An Indeterminate Man

A Spike Fic

1.

It had been only a year since Spike had come back from Hell. Hell, with Angel, and Illyria, and all the others. Hell, where LA had been dropped.

Only one short year, and here he was, face to face with a Slayer. The more things changed in his life, the more they stayed the same.

He grinned nervously at her. "Well, fancy meeting you here," he said, as blandly as he knew how.

Oh, he was as much a vampire as ever. And she knew it. She'd walked into this little smoky dive and immediately turned to face him where he was sitting, here in the back corner, away from the others tables.

He didn't stand up. That would just make this seem like the precursor to a fight scene. As long as he stayed sitting down, she'd have to fully commit, and he'd see that.

He remembered her. Even if the name escaped him. She'd been one of the SITs, back during that very short year when he'd first got his soul. That year when nothing had made sense, and nothing had been right.

And she was a good-looking girl, but she had that dangerous look to her. A look that most people could never have. The look of somebody who'd had to do terrible things to stay alive, and was ready to do them again.

And possibly to him.

She drew a stake, holding it down and behind her. "Spike's dead," she said. "And the First Evil is gone for good, this time. Who're you?"

He shrugged. "I died a lot more often than most people, love, but like a bad penny, I turned back up."

She shook her head. Short dark hair bounced distractingly, but she stayed focused, brown eyes boring into him. She knew how deadly a vampire could be, and she wasn't going to look away. "You have to prove you're Spike, and prove you're still good."

He thought about that for a long minute. "What's your name?" he asked.

"Okay, then. I'm calling for backup." She reached for the cellphone on her hip.

"Wait!" he said urgently. "Backup's not Buffy, is it? You can call anybody you like, but not her."

She smiled triumphantly. "Proof positive that you're not Spike. He would have run to her like a kicked puppy."

That hurt more than he would have liked to admit. He scowled at her. "I would not! I didn't when I came back from the dead after burning up in Sunnydale, and you know that, if Andrew's been shooting off his mouth. Ha! He has!"

She nodded. "Still waiting."

"Well, you got to know I'm Spike by the Andrew reference. That leaves the proving I'm good part. Hell, that's going to be hard," he said, rubbing his chin. "I don't think I was exactly good the last time we met, you know."

She raised an eyebrow. "Beg pardon? I thought you were a vampire with a soul?"

He sighed. "Complicated, love. Are we to the part where we go our separate ways?"

"Uh-uh. You were involved in the LA fiasco; my orders are to treat you with respect, but to detain you, and march you straight to headquarters for a grilling. Okay?"

He made a hissing noise. "Think you can? D'you forget who you're talking to? William the Bloody! I've killed Slayers."

She nodded. "And if you're good, that won't be a problem. If you resist, you're not good. Ipso facto—stake-o."

He rolled his eyes. "Sorry, love, but this is one of those shades of grey your lot can't stomach. A vampire, good or naughty, ain't going into the lion's den of Slayers and Watchers and old guilt and new grief."

"Give me one good reason I should let you go," she said.

And he thought about it for a lot longer than he should have.

He'd never been like this before. But during his stay in Hell he'd been forced to do some thinking. Some ruminating. Some actual… brooding.

It was unfamiliar, and it was all wrong, and it left him vulnerable in moments like this. Moments of terrifying vulnerability. Where he might actually speak his mind.

And he did. "It's not good for Slayers to mess around with vampires. Keep it simple. No vampires with souls, no vampires with chips. Keeping a vampire prisoner makes them more real to you, makes it harder to do your job. Gives them a weakness to exploit. So just run along."

Her face closed down in a scowl. "You're part of a mess, and we need to understand that."

Spike was, when you came right down to it, ruled by his contradictions. A vampire, a thing of darkness and hate, ruled by love. He found strength in those contradictions. He lived them to the hilt.

He smiled darkly at her, rising to his feet. "Love, I am a mess. You want a good reason to let me go? Tell me, when you first saw me, what did you think?"

"Pussy," she said, matching his darkness. "You were nothing but a pussy play-acting at being a vampire. And then, later, you turned around and were just plain…"

"Evil!" he snarled, taking a step closer. She flinched back, unable to help the reflex.

"And so you want me to trust you enough to let you go?" she asked, keeping her chin up. "Sorry, that's not happening!"

She had moxie, and grit, and all those other great clichés. He let out a frustrated sigh. He had never been very good at self-examination. Less so when others were involved. "So you're wondering how it is I was evil when we met, but good now? Would you like to hear a story?"

She shuddered. "Please, god, no! And no trying thrall on me!"

He winced. "Well, if you don't want to hear it…"

"I'd love to hear all the meaty gossip-fodder you have," she said hastily. "But there is no way I'm falling for a trick like that. Sit down, get all comfortable, BAM!"

She emphasized the last word with a thrust of the stake. Spike glanced around the smoky room, trying to see if anybody was paying them undue attention. "We could go somewhere quieter?" he said. "Somewhere you feel safe, maybe?"

She shook her head. "Here and now. Make up your mind."

So he did.

"I'll go in if you guarantee I won't deal with Buffy," he said. "You can put me up in front of Giles. You can put me up in front of Willow. I don't care. Just keep Buffy out of it. Our past… it needs to stay in the past. It needs to stay buried. I let her think I was still buried to make it that way. Can we do that?"

She thought about it. "We do have one member of the inner circle here…" she said, very slowly.

"Good. We'll do that."

2.

Spike couldn't believe that of all the people he might have been making his defense to, he'd managed to come in front of Xander, of all people. Of all the people he'd wronged, hurt, and generally made a fool of, it had to be the one still holding a grudge.

Even Rupert, who'd hated him a little bit, would have been better.

Xander glared down at him from the length of the table, a Slayer on either side of him. The Slayers looked uncomfortable. Apparently they hadn't seen a lot of this side of Xander.

That was good, actually. This side of Xander was not so healthy. If he'd been all sunshine and giggles to these girls, then maybe his life had avoided going down in a flaming wreck.

There it was again! That was something Spike hated so very, very much. Used to be, he'd have been disappointed the boy wasn't a wreck. He could have laughed about it.

But now? Now something was wrong with him. Now he winced when somebody else hit Angel, instead of cheering.

Now he was here, staring at the boy, and seeing all the things he'd refused to see before. Seeing a boy with no powers, with no abilities, who had still insisted on standing with his girls.

It made Spike feel quite a bit uncomfortable, actually. That was too much insight, too much caring. He slammed his walls up, putting on the old, familiar sneer, and shutting it all out. He was just here because they could kill him, that was all. Not to reconnect with some vague family circle or anything like that.

"So, Spike," said Xander, his voice filled with that old hate. Spike grinned at him. "Good to see you." It was a bare-faced lie. "Tell me, how's tricks? I heard you destroyed LA."

Spike nodded. "Bad guys did that," he said. "But in case you missed it, we sort of stuck it to them. Big thing. Anyhow, yeah, oops."

Xander's remaining eye could have staked him and turned him to dust if it got just a little bit more fierce. Spike fought to keep down the snarls of rage. That would get him nowhere fast.

He put his hands on the table, tapping at it. Trying to make the nervousness look like some sort of annoyance aimed at Xander. Yes, that's right, Harris, you're not getting to me, I'm getting to you.

Oh, God, Harris was going to be the one to kill him. After all he'd been through, Harris was the end. That was so pathetic.

And kind of fitting, all things together.

"So you're not evil?" asked Xander outright. Good question.

"I'm trying not to be," said Spike, seriously. Xander laughed, which made Spike scowl a little bit. Always like that…

"What does that mean?" asked Xander. "I mean, assume for a second that I accept that you were good after you got your soul…?"

"I wasn't," said Spike. Maybe it wasn't the best thing to say now, but it was the most honest, wasn't it?

Xander smiled. "Well, I know that."

"I know you know!" snapped Spike. "Probably the only one that did. The One that Sees, inn't that what the bugger who took your eye said? I wasn't paying as much attention as I should have, or I might have got a bloody hint there. But I was busy with other things, and I missed the clues. Just like everybody else."

Xander frowned. "What clues? What are you on about? Is this some kind of crazy-vampire-with-a-soul babbling?"

Spike sighed. "I haven't been crazy in a long time. So, how are you on the whole shades-of-grey thing? You gonna stake me if I just say what you already know? Wasn't much good at all that last year in Sunnydale. I just stuck around there sniffing after the Slayer, trying to find some way, any way, to get her to love me."

Xander's face darkened further. "Yeah, I could have told them that."

"Did some good," said Spike. "But for all the wrong reasons, same as the years before that. Wasn't really evil, not any more. But I was still just the same selfish thing I had been. And you knew that, all along."

"Yeah," said Xander.

"But you got that she needed me, enough that you didn't complain the way you would have the year before that."

Xander nodded. "So, that brings us to now."

"No, it doesn't," Spike said. "Still got some more to say about that last year in Sunnydale. A bit about Angel, too, if you don't mind. Because that doesn't come anywhere close to explaining why you need to let me out that door right now."

Xander grinned. "I don't think you'll be leaving." And he was serious. He thought they had Spike, pinned down and boxed in. Spike didn't want to smash his way out of here, hurting Slayers. Hell, he might not even be able to. But they certainly didn't have Spike in a box.

"See, here's the thing," said Spike. "I wasn't good, and I was just looking for love from the girl. But then, right near the end, I got this amazing insight. You might even call it an epiphany. I saw Buffy with Angel. She ever tell you he showed up, offered help? She turned him down. Mostly because she knew it would just come to blows between him and me, I think, and she knew having two vampires would be less than having one. Anyway, they kissed, they talked about love… and between them, I could see it. All those little bits of her that I would never have. Could never have."

Xander enjoyed this part a little, even though he hated Angel equally. "Oh, saw you could never have her? And, what? That made you good?"

"Made me mad," said Spike, surly. "Which was good. Kept me from thinking too hard about the amulet meant for a Champion, and the kind of cost that sort of thing always has. Kept me too mad to realize I was throwing my life away. Because if I was thinking clearly, I might not have done it."

Now Xander was angrier. Not for himself, or his old hatreds. For all the people who Spike's selfishness could have killed. "And here I was getting ready to give you credit for a good one," he growled.

Spike shook his head. "There's a couple of things I did I'm proud of," he said. "Taking Dawn's side against Glory and not ratting her out when I was being tortured. Not buggering off during the bad summer when Buffy was dead, hanging around and helping. Going and getting a soul. Even standing up for Buffy to you lot when you kicked her out of the house. Things I did that I didn't just do for me. Things that weren't one hundred percent selfish. But the amulet? At the end? That was as much about despair as anything else." Spike leaned forward over the table. "Want to know what happened then, Harris?"

"You weren't dead," said Xander, sighing painfully. "Disappointed me a whole lot."

"Yeah. Me too. And there was Angel, and I was stuck with him. Hey, you still hate Angel?"

"Just more than anybody else on this planet except you."

"Yeah, me too. Anyway, there he was. And he was getting buried in this evil place, and nobody was saying the obvious. And he was in trouble, and he was tired, and they were getting ready to pound this world to ash. And… and… well, that's when the truly scary thing happened, Harris. Somebody forgot what I was. Somebody looked at me, and knew I was evil, but saw how scared I was, how alone, and reached out to me. Offered me a place in this world, a fight that was worth something."

"And you jumped at the chance to be good?" asked Xander.

"Hell, no. I ran so hard and so fast…" Spike chuckled. "Are you waiting for me to impress you with my shiny halo so you can point out how it's made out of tin foil? Sorry, mate. At this point in the story it's just a good thing I wasn't adding any more to my body count. I was falling right down the middle. No big evil to report, no big good. And then… then this man came to me, said I was an agent for higher powers. Said the world needed a hero, somebody to save the people who needed saving. The world needed me. Said he could guide me."

Xander snorted. "And you bought that line?"

Spike shrugged. "It helps that it was true. It just wasn't about me. But sitting in Angel's destiny, even just for a little bit… it reminded me. It brought me back to what I had been in Sunnydale, what I had been pretending to be inbetween bouts of evil. It reminded me what I wasn't anymore. I surely wasn't the Scourge any more. I hadn't killed a human since… well, I mean, technically I killed in Sunnydale, but I don't think it counts. Brainwashed. Since before the chip, really. I wasn't that vampire. And there were people… people who needed help. And it was… well, I was confused."

"So you decided to be good," said Xander, more than a little skeptical.

"Ponce. Wait for the punchline. This gets good, now," said Spike. "Remember Dana? I'm sure you remember Dana. Cut off my hands?"

Xander laughed. "That story gets more hilarious every time."

"Yeah. I realized something. I thought I was good with Slayers. I thought, me and Slayers… I've killed them, shagged them, I understand them! But then I realized that I was bad with Slayers. Very bad. That every time I was with them, I hurt them, or they hurt me. I was locked in that cycle with Buffy. Hurt or be hurt. And coming here, right now… it's the same. I won't mean to, but I'm a vampire. I can't help hurting them. Can't stop them hurting me."

Xander twitched, and Spike knew he'd hit a nerve. He continued. "You and me always did have one bit in common. Uncommon love for the ladies. Making promises to protect them; promises we can't keep. Oh, I remember. I remember failing Buffy, the night she died. Falling from that tower. I know it tore you up, being the normal one. Not being able to protect the people you cared for."

"Be very careful, Spike," said Xander, and his voice was dangerous.

"No, I'm serious," said Spike. "You and me, we don't have a lot in common, do we? I was always too selfish to care about much but myself, and you… well, you cared way too much. More than was ever healthy. A white knight with no armor, no steed, no sword. And I mocked you for it for a long time, but I understood it. I always understood it. Because for Buffy, I would have died. And you would have too."

"Don't try to make friends," Xander said harshly.

"I'm not. But that's important that you see that little bit we share. Because after Dana, I realized that it wasn't just because I couldn't have her that I couldn't go see Buffy. That was when I realized that if I could have her… I shouldn't. I should walk away. That was when I understood why Angel stayed away, even though he had her heart."

"Oh, that makes hurting her like he did okay?" asked Xander. It seemed impossible for him to hold any more anger.

"No. But it would have hurt her worse if he stayed… and you know it. Getting back on track… so I had this epiphany. At the same time, bad things were coming for Angel, and I knew it. And even if it was his fate and not mine, I was starting to really… to really care for some of his crew. He had quite a crew. And not just demons and the like; they were heroes. Some of them you would have really like. Normal people like you, throwing themselves into it just because it was right. They fought. They sacrificed. Etcetera. You getting this mental picture?"

Xander steeled himself against the pain. He knew how stories like this ended. He'd seen it so many times. "Yeah."

"One in particular… a smart slip of a little girl. Toughened by this world, but still so vulnerable. She died."

Xander had known this part was coming, and he looked away. "Looking to blame us for that, throw me off a little bit?" he asked bitterly.

Spike shrugged. "If you feel guilty, go with it. Otherwise… you couldn't have stopped it. Not in a million years. But me… I was there. I saw it happen. This girl, she threw down for me. She did battle for me. Just a little girl, and for me… I was the biggest killer, you know. Angel killed for a hundred years before me, but a few years after we met, it was gypsy curse time for him. Darla was too selective. Dru, too crazy. I massacred. I tore a bloody swath. I'm guiltier than any of them. They don't see it, but I kept track. Maybe at any given time I wasn't the most impressive of them, but I was bloodiest. Maybe my kills weren't as demented as Angelus'… but I had more of them. And this girl, she knew that. She did her homework. She knew I was no great shakes before I was turned. She knew I had a soul, but she knew it hadn't changed me. Not essentially."

Xander let out a long breath. "I thought I was the only one sick of the whole Angel slash Angelus hypocrisy."

"Yeah, I always called him Angelus when he was Angel, Angel when he was Angelus. Because when you get down to it… they were the same person. But moving on. That girl died."

Spike hated this part of the story. Hated having to tell it to Xander. "I signed up with Angel's team. I trained the demon that took our Fred's place, tried to give her a fast-track to the place I was at. I took part in the destruction. Because Fred died. And she didn't die for me, but she would have. And I was damned well going to die making sure somebody remembered her. I carved her name on the gates of Hell—literally!"

He let out a long breath, leaning back in his chair. "And that was when I finally was doing the right thing for somebody other than myself. For some reason that wasn't inherently selfish. Sure, I wasn't in it for all of humanity. I wasn't in it for love and puppies and Christmas. But it was the one time I was fighting the good fight and it wasn't because it felt good, it wasn't because I wanted to steal something from Angel, and it wasn't because I had nowhere better to be and I was worried about my own hide. I went to the wall, knowing it would probably kill me, because the kind of people who take a good girl like that out of this world don't get to walk in this world. Did it because she'd have done it. Did it because, God help me, that place had to die!"

Xander was shaken by the sudden proclamation, and just stared at him for a long time. Unable to process this.

Spike leaned back, fishing some cigarettes out of his duster, along with a lighter. He lit up slowly. "Once LA was sucked into hell… well, it's a long story. Telepathic fish, we sort of got Fred back, Angel was human…. You know, a good, long, almost psychedelic story. The sort that makes you weep and long for something easier."

Xander frowned. "Going to elaborate?"

Spike shrugged. "What's there to say? Nothing in there about me becoming selfless or anything. I continued as I had been. Fighting for the right side. Sometimes for good reasons, sometimes for bad. But I knew, just knew, that I could do something right. And for the first time in my life… I was ready to do it. I helped people. I was hardly an angel… I did some bad things… For the right reasons, but bad things, anyway. And I'm still a ruthless bastard. I've had to be. But, evil?" He laughed. "I haven't been evil in a very, very long time. I haven't been good for very long at all, and not consistently, but I'm not evil. You can let me out loose in the world and know I won't be out killing people. Even if you're not sure if I'm out there fighting the good fight, you know I'm not going back to what I was. And you can't keep me here, around Slayers. Especially not near Buffy. I'd just end up hurting them, and hating myself for it."

Xander clamped his jaw shut, shaking his head. "It's a good story…"

Spike shrugged. "Y'know why Buffy trusted me, that last year, Harris? It wasn't because she thought I was good. It was because she knew I was whipped. I would have done whatever she said, and she knew it. I would have supported her against the lot of you… even if she had been dead wrong. That's why she trusted me. I was a club in her hands. Not a hero. Not a Champion. Getting a soul was a good thing… but not good enough. Saving the world was a good thing… but not good enough. And you knew that. I can't stay with you, even in a cell. Because Buffy will find me, and she'll trust me, and around her I can't trust myself to think about what's right and wrong. I'll do what she wants. Right or wrong. You don't owe me anything… in fact, recalling your frequent hospitality, I may owe you something. But I think you see enough of my story to really see. That's you, right? The One that Sees. Do you see me, Xander? See what I am?"

Xander's jaw was trembling, spasming. He had it clenched tight still. "You've been a treacherous ass from the first time we met. Every time we trusted you…"

"I know," said Spike.

"And even after that…"

"I know."

"And you hurt so many of the girls…."

"I know."

"Dawn never forgave you for what you did to Buffy."

"I know."

"I never did, either."

"Only fair. I didn't, either."

Xander made a face. "Hang on. So, you're a Champion?"

"Ugh. I don't know."

"And you want to go out and do good things?"

"I guess so."

"You're not filling me with joy, here!" snarled Xander.

Spike lifted an eyebrow lazily. "The other thing I was always good at was lying, Harris. If you were anybody else I could spin up a line about how all that meant I was good, all the time. Starting in the pre-soul days. How that last year was grandly heroic. But you and I both know that you're the one who always saw right through me. Always knew I couldn't be trusted. So there's the truth, and you know it's the truth. I've been a mess; I'm still a mess. I've been a villain, through and through, and then I've helped the heroes when I had no choice. I've been reluctantly heroic. I've struggled through everything. And you know… bone-deep, you know… that if you were any other Scooby, they would welcome me with open arms. Hugs for dear old Spike, who was there in Sunnydale. They'd forget that I was their enemy, most the time, their antagonist, even when we were on the same side. Giles might remember, but he might grant a little leniency. Who can tell with him? But the others would let me in the door, wouldn't they? And no matter how dangerous I might be out in the world, you know that even if every word I told you was a self-involved grandiose delusion, I'm right on one count. About the Slayers. That if you take me in, it can only hurt them all. That leaves you with two choices, and only two."

Spike held the fingers up. He didn't say the choices out loud.

"Kill you, or let you go," muttered Xander.

Spike nodded. He glanced at the Slayers. "Kill me? You could do it, I think. You've got the firepower, and you've always been willing. And you know it would save complications later. But there's some part of you that remembers I have saved the world, and knows I'll probably do it again. Never mind the motivations. I have the power. From a straightforward pragmatic point of view… never throw away a weapon you may need."

Then Spike held the other finger up, examining it. "Or let me go. Give me a phone number, so I can talk to you, and just you. Give me a cell phone, so if it's the end of the world, you can call me for backup. Because you know I'm good in a pinch. Tell the others I'm back, and you think I'm hovering between good and evil and can't be trusted. Keep them away from me. Healthier for me, healthier for them. Not only safe in the right here and now, but now there's a weapon in your back pocket. One you don't trust, but one you know very, very well. One you know might give up his life for your girls. One you know is strong."

"You were never very strong for us," said Xander.

"I never believed in the cause I was fighting for, when I was on your side," replied Spike. "I was a much better fighter when I was in the fight body and soul. And you know that if I'm telling the truth, I am in it body and soul."

Xander let out a long, slow breath. "What about Drusilla?"

Spike frowned. "What about her?"

"Could you kill her?"

Spike considered it. "It would be hard. She meant so much to me, back in the day. And I owe her so much. And she's hardly in her right mind. And she's awfully tough, and can see you coming no matter how good you hide. Tough all around. This ain't a hypothetical, is it?"

"See, here's the thing. You spin a good yarn." Xander took a cell phone out of the desk, sliding it across to Spike. "But I don't have to take it all on faith. I can test it. Work it through. And you can show me how much you've changed. She's been cutting a swath of bodies through South America. Brazil, right now. We've been leery of just sending one Slayer after her, and too short-handed to send a lot. Why don't you head that way, see what you want to do? Show us what kind of thing you are now, Spike. Show us how much you've changed."

Spike smiled wolfishly. "I don't know much about me, but I can tell you've changed. Smarter. Older. They got you running Slayers full-time in that Nick Fury getup?"

Xander flushed. "Yeah. Yeah they do. Head of Slayers Ops, or some ridiculous thing I didn't really earn."

"Well, then. We were never friends, back in the day, and I never really respected you either." Spike smirked, watching a small flush form on Xander's neck. Anger, embarrassment, and shame in equal parts. "Don't think we'll start being friends, but I really am starting to appreciate that protective White Knight streak I made so much fun of."

Xander blinked surprise out of his eyes. "Um, yeah. Flowery buttering-up won't help, in case you missed it."

Spike shrugged. "They say part of being truly penitent is to actually go back and apologize to those you've wronged. And I'm not truly penitent by that measure, but that's as close as I'm coming."

Xander knew that he shouldn't trust Spike. He'd always been able to see the selfishness in the vampire. Had always known Spike was just in it for himself. Every time everybody else had relaxed one iota around him. (Giles had remembered too, trying to kill Spike behind Buffy's back that last year in Sunnydale. That gave Xander immeasurable amounts of hope for the G-Man)

But this was weird. It was almost as if Spike… meant it. As if the vampire had changed.

And sure, in theory, Xander was all about people changing. Being better. He loved that.

But Spike wasn't a person.

He sighed, covering his good eye with one hand. "It turns out you're doing yet another Face-Heel turn, Spike…."

Spike chuckled. "You have an army of Slayers. I'm a vampire. It turns out I've gone evil again, just do what comes naturally."

He took the cell phone and left.

Xander picked up the phone. Now came the hard part. After all that argument over who would track down the newly returned Spike, put him on trial, and execute him... after all that time shrieking till he was blue in the face about how they could not afford to let Deadboy Junior live... he had to call them and let them know that it had been him to give the blonde wonder a pass. After he had insisted that giving him a pass would be tantamount to murder.

No, this would not be a pleasant call.

"Hi, Buffy? Yeah, we finally picked Spike up. Had to track him all the way to Pittsburg… Yes. Yes. No, I don't think he's going to be a problem. He's not going to come sniffing after the decoy, like you were worried about. He's not going to get in the way of our work. And it doesn't look like we need to kill him… yet."

In truth, there had been some hot contention over who they would send to pick Spike up and bring him in for questioning. Who would be his judge, and jury (and executioner by proxy, though Xander would have dearly loved to get up close and personal... no, his three Slayers were the ones for that).

Giles had wanted to do it. Only Xander had objected, on the grounds that Giles might go too soft on Spike. I.e., not kill him. Not because the Watcher was completely soft, but because he tended to see the usefulness of having somebody around willing to do dirty work. And as far as Xander was concerned, that was fine. As long as said grey-hat was, say, Faith. And not Spike.

Faith had also wanted to do it. Xander had objected, same grounds. Too easy on Spike. Giles thought she might not be the best judge of whether he was evil or not, given her lack of history with him. (but Xander did appreciate the reasoning that Faith gave; 'if it comes to it, I can stake Blondie.')

Buffy had wanted it. Everybody objected; only Xander gave a reason, the same as his other reasons.

Dawn had wanted it. Even Xander didn't have an objection there.

But when Xander had volunteered… for some reason, they all seemed to think that he might be able to see through Spike's lies. That he might be able to pull the trigger even if Spike was giving him that wounded look, with some halfway beleivable lie on his lips.

But for the first time in his life one of Spike's lies was sounding believable. (the Adam fiasco didn't count; Spike had just repackaged a truth that Xander didn't like, then--that's why it had sounded so believable)

Either Xander'd lost his abilities, or the very world had been tipped upside down.

He sighed. "Yeah, I'll bring the tapes. It's definitely a tale for the ages… what? No! No! He didn't even mention…! No, of course not! And I didn't ask! Why would I…? No, Buffy! No! We didn't even talk about…. Dear God in Heaven! I don't even want to think about you and him—stop! Stop!"