"The Buffy Effect..." I

A shortie...

PG-13

Disclaimer: No, Joss, no...I make no claims, put that thing down! It's all yours and ME's

Spoilers for Angel to this week...Flee at once!...



Summary: Similiar to my Immortal Beloved series of sketches, and my Semi-Parallel Lives bits mostly just short brainstorming ideas for other tales...Some may be longer...Lil' ode to three of my favorite characters in this one...

I'm holding the prologue for later and dropping you right in the middle...

Play main theme.

***



"Let me get this straight..." Commander William Adama eyed the young blonde who'd appeared in the middle of his ops center out of nowhere ten minutes before...

"Despite throwing five of my people across the deck with one hand...You're not a Cylon...You're not even from our universe?..."

But you are from Earth?...

"She's a Cylon, Commander...They all are...It's obvious..." Dr. Baltar nervously insisted... "Let me get a sample and test her..."

"Just a moment, doctor...Miss?..."

"Summers, Buffy Summers..."

"And you, sir?..." Adama turned to the nervous, rather shifty-eyed young man standing near her...

"Mears, Warren Mears...But I'm not with her, hey she dragged me here out of my universe..." Mears fumed...

"It was an accident...Well, my going to his universe as well as my coming here..." Buffy sighed... "See, I'm trying to alter some events in my timeline and things got a little screwed and I wound up on alternate worlds...But don't listen to a word this little rat says, it's all lies...I needed someone to repair my transit device and he made me think he was a half-decent guy, then he goes and tries to steal..."

Though I shoulda known, he being a Mears...They're no good in nearly every universe, I'd say...she sighed...

"Hey!..."

"As for this Cylon stuff..." she shook her head... "I don't have the slightest idea what that is, unless it's some kinda demon...I'm the Slayer, I kill vampires and demons...But I am human...Your weird friend over there can check me out if you want..."

Though I don't know if my kind of human comes out human here...she looked a bit sheepish...

"Couldn't ya just let me have my transit emitter back and I'll go and take the jerk here back to his place?...And it's all even...Ok?"

"I'm afraid it's not that easy, Miss...And we have our other Earth guests here as well..."

"Other Earth guests?..." Baltar blinked... "What other Earth guests?...Why wasn't I informed, I'm the Vice-President of the Colonies..."



I don't like this, Gaius...Number Six whispered in his mind...This isn't part of God's Divine Plan...

"Well, how about explaining the damned Plan to me for once!..." he shouted...

The entire deck's compliment staring at him...

"I mean, I deserve to know what's going on here!..."

"We pulled in a ship twenty minutes ago, Mr. Vice-President..." Adama putting heavy formality on the title...

"The occupitants claimed to be from Earth...A colonization expedition which ran into some difficulties..."

"Colonists?...From Earth?..." Baltar and a number of clueless staff stared...

"We must be getting near it, if our 'map' from the tomb of Athena is correct..." the Commander noted...

"Saul?..." Adama turned to Tigh...Who frowned...

"I say put 'em all out the airlock...The good doctor's detector's a bunch of crap and if this one at least's not a Cylon, I must be..." he glared at Buffy, having been one of the five tossed...

"I don't like the coincidence, two sets of Earth people arriving here at once...Doctor?...Could we compare the DNA samples if they all check out clear on your detector and confirm they're all from the same gene pool?..."

"Well..." Baltar considered...

Gaius, I don't like this...Be careful...The voice whispered...

"But we're from..." Buffy began...

"Another Earth in another universe, right...We'll see if we can confirm that, but first lets see that you're all human and if you're all related..." Adama eyed her firmly...

The door to the deck from the hallway opened, Apollo leading in several human-looking types and a rather interesting robot of somewhat primitive design by Colonial standards...Several guards following round them, guns trained on the robot...

"Greetings..." Adama eyed the new group... "I'm Commander William Adama, and as you've been informed you're aboard the Battlestar Gallactica, lead ship of the Colonial fleet...This is my executive officer, Colonel Saul Tigh, and the Vice-President of our Colonies, Dr. Gaius Baltar...Our President sends you greetings and will be joining us shortly..."

"John Robinson, Commander of the Jupiter 2 expedition, from Earth..." the tall, dark-haired man in the lead of the group nodded to Adama...

"Excuse me!...Commander, you say..." a nervous, shifty-eyed older man shoved forward...Baltar turning to confront...His older self...

Warren staring as well...At his older selves...All three bearing exactly the same expression of fear and scheming calculation...

"Ah, pardon me, sir...Mr. Vice-President?...What a honor, sir..."

"Yes...I..." Baltar backed away a bit as the older man extended a rather soft hand...

"Dr. Baltar..." Robinson frowned at the older man...

"Dr. Smith..."

***

"The Buffy Effect..." II...

A shortie...

PG-13

Disclaimer: No, Joss, no...I make no claims, put that thing down! It's all yours and ME's

Spoilers for Angel to this week...Flee at once!...

Summary: Similar to my Immortal Beloved series of sketches, and my Semi-Parallel Lives bits mostly just short brainstorming ideas for other tales...As with both of those, some bits may be multipart, others just a few lines...

***

Campus of a certain private school for the rich, well-connected, and in some cases unfit to live...

"I'm telling you I won!..." the sleekly handsome, lithe young man insisted...The young brunette to whom his angry remark was addressed, smirking at him as she stood by a window in the empty classroom he'd pulled her into to hold their little conference...Pl...lease...

"You won?...'Fraid not, babe..." she grinned... "The keys stay with me...And..." she pulled up short as she stared out the window to the courtyard below...My God...she blinked...

"Listen to me!...I played that girl like...What?!..." he frowned as she waved him over...

"Camere...Look..." she pointed down...At where a young blonde woman and a somewhat taller, and heftier young man were arguing...

"This isn't ov...My God..." the young man stared...

"It's you..." he looked at his companion... "In blonde..."

And somewhat less scanky...Even if her clothes are strictly department store issue...he noted within...

"Well, an older me..." the young woman nodded... "I'd say about twenty-four..."

"Almost identical, in any case...Incredible..." the young man shook his head...Yeah, the girl nodded...

"Any idea who...?...Did you know about her?..." he gave a cool glance...

"Not a clue...She wasn't even on my radar...Either she's extremely dumb and held back...Or she's a relative or a new teacher..."

"Probably a relative...From the way those two are arguing, I'd say they were married..."

She made a face...A me, married to that clown next to her?...Eggh...

Hmmn...Another me, physically...Interesting...

"Say...You know..." she grinned, turning to him as they watched the couple arguing...

"I might be willing to give you another chance to prove yourself...If you could get that one in the sack?..."

"What me...Break up a marriage?...And screw your twin?..." the young man eyed her...

"What?...You've done it before...Break up a marriage, I mean..."

But are you up to this one?...she smiled...Pulling a set of keys from her pocket and dangling them...



"And if I nail your elderly twin there?...What do I get?..."

I mean besides my car and a repeat performance with her younger version...he smiled coolly...

"Anything else of mine you want..."

Hmmn...

"Well, Sebastian?...This one too tough for you?...I don't give second chances every day, ya know..."

"Done..."

***

"Warren...You either know or you don't know...Is this my Earth?..." Buffy eyed her 'helper' and millstone.... "This sure as hell isn't Wolfram-Hart or Sunnydale..."

"You see the dimensional coordinates...They don't match mine any more than yours..." Warren held a small control device out to her... "We've just slipped a little interdimensionally...I'm trying to figure it out, Slayer...Give a guy a minute...Geesh..."

"If you've lied to me...Faked the coordinates...If this is your world..." she fumed...

"And when do I get to go home any way?...I didn't ask to make these trips..." he glared as he fussed at the controls, tapping buttons...

"You're here cause you tried to cross me, bastard...If you'd been honest and just fixed the transit, I'd've left you on your home...And if you pull something, I will gladly send you back to that demon-occupied Earth we were on last week...Without the transit...Got me?..." she held up a disc in her hand...The transit generator, currently deactivated...

Pity, it might've been worth it to send her there...Even if I'd be stuck here...he frowned...

"I've tole you...You get me where in time and space I need to be on my Earth, let me straighten things out, check the outcome, and I'll take you hone..."

"Sounds like a raw deal to me...Here I am, riskin' my neck to help you..."

"Better than you deserve, asshole...And you're helpin' me 'cause you're dead if you don't..."

"Well, how's about if I take this thing and..." she caught his waving arm in mid-air...Pulling him toward a more isolated corner as several students began eyeing the couple...

"You try that again, Mears...Even the threat to break it...And I will rip your arms out of their sockets, take you at record speed to a hospital, have your miserable life saved, and we'll continue on our travels with you armless..." she whispered, rather more frightening in the steady calm of her voice...

You understand me?...

"Yeah..." he nodded, gulping... "Ok, no harm done..." he showed the control... "Just let me try and figure out the shifts and..."

"Excuse me..." Sebastian came up, smiling...They staring at the handsome young man...

"Hey..." Buffy nodded...

"Don't mean to bother you..." he gave a charming smile... "But you're standing on the grass...They don't like that here...Idiots in gray shirts come after you waving arms..."

Oh?...Buffy eyed him...Mears frowning...Just the sort of rich, good-looking sob I always wanted to have...Sufferin' under my tyrannical, Lord-of-Earth thumb...Maybe groveling for a position as junior nobody in my regime...Here's my sister and my girlfriend, Lord Warren...Please make me your Master of the Horse or Whatever...



Yeah...Sure...Cut to mental shot of Sebastian shoveling horse manure in a vast stable...

"You're new...But are you a student?..." Sebastian asked politely...Ignoring Mears' glare...

"Student...?" Buffy smiled... For God's sake...Warren rolled eyes...

I coulda built a bot that outclass this clown...I shoulda...Hmmn...I still could, couldn't I...When I dump her or kill her and get home...To where my own Earth's Buffy awaits...?

Cut to shot of an enraptured Buffy worshiping at the feet of a super-seductive, utterly devastating Mears-bot...Casting beaming smile at father-in-law, emperor Mears as he blessed the happy couple securing his reign forever...

Course she's in love with that bastard there too...And he hasn't even got a soul yet...Well, maybe a Spike bot...

Student, huh?...Buffy thought...So this is a school?...

"We've just arrived...I...er...My brother and I...Have a sister who's thinking about coming here..."

"Ah..." Sebastian nodded... "Great place to develop her potential, I can vouch for that..."

"Great, well...Come on, 'sis'..." Warren pulled at her...

"Say, I'm free this afternoon...I could give you...Both..." A cool smile at Warren... "The grand tour..."

Hmmn...

"Wandering around alone..." he shook his head... "They don't like that...I'm surprised they didn't give you an escort at the gate..."

"Ummn...Well...I guess we sorta slipped through...But maybe if you're not tied up..."

"'Sis'?...Could I speak to you a mo?..." She eyed Warren with a frown...But went with him...Sebastian waiting patiently...A quick glance up to where his stepsister, Kathryn was watching intently...

"We gotta dump this clown...What are you doin'?"

"He's right...If we go on wanderin' we'll attract attention...We already are...Look, soon as you figure things out, we'll vamoose...That's it, Warren..." she hissed, firmly at the end to cut off discussion...

Arrgh...

"We'd really appreciate it...Thanks...Ummn...?"

"Sebastian..."

"Buffy...Summers...And my brother, Warren..."

"Mr. Summers..." he offered a hand to Warren...Buffy unable to repress a slight grin at the name...

Kathryn above watching coolly...

Either way, I win...

***

Five hours later...Evening...Outside a local favorite inn, just in town...



"What did you do to him?!!!" Kathryn screamed at Buffy...Clutching at poor Sebastian, beaten and bloody in his finest causal suit...Thrown across the inn's main room for the third time, this one meaning it and including through the front window for good measure...

Mears angelically beaming beside Buffy...A man experiencing profound peace...

That's my 'sis'...God, that girl could be...he stared at Kathryn...

"Look, lady..." Jesus, she's my...Buffy blinked at the brunette who'd run in on them after she'd sent jerk-off across the room at his lewd second suggestion... "Your...Buddy there...Acted like an..."

Ohhhh...Sebastian moaned...

"You've hurt him...Sebastian?!...Oh!..."

Geesh was he tryin' me to get back at her or somethin'?...Buffy stared...Poor kid...God, on his worst day Spike had better lines...

"Look, I'm sorry...But he had it coming...I'd given him no cause to think I'd take that kind of..."

"He could've had you in another five minutes...Bitch..." Kathryn eyed her narrowly...Having determined the battered Sebastian was not quite about to kick off...

"Had me?..."

"And you oughta be grateful...You'll never get another shot at one like him..." the brunette sneered...

The inn owner now over to begin raging...Police on the way...

"Warren, time to go..." Buffy eyed him...

"Can't...I told you...I haven't finished putting the control back together...If you hadn't let Prince Asshole over there drag us here for dinner..."

"All right, lets just go...Come on..."

"Police!..." the inn owner and two of his burlier waiters intervened... "You're not go..." She whirled on them, shoving the first back on the other two...

"Come on!..." she pulled at Warren...

"Hey!..." Kathryn raced after them... "Come back here, you bitch!!...You're going to pay for this!!..."

She managed to reach Sebastian's...Well hers for now...Car and pull out before they reached the parking lot exit on foot...Warren a definite drag...

"Hey!!..." Buffy pulled her dead weight of an 'assistant' back from certain death as Kathryn tried to ram them against the gate...Stopping just before impact on the brick...

Hmmn...May as well make the most of an opportunity...Buffy dragged Warren over and forced the locked door open, shoving Kathryn back and tossing Warren in back...She turned the key and had pulled out and onto the highway outside before the startled, for once somewhat terrified girl had realized what was happening...

"Sorry...But we had to get out of there..." Buffy told her somewhat shell-shocked adjacent companion as she roared the car down the road...

"Your boyfriend'll be fine...I didn't hurt him nearly as much as he deserved...The schmuck...Where does he come off acting like that?...Was he tryin' to get back at..."

"My stepbrother..." Kathryn had regained her poise to some degree... "Not my 'boyfriend'..." she frowned at the saccharine, so Mid-Western, Heartland of yahoos, phrase...

"Pull over and get out...Or I'll see you both jailed for kidnaping and grand theft auto...As well as assault...All of which I may do anyway...Now, pull over..."



"Spirit...That's nice..." Buffy nodded... "But you and your brother..."

"Stepbrother..." Right...

"You and your stepbrother got some serious issues...I'd consider a therapist..." she turned off the road into a...Kathryn blinked...

A...Mall?...She pulled down, desperate not to be spotted by some dweeb...

"All right...We're going...And we won't be back...Good luck with your family issues...Come on, Warren...We oughta be able to get lost in there for long enough..."

She opened the car door and got out, tossing the keys into some bushes... "Come on, 'bro'..." she pulled Warren out from his door...

"Hey, pretty...Oh, my God..." a tall, dark...Angel?...Stared at Buffy...

"Buffy?...I killed you last month?..." he was too shocked to immediately attack...

Nope, Angelus...Again...She sighed...Well, no time for seeking this world's Willow...She whipped stake and rammed him...

Kathryn now out of the car and turning from her key hunt, stared at the ashes floating down and around...

"A vampire..." Buffy explained... "You don't know about them?..."

"Of course I do..." the utterly sophisticated Kathryn lied, still staring...

"Well, they kill us...I kill them...It's my job...Looks like this world may be headed for trouble..." she turned to Warren... "If Angelus got me and there's no..."

"Hold it...!" Faith's voice called...They whirled to see Faith in rather nice outfit, a rather sweet look on her features, though overlaid by a professional tenseness...Willow, Xander, and...Buffy blinked...

"Buffy?!!..." William stared at her... He decked out in rather nice suit, hair brown...

Still a vamp...Buffy noted....

Kathryn dazed, poise lost...Who the...?

"Buffy?..." Willow eyed her...

"Not your Buffy..." Buffy shook her head...But couldn't resist staring at William, who was now coming to her...

A free William, eh...In good graces?...Yep, they're alive...With Xander and Willow...?...And Faith?...

"Not Buffy?..." Will stood by her...Tears in his eyes...Xander now by them...Tears as well...

"I'm sorry...No...I'm not from this Earth..." she explained...

But gee...He's a free Will...

"Who are these creeps?..." Kathryn eyed Warren...

"Vamp hunting idiots..." he shrugged... "Friends of my 'sis'...Sorta..."

My God...Willow now saw Kathryn...A younger Buffy in brunette...

Geesh...



Holy Sh...she caught sight of Warren...He's skin-covered...And alive...

Ummn...

Hey, red-head...he beamed...Another babe who just can't resist that Mears charm...Always knew that Rosenberg had a thing for me back in school...Too bad she went off with that damned Tara back home...Say, maybe when I get back...And establish my reign...

I'll need a Queen...If I can't mind-control our Slayer...

"Another Buffy?..." Will asked Buffy...

"Yeah..." she sighed...But couldn't resist putting a hand out to him which he took...

"William, wait..." Faith raised her stake... "It could be a trick...The First again...We lost Buffy, lets not lose you too..."

"They're ok with you?..." Buffy asked him gently... "I'm so sorry I...She..."

"Our William has a soul..." Willow noted... "And he's...Was...Buffy's husband..."

"Mine too..." Buffy smiled...

"What are they all talkin' about?..." Kathryn hissed...Warren shrugging... Hell if I know all the details, girly...

"I killed Angelus...It was Angelus, right?..." Buffy eyed Willow..

"We lost Angel a few months ago...The First and Wolfram-Hart helped him conceal it from us...He killed Buffy last month..." Willow sighed...

"Buffy..." William kissed her hand... "Oh, Will...I'm sorry..." she shook her head...

"But wait...You can get her back..." she looked up... "That's what I'm doin'...I lost my William on my Earth..."

And wound up here by a lil' accident...she sighed...

"But we can help you..."

"How?..." William, Xander, Willow...Faith watching the area carefully...Having sensed distant presences...

"Well, you just gotta go back and alter the timeline..." Buffy beamed...Willow frowning...

"Alter the timeline?...Are you crazy?...That only creates a new alternate future...And it's damned dangerous..."

"Not if you're careful...And if you all go back and then enter the new future as yourselves..."

"But if you screw the 'new future' up?..." Willow frowned...

"You go and fix it till it's just right..." Buffy insisted...

"What are..." "Lady, I tole you...I don't know the girl or these people well..." Warren hissed to Kathryn...

"That's incredibly dangerous..." Willow shook her head... "Did Giles...Your Giles let you..."

Ummn...

"He didn't, did he?...God, did I give you magics?...Was my alternate stupid enough...?"

Ummn...Weeeelll...



"Buffy, you are playing with fire..." Willow frowned... "You'll most likely destroy your future and your Earth..."

"I won't give up my William..." Buffy glared at her...

"That's your decision...But we..."

"Take me..." William cut in...

Ummn...?

"I mean, to the past...Here...Let me save Buffy...My Buffy..."

"Faith!..." Willow called... "No way, Will...Whatever this one says, she's wrong...It's too dangerous..."

"Then give me the resurrection spell..." he turned to her...

"Giles said..."

"Frig Giles and what he says...Either give me the spell or I'm going with Buffy to save Buffy..."

Going with me...Hmmn...Kinda nice if things should go wrong...No...No, only my William...Accept no substitutes...

"Give him the spell Willow...Or I will take him..." she cut in now...

"Buffy, I'm sorry but..." Willow's eyes flashed black a second, then she collapsed as Xander struck her from behind...

"She's gonna kill me...Maybe literally...But I think she'll cave on the spell...I nearly had her..." he smiled at Buffy and William...Faith rushing over...He put up a hand...

"Come on, Faithy...We all want Buffy back...And she wants to be back, with Will...It's not fair and you know it..."

"So this 'Buffy' and this other girl...In those awful clothes..." Kathryn hissed... "Are able to kill vampires...?"

"And screw 'em too..." Warren noted...Leering...Say, babe...Ooof...He groaned as she punched him in the stomach...

"Take your hand off..." she noted, after the fact...

Screw them, eh?...Hmmn...She eyed Faith...Not much to her...Just carry a pointed stick, eh?...

"I may not be able to do that again when she comes to ...You guys best getting going...Home?..." Xander eyed Buffy...Yeah, she nodded, smiling...

"Warren!..." she called...Xander eyeing Mears...Coldly...

"My comic relief..." she explained... "He kinda got in my way on a trip and I had to have some tech help..."

"I am not a 'tech'..." Warren fumed, coming over...

"Will..." she reached out to him... "I know you'll succeed...You know I love you and I am waiting to come back to you, if it's possible...But if not...We will all be together again one day, in the afterlife..."

He nodded...She kissed him...

"Come on, Mears..." she dragged him off...

They all looked, including Kathryn...As she pulled Mears toward the Mall entrance...



Hardly the big, flash-of-light exit...

Ummn... "Our control needs to be put back together...We're just gonna hide out in the Mall till it's ready..." Buffy explained...

"We'll tell Willow you did the big sci-fi exit..." Xander nodded... "Good luck..."

"Buf...If you do screw it...On your world..." Will called...

"Only if you screw it here..." she smiled... "I don't like competition...Especially from me...But thanks..."

***

A fuming Kathryn, bearing picket swiped from a nearby fence, tramped the cemetery nearest her school...

Three hours and not one vampire...Studly or otherwise...

"Hey, you!...I'm Slayer Kathryn and I'm lookin' for a few good male..." she waved the improvised stake...

"Kathryn?..." a girl's voice...She looked to see a young woman and several young guys moving across the row of tombstones...All in the uniform of her school...

"Christ..." she blinked... "What are you guys doin'?...Mary?...Didn't you die of fever or something last year?..."

"Something..." Mary nodded... "Right after you seduced my brother in my own dorm and let me find you together...He was married, Kathryn...His wife committed suicide after he left her and you dumped him...Then he killed himself..."

"I sure did..." one of the males nodded...She noting his rather older style uniform now... "What a bitch you were, Kathryn..."

"Well...You clowns deserved it...Ummn...I'm Slayer, you know...Keep back..." she waved her stick...

Oooh...Mary nodded... Scary...

"But you don't smell Slayer to me...I get no power vibes..." she wrenched the stake out of Kathryn's hand and tossed it...

"Guys...?"

"I don't think we really want to offer this one Immortality..." Mary's brother noted to the others...

"Lets just each grab a limb and make a wish..." the other three nodding...

***

"The Buffy Effect..." Prologue...



A shortie...

PG-13

Disclaimer: No, Joss, no...I make no claims, put that thing down! It's all yours and ME's

Spoilers for Angel to this week...Flee at once!...

Summary: Similar to my Immortal Beloved series of sketches, and my Semi-Parallel Lives bits mostly just short brainstorming ideas for other tales...As with both of those, some bits may be multiparty, others just a few lines...



***

London...The partly restored Antiquarian Hall of the Royal Council of Antiquarians, Librarians, and Library Scientists...

One day after the glorious, tragic news from LA...

"Buffy..." Willow hissed as she and the Slayer Counselor General, Buffy Summers, moved down the corridor, each nodding to various staffers, Watchers, Observer candidates, and the few Slayers on duty in the building...

"Shut up..." Buffy whispered back...Pulling her along the wall gently with one hand, a friendly smile on her face...The other hand concealed by her jacket, a vise-like grip on her friend...

No one in sight or apparent earshot, Willow turned to her...

"Buffy, listen to me...Please..."

"Quiet...Wait til we get to the stairwell..."

One more door...Which opened...

"Ah, Miss Rosenberg..." a bespectacled young man of about eighteen, an Observer with a keen interest in magic, beamed at Willow...

"Hey, Harry..." Willow nodded...Buffy pausing with her, but maintaining the vise grip...

"I was wondering if you'd have a little time this afternoon...I have a new volume I'd like to show you...On Byzantine magic practices..."

"Say, that's neat, Harry..." Buffy smiled at him... "But Wil and I are goin' out to dinner and a movie a little early and she'll hafta catch up with ya tomorrow, ok?..."

"Oh, yes...I see..." Harry nodded, a sympathetic expression on his face... "I understand, you must be anxious to get out of here tonight..."

"Yeah...Kinda..."

"Miss Summers, I can't tell you how sorry I was to hear about..."

"Yeah?...Well..." she waved a hand... "I guess William and I had taken different roads, it was too bad of course, him gettin' the soul and all..."

"Of course...And so sad he never came to Europe to let you know he'd survived all this time..."

She nodded, her smile becoming increasingly fixed and frozen...

"Yeah, might've been nice...Well, we gotta be going..."

"Bye, Harry..." Willow sighed...Trying to roll eyes, anything to attract attention...Nothing catching Harry's supposedly well-trained eyes...Moron...

God is this what we're sending out in the field now to support all our Slayers?...Willow thought...

"Ummn...Miss Summers?..."

"Yeah, Harry..."

"If you don't mind...If I could ask?..."

"What is it?..." Somewhat curt...

"I was wondering...About the rumors circulating around..."



"Harry...Chairman Giles makes it his watchword for you fellas not to be putting stock in rumors..." Buffy eyed him coolly...

Willow whacked the wall she stood by with her foot, Harry looking at her with surprise...Sorry, she noted to her companions...

"Nerves, I guess..." Buffy looked at her coldly... "Or maybe a little remorse, huh Wil?..."

"Maybe..." Willow eyed her friend... "But it won't bring him back..."

"Guess not..." Buffy nodded... "But it's nice for him to know you appreciated his sacrifice and felt for him..."

Harry stared, catching the edge in her voice...

"I did..." Willow nodded... "And I think he knows that..."

"Yeah?..Anyway, Harry...What did you wanna know?...We gotta get goin'...My bud here and me..."

"It's just...Some of the staff have been saying...You found something in the archives...About you and..."

"William Soames Walthrop..." Buffy filled in... " A very fine man, don't ever forget it...As for the stories floatin' round well, the archives are full of things the Council would rather forget...Slayers who were betrayed and murdered 'cause they wouldn't heel, all kinds of things...You oughta read 'em over some rainy Saturday...Bye..."

C'mon, Wil...They continued down the hall...And into the stairwell, Buffy waving to Harry...Closing the stairwell door firmly...

"Buffy..."

"I'm listenin' Wil...What's on your mind?..."

"You can't do this, it won't help him now..."

"Won't hurt him either...So no loss..."

"You don't know what you're playing with, Buffy..."

"I'm risking the future to alter the past and save the present...I know damned well what I'm doing, Wil...And I am not... 'Playing'..."

Not the way the Council...And you and Giles...Played with me...And my...she paused...

"He wouldn't want..."

"The hell you say...The hell you know...He hung round Spike for a hundred and twenty six years hoping to hear from me...Sorry Tara wasn't that devoted..."

She looked at Willow's ashen face...Really, for the first time in the past hour...

"I'm sorry, Wil... That was a low one..."

"Yeah..." Willow nodded..."It was...Thanks..."

"You could've told me Willow...You could've got me to LA...I might have saved him...Or at least died with him..."

Hmmphf...She sobbed now...But held her grip on the wiccan...

"I keep thinking of him dying like that...All alone...I can't bear it, Willow...I thought I could before, when I thought he was gone...But even then...And now, now that I know..."

Now that I know I killed him...And worse...She rubbed her face...



"I'm gonna try...I've gotta try..."

"Even if you can get there, Buffy, you can't change our present..."

"I know...Alternate timeline...So I'll stay in that timeline..."

"And leave Dawn, all of us...?"

"I've left you before...I wasn't meant to come back in the first place...Cicely fought for it, I'm sure of that...Then Xander pulled me back, finally you took your crack at it...All unnatural and not meant to be...And there must be worlds where that didn't happen, where you got by without me..."

I want my husband...she stared at Willow... "I've loved you guys but I want him and I'm going to him...One way or another..."

"And if you fuck up our lives in some other universe?..." Willow glared...

"The infinite alternate timelines all exist...Potentially...That's what the books say...I'm just confirming two of them...One where William was saved, by me...And one where crazy Buffy, who learned the truth about herself and her husband too late, decided to leave at her own choice...For once...Now lets get started..."

"All right, fine...I won't argue with you any more...Just tell me where Kennedy is..."

"She's alive...That's all you need to know right now...And she'll be fine, especially if you let me do what I gotta do..."

"When do you tell me...?"

"When it's too late for you or Giles to stop me...Willow, wouldn't you do this, for Kennedy?...Or at least for Tara?..."

"I don't know..." Willow said simply... "Maybe...And I'd be wrong..."

"Maybe..." Buffy nodded... "But hey, God can put it all right, huh?... 'Bout time He got off His or Her ass and did something...Anything...Unless He or She did and this is it...Any way, we'll see...It's time for me to get movin'...You ready?..."

Willow sighed and pulled out a small disc-like object... "This is the main emitter from Warren's time-shifter...You were right, Giles did send all the nerds' time stuff to the Council for analysis...I can't guarantee it will work, even with my adjustments and power...But it should work as well as the Council's big clunker, just more portable..."

"Great..." Buffy took the disc... "So now?..."

"Now you need the control..." Willow handed over a device like a remote control unit with a small readout/display screen and a vast array of buttons... "You should be able to set coordinates with this...Geographic and spatial here...Time here...But a temporal leap of more than a few seconds requires some fancy figuring...The ones I've set should, if the whole thing isn't a pile of crap, get you back to just before the fight in LA... Just make sure you save each set you use so you can go back one or more if you hafta..."

"I appreciate that, Wil..." Buffy smiled at her... "Leavin' a way back..."

"I'm still your friend, Buffy...Pissed as I am at you...And I want you to have a way back when you snap out of this delusion..."

"Ok...Now?..."

"Now you need the dimensional trigger and the power...We hafta get downstairs..."

"The power I got..." Buffy smiled a bit at Willow...Who couldn't resist a brief smile back... "And we just need to get to the Council's little experiment in interdimensional travel..." They started down...

"Can't believe Giles would sanction a project like that?...To open roads to other worlds and maybe the past?..."



"He went along with what's been done by the others...Hey, a Council project is a Council project...And they wanted a last-chance weapon should the First or another enemy do better next time..."

"They will...With you gone..."

"Have a little faith in Faith and the twenty thousand plus Slayers I'm leaving behind, Willow...And in yourself...Geesh, what good is saving Humanity if you guys can't learn to help yourselves..."

"This is the subbasement..." Willow noted... Buffy tried the door, then forced the lock, setting off an alarm which she smashed...Hate these things...

They raced into the hall, passing several startled workers and a few armed guards...Buffy throwing two against each other...And pulling one's gun on the others...

"I thought you hated those..." Willow eyed her...

"'Necessity, strange bedfellows'...Spike..." Buffy smiled...

"All of you over against the wall!...You!...Get away from that phone!!..." she hollered at the group and then one staffer...Firing one shot up...The staffers and guards on their feet complied...

"Lets go..." She pulled open a glass or plastic door to the chamber within, the whole chamber likewise constructed of glass or plastic...Computers and electronic components assembled within...

"What are you doing?...Ms. Rosenberg?..." One fellow in lab coat tried to intervene as they entered... "This is a clean...."

"We're very clean, get out..." Buffy pointed to the door...Waving pistol...

And closed and secured the door after him... "This glass or whatever's bullet-proof, right?..."

"Even kinda Slayer-proof..." Willow grinned faintly...

"Too bad no time to disprove that..." Buffy grinned back...Waving at the staff outside now running for phones, alarm buttons...And arms...

"How soon can they cut the power in here?..."

"Never, there's a back-up generator..."

"Ok, then...So..."

"Enter your coordinates...Save them..." Willow commanded...Buffy pressing the buttons...

"I'll have to open the initial portal...After that you can use it via the disc emitter..."

"How long?..."

"With my juice in it?...You should have about eleven tries...If you keep to the right spacials and don't try a long time jump..."

She eyed Buffy...

"You aren't considering a long jump...?"

"You mean, back to 1880?...The whole shebang?...No Spike?..." Buffy smiled...

"Nah...Unless I have to...I've no wish to share him with my past self..."



"Why not..." Willow frowned, now at the main console flipping switches... "Cicely seems as big an idiot as you...You'd get on well, I'm sure...And William would probably like having his wife in two forms..."

"Please...I get jealous too easy...She does too, natch..."

A bright light formed around a circle of metal probes in the middle of the room... "Hold the disc to probe 1..." Willow pointed...

"Right..." Buffy touched the emitter to the upper probe...It seemed to quiver in her hand then a large ring of light burst from it, surrounding her in a sphere of light...

"Dimensional portal..." Willow nodded at the ring...Buffy feeling the edges with her free hand...

"It's warm..."

"All right..." Willow came toward her... "Now you need to drop the energy damper on me so I can transfer my power to the emitter..."

She waited, expectantly...

Outside the staff was divided between some running about, a few banging or in one case, shooting at the door to the chamber, others milling around, peering in at them...

Buffy sighed and smiled... "Willow...I'm not the fool you take me for...I said I read up on what the Council had and I meant it...You don't need to express the power to transfer it...C'mon, Wil...For ole times' sake, don't lie to me...Please, help me..." She held the disc toward her...

"Willow!...Buffy!..." Giles' voice from a speaker...They turned to see him just inside the outer room...Speaking into a mike... "Shut the system down and come out!...Now!...We'll block any attempt to transit out of here temporally or interdimensionally...Buffy!...-Listen to me, I'll do whatever I can to help you and William but you must give this insane idea up!..."

"Can he block me?...Willow?..." Buffy eyed her... "No..." Willow sighed... "Best he could do is try to interfere but he can't stop you..." she reached for the disc...

"Thanks..." Buffy smiled... "I will see you again, Wil...Try to forgive me...Dawn has the building address for Kennedy..."

"Dawn?...She helped you?..."

"She loves us...Both..." Buffy nodded... "She's our daughter's soul...And she knows saving her father is the right thing to do...Even if she has to lose us for a bit..."

A heavy crash at the door...It shattered as some kind of weapon brought up by several guards was fired...

"Bye..." Willow blew a kiss with one hand and took the disc with the other...Power flowing out of her and into the disc causing a second energy ring, then sphere to form...

"Buffy!..." Giles raced to them as Buffy vanished...Willow fainting as the sphere glowed and dissolved...

****

"The Buffy Effect..." III...

A shortie...

PG-13

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

all yours and ME's

Spoilers for Angel to this week...Flee at once!...

Summary: Similar to my Immortal Beloved series of sketches, and my
Semi-Parallel Lives bits mostly just short brainstorming ideas for
other tales...As with both of those, some bits may be multipart, others
just a few lines...

***
"So this is my Earth?...You're sure?"

"What, you don't trust me?..."

Stare...

"Hey, you've got the controller...Dimensional coordinates don't
lie, girlie...But I can't say as to when or where yet...We're still
havin' slippage trouble...Blame those idiots on your Council who were
foolin' round with this thing..."

Buffy scanned the said controller...Looked right, dimensionally, if
she'd got the hang of the readout...She looked at the sheet of
coordinate numbers she'd copied out from the initial entries, yeah...

But spatial and temporal looked very different, as best she could make
out...Though the temporal subject line still matched what she'd seen
on scanning...

William!...William!!...No!!...

She tried to push the image of William dead, yet again on that LA
street, the demons she'd literally cut her way through to reach him
scattered round...Can't think about that now, the mission is to
prevent that, make that, maybe even that day at Sunnydale,
non-existent...

If only she'd been able to focus back then, been sure of getting a
clear temporal line scan...But she'd hoped so...Five minutes
difference and...But we gonna fix that...It's gonna be fine...And
he'll see, at last...He'll believe...

Damn it, after all this he'd better...Did I ever go this far over the
edge for any guy?...

"Looks all right...Dimensionally...But, Mears if you ever try
pullin' a fast one on me..."

"The thanks I get...Hey, I didn't kill those girls,
remember?...Different Earth, different me?"

"God only knows who you killed on your Earth, jerk."

Jesus, if I'd only finished workin' on that cerebral depressor
thing, Mears sighed to himself...

"This may be my Earth..." Buffy frowned, looking around at the
fields and muddy, heavily rutted, utterly unpaved road... "But it
sure ain't Sunnydale, 2003...You said you'd tried to lock on to
Will's temporal line?..."

"Lady, it was your data...Crap in, crap out...Next time do a
better..."

A young woman's scream near them made them both jump...That and the
sudden appearance of a cow's nose by Warren's elbow...The bovine
gently shoving past him, regarding him placidly as he raced to the
side...Buffy whirling back, in defensive mode, to see a young woman in
white cap and some kind of simple, antique dress, looking at her in
terror...

"God protect me..." the girl murmured in trembling fear...And thick
British accent...But with sharp eye on the cow obviously in her
charge...Pulling up a large stick a moment later... "By the Lord
Jesus, I conjure thee, be off from me!..."

"Hey!..." Buffy backed off... "We're not gonna hurt you!..."

"Grab her!...She's a witch from Hell!!..." Warren sized up a
hopeful situation quickly...If he could just manage to get to the
controller while a mob of...Judging by the girlie's outfit,
moronically superstitious peasants...Gathered to keep Summers busy...

Buffy grabbed and threw him back with a quick turn of wrist, landing
him in the mire of the road...The young woman watching in tense
defensive mode, now blocking them from the cow...Clearly far more
valuable than her own life to her...

The Slayer turned back to the woman who remained alone...Mears having
failed to note the trio's total isolation in the road...But for the
rather uninterested cow, not another soul in sight or earshot...

"It's ok...The guy's a lying jerk...We're
just...Ummn...Foreigners..."

"Foreigners?..." the woman repeated...

"From...France..." Buffy tried...

"France?..." the woman regarded her carefully... "Miss, I never
did see a Frenchie dressed like you..."

"It's...The latest fashion in Paris...Just introduced..."

"No modest girl wears such breeches...Methinks your man there is
tellin' true, perhaps..."

"It..." glare at Mears... "Isn't 'my man', believe me...And
if I were a witch from Hell, wouldn't I've hexed ya by now?..."

The woman considered thoughtfully... "Ye might have...But ye may need
to get hands on a thing of mine to work on me..."

Mears crawled out of the mud and stood up... "Get over here, you
little bastard..." Buffy growled to him coldly... "Mears...One more
stunt like that and I'll break your pudgy little neck..."

Sounds like her man to me...The young woman thought...

"Look...Whoever we are..." Buffy tried a bright smile... "French
or wherever...We don't mean you any harm...Can you tell us where we
are?..."

"Stratford..." the woman replied curtly... "Ye be just outside
the town...And I'd tell ye not to be paradin' into a God-fearing
town like Stratford-on-Avon dressed like that..."

"You're probably right, but we didn't exactly come with
luggage..."

"Lug-gage?..."

"Stuff...Clothes...You know...We had to travel light...From
France...We're...Ummn..." a dim memory from history class popped
up...

"Astronauts..."

Warren stared at her...

"Huguenots...?" the woman corrected... "Ye be Huguenots?"

"Right, that's it..." Buffy nodded...

"Ye don't look like ones who fear God and have cast off the
deviltry of the Pope, pardon me..."

"Oh, we're in terror of Him, I promise you...And cast off the Pope
a long time ago..." Buffy insisted...Sorry, Mom...she thought...

Uh-huh...A hard look from the woman...

"So...If we could possibly get some clothes...So as not to scare
folks who haven't met nice French Hugenot people before..."

A shrug...

"If ye've gold or coppers in your purse, you won't have trouble
gettin' clothes..."

We've got trouble...Mears thought...

"Well...We don't exactly have..."

"I thought not..." the woman smiled...

"But we might have some things to trade..." Buffy
suggested...Hmmn...Pendant, clothes that apparently would do for
trick-or-treatin' here...

"Tis a nice watch ye have there..." a wider smile...The woman
eyeing Buffy's wrist...

"You know about...?" Buffy stared...Warren looking as well...

"Never did hear of a timepiece on a bracelet, though...Must be fine
work for that..."

"It's..." Hmmn... "Ummn...Swiss..."

"Oh?...They be a good people..."

Huguenots, watches, Switzerland...Girl knows a lot for a cow
tender...Mears thought...

"Lets cut to the chase, lady..." Buffy eyed the woman... "You
willing to trade some clothes and maybe something to eat...And promise
to say nothing about our current getup...In exchange for my fancy
timepiece here?..."

"Me father would say I'd be cheatin' ye..." the woman grinned
now... "But tis a pretty piece of work and whoever ye be, if ye be
willin' to trade rather than take, I'd say tis likely ye not be
witches...Done then, if ye would have it..."

"Deal..." Buffy nodded...

"I'll show ye where ye can wait for me...Come this way..."

"Move it, Warren..."

***
"She could be lying you know..."

"Shut up...She wants my watch and she'll be back for it..."

"As in...Takin' it off your dead body after the lynch mob gets
through with us?...It's been over an hour..." Mears grumbled...
"And this..." he threw a fistful of hay away from his face...
"Crap...Is getting all over me...Lets just get outta here and find
some place to get a look at the controller...Or better yet, lets
vamoose this whole crappy era and try another coordinate
setting...We're on your Earth, after all...Any other era's gotta be
better than this..."

"Another word and I go find another Mears to help me...Somewhere in
the multiple universes one of you has to be a half-decent guy..."

"Just cause we have one bad moment at the start...Did you ever think
maybe I was just afraid of you, like girlie here...Hey, I know demons
and their ways, Slayer...Any impartial person would agree I was just
being sensible to protect..."

"List!..." a sharp hiss... "I'm back, come out..." the
woman's voice called...

After you...Warren whispered...Buffy shoving her way out of the
haystack in which they'd been hiding...The woman standing nearby, a
large basket by her feet...Mears stumbling out into daylight a moment
later...Ah, no ambush...

Pity...So long as the Slayer could handle it of course...And I had my
chance to grab the controller...

"Here..." the woman pushed the basket toward Buffy who grabbed the
handle and then setting it down at her side, opened the lid...

Lovely...she sighed as she flapped the non-descript smock in her grip
out into the light of day...A dull brown, and not particularly clean...

To think two weeks ago I shopped in Rome and Paris...

"Thanks..." she smiled wanly at the woman...Who regarded her
firmly...

"Ye be welcome...There's bread and cheese and ale underneath...Me
watch please..." she held out her hand...

It couldn't possibly alter the course of my world's history...Buffy
thought, pulling off and handing over the watch...

'Sides all potential universes exist...So if that's so, it'd
happen any way...I'll sort out any problems later...With Will's
help...

"Thanks, miss..."

"Judith Shakespeare..." the woman gave a slight curtsy...



Ms. Judith Shakespeare

"Shakespeare?...That must be fun..." Buffy smiled...

"Oh, ye've heard of me dad, then?..." the woman beamed... "Do
they speak of his work in France?..."

Buffy blinked...Warren blinked...

"Judith!..." a man's voice...

I...Recognize that...Buffy thought, as an older, taller...Balding...And
dark-haired...Version of her William came round another nearby haystack...

William...she gasped...

"Good God..." William Shakespeare stared at the two fantastically
dressed strangers standing near his beloved daughter...

Something out of a midsummer's night...His own...Dream...

And the lovely young girl by the rather dumpy lout of a fellow...If she
were raven-haired she could almost be...

"Judith!...Where've ye...?" A woman's voice, somewhat harsh
but oddly recognizable, Warren thought...

My God...He stared at an older, somewhat heftier, brunette Buffy
Summers...Who gave a startled look back but immediately took a
defensive stance...

A Slayer's defensive stance, Buffy recognized...Even as she too
recognized...

A little...Well, a good deal...Older...Heavier...Black-haired...But...

Me...

"William, Judith!...Back, behind me!..." Anne Shakespeare called,
moving in with surprising swiftness...

And I've apparently still got it...Buffy thought, staring...

"Tis all right, Mum...They be Huguenots...From France, they say..."
Judith called to her...

"Get back behind me, girl!...Mind!...William, you too, you old
fool!...Get back here..." Anne yelled...Rushing to her idiot loved
ones'd defense... "Back, you!..." she confronted Buffy now, stake
in hand...

Whatever else we screwed up on, the timeline coordinates weren't
wrong at all...Buffy thought...

This is William's timeline...And mine...she beamed, even while taking
a counter stance to Mrs. Shakespeare's...

She's a little stiff but it's me...she noted as Anne carefully
moved in a bit...

My Will...Oh, God, when he hears this...He better not consider it
better than hearing that I went through all this for him...I wonder if
he ever guessed?...

That he was...Four centuries before...

Shakespeare?...

God...I just knew he was a better poet than he used to let on back in
Sunnydale...Wait til I tell Dawn...

And Giles...A slight grin popping up as she pictured Giles gasping in
horror...

***

"The Buffy Effect..." IV...



A shortie...

PG-13

Disclaimer: No, Joss, no...I make no claims, put that thing down! It's all yours and ME's

Spoilers for Angel to this week...Flee at once!...

Summary: Similar to my Immortal Beloved series of sketches, and my Semi-Parallel Lives bits mostly just short brainstorming ideas for other tales...As with both of those, some bits may be multipart, others just a few lines...

***

Twenty minutes...

If they'd at last been successful and again got her to the right dimensional spot, she had...Looking at the controller in her left hand...Exactly...Nineteen minutes, forty-seven seconds...

At least it certainly looked right...A mass of flaming wreckage in front of her...That had once been a bus and some kind of storefront...The street littered with cars tossed about as if by a giant kid's playful hand...Fires burning up and down the boulevard...Alarms wailing...And bodies...Though apparently not human bodies...everywhere...One huge corpse, on fire, bearing striking resemblance to the dragons of fairy tales...

"Jesus..." Warren looked round, trying to hoist up the loose breeches he was wearing...Gift of the daughter of one Will Shakespeare and maybe worth something to hang on to, if he could ever prove the authenticity...Though crap as wearing apparel ... "What happened here...?"

You never told me we were going to a war zone... he stared at the corpses...

"You'd have tried to run out on me...And I'd've had to drag you here unconscious..." she noted... "This looks right...I remember that dragon body...Come on, there's no time!..." she grabbed his arm and dragged him down the street...

"You're gonna get us both killed!...I didn't sign up for...Christ!..." Warren stared at the huge phalanx of demons before them...Moving down the street...Or rather mowing the street and everything in it down...

The Partners having canned the ridiculous line charges and single combat heroics that had been throwing away their sole asset of overwhelming numbers in favor of a massive and methodical, street-by-street swamping...

"Get behind me..." she waved him back...

Behind you?...he stared at the mass in front, most fortunately too dumb to do more than follow their order to kill or destroy that which lay in their immediate path....She shoved him back...

"Just keep right after me!...I got past them before...I will again..." she hissed... "Will was only a few blocks down to the left when I found him last time..."

"Great...Why don't I just go hide out in there..." Warren pointed to a still-fairly-intact four story office building... "Sos not to slow you down and you lovebirds can come back for..."

She dragged him along... "You can't stay there..."

"The hell you say!...Why n..."

A huge crack suddenly ran up said small building and the whole thing tore open and burst into flames as a giant armadillo-like creature calmly lumbered across through the ruin and flame...



"That's why...I heard it on the other side of the building...Move!...Or I will let you take your chances!... Just keep a look- out for their humanoid lead scouts, they're a bit smarter...And they had a few vamps with them, I think.." she hustled to the left across the street, Mears hanging on to her right hand for dear life...They raced down the side street...Empty for the moment, except for the sound of raging war-cries and agonized howls...

"The fight's still going on, they must still be alive...Ok, this way, I think..." she turned right heading straight down a smaller street parallel to the one the demon horde had been clearing...

Mears stumbled...Jerked loose from her grip...

"Damn it, Warren!..." she turned back to him... "I don't have time for..." she turned and rammed a blindingly-fast grabbed stake from her smock pocket...A peasant smock, like Mears' sliding pants, acquired in 16th century England from the Shakespeare family...Into the humanoid demon that had been about to charge down upon the unaware Mears...

Her family, the curious thought passing fleetingly through made her smile an instant...What a neat thing to have to tell him...

Of course, hopefully he'll value the "you're my beloved husband since 1880 at least" thing even better...

Though learning one was once Will Shakespeare would be hard to top, admittedly...she reflected briefly...

"Move, before more come!..." she yelled at Mears...

I think I can agree with that...he thought, rather happily dragged off...

***

Fourteen minutes...She put the controller back in her pocket...

Mears watching her...And rather anxiously looking round the whole area...More ruins, but no demons racing after them as yet...

God, on top of the wildfires last year...Well, three years ago on this Earth...This is really gonna break the state budget...And didn't she say Sunnydale here was destroyed...?

"He's around here...I can't quite remember where I found..."

A loud howl to the left...As if a creature or hideous thing had just met its own worst nightmare...

"This way!..." she turned left...

Whoops...Mears stared at the three whatevers in front of them...Two hulking gray-skinned, lightly-furred fellows, looking rather brainless and even a little uninterested in the potential fresh meat in front of them, having had their fill of their own wounded comrades-in-arms...The third, looking about as startled him-or-her-or itself as a ten foot mass of what appeared to be pus with a surprisingly-human head and even somewhat intelligent-looking face, could...Stared at them...

"The Slayer, herself?!..." he/she/it gasped... "But the Immortal was supposed to..."

"Outta my way!..." she waved stake...

Pus-boy (or girl) apparently knowing unyielding determination when it saw it, stepped to the side...The others simply placidly pausing in their march...

"Stop her, take her!..." pus-thing called to its mates...Who simply moved slightly and extended claws...She leaped at one on the right and kicked him down...The other swiping at her with huge clawed paws, which she dodged...She was past...

However...

"Help!!!..." Mears cried...Pus-thing, having decided he might be of some value as a Slayer minion, had moved to block his attempt to slide past his preoccupied mates...



She turned round...The gray demon still on his or her feet, moving to confront her...

"More Slayers?...Where?..." Pus-thing went to the crux of the matter as he put a slimy hand?/tentacle?/mass of pus? on Warren's shoulder...

"Summers!..."

"Slayers!...Where?!..." the creature insisted, rather politely...The gray on the ground now painfully rising to its feet to support its comrade now in defense mode...As Buffy hesitated...

"All over, pal...I'll show you...Just don't kill me..." Warren begged... "Summers!!..."

With a sigh, she charged the grays, jumping for the less damaged one's throat...Twisting head with a loud crack...The other, now a bit jolted out of its former placidity, backing off...Then turning and running for safety...She moved on to where pus-thing had moved his whatever round Warren's throat... And turned to face her...

"Slayer!...Surrender or your friend..." he went down as the hurled stake slammed into his left eye...

"That's for calling him my 'friend'..." she noted to the mass, as she pulled Mears to her, the tentacle or whatever dissolving into oozing pus...

"Hey, thanks..." Warren noted, letting go to brush some of the...urggh...off...Graciously, at least to his own mind...

"I shoulda left you...Lets..."

"I mean for droppin' this when you jumped at those two..." he beamed, holding up the controller...And pressing a button...

"Warren!!..." she screamed as he vanished...A faint, smirking chuckle on the wind...

All right...All right...she tried to calm down...Saves me the trouble of taking him back...Still time...And who gives a damn if that piece of crap has his fun so long as I get to Will...She headed off...

Damn, why did I trade my damned watch to Judith Shakespeare for this stupid...she pulled at the blouse...

Still, all in the family...And my God, if I got it right, Judy's our...she beamed...Then frowned...And gonna get a whack from Mom when I get to Heaven for taking my damned watch just when I...

A clock in a still-untouched storefront...Six minutes, if it was right...

"William!!..." she screamed... "It's me, I'm here!!..."

And got so much to tell ya, honey...

Another howl, to the right...

She raced off...Turning into an alleyway...And there, trying to fight off three jeering humanoids...

"Buffy?..." a weary gasp...

"Angel?..." she stared at him...Covered in blood and demonic gore...

The three looked at her...And her stern, furious face...Then each other...

Uh... "Next time, Angel!..." one vowed as they all raced off...

He staggered to her...Falling to his knees...

"You came...God..."



Am I tired...he sighed...

"William?...Angel?...Where is William?!..."

He waved a hand to the left...

"He was dragged off by a group of them a few minutes ago...I saw them all running past, so I'd say he won..." he looked at her...

"Sorry..." she tried a quick smile... "I gotta...I'll be back soon as I..."

"I know, go...I'm fine...Hurry..." he nodded...Smiling back...

She headed off to the left...Here, yes...I remember...

I can't have screwed it again...God, why did I waste time saving that miserable piece of...

Mears, I mean, of course...I'm mad, but not that mad at Angel for not telling me sooner about Will...

"No!!!..." she staggered, screaming in horror...Seeing...Over a heaped form she knew too well...

Another Buffy...Stake at her side...Screaming the same "No...!!!!"...Who swung round to see her twin...

I guess I shoulda realized she...I...Would show...Buffy thought in one calm corner of her screaming mind...

***

"Why should I believe you?..." Buffy Previous eyed Buffy... "You could be a demon, the First..."

Buffy took her twin's hand... "See, corporeal...And you know it makes sense...Naturally we'd keep trying, right...?"

"And you're me...From a few days in my future...?..."

"Or hours, minutes...Hard to tell with interdimension/temporal travel..."

"And with extra time, you still managed to screw the pooch...And you say Warren Mears took your jump controller?..." Buffy Previous glared... "I don't think I can believe I'd be stupid enough to take Warren Mears with me anywhere..."

"There wasn't enough time, this jump...I told you about Warren...I...We...Had to have someone to straighten things out with the controller or I...We'd be jumping around every dimension, trying to find Will..."

"Well...Then give me your coordinates here...I'll go back and this time, no Warren...I'll make it..."

"Going to my coordinates again may not help...I've tried that...You were about to, weren't you?...There's a 98% or 99%, something like that, chance of a dimension shift...According to Warren, it's caused by our entry into this time/dimension line...He figured out how to compensate for it but I don't know how to do it..."

Guess we need to find a Buffy the Physics genius...she tried a grin...Buffy Previous eyeing her coldly...Then...

"What about that friend of Angel's, if she's still alive?..."

Buffy Previous looked round the devastated area...

"Winifred's been dead for months...Her body was taken by some demon, remember?...We tried to call her for help just before we kidnaped Willow..."

"I know that..." Buffy Previous snapped... "But maybe demon girl remembers Physics...We could try..."



Buffy eyed her...Was I this irrational?...

Well, I did nearly kill Willow and used the damned jumper without knowing if it'd kill me or no...

And yeah...I remember...I did think of trying to find that girl...Thing...Whatever the poor kid is now...

"You know it's not likely she can help...But if we go on together?..." Buffy paused, eyeing the controller...

Buffy Previous gave her a hard look... "Together?...You mean you'd help me save Will...?"

"I was thinking more you'd help me..." Buffy eyed her counterpart's frowning face coolly..."Lady...Do you think I've been through all this to give him up to you and hope there might be another one out there for me?...Where were you when he needed you, Buffy?..."

"Where you were, if you're really telling the truth...Buffy...You know, it sounds to me like I should just be on my way..." Buffy Previous patted her controller...

"You'll make the same mistakes I did...And Warren might decide to make some trouble for you, on the chance I'll...You'll go after him...The little coward...Our best bet's to work together...As for William...Our worlds diverge now with two of us present here...If you agree to help me save my William and let me have him in our own world...I'll help you save one for here..."

Hmmn...Buffy Previous shook her head..."These paradoxes give me a headache...But...All right..." she sighed... "Though I still don't completely trust you, sister...And..."

No fair suddenly calling dibs on the first Will we run into...she smiled faintly...

"Fair enough..." Buffy smiled back... "Well, look...Our options are we either follow my coordinate settings and see how close we get, knowing there's a dimensional shift likely or...We use my old coordinates to Mears' world and see if we can catch ourselves a worthless geek genius..."

"I wrote them down..." she waved a dirty scrap of paper to Previous' look...One she easily read as "You? You remember transdimensional coordinates?"...

"He wouldn't go back if he knows you'll come after him..."

"We don't need him specifically...Just 'a Mears'...It might be a different dimension anyhow, thanks to my previous entry unless we knew how to compensate...We just repeat what I did and regrab the Mears I grabbed...I can tell him what mine did and we just offer him the same deal that we'll return him home safe..."

Buffy Previous thought a moment...Then looked round the street...Her eyes finally lighting on William's dust-covered jacket...She noted with a little start Buffy was looking down at his remains as well...The same inscrutable look...

She's failed in six jumps, if she's telling the truth...Willow was right, the odds are tremendous...And if we do manage to pull this off here...Given the odds of doing it twice...

But neither of us can go back...Or give him up now...Whatever that may mean in the end, I...We...Will do whatever has to be done...

Winner take all, if need be...

"Lets do it..." she nodded... "But after we finally do something for him..." she looked at the remains...

"I know...And we should make sure Angel and any of the others get out ok...Will would want that..." Previous Buffy nodded...and knelt by the jacket...Dust blowing on her face, hair...All over...

As it had before, Buffy thought...She beside her twin now, both sets of hands folded in prayer...

"Lord, into thy hands I...We...Commend the soul of your servant, our beloved husband William..."

But it's only a loan...They noted...

***



"The Buffy Effect..." V...



A shortie...

PG-13

Disclaimer: No, Joss, no...I make no claims, put that thing down! It's all yours and ME's

Spoilers for Angel to this week...Flee at once!...

Summary: Similar to my Immortal Beloved series of sketches, and my Semi-Parallel Lives bits mostly just short brainstorming ideas for other tales...As with both of those, some bits may be multipart, others just a few lines...

***

"Ok..." Buffy noted to Previous Buffy...They both looking round...The middle of a street in an intact Sunnydale...Fortunately about 2 am...

"Mears' home is where it was in our Sunnydale, we just hafta avoid ourself...Buffy...Should be easy, she wasn't on Patrol when I came last time but this is ninety minutes earlier..."

"And this is, what?..." Previous Buffy looked round...Keeping firm hand on the transit generator disc...And her own Mr. Pointy... in her pocket... "A couple of years ago?..."

"Just after we got back from our Heaven vacation and before the nerds became pains in our asses..." Buffy nodded...

"Then there is a Will here...Well, a Spike...With chip..." Previous noted...

"I thought about that too...But he's not souled...And he is this Buffy's..." Buffy eyed her...

Six times...She's...I've...Previous corrected...Failed six times and she's still ready to pass on a chance to save him...

Maybe he goes to the one of us who's truly ready to do anything...Still, he is this world's Buffy's...

"But you said the very fact of coming back here...Without Mears' compensation could have slid us into a new version of here from the last you entered..." Previous looked at Buffy...

God, I am cute...Both thought...Though a little too bony these days...

And why did I wear that?...Buffy thought, eyeing Previous...Rather pleased that she herself'd found a reasonably nice blouse, jacket, and pants outfit in the ruined storefront of the LA street where she and Previous Buffy had left William's remains...Previous wishing she'd taken the opportunity to change...Damn, what was I thinking when I put this on...

"This world could be a little different from the one..." Previous continued...

"Someone's coming, back here..." Buffy pulled her twin back to the shadow of an unlit space between two stores...

"It's him..." both whispered involuntarily...As a carefully watchful Spike came up the street...

They pulled further back as he approached...Both noting that slight glint of a predatory look in his eye...



He was definitely on the hunt for something...

Me, perhaps?...Each thought, one a second after the other...

He paused by the building closer to him as he came up, peering into the black space between buildings...Both Buffies now plastered against either of the two buildings...

"Who's down there?..." he tensed a moment...Ah, human...

"Bad place to sleep it off, friend...The bogeymen are out and about...Try the shelter on Fulton...And if you should happen to meet a short blonde on your way, before something finds you...Tell her Spike saved your miserable life for love of her..."

Oh...The Buffies looked at each other...

Good deed done and carefully recorded to pass on to a certain right person, he paused again...A whiff of a very familiar scent...

"Buffy?..." he called...Each looking at the other...

He found us, after all...Neither able to repress a pleased beam...

Nor able to refrain from eyeing the other coolly...

"Buffy, are you alright?...It's just me..."

"Slayer...I know it's you down there...Come on out..." he tried again... "At least tell me if you're hurt?..."

Previous looked at Buffy...He'll be down here in a sec...

"I'm fine, Spike..." she suddenly called, Buffy watching her...

"Just needed a moment alone..."

"Well, come on out of there...You're makin' me nervous..." he called back...

"Buffy, I'm guessin' you're hurt..." he tried, after a moment...

"I said I'm fine...Don't...Come..." Buffy called back now...She caught a view of Previous' face as a bit of moonlight revealed her...Tears running down...

Like me, she thought, wiping hastily...

Oh...Would it be so wrong?...To run out, grab him, and offer him the choice now we know it can be done...Spare him all the rest...

This time help him make the choice...Knowing I'd be...She eyed Previous...

Er...We'd be...

He do it in a hot minute, I know he would...We could be on a plane to Africa in an hour...

Well, maybe we'd need more time than that to find one...But a stopover in Chicago or NYC would not be the worst...

Previous clearly ready as she...

"If all fails I'll bring you back here..." Buffy hissed to her... "After I get my Will, I swear..."

After?...Previous looked at her..



Her Will?....

My gosh, I was outta my skull the other day...Buffy thought, looking at Previous' fuming face...

Hope I didn't scare Willow too much...

"Go away, Spike..." Buffy called... "I'll be out in a moment and I wanna be..." she grabbed at Previous as her twin started edging along her wall...Don't...

"...Alone..."

Previous had halted at her touch...

"Slayer...That line didn't work for Garbo and it suits you less..." he called back... "C'mon out and we'll talk...At least let me see you're all right..."

"I can't...I have to..." Previous hissed...Looking back down toward the street...

"All right...Throw me the transit disc..." Buffy whispered harshly, eyeing her...Previous hesitated, then...

"Ok, Spike...I'll come out...But then you get lost..." she called...Moving off from the wall and walking toward the entrance, transit disc control firmly in her pocket...

***

After a nervous ten minutes, Previous Buffy had finally gotten a muttering Spike to head off and was standing watching where he'd disappeared into the early morning darkness when Buffy cautiously emerged...

"I'm as big a fool as you..." Previous told her curtly... "I shoulda grabbed him and headed off...It's crazy to chance it like this...We've...Well, you've failed a heap of times already..."

"You want this world's Buffy finding out you grabbed her Will and coming after you?...In the end she will, you know that..." Buffy noted... "Maybe screwing things up for all of us...Across the dimensions..."

"We've done a fine job of that already, Cicely..." Previous glared...Buffy glaring back...

Odd, always thought I rather liked myself...both thought...Buffy shrugging...

"Fine...We can tear ourselves up about this later...Lets find Mears before another of us shows up...Or my pal his twin shows up here to warn him..."

"Or Will comes back to see if we're really ok..."

"Spike...He's still Spike..." Buffy noted firmly... "And he'd very much like to see one or both of us transformed, much as he loves us...So watch it..."

"And whose fault is that?..." Previous raged... "Who got him condemned, who left him to die three times thinking no one gave a damn?!... Even when he saved the world!..." her voice shaking...

"We did..." Buffy replied coldly... "And if we don't pull ourselves together, the third time's the evil charm...We can put this right, that's why we're here..."

I know what you're going through...Sis...

"I've been there, you know?..."

"Yeah..." Previous grinned faintly... "Remember the look on Willow's face when we jumped her?...God, I was a little annoyed...Didn't she think we were capable of that kinda love?..."

"She did come through for us in the end, don't forget that..." Buffy noted...Previous nodding...



"You think Giles might...?"

"He might...So again, it behooves us to get movin'..."

"Right..."

"He was so...Just now..." Previous smiled again...

"Yeah..." Buffy smiled, nodding... "But he was there for us from resurrection day on...Still..." wider smile... "I didn't know he'd been following us around like that the first nights..."

"We can't screw this, Buffy..."

"We won't...One of us at least will pull it off and keep Cicely's word...Now c'mon...And remember, Mears here will try to play innocent, then cross us..."

"Sounds about what I...Shoulda..." she eyed Buffy with a hard look... "Expected...Got it..." Previous nodded...

***

Today would be the day...Warren thought...Smiling at himself in the bathroom mirror...

Today he would make the proposal to the guys...During a round of Dungeons and Dragons, most likely...

Today...The Trio would be formed...To make its bid for power and show that bitch of a Slayer she had no right to go round screwing up guys' lives...Humiliating them in front of their girlfriends...

Depriving them of paying customers...Hey, and she damaged April without compensating me...I shoulda sued...

Today would be the start of his new career as criminal mastermind and the beginning of his campaign of vengeance...Vengeance, vengeance, vengeance...He tried a vengeful criminal mastermind look in the mirror...Hmmn...

Well, nothing wrong with looking anything but a powerful and resolute vengeance-seeking mastermind...While being one...

Yes, today he would become the Slayer's greatest nemeses...er nemesis...

But first...See if Mom has breakfast ready...He headed up the stairs of his parents' basement...

"Warren!..." his mom's voice... "Someone here to see you!..."

Hmmn...Guys are early...Well, good they're so chipper...Bodes well for our reign of terror...

The early Trio catches the Slayer...

"Here he is, girls..." Mrs. Mears beamed...Rather pleased by this visit...She and Mr. Mears had been getting a little concerned after Warren's romance with that nice Katrina had apparently been totaled...Following that even nicer, if a bit dim, April...

What with that odd little Andrew constantly around, hanging on Warren's every word...

"Warren..." a happy chorus... "We couldn't wait, sorry..."

He blinked at two beaming Buffy Summers in different outfits...Who came quickly over to his sides, each taking a arm...And, under their beaming smiles, were fixing him with hard stares...

"He promised to take sis and me shopping at the Sunnydale Mall today..." Buffy smiled to Mrs. Mears...

"And we're here to hold him to it..." Previous added...Likewise smiling...



Likewise hard stare at Warren...

Ok...I'm clearly still asleep...he thought...

But is this a fantasy?...Or a nightmare...?

***

"So it's simple, Mears..." Previous eyed him from across the table of the IHOP they'd pleasantly... Then firmly and grimly, once outside the house and out of range of his beaming mom...Insisted on bringing him for breakfast... "You figure out the coordinates to get us to William before he toasts on our dimensional timeline..."

"And then get my sis here to another William...Preferably one who needs a Buffy..." Buffy chimed in...Previous frowning a little at her...

No reason I couldn't have our world's Will and you go find another...she thought...Yet again...

"And we don't rip your head from your shoulders..." Buffy finished...

"Ladies?...Have I given you any reason to think I wouldn't be touched by your plight?..." Warren eyed each Buffy in turn with innocent stare...

"Wasn't I the one who came though for your poor blonde guy when he was desperate for companionship last year?...I'm a fool for love, girls..." he beamed...

They frowned at him...

"I'm perfectly willing to take a crack at it...Sounds like a fascinating piece of equipment...I've done a little time-warp tinkering in my day...Though no guarantees..." he put up a hand...

"You can do it...You did it before..." Buffy noted grimly...

"Though this time there's gonna be no funny business..."

"Buffy, I appreciate your faith in me...And that was, I must point out...A different Warren Mears...You can depend on me, ladies..."

Kill one, hypnotize the other?...he thought...A shame to throw away two...

Heck if I could brainwash both...

"I'll need a place to work...Can we go back to..."

"You can work in the Mall...Nobody'll be surprised to see someone tinkering with a new toy there..." Previous cut him off...

Hmmn...Me seen with two Buffy Summerses at the Sunnydale Mall?...Not bad for the rep...And I might run into some help there...

"As you ladies wish..." he beamed...

"We might run into somebody, you know..." Previous hissed to Buffy as they led Mears out...

"Who'll assume Mears has built two more Buffy-bots and tell this world's Buffy..." Buffy whispered back...

And when she hears...

They beamed at Mears as he turned back to try and hear...

***



Having found a discreet table, fairly well hidden in the rear of the food court, the Buffies were watching Warren who was writing down some figures after Previous had allowed him a look at the transit disc controller...Never letting go...

"So...When we do it..." Previous asked her twin... "What should we do about..."

"You mean the immortality, not Mears..." Buffy nodded, guessing instantly...Previous smiling at her...Yeah...

"William would happily stake himself when we go...But we oughta find a way...Maybe we can get Angel's prophecy to work for him..." Buffy suggested...

"Or we do the immortality route..." Previous pondered... "You must've seen those notes in the Council archives about the Immortal...He's just human, fundamentally..."

"William would tease us about that...Forever..." Buffy chuckled... " 'Slayer, you may have died twice but Death is still your biggest fear'...He always knew us so well..."

"Knows..." Previous eyed her firmly...She nodded...Damned straight... Knows...

What are the weird sisters gabbing on about now?...Mears frowned...Another little snigger at old Warren's expense?...Well, no matter...Focus...Just got to get them to let me have that damned controller...

Which looks suspiciously like the controller from my time-warper by the way...Thieving bitches...he glared briefly at the Buffies...

Well, my counterpart got the better of them...And this Mears will prove no slacker...

"Almost got it..." he smiled at Previous' hard glare...

Yeah, almost ready to send you two to where the brain leeches will have a crack at you...

***

"Look..." Anya pulled a reluctant Xander over to the store entrance as he sighed...What worse fate than the Sunnydale Mall on a lovely Saturday... "It's not a commitment...I just want you to look at them..."

"A dinner pattern says commitment to me..." he noted...

"You said we'd be getting engaged...Soon..."

"'...er or later...' complete the sentence..." he frowned...

"Just a silly little dinner pattern..." she eyed him... "Just to make me feel like...Despite my terrible past, the incredible remorse I've been feeling and my heroic and productive work with the Slayer and her comrades offer some faint hope of my redemption...That someday, somehow...My lover will decide I'm redeemed and worthy to bear his..."

"All right, all right!...Enough!...Lets just not take a lot of time with this..."

"Done in a jiffy...My spiffy..." she kissed him...Then froze, staring over his shoulder...

"What's up?..." he hissed...Long experience having taught him the 'red alert' meaning of her sudden stiffening...

Except of course at the climax of their lovemaking...Though that was a 'red alert' of sorts in its way as well...

"Look...Careful...Behind you...No, not now!..." she hissed as he tried to turn..."Lets go in..."

"What...?"

"It's Dawn and Buffy...I don't want them to see us here...Dawn'll start teasin' about when we're gonna do it and all..."



Right, no need for that kind of extra pressure...he thought, nodding...Hastily pulling her now back into the store...

Hmmn...That's a nice one right there...he couldn't help noticing, looking up at the china selection...

No...Oh, no...

"You sure you feel up to this, Buffy?..." Dawn was saying as she and Buffy walked down the main corridor of the Sunnydale Mall...

"Sure...Can't say as our bank account is, though...So keep it simple..." she turned to look in a store window...Seeing herself reflected...

Hey...She blinked, looking down...

I'm not wearing that...

Nor am I...Sitting...

She turned to see...Empty chairs, an elderly couple, more empty chairs...Some guy...Say is that Warren Mears, the little schnook?...Doing some math or something...Empty chairs...

Hmmn...

"Buffy?..." Dawn eyed her... "You ok?...What's wrong?..."

"Nothing...Nerves, maybe...I hear revived dead girls are tense the first coupla weeks..." Buffy shook her head...

Still, Warren Mears...

Might not be a bad idea to go over and see if robo-pimp boy is up to something...

Like maybe a line of Botties with and in my face...

"Buffy?...Is some...Thing going on...?" Dawn asked...Looking round nervously...

"Nah..." she shook her head..."I saw that jerk Mears over there...But he's nothing to worry over..."

Catch up with Mr. Mears later, maybe...she thought...Dawn's nervous enough round me these days...

"Just nerves like I said...Come on..."

***

"Buffy?..." Anya blinked at Previous who'd suddenly popped into the nearest refuge after the Buffies had spotted Buffy and Dawn...

"Anya?...Oh, God!...It's great to see you again!..." Previous beamed...Hugging her...Ummn...She hastily released her...

"Is it?..." Anya stared...

"Xander, you look great...Your eye...Eyes...I...Ummn...They always look so great...Handsome..."

"Do they?..."Anya, glaring now...As Xander beamed...

"Buffy...You know, it's funny...I saw you with Dawn just a minute ago..."

"Oh yeah..." Previous nodded... "Dawnie's off somewhere...You know kids..."

"You seemed to be dressed differently..."



"Bad lighting in this Mall..." Previous shook her head... "Don't you think, Xander?...You outta know..."

"It's a little substandard..." he agreed happily...

***

"Buffy?..." Dawn blinked at the Buffy who'd just appeared in the clothing store where she'd gone in to make a quick sweep of things she could not hope to purchase in the near...And perhaps not-so-near future...

"Hey..." Buffy beamed...

Just brazen it out...Dawn won't notice the clothes...Or the unwashed-for-days hair...

"Who are you?..." Dawn stepped back, trying as firm a glare as possible as she glanced about for potential help... "We saw Mears outside...Are you another of his bots?...Buffy!..." she called as Buffy tried to make calming gestures... "Dawnie, there's nothing..." "Buffy!...Help!!..."

Whoops...She caught sight of a puzzled Xander, an instantly fiercely-protective-mode Anya in front of him, looking her way from the main corridor...

With a God-has-the-shit-hit-the-fan-looking Previous facing them but also looking her way...Don't look now but behind you, her look saying...

Buffy raced out the clothing store door...To find an anxious Buffy racing to the door...Even as Previous backed away from Anya and fled down the corridor...

Mears watching events from his ringside seat with considerable appreciation...

***

"Who the hell are you?..." A grim hiss...Third Buffy had backed Buffy into a corner...Stake out, Dawn beside her...

"She must be a bot, Buffy..." Dawn insisted...

"Look...Whoever I am, I don't mean you any harm...Lets not get upset...This isn't the place to fight it out..." Buffy tried to defuse the situation...

"There are two of them, Buffy!..." Anya had pulled Xander in...

"The other's run off..."

"Mears ran off, too..." Dawn reported, looking out the store window...

"Who are you?...Or do I assume you're a robot and start disassembly..." Third Buffy glared at her twin...

"I can explain...Just back off a little..." Buffy frowned back... "You don't need a lawsuit right now, I know..."

"Throw that poor imitation of Mr. Pointy down and come on quietly or so help me, I'll run you through..." Third Buffy insisted, trying to keep it down as several customers and a perturbed clerk stared...

God, am I always this unwilling to try diplomacy?...And was wrong with good ole Mr. P?...Buffy frowned...

***

"Going somewhere, Warren...?" Previous had caught up with Mears as he tried to saunter casually down a side corridor to the nearest exit...

Uh...Hey... "When they cornered your sis I figured I'd best not be caught with these figures..." Warren waved a sheet...

"We could get off and about...If you'd care to..." he smiled at her... "See what your William's doing back on that world of yours moments before his tragic death..."



"We're not leaving Buffy here..." Previous frowned... "I haven't got William yet and I might need help...Especially with you..."

"Well, considering my world's Buffy has taken her, I'd say you'd best vamoose while you can..." he noted...

"Give me that paper..." she took it... "And these better be right, Warren... 'Cause you're going too, you know..."

"I wouldn't have it any other way..." She pulled him along, heading back up the side corridor toward the main mall... "Hey, I stand by my work...Though, you know...We haven't exactly discussed compensation for my efforts..."

"We haven't killed you yet...That's pretty good compensation...Hold it!..." she hissed...

"Why don't we just head out, get you the William you deserve...And you can come back later...Or better yet, earlier...For twin sis, if you trust her enough..."

"Shut up...And look casual..." she pulled him into a corner store...A beaming clerk offering him a spray of something powerfully fruity that caused him to choke...Previous pulling him to a window...

"I love these, honey..." she noted...Vaguely patting a basket of what Warren saw were assorted treats for one's special puppy...Previous staring out the window, trying to see down the corridor to the clothes shop where Buffy held Buffy cornered...

Yeah, that collar'd look nice on her...he thought...Trying see where she'd pocketed the transit disc...

Still...From close observation of the twins over the last hour or so...He was sure he'd latched on to something...

Just gotta keep playing on that 'get you your William' note with each of them...These girls were clearly not inclined to share...

***

"Ok...Spill it..." Third Buffy addressed her twin as she, Dawn, Xander, Anya, and Buffy all took seats in the food court spot where Mears and the twins had sat earlier...

"I'm not a Mears robot...Neither is my twin...We're you...From different dimensions..."

"Right..." Buffy eyed her coldly... "And is that Warren also from a different dimension?...Cause I sure hope he's a nicer guy than the schmuck we're stuck with here..."

"No, he's your Warren...We needed his help...Look, just let me explain..."

"I don't sense demon in her, Buffy..." Anya cut in... "If she's a bot, she's much improved..."

"Thanks..." Buffy frowned...

"Lets get Willow to check her out..." Dawn suggested...

"Yeah, but for now...Suppose I assume you're telling the truth..." Third Buffy eyed her twin... "Why did two of you come here?...Did I..." she paused...

"Let me talk to her alone a minute, guys..." she looked at the others... "Dawn, why don't you go with Xander and Anya for coffee or something..."

"That other one is still loose, Buf..." Xander noted... "Bots or no, if they're evil..."

"Just stay in sight...I need to talk with this one..." Third Buffy insisted... "Please..." she eyed him...

Buffy watching...Hmmn...

Oh...I get it...Poor kid...

"Lets take five, guys..." Xander turned to Anya and Dawn... Dawn frowning...



"I'll tell you what she says..." Third Buffy nodded to her... "Just five..." Dawn insisted, rising with the others...

"And you guys stay where I can see you..." Third Buffy looked at them, then turned to Buffy as they moved off...

"This isn't about your resurrection, Buffy...You're not evil..." Buffy quickly told her... "I know you're worried about that...But you're just angry, not turned or possessed...And we're not here to stop you from doing evil..."

I know what you're going through...I went through this year...she smiled...Third Buffy frowning at her twin...

"Then why are you here?...Assuming you're not a bot and some shifter fooling Anya's instinct..."

"I'm about two years older, Buffy...So is my twin...And a lot happened in that two years...Including some answers to questions you've been asking yourself a long time..." she began...

***

"I see her..." Previous hissed... "Buffy's got her alone back at the food court...The guys have left them...They seem to be talking...We might have a chance of getting her out now..."

Warren looked through the window... "They seem chummy enough...Buffy's probably spilling the beans and getting her sis to help her...Next thing you know she's got a William and you're left holding the bag..." he noted...

"Shut up before I shut you up permanently...Come on..." she pulled at him... "Nothing today, he's being a cheapskate..." she smiled to the clerk as they passed out the door...



***

"I can't tell you everything...It might screw things up terribly for you here..." Buffy noted to Third Buffy... "But we're trying to save someone important...And all we need is to have Mears work out our little navigation-in-time-and-space problem...Which I know he can do...He did it before..."

"You can't trust him..." Third Buffy shook her head...

"I don't...And there are two of us to watch him, this time...We'll get him to do the job right..."

"Well...I'd like to believe you...Buffy..." Third Buffy sighed...

"And if Willow can confirm you're both human...Maybe she can help you with this transporter thing..."

"Ummn...I don't know if having Willow learn more about dimensional transport's the best thing for her just right now..." Buffy bit a lip...

"So, it's Willow you're trying to help...Did she get in an accident with her magics?..."

"No, it's not Willow...Buffy, I think I gotta just ask you not to ask more questions...I don't wanna screw up your life here...And knowing too much could..."

"But I'm...I won't go...Dark Side...?" the other asked, trying to make it a joke...Anxiety in her face...

"Never...Hang in there, sis..." Buffy patted her... "It's rough but I can tell you I think it will get better..."

"If you are a bot, Mears has learned a thing or two..." Third Buffy grinned...

"Buffy!..." Previous called, bearing down on the two, Warren firmly in her grip, dragging along after her...

"Come on!...While the others are gone!..." she came up...Mr. Pointy in hand... "Sorry, sis, but we got places to go..." she eyed Third Buffy...Buffy rising...Seated Third Buffy pulled her Mr. Pointy...

"Buffy...Please..." Buffy sighed... "Lets not do the fight thing here...Everything I tole you is true...But I think sis and I should go and not risk telling you stuff you shouldn't hear...We'll be gone from this world in just a little while if Mears has things squared away..." Hard glare to Warren...

"I can't chance it that you're lying...Stay here and let me have Willow check you out..." Third Buffy insisted, now on her feet...

"Buffy!..." Xander called from where he'd stopped, coffee in hand...Dawn and Anya following him, now likewise paused in shock...He pulling cell phone...

God, they really are good...If the clothes were the same I couldn't tell which was which, Anya stared...

Well, maybe the other two do look a little bonier now I see them all together...

"Xander's gotta be calling Willow, Buffy!...We gotta move!..." Previous called...

Buffy now facing a Buffy in full defense mode...Both with stakes out...Previous now moving beside her traveling companion...Thank God for the clothes, she thought...To tip the balance...

"We're just gonna leave, no trouble..." Buffy told her grim-faced twin...

"Not till I'm sure what's up here..." Third Buffy replied coldly...

"You can't fight two of us, Buffy..." Previous insisted... "Just let us go..."

"I've got Warren fixed in my sights, ladies..." Third Buffy said coolly...Mears gulping as he tried to duck behind Previous, who held him tightly with one hand.. "If he is so important to you, you better stand down..."

"Willow's on her way!..." Xander was hurrying over...

"That's it!..." Previous looked at Buffy... "Mears, you better be right about these coordinates..." she pressed the transit disc...Reaching for Buffy, holding Mears...

Third Buffy leaping at them as they vanished...

"Buffy?...Buffy!!..." Dawn cried...Seeing a blue glow, then three upset, empty chairs by their table...The triplet Buffies and Mears gone...

Xander looking anxiously round, Anya staring...

"Buffy!..."

***

"The Buffy Effect..." VI...



A shortie...

PG-13

Disclaimer: No, Joss, no...I make no claims, put that thing down! It's all yours and ME's. Ron, just a friendly nod to a great work.

Spoilers for Angel to this week...Flee at once!...

Summary: Similar to my Immortal Beloved series of sketches, and my Semi-Parallel Lives bits mostly just short brainstorming ideas for other tales...As with both of those, some bits may be multipart, others just a few lines...

***



"Keep away from them..." Buffy growled feebly...Trying to stand as the blonde woman moved slowly towards her...A young Asian?...If there was an Asia here...Woman behind her, in what appeared to be a fatigues version of a military uniform, watching carefully...

"You don't understand...I..." the blonde began...

"I know what you are..." Buffy swayed...Giddiness enveloping her again...She struggled to stay alert...Next to her, Previous Buffy moaned...

"You're all suffering from radiation sickness...I have something that can help..." the woman held what looked like a medical packet out to her...

"You're one of those...Things...Like the one I..." Buffy indicated a battered, unrecognizable body on the ground and shook her head... "So is she..." she nodded at the Asian-featured girl...

"Yes..." the blonde nodded... "I'm a Cylon...So is Sharon here...But we're not like the one who attacked you or the others...And that's not important now...If you and your sisters and your friend there don't get treated soon, you'll all die..."

"Could they be a new series?...Like me, built to think they're human?" the woman addressed as 'Sharon' came over...

"No new series would be created without informing the general population..." Caprica Six, shook her lovely head... "At least not if they were to be tested on Caprica..."

"Caprica?..." Buffy whispered...Falling back...

"Yes...Did you come back from the fleet?..." Six looked at her...

"I doubt I or anyone in the fleet sent them..." Gaius Baltar in suit appearing by Six's side, invisible to all the others, shook his head...Echoing the thought...The vague hope...In Six's mind...

"Fleet?..." Buffy stared...

"Here, let us help you...Sharon!..." Six turned back to wave Sharon in ...

"William?..." Previous Buffy looked round vaguely...

This didn't look like their destination point...Though LA had been badly trashed...

"Here, pet...Hang in there..." Will smiled at her...In the jacket he'd worn at the last battle with the Partners...The jacket she'd found and taken as she'd knelt in his ashes before her twin alternate Buffy could and now wore herself...

He invisible to all others in the room...

"Today is not our day to die, Cicely..." he winked at her...

"We've done our share of that..."

"I love you, William..." she whispered...

"I knew..." he nodded... "And I'm waiting..." She passed out...

"Please, your sister there is delirious..." Six pleaded with Buffy as she struggled... "None of you have much time...It's just an injection..." she held her arm as Sharon reached for the med kit and pulled out an anti-radiation syringe setup...

"They're not faking, they're definitely human...Where could they be from? ...Not knowing about the radiation?..." Sharon asked as she tapped the syringe...Buffy rolling her eyes, starting to tear her arm out of Six's grip...

"I don't know...But that magnetic pulse a little while back must be involved...We've got to hurry...."



My Cylon god...She's strong...Six looked at Baltar's image...

He shook his head... "I've no idea...But the pulse could have been a means of transport...You remember we were working on experiments with teleportation at the Ministry...Before the attack...Perhaps they're not even Colonials..."

"They could be humans from another world...Even Earth..." Six repeated the words her Gaius spoke to her aloud...Sharon staring...

Earth?...

Mears, lying beside the unconscious third Buffy, moaned faintly...

"Please...We just wanna help you..." Sharon tried...Staring into Buffy's eyes...

"If Humanity is intact?...On Earth or some other world...?" Six looked at Gaius...

Sharon looking at her... "You mean...Earth could exist?..."

"Then a peace...And your redemption... is truly possible..." Baltar smiled back...

Oh, Gaius...My love...Six whispered...Too low for Sharon to hear...

"I think you can trust them, love..." William's image appeared beside Buffy...In same outfit as he'd appeared to Previous...

"William?..." Buffy whispered... "Oh, God...Will...Don't leave me again..." she reached for him...

"No, never, Buffy...I'll never leave my poor Cics again...Let them help you, now..."

"I love you so, Will..." she relaxed and Sharon plunged the syringe needle...

Six looking at Gaius who smiled and shrugged...

"What is this thing called Love...?" he vanished, his words hanging on the air...

At least for her...

***

"The Buffy Effect..." VII...



A shortie...

PG-13

Disclaimer: No, Joss, no...I make no claims, put that thing down! It's all yours and ME's.

Spoilers for Angel to this week...Flee at once!...

Summary: Similar to my Immortal Beloved series of sketches, and my Semi-Parallel Lives bits mostly just short brainstorming ideas for other tales...As with both of those, some bits may be multipart, others just a few lines...

***

Part A...



"So...What do we do now?...And when are you two getting me home?..."

Buffy eyes the recently resurrected Buffy she and Previous Buffy had found themselves encumbered with when they'd arrived on Caprica along with the Warren Mears of her world...Their transit coordinates thrown off by the additional passenger..

"Just be glad those Cylon girls were decent types, sis..." Previous cuts in... "Or we'd be dead right now, thanks to you butting in."

"You two crash my world..." the third Buffy begins, angrily...

"Enough..." Buffy puts up a hand... "At least we're off Caprica and back to Earth..."

"Really?...Well that may be what Warren says, but this sure don't look like my home...God..." Third Buffy frowns... "A week ago I was in Heaven...I think...Then Willow drags me out to save my friends' and the world's...Our world's...Collective asses...And now, this..." she sulks, kicking away a few rocks to take a seat...

"Look at this place..." she waves at the rubble and ruined buildings... "Looks like it was nuked..."

"Maybe it was..." Previous notes... "We're still protected from radiation by that stuff the robo-ladies gave us...We wouldn't know for a while..."

Ah...Third Buffy glares, and rising, stalks off... Stopping just a moment...

"All I can say is!...You two clowns better get me home...Tout sweet!..." she turns and heads off...

Geesh...Previous turns to Buffy...

"Were you like this post-resurrection?...I couldn't've imagined I was such a whining little..."

"Just don't let her run off too far...It's bad enough we've gotta find that clown Mears before he gets himself killed..."

"Can't believe he'd run off without the transit disc..."

Previous shook her head... "Without that and us to protect him, he's toast if there's anything dangerous alive here..."

"He probably figured he'd try and make a break when a couple of us were still out...See if there's anyone here he can bargain with...Just lucky you were conscious enough to keep him from getting the disc...When he runs into something he'll be running back..."

"If he lives long enough...We'd better get after him...And Her Highness, Ms. 'Oooh-I-Was-Resurrected-Last-Week-Everybody-Pay-Attention-To-Me..."

"It was a rough time...You remember..."

"I remember we coulda saved William that year...We coulda got off our asses...Ass...And reached out to him instead of spending the year moaning over our fate..." Previous frowned...

"We coulda helped him...The soul quest could have been with us..."

"We didn't know..." Buffy pointed out...

"We shoulda known...Our Will..." Previous looked out over the blasted, desert-like landscape...

I shoulda...If I'd just taken Mears myself and gone...God, we'll never do it now...Oh, Will...

If I get the chance...She turned back to eye Buffy...

If God or whoever...Heck, the First...Gives me the chance...Nothing...No one...Will stop me...

Buffy eyeing her...Absolutely aware of her thoughts...



And rather thinking the same...Though...

"We can't turn on each other, sis..." she told Previous quietly... "I'm sure we have to work together if we're gonna get him back..."

"For you?..." Previous stared back...

***

"Bitches...Worthless, treacherous...!" Warren fumed as he staggered across the bleak landscape on what vaguely appeared to be the remains of Highway 47 on the east side of Sunnydale...

Hell, not even a blade of grass to be seen...Let alone signs of intelligent life...Just ruined, burned out shells of uninhabited, thoroughly looted buildings and...

Well, there at least had been people here once, he grimaced at several partly scattered but still recognizable skeletons along the cracked and weed-overgrown sidewalk...More bones loose in the street...

"They tricked me!...Led me to this shit-house of a Earth...Probably faked the whole unconscious thing...Wanted me to head off like this!..."

Night now beginning to fall rapidly...Along with the temperature...

Well their wagon'd be fixed when he was dead and they were stuck...

Ummn...Not exactly the way he'd hoped his revenge scenario would've played out...

And dammnit, he didn't deserve this fate...His goddamn weasel of a counterpart was the one who should be suffering here...

Dark now...But not a sound, not even an insect...Just a faint sound of wind picking up across the hills...

Then...Just the faintest...

He stumbled over something on the dark ground...

Someone, he realized...Covered by something...He managed to move the cover and found an opening, slipping it back to reveal...

"Summers?..." he knelt by her...And pulled back...

Nope...At least not one of the three he knew...Her face dry and ravaged, hair bleached and brittle...And the dress...All wrong...

Nothing to mention the not breathing thing...Damn...The one time he'd not have minded to find one still breathing and she has to be dead...

Does explain the sit round here though...Hmmn...He looked round as far as he could...If someone or thing killed this world's Summers and left things as trashed as this...He looked back at the corpse...Well, long dead, obviously...Just lucky to have dried out rather than rotted....

At least somebody'd had the decency to cover her with some kind of a bag or something...

Hmmn...He rubbed at his knee...Whacked against some rocks when he'd fallen...

Wonder the hell she'd been doing out here...Caught in some nuke attack?...Died after days of agony from radiation poisoning?...Or some kinda demonic assault that devastated the planet, leading to her dying of thirst and starvation?...

God, he hoped so...

Course that meant the whole damned world here was possibly trashed...And unless he...

Damn...Knee's bleeding now...Pretty good too...



Well, best to press on...See if anyone was alive...Preferably a counterpart of his...Or, if worst came to worst...Try and circle back to the weird sisters...Claim he'd just wanted to check the lay of the land...For the common good...

Heck, he wasn't the one who screwed them before, after all...Lucky bastard...

He staggered on...

On the ground the withered form of Buffy Summers under her plastic tarp, stirred faintly...

After so long...The faintest whiff of real, human blood...Her eyes opened slowly, painfully...Her lips pulling back ever so slightly to reveal fangs...Her hands clawing a bit in the dirt, one feeling the slightest sensation of fast-fading moisture from a few drops of blood Warren had left...

Her arm dragging the hand across the dirt to her chest, then her neck...Finally up to her parched lips...

Which, dry as a bone, responded to the feel of the hand and the tiny bit of blood on it with an eager sucking...

"William...?" the faintest whisper across her trembling lips...

***

"I don't wanna hear it, Mears..." Third Buffy growled as she dragged him across the ground back toward the arrival site...Ignoring his pleas of innocence...And howls of pain as his legs encountered various resistant obstacles in the form of rocks and what appeared to be as she paused to pick one up, some kind of charred wood...

Just trying to get da lay of da land... For the good of all...he tried...

Wait a sec...she looked at the 'wood' more closely...

That's not wood...

"Just be glad I found you before something else did...Including those two crazed sisters of mine..." she tossed the charred bone aside...

Human from size, shape, and her vague sensation...

In fact, she realized, kicking several more aside...

A lot of human...

"Yeah, they are crazy..." Warren nodded... Shut up, she replied...Scanning the horizon...

Something distinctly unnice about this world, wherever it is...

"Lets move..." she pulled at her companion/burden...

"Say...Buffy..." Mears tried again...

"Er, Miss Summers..." he corrected hastily at her glare...

"We both hail from the same Earth, right?...And you don't know when these two are gonna stop their wild goose chase and take you home, right?..." Attempt at subtle leer...

"Can it..." she shook her head, pulling him along... "We have enough of a history with April and your Buffy-bot that I know you're a skunk...And from what my sisters say about you, you're a bastard foe-in-training...Move it!..."

"What they say...C'mon, Bu...Miss Summers...They're from different worlds, right?...And how do you really know they're not evil?..." attempt at shrewd look as he stumbled along...



"Mears...If they were evil you'd be dead or minus several moderately important but not vital body parts long ago...Now..." she paused, staring at the strange figure in front of them...

What appeared to be a man, covered in long hair, but otherwise naked...Who stood staring back at them in the middle of a field empty but for the bones...

"Xander?..." she gasped...

"No...No!...You don't want me!...Not ole Xander...Cause he's crazy, make you not right in the head..." he spoke in a mixture of hysterical fear and an odd kind of logic... "He's crazy, not what you want..." he repeated, waving one arm at her frantically...

Suddenly pulling out his hand, bearing a cross from under his long hair... "This'll fix ya!!..."

"Xander!...Put that thing down?...What the hell's going...?" she backed away from him a little as he stopped and sniffed at her and Mears...

"Used to the two sticks, huh...Used to 'em now?..." he eyed them warily, still keeping the cross up... "You smelly...?" he stared at her...Then Mears...

"You could use a bath yourself, pal..." Mears glared...

"You smell..." he paused... "Eh, try to fool ole Xan...Crazy ole Xander..." the wild man shook a fist... "But I got more...See..." he put his hand under his hair and brought out a canteen...

"You won't like this, no...You get now!...."

"Is that...Holy water, Xander?..." Third Buffy stared at him... "You think I'm a vamp?..."

"You smelly...But you not fool ole Xander...No, he's the last...He's not gonna go...NO!!..." he backed off and ran to a small rise and climbed a boulder as she tried to carefully approach him...

Pouring out a capful of water or whatever was in the canteen into its cap, then his hand and sprinkling it at her...

"Xander...I'm not a vampire..." Third Buffy pleaded... "I'm not the Buffy you know..."

"Anne-bitch ya are!...My Buf, she's gone!...Don't you say you're my Buf..." he cried...

A crossbow arrow buried itself in the ground near her feet...She jumped back...

"Anne!!..." Willow's voice...Stern and cold... "We still have William!!...We'll destroy him if you don't get out of here!!..."

"Wil?..." Third Buffy called... "Listen!...I'm not..."

"Help!!..." Mears cried...Pulling away from her... "I'm human!!...Don't let her kill me!!..."

"Mears...You bastard..." she whirled on him...And groaned as a second arrow caught her in the shoulder...

"Ha, ha!!...Good one!!..." Xander cackled, hopping up and down on his boulder perch... "Another one!...Kill the Anne-bitch for good!!!..."

"Yeah!..." Mears called as Third Buffy struggled to pull the arrow out and make out her attacker... "Kill the bitch, she's a monster!!!..."

"I surrender, Wil!!..." Third Buffy put up hands as best she painfully could, having decided it was no use trying to run or fight...

"Give me a chance...I'm not what you think!!..."

"That's what she says...Anya, it's me...Help me...She says..." Xander said, half to himself... "Shoot the bitch, Willow!..." Third Buffy staring at his sudden burst of rational speech...



"On the ground, flat, both of you!!..." Willow's disembodied voice again... "Don't move a muscle or I swear I'll kill you both and worry if one of you's human later!!..."

Warren threw himself on the ground, third Buffy following suit more slowly...Groaning as she did...

"No!...No, no!!...Kill the Anne-bitch!!...Kill her, Wil!!!...Kick her ass!!..." Xander cried...Hopping down from his perch and running over...

"Stay back, Xander!!..." Willow called...Stepping out of the darkness now, dressed all in black...Her hair bunned tightly under a black cap, her face blackened by greasy make-up...Crossbow at her side, large cross and canteen hanging from her neck...She pulled a large flashlight out from a hip belt and shined it at the two on the ground...

Xander moved a few steps back, then grabbed a large rock from the ground...

"Not yet!!..." Willow shoved the light in her belt and went to him... "You can have her later!!..." she told him...He holding his rock with a grim look... "You can, Xander..." she said, more gently... "Just let me ask her some questions..."

He gave a grim, tense look...

"I'll let you have William...You can take care of him right in front of her, then her..."

Anya'd like that, Xander...Willow eyed him intently...

"Yeah..." he nodded carefully... "Make the Anne-bitch watch...Vengeance for vengeance demon...She'd like that...My An..." he looked down a moment...Letting her take the rock...

"Willow, please..." Third Buffy groaned from where she lay, face down on the ground... "Check me out, I'm human..."

"That's nice...Shut up..." Willow told her coldly...

"She's lookin' good..." Xander noted, eyeing Third Buffy as she lay...

He looked up at Willow... "How'd she get so good?..."

"I don't know, honey..." Willow shook her head... "I was sure we got her...But if this guy's her human cow..."

"Excuse me?..." Mears turned his head up...

Xander suddenly gave a choked cry, pointing to the left...Willow tensing and grabbing for her crossbow as Buffy stepped forward...

"Willow?..."

"Don't move!..." Willow had the bow pointed at her heart...

Nice moves, this Wil's got...Buffy thought...Then saw Third Buffy on the ground, groaning...Clearly wounded, despite the darkness...Warren groveling as pathetically as he could manage beside her...

"Wil?...Why did you...?"

And why the hell is Xander naked but for that hair?...she stared at him as he trembled at the sight of two fiendish Anne-bitches...

"Get on the ground with the others!!...Now!!!" Willow shouted...Finger on the bow trigger...

***



My God...Previous Buffy, the fury that had possessed her when she'd stalked off from Buffy having cooled a little...Though the thoughts still pressed on her mind...

Either them or me...And they don't love him enough...One doesn't know him or herself yet...And the other failed him...Neither cares enough to pull this off... ...Had come a to startling realization, despite the darkness of the night unleavened by any kind of artificial lighting or a shining moon...

The ground about her was one vast bone pile, stretching on all sides for several hundred feet...Thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands and maybe more...Human bones, scattered as though something had carelessly tossed chicken bones after making a hearty meal...

Something tells me my counterpart here didn't do such a good job of defending Humanity...she thought...Moving back to what looked a little like old Highway 47...

Ohhh...A soft groan on the wind...

"Who's there?...Buffy?!..." she called... "Tell me who you are..."

"Help..." a faint cry...

Familiar...

"Buffy?..." she headed over, carefully, trying to make her eyes see...A vague form, writhing?...No, crawling on the ground...

She halted...Senses telling her to beware...

"Help me..." the form called weakly...

She pulled stake and advanced...If it was true...And one of them who'd been turned...

One little problem solved without risk to her soul...

William would appreciate that...

She eyed the form now near her...Which struggled to raise its head...Nope, not of ours...

But it did help explain why this Earth wasn't fairing so well...

"Whoa..." it whispered...A faint smile coming to dry, weathered lips...

"Who the hell are you?...Sister?..."

"Not yours, bitch..." Previous unlimbered her stake...

"William..." the other stated quietly...

"Where?..." Previous replied before she could stop herself...

The smile again, faint... "They took him from me...Like they took him from you, right?..."

Such good friends we got, huh?...Sis?...

"Good-bye..." Previous told her quietly, raising stake...

"I'll help you if you help me..." the other hastily...Feebly putting up an arm... "We both want the same thing..."

"No...How?..." Previous hesitated... "Don't..." she growled as the other moved slightly...And paused...Staring at her...

"He made you his...But you didn't tell them..." the other smiled at her... "I can feel him in you..."

"No..." Previous shook her head... "He bit me once, I got a little of his back...It was voluntary...I shook it off like Dracula and that's all..."



They didn't need to know...she said...More to herself...

"You never told anyone...I feel your pain, sis...You're bound to him like me..." the other grinned...Head raised on one arm now, an almost coy smile...

"It didn't matter...It wasn't evil...He'd got his soul back and he needed..."

"He did?...The soul?...Huh...Whatdaya know..." faint shake of head in wonderment...

"Don't think I have to ask about yours..."

"Guess not...But he loves me as yours does you..."

"I'll send Spike to you...In Hell..." Previous noted, stake raised again...

"They'll take him from you..."

"No...But thanks for the concern..."

"Only I can help you...If you help me...Look at me, Buffy...William is flowing in me..."

"No...Not my William..." a grim tone...But...

"All I need is a little from you...Help me to save my Spike and I'll help you...Buffy...Cicely..."

"You know..." Previous paused...

"Course I know..." a faint nod... "And when I found out...I let him take me...Nothing would keep me from him...Help me...We're the ones who have the right, Buffy...You know it's true...Look at me, sister..."

"No..." Previous pulled back...

"Not your way..." she shook her head...Then suddenly slashed with her stake...

Opening a vein on her arm...

"No thrall, sister..." she eyed the other... "We keep this strictly business...And we play by my rules..." she offered her slashed arm to the other who reached for it...

"No fangs or it's no deal...Lick up what you need..."

"Glad to see I'm not a push-over in any dimension..." the other chuckled... "You're transdimensional, right?...Spike was trying to find a way to cross to another Earth after we'd plucked this one dry...God, that hits the spot..." a stronger tone as she licked and swallowed...

Enough...For now...Previous pulled the arm away...The other sitting up now...

"So...You did this?..." Previous waved to indicate the bones...

"More or less..." the other shrugged...Her skin softening, hair becoming blonde and supple... "What can I say...We took the George Bush quick profit now, forget about global warming tomorrow route...We'll be more careful next time..."

"Not part of the deal..." Previous shook her head... "I'll help you get Spike back if he's still kicking if you help me get away from here without the extra Buffies...But they remain breathing...After I save my Will, I'll come back for them and they can have their own chances..."

"Hmmphf...Well that sounds like a helluva deal...Ok, I accept..." the other put up a hand as Previous eyed her coldly...

"So since we're leaving them pathetically short-lived...Which is ok by me, I don't want Immortal twin competition...How are we handling this, boss-lady...?" the other rose, slowly and stiffly...

Whew...Long time since I could stand...she noted wearily...

"Warren Mears?...You know him?..."

"Warren the robo-pimp boy?...Sure...We used to use his copy of me as our housemaid till I tore her apart one day when I caught Spike diddling her..."

All in the family, he was missing me when I was away trying to see if me and our minions could break through the Watchers' defense system...

Giles had the Americas magically blockaded after our Undead army overran the US...she explained... "So, what's with ole Mearsy...God, you know I shouldn't have eaten and run with him...He probably coulda got us through to Europe..."

"Ours is about the same...But he's the one who can run the transit system...And one of my sisters...The one in the tan pants and Aramani whites..."

"Aramani?...Nice..."

"...Has the controller..."

"Well, if you'd let me kill her...Just kiddin'...Would I kill a sister?..."

Ok...I would...she nodded to the frowning glare... "But a deal's a deal...If you keep your end..."

"I'll keep my end...Just do what I say when the time comes...And no more..."

"Hmmn...Well, I am an independent type...But, if it's for my Willy, ok..."

"Natch you know I'll stake you if you cross me..."

"Would you be my soft-headed human twin if you wouldn't?..."

"So what do you call yourself...?"

"Not Buffy, for God's sake..." the other wrinkled her now quite flexible nose... "I'm Anne...Nice to meet ya sis..."

***

"The Buffy Effect..." VII...



A shortie...

PG-13

Disclaimer: No, Joss, no...I make no claims, put that thing down! It's all yours and ME's.

Spoilers for Angel to this week...Flee at once!...

Summary: Similar to my Immortal Beloved series of sketches, and my Semi-Parallel Lives bits mostly just short brainstorming ideas for other tales...As with both of those, some bits may be multipart, others just a few lines...

***

Part B...



"What do you expect from me, Slayer?..." a hard, cynical sneer, but the sincere question buried within...

"Not a thing, William..." Buffy smiled at him... "Just thought you might like to try another kind of dance with me just once..."

"Begin the Beguine, eh?...Nice to see your mum's managed to pass on a little taste..." he nodded at the CD player she'd brought into his lair and started without a word three minutes ago... "Artie Shaw's version always did it for me..." the faintest grin...

"So...?" she eyed him, standing within two feet...

"Desperate since the poof soldier boy left are we?...Well, never let it be said William the Bloody ever made a lady beg...Ok if I lead?..."

"I insist..."

He put an arm round her and led her about the dank room...

"You're still good, Will..." she eyed him...

"They taught us properly in my day...Though you aren't bad for a modern girl..." he swung her around in a hard turn and spin...

"Thanks...But I meant it on the spiritual level..."

He paused...A very hard stare...

"All right...You've had your fun with the castrated vampire...What's this about?..."

"You were ready to marry me last week..." she eyed him... "Not even a little interest now?..." she indicated a desire to continue the dance and he reluctantly complied...

"Hmmn...Perverse, Slayer...What happened, Red spell you again and you're in 'vamp meat, now' mode?"

"No..."

"Just the ole death wish making you play with fire?...Beware, girl...I will get this thing outta my head one day when you least expect it and...Buffy...?"

"Why are you crying?..." stopping, he stared at her...



"You care..." she said simply, not wiping the tears...Not an accusation...A simple statement of fact...

"No...No, I don't...In fact, I'd simply like to know the reason so I can rejoice in it..." he took her hand and resumed the dance...

"You care...I feel it...But you don't know why...Or why it was so easy to love me when Willow hexed us last week..."

"Get help, girl...I think Red's spell is still clinging..." he told her coldly...Another turn and spin...

"I thought so too...Or maybe that you..." she nodded, deftly slipping around a large marble bench at her side... "And I had Willow do a full spell review..."

"Not me, if I'd done it you'd be groveling at my feet..." he swung her around and spun her...

"She didn't find a spell...Just an aural halo..."

"Oh?..."

"An intense one...Seems I've lived before..."

"Ah, the Slayer ego kicks in...So, who were you?... Cleopatra?...Theodora?...Saint Mary Magdalene?..."

"Cicely Addams Walthrop..." she looked him dead in the face...

"That's how I told him..." Anne smiled at Previous... "Though it was a week before he began to believe me...We managed to keep it secret for nearly a year while I tried, I tried everything I could...Everything but Angel's curse...Cause no way was I making him suffer that...Then Willow...My Wiccan best friend who never lifted a magical finger to help me save my husband, threatened to tell the others if I didn't give him up...Unfortunately I still had a moral sense and didn't kill her..."

"And he killed you?..."

She gave a cool smile... "He let me stay here...With him...After Giles killed me...Accidently, of course...He was aiming to kill Will...Hurt loads too, given the chip and all...Not to mention dangerous with Giles and the guys taking potshots at us and him not able to fight back..."

"Giles killed you?..."

"Right through the heart with Cupid's arrow..." Anne grinned...

"But I wasn't about to let him take Will away from me, whatever his concerns, the bastard...All of them...They could have helped us, helped me save him...At least let us go and find some safe place...But they chose Duty and I chose Love...I'm inclined to think I made out better..."

"So you see, sister..." she grinned at her superhuman twin... "We are very much the same...And share the same goal, if perhaps not the same universe..."

"...or species..." wry grin...

***

"The Buffy Effect..." VII...



A shortie...



PG-13



Disclaimer: No, Joss, no...I make no claims, put that thing down! It's all yours and ME's.

Spoilers for Angel to this week...Flee at once!...

Summary: Similar to my Immortal Beloved series of sketches, and my Semi-Parallel Lives bits mostly just short brainstorming ideas for other tales...As with both of those, some bits may be multipart, others just a few lines...

***

Part C...



Night...A dank cavern space...

Dank...And then some...Buffy sighed, looking round...The large space barely lit by two old lanterns on the floor...She eyed the thick metal bracelets on her wrists and ankles, chains running to the rock of one wall, large metal spike set in wall...Magic of some sort, considering how drained they left her...Third Buffy still out across from her, sleeping almost peacefully...

She tensed and tried another snap of the chains...Feeble...No good...

Well, at least whatever this Willow had darted them with before dumping them here hadn't left a raging headache...Hmmn...Wish I had my watch...She looked over to her twin...Watch on wrist unreachable...

Pity to disturb the princess' beauty rest but... "Hey..." she hissed... "Buffy..."

Nothing...

"Buffy!!!..." a near-wall shattering shout...

"Mmmn..." Third Buffy moaned a little and rolled...

God, do I really sleep so heavy?...And drool like that?...

"Sis!!...Come on, wake up!!!..."

She frowned as Third Buffy rolled again and returned to hearty snoring...

Well, hope to God alternate Willow's making that bastard Mears suffer...

Without permanent injury, please...We still need him...

Hmmn...What might do it?...She pondered...



"Buffy?!!...Breakfast!!!!..."

"Huh?..." Third Buffy raised head, blinking back sleep...

***

"So ya see..." Mears gave his most charming beam... "I'm a totally innocent victim here...And if you'd just...Hey!!..." he glared...

A giggle from Alternate Xander as he backed away...Having again tossed holy water at Mears...Happily fingering his own tangled beard and hair...

Ineffective, yes...Even crazed Xander could see that...But it sure irritated what he remembered vaguely as a nasty little geek...

"Tell that nut to stop splashing me with that water...I'm no vampire...Look, lady I can be a very helpful friend to you...If you've think you've got Evil Buffy problems, I got them in triplicate..."

Why do I keeping having this urge to flay the bastard and be done with him?...Alternate Willow thought, looking up at Mears chained to the dank cavern wall in upright position...

I mean, yeah, I done hardened up a bit the last few fighting the darkest side of my best friend and her Undead honey...A fight occasioned by her soul's voluntary decision to stick with said Undead one over her kith and kin...

And I remember from happier days at Sunnydale the guy was rather the obnoxious geek...The sort always likely to wind up authoring nasty sci-fi stories demeaning women and usually ending up on the pointy end of Buffy's stake...As opposed to my own friendly and lovable version...

Not to mention a vague memory or two of seeing him or his vamp counterpart...Anne not being much given to keeping nasty pudgy nerds as human pets it was unlikely he'd still been alive...Working among Anne and Spike's minions in their fortress home when she'd penetrated the place on one or two scouting missions...

Still, it seemed a bit extreme...

"Xander...Let him be...All right, pal...Whoever you are..." she frowned at Warren... "I want some straight answers and I have ways of insuring I get them..." she waved a hand, Warren panicking, shut his eyes and did what he could with his securely chained hands to try and protect his face...

Nothing painful occurring he opened eyes...To see the red-head in front of him in her rather sexy black outfit...

Though the girl...Willow, right...Having totally ignored his favorable comments on her appearance...Clearly must be...

Oh, wait...Right...Her counterpart on his Earth was...

Well, forget that avenue of negotiation...He eyed the small glass ball the size of an egg in her hand...

"What?..." she frowned at his nervous glance... "This just indicates if you're telling the truth..."

Oh...Phew...

"Xander will handle any physical torturing necessary..." she shrugged...Xander beaming...I'll get the things...He scurried off, muttering happily to himself...

Gotta give him some pleasure in life...Willow noted...

"Lady, do I look like a liar?..." Warren glared...

Willow eyed him coolly...

"Hows about you answer that?..."

"Hey, that's an insult..."



"Red..." she held up the glass ball... "You know you do..."

"Look..." he sighed... "I'll talk a lot better if I'm not chained to a wall knowing a crazy maniac's about to start ripping my fingernails off...I said I could help you and I can..."

"Why are you people...If you really are people...Here?...The truth..."

He hesitated...

Eh, why not... "The other blondie was telling you the truth...We came cause they...Two of them, anyway...Having been screwing round with interdimensional travel...Tryin' to help their boyfriend..."

"William..." Willow stated coldly...

"Exactly...Good ole Spike...Does he use that one here?...They're obsessed with him, think he's their..."

"Husband..." Icy tone...

"Yeah...Well...That's what they...The two crazier ones...Say..."

"And you fit in...How?..."

"It's my system...They stole it from..." he eyed the red orb in Willow's hand... "Well, it was my idea...Ok, I just developed some of the basic principles in my time warper...Fine...But they did grab me...And threatened...Well, one did...The more psycho of the two...Though it's a close race...And they won't let me go till..."

"They save him..." Willow finished...

"I see you've heard this one..." he noted...

"I have..." she said, curtly...Then came closer... "Why two?..."

"They say...They told me...They've crossed dimensional time-lines...One popped into the other's world to save blonde boy...See when you crossover, the very act of doing it confirms the..."

"...existence of the entered world...I know the theory, Mr. Mears..." Willow waved a hand...

Xander returned from down the cavern, bearing a large box...Giggling to himself, he set it down and opened it...Raising first a large rubber mallet...

"Bonk-bonk...Xander bonk it out of him..."

Warren glanced, gulping...

"You were saying...?" Willow urged...

"...Ok...Right...So the first one had grabbed another me earlier..."

"There are two of you...?"

"Nah...He gave her the slip...That's why they needed me...I was too smart for 'em..."

"...And yet not smart enough..." Willow eyed him...

"...saw-saw...Cut to the heart...Get it out..." Xander happily addressed the hacksaw he'd pulled out, setting it down...

"Could you please send Sweeney Todd to fetch wood or something...?"



"I like to see him enjoying himself...He's the one thing left on this world I really love..." she said, a quick, sincerely fond glance Xander's way...Xander too occupied wiping tools with rag to note it... "Continue..."

"...Well...I got away...My other one did, I mean...And the first, pretty crazy one got to William too late...Just as the second...And maybe even, crazier...One came up...So having screwed it royally..."

"Too late?...So we got him?..."

"Damned if I know, lady...I don't follow romance novels and soaps...Ok, I've skimmed one or two on a dull afternoon..." he sighed as she produced the brightly glowing orb...

"She...The first psycho...Said he'd died fighting some Partners...Whoever they were...After doing something dorky like saving the world or some stupid thing...Anyway, they're both nuts about him since he won his soul back or whatever and..."

"He won...?" Willow stared at him, the still orb, then him...

"His soul, yeah...Some big deal to get her to think he was worthy or something only she didn't fall for it till later...Then I guess he did the other whopping big deal and she got some brain flash and decided he owed her alimony...Both of them, from what they tole me..."

"He won his soul...Saved the world...Then they found out about Cicely?...But he was..." Willow asked, a hair dazedly...

"All ready for him..." Xander called happily...

"I know...Idiotic, isn't it?..." Warren hastily continued... "But they're psychos, like I tole ya...And kidnappers...I'm the innocent here..." he whined a bit...

"What happened to him?..."

"Lady, I don't know all the details...But Mears One only had one to..."

"I mean, to William..." Willow frowned... "Their William...He'd saved the world and died?"

"They got there too late...Too busy fixing their hair or something girly...He croaked...The first one, the one who grabbed Warren One, went nuts and got her hands on the transit system, grabbed my twin, screwed up on a couple of times and then ran into Psycho Two and both managed to screw it...He's still deader than ever...William..."

"I see...But why did they come here?...To grab this world's Spike?...He's a monster..."

"How should I..."

"One more like that..." Willow frowned, showing the orb... "And I let Xander get busy..."

"I had a leetle problem with relative positioning...The coordinates were a hair off...It's their faults...Their jumping round and interfering in each dimensional line throws the system off when they go to the next stop... I've been trying to compensate and get 'em where they wanna go...You know...Where they can save their very own Billy Idol doll from the ashcan cause I wanna go home but I haven't quite made it work yet...My twin did, though...At the end...I think..."

Unless he screwed it again and is burning in the heart of some star somewhere in Andromeda...

"Wait..." Willow raised a hand... "You too, Xander..." she gently urged the anxious wild man back...Xander giving a disappointed look as he swung the rubber mallet gently between his hands...

"Your machine...Buffy's, I mean... Allows for time as well as dimensional travel?..."

Xander, sighing, perked up a bit...Time?...

:"Yeah...And works damned well, too...From what Buffy the First told me she got all the way back to Shakespeare's day..."



"Time-travel..." Willow murmured... "It could all be..." she paused...

"But it's another time line..."

"Right..." Mears nodded... "As I've explained to the ladies...Who refused to let a little thing that stop their psychonesses...The changes that must occur confirm/create a new timeline...They're mucking up lives...Heck, worlds...by the score all for their own selfish little..."

"It could be worth it...Even if you'd have to stay...And explain things to your counterparts..." Willow said quietly...Not really talking to him...

"A way to make this all go away...Never happened...Except for what I'd..." she glanced at Xander... No, I couldn't...I couldn't take him...Make him suffer as he is now and worse, have to see himself safe and happy...No...Just me...Just me...Watching him and poor Tara and Anya and that happy idiot, my own counterpart...And even...Yes, for their sakes...And all those who suffered...Maybe even Buffy...Live their lives as they should have...Before He came...

Hmmn...Warren eyed her still face...

Another one...When are they gonna learn?...

Still, an opportunity...

"I could help you..." he said, carefully... "A trip back on this world wouldn't be too difficult to set...You could do it, with my help...Save your world from whatever..."

"Where's the transit system now?..." Willow ignored his pitch...Fixing him with a hard stare...

"On the Earth the first one came from..." he began...

"Xander!!...One smart-ass, with everything..."

"...But the controller is with the second psycho!...Or it was...!" he blurted, whimpering, as Xander hopped to his feet, holding the hacksaw...

"And where's Buffy Two...Which one?..."

"Neither of the two you got locked up...I mean it!...See, I didn't finish...They had to grab number three when we left my world...It's crazy number one and number three you got....Two is still footloose and fancy-free...And has my controller..."

"And she's human...And seeking William?..."

"Yeah..."

"How about Number Three, in our cell?...Is she human and betraying everything she ever loved for him?..."

"Nah...I mean, yeah she's human...But she isn't dating him or anything...They got her too soon..."

"Lucky her...And her world..." Willow, icily...

"My world..." Warren corrected...

And if I get the chance to dump her off here and go home, that will be literal...

"I'm guessing you can't reconstruct the controller..." Willow...Pausing...

"It has to be properly linked to the transit emitter on her world...I'd have to have the original for a while to reconstruct a copy that could utilize it...Or I could build a new emitter if you have a Pentagon-sized budget and loads of time..."



"I get the picture...All right..." Willow rubbed her chin thoughtfully... "You want to get outta here in one, preferably human, piece and go home...I want my home back...And the way to do it is to find this other Buffy, get that transit system and go back and see that William...My world's William...Finds peace real quick in his career..."

Or maybe...Even...

Could I do that?...Even now...After all she's done...That Anne has done...

Could I kill my best friend as well as her lover?...Husband, lets face it...Husband...

To save them all...And her soul?...After all that's happened...

"Yes..." she whispered...

"What?..." Warren asked, his face eager...Deal on the verge of closing...This one's definitely hooked...Just throw in the free box of car wax and ... "Do we have a deal?..."

"No, Xander..." she turned to stop a frustrated Xander who'd been waiting quite patiently, all things considered... "He's not one of Anne's...He's Us..."

"Us?..." Xander looked Mears over, sniffing...

"Please, Xan...For Willow..." she patted him, gently... "He's not vamp...You know that."

"No good..." he shook his head... "He no good...Let me have him..."

"No, Xander...He's human...And we need him...We need him, honey...Anya needs him..."

Xander gave her a frightened look...No...

"No magics for them...Can't bring...You saw..." he suddenly pulled at her arm... "Willow, you saw Anya...When I...Don't..." The crazed fear had gone and been replaced by an almost rational concern...And mature dread...

"Not magics, Xander...Something else...Don't worry..." she patted him..."I said I'd make it right, didn't I...And I will..."

***

"The Buffy Effect..." VII...

A shortie...

PG-13

Disclaimer: No, Joss, no...I make no claims, put that thing down! It's all yours and ME's.

Spoilers for Angel to this week...Flee at once!...

Summary: Similar to my Immortal Beloved series of sketches, and my Semi-Parallel Lives bits mostly just short brainstorming ideas for other tales...As with both of those, some bits may be multipart, others just a few lines...



***

Part D...



"We could just do the sensible thing for once...Tell Willow who we are and get her to let us find our even-nuttier-than-you sister and have Warren take us off this hellhole with that thing of yours..." Third Buffy noted...

"Uh-huh..." Buffy eyed her twin... "I don't think this Willow or her Xander are exactly the 'sensible' type...And they seem pretty down on Buffy Summerses in general...I think our counterpart on this Earth screwed it big time...Maybe even went over to the enemy..."

"Great...A fourth Buffy, possibly evil?...And meanwhile we just sit here and wait for them to try staking us just to be sure..."

"Unless you can break these chains, yeah..."

"What about using the thing...?" Third Buffy twisted her head Buffy's way... "Couldn't we at least teleport outta here with it?...Just a few miles away, maybe?..."

"And end up potentially anywhere, including another Earth or inside solid rock or on another Earth inside solid rock?... No, thanks..."

"God..." Third Buffy kicked at the ground...

"And you thought you had problems when you were just back from the dead..." Buffy grinned faintly...

"Shut up...I didn't ask for this...Or to be brought back for that matter..."

"Quiet..." Buffy cautioned, hearing the sound of something large moving on the ground just beyond their cell...A key scraping in the lock of their massive door...Willow eyeing them...

"Xander..." she waved him in...He bearing two plates of what looked like some kind of mushy stew with spoons stuck upright in the center...She eyed the two Buffies coolly as Xander hastily placed the two plates within their reach ...Buffy giving Third Buffy a cautious look...Don't...

I know what you're thinking but grab him while Willow has us locked up and I don't think it'll end well...The hostage option can wait...Xander hurried back to where Willow watched, darting past her...

"Sorry, it's not gourmet fare, girls, but there aren't many unlooted grocery stores left around here..."

"So you believe we're human..." Buffy stated...

"Willow...We didn't come here intentionally..." Third Buffy tried...



"More or less yes...And I believe that..." Willow replied to both...

"But..." Buffy stared at her...

"But..." Willow nodded... "I haven't decided I can risk letting you go...Yet...Not at least until I have your triplet safely under lock and key...And know for sure I'm not being had..."

"Willow, we're not evil..." Third Buffy began...Willow putting up a hand as Xander began rocking and chuckling behind her...

"That what she says..." he laughed...Then suddenly burst into tears, startling the Buffies, though Alternate Willow remained unmoved...Except to reach back and gently touch him with one hand, not taking her eyes from the chained Buffies...

"It's all right, Xander..." she said, without emotion...

"Ladies..." she addressed them... "I don't have time to worry whether you're evil or innocent and pure as the driven snow...Until I have the other one of you here and am sure there's no threat, you are going nowhere...I'd suggest you eat up and then try earning my trust by helping me find her...It's for her own good, I promise you..."

"The only way we can help you is if you let us go..." Third Buffy told her...

Hey...I was about to say that...Buffy frowned...

"Not a deal-maker, sweetie..." Willow shook her head...

"We haven't any idea where the other one went, Willow..." Buffy cut in... "All we know is she's looking for William..."

"Really?...Great..." Willow smiled... "Then she's sure to come back in time, if she doesn't die of thirst or starvation out in what's left of our good ole California...Cause William...Our William, anyway...Is right here..."

"Willow..." Buffy tried... "At least tell us what happened here...What did..." she hesitated...

"...She do..." Third Buffy finished... Thanks, little Lady Echo...Buffy glared a bit...

Don't remember resigning my post as Slayer, Third Buffy stared back...Reading thought...Hmmn…She eyed the plate of stew…No point in asking if there's any bread I suppose…Oh, well…She pulled it over…

"Your sister?..." Willow grinned... "Quite the little hellion, that one...But, gone...After we bottled her and Spike up here I'm afraid the supply of fresh meat didn't last too long once their army let reproduction take its course...A little disappointing, really, considering her record of leadership...But she did nearly flunk the section on population biology back in high school..."

Xander, calming, watching from behind her...Running fingers through his long hair and twisting...

"She was turned..." Buffy...And I was busy with the Mayor that quarter, Third Buffy thought, swallowing, a little peeved...

"Oh, yeah..." Willow nodded... "But it was a neat romantic story from her pov...Though involving a leetle suffering on the part of the rest of us..."

"Spike..." Third Buffy whispered... "He turned...Her...She trusted him and he..."

"Not exactly...The amazing thing's poor ole Spike isn't the villain of the piece..." Willow smiled coldly... "Though he was the instrument in part..."

"I'm afraid Love, the bastard...And Buffy Summers...Were the monsters here..."

***

"This was where we arrived...I'm almost sure..." Previous looked around... "They must've gone looking for me...Or something happened to them..."



"Uh-huh...Not meaning to complain, boss lady..." Anne spoke up... "But pinking skies and me don't agree..." she pointed to where the dawn was fast arriving... "I gotta get somewhere dark...Soon..."

"I'll try to let that worry me..." Previous replied, carefully searching the ground... "Yeah...I smell that crappy perfume Dawn bought me after I came back...She was wearing it, the one just resurrected...I remember I splashed it on that week to please her...Didn't care what I smelled like..."

Anne eyed her...

"...Ok, when Will noticed, I scrubbed it off...First sign I wasn't totally dead to the world, really..."

"Resurrected, eh?...How'd we pull that off?..."

"Glory...Willow..."

"Nice...Willow must've been strutting that week..."

"How'd you avoid...?...You said Giles killed you, not Glory...?"

"Will killed Glory..." Anne beamed proudly... "He found out where and in whom she lived and disposed of a certain young doctor-host...Knowing we were married, he wasn't about to take chances...He saved us all and Giles' reward was a pompous speech about my duty and the need for sacrifice and that arrow aimed at his heart which I chose to take..."

"Sounds like Giles…" Previous frowned…

"So Glory whacked you and Willow pulled you back…The other two as well?..."

"Yeah…"

"And you found out…I mean, Cicely…When?..."

"After Will stopped the First…And Giles showed about as much consideration…"

"The First…What?..." Anne asked, puzzled…

"Evil…I'd've thought you'd know her…"

"Oh, that First…She actually came forth and put her sacred ass on the line?..." twisted smile, mocking nod… "Bout time we got a little respect…" she paused… "William took her out?..." a slow, genuine smile which cut abruptly… "Could we get moving before…?" she waved a hand at the sky…Now rapidly brightening…

"He did…" Previous nodded… "And here…" she tossed her jacket…A short-sleeved affair…Anne frowning as she made shift to cover her head…

Big help, sis…

"You're the local…Where's the nearest shelter?...If you left anything…"

"I think there's some buildings still standing that way…" Anne pointed… "And it wasn't all our fault…It's hard keeping a horde of mostly mindless creatures of instinct in check…Especially when they're fascinated by things like indoor plumbing…"

Hmmn…Warren considered as he regarded his chains, then the door of his cell…Choosing for the moment to take the 'glass half full' route…

Lesbo the Wiccan seems willing to deal…And while gifted magically, not exactly ably backed up by what one might call…Well, able back-…

Xander opened the cell door…

"Hey…It's Renfield Jr…Say bad-hair man, hows about…"



Xander tossed a plastic bottle at him…

"Geesh, watch it!..." Warren glared…Moving to the bottle…Seemed ordinary enough…He managed to twist the cap off and drank greedily…Xander watching quietly…

"You know I eat too…" he looked over…

"Willow say water…When she say eats, you eat…" Xander shook his head…

"Tell her I'm no use if I'm dead…" Warren fumed…

"You ok…Plenty fat on you…"

"Thanks, Jenny Craig…Get Willow in here, now!...Tell her it's no…What the hell are you staring at…" he stared back at Xander's intent look…

Things don't look so prosperous round here…And wild man Harris did seem rather quick to notice my figure…

"You human…" he stated flatly… "But no good…"

"Gee…I'm devastated…You being such a fit judge of character, nutcase…Will you…" Warren stared at the bottle of water in his hand…

"Christ…This is more holy water, isn't it?...Tastes like it's been in the fount the last century…"

"Human…But no good…" Xander repeated…

"Can't you go find some nice bugs to chow down on, pal?...And send your little witch to me?..."

"Willow?..." Xander stared… "You trying to get Willow?..." he frowned…

"Willow and I have a deal, nutboy…Just tell her…"

"She not right these days…I better…" Xander started looking round…Ah…

"Oh?...Well, coming from you…You better what?...Hey…Ummn…" Mears stared at the large mallet now held by the wild-haired escapee from some carnival of freaks…

"I take care for Willow…No trouble…" Xander stepped forward, mallet securely held…

"Look, pal…Uh, Harris, right?...We were classmates, right?...Sunnydale High…Remember, the good ole days when you weren't a candidate for the looney bin?..."

"You no good…Willow not right…I take care…" he raised the mallet…

"Jesus!..." Warren managed to roll right just as the mallet came down, hard…

The answer being obvious there was little point to mouthing the standard 'are you nuts?'…

"Willow!!!..." Warren screamed as Xander brought the mallet down hard again…Again missing as Warren barely dodged…

"Stay and I take care!..." Xander insisted…

"You could've helped her…" Buffy noted quietly as Willow finished her tale of Anne's emergence and the horrors this world had experienced since…

"I did…Just too late…I should have told Giles the first day…Or flamed William myself the day she told me…"



"Bullshit…You could've helped him get his soul back…Giles could have…If my Will could find out about the African demon god, Giles must've known of him…It wasn't Will's fault…He was trapped…"

"I don't blame him…Much…Spike is what he is…" Willow nodded… "And he didn't kill Tara or Anya…Or Dawn…"

"I'm sorry…" Buffy shook her head… "But that wasn't us…"

"From where I'm sitting it could've been…" Willow noted… "From what you've told me you were about ready to do anything…Whatever the consequences to your friends and family…To save him…Throw in a little demonic evil and that sounds like our Anne to me…"

"We just want to leave, Willow…Lets find the other Buffy and we'll go and never bother you again…"

"Hmmn…Not quite the deal I have in mind…" Willow shook her head… "What does your sister say?...Buffy?...You got anything to offer?...What?...Cat got your tongue?..."

Third Buffy was still silent where she'd been sitting, finishing her plate…Buffy stared at her…She was more than silent…Statuesque…

"What did you do to her?..." Buffy looked at Willow who'd moved in closer to Third Buffy… "That stuff…?"

"A little something I whipped up…" Willow grinned, gently patting Third Buffy's now rigid right arm… "I had a feeling she might be the one to try it without waiting…Guess she's not so well acquainted with my darker side as you seem to be…Though there's a little of me in her now…" she moved back to the door…Standing by it and opening…

A faint cry from the hall…Hmmn…

"Sounds like my new partner's in trouble…" Third Buffy smiled suddenly, rising…The chains dropping off…Willow at the door now stiff in the same statue-like pose she'd been in a moment ago…

"Excuse me, sis…" she went to the door and out…Buffy staring after her, then at the silent, frozen Willow…

***

"The Buffy Effect..." VII...



A shortie...

PG-13

Disclaimer: No, Joss, no...I make no claims, put that thing down! It's all yours and ME's.

Spoilers for Angel to this week...Flee at once!...

Summary: Similar to my Immortal Beloved series of sketches, and my Semi-Parallel Lives bits mostly just short brainstorming ideas for other tales...As with both of those, some bits may be multipart, others just a few lines...

***

Part E…



The basement of a ruined building that had once been the flagship of the Sunnydale Mall...

Where Previous Buffy and Anne were discussing a topic of some importance...The future...



"And when you have your Will you two'll go gently off into that good night…?"

"Like Hell…" Anne grinned… "When I have my Will we'll fight it out, no holds barred…And you should keep your eyes open the moment we get anywhere near him, 'cause I'll grab the first chance once I'm sure he's safe, sis…"

"And so I should keep you Undead…Why?..."

"You know why…We need each other…I am what I am, sis…" Anne noted quietly… "Your most vicious, buried nature plus a hearty dollop of channeled evil…No better and no worse than…Nah, strike that…Better than most at that…Seeing as you can count on one finger the demons who'd risk a fingernail for love…"

Previous eyed her…

"Ok, you could count on one finger the demons who could spell love let alone risk anything for it…" Anne shrugged… "But I am one…And so is my Spike…And you are me, sis...Willing somewhere in there to do whatever it takes...Which is why you're here and not safe or captured or whatever happened to our sisters...And since you're the one purporting to carry a soul in your accessory kit..."

***

"Xander!..." Third Buffy grabbed the mallet and tossed it away… He looked at her, startled and fell back, raising hands…

"No, honey…" she said, soothingly, kneeling in front of him, touching his trembling hands, pulling them back from his face… "It's ok…It's fine…Xander, I tole you…"

Warren, rolling over from the wall where he'd desperately tried to hide his face from Xander's swung wrath…

"It's ok, Xander…You know…" Third Buffy continued…

"Ok…?" he asked…

"It's fine…Everything's fine..."

Warren sitting up now…Startling the two with a clap…His manacles jingling a bit...

"Very nice…" he called…

Third Buffy glanced at him coldly…

"Form shift or…?"

"Willow…No…" Xander told her…

"It's ok, Xander…Just like I tole you…I'm gonna make it all better…" Third Buffy patted him…

"No, not form shift…I don't feel the little twinge from the energy vibes…" Warren noted…She ignoring him as she stroked Xander…

"It can't be all better, Wil…" Xander looked at her face… "It's too late…"

"Then it'll be just…" she replied…"And they'll be avenged…All of them..."

Xander sighed, shaking his head… "It's too late…" he repeated…He moved to stand and she let him rise, rising as well…She addressed him...

"Xander…Bring me down here from the other cell…I should be easy to move, just be careful…Come back if you have any trouble…And don't talk to the other one…The Buffy, I mean..."

He sighed again, slid past her and moving out the door, muttering to himself, continued on down the hall outside…Toward Buffy's cell…



She turned to Warren…Cocking her head in a very Buffy pose…

"Well?..."

"It may work…It's the real thing, right?...Possession?..."

"Sort of…I got a little of my blood and flesh into her, that functions as a spell anchor…"

"Really…Bon appetite…"

"She seemed to enjoy it…" Third Buffy grinned, then gave him a grim stare…

Ummn…

"Ok, neat trick…It may fool your other sis…I'm impressed…And willing to deal…For a guarantee I get the controller when we're done…"

She shook her head… "It's not to fool her…And there's no way I'm letting you run off with the ability to transdimensionally screw up the multiverse, including my repaired timeline, assuming we succeed…You play nice and you get a one-way ride home…Plus…"

He stared…Hmmn?...

"Two Buffies…If I don't have to kill one or both…For your very own…"

He blinked…Huh?...

"I mean it…I'm not letting them run around doing to other worlds what Anne did here…If we pull this off, you can have two…I'll keep one in case we need her to restart our Slayer line here…"

Two…He tried to remain nonchalant… "You'd let me have…"

"Magically treated to properly appreciate your sterling qualities, of course…I'm not conning you…So long as you stay on your world and don't make trouble elsewhere I don't give a damn what you do to them…They deserve it…" she said coldly… "Of course this all depends on you fulfilling your end…"

Yeah...Whatever he'd do...Hmmn...What?...she brushed a thought...A rather startling thought...Back...

"Nat…Naturally…" he choked a bit…

Two?...All mine?...

What the hell?...Did I just picture us?...she blinked...

"Course I'd wanta see that 'magic treatment' in a printout so I know there's no flaw in the spell…" he eyed her...

"Sure…" Third Buffy nodded quickly…

He really isn't that bad looking...What the fu...?!...

"Not that I'm sayin' I accept..." he noted cautiously...

"Are you suggestin' you doubt my abilities, Mr. Mears?..."

"Not at all...Not at all...But you seem to be taking me for some kind of perverse creep... I'm the innocent kidnaped victim here, remember?...Maybe Anna Eleanor Mears didn't raise her son to abuse helpless magically possessed women..."

"Uh-huh..." Third Buffy gave him a cool stare..."And maybe you're thinking I might not hold on and you'd best cover your cute little ass..."



She blinked...He blinked...

Ummn...

"...But..." she fumbled to recover... "You'd be wrong...Cause I can still dish it out and then...Jesus!!...Stop that!!..."

"What?!..."

"Damn her!..." she fumed...Then got hold...

"I thought this one was the push-over of the two..." she sighed... "But the little bitch is cleverer than I thought..."

Warren stared...Huh?...

"She's deliberately trying to get me...Us...Her and me...The body, I mean..." she stumbled a bit...

"What?..."

"She's trying to get us excited, Mears...I think to get me confused so she can try and break my hold..."

"Excited...?...But..." he looked around...Nope...

"There aren't any women around..." he noted...

She gave him a narrow look...

Ohhhh....

Oh...? Gee...A slight smile...

Hmmn...Should record this for science...Might help resolve some of the debate over...

"Don't get full of yourself, Warren...You familiar with the old Marine Corps expression?... 'I coulda f-d mud?'...That's about what applies here..."

"Well, if I can help...In any..."

"Shut up..." she said crossly... "I need to focus a little and shove her back down..."

"Ms. Summers!..." he called... "I had nothing to do with this!!...I'm the innocent victim here, just trying to survive and go home!!...Don't forget that!!..."

"Will you shut up?!!..." she yelled...

And as for you, Buffy...Keep it up and I'll let us spend the afternoon and all evening sucking on Warren's toes...

"Say…If you don't need to fool the other one, why wear Summers III like a new dress?...It must be draining you…"

"Considerably…But don't forget even if I were too low on occult energy to fry you…Which I'm not…I'm the Slayer now…And could snap your neck like…" she snapped her right hand's forefinger and thumb…

"Yeah, yeah…I know that…But why take…"

"This is for William…First Spike, then the other…" she smiled… "I want Spike to see his dear honey restored to Humanity, cursing his name as she kills him…And the other, the human…I want him to know exactly who's choking the life out of him for good ole Duty's sake…And with any luck, driving his soul to eternal torment..."

But it's nothing personal...she noted coolly... "I always liked Spike as a person."

...

"The Buffy Effect..." VII...

PG-13

Disclaimer: No, Joss, no...I make no claims, put that thing down! It's all yours and ME's.

Spoilers for Angel to this week...Flee at once!...

Summary: Similar to my Immortal Beloved series of sketches, and my Semi-Parallel Lives bits mostly just short brainstorming ideas for other tales...As with both of those, some bits may be multipart, others just a few lines...

***

Part F...

"Xander?!..." Buffy called to the wild-looking, still mostly naked but for a sort of loincloth he must have put on while she was out or more likely Willow had persuaded him somehow to don... He was staring at the immobile Willow whose only move in the past ten minutes had been a steady blink...Shaking his head...

"Xander?...What's Willow done?...Listen to me, Xander!..."

He gave her a brief glance, barely looking at her...And taking Willow by both hands placed on her shoulders, gently turned her toward the hallway...

"Xander?!...What's she done to the other Buffy?...Xander, please!..."

He tried to push the frozen Willow to move down the hall but she remained rigid and nearly toppled from his grip...He shook his head, muttering, and turned her around, putting his arms under her armpits to drag her back...

"You can't let her do this, Xander!!..." Buffy cried...Straining against the chains holding her arms...

"Don't talk to Buffy...This is no good, Willow..." he replied... "No good..." And started off, pulling Willow back...

***

"Well?..." Warren, impatiently...

Third Buffy was silent...Apparently lost in thought...Hmmn, remote-control spell jamming-up?...

"Hello?...Lady, do we have a deal?...Only under the forced circumstances, Buffy!...Or no?..."

"What?..." she suddenly spoke, staring at him...

"Are you gonna let me out of these some time today?" he held up his shackles...

"Yeah, sure...Just a mo..." she turned away and went over to the cavern wall where a series of keys hung from imbedded hooks...

"You havin' trouble holding her?..." he asked, carefully...Balancing in his mind the options...Help Summers III by distraction and win a few points with the Slayer who most wants to get home...Home as in my home...Risking a little red?headed Wiccan wrath...Or offer sage counsel on possession stabilization to the new partner and risk a little blondie Slayer wrath...

Hmmn...Frying vs arms ripped out of the socket...Perhaps here a little patient nonintervention was the best policy...

"Not quite...Though she is fighting me, this particular spell gives a pretty strong hold, thanks to the blood and flesh bond...I was trying to access her memories..." she eyed him...

Ya...Churn my stomach reminding me of that bit of disgusting cannabilization before dinner, thanks...Warren sighed…

"It seems...From what I could get so far...Your story checks out..."

"Great...Then would you be so kind..." he held up his wrists...

She came over with the keys and unlocked his shackles on the ankles...And the chains to the wall for his wrists but leaving his hands cuffed together...

"Hey?...The hands?...Can't work my brand of wizardry without free hands, lady..."

"Those memories also suggest you're as slimy as the other sister said...So I'd prefer to keep you a bit restrained, Mears...I can do any instrument manipulation we need..."

"You're not exactly breeding trust, Ms. Rosenberg..."

"Trust isn't important here, Warren...And it's Summers while I'm in here..." she frowned...Opening the door to the hallway outside... "Come on...I miss my boyfriend...And I know he's pining...If he's conscious..."

Warren glared but got up...

Vague sounds of muttering from down the hallway...Accompanied by sounds of scuffing shoes...

"Be careful with me, Xander!..." she called... "And don't strain your back again!...Just lay me down in my sleeping quarters, I'll be fine..."

"He's gonna ruin your shoes..." Mears noted, watching beside her...

***

Previous, impatiently eyed Anne who, bearing a thoughtful expression, was carefully picking through a heap of blouses hastily left behind on the floor of the battered Nordstroms by one or more of the many previous looter gangs plundering the ruins of this Earth's Sunnydale Mall…

"Can we go now?..."

"Just a sec…How's this look with my skin?..." Anne held up a tawny colored blouse…

"Fine…Lets go…"

"I need to see it in a mirror…"

"You have five already…That's plenty…We'll never get to Warren at this rate…"

"…And Spike…My Spike…" Anne noted carefully, looking up at her twin… "Lets remember whom I'm doin' this for…And that's why, we're not going till I find the right…"

"Five minutes, then I stake you and find him myself…"

"Bad move against Willow…" Anne shook her head… "She's well protected, I can tell you from past tries…"

"If she's got him…"

"She's got him…Believe me…No little human is gonna go scooting round here without her catching a whiff…Ah…" she tugged at a silky, red long sleeve now revealed among the pile…

"You said she wouldn't care about Mears…"

"I said 'little human'…Generalization…Whatdaya think?...I know red didn't suit me that well human, but with this pale skin…" she held the blouse to her face…



"There are that few humans left…?"

"Honey, if my guys left any, I will be very surprised…Look around, you see anyone?...Undead or alive?..."

"The others might…"

"Maybe, if they found him first…But why aren't they lookin' for you?... My money's on the red Wiccan…And I'd say she probably bagged them all…"

"She's that good?..."

"Oh, yeah…Comes from takin' on the Queen…" Anne grinned…

"And she'd be that anxious to help even Warren…?"

"Help?...That's debatable…More like…He'd make great bait…Just in case when I crawled off to die or whatever after our last get-together, I didn't quite shrivel up and blow away…"

Previous stared at the vampiress now fiddling with a display stand of cosmetics…The bastards took all the gloss…They love the shiny stuff…

"So it's personal…"

"Hmmn?...Oh, yeah…I killed Tara…And her mom, I think…Well, no…I had her killed…One of my guys…But Tara I did myself…"

Though I won't say anything against Wil's sense of duty…I'm sure she'd've done the right thing and stayed on to fight me even without my leaving Tara's severed head by her front door…Anne noted…There, she smiled, pleased…

"Red does suit me now…"

***

Mears stared at the battered figure in its cell...But despite obviously quite a going-over, he couldn't fail to recognize his ex-best customer and the object of his crazed interdimensional companions' affections...His blonde hair faded and matted with blood, where not torn out in clumps...His face raw as fresh beef from beatings…

The figure, remarkably, stirring a bit in its chains... "Anne..." it whispered to Third Buffy, she standing by Mears, a set look on her face, arms folded...

"No, Spike..." she said coldly... "Willow's recovered my soul and restored my humanity at last...Your bitch whore's gone...For good..."

Burning eyes in a shattered, broken face stared a moment...Taking her in carefully, viewing everything, pausing to look hard at her own grim face...Finally...

"Thank God..." a sigh, punctuated by a groan... "I knew Red would come through..."

She stared...Mears catching a tremble...

"No thanks to you, you son of a bitch..." she hissed at him...

"Mears?...What the hell are you..." the figure asked...Third Buffy banging on the cell bars to drive him off...

"He works for us now, Spike..."

"A noble addition to the cause, I'm sure..." a gasp as Spike tried to shift about a little... "But I was sure you'd finished him just before…"

"Not quite, obviously…"

Finished?...As in…Quick neck twist?...Or, before retiring to the parlor for coffee and dessert?...Well, hardly matters, so long as my feeble-brained counterpart here won't be rising to say hi sometime during my visit…



"Looks like Willow and Xander've been giving you a rough time…" she noted… "Though nothing like you deserve…You bastard…"

"So they've told me…You at least, Red…" he smiled at her…

"What do you take me for, girl?..." he eyed her glaring face… "You think I don't know the woman I love through and through…How's about ending the little game and getting on with our usual…"

"You think I'm Willow, using some kind of glam?..." Third Buffy, coldly… "Take my hand…" She put hers through the bar… "Take it…"

Ok…When he jerks doofus wiccan into the bars…I go to Buffy and play hero?…Or await developments?...Warren thought…

Spike released the hand after an instant's touch… "Fine…Great morphing spell, Red…Or did you go all out for possession?..."

"You can't take the idea I might hate your guts, Spike?..." she smiled… "You turned me into a vampire, got me to kill people I loved…"

"You didn't kill them…And I didn't tell Anne to…And, sorry to shatter your illusions about your heroine friend, Red…She begged me to…Which if this is a possession you should know or be able to confirm pretty quickly…"

"That's a lie…William…" she suddenly gasped… "Will, I'm…Not…" she stepped back from the cell…Tensing and trembling…

Hmmn…Either fine acting…Or…Warren thought, watching carefully…

"…Your Buffy…Warren, get the key…" she turned to Mears, indicating a key hanging on the wall to her left…

Uh… "Lady?…" he raised his cuffed hands…

"NO!!…Mears, if you…" she began, growling, eyes turning black…Then back to normal…Breathing heavily…She staggered toward the key on its hook…

"Buffy?..." Spike called…

"I…Can't…Xander!!..." she cried… "Mears, get…Don't, Warren!!..." she took a few more steps and reached for the keys…

On the one hand…It could be a trick…She wanted to hurt him…And a test for her new pardner…As in if I try and get the other…Deep fried Mears on the menu…

On the other hand…I call caveman Harris…I might find myself a permanent resident…

Best to play the waiting game, I'd say…Just be ready to back the winning team…

She grabbed the metal loop the key hung from and headed for the cell, stepping slowly as if being held back by wind…Or angry Wiccan, Mears thought…

"Will…Here…" she reached the loop through the bars to Spike's outstretched hand… "Hurry…"

"Not my Buffy?..." he stared at her…

"No…" she gasped… "None of us…"

"Three…" Mears helpfully offered to Spike's stare…

***

"The Buffy Effect..." VII...

PG-13

Disclaimer: No, Joss, no...I make no claims, put that thing down! It's all yours and ME's.



Spoilers for Angel to this week...Flee at once!...

Summary: Similar to my Immortal Beloved series of sketches, and my Semi-Parallel Lives bits mostly just short brainstorming ideas for other tales...As with both of those, some bits may be multipart, others just a few lines...

***

Part G...

Will..." Third Buffy gasped to Spike...A weary strain coming over her face... "I can't hold her back for long..."

"Here...Hurry..." she dropped the keys into his hand, a hand too trembling and feeble to catch them...They fell with a jangling clatter..."No time...Hurry..." she stood by the door now...

He bent with effort and grabbed...Managing to barely snatch up the keys, straightening with weary, agonized groan...

Warren awaiting the outcome, rather wishing the keys and himself outside in the hall and the door between him and them securely shut...

Either she dusts him in the next few with a leer and takes a bow for a great performance...Or...Maybe she'll be looking for a little pick-me-up for hubby the vampire...

"I can't...I can barely move, girl..." Spike told her as she slowly moved to try and help him with the keys as he tried to raise one shackled hand to the bars, the other fumbling to insert key in lock ...Her own motions still held back as if she were in water or fighting wind...

"Back, Will..." she made a faint hand motion to warn him off...He stepped back...

She suddenly wrenched the door open with one hand, lock shattering...And staggered to Spike who clung with one hand to bars of the cell, the other still vainly trying to force key into lock...

Warren cautiously assessing the sit...Ok...Looks convincing...And I would put my money on the Slayer...Any of the three...Over the Wiccan...But could still be fine acting...

Well...Best to hedge...

"If you want me to help..." he called...

Good, non-committal...I could be offering my services to either one...

"...Just get me outta these..." he shook his wrists their way...

Hmmn...No takers?...

"Bite me..." she whispered to Spike... "It'll strengthen you...It may help break Willow's hold...Will?..."

"Come on, Will..." she urged...He feebly leaning on her now...Can't...He told her...

A wry if feeble grin...

You ever think I would be turning down such an offer...

"Stop...This..." she growled, suddenly pulling away from him... "Damn...You...He's not even...Yours...Warren!..."

Mears stared...Ummn?...

"Love to help, if you could..." he offered his wrists again...



"Don't, Warren!!..." she cried... "Go, get Buffy!...Now...Will?...Please..." she pleaded, turning back to him...Pulling him to her...

Ok...Mears pondered...I could always claim I thought Rosenberg wanted the other one to try on...Or for a hostage...

Ummn...Nah, she never buy it...

On the other hand, two Summers Slayers, one Rosenberg...?

"Don't think I can manage the doors just now, ma'am..." he called...

"I won't make another Anne..." Spike gasped...Pushing back from her...

"Anne?..." she whispered... "Will, just...Anne, you stupid bitch!..." she suddenly howled, face darkening with rage... "You'll let him..." she faded... "Hurry..." she pleaded...Offering a wrist to him... "Just what you need, it won't...Turn me..."

He paused, holding her hand, wrist turned up to his face...And bent down...

Hmmn...If she did him right now, it would be pretty cool revenge...Warren mused, watching...

***

"There..." Anne pointed down from the hillside to a rock face about a thousand feet below them on the adjoining hill... "That's Willow's base, ever since she returned to California... "

"Yeah..." she grinned at Previous' look... "To bump off the vicious menace to Humanity her best friend had become...Say, I don't look stupid in this thing, do I?..." she flailed arms in her slightly large but exquisitely stylish raincoat...Previous staring...

"Fine...Lets, then...There's an opening in there somewhere..." Well?...she glanced down toward the apparently unbroken rock face...

"After you..." Previous, coolly...Waving...

"Nice to know one of you has brains, sis..." Anne grinned... "If Willow or her booby traps nail me, tell Spike my last thoughts were of him..."

She turned and began carefully making her way down...

***

Back in her cell, Buffy continued working at her wrist shackles...No doubt about it, given the drug's effects were now clearly fading, Wil had fortified them with magics...

However...If one can't snap magic cuffs...One can try jerking their anchor bolts out of the wall...She gave another mighty lunge...

Nothing...

Excepting she had cracked the floor's cement a bit with her foot...And destroyed the heel of her boot...

Wil had taken no chances, obviously...

The door opened...

"Xander?..." she looked up...

"I see you weren't lying..." Spike looked at Third Buffy, beside him...Warren, still in handcuffs, next to her...Fuming a bit...

"Will...Oh..." Buffy gasped at the sight of the beaten and bruised figure before her...



"Lord, what could I have done in any existence to deserve this?..." he smiled wanly...

***

"The Buffy Effect..." VII...



PG-13

Disclaimer: No, Joss, no...I make no claims, put that thing down! It's all yours and ME's.

Spoilers for Angel to this week...Flee at once!...

Summary: Similar to my Immortal Beloved series of sketches, and my Semi-Parallel Lives bits mostly just short brainstorming ideas for other tales...As with both of those, some bits may be multipart, others just a few lines...

***

Part I…

"It should've been bliss..." Spike smiled wanly at Buffy...Xander watching carefully, silently from the corner he'd retreated to...

Mears sourly glaring at all from the bench where he sat, hands still securely cuffed...Occasionally sipping from a Coke bottle...The lukewarm Coke bottle, he frowned...

No ice...? Geesh...

"I had a vamped Buffy who fancied me...And was as good killin' 'em as she'd been saving 'em...And with quite an imaginative bent...But..." he shrugged at her quiet stare...

"Somehow...It just wasn't...You...Though make no mistake, I wasn't exactly holding her back...Even if the chip kept me from joinin' in on some of the fun...But she knew I wasn't quite...A part of me not quite..."

"Touching...Can we get the hell out of here now?..." Warren broke in...

"Shut up..." Buffy waved him off...

"Look, you got your boyfriend...Lets find the other girlie and get me home....My job is done..."

Unless...He eyed her, a side glance at Spike...

"If you might be thinking it'd be best to leave the sisters here...I might be of..."

"Shut up or you'll be using that straw for breathing..." she said...Turning back to Spike...

"She knew that...That you didn't..."

"She knew...You're a perceptive girl in any form, Buffy..." he smiled... "And being a Buffy, vamp or no, she set out to put things right..."

Buffy stared at him...

"She tried to get her soul back?..."

"Yeah..." he nodded... "Not that I put it in words...Not wishing to offend a girl who'd offered to put the US at my feet for a wedding present, so to speak... But she'd guessed I was missing something in her..."

"We'd kept our heads low for the first months...Only a few spectacular kills...Strutting her stuff to impress me, I believe...But when she decided to give me what she knew I wanted..."



"She went to Willow..." Buffy said, quietly...

Xander moved in his corner...

"Yeah..." Spike nodded... "But I'm afraid Red was not in a cooperative mood...And Giles...Well, maybe he'd figured we'd want to take Willow out first in our campaign of evil, something like that..."

"The man never understood me..." he shook his head... "I'm not cut out for world conquest..."

"Willow turned her down..."

"Lets say..." Spike grinned faintly... "She put her objections a bit more firmly..."

"And my girl...Feelin' she'd made a reasonable request...In a friendly, not-too-threatenin' manner...Took offense at an attempt, mainly on my person...And chose to unleash holy Hell as only an aggrieved Slayer-vamp could..."

"A note of despair in the whole thing, really..." he sighed... "She knew, maybe sooner than I did, without the soul things would never quite...But she was magnificent...Giles'd brought in some quite heavy guns from England to deal...They were no match for Anne, even with my chipped weight draggin' on her...And each try only inflamed her...Hell, she'd only wanted me...And her soul back...For me..."

"And she did all...This..." Buffy, flatly...

"In part...Some of what Giles and Willow sent in to deal did their share...Giles and his Council got a bit desperate after Anne took out Angel and most of LA..."

"She'd tried to get him to cough up the curse..." he explained... "When he wouldn't...On instructions from our Puritan tormentors who preferred their dear friend soulless and therefore easier to terminate...She freaked...It was her last chance, you see...We not being persona grata with anyone demon or human magically gifted by then..." he smiled, shrugging... "Impatient lass, my poor girl..."

"I understand..." Buffy said, quietly...

Xander, staring at her from his corner...

"I told them..." he said... "But Giles wouldn't..."

"Always there for me, good ole Giles..." Buffy said, a bit grimly... "I wonder if he really missed that day..."

"He must have known about Cicely even before you and she...I...Found out..." she answered Spike's look... "He was out to kill you to stop me from doing what I tried to do more than a century ago...But he probably had orders to deal with me if necessary..."

"He did have a chance to take you out, Buf...Shortly after your rebirth..." Spike sighed... "He hesitated then...And I think maybe that's what caused him to hold so grimly to his own stand..."

"Sure...But Willow...Wouldn't she even listen?..."

"I think...They may have told themselves they were doing what you really wanted...That their Buf would never want existence in a vamp body...But in fact, in their hearts, I think they thought...If they brought you back...They'd somehow lose you for good...To me..."

"And then after you'd killed Tara trying to get Willow to take you a hair more seriously..." he paused...

"You meant to vamp her...Turns out she wasn't a good candidate...In fact...She'd already been vamped a long time ago...The soul went right back to its old host...The body couldn't accept a new demon...So Annie made the best of things and left the body on Wil's door step...A token of her intent to have her way or else..."

"And Wil took that badly..." Buffy eyed him...

"I think learning who Tara really was...Had been..." he paused... "Was worse for her..."



"Hard to find out you've been in love with Drusilla for years..." he shrugged... "Though judging by Tara, my poor Dru was a wonderful girl in her human day..."

It's me he loves...Not her...Oh, I could...She thought, staring...

Warren is right...I could take him with me...He is my Will, really...

If I could just...

Be Anne for a few minutes...Like I was back home, with my Willow...Only just a little more so...

Lucky bitch...She has the demon for an excuse...

"What's that?!..." she asked, sharply...But relieved at the blaring noise filling the room...

Thank God...

Spared my first...Yeah, she'd never let it go without a knock-down, drag-out...

"Perimeter alarm..." Xander spoke up, rising... "Something trying to break through Willow's barrier..."

My first...Murder...

"Anne?..." Spike looked at Xander...Who trembled a bit, but shook head...

"You saw...Willow burned her...Bones and bits..."

"I saw..." Spike nodded... "But even Red didn't believe after she couldn't find the remains...And someone is out there..."

"My twin...Triplet...I'd say..." Buffy said...Her cold tone causing all three to look at her...

Only a part of me...Would it really be murder?...

I have a Will here, now...No, not my Will, exactly...Oh, but I've failed him so many times already...This might be my last chance...

Look at him...It's William...The damned soul's a quick trip to Africa away...If I leave him here and my counterpart's gone...I know what this Giles and Willow will do to him...

Am I the Cicely Walthrop who abandoned everything for him?...Am I really ready to do...Anything...To save him...?

Hmmn...Warren thought, staring at her...I think...I may actually sense a Summers growing part of a brain...

After all, isn't she?...Isn't that why she left us?...She wasn't going to wait this time...And if she can...

"Can you let her in, Xander?..." she asked...He looked at her set, hard face...

"Don't worry...Whoever she is, I won't let her hurt you..." she gave him a faint smile...

***

"The Buffy Effect..." VII...

 

PG-13

 

 

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

It's all yours and ME's.

 

 

Spoilers for Angel to this week...Flee at once!...

 

 

Summary: Similar to my Immortal Beloved series of sketches, and my

Semi-Parallel Lives bits mostly just short brainstorming ideas for

other tales...As with both of those, some bits may be multipart,

others just a few lines...

 

 

***

 

 

Part J…

 

“I would only have done this for you, sis…I hope you know that…” Anne grinned at Previous…Eyeing the badly-burned bone fragment sprinkled with a few drops of her blood where it had fallen after encountering Willow’s barrier and triggered an alarm…

 

“I’m moved…” Previous nodded… “And you can be glad I didn’t just throw you at the barrier…”

 

“Not while you need me, sis…”

 

“All right, we’re dropping the barrier where you are…” Buffy’s voice over a concealed intercom at the spot where Previous and Anne now waited…

 

“We’re coming…” Previous called…

 

“I know I’m looking forward to finally seeing Willow’s digs…” Anne noted…But paused…

 

After you, sister…She smiled at Previous…

 

“Seriously…I’d expect a little something in reserve for me…Even if Willow is in on the deal…”

 

“You first…” Previous waved… “I’m not about to have you watching my back…” she raised her stake at Anne’s glare…

 

“Not very fair, sis…I’ve kept my side so far…” Anne, holding place…

 

“Move…” Previous grimly insisted…

 

“If I flame out, I’m no help to you…”

 

“I doubt you’re of any more use to me now…You can either take your chances or dust…”

 

A deadly look and slight but definite shift to battle stance but the vampiress refrained from taking face…And after a second, sighed, relaxing…

 

“Fine…Tell William I did it for him…” she stepped forward, arm extended…

 

Nothing…She continued cautiously, Previous following a few steps behind…

 

The rock face before them shook slightly, then a slit in the face showed, quickly widening to allow them access…

 

“I am…Villow…Und I bid you…Velcome…” Anne quipped, standing at the entrance…

 

“Go…” Previous urged her…

 

“Hey…Lets not forego basic Slayer, girl…” Anne frowned, looking back… “A little careful sensing of the way?...A look round?…” Previous shoved her forward, through the entrance… “Geesh, was your Giles asleep at the training sessions?...”

 

Previous pulling stake and taking defensive stance as Anne stumbling forward, took face, snarling back…Then as quickly, resumed human…Calming, but a hard tone… “Sorry…But don’t push my gentle and patient nature too far, sis…I don’t like being shoved and crowded any more than you do…”

 

“Tough…” Previous shrugged… “Get moving…”

 

“Boy, you sure haven’t encountered my Willow…” Anne shook her head, her mocking tone resumed… “Have a little respect, she’s earned it in the past few…”

 

“Stop…” Buffy’s voice from the poorly lit cavern hallway before them…

 

“Spike?…Spike!...” Anne called…Peering down… “Spike, are you all right?!”

 

Genuine anxiety in her voice…Previous and Buffy recognized…

 

“Fine, love…” Spike’s voice called back from down the hall…

 

“I told you…” she called… “No matter what…”

 

“I never doubted you…”

 

“Stay where you are…” Buffy commanded, stepping forward from the dark…

 

“You ok?...” she eyed Previous…

 

“Yeah…”

 

“Now this is creepy…” Anne grinned at her clones…

 

“I do look nice with the green, though…” she noted, staring at Buffy…

 

“So this is her…?” Buffy to Previous…

 

“The one and only…” Anne curtsied…Then sniffed a bit…

 

“Xander?...Is that you?...” she called… “Don’t be scared, the girls won’t let me hurt you…”

 

“Quite a place…” Previous noted… “You managed to persuade Willow to stand down a little?...”

 

“Not exactly…” Buffy shook her head… “You know you put everything we’re trying to do in jeopardy…” she eyed Previous… “Not to mention…This…” she indicated the vampiress…

 

“Hey, only here to help…” Anne grinned…Then, again anxious… “Can I see him?...Is he ok?...”

 

“I’m fine, girl…” Spike stepped forward, coming beside Buffy…

 

She stared at the visible wounds still raw and angry…Rage flaring up in her face…

 

“Anne…” he said, sharply…She calming at his voice…

 

“I said I’m fine…”

 

Willow…” she said, coolly…Buffy blocking her from stepping to Spike…Waving her back…

 

“She had cause, girl…Let it rest…”

 

“My compassionate friend…” brittle…

 

“We’ve hurt her far worse…Enough…”

 

“He’s right…Enough…” Buffy nodded…Her stake, as likewise Previous’, carefully targeted… “Lets go in…”

 

“Sure…Can’t wait to see ole Wil again…” Anne smiled benevolently…

***

“How, now…Mears the cow….” Anne grinned at a Warren rather fuming as he twisted away at his handcuffed left wrist, now secured to the wall of what passed for the central room of Willow’s lair’s living quarters…

“Yours, eh?...” she looked at Previous… “Looks like he doesn’t change much in any universe…”

 

Buffy and Previous engaged in trying to thumb through the books on magic and spells Xander had managed to find for them in Willow’s study…

 

Warren however had immediately settled down on seeing Previous with Buffy…Hmmn…Transit disk and control in one room…

 

“So…” he opted for the forthright approach… “We’re set to leave this dump?...”

 

“Not quite…” Buffy shook her head… “Willow’s still got a hold on Buffy…”

 

And…She did her best not to glance at Spike who rather wearily sat in a chair, Anne now hovering by him with a rather startlingly mothering air…Having asked Xander for some ointment, bandages or cloths, and any extra blood that might be on hand…Unless they didn’t mind her taking a few quarts from Mears?...

 

I haven’t decided…Yet…she thought…Her gaze unavoidably on Spike…As she realized was Previous’…

 

Anne, catching their looks for a second, a friendly, concentrated stare…

 

To the death, sis…Buffy recognized the challenge…

 

“And I haven’t been paid yet…” Anne noted…Turning back to Spike…Thanks, sweetie…She took the rags and ointment Xander cautiously handed her way…

 

“Girl…”Spike protested… Hold still, she insisted…

 

“Xander?...” Buffy forced herself… “Do you have any ideas at all?...Will the spell wear down over time?...”

 

“Why did she want to take one of us?...” Previous frowned…

 

“I don’t know, Buffy…” Xander sighed… “Willow’s spells usually hold up pretty well…”

 

“She wanted to have you kill him, naturally…” Anne commented quietly… “Spike, just let me work here…” she held his hand back…Putting ointment on a particularly raw-looking spot…

 

“That’s pretty much what she said…” Buffy nodded… “I guess you gave her good reason…”

 

“Did I…?” Anne smiled sweetly… There…She patted Spike’s cheek lightly…

 

“Lets just remember who’s the one guy who can get you all home in one piece…” Mears tried…

 

“Two quarts and you got him in puppy-dog thrall…” Anne offered…

 

“Couldn’t she have just taken our form?...” Previous asked…

 

“Demons aren’t fooled that easy, sis…” Anne took a seat by Spike… “You should lie down, babe…Xander, you got a bed in here?...”

 

“Enough, Anne…”

 

“Sorry…Any way, back to payment for services rendered…”

 

“You’re Undead…For the moment…” Buffy noted… “More than enough for what little you’ve done…”

 

“Hey?...UnLife and limb risked?...Well, maybe not so much yet…But how about this?...I’m sure Buffy is far too great a fount of compassion to kill her triplet but did you idiots keep Willow’s new suit of flesh in stasis?...” Anne eyed the two Buffies… “Unconscious?...”

 

“Magically secured?...” she tried…

 

They looked at each other…

 

“Lovely…” Anne rolled eyes…

 

“Xander didn’t think she could do much magic in one of us…” Buffy said…

“Doesn’t take much, sis…” Anne noted…

 

“Maybe we’d better all go down to Buffy with this stuff…” Previous suggested, nodding at the books and scrolls before her… “We can keep an eye on her and she might be able to tell us something…”

 

“I wouldn’t waste time trying to talk to Willow…If that’s what you’re thinking…” Anne cut in…

 

“She’s not the type to negotiate these days…I should know…”

 

She offered a hand to Spike as the others rose…Gently helping him to his feet…

 

“I know…” she grinned at Buffy’s stare… “One false move and blah, blah, blah…Don’t worry, sis…I’ve still got…” wider grin… “…a stake in this…”

 

***

 

“So far, so good?...” Buffy eyed Third Buffy, still chained in the cavern room they’d left her…

 

“She’s been quiet…Probing, I think…” Third Buffy nodded…

 

“Jesus…?” she stared at Anne, carefully supporting Spike, Previous keeping close with stake drawn as they entered the room…Xander leading the handcuffed Mears…Watch it, cave-boy…Warren fumed at the sharp tugs…

 

“Do I look like Angel?...” Anne frowned… “You look you’ve been dead recently, sis…Those bags under the eyes…”

 

“Don’t you want to know how I survived your last brilliant try, Wil…?” she asked, mockingly…Helping Spike to a seat…

 

Buffy eyed Previous…

 

“Worth a shot…” Anne grinned as Third Buffy stared at her…

 

“She’s not faking or Willow’s been taking anger management classes…And is a lot better actress than I ever thought…”

 

“Just earning my pay, girls…” she grinned at the group…

 

***

 

be7k.htm

"The Buffy Effect..." VII...

 

PG-13

 

 

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

It's all yours and ME's.

 

 

Spoilers for Angel to this week...Flee at once!...

 

 

Summary: Similar to my Immortal Beloved series of sketches, and my

Semi-Parallel Lives bits mostly just short brainstorming ideas for

other tales...As with both of those, some bits may be multipart,

others just a few lines...

 

 

***

 

 

Part K…

 

 

“Ok...” Warren eyed the four blondes before him...Blinking a bit...

 

Kinda makes one dizzy staring for more than a minute...And if you add

Spike over there to the mix...

 

Wall-to-wall blondeness...Like being at a Hitler Youth...Or an Up With

People.....Rally...

 

“We got your sis...She’s ok...” he held up his handcuffed hands...

 

“Now just lets uncuff me and leave us leave...I can get you where you

wanna go, now...”

 

“We can’t until we’re sure Willow’s hold on Buffy is broken...” Buffy

said quietly...

 

“She looks fine...” glance to a dazed-looking Third Buffy, seated near

Xander, still in wrist and ankle chains at her own request... “And

it’ll snap for sure when we jump the dimensions...Come on, be

reasonable...I’ve kept my end...” Mears frowned... “You’ve no right to

put me at risk with your maniac witch...”

 

“It’s probably better if we go and break the contact fast...” he

tried... “As in, before the crazy counterpart of your friend comes out

of her self-induced coma?...”

 

“Xander?...” Previous looked at him... He sighed and shrugged... Don’t

ask me... “I don’t know, Buffy...He may be right...”

 

“I say no...” Spike said quietly from his seat by Buffy...Anne casting

a frowning glance, miffed by the multi-Buffy-insisted separation from

her honey... “We don’t go human when we do the dimensional/temporal

jump bit...Demons jump from their home dimensions all the time and

Giles and Willow would have let us go if it would break us free...At

least Giles would’ve for her sake...Odds are Willow would still have a

lock on you, girl...” he eyed Third Buffy...

 

“Then lets kill Willow while we still can and get the hell out...”

Anne suggested...

 

“Oh, come on...” she frowned at the sisters... “Every one of you is

thinking that...Regardless of demonity or lack thereof...Besides...”

 

“We’re not taking you anywhere...” Buffy interrupted...

 

“Excuse me?...” Anne looked at her... “You owe me, sis...At least that

one does...” She eyed Previous... “Getting me and Spike outta here is

part...Part...Of my price...”

 

Locked mutual stare...Anne smiling demurely...

 

“Don’t cross me, Buf...You can’t and you’ll be sorry for tryin’...”

 

“Anne...” Spike said quietly...

 

“I’m not passing on our chance, Will...They owe us...God owes us...”

she insisted... “I’m not asking you guys to give me license to

kill...Just get us out of here...”

 

“Door’s open, go...” Previous nodded at the door...

 

“Funny sister...Into that wasteland?...

 

“The one you made...” Buffy eyed her...

 

“Can I help it if we were a little too efficient in following our

instinctual natures...?” Anne shrugged... “No, we want another

Earth...” Harsh glare at the three Buffies... “Another Earth or I make

trouble...And boy, can I make trouble, girls...”

 

“Not with a stake through you...” Previous eyed her...

 

“Good luck tryin’...Another Earth...We deserve that much...” Anne

wagged a forefinger, resuming her usual pleasant smile... “Come on

girls, be fair...You’re not exactly behaving like noble Slayers, the

way you’re screwing across the time- and-interdimensional-lines...Give

me my chance...”

 

Something sincere in the plea under the mocking tone...Buffy eyed

Previous...

 

“That’s all we want...”

 

“A billion corpses...That’s all you want...” Previous said calmly

 

“I’ll politely pretend I didn’t hear that...” Anne smiled coldly...

“But what we want is an Earth with a normal and untouched Africa...”

 

“What?...” Buffy looked at her...

 

“The demon guardian...” Previous stared at Anne...

 

“Absolutely...” Anne nodded... “So?...

 

“So, go...Who’s stoppin’ you?...

 

“Uh...Duh, like if I may revert to my native Californian,

dudettes?...Giles’ barrier for one thing?...”

 

“Tough...” Third Buffy frowned...

 

“You mean the demon who guarded that place where William got...?”

Buffy continued...

 

“Yeah...That is, if you’re sure...?” Anne asked, somewhat

breathlessly... Eager glance to Buffy and Previous in

turn...“Positively sure?...”

 

Previous said nothing...But stared at her...

 

“You want your soul back...” Buffy, somewhat startled...

 

“Me?...” Anne grinned... “Of course not...My wuss soul?...Or rather,

your wuss soul, sis?...Not in a million years...But...” she looked

over to Spike...

 

“Will...?” Buffy looked at Spike...Who shrugged...

 

“What can I say...You grew on me...” he grinned wanly...

 

“He means me, sis...” Anne frowned as Buffy smiled back... “And as for

me, I just wanna be loved...As I deserve...And unfortunately...Wuss

Buffy soul is the one missing essential...Ergo, I’m huntin’ for a

soul...Isn’t that beautiful?...” she beamed...”I’m vampiral Dorothy on

a noble quest seeking the Wizard...You guys can be my

Munchkins...How’s ‘bout it?...

 

“Lovely...” Previous frowned... “And not a chance...”

 

“Oh...” Anne smiled coldly... “There’s always a chance, sister...You

of all people outta know that above all else there’s always a

chance...”

 

“After all...There are three Buffy souls right here...” she eyed the

triplets in turn... “Maybe one of you would prefer the joy of

soullessness...After all, even human, Buffy Summers is practically a

demonic killer now...”

 

“She doesn’t know how...” Spike reassured them...

 

“Lover, don’t hurt me at least if you won’t help me...” Anne

frowned... “This is all for you, you know...”

 

“I know, Anne...All too well, love...”

 

“Ladies...” Warren glared from his corner... “Your tech support is not

24/7/365...”

 

“I could make it that...Easy...” Anne smiled benevolently...

“Spike...?” she turned back to him...

 

“You need a few more pints, anyway...”

 

“I’m well enough, girl...” he shook his head...

 

She flashed a cold look at Buffy... “Not well enough for a deathmatch

with my sisters...”

 

“We’re not here for that, love...” he sighed... “We’ve tried it that

way and it’s no good...”

 

“Fine...” Anne sat back down by him, ignoring Buffy’s frown as she



Anne and Spike, Willow's lair

squeezed beside him...Watchful look at the three human Buffies as

Warren looked to put the greatest possible distance... “So, how’s the

weather on your Earth, Buffy?...It tends to be kinda dry here since

Willow burned the land barren trying to kill us...Creates a dust-bowl,

ya know?..”

 

“Red was a mite into overkill on this one...” Spike noted with weak

smile... “Perhaps with reason...”

 

“It might be best to stake ‘em...” Third Buffy spoke up... “Kindest

thing to do...”

 

“You’re all heart, Willow’s bitch-sis...” Anne smiled... “Make a move

that way and you may find me a little more capable than you

thought...” she rose...Slight groan and wince on standing...

 

“Ok, maybe not that capable...But it has been a rough three months out

there...” she noted...

 

“I don’t know...” Buffy shook her head... “We certainly can’t leave

them here to what they want...”

 

“So...Take us with you...Dump us in some Earth’s version of

Africa...Or wherever a version of the demon guardian lives...We’ll

find our own way home once we got soul...” Anne gave a ‘no problem’

wave...

 

Rhythm we already got...she grinned...

 

“Fine...” she sighed at the three staring Buffies... “You can stay and

make sure we get all nice and souly...Then take us

home...Ok?...Deal?...”

 

“How could you live with what you’ve done?...” Previous asked... “Get

your soul and come back here?...Are you kidding?...Even if you don’t

feel a thing now you were Buffy once...You have to know what you’d

do...”

 

“And I was Cicely, too...Who might have other ideas, given the way

Fate treated her...So?...You can leave us on alternate Earth...’Sides,

we’ll probably do the remorse thing and make a big romantic

exit...What’s it to you?...” Anne frowned... “Just take us with

you...”

 

“No...” Third Buffy said firmly... “If we vote...I vote no...At least

not both of them...It’s too dangerous...”

 

“She’s right...” Buffy nodded... “I don’t mean to say I don’t trust

you Will, but once you and she had the drop on us, coming out of the

vortex...Chip or no...”

 

“Ole instincts died hard...If they ever do...No, it’s best not to take

us, girl...” he nodded...

 

“I won’t let it end here...” Anne said grimly... “Not a chance,

girls...Frankly the only thing holding me back right now is that I

might damage that thingy of yours ripping your arms off...”

 

“Xander...?” Buffy turned to him... “Do you have a containment cell

in here?...”

 

“Don’t, sis...” Anne said quietly... “I’m not that banged up...Xander

can tell you how I’ve dealt with Slayers...Even the ones Willow

brought back from the dead...”

 

The Buffies and Mears stared...Xander sighed...

 

“Another story...” Anne waved a hand... “The point being...I have a

lock on one of you right now...And you don’t want to find out how good

I am...Look, I’m being honest with you ladies...You have something I

want and I’m willing to deal for it...Play fair, girls...”

 

“She that good?...” Buffy asked Xander...

 

“Yeah...” he nodded... “She’s that good...”

 

“Thanks, Xander...” Anne beamed...Then whirled as a stake slammed her

way...

 

“One handed-catch...” she grinned coldly at Buffy who eyed her

coldly...Anne displaying the stake in her hand...Stopped inches from

her chest...

 

“Nice try, sis...” she tossed the stake back... “But that’s all you

get...Next time, I swear, one of you goes...”

 

“Now, do we have a deal?...Or does my poor lost soul have to take on

the additional burden of sororicide on as I dust...I don’t doubt one

of you will get me...But I’ll take at least one of you down...”

grin...

 

“And that one will be tech boy if you get me riled...” she grinned

wider...Warren edging for the door...

 

“Don’t, Mears...” she wagged a finger... “I’d have to do it if you try

to leave...The sisters might chance it with each other but you are the

essential element, you little creep...”

 

“I’ll reach him before you can stop me, girls...Don’t push it...”

 

“You mean like this?!!...” Third Buffy grabbed Spike, swinging him

round...Stake to his back...Her leg chain to the wall as well as her

wrist chains revealed as snapped and hanging loosely...Buffy and

Previous immediately taking defensive postures...Identical defensive

postures...

 

“Hey, Wil...” Anne smiled calmly... “That was great...Gotta admit your

new-found patience thing even took me by surprise...Nice flesh suit,

by the way...Goy suits you...”

 

“Back, all of you!...” Third Buffy ordered...Dragging Spike back with

her against the rear wall of the cavern room...

 

Buffy eyed Previous who indicated a spot to her left...A chance to

make a break for the room in which presumably Willow still remained...

 

“I said, back!...Take one more step and he dusts!!...What do you

idiots take me for?!!...” Third Buffy sneered... “One of you hold me

back?...Me?...Xander, take their stakes...”

 

“No...” he shook his head... “Let her go, Willow...And Spike too...”

 

“I have her this time for sure...I can stay now, I just have to

complete the ceremony...Don’t let me down now, Xander...Not now...I’m

doing this for you...”

 

“Hah...” Anne, puckish look, rolling eyes...

 

“Shut your damned mouth, you bitch!...” Third Buffy eyed her...

“Xander, please!...I can do this...”

 

“My best friend...” Anne beamed sweetly....As Xander silently eyed

Third Buffy...

 

“Don’t, Anne...” Previous hissed as Anne tensed... “You can’t fight

her and us...”

 

“Pay me, then...” Anne replied, grimly... “Say we have a deal or just

two of you are movin’ on...And it needn’t be her, first...”

 

“Deal...Now stand down...” Buffy said...

 

“Ok...Say Willow, don’t slouch like that...You’re in a type A bod,

now...” Anne took a seat...

 

Willow, let her go...” Previous said...

 

“I’ll destroy him if you come near me...” Third Buffy, grimly...

 

“Red, there’s no point...The spell won’t hold...” Spike sighed, trying

to look at her...

 

“Shut up...” she pulled him back against her...

 

“It’s true, Wil...” Anne called... “I tried it with Faith...Only got

in for a hour...”

 

Though it was one helluva an hour...I really laid waste...she

smiled...

 

“You’re a demon...Her soul shoved you back...I’m staying...” Third

Buffy frowned...

 

“No, Willow...” Buffy shook her head... “Buffy, push her back...”

 

“She’s the weakest of you...” Third Buffy smiled... “She gave me some

trouble before but I just needed a little time...And thanks to that

lil’ stasis nap...I’m firmly in the saddle now...Say...?” she

eamed...

 

“You had a lesbian sex dream?...” she grinned...

 

Previous eyeing Buffy...

 

“It was hot...” Anne nodded pleasantly... “You best get her out of

there, girls...She’s accessing the really buried memories now...That’s

bad...”

 

Willow, let her go...” Buffy insisted... “You can’t fight the three

of us...There’s no point...William knows who you are...There’s no

point, now...”

 

“Two...” Third Buffy smiled... “Anne don’t wanna play now...Not while

Willie’s in danger...And I like it here...Goy does suit me...”

 

“She’ll have magics access eventually if you’re not quick...” Anne

noted... “And she’s right...Our deal gets me to stand down only and

enjoy the show...”

 

But it’s still three...she smiled...Eyeing Third Buffy...

 

“Buffy...Hold her when we charge...” Previous called...

 

“Anne, if they move...” Third Buffy eyed her...Pressing stake on

Spike’s back...

 

Ohhhh...”Anne mockingly sighed... “My beloved in the clutches of a

mad wiccan lesbian buffy...Oh, what to do?...”

 

“Mears!...” Third Buffy looked his way... “If you still want a chance

to get out of here...”

 

“Hey...The innocent bystander’s services are available to the highest

bidder, lady...” Warren eyed her... “But I’ll await the outcome,

thanks...”

 

“That’s our Mearsy....” Anne called... “Come on, lets see some action,

girls...I mean, you don’t want me having to tear a Buffy to bloody

pieces, right?...”

 

Willow...It’s over...” Xander told her, stepping forward... “It’s

nearly daylight and you can’t hold her...You can’t finish the ceremony

like this...Alone...”

 

“I can...We can do this, Xander...” Third Buffy pleaded...

 

“...and I won’t help you...” he finished...

 

“Daylight...?” Buffy stared at Anne...Who rolled eyes...

 

“Afraid so...” Spike nodded...

 

“My secret shame revealed...” Anne sighed...“You think I would slip up

and not go fangs out for the person most likely to save me and

mine...” cool look to Buffy...

 

Third Buffy suddenly rolled eyes, slumped...Spike turning to catch her

as Xander came to her, helping Spike lower her to the

ground...Kneeling by her...

 

“Time to go, girls!!...” Anne rose...

 

“She’s right...Go now!...” Xander looked up at them...

 

“Time’s up, you lose...!” Willow glared from where she’d materialized,

beside the collapsed Third Buffy...Throwing Xander, Spike, and the

other two Buffies back with an energy burst...Grim look at Anne who

grinned at her...

 

“Hey, girlfriend...”

 

“You bitch...” Willow eyed her coolly... “Why don’t you stay dead?...

 

“I’m still dead, you idiot geek...” Anne shrugged...”Next time make

sure you see the ashes...By the way, that any way to speak to your

siress?...Kids, these days...” grin to Buffy...

 

“Shut up!...Keep back!!...” wave at the revived, rising human

Buffies...Buffy trying to take a good defensive spot as Previous

struggled to her feet...Third Buffy unconscious before Willow...

 

“Don’t move, any of you or I’ll fry him...” she glanced to Spike...

 

Moi?...Why I wouldn’t miss this for the afterlife...” Anne leaned

back...

 

“The last bit and I’m whole again...While you and he...Dust...Just

dust...” Willow motioned a hand over Third Buffy...Chanting...And

sprinkling fluid from a small can about the area...And over herself...

 

“Hey, is that...?” Warren began, sniffing... “You crazy...This is a

closed space...!”

 

...Third Buffy stirring now...

 

“Just...Dust...” she whispered...

 

“No, Willow...” Xander moved toward her...

 

“This time for keeps...” Willow closed her eyes... “This is for you,

Xander...I’ll be better than before...The one you always wanted...”

she set fire to the fluid...The flames starting...All over her body...

 

“Be easier to just make Xander a girl, Wil...” Anne called...

 

“Always...” Third Buffy whispered...Eyes opening...She started to

rise...

 

“This isn’t you, Willow!...” Xander cried...Pulling up and firing

crossbow...A direct hit to the heart...Third Buffy falling back to the

floor, Willow, flames rising now, stared at him... And the arrow

lodged in her chest...

 

“Xander?...

 

Wil, I’m sorry...” he shook his head... “I’m so sorry, sweetheart...”

 

“No...No!!!...Xander!!!...” she screamed, tearing at the

arrow...Struggling the barest moment as if to spellcast...Slowly her

body glowing, then burning in the flames...Dissolving to ashes at

last...

 

“God...” Buffy closed her eyes...Third Buffy now sitting up, looking

at Xander...Previous eyeing her...

 

“Xander...”

 

“No...” Xander put up a hand to block Previous’ move... “The vamped

body had to be destroyed first for the final step, she’s ok...”.

 

“She kept you here...Her...” Third Buffy stared at him...

 

“Cow...” Anne cut in...

 

“I chose to stay...” he sighed... “Her magics blocked her in mid-

transformation...Soul and demon locked together, though the demon held

down a bit...Giles couldn’t help her...She never accepted it, that she

couldn’t reverse it somehow...Someone had to stay with her...Help her

keep her soul in charge...But over time...”

 

Buffy stared at him... “She did this to you...”

 

“No...” he stared back, rather coolly for a man in loincloth and wild

hair... “You did...You made her what she became...She never meant to

hurt me...She only took what she had to...The side effects...” wan

wave to indicate himself... “Weren’t intentional...”

 

“You guys did come in on her feeding day, Thursday, right?...” Anne

noted... “But she might’ve made sure you dressed properly, Xander...”

 

“She did everything she could to hold Anne and Spike here, keep the

rest of the world safe...It was all she had left to keep her part

human, really...Fighting Anne...” he sighed...

 

“I’m a challenge...” Anne nodded, grinning...

 

What?...She looked at the faces staring at her... “I was only going

for thrall...She panicked and blocked it with magics...If I’d gone for

a quick transformation, none of this would have happened...All I

wanted was her help...She did this to herself...” cool stare... “All

of it was her fault...She coulda saved herself and us and everyone

else if she’d just...Instead, she...” Grim stare at the ashes now

blowing on the floor... “She let me die and helped Giles kill my one

chance to get back easy...”

 

“The only really threatening demons and Unworlders lived near the

Hellmouth...But the Council took no chances...All known demons beyond

the US barrier were destroyed as a precaution when the Council created

the barrier...Including the guardian of the Well of Souls...” Spike

sighed at the ashes... “Our hope was to get through to another Earth,

find a living guardian...Or some other means, even the curse if

necessary...”

 

“Giles could’ve told me about Africa right at the start...Or later, he

could’ve let me though the barrier...The Council must have known about

the soul challenge...” Anne said... “And she could’ve helped me...I

would have done it...I would even have settled for the curse...She

wouldn’t help me...Angel...None of them would...”

 

“She would have gone herself if she could’ve, Anne...I would have gone

with her...Whatever we had to do...We didn’t know...” Xander shook his

head...

 

“Spike knew about it...Giles must’ve known...You abandoned me...Not

one of you tried to help me...Even when I was alive...And I begged her

to help him...Help me...” Anne, coldly... “You got what you

deserved...All of you...”

 

“What...?” she stared at the human Buffies... “I’m a selfish bitch

demon, eh?...Well, what about you?...What are you doing here, mucking

up the timelines, trying to steal a demon’s guy?...I see you, all

three of you, lookin’ at him...Souls to boot...What’s your

excuse?...”

 

Willow didn’t understand, Anne...She thought it was a trick by

Spike...We all did...” Xander said quietly... “Giles only learned

about Cicely after you did...The Council’d only warned him to beware

of Spike...He didn’t know the story until it was too late...Wil

thought her spell might’ve had something to do with it...She blamed

herself for Spike getting a hold on you...”

 

“You abandoned me...” Anne repeated, grimly... “And look, three human

versions all ready to smash up their universes for love of our

William...You thought I was fooled by Spike?... Bullcrap, you knew the

story was true, Xander, you believed me...But you...And Willow...And

Giles...Wouldn’t let me quit...Wouldn’t let me help my husband...Just

like the Council...You killed me and this time you all got what you

deserved...”

 

“Maybe I did...Maybe we did...” Xander nodded...”But...” he looked to

Buffy... “They both can’t go...It’s too dangerous for you and everyone

else...”

 

“I liked you better when you were crazy, wild boy...” Anne frowned

sourly... “I was hopin’ we could part friends Xander...”

 

“No, we can’t...But you can go with them if they’ll have you...Just

leave Will with me...”

 

“Not a chance...” Anne said quietly... “Even if you couldn’t or

wouldn’t, Giles would...He goes with us...”

 

“No...” Xander shook his head... “I’m still crazy enough not to care

much whether I live or die, Anne...If you want to risk William now

when you have another chance...”

 

“Go on, girl...” Spike told her quietly... “See how it goes...Xander

and I’ll keep the home fires burning...Giles’ll need several days to

figure out you’re gone before he tries to move...I presume since that

thing of yours is a time portal as well as transit, you’d have little

trouble coming back before he tries anything...” he eyed Buffy...Who

nodded...

 

“Give it a try, love...” he smiled at Anne... Who gave him a nervous

look...

 

“You’ll come back, even with soul...” he smiled... “Especially with

soul...The little Slayer will want to make amends and...”

 

“She’ll be back...For you...” Anne noted... “Ok...” she eyed Buffy...

“If you all swear to bring me back post-soul...On Mom’s grave...”

 

“I swear...” Buffy nodded... “If you get the soul back...”

 

“Nothing that interferes with what we’re doing...” Previous

insisted...

 

“What?...You’d leave poor me in condemned torment for your own selfish

boyfriend hunt?...” Anne, mockingly... Nod... “You’re learning,

sis...Good one...Well?...”

 

“If you get the soul...” Third Buffy nodded... Previous frowned but

nodded...

 

“Great...”Anne beamed... “You won’t regret it, sisters...I really

liven up a party...”

 

“Xander...I swear soul or no soul, I’ll make you wish you were still

the wild cow-man of southern CA if you let anything happen to him...”

she eyed Xander who nodded...

 

“And make sure you eat somethin’...You’re too thin...Will?...” she

turned from Xander... “Buffy will be back for you...”

 

“I damned well expect no less...” he nodded...

 

“Look at me, doormat housewife...” she grinned.. “Shall we be on our

way, ladies?...Warren...?” brightly cold smile...

 

“I’m not going anywhere with her...” Mears insisted...

 

“With three Buffies to protect you?...Don’t be a putz, Mears...” Anne

frowned... “Besides, I know from experience you lose your enhanced

(God, help us) mental abilities if you go demon...And I want you

humming along at 100%...Your miserable human existence is valuable to

me...”

 

She paused...

 

“This is so great...I almost wish Dawn were still alive...” she

grinned...

 

***

 

“Ok...” Warren nodded to Previous who’d set the controls on the

transit based on his latest coordinates... “These should get us to one

of our Earths, within a few days of what you want...Then I can

recalibrate for the last jump...Hit the button for the five minute

countdown...”

 

“That’s wasting a jump...” Buffy eyed him... “Can’t we...”

 

“Wait...He’s conning us...” Anne, cutting in hastily... “He knows

which Earth and when...Let me make him talk...”

 

“Look...You won’t let me have the controls to check things...Or touch

the transit emitter...” Warren frowned... “Anyway I couldn’t risk it

without the recalibration...We’ve slipped around too much...And I’m

telling ya I don’t know, for certain...You want me to lie and give you

a phony coordinate...We need a jump to confirm our bearings...”

 

“I go with Anne...” Third Buffy glared at Mears... “I know him and

he’s a lying weasel...”

 

Geesh...Lady, we’re neighbors...And I’ve offered you a deal...He

frowned back...

 

Not to mention you had the honor of being immortalized in my Buffy-

bot...

 

“Thanks for the appreciation of my role in saving you from becoming a

gay Wiccan with bad clothes sense...” he noted aloud...

 

“He is...” Buffy agreed... “But it sounds plausible and we can’t be

sure...So, lets just make sure he stays put with us and we keep the

control and the emitter in our hands...Warren...” she moved closer...

“If you’re lying and we throw away a chance ...I’ll use up the power

for your jump home to make it up, and leave you stuck somewhere, you

get me?...Go ahead, sis...” she nodded to Previous, ignoring Mears’

expressions of angry then pathetic protest...

 

“I’d be glad to keep both under lock and key...” Anne

offered...Reaching to Previous for the control...Buffy frowning at her

as did the other two seconds later...

 

Just kidding, guys...She grinned...

 

“But first...” she eyed the Buffies... “Why don’t you say good-

bye?...” she indicated Spike... “Alone I mean...”

 

“What?...” Previous stared...

 

“Ah...That guilty conscience...” Anne wagged a finger... “See how

lousy a soul is...But go ahead, you all want to...You first, sis...”

 

What?...Third Buffy stared...

 

“We might lie to her but never to William...” Buffy eyed Anne who

grinned, nodding... “Ah, brains and beauty...You’ll go far,

sister...If your insane obsession doesn’t get you and the universe you

came from destroyed...Go, on sis...” wave to Third Buffy...

 

“Will, Buffy wants to say bye in private...” Anne turned to Spike...

 

“We’re fine, girl...” Spike sighed...

 

“Oh, come on...They’re all dying...And universe-risking...To be alone

with you for five...After all, they could still screw this up even

with me alone to save the day...Go on, guys...”

 

Third Buffy glanced at the human sisters who shrugged in exact

likeness...

 

“I’d like to...” she looked at Spike...

 

“There you go...” Anne nodded... “Hey, no flat-out sex but tongue’s

ok...Make sure you turn that romantic screw, Will...We want the girls

to like us, you know...”

 

“If we’re wrong and you’re still Willow and kill him, I’ll flay the

skin off Xander first!...” cheery call as the two went into the

hall...

 

“Sorry, Xan...” she shrugged... “You understand...”

 

“Sure...” he, equally casual...

***

 

“What do I do?...” Third Buffy looked at Spike as they stood in the

cavern hallway...Lights strung along the length of the hall flickering

at some points...

 

“I have a Will intact at home...” she eyed him... “Like you, still...”

 

“I know...” he nodded... “Just be careful...After all, you’re from a

different existence...You can’t be sure what your own destiny

is...Take it slow...”

 

“I remember Cicely...” she said, suddenly... “I remember it all

now...Since...Will, forgive me...”

 

“Nothing to forgive, love...You pretty much followed the same pattern

then, I take it...?”

 

“Married you, rejected you, let Dru get you...Came back for you...”

she, brightening at bit at the end... “William...” she touched his

arm...

 

“That’s about it...And nothing to say, Cicely,

except...Thanks...I’d’ve been lost forever without you...”

 

“I did this to you...” she stared at him...

 

“Bump in the road, girl...” he shrugged, waving it off... “And I mean

thanks for loving me...However things work out in the end, you never

abandoned me...So it was worth it, far as I’m concerned...And I think

I can speak for my counterpart as well...” wan grin...

 

“But take care...”

 

“I’ll be careful with him...” she nodded...

 

“No...” he eyed her...Sternly... “You know what I mean...”

 

“I have to get back...” she looked at him... “You’re still there...If

they fail, I can still make it right...”

 

“Don’t Buffy...” he shook his head... “If you let them down, run out

on them...It’ll haunt you forever...And poison everything between

us...Help them...Whatever happens, we’ll find each other somewhere...”

 

“The afterlife’s a fine place for a honeymoon, after all...” he

smiled...

 

She stared at him...Intent, intense look... “You swear...”

 

“On mum’s soul...” he nodded... “Don’t betray them, love...For our

sakes...”

 

She nodded...

 

“Time!...” Anne stuck her head out into the hallway...

 

***

 

“You know...” Buffy eyed Spike as they stood in the hallway... “If you

said the word...”

 

“Thanks, love...And very temptin’...” he smiled... “But Annie wouldn’t

like it...And I couldn’t do it to my Buffy...We are bound

together...As you are with your own...”

 

She took his hand a moment... “I guess so...But I just wanted one of

you to know...” she looked into his face...He nodding...

 

“He is waiting, Cicely...In Heaven if nowhere else...And he needs

you...”

 

“In Heaven?...” she stared at him...

 

“It’s not Heaven till you’re there...And everywhere is when you

are...”

 

***

“Three minutes only...” Anne, firmly... “This one I don’t trust...”

she glared at Previous standing now beside Spike in the hall...Buffy

and Third Buffy now waiting by a rather pissed...There is a window to

these things, girlies...When the hell do we get the hell...Mears...

 

“Love, your game...” Spike noted...

 

“Fine...Just...” nervous glance at Spike... “Please...Don’t...” harsh,

but pleading...

 

“Never, girl...”

 

“Two minutes, forty-one seconds...” she closed the door...

 

“Tell me something...” Previous whispered...Harshly, desperately...

 

“What...?” Spike pulled back...

 

“Anything...You know...Tell me something we don’t know...They don’t

know...And I swear I won’t kill her...I’ll try not to let them kill

her, if she keeps her word...Please, William...I have to have

something they don’t...It’s all I can live on...Anything...”

 

“I’m not the same one you knew, love...”

 

“You were...Up to the moment she made her decision...And died for

you...I know whatever you say you don’t what her dead...Destroyed...”

 

“I don’t know what I could...”

 

“Hurry...Anything you never told her...”

 

“All right...But...” he stared at her... “I’d do it for you

anyway...Do you know that...?”

 

“Yeah...” she sighed after a moment...

 

“But...I will hold you to that promise...Since you’ve gone and made

it...I owe her that much...To give her a chance...”

 

“At coming back to you...?”

 

“At being you again...” he replied...She stared a brief moment...

 

“She might pull it off at that...So...?”

 

“I knew the first night...” he stared at her... “Back in Sunnydale...I

knew...I didn’t believe it but I knew...”

 

She blinked at him, turning away, then staring at him... “Wow...I was

just hoping you’d tell me I snore or something...” Wan grin...

 

“Take care, my love...” he nodded... “Don’t let me...Spike...Get too

strong a hold on you...It could cost you...All of you...”

 

“I can deal...” she nodded back...Pausing...

 

“You’ll wait...For her...”

 

“For you, yes...Long as it takes...”

 

***

 

Anne opened the door...

 

“Long as what takes...?” she eyed both...

 

Wait...Previous realized...

 

Not Anne...

 

“What, you too?...” she frowned at...Right, wan look from near-

possession...Third Buffy...

 

Mearsy says it’s time to get going!...Bring em back in, sis!...”

Anne’s voice...

 

“And he means ‘long as it takes me to get that soul...’ It’s ok...”

 

They re-entered...

 

***

The glow had faded…Xander glanced at Spike…Who eyed him carefully…

Leaning back a little painfully…

 

“So…” he looked down at the floor of the cavern room where Willow’s

ashes lightly dusted…A few blowing to and fro with the air currents…

 

“Best to get poor Red settled first, don’t you think?...” he said, not

unkindly

 

Xander, nodding quietly, fetched a dustpan from a corner, along with a

rather lovely old ceramic reliquary…Saved by Willow by chance from a

destroyed museum of medieval artifacts, he noted…

 

“She’d appreciate the thought…” Spike smiled…”I would like to say my

apologies before we settle our business, Harris…I imagine you’ll want

to be quick about it, lest the ladies complete their quest too soon…”

he spoke, as Xander carefully began brushing up the ashes, stopping to

pour a few into the ceramic…He paused to regard Spike carefully…Spike

nodding to him…

 

“Kind of you not to do in front of her, Harris…”

 

“It’s not her I blame, Spike…” Xander said quietly…Carefully

completing the recovery of the ashes…All deposited with equal care

into the vase…

 

“Then kind of you not to let Willow kill the girls…”

 

“I doubt she could’ve and it’s not my job to punish them…”

 

“Just my Buffy…” Spike eyed him…

 

“Yeah…You know I can’t let all this go, William…” Xander nodded… “I’m

sorry for you two…I always was…But I can’t let Buffy off…And you know

I mean Buffy...”

 

“I understand Harris…But she didn’t mean to hurt you…”

 

“She never does, I know…In any form…” Xander sighed…Putting the

container on a table shoved against the long left wall of the room…He

stared at the reliquary a moment…

 

“I’ll scatter them out in the Pacific…She’d like that…”

 

“Yeah, she would…” Spike nodded… “If I may…?” he moved toward the

table, paused…

 

Xander nodded…

 

“I am sorry, Red…And I know my soul regrets what happened…” Spike

addressed the container… “Sorry a poet can’t do a better prayer

service but the demon blocks a bit…”

 

“Thanks…” Xander said quietly… “I know her soul forgives you, William…

And your wife as well…Spike…” Hard stare…Brushing away strands of wild

hair… “I want you to know…” he pulled up the crossbow at his side

slowly… “This isn’t for Willow or Dawn…Or even Anya…They knew the

score and what could happen…”

 

Spike nodded…

 

“It’s funny…” Xander paused… “Even Willow and Giles, let alone Buffy,

would probably be surprised at why…They came to Buffy’s pov in their

ways, over time...But the others matter, Will…Even the ones who never

saw it coming, never knew a thing about what was going on in the world

until it came on them…What they went through with you and Anne and

your horde…Their deaths can’t just be brushed, they have meaning…” he

shook his head…

 

“My family’s deaths mattered…” he said quietly… “Maybe the thing that

makes me…” faint smile… “Crazy…Is that even with soul, Buffy…”

 

“Be fair, Alexander…” Spike shook his head… “You’ve the right…I won’t

argue that…But understand…She’s tried to carry the burden as Cicely

and as Buffy and as God knows how many others…Do what you feel you

have to…But try to understand…And forgive her…”

 

“I will try…” Xander nodded… “But she can’t have it all, without

consequences…At least not our Buffy…If there’s really an afterlife,

she can find you there as I’ll find my folks...And An and Wil and Dawn…

If not…She’s only suffering what all of us have had to…”

 

“Mom…Dad…I love you…Forgive me for not being there…Goodbye, Will…”

 

He fired…

 

****

 

 

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