Chapter Three (End)
Michael’s lips thinned into a humorless, pale line as he watched the encroaching circle of vampires get ever nearer, the daring ones actually reaching out into what precious little space remained between him, Dawn… and them. He turned with her, their backs staying together. Powers or not, there was no way in hell he was going to be able to get them out of this situation. For the first time in his life, Michael was pretty damn sure that he was a goner.
Dawn had pretty much already said as much, though she had done it with a laugh. There was nothing funny about this situation and, yet, he found himself still admiring her for the ability to laugh it off as though facing impending death were nothing. Maybe it was… for her. He’d heard the stories. Dawn and Trouble went hand in hand. She was a frickin’ trouble magnet, her friends and family joked. Steer clear if you know what’s good for you.
But hell if he’d been about to let her go wandering off at night by herself, no matter how tempting it would have been. Her sister would have slayed him. Oh, sure, she said she didn’t kill humans, but he wasn’t human – was he?
Then there was that little niggling sensation at the back of his head, like a full-fledged thought trying to be born. It was saying that he hadn’t gone after Dawn because he was worried about what Buffy would do to him.
He’d gone after her because, oddly enough, he liked her. Liked that annoying way she had about her. That little pout to her lips when she got her panties in a twist. Or the fire in her eyes when she got well and truly pissed – usually at him.
Oh, yeah, he realized just as the fighting began, when Dawn’s back left his as she began to let lose with the adrenaline and sought to make sure that they at least put up a fight.
This girl was something special.
In an annoying, what he wouldn’t give to wring her neck, kind of way.
Thankful for the time he had spent while on the run, honing his powers, Michael let lose on the nearest vampires, watching with smug satisfaction as the blast caught two of them at once. They burst into flame immediately, disintegrating in a matter of seconds. If all of them were that easy, then –
They would still lose, he realized. There were just too damn many of them and hell if his powers were going to stick around and stay reliable enough to take them all out. They didn’t even have a stake between. Just fists and feet… and his powers.
“Fuck,” he muttered, narrowly dodging a kick aimed at his stomach. He wasn’t quick enough to avoid the fist that came at his cheek, though. Dropping to the ground, Michael struggled to remain conscious, fighting off waves of blackness that threatened to overtake him. If his jaw wasn’t broke it would be a frickin’ miracle.
And he didn’t see any miracles in his near future.
He kicked out as a hand latched onto his ankle but another was just as quick to take its place. Two more – one on his shoulder and the other on his head – and his neck was bared.
Pushing and pulling for all he was worth, Michael looked around desperately for Dawn. She was still fighting, but exhaustion was clearly overtaking her rapidly. Sweat was pouring from her face and her chest was rising and falling with deep, gasping breaths.
The fist coming out of nowhere was what took her down, a ragged scream pouring from her throat as she fell. Michael’s efforts to escape redoubled and, for a split second, he thought he might actually break free, as the hand slipped from his head.
And then teeth pierced his neck. Hot lancets of pain ran up and down his neck and shoulder.
And with a hoarse, strangled groan of pure torture, Michael succumbed unwillingly to the darkness.
“Wake him up so I can kill him.”
“Don’t Buffy me, Dawnie –“
“It’s not his fault!”
Michael winced, trying to shake off the sounds of an argument so close to him. He felt tired. So fucking tired. Couldn’t they wait to fight until after he woke up?
He was sleeping.
Dawn and Buffy were fighting.
Well, damn, that meant they had somehow managed to live through everything.
He cracked open one eye, cautiously, peering around. Yep – this was definitely his room. There was the basket of laundry that Liz had done for him the other day. The last one she would ever do, she had threatened, if he didn’t actually put them in his dresser where they supposedly ‘belonged’.
How the hell had they not been killed?
Arm aching, he managed to reach a hand up to his neck. His fingers brushed over a linen covering that he recognized all too well. A bandage. So the whole thing hadn’t been some kind of twisted dream.
“He’s awake and you will –so- not be killing him.”
Michael opened both eyes as the bed sank down. Dawn. She was alive and relatively unhurt. A bandaid over a cut on her forehead. Some bruises on her arms. That was all that he could see.
And she was trying to protect him from her sister, from what he had heard.
“Don’t worry – I’ll protect you.” The corner of her mouth quirked up in a half-smile. She rolled her eyes as she turned toward the doorway and the angry blonde that was standing there, arms crossed. “Because, as I was trying to explain to Buffy. This was all my fault. I went into the alley. You didn’t do anything to get me into trouble.”
Buffy’s eyebrows rose. “You think I want to kill him because he got you into trouble? Puh-leaze, Dawnie. Give me a little credit here. Your middle name is Trouble.”
Confusion spread through Michael. He looked back and forth between Dawn and her sister. “Okay – I’ll bite. Why do you want to kill me, then?”
“You were… saying things in your sleep.” Buffy scowled. “Things I –so- did not need to hear about what you want to do with my sister.”
“What… I… Oh, fuck.”
“Uh huh,” Buffy nodded, her scowl replaced by a wicked smirk. For the life of him, Michael couldn’t tell which signified more trouble. Her smirk or her scowl. Both spoke of pain and threats.
“He was… talking about me?”
Michael stiffened as Dawn’s gaze swung toward him. He shrugged. “Don’t look at me – I was sleeping.”
“You were dreaming of me?” Her eyes lit up. “How cool. Anything good? I mean, well, obviously something good because, hello, angry sister-Slayer type person.” She paused, her face colored a nice shade of pink. “Um – care to share? When did I get on the Michael Guerin dream-girl list?”
He did not want to have this conversation. Not here. Not now. Certainly not with Buffy standing there still trying to decide whether or not she was going to rend him limb from limb. And where the hell was Maxwell. Shouldn’t he be here doing his whole healer thing? Not that Maxwell would be a helluva lot of protection from Buffy, but there was strength in numbers – or so he’d heard.
“Buffy – go away. You’re not killing him.”
“Hello – grown up now. I can date who I want.”
Michael didn’t have the nerve to look at Buffy. To do anything to remind her that he was still laying right there, for that matter. Not when Dawn was doing such a great job of completely distracting her.
He was not afraid, he reiterated in a vain attempt to preserve his waning pride.
He was just cautious.
And caution said that one did not provoke the Slayer in the Slayer’s house by saying that, hell yeah, he’d like to finally get a handle on Dawn.
“Hurt her and I’ll dissect you myself.”
Michael’s head whipped around, but Buffy was already gone, her threat hanging heavy in the air. He had to hand it to her, she sure knew how to hit where it hurt.
“So… dreaming of me, Guerin?”
His gaze narrowed, Dawn’s teasing tone of voice rubbing him almost immediately the wrong way. “Don’t read too much into it. I got hit on the head, you know.”
She arched an eyebrow. “Uh huh. You like me. Just admit it. It’s cool, you know.”
“You annoy the hell out of me.”
“You love it,” she grinned.
He did. He really did. Which must be the reason why he had never actually tried too hard to stay away from her. Never sought out refuges away from her cheery tone and babbling tendancies.
Maxwell was going to think he had lost his mind.
And maybe he had.
“Fine. I like you.”
Silence stretched out between the two of them, until Michael began to feel a little uncomfortable. He’d just admitted something that was pretty difficult – and she couldn’t even dignify it with telling him how she felt? Forget it, then. He didn’t need her. Didn’t want her. She was probably just like Maria anyway. Except for the fact that she was already one hundred and ten percent nicer to him than Maria had ever been, even on her good days.
“If you don’t have anything else to say… I need to sleep,” he managed to grind out after another minute of watching her watching him.
“Huh?” Her brow furrowed. “Split personality much? I thought we were discussing our feelings.”
“Some of us were,” Michael muttered. “And some of us were just sitting there… listening.”
She snorted. “Oh, I get it. You think I don’t like you back. Insecurity is not attractive, no matter how often it gets your Max friend what he wants from Liz, okay? If I didn’t like you, I wouldn’t always be trying to spend time with you. Okay, so sure, the falling into a dimension filled with vampires wasn’t exactly how I pictured our first date – but look at it this way, it does leave a ton of room for improvement. In fact, I’m pretty sure our next date can’t get any worse.” She frowned. “Short of us dying, of course.”
“Speaking of which – how are we not dead?”
Michael fought down the urge to shake her soundly, reminding himself at the last minute that he would probably only cause himself pain, given that his body felt like one big ache. “And Willow did… what?”
“She locked onto me with some of my blood they have saved up for an emergency,” Dawn shrugged. “Seems that me falling out of this dimension set off all these mystical alarms that Willow has keyed to me, so they knew almost immediately. Good to know, for future reference and all.”
“Planning on going to any other dimensions any time soon?”
“With me – you never know. Still want to stick around?”
While it was the knowledge of her somewhat annoying personality that set him on edge and not the fact that she couldn’t seem to stay out of trouble’s way – he was positive he wanted to give things a go.
Which really only left one problem as far as he could see.
One big, angry problem. Because damn if he could remember what he might have muttered in his pain-induced unconscious state of rest.
He offered her a smirk and what he hoped came off as a brave attitude. “Sure – just as soon as you clear me sticking around with your sister.”