Qualities of Mercy...Part XIII...

Amy's review of Willow's books had paid off...

Yes...A simple, yet elegant little spell...Almost nothing really...Just a little encouragement, you
might say...

This was perfect, Amy thought...Simple yet the perfect punishment...One that would just carry
Willow's addiction to magic through to its natural end...Only...Faster...

And, given what she suspected of Willow's possessiveness, it might even provide the side benefit
of making Xander available...

After all, Amy's power was limited...She could hardly be expected to protect all the gang against
their old friend once Willow turned on them...

And had to be destroyed...But out of that sad ending would come a new life and purpose for
yours truly, she thought...

The new, restrained Slayer-assisting magics expert...Who'd saved the remaining gang members
and would go on to fill the role poor Willow had so tragically abandoned...

And all accomplished by nothing more than the slightest push along the path Willow was already
taking...

***
So much for my little romantic hero's gesture, Spike thought as he waited for Buffy's promised
return...

Of course, he reflected, noting the light slipping into the house through the sides of window
blinds, under the door, even through cracks in the old walls...Death in Sunnydale, especially for a
vampire, was not difficult to find...

He wasn't likely to find a better time to exit...However she might eventually deny it, there had
been something real there between them last night...Affection, compassion?...Love?...God
knows...But something...

If he stayed, inevitably it must all end in tears...Suffering for her...And for him...Watching her...
The first human in a century he'd felt something for...Leading him inevitably to begin to care for
those around her...And who, he knew, felt more for him than anyone, including poor lost Dru,
had in all that time...

If he did her this kindness, she might remember him fondly...And even seek him out, at least his
soul, in the afterlife...If there was one...And if his soul still existed...

And there was the Other to think about...Whatever it was in her, he'd been sensing...Never so
clearly since she'd come back as last night...

If it was true, if her counterpart had reached the world, courtesy dear Red, that moronic Wiccan,
then every moment he stayed might be encouraging It...And he couldn't deny that he
might...Given past history...Fall prey to its charms...

After all, he wouldn't be alone...Buffy's demon was sure to be a girl many men would die
for...Literally...

Come on, you bloody awful poet, he told himself...You wanted to be a man for her, you swore
you could be...He looked at the door...One push...And his love was free...

But...Oh, God...Last night...Before she brought him into the house...It must have been dream...
No, it was real...

She'd begged him to stay...And it had definitely not been the pleading of a Florence Nightengale
dispensing charity and mercy...

And who else could help her to fight the Other with Giles gone...Harris?...the little magic addict,
Willow?...Dawn?...He was the only expert on hand now...Unless you counted...Hmmn...

But rabbitphobe human Anya would hardly be able to deal with this...

Maybe...Buffy herself had sensed the Other within...And wanted his help...However much she
might deny its worth...

And maybe...Just maybe...She...Buffy and not the Other...Truly wanted him to stay with her...

Well, in any case...If Ms. Summers needed him...And was asking so politely...How could a
Victorian-born gentleman refuse...

Besides she'd said she'd bring something back...Might be something tasty...

***
"What about...Humanity?..." Xander asked Anya...

She looked at him...He'd been pacing the floor since they woke up...After pacing all evening until
she'd pulled him into bed...

Humanity, honey?...She asked...

"I mean...For Spike...For..." He waved a hand...Geesch, ok... "William?...Is it possible?..."

"You mean..." she paused... "Could we...Or Willow?...Bring his soul back?..."
"Or whatever it takes to make him human..." Xander looked at her...

She cocked her head at him...And sighed...

"You're a good man, Xander..."

I wish I knew a way...she went on...

But I only know how I became human again...Losing my power and all...And meeting you...she
beamed at him...

"But it's so kind of you to care so much...For both of them..."

He looked at the wall...

"Buffy said that love saved you..." he told her...Without looking at her... "And I believe it..."
But could it save Will?...And her?...

"Well..." Anya grinned... "I am the new proprietor of a Magic Shop...With real books on magic,
not just the cute commercial tricks that made David Copperfield a cottage industry..."

Oh...God...Not magic again...he groaned...

"Well...At least we can do some research..." she pointed out...
***
The house they'd found being in the McGarvey-Crestwood area, finding a vamp's den with blood
packets on hand...Several happily surrendered by the inhabitants to a remarkably merciful
Slayer...Was actually less of a problem than finding an open store...

But she was a Slayer...Meaning both fast and persistent...And one who was...this morning...only
too happy to enjoy a long stroll...

In fact, it was only the faint flicker of fear...That Spike might reconsider last night's hastily
blurted promise...In the midst of rather titanic love-making...To stay...That made her return
within an hour...

I'm afraid...She noted in wonder as she paused at the door...That he might kill himself...And
leave me...

But is it love?...Lust?...Fear of being alone?...Or...

Is it just dear "sis"?...Anxious to mate with her fellow demon?...

"Spike!..." she called, opening the door... "I brought coffee and bagels!..."

And some blood, she added, a little more quietly...After closing the door behind her...

Here I am...She thought, shuddering a little...Bloodwinning for my little...Un-man...

But the truly terrifying thing was the sense of deep relief she felt when she caught sight of him
cautiously poking around the darker corners of the interior...
***

Fortunately, her leetle excursion had eaten up some time...In an hour, she'd had to leave to reach
the shop in time by foot...

Eating and his own unique form of nutritional consumption likewise killed more time...During
which, by an unconscious mutual consent they avoided more than the minimal exchange of
words necessary...

But it still left a solid half-hour...

One of them had to say...Something...

"Are you feeling any better, Spike?..." she asked...

He nodded...Much...Thanks...

They looked away from each other...

Ummn...

"I'll have to get going in half an hour...To meet Willow..." she noted...

Hmmn...hmmn...He nodded...Trying to find some way to look at her directly...

"Did you like the bagels?..." she began...

"Yes, yes...I just loved the bloody freaking bagels!..." He exploded...And the damned bag of
blood was just ripping...

He paused...And managed a wry grin...

"Buffy...You know we have to talk about this...About last night...This week...Dammit, about the
whole past year..."

"Last night was a mistake, Spike..." she told him, looking at the wall...

"But..." she continued... "If it kept you from..."

"Damn you!!!..." he hollered at her...Jumping up...

"Summers!...Take your Goddamn mercy and..." he hesitated, seeing the look on her face as she
watched him...

"I think I'm in love with you, William..." she said quietly...Starting to sob...

He came over...

Oh, God...She looked up at him, tears streaming down her face...What am I going to do?...

She didn't welcome or resist his hand on her shoulder...

Buffy...Buffy...He murmured...Stroking her hair as she sobbed...

"You're an idiot, you know that, don't you?..." he grinned...

She stared...

"You could've let me nobly off myself last night and solved the whole mess..."

***

Willow greeted Buffy eagerly at the shop...

Buffy seems a little out of sorts, she noted to herself, looking at her......

Well, natch, this demon thing has her all freaked...

"How's the Blond one?..." Willow asked...

Buffy blinked at her...What?...

"Spike...I mean Spike..." Willow noted... "So how's his chip holding out now?..."

"Fine...He's fine...Can we get on with this?...Hi, Anya..." Buffy waved at Anya who was
looking through books at her desk...

"Thanks for letting us use the shop..." Buffy called...

Anya smiled back...At least someone appreciated the sacrifice of two business hours...

Well?...Buffy turned back to Willow...

She'd really prefer to do it while no one else was yet around...Especially Dawn...
I'm all set up...Willow told her...

"If It...She...Is there?..." Buffy hesitated...

I'll come with something, Willow assured her...

"Well...Yeah...But...If It is there...Could I?...Speak to her?..." Buffy asked...

Speak to her?...To her demonic counterpart?...Willow looked at her...

"I have a question or two..." Buffy noted awkwardly...

***

Qualities of Mercy...Part XIV...

Willow and Buffy were seated in the main room of the Magic Shop

Giles' email notes carefully laid out before them, Buffy insisting and Willow nervously agreeing
on following his instructions to the letter...

Anya watched quietly from her desk...

The aural distortion was a bad sign...Willow admitted to herself...But was not proof of anything...

"Well?..." Buffy looked at her...

"Hard to tell, Buf...There may be something...We'll have to go on..."

Buffy nodded...But clearly Willow was worried...She began a gentle probe, following the course
Giles had laid out...Concentrating carefully, feeling out...

"You want her back, don't you?..." a voice whispered to her...

Willow looked round...Buffy looked at her...What?...

"Help me and I'll help you..." the voice again...

"Did you hear that?..." Willow asked Buffy...

She shook her head...

"I can give you...Both...Immortality...Together..." the whisper began...

"Who are you?..." Willow called...Buffy...And Anya from her desk...Stared at her...
A very Buffy chuckle floated on the air...

"You can call me...Anne..."

"She's here, isn't she?..." Buffy looked at Willow...

Willow looked at her friend's sad and resigned face...No, it's not true...It's not...

I haven't...I couldn't have...Done this to her...

Betrayed her to her worst enemy...

"I'm sorry, Buffy..." Willow bowed her head...Tears filling her eyes...

***

Ok...Fearless Leader Warren reviewing his troops...Lets go over the checklist...

"Positive reinforcement chip?..." he asked Andrew...

Check...

"Hypnodisk equipment, instruction tape, diamond-powered hypno-laser...With diamond?"

Check...Check...No problemo...Andrew patted the laser...

"Freeze ray?..." he looked at a reluctant Jonathan...Who'd lost the battle to dump the job of ray
carrier...

Yeah, yeah...I got it...Jonathan noted...

"Tranquillizer darts and dart gun?.." he looked at them...They looked at him...Your job, man,
they reminded him...

Oh...Yeah, right...Warren agreed...

And our mentor is standing by to assist with the chip insertion...he noted...

"I don't trust that old dude..." Andrew noted... "He gives me the creeps..."

Retired Nazis generally do that, Warren agreed...However...Once we're all set with our girl, we
should be able to dispense with old doc Mengele...

"What'll we do with him?...I'm not gonna hurt an old guy..." Jonathan noted...

"We turn him in, of course..." Warren snorted... "Justice is done, case closed..."

A service to Humanity...Courtesy the new lords of Sunnydale...

Yeah...We'll be heroes...And bag a Buffy...Sounds good, Andrew noted...

Jonathan was uncertain...

"Guys...This dude is a Nazi, you know...And a mad doc type...What if he doesn't want to be
turned in?..."

We put him on ice or we dart him..No problemo...Warren was confident, as befits a Fearless
Leader...And a Master of the Sunnydale Universe...

Ok, then...Lets move out...he told them...

And?...Andrew noted...The thing to take care of your Rutger Hauger clone?...

Oooh...Right...

Ultrasonic transmitter and remote control...check...Warren announced...

"Gentlemen, lets go get our new Queen of Sunnydale..."

God...We are so dead...Jonathan thought, shaking his head...

Oh, well...Thursday's a boring TV night anyway...he thought...
***
Amy's arrival had interrupted the testing session...Though they now had pretty much learned
what they'd needed to know...

And it was what they'd...Both Willow and Buffy...Had most feared...

As Giles and the Council had suspected, Buffy's counterpart demon had escaped Hell and was
alive in her now...Repressed by her soul's presence and weak as yet, but aware and fighting a
slow and gradual battle to seize Buffy's body...As a vampire...

Amy took a seat off to the side and watched...

"Anne?..." Buffy asked a sheepish Willow...

"That's what she said to call her when she spoke to me..." Willow told her, trying not to look at
her friend too closely...

But at least you're not merged with her...Willow began...
Yeah...Said Buffy, bitterly...A Gift...

"I get to watch while she gets more and more rooted in me...Waiting for her
moment...And...What?...Sucking the spirit out of me, a little more each day?..."

Gee..No wonder I'm depressed these days...

Willow looked down at her hands, twisting them..

Well...Thought Amy, listening quietly...Dear old Willow does it again...

But Buffy put a hand out and patted her friend's hands...Will, my best friend...

"It's all right...You couldn't have known..." she smiled wanly at her...

Willow looked up at her, gratefully...

"Is there anything we can do, Will?..." Buffy asked her... "Do Giles' notes say anything about
driving it out?...You know, exorcism, stuff like that?..."

Well...Willow brightened...Demonic exorcism is possible...But...She faded a little...This is your
own counterpart, not a foreign invader...And I'm afraid Giles didn't have anything about how to
deal with it...

"Can it be killed?..."

Anya had come over...Shaking her head, an expert here...

"She's a part of you, Buffy...You can't kill her if even it was possible without dying yourself..."

You mean...She'd have to take over, turn me...Then you guys stake her...And I go back...To
Heaven?...Buffy looked at Anya, thoughtful...

"No...Buffy..." Willow began...

Maybe Death becomes me...Buffy noted, sadly...

We probably would find her pretty tough to deal with in any case, Anya told her...And if she
escaped, you'd be trapped in limbo, watching her use your body to kill...

And quite a lot of killing...A Slayer Vampire...

"William...Ummn...Spike...Could kill me...He'd be strong enough if he were around..." Buffy was
pensive...

If he'd do it for me...she thought...If he really loves me...Enough...

"Spike?!...He'd be passing out cigars, making wedding plans...Buffy?...You can't be thinking of
trusting him with something like that?...Besides..." Willow hastily went on... "We'll figure
something out..."

What else can I do?...Buffy asked hopelessly...

"Do you want to go, Buffy?...Leave Anne here and go back to wherever you were?..."Anya asked
her calmly...

Buffy was silent, thinking...Hell...This was Hell...And yet...Dawn, my friends, Giles, and even
William...

It's Heaven too...I know it was at times, at least...I remember that sense of Heaven...And it could
be again...

Maybe William is right, seeking his Heaven here...With me...Maybe Heaven is wherever the ones
you love and care for are...

If I could just find that sense again...I will find that sense again...she vowed...

And...Maybe...Will can find it with me...

"No..." she told Anya firmly... "I don't want to go..."

Then tell this "Anne" that...Right now...And tell her to go back to Hell...Because today is not
gonna be her day...And do it every day from now on...Anya looked at her...

She'll give up in time...Demons don't have much staying power...They get bored and look for
something to do back home...

"That easy, huh?..." Buffy smiled, but realized...Looking at her...A thousand years...Trapped...

Yeah...Anya replied, smiling back...It's that easy...

At least...Based on my personal experience...

Willow looked hopefully at Buffy and gratefully at Anya...

Thank God for "personal experience"...Hard as it must have been for the poor kid, Willow
noted...

Buffy nodded...

"She belongs in Hell, we'll find a way to send her back...And I'll hold her until we do..." she
noted firmly...And hugged her friends...

But I'll need extra help on this one...she thought...If he loves me...Enough...

After all, Anya had Xander to help her...And while there is only one Xander Harris, rats...Maybe
there's enough Xander in William...Somewhere...

"We'll deal, Will..." she told a now tearful Willow...Grinning...

"I promise...I won't let her win...If you'll help me, we'll lick this one, too..."

Willow nodded...Blinking back her tears...

Amy watched in wonder...All that she's been through...And now...She'll have to hold that thing
back, maybe her whole life long...And she can still forgive Willow...

The quality of mercy...
***
Dawn was running late but Buffy had to go if Spike was to make his appointment that evening,
she noted...

"Tell Dawn...If she got detention again?...I will hit the roof when I catch up with her..." Buffy
told Willow...

Time to pick up William and play Buffy the nursing aide...she told Willow...Grinning...

With some genuine amusement, Willow noted with relief...Then blinked...William?

"Can't you wait a bit, Buffy?..." Anya asked... "Xander will be by in an hour or so and he could
take us...We can pick Spike up at his crypt..."

William?...thought Willow...William?...

Ummn...Well...Buffy noted to Anya...Spike...Isn't at his crypt...The fight on last night's patrol
took us all the way to McGarvey-Crestwood...We decided...He was best off staying there...At a
house we found...

"Besides...I want to speak to him a minute or two alone...But we'll see you guys at the doctor's..."

And leaving quickly, she waved good-bye to Amy from the shop front door..Avoiding a hairy
subject...Which she would deal with...Later...

***

Dawn showed up about ten minutes later...Detention?...Ummn...Well...

Yeah...But it wasn't my fault she noted...See, Janice...

"Say?..." she changed the subject with relief... "Where's Buf?..."

Willow explained...

Geesch...Dawn groused...I haven't seen her since yesterday...She might have stayed around a few
minutes longer...

"She wasn't home last night?..." Willow looked nervously at Anya...

Oh, no...She and Spike were fighting...Whatdoyoucallhim?...The new Big Baddy guy...Dawn told
them...

"Who?...Or what?...Is it by the way?..." Dawn asked...

Oh...No...Willow and Anya exchanged glances...She didn't...She couldn't have...

She did...They realized...

Uh-boy...
***
Spike was thinking as he poked around the old house, waiting for Buffy's return...

Strange how things change...

I should be walking on air...Buffy is nearly mine...I've actually had her...I know now she cares for
me...And what should be best of all, her demon is here, in this world...Lying in wait...Only
needing a leetle assist from Spikey...

And yet...all I can do is wish I could help her...

Trying to "save" her again?...he asked himself sheepishly...

She knocked at the door...He called and after identifying herself, she entered...

"You been ok?..." she asked, kindly... "No unwanted visitors?"

Not a peep...How'd things go with what's their names...he replied...Waiting...

Did she know, now?...

"Ok..." she hesitated, then noticed the time...Have to discuss it later...
"We'd better get moving..." she noted
***

They were at the steps of Dr. Jones' office...

All the way over he'd been trying to think of the right words...

How could he make her believe...That he wanted to help, to do what he could for her...

"There's nothing I can..." he began, tentatively...

She looked at him...

Spike lurched and grabbed his head...Nearly collapsing...

"Will!!..." Buffy lunged and grabbed him...

He was trembling...It was starting all over again...

"What is it?!..." Buffy asked him...

"Whatever it was before, I'd...Guess, Slay....Ahhh!..." he crumpled but she held him...

She could feel his heart racing...He looked up at her...And managed a grin...

"In your arms, twice in one day...God, this is a dream..."

She frowned but at least he seemed to be calming...

She managed to walk and drag him up the stairs...
***

Dr. Jones met them by the door, took a look, and hustled them without a word to an exam room...
Buffy got the stumbling Spike to the room's exam bench and sat him down...

"Well..." Dr. Jones looked at them... "I see our friend has had some additional trouble..."

"It just started a few minutes ago, doctor..." Buffy told him...

Almost just as we got here...

Hmmn...The doctor nodded...Perhaps the effect of some equipment I've been testing...It may be
nothing...Interference with the chip's signal...

"Why don't I make sure everything's off and then I'll look our friend over..." he smiled at Buffy...
If you'd care to come in my office, I'll be just a second...Jones told her...

***
Qualities of Mercy...Part XV...

Buffy left Spike on the exam bench and entered the clinic's main office area to find, sitting in one
of the chairs...Warren Mears...

"Well..." Warren grinned broadly... "Nice to see you, Buffy...Again..."

Spike with you?...

"Warren?...What the hell are you doing here?..." Buffy glared at the pudgy robotmaker...

Oh...he giggled a little...Same old, same old...

Trying to build a better bot...With a leetle neurologic help from Dr. Jones here...

Tech school project, he added quickly...Not another girlfriend...Still giggling...

Hmmn...I believe that, Buffy thought...What is the little geek up to here?...

She had a bad feeling about this...Watching Warren nervously grab a magazine...And try to read
it...Upside down...

I do not like mysterious goings-on when I am out caring for sick vampires...she thought...

Mystery which only deepened when, of all people...Jonathan, stepped out of another exam
room...

"Hi, Buffy..." he nodded...

What is this...Geek Central?...She wondered...

"Jonathan?...Long time no save...Why are you here?...Tonight?..." she asked him...

Ummn?...He paused, lost...Warren glared at him...Moron...He rubbed his head as surreptiously as
possible...

Oh, right...Cover story...

"Ummn...Headaches..." Jonathan noted... "Been having them all summer..."

Buffy frowned at him...He was clearly up to something with Mears here...

Disappointing to see someone she'd spent precious Slayer time on choosing a downward
path...At least in terms of the company he keeps, she thought, looking at Warren...

And after he gave her the nice "Class Protector" umbrella...

Well, not every geek can blossom into an adult Xander...she mused briefly...

"What are you two up to, anyway?" she asked them, glaring...

Us two?...Jonathan asked, as innocently as possible...

Andrew came out of the exam room Jonathan had left a moment before...Bearing tranquillizer
gun...

While Dr. Jones now emerged from his inner office behind the desk...Armed with a small
pistol...

Warren stood up...With a remote control device now revealed in his hand...

Something definitely wrong here, Buffy noted...And dodged as Andrew fired...Leaping on top of
the doctor's desk...

"Jonathan!..." Warren called to him...Motioning back at the exam room...

"Freeze ray!...We may need back up..." He called to Andrew for another shot...Buffy jumped at
Andrew, knocking the gun out of his hand...

She spun on Warren...Who looked at her nervously...Things are not going well so far...

Jonathan slipped back...Grabbing the freeze ray equipment from a corner...Just as Spike emerged
from his exam room...

"Ms. Summers..." Dr. Jones called to her... "If you do not stop, I will certainly shoot you..."

She turned and looked at him...Him too?...she wondered...Giving Andrew his chance...He fired...

She was down, dart in her leg...Struggling to rise...

She caught Jonathan with a look... "This the thanks I get?...You little bast..."...And fell...

"What the bloody hell!?"...Spike hollered as he entered the office...He looked at Mears..

Warren?...God, mate, what are you, my little nerd shadow?...

He saw Buffy struggling and lunged at Andrew and his dart gun...Who hopped back in fright,
dropping the gun...
***
Warren pressed a button on his remote...Spike clutched his head, rolling in agony...

Buffy was up again, staggering...

"Spike!..." Buffy cried, bending over him...She turned to face Warren...A truly terrifying look on
her face...Demon and Dark Slayer united...

The dart's effect was fading...Fast...

Whoa...Andrew thought...Maybe we should reconsider this one...She doesn't look like she'd
really enjoy being our mindless bot...

Uh-uh, Slayer...Lets not do anything...Rash...Warren told her...

"Warren...Your "pitiable geek" credit is exhausted with me..." Buffy told him...But she hesitated,
seeing his thumb hovering over the remote button...

Ooh...That hurt, Ms. Summers...Warren noted, smiling...

"But not as much as this is gonna..." he pressed the button again...Spike groaned, writhing on the
floor...

She moved on him...Jonathan fired the freeze gun at her feet...She jumped back...

Oouch...That's another jolt for Mr. Blond...Warren grinned...Pressing the button...

Spike was shaking in agony...Buffy looking at them...

"Not too much, my friend..." Dr. Jones told Warren...

Save something for me...
***

Jonathan took aim again at Buffy...

No...Warren told him...Don't freeze her...

"Andrew, moron!...Get the dart gun..." Warren called to a rather frozen Andrew...

"Gentlemen..." Dr. Jones called patiently, holding his pistol lightly... "A moment, please..."

"Ms. Summers?..." Jones called to her...She looking carefully at Warren who was again holding
his thumb just off the remote button...
"My dear girl, you must see the situation is not in your favor...Either we will be forced to use
force against both of you...Or you can surrender peaceably..."

"What is this about?...Why are you doing this?..." she looked at him...

"Nostalgia, one might say...In my case at least..." he smiled...

As for my young associates, their motives are their own to explain...

"We just want to help you, Buffy..." Jonathan noted...

What?...She looked at him...Staggering a bit...The dart was getting the better of her again...

Help me?!...

Andrew was quietly and nervously feeling his way toward the dart gun...

"You...You idiots were the ones...Who stole that diamond, froze that security guard at the Art
Museum..." she noted...Blinking to stay awake as she swayed...

Guilty as charged...Warren giggled nervously...

"The things we do to help you, Buffy...You wouldn't believe..."

You?!...She looked at Mears, Jonathan, and the other little idiot moving toward the dart gun...

"You're the ones who did all those things to me...When I went back to college, tried to work with
Xander...And at Giles'..." she managed a feeble, staggering glare...

"Yeah, well...Just wanted to test your limits..." Warren grinned...

See, in a way...We're your greatest fans...he noted...Jonathan nodded in agreement...

"What?!..." she stared at Mears, stumbling...

God, I haven't enough troubles...Now I attract the Geek Brigade...she thought...
But these idiots want more than my autographed picture that's for sure...

Spike suddenly grabbed at Andrew and kicked the dart gun across the floor...

Warren pushed the button...And held it...

Spike collapsed...And went limp...Convulsing...

"I warn you Ms. Summers...He will die if my young friend continues..." Dr. Jones told her
sharply...

She grabbed at a chair to support herself...Struggling to keep on her feet...

"Stop it, Warren..." she looked at Jones... "What is it you want?..."

For now...We simply want you to be seated Ms. Summers...he told her...

"Hey..." Fearless Leader was miffed... "I want you to say the magic word..." he told the swaying
Buffy...Holding his thumb again over the button...

What?...She looked at him... Geek?...

Andrew giggled...Warren glared...Jonathan tried to avoid looking at Fearless Leader while
smiling...

Even drugged she's still got it...he thought...

"Enough of this nonsense..." Jones told Warren curtly...Still gently holding his pistol...

"Please come over to the exam room, Ms. Summers..." he told her...

Your friend won't be harmed any further at present, if you come quietly...Now...

"She...Didn't...Say...The...Magic...Word..." Warren groused petulantly...

A bullet whizzed by his head...He ducked and fell to the floor...

Jonathan found himself looking at Jones' pistol...God, he really moves for an old dude...

Jones wagged a finger at him...Jonathan wisely chose not to try a quick draw contest and took his
hands off the freeze ray trigger...

Buffy struggling to stay on her feet, sadly could not take advantage of the little spat...

"Just getting your attention, my boy..." Jones smiled at the fallen Warren...

Our time is short and we have a great deal to do...

"Get your toys, young man...Then help the young lady into the exam room..." the doctor
motioned to Andrew...Who went over to pick up the dart gun...Cautiously skirting the
unconscious Spike...

Jones turned back to Buffy...

"Please come along, Ms. Summers...Don't force us to use another tranquillizer dart...They leave
one with such a painful headache..."

She tottered into the exam room, casting a shaky glance at Spike and refusing Andrew's attempts
to help her...

Jonathan in support, still keeping his hands off the freeze ray as he sensed Dr. Jones' eye on him
even as Jones watched Andrew walking with the stumbling Buffy...

I knew that guy would be too much for us...he sighed to himself... Warren must get all his info
on Nazis from "Hogan's Heroes"...

Warren picked himself off the floor and followed the others...Still holding the remote...

Buffy allowed herself to be strapped down to the exam table...She was too groggy to struggle
now...Jones gave her a follow-up injection and she passed out...

Looking reproachfully at Jonathan just as she went under...

Ummn...It's really for your benefit, Buffy...He thought to himself....

Just trying to make you happy again...
***

So?...Xander looked at Anya...As he watched the road...

As much for what might choose to leap out at their car in this section of town as for your
standard Californian fellow driver...

Buffy has her very own demon inside her right now?...

"How'd she take it?..." he asked...

She was suicidal for a bit, I think...Anya thought carefully...Xander blinking at her...And
swerving to miss a rather drunken or freshly-bled pedestrian...

Then she felt sorry for Willow and told us she'd try and fight it...she continued...Which I think
was partially just to please Willow...

"Actually..." she noted, happily... "I tipped the scales lifeways, a little...I told her she could fight
Anne off...And that got her seriously considering staying, rather than letting..."

Anne?...Xander asked...She's named her demon...Anne?...

Oh, no...Anya explained...Anne gave Willow her name during the testing...
It's not unusual...she went on...Counterpart demons like to have their own name...It's an identity
issue what with taking the human original's body, memories, and much of their personality and
all...They just want something of their own, you know?...

Hmmn...Like you and...he paused

Ummn...Yeah...Anya clearly preferring not to discuss Anyanka...
***
The new chip was successfully implanted, an initial run of the diamond-laser hypnosystem
completed...Buffy remaining under throughout the procedure, but gradually answering to queries
with the desired responses...

In the interests of preserving Spike's brain, Jones had likewise given him enough sedative to keep
him under during their procedure with Buffy...

Now just a matter of reinforcing the hypnoinstructions a few more times...

"Well..." Dr. Jones smiled at his partners... "I believe our business is concluded for the
evening..."

So...Now what...Jonathan...And the others...wondered...

He kills us, I suppose, Jonathan glumly noted...The Big Bad always kills off the little nobody
sickkick villains...And he is a Nazi...

My congratulations...I'm sure you boys can finish Ms. Summers' training procedure at your
leisure now...Jones noted...Handing Warren a supply of the sedative he'd used on her...

Our friend William the Bloody you can leave to me...He held out his hand and Warren passed
him the remote...

"Gentlemen...I will be expecting you promptly with Ms. Summers at eight-thirty tomorrow
evening..." he told them...Sternly...

A few colleagues of mine are quite intrigued by the chance to meet the new Ms. Summers...he
noted...

Jonathan and Andrew were breathing again...

A demo?...Warren reflected...Well, why not?...

"Of course...We are keeping her, you know..." he told Jones...

I wouldn't have it any other way...the doctor replied...

She was, after all, a bit young for him...
***

The Masters of the Sunnydale Universe found themselves back in the lair rather pleased to be
alive...And with their new Queen in unconscious tow...

"Well..." Warren noted... "Just a few hours more therapy and she should be all set...A happy,
mindless bot..."

Who only gets happier the more she obeys...

She does look much more peaceful now, Andrew noted...Looking at her strapped in a chair, eyes
forced open and fixed on the hypnolaser disk...Bot instructions, plus hellchants replaying on
earphones...

Guys?...Jonathan asked...

"Do you really think we should go back tomorrow?...We barely got away tonight..."

Nonsense...Fearless Leader had resumed his usual pose...

Things had worked out just fine...Warren insisted...Dr. Jones had turned out to be quite
reasonable in his demands, after all...

Besides they'd have Buffy on their side for protection if anything went wrong...And it might be a
good idea to have her looked over by a capable neurologist with experience in this unique branch
of neuroscience...In case the new chip was frying her brain or something...

In any case...Jones and his "colleagues" were likely to be the types who responded to no shows
very badly...
***

Gertfrood met Xander and Anya outside Jones' clinic as they arrived about half an hour after the
Masters had left with their girl...

In her human form...Smiling at Xander shyly...

"What are you doing here, Gertfrood?..." Anya asked sharply...

My old acquaintance is getting to be a bit of a pest, she noted to herself...Not to mention rather
too interested in my fiancee...

Just checking to see that my customers are satisfied...the demon noted...

After all, one doesn't get the Slayer herself for a client everyday...Wouldn't be sensible to leave
things to chance...I'm sure I'll want to do business with her again someday...she...it...told them...

"Well...Why are you out here?...You hate the outdoors...Or did..." Anya told her..it...

Gertfrood displayed a genuine nervousness...She really was afraid of things going to pot, Xander
realized...

Well, Buffy had given her...it a safe pass...And she must guess how Buffy would take losing
10,000 dollars to a bum neurologist...

And I still do not want to know how she and Anya knew each other...he thought...No desire to
hear those good old demon days tales at all, thank you...

"Place seems locked up tight...Apparently no doc, no Slayer, and no brain-exposed
vampire..." Gertfrood hesitated...

I think something may be wrong...Ms. Summers won't hold me accountable, you think?...she...it
asked Anya...

Not if you get severely injured or killed helping us...Anya noted sweetly...
***

Xander managed to open the clinic door lock with a minimum of damage...As befits a man with
an appreciation of the cost of replacing a broken door...

No one and nothing...

He called Willow, then Dawn...Being careful to be nonchalant with Dawn...No sign of the Slayer
or her pet vampire...

"Any ideas on how to find your friend the doctor?..." Xander asked Gertfrood...Stressing the
"your friend" grimly...

"Well...I do have his home address..." the demon noted... "I could give it out for the right..."

She looked at the glaring Xander and Anya...

"Just kidding...For good customers like you and Ms. Summers...It's no charge..." she smiled
nervously...

"Lets go..." Xander told her...

Now...Anya chimed in...

Hmmn...Anyanka was a lot more easy going...Gertfrood thought...
And willing to share...she...it noted to herself, looking at Xander...
***

Ah...The good old days, Dr. Jones reflected to the still unconscious Spike, now chained up in his
basement...Such memories this brings back...

Of course, one can't go on living in the past...Even if one is well over eighty...he noted...

But...A chance to complete one's greatest work...And avenge old comrades-in-arms...Even if the
Wolfram-Hart people are not suitably impressed with you and your Slayer tomorrow...he told
Spike...Who groaned slightly but did not regain consciousness...

It will be worth it...the doctor smiled...
***
Qualities of Mercy...Part XVI...

One problem at a time...Willow thought...As she nervously awaited the return of Buffy with
Xander and Anya at the shop...With Amy...Dawn having gone home...

If Spike's chip is settled, we can move on to deal with dear "Anne"...Then...Maybe...

See if Xander and I can talk some sense into our Slayer regarding her latest beau...

After Xander's call, reporting that Buffy and Spike had apparently not yet arrived at the doctor's
clinic, she was pacing...

Amy watching her...Now a bit uncertain herself...

Should I...Tell her?...she wondered...Before it's too late?...

Buffy forgave her...she thought...In spite of everything...

But Buffy wasn't trapped for nearly three years...And yet, if it's true about this demon...

She may never be free of this "Anne"...While she's alive...

And Willow wasn't the one who transformed me...I did that...

"Dawn said Tara came by Buffy's yesterday..." Willow noted to Amy, pausing for a
moment...Trying to break the silence...

"Yes, I remember...It's too bad we didn't catch up with her then..." Amy responded...

Just as well for her to be far away from you, if my spell works the way it's supposed to...she
thought...But...
If Buffy could show her mercy...

"Well, Rome wasn't built...or rebuilt in a day...At least she's still speaking with some of
us..." Willow noted, halting and looking at the locked collection of Giles' most dangerous
books...

Somewhere in there...Is the key to destroying that demon of Buffy's, she thought...Giles must
have overlooked something...Or he's afraid to try it...

Maybe there's even a way to help Spike...

Or...Maybe something that'll make things ten times worse than they are...she noted to herself
guiltily...

God, I wish Giles was still here...

Amy looked at her hands, thinking...

But she left me, never made any real effort to help me...And played with me...Like I was an
animal...Or a toy...Did she think I'd enjoy it?...That it was fun for me?...

Even bringing me back was just a game for her...I saw her...Mooning over her lost girl...And her
friends...Changing me back was just something to keep her busy on a dull night...She could've
done it any time she focused...

My mom all over again...Sweet until it got to her...And she thought no one could touch
her...Then...Indifferent, uncaring...Finally...Crazy with the power...Hurting me, laughing at me...
Leaving me all alone...

Not again...

Buffy has her friends...Her sister...Even this weird vampire boyfriend...She can afford to forgive,
to be merciful...What do I have?...

Not a thing...No one who cares...

Unless...I take what Willow is only too ready to throw away, anyway...

Amy looked at Willow who sat down and was nervously firing up her laptop...Trying to find
something to do to help...Non-magically...

But she was clearly desperate to use magics to do something to find the missing Slayer...And deal
with her "little demon problem"...

And Amy's slow-acting spell was only beginning to make its effect felt on top of Willow's natural
inclination...

In a hour or two, Amy noted...She won't be able to contain herself from trying to "help"...And
then, in a day or so...Nothing...No one...Will be allowed to stand in her way...

But it would've happened anyway...Just taken a little longer, that's all...

Just like my mom...
***
Dr. Jones greeted Xander pleasantly at his front door...A somewhat rundown, but large, old house
in the Crestwood district...

Ms. Summers and her "friend" had indeed come to his clinic this evening...A few minutes early...

And left after a quick exam...All had seemed quite well with the young...er...man...

Perhaps, the elderly doctor noted...It being a vamp-infested section of town...They'd gone
off...Somewhere together...To do...

What came naturally to a Slayer...

"I doubt they'd have left without a message..." Xander pressed... "They were supposed to meet us
there..."

Hmmn...Perhaps they'll return shortly, the doctor noted...But sadly that was all he could offer...

"Good night...Please do call me if our friend has any further difficulties..." he told Xander
politely, shutting the door...

Xander looked at Anya and Gertfrood...

"Should we go back to the clinic and wait a little longer?..." he asked...

The good doctor had seemed a bit nervous...Gertfrood noted...

"Really, I didn't catch that...He was cool as a cucumber..." Xander looked at her...it...

It's the scent, the demon smiled...You people all give off this wonderful nervous fear scent when
something's wrong...Even the Slayer and brave ones like her...

And you, she smiled at Xander...

We do?...Xander looked at Anya...

"I do?..." he asked her...
Can't tell anymore, honey...she replied...Human now, remember...

"But it is what make the hunt so much fun for vamps..." she added...

Gertfrood nodded pleasantly...

"So what now?...So I break his door down or what?..." Xander asked...

You could do that?...Gertfrood looked admiringly at him...Shyly smiling again...

She likes him...Anya realized...Frowning grimly at her...

I thought she...it...was a male in its original state...I'm sure we...Or at least Anyanka and it
dated...Once...Or twice...Still I guess it wouldn't matter now in any case since it's chosen to take a
female human form...

After all, sexual attraction is a fickle thing in shape-shifting Koptos demons...
***
"Now that's strange..." Willow noted...Staring at her laptop...

Amy came over...Wow...Computers have really improved in three years, she noted...

Hmmn-hmmn, Willow nodded...But, look at this...A blocked...And I mean, blocked...file on Dr.
Jones' pre-1950 records...

A US government file pertaining to him...

Could it be an error?...A bad record, same name, that sort of thing?...Amy wondered...

Jones is a pretty common last name...

Nah...It's legit, fingerprint verified...And strange...Why would a neurosurgeon have a
government file on him so blocked?...

"You think he was a crook or something before he became a neurosurgeon?..." Amy asked,
interested...

After all, if she was to take Willow's place soon...

"It doesn't jibe with his other records, pre-1950...They indicate the usual straight-arrow,
button-down type, born blah-blah, attended college yada-yada, med school with great grades...No
history of arrest or any troubles with the law..."

Maybe he was a Cold War spy...Amy suggested...

He was something out of the ordinary that's for sure...Holy crap!...

A neurosurgeon familiar with the Initiative's behavioral chip!...

"I am getting too lazy with the magics and all..." Willow muttered, mostly to herself...

Ah-ha...There we go...

Amy looked at the screen...

Willow grinned...

"I found a backdoor to all the files the Initiative had on its servers last year and downloaded æem
in case we ever needed what they had on demons and such...Or about their personnel..."

The Initiative?...Amy asked...I remember you guys saying something about that a while back in
your room...

Willow brought her up to speed quickly...

"So...This Dr. Jones worked for them, you think?..." Amy asked her...

Here...Willow pointed out a file...Notes by Dr. Margaret Walsh, regarding consultant HJ, dealing
with the design of the new behavioral chip...

My God...Look...Willow tapped the screen...

"...consultant HJ showed great interest in the subject of experimental test 3, a powerful,
human-feeding creature capable of mimicking human appearance, best described as a "vampire".
HJ now requesting an opportunity to personally participate in the procedure. Given the special
history of HJ, it was deemed best to deny him access to the subject, now defined as subject 3a.
[Note-Request CIA file 11-21a05 on HJ regarding his past "Todt Brigade" experience with
creatures like 3a]..."

He knows Spike...Somehow...From somewhere...Willow noted...

"Todt Brigade?..." Amy asked... "I think "todt" means death in German..."

"Death Brigade?...German?...Hmmn..." Willow mused...

Lets go see if we can get a look at some CIA files...she grinned at Amy...Who couldn't help
smiling back...
***

Xander was doing his best to be unobtrusive as he cautiously slunk around the back of Dr. Jones'
home...Anya and Gertfrood reluctantly agreeing to wait in front so as to be ready to provide a
diversion if needed...

"Your fiancee is very protective of you, Anya...You're lucky..." Gertfrood told her...

I'm very lucky...Anya agreed...

And very protective, myself...she added, grimly...Of him...

A loud crash from behind the house suggested it was time for a diversion...

"Quick..Before he or they catch Xander...." Anya hissed...Gertfrood nodded and reverted to
demon form...

Anya screamed...And Gertfrood grabbed her, both doing their best to make it look good...

The good doctor, however, had long ago equipped his home with video cameras to scan the
grounds...To guard against the occasional burglar, vamp demon, Mossad kidnap team...

And having seen both the stumbling Xander and his "team"...Simply resecured the locked doors
and retired again to the cellar...Additionally protected by a large blast door...With an exit for
quick escape at hand...

"Be prepared..." A motto used by the Hitler Youth as well as the Boy Scouts...
***

Qualities of Mercy...Part XVII...

Anya and Gertfrood's "diversion" playlet was not having the desired effect...

In fact, they were attracting no attention from Dr. Jones' home whatsoever...

Pretty rude...Anya noted...Leaving me to be murdered by a large and hideous thing...

Ummn...

"No offence intended, Gertfrood..." she told it...Who waved it off...

Nice to know humans still get the willies around one...Being a vegetarian and all, fear and
shape-shifts are the only defenses I got...Gertfrood pointed out pleasantly...

Having moved off to the cover of some bushes, they watched the house, Gertfrood returning to
its...her...human female form...

Not a sign of activity from Dr. Jones' house...
Now Anya was getting panicky...Her heroic fiancee might be trapped in the back of a mad
neurosurgeon's house...One who may well have been able to take on Buffy and Spike together...

"There he is!..." Gertfrood pointed at a sheepish Xander stumbling back from the side of the
house...

She sounds rather relieved herself...itself, Anya couldn't help noting even as she ran into Xander's
arms...

Ow!...he told her, as she hugged him and quickly released him, staring...

"You're hurt?!"

This madman is gonna pay...And not only the hospital bills...she noted grimly...

Whacked my leg on a garbage can out back in the dark, he admitted glumly...

Don't think it's broken...Just a bad bruise...

Well...He's still gonna pay...And you were so brave to go alone, honey...she pointed out...

"Of course now, we'll have to get some back-up"...she suggested, hopefully...

"Anya..." he sighed... "We can't wait...Who knows what up in there with Buffy and Spike...If
they're in there..."

"You are not going back like this!..." she told him, firmly...

We'll handle it...Anya looked at Gertfrood...Who looked back at her...

We will?...the demon wondered...

This seems a little more than what the deal I signed onto called for...she...it noted to her...itself...

Still when the Slayer is one's customer...

"Why don't we just call the police?..." she...it suggested...

Tell them a burglar is breaking in here, they come...Dr. Jones has to let them in or they force the
door...

"He can't hurt Buffy or Spike if he's dealing with the cops..." Gertfrood concluded...

Actually...That's a great idea...Xander noted...About time Sunnydale's finest helped us out for
once...
Thank you, Xander...Gertfrood smiled demurely, looking at her...its feet...

Yeah, great idea...Anya narrowed her eyes at her old acquaintance...

Although we still should make some effort to keep old man Jones busy while the cops come,

Xander pointed out...As he dialed 911 on his cell phone...

"You do realize...The man may be innocent and Buffy and Spike might really just be out
fighting...Something...Or each other..." Anya couldn't help noting...

Just something to keep him occupied until we or the cops can get inside...Xander told her...

After all, for the five thousand dollars we gave him he can bear with a little disturbance...
***

Amy had to admit...Willow was a woman of considerable willpower...At least when distracted by
work she enjoyed in the service of her loved ones...

She was digging into CIA computer files without any sign of the effect of Amy's gentle spell to
strengthen her magic addiction...

"Eureka!...Or whatever that guy said..." Willow cried...

A CIA file, update from the old World War II OSS, on one Hans Gresner, Dr. Hans Gresner...An
SS officer with unique medical experience...

Recommended for preservation on account of that unique experience...Granted false papers and
passport...As one Henry Jones, English-born neurologist, now residing in the US...

Ah, the good old US Intelligence Service...Always ready to look the other way for any slimeball
deemed useful...Willow noted...

And they've protected him right through to the Initiative's time...

So...He was a Nazi...Amy looked at the computer...

"Is that how he knows Spike?...Was Spike a Nazi, too?"

Willow shrugged her shoulders...With Spike, who can tell?...

"Unique medical experience...Working with the "Death" Brigade?..." Willow reflected...

Hitler must've had some vamps working for him...If not one himself...

Figures...Willow thought...

"And Dr. Jones was their...What?...Doctor?..." Amy looked at her...

Sure looks like it...Willow nodded...
***

The new Buffy bot had completed her hypnotherapy...

Warren was removing all but the last skull bandages...

His fellow Masters of the Sunnydale Universe waited anxiously...

She was sleeping lightly...Warren suggested they leave her to sleep off the medication a bit...

When she sees what we did to her hair, she is gonna be so pissed...Jonathan thought nervously as
they pulled a curtain over the doorway to their new Queen's "private space"...
***

Having checked his doors and security system, and feeling quite safe...Especially after viewing
Xander stumbling out of his backyard...Dr. Jones had returned to visit with his "guest"...

Spike was slowly regaining consciousness...Jones applying a minor jolt to speed him along...

"Welcome back, dear boy..." Jones greeted him heartily...

Spike assumed demon face and lunged at the doctor...Chains holding him...

Dr. Jones allowed him to struggle at the chains for a minute or so before firing off the chip...

"So...William the Bloody..." he smiled at the groaning Spike...

"Where's the Slayer?!..." Spike glared at the elderly neurologist..."Buffy!!..." he cried...

"She is with my young associates right now...A distance from here...."

But I'm afraid you and I haven't actually been properly introduced...Jones noted...

Although we have met before...At a distance...

"My real name is Gresner, formerly Colonel Dr. Hans Gresner, SS..."

I served on the Eastern Front with the vampiral unit you help to defeat at Leningrad he told Spike
pleasantly...

"Really, doc?...You've made a remarkable recovery from vampirism, then..." Spike noted...

Mind letting a comrade vamp in on your secret?...

Jones smiled back at him...

"I was medical liaison to that fine unit...The best specimens of our people we could find were
transformed...Involuntarily, in most cases, but heroes of the Reich all the same...They could have
won the war for us..." he sighed...

But thanks to your efforts, our leadership lost confidence in our efforts...The unit was
disbanded...Its members dealt with...

"That chicken farmer Himmler get pissed at you, doc?..." Spike grinned...

Well...If it makes you feel any better, the Russians didn't exactly cover me with medals in
gratitude...he noted...

Among the members of that unit was my own brother...Dr. Jones told him...

Mortally wounded early in the Russian campaign, transformed by one of our "tame" vampires
just before death at my request...

"Take it from me, doc..." Spike told him, smiling... "He wouldn't have thanked you for it later..."
***

Andrew and Jonathan were fighting over who should get to give Buffy bot II her first orders...

After Fearless Leader, naturally...

"Gentlemen..." Warren interrupted...Pointing...

Buffy stood at the now open curtain of her "private space"...Blinking at them...

"Warren?..." she asked, a little flatly...

All my systems are functional...Do you have any orders?...

Whoa...Andrew grinned...Step-Buffy is born...

We are so dead...Jonathan noted to himself...Looking at the now pleasantly smiling Buffy...er
bot...

Well, at least she seems happy...
****
"Well...Buffy...er bot...You'll be staying with us from now on...Would you like that?..." Warren
asked...

"Whatever makes you guys happy makes me very happy..." she noted...

Hmmn...Andrew grinned...Well, then...

"Would you go upstairs and get us something to drink, Buffy...er bot?..." he asked...

"Why, certainly..." she nodded happily...Turned, and paused...

Get a move on, girl...Andrew told her...Tapping her shoulder...

And putting on a hideous look, not unlike that of a human doing a fine approximation of a
demon's snarl, she grabbed Andrew and tossed him back across the room...

Buffy's personality might be repressed...However...

Anne's was not...

She laughed wildly and shrieked hideously at them...Then oddly paused and returning to her
normal Buffy expression... smiled at them...

A gentle human smile more terrifying somehow than her human-demon face...

"You guys...Thanks so much for letting me out...I'm gonna save your heads to remember you
by..."

"Warren?!..." Jonathan hollered... "What's wrong with her?..."

Fuse blow or something?...he called to Fearless Leader...God, I knew things would end up like
this...he thought...

"Freeze ray, you moron!..." Warren screamed as Anne caught him...And lifted him effortlessly
over her head...Tossing him at Jonathan...

Fearless Leader was out...

"Now, honestly...Jonathan...You wanted me, didn't you?..." she again smiled terrifyingly, now
just at him...

Well...You can have me...Forever...

"Come here..." she told him...Looking at him...

Fortunately Anne was not yet a vampire...As she now realized, much to her surprise and
disappointment...Else she probably would have surpassed Drusilla in her abilities...

Jonathan grabbed at the freeze ray...Anne looked at him and again shrieking, ran back and up the
basement stairs...Smashing through the upper door...

She might still be in human form, but it was the Slayer's human form...

The sound of more smashing confirmed that she'd run off outside...

Andrew staggered over from where he'd hidden himself in a convenient pile of dirty Mears'
family laundry...

Warren groaned on the floor...

Hmmn...Jonathan thought...A slight setback, I'd say...
***
Qualities of Mercy...Part XVIII...

Spike was enjoying the hospitality of his personal neurologist, Dr. Henry Jones, aka Hans
Gresner, former SS Colonel, presently physician to much of Sunnydale's underworld
population...

In the good doctor's makeshift basement dungeon...Complete with modern-day medical torture in
the form of Spike's modified behavioral chip...

And a chance to reminisce over old times...To which Dr. Jones had returned after a brief
distraction generated by Xander's knock at the door, followed by his having stumbled around the
doctor's backyard in hopes of finding a clue to the whereabouts of his missing comrades...

"I see you've rewired my chip..." Spike noted...

Not at all, the doctor told him...Merely made use of its signal frequency...With the help of my
little friends...

"I see...Push-button, chip-fires...Is that it?..."

Precisely, my boy...Jones nodded...

An intelligent boy, a remarkable boy...This was likely to be a very enjoyable session...

So...Spike regarded his host...You get revenge on me for your brother...And the "lost cause"...

"Please, dear boy...That is only a small part of what I seek here...Though probably the most
emotionally satisfying part..."
I prefer not to live in the past...Jones went on...A trifle drunkenly, Spike noticed...

Knowledge is primarily what I seek...To see the ultimate limits of the human...and
demon...brain...

Nice to know there's a higher purpose at work here, the vampire noted...

"And what do they get out of this?..." Spike looked at the elderly doc...The nerd trio?...

Dr. Jones smiled thinly...

"I believe they get your dear Slayer...Or at least they think they do..."

My associates at Wolfram-Hart may...Have other plans for her...he noted pleasantly...
***

This was not exactly fair, Anne noted to herself as she roamed downtown Sunnydale...

She was not meant to be trapped in a human body...With, as she could now sense, her counterpart
human soul still quite present...And while dormant, quite likely to interfere with her activities at
any time...Possibly still strong enough to toss her back entirely...

On the other hand, the situation could be easily rectified...All she had to do was find a vampire...

No great chore in Sunnydale...She'd already encountered three...

Only problem was...Two had run away, terrified of the Slayer...And the third, well, when she'd
actually managed to hold him and convince him of the sincerity of her desire to be transformed,
the joke of then turning on him and staking him had simply been too fun to pass up...

And perhaps there was something to be said for living in a super-human body...

The chance to escape daylight's curse, the enhanced ability for deceiving the old gang while
enjoying the thrill of tormenting and slowly killing one-by-one...The extra protection it would
provide from Willow and if he returned or she caught up with him, Giles...

But...So long as she was human, Buffy would remain...Unless she could be persuaded or forced
to leave...

She pondered...Thought not being her strong suit, as a creature primarily acting on instinct...

Possibly those three morons could help...If she could find them again...

Whatever they'd done to Buffy to allow her to break out might be carried to a conclusion in her
...Anne's...favor...Allowing her to hunt and kill in both the light and dark realms...
At least until she turned thirty or so...When vampiral immortality would be of course be the
desired state of being...

She concentrated...Where had those idiots lived?...How did she...Buffy, at least...know them?...

Unfortunately, the calming effect of concentrated thought...Plus the timed auto-firing of the
positive reinforcement chip...Now combined...

This was not right...Buffy...er bot...thought...

Where was Warren?...Andrew?...Jonathan?...

Had she malfunctioned?...Memory failure?...Her systems diagnostics didn't seem functional
either...

She was near a convenience store...In downtown Sunnydale, if that part of her memory system
served...

Hmmn...The last command she'd received was Andrew's request for a drink...Perhaps he'd sent
her here?...

Well, clearly the proper course was to carry out his order and return...A slight firing of the chip
made it happily clear that that was indeed the right course to pursue...

Except?...What had he wanted?...Should she return and request more information?...

Perhaps...She looked at the store...Fortunately her hypno-programming had included the cell
phone numbers of her owners...

She entered the store...Looking brightly at the clerk...

"Hello, I have to contact Andrew and Warren...I don't know what Andrew wanted to drink and I
think I need service maintenance...Do you have a telephone?..." she cocked her head at the boy...

In back, the clerk pointed...Watching her...

God, not another of those girl-bots from that Mears guy, he thought...

Geesch...This one's even crappier than the one he tried to palm off on me...
***

The Masters of the Sunnydale Universe were almost as anxious to find their Queen as she was to
find them...

Almost...Warren and Andrew still rather shaken following their encounter with Anne...
A cautious pursuit...In their fully equipped van...Was recommended...

But...How do we find her?...If we really want to find her...Jonathan asked as they set out...

"We can locate her by tracking the chip's signal frequency..." Warren noted...It pulses
automatically every five minutes to reinforce her programming...

"Dudes?..." Andrew asked... "She seemed a leetle annoyed with us back at the lair...Do we really
want to go on with this?..."

A minor miscalculation...Warren insisted...

"How were we supposed to know the Slayer had multiple personalities?..." he pointed out...

Stands to reason, in hind-sight...Jonathan noted...With all that psychological stress she's under...

Well...We just have to modify the hypno-programming and maybe have our partner adjust the
chip a bit...Warren told them...

No problemo...

He appealed to the troops...

After all, she is the Number One goal of our list...he noted...Our Holy Grail...

Our Princess Leia...

We can't back down now...

Buffy's happiness depends on us...he noted firmly...

Andrew nodded...Yeah...Buffy needs us...

"We're like...Her Fairy Godfathers...Bringing happiness back into her life..."

Absolutely...Fearless Leader agreed...

Besides...noted Jonathan...If she comes out of this...And realizes what we've been doing...

A mutual gulp...

Absolutely...Fearless Leader agreed...

Andrew's cell phone rang...
***
"Hello, Andrew...This is your Buffy bot..." Buffy told him...

What did you want to drink?...she asked...Beginning the list of possible choices...

"Where are you?..." he waved to the others...Jonathan raced to the phone tracking equipment...

"I'm in a convenience store at the corner of Firth and Collins streets..." she answered pleasantly...

I think I need service...My memory system seems to be faulty for the last hour or so...And my
system diagnostics aren't...she told him...Pleasantly...

Warren cut in...

"Stay where you are, Buffy...er bot...We'll be over to pick you up in a few minutes..."

"I will be very happy to stay here, Warren...But what did Andrew want to drink?..."
***

So...Thought Spike, watching Dr. Jones set up for his "experiments"...The little morons are
playing Dr Mesmer with Buffy...

Hmmn...If they push her personality down...With her demon alive in there...

He pictured the nerd trio suddenly facing Buffy's released demon...

Hmmn...Like to see that...

But Buffy, my poor Buffy...God, I wasn't enough headache for her...Now this...

Either mindless slave...Or deranged killer...

He couldn't help it, had to admit...He wouldn't mind a peek at either state...

Hey, William the Bloody here...

Though for her sake he would kill the little bastards...If he had to fry his brain to do it...

Oh God...If Buffy's demon does take control...The first thing she'll do is seek out a vampire...

Nice for me, actually...he noted...She might even come looking for me...

But...Somehow...The thought just doesn't appeal the way it once would've...To lose her now...
My Buffy...The Buffy I know...Somewhere, somehow...Cares for me...

To lose her to that...
And...Dawn...If that thing catches Dawn...

Definitely would rank as a dereliction of my duty, I'd say...Buffy would never forgive me...

And so much for any happy afterlife meeting of souls...

Besides those jerks are far more likely to screw up...Leave her a vegetable...

I've got to get out of here...

Dr. Jones came forward...

"My dear boy, I'm just about ready..." he smiled at Spike...

"Great, I was getting a little bored, doc..." Spike looked at the various implements..."Not wanting
to fault the hospitality..."

Looks like a little old-fashioned torture session is on the agenda...he noted...

Ummn...Yes and no...the doctor told him...

"Lets say...A test of your limits..." he smiled...

And...Self-inflicted...

Spike grinned... "You expect me to use that stuff on myself, doc?...With a leetle persuasion from
the chip?..."

Well...We'll see, won't we?...Dr. Jones noted pleasantly...

The goal here is to see just what the chip's effect can force you to do...

Ah, Spike nodded...Sounds marketable, doc...The CIA has got to be interested in this one...

Pity the KGB...Or your old crew...Aren't around...Spike grinned...

A pity, the doctor agreed...But there are always plenty of governments seeking better ways to
control the unruly in their populations...And of course my associates at Wolfram-Hart...

"You and dear Miss Summers will be wonderful demonstrations of my theories in action..."
Jones looked at Spike...

A matched set, you might say...Examples of negative and positive reinforcement...

But, Jones went on...My interest in you goes beyond the chip...Even beyond my brother's tragic
end...

You are a most curious creature, young William...

A vampire, a noted killer, who has kept his own independent path...Even fighting on the side of
light at times...

"Of my choosing, for my amusement...Or benefit..." Spike noted...

Yes...But that is the fascinating thing...Most creatures like you are so easily led by the
strong...They instinctively follow their superiors in evil...

But you...

"I'd think ole Christ Jr....Angel, that is...Would interest you more...World-saving heroics and all
that...I don't quite measure up on that scale..."

But his nature is explained...He has a human soul...Jones noted...

And...You love a human being...Our dear Miss Summers...

Your natural enemy...

"What can I say, doc...I'm a poet of the alternate school..." Spike smiled...

Immortality is too dull dancing to some "Master's" tune...

"As for Miss Summers...If I understood why...I'd of dealt with it months ago..." he frowned and
grinned again...

Perhaps you might care speaking to my siress, Drusilla...She might have some useful info for
you...

She always likes to meet new people...Spike smiled...

Jones returned the smile...

"No, thank you, dear boy...I've heard of your Miss Drusilla by reputation..."

She is remembered at Wolfram-Hart...

Well...Jones nodded his head...Why don't we see if we can probe these mysteries a bit further
through the application of Science?...

He picked up the remote...
***

Qualities of Mercy...Part XIX...

"This is what you call emergency response?!..." fumed Xander...

He, Anya, and the demon Gertfrood had been anxiously waiting outside Dr. Jones' home for
Sunnydale's finest for the better part of a half-hour...

Anxiety only intensified by Willow's phone call detailing the good doctor's checkered past...

"I don't think they like coming to this part of town..." Gertfrood, still in female human form,
noted shyly...

We've got to get in there...Or at least make some kind of disturbance...Xander declared, limping a
bit on his bruised leg...If Buffy and Spike are inside, they could be dead before the cops crawl out
of whatever donut shop they're hiding in...

A siren faintly wailed in the distance...

Phew...thought Anya...Looking at Xander...Plan A back on track...

Enough heroics for tonight, sweetheart...she noted thankfully to herself...

Xander knows Spike's already dead, doesn't he?...a puzzled Gertfrood hissed to Anya...
***
Willow, with Amy, was likewise on her way to Dr. Jones', having called Xander to inform him of
what they'd learned of Jones' Nazi background...And his past connection with William the
Bloody and the Initiative...

Amy carefully watched Willow as she drove...Still showing almost no signs of the effect of her
gentle spell to enhance her magic addiction...

Somehow the focus of helping her friends was counteracting the spell...

Amy wasn't sure if she was disappointed...Or glad...

Seeing Willow striving so hard to help...She couldn't not feel sympathy...And Willow'd included
her...Amy...In the effort...As if she belonged...Was one of them...

If there could be a place for both of them here?...If she could find her own role in this...Family...
Maybe destroying Willow was unnecessary...Even...Wrong...

But what to do?...If she admitted her spell now...Or Willow detected it...She'd probably lose the
only chance at having a life, a place, loved and loving ones to care and live for, she had left...
She was so confused...And lost...

Best to leave things to sort themselves out for now...she thought...
***
Warren and Andrew entered the convenience store cautiously to find a happily beaming Buffy
waiting for them...

Jonathan watching from the van, freeze ray at the ready...

"Andrew?...Here you are..." she happily handed him a YooHoo...

Warren stared at him...Lamester...

"So...I had to tell her something...And I like YooHoo..." Andrew noted...

"Warren?..." Buffy politely interrupted... "Sorry to disturb you, but I think I need service..."

Warren nodded benignly...Fearless Leader had already diagnosed the malfunction he assured
her...

"You just need a few minor adjustments, Buffy...er Buffy-bot..." he told her...

Lets get back to home base...he suggested cautiously...

"You'd like to go back with us, wouldn't you, Buffy...er bot?..." he asked...

Whatever makes you happy makes me very happy, Warren...she noted...

"Great..." Andrew patted her on the shoulder... "Lets get..."

Uh-oh...

Hmmn...Warren noted...As he watched the resurfaced Anne toss a clueless Andrew down the
aisle in howling rage...

Physical contact seems to be the trigger...

Anne's rage was only redoubled by her confusion...What the hell was going on?...

Clearly the morons were involved...Playing with her and Buffy in some way...

Well...She'd show them a whole new level of play...

As befitting a Fearless Leader, Warren made a careful but steady retreat towards the front door,
while beeping a warning to the waiting Jonathan...
Maybe best to bring her back on ice, after all...he thought...

The clerk looked sourly from his cage...

Mears and his girl-bots, he noted, dialing 911...

I knew this one was a piece of crap...
***
Anya, Xander, and Gertfrood lay hidden in bushes watching from across the street as two officers
of the Sunnydale PD emerged from their car and went up to Dr. Jones' door...

From the nervous expressions on their faces it was clear they were not happy about answering a
call in the Crestwood area...

Gotta be rookies to have landed this assignment, Xander thought...

Something about uniforms makes human males look so handsome Gertfrood noted to Anya in a
whisper...

Does Xander have a pretty uniform to wear at his job?...she...it asked...

"Weren't you a male the last time we met?..." Anya glared at the demon...

Xander looked at them...

You do not want to listen to this conversation, he noted to himself...Moving carefully back a bit...
***

Dr. Jones was rather put out by this little stunt...As he observed the two cops standing on his
front doorstep via video...

Calling the Sunnydale PD to harass him in the midst of a major experiment...

"Your little friends are becoming a nuisance..." he noted to the chained Spike...

However...

As long as they insisted on participating....No reason they couldn't be part of the experiment...

Once he'd dealt with the sturdy lads in blue...
***

"War...ren..." Anne called pleasantly to him...Dragging a hapless Andrew out of the store with
her...

Warren maintained a respectable distance while shouting encouragement to his partner...

Anne halted and glared at him...Holding Andrew like a rag doll...

"Your friend is about to lose several vital organs...Unless you come back here....Now!!"

Definitely a major reprogramming is called for, Warren noted...As Jonathan moved up to him
with the freeze ray...

Oops...Anne looked at the freeze ray...She whirled Andrew in front of her...

"We seem to have a stand-off here, Buffy..." Warren told her...

Anne...she noted, pleasantly...Call me Anne...

"Buffy is indisposed right now..." she giggled a bit...Not pleasantly at all...

What'll we do...Jonathan hissed...

Freeze'em both if we have to...Warren replied under his breath...But just hold off a mo...

He looked at Anne who smiled, shaking the battered Andrew a bit...

"He's still kicking...If you were wondering...." she grinned...

"Who are you, anyway?..." Warren asked...

Buffy's counterpart demon from Hell, she replied...Blinking sweetly at him...

Oh...

"Wait?...Were you...Buffy...Bit or something?..." Warren looked at her...

Hitched a ride when Buffy came back from the dead a few months ago...she replied...Been
waiting for my chance to take over...

Buffy was...Dead?...Warren stared at the smiling Anne...Who cocked her head and shrugged,
slightly waving a hand...

These things happen in the Slayer business...

Hmmn...Jonathan thought...That explains it...

And no wonder Buffy was so depressed...

Might have known she'd have one hell of a hell-demon waiting to take over...
***

"Probably just cats knocking over my garbage cans...Sorry to have bothered you..." Dr. Jones
affably waved off the two rather relieved cops...Who'd looked about the yard carefully and briefly
after the elderly physician had greeted them at his door...

He'd heard a bang or two, gotten nervous...Foolish, perhaps but at his age...

Anytime, doc...the younger cop noted...Both clearly anxious to be off and out of the
neighborhood...

One was always hearing the strangest tales about this area down at the station...Not to mention
the high mortality statistics...For cops as well as the public...

Well...Alls well that ends without a massacre...the older cop sighed as they pulled out...

Sadly the boys in blue had not noticed what had crept into their cruiser while they were out...

And Xander and co had been too occupied with watching them and Dr. Jones...

But...After all...This is Sunnydale...And this was the worst part of Sunnydale...

And it wasn't like they were tragically about to retire after devoting a lifetime to serving the
Sunnydale community...
***

Willow and Amy parked a block from Dr. Jones' house following Xander's suggestion...

Odd...That police car stopped by the stop sign...Lights on, motor running...No one inside...

Oops...Willow noted a sizable pool of blood by the door...

"Suppose we head on over..." she noted to Amy...Turning to prevent her from seeing...

And listening carefully...For anything that might still be around...

Apparently gone home following its quick meal...she noted to herself...

They hurried over to the address Xander had given them...
***

Jonathan tried a clumsy shot...Anne, dragging Andrew, dodged effortlessly...

"Boys...You're going to get me angry..." she noted, smiling...
You don't really want me to throw your friend's head at you, do you?...she asked...

And I'm willing to make a deal...

"What...Deal?..." Warren called...Staying behind a small shed near the store where Anne and
Andrew stood in the driveway...

You've already pushed Buffy down...I want her out...You help me and I'll make it worth your
while...she grinned...

Very worth your while...she leered at Jonathan...

"Hmmn...Sex with a vampire isn't quite what we were looking for, thanks..." Warren called...

Human...I'm staying human...For now...Anne replied firmly...

Oh?...Warren replied noncommitally... "Stand by..." he hissed to Jonathan...

Anne looked at the hapless Andrew...

"Your pal looks a leetle worse for wear...I think you'd better say yes...Quickly..."

Well...Exactly what are you offering?...And what do you want us to do?...Warren asked...

"I want you to finish pushing Buffy out...Permanently..." she told him...

As for my offer...

"This very nice body..." she smiled demurely...

Within reasonable limits of course...

My help in whatever it was you planned to use Buffy in doing...Take over this town, I assume...

Much more in my line, than Buffy's...she noted...

And, a fair percentage of whatever I acquire in my new career...Playing Buffy, Slayer for
hire...Who is no longer opposed to using her special gifts to acquire the finer things...And now
kills the human as well as the demonic...

For the right price...

Heck, I'll still do it for free sometimes...she giggled...

"Like right now..." she told them...Looking sweetly at the groggy but now struggling
Andrew...Still firmly in her grip...

You have five seconds...Then I'm coming over...With part of your friend...

"Jonathan..." Warren nudged him...

"I can't get a hit at this distance..." Jonathan hissed to Warren...

Onetwothreefour...She lifted Andrew...And held him...Blinking...

"Andrew?..." Buffy asked, looking up at him...

Did you want something up there?...she hesitated...

Should I put you down?...

Please...Andrew gasped...
***
Dr. Jones reached the cellar stairs...To find Spike, unchained and staring at him on the stairs...

He fumbled for the remote...Not at hand...He'd left it?...

"Looking for this, doc?..." Spike grinned...Holding the remote...

Jones backed off and raced for the stairs to the upper floor...With remarkable agility for a man
nearly ninety...

The things I do for old friends, Gertfrood noted, watching Jones flee, as she resumed her female
form...

Neat coat, though...she...it...thought...Carefully removing Spike's Slayer coat...Wonder if he'd
consider giving it to me as a little thank-you for this one...

"Any luck finding the keys?..." she...it called down to Anya...Who had slipped into the cellar
with the demon while Dr. Jones was occupied with the police...

"He tore the manacles off as soon as I told him we had the remote control..." Anya called up in
wonder...Coming up the stairs...

Hollered something about Buffy and her demon and Warren Mears and ran off..
.
"That's love..." Gertfrood noted solemnly...

You're so lucky, Anyanka...she..it told her...
***
Qualities of Mercy...Part XX...

For safety's sake Fearless Leader Warren ordered a very content Buffy...er bot...to walk back to
the lair...

While he and the other shaken Masters of the Sunnydale Universe followed at a distance in their
van...

Andrew...Having been the object of Anne's attentions...Twice...Was for rethinking the project...

Hey, sometimes the technology just isn't ready...he noted...

And moving on to the Shrink Ray was sounding better by the moment...

Besides, once she was shrunk, Buffy...Or this "Anne"...'ld be a hell of lot easier to deal with,
right?...

Jonathan saw the sense of that argument...

"Guys..." Fearless Leader was disturbed to find indications of panic among the troops...

Show a little fortitude here...A little perseverance and our goal is won...

"We know what the problem is now...And now we just have to deal with it..."

They were pulling up to Warren's parents' home...Buffy was now waiting patiently by the
basement door...

Jonathan parked and looked at Fearless Leader...

The problem is...She's got a fiend from hell...Her own personal fiend, too...Inside her...he
pointed out...

"How are we gonna "deal" with that?..."

Poor Angela was a fiend from Hell...Warren noted...Remember?...And our programming worked
on her...

"We just need to get Anne under as well as Buffy..." Warren concluded...

Might be useful to have her around in our bot at that...She'd be happy to do a lot of things Buffy
wouldn't...he resumed...

"Like deal with Mr. Blond for instance?..." Andrew asked...

Well?...Yeah, if he ever became a threat...But he's taken care of...Our Dr. Mengele is dealing
with Spike right now...Warren noted...

"Why him?..." Warren looked at his partner...

Because he's coming down the street right now...Andrew replied, pointing at the right side video
screen...

And he doesn't look "dealt with"...

Man...Jonathan noted, peering at the screen...He does look like Rutger...

Specially when he's upset...

***
A relieved Xander was let into Dr. Jones' home by Anya and Gertfrood...

He'd hated the idea of exposing Anya to danger but with his injured leg there was no alternative
if they were to take advantage of Jones' distraction by the cops...

Besides, he was a 21st century kinda guy...Only fair to take a turn at waiting and fretting and to
let Anya have the chance to strut her stuff...

Mission...Partially accomplished, they proudly informed him...

"Stay right where you are, my friends..." Dr. Jones came slowly down the stairs with a rather
large pistol...

We did say "partially"...Anya sheepishly noted...

Willow and Amy knocked at the door...
***

Warren called Buffy...er bot...On the cell phone he'd given her to keep in touch on the walk
home...

"Ummn...Buffy-bot?...Warren here...First, please hide yourself behind my mom's azalea
bush...Now...Do you see Spike coming down the street over to the left?..."

Yes, Warren...I see Spike coming down the street...But he is to my right...she noted...

"Does he want me back now?..." she asked pleasantly... "Are you selling me back to him?..."

Not exactly...Warren noted...As a matter of fact...

"He's a vampire, right?..."

Spike had halted and was looking over Warren's parents' home...He hadn't seen Buffy or noted
the van parked in the rear as yet...

Yes, Warren...Spike is a vampire...Buffy agreed...Pleasantly...

"And you, being programmed as Buffy...Are a Slayer, right?..."

Yes, Warren...I am programmed to be Buffy...A Slayer...I kill vampires...

Exactly...he noted...

"So lets follow this through to the logical conclusion...Slayer...Vampire...Slayers kill
vampires...Ergo, you should kill Spike, right?..." Warren asked...

There was a pause...

"Spike is a special vampire...He can't kill people...Warren..." she replied...hesitantly...

He...commissioned...me...she slowly continued...

Clearly a conflict here...Jonathan noted...

"He's gonna kill us, you idiot!..." Andrew hollered, grabbing the phone...

Warren glared and grabbed back the phone...

A deft touch was called for here...

"Spike has resumed killing people, Buffy-bot...His chip went wacko...So you have to kill him to
protect people...Especially...Us..." Warren told her cautiously...

Oh...Buffy replied, very hesitantly...

If...you...think...I...should, Warren?...

Reaching the limits, man...Jonathan warned him...She likes him, remember...

Well...She was definitely not happy about this order...

"Ok, listen, Buffy-bot...You don't have to kill him...Just knock him out, restrain him...So he
can't harm anyone...You ok with that?..." Warren asked...

Yes, Warren...she replied quite happily...I will restrain Spike for you...
"Then you and Andrew and Jonathan will fix him...?" her question hung in the air...

Ummn...Yeah...Then we'll fix him...Warren agreed...

Spike was circling round...And spying the van, was moving up on it slowly...

He'd seen it before, he realized...In town, while with Buffy...A few evenings ago...

"You go, girl..." Andrew called to the phone...The Masters of the Sunnydale Universe clustering
around the video screen...

"Hello, Spike..." Buffy called to him pleasantly, emerging from the bushes...

Maybe one of us should be at the wheel, Jonathan suggested...Quick getaway mode might be
called for here...

***
Although Dr. Jones had not expected to be dealing with a witch...Or even an especially powerful
magics practitioner that evening...As a matter of course...Being a physician with a large
supernatural clientele...He kept various magics protections about his person at all times...

So that Willow's hasty attempt to recover the advantage on entering the house and seeing the
elderly doctor holding a large gun on Xander and company was not only unsuccessful, but
resulted in her being immediately knocked out of the game by a powerful and focused reflection
of her stun wave spell...

Hans Gresner had not survived to 2001 without learning to take every precaution...

"Will?!..." Xander cried, seeing her collapse...

Stay where you are, young man...Or I will certainly shoot you..." Dr. Jones sternly called...

"Amy?..." Xander looked at her...She bent over Willow...

She's alive...Amy told them...

Your friend is just stunned...As you see, I keep a certain degree of protection about me
here...Dr. Jones frowned...

"You and your fiancee and friends have given me quite a deal of trouble tonight..." he told
Xander...Keeping the pistol fixed...

"Well...Shall I be going now, doc?..." Gertfrood asked hopefully... "Our business was all set back
at the clinic..."

Stay where you are, my dear...Jones looked at her...it...

Anya glared a little at her...it...

Gertfrood?...You running out on us?...

"Doesn't look like I'll get the chance..." she...it noted sadly...

Besides...She added hastily...It was just a trick...I'd have gone and gotten help...

Uh-huh...Anya glared...

"Honest..." She...it...Was a leetle hurt...You'd of thought I was human from the way Anyanka
was acting, she...it thought...With some kinship or whatever obligation to them...

"And a good try, too..." Xander told her...it...kindly...

Gertfrood smiled, looking down at her hands and back at him...Demurely...

He was so sweet...Pity Anyanka's caught this crazy human monogamy thing...

"Thank you, Xander..."

Please...Jones waved his pistol at them...

"If you would all be so good as to pick up your friend and go down to the basement..."

Xander and Anya half-dragged, half-carried the unconscious Willow to the stairs...Amy and
Gertfrood in close support, trying to help carry her...Dr. Jones following...

Xander shot a look at Amy as they started down the stairs...Who gave her head just the touch of a
shake...

Not much at combat situation spells...her shake said, Xander realized...Not to mention
overcoming protections like the one that had stopped Willow...

Now of course if we all want to become rats and run for the exits...Amy's our girl...

Well...There's always the old fashioned approach...Xander thought...As they reached the
basement...

Hurling his car keys at the stairway light bulb...Which shattered...

***
I have to restrain you, Spike...Buffy told him...Eyeing him carefully...
"You are a threat to humans...I am a Slayer...I protect humans..." she noted...

"Buffy...Listen to me..." Spike told her... "These idiots have been playing washing day with your
brain..."

"You're mistaken, Spike...I'm the Buffy-bot Warren built for you..." she told him pleasantly...

But you returned me and now I belong to Warren, Andrew, and Jonathan...

"Really..." Spike looked at her, and looked round slightly... "And where are your dear owners, by
the way?..."

I've been reconsidering my decision on returning you...he noted...

"I can not tell where they are, Spike...You are angry with them and may try to hurt them...Please
let me restrain you so you can't hurt anyone and they will fix you..."

"Chip's working just fine, Slayer...Spikey is still only half the fine killer you used to know..."

And no great desire to be lobotomized by the Three Stooges tonight, thanks...

"I must restrain you, Spike...Please don't fight me...I don't wish to hurt you..."

He fell back deftly as she moved on him...

"Buffy...You are the human Buffy..." he told her...She was too fast for him and grabbed him...

You are mistaken, Spike, she told him...But Warren will be very pleased that you thought I was
human...

"Help me..." a whisper floated to him on the air...From...Somewhere...

Not Buffy, he knew...As Buffy dragged him back a bit and began methodically trying to tie his
hands together...

It could only be...It...Calling to him...

"Who are you?..." he called...

Spike?...Buffy...er bot...Looked at him...

"Are you talking to someone?..." she asked pleasantly...

He threw her back and she fell...

"Spike, I have to restrain you...Please don't make me hurt you..." she was a bit hesitant, he
noted...

"You don't want to hurt me, do you, Buffy?..." he asked her...

No...she paused...I do not want to hurt you, Spike...But...

"You know, I just got my chip fixed...See the bandages...If you fuss with me too much, you'll
probably hurt me quite a bit..." he pointed out...

A shadow passed over her face...But she recovered and beamed at him...

"I am just going to restrain you, Spike...I do not have to hurt..."

He clutched his head and groaned...

Spike...?...She stared at him...

***

"Why the hell is she taking so long?..." Andrew looked at Fearless Leader...

Who shrugged, watching the video screen...

Jonathan was firmly in the driver's seat...Determined on an immediate pullout at the first sign of
trouble...
***

A trifle embarrassing, Xander noted...

Jumping an eighty-plus old man in the dark...

But, cruel necessity...And the maniacal mad doc had had it coming...

Unfortunately...A rather surprisingly agile eighty-plus mad doc...Who'd slipped away from him...

And out his prepared emergency exit...To God knew where, though Xander and co could hazard
a guess that it was wherever Spike and Buffy were right now...

And with the remote control, set to the frequency for Spike's chip...Taken from Gertfrood before
they were marched to the basement...

However his three conscious assistants were mostly just glad...Rather touchingly so...To find him
unhurt...

In the confusion, Jones had got off a shot, and they had feared the worst...For their mutual hero...

Nice to be appreciated, Xander noted, while assuring them that he was unscathed...With of
course the emphasis in Anya's direction...Though kindly including Gertfrood and Amy...

"What do we do now?..." Anya asked him...

How's Willow?...Xander looked at Amy who was standing by her fellow Wiccan...

Willow was groggily looking around...

"Where's Jones?..." she asked...

Out the back way, Xander noted...Afraid he was a leetle too fast for me...

Buffy?...she asked...Looking at them, her head clearing a bit...

"Don't know..." Anya told her...

Spike took off after her...He seemed to know where to go...Anya explained...

"Will...Jones still has a control for Spike's chip..." Xander told her... "He's probably headed for
wherever Buffy and Spike are now..."

Right...She staggered to her feet...

Magics to the rescue...Slumping a little...

"Spike must have gone to Warren Mears' place..." Anya pointed out...

Warren?...Willow looked at her...The nerdy sexbot-maker?...

Spike said Buffy was with Warren and his partners...Xander told her...They've been messing
with her mind somehow...

"That piece of crap nerd has Buffy?!..." Willow stood up a bit...Still shaky...

She sat back down...Just give me a mo to concentrate, she looked at them...

Hmmn, location spell, tracking spell...Oh, right...

Well, gee, I know where Mears lives...she told them...A hair disappointed, Amy noted...
***

"Spike?...Are you alright?..." Buffy asked him, a shade anxiously...
He continued to clutch his head...

She doesn't want to hurt me...he thought in some wonder...Even with all the mind-messing...

Please...Buffy looked at him...Uncertain...

"Tell me what to do...?"

Her cell phone rang...The Masters of the Sunnydale Universe were somewhat disturbed by her
inaction...

Hello...she told the phone...Still looking at Spike as he moaned...And watched her...

Now looking quite...Blank...

"Buffy...We gave you an order..." Warren told her...

"Did you?..." Anne asked him pleasantly, grinning at Spike...Well...

Buffy has taken a leave of absence...

The Masters looked at each other...Anne again...And Spike with her...

"Can we go...Now?...Andrew looked at Warren, sighing...

***

Qualities of Mercy...Part XXI...

Nice acting...Anne complimented Spike...

And many thanks, sweetie, for helping to send Buffy packing again...For the moment...

"Well?..." she grinned, turning round quickly... "Like what you see?..."

Spike regarded her cautiously...

"And you are?..." he asked her...

You know me, Spike...she told him...Smiling demurely...

"You've been waiting for me...Longer even than you know..."

He just stared at her...

"Anne..." she smiled at him...

Or...If you prefer...You can still use Buffy...You'll have to around my friends for now, anyway...

I've been trying to reach you...she grinned...

For oh so long...she sighed...Giggling...In a not-quite, but almost Buffy way that was
strangely...Terrifying...

But there was genuine longing...And...A trace of fear in her voice...

He wasn't responding with the enthusiasm she'd expected...Spike?...she wondered to herself...

What's with you?

He continued to watch her without moving...

I'm here...We've won, we've beaten the little Slayer...In the worst way possible...she thought...

So...Where's the joy?...

Geesch...Angelis would be dancing in the street...If not busy turning Dawny as a little icing on
the cake...

"Spike?...We're together now...At last..." she told him...

A faint note of pleading, even desperation in her voice, he noted...

She's afraid...he could see it...Afraid...That he wouldn't help...

Wouldn't want her...Now...

Now that...Oh, God...

It wasn't her...he suddenly realized...Last night...It wasn't her...

He bowed his head...No doubts about it now...

Buffy Summers...Human Buffy Summers...Cares for me...

But...Vampire demons are as vain as they are deadly...And she took the boyish smile of joy
breaking on his face as meant for her...

A welcome...Which she, nervous as she was regarding him...Without quite being sure why...Was
happy to accept...
She moved towards him...

Oops...Company...

"Spike?!..." she called to him...Definitely a warning there...He looked at her...Buffy?...

He clutched his head as a wave of pain struck him...

Our Dr. Mengele to the rescue, Andrew noted to the others in the van as Jones came up to the
collapsed Spike...The doctor eyeing Anne carefully...

Who held her position, looking at him...Spike...And the doctor's rather large pistol...Somewhat
blankly...

***

"Hello..." Anne looked at Jones...Rather robotically...

My dear...Jones nodded politely...And you are?...he asked...Holding his pistol on her...

I'm Warren Mears' Buffy robot she told him pleasantly...Do you know that guns are very
dangerous?...

My apologies, my dear...Jones smiled at her, lowering his gun...Didn't mean to frighten you...

I can't be frightened...she informed him...Pleasantly...

"I am a robot..."

Andrew looked at the others...Looks like the bot-Buf is back...Should we let our partner in on
things?...he asked Warren...

"Lets let the situation develop..." Fearless Leader replied...

There was something strange about the way Buffy...er bot...was acting...She was watching Jones
with more than a normal blankish hypno'd B-bot stare...

Jonathan remained at the wheel, ready to pull out...

"My friend Spike is hurt..." she noted to Jones...Pleasantly...Indicating the writhing Spike on the
ground...

Yes...the elderly doctor smiled, moving up closer to her and peering at Spike...

"And will be much more so before the night is..."
She grabbed the gun and tossed the doctor back...

"Your remote, please..." she asked...

Jones hesitated and she shot him in the knee...

Please...she repeated...

"I can take it from your corpse...But, I'm willing to let you give it to me...Now..." she smiled at
the groaning, staggered Jones...

He tossed it to her as Willow, Xander, and the others pulled up...

Hmmn...A family affair...Anne noted to herself...

Spike was just starting to recover...She pressed the remote and held it...Sorry, sweetie, no
offense...Not sure about you yet...He passed out...

"Hi guys..." she called to them...Happily...Waving the remote...

Situation well in hand...

***

Xander came up to her, staring at the groaning Jones...

"I had to shoot, Xander..." Anne told him...Just the right note of sadness in her voice...

He was about to kill Spike...

The others, led by Willow, came over...

"It's me..." Anne told them... "The little maniacs tried a little hypnosis but thanks to my hero
here..." she indicated Spike... "I'll be ok..."

"This does not look good..." Andrew noted, looking up from the video screen...

Lets get out of here...Jonathan suggested, ignition key at the ready...

Patience, gentlemen, patience...Fearless Leader noted...That's not Buffy...

And she hasn't fingered us yet...

"She's up to something..." he pointed out...

And she seems to be getting the upper hand with Buffy...
***

Willow stared at the groaning Jones...Not exactly Buf's style to shoot an elderly man, even a
vicious opponent...But...Coming out of a hypno trance and with her new sweetie in danger...

Anne, with Xander and Anya beside her, was bending over her fallen hero...Who remained
unconscious...She made the usual sounds of concern...

But held firmly to the remote...And Jones' pistol...

"Will?..." Anne looked at Willow...And the wounded doctor...

"Guess you better call 911?..." she noted...Willow nodded...

Amy and Gertfrood came over to where Willow stood by Jones...Gertfrood looked over at Anne..

Who glared...Oops...The little Koptos demon still hanging around...Trouble..

"Miss?..." the demon hissed to Amy... "That's not your friend..."

Amy looked at her...it...

Anne turned to Willow who had started back to Xander's car...Oh...

"I've got a cell phone here, Will...I forgot in the confusion...I'll call..." she called to her...

In the van Warren's cell phone rang...The Masters looked at each other...

Anne moved back a few steps and spoke into the phone quietly...

Odd...Xander noted to himself, looking back at her...

Why is she whispering to the emergency operator?...

He moved back toward her...

I could swear she just said...Warren?...

"Buffy?...Is anything..."

"Xander!..." Amy cried out... "That's not Buffy!"...

Anne grabbed Xander and held his head in a lock while a confused Willow looked back at her...
As Amy and Gertfrood ran over to Willow...Anya standing in shock by Jones...
"Hold it right there, specially you, Willow!..." Anne cried, a hideous look on her face as she
pointed the pistol at them...Jerking Xander in her vise grip...

I can snap his neck before either of you make a sound...she smiled at Willow and Amy...

Spike was beginning to moan...

Anya looked pleadingly at Willow...Then Buffy...Or whoever she was now...

"Anne?..." she called to her...

Anne looked coldly and fiercely at her...The little rabbitphobe who'd vanquished her own demon
without even a fair fight...and stolen Xander...

Who by rights should be Anne's to torture and torment for a lifetime...Even if Buffy hadn't
staked a claim...

"You can't want to hurt Xander..." Anya pleaded...

You're right, Anya...Anne smiled at her...I'd much rather hurt you...

And fired at her...Striking her in the side...

Xander struggled in Anne's grip as Anya fell to the ground, moaning...

"Sh-sh...Little brother, she's not dead...Yet..." Anne smiled almost gently at him...

You know...she grinned at the others who stood in shock...

Buffy may not like these things...She waved the pistol...But I find them a lot of fun...

Willow saw a chance, and darting a look at Amy, began a move...

The freeze ray struck her from behind...Anne's little Anya distraction having kept the gang busy
just long enough for Jonathan to creep up to range...

"Will!!..." Xander cried...

She was frozen solid...

"Whee!..." Anne cried in hideous glee... "One Wiccansicle..."

She aimed her pistol at Amy...Who halted, staring at the gun...Not quite sure what to try...

"Thanks fellas..." she called to the Masters of the Sunnydale Universe who now came forward...
My partners...she introduced them to those gang members still conscious...

"Andrew, Warren...Would you guys please tie up my friends?..." she looked at them...

Better throw a rope around Willow as well...Just in case...

And Jonathan?...She smiled at Xander...If you've got a first aid kit...You can bring it out for dear
Anya here...And your dear old doc...

Hey?...Anne looked at the gang members still on their feet...Just Amy and the still struggling
Xander in her grip...

"Where's the Koptos demon?..."

"You mean the thing that was a girl, then turned into a big dog?..." Andrew noted helpfully...

It ran off that way...he pointed to the left...

***
Anne frowned as Andrew and Warren secured Amy and Xander with ropes and wrapped one
around the frozen Willow...

Well...The little demon surely couldn't care less what happened to a bunch of humans...And
she'd hunt it down later anyway...

She kept her attention and the pistol focused on Amy...Not that she expected much threat from
that quarter...

But no great desire to become a rat just now...she noted...

Andrew, glad to have a little protection given past experience with their new partner, now held
the freeze ray, and she requested he come over to cover Amy and Xander...

Keep an eye on her, Warren hissed to him...

Buffy was clearly out for the count...And Anne tended towards unpredictability in her
relationships...

Jonathan brought over a first aid kit and bandaged Anya who was not severely injured...Then
turned to Jones who was now sitting on the ground...A kneecap wound...

The doctor grabbed the kit from him and began treating himself...

Tough old bird...thought Jonathan...

"Your little experiment appears to have backfired..." Jones muttered to him...

It's her demon...From Hell, Jonathan explained...

Indeed?...Jones looked at him...Released by your repression of Ms. Summers?...

She was waiting her chance...Who knew?...the junior Master shrugged...

And it sure looked like Spike had managed to get away from you, doc...Jonathan noted...

"Anya?..." Xander called to her...

Ok...she feebly called back...

"Is she gonna kill us?..." Amy hissed to Xander...

Anne came over by Jones...Gun firmly in hand...And sent Jonathan to bring the bandaged Anya
over to the others...

Surprised she hasn't already...Xander replied quietly...Staring at Anne...

"Buffy?..." he called out... "Don't give in to her..."

Anne glared briefly at him...And returned to the doctor...

"When are your friends from Wolfram-Hart due in, doc?..." she asked him...

He stared...She grinned...What even an unconscious Buffy hears, I hear, doc...she told him...

Though not always clearly...

Eighty-thirty, tomorrow night...he replied...While stitching his wound...

He looked up at her...

"I take it you'd like to make an arrangement with them?..." he smiled at her...

She nodded...

"I think...In exchange for my powerful Wiccan friend over there...And the little witch and former
demon...My services as renegade human Slayer...Plus whatever info you and my little boys here
have gotten on the chip...We could make a preety strong sales pitch...Together..."

William the Bloody?...Jones asked...

"Mine..." Anne noted pleasantly...

Jones shrugged...At least he'd proven his theories' and the chip's value once again...And survival
was the important thing...

Anne looked at Warren who'd come over to take his place at the negotiating table...As befitting
the Fearless Leader of the Masters of the Sunnydale Universe...

"Warren?...I haven't had a chance to thank you yet...How'd you do it?..." A gentle Buffy grin that
Xander, looking over at them, couldn't bear to see...

Fearless Leader looked at her blankly...

"I mean about Buffy...What did you do to strengthen my hold?..." she stared at him...

Oh...Ummn...

"We played around with the chip's signal frequency..." he said brightly...

We did?...Andrew asked Jonathan...who'd brought the wounded Anya over to join Amy and
Xander...

Shut up...Jonathan hissed...

And keep an eye on that maniac...

Andrew looked...Mad doc, vampire, demon-possessed Slayer...Ummn...Which maniac?...

Buffy...er Anne...Moron...Jonathan whacked him...

Spike rolled over from where he lay and looked at Anne, Jones, and Warren as they discussed the
situation...Blinking...
***

Another all-nighter with Spike?...Dawn thought as she waited...Fiercely determined to have it out
with Buffy regarding her new beau...

If she could stay awake...It was now past two o'clock...

Of course, no one seemed to be home...Except Tara...Who'd told her she'd heard nothing from
anyone...

Not that she was all that much in the loop these days...Still...

An e-mail to Giles...Apologizing for past misdeeds...Kept her going after midnight till
one...When a steady stream of sugary cocoa became a necessity...

Least Buf might have done was leave her Spike's doc's phone number...Dawn thought...

She gave Tara another call...College students stay up late, right?...

"Anything?..." she asked anxiously...And sleepily...

No, hon...Nothing...Tara told her...

But howabout I come over and we see if they turn up soon?...

Dawn gratefully agreed, but had to leave the phone...

Something was barking and scratching at the front door...
***

"Hi...Spike..." Anne called out to him...Rather seductively...

Just give me a moment to take care of things here...she grinned at him...

He eyed her cautiously...Picking himself up carefully...

There is no honor among thieves and in general, with certain rare exceptions, little love lost
among demons...

His own passion for Dru having been rather a source of amusement to Angelis in the old days...
And, if truth be told, at times an embarrassment to Dru herself when she was in form...

Just a bit too extreme for your average vamp couple...A generalized attachment to the pride and
random mating within being the norm...

It was therefore unlikely that Anne's attachment to him went much beyond his usefulness to her
at this particular moment and a natural sexual attraction...

Yet...she seemed to instinctively trust him...And to expect that he would return
her feelings...

A hold-over from Buffy's personality?...

Of course she was clever enough to be capable of simply manipulating him...

The others were watching him carefully now, he knew...

Sure he'd betray them...And why not?...
This was what he'd wanted, after all...For so long...

Buffy in the grip of her own demon...Waiting and willing to join him...

And end the loneliness that even Dru could never quite fill...

And all he had to do was sit back and let her deal with things...

***

Jonathan secured the ropes around Xander, Anya, and Amy...

Willow remained frozen...Though a drop or two suggested a touch of melting...

"Should I try something?..." Amy hissed to Xander...

"Anything but the rat spell..." Xander noted, whispering back...

Ummn...Well...

"It's been almost three years..." she noted...

Letme think a mo...

Andrew however was watching, still on hand with freeze ray back-up...Which Anne noted
carefully...

"Honey?..." Xander turned to Anya...Who nodded...

I'll live...A leetle longer...she looked over at Anne and her partners...

Spike stood up and faced the partners...Anne waving the remote...Watch it, dearest...

"Don't you trust me, dear heart?..." he asked her...

She smiled angelically at him...

"Every bit as much as Dru or Darla would've, love..." she told him...

Just wait a bit...Right there...

She gasped suddenly, eyes rolling...A wave of ecstasy nearly paralyzing her...Damn that
chip...She glared at Warren...

"First order of business is you get this thing out of my skull..."
Might not be a good idea...Warren noted to her...

"Chip goes, Buffy may come back..."

Must be the cumulative effect...he thought...Buffy's getting more repressed the longer our
programming and the chip stay in...More required to bring her back, even in bot form, each
time...

Spike had noted Anne's glances at him and back to Andrew...Who remained on guard with the
freeze ray...And poor Willow nearby...In ice-block form...

He moved cautiously over towards the junior Master...Clearly Anne desired a shift in the balance
of power...And was offering him a chance to prove himself...

***
Qualities of Mercy...Part XXII...

Dawn peered out the front door eyehole...A large dog, barking and scratching at the door...

Hmmn...Sunnydale...Past two am...

Still a cute doggie, she noted...It having taken to sitting and looking at the eyehole...A sweetly
whining expression on its face...

Open the damn door, you moronic human...I'm trying to help...Gertfrood thought...

The things I do for my paying customers...It'll take hours for me to recover from this shape...

***

Spike ambled cautiously over towards where Andrew stood guard with the freeze ray...Trying to
watch Anne as well as the roped up gang members...

Jones caught sight of him...

"My boy!..." he called to Andrew sharply...

Spike raised hands slightly, an amused smile on his face...

"Just checking in with my friends, mate...Don't worry..." he indicated Willow...

"Red be ok?" Genuine concern in his voice...

Anne glanced at them...Then at Amy...

"Andrew...Watch the little witch...We don't want any surprises..." she called...

He nodded...

Willow'll be fine...Andrew noted to Spike...She'll just need a good thawing out...

"That thing could cause brain damage you know..." Spike noted...

Nah...You must've seen how that guard came through...Andrew replied...

Spike nodded and turned to Xander and the others...

"Well, folks...Looks like Spikey is in a bit of a moral dilemma here..."

Human friends and Slayer...Versus having my very own demonic Ms. Summers...And, at least
vicariously, resuming my old career...

"Of course you know my sympathies are with you..." he went on...

But...If one must settle...Better a demon Buffy than no Buffy...

"But I will do my best for you..." he grinned...

Intercede with the new Queen of Sunnydale and all that...

Laying it on a leetle thick, Spike...Xander thought...She's not an idiot, you know...

She knows you love Buffy...

"Suppose we take our friends back to your place..." Anne suggested to Dr. Jones...

"Just now I'd prefer if young William returned here..." Jones told Anne...

Of course...Anne smiled...

"Spike?...Back here, please..." she called...

He turned back...And suddenly staggered, clutching at his head...

Andrew moved towards him...You ok?...

Spike grabbed at the freeze ray, throwing Andrew back...

Arrgh...The chip fired... He stumbled but held on to the ray nozzle which broke loose from the
tank...
Swinging the balance of power to the lady with the large pistol...
***

Well, boys...Anne grinned...I guess you're no longer essential personnel...

Now that my Spikey is back...she smiled at Spike...Who struggling back to his feet, watched her,
saying nothing...

And ole doc here is willing to come on board...She smiled at Jones...

"We had a deal didn't we?..." Warren looked at her...

Did we?...Anne smiled sweetly at him...And laughed...

In a hard way that made them more nervous than ever...

No, you're absolutely right...Just kidding...I have a deal with the three of you...

And I keep my deals...Like a good human Slayer...

But see, guys...There are three of you, she pointed out...So, I kill two and the partnership still
goes merrily on...

"At least for the surviving partner...eh, Jonathan?"...she looked at him...Grinning...

Me?...Jonathan thought, happily...Well, I did give her that neat umbrella at the prom...he noted to
himself, smiling back...

Hey?...Fearless Leader was offended...

"These geeks are nothing without me...I'm the brains of this outfit...I designed the freeze ray, our
time-warping system..."

Our whole campaign plan was my idea...

Anne cocked her head at him...Really?...she smiled...

Andrew and Jonathan begged to differ...Grovelingly begging to differ...

Though Andrew kept his hand ready at the freeze trigger...Even without the nozzle and tube he
might be able to freeze...Something...

Hmmn...Anne pondered a bit...Looking at Spike...

"Well..." she noted to Warren... "If you're the brains of the group, I guess I should just kill you
and take over..."

Makes sense, right?...she smiled at him...

Sounds like a plan to me, Andrew noted...

Minion status might be a slight demotion but after all...Anne looked like a comer...Maybe even
beyond Sunnydale...

"Besides...Neither one of us cared much for that crappy bot copy of yours..." she glared at
Warren... "It was rather degrading now that I think about it..."

Hey...Now he was insulted...

"That bot was a work of art..."

Anyway, Spike commissioned her...he noted...Looking over at him...

"Spike, honey...What do you think I should do with 'em?..." Anne turned to Spike...

"Keep 'em for pets..." he noted genially...Coming back to her...

Science has its place...He pointed out...He smiled at her...

She looked at him carefully...Warren backed away towards Andrew...

We could've left...Jonathan noted to himself...We could've been miles away by now...But no...

The chip fired and Anne staggered a bit...Trembling...

"Careful, dear heart..." he looked at her...

Looks like we'd better keep the nerds alive...he noted...

We wouldn't want the little Buffy to come back...

"She's in nirvana..." Anne grinned at him...

A little more time and she'll be trapped there...Just like she was before...

"So it wasn't...Heaven...Buffy was off to?..." Spike asked her...

A waiting room, sort of...Thanks to Glory and the Key providing a most unusual form of
death...Anne told him...

She would have moved on eventually...Only I and others...Were set on keeping her there...

Just in case dear Willow or Giles tried to bring her back...

It was my last chance to reach...Home...she noted...

"And you came back with her?...And waited your chance?..." Spike looked at her...

My time should have come long ago...She insisted, indignant...Buffy should have made way for
me...

No Slayer has ever survived so long...

"It's their fault..." she glared at the gang... "They've kept her alive so long..."

But they'll pay for that...And so will Giles...When I catch up with him...

Another chip firing...She trembled...Blank for just a second...Spike noted...

He was almost by her side...

"Not too close, Spike..." Anne warned him...Showing the remote...

Not that I don't love you, snookums...she noted...Just want a leetle more proof of your devotion...

He stopped, nodding, and moved toward Warren...Who'd continued his steady backing away...

"Not leaving us, are you, Warren?..." he smiled at Fearless Leader...Taking his arm...

Dr. Jones drily suggested they wrap things up...He'd like to get some sleep this night, if
possible...

Anne agreed...Time to head over to his place...

"Andrew, Jonathan...Please get our partner and my friends into the car over there..." Anne told
them...

As for dear Willow...See if you can fit her into your van...Without breaking her...

Amy decided it was show-time if there ever was to be one for her...And let loose two balls of
heat...

One in Anne's general direction...More troublesome in its blinding and slight stunning
effect...The other...In Willow's...

***

Tara knocked at the Summers' door and found Dawn patting a large dog...Who seemed rather
agitated...

Playing with a stray dog...In Sunnydale?...Past two in the morning?...

She shook her head...Well, God blesses fools and children...And whatever the dog really was, it
seemed harmless enough...

"I don't think this is a dog..." Dawn noted to her...

It's been trying to tell me something I think...

She looked at Tara...

You don't think...This is Buffy?...she asked nervously...

Gertfrood sighed...It emerging as a mournful howl...

***
"Alright, dear heart?..." Spike helped the staggered Anne to her feet...Looking at her carefully...

While having kept a firm grip on the nervous Warren...Likewise briefly stunned by Amy's little
fireworks...

She gave a raging glare over at Amy and the others...And then nervously felt at her side...

Pistol...In place...

"Amy...You are going to wish you'd stayed a rat..." Anne called to her...With rather terrifying
calmness...Almost sweetly...

Andrew?...She called to her junior "partner"...

Any more tranquillizer darts left?...

"I think dear Amy had better go beddy-bye..."

He headed over toward the van...But halted...Looking at Willow...

Who was clearly starting a thaw...With a watery puddle forming at her feet...

He called back to Anne and the others...Trouble with our frozen girl...he noted...

Anne looked over...It'd still be a while...Willow's freeze was a deep one...

She glared at Amy who was staggering after her effort...Another thing to thank you for...Later...

She returned to Andrew, still watching Willow...

"Leave her...Get the darts and lets get moving..." she called...

Jonathan...Take the good doctor Jones to the car...she told him...

"Spike?..." she looked for him...

He was standing with Warren...

"Watch Xander and the others until Andrew gets back?...I'd rather not have to shoot them just
yet..." she noted grimly...

He went over, dragging Warren along...

Well, old pal?...he asked...Whispering...

Warren moving rather reluctantly in his grip...Looking back nervously at Anne as they reached
Xander and the others...

"Two hundred twenty over one fifty..." Warren hissed...

Better be sure, old friend...Spike told him...

Grinning at Xander...Who looked back, nodding slightly...As Andrew came over...Bearing darts...

Change of plan, Warren whispered to him...

Annie girl is just a leetle too crazy for my taste...

"Over here, Andrew..." Anne called to him...Pointing the pistol...

I can shoot much faster than you can if you're getting any ideas...

Go...Spike hissed...Don't try anything yet...

He went over towards Anne...Who took all but one dart from him and sent him back to dart
Amy...Still trying to keep her feet...

Long time no magics...Except for her little spell earlier...
The puddle around Willow's feet was deepening...But no signs of life as yet...

Spike headed back towards Anne...Warren in tow...Extremely reluctant tow...

***
Tara had given it a try restoring Gertfrood after feeling out her...its...aura...

With Willowian results...

Hmmn...I don't think it was a goat before it became a dog...Dawn noted...

Gertfrood annoyedly jabbed at Tara with her...its horn...

Idiot human...

Tara reversed the spell and looked at Dawn...

"Maybe...We should just it let take us to the others?..." Dawn suggested...

Worth a try, Tara noted...

"Ok, girl...Take us to Buffy and the others..." Dawn told Gertfrood, opening the front door...Who
stared at the girl a moment...An almost human expression of frustration on its face...

Anyanka and Spike owe me big time, Gertfrood noted to her...its...self...

***
Andrew had returned to the hostages...But to Anne's rapid annoyance seemed rather slow about
tranquillizing Amy...

"Andrew?!...Get a move on...Or I will remove those organs I promised to earlier..." she called to
him...

She turned to Spike...

Would he please see that moron boy gets on with it?...

She froze, seeing the expression on his face...

William the Bloody, locking onto target...

She felt her pocket...No remote...She looked up at her intended...

Who approached her...Carefully...But steadily...

"Looking for this, love?..." he asked her, holding up the remote...

She stared at him...And suddenly realized he....A lead-tolerant vampire...Was closer than any
potential human hostages...

Assuming, naturally, that the fate of Warren and Jones would be of little interest to him...

Spike?...

He was blocking her from the roped-up gang members now...

***

She looked at him...

"Spike...You and I...We're the ones meant to be..."

You can't ever...Hope for anything with Buffy...she pleaded...

He shook his head...

"Six months ago...It might have been enough...But not now...Now..."

I want more...

I want...To be what Buffy wants me to be...

"You're not a man...You'll fail, Spike...She'll kill you in the end..." Anne told him...

Maybe...But...I'd like to give it a try...he replied...

"Vampiral immortality gets so dull after the first century...Another crack at Humanity might be
interesting..."

Especially with Buffy Summers pulling for me...he noted...

"I can give you all you ever dreamed of, Spike...Just help me..." she fired, staggering him slightly
while Warren hit the ground...

He smiled gently at her...

"My name is William, dear heart...And the only help you'll ever get from me is a one way ticket
back to Hell..."

He pressed the remote...
Anne trembled, her eyes rolling back, and collapsed...

Just a leetle too much happiness, courtesy a change in signal frequency, he noted to Xander and
Anya...Who Andrew had now released...Amy still on her feet, but exhausted, now finally
collapsed...

Dr. Jones, noting that the situation had changed drastically, broke loose of Jonathan, and fleeing
to his own car with surprisingly agility once again for such an elderly fellow, raced off into the
night...

***

Buffy awoke, groggy...

Apparently neither Anne nor bot...

Looking at Spike...Who now held her gently...

As she tried to speak...

"Just hold on a bit, Buffy..." Spike told her...

We're going to reverse whatever the three dweebs did to you...

"Aren't we, boys?..." he looked at the Masters of the Sunnydale Universe...

Ummn...Yeah...

Quick couple of runs on the ole hypnodisk should fix her up just fine...Warren noted brightly...

Go get it, mate...Spike looked at Jonathan...

And then lets head over to the good doctor's clinic for a little chip removal/hypno-purging...

"Hey?..." A feeble cry...

"Gimme...A minute...Coming..." Came a call...

"Will?..." Xander called to the staggering Wiccan...Struggling with half-frozen limbs...

Hold up there a minute...he called...And went back to her...

"Co...Co..."

Cold?...Xander finished helpfully...she nodded...
I'll bet...he grinned, throwing his jacket around her...And surveyed the scene...Wounded Anya
standing by hypno-chip shocked Buffy, Amy out cold...Three sheepish-looking nerds, clearly
anxiously to avert their just fates...

And our hero...

My friend, William the Bloody...he thought...

Who, much to my own astonished surprise...I never doubted...

I have a feeling I'm going to have to learn to accept some preety bizarre things...Xander
thought...Watching Spike cradling a now sleeping Buffy gently in his arms...

But then, look what we've learned to accept already...

Just goes with the Slayer biz...

He led Willow carefully back to the others...

***

They'd gotten Buffy back to Jones' clinic...No sign of the good doctor...

The Masters under close guard with their hypno equipment...

"Willow?..." Spike looked at her...And at Buffy who lay sleeping on the exam table...

A reasonably thawed Willow made a few quick, light checks...Then a deeper probing...No sign of
Anne...

Gone...Fled back to Hell, perhaps?...

"Guess she couldn't stand being so happy..." Willow told them...Grinning...

She knew the game was up, Spike told them...Didn't want to give us a chance to block her
permanently...

But Buffy is free of her...At least, as free of her as any of you are of your demons...he grinned at
Xander...

"Like I said before..." Anya noted...

No staying power...

Xander carefully explained the situation to a slowly recovering Amy...
Alls well...No small part thanks to you...he noted...

She nodded gratefully and fell asleep...

***
Under Spike, Willow, and Xander's carefully supervision, Warren removed the positive
reinforcement chip...And showed them the workings of the hypnodisk...

Andrew and Jonathan politely attentive during the procedure...
***
Buffy slept on...But was at last free of Warren's little tinkering...

Willow sat beside her...Still a bit stiff herself...

And definitely not in a mood to deal with the three dweebs...

Amy slept next to them on another exam bench...

Magics...Willow grinned at Xander, noting Amy...Takes a lot out of a novice...

He nodded and went to join Spike and Anya...

Time to see to the nerds' punishment...

I could have handled this...Willow told herself after Xander left as she watched the sleeping
Buffy...

If they'd just let me...

She rubbed her head...Why was she upset?...Alls well that ends well...

Still...I could've...she noted to herself...I know I could've...
***

"Boys?..." Spike quietly looked at the Masters...

Who gulped in unison...

"I think we can wrap up this evening now..." he told them... "You boys have learned a lesson
tonight, right?..." He looked carefully at each of them in turn...

They nodded...Again in unison...

And you do know that we will kill you if you ever cross our paths again...Or we ever catch you
harming anyone, right?...
That includes freezing elderly security people, right?...

Ummn...Right...

He opened the office door...And...To Xander and Anya's shocked surprise...

Waved them out...

"Good night, fellas..."

And closed the door...

He looked at the startled couple...What?...

"You know Buf would have my head if I hurt them...Right?..."

Weell...Xander noted...She might have approved a leetle vigorous tongue-lashing...

Besides, Spike noted, my chip is back to normal, I couldn't kill them...Without a certain degree
of unpleasant agony...But, if Buffy wants to, we can always hunt them down later...

They're not exactly a difficult bunch to find...he grinned...

A rather frantic banging at the clinic door...

Anya went over and after looking out the eyehole, opened the door...An exhausted, frantic Dawn,
tired and somewhat frantic Tara, and a large...

"Gertfrood?..." she stared at the dog...

***
Qualities of Mercy...Part XXIII...

Time the Slayer went home to bed, Spike noted to Xander and Anya...

Not to mention our magics ladies...None of whom was more than barely awake...

And a certain Niblett, already snoring away in Anya’s arms...

“I’ll take you home, Will...” Xander told him...

Nice job...Spike grinned at Gertfrood as they stood up to go...Still in canine form...

“I’ll see that the Slayer is made aware...” he patted her...it...

Is she stuck like that?...Xander asked Anya...

Oh, no...It’s just...Animal form is very tiring...Takes a lot out of one...

You should have seen Dracula after he’d been a wolf for an hour or two...she noted...

Dead to the world for a day...

When will I learn never to ask her questions regarding demons or her past life...Xander thought...

***
Anya, Tara, and Willow got Dawn, Buffy, and Amy to the Summers’...

Best to let Amy sleep it off here...Willow noted...

No desire to have to explain why we’re trying to carry a sleeping girl no one knows to my dorm at five in the morning...

She looked at Tara, raising her hands...Magics-free tonight, I swear...Except for my one try at the mad doc’s...Tara grinned back...

Line of duty, she nodded...But...

Hot bath’s the ticket for you sweetie...she noted...Best if you stick around anyway in case Dawn and Buffy need you...

“Couldn’t you stay?...” Willow asked her...Pleading...

We’ll talk...Tomorrow, I promise...Tara patted her hands...

And now you get to that bath and bed...

Willow nodded...And kissing her, thanked Anya and went inside...Buffy and Dawn already safely deposited in their respective beds, Amy out in Joyce’s bed...

Tomorrow...she thought...Tomorrow...I’ll make her see...And stay...

***

“Well...” Xander looked at Spike...As he pulled up next to the cemetery gates...

Yeah?...Spike looked at him...An amused grin...

Harris at a loss for words...What an earth-shaking event...

Xander looked at the steering wheel...Never, ever, ever thought I’d be saying this...

Better you than Angel...he blurted out...

“If it has to be a vampire...”

Buf deserves someone who’ll put her first, Will...He continued to look straight at the steering wheel...

“Naturally...If you ever let her down...”

“You’re a good brother, Xander Harris...” Spike grinned at him...And turned serious...

I don’t know if Buffy can deal with this...And I won’t press her...Again...

It’s enough now...Just to know...That she cares...

“Unfortunately...” Xander grinned a little sadly at him... “That won’t be enough...”

She needs you, Will...You’re trapped now, I’m afraid...Unless of course you plan to make like an Angel or a Riley and vamoose...

“What can I give her?...” Spike looked at him... “Nothing...”

Xander stared at him...

A little late for that now, I’d say...Besides...

Life...Or at least, soul-saving heroics ain’t a bad start...

“Will, Buffy may have saved the world...And killed a lot of evil...”

But you saved a soul tonight... he noted...And even the Slayer can’t top that...

“Maybe...” he smiled at Spike... “Maybe you saved two souls tonight...”

Spike looked out, saying nothing...

“Well...” Xander nodded... “Lets take it as it comes...For now, anyway...”

“I’m proud to call you my friend Will...” He put out his hand...

At least until I have to stake you...he grinned...

“You’re still a moronic sot, Harris...” Spike smiled at him...Taking the hand...
Xander nodded...Definitely...To be doing this...

“Of course...You still owe me $5000...” he smiled at Spike...
***

Willow’s deep sleep was rudely interrupted at ten the next morning...Friday...By an upset Dawn...

“Dawn?...” she groggily woke on the couch, blinking at her...

“Buffy is gone!...Gone!...” Dawn told her...

That thing must’ve come back inside her...Look at this note...

Willow blinked at the note...

“Dawn...

Get to school today whether you’re late or no...I’ve left a note for you to take and I’ll be checking on you. I’ve gone to see Will for a bit. Back in a bit.

Buffy”

Doesn’t sound demonic to me...she noted to Dawn...

And you’d better get off to school...

“She’s gone to see Will?...Today!?...After all that happened last night?!...” Dawn was in near-hysterics...

“Dawn...You’d better leave this to Buffy and Sp...and Will...” Willow noted...

“What if this is a trick?...If this Anne is back?...”

Dawn...Willow looked at her sleepily...Anne is gone...Home to Hell or wherever she came from...

As for Will, if he wanted Anne, he had his chance last night...

Dawn remained unconvinced...Someone had to look out for her sis...In what was clearly her current deranged state of mind...

Hmmn...I thought she liked Spike...Willow wondered groggily...

Maybe a leetle calming spell...she thought...No, God...What’s with me...
Tara’s right...Too much with the magics...

“Get to school, Dawn...” she mumbled, going back under the blanket...

I’ll check up on Buffy later...I promise...

A frustrated Dawn left her and headed for the door...

Time to confront Sis and her vamp beau before things went any farther...

“Dawn?...” Buffy looked at her as she softly opened the front door... “I thought my note said for you to get to school...”

We do not need another meeting with the principal...

“I was just going...It was five am before we got back you know...” Dawn noted...Struggling to keep her tone calm...

“Well?...” she looked at her sis... “You went to Spike’s this morning?...”

I had to...Buffy looked back at her...

I had to thank him...And...

Remind him we have a dinner date here tonight...Thought he might have thought it was off...

“Dinner?...Date?...Here?...” Dawn trembled a bit...

Yes...Dinner...Date...And here...Buffy told her...

To which you are not invited...she smiled...

So, if you’d like to do something with Willow...Or somebody else...

Except...Janice...Buffy noted firmly...

Ok...So long as I know where you’ll be...

“But...”

School...she told her, a Slayer note creeping into her voice...Now...

Dawn left, muttering...

“Dinner...With Spike?...” Willow rolled over to look at Buffy...
With William...Buffy told her...Firmly...
***

Both Willow and Buffy had gone by the time Amy awoke...

Buffy having left a note...Plenty in the fridge for breakfast, gone to the market, then Magic Shop...Willow to class...

And...

“Thanks...”

Amy grinned...And suddenly froze...

But...Maybe...If Willow hadn’t shown any of the spell’s effects...Maybe it hadn’t worked...And she was fine...

She had to tell someone, however...She realized that now...If she wanted to stay...In this family...

She couldn’t risk letting Willow hurt or be hurt...And didn’t want to...Anymore...

And her new family was after all, a merciful bunch...Who could forgive much...So long as no one suffered permanent harm...

But who to tell?...Where to find them?...

Well, Buffy was headed for the Magic Shop later...And Xander, the most merciful of the bunch, would be there...Eventually...

If she could just tell Xander...Before anything happened...And he could break it to Willow...

After all...To break the spell, she’d need Willow or Tara’s help...

What with nearly three years in a rat cage and all...She’d been lucky to get the spell right in the first place...

***
Qualities of Mercy...Part XXIV

Amy found Xander talking with Anya in the shop around noon...Leetle too busy a night for work today, especially as he was nervous about Anya’s wounds...

Which she was recovering from nicely, they assured her...

No sign of Willow as yet...
Amy quietly asked Xander to give her a moment alone with him...Anya rather uncertainly accepted the situation...

She still wasn’t sure about Amy...Xander had known her longer, after all...

Xander listened patiently...Amy telling him everything...

“I don’t know why I did it, exactly...I was so...Angry...At everyone...” she looked at him...

He sighed...

“Amy...I can’t blame you for wanting to hurt us...We didn’t do enough to help you...” Xander told her...

But you havfta understand...It’s been quite a couple of years...

Amy looked at Xander...

“Please don’t hate me...I couldn’t bear it...”

He patted her shoulder...Anya watching, nobly repressed the urge to run over...

I understand...And Will will too...he assured her...

Particularly if no one gets hurt...

Now...To practical matters...

Can we break the spell?...Before it gets too strong?...he asked...

“I don’t know...” she pulled out a sheet of paper with writing from a large book...

This is the book I used and the spell...

“We have to tell Willow...Soon as possible...” he noted...

***

I haven’t felt like this...Since I died...Buffy noted in wonder...

Well, kick your demonic counterpart back to Hell and your spirits are bound to lift...

In fact, she realized...I’m a little giddy...

Raving about the chicken she’d bought...The finest chicken ever raised...She’d noted in gratitude to the poultry clerk...

The market seeming like a little wonderland...Delights in every corner...

Well...I wanted that feeling of Heaven back...And here it is...Possibly in part a side effect of my dear nerd buddies’ joy chip, of course...But part genuine...

However...I think it’s time to settle back down to Earth...Especially with cooking in store...

A skill which all my Slayer ability has never raised above mediocre...

Or worse...If Dawn’s grousing is as justified as she insists...

But I’m alive again, at last...And it’s good to be alive...

And in love...
***
Buffy called the Shop about two...

She was running late...Could they...Possibly?...

“Cover?...” Xander smiled at the phone....My God, Buffy...After last night?...And with a date with William the Bloody in the works?...

“We’ll call if there’s anything...”

I’m on it as far as Patrol goes...she noted...

Will will probably go with me, anyway...

Something tells me vamps are gonna have it easy tonight, Xander thought...

“Xander?...Thank you...You know...” Buffy told him...

I should have come over to do it right...she noted...But tomorrow...

“You sound preety good, Buf...Better than I’ve heard you in a while...” Xander replied...

“I feel preety good...:” she told him... “I really feel like I’ve come back to life...”

That’s what we’ve been waiting to hear...he told her...

“Tell William to behave himself on the first date...”

He looked at the others...She does sound happy...Lets hope for the best...
“Call us tonight?...” he asked her...Anya will be waiting breathlessly...

She glared over at him...Hey...

And so will I...he noted...

“Love you, Big Brother...” Buffy told him...

Thank you...Amy looked gratefully at him as he hung up...

We’ll keep it on a need to know basis...For now...he told her...

Willow entered...

She seemed normal enough, Xander noted...

Maybe Amy’s spell had failed...

“Will?...” he called to her...

“Amy has something she needs to tell you...”

Willow looked at them...

“Do you people think there’s a thing you can hide from me?...” she asked coldly...

I can see the blackness in all your hearts...Just waiting to surface...

“No...” Amy told Willow... “Willow, you’re not yourself...My spell’s affecting you...”

“No?...” Willow grinned at her...

Not that I’d ever want to be in the debt of a treacherous bitch like you...Willow grinned at Amy...

But you have helped me to see...The world as it is...

“Will...” Xander called to her... “Amy is telling the truth...She was upset about what happened to her...She did a leetle magics...We’re gonna remove it...”

“Amy?...” Willow looked at her...Their dear friend had not spent the past years tranquilly awaiting restoration Willow realized now, as she explained to Xander....

“She wants to kill me...” All of us...she noted...

“No...Will...She was hurt and afraid...She didn’t know what she was doing...Like you now...” Xander pleaded...

Hear it yourself...Her blackest thoughts...Willow concentrated...

“If there was anything I ever hated in all this time...It was the sound of your little squeaking voice, bitch...” Amy found herself speaking...

You “released” me?...Amy looked at Willow...

Well...Guess you did...Guess you finally did...

When you ran out of games for me to play...When you had a boring morning free...Yeah, I should be on my knees with gratitude...

All that time...All of it...Gone...Look at me...

Did you think I didn’t know?...That I didn’t see?...

You...You and your friends...Giles...All of them...Left me...

You...And your Tara...

Played with me...Like I was a toy...A pet...

Never made any real effort to help me...Laughing at me...

Playing “turn Amy back” was a game to you...

“Did you think I didn’t know?!!”...She lunged at Willow who smashed her across the face, staggering her...She sat down...

“I should cut your throat right now, bitch...No...no...” Amy paused, thinking “I should cut your stomach open...And let you bleed slow...Let it take days...Years...”

Like it did for me...

But then...You’d probably get off on that, wouldn’t you...You’re not the little Willow I used
to know anymore...

No one is the one I used to know anymore...Amy looked away...Then, breathing hard, looked back at her...

Pity the other one isn’t here...I’d love to make you watch while I took care of her...

But the course of true love, you know...Amy grinned at her...Not smooth...
She stopped...And looked at them...Shaken and ashamed...

Willow smiled coolly at Xander who shook his head...

“She can’t help herself, Will...And that isn’t how she feels now...”

“Really?...” Willow grinned...”Sure sounded sincere to me...”

Maybe we should hear from Anya...she grinned...See what she’s keeping bottled up inside...

“Don’t do this Will...” Xander told her...

Anya grabbed at the talisman Giles had given her...

To neutralize the emanations of a witch...With Willow specifically in mind should she ever become a danger...

The spell failed...And Willow was not amused...

“Give me that thing...” she told Anya...

If you don’t give me that thing...she glared fiercely...Looking at Xander who regarded her sadly...

Amy snatched the talisman out of Anya’s hand...Willow jumped back...

A protected witch...

“Amy...I relea...” Willow began...

“I don’t want to hear it, girlfriend...” Amy told her...

SHUT UP!!!...Amy stopped her...With a spell that at least to Willow’s pov had somehow sealed her mouth...

Phew...Amy grinned at the shaken Xander and Anya...

Sorry, Anya...I couldn’t fight Willow on equal terms....she noted...

Willow stood struggling to speak...

“No voice, no spell...A leetle trick my mom used...On me once or twice...” Amy ruefully noted...

“Well...Now you know just how angry I was...” she bit her lip in embarrassment...

Thanks for speaking up for me...she smiled wanly at Xander...
Merciful, compassionate Xander...Sadly, one of a kind...But, maybe...In time...My Big Brother too...she thought...

Guess we’d best get to trying to lift this thing...she looked at them...

Tara entered the shop and they explained the situation to her as quickly as possible...Before she attempted an impromptu Willow rescue...

She was perhaps, less forgiving than Xander, but agreed to help Amy with the spell break....

***
He reached the Summers’...

And entered, privileged guest that he was...

No sign of Dawn...

In the living room Buffy was listening to a tape through headphones...

She pulled the earphones down to her neck...

“Right on time, Will...” she told him...

She removed the phones and stood up, zipping up a duffel bag without looking at him...

He caught just a snatch as she reached to shut off the tape...Springstein...

She tossed a small bag at him which he caught neatly...A blood bag...

Buffy motioned for him to sit a moment...

“Go ahead...It’s alright...I’m sure you haven’t fed in a while...And I’d rather you did it here...”

She sat down on the edge of the couch...

Ummn...Buffy...

Prefer not to stain your rug...

She passed him a plate which sat on the coffee table...

He began drinking as discretely as he could...

There’s this couple I know...she began...Not looking at him...

Friends of my Mom’s...

The lady...was in a terrible incident...Got pushed in front of a subway train..

By some deranged guy...

Lost her legs, nearly bled to death...

Poor kid suffered brain damage, scarred and disfigured for life...

Took years to learn to speak and read again and all that...Her whole life changed in a second...

Not by her fault in any way...

She gets confused, even bizarre sometimes...Most of her friends, except my Mom and a couple others ...Abandoned her...Too difficult to deal with...

Has even gotten violent at times...she noted...Though thank God for medication...

A real pain in the butt at times...As she herself told me...Buffy grinned at him...

Her husband met and fell in love with her after all that happened...In spite of the way she acts...Sometimes...

Spike looked at her...

She continued...

He found a way to see her best and deal with the rest...

And she tries to give him her best...But it’s an effort...And she fails sometimes...

But he deals...Or did, last time Mom and I saw them...

“Love, I guess...” she finished...

Looking at him carefully...

Come with me, Buffy told him...

He followed her...

***

The Sunnydale Art Museum...Joyce’s workplace...
The place was open a bit late tonight...They just made it...

He looked at her...

“Bathroom...” she pointed...

Until they close...

***
About half an hour later he emerged, looking round carefully...

She was standing, looking at a painting...Rather intensely...

Hmmn...Always suspected it...he thought...Grinning at her...

Buffy Summers, closet art lover...

After all, Joyce...

She saw him and led him to the area Joyce had set up...Her last work...

They looked at the arrangements...Rather avant-garde stuff...

“I’ve...Been here before, Buffy...” he told her...

She looked at him in surprise...

Not with ill intent, he noted carefully...

“I just thought...It would help me understand you and Joyce...Better...”

She nodded...

And pulled out a blanket from her duffel bag which she laid down...

He looked around a bit...Ummn...Security may not care for this...

“What are you doing?...”she asked him...Grinning at his nervous face...

No lasers, no security grid...she noted...They can’t even afford cameras here...

The one guard’s sleeping in his booth outside the building...

Oh...Hmmn...

Americans...No value put on anything meaningful...he thought...

She waved at him to sit down with her...

***

She pulled out a tape player...

More...U2?...he asked...Trying to find words...

She started the tape softly playing...Springstein...“Secret Garden”...

You got it wrong the other night, Spike...she told him...

He stared at her...

“With that minion thing of Sweet’s...You said...One day he’d be a real boy...”

But you’re the one who wants to be a real boy...Pinocchio...she smiled...

And I guess...That makes me the Blue Fairy...

She looked carefully at him...

“You rejected the other one last night...A pure demon...A monster...Wouldn’t do that...”

“Are you William?...” she asked...

Buffy...I...Don’t...he looked at her...

“I don’t know anymore...”

“Can you be William for me?...” she asked...

You can’t trust in me, he told her...Tears in his eyes...

“I can deal with Spike...If he ever tries to come between us...But...” she hesitated...

“Can..you..be..William?...” she looked at him, pleading...

As long as I live?...she stared at him...

The image of Drusilla flashed in his mind...Asking him...

Can it be so simple?...Is this...Redemption?...he wondered...
No...he realized...Not simple...

The hardest thing in the world...And everyday...Until she...Until they both...Died...

He would have to fight...

Oh, God...he begged, silently...looking at her open-hearted face ...Pleading but...

Somehow...Sure...

Of him?...

Take pity on me, God...On her...Tell me what to do...

Don’t let me hurt her...Ever...

She looked at him...Waiting...

Yes...he gasped...

She nodded and kissed him gently...

This is the real place to feel Mom’s spirit...she noted...

Not that damned grave...

She took his hand...He looked at her...

She called out softly into the room...

“Mom...This is William...?...” she looked at him...Well?...

Oh...

“William...Soames Walthrop..” he told her...

Mom...This is William Soames Walthrop...A good man...

I love him...

He looked at her...He couldn’t help...Trembling...Couldn’t stop...

Don’t be afraid, Will...she told him...Touching his cheek...

“‘Cause I’m not...” she embraced him...
***
He was crying...

Will...Will...she murmured...Crying herself...as she stroked his hair...

“I never thought...After all this time...That anyone would ever hear me...That anything...So beautiful could still come to me...” he suddenly gasped...through choking tears...

***
Qualities of Mercy...Part XXV...Conclusion....


With a hint of formality, Buffy requested that the entire gang meet at the Shop the next morning...

Amy joining at Buffy's request...And with Xander's and Willow's approval...

The little magics incident being best quietly forgotten...A minor consequence of three years' suffering...

Which after all, as Willow had admitted to Tara and Xander after the spell was lifted, had only reminded her of how dangerous her magics had become...And the urgent need to back off and learn restraint...

Anya concurred...After all, there were a few things Anyanka had been involved in which were likewise best forgotten, she guiltily noted...

And me too...Xander pointed out...Yep, no desire for Buffy to find out I remembered jackal boy's rape attempts...among other things, he thought...

Buf's not the only one with a raging demon waiting in Hell...he concluded...

Hmmn...Willow couldn't help noting as they waited for Buffy and Dawn in the shop...Might have been interesting to see that "darker side exposed" spell of mine on a few more people at that...

Kidding...Kidding...she nudged Xander...Who stared at her...

She turned to Amy...Who was a little withdrawn under Tara's modest glare...

"I should have tried harder to let you know I wanted to help you, honey..."

I guess I didn't want to admit...Even to a rat...That I just didn't have the skill...

Welcome home...she patted her...

Amy nodded...Finally feels like it...she sheepishly admitted...

"Will you do something for me?..." Willow looked at her...

Amy stared...

"Call your dad...Or at least someone..."

You may be surprised how much you've been missed...

But if it doesn't work out...Willow paused...Your family here loves you...

"Absolutely..." Xander agreed...

Right, sweetie?...Willow nudged Tara...

Yeah, right...she sighed, but smiled at Amy...And no magics for you...Tara frowned at Willow...

Research only...I swear...Willow held up her hand...Looking hopefully at her girl...

Well...We'll see...Tara noted...

"Say...How's our pet demon?..." Xander asked Anya...

Oh...Gertfrood's back to normal, more or less...She called this morning...Anya noted...

Speaking of which, honey...Anya looked at him...

"I have a favor to ask..."

"$500 more's the best I can do for now..." he replied...Not that she...it...doesn't deserve more for trying to help last night...

Well, actually...she...it...Had something else in mind...

Ummn...He blinked...

Anya can't have gotten that broad-minded, he thought...

Even for an old friend...

***
Dawn entered, looking a trifle grim...

More than just a teen missing out on her Saturday morning, Willow noted...
Followed by...What appeared to be a mummy, swathed in bandages...Pushed in by Buffy...

"Hi, Spike..." Xander grinned at him...

Nice threads...

Buffy unwrapped her package to reveal...A rather uncomfortable looking Spike...In his Randy suit...

But a Spike who...Somehow...Looked like a very happy fellow...

"Ladies and gentleman..." Buffy grinned at Xander...

Mr. William Soames Walthrop...Poet and Cambridge University graduate...Well, almost graduate...she noted...

"My new Watcher..."
***

Xander frowned a bit but made no objection...Willow looked at her...

But kept mum...

Dawn was, surprisingly, not all that overjoyed...

Much as she liked the romance of Spike and her sis in theory...When it seemed likely to be put into practice...

Buffy smiled at them but there was steel in her voice...

This was non-negotiable, folks...

"I need a Watcher...Whatever Giles may feel about my being too dependent on him, I have to have help...Someone I can count on to do the donkey work..."

And William needs a steady job...She grinned at him...

Which Giles is hard at work arranging...If the Council will go for it, she added nervously...

But...If they want me...And they do...Will is part of the deal...she concluded...

Besides...I remembered Randy actually had looked preety good in that suit...

A true Giles...
***
"Xander...?" Willow asked...

Are we really going to let her do this?

"Better Spike than some human guy..." Xander noted, to her surprise...

"We can stake Spike if he gives her any trouble...Not an option with a human jerk..."

A point there, Willow had to admit...Especially if she stuck to her no-magics pledge...

She went over to greet the new Watcher...

The Council will go for it, I'm sure...she assured Buffy and William...

Hell, she thought...A reformed vampire Watcher...Travers will be flying over here to pose for pictures...

Another victory for the COW over the forces of darkness...

And they get Buffy back as "their" Slayer...

But Spike had a request of her...Which Buffy reluctantly accepted...Though she had no need of it...

"A probe?.. " Willow looked at him... "Of you?..."

Buffy feels some human is alive in me...he noted to her...That I'm the equivalent of some fellow with a mental illness, Alzheimer's or something like that...The chip acting as my medication...

If she's going to risk trusting me...I'd like to have proof for myself that she's right..Some hope that we'll have a future...At least for the afterlife...

"Well...I'm out of the practice..." Willow noted...But if Tara...And maybe Amy...
***
Tara and Amy set up for Will's probe following Willow's guide lines...

In spite of herself, Dawn found herself hopeful...For William...

The friend who'd kept her safe all summer couldn't simply be a monster...

Willow paused by Anya...Had to ask...

"What exactly did Gertfrood want, anyway?..." she asked...

Night of hot sex with our favorite contractor?...she grinned at Xander...Who rolled his eyes...
Oh...She wants to a bridesmaid...Anya explained...

Willow blinked...

"Which actually works for me..." Anya went on...

I haven't that many female friends to ask...

I think Gertfrood's lonely...It's probably a good idea to encourage any ties to Humanity we can anyway...Anya noted...Xander grinning at Willow and shrugging...

So...She'll have one old friend from the bad old days dropping by for coffee every now and then...

Besides...I may actually have to invite the nerds...he noted...

What?...Willow looked at him...

We'll need more ushers...And I don't have all that many friends around my age...

Anyway, we should keep in touch with em...Keep them out of trouble if possible...he smiled...

Redemption...Our new line at Scooby, Inc...Willow thought, grinning back...

And a rather promising one...she noted, looking at Anya, Will, and Amy...
***

They were watching with rather baited breath...Buffy however, serenely waited at Giles' conference table reading a book on Introductory Psychology...She already knew what she needed to know...

Time she made another try at college, she'd noted to Dawn and William...

"We can't do this if you all keep crowding round..." Amy noted shyly to the gang...Tara agreeing...

All but Willow pulled back...She continuing to monitor their efforts...

We should've done this before...Willow thought guiltily...I should've done this for Spike before...

Still...It really has been a busy year...And before that, Spike would likely not have greeted news of any human traces left with much enthusiasm...

Amy and Tara looked at each other...And at Willow...Who trembled a bit...

Well?...Spike looked at them...Am I that bad a lot?...
Willow walked over to Buffy...Dragging a bit...

"It doesn't matter what you saw, Will..." Buffy kept on reading...

I know William...He loves me and that makes him human...

"Buffy...I'm so ashamed..."

Willow?...She put the book down...

I should have realized, sensed it...No wonder he chased after every Slayer he could find...

I could have tried to help him...Willow went on...

Dru must have screwed up the transformation...Maybe deliberately...

Buffy stared at her...

"He's just like you were...When Anne was inside you...Only Will wasn't a Slayer...He couldn't overcome Spike..."

All he could do was try to push him into the path of anything they met that might be able to release him...

At least until the chip...And you...

They're both there...Willow looked at her...He's been trapped there for a century...

***
Time to say good-bye and good riddance...Buffy noted, looking around the crypt...

No way my Will is staying here alone another day...Of course we will have to tape up the basement windows carefully...At least until Willow, Amy, and Tara can find another one of those crystals or something...

A somewhat scratchy record was playing...

It's my turn to choose the music, William smiled...

"Speak low..." the singer crooned gently... "Darling, speak low..."

"Everything ends...Too soon...Too soon..."

"What is that?..." she asked... "It's beautiful..."

"Kurt Weill...Ever hear of him?..."

He wrapped an arm around her...

"I'm not totally illiterate, Will..." she groused...As she followed his lead...Which he couldn't resist noting to her...

First time for everything...she replied....Hmmn...Weill?...

He wrote "Mack the Knife"...she noted...Proudly...

He bowed slightly as he swirled her around the room...

Buffy grinned at him...

He grinned back...Well...

At least we share some tastes in music...

I can't promise you a thing, William...Buffy told him...

I really don't know where this will go...Or how it will end...

All I can do is hope...And all you can do is try...

"I know..." he smiled...

"But what does it matter...If you have to stake Spike tomorrow?..." he told her, looking carefully at her face...

William will always be here...Waiting for you...We know that now...

Thank God for the quality of mercy...Raised to an exponential level in my Slayer...he noted...

She wrapped an arm around him and held him tightly as they danced...Slowly...And gently...

The Slayer and her new Watcher...

"....will you speak low to me?...Speak love to me?...And...Soon?..." the singer finished...

Hmmn...she thought...A romance with a man who's seen the last 100 years may have its interesting aspects...

Especially if his sole focus is not achieving redemption through saving the world...

***
GoBack