A/N Based around episode 5.13 Blood Ties
A few days later:
Buffy roused from her blissful sleep when she heard a soft rustling on the other side of her bed. Her weary eyes took a brief second to pull into focus and then she saw Dean hurriedly packing.
“Dean? What’s going on?”
Dean swung around as he threw some of his things in his duffle.
“Dad’s in trouble,” he said grimly. “I gotta go.”
Buffy furrowed her brows in concern as she sat up against the headboard.
“You talked to him?”
Dean slipped on his jacket and then pocketed his cell phone.
“No, it was just a voicemail,” he said quickly.
Buffy peered around her room, noticing a yellow sheet of paper on her bedside dresser. She snatched the sheet up and read over the very short note. She drew an appreciative smile as Dean hiked his bag over his shoulder and checked the bedroom for anything he left behind.
“Thanks for the note,” she said.
“I figured you wouldn’t get a chance to ‘accidentally’ read my text messages,” Dean replied with a teasing smile.
“I hope your dad is okay,” Buffy said. “Call me and let me know.”
Buffy let out a contented sigh as Dean gave her a long kiss goodbye before ambling out of her room.
Two days later:
Dean raced through a dark forest, cradling his shotgun, pushing through his immense exhaustion and anxiety. He scurried up a steep, rocky hill as his lungs heaved for air. He spotted a two story cabin as he reached the top of the hill. The cabin was completely dark as Dean heard maniacal laughter behind the door. Carefully and quietly, he stalked inside as he heard the demon taunting his victim.
“Don’t take it too hard, I’ll devour you quickly,” the demon hissed. “That way the guilt you feel over failing to save Emily and her mom will end quickly. And you didn’t think I could be merciful.”
The demon laughed before an outburst of noises flooded the cabin. Sounds of a struggle ended with a bout of silence and then a howl of agony. Dean charged down a hall and busted through a door to see the ghoul hunched over his victim, having a bite.
Dean snapped up his shotgun, took aim and fired off a round directly into the demon’s head. Blood and flesh splattered into the air as the headless body crumpled to the floor. The moonlight banking through the lone window of the room bathed over the victim.
John Winchester clutched his bloodied shoulder as he looked up and scowled at his son.
“Dean. What the hell are you doing here?” he demanded.
Heaving with breaths of exertion and adrenaline, Dean lowered his shotgun after checking the dead body of the ghoul.
“You left me a message that your case turned bad,” Dean explained.
John pushed himself up against the wall, grimacing at the twinges of pain vibrating in his open wound.
“And I also told you not to come looking for me,” he snarled. “You ignored a direct order!”
“I know, but what was I supposed to do? Let that thing eat you?!”
John clenched his teeth as blood pooled out of his wound. Dean didn’t flinch under the weight of his father’s livid glare.
“You’re supposed to do your job Dean,” John growled. “You’re supposed to keep hunting.”
“I did and it led me to you!” Dean cried. “My job is to hunt evil things – to save people’s lives from those things! Your life was in danger! I was SAVING YOUR ASS!”
John relaxed his clenched jaw as he stared at his son’s blood caked face. After a long lull of silence, John bellowed with a sigh as the hard lines on his face softened.
“Okay son, you have a point,” he surrendered. “But I don’t like you defying my orders. You want to tell me where this rebelliousness is coming from?”
Despite his dad’s lightened expression, his strident tone made Dean fidget in his stance.
“I don’t know. How about eight days without hearing from you? I have to find out you’re alive from people you’ve stood up. If I was the one that wasn’t checking in, you’d ream my ass!”
John stared at Dean for a long moment, seeing the heavy lines of worry knotted over his son’s face. John let out a sigh as he exuded a rare humbled look.
“Alright, so I haven’t been the best at staying in touch lately. But I’ve gotten all your messages. In light of Joyce’s situation, I felt it was important for you to be there for her family.”
John pulled his hand off his shoulder and examined his wound. Dean widened his eyes as he stared at the torn flesh and tissue.
“Jesus, that ghoul took a big bite out of you.”
John ripped a piece of his sleeve off and used it to wrap around his shoulder.
“It’ll be fine,” he said through gritted teeth. “What I want to hear about is this ‘reckless’ behavior you’ve displayed on recent patrols in Sunnydale.”
Dean masked his surprise as he ambled out of the cabin with his father.
“Huh? Reckless? Who said…what makes you think I’ve been reckless?”
John frowned sternly at Dean as he reached his truck.
“The last time I was in town, I asked Giles to check in with me if he ever had concerns about you.”
Dean bit back his offense. “You had the Watcher watch me?”
“Given his paternal relationship with Buffy over the years, I asked him to keep his eye on you and to let me know if your methods and influence have a detrimental effect on Buffy’s well being.”
“And he thinks I do?”
John remained stony face as he tossed his gear through the opened driver seat window.
“He’s concerned about your welfare, that’s all Dean,” he finally said. “If something happens to you, he knows how it would affect Buffy. Now follow me back to my motel and we’ll discuss this further.”
John swung the driver side door open and then eyed Dean expectantly. Dean stood still for a moment, stewing in his own disbelief that his Dad had known more than he thought about the happenings in Sunnydale.
“Dean, did you hear me?”
Dean issued a deep sigh and nodded.
“Yes – sir,” he said.
Buffy breezed quickly into her bedroom to retrieve a jacket when her mom poked her head in and smiled.
“Hi honey, I was hoping to get a firm head count for tomorrow so I know how much food to make. Is everyone coming? Giles, Willow?” Joyce asked eagerly.
Buffy bit down on her lower lip, holding back her reluctant tone.
“I haven’t had a chance to really bring it up yet,” Buffy said ruefully. “But mom, you don’t have to go to the trouble. It’s just a birthday.”
Joyce shook her head as she placed a hand on Buffy’s shoulder.
“Nonsense, you’ve been through so much lately. A get together with your friends will be a nice little break from everything.”
“Well, okay,” Buffy relented. “I’m meeting with everyone tonight so I’ll see what they say.”
“Great. Oh, what about Dean? Will he be back in town for your birthday?”
“I’m not sure. I talked to him last night for a few minutes before he had to go. I don’t know if he found his dad or not and when or if he’ll be back.”
“I’m sure he’ll do his best to be here,” Joyce said encouragingly. “He wouldn’t miss your birthday.”
“….is that understood Dean?”
Dean tilted back in his chair, his mind numb from the nearly hour and a half lecture he’d gotten from his Dad. He stared off into space, trying to process it all when he heard his Dad sigh in exasperation. John smacked a hand on the table.
Dean snapped himself out of his daze and glanced at his Dad’s steely expression.
“Sorry, yeah, I understand….sir,” he said obediently.
John studied his son intently for a long minute.
“Alright, now that we’ve got business out of the way, there’s something I need you to do for me.”
John got up from the table and rummaged through one of his duffels. He retrieved a small box and set it in front of Dean. Dean looked at the mahogany box that had an occult symbol etched on the lid.
“Give that to Buffy when you see her.”
“Is this for her training?”
John drew a very faint smile.
“No, it’s just something I picked up for her birthday. I assume you’ll be heading out there for a gathering?”
Dean shrugged as he flipped the lid of the box open and peeked inside.
“I don’t know if anything’s going on,” he said. “Since I got here, I’ve been trying to find you.”
Dean glanced at the penny shaped talisman inside.
“What is this?”
John briefly explained the symbolism of the hand carved talisman as Dean turned it over between his fingers.
“I didn’t get a chain for it,” John said. “Or you can have it set in a ring if you want.”
Dean choked on his sip of beer as the last suggestion rang through his ears.
“You mean, like…like a key ring, right Dad?”
John’s perpetual dark look cracked with an amused grin.
“If that’s what you want to do with it.”
Dean tossed the talisman back inside the box and gave an awkward look to his dad.
“Yeah uh….I’ll uh…figure something out.”
The following evening, the Scoobies were gathered in Buffy’s living room, watching her opening presents. After a time, Buffy retreated to the kitchen with her mom and Giles, while the rest of the gang hung out in the living room.
Dean walked in through the front door just as Joyce, Giles and Buffy strolled out of the kitchen. Buffy spotted Dean and skipped over to him, gleefully embracing him.
“I didn’t know you were coming out,” she said. “Why didn’t you call?”
“Wanted to surprise you,” Dean replied casually. “Surprise.”
“Oh, best birthday present ever,” Buffy squealed as she threw her arms around him again.
“Really? So then I don’t have to give you this?” he asked as he removed a small box from the inner pocket of his jacket.
“I didn’t say that! Gimme!”
Buffy anxiously reached for the present and then steered Dean to a corner of the living room.
“It’s from me and my dad.”
“So you found him? He’s okay? I told you to call me with updates.”
“I know, I meant to but as soon as I got a lead on dad, I just kept following it until I found him.”
Buffy listened intently as Dean imparted the details of his fervent search for his dad. She let out a heavy sigh of relief as Xander and Anya came over.
“So, Dean, what’s new? It can’t be the shocking revelation about Dawn, since you’ve known that for awhile,” Xander said, nudging Dean in the arm.
Dean peeled his poker face on as Xander and Anya both stared at him. He glanced over at Buffy as her face shrouded with acknowledgment.
“I told everyone about Dawn,” she whispered. “I had to. They’re putting their lives on the line for me.”
“And you’re all still talking to her, obviously,” Dean finally said.
“Well, it’s hard to be mad when you look at Dawn and start questioning what actually happened in your own life,” Xander said in awe. “Brain real fuzzy. When it stops, maybe I’ll be mad.”
“Yeah, it’s a Total Recall trip,” Dean replied. “I’m still grasping it.”
Dawn sidled over to Xander and Anya as they were engaged in a discussion with Buffy and Dean. The four quickly quieted as she approached. Dawn scowled as she caught the four throwing conspiratorial looks at each other.
“What’s the deal huh? How come people get all fidgety and awkward looking around me?”
Xander pointed to himself as he looked around.
“I’m not fidgety and awkward looking,” Xander blubbered as he fidgeted in his stance and flushed with awkwardness. “Nope, nope, not me.”
Dawn sputtered with exasperation as she glared at the group in annoyance.
“You think I’m so stupid but it’s obvious you’re having some secretive conversation that has to do with me.”
Buffy, Dean, Xander and Anya exchanged looks as they shook their heads.
“We weren’t talking secretively about you,” Xander said insistently.
“Oh yeah? What were you guys whispering about huh?” Dawn challenged, hooking a hand on her hip.
“The wildest places we’ve had sex,” Anya said without flinching.
Dawn drew a frustrated breath as Joyce passed by.
“Mom, everyone keeps saying stuff about me and I want to know what it is,” she groaned.
“We haven’t said a thing,” Xander said.
Anya turned her eyes to Joyce.
“We were having a grown up conversation about our wildest sexual fantasies,” Anya remarked. “Sharing very graphic details so we can all vividly picture these delicious fantasies in our heads.”
Anya finished her comment with a grin. Flustered by Anya’s openness, Joyce simply stood there, speechless. Xander tugged on Anya’s arm but she continued without acknowledging him.
“Some involve public places,” she said. “And some involve an assortment of restraints…”
Xander widened his eyes as Dean stifled his laughter. Buffy furrowed her brows as she stepped between Anya and her mother.
“You really don’t need to say anymore, Anya,” Buffy persisted.
Dawn crossed her arms and rolled her eyes.
“Sure, don’t let little Dawn’s ears hear something horrible or anything for that matter. How about I just go to my room and stay there and then you ‘grown ups’ can have conversations without fear of me hearing things, you know, things like
words and stuff?”
After Dawn stormed upstairs and slammed the door to her room, the awkward tension slowly broke away.
“Um, anyone wanna a piece of cake?” Willow offered, holding up a wedge of chocolate cake.
A little while later, the gang was dispersed throughout the living room, enjoying Joyce’s home made cake. Dean settled onto the couch, picking away at his second helping of cake as Buffy, sitting in his lap, opened her present. Willow and Tara sat nearby as Buffy eagerly tore away the plain brown paper wrapping to reveal a small wooden box with a strange carving on the lid. She flipped the lid open to find a simple bracelet, with several strange looking trinkets hanging from it.
“Oh, a charm bracelet, cool,” Willow said.
Buffy grinned teasingly at Dean.
“You got me jewelry?”
“It’s not jewelry,” he said firmly. “It’s a protective…wrist chain.”
Buffy tapped on her wrist and then shook the bracelet at Dean. She held out her wrist as he clasped the bracelet on.
“So you got me protective jewelry,” Buffy reiterated, deepening her teasing grin. “Look Will! Jewelry!”
Dean rolled his eyes as Willow and Tara huddled around Buffy to inspect the bracelet.
“This one with the eight spindles, it’s very interesting,” Tara replied.
“It’s called the ‘helm of awe, a Scandinavian protection rune,” Dean explained.
Giles wandered by and did a double take when he saw the carving on the box.
“Look Giles! I got some pretty jewelry from the boyfriend!” Buffy shrieked joyously.
“It’s NOT jewelry!” Dean protested.
Giles noticed the symbolic charms hanging from it as Anya and Xander strolled over.
“My goodness, an Aegishjalmur! And an Ahnk?”
“Yeah, that one’s from my dad.”
“There’s a gemstone too!” Buffy said as she pointed at the dark gem set inside the clasp.
Giles inspected the stone. “Obsidian. It is known to be extremely protective to the wearer.”
Dean pointed to Giles and fervently nodded.
“See! See! It’s a protective chain,” he stated adamantly.
“Well, it is a fine gift for a warrior,” Giles replied.
“It’s pretty and protective,” Willow said.
“It is perf…..” Tara started to say until a huge gasp cut the remainder of her comment off.
When her eyes widened in horror, everyone steered their sights in the direction of hers.
Dawn stood on the other side of the living room, holding a shaking hand out as blood dripped from a large cut in her palm. In her other hand, she limply held the frosting coated cake knife.
“Am I really bleeding?” she asked meekly.
Joyce and Buffy gasped, running toward her. Buffy snatched the knife out of Dawn’s hand.
“Dawn! Tell me what you were thinking?!” she demanded.
Dawn directed her eyes at Joyce.
“If I’m bleeding, then I’m real,” Dawn cried. “I’m real. I exist. I can’t be this Key thing.”
A wave of shock swept through the gang as Joyce protectively clutched Dawn.
“Oh no sweetie…this isn’t….I….you….”
Dawn’s face curtained with agony as Joyce struggled to find the words to comfort her. She looked off accusingly at everyone in the room.
“So it’s true! Where did I come from? WHAT did I come from?!” she howled.
Joyce pulled Dawn into her arms, passing a defeated look at Buffy as the gang uncomfortably fidgeted and looked away.
After the Scoobies solemnly filed out of the house, Buffy wandered into the kitchen as Dean stuffed the last of the paper plates in the trash.
“Alright, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Buffy shuddered with anxiety as Dean slipped into his jacket and took out his car keys.
“You’re not staying here?”
Dean glanced up, his face bowing with a rueful look.
“It’s not that I don’t want to. But considering that trip to Awkward City earlier this evening, it’s probably better I crash at a motel. You’ve got family stuff.”
“And you’ve always gotten me through my family stuff,” Buffy said explicitly.
Buffy threw her arms around Dean and let out a shaky gasp.
“I don’t know what to say or do,” she cried. “And I…..just please, don’t go.”
Buffy pulled back, fighting the tears swarming in her eyes. Her lower lip shook violently as she struggled to maintain her composure. Dean nestled her back into his arms as Buffy released a very faint cry.
“Okay,” he said softly. “But if you don’t mind, I’d like to skip the tour of Uncomfortable County. I’ll be down here….keeping busy.”
Sometime later, Buffy let out a staggered breath as her hand clenched the railing of the stairs. As she descended the stairs, she noticed the living room and kitchen lights were off but the outside lamp was on. Steering through the kitchen to the back porch, Buffy stepped outside into the cooling air and sighed. She joined Dean on the step as he reached into one of the inner pockets of his jacket and pulled out a pint of ice cream.
“Thought you could use this,” he said.
Buffy eyed the flavor, triple fudge mocha, and managed a very small smile of appreciation as Dean popped the lid. He scooped out a small helping, holding out the spoon to Buffy. She took it and moaned softly. She dipped her head on Dean’s shoulder as he had a bite of ice cream.
“I thought we were out of ice cream,” she said.
“You were,” Dean confirmed. “When I heard the screaming, I uh, I thought it was a good time to run out….and get some.”
Buffy sunk with heavy remorse.
“You heard that?”
Buffy exhaled deeply as she was at a loss for words, so she simply sat there, leaning against Dean as he fed her spoonfuls of ice cream.
“She just needs some time,” Dean soothed. “It’s a big bombshell that went off in her lap.”
Buffy passed Dean a grateful look even though urgency glittered in her eyes.
“There isn’t much time,” she said anxiously.
“Well, we can’t do much right now. So, tomorrow, first thing, we’ll figure it out.”
Comforted by the support flickering in his eyes, Buffy sunk her head back against his shoulder.
“What would I do without you?”
After a brief silence, Buffy heard Dean chuckling very softly to himself.
“Oh, I’ve got a long list if you want to look it over.”
Buffy blinked rapidly in disbelief as she shifted her eyes up. She punched him lightly in the arm when he chuckled to himself.
“That’s high up on the list, ‘not having someone to punch in the arm’,” he said lightly.
Feeling the black cloud in her heart lifting, Buffy giggled for a short moment. She welcomed the flow of relief in her system as her laughter tapered off. She let out a sigh as she allowed her body and mind to unwind.
“So what happened when you met up with your dad again?”
Reflecting on his dad’s harsh lecture, Dean pushed it to the back of his mind.
“It’s a long story,” he said. “And not really that important right now.”
Wanting to avoid any further inquiry, Dean fed Buffy another serving of ice cream. Her hazel eyes gleamed under the moonlight as she stared up at him with a loving smile.
Buffy planted an adoring kiss on his mouth as the dark storm raging in her heart settled for a time.
The next afternoon, Buffy hung deeper against Dean as they walked into the magic shop. Willow, seated at the table with the gang, shot out of her chair.
“Oh Buffy, how’d it go?”
Buffy briefly glanced up at Dean, discreetly sharing the reluctance in her eyes. She pushed out a breath as she tapped on an open book on the table.
“Have you guys made any progress?”
“We have all been diligently researching,” Giles started gently.
“And? Have you found any answers concerning the Key?” Buffy pressed. “Because that’s what we need right now. What is it supposed to do? Who was it made by?”
“Yeah and why is a hell god all hot and bothered over it?” Xander added.
Buffy frowned as she shook her head.
“This is about Dawn, not Glory,” she stated. “She has all these questions that I can’t answer right now. But I’m going to find them.”
Giles held up a thick text and a stack of his notebooks.
“I am still quite puzzled as to how she discovered my personal research,” he said.
Giles shook his head as Anya winced at a putrid smell wafting from an urn.
“Ugh! This is the Urn of Ishtar not an ashtray! What vile person did this?” she demanded as she pulled out a cigarette stub.
Lead by a heavy suspicion, Dean took the cigarette stub from Anya and sniffed it. He frowned in dismay when he recognized the brand.
“Oh not a person, a sewer rat,” he grunted.
As Buffy prepared to the kick the crypt door in, she caught Dean pondering over an idea.
“You still want me to NOT blow anything up?”
Buffy let the question roll off her as she smashed her foot into the door and stormed inside. Spike sat on the lid of his tomb, waggling his freshly painted nails as Buffy charged toward him.
“Well, if it isn’t Nancy Drew and…Nancy Boy,” Spike said with a grin.
Buffy lunged into the air, snapping her foot out as she descended toward the tomb lid. The lid flew out from under Spike, sending him flying back into it. As Spike started to climb out of the tomb, Buffy kicked him back in and then followed with an angry punch to the face.
Dean noticed a spilt bottle of black nail polish on the ground. He picked it up and snorted at Spike.
“Gee, were we interrupting your manicure Willamena?”
Buffy lifted up the tomb lid and slammed it down onto Spike’s chest, pinning him inside.
“How could you let Dawn find out that way?!” she snarled. “Are you that full of hate for me?”
“Oh, it’s not hate,” Dean grumbled under his breath.
Irked by the interruption, Buffy shot her steely glare at Dean before drawing it back on Spike.
“All I did was tagalong,” Spike said casually. “How was I supposed to know the kid was an ancient mystical key eh? Did anyone bother to tell me, hey Spike, Dawn ain’t real but keep mum about it? No.”
“Are you gonna hit him for being a smart ass? Cause if you won’t, I will,” Dean said.
Buffy clenched Spike by the collar and shook him.
“Why did you let her go to the magic shop?” she growled. “Why didn’t you….”
“Here we go again,” Spike spat derisively. “This is the part where you blame me for your problems. Well, hate to break it to you….”
Suddenly, Spike flung the tomb lid off himself and hurled it away. It crashed into a stack of crates, knocking them over, crushing some. Dean caught something in his periphery, something pink and lacy, peeking out from one of the smashed crates.
“But the lil sis was bound to sneak away at some point,” he said. “Perhaps if you weren’t shagging the boy all hours of the night, you’d keep better track of her. All I did was make sure she made it home safe.”
“It wasn’t your place to have her find out that way,” Buffy admonished.
“How long did you think you could keep something like that from her? How long were your friends supposed to carry the burden of that secret? It’s always the Buffy show around here. No wonder kid sis needed to vent a little.”
“Shut your mouth! You really have no idea what’s it like to be me,” Buffy snapped before she turned and exited in a huff.
Dean lingered inside the crypt as Spike looked longingly out the crypt door.
“You got a little smudge,” Dean said flatly.
Spike blinked out of his daze and steered his eyes to Dean as he threw the bottle of nail polish at him. Dean flashed an icy glare at Spike as he took something out of his pocket and spun it on his finger.
“No more panty raids or I swear I will…”
Spike waved him out of the crypt.
“Stick your shiny trinket in me, yeah, yeah,” he groaned.
Dean ambled out of the crypt as Spike started to reapply the polish to his nails. Buffy was pacing impatiently a few feet away. When she saw Dean, she set off toward the entrance of the cemetery. When she didn’t hear the echo of his footsteps beside her, she turned around and saw Dean leaning against a tall headstone.
“What are you doing?”
“Oh, just waiting.”
“Waiting for what?”
As a shriek of agony echoed from Spike’s crypt, Dean burst into a satisfied smirk.
“That,” he said as a chuckle rippled out of his mouth.
Dean pushed off the headstone as he rolled the empty vial of holy water in one hand.
“That nail color is smoking hot,” he cracked.
Several hours later, Dean cradled a large bag of takeout as he approached the Summers’ house. Hearing the wail of an alarm from inside, his gut clenched and he sailed through the front door. Picking up Buffy’s muffled voice from one of the bedrooms, Dean charged up the stairs in a panic. As the smell of smoke snaked out from Dawn’s room, Dean raced toward it. Buffy was smothering the flames in a trash can with a blanket.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
Buffy answered with a look that told Dean he shouldn’t ask any more questions so he simply went for the window to air out the bedroom. When he pulled the curtains, he found the window was already open. Joyce gasped in shock as Buffy squeezed past Dean and looked out the window.
Buffy bounced anxiously in the passenger seat as Dean drove toward the magic shop for an emergency meeting.
“She could be anywhere,” Buffy wailed. “What was she thinking? What if she runs into Glory? Or one of those knights?
What if she sets a place on fire?”
“Well, if she does, hopefully the place is filled with vampires,” Dean replied facetiously.
Met with a sour look, Dean let out a sigh.
“I know, I’m not helping,” he said. “Look, there’s no sense in going over the endless amount of ‘what if’ scenarios. We’ll search everywhere we can think of and we’ll find her and bring her home.”
Absorbing his confident look, Buffy felt her rattled nerves steadying a bit. Once Dean pulled up along curb of the magic shop, Buffy quickly strode inside where the Scoobies were already assembled at the table, waiting for her.
After a brief update, Buffy clenched the edge of the table with her hands, struggling to stave off the mass anxiety seeping into her bones. Dean walked in as the gang exchanged looks of shock and confusion.
“Are you certain it wasn’t the warning spell?” Giles asked calmly.
“Yeah, Glory wasn’t there. This was all about Dawn being….well, she’s having a hard time dealing with it all. She trashed her room and then set fire to all of her journals.”
Xander gawked with astonishment. “The Chronicles of the Dawnster are gone?”
“Oh my gosh,” Willow gasped. “She’s been writing in her journals forever. I remember when she got her first one, age….well, no….I guess that didn’t hap….”
Willow paused and crinkled with a sheepish look.
“Age seven,” Buffy finished. “She waved it at me and then said she could write whatever she wanted about me and I would never know.”
As an uncomfortable silence hit the room, Buffy brushed off the awkward looks shared by the gang.
“Right now, the only thing I care about is bringing her home. The sooner the better,” Buffy said directly. “With Glory and those knights out there, we can’t afford to waste any time. My mom has the house staked out if Dawn turns up. I need everyone else to take different parts of town.”
“Maybe we should try the mall, you know how much she loves that place!” Willow said with a hopeful look.
“Oh, what about that dog park by the baseball field? She likes to sit and watch the little dogs run around play,” Anya said.
“Yeah but all these things we remember, they didn’t really happen,” Xander said glumly.
“She remembers them happening,” Buffy said brusquely. “And so do I.”
Xander gulped when he took in the sadness fluttering in Buffy’s eyes.
“I mean, maybe we should try places she’s never been too because all the familiar ones just remind her of um….they make her feel….”
Buffy let the comment go as she went into delegate mode, assigning the gangs areas of town to search.
“Everyone, please remember….” Buffy started until the rest of her words abruptly faded.
She bit down on her lower lip as it quivered with fear. Catching the glassiness in her eyes, Dean cupped a hand over the crook of her arm as he looked over the gang.
“Let’s move out,” he instructed.
After trekking through the teen clubs and coffeehouses on the east side, Buffy and Dean canvassed a small play park. While Buffy called out for Dawn, Dean fastened his eyes on a particular set of swings. As a vivid memory of the Summers’ girls flourished in his mind, he shook his head in awe.
Buffy growled in her throat when her search of the park proved futile.
“Spike was right.”
Jarred by those three words, Dean snapped out of his daze.
“What? No, never say that. Never say those words.”
“This is on me,” Buffy lamented. “It was on me to tell Dawn.”
“And you think she would have handled it any better? She may be a thousand years old but she’s fourteen in spirit and that kind of news would have made her bolt whether she found out from you or black nail polish wearing douche bags.”
“I lied to her. I’ve been lying to her.”
“Sometimes you have to lie to the people you love to protect them,” Dean said emphatically.
Buffy set a questioning gaze upon Dean as something flickered in his eyes.
“Look, if you’re gonna blame yourself, you have to blame all of us. We wouldn’t have kept it a secret from Dawn if we thought you were in the wrong. We’re all in this with you, until the end,” he said staunchly.
Soaking in the heavy conviction bleeding over his face, Buffy felt her trepidation subsiding. She swept her sights around the park, her brows gathering with frustration.
“We’ve looked everywhere!” she huffed in exasperation.
Hearing an ambulance wailing in the distance, Dean sparked with an idea.
“There’s one place we haven’t hit yet. Come on.”
A few minutes later, Buffy and Dean stopped in front of a designated meeting point to regroup with the gang. Willow and Tara crossed the street just as Xander and Giles appeared on the opposite side of the street. All four met up with Buffy and Dean. Buffy read over Willow and Tara’s expressions.
“No luck?” she gauged.
Willow and Tara shook their heads.
“You check that used book shop on Lakewood?” Dean asked. “She used to spend hours there on the weekend.”
“Yeah, we just came from there,” Willow said.
“Carousel?” Buffy asked hopefully.
“Looked but…nothing sorry,” Tara replied.
“I am afraid we were unsuccessful as well,” Giles said dolefully.
“Well, we’re not done,” Dean informed.
“We’re headed to the hospital,” Buffy said as she pivoted toward the curb.
The gang gathered around her, a force of silent strength as she crossed the street.
Inside the waiting area, the gang hung back as Buffy went with Dean to talk to the nurse on duty. When they returned, the gang tensed at Buffy’s grave expression.
“There’s good news and bad news,” Dean announced. “Dawn’s not here.”
“So that’s the good news!” Xander said with his best cheerful expression.
“Not really,” Buffy sighed. “I mean, she, I….”
Buffy stamped her eyes shut and gasped as fear overwhelmed her. Dean slipped a comforting arm around her as the gang stood there watching, uncertain what to say or do.
“Security! Over here! Come with me! I’ll take you to him! He’s in the break room, third floor! I don’t know what happened
to him…to his head but…it’s sickly! And…and….close to hanging off….like something out of a horror movie!”
Buffy snapped her eyes open as Dean and the gang drew alarm at a man in a janitor’s uniform running toward two security guards. His face was completely ashen and his hands were shaking as the guards caught up to him.
Buffy passed a look to Dean before the two rushed off toward the stairwell.
Buffy and Dean flew onto the third floor, hurriedly peering into windows or propping open doors, searching for Glory. The gang swung through the stairwell door and immediately joined in the search.
“What’s our plan of attack?” Xander asked quietly, following behind Buffy.
“Hit her hard and don’t stop,” Dean replied.
“Okay. Hit her with what?”
Dean padded the inner pockets of his jacket for a second. He removed a wicked looking iron baton with a spear on one end. Xander held it firmly with two hands, choking up on the end like a baseball bat.
“Batter up,” he chimed.
“Tara and I have been looking into a few spells that we could use against Glory,” Willow said. “Might be the time to try one out.”
“SHHH,” Buffy whispered.
The gang ceased talking as Buffy nodded toward a room marked XRAY.
Buffy charged into the XRAY room to see Glory raising her hands toward Dawn’s frightened face. Buffy glared fiercely as the gang strategically fanned out across the room.
“You touch a hair on my sister’s head and I will kill you!” Buffy barked.
Glory whirled around and smirked, undaunted by her threat.
“Well, speak of Miss Goody Two Shoes,” she cooed. “I was just telling your sister that I could use a little bite.”
Buffy hardened her glare as she wound her arm back and then struck out her fist.
Buffy pummeled Glory hard in the face as the gang prepared to launch their attack.
Buffy jumped up and kicked her feet out, hitting Glory in the stomach. As Glory stumbled backward, Dean rammed his elbow into her spine. Glory wobbled slightly in her heels but quickly regained her footing. As Dean came at her again, she blocked his attack, swiftly igniting her own.
She slammed her fist into Dean’s jaw and sent him flying into the air.
“So pathetically easy,” Glory spat.
As Dean crashed into an XRAY machine and collapsed to the ground, Willow and Tara stood on opposite sides of the rooms, discreetly chanting in unison.
Buffy leaped back into the fight, hitting Glory with brutal force. They parried back in forth, Buffy relentless in her attacks. She spun around, throwing her foot out toward Glory’s face. Glory caught her ankle and chucked Buffy to the floor, like a piece of garbage. Buffy uttered a groan as she directed her eyes to Giles, giving him a signal. Giles hurled a long dagger through the air. The blade slammed and embedded into Glory’s chest. She blinked a few times in surprise before she scoffed in disgust.
“Really?” she groaned.
Glory grabbed the handle of the dagger and yanked it out without flinching. She dumped the dagger and sneered at Giles.
“All of you are such pathetic little bu…”
Before Glory could finish delivering her insult, Xander swung his iron baton across the back of her head. Again, Glory didn’t even flinch. Instead, she glowered at Xander as she violently ripped the iron baton from his hands. Xander stumbled back into Giles, knocking them both to the ground.
“Alright! No more Miss Nice God! You’re all gonna die!” she growled.
Glory flung the spear tipped baton toward Dawn. Buffy shrieked in horror as she jumped in the path of the spear.
As the spear sliced into her shoulder, Buffy crumbled to her knees and groaned in agony. Dawn gasped as she ran over to Buffy.
“Not a bad block,” Glory cheered with a wicked smile.
Dawn reached for Buffy but she shook her head.
Buffy yanked the spear out of her shoulder and yelped in pain.
“Well, is that all you’ve got you stupid little fleas?” Glory abhorred. “How you’ve all managed to survive this long is beyond me. You should thank me when I quash your pitiful lives out of existence.”
Glory tossed a lock of her hair behind her shoulder as she practically sashayed toward Buffy. Willow and Tara pounced toward her from each side, tossing strange colored dust at her. The dust settled onto Glory and stained through the fabric, penetrating her skin. Glory rained a livid glare at Willow and Tara.
“Do you KNOW how hard it is to get stains out of Italian silk?!” she roared.
Glory raised a fist toward Willow, intent on bashing her skull in. Willow chanted a single word in Latin and then slammed her hands together. Glory abruptly disintegrated into thin air as Willow withered to the floor.
Buffy blinked rapidly in astonishment as she stared at the space that Glory had just occupied.
“Where did she go?”
Tara helped Willow to her feet as she still swooned from the impact of the spellcasting.
“Not sure,” Willow said weakly. “It was a teleportation spell that sends people away. The where to…well, haven’t really worked that part out yet.”
After a few minutes, the gang recuperated and gradually got to their feet. Regaining consciousness, Dean slowly folded upright and clutched the right side of his jaw, grimacing in agony. When he looked around the room, he saw that everyone was alive. He let out a deep sigh of relief as he pushed himself to his feet and walked over to Buffy and Dawn. Buffy’s face was shrouded with concern, while Dawn’s was caked with annoyance.
Hit with an instinct, Dean thought against interrupting and went over to check on the rest of the gang.
“It’s okay Buffy. You don’t have to pretend like you care about me,” Dawn groaned.
“I’m not pretending,” Buffy said veritably. “I care about you. I love you because we’re sisters.”
Dawn scoffed and rolled her eyes.
“I’m not your real sister,” she grumbled. “I’m just a thing.”
“You’re not a thing,” Buffy declared. “You’re my sister. My real sister.”
Buffy took Dawn’s hand and pointed to the small cut in her palm.
“You’re made of flesh and blood.”
Buffy raised a hand to her injured shoulder and swiped some blood from it. She held up her bloody hand.
Buffy pressed her hand against Dawn’s, sealing their blood bond.
“I don’t care what some old guys in robes did or said. That doesn’t matter to me. What does matter is that all my life, I’ve had a little sister. I mean, if you weren’t my sister, nothing YOU did or SAID would ever get under my skin. You have that knack.”
After a long minute, the anger flaring in Dawn’s eyes faded away. She threw her arms around Buffy and hugged her tightly.
Dean looked over his shoulder to see Buffy and Dawn hugging, both with grateful expressions on their faces. The sisters walked, arm in arm toward the door, the rest of the gang following behind.
Outside the hospital, the gang said their goodbyes and strolled off in different directions.
Still clutching his sore jaw, Dean paced a few steps ahead of the girls as they chatted. When they reached the car, Dawn skipped around the front and followed Dean to the driver side.
“Can I drive?”
“Are you kidding?”
Dawn leaned against the side of the car and crossed her arms.
“Well, you know, technically, I am like a thousand years older than you, I could drive if I want. So, can I?”
Dean stared down at Dawn for a long moment, completely disregarding her mystical origin.
“Over my dead body,” he grunted.
Looking across the car at Buffy, Dean shook his head as Dawn settled for riding in the back seat.
“Was there ever any doubt that she’s not your sister?”
Inside the car, Dawn scowled at the music blaring from the radio. She leaned over the front seat, reaching for the radio dial until she was met by Dean’s steely glare.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
“Changing the station,” Dawn said casually. “Do you always have to listen to music from the Stone Age? I want to hear to something else and being your elder, you should respect my wishes.”
Dean bellowed with an exasperated breath as Buffy couldn’t help but snort with amusement. When Dawn boldly reached for the radio, Dean swatted her hand away.
“Same rules apply whether you’re fourteen or a thousand years old. NEVER TOUCH THE RADIO! Touch the radio and you die,” he growled.
Dawn shrunk in the back seat, suddenly deflated by the last word.
“I almost did,” she said feebly.
Struck by the sheer trauma shimmering in Dawn’s expression, Dean cast his irritation aside. He turned the dial on the radio to a popular music station before pulling from the curb. As he veered onto the main road, Buffy cupped one of his hands on the steering wheel and passed him a thankful smile.
I love you, she mouthed.
Back at the Summers’ residence, Buffy smiled complacently as Dawn and her mom hugged tightly for a long minute.
“Do I smell cookies?” Dawn asked after she parted from the hug.
“Yes,” Joyce confirmed. “I needed to keep busy until you came home so I just started baking.”
Buffy and Dawn followed Joyce into the kitchen and then widened their eyes at the mounds of cookies stacked on plates.
“Oh my goodness,” Buffy gasped. “It’s like a bakery in here.”
Dawn gleefully dove into a plate of cookies as Joyce poured glasses of milk. Joyce set the glasses down in front of her girls.
“Can we eat these in your room and watch movies?” Dawn asked with a nostalgic look.
Joyce smiled receptively at Dawn.
“I can’t think of a better way to spend the rest of the evening than with my two girls. I’ll make some popcorn,” Joyce said.
“Oh, I believe I have a bag of candy in the cupboard somewhere.”
A few minutes later, Dawn skipped off to her mom’s bedroom as Buffy went to check on Dean. He was lying on her bed with just one lamp on. Though his eyes were closed, he seemed to be only lightly resting.
“Everyone okay?” he asked.
Buffy crossed over to her bed and sat next to Dean as his eyelids fluttered open.
“Yeah, we’re going to eat snacks and watch movies in mom’s room, just like we did when we were little. You want to join us?”
“Nah. I think the three of you really need a night of bonding and I need some sleep. So have fun,” Dean replied as his eyes started to close again.
Buffy leaned down and kissed him heavily on the mouth. When she pulled back, Dean snapped his eyes open and smirked with pleasure.
“Well, good night to you too.”
Buffy giggled softly at the silly smile on his face.
“Actually, that was a thank you for my ‘not jewelry’, since I didn’t get a chance to say it earlier,” she said, raising her wrist to admire the bracelet again.
“Oh. I should get you some more not jewelry for a thank you like that.”
Hearing Dawn calling her from the bedroom, Buffy kissed Dean again, shorter but sweet this time.
“You know, mom did make a special cookie for me, but it seems to have mysteriously walked off the plate. Do you have any idea where it could have gone?”
Buffy bit back a smile when she heard the echo of a laugh rumbling in Dean’s throat.
“I don’t know. Maybe it was feeling neglected sitting there for so long and it decided to go find a better home.”
Buffy rolled her eyes as she patted on his stomach.
“The home of YOUR stomach,” she cracked.
“Yeah well, it was very happy there.”
Buffy belted forward as a long bout of laughter rippled through her.
“I really don’t know what I’d do without you.”
Buffy drew close to Dean, brushing her lips against his when a familiar huff of impatience interrupted her.
“Are you going to join us or are you too busy sucking face with Dean?” Dawn asked in annoyance.
Buffy bellowed in exasperation as her eyes whipped to Dawn, standing in the doorway. Dawn suddenly grinned with pride.
“Doncha like how I get under your skin?”
Buffy stared at Dawn for a brief moment before her face curled with a smile.
“You have that knack.”