Seeing Is His Superpower


When they went back to the Sunnydale site to make sure the Hellmouth was closed for good, Buffy and Willow nearly left Xander behind.

"You've done enough already," Buffy said to him, in that eggshell-gentle tone they'd all been taking with him lately. "Anyway, it's probably going to be really boring. Just Willow walking around doing a bunch of incantations and me standing guard."

"I want to go," Xander insisted. "Hey, you never know. Maybe I'll see something you guys miss."

He sort of regretted it once they got there. It was boring, and hot and dusty and really fucking sad. He didn't want to admit that he'd been hoping to find some sign of Anya. She was most likely buried under hundreds of tons of broken concrete, steel and glass. If FEMA hadn't found her remains, neither would he.

Still, while Willow and Buffy walked around doing spells and watching for trouble, Xander kept his eye to the ground.

And there. Something glimmered in the rubble.

Without even thinking he squatted down and reached for it. A piece of jewelry. It looked vaguely familiar...


It was like touching a metal doorknob after scuffing his feet over about a mile of carpet. Xander yelped, dropped the necklace, and fell backwards on his ass.

The necklace started to burn.

"Willow!" Xander yelled. Okay, shrieked. While scuttling backwards across the rubble.

The weird flames expanded, elongated, seemed to grow solid—and then it was a skeleton, then burning flesh. Then black leather. And bleached blond hair. And a scream.

Two screams, if you counted Xander's.

And then silence, and they stared at each other, and Xander finally remembered where he'd seen the amulet before.

"Bloody hell," Spike said, panting. Then he looked around. "What happened to the great bloody cavern full of ubervamps?"

"Um," Xander said, getting back to his feet. "You destroyed it. "

"Huh." Spike hitched his thumbs through his belt loops, lifted his head a little higher, and took a good look around. "Don't tell me this is all that's left of Sunnyhell?"

Xander let his silence do the talking. He eyed the amulet, which was still lying between Spike's boots. It looked inert now, but Xander sure as hell wasn't going to try touching it again.

"Xander!" Willow called, running up on his blind side. "What's wrong?"

"Well, for starters," Xander said, and waved a hand in Spike's direction.

"Oi!" Spike said, looking affronted. "Bleedin' hero come back from the dead here. Show a little respect, mate."

Willow ignored him. "Hey, isn't that the amulet Spike was wearing when he went into the Hellmouth?"

"Well, yeah," Spike said, looking at Willow like she was just a bit on the slow side.

"I wonder how it got to the surface?" Willow said, and reached for it.

"Stop!!" Xander yelped, grabbing her arm. "It might still be dangerous."

"Good point," Willow acknowledged. "But we can't just leave it here. Maybe I could do a spell, see if there's still magic on it."

"Okay, sure, but actually maybe we should put a higher priority on figuring out what's up with Mr. Double-Undead here? And actually—" Xander cut himself off, squinting up at the sun. The bright, hot sun. He turned to Spike. "Shouldn't you be on fire right now?"

Spike shrugged. "Beats me. Got burnt up. Maybe I've built up a resistance."

Willow, meanwhile, was giving Xander a funny look. "Who are you talking to?" she said.

Xander and Spike both stared at her. Then at each other. Then back at Willow, who was squinting a little and gazing at Xander with a mildly concerned expression.

"Fuck," Xander said. "You can't see him, can you?"

Spike, meanwhile, went and waved a hand in front of Willow's face. She didn't blink, just kept looking expectantly at Xander. "Who?" she said again.

Xander sighed. "Spike."

"I'm right here," Spike said, standing inches in front of Willow, his nose nearly touching hers.

"Where is he?" Willow asked, looking around blankly and taking a step forward.

Which took her right through Spike.

"Gah!" Xander shouted.

"Bugger!" Spike yelped.

Willow looked at Xander. "What?"

"Okay," Xander said, peering around Willow at Spike, "I think I can guess why the sun isn't burning you up."

"Bloody fucking sodding hell," Spike muttered. "Save the world, and this is what I get?"

Xander nodded. "Ghostified."


Nobody could see him or hear him but Xander.

Willow had believed Xander immediately, of course. This was far from the weirdest thing that had ever befallen them. She'd called Buffy over, and they'd stood around for a while trying to figure out what to do with the amulet. Spike had huddled off to the side, hugging himself and casting miserable looks at Buffy. Finally Buffy had wrapped a shirt around her hand, gingerly picked up the amulet and dumped it in Willow's backpack. "We'll figure this out," she promised the empty air about four feet to the right of Spike.

By then Willow and Buffy had already pretty much done what they'd come for. So they climbed out of the giant pit that had once been Sunnydale, and headed back to Thousand Oaks, the nearby town where they'd established their temporary headquarters.

None of the Slayers at the house they were renting could see him either. Neither could Andrew, and neither could Giles. "Why me?" Xander asked, plaintively.

"Well, you're the one who triggered his release from the amulet," Willow said, taking the jeweler's glass away from her eye and turning off the bright light she'd been shining on the necklace. "I think that connected you somehow."

"Just my fucking luck," Spike grumbled. "Couldn't have been Buffy, picked the thing up. Or Red. Or one of those nice new Slayers."

"He's talking, isn't he?" Willow asked, following Xander's gaze towards what to her must have been an empty corner of the room. "What's he saying?"

"Doesn't matter," Xander said, ignoring Spike's offended Oi!. "Can you fix it?"

"I don't even know where to begin," Willow said. "I don't know if he's a ghost, or a trapped psychic imprint, or an outright illusion—"

Spike scowled. "I am not a bloody illusion."

"And I'm pretty busy, you know, what with trying to locate the hundreds of new Slayers I accidentally created..."

"I get it," Xander said, rubbing his tired eyed with the heel of a hand. "Me haunted by vampire ghost, not so much a priority."

"Well, at least he's a friendly vampire ghost!" Willow chirped.


Buffy cornered Xander in the kitchen when he was making himself a midnight snack of pb&j on toast. "I want to talk to Spike," she said.

"Um," Xander said. "Well, go ahead, he's right there." He waved a hand at the refrigerator, which Spike was leaning against, glowering.

Buffy flinched, then took a deep breath and turned to the fridge. "Hi, Spike," she said.

Spike inclined his head a barest fraction. "Buffy," he said, softly, as though she had any hope of hearing him—and then he turned to Xander. "Bugger off, Harris," he said, low and fierce. "This is a private conversation."

"Xander, I'm sorry, I'm going to need you here for this," Buffy said at the same time. "You're going to have to tell me what he says."

"He just told me to leave," Xander said.

"Don't be an idiot, Spike," Buffy snapped, looking almost but not quite in the right direction.

"Sod it." Spike looked at Xander. Glared. "Tell her we don't have to talk about it."

"Talk about what?" Xander said.

Buffy looked annoyed. "Xander, tell me what he's saying."

"There's something you don't have to talk about. My God Buffy, you didn't sleep with him, did you?"

Buffy went very pale, and her cheeks flushed red. "Xander," she said, "You have no right to judge me. None."

"Am I the only one who remembers that he tried to rape you last year?"

Buffy gave Xander a very hard look. "It's not that simple Xander, and you know it. Nothing in our lives is that simple."

Spike, meanwhile, melted away through the back door and was gone.


Spike didn't show up again until noon the next day. Xander was alone in the back yard of the rental house, whittling sticks into stakes.

Spike sat down on a tree stump, squinted up at the sun, lit a cigarette, and said, "You're right about one thing, Harris. I was a monster."

"Oh, but now you have a soul." Xander scowled and whittled a little harder. A few wood chips flew through Spike's chest, but Spike didn't seem to notice.

"Do I?" Spike said.

Xander looked up, suddenly nervous. Spike gave him a dark smile, and suddenly shifted into game face and lunged. Xander threw himself sideways with a strangled yelp, narrowly evading Spike's fangs. Then he remembered that he had a stake in his fucking hand, and he swung around and plunged it into Spike's chest. Except it went right through Spike's chest, no resistance at all—and Xander stumbled and fell onto his knees on the grass, right through Spike's body.

Spike was laughing. "I don't even have a body, you daft sod! What am I going to do, mock you to death? I'm like the First Bloody Evil, without the bloody Bringers."

Xander glanced around to see if anybody else had witnessed that potentially embarrassing incident. Happily, he and Spike were alone in the backyard.

"Hey, Spike," Xander said, resettling himself in his lawn chair, "have I ever mentioned that I hate your guts?"

"Well, that's all right," Spike said, lighting another ghost cigarette, "I don't have guts anymore."

"Why don't you just fuck off?" Xander suggested.

Spike took a drag on his cigarette. He blew smoke in Xander's direction. The smoke didn't smell like anything, wasn't affected when Xander waved his hand in the air. Ghost smoke. "I tried," Spike said. "Last night, I left the kitchen, walked in a straight line. Through folks' bedrooms, over streets and freeways, right through this one really smashing party—got maybe five miles and then pop, I'm right back here. Tried again in another direction. Same thing. Doesn't matter which way I go. I end up right back here with you."

Fucking perfect.

Xander gritted his teeth and picked up a fresh stick.


"Some of the girls are concerned," Kennedy said. She'd cornered Xander in the dining room after lunch, when he was sopping up the last of his lentil soup with a piece of brown bread. "They didn't know Spike so well, but they know his rep, and now that he's invisible..."

"What am I supposed to do?" Xander asked.

"Talk to him," Kennedy said. "You're the only one who can. Make sure he's not doing some Peeping Tom routine."

"Anybody can talk to him," Xander pointed out with some asperity. "I'm just the only one who can hear him." He glared at Spike, who was sitting on the edge of the table, smoking another intangible and happily odor-free cigarette.

"Tell the nice lesbian Slayer that I am not interested in looking at little girls in their unmentionables," Spike said.

"He says he's not spying on anybody," Xander said.

Spike smirked. "Technically, that's not what I said."

"Wait, who are you spying on?"

"Nobody," Spike said. "Well, possibly Andrew. That one needs watching."

Xander turned back to Kennedy, who was waiting expectantly. "He promises that he's not spying on any of the girls. But possibly he's gay for Andrew."

Unseen by Kennedy, Spike made a rude gesture. Xander couldn't suppress a tiny smile.


"I'm sorry about Anya," Spike said, startling Xander out of a deep contemplation of the water stains on the living room ceiling.

"Oh," Xander said, and took another sip of his beer.

"Just heard Faith and Andrew talking about her," Spike said. "Sounds like she died a hero."

"Lot of that going around," Xander said. The beer was warm; the fridge was full of juice and milk and vegetables. No room for a six-pack.

"She was over a thousand years old," Spike said. "And you were the best thing ever happened to her."

Xander sat up, squinted his one good eye at Spike. He'd only had half a beer. There was no way he was drunk enough to be hallucinating this scene. "If it wasn't for me, she'd still be alive," he said.

Spike put his hands in the duster's pockets. "If it wasn't for you, she'd still be a monster." He turned and walked out through the wall of the room.


"Okay, S-M-O-K-E, and on the double word score, that's twenty-two points for Spike." Andrew marked in the new score with his stub of a pencil.

Dawn gave Xander a suspicious look. "How do we know you aren't cheating? I mean, how do we know Spike is even here?"

Xander rolled his eye. "Oh yeah, I'm pretending to be haunted by an annoying vampire ghost so that I can get two seats to myself at the Scrabble table."

"She has a point," Andrew said. "What if you're misrepresenting Spike's strategies to set up good scoring opportunities for yourself? Look, he totally just opened up that triple word score for you."

"Yeah, that's because Spike sucks at Scrabble."

"I do not," Spike said, glaring. "And incidentally, 'wanker' is a perfectly good word, it's your bloody dictionary that's got something wrong with it."

"He's still upset about that challenge going against him," Xander explained to the others. He picked up his own letters and plunked them down on the board. "Z-O-O on the triple word score for thirty-six points."

"Wanker," Spike muttered.


Xander and Rona headed up the coast to contact four new Slayers Willow had detected in the Pacific Northwest. It took them three weeks.

Spike didn't make an appearance the whole time they were on the road. Xander was first surprised, then pleased, then obscurely concerned. Checking in with Willow back at Slayer Central, Xander caught himself on the verge of asking if anyone had seen Spike around.

Xander and Rona returned to Thousand Oaks with one new recruit, leaving behind two more who planned to join them soon, and one who wanted nothing to do with them.

Spike was sitting alone on the front porch, smoking, when they pulled into the driveway. Xander got out of the front passenger seat and waved at Spike. Spike turned his head away.

"Who are you waving at?" asked Ayesha, the new girl.

"Vampire ghost," Xander explained. "Nobody can see him but me."

Ayesha narrowed her eyes. "Are you serious?"

"Serious as your new superpowers," Rona said, tossing a heavy suitcase one-handed at Ayesha, who caught it effortlessly.

Leaving the Slayers to carry the bags, Xander climbed the porch steps. "Miss me?" he said, going for the flippant.

"Fuck off," Spike said, refusing eye contact and raising his ghost cigarette to his lips.

"Okay, whatever," Xander said, and went inside.


That night, Xander woke up a little after two in the morning and saw Spike leaning against the wall, watching him sleep.

"What the hell, Spike?" Xander whispered, not particularly wanting to wake Andrew in the other bed.

"You didn't even tell me you were leaving," Spike said.

"So?" Xander said, but he felt a slight and possibly unwarranted stab of guilt. "You're haunting me. Last I checked, that doesn't put me under any moral or legal obligation to file my itinerary with you."

"It's not you I'm haunting," Spike said, "it's the amulet. Apparently." He lit up one of his endlessly-replenishing ghost cigarettes and took a long drag. "I couldn't follow you. Knew where you were—heard Dawn and Giles talking about it—but I couldn't follow. Got five miles from here and *pop*. Back in Red's workroom with the bloody amulet."

"Oh," Xander said. And realized two things simultaneously.

1) He could get away from Spike whenever he wanted to.

2) Spike's hands were shaking.

"They didn't say when you were coming back," Spike added. "Not when I was around to hear, anyway. Not like I could ask."

"Spike..." Xander started, and then took a long moment to taste the next words before he said them. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to leave you stuck here all alone."

And that wasn't even true. When he'd set off three weeks ago with Rona in the blue '89 Honda Civic, he'd certainly had a fleeting thought or two along the lines of how nice it would be if Spike didn't follow them.

But he hadn't really thought through what it would be like for Spike, unable to interact with anyone for weeks on end. And Spike was not, by nature, a solitary vampire.

Spike didn't quite seem to have heard Xander. "The worst part," he went on in a dull tone, "is what they say about me when they think I'm not around."

"Which is?" Xander prompted.

"Nothing." Spike shuddered. "Absolutely nothing."

"I'm sorry," Xander said again, and meant it. "Next time, I'll take the amulet with me. I promise."


Once he started really paying attention, Xander realized that Spike wasn't around all the time. Frequently, yes. As Xander went about his business, doing minor repairs around the big rental house and running errands for the girls, Spike was a constant sarcastic shadow, an unasked-for commentary track. But then at some point Xander would realize he hadn't seen Spike in hours; he'd wander around the house looking for him and come up Spikeless.

He brought it up one time when Spike suddenly appeared at his shoulder after an afternoon-long absence. Xander was in the basement, working with Vi to fix up a few beater bicycles for the Slayers who couldn't drive.

"Where were you?" he asked Spike while Vi looked on curiously. "You weren't spying on the neighbors, were you?"

"Quit that weeks ago," Spike said, leaning over to peer curiously at the brake cable Vi was tightening. "Your neighbors are the sorriest lot of boring sods in all of suburbia. Oh—except for Mrs. Pickering at number 57. She's a professional dominatrix; got a dungeon in her basement and all."

Xander put his wrench down. "Really?" The woman at number 57 was a tiny, frail-looking grandmotherly type with bluish hair.

Spike sighed. "No. She's boring too."

"So really, where were you?" Xander asked.

"Dunno," Spike shrugged. "Away. Off. 's like falling asleep. I get tired or something, and the world just seems to slip away from me. Then it's dark and I'm not quite there. Dunno how to describe it any better than that."


The first time Xander saw it happen, it was kind of disconcerting. Xander was sitting in on a planning session with Dawn, Willow and Giles. Spike was leaning against the wall opposite, listening but not providing much in the way of commentary. Noticing that Spike had been quiet for a while, Xander glanced up just in time to see him fade.

The disconcerting part was the look of sheer terror on Spike's face in the moment before he disappeared.


Xander asked Spike about it when he reappeared late the next morning. "You said it was like falling asleep," he reminded Spike. "That shouldn't be scary."

"Not the best analogy," Spike admitted, doing that thing Xander was starting to pick up on where he tried to cover his discomfort by lighting a cigarette. His shaking hands betrayed him, the same way they had when he'd talked about being left behind for three weeks. Spike sucked hard on his ghost cigarette. "Bit more like dying, really."


Willow took a break from Slayer-locating to study the amulet again. Andrew offered to help with research, but all of Giles's books were lying buried in the Sunnydale pit. Buffy, just back from Texas with two new recruits, asked for another chance to talk to Spike.

This time, Xander took on the role of interpreter with less reluctance. It was absurd to think Buffy had ever needed anyone to protect her from Spike—least of all now.

"It's all right, Buffy," Spike said. "I know you didn't mean it. You thought I was dying. You don't owe me anything."

"I did mean it," Buffy insisted—after Xander had relayed the message, even refraining for the moment from asking what 'it' was. "I want you to understand that. But you should also understand that things are different now."

"For instance, I'm a bloody ghost," Spike muttered.

"Well, yes," Buffy agreed after Xander repeated Spike's words. "But more to the point, I've got all these new Slayers to look after now. I thought being one among many would be easier and less lonely than being one girl in all the world, but it turns out: not so much."

Spike nodded. "You're their general."

Buffy winced when Xander said it. "They're not an army."

"It's all right, Buffy," Spike said, softly touching her hair, a gesture she couldn't see or feel. "There's nobody in the world I'd trust more than you to lead it."


The next time Xander went out looking for new Slayers, he took the amulet with him—wrapped in a t-shirt at the bottom of his duffel bag.

"Buon giorno," Rona said, keeping both eyes on the road, "Dov'e la toletta?"

The house in Thousand Oaks was bursting at the seams. Giles had managed to establish legal ownership of a large Watchers' Council property in Rome. Everybody was in the process of applying for passports.

"Non mi tocca!" said the smooth-voiced narrator of the Teach Yourself Italian cassette. "Chiamare la polizia."

"Don't touch me; I'll call the bloody police?" Spike translated incredulously from the backseat. "You need a phrasebook for Slayers, pet. 'Get your hands off me or I'll tie your collarbone into a sodding reef knot,' that's what you should be learning to say."

Xander craned around to look back at Spike. "You speak Italian?"

"Little bit. Haven't been in Rome since the 1950s."

"Spike speaks Italian?" Rona repeated, hearing (as usual) only Xander's side of the conversation. "Hey, maybe he'll be able to make himself useful for a change! Translating for—well, just for you, I guess."

Spike grimaced. "My Italian's mostly good for pulling birds and picking fights. Any time you want help with that, though—"

Xander sighed. "Yep, he's gonna be really useful."

Spike flipped a couple of fingers at Xander and went back to staring out the window.

The desert rolled by.


"Wake up wake up wake up wake up!" Spike was shouting. Xander cracked open an eye and saw Spike inches away from his nose. "Oh, thank fuck," Spike said. "Wake the Slayer, Harris, wake the Slayer now."

They were camping out to save money—a tent pitched in the desert, hidden from the highway by a low fold of land. Xander rolled over and nudged Rona.

"Whaaa...." she murmured, sleepy.

"Hellions," Spike said. "Four of 'em. On foot; left their bikes at the highway. They're gonna drop the tent and skewer it."

"Shit," Xander said. "Hellions outside. Grab your axe."

The tent started to shake.

Rona leapt to her feet, axe in hand. The top of the tent started to collapse in on them but Rona swung her axe in a wide arc; its razor-sharp cutting edge split the nylon. The tent puddled around their feet and the stark desert sky with its millions of stars opened up over them. Xander and Rona and Spike stood back-to-back-to-back, surrounded by four slavering Hellions.

"Well, good luck then," Spike said, and walked out of the circle.

"Yeeeeaaaaah!" Rona yelled, and swung her axe. The two Hellions on her side fell back a few inches; the other two advanced.

"Harris, get out of there!" Spike shouted.

Xander had a crossbow but as short-range weapons went, it wasn't one. He had a stake, but these were Hellions, not vampires. One of them lashed out at him with a length of motorcycle chain. He blocked so it caught him on the arm instead of the face; yelping with pain, Xander kicked blindly. His foot made solid contact with Hellion shin by sheer luck. The Hellion roared like an enraged warthog.

"Harris, duck!" Spike yelled.

Xander ducked. A blade whooshed over his head, gleaming silver in the moonlight, and buried itself in the neck of the Hellion in front of him. The Hellion behind him froze for a moment in stupid disbelief; Xander took the opportunity to point his crossbow at a gap in its rib-armor and release the bolt.

Rona whooped, yanking her axe out of the third Hellion's skull. Hellion number four was already lying on the ground behind her with an axe-shaped hole in its chest. "Nice going, Xander! You fought like a Slayer!"

"Not even close," Xander said. It wasn't modesty; it was the truth. "But I've had a lot of practice." He looked at Spike, who was watching them quietly, smoking. "And I had some help."


"They knew you had a Slayer," Spike said. "Knew you've been gathering Slayers. The demon underground is rumbling."

"Hey, at least now we can justify paying to sleep somewhere with running water," Rona said, stuffing the shredded remains of the tent into the trunk of the Civic.

"Spike says the demons are talking about us," Xander told her. "That wasn't a random attack."

"Spike, right." Rona looked around, past Spike and into the desert. "He's the one who raised the alarm?"

"Yeah." Xander held Spike's gaze. "Probably saved our lives."

"Tell him thanks for me." Rona slammed the trunk shut. "Let's get out of here."


Back in Thousand Oaks, in the rapidly-emptying house, Xander noticed that Spike was disappearing more than he used to.

"I'm really sorry," Willow said. "I haven't managed to figure out anything about the amulet. Maybe when we get to Rome, when we can access the Watchers' library there..."

"How serious is it?" Buffy asked. "I mean—has Spike said anything about it?"

Xander shook his head. "But I remember when he first came out of the amulet, he haunted me almost constantly. Day and night. Now he's fading away after a couple of hours, tops."

Willow poked the amulet with a pencil. "I wonder what would happen if somebody else touched it."

"Nothing," Buffy said immediately. They both looked at her, and she shrugged. "I tried it the first day we brought it back here."

Xander reached out a cautious finger. He remembered the zap it had given him the first time—but this time it didn't react to his touch. It was cold, heavy, inert.

"What it sounds like," Willow said, "is a battery running down. Like maybe this thing's running out of whatever mystical energy it's using to keep Spike on this plane."

Buffy looked worried. "And if the battery goes dead?"

"Well, I don't know," Willow emphasized, pushing the amulet with her pencil again. "But I'm guessing, so does Spike."


The rush hour traffic in L.A. was brutal. Spike vanished while they were stuck in a traffic jam on the outskirts, and reappeared in the back seat just before they reached the Hyperion.

Xander had the amulet in his pocket. He couldn't believe Buffy had got the thing from Angel. And she'd never told him. And neither had Spike.

The Hyperion was deserted.

Cordelia's cell phone number didn't work anymore.

They had to resort to asking around in demon bars, and that was how they found out that Angel was now CEO of Evil, Incorporated.

Buffy and Spike looked about equally stunned and appalled.

"But—how did he lose his soul?" Buffy asked numbly, sinking back in her seat.

"I would've thought I would've felt it, somehow," Spike murmured, letting his fingers whoosh through a cocktail umbrella.

"No, no, he's still got the soul," said the small, purple demon who'd been willing to talk to them. It sipped at its drink, unaware of Spike's fingers. "There was some sort of deal, folks are saying. He prevented world peace, Dubya'n'H wanted to show their appreciation, something like that. The details are fuzzy."

Buffy looked like she was having trouble restraining herself from doing violence on the demon. "There is no way he'd do something like that," she insisted. "There is more to this story, and I'm going to find it."


They didn't make it past Harmony.

"Buffy!" she squealed. "Xander! It's so great to see you!"

Spike, invisible at Xander's shoulder, murmured: "She's looking nummy." Xander tried to elbow him, and failed predictably.

"Harmony," Buffy said, planting both hands on the desk, "We hated each other in high school, and now you're dead and evil. We don't need to make small talk. Just let me see Angel."

"Well." Harmony sat up straighter, glared at Buffy, and turned to her computer. "He's busy all day today—important negotiations with the Legion of the Damned. Tomorrow, I could maybe squeeze you in between his ten o'clock with the Fell Brethren and his ten-thirty with Ann Coulter."

"No," Spike said. Xander turned to him and saw that Spike was looking, well, spooked. "Let's get out of here," Spike added. "Fucking now."


On the drive back to Thousand Oaks, Buffy and Spike took turns making excuses for Angel and worrying about what he'd gotten himself into.

"There was something evil in that place," Spike said, smoking furiously. From Xander's point of view, the air in the car was thick with unscented smoke. He hoped it wasn't going to give him ghost-cancer.

"Well, duh," Buffy said, when Xander courteously repeated Spike's words. "We were talking to her."

"No, something more," Spike said. "Something bigger, darker. I could feel it clawing at me. Like if we'd stayed there any longer, it would've dragged me down. Taken me away some place there's no coming back from." He shuddered.

"What was Angel thinking?" Buffy fretted.

"Trying to change the system from within, I'll reckon," Spike said. "Stupid bugger's going to get himself digested."

Xander privately thought that this Wolfram & Hart deal was not entirely out of character for Angel, but obviously neither of them wanted to hear it so he kept his thoughts to himself.

One thing was obvious: there was no help coming from that quarter.


Xander didn't even go to Rome. He headed straight to Johannesburg with Rona and Ayesha. Willow had broadened the scope of her locator spell, realized that there were Slayers distributed all over the world, and flown into a bit of a panic. "They have no idea what's happening to them!" she yelped. "It's been two months already! Do you realize how much trouble they could be getting into?"

So Buffy and Giles had headed to Rome along with Dawn and Andrew to set up their new headquarters, while the rest of group had scattered to the four corners of the Earth.

Except actually the darn thing was round, which made it even more complicated.

Their luggage nearly got stolen at the airport, and after that Xander took to wearing the amulet around his neck. He was pretty sure it wouldn't do anything to him, and he was worried about losing Spike—literally losing him, like a set of keys or his old teddy bear.

Spike was only manifesting for an hour or two a day by that point. Willow had estimated that he had a few more weeks at most before he disappeared entirely. From the look in Buffy's eyes when she said goodbye to them at the airport, Xander guessed she was already distancing herself to dull the pain.

Basically, they all knew that Spike was dying.

Still, there were Slayers to find.


Now that they had full possession of the Rome properties, they had money. Enough money to afford two adjacent rooms in a mid-level hotel. Rona had gotten used to Xander's snoring back in the camping days, but Ayesha was clearly relieved to be spared co-ed sleeping.

"At least you're taking me interesting places for once," Spike said, perched on an empty stool in the hotel bar. "Be nice to see a bit more of the world before I kick off. Been in Africa before, but never this far south."

"You got your soul in Africa," Xander recalled. "You know, I always wondered—how the hell did you get over here?"

He hoped that as long as he hunched over and sort of muttered into his drink, everyone would assume he was just a little bit crazy and leave him alone.

"The slow way," Spike said. "Container ship. Least there were plenty of rats to eat. I was in a rat-eating mood." He sighed. "Fuck, what I wouldn't do for a bloody rat right about now." He extracted his ever-present cigarette pack from his coat pocket and lit one up.

Xander wrinkled his nose at the whiff of smoke. "Does it bother you?" he asked. "Not eating?"

Spike tilted his head, sucked on his cigarette. "I don't get hungry, but I miss the taste."

Xander coughed; the smoke from Spike's cigarette was really stinking the place up. Which was funny, because usually when Spike smoked it didn't bother him ... at ... all ... "Holy shit, Spike," Xander said, sitting bold upright and forgetting to keep his voice down, "I can smell your smoke."

"Uh?" Spike looked blank for a moment, then startled. "Seriously?" He held up the cigarette, frowned at it, then held out his other hand, palm facing Xander. "Harris..." he said.

Xander caught his intention immediately. He lifted his own right hand and pressed it against Spike's.

Spike's palm was cool, dry, a bit rough. Solid.

"Holy shit," Xander said again. Then, "Bartender!"

The bartender, a tall black man wearing a white shirt with the hotel's crest on the breast pocket, looked up and said "Yes, sir?"

"Do you see this man standing beside me?" Xander asked.

The bartender frowned; his eyes flicked momentarily to the wrong side of Xander. "I'm sorry, sir?" he said.

Spike reached out a hand and waved it through the dark-stained wood of the bar. "Bollocks," he muttered.

"Sorry," Xander said to the bartender. "I think I'd better get back up to my room."


"It must be the amulet," Rona said. "You never wore it before, right?"

They'd established that Xander could touch Spike, and Spike could touch Xander. They'd established that Spike could pick Xander up, and it looked to everyone else as though Xander was floating in midair.

Ayesha had confessed that up until she saw Xander floating, she'd assumed that Spike was Xander's imaginary friend and that everyone else was playing along so that Xander's feelings wouldn't be hurt.

"What happens if Spike touches the amulet while Xander's wearing it?" Ayesha asked.

"Let's give it a try," Spike said. He reached out, touched the amulet. "Nothing," he said. "Feels cold, that's all."

"Nothing," Xander reported to the girls.

Meanwhile, Spike took hold of the amulet's chain. He began lifting it over Xander's head.

"That is so weird," Ayesha said, watching the chain move. She turned to Rona. "Seriously, you knew all along he was real?"

"Sure," Rona said. "We used to get invisible ghost-people coming around all the time. No big deal. Mostly they were evil, though."

The moment Spike got the chain off over Xander's head, it slipped through his fingers and tumbled to the floor. Spike knelt and tried to pick it up again, but his fingers passed through it—and the floor—without resistance.

"Spike," Xander said, "How the hell do you stand on the floor?"

"I don't," Spike said, like it was obvious. "I just decide not to fall. I don't weigh anything, do I?"

"What if one of us wears the amulet?" Ayesha asked.

"Maybe we should check with Willow before we try anything like that," Xander said, a bit nervously.

"Yeah," Rona agreed.

"Oh, don't be such pussies," Ayesha said, and scooped up the necklace. She hung it around her neck and then did a slow three-sixty. "Okay, where is he?"

"He was right in front of you a second ago," Xander said. Spike took a couple of steps, passing through Ayesha. "And now he just walked through you. Give me the amulet back."

Ayesha gave a little shudder and handed it over.

"Did you feel something?" Rona asked.

"No," Ayesha said. "But man it's weird to think about."

Xander placed the necklace back over his own head. Spike held out a hand, looking slightly nervous. Xander reached out and grasped it, firmly.

A moment later, Spike was hugging him.


The real breakthrough came three days later.

They were all in the girls' room, going over the plans for the next day. They'd already made contact with one of the two Slayers Willow had found for them in Johannesburg. Zenani was 21 years old, an engineering student at the University of Johannesburg. She'd been surprised and initially suspicious of them, but receptive to their story and ultimately pleased to get an explanation for the weird things that were happening to her. She didn't want to go back to Rome with them, but she promised to keep in touch.

Now they needed to find the other one.

Spike appeared in the middle of the room while Xander was on the phone with Willow. Willow, alone with Kennedy now in the Thousand Oaks house, was doing a locator spell on a map of Johannesburg. An identical copy of the map was spread out on the hotel room floor between Rona and Ayesha.

"Square F-12," Willow said. "Near the top right corner."

"F-12," Xander repeated. "Top right corner. Oh, hi Spike."

Spike looked tired. "Harris," he said in curt greeting. "Slayers." He went and leaned against a wall with his hands in his pockets. "Carry on. Don't mind me."

Xander handed the phone over to Rona and went to Spike. "You okay?" he asked quietly.

Spike gave him an Are you stupid? look. His eyes were slightly bloodshot, and his skin was grey-tinged. "Even when I'm here, I feel like I'm half not," he said. "Slippin' away faster every time. Not long now, I reckon."

"Spike..." Xander started. He cleared his throat. "Do you want to come sit with me?"

Spike gave him a long, quizzical look. Then he simply nodded and followed Xander back over to the pile of guidebooks and city maps.

Xander sat on the floor, his back braced against Rona's bed, and tugged Spike down in front of him. "Lean against me," he said.

He used to sit like this with Willow sometimes, when they were pulling all-nighters researching some demon or other. Back before Oz and Cordelia, before the formal-wear kiss and the awkwardness. It was just comfortable.

It was a weird thing to do with Spike, maybe, but Spike looked so damn tired. And there was nobody else he could lean on.

Spike sank back against Xander with a sigh. "Don't tell the girls," he murmured.

So Xander flipped through the guidebooks and tossed ideas back and forth with the girls, while Spike leaned wearily against Xander, not saying much at all.

After a while, Xander realized that Spike was asleep. Eyes closed, limp, breathing steadily.

Xander couldn't remember Spike ever sleeping since he'd been a ghost.

He shifted Spike so that his head was resting on Xander's lap. Spike murmured but didn't wake up.

Two hours later, the plans for tomorrow all set, Xander eased his leg out from under Spike's head, trying not to jostle him. "Do you mind if I leave Spike asleep on the floor of your room?" he asked Rona and Ayesha. "I think ... I think he needs the rest."

"It's okay," Rona said. "We sleep with pajamas on anyway."

Xander cradled Spike's head in his hands, lowering it gently to the floor. Spike's hair was softer than he'd expected. Xander pulled his hands away carefully, pleased that he'd managed to get away without waking Spike—

—and then Spike vanished.

"Oh," Xander said. "Never mind."


Kagiso was seventeen years old and worked as a janitor in the Johannesburg Zoo. They talked her into coming back to Rome; Xander kept well clear of the hyenas.

Spike popped out of thin air in the elephant enclosure. He squinted up at the massive grey beasts, shook his head as if to clear it, and strode out through the plexiglass. "Good morning," he said. "Afternoon. Whatever."

"Spike," Xander greeted him. "You're looking better."

Kagiso looked confused. Ayesha attempted quietly to explain.

"What happened last night?" Spike asked. "It was last night, yeah?"

"Yeah," Xander said. "You, um, slept for a while before you disappeared. I talked to Willow after. She has a new theory. She thinks you've been sort of exhausting yourself and then losing coherence. When you were leaning against me last night, that kept you ... um, she said 'tethered.' So that you could sleep without disappearing."

"Oh." Spike still looked puzzled. "But I did disappear."

"Only when I let go of you."

"So if I want to stay on this plane..."

Xander held out his hand. "It's up to me to keep you here."

Spike gave Xander's hand a dubious look, but then he clasped it with a firm grip. "Right then. Better to look like a poof than get sucked into oblivion, that's what I say."

"Willow thinks that after you've had a chance to rest properly, you'll be able to manifest for longer periods again, like when you first came out of the amulet," Xander said, looking down at their joined hands. "Without touching me, I mean."

"I fucking well hope so," Spike said.


Spike fell asleep at dinner.

More accurately, he passed out with his head on Xander's shoulder between the soup and the main course. Luckily, they were eating in the hotel dining room, so when it proved impossible to fully wake Spike up, Xander didn't have too far to drag him.

Once he had Spike safely deposited on his bed, Xander sighed, kicked his shoes off (keeping one hand on Spike's arm all the while), and lay down beside him. Spike, without waking, rolled towards Xander and nestled his head against Xander's neck.

Xander thought about how anyone walking in on them would see him alone in the bed. He thought about how after everything else that had happened, it was kind of dumb that that might actually matter to him. He thought about how if Willow was right, they were going to have to do this every night for as long as Spike was linked to Xander by the amulet.

At least Spike didn't snore.

Xander closed his eye and waited for sleep, getting used to the rhythm of Spike's soft, illogical breaths.


For Xander's 23rd birthday, Dawn gave him a custom-printed t-shirt. It had an arrow pointing to Xander's right, and the text I'm With Invisible. When Xander wore it, Spike steadfastly insisted on standing to his left.


It was a year and a half before they had sex.

It started with a conversation about Xander's lack of a love life.

Spike fretted over it, fiddling with an unlit cigarette. "Never wanted you to turn yourself into a monk on my account," he said. "I can make myself scarce if need be."

"It's not you," Xander said. "Well, okay, the fact that I spend every night spooning with an invisible vampire does complicate things with the hypothetical ladies. But..." he sighed. "Okay, is it just pathetic if I'm still not over Anya?"

"Little bit," Spike said.


"Not over breaking up with her?" Spike asked. "Or not over her dying?"

"Both. I don't know. I'm just not ready to risk all that again. Anyway," he shrugged, "it's not like I'm ever lonely."

"Well, yeah," Spike said. "You've got me."

Xander didn't exactly expect Spike to come over and kiss him. But he didn't quite not expect it, either.

Spike tasted like smoke and whiskey. Xander was pretty sure Spike didn't have a ghost flask hidden on him anywhere, so that last was a bit mysterious.

"Do your clothes come off?" Xander asked.

"Dunno," Spike said. "Never tried."

It turned out that they did.


It was a pretty easy secret to keep, what with Spike being invisible and all. Right up until the night Buffy walked in on them.

Luckily (considering), the Roman property was about 300 years old and drafty as hell in the winter. So they were fucking under blankets.

"Xander!" Buffy called, banging the door open, "We need you in the library right now—ohmygodwhatareyoudoing?"

Xander froze mid-thrust. Beneath him, Spike had gone wide-eyed like the proverbial deer.

"Exercising," Xander managed to choke out. "In bed. Naked."

"Right," Buffy said. There was a long pause. "Okay, I need you in the library in five minutes. And let's never talk about this again."


They weren't an army, the Slayers, so much as a super-secret special task force operating outside of any national affiliations.

From their Roman base of operations, they sent out Slayer teams to deal with supernatural problems around the world. Buffy was the acknowledged leader; she had never asked for the job, but it had always been obvious that it was hers by right. Giles, having declared that he was "too damn old for all this," ran the library with Dawn's assistance. Willow was talking about recruiting and training other witches to provide magical support for the Slayers.

Andrew mostly did the housekeeping.

Spike and Xander were recon.

Spike was the perfect scout—no wall could keep him out, no security camera could possibly detect him. He'd find out whatever the Slayers needed to know, and report back to Xander.

Once, at a Christmas party, Xander confessed to Rona that he felt out of his league among the Slayers and the witches. "It's been like this since I was a teenager," he said, nursing his eggnog. "All my friends have superpowers. Me, I'm just an ordinary guy."

"With an invisible vampire familiar," Rona pointed out. "From where I stand, Spike is your superpower."


Dawn married an outsider—a rare books dealer she'd met online. He'd dealt in magic and demon-lore books without knowing their real significance. She'd introduced him to the shadow world soon after they started dating—right after he'd been held hostage for a week by a demon-possessed floor lamp.

At the wedding, the groom's family wandered around looking a bit shell-shocked.

"This is Xander," Dawn said to her new mother-in-law. "He's always been sort of like a big brother to me. And this is his invisible gay vampire ghost husband, Spike."

Xander smiled, and shook the poor woman's hand, and tried not to let on that Spike was licking his ear.


Every few years, Willow would take another look at the amulet. She'd start out hopeful, full of new ideas that had occurred to her since the last time. A few days later Xander would walk into her magic lab and find her with frazzled hair and hollow eyes, poking the thing with a pencil.

"I'm so sorry, Xander!" she'd say, looking up. "I just can't figure out how it works!"

"It's okay, Will." He'd bend over and kiss the top of her head. "Really, we're pretty used to the whole thing by now."


One day, hiding in the bottom of a mine shaft in Chile, Xander turned to Spike and said, "What's going to happen to you after I die?"

Spike looked towards the sounds of distant combat. "Faith and Vi have things well in hand," he said. "I wouldn't worry. If you want, I could go check again—"

"No," Xander said. "I mean, someday. Whenever. Maybe I'll be really old. That would be pretty great—I mean, considering. But it will happen."

Spike gently touched the side of Xander's face, and Xander knew he was looking at the crow's feet, at the graying hair. "Well," Spike said, "I suppose I'll last a month or two. I'll start fading out, like I did before Red figured out how you could keep me tethered and let me rest. And then I'll face whatever comes next. I'm about 150 years overdue in any case."

"You'll be all alone," Xander said.

"Suppose I'll stay close to the ones who loved you best," Spike said. "Buffy, if she's still around. Dawn. They'll talk about you. It'll help."

Xander felt for Spike's hand and squeezed it. "Will you go to my funeral?"

"Hell yeah," Spike said. "Give a eulogy myself, I will, even if nobody can hear it."

Xander snorted. "That might be a good thing, the not-hearing. Considering the things you'll probably say in it."

Spike raised an eyebrow, nodded sagely. "An invisible man sees a lot of things."

"I'll ask them to say goodbye to you, too," Xander said. "I'll put it in my will so they won't forget. They'll know you're there, listening."

Spike shrugged. "That'd be nice," he said. Then he flicked Xander's ear with his finger. "Hey! Ever been buggered in a mine shaft within earshot of a deadly battle between the forces of good and evil?"

"No," Xander said.

"Well," Spike said with a wicked grin, "Carpe diem, and all that."

Xander did not hear the rest of the battle.

And life was good.

The End