Title: Chapter 23
Series: The Key, the Dark-Hunter, and the Link
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.
WARNING!!!: There are big, huge spoilers for the newest DH book, 'Devil May Cry' ahead. Huge ones. If you haven't read it, and you don't want to be spoiled by it, don't read any further. I repeat, Devil May Cry spoilers.
"I'm not going to help you." A breathy, tortured voice whispers. "Just kill me."
"Why all the nobleness now?" A clear, calm voice asks, squatting down so she's face-level. "You weren't so noble before."
"You tricked me." The tortured voice spits out. "Made me see things that weren't there."
"The memories were always there, my sweet." Soft footsteps, a whisper of fabric and a sweet, innocent accented voice says. "They were just hidden before."
"It wasn't that way."
"So they didn't try to kill you?" Fingers snap and an almost movie like projection appears in the middle of the room. "Look."
Firm fingers grip the turned face and force it to look at the screen. "See, Kennedy nobody cares about you, not even your ex-lover."
She doesn't want to watch it because she doesn’t need to watch it. Once the memories were back, they were back. She remembers tossing Vi across the room. She remembers almost staking the tall blonde girl she never met before. But most of all, she remembers Angel. Spike never really scared her. She could handle his 'in your face' violence. But Angel….he reminded her too much of some crazy serial killer, the kind that would smile and be totally nice to you until he was raping you to death…hell, even while he was raping you to death. He freaked her out from the get go.
Looking back, she knows she was wrong. She was like some overzealous religious person with her 'people good, demon bad' thing. She knows that's the main reason Willow was slowing distancing herself back then. She was too judgmental. And she got what she always thought was true from it; Angel killing her. Forget climbing into the hellmouth. That moment when Angel was standing above her, vamped out, and about to kill her, that was the scariest moment in her life. And she had never been more angry than she had at that moment. In her mind, Willow should have defended her, maybe even killed Angel, instead of standing by the vampire's side. So, she did what she's always done, spouted off at the mouth and expected to get away with it because of who she is. But she didn't. Instead, she lost a girlfriend and her memories, the first something she's always wanted back and the latter being something she could live without. Because now, now she knows. Now she knows why Buffy, Willow, Dawn….all of them, why the stand up for Angel and Spike. She truly understands the evilness of a unsouled vampire in way she never has. And can see the difference between them and Angel and Spike.
It just really sucks that it took being chained up, practically brain-raped, and physically tortured to realize that. But she does and it's all because of the witch and the brunette kneeling beside her, one hand on the other girl's arm and the other wrapped around a porcelain doll to realize that.
"See what a bad girl she is, Miss Edith. She will get no pie for dessert."
"Don't you mean good girl."
"Mmm, I think you're right, little rat." Dru hums, fingers tracing over bare skin.
Amy rolls her eyes. "Don't call me that."
"Oh, but you are." Dru smiles loopy. "Mummy's beautiful, dark rat."
Amy rolls her eyes again but doesn't argue.
Dru leans forward to run her finger down Kennedy's nose. "You're not ready yet, are you pet?"
"I'm never going to join you." Kennedy flinches, backing up as far as her magically reinforced chains will allow her, which isn't much. "You tricked me before but I won't fall for it again."
"The heart only sees what it wants to." Dru slips her hand down the front of Kennedy's shirt to rest her hand over the slayer's rapidly beating heart. "You wanted little red to say she was sorry, that it wasn't your fault. That they were wrong and you were right."
"Shut up." Kennedy growls.
Dru rips open Kennedy's shirt, vamps out, and buries her fangs in the slayer's neck. She feeds for only a few seconds, licking the wound closed with a swipe of her tongue when she's done. She pecks Kennedy's forehead tenderly as she stands up and then holds her hand out to the watching witch. "Mummy wants to play."
Amy licks her fangs with a pout. "But I'm hungry now."
Dru gives Amy a stern look, the doll clenched tight to her chest. "No pouting. Miss Edith said it's not time yet." She grabs Amy's hand with a small smile. "But there will be plenty of time to eat, my sweet."
Amy licks her lips as she casts a look at the chained up slayer, but dutifully follows Dru out of the room.
"You trust me?"
Dawn rolls her eyes as she rolls on top of him. "You're too silly…of course I trust you. I trust you more than I trust anyone."
Ash slips his hands under Dawn's shirt…his shirt really. "You're the only being that can call me silly and get away with it."
"Cuz you love me." Dawn rests her chin on his. "So why am I not freaking out and demanding you remove Urian from Pheebs' room?"
"Because you trust me." Ash moves his hands up to cup her shoulders. "Just let it be for tonight and we'll explain everything in the morning."
Dawn sighs. "K, but only because I trust you to know he won't hurt her."
"Urian is no more capable of hurting Phoebe than I am of you." Ash assures her. "She's perfectly safe."
"Mm-kay." Dawn lets herself fall down his body to nestle into his side, half her body sprawled over his. "Claudia okay?"
"She woke up as I was putting her into bed." Ash rests his hand on her lower back, holding her against him. "She made me give her a stake."
"It's a slayer thing." Dawn explains. "She needs it to feel safe."
"She was worried something was going to attack her while she was sleeping." Ash frowns. "Terrified really."
"It happens with her." Dawn lifts her head up to rest her chin on his pec. "Heck, it happens to all of us."
"It shouldn't happen." Ash growls. "She shouldn't worry about having to protect herself."
"I know, but it is what it is." Dawn reaches a hand up to soothe his brow.
"I don't like it." Ash says.
"Me either." Dawn agrees. "But what can we do about it? She's a slayer, nothing will change that, and there's not any place that we can send her where we know she'll be safe all the time."
He doesn't agree. There is one place….where she is now.
Ash sits up, flashing lounging pants on himself and a t-shirt on Dawn, and then dims the light on in the room, not for his benefit, because he can perfectly make out the form in the doorway. "Claudia?"
Claudia shifts her weight from foot to foot, one hand holding a stuffed bear and the other holding a small wooden stake. "I had a bad dream."
"What's goin' on?" Dawn mumbles as she sits up. She pushes a hand through her tangled locks as her eyes flutter open. Then she starts to pull the covers up, intent on covering her naked body, when she feels the soft cotton already on it. "Claudia, you okay?"
Claudia shakes her head. "A vampire bitted me and then I fell in water and died."
"Come here, baby." Dawn scoots over a little bit and pats the empty space between her and Ash.
Claudia runs across the room and launches herself at the bed, landing perfectly between them. "Am I gonna die, Dawnie?"
"No, sweetie." Dawn runs her hand through Claudia's tangled locks. "That was just a slayer dream."
"But Mr. Man said that they can come true." Claudia whispers, her arms wrapping around her body, holding both objects to her chest.
Dawn sighs. "Yes, they can, but this wasn't about you. This was another slayer, what happened to her. Nothing is going to bite you."
"You sure?" Claudia yawns.
"Very." Dawn assures her. "Ash will even pinky swear with you, if you want."
"S'okay." Claudia murmurs. "Ashy'll protect me cuz the Simi said so."
"Simi's right." Ash takes the stake from her hand.
"I need my stake." Claudia's eyes fly open. "What if something attacks me?"
"Nothing is going to attack you here, little one." Ash brushes the hair out of her face. "You are perfectly safe."
Claudia doesn't look convinced, eyes widely opened as she looks around the room.
"How bout this." Dawn takes the stake from Ash and tucks it under his pillow. "Ash will keep the stake and if we need it, we know where it is."
After a second, Claudia nods. "Can I stay in here?"
"Yes." Ash turns the lights out and then lays back down, his arms wrapping around both of them.
"Night Dawnie." Claudia mumbles. "Night Ashy."
He's always been a selfish bastard when it came to her. It didn't matter what was best for her, he was going to have her no matter what. No force on Earth was going to stop him, not even her. But by some luck he's not even sure of, she loved him too so he never had to force her to do anything. Because he's not sure that he wouldn't have.
Just like he's not sure he won't again. In fact, the only thing that's stopping him from grabbing her and leaving is Ash. The Atlantean will kill him if he does and he knows there's nothing he can do to stop it. But that doesn't mean he doesn't want to. In fact, he wants it more than he's ever wanted anything in his entire existence. But he doesn't. Instead, he props himself up on one hand and traces the fingers of his other hand down her face. She sighs in her sleep and snuggles into his hand.
Ash was right, there's something wrong with her. Not her exactly, she's perfect, but her health. Something is wrong with her, he can feel it. But most importantly, he can feel her. That tells him above everything, they are still as connected as they've always been. The connection between them is humming, he can feel it and he wonders how long it will take for her to recognize it.
She rolls over then, her face cuddling into his shoulder and her leg lifting to drape over him, just like she's always done. He buries his face in her hair and wraps his arms around her. He doesn't care what Ash is going to say or how he's not behaving like he promised he would. All he cares about is the fact that his wife is in his arms again. And nothing, not his father, not Ash, nor her father will take her away from him. He was barely existing before but now that he has her back, he knows there is no way he can go back to how he was before.
She doesn't even have to open her eyes to know it's bad. Heck, she doesn't even have to be completely awake to know it's bad. Her stomach is cramping, she's sweating, and she's freezing. She opens her eyes but it doesn't feel right. The spot next to her feels too empty which is strange because the spot next to her is always empty. Her dad will kill anybody that tried to take said spot. But it feels so wrong that it makes her belly hurt, aside from the painful cramping that's already raking her body.
It's too soon. She should be fine for at least a few more days. She did feed only a few days ago, Monday night to be exact and it's only Thursday morning. She should be fine. But she's not. Everything hurts and everything feels wrong. Her body feels like it's going to either explode or completely shut down. It takes more strength then she thought she had to move out of bed and towards the door. She needs to find Dawn. Dawn will help her.
"What is wrong with her?" Urian demands, his voice a low growl.
"Yeah, like I'm going to let you go first." Dawn arches an eyebrow. "I want to know how you know Pheebs and don't lie to me because I know you do know her."
Urian looks at Ash. "Make her answer."
"Excuse me?" Dawn's eyes widen.
"Make me answer." Dawn repeats. "He's my husband, not my master."
The room goes completely silent.
"He's your what?" Vi lifts her head up from where it was resting Fury's shoulder, who is lounged back in a chair, barely awake. She told him he could stay in bed but he insisted on getting up with her. "Since when did you two get married?"
"We're not." Ash casts a look down at Dawn.
"Vi, what kind of drugs are you on?" Dawn arches an eyebrow. "What the heck would make you think we got married in…on, the last eight hours."
"You just calling him your husband." Vi replies.
Dawn looks up at Ash.
"You did." Ash agrees.
"Huh." Dawn shrugs. "Must of just been a slip of the tongue."
"Like calling Savitar dad?" Vi arches an eyebrow.
"Never claimed to be sane, Vi." Dawn says.
"That's a good thing because you so aren't." Vi grins.
Dawn sticks her tongue out at the slayer.
Vi flips her off.
"No thanks." Dawn wrinkles her nose.
"I want to know what the hell is happening to my wife and I want to know now!!" Urian bellows.
Dawn arches an eyebrow. "Okay, Grumpy, the other dwarfs want you take a chill pill."
"Dawn." Ash wraps an arm around her, sending Urian a look as he does it. He understands the other man's anger and impatience, because if it were Dawn, he would have already forced the information out of somebody. He also knows the only reason Urian hasn't yet is because of him.
"There's no need to yell." Dawn tilts her head back to look at Ash. "I'm standing right here and can hear him perfectly well…..wait a second, what wife?"
Instead of answering, Ash's head tilts to the side, looking down the hallway. "Was she still sleeping when you left?"
"Yes." Urian follows Ash's gaze, his already tense body tensing further. He didn't sleep much last night, kept waking up thinking it was all a dream, and the further the night went on, the more muddled his connection to Phoebe got. Normally, when they're close together, he can feel everything she feels as if he's feeling it. It's something that bothered her because she always tried to hide her hunger from him but never could. The connection fades when their not together but always returns when they are. But now, it's….he can still feel her but he can't feel what she's feeling. It's like part of their connection is blocked, probably because of her memory loss, or at least he hopes it's because of that.
"Akri, there's something wrong with the Phoebe." Simi's singsong voice yells down the hallway.
Vi is on her feet and down the hallway before Simi's done yelling, Dawn on her heels. She slides to a stop halfway down the hallway, one hand reaching back to stop Dawn from slamming into her back. "Pheebs?"
"Vi?" Phoebe, her hands braced on the wall, stumbles towards the other slayer.
Vi swings Phoebe up into her arms right as Dawn's cell phone rings.
"Wills, I'm not sure…how long has it been…that's it?" Dawn leads Vi back towards the living room, gesturing for Ash and Urian to move back down the hall. "Maybe it's because of the magic….oh….okay, she's talking so I think she'll be able to do it on her own….I know, if she can't….yeah, Wills, I know…well, let me go and do it. I'll call you back." Dawn hangs up her phone and pockets it. "Take her into the living room."
"Okay." Vi effortlessly carries Phoebe through Ash's house, the taller girl lax in her arms. Urian steps in front of her, looking ready to take Phoebe out of her arms, and Vi gives him a look that she's learned from Connor, who probably learned it from Angel. "You really care about her, get the hell out of my way and let us do what we have to."
Urian clenches his fists but steps aside.
Vi carries Phoebe over to the couch and gently lays the other slayer down. "Hey, there, you still with us Pheebs?"
"Yeah." Phoebe whispers. "I'm cold."
Vi touches her forehead and grimaces. "Ash, do you have any…." Blankets appear next to her before she even finishes the sentence and she wraps them around Phoebe. She plops down next to Phoebe, one arm wrapping around the shaking girl. "Why didn't you say something last night?"
"Wasn't this bad." Phoebe turns her head and buries it into Vi's neck, biting her lip in an attempt to fight the cramping in her body. "Where's Dawnie?"
"Right here." Dawn runs into the room and drops down on the couch in front of them, the package Chad gave her in her hands. She rips the top off and grabs one of the plastic bags inside, dry ice keeping the blood bags from spoiling. In a move she's seen Angel and Spike both do countless times, she bites down on one corner of the bag with her fangs….and sprays blood across all three of them. "Okay, Spike and Angel both make that look so much easier."
"Thanks." Vi wipes the blood off her forehead.
"It's cold." Phoebe wrinkles her nose.
"Yeah and it tastes like stale pork rinds dipped in dirt." Dawn hands the blood to Phoebe. "Come on, you made a promise."
Phoebe wants to shake her head, wants to argue, but she doesn't. Instead, she takes the blood and greedily starts to drain it. About halfway through, she can feel the blood's effect on her body, the cramping and pain starts to fade and she starts to feel less muddled. By the time she sucks every last drop of blood from the bag, she feels decently normal….or as normal as she's ever felt. The bag empty, she crumbles it in her hands and licks her lips….then looks up to see a whole bunch of people looking at her.
"Hey, Pheebs, it's cool." Dawn takes the empty bag from her. "Nobody's going to be all offended with you drinking blood…..heck, half of us do."
"Us?" Vi arches an eyebrow. "Since when did the biting go both ways?"
"Since I got fangs." Dawn wipes her mouth off on her hand. "Pheebs, you good?"
"I need to wash my face…I feel like an extra in a horror movie." Phoebe replies.
"Yeah, well, I have to go throw up now so you can come with me." Dawn tugs Phoebe to her feet. "Coming, Vi?"
"Sure." Vi shoots to her feet. "Since you coated me with blood."
Ash catches Dawn's arm, concern marring his face. "What's wrong?"
"The blood." Dawn makes a face. "It was really, really nasty. I don't know how you eat it, Pheebs."
"It's cuz of the pig's blood." Phoebe wrinkles her nose. "It makes it gross. Otter is so much better."
"Then why did you tell Angel to stop eating otter?" Vi arches a brow.
"Because it's not fair to kill some poor, innocent little otter just so we can eat." Phoebe says.
"But it's okay to kill Babe?" Vi asks.
Phoebe's face falls.
"Way to go, Vi, it's hard enough to get her to eat." Dawn shakes her head as she tugs the blonde slayer who in turn tugs the redhead slayer, down the hall.
Urian grabs the box and pulls out the remaining bag of blood, a red haze blanketing his senses. All he can focus on is Phoebe, his wife, feeding from another man. The rage that fills his body has the wolf sitting up straight, Fury having not really moved from where he was sprawled out on a dining room chair during the whole spectacle.
"What the hell has your panties in twist?" Fury growls, still not used to being up this early and still hating it with every part of him. Right now, he wants nothing more than to grab Vi and crawl back into bed.
"I wasn't talking to you, wolf." Urian growls.
Fury pushes to his feet, the dining room chair flying backwards as he does so. "Don't take your pissy ass mood out on me."
"Watch your tone, boy." Urian stresses the word. "I've killed more of your kind than you've probably met."
"Just because your wife doesn't remember you, which given what there's to remember, I can understand why….."
Urian dives at Fury, forgoing his powers and punches the Were-Hunter.
"Wow, it's like Angel and Spike….only a little more mature." Dawn comments to Vi and Phoebe upon seeing the two grown men fighting like little boys.
"Yeah." Vi agrees. "But what's this wife thing again?"
"I'm not sure…Pheebs?" Dawn pauses, head tilted to look at the slayer's pale, deathly white, pale face. "Did the blood not work?"
Urian, who is currently holding Fury in a headlock while the Were-Hunter bites his arm, pauses to look at his wife. "Phe?"
"It's him." Phoebe grips Dawn's arm tightly. "From my dreams."
"Oh, it's the sex-dream guy." Dawn nods. "You were dreaming about a real person?"
"Have we met him before because I'm pretty sure I would have remembered that." Dawn looks at Ash for explanation.
"Not you." Phoebe shakes her head. "Me."
"Angel would never let…."
"I think I was married to him, before." Phoebe looks down at her ring finger, the left one that suddenly feels very empty. "That's how I know him."
Dawn looks up at Ash who, after a second, nods.
"Wow." Vi runs a hand through her hair.
Urian moves to his feet, pushing Fury away from him as he does so. He takes a step towards Phoebe, stopping when she steps closer to Dawn.
"Yeah, wow." Dawn says…and then grins widely. "So, I'm off the hook; my god-like powers and godly boyfriend no way compare to Phoebe's newfound husband."
"Okay, Claudia, Sims, and Xirena are all watching SpongeBob in our room." Dawn announces as she drops down on Ash's lap. "So, does somebody want to explain how not-evil guy is actually Phoebe's husband because, hello, she's seventeen."
"She's thirty-three." Urian corrects, arms folded over his chest as he leans back in his chair, eyes focused on his wife who is currently sitting between Dawn and Vi.
"She's seventeen." Dawn argues.
"She's thirty-three." Ash says, agreeing with Urian.
"Then how am I seventeen now?" Phoebe looks down at her hands.
"I don't know." Ash replies.
"She died, didn't she?" Dawn asks, reaching under the table to kick Urian when he doesn't answer. "That's why you looked all broody before."
"Dawn." Phoebe shushes.
"What, he looked just like Angel did at Buffy's funeral." Dawn says. "Like his entire reason for living was gone and he really didn't understand why he still had to be here."
"Don't." Ash whispers in Dawn's ear, his tone firm.
"Oh, my bad." Dawn's eyes widen at the tortured look in Urian's eyes. "I'm sorry, my mouth…it's bad."
Urian just nods.
"If I died, why am I here?" Phoebe whispers.
"To put a few warriors back on the path their supposed to be on." A voice says from behind him. "Give them something to fight for."
Ash is on his feet, Dawn pushed behind him, and turned to face the new person in a matter of seconds.
Dawn looks around Ash, takes in the bowlers hat, Bronx-ish accent and the strong stench of whiskey. "Whistler, what'd you bring us this time?"