Title: Promise

Author: Katjen

Rating: PG 13?

Note: Takes place three weeks after The Gift (S5), inspired by Spike's speech to Buffy in the crypt in Afterlife (S6).

Disclaimer: Joss owns all the cool stuff.

*~*~*

He hears her scream as he falls through the darkness. He plummets towards the ground and he's afraid. Not for himself. He doesn't matter. He's afraid because the bloody little git that tossed him off the tower like a rag doll is still up there with her and-

He lands face down on a pile of bricks.

Fuck me, that hurt

He rolls over onto his back, the edges of the bricks pushing into his spine, making him wince. Get up. Get up. Get up get up get up. He can't move. His muscles feel like jelly and his bones like shattered glass. Shards of them stick him when he moves, when he tries to get up. Get up get up.

A pearl of light appears above him and then another and another. Like drops of rain on a window pane they slide across the sky, bleeding into each other getting bigger and bigger a puddle a lake an ocean of light

It's almost beautiful. It almost looks like heaven. He can feel its heat on his face as he stares up at the blue and silver vortex that swirls above him so bright it hurts his eyes. A dim memory flashes upon him of gazing up at the white-hot sun, looking right into it with no fear of fire, surrounded by warmth and color and light. He remembers writing a poem about that sun and a pair of lovely eyes in a lovely face with a lovely smile full of warmth and color and light. It was one of hundreds of poems he burned to ashes while he drank from the lily-white neck of his muse and laughed the night William died and Spike was born.

There's smoke rising from the ground beneath him, slipping into his nostrils and his open mouth filling his broken body like a long lost soul. He can't see the sky. He can't see anything. He can't feel anything.

He's not even numb anymore. He's just empty. Empty like the thousands of victims from his glory days. Bloodless. He wonders if he's dead, if it's finally happened. He wonders if by some fluke he ended up with the angels because the smoke has cleared and the light is so beautiful

He sees a black glistening dragon tear through the whirlpool of energy still pulsing above and hears the ground rumble angrily beneath him. Streams of hot air and steam hiss up from the earth's core scalding his bare skin and he feels it. His body suddenly aches. He tastes his own blood flowing in thin rivers down the side of his face.

He's still alive. Wellmore or less.

He rolls out of the way as another jet stream of air shoots up from the crack in the street and his reflexes finally kick in. He shoves the pain to the back of his mind and dodges the whips of lightening spiraling through the purple sky, grimacing as his body screams at him to stop moving, to lay back down and die, to let go, let golike William had let go

But he's not William. Not anymore.

And Dawn's still up there and he promisedhe promised

He can't see any of the others and he doesn't care. If they're dead, they're dead. The only one who matters is Dawn.

His boots pound the scarred ground, leaping over Glory's drones, their bodies bent in supplication, racing past the latest beastie to fall from the bleeding sky or to rise up from the split pavement. He's almost at the tower, just a few more feetand he stops. He stops from a dead run and lifts his face to stare up through the acid mist at the figure that has launched itself into space, arms spread wide embracing the burning air, the electric threads of energy netted together in a pulsating blanket of light.

"Buffy!"

She disappears into it.

He can't see herhe can't

The light becomes even brighter and his eyes begin to water. Sunspots dot his vision as he watches the ribbons of silver and blue energy suddenly curl in on themselves. He watches as the vortex begins to be sucked back into the tear in the sky and all that's left is the Slayer suspended in space, her body like a stitch over the wound, like a star in the night. And then she falls.

He runs and there is nothing in his way.

He runs and he's where she needs him to be.

He holds his arms up to the sky and she falls into them. He catches her. He saves her. He looks down into her face and she looks up into his eyes and he doesn't care if it makes him a complete pouf but for the first time in decades he thinks about poetry again.

"You saved me"

No. No, he didn't.

If he had caught her it wouldn't have mattered anyway. She died before she hit the ground.

She never should have had to jump in the first place.

***

Go!

He sprints up the haphazard staircase, Willow's voice echoing through his mind. His footsteps slam against the metal steps, the sound reverberating in his ribcage along with the command. His thighs burn as he takes steps three at a time whipping his arms in rhythm with his breath.

In, out, back, forth.

Fasterfasterfasterfaster

His heart is beating like a human's, pounding, pounding, pounding. It's a worried heart. It's a heart that's afraid. It's a heart that hasn't beat for so long the sensation is like a jolt to his electrified senses and it keeps him going. One flight, then the next, and the next and the next. His speed is inhuman, his strength is inhuman, his stamina

He's not human.

His heart is silent and still.

His lungs don't need the cold air he's sucking in past his lips and pushing out like smoke.

The air is just air and the imagined heartbeat is an attempt to make sense of his loyalty to the slayer and her sister, an attempt to be human like they're human because then it would make sense. But he's not and it doesn't.

He soars to the top of the tower like an evil angel.

Dawn's young face is streaked with tears and he's furious with the man that's threatening her, that's making her cry. The man senses his presence and turns.

It takes him a second to accept who it is - he remembers too clearly the tension in the blade as it slid into the Doc's body and lodged itself into the floor below him.

But now the Doc is pointing a dagger at the Little Bit, and Spike gets over the surprise of seeing him not pinned to a floor leaking blue goo onto an oriental carpet. He makes his move.

He wastes no time with the banter, the cheeky small talk. He attacks. There's no time for anything else.

He throws a punch and misses.

He gets a knife in the back and supposes it's only fair considering he skewered the wanker not an hour ago.

The Doc traps his arms behind him.

Dawn watches him struggle against the hard grip with terrified eyes and he whispers his promise to her. She hears it and she trusts it. She believes it, and that gives him the strength he needs.

He twists his wrists trapped in the Doc's grip and grabs hold of him.

He smiles at Dawn so she won't be afraid and flings himself and his opponent off the tower.

Or maybe the Doc never gets a chance to stab him in the first place.

Maybe Spike just tackles him. Maybe he just picks him up by that bloody tail of his and dangles him over the edge so Dawn can watch him squirm.

Or maybe he pitches him over the side right away so he can get those chains off her faster, and when Buffy reaches the top she'll see her sister shaken but unharmed, and know that he hasn't lied to her, that he's protected her like he said he would.

He feels Dawn's little hand in his. And then there's another hand with warm fingers sliding over his cool knuckles, uncurling his fist and holding on. Maybe for just a moment. Maybe longer.

Spike

***

"Spike?"

He's jolted awake. There's snow on the telly. He blinks and his eyelids feel like sandpaper. He listens to the faint scratching sound of them opening and closing. He blinks again cuz it hurts a little but not enough.

"Spike?"

He doesn't move. He doesn't know if he even can anymore. He hasn't tried for a few days.

He hears Dawn shuffling behind him, unsure if he's awake. He thinks about what would happen if he spoke to her. He imagines his unused vocal chords crumbling when he tries. Maybe he'd cough and there'd be a little puff of dust. He doesn't say a word.

He feels her shadow on his face, hears her gasp when she looks at him.

He's seen what starvation does to a vamp. It's not pretty.

All he needs to look like himself again is a little taste, a little bit of tangy sweetness to make him strong again. There are jars full of it in the fridge, untouched and waiting for him to cave. He won't. It's already been two weeks - maybe three — and he hasn't been tempted once.

She sits down on the dirty floor next to his chair. He can see her out of the corner of his eye, her brown hair shining in the darkness next to his paper white hand so much thinner and weaker than it was when he last saw her. He doesn't remember when that was. Could have been two weeks ago. Probably three. He had taken one look at the outlines of the thick bandages hidden under her T-shirt and had felt sick with guilt as he caught the scent of blood on them. He left without saying goodbye. He had gone back to his crypt and sat in the darkness until he fell asleep.

Time had since passed in an uninterrupted blur of dreaming, waking up long enough to remember everything, and dreaming again. Day after day, night after night, he closed his eyes to the world and tried to set things right. It was better than wandering around in the dark with the Sunnyhell Do-Gooders and the bloody bot - his bot that disgusted the hell out of him now. Better than seeing Dawn still recovering from his mistake and knowing that the one time the slayer had trusted him with something important, with someone that meant the world to her, he was completely useless.

He is completely useless. As a vampire and a hero.

So he won't be either. He'll just sit here and stare at the static. He'll wait for her to go away.

Dawn fades into the background as Buffy smiles at him through the snow. She's never smiled at him before. He's gotten grimaces and frowns, tight lips of disapproval and disgust, but never a smile. He wants to smile back but he's forgotten how. He's forgotten how to move the muscles in his face, to break the death mask and she slowly fades away.

I'm sorry slayer

He closes his eyes with a slow scrape of his sandpaper eyelids.

Through the darkness she comes to him again. She kneels before him, her warm hands on his knees. She doesn't smile. She just looks at him. No disapproval, no disgust. She moves closer to him, parting his knees so they press against her hips. Her hands slide up his thighs to his chest, his shoulders. She pulls him closer and he feels her breath whisper across his lips. She kisses him and breathes that breath into his mouth and it's tangy and sweet and it fills him with warmth, with strength.

Buffy

He opens his eyes. There's blood in his mouth. His fingers are wrapped around a small wrist, his lips pressed against the wound on the inside of Dawn's palm. He tears himself away from the blood, violently flinging her hand aside. He leans over the arm of his chair, gasping as the stolen blood sings through his body, reviving it. He presses his hands to his face, his fangs cutting into his lips, filling his mouth with moremore... He shakes the demon away and gets up from the chair wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

He kicks over the TV and the static disappears. He whirls around, furious with Dawn for being here, furious with himself for losing control and attacking her.

She sits beside his chair, cradling her wounded palm.

Her palm.

He would have gone straight for the throat.

And he would have been bowled over by the blinding pain before he ever got a drop.

He goes to her. He grabs her hand, looks at the straight line of blood oozing from the cut stretching across the fleshiest part of her palm. He didn't bite her. There's a light blue Swiss Army knife on the ground beside her. He picks it up and hurls it against the wall.

"What the hell do you think your doing?!"

"I don't want to you to die too."

"I'm already dead," he snaps at her looking for something to bandage her hand with. The smell is making him dizzy. "An' I don't plan on havin' any company. Don't you ever do that again I could have killed you" He finds a T-shirt and sits down beside her. He wraps it around her hand, careful not to be too rough. She looks pale. He wonders how much she gave, how much he took.

"I know why," she whispers. He puts her bandaged hand in her lap and pats it awkwardly. A little red flower blossoms before his eyes and he gets up from the floor. He leans against the wall behind her so he can't see it.

"Why what?"

"Why you don't want my blood." She turns her head and looks up at him. "It's bad. It's poison."

He blinks at the calm acceptance in her voice, in her eyes.

"No Bit, it's quite tasty actually - I just don't make a habit of feeding off my friends."

He doesn't even stumble over the word and it surprises him. He doesn't remember when he began thinking of her as anything other than a way of getting in good with Buffy.

She's a nice girl from a nice home and two years ago he would have had her for breakfast and not have thought twice about it. But things are different now. Even if he didn't have the bloody chip he still wouldn't bite her. Because she was his friend. Like Joyce kinda was. Like Buffy might have been.

It hits him then that Dawn is the last of the Summers women. In less than a year the kid lost her mum and her sis and she's still standing. She's not starving herself, not sitting around wallowing in misery. She came by to see if he was okay. She shouldn't be worrying about him. She should be taking care of herself. She's all that's left of Joyce, of Buffy.

"Don't ever think that Dawn — that you have bad blood." His voice cracks and he swallows the knot in his throat. He sits down beside her and holds her hand in his, palm up. They look down at the blood flower together. "This This is good. You are good. This is Buffy and your mum and —"

"But it's not. She wasn't really my mom Spike. And I'm not really real"

"Y'here aren't you? You're alive and breathin'. You're as real as anything else."

"I'm unnatural."

"So am I bit." He grins at her then says softly, "So was yer sis, and so are the witchesWe've all got a little magic in us. It don't make you wrong, or badit makes you special. It makes you special Dawn."

"It should have been me." Tears hang on her lashes. She blinks and they fall and he watches them slide down her cheek.

"She never would have been able to live with herself." He swallows guiltily, looking at the tear tracks shining on her skin.

He's caused that.

"It's all my fault."

"Don't say that. Don't even think that. This was not your fault Dawn. She should never have had to jump in the first place. If I'd done what I promised an protected you" He looks at her stomach. The bandages are still there under her clothes but smaller now. "That never would have happened either. It's my fault you got hurt and it's my fault she died. Don't go hatin' yourself anymore Dawn."

He gets up from the floor, leaves her sitting there with her tears. He goes to his fridge and opens it. The light comes on making the jars of blood glow. His stomach twists.

Dawn's skin slashed and dripping this, dripping life.

He starts gathering up the jars.

You should be hating me.

He goes outside into the cool moonlight. He opens the first jar and pours out the blood, listening to the dull thump it makes as it hits the grass. He throws away the temptation to drink, to live, as Dawn's blood still rushes through him, making him feel alive again, making him feel warm again. He ignores it. He doesn't want to feel better. He doesn't want to feel anything.

He opens the second jar and pours, watching the black sweet smelling arc disappear into the darkness.

No more mucking about in solitary confinement, wasting away, feeling guilty and sorry for himself. No more torturing himself with visions of the slayer and her mouth and her eyes. His betrayal. No more. In a few hours the sun will rise and he will be gone.

He hears Dawn come up behind him. He reaches for the third jar and she snatches it away from him.

"Stop it."

He holds out his hand.

"Give it here Dawn."

"No. I don't want you to go away. I can't lose anyone else, I can't. Why can't you understand that?" He doesn't say anything. "You're just being selfish." He stares at her.

What do you expect, Bit?

"Give it."

"I will if you promise." He's silent, waiting. "You promised her. You promised her you'd protect me Now promise me."

He closes his eyes, clenches them shut.

"I trust you." She takes his hand and places the jar in it. "I trust you Spike."

"Nothin' good's gonna come of that Dawn." He untwists the cap.

"Can't get any worse."

"It can always get worse." She swallows, keeps her eyes on the jar.

"Then you gotta be here for itBuffy would want you to be."

"So I can get my ass kicked a few more times 'fore I'm dusted."

"So you can kick ass. With us."

"Don't cuss." He looks at the liquid sloshing around inside.

"Ass. As in you're being one."

"That's no way to endear y'self to me pet."

"Yes it is." He looks at her standing there with her hands on her hips, Buffy all over. Her eyes are still on the jar. They've been there the whole time. "Do you really think starving to undead death is going to be more fun than taking care of me?"

"Actually, I was gonna kiss the dawn."

"So lay it on me." He laughs, the sound exploding from him like a gunshot and she smiles, Buffy all over. "Just drink the damn blood already. It's late and I have a math final to study for." She's trying to sound tough but her voice is shaking. It's always shaking now. Her eyes are always wet.

"Can't help you with that one Bit"

"English is next week." She takes a deep breath. She steps up to him, reaches out to him. "Promise me you'll still be here then."

Dawn's little hand in his. Warm fingers sliding over his cool knuckles, uncurling his fist and holding on. He looks at it. She squeezes. She looks up into his face. Her lips are pressed together in a determined line. Chin out, feet planted, her eyes say, I'm not letting go until you promise me.

He smiles. He can't help it.

He lifts the jar to his lips and drinks until it's empty.

"I promise I'll be here 'til you no longer need me."

"Do you swear?"

"Shit. Fuck. Damn." She smiles. "Ass."

"Good enough for me."

end.