Summary: Spike, post Chosen. Listen: there's a hell of a good universe next door; let's go.
Back in the good/bad old days - pre-chip, pre-soul and pre-sacrificing-life-to-save-the-world - he'd had a drink once with a guy in Boston. Astrophysicist, quantum physicist, something brainy and complicated, and he'd tried to explain that if the universe was infinite, then there were also infinite Earths. Every possible permutation of history, he'd said (taking a couple of attempts to pronounce 'permutation') had played out on some world.
Spike had been quite drunk, and completely unable to wrap his head around the idea that there was a world where, for example, he was a chartered accountant and happily married to Jennifer Lopez, but the bloke swore on a stack of Stephen Hawking books that he wasn't kidding.
Interesting guy, that scientist. Dru had liked him. She said he tasted of starlight.
After he'd worn the amulet, and burned from the inside out, and found himself not in the hell he'd expected or the heaven he'd secretly hoped for but an unknown somewhere else, people had tried to explain it to him again. Or, rather, not people but higher beings. They still liked to remind him of that.
What it boiled down to, once he got past the pompous bullshit about destiny and champions and the like, was that he wasn't finished yet. Maybe never would be.
"What the hell more do you people want from me?" he complained.
The one who was currently in the form of a man, albeit a very handsome and shiny man, drew himself up to his full six feet or so (Spike cursed the fact that even on a higher plane of existence he was barely hitting five ten) and said, "you have much work ahead of you, William. You must travel the dimensions, doing good, putting right what once went wrong before..."
"Right," Spike interrupted testily, "so, we've all seen Quantum Leap. Just send me back. Or send me on, wherever it is I'm supposed to be. I'm done, all right?"
Shiny looked down his not-inconsiderable nose at him and muttered something about ingrate vampires and how Angel would have been better at this.
Very shortly afterwards, Spike became just about the first person in any universe to punch a higher being in the face.
It took him at least a couple of centuries to admit that the job wasn't so bad. He got to see a hell of a lot of places, and didn't have to rescue small animals from being run over or anything quite so degrading, and the Powers were always good about settling his expenses. From time to time he'd have to fix something in a version of Sunnydale, and while it hurt at first to see Buffy, he gradually came to welcome these visits. Besides, one of his missions had been to persuade an alt-Buffy to dump Angel - and she did, quite cruelly, Spike thought - in favor of Faith, and that had made him laugh for weeks.
He'd realised, once he'd gotten the hang of this multiverse nonsense, that it meant everything was real. He could hop over to the world where Hitler had won the second world war, or find that world without shrimp Anya'd told him about. Actually, he did neither of those things, because he was generally good at going only where his assignments took him.
Sometimes, though, he liked to take on special projects.
"Come on," he wheedled. "It'll take an hour. Two, tops. You know I've earned it."
The entity who he'd always thought looked a little like Tara - if she was a goddess and took a lot of hallucinogenic drugs - smiled her spaced-out smile and said, "well... it's not strictly protocol. But if it truly means that much to you, go."
Before he could thank her, he was standing by a riverbank in smalltown America.
Some would call it a revenge mission. He liked to think of it as a perfectly justified pre-emptive strike.
It didn't take him long to track down the girl, and even less time to get her talking to him. The same magic that made people forget him as soon as he left their dimension usually served to get them to open up to the bleached-blond stranger who was offering a mostly-friendly ear and some - often fairly sarcastic - advice.
She wasn't a bad kid; a bit wordy for a sixteen-year-old in the twentieth century, maybe, and it didn't help that he knew how she'd turn out, or at least, how it would go without his intervention. He was torn between wanting to smack her and the urge to fast forward three or four years and sleep with her.
"You won't remember any of what I've told you," he said, lighting one of the cigarettes that always appeared with him, and ignoring the way her nose wrinkled in disgust. "Soon as I leave, it'll fade, but you'll know. Works on a subconscious level or something. Never really understood it, myself, but the hours are good. And they don't make me wear fabulous jewelry."
She just squinted at him, shading her eyes against the sun's glare on the water and said: "Me and Pacey? Really?"
"Yeah," Spike said firmly, "so do everybody a favor and let go of the angsty eternal soulmates crap now, okay?"
And as he felt the pull back to base, he saw Joey slowly nod.
Not-Tara looked amused. She always did. "Isn't your job to give valuable, life-changing advice to those on the wrong path?"
He shrugged, unrepentant and feeling better than he had in a few hundred years. "Never trust a man with a forehead that hideously outsized. Best advice the chit'll ever get. Thanks for giving me the go-ahead, pet."
As always, there was another assignment waiting for him. No rest for the wicked, he thought, but he grinned as he materialized at his new location. He'd remembered, suddenly, something he'd told Buffy. A thousand years ago, maybe.
He'd been wrong, back then - there was death, of course. And there was glory.
But after both, there was a hell of a good time still to be had, if a fella was willing to adapt.