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"You can't stay down here. It's not good for you." She spoke quietly, her voice gentle and soothing as she tried once more to cajole him into leaving. "You need to go to her. Let her help you."

"No. No, can't... mustn't!"  He rocked gently, his hands covering his face in an attempt to block out her soft words and gently smiling face. "Not real. You're not real."

'You're right, Spike. I'm not real, or not really real. But I am here and I want to help you. You need to get out of here. You need to go and find Buffy She can help you. You can help each other. Isn't that what you want? To help Buffy?"

"Help her?" Spike asked, uncovering his face and gazing up at her in wonder. 'Could he help her?'  "No!" he cried. "Can't help her. Hurt her, mustn't... can't hurt her."

"She's hurting without you, Spike," his latest visitor told him. Her fingers gently stroked his face, brushing away the newly formed dampness from the too-thin cheek. "You need each other. What's coming is something you can only defeat if you face it together—the way you're meant to be.

He felt her touch; its gentle, soothing love so pure and sweet as she brushed away both his tears and the miasma of madness that had so recently engulfed him. He remembered now; after the soul he'd quickly made his way back to Sunnydale, knowing that Buffy needed him—for his strength if for no other reason. As he'd neared the town his purpose had wavered; strange, haunting dreams disrupted his sleep and too-real visitations plagued him during the waking hours. When he'd finally reached the town he was starved and exhausted but they'd driven him harder—taunting and tormenting him until he'd fled from their ugly words. He'd hidden himself away in the darkness beneath the school but they found him. They came to him, telling him what he already knew—that he was worthless; evil; foul. That he was beneath her. That he could never deserve her. That he had hurt her. They showed him, over and over he saw what he had done to her. He saw her tears, her horror and her fear replayed in infinite detail. Then she would come to him; familiar, hurtful, ugly words falling from her beautiful lips—reminding him what a monster he was, and why she could never love him.

As his grief threatened to overcome him once more, Tara's gentle voice soothed its way through the pain, "You need to leave here, Spike. It wants you here. Wants to keep you from her. She needs you. She can't do this without you, Spike. You can't do this without her. You belong together, it's what the Powers intended."

He looked at her dubiously, his head tilted slightly to one side as he gazed into her eyes. "Why are you here, luv?" he asked quietly.

"To help you," she replied with a soft smile as she returned the vampire's clear blue gaze, all sign of madness removed from their depths.

"But why are you here?" he repeated.

Understanding dawned and her smile faltered. "It was my time," she replied with a hint of sadness for those she had left behind.

"'m sorry, Glinda. I should have..."

"Shh. No, Spike. Don't be. It really was my time, there was nothing you could have done," she told him. "But there is something you can do now. It isn't Buffy's time. She needs you."

With a firm nod he got up from where he'd squatted on the hard, filthy floor. He looked down, noting the clothes that hung loosely on his gaunt frame and with a sneer of disgust at his present state he brushed himself down the best he could before turning once more to his strangely-corporeal spectral visitor. "Right then, luv. Lead the way."