Pairing: S/X (Eventually, at the moment it's kinda vague)
He feels like he heard the Botswana nurse say "The Kalahari is in my blood, I belong here and when I leave I take it with me." He supposes his blood must be mightily crowded by now... what with The Hellmouth, The Plains from back when The Hyena joined him, The Jungles from The Soldier and the Kalahari now.
He feels like he's been remade, into what he isn't sure, but the desert has torn his soul apart and then put him back together, but with Africa in it.
He remembers Mma Mtoka with her rich curves, rich cooking, rich voice, this is the nurse who cared for him when he was delirious with fever. The sensible woman not making any comment on what he might or might not have said during the fever, but he notices crosses over the doors of all the buildings before he leaves the village to find the next Slayer.
He also remembers Mma Mtoka being proud of being a 'big fat woman' she said that "All this business about being thin was nonsense and quite wrong for Africa." And he agrees with both parts of her statement, he privately felt that both Buffy and Willow had been too skinny for years now, so had Anya. Not that he'd ever tell them that because while Africa may have changed him, the sand in his blood hasn't blocked his survival instincts.
He sometimes thinks of others.
Cordy, whose curves he explored in the janitors closet in Bad Old Sunnyhell High.
Riley who never came back to help.
Oz, who he still keeps in touch with, better than he does with Willow, Buffy and Giles now-a-days.
Spike, who, he now finds himself thinking, must also have carried Africa with him. Part of him thinks that Africa helped to make Spike sane. Another part of him thinks that Africa helped to make Spike mad, because part of him feels 'bug-shagging nuts' too.
Well it's not like he can ask Spike now. And it's strange to think that he doesn't hate Spike anymore, and thinks that it started before Africa and Spike 'The Flaming' but can't be sure because it was never acknowledged, and he regrets that.
He can now honestly admit that both Buffy and Spike were equally fucked up and equally to blame for the place they were in after she was brought back. And he hopes that Spike understood that Xander didn't hate him at the end...
As he rolls over and blinks both eyes slowly he thinks again on how Africa has changed him and it wasn't just the Shaman with his singing and dancing and chanting and burning blinding, screaming pain as his eye is returned to him. Not one of the witch doctors that had offered and wheedled, but Oz had warned him about them and what they kept in their little satchels, he wouldn't have liked their methods, or the eye they would have given him. The Shaman had actually reminded him of the little monkey/baboon person in 'The Lion King', Rafiki wasn't it? And wow it's nice to know Africa hasn't burnt out the entirety of his dorkiness.
He lays by the fire, looking at the stars, a letter from Oz in his hand, and the letters seem to hold a thrall over him, he begins to understand Oz' silence...
The thing about Africa that has changed him the most?
Authors note:  Title is taken from a song by Daniel Silva
 Line taken directly from The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
He figures he has two choices really, there's focusing on his current state of being, feeling like his senses have been wrapped in cotton wool, except sight and hearing because that'd be a kindness... not letting him see and hear with perfect clarity what he can't touch, taste or smell. He really doesn't deal well with being alone.
He thought that this was hell, one that had been designed specifically for him, that was until he started getting dragged down somewhere where he can feel the flames nibblin' his toes and he can smell burning, rotting flesh and the worst thing is he isn't ever sure which is worse, the lack of touch and smell when he wants them most, or the return of them when he wants them least. So he sticks to his second choice and focuses on the all encompassing memories of Africa.
They aren't the memories of his trip back, after the soul, because the sole, no pun intended, memory of that he has is being somewhere empty as far as his eyes can see and screaming "Please! I'm Sorry! I didn't mean it, take it back, take it away, make it STOP!"
So he doesn't remember that time, he focuses on the getting there, his memories strong enough to block out any and everything else.
Stowing away on some container ship or other and being glad that he can't get seasick, though a coupla times he got fuckin' close. Arriving in Jo'burg and really being scared shitless a couple of times due to the chip and the blinding screaming pain even if all he was trying to do was defend himself. So yeah, he finds himself playing opossum a coupla times thinking in his head "Thank fuckin' God the duster's safe" as they pick through the pockets (and everything else) of the corpse and steal everything but the clothes on his back and that's only because he's built skinny and they're built like brick shithouses.
Eventually he manages to join a UN aid team as they travel out of South Africa and into the rest of Africa. He finds himself being smuggled by the Italian member of the team, a good Roman Catholic boy from Fiesole, a little town near Florence who knows exactly what Spike is. The deal is Giulio feeds, shares and covers for Spike and in return Spike deals with any critters that think the UN aid group look like lunch.
For that first month Spike had to be held so as not to beg and cry in his sleep during the day. Giulio, when he fed Spike, used to beg too but for Spike to 'finish it', 'drain him', 'kill him please'. But somehow; clinging together for those months as they traveled through sickness, war, demons, AIDS, all synonyms for death.. so much that even his demon used to think that enough was enough... they survived.
Africa tore their hearts to shreds and left them with the pieces, but they needed the other to put them back together, he remembers cooler nights under the stars, a warm body in his arms as he keeps lookout for the nasties seeking to cause more death. He wonders what happened to Giulio and if he's ok, back in his little country town in Tuscany.
He wonders how Africa is changing Xander, whether it is helping or hindering the return of the happy facade Xander always used to hide behind, and whether he's finally grown into the man he's become. He also finds himself remembering those times in the basement, both Xander's and Buffy's... hiding from 'Estrogen Overload' and way too many teenagers with superpowers and no sense. He remembers the snarking and bitching, and how eventually it was just to remind the other that they were there, they were alive, they weren't dead and gone and that they had company. Those times after the soul and Caleb when the snarking was gone but the silence was enough.
He's almost sure that they didn't hate eachother in the end ... But it doesn't matter anyway. As far as Xander's concerned Spike's dead. He still sometimes finds himself wondering if he isn't really dead and that this is some fucked up Purgatory or Hell or Something.
So when it all gets too much or not enough, when he's tired of flirting with Fred, startling Charlie-boy in the can, mocking Percy and driving Peaches to drink, when he's so fuckin tired of being "Spike" and he just wants to be; He stops concentrating on the here and now and instead remembers what he loved and hated most about being in Africa, but it isn't just there anymore, it's here, he's brought it with him and he revels in it and it's balm to his soul.
There are some moments that seem to slow.
Like when out of nowhere a giant portal opens and out tears a demonic hoard rushing towards our heros. Like the moment, seconds later, another giant portal opens and out comes an army of Slayers, led by none other than the Scoobies. Our two favourite groups of heroes uniting to fight the baddies and make them regret their moment of spawning. The trail of destruction they leave behind them.
Eventually; covered in gore, bruises in places they never knew they had places and so goddamned tired; the last demon is dispatched with hardly a pithy comment to mark the occasion. There they all stand, facing each other, not quite sure what to say.
Giles taking Angel aside to grill him on what the seers saw.
Illyria wandering off to 'find more things to kill'.
Andrew healing Gunn with something that Gunn hopes isn't more evil magic.
Kennedy and Willow giving each other's tonsils a good examination.
Xander is checking over all the Mini-Slayers, with laughs, teasing and genuine care.
Buffy and Dawn staring at Spike; Dawn breaking the silence first "You ... you........ Asshole! How could you not have told me?"
"I thought you hated me Nibblet?" Spike is looking furtively at the rather hefty battle-axe in her hands.
"Nah! Just wanted to beat you to death with a shovel for a while. Buffy explained everything and I guess I now understand as much as it's possible to." Dawn is figeting from foot to foot before shugging and pouncing at Spike and hugging him, Spike face a picture of surprise and it soon morphs into happiness. "Now I'll leave you and my sister to talk while I join Xander with the Slayer roll-call"
"You were wrong. I di- do love you. Not the same as you loved me though. I love you like I love Xander, you're my brother in arms, my friend, I don't see you as my lover. We both know that was wrong for both of us. But why?" here Buffy's voice is pained "Why didn't you tell me you were alive? God... you were even in Rome... you even saw me?!?!"
"How could I call you and say 'Hello, you know the whole -burned up to save the world- thing? Turns out it was only temporary'. And how could I approach you in Rome? You were relaxed and happy, and while I might prefer it were't The Immortal you were happy with, well it isn't for me to say now is it?" Spike's voice, when he speaks, is low and sad.
"Ok, I can see how it might have been hard to say that, but don't you think I had the right to know?"
"Yeah, but I guess I never really expected Andrew to keep his mouth shut, I thought you knew"
"ANDREW KNEW?" There is a squeak from Andrew's direction and then *poof* a cloud of smoke, smell of sulfer and he's disappeared. "I'll talk to him later." She hugs Spike then and gives him a kiss on the cheek, "No matter what is decided by Giles and Angel, you've got a place with Dawnie, Andrew (who is soon to be torn a new one) and I."
Spike lets his head fall and kisses her on the top of the head and takes a breath."Thanks pet, it's appreciated" With that they break apart, the moment getting a little uncomfortable, with all that's been said and left unsaid. Then the group bands together to organise who's going where. Everyone will be going to The Hyperion to arrange where next.
Then there is the moment when patching up is being done and Xander approaches Spike.
"I guess things don't change Spike, I hear you've got a basement of your very own now. Any chance that I can bunk there? Cos otherwise I'll be bunking with Deadboy, that Gunn dude or the G-man... none of these really appeal to the Xanman, so I thought we could be basement-buddies again? How about it?" Spike smiles at this proof that Africa left some of the goof in this man.
"Sure. Why the hell not? Follow me Ha- Xander" Spike deciding to repay Xander's complement and use his proper name. Things have changed.
The moment after the door is unlocked, after the obligatory snarking is done, when they both sit down on a surface and look at the other, seeing what changes have been wrought by time and apocolipses, liking what they see.
The moment, a couple of months later, when one of them, no-one's really sure which, plucks up the guts and presses lips to lips in their first kiss... and it's good, it works, and they both wonder why they never kissed before.
The moment, about a week later, they finally finally get over their manly pride and talk out their issues and decide to give the insanity that is their relationship a go. They send off emails to the worldwide group that is their family, no secrets about what is going on. There are a few shocked replies, but no-one is freaked out, after-all Xander was only happy when dating someone not human and Spike was only happy when having someone to love, and really, if you tallied up his past loves, the brunettes had it.
The moment, one day, after a slow, relaxed and fulfilling round of rumpling the bed sheets, they lay there, fingers entwined, facing eachother, not saying a word, comfortable together. This time it's theirs, it's shared, there's complete understanding.
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