Author's Notes: This is a re-do of Season Six where Spike already has his soul by the time Buffy is resurrected. I try to make all the characters ring true as the story develops the repercussions of this alternate timeline. There is bad language and sexual references, though, because I would imagine these characters would have used it if they hadn't been on network television. (Can you imagine if Buffy had been an HBO show?)

There will be direct dialogue lifts in several areas where appropriate, both from canon S6 and S7, though the greatest amount by far happens in the "Once More with Feeling" chapter. Overall, there are areas of angst in this story, but anyone who has read my other fics will notice that they all have relatively happy endings. Spoiler alert: I'm not breaking that pattern here, guys.

Canon pairings: Buffy/Spike, Willow/Tara and Xander/Anya. And Dawn/her teenage angst.

SEPTEMBER 2012 UPDATE: I have re-edited and altered this story in some places to improve the pacing and order of events to make everything flow more smoothly and make sure all loose ends are tied up. All major plot points are the same, though. Since I divided the chapters differently (and the word count is now slightly longer), there are more chapters now, so I apologize for the inconvenience if you were subscribed to updates and received a new chapter alert.

As always, thanks for reading. Comments and constructive criticism are always welcome.

Chapter 1: Fall

"Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation."

- Kahlil Gibran

Throughout the weeks after he watched the Slayer fall, Spike remembered his promise to her.

Keep Dawn alive and well, at any cost.

Till the end of the world, love, he had sworn (even if that's tonight), as an enraged and more than half-mad goddess tried to sacrifice Buffy's sister and bring about hell on earth. But the end of the world hadn't come that night, shockingly enough.

Instead came the end of his world, crashing down on him as his Slayer dropped from the night sky. That simple promise, made to the woman he loved, was the only thing that stopped him from stepping out into the sunlight unprotected the next morning. Instead, he huddled by himself under the back porch of Buffy's house, staring blankly at nothing, as the Scoobies all hugged and cried together inside.

The next evening, after a day spent alternately staring at the ceiling of his crypt, and shaking with sobs, he dragged himself back to Buffy's house and sat down on the floor outside Dawn's room, where the nibblet lay unmoving in her bed. He had a duty to uphold – not quite as sacred as slaying demons or killing a goddess, but close. Seeing to Dawn's well-being gave him the only meaning he had left. Though if he one day managed to fail the girl like he had failed her sister, she wouldn't be an hour dead before he joined them.

So throughout the long days after Buffy's death, through her wake and funeral, he tried to do what was right, even when it wasn't easy. Even when it was bloody painful to face a world without Buffy Summers in it.

He had lived for over a hundred years, but he had never felt like his days were pointless, set to repeat. Until now. Without her, it was all meaningless.

Someone as good as she had been didn't deserve to die, not so young, not this way.

But he knew better than anyone that life wasn't fair. What more evidence did you need when monsters like him were pushing a century and a half, while someone like her was dead and buried before she could even legally drink in this bloody country?

Nightmares waited for him every sunrise the rare days he did manage to fall asleep, distorted echoes of that horrible night - of Buffy, staring down at him with disappointment, disgust, hatred; in each one he would think up one of a hundred different ways to save her, and would be so, so convinced each would work. But every nightmare ended with an endless fall, her cold, dead eyes glaring at him all the way down.

Because he couldn't save her, not when it counted.

The summer weeks passed slowly for Spike, and he sat in silent guard outside Buffy's house when he needed to watch Dawn, or counting the cracks on the ceiling of his crypt. He was mostly ignored and forgotten as he observed Dawn and the Scoobies slowly picking up the broken pieces of their lives and trying to move on.

About a month after they buried Buffy, Willow and Tara seemed to have put the worst of their grieving behind them, and they moved permanently into Buffy's house.

Willow repaired the Buffybot, so that anyone who pried into Dawn's life for her own well-being would see a chipper, overbearing Buffy who never was. He hated even being in the same room as that robot, its hollow imitation of Buffy's personality a constant torment and a cruel reminder of his past mistakes. But he kept his thoughts to himself, because he saw the desperate way Dawn's eyes followed the robot across the room, so willing to suspend reality to get a glimpse of her sister in the machine's eyes.

One afternoon Tara asked him for help pulling the moving boxes out of the garage so she could start packing up Buffy's bedroom, but Dawn found them walking into Buffy's room and broke down, screaming and crying and trying to tear apart the boxes with her bare hands. Tara quietly took the boxes back downstairs while he restrained Dawn.

"She's not ready for that yet," Tara said that evening, after Dawn had cried herself to sleep.

He just nodded, but inside he was thinking that he'd never be ready to put the Slayer in the past.

Late at night, after Dawn was asleep, he walked the cemeteries to hunt and kill demons (his own kind…were they still?), finding solace in causing death.

He even joined the Scoobies on patrol on the rare occasions when his help was solicited, and he endured their never-ending contempt and sharp-edged glances, because he could fight, he could help, and that's what Buffy would have wanted

Red's skills at fighting with magic grew rapidly, and with it, her confidence. The other Scoobies were learning to trust her commands in battle, and though they would never be able to replicate Buffy's skill and probably weren't actually reducing the demon population, they did at least keep it at bay.

He followed Willow's orders when it pleased him and ignored them when it didn't. The witch never seemed to get annoyed, but it made Giles and Xander almost froth with irritation at him. Once, he'd have found that hilarious.

A long time ago, it seemed.

Finally, into the handful of days remaining until Dawn's freshman year began, Dawn began to react to the world around her again, waking up almost as if she had been in a coma. She still had perpetually dark circles under her eyes, but her face wasn't red and tear-streaked when he saw her in the mornings, and she sometimes teased him like she had before it all went to hell.

One rainy evening, they sat together on the living room couch, watching a cheery, wholesome black and white musical that would inevitably end with the star-crossed lovers finding love happily ever after. The Scoobies were out trying some new techniques of Red's, a mixture of strategy, weapons, and battle magic they deemed too dangerous for Dawn to be part of, and had left him as babysitter.

"Buffy saw good in you, deep down, you know," the Bit said suddenly.

He twitched, and a bolt of longing and self-hatred shot through him. Hearing her name always had that effect on him. Dawn turned to face him. "If she could see you now, she'd be proud of you."

"I'm nothing to be proud of, nibblet," he said softly, running his hands through his hair. She didn't say anything, so he finally said the only thing that was true anymore. He did that a lot, these days. Why not? He had no one left to pretend for, anymore.

"I'd have died in her place - you know that, yeah?"

She looked up at him then, an expression far too old and knowing on her youthful face. "I know."