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He'd hated himself for many things concerning the Gem of Amara fiasco: that he'd held up the Gem in a "Please Steal Me" gesture; that he'd made her mad enough to win; most especially that he'd killed two Slayers in battle, and on the way to his third, he had no business noticing that her knees were dimpled, or giving a damn what dumb plonkers she let between them.
He wasn't in town for the werewolf's disappearance, but he was for his return, and he knew, somehow, that the boy was a Real Scooby. You could tell by the way he'd have a place in the group even if he and Willow weren't together. Somehow, the mutt had gotten in before the deadline, back in the days when souled vampires, useless blunderers, and vapid cheerleaders were all welcomed. Maybe the deadline was the end of high school.
Certainly the demon girl Xander liked to pretend had a less bloody past than Spike's, or more remorse, or simply the get-out-of-jail-free card of unwelcome humanity, she'd made her own place in the ranks, selfish and honest and very vocal about the sexual pleasure she took with the git. Why, he wondered, had Anya's concern for Xander, based on love or lust, been readily accepted as a valid reason to help, even when she didn't give a damn for anyone else? When his own affections for Buffy were deemed more dangerous than his fangs or his dastardly plans of old, his tendency to steal her clothes somehow more threatening than the fact that for years he could have entered her home and killed her, mum, and kid sis in their sleep.
He did not really need to wonder. Xander was not Buffy, not the Slayer, and therefore not held to the same high standards of purity as she was. That, and none of them had known Anya when she'd been Anyanka. Spike had met a vengeance demon or two in his day, and for carnage and heartbreak they left vampires in the dust. So to speak.
On the other hand, for all that she'd fought with the Scoobies, provided some of the best ideas for fighting Glory, and charged into battle against the minions of a hell goddess with a baseball bat, Anya was on the outside once the bricklayer left her. It both comforted and saddened him. He wasn't alone in exile, but it also made something very obvious: that the group of children who'd somehow all been chosen to save the world were really very much less about fighting evil than they were a group of friends. His usefulness did not matter. They did not like him. Except when they had no other choice, they did not turn to him or include him. Thus his abrupt removal from the white hat posse the very hour they realized they'd succeeded in resurrecting Buffy.
Buffy could have brought him in again, as she'd done with Finn and even Angel, but she didn't. First because she wanted to have a friend outside her betraying inner circle. Later because she did not want to have to talk to him in any venue where their pants would stay on for more than five minutes.
Xander had been Anya's link to the group, and once he broke it off with her, none of the others seemed to find her their concern. If they looked for her after the wedding, tried to comfort her, they did not look or try very long.
Tara, though... It's like he can barely remember her, though he spent hours in her presence. She was quiet, true, and shy, but Spike considers himself perceptive, and he never saw any hint of her, except perhaps for one or two small moments at Buffy's birthday party. Moments when, not coincidentally, she was broken up with Willow. He'd been a quiet sort as a human himself, awkward and hiding behind his hair, but there was no depth to her reticence. In the presence of others, she saw only Willow. Her concerns, her emotions, were almost always directed at her girlfriend. True, he'd mooned over Cecily, but at least he'd created something for himself out of it, a bit of art, horrible though it was. Tara had needed an artistic outlet.
And now it was too late.
He knows, though, from his own eyes and what Buffy's told him, that she was kind. The best of all of them, if what you needed was a lap or a shoulder or a quiet presence. Not that there wasn't plenty of call for those things on the Hellmouth. It's just that usually there wasn't enough time, and what you really needed in order for soft hands and kind eyes to survive were the calloused hands of a flinty-eyed warrior girl, the dry grasp of dead hands on an ax, and the fifty-fifty spells of a witch more powerful than wise or trained. So maybe she wasn't the best of them, not if you wanted the world to last. But the kindest, he's sure.
He knows he must be something wicked, then, that she never directed her kindness towards him, that a heart so soft had no compassion for the pathetic demon.
True, he'd hit her once, but not only was it for her own peace of mind, it truly did hurt him as much as it hurt her. He was not like the lying parent who tells a child, "This is going to hurt me more than it will hurt you." Such brazen falseness, as the owner of the hand which holds the belt, the cane, the power, casts himself as the victim, pretending his own sorrow at hurting a child overshadows the child's own physical pain, rage, and humiliation. He wonders if anyone ever said this to him, and allows the specter of William to surface, and knows, no -- such platitudes were never part of his childhood. Maybe they were created later, when people needed better excuses to whip their children. In his day, they did not pretend it was anything other than honest punishment.
And of course he didn't care, not really, whether Tara stayed or went home with her kinfolk, because he wasn't a part of the group anyway. Either way she was not one of his people. He remembers, underneath his facetious praise for the misogynistic fundamentalist, underneath his bored expression, feeling a deeply buried twinge, because not one of the Scooby gang would care if he were snaffled by Mormons, or the Initiative again, or if he simply up and left. Some part of him wanted, even then, for them to be his people, and when Buffy was dead, he adopted them; but he has never been and will never be one of theirs.
When he withstood torture to protect Dawn, the full extent of the appreciation shown by the bloody Scoobies was a ride home and the soft thankful kiss of a girl playing at being a robot. A moment he treasured, for certain, but the hours of the night went by and not one of them returned for him, knowing what he'd done, brought bandages or blood or thanks. He only saw them again when the 'bit needed a bodyguard. Not that he minded minding her, but he was only a tool. And none of them, not even kind, sweet Tara, came to him that night, or showed up in safer sunshine of the next day -- one could hardly expect most of them to brave a Sunnydale graveyard alone at night -- and he felt his heart sink as he coughed on the blood he needed to recover and set his own leg and spent the day in delirious pain with visions of draining and turning Bob Barker.
He is less than an enemy to them. He is nothing.
He wonders if perhaps this is why he betrayed them to Adam. Why he clung so fiercely to his title of villain long after the facts did not support it. As chipless, reckless Spike, he was a menace, but a worthy adversary. They hated him, but he was there. He was given some fear, some deference. He was not to be denied. With the chip, he became a non-being to them. A joke. And he stayed that way even when his role shifted from punching bag to babysitter and patrolling grunt.
When he fell the hundred yards from Glory's tower, after the battle was over, not one of them cared to lend any help. Of course, no one was thinking properly with Buffy dead, but they held each other up as trips to hospital were discussed and Glory's victims herded and the Slayer's body lifted and borne away. He likes to think that Dawn might have gone to him -- he saw fear and not blame in her eyes when he failed her -- but she was gathered and taken away almost at once.
He dragged himself from the debris, into the ritual's makeshift headquarters, which smelled of Ben and Glory, leprous minions and frightened Dawn. He lay there, possibly for days, aware of nothing but grief, and then nothing, and then grief, until he found himself strong enough to find a sewer grate and stagger home. By then he'd missed the funeral, held on the sly in the woods during the day. He didn't hear Buffy's final words, either, until weeks later when Dawn relayed them to make him get off his ass and help them.
And now he thinks of Red and the girl who could not be one of the inner circle as anything other than Red's satellite. How she was as blind to him as the rest of them. He knows she was good, and knows he is not, and mourns her for the others' sake.