Author's Notes:

For quite some time, I've wanted to see a time-travel fic that involved Buffy meeting Spike at some point in his evil past, long before Sunnydale. Most of the time-travel fics I've read send Buffy to either William's time or those early Sunnydale years, and I wanted to do something different. While mulling over what part of the past I wanted to send her to, I was spending quite a bit of time with the shooting scripts of S7 for a different story, and a chunk of dialogue that was cut from "Never Leave Me" (S7) really stuck with me. In this missing scene, Spike paints a very ugly picture of his evil tendencies and tells Buffy she's never met the real Spike. So… of course I wanted to send her to meet the 'real' him.

In case you didn't guess from the summary, this story comes with lots of warnings. Spike IS going to be evil, and he WILL commit the evils described in that missing scene from "Never Leave Me", although most of said evil will be off-screen. I'm not a big fan of writing the gory details.

Many thanks to Science, who kindly previewed and beta-ed the story (any mistakes are the result of my own further editing), the ladies of chatzy, who inspired me with gifs and videos, and Wolffan200 for helping me out with Dru dialogue . And oh yes, all props go to Joss Whedon and his associates for creating this 'verse and graciously allowing us to play in it.

The title is taken from Robert Service's Poem, 'Decorations'.

One final note: The prologue is written in a different style than the rest of the story.


They sit side by side on the small bed in the back of the RV, Spike doing his best to comfort her as Giles drives steadily onwards.

I'm here for you, Buffy, you know that, right? Do anything for you.

Love you.

She gives him a long, searching look, unwilling to deny his assertion but unable to accept it.

I know you think that, Spike… but… it's… It's not love. It's obsession.

He glares at her, throws his hands up in disgust.

Don't bleeding tell me how I feel! If this isn't love, why the bloody hell am I here? Answer me that, will you, you daft woman? S'not for my sodding health, that's for damn sure.

Okay fine, you definitely have some kind of warm fuzzies for me, and yes, you've been… well, I don't know what I would do without you. You've gone above and beyond, I'll grant you that.

But you're a vampire. A soulless vampire. You can't love like a man. It's all twisted and… it would have never happened if you were still chipless. You've just taken all that anger and hatred and twisted it into something else. Something less frustrating.

He rolls his eyes. Yes, because loving you is far less frustrating than hating you.

No, no. You've taken your obsession with killing me and mutated it into this thing because you can't kill me anymore. It's, like, less emasculating for you or something.

One semester of psychology from the loony professor doesn't make you an expert on the vampire's feelings, oh wise one. Fell in love with you before the sodding chip, so joke's on you. Yeah, it took being leashed to make me slow down and take notice, but even at my worst, pet, I would have seen you for who you are. I would have loved you.

Your worst? You mean before the chip, when you first graced us with your uninvited presence?

Long before that, love. You've never seen me at my worst. When I first came to Sunnyhell, I was too focused on curing Drusilla to really get into it. Nah, you got off lucky, you did. If I'd had time to put all my energy into you, you'd be a footnote in the Watcher's diary now.

She shivers, repulsed. And when were you 'at your worst'?

His eyes take on an introspective, faraway look, and his voice, when he speaks, is dreamlike.

That'd be the Great War, then. World War One to you children. Angelus had left us and I was cock of the walk, only rooster in the henhouse. Both Dru and Darla on my arms, looking up to me, letting me take the lead.

Death, glory, and sod all else, yeah?

I'd killed my first Slayer and was high on the wonder of it. Hadn't faced off with the next one yet – she brought me down a notch or two, she did. Made me realize I'd been lucky the first time around. But I didn't know that then, did I?

I was making a name for myself, and that name was known and feared in all the right circles. I'd beat old Drac at his own game, taught him a lesson when he tried to interfere with me and mine.

Was still young, still entranced with this power I'd found, still swayed by the novelty of it. I'd learnt Angelus' lessons and taken them to a whole new level: looting and pillaging, murdering and raping with impunity, with Drusilla and Darla egging me on at every go. Darla especially, what with her missing that bastard Angelus. Had to prove I was worthy of being the leader of our little pack, worthy of taking on Angelus' mantle. Let the peasants know we were still to be feared. That I was to be more feared, even.

And then came the war – carnage and bloodshed everywhere, the likes of which I couldn't hope to compete with, and me diving right into the fray. Violence enough to satisfy even me. Easy pickings.

He nods.

Yeah. Those were my glory days.

She stares at him, fascinated despite herself.

So what happened after that?

He leans in closer.

Slayer. You know I can keep a secret, eh? Done kept yours, even when it near cost me my life.

She nods. He has. He's earned a portion of her trust. Somehow his hand has found hers; his thumb is tracing soothing circles on her palm. She lets him. Despite their years of hatred and death threats, and his more recent and far more disturbing attempts to woo her, there is a growing understanding between them.

I'll trust you to keep mine in return. The next few decades didn't go so well. After the war, sometime in the twenties, I faced off with my next Slayer, n'she almost killed me, see. Got my come-uppance then. Course I was still young, still stupid. Went back after her, more'n once, and the next girl after that, and after that. I never killed them, but they never got me either, so it was a bit of a stalemate. That little Chinese Slayer's family came after me, and it was a close call. Throw in the few times that Drac got the better of me, a nasty run-in with Nazis in the next war, some scrapes with this one ponce who calls himself the Immortal… Well. Wasn't so young anymore. Learned to be…

He searches for the right word.


She snorts. You. Cautious.

He smiles at her, his secret smile, the honest, sweet, crooked one. The one that tells her he is, against all odds, somehow more than just a stone cold killer. With all they have been through lately, all Spike has done for her and hers, she has to admit that that smile affects her more than she would like.

Right. Not cautious. But learned more about who I was, what I wanted. Still was after the mayhem, make no mistake, but… didn't feel the need to prove I was the Big Bad anymore. So I wasn't quite as evil after that. Not Evil with a capital E, out to flay the world at my feet, at any rate.

She reflects on his words, has a hard time believing him.

Okay, so what about right after you'd killed your second Slayer? Nutsilla wasn't sick back then, and whatever insecurity issues you'd earned in between should have been cured. You don't think you were more dangerous?

More dangerous, yeah. But not at my most evil. Like I said, wasn't so young anymore. Knew I was evil, but I only took whatever challenges came my way 'cause I liked the challenge. Like to know I'm the best, yeah? But didn't need to prove anything anymore.

That first Slayer, those early days, I rushed right in without planning, without thinking things through. I was in it for the fun, the glory, didn't give a toss about the outcome. Think that recklessness is what made me worse, maybe, that and trying to be as Big and Bad as Angelus... Years spent with Angelus as my mentor, my Yoda – trying to live up to his name – had me focusing on pain, on torture, on cruelty far more than is in even my demonic nature.

He drifts off in thought for awhile, and Buffy doesn't know what to say. He's distracting her from her worries about Glory, that's for sure, but she doesn't know if this is any better.

Eventually he speaks again.

By the time the second Slayer came around, I'd learned to plan a little, take my time, assess the situation. 'M still impulsive, but… I hold back compared to how I first was. Don't just dive right in anymore. Did you know I even had you videoed so I could study up on you? Think that's when I first began to fall for you.

She doesn't like this particular admission.

A knocking on the door interrupts the conversation. In the chaos that ensues, she never finds the time to question him further, never finds the time to process what he has told her.

But it sticks in her mind.


Buffy pivots, sprinting to the end of the platform, diving off in the certainty that, yes, this is right. You are full of love. Death is your gift. It is her gift to the ones she loves, and she thinks that now she is done. She can rest. It's not quite the death wish Spike has intimated is part and parcel of the Slayer package, but it is an acceptance that leaves her serene and at peace.

Her body plummets towards the portal. Through it, she can see the ground below, and on the ground, Spike lying broken. She is amazed that this man – this vampire – has acquitted himself so, and wonders at it. Is what he feels truly love? Is he right when he says that he loves her because of who she is, that it has nothing to do with his violent desires being twisted and sublimated by the chip?

Even at his freest, his worst, could such a monster have fallen in love with her?

This is her last thought as she passes through the portal, as her spirit leaves the world.