Part Eleven

He locks himself in the bathroom and leans his forehead against the cool tile. He takes deep un-needed breaths. His hands are fisted, the nails making little crescent shaped cuts in his palms. The blood runs and it doesn't help. He grabs a towel to clean the blood and ends up shredding it into two halves. He can smell her just on the other side of the door. He can hear her heart beating –thump-thump-thump-thump- and it is more arousing to both man and beast then it has ever been.

She trusts him. She shouldn't trust him. His hold is oh so tenuous right now. It scares the man in him. She knocks on the door.

"Spike, are you okay?" her voice comes through the door soft with concern.

"Be there in a minute, Bit," he growls around fangs.

"Kay, I'm going to go ahead and go to The Reef. We're already late and Ryan and Scott are waiting," she says.

"I'll be there as soon as I can, Niblet," he says.

He listens until she leaves the house and then starts throwing open drawers. He finds it lying almost forgotten underneath her makeup. It's the silver cross the Great Poof gave the Slayer. He picks it up and folds it in his fist, smoke rises and he screams in pain, finally dropping it. The demon retreats with a whimper and he wraps gauze around his hand. He doesn't want her to see what lengths he had to go to keep the demon away from her.

She lightly touches the bandage on his hand, asking again with her eyes what happened. He shakes his head again and places a kiss on her temple. She tugs him out on the dance floor. He refuses to dance to anything fast but he loves to hold her in his arms, swaying gently to the music, breathing her in. She rests her head on his shoulder and wraps an arm around his neck, pulling him closer. His fingers dig into her hips and push her away a little. She glances up at him, hurt and then she sees his eyes flash gold.

"Maybe we should go home," she says.

He nods. His demon agrees for entirely different reasons.

Once inside the house, she takes his hand and tugs him toward the bedroom. He stands stock still. She steps toward him and swivels her hips against his. She places his hand on the swath of bare skin between her pants and her shirt.

"Come on, you know I want and I know you want. That's an awful lot of want," she whispers.

He shakes his head, eyes glowing gold. "Niblet, I think maybe I ought to sleep out here on the couch."

She pouts. She has the most beautiful mouth, he thinks, even the demon inside him softens at the sight of that mouth.

"I don't want to hurt you, Dawn," he says, his voice but a whisper.

She reaches out and caresses his cheek. She knows he's serious when he uses her name. "I trust you. You could never hurt me,"

In the end it's the complete trust that does it. It's the fact that she can look at his demon face and her eyes reflect nothing but love. It moves both the man and the demon more then even a poet has words for. She gasps and arches into him as his fangs sink into her skin. Her arms wrap around him, pulling him closer, pushing his fangs deeper. Her legs wrap around his waist, cradling his body.

He pulls away and she doesn't have the strength to stop him. Concern drives the demon deep inside. She looks pale beneath her tan.

"Dawn, Niblet, I'm sorry. Platelet, wake up," he whispers to her, shaking her gently.

She wakes up and she doesn't know if it's late or very early. She just knows it's dark outside. There's a bottle of orange juice sitting in a bowl of half melted ice. She smiles and pulls the juice from the bowl. She stands up and walks into the bathroom. His bite mark is there, angry, red and beautiful. She smiles and walks into the living room. The smile falls when she sees the envelope propped up next to a bouquet of pink carnations, red tulips and daffodils.

It hurts but pain is something I'm accustomed too. I only grieve for the pain it causes you. I know I have a heart now Because it's breaking as I walk away. Dawn, I can't trust the demon in me around you anymore. It got too close last night. If he ever hurt you... Eternity and longer

Part Twelve

He lures the woman back into the alley. It isn't hard. He just lays the cockney accent and the charm on thick. The lady follows like a dog after scraps. He pushes her up against the brick wall and presses his body flush with hers. His mouth captures hers and the woman moans and arches into his body, asking for more.

"Patience, Luv, you'll get it in due time," he whispers rough and gravelly in her ear. He trails wet, sucking kisses down the long column of her white throat. The woman giggles and twines a leg through his. He lets his face shift and sinks his fangs deeply into her throat. When she screams, he rips her throat out, solving the screaming problem.

When the woman is drained dry, he drops her body, just another piece of trash in the alley and looks up at the pale, dark haired woman who had watched from the shadows. His face is feral, eyes glowing yellow, and covered in blood.

"You're my knight in shining armor," the dark haired woman gushes in a sing song voice.

He wakes up screaming. Soft, tired hands catch him by the shoulders and a soothing voice shushes him in a language he doesn't understand. He is acquainted with the hands, the voice and the woman they belong too. The hands grasp a cup on the side table and hands it to him. The kind face of an elderly woman comes into the wan light. The cup holds warm blood, sheep blood if his nose can still be trusted.

"Drink," the woman urges

"You-you know what I am?" He asks.

"Vampyre," she says in very proper English.

He looks at her. The hunger sweeps over him, refusing to be denied any longer. A part of him screams at him to take the woman and drain the life from her throat. He pales in revulsion, remembering the vivid dream. He gulps the blood noisily. He knows from experience if he feeds the demon it is quieter. He hands the empty cup back to the woman.

"How long have I been here now?" He asks.

"You were found in front of the sacred place four nights ago," the woman says.

He sits up. This is the first time he has felt like talking. His body is still sore and racked with wounds. "You knew what I was and you didn't leave me out there to fry when the sun came up?"

The woman smiles and her teeth are startlingly white against her dark cocoa skin. "We considered it. Our shaman poked at you with his stick. He detected something different about your aura," she says.

He raised one scarred eyebrow and waited for her to clarify.

"He detected your soul."

He has been with the small tribe for two months now. He spends most of his time ensconced in a small mud hut. He sees no one except for Zubeda, the woman that cares for him, and the shaman, Jabari. This is by his choice. Zubeda tells him that the tribe is interested in him and would be pleased to meet the only vampire with a soul that they have ever heard of.

He knows he is not the only vampire with a soul and somehow it makes it all easier to bear. He understands why the other one broods, why the guilt is so heavy sometimes the other one finds it hard to move. He feels the same way and he is grateful he does not have as many deaths on his head, as many lives to repent for but he still has many, enough to keep him holed up here in this hut even on the nights when he can hear the tribal dancing and smell the smoke from the fire.

He sits in the corner of the small hut reciting poetry to himself in an attempt to stay sane. He thinks about her and every minute detail of her. His demon lingers on the way she tasted. He lingers on the way she made him feel. It's ironic he was once the tie that kept her sane, now she is his. There is a deep cross burn over the place where his dead heart lies. The shaman thinks perhaps he can burn the guilt out. He allows it to happen not because he thinks it will work but because he knows he deserves the pain the shaman offers.

He tries to calculate how long he's been gone, how long ago he left her. He can't. He knows he didn't come here first. He searched out other ways to control the demon. He didn't want to be like the big poufter he told himself, all brood all the time. The truth he wouldn't admit to himself was that he didn't want the guilt, the shame that he knew a soul would bring. In the end it turned out the only thing that would reliably control the demon was a soul. He clamps his hands over his head and pulls back into the corner. The demon is screaming loudly in his head and he can't remember why he wanted to control the demon.

He wakes in the middle of the afternoon. A cold sweat covers his body in a fine sheen. Her image still lingers in his mind. He has dreamt of her almost every time he closes his eyes. There are times he does not want to wake. Those are the times he has dreams about her standing on the beach. The waves lap at her feet, adoring her. The sun washes over her body, kisses her skin and worships her being, just as he does. He walks out to her and wraps his arms around her. The sun plays warm across his skin but it doesn't burn. They stay entwined like that until the sun sets and then under the light of the full moon he sweeps her up in arms and carries her into a bedroom full of rose petals and candlelight. He lays her on the bed and makes love to her. He struggles against waking when he has these dreams. And then there are the nightmares he wishes he could wake up from, the ones where he kills her every night.

This is the sort of dream that has prompted the cold sweat. Zubeda is there with a cool rag to press to his forehead, his neck.

"Thank you," he whispers in a hoarse voice.

"You should go to her," Zubeda says.

He gives her a furtive glance.

"You scream her name in your sleep, or sometimes it is a contented sigh," Zubeda explains.

He shakes his head, long curling hair falling in his eyes. "I can't, I'm-I can't," he says.

"You are afraid you will hurt her," the woman says.

He nods.

Zubeda presses the cloth to his forehead and then the back of his neck. She is quiet for a moment and he thinks perhaps she has decided to let it go. "You loved her when you were more demon then man and yet you did not harm her," Zubeda says.

He shakes his head. "There was a chip-"he starts.

"I know. Jabari sees what was. That was not what made you love her."

"There are many forms of love, Pet, lot of them sick and twisted," he says.

"I know. I may not live in your modern world but love has been around since the dawning of time, in all its forms. Does she love you?" Zubeda asks.

He nods and a small smile, the first Zubeda has seen in his time here, graces his lips. "She does, somehow, she does."

"And the demon? She has dealt with it?"

"She loves the demon as much as the man," he says.

The elderly woman takes a moment to ponder. When she speaks her voice is soft, calm. "You say you do not want to hurt her, but if she loves you as you say, what do you think leaving her did?"

A sudden flash, as clear as any of the atrocities he's committed, fills his mind. He remembers a promise he made to her in the Desoto, a promise he made to stay with her until the end of the world, a promise that he's broken.

He swallows hard and nods, turning to look Zubeda in the eyes. "I need to get back to her. I promised her, until the end of the world, I promised her."

Part Thirteen

He takes a deep, shaky, unnecessary breath. He holds a bouquet of sunflowers in one hand. He finally gathers his courage and knocks on the door. He jiggles his leg and drums his right hand on his thigh.

When she opens the door he feels his chest squeeze tight. She has never been so beautiful. Her light brown hair is honeyed with blond streaks from time spent in the sun. Her skin is an even golden color and her blue eyes shine. That beautiful Summers mouth of hers falls open in shock.

"I-uhm-hello, Platelet," he says weakly and thrusts the flowers toward her.

Slowly she begins to accept what she sees in front of her. She shakes her head. "I can't believe you. You leave me for eight months and then just come back and I'm supposed to what? Take your flowers, welcome you with open arms and profess my love?"

"I did it for you, Luv. I had to leave. I was afraid I'd hurt you. I couldn't live with myself if I hurt you-"he starts.

She held her hand, palm out and slowly closed it into a fist. "Stop. I don't want to hear how this is for my own good. Do you have any idea how much I hurt after you left? Do you even care that it was months before I could sleep in our bed? Do care that I spent more nights sleeping at Ryan and Scott's then I did here? Don't tell me how this was for my own good. We could have dealt with it together. We could have found a way to deal with it but you left me. Get it out. Your so good at leaving just do it again," She says and slams the door in his face.

He stands there a moment longer and places the flowers on the door step. He starts down the side walk, head down when he hears a voice call out to him. He stops and turns. Ryan is standing in his front yard.

"You just gonna give up like that?" Ryan says.



"What am I supposed to do? She wants me to leave," he says.

"No. She wants you to prove you'll stay," Ryan says.

He stays at Ryan and Scott's house and sleeps on the couch.

"How bad was it? When I left," he asks.

At first Ryan doesn't want to answer him. "It was bad. She spent a lot of nights here. She never wanted to go home. She used to cry a lot. Sometimes she'd make herself sick from crying so much. She drank too much, had to take her to the emergency room one night because of alcohol poisoning."

He drops his head in his hands. "She promised me she'd never do that again. She'd never try to kill herself again," he whispers.

Ryan shakes his head. "I don't think she was trying to kill herself. I think she was trying to drown out the hurt," he says.

He nods. He doesn't have an answer for that. He knows about trying to drown out hurt and pain. It never seems to work. The pain is always stronger then the alcohol.

"I want her back," he says very simply.

"She's hurt. She has built these walls, so she doesn't have to let anyone in, so no one can hurt her again," Ryan says.

"I didn't mean to hurt her. I left so I wouldn't hurt her. I was afraid the demon in me would kill her. I couldn't live with myself if I'd hurt her. I had to find a way-I had to get help," he says.

"Where have you been all this time?" Ryan asks.

"England first, coven of witches there, Romania, saw some Gypsies, then I went to India and Japan, finally ended up in Africa, saw a demon there, gave me my soul. Didn't want one, never wanted one 'til she came along. I wanted to find another way to control the demon. See there's this bloke and I've watched him brood and mope for the better part of a century. Didn't want that, but there was no other way, no other way," he says.

"So what now?" Ryan asks.

"Now, now I want her back," he says.

"She's angry. It's not going to be easy," Ryan warns.

"S'okay. I never really did like doing things the easy way," he says.

Part Fourteen

A/N: The song belongs to the Beatles and is called And I love her.

"I give her all my love, that's all I do. And if you saw my love you'd love her too,"

She thinks she is dreaming when she first hears it but then she realizes she isn't dreaming, just sleeping, or was. She sits up and swipes a hand across her eyes. She gets out of bed and goes to the window, which she has taken to leaving open since he left.

Tears rush to her eyes at the scene before her. He stands on the beach, turned silver by the moonlight and the paleness of him glows almost like something other-worldly. He throws his arms open and his head back, singing at the top of his lungs to the moon and anyone else who would hear.

"She gives me everything and tenderly. The kiss my lover brings she brings to me. And I love her,"

She puts the back of her hand to her mouth and turns, putting her back just beyond the window frame so he will not see her standing there, watching him with tears in her eyes. She peeks at him around the edge of the window as he begins the next verse.

"A love likes ours could never die. As long as I have you near me," She bites her bottom lip and swallows hard. She can't let him in this easily, not to have her heart broken again. She doesn't think she will survive him breaking her heart one more time. She's not sure she actually survived this time. After all living is much more then breathing and a beating heart. Sometimes she wonders if that is all she is. "Bright are the stars that shine-"

"Alright, stop," she says, stepping up to the open window. She sees that Ryan and Scott are hanging out their window, wide awake thanks to a certain vampire that sings surprisingly well. The neighbors on the other side of them have turned their lights on.

"If you don't stop, the neighbors are going to call the police and while it would serve you right to be picked up by them I don't want you getting all ashy should they put you in a cell with a view," she says.

"Will you come out and talk to me?" He asks.

She shakes her head. "No, go away," she says.

"Come on, Niblet, please. I just want to talk to you. I want to explain," he says.

"How can you explain leaving me after you promised never to leave me?" She asks

. "Come out here or let me come in and I'll try."

She sighs. "You can't come in here. It took too long to get to a point where I can sleep in this house. If you come in I'll have to start all over," she says.

He stands perfectly still as she walks toward him. She reaches out tentatively, unsure that this, he, is not a dream. Her fingers brush against his skin, cool and dry in the night air. She wraps her arms around herself and faces the ocean, unwilling to look into his eyes. She knows there are things there that could make her willpower topple like building blocks piled too high.

"I love you, Dawn. That's never changed. I don't think that can change. I will love you until there is nothing left of me to love with. I know you don't want to hear it but I need you to know that when I left I had every intention of coming back for you. I had to find a way to control the demon. The things he wanted-"he stops and swallows hard. He can still hear the demon inside of him screaming, telling how he wishes to fuck her and drink her down and hurt her and fuck her some more and then make her bleed just to watch the way it flows down her sun kissed, golden skin. He shakes his head, forcing the demon back behind the soul.

"I couldn't take the risk of my defenses dropping for even a second. I was so afraid, so afraid he'd hurt you," he says.

The ocean breeze runs its fingers through her hair and he aches to follow its lead. She refuses to look at him still and when she speaks the wind whips her words away. He has to concentrate to catch the words.

"And did you find a way to control it?" She asks.

He nods. "My soul controls it now," he whispers.

She finally looks at him, surprise etched all over her beautiful face. "Soul?"

He nods.

"But-you never wanted a soul," she says.

"Until you," he says.

She is silent. She does not know how you answer someone who got their soul for you. He reaches out tentatively, gently and brushes a strand of hair from her eyes. Her skin jumps and itches clamoring for more. She has missed him with every part of her being, her body, her soul, her heart. Finally she realizes he's not going to speak.

"What do you want me to say, Spike?"

He smiles at her. "What I want you to say is I love you, Spike. I'll take you back," he says with a smile.

She sighs and it is a sound that reflects how tired she is, how much this has taken its toll on her.

"Everybody I love is gone and you promised not to leave and then you did and I sort of understand why but I died when you left and it took so long to learn how to not be dead and now I'm not really alive but I'm not dead either and if you leave me again-"she trailed off.

"I won't leave again. I won't ever leave you again," he says. He digs his nails into his palms to keep from touching her.

She shakes her head and he sees the moonlight glint off the tear tracks on her cheeks. "I can't-I just can't. I'm so afraid and so scared,"

"Tell me what to do, Niblet. I'll do anything you want me to do, throw myself into the bloody ocean if it will prove anything to you," he pleas.

"I don't know. When my world fell apart you were there. You never left, you never wavered and then just when it started looking world shaped again, you left and I don't know how you undo that," she said, hugging her arms tight to her body.

"Just let me try. I'm not asking to move back in. I'll sleep on the soddin beach under the bloody dock, just let me try to put things back together."

They both fall silent. The sound of her heart beat competes with the crash of the ocean.

"You can try,"

Part Fifteen

A/N The poem Spike recites is by Roger De Bussy-Rabutin

He takes off the ivory linen pants. They look like they belong on a different person. He is afraid she'd take one look at him and wonder who he is. He puts on his faded jeans and a black wife beater tank. He throws the blue gray silk shirt over the tank and leaves it unbuttoned. He might not be the best dressed man, vampire, in Key West but at least he'll look like himself.

He runs his hands over his platinum hair to make sure it is smoothed back. He runs another hand over his jaw. He shaved after taking a shower. He curses as his fingers run across a patch of stubble he missed. He picks up the razor and runs it along his jaw, just behind his fingers. He can feel it as the razor nicks his skin but he knows it will heal up in a matter of minutes.

He takes the pink tea roses out of the fridge and pauses, letting his mind run over the details. He thinks he has everything ready. Ryan and Scott have gone ahead of him a half hour ago to make sure. He drums his fingers against his thigh, nerves racing up and down his body. It is their first date since he returned. They have had dinner with Ryan and Scott and he has serenaded her at her window three times since the first. He even learned Hoobastank's "The Reason", one of her favorite songs, to sing for her. They have not been alone since that night on the beach.

He shoves his feet into some sandals Ryan convinced him to buy along with the linen pants. He walks across the yard to their house, her house, he's not sure what to call it anymore. He's not allowed to come inside. She says it would be too hard if he was there, she'd let the house become theirs again and she's not ready for that.

He knocks on the door and hears her rushing behind it. She yells "just a minute." He can hear her running back and forth across the room and he knows she's coming to the door before she ever opens it.

He's not prepared for the sight of her, hair loose around her shoulders. He takes a deep breath and the scent of her rolls over him, staggering him. He had forgotten how much he loves the way she smells. He thrusts the roses at her and she smiles. She buries her nose in the petals and takes a deep breath. Her smile reaches her eyes for a moment.

"I'm just going to put these in water," she says.

He nods and watches as she disappears from his sight into the kitchen. He stands on the door step as if that magical barrier preventing him from entering uninvited still exists. The only thing keeping him out now is respect for her wishes.

She reappears moments later with a small bag. She steps out onto the porch beside him.

"Ready then, Niblet?" He asks.

She nods and he can smell nervous anxiety coming off her in waves. He reaches for her hand and then pulls back, unsure whether this is allowed or not. She smiles slightly and takes his hand in hers. They walk hand in hand down the beach.

"Where we headed?" She asks.

"It's a surprise," he answers.

She smiles. "I like surprises."

"I know," he says with a grin.

They walk over a dune and he grins at the sight spread before them. Ryan and Scott did a good job. There is a blanket spread before a small fire. A picnic basket sets off to the side along with a bucket of ice and a bottle of wine. He glances at her and smiles at the look of surprise on her face. Her eyes mist over and her mouth softens. He knows it is worth the effort for that look alone.

"Did you do all this?" She asks as they sit on the blanket.

"I planned it, bought all your favorite foods. Ryan and Scott set it up,"

"Thank you," she whispers.

"I told you I'd do anything for you, Platelet. I meant it. This, just a drop in the bucket, I'd bleed for you, kill for you, die for you," he says.

"Just stay for me," she says.

She ate a good deal of the food and they have almost finished their second bottle of wine. She sits at the edge of the blanket with her knees drawn up to her chest. The waves just caress her toes. He sits behind her smoking, blowing smoke rings into the wind.

"You're awfully quiet, Niblet. What's goin on in that pretty head of yours?" He asks.

She takes a deep breath, pausing before speaking. "Just thinking about when you were gone."

"What about it?" He asks.

"Thinking about how it might have changed things," she says.

"Absence is to love/As the wind is to fire/It extingushes the small/It enkindles the great," he says, catching the ends of her hair and brushing them across the back of his hand.

He hears the tremor in her voice. "And what is ours? Great or small," she asks.

He chuckles dryly. "I forget how young you are sometimes, Niblet. You've had a great many things happen to you and sometimes I can convince myself you are as old as I am. I got my soul for you, Luv. In direct opposition to everything the demon inside me screams, I went and got my soul for you. When I say I would kill for you, bleed for you, die for you, I don't mean it in that silly, namby pamby way teenage wankers mean it. Say the word, Luv, I'll do it. I will live forever and I will love you twice as long. Ours is the great," he says.

Her breath hitches with tears unshed. "And did it, enkindle?"

"Every day I thought of you. It kept me from going insane. I would spend hours upon hours lingering on the thought of your mouth. It's so bloody expressive. When you smile, it curves up the corners and makes your eyes twinkle. When your upset your bottom lip trembles, when your deep in thought you chew and suck on your bottom lip and I swear to all that is unholy it almost undoes me every time. And when you pout, sweet mother, Mary and Joseph. Do you know I used to tell you no sometimes just to see that pout? I had every intention of giving in. I just wanted to see that gorgeous pout," he chuckles.

She smiles slightly. "Don't make me out to be an angel, Spike. They always fall."

"No, Luv, you're much more then an angel. The angels weep at the sight you. You're my bleedin Goddess," he says.

"No, I can't live up to that. I can't be that," she protests.

"Don't have to live up to anything, Luv. Trick is to just keep breathing," he says.

Part Sixteen

A/N The poem Spike recites is called "I would live in your love," by Sara Teasdale.

He turns over on his side and casts out an arm, searching for her. All he encounters are cool sheets. She let him move back in two weeks ago. She made him wait two months before letting him move back in. He had thought he was going to lose his mind living with Ryan and Scott. It was worse then those few weeks that he lived with Xander. He opens his eyes and sits up in bed, the sheet sliding down to his waist. He glances around the darkened room and can't find her. He furrows his brow. She doesn't often wake up before him. Usually he's the first one up and he makes her breakfast and brings it to her in bed. He gets up and pulls on a pair of jeans and pads barefoot into the living room. She's not there either.

"Niblet?" He calls out. He checks the fridge. She usually leaves a note taped there if she goes somewhere however there is no note there. He walks out on the shadowed porch, glancing up and down the beach. She's not there. He lights a cigarette and paces back and forth. It's then that he hears her feminine sobs. He pauses and glances over his shoulder. She's in the DeSoto sobbing.

"Bloody," he mutters to himself and tosses the cigarette into the sand off the porch. He takes a deep breath and plunges headlong off the porch towards the DeSoto into broad daylight. It's only a fifteen steps or so from the porch but he's shirtless and the sky is a pure bright blue without any cloud cover.

He jerks open the car door and jumps into the DeSoto smoking. She looks out the other window, trying to hide the fact that she's been crying. He wraps his arms around her and pulls her into his chest. He knows he probably smells like burnt flesh right now but she doesn't seem to mind. She cries into his chest and he runs his fingers through her hair.

"What's the matter, Platelet?" He asks once she's stopped crying so hard.

"Two years ago, today," she says.

He nods. She doesn't have to specify what happened two years ago today. It seems there has only been one event in their lifetime.

"We're better then we were," he says picking up her hand and kissing the scar that decorates her wrist. She tugs her hand away and tucks the scar against her chest.

"Yeah, I guess," she says absently.

"Niblet, she wanted you to get on with your life. She wanted you to live and love and have everything you ever wanted," he says.

"It still seems wrong sometimes to be laughing, walking on the beach, breathing air when she's not," she says.

"Right there with you, Niblet but you know it's not. She died so you could have this," he says and he knows even as he says it it's not true. Buffy wouldn't want her to be in a relationship with him, with a vampire. She would want her in a loving relationship with a human who could give her children and a normal life.

"Why'd you come out here?" she asks, hands gliding over his chest. He's got second degree burns all over his torso. She knows they will heal within hours but it still hurts to see his perfect body marred so.

"I heard you crying. I couldn't let that happen without at least being here while it did," he says and it brings fresh tears to her eyes.

He paces the shadowed porch and mutters under his breath. He pushes his hands through his hair, making it stand on end. He shakes his head and lights a cigarette from the butt of the one in his mouth. He tosses the butt to the porch and grinds it out with his boot. He furrows his brow and starts muttering again, gesturing with his right hand.

He is interrupted by Ryan's car pulling up. She gets out and runs up the walk to the house. She smiles and throws her arms around him. He can't help but chuckle and hug her back, lifting her off her feet and twirling her around.

"Missed you, Bit," he says.

"I've only been gone a few hours," she says with a smile.

"Missed you anyway," he says. .

The moon above them is a sliver of a crescent but it hangs low in the sky, casting weak silver light over everything. They walk hands, threaded together, shoulders almost bumping. She smiles and looks down at their feet, walking in sync.

"When Buffy and I were little we used to go to spend summers at the beach and we'd have these races to see who could collect more seashells. Buffy always won but I'd pout and she'd give me half her shells," she says.

He chuckles. "Always was a sucker for you, Niblet, guess the monks knew she would be."

She smiled. "Yeah. Sometimes I wonder what kind of magic made the memories and I pray so hard every night that there isn't something that can undo the magic. I wanna keep those memories and it doesn't matter anymore if they're real or not," she says.

"You remember them. The people you love remembered them. That's what counts, that's makes the memories real," he says.

"She used to get so mad at me because every birthday I'd go and take my finger and swipe an entire side of icing off the cake and then go dance in front of her while I ate it, just to see her scream. She was so anal about things like that," she giggles.

He grins at her, lets her laughter wash over him.

"Hey, that's the first time I've thought about her without crying," she says.

"You know, Niblet, I think maybe your being brought back to life a little bit at a time," he says.

"It's your fault, you're resurrecting me," she says with a smile.

He glances at her and then nods to himself. He takes a deep breath and stops. He pulls her into the circle of his arms and rests his forehead against hers.

"I would live in your love, as the sea-grasses live in the sea/Bourne up by each wave as it passes, drawn down by each wave that recedes/I would empty my soul of the dreams that gather in me/I would beat with your heart as it beats, I would follow your soul as it leads. Dawn, I love you and you already know that while I was gone I thought about you, I obsessed about you. I don't know if I ever told you I was in Africa. Thing about Africa I learned, they have souls but they also have diamond mines. With the right sort of persuasion you can get a bloke there to make a ring for you out of just 'bout any rock," he says.

He reaches into his jeans pocket and pulls out a ring with a huge blue diamond set in it. He takes her left hand and slides the ring on her ring finger. Her eyes fill with tears and her bottom lip trembles. It takes her a moment to find her voice.

"Say the words please? I need to hear them, not all prettied up and poeted, just the words," she manages to say through a throat choked with tears.

"Dawn, will you marry me?"

Finito