Out of sight, out of mind. That seemed to be the mantra of the Scoobies these days. And it seemed to be working for them. The whelp, the witch, even the watcher, they were all blind. Blind to the pain he so desperately tried to push through every day, blind to the help he tried to give in her memory. Worse, blind to the Bit, and all the problems that had started to pile up around the young girl now that her sister was…

Spike couldn't say it. Couldn't think it. Four months, and he still couldn't bring himself to face it. If the Slayerettes' mantra was 'out of sight, out of mind,' then Spike's was 'absence makes the heart grow fonder.' Every time the sun fell, every time Spike was dragged awake with hope burning in his throat that his dreams were a reality and he had really done it this time, really saved her, it crushed him anew. But his love for her never lessened.

In the early days he had prayed, had begged to forget her, but the guilt was too much for even him to bear. He deserved the pain, deserved to have her live in his dead heart forever where he could never quite reach her. He had failed, and this was his punishment. And so he would take his lashes… but he would also do his penance. He had made a promise, and he would keep it.

'Dammit, I'm trying,' Spike thought angrily as he tipped up the vodka bottle and loosened his throat, letting copious amounts of the alcohol burn its way down into his stomach.

His buggering habit of unnecessary breathing surfaced, and he slammed the bottle back down to the bar, giving himself a chance to inhale. Willy had been keeping a fearful eye on the vampire, and scurried over to replace the bottle that Spike had almost drained in a single gulp, but he waved him off. Hooking the bottle with his fingers, he dropped a ten spot on the bar and ducked out, heading back to his crypt. The night was young yet, but all Spike wanted was to disappear; into the dark, into himself, into the last two inches of Everclear in his fist.

When the Scoobies had driven him off earlier that night, again, he'd headed straight for the demon bar with every intention of spending his evening getting completely sloshed. Bloody creature of habit he was; every afternoon for the past three weeks Spike would visit Dawn, risking the sun so that the girl wouldn't be alone when she got home from school. Tara would come along a few hours after dark, and while she, and even Anya sometimes, were willing to let his presence slide, even seemed to appreciate him being there, they almost always brought along the rest, and they weren't so forgiving. Sometimes it was open violence, Xander jerking him up from the couch and pushing him out the door; other times it was words, biting at him, cutting deep when Dawn couldn't hear.

But mostly it was ignoring him. Turning a blind eye to the way the Bit's homework was always finished, to the appearance of groceries in the refrigerator and the availability of clean towels in the cabinets. Pretending he wasn't there. Tara would cast him sorrowful looks, Anya would glare at her boyfriend, occasionally Dawn would throw a tantrum, but it didn't matter. Blind eyes, deaf ears, moving around him like he was no more than occupied air. And that was the worst. Nothing made him flee that house more quickly than being treated like a thing; a lamp, a chair, a scratch in the hardwood.

So off to Willy's he would run, shoulders hunched, chin tucked to his chest, the collar of his duster turned up. He held himself differently these days. Spike wanted nothing more than to fade, to pass unnoticed through the night that he once ruled. The only reason it hurt so much with the others was because of her. They were her friends, her inner sanctum, and as much as he hated them, they were the only pieces of her that he had left. That, and he had promised her that he would watch after her sister. And he was trying. But they made it damn difficult.

Turning into the cemetery, Spike quickly finished off his bottle and pitched it hard against the side of a granite headstone, strangely pleased with the shower of sparks that the shattering glass created. Pausing outside the door of his crypt, he lit a cigarette and stared up at the moon, glowing away in the sky with a cold kind of light. It was almost full. Tipping his head back, he exhaled a deep lungful of smoke.

'Was this what the stars meant Dru?' he wondered to himself. 'That I would fade, burn up from the inside out till there was nothing left but ash?' Strange that it was the loss of her, the disappearance of his sun, that would do it. Staring at the smoke, which curled up towards the hundreds of stars scattered above him, he let regret take him.

Regret. For letting the Scoobies chase him from his duty. For spending every night at Willy's drinking away money that could go to helping Dawn. For leaving tonight with only one bottle in his gut, not enough for more than a soft buzz on his empty stomach. For letting this happen. Letting William's soft underbelly show to Buffy and her friends, and for stopping Spike from tearing out all their throats. But most of all, for not saving her.

Grinding his cigarette out on the heel of his boot, he pushed inside his crypt and felt an immense relief as the starts winked out of site, free from their oppressive gaze. They made him shudder anymore, made him cringe. They were part of the reason for his new posture; the way he would slink through the streets, hunched, hissing in the face of their cold stares as a cat to water. Crossing the crypt, he headed deeper, down into the lower levels to scrounge up a half empty bottle of whiskey before returning topside again. Flipping on the television just to have the background noise, he dropped into a chair and threw his legs up over the arm, slouching down low in the cushions.

"It's not fair," he mumbled, using his teeth to pry the cap off the bottle before spitting it onto the floor. "I'm doin' everything right and it's like 'm bloody not even there."

Sulking in his armchair, Spike finished off the bottle, letting the whiskey burn its way through him while he grumbled and cursed under his breath. He should've just stayed put in the demon bar, but the Scoobies had really gotten to him tonight. Willow, Xander, Anya, and Tara has all come waltzing in at around ten o'clock, just before he was about to send Dawn to bed. Completely ignoring his presence, Willow began to tell Dawn that they would be gone that weekend, though she refused to say why, hemming and hawing in a manner most unlike her. Spike had eyed the red-headed witch with suspicion, but in the end assumed they would be off doing some kind of demon hunting and just wanted to keep Dawn out of it. Strange that they weren't letting him in on it though. Spike might've dwelled on that but he had been too pissed at the time; still was in fact. Now he was just pissed of a different color.

Dawn had been hurt of course, and angry at the cavalier treatment she was receiving. That had been building for a long time, most of the summer in fact, and Spike was just waiting for the tiny teen to blow her top and bite all of their heads off. He was looking forward to that day. Not that he was encouraging it mind. More concerning was that she had seemed almost frightened, afraid to be alone in the empty house all weekend. He had taken a step towards her, assuring her that he would be around, not a part of the Scooby mission this time, but when Dawn had then pleaded with Spike to just sleep over for the weekend, Xander had gone on the attack.

All summer, Spike had let himself be man handled, pulled away from Dawn and pushed towards the door. It didn't even really sting his pride anymore he was so used to it. If he got close, they pulled him away; that was how it worked. But tonight? Tonight it had angered him. If they didn't want to spend time with Dawn, that was fine, but apparently they'd rather she be alone than with him. So when Xander had grabbed Spike's arm and jerked him towards the door, Spike had hit back, snapping out a fist and putting a solid hit into his ribs, forcing him to let go and spin back towards the wall.

Xander kept his feet. Spike didn't. The pain from his chip had taken him down to one knee, cursing all the way, hands clutching at his temples in a futile attempt to control the shocks. Dawn had immediately started yelling at Xander, demanding he keep his hands to himself. The argument had been made many, many times… it head yet to sink in. Spike had begged her to stop shouting, her shrill voice ringing through his head. She had instantly fallen silent, helping to pull him to his feet and tittering worriedly. Tara had stepped forward and helped too, her hands gentle on his arm as she reassured Spike that she would stay with Dawn. Spike had nodded and hugged Dawn close, promising in her ear that he would be there, regardless.

And he would. Till the End of the World. That had been his promise.

"Till the end of the world," he muttered. And then he was finally, blissfully asleep.