The pendant had sat in his palm for two days before he could finally bring himself to send it to her. Demon courier services had come a long way since back in the day when they'd often eaten the recipient of their delivery. Seemed they accepted more reasonable currency these days—not that Spike needed to worry that Buffy couldn't protect herself against a lowly misguided courier.

Came in handy sometimes to have as evil a reputation as his. Word had yet to spread that he was almost useless against humans, and Spike had found out by accident that he was still the Big Bad in the ever-flowing sea of evil. Demons had no advantage over him and for that he was infinitely grateful. And having that advantage made it easier to get what he wanted. Within reason. He couldn't get Buffy, no matter how he wished for it.

He could feel the power surrounding the object before he'd even held it in his hand. Had known its secrets before they'd been whispered to him by the sorcerer. It was fixed to a leather strap, coated in so much magic that it took Spike's breath away. The disc was smooth gold and flattened around the edges, but not sharp. It was engraved with protective magical symbols and soaked in a confusion spell, rendering anyone trying to read it unable to grasp the meaning of its particular use. To any observer it would appear an attractive, meaningless object that Buffy would hopefully consent to wear around her neck. It would protect her from any magical misdemeanour, and Willow wouldn't know to do a damn thing about it.

If anything, it would at least prevent her from becoming mystically betrothed to some other poor sap.

In the four months it had taken him to find this particular sorcerer and bribe him into providing the protection the Slayer would need, Spike had resisted every impulse he'd had to find out if Buffy had started a relationship with the big smarmy plonker he'd seen her with that final night. He'd spent many an evening and day wondering if he'd done the right thing in leaving, and then worrying some more that he'd just been a giant drama queen. He knew it in his gut, however, that staying wouldn't have achieved anything good.

There was plenty of talk around the place that she was still alive, and he had heard through the grapevine that she was up against something big. Something attributable to that evil little military set-up that he could thank for the current hardware in his head. He knew she was still alive and after this long, Spike was inclined to think she was blessed. And he was thankful.

One last glance at the pendant and he was satisfied. He'd penned a note with the explanations, trying to explain the importance of the gift without giving his heart away. Wanting to express how much she needed to wear it to keep herself safe without begging her to accept a gift from one she considered a monster.

He'd paid the delivery service with a higher currency than cash—kittens—for that extra bit of insurance, yet despite this he watched the disappearance of the demon with apprehension. In too few hours, the courier would set eyes on Buffy, and the wanker wouldn't even appreciate what a privilege that was.

The focus of months was now over and Spike was left feeling aimless and colder than he had been in years. He'd never imagined there would ever be a time where he'd be without Dru, let loose in the world without the will to really do anything. Being something now was too risky and required more effort than Spike was willing to expend.

Angel knew he was in town, yet Spike had waited for the old fart to come and torture him for vengeance. To satisfy his itch for violence. But he hadn't come. Spike spied on him sometimes, watched his new merry band of men—and woman—fight the good fight and it made Spike partially nostalgic for what he'd left behind in SunnyD. He didn't like this feeling of being unwanted and unneeded. No one had rushed to be in his presence since he'd quietly driven into town, not that he'd made much of an impact while he'd been out searching for the answer to Buffy's dilemma.

Choices seemed laid out before him like an endless line of drollness.


Who was he trying to kid? Every step he made from now would be a lonely one, each new place friendless. None of his remaining family wanted him—and in Angel's case he supposed that was a blessing. No need to offer himself up as a sacrifice to his elder who would likely be very keen for the opportunity to teach his wayward grandchilde the exact feel of the flaming hot poker being shoved through his spleen.

Even if the place was the site of his destruction, Sunnydale felt more like home to him than any other place ever had. It had the Bronze, with its buffalo wings and flowering onions. It had the Watcher with his entertain-a-minute uselessness. And it had Buffy. Even if she dated an endless line of wankers, he found it unbearable to be apart from her. Even if King Forehead himself dropped back into town and there was another wage-with-Hell battle, he'd rather be miserable in her presence than miserable and alone.

It was a moment of epiphany that required the sweet soothing burn of nicotine and Spike rummaged around in his pockets until he found a battered pack. The cylinder slipped between his fingers easily, the tip flaring into existence at the snap of a lighter. A dead lungful later and Spike was smiling at his decision.

"God you've been a burk, Spike." Saying the words out loud gave him the strength and courage that had been flagging the past months and he turned abruptly on his heel, striding down the busy street, heavy boots, dangling cigarette and mean scowl marking him as dangerous; onlookers rushed frantically out of his way.

If he hurried, he'd be able to see the look on Buffy's face when the demon showed up with his package.

Yeah, that was a plan.