A/N: Thank you for reading this far. I hope you enjoy this last part. I confess to feeling quite disheartened at receiving no reviews for my last story, 'The Dreams in which I'm Dying', which made the two I have received so far for this story very welcome - thank you James and 'Guest'. I would love to receive further reviews of course...

Happy weekend

Regards CC.

Chapter four

The likeness was uncanny. The boy who had created her should be working for a leading electronics firm earning a high salary, either that or hanging by his neck from the highest branch. Opinion amongst the group assembled at the Magic Shop was mixed.

"Does she have to be so damn cheerful all the time?" Anya added to the assemblage. "I mean Buffy was never that cheerful. She cried a lot if I recall."

"It's unnerving, I grant you," Xander agreed.

"Sublime to the ridiculous, if you ask me."

"No one is asking you," Willow said unkindly.

"Willow!" Xander jumped to his partner's defence.

All the regulars were present: Giles was behind the shop counter speaking to someone on the telephone. Spike and Dawn sat together, across from Willow and a silent Tara. Spike had the appearance of bottled-up anger. Tara was going over the events of the early hours of that morning. She had been asleep with Willow when the door to their room was kicked inwards off its hinges. Spike had stood there framed by the light of the hall behind.

Tara and Willow had sat up in bed, shielding their night sight from the sudden glare. Spike had crossed the threshold and started shouting something about Buffy. It had taken Tara several seconds to register that he meant the robot.

Willow's first reaction to the onslaught had been to cast a spell that caused Spike to fly backwards. The speed of flight, coupled with the short distance from where he was standing to the wall, made the impact more effective, and the intruder slumped to the floor semi-conscious. "No!" Dawn screamed. The Wiccas had not noticed her until then.

"How dare you come in here and dictate to me?" Willow had shouted, ignoring the young girl kneeling at the vampire's side. "You're nothing but a dead man walking. I'm trying to save us. Buffy can save us!"

"It's an abomination!" Spike had spat, having regained consciousness. "A beautiful creation," he added quietly, "but an abomination all the same. Buffy is dead."

Dawn helped her friend to his feet and faced the red head. "It was wrong, Willow." She turned and helped Spike to the doorway.

"I loved her," Willow said weakly.

"I know," Dawn accepted, but without turning round to face her.

The gang were now all assembled in the Magic Shop.

"I still say switch her off," Spike repeated himself, the conversation having gone in circles.

"No," Giles added as he joined the others. "As much as I disapprove of Willow reactivating it, it exists. We need the robot to fight the proliferation of vampires in Sunnydale."

"Does Dawn not get a say in this?" Spike persisted.

"No."

"It's all right, Spike," Dawn put her hand on his arm. "I couldn't choose anyway. She is like her in many ways, don't you think?" She tilted her head and regarded the facsimile that sat seemingly contented. The robot smiled back, looking completely unfased to the fact that they were all talking about her.

"What about the next slayer, will she be sent here?" Xander asked.

"There'll be no new slayer," Giles replied. He rubbed his eyes as though the whole affair was wearing him down and he longed to be on that plane to England.

"Are you tired, Giles," the robot asked, "You shouldn't read so late into the night," it admonished motherly. Giles afforded a brief glance at her before averting his gaze.

"But, Buffy died and..."

"She died before, remember," the Watcher spoke quietly to Xander. "And Kendra was called."

"So?"

"Think about it lad," Spike added almost fatherly. "If it was that easy to call a slayer, the Council would have one permanently strapped to an operating table, flat-lining her every ten minutes to create an army. A new slayer can only be called from another on one occasion."

"What about Faith?"

"We don't need her!" Willow said defiantly.

"Faith's missing," Giles replied. "That was Angel on the phone; she was removed from the prison and has not been seen since."

The news was met by silence.

"I love Angel," the robot said as though she felt it added to the conversation.

"That's it!" Spike stood up angry and made to leave.

"Spike, please don't go," Dawn pleaded.

He stood by her side. "I bet you programmed her to hate me as well," he directed bitterly at Willow.

"I could never hate you, Spike," the robot said, the new seriousness of her voice taking everyone by surprise. "You saved my life and Dawn's. I will always love you for that."

Spike sat down again. "Oh, Red, what have you done?" He cradled his face in his hands.

"See? She really isn't so different." Dawn said, placing a hand on his shoulder. He looked up at her.

"She's a robot, pet. Just a robot."

"But, she looks so much like her," Dawn persisted. "Buffy always parted her hair like that and she loved to wear that sweater and...is it so wrong to want... I miss her so much."

Dawn broke down and Spike took her in his arms. He looked over at Willow. The Wicca was only able to meet his accusing gaze for a few seconds before turning her head away. Unable to bear the critical comments or stares of her friends, she stood up to leave.

"I'll come too," the robot offered. "I have to patrol to kill demons," it added as if reciting from a job description.

Tara followed them both up the short flight of steps to the door of the shop. Before they reached it, however, there was

a knock from outside. Tara did the honours and stepped back in surprise at the newcomer.

"Hi everyone. I bet you didn't...Buffy! But you're supposed to be dead," the newcomer blurted out on suddenly noticing the blonde apparition before her.

"I don't like you," the robot stated. "You slept with my boyfriend and are a skanky ho'"

"What...you aren't Buffy. What's going on here, Giles?"

"Never mind that. What are you doing here? You've got a nerve showing your face again," Willow uttered ungraciously as Faith stood in the doorway.

The others at the rear of the shop stood up. "Faith, Angel told us you were missing," Giles said eventually.

"I still am to some people, I hope. I gave my captors the slip."

"Well you're not welcome here!"

"Willow!" Xander gave his friend a disapproving look. "You heard what Angel said about her; she's trying to reform so give her the benefit of the doubt."

"You're only being friendly cos' you want to sleep with her again!"

"Excuse me," Anya faced her fiancé, an ominous look to her usual 'innocent abroad' face. "You slept with her."

"It was nothing," Xander said hopefully.

"Oh, thanks for that," Faith added. "I can't say how happy I am to have you on my side, and I mean that literally."

"What I meant was, it happened so quick...although, not that quick, you understand..."

"Xander, I'd quit while you still have a chance of catching up." Giles offered. "Faith, come in."

Willow barged past the living slayer and left the shop. The robot followed her; a vacant smile revealing it registered nothing. Tara also left, affording an embarrassed glance at Faith before closing the door behind her.

"Hi everyone," Faith repeated.

"Come on over, Faith," Giles offered the young woman. "Fill in some gaps for us and we'll do the same."

Faith sat on one of the vacant chairs. She sat up straight with her hands placed on her legs, as though attending an interview. The others scraping their chairs into a semi circle facing her strengthened the analogy. She explained how she was removed from her cell and transported to a holding point. She had originally thought she was being sent to a more secure facility, as punishment for her behaviour on sensing Buffy's death. Giles showed special interest at the latter. He was unaware that such a link existed between slayers, but had to confess that he could not recall ever reading of two being alive at the same time.

"So who exactly took you then," Spike asked. Of all the gang he knew less about Faith than anyone. He had less reason to mistrust her, although he had his doubts as to her commitment to not killing him - her reputation having preceded her.

"I'm guessing the Council. They need a Slayer, after all," Xander offered.

"You kidding, they'd sooner see me dead and a fresh one called. No, it was our friendly neighbourhood lawyers who sprung me."

"Wolfram and Hart? Angel has told us about them." Giles paced back and forward past the bookcase.

"One and the same. They wanted me to be their pet slayer, offered me an apartment and all."

"What made you refuse?" Xander was curious.

"Been there, done that, remember. Besides, I'm 'trying to reform'."

Chapter five

The pseudo-slayer patrolled every night, protecting Sunnydale's citizens from the unknown horrors that shared the town with them. As always they were unaware of the warrior amongst them, and were thus ignorant to the fact that there had been a transfer of responsibility from a living, breathing slayer to an electronic creation.

Several nights into the new arrangement, Buffy, Spike and Xander patrolled. The vampire and the mortal were slowly getting used to sharing their duties with the robot. In a fight they could easily forget that the real thing no longer existed.

"Demons up ahead!" Xander shouted as a dozen rushed forward.

Spike shouted a war cry, ramming one with his shoulder whilst lashing out at a second with his right arm. Xander engaged the latter, which had been knocked back by Spike's blow. Another was about to spring forward but Buffy leapt at it, her hands gripped securely around its throat. Xander slashed with his knife, taking his opponent below its rib cage and causing the ground to be drenched with the creature's blood and entrails.

Buffy swiped to her left with a stake, cutting a deep gash diagonally down one opponent's chest. She followed this by shifting her stance to her left and thrusting the weapon through a second. She did the two movements whilst still on the run, the motions only slightly halting her momentum. However, the effort of pulling the stake out of the second vampire caused her to stumble on to her back. Three demons saw her down and attacked together. Buffy kicked the first in the stomach, winding it. It fell back several feet. The second found its legs swept up by the wide swing of her arm. The remaining foe took advantage of the motion to stand on the hand that held the stake, causing Buffy to relinquish hold of it. It took pleasure in slowly lifting the sword it held, with the intention of bringing it down on the mechanical slayer. Before it could complete its manoeuvre, however, the point of a blade protruding from below its ribcage interrupted its attention. It remained alive just long enough to see it vanish back where it came from. The vampire collapsed on the spot. Buffy rolled away in time to avoid its falling sword. With it out of her field of vision, she saw Spike standing looking down at her.

"Thank you, Spike," she said with the broad grin of an innocent.

The blonde vampire went to offer her his hand to pull her up, but instead backed away. "Don't mention it," he offered reluctantly.

Buffy stood up and surveyed the scene. The battle was over and the good guys were still alive. Xander brushed death dust from his shirt. "Good fighting both of you," the robot complimented. "Let's go to the Bronze and get sweaty," she added enthusiastically.

Xander looked at Spike, his face mirroring the vampire's mixed emotions. "Is this weird or is it just me?" He voiced. "It seems eerily normal. I don't know whether to feel guilty or relieved."

"I could just as easily puke." Spike added. "But what the hell, lets get drunk," he grabbed the robot by the arm and led it in the direction of the club.

"Well, you two have fun," Xander offered. "I think I'll go rest in the arms of my vengeance demon."

"Whatever. You pick your oblivion and I'll pick mine."

-/-/-/-/-/-/-

Three hours later Spike swayed belligerently through Sunnydale's oldest cemetery, heading towards the crypt he called home. Buffy kept up with him, the smile that annoyed him so much ever present. They had danced for hours. He had been lost in the music and heat and chaos of the dance floor and been able to wipe his mind clear. Between numbers he had downed drinks as though Prohibition was about to be announced.

"You've drunk far too much," she admonished good-humouredly.

"The night's still young," he countered, draining the bottle of Jack Daniels he held before throwing it at a nearby headstone. It shattered and he staggered sideways.

"That's disrespectful to the dead, Spike. You shouldn't do it."

"Shut up!" He swung round to face her. He walked up to his tormentor and grabbed her by the shoulders. "Shut up!" He repeated, his face inches from hers. She didn't flinch, but smiled still. "Damn you! I could hit you and you'd still mock me with that smile."

Spike stepped back. He grabbed his head with his hands and ran them through his hair manically. "Do you think or feel anything at all?"

"I think you are being silly," she replied as she walked up to him. She ran a hand down the side of his face and, raising herself on tiptoes, she kissed his lips. Then again. The first time was gentle, testing his response, and then she allowed passion to take control. Spike responded by wrapping his arms round her and answering her intensity with his own.

"Oooh, Spike you bad vampire. You've no respect for the dead," she teased as they tumbled to the soft ground in between headstones of forgotten Sunnydale residents.

Spike leapt back from the mirror vision of Buffy and stood up in horror at what he had almost done. "What's up, Spikey, do you want to go inside and do it?" Buffy smiled up at him.

"Get away from me!" He yelled down at her before he veered away from her sight and fled the scene.

The robot stood up unfazed by Spike's response. It brushed dirt from its trousers and started on its way back to Willow's lock up garage.

-/-/-/-/-/-/-

"Hi, Xander," Faith teased as he walked into the shop with Anya close behind.

"Hi...everyone," he waved nervously to Faith and Tara. "Where's everyone else? Where's Giles?"

"Not here yet."

"Great. We answer the bat phone and no Batman."

"I'm behind you, Xander," Giles announced as he squeezed pass the young man and his slightly older partner. "Where's Willow?" He asks casting his eyes round the shop's interior.

"She's patrolling with Buffy...with the robot, I mean. And Dawn's with Spike."

Giles appeared annoyed at the news. "Sit down everyone," he instructed ungraciously as he threw his coat over the counter and stood by the large table at the back of the shop.

The others did as they were told and all looked up at the Watcher expectantly. Giles looked tired and, to emphasise it, he removed his glasses and dragged his hand down his face. He massaged his eyes for several seconds.

"We're grown-ups, Giles. Spill the beans," Faith broke the silence.

"Angel called this afternoon," Giles sat down. "One of his contacts has heard that Wolfram and Hart plan to resurrect Buffy."

He was surprised that the news did not evoke a stronger response; the young people before him remained silent.

"Can they do that?" Xander asked eventually.

"Yes," Tara spoke up, which caught everyone by surprise. "The result may not be pretty, depending on what method they use. If they are successful in avoiding a zombie, she will be theirs to command."

"That's great, a video nasty or a puppet," Xander uttered. He stood up and walked to the shop counter. "Perhaps we can send our robot up against it to complete the farce!" He swiped his hand across the counter top, knocking off a display of tarot cards, causing them to scatter all around him. The Grim Reaper stared up at him from the floor.

"They resurrected Darla and she was pre-vamp...totally amoral but human with it," Faith added.

"That was a once in a lifetime event. This raising will be less...subtle, I'm sure," Giles said.

"What do we do then?" Xander asked.

Giles did not respond straight away. He looked as though he was reluctant to reveal something, as though to do so would open a Pandora's box. He was rescued by Faith. "We resurrect her first...It's all we can do," she added quickly when Xander and Tara looked at her with horrified expressions. "A zombie on our side is better than one against us."

"How long do we have and how do we do it?" Anya asked the questions the others wanted to.

"They will attempt it on the next full moon, so we have some time. As to how; Willow and Tara should be strong enough," Giles looked to the latter for confirmation. Tara nodded her head.

"Well, if that's all the news for today, I think I'll call it a night," Xander said bitterly. "You'll excuse me, won't you?"

He made for the exit. Anya picked up her bag and stood up to leave as well. "Don't worry, he'll cheer up later. We'll have sex and I'll tell him how good he was afterwards.

The young couple left the shop. Faith watched them depart. "I like her," she referred to Anya after the door was closed. "She's such an uncomplicated person." Giles smiled despite his temperament. "Anyone for alcohol?" the Slayer offered. "I don't know about you two, but I intend to drink until I throw up."

Giles produced a bottle of malt whiskey from his office, with three mugs and did the honours. Tara knocked back her drink before the others had a chance to start and held out her mug for more. Faith laughed and poured her a second offering.

-/-/-/-/-/-/-

Willow walked alongside Buffy. They were threading their way through a small grove of trees that stood on the edge of one of Sunnydale's parks. They came out from under the branches and set out across an open field. They reached the centre when they both heard the sound of engines revving. From up ahead Willow saw two cars heading for them. She and Buffy turned full circle to discover two more, one coming from the left, the other the right. It was too late to run.

The four cars skidded to a halt, creating deep brown trenches in the soft turf and causing wads of mud topped with grass to scatter either side of each vehicle. Four vampires emerged from each car. They approached the young woman and the robot with expressions of victory already on their faces.

Buffy wasted no time in taking the fight to the enemy and charged, a stake in each hand for the nearest driver and his passengers. Willow called upon her magic, born of darkness from the book that Giles didn't know he had in his archive. Her eyes went black and she concentrated her energy on one attacker at a time. Each adversary found itself walking through air made thick, making it harder to advance. Trapped in the unseen web, they were easy prey for Willow's second attack; each vampire exploding into dust as their hearts exploded through their rib cages.

With her attention taken up, Willow did not notice the demon behind her raise its arm, with the intention to sever her head with sword it carried. Buffy noticed, however, and levelled a kick to the back of its right leg, causing it to collapse backwards. The robot caught the vampire on its downward fall and, as it lay in her arms, she plunged a stake through its heart. She stood up quickly to avoid being blinded by dust.

Willow turned at the sound behind her. Before she could thank her good fortune or her saviour she shouted in terror in an attempt to warn Buffy. The robot raised its eyebrows curiously, and made to turn round. Before she could complete the move, however, a spear was plunged through her back. The metal reappeared through her chest.

"No!" Willow screamed.

The robot held out one hand and made to approach her friend and creator. The vampire pulled out the spear and stood back, a look of triumph on its face as Buffy collapsed into Willow's arms. The Wicca fell to her knees with the weight of supporting her friend. She hugged the lifeless machine and lifted her head to the cloudless night sky and cried out loud in sorrow. Her eyes went dark; her body radiated an intense glow and her cry turned into a scream of rage as power surged out in an ever-widening circle around her. The circle expanded and everything that stood in its path was incinerated; vampires, cars grass and eventually the trees that bordered the open field where she still knelt with the broken facsimile of her lost friend.

-/-/-/-/-/-/-

Spike sat with Dawn watching Charmed on his television. He said he only watched it to keep his young charge company, but Dawn knew he fancied Holly Marie Combs. Suddenly the air around them seemed to ripple like a desert heat haze. Spike stood up suddenly.

"Who are you?" He demanded of the young girl sitting across from him. Dawn flinched at the sudden movement and a look of confusion followed the question. "Who are you and what are you doing here?" Spike demanded again.

"Spike, you're scaring me."

"How do you know my name?"

"It's me, Dawn..." she realised that he was none the wiser. She stood up and backed away. "Don't you remember...I'm Buffy's sister...the Key..."

Spike shook his head as though he were trying to dislodge a memory from inside. The air rippled again and he found himself wondering why he was standing up, and why Dawn was too, with a look of fear on her face. "Dawn, pet, what's wrong?" He asked concerned. She started to cry and he was at her side straight away. "Don't cry. What's wrong?"

"Nothing," she lied through tears and sought comfort in his arms. "I just...old memories and fears, nothing more."

"Come and sit down then and I'll make us some supper."

-/-/-/-/-/-/-

Xander placed the micro-waved pizza on to a large tray and walked into the lounge. Anya had her back to him as she was aiming the remote control at the television. The ground seemed to shake for a couple of seconds, nearly causing Xander to drop the tray. His lover turned round and he backed up in shock, terror on his face. This time he did spill the pizza; pepperoni and cheese causing grease stains on the immaculate wood flooring. Instead of his girlfriend he saw demon features facing him. After several seconds Anya eventually replaced Anyanka again and Xander wiped sweat from his face.

"Xander, what's the matter? You look like you've seen a ghost."

"It's OK, honey...I was just a little light-headed. I guess I really need to eat."

"Yea? Well let's not have pizza, shall we." Anya said surveying the wreckage of the one on the floor.

-/-/-/-/-/-/-

Amy sat on Tara's bed, naked and shivering, her legs curled up to her chest. She shook with relief at finally being freed from her rodent existence, and with cold from the lack of clothing. Over powering both, however, was fear at the power that must have been exerted to break the spell that she had cast on herself nearly three years before.

-/-/-/-/-/-/-

"Tara! Are you OK?" Giles asked as he held the Wicca in his arms. Minutes before she had stood up suddenly screaming in pain or fear or both, and covering her face with her hands. She had eventually collapsed to the floor. Giles was relieved when she finally opened her eyes and looked at him. Thin trails of blood escaped from her eyes and ears and one drop threatened to escape from one of her nose. Faith stood over them both, prone for action against some unseen foe.

"I'm fine...I think...yes, I'm fine."

"What happened?"

"Magic," she replied simply. "Powerful and dark. I was affected because I have some power and it must have reacted with it. Giles, I think it was Willow..."

-/-/-/-/-/-/-

Flames had taken hold of the wooden fence that bordered the park. They billowed in the breeze with a white intensity that no water would extinguish until they chose it to. The grass for several feet beyond was singed brown. Further in, the scorched green became earth stripped of vegetation and left off white with ash. Further in again any trees left standing were blackened sticks of charcoal that would crumble to dust on touch. Beyond the tree line the field was gone, heat blasted to molten liquid and reformed into a mockery of earth that would never grow anything again. In the centre of what revealed to be a circle of destruction sat two figures huddled together. One appeared lifeless as it hung limp in the arms of the other. The second figure rocked back and forth slowly, oblivious to the fact that she was the only living thing, human animal or vegetation that existed for a radius of half a mile from the spot she was sitting.

Hours later she allowed Giles to lift her up and take her back to his apartment.

Chapter six

Amy sat at the back of the Magic Shop devouring a large pizza. The fact she had an audience did not bother her. In fact, the attention was just as welcome, having spent nearly two years as a rat and only a spinning wheel to amuse her. Tara had discovered her a few hours earlier and during that time everyone had brought her up to date on events that had occurred during the lost years.

"Wow, that was like watching all 21 episodes of your favourite show in one sitting," Amy eventually said when they had finished. "And, how many cliff-hangers was that?"

"We've nearly fallen off a few of those," Xander added.

"That last one is pretty major," Amy referred to the need to raise Buffy before Wolfram and Hart.

"Do you think you can help Tara...now that Willow is...temporarily out of action?" Giles asked.

Willow was resting at Giles' apartment, with Tara watching over her. She had been distraught and scared. The loss of the robot, which she had begun to look upon as her creation, and her responsibility to use to protect her friends had almost tipped her over the edge, made worse by the use of dark magic.

"Sure, but you know the risks involved, don't you?"

"If the worse happens, we can kill it straight afterwards."

Everyone looked at Giles, but no one objected to his comment. It was as if they all knew what had to be done and Giles was their spokesman.

"Why not copy what the monks did; why not recreate her rather than resurrect?" Amy suggested.

"How do we do that?" Giles asked.

"Can we do that?" Spike added, leaning forward.

Amy relished the attention but did not relinquish her hold of the pizza. "Dawn was created from Buffy's blood. We just reverse the process...sort of."

"Again, how?" Giles asked impatiently. "We don't know how the monks got hold of Buffy's blood in the first place."

"I would have thought that was obvious...Dracula bit her, remember," Amy added when the others looked at her blankly.

"Are you saying Dracula was working for the monks?" Xander asked incredulously.

"Dracula is a character from a Victorian Gothic novel," Amy responded teacher-like.

"Excuse me, young lady," Spike objected. "I have a long history with that guy."

"And I had a crush on him last century," Anya added.

Amy regarded them all with a smile. She was enjoying the attention and felt smugly superior like a person who knows they are more intelligent than their host. "He's not real. Come on guys, how many vamps do you know that can turn into bats or sleep in coffins? He was conjured up, and the memories put in your head, with the sole intention of gathering some blood from Buffy. It's obvious, I'm surprised you didn't figure it out yourselves."

"There were some very convincing aspects of the...of the illusion," Giles said in defence.

"Xander ate bugs," Anya contributed.

"So, are you saying you can do the same spell?" Spike asked.

"It's more of a ritual, actually, but yes...with some of Dawn's blood."

"What about the memory aspect of the ritual?" Giles enquired. "I mean, will everyone forget Buffy died?"

"That part will be harder. We don't have as much power to draw upon as the monks did. We'll be lucky to effect Sunnydale...except us, of course, since we will be performing the ritual and remain unaffected."

"Any danger?"

Amy hesitated. "...We need Willow."

Spike jumped out of his seat. "You gotta be kidding! Little black-eyes can stay at home this time."

"We'll bring her here," Giles said ignoring the vampire's objections.

Spike was not to be brushed off, however. "Wait a bloody minute," he pointed at the Watcher. "You are quick with the decisions lately, but this time I say no! She is too dangerous. She's gone over the edge with the dark stuff and could kill us with a flash of those eyes of hers."

"That's crap!" Xander stood up and faced off the vampire. "Willow made a mistake is all. Just because she checked out the wrong book from the library doesn't mean she's turned. Hell, I've got a picture of Ben Hur in my bedroom, but it doesn't mean I'm a member of the NRA."

Faith spoke for the first time. "Sit down, both of you," she uttered. "Spike, I trust Willow...Good grief, she is about the only one I trust one hundred percent here, so put away your resentment."

Spike sat down when he realised that he was fighting a losing battle. He had to admit that Faith had it right.

"You said we'd all be part of the ritual," Giles said eventually.

"Yes, we must all link hands and think of Buffy. Remember her. The monks conjured Dawn from blood and the Key's energy. The Key already existed, just in another form. We must bring Buffy back with Dawn's blood and our memories of her."

After spending some time on the complexities of the ritual, they all made to leave. The spell would be performed the following night. Xander climbed the small flight of steps to the door of the shop. Faith attracted his attention "So, Xander," she said. "You have a picture of Ben Hur in your bedroom."

The young man looked at her awkwardly and noticed that Spike was smiling. "What? It's a poster...a movie poster," he defended. Faith raised her eyebrows. "A rare movie poster. It's an investment, damn it." He sighed and left the shop.

-/-/-/-/-/-/-

Two days after the ritual was performed, Giles found Buffy sitting on a bench. She did not look up at his approach, but rather stared ahead. "Did you ever see National Lampoon's European Vacation?" She asked still not looking up. "The part where Chevy Chase is stuck on a roundabout in England for hours because he can't manage to turn left off the road? I feel like that. As much as I try to escape, I just can't seem to be able to turn left."

"Perhaps the answer is not to try."

"Yea, that's crossed my mind. But, I can't help thinking that five more years down the line, after not trying, I'm going to find I've been suckered."

"It's good to see you."

"What am I doing here, Giles?" Buffy asked, finally looking up at her friend. "I..." She stopped as her voice nearly broke. She quickly rubbed her eyes. "What am I doing here?"

"That can wait. How do you feel?"

"Right now? Pissed off, quite frankly."

"You're hiding it well."

"You better believe it. Mind you, two days sitting on a park bench can be calming...or numbing at any rate."

"You could have come to the shop or my place."

"No I couldn't." She looked at her Watcher, who had sat down beside her. "I was really angry, Giles. I actually contemplated finding an obscure town up north to hide away. Alaska maybe since I always enjoyed Northern Exposure."

"Why didn't you?"

"No money, no clothes...no sense, maybe."

"Except a sense of duty, perhaps?"

Buffy stood up. She held out her hand and helped Giles lift himself from the bench. "How's Dawn? I mean...how is she coping...with my death?"

"Remarkably well actually. Better than the rest of us."

"That's good...if a little disappointing," she tailed off with a smile. Buffy walked ahead and stood waiting for Giles make up the distance. "Don't expect too much from me, Giles," she said before they started on their journey.

-/-/-/-/-/-/-

Giles opened the door for her. Buffy walked across the shop threshold and saw her friends gathered at the back: Xander and Anya, Willow and Tara, Faith and Amy - which surprised her, and finally Dawn and Spike.

"Hi, guys," she smiled for their benefit. "Miss me?"

end.