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Marching to the Beat of a Different Timeline

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This story is No. 1 in the series "It's All About the Journey". You may wish to read the series introduction first.

Summary: Oxford was Luke's chance at normal. At least, until he met the pretty girl in his Ancient Languages class...and the girls who follow her around, and the strange boy who hangs around her flat, and those weird phone calls from her sister...

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Dr. Who/Torchwood > Dawn-CenteredfandomlverFR151160,579105316,53030 Mar 128 Jun 12Yes

Chapter Ten

Author's note: The end. Thanks for your comments as I went along, it's really great to know you're enjoying. :D


Chapter Ten


They headed back to Ealing in two cars, Connor driving Clyde and Rani and Andrew – no one was quite sure how he'd got himself invited, but he had. Dawn let Sarah Jane drive the second car and chatted happily with Sky in the back seat.

They reached the house first; most of the furniture was gone from the garden, and what was left was packed neatly under a tarp. Kelsey Harper was sitting on the steps, eyes closed, listening to her walkman.

"Hi, Kelsey," Luke said a little awkwardly. They'd never really spoken after his adoption; sometimes they exchanged hellos at school, but she'd avoided him and his friends habitually and he'd never tried to force it.

"Thought you were never coming back." She glanced at her watch. "About time, too, I was about to leave."

"What are you doing here?"

"Watching your stuff. What'd you think? We've all been doing it." She looked past his shoulder, eyes widening. "Who is that?"

Luke glanced back as Connor swung out of his new car. "Connor. He's a friend of mine from college."

"He is well fit."

"Kelsey," he said warningly.

She grinned, a surprisingly warm smile. "Never mind. You never did understand what I was talking about."

"Thanks for helping," he said, gesturing to the pile of things.

"Lance brought the tarp. He'll be along later. And the Chandras have been keeping an eye in the evenings."

"I'll make sure and thank them."

She grinned, tossing off a wave as she left. She paused at the gate to blatantly ogle Connor, who smiled easily at her and then immediately dismissed her, jogging over to join Luke.

"This doesn't look too bad," he said, glancing around.

"No. I don't know where the furniture's gone, though. Let me have a look. Where're Clyde and Rani?"

"They went to head off her father."

"Good for them," he murmured. "Right. Come inside. Let's see where we're going to start."

The furniture inside was mostly somewhere approximating the right places. Sky was tugging at one of the armchairs, attempting to reposition it; Rachel took it from her, lifting it effortlessly. "Where d'you want it?"

Luke left Sky to get Connor and Rachel to work and headed upstairs. Mr Smith was just powering down as he slipped into the attic. "Everything all right?" Sarah Jane asked, coming to join him.

"Yes. Did you know the Chandras set up a neighbourhood watch on our things?"

"No. What?"

"Kelsey was watching them when we got here. She said Lance would be by later. And the Chandras have been watching at night."

"Well, they're very kind. We'll get everything inside now."

"Sky has Connor and Rachel moving things downstairs. Clyde and Rani went to talk to her father."

"Mmm hmm. And Dawn?"

Luke shrugged. "She's somewhere. Helping with something, I'm sure."

"I'm sure," Sarah Jane agreed. "I just need to check something here, and then I'll be down."

"I'll wait."

Luke fidgeted around the attic, picking things up and putting them back down again. Sarah Jane kept her eyes on her screen, tracking him by ear as he wandered around. Eventually he'd get to whatever he wanted to talk about. Sarah Jane hadn't become one of the top journalists in England without learning patience.

Finally he dropped to sit next to her. "I like her."

"I'm sorry, dear?"

He slanted a look at her, and she smiled; he knew exactly what she was doing. "Dawn. I mean, she's smart, she's funny, she's nice, aliens aren't going to scare her away...."

"She does seem nice," Sarah Jane agreed neutrally.

"But..."

"But what?" she prodded gently.

"She's only the third girl I've ever really been friends with. How do I know if I really like her like her, or not?" Whatever expression crossed her face made him shake his head. "Never mind. I can talk to Clyde."

"No, no, don't be silly," she said quickly, thinking carefully. "You like spending time with Rani."

"Yes," Luke agreed.

"And you like spending time with Dawn."

He smiled without seeming to realise it. "Yes."

"I think you just gave me the answer. How does she feel?"

He shrugged. "I don't know. She hasn't said anything, but – before all this – we were hanging out sometimes. For fun, not just for study."

"That's a good sign."

"Not really. Dawn told me Connor keeps scaring away the guys she likes, and he hasn't said anything to me."

"Maybe he trusts you not to hurt her," Sarah Jane said gently.

"I would never."

"I know. And I think he does, too."

Luke nodded, fiddling with something he'd picked up. "That was before, though. Before she knew about me, about this," and he gestured around the attic. "She went to college to get away from her family and what they do. What if she doesn't want to be with me anymore? I did get her taken over by a Sluk."

"And saved her from it, as I understand it." She shook her head at his look. "You'll have to ask her, Luke. Just – be careful, all right? Take it slowly and let her tell you what she wants."

"I will." He leaned in suddenly to give her a hug; surprised, she returned it. "Thanks, Mum."

"Oh, any time, Luke. Any time." Glancing back at her computer, she closed it firmly. "Right. Let's go see what we're going to need to replace."




Clyde escaped from the Chandras after several minutes of grilling from Haresh and chatter from Gita. Rani was stuck, unable to leave again so soon after getting home.

Dawn was carefully working through the pile of belongings on the front lawn, sorting the fixable from the unfixable. "You can keep anything electronic," Clyde said, hunkering beside her. "Luke can fix pretty much anything."

"Even the melted stuff?"

"Anything with a chip in it. At least, I've never seen him fail yet."

"Cool."

"Where's Connor?"

"Inside moving things. Do you want him?"

"I want him not here."

She frowned, shifting off her knees to sit more comfortably. "Oh?"

"Look, I love Luke," Clyde told her. "He's my brother. But he's not – he doesn't understand things. How old were you when you were made?"

"Fourteen. But I have memories of growing up."

"Right. Luke was born at fourteen, and he knows an awful lot of things, but he doesn't really know much, you know? We gave up on humour, and he's awful at slang, and he has trouble with metaphors..."

"Oh my god."

"What?"

"This is the 'if you hurt him I'll kill you' speech, isn't it? I've never been on this side of it before."

"Kill you?" Clyde repeated. "That's going a bit far. I will snub you forever, but since I live in Ealing I'm not sure how much that'll hurt you." Dawn laughed; Clyde grinned before sobering and looking her straight in the eye. "He's the best person I know, Dawn. But he needs someone who'll be straight with him. Be straight with him."

"I will," she said, equally serious.

He smiled, lightening his tone to add, "Oh, also, Rani'll probably nab you at some point. I think she mentioned eye gouging if you hurt him."

"Threats of violence! Now I know what I'm dealing with."

Clyde grinned, sitting back. That was a good day's work. "Right. Let's see what we've got here."





The house was liveable in, but it still stunk of smoke and wet. Dawn blithely offered the Slayer's house up again until the cleaning service could get there.

"Oh, I don't think so. Thank you, though," Sarah Jane said politely.

"I'm sure Mum and Dad would have you at ours," Rani offered.

"Or we could go to Oxford." Luke shrugged at her look. "Those are the choices, Mum."

"All of us in your dorm is not a choice, Luke."

"Then it's put up with here, go to the Chandra's..."

"Or ours," Clyde put in.

"Or Clyde's, or go back with Dawn and Connor."

"We really don't mind," Dawn said. "Honest. Giles would love to talk to you again, I'm sure."

"I don't want to sleep here," Sky offered. "It smells funny."

Sarah Jane sighed, looking at Dawn. "You're sure?"

"We don't exactly need the space right now, Sarah Jane. Of course, you'd have to put up with Andrew, but..."

"I'll keep him occupied," Luke promised.

Sarah Jane's watch beeped and she glanced at it automatically. "Oh – that's my alarm. Dawn, thank you, I'd love to take you up on your offer. I have to deal with something, but we'll find our way back. Rani, can you take Sky over to yours for a few minutes? I need Luke, and then we'll be over."

"Um, sure," Rani agreed, looking a little taken aback. "Sky, why don't we go pack you a bag real quick, and then we'll go over to mine?"

"Ok," Sky agreed, following her.

"We won't be long," Luke told Dawn.

"Good. We'll have someone at the gate." She grinned around the room, heading for her car. Connor and Rachel followed her.

Clyde quietly tagged along behind Luke and Sarah Jane; she lifted an eyebrow when she saw him, but she didn't try to send him away, leading the way up to the attic. The TARDIS was sitting silent in the middle of the floor, door closed. Sarah Jane threw a brief "Stay here" to the boys before letting herself in, closing the door behind her.

"Did you know the Doctor was coming?" Clyde asked, running a gentle hand over the side of the TARDIS. Artron energy sparked in his palm and he smiled.

"No. I don't think anything's wrong, though, he'd have come looking for us instead of sitting up here." He watched the energy spark between Clyde's fingers. "Does that hurt?"

"No, not at all."

Luke poked a finger at it. "It doesn't feel like anything."

"Hey. You've already got the super brain. Don't go stealing my artron energy."

The TARDIS door opened and the Doctor stepped out, glancing around before grinning at them. "I do love this attic, there's always something exciting going on. Why does it smell like burning? No, never mind. Clyde!" He shook hands cheerfully. "Still carrying around that artron energy I see, good man, never know when I might need that. And Luke! How are you?"

"I'm..." Luke paused, eyeing the screwdriver the Doctor was waving at him. "Fine. What are you doing?"

"Nothing." He whipped the screwdriver behind his back. "Why, what are you doing?"

Luke stepped around him to retrieve the screwdriver, holding it up. "Really?"

"Where did that come from?" The Doctor snatched it back, glancing over at Sarah Jane who was leaning in the doorway of the TARDIS.

"I told you that wouldn't work," she said patiently.

"It was a perfectly fine plan! It would have worked if...his eyes had been closed."

"Sorry?" Luke offered. "Mum..."

"Your mum thought you might like to talk to me. About...those things you were talking to her about earlier."

"Not those ones," Sarah Jane said when he glanced at her. "The other ones. Earlier."

"Oh." He looked back at the Doctor. "All right."

"So may I..." He held up the screwdriver again.

"Yes." Luke stood patiently while the Doctor scanned him.

"Luke?" Clyde said quietly.

"I was talking to my Mum earlier. About Miss Myers, and Mrs Wormwood."

"What about them? Crazy, both of them."

"Lift your arm," the Doctor said.

"How does that help?" Luke asked.

"It...looks good?"

"Luke, what about them?" Clyde insisted.

"Mrs Wormwood was the only person who knew how I was made. If anything goes wrong with me, there's no one who can help."

"Oi!" the Doctor said from somewhere around the small of Luke's back.

"But Miss Myers is still alive," Clyde realised. "That's why you asked what her punishment would be. What would you have done?"

"What would I have done when?"

"If it had been capital punishment."

Luke shrugged, wincing when his shoulder smacked into the Doctor's chin. "Sorry, Doctor. I don't know, Clyde."

"Doctor, is that really necessary?" Sarah Jane asked.

The Doctor pulled his head out of the base of Luke's t shirt. "You never know what might be necessary, Sarah. I love the scarf, by the way."

Luke touched his scarf instinctively. "Thanks. Your bow tie's pretty cool, too."

"No, the bow tie is not cool," Clyde said with a sigh.

"Oi!"

"Doctor," Sarah Jane said again.

"Oh." The Doctor flicked the screwdriver out, examining it carefully. "There are a couple of anomalies there. Nothing to concern you right now. Nothing unstable."

"Nothing?" Sarah Jane said, relieved.

"Right now?" Clyde said over her.

The Doctor ignored both of them, studying Luke. "There is a chance that you will destabilise. It's remote, but it's there."

"How remote?"

The Doctor reeled off a set of numbers, adding for Sarah Jane and Clyde's sake, "Less than a thousandth of a percent. Extremely unlikely." Glancing around, he added, "Sarah, do you happen to have...ah, there it is. Never mind." Picking up a piece of machinery they'd never been able to identify, he began to fiddle with it.

"What are you doing?" Clyde asked, watching him.

"I'm building an alarm."

"An alarm."

"Yes."

"What's it going to do?"

The Doctor glanced up, raising an eyebrow. "It'll make noise. What do alarms usually do? Luke, I'm very sorry about this." He caught Luke's hand, pressing his finger against the machine.

"Sorry about wh – ow!" Luke jerked his hand away, sucking his finger. "It cut me!"

"It needed blood. Sorry. It's only a little poke."

"Let's hope you don't get space tetanus or something," Clyde said, taking Luke's hand to examine his finger. "Who knows if your immune system would stand up to that."

"Space tetanus," Luke repeated.

"Yeah," Clyde said defensively. "Who knows where that thing's been."

"Space tetanus."

"It's a thing! I bet. Doctor, is space tetanus a thing?"

"Hmm?" He glanced up from the machine. "Oh yes, definitely. Very nasty. Your fins turn blue and your gills get all gummy and swollen shut. It's not pleasant."

"I don't have gills or fins."

"Then you're probably safe. Now." He held out the machine; Luke took it reluctantly, wincing in anticipation of being cut again. "Don't worry, the blood testing bit is over. It's attuned to you now."

"So what does it do?" Luke asked, turning it over in his hands. It was just a cube of metal, pitted and marked in spots but mostly smooth.

"Keep it somewhere near you, in your room or car, somewhere you spend some time. Make sure and handle it at least once a week. Anything starts going wrong in there..." He tapped Luke's chest lightly. "This thing will know, and it'll tell me. Well, it'll tell the TARDIS, and she'll tell me." He glanced at Sarah Jane, one eyebrow raised.

"Thank you," she said, smiling.

"Anything for you, Sarah." Glancing at Clyde, he added, "Are you still grounded?"

"No!" Clyde said proudly. "Captain Tybo lifted it because we helped with Korst and Miss Myers."

"We didn't help with Korst, he got away," Luke reminded him.

"Trampling on my moment, Luke."

"Doctor," Luke said, turning to him, "Do you know about Slayers?"

"Know what about them?"

"Korst came from the future and said he was running from the Slayer's Alien team. Do you know anything about that?"

The Doctor smiled. "Spoilers." He grinned at Sarah Jane, turning back to Clyde. "Are you coming?"

"No," Sarah Jane said quickly. "He's still in school," she added when both started complaining. "Come back when he's graduated and we'll see."

"You used to be a lot more fun, Sarah."

"I have to agree!"

"No," she said firmly. "It doesn't matter to you anyway," she told the Doctor, "all you have to do is jump ahead a few months. And it might matter a lot to you, Clyde."

"We could all go in the holidays," Luke suggested. "Family outing to Metebelis Three."

"Family outing to anywhere but there," Sarah Jane corrected him. "Go on, Doctor," she added more gently. "We'll see you soon."

"Thank you," Luke said sincerely, holding up the little machine.

"Yeah, thanks," Clyde added.

"I'll see you again," the Doctor promised. "Sarah, always a pleasure."

"You, too. Goodbye, Doctor."

"Goodbye, Sarah Jane."

Clyde carefully looked away as they said their goodbyes. Luke was avidly studying his new thingy, turning it over and over in his hands.

The TARDIS vanished and Luke glanced up. "Thank you, Mum."

"Feel better?"

"Much," he admitted. "Thanks."

"You're welcome." She smiled, squeezing his hand lightly. "Come on. Clyde, you should go home. Your mother probably misses you."

"I could go with you," Clyde offered, following them out of the attic. "If you want."

"Yeah, hanging out in that big fancy house with those gorgeous teenage Slayers, that would be difficult, wouldn't it?" Luke agreed, straight faced.

"Ok, Connor's a bad influence on you."

"It might be Xander, actually. Angel thinks he's a bad influence on Connor."

"So it's like a chain of bad influences then."

Sarah Jane locked the front door behind them and headed for the Chandras. Luke and Clyde idled down the drive, pausing at the edge of the road.

"So," Luke said eventually. "Rani."

"I know," Clyde agreed, making a face. "I think it's been sneaking up on me for a while."

"Yeah?"

He smiled dreamily. "Yeah."

"Well..." Luke frowned. "Am I supposed to threaten you or her?"

Clyde grinned. "Me. Although I think she'll probably take care of that if it's necessary." He glanced at Luke. "So. Dawn."

"Dawn," Luke agreed. "But I haven't talked to her yet. It might not be...anything."

"It'll be something. I've seen her with you. When you get to talk, it'll be something."

"I hope so."

"Ready?" Sarah Jane called from across the road. Luke waved, fist bumping Clyde as he headed away.

"Another night in the mansion," Rani said as Luke joined them. "Some people have all the luck."

"I know, it's tough, right? We'll muddle through." He grinned at Sky, touching her shoulder to steer her down the path. "Night, Mr Chandra."

"Goodnight, Luke. Sky. Night, Sarah Jane."




Andrew met them at the gate and chatted about various things he'd noticed at their house as he escorted them up to the mansion. Sarah Jane turned down his offer of food and took the kids down to the flat straight away; Luke offered to share with Sky again, but Sarah Jane sent him into one room and she and Sky slept in the other one.

Luke woke early the next morning and slipped up to the main house, settling near the window to watch the sun rise over the fields behind the house. He was aware that Xander had wandered in behind him a few minutes after he'd settled, but he didn't turn and the older man didn't look for his attention. The sun was well up when Luke finally turned to look at him. "Morning."

"You look serene."

"I like to watch the sun. It calms me."

"Your heritage, I can see why it would. You want a drink or anything?"

"No. Thank you, I'm fine."

"Good." Xander considered him for a moment. "I wanted to talk to you."

"Yes?"

"I like you," he announced.

"Thank you," Luke said warily.

"If you hurt Dawn, I'll unleash the girls on you."

Unsure what to say, Luke settled for "Thank you" again.

Xander perched on the edge of a nearby couch, studying him. "We love Dawn. Very much. You're a nice guy and I like you a lot, but I'm telling you now. Dawn gets hurt, you get hurt. You understand?"

"Perfectly."

"You don't look worried."

"I'm not planning on hurting her."

"What are you planning?"

Luke winced. "I don't know. I don't have a lot of experience." Peering up worriedly at Xander, he asked, "What would you do?"

"My dating experiences, not something you want to replicate. Trust me. But luckily for you, Dawn's pretty low maintenance. Take her for a meal, compliment her every so often. Buy her something pretty. Let her win the arguments..."

"Arguments?"

"Have arguments, and let her win them." He smiled at the look on Luke's face. "Aren't you a genius?"

"With numbers. And computers, and logic. People confuse me."

"You're a guy, girls are supposed to confuse you. It's like a requirement." He grinned again, heading for the door. "Just remember; you hurt her, we hurt you."

"I'll remember."

Andrew passed Xander in the doorway, heading for the kitchen without noticing Luke in his corner. He considered sitting for a while longer, but he was wide awake now and sitting around doing nothing had very little appeal. He scrambled to his feet, following Andrew and offering his help.

Breakfast for a dozen people, half of whom were Slayers and needed a lot more food than normal people, was surprisingly complicated. Luke let Andrew boss him around; Sky wandered up after a while, joining in.

"The insurance people said they'd do the cleaning today," she told him. "We're going home when we've eaten."

"A few nights at home sound good to me."

"What about your classes?"

He glanced up as Connor wandered in. "Mr Giles got me an extension on my assignments. I don't have to be back until next week."

"If you've got an in with the advisor, you should use it," Connor advised him.

"Are you staying here?" Luke asked, leaning against the counter. "You told Angel you were going back to Stanford."

"I am. Eventually. I haven't decided what I'm doing, yet, but there's not much point going back to Stanford now. I've missed the start of the semester."

"Semester is what Americans call terms," Luke said before Sky could ask.

"Close enough," Connor agreed.

"Why do they call it semesters?" Sky asked curiously.

"It comes from a Latin word meaning..."

"Because us Americans are weird," Connor interrupted. "I heard from Wes, Luke, everything's under control."

"Thank you."

He shrugged. "The Council don't ask Angel for help. He likes to help me out when he can."

"Is anyone going to help me?" Andrew whined. Luke grinned, sliding off the counter to go and rescue the pancakes.



Giles drew Luke aside while they were getting ready to leave. "I wonder if you have a moment, Luke?"

"Of course," he agreed, waving Sky off when she tried to join them.

"I want to thank you, first, for everything you did for us."

"I should be thanking you, sir. Without Connor and Dawn Miss Myers might have taken Sky away."

"Dawn," Giles echoed softly.

Luke nodded quickly. "I understand that you love her, sir. I don't know if anything – but I won't hurt her. Not deliberately. You have my word on that, for what it's worth."

"It's worth a lot, actually." Giles studied him. "Who spoke to you?"

"Xander. And the Slayer, Willow's friend..."

"Kennedy."

"Yes. She has a lot of weapons that all needed cleaning this morning. The red axe is amazing."

"Scythe."

"Scythe," Luke repeated.

"Hereditary weapon of the Slayer."

"It's very beautiful. And sharp. She demonstrated."

Giles smiled. "Dawn is very important to all of us. But I think you'll be safe. Connor likes you, and his instincts are usually sound. And, of course, Dawn knows her own mind."

"Mr Giles, you connected your systems to Mr Smith, didn't you?"

"Yes, he sent over the Alien files. Why?"

Luke shrugged. "I'm guessing he's lifted most of your files by now."

"Excuse me?"

"You keep records online? Demons, prophecies? He's probably copied them to his own memory."

"Why?"

"He's a Xylok, Mr Giles. The most important thing to a Xylok is purpose. Without a purpose, they don't exist. Mr Smith's purpose is to protect the world, and demons are a threat we never knew about. He'll be busy learning everything he can so he can help us if it's necessary."

"It hasn't been necessary yet..."

"Not yet, no. But the twenty first century is when everything changes." Luke shook his head at Giles' look. "It's something Captain Harkness says. Is he going to meet you?"

"Yes. I'm taking Xander and two of the girls to Cardiff today."

"Good. He's a good man." Luke hesitated for a moment. "He does like to – um, hit on people." He waited for Giles' nod to make sure he'd used the right phrase. "Just warn them beforehand."

"They're girls."

"There's no intent, Mr Giles. It's just how he relates to people. And he's easy to – fall for." Again he waited for the nod. "You should warn them, all three, just so they know."

"I will. Thank you." Luke nodded and Giles added, "And Luke, you should call me Giles."

"Thank you."




Across the room, Dawn elbowed Connor. "What are they talking about?"

"Who?"

"Giles and Luke."

"Why?" He grinned at the look on her face, relenting. "They're talking about you."

"What about me?"

"Oh, death and beheading if he hurts you. The usual."

"I was wondering why you hadn't threatened him yet," Dawn muttered. "Getting them to do it for you?"

"I haven't said anything to anyone."

"You'd better not touch him," Dawn said warningly.

"All right."

"I mean it! Just because you...wait." She eyed him. "What?"

Connor rolled his eyes, carefully enunciating, "I said 'all right'."

"You're not going to touch him? No 'friendly chats', no cleaning your weapons in plain view, no 'losing' messages..."

"Xander's got you covered on the chat. Kennedy cleaned her entire arsenal, including the Scythe, this morning. Messages are Andrew's thing."

Dawn sat back, studying him. "Really?"

He nodded, understanding her question. "He's nice enough. Better than some of the douches..."

"And we're moving on."

"Anyway, the speed he moves, you'll still be holding hands in three years." Dawn smacked him, laughing. "What? It's true! The guy acts like he's afraid you'll break."

"He's considerate!"

"He's a little slow."

She smacked him again, harder. "Don't do that," she said. Her tone was still sweet, but there was a hardness in her eyes.

"Ow," Connor said obligingly. "That hurt."

"Liar."

"Yeah, but you love me anyway."

"I tolerate you. Are you coming back to Oxford?"

"Are you going to throw me out if I try?"

"No."

"Yes."

"Good."

"You talk very fast," Sky noted.

"It's a California thing. We all talk very fast over there," Dawn told her. "Where's your mom?"

"Talking to Xander. Does he really only have one eye?"

"He really does," Dawn agreed. "It's kind of cool, isn't it?"

Sky considered. "Does he dress up as a pirate at Halloween?"

"Or some comic book guy with an eye patch."

"Does he get a lot of sweets?"

"Depends who he's trick or treating with. Excuse me." Dawn grinned, crossing to join Xander and Sarah Jane.

"I already offered her an escort," Xander said when he saw her. "It's a family outing today."

"Are you sure? I really don't mind," Dawn offered.

"No. Thank you. You're very kind, but...it should just be us. Thank you."

"Well, call us if you need any help."

"We will. Thank you." She smiled, glancing across the room. "Luke! Sky, are you ready?"

Luke excused himself to Giles and came to join them. "Are we going?"

"Yes. I think we're ready." She nodded again to Xander before shepherding her children out of the house.



Just over a week later, Luke met Dawn coming out of their Ancient Language class. "Hey. I haven't seen you around."

"Oh, it was all hands on deck there a couple days ago."

"Anything serious?" He took her bag, slinging it over his shoulder, and they headed towards the nearby green.

"No. Well, yeah, but it's dealt with now."

"How did it go with Captain Harkness?"

Dawn grinned. "He does like to flirt, doesn't he?"

"I warned you."

"Kennedy responded. I think it freaked him out."

Luke considered the idea of a Slayer coming on to Captain Harkness. "Probably."

"It's going to work, I think. We're going to try, anyway. Or, at least, they're going to try. I'm retired again." She paused under a tree, tugging him down to sit beside her.

"How does that work, exactly?"

"Well," she settled against his side, "usually it means that at least one Slayer lurks at what they think is a reasonable distance, and of course Connor's still around. If I see a vampire or demon I'll probably do something about it, but I don't go looking. And someone will call me to check in every few days, but they won't be looking for my help with anything."

"Sounds nice." Luke hesitantly wrapped an arm around her shoulder; Dawn snuggled into it and he relaxed slightly.

"Leaves room for life, anyway. I'll go back eventually. But this is nice right now."

Luke glanced up at screaming nearby. Students were flooding out of one of the buildings, trampling one another in their rush.

"Someone is having a laugh at our expense," Dawn complained, scrambling to her feet. Luke pulled out his mobile, dialling the attic; Dawn was already calling Giles.

Rachel and Lisa ghosted up, falling automatically into place on either side of Dawn and Luke. He nodded at them, trusting them to keep watch while he concentrated on the phone. "Mr Smith? We've got some kind of trouble here. Can you scan this area, see if you can pick anything up?"

"I am already in contact with the Council," Mr Smith assured him. "We should have an answer very soon."

"Very soon is probably not soon enough." The flood of escaping students was dying down; Luke watched the last few hurry away.

"We'll have to go in," Rachel said. Dawn nodded, listening to the phone for a moment before hanging up.

"We're coming."

"No you're not."

"We are. Connor's already inside..."

"Of course he is."

Dawn grinned. "So we're coming along."

Rachel sighed. "Just...stay back and listen to us, all right?"

"Yep."

Luke held out a hand. "Ready?"

Dawn grinned, catching his hand in hers. "Always."

They followed the Slayers towards whatever lay ahead of them.

The End

You have reached the end of "Marching to the Beat of a Different Timeline". This story is complete.

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