Immortal Beloved..." LXXVIII...



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..."

***



Valentine's Day morning, 2005...LA...



What he told them...

Angel paused from watching his videotape of the latest episode of "The Apprentice III...Turning the Tables..." As a terrified Donald Trump, now forced to be the apprentice in various professions, awaited the advance of the gigantic heavyweight boxer now facing him... "Without a stunt impersonator, all real, all reality..." the announcer intoned...

A ghastly sound of fist on soft, overfed flesh and a hideous wail of pain from the set as he looked up at Illyria, dragging William into his office...Harmony and a still-recovering Charlie Gunn following close behind, both clearly eager to witness Spike's latest humiliation...

"Our Partner has returned..." Winifred "Illyria (nickname the guys gave me, Mom)" Burkle-Wyndham-Price, noted firmly, as she sat him in a chair and took a seat...Harmony and Gunn grabbing chairs...William glaring, but looking glum as he sat...

"Well...Our prodigal back...How did it go?..." Angel eyed him...

Trump's screams continuing in the background on low volume as his fellow firefighters, disgusted by his attempts to cash in via cell phone on human tragedy, left him locked in a burning apartment complex... "You want this place that bad, you got it, pal..." one mockingly yelling to him as the group leaves...

Hmmn?...William gave a blank and innocent look...Go?...

"Angel wants to know how your desperate and pathetic attempt to resume mating efforts with your Slayer, Ms. Summers, went..." Illyria noted...Then reaching for something of properly Fredian kindness in her fragmented memories... "I bet you did...Valentine's Day and all...A great time to find a human female willing to let you impregnate her..."

The others stared at her...What?...she looked at them...Well, Harmony shrugged...

She has got the essential concept down...

"Oh..." Fredian apologetic mode... "Sorry...Today's the big day...So I guess you failed, huh?..."

Well...Harmony's always available for causal sex...she kindly noted...



"Hey..." Human-souled Ms. Kendall frowned... "Human-souled and no longer doormat here..." she glared...

Even if all my vamp self wanted was the chance to get her job back...

"Sorry..." Illyria nervously glanced round... "Just tryin' to make Spike feel better...After his ghastly rejection and humiliation...No doubt a kind of spiritual castration..."

"Hey..." William frowned now...

Of course if Will really is all broken-up over this latest thing...I could find it in my resouled heart to be comforting and loving...Harm thought...

"It wasn't like that..." he continued...

Well...Maybe a little like that...he conceded as they stared at him...

"How'd you lot guess I went to Rome?..."

They all stared at him...Then the calendar...

Right...he sighed...

"Well...I went...Yes...I mean time a year and all that...And we hadn't heard she and the Immortal had moved on to any more permanent stage...So I just thought...Well...For ole time's sake..."

"And so you got to Rome..." Illyria continued for him... "Where abject humiliation in short, blonde form awaited you..."

Have I been there...Angel thought...

Arggh...William sighed...Ah...

"Yeah, I got there...I went to her place...Andy told me she and Dawn had gone to Milan with His Benevolence for His latest book's coming-out party..."

"Yeah..." Charlie nodded eagerly...Pulling out a book with beautifully decorated jacket... "It's His best yet...I couldn't put it..." He stopped as the group looked at him quietly...Ummn...

"As I was sayin'..." William glared...

They'd gone...And so, being on my well-deserved vacation...

"I approved a vacation for you?...When did that happen?..." Angel frowned...

"World-saving heroes take their well-earned time-off when they damned well feel like it..." William replied... "Especially European-born world-saving heroes who have a life outside the bloody office..."

Anyway, I followed on to Milan... And there...

***



Milan...February 11th...

Madonna's "Material Girl" begins playing in the background...

We see a huge crowd, held back from a long, red-carpeted path to the former grand ducal palace by ropes and guards, all struggling and straining to be in view of their beloved hero, just now coming into view...

His Benevolence, newly emerged from limo, graciously waves to the crowd...At his side, looking properly calm and collected...In dazzling gown, encrusted with jewelry...His current significant other...The real thing, according to the February "People"...

Buffy Summers...Who gives a dignified wave to the adoring multitude...

Some kind of super evil vermin exterminator or something, one of the crowd hastily mumbles to his questioning female companion...Pretty enough, anyway...

And lost in the crowd, trying to make his reasonably non-lethal way to the roped-off walkway...William, in a fine copy of Spike's trademark old duster...

Thought she might appreciate it...For ole times' sake...he noted to the gang...

Held up by reporters asking mostly inane questions, the Immortal and his mate stood their ground with appropriate dignity...She occasionally giving slight, carefully measured queenly waves to the crowd as her Immortal One expounded on his latest work and its vital importance to Humanity's salvation...In spirit, at least...The Immortal being far too sensible of his own vital importance to the world to risk himself physically in the usual silly and trivial battles with Evil...

Giving William his chance to stagger through to the rope on his side... "Buffy?!"...A wave...

She, inclining her head to take in His Benevolence's pearls of philosophical wisdom being dispensed...For once...For free to the swelled horde of reporters...

"Summers!!..." a cry lost in the thousands of murmurs of praise and thanksgiving for His Benevolence's life-affirming words...

He sighed and waited...Maybe further on down...When his eyes suddenly met hers as she turned to give the crowd another brief wave...

"Buffy?!!..."

A slight, measured stare...She fingering her all-diamond...Large diamonds...necklace as she eyed him a moment...

A slight nod...And she returned to her waving...The Immortal finishing, they resumed their procession...

Buffy?...he stared after her as she continued on, her arm firmly locked in His Benevolence's...

Well...Maybe she didn't really...Thought it couldn't be...Me...He made for the ropes...And fell back as two large guards pushed him aside... "Keep away from the walk!..." one called in Italian...

He tried again, further down...Nearly slipping under before they grabbed him...

("Naturally the ole neck snap was out of the question..." he sighed...

I loved the neck snap...Angel sighed nostalgically...Uh...)

"I'm Ms. Summers...Uh...Champion...William...Soames Walthrop!"...he got out to one guard before they tossed him back...

"Tell her it really is...!!"

Me...he finished lamely as they headed off without another look at him...

He turned sadly back and was lost in the crowd in a moment...

"And that was it?..." Harm stared at him... "Didn't you try to reach her later?..."

And kill her?...Illyria thought...

"Couldn't get near the palace where the book-signing was...However..." he paused...

I should have Will...er I should write a book...Angel noted to himself...Nina would like that...



"Some flunky did find me about twenty minutes later outside the ducal palace, hopin' to catch sight of her...And brought..."

"A token of her undying love..." Charlie sighed...

Ummn...Just kiddin'...he nervously laughed at the ladies eyed him...Coolly...

"An autographed copy of His Benevolence's book...With note... 'Great to see you made it back to Earth...Best wishes, Buffy Summers...'..."

What...Nothing for me?...Angel stared...

"Yes..." Illyria nodded... "Clean, quick...She disposed of you with admirable efficiency..."

Right...Will glared... "Well, anyway...That was that...I got on the first plane home..."

Hmmn...Harm frowned...

There is no Truth in Beauty...Charlie sadly mumbled, shaking his head... Ummn...

"Tough, man...But you'll show that ice bitch..." he hastily tried to recover...

Hmmn...Harmony frowned...I may never have liked Buffy Summers...But this is not Buffy Summers behavior...Or if it is now, he oughta be calling in a massive strike to rescue her from the fiend possessing her body...

There musta been a note for me...He's just not saying...Angel thought, frowning...

***

Harmony followed him down the hall as he returned to his office...And went right in after him without pause...

"Harmony...Out..."

"Ms. Kendall to you...What happened in Italy, William?..."

"I just tole you...And as one of your employers, girl...I'm giving you five..."

"As the human-souled vamp version of the woman you took shameful advantage of...I'm demanding the whole story..."

In exchange for a good character reference at Judgement Day...she noted...

"I tole you lot..." "Bullcrap...Buffy would never do that to you unless the First has taken her...And since I see no preps for a big overseas operation..."

He frowned, then sighed...

"Ok, all right..." he waved her to a seat... "But this is strictly between us..."

***

What actually happened...

Milan...February 11th...The same feverish crowd, the same roped-off walkway...

(Material Girl theme in background)

A jewel-loaded, begowned Buffy Summers...Perhaps a bit more weary-looking and impatient as she fidgeted beside His Benevolence...Engaged in a long interview...



He peered from the heaving, straining crowd, managing to barely catch sight of her...

Well...She seems quite settled...And this was one of my more ridiculous ideas...He looked behind him for a possible exit route through the crowd involving the least necessary violence...

Just as, turning to eye the frighteningly adoring mob on his side, with the Immortal contentedly beaming and waving to her right, she caught the briefest glimpse...

And with a shocked expression, and dragging her arm-linked companion...Leading to an equally shocked...We never actually come into direct contact with these...People...Expression on the Immortal's divinely handsome face...She hurried to the side rope where screaming adorers reached out to His Benevolence...Who attempted to maintain that benevolent look despite the sheer terror of thousands of maniacs grabbing for his divinely handsome features...

"William!!...William!!!..." she cried... "It's William!!!..." she gasped to her now increasingly annoyed partner...

Oh really...How delight...he blinked as she pulled away and moved into the crowd, ducking under the rope and tossing back several over-eager types...Several bodyguards cautiously running to him to urge a continuation of the procession...

Before the demented mob decided to try and bring home individual pieces of the object of their veneration...

"William!!!!..." he heard her cry through the solid mass behind him...And turning, saw that mass part like the Red Sea for Moses...She standing in now rather bedraggled gown...A mix of joy and incredulity on her face...Pausing just a second to be sure...Then racing to him...

Lifting and spinning him round... "William, William...!!" her voice catching as sobs began...

The puzzled crowd about them briefly staring, then realizing His Benevolence was not involved, returned to struggle against the ropes, leaving them reasonably well isolated...

"How...Where...the hell?..." she stumbled over the words while setting him on ground...Eyeing him, then touching him tentatively...Not quite ready to believe...

"William...William..." she whispered...Grabbing him close... "Where the hell have you been?..." she set him down again...

"Did God...?" she eyed him... "I sure did pray enough..."

No, no... he waved a hand..."No divine intervention, Summers...That I know of..."

"When...How...And tell me Dru and/or Harmony are nowhere near..."

"October, that year...Not sure, but probably some ole foe tryin' to put a nasty one over on Angel...I'm alone..."

She blinked at him...Color returning to her face rather rapidly...Eyes narrowing...

Ok... "In reverse order...That's good for their sakes...If the guy's alive, I'll plead his case with Angel..."

And...October, that year?... You are so dust, you worthless, partial-son-of-a-Dru...she glared...

"How could you do that to me?!..." she whacked him... "Oh, William..." she snatched him up and hugged him tight... "Nice coat..." she smiled appreciatively at the new duster... "Must've been tough finding another like that..."

"Wolfram-Hart resources were still somewhat intact..." he noted... "Sorry...I thought it was for the..."

"If you say... 'for the best'..." she glared..."...or that you thought it was the 'right thing'..."

"Didn't Andy tell you...?" he brilliantly dodged...Alas, poor Andrew...I knew him, Horatio...

Andy?...Wells...?



Knew?...A killing glare forming...

"Wait...You still have the soul?..." she eyed him...Then frowned... "Yeah, only that damned soul would act like this...Goddamn you!..." she was near tears now...

You never trusted in me...I know...she waved a hand...

"You hate me...You've hated me since you came to me with that whacked-out soul...And I told you..." she paused...And began sobbing...

"Buffy..." he patted at her...

"I'm so ashamed, Will...I've hated myself for what I did...I don't blame you for hating me, not believing me..."

Buffy?...he stared...She looked at him...

"When I told you I needed Spike back...The mad killer was more use to me than..." she fell in a heap, sobbing again...Then looked up at him... "I deserve for you to hate me now..." she shook her head... "I never did a thing to help you before you went to Africa...To get your soul back, all on your lonesome..."

Even Giles was impressed in the end...she noted, calming suddenly... "I mean, after the battle was won and he'd had time to think the whole thing over..."

But...Where?...she looked at him... LA, he replied...

"With Angel?...All this time?...Oh, and when I think I felt bad after going along with Giles about not trusting him after the W-H Partners' deal...And sent those Slayers to help him in his fight..."

Oh...Her eyes widened... "You were in that fight?...Oh, God...Damnit, why didn't you tell me?..."

"Alls well that ends well, love...And those fifty Slayers turned the tide nicely...Nary a scratch on me pristine blonde hide..."

I'll bet...she eyed him sourly...

"Well, come on...Lets go somewhere and get dinner..." she turned... "We can catch the first plane or train back to Rome after..."

"But...The Immortal..."

"Won't notice for several days...He never hears a word I say these days, especially when on tour..."

Ummn...she eyed him... "He is nice when not overinflated...And he is seeking a kind of redemption..."

I thought...she sighed... When we met in Rome...And he seemed so sincere about things...

"I thought it was a chance to make amends...Help one of your kind in a way besides the mercifully quick way... "

"And his vast wealth, power, fame, divine good looks didn't hurt..."

Not much...she gave him a straight-on look... "But I'm here, not there..."

'Sides...Like a certain blonde vamp I know...He's got his flaws...

"So Mr. Wells told me when Angel and I came to Rome..."

Oops...He thought desperately for a recovery as she stared at him... "You were..."

You Dru's bitch...You little blonde asshole...You...You...

"William Soames the Bloody Awful Poet Walthrop!..." she raged...



"You know my name...?" he blinked...

"Of course I know your name, shithead!...I spent a month in London digging it out of the remains of the Watcher archives after hours...Just so I'd have it...And could get it put on your friggin' tombstone..."

"You got me a..."

"I shoulda got you a toilet bowl!...And written... 'William...Out to sea...Good riddance'...You..." Tears again...

You were in Rome...she sobbed...

"You got me a tombstone..." he beamed...

Well...she suddenly looked a little guilty... "We found out we didn't need to get one...There was one..."

By the way?...she frowned again... "Who the hell was Cicely?...Was she the girl?...The one you mentioned that night in the bar?..."

Cicely?...

"The one who dumped you?...So totally?...The way I should right now?..."

"Cicely got me a tombstone?...Well..." he shook his head... "I guess she felt guilty after seeing my mangled corpse..."

"Sounds like you left something out about that relationship..." she glared... "What didn't you tell me?...She liked you, didn't she?...And you two just had a fight and you panicked like the wuss you still are and..."

Did you and she...?

"Buffy..."

"You love her now, right?...That's what the problem is...She's the one you want...You're just waitin' to die so you can be with her...That's why...Ever since you got the soul..." she paused...

"Summers...Don't be..."

"I knew right away something'd changed about you...Besides the lust for murder, I mean...God, what a fool I was that year..."

Buffy?...

"The hell with the First and the world's pending doom...I shoulda screwed the life out of you the day your head cleared and made 'Cicely' a forgotten word..." she shook her head...

And now...It's too late...You want her...You've been tryin' to think of a way to let me down easy all this time...

"Summers...You're being rid..."

"You can go back to LA...I don't need your pity, William...Tell Cicely to say her prayers if they say them in Heaven, cause when I get there, there'll be no holds barred between us...And then I'll drag you off and..."

"Sounds like that time in the crypt..." he grinned...

Hmmn?..."Oh...You mean when we did the thing where I hunted you and imaginary Dru down, staked her, and then admitted I was supposed to bring her back to the Council for study but couldn't let her Unlive, knowing your heart, mind, and luscious bod belonged to her..."

That was neat...she grinned...Then frowned... "I'll bet 'Cicely' never did that ..."



"Buffy...Whatever remorse Cicely felt later...At the time..."

Yeah...?

"She really got me a tombstone...?"

"You...!...Hey!..." she suddenly paused...

"Where's my poem...?"

Hmmn?...

"You wrote one to the love of your life...Where's mine?...Did you even bother?...Or was it... 'Thanks for some hot ones, Buf...And for keeping things quick'...?"

Ummn...

"Right...You didn't even bother...Bastard...Coward...You were so sure I was worthless...Heartless Buffy, why waste good ink and paper on her..."

No poem for her...she looked down, lip trembling...

"Girl, I started odes to you a zillion times..."

"Started...How many did you finish?..." He looked a bit flustered...Ummn...How many?...

Yeah...she fumed... "Not one...Heartless Buffy the User doesn't rate one..."

Several flunkies now emerged from the crowd's mass...A wall of writhing backs facing them...

"Madame..." one called... "His Benevolence is becoming somewhat concerned over your prolonged absence from His presence...Are you...?"

Fine, fine...she murmurred...

"There have been calls from London...Mr. Giles has been..." another announced...

Oh, God...she frowned... "I'm not on the treadmill any more, Giles knows that..." she glared...

Well...she sighed, pulling clipped cell phone from a fold of her gown... "Don't you go the hell anywhere..." she eyed William...

Yeah, it's me...she rather bitterly told the phone...Keeping eyes firmly on William...The somewhat bemused attendants eyeing her, then him...Looking at each other...She's not returning immediately to ease His Benevolence's concern?...

"Look, Giles I have things to do...No, not His Benevolence's tour...You know I'd never put that above...But you have three hundred Slayers right at the London center and thereabouts in training...Why do I...?" Mmmmphf...she fumed... "Ok...Right...Yeah...I'll be there...Just let me check in with Dawn...Bye...Yeah, sure I understand..." she hung up...

Schmuck...she hissed, stamping her feet...Well, no... "I don't mean that..." she told William hastily...

What?...She eyed the Immortal's attendants... "Are you two still here?...Go on back...Tell Henri I had to leave on Council business and..." she grinned at William... "And I found as he likes to call him 'What's his name...' ...Ummn...His name with capital...And I think it's time we started seeing other people..."

He'll understand...Or at least have forgotten our whole time together in a day or so...

"Come on..." she turned to William... "We only have ten minutes before I gotta call Dawn and grab a cab..."

"Is this thing in London serious?..." he looked at her as the shocked flunkies backed away, stumbling into the crowd...Tell His Benevolence...?...



"I wouldn't leave now if it weren't..." she grimly replied...

"Well, then I'll tag..." "The hell you will...I didn't just get you back to lose you tomorrow...And I don't want you for your fighting prowess..."

Which is unquestionable...she hastily added... "But I'm not gonna let it begin again this way...Not using you to save the world's and my ass...Not this time..."

"I made the decision...I wanted to..." "And I've made the decision this time...NO!..."

"Buffy...If something happens...I want to be there..."

"Nothing's gonna happen...It's not that bad...Giles just doesn't trust his new girls to deal...I'm just in to keep them in line..."

"Buffy..." "After I get back...And every day...But not tomorrow...I won't do it that way...No..."

'Sides...This'll give you time to write that poem...And it better be as good as Cicely's...she eyed him...

"I think my beauty's at least as effulgent..." she noted slyly... "Now, kiss me goodbye...Please...And go with me to the airport...And kiss me goodbye again...And then you go to Rome and stay at my place till I get back...By Valentine's Day, I promise..."

***

"And then, at the airport...She left..." he sighed...Harmony staring...

"That's what happened?...And you didn't tell us?...Why?...That was..."

Hey?...she blinked at him... "Why are you here and not in Rome?...Oh, my God...Did something...?"

Nah...he frowned... "Buffy Summers?...Please...Heck, Rupert told me over the phone it was all but over before she got there...Some demon lord fooling around got lucky turning a couple of inexperience Slayers over at the Cleveland Mouth...The Slayers on hand took care of them..."

So?...she looked at him...

"I just thought things over at the airport in Milan and I figured...Well, it was nice that she wants to end things easy..."

End things?...Harmony stared...

Oh...I get it...

"Aww..." she sneered... "Is de widdle soully fraid of gettin' hurt again...?"

The physical bod...Souled or no...Sure wasn't afraid of hurtin' me when it solidified that October...she noted...

"Enough, girl...I might point out the consequences of 'getting hurt' for me last time were preety severe...And more so in 1880..."

So...You are afraid...she grinned... "And that's why...In spite of all the talk about 'pure sacrifice' that year..."

"I just want what's best for both of us...And..." he rose, backing for his door...

"...That's for both of us to decide...Together..." Buffy finished as she stood, still in the same bedraggled gown, blocking his exit...

Thanks, Harm...she beamed at Harmony who grinned at him... "She begged me from her cab by cell to keep you just another ten..."

The beam got a little less so...Oh...Harmony nodded... "And now she'd like me and my recovered soul to get lost..." Another grin...

"Thanks, Harm..." she made room for the vampiress to pass, then turned back to him, still blocking the doorway... "I really need to do something nice for her...After she was so nice to help and me leaving her vamped and prowling all these years..."



Say, maybe we could hook her up with the Immortal?...she eyed him... "He's free now..."

"So...?" he stared at her...

"So...First...I think it should be obvious...Even to you, you little cowardly blonde jackass...That I meant it, that day...And at Milan..."

Second...she looked down... "If I'd thought there was any hope...That you weren't safe in Heaven and better off there...Till I could go and maybe find you there...Someday...Will, I woulda done anything...Including try the vamp route...To be with you...You hafta believe that..."

Hell, if you tell me there was no one else all this time, I'll believe you...Fundamentally...she noted...

"There wasn't..." he stared at her... "Buffy..."

Third...You are on vacation as of now...As am I...And tonight we are gonna go somewhere neither of us have ever been and do things neither of us have ever tried...I got Willow workin' on a daylight spell for you so we might try some skiing?...Go skating in Rockefeller Center in NYC?...But first, you're taking me shopping...Which Angel assured me you can now afford..."

Thanks, Boss...he frowned...

"Fourth, dinner...The best place in town, just the two of us..."

And then...We'll see...It is Valentine's Day, after all...she grinned...

Then a glare...

"Poem...?...I suppose you didn't even..."

Triumphantly, he whipped out a notepad... "Oh, Will..." she beamed...

Het-hum...He peered at the door...She slammed it shut...OW!...a howl from at least two of the gang, lurking where Harmony had waved them over...

"To Buffy..."

"I love you more than words could ever explain...But..."

He smiled gently...

"Those last three years were the poem, girl..." he read...

***