Day 102 (Rope)

He'd done it. He'd stopped Doc from cutting Dawn and the portal was closing. Somewhere at the bottom of the hastily erected tower lay the crumpled crushed form of a demon in an old man's shell. He wasn't dead, only a decapitation would do that, but there would be plenty of time for that later. The window of opportunity had closed, there was no way the demon could get up to them fast enough, even if he did manage to scrape himself off the rubble. And Spike was willing to wager that would take a bit of effort, even for a Gri'lek demon.

There was a harsh series of clangings behind him – boots falling hard against the rickety metal of the precarious tower, and then heavy breathing as his girl reached the top.

"Did you get her? Buffy demanded. "Is she alright?"

He didn't turn to look at her, couldn't, it'd be too much, instead worked on loosing the Bit's bindings as he answered, "She's fine, pet. We did it." The relief hit him in that moment, as if saying it had made it real. They'd really done it. Dawn was safe. The world was safe.

Buffy was safe.

He would never confess aloud how much that last meant to him.

The ropes fell loose, but Dawn remained, shaking. He ran a hand comfortingly down her arm and finally dared a glance at the woman behind them.

"Oh God. Dawn." The tower groaned in protest as Buffy came forward, intent on reaching her sister, clinging to her. She was moving so slowly, relief and the adrenaline let-down no doubt making her legs unsteady.

Another step, another groan. A creak.

Spike's attention was drawn reluctantly from his angel to the metal grating beneath their feet. It shuddered on her next step and he stiffened. It wasn't – it couldn't – his girl couldn't possibly weigh more than the old man, and even if she did he and the Doc had had a right good scuffle up here without the tower seeming worse for wear.

Unless… unless they'd somehow managed to stress the amateur welding in the process.

It was a haphazard job, he had to admit. Built by a bunch of nutters, who wouldn't have known the first thing about proper construction had their brains been intact.

Another groan, louder, and a hard lurch. Buffy didn't seem to notice.

Oh God.

He opened his mouth to warn her, to tell her to get back, but before he could get it out there was another hard lurch and the platform was lilting, tilting, and they were tumbling down the newly slanted surface. Instinctively he grabbed for Dawn, holding her tightly to him as he threw himself flat on the grating and clung with the other hand to the, now top, edge. He threw a glance in Buffy's direction, just to be sure she'd managed to do the same, and was just in time to see her slide off the edge of the tower and begin the headlong plunge toward the ground.

Oh God, oh God, oh God. She was falling and there was nothing he could do.

There was a scream. Buffy's, Dawn's, one of the scoobies' below. Hell, maybe it was his.

The portal was gone, Dawn was safe, and Buffy was still falling.

Something thumped against his arm lightly, and he looked up to see the ropes that had bound Dawn there, caught in the midst of their downward slide.

It was a lot of rope. Too much to bind one skinny little girl.

He shifted two fingers to press it to the grating, unsure why, even as an idea began to form in his mind.

How long had it been: seconds, hours?

"Niblet, I need you to hold on."

In response Dawn's arms tightened around his waist.

"To the Tower, Bit. I need you to let go of me and hold the tower. Can you do that?"

She whimpered, casting a frightened look at her surroundings before shaking her head.

He didn't have time for this. They were wasting precious seconds, and even if Buffy had spread herself flat a freefall could only last so long.

"Bit," he forced himself to sound firm, stern even, "Bit, I need you to do this. Your sister's falling, Bit. She won't make it. Even the slayer can't survive a fall like that. But if I can get her, then maybe… maybe…" he trailed off, squeezing his eyes shut against the pain blossoming at the thought of her death. He swallowed. "Please, Bit. I can't save her if you can't save yourself."

There was a shaky breath against him and then Dawn's arms unwound from his torso. He held her tight while she found purchase, fingers clinging to the weave of the grating. Her weight lessened slightly on him and he thought she must have managed to rest her feet on the remains of the scaffolding.

"I'll be back for you, Platelet," he promised. "You're gonna be alright."

Dawn nodded. Met his eyes steadily, if still a bit fearfully. "Go," she mouthed.

He swung his now-free arm up, securing himself against the walkway, took the rope in the other hand and fumbled it through the grating, trying to knot it one handed. Small fingers tangled with his, helping, and they managed to tie a hangman's slip knot. It wasn't tight, but if they'd done it right it would pull taut with his weight as he fell. If they hadn't… well, it wouldn't much matter.

Clumsily he looped the other end around his waist and prayed it would be enough.

He let go and the Bit's scream accompanied his fall.

Somehow he managed to turn himself, to angle his body in a downward dive, cutting swiftly through the air and increasing his speed.

He could see Buffy, still falling beneath him.

He was getting closer.

The fall seemed interminable. The rope went on forever, coil after coil. Far too much rope for one girl. Though at that point Glory had probably figured 'better safe than sorry'.

He decided not to question his good fortune.

Buffy was close now, so close he could almost reach out and touch her.

"Buffy!" he called, but she didn't seem to hear him over the wind rushing in their ears.

"Buffy!" he cried again, louder, more desperately.

This time she looked up, eyes shimmering with fear that was so out of place on his fiery slayer.

He stretched his arm toward her. "Take my hand!"

She reached for him, their fingers just brushing, but not close enough to get a good grip. Her wide, frightened, eyes met his, seemed to cling to him. He could see it in her eyes. She thought she was going to die.

He wasn't going to let her.

As if moved by shear force of will his body crept closer to hers. The ground was too close now, but he couldn't spare it even a glance. Buffy was all that mattered. He had to save Buffy.

His hand managed to grasp hers, clasping them together, and he tugged her to him, refusing to give in to relief. They weren't out of the woods yet.

She clung to him, wrapped herself around him, ducking her head into his chest.

He finally looked to the rapidly approaching ground.

Oh God. He didn't know if the rope would hold out if it ever came to an end, didn't know if he could brace them both against such an impact if it didn't, didn't know what would happen to his body if it did hold and suddenly jerked against his waist, didn't know how he'd get her safe if the shear force ripped through him – he was a vampire, not steel – but he was determined to try.

There was a sharp tug at his waist, and then a second, harder, as the knot caught at the top. They stopped with jarring force and it should have hurt, he knew it should have, but Buffy was in his arms and somehow he didn't feel a thing except her warmth.

Looking down he saw that it was still a good distance to the ground. He swung them toward the tower – the bottom still looked steady enough – building momentum until he could grasp the iron supports. He pulled them to it and began tugging one-handed at the knot about his waist, grateful that Buffy was still holding herself against him too tightly to possibly fall. After a moment she reached for the supports herself, and then held herself there with one arm while she helped him tug at the rope with the other. Together they got him free, and he winced at the angry red abrasion circling his body. When the adrenaline let up that was going to hurt. Tremendously.

Buffy tugged at his arm, indicating that they should climb down and he shook his head. The Bit, he had to get the Bit, otherwise Buffy would never forgive him.

"I've got to get Dawn," he rasped and her eyes widened as she darted a glance upward. He squeezed her shoulder lightly, causing her to meet his gaze once more.

"I'll get her, she'll be fine. You climb down."

He didn't want to leave her to finish the descent alone, but he'd made a promise to the Bit, a promise to Buffy, that he'd protect her – to the end of the world. He was going to keep that promise. And Buffy would be fine on her own, he told himself. Even if she fell again, from this height she'd like to be alright.

Somehow he managed the climb back up to Dawn, used the now dangling rope to rappel them back down the tower and then monkey climbed down the last few meters of scaffolding. And then he was with Buffy again. She was here, safe, on the ground surrounded by her friends. He'd done it, he'd saved her.

He'd saved her.

Spike awoke with a gasp, desperately clinging to the warm feeling of relief he'd felt in the moments before waking. He couldn't do it, it was already gone.

It was a dream. Of course it had been a dream. They'd spent too long talking, too long between her fall and his. Physics hadn't been horribly well developed when he was human, but he knew enough to know that you couldn't catch-up a fall. Not unless one of you had a parachute.

A sob caught in his throat. And then another. And then he was shaking, his body wracked with the force of his grief.

Buffy was dead. He hadn't saved her – not when it counted.

Curling in the fetal position on his side he let the tears take him.

One hundred and two times he'd saved her in his dreams, and every time he awoke he felt the loss more heavily, the failure more sharply.

It didn't matter how many times he saved her now. She was gone.

He closed his eyes and wondered if he would save her every night for the rest of his unlife. If he would awake every morning to pain as fresh and deep as it had been that first night. If never a day would go by that he didn't wake feeling as though he'd just lost her all over again.

Part of him hoped that he would.

Drawing a deep breath, trying to pull himself together as best as possible, he dragged himself from bed and got dressed. His internal clock was telling him that it was early afternoon. Bit would be getting out of school and she'd be needing someone to mind her.

Pulling on his boots he set out for the tunnels, the sewer, and the Summer's house.

He could still keep one of his promises, and keep it he would.

And the moment the Bit's bones were in the ground- preferably her very old bones – he would walk out to meet the next sunrise.

Until then he'd save her.

Every night.

Author's note: Dun dun dun... I'm back! With more Spuffy ... Right now this is a standalone, but I might do a series. I might even try to get all 147 days in there, although maybe not individually. I've got some ideas... I actually wrote this for someone on the Bloodshedverse who wanted to do a multi-author collab several months ago, but apparently I was the only one who submitted :( I was really looking forward to reading other author's takes on this topic too... I might also be posting a Code Geass fic soon-ish. Wrote it a while ago and wanted to write more, but the three chapters I've got could be their own story. *shrugs* We'll see how I feel about it in a few days. I just don't want another 2 years to go by before I post again...

Read and review! And sorry to anyone who's been waiting on some of my sequels... I'm in an original work writing phase right now, so it's hard to get back to the multi-chapter fanfics...

Love to you all!