Author's Notes and Disclaimers: AU after "Chosen;" prequel to my "Reward" fic. Spike was the only survivor of the closing of the Sunnydale Hellmouth. What happens when he walks into a little church in Texas one day a couple of decades later, looking for answers that he doesn't even know the questions for?

Lampasas is a real town, although the church, the cemetery, and the pastor are not. I hope the good folks in my old home town don't mind me borrowing it for this fic. There is certainly no disrespect intended, and I have nothing but affection for the place and the people there.

Well, duh, Spike's not mine. He belongs to Joss, Mutant Enemy, Buffy (or Fred--hee hee), and whoever else holds the rights to his undead, lovely self. I'll put him back when I'm done torturing him. Please don't sue me; I don't have any money anyway. I'm certainly not making any from this drivel.

And now I'm going to stick the same disclaimer here as I stuck on my "Reward" fic (if you've read that one, then you can skip this part): If you're not open-minded enough to wrap your brain around a Christian Spike, then this fic is not for you. There are over 19,000 other stories out there just on this site; read one of them. It never fails to amaze me that people don't even blink at a Jewish lesbian wicca...but are shocked and appalled that a vampire with a troubled soul and a guilty conscience would seek out God for forgiveness. Go figure.

I could have treated Spike's new conscience in several different ways. I could have put him on a psychiatrist's couch and told him that it was his mother's fault. I could have had him try to work out his own redemption (and we all know how well that's going for Old Tall, Dark, and Broody). I could have had him not deal with it at all. Or I could have done what I did. If that makes me a "religious nut"....oh well. To me, it seemed a logical progression in his spiritual journey--especially considering his Victorian upbringing. Others may have a different view, and I can respect that. Please respect mine.

I have been assured that I haven't "de-Spiked" him. So, if you have tolerance for a viewpoint that may be slightly different from the norm, then please, read on, and tell me what you think. Tell me especially how I can make it better. But remember that name-calling only makes the person doing it look small.

To any Christians who happen to stumble across this: I realize that I've bent at least one rule and probably broken a couple of others beyond repair. I'm working off the premise that a demon has the same free will that a human does...they just don't exercise it very often. Spike represents a rather unique conundrum, and I don't think the "normal" rules necessarily apply to him.

OK. You're not here to read author's notes. On with the story!

Chapter One: Questions

I stopped my ancient black DeSoto on the outskirts of a dusty little town in Texas. Looking around, I thought that this didn't appear too promising. "Lampasas," the sign said. "Pop. 5,428."

I'd been wandering the globe for quite awhile now. One of the disadvantages to living forever is that you have all those memories to cart around with you wherever you go. You can leave the spot where the bad stuff happens, but forget? Never. Everything that took place on that fateful day was burned into my brain, as if it had occurred just yesterday, instead of over two decades before.

Buffy had said she loved me. That hurt worst of all. She finally admitted her feelings for me...right before she and everyone else I could possibly call a friend died there at the Hellmouth. What a bloody waste.

I'd thought about going up to LA to see Angel afterwards. Hell, he might have even done me the favor of dusting me. But no. There was no sense in adding to his own pain by showing up and reminding him of my miserable existence, when the one girl he cared about, his soulmate, was lying there at the bottom of a crater in Sunnydale, California. She'd been a Champion to the end.

They all had been.

See, this was what came of having a bloody soul. You started caring about the feelings of other people...even people you couldn't stand. Like my ponce of a Grandsire. I heard later that he got his Shanshu after averting an Armageddon of his own, and I was happy for him, in a way. At least someone in this world was getting something they deserved.

So, I'd cruised aimlessly about. Found my way up to Cleveland. The Hellmouth there was a bloody waste of time. I did away with a few nasties and moved on. They just didn't make apocalypses like they used to. Never did find out where the new Slayer was hanging her white hat. I'd heard rumors here and there, but didn't follow up on any of them. What was the point, after all? What was I going to do, waltz up to her and say, "Please don't dust me, I'm a vampire with a soul and I'm here to help you." She'd laugh in my face and stake me anyway, if she had any training at all.

Of course, with the Watcher's Council obliterated, there was a good chance that she didn't have any training. It was even possible that she had no idea who she was or what she was supposed to do. That was a lovely soddin' thought. A Slayer who didn't know she was called, fighting things that she had been told from birth didn't exist, but that were drawn to her because of who and what she was. What a travesty.

Giles, at least, had gotten his books out before Sunnydale was turned inside out. They were in a storage unit in Los Angeles. I'd pick them up if and when I ever settled down. I wasn't much for the research side of killing evil things, but I had to admit that the books would have come in handy on more than one occasion.

There was a lot of nowhere in Texas, and I was in the middle of it. Dawn was coming on, so I needed to find a place to hole up for the day. I tossed my cigarette out the window and drove into town.

The streets were by no means crowded, but a few cars were out. The little donut shop was open and doing brisk business in the predawn darkness. I wondered briefly what would get people around here up so bleedin' early, but then I realized that most of them were probably ranchers and getting up early was a way of life for them. Poor sods.

Well, this was another blink-and-you-miss-it town. I'd barely driven in before I drove out again. And there. That looked a bit of all right. A graveyard, with a couple of comfy-looking crypts. There was a church right next door, but I ignored that inconvenient fact for the moment.

I couldn't ignore it for long, though. The cemetery was beautiful...but it didn't have a place to park the car. I shrugged. Beggars couldn't be choosers, so I drove into the church parking lot. Two other cars were sitting there, but I pulled in as far away from them as I could.

My eyes were drawn to the big cross on the front of the church. The last time I'd had a close encounter with one of those was when I was out of my skull after getting my soul back. Sometimes I wished Buffy had just let me stay there and burn. It would have made my unlife easier. A little pain, a little fire, and then poof. No more Spike. What was it she'd said to the Bit up on Glory's tower? "The hardest thing in this life is to live in it." Bloody hell, she had that right.

I got out of the DeSoto and walked over to one of the mausoleums. And I was very surprised to find out it was locked. Locked! Who the hell locked a crypt? I tried the other one, and it was bolted too. Well, that was just great.

I looked over at the church again, half-hidden through the trees. The sun would be up in about two minutes and my options were narrowing. I didn't fancy staying in the car; it promised to be another sweltering, muggy day in Texas, and I knew only too well how hot the damn thing got in the sun.

Bugger it. I'd go into the church. If anyone bothered me, I'd just eat them. I hadn't eaten anyone for a very long time, but I could make an exception or two. I was tired, weary to the bone, and I plain didn't give a rip anymore.

At least the door to the church wasn't locked. I didn't know what day it was, but I was pretty sure it was a weekday, so it was nice that something was going right for me for once. I sat down in a pew and looked around.

It wasn't very big. In fact, it looked as though there were more people outside in the cemetery than would fit inside this building. A few rows of padded benches, a small stage, a podium. A huge, empty cross hanging on the wall behind the stage. A couple of stained-glass windows, up high. The standard pictures of Jesus on the walls--talking to children, walking on water, being baptized by John.

Up on the cross.

I tore my gaze away from that one. The likes of me had no business viewing that. I was a monster. I knew where I was going when I died...and it wasn't where Buffy had gone, for the second time.

"Sir?" She was small and plump and motherly, standing in the doorway next to the stage. "May I help you?"

"Not really. Just resting," I told her. "I'd really rather be left alone, if you don't mind."

"Are you sure? I could get the pastor..."

"Positive!" I barked, flashing fangs and ridges and yellow eyes. "Get out!"

The door slammed behind her, and I hoped she had sense enough to let it be.

Apparently not. I sighed when a fortyish man with sandy brown hair and glasses, wearing jeans and a plaid shirt and cowboy boots of all things, sat down in the pew in front of me, facing backwards and looking me up and down. "I thought I told her I wanted to be alone." God, I was worn out.

"You did," he said, playing with the eight-inch wooden cross he'd brought with him. He had a Texan accent to go with the clothes.

"Then what are you doing here? Can't a man come into a church for a little peace?"

"You're not a man."

"Touche." I stood up. "I expect you want me to leave. I suppose I can make it back to my car before I catch on fire."

"No." His head was cocked to one side, regarding me steadily with bright brown eyes. "No, I think you should stay. There's more to you than meets the eye, vampire."

Perceptive, this man of God was. More perceptive than most, anyway. "What do you see, then?"

"I see someone who's exhausted. I see someone who's seen more than anyone should ever see in a lifetime. I see someone who's looking for answers to questions he doesn't even know how to articulate." He paused. "I see a vampire with a soul, who's wondering why he even bothered to get it in the first place."

"Bloody hell." That hit a little too close to the mark. I sat back down. "What are you?"

"Just an ordinary pastor in an ordinary town. Who's seen some extraordinary things. I'm not sure I've ever seen anything as extraordinary as you, though. How did you do it?" He stopped. "No, I think the more important question is, why did you do it?"

I snorted. "Does it matter? I'm stuck with the sodding thing now, aren't I? Not exactly a man, not exactly a monster. Just...nothing."

"Oh, you're not 'nothing.' No being with a human soul is 'nothing.'" He stuck his hand out. "Tom Spencer."

I shook it, hardly believing what I was doing. "Spike. Just Spike. I haven't had a last name for a long time. Why are you doing this? Why do you care? I'm an evil creature who eats people to live. Well, used to eat people," I corrected myself. "But I've caused more pain and mayhem in my lifetime than you can know."

"Maybe it's just curiosity. Maybe something more. But if you answer my questions, I might be able to answer some of yours. If you want."

"Interview with the vampire? Pretty old hat, if you ask me."

He smiled, and I found myself liking him. "C'mon. What else do you have to do until sundown?"

He had me there. I gave him an evil grin, with a little yellow in the eyes just to test him, and said, "I suppose I could eat you and your secretary and burn your little church to the ground."

"Oh, you could. But you won't."

I put my hand over my eyes and sighed. "I'm not even remotely scary anymore, am I? Things have come to a pretty pass when I can't even intimidate...well, you. No offense."

"None taken. So, tell me. Why did you get it? The soul, I mean."

It had been so bloody long since I'd sat down and talked to anyone. This man should have hated me and everything I stood for. But he seemed to genuinely care. I decided for the moment not to analyze it and tell him what he wanted to know. In my own way, of course.

"Ever since I can remember, I've never been good enough. I wasn't good enough for Cecily. I was the laughingstock of the neighborhood I lived in, in London. I wasn't good enough for Dru...actually, strike that; I wasn't evil enough for Dru, although she put up with me for over a hundred years. And I certainly wasn't good enough for Buffy. I've spent my entire life, and most of my unlife, just trying to be good enough for the women in it. Largely unsuccessfully. I once called myself 'love's bitch.' It's still true, even if I haven't been in love with anyone for a long time."

"Tell me about Cecily. What was she like?"

"She was a stuck-up little bint, but I thought she was the be-all and end-all of women. She disdained me. I was 'beneath her.' And she let me know that in no uncertain terms the night I professed my love for her. I wrote her a terrible love poem and she laughed me out of the party we were at."


I wasn't good at self-analysis, but I was honest enough to know that I might have deserved what Cecily had said to me that night. That horrid poem had embarrassed both of us. Why in the hell had I thought that "effulgent" rhymed with "bulge in it"? Good God, I was an idiot. "Yeah, well. She may not have been nice about it, but I'm not sure she was wrong, either. I'm at a point in my unlife where I'm brutally candid with myself."

"What about Dru?"

"She loved me, I suppose. In her own demented way--for over a hundred years. She was a vampire, but she was also quite insane. Always hearing pixies and talking to the stars. She left me for a Chaos Demon after I made a deal with the Slayer. I saved both our hides, but she said I'd gone soft. Thing is, I hadn't gone soft. I'd always been soft--by vampire standards, anyway. I wasn't into the torture and the maiming like the rest of them were. The hunt, the kill...that was all fine and good, for food. Not for fun. I mean, I enjoyed a spot of violence as much as the next bloke, and I'd never run away from a fight, and I've started my share--but tie someone up and abuse them just for laughs? Not my gig."

"And Buffy?"

I slouched against the back of the pew. "Ah, the Slayer. Soft as a kitten, sharp as a steel blade. She had a big heart, that one...but it never belonged to me. Well, maybe at the end. She said she loved me; I suppose that counts for something or other."

"You don't sound like you believe that."

Have I said the man was perceptive? I'll say it again. He was. "I don't know what to believe any more. The night before the last battle, while everyone else in the house was shagging their brains out, we just held each other. It meant a lot to me that she trusted me enough to fall asleep in my arms, after--" I stopped, raw pain still fresh in my memory.

"After what, Spike? What did you do to her?" Tom's voice was gentle, drawing me out.

I took a deep breath. Surely he'd heard worse than this. Small towns were notorious for being filled with undercurrents of nastiness, and I was pretty sure this one was no different. "I almost raped her," I said softly. "We'd been...she'd been...Bloody hell." How to tell a minister of the word of God, who probably thought that just being a vampire meant a trip straight to the nether regions (not that he was wrong about that), that the Slayer and I had enjoyed a sexual relationship that began and ended with violence? That Buffy's well-meaning friends had ripped her out of Heaven, and so she used my undead body to feel alive? That I tolerated being used in that manner by her because I was a lovesick puppy starving for any bone that she might be willing to throw me? How could I put that into words in a way that this good, decent man would understand just what we had all been going through that turbulent year? I didn't even understand a lot of it myself.

I jumped to my feet, making him twitch, although he recovered well. "Is there a place here where I can smoke? I really need one right now."

"My office," he said, surprising me. "I find it helps people to open up if they can do something that relaxes them while they're talking to me. Let's go."

The chairs in his office were a lot more comfortable than the pew, too. Books lined floor to ceiling shelves. He had a pretty good stereo system, along with a television and a DVD player, and a computer sat on his desk. A small refrigerator squatted in one corner, with a coffee maker with a full pot on top. And there was an extraordinary portrait of Jesus, head thrown back and laughing, on his wall.

"Can I get you anything? Coffee, a soda? I'm afraid I don't have any blood, assuming that's what you drink."

"No thanks, I'm good." I sat down and lit a cigarette, the soothing smoke acting like a balm to my mental turmoil. This persistent pastor was dredging up way too many painful memories.

"So. You almost raped her...and she forgave you."

"Yeah. How the bloody hell did she do that? I didn't deserve to be forgiven. I deserved to be staked."

"Sometimes forgiveness isn't granted because it's deserved. It's granted because it's needed."

What had Buffy said about it? "It's different. He's different." And I was. But not that different. Did the addition of a soul mean so much? Yeah, it was easier for me to hold the demon back, but other than that, I actually felt mostly the same. I must have gotten a defective demon or something when Dru turned me.

"It was after I almost raped her that I went and got the soul. I never wanted to do that to her again. I wanted to give her what she deserved. And she deserved a man, not a monster." I took another drag from my cigarette. "Of I'm neither. Too much monster to be man, too much man to be monster."

"You've got a bad case of the in-betweens," Tom said, sipping his coffee. "But from what you've told me, I don't think it started with the soul."

"We once raised a demon who was going to destroy humankind, Dru and me," I reflected. "He could suck the humanity out of a vampire and turn him to dust from the inside out. He killed Dalton, our researcher, by doing that. He couldn't touch Angelus--but he said that the love that Dru and I felt for each other reeked of humanity. He wanted to kill us, but I reminded him exactly who had brought him forth and he backed off."

"Honor among demons. Interesting."

"We have a code of sorts. It gets broken on whim, of course, but it is there."

"So apparently most vampires have some degree or other of humanity."

"I wouldn't say most. Some, certainly." I put my cigarette out and jerked my head at the portrait of the laughing Man on the wall. "What would He say about you talking to me like this?"

"We've had our share of vampires in this town," the pastor answered me. "Why do you think I keep the crypts locked? In ordinary circumstances I'd stake one without even thinking twice about it. You're not ordinary. You have a human soul. And can be redeemed."

I was lighting another cigarette when he said that, and I nearly choked on it. "You want to save my soul? What in bloody hell for? Good God, man, do you have any idea what I've done? Does the phrase 'Scourge of Europe' give you any mental images?"

He shrugged. "Sure it does. I'm sure you deserve the death penalty many times over. This isn't about what you deserve. No one deserves salvation. Not me, not Nancy, whom you scared half to death awhile ago...and not you. If God gave us what we deserved, every one of us would have a one-way ticket straight to Hell." He gave me a straight, steady stare. "But God loves us too much for that."

"Even me?"

"Even you."

No one had ever told me that before. Even growing up in Victorian England, I'd never heard it put quite that way. My human self wasn't a stranger to the basic message, but my demon had never entertained the hope that he was going anyplace that wasn't full of fire and torment.

Wait a minute. Tom had said "you." He hadn't specified which of "me" he meant. The half of me that was William had a certain amount of affection for the other half of me, and wasn't sure he wanted to go anywhere without Spike--who was a demon, and therefore by definition belonged someplace other than Heaven. I couldn't leave that alone. "All right, Cleric. But which 'me' does God love? Does he love just the human part of me, that soul? I wouldn't even have that soul if it weren't for the demon going out and getting it. Which wasn't easy, by the way."

Tom leaned forward. "So, what you're saying is, you basically have two entities living inside your body. The demon that animates it, and the soul that he somehow won."


"And they don't fight? I did a little research after our little vampire infestation, and I read about a vampire that had a soul...but he was a monster through and through, without it. It sounds like you're different."

"You mean Peaches? Oh, yeah, he was a barrel of laughs, that one. A thoroughgoing bastard when that soul didn't rein him in. But gypsies cursed him with his soul, and I went out and got mine on purpose."

"I see. So you knew him. And you had a nickname for him."

Did I want to get into my complicated relationship with my Grandsire? No, I certainly did not. "Let's just say that we crossed paths a few times and leave it at that. No love lost between me and him." I blew out a stream of smoke. "And I have nicknames for bloody everyone."

"You don't want to talk about it."

"No, I don't. I haven't seen him for over twenty years, and I haven't missed him a bit. He's all human and everything now, anyway. Got his reward from the Powers, he did." Tom looked interested when I said that, but respected my desire to not get into it any deeper than that. I hadn't been there when it happened anyway, so I don't know what I could have told him. I had the feeling that he was going to be doing some more research when I left, though. "Right, then. Does God love both of me? Or just the human part?"

The pastor gazed at me over the rim of his coffee mug. "There's a question for the ages. You do realize that God created you." It wasn't a question. "You must have been part of that original rebellion, when Lucifer tried to usurp the Throne."

I frowned. "I don't really remember much about that. After it happened, we got partitioned off." I tried to remember, but couldn't recall anything from after my very hazy memories of the rebellion, until I clawed my way out of my grave in 1880. What had old Lucifer done then? Put us in a deep freeze, or some kind of stasis? Bloody hell. Who knew, and You're thinking too much again, Spike, I told myself. "Guess I picked the wrong side in that battle. Does that mean I'm doomed for all eternity, or do I have a chance? And if I have a chance, and I take it...would that turn me into a bloody poof of some kind of angelic being, or do I get to keep my personality? Which I've grown rather attached to."

Tom looked at me oddly. "You'd pick your personality over going to Heaven?"

"Not necessarily. Just want to know what I'm getting into. I have a nasty habit of going off half-cocked, and I don't want to do that again."

"Understood. Anyway, when I said God created you, I had a reason. And my reason was that He doesn't just stop loving those He's created just because we stray from the path He's set for us." He gave me a wry grin. "And I think that Michael and Gabriel would probably object to being referred to as 'bloody poofs.'"

I got a brief mental image of righteous anger and flaming swords, and hastily recanted those words. "Good point." I put my cigarette out and stood up. "Well, Cleric. You've given me quite a bit to mull over. Got a place I can hole up for the rest of the day and think about it?"

"We have a classroom that won't be in use until Sunday. You're welcome to stay in there. No windows, so you don't have to worry about the sun. And here." He handed me a Bible. "I've marked a few passages in here that might be of interest to you. If you have any questions I'll be around most of the day."

I tilted my head at him. "Thank you," I said simply.

"It's what I do," he answered.

Author's Note: I'll post the second and final chapter soon....