Immortal Beloved..." LXXX...

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..."



***

London...The New Antiquarians' Hall of the Royal Council of Antiquarians and Library Scientists...

Feb 12, 2005...



"Buffy...My dear..." a suave voice in tones of protest... "Shut up, keep moving..." Uhnnn...A groan...

A number of Watchers, Observer trainees, and New Slayers looked at each other in confusion as a coldly furious Slayer Councilor General Buffy Summers, newly in from Rome, dragged a tall, devastatingly handsome youthful-looking man...My God is that?...One Observer nudged a colleague...Who nodded...Down the hall...

A couple of more experienced, old Council Watchers eyed each other, one pulling cell phone...

"Where is Chairman Giles?...He's not in his office..." Buffy curtly turned to one Watcher, Dobson, she knew well from her past training sessions with the new Slayers...

"He's in conference in the main chamber...Not to be..." he looked after her as she stalked off down the hall...Her companion firmly dragged along in her grip...

"That was the Immortal, right?..." one new Slayer hissed to her Watcher... "I believe so..."

"Aren't they...Like, together?..."

"Apparently the bloom is off the rose..." the Watcher, a tall, blonde, thirties-ish Englishwoman stared after the Slayer Councilor General...Now paused before a large, secured door, preparing to kick at it...

The Watcher allowed herself a rare moment of nonprofessional gossip...

"Myself, I never understood her predilection for vampiral lovers...Even souled or with records of service like His Benevolence..."

She and her charge pulled back as a summoned security team hurried in...The door at which Buffy gave another resounding kick now giving away...

Just as two of the security team members fired bolts of energy strong enough to bring down an elephant which struck her in the chest as she faced them...She losing her grip on the Immortal who, stunned a bit himself, staggered to the side...

"Bastards!..." she cried, struggling to keep her footing...



"Miss Summers?..." at the far end of the hall near the front door security station where equal chaos reigned following the Slayer Councilor General's sudden violent entrance a moment ago, a Watcher turned to a hurrying Dawn... "Is my sister?..." "Down the hall..."

I've called Security...he noted...They should be able to deal...he called to her as she rushed on...Pulling her cell phone and punching buttons...

"Giles!..." she spoke into it... "Hey, don't hurt her!..." she called to the force down the hall, now six heavily armed, large men and two hulking demons, facing a Buffy now on one knee, trying to regain her footing after two more direct shocks...

Watchers and Observers now busily trying to get their Slayer charges out of the hall and into training rooms...A number of the Slayers refusing to move, asking questions, several calling on the guards to stop or trying to speak to Buffy...

At the conference room door, Chairman Giles appeared, ordering the hall to be cleared in a calm, strong voice that penetrated all the way down the hall...

"Bastards..." Buffy gasped...

"Miss Summers is upset but she will be fine...Please clear the hall, go with your trainers!...Now!..." The hall cleared slowly...

He turned to the somewhat battered Immortal who shrugged... "It seems again we have a slight problem, my friend..."

"Giles..." Dawn came up... "I'm sorry I couldn't get word to you sooner...She wouldn't let me out of her sight..." she looked down at Buffy who stared up at her... "You..." she murmured...

"Doctor..." Giles waved to a woman now hurrying up the hall... Who pulled at a small black bag...And on halting in front of the Slayer, removed a hypodermic from said bag, tapping as she held it to light...

"Hurry and get her under as quickly as possible...There's no time..." the Chairman hissed... "Dawn, stay by her and..."

"No...No..." Buffy staggered to her feet...Another bolt striking her...

"Stop that!..." Dawn cried... "You'll hurt her..."

"You...Liar...You let them..." Buffy eyed her sister coldly as she went down again, the doctor moving to her...Two men waved in, grabbing an arm as the Immortal and Giles watched...

A sudden counter bolt threw doctor and guards back...Dawn, Immortal, and Giles turning...

"What is going on, Giles?..." Willow eyed him coolly from where she'd just materialized by Buffy...Having teleported at some risk from back inside the conference chamber on hearing Buffy's cries...

"Willow...Things have gone a bit wrong...But..."

"I see that..." she said dryly...Looking at Buffy who tried to rise... "Wil...They..." "Just a mo, Buf...Give it a sec...No one's gone hurt you..."

This time...she looked fixedly at Giles...

Xander now emerged from the conference room...Staring at the group and Buffy, half-kneeling on the floor...

"So this is... 'Taking care of poor Buffy's problems', Giles?..." he turned to the Watcher...

"Xander...Willow...You must understand...This was a minor relapse..."

"The major ones must've been something..." Willow replied... "Well, isn't it lucky this time we're here to help out?..."

"Willow...You and Xander haven't been around, you don't know the situation...You gotta let us handle it..." Dawn said firmly...

"We have...And we see how you guys have 'handled it'..."



"Willow...Xander...Don't let them..." Buffy gasped, rising to her feet...

"No, honey..." Willow shook her head...She moved to Buffy, putting an arm round her...

"They...All..." Buffy began, whispering, waving to where Giles and the Immortal stood...She paused and stared at Willow... "I can't remember...But he was real, not a dream...?"

No, honey...He was real...Willow nodded...

"Wil...Tell me...You and Xander didn't...You knew?...You let them...?"

Willow looked over her shoulder at Xander who sighed... "Buffy...We didn't know...Not until it was too late..." Buffy shook her head wearily...No...You, too?... "Buffy, believe me...If we'd been there...It was only because we thought it was done and would be too difficult to reverse..." he continued...

"What?...What did they...?" she grabbed at his arm...Staggering a bit... "What's happened to me?...Xander?..."

"Willow...For Buffy's own sake..." Giles began...

Let us do what we have to do...

"You said...Once was all, Giles..." Xander glared at him... "And that it would end things..."

I don't call this...Ending things...

Willow nodded...Eyeing the swelling ranks of security and recognizing a couple of reasonably magics-versed Watchers among them...

"Giles, tell your people to back off, stand down, or whatever the Brit equivalent is...I'm more powerful than any of them if I need to be but I'd have to hurt them..."

Giles reluctantly waved the group back...

"Xander..." Buffy gasped, still clutching his arm... "Tell me..."

"Buf...Lets go back inside before any of the goons decide to get heroic..." Willow touched her arm...

"No..." she pulled back... "I won't let you...You let them..." she started to back away...

"Please, Buffy...We didn't help them now...We didn't agree to it before...I won't...Xander won't...Let them do anything to you again...I swear..."

"Why?..." Buffy closed her eyes... "Why did you let them...Him...?" she eyed the Immortal, standing by Giles...

"Buffy...Like Xander says...It was done before we knew...We didn't approve but in the end we did hope it would help you...I'm sorry...But we won't let it happen again..."

"You...Even you guys...Would have left things..."

"Buffy..." Willow sighed... "You don't remember what things were like...After Sunnydale..."

"Buffy..." Dawn firmly called to her... "We did what was best for you...And you wanted some kind of help..."

"Help?..." Buffy stared, standing firmly now, rage restoring some measure of strength... "Did I ask for this kind of 'help'?...To have you...bastards...Play with my head?..."

Did I?...she turned to Xander... "Did I want this?...Whatever they did?..."

"You wanted help..." he paused...Looking to Willow...



"I wanted this...?" she touched her head... "I don't believe you...I..."

"Yes..." Giles took the opening... "Buffy, you needed our help and we..."

No...Xander cut him off sharply...

"No, Buf...Whatever 'help' you wanted in dealing with Spike and the past...I don't believe you wanted what was done to you..."

You were never too keen on mind control or memory washing...he eyed Giles...

"Spike?..." She stared at him, then Willow...Who nodded...

So that's his name?...

"Spike..." she repeated...

"I guess William is more appropriate since he got his soul back..." Willow smiled faintly...

***

Inside the conference chamber...

"You guys have ruined everything...We coulda helped her...Now it'll all fall down again...She'll be right back to where..." Dawn fumed at Willow...

"If it failed once, it will fail again..." Willow replied quietly... "And she did not consent to it, even you and Giles admitted that..."

"She wanted help...You did, Buffy..." Dawn turned to look at her sister, now seated by Willow and watching quietly... "If we didn't tell you what was to be done, it was because..."

"I would've said...No...No matter how bad I was...Whatever a 'state' I was in..." Buffy said quietly...

And you of all people should have known that...

"All of you knew that..." she looked round the room... "But it was easier to go along...Was I that much of a bother?...Was I cramping your lifestyles with my little problems?..."

"You were ready to..." Dawn paused..."We had to do something...Henri and his people offered us a chance to...We were trying to save you..."

"How was it done?..." Buffy ignoring her, turned to look at Giles, then the Immortal... "I thought you, your...Benevolence..." she spat out the word... "Didn't like magics..."

Or is the exception when you can't get a girl you want any other way?...

"It was not a spell..." Giles replied...Rubbing his forehead... "Buffy, you must believe...We saw no other way...We thought...We were sure...We'd lose you...And not just to Death again...You were near to embracing Darkness itself to be with William again..."

"Buffy...I love you...I only wished to..." Henri began...She did not look at him...Then spoke steadily and firmly...

"So... I 'was near to embracing Darkness'...To be with...This 'William' again?...I'd guess he was a vamp?...Did I love a soulless vamp and want to be with him that much?...I...No, he must've been...Hell..." she eyed the Immortal... "You're soulless and Giles swears on your sterling character...Though he has a blind spot for those who help him remove troublesome little problems..."

"He wasn't soulless..." Willow told her... "Not that last year, anyway...Not when..."

"He died..." Buffy nodded... "That much I guessed...And now, according to the report Henri got in Rome and what Andrew told me when I ferrited it out of him..."

He's back...After savin' all our asses and the world...Nearly dying with Angel fighting the Partners...And you'd had no plans to tell me...If I hadn't seen the report when your gigolo pal here got careless...And caught Andrew alone...

"It was over...He didn't come to you..." Dawn began... "And Giles sent the help that saved him and Angel..."

"He thought I was happy and settled...You heard Andy...He even came to Rome to check on me...And he...Didn't..." she turned to Willow...

"That part...I don't understand...I must've...But Andy said..."

Willow?...

"You told us...That you did tell him, just before...How you felt...But he...The soul..." she sighed...

I guess some guys just can't believe their good luck...she gave a faint smile...

"I see...Died not believin' me?...Yeah, that would've sent me for a loop..." Buffy nodded...

And got a soul for me?...Sounds like he had it bad...she smiled...

"Way bad..." Willow grinned...

Are there any...Pictures, letters?...she paused...Searching for a word...

"Poems?..." she blinked...Willow staring at her...As did Dawn...

"Did he?...Yes, he wrote poems..." she said firmly... "I remember...No...I don't..." she sighed...

Not a line...

"He read you his poems?..." Dawn looked at her...A slight something in her voice...

"I don't remember...Thanks to you...But the word clicks something in here..." Buffy tapped her forehead... "Was he any good?..." she turned to Willow...

Don't know...the Wiccan shrugged... "He never gave us a reading..."

"I want anything you have...And you have something...I see it in your face, Dawn...Giles...Get whatever you have of his...Ours...Here, now..."

You too, Henri...Whatever's at your place...It shouldn't take long to fly it in...

Or else...I will make you...she finished with a hard stare... "Do it, Giles..." Willow eyed him... "Or I will back her up..."

He pulled out a cell phone reluctantly and dialed...His Benevolence following suit after another hard glare from her...

"You too..." Buffy turned to Dawn... "You have things of his...Something...I want to see them..."

"I gave it all to Henri...Your stuff and anything I had...His people needed it for their processing and it had to be removed from your daily life..."

Buffy was silent, staring... "I said I want everything...You still have something and I want that too..."

He gave it to me...Dawn looked away... "It's mine..."

Xander eyed Willow...It was Dawn who convinced us not to interfere afterwards...Who else had her sis' best interests at heart?...

God, how could we've been so blind?...Even if I only got one eye...

"If it really is yours, you can keep it...But I want to see it..."



Dawn pulled up her purse and tossed a tiny plastic baby doll at Buffy who caught it...

"He won it for me...At a fair one night that summer...When you were gone and he looked after me...Before you came back..."

It's nothing to do with you...It's mine...He gave it to me...she repeated as Buffy looked at the doll carefully...And finally pushed it back to her...

Willow shook her head...Dawn...Oh, God...

I always wondered why you were so hard on him that year...Even after it was clear Buffy'd forgiven him and he'd done the impossible for her...And all the time...

Well?...Buffy returned to Giles, who'd finished giving orders...

"The things we have here about him...Are on their way..." he nodded...

"How was it done?...How did you cut him out of my mind?..."

"The Immortal's neurologic research institute at Geneva has done work on memory restoration and, as a consequence, memory removal since the 1930's...The process is highly advanced now and has been used as a therapeutic tool for the mentally and emotionally disturbed...He offered it to us as a way to save you from the past crushing you..."

"Oh...So our trip to your estate in Geneva wasn't quite the blissful vacation I'd thought it was..." she gave a cold smile to the Immortal...

"Believe me, Buffy..." Giles sighed... "We'd tried every other way short of magics...Therapy and counseling were useless...And we'd no idea he'd survived somehow until very recently..."

She put up a hand... "Can you restore what you took from me?..."

"No..." the Immortal shook his head... "This was not a spell...Your brain was physically altered to erase the memories...What was lost, is lost...It cannot be reversed..."

"And what you had put in?...Added...?"

He eyed her carefully...Giles hurriedly interrupting... "Nothing was done except to remove what had to be..." she waved him off...

"So, you didn't get permission from 'Father Knew Best' here for what you decided to have...Added, eh?..."

Added?...Giles looked at the Immortal...

"Nothing too serious, Giles...Don't go developing a moral sense over it..." she frowned at the Watcher... "But he was looking to smooth the path between us, weren't you...Lover?..." she glared at the Immortal...

"Mr. Giles and your sister came to me about this, my dear...It was their decision...As for new thought patterns...We only did what was necessary to allow your mind to fill in blanks and adjust to..."

"Did they also tell you to use what you gleaned from my mind to woo me?...God, I thought those sharp cracks you suddenly started making that night sounded too familiar, somehow...And out of character...Those were all his, right?...And his moves, too...The slow feeling me out...The hesitancy under the bravado...You aren't the hesitant type, Henri..."

And you don't know me that well on instinct...I could feel it when you ran out of material...she smiled...

Giles eyed the Immortal...

"He didn't have to 'glean' much, Buffy..." Dawn spoke up... "I gave him most of it...Described Spike and how you and he were to him...I thought it might help..."

"So..." Buffy eyed her coldly... "You loved him that much, huh?...No one remembers someone they don't care about that well..."



But your good friend...The Council's faithful ally for centuries...Had his own agenda, Giles...And was taking no chances in romance...

"And what cinches it for me is the fact that somewhere in here..." she touched her head slightly... "This little voice is telling me not to be too upset, forget and forgive, give my dear Henri another chance 'cause he's been so kind to me..."

And while I could see myself forgiving...Someday, if only because I'll have to forgive Dawn someday...And that means forgiving all of you...

I'd never want to forget...Never let myself forget...she frowned...

"I did what I could to make myself someone would could fill the gap..." Henri nodded... "I did, perhaps, encourage my team...In the interests of giving you a new focus and avoid thoughts that might cause problems...To follow a path that would leave you eager to embark on a new relationship...I did nothing to force myself to be the only possible choice..."

"So...Can what you added at least be identified, removed?...Or do I have to remove you...?"

"I...Can speak to my people...My specialists may be able to remove those harmless thought traces I requested..."

That's good...she nodded... "Get crackin' and have your people here with his stuff and their equipment within the hour...But your people will just tell me what was added as I've no intention of letting them in my head again...Willow, if you can operate their system, I may have you do whatever can be done later...I mean to be in LA by no later than 7pm tomorrow, if I have to teleport..."

And while we wait for his stuff, you'll all tell me everything you know...

"Buffy..." Giles tried...She waved him off...

A man entered bearing a large box...She indicated a spot in front of her...

Dawn looking at the box...

"Xander..." Buffy eyed him, pausing as she reached to open the box... "Tell me..."

Were we happy together?...Him and me?...

He stared at her a long time... "It was a hard relationship, Buf...Spike...Or William...Was what he was for a long time...Threatened us all many times before the Initiative got hold of him and he suddenly claimed he loved you...None of us liked the idea of you...And I can't say I came to think of him as a friend, even after the soul, though I respect what he must've overcome...But, he helped you that year you came back, when no one else could...There was something powerful between you...And, near the end that last year...And maybe even before that, a few times..."

Yeah, he sighed, then smiled...I saw you happy with him...Happier because of him...

She nodded... Thanks...She opened the box...

"A file of Giles' reports...I'll read that on the plane...Or before I go to him if you teleport me, Wil..."

Mom?...she stared at the photo of Joyce...

"He was very fond of her...Said she was always kind to him..." Dawn noted quietly...

She pulled out a pair of panties...These look like...?

"Yep..." Willow nodded... "He was a keeper...Though his last crypt got kinda blasted up and he lost a lot of his older stuff..."

A shame, I guess...Losing all that...But maybe better for the soul not to have it around, reminding him...

"No..." Buffy shook her head... "Losing memories is never good...However much they hurt...Losing them is losing a part of you..."



However appealing as a quick and easy solution it may be...she frowned...

And turned to Giles and Dawn...

"You and your pal here stole those memories from me...And now, no matter what happens between him and me...I'll never really know how I felt...All I can do is make the logical assumption that...If he won his soul back for my sake, died to save the world, and helped Angel defeat the Partners...He must have been, be a good man...If I cared for him so much and suffered for him so much that you chose to do this to me...I must have cared for him very much..."

And if you loved him so much, Dawn...To let this be done...she eyed her... "I can only think he musta been...Must be...Something special..."

"I'll borrow this with your files, Giles, if you don't mind..." she took a photograph of William from the pile...Dawn not looking at her...

Cute...she nodded... "When was this?..." "After he got the soul, had gotten over a little insanity and First brainwashing, and was helping you train the Slayer army...Andrew was taking pictures and videos of us for posterity..." Willow smiled wanly...

"He seems to favor black and red..." she looked at Willow... "Should I...?"

"He liked you in anything...But he seemed to favor you in light colors...And that hat..." Willow touched a photo of Buffy in ski cap... "Not that hat..." Buffy shook her head...Grinning slightly now... "Is it...?" she fumbled through the pile...Ah...And pulled the cap down over her head...

"He likes this, eh?..." With you under it, yeah...Willow grinned...

She looked at his photo again, carefully... "William?..." she asked tentatively...Willow nodding...

"William...Soames Walthrop..." Dawn mumbled...Buffy and the others turning to her...

"It's his human name...I looked it up..." she looked away... "He doesn't know...We never tried to find it out before...I imagine...He'd be happy to know you found it out..."

"William Soames Walthrop...Thank you..." Buffy nodded... "That gives me something I know'll be a surprise for him too for Valentine's Day..."

Now...She eyed them all... "At least I have five different perspectives on him...I probably should talk to Angel too before I go..."

If he isn't furious at me for following your lead, Giles...Hey?...she blinked..."Now I know why I was so willing to go along with the 'we can no longer place our faith in Angel, my dear'...bit..."...she grinned... "He gave us that amulet...The one Henri's report said William used..."

Geesh and all this time I thought I'd blasted the First off the map...she shook her head...

Ok...

"Each one of you tell me everything you know...From the beginning...With details..."

***