Dawn walked over to a broken Spike; he had been limping before she saw him collapse to the ground. Being strong for him, for Buffy was proving to be a lot harder than she thought. Especially when she saw how crushed Spike was. He really did love her, and now he would never get the chance to prove it to her. "Spike, we need to get you inside," she said, tears evident in her voice. She pressed her hand to her abdomen, trying to put pressure on her wounds that cost her sister her life. She couldn't lose him too. "The sun will be coming up soon."

Spike looked up at what was left of his unlife. Dawn was his whole world now. She was all he had left. "I know," he said, pushing himself to his feet. He could feel all his broken bones grating together and his leg was definitely shattered. "You alright?" His throat felt raw and raspy, but still full of sincerity. Dawn looked so tired and weary.

"No," she said weakly, fighting back tears, her last attempt to be strong. "I just wanna go home." She needed to go home. They both did.

Spike nodded and wrapped an arm around her petite body, clinging to her tightly, fearing the world would fade away. His purpose, his promise to Buffy was to protect Dawn and he had failed. But he would make sure that never happened again. Together, they trudged home, with slow and painful steps, both thinking about the same person that neither were ready to talk about.

A little while later, back at her empty home, Dawn was sitting on the coffee table cleaning Spike's head wound; it wasn't as bad as it had looked earlier. i Then again /i , she thought, i it might be half healed already. He has speed healing right? Just like Buff… /i She didn't realize she was crying until Spike wiped a stray tear away for her.

"Nibblet, it'll be okay," he said in a choked voice. He'd been fighting back his own tears, trying to be strong, be there for Dawn. His attempt was failing fast. He desperately wanted to do what Buffy asked of him, but he didn't know if he could. It was getting harder and harder by the moment.

She put the bandage on his forehead and tried to block out her recent thoughts. "I don't think it will," she whimpered. "She's gone. Really gone."

He gently pulled her into his lap while tears slid from his eyes. "I'm gonna be here for you. Always. I'm gonna keep my promise this time. I'll take care of you. Bu-" He paused, not wanting to say her name. It was too painful to actually say her name and admit she was really gone, really dead. "She would have wanted that. Couldn't leave even if I wanted to."

She nodded against him. "I miss her already."

"I know. Me too. Why don't you… uh… try and get some sleep?" he whispered with a shaky voice while holding her tighter against his chest in an effort to comfort them both and unable to let her go quite just yet.

Dawn got more comfortable in his lap, trying not to irritate his injuries more than they were. And though she was till crying; she fell asleep as soon as her head rested against his chest. The end of the world really took a lot out of her, and he hoped she'd stay sleep without having nightmares about the reality of what happened tonight. He knew he wouldn't be getting any sleep, not any peaceful sleep that is. His leg was broken, which would need to set as soon as possible, but it didn't compare to he pain of his broken heart.

Meanwhile, Willow called Angel, who made his way to Sunnydale in record time; no doubt breaking the speed limit all the way. He stood in front of the Summers' house for a few moments before making his way inside to see Dawn and Spike asleep on the couch, both obviously exhausted. Spike opened his eyes, obviously having sensed the other vampire presence.

"Angel?" he asked in confusion.

Angel went over and crouched next to him. "How you holding up?" he asked in a low voice. His childes sunken, distraught eyes almost maded his blood run cold. He had never seen Spike so upset. Not ever.

"Not too well." He glanced at the girl resting in his arms. "But at least she's sleeping peacefully now." That was all he could ask for right now. That Dawn was in peace. Even if for such a short time. It gave him some time to get himself under control.

"I'll take her upstairs and then you and I can talk." Angel could feel his own pain starting to eat away at him, but it seemed like Spike might need someone to talk to. He could put their differences aside. It wouldn't be right for them to fight on the morning of her death.

He shook his head. "I got it." He didn't want anyone else near her. Despite the grating of his broken ribs and messed up leg, he took the sleeping girl upstairs to her room. With some hesitation, he kissed her forehead and went back down the stairs. It killed him to leave her alone for even a minute.

Spike found Angel in the kitchen, his large frame making the room look almost tiny. "Who told you?" he asked, leaning his weight against the counter next to where Angel was standing. He carefully eased his body onto the stool to position his body. With a pop, crack and a groan, he righted the bone, setting the mangled ligaments back into proper place, so it could begin healing correctly.

"Willow," Angel answered, turning toward him. "And she told me that you would be here and why. I just expected more than what I'm seeing from you. You wear your heart on your sleeve, and now it just seems like you're shutting down." That was the last thing he needed. Someone like Spike needed to get their emotions out in the open. It wouldn't do any good for Spike to become distant.

"I have to be strong for the Nibblet. Buffy told me to protect her and I failed her once already. Never again," he vowed in a fierce whisper. He'd kill anyone who tired to hurt her. Even if that meant killing Angel or one of her friends. No one would take her away from him.

"This is gonna eat away at you," he said, quietly. He didn't know about Spike's promise, but knew the guilt was going to kill him. Buffy wouldn't want that. Angel didn't want that. He didn't make Spike into a master vampire for him to ripped down like this.

"What do you want me to do, Angel? I've lived for over a hundred years, made it through all the pain you and Dru dished out but nothing has ever felt this awful!" His temper flared, tears falling down his cheeks in a steady stream. "I don't know if I can live without her!"

Angel frowned. "I know." he said. "But you need to, Spike. Dawn needs you." Hell, he was missing Buffy, felt like the world had stopped on its axis when hearing the news. "Buffy wouldn't want anyone to throw their life away for her. She died so you could live."

Spike angrily wiped at his eyes. "You aren't the one that's responsible for her death, now are you?" he growled. "So it's different."

Resting a hand on his back, he did his best to reassure. "I don't know what happened in the end, but I now for damn sure none of her friends would have let you live if you were responsible. Or that Dawn would trust you like she does."

Spike shook his head, the rest of his body wracked with sobs. "They should have killed me," he whispered. "It'd be so much better than this."

The next day was the funeral. It was arranged to be held at dusk so Angel and Spike could attend. Everyone went to the church Giles had picked for the wake in order to say their final goodbyes to Buffy, but aside from Giles, no one could bear to go to the burial, it was just too painful.

Spike stayed with Dawn during the wake and she'd clung to him, crying until she'd worn herself out. When it came her turn to say goodbye, he pushed Giles and Angel from the room but lingered in the back in case she needed him. The young girl simply wanted her privacy so she could say farewell to her sister in peace.

Dawn approached the mahogany casket and sniffled. Her sister was dressed in a white gown, washing out her pale face. Her hair was spread out on the white pillow like a halo, which fit her perfectly. She definitely was an angel.

"Buffy, I know you can hear me. I miss you, but I'm gonna live for you and be strong. I know you're watching over me and I hope to make you proud." Tears slid from her eyes. "Spike's gonna take care of me and we're gonna make it. We'll be okay. I love you," she whispered then kissed Buffy's forehead. She didn't know what else to say. She tried to swallow past the lump in her throat, but failed.

She made her way back to Spike's arms as Angel entered the room to take his turn. He knew Spike wanted to go last and respected that. She buried her face in his chest as more tears fell. He didn't say any reassuring words because there was nothing he could say to take away the pain. Nothing would make her feel better right now and so silence was best.

Angel sighed raggedly as he looked at the fallen slayer. "Buffy, I love you so much. I know you're in a good place and I also know that you loved Spike. I could feel it. I'm gonna make sure that he gets through this. I promise. He really loves you and… I'm okay with that. I know nothing is ever gonna be the same without you." He ran his hand over her face. "I should've been here, even though you didn't call me. I wasn't even in this dimension so I didn't know until Willow told me. God, this isn't right." He said as tears leaked down his cheeks. "Why? It shouldn't have been you." Quietly wiping away the wet evidence of his sorrow, he leaned down to give her one last kiss.

A few minutes later, Angel walked back to Spike and Dawn. "I'll take her," he said. They had decided that it would be for the best if she didn't witness the moment when they lowered Buffy's coffin into the ground. It had taken some effort to convince Spike that it would be okay if Angel took Dawn home.

Spike nodded. "I'll be home soon," he said, squeezing Dawn's hand. "Try to get some rest." She needed her sleep. He knew she probably wouldn't, but he had to try.

Angel nodded and scooped up Dawn who seemed to be in a daze.

Spike slowly made his way up to Buffy. "Hey, Pet. God I'd give anything for you to punch me in the nose right now," he whispered, tears already flowing down his face. "I'm so sorry. I wasn't fast enough, but I tried. I really did. If I could change what happened, I would. It should have been me." He stopped to pause and tried to talk through his choked up throat. "I don't know if I'm gonna make it without you. I'll keep your mates safe and I won't let Dawn out of my sight. I won't let anything happen to her. She's all I have left." He paused to collect himself, determined to continue.

"I love you more than anything and I'm never gonna stop. That might disappoint you but its true. I'm sorry for any pain I caused you. I'm always gonna blame myself for this. Bloody hell, I'm so scared, Buffy. I don't wanna lose Dawn, too. I won't lose her. Your dad or your mates might try and take her away from me, but I'm gonna find a way to get legal custody of her. I don't know if you'll let me, but…" There was a warm breeze and his nostrils filled with Buffy's scent, making him smile a little. "Thank you, Pet. I won't let you down again. Promise." He leaned over and kissed her lips. "I love you," he whispered. He pulled out a stake and placed it in the palm of her hand.

Spike tried to smile but failed miserably. He cried, heart-wrenching sobs. "Buffy," he whispered. This was so much harder then he had thought. He couldn't bring himself to leave her. Like she would miraculously open her eyes and punch him in the nose.

Somewhere in a place that felt like a dream, Buffy woke up to a feeling of warmth. She never wanted to wake up if it was. She rubbed her face as she remembered what happened. "Dawn?" She asked, groggily. The last thing she remembered was Dawn on the tower.

"Dawn's fine, Buffy," Came a soft voice that only one woman could possess.

"Mommy?" Buffy asked, sitting up. Her eyes widened at the form of her mother in what could only be the view of an angel. She hadn't realized how much she'd missed her mother. Protecting Dawn from a hell god had pretty much been the focus of her attention. She hadn't worried about anything else. She hadn't really had time to greive.

"Hi, honey," Joyce said, smiling.

Buffy ran over and gave her mom a huge hug. "I missed you so much." Tears slid out of her eyes. She didn't realize how much she had missed her mother. She had been so worried about keeping Dawn safe, that she didn't have time to grieve or worry about anything else. "Dawn."

Joyce hugged her daughter back, before pushing her away. "That was a very brave thing you did," she said, proudly. "You saved her."

Buffy smiled tearfully. "I had to protect her," she said. "She'll be safe now." She remembered she had asked Spike to take care of her sister, but what if Spike didn't make it out? "Is she okay?"

Joyce nodded. "Spike's taking very good care of her. I'm very pleased that you chose him," she said, smiling softly. "He's the best thing in the world that happened to my girls."

"I'm confused," Buffy said, her brows knitting together. "I asked him to protect her. But… he and I... we're more like allies." That's all they had been. He was a pain in her ass, and she couldn't stand him half the time. But a voice in the back of her mind also told her that she couldn't live without him in her life either.

Joyce raised an eyebrow. "He was in love with you Buffy," she said. "And you never gave him a chance. So just close your eyes."

Buffy did as her mother said and saw Spike near her coffin in all his misery and tears. Her heart ached for him; he was devastated. "He's heartbroken," she whispered, opening her eyes. She wrapped her arms around herself. She had never seen Spike as upset as he was staring her body. "And he's alone."

"Think you should talk to him, and put him at ease," Joyce said. "You want him to protect Dawn, give him a reason to go back. And your friends have realized what kind of person he's become. For you."

Buffy sighed. She was scared but closed her eyes again. What was she going to say him? When she opened them again, she was standing at the back of the church. Spike was bent over her coffin, shaking as he cried. Tears welled in her own eyes, at how much he really did love her. She could feel it in her bones as soon as her mom sent her back. "Spike?"

Spike's head snapped up and he turned to look at her. "Buffy?" He asked, as she walked up to him from the back of the church. She had to be an angel of some sort. She was glowing, and she had the spark back in her eyes. Heaven would do that he supposed. Or he could just be imaging things.

"Mom said I could come see you for a few minutes," Buffy said, wiping his tears. The look in his eyes was a mixture of such adoration and love that it killed her to know that she couldn't stay.

"Buffy, I'm so sorry," Spike whimpered. That little bit of tenderness, pushed aside all the walls he was rapidly trying to build so he could be strong for her and for Dawn. Some master vampire he was, bawling like a baby over the slayer.

Buffy pulled Spike into her arms. "It's okay," she whispered. "I'm okay. And I finally get to rest and be happy." That didn't sound like it would help, but she didn't know what else to say. He would want her to be happy.

Sliding his arms around her waist, he buried his face in her shoulder, hugged her tightly, trying desperately to stop from crying more. He never wanted to let go. How could he?

"Spike, listen to me. Please. Take care of Dawn and tell her I'm in a good place. Tell Giles that you should get custody of her. I know you'll do everything you possibly can for her. " She pulled away a little and leaned her forehead against his. "I know you can do this. So please?

"When you go back say hi to your mum for me," Spike said, sniffling.

"I will. I have to go now," she said, reluctantly heading back toward the light. She paused and went back to him. She leaned up and kissed him passionately. "Stay strong for me."

Spike smiled as best as he could. "I love you, Buffy." And he always would. And he would stay strong for her. He would find the strength to continue without her.

"Goodbye, William," she whispered, going toward the light.

Spike smiled. "Good bye, Buffy," he said, leaving without looking at her corpse. That wasn't Buffy anymore. Buffy was going to be alright.

When he walked out the door of the main parlor, he heard Dawn's sobs coming from the living room and hurriedly made his way to her. Seeing Buffy, her spirit, had made him feel better. It brought some comfort and closure to help him understand that he was capable of helping Dawn, of caring for her as Buffy had asked.

"Where is Spike?" Dawn whimpered.

"I'm right here, Nibblet," he said, standing in the doorway.

She quickly got up from the couch where Tara was making a futile effort to make her feel better, and went straight into his arms, hugging him tightly

"Shhh, now. Go upstairs and get cleaned up," he said, pushing her hair out of her face. "I'll be up in a minute." He watched as she trudged upstairs reluctantly.

Angel came up to him. "You okay?''

Spike nodded. "You wanna do me a favor? I need blood but I'm not willing to leave Dawn right now." Not ever.

"Sure. I got it, no problem. I'll be back soon." And he promptly headed for the front door to leave.

Spike addressed all her friends next and asked them to leave so he could have some alone time with Dawn. They left without an arguement. They were all to tired to really have a confrontation or to care. Everyone just wanted to go home and grieve.

"Spike, don't worry about patrol. Just focus on Dawn," Giles said, watching all the other scoobies walk down the side walk.

"She spoke to me," Spike said his voice barely above a whisper. "She came and… she spoke to me."

"Buffy?" Giles asked, head cocked to the side. "What did she say?"

"Said she wanted me to have full legal custody of Dawn… take care of her."

"Well, ahem. In that case, I-I'll take care of it, make the necessary arrangements" He nodded. "Do try and get some sleep, won't you?"

"I will," he said before nodding back at the older Brit, waiting until he'd left before turning to go upstairs to find Dawn lying on Buffy's bed. "Nibblet?"

"Spike?" She asked in a small voice.

Taking his duster and boots off, he slid into the bed next her, sitting with his back against the headboard while she laid her head on his thigh. "Shhh. It'll be okay," he said in a soothing voice, stroking her hair compassionately. He hummed softly, a tune his mother used to sing to him, hoping it would lull her into sleep. It did. And soon he joined her, eyes lowering until at last he was deep in slumber. Only time would tell if things would get better for either of them.