Title: Chapter 24
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.
"In a second." Whistler holds up a hand, his head tilted slightly to the side. "We're still waiting on one."
Ash starts to say something when he feels a presence that's familiar, one that's been in his home countless times.
"Get out of here." Savitar growls, arms crossed angrily over his chest.
"Have a seat." Whistler gestures towards the table. "It's nice to see you haven't mellowed out in the last dozen or so millennia. I've only been here, what, two seconds and here you are."
"This is none of your business." Savitar crosses his arms over his chest.
Whistler just laughs.
"You know each other?" Dawn asks Savitar. Then she looks up at Ash. "And why aren't you freaking out about him getting in here? I didn't think just anyone could get in here."
"Not just anyone can." Ash sits back down, pulling Dawn onto his lap. "He's a messenger."
"Yeah, I know." Dawn agrees. "For the PTB's."
"The fates." Ash corrects.
"The who-na-what?" Dawn wrinkles her nose.
"The fates." Ash repeats. "He's their messenger."
"Okay, but we were under the impression that he's an immortal demon, sent down by the Powers That Be to even the odds between good and evil." Dawn says. "Because he told us that."
"He is a demon." Ash quirks a brow. "Which is new."
"Word of advice, if a female asks you how her new hair cut looks, never, under any circumstances, say like Medusa's." Whistler winces. "Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a piece of ass when you're barely over five foot and smell funny? I haven't had good sex in thirty years. The only good part is that I can actually get drunk in this form."
"Which sister?" Ash asks curiously.
"Cloie." Whistler runs his finger along the rim of his hat. "She always was sensitive about her hair. But I guess it's better than Atty's form of punishment."
Ash quirks an eyebrow.
"Mid-seventh century, I was supposed to be rounding up a few warriors, sending them into a war." Whistler pulls out a chair and sits down it, kicking his feet up on the table next to Vi and Fury. "I found the warriors in this brothel, got distracted, the warriors got killed before I could set them on their path, and the girls got pissed." Whistler shudders. "One week as a dung beetle is the purest hell you'll ever experience."
Ash laughs. "You haven't learned anything, have you? One of these days, they're going to kill you."
"I could only be so lucky." Whistler sighs. "I can't die, I've tried every possible way imaginable. Hell, I even traded Zeus a couple virgins in exchange for him blasting me with a bolt. The only thing it did was knock me on my ass and burn my clothes. But on the plus side, the virgins pissed the hell out of Hera which is always amusing."
"I could rip your head off." Fury offers.
"You could." Whistler agrees. "Won't do any good. I'm just a message, in whatever form the girls decide I need to be in. You destroy said form, they'll just make another one."
"Wow, you're a lot different than Angel described you." Dawn comments. "Way more cynical and a heck of a lot dirtier. But hey, just as fashionable challenged."
"Angel saw what he needed to see." Whistler replies. "Everyone does, that's how this works. And I like my hat."
"Why are you here?" Ash drums his fingers over Dawn's belly.
"Just checking up on my charges." Whistler tips his hat at Phoebe. "Looks like Angel did a good job. I knew he would."
"A good job doing what?" Urian asks.
"Protecting your wife until she was ready to come back to you." Whistler replies.
"Okay, Whistler, it's time to spill." Dawn orders.
"You're just like your sister." Whistler shakes his head, amused.
"Still not explaining." Dawn says.
"By now, you've figured out that Phoebe died." Whistler nods. "You get to break that to Angel, by the way."
"When did I die, exactly?" Phoebe asks.
"A couple months before Willow activated the slayer line." Whistler closes one eye, then out of nowhere, a bottle of whiskey appears on the table in front of him. "Thanks, Lacy." He twists the top off and takes a drink. "So, Pheebs here died, I extracted her from hell, and took her to Angel."
"You extracted her from where?" Urian growls.
"Hell." Whistler looks down to emphasis his point. "Where did you honestly expect her to go?"
"What the heck is that supposed to mean?" Dawn looks between the two men. "Why would she go to hell?"
"Because I'm evil." Phoebe wraps her arms around herself. "Or I was before."
"No, baby, you were never evil." Urian leans forward. "You were beautiful, innocent. You were good."
"I can hear them, feel them." Phoebe shakes her head. "All the people I killed."
"All the people I killed." Urian corrects. "You never killed anyone, ever."
"Then why can I hear them?" Phoebe asks, head tilting back to look at him.
Urian feels his heart break a little at the tears in her eyes and he wants so desperately to lie to her but doesn't. Can't. "Because you had to feed from me, from the souls I took."
"So I am evil." Phoebe whispers.
"No, sweetie, you are not evil." Dawn argues.
"I lived off people that he killed." Phoebe says. "Pretty sure that makes me evil."
"So what if it did?" Vi shrugs. "You're not now."
"Vi's right." Dawn agrees. "So you might have been evil in the past. Big whoop. You're not now and either is your yummy husband."
"Yummy?" Ash half growls.
"Yes, yummy." Dawn rubs his thigh. "I'm just stating a fact, sweetie, isn't nothing more than that."
Ash tightens his hand over her belly.
"Okay, I get that she died." Dawn says. "And I get that you brought her back to life. But what I don't get is how she's a slayer."
"She was always a slayer." Whistler replies. "But given the boys upstairs cockamamie rules, she can't be both at the same time." Then he nods to Vi. "Just like she can't be both a slayer and a Were-Hunter. It's one or the other."
"But when she died…."
"She could become a slayer." Whistler finishes. "Just like Vi would become a full Were-Hunter if she dies….I think. I'm not actually sure."
"She's not like normal slayers though, she's weaker and hello, fangs." Dawn waves her hand at Phoebe. "Plus the blood drinking thing."
"Yeah, I didn't see that one." Whistler rubs his chin. "They're bonded, blood bonded. That's why she's so weak and has to drink blood."
"I don't take souls anymore." Urian says.
"Plus she feeds from Angel who feeds off dead animals, no souls there." Dawn adds. "So what do souls have to do with anything?"
Nobody answers her.
"Hello, somebody answer me." Dawn orders.
"They were both Daimons." Savitar answers quietly. "He killed people, she fed off the souls he stole."
"But he's not a Daimon now, is he?" Dawn asks him.
"No." Savitar replies. "He's something else."
"It's blood, not souls, now." Whistler explains. "Even her death didn't kill their bond. She needs his blood to live, it's why she's been slowly dying since I brought her back. Angel's blood has helped her find some measure of strength but it's not enough. It takes up every bit of her slayer powers to survive and without them, she'd be dead."
"So if she drink his blood, she'll be fine?" Dawn asks.
"Then why not just send her to him?" Vi asks curiously. "Why use Angel as a middleman?"
"Angel needed help getting back on his own path." Whistler replies. "After losing Connor and Cordelia and then taking over Wolfram & Hart, he was starting to become indifferent to the pain around him. Buffy put him on his path and kept him on it until he left her and then Cordelia was there to make sure he didn't veer off, mostly by being a pain in his ass. Then she died and he needed someone to make sure he didn't veer completely off his path like he was starting too."
"Buffy was too busy baking." Whistler shakes his head. "Free will is the bane of my existence."
"What the…Buffy doesn't bake." Dawn wrinkles her brow. "Like ever. She can't bake. She can't boil freaking water."
"Bake her." Whistler gestures. "Some spiel about how she wasn't done being cookie dough and needed to bake before somebody could eat her. Your sister talks a lot, did you know that?"
"Yep." Dawn nods. "She always has."
"So, anyways, she was off baking and Angel needed something to fight for." Whistler points to Phoebe. "She became that reason."
"And now?" Dawn arches an eyebrow.
"And now everyone is one the path they're supposed to be on." Whistler takes a swig out of his bottle. "And if there wasn't free will, everybody would stay on their path and the universe would run smoothly. But because you damn humans can't do what you're supposed to, this is probably just a temporary fix and I'll be back in a few weeks, manipulating you all back to where you're supposed to be."
"Okay, what's this whole complaining spiel about?" Dawn tilts her head back to look at Ash.
"He hates free will." Ash explains. "You have to understand the Fates to get it."
"Explain-y." Dawn orders.
"The girls have everything perfectly planned out, to the last detail." Whistler explains. "It's this intricate, detailed, and very, very complex plan that works out perfectly. Except for, you know, free will. They can't, even after all this time, comprehend that there is free will. They don't take it in to account in any of their plans so I have to go behind everything and clean it up. Frankly, it's a sucky job with suckier benefits. But it's what I do and it's what I'm doing now."
"It's not your place to tell them." Savitar growls. "They need to learn in their own time."
"Yes, that was the plan." Whistler agrees. "But like with everything else, free will fucked it up. Now circumstances have changed and we have no choice but to speed up everything."
"What circumstances?" Dawn asks. "And you need to stop with the cryptic talk because it's annoying as hell."
"What changed?" Savitar crosses his arms over his chest.
"They weren't supposed to fall in love again this fast." Whistler gestures at the couple. "Her true self was never supposed to manifest. That was an unexpected event. I blame the witch."
"It wasn't Willow's fault." Dawn argues. "She didn't toss me into the spell, some demon did."
"The spell was pointless." Whistler says. "She used a Greek summoning spell to invoke a Greek god to close a demon portal. It was a last minute attempt to pretend like she cared about the rules. She doesn't. She could of just as easily shut the portal down without invoking Hecate which is the only reason the key moved closer to the surface."
"Willow is a good witch." Phoebe argues.
"I never said she wasn't." Whistler replies. "I just said she doesn't care about the rules. She does what she wants to do, regardless of the consequences. And it screws up a lot of things."
"Yeah, well, that's what happens when you rule over humans, not robots." Dawn points out. "We tend to act emotionally and screw things up; it's our thing."
"I know." Whistler grins. "It is what you do best."
"Enough." Ash growls loudly, the force causing the table to shake. "I want to know what the hell you're talking about."
"Ash?" Dawn tilts her head back to look at him, a little startled by the anger in his voice. Sure, she wants to know too but apparently, not as badly as Ash.
"He said 'fall in love again this fast'." Ash wraps his arms around Dawn. "He said again."
"No, he didn't….he said again." Dawn smacks her hand on the table. "You, whiskey-demon-fate boy, what the heck do you mean by again? Again implies there was a first time and there wasn’t a first time because hello, we just met."
"Fuck." Whistler mutters.
"You messed up." Dawn's eyes widen. "You didn't mean to let us hear again."
"I told you to leave." Savitar growls at him. "You wouldn't listen to me. They aren't ready for this."
"I want answers, now!" Ash yells.
Whistler looks at Savitar, a wordless exchange moving between the two men.
Dawn squeezes Ash's thigh, his growl rumbling through his chest and into her back, the force of his anger making her body vibrate. Whistler…she knows enough about him to know he's not going to say anything more than what he's said, he can't. That whole balance thing and all. But Savitar, he's a whole different thing. She's not sure why she keeps calling him 'daddy' but what the hell, she might as well use it to her advantage.
"So, dad, you wanna make with the explain-y and tell me what the hell Whistler meant by 'again'?" Dawn pokes out her bottom lip, hoping the pout that works so well on Angel and Spike will work on him.
Savitar's eyes widen, panic lining his face. Then he starts to stand up, preparing himself to leave.
"Whoa, whoa, where are you going?" Dawn asks. "Why are you leaving?"
Savitar shakes his head.
"Do I have to break out the tears?" Dawn sniffles dramatically. "Cuz I can."
"Don't." Savitar says. "No crying."
"Then just answer my very simple questions." Dawn crosses her arms over her chest and glares at him. "Why are you leaving?"
"Because I can't lie to you." Savitar growls. "I am completely incapable of lying to you. There, are you happy?"
"Yeah, cuz that means you can answer my question." Dawn arches an eyebrow. "Ask Vi, I'm a pain in the ass when I want to know something. I will follow you to the end of the world until I get my answer so you might as well save yourself the stress and just answer me. What did he mean by 'again'? This has something to do with how you knew me before, doesn't it?"
"Yes." Savitar nods.
"What did he mean by again?" Dawn asks.
Savitar takes a deep breath and runs a hand through his long hair. "You knew each other, before."
"That's impossible." Ash growls. "I would remember. There is no way I would forget her. I couldn't."
"Zeus and I erased your memories, replaced them with new ones." Savitar drums his fingers on his arms.
"When?" Dawn winces, Ash's fingers digging into her belly hard enough that she's going to bruise. He seems to know it as soon as she does because the pressure lessens and he gently rubs her skin.
"About eleven thousand years ago." Savitar stands up and starts pacing the room. "Give or take a few hundred."
Ash counts back, replying his life through his mind until he's back in the time Savitar's referring too, which was right around the time when Artemis betrayed him by allowing her brother to kill him. "What did she do?"
"You do remember you can't murder her, right?" Savitar reminds him. "You can't hurt her, no matter how much you may want to."
"I know." Ash snarls out. "Answer my question."
"Watch your tone, boy." Savitar snarls back. "I don't take orders from you and I can lie to you; I have before."
"I trusted you, next to Simi and before Dawn, you were the only being I did trust." Ash moves out of his chair, sitting Dawn gently down onto his seat, and starts pacing the room. He can feel his control slipping, feel the part of him that he tries desperately to hide pushing to the forefront. He wants to kill something. Wants to rip something into a hundred pieces, be the monster that he really is. Then Dawn grabs his hand as he passes and the peace he always feels in her presence settles his soul.
"Did you erase my memories?" Dawn asks Savitar.
"Forget your memories, how'd you go from being alive back in….whenever the hell that was, to being remade six or seven years ago?" Vi says. "Cuz that doesn't make a lick of sense unless…"
"I died." Dawn finishes when Vi lets her sentence trail off. "I died, didn't I?"
Ash kneels down beside Dawn when her face pales and cups her chin in his hand.
"Hey, Pheebs, look like we have something else in common beside the big love for Justin Timberlake." Dawn plasters a fake smile on her lips. "Though the dying thing….thinking Buff and Angel aren't going to like it."
"Not one bit." Phoebe agrees. "Maybe we should not tell them?"
"Then when they do find out and they will cuz that's what they do, they'll be yelling and lectures….still think the best thing is for the three of us to get kidnapped, maybe for a couple days even, and then rescued."
"They always did let you off the hook when you got kidnapped." Whistler comments. "If you want, I know a few demons…."
He's across the room and slammed against a wall, Ash's hand around his throat, before he can even finish the sentence.
"You can't kill me." Whistler reminds him. "I'm just a messenger. The message really. I'm like a letter; you can't kill a letter."
"You can tear it up." Dawn counters.
Whistler pauses, head tilting around Ash to look at her. "You're not helping."
Dawn grins back.
"A demon gets near her and I find out you're responsible, I will kill you, messenger or not." Ash growls.
Whistler brushes off his suit when Ash drops him to his feet and stalks back over to his whiskey. "I'm just a message. Even when you rip up a letter, the message is still there."
"Not if you didn’t read it." Vi says.
Whistler groans and slams his head onto the table. "You've spent too much time around the slayer and her group. You used to be sweet, polite."
"I'm still polite." Vi huffs.
"And hey, I'm sweet." Dawn says. "Very sweet."
"You're mouthy as hell and such a handful that I don't know how Ash hasn't put you in some little bubble to keep you out of trouble." Whistler replies. "It's a far cry from how you were before."
"What happened?" Ash growls.
"We didn't have a choice." Savitar says off Ash's growl.
"What happened?" Ash demands.
"I can't tell you." Whistler says. "But nobody said I can't show you." With that, Whistler slaps his hands together and the couple hits the floor, out cold.
"What did you do?" Savitar waves his hand at Ash and Dawn, flashing them out to the living room couch.
"Answered their questions, the easiest way there is." Whistler stands up, his bottle in hand. "He's going to be…..pissed when he wakes up so I'm just going to go. You might want to follow my lead and make yourself scarce for a while."
"Not until I know she's going to be okay." Savitar shakes his head.
Whistler pats him on the back. "Once a doting father, always a doting father. That hasn't changed for you and hopefully, it hasn’t changed for Ash either."
"It hasn't." Savitar replies quietly.
"What about my memories?" Phoebe asks. "Can you give them back to me?"
"You're blocking them, Phoebe." Whistler replies. "Until you're ready to know, they won't come back."
"Why would she be blocking her own memories?" Urian asks, hands clenching around the table to keep from moving to her side.
"She's not ready to know yet." Whistler says. "And until she is, they won't come back."
"Are we dreaming again?" Dawn asks Ash, head tilting back to look up at him.
"I don't think so." Ash holds out his hand and pulls her to her feet. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah." Dawn touches his chest to keep her balance and doesn't drop his hand once she is standing. "So if we're not dreaming, where are we?"
"Outside of Artemis's chambers." Ash says, looking around the area they're in. "About eleven thousand years ago."
"Okay." Dawn squeezes his hand. "Was this when you two first got together?"
"She was the first friend I ever had." Ash squeezes her hand back. "Simi was a baby still and….she was my demon so she had to obey me. Artemis was the first being to want to spend time with me. I became addicted to it, to her."
"You loved her." Dawn says.
"Yes." Ash agrees. "Once, a very long time ago, I did love her. But I was never in love with her; I know that now."
"Cuz you're in love with me." Dawn pauses. "You are talking about me, right?"
"Yes, I'm talking about you." Ash shakes his head, amused.
"Hey, I was just check…." Something catches her attention, long blonde hair flowing down to strong, tan shoulders. Very familiar shoulders. Shoulders that she's touched more times than she can count. "Okay, so I guess this really is the past."
Ash watches his younger self exit Artemis's chambers, knows by the look on his face that they just got done having sex, interrupted sex by the tension in his body.
She doesn't want it to hurt but it does. She knows what people look like post sex and she definitely knows Ash's post-coital look. She knows they were lovers, for much longer than her and Ash probably ever will be and she hates that it hurts so much. She bites her lip though and plasters on a smile, not wanting Ash to feel guilty. Younger Ash, though he looks exactly like the Ash next to her, is storming out of a goddess's she'll always feel jealous of, room, looking pissed and frustrated. In fact, he doesn't even notice the girl walking down the hall, her fingers tracing down the wall, until he runs into her that is.
He doesn't remember this. He remembers the day, Artemis having made her leave because her brother was calling her, but he doesn't remember this, remember the girl. She's tall and willowy thin, long blonde hair reaching her bottom. Her nose hits his chin and his hands automatically reach out to steady her, his large hands spanning her tiny waist.
The second he hears her voice he knows it's Dawn. They don't sound alike, this girl is soft spoken and her voice is thick with a Greek accent, but it's Dawn. Because her voice settles his soul in the exact same way the girl's whose hand he's holding does.
"Okay, I'm really not liking all the gorgeous women around you." Dawn sighs. "Cuz it doesn't help a girl keep her self-confidence."
"That's you." Ash says.
"No it's not." Dawn wrinkles her nose. "Look at her."
"Dawn, it's you." Ash says. "I know you; I would know you in any form. That is you."
Dawn shakes her head, not agreeing with him, until she sees the way both Ash's are looking at her. Younger Ash exactly like Ash did when she punched him after he knocked her out, the same look Ash's given her a dozen plus times. That 'I'm completely lost and have no idea what to do with you but I can't walk away' look. And her Ash, the one that's still holding her hand, is looking at the blonde her like he does the normal her. Like she's his whole world. As insecure as she might be at times, she knows how much Ash loves her.
"My name is Auyn." The blonde pulls back from his hands and looks up at him with a small smile.
"I'm a little bit lost, do you know how to get outside?"
Younger Ash frowns. "You don't know how to get outside?"
She shakes her head. "I've never been alone."
He continues to frown but nods. "I can walk you out there, if you wish."
"Are you sure?" She asks. "I wouldn't want to interrupt your plans."
In response, he places his hand on the small of her back and leads her away.
"Do we follow…" Dawn starts to ask when suddenly they're in the bright sun, right next to a small creek. Younger Ash is leaning back against a tree at the creek's edge, watching the blonde her play in the water. It's not the same day as what they were watching before, her dress is different, yet here they are, together again.
"Come play with me." She says, shivering as the cold water laps at her knees.
"You're going to get sick." Younger Ash says.
"I can't get sick, silly." She says. And then with a giggle, she splashes a torrent of water at him, spraying him across the chest. Then she's scrambling backwards, squealing as he chases after her.
Younger Ash chases her through the water, laughing as she giggles. They run through the water for a few minutes until he wraps his arm around her, swinging her up into his arms and carrying her to a small patch of grass a few feet away.
It's like the kisses in the movies, every movie, and Dawn knows it's their first one. The blonde her eyes flutter closed and a soft sigh leaves her lips when Ash's lips touches hers.
Then younger Ash is flying off her, slamming into a tree and being held there by an invisible force. At least it's invisible until she notices the man stalking towards them, his long hair blowing slightly in the wind and his face tense with anger.
"I am going to kill you."
In all the years that he's known him, and it's been thousands upon thousands, he's never seen Savitar look like this. Never seen him so angry. He can tell his younger self is startled too, and given the look he's sending Dawn, more than surprised by the man threatening to kill him.
"Auyn, are you alright?" Savitar looks down at her, eyes flashing at the flustered look on her face.
"Daddy, I'm fine." She pushes to her feet. "Let him go."
"No." Savitar growls. "I am going to kill him."
"No, daddy, please don't." She begs, grabbing his arm. "Don't."
Ash can tell Savitar is thinking about it, wanting to so badly, but instead wraps his arm around her and drops him to his feet.
"Stay away from my daughter or next time, I will kill you." Savitar growls out and then flashes them away.
"How could you do that?"
This sounds like her, the anger and hurt sounds so much like her that any doubt Dawn had that this blonde is her fades away. She's crying, tears flooding down her face as she curls up on her bed.
"Baby-girl, you don't understand."
"Daddy, you don't understand." She cries. "I love him."
"You're just a child." Savitar shouts. "You don't know what love is."
The door opens and Zeus walks in, a frown curving his lips. "What in the Hades is going on in here? I could hear you two down in my chambers."
"Okay, this is different." Dawn mutters as the other her runs over and throws herself in Zeus's arms. And to her shock, he doesn’t look upset or put out, instead he just hugs her close and whispers in her ear.
"You were supposed to be watching her." Savitar growls. "We agreed after Apollo attacked her that she would not be left alone."
"I do have duties." Zeus pets her hair while he glares at Savitar. "You're the one that left."
"You know I can't stand this place, that I only stay her because it's safer for Auyn." Savitar says. "You could have sent her to Poseidon or Hades, hell, even Ares or Aphrodite. She is not supposed to roam Mount Olympus alone."
"I am not a baby." She cries. "Stop treating me like one."
"What happened?" Zeus kisses the crown of her head.
"Your daughter's whore attacked her." Savitar growls.
"He is not a whore." She argues. "And he didn't attack me. We were playing."
"You were playing with the Atlantean?" Zeus growls. "No, I forbid it."
"So do I." Savitar agrees.
Her eyes fill with hurt and she pushes away from Zeus. "I hate you both!" Then she runs out of the room as fast as she can, pushing past handmaidens and gods alike, tears blurring her vision as she runs.
Dawn watches herself fade down the hall and then suddenly they're back where they started, outside of Artemis's chambers. She sees them the same exact time that her other self does and they both gasp.
Ash winces at the sight of Artemis plastered against him, their mouths interlocked. The younger him breaks the kiss the second he hears her gasp and pushes Artemis away at the look on the blonde's face. "Auyn, it's not what it looks like."
She just runs. Runs as fast as she can until she's outside, three sets of footsteps on her heels. But unlike Zeus and Savitar, Ash is a warrior and is used to running. He catches her wrist after only a few moments and swings her around into his chest.
Dawn can't keep the tears out of her eyes when the other her punches at younger Ash's chest, the cries the same thing that she fears deep down; that no matter how much Ash loves her, his attraction to Artemis is stronger.
He doesn't know what to do. The pain in Dawn's other self stabs at his gut, even more so since he knows he's responsible for it. And that pain is echoed in his Dawn's face and that almost kills him.
"It wasn't what it looked like, auyun." Ash cups her face. "I was telling her I couldn't see her anymore; she didn't take it well."
Two tears slip down her cheeks and he brushes them away with his thumbs. "You love her."
"I do." Younger Ash doesn't argue. "She was my first friend. But I'm not in love with her; I know that because of you. You've shown me what true love is because I'm in love with you."
She stops struggling and throws her arms around his neck with a cry. "I love you too."
Dawn sniffles and cuddles into her Ash's side with a happy sigh. Then they're somewhere else, standing on the edge of a cliff, their other selves few feet away, holding hands with a tall, dark-haired man standing in front of them, speaking in Greek.
"It's Poseidon." Ash tells Dawn.
"We're getting married?" Dawn gasps, the vows that they're repeating having to be some type of ancient wedding vows.
"Yes." Ash replies, just as shocked as she is by the turn of events. Savitar and Zeus are standing a few feet from them, both men scowling like the upset fathers that they are. But before he can even process that, they're somewhere else, this time on earth itself, his younger self pacing in front of her blonde self, tears flowing down her face.
"You think I was intimate with somebody else." She accuses.
He stops pacing long enough to glare at her. "I do not, auyun, I know you never would."
"Then what's wrong?" She wraps her arms around herself.
Dawn looks up at her Ash. "Is that true?"
"Yes." Ash nods.
"Then how exactly am I with child?"
Ash feels the blood drain from his face, the shock fill his body when she uncurls herself and her belly, her swollen belly greats his eyes.
"I'm pregnant." Dawn gasps. "How am…how did you not notice I was that pregnant until now? I have to be at least six months along."
"Goddess don't carry a child as long as humans." Ash explains, his voice husky. "So only a few months."
"Simi!" The younger Ash shouts.
Simi pops in with a flash. "Yes, akri?"
"I told you to protect Auyn while I was away." He says.
"And the Simi did." Simi pats her swollen belly. "And the baby."
"You should have came to me and told me she was with child."
"How could the Simi protect her akra if she left her?" Simi furrows her brow. "That just don't make no sense, akri."
"Sims, why don't you go play."
"I knew Simi then." Dawn points. "How does she not remember that?"
He's thinking the same thing and he knows there's only one being with that could do that, besides himself, and that's his mother. "Apollymi."
"Who's that?" Dawn asks.
"My mother." Ash replies. "She created and controls all Charonte demons."
"Oh." Dawn murmurs. "If you're sterile, how am I pregnant there?" But as she asks it, her other self asks it and then Savitar is standing in the middle of the living room, his face softening as he looks at her belly.
"You were sterile when you were human." Savitar tells the younger Ash. "But when you came into your god powers…."
"It healed my body." Ash whispers at the same time that his younger self does. "It must have undone what they did to me."
Younger Ash drops to his knees then, his shaking hands moving to touch her swollen belly.
Dawn touches her belly, looking between the swollen belly of the her from before and the her of now. The scene changes again and the other her is screaming in agony, the younger Ash holding her hand tightly as she gives birth. Then the baby is crying and so is the other her, the tiny, bloody bundle being placed on her chest. Younger Ash is holding them both, kissing them both on the forehead. "I don't want to watch anymore."
The scene changes and the baby is now a toddler, her parents chasing her around the yard as she chases butterflies, little baby giggles filling the air.
Ash wraps his arms around Dawn, clenching his jaw at the emotions pouring through him.
"Night daddy, love you." The little girl whispers, now a few years older.
"Sleep tight, Katra." Younger Ash leans down to kiss her forehead. "I love you."
"Night mama, love you."
"Night, my baby-girl." She leans forward to kiss her cheek. "I love you."
The little girl snuggles into the stuffed bear in her arms and within minutes, she's fast asleep.
"Night, akra, night akri." Simi singsongs and she flutters into the room and lays down on foot of Katra's bed, hanging upside down. Her snores soon fill the air and they back up, shutting the door behind them.
The scene changes and Dawn panics. "No, no, no."
"Baby, what's wrong?" Ash looks around the room and sees nothing wrong. Auyn is standing at a stove, humming under her breath as she cooks. Katra is older, about five, and is playing on the floor a few feet away.
"I know what's going to happen." Dawn grabs her stomach. "I've dreamed this a hundred times."
"Ash?" The blonde Dawn lifts her head, brow furrowing as she looks towards the door. "I thought you were going to be gone for a few days not a few hours."
It happens in a matter of seconds; she turns from the counter just in time to have her stomach slit open, from side to side, straight across her belly button. "Katra, run." She gasps out as she falls to the ground.
The little girl screams and tries to run when she's grabbed by another man.
Ash grabs Dawn's belly, panic filling his body as he watches the other her die. And she does die, within minutes. His daughter screams and cries, for both him and for her mama, one of the men actually slapping her to get her to be quiet. His fangs lengthen, his face flushes and he knows his eyes are red. His skin starts to turn blue, something that's only happened a few times. His anger grows tenfold when the bane of his existence pops into the room.
"What did you do?" Artemis screeches.
"You said you wanted her dead." One of the men says.
"I was just ranting." Artemis growls. "I didn't mean it. Do you realize what you've done? Do you realize who that is?"
"Some human." The man kicks her body. "Dead human now."
"She is Acheron's wife." Artemis says. "He will be here soon, he will have felt that." She grabs the crying girl. "You're on your own." She's gone with a flash, the little girl screaming in her arms.
Ash tears into the room a second after she's gone, falling to his knees with a shattering cry of anguish. He gathers her dead body into his arms, his face falling into her split open belly as he sobs. Then, suddenly, he stops, kisses her forehead, and blesses her body. His skin is blue, the demon inside him bursting to the forefront as he stands to face her frozen killers. He rips them to pieces with his bare hands, their blood and hers coating his body. Then he screams and the very earth shakes from his fury.
The scene stops and they're suddenly in a white room, Dawn openly crying against Ash.
"They did what they had to." Whistler steps forward. "You were going to destroy everything. Savitar gave Apollo a temporary power boost, enough to kill you and then Artemis brought you back. Zeus and Savitar altered your memories, made you believe she betrayed you buy letting her brother kill you. Dawn returned to the key's natural state and Zeus and Savitar put her away in a safe place, never to be released again. The fates brought her back, gave her a new human form using Buffy's blood as a conduit. They knew eventually you would find each other again but honestly they thought it would take years and they didn't plan on you learning about the past for a very long time."
"I don't want to know anymore." Dawn cries. "Take them back."
"I can't kid." Whistler says sympathetically. "I wish I could but I can't; you'll see why soon." With that, he claps his hands and they're back in their bodies.
"Mama!" Katra sits up with a scream.
Sin groans. "You're a screamer?"
Kat pants, glaring at him with her vivid green eyes. "No."
"Sure you are." Sin wiggles an eyebrow.
"You're so full of yourself." Kat rolls her eyes and stands up, her hands shaking as she walks towards the balcony of his suite. She searched him out in a blatant move to piss Artemis off. And this, her losing her virginity to Sin after only knowing him a couple days, is going to piss her off. In fact, she's actually shocked that Artemis hasn't come yet. "Papa, higher!"
"Kit-kat, you're going to get hurt if he pushes you any higher."
"But mama, I want to fly."
"I know you do, baby-girl, but it's not safe."
"Daddy always swinged the Simi really high."
Ash lifts her off the swing and swirls her in the air, smiling as her happy giggles fill the air. "That's because Simi has wings."
"I want wings too." Katra pouts, her arms crossed over her chest.
"But then you would fly away and we would miss you."
Katra throws her arms around both of them. "I never leave you, mama."
"What about me?" Ash tickles her belly.
"You neither, daddy." She giggles.
"Kat, you in there?"
Kat blinks rapidly, blinking tears away.
"What's wrong?" Sin takes a step back, not ready to deal with tears from a girl he barely knows. It's bad enough she was a virgin up until a few hours ago but he's not ready to do the relationship thing; he never will be.
"Nothing." Kat lies, arms wrapped around herself as her memories settle back into their rightful place. "I have to go."
Sin tries to stop her but she's gone with a flash.
"Agria, what's wrong?" Apollymi looks up from the book on her lap.
"You knew, didn't you?" Kat sits down beside her.
Apollymi quirks an eyebrow. "About what, my baby?"
"Artemis not being my mother." Kat replies. "About me watching my real mother die."
Apollymi pales. "No, you can't remember."
"I do." Kat rubs at her wet cheeks. "Artemis admitted it when I heard her arguing with Savitar about how she died. I just dreamt it."
Apollymi pulls Kat into her arms, letting her grandbaby sob against her.
"He knew me. He loved me. They both did." Kat sobs. "How could you keep this from me?"
"They same way I could keep your existence from Ash; it would hurt you too much. He was…it is the closest I will ever come to being released. He would have destroyed everything if they hadn't stopped him and letting him know about you, it would have done more damage than good. He would have known within a second of meeting you that Artemis wasn't your mother and not only that….we were afraid if he was near you, the bond he had with your mother would awaken and his memories would return. I couldn't put him through that again. He can't survive without her….even know, he's a shell of what he was when they were together. She made him so happy, you both did."
"I hate her." Kat growls.
"I hate Artemis." Apollymi says. "You don't, my baby, you can't. As much as I don't want to admit it, she was a good mother and she does love you. It might mostly be a selfish love but she does love you."
Kat shakes her head in denial. "She wouldn't have done what she did if that were true."
Apollymi sighs and combs her hair through Kat's long locks. "She is selfish and nothing with ever change that. She wanted Ash for herself and through that want, Auyn died. He hated her but she had you, something that was a part of him but was hers completely. I may hate her and I know Ash does but she loves you. This I am sure of."
"I want her back." Dawn sobs. "I want Artemis dead."
"I know, baby." Ash swings her up into his arms, pausing when Simi runs into the room.
"Akri, what's wrong with my akra?"
"Simi, take Claudia to Kalosis and stay there until I call for you." Ash orders.
Simi curls her lip, wanting to argue, but grabs Claudia's hand and flashes them both to Kalosis.
"Daddy, please, I don't want them anymore." Dawn rubs at her face, looking up at Savitar with wet eyes. "Take them back."
"I can't baby-girl." Savitar steps forward and brushes the tears off her cheeks.
"I don't want to remember anymore." Dawn sobs.
Fury holds Vi back, not having to be told but knowing by the two men in front of him that this has nothing to do with them.
"I want her dead." Dawn growls. "She killed my baby. I want her dead."
"Dawn, she can't die." Ash says. "You know that. If she dies, so do you."
"I don't care." Dawn grabs his hand and places it over her belly. "I was pregnant again. She killed me, our little girl, and the baby growing inside me with one swipe. And it didn't mean anything to her other than it pissing you off."
Ash squeezes his eyes closed, his hand cupping her belly tenderly. He opens them to see anguish in Savitar's eyes, the other man feeling Dawn's misery, and with a nod, he flashes them to his room.
"I want my Kit-Kat back." Dawn sobs into his chest.
"So do I." Ash waves his hand and a rocking chair appears in his room, the same rocking chair they used to rock Katra to sleep in. He sits down, Dawn curled up on his lap as she sobs, and rocks her, his head dipping to bury in her hair as he cries for the family they lost.
"What's wrong with Kat-akra?"
Apollymi and Kat both look up, seemingly shocked by the demon standing in front of them.
"Simi, what are you doing here?" Apollymi asks. "Who is the child?"
"This is the Claudia." Simi replies. "She lives with us now."
Claudia hides behind Simi, eyes wide as she stares at the two women in front of her.
"Don't be scared, Claudia." Simi flutters over to them, pulling Claudia with her. "This is my akri's mommy and….this is Kat but you can't tell akri cuz she's a secret."
"You're Ashy's mommy?" Claudia asks, burrowing into Simi's side.
"Yes, I am." Apollymi replies. "How did you meet Ash?"
"Willow sent me to Dawnie to be safe." Claudia says. "Ashy said he keep me safe from the monsters."
"Who is Dawnie?" Kat questions, jealousy churning her stomach that this child gets to live with her father when she didn't.
"She's my akra." Simi replies. "She lives with me and akri."
Apollymi pauses, head tilting to look at Simi. She hasn't been watching Ash much lately, too hard to watch her baby and never get to see him. In fact, she hasn't been doing much of anything for the past month or so, isolating herself from everything and everyone. She's even ignored Stryker the few times he's called for her and cut her connection with Ash so she wouldn't have to feel him. "What did you say her name was again?"
"Dawnie." Claudia repeats.
"Why you wanna know bout my akra for?" Simi asks suspiciously.
"Dawn, her name is Dawn." Apollymi says.
"That's what the Claudia done said." Simi replies.
"Auyn." Apollymi whispers.
"Kat-akra, what's wrong with Apollymi?" Simi asks. "Everyone's being strange. My akra was crying and my akri made me go away and the Simi don't like it none."
"What was wrong with your akra?" Apollymi questions.
"The Simi don't know." Simi growls. "Akra said she 'wanted her back and she wanted the red-headed heifer dead' but the Simi don't know why. She'd eat the bitch goddess if Zeus hadn't combined her life force with my akra. Now she can't even roast the heifer cuz it'll hurt her akra."
"Artemis, get your ass down here." Apollymi orders with growl.
After a few seconds, Artemis appears in the room.
Simi growls at her.
"Kat." Artemis whispers.
Kat turns her face away, refusing to look at the woman that raised her.
"What do you want?" Artemis sighs, her arms wrapping around herself.
"This Dawn, is she Auyn?" Apollymi asks.
"Yes." Artemis replies. "Is that all you wanted?"
"Katra, I do love you." Artemis whispers. "I just hope you can remember that."
Kat tenses and doesn’t look up until he feels her leave. "Who is Auyn?"
"Your mother." Apollymi replies.
"Apollymi, you hit your head or something?" Simi wrinkles her nose. "The bitch-goddess is Kat-akra's mommy."
"Simi, look into my eyes." Apollymi orders.
Simi does and falls into a sort of trance for a few minutes. Then she blinks it away, tears in her eyes. "The Simi wants her akra, now. Tell her to go back."
"Ash told you to stay here, didn't he?" Apollymi asks.
Simi nods. "Simi needs to see her akra. Her akra died and she needs to see her. And her akra and akri needs their Kit-Kat."
"Simi, no." Apollymi says.
"The Simi's got to." Simi grabs Claudia with one hand and Kat with the other. "Please."
With a sigh, Apollymi waves her hand. "Go."
"Where'd my akra and akri go?" Simi demands, looking around the living room.
"Simi, who is this?" Alexion stands up, body tensing at the tall blonde holding Simi's hand.
"It can't be." Savitar whispers. "Katra?"
"Grandpa?" Kat runs across the room and throws her arms around him.
Savitar's eyes close and he kisses the top of her head. "You're alive, little one."
"I missed you, grandpa." Kat whispers against his chest. "I wish I had remembered you."
He forced her out of his mind, his heart when he held her dead body. And he did hold it. He burned them both. But contrarily to all that, this is his grandbaby. He would know her soul anywhere. And she's alive, very much so, and so grown up. Artemis has so much to answer for. But right now, that can wait. Right now, his baby needs her baby.
"I can't." Kat whispers. "They don't…I'm not their little girl anymore and I can't be."
"You will always be their little girl just like Dawn will always be my little girl." Savitar pushes her towards the door. "And right now, they need you."
She tries to protest but he just pushes her into a large room. She stumbles inwards, tripping over her feet and almost sprawling across the floor; graceful she is not.
"Alexion, not…" Ash stops, head lifting up from Dawn's hair to search their room. He flicks on the light, rubbing Dawn's back when she whimpers, and looks towards the door. He knows it's her before he even sees her, he can feel it. "Katra."
"She's gone." Dawn whimpers.
"No, baby, look up." Ash urges her face up.
Dawn lifts her head, her bloodshot eyes following Ash's gaze to the tall blonde standing by the doorway. Her hair flows down to her butt and she's currently dressed in pink flannel pajamas. And bright, clear green eyes stare back at her. Green eyes that she's looked into countless times. "Kit-Kat?"