Title: "Promise"

Title: "Promise"

Plot: Short little AU fic about how far Spike could have taken his promise after the Gift.

Written: the wee hours of 09. 09. 01

Distribution: Sure…just lemme know where it goes ;)

Obligatory Disclaimer: Yeah yeah…I don't own 'em. Can't keep them. Can't take Spike home with me : (

Feedback: would be nice : )

She'd fallen like an angel.

The embodiment of everything I'd never be; everything I would never have, she fought with a righteous fury. And when she fell…after I'd failed her; failed Dawn, she took the fall for me as much as for Dawn and the others. Took the fall for my sins. Because I wasn't good enough. Wasn't quick enough. I'd been able to do nothing but glance back at Dawn once, helplessly, right before he tossed me off the tower…unable to do anything but share that one, agonized look with her, when I knew I'd failed them both.

But in that moment, I'd thought it was Dawn who would die. I'd thought that she would scream when that bastard Doc cut her, her blood would flow, and that crazy bitch would go home, and then it would be over. I thought that Pint-Size would be gone, and the slayer would be left alone to grieve. It had been a year of grieving for her…but that was nothing new. It was a slayer's lot in life to lose, over and over, and while she would hurt, she would continue, as she always had. That she would hurt, and rage, and hate me with every fiber of her being for my failure. But that, too, was something that had always been. But I thought that she would live.

Mind you…all of this didn't go through my head just then. Up there, just before the game of toss-the-Spike, I only had time to realize that I hadn't been able to protect the girl…that I wasn't good enough even to protect her against demons, for crying out loud…and to share that helpless look with her where we'd both come to the conclusion that she was going to die. Her, afraid and still somehow worried about the fall I was about to take…me, suddenly realizing that it was over; I'd failed. Sorry that I hadn't been able to protect her. Sorry that she would die, for I'd come to like the brat despite myself. Sorry that Buffy would lose someone else she loved.

And then the fall, and the brutal shattering of bones as I hit the ground. But…I thought that Dawn would be the one to die.

But it was Buffy who'd taken the fall…for her sister; for everyone. When I saw her lying there, beaten and broken on a pile of bricks like a discarded doll…I wept. For everything she'd been; everything she could have been…for her friends that gathered crying around her…for the loss of a love that had changed an evil creature into a man. Suddenly the world seemed that much darker, for the loss of her, and I wept lastly because I knew it was the end. That eventually, I'd been right. She had wanted it over. And while that made her sacrifice no less true…it left us alone with what came after.

Afterward…I think we'd all thought, as Buffy had, that it would be over. The portal was shut, the dimensions firmly locked behind their gates…but Dawn was still the Key. She still possessed the ability to open them again. And they came for her, in the thousands, as they'd once promised Buffy. The Knights, whose duty it was to prevent the merging to the dimensions. Without the Glory-Beast to focus their energies on, they came in hordes after the girl. Without the slayer, the scoobies weren't much of a match for the droves of attackers. Anya was the first.

Anguished at her death, Xander nonetheless fought bravely, trying to the last to fight to save what Buffy had died for. The witches had managed to cause some damage…but in the face of such overwhelming numbers, they were really only little more than a diversion as Giles tried to get Dawn out.

It was an exhausted and bleeding Giles that arrived at my crypt with the girl in tow. Thrusting her at me, he set to barricading the door. "I'll hold them off," he panted, "you get her out!"

"No!" Dawn screamed. "Not you too! Don't do this, just let me go to them!"

What happened next had shocked even me. He'd whirled around and slapped the girl, hard, and I believe I saw a bit of that "Ripper" I'd heard tell about showing through. He was furious. "Buffy died to save your life. Willow, Xander, the others…all died to get you out. Don't you dare render their sacrifices worthless!"

With that he'd shoved her into me; his eyes meeting mine. And for once they contained no malice or distaste or pity. Only urgency. "You're the only one strong enough to protect her," he said…sending shivers down my spine at the memories his words had evoked. No…I couldn't protect her…I wasn't the one for the job. Didn't he know I was slated to fail the women I cared about?

But there was no time. He shoved me toward the underground entrance, and I pulled the sobbing girl behind me. We went down, through the tunnels, and dimly I heard them break into the crypt behind me. I heard them searching for her. I heard Giles die, defending the tunnel.

They'd chased us, but I know those tunnels like the back of my hand. They hadn't really had a chance, then.

But that hadn't been the end of it. They were relentless bastards. My own words came back to haunt me.

"A thousand…a thousand thousand…and the armies of hell besides."

I knew that all it would take was for one of them to find us. For one of them to slip in.

Because I can't protect her, you see. I failed to save her once, and I will fail again. In all of Giles's panicked, hurried thoughts at how to save Dawn, he'd forgotten one vital piece of information…I can't kill humans. All it would take is one bloody knight to come in here right now, while the Nibblet is sleeping, and I wouldn't be able to do a damn thing to stop him.

Not that I wouldn't try…I'd probably damn well near kill myself trying…but the sodding chip would probably do me in before I could fight past the pain long enough to do any damage.

So here we are…sleeping by day in some neglected barn in Idaho, two weeks after our whole lives were turned upside down. We travel by night…as far and as quickly as possible. Running is the only chance we have, you see. But I'm afraid our lead is too short. I'm afraid it's only a matter of time before they catch up. Where do you run when they're all around you?

I'm hoping that they don't know we're working our way east. I hope they haven't figured out that we're going to the coast. If we disappear there, they won't know where we've gone. If I can get her to London, or to Paris, I can maybe keep her away from them.

I'm trying to keep my promise to you, Buffy. Trying to make up for the tower, when I failed you both so miserably. Except I know that nothing will ever really make up for it, because I did fail you. You're dead now. And so are all of the others. And I'm all that's left. On the run with a scared girl, only steps ahead of an army determined to kill her. An army that I can't fight.

I'm trying to keep my promise. I don't want to fail you again. But it's all I've ever done.

~ FIN ~