TITLE: "The Week After: Promises"
AUTHOR: Estepheia
PART: one of a series of connected stories; set two days before "Visitors"
DISCLAIMER: The characters are not mine (unfortunately). Don't sue me.
DISTRIBUTION: Want it? Take it. Just let me know where it's going.
FEEDBACK: Yes, please. Estepheia@aol.com
SPOILERS: anything up to "The Gift"; after that it's just speculation.
SUMMARY: set in the week after "The Gift". Spike and Willow deal with grief and responsibility
RATED: PG
Text between * * equals Spike's thoughts.
THANKS and many hugs to my dear and clever betas Marcee and Nmissi


The Week After: Promises

It had taken him hours and about a dozen cigarettes to gather the necessary resolve. But eventually he had silently climbed in through the open window. And now he was standing in Dawn's room, watching her sleep. He watched her chest rise and fall as she breathed in and out. He watched the tiny flutter of her pulse in the jugular vein. Signs of life. She was so warm. And so mortal.

He came closer and sat down beside her. He brushed her hair away from her face and neck. Then he leaned over her - and suddenly he was picked up and thrown against the wall. He felt the plaster crumbling under his impact and there was also a painful stab when two half mended ribs broke once again and pierced his lung. He coughed and tasted blood in his mouth.

"What are you doing?" Willow yelled. The door was open and Willow stood there. Her eyes were all black, and a kind of static seemed to crackle all around her. He struggled to his feet.

She looked absolutely murderous, quite powerful and beautiful but first of all dangerous. He took a step towards her. "Look Willow, I..."

"Get away from her!" She made a movement with her hand and the invisible force hurled him off his feet once more. Pain seared through him as he crashed against the wall, headfirst. This time he didn't get up again. He just slumped to the ground, dizzy.

He watched as the witch came in purposefully. She always kept her black eyes on him, while walking over to Dawn. Apparently the girl was waking up. She raised her head and glanced around sleepily but a gesture of power from Willow put her back to sleep. The witch moved closer and brushed Dawn's hair aside. Spike watched in confusion. His head was spinning and throbbing. But then he realized that Willow checked Dawn's neck for bite marks and suddenly everything made sense.

"I didn't..." words failed him.

The witch looked at him. Her lips curled downwards in disdain. "It's over. Buffy's dead. You can't collect Brownie points with her anymore, and now you can finally stop pretending you care and I always knew you'd eventually try to kill us all again, except not so soon, not when we've just buried her and it's just not fair!" A tear ran down her cheek. "I really don't want to deal with anyone evil anymore, for as long as I live. Now get out of here before I forget myself!"

*I don't need YOU to remind me she's dead. It's all I can think about.* But it was no good. The witch wasn't thinking straight. She was hurting, like he was, lashing out at whoever happened to be available. But how could Willow honestly believe him capable of hurting Dawn? Her mistrust pained him more than the fractured bones in his body. He shook his head.

"I wouldn't harm Dawn, ever!" the vampire declared. His voice cracked.

"Then what were you doing, Spike?"

He got up, swaying slightly from dizziness and pain. He had to support himself by leaning against the wall. "Nothing. I...I just...I wanted to look at her. See if she's okay."

"That's not what it looked like!" She raised her hand threateningly.

"Twasonniakss..." he mumbled quietly.

"What?"

"It.Was.Only.A.Kiss."

Willow stared at him. The blackness faded. Her mouth formed a little o, but no sound came out. It seemed the witch had finally run out of words to say.

He knew he should say something comforting to Willow, but anything he might say just sounded clumsy in his head. So, he just sighed and walked to the open window to climb out. "Close the window when I'm gone, will you?" Climbing down was much harder than climbing up. His body ached like hell but that was just an echo of what he felt like on the inside.

"I'm counting on you ... to protect her," Buffy had said.

"Till the end of the world. Even if that happens to be tonight," he had answered.

When he limped back to his crypt he realized he hadn't told Willow the whole truth. It hadn't just been a kiss...it had been a promise.