A.N. Thanks so much for the reviews! They are amazing to read =]

"But – but, Buffy, Spike needs to be Spike for the spell to work," Willow fretted. Buffy's hands were fisted over her chest, the clench of her jaw showing that she was displeased. They were in her living room, Anya's candles on the coffee table.

"I don't know what to do, Will."

"You said you talked him out of it before, can you do that again?" Dawn suggested.

Buffy shook her head. She had spent the past three hours trying to get through to Spike. All she had gotten for her effort was a nice punch to the stomach and another raking bite mark, this one across her forearm. Blood stained bandages were now wrapped around it.

"He's not in there, or if he is, he's not listening to what I have to say."

"Wait for Giles, he's been doing magic longer than Willow. He is more likely to have a plan that won't get us all killed than she is." Anya paused filing her nails to contribute.

"No," Buffy said too quickly. Giles had been so accepting of her relationship with Spike, if he arrived and Spike was nothing but a savage demon, she knew his approval would go right out the door and it would be nothing but warnings against him after that.

For all she knew, Giles might agree with Spike that staking was the quickest way to solve their problems. Buffy rubbed her temples vigorously. "There has got to be something we haven't thought of."

"How about punching?" Dawn asked.


"Well, I don't know, I'm going out on a movie inspired limb here, but you know, they always act like slapping someone makes them regain their senses, so, how about we slap Spike?"

"I am not slapping him," Buffy said flatly.

"I will," Anya happily offered.

"Guys!" Willow interceded before things could get out of hand. "Either we wait for Giles or Buffy tries the slapping method. I'm sorry, but it honestly sounds like our best bet."

Buffy gave her best friend a look of betrayal that made Willow flush. However, Buffy was between a rock and . . . another rock . . . or something harder than a rock . . . or whatever the stupid saying was.

"Fine." She stormed downstairs without a backward glance.

The minute her feet hit the steps, Spike was in a growling frenzy, she could hear the chains clanking and straining. It didn't exactly give her the vote of confidence she had been hoping for.

"I'm sorry, Spike," she said to the basement walls.

Turning off the stairs, she strode quickly across the basement, arm out stretched, palm open. When she was within reach, she pulled back and slapped him. Hard.

The demon was unfazed. Rather, the slap seemed to have ramped up his blood lust.

Buffy wanted to cry. "Spike," she whispered desperately. "Please, please wake up for me."

He stilled, head cocking to the side, visage smoothing out. "B-Buffy?"


"W-what's going on?"

"Tell me what you remember."

"We were talking. You were taking care of my wrists." He glanced down, they were bloodied again. "And – and then, nothing."

"What song does it sing?"

"What?" His brow crinkled up.

"The song, Spike. What song does the First sing?"

"Buffy, I don't know what you mean."

She turned her back, pacing the length of the basement. "This is getting old. You aren't Spike. I know that. Why do you keep thinking I'm dumb enough not to know?"

"Pet, what are you talking about? Gone off your onion?" There was gentle concern in his words.

"I know you're not him!" she yelled, whirling around.

He cocked his head to the side, his blue eyes filled with hurt. "Buffy, Luv –"

"Stop!" Now she was screaming, raving really, like a manic. Great. What would her friends think?

"You are not Spike! I hate you! I hate what you are. Give Spike back to me. Give him to me now!" She stormed up to him, getting within inches of his reach.

His eyes narrowed. "Then give me what I want."

"And what is that? Me, dead? Oh gee, no thanks."

He shrugged, sitting down on the cot and picking up a cigarette from his pack on the ground. "Guess we'll have to agree to both be disappointed then, Precious."

"Don't! Don't you dare talk like him! You are nothing but a shadow, you're not real."

He scoffed, lighting up the cigarette. "That right, Pet? You think I'm nothing?" Spike took a drag then blew the smoke at her. "That's where you're wrong. I'm very much Spike. I'm Spike without the soul, without the attachment to his poncy life. I'm the demon." He tapped the fingers that held the cigarette against his chest.

"He's not a ponce," Buffy defended, but her thoughts were very far away. This could work. This could be okay.

Spike caught the gleam of understanding in her eyes. "Whatever you're thinking, Luv, doesn't matter. I'm in control now. Your William is gone."

"Hold that thought." And Buffy was racing up the stairs.

"I'm not really sure, Buffy, I mean, I've never done this spell before and I don't know all the specifics –"

"Yeah, but Willow, he said it's him. He said he is Spike. And he is, he's just the demon. They still have the same memories and everything right? I mean that's what the demon does, Giles said so, it kicks the soul out, settles in the shell of the person with all their looks and their memories, and then it creates a new persona. So it is Spike, he's just Spike of the bad," Buffy rambled, excited. She was so sure this would work, it had to.

Dawn was looking uncertainly between the two women. "I don't know, Buffy. I mean, I don't think we should go messing with Spike's head if we don't know whose really in there. I don't think our Spike would appreciate it and it could be dangerous."

"Anya?" Buffy turned to the woman on the couch. She was eating a bag of chips, flipping through the television channels. "You're over a thousand, tell me what you think."

Anya didn't bother to look up. "Oh, you're definitely right, Buffy. That's Spike, just the most evil version you could ask for."

"See?" Buffy said triumphantly.

Dawn and Willow both still looked uncertain but with no other option to offer, Buffy knew they would cave. "Alright," Willow said finally. "If you're sure you don't want to wait for Giles."

"I don't. Let's go."

The demon half of Spike was watching the four women with vague interest, puffing on a cigarette as he leaned causally against the basement wall. "Seems a hell of a lot of trouble for one sodding git."

"And we're back to gagging you," Buffy grumbled. Standing up, she wiped her palms on her jeans to rid them of the mixture of herbs and earth that they had been spreading in a circle on the ground.

Going to the closet, she pulled out a rag with which to do the gagging. Spike smirked confidently at her. "Oh yes, please do, Luv. Can't wait to have your body pressed close to mine while you try to shove that in my mouth. No wonder Willy was all twisted up for you." His eyes traveled a lascivious trail from the tip of her head to the bottom of her toes.

Buffy didn't bother hiding her disgust as she crossed the room to him. Standing just out of his range she waited a moment until his attention of her was acute. Then, she slammed her fist into the side of his head, knocking him out. He clattered to the ground in a bleeding heap.

She sighed. "Sorry, Spike."

"He won't remember any of this," Anya commented as she blessed Willow with virgin olive oil. "So slap him around as much as you want."

Dawn shot a look to her sister and Buffy rolled her eyes. "Er, right, thanks, Anya." The other woman just shrugged.

"Okay, are we ready?" Willow asked.

"Yep," Dawn announced for the group. "We just need Spike in the special circle and we're good to go." She watched as her sister unlocked the unconscious vampire from his chains and hoisted him unceremoniously into her arms. "Geez, he's going to be so glad he doesn't remember this when I taunt him mercilessly about it."

Gently setting her boyfriend in the middle of the circle, Buffy accepted the extra set of chains that Anya handed her. She clasped them around his ankles and wrists. "Okay, let's get this done. I don't want him coming to when we are performing our witchiness."

The four women knelt down around the circle, each taking up a position of North, South, East, and West. Willow passed out four bags of more herbs and earth.

"So I'll speak some fancy Latin and then we blow the powder on him."

"He's going to wig about it getting in his hair," Dawn mumbled.

A smile flickered on Buffy's lips at the thought. "He'll deal."

"Ready?" Willow asked. Once everyone had nodded, Willow began her Latin incantation.

"It's not going to work."

The voice stopped them dead. Willow's face had drained of all color as she whipped her head to the side.

Standing beside the cot was Tara, her innocent features pulled down in a look of concern.

"That is not Tara," Buffy said sharply. She watched her best friend as she stared at her dead girlfriend in horrified fascination.

"Willow," Tara said quietly. "You promised me no more magic."

The pouch fell from Willow's trembling hands. "Baby?"

"Willow! That is not her!"

She forced herself to look away from the vision and to Buffy. "I-I know –"

"Willow, you know me, I'm trying to help you, Sweetie." Tara drew closer to the circle stealing back Willow's attention. "Spike tried to kill you, more than once. You don't trust him, you told me. The relationship between him and Buffy disgusts you."

Buffy's heartbeat erratically in her chest, her gaze dropped to Spike who was beginning to move in the circle. "Willow! I need you to focus. Tara's dead. I'm sorry. You know that. We all know that. And she isn't coming back. That isn't her. That's evil wearing her face. You know that."

"Tara?" Willow's voice quivered.

Dawn shot a look of panic at Buffy who felt utterly helpless to do anything. She couldn't chase the First away, she couldn't touch it, plain and simple. And now it was messing with her friends. It was sick and twisted, it was, of course, evil.

"Buffy's right, Willow," Anya said in uncharacteristically subdued tones. "Whatever that is, it isn't Tara."

"Tara loved you, Willow. She wouldn't come to you like this," Dawn added.

Willow swallowed, shook her head, and exhaled slowly. Without taking her eyes of Tara, she resumed the Latin chant. In an instant Tara was replaced by Glory, stalking towards Dawn.

"And you! You bitch, you should have died, not your sister! You know that, don't you?" Dawn couldn't help staring at the woman who had ruined her life. Her blue eyes wide with terror. Buffy watched, paralyzed, hoping the spell would finish soon.

"You think about it every day," Glory smiled viciously. "How if you had died Buffy wouldn't have tortured herself this last year, how Spike would never have tried to –"

"Now!" Willow shouted.

The four women emptied the pouches into their hands, lifted them to their lips, and blew. A wind whipped through the basement causing the First's form to shimmer then disappear in a blink of bright light. The mixture swept around Spike, covering him completely.

His blue eyes shot open as his body went rigid. Then he screamed, long and loud, a sound so filled with tortured pain that the four were forced to cover their ears. Buffy was desperate to get to him to cross the line separating them. She needed to protect him, to help him –

"Don't move!" Willow commanded seeing Buffy inch forward.

Buffy steeled herself and just as suddenly as it had begun the wind stopped and all was silent. She watched Spike anxiously, his eyes had fallen shut and now his body was twitching.

"How long?" she asked Willow.

"I don't know," Willow said apologetically.

Buffy reached out and locked her hand around her sister's. Dawn's teary eyes met hers in surprise. "Dying for you is one of the things I would never change, Dawny. I love you, you are my sister, and I will always do what I need to to protect you. Please don't regret that."

She bobbed her head as the tears slid down her cheeks. "I love you too."

With one problem resolved, Buffy turned to Willow. "I am so sorry, Willow. I am so sorry that you had to see that."

Willow was still two shades too pale, her fingers trembling, and her eyes glassy. "It wasn't her."

"Exactly," Anya said. It was a rare show of camaraderie between the two. Buffy knew they had never exactly gotten on, ex-boyfriend trolls came to mind. "It wasn't real. Tara is in heaven, where she belongs."

"I know that," Willow said sternly, more to herself than to the others. "That was nothing."

"That was evil," Anya corrected.

On the floor before them Spike moaned. They redirected their attention to him. His hands were balled in fists as he twitched on the ground, his eyelids fluttering as if in a vivid dream.

"What's happening?" Dawn whispered.

"He should become aware of the trigger and if Spike is there, non-pure-demony Spike, then he can fix it – or deactivate it," Willow explained sounding fatigued.

"If it works," Anya sighed.

"It will," Buffy said with certainty.

But as the minutes ticked by, that certainty started to fade. "How do we know if he's alright?" she asked as Spike gave another groan of pain.

"We won't know anything until it's –" Willow didn't get to finish.

Spike's eyes snapped open as his demon came out to play. He lunged upward with a fierce growl toward Buffy who was already scrambling backward. "Dawn, you guys! Get out of here!"

The other three females clattered toward the stairs as Spike, chains and all, came for Buffy. She pulled her hand back, preparing to knock his lights out for a second time. She spared a moment to worry about turning his brain to mush with too much head trauma, but Spike leapt toward her, fangs barred.

Buffy tripped on the spare chains, crashing backwards onto the cement floor. Spike followed her down, his body landing squarely on top of her, effectively pinning her. She saw the yellow of his eyes, felt her heart race, then his fangs sliced into her throat.

Buffy didn't even have time to scream. It was simply over.

And then it wasn't. He was drinking from her, he wasn't sucking her dry. And there was the familiar pleasure behind the action, the brushing of their minds against one another. Buffy found herself watching the strangest scene. Newly sired William coming home to his sick mother, the mother he would do anything for; she saw him offer to save her; she saw the fallout of what his version of saving meant; she saw him put right what he had meant to fix.

"Buffy?" His blue eyes swam before her face.


He gave her a tired smile. "Hello, Cutie."