Spike's eyes greedily trace Doc's flight as the little man plummets off the tower, limbs flailing as he falls... and it's sweet, so sweet, a pure Soprano aria of terror, it's even better than he has dreamt it.

Doc screams like a little bitch.

God, how Spike had hoped he would scream like a little bitch.

"I told you," Spike nearly purrs in satisfaction, "You don't come near the girl."

And Spike smiles.

There in joy in that smile, and relief, and insanity.

"Spike," Dawn whimpers.

"Let's get you untied, Bit." His fingers are on the ropes that bind her, loosening knots.

"Spike... it's too late. It's already started..."

He looks. Beneath Dawn's feet, bright light has begun to spread, like ripples on a pond.

"Spike, I know about the ritual. I have to stop it. I have to jump."

"Like hell you do," Spike growls, still working at the knots.

"It's my blood, Spike! It has to be my blood! The blood starts it, and until the blood stops flowing, it will never stop..."

Spike smiles at her, something tender in his eyes. He brushes a piece of hair back from her face. "Bit, I don't lie to you, right? This is gonna hurt."

And he vamps out, his teeth sinking into her neck, and Dawn stiffens but does not scream. A few moments later, he lifts his head; human again, his lips red with her blood, his face contorted with pain from the chip.

"I love you, Bit," he whispers. "Till the end of the world."

Realization and horror break across Dawn's face.

Now, she screams.

And he runs past her, leaping, disappearing into the pool of light.

He has never looked so happy.

------------------------------------------

Buffy runs towards the tower, her eyes wide with fear. The ritual has already begun, the light spreading out... she took too long, she is too late, cursing herself for every second spent taunting Glory, every second wasted. She cranes her neck to see Dawn, looking up through...

She blinks; once, twice. There's something in her eye, it's...

It's raining dust.

Buffy shields her eyes with her hand and gasps; the portal is closing, folding back in on itself. Oh God, that can only mean...

But then she sees her... Dawn, half-running, half-falling down the stairs, sobbing and clutching her stomach but alive and whole and Buffy runs, crushing Dawn to her, running her hands over her face, reassuring herself that she is real, real and here and still alive...

"Spike!" Dawn is hysterical, hyperventilating. "Spike..."

And the dust is still falling, sparkling in the moonlight, making the world glitter around them.

The other five straggle towards them, surrounding them, bloodied and confused.

"What the hell happened?" Xander asks.

Dawn reaches out, lets pieces of sparkling dust fall on her palm. "Spike happened."

Buffy looks around her at the falling sparkles, her eyes growing wide.

They turn the rickety tower into a fairyland.

They are effulgent.