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Patchwork Girls

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Willow was crying. Buffy listened while she carved stakes.

“--that was the last Urn of Osiris, and now there’s nothing we can do to help her--”

Tara was Willow’s girlfriend. Therefore, Tara would comfort Willow, and Willow would stop crying.

But 90,000 milliseconds went by with Willow and Tara talking, and Willow’s sobs recurred more frequently, with an increase in pitch and decibel level.

Perhaps this was an instance in which Willow’s best friend needed to help. Buffy’s programs told her that if a girl was crying, ice cream, eaten straight from the carton, was the cure. The lack of ice cream might be the source of Tara’s consolation failure mode.

Buffy searched for Willow’s favorite flavor, but her memory didn’t contain that information. She grabbed every carton from the freezer and made her way to Willow and Tara’s bedroom.

“--and Giles didn’t even let us line up a replacement fighter before he left. We’re barely hanging on right now, and the next time something big comes along, we’re dead in the water. And Buffy’s permanently in--” Willow finally looked up at Buffy.

“Willow, you’re my best friend. I brought you ice cream. So you won’t be sad.”

Willow took a breath, then said, quietly, “Thank you, but I’m not hungry right now.”

This ran counter to Buffy’s programs. It was confusing. She tried offering a solution to Willow’s problem. “Why don’t you ask the pretty girl in the basement to help fight?”

Tara and Willow looked puzzled.

“She wears a pretty pink dress. I like pretty clothes. Dawn said her name was April, and she was strong like me.”

Willow didn’t smile, but she stopped crying and started talking about repairing April’s power source and adding some of Buffy’s subroutines to April’s programs.

Buffy smiled. She’d been a helpful best friend. And maybe April would be her friend, too.

***
April woke up with her programming scrambled in new ways. It felt like some hardware had been ripped out and some memories erased. Her pretty pink floral dress had been ripped and mended, and she didn’t remember how it got that way.

It was nearly a billion milliseconds until she had a moment alone with Buffy and could share a secret. "I remember you, from before I woke up. You were nice to me. But I don't remember why."

Buffy said, "I don't remember either."

April wasn't sure why, but that made her feel a little sad.

Buffy said, "It's ok if we don't remember things. Willow says that we should just smile and pretend that we do."

Talking to Buffy was easier than talking to everyone else. The others would say things that didn't conform to non-verbal cues like body language and tone of voice. But Buffy always said what she meant.

April couldn’t shake the thought that there was some problem that she wasn’t programmed to understand, much less fix.

A darkening cloud of unstable energy pulsed around Willow, Tara, Anya, and Dawn. To April, it looked as if the cloud grew thicker with each passing day.

The disconnect between Buffy’s friends’ words and their non-verbal cues increased. The non-verbal cues all signaled exhaustion, pessimism, and sadness.

One night when April was patrolling with Buffy, a vampire ripped open Buffy’s casing, exposing some of the wiring within.

April grabbed the vampire’s head, and twisted it off, using approximately sixty-seven percent more force than was actually necessary.

“Are you ok?” she asked Buffy.

“I need to return to Willow for service,” Buffy said.

April’s programming was clear. She needed to get Buffy back home immediately for repairs.

April pressed her lips against Buffy’s. It was something she’d seen Willow and Tara do in similar circumstances on patrol.

For a moment, April thought Buffy would chide her for the slight deviation from their programming.

But Buffy just grinned at April. Then she looked at April’s arm and said, “You require service too.”

April checked, and discovered that she’d pulled one of her arms halfway off when she’d removed the vampire’s head.

“Willow will fix you,” Buffy said. “She’s my best friend and she’s very smart.”

April smoothed down the side of her dress, felt the seam that had been torn and sewn back together. “Yes. I won’t even know the difference once I’m fixed again.”

Somehow she’d learned the trick of saying something that she didn’t really mean.