Sunnydale, California

The night was like any other night in the barren expanse of desert in California. What was once a small but thriving town was no more, a crater the expanse of the city's edge with army patrols and barricades now where it once stood, keeping civilians away. But there would be a visitor tonight.

A lone rider stopped just short of the barricade, climbing off the 'borrowed' motorcycle and approaching across the graveled terrain on silent feet. With keen ears much too sensitive to be human, he detected three soldiers and pinned down their locations with his eyes, taking a careful sniff of the air to be sure. Knowing he was safe, he casually dipped his hand into his jacket pocket and fished out a cigarette, lighting it and contemplating life for the first time in a long time. He had no plan or agenda now. No one to depend on him. No one who needed him and no obligations. For the first time in more than a hundred years, for the first time in his entire existence he was free. His own man...er, vamp.

He reflected on the past as his keen blue eyes swept over the pit that now expanded where an entire town used to exist. Sunnydale. A place and a name he knew well. The former Hellmouth that been effectively shut down by a group of girl-child warriors and a souled vampire's sacrifice. He thought to the past, before the town and while living in it. He'd given Dru back her strength and in return she'd cast him aside. Just as they all do in the end. He was starting to learn that lesson, though. In the end he had only himself to rely on.

She wasn't the only one either. Nibblet had every right to hate him for what he'd done and no amount of apology would ever make it right. He'd respected her for her resolve up until she turned against her own sister. After that there was mutual anger between the two of them. The Scoobies he felt about the same, although they could all bloody well kiss his ass. Not a lick of thanks from any of their ungrateful mouths after everything he'd done for them. And his slayer, she was a different story. She had been grateful, perhaps even had loved him. But even if she loved him, she could never be with him. Too afraid of what everyone else had to say about it. His sorrows and his joys all wrapped around one sassed-mouth little warrior package.

Then he thought to now and realized what he should have a long time ago. He'd been a child playing at being a grown up. Fight the good fight. Do the right thing. Make nice with the white hats and she'll just fall in love with you. He'd been an idiot is what he'd been. He'd learned a few things since then. Just a year from then but being in Los Angeles, fighting with and alongside his grandsire, had done what a hundred years before it hadn't. He'd finally grown up.

Was it losing Fred? His own hands? Or the final bitter betrayal of the Watcher and the Slayer that had done it? He wasn't sure but he knew now there was no going back. It was just like this soul of his, there was no going back to being wallflower William anymore than he could pick up Spike's old life. The only thing he did know with absolute certainty was that LA was no longer a welcome home. He closed his eyes for just a moment, picturing the final battle with Wolfgram and Hart in his head. Demons pouring down that small alleyway while they had stood side by side and ready to take on the world.

Gunn. Illyrea. Angel. All of them gone, now, with only him still standing. Rather ironic that the last one to join was also the only one left behind. Yeah, he was left behind is what it was. Once again the Powers decided to pluck him from the jaws of death. Apparently his little stint as a ghost was more than just a mistake.

Taking a last puff of his fag, he flicked it into the crater and watched it fall all the way down, "...look how far down the rabbit hole goes..." He felt a bit like Alice stepping into Wonderland. Only without the dress and frills, thank you. But still, here he was in a brave new world with his past finally behind him.

There was nothing left for him here, either. Best to just keep on moving, to where he wasn't sure. He was adrift of the world, no longer a part of it. Soul or not he didn't fit in the demon world or the human one. He'd killed for more than a hundred years and nothing could ever make up for that, but he refused to be that demon, that monster anymore. Spike was gone and in his place was a man looking to build his future.