-dah..." Cicely hums the opening bars of the Buffy theme...Catching the charging Slayer neatly while stepping to one side... "We're beneath him, sister...But you much more than I..."

"No..." Buffy nervously looks round...Phew, no one she knows...An apologetic smile to William on the ground, detached arm and leg off by his right side... "I never had anything to do with unsouled vampires...I'm a good, golden girl, I am...Noble, forthright, and true...I only lie in the dark..."

Lie for me, William, my love...she hisses to him as he writhes in agony... "Tell the world I loved you only in the abstract...As a symbol of redemption..."

I'll make it up to you...Tonight...A wink...

"Oh, foul..." Cicely shakes her head as Buffy tries to twist out of her grip... "We are still no better after a century..." She releases and steps into Buffy and Buffy is now dressed in nineteenth century costume...With parasol and brunette hair piled high...

"I can't see you, William..." Buffy states coolly in an English accent... "I got my eyes closed..." she chuckles, reverting to her Buffy voice, remaining in Cicely costume...

"Cicely...?" Will gasps from the ground...

"Got your message...Loud and clear, babe..." she grins... "This is 'for Cicely'..." She comes to him, bending down...Kissing him gently on the forehead...Then blinks in horror, eyeing the missing arm and leg... "William, you're hurt?...Did I do that?..."

I forget a lot of things...she sighed...

"Just get me..." he begins... "Anything...Within reason..." she nods...

Cicely steps out in her nineteenth century dress, Buffy reverting to modern costume... "Doctor!...Is there a doctor round?...Damned century!..." Cicely calls...

Buffy crying out... "EMT!...Ambulance!...Witch!..."

Willow appears out of thin air, with black bag... "Dr. Rosenberg, WD, WMD, PhD, WDDS at your service..."

My card...She materializes an engraved, glowing-in-the-dark card, handing it to Buffy... "Dr. Rosenberg...I kill...or..."

Cash up front, no refunds...Willow notes curtly... "I dumped my compassion four years ago, it was getting me nowhere...It's a business for me now..."

Though I really get off on the power of life and death...she grins...

"Doctor, save my beloved!..." Cicely cries...Hey!...Buffy glares...And steps into her...Cicely now wearing modern clothes, blonde hair...

"I love you..." she whispers to William...As Dr. Rosenberg begins her examination...

"I love you better...And I said it..." a grin...Buffy steps out, Cicely reverting to before...

"Acts speak louder than feeble 'i love you' squeaks..." she notes in a stern voice... "And I acted..."

"And screwed the pooch..." Buffy chuckles...

"Ladies..." Dr. Rosenberg rises, sighing... "I fear I have bad news..."



He's dead, Buffy...

Both Buffy and Cicely exchange horrified looks...

"I am...?" William asks...Oh, right...

"But the soul goes on forever...With me..." Cicely notes hopefully, but casting a smug look at Buffy...

"My soul..." Buffy glares... "He won it in a card game for me...Staking my last kitten..."

"Please...You never wanted it..." Cicely sneers... "I know the part you wanted...Lil' blondie Buffy, scared to death of Death...Wants to suck the Immortal out of the Immortals...Dies and comes back...And she's more scared than ever...Scaredy cat..."

No fair!...Buffy cries... "You were, too!!...That's why!..."

"Ladies..." Dr. Rosenberg interrupts... "I think I can help him recover the use of his limbs...If I can teleport him to my clinic...One moment..."

She wants him...Buffy hisses to Cicely... "She's always liked him since he tried to kill her..."

Like with me, but I was first...And he only wanted to kill her to get to me...she beams at William, glaring afterwards at Willow...Who tries to assume a dignified, stern air of medical propriety...

"I am gay, now...I don't lust after this glorious, beautious Champion (any more, she whispers)...And I am a doctor...I'm entitled to peek..." the Doctor Rosenberg notes...Grinning at Will...

"He never had to try and kill me...He was mine and I was his right from the start..." Cicely beams at Will...

"I saved him from the First..." Buffy frowns... "It wasn't all just me, me, me...What a therapist...Though not much shakes as a rapist, he was..."

Holds up a sign... "Dr. William S. Walthrop, Ph.D, licensed therapist...Depressive conditions a speciality..."

"I tried to save him from Death..." Cicely glares... "Ha!...Tried!..." Buffy laughs harshly... "See, Will!... 'Tried!'..."

I never start what I can't finish...she grins...Cicely in smouldering rage...

"I have to get him out of here, now...Give me a hand with him..." Willow looks at the two...Cicely eyes Buffy...Buffy, Cicely... "Order of century, must maintain the balance..." they jointly note...Cicely steps into Buffy again...Though Buffy retains modern dress... "Come on, William...I'm gonna help you..." she reaches down for his still attached arm...

Ok...Willow puts an arm round Will's back...One, two...Threeeeeeee...They lift him...Aieeeeee!...As Buffy stakes Willow in the heart...

"Never trusted her after what she did to Oz...And Tara..." she notes, holding Will up on his remaining leg... "Lets..."

Angel, immaculately groomed, in dapper business suit, surrounded by crowd of adorers, appears...

Angel?...Buffy stares...

"Of course, I want to be with you, Buffy...But the thought makes me so happy my Evil Warning Light just went on, rats...Guess we'll have to wait a few more decades..." he grins to the crowd...

"Pose for us, our glorious one!..." the crowd moans... Angel dutifully takes a heroic pose, various women and men in the crowd fainting... "Our new Christ!..." he adopts a Christ-like stance...Arms outstretched...

"My mum is so proud..." he smiles... "Every Irish mum's dream is for her son to be the one and only new imitation Christ..."

Accept no substitutes...He glares at William...



Angel...? Buffy stares... "Gotta run, babe...Get my dragon's head mounted..." he fades...

"Bastard always gets in my way...Damned soul of his..." Cicely sticks her head out of Buffy's neck... "Quiet, you..." Buffy shoves her down...

***

Dawn runs up to the couple as Buffy leads the one-legged, one-armed William down the street...Streetlights smiling down on them...Literally...

"Guys, wait up...!" Oh, Lord...Sister/daughter/pure heart of myself is here to be a pain in our butts...And a damper on my action...she hisses to William...Tell her you used her to get to me...And don't let her see your cool Jacket, WS...

He looks down, to see that over his leather coat, he's now sporting RJ's football jacket...Which burst into rather harmless flames as he does...The ashes falling from him to the ground...

"So, is the fight over?...Are the Senior Partners dead...?" Dawn looks round...Not all that much gore splashed about...

Si...a Senor, the Partner Joseph, appears in business suit, nodding...We are all dead...

Gracias, Senor Partner...Dawn nods as the bald little 'man' fades out...

Tell her I killed 'em for ya...Buffy whispers softly in his ear...But only for platonic reasons...

"I GET ALONG WITHOUT HIM VERY WELL!!!...COURSE I DO!!!..." she sings nervously at the top of her voice, pulling Will along...

"She's lyin'..." Dawn tries to take Will's other arm...Hmmn...Oh, there...she races over to grab it...Holding it fondly as she returns... "She was a wreck after Sunnydale...Gave up Slayin'..."

Couldn't kill 'em anymore...Kept seein' you in their every sneering threat to rip her guts apart...Or the look in their eyes just as they dusted, I know...Dawn grins...Cause I'm not her sister...I'm her hot, hungry little heart...Buffy glares...

"Every girl's got a hungry heart...Every girl's got a..." Dawn begins... "Ummn...Ladies, could we...?" Will tries...

"Oh, God yes..." the Summers ladies chorus...Beaming at him... Uh, no...Not quite up for that...he politely replies...

Oh...They give downcast looks... "We must get William to a hospital for the terminally romantic..." Buffy assumes her Cicely voice, brunette hair, and costume... "He must have a good death...The last one was so bad...So unfittingly unVictorian..."

Indeed...A grim, but young and rather pretty Queen Victoria appears in front of them in the street, frowning at the trio...Actually bearing considerable resemblance to Willow..."I take it you, miss... And you, sir...And you, young lady...Are not lawfully married?...In the eyes of God?..."

"Yes, ma'am..." Buffy in Cicely mode waves a certificate... "We were married on the sly...Then I killed him for his unfaithfulness in undying..."

"That is most appropriate...Though we are not amused...Very well..." the Queen eyes them...They curtsy...She graciously refraining from a disapproving comment on William's performance, having noticed his lamentable injuries...She vanishes...

"May I see that, Buffy...?" Will eyes the certificate...Which eyes him back and leaping out of Buffy's hand, runs off... "Hello, my baby...Hello, my honey...Hello, my ragtime gal..." its voice fades off...

"See what?..." Buffy in modern Buffy mode eyes him brightly...

Told you...Dawn whispers... "Run off with me when she's not lookin'...I'm the best part of her for you...Why do think Cicely would jump in the vortex if her best part wasn't still gonna be here for you?..."

"I am the Monarch of TV...The ruler of my Ci-ty...Whose praise LA proudly chants..." Angel marches by singing...Band in full regalia behind him playing on instruments...



"And we are his helpers, his girlfriends, and his aunts..." a trail of followers sings...Wesley, Cordelia, Gunn, Doyle, Darla, Kate, and many others lost among the group...

"He always cuts in just when I think we got rid of him..." Dawn frowns...Yeah, Buffy, still in modern outfit nods...Dawn smiling at William as they both support him on his one leg...She still holding his detached arm fondly... "I, her heart, never really like him all that much...Remember the phony memories?...Heck, I remember he was human once...and still didn't take her..." Whoa...Buffy stared...

"When the heck?..." she looks after Angel and his marchers, stopping to run through a drill sequence...Phew...

"Yeah, a narrow getaway..." Dawn nods... "That time hee...hee...he.. told ya it was too dangerous to have him by, human..."

Mmmphf...Buffy chuckles...God, wish I'd remembered that...

"Brother!..." a halted Angel heartily embraces his newly appeared twin, Angelus... "God, lad...And it's to you I owe me freedom from you know what with you know who..."

"Anytime, me dear boy...Brother of me heart..." Angelus pats him on the back... "Just call on me anytime to save you lad from that fate worse than mortal life..." He vanishes and the march is resumed...

"William, executive board meeting at 11:00 am of the clock on Monday the 11th..." he calls back...

"He's bleeding...Buffy..." Dawn gives a nervous look at Will's arm and leg sockets...From which blood has been pouring for a bit...Oh!...

"Quick, Will!...Bite me, my darlin'...Leave me dry..." Buffy pauses and leaving him awkwardly supported by Dawn, stretches her neck in front of him...

"No?...Sure?..." she straightens up as he shakes his head... "...'Member when we did that one in the crypt?...The Helpless, Besotted Slayer Surrenders Herself to the Enthralling Evil Vampire?...Right after you got me to dress up in a dress like this?..." she resumes Cicely dress...

"Wait!!..." a voice calls from behind...Blue Illyria in Fred dress running to them, bearing multiple grevious wounds... "William, light of my unhappy existence...Tell me who I am..."

"Illyria..." he gasps... "What's..."

"Here, I can fix it..." she materializes a cauterizing tool out of the air and burns his open wounds in shoulder and thigh socket closed...He surprised to be feeling nothing... "The anesthetic effect is my own improvement on a primitive traditional technique..." she proudly beams...

"Dr. Burkle, I presume..." Buffy in Cicely outfit, curtsying slightly, as does Dawn... "Mrs. Walthrop..." Illyria bows slightly...

William-stealing bitch...Buffy politely notes...Buffy...Dawn hisses... "What would Mom say?..."

"Kill the bitch, honey..." Joyce notes politely, disappearing as fast as she had appeared...

"I'll help you, William..." Illyria comes to him... "I can do it, I'm a PhDD., majoring in Demonic Quantum Metahysics...And though I love another, my compassion is unselfishly boundless..."

I can help you...She moves to take the detached arm from Dawn who pulls her other arm from Will's back to cover the loose arm in her other hand... "No way, you...!"

Illyria morphs into Drusilla... "I can help you, William...I see the fires in your mind..."

But no sex, for I am to be a nun...She solemnly states...Donning nun's habit...

Cicely hops out of Buffy and in nineteenth century dress, she, Buffy, and Dawn all humming the Buffy theme, charges her, bringing Dru down...They roll on the ground, Dru screaming for help...



"I am a lost innocent, God and his angels protect me!..." Wesley in angel wings, backed by a heavenly host, appears...All silently gazing as they hover above the group...

"The innocent only wish to help!!..." Drusilla screams, morphing back into Illyria...Who throws Cicely off...

"The innocent screw it up..." Wes sighs from on high... "But c'mon, girl...You remind me of an old flame...Heaven's the only place safe for your poor heart..." Oh, Wesley...she beams as he flies over to her and extends a hand...

"Let me know how things turn out, William..." she waves at Will, morphing back into Drusilla as she, Wesley, and the host of angels fly up... "I only wanted to help the nice gentleman..." she turns to Wes as they rise...

"Angelus bit me and I don't remember a thing..." Cicely sneers, coming over to William, Dawn and Buffy on his sides, supporting him...Then steps back into Buffy, Buffy retaining modern dress... "Yeah..." she frowns, looking up where Wes and Dru are fast vanishing into the upper sky...

"If it weren't for the innocent, we'd be free and long dead in our graves...Keepin' each other warm..." she sighs... "But, c'mon William...I gotta get back to Rome before my new lover misses me..."

"Ciao, ciao, bambino..." Dawn mockingly sings...

Buffy pats her pocket... "Where's Mr. Pointy...?"

Mr. Pointy, lying on the ground, gets up, singing... "I am Buffy's tool...Turning her foes to gruel...Just let me fly, the Undead undie...Oh, I am Buffy's tool..."

Hmmn...Dawn grins at a nervous Buffy... "Sounds Freudian to me, sis..."

A young, top-hatted, bespectacled Dr. Sigmund Freud appears...Looking like a cross between Xander and Holden the therapist...

Ja...he pronounces...Very meian...

"I only made him dress up like a girl once in the crypt...Tell them, Will..." Buffy nudges William...

***

He wakes to find himself in a hospital room...Dawn in a chair watching him... "Buffy!..." she calls... Buffy, looking like she's been sleeping...If she has slept...In her clothes, rushes to him... "William..."

"What's..." "We're in the hospital Wolfram-Hart owned...Angel and the others are ok..." she pats him...

Guess I showed up with the gang just in time...she grins...

Yeah...he whispers...Staring at her worn, wan face...

"Next time...Don't keep your girl waitin'..." she wags a finger at him... "If Andrew hadn't broken down the other day when Giles told us things were hoppin' here..."

"Dr. Summers..." A nurse breaks in...Drusilla...He notes in shock... "The patient is deteriorating...He needs immediate treatment..."

Right...Buffy suddenly is wearing a medical coat... "I think only extreme measures can save him..."

Dawnie, get the tools!...she turns to Dawn... "Tools...?"

"The tools I been using for the last ten years..." Dr. Summers frowns...Oh, those tools...Dawn nods and vanishes...

"What...?" he gasps... "Don't worry, your employer's health plan will cover this procedure..." Dr. Summers notes with a smile...

"But it is gonna hurt you a lot more than me..." a grin...

"The First..." he whispers... "You're..."

She stares...No longer in coat... "William?...Dawn, get the nurse!..." Dawn hurries from her seat...

She resumes medical outfit...Dawn back now, with implements of torture...Setting them on a tray...

"The First?...Please...I hurt you plenty without the First buttin' in..." she takes a set of pincers from the tray... "Heat these..." she turns to Dawn, now in nurse's outfit...Nurse Dru also standing by, though looking uncertain...

"Want 'em nice and hot...Like you, babe..." Dr. Summers grins... Dawn returning the heated pincers...Nurse Dru protesting slightly... "This is not standard procedure, doctor..." she begins as Buffy lifts the rear end of Will's sheet and reaches in with the pincers...

"Start singing..." she commands him... "When you turn soprano, I'm done..."

...Or you are, rather...she grins as he screams in agony...

"William!...William, don't!..." Buffy holds him down as he struggles in bed...Dawn rushing in with a nurse...

"You're safe with me!...Honey, darling!...Safe...It's alright..." He quiets...

"What are you, his mother?..." Mrs. Walthrop in respectable nineteenth century garb appears by the opposite side of his bed...Buffy and Dawn staring... "Get away from my son, you murderess!...You selfish, grasping fiend!..." she snarls...But in strictly human mode...

***

William blinks to find himself in his old suit, hair back to curly, brown...Seated on a settee in his home, holding a teacup...His mother eyeing him anxiously from the favorite chair she's seated in, holding a plate which she'd been offering to another person, seated beside him... "William?...Are you alright?..." she asks anxiously...

Uh...Mother?...he stares...

"William...?" Cicely seated next to him, stares as well... "You've been staring off for the past two minutes...Is anything wrong?..."

Cicely?...he blinks at her...Beaming at him from six inches away...

"No, I..." he rubs his temple... "Had the strangest dream..."

"Have some tea..." his mother pats his knee...Cicely taking the plate of cake and cookies from her...

Perhaps we'd best do this later...William should rest...Mrs. Walthrop eyes Cicely...Oh...A downcast look... Yes, of course...But...

"Couldn't we go over the terms ourselves?...William and I are quite settled between us, right Will?..." Cicely eyes him anxiously...

Ummn...

"My qualifications as his mate are excellent, I assure you, Mrs. Walthrop..." she hastily notes...Offering several sealed envelopes... "My financial statement, a letter from the Council of Watchers testifying to my prowess as a Slayer...A letter signed by all my dead mothers stating my heart is truly a yearning and honest one..."

"I have my doubts, dear..." Mrs. Walthrop shakes her head...

"Your future self didn't exactly handle the retrieval well..." she notes...

"Buffy's an idiot..." Cicely waves an anxious hand... "American upbringing...But it was the best I could manage...Please..." she morphs into Buffy...Who rises in Cicely's nineteenth century clothes as Will stares...Buffy?...



She sings...Opening parasol...

"I make out pretty well...With fiends from Hell...They get me hotter than human guys...

So I keep going through the motions...Pretending to despise...

But only the Undead...Raise me to the skies..." She smiles and sits...

"As I say...I have my doubts..." Mrs. Walthrop shakes her head...

Now that Drusilla had her faults...But she was a devoted mother...she notes...

***

An angry-looking, pudgy, sandy-haired fellow in a jacket with "Producer" written across the back, the letters blinking in three neon colors, runs up to where William is staring round the LA? street where he had just rematerialized in his Spike outfit...Fortunately plus the formerly missing limbs...Buffy and Dawn standing nearby eyeing him...Buffy making waving motions to be quiet as the man reaches them...

"Dammit!...This is not the way the thing is supposed to work out!!...Look here!!!...It my Book of Fate!!!!..." he waves a loose-bound book marked "Script-Angel 6/Buffy8" in large letters... "

"Idiots!...You tools, you slaves of my glorious imagination!...I am The Immortal Producer (ooooh, the Immortal...Heard so much about him...Buffy eyes him eagerly... "And the sex part is true..." she winks at William...), decider of all Fates and I say...This is not!!..." A screaming Drusilla runs into him, attacking him savagely in the neck, biting so hard that with a single hard pull she's able to rip his head off and toss it into the nearest gutter...Gutter on the roof of a house that is...

Whoa...Dawn stares... "Nasty..." Drusilla sighs... "To leave the poor little Dru to her hideous fate, uncared for and unloved...William..." she beams at him... "You are avenged at last, sir...Toodaloo and cheerio, pets..." she strolls off happily... "Thanks, Dru..." Buffy waves...

I woulda done it for ya, Will...In just a mo...If she hadn't gone and done it...she hisses to him...

No!!!...NO!!!!...the head cries from the gutter above... "Buffy!...You said you were over him..." a feeble plea...

"I lie to be kind sometimes!...Ask Will here..." she calls back... "You oughta know that, you made me what I am tonight..."

"Lets slip outta here while you still got four limbs attached..." Dawn hisses to William... "I'm better for ya..." Hey!...Buffy turns back to them... "You wanted him, ya shoulda killed Willow when she was about to resurrect me..."

"Where are you two taking me...?" William asks as the girls drag him along down the street...

"Where else, now you're limbed again...To a mall to celebrate our triumph!..." Buffy notes...

Dah...Dah-Dah-Dah...The girls begin humming the Buffy theme again...

Oh...Geesh...Anya's head appears in ghostly image before them, Buffy and Dawn dragging William through the misty image...

"That's right, ignore me...And go off to a mall while my corpse lies festerin'..." Anya's head sighs...

"I wish you'd suffer worse than I did...!" she yells...

"Already been there, endured that!.." Buffy calls back...Oh, well...An old friend in pain...she sighs..and runs back...

Xander's drinking himself to death in remorse...she notes, kindly... Aw...Anya's head beams...

"Thank you, Buffy...Tell him to drink faster...But only low-carb...I won't want him in Heaven if he's fat... "



"That was nice, sis..." Dawn smiles at her as Buffy retakes Will's arm... "Eh, I can't kill her...May as well make her happy..."

***

The Mall...

"Looks familiar..." William notes as he, Dawn, and Buffy walk down the crowded main corridor...

"Eh, they're all the same...Seen one in Sunnydale, ya seen them all..." Dawn waves a hand...

"But this one has a 'Welcome to the Sunnydale Mall' sign up there..." William points...Or tries to, suddenly realizing he is again missing one arm and one leg...Buffy holding him steady...Hang in there, babe...she pats him...Looking down... "After all, nothing essential's missin'..." she grins...

Maybe that hospital wasn't a bad idea...he notes the empty shoulder and thigh sockets...

"Nah...I"ll help ya..." Buffy pats the remaining arm... "You ain't heavy, you're my lover..."

I did come for you that time...she halts, eyeing him... "I didn't abandon you that time..."

"No, you didn't love..." he nods... "And it was the happiest moment of my miserable existence since 1880..."

Not?...Dawn stares at him... "The... 'I love you'...?" he shakes his head... "That wasn't..."

"Joke's on you..." Buffy glares...And vanishes... "Alone at last..." Dawn beams, quickly catching Will before he falls...Helping him to a chair in the food court with the help of several patrons...

"Lemme get us some drinks and a coupla Doublemeat Specials, ok..." she starts off... "Dawn...?"

"I'll ask for extra bloody on your burger..." "No...Dawn..." he pauses... "Here and available..." she grins...

"This...Is this Hell?..." Will asks her... "Only on Saturdays when the place is packed..." she smiles...

"Don't let it all get to you, guys...Hey, Spike!..." she waves and heads off...

"Bad day?..." Spike in old Slayer's duster, seated in the chair Dawn just vacated, eyes William, the boys otherwise identical... "So, so..." Will sighs...

"Gotta be worse for me, mate...Why didn't you screw Summers when you got the limbs back?...That was my gift by the way, bro...She was ready and waiting..."

I know, I know...the demon shrugs... "Wasn't the right moment...God, kid...It never is and never will be for you...I take us to Africa, give up my happy, carefree existence for you and that blonde wood-tosser to find happiness and you wind up refusin' her however half-hearted declaration of love and the finest chance a souled vamp ever had to honorably enter a girl's pants?..."

"She didn't..." "Who cares if she didn't mean it, moron?...You had her lock, stock, and barrel...She was emotionally cornered and you know Summers folds in the emotional corner department..."

So Willow wasn't your resurrector...he waves a hand...And Buffy wasn't waitin' breathlessly in mourning black for her one hope for happiness to reappear...

"She went off with..." "Screw him...Anyway she's here now...Or was till you pissed her off..."

"Spike?...What's really up here?...Is this..."

"Would you trust me to tell the God's honest truth?..." Spike eyes him with a grin... "So why bother askin'..."

Though it does look bad, me being here...he notes... "But you're an innocent lad...A hapless victim...Why would you be Hell-bound?..."



"Yes, why?..." one of the Doublemeat Special burgers on the returning Dawn's tray asks...She passes it to William... "Better get me one too, Nibs...Or I'll have to kill you..." Spike smiles kindly at her...Tossing a couple of dollars at her...She fumes a bit but heads back...

"Rare, you know..." he calls... Yeah, yeah...

"So...I asked a question?..." the burger is a bit vexed... "Why do you think you'd be Hell-bound, William?...Why did you believe you would be dragged to Hell back at Angel's..."

"Things have a way of goin' badly for me...And I figured Hell didn't really care regarding my 'innocent victim' status..." Will bites into the burger...

"Morte...Dust to dust, reprocessed imitation beef vegetable patty to reprocessed imitation beef vegetable patty..." the burger whispers...

Good?...Spike asks... "Bit overdone..."

Sorry...Geesh, everyone's a critic...the burger notes...

"Spike!...Get away from him!..." Cicely appears in nineteenth century dress, stake in hand... "Careful, William...He's here to lure you from me..."

"Lady..." Spike sighs...Rising... "I'm the boy who got him back for you...I just wanted to wish him well and tell him your most intimate sexual fantasies..."

"He already knows them...He is you, remember...?" Cicely frowns...Morphing into Buffy..."Begone, avant!...Get lost!..." she waves at him...

"Girl never knows what she wants..." he sighs to William... "At least let me get my Doublemeat Special, girl..." he frowns at Buffy...

Now her demon...he smiles at Will... "She was almost worth giving up Earth for..."

Dawn returns, tossing him a Special... "Ok..." Buffy eyes him... "Take it and vamoose...Now!..."

"Transform her and see if her demon goes to Africa for a soul for love of you..." Spike frowns to Will... "Anyway, if you ever do make it back in, don't forget to always press the upper part of her thigh just before you..." he fades out hastily as Buffy whips out Mr. Pointy...

"I love you too, Spike..." she calls...Taking a seat beside William and looking at Dawn's tray...

"Where's mine?..." she eyes Dawn...Geesh...Dawn rolls her eyes but gets up...

***

"So the least you could do..." Will paused as Buffy munched away at her Doublemeat Special as they sat at what appeared to be the surprisingly intact food court of the destroyed Sunnydale Mall... "Ya wan' Dawnie ta get 'nuther?..." she managed to get out between bites...Ya what I am here for but to fetch burgers...Dawn in her seat frowning as she sucked on the straw of her diet Coke...

"If you wouldn't mind...?" he eyed her as she continued to wolf down the sandwich... "Could you possibly slow down a mo and answer my question?...Is this Hell?..."

Unless of course you're the First...he sighed... "In which case I suppose you'll just keep things rollin'..." She stopped and looked at him carefully, wiping her mouth...Sorry... "It's been a busy night of a busy year and I was starved..." she reached for her diet Coke and sipped quickly...Coughing and gagging a bit...

"Hell?...Hell no, babe..." she grinned... "And I am not the First...Though naturally I'd lie if I were...But you could just play on her vanity...Remind me there's no victory if you don't know who she is and how she got ya...Honest, Will..." she sighed at his hard stare...

All I know is...I'm Buffy... "And Cicely..." she morphed again to Cicely... "I came to save you from the Partners and Death and everything Evil...And you're here with me...Where you belong..."

And these burgers are damned good...she grinned at the sandwich left in her hand...Which gave a brief wave... "Thankya, thankya all very, very much..."

Except for the fact they move and talk sometimes...she, now back to Buffy form, grimaced and put the last piece on her plate...



"If this isn't Hell?..." he eyed her... "God knows, love...Maybe you just have one terrific imagination..." she patted the empty socket of his wounded shoulder... "Just remember...I love you..." she smiled at his clouded face warmly... "I do, William..."

Try and let that be enough for now...Please...she looked at him, taking his remaining hand in hers...

Geesh...Dawn glared from her seat... "I sure as hell wouldn't be satisfied with that...Given how lame your Ily was back at the crater..."

Iloveyou...Bye...Gotta get to a mall...she sneered at her frowning sis...

"Where was the big 'I won't leave you...I won't go unless you come...' rescue and/or mutual death scene...?" Dawn eyed her sis coldly...William watching both...

World to save...Buffy somewhat sheepishly noted... "Friends and fam not to be embarrassed in front of, ya mean..." Dawn frowned... "Well how's about the lover's resurrection?...He was killed mystically...Or the seance to reach the lover's lost soul?...Hell, even a 'hope the hands are doing better' card after Andy got back...?"

Ummn... "Well...Willow didn't think Osiris was up for another revival of their acquaintance...I didn't have a chance to get the knack of the seance thing...I bought one, but I left it somewhere and couldn't remember if I mailed it or not..." Ummn...Hey..."You sure didn't help him when he got the soul back..." Buffy tried...

"Pursuing a relationship woulda been too hard with you pulling your little 'it's all just about the sex but it's ok for us to meet on the sly' crap..." Dawn frowned... "And you had your eye on me over Spike, admit it, sis..."

Just like with RJ...You done stole my man...er Unman...Dawn rose from her chair...Patrons around their table leaping out of their seats to clear the area...Buffy rose, a grim look on her face as she gazed at Dawn...

"Girls...I just want some simple, clear words as to what is really going..."

Keep outta the way, William... Buffy shook her head... "Hard to get in the way in my present, love..." he sighed...Shaking the empty shoulder and thigh socket...

"Alright, bitch!...This is where we settle things once and for all!..." Dawn coldly noted to her sis, now about ten feet off... "You got that right..." Buffy nodded...And whipped ole Mr. Pointy out...

Only to struck in the chest by Dawn's faster-thrown stake...Ha!!... "I made a bullseye..." she beamed...Looking at the bull's eye now pinned by the stake to Buffy's chest... "Excuse me..." a Wendys' burger called from where its consumer had abandoned it on a table... "Could I have my eye...And any other various former body parts you might spot around...Back, please?..."

"Sure..." Buffy pulled out the stake and removing the eye from it, tossed it over...Noting a rather heavy gush of blood from her chest, she collapsed...

"Well...That settles that..." Dawn resumed her seat..."Anyway, I'm the best part of her for you...The loving, untrammeled heart..." she beamed...

And assumed Buffy form, the body on the ground vanishing... "So much for the Slayer..." she sighed happily...

"Buffy?...Please...Just..."

Shhh...she put a finger to her lips... "They'll hear you and we'll be dragged back..." She moved closer to him and kissed him... "Stay here...I can make this a wonderful place for us...We'll find a nice home...With or without picket fence...Consult the world's leading fertility experts...And I'm sure we can find some good prosthetic limbs for you..."

"Love, where is here?..." "Who cares, long as we're together...But not too loud or..." He vanished... "William!!..."

***

"Well...Mr. Walthrop!...Welcome!...To Information Retrieval!..." the officious, aggressively hearty man suddenly beside the dazed William, again in suit...Though more of a twentieth-century, fiftiesish style...Boomed, clapping him hard on the back while throwing open with a grim-looking door bearing remarkable resemblance to the chamber doors of a submarine... "Yes... Level Six/Z, Room B-51a...Your very own office!...With your very own desk!...And over here..." he banged on another identical door from behind which muffled sounds were heard...



"Your colleague...Ms. Summers... MS. SUMMERS!..." he banged again...The door was unsealed and opened, somewhat reluctantly... "I don't have any more chairs!...Just the one I'm sitting..." Buffy's voice...Will stumbling to try and peer inside, past his hearty guide's large frame... "Oh...Sir..." her voice was subdued... "I'm nearly finished, sure to be done by closing..."

"Fine, fine Summers!...Come out and meet your new neighbor and colleague, Mr...." he snapped fingers...An aide whispered in his ear... "Walthrop...Yes...Mr. William S. Walthrop, our latest recruit in our war against the Evil threatening our beloved land!..."

"Yes, Mr. Giles..." she came out, staring...Large spectacles on her rather emaciated face...Buffy...But a worn-down, over-thin Buffy, with mousey brown hair and...My God...Will blinked...

She's in tweed...

"Buffy?..." he gasped... "What the hell...?"

"William...?" she stared...

"Ah..." Giles nodded...For indeed Will realized it was Giles...If Rupert Giles had taken on fifty pounds of muscle and bone, dispensed with the glasses, and developed the manners of a British George Bush... "I see you know each other...Excellent...Well, I shall leave you to the care of Ms. Summers, Walthrop!..." a vigorous hand-shaking... "I'm sure you'll make us all proud...Call on me anytime for anything..." he wheeled on his heel and was gone before Will had managed to put his hand back down after release...

Phew...Both missing limbs again restored, he now noted with relief...

"William?...What are you doing here?..." Buffy stared at him through her thick glasses...

"I've not the slightest..." he sighed... "And I sure wish you could manage to give me some clue..."

"Your mother, right?...She got you in..." a frown...Unless...A hopeful look... "You didn't come to help me, did you?...You changed your mind and decided..." she paused, eyeing him...

"Decided...?" he stared back, waiting... "The revolution..." she hissed, pulling him inside... "We're nearly ready to overturn Minister Giles and his oppressive government...Starting with the Ministry of Inf..." she stopped... "You didn't come to help me?..." a narrow look... "You're here to expose me?...Oh, I shoulda known..."

Now I'll have to kill you...Geesh...she sighed...And we had such a nice time at my mother's party...

He put up his hands... "Buffy...I've no idea what's going on here...I've just arrived...But if it's any comfort, I will gladly help you...If you'd just explain what's going on..."

"What?...I told you when we slipped outta the party together...Well, without details, of course...You said you'd do anything for me, even buck our oppressive Big Brother system...Course I figured you were just tryin' to get back into my...Ummn...Get close to me again..."

I shoulda known...she frowned... "I keep fallin' for you agents...That Angel, now you..."

At least that Riley was up front about being a loyal soldier and all...Even if he had the morals and intelligence of a fence post...

She grabbed him suddenly before he could get another word out...

"So...You want it quick?...A neck snap?...I can do that..."

"Buffy..." he gasped out... "I'm...telling ya...I'll do...whatever...you...want...But just..."

"Really?..." she eyed his blueing face, relaxing her choke hold slightly...

"Yes...Just...Let...Me..." Oh, sure...Sorry...she relaxed the hold a bit more...Letting him take the one chair...



"I just need to know what's going on..."

"Oppression, William!..." she pronounced...Ummn...She looked round the tiny office... "It's supposed to be scan-proof in here and I disabled the bug they put in every office but still..." she whispered...

"Anyway..." she continued in the whisper... "It's about oppression, injustice!...The subjugation of the individual to the State!...The awful clothes..." she looked down at her tweed suit and skirt...

"And we're here in the very bowels of the Evil State...At last..." she waved to indicate the office and the building beyond... "The infamous Department of Information Retrieval...Headed by one Rupert Giles...Bureaucratic fiend seeking to crush all hope of liberty and freedom!..." her voice rose...Ummn...

"Gotta watch it...But what are you doin' here?...Are you with us?...Or..." she tensed...

"Alright...Look, pet..." he sighed... "I've played along with this nonsense so far...But I want some sensible answers and no more of this illusion/fantasy/holodeck 2 business...If this is Hell, say so and bring on my punishment...If not, tell whoever runs the place I wanna speak to her or him, now..."

"Are you feelin' alright?..." she stared at him... "No, though as I'm probably dead or being eaten by something horrible right now, I shouldn't think it's too hard to understand why..."

But at least I've got the ole limbs back...he noted...Uh-huh...Buffy looked at him...Yeah...

"You think I'm crazy?...Me?..." he frowned...

Oh, no...Not at all...she backed away a bit...Eyes flicking to her desk and the plain, black telephone on her desk...

Ok...He sighed again, giving up for now... "I'm sorry...I'm a little bit off my nut today...Tell me about how we met and this revolt...You're revolting against ole Giles?..."

"We met when you caught me tryin' to plant a bomb under Mr. Giles' car when he came to visit your mom...Though our moms know each other from way back when..." she looked at the phone again, obviously considering...

"I'm not crazy, Buffy...Just confused...Go on, please..."

"My bomb kinda fizzled out...You were gonna call the cops, turn me in but..." she grinned... "Just one look...and..."

"As usual..." he sighed... Huh?... "Nothing...Go on..."

"Well...I liked you too..." a beam as she pushed her glasses up to see him better... "Even if your mom is in tight with Minister Giles and the government..."

My mum?... "She's alive?...I mean alive, alive...Not Undead alive...?"

Unwhat?...she blinked... "Forget it...So I take it you are not the Slayer here?..."

"Course I'm the Slayer..." she glared... "Champion of the revolutionary movement, destroyer of the oppressors...They also call me 'the Law', did I ever tell ya?..." she beamed... "Sorta a nickname besides my 'Slayer' title...Cause I dispense Justice...Swiftly..."

And am about to do so here...a grim tone...

"I see...And what did you want me to do?...Suicide bomb the place?..."

Actually...I didn't know you were really gonna come...she shook her head...Then smiled fondly...

"But I hoped you would keep your word and come...Sos as we could die together..."

Die, eh?...he eyed her skinny frame and exhausted-looking face...The drab outfit, made worse by her dull, limp brown hair...The light in her eyes however compensating somewhat...



Great...And that light is not for me but for some idiotic revolution...he shook his head...Well...

Hmmn...She did say...Together...

"Together?...You want us to die together?..."

One must be ready to grasp at any potential improvement in one's situation...he reflected...

And dying together...Gotta be some improvement...

"Sure...If you really wanna..." she nodded, biting a lip... "Ya don't have to, ya know..." ...

"Oh, it's fine...I'm sure it's why I came..." "Great..." she beamed... "I knew when I saw you with Giles it was only a ruse to get in here and help me...Oh, William..." she hugged him...

Wish we had time for sex again...she noted wistfully as she moved to her desk and began pulling out various small items from a drawer...Which looked rather unoffensive...A marker, a battered stapler...A cell phone...Ah... "Here it is...The detonation control...Just gotta press the talk key now and the place goes up...I was just waitin' to see if Giles would be here today..."

And hopin' you'd show, William...she beamed happily...Ah, great...he nodded absently...Wait?...

"We've had sex...You said that..."

"Coupla of times...When we met over the past few weeks..." her face fell a bit...

"You don't remember?..."

"Of course, yes...Certainly...It was lovely...Earth-shattering..." he hastily noted...

Aw...she smiled... "Well, business first..." she picked up the cell phone... "Then, in the afterlife...Whatever and wherever it may be..."

"I'm fairly sure we'll find there is one...Just hope the next world or whatever is a little less confusin'..."

"For the Revolution!..." she raised the phone... A sound from above them...And a large section of the floor fell beside them... No!...Buffy raced for the door as several large goons in body armor dropped down...The door opening to reveal more goons and several suited types outside in the hall...

"So...The mighty Slayer!...Bright star of the terrorist movement...Taken at last!..." a voice rang out...

Angel?...William stared... "Will?..." Angel, in doctor's smock stared into the room... "Don't tell me you've hooked up with this psycho murderess?..."

"Or rather, please...For ole times' sake, don't say anything!..." he hissed anxiously, taking a stern pose immediately after... "Traitors!...Spies!...Terrorists!!...Seize them..."

And to think I slept with him once...Buffy sighed to Will... "Stay behind me, William..." she waved him back... "I'm the Slayer and I'll deal!...I..." Two goons grabbed her and she was pinned, struggling feebly as her glasses fell off...A third striking her as she screamed...

"Not too rough...Yet..." Angel called...

So...No Slayer strength in this corner of Hell or whatever...Will sighed...Trying to brace for a rush on the closest police trooper holding her...Smashed to the ground by a truncheon before he could move a step...

"William!..." she cried...Tossing back the guards and rushing to him... "C'mon, babe..." she lifted him... "Sorry...Had to hold back a..." she hissed, pausing as several guards at the door unlimbered machine guns...

"Ahhhhhh...Gannngwaaayyy!..." she yelled, charging and breaking through the group at the door before they could open fire, William safely tucked under one arm...



Angel wisely pulling back to one side and letting her pass... "Get them!...Shoot!!..." he then called to the guards beside him...A couple of whom, less dazed than the others, beginning to fire...With a leap, Buffy grabbing the metal mesh of the next floor's catwalk and clambering over the metal railing up on to it, Will holding on to her for dear life as bullets whizzed...

"Shoot!!!..." Angel pointed...But now, sounds from all over the upper storeys of the building...Shouts of triumph, machine gun fire...

"Sounds like my fellow Slayers made it!..." Buffy grinned to Will, now beside her on the catwalk, dodging bullets...

A horde of young women now burst onto the catwalk from several doors...Cheering and returning the fire of Angel's guards in overwhelming force...

Angel quickly finding himself isolated, surrounded by dead guards... Holding raised hands... "I...Sur..."

"I don't accept..." Buffy called back...The other 'Slayers' firing into him...Reducing him to a bloody mess...

Hmmn...So he was human here?...Will noted, eyeing the remains...

Huh?...Buffy stared... "Not a vampire I mean...Human-souled or otherwise..."

She eyed him as her comrades raced down to take on troops moving up from lower levels... "Vampire?..."

I mean...Everybody knows Liam Angelus, 'Angel'...Was a monster...But...Vampire?...she stared...

"Never mind..." he waved a hand... "C'mon...We can go now, the battle's just about won..." she grinned...

"Come on, William..." her voice called him...He started a moment... "William!...Darling!..." her voice was all around him...Then just Buffy nudging him... C'mon...She led him to the nearest window on the floor in a small open office, just a hair larger than hers... "Supervisor's office for this floor...They rate a window..." she frowned...Then brightened... "Good luck for us though...Hang on, babe..." she grabbed at him, putting his hands round her waist...And charged for the window...

Buffy?...he stared...Then winced quickly as they ran into and smashed through and out of the window...Into open air...

Several hundred feet in the air...

"So I assume we're still on for the 'dying together' bit?..." he called to her...Opening his eyes again in time to see no visible support beneath them...

***

Several hundred feet above the ground...

"Buffy?..." "Yeah..."

"Why aren't we...Falling...?" A giggle...He looked up as he noted a dark shadow passing repeatedly over him...Giant wings flapping, he saw...Attached to a metallic suit which she now wore... "Where did you get...?" he stared... "Just hold tight, babe..." she grinned down at him, holding him firmly in her arms as they soared over the streets...Heading for the sunset...

God, tell me this is Heaven and it's not gonna go...Poof...he thought...Smiling up at her beaming face...Her face and hair now the Buffy he remembered...

"Sir..." A tall figure in doctor's smock wearing a hideous kewpie doll's mask turned to the same hearty-looking Giles who'd introduced William to Information Retrieval...Now himself engaged in rather bemusedly looking over the bloodied faces of Buffy and William, taken at the Ministry itself...Much to his sorrow and embarrassment...But fortunately just before the fiendish terrorist would have immolated herself and her deluded, obviously love-besotted follower...Alas for his poor, dear mother...Destroying a precious government resource...

"I fear I might have been a tad rough...But I swear to sir I followed procedure to the letter..." Angel anxiously awaited Minister Giles' completion of the inspection of the two prisoners...One a personal concern, the other a government prize... "No, Liam..." Giles shook his head... "I reviewed the tapes of your session with them...You were totally within the new parameters for interrogation..." Angel pulled the kewpie doll mask from his face... "Didn't think they'd both go so easily...I was only at level one..."



"They've got away from us, Liam..." Giles noted...Staring at Buffy's blank eyes...Then William's "I'm afraid so, Mr. Giles..." Angel sighed... "Well...Life is filled with disappointments...We'll get something out of the next bunch..." Giles patted his companion kindly...

"See they're cleaned up and I'll arrange places in the first available institution...I think the government would best forego a trial...His dear mother will prefer that, I'm sure..."

"Certainly, Mr. Giles..." Angel nodded as they strolled out of the chamber, leaving the two staring off, totally withdrawn...But for the hands clenched in each other's vise grip...

***

Ah, crap...William looked round...Back at the Sunnydale Mall...Buffy and Dawn in their respective seats...Buffy eyeing him, a bit anxious... "You drifted off there, Will...You ok?..."

"I'm in some corner of Hell after trying to again save the world and I'm missing..." Well, no...He noted his severed limbs again had been restored...Thank the PTBs for small mercies... "No, I am not ok, Summers...If you are Summers..."

"Well...We're together...And you sure as Hell don't deserve Hell...So..." she patted him... "I know..." he sighed... "I should let our being together suffice and ask no questions...But Buffy...You know you've...You and Cicely...Treated me rather badly all these years...Have you considered that this might be your Hell?..."

Ummn...Buffy and Dawn looked at each other...My...?

Never know, sis...Dawn nodded carefully...

"I tried to save you as Cicely...I only did what I had to do as Buffy...Spike might have been tryin' to deceive me, mess with my head and get me to care for him, trust him...Then..." Buffy nervously noted...Flicking to Cicely briefly at the start, then back to Buffy...

"Cicely could've warned me...Been up front back then with me or avoided romancing a weak human entirely...And you used me, Summers...As you yourself admitted..."

Spike liked the sex...she tried sheepishly...

Buffy...Dawn rolled her eyes...

"I wasn't an independent soul, I couldn't make choices of my own free will...I was possessed by a demon...And you knew that..."

"I needed help...I needed you..."

"You needed help?...If the roles were reversed...If Will the Vampire Slayer had played Buffy the Vamp...Or maybe poor Dru...That way...?"

She morphed into a vicious-looking version of herself...Buffy the Bloody, century old vampire, victim of Drusilla...William now in modern suit, brown hair...Stake on the table next to him...Dawn faded out...

"Can't you see I truly love you, Slayer..." she noted... "There's gotta be more than just sex here, more than just the effect of the damned chip in my brain...William...I love you..."

Besides...she noted with a slight sneer... "Where was our dear cursed soul, fallen nun, your ex-vamp lover Drusilla when you needed her?...Off in LA, in 'her' city, seeking her redemption without a thought for your plight here when Willow resurrected you after Glory and all..."

"I can't love a demon, Buffy...You want me dead and transformed, that's all..."

"Can't love, eh...But you sure can fuck one, right?..." she glared...Then sighed..."Please, William...Slayer, I just wanta help you...You know I'd do anything to prove myself...Anything for you..."

Please...she pleaded...Taking a hand which he pulled away... "It's over, Elizabeth...I'm sorry..." he eyed her carefully... "Good luck fending for yourself as a chipped vampire...I really can't waste time trying to help you, you know..."



And a ton of thanks for the sex and fighting support...It really helped this past year...

She stared at him as he rose...

"Well?...See what I mean..." Will eyed Buffy, both back to their former selves... "Not so pleasant when you're the tormented one on the receiving end, eh?..."

Point there, sis...Dawn noted from her chair... "Shut up..." Buffy glared...

"Elizabeth?..." she asked him... "You were an 1880's transformation, Elizabeth would have been more likely your real name then..." he noted...

'Buffy' not really being in vogue...

***



Ok...she sighed... "You gotta point...But...

"Did Angelus ever offer his existence so you and Angel could be together?...You gave me a chance to prove myself...Fine and I'm grateful...But the bottom line is Ms. Summers...I never needed to prove myself or redeem myself...I am a good man, who met with a terrible fate...And in the end, I proved that...And with rather pitiful help, freed myself...That is my story..."

And so...He eyed her... Maybe I'm not the candidate for Hell here...

Ummn...

"William....!" Buffy's disembodied voice flooded the food court...She, Dawn, and William staring round now...

"You heard it too, eh?..." he looked at the sisters...

Hell, even I heard it...Spike's head appeared in the center of their table... "Spike!!..." Buffy glared... "Goin', goin'...The goddamn thanks I get..." the head muttered, fading out...

Hah!...Buffy looked back at Will... "If that's me calling you, then this is your whatever, not mine..."

Unless...she paused...And blinking...Found herself in a dank alleyway...Dead or dying demons surrounding her, groaning wounded ones a little further off...Along with a scattered handful of likewise dead or badly wounded Slayers...A few relatively intact-looking demons now fleeing past her in clear panicky rout...She turned to them as the last raced past her, then stumbled, groaning in agony from she saw immediately were severe wounds... "William!!..." she cried out...

"Buffy!..." she recognized Dawn's voice... "Where is he?!!..." she called to her... "No sign yet!!...But the rest of the Partners are falling back to their portal!!..." she saw Dawn hurrying towards her, Willow in close support...Maintaining some kind of force shield about them...

"Buffy!...We've gotta fall back ourselves!!...We've lost too many of us and I can't keep this field up much longer!!..." Willow cried...

"Not without William!..." she shook her head, turning to try and peer into the dark of the alley...Where she knew now she'd been headed, seeking... "Buffy..." Dawn came up to her... "We can't stay...We've done all we can...The Partners are regrouping and getting more help up from Hell...Angel and the blue lady are too badly injured to help...He's a survivor, sis...He'll find a way...Like you and he always do..."

"I won't leave him here...Not again!..." she pulled away, Willow now up to them, clearly running on empty, mystic powerwise...Her shield begin to flicker... "Look!..." Dawn pointed up the main street that the alley entered...To where the battered demon force was beginning to rally and collect itself...The few uninjured Slayers of the small scratch force assembled now attempting to disengage and fall back down the street... "Buffy, we're out of time...He wouldn't want you to die here...If he's still in one piece, he'll find you..."

"Buffy...We've gotta get these girls outta here before it's too late..." Willow chimed in...

"Get them back to the cars, Wil...You too, Dawn..." she told them... "I'll keep looking...And try to keep 'em off your backs..."

That's my order...she eyed their anxious faces... "I'm still Slayer Counselor General and I'm ordering you to get the other Slayers back and wait for me by the cars...Do it!..."

"Buffy, you're hurt and if you don't come with us...I'll take full advantage of that..." Dawn replied...Turning to Willow...Who sighed, shaking her head...Sorry, didn't keep anything in reserve for mind-control or teleportation...Buffy smiling a bit wanly...Dawn...

"You'd've made one bang-up Slayer, sis..." she patted her... "But injured or no, without Wil here to make me go, you ain't takin' this Slayer anywheres...Now get the others outta here and wait for me...I'll be along...With whatever's left of William..."

Now...she eyed them coldly...Willow's shield flickering rapidly now...Oh-oh...the wiccan sighed...

"You can't abandon the others, Buffy..." Dawn tried desperately... "You're still their leader as you said..."

"By the power or whatever invested in me I appoint Willow's babe Kennedy, Slayer Counselor General...And as she's still abed back home in Long Island, NY...I doubt she'll be by to make objections as to my stayin on here in a private capacity..."

"Willow?!..." Dawn tried again...But before she could turn back, the Slayer had vanished off into the dark of the larger street...Towards where the demon force was regathering...

"No, Dawn!...I can't protect you now!..." Willow grabbed at her...Pulling her back... "We can't go on, we've gotta get the injured girls out..."

Buffy...She sighed... "Buffy will find a way...C'mon..." she pulled Dawn back along the street in the opposite direction...

"William!!!..." they heard her cry... "William, I'm here!!!..."

***

"Well, well...Buffy..." a suave voice from the shadows of a building floated out to her...

You...The Slayer halted, turning... "Nice of you not to forget me...After all, what was it?..Three hours ago that you dumped me?..." the voice continued...

"So...Giles was right...You were in league with these bastards..." she glared at the handsome figure now moving down the building steps to her...

"Hmmpf..." he shrugged... "I side with no one...Merely take the path most likely to end in my own survival...And success in the world and its affairs...Maintaining contacts with the Senior Partners was simply a precaution..."

As was our little romance...he grinned... "Though I want you to know I throughly enjoyed every minute...Until the final act..." his voice cooled, face clouded...

"Nobody ever do that to 'His Benevolence' before?..." Buffy eyed him... "Well, there's a first time for everything...And developing a sense of humility is good for the soul, I hear..."

Oh, right...You never bothered to get one back...she eyed him...Then waved a hand... "Enough already...Tell your bosses I'll let em retreat to Hell, alive...If they show me where William..." she gulped as he eyed her coldly... "Where William is..."

"Unless you've suddenly developed a flicker of character and want to die fighting with your buds back there..." she pointed down the street...

"Hardly my... 'Friends', dear..." he smiled... "And as for bosses...You should know the Immortal is his own Master..."

She waved him off, and moved on down the street, he following after a moment... "They're reforming down there, Slayer..." he noted... "More coming by the moment...You're unsupported and even you can't fight them all..."

"Not here to fight 'em all...I tole ya..." she muttered and continued on, peering carefully around into the doorways of the buildings they passed... "Will?...." she called... "I'm here, honey...Oh, come on, Will...Please..."

"He's..." "If you say he's dead...You're no longer 'the Immortal'..." she glared at him...He put up a languid hand, smiling pleasantly...Only the eyes cold...



"Don't be upset with me, Slayer...I've only been trying to help you...You were appreciative enough of my efforts after our first days together..."

She gave him a grim but brief stare, then went back to searching without a word...Looking down an alley where two figures lay...Dead demons...She moved into it...

"There's no time, Buffy...You must leave..." the Immortal hissed... "I'm offering you..." She whirled on him... "You're offering a chance to get out, eh?..." she moved on him...Grabbing him...

"So...You have that much pull with the guys down there?...And I thought you were just their pretty boy, sent to romance me and keep me away from LA..."

Hardly...he smiled in her grip... "Though I did regard you as the most dangerous of my three chief enemies...And felt it was best to deal with you personally...In my own way..." he threw her back...

"Pity you couldn't've been content with me...I'd serious hopes for you...As did my associate...The First..." he leered...

Though my...subordinates, the Partners...Did feel it was best to destroy you at the first opportunity...he eyed her...

" 'Fraid so, Buffy...I am their leader..." he grinned at her staring face... "Though I prefer to maintain an image of impartially towards both sides of the fight..."

"Great..." she tensed... "Then as their boss...And someone who likes his...Pretty dumb in a world with thousands of immortal demons and such hangin' round... 'Immortal' monicker...Tell your people to stand down...And bring Will to me intact..."

"Slayer...Just because I took the romantic route with you doesn't mean I can't fight you if I must...But I prefer not to end it this way...I hate having to terminate relationships harshly..."

After all...he smiled... "It's not like I used spells or drugs or even thrall on you...You accepted me voluntarily..."

"Oh, sure..." she nodded... "I was heartbroken, guilt-ridden, lonely...You come along, with the phony desire for atonement and all...You were a rather poor substitute for William, but hey, I thought he was gone at first...And then, that he'd grown to hate me..."

A slightly dark look... "I see...Nonetheless...I accomplished my purpose...You stayed away from him and Angel...Until it was too late..."

"If he were dead...You'd simply gloat and be done with it...You're tryin' to keep me from reachin' him..." she shrugged... "But if you don't wanta cooperate, or can't, fine...I'll kill you later, that's a promise..." she moved off...

"Hey...Buffy..." the First appeared in front of her, in her form... "Missed you all these months, sister..." a harsh leer...

"Yeah?...That anxious for us to whip your ass again?..." Buffy walked straight on, passing through her...

"He's dead..." the First cooed after her... "And died hating you..."

"His soul's alive no matter what...Though I think it's safe to say you're lyin'..." Buffy called back without looking back...

"Which half of us would that liar be?...Sis?..." the First sneered, now in front of her again...Buffy passing through her again without a word...Hey...

Leastways pay attention when the First is tryin' to psych you out here...her insubstantial twin fumed...

('Fraid the incorporeal don't get no respect, lass...a ghostly William watching the scene smiled at her... "Bug off, loser..." she glared at him... "And no, I ain't gonna tell you where you are..." "Sounds hopeful...And it could still be her fantasy, not mine..." he grinned...Nnnnn...she growled...)

"I tole you you should have killed or transformed her..." the First hissed to the Immortal as he slowly followed the searching Buffy...Two wounded Slayers stumbling past them... "Back to the cars, girls!..." Buffy called to them, pointing back...

"I do things my own way...And I'd say I've been a bit more successful than you, my dear..." he eyed her...The First glaring... "You promised me we'd have her ready to accept me...That whole foolish scheme was your dumb idea...Play on her guilt and get her to accept you...Then corrupt her...Please...A flat failure..."



"Not at all...She's on the brink of despair...She's let him down again...We just have to..."

A cry from Buffy...He grinned at the First... "Shall we pay our condolences...?"

"For all this 'Immortal' crap and your refusal to risk your existence fighting with the Light side, you've quite a death wish, don't ya?..." the false Buffy eyed him...

They found her knelt beside him, holding him gently... Will, I'm here...she whispered...He opened blood-filled eyes...

"Winifred...?" he gasped...She staring as the Immortal beamed at the First...

Whoa...Buffy eyed William, both back again in their seats at the Mall...That was...

"As I said...This could be your Hell, not mine..." he nodded...

***

"William?..." Buffy in white half spacesuit-half Jedi Knight-like outfit shared...Light saber in her hand...

"I get along without you very well...Of course, I do...'cept when soft rains fall...

And drip from leaves then I recall.....The thrill of bein' sheltered...In your arms...

Of course, I do...But I get along without you very well...

I've forgotten you...Just like I should..." Spike in duster, light saber in hand, sang, then glared at her...

"Strike him down, Buffy...And let me take my place within you..." a tall, cloaked figure hissed...

"I'll never...Never join with you..." she stared at the figure...

"Father..." she eyed him...As the figure pulled back his hood to reveal a frowning Hank Summers...Who now morphed into her own form...

"Sired by the First...Now I know why you were the best of the Slayer lot..." Spike grinned at her...

"William..." she turned to him... "There is good in you, I've always sensed it..."

Your heart betrays you...

"Really..." he swung his light saber up suddenly, powered on...And slashed at her, just missing as she lept back...

"And there is evil in you, Summers...Your Father's side betrays you, girl..." he smiled coldly...Light saber extended at her...As she kept hers at him...The First back to Hank form smirking evilly as he watched...

"And if you're too strong to cave to it..." Spike told her coldly... "There's always your lil' mystic clone..."

"No!!..." she rushed at him...Saber lasers meeting in mid-air between them...

No!...she pulled back...And threw her saber aside...

Hmmn...Hank stared...Shrugging...

"Ok, kill her my son...In-law...Sorta..." he eyed Spike...Who hesitated, staring at Buffy...

Hank sighed...Oh, all right... He resumed Buffy form...

"Kill her and ...Yadda...yadda...yadda...You got me as your very own Buffy for all eternity..."



Hmmn...Spike pondered...Buffy watching him from where she stood, a pleading look on her face...William...

"Mate..." he frowned at the First... "First of all...I ain't into hermaphrodites, transsexuals, or whatever in God's name you are..."

And second...I can't screw an incorporeal essence...

Well...Buffy sighed...Not exactly the noble sort of declaration of love and redemption I was kinda hopin' for...

But hey...she beamed as he plunged his laser into the First's screaming form...As she did with hers...

***

Fire and burning ooze all around him...Even to his eyes, into them...No pain, oddly enough, he notes...

"William...William, come on darling..." Buffy reaches a ghostly hand...

"What the hell's been going..." he eyes her, surprised to find he still can see...She shimmering in pale light...He looks at his burning, dissolving hand...Now beginning to glow like hers...

Wait...He looks round... "This is the Hellmouth entrance...Where I dissolved..." he looks at his dissolving flesh... "...before...Last year..."

Don't tell I'm in Hell and hafta go through this again...he sighs...Nah...The shimmering Buffy shakes her head...

"We're still at the crater in Sunnydale, Will...It's only been a moment..." she smiles... "All the rest was a dream before waking...To Eternity...Come on, my love...It's time to go home..."

But you... he stares... "Well, you don't look like the First...But..."

"Willow just asked me what I wanted to do back outside there, now that I'm no longer the chosen One...And what I wanted was to be with you..." she beams... "So I jumped off the edge of the crater and here I am..."

Thank you for forgiving me...At the poetry slam?...she eyes him... And I was so proud of the way you endured that phony year...And this last bit...I knew the First would lose that one too...

Trying to use your despair...And that part of you that was Spike...To drag your soul down in the microseconds before you died again...Her last chance at vengeance on us...she explains...Had my own session with her, all to do with Cicely, your death, and my own demon, tell ya 'bout it in Heaven...

"You...William and Spike...Really came through...For all of us..." she smiles...

"Cicely?..." he breathes...Or rather, gives a good approximation thereof...As the remains of his physical body burn away, leaving him likewise shimmering...

"That's me, babe..." she nods... "Sorry reincarnation isn't the most efficient way to hook-up with your beloved..." she sighs... "But I am here...I did come for you, in spite of all the things that got in the way...And there'll be no more nonsense about Cicely protecting you from Death or Buffy dodging her feelings for what might have been Spike's manipulative fiend's game now, I promise..."

Anyway we did have quite an interesting time the last century, eh love?...she grins...

***