Title: Chapter 25
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.
"Mama?" Kat whispers.
Dawn nods, wiping at her eyes with the heels of her hands.
"I don't understand." Kat wipes at her own eyes. "How…"
"Brand new body." Dawn pushes off Ash's lap and slowly walks towards her daughter; her very grown up daughter. "The last one kinda expired."
Ash tenses, standing up to follow Dawn.
"You're so big." Dawn whispers, still able to see her little girl in the woman before her. And she is big, a solid six to eight inches taller than her and so damn beautiful. So much like her father, in a feminine way.
Katra nods, not having a clue what to say. The girl before her doesn't look anything like her mama did but she knows it's her. She can feel it. That warmth that she didn't know she felt around her mama until a few hours ago, a warmth she never felt around Artemis. She knows, deep down, that Artemis loves her but most of the time, she felt like a puzzle piece, forced to fit into where she didn't belong.
And then there's him. She's known that Ash is her father for as long as she can remember, she was just never allowed to tell anyone, especially him. And now here he is, standing close enough to touch, and she can't move. Can't do anything.
He remembers hugging her tightly, kissing her forehead, and tucking her into bed like it was yesterday…and in a way, it was. It feels like yesterday. She should be five years old, blonde pigtails brushing her shoulders, and big, innocent green eyes staring up at him. At both of them. But she's not. She's taller than Dawn, about a seven or eight inches shorter than him, and completely grown up. She is not their little girl anymore. But in the same breath, she is. There's no doubt in his mind why his mother and Artemis kept her a secret from him. He would have known she was his within seconds of meeting her and known just as fast, that she wasn't Artemis's. And if he remembered Dawn back then, when she wasn't alive, he wouldn't of been able to handle it. He knows why Savitar helped Zeus alter his memories. Even now, the urge to kill something is so strong that he has to touch Dawn to rein in a little bit of control, to remind himself that she is alive.
"Can I touch you?" Dawn whispers.
Kat nods, tears slipping down her face.
"My sweet baby girl." Dawn rushes forward and brushes her fingers over Katra's face. "Look how beautiful you are."
"I forgot you." Kat whispers. "I'm sorry I…I didn't mean to forget."
"Oh, sweetheart, that is not your fault." Dawn cups her chin. "None of this is your fault."
"She's right, sweet pea." Ash steps up behind Dawn, his hand moving up to lightly brush his daughter's cheek. "You didn't do anything."
"Artemis did." Kat says quietly.
Dawn rubs his chest in an attempt to soothe him; it doesn't work very well.
"I'm sorry." Kat apologizes.
Ash, his fangs extended more than normal, forces part of his anger down. "It's not your fault, Katra. You can't control what she did."
Kat nods, guiltily biting her lip.
"Oh, baby, it's okay." Dawn brushes Kat's long hair out of her face and then takes her daughter's hand in hers, leading her over to the bed. "What Artemis did…I hate her with every breath in my body and I know your father does too. We always will."
"I know." Kat dips her head.
Dawn forces Kat's face up with her hand. "It's okay that you still love her. And it's okay if you still call her mom. She raised you. Our feelings for her are not yours. Don't feel guilty for them, okay?"
Kat nods, tears sliding down her face.
Dawn wraps her arms around Kat and pulls her close, Ash's long arms then wrapping around both of them. "My sweet baby girl."
Ash kisses the crown of both their heads before resting his face in the back on Dawn's neck. "Was she good to you?"
"Yes." Kat nods, her nose buried in her mom's hair, breathing in the familiar scent that she didn't know she knew. New body or not, she smells like the dreams she just had. "I think she loved me, in her own way, and she was always good. Distant, sometimes."
"That's good." Dawn nods, biting her lip until she tastes blood and Ash's hand tightens over her side. "I'm glad she was good to you." She has to bite out the last words, the thought of someone, especially Artemis raising her baby almost killing her. She doesn't think she can handle this but she can't push this off on Katra either. She remembers after her mom and dad got divorced, how civil, cold they were to each other. There was always this wall between them and the only time it ever came down was when Buffy ran away. Then they were just two parents, worried about their daughter. She doesn't want Katra to ever feel that; to ever feel guilty or like she has to choose sides.
"Are you okay?" Kat looks up at the girl that is younger than her but makes her feel like a little girl again.
"Yeah, I'm fine, baby." Dawn brushes a kiss across her forehead. "It's just been a stressful couple days. Are you okay?"
"I don't know." Kat answers honestly. "I'm so mad at her right now that I don't think I can ever forgive her."
"You will." Dawn wipes the tears off her face. "When you're ready."
"She wouldn't be as amicable if the situation was reversed." Kat says.
"No, she wouldn't." Ash agrees, not able to feel the generosity that Dawn is feeling right now. He can't focus past what he lost, what they all lost. It's a damn good thing he doesn't have to have any more contact with Artemis because he's not sure he has enough control not to hurt her.
"Yeah, I know." Dawn nods. "But then again, she's always hated me. But that's between us and it has nothing to do with you. This is….my mom and dad got divorced when I was barely nine. I hated it. They tried not to make me and Buffy feel like we were in the middle but we always did. I won't do that to you."
"Who's Buffy?" Kat asks. "And when did grandpa get married?"
"Buffy's my sister." Dawn replies, smiling at the confusion in Kat's voice. "And not grandpa but my dad…Buffy's dad really but since I was made from her, technically he's my dad, even if I've never actually met him in real life."
"I'm confused." Kat sits up, pushing her hair over her shoulder to look at her parents.
"You'll get used to it, ask your dad." Dawn says.
"She's right." Ash agrees. "She's very confusing."
"And most of the time I'm not even trying." Dawn pecks his chin.
Ash shakes his head, a smile crossing his lips, and brushes a kiss against her temple.
Her grandma was right. She's watched him for centuries, for longer than she can remember, and she's never seen her dad this content, happy. Especially the few times when she would catch sight of him leaving or entering Artemis's chambers; he always looked so stoic then. But this, watching him with her mother is like being five again and playing with them outside. There is so much love in this room and the fact that she was a product of that love rather than the hate she always thought she was makes her feel so much better about her existence.
"I want to know everything." Dawn says. "Everything thing about your life."
"Starting with Sin." Ash adds.
Kat turns bright red.
"Sweetie, I think we should give her a little time before we start asking her about her sins." Dawn says. "That'd be like me telling her straight off about my klepto stage."
"Sin, not sins." Ash corrects. "He's a dark-hunter of sorts."
"Huh, well, guess that apple fell right next to the tree." Dawn says. "Cuz the older warrior types…"
"Technically, I'm older than him." Kat cuts in.
"Oh." Dawn shrugs. "Well, that works too."
"Artemis hates him." Ash says. "And he hates her. How in the world would you even come in contact…"
"You sought him out, to get back at her." Dawn interrupts Ash off Kat's look.
"Yeah." Kat agrees.
"When exactly did you find out about me?" Dawn asks.
"I was waiting to talk to her when grandpa stormed in." Kat replies. "I can hide my presence when I want to so I did because mo…Artemis didn't want anyone to know I was there. I heard what he said. She didn't want to tell me but I kept pressuring her until she did. She didn't tell me that you were alive again. I..I dreamt about you last night, about when I was little and I went to ask grandma about it. Then Simi showed up…"
"Oh, my god, where is Simi?" Dawn cuts in. "Did she stay there?"
"No, she brought me here." Kat replies. "Her and a little girl named Claudia."
Dawn wiggles out from between her daughter and husband. "Why isn't she in here then? Simi should be in here."
"She's fine, Dawn." Ash assures her.
"No, she's not fine because she should be in here." Dawn shakes her head, her tangled locks flying around her face. "What if something's wrong with her?"
Ash arches an eyebrow at the panic in her voice but doesn't say anything to stop her from leaving the room. Instead, he follows behind her, holding his hand out to their daughter.
"Simi?" Dawn yells down the hallway. "Sims, where are you?"
"Dawn, are you okay?" Vi pushes to her feet, automatically dropping into a fighting stance at the panic in Dawn's voice. "Are we being attacked?"
"Where's Simi?" Dawn asks. "And Claudia. Where are they?"
"Dawn, calm down." Vi says. "They're over there."
Dawn runs across the room to where she can hear Simi talking quietly and drops down on the floor by the demon and slayer. "Simi, why are you out here?"
"The Claudia is out here." Simi says quietly.
"Simi, what's wrong?" Dawn asks.
Ash kneels down at his demon's side, her tone unlike anything he's ever heard from her before. She sounds like she's in so much pain, feels so guilty. "Simi, what's wrong?"
Simi throws herself at him with a loud, drawn out wail. "My akra died."
"I know." Ash rubs her back. "But she's here now."
"It's the Simi's fault." Simi whispers.
"Oh, no, baby, this isn't your fault." Dawn protests. "You weren't even there."
"That's why it's the Simi's fault." Simi cries. "She was supposed to keep her akra and Kit-Kat safe but she wanted to visit with Apollymi."
"Honey, I told you to go." Dawn reminds her.
"The Simi shouldn't have left." Simi says firmly. "And her akra died because she did."
"Sweetheart." Dawn lifts Simi up, grunting at the demon's formidable weight, and cuddles her on her lap. "None of this is your fault, okay? You didn't do anything wrong."
Simi shakes her head.
"She's right, Simi." Ash says. "What happened wasn’t your fault."
"It wasn't anyone's fault." Dawn says, looking pointedly at her husband and then up at her father. "Anyone's."
Savitar just crosses his arms over his chest.
"It wasn't your fault, Simi." Ash says, ignoring Dawn's statement. "Nobody is mad at you, okay?"
"Ash, I wasn't kidding about this not being anyone's fault." Dawn says. "It's not your fault."
Ash just brushes a kiss across her forehead.
Dawn shoots him a glare as she wipes the tears off Simi's face. "You blame yourself."
"I understand my responsibility for what happened." Ash agrees.
"This wasn't your fault either." Dawn kisses Simi's horns and then forehead. "Nor was it yours, dad."
"I accepted my responsibility for what happened a long time ago." Savitar says. "Nothing you say will change my mind."
"Since it was my death, I'm pretty sure I have a say in that." Dawn pushes to her feet, hand reaching out to grab Ash's arm when her head spins.
"What's wrong?" Ash cups her arms.
"Nothing." Dawn shakes her head, smiling up him. "I'm fine."
"Ash, if you go freaking out every time I almost fall or get hurt, you're going to get an ulcer." Dawn says. "I'm fine, no need to freak."
Ash leans down to kiss her forehead, trying to sense if anything is wrong with her. His hand absently drops down to cup her belly, spanning her pelvis from hipbone to hipbone. Where she was split open. He almost agrees with Dawn, not wanting the memories back any more than she does. Because remembering how happy they were, and they were, is painful enough to almost bring him to his knees. He can't get the image of her dead body out of his mind, it's all he sees when he closes his eyes, and his respect for Urian grows tenfold. He would have never been able to survive without Dawn. Just like he knows he couldn't now. God forbid if anything happens to her now because if it does, he knows he'll do what he was prophesized to do; destroy everything.
"Dawn, you okay?" Vi asks, concern evident in her voice.
"Yeah." Dawn replies. "Tired but I'm good."
"That's good." Vi nods. "Oh, and what the hell is going on?"
"Oh, not much." Dawn says. "Let's see. I was married, to Ash, about eleven thousand years ago. Before we got married, I lived on Mount Olympus with my daddy Savitar and my papa, Zeus. Oh, and this is Katra, our daughter." She pauses, head tilted to the side. "And I think I'm getting a cold cuz I feel all oogly. But other than that, not much."
"Well, there goes you getting off easy because of Pheebs' marriage." Vi shakes her head, a smile covering her lips.
"Yeah." Dawn agrees. "Kat, this is Vi, she's one of my best friends. Vi, this is Katra, our daughter."
"Hi, it's nice to meet you." Vi holds her hand out to the stunningly beautiful blonde in front of her. "Under me is Fury…he's my boyfriend slash mate."
Fury grunts, chin resting on Vi's shoulder.
"And over here is Urian…"
"Damn, I want to be surprised but I can't be." Urian comments, arms crossed over his chest as he stares at her. "I knew there was something familiar about you."
"Damian." Kat arches an eyebrow in surprise. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"How do you know my daughter?" Ash barely keeps the growl out of his voice.
"She was Cassandra's bodyguard." Urian says.
Ash's eyebrows furrow. "She was there, wasn't she? That night at Dante's."
"I left when you got there." Kat answer for Urian. "That was one of the conditions."
"What conditions?" Dawn asks. "For what?"
"It's the only way Artemis would continue to let me help." Kat explains. "That if dad was to come there, I had to leave."
"Why does it sound like some type of prisoner thing?" Dawn quirks an eyebrow.
"Mo…Artemis didn't let me out much." Kat shrugs. "Only when she had no other choice."
"Yeah, I've been there." Dawn says. "Buffy was always banning me to the house, which usually ended up way worse than when she let me come with her."
"She wanted me to be safe." Kat says. "It was always her biggest concern."
Dawn tilts her head back to study her daughter and is shocked by the innocence in her eyes. It's not hard to see how sheltered she's been nor is it hard to see how much like her father she is, the pure goodness in her. The mother in her almost wants to hug Artemis for keeping her so safe while the part of her that is made from Buffy, is all up in arms. Because while she's spent most of her youth fighting and or being chased by demons, she's always valued the fact that she could, once Buffy started letting her that is.
"Sounds like this Artemis and Buffy have a lot in common." Vi comments.
"Yeah, they're both bossy." Dawn agrees. "And technically, they're both my big sisters."
Kat smiles, mouth opening to agree, when she finally notices the other blonde sitting on the couch, blankets pulled up to her face. "Phoebe?" She looks at Urian who nods. "But how….you're supposed to be dead."
"You know, I'm starting to discover that a good amount of the people that I know are supposed to be dead….myself included." Dawn says. "We could start a club."
"Yeah, I think I'll pass on membership to that one." Vi replies.
"I don't blame you one bit for that." Dawn walks over to the couch and plops down beside Phoebe. "How are you feeling?"
"Okay." Phoebe smiles at her.
Dawn feels her forehead, notes the slightly cool temp with a frown. "I think you need to eat more, sweetie."
Phoebe grimaces. "It's gross."
"Yeah, I'll agree with you there." Dawn nods. "But you can't keep letting yourself get that weak."
"It's not working anymore." Phoebe whispers.
"What isn't?" Dawn asks.
"The blood." Phoebe bends her knees and wraps her arms around her legs. "A few hours after I feed, it starts to fade out. It used to be weeks before I would need to feed again but lately, I've been feeding every few days."
"How has nobody noticed?" Dawn asks after a few seconds, frankly stunned.
"Come on, you know dad keeps tons of blood stored everywhere, in case something happened." Phoebe replies. "I've been sneaking into it."
Dawn rubs her forehead. "I have to tell Angel, you know that right?"
"I know." Phoebe nods.
"But, in the meantime, you're feeding off your husband." Dawn says.
"I'm not biting somebody I just met." Phoebe's eyes widen. "Even if he is my husband."
"Fine." Dawn pushes to her feet and walks to the kitchen, Ash on her heels. His kitchen is huge and modernly furnished, which is weird for a home of mostly non-cookers, and it takes her a few seconds to locate what she's looking for. And when she does, Ash frowns at her. "Don't worry; I've long since passed the needing to prove that I'm real stage. This isn't for me."
Ash continues to frown as he follows her out of the kitchen.
"Here." Dawn thrusts the items at Urian.
"Dawn, no." Phoebe protests.
"You love her, right?" Dawn asks, ignoring Phoebe's protests.
"Yes." Urian looks down at the knife and cup she thrust at him.
"She's needs blood, your blood apparently." Dawn says. "Angel does it all the time; slash your forearm and fill the cup."
Urian tenses at the other man's name, his hand gripping the knife handle firmly. He drags it across his forearm, the cup moving under to catch his blood.
Phoebe watches the blood flow from his arm into the cup, her fangs lengthening and her mouth watering. His blood smells so good, so different than Angel's. Her dad's blood is basically whatever he ate; he has no actually real blood of his own. She doesn't completely understand how it works, how his blood becomes different once it's inside of his body and why it doesn't affect her like it would anyone else, just knows it doesn't. But Urian's blood is his blood, real blood. She's never drank blood straight from the source, besides her dad. And she wonders if that makes her less of a monster for not doing so or more of a monster for wanting to. And she does. She can almost feel her fangs sinking into his shoulder, not his neck, one of his hands held against her back to keep her flush with him and the other tangled in her hair. Her heart starts pounding in her chest and when he holds the cup out to her, her hand shakes so bad she almost spills the blood all over herself. "Thank you."
"You're welcome, baby." Urian sets the knife on the table next to the couch, his eyes never leaving hers.
Phoebe sips at the blood, almost moaning as the thick, warm, and tasty liquid coats her mouth. She remembers this, his blood. Remembers a time when she was almost the same age she is now, him making her drink, keeping her alive. Her hiding, not a soul allowed to know of her existence, not her family but especially not his. His father. "Stryker."
Urian tenses and then even more so when he sees the tears in her eyes.
"He would have killed you." Phoebe whispers. "I was so scared when you didn't come home for months. I was going to go find you but they wouldn't let me leave. They said I wasn't allowed to leave. I was so scared."
Urian's face fall.
"Sit down." Dawn pushes on his chest, almost laughing when he stumbles backwards and falls onto the couch. "She needs you."
Urian starts to say something, reminding her how Phoebe needs her space, when he gets a lap full of long legged blonde.
Phoebe places her shaking hand over his heart. "I thought he was going to kill you; I don't think I've ever been so scared. I just wanted my dad but he would have killed me; I wasn't his daughter anymore, was I? And you had to leave so your dad didn't know you saved me."
"I'm fine, Phe, I'm right here." Urian brushes a kiss over her forehead. Her frail body is shivering and he can't tell if it's from her clammy skin or from just remembering the past. The cup of blood she's holding shakes, almost spilling over the sides. "Come on baby, you need to eat."
Phoebe nods and sips at the blood.
"Okay, how is that he can get her to feed without any problem while Angel has to bribe her to most of the time?" Dawn asks.
"The same way Ash can get you to stay where it's safe while Buffy has to threaten to chain you up to keep you safe." Vi replies. "It's love."
"Makes you do the wacky." Dawn agrees.
"I think you two were 'wacky' long before we came along." Fury comments, pushing back on his chair until it's balanced on two legs.
"Probably." Dawn agrees. "And didn't anybody ever tell you to keep all four legs on the floor. You're going to fall."
Fury snorts. "Please."
Vi kicks at the right leg still on the ground and in flail of long arms and legs, Fury goes tumbling to the ground.
"Damn it, Vi!" Fury growls.
"You said please." Vi holds out her hand with a grin.
Fury moves to his feet with a growl, his teeth bared at Vi.
"Oh, did I hurt you?" Vi asks, biting her tongue to keep from giggling. 'I'm going turn you over my knee and show you what hurt really is.'
Fury growls through their link. 'Mmm, sounds kinda fun.'
Vi purrs back, outright laughing at the lust that floods his face.
"Vi, get a room." Dawn wrinkles her nose.
"Please, like you have room to talk." Vi snorts.
Dawn's cell phone rings before she can reply. She reaches over Simi and Claudia to grab it off a small table, frowning at the name on it.
"What?" Vi asks.
"It's Andrew." Dawn says.
"Why's he calling you?" Vi frowns.
"Don't know." Dawn flips open her phone. "What's up, Andrew?"
"I'm not supposed to call you until the code red is done but some girl keeps calling headquarters, demanding to talk to you. She won't talk to anyone else, she says it has to be you." Andrew says. "I think it might be a slayer but I don't know which one."
Dawn sighs. "I'm not supposed to do anything watcher-y."
"Give her my cell." Dawn says after a second.
"Okay but if something happens to you I'm going on record as this is a bad idea." Andrew says.
"Record noted." Dawn rolls her eyes. "Bye."
"Are you nuts?" Vi arches an eyebrow. "If we're supposed to stay hidden until this is all over, I'm pretty sure that means no phone calls."
"Vi, it's cool." Dawn says.
"Dawn." Ash says warningly.
"Don't, Ash." Dawn pats his chest. "It's fine. I mean, even if it is whoever's trying to kill us, it's not like they can reach through the phone and kill me."
"Didn't something almost kill Buffy in her dreams?" Vi asks.
"Yeah, but that was different." Dawn replies.
"And when dad got turned into a puppet, they were investigating a children's television show that was turning the kids into zombie…things." Phoebe adds, licking her lips to catch the remaining drops of blood. "Willow could hurt somebody through the phone."
"Well, if you want to get all technical about I guess they could kill me through the phone but the chances of that happening are slim to none." Dawn glances between Ash and her dad. "Which you two are going to throw a fit about me taking." She sighs. "And that's why they invented speaker phone." She flips open the phone, hits the speaker button and sets it in the middle of the table. "There. If they try to AK me, you can stop them."
Kat bites her tongue to keep from laughing. And she always thought she got her sarcasm from her dad, Artemis has no wit, but looks like some it comes from her mom too.
"What the hell is AK?" Savitar crosses his arms over his chest, a frown covering his lips.
"AK." Dawn says. "The killing curse?"
Savitar looks at Ash for an explanation.
"Harry Potter." Ash explains. "It's a book series."
"I'll lend them to you." Dawn says.
The phone rings, the table turning to look at the small pink razor lying in the middle of the table.
"It's not going to bite." Dawn leans forward and hits the talk button. "Hello?"
"Hey there, cutie." A husky voice says.
Dawn feels the blood drain from her face. "Wh…h..o?"
Ash tenses, the fear literally dripping off Dawn putting his entire being on edge.
"What's the matter, Dawnie, you don't remember us?" The voice changes, this time to a male with a slight drawl. "We remember you."
Dawn closes her eyes, bites her lip, and counts to ten. "It'd be a great farce if I didn't know you were dead, both of you."
"Are you sure about that?" The husky voice asks.
"One hundred percent sure." Dawn squeezes Ash's arm. "Buffy beat Glory to a bloody pulp, Giles suffocated Ben, and then Spike and Angel torched his body. Then Willow and Tara consecrated his ashes and right now, they're at the bottom of the pit that used to be Sunnydale so yeah, I'm pretty sure they're dead."
"You were dead once." The voice changes, this time to a soft, whispery accent. She hums beautifully, a lullaby. "You used to sing that to your baby girl, before you died."
Dawn visibly relaxes, this something she can handle. "Hello, Drusilla."
"Hello, little key." Drusilla says. "How are you this evening?"
"Okay, how are you?" Dawn replies.
"Mmm, by belly is grumbly but it isn't dinner time just yet." Dru murmurs. "The Flame, she is riding her wolf?"
"Not at the moment." Dawn plops down on a chair, her fingers drumming on the table. "Why didn't you just ask for Angel?"
"It's not near time for daddy to play." Dru singsongs. "We mustn't tell him yet."
"Dru, you know I can't do that." Dawn protests.
"Oh, but you will." Dru purrs.
"What makes you think that?" Dawn asks.
"Your little Kit-Kat grew up without a daddy." Dru says. "You wouldn't want little Marisa to grow up the same way."
Ash reaches for his cell phone when a whisper of a voice fills the otherwise silent room.
Ash clenches his hand around his phone, crushing the plastic in his palm. "Baby, where's your daddy?"
"Ash, what the hell is going on?" Kyrian is on the phone next.
"Kyrian, where are you?" Ash asks.
"Sanctuary." Kyrian replies. "There was a pageant at Marisa's school tonight. A couple Daimons grabbed the kids before we could stop them."
"Shh, you mustn't tell all our secrets." Dru slips back on. "The game isn't near done yet."
"Dru, what do you want?" Dawn grinds her teeth.
"It's time for you to join the party." Dru claps her hands with a girly giggle. "My little sister must come too. We shall all dance under the stars."
"You're not going." Ash orders.
"And just who the heck is going to stop me?" Dawn glares up at him, her hands on his hips.
Savitar steps beside Ash, arms folded over his chest, the two men standing side by side like a wall.
"Okay, either you take me there or I will find a way myself." Dawn growls up at them, her fangs bared. "And my way involves slicing myself open and attempting to open portals with my portal-y magical blood."
"Dawn." Ash softens his tone.
"No, Ash, don't even try that." Dawn says. "I love you but I will be damned if I'm going to let someone else die to protect me. I am going to the Sanctuary and nothing short of you knocking me out and chaining me up is going to stop me. And we both know you're not going to do that."
"Mom." Kat whispers.
Dawn turns, her face softening at the fear in Kat's face. "Sweetie, nothing is going to happen to me, I promise."
"You can't know that." Kat says.
"I know Dru." Dawn pushes a hand through her hair. "This is a game to her and as long as we play along, there's a chance we can save Marisa and whoever else Dru has. But if we don't play along, she will start killing everyone she can until we do. The things she will do to a child….I'm not going to let it happen. I'm going."
"If anyone so much as lays a hand on you…." Ash growls.
"I know, baby." Dawn pushes up to kiss the bottom of his chin and pats his chest. "Okay, Urian, you keep Phoebe right beside you and the second it gets bad, get her out of there."
"I am not purposefully putting my wife in danger." Urian growls.
"I'm going." Phoebe rises gracefully to her feet.
"Pheebs, you okay?" Dawn asks.
"Yeah, I actually feel better than I have in…actually better than I can remember feeling." Phoebe keeps her hand on Urian's arm though, her body still weak but nothing like it normally does. Normally, every action takes conscious effort, even standing, but she's doing so now with only Urian's body to brace her.
"Vi?" Dawn arches an eyebrow.
"Oh, I'm going." Vi says. "It's bad enough we're leaving when we promised not to, and without telling anyone…."
"We can't." Dawn cuts in.
"And there is no way you're going without me." Vi finishes as though she's never been interrupted.
"Ash, I don't want Simi coming." Dawn whispers, her mouth barely moving so that Simi won't hear her.
Ash nods. "Simi, take Claudia back to my room and watch cartoons."
"Something's wrong, akri." Simi says.
"Don't worry about it, Simi." Ash replies.
"Akra, you're sad." Simi hugs both of their legs.
"It's okay, baby girl." Dawn kisses her horns. "Just go play with Claudia. And maybe Alexion will let Xirena out so she can play too."
Simi looks ready to argue but then with a sad sigh, takes Claudia's hand. "Come on, Claudia, the Simi keep you safe."
"Go on, sweetie." Dawn brushes her hand over the little slayer's face. "We'll be back soon."
"Be careful, Dawnie." Claudia says. "And Ashy too."
"We will." Ash runs his hand over her hair. "Stay with Simi and do whatever she says, okay?"
"Okay." Claudia agrees.
"Sims." Dawn says, the demon stopping but not turning around.
"Yes, akra?" Simi whispers.
"I love you baby girl." Dawn says.
Simi turns and runs, throwing herself at Dawn. "I love my akra too."
"It's okay, Simi, I'm okay." Dawn kisses her forehead. "But I need you to keep Claudia safe for me, okay?"
"The Simi promises." Simi vows.
"That's my girl." Dawn kisses her horns again and places her on her feet. "Go buy some pretties."
Simi smiles and then takes Claudia's hand, walking the little girl down the hall.
"I'll keep them safe." Alexion cuts in. "Nothing will touch them here, you know that."
"You aren't going to try to make me stay?" Kat questions.
"Oh, I want to." Dawn replies. "I'd like nothing better than to put you in a little bubble to protect you but I won't do that. I've had that done to me and it only put me in more danger…."
"Technically, you only put you in more danger." Vi interrupts. "What with the sneaking around at night and going parking with vampires."
"One vampire." Dawn corrects. "Just the one." She shoots Vi a glare. "And as I was saying, you're an adult and old enough to decide what you want to do. And what you're able to handle. Besides, if you're anything like me, you'll pretty much be able to worm your way out of any dangerous situation with only a few bumps and bruises."
"She's an expert at it." Vi explains. "Though I guess with the number of times she's been kidnapped, she'd have to be."
Ash clenches his fists.
"Hey, it's been over a year since I've been kidnapped." Dawn protests.
"Uh uh." Phoebe shakes her head. "Remember, between Christmas and New Years, that group of demons snagged you."
"Oh, yeah." Dawn nods. "Buffy and Angel wouldn't let me go out for New Years so me, you, Connor and Tracy had a party in your room."
"Must have been nice." Vi mutters. "Meanwhile, I was freezing my ass off, searching for vampires in Alaska."
"Hey, at least you could go somewhere." Dawn says. "I was stuck in the hotel for three weeks until Buffy mellowed out."
"Gee, I wonder what that's like." Phoebe says sarcastically.
"Oh yeah." Dawn nods sympathetically.
Ash closes his eyes, counts to ten in twelve different languages, and opens them to find Dawn looking up at him, her eyes a mellow, light green. "I can't lose you."
"I know." Dawn wraps her arms around him. "You won't. Promise."
A/N: I totally screwed up the DH time line with Katra so I'm inventing my own. I've read the book and loved it but it doesn't fit in with what I already had written.