Disclaimer:  Characters are so not mine; they belong to Joss Whedon lock, stock and father issues.  I'm not making a dime off borrowing them either; I'm just using them for some free therapy. 

Spoilers:  Everything up and including the Season 6 finale.

Rating:  Not sure if it's R or PG-13, but if it's the former it's only for language.     

Summary:  On the voyage back from Africa Spike and William argue over who gets the girl

She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not By Gem

Another swell slapped against the hull of the cargo ship, forcing the vessel to list once more in the stormy seas.  Even in his sleep the ship's once-human cargo fought against the pitch and yaw, trying to keep his place in the darkest recesses of the hold.  All around him boxes teetered on the edge of disaster, as the large cargo nets swung crazily overhead; his preternaturally sharp senses processed all the commotion surrounding him, and the attendant dangers, with lightning speed.  But it would take more than the age-old war between man and the elements to interest this creature now; behind his closed eyes a far more personal, and fateful, fight was being waged, and not even a shipwreck could turn the tide of battle. 

* * * * *

William stood on a dark plain, his only light a strange red sphere on the horizon.  He glanced wildly about him, his panicked gaze taking in the strange gnarled trees and monstrous blackened hulks of buildings in the distance before he could bare to face the creator of this hellish landscape.

"Why have you brought me here again?" he demanded, his voice shrill in the otherwise appalling silence.  "Why do you torment me so?"

"Oh don't be such a bloody drama queen," Spike scoffed.  "You're the one who fancied himself a poet; call it a little atmosphere."

His nemesis, and other half, wildly shook his head.  "No, this isn't right.  This is where you belong but I...I have done nothing wrong.  I belong..."

The landscape dipped sharply to the left, throwing both men to the ground.  When the world had righted itself and they regained their feet, it was Spike's turn to be alarmed.

"Christ!" he swore, throwing himself back against the outer wall of the cabin to avoid the bright sunlight that streamed across the deck.  "Give a fellow a little warning before you spring daylight on him, will you?  I don't care if it's all a stupid dream; some habits are kind of hard to shake...like not catching on fire."

"This is where I belong," William declared, spreading his arms wide to encompass the dark blue of the ocean reaching up to touch the brighter blue of the sky.  "Not that...wasteland...you prefer."

Spike snorted, taking a few tentative steps away from the shade to test the effects of the imaginary sun on his undead flesh. 

"Yeah, you and a thousand other vampires who used to be morning people.  Well newsflash, chum, you're not a people.  Haven't been for a hundred years, give or take.  Night is our time, yours and mine.  That's where we belong."  He tilted his head to peer up at the sun, regarding the glowing orb with no small amount of distrust.  "Not like you grew up in Southern California anyway, mate; the sun's always been a stranger to you."

William obstinately turned his face up to the sun, feeling the warming rays reach deep inside his troubled soul. 

"Why are you here?" he asked, not looking at the demon at his side.  "I told you to go away."

"Yeah, that'll do the trick," Spike drawled.  "Just say 'toodles' and I'll disappear like a bad dream."  He paused to consider his words.  "Well, suppose I will in a way, but that's just the part you see.  The rest of me," he poked at William's chest, "is right about there, just waiting to come out and play." 

"No!"  William backed up a few paces, one hand clinging to the railing for support.  "You are but memories.  The stuff of nightmares."  He shook his head, pushing back the mental images that immediately sprang to mind.  Bodies strewn about, floors slippery with life's blood, the chilling laughter of a madwoman and her paramour...such things could not possibly be real.  "You have no power over me," he insisted.  "I will not let you."

"I am you now, chum."


"You can't pop a lid on your memories and think the belch means it's all closed up for the night; doesn't work like that."  Spike advanced a step closer to his alter ego.  "I may have started out with your memories, but now I'm giving them back with interest.  You'll take them, and me, with you everywhere you go."

"I cannot.  I will not." 

Spike sighed as he pulled a cigarette out of his coat pocket and slid it in the corner of his mouth.  He couldn't believe what a mess this all was, and there was no one to blame but...Angel.  If he hadn't given Buffy all those silly ideas about vampires and souls, none of this would have happened.  Stupid wanker, always mucking things up for the other guy; that was Angel to a 'T.'

"I don't know what you're complaining about," he grumbled, pausing for a moment to light his cigarette before he continued.  "You run the show when you're awake, more or less.  And if it wasn't for me you wouldn't even be here."

William sniffed and stood up a little straighter.  The demon was right about one thing:  he was the one in control, not Spike.  He just had to hold on to that idea, asleep and awake, and he could survive this nightmare. 

"I rather think the situation is the reverse," he said, pleased by the newly placid tone in his voice.  "You came into existence using my body, not the other way round."

"I rather think," Spike mimicked in a high-pitched voice.  "I know we aren't exactly people, but could you try to talk like one anyway?  Our stock is already on the low side in demon circles, what with helping the Slayer kill them and all.  No need to throw gasoline on the bonfire."

"As though I care about what a demon would think of me!"

Spike's eyes narrowed as he leaned forward, trying to cow his other half into submission.  "You damn well better care, mate.  If I had found a magician who knew what the hell he was doing, neither one of us would have to worry about it, but that ship has sailed."  He inhaled, drawing deeply on the cigarette.  "If you know what I mean."

"We have to end this," William said urgently, all resolutions of bravery thrust aside.  "Voices in my head, nightmares greeting me every time I close my eyes...I am being torn apart.  I cannot bear it anymore."

"It's been three days!" Spike protested.  "Not that it's been a picnic on this side of the psyche either, but get a grip.  Unless we can find a magician with a bit more bite to his spells, we're stuck with each other."

"And if...when...we do?" William asked hesitantly.  "What then?"

"I go," the demon answered abruptly, taking one last drag on his cigarette before he tossed it over the railing and into the water.  "Never figured I'd still be here anyway; that stupid shaman was supposed to make me human.  Christ, some hick lawyer manages to get Darla's heart beating again from nothing but ash, and I can't even catch a break with a ready-made body and demon voodoo."  He ran his hand through his bleached blonde hair.  "Really makes you wonder who's running things, and why I'm always the butt of their jokes."

"Human," William mused.  The idea made him catch his breath in excitement.  The chance to do it all again; it was more than he'd ever dreamed...in the three days he'd had to dream again.

"Yeah, human," Spike agreed, grinding his teeth.  "Not exactly my favorite way to go, but I'm out of options.  Thought the chip was the problem at first, but she'd never take me as a demon; Nancy Boy filled her head with all sorts of stupid ideas when she was young and too gullible for her own good."  He clenched his hand into a fist and pounded it on the railing.  "No, the only way to get her back is with a soul, and if I'm going that far I'm damn well going all the way.  None of this tortured half-man half-demon business for me.  Anyone who sticks to those rules is just a sucker."

"She?" William asked.  "You mean Buffy, don't you?"

Spike's brows came together in a puzzled frown.  "Of course I mean Buffy, you bloody moron.  She's why you're here; so I can get her back.  So we can get her back," he amended himself. 

If all went well, he would find someone in Sunnydale who knew their way around a spell who could free him from this prison.  From what Dru had said, Darla wasn't much different as a human with a soul; he had thought he wouldn't be either.  Obviously that wasn't the case for him and Willie boy, so better oblivion than being trapped for eternity with this blithering idiot, even if it meant having Buffy in the bargain.  There were some things even Spike wouldn't do for love.

"But I do not want her back," William said simply, rudely interrupting Spike's romantic mental sidebar.

"You don't...what the hell?  What do you mean you don't want her back?"  The demon was aghast; this possibility had never occurred to him.

William turned away, trying to assemble his thoughts without tapping too deeply into Spike's memories. 

"She is not...a lady," he finally said; it was the kindest way he could think to put it.

"Yeah, and what would we want with one of those?  Get your head out from under Queen Vic's skirts and make some sense."

"She goes about at night, unattended, and invites demons to attack her so that she might kill them." 

William shuddered at the memory of some of the kills he, courtesy of Spike, could recall.  They were not so bloody as a vampire's but they were definitely not a fit sight for a gentleman, let alone a suitable occupation for a lady.

Spike seemed unimpressed by his finer instincts, however, if the snort was any evidence.

"Just what part of 'vampire slayer' don't you get, mate?  Not saying I always approve of who she kills, but she's a treat to watch at work."

William persevered.  "She lives, unchaperoned, with another young woman; a young woman who has...unnatural appetites.  How are we to know that they wouldn't...I cannot even say it."

"Come on, don't tell me that idea doesn't set off your sprinklers, Sparky; I know you too well."  He raised a mocking eyebrow.  "I remember every book you ever hid from dear old Mummy under your mattress, and what you were doing while you read it."

"She has had relations...intimate relations...with men," William burst out, his face scarlet with shame.  "And not just men, but demons as well."

The demon standing before him greeted William's protest with an unrepentant leer.

"I'll say she has.  Good thing for us too."

"But don't you see?" William implored.  "If she could bring herself to love a demon...a soulless creature of evil...that is not something I could ever understand, or condone.  And yet, if she had...relations...without love, what kind of woman is she?"

"Welcome to the twenty-first century, Willie me boy.  Women here think they have the right to equal pay and equal play."

"Aha!"  William anxiously waved his finger under Spike's nose.  "But I am not of this century, and it is no part of me.  You may have summoned me to this time, but you cannot make me abandon my every belief simply to fit in."

"Are you stark staring mad?"  Spike jerked his head away from the accusatory finger and stared at William with something akin to horror.  "This is a better deal than you ever imagined, and you're turning your nose up at it because the girl likes to have a bit of fun?  With you...us...no less."

William sighed in frustration.  Surely there had to be some way to reason with the creature; lacking moral fiber did not mean Spike also lacked of common sense.  A small smile tugged at the corner of his mouth when he tumbled onto the perfect question, the answer to which he was fairly certain.  He would, however, feel a guilty pleasure in forcing it from the lips of his tormentor.

"Did she love you?" he asked. 

Spike could still smell the overpowering sweetness of a spilled bottle of perfume, and see the torn shower curtain pooled in the tub, and feel the sting of the scratches she had inflicted on him.  Worst of all, he could still hear her voice, ragged with pain and exhaustion as it rebounded hollowly off the tiles.  

// Ask me again why I could never love you //

She was lying; he knew she was lying.  But they both knew she could only fool herself, not him.

"She needs me," he insisted stoutly, addressing the comment as much to the absent Buffy as to William.

"That is not what I asked.  Does she love you?  Did she ever love you?"

// Ask me again why I could never love you.  Because I stopped you.  Something I
should have done a long time ago. //

"Of course she does.  Just doesn't want to admit it because of the whole demon thing."  Spike turned away, resting his hands on the railing as he gazed out of the fantasy ocean.  "I'm the only who understands the real Buffy, but she's got all these crazy ideas about who she should be and she thinks I don't fit the picture."  He laughed sharply.  "She wants to be Miss Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice and Normal, but she's not.  Never will be.  Thing is, everyone around her is always telling her she should be, even has to be, and she believes 'em."

"If she truly loved you," William said patiently, "then she will never love me." 

"You are crazy," Spike declared.  "Who do you think you are?  You're me, that's who."

"You and I are not the same," William continued, his conviction growing with every protest from the demon.  "We have the same memories, yes, but what titillates you revolts me, and what I hold most dear you only care to mock.  If you are the...man...Buffy desires, I will never be able to satisfy her."

"Don't you worry, lad."  The demon turned and clapped a hand on his souled self's shoulder.  "We never had any trouble satisfying the ladies."

"And if that was all that it was for her," William said, expounding on Spike's comment, "a matter of physical gratification...where am I to find solace in such an idea?  If she loves my mind, my soul, and yet would lay with a demon simply for pleasure's sake," he shrugged his slender shoulders, "then I have no interest in her."

"Don't be so stupid; of course you do," Spike snapped, as the hand resting companionably on William's shoulder clenched into a fist.  "The part of me that wants her is the part I got from you.  The whole googley-eyed romantic toff...that's you, not me."

"No."  William shook his head, unimpressed by the demon's bluster.  "The memories you have forced upon me bear no resemblance to what I call romance."

"Yeah, well, you did a lot of calling in your day, but no one bothered to pick up.  Don Juan you weren't."

"When I...I," William emphasized, "wooed Cecily, I brought her flowers and wrote her sonnets.  If it was raining I hurried to her door with a parasol at the ready to protect her from the damp.  I followed her home from balls to make certain she arrived safely.  I..."

"You stalked her, that's what you did," Spike interrupted.  "Not a bad technique; you just balked at the follow through."  He dropped his hand from William's shoulder and turned to gaze out over the ocean once more.  "I don't."

"No, you don't," William somberly agreed. 

The sight of Cecily's stark white face and lifeless body stretched out in the alley behind her family's London home was one he would never be able to forget, no matter how hard he tried to deny the demon's memories.  Yet in a way he was grateful for the durability of the image for it proved to him that he and the demon were alien to each other, no matter what the creature claimed.

"But not only our methods are different; our motives diverge as well."  With difficulty, William forced himself to move past his late lamented goddess's untimely end.  "I wanted to protect Cecily, to shelter her and give her all that she desired because I loved her.  You wished this Buffy of yours to give up all that she desired and desire only you, shelter only you, need only you.  And to that end you allowed...encouraged!...her to behave as no lady should.  Having treated her thus, it is no wonder you tried to..."

"Don't go there," Spike snarled, holding up a warning hand.  He knew exactly what William was referring to.  "That was your doing, not mine.  No demon would bother to...that's a human trick."

"But I wasn't there," William protested.  "You carried my memories, but not my soul, my conscience.  I would never treat a woman...even one who has behaved as this young lady has...so callously.  The blame is yours."

Spike swallowed nervously; William was touching upon the one true hindrance to his plan.  That last night with Buffy...it had all gone so wrong; she was bound to still be angry.  If she would only have let him touch her...let herself admit she still wanted him to touch her...admitted he was the one for her, not Riley the fair-haired boy, or her useless chum Xander, and especially not his pathetic loser of a sire, Angel...that's all it would have taken to turn things around for them. 

If she had only been honest about her feelings instead of hiding behind the differences between them, he wouldn't have let things get so out of control.

"What's done is done," he said roughly.  "If you want to blame me...fine.  Maybe it'll bring you and Buffy closer together, blaming me for all the bad things your stupid human desires made me do.  The important thing is that you don't let all this trouble be in vain.  You are going to get the girl, mate, or die trying."  He paused.  "Say, there's a thought."

William blanched, seeing the growing resolution on the demon's face.  "You can't," he said, trying to make it sound more like a statement and less like the plea it truly was.

"Not really sure," Spike responded, reaching casually into his pocket for another cigarette.  "Never been done before, but that's half the fun.  Bottom line is, I want her, and I'm going to get her.  With or without you."

"But you said she would not stay with you if you had no soul," William quickly pointed out.  He backed up a few paces from the railing, feeling an irrational fear of the ocean his own thoughts had created as a refuge.  "If you dispose of me, you cannot hope to win her favor."

"But now I've had a little refresher course in souls, and I'm not so sure I need the real thing anymore."  Spike advanced as William retreated.  "I can fake some breast-beating and teeth-gnashing; nothing to it."  His hands reached out for William's throat, slamming his alter ego into the bulkhead as his fingers convulsed around the pale white flesh.  "And if, as you so kindly pointed out, she really can't love us both, I'd rather it was me than you, mate."

"No," William gasped, clawing weakly at the fingers clutched around his throat before they managed to separate head from body.  "No, don't..."

* * * * *

He awoke with a start and sat up too fast, accidentally slamming his head into an overhanging box that had shifted while he slept.

"It's not real," he moaned, his hands flying from his aching throat to his aching head.  "None of this is real; it can't be.  It's all some terrible dream." 

He lay back down on the hard floor and pillowed his sore head on his arm, trying not to notice that after his initial gasp of surprise he had once again forgotten to continue breathing.  Trying not to notice the sharpening hunger the smell of his blood had awakened.  Trying not to notice that in the rare moments of silence, he couldn't hear his own heart beat.

It was all a terrible dream, and he was going to get off this ship at the very next port and prove it with a nice little sunrise walk along the shore.   That would put an end to this nonsense once and for all.

"Bloody hell," the demon groaned from the darkest corner of William's mind.  "Not again."

The End