“Willow, do you think you could make me a Spikebot?”
Willow swallowed her triple espresso before she was ready and had to be assisted and patted down for a longer time than Buffy really had patience for. It wasn’t always about Willow; this was about Buffy and her needs. Major needs.
"Are you kidding?"
"Nope," Buffy said. "Serious as a British middle aged watcher."
"But Buffy, why Spike? Spike's been dead for, what, two years? Even supposing you've been harboring deep Spike-missage, which by the way you did not share with me, what good would a Spikebot be? It wouldn't be the real thing."
"I miss him," Buffy said simply.
"Okay, if you say so, of course you do." Willow nodded several times. "So even if you dated the Immortal for more than a year, you still really missed Spike?"
"Yeah. And don't look so skeptical. Sometimes it takes a girl a little time to know what's wrong. I knew I missed something, I just didn't know what."
"And you decided it was him you missed. I don’t know, Buffy, if you miss Spike, why do you think a Spikebot will do the trick? If it's a physical thing, I have this nifty whatsamagoogly called the Rabbit Pearl, and it really does a wonderful job of making you forget your girlfriend with the pierced tongue…I mean, Buffybot’s tongue control must have been remarkable to be able to make her talk like that, but I still think that the Dolphin or the…”
Buffy had to be firm and stop her before she got to the Aphid or the Zebra.
“Willow. Rewind. Stop. I don’t want a Spike dildo. I‘ve tried Spike-sized vibrators. It’s not the same without a Spike attached to it. You know?”
Willow nodded doubtfully and threw a longing look at the remains of her espresso. Clearly she wanted take a fortifying sip, but was afraid to in case Buffy was going to say another shocking thing. Buffy didn’t think it was that shocking. If a girl finally realized what was missing in her life, she should simply go for it. She just hadn’t acknowledged before whom she needed. Or maybe a robot was a what. Whatever.
“Willow, I want the Spikebot to talk to me like Spike did. You’d have to make a Spikebot with a soul, you do get that? We could hold hands, and he could read poetry to me, and we could save the world together. And could you make a thing, that, you know, if we held hands a certain way they would burst into flame? Painless, non-burny flame?”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. You‘re serious? Why a robot? What’s wrong with Italian boyfriends? What’s wrong with the Immortal, for that matter?” Willow asked.
Willow was stalling, Buffy suspected. She knew Willow could do it. She'd patched the Buffybot up so many times.
“I’ve wondered about that,” Buffy said. “I think the Immortal might actually be a robot himself. It’s not natural, the way he's so perfect and even-tempered and has shiny hair like that. He’s so symmetrical. Have you sever seen a symmetric human being before? Or was it that serial killers were more symmetrical or more asymmetrical than non-murdery people? Look, I took a photo of him, then I cut it in two and copied the halves and pasted them back together. See? He's completely symmetric. That's not natural. That's not what I want from the Spikebot. No perfection. Just Spike imperfections, like swearing a lot and doing that thing with his tongue.”
Willow’s eyes had grown very large. Buffy stopped.
After a little pause, Willow said, "Imperfect, asymmetrical Spike. Tongue. Check."
Buffy could sort of see Willow changing gear. This had just been the clanking and shrieking of un-oiled parts of her engine, and now it was starting to run more smoothly.
"Okay," Willow said, here eyes faraway into her own version of research mode. "Does it have to be a mechanical thing? Could it be a magical simulacrum, maybe?"
"Sure, whatever works," Buffy said with a shrug. "Or, you could, you know, raise him from the dead?"
"Okay, okay, I just threw that in there in case it was doable. No big if it can't be done."
"Even if it was possible,” Willow said with conspicuous virtue, “consider the ethics of it. Would Spike want to be raised from the dead? He died saving the world, remember? Maybe he's happily plonking a harp somewhere."
"Willow, you know Spike returned from that? He was with Angel when there was an almost apocalypse and everybody from the LA people died."
"Yeah, sure, I knew that,” Willow said defensively. "Slipped my mind. I was in Tibet, remember? They weren’t big on the outside news in the retreat."
"Humph," Buffy said.
"And, um, no Angelbot, I guess?"
"I'm over Angel," Buffy said. "Besides, he was dating a werewolf, I heard from Andrew."
Willow's eyes met hers in total understanding. "Skanky werewolf girlfriend. I'm so with you on this."
For some reason Buffy couldn’t quite fathom, this shared humiliation got Willow over the fence and she grabbed in her bag for a notebook. Buffy settled back in her chair happily and with a distinct fluttery feeling in the pit of her stomach.
Willow's hand, which had been descending into her handbag, withdrew and she got that thoughtful look back again.
"Buffy, you were pretty grossed out when Spike made a Buffybot, and when Warren made the Aprilbot. How come you want a Spikebot? What would the real Spike think of that? For that matter what would your friends think? I think it's kind of dodgy, ethically. Kind of weird."
"Hey! You're supposed to be my friend. I'm lonely. I want Spike back. I can’t have him, so I'm settling for the next best thing."
Willow shook her head. "Buffy, I think I'd prefer you dating another vampire or demon to doing this. I think it’s just plain wrong."
Buffy pouted. "I thought my best friend would understand me. I'm tired, Will. Tired of trying to be normal and finding a normal boyfriend. You think I haven’t tried? I bruise them, Will. Or if I try to tell them they dump me because they think I’m insane or criminal or whatever. I don’t fit in a normal life."
"Hey. Preaching to the choir. I have girlfriends, though. Plenty of other witches in the sea. What about the other slayers? You have tons in common with them, don’t you?"
"They're girls, Will. I’m not flexible on sex with girls. And I have tried other vampires, but it's kind of gross, you know, grave dirt, blood between their teeth…But it’s not the physical thing. It’s the whole Spike thing. The package."
"Buffy, at best you're gonna get a robot who resembles Spike a little bit. It’s not gonna be the real thing. Are you sure you could settle for that? You’re young. There'll be another guy for you."
Buffy crossed her arms and tried to show Willow her Buffy version of the resolve face, but Willow had already reached for the notebook again and was selecting pens in the appropriate colors.
In spite of a huge lump of misgivings in her throat, Willow was grabbing for a fresh notebook, a purple one, and was making notes. “Smoke? You want him to smoke?”
Buffy tapped her lip-gloss against her teeth. “Hmm. Good one. I guess not. I mean, I do see that I’d want him as lifelike as possible, with annoying imperfections to make him not so annoyingly perfect, but smoking is carrying realism too far. Scratch that.”
Willow methodically worked her way through a preliminary list of specifications. Height, length, circumference, list (to the left, Buffy said. Made her scream).
“Do you have a picture, Buffy?” she said, rapidly writing down things she could remember Spike saying.
Buffy lifted her chin and signaled for another macchiato, but Willow could see her blinking. “Nope. We never...I never got around to that. Maybe Giles has some in his Watcher files.”
“What's left of them,” Willow said somberly. “Maybe the Internet. And I’ll ask around. You never know who kept what.”
Willow wasn’t saying, but she was mentally making a list of people to see. Xander, who’d lived with Spike. Giles, for watcherly knowledge. They'd have to be lied to or they would never consent to join in this dinky venture. Andrew. Andrew could be gently coerced and unobtrusively blackmailed, she was sure. Would Dawn cooperate? Maybe.
“Willow! Long time no-”
Andrew’s happy gurgle was cut off when Willow pushed him backwards onto the couch.
“Andrew. We need to talk.”
“I didn’t do it, I swear it wasn’t me, it just happened, I’m never that...”
“Shut up, Andrew. Do you, or don’t you, have pictures or footage of Spike?”
Andrew blushed a bright red. “No. I don’t. Buffy broke my camcorder, and I never had a chance to take anything away from Sunnydale.”
“So you have nothing of Spike’s?”
“No. Really! Honestly! Willow!!”
Willow stared harder until he gave in and pointed her to a closet. Willow opened the doors and stared straight into the smirk of a bodiless Spike.
“Whoa. Very realistic, Andrew. I thought Warren was bot boy?”
“Yeah, well, Warren may have thought he was the man, but you don’t seriously think he could have done all of that on his own? Jonathan and I did a lot of the work on locomotion and databases, you know. I compiled the one on you.”
Willow thought hard. An idea was forming in her brain. Subcontracting Andrew would make her work so much easier.
“So you could just finish this one, make a Spikebot as good as the Buffybot?”
“Sure, I could, I ,mean, that would be easy, we ruled the world technology-wi-“”
Andrew cringed as Willow reached for his ear again. “Not my ear! I have delicate ears. They're sensitive, like a Ferengi.”
“Yeah,” Willow said skeptically. "I’m not sexually stimulating you or anything right now, am I?”
Andrew shifted and squirmed and tried to escape from her iron gaze, but it was hopeless. He quailed before her resolve-face.
“I don't know if it could be as good. I mean, Spike had a box of specs, and pictures, and videotapes, and instructions…and, and some porn videos too.”
“No porn,” Willow said firmly. “That's not what Buff wants him for. She just wants a souled Spikebot so she can talk to him and cuddle him at night and save the world together.”
There was something deeply icky about Andrew programming the Spikebot for his more delicate functions, the functions she had no doubt about being used most of all. She'd do that. Could probably teach Spike a thing or two about girls. Kennedy had been a wizard with her tongue.
“Oh,” Andrew said. “Okay. I can do that. Two weeks?”
Willow's heart went bumpity bump as she ran up the stairs to Andrew's tiny Roman apartment, as if she'd downed her weekly ration of caffeine in one fell swallow. He’d invited her for a beta testing already. It was incredible how fast he worked. Okay, it had taken three weeks instead of two, but that was still nothing short of miraculous.
She pressed the bell and Andrew's cheery little dingdong sounded.
"Willow! Come in! You'll be so surprised. May I introduce you to Spike mark II?"
Someone who looked like Spike, but who was wearing a flowered T-shirt and tight white jeans, bounded up to Willow and hugged her tightly.
"Willow, baby! You look bloody beautiful!"
Spikebot flapped his hand and raked his eyes over her clothes. "Love the boots. And your hair color is bloody amazing."
Willow slid her eyes around to Andrew. "WTF?" she mimed.
Andrew shrugged. "He needs a little bit of work in the dialogue function, I guess."
Willow shivered. "Syeah. Not to mention the wardrobe function. What were you thinking?"
"Hey, calm down. I’ve seen how you can get. You know how much work it was to get this far?"
Spikebot twirled a curly lock around his finger and wiggled his hips.
'"Ew! Turn it off!" Willow said.
She hadn’t been that fond of Spike, what with the broken bottle memories and all, but this was wrong on a deep, personal level. It was like dishonoring Spike’s memory or something. She didn’t get why Andrew couldn’t see that. He’d been so fond of Spike, maybe even worshipped him. In an icky, nerdy kind of way.
A new suspicion dawned. Just what had Andrew been up two with the Spikebot? Buffy wouldn't be happy if she had the idea it might be pre-used, however gently.
"Spikebot," Andrew said, "go watch Coronation Street. Continue from where you left off."
"Yes, master," Spikebot said meekly and shuffled over to the couch.
For a second, when he threw himself down in a grouchy heap, he seemed just like the real Spike, but then he caught her look and smiled widely at her, and that was something she'd never ever seen before. An expression on Spike’s face that was not a smirk or a sneer or impassive cool. Very unsettling.
"Master?" Willow said. "That's just creepy, Andrew. You’re not doing anything funny with it, are you?"
"Of course not. Spike was my friend. What do you think I would do to him? I wouldn’t want to besmirch his memory."
Besmirch. That was nice; it had a kind of word-of-the-day ring to it.
Andrew lowered his voice. "Come on. I've set up the test in the other room. Don’t worry about the bot. It just has that one response and a voiceware self-learning program installed. Here. You just write down phrases and things you remember Spike saying, and the voice generation software will try out several versions, and you tell it which one you like best. Got that? Run it by you again?"
Well, who did the little twerp think he was talking to? Willow Rosenberg, software queen of Sunnydale high, for example? Willow sniffed and settled herself before the nice big flat screen setup Andrew had and dug in.
Phrases. After a minute of furious thinking, she conceded that it was kind of hard.
"Bloody hell," she typed.
She'd have to do better than that.
"Bloody 'ell," the artificial voice intoned.
Very wrong, this one.
She checked the box that asked if it was too low, too high; too fast, too slow, etcetera. This was going to be a long session, she could tell.
Several hours later, hundreds of boxes checked and only a "Yeah, right" and a "Fuck off, Harris” added to the repertoire, Willow was ready to concede defeat.
"Come back tomorrow, Willow?" Andrew piped chirpily, watching some grainy black and white footage of Drusilla and Spike in funny clothes killing grainy black and white people. It was only a minute or so and then looped right back. The bot was watching too, frozen in an attentive un-Spike like stance.
She didn’t want to come back. This was so much hard work. She needed one of those chilled blue eye masks and a brisk walk, but possibly not in that order, since the eye-patch would make walking a bit of a hazard, not to mention attract public notice, and then she'd think up a way to magic herself out of all this sloggage.
"Yeah, okay," she replied ungraciously and took off.
When she entered the apartment, two weeks later, she got a gruff nod from the black-dressed Spike bot.
"Red," he said and slouched past her to the kitchen, throwing himself forward in a good approximation of the shoulders-first, hips-later walk the real Spike used to have.
Willow had to admit that Andrew was doing a great job. The voice intonation and the walk were vintage Spike.
She was actually more impressed, she guessed, than she would have been if this were the first she'd seen of Spikebot. Now she knew how many endless hours of typing in phrases and preferences she’d put in, how many questioning sessions with an irritable Buffy, who didn’t like to be reminded of how little she really knew of Spike. She didn’t get much farther than his brand of cigarettes and the size of his T-shirt, and beyond that, she couldn’t articulate. Buffy had barely been able to bring herself to point at pictures on the Internet, and there had been diagrams and Latin words that had made them both blush. Willow's knowledge of boy on girl sex had been significantly expanded.
Willow now knew more about William the Bloody and his former vampire family than she’d ever wanted to know. Maybe she ought to look into using a forgetting spell on herself. There wouldn't be dodgy ethics in self-medication, would there? She sighed and decided to put it before her Witches Anonymous group.
"Whaddya think?" Andrew said. "Two hundred percent improvement on the first model?"
"Absolutely," Willow said and stared as Spikebot shouldered roughly past her, smoking a cigarette and swigging from a bottle of Scotch almost simultaneously.
"Bloody hell," Spikebot growled. "Sodding couch. Can you fucking get out of my fucking way, Rosenberg?"
"We need to fine-tune the swearing. And he's kinda grumpy," Willow said. "How come?"
"That's his default mood setting. Let me demonstrate the other settings on the menu."
"Spikebot, go to 'Drunken and Amorous.'"
Spike lurched up from the couch again, hiccupped, and slouched over to Willow, penetrating her personal space in a very heterosexual way.
"How about it, pet?" he leered, wiggled his tongue and waggled his hips.
"Cut it out, Spike!" Willow squeaked, jumping back a couple of feet.
Spikebot froze halfway a lewd expression.
"See?" Andrew caroled. "I've set him to recognize and obey your voice as well as mine. Coz you're near Buffy more often."
"I said Spike. Does it think it's Spike?" Willow said.
"Sure. Shouldn't he?"
"I don't know. Wouldn't it hurt him, if he thought he was really Spike and Buffy turned him off at night?"
"You mean in the morning when she goes to work?"
Andrew sniggered offensively and Willow threatened to box his ears.
"Don't joke about that. I told you I'd program the nighttime activities, except for patrolling."
Willow walked around the frozen Spikebot. She poked and prodded it in some strategic places and allowed that Andrew had used superior materials in building the body. She peered at the curly neck hair and even at close range the texture of the skin and hair was almost realistic.
"Andrew, is he as tall as the real Spike? He seems shorter."
Andrew shrugged. "As near as I could make out, yeah."
"Okay. And how long does he run? I mean, how often do I have to juice him up?"
Andrew's face brightened and he bounded away into the kitchen. Willow waited patiently. Andrew came back with something that looked very much like a blood bag.
"Look, Willow! I changed the batteries that the Buffy bot had to an organic transformer. This is so much more realistic. It will look just like a real vampire drinking blood. And watch the face. This is a masterpiece."
Willow looked on as the Spikebot grabbed the bag, shifted into game face, tore it open and glugged it down with brilliantly simulated predatorial relish. It was amazingly real.
"Andrew, I take everything back. You're a genius. Buffy will love this."
Andrew beamed and patted the Spikebot's black leather back. The bot scowled realistically but didn't protest.
"So, can I start programming the you-know-whats?"
Andrew nodded. "Same as the other algorithms. We tell him to respond to certain cues in Buffy's breathing, temperature and, erm, gland-production."
"We should give her a safe word, don't you think? In case he goes too far."
"I think we don't need it,” Andrew said. "I programmed in a behavioral monitor. I call it the Superego Organization Ultimate Law."
Willow rolled her eyes. "Oh, Andrew. An acronym. So sixties TV. Next you’ll be writing fanfic. What fandom?"
Andrew tossed his head and met her eyes defiantly. " None of your business."
Willow raised her eyebrows but nodded. Fair enough.
Her cell rang. Buffy. She hesitated but decided to answer it.
"Willow? You're over at Andrew's, aren’t you? I wanna come over and have a look at the Spikebot."
"I don't care if he’s not ready, Will. I'm just so curious! And excited. Be there in five!"
And Buffy hung up.
"What?” Andrew said.
"Buffy's coming over. We have to hide the bot. It's not ready."
Andrew glanced at Bot, who stood impassively waiting for orders.
"Spikebot, initiate full character mode. Reduce swear words by 30%. He's ready enough, Willow. He's equipped with learning algorithms, so Buffy can correct things he does wrong, and he’ll repeat things that get her approval, and so strengthen the learning process."
"Yeah, but Buffy will expect him to perform! I haven’t programmed in the sex thing!"
Andrew shrugged. "He’s got the physical algorithms. He can learn."
"Not to worry, Willow. I’ll be fine. Expect Buffy might enjoy fine-tuning me," Spike, no, the Spikebot said, curling his tongue and lighting a cigarette with the exact gestures she now remembered Spike using.
She gaped. God, Andrew was good. Her mind did a hop skip jump ahead, into a sizzling white notion of utter perfection.
"Andrew, I’m impressed. Very, very impressed. Can we talk about making another Bot?"
Andrew grinned. "You want a Kennedybot? No way. This was so much work already. Giles has been complaining about my reports."
Willow's eyes stared at long ago images. "Not a Kennedybot, Andrew. I was thinking of someone else. Someone dead."
"Well," Andrew started. The bell rang. "That’ll be Buffy. I'll get it."
Willow looked up and met the blue eyes of the Spikebot. Huh. She'd never noticed that Spike’s eyes had been blue. He gazed at her steadily, and she had the uncomfortable feeling that his algorithms were divining her innermost thoughts. Andrew must have put some uber creepy stuff in there.
Buffy ran up the stairs to Andrew's apartment. There was a spring in her step and a song in her heart. Spike. She'd see Spike. Never mind that it wasn’t the real one. She'd have to make do and she would. They'd patrol together, and she could sleep with him curled up against her back, making her feel safe and loved and cherished. The Immortal had made her feel sexy and pretty and young, but nice as that had been, she wanted the other. The essential Spike thing. Her imagination would make up where the robot lacked finesse, she just knew that.
She hesitated when she reached the landing. Now that she was a minute from seeing him, she felt different. Shy, maybe. Which was pretty damn silly, considering it was array of chips and software and god knows what they made his body of. Barbie hair. She envisaged Andrew buying platinum blonde C-brand Barbies and cutting their hair of in the appropriate length for Spike hair. She shivered. That was a weird thought. And pointless besides. She regrouped, tossing her own long shiny hair, and pressed the bell with a firm Slayer finger.
Andrew opened the door with a big smile. His smiles always looked fake to her, as if he still played a role he hadn’t quite mastered.
"Buffy! Come in! We have the Spikebot ready for your inspection!"
Buffy's hands shook when she hung up her light spring coat. Her heart thumped like a rabbit’s foot in a Disney movie and her throat was dry.
She entered the living room and there he was, lounging bonelessly against a wall, his head wreathed in cigarette smoke. Buffy took a mighty leap and was burying her face in his neck before she’d consciously decided to. It even smelled like Spike, black leather and smoky flesh, dark chocolate and heather all blending into a perfectly aged Spike-malt.
"Spike," she sobbed, knowing she was acting like a crazy person and unable to stop.
"Engage empathy menu, priority one," Andrew said close behind her.
The bots hands circled comfortingly on her back.
"I'm on it, Andrew," Spike’s voice said.
It reverberated through her whole body. It sounded exactly like Spike’s voice, a bit choked up even.
She looked up and saw his eyes, so blue, suspiciously shiny and blinking fast. Andrew had even given him real eyelashes.
Willow blew her nose loudly, and Buffy whished she had a tissue to do the same.
Spike reached in his pocket and held one out. She blew. He was perfect.
"Andrew, you're the greatest," Willow sniffled and blew again. “This was beautiful. Is this the real Buffy, by the way, or is it a Buffybot you made to surprise me?"
Hey! Buffy turned her head away from Spike's wonderfully firm and springy chest to throw Willow a dark look.
Willow dabbed her eyes and flapped her hands. "Sorry Buffy. Just never saw you act like this before."
That was true enough. She hadn’t known she could act like that herself, either. Letting go like that, owning up to her feelings for Spike? Maybe it was easier because she knew it was just a bot and wouldn’t, couldn’t judge her.
Andrew's voice intruded annoyingly into her dreamy haze.
"Buffy, you have to realize that Spikebot isn’t completely finished. He needs fine-tuning on behavior and speech, but a lot of that he will get from your reactions. Don’t hesitate to correct him. He’ll learn from it and do better next time."
Buffy gazed up into Spikebot’s creamy-skinned, sculpted face. She'd kinda like to kiss those lips right now, but she’d given Andrew enough of a show. She was going to take the bot out on patrol, that would give them some privacy and she could test his fighting prowess.
"Buffy, do you understand? We’ve also not gotten around to programming his sex function. Sorry about that," Willow said. "You could leave him here for another two weeks, or you could teach him yourself."
Buffy's thighs trembled and she wrapped herself more tightly around his hips.
"That would be…that would be fine," she said.
Her voice sounded breathless and over eager, but Spikebot’s face was smooth and bland. She suppressed a tiny pang of something. Disappointment or shame, she didn’t know. On the other hand, the stuff she could teach him…blow his little botty mind. Her cheeks were blazing and she had only one thought, to get out of here now.
She grabbed Spikebot’s hand. "We're going patrolling, now. Thanks Will, thanks Andrew. You guys really came through for me."
She had to suppress another sob. Had she ever been as squishy and gooey as this, even before shoveling seven years of Slayer shit? If she didn’t kill something soon there was gonna be puddle of Buffy right there on the floor.
"Let's go kill something, Spikebot. I know you wanna!"
He grinned back at her and flung on his black duster in a great flourish like dragons wings. "What are you waiting for, Slayer? Got demons to kill, nasties to slay. Night’s not getting any younger."
It was barely dusk, but she forgave him for that. He was only a robot.
They bounded down the stairs three steps at a time. Buffy’s heart threatened to fly out of her throat with happiness. The Spikebot grinned fiercely and bounded along, matching her pace easily; except that he was soundless, just like a real vamp, as opposed to her clicketing heels. Buffy decided that from now on those were her lucky boots.
Buffy took the Spikebot to the Coliseum, being the prettiest, most romantic and moonlit spot she could think of, and a hotbed of vamp activity besides, what with all the clueless tourist girls.
She halted and the Spikebot ghosted to a stop beside her as if on cue. Buffy cooled her heated cheeks against a bit of crumbling marble for a few seconds. Nothing could happen to her tonight. He was here, as much of him as she could possibly expect, and he hadn’t put a foot wrong so far.
Spikebot put two cautious fingertips on her bare arm and she nearly shrieked but settled for swooning. Goosebumps tumbled over her skin in a giddy dance, crashing and meeting at the crown of her head and her nipples, making the night twice as sultry and romantic as before.
Buffy turned and laid herself full length against the bot's body, fitting her as perfectly as the real Spike.
“I love you so much," she blurted out.
Oh God, she’d said it! She hadn’t even planned it, like when Spike was still alive; when it had taken her months to gather enough courage to get past her own stony silent habits. No need for self-denial in front of a robot.
The Spikebot crushed her close and unexpectedly bit her earlobe.
Buffy groaned loudly. Her knees buckled and she held on tighter to the bot’s hard shoulders.
"I am not programmed to reciprocate those feelings," he said softly in her ear.
Buffy swayed deliriously in his arms. "It’s okay," she said, mindlessly patting his back and touching his hair. "I know you aren't him. I just wanted to say it. Maybe you can learn to say something back to that, can’t you?"
"I am programmed to learn from you," he said, and she didn't care what he said as long as he kept talking.
That voice. Clever, clever Andrew. Unadulterated Spike, love and sex and grainy death making her feel like a girl instead of a grim warrior. A silly girl, who could love like she once had because there was no one real here. She could practice on the bot and it would never refuse her or harm her, and maybe she could even learn to do it for real again.
"I know it’s silly, but I’m so happy to have you. And you don’t have to obey me, okay? Do whatever you want. Do you have free will?"
The Spikebot kissed her upturned lips before he answered that. "I have some leeway in my programming, which I can fill in with random alternatives. Is that what you mean?"
Buffy sighed and kneaded his biceps. Good stuff, that. "Something like that. Never mind. Don’t break your pretty head about it. I'll teach you."
She leaned against him, musing deeply, taking her time about it. No hurry now. No impending apocalypses. She might wish she still was an apocalypse, singular girl, but with the Spikebot at her side, she wouldn't even mind.
Their silent communing, or perhaps it was just Buffy communing and the bot listening to muzak while he was on hold, was roughly interrupted by a shrieking teakettle clomping past, followed in an easy lope by a couple of Roman vamps. Buffy knew they were Roman because they were putting back little combs in their back pockets. The local undead had a penchant for shiny shoes and not a hair out of place, so they tended to prefer only mild exertion when pursuing their prey. They seldom needed to, because there were always slowfooted tourists who went out at night for the sole purpose of being charmed by Italian males.
“You there! Move along, pronto! This is my territory,” on of them snapped to Spike in passing. Hey, the Roman vamps thought he was real.
“After you, Slayer,” Spikebot said courteously and Buffy sprang off in hot pursuit.
She dusted Undead Loverboy one and Spike took Two, after a nod from her. So Andrew had provided a stake in the Spikebot’s duster. Very thoughtful.
“Pity that hunting here is always over so quickly,” Buffy said regretfully. “These guys have no stamina.”
“Always been like that,” Spikebot said. “We never stayed long here. But the food’s good. It’s the olive oil in their blood, very easy on the digestive system.”
Buffy resolved to ask Andrew to dinner. He’d even provided the Bot with back-story, so cute. She held out her hand to him and he immediately took it. His big cool hand enfolded hers comfortingly and they strolled away into the night, stakes at the ready. As ever, denial was a girl’s best friend.
Buffy knew a great trick she wanted to show the bot. She often staked vamps puttering by on their scooters, occasionally two at a time, Roman vamps being quite slender and no match for her solid, XXL American stakes.
Spikebot bought her a granita and life had never been better.