(Provisional Title)

SUMMARY: A post-season-6 fic. Let's see… Spike has a soul, and he's in Africa (but not for very much longer.) Back in Sunnydale, everybody else is recovering from the near-apocalypse – Buffy is successfully managing to not think about Spike, but not-so-successfully managing to forget the incident in the bathroom; Dawn is adamant that she's going to be Slayer Jnr.; Giles is trying to sort out everybody's lives as per usual; Anya and Xander's possibility of a reconciliation is hampered somewhat by the latter's having to look after Willow… and as for Willow? Well, she's flipped, only this time in the usual, non-magical way…

RATING: PG, I reckon… And it will be B/S, eventually… amongst others… X/A, maybe X/W to some degree… it's amazing what a near-apocalypse can do for your love life…

SPOILERS/SETTING: Set after the Season 6 finale, "Grave",, so pretty much spoils all of Season 6.

DISCLAIMER: They all belong to Joss; I'm just trying to sort out the mess he left us with.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: In the absence of the arrival of Season 7, and as a result of too much fluff-reading, and a very bizarre, nonsensical dream, I've decided to give this another go. This is only my second fic (don't ask about the first. Seriously.) and I'm already trying to use all the Scoobies at once. Talk about diving in at the deep end, huh? Please review and tell me how I'm doing - I imagine you people are more obsessive than me…


Chapter One

Somewhere in Africa…

Deep in a cave, miles from anything resembling civilisation, a very bruised and very blond vampire finally stopped screaming in agony, and collapsed in a heap on the floor. Above him, a dark, glowy-eyed demonic shaman looked on disinterestedly, wondering when the pathetic excuse for a demon at his feet was going to go away. He had much better things to be doing – a few minor curses to inflict, some more trials to set – than baby-sitting his clients while they recovered. He hadn't anticipated the soul-receiving to be quite so… well… painful; he'd have to rethink the procedure for next time. It had been a good few centuries since he'd granted a soul and he was a little out of practice.

Spike coughed up blood for what felt like the fiftieth time since he'd started the trials, and resisted the overwhelming urge to curl into a ball. That wouldn't help him much at this stage; what would help, he decided, would be killing the idiot shaman where he stood. Although… no, that wouldn't really help either, but it would sure as Hell make him feel better. This was just what he was going to do. Unfortunately, for the moment at least, he couldn't even stand, let alone kill something twice his size.

Coughing again, he braced himself against the wall to stand up. Once he was steady and relatively stable on his feet, he glared contemptuously into the bluish, glowing orbs that were the shaman's eyes. "That wasn't… what I asked you for…"

The shaman contemplated this, cocking his head to the side. "You asked," he clarified, "to be what you were." Spike tried to answer back, but ended up coughing again. The shaman continued, "You asked that the Slayer receive what she deserves."

"I meant," said Spike, finally, "that you take that soddin' chip out of my head so I could stop being her lapdog and start killing again."

"I don't understand. How would that be what she deserves?"

Spike paused. It made perfect sense in his head. "Well… that way, she'd have no choice but to stake me. She wouldn't be able to do it; she'd end up having to think about it… or think about me. Either that or she'd just kill me without a second thought and put us both out of our misery." He shook his head a little exasperatedly, realising that pouring his heart out to a demon wasn't particularly constructive. "I did not mean, 'give me back my soul'. That isn't what I wanted."

The shaman laughed, apparently very amused by this. "I know what you meant, vampire. But what you meant, or what you thought you wanted, isn't necessarily what you really want."

"Yeah? Well, then, tell me what it is I really want," he said, bitterly, suddenly wishing he had a cigarette to be able to at least look cooler than he felt, and simultaneously realising they were all still in his duster. Wherever that was.

"To give the Slayer what she deserves: a vampire, or rather, another vampire, with a conscience. The possibility for her to be able to trust you… like she trusted Angelus."

This time, it was Spike who laughed, but there was no humour behind it. "So, you're telling me this all boils down to some unconscious jealousy of Peaches?"

"Not necessarily-"

"That's great, that is. Bloody marvellous…" Sarcasm wasn't going to help, but it made him feel slightly better. Then, he realised something else. "Wait a minute. I thought I asked you to get the chip out. It's still there; I can feel it." Apparently, the shaman had no explanation for this, and adopted an expression that could only be described as "oops… my bad." Spike sighed. "Great. I still have the chip, and now I have a nice, shiny soul to go with it. Why don't you just make me human, too, and be done with?"

"If you wish to undergo more trials, that can be arranged." He didn't appear to be kidding.

"No, thank you." Spike gave up arguing, realising it was ultimately pointless against a creature that seemed to be composed entirely of logic. "I think a free trip back to SunnyHell is in order, don't you? As compensation for your mistake."

"Very well… but you will have to wait. Come back in three weeks."

"Three weeks? But-" Before he could continue his protest, the shaman waved an arm and Spike found himself flying through the air, out of the cave again. He was alone, just outside the small village he'd walked through before arriving at the cave, with only his new soul for company. He had a horrible suspicion that the next three weeks, and quite possibly the years to follow, were not going to be particularly enjoyable…

To be continued…

Whatcha think? Interested to see a few more chapters? Or shall I scrap it now? Your Opinions Matter!