by Whichclothes

Mouse

by
Whichclothes

Part Nine

Angel hadn’t used him for ages. That wasn’t a relief. Spike’s cell had stopped being a refuge; it was haunted now with thousands of voices, shadows and shades and phantoms that wouldn’t shut up, wouldn’t ever shut up.

He tried to be a little mouse, a quiet little thing in the corner that nobody would notice. People didn’t much mind mice, unless they ran about or got into the cupboards. They weren’t big and nasty, like rats. So he didn’t run about. He hardly moved from his cold, hard corner.

Didn’t work, though. He was still afraid. And what truly terrified him wasn’t Angel’s abuse, weren’t the ghosts that haunted him. What made him shake and tremble was the notion of being unwanted, forgotten. Alone. Because who would want him, a monster with a broken body and broken mind?

So when the locked clicked open, Spike didn’t have to be goaded by the chip to rise quickly to his feet, to rush down the corridor, to stumble up the stairs as quickly as he could. He barely glanced at the pebbled windows in passing, noticing absently that the sunlight had a late afternoon glow. The fact that the hallway leading to Angel’s office was strangely deserted hardly registered. Perhaps everyone was at a meeting of some sort, or perhaps today was a weekend or a holiday. He hadn’t kept track of the passage of time for… years. Perhaps. He wasn’t sure.

Harmony wasn’t seated outside Angel’s office, which was a bit odd. But Spike didn’t pause to find out why—he pushed the door open and hurried inside.

Angel was standing there, looking very unhappy and holding a chain in his hand. Standing next to him, looking even less happy, was Xander Harris.

Without saying a word, Angel strode over. Spike was proud of himself for not flinching back, not even when Angel reached up with the chain. But all that the bigger vampire did was lock a metal collar around Spike’s neck—the metal very cold—and give a few experimental tugs to the chain.

“Jesus, Angel. You don’t have to leash him like a dog,” Xander said.

“If you think of him as a rabid dog you’ll stay safer.”

Spike didn’t dare argue, didn’t even narrow his eyes in protest. He didn’t understand what was going on. Did his sire mean to have the boy fuck him now too? Or merely beat him?

Angel circled behind Spike, grabbed his wrists roughly, and cuffed them tightly enough that the metal dug into Spike’s skin. “Well?” he said impatiently to Xander. “Get the hell out if you don’t want to be in the middle of it.”

“I’m not… I can’t take him outside like that.”

Outside? Spike’s entire body quivered at the word and he bit his tongue to keep it silent.

Angel huffed. “Stick him in the trunk. Nobody will see.”

“Jesus Christ,” Xander said, and Spike wasn’t sure whether his disgust was aimed at Spike or Angel. Xander walked over to the vampires—a bit hesitantly—and took the proffered leash. “C’mon,” he mumbled, and turned to leave.

“Hang on.” Angel unfastened his watch and held it out. “If he tries to hurt you the chip’ll go off automatically—”

“Yeah, I know. I’ve seen.”

“But if he gives you any problems you can set the chip off manually. Just press this button.”

“Wonderful.” Xander took the watch and put it on his own tanned wrist. He shot one last glare at Angel and then left the office, Spike in tow.

Naturally, Spike wanted to ask what the fuck was going on. But the boy had never fancied him, and now he had that bloody controller around his wrist, and Spike didn’t want the chip to fire. He trotted along, obedient as any puppy. When they entered the lift, however, Xander sighed noisily and shrugged off his jacket. To Spike’s enormous surprise, Xander tied the sleeves around Spike’s waist, forming a crude kilt of sorts. “That’s a little better,” Xander said with satisfaction.

Spike decided to risk a question. “Wh-where?” he whispered.

“Way the fuck away from here.”

Xander took him to a covered car park, then to a white Chevy, where Spike fully expected to be pushed into the boot, as Angel had suggested. Instead, Xander held open the passenger door and helped Spike sit down. He even buckled the safety belt. “Do me a favor, okay? If I get pulled over for some reason, help me convince the cop that the bondage gear thing is all consensual.”

Spike nodded dumbly.

A moment later, Xander was in the driver’s seat, heading to the exit. When it fully dawned on Spike that he was being allowed to leave the building, to see something besides his cell and Angel’s office and the hallways in between, the voices in his head reached a roaring crescendo, his body began to shake, and his vision blurred.

He flinched when Xander patted his knee and then he curled up against himself, wishing his arms were free so he could hold them over his face defensively. But even though his head was a maelstrom, he could make out Xander’s quiet words: “It’s okay, Spike. You’re safe now.”





Part Ten

Xander drove into the evening, and it was torture to stick to the speed limit, but he really, really didn’t want to get pulled over and have to explain Spike. Spike was doing his best to curl into a fetal position—the chains, seatbelt, and bucket seat weren’t helping—and he was making a terrible little keening noise that scraped along Xander’s nerves like a cheese grater.

Great. Xander was trying to escape some kind of apocalypse in a rental car with a PTSD vampire riding shotgun.

He turned on the radio, trying to find something non-objectionable that might drown out Spike’s noise and calm everyone’s nerves, but all he could find was rap and religion, so he turned the radio off again. Eventually Spike went still and quiet, and it occurred to Xander that he should probably have removed the handcuffs before leaving LA. But he didn’t want to pull over now, and he was afraid that if he touched Spike, the vampire would start that sound again.

So Xander kept on driving until his eye grew too bleary to see, and out in the middle of the desert somewhere he found a shabby little motel with a neon vacancy sign. “Stay here,” he said to Spike as he pulled into the gravel lot. Spike didn’t respond.

It took only a few moments to check in, fork over some cash, and receive the old-fashioned door key, which hung from a faded plastic fob. He was oddly relieved to find Spike waiting for him in the Chevy. He led Spike into the room, glad that the parking lot was too dark for anyone to notice the nearly-naked chained man. The room smelled like cigarettes and cheap floral air freshener and looked to have been last updated circa 1972. There was only one bed. For some unfathomable reason, three paintings of ships at sea hung on the walls.

As Spike stood in the center of the room, his head hanging, Xander said, “Hold on.” He ran out to the car and fetched his duffle bag and the cooler full of cow blood he’d picked up at a grocery store on the way into town. “Are you hungry?” he asked when he reentered the room.

Spike nodded slightly. “Cheddar or Swiss?” he whispered, which didn’t make any sense, but then neither did much of Xander’s life.

Xander had to unlock the cuffs, and then he felt a little guilty when he saw the angry red marks around Spike’s wrists. He unlatched the collar too, and threw the bondage gear aside. When Spike didn’t move, Xander gently tugged him to the bed and pushed him until he sat on the mattress. Then Xander handed him a plastic container from the cooler. “Sorry. It’s cold.”

Spike didn’t vamp out. He sipped his blood almost delicately, keeping his eyes cast down at the threadbare carpet. It was weird. Xander had seen him quiet before, but that was mostly quiet in a sneaky and menacing sort of way. Not… subdued. Shrunken.

Well, there was nothing Xander could do about that. And he was going to sit down and stare obsessively at his phone, waiting for someone to call and tell him that the battle was over and everyone was fine. But Spike shifted his legs slightly, giving Xander a look at his crotch, which reminded Xander about the damn cock cage.

“Uh….” Xander said, holding up the ring of keys Angel had begrudgingly given him. “I think maybe one of these might, um….” He waved ambiguously in the direction of his own groin.

By then, Spike had finished off his dinner. He set the empty carton on the nightstand and, after a slight hesitation, took the keys from Xander’s outstretched hand. He didn’t use them right away, however. “I… I can take the bloody thing off?” he asked, not meeting Xander’s eye.

“Yeah. Of course. If you want to. I mean, I’m sure you want to, ’cause it’s kind of… um…. Do whatever you want, okay?” And he scurried to the bathroom to piss and wash up.

When he came back, Spike was sitting in exactly the same place, the keys at his side and the plastic gadget lying on top of the discarded chains. “Do you want something to wear?” Xander asked. “My stuff’s probably a little big, but I have some sweats.”

Spike gave a small nod. “Ta.”

After rooting around in his bag for a minute—how did things manage to hide so well in a relatively small space?—Xander unearthed gray sweatpants and a plain white tee, which he tossed to Spike. Spike untied the jacket from around his waist and put on the clothes, then sat again, looking even smaller and more lost than before. And he was just waiting, like he didn’t expect to be able to do anything without orders.

“Time for bed,” Xander began.

And quick as a wink, the sweats were pushed down to Spike’s ankles and the vampire was on elbows and knees on the bed, pale ass raised invitingly.

Xander made a slightly strangled sound and swallowed loudly. “What the fuck?”

Spike huddled into himself a little but kept his ass up. “D’you want me on my back instead?” he asked quietly.

“I’m not gonna fuck you!”

Spike looked over his shoulder at Xander, eyes wide with surprise. “’T’s why you borrowed me, innit?”

“Why I….” Xander rubbed his forehead hard. “Pull up your pants, Spike. Let me explain without the gratuitous nudity.”

Slowly, Spike complied. He ended up seated on the edge of the mattress again. Xander glanced at the dubious stains on the room’s only chair and sat down beside him. “I didn’t borrow you, Spike, and I’m not gonna… use you.”

Blue eyes stared at him, and for a brief moment he almost had a glimpse of the old Spike. Almost. “What do you want from me?” Spike asked.

“Nothing. I only…. There’s going to be a big battle at the law firm. Probably already has been, actually. God, I hope it’s over and everyone’s okay.” He glared at his phone. “But we thought you might be, um, safer far away from there.”

“A mouse isn’t safe even in its hole. Never.”

“Um, okay.” Xander said. He looked nervously at the floor, half-expecting to see a rodent or two, but he couldn’t make out any wildlife in the room’s dim light.

After a long pause, Spike asked, “How long until you bring me back?”

This was the part Xander hadn’t exactly talked about with the others. He’d carefully avoided a discussion of After, because nobody was ever certain there was going to be an After anyway. Assuming Angel survived whatever was going down in LA, Xander had no intention of returning Spike to Angel’s clutches. On the other hand, it was gradually dawning on him that just telling Spike to run free like the wind wasn’t going to work too well either. Spike looked like he’d last about five minutes without a babysitter.

“I’m not going to,” Xander finally answered. And then, because he was no expert on vamp psychology, he added, “Unless you want me to.”

Spike’s eyes went wide. “You’ve nicked me?”

“Yes?” Xander answered unconvincingly. “Or kinda. I think I’d prefer the word rescued.”

“No one rescues a monster.”

“Idiots do.”

And then, to Xander’s enormous relief, his phone rang. “What!” he demanded into the tiny speaker.

Willow sounded exhausted and far away, but she sounded alive. “It’s over.”

“And?”

“We… we lost some people. A lot. There was a dragon, Xan.”

“Jesus.”

She sighed. “We won, though. And Buff’s okay. Giles got kinda scorched but he’ll heal. We won,” she repeated. She didn’t sound as enthusiastic about it as she might, but Xander was used to the let-down after a big fight, when you weren’t quite sure if the victory was worth the price you’d paid.

“How about Angel?”

“He’s banged up too, but he’ll heal. The building’s toast, though. The whole law firm’s toast. I think Faith is gonna stick around here for a while with some of Angel’s pals and get things settled.”

Xander felt every muscle in his body loosen. His friends weren’t all dead. Everything was going to be okay, at least for a while.

“Where are you, Xan? Are you gonna bring Spike back here tomorrow? Then we can all fly back home together.”

Xander glanced at Spike, who undoubtedly heard every word of both sides of the conversation, but who remained slumped. “He’s not going back.”

There was a long pause. “Angel’s gonna be… unhappy.”

“Don’t care. If the firm’s gone, he doesn’t need to… doesn’t need to torture Spike anymore.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I have no idea. But please tell Deadboy fuck you very much, okay?” He softened his tone. “Get some rest, Will. Take care of yourself.”

“You too.”

He closed the phone and set it aside. “I’m going to bed—uh, to sleep. Don’t run away, okay?”

“Can’t.”

“You’re not chained up anymore.”

Spike nodded his head at the watch Angel had given Xander, which was now on Xander’s wrist. “If I get too far from that the chip goes off.”

“Oh.”

Xander kicked off his shoes and socks, then stripped out of his shirt and boxers. He climbed between the scratchy, bleach-scented sheets. And then he took off the watch as well and set it next to the empty blood container on the bedside table before clicking off the light. He fell asleep too quickly to know what Spike might do next.





Part Eleven

He sat in the darkness, listening to Xander snore, trying to put together a puzzle.

One of the pieces fit: there had been a big battle. Well, Angel had been especially tense lately, as Spike’s body could attest, and although he hadn’t shared any confidences with Spike, it had been clear he was working on some scheme. Spike was relieved to learn that the firm had been defeated. While Angel’s treatment of him at the Hyperion had hardly involved tender loving care, the true abuse hadn’t begun until they’d moved to Wolfram & Hart. The evil in the place was palpable. It was like a stink you got in your clothes and couldn’t wash out.

A second piece also made sense, although less so: the Scoobies had joined Angel in his fight. Perhaps that had something to do with the visit several weeks earlier, when Xander and the witch and the Slayer had gaped at Spike in his cell and refused to dust him. Fine. Good on them.

But then he came to the third piece, which didn’t fit at all. Xander said he’d meant to rescue Spike. Why would he do such a thing? There had been no love lost between them even before… before Spike tried to hurt the girl.

And another thing—Xander hadn’t tried to use Spike, not even when Spike offered himself. When Spike was first chipped and staying in Xander’s horrid basement, he’d unearthed the boy’s porn cache. About half the magazines had featured big dicks instead of big tits. Spike hadn’t said anything about it at the time; he’d been saving it up for when he needed blackmail material, or when he expected the reveal might do the most harm. And then he’d fallen for Buffy and the porn had no longer mattered. So Spike knew Xander fancied blokes, and he could smell a hint of arousal when he’d raised his arse. But even given such an easy opportunity—and perhaps also the chance to pay Spike back for attacking Buffy—Xander hadn’t touched him.

In fact, Xander had been surprisingly decent to him all night. Hadn’t once remarked on Spike’s degradation or precarious mental state. Had seemed, in fact, almost… kind.

And now he’d removed the watch that controlled Spike’s chip and left it unguarded on the nightstand, as if he trusted Spike with it. Nobody trusted Spike. Ever.

And the last piece of the puzzle was the oddest of all. Because Spike had been sitting on the bed for over an hour now, trying to make sense out of nonsense, and the voices had been quiet. Sitting on the lumpy mattress in the rathole of a motel, next to the snoring and snuffling boy, Spike felt calmer, saner than he had in ages. He felt almost at peace. And that made no sense at all.





Part Twelve

When Xander woke up sometime around noon, bladder complaining, he half-expected to find Spike gone—so he wasn’t surprised to discover that he had the bed to himself. But when he went to stand and ended up stepping on an unhappy vampire, that was unexpected.

“Watch it!” Spike snarled, curling back into a ball. He’d stolen one of the blankets off the bed and had wrapped it around himself.

Xander regained his footing with some difficulty. “What the hell are you doing on the floor?”

“Bed’s too soft,” Spike mumbled.

Xander ran a hand through his hair and stumbled to the bathroom. He supposed if someone was used to sleeping on the floor, or on that cot Spike had back in his cell, a mattress might not be very comfortable. But that didn’t explain why Spike had chosen the part of the floor that was closest to Xander. The room wasn’t all that big, but there were other places he could have stretched out.

Deciding to chalk it up to more craziness, Xander stepped into the shower. He hadn’t remembered to bring toiletries and the motel-provided shampoo smelled awful, but he supposed he was cleaner when he got out than when he went in. He couldn’t shave either, and had to finger-comb his hair. Great. Now he was going to look more disreputable than the lunatic vampire.

When he emerged into the main room, Spike was still on the floor, but had tugged Xander’s pillow down with him. Weird.

“I’m going out,” Xander said as he got dressed. “The weather forecast for vamps is extra crispy, so I’d recommend you stay put. There’s some blood left. I’ll be back soon.”

Spike grunted a reply of sorts.

As it turned out, the local shopping options were limited. Xander walked across gravel and then cracked pavement, squinting his one eye under the harsh sun. He was already sweaty by the time he entered the gas station market. At least it was on the large side, as gas station markets went. He filled a plastic basket with soap, shampoo, and shaving supplies, threw in a comb and toothbrush and toothpaste, and then cruised the food aisles for something resembling nutrition. He ended up with a box of strawberry Pop-Tarts—low fat!—a big bag of chips, some bread and mayo and sliced ham. He added a carton of OJ to the almost full basket, and a bottle of Mountain Dew. And when he passed a display of socks and t-shirts and tighty whities, he bought a three-pack of the shirts for Spike. White, not black, but they’d fit better than Xander’s stuff. And, Xander thought, at least then Spike would own something. Why that mattered to him he couldn’t say.

The big guy behind the counter took Xander’s money, handed over the change, and said something that might have been thank you. Then Xander was back out in the heat and glare.

It was a very long afternoon. Spike slept. Xander ate and drank and watched crap on TV. He felt restless. It wasn’t often he sat around with nothing to do. Back at the Cove he had a never-ending list of projects, and he preferred it that way. Keeping busy meant he didn’t have the chance to dwell on things, like lost friends or loneliness or a general sense of…

“Ennui,” Spike piped up from his nest on the floor.

Xander frowned down at him. “Huh?”

“Ennui. A deep sense of lassitude or depression. You’re the very picture of it.”

Xander looked down at his body, slumped bonelessly on the bed. His fingers were salty and greasy from the potato chips and his good eye had gone glassy. He couldn’t have said what show he was watching just then, or what he’d been watching all afternoon. “This isn’t the top of my vacation destinations,” he said.

“So why are you here?” Spike sat up gracefully.

“’Cause it’s still too sunny to leave.”

“But you could leave without me.”

“That’d be a pretty half-assed rescue, wouldn’t it? Drag you out of LA and then abandon you in the middle of the desert.”

Spike blinked at him. “So where are you taking me then?”

“Florida. We live there now.”

“And what will you do with me there?”

Xander really hadn’t thought that far. In truth, his plan had consisted of two steps: 1. Retrieve vampire, and 2. Get the fuck out of LA. Maybe he should have considered Step 3, because bringing a crazy vamp to Slayer central maybe wasn’t such a great idea, even if the vamp was chipped. Even if nobody staked him, what would Spike do with himself there? There weren’t any demons in the vicinity to keep him occupied. There was nothing except Slayers and construction projects and the beach.

“You can have some time to, uh, recover,” Xander finally said. “Relax. Then it’s up to you. Or… I dunno. Maybe Giles or someone will have an idea.”

Spike looked as skeptical about that as Xander felt, but didn’t say anything. He stood and stretched and walked to the cooler, where he fished out a container of blood. “Can I have a hot bath?” he asked as he sipped.

“Be my guest. There’s soap and stuff in that plastic bag if you want.” Xander waved vaguely in the direction of his convenience shop purchases.

“Ta.”

Soon the water was running. Xander tried very hard not to think about Spike in the tub, naked, because even crazy vampires didn’t take baths with sweatpants on. His skin would be all pale, most of his wounds likely healed by now, and his soft cock would be nestled gently among floating curls—

Shit.

Spike came out from the bathroom in a cloud of steam, his damp hair all tumbled and Xander’s sweats hanging low on his narrow hips. “Felt lovely,” he said.

Xander wondered when Spike had last had the chance for a bath. “There’s some shirts in that bag for you, if you want. Don’t bitch—the selection sucked.”

Spike didn’t bitch. He just look surprised, and then tore the bag open and pulled one of the shirts over his head.

By then the sun was almost down, so Xander gathered up his belongings and ate another Pop-Tart. He paused when he saw the watch still sitting on the nightstand. “We probably shouldn’t just leave that here.” He picked it up and held it out. “Here. I hate wearing a watch.”

Spike stared a long time before swallowing and taking the item from Xander’s hand. He clasped it around his own wrist. “You’re meant to use it to control me,” he said.

“Well, as long as you’re not gonna eat me, I’m good. I’ve never been much of a control freak, unlike certain friends of mine.”

He wasn’t sure, but he thought Spike almost managed a smile at that.

The night was too young to have chased away the heat, and crickets were chirping loudly. Xander tossed his stuff into the trunk and climbed into the driver’s seat. But Spike paused. “The chains,” he said.

It took a moment for Xander to figure out what he meant. “I don’t want ’em. So unless you do, let’s leave ’em. Give the maid a thrill, maybe.”

That time, Spike definitely did smile.


~*~*~*~*~


They didn’t speak as Xander drove. Spike took it upon himself to fiddle with the radio, finding new unobjectionable stations as the old ones faded out. Xander drove as quickly as possible, stopping only briefly for bathrooms, fast food, gas, and a stretch.

Even with the radio, the drive became monotonous and he had to fight to stay awake. There was nothing to see ahead of him but freeway and blackness, punctuated every now and then by headlights or some little nowhere town. “Do we have enough blood to last ’til Florida?” he asked after hours of silence.

“Yeah. Don’t need much.”

“’Kay.”

More miles passed, and all Spike could find on the radio was static and religion. He finally clicked it off and then, much to Xander’s surprise, began reciting something. Xander didn’t understand much of what he was saying, but Spike had a really nice voice, and listening to him sure beat some guy ranting about going to hell.

I have't. It is engender'd. Hell and night

Must bring this monstrous birth to the world's light
,” said Spike after a lot of other words, then paused. “End of Act One.”

“Act One of what?”

Spike snorted. “Othello, of course.”

“Oh. Um, Shakespeare, right?” When Spike answered only with another snort, Xander asked, “How’d you memorize all that?”

“Give yourself a century or two and I’ll wager even you’d manage to memorize a thing or two as well.”

Xander wasn’t sure whether that was supposed to be an insult. He kind of hoped it was, because that would mean a bit of the old Spike was back. And for some reason that was a good thing.

“Spike?”

“Hmm?”

“Why the hell did you go to Angel?” Xander hadn’t really intended to ask the question, and the ominous silence he received in response told him it had probably been a bad idea to open his mouth. But when had that ever stopped him? “I don’t know what things were like for you two way back when, but you haven’t exactly been best buds for a while. You helped us stop him that time, right? I bet he was pissed over that. And I heard about the thing with the magic ring and the hot pokers. Which, well, been tempted to torture him myself, more than once, but I never actually went through with it. But you did, and then there was… the thing with Buffy. Which you had to know he’d hear about, right? But still you went to him. Why?”

He didn’t think Spike was going to answer, especially not when the silence stretched on for several miles. But then Spike sighed, really quietly, like a breeze through treetops. “He’s the only one who could know what it’s like.”

“Know what what’s like?”

“But he doesn’t really, does he?” Spike said, not really answering Xander's question. “He didn’t fight for it, didn’t bleed for it. For him ’t’s a burden, not a prize. And he’s still an enormous wanker anyway. Never could see the obvious in front of his big nose.”

Spike turned to stare out his window, leaving Xander confused. He was used to not understanding what people said—happened all the time with Willow and Giles—and lately Spike was making even less sense than usual. Except there was meaning in there, if Xander could only figure it out. It was like those puzzles on the back of cereal boxes when he was a kid, where you had to figure out that the little green star was an e and the yellow moon was an s, and then suddenly the message made sense.

“Holy fuck!” Xander yelled, and skidded the car onto the shoulder in a screech of rubber. “Holy fucking shit!”

Spike turned to stare at him like Xander was the crazy one.

“A soul! You got a soul!” Xander’s voice was two octaves higher than normal.

Spike nodded. “Slightly used, a bit worse for the wear. Came dear anyhow.”

“But… but… but….” Xander stopped sputtering like a motorboat and tried to organize his thoughts. “Why? And how? And… shit, why was Angel still doing that to you?”

“The why made sense at the time—didn’t want to hurt the girl anymore.”

“Buffy,” Xander said with dawning realization. “You did it for Buffy.”

“Yeah.”

When Spike didn’t seem inclined to say more, Xander frowned. “Then why didn’t you come back to her?”

The road was dark and Spike was only dimly lit by the dashboard controls. But Xander could see the intensity in his eyes, the… agony, maybe. “She only tolerated me for a bit because she was broken herself. I didn’t see that at the time. But she mended—strong girl, yeah?—and she’d never have me again. The soul is like a pair of spectacles. Helps me see certain things more clearly.”

Xander was no relationship expert. Obviously. Back when he’d first learned Buffy had been sleeping with Spike he was appalled and couldn’t understand why she would do that. But what Spike was saying now made sense, and Xander nodded.

“Okay. But then why Angel? I mean, yeah, he’s soulvamp too, but he’s still an asshole. Why didn’t you just take off on your own? You could’ve found a way to get by, even with the chip. You’re a smart guy.”

Spike looked momentarily surprised at the compliment, then shook his head. “It’s the spark, you see.” He thumped the center of his chest. “Burns. And the voices—God. You’ve no idea. Every person I’ve ever hurt, all come back at once to remind me what I am.”

Xander was a little unclear on what a soul actually did, how it made a difference. He knew lots of people did really terrible things despite having one, and occasionally vampires did sort of good things even when they didn’t have one. He supposed it was something like a conscience, like that little Jiminy Cricket voice inside your head. Only for the past two years, Xander’s conscience had sounded a lot more like Anya than a Disney bug—and that was pretty weird, especially since Anya’s own system of morals was… unique. So how would it be if you didn’t have a voice at all, and then you spent a century or two doing lots and lots of really horrible things, and then suddenly your conscience bounced back?

Okay, the insanity made sense.

“Does Angel know you have a soul?” he asked.

Spike snorted. “Of course. Smelled it on me at once.”

“Then why was he treating you that way?”

“’Cause it’s more fun than torturing himself, innit? And he’s an arsehole, soul or not.”

“Well, it’s not right. Not even if it kept him from flipping out over at the law firm.”

Spike gave him an odd look. “Since when does right have anything to do with it?”

“If the good guys are as nasty as the bad guys, what’s the point of fighting?”

Maybe Spike didn’t know the answer to that. He turned to look out the window again. “Sun’s rising soon.”

“Yeah. Okay,” said Xander, and pulled back onto the freeway.