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It was almost time.

If he'd had his way, he would've done it years, decades ago. But he'd made her a promise, and he'd never broken a promise to a lady, even before he got his soul, and that didn't change just because the lady in question was... gone.

And so he had to hang around, had to be patient for decades even though he had been quite ready to leave as soon as she had.

Dawn blinked up at him through rheumy eyes, smiled the smile that was somehow exactly the same now as when she'd been a fourteen year old chit of a thing.

"She would've been proud," Dawn whispered, "so proud." Then there was a rasp he recognised, one he'd heard many times, caused more often than he wanted to think about, and he didn't have to see her breath still or feel her heartbeat flutter to a halt to know she was gone.

"Bye, Niblet," he murmured, leaning down to place one last soft kiss on her forehead.

He'd done as he'd promised, he'd done it for decades; he'd done it because she had asked him to, and because he always kept his word. Till the end of the world.

And now he could finally rest.

He glanced at the clock ticking away on the shelf which had served as Dawn's mantelpiece ever since she could no longer manage a house that had such a thing, and smiled. His Little Bit had good timing.

One last look before he slipped away, out of her room, out into the end of the night, till he found himself outside his crypt.

There he perched on the same tombstone he'd often lounged on to watch Buffy fight, and let the memories play through his mind, let himself smile again. Lifted his flask, made a toast to the sky. "Here's to you, kitten."

Then he turned his face towards the rising sun.

~ fin ~