Disclaimer: As always, only the plot is mine. The rest belongs to big scary corporations that could make me disappear.
That being said... on to the story.
After tending to their two ... guests, Wesley returned to the deck in search of his Slayer. William hadn't had a concussion but had been very close to one. With the help of the young witch the normally long spell had taken only a few minutes, leaving the ships doctor free to pick Buffy's mind. He found her near the row of bodies that Gl'r 'k, the spider demon, was cocooning in silk in lieu of cloth burial shrouds. The Slayer was by her mother's body, brushing the woman's long blonde hair and Red was by her friends' side, lending moral support. Scanning the deck for Angelus, Wesley was relieved to find the vampire manning the wheel and far from the grieving Slayer.
"Buffy," he began.
"Don't, Wes," she said softly.
She was silent but he pressed on.
"I'm concerned, Buffy," Wes continued.
The Slayer kept her back to him, slowly pulling the brush through her mother's hair.
"You've never taken prisoners before and you know that your vows forbid you from purposefully allowing them to come to harm."
"I know what my vows say, Wesley," she replied, not turning from her task.
"I'm not sure that you do. Ever since taking up with Angelus you've twisted your Sacred Vows to fit your own wishes or simply disregarded them all together ..."
All activity stopped as Buffy stood quickly and spun to face her Watcher. The crew anxiously watched their captain, wondering if they'd be forced to restrain the Slayer and keep her from harming the man.
"Which vows have I disregarded?" Buffy demanded, toe-to-toe with her Watcher. "I've upheld every rule the Council Masters have ever given me since I was fifteen years old! Even when following those rules cost me so much! Friends! Family!"
She looked to her mother's body and continued softly.
"So, yes, I might bend the rules a little because when I don't people I care about die, and Dawn is not going to be one of them!"
That said, she angrily pushed past him and strode to her cabin, slamming the door behind her. After giving the wheel to another demon, Angelus gave Wesley a knowing smile before slipping into the room after Buffy.
"Nicely handled, Watcher," Willow told him. "If you wanted to get her defenses up, you succeeded."
"You're as concerned as I am, Red. You know as well as I that Angelus is becoming a greater influence with every day."
The witch nodded.
"She's letting him bite her more often," she said. "I think he's close to claiming her."
Wesley sighed, he'd thought as much. Suddenly aware of the many ears surrounding them, he moved to the rail beside Red, putting a hand on her arm to urge her to face the ocean.
"I believe it may be more than that," he whispered. "Angelus has been denying his basic nature for three years and I find it most difficult to believe that he has decided to reform. If Council records are anything to go by, it would be safe to assume that there's always a purpose to the things he does."
"I've known that he was planning something for a while," Willow replied. "I just can't figure out what Buffy has to do with it."
The sun was just breaking over the horizon when Buffy returned to the deck. The cocooned bodies of the dead were lined up against the rail, awaiting their watery interment, and the Slayer surveyed the lightening skyline before making her way to them. The light-tolerant crewmen were gathered nearby and parted to allow their captain access to their fallen fellows. Willow and Wesley stood at the rail, watching over Clem as he knelt by Joyce's silk shrouded body. There was a far away look in his haunted red eyes and Buffy went to him, wrapping him in a hug. The demon didn't respond for a moment then wrapped his arms around her small but powerful frame.
"I'm sorry, Buffy," he said softly.
"It's not your fault, Clem," she replied, but he continued like he hadn't heard her.
"I couldn't protect them. Couldn't save Joyce. Couldn't keep Dawn with me, and now ... they're both gone."
"Hey, look at me," she commanded softly, capturing his face between her hands. "We will get Dawn back. If it's the last thing we do, we'll find her."
"Buffy's gonna find me," Dawn said. "The whole crew's out looking for me right now and when they find me you're gonna want to die long before they'll let you."
"God," her captor growled. "Don't you ever *shut* *up*!"
"But I thought you wanted me to talk?" Dawn asked, all wide-eyed innocence.
She shrieked and ducked the crate that was sent flying toward her head. It shattered against the wall, splintering into a couple hundred pieces.
"I want you to tell me where the box is and you know it!" the dark-haired young woman shouted.
Dawn's eyes were wide with a different emotion this time.
"You - you're a Slayer!"
The woman grinned and nodded.
"Who?" Dawn asked. "Who died? Was it Kendra?"
The new Slayer shook her head. Dawn frowned.
"Then it was Faith."
Dawn was sorry for that. She might find Kendra a little odd but the girl genuinely liked Faith.
"Nope," the other woman said. "Care to try once more?"
Dawn was silent, refusing to think the thoughts that were sneaking into her brain. No, it couldn't be ...
The Slayer just smiled. Then Dawn shook her head.
"No, no you said that you had mystics to keep Buffy confused. Why would you need them if she was dead?"
"Why indeed?" came the reply. "Don't worry, kid. All three of my sister slayers are alive and well, but I really had you going, didn't I?"
Dawn lept to her feet, reaching for the other woman only to be brought up short by the chains around her wrists.
"You're a bitch, Kennedy!"
Kennedy put a hand over her heart, looking shocked and hurt.
"A bitch, my, my! What strong words! Whatever would your mother say?"
"Oh, wait ..."
Dawn lunged again, a growl tearing from her throat.