Title: Chapter 5
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.
Dawn thrusts Simi behind her body with her good arm while she continues to hold the sword against Ash's throat in the hand of her hurt arm. It hurts, her entire arm feels like it's going to fall off, but she grits her teeth past the pain. She has to be sure this is Ash, the real Ash from their dimension and not an Ash from another dimension. "Simi, are you sure this is your akri?"
"Yes." Simi cries, trying to scramble around Dawn's body. "The Simi can feel her akri, remember? This is my akri."
"Okay." Dawn drops the sword, a pain-filled moan ripping from her mouth as her shoulder drops.
Simi runs around Dawn's body and launches herself at Ash, a high, tear-filled cry ripping from her throat.
Ash catches Simi to his chest, his eyes closing in relief at holding his baby again. Something's different, he can tell that right off, but right now he doesn't care. All he cares about it having her back. His arms wrap tight around her, planning to never let go. He has so many questions that he wants answered but for right now, in this second, his world is okay.
Dawn feels tears fill her eyes and for the first time in over a year, she lets herself be weak.
Ash's eyes bulge out and his arms tighten around Simi but she still somehow manages to scramble out of his arms and across the floor to where Dawn is now lying. Something is off. Simi isn't wearing the skirt and top she was wearing before nor is Dawn wearing what she had been. They're both wearing cloth-sack like clothing, more like rags than anything else. They're both dirty, not dirty like they've been playing in the dirt but dirty like they haven't really bathed in a long time. And they smell, stink really, so much more than they should for having been gone less than a day.
"Akra, get up." Simi demands.
Dawn doesn't move.
"Akri, fix my akra." Simi looks up at him, her eyes filled with tears.
He doesn't understand what's going on, why with them only being gone less than a day Simi is calling Dawn akra. The burst of jealousy that flashes through him shocks him but the tears in Simi's eyes and the fear in her voice makes him push past that and kneel down beside Dawn's prone body.
The arrow is sticking out of her shoulder, blood pooling around the wound and down her arm. Simi is curled on Dawn's body, her face tucked in Dawn's neck. He can hear her crying; he hates that sound, hates to see his Simi upset or sad. He murmurs soothing words to her in his native tongue as his hand moves over the arrow in Dawn's shoulder.
It's gone in less than a second, the wound becoming nothing and the blood on Dawn's rags being the only proof of it having been there in the first place. Dawn starts to wake up almost immediately.
"Simi-girl, we've talked about how your akra needs to breathe." Dawn murmurs, pushing up on one hand while the other hand automatically wraps around Simi's back to keep the demon from sliding off her body. "Remember?"
"Yes." Simi sighs. "Simi sorry."
"It's okay, sweetie." Dawn kisses Simi's forehead and then holds her hand out to Ash. "Wanna help a girl up?"
He pulls her to her feet without even realizing what he's doing; somehow this human teenager has him thrown completely off balance for the third time. He's always prided himself on having as much control as any being can but somehow this woman-child in front of him repeatedly challenges his control. He doesn't like it. It's too much like his…involvement with Artemis. And he's not sure he likes this closeness she has with Simi.
Dawn holds onto Ash's arm until Simi is firmly on her feet and then she lets go to finger the spot where there should be a hole. "Huh." She shrugs. "Thanks for that because I was so not looking forward to trying to explain a big gaping hole to my sister."
Simi, once she's assures herself that Dawn really is okay by poking the teenager's healed shoulder, throws herself back in Ash's arms, her face nestling into his chest.
Ash tries to run his hand through her hair but it's nothing but a mass of tangles. So instead, he rubs small circles on her back, silently vowing to never let her out alone again just like he should have after what happened with Zarek, when she almost died before.
"Oh, crap." Dawn grabs her backpack off the ground and fumbles inside it. "How long have we been gone?"
"You don't know that?" Ash looks over Simi to where Dawn is fumbling through her bag, a bag that is almost threadbare and covered in dirt.
"I know how long we've been gone but how long have we been gone?" Dawn finds what she's searching for and grabs it with a relieved sigh. She looks back at Ash and finally realizes they're not alone. "Professor Alexander?"
"Dawn, are you okay?" Julian asks, concern flooding his voice. "Did you hit your head?"
"No, why?" Dawn pushes her tangled and dirty hair out of her face.
"What you just said didn't make any sense." Julian says.
"How long have we been gone?" Dawn asks again.
"Fourteen hours, twenty seven minutes and twelve seconds." Ash answers quietly.
Dawn sighs with relief as she turns on her phone; the battery will hopefully still be charged seeing how she turned it off the moment she realized it was useless. They haven't been gone for a day. There's no reason for her sister to have called yet, seeing how they spoke a few minutes before her and Simi left. Which means there's no reason for anybody in L.A. to know she was gone. Her joy is short-lived however, when her voicemail icon lights up the screen. Closing her eyes and hoping for the best, she checks her messages.
'You have fifteen unheard messages.'
"Shit." Dawn mutters under her breath, completely ignoring the people in the room.
'Niblet, it was funny and all the first twelve hours or so but now it's getting damn old. I enjoying torturing Fluffy just as much as the next person but now you're making me worry and it's bloody annoying. Call home.'
She deletes Spike's message and then the following six from Buffy, her sister saying the same thing every time: 'Call me back, now.' She deletes the two from Angel, the two from Connor, the two from Giles, and starts to delete the next one of her sister when she realizes this is the reason Buffy called in the first place.
'Hey Dawnie, it's Buffy. There's been a slight change in plans and the jet will be there about three hours earlier than we told you. A driver will pick you up from your house and drive you to the airport, just like normal, but you have to be ready by seven instead of ten. And I know, that sucks because seven is way too earlier to be up but we can't help it. Call me back so I know you actually got this.'
The first message and last she listens to is from Willow and it kinda surprises her that the witch only called once. That is until she actually listens to it.
'Dawn, it's Willow. Um, something's wrong and I don't know what it is but I know it's real and I know it's about you. I'm not sure what it is, maybe it's nothing big and I'm just worrying for nothing but….I need you to call me back so I know it's not big. I'm not going to tell Buffy yet, she'll just freak out and try to drag you back here and I know you don't want that. So call me back right away. I'm going to give you fifteen hours starting right now and if you don't call back by then, I'll have to tell Buffy. Please don't make me regret doing this.'
"Crap." Dawn presses end and then dials Willow's cell phone.
"Yeah, it's me." Dawn holds out a hand to the people in the room as a motion of silence. "Hey, sorry bout the late callage but I just woke up."
"You just woke up."
"Hey, it's Sunday." Dawn shifts her weight, hoping Willow can't tell she's lying over the phone. "Everybody sleeps in on Sundays or at least they should. It's prime sleeping time."
"Did you get Buffy's message?"
"Which one, she left like seven." Dawn says. "And yes, I got them but I wanted to call you back first. I'm fine."
"Yeah, I got bit by an angry puppy." Dawn knows she has to tell Willow something without telling her the truth. "I didn't want to tell Buffy cuz she'd flip."
"That must have been the feeling. Okay, I feel better now but you better call Buffy and let her know you're okay."
"I will." Dawn agrees. "See you later."
"Bye." Dawn hangs up the phone. "One down, one to go." Then she dials her sister's number and nervously drums her fingers on her hip.
"Why didn't you call me back?"
Dawn jerks the phone away from her ear as her sister lays into her. With a sigh, she hangs up.
"Should you have done that?" Julian asks curiously. This is a side to his flighty student that's he's never seen and he has to say it's rather fascinating. Dawn is normally so carefree that it's unusual to see her stressed out.
"She'll call back in a second." Dawn replies. "She needs to vent." And sure enough, the phone rings. Dawn flips it back open and holds it a little ways from her ear. "Are you done yelling like a banshee now?"
"Dawn Summers, you promised me."
Ash raises an eyebrow at the anger in Dawn's sister's voice. He has to admit he's curious about the various people that called her; who the various men are and how Dawn knows them along with who Willow is and what kind of feeling she had. But Dawn's sister…the savageness of the anger in her voice surprises him. Humans, in his experience, don’t experience emotions the same why Daimons, Dark-Hunters, Were-Hunters and demon do. Human's are so fleeting and frivolous with their emotions. They become unreasonably upset with the smallest things yet purposefully ignore the things that should anger them. And a majority of the time, they try to deny their anger, afraid of their own dark side. This doesn't seem to be the case with Dawn's sister. Her anger seems to soak into every word she speaks, like she's barely hanging onto it, and she's very aware of that.
"Buffy, chill." Dawn orders. "I wasn't being a butt and purposefully ignoring you. I had a late night."
"What does that mean?"
"That I had a long night, what the hell else could it mean?" Dawn rolls her eyes.
"Don't take that tone with me, little missy."
"And don't tell me what to do." Dawn says in the same tone. Then she takes a deep breath. This is why she had to move. It doesn't matter how far apart they are, Buffy has this ability to make her feel like she's fourteen again. "I ran into some people in my Classics class and we went out for coffee. And then we started talking about the club they're starting…it'll just bore you but I liked it. I think I'm going to join."
"What kinda club?"
"It's like the archeology club that you were in only it's actually a club." Dawn replies. "They do research on Ancient Greek; you know the language, culture, and that kind of stuff. It's an appreciation group and you know how I am with that kind of stuff."
"A great big nerd."
"And proud of it." Dawn sits down on the couch next to some guy she's never met. "But anyways, it lasted till about five so that's the lateness."
A brief silence follows. "So you're fine?"
"Peachy keen." Dawn chirps. "And I have to go; I have a math test in the morning."
"Have you studied at all for it?"
"Of course not." Dawn replies. "But don't worry, I have a plan."
"Bribe my teacher with the sex." Dawn laughs when Buffy yells. "Just joking, I just like the look on your face when I joke about it."
"You can't see my face."
"I know what it looks like." Dawn giggles at the growl in her sister's voice. "I'm not going to boink my teacher, promise. I'm going to go the honest route and cheat."
"Oh, please, like you didn't cheat all the time." Dawn rolls her eyes. "It's the only reason you passed and we both know it."
"You're not me."
"Yeah, I'm much taller and have better hair."
"And if you'd let me off the phone, I could go do the study thing."
"Bye, Dawn, I'll see you Tuesday."
"Love you too, even if mom did find you in a box of howler monkeys." She hangs up the phone before her sister can yell at her and tosses it onto the table in front of her with a sigh. She hates having to lie to her sister but Buffy makes it necessary.
"You're in a club." Julian states.
"Yep." Dawn grins at him. "And if my sister asks, you're the advisor so you might be getting a crazy call from her eventually about it."
"You lied to your sister."
Dawn looks at the man beside her. "Um, yeah, I know that. Who are you?"
"And I thought my name was silly." Dawn pats him on the arm when he starts to say something. "I'm just joking; it's a very nice noun." The she cocks her head at him. "You're a Dark-Hunter, aren't you?"
Dead silence follows.
"Simi, what did you tell her?" Ash asks, looking down at the demon still in his arms.
"She told me what she had to." Dawn answers for Simi. "I needed to know what was up with the vamps and the portal things if I was going to find a way home."
"It did work, Ash." Kyrian points out. "So I guess it was a good thing."
"Oh, her telling me didn't help us get home." Dawn corrects. "That portal opened on its own; we just jumped through."
"You jumped through without knowing where it would lead?" Ash's tone never rises but it's not hard to hear the anger in his voice.
"Don't take that tone with me, buddy." Dawn orders, jumping to her feet. "I didn’t have a choice. In case you missed it, there was an arrow in my shoulder, shot from a bow of a crazy man that was leading an equally crazy mob. It was them or the portal; I chose the portal."
"What mob?" Ash demands.
Dawn shrugs. "Sorry, I didn't think to stop and take names but the next time a group of people are hell bent on killing me, I'll make sure that I do."
"What happened?" Ash stalks towards her, his arms not loosening a fraction around Simi.
Dawn starts to answer but instead cuts the distance between her and Ash when Simi whimpers. She places an hand on Ash's arm to steady herself and uses the other to pet Simi's hair. "Shh, it's okay, Simi girl."
"Akri is mad." Simi whimpers. "The Simi doesn't want her akra to fight with her akri."
"We're not fighting, baby-girl, just talking in real loud voices." Dawn says.
Simi just looks at her.
"Yeah, I never bought that either. Okay, we are fighting but it's not a big deal. Your akri is just a little upset with you having been gone and is showing it by being a butthead. You'll have to forgive him." Dawn smiles at Simi when she giggles.
Ash's eyes widen and he starts to yell but stops when Simi giggles. "I am not a…butthead." Then he turns his head to glare at the laughing room.
"Maybe not but you have to admit you're being awful….grumpy." Dawn says, not able to think of a good word to describe his mood.
"I just want to know what happened." Ash demands.
"And you'll just have to wait." Dawn replies, lifting her eyes to look in his. She gasps at the sight.
Ash sighs, not surprised by her shock; most humans are uncomfortable and thrown off by the swirling silver of his eyes. But then he's almost gasping when she knocks off the sun glasses she somehow still has on. Her eyes are swirling too, but instead of silver, they're green.
Simi sighs and reaches up to pat them both on the cheek. "My akri matches my akra."
"I know, Sims." Simi told her about Ash's eyes the first time she witnessed Dawn's own eyes but hearing and seeing are two different things. His eyes are cool, the silver almost hypnotizing. "Come here, Sims."
Ash's arms tighten around her and he takes a step back.
"Hey, no need to get all overprotective." Dawn says, stepping towards him. "Simi's safe with me. I mean, hell, she has been for the past year."
Dead silence follows again.
Ash opens his mouth to speak but he can't get the words to come out. They were only gone for almost fifteen hours. Not a year. Simi couldn't have been gone for a year.
"Oh, I'm guessing you don't know about the whole time thing." Dawn sighs. "Okay, look, time travels differently in most other dimensions. What was fifteen hours here was over a year where we were."
"That's impossible." Ash protests. He's well aware of the time differences in other dimensions but she wasn't gone for a year. She couldn't have been.
Dawn holds her wrist up to him, showing him the dirty but still functioning watch she's wearing. "Look at the date."
December fifth, two-thousand and seven. That's the date on her watch. And the date today is November sixteenth, two-thousand and six. A year. They were gone for over a year. Simi has never gone that long without him.
Dawn sees the shock fill Ash's face and she gently takes Simi out of his arms. "Simi-girl, why don’t you go jump in the shower."
"Don’t want to." Simi says.
"Simi, you smell." Dawn replies. "Actually, we both smell."
"The Simi does not smell." Simi protests, nose up in the air.
Dawn laughs. "No, actually, you stink; we both do."
Simi looks up at Ash.
"Sweetie, he's going to lie to you; all males do. He'd never say we smell even if we do." Then she looks at her professor's wife. "Mrs. Alexander, we smell, right?"
Grace's eyes widen, unsure how to respond.
"You two kinda reek." Tabitha offers. "No offence."
"None taken." Dawn replies as she sets Simi on her feet. "Go on, Sims."
"You won't leave the Simi, right?" Simi asks.
"I'm just going to tell someone where I live so they can go get my stuff and then I'll be taking a shower too." Dawn assures her. "Promise."
"Akri don't leave." Simi orders.
"He's not leaving either, Simi." Dawn answers for Ash. "Promise, we'll both be here when you get done getting unstinky."
Simi looks at them both for a few long seconds before walking through the living room and up the stairs towards the rooms her and Ash use when they stay at Kyrian's house. She looks back once before she reaches the top to assure herself that they're both still there and then continues on, running her dirty fingers down the white walls of her favorite place to be next to home.
"What happened to my daughter?" Ash demands the second Simi is out of earshot.
"Ash, I get you're worried and stuff but I'm not having this conversation right now." Dawn holds up a hand to ward of his protest. "Simi doesn't like to talk about it, okay, and I'm not going to make her. She should go to sleep pretty soon; it was close to dark when we left." She grabs her bag and fishes her keys out of it. "Somebody needs to go to my house and get some stuff for me; Simi will flip if I'm gone when she gets out of the shower."
"We tried to go to your place." Julian says. "Only thing is, you don't have a place."
"Sure I do." Dawn tosses him her keys and gives him her address. Her sister would kill her but right now, she doesn't care. She just wants a shower. She wants to stand under a hot spray of water until her skin bleeds and then she wants to do it again. "There's a suitcase inside the first bedroom on the right with a garment bag hanging next to it…and my school book bag should be on the coffee table. Just throw all the books on the table into it and bring them." Then she pauses. "Um, that is if whosever house this is doesn't care."
"It's mine." Kyrian says, casting a look at Ash who nods. "And it's okay, you can stay here."
"Okay, thanks." She can just go to the airport from here on Tuesday, or actually back to her house to go to the airport on Tuesday. "And if somebody will direct me to a shower with a crapload of soap, I'd be really grateful."
Amanda stands up. "You can use the spare bathroom."
"Thank you." Dawn says gratefully. "I feel like I've rolled around in cow manure, fell into a big pile of elephant dung before jumping into a trash pile." She starts to follow the woman but pauses, turning to grin brightly at her professor. "Oh, and be careful, Professor A, I have a lot of books around my place and I'd hate for you to get trapped in one."
Julian feels his mouth drop open and to his shock, his face flush. He elbows his laughing best friend and sends a glare at his former enemy, who is hiding a smile.
She's probably been in here for two hours and she's really grateful that this Kyrian has a great water heater. Her skin is a nice bright pink and every inch of her has been scrubbed clean. Ten times. She washed her hair so many times that the full bottle of shampoo is now almost empty. And she finally feels clean. She is extremely grateful for one fact; that she doesn’t have to shave. Lilah didn't lie when she said Wolfram & Hart had the best people working for them; the wonders of electrolysis, she never appreciated it more. Because after a year of not shaving, she would have been hairy as hell if it weren't for having the treatment done before she left L.A.
She turns off the water and wrings out her hair before pulling the shower curtain aside. Then she screams. And whips the curtain around her body. "What are you doing in here?"
"I wanted to talk to you." Ash leans against the sink, his long legs crossed in front of him and his arms crossed over his chest.
"Kinda naked here." Dawn squeaks.
Oh, he noticed. Pink marble skin, soft curves and lush lines. He hates his body's reaction to a girl he's trying desperately not to like. For his own sanity. "Is that a problem?"
"You bet your butt it's a problem." Dawn growls.
Ash can't help but smile at the sound of her growl; it's more cute than scary. But then the door slams open and Dawn's screaming again.
"She heard Dawn scream." Julian explains, gesturing to Simi who is running towards the shower. "Oh, Dawn, I'm sorry."
"Okay, everybody out!" Dawn shrieks. "Now!"
"You heard my akra." Simi says, shooing the group gathered at the door out. "Out."
Ash arches an eyebrow at his demon.
"Akri, akra don't want you to see her naked." Simi says. "You have to go outside."
"I want to talk to Dawn, Simi." Ash says, his voice firm.
"Sims, hand me a towel, please." Dawn says, holding her arm out.
Simi grabs the towel off the toilet and hands it to Dawn.
"Thank you." Dawn says.
"You welcome, akra." Simi replies.
Dawn wraps the towel around her body and then steps out of the shower, a determined look on her face. She can handle this. She lived in a house with two bathrooms and countless slayers. She can handle this. After all, she was able to look Principal Wood in the eyes after he walked in on her taking a shower and he didn’t even see that much. She can handle this. "Sims, do you know where my stuff is?"
"In my room." Simi replies. "I show you."
"Okay." Dawn holds her head high as she passes Ash, her foot moving out to kick him in the shin. "Butthead."
Simi giggles and pulls Dawn down the hall.
Ash looks down at his leg, a little startled that she kicked him. It didn’t hurt, hell he barely felt it but nobody would have the balls to kick him like that, even if he deserved it. And he did. He's a little surprised that Simi didn't yell at Dawn but then remembers how close they are. And how he's being an ass by trying to push Dawn away from Simi before he even knows what happened. He flips off the bathroom light and heads downstairs, a small smile on his lips. She really does have balls.