Immortal Beloved..." LXXVII...



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...( a series of alternatives rather than a continuous tale)

Ok, I lied about stopping at 50...But me poor ole mum would just say, "so long as I like it, it's ok..."

***



Rome...February 13th, 2005...

Quite a suit...The only thought that came to her blocked brain over a full minute...

"So...?" a wry smile, a quizzical look...

"How have you two been doin'?...I mean without a fully-souled pet vamp to keep the vermin down?..."

Uh...she blanked, then recovered a bit... "Fine, Spike...We've been just fine..."

That's good...he nodded, leaning against the wall of the apartment building hallway...Eyeing her...

Nibs...he smiled at her...

"Is she here or no?..." he glanced down towards their apartment door...

"When did you..." Dawn stumbled for the right word...Still trying to catch the breath knocked out of her when she'd found him in the hallway as she returned from a run, "lurking for ole times' sake" as he'd self-mockingly put it...Clearly for his part having spent some time trying to work up enough nerve to ring or knock...

Quite a suit...The thought repeated...Which indeed, thanks largely to Angel's skill in retaining some of the shattered remains of Wolfram-Hart International, it was...

And much to her surprise...He wore it with quite a relaxed air...

But naturally...Human William had been quite used to wearing suits, she guessed...And so, souled Will...Like riding a bike...

He stared at her...Suddenly realizing...

"Andrew never told you?..."

Andy?...That Warren-loving son of a...

Uh... "No..." she replied...Ummn...



He was suddenly apologetic...And every inch the Victorian gentleman she'd occasionally chosen to cast him as in her fantasies...

"Nibs, I am sorry, bargin' in like this...I was sure you all knew..."

When?...she repeated... "That same year, the following October..." he replied...

How?...Wait... "Did Willow...?" Did she?...Did she go behind our backs and actually get Willow to?...she thought...And all this time...

Did she actually...That much?...No, if she'd arranged it...If she cared that much...She'd've gone to him...Not stayed here...Not played around with...

He cut into her musings...

"No...An old 'friend' of Angel's, helped by that damned amulet so far as we know...The details, God knows, girl...I was a ghostie for a bit, then solid again..."

And still draggin' the damned old soul about...he added hastily...

"Why...Why didn't you come?...Call?..." I know why...And yes, damn that soul...Even she knew you'd changed that year...That things weren't quite the same...

Spike would've come, to hell with any considerate reservations or sincere desires to be understanding...

He looked away... "I thought it was for the best...All around, you know..."

God damn that soul...Even she said so...

Funny, hearing the way she said it...The evening of that glorious, terrible day...That was the first time...I thought maybe...She really...

'God damn that soul'...Even as she cursed herself that evening...And all those days afterward, for not making you come...Dragging you out with her...

"Then..." He looked her in the eye... "I heard about the Immortal and I knew I'd done the right thing..."

Oh, absolutely...she thought...And to further avoid giving my poor sis any pangs of sorrow or embarrassment...Lets just us two old pals go off somewhere and talk over old times...

Ummn...she actually said...

"The cowardly thing, eh?..." he grinned... "But still, the right thing..."

Assuming?...They are...That is to say...he now stumbled...

"She's happy, right?..."

Uh...Ummn... "Yeah, sure...Well...Metsa-metsa...You know Buffy...And she was sorry about you..."

"Right..." Despite his best efforts, his face briefly falling several stories...Then another grin...

"So, it bein' the right thing...Why is he here, now?..." he smiled at her...

"Pragmatically...I had to be in Rome...Well, one of us did...Company shake-up of the remaining diehards of the Partners' regime...Angel thought they might be contemplating making one last stand over here...Which, most of them being human and all simply company drones, ready and eager to take orders from anyone signin' the old paycheck, they did not..."

More's the pity...We'd hoped to seriously lighten the deadwood load...And we all...The four of us new Partners...Hate firing staff...

"Mucho easier to just kill em, if they'd fight it out...But..." he shrugged...

"Emotionally...Well..." he waved a hand... "I had to come...And finally see..."



Think of something...Anything...she thought...

Anything to keep him talking another ten minutes...Ten minutes is all I need...

"It's the damned soul...It gets sentimental at this time of year...For personal as well as seasonal reasons, it's an odd time for me..."

Five minutes maybe...They're super-people, they'll be out and on their way fast...

"But...She is happy, right?...His Still-Oughta-Wait-For-The-Curtain-'Fore- Proclaiming-It-Mate Immortalness treats her well?...No fiendish schemes behind his attentions so far...?"

"He's ok...Far as we can tell...I guess she likes him..."

"Whoa..." he whistled... "From the Nibs, high praise indeed...For the vampirally-afflicted, that is..."

Angel and I would have killed for such recommendation in our respective days...he grinned...

Ok...Maybe five minutes more...It's not wrong...She didn't get him back...She didn't try, not even a seance to see if he was ok, in Heaven...

Hmmn...A conversational topic of merit...

"Spike?...Sorry...Er, William?...Were you in Heaven?...Like her?"

"Don't think so, Niblett...If I was, don't remember...But I did have a lot to answer for..."

"No...Not you..." she replied... He smiled, crossing arms... "Thanks...I can remember a time not long ago when that's the last thing I would have heard from you..."

Anyway...he began... "If she is around..."

What was the whole thing about RJ but a rehearsal for this?...It wasn't that idiot we were fighting over then, not really...And just as something in her, beyond that damned spell, went right after him...She'd be right after William now, simply because my wanting him made him valuable again...I am a part of her, right?...

Or would it be because...?

"I'm sorry..." she hastily resumed... "I mean about that year...I should have tried to help you...Me, of all people..."

"I assaulted your sis when she'd come to trust me a little...Then the First was running my newly resouled head..." he shook his head... "You were right to be on guard..."

Well...He looked up the hall towards the apartment door...Thank God it's daylight and he had to come inside...Not wait out by the street exit...she sighed to herself...

And yet...If I don't go to her...Tell her before they leave...If they haven't left already...

"Nibs?..."

But hey, she's been ok with the Self-Anointed, Smug One...And for a non-souled vamp, he's reasonably, within limits...Ok...

And she didn't...If it had been me...With Willow at her strongest, beside me...Osiris mad at her or no...

'Course, except for my failed seance attempt...Hey, with good reason, I now see...I didn't exactly...

And she was so...

"Niblett?..." Huh?...Oh... "Sorry..."



"Is she home, Dawn?...Can we go and...?" he nodded towards the door...

"I think she's gone out...But we can go see..." she led him to the door and knocked... Buffy?...

Hesitating a little as he watched, clearly rather anxious...She inserted a key and opened the door...Dark...

Phew...On time for once...Thank you, si...She pulled herself up short, seeing him as she turned round...

God, what have I done...she stared at his crestfallen face as he stood inside, looking round a bit but keeping to the center of the living room she'd waved him into...

***

"Very nice place..." he noted...For the second time in five minutes, as she brought him a cup of tea.... "You've made a few changes since I was here..." She frowned at his reference to the brief visit he'd described earlier after she'd persuaded him to stay and chat...He obviously hoping against hope her light suggestion that Buffy might return quickly or call to give her and her companion's whereabouts for the evening might prove true...

"Thanks...You might've stayed and seen us that night, you know..."

"Well...Your sis was ok...Ole Andy mentioned the 'moved on' thing...And after that neither of us was really up for a chat and visit..."

Good ole Andy...I may stay his execution after all...God, what am I doin'?...

Ummn...he cleared his throat... "You are sure you don't..." he began...

"They didn't say where they were headed, William..."

And that, at least, is no lie...Thanks sis...

Right...he nodded...Looking away, then at her... "And how has European life broadened your horizons, Ms. Summers Jr?..."

"It's been...Different..." she nodded carefully... "I like it...Especially there being no Hellmouth...And no Undead armies waiting to march..."

"No cynically worldly princes of darkness makin' their move?..."

"His B's worldly enough..." she grinned now... "But a few too many brains to go with Evil, Inc's master plans..."

Giles says he's simply learned and developed enough to realize which team is bound to win and put himself on that side...she noted...

"Though he has done good things not likely to benefit him...He is seeking...Something better..."

William nodded...

"I think that's what attracted sis in the end...I mean besides the incredible wealth, prestige, and fantastic good looks..."

"Well...Tell her to take care in any case...She's a bit of a sucker at times for those redemption-seeking types...Though to be fair, we've never heard words against him..."

Except from dear ole Andy...he smiled... "Who did mention... 'flaws'..."

"There are a few..." she smiled... "He's a little too fond of those adoring fans for one thing..."

Ah... "Well there you are..." he grinned... "And I know exactly what you mean...You should see the work we have back in LA holding down His Broodiness, especially after the Partners were beat..."

We appreciated the help by the way...he noted...It was kind of you all to send those Slayers...



"Giles made the decision...After he got Angel's message...Though she did approve...She felt kinda bad about the way she'd acted, going along so quickly with Giles about Angel selling out to the Evil team..."

But it was only 'cause she'd been so...she paused...He stared at her...

"She was upset about you...That stupid amulet...And Angel was the one who'd brought it...And then when he took over Wolfram-Hart, LA...Well..."

But it worked out in the end...she finished...

Though she still couldn't go herself...Face Angel...And be reminded...she thought...

"Well...We all appreciated it...Our miserable butts were hanging by a thread..."

"Just wish one of them had told us about you...Or that idiot Andrew..."

"I kinda got flattened and shoved into an alleyway early in the melee...Didn't see much of them later...They probably never saw me...As for Andy, I asked him not to tell you...Never thought he'd manage to keep that one so well..."

"Yeah?...'Course he has shown us a lil more backbone than we ever expected this last year...Even to disagreeing with Giles..."

"Would've liked to've seen that..." Well...he paused...Looking round again... "Perhaps I'd best be on my merry...Your sis might not care to hear you'd been let me visit alone and unchaperoned..."

Ummn...She watched him rise... "I'm free for dinner..." she hastily blurted...

Lovely...Very cool, Summers...she groused to herself...But he eyed her and smiled... "So am I..."

He hesitated... "In fact, I did have some hopes of celebrating the day a little..."

"Valentine's Day?...Is that some English...?" "My birthday..."

Birth...day? "Human, I mean...So it would be nice to have a little company..."

If you really think your sis wouldn't mind?...

"Hey, I date now..." she frowned...Then smiled back to his grin... "And besides, you're my old babysitter..." Indeed...he nodded...

"In that case, Ms. Dawn Summers...Would you care to be your ole broken-down babysitter's birthday guest for dinner?..."

"Absoblooming tootly..." she nodded, beaming and rising... Uh... "I mean...We got a lot of catchin' up to do..." she noted...

"Absobloodyblooming tootly, girl..." he nodded in turn... "But I actually do have some...Of all things...Business to attend...Just let me call my driver and have him cart me over to the office for ten quick and I'll be back to pick up the prettiest young lady in Rome..."

Bar none...he smiled...She smiling back...

"That oughta give me time to change...Fancy or?..." she eyed him...

"On the Brooding One's nickel?...Please...The best in Rome..."

No...I will not think of it...She could've had Willow try...It's my turn...

"I'll be back in a vampiral flash...Though not as a dust cloud, I hope..."

"William?..." Hmmn?...he looked at her... "How...In human..."



"Twenty-three..." he smiled... "Unless I missed a year or two in my math..."

***

He left five minutes later via the hallway to the covered alleyway exit where his car and driver were to meet him and she moved to her bedroom door...

Only to hear the key turn in the front door lock...

"Hey..." Buffy waved, pushing the door open...

Ummn...

"Hey...What..."

A wan smile and shrug... "Guess I asked Henri one too many questions about the old days..."

Well, certain select sets of old days...she sighed, sitting down, rubbing a foot...And looked up at the staring Dawn...

"He...Ummn...Noticed I was only interested in the years after 1880...And kept bringing up the Angelus pride...One of its junior members in particular..."

Dawn blinked as Buffy regarded her...

"You headed out somewhere?..."

Hmmn?...

"You looked like you were going in to change...I was gonna ask if you wanted to go somewhere for dinner but if you're headed out, it's fine...Long as I know who, where, and how long..."

"You...All this time...You've been pumping him for info?...About Spike?..."

William...Buffy gently but firmly corrected... "Not exactly...I...Well..."

Maybe a little...

"I guess maybe a little too much...As he made clear just now..."

Oh?...

"With words to the effect... 'I think...My dear...Your Council would have more information on your William the Bloody than the Immortal...He was never quite a major concern on my part...'..."

Dork...she hissed...Then sighed... "I suppose I'm being a leetle unfair...He was hurt..."

To think a woman in His presence could be thinking of another...she grinned...No...she shook her head... "I am being a little...But he didn't have to get all huffy..."

Sorry...Dawn mumbled...Eyes flicking to the mantlepiece clock...He was gonna be back within twenty...thirty tops....Twelve of the twenty left...

"Sorry if I'm keepin' ya...Is it something...Big?..."

You might say... "No...No, I was just gonna meet one of the girls from my painting class..."

Uh-huh... "Any chance big sis could tag along?..."

Uh...Well...



Uh-huh... "Sounds like your fellow painter's quite a hunk...I get the message, it's ok...But who is he and where are you going?..."

"Just a nice guy...Not far...Probably some place near the Forum...And not late..."

Uh-huh...Buffy waited...

"Name?..."

Ummn... "Guilliame, I think..." Close enough, I hope...

"I don't really know his last name...I think he may have told me but I forgot..." Ok, a lie...Unless maybe once he did...Maybe in the middle of some life-and-death struggle and I wasn't listening closely?...

"Dawn..."

"Honest...And he's a very nice guy..."

"Then he'll have no objection to meeting big sis..." a firm look...

"I was gonna meet him..." Well, I was gonna go down to the alley to the car...

An eye-roll...Dawn...she repeated with a frown...Then a sudden sigh... "Fine...I wouldn't be very good company tonight anyway..." she looked down...

"But no later than ten...And next time, he comes here..."

"Absoblooming tootly...Uh...Yeah...Next time, here...Fer sure..." she turned...Ok, just throw on the new top and run like hell...

"He Italian?..." a note in Buffy's voice...A pleading to stay, just a bit longer...Held her... "Well, 'Guilliame' or whatever...That's...Well...What?"

"Not exactly...He's...Sorta...English..."

Oh?...Genuine curiosity...

"How old?..."

"Twenty-something...Twenty-three today, I think..."

Buffy stared...But not entirely an 'are you kidding?' stare...

"Twenty-three?...Today?..."

Twenty-three...she breathed...

"Too old...Dawn..." instinct kicking in...Then she gave a slight gasping sound...

"Buffy?..." Dawn stared in shock as the Slayer of Slayers dissolved into tears...

"He...He'd've been twenty-three today..." the words slipped out as Buffy got hold of herself...

Minus the vamp years, of course...

"You looked him up..." Dawn said...A statement of fact rather than a question...

In London...Buffy nodded... "When we were with Giles back in October...I...I had to find out about him...One of the archivists helped me...Giles doesn't know..."

And is not to know...The Slayer was firm...



"...Soames Walthrop..."

Hmmn?...

"The rest of his name..." Buffy explained... "William Soames Walthrop...Cambridge student and poet...Disappeared on March 13, 1880 under mysterious circumstances...Later found dead with strange neck wounds..."

Hmmph...she began again...The tears welling... "My William..." she suddenly gasped...And sobbed...

Dawn closed her eyes and opened them silently...Oh, God...

Ok...Damn it...I give...

But lets be honest about this...We're not doing this for sis...And maybe not even for our Will, though it will be our birthday present to him...

We're doing this because he might...Just might...Hate us forever if he found out...And should things not work out for them...

Well, Laurie settled for Amy when things went south with Jo...And you never know...

Uh... "Buffy..." she began...

***