"We'll just roam the vortex a bit for now," says Rose as she starts out of the library. Spike follows, having extracted a promise of a tour and more interested than he's willing to admit at the prospect of seeing the rest of the TARDIS. "Maybe stop somewhere to get you blood. You need to rest a day or two before I take you anywhere exciting."

"S'not necessary. I'm good enough to go now if you want," Spike argues, no matter that he's already starting to limp just from wandering the TARDIS. At least everything that's happened has distracted him from thoughts of Buffy, which are infinitely more painful than a few bruised ribs and a twisted ankle.

He can't imagine how easy it would be to live like this—suspended outside of time, able to go anywhere in the universe while his problems are shoved off light years away, not to be revisited until absolutely necessary. He wants to go back to Buffy, but the desire to get lost in Rose Tyler's lifestyle is definitely there. Already, he's gotten the Slayer out of his head for longer than he's been able to in more than a year. Maybe with a bit of time he banish her from his system completely. Not that he's entirely certain he wants that no matter how awfully she's treated him, but even he can see that it's probably best for both of them. He's drowning in her, and not like he'd been the year before. Now it's a violent, dark sort of drowning that makes even the demon in him snarl with misery. Fucking, beating each other, making one another miserable.

He'd had a better relationship with Dru, and he isn't blind enough not to realize just how sad it is that he'd felt more cherished and cared for by an insane soulless demon than the Chosen One of the Powers The Be.

"We can wait," says Rose firmly. "Good enough and good are very different things. 'Sides, there's plenty to do in the TARDIS."

"It's an impressive ship," he agrees. "Big." He eyes her, considering how desperate for company this girl must be if she's asking the likes of him along on her adventures. "Lonely."

Rose shakes her head.

"First," she says, "the TARDIS is a 'she.' Not an 'it.' She's sentient—telepathic, even. I can hear her in my head, so it's… Well, yeah. A bit lonely. Jus' not like you're thinking. Listen for a sec." She takes Spike's hand and before he's aware of what she's doing, Rose presses his palm against one of the metallic walls of the ship. He opens his mouth to protest, to tell her to let him the hell go, but the singing in his head has him pulling up short.

"That's the police box?"

"It's the TARDIS," Rose says, a laugh in her voice. "S'not a police box—doesn't even always have to look like one. She's got a chameleon circuit, this sorta camouflage thing that changes her appearance to match her surroundings." Rose smiles sadly. "I broke it, so she always looks like this."

"Why would you do somethin' like that?" asks Spike. His voice is softer than it should be, but he can't bring himself to be crass about it when she'd spoken so softly and her eyes had gone just the slightest bit shiny.

It's because she's been taking care of him, he thinks. Because she helped him and trusted him and treats him like a person. Makes him want to prove her right—to act like the person she seems to think he is. Like when Buffy and Dawn started looking at him like a man the year before; he'd begun acting more human, started growing and changing, becoming something he never thought he'd be again. He'd even started to embrace the change towards the end – had stopped fighting it and started actively trying to be better.

Then Buffy died and came back, started treating him like an evil thing, and he got so wrapped up in her he neglected Dawn and started losing those pieces of humanity all over again.

He's surprised now to realize that he'd missed feeling like something more than a monster.

When this is done, he thinks, I'll have to give the Niblet more of my time. She needs it, and it's healthier for me than playing Buffy's sex bot.

Rose's voice tears him from his thoughts, and he returns his attention to her.

"The Doctor's TARDIS always looked like a police box," she says. "His was broken, like mine is now. I tried leaving this one like it should be… s'more practical, yeah? But it just didn't feel right."

Spike hadn't noticed when she'd mentioned the name in her story about the Gelth, but he can hear in her voice now, can see in her eyes, that this Doctor bloke was more than just a traveling partner. He'd bet his duster that she loved him, but it's obviously a bit of a sore subject, no matter that it seems she's been alone on this ship for a long time.

Then again, he'd consider Cecily a sore subject, and he can admit now that he didn't even know the woman. Love of any kind isn't something that just goes away.

"It suits her," says Spike, hoping that'll get the haunted look out of her eyes.

It does. She perks up and says, "Oh, definitely. This TARDIS… she's like the daughter of the first. She never really knew the original, but it makes her feel closer to her mum. They're a lot alike, really."

"Sounds like you hear a bit more than singing when you talk to her," says Spike.

"We're close," Rose says simply. "Now, this has been an awful tour so far. Um… come this way. The pool and the video game room are over here. There's a kitchen somewhere, and a wardrobe. An' probably some rooms that weren't here an hour ago. She gets bored, yeah? Takes rooms away and makes new ones as she goes. S'like a game for her."

"This is mad," Spike mumbles as he follows her. "Bloody batshit insane."

"It's brilliant, yeah?"

"I've seen better," he hedges, but he really hasn't and Spike wonders again at how incredible it all is. He really can't describe the feeling of having a hundred and twenty-year-old definition of impossible flipped on its head in the space of a few hours, but it's almost as amazing as it is terrifying.

"Well, if you wanna make a challenge of it," says Rose blithely, "I suppose I'll just have to prove you wrong."

Her eyes sparkle and she grins at him like he wishes Buffy would, and Spike smiles back because he's actually enjoying himself—because he's having fun for the first time in a long time, and he has a feeling Rose hasn't even begun to blow his mind.

When Rose is finished with the tour, she leads Spike to a cozy living space complete with a flat-screen TV that takes up an entire wall. Spike collapses onto one of the several comfy chairs scattered throughout the room and Rose picks up a remote and takes a seat to his left.

"We've got any show or movie from any planet, over a roughly five million year span. Plus, more channels than you can imagine. What sorta stuff d'you like?" She pauses. "Other than violence and gore. Get enough of that in real life."

"This space shit you do is that dangerous?"

"Oh, I've almost died more times than you can imagine," Rose says, like it's not a big deal in the least. "You get used to it after a while. Now, what d'you wanna watch?"

He tries to be imaginative, really he does, but vampires have never exactly been known for their ability to change, and anyway, why mess with perfection?

"I've always had a soft spot for Passions."

Rose arches a brow.

"The… soap."

"Hey! It's a good show," says Spike. "S'very… unique."

"Oh, I know that well enough. Mum used to watch it all the time. Least it's bad enough to be funny, I s'pose." She grins. "Alright, then. We'll watch Passions."

Spike is surprised she lets him win so easily, but it's the mention of her mother that really shocks him. Rose Tyler doesn't seem like the sort of person who should have a mother, though he supposes she must've. She'd given him a birthdate after all, made it sound like she was human and everything, no matter that he's gotten the impression she's a lot older than she looks. There's probably a story there, a long and complicated one, but he also imagines it's personal and not the sort of thing she'd tell a stray vampire.

Well, and she's a stranger and no one he should care about, so he doesn't see why he'd bother asking anyway.

"S'what I thought," he says, instead of thank you. "And don't put on anything after 2002. I don't want any spoilers."

"Didn't know there was enough plot for there to be spoilers."

"I ought to kill you for that. Take out your entrails and hang you with 'em."

Rose bites her lip against laughing, then gives up altogether when Spike gives her his fiercest growl. It should make him feel emasculated or un-demonlike or just plain useless altogether, but there's something about the sound of her laughter, about the look in her eyes and the way she's treating him, that makes it difficult to be offended by her lack of fear.

It's not right, makes the demon in him snarl in irritation, but the man is in complete control for once, and Spike lets a smile reach his eyes, if not his face, as he settles in to watch his show.

He must fall asleep watching Passions because a different episode is on when he wakes up and Rose has disappeared. He takes a moment to stretch muscles still stiff from Buffy's beating—he'll need blood to get the last of that to go away, he imagines, no matter what sort of fancy alien equipment Rose has used on him—and gets to his feet, intent on finding his maybe-human hostess.

Spike follows her scent for a while, but it leads him to the room with the coral struts he vaguely remembers from the night he was hurt. Now he sees that it's a control room, with all sorts of handles and buttons around a main console. He studies it for a moment, tempted to press things and see what they do, then decides it's a stupid idea even for him and heads back in the direction he came. Rose probably slipped off to get him blood like she mentioned the day before, and he might as well entertain himself while she's out. Doesn't think she'll mind too much. She didn't seem overly upset when she found him in the library yesterday.

The library. The thought of the room brings a stupid, very un-demonic smile to his face. It'd certainly held the most magnificent collection of books he's seen in his unlife. Hundreds of unfamiliar titles, but Rose seems to have a soft spot for Earth books from around the twentieth century because there'd been a lot he recognized as well. He'd glimpsed some of the Dickens she'd mentioned, but it was the poetry collection that truly caught his interest. Volumes upon volumes of the stuff, all early editions in pristine condition.

Now that he has time, the idea of examining some of the books more closely is too tempting for the William in him to ignore. The demon calls him a ponce when it senses the direction of his thoughts, but it's almost shockingly easy to ignore it and convince himself to head to the library anyway. He doesn't know if it's the time spent chatting with Rose and being treated so well or if it has something to do with the demon being appeased at the notion of killing aliens, but reconciling the separate parts of his personality is easier than he remembers it being ever.

The thought puts him in a good enough mood that he sings to himself as he searches for the library (Here Comes the Sun, ridiculously enough, which manages to piss of the demon no matter how compliant it's being). He manages to find the magnificent room after turning only a handful of corners and wonders whether the TARDIS is making things easier on him or if it's in the same place it was before and he's just going a little barmy.

He decides not to think too much into it because trying to make sense of the TARDIS seems like the sort of thing that'd drive him off the deep end, instead pushing the matter from his mind in favor of making a beeline for the poetry section. Some of the books aren't in any language he's ever heard of – and he's got a few human and even more demon dialects under his belt – but there are more than enough options to keep him busy. He runs a hand over the spines of a handful before pulling out a hard-backed collection of Poe's works, shaking his head when he opens to the front cover and finds a line of handwritten script reading, 'For an Impossible Rose'

"'Course she's met bloody Poe," Spike mutters as he runs his hand over the writing. He's tempted to leave the volume where it is, the William in him worried he'll somehow ruin it, but Spike fights the poncy notion and takes the book off to a table to peruse. He likes Poe, knows the man's writing like the back of his hand. William hadn't been his biggest fan—had thought his themes too unpleasant—but the combination of violence and good literature strongly appealed to him as a vampire. Angelus himself had gone through a brief Poe phase once, after he'd gotten hold of a copy of his short stories. Thepoofter had appreciated the balance of suffering and artistry and had been especially fond of The Pit and the Pendulum.

"I grew frantically mad, and struggled to force myself upward against the sweep of the fearful scimitar," Spike recites blithely, eyes dancing over the passage.

"Good memories?"

Spike almost jumps out of his seat when he realizes Rose has somehow managed to sneak up on him. He opens his mouth, intending to defend himself so that she doesn't cast him from her TARDIS in disgust, before he realizes that he doesn't need to offer up defense of any sort. A brow is raised and her expression is mildly disproving, but there's curiosity in her eyes and not a trace of anger on her face.

He relaxes, just a little.

"Not especially. I'm sure my grandsire tried something similar at some point, but I would've gotten bored and wandered off before he could get very far." He pauses, then goes on casually, "Even at my worst, I was never much a fan of the torture bit. I liked fighting, gettin' my blood flowing. Not beating on weaklings who wilted after a single blow."

She tilts her head and studies him, and Spike is just about to try a subject change when she says, "You're different, aren't you? Not like what vampires are supposed to be."

It isn't anything he hasn't heard before, but she doesn't say it like it's a bad thing, like the other demons and vampires do, like even the Scoobies have on occasion. She says it like it means something special, something amazing. He knows it's not true, knows he's as defective as a vamp as he'd been as a human (From childhood's hour I have not been/As others were; I have not seen/As others saw; I could not bring/My passions from a common spring, his inner William recites somewhat amusedly, probably because he's still got Poe spinning through his head), but Rose's words warm him anyway.

Away from everyone's expectations that he be evil and under the nonjudgmental gaze of this woman who apparently thinks he's worth something, he's forgetting the identity he's supposed to have. He's a monster and now he's thinking maybe he can be something different, and Spike needs to stop, wants to stop—really, he does, because vampires shouldn't want to change—because every time this happened with Buffy and the Scoobies, he wound up bitterly disappointed. It never works, can never work. Will only bring him more pain when he bungles it up.

He takes an unnecessary breath and crosses his arms over his chest, trying not to let his mask fall. "Yeah, well. S'cause I'm better than those poofters."

"I'd have to agree," Rose replies. He blinks, wondering at her thoughtless acceptance of his statement when he himself had been posturing to move the conversation along, but she goes right on talking like her words weren't the least bit significant. "I stopped by New Earth—they've got technology to create blood, so I didn't feel bad nicking some from their hospitals. Well, wouldn't have felt bad nicking from their hospitals either way, but that's beside the point. You hungry?"

There's a story there, but he imagines there's a story in every other thing she says and he knows he can't ask about them all.

"Feelin' a little peckish, yeah. A bit of blood will probably take away the last of the bruising, too. Wager I'll be all fixed up by tomorrow."

"Good," says Rose. "Where'd you like to go, anyway? Another planet? Or just another time? Ancient Rome's interesting, and so is New Greece. Midnight's a nice place, but… well, no. Midnight wouldn't work—it's sunny all the time. Forgot that'd be a consideration. Tunglia doesn't have a sun at all, but rather a system of moons that its people use to reflect generated light. It's all beaches too, so s'like a whole planet of moonlit beaches. Um… Satellite Five has potential, and that's vamp friendly, or if y'want we could go t' the Middle Ages and stir up some excitement. There's also-"

"Pet?" Spike cuts in. "Sounds like you know more about this than I do. Why don't you just take me somewhere nice?"

"Sorry." She looks embarrassed, and he's shocked to find he thinks it's cute. "The Doctor always babbled like that, and John used to do it too. Drove me mad, but I guess it's rubbed off. Serves me right for complaining, I guess."

"John?" Spike asks before he can really think better of it.

"My husband," says Rose. She holds up her left hand, and for the first time he notices she's wearing a wedding ring. "He was… more human than I am. Could only last so long."

He's right, then. She's lived a long time. Married a bloke who died much earlier. Spike shuffles his feet uncomfortably and mutters, "Can't say I know what it's like, losing a loved from old age. But I understand about people only lastin' so long."

Rose lets the show of empathy sink in a moment. Doesn't say a word, but her silence is grateful and Spike thinks for once, he might've said the right thing. The tentative thought is confirmed when she opens her eyes again and gives him a bittersweet smile that isn't as sad as it might've been.

"How old are you, Spike?"

"Been a vamp for a hundred and twenty four years. Was a human twenty four before that."

"Didn't figure you'd be much younger than that. You can see in a person's eyes, y'know. How long they've lived."

"What about you? How many years are in your eyes?"

Rose shrugs. "I honestly don't know. Started traveling in this TARDIS when I was around fifty… s'probably been another fifty years since then, at least. Spending so much time in the Time Vortex makes it hard to tell." A shake of her head. "Not important, anyway. Figure I'm not gettin' any older, so what's the point in checking?"

"Vamps like bragging about it," says Spike. "Sorta like a testament to competence. You live a hundred years, it means you're smart enough to survive that long."

"Yeah?" says Rose. She thinks on it a moment, but dismisses his words with a shrug. "Makes sense, but it takes more than years to prove competence, y'know?"

"Like that bullshit quote 'bout the life in your years bein' more important than the years in your life?"

Rose smiles.

"Something like that." They reach the kitchen and she hands him a bag of blood. He starts looking around for a microwave to warm it up in, but she takes out that funny metal cylinder she'd had in the infirmary and buzzes the bag with it, heating the liquid instantly. Spike shoots her a smile as he seats himself at the table. Takes a drink, then gets back to their conversation.

"I can understand that. Can't say I like it, though. Vamps don't generally do much with their lives. A kill here, a shag there. Mayhem and evil in between."

"Most vamps," Rose agrees. "But… what you said before, when you were still in the infirmary. That made it sound like you've been trying to change, to do more. I can't imagine you've accomplished nothing."

"Really haven't." Letting Buffy fall to her death in that fight against Glory is suddenly at the forefront of his mind. The one chance for him to make something of his unlife, and he wasn't good enough to follow through. He doesn't count helping Buffy with Acathla; that'd been all her. He'd left early, had broken his end of the deal in doing so and had lost the right to claim direct involvement in that one. "Not enough, anyway."

"So long as there's more to be done, everything you've accomplished to that point isn't enough," says Rose seriously, and it's almost disconcerting, seeing all those hidden years suddenly apparent on her face. "S'what John told me once, although I think believing something like that might be an excuse to keep running. Y'know, like a front, so you can constantly avoid the past and make yourself feel heroic while doing it."

"I wouldn't know," says Spike. "Not much for heroics. More a villain, myself."

"I dunno about that. A dangerous, handsome vampire with an ugly past, changing his tune and trying to save the day in the name of love? If you ask me, I'd say you're at least antihero material."

He's a bit disconcerted at her observation. Honestly, he's fancied himself the dashing antihero before, when he was getting tortured for Dawn and on-and-off when he was helping Buffy leading up to her death. He's not sure if the title is actually something he has much right to anymore though, so he chooses not to think on it too much. Goes for lightening the mood instead.

"Y'know stories with vampire antiheroes are always a bit trashy. Blood play and porn and more sex than substance." He curls his tongue—in the erotic way, and not the cute Rose Tyler way—and chuckles. "That how you think of me, luv?"

Rose rolls her eyes, cheeks not going the least bit pink. Right. Rose isn't one of the Scoobies—is probably much too old to blush over just anything.

"Bit full of yourself, aren't you?"

"Let's just say I've gotten good feedback." He ignores the fact that he's not being entirely honest. He's had three 'real' relationships over the past hundred and twenty years, and none of them have left him feeling much like a sex god. Dru cheated on him constantly, with Angelus more often than not, so it wasn't like he could claim to have kept her fully satisfied. Harmony was after that, and while she obviously enjoyed herself, Spike is pretty sure she could get off on dry-humping a fire hydrant.

Then there's Buffy. And yeah, she keeps coming back, but he's honestly not sure if she likes the sex or if she isn't more attracted to the pain; really, it feels like she's using him to punish herself, and looking back and viewing the situation with a bit of perspective… well, it sure as hell doesn't say much for his prowess.

Good feedback his shiny pale ass.

"Maybe you're right," says Rose with a laugh, and he forces himself to focus on her. On her smile, on her voice, instead of the ugly Buffy-related thoughts that he can't seem to get out of his head. "You've certainly got the personality down."

"Hey! I've got more depth than a sex novel vampire," Spike argues, albeit a bit halfheartedly.

"Sorry," she says cheekily, but she must see that something about the subject is a sore point for him, because she makes a point of switching topics. "Anyway, I was thinking we could go to Caligo Major. It's a swamp planet, always cloudy an' with no direct sunlight, so you won't have to worry about that. Lots of nasties too, which is good 'cause I figured you'd want some violence. 4900 would be a good year; I think there's a bit of political turmoil going on around then, so something exciting should come up."

Spike smirks at the prospect. "Is that what you do, pet? Go looking for trouble?"

"Not usually, no. Trouble generally finds me anyway, but I don't make a habit of running straight into it." She gives him one of her shining smiles. "This time is an exception. I figured I'd seek out something a vampire would like. Make it fun for you, since it's your only trip and all."

Right. Feeding his need for violence, catering to the vampire while appeasing William with books and kindness.

It's like he's found heaven in a police box.

"Right then," he says gruffly. Still won't thank her. Can't let himself sink quite so low (or is it rise quite so high?). "Sounds good."

"C'mon," says Rose. "We can watch a bit more telly, let you rest a bit. I'll need a few hours of sleep too. Then we'll head to Caligo once we're at a hundred percent."

He downs the last of his blood and gets up to follow her, nearly tripping over his feet when her fingers slide almost automatically through his own. His eyes dart over to her, and Rose looks just as surprised as he does. For a long moment, she stares at their joined hands with sadness and shock and probably a bit more emotion than the simple gesture warrants.

"Sorry," she says, and she gives him his hand back. Spike pretends not to notice how cold it suddenly feels. "Habit."

"S'fine." She doesn't acknowledge him at all, just peers forward with hollow eyes, and Spike can't help but prod her with an elbow and ask, "You alright?"

Rose's lips curve into a smile that doesn't reach her eyes.

"I'm always alright."

Fuck that, the demon wants to spit. Tell me about it, William wants to urge.

But Spike isn't as callous as the demon or as sappy as William, so he shrugs and accepts her words at face value.

Rose isn't his problem. After all, just one trip, and he'll never see her again.


Thanks for the support so far. Please tell me what you think of the new chapter.