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Thanks ever so much to my new beta reader, Jill. She convinced me it was worth finishing.
This is a story I think every fan fic writer has to write at some point.
AU Mid season 5. Post “Triangle” Riley is gone, Joyce is healthy at this point, and the Glory crap hasn’t hit the fan.
Spike, fed up with Buffy’s attitude, runs into a nearby crypt. “Spike! Come back here!”
“Why? So you can tease me some more?”
“I’m not teasing you. I want you to leave me alone!”
“So why do you follow me everywhere? Why are you in here with me?” Spike spreads his arms to indicate the stone walls around him.
“I… I wanted to make sure you weren’t up to something no good.”
“Well I’m never up to good, am I?” Spike lands a solid side kick to one of the stone panels in the wall, causing it to shatter and fall, revealing a burial slot. “How could Spike ever do anything good?” He starts rummaging among the dusty strips of cloth and bones within.
“Stop that!” Buffy says angrily.
“Why should I?” He pulls out a mummified hand, holds it up for her to see and boldly transfers several rings from the bones to his own hand. “I’m all evil. I can’t do good. And I need money for blood and smokes. Besides, they don’t need it!”
“Spike. You’re just proving my point. I could never want anyone who acts like you!”
Spike throws down the remains of the stripped fingers and stomps over to her. “Why don’t you tell me what you want? Why don’t you voice it, Buffy? Because it may actually come to pass? Then what would you be all martyr about?” He leans into her face.
Buffy shoves him away with both hands on his chest. “I’m not telling you!”
Spike regains his balance. “It would make you unhappy to be handed exactly what you want, wouldn’t it?” He leans in toward her, a smirk on his lips. “You know. That would be fun. I wish I could give you exactly what you want in a boyfriend.”
“You never could! I want someone smart, and caring, and funny, and intelligent, and handsome, and strong. Someone honest who truly cares for me and my family. A normal, healthy, human man. Someone who isn’t a soulless, evil, undead, thing!”
Spike’s smirk melts into a look of vague horror. “Buffy?” he says puzzled and collapses to his knees. He curls over, wrapping his arms around himself.
Buffy crosses her arms and glares down at him. “Very funny! Get up!” A moan is all she gets in reply. Spike has started shivering. “Spike?” she kneels beside him.
“Buffy? I’m so dizzy and… cold. And…” With a lurch, he leans to one side, spewing the bright red contents of his recent dinner across the floor.
“Spike? What’s wrong? What happened?” Spike is shivering too much to answer. “I need to get you somewhere warm.” Buffy lifts the taller man into a fireman’s carry, causing a groan. “Hold on.”
Using her slayer strength and stamina, she gets him to Giles’ apartment. As usual, the faulty lock pops open with a gentle kick. “Giles!”
The Watcher sees it’s her and puts down the stake he instinctively grabbed from the coffee table. “Buffy. What happened? What’s going on?” He assists her in laying the now violently shivering Spike on the couch. Buffy gives him a run down as he examines the pale man. His years of first aide training kick in and without thinking he presses his fingers to Spike’s neck, just below the ear. “Good lord.”
“What?” Buffy asks, hovering.
Giles puts an ear to his chest. Then he lifts the still man’s eye lids, peering in at the still blue. “Spike! Can you hear me?”
“What is it, Giles?”
“It appears to be… hypothermia?”
“Hypothermia? He’s a vampire!”
“No, he’s not.” Giles sits the man upright and starts to remove his leather coat. “Go put the kettle on to boil and get the extra blankets from the chest,” he snaps.
Buffy just stands there, he mouth open and her eyes wide. “Not…”
“Go! We’ll ask why
later!” He has Spike’s coat off and is chaffing his hands. Buffy puts the
always-ready kettle on the stove and rushes upstairs to return with an arm full
Giles settles Spike in a
nest of blankets with Buffy curled against him acting as a heater. “We have to
get him warm. You are 98.6 degrees. There is no better heating pad,” explains
Giles. Strategically placed hot water bottles and heating pads help speed the
After some fifteen minutes, the shivering has stopped, but his temperature is still not up to normal. “Are you okay, Buffy?”
Buffy giggles out of stress. “It’s like something on one of those fan fiction sites on the internet where wild things happen to the characters just to get them in bed together. Not that I’ve ever read any of those.”
Giles smiles, ”no, of course not. If you can stay there just a little longer?”
“I’m fine. I just don’t want him waking up and finding me here.”
never studied Spike’s features from this close. His skin is smooth. His lips
are full and slightly parted, though still a bit blue. The scar which mars his
eyebrow is right before her. She wonders about it’s story. Did he get it when
he was human? Did some magical weapon cut him? Buffy slides her hand up from his
waist and spreads it against the left side of his chest. It is there. She can
feel a slow chug of a heartbeat.
After about half an hour,
the shivering is completely gone, his temperature is 98.6 degrees and Spike
moans a bit. Giles coaxes the semi-conscious man to drink a mug of hot cider.
Shortly after it is apparent he has lapsed into a deep sleep.
Giles helps the slayer
out of the too-warm nest. He removes the cooling water bottles and takes them
off to the bathroom. Buffy sits on the couch, watching the steady rise and fall
of Spike’s chest, not knowing what to think.
Her Watcher returns and sits tiredly on the couch. “How did this happen, Giles? How can he be human?”
“Tell me everything that happened again. Slowly.”
Buffy sighs and moves to join him on the couch. “I was patrolling. In Restfield. Spike came sniffing around. I told him off. He ran into this old crypt and busted it up. Started grave robbing. Then all at once he… his expression changed. He fell down, threw up and started shivering. I didn’t know what else to do so I brought him here.”
“You did the right thing, Buffy. Something else had to have happened.”
“Nothing. No flash of light or noise or blue fairy. Nothing.”
Giles accesses his patient once again. “I think he will be okay now.” Giles sighs, and polishes his glasses. “You say he stole some things from a body. What things?”
“He pulled some rings off a mummy hand and stuck them on his fingers.”
“Good lord, the idiot. Which hand?”
“The put them on his right, I think.”
Giles raises the covers and draws out Spike’s limp hand. Three gold rings shine beside the normal collection of silver. Giles looks them over carefully, but makes no move to take them off. “Oh dear.”
“What? Oh dear what?”
“This one here.” He indicates a gold band with a flat onyx stone inset in it. A strange glyph is etched in the stone. “I think I recognize it. What did Spike say just before he collapsed?”
“I don’t know. He was taunting me as usual.”
“Buffy, please. It’s important.”
“Oh.” Buffy remembers. “Oh.”
“Buffy?” He sees tears in her eyes.
“He wished. Giles, he wished.”
“What did he wish?”
“Only that he could give me exactly what I wanted in a boyfriend.”
“Oh. Oh! What happened then?”
“I told him exactly what I wanted. Someone human, who wasn’t a soulless vampire. Among other things. Then he collapsed.”
“Goodness. Idle wishes are never wise in Sunnydale.”
Buffy sniffs and giggles. “Could have been worse. I could have been in sarcastic mode.”
“Yes. That would have
They sit quietly, watching Spike sleep. “When will he wake up?”
“I don’t know. He may sleep quite a while. Do you need to go home?”
“I… I have a test tomorrow. I probably should.”
Giles takes her hand. “Buffy. If you want to stay, please do. If you feel you have to get away, I understand.”
Buffy smiles, grateful for her Watcher’s fatherly support. “Thank you, Giles. I need to think about it. I mean, If the wish was powerful enough to make him human, what else has it made him? Will I be forced to make him my boyfriend if that’s what he wished?”
“Do you care for him, Buffy? In any way? I don’t think it’s wrong if you do. I admit to some… fatherly feelings toward Spike. Mostly of the disappointment type.”
She looks at the sleeping form, then to her friend’s soft eyes. “Some. He’s brave, strong, sometimes funny. He’s protective. I admit he’s handsome. It’s not love. It’s barely friendship. I respect him. But. He’s got no… He had no soul, after all. Does he have one now, Giles?”
“I don’t know, Buffy. I can’t see such things. He may. If he does it may be hard for him.”
“I sure was for Angel.”
“The circumstances are completely different. There is no data in the Watcher’s journals on such things.”
Buffy stands up and Giles joins her. She looks at Spike one more time. “I can’t be here now.” She pulls her Watcher into a hug. “Thank you, Giles.”
“No problem, Buffy. I’ll research the ring. Call me later.” Buffy leaves Giles alone with his patient. Giles hangs Spike’s leather coat on a peg by the door before turning to his books for a night of research and watching over Spike.
As the sun hits the high window in Giles’ loft bedroom, a moan wakes Giles from his nap in the chair. He is at Spike’s side at once.
“Spike? Are you there?”
“I’m here. Where am I?” Spike brings a hand from under the heavy covers to rub at his eyes.
“You’re at my apartment. Buffy brought you here yesterday.”
“That’s nice.” Spike squints at the tweed-clad man sitting by his head. He attempts to sit up and falls back. “Dizzy.”
“Lay back, Spike. Let me get you something to drink.”
Giles returns with a mug of broth and helps Spike sit up and drink it. Only after it is drained does Spike realize what he’s been drinking. “You’re out of blood?”
“Trust me. Do you want more of this?”
Spike closes his eyes. “Yes. It’s so good.”
Giles helps him drain a second mug. Still a trifle woozy, Spike cocks his head at his host. “Okay, Rupert. Why am I in your apartment drinking broth and loving it? Why am I so bloody weak and… and why can’t I see or smell anything?”
“Spike… Look inward.”
“Don’t go all Buddhist on me. What happened?”
Giles takes Spike’s hand and presses his fingers to the pulse point under his own ear. He watches as Spike’s eyes widen.
“What?” Spike is touching himself, pinching his arm, sucking in great lungfuls of air.
“Careful, you’ll hyperventilate,” Giles puts a restraining hand on Spike’s arm.
Giles points to the ring on Spike’s hand. “That is a wish ring. Apparently the circumstances were right and you made a wish.”
“I bleeding well would not have wished for this!” Spike grabs the ring. Giles stops him.
“Don’t. I’m not sure, but I think if you remove the ring incorrectly it may end your life.”
Spike buries his face in his hands and runs his fingers through his hair. “Bloody hell. What did I wish, anyway?”
Giles sighs. “According to Buffy, you wished you could give her what she wants in a boyfriend and then she told you.”
Spike thinks this over. “Oh, bloody, bleeding hell! I don’t want to be like Angel, all no-fun-having and mopey! Do I have a soul now? ”
“I do not have the ability to see such things.”
“How about one of your books? A spell maybe?”
“Perhaps Anya or... or Tara.”
“Anya can only do it when she’s demon. Tara’s a good bet. I like that little witch.” Spike has lain back down and closed his eyes.
Giles covers him up, goes
up to his loft bedroom and quietly makes a call to Tara. He gives her a run down
of the night’s events. She agrees to come over after her classes. Then he
makes a call to Buffy.
“Hey, Giles,” she answers, subdued. “How is he?”
“Very hungry. Very angry. Weak. Confused. A little scared at this point.”
“No surprise. What did you learn about the ring?”
“What I expected. It’s a wish ring. I need to do some more research to find out exactly what kind, but I think the spell is reversible.”
“Does he want that?”
“I don’t know, Buffy. I’ve not even mentioned it to him. He’s not been lucid long. I tell you because… so you can make a choice.”
“What choice do I have, Giles?”
“Do you want to meet the man who could be your perfect boyfriend despite it being Spike? Or do you want to stay away and have me try to undo the spell if he so chooses without you ever having to meet him as he is?” A silence greets him. “Buffy. Take your time. Let me know tomorrow if you like.”
“Thanks Giles. This is big. I’ll… I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
“Take care, Buffy.”
Giles makes his way downstairs to discover the front door open. He steps out into the courtyard to find Spike sitting in the sun. His eyes are closed and his face is turned up. “Spike?” he says quietly.
Spike doesn’t move. “It’s so wonderful, Giles. So bright and…warm. I had forgotten. How had I forgotten?”
Giles sets a wrought iron chair beside him and sits. Thoughtfully, he copies Spike’s pose. After several minutes, he smiles. “It is wonderful. So very wonderful.” He looks over at the now-human man. “Although you should be careful. I’ve never seen anyone as pale as you.”
Spike lowers his head and contemplates a pale arm. “It’s a valid point.” Spike goes to stand, grasping the edge of the table before him, but only rises a bit before sitting heavily back down.
Giles can see his arms shaking. Thinking it’s from weakness, he stands and takes Spike’s arm to help him. “Let’s get you back inside and get some more food in you.”
He is startled when Spike growls at him. It’s not the normal Spike sound, deep and rumbling. It is the snarl of a frightened man. “Get the fuck away from me!”
Understanding how much power the ex-vampire has lost, he sits back down. He respects Spike enough to not add to his humiliation. Spike tries gamely to stand to get back inside. Finally, he rests his head on his arms. After several minutes, a muffled voice comes from the still man. “So how about that date you promised? A stroll and a bowl of soup wasn’t it?” Giles helps the smaller man back to the couch. He can not help but think how small Spike physically is without the swagger and the attitude making him seem much bigger.
When he is once more
settled on the couch and has eaten another bowl of soup and a bit of bread,
Spike sighs. “What happened? I mean after the stupid wish?”
Giles gives him a rundown of the night’s hectic events.
“Hypothermia? It wasn’t that cold last night.”
“It was 75 degrees. In that crypt, it was probably 72. A vampire is room temp, so…”
“Huh. So Buffy warmed me up?” He smirks a bit, “sounds like a bad fanfic setup.”
“Funny. That’s what Buffy said.”
“Where is Buffy?” Spike asks quietly. “She’s left you to play nursemaid all alone.”
“Buffy had… classes.”
“Typical of her. Sleep with me once and then leave me to wake up alone.” He gives a bark of laughter and looks down at himself, puzzled.
“Are you okay, Spike?”
“Yeah. No. It’s strange. I’ve come to realize that these pants are tight.”
“I’ll get you something else to wear.”
“Thanks,” Spike answers distractedly. “And why does my chest hurt?”
“What?” Giles is alarmed. “Hurts where?”
“I’m not having a heart attack if that’s what you’re worried about. My muscles. My whole torso.”
“I don’t know,” Giles gently feels of Spike’s ribs. “It doesn’t feel like anything is broken.” He suddenly laughs and sits back. “You’re breathing.”
“I thought you determined that last night.”
“Yes, I did. Think about it. Those are muscles that have been only periodically used over the last 120 years. You have been breathing now for some 14 hours straight.”
“That’s weird.” Spike contemplates himself some more. Suddenly, his face lights up. “I have a reflection now!”
Giles chuckles. “Yes. I
would say you do.” Giles disappears into the bathroom and comes back with a
large hand mirror. “When one lives on the Hellmouth and gets knocked out all
the time it is handy to be able to see the back of one’s head.” He presents
the mirror to Spike.
Giles is reminded of a kitten trying to catch it’s reflection. It takes Spike a minute to get the angle right to see what he wants to. “Still good looking,” he smirks. He pats his bleached hair and runs his fingers through it. “This will be too painful to keep up.”
“What do you mean?”
“Never bleached your hair? I guess not. It stings something fierce. You can put artificial sweeteners in it to take some sting out, but still.” He smiles in remembrance. “Dru first bleached it. She came home with all the stuff and made my scalp burn. Of course that lead to sex and we left the stuff on too long. I don’t look good bald at all.”
Giles does not want to hear about Spike’s kinky sex life. “How did you keep up appearances without a reflection?”
“Always the Watcher.
Video cameras. Polaroids. Best thing in the world. Before that plain
photography. Before that, one had to rely on one’s mates. Playing a practical
joke that involves making another look bad is a killing offence, by the way. I
did Dru’s hair and makeup for decades.”
Spike sighs and puts down the heavy mirror. “I guess I can get a job as
“Can I get you anything?”
“What I’d most like? A hot bath. I know where this body has been.”
“Sure.” Giles runs a tub of water, being careful to not make it too hot. He returns to find Spike staring down at his open fly.
“Damn. I’m too weak to get my own clothes off,” Spike says angrily. He looks up at Giles who is amused to see a blush accompany the frustrated expression.
“No worries, Randy. I’ll help you.” Spike is puzzled, then remembers when they all lost their memories. Because they are both British they assumed a father and son relationship. The only Id Spike had on him was the name Randy was sewn in the thrift store undercover suit Spike was wearing at the time.
“Thanks, Dad.” Spike smiles, still blushing. With this simple exchange, the change of relationship from Watcher/vampire to something more human and equal has been acknowledged. Some of the awkwardness is gone for both of them now.
Shortly, Giles has Spike settled in a hot bath with fresh towels at hand. “If you need anything or feel weak, call out. I just saved you from hypothermia, I don’t want you to drown.”
“Thanks, Rupert. I will.”
Giles leaves the door open a crack and returns to his research. Once alone, Spike lays back in the big, hot tub. He’s so warm. He’s never been so warm. He relaxes into the luxury of the deep, claw foot tub. He has been in this particular bathtub before, but he was a vampire, fully dressed, completely not trusted, and chained to the pipes.
Spike takes advantage of a washcloth and the ivory soap provided. When one lives in a crypt, being clean is a luxury. He scrubs his face and contemplates washing his hair. Suddenly he is tired again. He calls for Giles.
The Englishman immediately appears in the doorway. “You called?”
He pushes out his request in an embarrassed rush. “This tub is certainly more comfortable without the chains and I may be pushing the boundaries of your hospitality, but… could you wash my hair?”
“I may not be the practiced hairdresser you are, but I think I can manage.” Giles quickly and efficiently washes Spike’s hair, removing the last traces of gel. His short, soft hair springs to unruly waves and curls.
Giles helps Spike out of the cooling water and onto the chair. He leaves him to towel off his hair and returns with some clothes to find Spike studying his damp curls in the hand mirror.
“We’ll have to pick you up some hair gel.”
“No. I’ve not seen his look for a very long time. I’ll give it a try. Maybe a dye job…”
“I’ll help wash your hair, but I draw the line at dying and braiding.”
He helps Spike dress in the sweat pants and t-shirt he’s found. They are tight on the watcher and loose on Spike’s lean frame. Giles steps back to study the look. Other than the thrift-store tweed suit once worn as a disguise, Giles has never seen him in anything but his habitual black jeans, t-shirt and leather duster. “Now you look completely human.”
“And I feel… exhausted.” Spike leans heavily on Giles as he helps him back to the couch.
“Tara will be over in a couple of hours. Would you like to go upstairs and sleep?”
“Can I stay down here? That looks like a lot of stairs.”
“Of course.” Giles makes Spike comfortable on the couch and retires to his desk to study.
“Can this wish be undone?”
“I don’t know for sure yet, Spike. If you want I will find out what I can, but ultimately the decision will be yours.”
“Shouldn’t it be Buffy’s?”
It’s your life.”
Some three hours later, Giles answers a quiet knock at the door. “Tara. Thank you for coming.”
Willow’s timid girlfriend steps in, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “No problem, Giles. But really, Willow is much better with the magic than I am.”
“It isn’t exactly a magic thing. It’s a soul thing. Plus, Spike trusts your magic more.”
“Trusts… Okay.” She looks over at the sleeping Spike. “What do you need?”
“He is clearly alive. He is weak, but seems healthy. What I need you to tell me is if he has a soul.”
“It… it’s hard to tell when he’s asleep.” She walks over to the couch and sits on the coffee table. She speaks quietly to Giles. “His aura has changed. It used to be sharp and dark. With… with softer colors underneath. Now. It’s reversed. It’s still very much him, just… no demon. Much less sharp. Very little dark.” She looks up at Giles, tears in her eyes. “He really is alive!”
“And trying to sleep, pet,” mumbles Spike, opening his eyes.
“Oh. I’m sorry!”
Spike sits up with a little effort, “’T’sall right. Thank you for coming over today, love,” he smiles.
She blushes, noting it’s not just his aura that has changed. His features seem less sharp, his smile more gentle. “No problem.”
“So, what’s the verdict? Am I a souled poofter like Angel now?”
“Let me look in your eyes. I… I have to focus.” She faces him, closes her eyes and runs through a relaxing series of breaths. Giles notes Spike unconsciously copying her. When ready, Tara opens her warm brown eyes and stares into Spike’s sharp blue ones. After a minute she gasps. “Oh! It’s there. So pretty. So bright,” She blinks away the Sight and smiles at him. “I don’t know if you’re a poofter, that’s your choice, but you’ve got soul.”
Spike lets out a breath and flops back on the couch. “That was intense.” He tilts his head at Tara. “Did I see yours?”
Tara blushes. “I don’t know. Sometimes that happens.”
He smiles that charming smile again. “I think I did. It’s very beautiful.” Spike sits with his head against the back of the couch. “If I’ve got a soul, why don’t I feel… guilt? Remorse? Why aren’t I like… like Angel? I’ve done as much bad as he has.”
“I think maybe you are… in shock. Also, the circumstances are completely different.”
“Wish instead of curse. Sure.”
Giles joins them. “So. What now?”
“Lunch?” Asks Spike hopefully.
Over sandwiches and soup in the sun they talk of trivial things. Although he is tired, Spike seems at ease.
“Did you ever want to be human again?” Tara ventures when Giles has gone in to answer the phone.
Spike meets the quiet girls’ eyes. He has always liked and respected Tara. He can see the strength in her. Now he feels closer to her than to Giles even. “Maybe a little at first. But not for a long time. Not until recently, to be honest.”
“Because of Buffy?”
Spike smiles and closes his eyes to the sun again. “Yeah. It’s funny. For a hundred years I was never sure of anything. Then bam. One day I wake up and realize how special she is.”
“You love her, don’t you?”
“I do. She won’t listen to me. She won’t believe I can love without a soul...”
“She… maybe she’ll look again. I mean, you’ve got one now.”
“That was the wish I made. I should know better than to say such things here in Sunnyhell.” Spike looks at the rings on his fingers. “I confess. It frightens me a bit,” he says quietly.
“Loving her so much. I loved her before, but now… and I don’t think it’s the stupid wish, either. I miss her,” Spike says quietly. Both fall silent when Giles returns.
“That was Buffy. She says she will call tomorrow.”
“What about the reversal? If… if she won’t have me, and I’m going to be jerked around by this sodding wish, I’d just as soon be a vampire. It might allow me enough time to get over her.” Spike has pulled some of the bluster back to cover his worries.
“Fair enough,” Giles answers. “I know of a couple of tomes I want to check that are at the Magic Box.”
“Plus, there are benefits to being a vampire,” Spike says with a lighter tone.
“What is so great about being an undead thing that can’t go out in the sunlight?” Giles asks and sips more soup.
“Well, the sex.”
Giles sputters over his soup and Tara struggles to keep a straight face and play along. “Oh? So you got enough to know this?”
“I’ll have you know I could have any bird I wanted. And then go all night long.”
“You couldn’t have Buffy.” Tara says, almost grinning.
“I was wearing her down.”
Giles clears his throat. “So what else is good?”
“Well, the strength. The healing. Living forever is a bonus. All your senses are sharp. You can hunt and feel and…” he studies the last bite of sandwich in his hand, “and yet not appreciate a good ham sandwich. Do you have any chocolate?”
“If you don’t watch it, you will get fat very quickly. I may have some coca.” Giles gathers empty plates and goes inside.
Tara watches Spike as he sunbathes. “You wouldn’t really want to be a vampire again, would you?”
Spike sighs. “I’m not
sure. Probably not.”
“Because Buffy will have nothing at all to do with you.”
“Right. I just hope…” He gazes at the sun-lit flowers.
“Hope what, Spike?”
“I hope she will see me, at least once. If it’s her decision to have nothing to do with me, I will go away and leave her in peace.” The longing in his voice almost makes Tara weep. Giles appears with a tray of steaming cups. Spike pulls another mood flip. “And there is chocolate. Another good reason to stay human.”
“I’m glad you have so many reasons to stay with us, ham sandwiches and chocolate,” Giles says dryly as he serves the coca.
“I’m sure there are more. Right now, my world is limited.”
“Yes, and it will be more limited if I don’t go to the store.”
“Then you can get me some real chocolate.”
“Coca is real chocolate.”
“You’re wrong in that, Giles,” Tara ventures. “It’s all about the melty texture and richness.”
“Hey!” Spike says, “It will melt in my mouth now!” He takes a careful sip. “God this is good.”
“You used to drink it all the time.”
“Taste is one sense a vampire has little of. That’s why so many don’t bother to eat.”
“So why eat at all?” Giles’ Watcher curiosity has gotten he better of him again.
“I… enjoyed it. Things like this. They make me warm. And it’s a social thing. Ever notice how Angel would just hover about the edges of gatherings?” Giles nods. “It’s because he never has any motivation to move through a party. Think how often you use food and drink as a reason to get out of a situation or meet someone at a party or club.”
“Good point. I never thought about that.”
Spike suddenly gives a jaw-splitting yawn.
“Right,” Giles says. “Back to bed with you.”
Spike grins. “Yes, Dad.”
“Tara, would you mind staying here while I got to the store?”
“Sure. Willow knows where I am and I have no plans tonight. I can help research.”
The trio move inside and Spike lays back on the couch.
“Do you need anything besides chocolate, Spike?”
“Look in the inside top pocket of my duster. My duster is here, isn’t it?”
“It’s right by the door.”
“There is some money there. If you could get me some clothes? As comfortable as this outfit is I don’t want Buffy to see me like this.”
“Certainly. I need your sizes.” Giles hands Spike a pad and pen and frisks the duster. He comes up with a wad of twenties and a couple of hundreds. “The information market pay that well, Spike?”
“Hey. I work hard for my money.”
“Yes, I’m sure,” Giles says dryly.
“Bloody hell. This human gig looks worse all the time.” Spike is squinting at the pad. “I forgot I was a bit farsighted.” He hands it to Tara. “Be a love and take a memo.”
Spike rattles off sizes then stops himself. “Better make the pants 36, 32. I have to breathe now.”
“Any color choices?” Giles asks dryly.
“You have good taste, Rupert. Just no tweed. No black. And, perhaps some blue. I look good in blue.”
I’m not playing personal shopper. I’ll get you the basics then you can shop
for yourself. I am going to the grocery, the clothing shop downtown, and the
Magic Box to pick up a couple of books. I may be a little while.” He gives
Tara a rundown on the available food and when Spike should have another aspirin
Spike lays down on the sofa. “I hate to be bad company, pet, but I’m very tired these days.”
“It’s not a problem, Spike. Just let me look at the wish ring again, first.”
Spike holds out his hand where the rings circle three of his fingers. Tara takes his long-fingered hand looks them all over carefully. “Did you see if there was any inscription in them?”
“No. I just jerked them off the hand and put them on my own. Stupid git I am.”
“Did you put them on the same fingers they were on? On the corpse?”
Spike closes his eyes and mimes holding up the a hand and transferring the rings. “I’m pretty sure I did.”
“Thank you. It may help in our research. Sleep. I’ll be here.”
Spike snuggles down in his nest. “You are being so good to me. You and Giles.”
Tara smiles. “We like you, Spike.”
His eyes are already closed and his voice is a whisper. “I can’t understand why. I’m evil.”
“You were.” Tara tucks the blanket over his shoulder and leaves him to sleep.
The glyph on the rings has sparked a memory in Tara. She looks over Giles’ research from the night before. There is a fair amount on wish objects, but none on this ring in particular. Then it strikes her. Three rings, not one. She calls Anya at the Magic Box and has her make sure Giles brings home a particular book.
A couple of hours later Giles returns, his arms laden with packages. “The gatherer has returned. I have food, clothes and books,” he announces as Tara helps him put the packages down.
Spike mumbles from the couch. “Someone say food?”
“I’m going to feed you a good dinner. I think that’s why you’re so weak. As I cook, drink this and take these.” He hands Spike a protein drink and doles out a vitamin and an iron pill.
“Quite the Florence Nightingale, aren’t you?” Spike makes a face at the drink, but obediently takes it.
Giles hands a slim blue leather volume to Tara. “This is the one you wanted? Do you know something?”
“I think so. I remembered reading it once.” Giles gets to work in the kitchen.
Tara swiftly finds the spell she’s remembered. “I found it. It’s not just the one ring or the one person.” She reads out the description.
“Two people have to make the same wish. One of them puts on the rings in order and they both wish. It can be unwished within four days by the same two people by recreating the intent of the original wish and changing the phrasing. If the wish is not undone, it is permanent. The rings don’t have to be worn beyond the four days.”
“What’s the ten years bit, pet?” Spike asks, grimacing at the taste of the artificial drink.
“If the wish is not unwished, another can be made on the rings in ten years. But never by the same people again. If it is unwished, it takes fifteen years to recharge.”
“So I leave the rings on for three more days and I’m human forever.”
“Or, you and Buffy get together and wish the wish had not been made before that time is up.”
Giles has been listening from the kitchen. “That is extraordinary. To have happened upon the rings and used them correctly.”
“Yeah,” Spike says
quietly, the enormity of it not lost on him.
Giles soon serves a dinner of steak, steamed vegetables, and deli rolls. Spike eats hardily. They talk of nothing important during dinner.
Tara picks up her book bag. “Thank you for dinner, but it’s late. I need to get home.”
“Giles, drive her home. I’ll be fine by myself.”
“I… I can walk. It’s not far.”
Spike sighs. “I have to admit something. I’ve been watching over all of you. I had nothing else to do, after all. So when I’ve seen any of you out and about I’ve… kept an eye out. Kept the buggers scared off.”
“Honestly?” This surprises Giles.
Spike shrugs. “Sure. With this chip up my head, there was bugger all else to do. Had to protect my blood and smokes supply. Plus, I have to maintain my Big Bad Master status somehow. So, I’ve claimed the lot of you.”
“Master? You’re a master vampire?” Giles is struck by this news. At the top of the vampire hierarchy there is the master vampire. One who is older, stronger, and more intelligent than the rest. Her first year as a Slayer, Buffy killed one of the oldest known vampires who was simply known as The Master.
“I bloody well am! Was. You don’t live to be a hundred and thirty without gaining some status. Plus how many other evil buggers are as well written up in your wonderful books? Ever wonder why no other master moved in after The Master dusted?” Spike raises his eyebrows and points to himself. “I’m of The Master’s lineage as well, or had you forgotten? House of Aurelius. Spike of Drusillia of Angel of Darla of The Master. Quite the pedigree. I admit at first Angel held the ground in here, but then he swished off. Spike is Master of Sunnydale. Or, I was. So, things are going to get mighty ugly once word gets out.”
Giles takes off his glasses and cleans them, considering all the implications. “I’ll tell the others. Make sure they are extra careful.”
“Tell them to not discuss my… condition freely. It may buy us a little time to brace for impact.”
Giles returns from his errand to find Spike asleep once again. The man’s brows are pinched even in his sleep. “It will all work out. Don’t worry,” Giles whispers. Having not had much sleep himself the last two days, he goes up to bed.
As he half expected, Giles is awakened some time later by a shout.
“No!” A world of anguish is in that voice.
A thousand memories come back to him. Flashes of knives, bruised flesh, and blood. Scents of fear, sweat, and blood. The sounds of screams, moans, and beating hearts. The feel of bone snapping under fists, of bodies yielding under his hard penis, of flesh parting under fangs. Over it all the taste of blood.
The slim man holds his head and rocks. “No, no, no, no, no,” he chants.
A woman screams so hard her larynx ruptures, blood bursts from her lips. A man sobs over the body of his wife. A child, ripped from a coal bin stays quiet even as she is raped, then killed. A baby’s tiny body goes limp in his hands.
“No, no, no!”
An unexpected feeling of warmth, of strong hands grasping his arms.
“Spike! Spike! Snap out of it!”
“No, no, no, no. Not Spike! Please not that monster!
The feeling of limbs ripped from living bodies, blood flying in sprays. The taste of the blood, hot and heavy.
“Come back to me! He’s gone! Spike is gone!”
“No, he’s gone. The other is gone. He died a century ago. Poor sweet William. No William here.”
“Yes! You’re here. You’re human now!” He feels those strong hands shaking him.
“No! Angelus! Leave me alone! I was only doing what Dru wanted me to!”
The strong gripping hands leave to be replaced by gentle touches. Soft hands sooth his hair, lightly touch the back of his hands where they clutch at the blanket.
“It’s okay. Come back to me. You’re safe. Come back. That’s the past. He is in the past.”
Is it? A thousand, thousand images all violent, all bloody, all evil flash one after another. The only things not evil are the big, yet gentle hands and the soothing voice. He tries to catch on to that voice. So warm, so caring. “Who?” he ventures.
“I’m Giles. I’m your friend.”
“I don’t have any friends. I’m evil. Evil! Spike doesn’t need friends. Doesn’t deserve…”
“You are not Spike. You are a human. Spike is gone. You’re safe. I am your friend. Please.”
It’s a trick. Angelus loves to play tricks. But the smell is wrong. There is no pain being inflicted. The hands are warm. He is exhausted and slowly unclenches from the tightly-wound ball he has been in. The warm voice continues.
“There you are. Good, good.”
He can feel the tightness in his chest. There is an unaccustomed drumming present. A heart beat? How? In a flood the last day comes back to him. The guiding voice has been speaking true. He is human again. He opens his eyes to find a rumpled and concerned man peering at him. “Giles?”
“Yes, it’s me. I’m here.”
Spike dives into the open arms. Great sobs wrack his body. Giles calmly holds him, stroking his hair and back, keeping up the soothing words. Finally, the storm subsides.
“She was right,” Spike says into Giles’ shoulder.
“About what?” He knows Spike must mean Buffy.
“Me. There is not a demographic that can’t be represented in the hundreds I have murdered. For food, for sport or just out of the sheer perverse pleasure of it.”
“Not you. Spike.” He feels the man relax in his arms.
“Is my slate wiped clean? Is that fair or right? One wish and all the terrors are made right?”
“I don’t know. But you weren’t human then. Now you have a soul. In the end you must judge for yourself what guilt you bear. Spike…”
Spike flinches as if he’s been struck. “No. Not that name. I dubbed myself that. To prove how bad I could be. Now, I… I don’t think it fits.”
“I know your human name was William.”
“William. Yes. After my
grandfather. Can I use it once more?”
“I think that would be best.”
“Buffy… Buffy was right to reject Spike. He didn’t deserve her.” He trails off toward sleep.
lays Spike back down and covers him up. “Good night, William.”
Spike spends much of his second day as a human asleep. Frequent nightmares rock him, but always Giles is there to guide him through. Little of his fire remains. Giles finds himself somewhat disappointed. During meals, Spike is subdued and quiet.
At dinner, Spike finally speaks up, quietly. “How long has it been?”
“Since what, William?”
“Since the wish.”
“Almost two days.”
“Buffy hasn’t called.”
“No, she hasn’t. But I told Tara to fill her in about the wish. She knows.”
“If she stays away, I stay human.”
“If she comes back she may reject me. She may decide Spike is the better warrior, the better choice for a Slayer’s companion.”
“She may do that. But you have to unwish it, too. She can’t force you.”
Spike looks up, alarmed. “Would she try that?”
“No. No. I don’t see her doing that.”
“If she so desires it, I can go back.”
Giles can see the anguish this option causes him. “William, Buffy is a fair and intelligent woman. She will consider all options fairly.”
Spike sighs. “You’re right. There is nothing to be gained by fretting.” He gets to his feet. “I’m going to sit in the courtyard.” He puts on borrowed slippers.
Once outside, Spike
breathes in the chill night air. He should have put on his coat. A shudder
passes through him as he thinks of the leather coat hanging just inside the
door. He’d killed a Slayer, a mother of a little boy and claimed that coat. He
can remember every move of that fight. He had lied to Buffy. The woman didn’t
want to die. She wanted to get home to her son. He never wanted it on his body
again. If he stays human, he’ll have to change completely. No more wandering.
No more dishonesty. No more… evil. He’ll have to stay home. Where ever home
winds up being. It strikes him. A smile touches his lips. It has been so long.
Over a century of wandering. Constantly learning new places. Crouching in holes
and crypts when caught between proper, that is, stolen, housing. No running
water. No electricity. Blankets hammered up over windows. To have a home. To sit
in a sunny window and read had been his greatest joy as a child. A breeze chills
him and forces him inside.
“Too cold out?” calls Giles from the sink where he’s doing the dishes.
“Yeah.” Spike grabs a dish towel and starts drying.
“I’ve never seen anyone eat like you have been.”
“As soon as I can get out and about, I’ll tap into some of my funds.”
“It’s not a problem, yet,” Giles reassures him.
A few more dishes pass through the cleaning process. “Funny. I may have to ask the Slayer for an escort to retrieve a few things from the crypt.” He pauses. “If I stay human, that is.”
“I am sure she’d be glad to help out.”
Spike polishes a cup, looking at it’s delicate pattern of flowers without seeing it. “You do know that I really do love her, don’t you?”
“I can see that.”
Spike hangs the cup form it’s hook and cautiously asks, “do you approve?”
“From what I can see you are a fine young man of good breeding. You have a spotty past, but I think you can overcome it.” He smiles at Spike. “How old are you, anyway? My Slayer is only 20.”
“I’m… 26, sir.”
“Not so great a span, then.”
“Just don’t tell her what a weepy ponce I’ve been the last day or so.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it.”
“Although, she always liked that in Peaches.”
Giles dries his hands and hangs up his apron. “If you don’t mind me saying so, you seem to be taking the whole soul-inflicted guilt thing better than it is reported Angel did.”
he had no one to blame it on. You see, Angel taught me to be bad. He was bad
even when human, so he had the weight of two lives crashing in on him as I see
The next day, Giles coaxes Spike out of the house. He talks him into trying on the clothing he purchased the other day, then lures him out with the observation that the sun shines in more places than the courtyard.
“What if Buffy calls?”
“The machine will record it. She has made us wait. We can make her wait a couple of hours. This moping is doing you no good.”
“I am not moping. I’m just… a little stir crazy.”
“See? A road trip will do you good.”
Spike confronts the leather coat, quickly divesting its pockets of a couple of things, then asking Giles to put it away.
“Where to, William?”
“Best place on a sunny day. The beach of course.”
They drive to the beach. Spike has to purchase sunglasses and Giles insists he buy a hat and put on sunscreen. Giles finds a shady spot for himself and watches as Spike gazes in wonder at the shining waves before him.
Spike remembers seeing the beach as a child. When his father was still alive they would once in a while take the train for a day trip and picnic. In his teens he had been sent to school. Then his mother became sickly. He figured he had not been on the beach in the sun since he was twelve.
Spike wanders, taking in the glistening children and the almost naked women. He buys an ice cream and suddenly realizes how far he has walked. Unfamiliar panic hits him. where is Rupert? He doesn’t even know where they parked. He drops the treat untasted, and starts to run back the way he came. He doesn’t get far when strong arms grab him. He starts to fight when the Watcher’s steady voice brings him back.
“William. William. It’s okay. I’ve been behind you the whole way.” Giles will not tell Spike it’s because he was worried the man would get into a fight over his ogling the sunbathers. This flight of panic has surprised him.
Spike pulls away and looks out to the ocean. “Sure. I just… I was worried you may have fallen asleep in the sun and someone would come along and steal my new shoes.”
“Of course. Thank you for caring.” They head silently back toward the car. After passing the second ice cream stand and catching Spike’s sidelong glances, Giles pauses. “I don’t have my wallet on me. Can you spot me for a cone?”
“I think I can do that.” Giles has to chuckle as Spike indulges in the sticky treat.
“I didn’t like ice cream before. It would slither down to my get and stay cold for what felt like hours.”
On the way back to town, Spike has him stop at a place that advertises two hour eye exams and glasses manufacture. “I hate not being able to read.”
New glasses in hand, he insists they stop at a drug store. He has Giles wait in the car. Forty-five minutes later he comes out, not sharing his purchases.
“Can… can you show me the sights?”
“Sights? In Sunnydale? Oh. Of course.”
Silently Giles drives past the Magic box, past Xander’s house, even to the Bronze. “Take me there. Restfield.”
“Are you sure?” It is where Spike’s crypt is and where the wish was made.
“I am. I want to see it in daylight.”
“I don’t know if it’s safe for you to go in.”
“I don’t want to. I just… want to see the lay of the land.”
Giles takes a scenic drive through the large cemetery. “Nothing looks disturbed,” Spike observes, looking over his tombly home. “I should call Clem and have him crypt-sit. He doesn’t have a TV you know.”
When they get home, Giles catches Spike’s quickly-hidden disappointment at the unblinking answering machine light.
“Mind if I grab a shower? The smell of this sunscreen is getting tome and I have sand in my shoes.”
As soon as he hears the water running, Giles calls Buffy. With his sternest Watcher voice, he tells her when to come over. She starts to hem and haw. “Buffy, this is a big thing. I have never heard of such an event occurring. Without you here, the decision to stay human is forced upon Wi… Spike. You owe it to him to hear his side of things.”
Buffy protests again. “I agree, it would be one less vampire in the world, but this is Spike. This is a special case. Come over at 6:00. And dress nice,” he adds, hanging up the phone.
Giles sighs and hears the water shut off. Spike comes out, a towel wrapped low around his hips. “Do you have any old or maybe dark colored towels?” Spike asks, picking up the bag from the drug store.
Puzzled, Giles digs out a couple of tatty towels and watches as Spike heads back into the bathroom. “Um, William?” Spike turns back around. “Buffy called. She will be here at four.”
Spike shoots a look at the clock, four hours. “Bloody hell. I only have one pair of pants and they’re all rumpled.”
Giles smiles. “I know how to iron. I’ve been a bachelor far to long to not know how to save clothes past due for laundry.”
“Thanks, mate.” Spike tosses out his clothing and vanishes into the bathroom.
Giles busies himself ironing Spike’s clothing and getting out supplies to fix dinner. An hour and a half later a new man steps out of the bathroom.
Spike’s normally platinum blond, slicked back hairstyle has been replaced with a thatch of soft brown curls. Giles gives an appreciative whistle. Spike blushes and responds with a quip. “If I had known you liked brunettes that much better than blondes, I would have done this long ago.”
“Very funny. It’s such a change.”
“I think this was my original color. At least close enough until the mess grows out.” Spike yawns.
“Go upstairs where it’s quiet and grab a nap for an hour. You have to be tired. I’ll clean up down here and start dinner. I’ll wake up in time to dress.”
The courtyard is set up like a sidewalk bistro. A boombox is playing soft classical music. Giles greets her at the foot of the stairs. “Hello, Buffy. How are you?”
“Nervous. Like any girl on a blind date. How do I look?”
Giles smiles. “Beautiful. Just remember, he is not Spike any more. You have not met this man.”
“I’ll do my best.”
“Buffy Summers, I would like you to meet Mr. William Blooden.”
Buffy really does not recognize the man who steps through Giles’ front door and into the sun. He is not very tall for a man, about four inches shorter than her Watcher. His lean body is nicely accented with crisply creased kakis, a bright blue turtleneck shirt and a well-tailored brown jacket. His sandy brown hair curls uncontrolled, stray locks rest on his forehead. She looks into intelligent bright blue eyes as he shyly takes her hand and plants a light kiss on it. His hand is warm on hers.
“It is a pleasure to
meet you, Miss Summers. I am delighted you decided to join me for dinner.”
Buffy can only stand and do her best fish impression. Giles coughs softy. “If you would like to take a seat, dinner will be ready momentarily.”
“Oh, dinner, yes, please,” Buffy stammers.
Using the hand he still holds, Spike leads Buffy to the little table and pulls out a chair for her. She sits, unable to take her eyes off the man before her.
“Would you like some wine?” Spike asks, indicating a champagne bucket holding a bottle of wine.
“Um, yes. Please.
“Giles tells me you go to U.C. Sunnydale,” Spike chatters as he joins her at the table.
“Yeah.” She talks her glass and takes an unladylike gulp. “Not settled on a major yet.”
“You are young, there is no rush.”
“I can’t do this. I can’t pretend I don’t know you.”
Spike shrugs and fiddles with the wine cork. “You don’t really, Buffy. I’m not Spike any more. I… I’m not quite sure who I am, but I am not Spike.”
“You should write a book called that. It helped that Spock guy.”
William laughs. “Maybe I’ll try that.” He sips his wine. Just then, Giles comes out with a tray. Chicken breasts and rice are nicely presented with steamed vegetables.
He sets these plates before them and a basket of warm bread between them “I’ll be back later for your dessert order.” Pleased to see them not fighting, he makes a quick exit.”
“How about this,” Spike offers as he cuts into his chicken. “We haven’t seen one another for, say, four years. And back then we didn’t know each other well.”
Buffy looks into his so-blue eyes and sees the hope there. She feels her heart jump. She heaves a heavy sigh and throws herself into the fiction. “So, William. Giles tells me you are a changed man.”
“I am. Fate has dealt me a chance to be a new man. I want to take advantage of that and perhaps make up for a tiny bit of the evil things I have done in the past. There is so much there it’s… overwhelming. But maybe, just maybe I can do some good and be a good man.” He looks hopefully into her eyes. “I have a soul now, Buffy,” he says quietly. “It hurts. Everything I’ve done. I keep remembering it. I… I pray I won’t go mad with it.” He turns his head away. “I’m sorry.”
Tears spill down his cheeks and he wipes them away absently, as if he’s been crying a lot lately.
“Have you… have you talked to Angel?” Angel, her once boyfriend was the only vampire ever known to have a soul.
Spike laughs dryly. “I can’t speak to him.” His mouth is twisted in a wry grin as he meets her eyes. “He created Spike. All the bad habits were beat into Spike by Angelus. I can’t see him.”
Tears stand in Buffy’s own eyes. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
“He doesn’t like to talk about his past. But I was a nice guy. Very proper high class Victorian. I went to university. I loved my mother. Drusilla sired me because she was lonely. God, I was so happy with her. The first couple of days were… heaven.
“Then she took me home to meet daddy. Right away Angelus started to toughen me up. Pretty soon, the only way I could get attention was by being bad. It became a habit. So no, I’ve not talked to Angel. Besides, how did he cope with getting a soul? He ate rats for a hundred years and spent long periods not showering. Why do you think he likes to be so clean, now?”
“Not Spike. Not any more. Unless we decide to reverse this wish before eight tonight, Spike is dead.”
“William,” she says the name as if tasting it. “I’m sorry. I can’t begin to understand, but I do respect what you say. I can see you are different now. I can feel it. The way you carry yourself, the way you talk. I know you are not Spike.”
He draws in a deep breath. “Thank you.”
“William? Do… Do you want to be a vampire again?”
“I… There is more than just my own feelings at stake. Practical matters. I don’t think you realize it, but Spike was the Master of Sunnydale.” Buffy looks sharply at him. Spike sighs. “Your Watcher had the same reaction. I don’t see why it’s such a stretch. Anyway, I… he looked out for all of you, protected you. He kept more baddies from snacking on the Scoobies than you will ever know. Once word gets out that Master Spike is gone, all kinds of evil is going to try to move in and set up shop. You, the Scoobies, and my own tasty self are going to be big marks.
“In addition, if you acknowledge it or not, you have lost a damn strong warrior and information source.” He watches her in think Slayer mode, considering everything he has said. “Spike was more critical than you ever knew. I, on the other hand, human me, am a wild card. I don’t know what, if anything, I can offer to anyone. It has been almost four days and I am still weak. Giles assures me I am healthy and should recover. I don’t know what kind of fighter I can be. I was never the athletic type when I was alive, but that was then. I do have knowledge to offer, but I admit it can be spotty. I have never been the scholar Angel is. And every demon in Sunnydale will be looking to claim my hide.”
“Sp… William. I do know how important Spike was. Not all of it, not the master bit. I just couldn’t tell him because if his swagger got any bigger, he would fall over when he tried to walk. And he may have thought he had a chance with me.”
“That bad. I always… respected Spike. He was a fierce fighter. He played games, but not when he gave his word. Once the chip was put in, he adjusted to it. I think he was starting to swagger a bit less and be easier to be around. What is it?”
Spike’s eyes have grown wide. “The chip. Is it there? Does it work? Bloody hell. I’ve been so pre-occupied with my soul, I’ve not thought about the sodding chip.”
“So hit me.”
“I can’t hurt you. You’re the Slayer.”
“Exactly… Isn’t it the intent that triggers it?”
“Yes. But if I know I can’t physically hurt you…”
“I bet Giles will let you hit him.”
Spike smiles. “I don’t want to hurt Giles. Look, it’s not important. Plus, I don’t know what a shock like that will do to me. It about caused Spike to black out, it may kill me.”
“Oh.” Buffy says. “That aside, you didn’t answer my question. Do you want to stay human?”
Spike looks away. “I’ve dreamed about it,” he admits. “I’ve wanted to have a soul, to be human for you. You’re a soul snob, Buffy. Although it’s hard to be human. Remember when the council tested you on your eighteenth birthday? The serum made you loose your Slayer powers?”
“I remember.” Buffy shudders. She was without her Slayer strength and abilities. Workmen on the street made her more afraid than a whole nest of vamps ever did. She was clumsy and felt her head was wrapped with cotton.
“It’s like that, I’d say. But still, I’ve gained so much. The sun. The taste of food. A soul. And yet, I’m scared.”
“Scared? Of what?”
“Of everything I know is out there. I know how fragile I am now. How… alone.”
“You’re not alone, William.”
“Yes, I am. Everyone is. Everyone who doesn’t have a partner is. I remember what it’s like. I know what it’s like. When I was human, I was alone. I never… never even dated. When Drusilla left me, I suddenly found myself alone again. I don’t want that. If I have to be alone, I’d just as soon be a vampire. It’s easier to deal when you don’t also have to face mortality.”
“Oh, yeah. Riley left you, didn’t he? Wanker. I never thought he was good enough for you.” Tears well in her eyes. “I’m sorry, pet. I put my foot in it there.”
She wipes away the tears. “It’s okay. It’s just still fresh. It’s hard to be left.”
Spike raises his wine glass to her. “I hear you.” He sips and puts the glass down, studying how the sun glints in the red liquid. “So to human or not to human. The other part of the equation is you, Buffy. Giles told you about the structure. We made the wish equally. Nothing I feel for you rings false within my soul. Heh. It’s not a phrase I can’t use any more. I think the wish only made it possible. I am now able to be the best boyfriend I can be to you, probably to anyone.”
Buffy is surprised by the wave of jealousy that hits her. “Would you want to be someone else’s boyfriend?”
“If I can’t be yours and I stay human, then yes, of course. But right now, no.”
“Okay, Slayer mode.” Spike can see her draw herself together. He can see the strength of spirit and mind that so draws him. “On the positive side of vampire. Strong fighter. Information source. Immortality and all the benefits you can get from being dead.
“On the human side. Soul. Good to have. Sun, surf, convertible cars, and all the fun things humans can enjoy. Possibility of family. Reflection and, apparently better fashion sense.
“On the negative of vampire. Evil. Undead. Soulless. Constantly fighting to keep your place in the world. Lack of tan. Possibility of chip still being active.
“On the negative side of human. Fragility, those pesky morals dictating your actions. War, famine, pestilence, death.”
Spike nods his head. “William mode. In addition to what you listed, good points all, by the way. On the positive side of vampire. Chance to keep fighting by your side. The chip can be coped with.
“On the negative side of vampire, you will never be with me. And who can say if I turn back I’ll be the same vampire?
“On the positive side of human, maybe you’ll go out with me again.
“On the negative side of human, being alone with no one. Maybe this chip is active and will kill me the first time it fires. And perhaps the only job I can get is as a hairdresser.”
“What do you mean about not being the same vamp?”
“There is a sort of... philosophical argument in the vampire community. If a vampire becomes human again and then is turned once more will he be the same vampire? Will the same demon return?”
“Huh. That’s interesting.”
“I mean, if I couldn’t be my own cool self, guaranteed, no. Most vamps are so stupid they can’t make it past their first month.”
A silence falls between them.
“So that’s the cards,” Spike says. “We have five hours to decide.”
“Let’s got to the mall.”
“What? Isn’t his an odd time for retail therapy?”
“No, it’s perfect. Giles said you needed to walk around some, and the dinner part of the date is over, so take me to the mall.”
Spike tilts his head at the wonder that is Buffy. “Okay, but I have to get dad to drive us.”
Giles agrees it is a good idea for Spike to walk around for an hour or so and get out in the world. “You said you wanted some more clothes, after all.”
Spike groans. “Why did you have to say that? I don’t have enough strength for that, yet.”
“Don’t worry,” Buffy reassures him. “I’ll carry the bags.”
Once at the mall, Giles establishes his intentions to hide out in the book store. He hands over his watch and makes them promise to come back in an hour and a half or as soon as Spike shows the first signs of fatigue.
“He is a worrier,” Spike grins as they leave Giles to find some solace in books, even if they are the cheaply-made mass market kind.
“Tell me about it. It’s part of the whole Watcher package.”
“It’s been so long since anyone looked after me. I rather like it.”
It is not until Buffy drags Spike into a fashionable men’s store and picks out several shirts that the issue of money comes up. “Oh, pooh! We have no fundage.”
Spike smiles and dips into his pocket. “I have it covered, pet.”
Buffy goggles at the wad of money Spike pulls out. “Damn! I never knew snitching and extortion paid so well.”
“It’s not all illegal money. Well, this is. I’ve got investment funds.”
“Why do you make us pay you all the time?”
Spike shrugs. “If I didn’t, you would be tapping me for help all the time, plus, the evil do not do charity work.”
Buffy can only stare open-mouthed at Spike’s back as he calmly stands in line.
They walk around the mall for an hour, shopping, talking and just looking. Buffy and Spike pick out a nice wardrobe for him and he insists on buying several things for Buffy.
It seems natural when she puts her arm through his and looks around at the stores as they walk. “What do we do next? We have another thirty minutes until Giles time.”
When Spike doesn’t answer, she looks up at him. “Something wrong?” She doesn’t realize what an impact her casual touch has had on him. He has dreamed of doing this with her for a long time.
Spike relaxes and smiles. “Nothing. I’m just feeling a little tired. I have the energy for one more stop. Where do you want to go next?”
“If this were a proper date, we’d go to Tower records.”
“If? How has this not been a proper date?”
Buffy shrugs. “Dad had to drive us.”
Spike laughs. “It’s not proper because we have an escort?”
She makes a face, “It’s like I’m thirteen.”
“You dated when you were thirteen? I’m shocked.”
“See, they weren’t proper dates.”
“I tell you what, Miss Summers. Once I get back on my feet, I’ll borrow daddy’s car and drive you anywhere you please. We can even go parking afterwards.”
Buffy playfully punches his arm. “Fresh.”
“Ow!” He does his best to hide the pain that shoots up his arm.
“Oh! I’m sorry!” She tries to pull her arm away so she can push up his sleeve and inspect the damage, but he just clamps it against his side.
“It’s nothing. Just watch it, Slayer.”
Once at the music store, they good-naturedly argue the merits of punk versus the latest pop bands. Spike picks out a CD or two for himself, rolls his eyes at Buffy’s selections, and chooses a couple for Giles.
On the way back to the bookstore, Buffy once again links her arm in his as they continue the music argument. A bemused Giles is witness to the agreement that each one has to listen to one of the others CD’s all the way through.
Giles takes the pair back to his home. Once there he lets them out. “I just remembered. I told Anya I would stop in at the Magic Box.” He checks his retrieved watch. “It should take me a hour. That will leave a good two hour margin if we have a spell to do tonight. Buffy. William.”
“That was not so subtle,” Buffy says as she unlocks the front door Giles had so conveniently ready to hand her.
Spike drops his share of the packages just inside the door and collapses on the couch. He closes his eyes and rests his head on the back.
“Are you okay?”
“Tired. Very tired.”
“Take it easy, then.” Not knowing what else to do and feeling suddenly awkward, Buffy sorts through the purchases. She holds up a long-sleeve wine colored shirt. “You know, I don’t know think Spike would wear any of this.”
“He wouldn’t.” He doesn’t open his eyes. “Keep the receipts. If he comes back, you can return them and have a nice shopping spree. Big Bad’s gift to the Slayer.”
Buffy drops the shirt and turns to face him. “That’s not funny, William.”
“I rather thought it was.” His attitude is cocky, but his voice is unsure. “Does that mean you’ve made up your mind?” he asks quietly.
She sits beside him on the couch and puts her hand to the side of his face. Spike swallows. She can feel him trembling. “William, look at me.”
“I don’t know that I can. I… I love you, Buffy. I have for some time. I know that before there were some… twisted elements to my attraction, but those have… It’s like they have been boiled away. I am afraid that if I look at you now, this close, I’ll never be able to… to exist without you.”
“William. Look at me,” she repeats, her voice tender. “Please.” He raises his head and opens his eyes. The crystal blue strikes her again. Tears are threatening. “You want my opinion, as a Slayer, as the one who made the wish with you?”
Spike can only nod.
“I choose William. Not just for me, but for you, for all of us. Things you have said in the past couple hours have helped me make my choice.”
Spike looks at her, confused. “Things I’ve said?”
“And how you’ve said them. You really care for all of us, not just me. You would give up immortality if I asked, even if it wasn’t your choice. Most of all, you don’t care about the chip. You said you hadn’t for a while. I think that this gift of your soul has only served to bring about a transformation that you had already started on your own. Given enough time, I bet you’d make a heck of a poster child for vampire reform.”
Spike smiles, tears running down his face. “But the coming dangers. I have nothing to offer.”
“Your strengths, even if they aren’t physical, are real and valuable. You are intelligent witty and handsome and I normally don’t mack this hard on a guy on the first date.” They both laugh. She smoothes the tears from his face. “I don’t know about the boyfriend part of it. But I know about you. I know I’ll be around. As for the rest, I’m willing to let you take me out on a proper date or two.”
Spike grabs her hand and holds it against his cheek for a minute before pressing a kiss to her palm and letting it go.
She bounces up at once. “You said you were tired. Take a nap.” Buffy kneels down and takes off his loafers.
“But we have things to talk about, still.”
Buffy lifts his feet and pivots him on the couch. “Nap for thirty. I’ll wake you up.”
“I do,” Buffy answers as she spreads a blanket over him. He captures her hand and plants another kiss on it.
Spike is immediately asleep.
When Giles returns on time an hour later he discovers Buffy sitting alone in the courtyard. She is looking up at the stars. “What must it be like, Giles?”
Giles recognizes her introspective attitude and sits down beside her. “What, Buffy?”
“To have power, strength, and eternity and give it up.”
“I have no idea. You would know better than I.”
“The test. He reminded me of that.”
“I wonder how he knew.”
“He’s studied Slayers for years. He must have known of the test.”
“He is full of mysteries.”
“I want William to stay, Giles. I was part of the wish and it has cost us a warrior. But I want to get to know him. Is that selfish?”
“No. It’s not. I like him, too.” Giles smiles. “Where is he?”
“Asleep. I told him I’d wake him up so we could talk more, but I just couldn’t.”
“Let’s go in and let him have the final say. Right?”
Buffy studies Spike’s sleeping face before she wakes him. Since becoming human, his features seem less sharp. His mouth is relaxed and he laughs easily. The jumpiness of the predator is muted. She gently shakes his shoulder. “William. Wake up.”
“Go away, Dru. I’m
“It’s not Dru. Wake up.”
Spike sits up so suddenly he almost knocks heads with Buffy, “Slayer! I wasn’t doing anything!” He blinks for a minute before it all comes back to him. He looks sheepishly from Buffy to Giles. “Oh.” He sits up and rubs his face with his hands. “You let me sleep.”
“I did. I saw no reason to wake you,” She sits beside him and sighs. “William. I want you to stay. If you decide to go, I will wish it with you.”
Spike looks in wonder at the blonde girl beside him before turning to the Watcher. “Giles. What say you?”
“Me? I have no place in this.”
“Yes, you do. I respect you and value your opinion.”
Giles sits in the armchair and cleans his glasses. “I had little use for Spike. I appreciated his abilities and the connection he provided to the darker side of things, but I will not miss the person much. In the short time I have known you, however, I have come to know an intelligent and very… well traveled young man. I, too would like to see William stay around. Although, in his own apartment.”
All three laugh at Giles’ remark.
“There is one thing,” Spike puts in. “My chip.”
“Oh, yes, what about it?” Giles asks. “Funny, I’d quite forgotten it.”
“I was going to ask you. When it fires, it is so intense I’m afraid it may kill me.”
“It very well may.”
“I’ve thought about this,” Spike pulls himself up straight. “I want to test it. If it hurts me too much, we can do the unwish thing. If it doesn’t work at all, then hurray all around.”
“Are you sure?” Buffy asks.
“What is the alternative? Find Riley’s friends and risk them wanting to dissect me? Tip toe through the world hoping I never try to hurt anyone? Go to normal doctor and risk explaining it? Risk brain surgery? At this point, I have an out.”
“He’s right,” Giles puts in. “I see no alternative. Let’s do this.”
“One thing. I may not be my old self. Be ready to stake me.”
Buffy bites her lip and nods.
Giles reads from the book and places Buffy and Spike in the right positions. He runs them through the right words to say and has Spike rehearse the order to remove the rings. “Are we ready?” Giles asks.
“One thing,” Spike leans over and kisses Buffy, gently. “That’s it. I’m ready.” He sits up and shoots a blow to Giles’ arm, bracing for the expected pain. Seconds pass. A minute. “It’s gone,” he dares breathe.
“I’m glad to have suffered for a reason,” Giles rubs his arm which is surely bruised. “Welcome to the world, William.”
Note: This is a “TV” version of hypothermia, not meant to be accurate. Go to http://www.hypothermia.org/ for real-life treatment. If you look at the symptoms, it would be damned hard to tell a vampire from a hypothermia victim.
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