Disclaimer: I own nothing. Seriously. Also, any quotes I use at the beginnings of chapters are either song lyrics or poetry excerpts, and therefore part of the "not mine" category. The one used below is from a Paramaecium song (although God forbid I be mistaken for a fan).

Author's Note: This fic post-Chosen and slightly AU; I'm basically ignoring all the Angel Season 5 episodes and altering the Spike-amulet arc so that he was never sent to Wolfram & Hart and instead of coming back as a ghost, he's brought back by the Powers as a human being . So yes, he Shanshus, or whatever (not quite sure whether it's meant to be used as a noun or a verb).

1: You Don't Look Like A Vampire

I am not alive, though they say I am.
Such is the grave inconsequence of man;
Liar that I am, I am not alive at all,
Not alive at all, no. I am not alive.

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The crew responsible for clearing the massive amounts of rubble from the crater that had once been Sunnydale, California consisted of at least a thousand men, working in shifts on a special commission from the government for the kind of money that most construction workers wouldn't earn in an entire year. So despite the hazards, the difficulty and the boredom, every single man and woman on site was determined to finish the job. And the sooner they finished, the sooner they'd get paid.

They had arrived expecting to be dealing with the ruins of buildings, but instead they'd found that most of the buildings had apparently been swallowed by the earth (during what the government referred to as an earthquake, although everyone knew better) and the site was basically an enormous dust pit strewn with stray piles of concrete, brick and glass. Once they'd been cleared away, there'd be nothing left to remind anyone that Sunnydale had ever existed.

---

For Jake Lyman, the job was dream come true. He sat behind the controls of a bulldozer and easily, almost lazily, scooped large amounts of dislodged soil and rock into the trucks waiting to carry them away to only God knew where. He had never before unearthed anything interesting, and wasn't expecting to – but all that changed when he caught sight of something that gleamed brilliantly in the sunlight.

Whatever it was had narrowly avoided being scooped up by the bulldozer and lay on the dusty ground only about a foot or two away from where Jake was sitting. He glanced around furtively to make sure no one else had noticed it and slid quickly out of his seat to take a closer look.

It was an amulet of some kind. More precisely, it was one of the largest gems Jake had ever seen – roughly circular in shape and the transparent white color of diamonds – wreathed in some sort of burnished metal and attached to a heavy chain of the same metal. It looked extremely valuable, and Jake wasn't the kind of guy who'd thoughtlessly leave something like that lying around. It clearly needed a new owner, and that new owner might as well be him.

He reached for it, but as soon as his fingers came into contact with the gem a burning sensation shot up his arm and he snatched it away quickly. "Ouch. What the hell?"

A blinding flash of light effectively answered the question, and Jake automatically put up his hands to cover his face as something strongly resembling a whirlwind surrounded the amulet, throwing up a cloud of dust. Even after the whirlwind stopped and the dust settled, Jake couldn't bring himself to open his eyes for a long time.

And when he finally did, he instantly regretted it.

---

It felt like waking up from a dreamless sleep, only it was far more shocking to find himself suddenly standing on solid ground underneath a blazing sun that it would have been to wake up quietly in a crypt (or the Summers' basement). Suddenly snatched from oblivion and thrown into completely solid reality, Spike was beyond disoriented. He could barely tell up from down and it even took a while to realize that he was being bathed in intense California sunlight.

But once he did realize, it didn't take long to react. "Arrrgh! Arrrrgh! Bloody hell! Bloody goddamn hell!"

Jake was frightened and not a little confused by the spectacle of this strange man, who reminded him oddly of Billy Idol and had apparently come out of the thin air, bend double on the spot and cover his head with his arms while he swore profusely.

This continued for a good few moments, until Spike gradually came to a startling discovery: he wasn't on fire.

He wasn't even giving off a faint about-to-become-vampire-dust smoke. Every inch of him that wasn't covered by clothing was being mercilessly exposed to the sun's rays – and nothing was happening. No searing pain, no crackling of flames. Nothing.

Slowly and very cautiously, he straightened up and took a good, solid look at his hands. He moved them around in the sunlight and waited for spontaneous combustion to happen. Still nothing.

He looked up at Jake, whom he'd only just noticed, with surprise and confusion intermingling on his features. "Am I dead?"

Jake was startled by the question. "Uh…" How exactly was he supposed to answer someone who just jumped out of an amulet? He decided to go for honesty. "I – I don't think so. I mean, you don't look dead."

"How would you know?" Spike asked challengingly. "You ever laid eyes on a dead person?"

Jake ran a hand through his hair, clearly embarrassed. "Well, no. But everyone knows dead people don't … you know, walk and talk and stuff." He was trying to figure out whether Billy Idol Guy's heavy Cockney accent was real or fake. "Unless they're ghosts."

Spike looked down at his own body thoughtfully. "Well, I'm definitely not a ghost. Not transparent enough, for one thing."

"And – and you're not pale enough," Jake added hesitantly. "Ghosts are supposed to be chalk-white."

Spike was clearly affronted by this. "Hey, I'm more than pale enough. I'm the bloody King of Pale. Comes with the vampire package."

Jake looked doubtful. "You don't look like a vampire to me."

Spike smirked. "Oh, really? Hang on for half a second, and I'll show you a vampire." And he proceeded to determinedly scowl at Jake.

After a few moments of being scowled at, Jake became even more nervous. Billy Idol Guy might not have jumped out of an amulet after all; he might just be some escaped mental patient with a talent for appearing out of nowhere. Somehow, the second notion was far more disturbing to him than the first. "Um … what are you doing?"

Spike stopped scowling in evident frustration. He was surprised to see the complete absence of terror in Jake's manner – by now the man should've been quaking in his dusty boots. "Can't you see it?"

"See what?"

"My face!" Spike pointed at the aforementioned face for emphasis. "Isn't it changing?"

He scowled again, but Jake only shook his head. "You're just pulling a funny face. Anyone can do that."

"I am – not – pulling – a – funny face! I'm morphing into horrific vampire mode." He scowled again, but Jake only continued to give him a faintly puzzled look. Spike lifted his hand gingerly to his teeth and discovered, to his own horror, that they had definitely not lengthened into anything resembling fangs. Neither had his forehead ridged. And as far as he could tell, his senses hadn't heightened at all.

"Like I said, you don't look like a vampire." Jake's tone had become just a little patronizing. "Vampires can't stand the sunlight, and here you are in broad daylight, and as far as I can tell you're not … melting, or whatever. And also, vampires are undead. That means they don't breathe."

"Who said I breathe?" Spike asked, trying to regain some of his slipping self-confidence. "I haven't taken a breath in over a hundred and twenty –"

And then he felt it. The subtle, barely noticeable rising of his chest, accompanied by the sensation of air slipping into his mouth. The shock of it robbed him of all speech. He had just inhaled. And now – even more shockingly – he was exhaling. And then the entire process repeated itself in less than two seconds.

When he finally spoke, his tone was full of awe. "I'm breathing. I'm alive." It was amazing. For the first time in over a century, he was a living, breathing, pulse-having, human being. He could barely even comprehend the wonder of it.

Jake, who was now convinced of the escaped-mental-patient theory, only rolled his eyes. "Well, duh."

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