Disclaimer: I own absolutely nothing. All the characters and settings belong to various production companies. Any claims I might make to the plot would be laughable. I also have no claims to the text of this disclaimer, it was imprudently copy-pasted from "It's not exactly stealing" story by Jill. Highly reccomended story by the way.
A/N hello I decided to post my story on this site as well if only for the reason that I can reply to reviews here. More chapters incoming!
A seemingly fourteen-year-old girl aimlessly wondered the streets of Sunnydale, not really paying any attention to her surroundings. The reason for it being somewhat fundamental - entire world around her has just crumbled. At first she tried to think about it as being ruined, unconsciously trying to find someone she could blame for it, someone responsible, her sister for being a Slayer, her mother for not being her real mother, Giles for being incompetent enough not to keep his possessions well protected from inquiring mind of fourteen-year-old teenager, (heck technically speaking 6 months old baby!), Spike for agreeing to help her to break in into Magic Box, monks for figuring nothing better to protect their precious Key than by creating her however they managed to pull this out, the new Big Bad - Glory - for forcing monks to do that, heck anyone as long she could figure out the reasons to blame. And no matter how ridiculous they would be, they would fit as long as they served the purpose of distracting her from asking herself those questions, those damn questions. But there was no one really to blame except maybe those monks that created her and her fake memories, again however they managed to pull this out, and the collapse of her world was only a matter of time and it didn’t really matter who or what triggered it and Dawn instinctively knew it. Life sucked and you had to deal with that. What once again brought her to those creeping questions that she tried unconsciously to avoid: 'Who am I?', 'What am I?', 'Am I more than just the Key?', 'Do I really belong here?'. Psychologist would state that she was experiencing identity crisis at the moment, but Dawn didn’t have a word for it, she was supposed to be fourteen year old after all. And having a word for the problem doesn’t necessary makes it easier to solve it anyway. So here she was again - aimlessly wondering the streets of Sunnydale trying to find the answers for questions, she couldn’t possibly hope to find and paying very little attention to what was going on around, which wasn’t a very smart thing to do considering where she was living.
However even if she was the most vigilant person in Sunnydale, the honor of being one currently belonging to Slayer, she would hardly be able to notice a pair of hazel eyes that were following her progress on her way to nowhere in particular.
It was time to act. Which basically meant that two weeks of careful planning were going to be thrown out through the window. And considering that it was Methos who was behind planning, the Plan must have been really good even if it took only 2 weeks to develop. But it didn’t matter now. Even though Methos was of a high opinion of his ability to plan things ahead and then precisely executing them, which very rarely failed him, he knew the value of being flexible and not restricting himself to initial plan of actions when necessary. Ability to carefully plan and adapt depending on situation at the same time was one of the things that made him so successful at keeping his head for the last 5 millennia. That’s why he didn’t hesitated now. He knew an opportunity when he saw one and he was going to use it.
The girl was wondering the streets without any noticeable pattern and any escort whatsoever for the last fifteen minutes. Potentially it could be a trap to lure him out if they somehow have managed to notice his unhealthy interest in Slayer’s residence, but that was unlikely, since he have seen how the kid fled the house through the window of her bedroom and has followed her ever since. And Slayer most likely wouldn’t risk her little ‘sister’ in such a manner especially when she knew what exactly and how important she was. The kid was obviously under a lot of stress at the moment, caring little about her surroundings, therefore bumping into occasional obstacles in her wake for example other pedestrians plus her eyes seemed to be wet. And there she was fifteen meters away from the place where he parked his SUV and approximately in the next 30 seconds was expected to pass it by. It was dumb luck. Methos was parking his SUV every time in different place and at respectful distance from Slayer’s residence whenever he was going to spy on it. This time it happened to be a deserted street with only two people except Dawn both heading side by side in opposite direction than she. They were obviously lovers too preoccupied with each other to even notice frustrated state of the kid or him hiding on the other side of the road. It was time to act.
Methos quickly crossed the street without making any noise with his feet, a skill that he had perfected so long ago, that he couldn’t even remember when exactly. Possibly he acquired it in the early stages of his live when his survival in the wild depended more on the control of his body than on his sharp mind. Even Duncan Macleod who has spent some time of his live with American Indians or Amanda, a professional thief of no little skill, hardly could match him in ability to keep silence on the move. The faint signature of pre-immortal as he approached his target from the back somewhat surprised him but didn’t lower his determination or slowed his pace. He pressed the button on the remote controller of his car opening the doors almost on the last second before the attack. Even if Dawn wouldn’t be so deep in her uneasy thoughts she would never notice that something was wrong because the SUV standing near by never made a beeping sound or any other noise, not even a brief flash of lights which she wouldn’t be able to see anyway. It was something that Methos also took care of with any car he was using. She never knew what hit her. It took only 4 seconds. One second to perform a disabling move that took away her consciousness away and to open the door of the car. Two seconds to put her inside the SUV and close the door. And one second to open another door, to get into driver seat and close the door. It didn’t take a lot of time for SUV to disappear not only from the street, but from Sunnydale either, since the eldest immortal alive really didn’t fancy hanging around the Hellmouth unless he had a very good reason, especially with the Slayer and the Beast around, not mentioning the Key on the backseat of his car. No one saw Dawn Summers in Sunnydale since then. Ever.
For the third night in a row the lights inside Magic Box were indicating that something was amiss. It was very unlikely that shopkeeper decided to make the place operational 24 hours a day. Considering the vast denizens of Sunnydale especially those that preferred the darkness of the night it might have been an ingenious commercial decision. But it would be doomed from the very start by the obvious direct relation of the owner of the shop to the infamous Buffy Summers, better known as Slayer in the underworld of Sunnydale. To make things even more interesting the shop was closed even at daytime for the last three days, but only to the potential customers. And that was definitely not the way to run business if you wanted to prosper. To add insult to injury it was plainly visible to everyone that the place wasn’t empty. In fact it was a boiling cauldron with people entering and leaving the place every five minutes or so.
The explanation was rather simple. As usually in the times of crisis the Magic Box has become Head Quarters for Slayer and her gang once again. And if the disappearance of the Key wasn’t a crisis, then nothing was. For the last three days everything that could be done in the effort to find Dawn was given a try. Everyone willing to volunteer and to offer help wasn’t turned away: friends, neighbors, Dawn’s classmates, even Spike, especially Spike with his vast connections among demons. Buffy even has done unthinkable and visited Glory in a careful attempt to find out if she was responsible. To make things even more complicated, these last three days got the better of Joyce and she was once again hospitalized.
So on the third night since Key’s disappearance she was finally here, standing 60 feet away in the shadows of a building across the street from Magic Box and watching the lights in its windows with her keen, if somewhat hard, green eyes. Catching only glimpses of several people through the windows she could feel their desperation even from here. She was probably their only hope, even if they didn’t know it, and they would need all of her help especially if her suspicions were to be confirmed true. Deciding not to waste any more time in this foul place than was necessary, even if being relatively save from the evil that lurked in the streets thanks to her nature, she started towards the door of the Magic Box with determination written all over her beautiful, if somewhat strict, face.
The air in Magic Box was indeed filled with desperation and smoke from Spike’s cigarettes. No one seemed to protest about him smoking anymore understanding that it was just his own way to fight stress and silently appreciating his concern. Xander and Anya were engaged in silent, but agitated conversation in the corner of the room. Tara disappeared in the bathroom again, not being able to bear all those strong emotions emanating from her friends for longer than half an hour. Meanwhile Giles, Willow and Buffy were still silently sitting around the table in the middle of the room though their short conversation concerning Joyce’s condition was finished minutes ago. The first two were pretending to read the books in their poorly masked deception to stay close to Buffy in their silent support. Giles was carefully stealing glances at Buffy and Willow from time to time. While Willow who was not even bothering turning pages of her book anymore was doing the same at Buffy. They didn’t have to bother being careful though since Buffy was ignoring them both and everything around her anyway.
She leaned at the table with both of her elbows, holding her head in her hands and looking at the pile of the books in the middle of the table with an empty stare, buried deep in her thoughts. Brooding. Completely still. She recently returned from the hospital after staying for several hours near the bed of her unconscious mother and still had a lot of to think about. The problem was that she didn’t know where to start, since whatever happened to Dawn happened without a trace and leaving them completely without any clues whatsoever. And as hard as she tried now she couldn’t order her mind to arrange her thoughts after three days of fruitless efforts to track her little sister. Exactly, Dawn was her little sister and she didn’t thought about her as Key anymore. Maybe the fear she experienced earlier this day when Joyce was hospitalized made her change her perception of Dawn so much, she wasn’t sure, but it was sure as hell that the fear to be completely left without family in this world made her froze in terror. But in terror or not she was still Slayer and it was she who was the first to register a soft, but insistent knock on the door. To utter amazement of Giles and Willow who only second before regarded completely still Buffy with expressions of worry and concern on their faces, the table they were sitting at violently shook as Slayer leaped from her chair and with unnatural speed headed towards the door, drawing attention of everyone else in the room, including Spike who just finished his cigarette and also heard knocking on the door.
Deep in her heart hoping to see Dawn behind the door, but in her mind quickly realizing that this was hardly possible, Buffy was still completely unprepared to meet anyone but Dawn when she swung the door wide open, not talking about a very attractive tall woman, with feline eyes, soaring cheekbones and a beautiful mane of long brown hair almost reaching her waist. She was wearing black trench coat with dark blue blouse and white silk scarf. Then Buffy realized that she was staring at the woman with interest and disappointment at the same time. A woman gave her a curious look and softly whispered so only Buffy could hear:
“Sorry. It is not she, but I came to help. May I come in?”
Buffy hesitated for a moment. Something about this woman’s eyes and voice reminded her of Drusilla, only without malice in it. Also she could swear that she could feel a light tingling sensation at the back of her neck for a moment. Still something about the woman’s voice that so conveniently sparked a feeling of hope inside her again made her accept and with a slow, barely visible nod she let the woman in. If woman was able to impress Buffy for a moment, you could say that she made a lasting impression on the other members of “gang”. Something about her pace and the way she was holding herself gave her a regal look. Giles slowly stood up and was obviously staring, while Willow and Xander opened their mouths in awe. Only Spike and Anya seemed to resist her charm and while the former let out a barely audible uncharacteristic hiss and visibly tensed, which Buffy noticed not without interest, the latter gave Xander a not too gentle slap on the back of his head. And while Xander was turning his head with the words of protest forming on his lips something about the woman caught Anya’s attention, too, and forced her to jump on her feet and to give a woman incredulous look.
“You!” she exclaimed and made several quick short steps toward the woman as if to get a better look. Then she suddenly halted as if confirming her suspicions and accusingly pointed a finger in woman’s direction “Return where you came from. This is not your place!”
Xander mistakenly thinking that he knew what provoked Anya’ reaction also rose to his feet, with annoyed look on his face: “Anya, this is not what you are...” But Anya was too quick to react for him and cut him in mid-sentence:
“No, you don’t understand, she is an Enemy” she stated as if it supposed to mean something, however, it drew an approving nod from vampire. The mysterious woman at first seemed as if she wanted to say something, but just rolled her eyes at the last statement. Meanwhile Spike obviously alerted just by her very presence in the same room as him and getting confirmation of his own suspicions from Anya, suddenly hissed at the woman drawing attention to himself:
“Explain yourself. And make it, good.” Stressing the last word that left no questions of what he implied.
The woman again at first opened her mouth for a moment as if she wanted to say something, then just shook her head in disbelief. And then decided to accept the challenge for what it was.
“You. Dare. Threaten. Me. Vampire?” she said stressing every word herself and made five steps in Spike’ direction, one for every hissed word, with a sly grin and a promise of pain in her eyes. Spike just smiled in return exposing his fangs and leaped.
And then all the hell broke loose.