Post-"Shells", Spike reflects over his life until now, and contemplates on how much everything changes, including himself. The song that is used is "Stuck in America" by Sugarcult. Please feel free to post reviews, whether they are compliementary or critical.

If anything is certain, it is that change is certain. The world we are planning for today will not exist in this form tomorrow. - Philip (Bayard) Crosby

No bloody kidding... Heard that saying once and it kinda stuck with me. But I sure as hell never needed any 'Philip (Bayard) Crosby' to ever tell me that. Things change... 'course they change. That's life, well, that's unlife, at least for me. Still, there was a time, a few years ago, that I didn't quite believe things function that way.

Angel: Things change.

Spike: Not us! Not demons!

Don't start, alright! I've never admitted Angel was right about something and I never will. Insert the 'stern look with folded arms over chest' here. Because that's what I'm doing. But the truth is, things do change. Terribly awful, isn't it? I wonder why they're always sudden changes. They're never subtle little alterations, are they? It's never something that happens in a process. Or maybe they are. We're probably just too thick-headed and self-involved to notice 'em.

Nevertheless, they're there... changes. I hate the word. I really do. Been changing my whole existence and I still can't seem to get used to it. Other thing is that you're always trapped. Just stuck. Can't get through to want you want. No, no, this isn't going to work... let me explain to you what I'm on about, shall I?

Today, I changed
It's too late
'Cause everyone stayed the same
I'm gone, so long
Break out, cause I'm better off on my own

The first time I changed, it was a pretty obvious one. 1880, London, in an abandoned, dark, alleyway. Suppose it's strange where some of these transformations take place. That's off topic – nevermind. Dru turned me in the timeframe I just described above. Yep, human, naïve, William just bit the dust, as Queen would put it. Now vampire William wasn't much of an improvement... at first. See, vampire William was not very different from human William. He, just as human Will, fell too hard and too fast... and God did it come bite him a big one in the ass. Shouldn't have ever loved Dru at first sight like I did. That was my number one error. Couldn't help it, though. She took every little ounce of pain caused by Cecily and made it dissipate. She gave me an eternity to live, love, and laugh with. I owed her my new life. I owed her gratitude and thanks. And I'll admit – I never felt more alive than I did when Death greeted me. You see, I owed her so much. I wanted to love her and spend my days and nights with her. Too bad I wasn't the only one she wanted to share her nights with.

Enter Angelus. Backstabber, liar, and a bloody ruthless bastard. It seemed to Angelus and Drusilla that it didn't matter that I entered the picture. Everyone stayed the same. Angelus and Dru kept... and it pains me when I say this... fucking. Still remember his bleedin' words: "Well, you're new... and a little dim. So let me explain to you how things are now. There's no belonging or deserving anymore. You can take what you want, have what you want... but nothing is yours. Not even her." Real nice thing to say to someone, isn't it? I may have been changed, but it didn't make the bit of difference to those two. Thank the Lord those gypsies gave Angelus that shiny soul not too long after... still, it wasn't soon enough.

So for a while, I left the pack. Didn't look like they fancied having me around much anyhow. But William, hell even Spike, never handled solitude well. Makes sense –

always have had to have someone. Mum. Dru. Even if I hated 'em, which justifies shagging Harmony. And eventually I had to go crawlin' back to Dru, and Angelus, and even Darla on hands and knees. I got stuck with them because I didn't know where else to turn or what to do. See how the change and entrapment work? The rest, nonetheless, undoubtedly so, is history. In 1900, I proved my worth to Drusilla by killing my first slayer... quite an accomplishment for a 20-year-old vampire. Still wasn't enough, though. Ergo, the heartache of a lifetime 'bout hundred years later when Dru left me.

Today, I changed
It's too late
'Cause every town feels the same
I'm different and you're distant
Add it up and it makes no difference

However, Drusilla was right when she dumped me. She once told me, "I look at you... all I see is the Slayer." It was years ago, long before I even thought I had a thing for the Slayer, and Dru already knew. She understood too damn well. But when I finally did comprehend for myself, I decided to do something about it. Of course, Buffy detested me... I did attempt to do something to her... that I'm not too proud of. Once again, I got stuck with loving Buffy. I sure as bloody hell never asked for it. But I had to do something... something that would make Buffy, at the least, respect me.

I changed once more and brought a shimmering, new, soul with me. Came back to Sunndydale with it. And again, it didn't make a lick of difference. Everyone in Sunnyhell regarded me as the same old Spike. Couldn't really blame them because I sort of was. I only hoped that trying to improve myself would gain me some esteem or compassion. I was different and at first, Buffy was still very much distant.

Later on that year, she helped me. Saved me from death, even. But I was just another fine warrior for the final battle in her eyes – that was just it. I'm sure she even cared about me – it's just not enough, you know. I may have won Buffy's reverence but never her love. "I love you," she said. "No, you don't. But thanks for saying it," I replied. So you see, the soul hardly made a large distinction when you put it all together, in the very end of things.

Everybody's talking about blowing up the neighborhood
Everybody's gonna break it up today
Everybody's talking about blowing up the neighborhood
Runnin' just to get away

So I stopped the 'forces of evil' and blew up the Sunnydale Hellmouth. Hard to believe I was one of those individuals that wanted to corrupt the neighborhood just as much as the next demon only a few years ago. Sometimes I think I would've been bloody well better off if I never came back to Sunnydale. It'd prevent the damned chip, the infatuation with Buffy, the soul. I should have just run away; I always wanted to get away, anyhow.

Nonetheless, pretty much, all I got in the end was a nice burning and a transformation into a roasted crisp. Really nice present for a hero, wouldn't you say? Demons keep coming though, as they always do. Lurking in the night, around the bleedin' corner, even in your closet, I'd bet. Wouldn't even surprise me. Threatin' to destroy everything in their sight. Huh, I remember when I was that ambitious... but time changes things. Isn't what this is all what this is all about? Sometimes you get choices, and sometimes you just get trapped with things. And that's what brings me to a point.

Stuck in America
Stuck in America
I'm lost in America
Stuck in America

I got stuck with being turned into a vampire. I got stuck with loving Dru, and I got stuck with falling for the Slayer – which, expectedly, got me stuck in Sunnydale, America. Much rather have gone back to the Motherland, but you never get what you want. I wish a thousand times in my head that I could have stopped any of those things I just listed. But if I've learned anything is that you can't control who you love. You can't control feelings and emotions. They come and take over your very being, cause all the pain imaginable, and you can't do a bleedin' thing 'bout it. It gets you lost. Lost and yet trapped at the same time... don't ask me how.

Today, I changed
New town with the same old face
One way to shake this place that I can't escape

Ironically, the second death doesn't change much. Came back. They brought me back. Have no bloody idea how, but frankly, I don't care. Only bit that really ticked me off was that, of all soddin' places in the world, they had to bring me back to the one place that contained the one person I despised most in it. Los Angeles, city of Angels, city with Angel.

Funny thing is, I've never even had been to L.A. before (well, unless you count that one time I came searching for the Gem of Amarra). It was a brand new town with new people and yet still, sadly, the some of the same old faces. Angel... my God, even Harmony. I thought for sure I was in Hell. Might as well been because, once again, I couldn't leave. Physically, this time, actually. Some sort of barrier prevented me from stepping out of city walls.

And so I, being the pugnacious, bothersome, little devil that I was, sought out to drive Angel mad. Seemed like a great idea at the time. Hell, I was a ghost. What other form of entertainment was there? Even made nice with Charlie horse and sweet Fred. Not to mention I learned how to manipulate touching items.

Everybody's talking about blowing up the neighborhood
Everybody's gonna watch it burn today
Everybody's talking about waking up the neighborhood
I'm still trying to escape

Things were really comin' along. And after I become corporal again, it seemed like a dream come true. I was this close, just this close, to flying off to Europe to see Buffy. Kept wanting to escape, it's practically my nature; I do it quite a bit if you haven't noticed.

Although, several reasons kept me from pursuing this idea and going to Europe, only one reason kept me here, in L.A. Peaches started to really look incompetent to me. Don't know if anyone else picked up on that. Running an evil firm; it doesn't exactly scream a 'Hey, I'm really on top of things!' Someone had to help the helpless, and it looked like I was the next best possibility. And, hey, after awhile it even seemed like Angel and I were getting along. Yeah, okay, maybe not so much as getting along as more of a 'I'll help if you pay me' deal. Whatever works, right?

Today, I changed

One thing fucked everything up. One more soddin' change. Illyria the Bluebird; Fred's death... rather, murder, I suppose. Why is it only the good die young? Someone explain that to me. Bloody hell, her passing was the only thing that made my dead heart melt in over a year. Poor soul, she was the one of the very few 'round here I genuinely liked. She tried to save me from the depths of Hell, literally. How do you thank one for that? I asked her for her help, and she, without even knowing me, without even hearing about the horrid things I've done in my past, promises to use all her knowledge and resources. She offered support and sympathy, even though ...

She was one in a million, she was. And I don't really find it surprising that everyone here's mourning her loss. God knows, I am. Still, you'd think we'd find a way... a way for her to return. I came back. Angel came back. Look at Buffy, she cheated Death twice. Fred, though, wasn't Buffy. She wasn't a slayer, 'a hero' (although, anyone who'd ever met her would automatically agree she was). Fred never got a chance to cheat Death. Fred was another Joyce, and Tara, and Anya. There are no exceptions for them. Fred was much like the three other women who were simply innocent souls that got caught in the midst of things. And those people, those supportive bystanders, they don't get a second life; a second opportunity

Things change, people! Any ninny knows that. Things change, more importantly, people change. They have to. Or else, they'd be stuck. Stuck in a world that doesn't suit their liking; stuck in a world that wasn't made for such a person. Things change and if you don't change, you can't move on. If you don't move on, you're doomed. And so, I'm going to do what Fred would've liked me to have done. I'm going to change, adapt... yes, again. Going to pick up the bits of my broken heart, paste 'em back together best I can. Going to be strong, going to be wise, going to learn that nothing lasts forever. Not even vampires.

You change for only two reasons: you learn enough that you want to or you hurt enough that you have to. - Randall D. Worley

Whoever said that is one smart bloke. I'm sure he must've had some experience to come to that conclusion.

With Dru, when I was turned into a creature of the night, as they say, it was because everything was going wrong. Me Mum was sick; dying, no less. I was rejected by Cecily, the only girl I ever had feelings for. My world was falling apart. What else was there to do but to adopt a new world? Hurt enabled me to do that.

With Buffy, I had some actual insight, for once. I knew she'd never accept me for what I was. Didn't think I'd ever accept myself for how I started treating her. I learned that I needed to make amends – a soul helped with that. Knowledge enabled me to do that.

And with Fred, wonderful, lovely Fred, my change came from a combination of my two previous experiences. On one hand, it hurts too much to carry around the immense pain of losing her. And you don't want that. On the other hand, you can't fight evil when you saw evil winning by it killing a friend. So you're going to have to carry about, knowing that she made a difference, made a sacrifice. You learn enough to know that the show must go on, she would have wanted that.

Illyria: (about Fred's death) You're adapting.

Spike: We do that.

Suppose we do. I do, I have. Things change: for the better, for the worse, for the slight in-between that no one really gives a piss about. Can't do anything about it, but change with it, shut your eyes real tight, and hope things turn out for the best. Y'know, someone once said: 'Nothing endures but change.' This is the 'sad tale of many a human heart.' Trust me, I should know...

NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY by Robert Frost

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay...