What could have been intensely stupid is redeemd by an awareness of that stupidity, and genuine heroism on Spike's part.
It would have been a typical night in the Summers house -- three people standing around the kitchen doing the dishes. But it's Giles at the sink with the girls, rather than Joyce, and things are nowhere near normal yet. Buffy is still worried about her sister, and about herself. "Some minutes are harder than others." Giles sympathizes, but tentatively suggests Buffy to return to her training schedules. Buffy's not so sure. She's having a little bit of a freak-out it seems -- her emotions are getting further and further away from her touch, she feels like she's been moving away from the people she loves, and she doesn't like that the Slaying seems to be the reason. "To slay, to kill.... It means being hard on the outside." Again, Giles is sympathetic, but has a suggestion. There's apparently some kind of quest Slayers can go on to regain their focus. Buffy is reluctant to leave Dawn for a few days, but Dawn is cool with it. She'll stay with the others. Buffy hugs her grateful, and practices saying, "I love you," to her little sister.
And Spike's practicing a different kind of love -- his Buffy-clone robot is ready and he's psyche. She's got all of Buffy's knowledge -- her family and friends -- and Geek Boy Warren added Spike's special programming, "scenario responses and special skills." Spike's still a little suspicious, until Geek Boy hits the on switch. BuffyBot's eyes fly open and she gazes on Spike with delight, then gloms onto him with a monster kiss. "She'll do," Spike concludes.
Glory is spending the morning laying around her apartment whining -- seems it's getting harder and harder to control Ben and the body. The knowledge that the Key is a human isn't enough to cheer the God up; she needs specifics. Finally, she sends her minions out to find the connection between the Slayer and the Key -- to find out who is new in her life, who is special. Meanwhile, the Slayer is out in the desert with her Watcher. He's going to do a spell while she goes for a walk, and waits for a guide to present itself. Buffy takes a certain amount of amusement out of the ritual, which involves Giles doing, essentially, the hokey-pokey, but sobers as she heads out into the desert. "That's what it's all about."
Spike's just having fun with his new toy -- remember when he made Harmony dress up as Buffy and pretend to be her. This is worse. Much worse. I'll spare you the dialogue (some of it's on the quote list; let's just say Warren has a bright career as a bad romance novelist ahead of him), but the mock combat turns into very enthusiastic sex. The real Buffy, meanwhile, runs into a fairly impressive cougar, which leads her further into the desert. Things are starting to look familiar -- we've seen this place before, in Buffy's dreams (way back in 'Restless'). Three guesses who she's here to talk to.
The Slayerettes have declared a slumber party to protect Dawn; Tara wards them all into the apartment as they plan the night's patrol. As they discuss the night's television schedule, Dawn picks up a pair of Anya's earrings from an end table and pockets them; no one sees her except, possibly, the minion standing outside the window. Spike and his BuffyBot are basking in post-coital glow and bad dialogue ("Oh, Spike! Devour me!"), mildly shattered when BuffyBot accidentally refers to her programming. Spike wigs and tells her not to do it again. "Just be Buffy." Willow leaves her night class and heads home, shadowed fairly ineptly by another of Glory's minions, and as Spike (who apparently rolls over and passes out after) snoozes, the BuffyBot proves her programming by tugging on her black leather jacket and heading out to patrol. Hijinks are sure to shortly ensue.
It seems to be Patrol Night, actually -- as Anya and Xander head nervously through the graveyard on their rounds, they run into the intensely perky Slayer herself (or an excellent facsimile thereof). Her readout supplies useful information on both of the Slayerettes (XANDER: Friend. Carpenter. Dates Anya. ANYA: Dates Xander. Likes money. Ex-demon.). They're befuddled both by Buffy's appearance, and her somewhat eccentric conversational stylings, but they're even more confused when Spike races up behind his robot and she starts clinging to him. Any questions are cut off by the arrival of a gang of vamps -- the assembled four quickly finish them off, although BuffyBot's fighting is slightly hampered by her determination to protect Spike -- which does not go unnoticed by the watching minions. Spike dismisses Xander and Anya, backed up by 'Buffy'; once they're gone, she notices one of the side-effects of Slaying that Spike evidently had programmed in. Yup -- adrenalized shagging ensues, and is accidentally witnesses by Xander and Anya when, suspicious, they go back to check on Buffy.
The appalled pair races back to Xander's apartment, where Willow and Tara are watching TV. Tara tries to convince them that Buffy might be doing strange things due to losing her mother, but even she's not willing to accept Buffy boinking Spike as a side-effect of grief. "What, are you kidding? She's nuts!" Xander dutifully heads back out to try to save Buffy from herself. "You aren't really going to slap her, are you?" Tara asks, worriedly. "No, but if I have to see her straddle Spike one more time I will definitely knock myself unconscious," Xander answers.
The real Buffy, meanwhile, wakes to find herself in front of a bonfire, with her old friend the First Slayer prowling around behind it. As she faces her, Spike and the BuffyBot hear someone prowling around the crypt. Spike orders the BuffyBot to stay out of sight, and not come out until he comes to get her. She obeys with far less backchat than the real Buffy would have given him, and Spike turns to face Xander as he comes in. The conversation is fairly predictable -- Xander accuses Spike of taking advantage of Buffy's grief, Spike defends himself with something less than enthusiasm, until Xander grabs him and makes with the threatening. Things are just getting interesting when the minions arrive in force. Spike and Xander fight, but there are too many, and they manage to grab... Spike. "Glory will want the Key intact," the head minion declares with satisfaction as they drag Spike out.
"I know you," Buffy tells the First Slayer, and starts to ask her questions -- is she losing her ability to love. "You are full of love. You love with all of your soul," the First Slayer assures her. "Then I'm not losing it?" The First Slayer continues to prowl, speaking in Buffy's head rather than with her mouth. "Only if you reject it. Love is pain, and the Slayer forges strength from pain. Give. Forgive. Risk the pain. It is your nature. Love will bring you to your gift."
BuffyBot finally emerges from her hiding place, but walks right past the unconscious Xander in her search for Spike. She winds up at Xander's apartment, where the rest of the gang is asleep, and Willow (WILLOW: Best friend. Gay (1999-present). Witch. Good with computers) hauls her out to the back patio to talk. BuffyBot cheerfully confirms that she has, in fact, had sex with Spike, many times and in many positions. Willow begs off the details, disturbed and not a little disgusted, but tries to rationalize and have sympathy, which is difficult in the face of BuffyBot's relentless perk, and rather frightening dialogue ("Angel's lame. His hair grows straight up, and he's bloody stupid."). The intervention is blessedly cut short when Xander makes his way to his place and wakes everyone to give them news about the minions kidnapping Spike. Definite cause for concern, since he knows about Dawn being the Key. Everyone looks to Buffy for a plan to get to Spike before Glory can get the information out of him; the BuffyBot blinks back at them. "I fight with weapons," she offers, and Xander takes that as an order. They assemble to head back to the Summers house for weapons, leaving Tara behind to babysit the sleeping Dawn.
Meanwhile, Buffy is being terminally confused by the First Slayer. "Love will lead me to my gift? Does that mean I'm getting a gift, or I have a gift to give to someone else?" The First Slayer looks at her through the flames. "Death is your gift." So not what Buffy wanted to hear right here; she tries to deny it, but the First Slayer simply tells her, "Your question has been answered," and fades away, leaving Buffy alone in the night.
Glory is also less than impressed with her gift -- the minions present Spike to her and she blows them off (obviously not seeing Spike's many, um, virtues. Excuse me, James lust moment. More along, nothing to see here....). Spike can't be the Key because he's a vampire -- the Key must be an innocent, pure. Spike is delighted to hear that, but Glory's not about to let him go, since her minion tell her that Buffy "treated him as precious." Spike puts on his best Attitude Problem and keeps it in place, even when Glory starts with the torturing.
As the Slayerettes assemble around the weapons chest, they keep trying to get Buffy to come up with a plan, but BuffyBot is manifestly unable to focus on anything other than her programming; i.e., must rescue Spike. They send her upstairs to change out of Spike's scary ensemble, and discuss their options -- keep Spike quiet, any way the have to, and start the intervention on the Slayer. "Because what we need right now is a *sane* Buffy." On cue, sane Buffy walks in the front door, more than slightly startled to find all of her friends there. They stare at how fast she's managed to change clothes, but shift gears into Intervention Mode instantly. Anya blessedly gets them to the point: "We're just kind of thrown by the you having sex with Spike." Buffy stares: "The who whatting how with huh?" Anya diagnoses denial, Buffy starts freaking, Anya diagnoses anger, and things spiral rapidly into farceville -- until the BuffyBot reappears. "Hey! You look just like me! We're very pretty." Buffy figures out it's a robot instantly and things begin to fall into place. "I have to kill him," Buffy declares through gritted teeth, as they head off in search of one very in-trouble vampire.
Not that he's not already in trouble -- Glory wants to know about the Key, and she'll make Spike bleed for as long as it takes. He's in bad shape by now, getting prodded and cut and otherwise abused. "I'll tell you who the sodding key is," he finally groans.
Buffy leads the gang to the area where she killed Glory's big ol' snake. Everyone is still tripping over the robot, both her resemblance to Buffy and the things that keep coming out of her mouth. ("You're right. [Spike]'s evil. But you should see him naked. I mean, really!") Eventually, they spread out to track down Glory. She's busy giving Spike water so he can talk -- apparently he's been stalling for all he's worth. He finally clears his throat and confesses -- the Key is.... Bob Barker. Glroy isn't buying, of course, but Spike just laughs at her. "I'm not telling you jack. You're never gonna get the sodding Key because you might be strong, but in our world, you're an idiot." Glory goes from 0 to pissed in about three seconds, egged on by Spike's insults, and the man knows how to push buttons. "I just had no idea that gods were such prancing lightweights. Mark my words: the Slayer is going to kick your skanky, lopsided ass back to whatever place would take a cheap, whorish, fashion-victim, ex-god like you." Glory finally kicks him so hard he flies out of his chains and through the wall, landing in the hall outside the room. Bruised, battered, bloody... and free. "Good plan, Spike," he mutters as he staggers for the elevator. It closes just as he gets there and he pries the doors opens -- and falls to the top of the descending car. He manages to get through the roof into the car, but the minions are there waiting when it stops. He faces them on his feet, barely, but gets to collapse when Buffy and Xander race in the front door, weapons ready. The fight begins, Xander doing a reasonable job with an ax (as a quarterstaff) against two as Buffy holds off the others. The rest of the Slayerettes arrive, including the BuffyBot, who races to Spike's side. Before she can take care of him, Giles gets into a fix, and shouts for Buffy's help. Both Buffy's turn, but it's the BuffyBot who drags a minion off of him -- and gets slammed into a wall for her trouble. She slides to the floor in a shower of sparks, deeply out of commission. The minions race for safety and tell their story of chaos to Glory -- and then the screaming starts.
Back at the magic shop, Willow investigates the non-functioning robot as Giles and Xander return from dumping Spike back in his crypt. They don't know if he told Glory anything, and figure he'd just lie about it anyway. Buffy is desperate to find out the truth, to see if she and Dawn will need to run. Xander, though, feels kind of sorry for Spike; "The guy was so thrashed." Willow figures out how to fix the BuffyBot, which idea is instantly ixnayed -- but Buffy has an idea of her own. The battered Spike is laying nearly unconscious in his crypt, when a familiar perky footstep and voice arrives. The BuffyBot strides over to him. "Spike! You're covered in sexy wounds!" Spike slowly levers himself to a sitting position and tries to figure out why the Slayerettes didn't melt down his toy. BuffyBot looks at him curiously. "Why did you let that Glory hurt you?"
"She wanted to know who the Key was," Spike mutters.
"Well, I can tell her!" BuffyBot announces, heading out the door. Spike stops her with a shout that obviously hurts a lot. "No. You can't ever! Glory never finds out! Buffy -- the other, not-so-pleasant Buffy.... Anything happened to Dawn, it'd destroy her. Couldn't live, her being that much pain. I'd let Glory kill me first. Nearly bloody did." As he slumps on the edge of the sarcophagus, meaning every word he's just said and too battered to lie, BuffyBot steps forward and, carefully, kisses him on the lips. Halfway through, he figures out that this kiss is different. He pulls away and stares, startled, into Buffy's eyes. She looks back, with the only softness he's ever seen her direct at him, then steps back and away, her face hardening again. "My robot?" he asks, as she starts to leave. "The robot is gone. The robot was gross and obscene." He tries to explain and she cuts him off. "It wasn't even real." But she stops just before she leaves; without quite looking at him, she says, "What you did for me and Dawn, that was real. I won't forget it." She looks at him as she says the last part, then she walks out, leaving him sitting alone.
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