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The Key, the Dark-Hunter, and the Link

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Summary: After moving to New Orleans, Dawn quickly finds herself thrust into a new world that feels oddly familiar. Daimons and weres, she can handle; one overly bossy, protective god/man named Ash, not so much. Add in one spoiled demon and you get her new life.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Literature > Dark Hunter Series(Past Donor)sevangelFR1829180,525149882262,00013 Feb 072 Nov 08No
CoA Winner

Chapter 13

Title: Chapter 12
Series: The Key, the Dark-Hunter, and the Link
Author: Sevangel
Disclaimer: Nothing belongs to me. Joss Whedon owns anything Buffy or Angel while Sherrilyn Kenyon owns everything Dark Hunter. I am just playing with them.
Rating: PG-13

-

"Okay, she's had enough space, now it's time to be smothered." Buffy declares as she heaves off Angel's lap and walks to the door leading out of her office. Only to run into someone. "Lorny, what's up?"

"Oh, if that's not a loaded question, slayerkins." Lorne smiles down at the dainty slayer. "We need to talk before you go visit little sis."

"Why can't it wait until after I visit little sis?" Buffy asks, cocking her head.

"It just can't." Lorne shoos her back in.

Buffy wrinkles her brow but climbs back onto Angel's lap with a pout. "Angel, tell Lorny how I don't like to be told no."

"She doesn't like to be told no." Angel kisses Buffy's brow, smiling slightly at the pout in her voice.

Buffy rolls her eyes. "That so lacked the threatening tone I wanted."

"Alright, I'm here." Xander announces as he walks into the room. "It's not like I don't have a dozen other things I should be doing, you know with the wedding tomorrow but alas, when the Xan-man is called into duty, he comes."

"And sometimes when he's not even called." Faith adds from behind him.

Xander has the good grace to blush while Faith just laughs.

"Do stop." Giles orders as he walks into the room, Wesley at his side. Behind him are Fred and Gunn, both talking on cell phones to different people from their departments.

"Giles, what's going on?" Buffy wrinkles her brow. "I thought you had to go get your marrying people license today."

"I did that this morning." Giles replies. "While you were sleeping."

"Oh." Buffy glances around the room. "Okay, all that's missing…." And as she says it, Spike and Willow walk into the room, a tray of tea in the witch's hand.

"Okay, Giles here's your tea." Willow announces.

"I didn’t ask for any tea." Giles says.

"Lorne stopped me in the hall and insisted that I bring you tea." Willow sets the tray down on Buffy's desk and then follows Spike to the only empty chair left in the room. "If you didn't want it, why did I bring it?"

"Well, after being around you guys, I've learned that tea is good for this type of situation." Lorne says. "It's supposed to be soothing."

"Why do we need to be soothed?" Buffy asks suspiciously.

Lorne moves to stand between the two watchers. "I might have, on accident, read Dawn a few minutes ago…."

"How do you accidentally read someone?" Buffy interrupts.

"Well, I was going to find her and Vi cuz J.T's going to be in town this week and I wanted to see if they wanted to go to his concert with me." Lorne replies. "They were in Phoebe's room and Dawn was singing something; I read her."

"Okay, so what's going to happen?" Buffy asks, her body tensing.

"I can't tell you that." Lorne replies.

"How am I supposed to protect her if you don't tell me what I'm supposed to protect her from?" Buffy asks.

"Well, that’s the whole thing." Lorne says quietly. "You can't protect her from her destiny."

"The hell I can't." Buffy argues.

"Okay, let me rephrase that, you can not protect her from her destiny." Lorne restates, holding up a hand when she starts to argue. "And if you try, she'll end up dead."

Dead silence follows.

Giles takes off his glasses and cleans them furiously. "Lorne, what did you see exactly?"

"I didn't get a whole picture but…Dawn is on the path she's supposed to be on now." Lorne says. "She's where she's supposed to be and with…."

"Eep." Willow interrupts with a loud squeak, drawling all attention to her. "You can't mention…the you know…because we don't have time for a big fight and that's what'll happen and Xander and Faith are getting married soon. There's too much to do to throw this big anvil right on top of everything."

"You know." Lorne accuses.

"Just a little bit." Willow holds two fingers about an inch apart.

"Know what?" Buffy screeches, causing both Spike and Angel to wince.

"No, you can't….."

"Dawn has met someone." Lorne says, sending Willow a look.

Willow groans and covers her face with her hand.

"Wills, you knew about this and you weren't going to tell me?" Buffy accuses.

"I only know a little and no, I was going to tell you." Willow replies. "After the wedding."

"What exactly do you mean by 'met someone'?" Angel asks. "And how do you know, Willow?"

"She kinda told me…after Connor smelt it." Willow coughs out the last part, hoping against all hope that they won't catch it. No such luck.

"He smelt what?" Angel roars.

"She's still a virgin." Willow assures him.

"She bloody well better be." Spike growls.

"And she's in love." Willow adds. "Not that she's ready to admit it but there it is."

"No." Buffy shakes her head. "It's not going to happen. She's moving back here and forgetting all about whoever this boy is."

"No, actually, she's leaving right after the wedding to go back to said boy." Lorne argues. "I told transportation to have the jet ready."

"Excuse me?" Buffy tries to jump to her feet but Angel's hand wrapped tightly around her waist keep her from doing so. "Angel, let me up."

"Buffy, we have to listen to him." Angel says, tightening his arm around her. "Lorne, did you mean what you said before?"

"About Buffy interfering getting Dawn killed, yep." Lorne replies. "This is her path, Buffy, not yours. I know how hard that is for you to accept but she has to do this without you. You can't protect her forever."

"Sure I can." Buffy argues. "How do you know she'll die? What did you actually see if I interfere or whatever?"

"Nothing." Lorne replies.

"Well, see there nothing…."

"Nothing as in nothing." Lorne interrupts. "As in she no longer exists. I don't know how to make this clearer to you than, 'you will kill her if you don't back off'."

"Lorne." Angel scolds.

"Angelcakes, I'm sorry but…..I love Dawn. She's one of the best humans I know and the only other member of the 'I am green' club. I can't stand by and let someone destroy her life, even if it's out of good intentions."

"But…" Buffy starts to protest.

"I can only tell you what I can." Lorne interrupts. "She's….it's not going to be easy but she'll be fine, if you let her. That's what this all boils down to; you letting her go. You taught her to be strong, to defend herself….to be a good person. Not it's time to let her do it."

"What all did you see?" Wesley questions.

"No full pictures, just little flashes of her." Lorne replies. "It was very confusing and I'm fairly sure that I'm not getting even a tenth of the whole picture."

"Then you could be wrong." Buffy says.

"I might be." Lorne agrees. "All I know, is you're not a part of the flashes. And when I try to see you in them, everything disappears. Dawn disappears."

"She's my sister." Buffy argues. "I would never hurt her on purpose."

"Buffy, D is strong as hell cuz you made her that way." Faith comments. "But when you're around, she stops being that way. It's like she goes back to being a kid again. You make her weak."

"She's right." Angel says quietly. "We all do. Every one of us jumps in to make a decision or protect Dawn from everything."

"Just like we do Phoebe." Buffy adds.

"That's different." Angel argues. "Phoebe isn't as strong as Dawn. Dawn can survive in the world on her own; Phoebe can't."

"Buffy, I detest the thought as much as anyone in this room but Dawn is almost twenty years old." Giles says. "It's time to let her find her own way. She'll be fine."

"We don't know that." Buffy protests.

"I know you want to protect her from everything, keep her safe." Lorne says to the slayer. "Question is, will you protect her if it means stepping aside and letting her go?"

-

"I know, I miss you too, Sims. I'll be home in a few days."

The first thought that floats through Buffy's head as she unashamedly eavesdrops on her sister is that Dawn is batting for the home team and the somebody she met is a girl. That is until she actually listens to her sister's tone. Dawn is talking to whomever this Sims is like their mom used to talk to them. It's a motherly tone that shocks the hell out of her. She didn't know Dawn had one. A quick glance into her sister's room shows the key alone, standing by the window. Dawn doesn't notice her which isn't surprising since she's spent the last ten years sneaking up on people.

"I love you too, baby girl. Let me talk to Ash."

She can only see the side of it but the look that crosses Dawn's face when she talks to this Ash has Buffy reaching blindly for the doorframe behind her. Somewhere along the line, her baby sister grew up. She just never noticed. She's made all these statements in the past about wanting to watch Dawn grow up, see the woman she's going to became, but at this moment, she knows that was all bullshit. This is the first time she's really seen Dawn for something other than that fourteen year old tied up on an alter with blood dripping down her sides. It's at that moment that she finally understands Dawn threatening to run away; it's the only way she saw to have her own life. And now her baby sister is in love, she knows the look, and she knows she has to back off, even if she doesn't want to.

"I'm fine, Ash, promise. If something was wrong, I would tell you. Are you okay?"

Buffy takes one last look at her sister, tears in Dawn's eyes as she talks to this Ash, and then steps back from the door to give Dawn her privacy.

-

"Somebody needs to go after her before she completely blows this out of proportion." Lorne says, nodding his head towards the door that Buffy just stormed out of.

"There's no need." Giles tells the green demon.

"Of course there's need." Lorne argues. "Buffy is sweet but she's extremely pigheaded when it comes to Dawn. She's about to go down there…."

"She won't." Angel interrupts quietly. "Buffy will do whatever she has to to keep Dawn safe, even if it almost kills her to do it."

And Angel's statement is cemented when Buffy walks back into the room a few minutes later, her face pale.

"Nobody questions Dawn about him and nobody tells her we know." Buffy orders quietly. "As of right now, the priority is the wedding. I will deal with Dawn after that."

"And the plane?" Lorne speaks up after a few seconds.

Buffy takes a deep breath. "Don't cancel it."

-

"Buffy, I'm going to be here until Sunday." Dawn protests as her sister drags her through the mall. "Can't we just do this some other time?"

"Nope." Buffy chirps. "I'm in the mood to shop with my sister; deal with it."

Dawn rolls her eyes and follows Buffy into a department store. And as Buffy chatters away about something that she's not really listening to, something catches Dawn's eyes a department over.

"So, do you like…." Buffy holds the sundress up only to not find her sister behind her. Instead, Dawn is a little ways away, looking at stuffed animals. "Haven't you outgrown the stuffed animal stage?"

"Mr. Gordo." Is Dawn's only response as she sticks a black horse under one arm and a bright purple dragon under the other.

"And you made your point." Buffy picks up a pink kitten. "Oh, did you hear about the stuffed Angel?"

"What?" Dawn tilts her head to look at her sister.

Buffy grins and starts into the story about how Angel got turned into a puppet, how cute he was with his pointy hair and little fangs. Dawn laughs at all the right places but Buffy can tell that it's forced. She remembers how when her and Angel first became a real couple, how happy she was, and when they got a little into their relationship, how hard it was to be away from him. How much it hurt, how much she missed him. And while it scares her a little that her sister's feelings are this intense, she understands.

"If you get some Angel puppets made, I want one." Dawn laughs.

"I'll keep that in mind." Buffy replies. "Now, we have some clothes to buy."

-

"Aren't we supposed to be watching male strippers?" Dawn leans back against the headboard of her sister's bed. "I thought that's what happened at these things."

"You missed the male strippers." Faith takes a swig out of the champagne bottle in her hand. "We did that last weekend."

"Will you hold still." Buffy orders, a bottle of blood red fingernail polish in her hand, the brush held right above Faith's foot. "Do you know how hard it is to paint your toes when you keep moving?"

"If somebody had told me six years ago that we would be lying on Buffy and Angel's bed, drinking champagne, eating pizza, and primping the night before Faith and Xander's wedding, I would have thought they were on crack." Willow comments as she paints Phoebe's fingernails a pale pink.

Faith snorts. "Hell, if you'd said me and wedding in the same sentence without crashing and I would have thought you were on crack, let alone the rest of it."

Dawn takes the bottle from Faith and takes a small sip, waiting for her sister to yell at her. To her shock, Buffy does little more than glance up. She takes another sip and then hands the bottle to Vi.

"No, thanks." Vi hands the bottle to Willow.

"I don't get any?" Phoebe asks with a small smile.

"Nope." Buffy smiles at the other blonde. "First off, Angel would flip and secondly, we don't know how you would handle it."

"I know, I was just teasing, mom." Phoebe rolls her eyes.

Buffy reaches out a hand to tickle the blonde's feet. "Watch that tone, little missy."

"That doesn't have the effect you want when I'm almost a foot taller than you." Phoebe comments.

"I know." Buffy agrees, caps the bottle of polish and puts it on the bedside table. "You scuff those Faith and I'll kick your ass."

"You and what army?" Faith scoffs.

Buffy just glares at her.

"Faith, are you nervous?" Phoebe asks curiously.

"Bout marrying, Xan, naw." Faith grabs a slice of pizza. "I love Xander."

"How did you know?" Dawn asks.

"Know what?" Faith asks back.

"That you were in love with Xander." Dawn elaborates.

"I didn't realize it until Angel pointed it out." Faith looks down at her painted nails. "I tried to tell myself it was just about sex and believed that until Xan got himself hurt a few months back. You remember how I lost it."

Dawn nods. She'll never forget that.

"Angel made me realize I was so upset because I was in love with Xander." Faith starts to pick at her freshly painted nails when her thigh is punched, hard.

"Don't even think about it." Buffy warns.

Faith rolls her eyes.

Dawn doesn’t have to ask Willow, she knows when Willow realized she was in love with Spike because she was the first person to know and the only one that didn't freak out at first. That just leaves her sister to question, the person she really wants to know about anyways. "Buffy, when did you realize you were in love with Angel?"

Buffy sighs. "It's a little more complicated that Faith and Xander or Wills and Spike."

"I know." Dawn leans her head on Phoebe's shoulder, the blonde looking just as interested as her. As does Vi beside her.

"The second I met Angel, there was a spark." Buffy takes a sip out of the champagne bottle before continuing. "I tried to write it off as him just being a cutie but deep down, I knew the truth. Xander was the first one to see my feelings and even when I admitted I was in love with an 'umpire', I didn't realize the extent of what it meant. Not until Darla bit mom and I thought it was Angel. I…um, I couldn't kill him even though I knew I had to. I went there to kill him but I couldn't do it. I was willing to let him kill me first. That's when I started to realize what my feeling for him really were. Didn't matter that I barely knew him, that he was a demon, hell it didn't matter that I thought he attacked my mother. I loved him. He was a part of me without me even realizing it and there was nothing then or anything now that I can do to change that. Time, other men, dying, him going evil…..it never changed anything. I love Angel more than I will ever love anything in this life and at times, that terrifies the hell out of me. And run from it, deny it, or accept it, it changes nothing."

One of the main reasons Dawn wouldn't let Ash and Simi come is because she was afraid someone would attack them and Ash would attack back. And she knows that even if it were Buffy that Ash attacked, it wouldn't change her feelings for him. She barely knows him and he's not human but that doesn't matter a bit to her. She's in love him.

-

"Any changes?" Savitar asks as he looks around the room he just flashed into. Danger and Alexion are sitting on the couch, Xirena's tattoo visible on the man's arm.

"Ash hasn't left his throne room in the past twenty hours, Simi is completely withdrawn and she won't leave his side. His cell phone has been ringing non stop but he won't answer it." Alexion runs a hand through his long hair. "I can't do this for another four and a half days."

Savitar sighs. "Are any of the Hunters in serious danger?"

"What does that matter?" Alexion asks. "I can't go unless one of them turns or is close to turning and even then, only when Ash sends me which right now, he doesn't give a fuck."

"I know." Savitar agrees. "Still doesn't answer my question."

"Seattle." Alexion says. "They're outnumbered and I'm fairly sure one of them is either dying or very close."

"If something else comes up that can't wait until Ash is back to his normal self, call me." Savitar orders. "Last thing we need is him brooding over letting a few of his people die."

Ash listens to the conversation with a detachment that should bother him but it doesn't. Right now, in this moment, he can only feel concern for his demon who is lying listlessly on the floor a few feet from him and the deep, gnawing desperation for Dawn. One he can't fulfill. He knows he should be working, should be in Seattle helping Dragon and Zoe but he can't find it in himself to care. It's like every part of him is focused on Dawn's absence and he hates that weakness. He hates weakness in general.

"Akri?" Simi's small voice breaks his brooding session.

"Yeah, Sims." Ash reaches out to idly pet one of his pterygsauras.

"Where's my akra gonna live?" Simi lays on her belly, her tail swishing back and forth.

"Dawn has a house." Ash states but even as he says it, he doesn't like it. He wants her here with him, not in some house on the mortal plane.

"The Simi thinks that her akra should live here with us." Simi says. "She can't stay in the Simi's room but you could make my akra her own room."

No, Dawn will be staying in his room when she moves in here. And if he has his way, it will be in a four days.

-

"Okay, so is it possible for us to do anything without it being crashed by demons, vampires or the forces of darkness?" Dawn throws out randomly as she kicks a demon in the chest. The leather of her bride-maid's dress rides up on her thigh almost to the point the scoobies, bat-gang and the various demons around her get a glimpse her butt. Yeah, Ash would love that one.

"I was just wondering the same thing myself, niblet." Spike drives a stake through the heart of the vampire in front of him. "Peaches, you doing okay over there?"

"Fine." Angel rams his elbow into the face of a red-scaled demon and kicks his leg out to knock another demon back. "Willow…"

"She's fine." Willow interrupts the vampire. "The shield won't come down until I let it."

"Vi, dunk." Connor orders.

Vi drops down into a roll right as an ax whirls over her, where her head was, and embeds into the chest of a very large demon. She bounces to her feet and roundhouses a vamp right in front of her.

"Well, isn't this lovely, Mrs. Harris?" Xander stakes the vampire in front of him.

"Wedding of my dreams, baby." Faith blows him a kiss before kicking a demon towards her slayer-sister, the lace of her wedding dress dragging the slightly wet sand under her.

"Thanks, Faith." Buffy slices the demon into three parts, doing a quick back flip to avoid the spray of blood.

Gunn punches one vamp and then kicks another before staking them both. "Man, I've missed this."

Giles arches an amused eyebrow at Wesley. "I believe you owe me a hundred dollars."

Wesley sighs and pulls out his wallet. "I was completely sure that the fake wedding and security we set up would stop the wedding from being interrupted."

It didn't. Willow's exact, and rather insane, security provisions did nothing to stop the wedding from being crashed. On the outside of the group, dozens of other slayers fight the small army of demons and vampires that thought it would be a good idea to crash a slayer wedding. Though one good thing about Willow's instance that the reception occur before the actually ceremony is that most of the humans were drunk by the time the vows were said. Though him, Rupert, Fred, and Lorne were able to shoo most of the humans off the beach and onto the waiting buses before most of the fighting occurred, given the fact that most of them were drunk, they'll either forget what they've seen or write it off to drunken hallucinations.

"Grandpa Giles, I'm bored." Phoebe sighs, moving to lean her head on his shoulder.

It started as a joke. Faith said something about how he was practically Buffy's father and since Phoebe is pretty much Angel and Buffy's daughter, that makes him Phoebe's grandfather. Phoebe and Buffy thought it was a riot. They still do. Phoebe, alternates between calling Angel by his name or dad, and will refer to Buffy as 'mom' when the slayer acts in a maternal way. He never thought he would be a parent let alone a grandfather, but he will admit there's something about the tall blonde beside him that brings out the protective side of him.

"It'll be over in a moment." Giles kisses the top of her head. "And don't touch the magical shield, young lady."

Phoebe pulls her hand back for the shimmering wall surrounding them. "I was curious."

"And you know what they say about curiosity." Giles says.

"Yeah, it killed some cat." Phoebe rolls her eyes.

It's Giles' turn to roll his eyes; she's spent too much time around his slayer. Her English was flawless when he first met her but over time, she's adopted many of the 'scoobisms' as Willow calls them. It's a shame.

"It's a little comforting." Dawn comments as she drops down in a crouch to avoid a kick aimed at her head. "We've been home less than two days and we've already been ambushed."

"Some things, they never change." Vi agrees.

"Yeah, they…." The whole sentence never leaves Dawn's mouth as she's kicked hard across the face; her world goes black before she even hits the ground.

-

"Easy there, Dawn." Willow says, laying a gentle hand on the key's shoulder.

"What happened?" Dawn asks, the side of her face throbbing as she says each word. She tries to sit up but the throbbing in her head slows her down.

"You got kicked." Willow replies, nodding her head behind her. "By destructo boy."

"Connor?" Dawn gasps.

"I didn't mean to." Connor says, his face flooded with guilt. "It's just, you were in front of me and then you weren't and…..damn it, I'm sorry, Dawn. I was in a groove."

"It's okay, I guess." Dawn gingerly touches her eye as she sits up. And as she looks around herself, she suddenly realizes something. "We're flying?"

"Yep." Buffy drops an ice pack on her sister's lap. "You're going to have a bruised jaw for a while."

Dawn presses the ice pack to her face, wincing at the flash of pain. "How long was I out?"

"Bout an hour." Willow replies. "You have a very, very minor concussion."

"Joy." Dawn says sarcastically. "And where are we flying to?"

"Well, we're dropping Vi off in Texas so she can spend some time with her family, taking Xander and Faith to the Bahamas for the honeymoon, and then we're going to England for Thanksgiving." Buffy replies.

"Thanksgiving is a week away." Dawn says. "I have classes Monday. I have to go back home before then. I can't stay away until next Thursday."

"Actually, we're staying in England until next Sunday." Buffy corrects. "Which is a week and a half away."

Dawn can feel the blood drain from her face. She can't be away from Ash and Simi for that long. It's nearly killing her to be away from them for this long. "I can't go with you, Buffy."

"Why?" Buffy arches an eyebrow.

"Because I just can't." Dawn replies.

"Because of Ash and Sims?" Buffy asks.

Dawn drops the icepack. "How do you….Connor, you promised."

"I didn't say anything." Connor defends.

"Neither did I." Vi says.

The three look to the only other person that knows who points across the room to a whistling green demon.

"Well, you should know better than to sing with the door open." Lorne defends.

"Oh, god, you read me." Dawn groans.

"So you guys know." Vi says. "Then Willow's masking spell was pointless."

"Yes." Willow agrees.

"See, I told you Angel wouldn't care." Vi says to Dawn.

"What wouldn't I care about?" Angel asks.

"Me having sex." Vi replies.

"YOU WHAT?" Angel roars.

"Um, he didn't actually know about that, Vi." Willow says. "They only knew about Dawn."

"Oh." Vi blushes.

"Willow, take the glamour thing off them." Buffy orders.

Willow sighs but does as ordered.

Angel and Spike both start growling.

"Who is he?" Angel demands.

Vi shrugs.

"Vi, now's not the time to rebel." Buffy warns. "Growling leads to vamp face which means control is almost gone."

"I don't know who he was." Vi looks down at her hand, staring at the pattern on it. "Monday night, I…um, a demon got me down and scratched me up pretty bad. I managed to kill it but it scared me a little so I went to get a drink." Her voice drops to a whisper and she just lets if flow out, knowing there's really no point in hiding it. And besides, she's a little scared about what the demon did to her. "I drank one shot of whiskey and then it was like the slayer took over. I just wanted to…."

"Stop." Angel holds up a hand. "We get the point."

Dawn snorts and nudges the redhead with her foot. "He doesn't like hearing about you having the sex."

"What kind of demon?" Angel sends Dawn a glare and unconsciously pulls Phoebe closer to his side.

"I'm not sure but…" She holds her hand up. "I think it marked me or something."

Willow sighs and grabs her fellow redhead's hand. "You should have called me the second it scratched you."

"I know." Vi admits.

"Then why didn't you?" Willow asks as she studies the mark on Vi's hand.

"Because I didn't want you to be disappointed in me." Vi whispers.

"Vi, why would we be disappointed in you?" Buffy asks.

"Because I'm a crappy slayer." Vi sighs. "I'm nothing like you or Faith or even Kennedy…"

"That's a damn good thing." Angel growls out.

"Vi, you're a very good slayer." Giles says firmly. "You just lack self-confidence. That's why I sent you out alone, hoping you would gain some."

"That and you three can't live in the same town." Buffy nods to Connor, Dawn, and Vi.

"Start one minor war and almost get sacrificed to an upper-level demon and nobody ever lets you forget it." Dawn mutters.

"You three also got arrested which we do know about, got yourselves kidnapped multiple times, and almost helped the world end." Giles reminds her.

"Well, if you want to get all technical about it." Dawn replies.

"Vi, you're going to give us a detailed description of the demon later." Willow announces. "I don't know what it is but I can't remove it."

"But first, Dawn, spill about the boy." Buffy orders. "And who is Sims exactly?"

"Sims is Simi, she's Ash's daughter." Dawn replies with a sigh. This isn't the way she wanted to break it to her sister and she isn't relishing the thought of calling Ash to tell him she won't be home for a week and a half.

"He has a daughter?" Buffy squeaks.

"Adopted daughter." Dawn says, mentally adding the demon part. "She's actually how I met Ash."

"What's he do for a living?" Buffy asks.

Oh, he's an immortal god that's been alive for the past eleven thousand years who leads a group of immortal warriors. "He runs a security firm."

"I think you're lying about that one, niblet." Spike says. "But I'm not a hundred percent sure."

"She's walking around the truth." Angel says. "But far enough away that it smells like she's lying."

"Gee, more smelling." Dawn rolls her eyes.

"Dawn." Buffy warns.

"Look, Buffy, Ash is….I can't tell you, not without him knowing about it and being there. And even then, I'm not sure I can." Dawn moves the pack. "I just need you to trust me that he's not dangerous to me. In fact, he makes me feel safer than any one, including you."

"I do trust you." Buffy says. "But I also know you're keeping a lot of things from me. I understand why, I've never given you any reason to think you can confide in me, have I?"

"No." Dawn replies honestly. "I know you love me but I also know that you're the slayer first and the sister last."

It hurts her to hear it but Buffy knows it's the truth. She also knows she's made so major mistakes in her relationship with Dawn and if she doesn't try to fix them know, she'll never be able to.

Dawn moves the icepack to her face as the plane is blanketed with silence, Faith and Xander's moans and groans floating up from the back of the plane. She smiles softly, happy for the slayer and her old crush. And the wedding, while it went out with a bang, was exactly perfect for the dark slayer and the heart of the scoobies. Then the sounds of the plane itself register and she realizes they're descending. "We're in Texas already?"

Buffy shakes her head. "We're in New Orleans."

"What?" Dawn drops the ice pack. "How?"

"Really fast jets." Angel replies. "Cuts a flight in third."

"No, I mean how…why?" A thousand thoughts run through her head, the first and foremost being her sister going on slayer happy on the populace of New Orleans until she finds Ash.

"Because you're my sister and I love you." Buffy replies. "And because I know I haven't been the best sister in the world when it comes to supporting you but I'm going to start trying. And because I have to."

"Have to what?" Dawn asks suspiciously.

"Let you go." Buffy replies. "This is your path, not mine, and I have to accept that no matter how hard it is."

Dawn looks over at Lorne. "What, did you see me die or something?"

Lorne doesn't answer.

"You did, didn't you?" Dawn accuses. "And that's the real reason you're 'letting me go'."

"Dawn, I'm trying." Buffy glares at her sister. "Can I at least get some credit for that?"

"Fine, you get a C." Dawn replies.

"Gee, thanks." Buffy says sarcastically.

"You're welcome." Dawn stands up and walks over to her sister. "And thank you."

-

It isn't until she watches the jet take off that Dawn actually relaxes and climbs into the limo waiting for her. She can't believe her sister is actually backing off but she knows the whole saying about gift horses and mouths. She has no intention of looking at this one. And even though Buffy had various warnings about hats, shovels and dismemberments for Ash, Dawn knows she got off way easier than she should have. She's extremely grateful for Lorne's vision.

She does though, have to bring Ash and Simi to L.A. for Christmas. Either that or have her crazy sister and family descend into New Orleans. So that means she has a little over a month to break the 'demon' and 'god' thing to her sister and hope for the best. But right now, she doesn't care about that. All she cares about is Ash and Simi. Her face is throbbing, her head is pounding, and she's exhausted but she pushes that aside to grab her cell. And then tosses it across the limo with a groan. It's broke. Probably from the fight. She shouldn't have tucked it the knife sheath on her thigh but she didn’t want to miss Ash if he tried to call. The limo has a phone but she doesn't know Ash's number; it's programmed into her cell and besides putting it in there, she's never actually looked at the number. For the first time, she understand why Giles, Spike, and Angel get so frustrated with technology.

So she goes through her options. She doesn't know Professor Alexander's address or phone number and she doesn't remember Kyrian's. Not that it matters because it's one in the morning and the mannered part of her won't go knocking or calling on somebody that late. But there is one place she can go where somebody will have to know how to get a hold of Ash.

"Um, do you know where the bar Sanctuary is?" Dawn asks after she lowers the window between herself and the limo driver.

"Yes, Miss." He replies politely.

"I want to go there instead of home." Dawn says.

"Very well, Miss." He says.

The twenty minute drive drags on like hours. By the time the limo driver stops in front of the bar, she feels like she's going to puke. He helps her out and tries to carry her bags for her but she just shoos him away. And it isn't until she's looking up at one of the hot bouncers that she realizes she's still barefoot and still wearing her bride's maid dress. Her bride's maid dress that is covered in gunk and blood. Gee, Ash is going to love that just about as much as he's going to love the big ole bruise on her jaw.

-

The first thing he sees it the luggage with bare feet walking it towards him. Then he rakes his eyes up bare calves and thighs, to the bottom of a very short leather dress, up a firm, small body to high breasts, long hair, slender neck, plump mouth…..and then he realizes who he's checking out, again. He looks around for Ash but to his relief, the Dark-Hunter isn't with the human.

"Dev, wasn't it?" Dawn asks, shifting her weight from foot to foot. "Do you remember me?"

"Yes, Dawn." Dev gestures for her to walk into the bar, gesturing for his parents.

Dawn winces as she walks on the sticky floor and regrets not grabbing shoes out of her bags. Not that she knows where they'd be since Buffy is the one that repacked her stuff.

"Dawn?" Aimee jogs over. "What are you doing here? Where's Ash?"

"I just got back into town and that's kinda why I'm here." Dawn replies. "My cell got broke and I don't remember Ash's phone number nor do I know exactly where he is or how to get a hold of him. I was hoping someone here does or knows someone that does because I really need him."


"Okay, we'll get him, just….what the hell happened to your face?" Aimee tilts her head to the side.

"I got kicked." Dawn replies. "Can someone get Ash now, please?"

-

"Ash, it's Nicolette." Alexion says from the entrance to his boss's private room. "She wants to talk to you."

"Not in the mood to talk to anyone." Ash mutters, aimlessly strumming the guitar in his arms.

"It's about Dawn." Alexion says.

The name barely leaves his mouth before Ash is gone.

Simi jumps to her feet and runs over to Alexion. "Lexxie, what about my akra?"

"I'm not sure." Alexion picks her up while at the same time putting the cell phone to his ear; all he gets is a dial tone.

"Lexxie, the Simi wants her akri and akra back." Simi's bottom lip trembles and tears fill her eyes.

Alexion drops the phone to the ground and softly rocks the demon, praying that Ash gets back here fast.

-

"It's about Dawn."

He doesn't even think about it, just flashes himself to Sanctuary. And the pure joy he feels when he gets there shocks the hell out of him; he's not sure he's ever felt the emotion before. "Dawn?"

Dawn spins around when her name is whispered and then throws herself at Ash.

Ash wraps his arms around her body and hefts her closer. His face buries in her hair and he flashes them back to his home. Now that she's back, he has no intentions of letting her go again.

It feels like butterflies in her belly and Dawn opens her eyes to find herself no longer in the bar. She's still with Ash and a glance down shows all her stuff, but she's somewhere new. Then she hears that beautiful, innocent voice screaming her name.

"AKRA!!" Simi flashes herself out of Alexion's arms and between her parents. "You're here, akra, and it's not even Sunday."

"I know, baby girl." Dawn kisses Simi's forehead and then both her horns.

"The Simi missed you and so did her akri." Simi says. "And we not going to let you leave us again and you have to live here with us now."

"I do, do I?" Dawn arches an eyebrow before hugging Simi again.

"Yes." Simi snuggles between her parents, a blissful look on her face.

Dawn kisses Simi's horns again. "I got you something, you and Xirena both something."

"Prezzies!" Simi scampers down, the listlessness completely gone now that her akra is back. "Where?"

"In one of the bags, they're wrapped with your names on them." Dawn gestures to the bags at her feet.

Simi starts tearing through the luggage, tossing Dawn's stuff everywhere in her search for presents. After a second, Xirena is let out and the two demons root around through the bags.

"Hi." Dawn smiles up at Ash and then throws her arms back around his neck.

Ash lifts her up, his hands cupping her ass. "Hi." Then he kisses her, his mouth melding with hers seamlessly.

Dawn moans as her knees move up to rest on each side of his hips, though she's careful not to lift up too hide, not wanting to moon the entire room.

Ash breaks the kiss after a few moments and rests his forehead on hers. "Who hit you?"

"Technically, I was kicked." Dawn corrects. "And it was an accident. An overheated moment in battle, you know how that goes."

Ash just cocks a brow.

Dawn sighs. "You're awful cute when you're being all Mr. Broody."

Ash frowns and then looks over Dawn's shoulder to glare at Alexion when the other man laughs.

"Raven!" Simi squeals happily and hugs the stuffed animal close. "Thank you akra."

"You're welcome baby." Dawn replies.

Xirena holds the stuffed animal up by its tail, looking at it in confusion.

"Squeeze his belly." Dawn says.

Xirena casts her a glare but does as told. And then squeals happily when the dragon 'breathes' fire. "Thank you, human."

"You're welcome, Xirena." Dawn rests her head on Ash's shoulder with a yawn.

"Akra, come on and I show you around." Simi says.

"Maybe later, Sims, I'm tired." Dawn murmurs.

"Simi, I'm taking Dawn to my room." Ash says. "Are you staying out here or coming with us?"

Simi taps her chin thoughtfully. "Lexxie, you staying out here?"

"Yes." Alexion replies.

"Then the Simi will stay out here and watch her QVC." Simi says. "She's not tired now."

"Okay." Ash says. "We'll be in my room if you need us."

"Okay." Simi drops down beside her sister, the stuffed horse held tight to her chest. "The Simi is glad you're home, akra."

"Me too, baby." Dawn murmurs sleepily and then pulls back her head when something occurs to her. "Oh, yeah, I have a slight concussion so somebody has to wake me up every couple hours to make sure I don't have brain damage."

-

A/N: A few things, sorry bout the wait between updates but with school starting, it's taking a while to get back in the groove. Secondly, when I started writing this chapter, I had two options. I always planned for Lorne to read Dawn and for Buffy to realize she had to let Dawn go back to New Orleans after only a few days, the only question became how long I dragged it out. I could have, if I wanted to, made Dawn's visit home four or five chapters long but like with the other dimension, I didn't want to make the story about that. The focus of this was the scoobs learning about Dawn's boyfriend and the effects the separation had on both Dawn and Ash. And while it may look like Buffy's dealing too easily, right now all she has is the theory of a boy; she still has to meet him. In case anyone is confused, Dawn got there Tuesday morning and got back in New Orleans Wednesday night (technically Thursday morning since it was after midnight).
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