The Great Advantage of Being Alive by Enigmaticblue

ReviewsRating: PG-13

Summary: What if the Initiative had found a way to transform Spike into a human, rather than giving him a chip?

Text + | -


Chapter 2: The Burdens of Life

“…I don’t want to hear the things/you say you know all you’ve redeemed/’cause I can’t change what’s come before/build myself some better dreams/and cast off the fear that holds me here/so take a look outside yourself/and tell me what you see/I can’t believe/that you won’t see the change in me/give me strength to find the road that’s lost in me/give me time to heal and build myself a dream/give me eyes to see the world surrounding me/give me strength to be only me.” ~Over the Rhine, “Give Me Strength”

“So did Giles say what he wanted?” Willow asked as they headed towards the Watcher’s apartment.

Buffy shook her head. “Nope. He just said to get over there as soon as possible, and that he had something to show me. The message was pretty cryptic.”        

Giles’ message had also not said anything about Willow coming along, but the red-haired witch was still feeling guilty over her “my will be done” spell. After forgetting to come over and help Giles with some research he had been working on, she had accused him of not seeing, resulting in his blindness. Luckily, they had managed to reverse the effects of the spell before any more damage had been done, but Willow still shuddered every time she thought of what could have happened. Hence, her desire to help out in any way she possibly could, especially since she’d run out of chocolate chips.

“Well, it can’t be too serious then,” Willow said rather cheerfully. “Otherwise he would have told you it was an emergency.”

“Uh huh,” Buffy agreed, a little distracted.

Willow gave her friend a look. “Of course, I read in the Sunnydale paper that they’re predicting the end of the world next Tuesday.”

Buffy nodded. “Yeah.”

“A giant frog is supposed to land from Mars.”

“Right.”

“I’m planning on dropping out of school to join a commune in Tibet,” Willow offered.

“Great.” Buffy suddenly did a double-take. “Huh?”

Willow smiled. “Okay, you’re a little distracted.”

Buffy gave her friend a sheepish smile. “I was just thinking. Obviously, it’s a lot of hard work.”

Willow looked hopeful. “Want to tell me about it? I’m all about listening to other people’s pain right now.”

“It’s not a big deal,” Buffy replied. “At least, I don’t think so. It’s about Riley.”

“Our cute, but charming T.A. who likes you,” Willow stated. “I thought so. What’s the what?”

Buffy shook her head. “Don’t get me wrong, I like him, it’s just that he’s so—nice. Dependable. Stable.”

“And that’s a bad thing?” Willow asked.

“No,” Buffy said. “Not at all. In fact, that’s what I really need in my life. That’s the problem—my life. Willow, I’m not stable-girl. I’m not normal. I can’t be dependable, even if I want to be. And one of these days I have to tell Riley who—and what—I am.”

Willow tucked her arm through her friend’s. “Look, Buffy, Riley seems like a pretty decent guy. It might be a shock, but he’ll get over it. Xander and I were okay with it.”

“You and Xander are one of a kind,” Buffy replied with a rueful smile. “I don’t think you guys are the best comparisons. I’m sure it’ll be fine, but I know I’ve got to tell him soon, and I just don’t know how, or even what to say.” They were approaching Giles’ apartment, and Buffy looked over at Willow beseechingly. “Look, don’t say anything to Giles, okay? I know I’m supposed to be incognito girl now, but if it’s going to work with Riley, I’m going to have to tell him sooner or later.”

“My lips are sealed.”

Buffy knocked briefly on Giles’ door, and then walked in, Willow at her heels. “Giles?” the Slayer called. “Hello?”

“Ah, Buffy.” Giles came into the living room from the back of the apartment. “I’m glad you’re here.”

“So what’s up?” Buffy asked curiously. “Your message didn’t give a lot of info.”

Giles cleared his throat. “Yes, well, it’s nothing life-threatening, but you may want to sit down.”

Buffy raised her eyebrows and then looked over at Willow, who looked similarly confused. “Okay. You’re still scaring me.”

“It does sound kinda serious,” Willow agreed.

Giles took his glasses off and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Yes, well, Spike showed up on my doorstep yesterday.”

“I hope this story has a dusty ending,” Buffy stated.

“Not quite,” Giles replied. “It seems that Spike is no longer a vampire.”

There was a long pause, and then Willow started speaking slowly. “If he’s not a vampire, what is he, Giles?”

“He’s human.”

“That’s impossible,” Buffy said flatly. “He was lying.”

Giles shot her a look that told her he believed his intelligence had been insulted. “One can hardly fake a pulse and heartbeat, Buffy. Nor could he fake entering my home without an invitation.”

If anything Buffy’s face grew more set. “I don’t care, Giles. If there was a way for vampires to become human—” She broke off, pain flashing across her face.

“I understand, Buffy, I really do,” Giles replied as gently as possible. “But that does not change the fact that Spike is now human.”

The Slayer shook her head. “I want to see for myself.”

Her Watcher hesitated and finally nodded. “He’s still sleeping, but I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to look in on him.”

“You let him sleep in your bed?” Buffy demanded, as Giles headed up the stairs.

Giles gave her another look. “I did. And it was my choice.” Willow noted that that finished the discussion, but Buffy still had that stubborn look on her face. The witch had the sudden premonition, as she followed the both of them up the stairs, that Buffy was going to make things very hard on Spike.

~~~~~

Spike slowly woke to the feeling that someone was watching him. He’d had that same sensation constantly in the underground warren he’d been held in. The renewal of the feeling now sent a bolt of terror through him, causing him to think that perhaps the escape had only been a fantasy. Opening his eyes to see three faces peering down at him only confirmed his suspicions, and he was halfway across the room before it registered that Giles had only brought some guests up to visit.

Ashamed of having his fear witnessed, he pulled the comforter he’d carried with him closer around his naked body and snarled, “Warn a bloke, why don’t you?”

Giles was still looking a little surprised at his quick movement, and gave him an apologetic smile. “Of course. Forgive us. Buffy simply wanted to see your—new state for herself.”

“She’s seen it,” he said, and not very graciously. “You mind if I get dressed now?”

“Oh, right.” A slightly flustered Giles managed to herd both girls out of the room. Spike could see that Buffy looked downright pissed off, though why she was angry he certainly couldn’t have said. Willow, on the other hand, just looked a little embarrassed.

Spike waited until he was sure they were out of the room before untangling himself from the comforter. He was just grateful that he’d drug it with him on his mad flight out of the bed, rather than giving everyone an eyeful. He quickly made up the bed as best he could, just as he’d been careful to hang up his towel the day before. Spike might not have said as much to Giles, he knew very well that the other man could have easily turned him out. He had certainly never given him a reason to help him in the past.

Glancing at the clock, he noticed with some surprise that it was early afternoon; he’d almost slept the clock around. He certainly felt a hell of a lot better than he had the day before. While Spike hadn’t thought he’d be able to get to sleep in the first place, it was true he hadn’t had a decent kip since before he’d been taken. He must have been even more exhausted than he’d thought.

He pulled on the borrowed clothing, fully aware that he probably looked a stupid git in the oversized pants and sweatshirt. Spike ran a hand over his hair and winced. It felt unruly, and there wasn’t much he could do about it before going downstairs.

Spike descended the stairs slowly, wondering what kind of reception he was going to get from a brassed off Slayer. He didn’t have to wait long. One look at him, and she started laughing hysterically.

“Oh, my goodness, Giles!” Buffy exclaimed. “Are you sure you didn’t pick him up at the pound?” She gave Spike an incredulous once-over before bursting into laughter again. “He looks completely pathetic.”

Now Spike understood why Buffy might want to take some potshots at him. After all, the last time they’d seen one another, he’d done the same to her. That didn’t mean he had to like it however, and he was torn as to how he was supposed to react. He couldn’t fight her physically anymore, and he recalled that a gentleman did not hit a woman under any circumstances anyway. Which meant he could say something rude in return, also something he wasn’t really comfortable with, or simply take it.

“Why on earth did you even take him in, Giles?” Buffy asked when she finally got herself under control, Spike getting more uncomfortable the longer her laughter continued. “He was worthless as a vampire, so it’s not like he’s going to do anybody any good now.”

Spike was beginning to think that leaving would be a good option, but Giles spoke up. “Buffy, I explained to you what happened. It seems the soldiers that did this to Spike were the same ones that nearly kept you from getting to Willow in time.”

All mirth left Buffy’s face, and she looked implacable. “Fine. He tells us what he knows and then we give him back. I don’t think the statute of limitations has run out on murder yet.”

Spike flinched as though he’d been hit. The Slayer’s words were a lot closer to the load of guilt he was carrying than he even cared to think about. “I don’t have to stay here for this,” he grated out, heading for the door. His sense of honor wouldn’t let him return the insult just then. Besides, he’d been out of it for a few weeks; he had no clue what to say that would hit as close to the bone as she just had. Spike wanted out, and he wanted out now. Away from Buffy’s accusing eyes and uncompromising face. He wasn’t sure he could take it.

“Spike, wait,” Giles called out after him. The Watcher turned and gave his Slayer a disapproving look. “That’s quite enough, Buffy. Spike has information that could be very helpful. Beyond that, he’s been through quite enough already. We will not be handing him over to the soldiers, or anyone else for that matter.”

Spike’s hand was still on the door, and he was ready to leave. “Spike, you can’t go.”

“Why not?” he asked quietly. “Why the bloody hell not? You goin’ to keep me here then?”

“Hardly,” Giles replied into the harsh silence that followed his question. “But think for a moment. You don’t have identification, money, or friends. If you walk out of here, and someone spots you, there will be nothing stopping those soldiers, whomever they are, from detaining you. You have no protection.”

Spike hesitated, and then his shoulders slumped in resignation. Giles was right. He did have a few things in his car, some clothes, a little cash, but not much. As a human, he needed things like identification, a driver’s license, and he had no way to get it on his own.

“Fine. But what are we supposed to do with him?” Buffy asked impatiently. “It’s not like any of us have time to babysit some ex-vampire.”

“I have taken responsibility for him,” Giles replied. “I will continue to do so. But we do need to work out what we’re going to do about the soldiers. Spike might be able to lead us to where they are.”

“I think we can handle things without the bleached pest, Giles,” Buffy protested.

Spike finally interrupted. “Standin’ right here.” Giles looked a bit ashamed of himself, but Buffy simply gave him a hard look, finally forcing Spike to look away. “Look, ‘m goin’ back upstairs. You lot finish decidin’ what you want to do, let me know.”

As one, they watched him go up the stairs, and then Giles looked back at Buffy, obviously disappointed. “Buffy! There was no need—”

Buffy replied to his lowered voice with a hissed whisper of her own. “Maybe you’ve forgotten what he is, but I haven’t, Giles. He’s a murderer.”

“He’s human,” Giles said, almost harshly. “Or shall we hunt Angel down as a murderer as well?”

Buffy opened her mouth to reply and found that she had no response. There was nothing she could say. Her Watcher nodded. “I don’t expect kindness from you, but I do expect a level of civility at least. Now, Spike’s car is still somewhere about. I’d like you and Willow to fetch his things as he cannot risk being seen at the moment.”

“Fine,” Buffy nearly snarled. “Where is it?”

“I haven’t had the opportunity to ask him,” the older man replied, tiredly. “I suppose—”

“I’ll go,” Willow volunteered. The other two looked over at her in surprise. She had stayed relatively quiet through most of the debate. In truth, she hadn’t been sure what she should say to whom. If Spike wasn’t a vampire anymore, there really wasn’t a good reason to hate him. As Giles had pointed out, they were supposed to forgive Angel for everything he had done as Angelus. The same standard should apply to Spike, but more so, since he was human and couldn’t lose his soul. At the same time, Willow had the sneaking sensation that Buffy’s anger had a whole heck of a lot more to do with the fact that Spike was human. And, to underline the unfairness that was life, a certain other vampire was not.

In any case, she well remembered what it was like to feel left out and picked on. That had pretty much been her entire junior high and high school career until Buffy came along. Willow had a soft spot for the outsiders. “I don’t mind,” she stated. “It’s not like he’s going to bite me or anything.”

Willow climbed the stairs, leaving a strained silence behind her. She had the feeling that Buffy was going to find Giles’ acceptance of the former vampire difficult to swallow. She knocked hesitantly at the open door. “Hey.”

Spike glanced back at her. “Hey.”

Willow could tell from the look on his face that he was trying not to cry. She’d been there too. “Giles wants Buffy and me to get your stuff from your car. We just need to know where it is.”

“Oh.” There was a long pause, and then he said very softly, “I shouldn’t be here.”

Willow took a timid step forward, and then seemed to make up her mind, settling down on the bed next to him. “Why not?”

“Done enough damage haven’t I?” he asked. “I should just go.”

“Where?”

“Dunno. ‘ve got a little money. Enough to get me out of this town.”

“And then what?” she asked reasonably. At his shrug, Willow said quietly, “Don’t listen to Buffy. She’s still kind of pissed at you for, you know, everything. But she’ll get over it.”

Spike laughed humorlessly. “Right. Because people usually get over you trying to kill them.”

“She got over Angel trying to kill her.” Willow looked at him earnestly. “I’m sorry.”

“For what?” he asked, surprised.

She smiled a little. “Well, not that you’re not a vampire, because in my book, that’s a good thing. But I’m sorry it’s hard for you.”

Spike blinked at her owlishly, and for a minute, Willow really thought he might cry. Finally, he simply shook his head and smiled at her. And while Willow wasn’t feeling real crazy about guys at the moment, the sweetness of the expression nearly melted her. “Ta, Red. And I’m sorry. For kidnappin’ you an’ all.”

“Consider it forgotten,” she replied. “So, your car?”

~~~~~

She and Buffy walked towards the car in silence. Spike’s directions made his reasons for coming back to Sunnydale fairly clear. Just the fact that the DeSoto was so close to the campus hadn’t endeared him to the Slayer. Willow, on the other hand, looked at it a bit more philosophically. After all, he’d parked the car while he’d still been a vampire.

Buffy, for her part, was completely and utterly pissed off. She was angry that Giles had even taken Spike in, human or not, in trouble or not. She was angry that Spike was human. She was angry she couldn’t stake him, because that little Gem of Amara debacle still made her hot. Hell, she was angry she couldn’t even beat him to a pulp. Spike still got on her last nerve, even with a heartbeat, and now she couldn’t do anything about it.

There was a part of her that recognized her anger as irrational, and wondered if it wasn’t misplaced, but Buffy was enjoying being mad too much to seriously question it. “There it is,” she said as they neared the vehicle. “I can’t believe I’m fetching Spike’s stuff for him.”

“Well, Giles did have a point,” Willow said reasonably. “Spike probably would feel better if he had his own things.”

They both stared at the car doubtfully, neither one really wanting to delve into the depths of either the trunk or the backseat. Buffy finally sighed and opened the driver’s side door, rooting around under the floormat for the keys. They were right where Spike said he’d left them. “Well, he’s lucky the cops didn’t tow it,” she muttered. “Because I sure wouldn’t have gotten it out of the impound for him.”

Buffy glanced back at the trunk and then at the keys in her hand. “In fact,” she said slowly. “It would be really stupid to leave it here. It might get towed.”

Willow’s eyes widened slightly. Buffy and cars were not a good mixture. Buffy and cars were a lot like oil and water. “Buffy—”

“I think we should drive it back to Giles’s,” she announced.

Willow opened her mouth to argue and then saw the look on her friend’s face. The Slayer had her “resolve face” on, which meant arguments would get her nowhere. “All right,” she agreed doubtfully. “But just remember. You break it, you buy it.”

Thankfully, Buffy managed to get the car to Giles’ house and park it without any major mishaps. Though Willow thought there might be a few new scratches from the tree they’d sideswiped. At least the tree didn’t require their insurance information, since they didn’t have any.

Both Giles and Spike looked up at them as they entered, obviously surprised that they were empty handed, waiting for an explanation. Buffy didn’t bother to offer any, flopping down on the couch with a sullen look on her face. “Are we done?” she asked. “Because I’m supposed to be having a hot date tonight that I need to get ready for.”

“Oh, and the car’s across the street,” Willow added quickly, before either of the men could ask.

Spike’s mouth opened in what would have most likely been a vociferous protest, but whatever he saw on Buffy’s face caused it to snap shut again just as quickly. “Excuse me,” he muttered, getting up and moving to the front door.

Buffy didn’t even bother looking at him. Her idea of civility stretched about as far as ignoring him, and that was it. Willow offered a friendly smile. “Do you need any help?”

Spike gave her a half-smile and a quick shake of the head before disappearing out the door. Willow and Giles exchanged a look, and he took his glasses off to clean them. “Buffy, if you feel you must leave, you are certainly free to go.”

“Okay,” Buffy said cheerfully, hopping to her feet. “See ya.” Before Giles could say anything else or change his mind she was at the door, opening it to find Spike in front of her. Buffy gave him a hard look and then pushed past him, seemingly not noticing that she almost bowled him over.

Willow followed at her heels, and gave Spike a pat on the arm on her way past. “See ya.”        

Spike watched the girls go wordlessly. He hadn’t expected Buffy to be overjoyed at his transformation, but he certainly hadn’t expected her to be that cruel either. She had looked at him as though he were something nasty on the bottom of her shoe. “Spike?”

He looked back over at Giles, a threadbare black duffel bag slung across one shoulder. “I should change.”

Spike let himself fall into something of a daze after that. There really wasn’t anywhere he could go safely, and Giles pretty much just let him be. Other than the first night, he slept on the couch, and didn’t move far from it. It was simply easier to let himself drift. The sensations, the feelings, associated with becoming human were too overwhelming for him to actively deal with. And while Giles’ flat was a nice enough place, it was still a prison. There just didn’t seem to be much of a reason to fight it, to protest his descent into a deepening depression.

Giles, for his part, was beginning to get concerned about the ex-vampire. Spike was spending most of his time in front of the television, though he wasn’t really focusing on it. Actually, Spike really wasn’t focusing on much of anything. The few times he opened a book, he stared at the pages, unseeing, until he finally closed it. He showed little interest in the goings on of the group, and had a tendency to disappear any time anyone but Giles was around.

After a few days of Spike showing no sign of improvement and of increasing apathy, Giles decided to take matters into his own hands. Spike did have spare clothing, but the boots the soldiers had taken were the only ones he’d had. Without shoes, there weren’t a lot of places he could go, even if it had been safe for him to do so.

On the fifth day of Spike’s stay, the older man thrust a box in front of Spike as he sat on the couch, staring off into space. “Here.”

Spike seemed to rouse slightly to stare at him. “What is it?”

“Open it,” Giles replied, watching as Spike took the box and slowly pulled off the lid, blinking several times in confusion.

“What’s this?” Spike finally asked, staring stupidly at the pair of black boots.

Giles sat down in the chair beside the couch. “I have to go to the market,” he stated. “Since you’re staying here and eating my food, I expect your assistance.” He watched as Spike reached out a tentative hand to touch the boots as though they might suddenly disappear. Giles wasn’t sure what to say, or do, for that matter. Even years of spending time with Buffy hadn’t made him what some might call “emotionally available.” He was actually quite content with his reserved nature, and had no reason to change, except for occasions such as this, where he wanted to be able to say the right thing, and had no idea what it might be.

“Spike,” he began, tentatively. “I know this is a difficult transition for you, but you mustn’t allow it to—to keep you from—from living.”

Spike stared at him, the despair in his eyes a tangible thing. “How?”

“I don’t know,” Giles confessed. “But I believe the first step is getting out of the house.”

A little more energy came in to Spike’s face. “Thought you said it was too dangerous to be out.”

“Yes, well, not alone. These soldiers seem to want to stay hidden, however, and I doubt they want to call attention to themselves. If you’re with someone, I don’t think they’ll take any action against you.” Giles watched him, feeling a tremendous sense of compassion for the young man. “So will you go?”

“Didn’t think I had the option,” Spike replied, a hint of humor in his voice and face.

Giles looked away. “No, well, you don’t. I was merely being polite. So put your shoes on and let’s go.”

Giles was beginning to regret forcing Spike to come to the store with him. While he didn’t make any arguments, or even really complain too much about having to come, Spike refused to make a decision, about anything. When asked about his preferences as to one thing over another, he would simply shrug and mutter, “Dunno.” It was driving Giles crazy. He hated shopping for groceries, and had been hoping that Spike could at least give him some ideas for what they were supposed to eat.

Finally, he stopped the cart in the middle of the aisle and glared at him. “Could you make a decision?” he demanded.

Spike looked at him, surprised. “Huh?”

“I asked you to help me,” Giles reminded him. “You’re not helping.”

Spike finally shrugged and ran a hand through two-toned hair. “Been tellin’ you,” he explained. “Dunno what I like anymore. Everything tastes different now. I still liked human food before, but—it’s different.”

Giles stared at him and then sighed. Of course it would be different for him. He had no idea why he hadn’t even thought about it up to this point. “Is there anything you know you don’t like, then?” he asked.

Spike gave him a wry look. “After that crap they were feedin’ me, don’t think there’s anythin’ I don’t like, so long as I can chew on it.”

“Well, let’s look at the meat selection then,” Giles suggested.

He was trying to decide between beef and chicken when a voice called to him. “Mr. Giles?”

Giles turned to see Joyce Summers smiling at him. “Mrs. Summers. How—good to see you.” The awkwardness from the band candy episode had yet to completely disappear from their relationship.

“Likewise,” she replied, smiling warmly. “It’s been a while. I don’t think I’ve seen you since Buffy’s graduation.”

Giles nodded quickly. “No, indeed. Buffy tells me you’ve been traveling quite a bit.”

“For the gallery,” Joyce explained with a slight shrug of the shoulders. A “what can you do?” movement. “It keeps me busy.”

There was a moment of awkward silence as they both considered what to say next and came up blank. Finally, Giles seized upon the only distraction available and looked over at Spike, who was looking just as uncomfortable. “Ah, I believe you know Spike.”

Spike looked up in what could only be described as alarm as Giles spoke his name. Joyce, on the other hand, looked both surprised and mildly pleased. Not a reaction the older man might have expected. “Of course,” Joyce said, real pleasure on her face. “How are you?”

Spike shrugged a bit, not knowing how exactly to reply to that question. “Alright.” He fell silent and then seemed to recall his manners. “’s nice to see you again, Mrs. Summers.”

Joyce looked slightly confused, glancing over at Giles to find out what was going on. “Spike has been through something of a transformation,” he explained briefly.

“What he’s not sayin’ is I have a heartbeat now,” Spike said bluntly, though he spoke in a low voice.

“Oh.” Joyce frowned. “I didn’t think that was possible,” she ventured.

Spike gave her a disgruntled look. “It’s not, but there you are.”

Giles was interested. Other than the blind panic that he had shown when arriving on his doorstep, this was the most interactive Spike had been in days. He watched as Joyce and Spike’s eyes met, and a kind of unspoken communication went on. There seemed to be a kind of understanding between the two of them. “Well, if you need anything, I still have those little marshmallows you like,” Joyce said.

Spike ducked his head slightly, and Giles could see a faint tinge of pink on his ears and at the back of his neck. “Thanks.”

“Anytime,” she replied, and then looked back over at Giles. There was another moment of unspoken communication, this time without any edge of embarrassment. They had taken themselves out of the equation for the moment. “I should finish my shopping,” she said. “You two have a good day.”

“You too,” Giles replied, while Spike stood by silently. He watched her walk away and then glanced over at Spike, who was still staring at the tiled floor as though it fascinated him. “Come, Spike. We have our own shopping to finish.”

~~~~~

Later that night, Spike sat out in the courtyard of Giles’ flat, looking up at the stars. It had been decidedly odd to run into Buffy’s mother earlier, but nice. Nice, because she had treated him no differently than she always had, with a sort of warm, but puzzled, consideration. Save for the one occasion when she’d hit him over the head with the ax, of course. Then again, he’d deserved that.

Spike was having a hard time figuring out who or what he was supposed to be now. That was the real problem, in the end. Spike, the vampire, had been all about the hunt, the action, the fight, and that world was closed to him now, unless he wanted to get himself killed. And he was fairly certain he wasn’t William again either. He remembered his former human self with an objectivity, and a tinge of disdain, that would be impossible if there weren’t some distance there.

So he wasn’t Spike, and he wasn’t William. He remembered being a vampire with longing, and yet he was repulsed by the atrocities he had committed. He remembered being a human with real horror, but he wasn’t ready to go out and get himself killed again. There was a part of him that desired the thrill of the hunt, when the moon was new and the night black. And yet he had found he loved the warmth of the sun on his skin, catnapping in the patch of light that fell on the couch at midday.

Spike looked down at his hand, wondering for the hundreth time what it was that made a man, a man, and a vampire, a vampire. Because both everything and nothing had changed, and he had no idea what to do about it.

PreviousNext


Submit a Review!

:

:

: