Adric barely looked up as Buffy walked in. "Hi, Buffy."
"Hello!" Buffy said cheerily. "Are you one of my friends?"
Adric paused. "Um... well, more 'acquaintance', actually."
Buffy tipped her head to one side. "But you know me, right?"
Something started tickling at the back of Adric's head.
O-kay. This didn't sound like normal Buffy. It wasn't Pudentiana, either - she'd have corrected him the minute he called her 'Buffy'. Amnesiac Buffy? AU Buffy?
"...Yes." Adric said. "Um... how was Europe?"
Buffy blinked. "Europe? Oh, Europe was easy. No problem."
"Uh-huh..." Adric said. "And how're the Scoobies?"
"I haven't seen them." Buffy said. "Why?"
"Oh, nothing, nothing... When was the last time you saw them?"
"About... two years ago? Yes, two years."
"..._Right_." Adric said. Two years. That put it right around Buffy's second death. AU, then? "Been keeping in touch?"
Buffy's face fell. "No, and I really wish I could. I really miss them."
...Miss them? Can't keep in touch?
"If it's not too personal... why don't you?"
"They don't need me." Buffy said. "They got the other Buffy back, so they don't need me."
Adric gawped at her.
*Other* Buffy?! How the hell could there be _two_ Buffys?
"Um..." he said. "Would you like a drink?"
"I don't drink." Buffy said.
"...Wait, do you mean that like you don't 'drink', or you don't *drink*?"
Buffy looked puzzled. "I don't drink."
Okay, getting _seriously_ weird now... "Why don't you have a seat?"
"Thank you!" Buffy said happily, sitting down.
"I'm Adric." Adric said.
"Hello, Adric!" Buffy said happily. "Pleased to meet you!"
"Um... why don't you just sit there while I make a few phone calls...?" Adric suggested.
"Okay, Adric." Buffy said.
Adric reached for the phone under the bar, looked at Buffy, and took the phone as far away as he could.
Buffy was looking round the bar with interest, clearly curious.
Adric tapped in a number.
"...Hello, Trella? Hey. It's Adric at the 'Round. Got something odd going on."
He listened. "What kind of odd? Well, Buffy's just walked in, and said she hasn't seen the Scoobies in two years - not since they got the 'other' Buffy back. Oh, and she said she doesn't drink anything. At least, that's what I _think_ she said..."
He listened again. "The Buffybot? What's the-?"
His cheeks turned red, darting glances at the Buffy sitting at the bar. "He did _what?!_"
A faint trickle of blood started coming from his nose. "Uh-huh. Uh-huh. So... right. Right. Then... right, okay."
His eyes bugged. "PULLED TO BITS?!"
"That happened to me once." Buffy told the Round at large. "I didn't like it much."
"If she got pulled to bits, who the hell's sitting at the bar? Last _I_ knew, the MDO didn't handle robots!" Adric ranted into the phone. "...'It depends?' What do you mean, it depends?! ...Oh, hi, Amber."
He listened. "Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Right, I've got you... Okay.
"So, um, are you going to tell Spike and Tara? ...Okay. Okay. Thanks. Okay. Talk to you later."
He set the phone down, straightened up, and did his best to smile. "Um, Buffy?"
"Yes, Adric?" Buffy said.
"Um, we've got a couple of your friends coming round. They should be able to help you out, okay?"
Buffy perked up. "I have friends here? That's wonderful!"
Tara pushed the door to the Round open, Spike following close behind.
Adric caught sight of them, and pointed them out to the Buffy at the bar.
"Bloody Hell..." Spike muttered. "Thought we'd seen the last of that thing..."
Tara shhed him.
"Spike! Tara! This is wonderful! Especially you, Spike!" Buffybot bubbled.
"What're you doing here? Where're the others?"
"Um... we moved here after Sunnydale turned into a hole in the ground." Tara explained. "The others're off travelling."
"Oh." Buffybot frowned. "Why isn't Willow here? I thought you two would be together, but my homing device says she's not here."
Tara took a long breath and let it out slowly. "We're, um, not together any more."
"Why?" Buffybot asked. "I thought you two were girlfriends?"
"I sort of, um, left." Tara said uncomfortably. "It wasn't exactly what either of us wanted, but, um, circumstances overtook us..." She took another breath. "And then, um, afterwards, Willow ended up with someone else."
"Oh. That's a shame. The two of you looked cute together." Buffybot looked crestfallen. "Do either of you know anyone who could repair me?"
Tara shook her head. "Sorry."
"You don't wanna meet the guys _I_ know." Spike said.
"I do." Adric said from the bar.
"You do?" Buffybot said excitedly.
"You _do?_" Spike and Tara chorused.
Adric nodded. "The Doctor."
"...The _Doctor?_" Spike gawped. "Just 'cause the guy built a robot dog-"
Adric shook his head. "It's not just K9. Seventh built himself a robot companion - Antimony - for 'Death Comes To Time'. If he could build one, he can repair one."
"You're not..." Spike trailed to a halt. "You are. You're serious. He actually _built_ himself a companion? Why'd he do that?"
"He wanted - well, at least according to DCTT, anyway - a companion who'd never age, never fall in love, never leave him." Adric explained.
"What happened to Antimony?" Buffybot asked.
"He died, didn't he?" Spike said.
Adric blinked. "He did. How-"
"Only way it _could_ end, like that." Spike said. "If the bot couldn't love, it couldn't love _him_ - no matter what _he_ thought of it. So either he switched it off, or someone took care of it for him."
"Um... yes. Gunshot to the head." Adric said, still taken aback at Spike's intuition.
"Told you." Spike said.
"That's not a problem." Buffybot said happily. "I can just come back!"
Spike frowned. "So why'd you need someone to repair you?"
Buffybot looked at him as if it were blindingly obvious. "I need to keep my systems in good working order."
"Yeah, but-" Spike began.
"Self-preservation program." Tara said. "This way, she _wants_ to stay in order."
Spike raised an eyebrow. "Well, aren't _we_ full of surprises."
Tara blushed. "Well, I spent enough time with Willow when she was fixing Buffybot up - some of it was bound to have rubbed off..."
"Uh-huh." Spike said. "What _I_ wanna know is how the Hell the thing came back. Last I knew, robots didn't come back from the dead."
Adric raised an eyebrow, but said nothing.
"I can tell you that." Buffybot said.
"Yeah? Go on, then." Spike said.
"Okay. Well, it began after I was pulled to bits by those biker demons - that was when you found me, remember?"
"Yeah. I do." Spike muttered.
"Anyway," Buffybot went on, "even after I'd been torn apart, I still had some residual power, which meant I could still speak. So I told Dawn about seeing that other Buffy, then I ran down."
"Then what?" Spike said.
Sunnydale, October 2001:
"Well, that wasn't very nice." Buffybot hmphed, looking around at her own severed body parts.
She frowned. "Wait a minute. If I've run down, then why can I see myself over there? And there? And there? And why am I still standing? And talking?"
YES, IT IS RATHER ODD, ISN'T IT? someone said from behind her.
Buffybot turned around to find herself looking at a seven foot tall skeleton in robes of absolute darkness, two glowing blue orbs set in its eye sockets.
"Are you a demon?" Buffybot asked. "I'm supposed to slay demons. Well, most demons."
The skeleton smiled. In truth, it really couldn't do anything else. ACTUALLY, I'M AN ANTHROPOMORPHIC PERSONIFICATION.
He looked at Buffybot's politely baffled expression. I'M THE PHYSICAL PERSONIFICATION OF DEATH.
"Oh." Buffybot said. "Are you sure you're not a demon?"
YES. Death said.
"Oh. So why're you here? Robots don't die, you know."
YOU'D BE SURPRISED. Death said. AS I UNDERSTAND IT, IT'S ONE OF THOSE CONTINUUM THINGS. SOME ROBOTS ARE MERELY INANIMATE MACHINES INDISTINGUISHABLE FROM ANY OTHER COMPLEX DEVICE, WHILE OTHERS ARE SUFFICIENTLY ADVANCED ENOUGH THAT THEY ARE ALIVE - OR HAVE A SEMBLANCE OF LIFE - IN THEIR OWN RIGHT.
YOU HAPPEN TO FALL INTO THE SECOND CATEGORY.
IN SUCH CIRCUMSTANCES, THERE ARE TWO MAIN WAYS TO KILL A ROBOT - WIPE THE PROGRAMS THAT CONTAIN ITS PERSONALITY, OR DESTROY ITS BODY BEYOND HOPE OF REPAIR.
"..._Oh_." Buffybot said. "So does this mean Willow won't be repairing me?"
Death nodded. I AM AFRAID SO. YOU SAW THE OTHER BUFFY - SHE IS THE ORIGINAL BUFFY, BROUGHT BACK TO LIFE THROUGH WILLOW'S MAGIC. WITH HER RETURN, YOU ARE NO LONGER NEEDED. EVEN IN THE CASE THEY WISHED TO REPAIR YOU, YOU HAVE BEEN DAMAGED FAR BEYOND THEIR ABILITY TO DO SO.
YOU DO, HOWEVER, HAVE A NUMBER OF OPTIONS OPEN TO YOU.
IF YOU WISH, YOU MAY GO ON INTO THE LIGHT. SHOULD YOU CHOOSE THIS, HOWEVER, IT WOULD BE CLOSE TO IMPOSSIBLE FOR YOU EVER TO COME BACK.
YOU MAY ALSO DECIDE TO STAY IN LIMBO, REMAIN HERE UNTIL SUCH TIME AS YOU FEEL READY TO PASS ON.
FINALLY, YOU MAY CHOOSE TO RETURN TO LIFE, YOUR BODY RESTORED TO FULL WORKING ORDER. IF YOU CHOOSE TO DO THAT, HOWEVER, YOU WILL NEED A DEFERMENT FROM THE MORTALITY DEFERMENT OFFICE BEFOREHAND.
Buffybot frowned. "But if I'm not needed anymore, what am I supposed to do?"
Death shrugged. EVERYONE ASKS THAT ONE.
Buffybot looked up at him. "Why don't they need me any more? Two Buffys could slay a lot more vamps."
YOU WERE ONLY EVER SEEN AS A REPLACEMENT FOR THE ORIGINAL BUFFY, NEVER AN INDEPENDENT ENTITY. THEREFORE, WITH BUFFY BACK...
Buffybot pouted. "Well, _that's_ stupid."
THERE IS ALSO THE MATTER OF THE MOTIVE BEHIND YOUR CREATION. SPIKE HAD YOU MADE AS A REPLACEMENT FOR BUFFY, SOMEONE WHO WOULD GIVE HIM WHAT BUFFY WOULD NOT - INCLUDING SEX. BUFFY, AND TO A LESSER EXTENT THE OTHERS, FOUND THIS DISTURBING AND UNPLEASANT, AND PREFERRED NOT TO BE REMINDED OF IT.
WITH HER RESURRECTION, YOU HAVE BECOME A REMINDER OF THE TIME BUFFY SPENT DEAD - A TIME THEY HAVE ALREADY HAD DIFFICULTY COPING WITH. YOUR CONTINUED PRESENCE WILL NOT MAKE THAT EASIER.
NOW BUFFY IS ALIVE, SHE WILL HAVE MUCH TO DEAL WITH. WERE SHE TO LEARN YOU HAD RETURNED, I SUSPECT SHE WOULD CHOOSE TO HAVE YOU TURNED OFF, AND LEAVE IT AT THAT.
Buffybot looked up at Death again. "I'd have to leave?"
IF THAT WAS YOUR CHOICE.
"And if I went back to my friends, the other Buffy'd have me switched off?"
THAT IS PROBABLE.
Buffybot fell silent.
YOUR DECISION? Death prompted.
"All the choices mean I have to leave." Buffybot said.
AS I SAID, IT IS YOUR CHOICE.
"I want to go back." Buffybot said. "I want to make more friends."
AS YOU WISH, Death said. TAKE MY HAND.
Buffybot did so.
And then they were gone.
"So once you'd been brought back, you set off to find someone who could repair you." Tara said.
Buffybot nodded. "And some new friends."
"And new friends, yes." Tara said. "Which's how you eventually ended up here?"
"Okay..." Tara said slowly.
"You know anyone else this good at repairing robots?" Spike inquired. "Anime-side, yeah - look at Nuku-Nuku. 'Round these parts... most people _that_ good tend to be the bad guys." He snorted. "Says a lot 'bout their attitude to 'bots, that does."
"Are you going to have me switched off?" Buffybot wondered.
"No, no..." Tara hastily reassured her. "I mean, maybe a bit uncomfortable, 'cause you _do_ look like Buffy, and, um, that can't be good for..." She trailed off. "Oh. Um. Spike?"
"You ever look back and realise just how far you'd gone? What you'd done?" Spike said conversationally. "Compared to what I've done, wicca, getting the Buffybot built's just plain embarrassing. My time comes, I'll be paying the price for far worse." He shrugged. "I can deal."
"Does Buffy still want me switched off?" Buffybot asked.
"...Not these days." Tara said. "I mean, I can't speak for her, and she might still have a few issues with you, but I can't see her switching you off."
"Yeah. Maybe not open arms, but she's not gonna flip the off switch." Spike added.
"Well, that's good." Buffybot said. "What _are_ you going to do?"
"What'd you like us to do?" Tara asked. "I mean, you've got someone who'd be willing to repair you - well, he will when someone tells him, anyway-"
"So what'd you like us to do?"
"I want-" Buffybot began, before starting again. "I want to stay with my friends here for a while. Yes. That's what I want."
"Ah..." Tara began.
"Is there a problem?" Buffybot asked curiously.
"Yeah. We've got roomies." Spike said. "Thing is, they don't know 'bout you just yet, so we're gonna have to ask _them_ 'bout it. Don't see 'em turning you down, though."
"Roomies?" Buffybot asked.
"Yeah. Might find 'em familiar, but don't worry - they ain't gonna have a problem with you, even so."
"That's wonderful!" Buffybot bubbled.
"...Apart from the sugar overdose..." Spike murmured.
Adric silently set the phone down on the bar.
"Here goes..." Tara murmured, lifting the phone. "...Hello, Gaia? Hi, it's Tara. Yeah, um, wanna come down to the 'Round? There's something we need to discuss - sort of a house decision. Yes. Yes, I know. Um, if you come down, maybe I can explain better - it's sort of difficult to explain over the phone. Um, bring Nails while you're at it." She nodded. "Yep, it's one of _those_ decisions. Mm. Okay, we'll see you there. Okay. See you."
She set the phone down, and looked at Buffybot, who was beaming happily.
"Hey," Adric said, sotto voce, "don't worry. I think you did the right thing... all right, that's coming from someone who decided to stay on a spaceship about to impact with Earth, but still..."
Tara gave him a crooked smile. "Thanks, Adric, but that's not the problem."
Tara gave Adric a Look. "Two Spikes. One Buffybot. Same house. Hordes of Buffy/Spike fangirls."
"_Oh_..." Adric said in understanding. "Coffee?"
"Please." Tara said. "I think I'll be needing it..."
Disclaimer: Adric is the BBC's, Spike, Tara, Buffy and the 'bot are Joss Whedon/Mutant Enemy's, this version of Death is Terry and Lyn Pratchett's, and TTR was created by Tyler Dion.
Summary: "No Silicon Heaven? Then where do all the calculators go?" - Kryten, 'Red Dwarf'.
Copyright 2003 Imran Inayat