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 4: A Different Kind of Destiny

“…I’m looking for a place/I’m searching for a face/Is anybody here I know?/’Cause nothing’s going right/and everything’s a mess/and no one likes to be alone/Isn’t anyone trying to find me?/Won’t somebody come take me home?/It’s a damn cold night/Trying to figure out this life/Won’t you take me by the hand/Take me somewhere new/I don’t know who you are/But I—I’m with you.” ~Avril Levigne, “I’m With You”

Spike looked down, out over the cliff’s edge, feeling the pull of danger even as his toes caused a few stones to fall. The old Crawford mansion sat behind him, its monolithic bulk full of memories he’d rather get rid of. Looking back on those days, he honestly couldn’t say which was worse: being a vampire stuck in a wheelchair and watching your girlfriend get it on with the Great Poof, or being human. There were differences, of course, but he wasn’t sure that having a heartbeat was any better. He felt just as useless with a pulse as he had in that chair.

A few more pebbles rolled off the edge, and Spike watched with a sick fascination as they fell. It was a long way down, and if he jumped, there was a very good chance he wouldn’t survive the fall. Even if he did survive, he would probably die of his injuries before anyone found him.

He took an involuntary step back. As hopeless as things seemed these days, there was still something inside of him that clung to life. It was why he hadn’t found a gun and shot himself, or hanged himself, or sent his car off the road into a tree, or… Well, he’d thought of a dozen different ways to do the deed, and so far hadn’t acted on any of his fantasies. They were tempting, but he held back, if only because killing himself would be letting the soldiers that did this to him win. And Spike, human or not, liked to win.

Sighing, he turned back from the cliff’s edge and headed back towards town. Giles had not forbidden him from leaving the apartment, but Spike knew very well that he wasn’t really supposed to go out by himself. It was too risky. But he’d been feeling caged up again, and needed to do something other than sit in front of the TV or read a book. In Giles’ apartment those were pretty much the extent of his options.

He was just meandering through the downtown area, past the Espresso Pump, when he bumped into someone. “Sorry ‘bout that,” he murmured, changing course to move around and go on.

“William?”

There was only one person who called him that, and sure enough, when Spike looked up, he found himself staring at Joyce. “Oh. H’lo.”

“How are you?” she asked warmly, and Spike couldn’t help but mentally compare mother and daughter, even if it was like apples and oranges.

“Alright,” he said, trying to make it sound like the truth. He wasn’t dead, so he supposed that was something, anyway. And then, belatedly remembering his manners, he asked, “How are you, Joyce?”

She smiled at him. “Good. I was just off to get something for lunch. Would you like to join me?”

Spike hesitated. He didn’t have any cash on him, even if he was hungry. It seemed as though he was always hungry now.

Joyce seemed to sense his hesitation, and the reasons behind it. “It’ll be my treat,” she stated. “If you don’t mind, we can grab it and go back to the gallery. There’s a shipment I still need to unpack.”

            Spike held a brief mental debate with himself, trying to decide if letting Joyce feed him would be taking advantage, and if he really wanted to spend the rest of the day by himself or with Giles. It wasn’t a hard choice in the end. “Don’t mind at all.”

~~~~~

Willow plopped down on her bed in the dorm room and looked over at Buffy, who was diligently trying to study. Ever since the Gentlemen had caused she and Riley to inadvertantly reveal their secret identities, Buffy seemed to have a lot less time for studying. Her decision after the last averted apocalypse to continue seeing him wasn’t sitting easy though, and Willow didn’t blame her. Everything they knew about Riley’s little group of commandos was not of the good. Especially where it concerned Spike.

Spike. He was the only person who had met Tara, and who had observed Willow’s attraction to her. In fact, when Willow had seen him the other day at Giles’ apartment, just after they’d nearly been killed, he had asked about her, how she was doing. And the way he asked it had said everything: that he knew what had happened, that he had sensed the undercurrents of tension that ran around the room, and that he was okay with it. He hadn’t mentioned it to anyone else, and he had pulled her aside to ask, so as not to draw any attention to the question. Spike was fast becoming a friend, one who knew more about her than her roommate did. Willow knew she needed to discuss things with Buffy, because the Slayer was killing the ex-vampire in an entirely different way than with a pointy weapon.

“I need to talk to you.”

Buffy turned in her desk chair to look over at Willow. “What about?” Then, frowning slightly, she said, “Okay, you have serious face. What’s up, Will?”

Willow took a deep breath and braced herself. “It’s about Spike.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Case closed.

Willow wasn’t ready to accept that. She was tired of bitchy-Buffy. She wanted her friend back, the one she could talk to. She also didn’t want to have to hide the fact that she was making other friends, which would be much easier if Buffy weren’t being stupid. “I don’t care,” she replied bluntly. “He’s miserable, Buffy, and you don’t even care.”

“Good,” the Slayer said coldly. “He should be miserable after everything he’s done. It’s called suffering, and he caused plenty of it.”

“Is that the same thing you said to Angel after he came back from Hell?” It was a low blow, and Willow knew it. She also didn’t care. It seemed that sometimes the only thing Buffy would listen to was a two-by-four upside the head.

“Angel was different,” Buffy replied in a low voice after a long pause. “He had a soul.”

“Spike has a soul and a heartbeat,” Willow replied with ruthless logic. “Seems to me like he’s one-up.”

“Why does this matter so much to you?” Buffy asked angrily, standing up to face her friend. “This is Spike we’re talking about. You know, the guy that tried to kill you last year? Why are you suddenly all buddy-buddy with him?”

Willow stood as well, facing Buffy with as much moxy as she could muster. “Because he’s a pretty decent guy,” Willow replied. “He’s having a hard time right now, and you’re making it worse. It seems to me like you’re trying to win the Miss Cordelia Chase award, and you’re succeeding pretty well with Spike. You’re treating him just like Cordelia was treating Xander whenever they weren’t dating. That’s just wrong.”

Buffy spun around, unable to face her. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Oh yeah?” Willow asked. “You know what, Buffy? You basically told me when Oz left that life happens that way sometimes and we just have to deal with it. So I’m giving you the same advice. Whatever is pissing you off so much, whether it’s Spike being human or Angel still being a vampire, get over it. It’s not Spike’s fault.”

It was a palpable hit. Buffy’s face started to crumple. “It’s not fair,” she protested. “Spike hates this, I can tell. Angel would—”

“Angel would love it,” Willow agreed. “If only because it meant he could be with you. But that still doesn’t make it Spike’s fault, Buffy.”

Buffy came to rest on her bed, bottom lip still trembling, but the tears were contained for the moment. She looked up at Willow. “Every time I see him, I think of Angel, what Angel could do with being human, how much he would love it,” she confessed. “And I hate him because it’s Spike instead.”

Willow sat down next to Buffy and put a gentle arm around her shoulders. “I get that, Buffy, I really do. But that doesn’t make it right.”

“I know,” Buffy said quietly. “Even when he’s just sitting there, Spike can push all my buttons.” She laughed bitterly. “You know what’s almost worse, though?” she asked. “Knowing what Riley is, what he’s a part of, and knowing what they did to Spike, I wonder if I should even get involved with him. I know it’s not fair, but I want to blame Spike for that too.”

Willow sighed. She really did understand. She had loved Oz, but she had also hated him for leaving her. It seemed more natural than not to have mixed emotions about people. “I don’t think you have to be best friends,” Willow assured her. “But being less of a bitch when you’re around him would be appreciated.”

Buffy nodded. “I’ll try.”

Willow shook her head. “It’s too bad that you two don’t get along,” she said, almost thinking aloud. “You guys have a ton in common. If anyone would understand what Spike’s going through it would be you.”

Buffy stared at her incredulously. “Huh?”

“You know, last year when the Council put you through the test where you lost all your powers?” Willow asked, seemingly surprised that Buffy hadn’t figured it out for herself. “Of all of us, you’re the only one who’s had super powers and then lost them. Maybe it was only temporary for you, but think of how Spike must feel knowing that it’s permanent unless he gets turned again. I just thought that you would probably be the best one to help him adjust, you know. But I understand if you don’t want to be around him.”

She glanced over at the clock and gave a little “eep” of alarm. “I’ve gotta go, Buffy,” she said. “I’m going to be late for class.”

Buffy watched her go silently, thoughts churning around in her brain. Willow was right about her being a bitch. She’d known it, but she couldn’t seem to stop herself. At the same time, she had a hard time believing that she and Spike had anything at all in common. But Willow’s comments stayed with her, and she couldn’t quite forget them, especially when she would catch a glimpse of the ex-vampire.

~~~~~

“Where do you want this one, Joyce?” Spike asked, holding up a delicately crafted vase.

Joyce glanced back at him from where she was turning the “Open” sign to “Closed” at the door. Spike’s black t-shirt and jeans were dusty, with bits of packing clinging to the fabric. His hair was mussed, with more packing in his hair and a streak of dust down one cheek. What warmed Joyce’s heart the most, however, was the sparkle that was in Spike’s eyes.

They had come back from getting a couple sandwiches and had eaten in the back. Joyce’s assistant had quit the week before, and she hadn’t had time yet to look for someone new. That meant she had to unpack the new shipment herself, and there were several pieces she needed an extra pair of hands for. Spike had willingly volunteered his services and then had spent the rest of the afternoon helping her unpack crates while she took care of the customers up front. For the first time in a while, Joyce was actually going to be able to get out of the gallery before ten.

“Just find a spot for it in the back somewhere,” she directed. “I’ll have to clear out the front this weekend and exchange the pieces.”

He nodded and disappeared into the back again, coming out a few minutes later, brushing his hands on the back of his jeans. “’s all done,” Spike said easily.

Joyce smiled widely at him. “Thank you, William. It’s so nice to get out of here at a decent hour for once.”

Spike smiled back almost shyly. “My pleasure.” His eyes caught the time on the clock and then widened comically. “Bloody hell. Giles is probably going to think I got grabbed again.”

“Come on, then,” she said with a smile. “I’ll give you a ride back.” Over the course of the afternoon, Joyce had gotten the full story of what had been done to him, and she could read the pain in between the lines. She also sensed that there was little standing between Spike and death at this point. Joyce couldn’t help but wonder what it was that kept him from killing himself, though she was grateful to whatever it might be. Joyce had always felt a pull towards Spike, but over the last week or so she had come to like him for himself. Not only had she returned home after her trip to find an impeccable house, but she’d also discovered that he had cleaned up fallen knick-knacks after the earthquake and checked for other damage. While that had disposed her to like him quite a bit, his presence and help that afternoon had given her new insights to his person.

Joyce had discovered that Spike knew quite a bit about anything that interested him and not much of anything about things that didn’t. He could look at a piece and tell you where it had come from because “he had been there.” At least, that’s what Spike gave as his reason. He came up with obscure facts that not even Joyce had known, all the while charming her with tales of his exploits, miraculously free of gore. He was an absolute fount of information on anything having to do with history, geography, literature, and travel. And he could charm a miser out of his last coin.

On the way home, Joyce broached a topic she’d been thinking of for the last few hours. “You know, William, I’ve been thinking I need to hire a new assistant.”

“Noticed that,” he replied. “’m surprised you hadn’t gotten one yet. He left a week or so ago, yeah?”

“Well, yes, I just haven’t had time to get to the newspaper yet to get an ad put in the paper,” she explained, building her case as she went along.

Spike shook his head. “You work too hard, mum. You should get some help.”

“What about you?”

His head snapped around. “Who, me?”

“Yes, you,” she replied. “Unless you don’t want a job, and if you don’t feel free to let me know.”

“No,” he said, looking down. “’s just—been thinkin’ ‘bout getting a job for a while now. I don’t have any identification or papers or anything like that though. And, I just—why me?”

Joyce heard the uncertainty in his voice, and she spoke quietly. “We can work around the papers for now. As for why you, you proved yourself to me this afternoon, Spike. Any time you hire someone new, it’s always a gamble. There are interviews and applications. At least with you, I know who I’m getting, and I know I can trust you.”

“Right then,” he said slowly. “I’ll do it. But only if you promise to let me know if it’s not workin’ out for you,” he insisted. “I won’t have you bollocksin’ up everythin’ or lettin’ me do it for you, just because you feel a bit sorry for me.”

“Agreed,” Joyce said, just as she pulled up in front of Giles’ apartment. “Come by sometime tomorrow, and we can discuss the details, if you like.”

He nodded and opened the car door, then looked back at her. “Thanks, mum.” Spike gave her a quick peck on the cheek, and then disappeared out into the night, blending into the darkness without difficulty.

Joyce smiled as she looked after him, half-wondering what it might have been like to have a son like that. She thought it might have been quite nice.

Spike slipped inside the house as quietly as possible. It really wasn’t too late, shortly after 8, but Giles had been rather beat up after his encounter with the Vahrall demons earlier that week so he’d been resting fairly regularly. Spike had expressed his regret at not being there to help, but Giles had seemed fairly certain that the ex-vampire wouldn’t have been able to do much besides getting himself stomped on. Spike couldn’t argue with that.

“I was about ready to send out the cavalry,” Giles said from his position at his desk. He turned slightly to face Spike, who was looking dusty, but otherwise none the worse for wear.

Spike ducked his head, unsure of what to say. There was a part of him that was truly touched by Giles’ concern; it really was nice to know that someone cared. On the other hand, he was three times the man’s age, and he hated feeling like a teenager caught out after curfew. As though reading his mind, Giles continued, “Well, you can certainly take care of yourself. But perhaps in the future you might leave a note so I know when to send out the search party.”

With a shrug of his shoulders, Spike indicated his agreement and then collapsed on the couch with a soft thump. “You know where I can get papers, that sort of thing?” he asked.

“I’ve been looking into that,” Giles said, going back to what he was working on at his desk. Spike would tell him where he had been, or not, when he chose. The Watcher was well aware of how difficult this transition was on Spike. The loss of independence was a good part of it to which he wouldn’t add by grilling for details. “I know people who might be able to help, and they owe me a favor or two.”

“You don’t have to use up your favors on my account,” Spike said, speaking from the other side of the couch back and not looking up.

Giles raised an eyebrow, wondering what had brought that on. “It’s no hardship, Spike,” he assured the other man. “May I ask why getting identification is suddenly so important?”

There was a long silence, and then Spike admitted in a low voice, “Ran into Joyce today. She wants me to help her in the gallery. Told me she could work around the paperwork for a while, but ‘m goin’ to need it at some point. Can’t live off your charity forever, yeah?”

“You are welcome to stay here as long as you like,” Giles said quietly. He made the offer knowing that Spike didn’t want to stay with him forever. Whatever Spike might be as a human, he was not a freeloader. He had too much pride for that.

Spike sat up to look at Giles, his face full of emotion. The older man was rapidly beginning to understand that he had always been passionate, before, during, and after being a vampire. Giles’ mother would have called him a “sensitive boy,” and she wouldn’t have been far wrong. “Don’t know if I’ve said it,” Spike began tentatively, “but if you hadn’t taken me in—”

Giles met his eyes and gave him something resembling a smile. “I had been wishing for a new project when you showed up on my doorstep,” he replied. “I will say this for you, you do keep things interesting, William.”

Spike ran a hand through his hair, two-toned and curly at this point. “So you think you can get the papers?”

“I can get them,” Giles assured him. “Give me another week or so.” He thought of something and a rather smug smile appeared on his face. “You do realize you’ll have to get different clothing, don’t you? Jeans and a t-shirt are hardly appropriate attire to wear to work at an art gallery.”

If anything, Spike paled. “Bloody hell,” he muttered. “Hadn’t even thought of that. What am I supposed to wear?”

“I’d ask Joyce,” Giles replied. “You do have the funds for new clothing, don’t you?”

Spike shrugged, still distracted by the thought of having to go shopping. He would probably be needing a haircut and such as well. “Some, ‘less you need that for the paperwork?”

“I think this can be a cashless transaction,” Giles replied, still amused. “Perhaps you might ask one of the girls to take you shopping. They would have a better idea than I as to what a young man wears to work.”

Spike was not comforted by the suggestion, but he knew it wasn’t a bad one. Buffy might be a shopping queen, but he would have to ask Willow for obvious reasons. He didn’t think the redhead would mind. Running it through his mind, he looked back at Giles, and remembered that he hadn’t finished what he wanted to say. “Thank you,” he stated, with all seriousness. “For everything.”

“You’re quite welcome, Spike,” Giles replied with equal seriousness. “I believe I might owe you still for saving my life. With Angelus.”

A small, wistful smile touched Spike’s lips. “That wasn’t for you, mate. That was for your Slayer, and Dru. Debt’s already been paid.” He stood. “Better get this dust off me,” he remarked heading off for the bathroom.

Giles watched him go, a sense of relief filling him. Spike seemed to be in better spirits, and was more ready to join the world. He had often thought over the past couple weeks that Spike would be better off with something to do, like a job, but he’d hesitated to suggest it, having no idea of what an ex-vampire might be qualified for. (He had even less of an idea of what Spike might want to do.) It seemed that he had solved the problem on his own. For that, Giles was grateful, if only because he hated to see someone he was coming to like fall into the depths of despondency and stay there.

There was something to admire in Spike, in his utter unwillingness to give in, his stubborn clinging to life. And while he would never say it out loud, there was something endearing about this ex-vampire, trying so desperately to divine a different sort of destiny. It proved that Spike had, as Giles’ countrymen might say, a certain kind of pluck.

~~~~~

Willow grabbed her purse and jacket, heading for the door in the dorm room. Buffy appeared in the doorway just as she was reaching for the knob, however, and they both stopped, looking surprised. “Hey, Will,” Buffy said. “You going out?”

“Uh, yeah,” Willow replied. She had hoped to leave before Buffy got back, not really wanting to explain the afternoon’s activities. “You were planning on going out with Riley today, right?”

Buffy nodded. “We’re supposed to have dinner together tonight, I think. What’s up with you? Got a hot date?”

Willow’s eyes widened and she looked down at the outfit it had taken her over half an hour to choose. “Me? Date? No!” She took a deep breath and calmed herself, deciding that part of the truth was easier to tell than a lie. “Actually, Spike asked me to help him go shopping. He just got a new job, and he needs more upscale clothes.”

Buffy frowned slightly, though not because she was displeased with the news. She had been doing a lot of thinking over the last day or so about her reactions to Spike, and had come to the conclusion that Willow had been right. She hadn’t been fair, and she did need to try and act more civilly towards him. Now, what had her frowning was the idea of doing a makeover on Spike. It actually sounded kind of fun, because in some decent clothes, he wouldn’t be bad looking. “That sounds like fun,” she finally came up with.

“I think it will be. He was supposed to check with your mom, and then we were going to figure out what he needed.”

Buffy stared at her. “What do you mean check with my mom?”

“Oh, I didn’t realize you didn’t know,” Willow said, blushing at having put her foot in her mouth. “Your mom offered Spike a job at the gallery since her assistant left last week. You didn’t know?”

“I didn’t even know Mom’s assistant quit,” Buffy replied, thinking that she needed to talk to her mom a little more often. “Doesn’t that seem a little weird to you?” Buffy asked. “That my mom and Spike get along so well?”

Willow shrugged. “I don’t know. He’s pretty easy to get along with, really. Once you get to know him.” She tossed her purse over her shoulder. “I should go. I’m going to be late.”

She didn’t even look back to see how Buffy was handling her comment. The Slayer did seem a little happier about the Spike thing recently, though, so maybe she was getting over the fact that he was human. It only made sense since Buffy was starting out on this new thing with Riley. Surely she was finally beginning to get over Angel.

Willow, for her part, was more excited about the fact that Tara was going to come with them. The other girl had asked Willow if she wanted to hang out, but she’d already promised the Spike that she’d help pick out a new wardrobe. Since Spike already knew Tara and knew pretty much what was going on, she didn’t think he’d mind Tara’s presence. So it wasn’t a date so much as a group activity. There was something about Tara that drew her the way no one since Oz had. It was strange and new, and only Spike had even an inkling.

~~~~~

Spike stared at the bills in his hands as though he could make them multiply by sheer will power. He’d never been one to carry around a lot of cash; Angelus had been the money guy. Spike had embraced being a vampire with a passion that had previously been focused on his poetry. With that had come the rejection of everything he had been before. He had taken Angelus’ lessons to heart, even if he hadn’t been able to win Drusilla; he took what he wanted, when he wanted, with no care as to the consequences. Money had become unnecessary.

Now it seemed very important again.

The only reason Spike had any cash at all was because he’d gotten take-out on his way out of L.A. Waste not, want not, so he’d lifted the guy’s wallet at the same time. He squashed the feeling of guilt that came with that memory and tried to concentrate on the figures. There would be enough for new clothes, but it would take time to build up enough dosh to get an apartment of his own. There was rent, and deposit, and of course food and utilities.

He glanced bleakly out the windshield of his car. It was the only thing of value he still had, and even it wasn’t worth much. What did it say about a man when he had lived over a century and had only a few hundred dollars and a beat up old car to his name?

Sighing, he got out of the vehicle. He didn’t feel comfortable this close to the campus, too close to the soldiers, but he was supposed to pick Willow up here. But it was getting hot in the car as the California sun beat down, and temperatures meant something to him now. Spike leaned up against the door and looked around.

Right into the face of the girl Willow fancied. They stared at each other for a long uncomfortable moment, each too shy to make the first move. “H’lo.”

The blonde girl blinked and then murmured a hesitant greeting, her eyes on the ground.

Spike tried to remember his manners and her name, neither coming easily. “Tara, right?” he finally asked, wanting to break the uncomfortable silence.

“Y-yeah,” Tara replied, stuttering a little with nerves. “Y-you’re Spike.”

“That’s right,” he replied, trying to figure out if Willow had said something about her coming along, because he didn’t think her being there was an accident.

“Hey!” Willow came jogging up, a look of anticipation laced with panic on her face. “Spike. Tara. Uh, sorry I’m late.” Her eyes were begging for Spike to understand, and he glanced from her to the other witch in consternation. It’s not like he minded another person, but he didn’t really know this girl.

And yet, there was something in her shy aspect that begged to be drawn out. “No worries,” he said easily. “You comin’ too, Tara?”

“I-if th-that’s okay,” she said. “I w-wouldn’t w-want to in-intrude.”

“You’re not intruding,” Willow stated, before Spike could make a reply. She shot him a look that plainly said to play along. Spike was amused that she could be as bossy as Buffy when she wanted to be. “I’m sure Spike wouldn’t mind a second opinion.”

Spike looked at Willow’s shirt, which had a riot of colors he wasn’t sure belonged together, and then at Tara’s more sedate outfit. “Y’know, it’s always wise to get a second opinion.”

They made it to the mall before Willow said anything about his new haircut. That had been on his list of things to get done before talking to Joyce, and he felt presentable again. Spike wasn’t sure what to make of the color, which was mostly natural at this point. Willow liked the style however. “It looks good,” she said, looking at him out in the sunlight in the mall’s parking lot. She thought the daylight suited him, as much as the darkness had. Clad in his black jeans and t-shirt, his hair short again and unruly, curling up at the ends as she’d never seen it before, his blue eyes open and vulnerable, Willow wondered why she’d ever been afraid of him. Sure, she knew he had been an evil vampire. But seeing him now, those days seemed a lifetime away, and she wondered if he felt the same.

The young witch smiled and said more enthusiastically. “Really, Spike. It looks good.”

“I l-like it like that,” was Tara’s offering. She was beginning to warm up in his presence, not least because Spike was trying to make her feel welcome.

He gave a sheepish grin. “Guess it doesn’t matter, but I didn’t want to be lookin’ like the business end of a mop. Let’s get this over with before I start regrettin’ the whole thing.”

It wasn’t too long before Spike had good reason to be grateful for the girls’ presence. Sure, he’d looked for clothes before, but he hadn’t paid for anything, and he’d only had one style in the last decade or so. Joyce had told him business casual, which both Tara and Willow seemed to understand, but he hadn’t a clue. The girls told him it meant no jeans or t-shirts, and said they’d take good care of him.

Surprisingly enough, Tara was the biggest help. She knew exactly where to go to find the nicest clothing at the lowest prices. She deal-hunted on the clearance racks and could find the good stuff even when all Spike could see was junk. Willow had her own system, and came up with some finds as well, but he wouldn’t have even had an idea of where to start if it hadn’t been for the both of them.

After a few hours of shopping, Spike had found several pairs of pants, as well as a couple new pairs of jeans. And other than one pair of slacks, nothing was in black. There were long-sleeved t-shirts and button down Oxfords. He had drawn the line at plaids and stripes, and was holding his own when it came to color. Everything was mostly blues or grays, with a couple greens and reds thrown in for good measure. But he was balking now.

“Just try it on,” Willow said persuasively, holding up the fine-knit shirt in a light, cornflower blue. It was a perfect color for him, with the blue eyes and fair skin.

He shook his head stubbornly. Cornflower blue did not strike him as a manly color. Former Big Bads didn’t wear that color blue. There were very good reasons. “It’ll make me look like a poof.”

Willow and Tara exchanged amused glances, and Spike knew he was going to lose this argument. “Come on, ducks,” he said, pleading with Tara for a rational opinion. “‘s not a—a—good color.”

“It’s not going to make you look like a ‘poof,’” Tara assured him. “B-besides, I think I’m going to have to go with Willow on this one. It would look g-good on you.”

Spike sighed, thinking that he was always whipped by women, didn’t matter if he was human or vampire. When he came out of the changing room, he could tell from both of their faces that the sweater was a good choice. Then he caught the eyes of at least three other women, and for the first time since becoming human, Spike allowed himself to bask in the sheer pleasure of being noticed. “Fine,” he stated. “Guess I’m getting this one too.”

“Get two,” Tara advised. “I think the navy too.”

Spike thought of his rapidly receding funds and bit back another sigh. He would soon be making money, legitimately, and could replace whatever he spent. He turned and caught a glimpse of himself in the three-way mirror. From his vantage point, he wasn’t sure that he was really anything special. The new sweater stood out in stark contrast to his old, black jeans, and to his inexpert eye, he merely looked tired.

Frowning, he wondered if everything that had made him special was lost with his demon. If now he would fade into the woodwork as William had, disappearing slowly until there was nothing left of him. If perhaps he would end up as nothing more than dust, a different route that he had planned, but the same end. Spike wondered what it was all for, why he was even making the effort.

He felt a gentle hand on his arm. Tara stood next to him, her eyes full of compassion. Reading in him things he could not see himself. “It takes time.”

That was all that was said, but it was enough. Joyce had said the same thing. Maybe one day he’d believe it himself, and wouldn’t need anybody to tell him.

PreviousNext


Submit a Review!

:

:

: