It had been four days, and still he wasn't sure he believed that it had actually happened. The funeral was tomorrow, and from what he could see through the window, it didn't look like the Little Bit had stopped crying since that night. He wanted to go in and comfort her, but he wasn't sure how comforting his presence would be right now. That and the fact that the Scooby gang were taking up residence with her and were liable to kick him out if he tried to set even one foot inside the doors. That Willow was good with the Invitation-reversal spells, too.
So he hung around in the shadows of the large trees on the front lawn and watched. It was the only way now that he could keep his promise to Buffy - to look out for the little one.
Thirty-nine days since she'd done it. In thirty-nine days he'd attacked Glory seventeen times, heroically swung in on a chain to save Dawn eight times, spread the guts of the Doc across his own living room twelve, and properly pushed him off the tower about ten. It was all hindsight, being 20/20 and all that, but it made the pain go away for at least a little while.
The Little Bit was doing better, as much as he could see. There were still a lot of tears, but there were moments of happiness, too, when the others managed to make her smile. It was lucky for her that summer break had started, and she didn't have to try to function at school. Spike was having enough trouble functioning just trying to get a carton of cigarettes, so he couldn't imagine Dawn trying to make it to school right now.
Seventy-four nights now he'd watched through the windows. Dawn had taken to sitting on the roof outside her room and looking up at the night sky. He'd heard Red's girlfriend telling the others that it was better than being outside downstairs, as the house's protections should keep her safe up there, and they'd mostly left her alone. It hadn't taken her long to notice Spike where he was hiding, and he'd braved the lunacy of tree climbing to get to a place where she didn't have to shout to chat.
He was a bit scared when he saw her eyes up close, the first time, but as they talked a bit of the darkness faded away. He didn't think that she'd try another resurrection spell, after the way the one for her mum went, but she had the look of someone preparing to take drastic action.
Every night after that, Spike would climb up to a nice limb that he began to think of as his and wait for the Little Bit to emerge from her window. Sometimes she was waiting for him at sundown. Sometimes she didn't come out at all. But every time she saw him, her eyes would light up and the darkness would fade just a little, and that made all the fuss and feeling-sharing worth it. He'd sworn to look after her, and as Spike figured it, that didn’t just mean physically.
One-hundred. That was some kind of milestone, wasn't it? Dawn wanted to know. He figured it must be, but he had no idea what to do about it. The Little Bit announced that she'd managed to go all day without crying, for the first time since that night. Spike supposed that that was also a milestone, but he wasn't sure what kind.
She was feeling the pain like none of the rest of them - knowing that Buffy was dead because of her. To save her. It wasn't at all similar to the hundreds who had died because of him, but he reckoned that he knew just enough about guilt to say something to Dawn. It was clear that none of the Scoobies were up to the task, infantile and grief-stricken as they were.
So he let her cry into his coat until she fell asleep, then carried her inside and put her to bed. He wasn't sure if this was what she had meant, but it was the only way he knew to keep his promise.
One-hundred and forty-six nights he'd wandered restlessly through the town after the others were in bed, always finding himself near the construction site before the night was out.
One-hundred and forty-six days he'd lain awake in his crypt, staring at the earthen ceiling, and imagining a different outcome.
One-hundred and forty-six times he'd saved her, but that one time that he'd broken his promise would haunt them all forever.