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 7: So Close (And Yet So Far)

“Beauty queen of only eighteen/She had some trouble with herself/He was always there to help her/She always belonged to someone else./I drove for miles and miles/And wound up at your door/I’ve had you so many times but somehow/I want more./I don’t mind spending everyday/Out on your corner in the pouring rain/Look for the girl with the broken smile/ Ask her if she wants to stay awhile/And she will be loved/Tap on my window knock on my door/I want to make you feel beautiful…” ~Maroon 5, “She Will Be Loved”

As the Slayer finished explaining what had happened down in the sewers, Giles started cleaning his glasses. “Good Lord, Buffy. Are you saying Maggie Walsh set you up?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying,” Buffy replied grimly. “She knew what she was doing, and she didn’t expect me to make it out of there.”

There was a long moment of silence. “Did soldier-boy know about it?” Spike asked in a low voice.

Buffy looked around the room at the faces of her friends, all of whom looked to have their doubts about her boyfriend. And why not? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time a guy she liked turned out to be evil. “No, I don’t think so. Dr. Walsh made sure he was elsewhere while I was getting sent on a special make-Buffy-dead assignment.”

“Riley doesn’t seem like the kind of guy that would tell a little lie, let alone a whole lot of big ones,” Willow added.

Xander shook his head. “Except that’s why they call them the secret forces, because they’re pretty much keeping a whole bunch of big secrets. Besides,” he added grimly, “if he was out on an assignment this afternoon, there’s a real good chance he was trying to hunt Spike down.”

Buffy’s face froze. “Wait a minute. The Initiative’s been hunting you down?” She looked over at Spike. “What happened?”

Slowly, he told her, ending with, “An’ if Rupert hadn’t managed to dig that tracer out of me, I probably would’ve been back in an Initiative holding cell.”

Buffy shook her head. “You’re human,” she stated, almost to herself. “They shouldn’t be interested in you anymore.”

“I’m their lab rat, an’ I escaped,” Spike returned. “’course they want me back.” His tone was bitter.

The Slayer frowned. “Well, they’re not getting you. I don’t care what they want. We need to move, though. Everybody grab a weapon.”

“Right. Storm the Initiative,” Xander said, trying to work up some enthusiasm for the idea.

“I was thinking more along the lines of us hiding,” Buffy replied.

Giles replaced his glasses. “I think we should talk about this.”

“We need to buy some time, and we need to make a plan. That means relocating for a while.” Buffy was thinking rapidly, trying to figure out what her next steps had to be. From thinking she had new allies in her fight against evil, all the way to being hunted—it had been a heck of a day. She spared a glance for Spike, who was looking particularly haggard. It seemed that someone could still beat her for “worst day” award.

Willow perked up. “We could go to my place.”

Buffy shook her head. “They know we’re close, so they’ll check those places first. Xander, what about your basement?”

“Sure. Come boogie in Xander’s basement hideaway,” the young man said with a wry smile.

“Yeah, come boogie,” Anya repeated without much enthusiasm.

“I will not stay in that dank hole,” Giles protested. “Besides, I don’t see why we have to go anywhere. It’s highly unlikely that any of the Initiative boys will come here.”

Because he’d just jinxed them, the door flew open and Riley dashed inside. “Buffy! Are you okay? What happened?” He was at her side in a moment, and Buffy backed away just slightly.

“I’m fine, Riley. As for what happened, Maggie tried to kill me.”

At her words, the soldier backed off slightly himself. “No, there’s got to be some mistake. Professor Walsh would never—” He broke off to stare at Spike, who was trying to look inconspicuous. “That’s Hostile 17.”

“That’s Spike,” Buffy replied. “He has a name. You met him at my birthday party.”

Riley frowned. “Buffy, I’m under orders to bring him in. He’s dangerous, and—”

“He’s human,” Buffy broke in. “I don’t think he falls under your jurisdiction anymore.”

Riley stared at her and took a small step towards Spike. The ex-vampire stood and tried to look tough, but a night spent sleepless and running, plus the pain and alcohol, weren’t helping. “I have orders. Hostile 17 still falls in the H.S.T. category until we can classify him.”

“Tough, Riley,” the Slayer said in a hard voice. “I have a sacred duty that includes protecting him. Besides, if the same person who gave you orders to catch him is the same person who just tried to kill me, you might want to rethink following her orders.”

“As in, maybe you shouldn’t?” Xander suggested. “You mess with Spike, you mess with all of us. And Buffy’s right. Your boss just tried to turn her into monster food. She doesn’t seem to know which side she’s on these days. Maybe you could explain it to us.”

Riley looked confused, as if the mere thought of insubordination was too much for him to handle. “I don’t know much. I wasn’t there,” he protested. “Professor Walsh told me you were dead, and then you came on the monitors. This—this isn’t her. Something must be forcing her, or controlling her.”

“We think Buffy might have been getting too close to something,” Giles said gently to the perplexed young man. “Something the Initiative wanted to stay hidden.”

“Could it have something to do with 314?” Buffy asked.

“I don’t know,” Riley said, truly bewildered.

Still gentle, Giles said quietly, “We’ve heard that the Initiative has far darker purposes. Something they would go to great lengths to keep from Buffy. Do you know anything?”

“No! I would know!” Riley looked around the room wildly. “It’s not possible.”

“Isn’t it?” Spike asked quietly. “They didn’t much want me to escape, an’ I’m human now.”

Riley stared at him. Doubt was threatening to overwhelm him. “No. No, you don’t know what you’re talking about.” He started backing towards the door. “I can’t be here.”

“Riley—” Buffy called after him.

The soldier shook his head. “No, I’ve got to go.” He threw a last look at Spike. “I’m sorry.”

As the door shut behind him, the group let out a collective breath. “We can’t stay here,” Giles stated.

“Xander’s basement—” Buffy began.

“An’ why wouldn’t your soldier boy check there, Slayer?” Spike asked quietly. “He knows all your friends, an’ Harris’ place isn’t that hard to find.” He looked at her intently. “I got a suggestion, somewhere no one would look, but you aren’t going to like it.”

They might have argued about it all day, except they didn’t have that much time. “I will not go back to that—place,” Giles said harshly.

“We’ve all got bad memories of the mansion, Giles,” Buffy said quietly. When Spike had named the old mansion on Crawford, her first reaction was to reject the idea out of hand. But as he said, it would be impossible to connect it to any of them; Riley didn’t know anything about Angel or Angelus. It was large, slightly furnished, out of the way, and unoccupied. Other than the fact that they all hated the place, it was a perfect hide out.

Spike put a tentative hand on Giles’ arm. “Rupert, don’t much want to go back there myself. But no one’s going to look for us there.”

Xander, Willow, and Anya were fairly silent on the deal. While none of them particularly liked the mansion, none of them had the memories that the others did. Giles shook his head, but finally met Spike’s eyes. The regret that he saw reflected there convinced him that Spike was not making the suggestion to hurt him, and that he was not insensitive to his discomfort.

“I suppose it’s time I exorcise some demons, then,” Giles finally said. “Spike is right. We will be safe enough there, if not completely comfortable.”

“Good,” Buffy said. “Let’s grab what we need then and get over there. No more wasting time.”

~~~~~

Spike sat on the bench in the courtyard, watching the rapidly lightening sky. In spite of his extreme exhaustion, he hadn’t been able to catch more than an hour or so of sleep. It wasn’t the location itself that was throwing him off, but the continual nightmares. The all-to-close call with the Initiative soldiers caused him to see himself back in a holding cell every time he closed his eyes. Well, in a holding cell or strapped down to that metal table. It didn’t much matter which. After falling asleep and being awakened twice by the nightmares, he’d finally given up, coming out to the courtyard to avoid disturbing anyone.

Nobody had really wanted to be alone in the big mansion, and so they’d all set up camp in the main living area. Giles had even gone so far as to light a fire in the fireplace to dispell the gloom. It must have worked, because everyone but Spike had been able to sleep, and sleep deeply.

The sun lit the sky with pink, red, and orange, and he smiled to see it. Not so long ago, the rising of the sun would have signaled his death. Now, it was one of the few things he actually enjoyed about his new life. The warmth and light also served to chase off some of the fear that had haunted him, and Spike felt fatigue finally begin to overtake him. He stretched out on the bench in the sun, like a big cat, and closed his eyes.

~~~~~

Buffy wandered out into the courtyard and smiled at the sight that greeted her. They had all awoken, slightly stiff and a little cranky, and had immediately noted that Spike was nowhere to be seen. Giles had turned on the small, battery-powered radio he’d brought to catch the news, and Buffy had gone to see about finding Spike. She didn’t think he’d gone far, and she’d been right.

No one was terribly excited about the fact that there wasn’t any electricity or running water, but all were hopeful that they could go back to their regularly scheduled lives soon. Looking at Spike, Buffy thought about that, about the fact that he didn’t really have a regularly scheduled life, except for his job at the gallery. Luckily for him, his boss was her mom, which meant she was particularly understanding about things like crazy soldiers hunting ex-demons.

Buffy squatted down next to the bench, waking him with a soft touch on his shoulder. “Hey, sleepyhead.”

Spike’s eyes blinked open slowly. “Buffy?”

“That’s right. What are you doing out here?” she asked. “You’ll get a sunburn.”

He smiled slightly, still not quite with it. “I had some bad dreams,” he explained. “Must have fallen asleep out here.”

“Why don’t you come inside and try to get some sleep in there? It stays pretty dark during the day.” As he sat up, she saw a spreading stain on the back of his t-shirt. “And you need to get that bandage changed. You’re bleeding through.”

Spike stood slowly. “Yeah, s’pose.” He was still groggy, and followed Buffy inside without argument. He half-listened as Buffy and Giles discussed what she was going to do about the new menace that the Initiative had sent after them, all while she expertly redressed his shoulder.

Spike let himself give into the thought that he was safe while he was with Buffy. She had promised to protect him; she’d told off her boyfriend for him. The memory of her standing up to Riley warmed him, and he let himself fall into a doze even as he relished the feeling of Buffy’s gentle hands bandaging his shoulder.

He woke slightly when he felt her pushing him to lie down on the couch. “You should try and get some more sleep.”

Spike finally registered that Buffy was dressed to go out. “You leavin’?” he mumbled.

“Yeah, for a while. I have to track something down.” She touched his cheek in a comforting gesture. “Giles and the others are going to stay here.”

He roused himself slightly. “You want some help?”

“Not from you. You’re still in pass-out mode.” She smiled at him. “I’ll make sure Mom knows you’re okay.”

“Tell her I’ll be in tomorrow,” he mumbled.

“Sure thing,” Buffy said. “Sleep.” She watched as he drifted off, the lines in his face smoothing out. The circles under his eyes were so dark, almost as though they were bruised. She turned her head as Giles came up behind her, spreading a blanket over Spike’s still figure.

“You’ll research the Polgara demons?” Buffy asked in a soft voice as they moved away from him.

Giles nodded. “Of course, Buffy. Be careful.”

The Slayer glanced back towards Spike. “Giles? Will he be okay?”

Her Watcher pulled off his glasses and thought seriously about the question. He had asked himself the same thing a number of times. “In time, I think he might be. It certainly doesn’t help matters any that the Initiative is still chasing him.”

Buffy looked grim. “Well, hopefully we can put a stop to all of that. Maybe we’ll all get some peace then.”

~~~~~

Spike woke midafternoon, feeling better rested than he had in a long time. Perhaps he had exorcised some demons of his own by managing to outwit and outrun the soldiers. Or perhaps the reassurance of his safety had come in the form of a petite blonde girl who had sworn her protection and faced down her boyfriend to do it.

Imagine his surprise when said blonde dragged said boyfriend into the mansion. He stood in surprise, the book he’d been reading to help Giles research dangling limply from his hand. “Buffy? What’s goin’ on?”

Giles looked up from his own reading, similar surprise on his own face. While Willow had announced her intent to see what spells she could find to track down the Polgara demon, he had deemed it best to gather what books he could and continue his research at the mansion. It was safer, for one thing, and he wanted to keep an eye on Spike. The young man had had a trying couple of days, and was not looking well.

Giles had some fleeting thoughts about Spike’s physical condition. It had not escaped his attention that medicine had changed quite a bit since the ex-vampire had been, well, alive, and he might not be current on the vaccinations he needed. While the Initiative might have done something about that while he was under their care, Giles wasn’t ready to take it for granted. On the other hand, it would be rather difficult to explain to a doctor why a 20-something-year-old man needed the kinds of shots given to school children. In any case, he knew that it wasn’t just Spike’s mental condition they had to be concerned about, but his physical condition as well.

The last few days certainly hadn’t done that any good.

But Spike had seemed to be doing much better when he woke up, and he had willingly offered to help Giles research. He had, in fact, been a much bigger help than anyone except Willow would have been. Giles filed that information away for future reference.

When their research was interrupted by Buffy dragging Riley through the door, Giles couldn’t help but feel a surge of protection towards his roommate. As much sympathy as he might feel for Riley, he didn’t know the boy all that well. Spike was his main concern at this point, and having the soldier there was neither safe nor conducive to any of their well-being.

He threw a glance towards Spike, who was staring at Buffy with a look of betrayal on his face. “Buffy—” Giles began.

“He’s sick,” the Slayer said, rather unnecessarily, as Riley was shivering and obviously not well. “I think the Initiative’s been doing something to him. I don’t know. Besides, Professor Walsh’s orders aren’t being followed anymore since she’s dead.”

Spike looked at Buffy and then at the soldier who’d been trying to recapture him mere hours before. While he felt a small bit of relief that the Professor was dead, that didn’t mean Riley wouldn’t try something anyway. “Do you really think it’s a good idea bringin’ him here, Slayer?” he asked quietly, not allowing any of the hurt he was feeling to come through in his voice. Or so he hoped.

Buffy gave him a pleading look, knowing that in some ways it was up to him if Riley stayed. At least, she wanted him to be somewhat okay with it, even if he wasn’t thrilled. “He needs a safe place to be right now.”

“Buffy,” Xander’s voice came from behind her and she turned to look at him. “Riley might not be ready to be here. Not if he has to follow the rules. Like no trying to capture Spike.”

Buffy had to wonder where Xander’s interest in Spike’s well-being came from. He’d been fairly indifferent up to a couple of days ago, and now he seemed intent on protecting him. “Riley needs help,” she stated firmly. “And I still help people.”

There was a long silence, and then Spike let out a deep sigh that everyone in the room heard. “There’s a bedroom down the hall. ‘s quiet, an’ out of the way. He should be alright there for a while. Least as alright as he can be right now.”

Spike stood in the doorway and watched as Buffy comforted Riley, much the same way she’d comforted him earlier. He didn’t want Captain America there; he thought it was idiotic to reveal their hiding place to any of the Initiative. But Buffy had said that the good doctor had done something to the soldier-boy too. Riley was sick with something. Somehow, Spike had a hard time actually caring. He thought maybe it was a good thing that the soldier was getting a taste of his own medicine.

Buffy gave Riley’s back a final pat and then walked out the door, past Spike. “Coming?”

Spike stared at her, and then finally nodded, following her down the hallway towards the main room where everyone else was waiting for them. “Spike.” She put a hand on his arm, stopping him midway. “Thanks.”

“For what?” he asked, quietly.

She looked away. “For letting Riley stay here. I know it’s probably not easy for you.”

“I’m not doing it for him,” Spike said. “You care about him.”

“Yeah, I do,” Buffy replied. She looked up into his eyes. In some ways, at that moment, she wished she didn’t care for Riley as much as she did. She wished she hadn’t reached the “hurt when he hurts” stage yet. Because if she didn’t care that much, she could have let herself fall for the guy in front of her. The one that her mom and all her friends liked. The one that wasn’t involved with the secret government agency that had tried to kill her. In some ways, caring about Spike would be a whole heck of a lot easier at this point. “I’m sorry I had to bring him here.”

“It’s fine, Buffy,” Spike sighed. “Don’t think he’s capable of doin’ much right now. What are you goin’ to do?”

“Take Xander and see if we can figure out what the Initiative is up to,” Buffy replied. “We need to find out what they did to him, and what 314 is all about.”

Spike swallowed hard. “Do you want me to go?” he offered. “I could probably find my way around again.”

She smiled at him, appreciating the bravery his offer represented. “No, Spike, not with them still looking for you. I don’t know. Now that Professor Walsh is dead, the danger is probably less for you, but it probably isn’t a good idea. Xander still remembers being a soldier, so he can help.”

Spike had his own doubts about that, but didn’t say anything. “Well. Guess Rupert an’ I will keep looking for that information you need.” He hesitated, and then said in a low voice, “From what we’ve seen, it wasn’t a Polgara demon that killed that boy. They don’t mutilate bodies, and they’re not smart enough to keep a low profile. If Walsh sent somethin’ after you, it prob’ly wasn’t a Polgara.”

Buffy tried for a smile and didn’t quite manage it. “Maybe that’s a good thing.”

“Or maybe whatever’s out there’s worse, because it’s smarter.” Spike’s eyes were serious, maybe even a little grim. “Watch your back, pet.”

“You too,” Buffy replied, looking back towards the half-open door Riley was behind.

Spike and Giles kept up their research until Willow returned. By that time, there really wasn’t any point to it since they had a pretty good idea that it wasn’t a Polgara that was running around, but there wasn’t much else to do either.

“You have a knack for research,” Giles commented, shortly before Willow returned.

Spike looked up in surprise. “’s not that hard.”

“You’d be surprised,” Giles said. “One would almost think you’ve done this before.”

Spike shrugged. “I have, a bit. When I was tryin’ to cure Dru, I had to do a bit of it. And I did some when I was human too.”

It was the first time Spike had willingly mentioned his human past, and Giles couldn’t help feeling curious. “Do you mind if I ask what you were like as a human?”

Spike was silent for a moment. There was no one else around. Willow hadn’t yet returned, and Xander and Anya had disappeared into another part of the mansion. It was probably a good thing the place was so big, since it meant they couldn’t hear what the two lovebirds were up to.He put down the book he was holding, and looked off into space, trying to decide how much he wanted to reveal.

“I was a bit like you, I s’pose,” he finally admitted. Giles couldn’t quite help showing his surprise, and Spike smiled sardonically. “Bit of a shocker, yeah? What did the Council of Wankers say? That I was a rabid killer beforehand?”

Giles had to admit that was largely the case. Spike laughed. “Good thing they didn’t know the truth, then. Would have ruined my reputation for sure. I was—” He laughed again, a little more bitterly this time. “I was a poet. Or I fancied myself as such. Wasn’t any good, really. Other than that small claim, I wasn’t much different than any other Victorian gentleman.”

“I don’t understand,” Giles admitted. “While you seem different, you don’t seem—”

“I’m not William anymore,” Spike replied. “William died in 1880, an’ it’s better that way. Poor bugger would never have made it out of the Initiative. He wasn’t built that way. An’ yet, he didn’t really. Die, I mean. S’pose we never really leave our old selves behind, no matter how much we change,” Spike mused.

Giles thought of Ripper, and nodded. “One might think that you would be completely different, given how different Angel and Angelus are.”

Spike did laugh. “So that’s what got all you gits confused? Angel and Angelus are the same person. Vampires—vampires know the difference between right an’ wrong, Rupes. We just don’ care, an’ we prefer to do the wrong thing. But some of us are more human than others. Angelus is a prime specimen of demon. The only thing that keeps him anchored in the human world is that soul of his. Me? I like this place, always have. ‘s nice. Liked the food, an’ the cigs. Dog races, Manchester United. Angelus was a pitiful excuse for a man when he was alive. Drunken, whoring layabout, from what I’ve heard.”

Giles thought about that for a moment. “Then you still think of yourself as Spike, and not William?”

Spike looked up, almost startled. He wasn’t sure he actually knew the answer to that question. “Don’t know that it’s an either/or, Rupert.”

Giles might have pressed for more information, but Willow showed up with news of failure, having been unable to perform the locating spell for the Polgara. Spike sat quietly, thoughtfully, through most of it. He was still thinking about the question Giles had asked. Was he William, or Spike? It wasn’t as though he hadn’t given it any thought, but he hadn’t come up with an answer either. There were times when it didn’t matter, when he simply felt like—himself, whatever name you gave him. There were other times, however, like when Buffy dragged her boy-toy through the door, that the question wasn’t so easily answered. Times when William warred with Spike. Do the right thing—or rip the wanker a new one? Tough question.

Willow looked up, and her eyes focused on someone behind them. “Riley? I don’t—I don’t think you should be up. Maybe you should lie back down.”

Riley stumbled out into the main room. “Where’s Buffy?”

“She left,” Giles stated, standing to face the younger man. “In fact, she went to see if she could find some help for you.”

Riley shook his head. “She went to the Initiative? I’ve got to go.”

“Riley, maybe you should lie down again,” Willow suggested.

He shook his head and started towards the door. The redheaded witch tried to stop him, putting a restraining hand on his arm. “I really think—”

Riley didn’t even slow down, pushing the girl aside and throwing her to the ground. “Red,” Spike rushed forward to help Willow up. He had stayed out of the soldier’s way, unwilling to call attention to the fact that capturing him was still part of his duty. Riley didn’t seem very reasonable at this point, and he might decide taking Spike back to the Initiative was the way to go.

He got Red to her feet and glanced over at Giles, who was looking concerned. “Should we go after him?” Willow asked, worried.

“No, I don’t think so,” Giles replied, meeting Spike’s eyes. They were both thinking the same thing—that having a rather crazy soldier on the loose was probably not a good thing. “Riley is not being rational at this point. It’s pointless to try and reason with him.”

Willow looked over at Spike, who still had a hand on her shoulder. He smiled down at her. “It’ll be alright, Red. Buffy can take care of herself, an’ soldier-boy will be fine. They make ‘em tough.”

~~~~~

“Are you sure you don’t want me to stay?” Joyce asked. Spike was in the back office of the gallery, looking over the invoices and bills of lading. Somehow the paperwork had gotten behind in the few days he’d been gone. He supposed it made him feel needed. It wasn’t as though he could really help Buffy combat the new threat that the strange cyborg/demon, Adam, presented.

Spike smiled at her. “I’ll be fine.”

“You don’t look fine,” Joyce replied. There were still dark circles under his eyes, even days after his ordeal. “Are you sure you’re getting enough sleep?”

Spike looked away. “Who needs sleep?”

“William—” Joyce admonished.

“I’m fine,” he repeated, and his tone signaled the end of the discussion.

“Hey.” Both Joyce and Spike turned to see Buffy standing in the doorway. “I was out on patrol and thought I’d stop by. Make sure Spike got back to Giles’ okay. I have to talk to him anyway.”

Joyce smiled. “Good. I don’t want William walking back alone.”

Buffy’s eyebrows went up. “What about your car?”

Spike rolled his eyes. “Blasted car broke down. ‘s goin’ to be a while before I can get the parts to fix it.”

“Bummer,” Buffy commented. “Well, if you’re ready, I am.”

Spike glared at her. “You’re not goin’ to let me walk home by myself are you?”

“Nope,” Buffy replied cheerfully. She watched as he sighed and stood, shrugging into his jacket. “’Night, Mom.” She gave her mom a kiss on the cheek, and then all three of them walked out of the gallery, Buffy and Spike waiting until Joyce was safely in her car and walking away.

“No word from you soldier, yet?” Spike asked as they both walked towards Giles’ apartment.

Buffy shook her head. “No. All quiet on the western front.”

“’m sure he’s fine, pet. They take care of their own,” he said, wanting to reassure her, even if he couldn’t care less about Riley himself.

“That’s pretty much what Forrest said,” Buffy replied. “I don’t think he’s very keen on me.”

“Someone who’s not keen on the Slayer?” Spike asked, trying to inject some humor. “You sure he’s not a vampire?”

Buffy smiled at him. “Pretty sure. Though, to be honest, I’m not sure I would mind putting a stake into him.” She gave him an intent look. “You sure you’re okay? You’re looking kinda—”

“Tired?” Spike asked, shrugging. “S’pose I am, a bit. Some nights are better than others. Right now I’m on a run of bad ones.”

“Spike—” Buffy paused. “If you need someone to talk to—I mean, I know you and Willow are friends, and Giles can be a pretty good listener when he wants to be. But if you want to talk, I’m here.”

“’preciate that, Slayer, but I’ll be fine. Not like there’s much anyone can do right now. Just takes some time, I guess,” Spike said. Like her mother earlier, Buffy felt as though Spike weren’t telling her everything, though she couldn’t figure out why. Her heart told her it had something to do with Riley, but she wasn’t quite sure what that would be.

“Well, at least with Dr. Walsh out of the way, you won’t have the Initiative after you anymore,” Buffy said, trying to look on the positive side. “As it is, they’ll be too concerned about Adam to worry about one little ol’ ex-vampire.”

“Who you callin’ little?” Spike asked, sounding slightly affronted.

Buffy looked up at him, pausing in the light of the lamp, smiling, a gleam of mischief in her eyes. Spike wanted to kiss her in that moment. Wanted to make her forget all about her missing soldier. Make her even forget the name of Riley.

He took a step back. She wasn’t his girl. They might now be friends, but they would never be more than that. His luck wasn’t that good. “We should get goin’,” he said softly, watching confusion play over her face as he pulled back, ending the game. “’s getting late.”

And all the way home, Spike walked with a heavy heart, knowing he would always want what he couldn’t have.

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