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The Key, the Dark-Hunter, and the Link

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

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Literature > Dark Hunter Series(Past Donor)sevangelFR1829180,525149882264,75413 Feb 072 Nov 08No
CoA Winner

Chapter 8

Title: Chapter 8
Series: The Key, the Dark-Hunter, and the Link
Author: Sevangel
Disclaimer: Nothing belongs to me. Joss Whedon owns anything Buffy or Angel while Sherrilyn Kenyon owns everything Dark Hunter. I am just playing with them.
Rating: R


Big, warm hands rub down her back and Dawn arches into them with a purr. The big hands move down to mold her hips, tugging her against the long, hard body in front of her. She rests her head against a hard, bare chest and wraps her arms around a firm, muscled waist. It's so warm here without being hot enough to make her sweat. The sun is shinning down on them, the soft crash of waves surrounds them, and the unmistakable scent of ocean coats the air. She's wearing the softest fabric she's ever touched, something she's even not sure what it is, maybe a mixture of cotton and silk with a more soft feeling than cashmere. It's white and flows down her body in soft folds, concealing and yet at the same time, putting her body on display. Her companion is wearing the same fabric, only in black, low-slung loose pants that flow down to bare feet. "Ash, where are we?"

"My home." Ash replies softly, resting his chin on her head.

"So, I'm dreaming, right?" Dawn asks, curiously tracing her fingers over his bare skin. His chest is so warm and bare of hair, except his 'happy' trail. She's never really felt a man's chest, not unless you count Angel, Connor, and Spike from sparing with them. Connor is kinda scrawny and pale like his father. Both Spike and Angel are cool to the touch, not cold but not warm, just room temperature. Ash is warm. And chiseled. Like, counting her fingers down his stomach, eight pack chiseled. Eight very hard packs.

"We're dreaming." Ash corrects.

"No, see, I don't do the dream sharing thing because that implies some type of destiny." Dawn argues.

Ash conjures a chair and folds his body into it, pulling her down onto his lap. "Dream sharing thing?"

"Only champions get the meaningful dreams including the dream-sharing ones." Dawn explains, one finger moving up to trace the bow and arrow tattoo on the back of his shoulder, the one that marks him as bonded to Artemis. Her belly clenches at that thought. "I'm not a champion."

"You hunt." Ash points out, his eyes closing in contentment as her fingers trace over him. They're innocent and searching, her short nails tracing each of his abs over and over again.

"Yeah, because I enjoy it." Dawn replies. "I like fighting, especially with swords."

"Why swords especially?" Ash smiles at the excitement in her voice.

"They come to me naturally." Dawn explains. "I had to work at the hand to hand and most weapons. But swords just came to me naturally. And then I started training with Angel and just loved it."

"Who is Angel?" Ash bites out each words, his eyes snapping open, and his contentment gone. He doesn't like the fondness in her tone.

"No need to go all growly." Dawn tucks her face in his neck to hide her smile. "Angel is my sister's boyfriend; he's basically like my uncle. My bossy, overprotective uncle but my uncle nonetheless."

Ash thrusts a hand through her hair but doesn't pull her away from his neck. Doesn't want to. And that tells him she's already too far under his skin to get her out; he doesn't like anyone near his neck and the only one he will allow is Simi, though Artemis will try even though she knows he hates it, probably because she knows he hates it. But even Simi doesn't do it much because she knows it makes him uncomfortable.

"Is he the one that calls you 'niblet'?" Ash asks, combing his hands through her long locks.

"Nope." Dawn murmurs against his skin. "That'd be Spike. He's another uncle and he's my sister's best friend's boyfriend."

"Why 'niblet'?" Ash tangles his fingers in her hair and tilts her head back.

Dawn shrugs, pretty sure not even DreamAsh is going to like the answer; real Ash won't. "What, you don't think I'd make a yummy niblet?"

Ash's answer is to graze her shoulder with his fangs.

Dawn hisses and involuntarily undulates her hips against his.

Ash growls, his free hand moving to the small of her back to hold her against him while his other hand tightens in her hair, tilting her head back farther. Her smooth, tan neck beckons to him, the sweet smell of her blood pumping through her veins causing him to swell against her body. And in that instant, he wants to wake up, wants to feel her skin for real, taste her skin on his lips, her blood on his tongue. But she's not ready for that. Not for real anyways. Dreams, though, that's a whole different thing. He licks a path from her chin to her neck and sucks deeply on her jugular vein.

Dawn arches her head back further and moans. She's always wondered about it, wondered why Buffy got off on Angel biting her (which according to her diary, she did) and now she knows. It feels incredible. And DreamAsh isn't even biting her; he's just sucking on her neck hard enough that if this were real, she'd have a huge hickey. She can feel her nipples harden against the soft fabric covering them and she sucks in a deep breath, unintentionally rubbing her chest against his.

Ash hisses against Dawn's neck, his fangs growing more pronounced in his mouth at the smell of her arousal. Such innocence; her scent, her taste, hell, even the way she's straddling his lap is innocent. Artemis has been in this same position more times than he likes to remember but it's completely different. Artie is constantly trying to break him, to get him to kneel to her, to need her and he is constantly fighting her. The goddess uses her body to her advantage and every touch is done with a purpose.

Dawn just touches. Some fleeting, like her fingertips tracing over his abs, and some longer; her small chest pushing against his, nipples hard and pointed against him. Her touches are sweet and innocent in a way he's never experienced.

Dawn threads her fingers through his long, thick hair. It's so soft. Unbelievably soft and she's a little jealous of how gorgeous his hair is. It's blond here and she knows it's his natural color. How she knows it, she's not sure but she knows it is. It's not blond like her sister's (which is a good thing cuz that'd be gross) but a whole different color blond. Almost like Brad Pitt's was in the movie 'Troy' but not as dirty blond. Ash's is the perfect blond color. She likes it. But she also likes the black. Honestly, she's pretty sure he can pull of just about any color but pink. But then again, if any guy can pull off pink hair, Ash would be the one to do it. She's never liked long hair on guys (she's always getting on Connor to cut his) but Ash…she can't imagine him with anything but long hair. It just suits him.

Ash drops his hands to her legs and runs his hands up her thighs, pushing the soft fabric of her dress out of his way as he moves. She's so….fresh, untouched. She's not innocent like Simi was before Nick took her virginity but Dawn still has her innocence. Only unlike Simi, she isn't naïve. He's fairly sure Dawn is still a virgin because she wants to be not because she's unaware of sex.

Dawn cups Ash's face in her hands and tilts his face up to hers. His fangs are visible now, she can see the tips of them poking from between his lips and his eyes are red, again. "Do they change colors when you're all emotional?"

Ash feels his brow furrow. "What?"

"Your eyes, they're red again." Dawn rubs her thumbs by his eyes to emphasis her point. "Do they change when you're emotional? Mine do. They're probably changing colors right now."

They are but he's not focusing on that. "What are you talking about?"

"Your eyes, silly." Dawn sighs. "Okay, does DreamAsh not have RealAsh's memories?"

"Dawn, there is no DreamAsh." Ash says.

"Okay, whatever." Dawn rolls her eyes. "So anyways, Not-DreamAsh, don't you remember going all growly and your eyes changing colors earlier and your face going kinda demon-y? In the kitchen."

She shouldn't remember. She can't remember. He removed that memory from everyone in the room. It's not something he likes having to do but no one can know what he really is; that he's not just a Dark-Hunter. "You remember that?"

"Yeah, why wouldn't I…..did you try to change my memories?" Dawn pulls away from him quickly, jumping off his lap and wrapping her arms around herself protectively. "What gives you the right to play with my memories?"

The only person that's ever looked at him like Dawn's looking at him now is Nick; Dawn's eyes are shooting through every color green imaginable and the globes are full of betrayal. It cuts straight through him.

"Dawn, my intentions weren't to play with your memories." Ash says quietly. "I don't know how you remember but you shouldn't, you can't."

"Why?" Dawn arches an eyebrow. "What's the big deal?"

"Nobody can know what I really am." Ash reaches out one hand to grasps her wrist. He doesn't pull her towards him, just touches her.

"I don't understand why it's big deal." Dawn tenses as his long fingers clasp around her wrist but she doesn't pull away.

"Fate is delicately balanced." Ash rubs his thumb along her wrist. "And is easily tipped either way."

"I know that." Dawn relaxes slightly and takes a step towards him. "Is it me? Are you afraid I'm going to screw things up?"

"It's not you." But as he says it, he knows it's not entirely true. She's changing things even as he speaks. Her presence here, in his dreams where she shouldn't be able to venture changes things. Her bond with Simi changes things. His growing possessiveness over her changes things. She can't fit into his life, it's not possible. He has too many responsibilities, too many obligations to even think about having something for himself. He should step away from her but he's fairly sure he can't. "What I really am, they can't handle. They won't be able to accept. And if they start to doubt me then they start to doubt what they're doing, what they are. And that doesn't help anybody."

"You're talking about the Dark-Hunters." Dawn says. "What, you think they'll be afraid of you or something?"

"I know they will be." Ash replies.

"I'm not." Dawn steps closer to him.

Ash doesn't say anything.

"What, you think I'm afraid of you?" Dawn asks.

"You were before." Ash points out.

Dawn shakes her head. "Not you. I'm not afraid of you."

"Dawn, I could feel it." Ash argues. He's not surprised. The only person not afraid of him is Simi and perhaps Savitar. "I could practically taste it."

"It wasn't you." Dawn says. "Sure, you're superpower guy but I know you won't hurt me. Your friend Savitar scared me and the beings you work for scare me but you don't scare me."

Ash doesn't look convinced.

Dawn, suddenly very sure that this is Ash, the real Ash and not some DreamAsh that she invented, steps closer until her legs are brushing his. He's sprawled out in the big, comfy chair he zapped up, his legs slightly spread and chest rippling with every breath he takes. He reminds her of a great big panther; all sinew and muscle, ready to strike without warning even while it looks like he's completely relaxed. And she's not afraid of him, not one bit.

For some reason she doesn't understand (or maybe doesn't want to admit to), she needs him to know that she's not afraid of him. That his 'dark side' doesn't bother her at all. So, she grabs the bottom of her skirt, bunches the soft fabric up into her hands, and re-straddles his lap. She wiggles around until she's comfortable and then drops the fabric. Against every inch of her lower body, she can feel Ash. From her feet, which are resting against his knees, up to her knees, which are on each side of his hips, to her lower belly which is rubbing against his arousal. It's the closest contact she's ever had to a man. She then leans forward until her chest is pressed tightly against his and funnels her hands through his hair. "I am not afraid of you Acheron Parthenopaeus."

Her words warm his heart, the honesty and resolution in her tone portraying how much she believes it to be so. She pronounces his name correctly, something only a handful of beings do, and then presses her mouth against his. It's the sweetest thing he's ever tasted. She tastes like innocence, like the sun on his tongue. She tastes like everything he's never had in his life and he wants more.

Dawn wonders briefly if it was a huge mistake to kiss him, even in her dreams, cuz this, this she could grow addicted to. He tastes like night and power, like darkness personified but instead of it tasting evil, he tastes like the sweetest thing she's ever tasted. She's kissed before, a couple guys since her first kiss with Justin and none of them came close to this. Ash's big hand cups the back of her head as he devours her mouth. His tongue seeks out every inch of her mouth, possessing everything she is, before finding hers and coaxing it out to play.

He wonders briefly how many boys she's kissed, the growl that fills his chest at that thought not surprising him, and he's fairly sure it's not that many. Either that or they had no idea what they were doing. She's so shy. Forget her vivid exterior and sassy mouth, she, for all intents and purposes is shy. Her bravado must be a mask. And yet the tentative touch of her tongue to his fuels his body in a way not even Artemis's boldest touches do.

Dawn wraps her arms around Ash's neck and leans completely into his body. Her body feels like jello and she's pulsing in places she's never had more than a tinge in. Without her permission, her lower body rubs against his and she moans into his mouth at the sensation. More pulsing. She can feel one of his hands move up her body, pushing the soft fabric covering it out of the way, and she's pretty sure she should be stopping him but she doesn't want to. Nor does she feel any embarrassment when the fabric separates and her body is basically bared to him.

Ash cups her hips and traces his thumbs over to two scars flanking her pelvic. He's a little surprised that she didn't make them disappear on her dream-self as most would do. He leaves her dress on her body much like an open robe, not wanting her to feel suddenly shy. She's perfection to his eyes. Her body is lush curves and soft skin and completely real. Besides the two scars adorning her lower body, there's also quite a few more scars covering her flesh. It's reality in a way he hasn't experienced in he's not sure how long. There's nothing fake, nothing made to look better than it is. She's not physically perfect and to him, that makes her perfect. It's a sight he's positive he'll never forget.

Dawn pushes her tongue against Ash's and into the warm recesses of his mouth. She can feel the tips of his fangs along her tongue and she rubs against the sharp points, unprepared for Ash's reaction.

Ash growls deep in his chest at the first drop of her blood on his tongue. It's indescribable. He honestly can't put into words what it feels like to have her on his tongue, even if this isn't real. He had fed recently from Artemis and he should be able to go weeks without having to do so again. There is no reason for this hunger in his belly, this desperation to sink his fangs into Dawn's neck but it's there nonetheless. With nothing but a thought, the chair is gone and replaced with a bed. He lowers Dawn onto the feather mattress and follows her down, breaking the kiss for the first time.

She's fairly sure she's not ready for this. Not for real, anyways. But this is a dream. And even if they're both still really here, in this dream together, it's still a dream. So when Ash nips his way back to her throat and sucks on the hickey he must have already left, she just arches her neck to grant him better access. And when his hand cups her right boob, she just moans. And his other hand, when it rubs up her leg and to a place nobody but one doctor has ever touched, she bends her knees in invitation.

He's sure she's being so open because this is a dream. And that it being a dream means it didn't really happen. He's not so sure. Not when he can taste her skin under his tongue, weigh her breast in his hand, and coat his fingers with her arousal. And what the hell, he's already pushed things too far to pull back now, so he drags his fangs across the delicate skin over her jugular.

Dawn feels like her body is on fire. She feels completely overwhelmed and she doesn't know exactly what to do. All she can really do is feel and it feels wonderful. She whimpers and drops her forehead against his shoulder when he pushes one long, really long finger inside her.

Ash hisses at the tightness of her body, wondering if it's really possible for her to be this tight in reality. Her body clenches at the finger he has inside her, hugs it tightly and tries to pull it deeper. He can feel her nails digging into his back and hear her pleasure-filled whimpers in his ear. He adds another finger and drags his thumb over her swollen clit at the same time that he finally gives in and buries his fangs in the smooth, soft skin of her neck.

Dawn screams and bursts into what feels like a bazillion pieces. Her entire body shakes and pulses and if this is what an orgasm feels like in her dreams, she can't wait to feel one for real. And she has to wonder if what Buffy felt when Angel bit her is anything like she's feeling right now cuz if it's even a tenth as pleasurable then Buffy must be nuts not to have Angel feeding from her all the time. She feels like she's a part of Ash, like she's connected to him in a way that she'll never be connected to another person.

He wants to taste her blood for real. He wants to wake up and bury his fangs in her neck. Her blood is ten times more intoxicating than Artemis's. It's innocence and energy all rolled up in everything good in the world. She tastes like the purest thing possible and he's fairly sure that in reality, there's no way she can taste this good. It's impossible. He's so aroused he's straining the soft cotton of his pants and then they're both pushing at them, trying to get them off his body.


One second Ash is above her, his hands and mouth touching her in places she's never let anyone venture and the next he's gone. And she's alone.


"Simi, do you want more pancakes?" Amanda asks the demon who is shoveling bite after bite into her mouth. She was a little surprised when Simi came downstairs by herself about an hour ago but didn't say anything about it. Simi just sat down on the couch with Marisa and James to watch cartoons. It was daunting to say the least. In the almost four years that she's know the demon, Simi has never been quiet. She's never just sat in silence. Simi is usually a whirlwind of energy, running, talking, and eating everything in sight but now she's….quiet. She didn't even ask for food, not until she was offered breakfast.

Simi stops to tap her chin thoughtfully. "Can the Simi have some chocolate chip ones?"

"Yes, you can." Amanda smiles. "As long as you don't mind sharing with Marisa and James."

Simi half nods as she returns to shoveling food into her mouth.

Amanda pours more pancake batter onto the still sizzling skillet and then adds a handful of chocolate chips to each pancake. She feels her husband walk into the kitchen and turns to smile at him.

Kyrian deposits a recently dressed child onto the chairs on each side of Simi before walking over to where his wife is standing. "Morning, baby."

"Morning." Amanda kisses him briefly on the lips and then returns to the pancakes.

Kyrian reaches around Amanda to flip on another burner and then walks over to the fridge to pull out a carton of eggs and a packet of bacon.

The couple cooks in comfortable silence, both tuning in a ear to Simi and the children, who are talking loudly behind them.

"Manda." Simi says.

"Yes?" Amanda turns her head to look at Simi.

"The Simi is still hungry." Simi sighs.

Kyrian looks down at the plateful of eggs and bacon he cooked himself and with a sigh, places it in front of Ash's demon. "Here you go, Simi."

Simi grins. "You quality people, Kyrian."

"Thanks." Kyrian tosses some raw bacon onto the greasy skillet right as the kitchen door swings open.

Simi tenses, her hand pausing with a piece of bacon halfway to her mouth.

"Grace, you're early." Amanda comments without even turning around from the stove.

"The twins woke up early." Grace places Adrian, her youngest son, in the spare booster seat beside James. "And Julian was worried about Dawn."

Simi perks up. "Why?"

Grace pauses, unsure what to tell the demon. "He's just worried, just like we're worried about you."

"Hmmm." Simi carefully chews on a piece of bacon. "My akra is good. She's sleeping."

"Where's Ash?" Julian walks into the kitchen, having stopped in the living room to deposit the twins in front of cartoons.

"My akri is sleeping too." Simi hands Adrian a piece of bacon which he promptly eats. "You need to say thank you, little Adrian. It's only polite."

"Tank you, Simmy." Adrian babbles back.

"You welcome." Simi smiles broadly.

Grace and Julian both smile at the demon and kids as they walk over to the stove where to other couple is standing.

"They're sleeping?" Julian raises an eyebrow.

"I guess so." Kyrian replies, flipping over the sizzling pile of bacon. "I'm not even sure what time Ash got back last night; it was after we went to bed." The Dark-Hunter left the group that went hunting a little after ten and he wasn't back when Kyrian got home at midnight. Nor was he home when him and Amanda when to bed at two. Ash was a one-man killing machine last night, engaging in more hand to hand last night than he probably does in a month. He didn't just fight Daimons, he mercilessly beat the Daimons into a bloody pulp before finally ending their misery.

"Do you have classes today, Julian?" Amanda asks as she places a few silver dollar size pancakes in front of three year old Adrian.

"At ten-thirty." Julian replies, glancing down at his watch. "So I have to leave in forty-five minutes."

"Does anybody know what time Dawn's math class is?" Grace questions. "Didn't she say she has a test today?"

"It's at ten." Kyrian replies, using tongs to place his cooked bacon on a paper towel to drain. Then he notices the looks he's getting. "Otto managed to get a copy of her schedule and he emailed it to me."

Julian starts to speak when he hears someone scream. It's faint and given the way neither his wife nor Amanda look up, not audible to the normal human ear. But he notices Kyrian look up and then Simi.

"Akra?" Simi drops the piece of bacon in her hand and jumps off her chair. Then she's gone, running out of the kitchen as fast as her short legs will carry her.

Julian glances at Kyrian and then they both follow, their longer limbs enabling them to catch up with Simi before she reaches the door to Ash's room. He can hear growling on the other side of the door and stops Simi before she can open the door. "Simi, stay behind us."

"Want my akra." Simi growls. "And want my akri."

Kyrian, as gently as he can, pushes Simi aside to join Julian's side. He glances briefly behind him when his wife and Grace step behind them, the two woman grabbing Simi's arms to keep her back.

The two Greeks look at each other and then in perfect unison, they plant their feet in the center of the door and kick it down, completely unprepared for what they find.

The first thing Julian sees is the bow and arrow tattoo that adorns Ash's shoulder. From there he realizes the Dark-Hunter is naked from the waist up and even though he's pushed up on his elbows, Ash is asleep, or he's in some sort of comatose state seeing how he hasn't so much as moved. Then he notices his student. Under Ash. Naked or mostly naked.

Kyrian comes to a dead stop, staring at his former boss in shock. Ash is on top of the teenager, one of Dawn's legs wrapped around his waist and bare from toe to hip. He can see the side of her right breast and he's not surprised when Julian casts his gaze from the bed, he actually starts to do the same thing. Ash's face is tucked into Dawn's neck and neither one have so much as flinched. It's unreal. Ash doesn't sleep like this. He should have woken up the second they breached the doorway. This isn't what he thought they would find; he assumed by the scream and inhuman growling that something had attacked Dawn. He would have never thought in a thousand years that it would be Ash.

Then suddenly they both start moving, both of them pushing at the leather pants Ash is wearing, as if to push them off.

"ASH!" Kyrian yells, his voice bellowing loudly through the room.

The Atlantean is on his feet in a flash, fangs bared with a loud, feral growl.

"What in the name of Zeus?" Kyrian mutters, his eyes drawn to Ash's fangs or more accurately, the blood dripping off Ash's fangs. He remembers perfectly the hunger he felt when he was a Dark-Hunter; remembers when he wanted nothing more than to sink his fangs into Amanda's throat, feel her blood coat his tongue. But he didn't. He can't believe Ash would.

"Kyrian?" Ash blinks rapidly, trying to clear the sleep induced lust from his eyes. Then he tastes it, the blood on his tongue. It's not his blood. It belongs to the girl sleeping helpless behind him. He's confused for a moment until he looks back at Dawn and then the pieces fall into place. It was a dream but it wasn't. His fingers are still wet from being inside her, her blood is still coating his mouth, and he can feel scratches from Dawn's short nails on his back. Dawn is practically naked in his bed, her tank top pushed up around her neck and her sleep shorts tossed onto night stand. Her panties are ripped and hanging around her upper thigh. And she's asleep. He grabs the blanket bunched up at the foot of the bed and starts to cover her up when her eyes fly open.

"Ash?" Dawn gasps, eyes shooting open to look wildly around the room. She feels weird, off balance, like somebody ripped part of her away.

"Akri?" Simi pushes past the two Greeks and stops in front of Ash, her nose wrinkled in disgust. "What happened to your pants, akri? And your shirt? You should put them back on, akri, it's gross."

"What about his…." Dawn starts to sit up but stops when she sees her professor and his best friend both avert their gazes from her. And it can't be happening, it can't be real. It was just a dream. A really, really good dream that's she's still tingly from but a dream nonetheless. But then reality sets in and she knows it wasn't just a dream. Her body is stretched and a little sore from Ash's fingers, her lips are swollen from his and her neck is aching from his fangs. And then it hits her, she's naked, pretty much so, with her teacher, his friend, and their wives only feet from her. Her first reaction is to scream, like she would have when she was a kid. Throw a temper tantrum and act lie the brat she was. But she's an adult now and she can handle this. It's no different from when Robin saw her in the shower, okay it is a little different since she wasn't getting groin-y with anyone in said shower but it's the same concept….

"Who is Robin?" Ash flashes a robe on Dawn's semi-naked body.

"Who is what?" Dawn tightens the robe around her body thankfully and sits the rest of the way up. "Wait a second, I thought you couldn't read my mind."

"I can't." Ash dresses himself with a thought and then pushes a hand through his long hair.

"Then how did you know about Robin?" Dawn stands up and hugs Simi tightly. "Morning, sweetie."

"Morning, akra." The skin between Simi's horns furrow. "You bleeding, akra."

Dawn touches the open wound on her neck briefly. "I know."

"Akri, why did you bite my akra?" There's not an ounce of accusation in Simi's tone. She has complete faith that if her akri bit her akra, there was a good reason behind it.

"He didn't mean to, baby girl." Dawn is completely aware of how important Ash is to Simi. How much Simi needs to believe Ash is infallible. "It was an accident."

Simi believes the explanation without a question, naïvely believing that her 'parents' would never lie to her.

"You should be more careful, akri." Simi advises. "My akra is breakable."

"I know, Simi." He feels out of sorts, knocked off balance. How so many were able to get into his room without him waking up puzzles him. Simi being able to leave the room without him knowing puzzles him even more; he should have felt her leave but he didn't. "It won't happen again."

Dawn snorts.

"What's so funny, akra?" Simi asks.

"Nothing, Sims." Dawn combs her hand through Simi's long locks. "Did you eat?" Then she looks up at Ash. "You never answered."

"I had pancakes." Simi licks her lips. "They were mighty tasty."

"Mmm." Dawn hums.

"You were talking out loud, Dawn." Ash's chest clenches at the sight of Dawn soothing Simi's hair, much like a mother would. It's something he's always wanted for Simi but was never able to provide, a mother's love.

"Oh." Dawn kisses the top of Simi's head and then pushes a hand through her own tangled locks. "Robin was my principal when I was in high school; he lived with us for a while."

"And saw you in the shower?" Ash prods, his voice a half growl.

"Well, I saw him having sex with Faith once so it's all even." Dawn shrugs. "He didn't do it on purpose, I mean, he wasn't a pervert or anything."

"Your principal lived with you?" Grace asks, her professional curiosity getting the best of her. Dawn is a mass of contradictions and the psychologist in her wants to figure her out.

"Uh huh." Dawn nods. "So did the librarian, okay, Giles wasn't my librarian but he was Buffy's and he lived with us too, when he wasn't in England."

"Why?" Ash questions.

"Why not?" Dawn shrugs and the grimaces when it pulls on her open wound.

Ash sees the flash of pain and a bolt of guilt flashes through him. "Dawn, I'm…"

"Ash, it's cool." Dawn shrugs off his guilt and concern and plasters a nonchalant smile on her face. In reality, she's not sure what's going on with them, with her, and until she figures it out, she's just going to pretend like it's not a big deal. "It's not like it's the first time I've been bitten and I'm pretty sure it won't be the last."

It doesn’t go over well. In fact, Ash looks more mad. "You've been bitten?"

"Uh huh." Dawn nods. "A couple….wait, what time is it?"

"Nine-twenty." Amanda glances down at her watch.

"Crap!" Dawn drops a kiss on Simi's head, grabs the clothes she set out last night, and then runs out of the room.

Julian shakes his head as the teenager runs past him. "I'm starting to understand why she's always late."

"Akri, you okay?" Simi arches an eyebrow.

"I'm fine, Simi." Ash murmurs, unsure how true those words are. He's not used to being thrown off balance, of not knowing which way to move. For all his powers, his abilities to know the future, he's completely blind here. Which is frustratingly normal; he can't see into his own future and it's annoying as hell. "Adrian wants his pancakes back."

Grace's eyes widen and then she hurries out of the room, Amanda at her heels.

The men follow at a slower pace, Ash leading the way with Simi by his side, the demon talking cheerfully. The twins are still watching cartoons, Marisa now on the couch with them. The two younger children are in a playpen set up in the corner of the room, both boys trying desperately trying to climb out.

"Uncle Ash!" Marisa squeals, climbing onto the back of the couch and jumping at him.

Ash catches the little girl easily and hugs her close. She is why he fights; for those like her. Innocent and helpless. Knowing there is still such purity in the world gives him hope that despite all the evil that exists, everything will be okay. "How are you, little one?"

The four year old's happy chatter fills the quiet room as she tells Ash about her morning. Ash in turn listens intently, sitting down on the couch beside Julian's twins. Vanessa, Julian's five and a half old little girl climbs up beside Marisa, happily adding her own adventures. Niklos, Vanessa's twin, adds the occasional word but remains seated on the couch. Simi climbs up behind Ash and sits on the back of the couch as she listens to the little kids talk.

Grace smiles at the small group on her way into the kitchen, returning with a plate of dry pancakes which she places in the playpen with Adrian and James. She spends as much time in Amanda's house as her own, their Greek husbands as inseparable now as they were thousands of years ago, so she moves about it as if it were her own.

Ash smiles as he listens to the children talk; their views on things fascinate him. They see everything completely different from adults and in his opinion, their view is a lot better than reality.

"Harm, what's going on?"

Ash turns his head behind him to see Dawn walking in the room. Her long hair is gathered up on top of her head in a messy ponytail, loose tendrils hanging around her face. She's wearing a black short skirt, one that almost looks like a cheerleading skirt, a pair of black flip-flops, and small t-shirt with SpongeBob SquarePants on the front that hugs her small breasts and ends a few inches above the waistband of her skirt, leaving her midriff bare. The top of her scars are visible due to how low her skirt rides down, though if he didn't know they were there he wouldn't notice them. A small piece of jewelry glitters in her belly and he cocks his head to the side to figure out what it is.

"Come on, Harm, I got transferred to a dozen people before I got you." Dawn says. "What's going… way, again?" A small giggle escapes Dawn's mouth. "That's what, the tenth mail person this month that's tried to kill Angel; you'd think he learn just to go get his own damn mail." "He's okay, right?" "So how long are you under a code red?" "That sucks, glad I'm not there." "Yeah, I need a favor; I need to get my roots fixed but I don't have time to try and make an appointment. Can you find some place for me?" Dawn rolls her eyes. "Yes, Harm, I want you to send the jet down to New Orleans to pick me up, fly me back to L.A. to get my hair fixed, and then fly me back to New Orleans so I can wait for the jet to come get me in the morning." Dawn closes her eyes on a sigh. "I was being sarcastic, Harmony. I need you to find some place here for me to go. I don't care where, as long as they can fix my roots." "They grew out a little and I don't want them looking crappy for the wedding." "Um, somewhere in the Business District would be great, if you can find one." "I owe you big time, Harm. I get out of class at eleven so eleven fifteen or eleven thirty would be great." "Thanks, see you tomorrow." Dawn closes her cell phone and drops it into the front pocket of her school bag.

"You're getting your hair done?" Amanda asks.

"Kinda have to." Dawn replies. "My roots have grown out too much; Buffy will notice that and then she'll want to know why."

"You're not going to tell her about…." Julian starts.

"Do I look insane?" Dawn interrupts.

Julian just arches an eyebrow.

"Okay, that was a dumb question." Dawn admits. "You all probably think I'm nuts but I'm not nuts enough to tell my sister or anyone about my little other dimension trip. They'd yank my butt out of here and back to L.A. so fast there'd be nothing but skid marks. It's better for all if Buffy's left in the dark."

"Akra, where you going?" Simi hops off the back of the couch and skips over to Dawn. "Ohhh, I like your new sparkly."

"Thanks." Dawn smiles at Simi and adjusts the tiny sword in her belly button. "Angel got it for the first time I won a sword fight."

"Simi want one." Simi touches the bit of metal with a smile. "Akri, Simi want her belly pierced."

"We'll see." Ash gently places the kids to the side and stands up.

Simi sticks her tongue out at him. "Arka, the Simi wants her belly pierced too."

"That you'll have to clear with Ash." Dawn smiles and presses a kiss to each of Simi's horns. "I'll be back later, baby girl."

"Where you going?" Simi grabs Dawn's arm and holds onto it tightly.

"I have to go to school, Sims." Dawn says. "Like right now, I'm going to be late and I have a test to fail."

"No." Simi shakes her head stubbornly. "Don't want you to go."

"I know you don't, Simi." Dawn smiles and tugs her arm out of Simi's tight grasp. "But you can't always get what you want."

"Yes, I do." Simi looks confused. "I want something and I say, 'Akri, Simi want' and my akri give it to me."

"That's not going to work this time, Simi." Dawn smiles softly at the pouting demon. "I have to go to school."

"Don't want you to go, akra." Simi's eyes fill with tears.

Dawn feels tears fill her own eyes but stays firm. "I'll be back before you know it." She slips her glasses on, kisses Simi's forehead, and starts towards the door. "Oh, crap."

"Dawn?" Ash says, moving to stand beside his demon. Simi grabs his legs, burying her face against him. He can't feel her tears through the leather covering his legs but he knows she's crying. And he wants nothing more than to stop her tears but the only way that's happening is for Dawn not to leave. He doesn’t want her going either, not to school and definitely not back to California tomorrow. He could keep her here but he would have to force her to do so and he won't do that. She's avoiding his eyes, most likely because of what happened early. He can still taste her on his lips, the sweetness of her mouth and the heady flavor of her blood on his tongue. His bite mark is displayed proudly, the open wound uncovered and clean on her smooth skin. He can smell the anti-bacterial crème she used to clean it along with the sweet smell of her skin.

"I have to get to school." Dawn glances at him, eating up the picture he makes. His hair is black with a red stripe through it, as is Simi's (which, according to Simi is normal because her hair always looks like her akri's) and hanging down past his shoulders, on sectioned braided and hanging over his shoulder. He's wearing another pair of yummy leather pants and a plain black t-shirt that hugs his chest. A chest she's touched. Oh, this is getting bad; her belly is trembling at the thought of touching him again, only this time while she's awake and completely aware of what she's doing. "But I don't have a car and I honestly have no clue where I am or how far I'm from school…."

"I'll drive you, Dawn." Julian says. "I have a class soon anyways."

"Thanks, Professor A." Dawn smiles broadly. "By the way, your kids are adorable."

"I know." Julian agrees.

"And they must take after their mother." Dawn adds.

Julian rolls his eyes and kisses his wife goodbye. He kisses his children fondly as he passes them and then follows Dawn to the door. He can feel Ash's eyes on his back and it's not a sensation he enjoys. No one's gaze should hold that much power, that much of a threat without a word being said.

Dawn arches an eyebrow at the huge dent in her professor's SUV but doesn't say anything. She climbs into the passenger seat and buckles herself in, resting her backpack on her lap while he starts the car. He backs out of the driveway and runs over two trashcans. Dawn laughs.

Julian cusses under his breath in classic Greek.

"Damn, that's a good one." Dawn comments.

"Sorry." Julian glances over at her. "I forgot you can understand me."

"I figured." Dawn grabs onto the 'oh shit handle' as she calls it above the door when he takes a wide turn and almost runs up on the sidewalk.

Julian gets control over the car after a few moments and chances a glance at Dawn. "Are you okay?"

"Fine." Dawn relaxes into the seat with a small smile. "It's kind of comforting, if you want to know the truth."

"What is?" Julian asks.

"That." Dawn laughs when he runs a red light. "You drive like my sister."

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