Author's Notes: This chapter is going to be heavy on the Bible stuff. Bible quotes are from the New King James Version. I'm not trying to evangelize here (really!); I'm trying to work through what the process would be for a vampire coming to the realization that Yes, Jesus died for him too. A lot of this is inner stuff and thus new ground for me, writing-wise--and it's also the reason I wrote it in first person. I thought Spike should tell this in his own words.

And I probably never would have thought of the idea of Spike becoming a Christian in the first place if it weren't for that final scene in "Beneath You." So, blame Joss. I do, on a regular basis.

Props to timeends for pointing out something that I should have realized myself. Holy objects (like Bibles) and vampires are, as Buffy would say, unmixy things. I suppose I didn't think of that because I don't think we've ever seen a vampire handle a Bible on the show.

Chapter Two: Answers

The room was laid out very much like a regular school classroom, with a teacher's desk, a swivel chair behind it, and desk/chair combinations for about fifteen adult students. I sat in the swivel chair, consulted a sheet of paper entitled "God's Plan for Salvation," and opened the Bible that Pastor Tom had given me. I handled it rather gingerly, not quite believing that it didn't burn me like a cross did. Maybe God was in a particularly gracious mood. However, I wasn't going to test Him further by touching a crucifix or drinking holy water.

Right then. Romans 3:23. "...for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." Couldn't argue that point. I thought maybe I'd fallen farther than Paul had conceived of when he'd written that little piece of wisdom though. What was next?

Still in Romans, verse 6:23. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Eternal life? Bloody hell, I had that already. Eternal unlife, anyway, so long as I avoided pointy wooden objects and sunlight, and my head stayed firmly attached to my shoulders.

There was a conundrum. Was I alive, or was I dead? And did it really matter? After all, Paul was talking about the soul there, not the body. I'd already experienced the wages of sin being death, the night I'd let Dru turn me. She'd had to kill me to do it, and now I was really, when you got down to it, a corpse animated by a demon.

Lovely thought. Next!

Did we ever get out of Romans? Verse 10:9 said, "that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." Saved from what? From death? Been there, done that, got the bloody t-shirt. I was already dead, wasn't I?

Well, yes, I was. But I wasn't at my final destination yet. What would happen to me if my unbeating heart met the sharp end of a stick? Straight to Hell, that's where I was going. And I didn't like the notion of that now any more than I had when Angelus had wanted to suck the entire world there through Acathla's mouth. So, saved from Hell? Would God do that for me, who had hurt so many? I flipped backwards, into the Gospels, and a verse in Matthew, in red, caught my eye.

"Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men." Every sin but the one? Had I committed the blasphemy against the Spirit? I didn't think so. But...half of me wasn't a man. Did He die for demons too? Or could I just change allegiance and be forgiven? It couldn't possibly be that bloody easy...could it?

I turned some more pages forward and found myself in Luke. Three parables right at the beginning of Chapter 15 were noteworthy. One was about a shepherd, who had a hundred sheep, but lost one, and rejoiced when he found it again. "I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance." That was encouraging. I was certainly a sinner. No doubt about that. Dumb as a sheep? I snorted. Maybe. Then there was one about a woman who lost a gold coin. And of course I could relate to the Prodigal Son. Angel's reaction when he found out that I'd gotten my soul back was about like the brother's in that story.

All this studying was making my head hurt. The Cleric hadn't said I couldn't smoke in here, so I lit one up and leaned back in the chair, putting my feet up on the desk. You wouldn't think that the salvation of one vampire would be all that complicated, but it was. I hadn't found anything yet that said that a demon could be redeemed. Of course, I hadn't found anything that said it was out of the question either.

Setting aside the fact that I didn't know if my demon could ever be saved, I wrestled with the other issue. Did I believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead?

Oh, hell, that was a stupid question. I bloody knew He had. Another vague memory came bubbling to the surface, of a bunch of very angry demons frothing at the mouth because of that event. So, no question there. That was a given.

Okay, then. Did He do it for me? Pastor Tom seemed to think so. Things I'd heard off and on over the years backed him up. I'd never been hit in the face in quite this way with it before, though. So what was I going to do with it?

Sleep on it, that was what.

***

I startled awake. Had that been a scream?

Bloody hell. Yes, it had been, because there was another one. I burst out the door and ran down the hall towards Tom's office, fumbling for the butterfly knife I always kept in my duster pocket. The strong smell of blood jerked my head to the left before I got there. Blade ready, I kicked open the door.

The human body holds less than a gallon of the red stuff. It still makes quite a mess when it's not running around in the arteries and veins where it belongs. Poor...Nancy, had Tom said her name was? She was sprawled out on the floor, mouth and eyes wide--with her throat torn out.

Nothing else was in the room, and there wasn't anything I could do for her in any case. I whirled around and pounded down the hallway again. Tom's study was empty, but a skim of blood on the floor marked where he had been dragged out. I followed it to the sanctuary, praying I'd still find him alive when I got to the end of the trail.

Even my jaded eyes weren't prepared for the sight that met them. Three large, reptilian, and toothy Lagfundalia Demons were gathered around my Cleric, who was tied up on the floor in front of the podium. They'd ripped his shirt off, and a green one was holding his arms over his head, a blue one was holding his legs down, and a yellow one was carving symbols into his chest with a curved and jeweled ritual knife, while Tom recited the 23rd Psalm between gritted teeth. The man had the heart and balls of a lion, and faith enough to move a mountain.

And all I had was a four-inch butterfly knife. Crap.

And I had surprise. They weren't expecting a vampire to come to the defense of the pastor, and I shed my duster and charged in, yelling like a banshee. The green one had my blade through his heart almost before he knew I was there. The two that were left weren't going to go down easy, though, and they were fast and strong. I managed to kick one away from me, but the other picked me up bodily and threw me against the cross on the wall behind the stage. My skin smoked a little, but it was only a small burn, already healing, and I waded right back in.

I delivered a spinning kick to the blue demon's jaw, knocked him back, and landed facing the yellow one. He swung at my face with his knife, and I ducked under it and sliced at him, barely missing as he dodged away. He punched me in the stomach with his free hand, and I grunted and punched him back in the eye. Then his knee crunched satisfyingly behind my boot.

I'd temporarily lost track of the blue demon. I was abruptly reminded of him when his arm snaked around my throat and he slammed his blade into my back. That bloody hurt, but it took more than a little thing like that to put me down. I elbowed him in the ribs, hooked my foot around his ankles, and sent him to the ground. I reversed my own knife and threw it at him, hitting him in the heart and putting him out of the fight for good.

Then I spun around, scooped up a sacrificial knife that one of them had dropped, and sent it flying into the yellow one's throat. He collapsed with a gurgle and was still.

I wasn't feeling any too well myself. I sat down suddenly at the edge of the stage and put my head in my hands. I hadn't eaten anything all day, and the stab wound in my back was leaking fairly steadily.

"Spike?" The pastor's voice sounded like it was coming from a great distance. "Are you all right?"

"Yeah," I answered faintly. "Just give me a minute, okay? How about you?"

"Nothing that won't heal." He paused. "Did Nancy get out?"

My shoulders slumped further. "Sorry, mate. I think it was quick, if that makes you feel any better."

"Oh, dear Jesus." Coming from him, it was a prayer. "Receive her into Your loving arms."

"You really believe He will, don't you." It wasn't a question.

"Yeah. I do." He'd gotten himself loose from the rope that bound his wrists and ankles, and he sat down next to me and put his hand on my back.

"How?" I asked hopelessly. "If God loves us so soddin' much, then how can He let things like that happen to a nice lady like Nancy? What the bloody hell did she do to deserve that?"

"Nothing," he replied. "Nothing at all. Spike, we live in a fallen world. You of all people should know that. God took His hand off it when Adam basically handed it to Lucifer."

"Free will, and all that rot, right?"

"Exactly. God won't stop us from exercising it, even if it's going to hurt us or someone else."

"Well, Cleric, you'd probably better exercise some of that free will and get out of here, right now."

"Why?"

"Because I'm hungry, and you're bleeding. And my self-control is at a bloody low ebb."

"Oh?" He was puzzled. Then it dawned on him. "Oh!" He scrambled to his feet. "Can you drink animal blood?"

"Yeah." I was so tired. "I'd rather you don't bring me a live animal, though."

"You hang tough, here. I'll be right back."

After he trotted out, I hauled myself to a standing position and started strolling around the sanctuary. I stopped in front of the picture of Jesus on the Cross. Tilting my head to one side, I regarded it steadily. "Did You do that for me?" I said softly. "Die up there on a Cross, for me?"

A verse I'd come across earlier floated across my memory. "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Rest. That was what I wanted more than anything. Maybe Angel could go on day after day, fighting the good fight, all alone--but even he had had a support system. Buffy had her Scoobies, and Angel had the Fang Gang. Who did I have?

No one.

"It is not good that man should be alone." Where did that come from? And I wasn't a man anyway.

But it was true, wasn't it? Being alone was bad. All kinds of bad. Of course, the problem was that I didn't fit in anywhere. The man/monster dichotomy raised its ugly head again and reminded me that no matter how hard I bloody well tried, no one would ever quite understand.

Wait a minute. What about that Man up on the Cross? He knew what it was to be alone, the only one of you in the world. Fully human, fully God...I wasn't presumptuous enough to compare myself to Him, but He understood. And if He understood...

Then I wasn't really alone.

I turned my back to the wall and slid down into a sitting position under the picture, leaning my head back. And that's how Tom found me when he came back in. He'd put on a fresh shirt and jeans and carried a paper bag. Stopping several feet away, he eyed me somewhat warily. "I've got some blood for you. And a bandage if you need one."

I closed my eyes in amusement and said, "Bring me the blood, Cleric. I won't bite you." I took the carton he handed me and drained it in one long draught. Damn, that went down good. "Thank you."

"You're welcome. Bart the Butcher sure gave me a funny look when I asked for it though."

My mouth quirked. "I can imagine. What did you tell him?"

"Absolutely nothing. What could I tell him? Now, let me see that stab wound."

"I have vampire healing, mate. No need for you to get all hot and bothered about me. Now, you, on the other hand..."

"Flesh wounds," he said dismissively, handing me another carton.

"Who do you think you're fooling? Let's have a look, come on." I drank down the new cup while he reluctantly took his shirt off. I gave a low whistle when I saw what they'd done to him. "Those are going to leave scars." He'd cleaned them up as best he could, but they were ugly and nasty and to the bone. "What else you got in the bag?"

"Disinfectant, some Liquid Bandage. I thought you'd need it more than me. I saw how deep that monster's knife went."

"Oh, it hurts, I'll grant you that much," I told him. "But something like this is an inconvenience for the likes of me, nothing more. I survived having a church organ dropped on me. This is piddly in comparison to that." I took a swift glance at his left hand. "Oh, bloody hell, you've got a wife to get all worried about this?"

A variety of expressions crossed his face. Raw pain, mostly. "No. Not anymore. She...there was an accident. A couple of years ago. She's in a better place. But I still miss her."

Way to put your foot in it, Spike. "I'm sorry. I have a tendency to both pry and talk too much. Just hit me if I get too personal. Let me help with these cuts, though." I rummaged through the bag and fished out the disinfectant.

"What did you think of those Bible verses I gave you?" he asked between his teeth as I rubbed the antiseptic on the wounds.

"They were interesting. I found some things on my own that clarified some stuff too. But you know what impressed me the most?"

"What?" Still clenching his jaws.

"You. Laying there, trussed up and getting carved like a Thanksgiving turkey, reciting a Psalm. Bloody hell, that was amazing." I put the finishing touches on the last cut.

"Well, either the Lord was calling me home, or He was going to save me somehow. Either way it was good." He smiled faintly as he put his shirt back on. "Guess He wants me around the Earth for a little while longer."

How could I tell faith like that to just bugger off? Would Jesus give me the same peace He gave this man? I didn't know. But I couldn't say no to Truth when it hit me in the face. "Pastor Tom," I began, then stopped. What to say?

But he looked at me and knew. "You're ready to ask Jesus into your heart, aren't you?"

"I don't know if He'll bloody have me or not. I'm a demon, after all, not much different from those that we just killed. But if He will, then yeah."

"No, you're very different from them. Don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise. You're a demon, but you want to be better than that. You're choosing to be better than that. And that, my friend, is the real miracle. Let's pray together, shall we?"

I knelt down awkwardly, bowing my head, and he sat on the stage with his hand on my shoulder. And as he prayed for me, and then I haltingly prayed for myself, I felt as though a burden I'd been carrying around for a very long time was lifted off my shoulders. Whatever I faced in the future, I wouldn't do it alone ever again.

My demon cringed, half-expecting to be incinerated on the spot, but after it was over I didn't really feel all that different. Lighter, maybe. The load was gone, being carried by a Friend who would never leave me no matter how bad the going got; but my heart still didn't thump in my chest, and I only breathed when I wanted to, or on reflex. And I didn't think I'd have to beat the demon back with a club whenever someone bled around me anymore, which would be a relief for both of us.

Was I still a demon, a fallen angel? I didn't know. I experimented, and I could still do fangs and brow ridges, and Pastor Tom told me that my eyes turned yellow. I didn't know what that meant, if anything. I was all right with it; I supposed I'd find out what it was all about when I finally met the pointy end of a stake--which I was in no hurry to do.

We took care of poor Nancy as best we could under the circumstances. I'd learned over the years that coroners and police were good at covering up odd deaths, and this little town was no different. Her family was told that she'd fallen down the steps into the church basement and broken her neck. We dragged the Lagfundalias off into the scrub for the coyotes, buzzards, and other, less conventional, scavengers.

And then, I was ready to go. Lampasas had given me quite a few eye-opening experiences, some pleasant, some less so, but I hadn't planned on staying for any length of time. "Are you sure? We could use you around here. It's not as sleepy a place as it looks, you know. And...new Christians should be discipled."

It was tempting. Where was I going, after all? It wasn't like I had any place to be; I was just wandering. He could see me wavering. "I could open up one of the crypts for you," he suggested.

I threw up my hands. "Fine! Make me an offer I can't refuse. I suppose I could settle down for awhile, make some friends, and all that rot. Bloody clerics, always interfering," I muttered, but he knew I didn't mean it. Someone caring about where I went and what I did was a new experience, and I wasn't entirely sure how to handle it.

He got the keys out of his office, and we went out to look at my new digs. As we walked out the front door, I noticed a muscular brindle and white dog with a funny-shaped head and pointed ears keeping a wary eye on us from the parking lot. "You never told me you had a dog," I said.

"I don't. He was abandoned here a couple of weeks ago. I feed him, but he won't let me anywhere near him."

"Hard to imagine. He's a nice looking Bull Terrier." I did a slow burn, wondering what kind of people would make a Bull Terrier, of all breeds, not want to come up to anyone.

"I know. I haven't had the heart to call the dog catcher, so I just feed him and hope he'll change his mind. Then maybe a family in the church would adopt him."

"Not you?"

"I have two cats. They rule my roost, and I think they'd be a little miffed with me if I brought a dog into the house."

"You are full of surprises, Cleric. I'd have figured you for a Golden Retriever."

"We had one...before. She was with my wife when she...and I couldn't."

"Bloody hell." Stepped in it again--he'd lost his wife and his dog in the same accident. "I'm sorry. One of these days I'll learn to keep my soddin' mouth shut."

"It's okay. You didn't know." He changed the subject back to the Bull Terrier, who followed us into the graveyard at a safe distance. "Think you can get him to make friends?"

"I'll have him watching 'Passions' with me in my easy chair in three days."

"That soon?"

I snorted. "Aside from keeping the town free of nasties, which should take me all of an hour a night, I won't really have anything else to do, will I?"

He looked at me sideways. "Oh, I'm sure I can find things for you. Some heavy reading. And you have a lot to teach me, too. There are certain kinds of demons I can't fight with prayer, and it would be nice to know how to come at them."

"Well then, I'll work on our stray dog in my spare time. You just be sure to have a good supply of fried liver from Bart the Butcher on hand." Tom opened the larger mausoleum, and we went in and looked around. "This'll do," I decided immediately. "I'm sure Topper'll like it here too, once we get it fixed up with some furniture."

"You've named him already?"

"Might as well. He's a young dog, from what I saw, and I'll have him for awhile, won't I?"

Tom laughed and clapped me on the back. "Welcome to Lampasas."

Finis

Author's Notes: Well, that's it. Wouldn't be one of mine if there wasn't a dog in there somewhere. I was going to have him pick up a blue merle Collie on his way out of town, but then Topper showed up and the Cleric talked him into staying...

Hopefully I kept him in character, and hopefully I didn't mangle too many rules beyond recognition. Can a demon switch sides? What would happen if one did? Of course, fitting a Jossverse demon into any kind of Biblical mode is like trying to fit a 747 engine under the hood of a Mazda Miata...but one can try. Read, review, give me a happy. Authors live to know that someone is reading our carp and it's touching them somehow.