A while back when I was wrapping up Marking Time, I got stuck on the final part. To help break the block, I switched gears and started writing free-flow. Not sure why, but the first of this angsty fill-in-the-blanks ficlet was the result. Finally finished it, so hope you like…
Ficlet: Till the End (1/1)
Word Count: 1,281
Rating: An angsty G
Characters: Willow, Spike, Dawn
Setting: Post-Season 5's "The Gift"
Synopsis: A promise is a promise…
It's dark and still in the house, silent in a way it never has been before--not when Buffy ran away to LA for all those months. Not even after Joyce…
It's a thought Willow can’t bring herself to finish—terrible to contemplate then, but so much worse now.
She makes her way down the darkened hall. Stops in front of the door. Hesitates before she puts ear against wood and listens. All she hears is the silence.
Placing a tentative hand on the knob, she turns it just enough to ease the door open and peers through the narrow gap, watching carefully for any sign of movement from the curled-up figure on the bed. There's just enough moonlight from the uncovered window to reveal a tangle of long brown hair. The face it frames remains hidden by deep shadows.
Seconds pass without any sign of awareness. Willow opens the door a bit further, holding her breath against a possible creak that never comes, then slips inside and just as carefully closes it. Leans back against the hard surface with a tiny sigh of success.
She jumps as a soft but familiar voice comes out of nowhere.
“Gotta tell you, Red, stealth is not your strong suit. Heard you coming six minutes before you started.”
Her galloping heart rate slows to an unsteady trot as she squints toward the darkest corner of the room.
“Spike? What are you doing here?” It sounds more accusatory than she intends, and she bites her lip, voice dropping to a whisper. "I mean…it's awfully late to be visiting. And besides…" She gestures toward the bed. "Defeats the purpose when the visitee is sleeping—conversation being kind of one-sided and all, don'cha think?"
Before he can answer, the form under the blanket turns and makes a breathy little noise halfway between a whine and a sob. Instantly, Spike is on his feet, abandoning the wobbly legged, slat-back chair he'd tilted against the wall. He reaches the bed just as Dawn jerks awake and calls out his name.
“Here, Bit,” he soothes, more tender than a vampire's voice has any right to be. “Right here.”
Willow watches as he drops to one knee beside the bed, pale skin glowing in a soft patch of moonlight that illuminates his face. His expression is fierce and intense, also more than a little battle weary, at odds with his caressing tone. Though his hands are buried deep in the pockets of the leather duster, something tells Willow they’re as tightly clenched as his jaw.
“Buffy—“ Dawn’s voice breaks on the name, shattering in fragments against the quiet night.
“I know, Bit.”
It’s all he says. It’s all any of them can say. They know. They can’t stop knowing, though Willow desperately wishes they could.
"I keep wanting it to be a dream. Only it's not…"
“Hush, love. Time for that later. Been through a lot and it's late. So back to sleep now, yeah?”
Dawn’s little-girl-lost gaze is all for Spike. She hasn’t noticed Willow’s presence in the room. “Okay,” she agrees, but the tiny hitch in her voice—a sharp, breathy inhalation that barely registers—breaks Willow’s heart all over again.
Spike tucks the covers in around Dawn as she slowly sinks back, head returning to its hollowed-out place on the pillow. His hand lifts, and for an instant Willow gets a crazy feeling he might smooth back her hair. Even kiss her on the forehead. Instead, he lets it hover then drop as he settles back on his heels--waiting and watching until her breathing slows to a gentle in-and-out rhythm.
But when he starts to turn away, a small hand shoots out and clutches at his black leather sleeve. Her eyes are open again.
“You okay?” she whispers.
A beat passes, then…
“Not to worry.” It’s not really an answer, Willow notices, but thinks it’s probably the closest he’ll come. “Now be a good pet and do like I said.”
Dawn stares at him, all searching eyes and solemn face, then slowly nods. Her numb acquiescence tells Willow how devastated she truly is. More than tearful hysterics ever could.
This time Spike waits until she’s well and truly asleep before returning to the corner to resume his self-appointed post. All the while, Willow keeps her eyes on Dawn, careful not to break the silence.
“How’s your girl?”
Her gaze is still focused on the bed and it takes a second to realize what he’s asking. She’s not used to Spike making small talk, except in the slightly surreal “wish I had this chip out of my head so I could kill you all” kind of way. But now he's asking about Tara, which might seem strangely sweet, except she's too exhausted to ponder it one way or another.
Defeating a hell god, saving the world and burying a friend. It’s been a hard two days.
“She’s better…resting. It took a lot out of her. The...” She raises fingers to her forehead. “…you know…the brain suck.” A shiver runs through her at the memory of what could have been. What almost was. Even at such a terrible time, the miraculous deliverance of her lover is the one bit of happiness she can claim.
It makes her feel vaguely guilty.
"Reckon it would," he acknowledges.
It takes a startled moment to sink in—that he's responding to her words and not her thoughts. But his face is hidden by deep shadows and Willow doesn't know where to go from here, so she drops her gaze to the floor.
Finally, she makes a tentative try. "Before…what you did…what you said when she opened the blinds and burned you…I wanted to thank you. For not blaming her, I mean."
"Not her fault." He sounds surprised and a little wary, like he's waiting for a "but" to follow.
She shrugs a shoulder. "Yeah, except you didn't have to understand. So…thanks."
She feels his gaze burning through her. Still can't see his face but makes out just enough to tell when at last he gives a slight nod. She glances back to the bed.
"I can sit her with her now, "she offers. "If you need to go. You must be tired…hungry. You haven't left her, have you? Not since…"
Even now, she can't say it. Wonders if she'll ever say it. Believe it. Accept it.
But there's no hiding from the truth and its hard finality.
"No need. Fine here."
Maybe she should object. Maybe there are good reasons not to leave a chipped and grieving vampire to watch over an equally grieving girl. But at this moment, Willow can't think of even one.
She nods. Starts to turn away but hesitates. Moves to the window and reaches up to close the curtains. Gives them an extra tug to make sure there's not the slightest gap left.
Without looking towards the corner, she makes her way back to the door. There's a slight indrawn breath, as if he's about to speak. But as if on cue, Dawn gives a little cry, like a knife to the heart, and bolts upright on the bed. Before Willow even blinks, he's kneeling next to her again, taking her hands, murmuring soft words of reassurance.
“Spike…stay with me, please?”
There's an awful note of desperation in her voice Willow's heard only once before. On another night. For another loss. It twists the knife just that much deeper. But as she bows her head, shuts her eyes against a fresh wave of pain and pulls the door closed behind her, she hears the whispered promise.
“Till the end of the world…”