Resurrecting Dawn

Summary: Post The Gift, not exactly sure how far post about a year or so I guess. This is a "Let's Pretend" fic as in let's pretend Buffy didn't come back, further more let's pretend that everyone except Spike and Dawn in the battle against Glory. Dawn/Spike pairing Rating PG. This kind of started as a drabble so it has a kind of drabbly feeling to it.

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One

He shuts the door to the tiny apartment and carries the bag of groceries to the galley kitchen. He smiles at her over the paper bag. She doesn't smile back. He puts the groceries away, milk, eggs, bread, peanut butter and jelly. When he's done he goes to sit on the couch with her. He lifts her legs up and slides under them. He takes one delicate foot in his hand and starts to rub it. He looks down her long, long legs and up into her fathomless eyes. They are the eyes of a little girl lost.

"How you doing, Niblet?" He asks.

She shrugs. It is the same response she has given him every day now for as long as he can remember. He nods, undeterred. "There's a new flick playing at the drive in. We could go," he says.

"Okay," she says, not really committed. She doesn't even ask what movie is playing.

He rubs her feet in silence and wonders why he has this fatal attraction to the ones who always need him so damn much, the women who can break your heart with the pain in their eyes, the damsels in distress. This all started at the request of a girl who was never the damsel in distress. It's much more then that now, whether either of them will admit it or not.

The flick at the drive in turns out not to be a new one, but rather an old one, Rebel Without A Cause. He has seen it before. She has not. She scoots across the bench seat of the Desoto and lays her head on his shoulder. His arm goes around her and pulls her close.

"Why is there always angst?" She asks.

He grins and shrugs a little. "It's not really interesting if there's not some angst."

"Says who?" She asks.

"I dunno. Would you want to watch two wankers run through fields of flowers endlessly, spouting about the wonder and rarity of their perfect happy life?" He asks.

"Maybe not but I'd like to live it," she says.

"That's just the deal, Platelet. Life's not happy, fluffy puppies, 'least not all the time. Besides, puppies get annoying after a while," he says.

"Still, I'd like to try it," she says.

They watch the rest of the movie in silence. She sniffles into his duster and he smiles. Tears over a silly teen angst movie seem blessedly normal to him. She hasn't had much normal in her life. He drives home and she falls asleep on the way. She wakes up when he pulls into the parking lot but doesn't bother opening her eyes or moving. This is how it works between them. He scoops her up in his arms and she twines her arms around his neck and lays her head in the crook of his neck. His flesh breaks out in goose bumps as her lips brush the skin on his neck unintentionally, at least he thinks it's unintentional. He's never sure these days.

He carries her into the single bedroom of the apartment. He lays her down on the bed and she opens her eyes.

"Stay with me, just until I fall asleep," she asks.

He lays down beside her and is broken once again as she curls her body into his. He can feel the need pouring off her. She's drowning and he's the only that's left to save her. He hopes for her sake he's up to the task.

Two

He watches her, he always watches her. She makes the pretense of reading a book but he knows she's not. Those harrowing eyes of hers glance up and catch his own. He smiles, she doesn't and he knows by the haunted look that she's thinking of them.

"Wasn't your fault you know," he says.

She shrugs.

"Wouldn't have mattered who had been on top of that tower, Big Sis and the Scoobies would have fought just as hard. It's what they did," he tells her.

She nods but he knows she doesn't believe him, her face says so.

"She wanted you to live, not just exist," he says.

Finally she speaks and her voice is as hollow as she is, "And what if that's all I can do?" She turns those eyes on him and the pain in them twists his gut and leaves him bleeding.

"Then that's what you do, for now, but we've got to find a way to get you living again. You want to go somewhere else? We can load up the Soto and go anywhere you want," he says.

"Heaven, can I go to Heaven where the rest of them are?" She asks.

"No, Niblet, you can't go there. It's not time for you to go there yet," he says.

"And it was time for all them? For Willow, for Tara, Giles, Xander, Anya..." she trails off. She doesn't say Her name. It lies unspoken between them. He doesn't know how to answer that. They've had this conversation before and then again so many more times in his head. If he tells her yes then she says she was the one that was supposed to die. She was the key. He always tries to figure out an answer to this question that won't prompt that response.

The silence hangs thick over the apartment. He stands up and grabs her hand. He pulls her to her feet and drags her out the door.

"Where are you taking me? I don't even have shoes on," she says.

He scoops her up in his arms and she almost giggles and somehow that's better then saving the world.

They lie on the hood of the Desoto. He had to drive an hour up the coast to find this spot away from the lights of Savannah. The stars are brilliant here. Somehow they seem brighter in south then they did on the west coast. Maybe it is the humidity thick in the air, maybe it magnifies their brightness or maybe the further they get from home, the brighter everything looks.

He glances over at her and he knows that's not true.

Three

They're in the Desoto again. She likes the car. Sometimes she just goes and sits in the car. He's not sure what she does there because she always does it in the daylight when he can't follow and maybe that's the point. They're moving again. He's lost count of the number of times they've moved although they never really settle anywhere so he supposes you can't really call it moving.

"Where we headed to this time, Platelet?" He asks her.

She shrugs. "I don't know, just drive until we find a place we like."

He nods. That's the answer she always gives to that question. He wonders if they'll ever go back to Sunnydale, somehow he doesn't think so. They drive all night, always away from Sunnydale, away from California and memories of a night in May that leaves them both cold. Sometimes they talk, sometimes not.

She lays her head down in his lap and looks up at him. She reaches up and runs her fingers over his jaw line. "Tell me some of your poetry," she says in a husky, whispery voice that is filled with sadness and longing for something she doesn't even know she wants yet.

He pauses a moment and swallows thickly, that voice, coupled with her position doesn't promote blood flow to the brain. He nods and takes a breath he doesn't need. "Hushed voices in the dark of night/Secrets hidden from the light/ Silken touches on velvet skin/Sigh of bated breath, the sweetest sin,"

She almost smiled. He caught it out of the corner of his eye and grinned.

"I like it when you recite your poems to me," she says.

"Just made that one up," he tells her.

"Thoughts stirring and stewing behind your eyes," she comments.

If she only knew what thoughts she would blush red, or maybe she wouldn't. She's changed since that awful night. He watched her grow up in the space of a couple hours and it was terrifying. He appreciates the woman she's becoming but sometimes he misses the little girl she was. She's so quiet and serious now. He misses what Red used to called "Dawnie speak". She used to ramble for hours, sometimes he swore it was just to hear her own voice. Now he'd give up a lot of things to hear her ramble like that again.

Her eyes are closed but she's not asleep. Her heart is skipping along in her chest and her breathing indicates she's awake. She reaches out and turns on the radio. It's the original radio. He never considered replacing it. The Desoto was always just a way to get around to him. Now that home is all wrong, it has become home to him and more importantly to her.

"You need a CD player," she says.

"Don't have any CDs," he tells her.

"I packed some when we left," she tells him.

"Maybe the next place we go I'll look into it," he promises her.

Silence falls over the car again. It is broken by the staccato bursts of sound from the radio as she searches for a station. There are a lot of country stations in the south. She finally clicks the radio off, preferring the silence to anything she can find on the radio.

"Do you ever miss home?" she asks.

"I've lived so many places, I don't even know what I call home anymore," he says.

She nods and is silent a moment when she finally speaks it's a bare whisper "Not home with everyone gone,"

He reaches down and runs his fingers over her face. He rests his thumb on her lips and tilts her head so he can look in her eyes. Even in the dark of the car he can see the tears glistening there. "I'm here, Niblet. I'm not going anywhere, immortal remember?"

She smiles sadly. "As long as you remember to stay away from sharp pointy wooden things."

"I've managed this long. I promise I'll manage for the rest of your life," he says.

She bites her bottom lip and he aches with longing. She turns on her side, away from him and it's not long before he feels the tears seeping through his jeans.

"Til the end of the world, Dawn," he whispers and realizes he hasn't called her by her name since that night.

Four

She likes all the bright buildings in Key West. They almost make her smile. The tiny, furnished house they live in resembles all the other places they've lived with one exception, it is robin's egg blue and all the furniture looks like it came from the outdoor furniture section. She says it's her favorite place so far. That's enough for him. She had to go buy blackout drapes. The windows here were left bare and open to the outside. They look out of place in the pale, sun-washed rooms. They look like she feels.

He likes it here too. Things are very laid back. The beach front bars are open until the break of dawn and no one seems to think their nocturnal lifestyle is odd. There is a couple in the house next door they have become some what friendly with, Ryan and Scott. They adore her and are constantly giving her compliments and trying to get her to smile. That makes them alright in his book.

"Ryan and Scott want us to go to The Reef tonight," she says.

"S'okay with me," he says.

"Scott went shopping for me. He's coming over to do my hair and makeup. You have to go somewhere that's else when he gets here," she says.

"Might be a problem with that called daylight, Niblet."

"He's not coming over until after dark. You and Ryan are going to The Reef ahead of us," she says.

He frowns. "I don't like leaving you alone,"

"Don't worry, Scott is much more interested in you that way then he is me," she teases.

"Oh, bollocks," he mutters.

The air is tangy with the scent of salt. He's sitting on the deck outside with Ryan. It seems he's been waiting a long time, but it's probably just that this is the first time he's been separated from her for any length of time since that night.

Ryan touches his shoulder and he turns, looking in the direction Ryan gestures. He suddenly wishes he'd thought to wear something besides his standard issue black tee shirt and jeans. He works his eyes up long, long legs that are bared almost to her ass. The ice blue sun dress starts just before the picture gets indecent. His mouth goes dry. He doesn't know what Scott did with her face but she looks at him and she is all pouty lips and hungry eyes.

Ryan reaches over and closes his jaw for him. "Drool isn't generally considered attractive, although on you..."

He doesn't even recognize that he just got hit on, all he can see, all he can hear is her.

Five

Ryan and Scott are good for her, he thinks. He wishes she had actual friends who were girls, but Ryan and Scott are close enough and he knows there is no danger of one of them falling for her, him maybe but never her.

They are all playing on the beach just out behind the house. He can hear Ryan and Scott's banter. The two men argue like an old married couple, which he supposes is an accurate description. He steps out onto the covered porch and creeps close to the edge, where the sunlight holds him prisoner. She is sitting on the sand. The sun worships her and kisses her skin golden. Her long dark hair has taken on streaks of pure sunshine. He likes the change. She smiles slightly as she watches the boys chase each other over the sand.

He steps closer, longing to touch her skin warmed by the sun, longing to feel a part of that world for the first time in almost a century and a half. He curses as the sun sizzles his skin. He jumps back into the safety of the shadowed porch and longs for her.

She glances his way and smiles so slightly he's not sure it can be called a smile. She stands up and tells the boys she'll be right back. She slips into the shadow of the porch and steps close to him. Her eyebrows draw together and she lays a hand on his forearm. "You okay?" she asks.

He nods. "Yeah, just got to soddin close," he grumbles.

"I'm sorry," she says.

"For what, Niblet?"

"That you can't come out and play," she says.

He is surprised to find that he is sorry too. He is also moved that she recognizes that he wants to come out and play.

"The boys are talking about having a beach party. Those are always more fun at night. Is it okay?" she asks.

"Anything you want, Niblet, anything you want," he says.

She gives him that little ghost smile and leans closer. He catches his metaphorical breath. Their lips are only a whisper apart. She casts her eyes down and pulls away. "I'll go tell them then," she says.

He doesn't understand why a beach party necessitates new clothes. According to her and Ryan and Scott it does. She scribbles down all his sizes on the palm of her hand in blue ink and presses a chaste kiss to his cheek before skipping off with Ryan and Scott to go shopping. He is afraid of what she will bring back for him to wear. He remembers with revulsion the time he shrunk his own clothing and had to wear Xander's.

He sits on the shadowed porch and smokes, waiting for them to return. He knows he should tell her not to spend so much money. They've only got a certain amount of it left over from the life insurance policies everyone left. He wonders with a harsh chuckle what bloody git decided to give life insurance policies to the slayer and her friends. At that thought he retrieves the bottle of Johnny Red from the cabinet and begins to nurse it, might as well get a head start on this beach party and nothing chases away the ghosts of the dead like Johnny Red. It is almost dark when they pull up in the drive way. She rushes in, excitement pouring off her in waves.

"Ryan picked out your clothes," she says.

He starts to scowl but notices the way the corners of her mouth tip up in a very slight smile, a smile that isn't chased away by death and bad memories. He grins and takes the bag from her.

"And remember, no shoes, it's a beach party shoes are not allowed," she says as she shoos him off into the bedroom.

"Niblet, you know I wear my boots everywhere," he says.

"No shoes, they won't go with the clothes we bought," she says.

He grumbles but shuts the bedroom door.

By the time he has finished getting dressed they are already out on the beach. She has changed into some little cut off shorts and a pale blue bikini top. She has all of her hair gathered on top of her head and she's throwing wood onto a bonfire. He grabs the bottle of Johnny Red and walks out on to the beach barefoot, just as she requested.

The look on her face is worth the getting dressed part. She's stunned. He might actually consider letting Ryan pick out more of his clothes. He grins and holds his arms out, turning in a circle. The light weight, cobalt button down flutters in the slight sea breeze. Ryan or maybe its Scott whistles. She takes a few steps toward him and places her hand on his shoulder.

"Wow, I didn't know your eyes could get any bluer," she says.

He grins at her and holds her out at arm's length. He spins her around and wonders when she got the curves to fill out that bikini top, that little triangle bikini top.

"Look at you, Niblet, smashing," he says and means it.

She turns pink. Someone turns the radio up and Jimmy Buffett, the official music of Key West, sings about Margaritaville. They roast hot dogs over the bonfire and Scott makes margaritas on the rocks.

She sits down next to him in the sand, a hot dog in one hand and a margarita in the other. She grins at his bare feet.

"You have really pale feet," she says. She doesn't tell him how beautiful he looks in the moonlight. His skin is so pale it glows and he looks like something Michangelo might have carved.

He chuckles and glances down at her feet, which are kissed by the sun. Her toes are painted a bright orange. "Love the toes, Bit," he says. He doesn't tell her how much he wants to kiss those toes and how he didn't realize toes could be so pretty until he saw hers.

The margaritas are making her silly and giggle-y. She leans back against him and he winds his arm around her waist. A dance song comes on the radio and she squeals in delight and hops up, a little too quickly. She sways on feet and then tries to pull him up to dance with her.

"Sorry, Niblet, I'm too old to dance to this kind of stuff," he says.

Scott scoffs at him and says, "If you won't dance with her, I will." He gets up and he and Dawn dance around the fire.

He is content to sit and watch her, sipping on his margarita. She reminds him of some exotic tribal princess dancing around a ritual fire. He should know, he ate a few tribal princesses in his time. His eyes follow her and they are the eyes of a predator. There are only two things a predator wants when he looks at his prey like that, to feed or mate. He doesn't want to feed.

He is so involved with watching her that he doesn't notice Ryan sit down next to him until he speaks.

"So, what's the deal between you two?" Ryan asks.

He shrugs. At one time he would have said she was like a little sis, now she was more. He wasn't sure how much more, or maybe he just didn't want to admit it.

"Oh come on, I've seen the way you look at her, like you haven't eaten in weeks and she's the buffet," Ryan says.

He chuckles. "Niblet and I-I think we're still figuring out what we are," he answers as honestly as he can.

Ryan grins at him and shakes his head. A slower song comes on the radio and Ryan stands up. "Ok, Dawn, time to get your own guy and let me have mine back."

He smirks. He's pretty sure Ryan planned this. He stands up obligingly and takes her hand in his. He pulls her closer, wraps an arm around her shoulders and the other around her waist. She threads both her arms around his neck. She's almost as tall as he is. Her head rests comfortably on his shoulder, her nose pressed against his neck.

"You look great, you know," she whispers, knowing he will hear her over the music.

He glides his hand over her back, pulling her in just a little bit closer to him. He swallows thickly, "I meant it earlier, Platelet, your bleedin gorgeous." He feels her smile against his neck. She kisses the spot where his pulse would be and he freezes. After a moment she looks up at him. She shivers and he knows it not from the cold. He reaches up and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear, gently coaxing her closer. He can't seem to move away from her. He knows he should because this is just going to complicate things.

His lips brush hers in a whisper of a kiss. He always did like complications.

Six

The bright string of lights cast shades of color over her face, making her skin look like stained glass, and the ghost smile he's come to cherish turns up the corners of her mouth.

"Okay, close your eyes, Sweetie," Ryan says.

He puts his hands over her eyes and she giggles so slightly. "I've got her covered," he says.

There are sounds of bare feet trodding across the wooden floors of The Reef. The owner, Charlie, cuts the reggae music and he removes his hands from her eyes as the patrons of The Reef burst into a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday". Ryan and Scott each hold one end of a large birthday cake. It is ablaze with seventeen candles. They set it down on a table and she glances up at him.

"Make a wish and blow them out, Platelet," he says.

The sadness and pain invades her eyes and only he understands why, only he knows that the things she wants can't be brought back with birthday wishes and candles. She blows out the candles without much enthusiasm. The reggae music comes back on and fills the bar. She is grateful for it. It keeps Ryan and Scott from asking questions about the sorrowful look on her face. Scott angles the cake toward him and begins cutting slices of it. The bartender and owner hands the small plates of cake to all the patrons in the bar.

She eats her cake and sips at the Fuzzy Navel he ordered her. Charlie, the owner, tends to ignore her drinking as long as everyone is quiet about it.

The blond vampire hands her a silver bag. The corners of her mouth turn up and she digs in the bag, pulling out a bright pink very soft teddy bear. She squeals and clutches the teddy bear to her chest She gives him a very brief, real grin and her eyes dance with laughter for a moment.

"Did you buy him yourself?" She asks, laughter dancing in her eyes.

"Yup, one evening when Ryan and Scott took you out," he confesses.

She buries her nose in the pink teddy bear and he sees the corner of her mouth turn up in the widest grin yet. It was worth the teasing he had endured from Ryan and Scott.

"Keep lookin in the bag there," he says and points to the bag.

"Really?" She asks.

He nods and she dips into the bag again. She pulls out a red leather bound book. Her eyes grow misty and she traces the photo on the cover with her fingers. She swallows hard. There is a picture of her, Buffy and Joyce on the cover. She throws her arms around his neck and buries her face in his neck. He can feel her tears rush against his skin. She smells sweet and a little spicy.

"It's all going to be okay, Niblet, one of these days it's all going to be okay," he whispers for her ears only.

"Promise?" she asks

"I promise, I'll make it okay," he says

She's had too many drinks. She sways in his arms. There's something slow and tropical on the jukebox. He lifts her off her feet. She presses her lips to his neck and he twirls her around in a circle. She giggles drunkenly against his neck.

"Come on, Luv, I'm taking you home," he says as he sweeps her up in his arms. They walked here, it's not far from their little house.

"I wanna dance in the ocean," she says.

"Niblet, you can hardly stand, much less dance," he tells her.

She pouts and turns those eyes on him. It doesn't take much to undo him. He grumbles more for show then anything and toes off his boots. He hops on one foot and tries to tug off his sock without dumping them both onto the sand. She laughs as they tumble into the sand. He doesn't mind. It is the first time he has heard her laugh since that night. Somehow his lips find hers. He nibbles at her lips, sucking gently on her full bottom lip. She moans a little into his mouth and tugs him closer to her. His hands slide across the slice of bare skin between the waistband of her skirt and her tank top and then underneath the thin cotton. The waves lap at their feet and she giggles into his mouth.

In one graceful movement he scoops her up in his arms, placing wet, sucking kisses along the elegant column of her neck. Her skin tastes like red hot candy and he nips at it with his blunt teeth. She wraps her arms tighter around him and arches back, giving him more access to her neck. He stumbles in through the living room and into her bedroom. He places her on the bed and kisses her toes, painted bright pink tonight. He tickles the arch of her foot with his tongue and her skin tastes like salt with that spicy sweet taste underneath.

She wiggles out of the skirt she's wearing and drops it on the floor by the bed. He groans out loud at the sight of the pink lace panties. He's spent many nights imagining her like this, spread on the bed like some incredible offering to the Gods. He has all night to worship her, and he intends to do so. His fingers thread with hers and she pulls him up to her mouth. Her hands, hot little hands, slide his tee shirt up and over his head. It falls in the pile next to her skirt. She runs her hands ever so lightly over his chest, exploring every dip of every muscle, flirting dangerously close to the waistband of his jeans. He hears her heartbeat accelerate and her breath comes in pants as she hooks her fingers in the front of his jeans. She plays her thumbs over the button and zipper. He unbuttons and unzips his pants. She helps him slide them over his legs and piles them on the floor with the rest of their clothes. He blankets her body with his own.

Her tears are sudden and unexpected. He stills and gently wipes them away with cool fingers. "What's the matter, Niblet?"

"What if-it's just- Buffy and Angel had sex on her seventeenth birthday and he lost his soul and tried to kill everyone and if that happened-" she bites off her sobs.

"Shhhh, Niblet, no tears now, Luv. I don't have a soul to lose. I promise you'll I'll be the same man in the morning that I am now," he whispers.

"And you'll be here when I wake up?" she asks with a trembling voice.

"Every day for the rest of your life," he promises.

Seven

She lays across his legs and draws patterns on his stomach with her fingers. The only sound in the room is the low hum of the ceiling fan. He can hear her heartbeat and the rush of her blood. Her slow and easy breathing make a nice accompaniment to this orchestra of sounds. He glides his pale, cool fingers over the sun kissed bronze of her skin, being in Key West definitely agrees with her.

"I'm bored," she says.
"Call Ryan, see if he wants to come over or take you somewhere. I'll meet you when the sun goes down," he suggests.

She shakes her head and flips on her back, her big, blue eyes looked into his own intense blue ones. "I wanna do something with you," she pouts.

"Sorry, Niblet, still daylight challenged here, unless you've suddenly got one million strength sun block," he says.

"Okay, I'll get Ryan to come over and we'll sit out on the beach, but when the sun goes down, I want you to teach me how to drive the Soto," she says.

His laughter sounds a bit like a bark. "No soddin' way," he says.

She pouts. "Why not? I'm seventeen, I need to learn how to drive sometime. Besides what if there were an emergency and I had to drive? Like what if Ryan or Scott got hurt and needed someone to take them to the hospital in the middle of the day? Or what if we had to make a fast get away in the middle of the day?" She says.

He grumbles. "If you wreck the Soto..." he trails off. They both know he'd grumble and growl and then he'd apologize the moment he made her tear up.

"I won't wreck the Soto. I'll probably be like a natural or something. You'll be convinced I've been driving my entire life," she says.

He chuckles. "I rode in the car once with big sis-"he stops abruptly. They still don't talk about Buffy and the others or Sunnydale. Even after a year and a half it's painful.

The silence lies between them, rife with pain. She sits up and twists her long hair into a knot. She walks out the front door.

He hears her a few minutes later on the beach. He gets up and walks out onto the shadowed porch. She's sitting on the sand, the waves washing over her feet. Her legs are pulled up to her chest and her arms are wrapped around them. Even from here, he can hear the sobs she's trying desperately to keep silent.

He's not sure what keeps the wound so raw, maybe it's because Buffy died for her, because the others died protecting her. He knows from conversations they had had before that night that she feels responsible for everything that happened to her friends because of the hell bitch. He edges close to the porch, wishing he could slip out into the sunlight and pull her into his embrace and make everything in her world alright again.

He sizzles his skin and steps back into the shadows. He slinks there, watching her and waiting for the sun set. It's not until he tastes the salt on his lips that he realizes tears of his own are making their way down his cheeks.

"Okay, Niblet, push in the clutch and really easy put it in first gear, now let up on the clutch easy," he says and refrains from growling when she pops the clutch, for the umpteenth time and the Soto jumps and stalls.

She blushes and bites her bottom lip. "Sorry," she mumbles.

"S'okay, let's try again. Push in the clutch, ease it into first gear, now slowly let up on the-"

The Desoto jumps and stalls again. She drops her head and her forehead bounces on the steering wheel of the Soto. He strokes her hair and grins at her.

"You'll get it, try it again," he says.

She sighs and sits up, looking at him. "How can you be so patient with me?"

He shrugs. "I got all the time in the world, no reason to get my panties in a wad over spendin' a bit of it with you," he says.

She smiles and pushes in the clutch again.

Eight

She's at the top of the tower again. He's running up the stairs and the breath he doesn't need is coming in harsh, painful pants. He stops and bends at the waist, sucking in air and he shakes his head. He doesn't know what the hell bitch did to him or why he all the sudden needs air. He straightens and forces himself forward. She needs him, Buffy is counting on him to save the Niblet, until the end of the world. He pushes himself up the steps by sheer willpower. This is just the hell bitch trying to distract him.

He finally reaches the top and looks down at the ground so far below. He sees Xander and Anya fall beneath an army of crazed mental patients. A growl starts low in his throat and he pushes it away. This is a war, people die in wars. It's only important that she doesn't die. If she dies the entire world goes to Hell, literally.

Doc hits harder then he gave him credit for. He knocks him off the tower and he is falling, forever falling. He watches as the watcher falls shortly after killing Ben. He is still falling. Niblet's blood drips and lands on his forehead. He sees the witches go next, to angry throng of demons. They held them off as long as they could, but the magic drained them.

A smile of serenity comes over him. Niblet is free, safe with her sister. He can stop now, she's protected. He relaxes, letting his body go with the fall. He waits to hit the ground, waits for a jarring impact that never comes.

Horror sweeps over him as he watches Buffy run the length of the platform. She takes a leap and finally the bone jarring impact comes. The pain fills him, devours him.

He wakes up in a cold sweat, un-needed breath coming in loud, pants. He scrubs his hands through his hair, setting the platinum tresses on end. She rolls over and glances at him through half lidded eyes.

"You okay?" She asks her voice thick and heavy with sleep.

He nods and finally croaks out a "Yah."

"Same dream?" She asks.

He nods and gets up, pulling the sheet off the bed and wrapping it around his waist. He's not modest but pacing naked tends to be more distracting and less therapeutic to him. He has this dream often, its more memory then dream, memory of that night. The dream used to have a different ending. When he first started having it, shortly after that night, he always saved both Buffy and Niblet. In the last several months though, the ending never changes. It all happens exactly the way it happened that night, except that he has to watch it happen all over again. He always wakes up when Buffy jumps.

He glances over at the bed, swathed in the semi dark of the curtained room. She has fallen back asleep on her stomach. Her long limbs are strewn across the bed, her hair fanned out across the white, white sheets. She insists on white sheets. She says they seem clean and pure somehow. He kneels by the bed and brushes his fingers across the tips of her hair.

He can not help remember in the aftermath of the dream, the way he climbed so slowly that night, each step sending excruciating pain through his broken body. He climbed up that never ending stairway all the way to the top of the makeshift tower. She was up there, still staring at the place where the portal had closed, the place where Buffy had dived and taken flight. He had drawn her into his embrace and she had cried. She had sobbed out Buffy's last words. They had both walked to the end of the platform and looked down where Buffy's body lay. They had both wanted to leap and take flight too, to join the undefeatable blond slayer that lay so broken below. Only that same blonde's words kept him from doing just that. She had wanted Niblet to live. She had earned that much.

He doesn't remember much about the rest of that night. He knows he and Niblet took Buffy's body and laid it in his crypt. He had sprinkled her body with dried rose petals and pulled the concrete lid over the crypt. There was no one here to visit a grave and a headstone, there was no reason to make sure she had one. The body wasn't the important part, that part had fled already. He could feel the absence of her soul.

It was the last time they had talked about that night. Niblet had slept in his arms all day and when evening fell they had started their trip across the country.

Nine

It happens quite unexpectedly. He has just woken up and is walking across the kitchen to get a bag of blood out of the fridge when the pain hits him like a wrecking ball. He falls to his knees, holding his head in his hands and biting his lip to keep the scream inside. He doesn't want to wake her up. The pain passes but leaves a nagging ache in its wake. He warms up a mug of blood, hoping it will chase away the residual pain. He doesn't know what brought it on. He wasn't even thinking about harming a human. He was thinking about the wonderful human woman curled up in the bed in the next room, but not about hurting her, never about hurting her.

He gulps the blood and tries to put the incident out of his mind. It's nothing, a glitch, a one time glitch.

A few nights later he is the beach with her, walking in the moonlight. At first when he pulls her down to the sand, she thinks he's playing and then she notices the pained expression on his face.

"Spike, what's wrong? Oh God," she runs her hands over his body, trying to ascertain what's causing him pain.

He lets out a high pitched wailing sound and rocks on the sand, holding his head. He can hear her murmuring Oh God, Oh God, Oh God over and over again. He can hear her voice choked with tears and he tries to hold a hand out to her, tries to say something, anything to make her tears go away. He can't. The pain holds him in a grip so tight he can do nothing except scream. His screams bring others and he hears Ryan's voice just before he passes out.

He's stopped screaming but he is unconscious. She tries to lever his arm over her shoulder and lift him, but she's not a slayer and she's not a key, not anymore. She's just a girl and he's too heavy to lift. And then Ryan and Scott are beside her. They take him from her and carry him between them to the house. She leads them into the bedroom. She is acutely embarrassed that she didn't make the bed today. She doesn't know why. She doubts Ryan or Scott would care and especially not in this situation.

"What happened?" Scott asks.

She shrugs. "We were just walking and he fell. At first I thought-I thought he was goofing around and then he started screaming."

When he wakes up the first thing he sees is her, hovering, concern lining her face. He smiles slightly and reaches out to caress her face. She leans into his touch.

"You're okay," she whispers.

"That's up for debate. I feel like a soddin bomb went off in my head," he says.

"What happened?" She asks.

He shakes his head and instantly regrets moving. His hand goes to his temple, in an attempt to stave off the pain. "Started a few days ago, I don't know what happened. This is worse though, much worse," his voice is so wracked with pain that the words are twisted and hard to understand.

She sits on the bed and strokes his forehead. She looks up worriedly at Ryan and Scott.

"Maybe he needs a doctor," Scott suggests.

She shakes her head. "I can't take him to a hospital or a doctor, not a regular one. They'll notice the lack of heart beat and body temperature." Her voice wavers with tears unshed.

Ryan paces slowly in front of the bed, taking glances at the blond vampire lying there. "Ok so where do you take vampires when they get hurt?" he asks.

"You don't. They just heal. They can recover from anything as long as it doesn't remove their head or put splinters in their heart," she explained.

"It's the bloody chip, feels the same, but I wasn't thinking about hurting anyone," he says.

"Shhh, I know," she says and runs her finger over his eyebrow, pausing at the scar there.

The pain washes over him, sudden and excruciating. He is left writhing on the bed, screaming through his teeth. He can't help it when the vamp face surfaces. The pain doesn't last long this time. It retreats and when he is cognizant he notices she is pressed up, full length against his body. She kisses his temple and whispers in his ear.

"Sweetie might want to lose the vamp face if you can. I think you're scaring our guests."

The face slips away and he is left with only a human face that shows the pain he is in. "Sorry," he mumbles.

"No,it's-wow that was kind of fascinating. Does that always happen when he's hurting?" Scott asks.

"If he's in a lot of pain, yeah. We've got to do something," she says.

"Can't. Initiative blokes put this in and they're the only ones who know anything about it," he says through clenched teeth. The residual pain is worse, maybe because of the rapid succession of the seizures.

"Then we'll find them. Buffy used to say she thought they tapped our phones and followed us. If they did then they know what happened in Sunnydale and they'll keep track of us. You're-one of their experiments and I'm something. They'll want to know where we are, right?" she says.

"I don't know, Niblet, I don't know," he says.

"I'm going to find out," she says and picks up the phone. She doesn't dial numbers or anything of that sort. She just speaks to the dial tone. "If anyone is listening, something is happening with Hostile 17's chip. We need help, now." She hung up the receiver.

"What now?" he asks.

"We wait," she says.

Ten

She sits beside his bed in the Initiative hospital. She holds his hand in hers. She runs her fingers over the palm. It is smooth and soft. She traces his lifeline with her index finger. It is surprisingly short considering he is almost 125 years old. She supposes his real life was cut very short. She wonders how someone so old, someone that has seen such damage can have such graceful, beautiful hands. He has the hands of a poet. She kisses the tips of his fingers and he stirs.

She smiles as his brilliant blue eyes opens. His mouth, beautiful mouth, curves in a slight smile. "Mine immaculate dream, made breathe skin, I've been waiting for you," he whispers. She runs her fingers over his cheekbone. She told him once it was unnatural how beautiful he was. She still thinks so.

"How do you feel?" She asks.

He considers it a moment. He doesn't like to give her platitudes and falsities. There is only honesty between them. "Better, actually, noggin doesn't feel like it's going to explode anymore," he says.

She smiles. "Good, I've been waiting for you to wake up for a few hours. I'm going to get the Doctor. He'll want to know your awake and probably run tests." She stood up and placed a kiss on his forehead. She walked out of the room. There weren't a lot of patients on the medical floor of the new Initiative Headquarters. A team of doctors and nurses were conversing at a station.

"Hi, he's awake. He says his head feels better," she says.

One of the Doctors, Dr. Abrams, stepped forward. "Miss Summers, I'd like to talk to you before I go talk to Hostile 17-"

"Spike, his name is Spike or William if you prefer. He's not a thing, he's a person or he's like a person. He has feelings. His name is Spike," she said on the verge of tears.

"Of course, Miss. Summers, if you'd follow me," Dr. Abrams beckoned. He led her into a small room that resembled a cardboard cut out living room. There was a navy blue loveseat and a couple of wing chairs. A brown plastic plaque outside the door labeled the room Consultation Room. Dr. Abrams indicated that she should sit on the loveseat. He took one of the wing chairs. He glanced down at the file he held in his hands, gathering his words.

"You do realize, Miss Summers, we took out Hos-William's chip, the one that prevents him from hurting human beings-"

"Maybe that was the case at first but not anymore. He's got a conscience, or something. The only thing that prevents Spike from hurting other people is him," she says.

"Of course, as I was saying. We removed the chip from his brain. I can not stress how much danger you are in. We would like to detain...William and perhaps, install a newer version of the chip in his brain," Dr. Abrams says.

She shakes her head. "No, I won't let you hurt him again."

"Miss. Summers, you don't seem to understand. William doesn't have a chip in his brain anymore. He's a vampire. He's going to return to killing people. That's what vampires do-"

"I know exactly what vampires do. My sister was the slayer. And Spike is not going to return to killing people. That may be what vampires do but it's not what Spike does. This conversation is finished." She stands up and stalks out of the room. She goes to the nurse's station.

"I'll be checking Spike out of here now. I'm taking him home," she says.

"I'm sorry, Miss. Summers, you can't just do that," the nurse says.

She sets her mouth and glares at the nurse. "You might do well to remember my sister was the slayer. I'm some sort of mystical key and the vampire in that room, he doesn't have a chip preventing him from killing humans. Did I mention he's killed 2 slayers in the last 2 centuries?"

The nurse pales visibly. "I'll do what I can,"

"Thank you," she says and turns to walk back to Spike's room.

"Nice bit of threatening out there, Platelet," he says with a grin.

"Thanks. You feel well enough to get dressed and get out of here?" She asks.

"Please," he says.

She smiles and opens the small, cheap wardrobe in the room. She takes out the jeans and bright blue tee shirt that he wore here. She sits in a chair in the corner and watches while he dresses. He laces up his boots and stands up. They walk out of the hospital room, hands intertwined and no one even thinks about stopping them.

A/N: The line Spike says to Dawn at the beginning of this chapter is actually a line from Duran Duran's song "Come Undone" I used it because I think it's just a breathtakingly beautiful lyric