The pain that tore through Spike was like nothing he'd ever felt before and for a split second he almost wished for death so that it would be over. All too soon, however he realised that death was too good for a creature such as him. All the things he'd done, all the people he'd killed, it all flooded through his newly installed soul until it felt like it was going to tear him up from the inside.
He lay there on the floor of the cave and wept, uncaring that the coarse sand beneath him was imbedding itself in the wounds on his back. He couldn't have moved even if he wanted to. His strength was spent and the burden of his soul was rapidly draining him of any strength of will he had remaining. He closed his eyes and hoped that from the depth of unconsciousness, which he could feel himself quickly falling into, that the pain would lessen.
* * *
Buffy closed her eyes as the sunlight bathed her face and she inhaled the scent of the flowers blooming nearby. For the first time since being brought back she actually felt happy. She was finally ready to start living, and she'd have her sister there by her side just as she was now.
The rational part of her mind was telling her that they should head back into town and check on the others but the rest of her just wanted to stay and enjoy this moment for as long as possible.
The rational side of Dawn's mind was clearing working overtime though. She laid her hand on her sister's arm.
"Buffy, do you think we should go and check on the others? Remember what Anya said."
Anya's words suddenly rang in Buffy's ears.
I... I don't think he has a lot of time.
It suddenly felt as though the world around her had been drained of all the light and colour she had been enjoying. How could she have forgotten Giles?
"Come on." She said to Dawn. "We need to get to the Magic Box."
The two sisters turned and ran.
* * *
"Giles?" Buffy called as she ran into the remains of the shop, Dawn close behind her. "Anya?"
As Buffy ran into what was left of the training room Dawn timidly made her way through the ruins, taking in the scene of devastation.
"Wow." She breathed as she ducked under a fallen beam. "Look at this place."
Buffy reappeared moments later, a mixture of relief and anxiety written onto her face. "I don't think they're here."
"I guess that means they're ok, right?" Dawn asked hopefully.
Buffy's first instinct was to lie, to tell Dawn that they were fine. Then she remembered her promise. She was serious about showing Dawn the world, not hiding her from it. She looked at her sister and sighed. "I don't know what happened here, but from the looks of this place it was bad. Maybe Giles and Anya got out ok, I just don't know."
Dawn's face fell a little but she nodded, happy that Buffy was finally treating her like an adult. They turned to leave and almost jumped when Anya materialised in front of them.
Buffy was the first to recover from the shock. "Anya, where's Giles? Is he ok?"
Anya smiled. "He's not dead. I took him back to my.....to Xander's apartment. He's pretty beat up."
Buffy and Dawn both sighed in relief, that was one weight off their mind.
"What about Willow?" Buffy asked.
"Come over to the apartment and I'll explain." Anya replied. "I don't want to leave Giles alone for too long."
"Wow." Dawn said with a small smile as Anya disappeared. "She didn't even mention the state of the shop or the money."
Buffy smiled in return. "I think maybe she'd finally realised that there are more important things."
* * *
It didn't take Buffy and Dawn long to walk to Xander's and Anya was waiting for them when they arrived.
"How is he?" Buffy asked as she stepped inside.
"I took care of him." Anya said almost proudly. "I bandaged him up and put him to bed. He's asleep now."
"Can we see him?" Dawn asked, almost as though she wanted to make sure she wasn't going to lose someone else she cared about.
"Sure." Anya replied with a smile, taking them over to the bedroom and pushing the door open gently.
Giles lay in bed, his torso wrapped tightly with bandages. He also has a rather impressive selection of cuts and bruises covering most of his face. It was clear that he'd been hurt badly but from the looks of it he'd heal given plenty of rest.
Anya moved into the room and perched on the edge of the bed. Reaching out a hand she gently stroked the sleeping mans hair. Buffy and Dawn exchanged glances at the obvious show of tenderness Anya was displaying for Giles. Both girls were wondering the same thing. Was it possible that Anya's feelings lay elsewhere now?
"Willow tortured him." Anya said softly, bringing the sisters out of their thoughts. "Then she stole the magic he'd been given."
With a small smile she stood up and moved back into the living room, leaving Giles to rest.
"So how come the world didn't end?" Dawn asked quietly once they were all sat down.
"Giles knew that Willow would steal the magic from him." Anya said almost proudly. "When she took it from him it reached the small part of humanity she had left. Xander managed to talk her out of ending the world."
Buffy and Dawn exchanged another glance. Well, that explained where Xander had gone. He'd saved them all. He was a hero.
"I wonder where they are." Dawn said softly.
"I don't know." Buffy replied. "But I don't think we should go looking for them. They have each other and they'll come back when they're ready."
The three girls fell silent as they finally began to process what had happened over the last twenty-four hours. Everything had changed. Tara was dead, Spike was gone, Willow had killed a man and tried to end the world, Xander had stopped her.
"I miss Tara." Dawn said with a small sniffle, resting her head on Buffy's shoulder. Buffy wrapped her arms around her sister, holding her tight.
"I know. I miss her too."
"Do you suppose Spike will ever come back?" Dawn asked tentatively. She still wasn't sure what to think about what the vampire had done to Buffy, she'd only heard one side of the story and as much as she loved her sister she didn't want to judge Spike until she'd heard his side of things.
"Spike's gone?" Anya asked with curiosity. "Where did he go?"
Buffy sighed. "I wish I knew."
Without thinking about it Anya's demon face came into show. "Done."
A flash of white light filled the room, completely blinding everyone. When it ended Dawn looked around and let out a cry.
Buffy was gone.
* * *
The next thing Buffy was aware of was that she was in total darkness. She blinked a few times hoping it would clear her vision but still all she could see was black.
"Anya? Dawn? Where are you? I can't see."
The silence confirmed what she already feared. Wherever she was, it wasn't Sunnydale and she was alone. She could feel sand beneath her feet and the air around her was sticky and humid.
As her eyes began to adjust to the darkness she realised that she wasn't blind, she was in some sort of cave. There was barely any light getting through but her eyes caught sight of something lying on the ground. A body. Buffy hoped whoever it was was still alive. She didn't like the idea of being stuck in a strange place with a corpse.
She knelt down beside the body and that was when she saw it, the minimal amount of light shining on the bleached hair.
* * *
"Where is she?" Dawn demanded after a full search of the apartment had revealed that Buffy was definitely gone.
"I don't know." Anya said helplessly, lifting the cushions of the couch in the vain hope that Buffy might be under them. "She made a wish. I couldn't help it."
"Fine!" Dawn snapped. "I wish Buffy was back here."
They both looked around expectantly but nothing changed.
"I made a wish." Dawn practically screamed. "Bring her back."
"I'm sorry Dawn. I don't understand why it didn't work."
By now Dawn was bordering on hysterical. After everything that had happened, everyone she'd lost she wasn't going to lose Buffy. Not again and not for some silly wish.
"Find her!" She yelled, tears now pouring down her face. "Teleport and find her."
"I can't." Anya said softly, shifting uncomfortably from one foot to the other. "I can only teleport to places I know or places I'm needed. I don't know where Buffy is."
Defeated at last Dawn flopped down onto the couch and buried her face in her arms, sobbing controllably. All Anya could do was watch with despair, knowing that she was at least partly responsible for this.
"What's going on?" A weak voice asked.
Anya turned to find Giles standing in the bedroom doorway, holding onto the doorknob for support. She swallowed hard.
"There's been a bit of an accident."
* * *
Kneeling beside the fallen vampire Buffy pulled him into her lap. His skin was ice cold, colder than she'd ever felt before and his skin was clammy with a cold sweat. It was obvious that there was something wrong with him, he shouldn't be this cold when the air around them was so warm.
As she examined him more closely she noticed that the whole of his upper body was covered in wounds of all kinds. There were cuts, bruises, burns and what looked like insect bites.
"Spike, what happened to you?" She asked softly, even though she knew he couldn't hear her. He shivered in her arms and she began to run her fingers gently through his sweat dampened hair. A small part of her brain questioned why she even cared after what Spike had tried to do to her but she pushed it aside. She was in a strange place and alone. Right now Spike was all she had.
As she sat there with him, offering a small amount of comfort she didn't see his eyes quivering beneath their lids. Finally she felt him stir and looked down to see her staring up at him in disbelief.
"Hey." She smiled gently. "How are you feeling?"
His response was to roll away from her and vomit the contents of his stomach all over the cave floor. Buffy gagged and wrinkled her nose as the smell of stale and semi-digested blood assaulted her nostrils.
Once Spike was done he lay still and began to shiver again, his whole body shuddering violently.
For a moment all Buffy could do was watch. Something was seriously wrong, she just wished she knew what it was and how to make it better. There was no way they could even think of trying to get back home with Spike in this condition.
Finally she moved over to him and placed a gentle hand on his shoulder. Spike immediately snarled and scrambled to his feet, backing away from her until he was flush against one of the cave walls.
"What the bloody hell are you? Is this a trick? Is this another trial? Don't you think you've punished me enough?"
Buffy didn't know what he was talking about. Trials? Punishment? As soon as he was well again she was going to find out exactly what had happened to him. She moved forward slowly, her hands held up to show him she was unarmed.
"Spike, it's me." She said gently. "Buffy."
His eyes darted around the cave as he looked for a way to escape. Then he looked at her and snorted. "Buffy is in Sunnydale, far away from me where she should be. Want to try something else?"
"Spike, it's me!" Buffy protested. "I don't know what happened but I was talking with Dawn and Anya and the next thing I knew I was here....wherever here is."
"Africa." Spike muttered, his eyes starting to glaze over as the sickness he was caught in threatened to overwhelm him.
"Africa?" Buffy repeated in disbelief. "What the hell are you doing in Africa?"
Whether it was the tone of her voice or the way she was looking at him, Spike finally seemed to realise that she was real.
"Oh God." He murmured, sinking to his knees and burying his face in his hands. Then, much to Buffy's surprise, he began to sob.
"Oh God." He said again, his body shaking from both the sobs and the sickness. Buffy moved towards him, kneeling beside him and gently pulling him into her arms. Spike tried to pull away but his strength had left him, instead he slumped forward, burying his head in her shoulder as he wept.
"Shh." Buffy soothed gently, rubbing small circles on his back as she held him. "It's ok. Shh."
As Buffy held him she knew they had to get out of there. Spike needed to rest somewhere that wasn't a dark cave.
"Spike?" She asked when his sobs had died down into small sniffles. "Is there a town or anything nearby. We need to get out of this cave."
He nodded weakly. "Village nearby."
Buffy helped him stand; letting him lean on her for support and the two of them headed outside. Just as they reached the cave's entrance Buffy found Spike's discarded shirt and boots. She stopped to pick them up, figuring they'd need them eventually. Then the two of them stumbled out into the warm night air.
* * *
"Don't worry Dawn." Giles tried to reassure the stricken teenager. "We'll get Buffy back."
"How?" Dawn demanded.
Giles sighed. "I don't know yet, but we'll think of something. You say you tried making another wish?"
"I've told you this already!" Dawn snapped.
"I know." Giles replied patiently. "I'm just running over things in my head. Now, Willow's drained all the books at the Magic Shop so we can't use those. There may be some books in Willow's room or in Tara's dorm."
"I'll go." Anya said, keen to help in any way she could.
"No." Dawn said, standing up. "I'll go. I can't stand sitting around doing nothing like this any more."
Before Anya or Giles could argue with her she grabbed her jacket and ran outside.
"Maybe I should go after her." Anya suggested, standing up ready to follow.
Giles shook his head. "No, she'll be all right. It's still daylight. It's probably best that she makes herself feel useful."
With a sigh Anya sat down. "This is all my fault. I didn't mean to make Buffy disappear."
Giles smiled and patted her knee gently. "I know. And I'm sure that wherever she is Buffy knows it too."
* * *
By the time they reached the village Spike was barely conscious and Buffy was using almost all her strength just to keep him upright. As they entered the small arrangement of huts the villagers all emerged to stare at the two pale skinned people who had entered their home.
"Um....my friend is sick." Buffy said falteringly. "Do you have somewhere he can rest?"
Maybe on some level they understood her meaning, even if the words made no sense to them. Or maybe they were in awe of the man who had endured the trials and survived. At any rate one of the men moved forward and took the Spike's free arm over his broad shoulder. As they approached one of the huts the man said something which Buffy assumed was an invite for Spike. Then he guided them inside and helped to ease the vampire down onto a pile of animal skins.
"Thank you." Buffy smiled.
The man nodded and left the two of them alone.
As Buffy covered Spike with one of the skins she was joined by one of the women of the tribe who was carrying a small wooden box. Buffy watched uncertainly as the woman knelt at Spike's side and pulled a clay jar out. Dipping her fingers inside, the woman rubbed a purple powder over one of Spike's wounds and then handed the jar to Buffy, indicating that she should do the same with the rest of his injuries.
Buffy nodded her understanding and the woman left them alone.
Buffy treated the wounds on Spike's chest as she'd been directed but she realised the ones on his back were going to present more of a problem. Not only were the difficult to reach but the whole of his back was caked in sand from where he'd been lying on the floor of the cave.
With a sigh Buffy stood up and headed back outside.
"Do you have any water?" She asked, making a pouring gesture with her hands.
The man that had helped her carry Spike said something to one of the women who disappeared into one of the huts. While She was gone Buffy took a closer look at the man that had helped them. He was tall, over six feet and very broad with strong muscles in his arms and legs. He had several strings of wooden beads around his neck and an arrangement of grasses on his head. Buffy guessed that by the way the woman had obeyed him this man must be some sort of chief.
The woman returned and handed Buffy a wooden bowl containing some water and a scrap of cloth. Buffy nodded her thanks both to the chief and the woman before she headed back inside to tend to Spike.
It didn't take her long to clean Spike's back and treat his wounds with the purple powder. Once she was done all she had left to do was watch over him while he slept.
She still couldn't believe she was here. Africa. Thousands of miles away from her home, her friends and her family. She was worried about Dawn. Her sister must be going frantic looking for her. As soon as Spike was well she had to figure out the quickest way to get home.
Her thoughts turned to the vampire. It seemed so long ago that he'd come into her bathroom with words of love, which soon turned into acts of force. She shuddered. That was something they'd have to deal with later, once they were back home.
Spike let out a small whimper and she looked down to see him twisting around beneath the animal skin, obviously caught in some nightmare. Buffy reached out to brush a hand over his cheek but as soon as her she made contact with him he yelped and twisted away from her. It was clear that he was going to have to work through this alone.
Realising there was nothing else she could do Buffy lay down beside him, careful to ensure that she wasn't touching him. She'd watch over him as long as possible but soon enough she was going to need to sleep herself.
* * *
"This is hopeless." Anya sighed, slumping in her seat. Dawn had returned with all the books she'd been able to find in Willow and Tara's rooms and she, Anya and Giles had been reading through them for hours.
"Keep looking." Dawn commanded, not looking up from the page she was studying. "Buffy wouldn't give up on my and I'm not going to give up on her."
"We understand, Dawn." Giles said gently. "We all want Buffy back as much as you do. But it's getting late and if we keep on like this we could miss something. The best thing to do is to rest and we can look at things freshly in the morning."
"Understand?" Dawn asked angrily. "How can you understand. You left Buffy once, when she needed you. I bet you don't even care that she's lost."
"That's not true." Giles replied firmly, trying not to let his anger show. "I did what I thought was right."
"Fine." Dawn snapped. "You can give up if you want, but I'm not going to."
Picking up the book she was reading she ran into the bedroom, slamming the door behind her.
Giles sighed, rubbing his hands wearily over his eyes.
"I'm sorry she shouted at you." Anya said softly.
Giles looked up at her and smiled. "It's understandable. She's worried about Buffy."
"What are we going to do? There's nothing in these books. How are we going to get Buffy back?"
"I don't know." Giles replied honestly. "But what I said before was true. We should try and get some sleep."
He stood up and winced as his broken ribs stabbed into him. Anya was at his side in an instant, wrapping her arms around his waist and carefully guiding him over to the couch where she helped him to lie down.
"Thank you." He smiled. "It's times like this I wish I had the healing abilities of a slayer."
Anya smiled back and placed a hand on his chest. "Done."
Giles sighed with relief as the pain left him, the bruises immediately starting to fade from his face. Closing his eyes he soon drifted into a peaceful sleep with Anya watching over him, happy to have helped.
* * *
The first thing Spike became aware of when he awoke was that he felt better. The weakness he'd felt the night before was gone and it no longer felt as though someone had dumped his body into a vat of ice cubes. As he opened his eyes the first thing he saw was Buffy, her face a few inches from his own. She was fast asleep.
He'd hoped that when he'd seen her the previous night it had been some sort of fever induced hallucination, or at the very least a dream But here she was, very much real and right in front of him. His first instinct was to run, to get as far away from her as possible before he did anything else to hurt her. But with his new soul came a conscience. He couldn't leave her alone in a strange country where she didn't speak the language.
He slid out from underneath the skin without disturbing Buffy and pulled his shirt and boots on.
"Good morning, vampire." A voice said to him in the native language of the village. Thankfully languages were one of Spike's specialities and he understood perfectly. Raising his head he saw a man sat down near the entrance of the hut, from the way he was dressed Spike recognised him as the chief of the tribe.
"What's so good about it?" He grumbled in Luganda.
"You entered the trials and lived....so to speak." The man replied with a smile. "And the woman you love has been sent to you as a gift."
Spike cast a look over his shoulder to where Buffy lay sleeping, she looked so peaceful and it made his stomach twist when he thought about all the things he'd done to her.
"Yeah, I'm the lucky one." He muttered under his breath before turning back to the chieftain. "You got a name?"
"I am Tacaquan. And you?"
Spike smiled bitterly. "I used to call myself Spike, don't know who I am anymore."
The chief nodded. "Your success in the trials has made you someone new. You have been given the chance of a new beginning."
Spike snorted. "You're talking about this like it's some sort of reward. This isn't what I wanted. I was tricked."
"Were you?" Tacaquan questioned. "Let me tell you something, vampire. The creature that resides in those caves does not grant requests easily. You are one of the first to successfully pass the trials, and for that you have been gifted. Tell me, what did you ask for."
Spike thought back for a moment. "I asked to be restored to my former self. But I didn't mean this, I wanted to be like I was before I was stopped from being a true monster."
Tacaquan raised an eyebrow. "You wished to be returned to your full demon so that you might kill the woman you love?"
Spike glanced over to the sleeping slayer, the idea of even thinking about killing her now disgusted him. "I don't know what I wanted. The way I felt about her....it hurt so much, I just wanted it to stop."
The chief smiled. "It seems that the creature in the cave knew your heart better than you did."
Spike sighed and rubbed his hands over his face. "But it still hurts."
"A soul can be a painful thing. But how much it hurts depends on you." He gestured to Buffy. "She sat with you right until dawn, taking care of your wounds and keeping you warm. Compassion and love such as she showed will help lessen the pain your soul is causing you. It is clear that whatever damage you did to her, she is willing to forgive. Now it is up to you to forgive yourself."
As Buffy began to stir, Tacaquan stood up. "Talk to her."
And with that he turned and headed back outside, the sunlight preventing Spike from following. Whether he liked it or not he and Buffy were going to have to talk.
* * *
Despite everything that had happened Dawn couldn't help but smile when she entered the living room after a night of extensive reading. Giles lay stretched out on the couch, asleep and Anya was sat on the floor with her head resting on the edge of the cushion. One of Giles' hands was rested on Anya's head, as though he'd been stroking her hair and one of Anya's hands lay on his chest.
Dawn had to admit, they did look cute together and she almost didn't want to wake them up. Then she remembered what she'd found and hurried over to the sleeping couple, roughly shaking them awake.
"Guys, wake up."
"What is it?" Giles asked sleepily when he saw Dawn looking down at him. He was vaguely aware of Anya stirring next to him and hoped Dawn hadn't seen anything too traumatic.
Dawn excitedly shoved a book in his face. "I think I've found a way to get Buffy back."
* * *
The first thing Buffy became aware of when she woke was that Spike was no longer lying beside her. She bolted upright and that was when she saw him, pacing up and down the length of the hut they were in and muttering to himself.
"Hey." She said softly. "Are you feeling better?"
Spike jumped at the sound of her voice, turning to face her with wide eyes. "Uh....yeah."
Buffy nodded. "Good, now are you going to tell me what you're doing in Africa? Did you have anything to do with me being brought here?"
"No!" Spike exclaimed. "I don't know how you ended up here, but it was nothing to do with me."
Something about the tone of his voice made her believe him. "And what about you? What are you doing here?"
Spike began to pace once more, trying to bear in mind what Tacaquan had told him. He needed to tell her the truth, no matter how hard it might be.
"It started right after that night in your bathroom...."
Buffy listened as Spike told her everything. How he'd come to Africa with the idea of getting the chip removed, how he'd endured several trials in order to get what he wanted, and then finally how his soul had been restored to him.
"I spoke to the chief guv of this place while you were asleep." He finished, his voice choked with the memories of everything that had happened to him. "He reckons my soul is what I wanted all along, I just didn't realise it."
Buffy stared at him, almost feeling as though she was looking at a stranger. Everything about him was different; she was amazed she hadn't seen it before. Gone was the arrogant, cocky swagger of an evil killer. Here was someone who looked so hurt and lost that it was all she could do to stop herself from pulling him into her arms and holding him until the hurt stopped.
It occurred to her that now Spike technically couldn't be held responsible for anything he'd done in the past, just as she'd never blamed Angel for anything Angelus had done.
"Spike..." She began but he held up a hand to stop her.
"Don't. Don't call me that. I'm not Spike anymore. Spike was the name of a monster."
Buffy smiled gently at him. "What do you want me to call you? William?"
Spike sighed. "I don't know. I'm not William and I'm not Spike either. I'm nothing."
Buffy stood up and walked over to him, taking his hands in hers just as he'd done to her the night she'd been brought back from the dead. "You're someone. You're someone who loves more deeply that anyone I've ever known, you're someone who took care of my little sister when I was gone, even though you didn't have to."
"But I hurt you." He whispered, tears in his eyes. "Every time I look at you I see what I did to you that night. How can you ever forgive me?"
As a tear rolled down his cheek Buffy brushed it away. "Yeah, you hurt me. But I hurt you too. Do you remember what I did to you when you tried to stop me from turning myself in to the police? You forgave me for that almost as soon as it was over, and that's why I can forgive you now for what happened in the bathroom."
Spike let out a trembling sob, as he was finally relieved of one of his biggest burdens. Buffy gently pulled him into her arms and guided his head to her shoulder so that he could let it all out. As he cried Buffy whispered soothing comforts to him as she allowed her own tears to fall silently. Finally they were both in a position to sort their lives out.
* * *
"Are you sure this is going to work?" Anya asked as she peered over Giles' shoulder. They were looking over the spell Dawn had discovered.
"It seems to be what we need." Giles replied as he finished looking over the page. It was a relatively simple spell and he was amazed they had missed it. All they needed was a little of Dawn's blood for the DNA and some herbs from the magic shop.
"I'll go and get the ingredients." Anya said, vanishing before anyone could object.
Dawn went into the kitchen and came back with a small knife, ready to give her blood.
"Are you in love with Anya?" She blurted out as Giles cleared the table for the spell. She winced as the books he was carrying crashed to the floor
"W-what?" He stammered, bending to pick up the books so that Dawn wouldn't see him blushing.
"It's just I saw you two together looking all cuddly, and it's totally obvious that Anya likes you. She goes all gooey-eyed whenever she talks about you. I just wondered if you felt the same way about her."
"Well....Dawn....I don't know. I mean, I do care about Anya but I don't think I......gooey-eyed you say?"
Dawn smiled. "I think once we get Buffy back you should talk to Anya."
"Talk to me about what?" Anya asked, appearing back in the room.
"Oh, nothing." Giles replied with a small smile. "Did you get what we needed?"
Anya dumped the bags on the table and Dawn smiled.
"Ok, guys, let's do this."
* * *
Buffy didn't know how long she and Spike had been stood there holding each other but finally they pulled apart, both looking slightly embarrassed at the display of emotion.
"So what do we do now?" Spike finally asked softy.
"I guess we should think about trying to get back to Sunnydale."
Spike winced, an action which didn't go unnoticed by Buffy. "What is it?"
"I don't know if I'm ready. I've hurt all your friends at some point. Except maybe Anya and Tara. How am I going to face them?"
Buffy gasped, having forgotten that Spike had left before Tara's death.
"Spike, things have changed since you left."
Spike listened with a sick stomach as Buffy told him about Tara's death and Willow's attempt to end the world.
"My god." He finally breathed. "I should have been there."
Buffy shook her head gently. "There's nothing you could have done. But we need to get back; Willow's going to need all the help she can get. She's going to need all of us, especially you. You've been on the side of both good and evil. You can understand what she's going through."
Spike nodded, almost pleased to feel needed. "You got that right. When do we leave?"
Buffy looked outside. It was still daylight. "As soon as the sun sets."
Spike sighed. He really wanted out of this place. There were too many memories for him here. He just wanted to make himself useful so he wouldn't have to dwell too much on his past. Buffy seemed to sense his discomfort and laid a reassuring hand on his arm.
"We'll be out of here soon." She reassured.
Spike smiled and nodded, amazed by how easily Buffy's strength and confidence reassured him.
"Do you regret getting a soul?" Buffy suddenly asked, curious more than anything.
"Hate it." Spike admitted. "But if it helped you to forgive me then I wouldn't give it up for the world."
Buffy smiled, and leant towards him.
"I forgive you." She whispered, her breath tickling his lips. His eyes fluttered shut and he leant forward slightly in anticipation of the kiss she was clearly about to give him.
It never came.
Opening his eyes he was stunned to see that he was alone in the hut.
"Buffy?" He called tentatively, praying that she was playing some sort of trick on him. There was no sign of her.
She was gone.
An anguished cry rang out over all of Africa.
* * *
"Buffy?" A faint voice called from the blackness she was trapped in. "Buffy, wake up."
With a faint moan she opened her eyes to see Dawn, Anya and Giles peering down at her with concern.
"Buffy!" Dawn cried in delight as her sister sat up. She threw herself into her arms and held her tight. "I'm so glad you're ok."
As her head cleared she realised that she was back in the apartment and Spike was nowhere in sight.
Gently she eased Dawn off and climbed to her feet. "What happened?"
"You made a wish." Anya replied clearly glad that Buffy was back and unharmed. "I didn't mean to grant it, I couldn't help myself."
Buffy smiled. "It's all right, Anya. I'm ok."
Dawn latched onto her sister again, afraid to let her go in case she vanished again. "I tried to wish you back again but it didn't work."
Anya's suddenly rolled her eyes. "Oh for the love of toadpuss, I know why it didn't work. I almost forgot. You can't use a wish to undo another wish. It's all part of the demon small print."
Giles smiled. "It doesn't matter now. Buffy is safe and that's all that counts."
"Where were you anyway?" Dawn asked.
"Africa." Buffy said softly, her heart feeling heavy as she realised that Spike was alone again. "I was with Spike."
"Is he....I mean.....did he try to hurt you?" Dawn asked, not sure who she should be more concerned about.
"No, Dawn, he didn't. He's changed."
"Changed how?" Dawn asked.
"He's...." Buffy sighed as she tried to find the best way to describe what had happened. "I just wish he was here to tell you himself."
"Done!" Anya announced and a light filled the room just as it had before. Dawn tightened her hold of Buffy but when the light cleared they were still all there, only now Spike lay on the floor moaning softly.
All Buffy could do for a moment was stare at him. He was really here. Just like that. She broke away from Dawn and knelt at his side, pulling him into her lap.
"Spike? Are you ok?"
His eyes opened and for a moment there was nothing but disbelief on his face. "Buffy?"
She smiled, brushing her hand over his cheek. "Yeah, it's me."
Deciding that they were long past the words stage Spike gathered her into his arms and kissed her with everything he was worth.
Dawn's eyes widened at the sight of her sister lip-locked with Spike. Then she smiled. They both seemed happy enought and they certainly deserved it. She had a feeling that everything was going to be all right.
At the sight of Buffy and Spike kissing, Anya turned to Giles, wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him down for an equally passionate kiss. The former Watcher was too stunned to respond for a moment, but he soon melted into her embrace and returned the kiss with the fervour in which is was given.
Seeing the two couples kissing Dawn hugged herself. Yup, everything was going to be all right