Buffy hated the rainforest. It was hot and wet and full of icky things she wasn't allowed to kill. Giles had sent her on another craptastic mission to hunt for some demonic cabal. The demons were a no show, and she was stuck in the middle of nowhere with nothing to slay. She kicked a rock and listened to it whistle through the air. She needed to fight something, needed to rip something apart with her hands. She dropped to her knees and screamed. She needed a fight to mask this agony. She grabbed a rock and flung it out into the forest, but her childish display changed nothing. No demons attacked. No trap closed around her. She stayed own the ground sobbing as night slipped over her unnoticed.

"I did not anticipate this." A low voice sounded behind her. "What troubles you so, Bonita?"

Buffy whirled around and looked at the strange figure that seemed to be ever changing. His features slid through various permutations as well.

"Well, now I've seen it all." Buffy sighed and pushed up to her feet.

"You have most certainly not seen it all." He tilted his head and grinned. "But you have seen more than most, Bonita. Why are you here?"

"I was sent here to take down some demons, but they were no shows. I'll be on my way." Buffy looked around and shrugged. "Just as soon as I figure out which way that is."

"I can see why he chose you, why he fought so hard for you. You, Bonita, are fascinating." He slid along the ground. "Would you fight to have your William back?"

"I would fight anything. I went to Africa, but the demon that grants wishes was gone." Buffy rubbed the back of her neck. "I would do anything."

"You have found what you were seeking after all." The creature smiled. "I wasn't in Africa. I'm sorry to have missed you, but I needed a change of scenery."

"You can bring him back?" Buffy rushed toward the demon. She stopped short of touching him. "Tell me what I have to do."

"Win." The demon smiled and swirled his hand between them.

Buffy shuddered and looked at the blade in her hand. She knew the sword and hated it. The world around her shifted. The warm, dry air of her lost California home swirled around her. The mansion coalesced around her in all it's neglected glory, and he was there.

Angelus stalked her. His long strides eating the ground between them. The cruel twist to his lips amused her. He probably practiced that look with a camera. The fool was so in love with himself, in any form. She giggled.

"What's so amusing, Buff?"

"This is amusing." She waved her free hand between them. "This is supposed to be hard, right? Killing you?"

"I'm not going to be the one dying." Angelus smiled. Buffy erupted in huge peals of laughter.

"Oh, you so are." Buffy shook her head. "I'd kill you even if he wasn't on the line. It's the principle of the thing, really."

"Oh, Buff, I'm really hurt here. I thought I was your one great love." Angelus smirked and spun at her with his blade flashing.

Buffy ducked low and sliced at his leg with her own blade. She felt his skin break and his Achilles' tendon pop before she swung the blade free, sending a sparkling spatter of borrowed blood to dust in the air. Angelus stutter stepped as his injury hit home. His low hiss of pain brought a smile to her face.

"Killing you is gonna be so much fun." Buffy looked down her blade at her opponent.

"I'm not your pansy soul boy. I'm harder to kill than you can possibly imagine." Angelus snarled.

"Nope." Buffy tapped the index finger of her free hand against her chin. "I don't need to imagine things that are harder to kill than you. I've killed them. Cyber demons are harder to kill than you. Hell gods are harder to kill than you. A really bad hang nail is harder to get rid of than you. This just isn't that hard. Sorry, but, after all, you are just a vamp."

Angelus snarled and hurled his body at her awkwardly.

"Temper, temper." Buffy planted her left hand on her hip and waved her sword back and forth. "What would Darla say if she saw you acting so stupidly? You remember Darla, right? You dusted her for me."

Angelus' hand tightened on the hilt of his sword, his knuckles somehow going whiter. His eyes flashed gold for a moment.

"Come on, Angelus." Buffy grinned. "Let your demon out to play."

"You don't want my demon, little girl."

"You are so right." Buffy giggled and jumped forward, moving her sword in an arc and forcing Angelus back. "No offense, but you are a little one note in the sack."

Buffy ducked his wild attack and sliced his side open as he passed her. Buffy spun as she straightened her body. Her sword caught Angelus as he charged. The brief resistance of his skin gave over and her blade cut deep across his gut, spilling useless bits of his anatomy into the open air. She wrenched the blade free of his rib, and faced him.

He was panting and clutching his guts in, waiting for his body to mend.

"It's fun to be the one ripping out guts in this relationship." Buffy wrinkled her nose. "But I don't have time for anymore games. I'm not the little girl that thought she found love with you. I'm the woman that knows what it really is. Playtime's over."

Buffy moved forward and brought every bit of her skill to the fore. She slashed and feinted. She never dropped her shoulder. Each breath came smooth and even as she demolished Angelus bit by dusty bit. She stood over him, glaring down into his shocked face.

"Goodbye, Angelus." The sword cut his head free from his body and the world around her dusted with him.

"You did well, Bonita."

"You don't look like the demon Spike described to me." Buffy pulled the scythe up. "I am so not into playing games."

"I look how I choose to look, sound how I choose to sound, to most of my petitioners." The demon shrugged. "You see through me. It must be part of your evolution as a slayer. It doesn't matter. You must face your second challenge."

The world swirled and shifted, and she stood looking at Riley. He was wearing the black fatigues that she had last seen him in, but they were in her old training room at The Magic Box.

"So, you lost yourself for a bit." Riley touched her shoulder. "You don't have to punish yourself with that bastard."

Buffy shrugged off his hand and took a step back. This wasn't a battle. She swallowed, glancing around the familiar space. What was she supposed to do?

"You are strong enough, Buffy. You don't need some bloodsucker dragging you down." Riley took a step toward her, closing the gap between them. "That's all Spike does."

"I'd rather be stuck in a sewer with Spike than here with you." Buffy snarled. "He put up with all my crap. He even loved me for it. You were the one dragging on me."

"You know that isn't true, Buffy." Riley looked at her with his brow furrowed. "I wanted you to be mine. I want you to be mine now."

"You want a possession." Buffy stepped to the side. Where the hell was the scythe? "I was just the unlucky girl that caught your fancy."

"That's just his influence. Everything was good between us until he interfered." Riley crossed his arms across his chest and stared down at her.

"You were just the rebound guy from Angel. Just a human replacement for the macho, vampire jerk." Buffy spun and moved toward the wall with weapons on it. "I thought I was supposed to want you, but I never really did."

"We could have a wonderful life together." Riley smiled. "We're both human enough. We could have children, a nice house, maybe a dog."

"And I could vacuum in high heels and pearls." Buffy clapped her hands together and bounced on the balls of her feet. "When would I slay though?"

"You could retire. There are lots of slayers now." Riley moved closer to her again. "You could just be Buffy."

"The thing is, Riley, I already am Buffy. I'm whole all by myself." Buffy grabbed a falchion of the wall and pretended to examine the blade. "I want to share my life with someone, but it sure as hell ain't you. I want a partner, an equal. I want Spike. With or without a soul he's a hundred times more of a man than you."

"He's got you in thrall like Dracula." Riley grabbed for her arm.

"Touch me and I'm cutting it off." Bella gestured to his hand with her sword. "I am not under a thrall. Gods, Spike would have loved having the mojo, but he never bothered to develop one."

"Spike, Spike, Spike." Riley jeered. "You're a freak. If it isn't old and dead, it isn't fucking good enough for you. He's a demon, Buffy."

"Yep." Buffy smiled. "Vampire to be exact."

"You can't want that thing."

"He's all I want." Buffy sighed. "I wake up crying because he's gone. Every night is harder than the night before. It would be so easy to lay down and die, but he would hate that. So, I keep going because he wanted me to live, and I am trying."

"I am what you need." Riley grabbed her arm. "I'll teach you to want me."

"Teach me? Really?" Buffy shook her head. "Who hasn't been paying attention in class? Maybe this Neanderthal crap works on your vamp whores and your besotted wife, but I am so not taking the course."

Riley snarled and moved toward her morphing into some kind of Adam like hybrid. Buffy swung the blade in her hand and watched as his blonde head flew away, dragging The Magic Box world with it. She blinked at the scythe in her hand. This whole situation was pushing too far into the surreal.

"That boy has some issues." The demon smiled at her. "You have one test left."

Buffy squared her shoulders and nodded. Backing down simply wasn't an option.

"You've done so well." The demon smiled and stroked her cheek with a taloned finger. "I'll let you walk away, little slayer."

"I can handle your tests." Buffy raised her chin. "I survive."

"Yes, you do, but this test is different." The demon backed away from her. "This time you have to see it through to the end."

Buffy felt a searing heat surrounding her hand. She blinked and the cavern that haunted her every unguarded minute rose around her. Her eyes were glued to their hands, to his hand, caught in hers, flames flaring around their joined flesh. His voice sounded in her ears, but she couldn't process the words. This time nothing would take her from him, not even his own doubts.

She looked up and smiled into his sapphire gaze. The cavern trembled and she held tight. He was so beautiful in his panic. He had expected her to run. Hell, he wanted her to run.

"I'm done, Spike." Buffy smiled. "I don't want to live in the shadows. I belong with you in the light."

"No, Buffy, you have to go. I need you to live. One of us have to go on." He tried to free his hand from her grasp.

"I can't live without you. I'm worse than dead." Buffy stepped into him, and leaned against his side. "I would rather have this moment with you than the empty existence without you."

"Buffy, please." Spike shuddered as she pressed a kiss to his cheek.

"I'm not leaving you." Buffy wrapped her free arm around him and let the flames lap up her body. "Now, shut up. I want to see how it ends."

Their bodies began to flake apart. The bond between substance and existence shattered. She could feel him even without her body as the light flared and the world fell away, everything but Spike fell away.

Buffy screamed as her body began to coalesce. She fought her flesh, but it didn't matter. He was gone. Spike wasn't with her. Agony washed over her, and she sobbed. There was no need to open her eyes, no need to look on another day without him.

"Buffy." Spike touched her shoulder so gently. "What are you doing here?"

"Where is here?" Buffy blinked up at him.

"Africa." Spike smiled. "Did Red do some mojo mix up?"

"Your red witch has a different fate in this world." The demon smiled, taking long gliding strides across the ground towards them. "Her balance lives still though you both must return to Sunnydale if that is to continue."

"Tara?" Buffy choked out the name as the demon nodded.

"You have passed my tests. Ensouled and in love. You shall cause the darkness enough trouble. Mind his maker. That one tilts at windmills." The demon reached out to their joined hands and wrapped his long fingers around them. It glowed and burst into a smattering of glowing dust.

"What the bloody hell?" Spike growled and yanked Buffy close to him.

"You fought to be what I deserved." Buffy stroked his cheek. "I fought for you."

"What the bloody hell does that mean?" Spike clutched at her shoulder.

"It means we need to high tail it back home, save the day, save Willow and Tara, figure out how to stop the first before it gets to the Council, the potentials, and then figure out what the hell Angel has gotten mixed up in, stop that, and find time to move in together. We'll need to take care of Dawn. Find a way to get Xander back with Anya. Maybe he doesn't know you slept together in this time line? Unlikely. You're here after all. Oh, we'll need to make love whenever we can. I want it sweet and slow. I want you to tie me up. I want to be naked with you so much that Giles will break his glasses every week, maybe every day." Buffy laughed loud and long.

Spike watched her with a disbelieving grin.

"I love you, Spike, William, whatever you want to call yourself." Buffy kissed him, driving her tongue deep into the cavern of his mouth.

Spike pulled back.

"I think I may have finally run mad, but I can live with it." He stroked her face gently with the fingers of both hands. His eyes suddenly tracked to his scarred hand. "When did that happen?"

Buffy held up her matching palm and clasped their hands together.

"We beat the first evil." Buffy smiled. "If we have these scars, maybe we won't have to work so hard saving the day. You know what that means?"

"Not a bloody clue." Spike held her hand fast. "I'm worried Dru's plague has finally taken root in me."

"Not a chance." Buffy stroked her free hand down his bare chest. "You are mine now, and these mean we might just get to do a lot more making love than world saving. We need to get home."

"I'm following you."

"No, you're walking with me from now on." Buffy pulled a cell phone that shouldn't exist yet from her pockets and dialed the perfectly memorized number of her Revello house. "Let's go home. We have to buy some thicker curtains."

Author's Note

Happy Mother's Day.

Thank you for reading and reviewing. I need to finish the stories I have going, so I will be opening a poll to help me decide which story I should concentrate on after I wrap up What Doesn't Kill You.

Let me know.

Thanks for everything,