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Spike could never really get his head around the point of Angel’s soul curse. All those shiny morals, heaped on the baddest of the bad to keep him down the way no chains ever could… But then that ridiculous little get-out clause. Perfect happiness? In conception the whole idea was a walking pile of bollocks, let alone a worthy guardian for the depths of depravity turning and slithering in that wanker’s heart.

But then maybe that was the point. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be possible – a loophole there because you never cast a curse without a loophole, but one with the logic so troll no witch or warlock worth their salt would ever think it could happen. Perfect, complete bloody happiness, right down to your toes? Either the demon’s rolled over and accepted its fate, so losing the soul wouldn’t make a difference anyway, or the soul’s on the same page as the demon, in which case fuck morality because you’re already off the rails and up your best friend’s aunt.

The idea was still bloody daft, but Spike wondered whether it was maybe the second eventuality that set Angel off. Maybe shagging Buffy would have been the end of him in any case and in a few years he’d have been on human hearts as Valentines all by himself. Maybe the spell just souped up the symbolism.

It was true magic did have a habit of playing out like really shit Shakespeare.

Whatever the story, one thing Spike could be even less certain about was what the shag-o-Buffy had done to him. By most metrics he should have been well past the puppy-murder stage and right on towards apocalypse and world domination – if those two were ever as compatible as all the jumped up prats down the pub thought they should be. But as it was he found his unlife mostly the way it had been before: mind-numbingly dull. A bit grim. Fungal. Now it was just punctuated by the occasional bout of unpredictable, mind-bending, euphoric, scarring… What have you. He had so little interaction with anything else these days he wasn’t quite sure how to measure potential moral change.

That was probably the reason why he’d found himself out here, casing the back alleys by the Bronze. Fuck him; it made more sense than anything else in this new millennium. It was round here he’d had to psyche himself up for a meal those few weeks ago; now it was time to see if he had anything like the conscience to save a life.

He had his marks: one woman, one bloke-vamp. They’d been taking their time with it because the alleyway wasn’t free and apparently this sap of the century didn’t think he could manage three humans at a push. Like the other couple would step in. It was possible bloke-vamp just wanted the touch, but in any case he was milking this particular assignation.

So Spike watched. And waited. By the time the screams started he’d practically dozed off, and he almost threw the whole thing in and went home. As far as the stirring of his petrified heart-strings went, the entire venture was a waste of time.

But then – he wasn’t sure why he did it. He definitely didn’t give a toss about the girl or the sobs or the vomit or the running. He had his contempt for lover-vamp, even as ashes, but not enough to blunt the point of his best stake.

He certainly didn’t do it for her, even as her owl-eyes gleamed from the shadows and she melted into being like an urban sylph. Even as she said, “You saved her,” with that little breath of feeling.

And so Spike puffed himself up and accused her, “You were watching?” Honestly, on the double-take he was pissed off. She was bound to think he’d known now; think it was all for her when, actually, in the eighteen hours she abandoned him he had his own thing, his own thoughts, his own… “Well, I hope you enjoyed the show.” He did a little bow, feeling floodlit in the grimy shag-light. “I’ll perform for a penny, you know; just cross my bloody palm…”

The Slayer formerly known as Buffy was still staring. Straight through him; not in the romantic way. It dimmed his rage a bit; twisted it. Because she hadn’t thought he’d known, had she? Hadn’t thought he’d do it.

“What d'you think you were waiting for?” His voice yet echoed off the bricks, but dully. The pain she gave him was back, because Spike knew she didn’t have that level of faith in him. Such lessons he’d not even had cause to learn. “More important than your calling now, am I?” he asked. “Can’t be dead so you’ll satisfy yourself haunting me? Can’t be dead so you’ll let the other bints go to hell?”

She shrugged. Hours later, he’d still be reeling from that; right then he could only watch as her gaze drifted away in the memory of shame. And Spike was almost certain, right then, that if there was anyone incapable of perfect happiness, it was the messed-up mini-Lucifer in front of him.

Storming home, lip curled in disgust he refused to even conscience, a strange, silent part of him wondered what it would mean to stop believing he could give it her.