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Author's Note: For those who think I resolved things too easily in the last episode, just remember that they never did find out who was the source behind the malfunctioning of Spike's microchip, or if there are as yet other undiscovered triggers. This is a rewrite of Forever, completely ignoring that storyline and continuing the Spike evolution which I began in the previous episode. There is dialogue taken from Lover's Walk, and Forever, but most of this has been crafted to fit my cannon. Enjoy.

Effulgent.

"Luminous..." the young gentleman, bespectacled and attired in the latest fashion for Victorian London, circa 1880, was in the midst of muse and puzzlement, as he strove to make the expression of his love more eloquent. "Oh, no, no, no. Irraident's better."

"Care for an hors d'oeuvre, sir?" a waiter asked as he approached him, the plate of the appetiser deftly balanced on his hand.

The gentleman looked up at him as though his intervention was exceedingly timely. "Oh, quickly! I'm the very spirit of vexation. What's another word for 'gleaming?' It's a perfectly perfect word as many words go but the bother is nothing rhymes, you see."

Being a humble servant, the waiter was rather insulted to be suddenly consulted for as though a copy of Dr Johnson's, frowning at the gentleman before walking away to offer another guest of the soiree the edible delicacies he was carrying.

The gentleman's eyes returned to his poem, then raised themselves once more as a young woman entered, the intended recipient of his humble scribbling.

"Cecily..." he murmured, before returning to his poem with renewed purpose and energy. Her mere appearance having revived his inspiration, it was not long before he found himself satisfied with the finished result and rising from his chair, he moved through the crowd towards her.

"I mean to point out that it's something of a mystery and the police should keep an open mind," he heard another gentleman remarked as he passed him. Catching sight of him, the speaker addressed him eagerly. "Ah, William! Favour us with your opinion. What do you make of this rash of disappearances sweeping through our town? Animals or thieves?"

William drew himself straight and proud. "I prefer not to think of such dark, ugly business at all," he replied. "That's what the police are for." He turned to Cecily. "I prefer placing my energies into creating things of beauty."

Another gentleman caught sight of the piece of paper in William's hands, and snatched it from him. "I see. Well, don't withhold, William."

The first gentleman nodded in agreement. "Rescue us from a dreary topic."

William hovered anxiously, not having wished for his offer of love to become known to the entire gathering. "Careful. The inks are still wet. Please, it's not finished."

"Don't be shy," the gentleman admonished before reading the poem aloud. " 'My heart expands, 'tis grown a bulge in it, inspired by your beauty, effulgent.'" he chuckled. "Effulgent?" he queried incredulously.

William frowned as everyone burst into laughter, whilst the intended recipient of his poem, walked away. Snatching his poem back, he followed her, trying ineffectually to block the insulting comments from his mind.

"And that's actually one of his better compositions," another gentleman remarked.

"Have you heard?" the first gentleman inquired. "They call him William the Bloody because of his bloody awful poetry!"

"It suits him," the reader of the poem remarked. "I'd rather have a railroad spike through my head than listen to that awful stuff!"


"That's why you were called William the Bloody!" Angel cried, unable to escape a chuckle himself.

Spike glared at his grandsire. "Look, mate, I only let you hear this because you promised you wouldn't laugh."

"I'm sorry," Angel apologised, sobering immediately, "you're right, I shouldn't be laughing. This must be a difficult tale for you to tell."

"You haven't heard the worse of it yet, mate," Spike replied.

He, Angel, and their respective girlfriends; Tara and Buffy, were sitting in the double height living room of the Mansion at 1902 Crawford Street. Tara had been present since dinner, having joined the three of them and Elita for that meal at her boyfriend's invitation. Since the former had retired for the night, still much traumatised by the discovery that she was the very thing Glory was searching for, conversation had drifted into the past lives of the two vampires, a subject which Buffy and Tara knew very little about. It was also something which Angel and Spike were silently agreed upon revealing, as a sign of the love they felt for the girls, and the level of trust they placed within them.

Now Spike unconsciously tightened his embrace around Tara, who like Buffy sat silently in her boyfriend's arms as they listened to the tales of their pasts. It had been a week since their short trip to Los Angeles and the Gateway for Lost Souls, in order to appeal to the Oracles to place a fix on his microchip, so he would not be affected by the music which the Initiative had installed the device as a trigger to let his demonic desire acquire a temporary freedom. Despite a vigorous examination of the closed circuit television of the Bronze where the event occurred, they had failed to discover the culprit behind this scheme, leaving them with the knowledge that such an event could occur again.

Whilst the possibility was known by the slayer and her watcher, few others of the slayerettes knew that the event had even taken place; Spike reluctant to tell them for fear of awaking their natural prejudice and justified mistrust against him once more, and Buffy because she felt they had enough to deal with concerning Glory, although encounters with that hell god had been extremely lacking of late, since Willow's teleportation spell.

"Anyway," Spike remarked now, "Back to the scene in question. Ignoring those arrogant, pricked up bastards, I followed Cecily to a sofa."


"Cecily?" William uttered, causing her to sigh as she turned and faced him.

"Oh. Leave me alone," she pleaded, her eyes caught at the amusement of the other guests in the room.

William brushed their comments aside. "Oh, they're vulgarians," he declared. "They're not like you and I."

"You and I?" Cecily echoed, suddenly seeing his attentions in a new and unexpected light. "I'm going to ask you a very personal question and I demand an honest answer. Do you understand?"

William nodded hopefully.

"Your poetry, it's... they're... not written about me, are they?" Cecily asked nervously.

"They're about how I feel," William confessed.

"Yes, but are they about me?" Cecily persisted.

"Every syllable," William confirmed.

"Oh, God!" Cecily cried, shocked.

"Oh, I know... it's sudden and..." William blushed, "please, if they're no good, they're only words but... the feeling behind them..." he gazed into her eyes, "I love you, Cecily."

"Please stop!" Cecily begged.

"I know I'm a bad poet," William admitted, "but I'm a good man and all I ask is that... that you try to see me-"

"I do see you," Cecily interrupted sadly. "That's the problem. You're nothing to me, William. You're beneath me."

With that, she rose from her seat and walked away, leaving William devastated and utterly alone in the middle of the soiree.


Overwhelmed by grief at the rejection of his first love, William staggered through the cobbled London streets in tears, destroying the written poetry authored by him as he went. Not paying attention to passers-by, he bumped into someone, the action causing his papers to drop to the pavement.

"Watch where you're going!" He sobbed, before gathering the ruined poems into his arms and turning into a nearby deserted alley.

He had been alone in his sorrow and destruction for some inestimable amount of time before he was disturbed by a luminous voice.

"And I wonder... what possible catastrophe came crashing down from heaven and brought this dashing stranger to tears?"

Not wishing to hear the laughter or rejection from yet another member of society, William denied his visible distress. "Nothing. I wish to be alone."

"Oh, I see you," the lady continued. "A man surrounded by fools who cannot see his strength, his vision, his glory. That and burning baby fish swimming all around your head."

William backed away from her, unnerved by her last strange comment. "That's quite close enough. I've heard tales of London pickpockets. You'll not be getting my purse, I tell you." He warned her.

The lady smiled. "Don't need a purse." She pointed to his heart. "Your wealth lies here... and here," she added, directing her slender finger to his head. "In the spirit and... imagination. You walk in worlds the others can't begin to imagine."

"Oh, yes!" William gasped, astonished to find someone who at last appeared to understand him. "I mean, no. I mean... mother's expecting me."

Shockingly, the lady opened his shirt, exposing his bare chest. "I see what you want. Something glowing and glistening. Something... effulgent."

"Effulgent," William echoed, hypnotised.

"Do you want it?" The lady asked him.

"Oh, yes!" William murmured, touching her bodice. "God, yes."

The lady's face glanced at the floor, as her appearance suddenly acquired hard forehead ridges and glistening white fangs within her mouth. Pulling back his shirt collar, she buried her teeth in his neck.

Surprised, William cried out in shock, only to realise the pleasure rousing within his body, even as it lost the liquid required for his survival.


"So you traded up on the food chain," Buffy remarked in the present day confines of the double height living room. "Then what?"

Despite himself, Spike groaned at her crude description. "No, please. Don't make it sound like something you'd flip past on the Discovery Channel. Becoming a vampire is a profound and powerful experience. I could feel this new strength coursing through me. Getting killed made me feel alive for the very first time. I was through living by society's rules. Decided to make a few of my own. Of course, in order to do that... I had to get myself a gang."

"Get yourself a gang?" Angel repeated. "If I remember correctly, Dru thrust you on to us, and we only agreed because it stopped Darla from becoming jealous concerning Angelus' attentions to her."

Spike shrugged. "Whatever. Anyway, our gang, moves us to Yorkshire a few months later, certain authorities in London having decided that they no longer desired our company."

"That and you were killing people like it was open season and they were an endangered species," Angel added.

His chipped grandchilde nodded in remembrance. "I did have quite the bloodlust," he confessed. "Anyway, you'll enjoy the next scene I'm about to recount, mate. You were doing something you often thirst after doing to me whenever I annoy you."


"Perhaps it's my advancing years that makes me so forgetful, William," Angelus mused as he held him suspended by the neck. "Remind me. Why don't we kill you?"

"...ike." William choked out, gagging, despite having now no need for oxygen, the grip his grandsire currently held on his neck was sapping his undead's blood flow.

"What's that?" Angelus asked as he released him in disgust.

"It's Spike now," William replied. "You'd do well to remember it, mate."

"I'm not your mate," Angelus corrected. "And when did you start talking like that?" He added directing to new harder, less educated accent Spike now possessed.

"Look, we barely got out of London alive because of you," Darla commented. "Everywhere we go, it's the same story and now-"

"You've got me and my women hiding in the luxury of a mine shaft," Angelus picked up the tale from his sire and lover, "all because William the Bloody likes the attention. This is not a reputation we need."

Spike took a swig from the wine bottle he carried, unaffected. "Oh, I'm sorry. Did I sully our good name? We're vampires."

"All the more reason to use a certain amount of finesse," Angelus argued.

"Bollocks!" Spike replied. "That stuff's for the frilly cuffs-and-collars crowd. I'll take a good brawl any day."

"And every time you do, we become the hunted," Angelus reminded him menacingly.

Darla smiled. "I think our boys are going to fight."

Druscilla giggled, clapping her hands with glee. "The King of Cups expects a picnic! But this is not his birthday."

"Good point..." Darla said, though her opinion of Druscilla was that Angelus had driven her into far too much insanity for a vampire to control.

"Yeah, you know what I prefer to being hunted?" Spike added, grinning. "Getting caught."

"That's a brilliant strategy, really," Angelus uttered sarcastically. "Pure cunning."

"Sod off!" Spike chuckled. "Come on. When was the last time you unleashed it? All out fight in a mob, back against the wall, nothing but fists and fangs? Don't you ever get tired of fights you know you're going to win?"

"No." Angelus replied. "A real kill. A good kill. It takes pure artistry. Without that, we're just animals."

Spike smirked. "Poofter!" He called out, causing Angelus to shove him away. The insulted vampire picked up a metal rod and snapped it in half, before lifting Spike up and slamming him down on his back, raising the makeshift stake before his chest. Spike gripped it moments before the weapon penetrated his clothes, grinning at Angelus.

"Now you're getting it!"

Disgusted at falling for Spike's scheme to get a rise out of him, Angelus tossed the rod aside as he walked. "You can't keep this up forever. If I can't teach you, maybe someday an angry crowd will. That... or the Slayer."

Spike rose up, suddenly curious. "What's a Slayer?"


"After that, I was obsessed," Spike confessed to his girlfriend, Buffy and Angel at the Mansion on Crawford Street. "I mean, to most vampires, the Slayer was the subject of cold sweat and frightened whispers. But I never hid. Hell, I sought her out. I mean, if you're looking for fun, there's death, there's glory and sod all else, right?" He shrugged. "I was young."

"So how'd you kill the first one then?" Buffy asked.

"Funny you should ask," Spike remarked, letting his face change, bringing his demon forth for all to see. "Lesson the first: a Slayer must always reach for her weapon. I've already got mine." He paused, shaking his head to contain the demon once more. "A good thing, too. Become a vampire, you've got nothing to fear. Nothing but one girl." He looked across the room to Buffy. "That's you, honey. Back then... circa 1900 in China, at the time of the Boxer Rebellion, it was her."


While the mob enthused chaos reigned outside, the Buddhist temple was hardly the place of sanctuary and enlightenment it usually possessed the reputation for. Two combatants ruled the floor; a vampire on the one side, and a small but adept native girl on the other. She held a sword, while he had yet to reveal his weapon.

She kicked him, whipping the steel blade at his head. He ducked, but now fast enough, the sharp implement striking the skin over his left eyebrow, causing blood to run down his face.

The wound did nothing to diminish Spike's enjoyment of the fight. He dodged another strike of her sword. "Just like I pictured it. This good for you?"

The girl chose to reply with a charge, waving her weapon through the air until it became a blur.

Spike was ready for the manoeuvre, avoiding every blow, before delivering a vicious backhand upon the slayer, breaking her grip on the sword.

Discarding her weapon, the girl when hand to hand with her foe, landing several kicks and punches to his head, but her successful strikes only served to encourage him. He returned the hits, losing ground until she had backed him against a column, pining him there against the marble, with a foot to his throat. She raised her stake, ready to strike the killing blow to her prey, only for an explosion to erupt outside, its power forcing the temple walls inward, the destruction breaking her hold on the vampire.

Seizing the offensive, Spike knocked the stake from her hand, forcing her to bend and retrieve the weapon, exposing herself. He grabbed her arm, wrenching behind her to press against the skin covering her spine, before pulling her neck towards him, as he sank his fangs deep into her flesh.
Turning the girl towards him, she murmured some incomprehensible plea which the vampire would never think of obeying.

"I'm sorry, love, I don't speak Chinese," Spike remarked, before tossing the body to the ground. "A fella could get used to this," he mused.

"Oh, Spike, look at the wonderful mess you've made," Druscilla mused as she wandered into the temple. She glanced at the dead girl, even in her insanity recognising who she was and what her death meant. "That's a Slayer you've done in. Naughty... wicked... Spike."

Her words were hardly delivered in an admonishing tone. She held out her hand and Spike approached her, taking her in his arms. "You ever hear them saying the blood of a Slayer is a powerful aphrodisiac?" He asked rhetorically. Holding his bloodstained finger up to her mouth, he urged her to join him in his pleasure. "Here, now... have a taste."

Druscilla's mouth closed around his finger, moaning with pleasure. He grinned before lifting her against a stable wall, kissing her lustfully. She pulled at his clothes as they sank on to the floor, giving into their desires.


While the slayer and her companions were listening to Spike's tales of his misspent youth, across town an intern exited the hospital he trained in, only to encounter one of the sources of his present frustration, lurking outside in the carpark.

"Tell my sister I'm sick of running into her Jawa rejects," Ben remarked angrily.

"She ... bade me come to you," Jinx replied, ever the subservient lackey. "The news of your relationship with the Slayer-"

"We don't have a relationship," Ben corrected.

"But ... you attempted to court her, did you not?" Jinx sought to confirm.

"No," Ben replied. "You're more fun when I hit you."

"It's just, Glory ..." Jinx paused, searching for the most tactful way of phrasing the god's request. "Would like to encourage this interest of yours in the Slayer. It might lead to more information about the key."

"And why would I share that with the most unstable one?" Ben asked him.

"Time ... is running short, sir," Jinx reminded him. "Every moment you fight Glory, you're only fighting yourself, you see?"

"Fine," Ben replied. "Let the best me win. Let Glory understand this: I won't help her find the key," he vowed. "I would never do that to an innocent-" suddenly he broke off as he realised what he had begun to let slip.

Unfortunately for him, Jinx was a smart lackey. "An innocent?" He mused curiously. "The key? That's an interesting choice of words."

Hurriedly, Ben tried to cover up his slip. "No, that, that's not what I-"

Jinx cut him off, eager to take what he had learned to his mistress. "I understand, sir. I'm sorry to have bothered you, I'll ... take my leave."

Ben blocked his exit attempt. "You understand what? When I said it's innocent, I didn't mean that the key is ... it's not a person."

His attempts at a double bluff were in vain. "Of course not," Jinx replied, now more certain than ever of the power of what he had just learned.

Just as Ben was certain of something too "You're gonna run and tell her, aren't you?" He realised. "Do you understand what's going to happen if she finds the key? How many people are going to die?"

"Please, I heard nothing," Jinx pleaded, suddenly scared of his mistress' brother.

"I can't let that happen," Ben vowed, removing a dragger from the lackey's belt. "Don't you see?" he added, thrusting the knife into Jinx. "I can't."

Jinx fell to ground, mortally wounded. Ben glanced about himself at the thankfully deserted carpark, before walking into the hospital to clean himself off.


Spike and Druscilla joined a silent and thoughtful Darla and Angelus as they walked arm in arm through the violence of the Boxer Rebellion, their faces grinning as they whispered to each other joyfully.

"So where have you two been?" Darla asked them.

Druscilla looked to her lover. "May I tell?"

"No need to be humble," Spike replied.

"My little Spike just killed himself a Slayer," Druscilla revealed.

Angelus looked at him solemnly, his face serious and grim. "Congratulations. I guess that makes you one of us."

"Don't be so glum, mate!" Spike remarked. "The way you tell it, one Slayer snuffs it, another one rises. I figure there's a new Chosen One getting all chosen as we speak. I tell you what... when and if this new bird does show up, I'll give you first crack at her."

His grandsire frowned at the prospect, but Spike's attention was soon caught by his lover, whom sighed in pleasure. "I smell fear."

"Yeah, this whole place reeks of it," Angelus agreed.

Druscilla swooned into Spike's arms. "It's intoxicating!"

Angelus took Darla's arm. "Let's get out of here," he proposed. "This rebellion's starting to bore me."

Spike kissed his love, before following the other duo into the night.

 




"That was the best night of my life," Spike mused, until he caught Tara's glance. "Until you and, that is, luv," he assured her, kissing her lips.

"Glad one of us enjoyed it," Angel remarked, "that was one of my worst."

"Oh, yeah," Spike uttered, "I forgot you had your soul then, didn't ya? Darla was half ready to throw you out because you'd only drain the blood of criminals and rats."

"I didn't realise," Tara uttered softly, looking at Angel. "How did you feel hearing he had killed a slayer?"

"I didn't know what to feel," Angel confessed, catching his beloved's gaze as she glanced at him. "I was still trying so hard to win back Darla. I knew if she realised the true depth of remorse and disgust I felt for myself and my kind at that moment, she would cut herself off from me, leaving me to a solitarily existence, something I could not yet face. Although I was soon was to do so anyway."

Spike shrugged, gesturing at himself, then his grandsire. "From one extreme to the other," he said, his smile transforming into a grimace. "I don't know what I feel about that night now," he confessed. "Then, my feelings were obvious."

"You got off on it," Buffy observed.

"Well, yeah," Spike replied. "I suppose you're telling me you don't?" He laughed as she blushed. "How many of my kind reckon you've done?"

"Not enough," Buffy replied.

Spike nodded. "And we just keep coming. But you can kill a hundred, a thousand, a thousand thousand and the enemies of Hell besides and all we need is for one of us- just one- sooner or later to have the thing we're all hoping for."

"And that would be what?" Buffy asked.

"One... good... day," Spike answered, drawing out the words for dramatic effect. "The problem with you, Summers, is you've gotten so good, you're starting to think you're immortal."

Buffy shook her head. "Not really, I just know I can handle myself," she replied. "At least, I thought I did. Until Glory."

"Second lesson," Spike uttered. "Ask the right questions. You want to know how I beat them? The question isn't how'd I win, the question is, why'd they lose."

"What's the difference?" Buffy asked.

"There's a big difference, luv," Spike replied.

"So how did you kill the second one?" Angel asked.

"Ah, she was feisty," Spike replied. "My tale starts in 1977, in the city of New York. Deep in the barrels of the city's subway, in a deserted tube carriage. You see, the first was all business but the second, she had a touch of your style. She was cunning, resourceful... oh, did I mention? Hot. I could have danced all night with that one.

"And the thing about the dance is, you never get to stop. Every day you wake up, it's the same bloody question that haunts you: is today the day I die? Death is on your heels, baby, and sooner or later it's gonna catch you. And part of you wants it... not only to stop the fear and uncertainty, but because you're just a little bit in love with it."

Buffy frowned. "I'm not in love with it," she objected.

"Maybe," Spike allowed. "But death is your art. You make it with your hands, day after day. That final gasp. That look of peace. Part of you is desperate to know: What's it like? Where does it lead you? And now you see, that's the secret. Not the punch you didn't throw or the kicks you didn't land. Every Slayer has a death wish. Even you.

"The only reason you've lasted as long as you have is you've got ties to the world... your mum, the key, my grandsire, the Scoobies. They all tie you here but you're just putting off the inevitable. Sooner or later, you're gonna want it. And the second- the second- that happens, you know one of our kind will be there. We'll lip in... have ourselves a real good day." He grimaced. "Here endeth the lesson."

"But what about the fight?" Angel asked, pulling his beloved into his arms as she inwardly shivered from the chill Spike's words produced.

"You sound almost like your old self, mate," Spike commented. "Sorry, luv," he added, to both Buffy and Tara. "Didn't mean to sound so full of the bloodlust. Back to that fight."

 



Seventy-seven years had passed, taking their toll on the world and slayers, but not on the vampire who fought his second now. Spike was transformed from the monster his first chosen one witnessed, his dark hair bleached white, while his clothes set the style Billy Idol would soon steal for himself. He grinned at the woman who faced in the deserted tube carriage, as his punch sent her to the floor, causing her to roll in order to regain her stance.

Trading blows, the slayer, an African-American woman, older and taller than her present successor, threw the vampire headfirst into a window, smashing the glass. To her surprise the foe cried from delight before attacking her again.

He wrenched a hand rail from the train, swinging it about him like a quarter staff. Swiftly, he dealt a blow to her face, sending her to the floor where he continued to pound the metal into her.

The slayer caught the weapon suddenly, inches from her body. Jerking her arms, she sent it back into his face. The vampire fell to the ground, and she leapt onto his chest. Straddling him, she punched his face continuously, as the lights in the rail car began to flicker and fail.

When they returned to save the carriage from damage, they discovered that the vampire had used the darkness to his advantage, switching positions with the slayer, now straddling her midsection. He grabbed her head and twisted it, breaking her neck. Rising from the body, he retrieved the leather coat as a souvenir, before pulling on the stop cord and disembarking into the depths of the tunnel.


Further along the affluent suburbs of the hellmouth, a god walked the length of her apartment, minions following behind, all in the deepest concern.

"Where is he?" Glory asked them. "He should have been back hours ago."

"I'm sure Jinx is on his way, your ... new and improvedness," one of the lackey's assured her. "He's most loyal to-"

"Hey! He better be loyal." Glory cried.

Suddenly the door to her apartment opened, and two minions conveyed the missing lackey within their arms inside the room, causing the god and followers to halt.

"Jinxie?" Glory cried in confusion, before rushing forward to take one of his arms, placing around her shoulders. She waited for the relieved lackey to close the door, then returned the barely conscious one to his care.

"Oh, no, no!" she cried as they sought to place him on the floor. "Oh, mind the rug, honeys, blood's a bitch. Was this the Slayer, I'll pull her wings off!"

"No," Jinx replied as he sank gratefully on to the sofa. "It was Ben."

"Ben?" Glory echoed in shock. "Ben? Oh god, you pointless, stupid lout! Oh, I hate you, I hate you, I hate youuuuu!" She pulled at her hair, the blond strands coming free of her scalp.

"The key!" Jinx cried. "He told me."

"The key?" Glory repeated. "What about the key?"

"He indicated that it was a person, most ...... highest ... you," Jinx replied.

Glory smiled hopefully. "The key's in human form?"

"I believe so ...good one," Jinx confirmed.

"Ahh!" Glory cried, sitting next to him. She pulled him into a hug. "Jinx, you robed stud, you're my man! I'm even gonna let you slide on the lame toadying on account of your dying and stuff."

Jinx frowned as the god rose to her feet.

"So, the key's all secreted away in a flesh wrapper!" Glory mused as she began to pace. "This narrows the search from now on in a serious way, I mean we didn't have a clue. It could have been a log, or, or a bicycle pump, or whatever, am I right?"

She glanced at her lackey, who had now succumbed to unconsciousness. "Uch, get him fixed, would ya?" She order her other minions, before falling on to the sofa. "I wanna hear the whole story again, without all that annoying moaning."

 


"Spike was right."

"What?" Angel looked up at his girlfriend. "Are you serious?"

Buffy nodded as she slowly undressed for bed. I have become arrogant concerning my abilities as the slayer."

"I don't believe he used that word," Angel disputed. "You're not arrogant when you fight."

"Immortal, arrogant, its the same thing," Buffy argued. "I do go into every fight believing I will win." She pulled on her night shirt, one of his which she liberated when shortly after he became a professor of Art History. "When was the last time I faced a vampire close to your age or older? Not since before Adam. And Dracula doesn't count, as he can pull his ashes back together. The young ones I haven't fought since Glory appeared on the scene because they all wisely decided to run for the hills. She is the first enemy in a while that I haven't defeated in one fight. But I still go on patrol assuming that if I face a vampire I will win."

"How else can you win?" Angel asked her, coming to stand before her. "Buffy, you can't afford to think that we will lose else the fear will have the power to overwhelm you and Spike will be right about them needing only one good day."

"But I can't afford to think that I will win every time," Buffy replied. "Glory has taught me that. After all, I still don't know how I will defeat her."

"You will," Angel assured her, taking her hands in his to emphasise his point. "We will find something which will prove to be her Achilles heel."

"From where?" Buffy countered. "We've tried every known avenue. How can you think like that?"

"I have to," Angel uttered softly. "I don't what I would do if I lost you. I can't even bear to think about it."

He pulled her into his arms, and Buffy sighed, relenting on pushing the point. Angel was right too; she could not bear the idea of losing him either. But she was a slayer, and somehow tonight, she could not help feeling that her death in that cause would be inevitable.


"I didn't frighten you off, did I, luv?" Spike asked Tara, later when they were in the privacy of his bedroom on the top floor of the mansion on Crawford Street.

"Alittle," Tara confessed as his hands slid from her shoulders to clasp her elbows. "But it's your past, and I know you feel differently now."

"I do," Spike swore, "I've changed a lot since then. If we were to run across another Toth, and he split me and my demon in two, he wouldn't even recognise me. The vamp would be revolted too," he added, thoughtfully. "Though not as much as if he encountered my old self, before I was changed." Shaking the hypothetical eventuality from his mind, he looked up into Tara's eyes. "Luv, I'm sorry if this frightens you. I never meant to hurt you by telling you about my past. I'm different person now, I swear."

"I know you are," Tara replied, gazing into his eyes, "Spike, I love the man I see before me now. Just like Buffy loves Angel. And I take my cue from her. She loves him despite all the horrors his demon committed, because she knows that he is greater than the sum of his past. Just as I know you are too."

Touched, Spike leaned inward, kissing her devoutly. "You don't know how much that means to me to hear you say that," he whispered, bringing her arms around his waist before letting go of them to cup the edge of her cheeks, one finger twirling a strand of hair around his skin. "I still marvel at how much I've changed since then," he added.

"I love you," Tara repeated, before his lips sank on to hers. She pressed her hands against the back of his shirt, pulling him close to her as she returned the kiss.

Spike's hands travelled into her hair, before suddenly sweeping her into his arms to deposit her on to the bed, where they continued to dance the dance.

The End.
To Be Continued In

Enlightenment.