A/N: I hate character-bashing. Which means that even when I poke fun at a character, I treat them sympathetically.

Disclaimer: I do not own the works of Judith Viorst, or BtVS. If I did, Spike would have been dusted in Season 5. And that poor kid would never have had such a terrible, awful, horrible no good bad day.

.

"Some days are like that. Even in Australia."

.

Sleep was not the same for a vampire as it was for a human. Dreams were usually just rehashed memories, and never gave any kind of mental relief, not to mention those times when the demon itself dreamed.

Which meant that Spike woke up grouchy.

He shuffled over to the fridge, pulling out a bag of pig's blood and putting it in the microwave, scratching his belly as he poured some Weetabix in a bowl and crumbled them up with his fingers. He yawned.

But today was gonna be a good day. Today, for the first time since LA was brought back to Earth and out of the temporal loop slash dimension slash what the bloody hell ever, they were gonna meet up with the new Council.

Which meant Buffy.

Which meant he would see her again. Maybe...

"I love you." "No, you don't. But thanks for saying it."

He frowned. No, he'd been wrong then, hadn't he? She did...really, she did. How could she not? Sure, it had been two years, but...

Spike opened the microwave, and the blood bag exploded.

.

Cleaning himself up was the least of his issues. The mild burns were already healing, of course. But it was a bad omen.

Explainable, yes. The bag had a flaw in it, most likely. Plasma bags weren't really meant to be microwaved, and he should have just poured it into a mug or something first, but he'd been lazy. Lesson learned, then.

Still, he just had to take out another...

"Bugger."

That had been the last one.

.

He got dressed, only to realize that the demon he had killed last night had had corrosive blood, because his leather coat was completely ruined. Big holes eaten through it, and what wasn't corroded through was now a bright pink.

He sighed, tossed it in the bin. His favorite coat. Damn.

Digging through the drawers yielded only a fringed suede jacket that had been fashionable in the 80's, and he'd be buggered if he wore something that ridiculous. No, t-shirt and leather pants it was.

...except the pants were also eaten through. And pink.

He stared at them for a long while, then bowed his head, taking a deep breath.

Yeah. Okay. Any other pants, then?

...shorts. He had a pair of denim shorts. Stonewashed, and...

No. Bloody hell, no. No, he needed clothes...

Angel! Angel always had a change of wardrobe or two. Especially nowadays, after Wolfram & Hart. Surely he wouldn't mind if a fellow souled vampire swiped a pair of pants or two? Be a bit baggy, Angel being big and fat compared to him, but still, a belt would do.

Right. Time for a bit of a raid.

.

He stared in shock. What. The. Bloody. Hell?

Glitter. There was...glitter. And purple. And...

Oh. Oh, no. This wasn't Angel's wardrobe. It was Lorne's. Why was Lorne's wardrobe here? Why had he left it behind?

And yet...okay, that deep maroon one wasn't half bad. Ditch the bright yellow shirt and neon blue tie and it'd be workable. And they were about the same size, too.

All right. Yeah, he could work with that. No worries.

.

.

Angel gave him a confused look. "The hell are you wearing?"

Spike shrugged. "Only thing I could find, wasn't it? That Gaffnar demon bled all over me clothes yesterday, now they're all ruined."

"...okay. Just, uh...try to not stand too close. The glare hurts my eyes."

He glared, all right. Angel smirked and looked away.

The doors opened, and about twenty girls in casual clothing entered, taking up positions by the door and windows. All carried short swords, firearms, stakes. All were around their early to late teens.

And there she was.

Beautiful as ever. He heard Angel's sharp intake of breath mirror his own as she entered...

...with some kind of growth attached to her neck.

Buffy giggled. "Stop it..."

"But you're so tasty. I just gotta have a bite. Or two. Or three."

Spike felt his jaw drop open, same as Angel's. Oh dear God in Heaven, no. No, no, no, no, no...

"Cut it out, Xander, we have business to – oh, hi!"

Harris looked up from where he'd been busy giving her a hickey, smiling at them. The eyepatch only helped give him an undeniably roguish air, and his remaining eye...bloody hell, the whelp grew up. "Oh, hey guys. Long time no see."

The most annoying part was how he managed to smile without even a hint of smug superiority. To be honest, if it had been Spike he'd have happily rubbed it in everyone's faces. But fair cop, he never claimed to be perfect, did he?

"Uh...hi." Angel winced, then glanced at Spike, the question 'What the hell is going on?' blatant on his face.

Buffy grabbed a chair, seating herself, Harris taking up a position behind her, a hand on her shoulder as if marking territory. Or just making sure everyone knew he was backing her up, but Spike doubted it. He would have been marking like hell, after all. She took the hand and held it with an almost absent-minded air, as if she was reassuring him in turn.

"Okay. Well. On behalf of the new International Slayers & Watchers Council, I thank you for your invitation. We're ready to help with reconstruction and support while Los Angeles gets back to normal, so the main question for today's business remains, what do you want from us, and how can we help?"

Things went downhill from there.

.

If looks could kill, Harris would have been dead a thousand times over by now. Oh, he was there. He hovered. He made whispered comments that he must have known they would overhear, and never failed to make Buffy giggle or smile.

Not to mention when she finally sent him off to handle some Slayer business, she gave him a decidedly unchaste kiss on the cheek, followed by a blush of her own. He grinned at her, then left the room, nodding to two of the Slayers to follow.

The silence that followed was more than awkward.

"So."

Angel grimaced. "Uh, yeah."

"Now that most of our official business is concluded, how've you guys been?"

Spike felt his eyes goggle. "How've we been? How do you think? LA went to hell, we barely got out with our necks still on! We lost Gunn, we lost Wesley, and-"

She raised an eyebrow, not unkindly. "We've all lost people we cared about, Spike. How're you holding up?"

He faltered. "...fine, I suppose. Considering."

"We wanted to help earlier, you know. But not even Willow could get inside the barrier surrounding the city. And why didn't you call us beforehand? We could have helped."

Angel frowned. "We did."

Buffy blinked. "That's news to me. Who did you talk to?"

Angel glanced at Spike, then back. "Uh, that Wells kid, he said you were busy-"

She closed her eyes. "Andrew. Damn it. Well, we'll have a long talk with him later about the value of friends and allies. I'm truly sorry about that."

Angel nodded, as did Spike. Then he sighed. "So. Uh. You and Harris, huh?"

She grinned, her face lighting up from within. Spike felt an irrational stab of jealousy in his gut. She never looked that happy with him. Mostly just sad or angry or pensive or...well, the other kind.

"Oh my God. I never thought he and I would...it's just crazy. I went to visit him in Africa, stayed a couple weeks longer than I'd expected, and...we just clicked, y'know? We sent a decoy to take my place in Rome, kept the Immortal busy chasing shadows, meanwhile me and Xand spent the next few months together in Johannesburg, plotting and planning and just being in love." Her blush deepened. "He's, um, creative. And very romantic. And then we went together to Europe to solve the whole Immortal problem once and for all, and Dracula shows up to grab him! Man, I had to stake that guy like thirteen times before he got the hint."

Angel's face went from vaguely wary caution to hints of disgust to sad acceptance.

Spike frowned. "Hang on, 'decoy'? When was this?"

She told him. Angel and Spike turned to look at one another, carefully trying not to let their embarrassment show.

"So, um, so...you two serious?"

Buffy raised a hand and wiggled her fingers, displaying an engagement band. "Yeah."

"Oh."

Spike just felt cold. Colder than usual. Before he knew it he'd flipped his chair over and marched out the door.

.

.

"She was scared, y'know."

Spike flinched. How the bloody blazes did Harris sneak up on him? "You, eh? Sending her whipping boy to do her dirty work."

Harris just gave him a slightly pitying look. "You think that's what this is? Spike, she loved you. Hell, she loved both of you, once. In different ways, and maybe not the way you'd like, but she never stopped caring about you. So when she heard you guys were back to undead and kicking, she was scared. She didn't know how you'd react if she came to talk, to help. Especially now."

Spike stared at him. "Who are you and what did you do to the whelp?"

Harris chuckled softly. "Spike, you've been to Africa. You know how crazy that place is, and you only spent a few weeks there. I was there over half a year on my own before Buffy showed up, and...well, the place humbles you." He paused, smiling. "Well, maybe not you, but I don't think anyone could ever humble you. Or anything."

"Shows what you know."

Harris shrugged. "Hey, I never claimed to be perfect. I'm just the carpenter."

The carpenter...wait a tick. Now it started to make sense! "Wait...you're the Carpenter? The scourge of the bloody underworld?"

He blinked. "Uh, if you say so. I don't do much field work, I keep to the planning and liaison thing while Buffy's the field leader."

Spike growled. "Yeah, well, you're all they're talking about now. Some mysterious genius general who never loses a battle. Should've known they were talking out their arses."

Harris nodded. "Yeah, that's just nonsense. We've lost battles, all right. But at least we're making headway, now. We swept up the remnants of Wolfram & Hart and the Black Thorn while you guys were keeping LA from going to hell, and we took down most of the Order of Teraka last month." He leaned against the wall. "We could use you guys. You're freaking champions in your own rights, you could do a lot of good. I mean, I know you guys like working on your own, and you'd keep doing that, but now we'd send you back-up whenever you needed it."

"...right." He frowned. "Don't mean I have to like you, does it?"

"Hell no. Feel free to say mean things about me." He smiled wistfully. "Kinda miss my parents calling me names. How about I call you 'dad' and you call me 'useless waste of space'? I'd feel like I was twelve again."

In spite of himself, Spike felt the corners of his mouth twitch. "...yeah, I could work with that."

Harris nodded, then jerked his head towards the conference rooms. "So how about you go back and apologize for being a jerk?"

Spike sighed. "Yeah. For her, I will."

Harris looked at him. "Oh yeah. But see, here's the thing. Buffy grew up. You and Angel, you'd die for her. But that's not what she needs. She needs someone who'll live for her. And the only reason I know that is because she told me so, I'm not claiming to know everything about her. But apparently, I'm what she needs and wants now. If she ever changes her mind, well, you never know. Her choice, as always."

Spike stared at the man as Harris nodded and left, and kept staring long after he'd gone.

Huh.

So there was a chance. Some day. Maybe.

Yeah, he could work with that.

.

He went back, of course. Groveled a bit, apologizing to Buffy. After that they talked until morning, and then Harris and Buffy took their Slayer squad out of the area, leaving them a hotel phone number to call should they have anything else to say or ask about.

Spike gave Buffy a few knowing looks. Yeah. She didn't love the brat. It was obvious, now. If he said the right things, she'd come crawling back. And he'd be happy.

Which was why finding her in his rooms, bemusedly looking at the ruined garments of yesterday was a bit of a shock.

.

"Buffy?"

She gave a start, dropping the leather coat back in the trash. "Whoa! Jeez, you startled me!"

He looked around. "The whelp here as well?"

"No, Xander's back at the hotel. What happened to your clothes?"

Spike dropped the bag of fresh clothes he'd just bought by the bed. "Gaffnar demon blood."

"Oh." She winced in sympathy. "I lost a pair of Donna Karans to one of those."

"Yeah, well, I didn't know they bleed slow acid." He sat down on the bed, trying not to smile triumphantly. Seems she had given up on Harris quicker than he thought. "So what brings you here?"

She stared at him for the longest time. Then she let out a snort of a laugh, shaking her head and smiling. "We're not true lovers, Spike. Me and you. I was in a really bad place the first time, trying to hurt myself. You helped, I guess, both in the hurting and in finally getting back to life, if only because I got a real good look at what I was becoming and had the strength to back away. Second time around I suppose was nostalgia and a way of reconnecting. But I don't love you that way."

He smirked. "Sounds like you're trying to convince yourself."

She smiled softly, with a hint of pity in her eyes. "No, Spike. I'm telling you that I'm happy now. And that if you try to make a move you'll get shut down so hard that your ancestors will feel the burn. I love him. We're getting married. Maybe even having two point five kids some day, if we live long enough. I'm not leaving him. Don't try, because all you'll do is make an idiot out of yourself and hurt me and Xander in the process. So don't. I kind of like remembering you as a guy who finally got it."

She stroked his cheek gently with the back of one hand, then left, and Spike watched her leave.

After a while he sighed, and went over to the fridge to stuff his fresh blood bags in there.

Instead he backed away with a yell as the head of Willow Rosenberg appeared inside the fridge, glowing like a miniature star. She smiled at him.

"Also? I can kill you with my mind."

She vanished, and Spike slowly stopped shivering.

And then realized he was sitting on his newly purchased blood bags.

"Oh, bloody hell."

.

And so Spike's terrible, horrible, no good awful night ended with him scrubbing the floor and ordering a fresh delivery, more expensive but necessary since he was hungry as hell by the time it arrived. He even drank it cold, at first.

Once done with that he took a final look at the apartment, then retreated to his bedroom to sleep.

...and discovered that since he had slept in the nude, he had gotten Gaffnar blood all over the sheets and mattress, which were now just a mass of holes and sharp springs everywhere.

He sighed, grabbed a fresh blanket from the cupboard and went to sleep on his easy chair instead.

.

The End

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

No, really.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Seriously, I'm not kidding.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

...don't you people have homes? Scram! Vamoose! Beat it!

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Sheesh, I get no respect, no respect at all...