"Yes, sweetie, I’ll explain it all when I get home, okay?" Willow finally took
a break to call Tara when the bot’s reprogramming looked to be more complicated than expected.
To her surprise, Willow was quite impressed with Warren Mears’ engineering skills.
The robot was a lot more than some fancy sex toy. The programming was intricate enough to make the robot duplicate Buffy’s life and life skills as closely as possible. Willow was not sure if she should be squicked or awed by Spike’s attention to detail in his instructions for the bot’s building. It was clear that the vampire knew the real Buffy quite well.
It had also been a shock to discover that the bot was programmed to protect the real Buffy’s family and friends over and above any instructions to do the same for Spike.
The removal of all the sexually oriented programming and the built-in adoration for Spike was time-consuming but far from anything that would leave an empty shell of a plastic doll. Warren had woven the programming so beautifully that the robot mimicked a complex human perfectly…well,
except for the unnerving vapid grin that the bot sported whenever Spike entered the area, that is. In fact, when Spike was in the upper part of the crypt, out of the robot's view, Willow was hard pressed to remember she was not dealing with the real Buffy.
Willow called Tara when Spike alerted her about the passage of time. She was always easily engrossed with technology and had not noticed.
Tara accepted a brief explanation that hadn’t mentioned the Buffybot and expressed the opinion that Willow should consider finishing her project the next day. Mrs. Pratt was already surfing into choppy ‘net waters and the gang wasn’t nearly as equipped to help the lady navigate the dangerous waters of the Web.
"Um, Spike," Willow ventured, "How ‘bout I take the bot to our place and work some more on her. Maybe Tara can help figure out how to explain it to Buffy."
Spike blinked in confusion. He really hadn’t thought much beyond having the budding witch fix the tastier parts of his robot’s design. The concept of Buffy coming face to face with the robot was enough to still his heart had it been beating. He wondered if he would look too unmanly if he stood behind his mother when the introductions were finally made. He was just grateful that Willow didn’t hate him so much that she would lay the whole sordid situation before the Slayer and his beloved mother. Spike wasn’t too sure whose horrified gaze he feared more.
"Good thinking, Red," Spike finally responded. "That bird of yours is a downy one. Anyone figure how to pretty up this mess of mine, it’d be her."
Willow smiled at him and avoided the extreme teasing that was begging to be done over this ‘mess’ as he had put it. She had always kind of liked Spike, even if he had scared her out of her wits more than once over the years. There was something she couldn’t put her finger on that made her put Spike in a different category than other vampires--even Angel--and it wasn’t the chip either. "I’m sure it’ll all work out okay. I mean Buffy can only stake you once, right?"
"Think she will?" Spike looked surprisingly young as he asked, like a child fearing the wrath of a disapproving parent.
"Nope, at least not with your mom around," Willow replied sincerely. Come to think of it, she didn’t really imagine that Buffy would stake Spike any time soon. All these years, chipless ones included, and no stakage had happened yet. Willow decided she might want to think about what that little realization meant at a later time though.
Spike drew in a deep breath and let it out in a long sigh, running a hand through his hair. He looked exhausted. "Lot to take in, yeah?" Willow nodded in encouragement. "Never thought to see
me mum again and here she is, behind a computer keyboard no less." He smiled at the girl responsible. "I really don’t know what I was thinkin’ when I had ‘Scotty’ built that thing. Guess I just figured Buffy’d never give me the time of day and I can’t picture wantin’ anybody else but her. Hate the thought of being alone’s all." He looked at Willow and she could read the truth in his eyes. "Stupid, I know. Probably woulda junked it within a week ‘cause it’s not really her, you know?"
"We’re all with the stupid from time to time," Willow consoled him. "I usually mess up a spell and get everyone mad at me when I go for the stupid," she laughed. "Of course, I AM getting really good at baking cookies!"
Spike drove Willow to her apartment on his way back to Buffy’s. The bot was stretched on the back seat, turned off for the trip. The drive was tense with Willow doing most of the talking.
Even though Willow had tried to convince Spike that Tara would likely understand, it was still a pleasant surprise to find the shy witch sparing him with a compassionate glance as he tried to explain how the bot had come to be.
Tara listened to the entire story in silence. The only thing that showed her opinion on the bot was the amused quirk of her mouth as she watched Spike tap dance around the words.
"Well, I don’t think anyone will believe you had this made to play checkers," Tara teased. "Since Willow will soon have all the…um…special programming removed, you could always say you thought the robot could help with patrols since Buffy was worried about her mom’s sickness. You did say it can slay vampires, right?"
"Nearly as good as Buffy, even if it doesn’t make those little jokes like she does. ‘Fraid neither botboy nor I can match Buffy for that," Spike admitted with a grin.
"Well, that might work then." Tara thought for a few minutes before continuing. "You know, this might even be a blessing in disguise."
Willow and Spike both looked at the girl with their eyebrows raised. "Do tell," Spike encouraged.
"With Glory out there, Buffy will probably need all the help she can get. This robot of yours might just be a bigger help than we think right now. Maybe Mr. Giles can test it to see just how strong it really is. I remember hearing that the other robot girl this Warren made was strong enough to pick you up and throw you through a window, Spike." Tara was beginning to look excited at the idea.
"Think Buffy’d buy that as the reason?" Spike was as nervous as a cat at a dog show.
"I could always say that I helped with the programming, ‘cause I kinda have now," Willow offered.
"You both know that I owe you big time," Spike said with a look of relief. This might just work. "I’m no welcher either; I’m good for it."
Both girls looked at him and flashed twin smiles at the idea of having the vampire in their debt. ‘Doubt if that happens every day,’ thought Tara, while Willow tried to think of any spells that required ingredients only a vampire could provide.
Giles had spent the morning preparing documents that would give status to Mrs. Pratt. "Lovely woman, such a shame about her son," he mused. "At least she can get good health care with these." He looked proudly at the documents that used actual information about the woman with some serious date tweaking.
Willow had agreed to hack into the appropriate computers and plant the new information later. By
tomorrow the good lady would be good to go for an appointment with that nice young doctor Wilkinson that Buffy had suggested.
Giles had put together the necessary papers for Spike as well, but with less enthusiasm. He still rankled at the thought of any vampire moving that closely into his Slayer’s inner circle. Angel had been a disaster for every single one of them and all Giles could see was the potential for even worse with the unsouled variety.
Giles arrived at Casa Summers just in time to catch the tail end of a conversation that had every
sane person in that house ducking for cover. Anya had taken it upon herself to explain to Mrs. Pratt the various relationships of the people now surrounding the newly arrived Victorian widow.
"Xander gives many wonderful orgasms, even if he hasn’t made an honest woman of me yet," Anya had just announced. "I do think he still lusts after Buffy though, but at least I don’t have to worry about Willow’s old crush on him since she’s decided to be a lesbian now that she’s met Tara."
It was obvious from the wide-eyed look on Anne Pratt’s face that she had only heard a portion of that rather amazing confidence, having mentally stumbled on the ‘orgasms’ mentioned at the start.
"Thank you, Anya," Giles began, "but I am certain that Mrs. Pratt will get to know all of us in her own time.". He turned to the scarred newcomer and tried to put a better face on things. "It is not as sordid as Anya has made it all sound. You will find that the moral standards of this time are quite different, but the importance of a good heart remains."
"I believe there is much I have yet to learn, as one would expect," agreed Mrs. Pratt. She was grateful for any excuse to end the discomfiting conversation with the odd yet friendly girl with the surly suitor.
"Anya is not used to the more subtle aspects of humanity, Mrs. Pratt." Giles wasn’t sure how much
detail Spike had given his mother in his explanation of the supernatural world. "You see, she lived for a bit over a thousand years as a vengeance demon." At Anne’s bewildered look, he offered, "If you would be interested, I’m certain I could find some books with better explanations than any I could give."
"The Vicar taught of demons, but I never dreamt of meeting one," Anne whispered in awe. "He never said a word about them being able to become human, however."
"Well, the word ‘demon’ here isn’t meant quite the same way as in the Bible or a sermon. They are rather like a different species from humans. Much older and quite different in many aspects, although the type that Anya once was began as a human and become a demon. The same is true with William. His turning, his becoming a vampire, involved losing his humanity and becoming a demon."
"That’s pure nonsense!" Anne stated in outrage. "My son is no demon. He is the same caring, loving, dutiful boy I’ve known since he was born to me. I can look in his dear eyes and see the same sweet soul that was always there."
Giles sighed. "Be that as it may, William is a demon and he has no soul for you to see."
"It is you that cannot or will not see," Anne stated firmly. "There may well be a demon, as you call it, within. William changed his appearance to prove his claims and I did see what he called the demon. He is, however, still the same man he always was beneath it all. If you cannot see that, it is because you have chosen not to. As for William not having a soul…, well, I’ve never heard such nonsense in all my days!"
"It’s true. Demons don’t have souls. They’re pure evil," Xander piped up.
"That’s certainly not always true," said Anya with a roll of her eyes. "Vengeance demons have
souls; they’re just different. Lots of demons have souls. Besides, evil is as evil does and lots of humans do plenty of evil. Look at Stalin and Mao and how they set out to destroy capitalism!"
Giles couldn’t suppress a slight smile at Anya’s world view. "It might be true that the chronicles may be incomplete. As a generalization though, demons are soulless and prone to evil. Vampires are among those in that category."
"IF that is true--and I am not believing it for a moment--then William is something other than a
vampire," Anne stated stubbornly. "You will never convince me that he has no soul because he is a
vampire. I can see his soul clearly; therefore, vampires must have souls."
"Angel does," suggested Dawn helpfully.
"Angels? Are these the same sort as the Vicar would have spoken of?" asked a confused Mrs. Pratt.
"Hardly," snorted Giles. "Actually, Angel is a vampire. One of those responsible for your son’s
alteration, in fact. Angel was cursed with a soul and now seeks to fight against evil and work towards redemption."
"Not a Calvinist then," joked Mrs. Pratt. Giles was the only one to get the joke and he laughed at the unexpected jest.
"No, not a Calvinist either; a Papist, I believe," he replied.
"Well, that explains it," Anne smiled.
"Mr. Giles, if the soul is a good thing, causing one to do and be good, why do you refer to this Angel’s soul as a curse?" Anne asked.
Giles blinked rapidly and tried to come up with an answer that made sense of the gypsy curse only to find himself wanting. "I wish I had an answer for that."
"So there is much you admit you do not understand about vampires in general and my son in particular then?" Anne looked a bit like the cat with a mouth full of canary.
"So it would seem," Giles reluctantly admitted. He was sure Spike had no soul, but he was less sure of the purpose of a soul in general and those thoughts disturbed him more than a bit.
The vampire in question chose that moment to enter the house, bags in hand. He had the feeling that he didn’t necessarily want to know what he might have missed while wrestling with his Buffybot problem.
"’Lo all. Just brought a few things for our stay here." He handed some shopping bags to his mother and kissed her cheek tenderly. "Stopped by the witches’ place and picked these up from Tara. I think they’ll set you up properly until we get settled in a place of our own. I intend to start looking about tomorrow," he promised his mother.
Buffy looked from mother to son and felt an unexpected urge. "You don’t have to leave right away. Stay as long as you’d like. I’m sure your mom could use the time to adjust a bit and the house is big enough."
A clearly startled Spike looked at Buffy in gratitude. "’Preciate that, Slayer. Don’t want to impose though," he said in soft wonder, not daring to believe what he’d just heard.
"It’s okay, really." Buffy found herself not wanting to be in the house with just Dawn at this point. Maybe other people, other voices would help keep hidden the hole left by her mom’s passing. "I’ll need to look for work soon and I don’t want Dawn here alone with Glory around anyway."
"You’re going to go to work, Buffster?" Xander looked a bit too pleased at the idea of Buffy joining the working class. With all his other friends in college, he was ready to embrace a companion in toil.
"Yeah, seems Mom didn’t have medical insurance, so the life policy will just cover those hospital bills and some of the others for the next few months. Glad I held out for that high school diploma now," she quipped. There was little humor in it though and they all could feel the
worry that spawned her plans.
"We would, of course, pay board," Spike offered immediately. "Maybe that would be enough to let you find something you’d like to do. You know I’m more than ready to help with Glory too."
Buffy smiled wanly at her former enemy, "Thanks, Spike, I do know. Sure, I’ll take some rent and
maybe I can find some job that won’t suck the soul out of ME."
Spike looked from Buffy to his mother and knew that there were going to be questions before sleep
this night. Whatever conversations had taken place in his absence looked to be about more than e-mails and web directories.
Xander and Anya made their excuses, fortunately voiced by Xander this time, and headed to their apartment. Anya had been whispering naughty somethings into his ear ever since she had reminded herself of what wonderful orgasms he gave her and it was more than time to go. "See you all tomorrow then?"
"Sure, Xan." Buffy walked them to the door. "Spike’s here; everything will be fine. He can handle any question that comes up now and I can get some sleep. Can you TRY to get Anya to think instead of talk?"
"Right after I solve the problem with world hunger, sure," Xander smiled. "Sorry about that. I love her, but there are times I wish she were a mute."
"I guess it could be worse, but I’m not sure how," Buffy agreed.
Giles handed Spike the paperwork he had generated and went over the various identity cards and diplomas with the vampire. "I believe you should have no trouble blending in with the human population with these."
"Thanks, Watcher, these should do the trick," Spike said as he looked through them. "Need to get a place in a respectable part of town and set up some accounts, but think I’ll stay close to Buffy and Dawn ‘til this Glory thing is settled anyway."
Giles shot him a look and warned, "Don’t think because your mother is here that you can take advantage. I’ll be watching your every move."
Spike smirked at Giles and raised an eyebrow, "Rupes, that sort of come-on may have enticed Peaches, but I’m really not interested."
"I’m deadly serious," Giles said with no good humor at all. "Keep in mind that I am not easily taken in by your dubious charms. I know what you are."
"No, you don’t have a clue," Spike replied with narrowed eyes.
Unbeknownst to the occupants of the house, their various conversations were being listened to by a pair of hidden interlopers. The bits they were able to hear were enticing, as were the bags of belongings the vampire had placed in the front hallway.
"Why would the Slayer have a vampire living in her home?" Murk looked at Jinx in amazement.
"Didn’t you hear them say he was going to stay with the Slayer until the situation with Glory was past? Why would a vampire need to stay with the Slayer?" Murk continued.
"And what did the older man mean about the vampire blending in with the human population and knowing what he is?" added Jinx.
They watched Spike standing next to his bags and making himself quite at home at the Summers house. This was an odd vampire indeed. Rumor had it that he didn’t even hunt or kill. His blood, if it WAS blood, was purchased from a butcher and was animal in origin. This vampire was even known to help the Slayer in her battles killing his own kind!
Jinx thought about the conundrum before them and then his face lit up with the germ of an idea. "When is a vampire not a vampire?"
Murk looked stupidly at his fellow minion as Jinx answered for him, "When the vampire is a Key!"
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