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?

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Chapter 6: Touching

“…Then the mountain rose before me/By the deep well of desire/From the fountain of forgiveness/Beyond the ice and the fire…Though we share this humble path, alone/How fragile is the heart/Oh give these clay feet wings to fly/To touch the face of the stars/Breathe life into this feeble heart/Lift this mortal veil of fear/Take these crumbled hopes, etched with tears/We’ll rise above these earthly cares./Case your eyes on the ocean/Cast your soul to the sea/When the dark night seems endless/Please remember me.” ~Loreena McKennitt, “Dante’s Prayer”

Buffy stood across the street from her mother’s art gallery, uncharacteristically hesitant. She hated admitting she was wrong, and she disliked apologies on principle. Not that she thought she was always right, just that she didn’t like being wrong. And now she was. Wrong, that is.

She owed Spike an apology, dammit.

Buffy watched as her mom walked out of the gallery. It was about lunchtime, so she assumed Joyce was getting something to eat. If she was going to have to say she was sorry, she wanted to do it privately.

Taking a deep breath, Buffy headed across the street, squaring her shoulders and holding her head high. The door jingled as she pushed it open, and a deep voice called from the back, “Be right with you.”

Spike came out of the back room a few moments later, brushing his hands off. He was wearing black slacks and a deep burgundy shirt. Buffy couldn’t help but notice how nicely he cleaned up. He’d looked great at her birthday party too, as she remembered. And even better in the jeans and t-shirt he’d worn while rescuing Giles. She resolutely pushed the thoughts aside. She had a boyfriend, who was also a cutie. Maybe it wasn’t wrong to notice, but she certainly shouldn’t be dwelling.

He froze for a second when he saw who it was, tensing up as though waiting for a blow. His expression brought on a new wave of guilt for Buffy. She really had treated him like crap. “Your mum just stepped out,” he said carefully. “She’ll be back in a bit, maybe an hour or so.”

“Actually, I came to see you,” Buffy admitted.

If anything, Spike grew even more wary. “What can I do for you, Buffy?” His words were polite enough, but he was obviously not happy to have her there.

Buffy braced herself. “I came to apologize.”

Spike stared at her. “What?”

“I came to apologize,” she repeated. Buffy decided the best way to get it over with was just to plunge in and say it. “I’ve been a bitch. I’m sorry.”

He seemed to relax slightly as he realized that she was sincere. “What brought this on?” There was a slight note of suspicion in his words, and Buffy struggled not to take offense. She had come here to be nice after all. No point in getting angry that he didn’t trust her.

“Willow pointed out that I was vying for the Miss Cordelia Chase award,” Buffy said truthfully. “And Giles reminded me that you risked your own life to help him.” Giles had been more subtle about it than Willow had, Buffy recalled. He had pointed out that Spike, as a human, was one of those innocents she was supposed to be protecting. And her Watcher had also pointed out that one of the things she should be protecting him from was the Initiative, which she was now working with. And she was dating one of them. One might even say she was sleeping with the enemy.

Spike’s face closed. “If they put you up to apologizin’, you can save it, Buffy,” he said almost harshly. “Don’t need that from you.”

“They didn’t put me up to anything,” she quickly replied. “They don’t even know I’m doing this.” She was about to say more, but the doorbell jingled behind her, and Spike’s eyes went over her shoulder to the person who’d just entered.

“Be right with you,” he called. “Look, Buffy, I have to—”

“What time do you get off work?” It suddenly seemed imperative that she smooth things over between the two of them. He had helped save Giles. Buffy owed him, big-time.


“What time do you get off work?” she asked again, moving closer so that their conversation wouldn’t be overheard. “We can go get coffee or something.”

Spike stared at her, measuring her, and Buffy wondered if those blue eyes could see into her soul. Whatever he saw seemed to help him make a decision. “Eight. When the gallery closes.”

She smiled at him. “I’ll see you then.” The Slayer turned and walked out the door, breathing a deep sigh of relief as she realized she’d accomplished what she came for. She had apologized to Spike and the world hadn’t ended.


Spike locked up the gallery with a feeling of trepidation. He couldn’t help but feel that the Slayer had an ulterior motive for being so friendly. Once the keys were tucked safely away in his pocket, he turned to look at Buffy, who was leaning against the side of the building, waiting patiently for him. That was certainly a nice change.

“You ready?” she asked.

Spike wasn’t certain that he was, but he nodded anyway. He got the oddest feeling around her, a mixture of admiration and something else to which he couldn’t put a name. The admiration was nothing new; from the very beginning, seeing her that night in the Bronze, watching her move, he had admired her. Buffy, of all the Slayers he had seen, and there had been more than the two he’d killed, had the most passion, the most fire. She broke all the rules, and he loved that about her.

Not to mention that she was sexy as hell.

But she was the Slayer, she had been his enemy, and he had tried to kill her more times than he could count. Besides that, she was dating one of those Initiative soldiers. Spike had no business thinking about her at all; it was too dangerous. Dangerous to his sanity and potentially fatal for his health.

Yet he followed her as she led the way to the coffee shop, and he recognized in himself the faint stirrings of passion—so familiar. Spike had never been able to nip those feelings in the bud before; he had little hope of being able to do so now. What had his passion ever given him except heartache, he wondered.

A feeling of melancholy stole over him as he watched her walk, the grace of her movements, and with every step her words, and the words of another, seemed to echo in his ears. “You’re beneath me.” Nothing had changed—it never would.

It was in this glum mood that Spike sat down across from Buffy at one of the Espresso Pump’s small, round tables. “Hot chocolate okay, or do you want something else?” Buffy asked cheerfully.

“What now?” he replied, half-lost in his own thoughts.

She raised an eyebrow. “Earth to Spike,” she said, then remembered she was supposed to be nice. “Do you want hot chocolate, or do you have another request?”

Spike shook himself out of his stupor and half stood, reaching for his wallet. “I can get it.”

Buffy waved him back down. “Don’t be stupid, it’s my treat. Trust me, I don’t do this very often, so enjoy it while you can.”

Spike almost smiled at that. “Right. Hot chocolate’s fine.”

Buffy returned a few minutes later with both their drinks, setting Spike’s down in front of him with a little flourish. “No little marshmallows, but I had them put the whipped cream on.”

“It’s perfect,” he replied, taking a sip. After a pause, he asked cautiously, “What is this, Buffy?”

Buffy bit her lip and flushed a little. “I meant what I said before, Spike. About being sorry, and that nobody asked me to apologize. I just—I just wanted to get things right between us.”

Spike shrugged uncomfortably. “I did horrible things to you,” he replied in a low voice. “Hardly think you’re the one needin’ to apologize here.”

“You helped save Giles the other night,” Buffy said, her voice equally quiet, just as serious. “You were worried that I was going to give you away the other night, at my party.”

The guilt that hid just below the surface peeked out of his eyes. “You’d have reason.”

“No, I wouldn’t, and I’m sorry if I made you think I’d do that.”

He met her eyes for the first time and then slowly nodded. “So. We’re good then.”

“We’re good,” she agreed. “Can I ask you a question?” Spike just looked at her, waiting. “What do you miss most about being a vampire?”

Spike gave a short laugh, still not quite sure what she wanted from him. “Vampires are evil, remember? Why should I miss it?”

Buffy stared down at the cup in front of her, realizing that she may have missed the window of opportunity for them to be more than polite with each other. Spike didn’t trust her; maybe he never would. But the Slayer kept remembering Willow’s words, remembered Giles’ observation that Spike was adjusting, but it was difficult. She remembered all too well what it was like to finally find herself un-Chosen, to question what made her special if she wasn’t the Slayer.

“I lost my Slayer powers last year,” she finally confessed in a low voice. Buffy looked up to see how Spike would react and was rewarded by a surprised look and his obvious attention.

“What happened then?”

Buffy shrugged. “The Council has some wacky tradition of taking away a Slayer’s powers on her eighteenth birthday. Giles gave me these shots, and suddenly I had no strength, no coordination, nothing. The plan was to lock me in a house with a crazed vampire and see if I survived.”

“That’s bloody barbaric!” Spike sputtered. Buffy was actually kind of touched by the raw anger in his eyes. “Too bad I wasn’t around, I’d’ve ripped the wankers’ throats out.”

Surprisingly enough, Buffy was still touched, even after that rather graphic description. Honestly, she wasn’t all that sure she would have stopped him from killing Quentin Travers. Okey, she probably would have stopped him, but the idea was tempting. “Trust me, I had the same feelings.”

Spike smiled a little bit at that. “So what happened next?” he asked, pulled into the story in spite of himself and his desire to remain aloof.

“The insane-o vampire escaped, grabbed my mom, Giles told me what the deal was, and I rescued her.” Buffy looked at him, growing serious. “The point is that even though I hate being the Slayer a lot of the time, even though it’s going to get me killed one of these days, I had a hard time figuring out who I was if I wasn’t the Slayer.”

Spike stared at her, wariness starting to dissolve. Maybe she did understand after all. “But you were still the Slayer.”

“Yeah, I was,” Buffy replied. “Even if I never got my powers back, I still would have been the Slayer.”

He reflected on that for a minute, sipping his hot chocolate. “What do I miss most?” he asked, repeating her question, more for his own benefit than hers. “I miss—I miss how easy it was.”

Buffy didn’t say anything, waiting to see where he would go with it. “I was—I was pretty pathetic before I was turned. Decent enough bloke, I suppose. A good man, an’ all that, but nothin’ special.” Spike took a deep, needed breath. “An’ then there I was, a vampire. Top of the food chain, powerful, feared. Spent over a hundred years buildin’ that reputation.”

Spike met her eyes and his gaze gripped her tightly. “I wasn’t scared of anythin’ except losin’ Dru.” His voice was low, intense. “Didn’t have to worry about money, or friends, or anythin’ but takin’ what I wanted. And they changed all that overnight. Those bloody soldiers took it all from me.”

Buffy suddenly understood. It wasn’t just about “humans good, vampires bad.” Though most of the time, that was true. What she did every night, she did because it was her sacred duty. She protected the innocent, and the not-so-innocent. She killed demons, but she did it in a fair fight, on their turf, and she did it to protect her own. If she had staked Spike, when he was a vampire, that would have been the right thing to do. But the experiments, the poking and prodding, the messing around just because—it wasn’t right. If she had killed Spike, he probably would have been honored by having been taken out by the Slayer.

And yet she couldn’t be sorry that Spike was human, because now that she was actually getting a chance to talk to him, he was a pretty decent guy.

“What’s the best thing about being human?” she asked, half-wanting to know if he was going to try and get himself turned again.

As though reading her mind, Spike replied, “You’re askin’ why I haven’t tried getting bit again?” He looked off into the distance. “Couldn’t do that, Buffy. I wouldn’t turn a monster loose on the world again. I’d die permanently first, I would.”

There was a pause, and then he smiled at her. “Sunshine. That’s the best part of bein’ human.” His grin suddenly split his face. “Well, that an’ the food. Can’t taste as much as a vampire. ‘s bloody brilliant, really.”

Buffy couldn’t help but grin back. “I’d appreciate you not getting yourself undead again. I don’t like staking my friends.”

Spike’s grin turned almost shy. “Give it my best shot,” he promised.

Their eyes met and a bridge was built, touching without touching. Buffy’s words shattered it in the next minute. “I’m beginning to think getting involved with the Initiative at all was a mistake. I thought we were on the same side, but now—”

Spike’s face froze. “What are you sayin’?”

Buffy immediately realized her mistake. “Spike, I—”

He stood abruptly. “You’re workin’ with them,” he accused. “You’re not just datin’ one of them, you’re workin’ with them. You know what they did to me.” Leaving his mostly-empty cup behind, he strode out of the café, not even looking behind him.

“Spike!” Buffy called out after him. “Dammit. Good going, Buffy,” she muttered, picking up their empty containers and chucking them as she followed Spike out. “Tell the ex-vampire that you’re working for the organization that tortured him. That’s really friendly.”

She hurried to catch up, grabbing him by the arm when she did. “Spike.”

“Let go, Slayer.” He looked dangerous, suddenly. Buffy hadn’t thought of him as dangerous since before she’d put him in a wheelchair. It was hard to think of a person as really scary when you caught them crying over hot chocolate with your mother.

Buffy could see the fear buried behind the anger, however, and she knew what was causing it. Fear of being taken again, fear of being used, fear of being handed over to the enemy. And why wouldn’t he be afraid? The enemy was her boyfriend in this case. “They aren’t going to get you,” she promised him.

He stared at her, trying to look away, but she gripped his arm harder, shaking him to force him to look at her. “They won’t get you. I swear it. You’re one of the people I protect, Spike, even from the government.”

“You swear?”

He was so vulnerable in that moment, Buffy wouldn’t have said no even if she’d wanted to. Of course, she really didn’t want to. “I swear,” she repeated. “Even if they get you, I’ll get you out.”

Spike moved his other hand to rest over hers. “Alright then, luv.”

The moment was electric—and Buffy didn’t want it to end. “I’ll walk you back to Giles’.”

They did not touch as they walked, and yet Spike could feel her more surely than if they had. He had a hyper-awareness around her that emerged with no one else. No words were spoken; there didn’t seem to be any more to say to one another. Giles’ apartment building loomed in front of them, but Buffy walked him right up to the door.

Blue eyes met green as they both tried to figure out what to say. It seemed too much like the end of a date for comfort. Buffy had to say something, or she was going to do something she would regret. Hugging, kissing—all off limits for a girl who had a boyfriend. In a gesture that was a compromise between what she suddenly wanted and what was right, Buffy reached out and grabbed Spike’s hand. “Hang in there, huh?”

Spike stared after her, seeing her brilliant smile minutes after she’d left. Groaning, he thumped his forehead gently against the door. “I’m a bloody pathetic git,” he mumbled.

“Are you just now figuring that out? Because I’ve known it for a while now.” Giles’ dry voice came from behind him.

Spike didn’t bother answering; he just took the keys from his pocket and opened the door, wordlessly letting the other man precede him. Giles reached out and gripped his shoulder. “She does have that effect, doesn’t she?” he asked gently. “One can’t help but love her.”

There was no argument Spike could make to that observation.


“So, what were you up to last night?” Riley asked casually.

He and Buffy were walking side by side through the campus. She shrugged in response. “Not much. Just went out with a friend.”

“A friend, huh?”

From his tone, Buffy knew something was up. She turned and looked him. “Yeah, a friend. William, Giles’ nephew. You met him at my birthday party.” At the look in Riley’s eyes, Buffy rolled hers. “Come on, Riley. He’s going through a rough time right now, I thought I might be able to cheer him up.”

“One of the guys saw you cheering him up, Buffy, and he said you two were looking pretty cozy.”

Buffy did not appreciate the accusation in Riley’s tone. Sure, she’d noticed Spike, but she hadn’t dwelt. She certainly hadn’t done anything inappropriate. “Riley, William and I have known each other since I was in high school. We pretty much hated each other, but now he’s going through a lot of changes. I wanted to clear the air.”

Riley looked chagrined. “I’m sorry, Buffy. It’s just that Forrest saw you, and—”

“And you thought you’d ask,” Buffy retorted. “It’s okay, Riley. But you’re my boyfriend. I don’t cheat on my boyfriends.”

“Sorry,” he apologized again. Then, deciding it was a good time to change the subject, he asked, “Are you ready for the training exercise tonight?”

“Am I ready to kick some Initiative butt?” Buffy replied cheerfully. “Always.”


Spike was stretched out on Giles’ couch when there was a brief knock on the door before Xander wandered in. “Giles here?” the younger man asked.

“No. Wasn’t here when I got off tonight.” Spike was perusing a book of poetry that Joyce had lent him. He glanced up to see Xander standing awkwardly in the entrance way, hands in his pocket. “Where’s your girl?”

“She went shopping.” The two exchanged identical looks of distaste.



“So what are you doing here?”

Xander sat on the chair next to the couch. “I really didn’t want to stay in the basement tonight.” There was a beat. “You hungry?”

Spike gave him a measuring look. “I’m thinkin’ spicy wings and a bloomin’ onion.”

Thirty minutes later, Spike and Xander were shooting pool and munching on buffalo wings and a blooming onion. The talk mostly centered around Anya, Xander’s frustrations at his job site, and both their frustrations with not having a place to call their own.

Xander looked over at Spike speculatively. “You don’t think we should get a place together, do you?”

Spike raised a scarred eyebrow. “Don’t know,” he replied. They each considered the thought, and then came to the same conclusion: it would never work.

“Never mind,” Xander said quickly, thinking of having Spike around while he was enjoying Anya’s company.

“Yeah,” Spike agreed, thinking of exactly the same thing. He had no desire to be around while someone else was shagging, especially if he wasn’t getting any. “Nice thought though.”

“Yeah. If things were different.”


They stared at one another over the pool table. “Are we bonding?” Xander asked suddenly.

Spike shrugged. “Blokes have to stick together with all the women runnin’ around.”

The other man nodded, accepting that explanation. It made perfect sense to him; he hated being the only guy sometimes. There were moments when he missed Oz’s company with a painful certainty. Playing pool with Spike helped to take off the edge. Xander glanced at his watch and winced. “I’ve got to go. It’s late.”

Spike nodded. “’m a bit knackered, myself,” he admitted. He turned to put his pool cue in the rack and froze.

“Spike?” Xander followed Spike’s gaze to a meaty looking young man only a few years older than him. The other man was looking at Spike with dawning recognition. “Spike.”

“It’s one of them,” Spike whispered. The color had drained from his face.

Xander didn’t bother asking who “they” were; he already had a pretty good idea. But being with the Scoobies had taught him to think on his feet, and he threw an arm around Spike’s shoulders. “Come on, Will,” he said loudly, feigning drunkenness. (He’d seen his relatives intoxicated often enough that it was an easy role.) “It’s getting late.”

Spike seemed to snap out of it enough to pick up on what Xander was trying to do. “Right, mate,” he replied, plastering an amused smile on his face. “Let’s get you home.”

Giles had been asleep when they got back to the apartment, but they woke him up to tell him what had happened. “Are you sure he recognized you?” Giles asked, slightly miffed that he’d been dragged out of bed, but trying to hide it.

“He’s one of the soldiers I knocked out.” Spike’s head was in his hands, and his voice was muffled. “Prob’ly hard to forget.”

“There was definitely recognition there,” Xander agreed. “I doubt he would have been able to do anything at the Bronze though.”

“Yes, well, now the Initiative knows that Spike is still in Sunnydale,” Giles said grimly. “They might try to come after him while he’s alone.”

“Bloody hell.”

Giles spared Spike a sympathetic look. “These may help,” he said, pulling an envelop out of a desk drawer. “These and not going out by yourself anymore.” His tone was apologetic. “I’m sorry, Spike, but I really think it wise if you have someone with you at all times. I have a feeling they will want to keep their activities private, and they most likely won’t try to grab you in company.”

Spike took the envelop with a pained nod. “So, you’re sayin’ not to go out without a babysitter.” He sighed and emptied the contents into his lap, letting out a low whistle. “Bloody hell,” he repeated, reverently this time.

“Holy forged documents, G-Man,” Xander joked as he saw what Spike had.

“Technically speaking, they are not forged,” Giles replied rather smugly.

Xander gave him a skeptical look as Spike started poring over the various bits of paper. “Spike’s been dead for a while, Giles. How could they not be forged?”

The Watcher smiled. “There were a few people who owed me favors. I called them in. Spike, or rather, William, is my cousin.”

“I thought we were telling everyone that he was your nephew,” Xander protested.

Giles shrugged. “I doubt anyone is going to look at the particulars too closely. Besides, given the differences in our ages, and the complicated family tree, it isn’t so unusual that we might simplify the relationship that way. Quite frankly, I didn’t have any siblings, but I do have a few cousins scattered about. William’s parents are deceased, so they cannot very well argue about the altered records.”

“These are bloody marvelous,” Spike finally said. “No one’d ever guess they weren’t the real thing.”

“That’s because they are. As I said, someone owed me a favor. This was the payment.”

“Must have been some favor,” Xander stated, looking at Giles with new respect. “Do you really think some paperwork will keep Spike safe, though?”

Giles looked over at Spike, who looked up to meet his eyes. “In a word, no. Not from the Initiative. The soldiers will not be stopped by identification. Papers will protect you from the regular authorities, however.”

Spike nodded. “Joyce’ll be happy to see these. Make me all legal.”

“Yes, well, I’m sure. For now, however, I think it might be time to go to bed.” Giles ushered Xander out the door, and then turned back to Spike. “I was serious, Spike. I don’t think it’s safe for you to be out on your own right now.”

Spike made a face, but agreed. “Yeah, you’re probably right.”


Which was why, the following evening he was locking up the gallery with a feeling of unease. He probably should have called someone to walk him back to Giles’ if he was going to avoid the danger of being caught out on his own, but he didn’t want to look like a wuss.

Walking down the street, towards where he’d parked his DeSoto a couple blocks away. It turned out to be too far.

He felt them before he saw them. Spike glanced back over his shoulder, thinking maybe he could go back into the gallery. Several shadows seemed to detatch themselves from the darkness and move towards him. A feeling of panic swept over him, and he started waling faster towards the car. More shadows appeared in front of him, and he looked around wildly for any means of escape.

Seeing an alley, he took off running, dodging a couple trash cans and heading straight for the chainlink fence that blocked his way. Adrenaline gave him the will and the way to haul himself over, and he had almost made it when he felt something sharp hit him in the shoulder. He held on through sheer will power, refusing to lose his grip, and dropping down on the other side with a thud.

And he kept running.


Giles was pacing the living room anxiously, Xander and Anya watching his movements. “He’s probably fine,” Xander said hopefully. “Maybe he fell asleep at the gallery again.”

The Watcher shook his head. “I called Joyce. The gallery was locked up when she arrived this morning, and Spike was nowhere to be seen. And, he hasn’t showed up there today.”

“When was he supposed to be in today?” Xander asked, looking at the box of Boost Bars that was going unnoticed.

Whatever Giles might have said was cut off by a thump from upstairs. The four of them looked at one another, concerned. “What was that?” Anya asked. “Did you get a cat? Because in the movies, it’s always the cat that goes thump at inopportune times.”

“I did not get a cat,” Giles hissed through his teeth, listening intently as the sound of feet could be heard on the floor, and then on the stairs, before Spike popped into view. “Spike, where have you been? You look—”

“Really bad,” Xander finished, getting up so Spike could sit down. He was disheveled, grass and leaves in his hair, his face haggard with exhaustion.

“Soldiers were waitin’ for me when I came out of the gallery last night,” he explained. “They shot me with somethin’. Been tryin’ to lose them all night. Finally managed some time this morning an’ came back here.” Spike unbuttoned the black shirt he was wearing and then pulled his t-shirt over his head. “Don’t know what they hit me with.”

Giles looked at the wound and frowned. “Xander, go into the bathroom and get my first aid kit. It’s under the sink.” A few minutes later, Giles was peering intently at the hole in Spike’s back. Spike grunted in pain as Giles prodded with a latex-covered finger. “It’s not a bullet, and it’s embedded too deeply for a tranquilizer.”

Spike grimaced. “Also not tranquil. They’d have had me for sure if it was a dart.”

“There’s some sort of illumination emanating from it. It’s blinking,” Giles murmured. “Anya, get the cognac out of the cupboard, please.”

“I hope that’s for me,” Spike said fervently.

Giles smiled slightly. “Indeed. It’s going to take me some time to get it out, and it would be best if you’re anesthitized.”

“We don’t have time,” Xander stated.

“What now?” Giles turned to look at him.

Xander leaned in closer and shook his head. “We don’t have time. My pseudo-soldier memory bank is telling me that’s a tracer. If the soldier boys are getting a signal, it won’t take them long to get here.”

Giles filled a tumbler with the cognac, and handed it to Spike who slammed it back. “’nother one, please,” he mumbled, and then slammed the second as well.

“We’ll just have to buy some time, then,” Giles said, watching Spike drink. “Because this is going to take a while.”

Willow showed up while Giles was still trying to dig the tracer out of the ex-vampire’s back. She quickly found a spell that would ionize the atmosphere. Spike had his teeth gritted, but wasn’t making any sound. He hadn’t had any more to drink past the first two glasses, mostly because he wanted to be able to run if the Initiative burst through the door.

There was a whoosh and a snap as the spell took effect, but Spike had his eyes shut and didn’t see the Don King look. Giles gritted his teeth and kept digging.

“I think the spell’s wearing off,” Willow said nervously after a while, munching on one of the Boost Bars.

Giles dug deeper with the tweezers, causing Spike to let out an involuntary yelp. “Got it!” he said excitedly, quickly handing the tweezers and tracer to Xander. “Go!”

Xander took off down the hall and a few seconds later they heard the sound of a toilet flushing. “That should take care of the tracer,” Giles stated. “I need to disinfect the wound, however.”

Spike groaned. “Bloody hell.”

The disinfecting process was as painful as Spike had expected it to be, and once it was over he gratefully pulled on the button-down shirt Willow had found for him. “I hate to say this, Spike, but perhaps it would be better if you left town for a while,” Giles said quietly.

Spike let out a humorless laugh. “An’ where am I s’posed to go, Rupert?”

There was a long silence. “Perhaps Los Angeles,” he finally suggested. “It’s a large enough city that you would be able to disappear. It’s—it certainly isn’t safe for you here.”

“It’s not safe for any of us.” All heads turned to see Buffy standing in the doorway, looking grim. “Not anymore.”


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