"All right, niblet." Spike entered Dawn's bedroom, padding barefoot to the side of her bed. Dawn
was under the covers already, staring up at the white ceiling. "Lights out," he said, reaching for the
switch on the night-stand lamp. "Time for little girls to go to sleep."
"I'm not a little girl," Dawn said with a sharp edge.
"Little lady, then," Spike corrected. "No matter, it's still time for sleeping. We have to be at the
school at eight."
Spike sighed, shut off the light, and started out of the room. Dawn stopped him before he took a
step. "Why are you doing this?" she asked. "Buffy's dead. She'll never love you now."
Harsh, but a valid question. Spike had been waiting a full week for her to ask. Everyone else had
when Spike declared he wanted to be Dawn's guardian. There had been a long, drawn-out, tiring
fight about it, which Dawn came into the room halfway through and put an end to by choosing
Spike herself to act as guardian.
"I promised Buffy that I'd protect you until the end of the world and that's what I'm going to do,"
he answered. "Although, protection now means making sure you have a roof over your head, food
in your belly, and finishing school."
"The world already ended, Spike," Dawn said dully. "It ended when Buffy died, too, like Mom."
"No, pet. No." Spike sat on the edge of the bed. "The world is still here, and we're still living in
it," he said. "And don't go getting any bloody stupid ideas, like killing yourself. If you're dead,
then Buffy and your mum will cease to be."
"What do you mean?" Dawn asked confusedly.
"Little Bit, Buffy's friends know how she saved the world and the battles she won," Spike said. "But
they don't know what she was like before she became the Slayer. They never knew Buffy, the
Sister. And they could never know your mum as well as you."
He brushed the hair away from her face and gave her a small smile. "As long as you're still living,
Dawn, Buffy and Joyce will still be alive."
Dawn gave him a small smile in return. "You sound like a Hallmark card."
"Don't tell no one." Spike tweaked her nose. "Go to sleep, luv. Busy day tomorrow."
Spike stood and headed for the door. "Hey, Spike," Dawn said, stopping him again in the doorway.
"I know why you're doing this, but why do you care?"
"Only my soul is missing, pet," Spike replied. "Not my heart."